winding down 2009

dad & philip, hard at work

my wonderful oldest nephew, dillan
al & greg getting serious about quiddler

first christmas as a married couple!

'twas quite snowy...
mom & dad opening gifts on christmas eve

snuggle time!

philip & landon cheesin' it up!

making spritz cookies with mumsie!

Christmas in Iowa was wonderful, as usual. Although the cost of flying out to the midwest is considerable, it was well worth it. In spite of weather and terrorist threats, our flights went well. We spent time baking, playing games, eating, reading, watching movies, and removing snow. My favorite activity was sorting through Trav & Tami's enormous collection of Legos in order to put together some of the sets. I love organization...I'm a bit of a freak about it, especially when it's not my own stuff I'm dealing with. Another highlight was putting together the puzzle that Mom & Dad purchased for the whole family to conquer (although we were missing 3-4 pieces, including Morocco, where, ironically, Al & Greg were heading to on the 26th for their honeymoon). The snow and family togetherness made everything cozy and warm inside.

We flew home on Monday night and were greeted exuberantly by Ophy. She meowed many times that first exhausting night, but now she's contenting herself with sleeping near me, on me, on my pillow, etc. She's not too keen to let me out of her sight. I'm enjoying being back with the little snuggler.

Philip and I arrived at our 6-month mark on Dec. 27. It doesn't seem possible that it's been so long that we've been married, but on the other hand, it seems that we've been married forever. We're really enjoying being married and living in Bellingham, and we're hoping to look back on this time of financial instability as "the good old days." We have nothing to complain about: God has provided and we are blessed with wonderfully supportive families. Thank you, families!

We're looking forward to a new year and new opportunities here in Whatcom County. We're very involved in our church teaching Sunday school to K-4 kids, partipating in worship and worship planning, and I also play in the handbell choir. We're trying to strike a balance between involvement and sanity, and I think we're doing a fair job. I'm hoping to land some sort of permanent teaching job, and Philip is looking into options for further schooling for an education degree.

Well, it's time to go. Apparently I turned this into some sort of Christmas letter, so hopefully you all feel updated. Have a safe and happy New Year!


...and we've got 50-degree weather

i'm looking at a bulging suitcase, wondering what to take out so everything that we really need fits. i know i don't need everything in there, but when there's room, i say, "hey! there's room! now i can pack that ______ i really wanted to take!" unfortunately, i forgot to factor in my husband. we both shove lots of last-minute stuff in, hence the bulge.

i cleaned both bathrooms and vacuumed and shook out rugs and paid the bills and delivered the key to our friend and am anxiously pacing around the apartment, either ignoring the suitcase or fretting that Ophy will be too lonely/scared/hungry/sad without us.

but i'm excited to go to iowa! i'm really excited to be done with the flying part, and thrilled that our whole family will be together this year (greg included)! hooray.

we had snow and ice earlier this week, but the rain came on Tuesday and melted it all away. now it's in the 50s and sunny, which is fine by me since we're driving to seattle tonight and flying tomorrow morning. no more sleeping in the airports for us! (unless denver decides to get all snowy).

all right. enough lollygagging. back to packing.

*edit: i lied. it's actually only 46 degrees. but after 2 weeks of abnormally low temperatures for this area, my internal thermometer is all messed up.


take a chance on me

the wind blows fiercely. it's too soon to tell whether this is a common occurrence or merely early winter weather. i hope the fire on the power lines and the ensuing explosion is not a weekly show.

our apartment is lovely. we are really enjoying it, although i'm eager to have bookshelves put up so we can flatten all our book boxes and make some room in our office. from my perch on the couch, i can see three square windows, one set of patio doors, and a gorgeous half-moon window that lets in the light perfectly when the sun chooses to shine. we have 3 windows in other rooms, in addition to another set of patio doors in the master bedroom. someone pinch me! pictures will make their way here at some point.

subbing has been slow this week. the district i sub in is having parent-teacher conferences this week and next, resulting in early-release days and exhausted teachers who can't afford to take a day off. i expect a plethora of jobs the week after thanksgiving. until then, i'm enjoying the apartment. probably a little too much...i should get outside and go for a rainy-day walk. i've been cooped up doing dishes, rearranging, playing freecell, knitting, and listening to abba. they really are a delightful group.

