Monday, June 28, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 165

Thanking God this week for...

641. the ability to type very quickly
642. the fun of watching Elijah enjoy corn on the cob
643. talented photographers' beautiful work
644. honest, vulnerable blog posts
645. feeling rested despite few hours of sleep

646. Elijah's patience through running boring errands
647. last week's pizza and ice cream date with my little man
648. finding a favorite pen I thought I'd lost
649. His relevant, living, active, powerful, effective Word
650. not getting in trouble with my midwife for gaining too much weight this month

651. getting to hear a strong baby heartbeat
652. prayer with our church family
653. five quarts of blackberries picked
654. Elijah's enjoyment of the blackberries
655. the dangerous discovery of a fabulous donut shop just blocks from our house

656. the beauty of Hawaii, as seen in some friends' helicopter video
657. Steve's being recognized and respected at work
658. a friend's outdoor BBQ and the opportunity to catch up with many other friends
659. Elijah's giggles as I squirted him with a squirt gun
660. Steve's making wood blocks for Elijah

661. the way He wove together our two pastors' independently-prepared Sunday school and church messages yesterday
662. pizza and movie night with my guys
663. fighting FOR me
664. succeeding against Satan where Adam and Eve failed
665. forgiving me in Christ

holy experience

Friday, June 25, 2010

Speak the Truth

"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25).

I'm back in the memorization saddle after quite a bit of time slacking this spring, and a few days ago I worked on Ephesians 4:25. I've always read this verse in a really limited, simplistic sense: "don't lie; tell the truth." But it struck me as I memorized it that it's much more than that.

What is the falsehood that we have put away? The lie of autonomous, self-sufficient existence, the lie that we can be wise apart from God--the lies of Eden. As Paul described just a few verses earlier, the futile, darkened understanding of those who do not know the Lord and are alienated from Him.

We are to speak the truth with our neighbors--and Paul has just told us in verse 21 that "the truth is in Jesus"! This is so much richer than merely, "don't tell your neighbor a lie." It's "preach the gospel to your neighbor--speak of Christ to your neighbor!" And in saying this I don't just mean "evangelize the person who lives next door"; rather, I mean, everyone is your neighbor, and the Christians in your life still need to hear the gospel!

All this dovetails quite nicely with what we've talking about in my class: the idea that everyone is a counselor, whether intentionally or not. People are naturally interpreters, meaning-makers: we are constantly trying to make sense of life, trying to explain what is going on around us. As Dr. Tripp explains in Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:

“When we say that God designed human beings to be interpreters, we are getting to the heart of why human beings do what they do. Our thinking conditions our emotions, our sense of identity, our view of others, our agenda of the solution of our problems, and our willingness to receive counsel from others. That is why we need a framework for generating valid interpretations that help us respond to life appropriately. Only the words of the Creator can give us that framework.”

We interpret life--and then in the things we say to each other, we counsel each other to adopt our interpretation, to see and understand life the way we do. So as I saw it with fresh eyes, this verse exhorts us not to put forth false, idolatrous interpretations of life. Instead, help your neighbor see her heart, her circumstances, in view of God, from an eternal perspective. Bring the gospel to shed light on the topic--speak the truth of the person and work of Jesus!

And when you do so, you minister also to yourself; you preach the gospel to yourself, reminding yourself of those truths which you so easily forget and need to hear.

May God make us quick to reject subtle patterns of false thinking and instead speak the truth of Christ with those around us today!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pizza with My Big Boy

I had a date today. It wasn't fancy; in fact, it wasn't even a real restaurant--just a Pizza Hut Express inside Target. I had to pay for both of us. And he drank from a sippy cup.

And I loved it.

I had several errands to run downtown today, so I dragged poor Elijah in and out of his carseat, in and out of the oppressive heat, in and out of boring stores with no appeal to him. He was a good sport, rather delightful on the whole, and because we were finishing up at Target around noon and I was starving (and because I love pizza, and so does he), I decided to grab a lunch treat there.

