Monthly Archives: January 2009

Fantastic weekend, and it’s not over yet

This week was spent preparing for, then being at, my church’s annual Leadership Summit.

The Summit is where the leaders of various ministries of our church get together with leaders from churches worldwide with whom we have ministry connection.  This year, there were people from Japan, S. Korea, Zambia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, an American who primarily works in Israel, plus people from our own church, and a couple of churches from elsewhere in the U.S.  There were 55 people total.  Different from most churches, my church doesn’t really have international “missions” work; we have apostolic work.  Meaning, we work with indigenous pastors and church leaders to equip them as leaders of their own people — both in the dynamics of leadership itself, in prayer/healing ministry, in worship, and so on.

Even if I wrote thousands of words, I would not be able to adequately express what a profound 48 hours it was.

It is always amazing to hear and see the effect of our church’s ministry on other nations, and how lives, churches, and even whole communities become completely transformed by the power of God.

It is always indescribably precious to learn the life stories of each person there — both meeting people new to the event, and catching up with folks with whom I’ve spent time before.

Plus, it’s just cool to get away from it all, so to speak.

Worship (both planned and spontaneous, both “regular” and prophetic)…  teaching… testimony… and (I’m shaking my head; there just aren’t words) deep, profoundly moving, joyful, tearful, ecstatic ministry from the Holy Spirit…

Probably the absolute COOLEST thing was one of the ladies from Japan, who has one of the most amazing testimonies, prayed for each one of us, just listening to the Holy Spirit, with her eyes closed the whole time, sometimes just praying the love of God over us, and sometimes “reading our mail.”  (That’s what we call it when prophetic ministry is so specifically insightful that it’s like the person has read our own personal journal or mail.)  She had such deep humility it just broke us before she even started praying.  Tears and Kleenex were just flowing.  Some were leveled to the floor with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Martin’s mother stayed with our four oldest children, here at home.  We took baby Fiala, who is now three months old, along with us.  She was angelic.  The big meeting room had a loft area where she took her naps, and where I usually went to feed her.  It worked out perfectly.

We didn’t get much sleep — going to bed at midnight or later, and waking around 6:30… but it was worth it.

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, is our “International Sunday.”  It’s a celebration, with a blowout worship service the likes of which you may have never participated in.  We’ll have a couple of bagpipe players (accompanied by that special drum… can’t remember its name… a snare of some sort…  Cadence?  Can’t remember.); a fiddle player; another guy who plays fiddle, mandolin, and a few other instruments; a saxophonist; plus our regular worship team (my husband leads on acoustic guitar, three backup vocalists, a keyboardist, electric guitar, drums and percussion).  It’ll likely go for an hour.  At least.  Oh, my, I am so looking forward to tomorrow morning.  Excitement, expectation at what God will do, the joy of just worshiping together, the fantastic music, the dynamic of the nations being together…  It will be wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

Then, at night, we’ll have a special sit-down dinner, then they’ll clear the tables and we’ll hear from our international friends, then more worship, then what’s called a prophetic presbytery, where various people from the nations who have prophetic giftings (most of ’em do!) spread across the front, then the congregation lines up in front of whomever they want to minister to them…

I wish it wasn’t Superbowl Sunday, as I will miss almost all of the game, in which the Cardinals are playing for the first time ever.  From what I understand, we were scheduled for the retreat center for last weekend, and we got bumped to this weekend.  Oh, well.  Tomorrow night is not to be missed;  it’ll be amazing.

Audrey the Fire Cat

My mom thinks my daughter Audrey is the greatest thing ever.  Actually, it’s nice to have someone regularly sing Audrey’s praises, because it keeps things in perspective for me, and helps me not to focus on the squealing/screaming/yelling all the livelong day.  (Audrey, enjoying her standard ear-piercing decibel level, will often joyously proclaim at the top of her lungs, “I’M LOUD!!!“)

Audrey is similarly smitten with Grandma, because a) she is always available to read a book to her, and b) wears jewelry, which are probably Audrey’s two highest criteria for character evaluation.

So, of course, Audrey and Grandma sit next to each other at the dinner table when my mom and stepdad come over for their weekly visits.

