Friday, August 29, 2008

On Teaching Children About God's Holiness

Have you ever had to think about this? Being a preschool teacher and curriculum developer, it's something I DO think about... a lot. It's hard to know what they can understand, what is beyond them but good to start teaching anyway, and what is unbalanced. One especially touchy issue (in our culture anyway) is that of the holiness of God, and how that interacts with us. The plain ol' fact is that it means we are doomed! To some, this seems too harsh or frightening to teach to children. But, if it's in the Bible and if it's necessary to salvation, it must not be kept from a child! is frightening. But if we do not first know our own damnation, we will never be desperate for salvation. And it is only the self-admitted "sick" who get the Doctor. (Mark 2:17)

One word picture is that of a fire. God is holy and perfect, and anything less than holy and perfect is incinerated in His presence. I know many people immediately assume "hellfire and brimstone!" with this word picture, but that's not primarily what I mean. Feel free to tell me what you think of the following:

YHWH is a consuming fire, as Hebrews (12:29) emphasizes, and those who have sin inherent in their being will be consumed by that Glory, by that holiness. Adam & Eve were sent away from the Garden as punishment (Gen 3:22) and because now they faced the possibility of eternal corruption, but later we see that it was in mercy, too. Had they stayed in God's presence in their sinful state, they would have been utterly consumed. They passed on this inability to face God uncovered to all humans (Ex. 33:20). That's a crucial part of why why Moses had to function as a mediator for the people of Israel (Dt. 5:24-25), why the sacrificial system was instituted-- the sacrifices were literally "burnt up" so that the people didn't have to be.

Knowing all this about Who God Is really prepares us to marvel at the Incarnation; that God would put on flesh SO THAT we could see His glory without being consumed (2 Cor 4:6). I'm not advocating trying to push Hellish images on our little ones, but rather to give them the same word pictures that the Bible uses for God; including that of a fire. Only when we are in Jesus are we like the Burning Bush: on fire but not consumed. Certainly I don't want to over-emphasize any one attribute of God (His holiness) at the expense of another (for example, His mercy...which interestingly enough is the attribute He called out as He covered Moses with His Hand)... but we also want to give a real enough picture, according to Scripture, to instill in our children a "holy fear of God." Then calling Him "Abba," and knowing that HE made promises to US to make a way for us to be NEAR Him again is so much more marvelous and incredible!! That's the message I start teaching in week 3 with the promise God made to Eve (Gen. 3:16), and which we keep teaching until the last day of school, with the possibility of being like Jesus.

To make it a little more personal,it was fear of my own sinfulness in the face of God's holiness which first awakened my three-year-old soul to my need for a Mediator, and which finally led me to Christ. It wasn't until I was 9 or so and God opened my eyes more fully to my main sin of pride that I actually ran to Him for Grace, but all along that holy fear kept me from a lot of sin, and kept me knowing I needed Jesus.

The truth is that children CAN come to Jesus. Likely, they know deep down inside that they do need salvation; a sense of guilt seems quite natural, a merciful product of our Image-bearing. They still need to be taught, to be given the knowledge that will lead them to Jesus. We are commanded not to hinder them-- oh let us urge them to run!!

I hope this is good for thought-fodder... it has helped me better love my Savior!
By His Mercy,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prayer for Today

Lifted straight from my friend Chandler's blog:

"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned or unprayed for." Charles Spurgeon

May we be a people who is ever warning and ever praying.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I Try to Understand Drupalese

After wandering around all day and taking rather too long of a snooze, shall I say I did manage to catch back up with him, Lyle, Mike (from Michegan, who went to Ubercamp with us, a couple weeks back) & two other Drupalcon attendees, ...hehehe... after some confusion, at a local pizzeria off of the pedestrian-only street downtown. We really enjoyed dinner with them-- Alex is from the Czech Republic, and Boris from Slovakia. Then it was off to Port Royal, the bar where the "Welcome DrupalCon Party" had been arranged. All conference attendees were given "Free Drink" passes; I thought I'd miss out, but as the drink was some champagne-fruit syrup concoction that looked rather pretty, several of the guys in my proximity deemed them "too girly" for their liking. Not being one to waste anything, I was glad to take the tickets off their hands. :) They were yummy!!

Ok, in case you're wondering if the free cocktails are why I try to understand Ryan's shop-talk, know that it is NOT. (I could get those quite fine without talking geek, heheh) It was fun mingling with people from Ryan's geek-world. They're smart, passionate, and international. This particular community is built on open-source, which means they don't make money on the actual code they write; it's all free for anyone to copy or download. That makes them very open, collaborative and teachable. There isn't a lot of professional arrogance or back-stabbing. NICE. But no, the people aren't the why, either.

It ain't the fame, neither. I'm very proud to be "Mrs. Ubercart," for sure. Ryan's rock-star status could be rather ego-boosting for me, too! I guess it's that I want to learn my part well. "Wives, submit to your OWN husbands" means that I need to know my husband and his needs well (Eph. 5:22). I don't need to be the perfect help-meet for anyone else; I don't need to fight alongside anyone else like I do him. He is my own husband. My long-haired, php-coding, Drupal-loving, Ubercart-inventing husband. So if this is his world, it's mine, too. Not that I feel the need to learn everything about every interest or talent he has. Frankly, computer coding doesn't appeal that much to me, and at this point is rather beyond my reach. But I can learn enough to be a good listener and advisor. I can share experiences and meet people. Besides, being with him is always more fun than being without him!
So... it's late and I need to wrap this up. My afore-mentioned husband is snoozing beside me for a change- usually he's the night owl! Tomorrow?

Well, we just got back from hanging out with a lot of other conference attenders. Lots of non-believers to interact with.... though I enjoyed my day alone tomorrow and was looking forward to more "personal time" this week, I think I'll get together with some other non-Drupaler wives here tomorrow. This is one of our spheres of influence, where Christ's Name is not exalted by everyone. May He use us to change that! Besides... you never know where kindred spirits may be waiting. :) I think we womem may be going to the Salami and Paprika Museum (2 specialties of Szeged), the super-cool town water tower, Protestant church, and maybe the big ol' catholic church's one of "the seven architectural wonders" of Hungary, for whatever that's worth.

Lord willing, I'll report on all said activities later! Please pray for me. I am not naturally a loving gracious person. Pray that I will genuinely love these neighbors better than I love myself. Pray for Ryan, too, that he will boldly proclaim the Name as he is able.

--Mrs. Ubercart

(we are imitating the Ubercart logo, if you were wondering)

After Walking All Over Szeged (and I'm not stretching that much!)

I so enjoyed my day "on the town" of Szeged. This may come as a surprise to some/lots of you, but I am at heart an introvert, and so I TREASURE my "alone time." I love time to sift, think, read, and usually write it out. I haven't had too much chance lately, between the marathon sprint (yes I mean that) to be ready for school, the travels of July & August, the house-readying, and the everyday living and serving. Szeged is a delightful town small enough to walk through in a day. It's not a complicated street pattern; concentric rings mirroring the river's turn, and straight cross-streets. Simple enough...though... the more maps I looked at, the more confused it seemed I got!

First stop was the Mars ter Open-Air Market-- a magnificent abundance of fruits and veggies, driven in that very morning from nearby farms in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Romania, all for pennies. I got apples, plums & peaches and so far have NOT been disappointed. I enjoyed a Hungarian "expresso dolce vita" with milk, which costs extra, in a random little coffee shop. I established my plans as I enjoyed it. My next stop would be the "New Synagogue."

It is amazing. My guidebook was wrong on the opening time, so I sat outside and read my Bible & journaled a little until the friendly litte curator limped outside and demanded "where from!?" He let me in & gave me a little tour of the magnificent building. At one point I mentioned my husband studying Greek & Hebrew because he wants to understand and teach the Bible, and his response was classic: "You have a husband!?" (imagine each "h" pronounced gutturally, a la German) Anyway, I spent a good hour just journaling and admiring the grandeur. The stained glass windows (unusual for a synagogue, as most Jews interpret the 2nd commandment to exclude ALL images) each represent a different Jewish festival-- that was fun for me to go around and figure out. Anyway, if you ever go to Szeged, GO TO THE SYNAGOGUE!

I walked around the town, scoping out the various restaurants recommended in my handy-dandy guidebook, familiarizing myself with the lay 'o the land, and trying to find potential souvenirs/gifts for people back home. I was quite proud of myself for finding and buying jhuturos, a Hungarian sheep-milk cheese that is soft and tastes a lot like Feta. YUM! The sweet owner of a Dutch cheese shop directed me to a local supermarket, and the attendants there were very patient, too. It's so weird not being able to speak the local language! I'm learning a little, but the language is SO different from all the ones I know that it's taking me longer than I'm used to! Anyway, I'm finding that writing down what I'm looking for helps... so I copied out the full "I have Celiac's disease and I am allergic to these foods" in Magyar and have been showing that around...

The Lord led me to a park along the river Tisza, where I journaled and planned for a good long while. That was so good for me. Time to be, not just do, as Ryan would say. Speaking of that boy, he's been enjoying the conference-- meeting people from all over the world is always interesting, quite potentially fun, and especially enjoyable if you have rock-star status among them! Seriously! That boy gets free drinks wherever we go!!

This town is beautiful. I haven't seen a single boring or ugly building yet. They're all so interesting architecturally, and I love the paint colors used (usually pastels with a contrasting trim). Parks are plentiful and pleasant; terraces are adorned with fun fountains; the ubiquitous statues are interesting, and traffic yields to pedestrians. The streets are small and because the buildings come right up to the streets, surprises are plentiful-- you can't see much ahead except the street itself; there's not peripheral vision. So things like the synagogue rise suddenly beside you, and you're amazed that something so huge and magnificent was always just a block away! (now how's that for a parable, huh?) The only thing I'd wish for is more openly friendly people. But maybe that's not considered polite here, what do I know?

Turned Loose in Szeged

Ryan's headed off to DrupalCon today, leaving me free to roam at will. Szeged is a much smaller town than the capital, and so far we've taken it in as a beautiful college town. I'm hoping to explore the Market first thing this morning-- supposedly you can get great produce!

Well, Ryan is needing to pack up this laptop, as he needs it for the conference.

Hopefully updateage will be comin' soon, folks... I Know you're all dying to keep up with me. ;)


Sunday, August 24, 2008

We Made It!

Hello from Budapest, Hungary!

Ryan & I found wireless internet access at, of all places, a McDonalds! We are loving it here; got to bathe in the famous hot thermal baths earlier today, and have walked all over the city. Our luggage was lost on the way over, but God heard our prayers and they were delivered, all articles accounted for, late in the night. The goulash here is amazing (it's like the national stew-- famous apparently), and we've also enjoyed other dishes we've tried. I LOVE being able to tour a new place with my husband! It's so much fun! So far everyone speaks English, even different europeans to each other. good thing, because I don't speak or read any of the languages posted on signs-- Polish, Chsech, Hungarian and Romanian. The only one I can limp along in is German...

I haven't forgotten my students, though. I've had to send in assignments and such for my choir especially... And been wondering how pre-k is going...

Well, McDo's is closing down, so I best be gone... God bless! Vizslot! (good-bye)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Days

with two class picnics & an orientation (all for my preschool classes) yesterday, lots of prep work today, and an orientation tomorrow (for choir), it's hard to believe that Ryan & I will be leaving for Hungary in TWO days!

Will I have everything ready by then? I think Pre-K will be fine... the Lord provided substitutes & child care... those subs have received lesson plans, Ashlea helped me cut out all the craft stuff and cute stuff to set up the room, and the orientation packet is over with. But choir? My blood pressure struggles to sky-rocket every time I think about it, and I struggle to subdue the panic. I am unbelievably fatigued these days, and don't quite understand it. I will now go to bed to preserve my health & sanity (and the sanity of my hubby), and come back tomorrow to finish ...choir stuff...

Pray for us and rejoice with us! Hungary, wow!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

And a wonderful first year ends...

From our fairy-tale perfect wedding's First Kiss...

to a surprise early-morning wake up wonderful,

it's been an amazing journey.

Amazing not because we are amazing people, and certainly not because I'm somehow suited amazingly as a wife... amazing because we have an amazing God. He has given beauty where there were only ashes time and time again. Over and over, my sin and slowness to forgive has "burned" our marriage to ashes, but because of the Spirit at work in both of us, those ashes turn to a deeper love and trust that is beautiful, and Heavenly.
Going back even further, I came to Louisville broken, hurting, and confused. The only thing I knew for sure was that God was good... and that I could land on that, even when I was flat on my face. God took that foundation and built an unimagined home upon it: a life shared by the most gentle and patient man I have ever met, in a church zealous for Truth and resplendent with Love. My friendships have doubled; I am more able to enjoy my family than ever; I have a new family to love and to cherish... and to be loved, served, and cared for by! We have ministry opportunities like we never imagined, and are growing in ways only God foresaw. My home is beautiful, not through my own efforts but through the help of so many people, and the generosity of dozens more, as you all have all witnessed via this blog. I state once again, emphatically, that God is good! His Love for us is our Home, as one of my dearest friends reminded me even this morning. His Nearness is to us our good.

Once again, this favorite psalm is my testimony:

"Come, magnify the LORD with me; let us exalt His Name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor [girl] called, and the LORD heard [me]; He saved [me] out of all [my] troubles. [...] Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing (as the older translation says)." [Psalm 34:3-10]

"But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds." [Psalm 73:28]

Happy not in circumstance but in the One who ordained all things,
--Christina Maria

Sunday, August 17, 2008

365 days ago...

I was trying to go to sleep, rather unsuccessfully, my faithful roomie Christina by my side. We'd just had a perfect rehersal, and a wonderful dinner at church hosted by my soon-to-be family and their friends. Ryan was 5 houses down at a Bachelor Party thrown by my Uncle Steve and Ryan's best man, Chris Shipley... I still don't know what all went on, and am pretty happy with that! :)

So much has happened since then! :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Time Last Year

...I was enjoying a Girls Nite Out back in Greenville, SC... with my sisters, cousin Adri, other bridesmaids Amy Donell & Melissa Roberts, plus my childhood buddy Rebecca Nigh & my Furman music friend Katie Lewis... after much confusion, we DID find our hotel! ...we played games, ate pizza, laughed way too hard, enjoyed the breakfast buffet, and actually did get some sleep (this bride-to-be was DETERMINED not to be Bridezilla due to lack of sleep). I still can't remember what all we played ...Apples to Apples, maybe? Anyway, it was fun, and I was so thrilled to be with "the girls" one last time before I moved away for good.

I love you girls, and am thinking especially about you tonight. Praise God for the love of friends and family!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finally, You Can SEE our Home

See, I left my camera down in Greenville when I went in July, so we've been a little image-impaired around here. Now I can let our far-away family and friends see towards what we've been toiling. :)

Our porch swing!! (a wedding gift given by my grandmother)

Our Living Room (pre-hung photos)Yes, that is our "gargoyle," Walsch in the fireplace... or as Ryan calls it "the Batcave."
Close-up of our mantle. I have fun arranging stuff, can you tell?
Couch, love seat, ottoman, recliner, coffee/end tables, coasters-- all gifts! Some of you may also recognize wedding gifts YOU gave us! Thank you so much. We are still praising God for His kindness to us through all of you.

Ryan's relics from his previous life... I allow them. Aren't I generous?


The second room in our home, as you can see, is devoted to our books and media. My friend Jenny came over and helped me make the shelves double as display cases. I'd already organized them by category (some categories by author's last name), and so far Ryan & I are pleased with the result-- eye-appealing AND functional.

More of Ryan's "contraband" :) He has a whole shelf devoted to these things. I still can't believe there's a whole shelf of them in MY house!

Pics newly arranged on Ryan's desk (re-located from our living room by Lyle and Ryan's side of our family)

THE shelves-- Mrs. Hook's graduation gift of a real-life tea set ties the shelves together nicely.

I think this room is so pretty and homey now! I just need to paint the wall behind the shelves red, and I'll be set! I even have the paint. (Eventually, this room will be our dining room. For now, the kitchen & living room serve us well... thanks to the Schwends' gift of folding TV tables.) It's so satisfying to find homes for all our furniture, and function for all our little "things."

The old family encyclopedia set (inherited from Aunt LouAnn & Uncle Jerry Holmes) looks right at home here, next to wine bottles from the Biltmore and our wedding flowers. The hung painting was a gift from one of my pre-k student's families!! I usually get more along the lines of Starbucks gift cards and apples, but... whew! Talk about a nice "thank-you-for-teaching" present!

My latest project; throw pillows for our futon, made from one of Ashlea's old shirts! She was casting it off during her last move, and I realized it would match our dining room red perfectly. I cut it and sewed them really quickly during some Avatar watching. I finally have my sewing machine out, and all my fabrics organized, with my sewing supplies easily accessible! Maybe now I can finish the 3 quilts I started last summer and then couldn't finish because, well... we were living in our dining room...

Loving making our house our homey home (it was always our home),

--Mrs. Szrama

p.s.- Jeanette, this is actually the inside-out of the shirt, so maybe you did see it?
p.p.s. - Ryan, the reason for the QUICK sewing was precisely because you would have worn that shirt. Ashlea & I both know you well...

Saturday, August 02, 2008


SO COOL! Thanks, Blythe, for the tip on this facsinating applet! It parses the words on any page and makes a "word cloud" showing their frequency (by size) and their relation to one another. Click here to see mine.

Nashville Trip

We got back from the lake on Sunday, pretty much wiped out. I drove to Nashville the next day to "spend" with my family there. My dad's sister Robin, her husband Duncan, and my three little cousins live there. I love hanging out with them anytime!! This week, my uncle's job as a pilot for Southwest took him away for four days, which would be hard for any mom, but especially one with LITTLE kids-- Caroline's 4, Luke's 2 1/2, and Jack is 5 mos. I usually can't go for long stretches of time, since I teach and all that, so we grabbed this chance for an extended visit. We went to the pool, the mall, a Mexican restaurant, and on a nice long walk to their local playground. We built a "cave" in the living room (and had a picnic in it!), watched "The Letter Factory," read books, potty trained, blew bubbles, took baths, and a whole host of other daily things. One of my jobs was to figure out how to work their digital camcorder & its software, then teach my aunt everything I'd just learned. That was a fun challenge, especially because their camcorder is really cool! We burned our first DVD successfully! :) I also took lots of pictures, some of which I think turned out rather well.

I enjoyed the kiddos of course-- both Caroline & Luke are VERY verbal, and come up with the funniest sayings. Jack is just a huggable, squeezable, kissable bunch of smiles. I LOVED carrying him around in a baby sling while I did stuff, or watching him smile when I talked to him. Some examples of the Copeland wit:
-- Caroline, upon me saying goodnight, sat up startled, demanding "who said those words!?"

-- Luke, wishing with a penny: "I wish my birthday in the next 5 minutes."

-- Caroline, running around making growling noises, "I'm practicing being ferocious."
And my favorite: Luke, finishing his sister's Bible verse rather... revealingly:
"Every good and perfect gift is--" "MINE!"
Glad to be back... and off to finish cleaning my house!

Back in Town!

Well, folks, it's been a whirlwind past few days, but now Ryan AND I are in Louisville for a few days straight... til I head back to Greenville briefly for my cousin Heath's graduation from Clemson!

Where were we, you ask? Well, last weekend Ryan & his team at work hosted an "Ubercamp" at Lake Cumberland, on his boss' family houseboat. Imagine-- people coming crazy distances just to spend some time coding together and listening to some expert talk. I would call them crazy, except for the expert being Ryan; I can understand people doing any length of tricks to get within talking distance of HIM... I mean, I'd even move pick up and leave everything I knew and move 4 states away to be with him! hhehehe ok ok so I was glad to have a chance to enjoy Lake Cumberland for the first time, and to go tubing & swimming & boating again-- I've sure missed that these past 2 summers! (my Uncle Steve, Aunt Olga & cousins Heath & Derek have made SURE I had lots of encounters with lake water at high speeds) Ryan was an instant convert to lake-loving-- yay! Anyway, we enjoyed YUMMY steak and brotwurst and fresh-off-the-cob corn from Michigan, marinated in garden-fresh rosemary & garlic which another coder brought with her from California! Yipee! Pics posted on picasa here.

I sat in on most of the Uber-speak, when Ryan laid out the vision for this version of his shopping cart program (Ubercart; one cart to rule them all), and then everyone discussed & gave ideas, etc. I could follow most of it :). It was great for me to be more in "his" realm of expertise, and I ALWAYS enjoy people who agree with me about my husband's genius. =D I also enjoyed getting to personally meet & know people with whom he communicates regularly online, as well as Ryan's co-workers at Prima-- I'd better like them, 'cause we're gonna be "stuck" together in Budapest for 9 days together!

As always, I was very proud to be
-- "Mrs. Ubercart"

p.s. I LOVE this one... taken in our home Thursday night; Mike & Tim (the two Michigan guys) stayed with us so they could have a whole day of uber-coding Friday. That's Tim, Ryan, and ...Walsch... our grotesque (though we call him a gargoyle. One of these days we're gonna attach him to our balcony. For now he's in our fireplace, in what Ryan refers to as "the Batcave.")