Friday, October 29, 2010

judgement house

Two things:

1 - I remember going to a judgement house as a new Christian.
2- I really respect Russell Moore. His book "Adopted for Life" changed my life. Read it, even if you never think you will adopt a child.

As a baby Christian, I remember one Halloween night where a bunch of us squeezed into a car and drove to a local church that was doing a judgement house. I didn't really know what I was getting into. I was a new Christian and lacked discernment at the time, but even in that state, something seemed a little off to me.

Hell seemed "cheesy" for lack of better words. The people dressed up as demons looked funny. Some of them were trying hard not to laugh themselves. When we had to take the elevator down to get to the pits of hell, I had to refrain from laughing. I'm pretty certain I held it together, but I remember thinking that it all seemed like a joke. I am sure the people that put this judgement house together were sincere and well- meaning, wanting to reach the unsaved with the seriousness of God's wrath. But I never remember feeling scared or sobered or even concerned. It was just cheesy.

Reading Russell Moore's post today was very helpful. He put into clarity my broken thoughts from my earlier judgement house days...

Take time to read it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

apple pickin'

A few weeks ago, I loaded up the ol' Odyssey and headed out to a local farm to do some apple pickin' with my good friend Amanda and her crew of 4. It was my first apple pickin' experience and I really enjoyed pickin' the apples. I like saying "pickin," can you tell?

Not sure how your pickin' experience goes, but this is how ours went:

Step 1: Unload all children from vans and exchange your driver's license for a wagon. This wagon will be used to transport children and fruit alike.

Step 2: Head to the apple trees, if you can find them.

Step 3: Stop every now and then to play Star Wars. If you can find a stick, you've got yourself a light saber. Battle it out while adults continue to look for the apple trees.

Step 4: Chase after a 2 1/2 year old who ran ahead of our pack, took off her shoes, and decided to walk through thick, slippery, mud in her white socks.

Step 5: Pause for a picture before searching for those trees again!

Step 6: Find the trees! Admire them apples, imagine being Adam and Eve in the garden (minus the 7 children that are asking you questions simultaneously and the 1 perfect little baby that is gnawing on a toy), and get that wagon ready!

Step 7: Let the pickin' begin! To make this an official homeschool field trip, I asked the question, "Is it better to pick apples or is it better to pick your nose?" Ezra yelled out, "Apples, Mrs. Tracy!" Smart kid.

Step 8: Let the eatin' begin! Sure, we did a little eatin' before buyin' which maybe isn't the best example, but hey...look how happy we made those kids!

Step 9: Load apples in wagon and head back to weigh in...

Step 10: Weigh in....whoa!

There is always one photograph of the day that ends up being my favorite. This one did it for me:

I don't know what Keely and D are doing or saying. Maybe Keels is sharing a raisin from that gigantic bin she is clutching in her left arm.

Bonus Step: Exit the apple farm as quickly as possible as your youngest two are having meltdowns because you gave their juice boxes away to other children!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesdays with Stephen: Chapter 2

Well I am back with chapter 2 of Tuesdays with Stephen.

This week my topic is about a new group that me and my friend Mike Preisinger started. This week we are kicking it off at Mike's house with a Wii party, worship, prayer,and snacks. We hope that everyone we invited can come.

Also this week I will be going to New York City with my mom, my Aunt Jen, and my cousin Hannah. I think we will be going to the Museum of National History, and to Times Square. It will be my last year :( but it will be fun.

Last night we went to Mrs. Kathy Szeliga's fundraiser at Boordys Winery. We met Mrs. Kendel Ehrlich and stood behind Mr. Andy Harris (or as Abbie called him "Mr. Bob Ehrlich"). We had our picture taken with Mrs. Kathy and Mrs. Kendel!

That's it for now. Next time I'll show you a video that I really like.

evangelism and social justice: a delicate balance

Monday, October 25, 2010

top model

Some of you may be surprised to know that my husband secretly desires to be a model. Laugh if you want, but it's true.

When we were first dating about 20 years ago, Matt planned a special date for us. He told me we were having a picnic lunch at the Gunpowder, (how sweet and romantic and thoughtful) and that he also wanted to have a photo shoot. Not of us as a couple, mind you. Of just him, in various outfits. We called them "get-ups" back then. While I was packing up my camera, tripod, rolls of film (yes. actual film.), Matt was busy packing up his various pants, jackets and shirts all of which were purchased from Chess King. Does anyone remember that store in the top floor at White Marsh Mall? It was Matt's second home.

