Thursday, December 04, 2008

Joyful, joyful

I've written so many posts of late where I air my concerns and lament my stresses, that I want to give a shout out for the amazing ways God has blessed me this week. Here's a quick summary (the last is the best)

- I started another drama class this week. Last session I had 9 kids and innumerable behavioral problems (one student was asked not to return). This session I have 16 children, and I believe they are the cream of the crop. After our first class I had several declare this is their favorite class, and they are looking forward to next week. I like that kind of enthusiasm! Better yet, they seem to be all well-behaved, mature children.

- last week Mike finally received the promotion that he had been promised nearly 6 months ago. He already was doing the work involved, but he had not received the title or pay raise to go with the responsibilities. Our company was generous and offered him a 22% increase in salary

- we received a call at 3:30 Tuesday night from the embryo clinic saying they were faxing over the profiles on embryo donors. We needed to decide on which donor we wanted and decide fast! Other couples were getting the same information at the same time, and it was first come, first served.

Mike and I decided on 1 couple that night, but really needed God's peace about the whole thing. All we had to go on was brief physical descriptions of the donors and only 7 profiles to choose from. I called the clinic the first thing Wednesday and heard the beautiful words, "The other couples haven't chosen yet because I was waiting to hear what your selection was." After Mike and I told her our choice, she faxed over a more detailed bio on the husband and wife. Would you believe, it's like reading our own bios.

The husband is the same age as Mike, the wife is within 2 years of my age. Both have curly hair. Both share our body build, skin tone and eye color. The husband plays soccer, the wife majored in communications. Better still. The couple had 5 strong, healthy embryos to donate. The wife ended up pregnant with triplets when she used her other embryos. (I'm not wishing for triplets, but it tells us she had a good success rate)

After reading the detailed information, we really felt God's peace and assurance. So, this week we are rejoicing in God's goodness and His ability to answer prayers (from big to small).

Monday, November 17, 2008

War on Fleas (WoF) - week 1

The Smuggler - we think the fleas hitched a ride on Jon Cat

Look at his fierce claws - these are the talons of a killer

The Execution

The Dead

We've heard that it sometimes takes several weeks of consecutive flea bombing to thoroughly kill off the critters. We haven't seen any hoppers since our first treatment, so hopefully that took care of the problem

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Declaring War


Normally I'm a pacifist all in favor of finding peaceful solutions to conflicts, but today I have re-evaluated my stance. Today I became an all-you-can-eat buffet for fleas. I've counted 20 bites thus far on my legs, abdomen, back and arms. We tried vacuuming, washing linens and even taking vitamin B1 (one website said this supplement deters fleas from biting - ha!) Mike and I plan to bomb the house tomorrow, and hopefully find something to spray the yard. I'm open to any other tips!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Schizophrenic Reading List

I’m reading a book written by a freelance writer who gives advice to folks seeking to bust out of the standard 9-to-5 model of work. She asks questions in the first chapter to help stimulate the reader’s thought process regarding what kind of work the reader really would be interested in doing. One of the questions guides the reader to look at hobbies and interests.


By doing so, I now realize I suffer from flight of thought – which my dad gratefully reminds me is a symptom of Schizophrenia.


See, my hobby is reading – particularly anything to do with history. The Schizophrenia part comes in when one looks at my list of materials. A month ago I was obsessed with Henry VIII and the history of his life, wives and reign. I must have read at least 4 books on this topic in just a month.


This month, I’m obsessed with learning all I can about World War II, particularly focusing on the Holocaust. I’m re-reading Wiesel’s “Night” and have checked out other books on this topic – all biographical stories from people who were in Europe during WWII and were touched by the Holocaust. I’m also re-watching “Band of Brothers” and hope to meet with a local widow who is Jewish and escaped from Europe during WWII.


Earlier this year my reading list consisted of nothing but books about the history of Spain, starting with Queen Isabella and going through the last dictator, Franco.


Now if only I could turn this flight of thought and fancy into a career path ….

Monday, October 20, 2008

What the ...?

Authorities in Iran nabbed two birds believed to be “spy pigeons” near the country’s contentious nuclear facility, the Agence France-Presse reported Monday.

Both pigeons were caught near the city of Natanz, which is home to Iran’s uranium enrichment plant, AFP reported. Both had metal rings and invisible strings attached to them.

