A Month Slips Away

It always surprises me, how time passes. One of my favorite authors expresses it this way:

The days became weeks, as they will when allowed to heap themselves upon one another unattended, and these weeks, likewise, turned themselves into months … with no regard for the minutes and hours they used up in doing so.

And so, unregarded, we jump from April 2nd to April 29th, without a blog post.

I’m sure there were some noteworthy events in the month of April. We started strong with our Small-Group-Sponsored Widow’s Dinner (™) and not long afterward, celebrated Easter and my Mom’s birthday. Daniel’s birthday followed on the 15th, and my parents took us to see a live performance of Captain’s Courageous.

David and Sarah were very excited about our dinner for some of the widows who attend our church.

On the 17th, The Refuge passed the final inspection and received a Certificate of Occupancy for the Main Lodge — what a huge answer to prayer and a culmination of more than ten years of tireless effort!

Kathy’s Mom came to visit and the ladies went off for their annual Women’s Retreat, while the kids and I sneaked out to The Refuge in an attempt to be the ‘first guests’.

Sarah helped me make ice cream pies for our Widow Dinner.

Personally, I think that we often have a hard time noticing the passage of time because we were designed for eternity. This whole time thing is an artificial constraint, and we know (in our deepest hearts) that it is temporary.

In the meantime, the march of time continues — but perhaps we can ease the relentless pace by highlighting a few of the best parts.


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Yearbook Thank You’s

Our homeschool co-op is drawing to a close – the final Friday school day falls in the last week of April and graduation will be in the beginning of May. We have been very blessed to be a part of H.O.P.E. co-op. The children have taken an incredibly varied and interesting collection of classes over the years, and I’ve taught a fun assortment of classes. We have all made dear friends and been stretched in different ways.

This is my second year being the primary director/teacher/coordinator of the Yearbook class. It is a fun/challenging/exhausting/time-consuming responsibility.

Most Fridays you can find me sitting at one of the many laptops we use for Yearbook – editing, helping kids with their pages, or frantically trying to get as much done as I can before the co-op day ends. Either that or I’m moving through the halls – taking pictures myself or instructing the students to snap shots.

Meranda (our amazing photographer) shows me a few things in Lightroom.

This week, however, is CRUNCH TIME!! We don’t have co-op as it’s Good Friday and the yearbook final copy is due at the printers by Monday morning. Gulp. I’m praying we managed to get all the pictures and class info, because There’s. No. Time. Left…

Thankfully I have an amazing team of people working with me in Yearbook. Meranda took all our class photos this year. She’s a wonderful photographer and our yearbook will be excellent in part because of her. Our co-op president has been a huge support to our work. Melissa manages to somehow oversee the process yet still give us total freedom and creative license. She is also readily available for editing and design help.

Thank you, Meranda and Melissa!!

Krystal, however, has been my absolute lifesaver! I truly could not have done my job this year without her. She has been organized and creative when my mind was blank and my life crazy. She is faithful, steady and non-complaining. Every week she hauls an extra table to co-op so we have enough room for our laptops and folders. When I say, “Let’s meet this week and go through the picture files and folders.” She always responds with a willing, “Sure. When?” Last week we met at 7 am for an hour of editing BEFORE school. And then she came back (both times bringing her two children with her) later in the afternoon to do further work. She let’s me instruct and direct the project without any fussing or complaint. She encourages me and almost always ends our time with the question, “How can I help you, Kathy?” I couldn’t begin to pay her for all her time and help.

Thank you, Krystal, from the bottom of my heart!

This is pretty much where we'll be all week until the work is done!

We have done our best to be organized, efficient and creative in the Yearbook class this year. We made some changes and tried to add in some helpful structure. We are praying that the yearbook will turn out beautiful and be a sweet memory for the H.O.P.E. families for the 2011-2012 year.


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Documented Day

Tim is constantly hounding me to take photos during the day.

“Did you take any pictures today, Kath?” He’ll say as he settles into his cozy computer chair, swiveling to glance in my direction. “You know I can’t really blog without pictures – I need some inspiration.”

“Um….” At that point my mind usually traces back through my typical day.

Empty dishwasher – check
Load dishes – check
Make breakfast for kiddos – check
Wash dishes – check
Encourage random child to help in the kitchen – check
Empty dryer, transfer load to dryer, start fresh load of laundry – check and triple check
Make sure assorted teenagers are logged on and attending their online classes – check
Print out and grade math homework – check
Encourage/nag someone to practice the piano (preferably one of the children who is actually taking lessons) – check
Tell another child to start their (fill in the blank – math, English, Spanish, French, table work, etc) – check
Answer random texts and FB messages – check
Start reading Bible, history, literature, science w/the younger kiddos – check

The rest of day fades into a hazy blur.

