Tuesday, December 27

The Alien Within

I have not added any new and exciting thoughts (or dull and mundane) to this blog for a little while now. I have been afraid. You see, there is an alien inhabiting my brain and emotional center that I fear will rear its ugly head if given opportunity, such as the empty page of a blog post. Tears flow freely these days. The last night of Monday Night Football on ABC totally had me choked up. I will not even attempt to describe the floodgates that opened during the last Extreme Makeover (did you see the kids who couldn't be in the sun playing at Disneyland??). My poor kids just pat my shoulder: It'll be okay, mommy. To contrast the sad moments, this alien has cut very short the fuse to my temper. When we realized that Allan had left our toothpaste at my parents' house (after I had already packed it), you would have thought he had just intentionally set our house on fire. But I just ate a Lik-a-Stik! Now I have to go to bed with sugar-coated teeth! And you probably have left all of our travel toothpastes at work, haven't you?? Ugly. So I keep quiet. I hate getting in trouble, and whenever I think of a post entry, I imagine it is too emotional or passionate or pathetic to go without rebounding trouble. So for the meantime, until I recognize my own thoughts again, I will refrain from topics relating to church, friends, family, politics or anything controversial. For the immediate future, you can look forward to comments on the weather and the conditions of the roads (name that movie reference).

Tuesday, December 20

Baby's First Photo

Here is a great shot of Sprout (Trinity was Spot, Connor was Squirt) at nine weeks along. Baby was apparently napping, but we heard and saw a good, strong heartbeat. I took Trinity along for this appointment, so she was excited to see a picture of the baby.

In case you need assistance on what you are viewing: the bigger circle to the left is the head with the dark spots of the brain; the middle circle is the body with little arms & legs on each corner; the sac to the right is the little nurishment ball (or soccer ball) until the placenta forms more fully in the next few weeks.

Estimated Due Date: July 25 (is it just me or does that sound light years away?!)

Monday, December 19

Nurturing an Enmeshed Family

Despite my obvious math issues, "nurturing" has become a four-letter word in my vocabulary. Within my church family, this word has been beaten to death in the last year or so. Despite my tone, it is a very important discussion we have been having. It's origins are based in how relationships look at PUMP. There are those who feel that, at PUMP, and in churches at large, we are not well practiced at nurturing (there's that word), especially with family members. This conversation has gone all over the page...Is it a generational issue? A problem mostly felt by singles? Who is it that is not feeling nurtured? And what would a nurturing family look like for them? Do those who feel good about their own personal relationships just have a lesser need for intimacy or are they finding their connections elsewhere (e.g. biological family)?

After reading Mike Cope's blog today, I was really struck with another option. This is an idea that could hurt, so I do not make the analogies lightly. Mike discusses the differences between nurturing families and enmeshed families. He is referring to biological units in his writing, but it immediately appeared applicable to church families as well.
A nurturing family is one that empowers family members to have a strong sense of self. Children are loved and drawn into the nurturing center of the family--but without losing their sense of self and outward mission.

In an enmeshed family, children are loved and drawn into the center--but often at the expense of their sense of self and outward mission.

In an enmeshed family system (which is more common than you might imagine), parents are dependent on each other and/or their children to make them whole, happy, and loved. In biblical terms, it's a form of idolatry: trying to find life in someone or something other than God.
I wonder if those who are crying out for more nurturing within churches are actually asking for an enmeshed family. I recently told someone that I'm not sure PUMP should ever be the family that some are asking us to be, but I have not been able to articulate well why that is. I wonder if some are looking to the church family to fulfill them in ways that just aren't healthy. And when the church tries to fill that place, there is a constant sense of not meeting expectations, all the while, encouraging dysfunctional relating. For everyone involved, the worst part is a distraction from building deep, powerful personal relationships with the Lord that can truly fulfill.

Definitely more worth thinking about here..

Saturday, December 17

More Education Discussion

Thank you to everyone who joined our conversation about the merits and challenges of all-day school for the littlest students. It is a very important topic to me and I invite further thoughts that you have.

Recently, Portland Public Schools Superintendent, Vicki Phillips, along with the "Jefferson Design Team", proposed to the PPS Board their recommendations for Building a Culture of Achievement. If approved, Jefferson High would be divided into three schools: a leadership academy for 7th-12th grade boys, a co-ed arts & technology academy for 9th-12th graders and a co-ed college prep & environmental studies academy for 9th-12th graders. Harriet Tubman Middle School would be renovated into a 7th-12th grade academy for girls, focusing on technology & science. A number of elementary schools would expand from pre-K or K through 6th grade to 8th grade. All Tubman and Jefferson schools would have required uniforms.

Wow. These are some radical changes that would surely have some sort of effect on the students in these schools. I cannot imagine that splitting the genders will happen without great outcry from the kids. I know I would have hollered had they suggested that for my school! As a mom of little guys, I definitely have concerns about adding eight graders to the elementary schools, but I'd support the change for the good of the overall big picture. As for school uniforms, I could easily go with that change. The fact that these are only being recommended for the Jeff schools, though, causes me pause. If school uniforms are a good idea, why not make that a district-wide policy? Jefferson takes a lot of heat, I'm sure some deserved, some not. I'm not sure that making them stand out in this way will be good for the school. Will it help or hurt truancy rates? Will more kids just apply to go elsewhere in the district, like Benson or Lincoln?

It is the start to a good discussion. I like that this superintendent is thinking outside the box. We'll find out in January if the board approves this, after hearing from the community; it will then be a two to three year transition. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

Thursday, December 15


Trinity's half-day pre-school at Woodlawn Elementary is going to all day, every day starting in mid-January. From my limited experience, it seems as if most kindergarten classes in this country are not even all day, every day, so this has come as a bit of a shock to my maternal system. Trinity, being the genius that she is, is of course, ready for the challenging academics before her. She loves school and has made good friendships (notes her report card: with both boys and girls - that's my girl). Just this morning, as she torturously had to wait until noon to leave for another school day, she asked, "Why can't I go to school when the sun comes up?" I'm not worried about her enjoying all day school.

