Tuesday, 29 December 2009

3...2...1...Ready or not, here I come!

This is a holiness table. There is one, in some shape or form, at the front of each Salvation Army chapel. It is a place we can pray. A place where we can aknowledge our sin, our need of holiness. It is a physical representation that reminds us that the Holy God is in our midst and that the whole of our life and service is lived to honor his holiness.

It is NOT a hiding place. Each Sunday my boys wait for me to make my way to the platform above this very table, my husband to be holding his guitar...and they make their break away to run up to the front and play under the table. It's as if they wait for the very moment in each service when they know we will cannot do anything about their misbehavior. They know we will not make a scene from the pulpit, or cause a distraction by correcting them loudly.

Thankfully I know that the Holiness is not the table itself....

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:16

Monday, 21 December 2009

Our Christmas so far, in pictures

We made sugar cookies. It took a couple of batches to figure out the right dough, but we conquered the making-cookies-outside-of-America battle.
We had candles and decorations.

Bram's school concert was wonderful!
He was dressed as a shepherd (Spanish style)
but insisted that he was San Jose. (St. Joseph)

We had the Spanish 'delicacy' of Serrano Ham.



Our church handed out hundreds of bags of food and gifts to our community.


IT SNOWED!!! Almost felt like home.


We made salt dough ornaments.



We visited the City Council of Madrid's official Nativity scene.
It was a set up the entire city of Bethlehem.


...and there's still more to come!



Sunday, 6 December 2009

Another Year, Another Tree


I love Christmas trees. I just l.o.v.e. Christmas trees. I like tall, full, tastefully decorated trees. I love skinny, Charlie Brown trees. I love gaudy trees. I love trees full of homemade decorations. I love Christmas trees.

In our first appointment we arrived to a very large chapel, and a very small tree. I desperately wanted to get a 12 ft. tree to fill the chapel space, but the church lacked the funds to buy one. So I told my husband,"Fine, I'll just ask God for one." And I did.

About a week before Christmas that year a man called to say he wanted to donate his Christmas tree to The Salvation Army. He said he didn't have room for his tree in his new apartment...his 12ft. tree! I told him we'd be there within the hour to pick it up. The tree was falling apart, but I told my husband that we had to put it up the following Christmas because God had got me that tree. So using green bungee cords to hold the top half to the bottom half, we had a beautiful, big tree for the chapel.

This year, our church again has a large chapel but a tiny tree. So, I reminded my husband about God's power over large Christmas trees. And once again someone has offered to give the church their large tree after Christmas!

I once heard a preacher say "If it matters to you, it matters to Him." Ain't that the truth!

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The No Name Prophet

So, I've been reading through 1 Kings lately. And last night I read chapter 13 about the Man of God from Judah. (Read the story by clicking on the link)

A quick summary: Jeroboam (the King) has created a false religion and a no name prophet shows up to show him the error of his ways. As the man heads home he is tricked into disobeying God by eating in town, then he is mauled by a lion on the road home and the lion guards his corpse by the roadside. Then the guy that tricked him gives the no-name a proper burial, and Jeroboam never changes his ways.

One of those uplifting stories....


At first read, it seems totally unfair that God gets so angry with the no name prophet that he has to die in such a dishonorable manner all because he was tricked. The old prophet that tricked him outright lied to him, how was he supposed to know??

The whole story made me think about 2 things: why doesn't he have a name? and why did he have to be punished for believing a lie?

I think as humans our natural inclination is to be given our due, so to speak. The no name prophet is the medium for a great miracle that God performs. The king's hand freezes and an altar cracks in half, that's incredible. But we have no name to attribute these great events to. I think sometimes we assume that we'll be remembered for all the great things that God is doing or going to do through us, but sometimes we are just the no name guy that God used. A nice Biblical reminder that the ministry, the miracles, the message is not about the medium.

A commentary I read about the passage suggested that no name was punished so severly in order to prove that God means what He says about not tolerating sin. God had just proven that He would not allow sin to continue among His people without discipline. No name knew that God had told him not to eat while in Bethel. He repeated it to the older prophet who offered him something to eat. (which raises a lot of unanswered questions: why'd the older prophet lie??) But he accepted the lie instead of truth anyway. But don't we all do that? Don't we all know exactly what God has required of us, but we'd rather accept the easier route at times? "I know I'm not supposed to, but the "bread" just smells so good." It's easier to accept a lie than hold on to the truth.

I guess, I find the lesson of the story is that God's message is not about me. Just because God causes great things to happen all around me, I shouldn't for a second think that I have anything to do with it. And I shouldn't for a second think that I can accept a lie in place of God's truth. I don't have the power to overrule God's decisions.

So, is there an upside to this story? I think that knowing God's message is not about me is the upside. It's not my responsibility to do the miracle, to transform the situation, to be 'entertaining'. My responsibility to remain faithful to the Truth, the rest is up to Him.

What a relief.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Random Dozen

I'm joining the meme from 2nd Cup of Coffee's blog.


1. If you could master one sport, what would it be?

Badminton. Minimal running, but includes a racket.

2. When you make a major purchase, do you go with your gut instinct, or do you do research to make an informed decision?

I often will walk away from the item and if I decide later that I really really want it then I will go buy it. It's worked for me so far.

