Monday, August 30, 2010

Why I Read That One Blog and the Big Lesson from Spain

When I was in high school, there was a girl who was well known by most people, and good at almost anything. She also called herself a Christian. I heard her talk about God sometimes, and even saw her praying occasionally. But then I saw her swear, or be mean to people sometimes. In my self-righteous 16-year-old mindset, I was really confused. I figured she probably wasn't a real Christian because she sure wasn't acting even near perfect . . . which we all know is how all Christians need to act-always!

At the time, the way I lived as a Christian was mostly wrapped up in a lot of fear and anxiety. I constantly felt like I was spinning my wheels, trying to measure up to God's standard for how a true Christ follower should live. After all, there is totally one specific list of Do's and Don'ts and as long as I stick to it, I'll make God happy and earn His praise. When you say it that way it sounds pretty jacked up, right?

Fast forward to my time living in Spain. God finally got my attention and showed me that I was basically a self-righteous Pharisee who looked down on the rest of those "heathens" in the world because I thought I was so good, a blessing to God. I didn't have much genuine love for those who didn't live for Christ, (though I tried because it was on the list of Do's), and struggled with true passion for God (also something on the list.) When I realized my self-righteousness, pride and just plain awfulness, I finally understood what Christ had done for me on the cross. He'd sacrificed His life, knowing that I would one day be born as a jerk. The reality of God's grace resonated with me for the first time in my life. I couldn't believe that God would love me that much . . . knowing how wretched I really was in my heart of hearts. It gave me new freedom in Christ. I became comfortable with who God had made me to be. I was able to stop trying so hard to be that Christian that I thought everyone else was at home, behind closed doors. I started listening to God's voice as He spoke into my life and what He wanted me to do with it, for His glory. And you know what? It became a lot easier to do the things that I knew were pleasing to God. I found joy in obedience.

The reason I tell you all of this is because some people wonder why I like The Very Worst Missionary blog so much. Lots of people are really offended by her blog. They don't like the occasional swearing or the sarcasm, and some just don't like the bluntness she uses to describe the reality of a missionary living in Costa Rica. I love the blog because I see her as a Christian under my new set of eyes. Instead of thinking Christians are all supposed to look, act, and think the same way, I now see that God has created people to be truly unique because He has unique purposes for them. And now that I understand Grace, I see Christians as people who were/are messed up, but live new lives, centered around letting God mold them into His will for their lives. God uses imperfect people!

Sure, maybe The Very Worst Missionary shouldn't swear*, but maybe I shouldn't eat that 4th brownie either. And maybe I should remember that I'm probably reading something that was started as a personal online journal, and although 100's of people read it, she can say what she wants in her journal. I mean, who censors what they say in their diary?

I'm not saying sin is relative, I'm just saying that I can look past things that some might consider as wrong, and see the good. And in this blog's case, there is so much good. God is using a normal woman who blogs about her life. Her real life. Things like how she makes mistakes . . . how she struggles with letting an African woman hold her hand despite the fact that she hates being touched . . . or how crappy it is to not be able to flush your toilet paper. The blogosphere is full of people writing an edited, perfected version of their lives. But few are writing about what's really going on, how they really feel, and how God is working it all out in them. I love this blog, and I'll keep reading it. There are too many nuggets of Truth and insight to miss out on. Blog on The Very Worst Missionary. May God continue to use your humility, willingness to be real and yes, even your skarkiness.

*You can read this post, written by someone else, about how I feel on the subject of swearing and the words we use. Let the can of worms open . . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's in the Bag?

What is in this recyclable bag?

No seriously. What's in that bag?

Oh just a lot of money's worth in books . . .

Because today is Jesse's first day of school!

That's right. At long last we've begun the path towards Jesse's desired career. He decided to follow in the footsteps of his brother and begin graduate school late in life. However Jesse won't be studying in a foreign language (no Greek or Hebrew-whew!), nor will it take 5-6 years. (Well, we hope not.) Aaaand, he won't be able to heal sickness. So basically, the similarites between the 2 brothers ended at beginning graduate school late in life.

He really is happy about finally getting started.

We've had a lot of people ask us questions about what kind of degree Jesse is getting, where he's studying etc, so I thought I'd take the time and fill you in!

What degree will he have?
Jesse is working on a Masters of Arts in Counseling degree. This means that by the time he graduates, he'll be trained to take a test to receive state certification as a counselor.

So he's not studying at seminary to be a pastor?
No. Oh no. Not at all.

Then what can he do with a degree from a seminary?
Jesse's desire is to work in a secular counseling situation. So if he passes the test at the end of his schooling, he'll be licensed to work in that kind of a setting. If he wanted to work at a church of another Christian setting, he probably doesn't need the state certification, but since that's not his main goal, he'll be working on passing that test. I have full confidence that he'll be able to do it.

