Feb
21
2010
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realizing what matters

Introduction:

My parents are out of town, and I’m staying with my sisters. Right now, my role is mostly taxi-driver and cook. My grandmothers both live nearby, so I’m also helping them however I can. Grandmama  is my mom’s mom. She’s almost fiercely independent, even though she is blind and can’t get around very well.

Story:

This morning, Kara and Stephanie and I loaded into the van and headed out to pick up Grandmama and go to church. As we turned onto her street, we noticed a police car. It was parked in the middle of the street, mostly blocking the way. Behind it were cars, people, and firetrucks. The policeman wasn’t there, but some neighbors were standing out in their yard. I rolled down my window.

“What happened?” I asked.

“A fire.”

“Which house? Do you know which house?”

They didn’t.

I squeezed the van around the police car, heart pounding. There were at least three huge fire trucks, and they were right in front of Grandmama’s house. I thought, “There’s been a fire at Grandmama’s house. She probably left the stove on and didn’t realize it. And if there was a fire in her house, she probably wouldn’t get out. She probably died in that fire.” I briefly wondered why no one had called us, but realized there probably hadn’t been enough time. There was still smoke in the air.

But the smoke wasn’t coming from Grandmama’s house. It was the house across the street. The back corner of the roof was black, and the house sported tyvek instead of siding.

I never did see the policeman, but people were out in their yards everywhere. I stopped and asked if everyone was ok. They were. No one was hurt.

I couldn’t get to Grandmama’s driveway, so I parked on the street by the edge of her yard.

I rang the doorbell. Soon she came to the door, I explained what had happened, and we walked across the yard to the van. Then we went to church, even more thankful for Grandmama than when we woke up that morning.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Feb
10
2010
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1 way to simplify right now

Simplify. Declutter. Eliminate. Streamline.

These are big themes in my life right now. I’m frustrated by the amount of clutter (physical and mental) in my life right now, but my progress in simplifying has been halting, at best. Today, I was thinking about how I could simplify, and I had a very freeing thought.

You can’t change what other people expect from you, but you can change what you expect from yourself. Therefore, you can simplify by eliminating expectations for yourself. It’s something that you can do almost instantly, and the results are wonderful.

Think through your task list, and even beyond it to the “ought list.” The “ought list” is that impossibly long list of things you ought to do, hope to do, beat yourself up about, but know you’ll never get to. In my case, my ought list contains the beginnings of projects that sounded wonderful at the time, but no longer hold any interest to me. In many cases, the ought list contributes to clutter in my house. I save things that I ought to use for a craft, and books that I ought to read.

The crazy thing is–no one is telling me to read those books. No one else cares if I read those books. I’m the one that decided that I should read them, and now I don’t want to read them anymore. So guess what? I don’t need to read them. And I don’t need to make those crafts. In fact, I can cut my losses and get rid of the clutter associated with those “oughts.”

You can do it too.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Jan
28
2010
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MMT 23–Italy, Part 1

On the drive to Italy, we were supposed to spend our time practicing Italian.

Mountain on the way to Italy

The drive to Italy

We had trouble concentrating, though. I heard a rumor that some people were listening to Pavarotti, too.

When we arrived at our host church in Fontannafredda, we felt very welcome. Why? Well, there was a welcome sign.

Welcome!

There was a nice comfy seating area, and wifi.

Fontannafredda (15)Some people talk about how they love to get away from their computers. They shut down their e-mail. They voluntarily turn off their computers on the weekend.

We are not those people.

I wish I had pictures of the wonderful American military families that met us at the church and served us American food for supper. Instead, you’ll have to be content with a picture of the bookshelf.

Fontannafredda (17)The bookshelf  had English books for sale. Some of us spent half our souvenir money on English books there, because we had already read all the books we brought with us. And some of us bought books from that shelf and still haven’t finished reading them because we read our friends’ books instead.

It’s a good thing we studied our Italian in the car, because we definitely weren’t studying now.

Fontannafredda (21)Some of us were singing, though. The birthday crew used the wifi connection to sing the birthday song to Megan McCauley. Then the rest of us lost our connections because Dr. Mom’s video chat used up the whole bandwidth. At least we were amused by the birthday crew.

After the amazing American supper, it was time to do what we came to do–proclaim God’s love through song and word. The pastor, Rob Krause, had arranged for us to give a concert in the nearby town of Sacile.

