Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Husband. My Hero.

If you know me at all, you know I despise animals. Of all kinds. I don't know if that's sinful or not, but I can't seem to get over the fact that animals absolutely creep me out. I'm horribly allergic to anything with fur which doesn't help. I can't imagine choosing to have an animal live in my house. (It's okay that many of you are animal lovers. We'll just never quite understand each other.)

Unfortunately, I became familiar with what it feels like to have an animal living in my house. I don't like it.

Last Friday morning I was upstairs in our bathroom when I heard some loud banging noises downstairs. I immediately thought someone had broken into our house, so I ran quickly downstairs. I hadn't thought about what I would do had someone broken in, I just felt like I needed to run down there. (Thankfully Myka was sound asleep in her room). When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I rounded the corner to see something flying in my kitchen. I turned around and ran back up the stairs in a split second and locked myself in my bedroom. I immediately called Tony at work. He didn't answer. I called again. He answered. (He knows its an emergency if I call twice in a row :). I told him I needed him home right away because something was flying around in our kitchen and I wasn't mentally capable of leaving our bedroom until I knew it was gone. Being the sweet man he is, he came right home!

We talked through the bedroom door when he got home. I really wasn't going to leave that room until I knew my home was rodent free. He opened the front and back doors and started his search. He searched all through the kitchen and living room. Then he went to the basement and searched there. Nothing. After awhile he told me he might head back to work since he couldn't find anything. The canvases that had fallen off the top of the cupboards and onto the floor were proof that I wasn't totally crazy. Something had been in there. I begged him to keep looking. He did. All of a sudden I heard lots of commotion and then a very proud shout from Tony - "It's done, Cari!" And I sang the hallelujah chorus.

That creature was hiding in a basket on top of my cupboards. ew. ew. ew. ew. ew. Tony flipped the basket over, it came flying out and met that tennis racket. And then the floor. Don't worry, I have researched IA State Law and learned that it is not illegal to kill a bat that is in your home (it is, however, not recommended). I wanted to make sure I wasn't turning my husband over to the authorities with this post.

I'm still pretty horrified over this whole ordeal. I spent the rest of the day sanitizing every square inch of our kitchen and living room and then I had to quit thinking about it. We have four HUGE trees in our backyard, so bats probably love our yard. But I'd like to know how it got in so I can ensure it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN!

I am such a wimp. Thank goodness Tony was on call. I'm even scared of puppies and kittens. I know - something is wrong with me. And this reminds me of the time I saw a mouse run across the floor of our old apartment, so I stood on top of a coffee table for 45 minutes until Tony got home. I don't know why I thought I needed to stand off the floor, but I did. He came home and gently instructed me to climb down and join him on a trip to Wal-Mart for a mouse trap. My husband. My hero.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Praying for My Baby

I posted awhile back that one my New Year's Resolution for 2012 was to be the woman I'm praying Myka will become. Yikes! The Lord is definitely doing a refining work in my life, for which I am very grateful, but there are so many areas I want and need to grow in to help Myka (and others) see Jesus in me.

I've been thinking a lot about just how to pray for a daughter and I'd welcome your feedback to this post. When I first became pregnant with Myka, the Lord laid the word compassion on my heart, so I have prayed fervently that she would be compassionate. Of course, that is an area where I need tremendous growth. God definitely knows what He's doing, huh?

Anyways, some days it is hard to get passed just begging God to draw Myka into a relationship with himself. After all, that is everything. I just want her to KNOW Jesus and to spend her life on behalf of him...everything else will fall into place when that firm foundation is in place.I can pray for her physical health (and I long for her to be strong and healthy), but what good is that if she doesn't KNOW the creator of life? And health is no guarantee from God. I don't mean that to sound crass, but its the same as my prayers for myself and all those I love - Lord just let our lives bring your glory today - whatever that might look like. That's not easy to pray and so I don't pray that way all the time. But I think I should.

I've recently been challenged by a song I heard by Kendall Payne called Pray.What if this is how we prayed for our children and for one another? You can listen to it here.

