Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Woman Begins with Her Heart

I found this both insightful and quite amusing. It’s from God on Sex by Daniel Akin.

“[While a family was playing in their backyard in the Everglades,] an alligator came up out of the bush and grabbed their small child and began to run back into the bush toward the water. The father and mother both saw what was happening. The father, being the typical male, quickly looked for something that he might grab as a weapon to go and attack the alligator. The mother, however, looked for nothing. She immediately went into a sprint, leaped upon the alligator and began to bite it, hit it, kick it, and scream at it. Finally, bruised and battered, the alligator let go of the small child and made its way quickly back into the safety of the water! The mother stood up, realized what she had just done, and immediately passed out there in the backyard!

“Why did she do this? Because being the woman, she began with her heart not her head, as did her husband. Whenever a child is in danger and both parents see it, almost always the mother will react more quickly. Why? Does she love the child more? I don’t think so. Men start with the head and then move to the heart. This takes a bit longer. Women on the other hand start with the heart and move to the head. This takes no time at all.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January Newsletter

From Laura, 9 … For Christmas, I requested to build a model house from a kit our grandmother gave us. It is actually a carriage house that is part of a village. The village has a Victorian house, a Tudor house, a school, a church, a store, and a carriage house.

First, I punched out the pieces of wood. Then I sanded all of them. After that, the painting process began. I painted along the wood grain so the paint strokes would be parallel to the grain. I also painted the edges of the wood and cardboard trim even though they were small, because you would still be able to see them. I painted the walls brown and I’m in the middle of painting the trim dark green. The roof is made out of cardboard pop-out shingles. The windows are clear plastic with lines to mark the panes.

From Becca, 12 … I am making a cloth doll. Long ago, Mama made a cloth doll for Katie and I am using the same pattern. The pattern includes a bunch of clothes also. I have almost all the pattern pieces for the doll cut out. It’s a very cute doll and I can’t wait till it’s done so I can make clothes for it. About a year ago, Mama helped me make a dress for myself. Now I am going to make a dress for my doll out of leftover fabric from that dress. It will be fun to have a big dress and a little dress that match.

About Seth, 15 … Seth is uninspired this month, so here’s a snapshot of his life right now, from his mother’s perspective: Seth has a full load of academics, is putting in two full days each week on the house-renovation project, is handling a few mowing customers, has many books he is trying to get read, and has daily chores and music practice. In these many arenas he is learning and maturing at a rapid rate. Time management is his current challenge.

From Anna, 18 … I recently finished writing an alternate ending to the story of Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving. It was an interesting assignment, because I had to figure out a way that the story could logically end differently without fundamentally changing the characters. I had some trouble coming up with the basic idea, but once I did, it was fun to write.

From John, 24 … I have been privileged to spend most of my money-making life working for well-financed customers who are more concerned about the quality of the product and process than the price. For the past week, however, I’ve been working for a man who is preparing his deceased father’s townhome for resale. He hired me after losing patience with his ultra-cheap contractor, but he still wants to spend just enough money to get the place sellable. As a result, he has been buying the very cheapest materials. I have decided that $40/gal paint is far superior to $15/gal paint. Not only has my appreciation for high quality materials been renewed, but I have found that I miss the satisfaction of creating a beautiful product that is actually appreciated and enjoyed by my customer.

About Ray and Katie … (by Laura) A few weeks ago, Ray and Katie put an offer on a house that is only four and a half blocks from our new house! But it was more complicated because the owners were in the middle of getting a divorce. There was much anxiety in the process, being the first home they’ve bought, but they are trusting that if it’s the house God wants them to buy, it will all work out. There are several repairs needed -- some urgent, and some that could wait until they move in. Currently they have a contract and are waiting for the closing. (There have been further developments since the writing of this entry. For the latest news, see Ray and Katie's blog post.)

From Gerald … Judith said that Seth’s current challenge is time management. It’s mine also. I’ve been taking one day of vacation each week (usually Wednesday) to work on the new house. That really helps with moving that project along, but it adds additional time pressure on me at my real job. I end up delaying tasks because of my shortened work week. Whenever I go back to full-time, I will probably be amazed at how much I can get done.

I have been pleased with the help the children have been able to contribute to the house project. They have been gaining useful skills and we are continuing to move ahead, although more slowly than we had hoped. We are finally hanging drywall, so we can now see more visible progress.

From Judith … Life has settled into a fairly quiet routine now. Sunday is church day which is somewhat of an all-day affair. Our service begins at 10:45 and is followed by a meal and fellowship that extends well into the afternoon. It’s a very special time in our week that we all look forward to. Two or three times a year, our church runs 8- to 10-week home groups (topical Bible studies), but those aren’t going right now. Most weeks include one evening spent with company for dinner and fellowship.

