Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's A Boy!

We were very sneaky and snuck in one last $4 ultrasound before we left Moldova to see if we could tell what the gender of the baby is. We kept it a secret, though, because we wanted to be able to tell our families the big news in person! But now they all know, and the news is out! Baby Tapp is a BOY! We saw the evidence ourselves, and it seemed pretty clear to us that there was no room for error. So we are very excited - we both wanted our first one to be a boy! With all the packing, moving, and celebrating Christmas, we haven't had time for a naming discussion yet, so we're not incredibly close on making a decision there... We'll let you know when we come up with something!Here's a couple good pictures from our ultrasound. Below you can see his spine and legs - cool!
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and that you're all praising God for His greatest Gift to us - HIS Son. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oh, My Achin' Hips!

I definitely have a new pregnancy symptom... My hips hurt! Thankfully, I had already read that this happens in pregnancy, or else I would've been really concerned because they hurt a LOT! Yesterday morning I woke up and could barely walk because of it - I limped around the house like an old lady all day! I've read that sleeping with a pillow between your legs helps keep them aligned while sleeping and eases the pain. So I tried that last night and it did help a lot. Still a little achy, but nothing like yesterday. I'm just surprised that it's happening so soon - I expected it once my belly got big, but I'm not all that big yet! Oh well. When we get home I may invest in one of those pregnancy pillows that curls around your whole body and keeps everything where it should be. Did anybody use one of those, and did it help? Do you have any other suggestions?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Favorites

My sister did this on her blog, and I liked her idea so much I thought I'd steal it for mine. I'll expand a little on her idea, though, because there's no way I can pick just ONE favorite Christmas movie! I've narrowed it down to my top four, which follow in no particular order.

Timeless Classic: White Christmas
This movie is unbelievable, especially considering it was made in 1954! It combines the amazing vocal talents of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney with the stunning dancing ability of Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen. It's not exceptionally about Christmas, although most of it happens around that time of year. But the plot is enjoyable and the talent showcased in this movie makes it one to watch every year.

Cartoon Classic: A Charlie Brown Christmas
I love this one for the fact that it's on network TV every year, and yet it remains the same timeless story about the REAL meaning of Christmas. It never fails to move me when Linus is on stage sharing the "glad tidings of great joy." Imagine, a Christmas show that actually honors Christ! Charles Schultz is my hero.

Comedy Classic: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
And then for the other end of the spectrum, this is pretty much the opposite of the real meaning of Christmas. But it is dang hilarious. I can't even pick one part of the movie that is my favorite because they are ALL funny! Cousin Eddie, Aunt Bethany, the dog Snot - so many characters that we can all identify with from our own families. This is another must-watch every year for me.

New Favorite: The Nativity Story
I just saw this movie for the first time a couple weeks ago, and I was very pleased with how well-made it was and how much it really did stick with the biblical account. I love that this was a mainstream movie that showed in theaters, but it really does tell exactly what happened and what Christmas is all about. I will definitely add this to my collection.

Honorable Mention: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the Dr. Suess and the Jim Carrey versions!), The Holiday, Prancer, A Christmas Story

On my Do-Not-Watch List: Any of the creepy claymation classics shown on TV - Frosty, Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town (What the heck is a Burgermeister anyways?!), It's a Wonderful Life (It may be the effect of my husband, who doesn't like Christmas movies, but this movie is more depressing to me than uplifting these days.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

4 Months!

I can't believe that I'm 4 months pregnant already! That is both exciting and a little scary... We're almost halfway! Also exciting is that I think I felt the baby move for the first time last night when I was lying in bed! It just felt like somebody lightly tapping their fingers on my lower abdomen. And then I felt it again just now while I was checking email... Wow! So I'm not sure if that is the baby moving or if it's just gas or something, but I'm excited thinking that it is! :) I think the baby is just getting excited about going back to America and "meeting" its extended family. Less than 2 weeks! Yay!

I haven't posted in a while because everything seems to be going great, and there's not much to say! My nausea is completely gone, and my skin is even starting to clear up! I'm very glad because I didn't want to go home and think that people were lying when they say "You look radiant!" (Yeah, radiant red like Rudolph's nose, maybe!) Hopefully I WILL look radiant for Christmas with my family. :) Now all I've got going on is some serious cravings for potatoes. This baby loves it some starches. So I'm eating potatoes! Yeah! And they're yummy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Insomnia and Fine Motor Skills

So apparently now that I'm in my second trimester, my body has decided it just doesn't need to sleep anymore. I lay in bed at night and just don't go to sleep. And it's not that I'm not tired - I just can't sleep. Normally if I can't sleep, I'll get up and read or something until I get tired. But these days my body, especially my eyes, are so tired that I don't want to get up. I want to sleep! I just can't. I have read that insomnia can be a symptom of the hormone changes in pregnancy, so I'm hoping that it will adjust itself soon. I've cut out taking my afternoon naps in an effort to make myself sleep at night. It hasn't worked yet, but surely it will soon!!!

Another strange side effect of pregnancy that has surprised me is that suddenly my typing has gotten really bad! I'm usually a fast and accurate typist. But ever since I got pregnant, my speed is still the same, but my accuracy is terrible! It takes me twice as long to type anything because I just can't seem to make my fingers hit the right keys! And then trying to backspace and type the right one... Sometimes I have to actually stop and do the chicken-peck method to get the right letter on the screen! For somebody who's pretty obsessive about spelling, grammar, and punctuation, this is not a fun thing.

Even though I've spent the entirety of this post so far complaining about my symptoms, I'm definitely enjoying pregnancy at this point! I love my baby so much, and I can't wait to meet it! I spend a lot of each day home alone, so I talk to the baby and sing to it. We have a good time! (It tells me that it's ok to eat that piece of chocolate after lunch! We're going to be good friends.) So I just want to affirm that even though I have some symptoms that are surprising and not entirely pleasant, I'm thrilled to be in this situation. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Finger-Lickin' Good

I've discovered another reason I'm VERY glad to be in Moldova for the first half of my pregnancy. First of all, let me start by explaining that my absolute favorite fast-food meal of all time is Dairy Queen's Chicken Strip Basket. Four batter-dipped chicken strips, hot crispy fries, Texas toast, and gravy. Oh my, I'm salivating just thinking about it. I haven't eaten one in years because, according to the DQ website, the meal tops out at a whopping 950 calories, and that is WITHOUT the gravy, which I don't eat. And of course, it wouldn't be complete without a medium Chocolate X-treme blizzard, which DOUBLES that calorie total. Sooooooo, needless to say, I don't splurge on that treat much. However, not even the knowledge of how devastating this meal is for one's health can stop me from craving it pretty much night and day. And now that I'm pregnant, it is seriously my #1 craving. I'm not kidding - I'm actually having dreams about going to DQ and getting one of these. Thankfully, however, we don't have Dairy Queens in Moldova, and so I'm not having to try to resist that temptation. I must say, however, that upon returning to the States, I'm going to have one as soon as I can. Oh my. I'm getting a little emotional just thinking about it. Hopefully I'll have enough willpower to limit them to maybe once a month for the remainder of my pregnancy... We'll see.

Anyways, all the talk on my last post about cravings determining whether it's a boy or a girl made me think about this being my number one craving. Supposedly, craving salty means it's a boy and craving sweet means it's a girl. Well, seeing as I'm craving both the chicken strips AND the blizzard, I don't know if this helps me much. But I do think that considering my biggest craving is fried chicken, this tells me that our child will most definitely be a Baptist... :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Goodbye, Nausea! Hello, Energy!

At least that's what I'm hoping will happen now that I'm officially in my second trimester! Yippeeee! The nausea is mostly gone already - I just have my moments, usually when I get too hungry right before bed. The energy, though, is definitely dawdling in making a comeback. I'm STILL taking a nap every day! Geez! Of course, if I had a lot to do, I'm sure I'd be able to make it without the naps.