Matt is beside me now as I write this and he wants to make sure that I explain to my handful of readers, that there was a purpose for this. Some of you may be surprised to know that in addition to wanting to be a model, Matt, at age 18 was a one-man-show touring across Baltimore, doing concerts. He had a road crew (Greg Dutcher), a sound man (his brother Jeff) and a videographer (me). He would sing and preach from a tiny square stage that was all of 3" off the ground. No, I'm not lying.

So...this photo shoot was intended for self-promotion. After all, this tour required posters, brochures, and flyers. I took several rolls of film on our picnic date and Matt changed his outfits at least 3 times that I can remember. His blonde mullet blew in the wind and I snapped shots of him standing on rocks with water crashing behind him. Think Petra singing "I Am On The Rock."

I guess today, 20 years later, the modeling bug came back to my husband. The kids were all happily playing on the playground equipment, I had my camera on hand taking shots of my little loves, and that's when the request came from Matt.

"Can you take some pictures of me like you used to?"

I chuckled. He must be kidding.

He wasn't.

"Seriously, Sweetie. I could use some new shots for the ya Brochure," he inserted.

After I began taking a few shots and giving him some basic direction, it was like we were 20 years old again. He was fully engaged, posing, smiling, laughing (at himself).

Here are his poses.

We laughed. Then I posed him and we took these:

As much fun as I had photographing Matt minus the blonde mullet, these are my favorite shots from the day:

Twenty years never looked so good!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I love Scotty. I mean, how can't you love this kid? Just look at that face!

I've known Scotty since he was in diapers and I've even changed a few of those diapers on nights I babysat, when his parents went to their care group. Aaaaah, the good ol' days.

Back in 1999...
When Matt and I returned from Moscow, Russia with our chunky little son Stephen in our arms, Scotty was among the huge crowd awaiting us, in his mom's arms. I can still remember the video footage that a friend captured of Scotty reaching out and grabbing Stephen's hand, welcoming him. Both boys were just about a year old. That's when they first met - right there in BWI Airport, and they've been friends since. It's been 12 years!

As a parent, you pray that God will bless your child with a faithful friend. We prayed that for Stephen when he was just a baby and God answered our prayers and blessed us with Scotty. I say "us" because Scotty is more than just Stephen's friend; he has befriended everyone in our family.

Here's a little list of why we thank God for Scott:

1- He is extremely friendly and makes everyone feel welcome; he includes others. My 2 1/2 year old loves "Gotty," my 3 1/2 year old loves him and my 9 year old daughter loves him. They love him because he reaches out to them. He talks to them and plays with them. They feel his love and acceptance.

2- He is very thankful and I've never been in his presence when he has not thanked me for something; whether it's driving him somewhere or treating him to lunch or even teaching him literature.

3- He is joyful and just plain fun to be around.

4- He likes to talk, a lot, which is good for Stephen since he tends to be on the quiet/shy side. Scotty helps to draw Stephen out in conversation...

5. He is a major encourager. I mean, major! A few years ago when Stephen was playing baseball on the same team as Scott, I saw the gift of encouragement in action! Scott was always the first to say, "Good try" when someone struck out, or "Way to go" when someone hit the ball or caught a fly. From the first inning to the seventh inning, Scotty never slowed down in encouraging everyone on his team. Baseball didn't come natural for Stephen, he'd be the first to admit that. As parents, it was tough seeing our son strike out almost every time he was up at bat. From my place in the bleachers, I could always hear Scott's voice, encouraging Stephen.

I know from my own life that friendships change over time. People we were friends with when we were age 5, 10 or 12 are not necessarily the people we are friends with when we are 18, 25, or 40. In God's sovereignty and care for us, He blesses us with particular friends for particular seasons of our life. So while I don't know what the future holds for Stephen and Scott's friendship, I thank God for the here and now!

You are loved Scotty and we thank God for you!

these are the toes i love to eat

i can't help it, i just love to bite them!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

marriage: a supreme earthly test of discipleship

One of my favorite female authors is Elisabeth Elliot. I find her writing to be straightforward, practical, and a breath of fresh air from most female authors I have read.

Having been married a total of three times (widowed twice, currently married) (+) her commitment to honoring the word of God (=) when she has something to share about life and marriage and raising children, I want to listen.

Plus - just look at her. Doesn't she just beckon you to come and sit down beside her with a hot cup of tea, ready to talk about Jesus? And wouldn't you love to look around her house, at her books and heirlooms and old photographs of life in the jungle?

