Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday, Lana!

Today is Lana's second birthday!  We started the day off by sleeping in late, and as we woke up, we turned on the monitor to listen to Lana wake up.  The first words out of her mouth this morning were her singing the happy birthday song to herself!  "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Lana, happy birthday to you!" she sang.  A few moments of quiet, and then she sat up and prayed..."Dear Jesus, thank You for my mommy and my daddy and my birthday cake.  Amen!"  What a wonderful way to start the day!

We headed to see Dr. Dirk for her 2 year check-up.  It went so well....he said that she's got one of the healthiest brains in Wake Forest!  In all seriousness, she got a wonderful report - it's always such a treat to see him for a well baby check.  He's so encouraging.  She did have to get one it was over quickly.  

After we left the doctor's office, we had to pick up some groceries, and we let Lana pick out a birthday cake to have for lunch.  She picked out a really cute little cake shaped like a dog.  

We had CiCi's for lunch, and she ate her weight in pizza.  Good thing we didn't go to the doctor's office after lunch or she would have really tipped the scales!  We didn't have our camera, but oh how I wish we had!  She didn't want to touch the cake and get icing all over her fingers, so she just stuck her face in it and took a bite.  It was so adorable!  

Then we headed home for naptime.  When she woke up, we had her gifts waiting for her...a basketball goal, a tricycle, and a Shake and Go raceway!  She loved playing with her new toys.  

She played and played the rest of the afternoon, we had hamburgers for dinner, and then Aunt April & Hollis came by to wish Lana a happy birthday and bring her some beautiful birthday dishes that she will cherish for years to come.  

Thank you to all who called today to wish her a happy birthday!  We love you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Fourth!

Happy Independence Day!  We hope you had a wonderful day - ours was filled with lots of fun and time with some of our favorite people in the world.

We got up this morning and got dressed, filled up the pool so it would warm up, and headed down to April & Dustin's.  We decorated the wagon and piled in our cars to head to the parade. 

The kids were so excited - Lana couldn't stop smiling and jabbering.  We got in the parade line-up, and then had to wait almost 30 minutes.  There were so many people!  The kids were troopers, though, and we enjoyed spending the morning participating in such a fun community activity.

After the parade, we went to Red Robin for lunch.  When Dan's parents came, they stayed at Dustin & April's house because they were in Alabama with their family.  Dan's parents left them a gift card to Red Robin as a thank you, and our sweet friends shared it with us today at lunch.  Yummy!

After lunch, everyone went home and took long naps - we all needed them!  Then the Scotts came to our house for a cook out.  We put the slide in the pool, and the kids played and played.  We had bbq chicken, baked beans, grilled corn, and homemade ice cream for dinner - it was delicious!  April & I stuck Lana and Hollis in the bathtub while the guys cleaned up, and then we all finished cleaning up.  (You know you have good friends when they stay to help you wash dishes and sweep your floor!)

We finally got Lana wound down and in bed by 9 - much later than usual!  We have had a wonderful holiday with our friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

6th Anniversary Trip

To celebrate our 6th anniversary, we spent the night at the  Big Mill Inn.
We left Lana with some neighbors for the night, and we kept their kids for them the next weekend so that they could have a night to celebrate their anniversary.

The Big Mill was absolutely WONDERFUL....the room was gorgeous, the property was amazing...we so enjoyed the time together.  You should definitely visit it if you're in the area!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Life with Lana at almost 2

  • She just began saying the blessing for us at mealtimes, and she is careful to thank God for everything on the table.  It goes on until she has given thanks for EVERYTHING...down to the peas and carrots and our forks, sometimes.

  • She pronounces "real quick" as "lil click," as in "Mommy, I go in the kitchen lil click!"

  • When she's leaving the room, she'll tell us or her baby dolls, "I be right back!"

  • Sucking on lovey's ear or biting lovey's face is an essential part of going to sleep

  • Her 3 favorite songs right now are "The B-I-B-L-E," "Behold, Behold," and "Zaccheus."  We sing all 3 to her almost every night.

  • When she's counting to 5, she usually forgets 4.

  • She says, "I got two!" when she holds up 2 fingers.