I sat there eating pizza and just marveling at my little man as he sat in a big chair, dipping breadsticks in sauce (without making a mess!) and commenting on their chewiness, wiping his hands on his polo shirt and swinging his flip-flop-clad feet. When did he get so big?

I'm not--at least for now--one of those moms who wipes away tears as she says those words; for me they are a joyful celebration, not a lament. I wouldn't go back and relive those early months/years for anything; I'm loving the little boy Elijah is becoming. But as we sat in Target eating our pizza, I wanted to freeze-frame the moment.

So often my focus is on the burdens of motherhood, and I fail to find or choose joy. Today, as we shopped and ate pizza and later shared an ice cream cone as a special treat (combination pregnancy craving/wanting to reward E for being so good), God gave me eyes to see the blessing He has entrusted to me. We've come a long way, Elijah and I, and I want to soak up these last weeks of just-the-two-of-us before his little sibling comes along and turns our worlds upside down.

I remember mornings like this way back when, times when I'd independently go shopping at various stores and even grab a pizza (one I didn't have to share) at Target. The errands went a lot faster; I didn't have to bother with carseat buckles or find a place to change a diaper or cut up someone's pizza. It was much easier. But today, I was glad to sit at a lunch table with a handsome little guy--one who was overdue for a bath, who whines for no apparent reason, and who is one of the most precious gifts God has ever given me.

...Just my contribution to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 164

Thanking God this week for...

618. a surprise magazine and encouragement note in the mail from a dear friend
619. playdate at the pool last week
620. simple PB&J sandwiches
621. gas and a car to be able to drive a long way to the playdate
622. Elijah's patience during the long car ride

623. that clean feeling after a needed shower
624. two bathrooms to clean
625. Elijah's "helping" me make cookies
626. piles of clean laundry
627. a shiny sink at bedtime

628. super-comfy skirts to wear as my belly (and hips and thighs and butt) grows
629. deeper understanding of God's Word as I memorize it
630. lunch and conversation with a friend
631. coupon in my inbox right when I needed to go shopping
632. a brief but still delightful visit from the Drees family

633. the sweet teenaged boys who did the dishes after lunch
634. the fact that my neck didn't completely lock up like I feared
635. picnic supper and Shakespeare festival
636. a weekend with very minimal screen time
637. profound insights from Dr. Tripp in this week's lecture

638. the incredible father of my children
639. my loving, wonderful dad
640. adopting me as His daughter and inviting me to call Him "Abba, Father"

holy experience

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ben Graduates

Our vacation ended with a busy and fun weekend at home in Ohio. After a sweet reunion with our little man, we spent Saturday and Sunday celebrating the high school graduation of Steve's younger brother, Ben. His party was on Saturday afternoon--a beautiful, sunny day--and Elijah had a ton of fun playing with his cousin, Olivia. She's almost exactly a year younger than him, but finally big enough to keep up with him and play together--and he just adores her.

After the guests had gone, Steve filled up one of the drink tubs with water so the kids could splash around and cool off. Olivia thought that was just delightful...

...but Elijah wasn't a huge fan, deciding instead that it was much more fun to sit on the garage step and pour dirt all over himself :)

Then Olivia got in on the action (Elijah was all too glad to help her out by dumping dirt on her). Here I think someone is telling them to "brush it off":

Sunday afternoon was the actual graduation ceremony. We took the opportunity for some family photos beforehand:

Ben was an honor student, so he gave a speech at graduation. He was the comedian of the group who gave speeches (there were eight...oy) and even mentioned his sisters-IN-LAW. Michelle and I showed our thanks by embarrassing the tar out of him afterward. The look on his face was just priceless--we couldn't have staged it better:

Congratulations, Ben! We're proud of you and wishing you all the best as you start college this fall!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 5: Mackinac Island

After the long bike ride, it was all I could do to get back on our tandem and pedal it a few blocks from our hotel to a restaurant for breakfast. No more--we would walk the rest of the morning!

