Saturday, November 27, 2010

Zero to Fifty Nine

Lorien really took off walking over Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, she put a half-dozen steps together for the first time. By Saturday night, she did fifty nine in a row!

"Before" Part Two: Downstairs

More "before" pictures: 

The front of the house ... or PART of the front of the house, anyway.
My lens wouldn't allow me to get the whole thing.
I promise I will get a good one soon. 

Just inside the front door is the living room. 

Another view of the living room, from the top of the stairs.
This gives you a perspective on how the living and dining rooms
are laid out. For reference, the front door is out of view
in the bottom right of the photo. 

Dining room with our craigslist table and free hutch.
I have big plans for the hutch, and it will not be the
same color when I am through. 

Family room, with the kitchen counter in the bottom right. 

Another view of the family room. Sliding patio door has already been
replaced, thanks to Josh and my dad. 

View from the family room: you can see the kitchen on the left
and barely see the living room beyond the stairs. 

Still to come: I need to post shots of the kitchen, basement and yard. 

"Before" Part Two: Upstairs

I took the whole week of Thanksgiving off and spent some time hanging out with Lorien and working on stuff around the house. We've reached a new plateau, of sorts: Most everything is unpacked and put away, but almost nothing has been personalized. All of these big, blank ivory walls feel like empty canvases to me, and I am just itching to put some color and some art on them. 

The last time I posted interior pictures of the house, the previous owner's stuff was still all over the place, so I thought this would be a good time to post another round, now that it's really ours and before we begin in earnest the work we want to do on it. So here is round two of "before" pictures. 

Lorien's room. It is the only room we painted before we moved in.
It's light yellow with a white faux finish. 

Her quilt is also one of the only things we've hung on the walls so far.
Still to do in this room: curtains, throw pillows for the window seat
and other wall hangings. It is a sweet, bright cheery room. 

Guest room. The walls and ceiling of this one need some repair work.

Office. This desk was a craigslist purchase that looks like it was MADE to fit
in this room. So excited about that, even if it is vintage 90s. Still to do
in this room: paint, art, curtains, and some fun stuff like
chalkboard paint on the closet doors, I think. 

Guest bath. We are all using this shower/tub because the master bath shower is not functional yet. 

Just want to point out that it came with a very snazzy toilet seat... 

... and a very bad tile job. :( 

Master bedroom

and another view

and another. I don't have a vision yet for colors in here. 

Master bath, with what Josh refers to as my redneck carpet job.
It's two different remnants covering the floor  until we are able to tile it. 

And here is the lovely project that greeted us in the master bath
when we ripped  up the old carpet. Gonna have to do a little more
demolition to find out the extent of the damage. Fun stuff.
We already have the new tile purchased, and I love it! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...

... from our house to yours!

For the first time since we have been together, Josh and I both had our families on the other end of the country while we were here in Colorado. So we spent a lovely day with our Institute family at the home of the Lelands. I think there were about 25 people there for dinner, which feels about right to me.

Becca and I collaborated on Thanksgiving dinner, and I made my first turkey ever. I used the Pioneer Woman's brining recipe as well as her roasting instructions, and I was very pleased with the results (even though Josh thought the brining process looked like soaking the turkey in pond water overnight). Most of the guests brought food to share, so there was plenty to eat! For my first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I was glad not to have to do it all on my own after all. And I feel much more confident than I did before today that I could pull off the whole shebang if I had to.

I am not sure how to elaborate on this without sounding wordy and trite, so I will simply say it: I have so much to be thankful for! For example...

Mmmmmmm...pumpkin pie.
(Which mom will also be having for breakfast all weekend, of course.)

"How ya feelin', Patrick?"
"Like I'm in my first trimester."

Estudiantes :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Things Grief Writes

This fall, I’ve been following the story of an FLI alumnus who lost his 33-year-old wife to a perfect storm of epileptic seizures and cardiac arrest in early October.

I. Can’t. Even. Imagine.

Grief is one thing. Grief of that kind is just beyond me.