So I was reading on about finding out the gender of your baby (which we do plan to do at our next sonogram in the beginning of January). I noticed a little link on the side that said something like "Don't want to wait to find out the gender? Check the Ancient Chinese Birth Chart that will predict with 93% accuracy what you'll be having!" So out of curiosity, I clicked on it. It took me to this page, where the introduction says:
"Legend says that a Chinese birth chart (supposedly predicting the gender of a baby with 93 percent accuracy!) was buried in a tomb near Beijing for almost 700 years. The original is now at the Beijing Institute of Science."
You click on how old you were at the time of conception, then the month you conceived, and it tells you what, according to the Ancient Chinese Birth Chart, you'll be having. So I clicked that my age was 25-31, then on the month of August. It came up with this little chart:
Great! It says that 27-year-olds who conceive in the month of August will be having a GIRL! So it'll be interesting to see if that's right. But THEN, if you scroll down, it says "Based on your age, here is the likelihood that you're having a boy or a girl," and then it has this graphic:
Um, wow. So it's telling me that it's 93% likely that my chances are 50/50 of having a boy or a girl. Gee, thanks. How did they even pick Girl for the first chart if the chances are only 50/50 on the second chart? I'm confused.

So I just wanted to know if any of my readers have ever heard of this before. For those of you that have kids, out of curiosity, will you go to the site and see what the chart predicted you would have based on the month you conceived and your age at conception? I'm interested to see if it's ever right.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

12 WEEKS!!!!!

Yippee!!! Today makes 12 weeks, and I am THRILLED to have reached this milestone! We went to the doctor on Wednesday for another sonogram, and the baby is beautiful and wonderful and perfect so far!We got to see its little hands, its perfectly-formed little skull, and its graceful dance moves! I'm shocked at how much it's already moving in there, when I can't feel a thing! I hope it calms down once I can start to feel it... Yeah, right.

When I sent an email to my family with the update on Wednesday, I told them that I was starting to feel better as far as nausea and fatigue go. Well, the baby must've just been faking me out, because I've felt really cruddy the last couple of days! I think the nausea is worst when I get hungry, but I feel like a person can only eat so much! I mean, come on! So I try to keep myself feeling good without making a gigantic pig of myself. It's a fine line to walk. :) And I'm still taking 1-2 hour naps every day... Have I mentioned how glad I am to be in Moldova where that is possible in my life?! I didn't get a nap yesterday, and I was a beast by dinnertime! Poor Justin didn't know what to do with me. Hopefully this will all get better soon! Second trimester, here I come!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bizarre, but I'm glad!

I had a VERY interesting thing happen to me yesterday. After dinner, Justin and I were watching a movie. We took an intermission break, in which I went into the kitchen to take my empty hot chocolate mug to the sink. When I turned on the kitchen light, the first thing I saw was the bag of carrots I had bought at the market earlier in the day. Seeing the carrots, my first thought was, "Man, a carrot sounds GREAT right now!" So I washed it and ate it whole. It was delicious.

This is bizarre for two reasons: First of all, as many of you know from one of my previous posts, I've been having an aversion to raw vegetables since I found out I was pregnant. This is seriously the first raw vegetable I've eaten in 5 weeks. Why in the world did I suddenly see the carrot and want it? No idea.

The even stranger thing, though, is that I don't even LIKE carrots! I don't know if I've EVER just eaten a whole carrot like that. I can most of the time eat baby carrots, which are peeled and sweeter, but I prefer even those dipped in ranch to mask the taste. Justin doesn't like carrots either, so I usually don't even buy them. I'm just making a pot of beef vegetable soup tomorrow, and that definitely needs the carrots in it. Of course, just writing this post is making me want another carrot, so I may end up having to go BACK to the market to buy more carrots for my soup!!! :)

I am VERY glad to have suddenly desired a vegetable again, because I've started gaining more weight that I want to this early in the game. So hopefully I'll be able to start eating a little healthier and stop those pounds from packing on quite so fast! Yay for carrots!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"How's the Baby?"

Do we ask this in America? To somebody who's only 10 weeks pregnant? People keep asking me that here, and I'm stumped at how to answer them. I know, I'm supposed to say "Fine, thank you." But really, how am I supposed to know how the baby is? I haven't seen it or talked to it. It's not big enough for me to feel it move yet. So I finally told one of my Moldovan friends that we don't ask that in America. We ask a pregnant woman how SHE is, because that is something she knows very well and would more than likely be happy to tell you about. Am I wrong in thinking that's a strange question? I won't actually know how the baby is until it's born, when I can see it and hold it in my hands. Until then, we're all just guessing, aren't we?

I'm also already getting friends wanting to touch my belly. Talk about feeling violated! I know to expect that when you're further along and your belly is big - I've heard you'll have complete strangers want to come up and put their hands all over you. Um, no thanks. However, at this point, all they're getting is a big handful of my fat roll, which I had long before I was pregnant, thank you very much. I'm not saying anything to my Moldovan friends about it, because I don't know how that would translate and I don't want to offend them. But I fully expect to ask Americans to please not touch me without asking first. Here, there is no such thing as personal space, so I guess this is just part of it. And since I'm clearly not showing, it's only my friends who already know I'm pregnant who are touching me, so I'll just live with it. But goodness gracious! Nobody would walk up and grab my stomach before I was pregnant, so why is it ok to do it now?! Alas, the things you just can't prepare for... :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007


OK, so I knew that most people don't really start to show their pregnancy until 4-5 months. What I did not know, however, is how soon I would start to FEEL a difference in my clothes! I'm sure I don't look any different, but my belly is already getting bigger! Last week, I even started having to unbutton my jeans when I'm sitting down because they're just tight! What?! This soon?! I was only at 9 weeks when this started! So I'm starting to get a little concerned about being able to keep wearing these clothes for the next 2+ months that we're in Moldova. When I'm standing up/walking around, my jeans still fit fine, but when I'm sitting, they're starting to get pretty snug. So this will be an interesting adventure. I do know about the rubber-band-through-the-buttonhole trick for wearing jeans that are a little snug. So hopefully that will last me! If not, I may need to recruit somebody to send me a couple of those belly band thingys. We'll see! Regardless of how my clothes are fitting, though, it sure is making it a lot more real to me that there's a baby growing in there, since I can clearly tell I'm growing!!!!! :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Please tell me I can blame it on the pregnancy!

OK, so does pregnancy make you clumsy? I'm not usually a klutz, but I've had two disturbing incidences in the past couple of days, and I'm concerned I'm really going to injure myself or someone else! Two days ago, I was walking down the street, and I just fell down! My foot slipped into a pothole or something, but I totally staggered for like 10 feet and then went sprawling. It was embarrassing! Thankfully I wasn't hurt more than scratches and bruises. But I guarantee the people on the street were thinking "It's WAY too early in the day for that lady to be so drunk!" No, I'm not drunk! I'm just pregnant! It's a good thing no cars were coming, because I totally fell into the middle of the street.

And then tonight, I totally set dinner on fire. YES, ON FIRE!!!! We're talking 2-foot-high flames coming out of the skillet. Who knew stir-fry could be so dangerous? The thing that scares me the most about it is that I panicked. I had no idea what to do. Thankfully, Justin was on hand, came quickly at my screams, and calmly took care of the situation. It doesn't take a super-genius to think that if you have a fire on a gas stove, the first thing you should try is eliminate the source of the flame. Turn off the burner, Joni! Duh! (This picture is not my stove, but it closely resembled what mine looked like - minus the danger of nearby curtains catching ablaze...)

So I'm just a little nervous because I still have 7 more months of this to go. Will I suffer from this fuzzy-headedness the whole time? Will I regain better control of my limbs? I seriously doubt that one, because the bigger I get the more awkward I'm sure I will be. So I just need to recruit some serious prayers that God will protect me with His angels and that I'll trust Him to do so!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bizarre Changes in Food Tastes

So you always hear about how pregnancy totally changes the foods people like/dislike/crave. I wondered what was going to happen with me, and I'm totally surprised so far about how it's been!