Last week, my mom looked over at Audrey and started chuckling.  “What was that book?  The one with the cat who…”  Immediately, I knew where my mom was going with this.  “…has huge paws that he needs to grow into?”

The Fire Cat,” we all answered her, since we own the book, and everyone is familiar with the story.  “Pickles the Fire Cat.”

“Hahaha!  Yes, that’s right.  Audrey…”  my mom went on about the parallels between the two, largely dwelling on foot size.

I glowered.

I seriously have the biggest, ugliest feet of anyone I know, and it was much to my consternation that, from literally hours after her birth, everyone was exclaiming over Audrey’s ginormous feet.  Why couldn’t I have given my big feet gene — which I got, incidentally, from my mother — to my sons???  Nope, it’s my girly girl, who is absolutely enamored with shoes, who gets the too-big-for-cute-shoes-and-don’t-even-think-about-strappy-sandals foot-size gene.

She won’t even be three until April, and at last weigh-in, was 27 lbs.  The last pair of shoes I got for her were toddler size 9, which are typically worn by four or five year olds.  Compound it with her spindly little legs, it’s sadly comical.

My own dear husband has held shoes I’ve purchased for Audrey, asking skeptically, “You sure these will fit?  They look way too big.”  Then, she tries them on… yes, they fit.

Poor girl.

Jack’s Big Music Show is the new-old Austin City Limits

Recently, we — thanks to my 2yo Audrey’s insatiable appetite for Noggin — started watching Jack’s Big Music Show.  (See the page on Wikipedia, too!  It’s great for episode info.)  I’ve decided that Jack’s Big Music Show is very much like a preschool version of the  “old format” Austin City Limits, when ACL … limited itself to American roots music:  roots rock, folk, blues, old-style country, and various high-quality music that was impossible to stuff into a genre.  But, now that ACL changed its standards and is populated by the likes of Coldplay and Jamie Cullum (who are fine musicians;  I just don’t think they belong on a show that was created to celebrate American roots music), those roots muscians, apparently, have to find an outlet on shows like Jack’s Big Music Show

In one episode, Jack was “playing” electric guitar, and I thought, “That sounds like Buddy Guy!”  (I’m not an expert on blues, but I have always loved the tone of Guy’s guitar.  And, Buddy used to be a regular on ACL.)  And, sure enough, in walks Guy with his polka-dot Strat.

On yesterday’s episode, which was surely a rerun, there was some absolutely fantastic music.  I wasn’t familiar with either of the musicians, but now…  I’ve been combing the internet — YouTube, especially — for both Andrew Bird and Nuttin’ But Stringz.  I absolutely loved both spots on Noggin…  Those men belong on Austin City Limits, but until then, Noggin and YouTube will suffice.  😀

(Apparently, Nuttin’ But Stringz was on America’s Got Talent, but I don’t watch shows with incorrect grammar.  Just kidding.  I have seen, I think, half an episode of America’s Got Talent, but David Hasselhoff drives me nuts, and not in a good way.)

*Please* view these, especially the Nuttin’ But Stringz clip.  It’ll blow you away.  Well, it’ll blow you away if you like the same kind of music I do, and/or if violin-based hip hop sounds intriguing to you.

Nuttin’ But Stringz does Thunder on Jack’s Big Music Show:

Andrew Bird as “Dr. Strings”:

(Of note, Andrew Bird did, apparently, perform at the 2007 Austin City Limits Music Festival live, but to my knowledge, has never been on a episode of the TV show.)

My husband ROCKS!

(I actually completed this on Friday, but for some reason, it didn’t publish.  So, I retrieved it from my drafts and backdated it. )

I was sitting at the computer, reading up on e-mail, etc., as I fed my li’l bit baby…  In popped an e-mail from my hubby.

Katy Lin has a different prompt for this week, and it’s a good one.

Tell us about a time that your spouse went out of his way to serve you, and love you sacrificially.