My friend passed along a link to an unfinished, and previously unpublished draft of a recent book she was working on. It's title is the name of this blog entry. At first glance I admit that I didn't like the sound of it. Marriage and "test of discipleship" in the same sentence. It sounds so unromantic, so unexciting, so duty-like. But I like EE and I trust her wisdom and when she shares something, I want to listen. I printed out the 50 pages and I'm reading through it and learning quite a bit. It's not that she is saying anything new. I mean, she has written a few books that deal with marriage and I've read them. Plus - it's basic biblical theology so nothing is striking me as "new-new" if you know what I mean. But she is taking the theology of marriage and helping me see unchanging truths in a different way. In other words, it's as if the light of God's Word is beaming on the same old truths in a slightly different angle and I'm finding it thought provoking. It's making me think and I like when a book does that.

I wanted to share a quote from F.D. Maurice (1805-1872) that EE shares.

"Oh, how many times we can most of us remember when we would gladly have made any compromise with our consciences, would gladly have made the most costly sacrifices to God, if He would only have excused us from this duty of loving, of which our nature seemed utterly incapable. It is far easier to feel kindly, to act kindly, toward those with whom we are seldom brought into contact, whose tempers and prejudices do not rub against ours, whose interests do not clash with ours, than to keep up an habitual steady, self-sacrificing love toward those whose weaknesses and faults are always forcing themselves upon us, and are stirring up our own."

I dont' think you have to be married very long to know how accurate this statement is. We don't even have to be married to see the truth in this - but that's another blog entry. The lie we often believe is that loving our spouse should just come natural. After all we fell in love with this person (whatever "falling" means to you). We chose to share our lives till death separates us. Loving others requires sacrifice. It requires a relinquishing of ourselves and our rights. It puts others first, even when we feel they don't deserve it. The truth is, we don't deserve it either, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Click here if you are interested in reading the unfinished draft.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

future mommy?

Yay! We finally got to meet Grace, the newest addition to the most proud parents, Brian and Amy Smith. She is a beautiful little 3 month old; very smiley and happy, not to mention a pretty sound sleeper!

Being in the presence of a baby is about the only thing that seems to calm down our 2 1/2 year old. Our typically crazy-wild, bursting forth with energy little girl, actually slows down and shows a surprising gentleness when a baby enters the scene. I'm always nervous as she approaches a baby, but again and again, I see that she is capable of gentleness.

Since Amy, Brian and Grace visited us, our little girl has taken a fresh interest in her baby doll.
Check out her mad skills in swaddling and holding a baby:

Step One: Lay baby gently on blanket

Step Two: Pull bottom and then sides together to cover baby

Step Three: Roll baby up like a burrito ??

Step Four: Wa-La! Now that's one happy baby.

If she would've stopped there, it would have been nearly perfect. Step Two was a little shaky as she rolled the baby onto her stomach to wrap her...but bringing it all together is a tough step.

What really concerned me was how she held the baby after she posed for this picture. Notice the feet. This can't be good.

Mom: "Azaria, hold the baby so I can see her."

This is what I got:

Tuesdays with Stephen: Chapter 1

Since you will be spending every Tuesday with me, I might as well introduce my self to you.

My name is Stephen Smith I am a big brother to 3 kids (1 brother, 2 sisters). I will be a teenager in about 6 months.

The following is a list of random things about me.

1. I love to make videos on iMovie.

2. If you are looking for me I am usually under i pile of legos.

3. I need a haircut

4. I would like to have a cell phone

5. I will attend the Grafted Families Adoption Conference on Nov. 6.

6. I attend Grace Community Church and I am a helper in Kindergarten class.

7. I hope my mom gives me her iPod touch. I love all things Apple!!

8. I made an apple pie last night and it was amazing. (even Dad ate some and he LOVES pumpkin pie).

9. I would like to go to Uganda, Africa one day w/ my mom :D

10. My top three favorite songs are (not in order): "One Day"by Vicky Beeching, "The Saving One" by Starfield, and "The Veil" by David Crowder Band.


a new beginning

ha. I know, it's been over four months since I've blogged a single word.

It's not that I haven't had some ingenious ideas or semi-brilliant thoughts to pass along to my two readers. It's just that with everything else to get done, sitting at my iMac to blog hasn't made the cut.

Sometimes it takes a new look to get your blogging juices going again. Sometimes it takes reading blogs from your other favorite sites that give you ideas. Sometimes it's a pesky 12 year old that wants a blog of his own. ;-)

Today starts what I will dramatically call...."Upward and Outward: A New Beginning." I can almost hear the background music but our 2 1/2 year old is screaming in her crib!

Anyway, have any of you read the book "Tuesdays with Morrie"? I have and I liked it, but that's not the point. On this little blog, Tuesdays will be called, "Tuesdays with Stephen". This will be my 12 year old's opportunity to take over and blog till his fingers can't take anymore.