Monday, June 15, 2009

Birth Announcement

Claire Genevieve Larson

has arrived

June 16, 2009 at 10:52pm
8 pounds, 2 ounces, and 19.5 inches

When our little Claire came out from the womb, she came out with a fist first, which seemed to sum up the feeling in the room. Yes! We did it! Team Larson did it! The entire labor was an incredible experience. I will cherish those hard but wonderful memories forever. Joel was amazing! He just kicked into gear and knew exactly what to do, how to help me through my entire progression of labor, and to just jump in and bond with Claire right away.

I had my moments of self doubt through labor, and I can not even begin to imagine giving birth without Joel and our Doula (and friend), Polly, there. I had so much love and support around me! They were my backbone of physical help and encouragment. They were God's angels to me. The hospital staff was absolutely phenomenal, and even though I didn't expect it, our entire natural birth plan happened so perfectly that I still feel in shock at how well everything went. There were so mnay answered prayers down to the tiny details, that I am just praising God with joy! Giving birth to Claire was the most beautiful, and wonderful accomplishment for me as a woman. I am so happy!

Claire is precious, making sweet little sounds, staring at Joel and I. We all feel so connected. I keep calling her my little champ because she just seems so strong, and patient with us as we are new to all this parenting. She is taking to everything so well!

We are tired, of course, and time.... oh my, where does the time keep going? There are so many I want to call and share with, but I'm sleeping (recovering), trying to eat, or with Claire. We have been home now for a day, and it's very restful at home, so we are all glad to be home recovering and resting as much as possible.

We'll post more photos soon, and give updates:-) Thank you to everyone for your love, and support. For those of you who prayed for us, I am forever, forever, forever grateful. I only wish I could have let you all know things sooner, but God answered prayers! Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we make these wonderful family transitions. God was completely, and is still with us. God's presence has been so sweet, and sustaining in our little family!

41 Weeks

Our little girl is now 41 weeks old and still baking in the oven. We personally think she will be here this week, but of course recognize that only the good Lord knows everything.

Carrying this baby has been incredible! I just love watching little limbs poke and move across my belly. Joel and I are always trying to guess, "was that a foot?, an elbow?, her little rump?". We never quite know, but it's fun to guess and talk to her when she is so active. She has certainly moved down. I can breathe easier, and at least eat without getting heart burn. Now I just can't hold much in the bladder :-)

All my checkups have been great and water levels and position are excellent. It's crazy that I've gained 35 pounds! But that is ok, I guess, because I haven't felt too large. I've been really blessed not to have much swelling in my feet or anything like that. I thought I was doing great on stretch marks, but of course just about three weeks ago, right at the end, they came. I hear that they do fade, and seriously having the joy of a child far outweighs anything like stretch marks! She is worth every single one of them!

Joel and I led worship together for an Alpha church event, and it was neat to be leading others in worship, with this little blessing in my womb, singing to the Lord. After worship some people prayed for our birth and little girl. They spoke blessing about the joy she would be to us and others, and I really believe that she will be a beacon of joy and life in our family, and to the world around her. She is certainly "ours" in a certainl sense, but I know there will be times as she gets older and older, that it will become more obvious that she belongs to God first, and is to be shared with others. I think she will have lots of her "dad's" qualities in giving and serving others.

We picked out a special "Life Hymn" for her. I had originally picked "It is Well with My Soul", but Joel pointed out "Fairest Lord Jesus" and that is just perfect. It's just right for the meaning of the name we have chosen for her. So "Fairest" it will be :-) I think it's special that her "daddy" thought of it. Worship is such a dear thing to our hearts, and we hope that will be part of our children's lives too, so we have picked out a meaningful hymn for her. We hope the words mean as much to her some day, as they mean to us, or even more.

The last month of pregnancy has been quite a bit harder on me than I was expecting. I have a certain reserve of energy each day to spend, and it does not seem to be a very big reserve. I've had a considerable amount of back pain, so I'm not as active as I was in my earlier months. I try to walk some every day, but no more four mile walks! I hope our girl will not be blaming me for any ice-cream addictions in the future. I have my mom to blame for mine ;-) She said she ate a-lot of ice cream when I was in the womb. I don't eat as much as I would like to eat, but I certainly eat it... and think about it all the time :-) Has anyone eaten the Double Rainbow brand at Trader Joe's? Yeah, that's what I like!

Two weeks ago, I was a bit frantic, pulling all the last little details together, but since she is "past due" Joel and I are both enjoying some down time, and rest. All the big stuff feels ready, and we are all studied up for this birth. Joel has had a crazy year, really. This past week he finished teaching third grade, and he has been going through adrenaline crash, and trying to shake a sniffly nose. I would say he is beating it, but it's still hanging on just a bit. He is still teaching guitar, and putting in 20 hours of work at the church each week, but finishing up third grade teaching was a big relief! June 30th, he goes full-time at the church, which is really exciting for us, but we are glad for a little more time before the 30th to focus on our family more!

We have been really blessed to meet a woman at church who offered us her Doula services for free during our birth. People usually pay $500-$1000 for this! We wanted a Doula, but had ruled it out for budget reasons. It's just one of the many ways God has been showing us his provision!

We have the cloth diapers all ready and the colorful little covers are all so cute. I put so much research into it all, it was fun to have it all come together, finally! The natural birth and baby care really fits me, since I have been moving in that direction for myself since my early twenties. I must admit I'm so happy Joel doesn't resist it all, or think I'm half crazy:-) But, I don't find anything more annoying than people who come across as "know-it-alls" with the "natural approach" and put guilt trips on people who make different choices. I'm so happy that our class instructor never came across like that, and our Doula doesn't act like that at all. I get a little nervous that the hospital staff will label us as "another snobby bradley method couple", but I'm trusting God about this, and maybe it will help that Joel and I realize that we have done tons of studying, but we are not experts. Just trying to make the best choices we know how to make for "our family". I think my conversations with my doctors have gone really well about our "birth plan" so far and there seems to be mutual respect. I feel that God will surround us with just the right staff, as we have been praying when we go into labor.

Well that is a long winded update, done just like a long winded "Darr" :-) We feel so excited to hold our girl soon. My parents are in Arizona visiting family, until I give them the call that I'm going into labor, and Joel's parents are standing by the phone back in Ohio. It will be special to have grandparents meet her so soon! We will make sure to share our news as soon as we can with all our family and freinds! I'm quite confident this will be the last pre-birth update. Love you all!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Whole Grain Discovery with Blender Batter Pancakes or Waffles

This is not just a recipe, but an explained recipe, and it reminds me of those "choose your own adventure" books in elementary I always loved. I've included all the variations in this recipe, but once you know your favorite way(s) to prepare this, you can condense it to a 3x5 card with no problems. It's really not as daunting as it looks... ok, maybe the first time it is. Learning something new is always a bit confusing and harder, but hang in there. It's all worth it in taste, and before you know it, making these pancakes / waffles will take less time than other more "classic" recipes.

This is a Sue Gregg Recipe, not my own, but I did throw my own twists and explanations into it. This recipe also calls for "soaking the grains". This may sound foreign, but whole grains are excellent for us to eat, as long as we know a few things about preparing them properly. Soaking is part of that preparation, and a breeze with these pancakes/waffles, and an open mindedness to doing things a little differently than we are used to in the kitchen.

