Speaking Debut

Many people don’t know that my wife is a famous, internationally-acclaimed women’s speaker. This is mostly because she has not, as yet, actually been asked to speak in any other countries. Nevertheless, I expect the invitations to start rolling in, any day now.

Each year our church hosts a Christmas Luncheon for women — a lavish, decorative affair in which women of the church vie with one another to host and decorate the most beautiful holiday table. Fine china is dusted off, elaborate centerpieces are constructed, and more than 250 women flock to our church for this bright spectacle. After the meal and traditional singing of Christmas carols, there is usually a speaker who attempts to inspire the women of our church and their guests with a scriptural message. This year, the Women’s Ministries director asked my wife to be the speaker.

While we were putting away the last of the tables, after everyone had gone home, Becky came up to me. “I am so glad that God used me to ask Kathy to speak,” the Women’s Ministries leader confided gleefully.

I had to agree — Kathy presented her ‘talk’, as she called it, with confidence and clarity, using Romans 12:12 as the core of her message:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

Flowers for my girl

Kathy’s parents sent her these beautiful flowers.

My thoughts drift back to that weekend in early October when Kathy ‘got the call’ as we were driving to attend a leadership retreat. Immediately, she asked me my opinion:

“Should I do it? It seems very scary. What if I can’t connect with the women?”

At first, Kathy had many doubts about speaking publicly. Even after we prayed about it for several days, and she had agreed to serve as the speaker, questions continued to bubble up:

  • What passage will I speak on?
  • What if my hands shake and my voice quavers too much?
  • Why would any of these ladies want to listen to me?
  • What if this is not a calling from God, but only my own desire to be heard?
  • What will I wear?

Admittedly, the last question was perhaps the most difficult for me, as a man, to address.

I valiantly made an attempt. “What did you wear last year?”

Men and women don’t always think the same way, I’ve noticed.

Kathy is a busy person; homeschooling five children, running our household, trying to keep enough food in the house to feed ravenous boys — all these seem to fill her hours. Add in an aggressive prayer and Bible-reading schedule and a discipling relationship, and there isn’t a lot of extra time in the day. Still, she dove in and began studying and preparing her message. We gathered commitments from some of the prayer warriors in our church, to pray regularly for the event. It wasn’t long before Kathy had a passage of scripture that was coming alive to her in a new way. Eventually, she developed the entire message, complete with funny personal anecdotes and effective visual props. She wrote it out, first as an outline, and later filled in all the details.

“How do pastors come up with a new sermon every week,” she asked me one day, shaking her head.

3 boxes for the holidays

These three boxes were part of the talk – a spiritual makeover.

I was impressed by her passion and energy. I am currently taking a hiatus from teaching my Adult Sunday School class, largely because those two qualities were missing in my teaching. One week she managed to connect with the speaker from the fall Women’s Retreat, whom she felt did an incredible job of challenging and encouraging the ladies of our church. Kathy drove an hour, and spent the better part of an evening with her; praying, sharing and studying. The week before the event, she began rehearsing in our bedroom, using a CD rack as a podium, and a full-length mirror to hone her eye contact skills.

We continued to pray. We remembered these verses in Matthew 10:18-20:

On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Although she wasn’t arrested, we still thought the verse would apply. If God wanted Kathy to speak, then God would give her something to say, and would, Himself, cause those words to be effective.

Joshua and Daniel and I had the privilege of serving as waiters for the event, and so (after we bolted down our meal in the kitchen) we were able to watch and listen as Kathy spoke. I was praying furiously, yet somehow still able to listen as she unfolded her ideas and connected with the audience.

It was a great message — simple, practical, spiritual, transparent and personal. The ladies laughed at her jokes and seemed attentive — many of them came up to me afterward and complimented me (presumably because I had the clever foresight to marry Kathy). I am very proud, but even more, I’m delighted to see Jesus glorified and for the gospel to be promoted.

Hope box

Some things in Kathy’s Hope Box – before the makeover.