  • She has an intense fascination with trucks right now, and can identify trucks as they pass on the road...some of her favorites to name are a big rig, a mixer, a dump truck, and a flatbed.

  • She is trying to learn her sounds, and will often pop into the room where I am and tell me, "Mommy, A says buh!"  ("No, dear, B says buh!")

  • She still can't say "washcloth."  It comes out "loth cloth," and we love to hear her say makes us laugh every time.

  • She is constantly telling us to watch her.  "Watch me run, Daddy!  Mommy, watch me swim!"

  • She loves to gallop through the house saying "Giddyup!!"

  • She likes to climb anything and everything.
  • Thursday, July 17, 2008

    I don't like it, please.

    We have a really great neighbor who works at Starbucks, and last night she gave us little coupons for free drinks at Starbucks.  They have these new, healthy smoothie-like things with no added sugar, so on our way to Pullen Park, we stopped to try them.  (The banana-orange-mango was delicious, by the way.) 

    We got Lana an organic chocolate milk to drink, and were kind of excited about her trying it...she's never had chocolate milk before, but she loves chocolate!  She also had a lollipop because she was really good while waiting for us at the dentist's office earlier in the morning.

    So anyway, Dan waited for our drinks, and Lana and I sat down outside to wait.  I opened her lollipop, and she sat there quietly sucking for a while.  Dan brought out our drinks, she tasted her chocolate milk, and you could tell she loved it, too...she was chugging it.  

    But after a few seconds, she stopped, put the carton on the table, and said, "I don't like it, please."  WHAT?!?  First of all, she was drinking it like a madwoman, and second of all, it was $1.50 worth of chocolate milk - what do you mean you don't like it?  But she would not be persuaded - she kept sucking her lollipop.

    So after a while, I got up to throw it away - she made a big fuss.  "I want my chocolate milk, Mommy!"  I took it back to her, she drank a few sips, then put it down and said very sweetly, "I don't like it, please, Mommy." 

    I was puzzled, until Dan figured it out!  When we ask her if she wants something, we'll often say, "Lana, would you like your milk?  Lana, would you like to read a book?" and so on.  Lately, she has been telling us, "Mommy, I would like to have a bite of that," or "Daddy, I would like to play with that ball outside."  It's funny to hear her repeating what we said.  So when she is saying, "I don't like it," she really means "I don't want it."  The logic makes sense...if she tells us she would like to have something, then she also tell us that she doesn't like something.

    It made us laugh out loud when we realized what was going on.  Now, just to figure out how to teach her to say, "I would not like that" instead of "I don't like that."

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Go away, virus!

    I. Hate. Viruses.  They cause high fevers (like 104.5 degrees), make my daughter cranky, wake us all up in the middle of the night.  No doctor can name them, no treatment can touch them.  They just have to "run their course," making everyone sleepy and bored in the meantime.  They can last from 24 hours to weeks on end.

    Go away, virus.  We don't want you there.  We have things to do, places to go, fun to have.  Leave our baby alone!

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Finding two & a washcloth

    Two funny, entirely unrelated Lana stories:
    • Lana has been trying to hold up two fingers for weeks now.  She couldn't seem to do it...she would try to copy up, and end up with all kinds of crazy fingers sticking out everywhere.  Yesterday, on the way to the mall, she said, "Mommy, I need two.  You help me?"  So I reached back and put up two fingers for her.  She was so excited!  "I got two!  Daddy, look, I got two!" she squealed, showing him her fingers.  She wouldn't relax he hand, just kept holding her two fingers up, so proud.  Well, she forgot and pointed to a motorcycle going by, and had a fit when she realized she wasn't holding up two fingers anymore.  "Mommy, I lost that two!  Where that two go?" she kept saying, trying to hold up two fingers on her own.  We were rolling laughing in the front seat as she got more and more frustrated.  "Mommy!!  Help me!  I need two!  Where that two go???"  By the time we got to the mall, we had taught her how to put one finger up, and then the next one, so all is well in her world.  [Strange thing, though...she can hold up two with her left hand, but not her right.
    • Yesterday after naptime, Lana was coloring with markers on her easel in the kitchen.  I wandered into the living room to pick up some things, when I heard her opening drawers in the kitchen.  Seconds later, she came scurrying into the living room with me.  "Mommy, I need a washcloth, please."  That must have been what she was looking for.  I thought to myself how clever she was to have noticed where I keep the dishrags.  I headed into the kitchen to get her one when I almost stepped on her masterpiece.  On the floor.  She had used her markers to draw a huge picture on the kitchen floor, and was looking for a washcloth to clean it up.  I almost fell on the floor laughing, but I was trying to hide my laughter from her so I could talk to her about not coloring on anything but paper.  After I got it together, we talked, and then cleaned it up together.  Last night in bed I heard her talking to herself..."I no draw on that floor.  Mommy say draw on just the paper.  I clean it up with that washcloth."

