Monday, October 31, 2011

Immediate Prayer Requests

I try to save the prayer requests that I issue out to my blog friends as the "pretty big deals". Today is no exception.

1) I just passed my across-the-street neighbor as I returned to my house. She is headed to the hospital for a "last hope" scan to see if anything can be done for the cancer that has invaded her body. Last week she went in for a routine gall bladder removal surgery, and instead of being able to complete that, they closed her back up, recognizing cancer was running rampant through many of the organs and tissue surrounding. The diagnosis is very dire - but if the scan shows a concentrated enough area of the cancer, they can try to surgically remove it which is what today's scan will reveal. Her name is Joy. Her and her husband are both retired, probably mid-60's - and I know Butch would be just absolutely lost without her. John's had the opportunity to pray on the phone with Butch, but I'm not sure what kind of hope or faith they have pertaining to her future. Please pray for positive results today and a peace that passes understanding for their family.

2.) Secondly, my "miracle-niece" Ali, is going up to OHSU today to have a liver biopsy done. She is 14 and is just an incredible girl with so many accomplishments and talents to be proud of. To top it off, this is the girl that was born at 27.5 weeks, right around 2 pounds - so how far she's come is REMARKABLE. We are so proud of her. However, there have been some "mystery issues" she's suffered through in these past couple of years that doctors have just not been able to nail down. She's been a trooper enduring through a gluten-free diet for a while now, even though her stomach has never really been the problem. This has been a hope of the doctors to solve some of the other problems she's been having. A liver biopsy is quite invasive involving an overnight stay, but hopefully this will give the doctor's clarity. Please pray for Ali, her mom, Mary Beth, and her sister Andie as Ali goes through this procedure - for peace, for painlessness, and of course, for a positive outcome. We want to know answers, but most importantly we long for the outcome to be something easily treated and solved.

Thank you faithful readers!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Surfing the Nations" (and JULIE!) Comes to Oregon

I stole this group pic of the STN crew from Kaela who took the image in front of her home. It was a good one to be able to give names to faces....

Left to right: Brendan, Renee, Julie, Chris, and Charis

Two pics that Julie took with her I-Phone - one with Brayden before he went to school in the morning - and the other with the group of them as they explored the UO campus later that afternoon.

So, these are the folks that Julie has been "living life" with in Hawaii. What "Surfing the Nations" has done in that community is so amazing - the way they love on the population you don't expect when you think of Hawaii - in all sorts of capacities. Tangibly feeding the poor, running surf lessons, interacting with at-risk youth, and ridding the small town they live in (which is predominately all "red light district") of a porn shop and adult products shop to re-open it as their headquarters. The sort of stuff that absolutely glorifies a mighty, loving God - as it's all just too big for a group of young adults to make happen on their own!

Julie used this week in Oregon to talk to folks in her home town about what she's been doing - as well as in Eugene, Monmouth, and Portland. She got a chance to have some "home time" before the rest of the crew joined her which I know was HUGE for Julie and her family - interacting with the nephew she hasn't seen since he was born in April and the grandpa who's health has been in scary jeopardy at times while she's been gone - all showing up as a surprise to her.

So, with all that time spent in Cannon Beach "catching up", by the time she got down here to Eugene there wasn't a lot of opportunity to just be with Julie - as the focus was more for what the whole group of them could experience together and meet with folks about what STN is all about. At first, I have to admit, the idea was a little bit of a bummer for us - we kind of just wanted Julie to ourselves. But, with the extra crew coming, it did encourage us to proceed with the Carving Party, knowing we'd be entertaining and feeding a bunch of extra folks anyway - why not turn it into a big group - and give them a chance to meet and chat with more people.

Unfortunately, because of the extent of that event, lack of sleep through the week, and a certain "Two-Hand-Touch" football game played at the end of the day with my fifth graders on Thursday - by Friday morning, my head was killing me. I gutted it out to prepare the crew a fun breakfast, but as soon as the pre-meal "Amen" was uttered, I whispered to Julie that I was about to throw up and needed an ice pack and bed in a hurry. Fortunately, some sleep, anti-nausea meds, and the ice did do the trick, so by the time Julie tip-toed in 90 minutes later (as I asked her to do), I was feeling considerably better. In fact, out of the entire visit, those 20 minutes with Julie laying down next to me - us having heart to heart conversation, was my favorite.

