Sunday, November 15, 2009


Last weekend our dog was hit by a car in front of Ryan and our three boys. He didn't make it. I thought I would share some of my memories of him while they are still fresh in my mind.

Miki had many nicknames. Licki - because he liked to lick Ryan's feet (eww). Frog - I guess because it rhymes with dog? I called him Princess - because he liked to sleep in late, he preferred his head on our softest pillows, and he always called shotgun in our car. Miki dog. Mikers. Mik.

Miki didn't wag his tail, he wagged his entire butt. And it would hit the wall and it was LOUD. One thing could set him off and make him happy or excited and the whole house would rumble with that THUMP THUMP of Miki's wagging butt.

Princess didnt get up in the mornings when I would get up and so I would step over him every morning while I made the bed.

We would let Miki in at dinner time so he could sit under the table during our "family time." He preferred to sit nearest to our 2 year old who he thought dropped the most food - in reality our 9 year old is our messiest.

My two year old would chase Miki with a water spray bottle, would dump dirt into his water dish, would put leaves on his head, would lock him in the garden, would sit on his face and would try to come up with at least one new way to torment him every day. And Miki tolerated it and I think liked it. My two year old would also sneak him extra food and dog bones when they thought no one was looking.

Miki dog was a big scaredy cat who ran from Ryan's guitar, the garbage can, backyard lizards and small dogs and cats he would meet on the street. And don't even mention fireworks, or nerf guns or the two year old. He was scared of water and would "tip toe" across a stream on tiny little rocks the size of his paws rather than walk in two inch deep water to cross.

Miki LOVED to run in open fields when we let him. He would bound higher that it seemed possible. He could also rock climb better than any mountain lion I have ever seen and jump over any obstacle.

Miki didn't bark or jump. However he did pee on our neighbors stairs (in his house) once and peed on a woman's back at the park once. So before you think he was a good, smart dog - just so you know..

Miki could run 3 1/2 milees around the lake with me and then I would have to drag him home. That was annoying.

Miki was also smelly and hairy (as all dogs are). I am not a dog lover but I am outnumbered 4-1 in our family. Ryan and the boys lost a loved one last week and we all lost a part (albeit annoying part) of our family. If dogs go to heaven then I am sure Princess is peeing on the pearly gates and playing fetch with some of the saints. I don't know if there are many walls in heaven but if there are, then the angels are probably waking each morning to the THUMP THUMP of Miki's butt. We'll miss you Miki.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Real Women

I read a pretty standard women's magazine today. I was a tomboy growing up in a house full of girls and was never really into all that "girly stuff" like hair, clothes or makeup. But somehow along this life's journey I found myself in a house with three sons, a husband (who is male) and a dog (also male). And with this development I have gotten far more deeply in touch with my feminine side. One of the ways that I enjoy being "girly" is to look through women's magazines. I love to read up on the latest seasonal fashions, the hot new makeup colors, the best new diets and much to Ryans chagrin, celebrity gossip. Today I was sucked in to a magazine by the cover story entitled something like "a new and thinner you by summer!" I read every word and even took notes.

Now I am sure that for some women (maybe even many?) these magazines actually feel grounded in reality and hold practical truths for everyday life. I am not one of these women though. The following are just a few examples of how my attempts to take advice have worked out (or not):

Natural looking, beach waves with minimal effort! I have wavy hair which is supposedly perfect for this look. All I have to do is put in some product, blow dry and scrunch, then put in more product to get rid of the frizz, then use a curling iron to fix all the spots where my hair stands straight up on top of my head (naturally) or curls up in sort-of a Carol Brady way. Then I have to wait half the day for my puffy hair to go a little limp and voila! Naturally wavy and beautiful hair. The few times I have tried this I ended up dunking my head under the sink in frustration and blow drying my hair straight and calling it a day.

Heels are in! Peep toes, pumps, strappy heals and in particular bold colored heels worn with pencil skirts and expensive jeans! My problem is that I do read the fashion magazines and everyone always looks so pulled together and stylish and I actually start to think I could pull off a pair of pumps for kindergarten pick up, carpool with the third graders, walking the dog and chasing the one (almost two) year old around our muddy back yard. I even saw a great Banana Republic ad once last year of a woman in a silk dress and heels pushing her adorable little boy on the swings at the park. It seemed so natural, so right. What the photo forgot to show us is how the cute little boy then rubbed a sticky sucker all over the front of her silk dress which stained it forever (yeah this has happened to me) and then her heels got caught in the sand under the swingset causing her to trip and tear a muscle making her have to limp after her kids and dog for the next two weeks.