So here's my really deep, logical argument: But she's only five years old! She will have to (get to) be in school all day, every day for the next twenty years. Do we need to rush this sentence? And maybe, just maybe, I'm a bit full of myself, but I tend to think that Trinity will be missing out on some great learning by not being at home with her mommy for most of the day. I can't stand the thought of Miss So-n-so getting to have more time to teach my child than I get to have right now. Who else will educate her on the fine art of creamed eggs? Can one teacher with twenty-some-odd little munchkins give her the feedback her works of art deserve?

I know I'll end up giving in and allow this system to swallow my little princess whole. This is my opportunity to protest. Tell me I'm right.

Tuesday, December 13

Can You Imagine?


Only one-fifth of the 1.8 million people made homeless by last December's tsunami will be in permanent homes by the end of this year, British-based aid group Oxfam International said on Wednesday.

Valveddithurai, Jaffna

Monday, December 12


Yesterday evening, as I lay in misery on the couch, trying to still my brain from the volts of paralyzing dizziness and the unrelenting waves of naseau, I chose to take a break from staring at the television (it helps to avoid the dizziness if I don't move my eyes) to write a blog post about the events of the previous days. I included great musings about the encouragment of the Mercy Me & Steven Curtis Chapman concert, the blessing of a local funeral we attended, my love for the new Narnia movie, and partaking in other assorted Christmas parties and great seasonal treasures, such as It's a Wonderful Life and The Polar Express. Obviously, said post is not on my blog. Hmmm...why would that be?? Because I do not listen to my own advice. Did I write my post in a text editor or at least periodically cut and paste it into another document form so as to not lose my treasure of word pictures? No, of course not! I wrote a probably-too-long post, with more links included than the local golf course can boast. I was all done, save for one link to a Narnia picture, when appeared the dreaded pinwheel of death and the message, "Firefox hates you and mocks your work. Would you like to close Firefox or restart it?" Or something like that. I don't want either option! How about "I'm sorry. Firefox is freaking out. Here is where your magnificient text has been saved. We promise not to do this again. And here is a gift certificate for a free massage for the trouble and stress we have caused you."

Friday, December 9


The direction of my posts will likely be influenced over the coming months by a particular life event happening in our household...babyhood! Lucky you! You get to read all about all-day nausea (which, for some dumb reason, people refer to as morning sickness!), clothes that don't fit, cute little sonograms and baby heartbeats, Trinity and Connor's reactions to all the changes, baby kicks, and the grand finale of labor and delivery! We are thrilled and thankful for this huge blessing in a little package.

*photo is of a baby at the same age as ours - eight weeks

Monday, December 5

I Once Had A Farm In Africa...

I just said good-bye to my very dear friend, Kaelea. After waving from the door, the tears began to flow for me. I will miss her, without a doubt. But the feelings go deeper than that for me, because she is going to a place that touches very deeply in my heart. I think I was in second grade when I first knew that I would live my life in Africa. I had no doubt that I would marry some amazing missionary-type and we would settle in East Africa and raise our beautiful children amongst the acacia trees and mud huts.

It was in 1994 when I was able to visit this land of my dreams. I spent a summer living with missionaries, staying in villages and traveling within four countries in Africa (and discovered that missionary life is not as idyllic as my imagination had made it!). I also got to visit my brother and sister-in-law, who were in Nairobi at that time. One week our team drove into the mountains of Uganda, with Jeff & Cheryl in their little toy truck bouncing along behind us. I remember, of all the towns and villages we visited in Uganda, I was especially captivated by Fort Portal. It was such a beautiful area - breathtaking, really.

Within the next couple of years, as Jeff & Cheryl made Fort Portal their home and I found the Lord leading me in the direction of urban missions, I realized that I had been misinterpreting my dreams all of those years. I was not to be a missionary to Africa myself, but rather I was to be a strong, passionate supporter of African missions. This understanding caused me grief, but it is a role I cherish, as well.

Allan and I have been blessed to see a number of friends from our college years dedicate themselves to serving God in Uganda, Tanzania, Togo and elsewhere in Africa: Nick & Renee, Eric & Susan, Mandy & Archie, Jay & Andrea, Philip & Laura, Shane & Carol and others. Since we were able to visit several years ago, we have now also sent a number of our close friends from PUMP and Metro over to visit Jeff & Cheryl: Jason, Greg, Jonathan, Steve, Andrew, Aimee and now Ike, Kaelea, Isaiah, Michal and Mali. Each time I help pack trunks for these good people and say good-bye, my heart breaks some, as it also swells with joy and anticipation for their adventures. Not only will the Grauls be with my much loved and missed family this Christmas, but they will also be seeing a land and talking with people whom I love from afar.

So, Kaelea, drink in every moment for me. Memorize the bright stars at night. Strain to see the lions and elephants in the game park. Listen to the sounds of birds and bugs that sing so differently from our own. Bring back to us the singing and clapping and moving that you will enjoy in worship with the Fort Portal church. Spend all the time you can with Ronald, David, Dick and the other amazing people of God. Smell the amazing flowers. Look hard to see if the tops of the mountains have any snow on them. Hold on tight as you pray for your family's lives as you careen down the dangerous roads. Drink lots of chai. Dance a ballet with Kinley. Read with Alex. Wrestle with Isaac. Tickle Silas. Stay up late into the night talking with Cheryl. Listen to Jeff's stories. Drink it all in for me, please, and have the time of your life, my friend!