Check out Sue's link for more information on soaking which she refers to as the "Two Stage Process:

This recipe makes for a delicious breakfast that will start your day off right. I really do believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that cereal along with other processed on- the-go food should be more an exception than the rule for our health's sake. Cereal is highly processed! and nutritionally inferior to something like eggs, cooked whole oats, some fruit, yogurt, these pancakes... I know people love their cereal, they are actually passionate about cereal, my husband was one of them! I'm just saying it would be in our health's interest to start trying other things in the morning too. To eat in the morning is good. To eat less processed food in the morning is even better:-) Our health and energy through the day will always thank us for a wholesome breakfast, but it seems to be the meal most of us give the least consideration.

I've been discovering the land of whole grain goodness the last half year, and it has been so fun, not to mention both nutritious and frugal too. I never knew there were so many grains available to us other than wheat, and rice. Until a year ago, I only knew grains in their refined and processed form of flour, and I wasn't even sure what a wheat berry looked like! Or, exactly what it was? "Is it a grain or a fruit?" I was asking myself. Just like any food group like cheese, or vegetables, each individual grain has it's own unique qualities, characteristics, tastes, and textures. Your favorite grains, may be different than mine, or you may prefer one over the other depending on the recipe. I found this breakfast recipe is one of the easiest ways to jump into the land of grain discovery. Start tasting the goodness if you haven't already!

Blender Batter Pancakes/Waffles

AMOUNT: 3 - 4 Servings ( 8- 6" pancakes or 3 to 4- 7" waffles )

1. Place in blender; blend at highest speed 3 minutes (less in a Vita-Mix or Bosch blender), while adding enough liquid to maintain a vortex:

For pancakes: 1 cup, or for waffles: 1 ¼ cup: buttermilk or yogurt thinned with water to same consistency, or kefir (non-dairy allergy alternatives: rice, coconut, or almond milk, apple sauce + 1 Tbsp. vinegar)

1 tablespoon olive, grape seed, or coconut oil (grape seed, and coconut are more stable oils for high heat cooking later)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional for flavor, omit with buckwheat)

½ tablespoon flax seeds (optional for added nutrition)

1 cup total of a variation of raw, whole, uncooked grains (not flour!). This could be ½ cup each of two different grains, or 1/3 cup each of three different grains. Just make sure how ever many grains you combine, it equals 1 cup.

Some grains to experiment with: rolled, steel cut, or whole oats (not quick oats), millet, hulled (not pearled) barley, spelt, kamut, hard or soft wheat, buckwheat, brown rice… The grains you choose will vary the taste and texture. For those who are gluten intolerant try gluten free grains: brown rice, corn, and millet.

Some combination ideas:
½ cup oats & ½ cup buckwheat
½ cup brown rice & ½ cup barley
1/3 cup barley, 1/3 cup oats & 1/3 cup spelt (my personal favorite so far)
1/3 cup soft winter wheat, 1/3 cup brown rice, 1/3 cup oats

Or just try whatever you can come up with in your current pantry stock, and experiment. Eventually you will find your favorite too ☺ Just to let you know, though, I’ve never tried a combo I didn’t like. Kamut I thought was a bit heavy, but still good. It’s heaviness could be balanced out by combining it with the lightness of millet perhaps? I haven’t tried millet yet.

2. Soak the grain mixture by covering the blender and letting it stand at room temperature overnight. Soaking helps breakdown phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and gluten in the grains, making the nutrients more available, and much easier to digest. I personally think it makes the end result batter more fluffy and delicate too. It’s yummy!

3. Preheat griddle on medium-high (until water drops sizzle on surface), or waffle iron at highest temperature.

4. Just before baking, add and re-blend for 1 to 3 or more minutes until smooth:

1 egg (or alternative)

Additional liquid as needed to keep batter churning (I use water or milk if needed, but not too much)

5. Blend in thoroughly, but briefly, "sifting" these through a small strainer (assist with rubber spatula, if needed):

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder (optional: with the soaking process, the baking powder can be omitted and the baking soda increased to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon as needed).

Technique tip: If you can successfully drop the soda & salt into the spinning blades at the bottom of the vortex, you can omit sifting.

6. Bake on hot griddle, or in waffle iron that is lightly coated with high tempature resistent oil, or “real” quality butter for 3-5 minutes.

7. Now enjoy with the fixings you like! I must say to put syrup with corn syrup listed as an ingredient on these incredibly nutritious pancakes, just doesn’t seem quite right. Just a little formaldehyde-free maple syrup, or even honey, goes a long way for great taste and much better nutrition! Better yet mix your “sweet” choice together with some warmed berries and put it on top. Bananas or thinly sliced apples are great too, as well as nuts. Joel and I really like some macadamia nuts on top! This has a way of making you feel like you're waking up on a vacation in Hawaii! Turn on Jack Johnson, and you'll really be feeling like your on vacation:-)! I also think putting anything but pure, full fat, quality butter (kerrygold is good, raw is even better) will make this nutritious breakfast a little, well… less nutritious. I won’t get going on the dangers of margarine and most butter spreads!!!! This is long enough :-)

Left over pancakes make a quick grab, yummy snack for later. If you try a combo of grains or toppings you and your family really like, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Baby Larson is 30 Weeks Old

Baby Larson is nearly 30 weeks old now!

I can tell she is putting on the pounds as I feel her bulk move around. She seems a little shy of the outside world and stays tucked in to herself most of the time. Of course there are times she gives a jut and my belly moves enough for Joel to see.

The most surprising aspect of this third trimester so far is the number of perfect strangers that want to chat when they see I am pregnant. For instance Joel and I were at the Coffee Bean with our friend a few nights ago, and this guy walked up to our table, interrupted our conversation with a tap on Joel's shoulder and said, "excuse me". We stopped our conversation, looked up, and he asked, "Are you having a boy or a girl?" When we responded that we were going to have a girl, he got this expression on his face like he had just guessed some game show question correctly, and won a thousand bucks. He said, "I knew it! I was like 97% sure!" Everywhere I go it seems I get some sort of comment, or some sort of baby conversation starts, without me having to do a thing to initiate it.

I am at least starting to show more, which I personally think is fun. It's better to look pregnant than to look, well... chubby. I've gained 25 pounds at this point, and at least people know why:-) It's fun being preggers. I like it.

Ok, so everyone talks about cravings and wonders what I crave. Honestly not really anything different than before I was pregnant. I still pretty much eat the same things and as I always have. I really enjoy "real" milk, hot cereal like steel cut oats, eggs, veggies like salad, avocado, eggplant, sweet potatoes, red peppers... fruit like apples, mango coconut smoothies, bananas, blueberries, grapefruit... yogurt with honey to sweeten, some cheese, some chocolate and ice cream here and there, Peanut butter, nuts like almonds and walnuts, Lentils, hummus, meat like lamb, beef... nothing all that different. I might crave red meat more than I used to, and I'm pretty sure I like chicken less than I did before. My second and third months were my weird craving months, and then I constantly wanted pink berry frozen yogurt, and watermelon. But things over all have been pretty normal from month four and on.