bellingham is the largest city i've lived in. 75,000 diverse people walk the damp streets of the city. the lighthouse mission, an outreach to the homeless, is two blocks from our apartment. i love that living here is stretching my mind and making me see parts of humanity from which i've been somewhat sheltered. i'm also nervous walking around by myself, in the way that i was nervous when al & i took walks at night in her chicago neighborhood. maybe not quite that nervous...bellingham is a friendly city; a cultured city; full of sights and sounds and natural beauty and apparently, fierce windstorms. i'm glad i don't have to take it all in this week. i've lived in the area for over two years and i learn new things about bellingham weekly.

i feel pensive. and i smell delicious whole-wheat bread baking in the oven.


the mitten

today i lost a mitten.

this morning when i didn't get a sub job, i prepared for my morning walk. it was rainy and windy out, so i bundled up. long johns, sweatshirt, jacket, hat, and mittens. my mitten are the cool kind that are fingerless gloves with a mitten top with beautiful brightly colored stripes. i usually don't wear mittens on my walks because i get warmed up pretty quickly, but i remembered that the last few walks i'd taken resulted in me pulling my sleeves over my chilly fingers. so i pulled on my festive mittens. satisfied with my state of warmth, i headed out the door.

well, it was quite blustery. i almost ran into a stop sign because the wind gusted at just the right (wrong?) time. i pulled my sweatshirt hood over my hat and my jacket hood over that. the rain was spattering my face, but i didn't mind. my head was warm, so the cool wetness on my cheeks felt refreshing.

some days i alternate running with walking, and today i felt the need to get my heart rate up (a good start for a monday morning!) i began jogging right after my stop sign incident. i jogged down south park street, counting my steps and saying bible verses in my head. incidentally, my favorite verses to exercise to are from psalm 23. this is how much i love running...i compare it to the valley of the shadow of death. but i know it's good for me, so i do it and say verses to myself. or pray really hard that i can make it to the place i'm planning to stop.

i jogged across depot and started on the bike trail through the city park. i love crossing the bridge and spitting into the water, smelling the evergreens and watching kids heading to school. at this point i was getting rather warm, so i took out my mittens and stuffed them into my pockets. soon my head was too warm, so i removed my hat and stuffed it into my other pocket, moving both mittens into the same pocket.

i left the bike trail, wound around the school and past the thrift shop, back to depot and down south park, enduring several heart-pumping running spurts. as i punched in the security code and waited for the garage door to open, i reached for my mittens and hat to throw in the closet. i found my hat, the cell phone, and a mitten. but only one mitten.

i dug deeper into the pocket. nothing. i checked the other pocket. empty. i looked inside my hat, my sweatshirt hood, and my jacket hood, just in case. nothing.

i tried to tell myself it was just a mitten. which is true. it's a material object and i shouldn't store up these treasures on earth, yada yada yada. but i knew it was within my power to at least look for my mitten.

i dashed upstairs, grabbed the car keys, waved goodbye to a befuddled Ophy, and jumped in the car. i drove slowly back over the route i had taken, carefully checking the side of the street i had been walking on. i looked over the whole route. except the bike path, where obviously i couldn't drive.

i pulled up next to the path and parked the car. i wasn't too sure i was allowed to park where i did, so i hoped no one would be by. i cut across the lawn and then followed the path, over the bridge, through the scented evergreens, and past the school. each time i turned a corner, i scanned from side to side and then squinted ahead for any sight of a brightly colored mitten. i passed plastic bags stuck to the fence, discarded candy wrappers and coffee cups (honestly, peopel!) i reached the point where i remembered removing my mittens and placing them in my pocket.

and then i saw something at the end of the path, as far as i could see. i knew it was something other than leaves and brush, but it could just be another monument to the dump. i told myself not to get too excited. i guess i could have started running, but i wasn't that desperate yet. i sped up my walking pace, keeping my eyes on the object off to the side of the path.

as i got closer, i could see colored stripes emerging. pink and teal, purple and gray, orange and cream. it was my mitten! it lay in the brush and leaves, lighting up the dreary path, spread out as if trying to be seen by its owner.

