Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A visual history of my trip to Ithaca SO FAR

As the first half of my two-week excursion to the East Coast comes to a close, I am realizing just how long such a vacation, especially without my husband for the second half, can be! But it's been a lot of fun and I'm grateful for the opportunity to see lots of family and friends!

Here are some highlights...


Tim preparing for his role as sommelier during dinner with the whole fam, minus Jane and James



Timm and Karen have a very serious conversation; Mike examines his piece of garlic bread









Sarah and me; can't believe she's almost 8!






Grandpa Bill and Grandma Enid's (Mary's parents) new rental house in Brooktondale! Word has it their flat screen TV is a favorite with little girls...

Tim and Mike are in awe of Rebekah's skills at her volleyball game

Anna and me at the game; she's a Cornell freshman now, continuing the Psiaki legacy on crew



Mandy, Dave, Tim and me at Purity Ice Cream, one of our favorite places! It was so great to spend time with them for a couple of days!












Surprise!



Brothers


Karen and Mike, Dave and Mandy, me and Tim (bad grammar, I know, but that's the order!)


Time to unwind












We went apple picking at Littletree, my favorite u-pick farm! Sarah shows off her 1/2 bushel bag


















Tim helps Lydia reach the best apples







Lydia in the apple barn; I still have a bunch of dried statice from this place!









The apple cider doughnuts are half the fun!













Shelby the new dog does his version of Superman


Humphrey is not easily impressed






Tim, aka Mr. Fix-It, works on his parents' "new" 1840s table. The thing has something like 6 leaves and expands to the length of the entire room!












This is as close as Jenny's belly will let me come!


The happy parents-t0-be! If the baby comes on time, which will be Thursday, she and Matt will have the same birthday. I'm leaving Ithaca on Saturday, so I told Jenny I was giving her two extra days. Meanwhile, we're rounding up all the labor-inducing old wives' tales we can find...










View of the Washington Monument from the Smithsonian Freer Gallery, where I spent part of Monday afternoon. After dropping Tim off at the Binghamton airport on Sunday (people with real jobs don't get to take such long vacations!) I continued down to DC to visit Krista, Dorsy and Haven. It was beautiful weather and a fun, quick trip!

More to come!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A new heart for Seattle

Tonight I was driving home from my friend Chelsa's house in West Seattle, which is the little "thumb" that sticks up southwest of the city, separated by Elliot Bay. She lives in a precious little apartment on a street not unlike ours in Queen Anne, with great big trees and cute old houses. The sun had set by the time I headed home (we made my favorite Moosewood lentil soup together for dinner) and I was struck by the awesome view of downtown Seattle from that neighborhood and the highway as I was traveling east. Something compelled me to pray for the city as I passed its lights and tall buildings. I don't really feel like I'm part of Seattle now that we live in Bellevue. At the time that we moved, I felt like I had been burned by the city. We had a horrible thing happen to us, and really, when we moved across the water I truly felt like we were "getting out."

But I think God is working in my heart to let go of that bitterness. Seattle can be a very dark place, with the pain of homelessness, violence, and addiction very apparent sometimes. The hearty folk of the often gloomy Pacific Northwest seem to pride themselves on getting by on their own strength. They put a lot of stock into their individuality, especially in pursuits like art and music. But I know there is a lot of emptiness in those things. Many man-made things are worthy of admiration, but they don't ultimately offer us joy.

But there is a lot of beauty here, too--in the majestic peaks of the mountains, which turn purple at sunset; the sun glinting off the water; the ever-present evergreens that just give me a peaceful feeling. I'm thankful that we live here. It will probably take more time for the effects of our break-in back in February to completely dissipate, but I'm trying to let go of my bitterness toward the city and pray for it instead.

Bellevue Proxy & Worship

Some of you know that right after moving to Seattle Tim and I got involved with Mars Hill Church. We found an awesome community group (like a small group bible study with people in our neighborhood) and made some close friends who have still been a big part of our lives, now that we've moved to Bellevue. I can't believe we made the move nearly 6 months ago!



Mars Hill is a multi-site campus church, meaning it takes the approach of having campuses throughout the city of Seattle. There are about 7 now, I think, including a campus that is starting up in Olympia. It took us a while to decide whether to start attending the Bellevue campus of Mars Hill instead of the Downtown campus our old community group was affiliated with. We were serving in the children's ministry of Downtown and felt connected there. We were still attending our Tuesday night community group in our old Queen Anne neighborhood. But as we took a look at what our real community is -- the Eastside -- we decided this summer that it was time to make the switch. You can read a little about that process in my post to the Downtown campus blog here.



