Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Jesse Tree

Why it is called "The Jesse Tree"
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit, And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-2

The Jesse Tree is my favorite thing we do as a family. Last Fall, my mom gave me this tree and all of the ornaments (most of them, she made) as a gift. Each ornament is wrapped and has a number on the front of the package. Each ornament corresponds with a daily devo tion we do as a family in order to prepare our hearts for Christmas. The ornaments take us on a journey through the Bible, highlighting key
figures, events, ultimately resulting in the grand finale, the Incarnation of Christ. We did this last year with Ryann as a two year old. She enjoyed it, and loved opening the ornament each night. This year, however, was incredible, as Mark and I watched her begin to understand the significance of each ornament. I know it will get better with each year. This is an incredible tool for families during the season of Advent. You can google "jesse tree" and lots of information (including daily devotions for children) comes up. The Jesse Tree devotions go from November 29-December 25.

The Jesse Tree Box, filled with daily presents for Ryann to open as we participate in Advent...leading up to the celebration of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Mark and Ryann, ready to start the night's devotion

For example, Day 20 was the story of Daniel. We read Daniel 6 and then talked about how Daniel worshipped God even though it might cost him everything,even his own life. Ryann opend the package marked 20 and pulled out a lion ornament, representing Daniel's courage and loyalty to the one true God.

Ryann putting the Lion ornament (from the story of Daniel) on the Jesse Tree

Almost Complete Jesse Tree

Christmas was so Fun with Ryann this year....3 is really a great age.

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving was very special this year. My whole family flew in from Dallas and Dayton, Ohio to have Thanksgiving with us in Seattle. What a Blessing! We had such a great time showing them "our new world" here in the Northwest. Some highlights included: cooking Thanksgiving sides with my sister, Pike Place Market, seeing Tangled, visiting Santa at Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Half Marathon.

Some pictures of our Thanksgiving weekend:
We ate at The Pink Door, so far our favorite restaurant near the good!

Pictures of the family taken at the Olympic Sculpture Garden

The weekend ended with the Seattle Half-Marathon. Mark, Read, and myself ran it and had a great time. The scenery was much prettier than last year's White Rock, but I thought the Seattle Half was much harder....lots of hills!! My legs were sooo tired afterwards. Mark and Read were very patient with me and my slow pace.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beyond the numbers..

It is World AIDS day. If you get a chance, please read this blog post from World Concern. My world is so very small. Until recent years, I never thought about AIDS. Or if I did, it was fleeting, a twinge of sadness. I am learning more and more about it, and my heart hurts...So today, please be in prayer for those with AIDS/HIV or those orphaned by the disease. Beyond the numbers and stats, these are people...sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, loved...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fall Happenings

So Far, This Fall Season Included...
The Celebration of the Upcoming Arrival of a Precious Baby Boy...

Family Came to Town...

A Hard,Extremely Powerful Book was Finally Finished...

And Mark went to Sri Lanka for a few weeks...

More Details and Pics...
The Stars at Night are Big and Bright (clap clap clapclap).....I got to go back to Texas for a Glorious 36 hours a few weeks ago to celebrate the coming of my 4th nephew (not blood related, but practically). My Beautiful Best Friend, Heather flew me in for her baby shower...yes that's right, HER baby shower and flew ME in...that's the kind of gal she is...LOVE her dearly and so incredibly Blessed to have had the opportunity to Celebrate Her and Yet to be boy Fuentes. In that 36 hours 4 Sonic drinks (in *gasp...styrofoam cups)were consumed, On the Border was enjoyed, as well as the best meal known to man, Babe's Chicken House. After all these delicious meals,This Roly Poly Texan was satisfied....until Christmas.

FBA, All the Way!


Beautiful Bellies of Baby BOYS

Beautiful sisters

The icing on the cake of this 36 hours was that I got to meet my nephew Will, beautiful son of Scot (Mark's Brother) and Conni Lamb...I loved getting to see him...

And My Inlaws, the lovely Lamb ladies

And my Best Friends

And my mommy

We were so blessed to have Sarah and John come visit us in October. A good time was had by all, and it was extra fun because they were here on Halloween and got to particpate in all the festivities. Come back soon, Herringtons....please.
Ryann wanted to be Minnie Mouse this year...

We are goofy, it's true.

Ryann loves her beautiful princess Aunt Sarah and Uncle John

we went trick or treating in dowtown Edmonds, good times.

We went up the Space Needle, Ryann was a fan.

We had one BEAUTIFUL day,love this one of them...

