Friday, December 17, 2010

Miriam's 6 Months Old!

Since today is Miriam's 6 month birthday, we thought we'd give you a photo tribute to her.  She's such a little bundle of joy (though not so little anymore) and is growing and discovering new things each day!

 Just moments after birth.

 1 month old...having sweet dreams.

 About 2 months old...such a cute little smile!

 3 months old and playing with Daddy.

 Being a 4 month old really wears you out!

 4 1/2 months:  in her presentation dress for church.

 5 months old and more active than ever!

 6 months old and trying some cereal...does she like it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Thanksgiving to Remember!

This year Thanksgiving was a special time for us as God provided for us to go home to the States for the first time since we moved to Spain in May 2009.  So we nervously boarded a plane in Madrid with our 5 month old Miriam, uncertain of how she would handle the flight and the 7 hour time difference, and two flights and 14 hours later, we landed in St. Louis.  A two and a half hour drive later (the following morning) we found ourselves at Grammie & Papa's house (B.J.'s parents, now known by their grandparent aliases), lost in the hills of Missouri.

It was a huge blessing to be together with my family for the first time in two years (about 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner in a house...not made for 20 people), and it marked the first time since our wedding over 8 years ago that my immediate family (parents, two sisters and myself) had all been together.  But, of course, the star of the show was not me, or Rachel, but little Miriam, who everyone had to touch and hold and goo and gaa over...and why not?  She is the newest addition to the family and the cutest little baby I've ever seen.  (We're learning that not being the center of attention isn't all that bad and actually gives us a chance to go take a nap.)

On a personal note, this trip was valuable for us on various levels.  Of course it was so special to really be together with family again (Skype can only do so much), though the good-byes were more emotionally taxing on me than I expected.  And it was good to eat Pop-tarts and Frosted Mini-Wheats and drink Dr. Pepper again (all things we can't find here).  But even so, God revealed to us something of deep value:  our life is not in the U.S. anymore.  It is here in Spain where we belong, and this is God's will for us.  What a refreshing confirmation and reaffirmation to have a year and a half after the big move.

P.S.  Miriam did incredibly well with the flights, sleeping most of the time.  Adjusting to the time difference after returning home was a different story, though...but we're all recovered and back to normal now!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Spanish Youth Retreat

Honestly, I was a bit reluctant to accept the invitation.  Mostly out of my own insecurity about my ability to speak and communicate well in Spanish...make that entirely out of my own sense of insecurity about it.  I've only lived here in Spain for a year and a half and have been speaking (or stumbling through) Spanish for the same, so how could I possibly communicate Scriptural, spiritual truth relevantly to Spanish teenagers?  Sure, I was a youth pastor for five years in the States, but I still haven't had much opportunity to get into the world of adolescents in here.  Even so, at the urging of a fellow missionary, as well as my wife, in mid-September I accepted the invitation to give a couple of messages at a youth retreat the first weekend in November.

So how did it go?  I learned once again that God shows up in our weaknesses and uses us when we simply say "YES" to simple invitations to be His messengers.  That's not to say it wasn't a lot of work on my part in preparation and having poor Rachel correct my still-shaky Spanish.  But God used me to connect His truth with teenagers, even in spite of my lack of vocabulary and questionable grammar.  More than one leader told me, "You have a real way of connecting with youth," and even several teens told me, "I really connected with your talks."  It turns out that Spanish teenagers (at least this group) aren't all that different from their American counterparts:  they're open to God, and they need to hear the truth presented directly and vulnerably, even if that means sharing our own questions and failures with them.  So God is good, He is faithful, and He uses weak, imperfect, cracked jars of clay.  Lesson learned, once again...