“No, I totally forgot to take any pictures.”

“Wait, didn’t you go for a walk, meet with friends and have a play date?”


“No pictures?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

At this point I’m usually falling asleep at the table, glad that the busy, full, blessed day is ALMOST OVER. Tim sighs like the martyr he is, turns back around and comes up with some witty, clever blog (without my inspiring photos).

Today I remembered! And I’m stealing the opportunity to blog a few highlights of the day.

An impromptu tea party for David and Sarah

Rachel picked out some sparkling water drinks for the kids yesterday. David and Sarah decided that was all the excuse they needed for a tea party. They love this little set of tea cups and coasters a friend gave to us. I was editing yearbook/co-op files, and the next thing I knew they were all set up in the living room with water and pretzels (not the fanciest of tea party fare) waiting for me to come and read to them.

Nothing like some pretzels to make a monster out of a nice guy.

Would you like some tea with your pretzels, David?

Later in the day I concocted some weird smoothies. I forgot to take a picture of mine, but it was basically:

Decaf coffee and almond milk (frozen in an ice cube tray)
A tbs each of cacao nibs, almond butter, and chia seeds.

Actually surprisingly good.

Knowing the kids always clamor for tastes of my smoothie, I quickly fashioned up a fun treat for them. This one was definitely more sweet than healthy.

Just what is in that smoothie???

Vanilla Eggnog Smoothie:

A box of vanilla pudding
Coconut milk
1% milk
Eggnog syrup
Chia seeds

Blend away. Fun – definitely different.

Rachel holds up a sample glass of our eggnog smoothie.

I almost threw in some spinach at the last minute, but I didn’t think the kids would go for a spinach/vanilla/eggnog smoothie.

Maybe next time.

Thanks for the encouragement to take pictures, Tim!


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Snatched from the Mouth of the Lion

I have the best impromptu drama team ever. Week after week, they faithfully show up and bravely take roles in the AWANA skits I write, often with less than an hour’s rehearsal time. They are clever, expressive and hilarious, rich in verbal banter and slapstick physical humor.

I usually write my scripts in the hour I spend on the train on Tuesday mornings. By Tuesday evening, I’m often too tired to fine-tune the skit, and so I put it off until Wednesday. Today, I was furiously finishing Daniel and the Lion’s Den at 4:30 pm. This kind of writing schedule can produce some interesting imbalance.

As my oldest son remarked: “You spent five pages setting up the situation, and then burned through the whole story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den in four paragraphs.”

Before being thrown to the Lions, Daniel was briefly jailed, while the King tried to find a way to avoid killing him.

I recruit my actors and actresses via Facebook, like all the big studios do. After describing the skit at a very high level, I made my usual casting call via Facebook messages, rounding up the usual suspects: “Who wants a part?”

“Try to be there at 4:45 today,” I told them. “Today’s skit is a long one, and we’ll need extra practice time!”

King Darius tried desperately to find a loophole in the law, so he could save Daniel.

Poor Nate, he showed up at 4:45 pm. At 5:03 pm, we breezed in; fortunately, Nate is very patient and forgiving. We zipped through two quick rehearsals and scrambled to find props and costumes.

I love writing scripts for these talented teenagers. Joshua naturally gravitates toward narrator and kingly roles, while Nate and Daniel excel in physical humor. Rosala and Rachel feed off each other with their clever banter, often playing evil characters in a way that kids can understand. Candace, Logan and Austin are frequently involved in various roles, and James debuted tonight as an Angel. It is a delight to produce a skeleton of a skit and to watch the AWANA Players turn it into a masterpiece, for the edification of the kids in our program, and to the glory of God.

When it came time to pull Daniel out of the lion's den, we had some technical difficulty with the rope.

It is particularly fun to build on some of the silly traditions, week over week: like making sure there is always a ‘Dum, di-dum, dum, dum’ line for Nate, or finding new and dangerous ways of man-handling Daniel around the stage. Nate’s elaborate and exaggerated efforts to sneak across the stage have become a core element of any skit, as has Joshua’s official Narrator’s Staff ™ or his silly Scottish and Russian accents.

I didn't have any difficulty recruiting lions, willing to leap upon, and messily devour the evil advisors.

Every week I feel as though I have been saved from the Lion’s Den by the work of these teenagers. It is a huge blessing to me to have such faithful and enthusiastic thespians involved in our AWANA program — and this on top of their existing duties as T&T, Sparks and Game leaders. On behalf of our church, the AWANA kids, and most especially from my own heart: Thank You, AWANA Players!