i picked up the damp mitten and held it to my cheek, grinning.


the pictures never post the way i want them to

ophy explores
girlyman concert!
philip's in the music
abby's model pose
my impression of monet (ha, ha!)
we all be hitched!
al & greg's wedding

Also, we're moving to Bellingham in 1 1/2 weeks! Stellar!


she's only just begun

it has been quite the whirlwind recently. besides applying for jobs daily and keeping on top of the chores the apartment brings, we found out my Bepa passed away last saturday. there are bonuses to being unemployed. like taking a 6-day road trip with my sister in order to get to the funeral in south dakota.

day 1: drove 10 hours to missoula
day 2: drove 8ish hours to sheridan, wy
day 3: drove 8ish hours to platte, spent time with family at the prayer/memorial service. stayed up until 2 a.m. bonding with siblings.
day 4: attended funeral, sang at funeral, attended burial, ate ham buns. left less than 24 hours after arriving. drove 8ish hours back to sheridan, wy.
day 5: drove 8ish hours to missoula. proceeded to watch 3 movies, read 1 book, take a nap, and go for a walk while al & greg worked at an auction.
day 6: drove 10 hours back to lynden and slept for 10 hours that night.

it was totally worth it. it was good to remember bepa (& pake, too!) they were very special people to me. not everyone gets to be the only grandchildren of wonderful grandparents. al & i both shared papers at the prayer service we had written about bepa. she was a feisty woman who always had a joke or a trick up her sleeve. i miss her. but i know she's back with pake and loving every minute of it!

we have a bit of a break from traveling. well, until wednesday, anyway. we're heading back to missoula for al & greg's wedding. it will be a grand outdoor celebration that is probably going to include snow, based on the most recent forecast...


book discussion

this week, i finished reading a couple of books. one was reimagining church by frank viola, the other was the oh-so-controversial book the shack. as i finished the shack today, i was realizing that both books point out that much of our christian tradition is unfounded in biblical truths. why do we go to a building and listen to one person preach the word? why do we get caught up in religious activities rather than listening to the whisper (or shout, or dance) of the spirit?

naturally, we feel comfortable in something that's been part of our heritage in the last 500 years. i'm sure these ideas i'm reading about aren't new or groundbreaking to some, but to me, they are world-shattering. i felt defensive at some points while reading (but i'm still a christian! just because i go to church and sit in a pew and listen to the word being preached doesn't make me a bad person!) viola argues in his book that while god works through anything and everything, not everything is his best. the institutional church...is this really his best? numbing ourselves to the people around us (except during our 3-minute meet & greet) and insisting that going to a second service on sunday earns us "heaven points"? we might not say that out loud, but how many of us are really thinking that (perhaps unknowingly)?

i feel challenged right now. spiritually, mentally, emotionally...even physically. i want to go out and be part of god's kingdom building, but admitting that right now, that might involve only cleaning the toilet feels less than glorious. i want to challenge others in their faith or at least share the challenges i'm going through...but i find that i stumble over my words and my defenses are up. i feel as though i'm falling like i've never fallen before...living real life, even from the comforts of my cushy couch. i have no idea what the future holds, what tomorrow will bring, what job i'll be working at, what challenges lie ahead...but in a strange way, i feel more alive than i have in the past.

are we ever truly alive until everything we know is challenged or taken away? i used to go about my daily life, my daily routine, and feel safe. and yes, i still have daily routines and i still feel somewhat safe, but only when i ignore the little voice in my head that says everything is about to change. it's easy to hide from the truth and talk a big game. it's difficult to humble yourself and turn yourself completely over to god. thy will be done--the prayer that never fails, yet is terrifying to actually submit to.

i have so many more thoughts and so little talent with putting them down in an organized, sensible way. but i'm not entirely sure god or jesus or the spirit are sensible. in fact, i'm pretty sure that in our small group last week we talked about the spirit's presence being chaotic. so here are my chaotic thoughts.

i know lots of people who would disagree with some of the things i'm struggling with. those of you who find comfort in routine, i challenge you to invite the spirit to work. i am definitely one who resists change, but when i'm forced into it, i might as well make lemonade. let the spirit work. let him or her or it guide your life. breathe on me, breath of god.