A source declined to mention what will happen to the pigeons now that they’ve been caught.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,441162,00.html

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More than Expected

I went into this week’s drama class just hoping and praying that the kids would be calm enough for me to get through the lesson plan. I had enlisted a few friends to pray for me, and I had spent a few days prior to the class praying for the kids. Still, though, I had low expectations.


Imagine my surprise when the one child who seemed to be the ring-leader, J., came into class and said, “Hello, Miss Brittany!” I can’t recall him ever addressing me by name. Then, during class, J. continued to surprise me by reigning in the other kids and helping me keep everyone on task. Later, he held the door open for me and the other classmates, and eagerly ran to the drama director to tell her he had brought one of his grades up.


His good behavior continued throughout the rest of class, and when it came time to recognize the “best behaved student,” others in the class readily recommended J. even before I announced my choice.


I really don’t know what to attribute J.’s change to other than prayer and perseverance. The best part: I was finally able to start pouring into each child, praising them for individual accomplishments and sharing with them about how God had created each one of them with unique skills and talents. I left class quite elated and encouraged, which is definitely more than what I expected.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What Next?

This past spring, I realized that I spent nearly every evening at home watching tv with my husband - not what I consider the best use of my time. So I decided to volunteer and join various groups. I go to dance class on Thursdays, teach drama to 8-10 year olds on Tuesdays and visit a homebound elderly couple each week. I've been dancing and teaching drama for a little over a month, but it's not going as I expected. My goal had been to form friendships and have fun, and hopefully find ways to enter into life-changing discussions with people. The problem is I often get so caught in the activity that I forget about initiating purposeful conversations.

I know the names of some of the ladies in my dance class, but can't seem to get past the initial "How are you? How is your family?" My drama class is much worse. I try to open the class in prayer and talk about how I believe God has gifted us with imaginations, but the kids seem bored and uninterested (in fact, one kid made buzzing noises with his tongue during last week's prayer). Even more discouraging is that I find myself spending more time planning lessons and worrying about "problem children" than I do praying for them.

So how do I move past the current stage to one where I can actually do or say something significant? How do I stay focused on the main thing and not get distracted by busyiness? And here's a deeper issue: how do you calm a class of 10 kids long enough to teach them drama, impart to them a glimpse of God's love and get out before chaos erupts?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dance Steps

A friend of mine recently created a blog, Break Out Dancing, as a way to engage people in a conversation about spiritual matters. I love the writer's approach: the best way to connect is to "dance" with them. Sometimes you lead, sometimes they lead. The key is to adapt your pace and steps to match theirs.

Check it out! If nothing else, I love the case studies because it makes me think about what would I do or say in the proposed situation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Several Facets to Sanctity of Life

  • 400,000
Number of Sudanese who have died from violence or disease since the Darfur War began in 2003
  • 15 million
Number of children worldwide who have been orphaned by AIDS
  • 1.3 million
Average number of abortions per year in the US
  • $20,000
Average cost of infant adoption in the US
  • 1123
Number of people who have been executed in the United States since 1976
  • 16 million
Number of children in developing countries who die each year from preventable causes
  • 60
Percentage of those deaths that are due to hunger or malnutrition

I think each of these issues deserves our attention at any time - not just in an election year. I applaud those who champion a particular cause and who are so passionate about an issue that they do their best to educate the public about their stance. But I also applaud those who go beyond picketing and protesting and do their part to change the situation - whether it's through donations, volunteering, advocacy, education or mentoring.

As a follower of Jesus, I believe that true change can only happen by and through His direction and power. Politicians can reform laws, but the next group of leaders can reverse whatever temporary change was enacted. Organizations can offer aid relief, but their change, too, only addresses temporary situations.

I really feel this is where the church should be unified and focused: doing whatever we can to offer healing, forgiveness, restoration, hope and love. We should stop focusing on politics and start focusing on people. We should stop drawing lines of divisions and start reaching out a hand of reconciliation. And as God changes lives, we'll also see God overthrow injustices. And God desires to affect change that impacts all lives.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Secrets, secrets

I've been waiting for the right time to write this post, mostly because I'm not sure how some folks might react. But then I realized that we have a pretty amazing story to share and I shouldn't keep it quiet just because I might get some strange responses. First, though, here's the backstory.

December 1, 2001
I married R. Mike Conner, who would soon become my best friend. Within 6 months we decided to go ahead and try to start a family.

