Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's a Small World

I stared at the full parking lot, overwhelmed by the sheer number of women streaming into the convention center. I hoisted my five-month-old son’s carseat and walked resolutely towards the entrance, nervous about attending my first women’s ministry convention.

A friend had paid my entry fee. She had workshops to teach so I was on my own.

I found the check-in line. One thousand women is not an introvert’s idea of a good time. I felt awkward attending by myself and longed for a companion to share this experience. Few women brought babies so I stood out like a sore thumb. My son was the clingiest baby on the planet, so if I didn’t bring him, I couldn’t have attended.

I stood patiently in a long line when a middle-aged dark-haired woman bent down to smile at my son in his infant carseat. After making him laugh, she looked up and said, “You have a beautiful baby.”

“Thanks…” I began, then gasped. The friendly woman was my pastor’s wife from my home church in Northern California. The conference was in Portland, Oregon, ten hours from her home. I hadn’t seen her in five years.

We hugged and talked and spent much of the day together. I’m still amazed that in the sea of a thousand women we found each other. That which had made me feel conspicuous was the thing that brought us together. Without my baby we probably wouldn’t have noticed each other.

I marvel at what had to line up for this encounter to happen.

Keith was a financially strapped seminary student so I couldn’t have attended without my friend’s generosity. I had to work up the courage to attend a huge conference alone. I stood in the conference line the exact same time Mrs. Cundall did. 

Growing up, I didn’t really know Mrs. Cundall. Back then she played the piano and I shook her and Mr. Cundall’s hand Sunday mornings on the way out the back door. The conference gave us a second chance to truly connect and gave me a new appreciation for this sweet, kind lady.

We’ve kept in touch ever since. Twenty-three years later we still exchange Christmas cards.

On a family vacation to California six years ago, we visited Mrs. Cundall. How fun to reintroduce my “baby” boy, all grown up. Andrew had been a tool to bring us together.

I don’t remember any of the conference sessions and workshops. My notes are long gone. But I do remember recognizing that God loved me enough to send me someone I knew and trusted to help with my baby that busy day. I got to know Mrs. Cundall better in those six hours than I ever had in the six years I attended her church.

God not only gave me a friend to attend the conference with, 
He gave me a friend for life.

I'm linking up with my friend Jennifer for 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not Your Average Sightseeing Tour

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

On our recent vacation, Amy, Lani, and I toured the headquarters of Compassion International in Colorado Springs.  Our church sponsors a Compassion child so we wanted to learn more about their organization. 

My girls know we think sponsorship is important but it doesn't really touch their lives in tangible ways. Short of going to our sponsored child's country, I wanted to flesh it out for them more. I wanted to put faces with the need and elevate their understanding and compassion for people in need. 

They have a nice facility and we enjoyed the tour.  It was a peaceful, vibrant place. Our tour guide spoke with passion and conviction. She personally sponsors five children and has been to visit all of them.

I was moved to tears a few times during the presentation. The tour guide described Compassion's four main programs and then focused mainly on the child sponsorship process. 

Upstairs in the lobby

Lobby display

Replica of a typical poor person's home.
This 9 x 8 space typically houses up to eight people.  This hits home as eight people live in our house, which is a mansion compared to this hut. Compassion provides mosquito netting to help reduce insect-caused diseases.

Items made by Compassion-sponsored children.

Amy is holding a bracelet made out of animal claws and a doll made out of crocheted plastic grocery bags. Lani has a ball made out of rolled garbage bags and a sandal made from an old tire. 

Replica of a typical Compassion school

Classroom Health Center
(note toothbrushes hanging on the left wall)

Project Director's Office
He keeps a binder on each child with medical, 
educational, and developmental records.

Director's detailed financial records. 
They are accountable to Compassion.

If you're ever in Colorado Springs I highly recommend this tour. We came away with a new appreciation for their ministry. We learned so much and left convicted and challenged to figure out ways to be more involved. 

My children have never missed a meal and are blessed to live healthy lives. My heart breaks for little children who don't have the things we take for granted. The need is so huge that it feels like our small contribution can't make much difference, but I am reminded that if I am faithful to do my part, I am making a big difference in one child's life.

If you're interested in learning more, check out Their website has a lot of helpful and inspiring information. 

I'm linking up with Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thoughts on Aging

In the past few months I lost:
          An ex-sister-in-law,
          A friend from college,
          And now my niece’s husband.

I have visited:
My bedridden mother,
            My in-constant-pain sister who 
                suffers from a bad back,
         And my 87-year-old 
                Mother-in-law with her failing 

We made an unexpected trip to Iowa last week after receiving the awful news that our niece’s husband had suddenly died from a heart attack. His death took everyone by surprise. Alan was really nice and will be greatly missed.

A Grim Reminder

We never know the last time we’ll see someone. We saw Alan last Thanksgiving, not knowing that would be the last time. I need to be more mindful to let people know that I love them and to express affection while I still have the chance.