But when reading my husband’s e-mail, it just reminded me of some of the many reasons why I love him, and why I think he’s so great.  😀

I know that our intentional efforts will reap us rewards both quickly and long term. With common sense, wisdom from things learned, botched experiences, and biblical & Holy Spirit insight we will achieve our goals.

Speaking of…  I’m off to read some stuff that he’s asked me to read

Excitement! A challenging budget!!

I have been so excited about the weirdest thing the past few days:  a budget.

My husband and I are both very cheap conservative spenders.  We both came from situations where we’d seen the ill effects of reckless, live-for-the-moment spending, and before we even became a couple and got married, we had individually come to decisions that we were going to be careful adults, not accrue debt, save money, etc.  In other words, our financial habits were (and are) very, very similar.  In short, we just don’t spend a lot of money, and when we do, it’s almost always going to be on clearance, used, with a coupon, etc.  My husband even asks for special discounts for the heck of it on large purchases.  He just smiles and asks, and the clerk will give him 10% or 15% off.  We regularly purchase from Craigslist and eBay, and I get e-mails from Freecycle to both give away and pick up free stuff that we may need (just got a HUGE box of 3-6 month winter baby girl clothes… so much that I was able to take what I needed, and give away a bunch to two other mothers, too!!).  The only furniture in our entire house that we bought new is my oldest son’s mattress, and three barstools, all from Ikea.  Everything else is from hand-me-downs, estate sales, yard sales, Craigslist, etc.

Something, though, on which we did not agree was in giving.  Martin is a mega-tither and giver.  He looks for ways to be generous to others.  Not me.  Or, at least, not naturally.  I had to learn the benefits of that from him, because before we married (and even after, for a many years), I was an obedient giver, but not a joyful one.  I was begrudging, almost, rather giving with my teeth gritted.  Martin tithes excessively.  Off the gross.  And, off any tax refund.  Tithing twice off the same money!!  Whoever heard of that before?  Not me.  I was in shock.  Plus, yearly, he gives away multiple thousands of dollars, above the tithe.  Many times, especially in our early years, I’d try to talk him into more “sensible” giving.  He wouldn’t hear it.  Wouldn’t change.  In fact, it escalated.  Every pay increase became an opportunity to have more money to give away.  Literally.  I’d think, “Oooh, a raise!  Now we can get…”  Martin thinks, “Oooh, a raise!  All the more money to give away!”

I will admit, there are still times when I mind that he gives away all our money.  I’d really like a new (used!) entertainment center.  I’d like to have money for my oldest son’s new curriculum.  I’d like to have patio furniture, even used.  We need a new mattress.  My youngest son needs a new dresser.  I’d like — just once! — to go on a wardrobe-making shopping spree.  And so on.

But, then I think about the many times that the money we’ve given has been a miracle of provision for the receiver — too many times to count, and mostly too personal to relate here — and giving becomes a no-brainer.  So many times, I’ve thought, “No… no… we can’t afford that.  Let’s keep that money! Just once.  Oh, I don’t want to give it away…”  But, then I have seen the blessing that comes from giving, both for us, and for the receivers, and it has changed my mind.  Martin’s giving has become our giving.  Well, almost, anyways.  It’s still his idea, 98% of the time, but now I always say, with no hesitation, “Yes, let’s.”  Not just because I’m dutifully submitting to him and to God, but because he and God have won me over.

All my years of marriage — 14 of them — I have never seen God desert us.  We’re always provided for.  Always.  We are blessed abundantly.

However, times are really tight.  Really tight.

For the last year, we have found ourselves “x” number of dollars short, every month.  When things just didn’t iron themselves out, and when we didn’t catch up just by “regular” economizing and cutting back, Martin whipped out the budgetary scalpel.

Honestly, because of our naturally miserly ways, we’ve never needed an exact budget.  We just know our income and adjust our expenses accordingly.  But, with our ongoing monthly shortfall in the last 12+ months, we’ve decided to change that.

For a moment, we both thought, “OK, we’re short x dollars.  Let’s just stop giving here, and that’ll cover it.”  No lifestyle change;  we’ll just stop giving there.  You know, we’ll still be tithing!  That’s so much more than many people do.  And we’ll give away some extra, just not very much.