I couldn't help but think as I talked to her - and having watched the way her whole group interacted - that Julie embodied that very topic that I addressed last week regarding a life victorious in Christ. When I first met Julie, she couldn't seem to grasp the idea that her past was just that - the past (even though we're not talking much of a past...but it's all about perspective, I get that). She struggled to grasp the enormity of God's grace and vision for her, but slowly and surely, He got through to her, helping her to understand that as a child of His, she was just where she needed to be. We were all excited for her to experience STN, but when 3 months turned into another year, I think we sided with her parents hoping she'd decide to be done soon so she could get back to Oregon. (There was some legitimate health concerns too - as a mom, even if I'm not hers - those things worry me....)

However, after that conversation, it became abundantly clear to me just how radiant Julie is now - and a large part of that is because of the experiences she's had and how much she's been challenged to do so much more than she ever thought or dreamed possible for herself through STN. She said that with any thing you feel like God has called you to do (i.e. John's job or our involvement with college ministry) rarely are you ever given a specific date that it should all end....rather, it's a matter of listening to the Lord and recognizing when His timing is. I couldn't help but agree....but I sure hope she gets a few more extended vacations to visit!

Julie became an extension to our family soon after we met her, so there's much longing that we'd also get to "live life" with her too - like these fellow STN'ers are doing. But, someday, I hope I have the courage to release my own kids to do something they feel strongly led to do by God, as Julie's parents have...knowing that in doing so, it will be then that they may experience Christ so much more intimately than they ever could have under the protective umbrella of how we live. So, go with Christ, Julie - be safe and stay healthy - and never-underestimate how proud we are of you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Official: Best Class I've Ever Subbed For

This is where I spent last Friday through Thursday from 8-4:00. (Along with several other days already this year). I didn't feel like it was appropriate or ethical to take pictures with the kids actually in their seats, but trust me that each one of those name tags represents a very special kid that I've already come to adore and look forward to seeing again soon.

We had a lot of fun last week. We did manage to get through almost all of the "required" lesson plans, along with throwing plenty of stories into the mix, along with a whole lot of "outside the box" puzzles and logic questions.

On top of all of that, this class won the coveted "Cougar Paw" award given to one of the classes representing the older grades (3rd, 4th, or 5th). So they were in competition with about 8 or so other classes. Apparently, it's a situation where any other staff members watch and nominate - particularly "specialty" teachers such as music, art, or library. Not only did these kids win, but they won by a landslide. As I told them (in a laughing spirit), either they are JUST AMAZING or I am, because to have that happen when a sub is around (not to mention a sub who sometimes gets them even more riled up....hey, my last name is "Ril-ey"....riling up is my specialty!!!) is unheard of. We all agreed it was because of both. =) Honestly, it does seem kind of like a stacked class as they are almost all so good-natured, so positive, so eager to learn...and smart, and interactive, and friendly.

The experience was ended with p.e. being the final activity of the week. When the gym where we planned to do a set activity was being used for the Harvest Carnival, I gave them time to play outside. One boy started throwing a football and I had him pass to me. Pretty soon, a couple more kids were joining us. Then it turned into a two-hand-touch game in the field - with eventually about half the class participating. I had to laugh when the BOYS were hanging on me begging to be part of "my" team (as I told them, "you do realize I'm a handicap and not an asset!") It was was, practically the whole week.

It taxed our family tremendously though, so it made me appreciate all those who do this every day with out a break. For the rest of 2011, I will probably only take positions with this class as I did "put in my days" already as needed. For our family, for right now, Mom is still kind of needed a bit more around the house. (Especially when a party and houseguests are on their way!).

So, yes, it's official - this is the best class I've ever subbed for....and I'll be there for them whenever and as long as needed - I care about them that much!

2nd Annual BYOP Carving Party

So unbelievable worth it....

- the five day assignment subbing for the most amazing class of 5th graders coinciding with...
- the five house guests (including Julie) that descended into our lives for 24 hours from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon coinciding with...
- about 30 "young adults" over for an evening of comfort food and carvin' pumpkins...

Now, granted, I can barely keep my eyes open, I'm ABSOLUTELY exhausted - and so thankful it's Friday - but this is what is meant by the "abundant life" - I'm sure of it....

I will add captions to these pics, detail the experiences of my life in the classroom and expand on our visit with Julie sometime tomorrow...I hope. As for right now, though, I'm going to collapse.

Back again...super great, re-energizing long night of sleep - PTL!!

Okay, on to some descriptions - here's the spread - I used a lot of new Pinterest ideas for some of the food choices (chili was served too - it was just not shown as it was in crockpots in the corner of the kitchen):

Fizzy Orange Punch - tastes just like a melted Dreamsickle with a little fizz....