This may sound strange, but I'm kind of looking forward to giving birth like it's a marathon I'm training for. It's pretty exciting, and Joel will be right with me cheering me along. It will be something special we share, kind of like backpacking together, or a challenging hike together in Yosemite. I know I am crazy to be thinking of it as an adventurous physical challenge, but hey whatever works! To prepare for my "marathon", I walk quite a bit and do some pregnancy yoga and exercises I am learning in our Bradley method birth class. We have taken two classes so far, and have eight more to go. It's a more natural method, but doesn't snob to doctors either. A good happy medium in my opinion.

I'm finally feeling at least close to the point of having purged the house of all unwanted items, and almost done organizing everything from old photos and memories to closets! Now, I'm excitedly starting to prepare space for our little girl, thinking through what we will need, and how I want to organize it all. I even have lofty plans of making some sort of painting to put over her crib, even though I have never painted on canvas before. I just have this idea in my head that I can't find anywhere, and if I did find it, I'm sure it would not be in my price range. I'm also thinking through things like diapering and have been totally won over to the newer generation of cloth (It's nothing like even ten or fifteen years ago). I'm figuring out how to make baby food, how I will bathe her, what plastics and cleaning products are safe for our little girls and which ones to avoid... Oh my the list goes on! It's quite a learning curve for the first one! And, I know I will still never "learn it all" ;)

I'm so thankful that Joel's room mom at the school is throwing a little shower for us at the end of April. Also, two good friends who are neighbors in Pasadena, Rebecca and Prances, are going to throw us a shower that is for a broader range of friends and family. They are really wonderful women to have in my life, and have already helped me out with this whole introduction to motherhood thing in so many ways. The date, and details are still in the works for the second shower, but more than anything, it will just be exciting to celebrate that our girl is coming! Over the years of my life of course I have realized my own need for love, and community, but just more recently, I have realized I desire those things for our little girl even more than I desire them for myself. I'm eager for Baby Larson to be loved by others and welcomed into the community of family and friends we have. To me, a baby shower represents love and care extended toward her, so I just feel so grateful for friends who want to put in the effort, especially since all my family (for the most part) is back East :-)

Well that's all for the baby update for now. We have two cameras, but sadly both are broken right now :-( I hope to get some pictures going soon, I'm working on getting our camera covered with our warranty... It's a little frustrating, but hopefully soon. I feel like my preggy belly is getting bigger every day, and we are not documenting so well!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friends and Family Update Winter 09

Hello to our dear family and friends,

Hope the new year has been good to you all so far. Joel and I welcomed it as we seem to welcome most new years with feelings of excitement and newness, but also with the familiar wondering of "what course will our life take this year"?

LA is constantly changing. Friends come and go (often too quickly, and usually as soon as they start a family), business store fronts constantly change, or construction adds a new dimension to ones neighborhood. It's never really a given when interacting with a group, or neighbors, that anyone comes from a similar background, or even speaks the same language. I guess you probably get the picture. LA is not suburbia:) Some may say it is harsh, and well... it really can be, but Joel and I have come to love this city and think there are priceless treasures in living here, even though it can be rather hard sometimes. The sunny weather does help take an edge off the harshness at least.

With all the uncertainty of living in LA, another dimension of uncertainty we have had could be summed up in this: Joel is pursuing a "career" in ministry; He received a Masters of Divinity, not a degree in medicine, or business. I am still a student with a long way to go, motherhood on the way, and technically I have no career yet. When I do have one, it will have something to do with music. We both realize the reality of having picked uncertain fields:) but we really support one another, and even though the journey has been hard at times, it has been extraordinary. We wouldn't trade it for anything!

We never expected, with all the waiting and limbo we have experienced over the last years, that SETTLING news would greet us this new year. Joel's part-time position at church as the Young Adult Director is going full time! It's actually miraculous with the state of the economy. We are so excited, not just for the idea of Joel having a full time ministry job, but it's a church we love, and it's right in the heart of the city we love, LA. This also means, I can continue with my education at Pasadena City College, where the education is cheap/affordable, and surprisingly really outstanding. We also know where we will be raising our little girl, at least for a while. We still don't know how long we can stay in our current apartment, and there are other "up in the air" things, but we feel blessed to at least know our general geographical location. It's been like a gift.

The pregnancy journey has been fun since I stopped feeling sick at around sixteen weeks. We can both feel her kick and move at twenty five weeks now. Joel reads to her sometimes, especially Psalm 139, and I do my best to eat healthy and walk about three or four miles a day. I still have yet to start my pregnancy yoga video and need to get on that soon:) I've been juggling organizing to get ready for our girl, as well as some intensive music classes. I get a little overwhelmed with figuring out what we will need because I'm pretty simple, and for some reason, the idea of having more than I might need sort of freaks me out. It might have something to do with the fact we will be sharing a bedroom with our baby (we are in a one bedroom apartment), and have about zero storage space:). But, overall I'm just really having fun and we are excited to start our Bradley Method classes soon.

We get pretty busy because until Joel goes full-time at the end of June, he is juggling third grade teaching, the church part-time, and a pretty full load of guitar students. I'm also really involved with helping Joel at the church. We try to relax on Saturdays, and Joel has fun riding his road bike to work, and gearing up for the Pasadena triathlon this spring. We really try hard to keep quality family time a priority, and value the ideas of sabbath and rest. It's been so important for us!

There are some updated "Winter" pictures on my blog now. We didn't really take any trips this winter, and we just stayed home for Christmas, so the pictures are just our winter life, here in SoCal. We love feeling connected to family and friends even though we are far away. It's always so wonderful to hear from you!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We are going to have...

So it's official, Joel and I are going to have a baby girl! We found out on Friday at our detailed ultrasound at the hospital. The ultra sound tech also assured us that everything looks great and she is healthy. I wasn't able to see this ultrasound, but I was told she kept opening her eyes and mouth. Our doctor will go over the ultrasound results with us at our regular doctor's office on Friday... and I will actually get to see her on the screen at that appointment.

After our fun news, we went up to the Observatory at Griffith Park nearby and looked out over the city and dramatic orange sunset. What an incredibly peaceful view. There was a perfectly warm breeze and we could hear coyotes in the Hollywood Hills. It was so clear that you could see all the way out to the ocean, and all the lights of LA looked like a galaxy of stars. It all felt surreal and we just reflected together a bit and thanked the Lord for our baby girl.

We are not declaring any names at this point, but we have a pretty strong contender. My dear options husband, of course wants to consider the options longer. I just love him:) We probably won't have the official announcement of her name until she is born.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sunny Bench

There is something that unmistakably sets me apart as being from the Midwest out here in LA. I smile and make eye contact with people in passing, even if we are strangers. Today, while waiting for the metro, I walked along the Lake station platform, passing the shaded seats for a preference to enjoy the beautiful day's sunshine hitting the furthest bench. Someone else apparently had a preference for sunshine, or perhaps wanted to avoid sitting by others, which would be quite LA like, but they only occupied one side of my sunny destination, leaving room for me to sit on the other half.