The one last must-see before we left was Fort Mackinac, a former military outpost and the scene of one of the first battles of the War of 1812.

We toured all the old buildings and got a sense of military life in the 1800s--as well as some lovely views of the island.

Then it was time to wrap up our vacation--check out of the hotel, buy a t-shirt or two, grab a quick lunch and board the ferry. The ride back to Mackinaw City gave us some photo ops for Mackinac Bridge:

Posted by Picasa

...and we paid the toll and drove across the bridge, just to say we did:

The trip home had one last fun surprise: the discovery of Cherry Vanilla Pepsi at a random gas station in Michigan! Steve and I used to love Pepsi Vanilla way back when and were so sad when it was discontinued. We almost never drink pop anymore, but when I do, I enjoy cherry Coke/Pepsi. I was craving a bottle, and was thrilled to discover something even better. It's the little things in life :) Apparently it's a limited-time flavor, so I'm drinking more pop this summer and enjoying it while I can.

A few hours later we had a sweet reunion with our little man. My dad was out in the garage when we arrived, and he made us wait outside so he could go in and be sure not to miss Elijah's reaction to seeing us. I thought he was blowing it out of proportion, that surely it wouldn't be that big a deal. But Elijah's reaction was indeed priceless--I wish we'd captured it on video. He actually squealed and giggled and jumped up and down! SO adorable. He did great while we were gone, no problems at all, but he was definitely thrilled to see Mama and Daddy. And we were glad to see him, too :)

So that was our fifth anniversary trip/pre-baby getaway! It was an absolutely wonderful vacation and we were so grateful to the people who helped make it happen. Having extended time away with my hubby was truly a gift.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 4: Mackinac Island

Thursday morning we said goodbye to the house at Lake Ann and drove up the shore of Grand Traverse Bay, through beautiful Charlevoix and Petoskey, to Mackinaw City. There we boarded a ferry and crossed the Mackinac Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron to spend our last night of vacation on Mackinac Island--though *not* at the uber-expensive Grand Hotel:

No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island--the preferred modes of transportation are bicycles (seen parked everywhere--no one even bothers to lock them up during the day)...

...and horse-drawn carriages:

Our first order of business was to rent a bicycle--and Steve decided we needed a tandem. We had actually ridden one before a couple of summers ago, so it didn't take too long to remember how and work pretty well together. But we did discover, after trying it just once, that it absolutely did NOT work for me to be in front and Steve to be in back. We couldn't even go ten feet that way!

We enjoyed a late lunch at the Seabiscuit Cafe and then decided to go ahead and bike around the island--all eight miles. Oh yes. Perhaps now would be the appropriate time to mention that not once did we pass even one other tandem bicycle. Is that because we are crazy, or brave, or...?
Well, the one thing we were was SORE. And I probably can't blame that on the tandem. Y'all, I cannot even explain to you how much pain my poor rear end was in after that bike ride. Words fail me. Sitting down on a bed hurt. Attempting to mount the bicycle the next morning nearly made me cry.

But alas, it was fun while it lasted.

The most noteworthy scenery of the trip around the island was Arch Rock. We admired it from the road:

...then noticed a giant, sometimes-rickety staircase we could climb to the top for a better view. Exhausting, but a welcome respite to use different muscles than the sitting-on-a-bike-and-pedaling ones. I think I counted somewhere around 170 steps?