3. There is an old kids' game that says you can find out what your movie star name would be by using your middle name as your first name and the name of the street you grew up on as your last. What is your movie star name?

Nichole Albert

4. Would you rather give up your favorite music or your favorite food?

I'd give up music first because you might find something similar, but food is very particular. I definitely choose keeping the food.

5. There are two types of banana preferences. One is pristine yellow, almost to the point of being green; the other is spotty and more ripe. Which is your preference?

Pristine yellow and firm. I HATE mushy, even a slight give, fruit. It especially annoys me that when I've gone through the process of picking through fruit to find the ones that have no bruises or mushiness the checker throws them down the rolling thingies....

6. Your favorite tree is?

I think I miss very large oak trees the most.

7. On a scale of 1-10, how tech savvy are you?

I would say I'm a 6.5. I know enough to load my iPod, check my facebook, and hook up a printer...but if you want me to download you a program or find one of the fancy gadgets on my iPod, you're out of luck.

8. Has H1N1 touched your family?

Not yet. There have been 2 confirmed cases in Bramwell's school. They just started offering the "Gripe A" (as it's called in Spain) vaccine a few days ago. I haven't completely decided whether or not to vaccinate the boys...I'm not convinced that they don't know the side effects of the vaccine aren't potentially worse than getting H1N1...

9. Are you an analytical person, or do you just accept things the way they are without questioning or scrutinizing?

I tend to accept things the way they are. If there is room for improvement and a desperate need I see the benefit to questioning, but if "it ain't broke, don't fix it" is what I say. Thankfully, I married a man who is always questioning the status quo, so we make a good team.

10. Is your personality more like that of a dog, cat, or Koala?

I'm gonna go with Koala...the little cracker ones that are filled with chocolate.

11. Do you keep in touch with friends you made years ago?

Facebook has helped me, but typically I rarely write, call, or return e-mails. I'm a terrible friend, but I hope those I love know I mean no offense.

12. You are checking out at a grocery store. In the express lane, there are more people than the regular lanes, but of course, their load is less than those in the regular lanes. Which lane do you choose (assuming you qualify for the express lane) and why?

I choose a regular lane and get stuck behind the lady arguing that the coupon is valid because it expired yesterday and then my toddlers begin screaming, pulling things out of their packaging, and my cell phone starts ringing from that mysterious black hole in the middle of my purse, then I mentally threaten to leave the cart and storm out of the store, but I don't, I just mutter to myself "I always choose wrong."

Monday, 16 November 2009

Niños son esponjas.


Children are sponges. At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me…

Who knew schooling would be so difficult? Bram has spent the last week home from school because he has a “fever”. He has no other symptoms of illness. He’s eating, playing, and picking on his brother…all as normal. Which led me to believe perhaps the fever is a symptom of something else? Everyone seems to have a story of how their child had a seeming illness and it turned out to be symptoms of stress or extreme dislike of a situation.

Between both boys, Bram seems to be the most sensitive to the language change we have experienced. Bram started formal school in January primarily in English, after the summer and the move, in October he started another school primarily in Spanish. It’s been a tough switch for him.

Part of me says I know that he will adapt, and that come this time next year he’ll most likely be perfectly fine. But it’s still hard to watch him get stressed out, and not be able to do much about it. We have decided to try and reduce the stress in the areas where we are in control, ie: long Metro rides, plenty of snacks, plenty of rest stops at parks along the way home. And try to be extra encouraging about the things we can’t change: the increase in the Spanish language surroundings, big city-ness, having to cross his legs during story time at school. :)

Part of being an officer’s kid is the possibility of a move when it is least expected. My boys didn’t pick this life, but God picked them for us.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

# R 540

Government offices can be very intimidating. Perhaps that's by design.

The first person you encounter, I call them the "Defense". They have all the answers and will often answer before you ask, while highlighting a paper with the address where you were supposed to go. They're usually sarcastically polite, and rather curt. They have seen 100's of people every day, most of them demanding that the rules bend for their case...I can understand.

The next step is to walk through the metal detectors and wait. All the while you are anxiously watching the scrolling numbers, waiting for your number to come across. And just as it seems the numbers are moving quickly, there's a long 'stall' 2 numbers before your own.

All too often it seems the people behind the desks are either just coming back from a coffee break or just going to leave for their coffee break. It is Spain, perhaps there is a mandated number of cafe con leche breaks?

Today, we went to renew our residency paperwork. Because of the move and chaos of life, we are in a bit of a rush because our residency cards expire next week. But God has been with us each step of this process. I reminded myself of that fact as I sat staring at the board blinking "R534". God demonstrated his power over "Pharaoh" again today. We sat at the girl's desk and she quickly processed both Jeff and my paperwork, even making a copy of something we had forgotten to include! So, it's done. We just wait for the letter to come back to record our fingerprint, and we're legal again for another 2 years.

The boys paperwork will be done on Friday in a separate office for minors.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Metro vs. Mommy


It's a never ending stream of people. People rushing past on the left. People running up stairs on the right. And at both ends are massive amounts of stairs with no elevator in sight. And I'm dragging a crying three year old, with a wiggly two year old strapped into a stroller. Needless to say, it's enough to discourage even the strongest of souls.