1. Sweet Tooth is Gone! Before pregnancy, I had the world's biggest sweet tooth. I could eat anything sweet or chocolate any time of the day or night. Shockingly enough, now it just doesn't sound good. If I do happen to eat some, I do usually enjoy it. But a little bit is enough, and it's very easy for me to overdo it on the sweets now and make myself sick. In fact, the medicine I'm taking to lower my bilirubin levels is a VERY sweet syrup, and some days I actually have to gag it down! I hope the sweet tooth stays gone even after giving birth! That would be great for my diet! :)

2. Just Say No to Raw Veggies! Many of you know that I used to eat salads all the time - LOVED them! My friend Kristy and I would go to Subway every week and I would get a tuna salad, the highlight of my week! Even here in Moldova, before getting pregnant, I would cut up tomatoes and cucumbers and make a salad-type thing every day for lunch. Now I just cannot stand the thought of a raw vegetable. I had to throw away all my leftover tomatoes and cucumbers. Before I get any motherly lectures, I'm eating plenty of cooked vegetables, AND I'm taking my multivitamin. Just don't ask me to eat a salad. Gag!

3. Hand Over the Fries and Nobody Gets Hurt! My strongest cravings have been for warm, salty things - namely, french fries. In fact, twice now I have been moved to tears by my deep longing for McDonald's fries. Is this pathetic or what? Before pregnancy, I really could not tell you the last time I ate a french fry, and even longer ago that I specifically went to a place just to buy some! But they are the joy of my soul now. I'm trying to enjoy them in moderation and find other things that will fill that craving - popcorn is a good one, and cheese toast! Yum!

So those are just the most notable changes in my tastes so far. Weird!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Conquering the Fear

Well, I'm now 9 1/2 weeks pregnant, and I've been wanting to revive this blog to share with friends and family about my experiences. However, I haven't been able to bring myself to do it, and I can tell you the one reason: FEAR. I have been so afraid of losing the baby or something happening, that I couldn't stand the thought of getting on here and sharing all these exciting things, just to have to get back on in the future and share the sadness. But God has really been dealing with me in that, and here's the new attitude I'm living by:
If God wants my child to live, then absolutely nothing can harm it.
If God doesn't want my child to live, then neither do I.
That second part sounds kind of harsh, but not when you look at it with a correct view of God, namely that He is good and loving all the time. He is never spiteful or mean. Absolutely everything He does has a purpose, and in His Word, He promises that purpose is good. So He can be trusted with the life of my child, and I have determined that I just will not worry. Period. I worded it the way I did above, because this concept doesn't just apply to my pregnancy, but I want it to apply to my attitude toward parenting in general. There is no guarantee that my child will live to reach adulthood. That is in the hands of God, and He knows best. As a chronic worrier and someone who always imagines the worst for every situation (Example: Justin is 10 minutes late getting home from work? He must be dead in a car accident. *rolling eyes*), this is a really big deal for me, and I'd appreciate everybody's prayers in this. But I have a bunch of things I'll be posting about my pregnancy, so check back often and share the joy of the experience with me, and NONE of us are going to WORRY about ANYTHING!!! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

They're Making a Movie!

In January, I reviewed a book series on this blog called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Well, Justin just read in the latest issue of The Economist that they're going to make a movie from the first book! According to The Economist, the book series has generated quite a bit of tourism in Botswana, where the books are set. In fact, tourists can even take the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency tour" and visit all the locations in the book. Cool! Maybe someday I'll convince Justin to take me there. But I digress. So apparently Botswana was so excited about the tourism from the book series that they're investing heavily in the movie, hoping that will create an even larger draw. It's supposed to open first in Britain in 2008, then if all goes well, it will open worldwide. Then, if that is successful, they'll make more movies. (So far there are 8 books in the series, and he's still writing them.) So I thought that was exciting news.

I hadn't planned on posting on this blog anymore, but this didn't seem to fit on the Moldova blog. So check back here periodically and to see if I have anything else to say! I'm in the middle of a book now that I plan to review on here once I'm done, so hopefully that will entice you to check back in a couple weeks! :)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Wonderful Husband

My wonderful husband got me two GREAT gifts for my birthday! They were late arriving from Amazon, so I didn't get them until yesterday, but they were DEFINITELY worth waiting for! He got me Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series that I have been DYING to get my hands on. I'm already halfway through it and it is GOOD!

He also got me A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the same author as The Kite Runner. I can't wait to get them both read! Thank you, my precious one!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Random Collection of Thoughts

I have a couple different thoughts that are entirely unrelated to each other, but when all put here together may turn out to be a post of some substance. So here goes:

Last Sunday for church, we visited Justin's sister's church: Fellowship Church in Knoxville, TN. It was a great experience - good music, great sermon, friendly people. The sermon was about Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." The preacher made a point about how the Church today has kind of made a division between "church life" and "real life." We think that the majority of our daily lives are aspiritual and have nothing to do with God, and then our worship comes on Sundays in church or serving in church activities throughout the week. But he used the Old Testament law to make a point that when God gave the law to Israel, it wasn't just laws about church and morality. It was laws about every tiny detail of life, including relationships, food, work, real estate, sex, society, etc. God wanted to be a factor in every part of their lives then, and looking at Colossians 3:17, it's clear that He still feels the same way today. So the thought that many of us have that we can't have a life of service to God unless we're employed by a church is bogus. God wants us to be godly businesspeople, godly teacher, godly garbagemen, godly waitresses, etc. AS WELL AS godly churchpeople. Just something to think about in my own attitude toward serving God and how I approach my daily life. If you're interested, you can listen to the sermon at the church link I posted above.

I've never really shopped at Old Navy. I've been there a time or 2 with other people, but never shopped there for myself. They didn't used to carry sizes big enough for me. But now I've lost some weight, and several friends emphatically recommended that I should stop in and check out their clearance racks because you can find some good deals on cute clothes. So yesterday I went to Old Navy with my friend Charity, and I bought a really cute sweater for $4.34 including tax! Yay for Old Navy and shopping at new places!

We are now less than one week away from leaving for Moldova! People keep asking me if I'm nervous about it, and remarkably the answer is no. I'm calm and confident, I just really have great expectations for this season. Justin is losing some sleep over details, but God has shown Himself so faithful in answering our prayers. We'd still appreciate your prayers for our safety and for all our details to be worked out upon arrival - especially getting our 6-month work permits and finding housing. We've heard about one housing situation that sounds ideal, so we're hoping that will work out for us - Check the Moldova blog for more details about that once we arrive.

So I think that's all I have for the moment. I'll try to post on here at least one more time before we leave!

Edit: I remembered a couple other random thoughts I meant to put in this! So I'll add them here at the end.

We visited the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, TN, and I learned a lot about WWII history and the development of the nuclear bomb. I had no idea that was all done in Tennessee, just a few hours south of where I grew up! Very enlightening for me, although I hope not in a radioactive way... In the lobby of that museum, though, there are some little puzzles and brainteasers - take these 6 shapes and fit them together to make a square. I've always been good at this kind of thing, and so I solved them without a whole lot of trouble. My father-in-law, who is an engineer, was very impressed by this and said I should've been an architect because of my apititude for abstract thinking. Wow. Thanks!

One of Justin's and my favorite things to do is visit used bookstores. You never know the treasures you can find in used bookstores! We just got back from visiting Mr. K's Used Books & CDs in Oak Ridge, and I found 2 books that I've been looking for a long time (The South Beach Diet in paperback and Captivating by John & Staci Eldredge) for $10 total! But I digress. For the past several weeks, we've been scouring every bookstore we came across for a Romanian-English dictionary to help me learn the language. We eventually gave up and bought them online. But I digress again. Earlier this week we were in Barnes & Noble in Knoxville, and I was looking in the foreign language section trying to find anything to help me learn Romanian. I struck out, but I noticed a book on the shelf that looked like it was written by "Harrius Potter." I wondered if maybe this was someone trying to write a book as if they were Harry Potter, but the name was copyrighted so they used something close? But then I picked it up and "Harrius Potter" was actually the title of the book. So I flipped it open and the text was definitely in a language that I don't know. The inside flap, though, was in English, and I discovered that this was actually the first Harry Potter book translated into Latin. Then I looked back at the shelf I had gotten it from, and there were several other children's books translated into Latin, including Green Eggs & Ham. What is this about? Where is the market for children's books in Latin? Isn't Latin a dead language? I'm very confused by all of this... Does anybody else have any thoughts?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stayin' Alive

Whew! It's been a whirlwind week, and now I'm finally getting a chance to slow down and breathe. I can't believe it's only been 8 days since we left Texas. It feels like 8 weeks! Our driving went really well - many thanks to all who prayed for us! It was REALLY easy drafting behind a U-Haul for 700 miles. Justin's the one who had it hard up in the truck, but I was just sailing along listening to my book on CD. (I highly recommend The Kite Runner, but it's very heavy and serious. Not a light read. I still learned a lot about the history and culture of Afghanistan, and it was a thought-provoking story.)