And the view from the top--with another picture of us together, thanks to the Gorillapod:

After all that biking, I declared that I had *definitely* earned another ice cream cone. With two scoops :)

Tomorrow: Last day on Mackinac, then headed home

Multitude Monday, Take 163

598. a generous friend who sends me home with hand-me-down toys/clothes/books every time
599. the fact that I didn't pee my pants on the way home last Monday
600. the pizza Steve brought home from work after a lunch meeting
601. three loads of laundry dried on the line for free
602. a sharp serrated knife for cutting tomatoes

603. the habit of journaling
604. my brother-in-law and sister-in-law FINALLY closing on their apartment--meaning they get to move back to Ohio!
605. Steve's servanthood in making dinner when I was feeling bad
606. insight and inspiration for how to help Elijah communicate
607. fresh watermelon

608. Elijah's agreeable attitude when I tell him it's the "last time" for something he enjoys
609. Steve's hard work around the house: mowing the lawn, replacing drain lines, rewiring the breaker box
610. the new farmers' market in town this summer
611. dinner with a sweet friend
612. a phone call at bedtime when E missed his mama

613. the discovery of new-to-me music on iTunes, and being able to buy it instantly
614. a new sermon series at church on "fighting Satan's designs"
615. the armor He has provided to protect us against our enemy
616. the certainty that that enemy has already been defeated and victory belongs to Christ!

617. Ann, who doesn't just count blessings but pens beautiful words on gratitude week after week, today's offering especially poignant

holy experience

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 3: Leelanau Cheese, Traverse City, Old Mission Peninsula

On day 3 of our vacation, we spent a leisurely morning at the house. After Steve fixed steak-and-asparagus omelets for breakfast, we did some more kayaking and relaxed, then enjoyed leftover pizza for lunch before heading out to explore.

Since Steve was willing to humor me for "my thing"--ice cream--I was more than willing to go along with "his thing"--cheese. On Wednesday afternoon we checked out a place we had read about called Leelanau Cheese, where you can watch the cheese-making process and also do a wine tasting. Immediately when we turned into the farm, we were greeted with this lovely view of their terraced vineyard:

And then we got to see the bunker where they age the cheese (and the wine, I think):

I don't really enjoy wine, but Steve liked what he tasted, and we both were fascinated by what we learned about the cheese- and wine-making processes. And even I had to admit that the cheese we sampled--a mild Raclette--was really excellent. Unfortunately it was also about $16/pound, so we didn't take any home with us. Instead we headed into Traverse City. I'd been told that Kilwin's, a chocolate shop downtown, also had fabulous ice cream, and it was true--their toasted coconut flavor (the one both my friend and her mom had recommended) was YUMMY.

We did a little window shopping, then walked along the lake a while. One of the things I just couldn't get over every time we saw the water was the dramatic color changes. You'd see green water, and then this clear line where it changed suddenly to a brilliant blue. I tried to capture it in photos, mostly unsuccessfully:

Here we used my Gorillapod (hence the odd angle) to get a better shot of the two of us together than simply holding the camera out in front of us:

Then we went to Pirate's Cove for a friendly putt-putt challenge. To protect my sweet hubby's ego, I won't tell you about how I schooled him. (I will admit that it was about 95% luck!)

After our game, we drove up Old Mission Peninsula. The lighthouse at the end was a bit anticlimactic--not the big tower-type lighthouse we were expecting--and it was closed to tours for the day.
But the drive was totally worth the trip: vineyards and orchards everywhere, overlooking views of Grand Traverse Bay. On the way up, I gaped at this spot and told Steve we had to stop for pictures on the way back. Unfortunately my photography skills didn't do it justice:

Back in Traverse City, we grabbed a simple fish-and-chips dinner, then picked up the fixings for s'mores and returned to the house. To my complete consternation, Steve didn't eat a single s'more--but he built an awfully nice fire for me to roast marshmallows over. And thanks to the citronella candles we bought, we didn't get eaten up this time.