Jeff is traveling around Spain with a visiting youth band, and I have assumed the role of "Super Mommy". Except without the super. Jeff usually takes our oldest to school on the Madrid Metro each morning, and picks him up. One boy on the Metro is not so bad...it's the combination that's killer.


At just the point when I think I'll just keep Bram home from school the rest of the week rather than do this again, someone will offer to help me carry the stroller up the stairs or offer me a place to sit down on the Metro. It's the little things that really make a difference.


4 days till Jeff comes home...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

We're Moving...

The one sure thing in The Salvation Army is that officers will move. We all know this, but I don't think it necessarily makes any of it easier. Because of that though, we have always attempted to make our ministry about empowering the people to see their potential as part of the Kingdom of God, therefore, essentially, making the officer interchangeable to their puzzle.

Our family has received moving orders. We arrive in Madrid next Monday to take up a new post, a new style of life, and all the new possibilities God has in store for us.

It is the quickest move I've ever made in my 6 years of officership, and the first time that I've moved without any expectations of a move. My first move was because I got married, my next move because they closed the appointment I was in, the third because we had applied for overseas service. Those moves all had sadness, but also a sense of preparation on our part. This time it was completely unexpected. My head is still reeling at the magnitude of the change that is about to happen...

After we received the news that we were being re-assigned I had the verse from Jeremiah "I know the plans I have for you" stuck in my head. One early morning, as I'm not sleeping very well lately, I got up and decided to spend the time before sunrise reading that chapter. In it there is a moment when God reminds the Isrealites/Jeremiah that it is HE that decides how long prophets stay and when they go. It was a great reminder that HE is in control of moves in our lives, even when it doesn't seem that way from the outside.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, 27 August 2009

What difference is it?


Picture: Bram & Jeff at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

It has been a full year in Spain.

Many people want to know "How has your life changed?"

Jeff has taken on the challenge to answer that very question...

I drink sterilized milk & juice from a cardboard box.

I eat out exponentially less, and only at restaurants with a ‘play place’

17 months between boys seemed ok, until 3 vs 2: the apartment is very loud

I wash my Salvation Army uniform tunic & pants in the washer and hang dry

I have personally paid over 2,000 USD for official items, not counting things that could be taken officially back home

At times I have to park 200 – 300 yards from the apartment

I walk 4 flights of stairs multiple times a day; groceries, toddlers, luggage, trash

I’ve lost 25 lbs

Most days I have to park ¼ to ½ mile from the Corps and lug in instruments and program material.

Although a vehicle seems a necessity; w/maintenance & operating costs it constitutes 20% of the budget

I’ve lived with 75% humidity all summer

God is bigger than my stress

God has been faithful in every situation

I love the smell of the salt air as the breeze comes in off the coast line

I love to watch the clouds billow over the mountain

The view from our balcony makes it all worth it

I get to spend twice the amount of time with my family

Although my Spanish is far better today than when I arrived; it is by no means where it should be

I rely on our prior experience & training to move forward, all the while finding the ‘new’ ways God is calling us to minister.

Pastorally, Corps Officership is the same no matter where you serve & administratively

All things relative, we would accept a second term.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

10 Things I Learned...

"So, you've given up on the blog?" he says.

"No, what are you talking about?" she casually responds while clicking through facebook photo albums.

"Well, are you just not feeling inspired to post anymore?"

"No. What do you want me to write about??"

...ok, so I clicked through a few more photos before coming back to post....


So, here's a list of 10 things I've learned this summer: (in random order)

1. Vinegar really does keep away mosquitoes.

2. Air conditioning is a blessing not to be taken lightly.

3. Dresses keep you much cooler.

4. God is bigger than any financial crisis.

5. God is in the details.
(including perfect timing for you to make it downstairs so they don't tow away your only vehicle)

6. I would much rather have a donut for dinner. Don't tell my boys, it'll ruin my reputation.

7. Friends are a necessity and a blessing for sanity purposes.

8. Sand really does get into EVERYTHING.

9. When the temp is above 95 and the building's turned the water off, it's great having friends who let you use their pool.

10. Vacations seem to happen just when you need them. (our's: next week!)


Side note: Burgos & Palmanova are both quite a distance from our town. But I'm sure your prayers for both of those cities as they recover from the bombings is greatly appreciated.

Monday, 13 July 2009

My Brain is Melting...

It's too hot to sleep. Fans are of little help, and even watching some strange sci fi movie involving silver space suits, an snow monster, and ice shackles is not helping.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Run, Forest, Run!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's Festa Major in Denia! Our area of Spain is known as one of the locations to have the most fiestas.

I have learned in our near year here that they love any reason to have a good party. And the more dancing and singing in the street the better the fiesta!

Festa Major includes bulls and lots of them! Three nights this week they will run bulls down the main street of our town into a temporary bull ring set up by the sea.

In the bull ring, twice a day, they will play a game with several bulls. We witnessed "Bous a la Mar" (Valenciano for "Bulls to the Sea") this afternoon. Apparently the rules are: try to get the bull into the water without it killing you. The end result was simply a lot of wet people. It was very exciting and a lot of fun to watch.


I think sometimes we have a tendency to take life a little too seriously. Everything is dramatic, everything is important, and there's not time to be silly. I have been reminded this week, and am learning in Spain, how important it is to just have some fun sometimes. Sometimes, in order to maintain sanity, you have to let the bull chase you into the water, even though you know you're going to end up all wet in the end.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

We're still here...