There are the workdays on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On those days, Gerald leaves in the morning with Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura. I, then, show up later with lunch and bring Becca and Laura home with me after lunch. They help me with dinner and attend to other tasks here. The mornings of the workdays have given me some time to whittle away at various overdue projects here.

There is no major event or significant transition looming ahead in our lives (that we know of). Yes, the move to the new house will be a big change, but not as much as if we were moving out of town or Gerald was changing jobs. This year, we’re planning on our usual spring and fall campouts in Texas and our long summer road trip to see relatives up north.

Predictable routines and steady progress may not be very exciting, but it’s quite satisfying to have the sense that we are where we need to be and doing what we need to do.

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Seth Caught a Lizard and Nearly Strangled It

One day, Seth caught a lizard.Then he had a great idea.
Then the lizard wouldn't walk!Finally though, he started to run. He was trying to escape, but as he ran, the noose tightened on his neck! It was a frantic panic, but finally Seth caught him by the tail. Then he had someone hold the lizard while he very carefully cut the string off his neck. Finally, the lizard was free!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wedding Dress

I know Ray and Katie’s wedding is old news now, but this post has come to mind occasionally, so I decided to go ahead and write it out. It will only interest a few, I’m sure, but making Katie’s wedding dress was a big deal to me. It was a major project over several weeks shrouded with much uncertainty regarding the outcome. I was in unfamiliar territory.

Katie started with a fairly specific dress in mind – full satin skirt with a natural waist line and a petticoat underneath, and a modestly-fitted, lace-covered bodice with short sleeves and a scooped neckline. It sounded simple and straight-forward enough. Nevertheless, given the latest styles in wedding dresses, I wasn’t all that surprised when she came up empty-handed after shopping online.

The next step was to shop for patterns and material. I told her I was willing to try to make the dress, which was glad news for her! We had no trouble finding material to suit her, but I hadn’t anticipated not being able to find a single pattern for the simple design she wanted. We even looked among casual dress patterns.

Plan B: Try to pattern the dress from garments she owned. That jacked up the challenge. We ended up patterning the skirt from a dress, the bodice from a jumper, and the sleeves from a shirt. I decided to create a pattern out of muslin for the bodice and sleeves. For the skirt I traced directly to the satin.

I’m so glad I started with the muslin for the upper part because, indeed, there were several pinning sessions (prickly torture for Katie; guess I should’ve used safety pins!) since many adjustments were needed in order to get the right fit.

Katie wanted the lace overlay on the bodice to overlap where the bodice met the skirt. I won’t bore you with all the details, but after carefully thinking through how to make that happen, I decided that the lace trim planned for the lace overlay could just be sewn directly to the dress at the waistline, creating the appearance she wanted and enabling me to completely sew the lace material into the bodice. It would be far, far easier to accomplish than a loose overlay of the lace material. She readily agreed to that, as her goal was to keep her seamstress happy!

I was impressed with how much that narrow, simple lace trim added to the dress. It was not only at the waist, but also around the neckline and sleeve edges – just enough to soften the “lines” of the dress.

The hem was a tricky affair. I had no experience with working with such a long, wide conical shape. I found that it had to actually be a bit longer at the sides, to be even all around in relation to the floor, when it had the petticoat under it. Fortunately, I had allowed several inches for these adjustments. When the day came to pin the hem, Katie had to make her final decision about shoes. She had been dropping hints that she might get married barefoot, so I knew that’s what she would end up doing. Indeed she did. Yes, that’s my Katie!

Thankfully, Katie was a very easy customer, so, in spite of the challenges, the making of her wedding dress progressed very smoothly. Though I know every little imperfection of the dress, I was satisfied overall with the end result. Most importantly, Katie was quite happy with it. One of the sweetest moments, was when she put on the fully-assembled, though not-completely-finished, dress for the first time, along with the veil and bouquet. She truly beamed, no doubt with the joyful anticipation of being presented to her husband-to-be in this fashion! I treasure the memory.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: Redoing a Ceiling Patch

There was a spot in the living room ceiling that had been previously patched, but the texture was uneven and didn't match the rest, and there were large ridges along some of the sides. We decided that we could probably make it better, so we cut out the old patch to put a new one in.

We also finished installing the canisters for the recessed lights we're putting in the dining room...

...and we installed the bathroom fan.
We also took care of some odds and ends, such as putting in an outlet and sanding and priming a doorframe, and we've continued with wallpaper removal in the upstairs bathrooms.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Day at Brazos Bend

We spent Saturday at Brazos Bend State Park, partly to celebrate Katie's birthday and partly in hopes of showing Ray some alligators.

Unfortunately, it was a chilly, overcast day, so the alligators were all in hiding, but we had fun anyway.

Playing on the playground.
Eating lunch.

Playing catch. If you look carefully, you can see the ball up in the air.

Time to go on a walk!

The view from the observation tower.

The view from the other direction.

Looking for wildlife; despite the entire lack of alligators, we did see a lot of water birds.