There are so many things I could say in response to Brad’s story, and I have hesitated to write anything, because I don’t want to exploit it. But here’s something that keeps coming back: I noticed a long time ago that writing that comes out of grief is different from any other kind of writing. To be precise, I guess most people in deep grief don't write. At least not publicly. And those who dare to put their feelings on a page spew everything from disbelief to sadness to rage. But there is a quality about their words that is often more raw and real than most other things we read or write.

Have you ever read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis? It’s a very raw travelogue through his grief after the death of his wife Joy. He kind of goes crazy in it. That, and his theology gets pretty bad. It’s that book that made me realize that, at times like that, good theology is not really the point. Relationship with God is. And we have a God who can handle all of the wild emotion we can throw at Him in our grief. Thank goodness.

Maybe my favorite treatment of grief ever is Sheldon VanAuken’s in A Severe Mercy. He also loses his wife, and rather than writing in the midst of his grief, he looks back years later on the process of grieving and shares how he walked through that season of his life. It is beautiful. One of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

While I’m on the topic, the song “Hard to Get” by Rich Mullins isn’t specifically about grief, but it is amazing. And I know of at least two people for whom this song was very cathartic when they were going through seasons of painful loss.

I say all of that to say this former student, Brad, has been blogging about his story, and I think that some of the things he has written are right up there with the pieces I just mentioned as far as a biblical, heartfelt, really honest treatment of grief goes. (If you want to read the story, the posts about losing Stephanie start on October 4. Or just click on the heading "Stephanie.") I particularly like the entries Can’t and Emotions. (OK, maybe "like" isn’t the right word. But they are good. Very good.)

Brad and his kids Brady and Halle have been on my mind and in my prayers a lot this fall. For their sake—and all of our sakes—I am thankful that God made grief as the process by which he heals us after a loss. A lot of times I think, Why that process? Couldn’t there be something easier? Or more pleasant? Or that made more sense? But, mysterious and maddening as it may be, grief is what he gives us, so it’s what we’re stuck with. And, thanks be to God, it does bring healing if we let him have his way in us through our grief.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Love My Job

For five years I have been heading up the alumni program at Focus Leadership Institute. I think I can safely say that—besides my family—it has the most potential of anything I have ever had the chance to invest myself in.

In our 15-year history, we have graduated just over 3000 students. My very first semester on staff, God gave me a vision of what it might look like if each of those students simply went where He called them and used the gifts He gave them to the best of their ability. The possibilities are truly astounding. I mean, if that were to happen, changing our culture for good could be a reality and not just a good idea. I really believe that.

So, after spending my summer absorbed in event planning for our big alumni reunion, I was excited to use my time this fall working on big-picture projects on the alumni front. First order of business was to get some better communication tools. I’m convinced that the best way to help our alumni make a difference in their world is to create synergy—to help them generate ideas together and act on those ideas, to enable them to hire and mentor one another, to help them build community together across classes. But to do that most effectively, we need a serious upgrade in our online communications. To make a very long story short: I am working on those things, but God also had other plans for my fall.

Unfortunately, those plans came about through a reduction in force on our staff. It’s no secret that in this kind of economy, nonprofits suffer. And in higher education, schools have a hard time filling seats. Being part non-profit and part higher ed, FLI kind of got slammed in both ways. So we lost our Director of Professional Practicums. And three other staffers. Which was heartbreaking. The fallout was that, suddenly, I was responsible for coordinating all of our student internships. Talk about the last thing I expected...

But, holy cow, do I love it! First, it gets me closer to the classroom than I have been since student teaching 12 years ago. (I even like grading papers again.) And it completely thrills me to see students figuring out what they’re gifted at and how they can best put their gifts to work.

And through site visits, I get to build relationships with some great local organizations. Plus, I just love learning new things about areas which fascinate me, even though I will never work in them. For example...

