Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Today was a sing-along-with-the-radio kind of day.  I love days like these, when I'm super happy for no apparent reason.  Although I will say, I think it might have something to do with the fact that I'm finally finding the motivation to go running everyday.  (Everyday=yesterday and today.)  There really is something to be said for getting exercise, and I'm always amazed at how much it can change my mood.

The other great thing about today is Patrick and I started going to a new small group.  We've only been to Sojourn Church once and we really liked it, and last week, after only briefly introducing herself to us, one gal invited us to her small group.  I was pretty pumped about that, because as I've said before, finding a community of Christ followers is a top priority for us when we move somewhere new.  The meeting tonight was great!  There were 9 other people there and we spent a couple of hours getting into the Word and praying together.  It's always so refreshing to dig into scripture with other people and to hear how God is at work in their lives.

God has been so good to us to allow us to find a church home and small group of friends so quickly.  Even though we're leaving for Africa soon, I'm relieved to know that we have something to come back to.  I guess in some ways that might make it harder to leave, but overall I'm so grateful for what God is doing!

First House Guests in Kentucky!

Last week we had the pleasure of having our dear friend Emily come stay with us for a few nights with her mom and two boys.  They just happened to be driving through Louisville during a week when Patrick and I would actually be home.  We had a blast catching up on each other's lives and playing with the boys.  Matias is 2 now and is growing up so fast.  Titan is 10 months and doesn't seem far behind his big brother.

Playing with boys is always fun, because they're so imaginative.  Matias is really into tunnels, and he wanted to build a tunnel/fort out of all the cushions on the couch.  It was hilarious watching him throw pillows at Patrick as they stacked them on the coffee table.  Then he wanted all of us to crawl through it with him.  (Patrick was the only brave soul among us.)  We also got our exercise chasing him around the house for two days.  I would be in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner and Matias would come in and start pushing me from behind saying "Run too!" till I started chasing him.  Too cute!

Despite the crazy heat we ventured out to the zoo one afternoon, and Matias was practically beside himself.  Taking children to the zoo has got to be one of the most fun experiences, because they are always so enthralled with all the animals.  That's the thing I love about kids.  Experiences that have become mundane or normal for adults are still new to kids and they still have an appreciation for the things they are learning.  Love it!

Of course, one of my all-time favorite things to do is read to kids, so I was excited when the boys let me read to them before bed.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I know we'll see our friends again soon.  Thanks for the memories!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rebuilding the Ruins

Lately I've been having a hard time being productive.  I think having too much free time actually makes me accomplish less.  I might get things done around the house, but I tend to spend less time with God.  When I have all day to get into the Word, it's really easy to neglect it altogether.  Does this ever happen to you?  Surely I'm not alone here.

The other day I read through the book of Haggai, and it was truly as if God was speaking directly to my heart about some things.  Haggai was a prophet to the nation of Judah after the remnant had returned from the Babylonian captivity.  His prophetic purpose was to encourage the nation to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed decades earlier.  Apparently the Jews were finding it hard to get motivated too, because they weren't getting the job done.  They were, however, focusing more and more of their time on things that shouldn't have been a priority at the time.

Haggai 1:9 says, "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.  What you brought home, I blew away.  Why?" declares the Lord Almighty.  "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house."

In the Old Testament the temple was God's dwelling place.  Of course, no building built by human hands could ever contain all of God, but the temple was where God met with the people, and where his presence was felt.  Since the coming of the Messiah, things have changed.  Those who have believed Christ for the redemption of sins have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  The temple is no longer a building, but our very hearts.

It might be easy to skim over this verse and say it's only applicable to the Old Testament Jews, but I think we would be wrong to think that.  When we neglect our relationship with God it is as if the temple of our hearts is in ruins.  It is easy for us to focus on day-to-day matters of life than on spiritual matters.  How often do we expect God to do great things in and through us, and show himself to us, but we aren't committed to actually spending the time required for these things to happen?  This has been true of my life on more occasions than I care to admit.  I'm learning (over and over) that if I expect much from God, it will turn out to be little if I don't allow myself to be used by Him, or if I'm not willing to be obedient to His will.

The application from this verse can be very difficult, because it's all too easy to swing the other direction and become legalistic.  Bible study and prayer can become just another line on my to-do list, and I can start feeling pretty good about myself when I do it everyday.  But that's not the point.  Rebuilding the ruined temple is more than just showing up everyday.  It's about being intentional and teachable.  I can't just flop down on the couch with my Bible in my lap and expect any transformation to occur.  I have to really be present with God for him to work in my heart.  I have to be committed to praying that my heart would be open to God, even if that means learning the difficult lessons that he has for me.