When we arrived home, Kathy and I went upstairs and snuggled in our bed to talk about the day. Eventually she wound down, and we assembled the kids to do our daily ‘chapter’ Bible reading, currently with an Advent twist.

“How ’bout milkshakes and a Christmas movie,” I shouted. “Who’s with me?” There was a rush of feet for the door. Life goes on, even when you’re a family of an internationally-acclaimed women’s speaker.


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Recently I had the opportunity to celebrate my forty-fourth birthday, which seemed appropriate, since I am, in fact, forty-four. As is my custom whenever it falls on a weekday, I took the day off from work.

The day I turned seventeen, I was working at the local Holiday Inn as a bell-boy, where I had served for more than two years. Mostly, I performed the duties of a front desk clerk, but the crafty management paid me $3.25/hour as a bell-boy since I was so young (and looked even younger). At about 9:00 in the evening of my birthday, I found myself dissatisfied with the prospect of working on such a momentous day, and I resolved, forthwith, to resign. Half an hour later, I was unemployed, with more than $2000 in savings and my evenings suddenly free. Four months later, I was penniless, and forced to seek work as a fishmonger’s assistant. But that is another story.

No longer a Holiday Inn
My actual former workplace, no longer a Holiday Inn.

Since then, whenever I enjoy my job, I’m careful to take my birthday off, for fear that history may repeat itself. It would be a shame if I impulsively decided to quit, as a result of being forced to work on my birthday. And so, I found myself home on a Thursday, with the whole day stretching before me, full of promise and opportunity.

In July, we took up geocaching as a hobby, and continue to derive much enjoyment from this pastime. As a family, we’ve located more than 50 caches, and find ourselves ranging further and further afield for new challenges. On my birthday, while Kathy drove Joshua to his JNROTC class, I mobilized the rest of the kids to pack lunches. We piled into the van and got an early (11 am) start, once they returned.

Opening a Cache
The kids enjoy taking (and leaving) trinkets in some of the larger caches.

I loaded a chain of geocache coordinates into our GPS receiver, each 10-20 minutes apart, with the furthest about 90 minutes from our home, among the foothills of Mount Rainier. Bypassing the first one (there was no easy place to stop on the highway as we hurtled past), we came to the vicinity of the second cache, which we eventually located. It was concealed in a narrow crevice between an electrical utility box and the pole to which it was attached.

“Careful, kids, that’s 220 volts,” I cautioned, standing well back.

Geocaching is not a particularly dangerous sport, but it does take you into some strange places. Joshua found the cache (a micro, about the size of a dry-erase marker) and noted the additional hazard of a bee’s nest, just above the cache.

He didn't even get stung
No bees were harmed in the filming of this adventure.

After signing the log, I graciously allowed Joshua to replace it (usually a much-sought-after privilege), but for some reason he was less-than-excited:

“Thanks, Dad,” he sourly grumbled. “How great that I get to be the one stung by high-voltage bees.”

There’s just no pleasing some people.

Ye Olde Railroad Bridge
Sarah found this particularly-difficult cache hidden among the trestles of the bridge.

Eventually we found seven caches and discovered many scenic locales, including:

  • a geocache container disguised as an electrical transformer
  • an elaborate porta-potty enclosure
  • a railroad bridge with a bunch of dead salmon
  • a deep river gorge, spanned by a one-lane bridge
  • a monument for miners, killed in a series of mine disasters
  • an abandoned stone building, nearly overrun by forest growth

Porta-Potty Enclosure
Sarah and Rachel didn’t seem to appreciate the odor or lack of toilet paper.

A very high bridge
This bridge shook especially hard when a logging truck passed by …

It was a delightful day; warm, sunny, and almost cloudless. I spent it just the way I wanted, with the people I love best, laughing and exploring and enjoying each other. With a birthday like that, I can hardly wait to turn 45!

David and Kathy
David sure does love his Mama.

A romantic moment
Kathy and I have been married for 17.5 years, now, happier every year.