Favorite Family Recipes that EVERYONE will love!! I would love to find a recipe that is healthy and popular with all three of my boys. One who only likes things like seafood and Indian curry, the other who prefers pizza and chicken nuggets, and the other who will only eat it if there is sugar added. There is rarely a night in our house where I don't have to hear from one out of the four eaters in my house - "gross!!! this is disgusting!"

My last and most current "article disconnect" as I just decided to call it was the thin by summer article. It said really encouraging, optimistic things like, "just do exercise and the fat will melt off your body!" You will have endless energy and be on the beach in a bikini by June! At my age and after three children and with my unfortunate genes, I have been at the gym almost every day this year with minimal results. In fact I have only gained weight since joining the gym this year. The muffin top is still there and the skin that has been stretched beyond repair will never be gone save for winning a free trip to the plastic surgeon. I have never in my life seen fat melting off my body although things have started to sag which might be the closest thing.

Bottom line is, I wonder why there isn't a magazine out there on the stands selling tons of copies with articles that relate better to me and those like me? Articles that are more along the lines of "Best deals on earlobe surgery for mom's whose kids have pulled earrings out of their ears." And " Best exercises to do that will keep you from getting any worse (but no guarantees)" and "best new clothes that let you sit criss cross apple sauce on wet grass" or even "why all the organization in the world will never keep your house clean." My mom today gave her own examples from a working empty nester in her 50s. Something about "lucky you now you get hot flashes and there is nothing you can really do about it!" And " now that you need glasses for both far and near you find yourself picking up the wrong merchandise at the store and reading the price tags wrong and being too embarrassed to tell the cashier so you spend way too much for stuff." Those titles are so catchy, aren't they?

I will continue to read good ol women's magazines. They are entertaining and they continue to convince me, even if only for a short moment, that the tips inside them can be useful to me. I am seriously considering starting my own magazine though - so be on the lookout on stands near you!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He is Alive and Well

Some could say that this year could feel like a bit of a letdown after last year. Last year at Christmas we were singing carols in Shepherds Field overlooking the town where Jesus was actually born. This year was our first Christmas ever spent with no extended family around. We each had a couple gifts under the tree and we shared a dinner with another family who had no one to spend the day with.

Last year on Palm Sunday, my sons and I carried palm branches and walked from the top of the Mt. of Olives down into the Old City of Jerusalem with thousands of other jubilant believers crying out and singing "Hosanna!!" We remembered the time when 2000 years ago Jesus entered the city by that same route and received a king's welcome. This year we celebrated "palm Friday" (our church meets on Friday nights) attending a wedding rehearsal and then in a small upstairs room with a handful of other believers -

Last year on Good Friday I went to the Old City and watched as a Middle Eastern Man carried a cross through the city to reenact Christ's own journey to Golgotha. On the way home I passed the Holy Sepulchre, the church on the site of what people believe to be Christ's tomb. I watched as pilgrims wept over the place where He died for them. This year on Good Friday we shared a potluck meal with other believers and worshipped and took communion together.

Last year on Easter Sunday we woke to a sunny Jerusalem morning and went to the Garden Tomb where we celebrated Christ's resurrection with singing along with people of many other languages and cultures. We finished the day with a barbeque with friends in a park overlooking the old city. We watched the sun set over Jerusalem and we watched the sun set on the day of all days - Tomorrow on Easter morning our boys will do a scavenger hunt for their Easter baskets. We will meet together with friends and worship, baptize some and share some good coffee and pastries. Then we will head out to the "country" to share a meal and to celebrate with some of our closest friends.