It's hot. It's very hot. And there is no breeze.

Side effects:
1. easy, quick dehydration (plants & humans)
2. easy, quick irritability (mostly mommies & toddlers)
3. complete and utter laziness

I've not been 'inspired' to write on the blog, so I'll just give a quick update:

Top 5 events of the past few days:

1. We are holding a Vacation Bible School next week for English speaking families. I'm really excited about all the possibilities, even though it is apparently a 'new concept' to some of our church members.

2. We have visited the cities of Valencia and Alicante like good tourists.

3. We celebrated the Fiesta de San Juan. It's a local holiday where they light bon fires on the beach and jump into the sea at midnight. No one had the same story as to why they do these things, but I will say it was a lot of fun!

4. God provided a new washing machine and refridgerator! Our washing machine had stopped emptying out water and our fridge stopped being cold, so through much prayer and the provision of International Project funds we have working machines!

5. Bram had prize day, aka: graduation day. We watched him walk across the front and recieve his graduation story book. I did cry. Afterwards Bram said "Mommy, the man with a tie shook my hand!!"

Monday, 8 June 2009

Lazy Summer Days

As the days get longer, and the temperature keeps rising, some congregation members have invited us over to swim and have dinner at their house. So far it's been a weekly thing for a month, and we've watched Bram get better and better at swimming!

Grandmas, enjoy!


video

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey




The five things that I am thankful for today:

1. The art of bartering. Our regular volunteer had to be gone today so I ran our thrift store. And everyone who comes in wants to barter down the price. I'm thankful that I stuck to my 'guns' and sold the sewing machine for the right price!


2. My husband's ability to give the boys decent haircuts. See:




3. I'm thankful for friends who are willing to invite our family over for a BBQ and a swim in their pool. (We are the only ones in the congregation without a pool, I think) It's always a nice time to be relaxed and just enjoy fellowship.



4. I'm thankful for people who are willing to join our ministry for a little while. On Saturday we have someone from the States coming to stay with us for about 6 weeks and just going to help us with the ministry. No strings...just in need of a place to sleep and eat!

5. I'm thankful that my husband is willing to let me decorate the chapel for Pentecost Sunday. I've decided to hang flames/doves from our ceiling as a visual enhancement to the service!






Monday, 25 May 2009

My Favorite Clothes

This is my most comfortable outfit. Granted, those are definitely not uniform 'appropriate' shoes, but I have to walk a lot...

I realize that this uniform tends to make some people uncomfortable, mainly because of a misunderstanding of what it means. Although, there are parts of the world where there is an instant recognition of purpose and position upon sight. And then there are parts of the world, such as the one I live in now, where this uniform is still virtually unheard of. (But that is changing!)

We are in the habit of wearing our uniforms most every day. It's hot now, so I'm thankful we've switched to 'summer uniform' (sans nylons). It does make for a conspicuous walk around our little town. There are the passing comments "Maybe they're sailors?" or "Perhaps they're pilots?", but more often than not there are just outright glaring stares. We attract a lot of attention for so little 'effort'.

I have noticed that as of late we've been getting a lot more questions. I LOVE when people ask me what my uniform is for, because they have opened the door for me to tell them exactly what it is for. I get the chance to prove that we're not 'weirdos' or harsh military types. I get a chance to tell them where The Salvation Army is located in town, what we do, etc. I get to build relationships. I have noticed that while I may not know their names, many people greet me on the street...and the only way they know and recognize me from every other foreigner in town...you guessed it.

There are some that say we as an Army should put this 'vintage' and 'military' look away for a more updated and modern look. I am not one of them. If the people around us don't recognize our uniforms or know what they stand for....it's our fault, not the uniforms'. The only way to create and understanding of what those epaulettes mean is by wearing them, not storing them away.

Monday, 18 May 2009

No Such Thing

I don't believe in coincidences. I believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love him...even the little things. Even the things that one would initially think God is too busy to really deal with.

Example:

Saturday I arrived at the church to set up for our Spanish service. Only to find that the gate covering the door would not go up, which is the only way to get in the building. Needless to say, I prayed with the regular attenders before sending them home.

My husband and I, on Sunday morning, were able to manually shove the gate up enough to let people in for our English service. After the service we pressed the remote opener and the gate slammed shut. There was nothing more we could do about, being Sunday. So the boys and I spent the afternoon on the beach....suffering for Jesus.

Sorry, back to the story.....

Monday morning, Jeff and I once again shoved the gate up so we could open the thrift store for the day. We were decided to find a "repair" shop to give us an estimate about what needed to be done.

I had considered calling the Baptist church pastor and asking him if there was anyone in his congregation that fixed these gates that he could recommend to me. I wanted to find someone relatively trustworthy, because honestly I have never dealt with gates prior to being in Spain. I also had recently noticed some large signs pointing out various businesses as the "best businesses in Denia" and a repair shop had one of those signs just around the corner from our church building. So we decided to start there.

We walked in, explained our problem, and explained where the broken gate was located. The shop owner said "Oh, we're Christians too. We go to the Baptist church." Which led us into a conversation about how nice it would be for the evangelical community to do more things together, and she mentioned that just yesterday her church had prayed for the other churches in our city including The Salvation Army.