Fontannafredda (90)20Those are our posters on the doors of the concert hall. The concert was advertised as a free evening of music, a gift to bless the community. We were thrilled that we could give them more than music. We gave them the truth of God’s love. Afterward, we got to meet lots of people, and Rob had some great conversations with people who wanted to know more about what they had heard. It was a wonderful evening.

The next day, Rob showed us around town. He told us the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the history of the area, and an old Italian man in a striped shirt made sure that Rob told us how the American helicopter placed the angel on top of the tower.

Fontannafredda (64)

Fontannafredda (86)

The angel spins when the wind blows.

A friend of Rob’s wanted to give us all pizza for lunch. We didn’t complain.

Fontannafredda (132)After lunch, we walked around another neat, old Italian town, and in the evening, we had another concert in a different town. The next day, we had to leave, but fortunately, we weren’t leaving Italy yet.

Jan
26
2010
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MMT 22–Vienna, Austria

It’s been a while, I know. But now, we return to our irregularly scheduled mission team reports. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have to hurry to finish these before the mission team goes out again (without me this time, though).

After two days in very rural Slovakia, we headed to Vienna, Austria.

Thoughts about Vienna:

  • Vienna is spelled “Wien” in German.
  • In 2008, we did a service in Vienna, but didn’t have time to see anything in the city. That was distracting.
  • Vienna is very different from rural Slovakia. I saw no goats in Vienna.
  • The music majors on the team were incredible happy to be in Vienna.
  • Finally, we were thrilled to hear German. After two days of hearing Slovakian, German sounded wonderful. Compared to Slovakian, German seemed like our native language.

Happenings in Vienna:

We arrived at our host church in Vienna, unloaded a bunch of stuff, checked e-mail, grabbed our concert clothes, and headed off to a nearby town (I think it was called Krems) for supper and a service at a Romanian Baptist Church. The church people took us out for genuine Wiener schnitzel before the service. The schnitzel were amazing–they tasted wonderful, and they were huge. So we stuffed ourselves on wonderful schnitzel, and then we went back to the church for dessert. Really. I think there was lots of left-over dessert.

The people at the Romanian church were friendly and fun to talk with. Their building was new, and they were really trying to reach out into their community. They especially wanted the local German speakers to know that they were welcome (i.e., the church isn’t just for Romanians). Hopefully our service helped with that. We certainly didn’t sing in Romanian!

Kai and Missy Soltau were our main hosts in Vienna, and both of them had just lost a parent. They were kind and encouraging to us, even though they were hurting. They were a walking testimony of God’s grace while we were there, and I hope that we were able to encourage them in some small way.

The next day we had a whirlwind tour through Vienna. There was no way that we could visit everything, so first we drove around, and Kai pointed out the important buildings. We all went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stefansdom), and we got permission to sing a few songs inside! This was particularly cool, because Haydn and Mozart both performed there. We always try to sing inside cathedrals, but sometimes it doesn’t work out, especially in the bigger ones. This was definitely a big cathedral, but we got permission to sing, and a crowd gathered. We were able to testify about God’s love, and several people asked questions afterward.

After Stefansdom, we got gelato, and visited as many buildings as we could. Then, we went back to the church for supper and did a service at Kai’s church.

Kai and Missy Soltau
Stefansdom
Singing in Stefansdom
The crowd listening
We love gelato!
Statue of Mozart

Jan
19
2010
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injustice

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous one . . . and you killed the Author of life.” Acts 3:14-15

Injustice bothers me. I’ll see people who seem to get away with terrible things, and suffer no consequences. Sometimes, my sense of injustice makes it hard for me to function. I’ll become obsessed with an unjust situation, and find it hard to think about anything else.

When I read this passage last night, I thought, “This is injustice.” We rebelled against God, and then rejected the One He sent to save us. We killed the Author of Life. Justice demands punishment. God did satisfy His own justice, but not by punishing us. God showed mercy to mankind and to me personally. He let me live and allowed me to see what Christ was really for.

We killed the Author of Life, but that didn’t stop Him from His purpose. Still, He gives us life.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Jan
18
2010
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Google Error

Today when I was using Google Insights for Search, my Google toolbar observed that the page was in Ukranian and helpfully offered to translate it for me.

Thanks, Google, but actually this page is not in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Dec
31
2009
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what parents are for

These turtles illustrate one of the very important roles that parents must play–reality coach.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Dec
31
2009
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Before you make your resolutions . . .