Haggai continues with words of encouragement in 2:4-5 saying, "'Be strong, all you people of the land,' declared the Lord, 'and work.  For I am with you,' declares the Lord Almighty.  'This is what I convented with you when you came out of Egypt.  And my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear.'"  Praise the Lord that even when we fail, even when the temple of our hearts lies in ruins, he never leaves us.  He never stops loving us and calling us closer to him.  My prayer is that each day we would take steps closer to rebuilding our relationship with him and learning to trust him in all things.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Lion Untamed

Have you ever read any books in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis?  I hope you have, because they are truly incredible books.  Some might say they are purely children's fantasy stories, but I think they are so much more than that.  Lewis weaves deep theological truths into a captivating narrative that all ages will enjoy.

The series takes the reader through the story of creation all the way through the end times, but in a way that is understandable and accessible.  Some might read straight through the stories and never see the deep symbolism in the characters and events taking place, but others who have studied scripture will readily be aware of the deeper point Lewis is making with these books.

Throughout each book the various characters encounter Aslan the lion.  He is the creator and king of Narnia, and is a representation of Christ.  Maybe it sounds silly to you, but Lewis does such a good job of reflecting Jesus in this character that I get chills practically every time his name is on the page.  Many times throughout the stories evil would reign in Narnia, and the Narnians wouldn't understand how Aslan would bring good from it.  A common phrase from the series in regards to Aslan is, "He's not a tame lion."  Perhaps you can see how this statement can also refer to the God of the Bible.  Often we don't understand the way he is at work, or we'd like very much for him to follow our advice.  But we must remember that God is not accountable to us, but the other way around.  This point is made again and again throughout the Narnia books, and readers begin to sense that the character Aslan is faithful to his subjects and brings about things for their good not their destruction.  

One thing I love about these stories is the accessibility of them for children.  They are a gateway for parents to begin a discussion with their children about theological truths that otherwise might seem daunting to young kids.  Children are introduced to many spiritual ideas throughout the books including: good vs. evil, faithfulness, trusting in God, discernment and wisdom, and living for something bigger than yourself.

If you have children I would highly recommend these books, but even if you don't have kids I think you would still enjoy them.  Even though I'd read them as a child I was able to get so much more out of this series as an adult, and I'm sure the same will be true for you.  Let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Week in the Mountains

Since we've moved back to Louisville we haven't done a very good job of staying put.  I think I've counted about 7 nights that we've slept in our house since we moved in last month.  Our most recent trip was to Colorado to visit Patrick's aunt and uncle.  His parents flew out there with us, and we spent a week enjoying the beautiful weather and hiking in the mountains.  Every time we go to Colorado we wonder why we haven't moved there yet.  It's an amazing place to visit and I know I'd love living there.  I guess for now we'll just have to settle for the occasional visit.

In Boulder we visited the Celestial Seasonsings factory.  (That's the tea company for those of you who aren't big tea drinkers.)  I can't think of anyone who hates tea more than my husband, so poor Patrick didn't have the best time there.  Mom and I enjoyed it though!

Some of our long-time Marine Corps friends Drew and Bri live nearby, so we had a reunion with them after six years apart.  We certainly had a lot to catch up on!

We did plenty of family hiking, which was great exercise, not to mention beautiful!

We spent two nights in Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked all day while we were there.  I wish our pictures could had captured just how wonderful it was.  The mountains and sky just seemed to go on forever.

I was so excited to visit with our friends Dave and Andrea in Estes Park.   They are dear friends from Okinawa, and it was such a blessing to reunite with them and meet their new baby boy!

 This was one of my favorite trails, because there was no one else on it.  So many of the trails in the park were crowded and noisy, so here I really enjoyed the silence of the woods and the peacefulness of a nearby lake.  I thought these tall pines trees were really cool too.

I have to twist Patrick's arm to get him to take goofy pictures like this with me.  Here we are at the Continental Divide.

 It was hard to come back to the heat of Kentucky after the coolness of the mountains, but I suppose it's good to be home.  We have a week to be settled in a bit before we leave for Missouri to visit more family.  The fun just never stops does it?!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Birthdays: Then and Now

Thursday was my birthday, which is always one of my favorite days of the year.  Even though Patrick and I didn't do a whole lot that day, it was still a lot of fun, and we were able to celebrate with boat loads of chocolate, which of course made me happy.  I was flipping through old pictures the other day and came across old birthday photos, and thought it'd be fun to share one.  And yes, you're seeing that right...that's a Troll cake.  I know, I know, I'm still a dork.  Don't rub it in.

Psalms Out Loud

We just spent a week in Colorado hiking through the Rocky Mountains, and it was more beautiful than words can describe.  Honestly even the pictures we took can't do justice to the enormity of those mountains.  Yet again we were unable to capture the greatness of God's creation.  As I feasted my eyes on the mountains it really was as if the Psalms were coming to life right before me!