Anyway, we feel very blessed to be living in Bellevue. One of the things that's great is that we're able to explore areas of ministry we feel called to, but didn't have the opportunity to do while we were living in Seattle.



For me this means joining the volunteer leadership of the Bellevue youth group, called Proxy (the name indicates Jesus' work as a proxy for us on the cross, dying in place of us for the atonement of sin). I have been wanting to do this since we moved to Seattle because I had been involved with the youth ministry at our church in Ithaca and really enjoyed it. But I couldn't get involved with a youth group at the Downtown campus because most of the kids are under 5 years old! So I was excited to learn that the Bellevue campus had teenagers.



While I don't think I'm necessarily "gifted" in all the crazy youth group antics--you won't see me standing up in front of the group making jokes--I remember what junior high and high school were like. I had people who took an interest in me and invested in my life, and that's what I want to do for the girls in Proxy. I also led a girls' bible study and loved building those relationships, so that's what I'm going to focus on in Bellevue.



For Tim this means pursuing a place in the worship ministry. When we were first getting started last fall, the idea of Tim's new job + our new city + our new marriage did not = a lot of time for worship practice and all the red tape our church (often rightly so) makes people go through to get involved in specific areas of ministry. But now that the multi-site model has taken off, worship is no longer centralized, which means Tim can contact the folks at our home campus instead of going through the "main" campus in Ballard.



It's been kind of slow going, in part because of the summer, but Tim is excited to get involved with leading worship here in Bellevue. I know he is really gifted in this area and am so glad he's got the opportunity. It's a promising new season!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Be friends with my blog!

I never put a counter on this blog to record traffic because I didn't know how. And to be honest, I really have no idea who reads it, besides my parents and my mother-in-law (and a handful of very sweet friends).

So, if you'd like to become a "follower" of this blog, you can click the Followers link on the left side and become its friend. Then I will know that you are reading, and so will everyone else! I think there's also an anonymous option for non-joiners.

We'll see how this works. If I don't get many "followers" it may prove too much of a strain on my self-esteem and I'll have to remove the feature. And probably eat a whole tub of ice cream. Just warning you.

Mom's visit and Yankees game



Here we are at the marina on Bainbridge Island.

My mom came to visit over Labor Day weekend. We had a great time eating out at one of our new favorite Kirkland restaurants, bin vivant, which is "vinocentric" and offers awesome flights of wine. Tim and I actually went twice that week because I wrote about it for Seattle mag's November issue.

Plus, we did a little shopping and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island, where we had brunch and spent the afternoon exploring the little downtown area of the main city, which I think is also called Bainbridge Island. Or Winslow. Not too sure.

Last Sunday Tim and I went to the Yankees v. Mariners game, which was pretty fun even though the Yanks lost. I know very little about baseball but am happy to cheer for them for Tim's sake. Word on the street is that the playoffs aren't in the cards. Oh well!

Safeco Field. Pretty swank. Also, we got to sit about 25 rows behind home plate, which was awesome.

Yay. We were not the only Yankees fans! Although we did sit next to this eight-year-old kid who was cheering for both sides while wearing a Tampa Bay hat.

Where else but Seattle can you get Thai food at a baseball game?












Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Woo hoo!

1. pool & water aerobics
2. cycling
3. rowing
4. weights
5. rollerblading

Those are the things, according to my new doctor, that I can now do every other day! Woo hoo!

I am so excited. The last five weeks or so have been really hard since I haven't been able to do any cardiovascular exercise. I have been praying a lot and trying to be content with this season. At times I was looking for a reason why "this happened to me," i.e., What is God trying to teach me? Am I so stubborn that this has taken 8 months so far? Can't he just be more obvious so I can learn whatever it is that I need to learn and get on with my life?

As we've been talking about Jonah and prayer in church, I've come to see that working out/being fit/looking good has been something I've put a lot of stock in. It became a huge part of my identity. But over the last year God has been stripping those things away, and I don't have them to rely on anymore. I'm seeing a transformation in how I view myself (though it's been anything but easy and peaceful) and also in my attitude about things. At first I was really bummed about not running, but after having no activity at all, I'm super psyched that I can even buy a swimsuit and do laps, one of the least enjoyable (to me) options!

