Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big Miracle

I had really wanted to see Big Miracle in theaters but never got the chance. When I went to the library to see if I could put the DVD on hold, they didn't have it yet so I borrowed the book instead. Big Miracle by Tom Rose tells the true story of three stranded whales in Barrow, Alaska in October of 1988.  I was too young to know that this event happened and when the movie trailers came out, I was very interested.

The book shares the details of everyone that was involved in the whale rescue. From Greenpeace, the U.S. Navy and oil producers to (my favorite) Minnesotans who manufactured de-icers. I was amazed at the number of poeple involved and the amount of money spent on this rescue. The author also highlights the drama of what he calls the media-created-nonevent. If the cameras didn't capture it and televise it, the rescue probably would not have happened! But every TV network and even a few foreign media crews were in Barrow watching and televising the whole thing. That just boggles my mind.

Reading this book made me realize that I'm not (yes, I'm admitting this in public) very environmentally friendly. I honestly don't think whales are people. Do I want to protect them and keep them around -- yes. Do I think we need to spend six million dollars to save three of them? Probably not.

This book also had at least a dozen gramatical errors, which drove me nuts. I don't claim to know everything about English at all -- but even I can write complete sentences! In my opinion, since there is now a movie on the subject, there isn't really a reason to read this book. The story itself was interesting but I wasn't a fan of the way it was written and I didn't think it needed to be as long as it was.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cline Winery

Photos from our afternoon spent at Cline winery in Sonoma California. 

the food and wine

the one I love

flower gardens

statues in the lagoon

Road Trip to Sonoma

We are not very good at planning our three-day weekends in advance, which means that all the camp sites are full and other over-night options pass us by. But, determined to go somewhere and do something, Chris and I decided to go hiking.

We found out that there was a Historical State Park where the famous author Jack London lived not to far from Sonoma. On Saturday morning, I woke up to find Chris making us a picnic lunch! I made breakfast and soon after we left on our almost two-hour long road trip. The weather was really great and it was a beautiful drive.

Jack London and his wife had built there dream house north of Sonoma in a fairly secluded woodsy area. It was made of stone and lava rock; the 18-room home cost a lot of money (especially for the early 1900s). Just weeks before they were set to move in, a fire burned it down. All that remained was the stone walls. The ruins of his dream home in the forest were beautiful. He planned to rebuild it but died within a few years after and that plan was never realized. It was tragic . . . but beautiful.

After two hours of walking around his vast property and taking in all the beauty of it, we drove just 20 minutes south to stop at a winery our friends had mentioned to us long ago. Not many wineries offer free tastings but this one did. The grounds of this winery (like most I'm sure) were absolutely gorgeous. There were fountains, flower beds, trees and lagoons.

We took our time with the tasting, trying several I had never heard of before. Most were delicious, especially the port-like sweet wine they gave us at the end! (I'm always a fan of wine that goes well with chocolate!) Chris picked out one of the wines we tried and bought a bottle.

We took out or packed lunch and enjoyed our wine right there at the winery! I'll be honest, it was pretty romantic.

We had a wonderful afternoon together exploring and relaxing. Getting away for a three-day weekend would have been nice, but this one-day get away was just as sweet (not to mention more affordable and less stressful).

Jack London Historical State Park

Here are some of our photos from our trip up to Sonoma. The ruins are from Jack London's dream home which burned down before he was able to move in.

This would have been a courtyard pool

Jack London was an adventurer, dreamer, and author - 
I think he probably has a lot in common with my husband.

He requested that his ashes be spread on top of a large stone that remained from his dream home

On the other side of his property was a barn, a cactus garden, a vineyard, and worker's quarters. 

He seemed like a very interesting man. His wife must have been an interesting woman too! He was always learning and trying new things - even attempted to sale around the world in a boat he designed! (I was reminded of my Uncle Jerry a few times on this tour!)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alpha Pregnancy Center: Saving lives in San Francisco

As you know, I am a supporter of our local pregnancy crisis center "Alpha Pregnancy Center." Their annual fundraising banquet was this weekend and since you missed it, I wanted to share with you some of the inspiring and heart breaking things I heard.