2002-2005
We had yet to conceive and underwent several infertility testing. Finally we received the news: it'd take a miracle for us to ever conceive a child without some kind of major medical intervention. This came as such a disappointment and we went through a grieving phase for at least a year. And to be honest, we also went through a stage of questioning God and His love.

spring 2004
We enlisted in our county's foster parent program with the hopes of getting a child we could eventually adopt. We received a toddler around March and were told prospects were good for us to eventually adopt. Unfortunately, this placing didn't work out and we "lost" our foster son in spring of 2005. There's much more to this story, but I'll sum it up by saying we were devastated. This threw us into a pit much worse than where we'd been before foster care, both emotionally and spiritually. It'd take us at least 2 years before we were willing to even think of trying adoption.

May 2008
We decided to meet with Bethany Christian Services to learn about their adoption program. During that meeting, the case worker asked if we had considered embryo adoption. Years ago I'd looked into it, but thought it was way too expensive. It was at this meeting that we learned about a fertility doctor in Knoxville, TN who had contracted with Bethany to offer embryo adoptions to couples who were cleared for adoption through Bethany. The best part: he viewed this as his ministry to save frozen embryos so he was offering to do up to 3 rounds of embryo transfers for a third of the cost that traditional fertility doctors charge.

So, here's the news. We met with the doctor in Tennessee this past week and have been cleared for their embryo transfer program. We also had our home study approved by Bethany the first of this month. Thus, we are now on track to have our first embryo transfer in 4 months. Yay!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

'rents recent visit

My mom and dad recently came to stay with us for about 10 days, and I had blast introducing them to Richmond and the surrounding areas. I definitely get my humor from them!

my mom and I getting fresh with a statue in Richmond

Mike and I near the James River

my parents in front of a replicated log cabin - 
he's trying to carry her across the threshold

here cow, cow, cow ... mooooo!

me and my sweetie

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Second View: God's Compassion vs. God's glory

Here is what I have had driven home to me lately.  Safety is an illusion.  Security is an illusion.  We talk about job security, financial security, etc.  That's all an illusion--some parents might say, "God didn't send us here to sacrifice our children for the souls of others." All of those thoughts, ideas, beliefs would make sense if it weren't for the fact that we could be taking a walk and a drunk driver swerves off the road onto the sidewalk and kills that child that we were going to protect. 
 
Security is an illusion because we only think in terms of the short view, or in other words, this life now.  What does all this have to do with Ester (her being a part of God's plan to redeem his people, yet another time is like the drunk driver for me).  God did not support sex trade, nor would he want anyone to have to endure what Ester endured.  However, evil does exist in the world along with the good.  Because of evil she found herself in her predicament.  But God--good--always trumps evil.  If I remember correctly the scripture says something like, "God has placed you here for just such a time as this."  Hebraically speaking, because the Jews were monotheist to the core everything was due to God.  It's like the guy who slammed his hand in the car door, went to the hospital and was able to tell someone about God. That man might say, "Thank you God for slamming my hand in the door!" when in reality it was his stupidity.

God can redeem any situation regardless of what it is or how it comes about, to draw his people to himself and/or provide a way of rescue. 
 
Your struggle is a struggle that all of us who take the bible seriously are constantly sorting things out because they don't fit the schemes that we have been taught.  The cool thing is the mystery that surrounds God.  We can't dissect his word like a frog in biology lab which is sort of what modernity did with scripture, God, the whole deal.  Cause and effect, scientific, objective evidence, all were tools that modernists have used to try and figure it all out--and consequently, not allowing for mystery--the mystery of God.

Two Views on Same Question

I've been trying to sort out a revelation that occurred to me earlier this week, and thought I'd offer two views on the same issue. This first post is my initial thoughts regarding the issue/question. The next post will feature the insights of a person who has become sort of a mentor/sounding board for when I encounter these issues.


So I had this spiritual “aha” moment yesterday and it’s kind of thrown me for a loop. I’ve been thinking about blogging about it, but I can’t think of any title other than, “God and the Sex Trade.” See, I was reading a book by McManus in which he discusses the story of Esther. He points out that this Old Testament story isn’t a romantic love story like we all think it is. At its essence, it’s the story of a girl whose people was enslaved by the Persians. God decides the way to rescue his people from annihilation is to plant someone in a strategic location so that this person will be in a position of influence. Sounds great … except His plan involved having a young, virgin girl forced into the king’s harem where she was obligated to satisfy the king’s every whim. Granted, the story turns out fine and dandy: Esther becomes queen and Israel is saved. By why did God’s plan center around a girl being forced into a sterilized version of the sex trade in order to save His people?