It may not be an alligator, but footprints, complete with a tail mark, are better than nothing!
Looking over the lake. There's a cluster of birds in the middle.

The landscape had a very gray, wintery appearance, with no leaves on the trees and all this gray moss blowing in the wind.

Posing on the giant fallen tree next to the trail.
Watching all the shenanigans.
Tree climbing.

We remembered that the visitor's center had a tank of baby alligators, so we stopped in to see them. We happened in at the right time, because they had several animals out to be petted. There was a tarantulla...
...a baby alligator...
...and a king snake.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now Tell Your Children

An overdue postscript from the Family-Integrated Church conference last October…

It was so simple, so easy to remember, and so doable, yet with the potential to significantly impact any family that would apply it.

On the subject of getting started with family worship, Rob Rienow told fathers to just start telling their children what they themselves are learning from God’s word. A father does not need to be seminary-trained nor even a college graduate. If he is in God’s word, he is fully equipped to disciple his children. It begins with simply telling his children what God is teaching him through the truth of the Bible. It’s really that simple.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Presence of God

I was reading Numbers 18 earlier this week, which includes instructions concerning the duties of the priests and Levites. Part of their job was to make sure that no unauthorized person came near the tabernacle.

This was serious business; if the wrong person came near, they would die. This instruction immediately follows the rebellion of Korah and the people's grumbling against Moses and Aaron, which had led to the deaths of thousands of the people. God had been revealing His wrath and judgment in no uncertain terms!

This caused me to ponder the immensity of the privilege that God gives us of coming before Him in prayer. No longer do we have to remain apart from the presence of God for fear of being smote dead, and let a human priest mediate for us.

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance..." (Hebrews 9:11-15a)

Not only that, but someday we shall behold Him face to face! (1 Corinthians 13:12) When I consider God's incredible holiness and majesty it is utterly amazing that we should be the recipients of such unspeakable love and grace!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Bread Machines

We are really hard on our bread machines. We bake a loaf of whole wheat bread 5-6 days each week, and most machines just don't seem to be built for that kind of use.

One advantage to this is that our bread machines usually bite the dust while still under warranty, so we often get a new one for free! This means, though, that we have to wait for the company to ship one to us instead of running to the store to get one right away.

Our last machine had a bearing that had worn down, so the drive shaft was turning in a space that was too big for it, which made it go ker-THUNK, ker-THUNK, ker-THUNK whenever it kneaded. Then the motor started having trouble turning it, so it would go hummmmmmmmmmmm until Mama went over and hit it on the side a few times-- BANG! BANG! BANG!

Finally, Mama decided it would actually be easier to take the dough out and knead it by hand, and then put it back in the machine to rise and bake.

Our new machine at last arrived yesterday. It's so new! So sleek and shiny! So quiet! And it makes the bread all by itself!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: A New Vent

We installed a vent cover for a range hood today. First, we had to cut a hole in the exterior brick... ...and the interior drywall.

Then we put glue on...

...and put the cover in.

We've also installed breaker switches for our new circuits.

We're still working on wiring, but the end is in sight.

There is a new light fixture by the pantry.

We picked up our flooring today, all 56 boxes of it!

We did some of the finishing work on the back door and windows.

We now have hot water! We got the gas line hooked up and lit the pilot light today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Evangelism Through Reproduction

Our family keeps track of prayer requests by writing them on cards (business card-size) and then rotating through them.

One card lists all of the families at church who are either pregnant or adopting, and it's interesting to look back and see how many babies have been born or children adopted within the last year. From January 17, 2008, until January 1, 2009, there were fourteen children born to families in the church, and another three were adopted.

It's not stopping, either! We currently have seven families who are pregnant, two who are in the process of adopting, and one who is considering a possible adoption.

So, adding all that together, there are 25 families who are expecting children (through birth or adoption), are considering adoption, or have welcomed children to their family within the last year.

All this, and there are only a little over 50 families in our church!

It's so refreshing to be in a fellowship where families not only recognize that children are a blessing and welcome as many as God sends, but they also have a heart and a vision for training and discipling those children to be mighty warriors in God's kingdom. There's no telling what impact God may enable these children to have on their world!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Day Fun

We spent the morning New Year's Day working on our new house, but after lunch it was party time! Some friends from church were serving menudo at their house through the morning and early afternoon, so we decided to be adventurous and try it. Menudo is tripe soup, with hominy and spices in it. It was quite interesting. I liked the flavor, but I didn't particularly care for the texture of the tripe. I can now say that I've eaten it, though!

After our soup and enjoyable fellowship there, we headed over to a ranch that was recently acquired by another family from church. We visited, walked in the woods and around the lake, and ate dinner, which, for some, meant roasting hot dogs.

After dinner, we all gathered around the campfire for a time of singing songs of worship and praying for the coming year. It was a sweet and blessed time!