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Wranglers of Compassion

Several times a year, our church’s food bank is permitted to collect food at a local grocery store. Families sign up for shifts, and we stand (carefully not blocking) at each of the entrances to the store, asking the shoppers for food donations.

After a while, we develop attention-grabbing lines: “Would you like to shop for our local food bank?” is my favorite. It smoothly avoids confronting people with an unwelcome request (like asking them for their money) and handles a key objection. After all, pretty much anyone who is at the store, is there to shop. Also, many people are cool to the idea of supporting some faceless, distant organization, and are reassured by the fact that our food bank is only a few miles away.

I really dislike being accosted by people trying to sell me things.

Would you buy a used car from these two?

A few years ago, our food bank director asked me to sign up to serve a stint as a volunteer. I cringed inside, wildly casting about for an excuse not to serve. How could I justify harassing other people in a way that I personally despise? Before I knew it, Kathy had signed up our whole family, and I was committed. I braced myself for misery, and reported to the store on that cold, November day.

After only a few minutes of being rejected by grumpy people, I began to feel a little self-conscious about the negative reaction my presence seemed to provoke. Some, when they saw us with our Food Bank signs and paper bags, would angle across to the other side of the parking lot, hoping to find an unguarded door. (Imagine their dismay when they found another detachment at the opposite door!) Others tried the ‘fake cell-phone call’ trick, hastily fumbling-out their phones as they approached the door, pretending to have a conversation with an imaginary friend. Still others would seek to avoid eye contact, while the more practiced simply held out a hand to stop us in mid-spiel. Some even breezily assured us, “No, I’m good!”, as if our only concern was for their welfare.

I think the first half-hour I stood outside the store, not a single person responded favorably.

I eventually concluded that it wasn’t helpful to have expectations of ‘success’ in a material way. I realized we were not there to generate donations of food, or to get good value for our time. After all, by the time I spent an hour or two standing in front of the store with my whole family, I’d probably spent at least $100 worth of time, with no guarantee of generating that much in donations. From the perspective of maximizing utility, both I and the food bank would be better off if I simply made a $50 donation and skipped the whole thing.

Rachel's friend Jenny B. graciously joined us as a food bank volunteer.

I have decided that my main purpose, standing outside the grocery store, is to offer each person an opportunity to be generous to those who are in need. I think that God is pleased with us when we concern ourselves with the poor and those in need, and if I can get even one person to open their heart enough to buy a single can of green beans, then I have gained some significant spiritual ground in a world full of hard hearts.

Don’t get me wrong — I understand that people are bombarded constantly with requests for their money, and that some of those who turned me down really had given generously elsewhere. Others were a bit more laughable, like the lady who tried to tell me that she was excused from any need to donate to the needs of the poor because she had once brought plastic forks to an office party. These were sharply contrasted by the young man who came only to buy an iced tea, but donated a large bag of groceries, or the older lady in faded clothing who gave five large bags and carried only two small bags away.

I find that when I think of myself as offering an opportunity of compassion from God, it helps me to look more favorably on those who turn me down. “You said ‘No’ today, but maybe next time you’ll say ‘Yes’ to God,” I think to myself. It helps me to smile and thank them for giving me their attention, even briefly. We compassion wranglers can afford to take the long view.

This time we were only needed for a one-hour stint, and the time passed very pleasantly, with warm and sunny weather. David and Sarah charmed the old ladies, and Rachel and Jenny charmed the young men.

Since the Johnson family (with their disgustingly-cute six kids) were posted at the other door, I was determined to out-do them. After all, where’s the fun in community service if it can’t be twisted into a competition, where there is a clear winner (and a loser)? From time to time I would compare scores, and taunt them with our superiority.

“Wow, that’s too bad, only one bag of groceries so far? We’ve got six!”, I mocked.

By the time the Johnson clan was slinking back to their van, tails between their legs, we had beaten them decisively, twenty bags to six. Oh, sure, they tried to claim that their $121 in cash donations was superior to our $16, but anyone could tell that Peter had probably ‘stacked the deck’ with his own cash donation, as if that counted. “Maybe you won their wallets,” I told them, “but we won their hearts.”

Peter countered with an allusion to the story of Cain and Abel’s offering. “Hey, well, I’m sure God will just love your grain and vegetable offerings. But I’m thinking He might prefer the savory meat that we can buy with our money.”

Now I remember why I don’t cross swords with Peter in verbal battles.


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