time to find out

in the last week, i have had 2 interviews. last week's interview was good, but i felt a little uncomfortable because i wasn't sure of the job description and my interviewers didn't share it with me. they told me they'd call friday either way (i initiated this question and specifically asked if i should call). did i hear anything friday? no. did i even call and leave a message for the principal? yes. have i heard anything since? nope. arghhhh.

today's interview went exponentially better than last week's. this job is half a mile away (rather than 25) and much more suited to my capabilities. i felt great during and after the interview. the ladies who interviewed me were wonderfully friendly and i nailed the questions with honesty and poise. they said they'd call me this afternoon.

i haven't heard anything yet. my mind is racing, going through all the possibilities. i really want this job. i feel well-suited for it. it would be perfect. i understand there might be better candidates, which would be disappointing, but understandable. but honestly, i just want to know. i'm left wondering again...did they decide not to call me and figure i'd get the message soon enough? i really would like to have faith in these schools, but the track record so far isn't the greatest.

i may be overreacting. it's not 6:00 yet...but it's time to find out.


we could all use a little change

ok, i can't believe my comeback is titled with a smashmouth lyric. but it sums up my summer. because it's been over 4 months, i'm doing a list.

since my last post, among other things, i have done the following:

-finished teaching and said goodbye to all my kids. they said goodbye to me by dumping a tarp full of soapy water on me after lovely water balloon games. feelin' the love.
-became an expert guest-of-honor at bridal showers (3 in one week!)
-said goodbye to my fiance for 2 1/2 weeks and drove to iowa with mom, stopping in missoula to see al & greg
-spent over a week finishing up wedding details and visiting with friends
-bought lots of flour and sugar and helped al bake 9 wedding cakes (yum!)
-greeted philip and got used to being together again
-had a fabulous wedding celebration with the help of family and friends who rock
-wished i could have spent more time talking with the family and friends who rock
-spent our honeymoon in california, hiking, horsebackriding, having a ca reception, seeing the king tut exhibit in san francisco, and walked on the beach
-enjoyed NOT planning a wedding or worrying about small yet significant details
-arrived home and spent the next week helping out with vbs suppers
-went camping with our small group the first weekend we were back from our honeymoon
-cooked one meal in two weeks
-enjoyed time with dad & mom who drove my car back (with gifts!) and went to the de jong family reunion here in lynden
-flew to michigan unexpectedly for my cousin's funeral and spent important time with extended family
-went camping with al & greg in eastern washington
-watched numerous movies, filled out many applications, went for lots of walks, read tons of books...
-cleaned the apartment, cooked yummy meals, cleaned some more
-adopted a cat!
-and tons and tons of other little things.

hopefully this wasn't too long or tedious. sorry, no pictures. facebook has them all. check 'em out.

wow! it's almost september! when did that happen?...


spring break

a beautiful easter promise as we drove through mount vernon
sharing smiles and sunshine with aaron
dillan creating a crossword
landon is entertaining aaron
playing bingo with bepa

ok, julie, i did this for you, so you'd better comment. :) spring break was good but exhausting. wedding planning is overwhelming, even when we want a simple wedding. now i'm feeling the normal homesickness coming off of a break. we had fun with dad and mom, trav, tami, and the boys, and many friends we were able to get in touch with. it's a little scary knowing this was the last visit before the wedding! so much will be changing soon and it's a little nerve-wracking. lots of prayers are appreciated!
today was a good day of getting back into a routine. on thursday morning, i take off with the 5th graders and their regular chaperone crew to rockport. we will camp there two nights and clean up the park. it's an ebenezer tradition and a good one. it will be three tiring days, but fun days.
only 8 weeks until school gets out. and no news in the job department. i feel like it hasn't hit me yet.
i hope this finds you all well. happy easter!


pleni sunt caeli et terra

another week has gone by, and it's gone quickly. i've realized in the past week or so i've begrudged the time i still have in washington before going to iowa for spring break. i've been on edge, easily irritated, cranky, tired, and needing a break.

and i don't like the person i'm becoming! argh!