 

The second part that worries me is the question of what if God’s plan for my life involved  a similar sacrifice. For the longest time, I thought bad things happen for 2 reasons: it’s a direct result of a person’s sin (ex: Israel’s captivity) or the result of someone making bad decisions (ex: story of Tamar’s rape in the Old Testament). Never had I considered that bad things might happen because it’s part of God’s plan. It’s like God sent Esther to the harem. This wasn’t a case of someone making a bad decision and God having to step in to make the best of the bad result. God ordained the bad situation!

 

So what if God’s plan for me requires me to be falsely accused for a crime and sent to prison just so other prisoners can hear about God? Or what if God’s plan requires me to contract a horrible disease so that I’ll be put in touch with doctors who are longing to hear about God?

 

So now I’m in a quandary about what to think regarding God’s compassion when it seems that at times God’s glory will outweigh God’s compassion.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Final Grains of Sand

Final scenes from OBX

Kite-flyers at Jockey's Ridge dunes

Bert got crabs

Conner and mean Korynn

Jack didn't want to be left out

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Gang

Mike catching a wave - I didn't get the shot of him wiping out

Korynn and Conner

The Conner gang: Jack, Bert, Kelly and Mike

some small dolphins and tile fish from Oregon Inlet. 
Rumor had it that some guys caught a 1,220 lbs 
blue marlin over at a neighboring cove. 

There's more photos over at my mac gallery

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Night of Dancing and Bowling

Shannon spinning Conner

Conner doing her granny-bowl

Conner didn't like the loud music, 
but she'd unplug her ears long enough to bowl

Jack, a bowler in the making


Look at his graceful form - incredibly, Chris beat us all
 with a rousing score of 112.

Rainy days in OBX

What better way to spend a rainy day than chilling in a true coffee house - the kind where strangers gather around common tables, people actually talk to each other and everything is roasted/created in house? On our first day in OBX we got a frequent coffee card for The Front Porch Cafe. We'll get a free drink after purchasing 10; in the last 4 days we've consumed 6. Yay us!




Cutie Nephew

Jack is one of the most well-behaved toddlers I've ever met. He kept himself entertained and content on the beach, so much so that I forgot he was there. Every morning I wake up to his gurgling chuckles and squeals. He definitely has a cheerful disposition.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Here are a few shots from our week at Kill Devil Hills, NC. 
Bunny playing catch with Conner and Tyler

Jack chilling from the sun

Mike kicking back

eating good ice cream

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Seen by God

Years ago, Mike and I went to a church where a prophet was visiting. If you're anything like me, you may have viewed such a person with skepticism or maybe even fear. I had certainly never met someone who claimed to hear directly from God.

The prophet, Joan, was a middle-aged, average-looking lady who would have blended in at any craft store. She proceeded to pray over each person and offer words of encouragement from God. Often, her words offered peace but seemed to lack any specifics that would have made her pronouncement unique to the individual. Several people heard about how God loved them, God delighted in them, and God was going to help them. And then came my turn.

After a few moments of quietly praying over me, Joan revealed a secret that not even my husband knew about. She said that God saw me when I danced and he delighted in it. See, I took ballet when I was 7 years old and always had a desire to continue dancing. When no one else was home, I'd turn on some music and bust a move, usually worshipping God.

Joan's statement amazed me for 2 reasons: the obvious reason is because she was able to talk about something I thought no one else knew about. The second reason was because until that moment, I hadn't ever considered that God even paid attention to me - let alone delighted in something that seemed so insignificant. It's kind of comforting, spooky, amazing to think that we are seen by God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Searching for God

In case you’re looking for God, here’s a heads up that He’s been spotted in a spud, baking pan and fish stick.






Why I’m mad at Erwin McManus


McManus'  latest book, “Wide Awake,” hit shelves earlier this month to much anticipation. His earlier books sketched an image of Christianity that was wild and adventurous - certainly not the tame, mundane facsimile it has become. His latest book promised to challenge believers to embrace the idea that our futures, our potentials, already laid dormant within us just waiting to burst forth into a myriad of colors, sounds and experiences.


I threw the book on the floor after chapter 1. 


McManus begins his book talking about why we need to chase after our dreams, boiling the idea down to this central theme: the world needs us to fulfill the potential God placed within us. If all of humanity lived like we were created to live, then many of society’s ills and the world’s plights could be solved. What frustrates me is that I don’t have a dream to chase. I feel like McManus is encouraging us to throw off all inhibition to chase after our futures, and I’m standing at the start line trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be running toward. I have my running shoes on, just no path to follow. 


