Thursday, July 12, 2007


HELP! I am currently buried under two over-excited, vacation-driven children! Generally speaking, I think my kids are pretty calm. Sure, they have their loud, explosive moments from time to time, but for the most part they are easy breezy.

Until today.

abbie and stephen One day left before we leave for Myrtle Beach.

Have my kids secretly downed a few bottles of Mountain Dew or Vault or is this just genuine good old fashion childlike excitement for the beach? They are non-stop energy, running from the inside of the house to the outside, playing with everything imaginable and leaving a trail behind wherever they go. They have made plans and promises about what they will play together when they arrive. Abbie's big goal, and prayer request, is that she'll be brave enough to put her head under the water. Stephen can't wait to give his out of shape mom a bike riding tour of the resort. Gotta love those over-sized padded bike seats!

With lots of last minute things to do to get ready - you know, little things like pack for four people - I have not even come close to their level of anticipation.    But, if I close my eyes and imagine the van all packed up, the kids fast asleep, and some late night (middle of the night really) conversation with Matt during our long drive, my excitement begins to rise.  :)

same goal, different place

Laundry is being washed + bags are being packed + toys are being gathered together + KC's (our cat) big bowls are out and ready to go = the Smith family vacation!

There are lots of things I enjoy about vacation: diving through waves with Stephen, collecting shells with Abbie, smiling (& laughing if I'm honest) at Matt as he "oils up" for the beach and munches on Pringles, strolling around Broadway at the Beach, and yes, even driving 8 hours through the night is something I enjoy. One of my pre-vacation highlights though is choosing which books to take. Let's face it, nothing beats reading on the beach with the crashing of the waves blocking out all other distractions.

Over the years, I have noticed that my tendency is to "vacation" from pursuing my joy and satisfaction in the Lord. Sure, I have a quiet time every morning, but my joy is far too easily derived from all the fun things to do and see. I can actually feel the spiritual dullness settling in. It's so easy to take joy in all of God's gifts instead of the Giver Himself. This is a daily temptation but it seems to be an even stronger temptation for me while I am on vacation. The last two years I have done things a bit differently and it has helped me tremendously.

mbeachLast year I read Noel Piper's book "Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God" which tells the stories of five Christian women who did very different, yet very great things for the kingdom of God. I found it challenging and inspiring and at several points, was brought to tears over the sacrifices they were willing to make to serve the Savior. Reading about others who pursued Christ in their day, often amidst severe trials and suffering, helped me to see and value what is most important, even in my little vacation world.

For this vacation, after some research, I have decided to read "The Hiding Place - The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom." It's a classic but one I have never read. On our drive-through-the-night down to MB, Matt and I will be listening to the Desiring God teaching series entitled "Suffering and Sovereignty."

So, whether I'm relaxing at the beach, playing with the kids, laughing with Matt, shopping for gifts, or sneaking away on the 21st to pick up my copy of the final Harry Potter book, I hope and pray that I will pursue Christ as my greatest joy so that He might be glorified during my Myrtle Beach vacation.

Same goal, different place.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Santavenere......doesn't the name just roll off your tongue? It's a great last name and as most of you know, it belongs to our dear brother Patrick. Or Pat. Or Pster.

Pat has more than just a fancy, cool-sounding name though. He has a humble, teachable heart that desires to please God, even in the little things. When I first met Pat, he was asked to serve with Alpha as a group leader by one of the pastors. He was a bit unsure of stepping into this role and felt very unqualified - which was really the perfect place to be for the Savior to use him. He was aware of his weaknesses and lack of experience in leading and therefore very dependent upon God. I am so thankful that He chose the path of faith and trust and got involved in Alpha because God has used him mightily. Just ask the multitude of folks - of all ages - that have been the recipient of his compassion and care.

pat in hatOver the years, I have joyfully watched Pat grow in both his leadership and service within our church family. In our care group, he is often one of the first to humbly confess his struggles and sin. He is also quick to encourage others and point out where he sees God at work. He prays for others with a childlike faith. He initiates meaningful conversation and can have a blast talking about "nothing".