We spent 3 days in Kentucky at Justin's parents' house. We went out on their pontoon boat in the lake, did some unsuccessful fishing, and ate a LOT of yummy homemade food! The day we arrived, Justin's dad filled up his smoker with venison, dove, turkey breast, turkey sausage, and beef, and we managed to finish off most of it by the end of the 3 days.

Thursday we drove up to Chicago to visit my extended family. My grandparents, 4 aunts and uncles, and their families all came in to spend a few days together - it was a bonafide family reunion! I think we had about 25 people total, including all the children. Friday we went to downtown Chicago and spent a while at Navy Pier, visited a chocolate cafe called Moonstruck.
Saturday we drove to Racine, Wisconsin and went to the zoo there, then had a birthday/pool party at our hotel for one of my younger cousins. Sunday we drove to Willow Creek for church, and we met up with some college friends, Paul and Tara, for lunch. Paul is working at Willow as an intern, so we were excited to have this chance to see them again - I hadn't seen Tara since graduation in 2002! Then we drove back to Cincinnati, where my parents and sister live, and we'll spend this week here with them just relaxing a little bit and enjoying family.

Can you believe that in all of that action, I never took ONE SINGLE photo?! I'm a horrible person. My sis took some pictures, so hopefully I can steal some of hers and post them for your entertainment. My nephews are precious and wonderful, and I look forward to the next couple of days with them. They both have colds which I seem to have caught. But I slept about 12 hours last night and I'm feeling much better today.

On an entirely different note, we have started our Moldova blog! I'll keep posting on this one until we leave for Moldova on August 1st, and then I'll post only on that one. Keep this one on your links, though, because I'll come back to this one after our stint in Moldova!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

An Amazing Gift

I just had to post on here about the wonderful gift I received today! Today was the last day that both of my bosses and me would all be in the office together. So they took me out to lunch at Pei Wei (yum!), and they gave me this precious gift. They said it was from them, and also the choir at the church where I work took up a collection to buy me a gift to show their appreciation for all I've done for them in the past 2 years. As if that wasn't already super sweet, the gift they got me is gorgeous! It's a beautiful gold and silver cross necklace made by the renowned jeweler James Avery. I am so touched at this gift! Not only is it sweet and thoughtful, but it's also beautiful - something I would pick out myself. I've really been touched by everyone's sweet expressions of appreciation to me, telling me how much I've meant to them in my time here. It's nice to know you can affect someone's life for the better in the short time you have with them. I pray I can touch people the same way in Moldova!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Goodbyes Are Hard

Yesterday was our last Sunday to go to our wonderful church, and it was so hard saying goodbye! This church has meant so much to me in my walk with the Lord and growth in worship. I can't imagine ever finding a church home like this one. I almost lost it hugging the Music Minister goodbye, but thankfully I managed to keep it together.

But I know I will lose it altogether when I have to say goodbye to my dear LifeGroup. They threw a goodbye party for us last night, which was sweet and wonderful. Here's the crowd that was there:
From left: Clay (wife Michelle was working), Robert & Mollie, Matt & Rachel (with baby Kezia), Zack & Gretchen, Justin & me, Andrew & Shelly, and David & Michelle.

Thankfully, they are such wonderful friends that most of them will be helping us load up our truck Saturday afternoon, so last night wasn't goodbye. However, they have been such dear friends to us, and walked down this road with us in the first two years of our marriage and surviving grad school. How hard to leave them now! But I know that the Lord has more in store for our future and for theirs, and thankfully I know that this goodbye is only temporary, for we will all dance together on those golden streets for all eternity! So although this goodbye is a grief, we don't have to grieve as those who have no hope... Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whew! It Has Begun!

Well, the upheaval has definitely begun. I almost took pictures of what our apartment looks like to post on here, but I was ashamed of the disaster it is and lost my nerve. But let me assure you, it is a disaster! I am extremely pleased, though, with how far ahead we are on packing and getting rid of stuff. We decided to sell a lot of our belongings and furniture so we don't have to pack it up and move it! Hopefully when we come back, we'll be settling someplace for several years, so we'll actually want to outfit a house with more than our hodge-podge assortment of hand-me-down and Goodwill furniture.

So my sweet husband has taken an affinity to Craig's List, and it's been amazing how fast our stuff has sold! Every day I get another email from him... "Just sold the dresser." "Just sold the desk." Yesterday he sold our TV and VCR, so I'll be doing a lot of reading for the next 2 weeks without it! :) It's wonderful to have some extra cash, though, and we're thankful for how easy it has been so far.

Also, selling the furniture is definite motivation for me to get to work packing the things that are inside it! I had to pack the books because we're selling the bookshelves out from under them! (Those are still available, by the way, so let us know if you're interested! ;) ) So there are boxes everywhere, and I'm thrilled with progress.

So that's really all that my life is these days. Selling, organizing, and packing. And I love it. Just 10 more days! (But who's counting?!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What to Do With the Elderly?

Justin had an experience this week that really got me to thinking. He got a part-time job with a company that does in-home assistance for the elderly or handicapped. Most of their employees are trained healthcare workers, but they also need some people to just go help out with regular things like housework, grocery shopping, or even just to sit as a companion with someone. So Justin took the job with the understanding that those are the kind of calls he would get. Last night, he got his first call to assist an elderly couple with their evening routine. The husband had Parkinson’s disease, which makes him basically immobile and entirely unable to do anything for himself. So this job turned out to be way more intensive than Justin felt he was qualified or trained for. However, my wonderful husband with his courage and his servant’s heart jumped right in there and did what needed to be done. I’m very proud of him for that, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that it really got me thinking about the elderly and the difficulty of making decisions for their care. When Justin got home and was telling me about how difficult his time there was and just how difficult this couple’s life is overall, my first thought was “They need to be in a home.” That just stopped me in my tracks, though, because who am I to make that kind of judgment? I can't even fathom how hard it must be to watch yourself and your spouse growing older and losing the ability to take care of yourselves, and what a difficult decision it would be to give up your independence and leave the home you’ve lived in together for so long. But yet what’s the answer to getting the care you need while still maintaining your dignity and your independence and your privacy and all the other things I can’t even think of right now? I honestly don’t know. I do have a few thoughts on the issue even though I can't draw any conclusions, and maybe one of you will be able to add in some better ideas and thoughts too.

First of all, one of my favorite books ever is called Leota’s Garden, a fiction novel by Christian author Francine Rivers. It addresses this issue in a heart-wrenching way and will really make you think about stuff. I highly recommend it, and anything else she wrote for that matter.

Secondly, just this Sunday in Bible study we looked at some Scriptures that I think are applicable here. We’re going through the book of 1 Timothy, and this is what it says in verses 4 and 8 of chapter 5:

“If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God… If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
To me, that’s pretty clear about who God wants to take care of the elderly… their own family. (This verse is talking about widows, but I think the principle can be applied to aging parents in need even if they’re both alive.) I think it’s neat that in verse 4 it basically says “After all your parents and grandparents have done for you, you OWE them!” And if you think about it, it’s true. They spent years feeding you and bathing you and changing your diapers, so you don’t need to be too proud or selfish to do that for them in their old age if they need it. Better you than some stranger in a nursing home. However, that is REALLY easy for me to say now, but I know it would be REALLY hard if I actually have to do it someday. Not only just emotionally and physically and mentally would it be difficult to care for an aging parent, but financially too.