Honestly, I have mixed emotions when I hear this song. Those aren't easy words to pray for your beloved child - "May you find every step to be harder than the last, so your character grows greater each stride." I'd love to pray that she has great character, but it's not easy to ask God to allow difficulty in her life to make that a reality.

I feel challenged to evaluate my prayer life...the way I pray for myself and for others. How about you? More questions than answers from me tonight. Let me know your thoughts. What do you pray for your children?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Can't Believe I Forgot this One...

A few months ago I blogged about some funny middle of the night conversations I'd had with Tony while waking up with a newborn - you can read all about that here. Thankfully the days of waking up all night are over, but I can't believe I forgot to document the very craziest night.

In early October (1 month into parenthood), I turned our furnace on for the first time. Thankfully it seemed to be working fine and keeping our house cozy for baby. During the night, I woke up to something beeping repeatedly. I was so completely zonked that it didn't even register that it may be a smoke detector. Tony was so zonked, it didn't even wake him up. After a few elbow jabs, Tony woke up and I ask him to investigate. I fell right back asleep. He came upstairs a few minutes later and reported that our furnace room and laundry room were completely filled with smoke and smelled of fire. He said he had turned the furnace off and with that, WE BOTH FELL FAST ASLEEP until morning!

When the repairman came the next afternoon, he was horrified. He said flames had been shooting out of our furnace during the night as a result of a part that had fallen off. AND WE SLEPT THROUGH IT! This is hysterical to me now, but I spent that entire day praising God for his provision and I think I'll thank him again now! Our stinking furnace was on fire and we decided the best idea would be to go back to sleep. It's a good thing that season of life doesn't last forever!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

I started this post a really, really long time ago. Then my baby came a little earlier than I expected and I never got back to it. So, here it is. Once upon a time, Tony and I went on a little, tiny vacation...

On Sunday, July 30 at 1AM Tony informed me that we needed to take a vacation before baby arrived, and we should plan to leave after church for a miniature vacation. It's not out of the ordinary for us to be incredibly spur-of-the-moment or to be hanging out at 1AM, but this may have been slightly more crazy than usual. That's what made it so incredibly special and fun! We packed our bags right after church and hit the road for Dubuque. Dubuque?? Yes, Dubuque. We really didn't have time to go far and needed a quick escape to an Iowa town we don't frequent, so Dubuque it was.

Sunday was a steamy hot day. We arrived in Dubuque around 5 and headed straight to the river for a sunset dinner cruise. It was a gorgeous night to be on the mighty Mississippi.

After dinner we checked into our hotel and set out for a round of mini golf. Our scores were SUPER close the entire game, but Tony came out ahead. That was a lie, my score was close to double his. My h.s. golf coach would be disappointed (but not surprised). After golfing, Tony hit up the batting cages.

Apparently that round of put-put was just what I needed to warm up for Monday morning.  After breakfast we played a par 3 golf course - it was the BEST game of my life!! I was on the green off the tee on 2 holes. I know that shouldn't be hard for a Par 3 course, but I'm a pretty pathetic golfer. :) Plus, I had an 8 month pregnant belly in my way and I was wearing flip flops. 

My putting was obviously still horrible.
Next Stop: Crystal Lake Cave. We cooled off by heading 40 feet underground into this cave. It was fascinating and beautiful, and left us both amazed at God's creativity and incredible design for this world. The picture below is of us in what they call the "chapel". Many weddings have been held in this very spot. It didn't feel all that romantic to me, but to each their own.

Somehow we happened upon the most delicious, fun restaurant ever for lunch! We highly recommend that you give Crust a try if you're in Dubuque. It was so yummy! They bring pizza bites to your table as free appetizers. They are these delicious, fried bread thingys coated in parmesan that you dip in marinara. We split a chicken wrap of some sort that was also delicious! (Thank goodness I'm not a food blogger. I really don't have the vocabulary for that, do I?)

 Tony worked diligently throughout lunch coloring this beautiful picture for me on our tablecloth.

After lunch, we headed to the pool for a few hours. We napped, read and swam. Thankfully I have no pictures of that excursion. By that point in my pregnancy, swimsuits were not all that flattering.