Where is he studying?
You are on a need to know basis, and you don't need to know. Seriously, you'll have to email us if you really want to know. Otherwise, we'll have to keep that a secret because sometimes we just have some stories we'd like to share and it wouldn't be good if you knew where these things happened. But be looking for a post from Jesse someday about a required Basic Evangelism class he has to take! That will be a good one.

Why did he choose to study counseling at a seminary?
Jesse got a scholarship which really helps bring the cost of his degree down. Plus, we also liked the idea of having a Biblical understanding for not only theology, but for counseling.

Does he really want to sit and listen to people talk about their problems all day?
Yes. And I'll answer this one from my perspective. We've learned that Jesse's main skill set is people. He doesn't have training to be a graphic designer, or a musician or an engineer. But he's highly gifted to work with people, and for people.

I've watched him countless times while he listens with genuine interest to people as they share what they are going through, and then listened to him give a wise answer. Usually when you think of counselors, you think of people who love to talk about feelings, emotions etc. Jesse is not that. Rather, he's one of the biggest thinkers I know. He does NOTHING on emotion. Which is one of the main reasons why I love him. He doesn't think with his heart so when he listens to others express their hearts and emotions, he can kind of sift through what they think is true, and point them in the right way to genuine Truth. I know because I've seen him do this with me-the complete opposite, a mega feeler.

So that my friends, is what Jesse is working on for the next 3 years. We've got a long road ahead of us but you know what? we feel a huge sense of contentment here. Not because we think God called us to this, but because we know God has opened up these doors, and he's providing beyond belief. And I'm not even talking just financially. God is so good, and so faithful.

P.S Today I went for my run and noticed a lot of extra cars on campus. Then I realized it was the day scheduled for chapel. All staff and undergraduate students are required to come. (Not the masters students though-thank goodness!)

I turned off my iPod and ran into the building to take a peek at what a twice-a-week chapel service looks like. A kind woman invited me to come on in. I said, "Oh thanks, but I'm going on a run." Then I walked back out of the building past the many students coming in, turned my iPod back on, and enjoyed a little Fee, Dispatch and Maroon 5. It was one of those moments where I had to laugh at the irony of living on a seminary campus, skipping chapel to run and listen to some goooood music. Thus begins our new life . . .

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today is Brought to You by the Letter F


Bible Story:
Jesus feeds the 5000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread
Click here for a cheesey YouTube video version of the story.

Falda (skirt)
Fiesta (party)

Person to pray for: Fede

I also wanted to share that I have 2 main points I'm trying to teach Renae in each Bible lesson we learn, as well as through daily life. Don't think I'm that great . . . I haven't talked about our 2 main points in forever! But today's Bible story reminded me of these 2 great lessons. So here are the 2 questions I ask Renae, and the answers that we talk about as often as I can remember:

What does Jesus want us to know? That God is good.

What does Jesus want us to do? Help others.

What are some things you do with your kids to teach them some basic spiritual truths? I'd love some new ideas! Also, what kids Bibles do you use?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Enjoying a fall-like day . . .

Taking pic's of the squirm worm.

Shucking super yummy Iowa Sweet Corn.

This Iowa girl turned Madrileña has found her true roots.

Poppin' bubbles.

Makin' bubbles

Makin' a fool of herself while poppin' bubbles . . .

Julie explaining to Jesse how it was just an accident . . .
(Don't worry . . . Jesse wasn't really mad. :) )

Link Up

The family that bounces together, stays together.

Sometimes Jesse is dumbfounded by his 2 girls.

Hangin' on for dear life. It was just that kind of a weekend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Enjoying a Saturday . . .

Who better to draw with than Grandpa the art teacher?

Renae loves to draw.

And ride her bike! (With arm floaties of course)

Daddy's turn to steer . . .

What a cheeser.

Mommy's turn to steer.

Sammy's turn for a diaper change.

Sammy sat looking the window for about 20 minutes. He loved watching Grandpa mow. Such a boy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Weekend Away!

Jesse's life starts getting totally crazy this week as he starts his second job, and orientation for classes is this week as well. Since he wasn't scheduled to work last Thursday-Sunday, we decided it was a perfect last opportunity to get away. We headed to the Grandparents house for a time of relaxation, food and of course, the hot weather. If you read my Mother-in-law's blog and my blog, please visit her blog first because I did a few posts for her this week and you need to see these pictures there first. It's her first update since February! You'll notice a common theme in these pictures . . . no Penni! I downloaded pictures from her camera onto her computer and I realized there were none of the photographer. Oops. Maybe when I can get in the habit of taking our camcorder with us, I'll actually start taking pictures of my own!

Sammy enjoys the splash pad.