And this brings me to my third thought on the issue. I think that decisions on how to care for me when I’m old will never be easy, but I think they’ll be a lot easier if I can provide the finances to do what is necessary. That’s why we’re saving for retirement now. We’re young and feel like getting old is a really long time away. But ask your parents and grandparents if they ever thought they’d get old and see what they say… So no matter how old you are or how healthy you are, please PLEASE start saving for your future. You never know what will happen to you and what will come up, and wouldn’t you rather be prepared for any eventuality? And it's never too late to start saving, so even if retirement is uncomfortably close for you, saving now will still help you down the road.

Last semester, Justin and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and it revolutionized our way of thinking about this kind of stuff. If you haven’t been through this course, please look on Dave’s website and see if there are any near you. No matter what your situation or how much you make, you can ALWAYS save if you’re willing to make some sacrifices. Eat out less, make that pair of shoes last one more month, buy off-brands, and start investing that money instead of blowing it! I don’t know much about investing because Justin is our financial dude. But please, if you have any questions about what we do or what Dave recommends (Yes, we’re on a first name basis with Dave Ramsey!) or how to make your specific situation work, ask him! He may not know, but we’ll find out for you. Because this is IMPORTANT. You can’t trust Social Security to come through for you. Sheesh, my PARENTS can’t even trust Social Security to come through for them, much less anybody in my generation. We have got to be wise enough to plan for that and have what it takes to provide for ourselves. Get health insurance. Get life insurance. Get long term care insurance when you reach 60. Make out a living will so that the doctors will know your wishes on how you should be cared for and your sweet spouse doesn’t have to try to make that decision on whether or not to pull the plug.

I don’t want this to sound morbid – it’s just reality. Our bodies were not meant to last forever. We were meant to live on this earth a while and then move on to the next where we get a new body and a new name and there will be no more death or pain or sorrow! In the meantime, let’s be wise about how we live in this world. Taking care of the elderly is a difficult and sensitive issue, so let’s do what we can to make it easier on those we love when our time comes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another One?!?!?!?!

So you all remember last year when we had the mouse in our house? Well, apparently its brother moved into its place and has now met the same fate. Sit back and let me tell you the tale. If you're squeamish about rodents or gross things, you may want to pass on reading this story.
For the past several days, I've noticed this smell when sitting on our living room couch. It smelled exactly like dog food to me. It wasn't incredibly strong and it seemed to come and go. So I figured maybe the neighbors had gotten a dog and they fed it right on the other side of the wall the couch sits next to. However, yesterday evening I was sitting on the couch and it suddenly hit me. Those neighbors got evicted. Nobody lives there. Uh-oh. So I'm sniffing around the couch trying to figure out where it's coming from. Sniff, sniff. Pillows are fine. Sniff, sniff. Seats are fine. Sniff, sniff. Whoa, it's definitely coming from behind the couch. So I pull it back from against the wall, and there is a dead, decomposing mouse back there!!!! GROSS!!!! Who knows how long it had been there?! We never even heard it scratching around in the kitchen or anything, it just showed up dead under our couch! No wonder our bug problem has been getting worse! GAG! So I called my bold and daring husband who promptly rescued me and took the thing to the dumpster. It did leave a gross and smelly spot on the carpet, but I scrubbed it last night and I think we might have gotten it taken care of. Are you kidding me?! I'm SO ready to get out of this $#&*@^% apartment!!!!

P.S. The above picture is NOT what the mouse in our house looked like. I couldn't find a picture that would satisfy me for that. So instead I posted a picture of the R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) from The Princess Bride. Gross rodent, great movie.

P.P.S. So here's my question... Why does a decomposing mouse smell like dog food?! What do they put in that stuff anyways?!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Trip to the Ocean

No, we're not taking a random vacation to the beach. I'm talking about my sweet husband taking me to the movies last night to see the third installment of some of my favorite movies: Ocean's 13. Now, I'm going to do my best to avoid any spoilers in this post, so if you haven't seen it, please feel free to keep reading. Let me start by saying that Ocean's 11 and Ocean's 12 are two of my favorite movies. Part of the reason why I married Justin is because he had them both on DVD. (Not really, but that was an excellent bonus I discovered after we were married!) I watch them all the time, and I just love the characters, the relationships, the story lines, the cleverness of the gags, the script, all of it. Love it. Ocean's 12 is, in my opinion, the ONLY sequel in all of history to be as good as, if not better than, the first movie. When I learned that they were coming out with a third one, I tried to keep my expectations low. I mean, could they really do it a third time? Well, let me say, I loved it. I was right and it wasn't as good as the first two, but it was still excellent.

Since I'm not giving away any of the plot, let me just make a few notes about the movie. First of all, I LOVED the Mormon brothers' increased airtime in this movie. They played a greater role in this one than in any of the previous, and there wasn't one scene with them in it that wasn't hilarious. A few of my favorite quotes from Turk:

"I was trying to extend to you an olive basket and you spit in my face."

Virgil: "I'm trying to make you taller, you're classified as a midget in 34 states."
Turk: "Yeah? I'm an animal in the other 34... 24... 22..."

Secondly, there were apparently several references to the Godfather in this movie that will appeal to all you Godfather nerds out there (a.k.a. all males). I didn't notice any of them, having only seen the Godfather once, which was one time too many. But Justin raved about them in the car on the way home. Thirdly, Brad Pitt didn't look so good. The rest of the guys all looked pretty much the same, except for those who were supposed to look worse. But Brad looked old, had big old bags under his eyes, and was all wrinkly looking. My only guess for this is that he's spent too much time under the African sun, and he's stressed out with all those African babies at home. He was childless when they made Ocean's 12, and now he has like 14 kids at home. Who can blame him for looking worse?

Fourthly, the only thing I didn't like about the movie was that neither Tess or Isabel even made an appearance. We didn't even hear their voices on the phone, for cryin' out loud! So there was a distinct lack of intelligent, or even entertaining, females in this movie, and that's probably the reason I didn't like it as well as the first two.

Having said all that, though, I loved it, and I'm inexpressibly thankful to my sweet husband for seizing the opportunity to take me. What a dear. I will say that I'm kind of hoping they don't make any more. No need for an Ocean's 37. Let's keep the good thing we've got and not ruin it, ok?!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Help

I read an article in the May edition of Reader's Digest that really moved and amazed me. It was about an organization called Helping Hands Monkeys, that provides monkey helpers for the diabled. Yes, monkeys. Specifically, they train Capuchin monkeys to do all sorts of tasks around the house that a disabled person wouldn't be able to do alone. This allows those who are physically handicapped to still maintain a great deal of independence and dignity. This was moving in itself, but what really tugged at my heartstrings was the way those who have received these monkeys share about how deeply attached they become to their monkeys. One of them said "It's somewhere between having a daughter and a friend, and a pet and a personal care attendant all wrapped in one."

Reader's Digest told the story of a man who had been in a car accident and become totally paralyzed from the neck down. The only thing he could move was a couple of fingers to operate his wheelchair. After his fiancee and her son left him, he spiraled into a dark depression. But then along came Minnie, a 20-year-old Capuchin monkey helper. She not only enabled him to live independently, but she brought him joy and the affection he so desperately needed. He says that Minnie saved his life.

At Helping Hands, they specifically breed these monkeys and give them very intense training to become helper monkeys. For the first five years of their lives, they live with a nondisabled foster family just to become socialized and have a fun and healthy childhood. Then they spend 2 years in Monkey College where they learn how to do a host of amazing things. They are trained to respond to laser pointers and about 30 verbal commands. When a monkey graduates from Monkey College at the age of 7, it can switch on/off the lights, open a bottle and put a straw in it, operate a microwave and serve food, clean up trash, switch on a TV or computer, select a CD or DVD and operate the player, turn the pages of a book, brush hair, open and close drawers, turn a faucet on/off, open the refrigerator, open a jar and pour out its contents, and take care of their own bathing and grooming. Amazing!!!! These monkey can live to be 40, so that gives them a solid 30 years of being able to be helpers.