That evening we walked around downtown (super happenin' on a Monday night in Dubuque ;). We really wanted to eat at L. May Eatery, but it was packed out. I wasn't into the idea of waiting forever to feed my ginormous belly, so we ended up at Olive Garden.

After a quick trip to Target to get souvenirs for our families (jk), we called it a night. We hit the road early the next morning and made it home after a quick trip to Red Band coffee in Davenport. If you haven't tried Red Band coffee, you are seriously missing out. Their New Orleans iced coffee is the very best coffee drink. It's iced coffee, whole milk and brown sugar....mmmm. Plus, they roast their own beans, which makes it extra special.

Our miniature vacation was super fast, but super special. Dubuque is really nothing to write home about, but it now holds some pretty amazing memories for us in our final month before welcoming our first babe to the world!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

...and I cry at the calamity

I certainly do crack up at the craziness of youth ministry, but this week has been a sobering reminder that along with the laughter there are tears of devastation. Today instead of cracking up at the craziness, I am crying over a calamity.

When you feel called by the Lord to invest in the lives of your community's youth, you cannot help but grow to love the students that you spend time with. And we do. When we moved here 4 1/2 years ago, Tony bonded almost instantly with a couple of junior high guys that he spent a lot of time with. We loved having them over at our apartment for dinner, celebrating Christmas with them, and cheering them on in sports. Those boys are now seniors in high school, but instead of visiting them in the school cafeteria today, Tony visited one of them in jail, on his way to federal prison to serve a 10 year sentence. Our hearts are breaking.

A series of unwise choices led this young man to his conviction. We will continue to pray for him, come alongside him, and beg God to restore His life, draw him to Himself, and bring healing into his brokeness. Our hearts break because we love him and want God's best for him.

We are committed to youth ministry because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the answer for a lost and hurting world. This young man has heard the truth of God's love for Him many times over but has yet to accept that free gift. Pray along with us that He will surrender to Jesus, seek forgiveness, and choose repentance. There is a better way. Sin masks itself as fulfilling and fun, but it always comes up empty. I have found it out for myself time and time again. I'm reminded today that without the forgiveness of a Savior, life is desperate and hopeless. I do not mean to say that with Jesus we never make poor choices or life is somehow easier, but there is forgiveness and we are given strength to do what's right - and that makes life so much better.

If you happen to read this blog and you don't know how much God loves you, how amazing his plan for your life is, or how to have a relationship with Jesus - I'd love to talk to you about that or I'd encourage you to start reading the Bible. If you feel like you've tried everything and you're still coming up empty, I assure you Jesus is the answer. If you're afraid because you know Christians that annoy you, or you have been burned by the church, or you struggle to admit you need help - just surrender to Jesus. He makes life worth living!

My heart breaks for this young man because I know he is afraid and lost. My heart rejoices because I am confident of the truth of God's word - "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." I am so thankful for God's forgiveness in my life and so full of hope that others can experience His goodness.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sister of a YP

Since this blog was originally created to document the hilarity and joy of youth ministry from my mind's eye, I thought it fitting to share a little something about my second favorite youth pastor on the planet - Mike Howard.

I got a phone call from Mike the other day. It went a little something like this...

Cari: Hello?
Mike: Oh, sorry, I'm driving and I just crashed.
Cari: WHAT?!? Are you okay?
Mike: Oh yeah, I'm just driving around on the Hover Round.
Cari: Why?!?! Are you injured?!
Mike: Yeah.
Cari: What happened?
Mike: Huh? I thought you asked if I was in church.
Cari: No, I asked if you were injured.
Mike: Oh. No, I just like to drive this thing around.

Mike is my old(er) brother. He's the Pastor of High School Ministries at Constance Free Church in Andover, MN. Apparently on occasion he cruises around the church on one of these...

Mike is crazy. He is hilarious. He is brilliant (believe it or not). He is exceptional at what he does, even though his  hover round skills need some polishing. As much as I'd love to be in possession of a picture of Mike on the Hover Round, I'm not. However, in case you're wondering, Mike's recent facebook profile pic looks like this...