We talked about it at some length.  In short, we both felt like it was just not right to give less than we have in the past.  We felt like, of all the things to get cut, giving shouldn’t be one of them.  We want to give.

So, instead, we’ve been mapping out expenses, peering with a microscope at our spending habits, and seeing where we can shave $$ off.

We’ve come up with a plan that not only accounts for the money we’ve been short, but will allow us to even save money for both short term expenses (like that curriculum), and rebuild our longer term “don’t touch” savings which, um, has been touched.  As in, it’s gone.

And, I’m excited about the budget.  It’s like a challenge.  A game, even.  “Oooh, we’ve budgeted that amount for toiletries?  I bet I can even go under that.”  And, “We spend that much money eating out?  Let’s cut that down by half.  Or more.  We can do it.”

There have been a few tense moments in our discussions, but only a few.  Mostly, we’ve developed this sense of hunkering down together, tackling the problem together, coming up with the solution together, working together.  Money troubles may be the #1 source of dissention between married couples, but we’re finding that it can also actually bring a greater sense of intimacy, if we make it like Team Martin and Karen vs. Team Budgetary Shortage, instead of Martin vs. Karen, each of us fighting for our own pet expenditures.

I’m excited about this new phase of our marriage, excited to work towards a tangible goal with my husband, and especially excited that we’ll be able to work the problem out without decreasing our giving.  🙂

Just not my genre, I guess

So. I was on hold, waiting to talk to my husband this morning, and a song comes on the muzak.  At first, I wasn’t really listening, as is common with me and hold-music.  Then, it got my attention.  Not because it was such an awesome song.  No…  The person singing, I couldn’t tell if it was a guy or a lady (it’s a guy), but that wasn’t the issue.  The music itself?  Not my taste, but not terrible.  But the lyrics…

I found myself thinking, “Is this real?  Is that really what the guy is saying?  And who would write a song like that?  And who would record it??  And who would listen to it???  Maybe it’s a joke.  No… sounds like he’s taking himself pretty seriously.  I cannot believe anyone would listen to this.”

Mmhm… groove with me, baby.

(Note, I have not actually sat through the whole video;  please tell me if there’s any inappropriate content. Wait.  I thought I’d better watch it, just in case.  Suggestive, but not really inappropriate.  And, it leaves us with a teaser of “to be continued…” at the end!  Woo hoo!)

You are my starship
Come and take me up tonight
And don’t be late

In case you were wondering, that’s Kenny Lattimore, with his 2008 cover of the 1976 Norman Connors classic You are my Starship.

You’d think if it’s been around since 1976, I’d have heard it before, but I’m sure I haven’t.  I’d remember.  Starship?!? Ack.

The ugly truth about homeschoolers (stolen from Amy)

Today, I read on Amy’s blog a post entitled The ugly truth about homeschoolers.  It was about her huge fine at the library.  Hah!  She’s got nothin’ on me!  Lightweight.  Her fine was $17.73.

Earlier today, I blogged about the kindness shown by my husband in light of my own gigantic fine at the library.  Lisa asked me to ‘fess up and divulge all the ugly details, something I was considering anyways.  Really, I was was wanting to know if other moms have a problem similar to Amy’s and mine, or if we’re alone in our irresponsible library usage.

I’ve tried to apply a tourniquet to my fine hemorrhage, but the deeper problem, apparently, is still unfixed.  I guess it boils down to irresponsibility.

I signed up for Library Elf, which is a fine service that notifies me, for free, when my books are coming due.  Then, I go online and renew them, if I know we won’t be able to get to the library to refresh our books.  That’s great, but if I have managed to amass a fine $5 or greater, my library system won’t let me renew online.  When we typically max out our card at 35 items, and books’ fines are $0.10/day, and DVDs’ fines are $1.00/day, it’s easy to get to $5.00 in a hurry.  AND, our library system currently has no option to pay bills online;  you have to go in person.  So, many times my Library Elf notices pop into my inbox to tell me, “More books are late.  And, since you can’t get to the library for at least a couple of days… and your fine is already at $7.00… you know, ha ha ha ha ha, this notice simply serves to inform you that your fine is just growing.”

