Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Mark!

Today is Mark's 28th Birthday...28 on the 28th. This is probably more exciting when you are little than when you are 28, but it is what it is, and today Mark turned 28 :). We are very blessed to have Mark's parents with us. They are back out in Oregon to help work on cabins and to do some work at the same camp they were at last fall, and they came down to come to church with us and then spend a couple days with us.

We went out to lunch to a seafood grille, and they made Mark wear this fish hat and have his picture taken. Luckily he got a hot fudge sundae for his humiliation. Isn't he lucky I put this picture on the blog? ;)
Our wonderful church family planned a surprise brunch between services this morning as well. There was a cake, homemade cinnamon rolls, fruit, and a plethora of quiche-like dishes. It was all so yummy and such a fantastic surprise. I must confess that I knew for a few days, but luckily I was able to keep it a secret from Mark. He was truly surprised! Oh, did I mention they sang "Happy Birthday" to him in both services?

It's crazy to me that this is his 7th birthday that we've celebrated together- two before we were married and five since we've been married. I'm amazed at how far we've come and how much we've learned. It has been a journey that I wouldn't trade for the world, and I look forward to many more birthdays celebrated together...hopefully without the fish hat :).

Happy Birthday, Mark! I love you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Laura & Daniel's Wedding - Puerto Morelos, Mexico

On Feb 26, 2010, Mark's sister, Laura, married her fiance, Daniel, on the beaches of Puerto Morelos, Mexico. I have always seen pictures of the Riviera Maya and the Caribbean and wondered if it was as beautiful as the pictures made it look. The consensus? Yes, it is! The sand was white and the water aqua and clear. The weather was beautiful - in the high 70's and mid 80's almost everyday. This was our first time at a resort and it was a great time to relax and spend time with family, not to mention get to celebrate this important day in Laura and Daniel's lives. Here are a few pictures from our time there.

The bride and groom right after the ceremony.

Mark and I at the wedding.

The wedding site. This was the only day it was overcast, but it actually worked out great - no rain and no squinting into the sun for pictures!

They had programs each night as entertainment. We can't remember what they really called it, but it was basically a circus night. There weren't any animals, but lots of acrobatics!

Dinner in one of the three amazing restaurants in the resort. This was with Mark's parents and his aunt and uncle. It was so fun to get to see his aunt and uncle whom we haven't seen for a few years!

There were some fun activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking, and going on a hobiecat that we could do from the resort. This is Mark heading out to snorkel :). What a stud!
This is the view from our room. Rough, huh?

This cracked me up every single day; not sure why I thought this was so funny, but the public restrooms were the "he" and "she" rooms. I just had fun saying, "Excuse me, I need to use the she room."

My birthday was the 27th, the day after the wedding. It worked out nice, because I got to spend my birthday with family and in a really beautiful place. We went out to dinner that night with Mark's parents and Paul and Heather, his brother and brother's wife.

The lady at the restaurand went out of her way to bring me a birthday dessert, which was probably the best dessert I had the whole time we were there. She even had the chef write "Happy Birthday" in caramel. We still aren't sure what the name is she used, but it looks like Sushan. We think she misunderstood my name and was aiming for Susan. Oh well - I won't complain. It tasted amazing!

We are so thankful we were able to go and support Laura and Daniel. It was their dream to have a destination wedding, so it was so neat to see that dream come true. It was also well-timed because it rains from October through April here, so it was nice to have some more sunshine in the midst of all that dreariness :). Other than being a little sun-burned, we came back refreshed and rested and well-fed :). Congrats Laura and Daniel!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Way of Descent

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

-1 Peter 5:6

Our church is on a journey together that corresponds to the season of Lent. We are calling it The Way of Descent. The following is an excerpt of something Mark wrote for our church newsletter that will bring some understanding:

We usually want to be uplifted or encouraged. Descending is a “downer” word. But, we need to understand God’s design for us to move upward. At the heart of all of this is humility, a lowering of ourselves. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” It seems that precisely in lowering and humbling ourselves, God is able to lift us up and use us for great things. Even Jesus came as a servant and slave of all.

I’ve been reflecting on some of the words written by Andrew Murray, an influential missionary to Africa in the 1800’s who said, “I am amazed at how little humility is seen as the distinguishing feature of discipleship.” That line strikes me over and over. Could it be that somewhere at the core of being a follower of Jesus is understanding what it means to be humble?

Moses, we know as a great leader in the Old Testament who God used to lead His people out of their slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. He was one of the most influential people of the Old Testament, remembered and revered for generations and even to this day. One thing often missed about Moses is his humility. In the book of Numbers 12:3 it says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” That is quite a statement. We often remember the great things that Moses accomplished. But, before anything great happened, God saw humility in Moses. More than anyone else on earth! Moses is an example of the 1 Peter verse. He was humble and God raised him up. Often I think we want to do the raising up part. We want to succeed or to be noticed when we do well. The problem is we first need humility. We have to lower ourselves. Murray defines humility as “the place of entire dependence on God.”

Moses also had the timing factor, as 1 Peter mentions “in due time.” Moses spent years and years in the land of Midian where he was married and had children before God appeared to him and sent him to deliver the people from Egypt. We not only have to have humility, we must continually live in humility and God in due time will raise us up. We don’t like the years and years of waiting and being humble. It’s hard for us. But, God can do great things in us when seek humility and begin to understand what it looks like to live it out…In [Andrew Murray’s] words, nothing is more natural and beautiful and blessed than to be nothing in order that God may be everything.’”

The eight weeks (beginning the Sunday before Ash Wednesday) focus on the following:

1. God Pursues Us

2. Our Condition

3. Our Humility

4. The Cross

5. Confession & Forgiveness

6. We Pursue God

7. The Way of Descent

8. Resurrection Sunday!

There are daily Scripture readings and challenges that focus on the Lenten themes of sacrifice, repentance, fasting, prayer, and self-control. We are excited to see how God is using this and will continue to use this to challenge our church to deeper places in Him. If you want to join us, we are posting the daily Scripture readings each week here.

While many Protestant churches have shunned such seasons of the church calendar because the meaning was lost in ritual and tradition, I have found such season to be meaningful and deeply challenging when I can refocus on the foundation and principles that it was originally meant to point to.

I will close with a quote from a great website I use when I am looking for information on the different season of the Church Year. Let this be our hearts cry this Lenten season:

“Perhaps during the Lenten season we should stop praying for others as if we were virtuous enough to do so. Perhaps we should take off our righteous robes just long enough during these 40 days to put ashes on our own heads, to come before God with a new humility that is willing to confess, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." Maybe we should be willing to prostrate ourselves before God and plead, "Lord, in my hand no price I bring; simply to the cross I cling." That might put us in a position to hear God in ways that we have not heard Him in a long time. And it may be the beginning of a healing for which we have so longed.

O Lord, begin with me. Here. Now.”