Their banquet this year was actually not a banquet, but an event called "The Great Turnaround." This is a national campaign to raise awareness and funds to save 100,000 unborn children this year. This organization will be giving 300 presentations around the nation in hopes of raising one million dollars for this cause. They are a faith based organization as is Alpha.

The event started with a local woman sharing her story of how Alpha Pregnancy Center and it's director were there to help her when she felt like there was no hope. She was desperate for help and turned to Alpha for it's services in providing a crib, diapers and clothing for her second baby. A few years later she found herself unexpectedly pregnant and didn't know if she could handle another child. Once again, with the help of the center and it's counselors she decided to keep the baby and was blessed with all Alpha's support and care. She even shared that the director of the center was the only person who came to visit her after her baby was born.

There were many tears shed during her story. You could see that this woman didn't have a support system around her as many are blessed to have. The director of the center became her friend and almost family. Through the care and love that was shown to this woman, she heard the gospel and gave her life to Jesus.

Wow. I know my words can't convey the emotion of this woman's story, but can you see how the Lord is using this center to change lives? To save lives?

The director shared other stories of women seeking help and finding Jesus. She also shared a few statistics with us about the work they do. Last year, they gave 104 free pregnancy tests. Of those with positive results, 74% chose to carry their babies to full term and 26% chose abortion. There were 81 babies born last year with this center's help. Praise the Lord!

Of course they do more than just give free pregnancy tests. They give pregnancy options counseling, pre-natal and parenting education, and free diapers, cribs, clothes, car seats and baby food. Women can receive the help they need to keep and raise their children.  They can also receive post abortion counseling if they choose not to keep their baby. There is no judgement, just hope, love and a lot of help.

Then she shared some statistics about abortion.  In the Bay Area, there are 40,000 abortions a year. The abortion rate is 40% higher here than the rest of the nation.  Let that sink in a bit. It hit me like a brick. 40,000 babies . . . every. . . year. . . are aborted. That means well over 40,000 women are faced with making this life and death decision. I feel ill just thinking this through. I really can't fathom . . .

This pregnancy center is one of two in the entire city of San Francisco. It's really small. There is only one paid employee. This year, they've had more volunteers than ever before, they've also helped more women and served more clients than in their 30 year history! They've had a lot of big victories this year. but they are ready for more. Last year they purchased an ultra sound machine in hopes of being able to offer free ultrasounds. It's said that when a woman seems her baby and hears the heart beat she is much more likely to choose life. They already have RNs who are willing to volunteer.  All this center needs are the funds to hire an OB-GYN to use it. 

The other need they mentioned was for a Spanish speaking volunteer. More than 35% of the clients they serve speak Spanish, but they don't have a way to clearly communicate with them! Another 35% of their clients are Asian. This year, they had their first Cantonese volunteer and that has been a huge help in serving those women! (Imagine having to play charades in order to ask for diapers!)

The key-note speaker shared that it costs roughly $1200 in services and supplies to save each baby. So, in order for them to continue saving lives and increase in the number of women and children they can serve, they need to raise more funds.

How much should saving a life cost? How much should helping a woman go through and support an unplanned and maybe even unwanted pregnancy? The dollar amount they mentioned seemed high to me at first, but then the more I thought about it, really, it's life! 

I can't put a price on that.

Chris and I were moved to increase our giving to Alpha this year. We believe in life and we want them to continue serving these woman and offering them hope for this life and eternity. I can't expect you to support the San Francisco pregnancy centers if you live elsewhere, but if you do live in the Bay Area, please consider helping Alpha Pregnancy Center save lives. I've highlighted a few of their specific needs for you to be aware of but please check out their website for more information.

They are making a difference.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For Mom

I am thankful for my mom for so many reasons. Not only did she care for me, raise me, and along with my dad provide a wonderful childhood for me, but she also taught me many things.

I grew up watching her be a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a woman. I saw how she loved my dad, saying goodbye to him every morning with a kiss and said goodnight every evening with "I love you." I watched how she interacted with her mother and how she respected her father.

I witnessed first hand how she cared for her children; taking opportunities each day to tell us she loved us and teach us something. It might be something small or it could be life changing. The things she taught me really made me who I am.