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."(Psalm 19:1-4)

"Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who liv in it.  
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.  
He will judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity." (Psalm 98:7-9)

"I lift my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Getting Down to the Business of Listening

I love reading about the disciple Peter.  I guess it's because we seem to hear quite a bit about him throughout the gospels, and he's just so...human.  I've always thought of Peter has having foot-in-mouth disease since he usually has his foot firmly planted in his mouth.  There are several instances where his mouth seems to work faster than his brain, and Jesus normally calls him out on it.  I think I like Peter because I can relate to him.  There have been more times than I can count that ridiculous things have flown out of my mouth before I could turn the filter on.  Peter and I seem to be kindred spirits.
This morning I was reading about the transfiguration in Matthew 17.  (This is maybe the best duh-moment for Peter in the entire book.)  Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John up on the mountain and was transfigured before them.  Scripture says, "His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses, and Elijah, talking with Jesus." One question I want to ask when I get to heaven is what in the world they were talking about.  But I digress...

Here comes my favorite part.  You would think that in a moment like this when Christ's glory is on display you would be at a loss for words.  But not Peter.  Oh no, Peter never seems to be at a loss for words.  "Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here.  If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'"  I wonder if Peter missed out on something in this moment because he was so busy talking--and planning his latest project.  Now, I don't think what he was aiming at was wrong.  I think Peter wanted to honor Jesus by building the shelters, but don't you think his timing was a bit off?  Perhaps he failed to think that just now wasn't the time to get down to work building a shelter.  Apparently God thought so too...

"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, who I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!'"  I love this divine interruption, because it puts Peter in his place and reminds him just who it is he's dealing with.  I doubt God was angry with Peter's attempt to serve him, but he wanted something else.  Rather than seeing Peter so busy talking and doing God wanted him to listen.  Something we could all learn to do better no doubt.

I wonder just how often it is that I miss out on something God is trying to say to me because I'm too busy running my mouth.  Sometimes I hate silence so rather than waiting and listening for God, I rush to fill it with my own voice.  It is through verses like these though that I God teaches me to have a patient heart.  Perhaps if we all stopped talking and spent more time listening we would realize that God really does have something incredible to say to us!  I certainly don't want to miss it!  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Weekend in Michigan

The excitement just never seems to stop around the Steward house.  We finally got all moved in to our house and then we up and left.  This past weekend Patrick and I drove up to Michigan to visit family, and it was quite a weekend!  Patrick's aunt, uncle, cousins and their kids all live there, and it had been five years since we'd seen them all.  Needless to say, it was a very sweet reunion!  (The one bad thing about living in Japan for four years was not getting to visit family as often.)

Between Patrick's two cousins there are 8 kids, so of course we had a blast with all of them.  Seriously, I've never met sweeter or better behaved kids than these!  It's always a joy to be around them and their parents!  It was really fun to share about our recent trips with all of them, and the kids seemed really interested to hear about the various countries we've been to.  I always love getting to share (especially with children) how we've seen God at work around the world.
We got to go to a baseball game, and despite the 102 degree heat we had a great time!  My favorite part was the fireworks after the game, especially since we didn't get to see any on the 4th of July.  Our cousins have a pool so we got to spend one afternoon splashing around with all the kiddos, which was  a much-appreciated break from the hot weather.
Our three-day trip flew by, and I wish we could have stayed longer to reconnect with everyone.  I really hated saying goodbye, but at least it'll be easier to get together now that we live a little closer! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Home Sweet Home (the Sequel)

We're all moved in to our house in Louisville, and it really does feel like home.  We had a surprisingly easy move: the movers came on Monday and were able to deliver our things by Wednesday.  Not bad, especially considering it took 2 whole months to get our stuff from Okinawa last year.  We're living in a house that belongs to my Dad which has basically sat empty for the last few years since he doesn't actually live here.  It's been fun to transform this house to make it our own, and it's incredible how different it looks now!  We are incredibly blessed to be living in such a nice house, especially since for the time being neither of us have jobs.
We lived in South Carolina for only one year, so I'm really glad we'll be able to be settled here for at least 3 years before moving on.  I'm something of a homebody (which you'd never guess based on all our traveling), so I like to be able to put down roots.  While it's always a little overwhelming at first trying to start a brand new life in a new place, it's also kind of exciting.  Besides, Patrick and I have something of a home court advantage here since we both grew up in Louisville.  At least we know some people, and that certainly helps.

I was telling Patrick yesterday that I never feel completely settled in a place until we have found a church family to be part of.  Finding others to seek Jesus with is crucial for us, and I hope you'll be praying for/with us about that.  It will be especially difficult since we will be gone so much over the next four months.  I doubt we'll really start to feel connected anywhere until January when we can start attending a church regularly.

By far the best part of being back in Louisville is getting to spend more time with our families, well, most of them anyway.  We haven't lived here for ten years, and we've missed out on so many family events.  We've definitely got a lot of making up to do!

And now for the pictures...