As I approached, I could sense a little tension. I don't think the black woman sitting on the bench expected anyone to join her. To ease the slight feelings of hostility and keep to keep things cordial, I gave my Midwestern quick flash of eye contact, with a smile, and slight nod of the head. I've seen quite a spectrum of reactions to this Midwestern customary practice since living in LA, ranging from people feeling awkwardly caught of guard and giving a puzzled smile back, to not acknowledging the gesture at all. This woman's reaction managed to take ME a little off guard. She immediately relaxed and her gaze went from suspicion to more trusting. To be honest, I was relieved and pleasantly surprised it had such an affect.

I took to my side of the bench, and over the sound of traffic on the highway in front and behind us, I could hear a sigh as the woman's full sized shoulders relaxed. She even let out a little chuckle. I was starting to wonder with all the relief I sensed coming from her if maybe she thought I had been strolling down the platform with a knife in hand, instead of my shoulder bag stuffed with innocent items like school books? My curiosity was increasing.

She said, "You know when I saw you walking down here I thought... well, you don't want to know what I was thinking..." She chuckled again, then told a story about what happened to her at a bus stop earlier in the morning. Her metro pass had been stolen, swiped by a Latino guy, and according to her, "I should look out for those metro pass thieves!" Apparently they are lurking at most stations, and bus stops.

She continued on, after her pass was stolen, she tried to board the bus with an explanation to the driver. The driver didn't seem to be buying it, then a "white guy, who had no business butting in," at the front of the bus, started chiming in against her, taking sides with the bus driver. Even though the story was somewhat scattered and hard for me to follow, as she seemed to be re-telling it more for her own sake to get the weight off her chest, she clearly emphasized that some harsh words were flying like nasty hornets between all three of them. The situation was certainly charged to say the least.

As I listened, I quietly began to conclude what bothered her even more than being the victim of a pick pocket. It was the "white guy" joining against her. The heart of it was that she felt judged as a black person by a white person.

She thanked me for letting her talk about it all, and from that point on we had a warm conversation. I learned that she had been a chef by trade, lost one-hundred pounds in the last year, was a single mother of three grown children, and I even saw pictures of them; like a good and loving mother she kept them in her purse. She learned quite a bit about me too. When I told her I was finally going to school to get my bachelors, she seemed surprised that I was a twenty-nine year old white girl without a college degree.

She said, "Even my daughter has her bachelors. Now, you can do it girl!"

I wasn't sure if I should take her tone to be honest criticism or encouragement, but I just politely smiled and took it as the later. Before long, the metro pulled up and we went our separate ways, but not before shaking hands, exchanging names, and mutually sharing, "it was so nice to meet you."

As I sat down for my ride to Del Mar station, where I would soon get off for a hair salon appointment, I realized that a small miracle had just taken place along my urban adventure. I still don't know exactly what the woman thought I had up my sleeve, as I initially approached her and the bench. But, I do know that as I approached her, she was still trying to shake degrading feelings of judgment from someone white, like me. Regardless, I couldn't help but feel that a little more fear and prejudice had just melted away for both of us on the sunny bench. Certainly today was one of those days a little sunshine did some good.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sixteenth Week

At sixteen weeks, our baby's third ultrasound premier was quite impressive. We saw and a heard a strong heart beat, saw little arms and legs in motion, and even saw our little one suck on its thumb, which we both thought to be adorable. Although I'm sure there will be a day that is less "adorable" and "impressive". For now, anything baby Larson does is most certainly cute!

We are wondering if perhaps our baby is already aware that their daddy holds a Seminary degree, as the baby was quite cautious not to move in any way that might be immodest, keeping anything that might indicate gender carefully tucked behind the placenta:) We will get around the modesties soon enough with a more detailed ultrasound on January fifteenth. We'll be happy to share the gender when we find out.

In the top picture below, you can see the entire side profile from the top of the head down to the feet (my dad remarked that it looks a bit like our baby is wearing slippers:). The baby is in a sitting position. The baby's left hand is in a fist in front of its face and the thumb is the little dot between the face and the fist. The open space in the chest area is the heart, which the doctor confirmed has all four chambers. In the bottom picture, our baby's legs are drawn up in fetal position, but you can get a good look at the toes. You can see Baby Larson sucking its thumb.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baby Larson Announcement

So our big announcement has already been heard by many, but I officially want to kick off the baby Larson updates on my blog.

Joel and I found out our good news on October first. The first photo to the left was our first ultrasound when our baby was 8 weeks. We could see the baby's heart flickering and everything seemed to become real. We found out our baby's due date of June 8th at the appointment too. It was nice to finally have a due date, since we weren't sure how far we were.

This second ultrasound pic is hard to make out because the picture didn't turn out so well, but in person we had no problem distinguishing little arms and legs kicking and moving. Our baby was so wiggly that it was hard for the doctor to follow the heart beat, but we did get to see AND hear it this time. We could have watched the screen all day long, as I'm sure most parents feel that way:)

When we found out I was pregnant, I had been trying to refrain from taking an excessive number of home tests as not to blow our entire budget on them, and to keep Joel from thinking I was obsessed with wondering all the time (even though I was sort of obsessed:). I had managed to refrain for about a month, then I got thinking as I made the bed one morning how cool it would be to share our news in person with Joel's family if I were pregnant. We were taking a trip to Leah and Steve's in Oklahoma the next day to see our Larson family. I didn't expect anything to show up on the test and was a bit confused with the faint line. Surely such a faint line didn't mean "positive"?

Poor Joel, he was in the middle of teaching third grade and I called him out of the blue trying to figure out what a faint line means. I didn't really mean to tell him in such a confusing manner, but I didn't know who else to call. Who else can put up with hearing me talk through my confusion? So, Joel had to go on teaching third grade, getting back to the subjects of reading and multiplication while half wondering if he was going to be a dad. Soon we had a blood test and we knew we were parents!

From weeks six to fifteen, I was quite sick! Staying hydrated became the goal, but now at nearly 16 weeks, I'm turning the corner and feeling much better. I have to try and remember how to cook again, there have been some really lame meals in the Larson house as of late. Joel makes a great chicken salad and some pretty good spaghetti, but I think he completely burned out on chicken and pasta.

It's all been an adventure as any new experience is, and we have had good check ups so far. The baby is developing fast! All the organs have been there for a bit now and our baby's bones are starting to get hard. Our baby might even be sucking on it's little thumb.

Our next ultrasound is Monday and we are excited to capture the moment better with a new video camera, especially since there is a chance we will find out the gender. If not on Monday we will find out at our more detailed ultrasound in the middle of January.

Joel has been so supportive and loving. He went with me for my first adventures in maternity clothes shopping. We actually had fun and laughed a-lot at how weird of a world it all is. You can actually strap pillows around you when trying on clothes to add three months. Hilarious!
He has also done all the housework that might include odors, such as dishes and taking out the trash, without a single complaint. We are really blessed to be sharing in all this together.

We'll keep the updates coming.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Belonging to My Church and Neighbors

I found myself sitting in a room last Friday night in an unusual setting. Ten women including myself were gathered in a cozy living living room, all of them neighbors, and none of them attend my church. Edith Piaf's voice was serenading us over the speakers as we sipped on sparkling beverages and nibbled on delicious permission bread cakes, cheese and crackers with figs, little pumpkin treats, and flourless chocolate cake slices. The tones of chit chat conversation flowed easily between us, though most of us knew little, if anything about one another.