This weekend, as I am far from my mom, I was thinking about all she has shown me and taught me. (And thinking about the things I wish I would have learned under her roof).

  • She taught me how to bake. I love baking her chocolate chip cookies. 
  • She taught me to cook a little too. I wish I would have had the patience to watch her in the kitchen more. 
  • She taught me to sew, although she probably thought I would never have picked up that hobby again! She taught me how to clean, which when you're 8 years old seems like such a big chore, but now at 28, I'm glad I know what I'm doing (sort of . . . again, I wish I would have paid better attention to certain things like cleaning the oven). 
  • She taught me how to do the laundry and told me that you always vacuum before you dust. 
  • She taught me how to walk, talk, write and count. 
  • She taught me right from wrong and how to read my Bible and say my prayers.
  • She taught me how to plant a garden and transplant flowers.
She instilled in me my values. Belief in Jesus comes first. Family is also pretty close to the top. Education and learning are important.  And so is being a good neighbor and valuing people.

My mom is pretty compassionate, she's also really smart. She is kind and loving. She's also very protective and fights for what is right. She loves her job and I think she always has.

I'm very fortunate to have such a loving mother. One who is always there for me, and supports me even when it's hard. Taught me so much of (if not everything) I know.

So often I find myself thinking thoughts that she would think or making an expression she would make (now I know why my siblings always teased me about being just like mom) and it reminds me to embrace who I am because my mom is a pretty great lady.

Happy Mother's Day -- I love you mom!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Homemade Baby Gifts

My friend had her baby shower the other day. The ladies from our church showered her with fancy desserts, prayers and gifts to help her get ready for her new baby. It was a very sweet evening.

When my friend announced that she was expecting I got right to work on her gift. I knew exactly what I wanted to give her.  My friend and I headed to the quilting expo and I scored plenty of fabric for my project. And now because the gift has been given, I can share with you how it went . . . and what it was!

The first project was a nursing cover. It's fairly simple but from what I've heard, very handy to have when needing to nurse your baby in front of people or in a public setting. I used a material that was fairly feminine since the mother is the one who has to wear it. (The baby's gender is unknown). I found a tutorial online at Prudent Baby that was easy to follow.

Here's the finished product:

The second project was a little more involved. These quilting expos had given me the quilting bug but I knew I would never finish a large quilt and I didn't know what I would do with it if I did actually make it. But a baby quilt is much smaller and would definitely be used. I searched for a while until I found a pattern that was just perfect. I found it at Cluck Cluck Sew; the pattern is called "Disappearing Nine Patch" and it looked pretty complex. But I searched the blog a bit more and found a tutorial and it was actually much easier than it looked.

First step was cutting a lot of 5" squares

 Then sewing nine squares together. I don't have a photo of them disappearing but that was done by cutting the 9 square blocks into 4 pieces 

Laying out my pieces . . . it changed a few times

All the blocks were sewn together - the front is now done!

                          This is the back of the front piece, I just get a kick out of all those seams!

                                      It's finished! The finished size is about 32" x 38" 

 The back -- didn't turn out as smooth as I would have liked, but it was a good attempt - next time I'll be more careful.

Close-up of the quilting on the front. I did an "echo" quilting pattern which echoes the block seams by sewing 1/4" on either side of the seam. It was easier than doing something freehand and went well with the block pattern. 

Thanks to my husband I was able to spend two entire weekends working on the quilt so it was done in time for the baby shower. He covered my chores and encouraged me every step of the way. It's always nice to have your own cheering section!

I really enjoyed making these things. Quilting really isn't very difficult, it just takes time and patience (and precision with those 1/4" seams). I'm glad I found a new hobby -- one I hope will bless others with warmth and love!

Someone else just let me know they were expecting too so now I get to do it again! (Chris, I'll try to make time for chores this time!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Big Miracles with Small Things

[Setting up the scene for the miraculous story] This weekend was pretty amazing. It was a rare "Summer" day--sunny and warm and perfect. I had wanted to try getting back on my bike this weekend; I hadn't biked at all since I fainted two weeks ago. The bump on my head had been pretty sore and I had still been feeling lightheaded at the beginning of the week. But as of last Wednesday I had been feeling much more normal.