Homemade Samoa Bars and Pretzel Cookies (with chocolate and peanut butter chips....THANKS SARA!) - I think they both made the "cut" to be repeated for the Christmas Cookie Platters...

This little item seemed to be the hit of the party - also from Pinterest - a cream cheese peanut butter ball with chocolate and peanut butter chips around it - served with "Scooby Snacks" - a treat you can purchase in the kids' snack aisle at stores. Those are graham cracker flavored and the dip tasted like the inside of a Nutter worked great on apples too. Yummy!!!!

Early in the party, as John pulled out his power tools.....

This is Alli Mertz, daugther of Dave Mertz - the director at Camp Harlow and close family friend. Alli is now a freshman at the UO and living in the Trinity House - so great to have her now cross our paths so often. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. And, Kaela - looking just as gorgeous - freshly tanned from just getting back from her vacation in Hawaii.

(A fun little "P.S." - Dave stopped by with his family to pick up Alli as it was his birthday on that night and they were all going out together. SO fun to have the whole group stop what they were doing and sing "Happy Birthday" to Dave!)

Alli, Megan, and Erika - all three living at Trinity and tremendously positive women of influence there.

Taylor, Alysha, and Joanna. We actually met Alysha at Red Robin last year as she was our server. We got to talking and she kind of recognized us as she'd been at CCF a few times. She was at the retreat as well this year - and I was so thrilled to have her show up at our house.

Julie and the two ladies she brought along from STN in Hawaii. To the left of Julie (with Mikayla laying on her) is Renee, and to the right, Charis. I would elaborate more, but this whole group of five that came to visit were all so amazing....

Amanda, the newest member of our Thursday Night Ladies group - as always looking so classy!

Elaina, Heather, and Julie. If Julie were around in Eugene, I guarantee she'd also be a part of our Thursday Night group - so she might as well have posed with two of them.

Katy - ALWAYS smiling...

That pumpkin is almost as big as she is!

Towards the back of our cleared out living room where many chose to chat and eat.

Family photo - flourished a bit with some Mikayla drama....

Travis and Steph - looking so glad to have them joining us as fellow "older folks"!!!

Julie is carving the outline of the state of Oregon with a heart in it - indicating her love for Jules, if you love it so much, just come home for good for awhile, eh???!!! No, really, I couldn't be more proud of her and all she's accomplishing in Hawaii....but, more on that in another post.

Julie telling stories to new-friends-to-me, Ashley and Kristen - and Darcy.

I love these pics of these gals - the joy they have in being around each other is so infectious!

Classic "bro/sis" expression between Travis and Julie.....

Bless Elaina's heart, she willingly stepped forward to help Mikayla carve her Minnie Mouse pumpkin. She was having fun, they were bonding, and it freed me up to play with the power drill for another Pinterest idea for my pumpkins.....

Not identified yet is the gal to the far right in the picture - Kelsey. She is such a SWEETHEART! Her and I are finally getting together for some one on one this Thursday - looking forward to it. She is the Trinity House Manager, with Erika - to the left of her, as Assistant House Manager. That house is under amazing leadership, that's for sure.

Alicia and Lindsey - so glad they stopped by!!!
Trinity girls! On the bottom left is Brittany, a good friend of Heather's that just moved in to the house - and the upper left is Olivia - who was a hilarious emcee for last weekend's retreat.

Here's my Pinterest-inspired, power-drilled Pumpkin carvings......

I love the way they turned out!

And how about this from Mikayla and Elaina?! They look like they could be sister's in this picture.....

These girls worked on Micky all evening long and then kindly left him behind to be able to hang out with Minnie through Halloween.... =)

Olivia and Danielle - they are such a riot together!!! Danielle LOVES coffee - and coffee houses so it was no surprise that she opted to carve a design with Olivia that was close to her heart.

Brayden's choice on what to carve - the number "24" in honor of Kenjon....who stopped by just as much of the party was stepping out the door to leave. I wish I would have got a pic of him and Brayden behind "their" pumpkin....

...but instead, we have to settle for another pic of them rough-housing together - Brayden trying to somehow unlock the football form Kenjon's grip.....not a chance, Brayden. Michael Chase also stopped by a little later - which made for a perfect post-party group of folks with the Whites, Julie and her crew, and Michael and Kenjon to all just chill and chat. I stayed up for a bit with them, but then had to give in.....I was SO EXHAUSTED!

But, like I said before - OH SO WORTH IT!!! I couldn't have asked for the event to be any better.....