What may seem a typical room of gathered women, for me, was not so typical. As I sat enjoying myself with these strangers, I realized that I've never gathered in any kind of intentional small group that wasn't based on common faith or an extension of a church small group. And, I have never been in a room with so many of my neighbors at the same time. I'm not sure what that says about me? Regardless, it was a new experience that I was intrigued by and welcomed.

I ran into Rebecca on a Saturday afternoon. Joel and I were still living on 518 North Madison and were ready to prepare our lovely flower beds for the winter. I was tired of cheap Target plants and decided to try an actual nursery, where I might find ranunculus bulbs to pop up in the spring, or iceland poppy seeds. Rebecca, not much older than myself gave us some of the best green thumb help and advice, and by the end of our flower transaction we were also finding a bit of friendship. We exchnaged numbers, as she lived literally just around the corner and had a husband named Matt, about Joel's age. That was how Rebecca and Matt came into our picture about two and a half years ago.

Rebecca has quite a whim for creativity and in her desire to bring the wonderful women of Pasadena that she knows scattered here and there together, sent an invitation for a "Ladie's Salon" (to be renamed by the group according to what they would like). Different than a book club, the "Salon" is more or less like a topic club.

Each of us brought something to share. A poem, a magazine article, book, one person even brought a biology article, some had personl stories, and I brought possibly my favorite book of all time, for sure my favorite children's book: "Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman. I have this love for baby birds, so delicate and dependent. There really is nothing like holding a little fuzzy in your hands. I picture God holding me in his safe hands, when I think back to the little birds I encountered as a child and held in my hands. In the story, little bird is born and falls out of the nest. He runs into a myriad of characters from a kitten, to a dog, an airplane and even a "snort" (yes, a snort). If you do not know what a snort is, then you will have to read it. What I like best about the snort is that it's the most terrible and scary experience for the little bird in search of his mother, but it's also the experience that reunites little bird with his mom, his home and place of belonging.

Belonging was the topic for the night. Quite a topic to ponder, especially for those of us who call LA home. It's amazing, all weekend I have thought about belonging more than ever before and have gained new perspective. I feel a little more at home in Pasadena with these new freinds and neighbors I will see at the Salon every month, and bit more like I belong here in this time and place. I'm thankful for my church community, it will never be replaced. I'm thankful for my neighbors, and I hope I see my neighbors more than once a month when we gather for our topic. These two seperate worlds somehow are making me feel less divided, but actually more satisfied and something is right about it. I welcome this new experience and belonging to my neighbors in a way that I never have before.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spicy Spaghetti Squash

Serves approximately: 4-5 (just divide everything in half for 2)


1 small spaghetti squash, cooked by your favorite method and separated into strands (I pierce the whole squash a few times, bake it for an hour at 375 degrees, let it cool for 20 minutes, then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and mushy parts before using a fork to pull out strands).
2 Tbsp of grape seed oil (or any cooking oil of choice)
1/2 cup minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
12 ounces cooked meat of choice, chicken works nice, Ground beef or turkey is good. I like to cut up sausages from Trader Joes (turkey/chicken sausage with basil and pine nuts is my favorite kind)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons capers
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano (less if use dry oregano)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, more to taste
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped (less if using dry parsley)


Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat, sauté onion, garlic and green onions for 2 minutes.

Add the cooked meat and cook for about 3-4 more minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for another 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over heated spaghetti squash and serve.

*I like to add some garnish touches with fresh parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Family & Friends Summer O8 Update

Summer was wonderful, but how busy it was took me by surprise. We loved having visitors these last few months and we had a wonderful house with a pool and hot tub to house sit at for a week or so. Joel also did his first Young Adult "event" this summer, a cookout at Griffith Park, and it was just really fun, relaxed and everyone had a good time.

Josiah, my awesome little (not so little anymore) brother visited in leu to Mexico for a mission trip. Hanging out in the pool, drinking chai shakes, and watching him surf for the first time in San Diego were some highlights. Josiah also picked up a sweet marble chess board in Mexico for us, which may be on the list for "top three gifts" that Joel has ever recieved.

Shortly after Josiah left, Bill and Margie came and we had a wonderful time. Memories I will cherish! There is nothing like a good field trip to look at houses in Malibu with Bill Dad. Simply hilarious! We had some nice meals together, ventured to the Hollywood Bowl, hung out at the best boccie ball court in America (Laguna Beach) and had some really good laughs over what must have been "treat customers bad day" in LA! First while trying to rent bikes for the beach path, then "Mike the confrontational, everything I do wrong is someone elses fault" waiter in Brentwood. Glad we could all laugh about it and still have a good time, just wish it could have been "cheap entertainment" for the parents:)

Right after Bill and Margie left, we went to Yosemite. The original vacation plan was to backpack in Nicaragua, inspired by our adventures in Guatemala last year, but there was no plane fare to match our budget. I have no regrets with Yosemite, though! It was wonderful. The highlight was hiking 17 mile Half Dome together and Joel getting to jump into waterfall pools with rainbows at the end of the hike. He said it must be a taste of what heaven will be like. It looked heavenly. At one point during the hike Joel was getting desperate for water. He hit a low point, especially when he had to wrap his shirt around his head so he would stop getting sun burnt and we could hear a rattle snake. He was pitiful but for some reason I found him hilarious trying to suck the last moisture out of a half apple. A group with water purifying tabs was passing by and he didn't hesitate ask to ask for some. He was so desperate and pitiful that I'm not sure they felt they had a choice but to help out:) At least the low point was over and soon we were drinking some safe purified mountain water and chillin' on some river rocks for rejuvenation.

At Yosemite we did some other hiking too (Cathedral Lakes and Mono Pass) and visited Mariposa Grove (giant Sequoia tree forest), Glacier Point with brilliant stars at night, and some different high sierra meadows. We did the Valley Floor bike path too, which wasn't very hard, but just incredibly scenic. The campfire each night was a highlight and roasting food over the fire, like cheese fondue and chicken sausages from TJs. Our tent was cozy and our campsites picks were peaceful, wooded and a little off the beaten path away from noise, a nice contrast from our day to day LA experience. We were so thankful for the trip!

I was able to spend a little time with Anja after Yosemite. I really liked going to Santa Barbara and hanging out with Mia and Anja at Butterfly Beach and having Anja in Pasadena for a night. I was so thankful for it! Our morning hike up Echo Mnt was a little long and dusty (I kinda led the wrong direction) but it was fun to show Anja a place I frequent.

Now the fall is basically here and we are finding our ryhthmic routine's stride again, which I don't mind, now that we had a break. Back to studies for me and back to teaching and Young Adult ministry for Joel and trying to survive financially in LA:) We have a better hold on our priorities as we delve into the busyness and have been incorporating more peaceful things like evening hikes in the San Gabriels behind our house and less time with technology... soooooo gooooood.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Roasted Squash Vegetable Medley

This dish is a super easy summer side dish that Joel and I enjoy all summer long. It's originally Rachel Ray's recipe with a few of my own adjustments. I ran across it when I bought my first summer squashes from the farmers market and wasn't sure what to do with them. I like pairing this with chicken dishes, especially a whole roasted chicken, but it goes well with much more too.