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    There's a man in this house

    the sound of her laughing
    with you
    fills my soul,
    makes me thankful
    there's a man in this house.

    the enchantment in her eyes
    as you give her your attention
    nourishes me,
    makes me thankful
    there's a man in this house.

    the contentment I hear
    teaching me to love
    heals me,
    makes me thankful
    there's a man in this house.

    the interruptions you welcome
    giving tickles and hugs
    warms me,
    makes me thankful
    there's a man in this house.

    the patience you show
    deliberately choosing to put us first
    embraces me,
    makes me thankful
    there's a man in this house.

    I just never could have asked
    for anyone so genuine
    so tender
    so strong
    so willing to give.
    I didn't know the magnitude of redemption
    until you held her
    and I saw in you
    a deeper longing
    to teach her
    to grow her
    to love her
    to show her Who loves her even more.

    there's a power in your love
    in your involvement
    in your tickles
    in your instruction
    in your daddy-ness
    it's something I could never give her
    but you do so well.

    one day she'll see
    what she has
    so rich, so priceless
    and she'll be thankful
    there was a man in this house.

    your fingerprints are everywhere
    and I am overwhelmed with gratitude
    our lives are truly better
    because YOU are the man in this house.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Reflections on our mission trip to Paris

    Please forgive us for the delay in sending you this update. Our time in France was such a huge experience for us that it seems overwhelming to summarize it for you. We will try to share with you some of what we experienced and learned, and we welcome any questions you have that we might not answer in this brief space.

    Let us begin by thanking you for your prayers. We truly felt them holding us up before the Father, as we experienced and learned things we did not expect. We saw their work in the life of our little girl as she stayed in the states with Rob & Emily, healthy and well and happy. We believe that you did the most important work of the trip as you went before the Father for us on a daily basis. He heard you, and honored your prayers.

    France is a dark place. When we first signed up to go to Paris on a mission trip, we were a little embarrassed to tell you about it because Paris makes one think of chocolate and flowers, sunshine and rainbows. Perhaps that is the Paris in the movies, but it is not the Paris that we experienced. We stayed in an immigrant area of Paris, specifically among North African Muslims. The area was filled with housing projects, racial tension, and folk religion. You can almost feel the tension as these men and women and children of Islam walk the tightrope of good works, hoping and praying that Allah will find that their good deeds outweigh the bad ones when they die, and that they will thus be allowed entry into heaven. (Even so, Allah may at the last minute still decide to not allow them in, according to his whim.)

    The team that we joined on the ground in France, Team Paris, was aware that the majority of our team members are considering full time missions work, and so they were cognizant of that as they planned our week’s activities. Each day we joined them in a different area of ministry, so that by the end of our 10 days there, we had seen nearly every part of what they do. They wanted us to have a good picture of what their life is like there. The highlights of our time with Team Paris largely focused around trying to find “people of peace” – North Africans who might be open to hearing about Jesus. We did this by asking them to take surveys with questions about “Issa,” the Jesus who is spoken of in the Quran; asking shop owners if we might clean their windows while our translator talked with them about Jesus; hosting a carnival for children so that we could meet their parents in a non-threatening environment; putting Jesus films in mailboxes of large apartment complexes; and handing out Jesus film DVDs in a North African market.