Alan’s death is also a reminder to not only have my financial affairs in order, but also my spiritual, mental, and relational affairs as well. Just as important as having a will and other end-of-life business matters settled, I need to make sure I haven’t left any unresolved relational odds and ends.

It’s sobering to know that more of my life is behind me than before me. I fear growing old and feeble. I dread the decline of mind and body.

Aging is...

like being forced to climb up a difficult mountain without being in shape or having the right tools.  The level of difficulty is unknown as it’s different for every person. The length of climb is indefinite. Every step is uncharted territory. Between falling rocks, loose gravel, steep drop-offs, and decreased oxygen, it’s not a trip for the faint of heart. There’s no going back down the mountain. The only way off is to die.

I wrestle with my mortality and am reminded that I don’t want to take my life for granted. Just like Alan didn’t know how long he had, I don’t know how long I’ll have. There’s no guarantee I’ll live twenty more years. There’s no guarantee I’ll live one more year. I could be gone tomorrow.

We don’t have a choice of how or when we die, 
but we can choose how we live.

I want to live well. Though someday I may be broken in body, I don’t want to be broken in spirit. I have no control over the physical afflictions that come my way, but I do have control over my character.

When I’m gone, I want to be remembered as someone who was:
and a good friend.

Some days I am those things. Some days I’m not. Worrying about the future makes me weird. I’d rather be wise.

Psalms 90:12 resonates - “Teach us to number our days aright so that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.”

Lord, please give me eyes for that which truly matters. Please help me to be less afraid of dying and more afraid of not living.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How I Organize Christmas Card Photos

Does anyone else's refrigerator look like mine? 

We love Christmas correspondence and getting cards and pictures from family and friends. Pictures end up on the frig until there's no more room or I get the urge to have a tidier kitchen. 

I started a photo album with Christmas pictures we get every year. Families have their own page and every year I slip in their next picture. 

Each page has slots for two verticals and three horizontals. Some families, perhaps due to family size, favor one orientation over another. I've been known to make OCD requests like, "Everyone else is getting a horizontal shot, but could I please get a vertical one?"

After being friends with Lori from Life, Love, and Laughter in a Large Family for three years I finally gave her family their own page. Once the left page fills up, I have to start a new page. I asked Lori if she wanted to sign up for the four year or nine year plan. She opted for the longer plan. Some friends have four pages in our album! It's fun to see how their families grow and change over the years. 

On each family's spread, I include a piece of paper with:

The family's last name
Names of all the family members
Where they live
How we know them. 

I'm so thankful to have a streamlined way to turn this

into this

I bought my albums and refill pages from Get Smart Products (  The binder format allows pages to be easily moved around. The particular album I bought is discontinued but this album will work.

Pioneer T-12JF 12X12 Sewn Leatherette 3 Ring Binder

I like either these pocket pages

MBI 4x6 Vertical / Horizontal Pocket Photo Album Refill Pages


 or these

Pioneer 46-VHP 4x6 Refill Pages For 12x12

These pages hold vertical, horizontal, and 
panoramic,along with space to label pictures 

My cars are usually messy and our shoes are often muddy, 
but I'm happy to say that our pictures are in order.  

Does anybody else have ideas for family pictures you receive? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Full Circle

I'm linking up with Lori and Life, Love, and Laughter in a Large Family for Think Quotes, It's Friday.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Should Know Better

The good news is my legs are no longer pasty white. The bad news is pink is painful.

I made a strategic error yesterday. Me, who routinely tells my children to use sunscreen, forgot to take her own advice. 

I view my painful, bright red striped legs, and think, “Angie, you idiot.”

Yesterday Keith and I took our first beach trip of the 2012 summer season. The beach was calling his name and he was eager to answer its call.

He gives me the stink-eye when I stop to chop celery. I’m still trying to lose weight and know that sunbathing is strenuous work and I will probably work up an appetite so wanted to bring food that won’t sabotage my diet.

He can’t understand why it takes females so long to get ready. He grabs his swim trunks and towel and is good to go. He wisely bites his tongue and putters in the garage while I get ready.

Even after losing weight this year, I dread being seen in a swimsuit. My twenty-year-old swimsuit died two years ago and hasn’t been replaced. It’s painful to see my lumpy reflection in the mirror and I hesitate to inflict this seen-better-days body on people who go to the beach to relax, not be scared.

I borrow Erica’s swimsuit. A ten minute search finally locates my black swimshorts in Christina’s laundry basket, wet from yesterday’s canoe trip. Drying the shorts takes another ten minutes.

At last we are on the way. I hesitate to ask, hoping Keith has a few more molecules of patience. “Can we stop at Subway?”


“Well, it is lunchtime.”

“Fine.” (Insert irritated, impatient martyr’s voice.)

Erica and I split a footlong Weight-Watcher approved Turkey Breast sandwich on 9-grain Wheat bread. Forty minutes later we’re at the beach. There are closer beaches but Cornucopia is by far Keith’s favorite.