Just a few weeks ago, a friend invited others to her home to pray for a team of people from our church that were in India on a short-term missions trip. I wasn't sure who would show up but it did not surprise me to see Pat walking through the door to join our little group of women to pray. There was pizza and a big salad so I should have known..... :-)

That night, Pat's humble leadership was on full display. Us girls were happily yapping away about all sorts of things and he gently guided our conversation to a place where specific prayer requests were shared for the team. Before any of us had the chance to experience an awkward moment wondering who would "start", Pat initiated and led the prayer time. After quite a while, when it seemed like the time was coming to a close, Ellie (the dog) did something that caused all of us to laugh and after that interruption, I felt for sure we were done. Someone asked, "Are we done praying?" Pat spoke up and kindly said, "no" and he continued in prayer. It was a small thing, but I greatly appreciate the direction he brought at that exact moment.

To God be the glory for the humble leadership of Patrick Santavenere!

*A special thank you to Carolyn McCulley for providing me with this photograph of Pat in Bolivia...with his sombrero!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

unhappily splatted!

I enjoy a good cup of coffee....or two, or three. I don't load my coffee down with tons of creamer like some of my pathetic wanna-be-coffee drinkers do, but I do like to add a bit, just to change the color from dark to medium. I've really been enjoying the International Delight sugar free flavors like hazelnut and french vanilla.

There's just one small snafu. Daily, I am unhappily splatted.

Whenever i push the little ball-like lever to open the spout, creamerI get splatted with cream! It happens every time and even with this knowledge, I still respond with surprise when the splat of cream gets me...over and over again. I've tried different tactics like pointing the spout away from me while opening it - but then everything else gets splatted like the counters, walls and cabinets. In an effort to outsmart the creamer, I've even pointed it in the sink which would make for easy clean-up, but nope, that doesn't work either. Still, the cream explodes in all directions hitting both the sink, counter, walls, and surrounding kitchen items. My only hope, my last and final hope, is to open the creamer with a napkin over the top. It's an easy solution although I'm not real crazy about wasting a napkin each day on a poorly designed product.

I think, at the heart level, I want to beat this International Delight creamer. I want the simplistic pleasure of pushing the spout open without the splat. Is this an unreasonable battle to expect to win? Can someone share their tactics with me? Help!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

summertime blues

I used to think I was a fun Mom, but perhaps not so much these days. Just when my kids were expecting a break from school work, I decided to add a little lesson each day to keep their brains working. Stephen (9) has assured me that his brain is working fine and to prove it, he told me that 2 x 2 = 4. stephen schoolWell, let's aim a little higher than that! Here's a shot of him looking ever so joyful, at work on his "Summer Bridge Activities" book - which is really code for "boring school work" book.

abbie schoolAbbie (6), not wanting to be outdone by Stephen's expression of brilliance in regards to math facts, told me that she knew what iced coffee was: coffee over ice. Great Abs, but once again, let's aim a little higher! Having only just completed Kindergarten, school is lots of fun for her and sitting with Mommy to work through her math book is something she wants to do. Here's a shot of her working on place value.

Operation: Clean Condo

[slideshow id=504403158266347487&w=400&h=300]

Monday, July 2, 2007

great spoils

One of the coolest surprises is when I put on an old pair of jeans and find money, that I totally forgot about, shoved in one of the pockets! When it's a few scrunched up dollars or better yet, a five, it is a thrilling event in my little world. My kids seem to enjoy finding loose change around the house and as the one who takes care of our laundry, I get the pleasure of recollecting the dimes and nickels that are clanking around in the washing machine. Forgotten coins, shoved into pockets of pants that were then tossed into the abyss of dirty clothes. Coins that were once cherished!

This morning during my quiet time, I was reading through Psalm 119 and came across verse 162 which says:

"I rejoice at your word like one who finds a great spoil."

Immediately, I was faced with the question: Do I rejoice in the Word of God? Do I rejoice like one who has just found a great treasure or spoil?

When I unexpectedly find money in my pocket, it is a surprise because I am not looking for it. It's just there. When I find it, I rejoice and find a way to spend it rather quickly on some sort of treat for me and the kids. I think a key difference with this "find" and the "find" in Psalm 19:162 is that the Psalmist is searching for treasure. He is searching because he knows it's there for the finding!

Another question hit me: When I open God's Word is it with childlike faith and anticipation that I am going to find a glorious, eternal treasure or am I satisfied with lesser "finds" that are momentarily cherished and then forgotten?

If your answers to these questions are anything like mine, make verses 36 & 37 of Psalm 119 your prayer:

"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways."