Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

These are my cousins, Collin (4) and Ross (1) in their backyard in Texarkana, AK. I LOVE the one of Ross going under... that expression is just so telling! My uncle Charlie assures me that it was an unintentional baptism. ... :)
Here's how Ryan spent a lot of his Memorial Day:

(yes, that is a side-ponytail...scary because I envision myself doing that to our little GIRLS' hair some day!)

When I needed my rubber band back, we had to hold back his lucious locks with... you got it...

...triangle clips.

But HOORAY! The floors are STAINED!

Monday, May 26, 2008

With Hope

"With Hope"

by Steven Curtis Chapman (on his album 'Speechless')

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

(CHORUS) We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope'
Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope'
Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true'
Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...

So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope
We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

From the Memorial Service for Maria Sue Chunai Chapman

From Pastor Scotty Smith (pastor Christ Community Church in Franklin, the Chapman's church)'s blog:
Remembering the Gospel
2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Through the gospel, that is, by the person and work of Jesus, we are called to 3 great realities today.1. Acknowleding the "Why, Lord's?": The gospel enables us to hurt, lament, name and own our confusion. So much of Paul's life and ministry simple didn't make sense to those who assumed hard things don't happen to faithful followers of Jesus.

2. Silencing the "If Only's": The gospel frees us, like Mary the sister of Lazarus, to run to Jesus and fall at his feet, and cry out, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus responds with his own tears and deep affection. (John 11:17-37).

3. Embracing the "So That's": The gospel releases us from bondage to mere explanations, unto a life of deeper worship and fuller engagement with God's Story--Jesus' commitment to redeem his people from the nations and restore his broken creation--including one day eliminating the very word "orphan" from the human vocabulary. Why did this heart-breaking event happen to the Chapman family? We simply do not know why, but we do know that it happened so that we might join them in trusting God who raises the dead, and follow them as they follow Jesus, who has promised to make all things new.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cinderella, One More Time

Our Dear Good, Kind Father,

We pray tonight for Your children Steven Curtis & Mary Beth Chapman, who never expected that Maria's 5th birthday candle would be the last she would ever blow out. Our heart breaks for them-- they knew their time with this sweet "Cinderella" was short, but not this short, and surely are reeling with grief.1 Comfort them in Your Gospel. The Cross assures us that You are no stranger to pain, and that You are able to work EVERYTHING, even an unfair torturous death of The God-Man, for the Good of Your Children. You plan EVERYTHING to make Your children more like that Firstborn Son, Jesus... even car accidents and beautiful lives abruptly cut short. Comfort them with this, Lord! Hold them close, help them "grieve with hope, say good-bye with hope, because they know their goodbye is not the end." 2

Our hearts break especially for Maria's older brother who inadvertedly hit her. God please help him to rest in the Cross, to lay all guilt at Its foot, and to rest confident in Your Love for him because of Jesus. Please do not let this tragedy split this family, with blaming or bitterness or regret so deep it cannot be comforted. Please help him to "grieve in hope," help him to carry the immense burden of guilt that he must surely carry, to the Cross, in Hope. Help his father and mother and siblings to hold him up to look at the Bronze Serpent if he lacks the strength to do it himself.

We pray for Emily, Caleb, Will Franklin, Shaohannah, and Stevey Joy, that they would see their parents grieving in Hope and that it will strengthen their own faith, or bring them to Faith if they do not have it. Lord, be the Lord of their hearts, even now. Help them to run to you as to a Loving Father who knows every pain of their hearts... please allow them to comfort one another, to grieve, and also to laugh. Keep them free from bitterness or fear. Help their parents to guide them well through this, and to testify of a grace so strong that it can sustain even during a time like this.

Please use this opportunity to advance the Glory of Your Name-- as the Chapmans are on TV and in news stories, help them to broadcast Your Sovereign Goodness. Let their very demeanors and words prove that Christ's death & ressurection really DOES transform lives; that it really DOES make God into a Rock of Refuge. Please use their story to strengthen Your Bride, the Church, and even to save those still in the Kingdom of Darkness. Advance the cause of adoption and God-glorifying-as-Sovereign music through this family, Lord. Proclaim the Ressurection's triumph through the death of this precious little girl!

We ask these things confident that You will fulfill them in accordance with Your Good Will, and will work all things to Your Own Glory and our own joy...
Because Jesus came, lived, died, and then was RAISED!

1- SCC's "Cinderella" was written about his two youngest daughters, Stevey Joy and Maria.
2- lyrics from SCC's "With Hope," which was written for a family, the Mullicans (friends of the Chapmans), who lost a child, and was sung in memory of those who were killed in a shooting at SCC's alma mater, Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And so fulfill the Law of Christ...

We have a pickup truck. We are members of church with a lot of seminary-families and college students.

Seminary couples and students often move. Like every year (as in Ashlea's case).

Enough said. :)

Last Saturday we got to help two of our friends move-- Ashlea D. in the morning, and Jenny & Aaron Montgomery in the late evening. It was a wonderful opportunity to serve and share our gifts (like... THE TRUCK!). It was also a chance to get some great fellowship, as we are part of church FULL of those willing to help one another. It makes me so sad to think of people without this kind of help, either because they aren't believers and so aren't in church, or because they're not members of a local body, or because they're in churches that don't obey the call to community; this is the way God has ordained for it to be, and it is sweet!!

We didn't get much house-cleaning or floor-staining done, though. I am so thankful for a husband who is so willing to share his time, his energy, and his possessions to serve others! Ryan, you are a champ!

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Yes, I know I just took that verse completely out of context, and that the Apostle Paul wasn't talking about literally carrying eachother's boxes of stuff... but the Spirit applies, I think... Moving is one way of caring for/loving eachother, and "Love is the fulfillment of the Law." Right? (Romans 13:10) Besides, it does sort of fit in a slap-it-on kinda way... ;)

Doorway of Ashlea's new abode.

Some of Ashlea's belongings, packed on the Brainard's trailer, which they share quite freely! As the following pictures will show, we experienced some strange gender-role-reversals throughout the moving process...

Manly Mandy (Amanda Brainard)

Yes, Ryan is wearing a top-knot. No, it is not my rubber band.

I thought this version could be a rock album cover or something scary and emo...

Joseph Denka & Andy McLurg, hard at work.

Toto, not working.

Lyle, working quite cheerfully.
(I'm noticing an odd man out on this idea of working...)

Who knew the stairs would be such a great place for a photo-op!? Although Ryan & Ben (Brainard) look somewhat scary...

The aftermath.

Chilling after a lot of trips up stairs.

Between movings, we went to see the new Prince Caspian, which I plan to discuss in a whole 'nother post. Now I must clean my house. YAHOO!!! I am seriously so excited about doing this!!! (That tells you just how bad it must be, for me to be looking forward to cleaning it.) Now for some good listening music or sermoning while I clean...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Carnage

or, "Why I Am Not Posting More Today (or cleaning my disarrayed kitchen, for that matter)"

This has been the state of our living room for the past 2 days... it started on Monday, and though the end is in sight, so is the mess right now...

Heheheh, another humorous event has been the addition of ANOTHER double bed into our family. We now have 1 queen, 2 double beds (with box springs,one with a frame), 1 double futon, and a set of twin bunk beds!! So that's enough room to sleep up to 10 people... we're joking about starting a leper colony... in our dining room? This has brought no small amusment to our friends who know how many people live in our house, and how many rooms they occupy. We're just getting ready...

Between company on Sunday, the beds, the boxes, the ant offensive, and the grading, our home is the messiest it's ever been. The term "like a tornado went through" seems gentle... but Awards Day's tomorrow, then I'm DONE!!!! That'll be the "good time." In the meantime, you can smile at my crazy house, and feel better about YOURS! :)

--Christina <-- a teacher who loves her job despite it all

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Springtime in Louisville

I'm learning that there really IS a spring in Louisville! I was fooled into thinking that I was back in South Carolina during our stretch of hot days back in April, and then was quite befuddled at the following spell of rainy coolness. It's downright chilly in our house right now! (I know Nathan's saying "what else is new!") I was marveling at how "cool it was for May" when Ryan informed me that this is ALWAYS how it is in Louisville. After staring blankly for a few seconds, it dawned on me that I AM 4 states north of my old stompin' grounds, after all. :)

I had to wait until the second week of May to plant my garden, and was glad I did when we had a frost the first week in May! Ryan & I adventured down to the gardening shop (on Bardstown Rd., where else!?) and picked up tomato seedlings and some seed packets. I bought more later at the Dollar Store (10 for a dollar!!)... Then, I went to town. Or to yard. Our little neighbors saw me digging in the dirt and wanted to come help, so of course I told them to hop through the fence, if it was ok with Mom, and they did! The boys, Ibrahim and Yousef, were fascinated with the worms!! When Ryan got home we were all still out in the back, and he recruited them to help him prune some trees. Let's just say they LOVED cutting stuff down! I see now where Ryan gets it: his Y chromosome! It was a great answer to prayer, though-- our neighbor kids IN our yard, running through our house, begging us to let them come over and "help" again soon, and wondering when we'd have the floor done so they could come play. Halleluiah! I got a good chance to talk a little to their mother, Shukri, about children, adoption, parenting and barrenness and the Bible's teaching on it. It was a good topic to bring the Word of God into, because it's an area where Islam mostly lines up with the Scripture-- they highly value children, and view parenting as a privelege, as well as children having duties to their parents. So I was able to tell her that Ryan & I are Christians and practice bringing up God's perspective without offending her right off the bat. Anyway, she is so sweet, and I admire her a lot! (she drives her disabled little girl all over the States, alone, because her husband is also disabled and wheel-chair bound. Talk about the power of maternal affection!)... oh, did I mention that these neighbors are Somali (Muslim) refugees? There are a LOT of them in Louisville, and they are a group our church specifically is burdened for and reaching out to. If the Lord lays it on your heart, please pray that His word will go forth among them and start bearing fruit!!

Speaking of fruit, I'm a little worried about our tomatos. It's been SO rainy, with precious little morning sun (and the garden is set to get the most sun in the morning) since we planted them, and they aren't doing so well. My mom says that too much rain can kill a fruit crop, and that that's why some people do it in raised beds (or pots, I guess). We'll see...
To top off the gardening post, I'll describe a little of our newest home-owner challenge: ants! We had an invasion this weekend, and I tackled the critters yesterday. They were marching after something (we never could figure out what) in our kitchen, and swarming in our herb garden bed (I'm afraid they were feasting on my newly-planted seeds... *sad *). You should have seen me making pepper-cinnamon-chili suspensions to spray on the tomatos, throwin coffee grounds and then diatomaceous earth on the herb garden & around our back door, sweeping, mopping and then re-mopping the floors with vinegar... all toxic-free, natural remedies against the little insects. They'd better not come back.

PS- Ryan took the "spring" pictures around Shelby Park one evening when I was cooped up with something or other. Aren't they great!? We LOVE the squirrel ones. We've discussed several times how some plants are so pretty, yet called weeds... why? Who got to pick what was a flower and what was a weed? Maybe it's dependant on the ugliness of their leaves, hmmm...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Even quicker update

The concert at the nursing home is over (yay!). Even more, it went GREAT!! The Activities Director was glowing in her praise; the kids sang well, and treated the residents with respect; the residents joined in on the hymns with gusto (and so did the staff and most of the parents)... the highlight for me was getting to shake hands with and talk to a WW2 veteran! Mr. Joel is sharp as a tack, QUITE capable and knowledgeable, with a firm handshake and a twinkle in his eye. I called over all my boys and had them shake his hand-- they've been well-raised enough to understand somewhat of how high an honor that was.

After the concert was over, I had the opportunity to engage some of my students at length while we waited for their parents to pick them up. I treasure those moments! What a great privelege and responsibility it is to get to speak truth into their lives!

My only regret is that so many of those delightful people at the nursing home are... at the nursing home. Sure, it's a NICE place (one of the nicest I've ever seen), and of course they enjoyed one another... but why is Mr. Joel there, shaking hands with 4 of my students one day a year instead of in a home with his grandsons, instructing and inspiring them every day of their lives? What a travesty and tragedy that the nursing home has replaced the fire-side rocking chair. Grandmothers, grandfathers, great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers used to be the prime babysitters, knitters, assistant chefs and general listeners... and how tragic that so many of our children miss that. (Of course I know that sometimes it's the choice of the older person to go to a nursing home, or that there is such a medical demand that a specialized facility would be safer or in some other way better, but I stand firm that those are the exceptions, not the rules!)