– Tim

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Navy Guy

Joshua is enjoying R.O.T.C. these days. Keeps us busy as we add another activity to our lives. I didn’t have my camera handy this week when he was dressed for inspection. Okay, I had the camera, but I wasn’t awake at that point (coffee was still in the pot and not in my mug).

Go Navy?

Anyway, I’ll try and get a picture of him in his full regalia next week. For now, here’s a shot of him in his Navy PT workout clothes.


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Teacher Work Day

I had Labor Day off from work, and so I took the children away on a day-trip so that Kathy could enjoy a badly-needed Teacher Work Day. We hadn’t yet formally started school, and Kathy had been struggling to put together schedules and lesson plans for all five.

When I was employed at Amazon, I enjoyed a four-day work-week, with Mondays off. I used to take the kids away for the day, on some adventure or other, and let Kathy stay home. She is with the kids nearly all the time, as mother and teacher. I joke that we need to give her some ‘down time’ or we’ll end up checking her into the Whispering Pines Clinic for Homeschooling Moms, an imaginary treatment center for teaching moms who experience nervous breakdowns.
Whispering Pines
Maybe it isn’t quite as imaginary as I thought.

My parents hosted a Pastor’s Retreat at the Refuge, and so on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day I loaned them Joshua as a Gibeonite (a hewer of wood and drawer of water) to help set up for the event. The other four and I followed Monday morning, so that I could serve as a photographer and the younger kids could help out as needed.

Pastor's Conference
There were about 25 pastors and their wives in attendance at this year’s conference.

Some Dads dread a day with their children, but not me; my children are a lot of fun to be around. Everyone seemed cheerful as we set off; the younger three read books quietly in the back of the van while Rachel and I chatted companionably in the front.

Joshua and David
Setting up for lunch

At the Retreat center, the kids helped out while I snapped pictures, and then waited patiently for everyone to be served before sampling the lunch buffet.

Refuge Dining Room
The Refuge Dining Room

After helping to move all the chairs back to the meeting room (there was such a large crowd that we needed to use the meeting-room chairs for dining) the younger four and I went geocaching, while Joshua stayed to enjoy the second half of the Pastor’s conference. In spite of the rain, we tramped up and down the coast of the Hood Canal and found all six of our intended caches.

Geocaching boy
A typical geocache is found in an old ammunition box, often hidden in a dead log.

Daniel, my middle boy, felt that he was badly treated by his siblings at one of the caches, and was inclined to sulk. “I’ll just sit in the car, then,” he told me grumpily. Such incidents often spiral downward with Daniel, so I braced myself for a long afternoon of rebukes and punishments; but God had more cheerful plans. I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel reverse course quickly and snap out of his selfishness, kindly offering treats from his backpack to the others and working hard to engage them in smiling conversation. I was proud of him for the effort he took to restore his relationship with his siblings.

David, Rachel and Sarah
Some geocaches are much smaller, like this one (the size of a pill bottle)

We returned in time to sample the dessert buffet.

“How do you do that?” Joshua asked me. “You arrive just as the line clears, but before all the dessert is gone. You must teach me this.”

I smiled mysteriously – I don’t tell all of my secrets.

My parents were tired after the guests departed, and it seemed that we would be more trouble than we were worth, so we didn’t stay to help clean up.

Leftover Dan
We did manage to score some leftovers, though.

Worried that we might return home before Kathy was quite ready for us, and wanting Joshua to get some after-dark driving experience, I decided to stop off in Shelton. “We’re here to stall,” I told the kids, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Usually we are quite anxious to get home, but for some reason, everyone seemed to accept this cheerfully. “I really want Mom to finish my chart,” Rachel insisted, “so we should take our time.” We wandered the aisles of Wal-Mart and managed to find one or two things that we hadn’t realized we ‘needed’. No one (except Sarah) seemed to want to eat at McDonalds, so we jumped back into the van and I cruised the shopping center for an alternative.