The experience of last year far exceeded my expectations and to spend Christian holidays in the place where they all began was incredible and life changing. But where does that leave the rest of believers? And where does that leave me now that I am just a normal American citizen celebrating the holidays in somewhat "normal" ways? Tonight it hit me, while I was stuffing little plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies into my boys (and Ryans) Easter baskets. I realized that while last year made a huge impact on me and I highly recommend to people that they travel to the Holy Land if possible, God was ever present with me before I went there. And he is with me now. All I really need to do is take just a single moment to reflect and just that moment is enough to make my heart swell. That the God of the Universe would come down to earth, live and then die in my place to save me and to show his great love for me - now that is over the top. That is true whether I am sitting in the town where he lived and died or if I am sitting in my living room in suburban America.

I am grateful for that. I am grateful to our great God who by His smallest gesture of love to His most outrageous creations makes life never boring and never without promise. Tomorrow I will celebrate with other believers and remember that God Almighty did write out a story with many twists and turns and one great cliff-hanger that ended in Jesus gaining victory over death and once again reigning over all things. Whether comes joy or sorrow, excitement or the mundane, God is alive and well and in each of our life's story.

Happy Easter and may you find great joy in knowing that Jesus is Alive!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pastor's Wife Gone Wild

Okay don't jump to conclusions or anything. Title's are supposed to draw you in right?

This past year Ryan and I along with a small group of believers in Orange County began a church called Soma. The name means "body" in Greek and represents the idea that we as followers of Jesus are His Body. We are supposed to be the manifestation of Jesus on this earth so that while he is not physically present as he was 2000 years ago, his hands are still feeding the hungry, his arms are still embracing the hurting, his feet are still going out to where the lost are congregating, his mouth is still proclaiming the Good News that God loves us.

We at Soma truly believe this to be our role as followers and strive to be "missional" in how we live our lives. Rather than drawing people to us, we are out among the people sharing life with them and the love that Christ offers. This is really a big emphasis with us.

The only problem I have found with this way of thinking and this way of following Jesus, is that it actually does take you out of the comfortable confines of church and into the (ahem!) world. And I don't mean I am in the world but not of the world. I don't mean that I share Christ with people but can't relate to them at all because they aren't a part of my church community. I mean, that after 17 years of following God, and 17 years of becoming more and more versed in the language and mannerisms and social functions of the "church" I am now attempting to undo alot of that. I am spending time with a group of people who I haven't spent much time with since my early days as a believer. People who don't go to church and who really don't care that I am a pastor's wife (even though I still introduce myself that way!) and who don't even really know what that means anyway. I am reprogramming my brain to stop thinking that "good christians" spend all their time with other christians and "bad or backslid" Christians spend their time with non-believers in Christ.

And that is hard to do. I am spending time with people who have been hurt by church, who come from overly religious backgrounds, or those of other faiths and cultures. I am spending time with people who casually think of Jesus but don't know what it means to have a relationship with God and who don't feel the need to. The other day at the gym someone walked up and said "Sara, right?" I said yes and then she walked away to another room. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how I knew this woman and finally figured she must have been a sunday school teacher at our former church. I ran into her a few minutes later and asked how I knew her and she told me our kids were at the same school. It just hit me that I still define myself by church both former and present so much so that it doesn't even occur to me that I would know someone in any other context. It convicted me but God also brought to light all the people who he has placed in my life this year.

I am reminded once again that God first loved and then he sent his son to save. I am reminded that Jesus got in trouble for hanging out with "sinners." And Jesus is mentioned in more than one party in the New Testament. This year I have been both challenged in this and blessed by this fact that there are people out there worth knowing and worth loving even if they are not in my church community. It may find me playing a round of "rock band" with a group of non-religious neighbors rather than at a women's luncheon (although I still love those too!). It may find me listening to the stories of people who don't believe there is a God and actually attempting to understand where they are coming from. It may find me reading books that might not fit into my theological comfort zones. Has the pastor's wife gone wild?