You might want to read this article on willpower. It might get you thinking in a different direction.

Then, visit 6 changes to explore a different (and quite possibly more effective) approach.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Dec
14
2009
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the octopus and the coconut shell

Strange title, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first saw this BBC article about octopuses snatching coconut shells and running across the ocean floor. If you want to find out what they use the shells for, you’ll have to read the article! Make sure you watch the video too. Octopuses are such funny creatures!

disclaimer: I thought the video was funny, but I did not “almost drown laughing” like the scientist in the article.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Dec
08
2009
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distractions

Trent at Simple Dollar writes about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately–distractions.

Facebook, Bejeweled, and Google Reader are all distractions for me. A few weeks ago, it got so bad that I downloaded LeechBlock. LeechBlock allows me to block things like Facebook for a set amount of time. The thing is, once I set LeechBlock, I hardly ever have to use it.  I won’t even try to go to the site, because I remember that I’ve blocked it.

So why can’t I just decide that I won’t go to Facebook until I’ve finished my work?

The problem is that I’m focusing on the unpleasant process instead of the exciting goal. We’ve been doing some work in our house recently, and so far, I love the results. The process, however, is less than thrilling. Sometimes I think, “I hate all this mess. I can’t stand it. This has to change, now!” I could just clean up the mess and put everything back where it belongs, but then I would not have improved the house. No, I have to be willing to deal with some uncomfortable things while we improve the house. Those things are worth it if I focus on how I’ll love my house when this is done.

With all of my work, I need to focus on reaching my goals instead of listening to how I feel at the moment.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Nov
28
2009
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MMT 21–Slovakia

Our time in Slovakia could hardly have been more different from Prague. We went to work with a little mission in the village of Sus. Our hosts there are missionaries sent out by Swiss Faith Mission, so they speak German (and some English, fortunately!). The people in Sus are all farmers, so the missionaries farm too. I think our time in Sus would have been quite shocking if we hadn’t been to Guetli already. Sus is kind of like Guetli, but more primitive.

Saturday evening we sang at a church in a nearby village. I gave my camera to one of the girls from Sus, so I have lots of photos of that service (for a change). We were a little nervous about that service since it was our first time singing in Slovak, but the people were very kind (and said that they could understand us!).

Saturday was July 4th, and on the way back from our concert, we had a private celebration in our van. Amy Corey brought glow sticks, and we turned up the patriotic music. Strangely, I think it was the best July 4th celebration I’ve ever experienced. I guess being in rural Slovakia helped me see how much I should be thankful for my country.

We had our own service at the mission Sunday morning, and then Sunday afternoon we helped with the mission open house. Normally, they invite all of the village people to come over for a Bible study and have refreshments afterward. Since we were there, we sang, and then someone from the mission preached, and then we had refreshments. It was an exciting day, because lots of the village people came! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay to talk to people afterward because we had to be in Bratislava that evening. I think most of them probably didn’t speak English, so we couldn’t have talked much anyway.

Sunday evening we sang at a church in Bratislava, the capitol. We gave a concert after the evening service, and not everyone stayed. At first, I felt a little disappointed, but I remembered that God can work no matter what the size of the audience. We sang “It is Well” that night, and several of the audience members seemed especially moved by that song. Actually, it seemed to be a favorite all summer, in all languages.
the church in Bratislava
The Saturday evening concert
the 4th of July celebration
Slovakian countryside

Nov
27
2009
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MMT 20–Prague

After Kirchberg, we had to drive to Slovakia. It’s a long way to Slovakia, so we spent the night in Prague. It was a terrible trial, and we suffered greatly, I assure you. We especially suffered during the several hours when we went sight-seeing in Prague.

I love sight-seeing in Prague, but I can’t say that I love Prague as a whole. There’s a lot of dirt in Prague, and a lot of scary people. And it took three different keys for me to get into my hostel room. Three keys! I can’t decide whether that makes me feel very safe (No one’s breaking into my room!) or freaked out (Why on earth do we need three different keys??).

But still, it’s Prague. It has lots of shopping and old buildings, which make me happy. I wish I had a good picture of the market where we did most of our shopping, but I was too busy shopping to take pictures. Funny how that works . . .

I do have obligatory pictures of the astronomical clock, the St. Charles bridge, and a church. There’s also a picture of the cafe where we had pizza for supper. It was a nice day.

church in Prague
astronomical clock
on the St. Charles bridge
pizza supper