Day 4: North to Mackinac...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 2 (continued): Glen Arbor, Fishtown, and More Great Food

After several hours of hiking, this pregnant girl was STARVING! We drove into Glen Arbor and grabbed a late lunch at the Cherry Republic: "World Headquarters of All Things Cherry." They weren't kidding. Lunch at the cafe was just "eh," but the retail store and the winery were quite interesting. Free samples abounded at both places--first the store, with everything from cherry salsa to cherry peanut butter to cherry coffee--and then the winery, where Steve enjoyed sampling cherry wines. The Traverse City area is apparently the cherry capital of America--unfortunately they aren't ripe until later in the summer, but we saw orchards everywhere.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the Cherry Republic other than a few in the garden courtyard. These purple flowers--I found out this week they are called allium (related to onions, of all things!)--reminded me of fireworks:

And then we saw what I think were pink lilacs--just beautiful:

Before heading home, we stopped in Fishtown, a historic fishing village:

...and then we headed back to the lake house for MUCH needed showers and naps.

The evening concluded with more excellent food. We found this local pizza place in Traverse City called Paesano's, where we ordered a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. It wasn't what I expected, based on experiences in Chicago, but it was ah.mazing. Seriously on the top ten list of best pizzas I've ever eaten. And I am a pizza LOVER--so that is really saying something.

Then it was ice cream time. For me, ice cream is an integral part of vacation. It's not really vacation without several visits to a local ice cream shop for big waffle cones (you have to go several times, and get double scoops each time, to try all the different flavors that sound good).

As it turned out, the perfect place was right on the road between Traverse City and our lake house: Moomer's, which was voted best ice cream in America in a contest on Good Morning America. I wasn't a huge fan of their signature flavor, Cherries Moobilee (which our hosts so thoughtfully and generously had waiting in the freezer for us to try!), but I loved what I got in my cone. The Raspberry Chocolate Chip was excellent, and the Carrot Cake (cinnamon ice cream with actual chunks of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting swirl) was to DIE for.

Best part of Moomer's? It's right on the farm, so after you get your ice cream, you can go stand out on the deck and watch the cows. Steve and I found this endlessly amusing.

And that was our long, full day 2! On to day 3...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 2: Sleeping Bear Dunes

Tuesday in Northern Michigan began with more pie--but not the tasty kind. I got a nice serving of humble pie after all my talking smack about the GPS we'd borrowed from my parents and how I didn't need it, I had printed out directions (not realizing we'd borrow it) and could navigate just fine by myself, thankyouverymuch. Too bad my directions to the Visitors Center for Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore took us to some random school instead of the real Visitors Center. I'm blaming Google :P

So, once we found it, we spent the morning and early afternoon exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes. Gorgeous, gorgeous views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan--and lots of physical exertion to compensate for all that yummy food.

Above is Glen Lake as we drove by. I had no idea there were so many beautiful lakes in northern Michigan!

A lookout over a very steep dune on the shore of Lake Michigan

After a little scenic drive, we stopped at the Dune Climb. Oh my. Anyone who has run in soft sand on a flat beach knows it's a workout--but have you ever tried to *climb* soft, loose sand? Here we are in the parking lot--watching two tiny people make their way up the massive dune:

Here we've conquered the first steep climb and are realizing how much further we have to go to the "top":
I was super thankful for my patient husband, who stopped as many times as I needed to and in whose footsteps I walked--discovering that it was easier to step where he had stepped, since the sand had already shifted under his weight. Finally, we made it to the top, where we found a bench (ahhhhh) and a gorgeous view of Glen Lake. You can see the tiny parking lot in the center of the photo below--but you can't see the part where our car is, because of the dune's steepness.

At this point you can continue on a 3.5-mile round-trip hike to see Lake Michigan, up and down nine or so more dunes...or you can decide that Glen Lake is beautiful and turn around to head back down. With me 20 weeks pregnant, guess which we chose?

Here's another view from the road, to try and get a sense of where we climbed. We reached the little trees in the top left of the picture below:

And another view from the road, to show how it was sand all the way:

After the Dune Climb, we drove a little further and hiked the Sleeping Bear Point Trail, a 2.8-mile loop with views of Lake Michigan. It was still mostly sand, but not as strenuous as the other trail--we got a welcome respite with some shade and hard-packed ground at the very end of the hike.

The trail goes through a "ghost forest"--a collection of what used to be living trees until the dunes shifted and buried them. It's crazy to think how much these dunes are moving! You can see the trail continuing on in the background:

A few hours spent like this gave us many reasons to thank God: for the beauty of creation, for the ability to exert muscles and enjoy it, and for the fact that our sunscreen worked. We were out in direct sun for several hours at peak time and neither of us, fair-skinned though we are, got burned--I was so glad for that protection.

The rest of day 2 will continue in another post...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Northern Michigan, Day 1

With a nod to my friend Danielle and her recent New York City travelogue, complete with gorgeous photos...I thought I'd do a few posts on our Northern Michigan vacation. (Unfortunately I am not the photographer she is!)

Steve and I are celebrating our fifth(!) anniversary this July, and especially after we found out that a new baby was on the way, we really wanted to take the opportunity to go on a vacation, just the two of us. My mom had mentioned at Christmas that by the time I was Elijah's age, they had left me with Grandma to go on vacation (hint, hint). We'd never left him longer than one night, but we felt pretty confident that he would do well--so we began making plans.

I'll be honest, in the beginning I was picturing something a lot more glamorous than Northern Michigan. But once we started thinking about birth and new-baby expenses piling up, we realized it would be wiser to plan a less extravagant trip. As it turned out, God provided an absolutely wonderful vacation for us. For one thing, though "Northern Michigan" may not sound very exotic, the areas we visited are absolutely gorgeous! Plus, the parents of a college friend of mine own a lake cottage near Traverse City, and they generously allowed us to stay there for three nights. What a blessing!

The timing of the trip was truly providential in several ways. For one thing, we have been home a LOT this spring--basically every three weeks since the beginning of March. We don't normally make the trip that often, but since we had, Elijah felt completely comfortable and at home at both grandparents' houses. We left him in the care of Steve's parents on a Monday morning (my parents took him for the second half of the week), and he just gave us hugs and cheerfully called out from the porch swing, "See ya later, alligator!"

We arrived a few hours later at a charming lake house--quiet, peaceful, relaxing, yet with lots of things to do nearby. The house came equipped with two kayaks, which we loved taking out on the lake a few times. One morning we even spotted a huge snapping turtle near our boats.

(The little yellow spot on the left in the photo above is Steve in his kayak)

The house also came equipped with a grill, perfect for not having to eat out all the time. After we unloaded at the house, we drove into Traverse City to stock our kitchen. Our first stop was a dangerous discovery: Grand Traverse Pie Company. I don't even really like pie all that much (it's Steve's thing)--but this pie was AMAZING. We seriously went back there three times. It was hard to choose a favorite: cherry-peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry-raspberry-strawberry-blackberry, raspberry-apple...oh my.

Besides pie, we also found some ridiculously rich cherry pecan bread and a delicious two-serving broccoli-cheddar quiche (quiche is also not my favorite, though I like egg casserole--so this place's crust must have really been amazing). We definitely dined in style for breakfast.

We then picked up the makings of dinner at Burritt's Fresh Market, since my friend had said that if we wanted to grill, Burritt's had the best steaks and ribs in town. Was she ever right. Steve grilled up the most melt-in-your-mouth New York strip steak (big enough to share *and* use in omelets later in the week--and grass fed, even) and the best asparagus I've ever tasted. Asparagus is not my favorite vegetable (noticing a pattern here?!) but apparently like most produce, it's totally different when it's fresh and local. It was in season up in Michigan, and it was WAY better than the stuff I've had around here. Grilled with some Gouda cheese melted over it...yeah. Needless to say we were stuffed on Monday night :)

The other great thing about the timing of the trip was that it was right on the cusp of tourist season up there. The weather was absolutely perfect all week, sunny and warm-but-not-sweltering...and there were no crowds anywhere, because the pace doesn't really pick up until Memorial Day.

Day 2: Sleeping Bear Dunes