Her husband came the same evening and has completely sorted our gate issue out, even demonstrating to me what to do in the case of problems in the future. I am convinced that God led me there. That the shop was our intended destination.

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Smash!















This is how we spend one to two afternoons a week. As long as it's not raining, you might be able to find us slowly morphing into beach bums. Ask Jonas if he wants to go to the beach, and he'll undoubtedly say "Si!"

I create these little sand crabs for the boys to spend the next few seconds mashing into the ground. I will admit it can be very therapeutic play...

It has definitely warmed up on the Costa Blanca!

Here's a quick update on life in Spain:

* We painted our chapel. It was in a desperate need of a "pick me up" and God has really blessed this congregation with several retired professional carpenters and painters. It looks great!

* We revamped our thrift store. The store is one of the main sources of income for our church. So we cleaned it up, rearranged, got rid of trash, and have had an increase in sales! (Now, let's hope it holds out and is not just temporary.)

* We recently participated in an church wide prayer event, hosted by a local Baptist church. It was the first time that many of these evangelical groups have gotten together for anything, and still many 'refused' to attend. It was a great event, and we're really excited about what God will do through a united evangelical community.

*I've signed the boys us for the summer program at the same Baptist church for the month of July. (Everything is closed in August) The selling point of many summer programs are the fact that English will be taught throughout the summer, but they wanted to warn me at the church it would be "American" English because they have groups from the States that help out during the summer. I simply smiled, and said "Well, we speak American so it shouldn't be a problem for the boys."


Thursday, 7 May 2009

Thankful Thursday!

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey



Today, I am thankful for...



1. the fact that we live in walking distance of the beach, and the warm weather means we can take advantage of it.



2. new plants! I got a free plant from a local nursery. We were the first Americans to ever shop there. Apparently it's a fuschia, and I will do my absolute best to not kill it...

3. finding pickles at the grocery store today.

4. spring clothes. It's time to wear capris again!!!

5. the return of the fruit market. Last weekend was Labor Day in Spain, so there was no market....it's cherry season, and I need my fix.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Completely Embarassed


I felt the heat rise, and my cheeks getting flushed. I felt like such a fool, but still couldn't think of another way to stop the impending doom. I had jumped to my feet and yelled out, perhaps louder than really necessary, "Jonas, don't you dare!" I watched as my enraged 2 year old took hold of the hand of another little boy in the cafe's play area, mouth open, teeth bared.


My outburst had caught him just in time, he dropped the hand and looked at me with a quizzical look, "Something wrong, mommy?" I marched over to the ball pit and simply looked at my two boys. My 3 year old walked slowly over to the table to put his shoes on, no questions asked. Jonas, still puzzled by the turn of events, followed his brother to prepare to leave. I could feel the eyes of the Spanish mothers as they looked our way. I'm not sure my quiet "Discupla" and "Perdoname" was enough to cover the outburst.

It's interesting, and frustrating, to watch the boys' very different ways of dealing with conflict and strangers. Bramwell will most usually back down and give in. Jonas, as experienced today, will fight tooth and nail to get his way. Not that much time between the two birthdays, same parents, same living situation, but still so different.

Needless to say, I'm not sure I can show my face at that cafe for a little while....

Monday, 20 April 2009

What do you write when you don't want to write?

The rain has let up for today. I got some laundry done. And I've decided that I should update the blog. I'm sure when one stops updating very regularly, the number of visitors and comments surely will dwindle....and one could never have that??

I've been contemplating the Ministry lately. (I use a capital M because I mean ministry in general, not necessarily a specific one.)...anyways... Too often I tend to define the Ministry by flashy programs that capture attention, 'wow' the community, so good they create 'waiting lists'. Or define it by the number of seats filled or the attendance to those flashy programs...

I know that these are not what Jesus defined Ministry by, and it's important to remind myself that neither should I. My ministry within the Ministry is to live like Jesus in front of the people around me. I must choose to simply be an example of what Jesus calls each of us to be, that's the Ministry. Each 'ministry' within holds various responsibilities, but the definite purpose is to show Jesus through it all. Regardless of the tangible results.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Q: How do you make sure it rains? A: Hang your laundry on the line to dry.

It's going to rain....again. It's been raining off and on for a week now. My parents arrived a week ago, and its been relatively rainy since. I haven't had much to write about either...so here's a few pictures.


We played on the beach today...it was a little too cold. On Saturday we went to Guadalest. A town high in the mountains.


We spent time walking on the boardwalk in Javea.


And we've been having a pretty good time...when the sun is out.



Monday, 23 March 2009

Row, Row, Your....Surf board??

The sunshine has made its debut on the Costa Blanca. And the tourists are beginning to trickle into town.

I was taking my laundry off the line and saw this guy out there. What is he doing? I don't know...standing on a surf board with a paddle. But that's not the point, the point is: look at that balance!

Watching him paddle away out to the open sea, all I could think about was how hard it must be to stay upright on a surfboard like that.

Balance can be a tricky thing. I made a mental list of all the things that my life requires balancing:

school birthday parties...who to tell yes, and who to tell no....there are 2 this week!
pay checks....must the boys eat 3 times a day?
never ending laundry
church members needs....real vs. irrational
community needs....real vs. irrational
not to mention my need to finish the "Mark of the Lion" series by Francine Rivers :)

I may not be on a surf board, but sometimes it does feel just as hard.