so, if you've received any of the brunt of my frustration, i apologize. i'm just antsy. i think i said that in my last post.

philip and i auditioned for a smaller ensemble within our chorale for the next concert. we made it and we're singing a mozart piece. i'm looking forward to being in a more 'select' group. i feel snobby sometimes because i feel that i learned great stuff in college and am still young enough to apply it to my voice. this is not true for many people in the choir. oh, well. it's still a fun group to sing in.

the weather today was beautiful. philip and i walked to a nearby ball field and played catch for awhile. i've realized i like portions of sports more than the sports themselves. for instance, shooting hoops, playing catch, or shooting goals. not a big fan of the pressure and competition of an actual game.

today i will be grateful for God's creation and the blessings he has given me right now.

"earth and the heavens are filled with thy glory."


blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow...forever

feelin' antsy. ready for spring break.


our daily bread

weather is incredible. we have gone from having abnormal amounts of snow and flooding to a beautiful 4-week stint of sunny, gorgeous, spring-feverish fresh-airy weather. then yesterday, it started to rain again, turned to sleet, turned to snow, and turned into a snow day. but today the snow is melting in the glaring sun, patches of green are pushing through, and anyone who built a snowman this morning probably can't see it anymore.

i used my morning to do my taxes, catch up on a few wedding plans, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and clean. now that i'm finished with all that, i have no motivation to write lessons or grade. motivation is a funny thing. i think i burned myself out with all my motivation this morning.

nothing has really changed in terms of what we know for next year. we're looking into indonesia and also some job possibilities in this area. the problem is that we're finally hitting a groove here in washington and we're not quite ready to leave yet. sometimes i feel like i'm living in an alternate reality because i know my life may be drastically different in a few months. it's easier to ignore the coming changes...pretend that they aren't happening, focus on my current job, get stuck in the daily rut and forget about the inevitability of unpredictable things.

in the meantime, we will keep plugging on, keep taking deep breaths and encountering each new challenge as we face it. i'm grateful that God does not give us more than we can handle, and i'm learning just what "give us this day our daily bread" means.


she's got a ticket to ride...and she don't care

a little tipsy in bellingham on new year's day
last week sunday felt like april, so we enjoyed it. philip has some convincing to do.
last saturday afternoon at larrabee state park
we enjoyed the sunshine at larrabee
we went with my roommates to a fantastic japanese restaurant in vancouver. i almost choked on a squid because i tried to swallow it whole.
the traditional "we're in canada!" picture

The weather has been incredible here since Christmas. We had a few days of our first week back at school, and then we have had gorgeous sunshine for days on end. Not your typical western Washington weather! Philip and I have decided to live it up while we're living here in the Northwest, because I found out that my contract is not getting renewed next year. Everyone is making cuts, and Ebenezer is no exception. Right now we're basking in the unknown (can basking include terror?) We have no idea what our plans are beyond June 27. That's when we're getting married. Other than that, we could be going to the other side of the world to become fishermen, for all we know. Hooray, not having a clue about the future! I feel like I'm in college again.

Today, we got to church an hour early because we had forgotten about the combined service at a later time. So, logically, we drove north on every road going out of Lynden and found the border 6 different times. The funniest thing is that there are two parallel roads with a tiny ditch between them. The difference? One is an American road, one is a Canadian road. It's pretty funny. :) Philip, in his ever-present curiosity, got out of the car to examine the obelisk marking the official border. I was in the car, freaking out but trying to look cool in case border patrol was watching us on the cameras. It was an adventure anyway. We'll go back up there sometime and get some pictures, because it's pretty darn funny!

Finally, I reiterate earlier sentiments about politics. I am weary of narrow-minded, judgmental, right-wing conservatism that makes me embarrassed of Christian Republicans. (I am completely aware that there are flaming liberals that I would be just as embarrassed of, thank you very much. ) I am continuing to pray for Obama and support his desire to unify the country instead of getting caught up in partisan politics. I encourage you to do the same, even if you disagree with some of his decisions.

And, on a lighter note, I am grateful for the taste of coffee with delicious creamer in it (Ok, Dad, you can scrape yourself off the ceiling now!)