To save time I apply 50 SPF sunscreen in the car. I thoroughly cover the front and sides of my aging body, intending to do the back when I get out of the car. 

Our corner of Lake Superior has not fully recovered from recent storms and flooding. Small choppy waves slap the shore and leave an unattractive two-foot band of floating debris. First-time visitors to Lake Superior might assume the lake is always brown and cloudy and full of debris. They won’t know the lake is normally clear and beautiful.

It’s a little windy. We choose a spot and settle in. I sit in my chair covered with a big beach towel. Keith doesn’t care that it’s cold. He’s determined that no matter what, it’s summer and he’s going in the water.

I can’t get warm. Rather than a swimsuit, I should have worn sweatclothes. I spread my towel and am happy to find that it is much nicer down on the sand out of the wind.

Sadly, I forget to put sunscreen on my back side. So while I’m contentedly enjoying the warm sand, reading Coop by Michael Perry, the sun broils my hinter regions.

Thankfully we don’t stay long. Keith doesn’t want to press his winter-white body’s luck during his first summer beach excursion. We leave relaxed and refreshed after an hour of beach therapy.

Three hours later Keith says that I’m sunburned. I don’t feel sunburned so shrug off his comment. While grocery-shopping, I notice that my legs are sore but I’m on a mission so don’t give it much thought.

Back home, I finally pay attention and am horrified to see a bright pink uneven stripe down the back of my legs. I wonder if it’s a bug bite and maybe a life-threatening infection is running down my leg, until I notice the stripe stops at the swimshort line.

I am dumbfounded to be sunburned. Me, the sensible, cautious, careful one, who always slathers sunscreen on anyone who will let me, has done the unthinkable. I have the world’s wonkiest sunburn. I can’t figure out why I have a pink skunk stripe.

Then I remember putting sunscreen on in the car. Which means the front and sides got covered, but not the back. I must not apply sunscreen evenly because the sides are jagged and uneven. There’s also a few white spots in a sea of pink. The good news is SPF 45 works. The bad news is it only works where it is applied.

The pain increases throughout the evening. I didn’t know ankles could get sunburned. Keith applies lotion and says that it has little particles. I’m still reading Coop and not paying attention until I accidentally touch the lotion which feels suspiciously like face scrub. Keith looks at the bottle again and sees that it’s labeled “Body Cleanser.”

The poor man has no way of knowing how to decipher female lotion and potion lingo. My legs start to burn, only this time from the cleanser. I quickly shower and return for round 2.

He balks when I suggest Bag Balm. Bag Balm is used on cow’s udders but also works great for diaper rashes and dry hands. He generously slathers my hind quarters and I sigh in relief. I can only lie on my front or side but it feels better. Keith complains that I stink.

My back side is very soft today. The sunburn is less painful. I move slowly and wear loose clothing. Hopefully Bag Balm washes out of our sheets.  I will never go to the beach without using sunscreen again.

If you see me moving slowly and notice that parts of my body are pink and I smell like a cow, you’ll know why.

P.S. Keith - When a woman’s in pain, she shouldn't have to worry about her husband having fun at her expense. You’d better sleep lightly if you don’t delete the I-phone picture of my burned Bag-Balmed backside you took last night.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Special Gift

I picture God sometimes giving us our days in a pretty gift bag. He waits in anticipation for us to open it, saying, “I know you’re going to like this.” My husband Keith recently opened a very fun bag.

This spring a middle-eastern pastor spoke at our church. He lives in a country where it is illegal to convert from Islam – so for his safety I can not say his name or where he is from.

He told story after story of his underground church and our hearts broke to hear about a place where it is a crime worthy of death or prison to worship the God of the Bible.  We hear his stories of faith under fire and we realize how much we take for granted the precious freedom of religion we enjoy in America.

Keith and this man have kept in touch weekly since March. They share their joys and concerns and pray for each other. It’s neat that the hearts of two men who live a world apart have knit together. Though they come from different cultures, they worship the same God. They hoped God would allow their paths to cross in person again some day.

Keith was talking to his friend on our recent vacation. His friend was in America again on business. He asked if there was any way we could get to St. Louis to see him. When Keith said we couldn't, his friend asked where Keith was. 

Keith said, “Colorado.”

His friend said that he would be in Colorado the next day.  He then asked where Keith was in Colorado.

Keith said, “Colorado Springs.”

His friend laughed and said that he would be in Colorado Springs as well. A friend of his had offered to fly our friend and his wife to Colorado for a few days of R & R to regroup physically and emotionally after some stressful situations.

We spent two wonderful hours together the next day, utterly amazed that of all the places in the U.S., we “just happened” to be in the same city on the same day. We live 1200 miles away from Colorado Springs and our friend lives 6,000 miles away.

We think we are in control of our lives and choose where and when we want to go. Then something like this happens and it makes you wonder. 

Proverbs 16:9 - “A man’s heart plans his way, 
but the Lord directs his steps.” (NIV)

I'm linking up with Jennifer for