Thankfully the truth is:

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55:22

Friday, 20 March 2009

Falla Photos

If it weren't for the remnants of Roman candles and fire crackers from last night's parties, you'd never know the Fallas even happened.

Here's a few photos from the week's events!


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And the planning for Fallas 2010 started the next day.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Pop!

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Last Night's "Mascleta" (the daily, large fire crackers event during the week of festivities)

Fire crackers are an important tradition involved in the Fallas week. Mostly it's the little fire crackers that are designed to make more noise and smoke than anything else. You know, the kind that go off and scare you? But it's a constant thing the few weeks before, and especially this week.

I have been leary of walking near pre-teen boys holding lit fire crackers waiting to startle some unsuspecting tourist. And yesterday, I swallowed my cultural pride, and watched as my 3 year old threw simple crackers with some friends from school. (They were only throwing the ones that pop upon contact. There was no fire involved...grandmothers, take a deep breath, he has all 10 fingers still...)

I have noticed a slight 'evolvement' of my reaction to these noise explosions. Two weeks ago when the fire crackers first started making their appearances, I jumped and screamed. Later in the week, I would simply startle and turn my head towards the noise. Now, I barely notice anymore. I don't jump, and only if it is a really loud event will I turn to see where it is coming from.

I think that's sometimes how people react to God's voice... He's speaking all around. He's making noise, in His way, but we just become disillusioned and stop paying attention.

For God does speak - now one way, now another - though man may not perceive it. Job 33:14

There are times when I feel like I'm all alone, and God has forgotten about my situation. And all the time He was trying to get my attention, throwing fire crackers at my heart if you will, but I'm not paying attention. God has not become de-sensitized, it's been me who's stopped noticing...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Spring has sprung


My favorite 'signal' of Spring is the daffodil. Now they've been in bloom since early February here in the Costa Blanca, which has been a strange sight for me since I'm used to them making their first appearances much closer to Easter, rather than Ash Wednesday.

Winning Trivial Pursuit Fact: Daffodils are the national symbol of Wales.


Life Update #1:

I spent the weekend in London attending the UK Territory's Baby Song Training Conference. It's a program that is aimed at reaching out to families via parent-baby bonding classes. The Norweigan Salvation Army was conducting the seminar, and invited me to attend when they visited Denia last fall. So, an American Salvation Army officer serving in Spain Command attending a United Kingdom Territorial conference as a Norweigan delegate. Plus I got a whirlwind tour of London on the go!

London was great! See how happy I am in this picture in front of St. Paul's Cathedral:



Life Update #2:

The Fallas is in full swing here in the Comunitat de Valencia. (Valenciano Community = a large chunk of the south eastern portion of Spain....google it....) The Fallas commemorates St. Joseph's Day on March 19th, which is also Spain's Father's Day. The story goes that carpenters would clear out the shops each year at this time and burn their scraps in the street, so someone got the idea to create a figurine out of the scraps before creating the bonfire. And well, that tradition has become this:

These ENORMOUS works of art take a year to build. (The average height was 2 to 4 stories tall!) Clubs compete against each other to win prize for the best creation, and then on the night of March 19th the set them all on FIRE! (I'm secretly looking forward to seeing them in flames!)

So in that thought I leave you with the words from the song written by William Booth (the founder of The Salvation Army) that have been buzzing around my head while taking pictures of the fallas:

'Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,

Send the fire!

The fire will meet our every need,

Send the fire!

For strength to ever do the right,

For grace to conquer in the fight.

For power to walk the world in white,

Send the fire!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Will Your Anchor Hold?

We conduct a "Songs of Praise" service in English each Sunday evening at a hotel in Denia. The service is attended by hotel guests and various others from our local area. Usually the boys and I stay home, but since my in-laws have been here I have been able help out. This week one of the leaders in the program captured the "magic" on camera!

Enjoy!

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Thursday, 5 March 2009

Thankful Thursday

Five things I am thankful for this week:

1. The power to stick to a decision. 'Normal' television (AKA: American sitcoms and series) start at 10:00pm in Spain. I have decided to go to bed at a reasonable hour, rather than staying up to watch TV (I am giving up Heroes as we speak). I'm actually feeling much better and rested...who knew??

2. Hidden treasures. I was positive that I was out of contact solution and nylons, both of which are very expensive for our budget here. (Plus nylons for a 6 foot women in Europe are practically impossible to find, and I have to wear them at least 4 times a week). BUT I found a box of contact solution and bag of 4 pair of nylons hidden amongst other things!

3. Sudoku. My mother in law brought me a big book of Sudoku...

4. The freedom to see Bram's class sing their phonics songs at school this morning. He's still at the age where he's "proud" of us and excited to see us...I know there will be a day when we come walking within the vicinity of school, especially if in our uniforms, and he will be "utterly humiliated". So, I'm enjoying these moments, and making sure to take the time to experience them.

5. Fruit Market Fridays! I look forward to the huge town social event every week! Fresh fruit, tons of people, cheap prices, and the incredible strawberries!! Who wouldn't love it?

Check out the other Thanksgivings at Truth 4 the Journey!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Scarf Carnival...You can never have too many



There is something in the bloggy universe that has made me excited about blogging this week!