Perhaps. But I do believe that missional living, while it takes me deeper into the world, it also requires a deeper discipleship than I have ever felt called to. I am being stretched this year immensely and I feeling very out of my comfort zone. My hope and prayer is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, to be along with other followers His "soma," His body. For those of you who followed along despite the "church lingo" I used in this blog, thanks. And thanks to God who "so loved the world."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aspirations of a "Recessionista"

The other day I was talking with my mom and she told me there is a new word floating around. The word is "recessionista." Which obviously, means a woman who takes on these times of financial trial with grace and style. I figure I will never be a fashionista, and using that same definition as my logic, I will never be an exercise-ista, a mom-ista or an art-ista (wait is that already almost a word?). Well anyways, there are plenty of things I just don't think I will ever do with style, and certainly not with grace. So when my mom mentioned the word recessionista to me I was instantly intrigued. I think maybe I can do that! When Ryan and I first got married, we had a very tight budget. He worked two jobs and I worked one. We had moved to California from the more affordable Washington State and really had to work hard to get the bills paid. We never struggled, which I would consider being in a place where we couldn't pay the bills (and to date we have never struggled in that respect). But we did have to be creative with our money and content with very little. Examples of my humble beginnings, setting the foundation for the recessionista I hope to one day fully become, would be: 1. cheap dates like going for walks, or pretending we had a million dollars and then pretending to spend it. 2. Getting a small cash allowance to spend on whatever I chose and 3. using Quicken to keep track of every dollar spent. Over the years things got better for us financially and we stopped worrying so much about how much we spent. At one point when things were going well we considered upgrading to a larger house but we decided against it. This decision ultimately allowed us to go to Israel last year and travel the world thanks to a good amount of home equity from our home which was very affordable for us. In Israel I continued on my journey. I learned to 1. walk instead of drive 2. buy local produce and plan my menus around the good deals rather than plan a menu and then purchase my food. 3. air dry my clothes 4. say no to my kids sometimes 5. make my own bread and soup 6. avoid the mall.

And then of course that brings me to this year, where Ryan is working three jobs (which I am grateful to God he has them all!) and we are still feeling the crunch. I am so happy to be in this country and so happy to have a roof over our heads that it matters little to me that we have to give up some extras. I am hoping that counts for the "grace" part of the above definition. Now for the style - I am working on that. But here are some habits I have added just this year. 1. I go to the dollar store - we have an amazing dollar store near our house that has organic produce, yogurt, canned tomatoes and even rose bushes sometimes. I also get toothpaste and tortillas there and wonder why I ever bought those things at the regular grocery store. 2. I go to the goodwill - I figure this is being hip like Jack Johnson and reusing, reducing and recycling. I bought a brand new stock pot there last month to make homemade chicken stock in for a few dollars. I also spent my five dollar allowance on a $168 dress with the tags still on it - not too bad. 3. I barter with my friends. I will cook you a meal if you provide babysitting for my kids, sew me some pillows, or cut my hair (apparently all I really know how to do is cook a meal).

Some good ol rules though that I think any respectable and aspiring recessionista should follow are: 1. get all books and DVD's from the local library or from your friend's houses (but ask first). 2. Borrow whenever possible 3. Realize the huge difference between what we need and what we want. 4. Remember how fun riding your bike can be with your kids or how adventurous it feels to hike with them (without spending a dime!). 5. realize that popcorn on the stove is so much better than microwavable. 6. tythe if you go to church 7. no matter how little you can set aside, even if it is a dollar a month, make sure you have some fun money! One dollar can buy a piece of Sees candy, a Tuesday night at the dollar theatre, a McDonald's ice cream sundae or a cucumber to slice and put over tired eyes (convincing someone to take your children and make the house quiet could cost you a little more unless you barter).

So there you have it - a little glimpse into my life and my newfound purpose. Let me know if you, too are an aspiring recessionista and please do tell your secrets!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Confession: Sometimes PW's don't want to go to church

Tonight we had church and I just didn't feel like going. I really would have rather been at a spa on some far away warm island getting pampered with a massage and a glass of lemon water.