    North Africans, particularly the men, are incredibly hospitable, willing to serve you tea and talk for long periods of time. The women tended to be quite busy, heading to the market and home again, but the men lounged for hours in front of tea rooms, and most were quite open to talking to Americans. This was our first clue that our experience in France would not be the same one: Dan had several opportunities to talk with these men and engage them in spiritual conversations over the course of the week; Rachael had only one, and even that one was difficult because of the language barrier.

    Putting the Jesus tapes and fliers in the mailboxes was an interesting experience! Unlike in the States, it is completely legal to put materials in mailboxes in France. We had to get over feeling like we were doing something wrong, and embrace that we were leaving Life and Truth in their boxes. It was also a stretching experience to hand out the DVDs at the market, although it turned out to be quite fun. North Africans love anything that’s free! 

    Cleaning the windows of North African shops was another favorite ministry time of ours. Again, they love anything that’s free and they love to talk, so as we cleaned their windows, the shop owners would often come out to talk and ask us why we wanted to help them without being paid. It was wonderful to be able to tell them that we wanted to serve like Jesus did. Our translators got to have several good conversations, and we certainly left each shop owner with a positive feeling. We had a few shop owners make tea for us and serve it to us when we finished cleaning! If you have never had Moroccan tea, you are missing something. Neither of us have ever really liked hot tea….that is, until this! It is made with black tea and Moroccan mint and lots of sugar, and it is absolutely delicious. We liked it so much that we brought a Moroccan teapot home with us, so if you’d like to come over for tea one night, we’d love to have you!

    The carnival was, by far, one of the highlights of the trip for us. Although a stomach virus sent us back to the hotel a little early, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the park hosting the carnival. It was easy enough to get started – we began making balloon hats, set out some crayons and paper, displayed some simple ring toss and bean bag throwing games, and started a game of soccer. A few people from Team Paris walked around spreading the word that some Americans were having a free carnival with games and prizes and balloons….the kids seemed to multiply. They were followed shortly by their parents, whom we got to chat with as their children laughed and played. It was one of the most fun things that we did in Paris. Even more, the carnival was one of the most fruitful things we did in Paris. 

    It started with a small thing – two children showed up with their dad. The kids ran off to play; the father stood watching. He was about our age, and several times Dan thought about going to speak to him. He hesitated, knowing that they did not speak the same language. Finally, prompted by the Holy Spirit, he just walked over and used the few French words he’d learned to try to engage the man in conversation. Thankfully, the man knew a few words of English, too, so they managed to exchange a few sentences and fill in the blanks with hand gestures and smiles. The conversation eventually dwindled down and they went their separate ways. A few minutes passed and Dan noticed the man on the edge of the field with his children and felt that the conversation could have moved to deeper issues because of the man’s openness. So, he again wrestled with intruding upon his family time or even being bothersome, but finally realized this was about this man’s eternity. Dan mentioned to Jim, one of the missionaries on the field, that he might want to speak to the man, that he could speak a little English, but that they could probably have a better conversation in French. So Jim went to speak to him.

    About this time, the stomach virus hit Rachael hard, and she was beginning to feel really ill, so Dan excused himself and headed over to help her. Unfortunately, the stomach bug got the best of her and we decided it would be best to take her back to the hotel to get some medicine and rest before she became dehydrated. As we were leaving, we noticed that Jim and our new friend were still talking.

    Later, we found out the rest of the story…that North African daddy was a second generation Muslim. He was born in France, and really didn’t identify strongly with Islam. (Much like we have people in America who are “cultural Christians.”) He knew he wanted to raise his children with some kind of faith, but he didn’t know what. So the missionary told him the beautiful story of the Bible…from Creation to Christ. He told him about Jesus for the first time. And this man believed. Meet our new brother in Christ and his children:

    What an amazing, transforming experience for all who were involved or who got to observe. Dan asked himself for days afterward what would have been lost if he hadn’t just tried to speak to him, if he hadn’t urged the missionary to go meet him, too. He was reminded that we serve a faithful God, one who rewards our faithfulness to the Gospel even though we don’t always get to see the fruit like we did here. God is so kind to use us in His wonderful plan of bringing people into the Kingdom. 