Capuchin monkeys are specifically well-suited for this job because of their strong and nimble hands/arms that allow them to do intricate work with their fingers and lift over half their bodyweight (a mere 4-5 pounds). The Reader's Digest story told how Minnie's owner could use his laser pointer to select a movie, and she would get it and put it in the DVD player. Then he could say "popcorn" and she would go to the pantry, get out popcorn, put it in the microwave, pop it, take it out of the microwave, take it to her owner, open the bag, make sure it wasn't too hot, and then feed it to him (helping herself to some of it too!). I'm just blown away.

So now that I've inspired you for the day, I'll leave you with this bit of trivia. Capuchin monkeys get their name from an order of monks of the Catholic Church called Capuchin Friars, because the markings in the monkeys' fur resembles the traditional look of one of these friars. This is also where the drink cappucino got its name. I learned that from Trivial Pursuit. :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

100% Money-Back Guaranteed Funk Repellent

I haven't blogged in a week because I've been in a serious funk. I had no idea what was wrong with me or why, but I just lost my motivation. I stopped sleeping at night, had bad dreams, developed a twitch in my left eye, and my diet went out the window. I just couldn't summon the energy to care about eating right anymore. For those of you who know me, you recognize that this is serious. I was cranky and irritable. Poor Justin didn't know what to do with me. I didn't know where it was coming from or why, but I figured it would eventually pass and I just had to be strong and wait it out. But duh, Joni. You carry around in your purse a 100% money-back guaranteed funk repellent. If this can't banish the funk you've been in, nothing can. But this can. It's the Word of God.

Today, after talking about it with some friends, I realized the source of the problem. It's stress, and the root of that stress is fear. We are about to make a big change in our lives, and I have been telling the truth when I say I'm excited about it and looking forward to it. I am. I believe this is exactly what God has for us, and I believe He has great things in store for us through this adventure. However, I'm scared to death. When I went to Africa, I failed miserably at what I went to do because I could never completely let go of my inhibitions to embrace the people and the culture. I learned the language quickly and easily, but as far as suspending my judgments and being humble enough to really express love to the people in the way THEY could understand, I had zip, zilch, nada. Language hero, missionary zero. So this bad experience on my record is really affecting the way I'm looking at this upcoming trip. I recognize the mistakes I made in Africa, and I feel like I'll be able to learn from them to do a whole lot better in Moldova. Having a husband there who understands the culture better and can help keep me accountable will help a lot too. So I know it'll be good and fine and wonderful.

However, the enemy doesn't want me to enjoy this or to trust God to make this a wonderful experience and bring good from the bad experience in Africa. He wants me to be afraid and stressed out. I realized today that I've been letting the enemy have his way with me - I've been succumbing to his whims without even a fight. Well, I'm on to you, O wily one. From now on, you won't get me without a fight.

On my lunchbreak today (which is when I usually have my quiet times and read the Bible), I just laid all this before the Lord, confessing that it never even occured to me in the past week of suffering to just turn to Him with it. I think maybe that's one way the devil gets us with his attacks - he makes us think we should just handle it on our own instead of going to God with it. But I can't handle it on my own, and the twitch in my eye proves that trying is more than I can take. As I prayed and the Holy Spirit brought all these truths to my attention, it was seriously like an 18-wheeler was lifted from my chest. I just wanted to sing!!! I'm not a lunatic or bipolar... It was the devil attacking me with fear and throwing my past failures back at me. Well, Mr. Crafty, the Lord has redeemed my past mistakes and promises nothing but good things and hope in my future. (See Jeremiah 29:11 & Romans 8:28 if you want proof.)

To top it all off, the Lord just confirmed all this in the passage I read today in my normal reading through the Bible: Isaiah 12.
1You will say in that day:"I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

2"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

5"Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."
As I read those words out loud to the Lord, I could barely continue speaking for my tears of joy. He Himself is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. He has turned His anger away from me to give me comfort. I will shout and sing for joy, for great is the Holy One of Israel and He is here in our midst!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Know Where I'm Going...

...Moldova! Many of you may have already read about this on my husbands blog (here and here), and if you haven't you'll want to check out what he has to say about it. He tells all about the job he's taking and the specifics of our journey, so I'll just give my own perspective and more about what I'll be doing! We are SO EXCITED to finally have a plan and a goal to work toward, at least some direction for this next step in our lives. My sweet husband has accepted an internship in Moldova that uses his degree and is pretty much EXACTLY what he's always wanted to do. So we're really excited to be able to get a taste of what it's like to work in Justin's field and to maybe get a vision for where he would like to head on a more permanent basis.

So what the heck is Moldova? many of you may be asking. It's a former Soviet country in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine.

We'll be living in the capital city of Chisinau (pronounced ki-shi-nev). On this map it's that little red dot under the second O in Moldova. Read more about the country on its Wikipedia page.

When are you going? I just this very day submitted my notice at work. My last day will be Friday, July 6th. We'll take the weekend to pack up and then on Monday, July 9th, we'll drive all our stuff to Kentucky, where Justin's parents have graciously agreed to store it for us. We actually plan on selling most of our hodge-podge of hand-me-down and Goodwill furniture, and then we'll just start over when we settle someplace after this stint in Moldova. We'll spend about 3 weeks in Kentucky and Ohio visiting family and raising funds. (Make sure to read Justin's blog about our fundraising! We need your prayers and your financial support if you're able!) Then our departure date for Moldova will be around August 1st. We plan to stay 5 months so we can be home in time for Christmas with our families.

So what will you be doing while Justin is interning? That's an excellent question! I'm so glad you asked! If you have any suggestions, I'm open! No, really. I hope to be able to get a job to earn some money and get me out of the house. I have some experience teaching English as a Second Language, so I may try to do something like that, but I'm totally open. I haven't really even started research on that. But now that we have specific plans and dates, I can start the search. Please pray that I listen to God's leading on what He would have me do and that He brings the right opportunity quickly.

How are you feeling about all this? Many of you know that I had an incredibly difficult 2-year mission experience in West Africa in 2002-2004. That has been a huge growth point in my life, and God has worked wonders in me over that experience. I haven't been overseas since then, so I am a little nervous about how I'll do in this new place. I am, however, supernaturally calm and confident about this, which I recognize as the Holy Spirit telling me that this is what He has for us. I am just excited about the opportunity and really thrilled at my husband being able to seize this chance to get a feel for how his passions for Christ, economics, business, and development could all fit together. So we are thrilled at this chance, and as you read in my blog just a couple weeks ago, I feel like this is the perfect time in our lives for such an adventure.

So are you just going to fall off the face of the planet for 5 months? Not at all! Moldova has really good communications infrastructure, so our internet access will be great. I'll be able to email, and I plan on doing a monthly email newsletter. (Let me know if you want to be on the list!) I also plan on using a blog (I haven't decided yet if I'll use this one or start another just for that venture) to keep everyone updated even more often with pictures and stories of what our life is like there. So by the end of our stint there, you'll know way more than you ever wanted to about Moldova and about me... :) Pray for us!

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I had an adventure at work on Wednesday with my friend and coworker, Lindsay, and I've just been too busy to be able to get on here and tell the story. But now I've got a leisurely Sunday afternoon ahead of me, so sit back and enjoy my tale...

The church Lindsay and I work at is a rather large church that will often offer assistance to those who call in and need help with their rent or electric bill or food. Tracy is the secretary who handles those calls. So on Wednesday morning, Tracy got a call from a woman named Sally*. Sally had run into a bit of hard luck and needed help with her rent, and the church offered to pay a portion of it. When they do this, they make out a check to the person's landlord so we know the money is actually going toward rent. Usually the landlord is an institution like Blair's Cove Apartments, but occasionally it's just the name of a person. In Sally's case, the landlord's name was Linda*. I don't know what exactly transpired on the phone, but Tracy seemed uneasy about making the check to Linda, like maybe Sally wasn't being truthful and was trying to cheat the church out of money. So she told Sally that when she came in to pick up the check, she would have to bring photo ID proving that she really was Sally.

Tracy, however, had to take her child to a doctor's appointment that afternoon and just left the check with me, making sure to emphasize that I shouldn't give it to Sally unless she offered photo ID that she really was who she said she was. I was a little nervous about being given that task, but I agreed to do it since I'd heard Tracy on the phone with Sally emphasizing to her the importance of bringing ID with her. I figured surely she'd bring it and everything would be fine.