OR, since I have to pay for my card, since I live outside the city in which our favored library resides, if my card expires before the length of time for which the items will be renewed (one week for DVDs, three weeks for books), I can’t renew online.

Or, if we’ve already checked an item out three times, we can’t renew them again.  (Though the librarian let me know that they’ve removed the limits, and now anyone can check items out indefinitely.  That’ll help a little.)

Add these restrictions to my basic irresponsibility to the Thanksgiving holidays, and I had a $26 fine.  So… I went to the library last Friday with $40 cash to pay my fine, plus renew my card (I live in a city different than my preferred library, so I pay $10/quarter for the card).  Imagine my shock when the librarian said, “Oh my.  Your fine is…

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Read the rest of this entry

My Husband Rocks!!

It’s been a while since I participated in Katy Lin’s “My Husband Rocks” adventure.  But… I just thought I’d say that, last time I did, my husband, who only sporadically reads my blog, did read it, and met me at the door with a huge hug and kiss and tears in his eyes, saying, “My wife rocks!”  He was really touched about me telling the world how great he is!!

First, list at least one thing your husband did or said in the past week that reminded you why you love him.

This is so easy!!  He didn’t freak out — when he totally could have, and maybe even should have — when I confessed I had a HUGE, GIGANTIC library fine, the biggest ever.  He just said, “Let’s finish paying it off — today — and get those two missing books back to the library ASAP, and maybe you shouldn’t go to the library for a while.”  I was totally crying, and I was afraid he’d be mad, and I should have known that he wouldn’t be, but still…  He was kind, and took care of the problem.  I was greatly relieved, and loved him all the more for dealing kindly with me.  He’s done that through the course of our marriage — has been kind to me, or merciful to me, when I completely did not deserve it.

And second, share a “Generous Wife Tip” – it can be on any subject – anything that you do or would like to do more often to make your husband feel loved and respected!

I had to learn this the hard way:  When Martin asks me to do something, I tell him, “Sure, Babe.”  I do that even if I think it’s going to be too hard, be completely impossible, difficult, an annoyance, mess up my schedule, whatever.  He’d so much rather I tell him yes first, then come back to him later if I’m not able to do it, then have me argue/protest/refuse on the outset.

Starbucks considering gluten-free offerings

A while back, I blogged about a test-run of gluten-free brownies being offered for sale in New York City area Starbucks.  That run was successful, and now Starbucks is in a phase where it looks like they will most certainly offer gluten-free products in the near future.  For now, they are taking comments on their blog.  (You do have to register to comment — your e-mail, password, username.)  Please consider logging in to answer their questions regarding products, packaging, marketing, etc.  I myself was writing a nice, long comment, toggling between tabs that held the original post and the comment box, reading up on what everyone else was writing, making sure my comment included everything I wanted to say… and I was auto-logged-out!!  Comment lost.  Argh.  I’ll have to go back…

I don’t get over to Starbucks nearly as much as I used to… it’s pricey, you know!!  But, I enjoy my almond extra-hot cappuccino once a month or so, and would absolutely be thrilled to enjoy a gluten-free muffin with it as an extra-special treat!

Astronaut babies!

When I was pregnant with our first girl, Audrey, the three boys began to watch TV a little differently.  Commercials for products aimed at girls which they had for years routinely mocked began to elicit such remarks as, “We better not make fun of it.  Our sister might like that…” said with a curious mixture of awe, disgust, and wonder.

What we didn’t count on were the super-excited reactions to commercials like this:

(Click for an .mpg — hat tip to this guy, who worked on the animation, for the still graphic.)

ASTRONAUT BABIES!!!”  Audrey squeals at ear-splitting decibels, running up the to the T.V., getting as close as possible.  She loves all the Astronaut Baby commercials, watching them in tickled fascination.  Clearly, she’d like one for a pet.  Or, just to hug one.  “Awww…. astronaut babies…  so cute!!”

Upon searching the Cox Communications website, I find that their official name is “Digis,” not Astronaut Babies.  But, Audrey’s pet name is quite fitting, dontcha think?

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