I want to chase a dream. I want to think there’s more to this life than a 8.5 hr. job consumed with answering emails and filing papers. I want to think there’s adventure awaiting me around the bend - but there’s no trail in front of me, let alone a bend. I want to think that when it’s all said and done, I can leave this planet satisfied that I’ve impacted at least one life. Maybe even have improved the world a bit through my existence. 


It’s a defeating moment to see others strapping on their shoes in preparation to run off into the horizon when I have yet to figure out where I’m going.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slow Build Up

I’m going to steal from a great man’s blog, but at least I’m confessing it up front. Johnathan Acuff crafted a blog post about how temptations don’t swoop in and bang you over the head; they creep in like a slowly rising river. He says it better though …

"On the evening of January 31, 1953, a father and his 9-year-old son were walking along a large dyke. The father noticed that the water was higher than it should have been. With a watch and a worrisome look he took a rough measure of how high the water would be soon.

In a controlled panic, he and his son woke up the mayor of the small town. They woke up the town council and for hours discussed what they should do. Ultimately the council decided that they should not ring the church bell and wake up the town because nothing serious would happen. The reason they believed everything would be OK was that the dyke had never failed before. Their town had always been safe and so they trusted that what had never happened would not ever happen.

The next morning, the father and son started searching for survivors among the more than 1,800 dead.

Chances are, you and I will never feel the rush of water as a damn breaks and a town disappears. But in many ways, we all know what it’s like to stand on top of a wall as the water slowly rises. To see the warning signs in our life and know that perhaps someone should be warned.

Maybe it’s slow, the daily build up of rain washing against your walls. Maybe it’s unexpected, a storm colliding against you with waves and water you never dreamed could be so deep. But in that moment when you stand on the top of your damn and can see the water rising, don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to a friend. Wake up your neighbors. Ring the church bell.

Because in this damn life, it’s just so easy for never to turn into first time ever."

So how are the dams in your life?

A world where everyone matters

I just finished reading a book (“The Red Letters”) that challenges believers to intentionally focus our lives on ministering to and helping those around us. The author has a particular fondness for any ministry that seeks to alleviate the suffering of AIDS patients and AIDS orphans in Africa. I was challenged to realize that I’ve become too entombed in my own world to even pause when I read horrific stories of suffering, genocide, starvation, or violence. I’m so used to reading about the Darfur crisis, the unrest in Palestine, bombings in Afghanistan, earthquakes in the Pacific Rim and AIDS in Africa that I barely scan newspaper headlines before turning the page. But I don’t want to be that person.

I want to be someone who sees that my little life in Virginia can impact the life of a child in India. That I don’t have to be Ghandi, Billy Graham or Mother Theresa to help someone. And distance isn’t an excuse. Plenty of organizations are working in countries that I may never visit, and they need my support.

But the worldwide concern goes beyond a desire to do good and help others. It’s rooted in the knowledge that if I truly believe all people are created in God’s image, then all people are worthy of dignity, justice and compassion. Everyone. Even Bin Laden.

Today, I read a heart-wrenching story from Italy. Two Roma girls drowned near a beach, were pulled on shore and covered with towels until emergency personnel could arrive. Meanwhile, beachgoers continued to eat, mingle and sunbathe within feet of the girls’ corpses. I’m tempted to be outraged at their complacency, but to accuse them would be to condemn myself, too.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Heidi Goes to the Groomer

Before:

After:



My favorite detail is the lion-like tuft at the end of her tail. I know, I know. I need a hobby.



Sunday, July 06, 2008

Motown Philly

Mike and I had a few extra days off from work for the Fourth of July, so we headed north to Philadelphia. The first afternoon we toured Independence Hall and enjoyed a Phillies baseball game. Saturday we toured the city and got to see some interesting sites - including a house that was used in the movie The Sixth Sense. We also caught a Boys II Men concert and fireworks show. Sadly, I have to say that I left the city not really feeling the Brotherly Love. Nothing specific happened ... except the constant club thumping we could hear from our room from midnight until 4 am each night ... but I never did feel a connection to the city. Sorry if that offends any Philly lovers :) I did like their cheese steak subs!

Mike in the room where the founding fathers signed the Constitution.

At the Phillies game.

Near the Rocky statue at the art museum.

Can you see the head of one of the Boys II Men singers? Hint: it's illuminated.

Pretty fireworks!