It's not true that when God takes something away (or something difficult happens to you) that, once you draw closer to him and learn what he has for you, he'll give it back. I have a tendency to think, Okay God, I think I get it, can I have my normal, comfortable life back now? Returning to normal becomes the goal, rather than changing my heart. I'm praying that this is not my attitude. But I am so glad I got another opinion about my knee and have been cleared to do something! I am going to start PT again at another place, and also try acupuncture. Hey, at this point I'll go for anything that sounds half sane!

Thanks to those of you who have been thinking about me and praying through this time. I don't know how far my road to recovery will take me (running a few times a week, someday?) but I am grateful to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow I have a date with the erg!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Leeches

When I was at the PNWA writers' conference in July, the first presenter I went to said that first novels are often a bloodletting, which I took to mean a vehicle for getting out everything a particular writer has ever wanted to say, resulting in something profuse and messy.

Uh oh.

I can see how it would be that way. I'm not so old, but almost a quarter century, and like everyone else in the world I have a particular set of experiences, a particular point of view, a particular voice. What I've tried to do in my first novel is pull different threads for a colorful, textured result. What my readers have helped me identify are the indulgent parts where I need to take myself out of it and let the story breathe on its own more, so that's what I'm working on this week. But I think I've been fairly successful in gathering up snippets of real life, mine and others', and layering them together with the story I've created.

And it's true that I feel like I've gotten something out and now I can move on. There are certain motifs I'll probably always return to, like setting and the dynamics of family relationships, because those things are meaningful and interesting to me. But already, having started my second novel project, I can tell that I feel free to explore some different things and delve into other concepts I've wanted to explore, but was waiting for the right project and the right time. When I started my first novel I wasn't sure how I'd ever come up with an idea for a second, but lo and behold, I did. I plan on making this a career, so hopefully the well won't run dry any time soon!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reckless Faith by Beth Guckenberger

When my mom came out to see us this past weekend she brought a book called Reckless Faith by Beth Guckenberger. Beth's husband Todd was my 6th grade social studies teacher, and since then (though certainly not a direct result of having me as a student!) they have been living in Mexico and working with orphaned children with the organization Back2Back Ministries. The school actually sends down crews of students for work weeks and I went when I was in 7th grade. Beth's book is a collection of her experiences in ministering to orphans and practically caring for them by providing food, shelter and education, all in Jesus' name. If you click on the title of this post you'll get a new window with more info about the book from the publisher, Zondervan.

The book is also about having reckless faith--faith that follows God down the dark paths, where you can't see your way out. That's exciting, but also very scary, because don't we all want to be in control of our own path? That's the American way. But it's not God's way.

I just want to include here a few snippets from the book that I found especially powerful, even hundreds of miles away from Mexico, in my life where I don't regularly have any contact with orphans.

From Chapter 10:

Faith is the gas that makes your spiritual journey go.

How reckless can your faith actually get? It's measured by the extent to which you really believe God's plan for you is the best. It requires the kind of faith that believes God's words are not empty promises meant for someone else. It's the kind of faith that says, "Everything will work out in the end"--even if "the end" is eternity.

Over and over again God teaches me that for those with reckless faith, the story is never over. It's childish to throw in the towel, pout, get frustrated, or walk away. Life isn't a puzzle that's too hard or a toy you can't figure out. But so often, I'm tempted to lose faith when I'm confronted with a setback.

When I relax my control on the plotline of my life and give in to the journey God has prepared for me, I lose myself in all the great stories swirling around me. When I stomp my feet and say, "That's not fair!" or "It wasn't supposed to happen that way!" then I run out of gas, and my spiritual journey stalls.

But God is teaching me, one child [or, in my case, trial] at a time, that he is the Author of life and can redeem and write any story he wants.

--

Is my faith reckless enough to trust first and think second? Can I grow faith strong enough (like a muscle) that when it has to pick up a heavy reality, I can easily lift it and still have hope? That doesn't mean I don't think about consequences and pain, but I layer those on top of faith instead of the other way around. When we try to lay our faith on top, all the doubts and questions on the bottom make for an unstable foundation, and it almost always cracks. But when we have faith at the base, the questions, when they come, don't insist on being answered right away.

--

Reckless faith isn't fake. It doesn't pretend. It feels deeply and lives fully. It asks questions and cries out and tests boundaries. It has dynamic conversations with God. It molds its understanding as it encounters new situations and experiences new growth. "God has a plan" is not a cliche or Band-aid you put on wounds that aren't healing.

"God has a plan" is a mantra for a way of life that says you don't have to have all the answers to proceed.

--

Thank you, Beth, and thanks for the work you and Todd are doing to be God's hands and feet for children in Mexico.