Let me explain how the last two days have gone in our house. First of all, our one year old has learned how to remove his diaper whenever he feels like it, and he really does prefer to be naked. Yesterday, he removed his diaper and peed all over the living room floor before I could get to him. I also this week found that baby Ben likes to hide food in the sofa cushions and in particular he likes to store bits of mashed banana and crushed cookies in there. Then the other night one of my sons, who is a complete germophobe wet the bed at 2 in the morning (this is rare) and required me to remove all the sheets and covers and replace them with clean. He even made me disinfect his bed posts in case germs travelled through the air from his wet sheets onto the bed post. This morning, I showered and grabbed a towel to wrap my hair in, and decided that the towel had an unmistakable urine smell to it. I have no idea why a towel would smell like urine, but given the last 24 hours and the fact that I have three boys makes me believe anything is possible. I pulled the "pee towel" off my head and switched to one that smelled a bit more like fabric softener. Today the baby decided not to take a nap and was as a result very tired and cranky. Or maybe hysterical is a better word for him. Then 10 minutes before it was time to leave for church, while I was brushing my teeth (I feel I should have that right, dont I?) baby Ben took off his diaper again. Only this time, he had pooped in that diaper. He then sat (he likes sitting) on a pile of laundry, a stuffed chair and on the carpet of my oldest sons room.

I ended up getting a babysitter for the baby and he got to stay home and (I later heard) was out cold in bed by the time the opening prayer was given at church. Somehow I made it out the door with the other two fed and clothed and alive despite constant bickering and a tendency to get into fist fights. I made it to church and I even enjoyed it. I believe God was present and I was challenged by the message Ryan gave. But if we at Soma Church believe that God is in everything we do and we should not separate the sacred from the mundane in our lives....well.. my thought is that He would also be with me on an a spa...with the scent of lavender and the sound of soothing spa music lulling me to sleep.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whose side are you on?

My friend in Jerusalem recently sent me a link to a site in Israel that is basically an open forum for people to write their thoughts. This particular stream of letters consisted of hundreds of passionate commentary on the events unfolding in Gaza. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants to be right. However, the more you know of the story the more it seems that no one is right in this situation. Gaza is controlled by terrorists and therefore Israel has closed its borders to ensure that terrorists or their weapons do not get in or out of the city. Israelis defend their right to retaliate against the rockets sent into their towns from the terrorist group, Hamas and they believe this is the only way to finally take care of the situation. Palestinians believe that they do not have power and do not have freedom to come and go as they please. They believe that Israel has made it impossible for them to establish their own state and government and they believe they are oppressed and harassed by the government. Israel has promised land to the Palestinians and yet continues to build settlements in the West Bank and therefore uproot the indigenous Palestinian people and create refugees of them. Certain Palestinians have taken to terrorist acts to retaliate against harsh treatment and oppression, "wounding" the government and the Jewish State by killing, injuring and frightening innocent people. Our friend says that "terror is the weapon of the weak." However, many Palestinians see what is happening in Gaza as terror- except that there is power and government behind it. Other than that, there are hundreds of innocent people being wounded and killed in the name of self preservation and defense. I believe that there is a political solution to the problems in Israel but it would take a large amount of compromise from both sides. I wish I could choose a side and say that one is justified in its actions or that one is more peace loving but I cannot. Last year I carried a heavy burden on my shoulders while living in the Middle East. It was not the burden of the language barrier, the large presence of weapons, the cruel treatment from others or even the possibility of being victim to a terrorist attack. The burden I bore was the tension, the hatred, the eye-for-eye, tooth for tooth mentality that people hold in that part of the world.

The commentaries I read through last night were all written by Christians. People who share a faith in Jesus Christ and believe that his death and his love and forgiveness has saved them and given them new life. Some of those believers we call "messianic Jews." They are Jewish by culture and while their brothers in the Jewish faith are still awaiting the messiah, they believe He has come in the person of Jesus. The other believers who have written are Palestinian believers of Jesus. Many of the Christians in Israel are in fact, Arab. And because Christianity actually outdates the Muslim faith, many of those families have believed for centuries. Neither the Messianic Jews or the Palestinian Christians are warmly welcomed in Israel. Many of the messianic believers that we met were very quiet about their faith, afraid to be shunned and even hated by their fellow Jews. Much of what I read was positive - human beings trying hard to reconcile what they believe about forgiveness and about protecting the innocent, with their cultural identity and upbringing. However, both "sides" are quick to send bitter accusations at the other with little desire to take personal responsibility for the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ultimately, innocent people are being victimized on both sides and an ideology of hate is being propagated on both sides. Thinking about this, and praying for this situation brought to mind a verse in the biblical book of Joshua before the fall of Jericho. A man with a sword appears to Joshua and Joshua asks "are you for us or for our enemies?" And the man replies "Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." It made me wonder what God must being thinking of all this. It seems to me that he must be so grieved by the pain and suffering happening and by the hatred that is stirred up. He must long to bring the hearts of His children into repentance and healing.