Last week, I visited Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, where I met some of the staff and learned about their operations. (And I got to hang out in a barn in the cold, which totally felt like home.) I was amazed that all of their horses are donated. The stories of how the horses got there are so cool, especially since horses used in therapy sessions must be perfectly “sound,” i.e. their gait has to be totally even and stable, so no injured or deformed horses can be used. And why is that? Because riding a horse with a healthy walking rhythm helps a child who can't walk to internalize the feeling of walking normally. Which can eventually help the child to actually walk normally. I had no idea!

Beka is the intern assigned there, and I got to watch her assist with two different therapy sessions. She had told me before that she doesn’t often get details on the conditions of the riders, because it would violate their medical privacy. However, during the second session, the rider’s name was Tyra, and I got to stand next to her mom while I watched, and mom was totally happy to fill me in on the details.

Tyra is 8 years old. She has two different syndromes which both result in very low muscle tone. She has been doing therapeutic riding for about 18 months total, over the course of 3 or 4 years. When she started riding, she could barely stand on her own and definitely couldn’t walk. Within months, she could walk on her own. Now her therapists are working on core strength in hopes that she will eventually be able to form words (she is currently vocal, but not verbal). I was enlightened again. Who knew that core muscle strength had anything to do with the ability to speak? Tyra’s mom says hippatherapy has helped her more than any other kind of therapy she has been in, because she loves the horses, so she’s very motivated to work at her therapy.

Sorry for the poor pics—all I had was my phone.

Beka is the one in the white hat and black jacket.
And that's Tyra on the horse.

Then, yesterday, I got to visit Pine Creek High School, where Whitney is interning in Sports Medicine. She works with student athletes during games and in preparation for practice. And she gets to teach the students in the Athletic Training class. This week’s topic was spineboarding:

Whitney is at the head of the "injured" player, leading the team of future trainers in stabilizing him and securing him on the spine board.

Whitney has told me from the beginning of the semester that she loves medicine and she wants to use her position as an athletic trainer to minister to high school and college athletes. It was fun to watch her assume leadership in the classroom so naturally and walk this group of students through a pretty complex procedure. And along the way, I heard her interact with the students about not only their sports, but also about troubles they were having with their families, etc. Yep, I’d say she’s doing what she set out to do.

I should also mention that both of these students are in my small group that meets at our house on Wednesday nights. We're studying community in the early church. I can't explain how much I love it. Eating, laughing, praying and studying Scripture together with my students makes the classroom and internship stuff even more meaningful to me and to them.

So, while I’m a little overwhelmed by the combination of my new responsibilites and my old ones, it helps an awful lot that I love both. And I can’t wait to see how networking with great organizations and networking with alumni ends up creating even more opportunities than I ever had before.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This past week brought a visit from one of my oldest friends. Not that Beccy is old. :) Just that our friendship is a good, long one. We have been friends since I was 13, I think.

She and her boys took a little detour from their trip to Denver and came to stay with us for a few nights. Two things about that: 1) Lorien loves having other kids here to play with, and 2) It is a bit harder to find good girl talk time with three little ones running around, but we did find some, and it was so good for my heart.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Breakfast with Uncle Doug

My brother Douglas lives in New Dehli, India, and teaches at the American Embassy school there. But this past week, he was in Spokane, Wash., for a professional conference and this morning he had a three-hour layover in Denver on his way back to India. So we got to meet him at the airport and have breakfast together. It was a very nice visit!

We stepped outside so that Doug could get a glimpse of the mountains.
It was a beautiful day!

Showing off her walking skills. She still needs a hand, though.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I had a conversation with a student today about identity. It's something we talk about a lot. Probably because our twenties are so much about discovering/forming/understanding our identities, so that's what these students are doing.

But in the middle of a sentence, I realized that I was talking about this student's sense of identity when I really meant his sense of worth. As in it's OK for your identity to be defined--at least somewhat--by what you do, but it's not really OK for your sense of worth to be defined by what you do.

But now I'm wondering... what really is the difference between identity and worth? And is the thought that I had valid?