A SCARF CARNIVAL!!!!


Ok, so as I understand it, I just need to post pictures of my scarves!! Since moving to Europe, I have developed an obsession...er...an appreciation of this European cultural phenomenon. (At least that's what I tell my husband as I buy a new one seemingly every week...)


On to the scarves...
Here are my "every day" scarves...the first two are my uniform appropriate ones...








You would not be allowed to live in Spain without this style of scarf....and yes I took this picture today while we visited Calpe with my in laws...listen, someone has to suffer for Jesus, right?


This scarf I found in our thrift store. I paid my euro, and took it home!













I've been looking at this scarf in the market for weeks, and last week they had a 2 for 5 euro sale! I got my scarf, and hooked my mother in law...


I love scarves....and it's likely that my collection will continue to grow.....

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Forgive me, it has been nearly 2 weeks since my last blog entry....

Quick update:

1. Saw Madrid / Segovia in a week. Boy am I tired!
2. Brought my in-laws back for sunny, slow paced Denia.
3. Due to a lack of internet in Madrid while on vacation, I have become disillusioned with use of the computer....I'm sure it will pass.

At Christmas time we handed out calendars that contained a Scripture verse in Spanish for each month of 2009. I was looking at it tonight as I was cooking some beef stew for the bunch, but all the while feeling rather defeated by various circumstances.

The verse for February is:

the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few 1 Samuel 14:6

I went back to read the whole story. Jonathan is given the victory because he watched for the signs from God....but more importantly he believed in God's power.

Trials are always...well....a trial. But there comes a moment right before we head over to the enemy's camp that we have to decide who's power we are going to have more confidence in. Am I more confident in the power of my God? Or do I put more stock into the power of my enemies?

Even if it's 2 against 20....I know that the Lord will act on our behalf.

A few more pics from our trip:







Saturday, 14 February 2009

Vacation, vacation, vacation

This is Bram after we put on his costume for school on Friday. He was upset because he was afraid no one else was going to have a costume on. He kept asking to put his uniform on. He livened up at the bus stop when he saw a princess waiting to catch the bus too.


The worst part of going on vacation seems to often be the night before. I'm up too late finishing the last of the packing (and inevitably we will have forgotten something). I run around trying to leave the house clean so we come home to a clean house. And then it's seemingly a mad dash out the front door in the morning...

But I am feeling much better.

Here's another pic from yesterday's Carnaval. This is the school's play yard/gym area where they held the assembly.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Madrid....Here we come....

Jeff's parents are flying into Madrid, arriving Monday morning. Since Madrid is a 4 to 6 hour drive from where we are, we took the opportunity to claim a little vacation time and "sight see" around Madrid with them.

But right now I am laying in bed with either a chest cold or the flu. I have every heater on possible, but then I get hot so I turn it off. Then I get cold, so on they go again...it's been a whole day of that.

Bram celebrated Carnaval at school, and we were able to visit and see the costumes and the dancing. The "external relations" director approached me to apologize profusely for Bram's head bump on Monday (he fell on his way out to the school bus and has one major scratch/goose egg.). To which my answer was "He's 3 and a boy. He'll do far worse in the future, I'm afraid."

We also met another North American (from Canada) and got invited to tea by some parents from Bram's class....not to mention the various strange looks due to our "uniformed" presence. One child asked if we were pilots, I overheard one parent speculating that we were foreign military, and I'm sure the majority of the British parents were saying "I didn't know The Salvation Army was in Spain?" At this point we are more than use to it...

...um...I was going to post pictures of Bram's adorable clown costume...but the camera is not available...you'll have to imagine it.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Cold Tea Cake

I should be cleaning my kitchen. I should be starting another load of laundry so I can hang it from the line before we leave in the morning. I should be eating a balanced meal for dinner.

But I'm not. I'm eating cheese on some great crusty bread I bought at the French bakery this morning. (It's the only thing open on Sundays, and I take the boys over for a treat so they don't have to be cooped up in the building all morning. Hazard of being the pastor's kid: you are at church hours before anyone else shows up, and hours after everyone leaves... But I am eating a hazelnut yogurt...and will probably have a cup of tea before I go to bed...

Here's a great recipe I encountered this week. "Cold Tea Cake" Our congregation is primarily British expatriates, so I've been attempting to find ways to "infiltrate" their culture in order to win their hearts via their stomachs.

COLD TEA CAKE

Ingredients:

3 C dried fruit (I used golden raisins (or 'sultanas' in British...))

1 1/4 C brown sugar

1 1/2 C cold tea (the idea is to use the tea that's left over from tea time...)

2 C self rising flour

(I make my own 'cause it's expensive here: 1 C reg. flour + 1 1/2 t baking powder + 1/2 t salt = 1 C self rising flour)

1 egg

Directions:

Mix the fruit and sugar in a medium bowl. Soak in cold tea overnight.

Mix the egg and flour into the fruit mixture. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350* for about an hour and half.

(My loaf needed nearly 2 hours...but it tasted wonderful when it was done!)



Three Good Things:

1. My inlaws are coming for a visit! They arrive next Monday! (one week to make the house presentable...)

2. Bram was having trouble staying "accident free" at school, but last week he stayed "dry and clean" (in his words) all week! We celebrated with a chocolate Kinder egg (a hollow chocolate egg that has a toy inside).