In our office, Tracy handles the requests for money and Lindsay handles the requests for food. So since she understands dealing with people who are asking for something, I went back to her desk and confided with her the story so far and asked for her to maybe offer me some moral support when Sally came to get her check. She said she would gladly deal with Sally and to just call her when she came. But the afternoon passed and Sally didn't show up, so I had kind of just put it out of my mind.

Finally, at 4:00 p.m., a woman walks in and introduces herself as Sally, asking for her check. I say, "No problem, I just need to see your photo ID." She gives me a deer-in-the-headlights look and starts digging through her purse, talking about how she's sure she didn't have any with her, she must've lost it, etc. She showed me a car insurance card and a credit card receipt with her name on it, but nothing with a photo. So I explained to her that I'm not the one in charge of handling this, I was just instructed to only give this check to Sally if she had some photo ID. So she starts getting teary-eyed, telling me about her hard luck, being fired from her job, boyfriend walked out and left her, she's going to get evicted... She carried on like this for 5 full minutes. So I told her that I would call Tracy and see what she told me to do, but I really didn't expect that I could give it to her. So I go to a different room to call Tracy, but she's got her phone turned off. So then I buzzed Lindsay at her desk and asked her for some backup, and she (like the wonderful friend and superwoman that she is) said "I'll be right there!"

So Lindsay comes up to the front and talks to the woman, telling her the same thing I did. We're not the ones in charge of this, and we were told specifically not to give the check to someone without photo ID. So after about 10 more minutes of listening to her sob story, Sally seems to realize that we're really not going to give her the check, and she says "Well, I may have an old driver's license in the car, but it's expired so I figured it wouldn't work." We assured her that would be fine, and please go get it. So she goes out to look for it in the car, and she's gone for at least 10 minutes.

While she's out at her car, Lindsay took the phone number she had given us that was supposed to be her landlord's number, and she tried to call it. She said an answering machine picked up but there was nothing identifying who it was, so it could've been anybody's phone number.

Then Sally came back in with her photo ID, and so I looked at it. I looked at the photo, yes indeed it was her. But then I looked at the name and realized... She is not Sally, she's Linda! She had us make a check out to her, all the while claiming that she was somebody else and that her own name was "her landlord!" I said, "Well, Linda, I'm sorry but we were told that Sally would be picking up this check, and I won't be giving it to anybody but her." She got this look on her face like BUSTED! and scrambled to grab her stuff while saying "Um, I'll have Sally call you," while she fled out the door.

So although it was a grand, exciting adventure and I'm proud of Lindsay and I for being discerning and watching out for the church's interests, I'm still sad that there are people who go to such lengths to take advantage of the goodwill of a church! When Tracy came back in the next day and we told her our story, she said she gets that kind of thing all the time, and it's getting harder and harder to figure out who is actually needing help and who's just running a scam. That makes me both sad and angry. So in the meantime, Lindsay and I will take seriously our charge of being SCAMBUSTERS, and making sure that the church is really helping those who actually need it!

*Names have been changed to protect those who may or may not be innocent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Only Explanation Is...

... that it's a bloomin' miracle. With our plans up in the air for what comes next, we decided it would be best to be prepared for any eventuality. I've done an extensive bit of overseas traveling, and so all of my passport pages were full of stamps. Plus, I wanted to go ahead and get a new one with my married name in it. (I had sent in the old one to have it amended, but they didn't put in extra pages like I requested, so it still wasn't useable.) So in case we do end up going overseas, I got my new pictures and filled out the application and mailed it in with my check on Thursday, May 17th.
The website said that a standard processing takes 6 weeks (and I sure as heck wasn't going to pay the extra $60 to expedite it!), which means that I should expect it back around June 21st. This was cutting it close, since we'll probably be leaving in the first part of July. (Justin's last day of class is July 2.) But I just prayed over it as I sent it that God would bring it back in time for whenever we might need it.

However, I kept hearing horror stories of people that couldn't go on mission trips because they'd sent in their application over 3 months ago and it still hadn't come back yet... And even the passport website said that in busy times it may take up to 10 weeks to get a passport back... But I just kept praying, believing that God could easily get my passport through the governmental red tape in plenty of time for whatever He has for us.

So then Justin checked the mail on Saturday and said "Honey, you got this official letter... What is it?" Yes, it was my new passport. Received on Saturday, May 26th. NINE DAYS after I'd sent it. I'm getting goosebumps even now as I type. There is no explanation for that except that it's an outright miracle. Some people wait 3-4 months and mine comes back in 9 days?! They must've processed it the same day they received it! That's faster than even the 2 weeks that is promised to those who pay to expedite it! So God answers prayer and He wanted me to have that passport in plenty of time for wherever He's sending us. I'm ready - let's go!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bring On the Adventure!

About 6 months ago, a good friend of mine wrote a post (Read it here.) about how she felt like all her friends were having babies and that stressed her out because she didn't know if she was ready to be a member of the Baby Club yet. But would all her friendships change if they were mommies and she wasn't? She drew it to a conclusion that God's timing is perfect and He would be in control of her future and theirs.

Well, now SHE is expecting a baby too (Congratulations, Ryan and Corrie!), and I'm starting to feel the way she did - all my friends are joining the Mommy Club! A couple in our LifeGroup at church just had a baby 3 weeks ago, my dear friend Kristy is 6 months along, and I have SEVERAL other friends and acquaintances who are expecting! However, I think that this has had the opposite effect on me that it did on Corrie. I'm thrilled for all my friends who are taking the plunge into parenthood, but I'm feeling less desire to even dip in a toe than I think I ever have before (much to the delight and relief of my husband, I'm sure).

Here's the deal. Becoming a parent just REALLY changes your life. It's a huge blessing and I'm sure highly rewarding. But I LIKE my life now. I LIKE my husband and enjoy all the freedom we have to do whatever we want. Now that he's finishing up school, I love the fact that the opportunities before us are completely limitless! If we want to pack up everything and flit off to a foreign country for 6 months, we can! If we want to live in a tent on the Serengeti plains, we can! If we want to climb Mount Everest, we can! If we want to move to San Francisco and become hippies, we can! If we had a baby, I'm pretty sure none of these things would even be a blip on the radar. (Not that any of them are necessarily a blip on our radar anyways, but we COULD do them if we wanted to!)

So this is not at all to say that I don't ever want to have kids. I most definitely look forward to the marvelous ministry of motherhood, which I think is one of the highest callings on earth. However, I've recovered from the Baby Fever that I caught around Christmas after spending time with my precious nephews. I'm just going to be patient about it and enjoy this time in our lives that we'll never be able to return to once that first baby comes along. Maybe in a year or 2 we'll be ready. But in the meantime, bring on the adventure, bring on the opportunity! I'm going to savor and relish this freedom while we've got it, and thank God for this season in our lives until it's HIS time for us to move on to the next one!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What Makes a Hero?

I'm sure most of you have heard the story of Wesley Autrey. In January, he was waiting on a subway platform with his 2 young daughters in New York City, when a young man near him began having a seizure and fell on the tracks. While another onlooker held back his children, Autrey jumped down and tried to get the young man off the tracks as the headlights of an oncoming train approached. Upon realizing that he wouldn't be able to remove him in time, Autrey covered the young man's body with his own and restrained him from being injured by the train. Two cars passed over the men before the driver was able to stop the train, but thankfully they were able to emerge uninjured. This amazing story has caused Autrey to be called the "Subway Superman," "The Hero of Harlem," and the "Subway Hero." He received New York City's highest honor - the Bronze Medallion, made an appearance on the Letterman show, and was even invited to attend the 2007 State of the Union Address. (Read more about him at Wikipedia.) This is a true story of bravery and heroism in the midst of a culture that is renowned for its indifference and apathy, and I applaud him. (Read some of my husband's thoughts about the phenomenon of choosing to help others.)