Renae loves it too . . . anything with water she loves!

Can you see Sammy's signature look?

Renae and Grandpa run through a fountain.

Turns out Sammy wasn't as fond of the water as we thought.

Daddy to the rescue . . .

"Here Grandpa. You collect the water like this."

More pictures to come . . .

Friday, August 13, 2010

Emails from a Nigerian

I finally launched the Spanish program that I'm offering this fall. The website has been up for a few weeks but I didn't start advertising until this week. Thankfully, I've already had 2 inquiries and 1 sign-up! I've also received about 10 requests like this:


Please let me know if you can tutor my 10 years old Daughter and tell me what Subject are you good in it?
Hope to hear from you soon.

Mr Jeff.



Greetings to you! ..I want to know if you if you have available slots/times to accommodate my Daughter for lesson 3 time a week.It will be useful if you could get back to me with your area of Expertize/Specialization.

Hoping to read from you soon so as to proceed with the arrangement.


(This one actually almost fooled me! The Daughter with a capital D got me though.)

Hi, How are you doing today?I want a private lessons for my son(Paul) at your location. Paul is 14 year old boy and is ready to learn. Please I want to know your policy with regard to the fees, cancellations, and make-up lessons.Also,get back to me with the total fees for six month lessons(one-hour lesson in a week) starting from August 30.
In addition,I want to know the lessons location and your phone number.Looking forward to hearing from you.
My best regards,


Can we say BabelFish anyone??

I've read multiple articles and forum posts to learn that it's very common for Nigerians to try and scam people on Craiglist's services/lessons section. They offer to pay over the amount you need with a fake check, and then want you to send the extra amount back to them. Or something like that.

It's kind of funny on so many levels. But then I just kind of felt bad for these guys. I mean, what does your life have to be like that you are willing to spend your days in an internet cafe searching Craigslist for scams to pull? Really? That's pretty sad. I tried to write one guy back and ask about his life. I also told him I knew he was pulling a scam. He didn't write back.

For one, I wrote back and said that my prices were $3000 an hour. That wasn't very nice of me.

Anyways, here is the link to my Little Amigos website. If you are in my area, there are spaces ope for you! Well . . . for your kid. YOU, are too old to be in my class. Sorry about the age discrimination.

Also, I got a can of PB today for $0.50 cents.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Baby nap problems to tattoos? Welcome to Jesse's world as he tries to follow along with my brain . . . Thanks for the tips everyone. I'm still working out the kinks to figure out why Sammy has started waking up from naps ridiculously early, but I think we're turning a corner.

Moving on . . . I read this blog on a regular basis and really enjoy a lot of what is posted. The most recent post about tattoos was a really great take on why some people get tattoos. For the record, I do not have a tattoo, nor do I ever plan on getting one. Mostly because I've vain and I don't want to be that old lady with saggy tattoo arms someday! But I loved this post and I think you should read it too. I'm wondering if any of you out there who have tattoos can relate to his post. Let me know!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Help a Mom Out

My child can't take a nap longer than 1.5 hours because he wakes up and plays in his crib!

Here's the story: About a month ago, Sammy started standing up in his crib which lead to him taking forever to get to sleep, and then waking up early (overtired) from his afternoon nap and playing some more in his crib. If he doesn't get a good afternoon nap, he doesn't sleep as well at night (wakes up too early), and then he doesn't nap well the next day either . . . it's a vicious cycle.

Well about a week ago Sammy caught the cold/cough Renae had shared with us and was unable to sleep laying down. We let him sleep in his car seat all last week and he took great naps all week. Why? Because he couldn't move! That kid was buckled in to his temporary bed and I loved it. Now that his cold is gone, we decided to put him in his crib for naptime. Lo and behold . . . about 1.5 hours into naptime, Sammy woke up and started playing in his crib. He didn't cry so I left him in there the rest of naptime and by the time I went in to get him I saw he'd reached his chubby little arms through the crib slats, through the changing table slats, and into the diaper basket. He then carefully pulled his still chubby little arm (now holding a diaper) back through both slats and threw the diaper into the crib. I found him sitting amongst about 15 diapers. 15 trips back and forth to the diaper basket. No wonder he didn't fall back asleep!

Needless to say, I'm going to be moving the diaper basket out of reach. But I still need some Mommy advice! Did anyone else experience this? If so, what did you do when your child woke up early from nap time only to spend the rest of the time playing in the oh-so-fun crib play ground?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Today is Brought to You by the Letter E


Bible Story:
God created the Earth

Escuela (school)
Empujar (push)
Estrella (star)

People to Pray for:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday is Spanish Day!

Today was our first day of Spanish "preschool." Which means I spent about 20-30 minutes reading, talking and playing games in Spanish. With Renae of course (without her it kind of defeats the purpose, huh?) I decided we'll be doing a unit on the human body which I chose because Renae has a Sesame St. video (all in Spanish) about the body that I let her watch almost once a day, and we recently checked out a book from the library all about feet. (Also, all in Spanish.) Plus . . . when I taught 1st-6th grade Spanish, we had an entire unit about the body so I didn't have to think real hard about how to prepare my curriculum. I do need to modify it for an almost 3 year old though . . . .

Anyways, it was pretty fun and Renae really enjoyed it. We read our book, and I asked her questions along the way to see if she was understanding. Then I taught her the song "Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies." (Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes) After the story and song time, we played "Memoria" (memory) using different pictures of body parts. As we each took turns flipping cards over, I had her say the word in Spanish.

Here are some language teaching tips if you are interested in doing some Spanish (or another language) lessons at home:
  • During the entire lesson, I only spoke to her in Spanish. There is no need for me to translate from English to Spanish for her during these activities. It will do her no good to have a brain trained to "translate." Imagine if our brains did that in English when we were learning as a baby? "Ok that's the ubly kos babble da which means . . . think Sammy, think! What does that translate to in English? I got it! Red ball!" If you want to teach your child a second language, but don't have the fluidity to speak it, work as hard as you can to NOT constantly translate from English to the target language. I promise you that if you simply teach your child a word and match it to the correct picture, they will learn it WITHOUT referencing English. It's how we all learned our first native tongue.
  • Don't be afraid of switching your kid's favorite video to Spanish (or French-a common 3rd option). I don't let Renae watch much TV, but I do let her watch the Sesame St. video, or her favorite TV show from Spain, Pocoyo, almost every day. Note that neither of these videos were made with the intent to teach children Spanish. They are simply videos made for children, using the Spanish language. Remember that learning another language at this age is the easiest! So kids do not need to have lessons in grammar, watch videos geared towards teaching you how to speak in Spanish, etc. They just need to be immersed in the language. Read to them, check out recordings of Spanish books, watch Spanish movies, teach them vocabulary . . . they can do it.
  • Do you know a fellow Mom who is a native Spanish speaker and speaks it to her children? Start a play group! If she is new to the US, you can help her learn English, she can help you learn Spanish, and your kids can play together while learning their own mix of Spanglish.
  • See if your local library offers a Spanish story time. The last town we lived in offered one once a month (and Russian too!) and our new library . . . well I'm working on it! Actually, Ive been talking with one of the librarians there so that I can do a Spanish story time once a month.

You don't need to be fluent in a language to teach your child some basic lessons. Sure, they aren't going to become native speakers by just having a half hour lesson each week of vocabulary, books and games, but it will help! And until your child gets the opportunity to be immersed in the language, your little lessons will increase their brain power which is always a good thing.

The funniest thing Renae has been doing lately in regards to Spanish is when I ask her a question in Spanish, she'll usually respond in English . . . correctly! So I'm learning that she understands much of what is said to her in Spanish, but lacks the vocabulary to say what she'd like to say. This also means that I need to start speaking to her more in Spanish . . . . I'll try and be inspired by my friend Bea from Spain who speaks to her son Jaime almost entirely in English while her husband speaks to him in Spanish. That's the way to do it folks!

***If you want me to post some of the materials I'm using on my blog for your own Spanish lessons, leave me a comment and I'll try and load those onto Google documents.***

Monday, August 2, 2010

Today is Brought to you by the Letter D


Bible Story:
David and Goliath

Dedo (finger)

Pray for:
Uncle Dan
David Wilson
Dani from Spain

Yes, I know, we didn't get very far in our alphabet lessons. Which is why I'm finally starting back up. After 2 months here, we also finally have a solid routine which means I picked Monday's to be my day when I teach Renae a new letter. I spent about 15-20 minutes while Sammy was taking his morning nap to tell Renae the Bible story, talk about the letter D, and pray for our friends and family whose names being with the letter D.

Also, if you are wanting to do your own alphabet book, I found these images for each letter of the alphabet and made it into my own printable book. I'd be more than happy to email you the document if you want. Don't have too high of expectations. Each page has one letter on it and I printed it off to make a "book." Actually . . . it won't be a book until we've gone through the entire alphabet (23 more weeks to go!). For now, I have Renae's "D" page hung at the end of one of our kitchen cabinets so she can look at it all week. Next Monday, I'll trade it out with the letter E. Just remind me to keep the old letters in a safe spot so that I can make the book when we're done!

Look below for letter's A-C, and check back here each Monday (more or less . . . ) for more images and our alphabet. I'm also going to do a a 15-20 lesson in Spanish for Renae every Thursday. If you are interested, I'll post what I'm doing for that and I'll make any documents I do available.