3. I got the most beautiful, and delicious strawberries from the Friday fruit market...so good that the boys and I have finished the kilo (2.2 pounds) in a little under 2 days...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Survival Instinct

Yesterday, we picked up Bram from school because we still needed to pay for his uniforms. I picked him up from the classroom, and we walked to the main office to pay at the front desk. The "external relations director" for the school asked me how Bram was doing and if he was enjoying his new school.

It is a common question lately, since he just switched out of a Spanish only system into the bilingual system of this school. It's a loaded question in its response though. Bram is doing amazingly better. He talks about school, his new friends, the stories he's learning, what he ate for lunch, etc. For the first time in 6 months, he is excited about going to school, not simply enduring. And he's actually using Spanish words in context, beyond 'commands'. Tonight he told me he makes lots of sudsy bubbles with his 'javon' (soap).

I think the major difference is the switch from "survival mode" to a comfort range that facilitates learning. In the previous school, Bram never really talked about what they were doing each day perhaps because he was never sure. He was just trying to make sure he didn't get left behind. (I think that given a longer time in the previous system, Bram would have adapted and learned the language well enough to enjoy. It just would have taken time.)

My major lesson in all of this school drama: It's amazing the difference in our personality when we're comfortable. Things that make us nervous and cause us to be unsure put us into an instinctual survival mode. We don't think or enjoy or experience, we simply survive. But when we find ourselves in a place where we can be at emotional rest, so to speak, we can begin to see the whole picture, put things to work, we can enjoy.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Brought to you today by the letter....

I've been a little behind in the blog world recently. A stomach virus made its way into the house this week, and I have been taking echinachea in between serving tea with lemon, rubbing backs, and switching to the next Larry Boy movie. Thankfully, I have not caught the bug this time.

With all the sickness, I've been cooped up in the apartment (well...except the Saturday escape to IKEA an hour and half away) but I have failed to think of something to blog on. You know, something that will earn me hundreds of comments, cause people to reflect on their own lives. You know, something really good. Really, I've failed to think of anything at all.

I'm participating in MY ADHD Me's Meme. She assigned me a letter and I am going to write 10 things that I love that start with that letter.

My letter is:



My Ten Favorite Things that Start with 'F':

(I will resist using the 'obvious' choices of friends and family, but know that I really do love my friends and family (new and old!))

1. Fried rice. I love Chinese food. I have really been longing for some "good" Chinese food, and have even ventured to try and make it myself.

2. facebook. Sad but true. I love how I can get glimpses into people's lives one sentence at a time, and I have encountered friends I thought long lost and even made some new!

3. Francine Rivers, and other authors of that genre. (Deanne Gist, Liz Curtis Higgs to name some) My mother in law introduced me to Christian romantic fiction and as long as the story is compelling I'll read it cover to cover in just a few days.

4. the Fab Four (aka: the Beatles) I practically know every lyric to every Beatles' song simply because my dad played it all the time when we were growing up. So I didn't necessarily choose to know the lyrics, but if there is a Beatles' song playing chances are I'll start singing along...it's kind of like a subconcious thing really.

5. Food. I am developing a growing addiction to food blogs. I buy cook books mainly because of the pictures. I love trying new stuff...and I love to eat!

6. Fahrenheit. I still calculate Celcius degrees to the approximate Fahrenheit translation so I can decide in my head whether something is hot or cold...

7. Funny movies. Who doesn't really?

8. Flowers. Things seem to grow really easily in the climate here, so I've been trying my hand at keeping things alive (only one casualty so far). If I can get the boys to stop pulling the flowers off my jasmine plant we'll be alright!

9. French press coffee. I just discovered the joys and deliciousness of this kind of coffee! I love, love, love it! (Well, I love coffee...so it would be hardpressed to be in a 'bad' category...)

10. Friday fruit market. Every Friday our town has its outdoor fruit market down one street in the center of town. I love it because you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and other stuff thrown in, from local growers. I love it partially because of the freshness of everything, plus it's the place where every one in town is at on Fridays, so you end up seeing a lot of people too!

(Wow...this was harder than I thought!)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

And he huffed, and he puffed...

This is the neighbor's yard. This neighbor only comes to their place here in Denia during the summer months. They are going to be very upset when they find this rotting pine tree covering the length of their yard area...

Spain had some incredible wind/storms this past weekend. In Barcelona 4 children died when a football (soccer) arena collapsed on them. There was a fire that engulfed an entire apartment complex when a power line pole was knocked over in the wind. I think the death toll was up to 12 people last I heard.

Our neighbors lost a huge chunk of their brick wall, so there is nothing between her washing machine and falling into the courtyard 4 stories below. There are broken lamp posts, twisted bill boards, and downed trees all over our little section of the Mediterranean. Thankfully our apartment and church building are unharmed...we didn't even lose any clothes off the line.

Some positive things in our past few days:

1. Bram is loving school! (He must have told me the story of the three little pigs about 40 times.) And his uniforms finally came in!


2. The sunshine has returned to the coast, so our clothes will finally dry in a decent amount of time.

3. I finally got around to reading the book my mother-in-law sent (Deep in the Heart of Trouble) and I'm lovin' it!

4. We have family coming to visit in a few weeks!!