However, last night he made an appearance as a contestant on Deal or No Deal, and I am extremely disappointed with his performance on that show. They dedicated the whole show to heroes in his honor and they had guest appearances by Medal of Honor recipients and even a dog who had saved someone's life. He came on saying that he wanted to make enough money to buy a house to build a better life for his family. Good, great, very admirable. So then he starts playing the game and he has a terrible couple of first rounds. He knocked out all of the high amounts except the top two in just the first 2 rounds. So we're already on shaky ground. But then he rallies and has a great next couple of rounds, and the offer reaches 6 figures. He says "No Deal," though, and play continues. He miraculously manages to avoid knocking out the million for the next 4 rounds or so, and offers just keep climbing. The highest offer he got was $305,000! I know that New York is an expensive place to live, but surely one could find a pretty nice house for that amount! However, the man just keeps saying "No Deal!" It's like he's not even considering taking the deal - he's going for the million. He never even hesitated to turn down each offer. He said "Well, I took a risk that day on the subway platform, and so I'm taking a risk now." Give me a break. So of course, as inevitably happens on this show, he knocks out the million and goes home with $25. That is so ridiculous I hardly know what to do with myself. He had at leat 4 chances to walk out of there with over $100,000. But he refused each time. Was it pride? Was it overconfidence? Was it his awareness that he's such a popular "hero" that someone will probably give him more money than he'd make on this show anyway? (In fact, they did give him a car to go along with his $25 just because they think he's swell.)

OK. So I realize that it's just a game and that many people before him have played this game like idiots too. But what comes to mind for me is the concept that Peter Parker expressed in Spiderman: "With greater power comes greater responsibility." If you're going to be a hero, a national public figure, touted far and wide as someone we should all be like, please try to actually act like someone deserving of that. Think of what $300,000 could do for your family instead of pridefully pushing on hoping to be the first contestant to ever win $1 million.

So all this to say, I appreciate Mr. Autrey's brave act on the subway platform that day, and he will forever remain the hero of that young man he saved. But he's not my hero. I think he let his family down last night because he was too selfish to do what was best for them. To me, that's not something a hero would do.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stylin' and Profilin'

I just discovered the fun new templates for my blog now that I've switched over to Google blogger! (Yes, this is the same girl who so staunchly resisted being forced to make the switch now enjoying the perks of having done it... So sue me.) So I'm playing with colors and fonts... I'm worried that I've got the blog text set too small. Does anybody have any opinions about colors/fonts/sizes? Let me know! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Darling Nephews

I just wanted to be the proud aunt and post some more about my sweet nephews.
Azlan is an adorable little cuddlebug! He's quite the chunk - over 21 pounds at 6 months! He's really pleasant most of the time, and it's very easy to make him smile. In the picture above, Grandma is rocking him in a rocking chair at the Children's Museum, and he just LOVED it! Look at that grin! However, when he's unhappy, he lets everybody know about it, and I don't mean maybe. :) He actually cut his first teeth this weekend, and so that explains some of his fussiness. I hope as he grows up he continues to like hugs and kisses as much as he does now!

Patriot is amazing. He's so much fun, and he's SO SMART! I am blown away at how well this kid can talk and how much he understands of what you say to him. He knows everything that's going on. He definitely gets his smarts from his aunt Joni. :) I'm also impressed with how social he is. I guess it comes from his dad being a children's minister, so he spends a lot of time in church functions and childcare. But he's not afraid of people, he's not scared to talk to anybody or play with anybody. My friends Lee and Kristy babysat them during Justin's graduation, and Patriot wasn't at all scared to be left at a stranger's home. We just explained to him we were leaving and that we'd be back later, but in the meantime he'd get to play with the doggie and watch Cars. He was like "Ok." And then when we dropped him off at childcare so we could go to church, he just went right in and played and made new friends. I'm so proud and impressed at what a mature, intelligent, fun kid he is. And he's only 2 1/2!!!! This is an example of the silly faces he and I were making at each other. :)
So I'm very proud of my nephews and I can't wait til next time I see them!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wonderful Whirlwind Weekend

Oh my, what a weekend it has been! Wonderful and insane all at the same time! To start you out, here's a pic of the crowd that was here. From left to right: Justin's parents (John & JoBeth), my parents (John & Jan - Mom is holding Patriot.), my sis Jessica and her husband Matt (Jess is holding Azlan), and Justin & me.
John & JoBeth arrived Thursday at lunchtime. We drove to Salado and ate at the Stagecoach Inn, a historic restaurant in a neat little Texas town. Then we spent some time browsing the shops before heading back to Waco. My family spent ALL DAY in the car Thursday and arrived in Waco at 1:00 in the morning, after a 21 hour trip! Whoa!

Friday I worked half a day to let my family try to catch up on their sleep. Then for lunch we split up to have Men's and Women's lunches. Justin took the men to some obscure barbecue place, I don't remember the name of it. But they said it was the best barbecue they've ever eaten - good for them. I took the women and children to Amelia's, a little cafe inside a neat antique flea market looking thing. We all ate quiche and fruit salad - a pretty girlie lunch!

Friday evening was Justin's Hooding Ceremony, called so because people receiving Master's Degrees wear hoods with their gowns. Here's a picture of Justin's hood. The colors all have meanings - the green and gold represent his university, and the brown is supposed to represent his field. However, we noticed that his brown was a different color from everybody else's there! Apparently the bookstore gave him the wrong color hood! Oh well, his color looks better than the others did anyway. :)

Saturday morning we went to the Mayborn Children's Museum on Baylor's campus, and it was SO COOL!!! Patriot just LOVED it, and Azlan had fun too! Of course, the big boys in the group managed to have their own fun... :) We spent the evening Saturday just hanging out and playing games.

Sunday for Mother's Day, we all went to our church and then out to lunch at the Elite Circle Grill. It's a neat restaurant that just around the corner from our apartment, but we'd never tried it! It was yummy, and we took the picture at the top of the page there.

My family hit the road after lunch on Sunday, and Justin's left Monday morning. Phew! Fast and fun. Many thanks to everybody for making the trip down - it was WONDERFUL to be able to share this blessed time in our lives with you!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I don't have any idea what happened, but I've suddenly and inexplicably turned into a horrible blogger! I just don't have anything to say! I even now don't have anything to say, but I feel guilty that it's been more than a week since I posted, so here I am typing nonsense. My life the past week has been occupied with 3 things: the end of Justin's semester & finals, thinking about summer plans, and preparing for our families' visit for Justin's Graduation.

THANKFULLY, Justin is now completely done with classes this semester! He is as I type giving his final makeup exams for the class he taught, and then he'll be home free. Now that's dang exciting. It seemed to me that this semester has been the easiest so far for him, both in the classes he took and the class he taught. You can check out his blog for some thoughts about what teaching has meant to him.

As far as our summer plans go, we're still up in the air! All of the internships that Justin originally thought he might get fell through, and so we had resigned to the fact that we'd just stay here for one summer session and he could finish his degree that way. However, then a couple more opportunities came available, and we're still waiting to hear from them. So we still have no idea where we'll be 3 weeks from now! The amazing thing about that, though, is how much peace God has given me. I assure you, it's a complete miracle that I'm not totally freaking out, and that can only be attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I'm just excited about what the future may bring and ready to go wherever He may have for us. God is good.

Finally, our families will arrive tomorrow for a whirlwind weekend of fun and festivities. Justin's parents will get here around lunchtime tomorrow, and we plan to take the afternoon and evening to go to Salado with them. Then my parents and my sister & her family will finally drag in around midnight (after driving ALL DAY straight from Ohio!), so I won't be seeing them til Friday. Justin's special hooding ceremony will be Friday evening, and then we'll have all day Saturday just to enjoy each other. My fam will hit the road after lunch on Sunday, and Justin's will leave Monday morning. I am absolutely thrilled about this special time with family - I cannot wait to squeeze my precious nephews! Everything Mom and Jessica tell me about baby Azlan (who is now 6 months old) is that he's just a sweet cuddlebug, so I can't wait to just give him all the cuddling he can take!! And Patriot (2-1/2) is getting so big and talking so much, it'll be so fun to play with him too! So expect some major nephew pics next week after the hulabaloo dies down!!!!