But of course I can't ever fully know the heart of God...As a follower of God here in the states I can only pray for my brothers and sisters around the world - on all sides. And personally I cling to the verse (although maybe out of context) in Micah that asks "What does the Lord require of thee? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Throwing Stones

I know that I continue to use our experience in Israel in my blogging, but the experience is still fresh in my mind. The emotions and pictures in my head of last year are still vivid and still provide a constant backdrop for life here in Orange County. One constant burden on me in Jerusalem was the Palestinian-Jewish conflict. Given the news these days, I am sure it is now a burden for many. Ryan talked about the "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" tribal mentality in the middle east that prevents peace from ever happening. It is heartbreaking to think that there is no real "hope" for people to truly live side by side in love as long as there is no forgiveness. Until one side lays down it's arms and says "I will pursue peace, even if it kills me" I personally don't see an end to the conflict. Of course life has given us examples of people who have done this - Martin Luther King for one. And as Ryan also pointed out, a Middle Eastern man named Jesus who did lay his life down in the name of grace and forgiveness.

My commentary though is not so much a result of the current Middle East unrest, as it is from an unrest in my own soul right now. When I came back to the states I vowed to learn from our experience and to realize that if someone throws a stone my way, I cannot throw it back or else a cycle will begin that does not follow the path of Jesus. Of course by even writing this blog I guess it could be perceived as a stone being thrown. My perspective is that I have been hit recently and sit wounded and questioning. I wrestle with what the right thing to do is and am sad to find that some consider our family even worth the effort to hurt us.

Since returning to California our family has run into several strange and painful situations that we have not understood. People from our past church who we considered family and who we cherished as brothers and sisters in the faith have stopped talking to us. I have personally run into people who have turned and walked away from me in the local mall. I was actually so stunned one particular time that I followed the person thinking they didn't recognize me, only to have them make it obvious that they didn't want to talk to me. We have had emails from people requesting that we do not contact them or pursue friendships with them. This past week a friend confessed she had heard in the rumor mill some very hurtful and untrue things about Ryan that helped me to understand a little bit the behavior we have encountered. I honestly don't know which emotion rings stronger in me...the sense of deep hurt and betrayal that someone would spread such blatant lies about us or the equal sense of hurt that people would take those lies as truth without ever checking our side of the story.

I feel hit on several sides by stones right now and of course I ponder my response. Our family has worked for many wonderful churches and pastors and consider them mentors and friends. We are welcomed back at those congregations with open arms. We believe that all believers are a part of the same mission to show the world the love of God and one of the best ways to do that is through the love and forgiveness that we extend to each other. I believe that many followers of God strive to do this and perhaps including even the people who have recently thrown stones our way. I can't think the worst of them that they realize what they are doing to injure so gravely a part of their family in Christ. So what do we do? I fantasize about locking everyone in our former church together along with our family until we can all come to a true reconciliation. I think it is best perhaps to say nothing, although by writing about this I have already rejected that option. I could throw a stone back but we all know where that will lead and truthfully I have no desire for that. I could take the moral high ground and say that we have been above reproach at all times but that is a very frightening stance to take - since the only people Christ ever seemed to have issue with were those who "claimed" the religious high ground. I could apologize for apparently doing things that, whether real or perceived, have led people to be cruel to us. I honestly don't know that to do. The only thing that I can take away from it all is to look into my own life and to make sure that I guard against listening and believing things about other people without talking with them personally about it. I need to ask God's forgiveness for the stones I have thrown and to admit I have indeed thrown them.

Being a pastor's wife comes with a high price some days and one of those things is that we are de-humanized by others. People forget that we are, in fact, human and that we bleed and hurt just like everyone else. We aren't perfect and you can't expect us to be. And when our husbands are under scrutiny and when they are slandered and hit, it might as well be us as well. If anyone reads this who has been hurt or angered by Ryan or me I welcome dialogue and the opportunity to weep and wrestle together until true reconciliation can come about. Here's to a new year and hope for peace.