1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 medium yellow squash, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, halved then cut into chunks
.5 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered or halved
2 tablespoons grape seed oil (olive oil's smoke point is too low for this)
1.5 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine zucchini and yellow squash pieces with onions and mushrooms in a mixing bowl. Add oil to the bowl, 2 turns of the bowl in a slow stream. Toss veggies until they are coated lightly and evenly with the oil.

Combine poultry seasoning with salt and pepper and sprinkle evenly over the vegetables. Toss them again to combine and spread them out on to a baking sheet. Place veggies in a hot oven and roast 20 to 25 minutes until tender. Toss and turn the veggies with kitchen tongs half way through cooking time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Andy Widman

I wish I could be at Andy Widman's funeral. He was a very dear friend to me in highschool. I'm so glad to hear how the city of Fort Meyers and especially the police department, is honoring Andy and stepping up to be there for his family. More than anything I just wish I could see his sister Abby (also a good friend from high school) and give her a hug. I really can't even imagine how crushed she must be. I wish I could hug and cry with Joe, his dad and Marty, his mom. A wonderful couple that encouraged me at countless cross country and track meets, as well as all the cheerleading events and just in life, in general. They were always a couple that knew how to love thier kids and how to even care for thier kid's friends, like me.

I found out last night that Andy was shot while serving as a police officer in Florida. I didn't realize he became an officer a little more than a year ago. His missionary funding didn't come through and so he was taking a more stable career path. I'm sure his relationship with the mission field wasn't over, it just seemed to be on hold. Andy and I both cared about missions and talked about it quite a bit.

He also loved reptiles and biology. I remember him thinking maybe Brazil would be a good place to do missions. I think he was drawn to it because of all the reptiles there in the jungles:) Adventure never really scared Andy, it was more invigorating to him. Andy's love for reptiles really had a-lot to do with his appreciation for living things. He was was kind and respectful of all little critters and creation in general, which I believe is very telling about a person. I remember when this guy in Andy's highschool class threw little crawdads from a near by creek up in the air and hit them with a bat. I was crying my eyes out and feeling shocked that someone was cold enough to do that. Most people would have thought I was over-reacting (I was and still am a bit sensitive to any form of cruelty) but Andy didn't make me feel dumb for crying so hard. He confronted his classmate, saved the rest of the crawdads and told me that he was going to make sure that didn't happen to the crawdads in the creek again.

I also remember him showing me his iguana. We had a brotherly/ sisterly friendship and we always went to highschool formals together because we knew it would just be fun and there would be no wierd romantic pressure. When he pulled his iguana out, it took a look at my brighly colored, delicious flower corsage and took a big bite out of it. We laughed so hard!

I've been out of touch with Andy for a little while but I knew that he was raising funds for missions. Last week I just thought of Andy and his wife out of the blue and was thinking how I wanted to give something toward his missionary efforts if he was still needing support. When I originally got the letter, my husband, Joel, was an MDiv Seminarian (like Andy once was) and the cash flow was tight. I was going to dig through old papers to find a support letter I got from him a few years ago. I just knew that whatever Andy was doing for God's kingdom would be solid, intelligent, and effective. He was someone I believed in and I wanted to support him and his family on the mission field. Then... such sad news.

Andy cared about little creatures and God's creation but Andy especially cared for others. His heart was big for people. He knew how to be a true friend. The effect that his friendship had on me was actually quite important through my highschool years. He taught me about acceptance and about not showing partiality, to love people as they are regardless of thier popularity, appearance, or complexity. I watched Andy listen to and provide real strength and support for many of his guy freinds. He had a way of helping his friends through hard times. Andy also showed me personally tremendous respect. When I think about how impressionable a girl can be in highschool and how important it is that they have guy friends that treat them with value and respect, I know Andy's friendship was a real gift to me in that way. How many guy friends from highschool can you actually say made you feel more valuable as a person? I think it's because Andy loved God, and wasn't self seeking. He was like a true brother.

Andy ran cross country with me and my brother, Aaron. I can't even count the number of times I yelled "GO ANDY"! I think Aaron's legs were three times as long as Andy's, but he knew how to give Aaron a run for the money. They had a neat comradery and would push eachother. He was determined. He had perseverance. I can still picture his hair flopping and that tired but determined cross country look. He had lots of energy and a light hearted, fun outlook on life. He knew what mattered in life, but he still had fun and laughed. Us cross country folk where a tight nit group led by our wonderful leader, friend, teacher, and coach: Mr. Rabb. I think cross country for all us was a valuable life-lesson sport. I can still hear Andy cheering me on too out on the grassy courses every Saturday morning each fall.

Andy was so kind to me. I remember when a group of us friends were together and just to be silly, we started drinking poppy seed dressing....ummmm yeah, we were a bunch of Christian kids who had to spice up life somehow:) Later we were all at the rec center in Bowling Green and the dressing wasn't settling so well with me. I tried to make it to the bathroom, but didn't. I threw up before reaching the toilet and got it all over me too. Andy didn't mock me or say I smelled or anything. He just made sure I was ok and took me home smelly and all.

I know I'm sharing highschool stories, but Andy made a hudge impression on me then. I know as he went off to Tocoa Falls he carried all the wonderful values he had with him and kept honing all his skills for God's kingdom. I remember when he met Susanna and how excited he was to literally find a soul mate that he would adventure into the future with. I knew Susanna was a trememdous person just by the fact that Andy picked her and that she loved God with all her heart. I was sad that I couldn't make it to the wedding. I was excited for him as he went to Seminary. It was so fitting for Andy.

I think of the kind of son Andy was, the good brother, the husband. I have no doubt he loved Susanna with every inch of his being and laid down his life for her, and I know without even seeing him first hand with his children that he was a hands on dad, an encourager. His dad is that way and I know he was passing that on to his kids. Every where Andy went, he built up those around him. He was the type of guy that really our world needs. He was an all too rare example for how men should be in this confused culture and age. His life is a tremendous loss in so many ways. I hope to meet his kids some day. I hope they will know the legacy thier dad had and will want to serve the Lord too. I hope they will sense what an incredible guy thier dad was and know how honorable he was.

So now I think I've been crying my eyes our for almost 24 hours. I still fell like I have so many more tears. It's just incredibly sad. I really love the Widman family. They will be in my constant thoughts. They are so dear. I'm so sad this happened to thier family.... well I just wanted to share about Andy. There is sooooo much more to share, but I'm glad to have this blog to share with others, especially since I won't be at the funeral tomorrow. Andy is someone that absolutely should be remembered. I will be remembering him for years and years to come!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Birthday Gift of Soul Food

My birthday was special for many reasons, but in particular it was special because I had the joy of serving food at the Lord's Lighthouse. It's a brief service followed by a meal every Sunday afternoon for the homeless at my church. Joel and I teamed up. He would hold the tray of plates and I would pass them out.