We browsed the Market

We ate lots of yummy seafood

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Inspiring Faith: The Audrey Edition

Below you will find a blog post written by one of my former students at Woodrow Wilson High School. Her name is Audrey Spurgin. She is awesome.I know the Lord is using her in mighty, mighty ways. She is with a team from Adventures in Missions that is living in India right now ministering to young women, many of whom, are coming out of or are in the midst of such dire circumstances, my brain cannot even fathom.Oh yeah, Audrey is 19 years old. Yep, 19. Inspiring Faith? YES, i believe so. This post touched me so much yesterday, I HAD to share it with you.

For You are My Beloved: originally posted on by Audrey Spurgin on 11/6/2010

"I wish that I could explain in more than just words how beautiful she is.

I wish that I could scream to her just how much she is loved.

She is worthy, she is WORTH it.

That all her troubles, all of her hardships, all of the issues and problems that never seem to go away are only shaping her to who she is meant to be, and that her life has VALUE.I wish that I could tell her that even though her dad abandoned her, and her mom died, that she is worthy of a family, of a people, that love her.

I pray that she knows just how wide, how deep and how GOOD His love really is. That she can pray all she wants, everyday, in pure dedication, begging to the gods that it wasn't her mom's time to go, that if her mom is not here with her that her life is not worth living. But in the end, all the prayers, blessings, and yearning are nothing but pure air.I want her to know. I want her to know a love that is bigger and better than air, better than life, better than anything that can be described, understood, or even fathomed.

Her name is four beautiful letters. She has a HUGE personality! I mean this girl can put on a show. She is always the loudest, always ready to make a comment. She is outspoken, stubborn, joyful, relational, giving, loyal, a friend, and more than I could ask for. She and I are similar, very similar, (and no, this story won't end with me describing me).

But her story breaks my heart. She has captivated a piece of my heart. She intrigues me, because every time that we sent down to talk, she is intentional. She lets a little bit more of who she is, and part of her story into my life.

So day two of working with these girls, she taught me an Indian dance. This is not exactly a traditional dance, this is like a "I am a 19 year old girl in a Bollywood film" kind of dance. We were laughing and joking around and we were constantly laughing at each other. From this point on, we have been inseparable. This girl has a big attitude, but a lot of love to give. This is what makes her so special to me. She is a fighter, a girl with a dream, a vision. This girl has heart. There are few things that can stand in her way. She has her mind set. She, to me, just keeps going.

About 10 years ago her mom died. Her dad got re-married to another woman and left her alone. Her stepmom didn't want to take care of her, and since she was an only child, it was easier for her dad to just pick up and leave. Since this day, they have not seen each other, or even talked.

She was rejected. Left alone. So she moved in with her auntie and uncle. She has her own room. She is literally on her own. Cooks, cleans, works, everything she must do and provide for herself. She calls herself a burden.

She works at this place called the Soda Shop (which is well known in the area). Works twice a day, except Monday is her holiday. So as she begins to tell me all these things, it seems as though there is something more. Something that she is leaving out.

She walked into stitching class one day and something was off. Something wasn't right. I knew it from the moment that she walked in. Our normal greeting is me yelling her name and her running over to me with a huge smile on her face and she shakes my hand (I always go for the hug, but that never happens in India, so we are working on it). Then we sit next to each other in the circle and instantly start talking about anything of interest that day.

But this day was different. This day she was quiet. She walked in blank stare, sat down, and for a good 10 minutes she said nothing. Nothing. So I walked over to her and sat behind her. I began to ask her about her day and she ignored me. When I finally got a word out of her, she said, "I'm fine teacher, I don't want to talk." So I just sat there in confusion. I began to pray and just ask the Holy Spirit. I asked because I didn't know what else to do.

She began speaking really quickly in Hindi to the stitching teacher, and I kept going back and forth trying to pick up anything that I could in facial expressions to understand the conversation. All I got was that something was terribly wrong. The wind blew from outside and all the sudden the smell of kerosene took over.

That was it. Kerosene.

Kerosene is a big thing here when people try to commit suicide. Suicide, especially in girls here, is incredibly high. At least the attempt. Girls here are viewed as worthless, a burden. Nothing more than a money sucker to the family. Dowry, school, food, clothes, etc. Especially to the lower class.

So the teacher began to tell me what was wrong. I sat right next to her, holding her hand.

That morning she had covered herself in 7 liters of kerosene in attempt to burn herself. That morning her auntie and uncle were fighting more than normal. So she asked why it was so bad today, and they looked at her and said the reason that they were fighting, the reason that they even started fighting from the beginning was because of her. She had become a burden. They didn't ask for her. They just ended up with her, and now she is becoming a problem in their family. They just think it would be better if she wasn't here.