I was pretty sure I'd be okay, but I was glad that Chris said he would go with me. The bike ride went fine. But when I got to my destination I couldn't find the key to my bike lock (usually on my key ring). Then I remembered . . . the day after I had fainted, Chris came to work to get my bike. I had given him my key.

And here is the rest of the story written by Chris:
Emily's u-lock snaps into a holster on the seat tube of her bike. In a moment of early-morning brilliance before I was fully awake, I thought to myself, "I need to give Emily her key back. A good place for it would be IN the lock; that way she'll see it the next time she rides." Then, I forgot about it—COMPLETELY forgot about it.
On our way out on Saturday it must have fallen out somewhere down the bumpy, pothole-laden bikers' hell that is Mission Street... for us, it covers roughly a mile before our turn-off to Valencia Street. Once we returned home that day, and I realized that my once seemingly brilliant idea had backfired in the most tragic fashion, we weighed our options.. The most practical was buying a new lock. The most ridiculous was to walk the mile stretch of road looking for a small, black key against the tar-covered road. Owning up the the fact that it was my fault the key had vanished and considering the fact that I had some free time, I decided it couldn't hurt to spend an hour or so looking for it.
On the walk down the hill I started to think about God's faithfulness, about how He cares for us even in the seemingly insignificant ways like losing a bike key, and I started to pray that He would help me find it. Then, an image flashed into my mind (which I believe came from the Holy Spirit) of our bike ride from that morning: an image of Emily running over something metal. Then, I realized that she hadn't run over anything; it was the key!
That only narrowed down where it could have been to about 3/4 of a mile. So, I prayed as I walked, "God help me find this key. It's impossible by normal standards, but with You all things are possible." And (you can choose to believe this or not), God told me, "Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking." Eventually, I found myself in front of Safeway, trying to remember when I passed Emily on our ride since the key would have fallen off before that. Suddenly, I realized that God wasn't saying, "Keep walking," anymore. Then (again, you can choose to believe this or not), He pointed my eyes to the center of the car lane DIRECTLY in front of where I had been standing for the past several minutes... and there was the key.
I can think of endless applications of this story: the parable of the lost coin, proverbs 3:5-6, how God will meet ALL of our needs according to His abundant riches in Christ Jesus, and on, and on, and on. However, what the series of events taught me was that the Holy Spirit IS speaking and directing if we are walking in obedience and faith and trying to listen to Him. I'm starting to believe more and more that the reason I do not see His power in my life is either because of sin (disobedience) or because of a lack of faith or because I simply don't ask (or believe that it's really HIS voice). Scripture, from beginning to end, has a consistent thread of obedience and faith (and probably other things) existing in the lives of His followers. And, if following that thread means that I hear Him as clearly as I did on Saturday and see Him work as miraculously, I cannot fathom a reason to live contrary to it.
Isn't God good? The key to my bike lock is such a small thing. I was amazed that God would care about somthing so small. It's incredible that the Holy Spirit would be with Chris in such a a clear and intimate way about something like a bike key! But He cares so much about us and I believe He wanted us to know that. And I wanted to share it with you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More than Sparrows

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31) 

For some reason, this is the passage that stuck with me after reading Matthew 10 yesterday morning. It might have something to do with the "fall" I had last week. I don't think I fell "to the ground outside my Father's care." But it was a good reminder that I am valuable to my Creator. I am worth more than many sparrows. It's a good reminder that I am in His care even if I did get hurt. 

Sometimes I think I forget just how much I am cared for and loved; I forget just how well He knows me! I needed this reminder yesterday -- and today. I need to rest in my Father's care. In His love. I need to remember that I am His and He is okay with me just the way I am. I need to trust in Him and not be afraid . . . of falling, of getting hurt, of needing help . . . of being happy, successful . . .

I fear so many things.

And His word says more than once, "Do not be afraid."

Don't be afraid because God knows. God cares. God is in control. 

He knows, cares, and loves because he values us!  I don't know how to grasp this. Honestly. I can't fathom how the God of the universe, creator of all that is, can value me. But He does. His word says so.

You are worth more than many sparrows.