Before the food was served Aimee, a long time volunteer and beautifully open hearted woman, spoke to the group of 200 concerning Jesus' saying "I am the bread of life". It's a message that could have sounded trite to a group of people so aware of their lack, and desperate need, but she addressed them as friends. Many of them truly are her friends and not just a "ministry project". God's presence of love was tangible in the room as she spoke from her heart, which was ultimately God's heart. The message was not one bit insensitive, but literally made me feel that the deepest parts of my very soul and longings were being filled with Christ. By the rapt attention Aimee easily held for twenty minutes and the looks on faces across the room, I knew the souls of the homeless were also being fed.

There is no place I would have rather been on my birthday. In the tangible presence of God. God's presence was filling my soul and the soul and needs of those around me. I felt alive and happy. To me it was special that my first time serving at the Lord's Lighthouse marked the end of a rather hard, transitional year, but the beginning of a new year. And I believe it's also telling, that my new year will be filled with serving the Lord in ways which I have longed to and with gifts I have been waiting to share. I will be returning to the Lord's Lighthouse again and again with an open heart of worship, working hands, and perhaps in the near future, a guitar, and some songs written for those broken and needing Christ to fill their souls, myself included. I think the Lord's Lighthouse coordinator is open to that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fava Beans! A Mid-Spring Treat!

So, after all the fava bean buzz around SoCal farmer's markets, I gave them a try. They truly are a rare mid-spring treat. Hurry and give them a try before they go out of season! This recipe was a delicious, authentically Italian dish for enjoying them. Very simple too. The key is fresh ingredients, they hold their own class of flavor without much needed help.

I served them over just a very small portion of fresh linguine sprinkled with olive oil and pepper (add more olive oil over dish if seems too dry). Warm, crusty, multi-grain bread dipped in cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil made for a tasty side along with lemon roasted whole artichokes. Artichokes are also in season and accented the fava dish very nicely.

Fava Beans, Roman Style

Pancetta, one half-inch thick slice
3 pounds unshelled young fresh fava beans
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea Salt

1. Unroll the pancetta and cut it into stripes 1⁄4 inch wide

2. Shell the beans and wash in cold water.

3. Cook the onion in the oil until it becomes translucent, then add the pancetta strips and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Stir in beans and pepper. Add water and simmer, covered, on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes if the beans are young and tender, or up to 15 minutes if the beans are larger and tougher. Add extra tablespoons of water if necessary. When the beans are tender, add salt, and cook for a few more minutes uncovered until the last of the water has evaporated.

Source: Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A lesson in Jesus' School of Compassion

Continuing on my journey through John, here are some thoughts on the following verses, found in the middle of the Lazarus story:

John 11:32b-33: “’Master!’ she (Mary) said. ‘If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!’ When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled.”

This particular moment, in John’s story, about Lazarus’ death, teaches me a great deal about compassion! Taking a moment to pause, open myself to feeling another’s pain, hurt or distress, is sensitive, compassionate, and an opportunity for God’s heart of love for people to be shared.

There are other verses, through out the Gospel writings, that reveal Jesus is moved emotionally and compassionately by human grief and distress. Of course, there is the infamous “Jesus wept” passage, when he looked out over a city and knew that the men and women who lived there had no peace. There is also an example during Jesus’ death. While hanging on the cross, he looked down and saw his mother, whose heart was surely ripped in two. John was standing near her, and in the middle of horrific physical suffering, Jesus tells John to care for his mother. Examples of Jesus’ compassion is exhaustive, but this moment, in the verse above, would be on the running list.

At music school, I had many classmates from other cultures that did not grow up around Christianity. The name Jesus had little value or place in their lives and upbringing. “Prayer” or “praying” to Jesus was an illusive, somewhat meaningless activity. A teacher in my program was a Christian, and when she encountered a distressed student one day, who was crying and upset, she said, “I’ll be praying for you.” She left and continued on with her day. Not much later, there was a stir amongst the students in my class. A rumor was spreading that our teacher didn’t really care about us. I was puzzled, because she taught with passion, giving her all, and always seemed warm. The uncaring label seemed far from the truth.

It didn’t take long to find out what caused the stir. A handful of students were shocked by the teacher’s coldness toward the girl that had been crying. They didn’t understand how she could just walk away when someone was crying with a comment about something to do with prayer, and not sit with them, or give them a hug, and be with them. I felt bad for my Christian teacher because I knew her intentions had been good and she had been misunderstood. But, it also gave me a new perspective, and I could see why some students may have perceived her as being cold, especially since promises of prayer didn’t have much meaning for them.

How many times have I tried to comfort others in the same way? I know I’ve said to others in distress, “l’ll be praying for you,” without taking a moment to be with them in their sadness, or to sit and stay, and feel some of what they feel at that moment. Sometimes I can be too quick to move toward the subject of hope and a good news ending when I encounter those suffering or even deal with my own sufferings.

Continuing with Jesus example from the above verse, he walks into this mourning situation and, as always with perfection, shows the way of compassion and love, especially toward Lazarus sister’s Martha and Mary. Martha has already come to Jesus, and now Mary has come to him followed by a crowd of Lazarus’ mourners. Jesus greater intention for coming is to apparently “wake Lazarus up,” which actually means, as Jesus has already explained to the disciples, raise him up from being dead a few days. What a miraculous event to take place, just around the corner from this scene!

If I had directed this story (HA!) and I was at the point where Jesus sees Mary and the mourning Judeans all crying, Jesus next line would have been, “Hey guys, no worries! I’m just about to raise Lazarus from the dead and you don’t need to be sad. Cheer up! Something great is about to happen!” Well, there are certainly many obvious and good reasons that I, and everyone else, are glad God is the director of the story instead. Only under God’s direction, is perfect love displayed by what Jesus ACTUALLY does next.

Jesus’ first reaction, is to say nothing at all. He feels. The passage says, “He was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled.” This is compassion coming into the scene. Jesus opens himself to feeling with those who are hurting around him. It’s clear from earlier verses that Jesus knew good news was just around the corner and Lazarus would be raised up from death. It’s the greater purpose for which Jesus had come, but his actions show incredible sensitivity because it’s not the first thing he points out a mourning group of people. He is compassionate, pausing to be with those in distress even before pointing to hope.

Christ’s example in contrast to my own actions and those sometimes perceive in Christian culture, got me thinking. What are promises of prayer and hopeful solutions without true Christ exemplified compassion first? And what are some of the things that keep me from embracing the compassion I see in Jesus? For me, sometimes being busy gets in the way, even though I know God is less concerned about my keeping to a daily schedule than I am☺. Also, suffering can just be plain uncomfortable in myself and in others. I usually want to hurry through it. Taking time to pause in grief and pain seems like a damper. Getting to the “happy” side of life feels better. Yet, no one knows better than Christ himself that there is a time and place for every season of the soul.

What a much needed lesson Jesus actions are in the school of compassion! My response right now can only be to pray for help: “Lord, only you are holy and perfect. Help me learn how to pause in the moment with those hurting. Help me to remember that I don’t always need to talk or say something. Help me to be sensitive and compassionate like you. May others see and experience your love through my actions. Amen.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Faith it Took to Walk to Bethany

I’ve decided to read John for Everyone, which is basically the book of John with some helpful notes and thoughts by Tom Wright. It’s kind of like a commentary for those who need something in plain language. I started to read it because Joel was enjoying the “for everyone” commentary series and has been buying them up at Archives (a new and used theological book shop). I really like them! And, I decided to start with John because I learn so much about Jesus when I read it, which makes it probably my favorite book in the Bible.