    We’ve shared with you some of the most wonderful parts of our trip…now let us tell you about the difficult parts. As we mentioned before, this trip was not the same experience for us. The men are eager to talk, especially to Americans. They have lots of time to sit in tea rooms and in cafes, chatting about religion and spiritual matters. The women do not. They are busy, and if you can even get them to stop for a brief encounter, the moment you turn the conversation to spiritual matters, they clam up. “I know nothing,” they’ll say. “Ask my husband.” 

    This resulted in Dan having several great conversations and invigorating encounters with the nationals, while Rachael did not. The women wouldn’t talk, didn’t want to talk. She learned much about praying and planting seeds, without seeing any fruit. 

    We were also surprised as we encountered a higher level of adversity than we expected. Every single day, there was some sort of incident. They varied in type and intensity, from men soliciting the women on our team (because we’re from American, and they assume that American women are promiscuous like the ones they see in the movies), to having bags of liquid and bottles thrown down at us from windows high in the projects, to being asked to leave some areas by security guards. It was an eye-opening experience for us to live like that…but still we shared Jesus. It didn’t stop us from focusing solely on sharing Jesus. 

    And then we had to ask ourselves….if we are willing to keep on telling these people about Jesus, even when they don’t speak our language and swear allegiance to Allah and throw things at us and say bad words to us….if we are willing to do that HERE, then what is wrong with us when we are at home? Certainly we should be able to share more often, more strongly, more openly when we speak the same language and experience ZERO persecution. It changes things, you know.

    Speaking of being changed, the Lord was so good to answer our prayers and not let us leave Paris unchanged. Each day, He refined us and stretched us. One of the things we asked you to pray for specifically was that this trip would give us a vision for what God has for us in the future of our ministry. Before coming to seminary, we surrendered ourselves completely to God. We told Him that we would go wherever He wanted us to go, even if that was to the other side of the world. We took this trip to France specifically because it is one of the countries we might be sent to in the next few years. Before we left, we asked God (and we asked YOU to ask Him) to show us His face while we were in France. Indeed He answered those prayers, but not quite in the way we would have expected. 

    In truth, we expected a confirmation from the Lord that we were supposed to go overseas. We expected Him to give us a vision for the specific people group He wanted us to serve. And, of course God spoke to us, but He didn’t say quite what we imagined. Instead, we heard Him tell us to slow down. He told us that He wants us to always be willing, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to go now. He is showing us that His timetable is different from ours. He is telling us to wait and to be patient and still. He is telling us to eat the daily bread that He gives us and wait expectantly for Him tomorrow. We do know that He wants us to have a heart for the nations – but He also rekindled in us a love for the country that we live in now. He broke our heart for those closest to us that might not know Him. He gave us a vision for how we might impact the next generation, for how we might impart to them a worldview that encompasses sharing the gospel with all peoples. 

    We thought that we would live out the Great Commission overseas; as it turns out, we might be doing that closer to home. The fact is, we don’t know. However, we do know the Lord of the Harvest, and we have told Him that we’ll go where He sends. Perhaps that will be 100 miles away; perhaps it will be 100,000 miles away. What we’ve learned is that distance doesn’t matter much to our God. He just wants us to love people as He loves them, whether they speak our heart language or not. This trip was about choosing to give our “Yes!” to God, whether that takes us overseas or to sweet home Alabama. 

    It was about taking joy in the fact that we know nothing about our future, and that He knows it all. It was about learning to hear God separately and together. It was about hearing Him say “Stop,” or “Wait,” as willingly as we hear Him say, “Go.”

    Thank you for supporting us, with your money and with your prayers. You have made an eternal impact on the Kingdom of God. We know of one soul in France who will live eternally because of your giving; who knows how many more seeds were planted? You have taught us so much through this process. 
    You have taught us about what it means to sacrificially give, and to fervently pray. We are in awe of you as the Body of Christ and how you have done your job so well. Thank you for letting us be the hands and feet this time. 

    Please let us know when it is your turn to go, for we will surely support you, too.
    Much love,
    Dan & Rachael