The teacher then explained that her neighbor has smelled the kerosene and ran in to see what was wrong. She found her standing in her room searching for a match. The neighbor took buckets of water and made her completely wash it off. She then just went on about her day.

So we pulled her aside, and began to just ask some more questions and just speak truth to her, allowing the Holy Spirit to connect us with her. She just looked right at me and said, "It would just be better if I wasn't here. I pray all the time to the gods, even your God, asking them why they took my mom away. I don't want to be here without her. It would be better if I wasn't here, because I want to be with her. They never answer. Everyday I go and ask the same questions, and they never answer. Nothing."

I began to ask her questions about her mommy, and what things she would do to remember her. She said that in her room she has a picture of her that is decorated and covered in flowers (which is a sign of blessing here) and she prays and talks to her everyday. She tells her things, but mostly asks why she left her alone.

So we prayed for her and talked some more just about life and how God knows what is best, even when we question Him all the time, above all His plan is perfect. We shared some stories about our own personal lives that just let her know that she was not intended to be alone in this, which is what is so beautiful about community!

I learn more and more about her everyday. The more that I learn, the more that we talk, the more that she trusts me. She asks for me when I am not there, I ask for her when she isn't there. She has become a best friend. She has become someone that I learn from, am challenged by, and that loves me well.

We have started this thing where in her journal that I teach her English in and she teaches me Hindi, we write encouraging notes back and forth for random surprises, and we always end with I love you.

It is a beautiful picture of how the Lord is chasing and seeking each of us. I wish that I could type about her for hours, and compare it to how the Lord is so perfect in each of our lives. How He is the one who allows moments like these of wanting and longing for people to just simply love. He has made her perfect. He has made her beautiful. And not only does He love her, but He loves her even when she can't love herself. I can't begin to know or understand it all. I can't begin to explain to her this world. I can't even explain to her how God works, because she has 330 million other gods that she could go to for answers.

But what I know is that she is His beloved. I know that even though she can't see Him as the one whom the love comes from, He uses each of us to share a love that is Him, that His love is an overflow in us. She may not know or understand, she may never really see a one true God. But because He is LOVE, she will experience a love like none other through His people; she will see a love that never fails. She is His favorite one. "

I alone will satisfy you.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nothing says, "I Love You " Like a Goat

Mark and his friend, "Hoppy"

A Sri Lankan young woman Mark met last month posing with her goat that was given to her through World Concern's Global Gift Guide

Matthew 25:35-40 (New International Version)
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

About to do some Shameless Promotion of World Concern's Global Gift Guide.. I am indeed fully Shameless because this is fully Awesome. If you go to the website, you will see a catalogue FULL of items in every price range that help others around our world in need. There are a plethora of items to choose from such as: goats, pigs, chicks, help for AIDS orphans, a fish pond,school uniforms, hearing aids, schooling needs, water wells, a solar cooker, medical care, a latrine, birthing training....and the list goes on and on and on....The possibiities on how you can help are endless..
So instead of giving your Aunt Nancy the same lotion for Christmas that you give her every year, why don't you give a goat to a Hatian, in Nancy's name.
This is also a great opportunity for a family, a group of friends, a home group/community group etc. to get together and give as a group to someone in need, that would be a great service project this Christmas season. If you have any questions or want more information, please let me know. Yes, this is truly the Christmas gift that keeps on giving, and that is something I LOVE talking about:)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weekend with the Woods

We Love you Angie, Matt, Barrett, and little Baby Wood coming in March!

Our dear friends, The Woods, came in for the weekend 2 weeks ago. They were our very first house guests and we LOVED having them here. I cannot tell you how much it meant to us to have people actually fly out to see us. We are so grateful for their friendship and so enjoyed showing them our new world.
Sadly, the weather did not cooperate and it rained or was gray almost the whole time, but at least it was an accurate portrayal of the weather here. When sunny and clear, Seattle really is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. Sad they didn't get to witness that....oh well, that means that they have to come back:)We had a wonderful time, showing them Seattle, watching our kids play, watching our favorite show, and enjoying sweet friendship.

Upon their arrival, Ryann and I took them down to Pike's Place Market. I like to go there on Saturday because everyone and everything is just so crazy. This Saturday did not disappoint...there was a protest parade...good times

On Sunday, we went down to the Seattle Aquarium.We saw seals (my favorite PNW sight),Ryann got her face painted, and Barrett was in love with listening to whale sounds..A great time was had by all

After the aquarium, we went to the Olympic Sculpture Park to get some good pics of the city

Aww, Prince Barrett, such a good sport

Of course, the sun would come out right before they had to leave:( We made the most of it though, and went down to Edmonds beach, one of our favorite spots