So, I have part II of John, chapters 11-21, and it starts with a story about Jesus and his interactions surrounding the death of Lazarus. Faith is demonstrated by Jesus with striking perfection, and His disciples (often dogged for having “little” faith) though conflicted, as I more personally relate to, still have some moments of true shinning faith.

I never realized that Jesus was outside Judea at this point in John’s story (which included Bethany where Lazarus dead body layed), because the Judeans were seeking to kill him, and more specifically, tried to stone him earlier. In a sense, he was hiding out when Lazarus got ill and died. This has much to do with his practical delay in coming to the situation. Of course, it’s also obvious there were unseen reasons for his delay, that only God understood at the time. When Jesus finally starts heading toward the mourners and Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) in Bethany, his disciples think he is basically committing suicide and seem shocked he would walk into such obvious danger.

What is danger in the face of God’s will? What place does fear have when we trust God’s will is good and will be done in our lives? I think of this when reading this passage. Jesus displays this perfectly as only He can. He knows that nothing can happen to Him outside of God’s will and timing and He trusts God’s will and timing are best and good. I personally think He knows it’s not his time to die yet, but I feel awed by Jesus, that He follows His Father’s will down to Lazarus not only when He knows no harm will come to Him, and a glorious miracle will take place, but He equally follows his Father’s will later in the story, when He fully knows it will lead him to pain, suffering, and death. Jesus life displays faith in whole, not in part! Not just in the happy ending stuff, but in the “hard to swallow” stuff.

Thankfully, God never wills for us to die brutally for the sins of the world (this was a task unique only to Jesus and will never be required of His followers), but the Bible does make it clear, that those who believe are called to live out God’s love for all people through acts of goodness, and to proclaim the truth of Jesus death and resurrection. This can certainly cause believers to face some scary and sticky situations. Some have and currently face death, imprisonment, and brutalities for that cause. I know God has a special grace and place in His heart for these people! Death is obviously extreme faith and I’ll be honest, I don’t necessarily foresee that happening to me in the United States (I certainly hope it won’t anyway), but through Jesus example, even though I’m not facing terrible death, I am personally encouraged to trust God with faith and without fear, even when things are hard or I experience my own types of sufferings.

Something I remember well, when I was on a short-term mission trip, with a medical team, in the back jungles of the Philippines, was a comment our local contact and leader made. His name was Pio, and he lived and breathed the missionary long-term lifestyle in these remote, rather dangerous tribal areas. The danger he encountered regularly didn’t quite compare with my daily U.S. experience ☺ As we were trudging along in the mud and rain, on our way to a village, he said, “The best place to be is in God’s will, even if that is in a plane about to crash.” That always stood out to me, because I sensed he wasn’t just pulling a random example, but had actually experienced that very situation. There was a genuine tone in his voice. That comment has provoked my thoughts for quite some time now.

Though the disciples, in John’s story, do not have striking faith like Jesus in the situation, I have to give them some definite faith credit here. They followed him right down to Bethany. It seems that Thomas makes, what I imagine was a sarcastic remark, as they head off along the lines of “We might as well die with him.” But… they went and Jesus even states that the whole situation is good for the disciples faith, to help it grow.

Seems God is still equally concerned about His disciples’ faith growing today. In fact He not only implies we will face hardships the Bible clearly teaches that we Will face hardship. Our faith is often tested and we find ourselves feeling half crazy, going out on a limb of faith, probably much like the disciples felt in this passage, walking into what seemed a death trap in Bethany. Maybe they were even starting to imagine what the blow of being stoned would feel like if they were caught? But, they had enough faith from God to keep walking and it’s obvious the disciples had ultimate confidence in following where Jesus led, or they wouldn’t have gone, even if they didn’t understand the events around them. I can relate to this! Can’t every believer! None of us seem to escape this sort of testing and refining of our faith!

Imagine if the disciples did not go with Jesus to Bethany out of fear? They would have missed such a glorious event! Because they followed Jesus they saw a man, and not just any man, but their friend, raise up from death! Now, from this story, I can’t conclude that these “faith growing” experiences always lead us to wonderful feelings, that I’m sure the disciples, in this instance, where feeling as they witness their friend’s literal resurrection. I would be making a conclusion based on one story, without a larger balance of many stories and teachings in the Bible, but I think I can safely conclude, that following Jesus, with faith, leads us to God’s glory. And that is a gem worth more than I can imagine now, but have only tasted on my discipleship journey! Experiencing this glory, I am convinced has something to do with abundant life and lasting, not fleeting, deep joy, which is really true happiness. Faith leads us to God’s glory where true joy and meaning is found.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Praise the King Today

Today is Palm Sunday. It means more to me this Sunday than in the past because Joel and I started following the Christian calendar this year. Now we are more focused on the themes. It really struck me that Jesus is King and I'm compelled to praise him as I think of everything he is worthy to be praised for.

Joel gave the sermon today at church. It just seems right, when he is preaching. It brings both of us joy.

We are getting ready for some transitions. We are stepping out of leading worship at the Vineyard as we look at ministry jobs for Joel. I'm not sure what our church community will look like over the next months, which is just a bit unsettling. We have our hopes that Hollywood will work out in the end, but we are on the ride of waiting and wondering right now.

My end of the quarter R&B performance is Tuesday, so that will wrap up another quarter. I never thought I would enjoy studying and singing R&B, but the old stuff has gems of singing with soul! I have learned so much from the licks, ad-libs and feel, staying in the pocket (rhythm of the song). I've gained so much from studying "true" R&B (I'm not talking about the modern hip hop stuff). I feel like it's added more color and texture to my voice.

I'm starting to write some of my own songs and giving that some attention. It's amazing to me when I realize, I can actually hear something in my head and write the sheet music out so other musicians can understand it and play it. I can't do it as quickly as I hope to in the future. It takes me a while, but I've finally begun. I have that tool in my bag to pull out now:)

I'm not completely sure what will come out as I write, but I'm not going to worry about it, I'll just let it be what it is. The song I'm working on now is actually rather serious and has a bit of blues feel. I think of myself as being someone who writes about the many seasons of the soul. There are hard grieving seasons, so this song will probably relate to that best.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fantastic & Much Needed Weekend!

It would be criminal to stay indoors. These are my favorite months. God's completely necessary grace comes to us all in different ways, and I am convinced that grace in my life lately is most shinning in the fresh warm sun and spring blossoms.

LA seems smaller after Joel's triathlon, it's a unique community of people that make up this place! We met some of the nicest people while Joel competed his heart out for the benefit of World Vision. It was a wonderful day at the Rose Bowl!

Thanks to all who are praying as Joel continues on the path to an "official" ministry job. We don't really know which church we will be calling home, and have worn a bit with the ups and downs, but each new day we put on our trust in God and find rest that he has a good plan for our lives. Please keep praying.

We met with Aunt Suzy and cousin Holly for some Italian at Holly's little find in Brentwood. We love our family and are always up for visits, it was a wonderful time! We also got excited for Justin as we met for coffee and heard how God is bringing things together for his amazing work to take place in Africa.