Mom & Dad, you always will be welcome to stay with us. Let me rephrase that: MOM can stay with us anytime, all the time. (and I mean all our Moms) Not so if you continue to tease me, Dad. Then it's a state-run nursing home for you. ;) (and that goes for all 3 of our Dads, too... all of you treat me about the same as far as jabbing goes...hehehe and NO I do NOT bring it on myself.) Ahh, the blessings of family life...

Off to plant my seeds (I think that Spring has finally stuck around here), then it's upstairs for a floor-stainin' party with my hubby! Wahoo! And YAY for not having to do any more lesson plans!!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quick Update

Where did April go, and what is May doing already here???

Quick SzramaClan update...

We (Ryan & I) are doing so well, by God's grace. Our house is almost done!! We're working all day Saturday to finish staining the upstairs floor, then we'll polyeurethane it next week, and ...paint!! YAHOO!!!! I am so relieved that the end is in sight! Ryan was a total STUD (no pun intended), and with the help of our buddy Warren (whose wife was also out of town last weekend), not only scraped & repaired our upstairs floor, but also STAINED a whole room-- to surprise me!!! You can guess what my reaction was. :)

I have one more concert to conduct today, and then it's all grade-crunching and Awards Day prep... so still two more weeks of work to go for me, but it's a different sort of work. Paperwork is tedious, but it's a lot less physically demanding than in-class teaching is. And these last few days of actual class are fun-- a Mother's Day Tea in my preschool classes, Choir Parties in my middle school classes, then Field Day. My Honors Ensemble will perform at Awards Day and Graduation, so we've got 2 more rehearsals, but they are so good and well-behaved that I'm not stressed about those at all! The concert today, on the other hand... oh well, whatever happens, the experience will be good for the kids. We're singing in a local nursing home, so they'll be a sweet audience-- if only the kdis will sing OUT!!! So, I'm trying not to stress about that... Just praying and trusting and resolving to laugh about it if it flops.

I think I'd better go shower and head out for the concert. Pray for us!! The concert is at 3!!
--Christina, sprinting for the Finish Line

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Me & My Pow'ls (said fast, it sounds like Pals)

Noah in his post-milk-stupor.
The scrumptilicious loaded gluten-free pizza we made! (and yes, Chris was there, but somehow didn't make it into the pictures)

Bath night...
Brushing Little Princess

He is SUCH a happy boy!

Matching Sun-squinty-faces

Way to go, Val on this one. Hehe, we were all matching in red.

I loved this ladybug dress so much, I *had* to buy it for my Hannah...

Basically, I can't believe they're moving... that it will be who knows how long before I see them again... and that Val & I neglected to get any pictures of US together... :(

Those kids are so photogenic. My heart just breaks to think about them moving away from Greenville, where at least I'm guaranteed regular visits (because my family's there, too)... but Val & I realized that Toronto's only about an hour further for us to drive from Louisville! We have another family of friends living in Toronto, too, so we're sure to have excuses to make that drive! So that makes it seem not quite so bad. In all honesty, I can't even tell y'all how much I miss Val --and all my other dear Sisters, and certain Brothers-- from here. It usually hits me hard when I walk into a church fellowship of some kind, with all these sweet Christian women whom I DON'T know... I just want to run and hide most of the time, and be with the ones I already love and already know. I just want to be able to talk to "my" Valerie! But God sustains me and gives me the will and desire to keep on committing to love the ones I'm with, and seek to know and serve them. That perspective helps bust me out of my scared-self-focus real fast.

--Christina... resolved to enjoy Kentucky as long as she is here.

p.s. for more pictures of the WHOLE trip (aka Trin & Jonas' church bridal shower, and a few snatched pictures with my parents & sister Nicole), click HERE.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

DSCS Update

From all reports, the Spring Concert was a smashing success! We packed out the recital hall, started on time, ended on time, and even had a semi-decent dress rehearsal! The soloists and Honors Ensemble made me so proud! The student percussionists did a great job, too. Only sad thing...The 7/8th graders did come in in two seperate keys, unfortunately separated by only a major second... but they fixed it by the end of the song, and will hopefully get it right on our concert this Friday (at a local nursing home). If only they sing LOUD ENOUGH... old people are pretty deaf... and they're pretty quiet. On top of their usual aversion to singing audibly is Louisville-Spring-time-itis... aka AWFUL allergies, courtesy of the Ohio River Basin.
My Kiddos

Don't these guys look good in black & white?
The Conductor Herself

So relieved to be DONE! :)