Handsome, eh? I am so proud to say that people often comment on how much we look alike. Mike's 2 1/2 year old son Jimmy loves pointing this picture out to us on their fridge and saying, "Look at Daddy's mustache - ahhahahahahahahaha!" That sums it up nicely.

I hope you weren't too creeped out by that photo to continue reading because if I can capture even a piece of Mike's incredible talent and heart in this blog, you'll be awfully glad you stuck around. Mike truly is exceptional at what he does. I have a feeling there are a hundred high school students and countless others who have been touched by Mike's ministry who would be quick to agree.

My big brother Mike has been my most influential role model (alongside my brother James and sister Kelsey). Because he's perfect? Nope. Because he is the most doting, adoring big brother? Not hardly (at least he pretends not to be). Because he loves Jesus and boldly confesses his faith? Yes. Because he is a student of the Word and a brilliant theologian? Yes. Because under his hysterically funny antics, crazy pranks, and sarcasm there is a heart that loves people and longs to see them changed by the Gospel? Yes.

Mike set the bar for me in many ways growing up. I watched him as a high school student and challenged myself to be like him - to make my faith known, to be an excellent student, to love my parents. In college, I watched Mike invest in his friendships by loving friends like Jesus loved them and I attempted to follow his example. As God brought us into youth ministry, Tony and I often look to Mike for wisdom and insight.

As much as I'd like to go on bragging about Mike, I know he would not appreciate it, so I guess I won't. I will however brag about how lucky I am to be related to not one, but two youth pastors. That makes for some seriously crazy family get-togethers (think cinnamon challenge).

On a more serious note, Mike is a tremendously gifted preacher. If you'd like to be challenged by an incredible message, click here and listen to Mike's 1/29/12 sermon - Resolve to Make a Difference.

And, one last thing...Mike & his wife Jenny are amazing parents to Jimmy (2 1/2) and Emma (1 month). Tony and I look up to them a lot. Look how beautiful they are...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Baby Brain

My brother recently told me something that explains so much of what I've been feeling! I don't remember exactly what he said or who he said said it (which helps prove the point I'm about to make), but it went something like this... "A woman's brain capacity decreases by #% (i have no clue what the percentage was) for every child she has under 8 years old."* Don't worry, he went on to say that you do indeed regain that brain capacity as your children get older. I'm certain this was said with a certain level of humor, but I feel as if I am living, breathing, scientific evidence to validate that statement and I only have one child under 8!

I wish I could remember all of the ridiculous things I have said, done, thought, forgot, meant to do, thought I did but didn't do since I have had a baby. It would be quite hysterical if I could only remember them. I must jot down the few that do come to mind, in hopes that some other Moms out there can make me feel better with their similar stories.

1. The nicknames I call Myka are absolutely ridiculous. My mouth often moves faster than my brain, so the names that come out for her are crazy. I'll share a few....Mister (we often call her Maester because her middle name is Mae, but I have referred to her as Mister on multiple occasions), Maester Mae, Maester Wid, Bubba (what?!?), snugga bunny (maybe i saw a toy named this?), sweet pea apple of my eye, Michael (yes - i've accidentally called her Michael), stinker, stink pot, and I'm getting embarrassed so we'll be done with this list now.

2. Laundry mishaps. Somehow adding one little tiny girl to our household quintupled our laundry load. I've had my fair share of goof ups with the washer and drier. I managed to wash and dry my retainer (which I wore faithfully EVERY night for six years. I miss it terribly). I pulled a load of laundry out of the drier and then turned around, saw it in the laundry basket and put it right back in the washer. I found my wedding ring in a pile of dirty laundry on the laundry room floor. I also found it in the washer on another occassion - not good! And, of course, I turned a load of whites pink.

3. Overdue water bills. This one makes me furious!! Our water bill is the only bill I have (besides our tithe) that I cannot pay online. I have to pull my checkbook out and mail or drop off a check every month. Somehow EVERY month of Myka's sweet life, I have been late by ONE STINKING day and that has cost me $10/month. 

I feel like I need to do a SUDOKU every night or something to regain little pieces of my brain that are slipping away. Any other tips from experienced Mamas?

*Just heard from Mike...brain capacity decreases by 11% per child according to Bill Simmons.