We’re pretty frugal about some things, and so we don’t eat out at restaurants very much. I spotted a Godfather’s Pizza and hustled the kids inside to enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, much to their surprise and delight. “You have been hiding this place from me,” my oldest son reproved, eyeing the pizza hungrily.

Godfather's Pizza
Not our actual Godfather’s Pizza restaurant.

One of the cool things about parenting is that your children often reflect facets of the two people you love best in the world: yourself, and your spouse. I was very impressed to see all five of my children hit the salad bar first, and only then did they sample the pizza selections. Kathy has been an excellent role model in healthy eating, these past five years. They took after me in terms of the quantity of pizza that was consumed.

Having the dining area to ourselves, I asked to have the big TV turned off, and we laughed and told stories and carried on as though we were at home in our own kitchen. We played the “What are you thankful for?” game, always one of my favorites at meal times. Eventually the buffet closed, and we reluctantly tore ourselves away and staggered to the van.

Joshua drove us home, contravening all custom and common practice by staying in one lane and observing the speed limit, much to the consternation of the other drivers. I reflected on the cheerfulness of the day, and how devoid it had been of bickering, selfishness and mean words.

Sarah laughs
Laughter, yes; mean words, no.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! — Psalm 133:1

My heart was full of joy and pride, thinking of the grace, kindness and positive leadership that my children had shown to the retreat participants and to each other.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. — 3 John 4


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Bittersweet Return

It is always bittersweet to return from a vacation, especially a long one. Two weeks in the hot Texas sun, playing games with my family and reading books poolside – what a glorious way to end the summer! But I am glad to be home, to feel the crisp morning Northwest air, to sleep in my own bed, to jump back into the river of time that sweeps us along in this life that God has given us.

this is a motley crew

Film maker Joshua and his crew.

Our plane was delayed in Dallas, and it seemed quite late when we finally got home. Our dear friend Jen-Bob, not content with picking us up at the airport, also cleaned our house and stocked our fridge with surprises, regaling us with stories and laughter until we could no longer keep our eyes open. A “Welcome Home” sign from Michelle and Jen-Bob’s “10 Reasons I’m Glad They Are Home” on our whiteboard, helped us to know that we had been missed.

pretty girls

swimming girls

Sarah and her cousin, Aydia, have a LITTLE too much fun together.

I had big plans for our 14 days in Texas, some of which failed to materialize; even so, it was a very successful vacation by any measure. Along with Kathy’s parents, all three of her brothers were there, with two of their wives, four cousins (including the celebrity, Baby Logan), a friend from Michigan, and a Great Uncle and his friend, rounding us out to 21 in all.

family gathering

Hot and sunny and one big family.

We swapped stories, played cards and board games, drove around in golf carts, ate many delicious meals, hunted geocaches, and devoured bowl after generous bowl of ice cream at the local PICO’s store. The pool (the length of a football field) was mostly ours alone, and many happy hours were spent splashing, floating, swimming and just sitting with our feet dangling in the cool spring water.

tahlia and rachel

Tahlia and Rachel are buddies!

We worked on several crafts and projects as a family, and gathered each evening to hear the kids read aloud “the Chapter” from the gospel of Matthew, and to discuss it together. I was permitted to teach Sunday School the first week at a local church, and Kathy’s Dad was invited to preach there the second Sunday.

chapter time

Time to read the Bible chapter!

Several went fishing, some visited the local museum, and there were many shopping excursions to replenish food stocks. I worked from the library two days, and we checked email sporadically. Kathy’s Dad quashed a termite infestation and worked around the yard. Nerf wars raged and pictures were snapped by the hundreds. Everyone seemed to work hard to get along and to be kind, which was no small accomplishment with so many people underfoot.

we love grandad!

Grandad (and the golf cart) are the true favorites of our time in Texas.

Normal life is sometimes hard. We are busy people, and it is no easy task to serve in our church, raise and school our children, do our work and maintain our home. But it seems easier, somehow, to put our shoulder to the wheel, with such warm and golden memories treasured up from this summer vacation.


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