Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My hometown

A question has been haunting me since last night about 10:30. Okay, maybe “haunting” is a strong word, but it’s certainly been on my mind.

Our women’s discipleship group is going through Beth Moore’s “Stepping Up” study on the Psalms of Ascent. I’m working a little ahead because I’d like to be through it before we go to Israel (if, in fact, they decide they can play nice for long enough for us to visit).

Anyway, I was filling out my workbook, and there was one question I was unable to answer. It asked how God is using me to make a difference in my hometown. I stared at it for a good while, and then I just left it blank. It was the last thought on my mind before I turned off the lamp and the first thought when my feet hit the floor this morning.

We’ve lived in New Brockton for almost three months. Bethany Baptist Church has felt like home for quite some time. Our trailer started to feel like home as soon as the cardboard boxes thinned out. But I don’t feel as though I can call a place “my hometown” until I connect with a certain number of people outside the church. Remember, this is coming from a girl who grew up in a town, population less than 5,000, for about 15 years. Elba was definitely my hometown, and I want New Brockton to be.

I would think one of the best ways to become part of a place is to work there. However, I have a wonderful job 45 minutes away. Another way – have kids in the school system. Not even close to achieving that. Get involved in some sort of organization or volunteer? Maybe there’s an idea, though time must be invested wisely.

So as I follow God’s direction, I’ll pray for New Brockton like David sang for Jerusalem in Psalm 122 and try to be a blessing where God has me.

Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cooking tip

A piece of advice from the cooking expert: When you think you're going to get creative with your vegetables and roast any type of winter squash (in my case, acorn), follow the recipe. If it tells you to brush a butter and honey mixture on the squash, don't spoon it on or pour it.

Who needs the Food Network when you have me, right? I certainly don't.

The yellow meat part was actually pretty good, but nibbling around the burnt black stuff was not easy. Circled in pink is an actual piece of squash.

Join us here next time for more trial-and-error cooking with your host, Bethany Akridge.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmases past and present

Our Christmas was great! We got to see almost everybody within a two-day span. Some of our most interesting gifts were three Muppet Movies, two bicycles, a Hebrew translation guide and a fish cooker. We also finally got us a big cooler (an essential for every married couple) and some tray tables (an essential for every married couple with a very small kitchen table).

But the best part of this Christmas, of course, was reflecting on what it meant for Jesus to come to Earth and give us hope for a life spent with Him. The second best part was being with people we love, especially each other. We treasured last Christmas, too, but let me illustrate how much this year differed from last year...

Christmas 2007, right in the throes of chemo

Christmas 2008, feeling much better

Today, I'm back to work, and it's been pretty quiet in the office. Tonight, we're going out with the Elbians, so I'd better enjoy the quiet while I can.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas tidings

According to, today's high in my neck of the woods is 45 degrees. The rest of the week will be in the 70s (the high 70s, even). Even though I've lived here most of my life, Alabama weather never ceases to amaze me. Good thing I don't have stock in Christmas sweaters.

Here are a few photos from the weekend. First was the youth Christmas party at Chris and Jill's. The highlight of the night was flour bomb capture the flag. Some of the playas are pictured below. Notice the guy in the gray shirt, Skeeter, and the redhead, Julie, standing near me. Their hands are together because they stopped fighting over a flour bomb just long enough to pose for the picture.

And then there was the choir cantata on Sunday, which went very well. Loved it, but glad it's over! In the bottom picture, I'm really not that white. It's the flash, I promise.

I thought you might also like to see the Christmas cards I made to hand out at church and work (excluding the choir members, who got different cards and spiced tea bags).

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bethany B.C. Christmas Spectacular!

Pretty good name for a choir cantata, huh? Thanks, I just made it up. Actually, our cantata is by Travis Cottrell, and it's called "Everything Glorious." Don't Christmas cantatas make you feel all warm and fuzzy, joyously ushering in the Christmas spirit?

Well, this is not your typical Christmas cantata.

Some traditional Christmas carols are thrown in here and there, and it's certainly enjoyable, but this cantata does not let "warm and fuzzy" get in the way of a clear message of why Jesus came and Who He is. Lots of worshipping, danceable music and celebrating the hope that only our Savior brings -- what could be any better than that? How about all those things and a solo by Gunter Akridge? You really want to be there. Just tape the TROY bowl game and come on.

If you're going to be in the area, just print this ticket and bring it with you. Or don't. You know we'll let you in.
**Update** Yes, I'm in the cantata, too. I sing alto and move around a lot. I also sing backup on Gunter's solo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Big, BIG Apple

The exciting news is that Gunter registered for his Israel class yesterday, and I booked our plane tickets to and from New York this morning!!!

Apparently, that was the easy part.

The hard part is finding out where to stay the two nights we'll be there, what to do and how to get around. I thought we'd just pick a reasonably priced hotel near JFK Airport and go from there, but I've read some comments that it's a sketchy area (Jamaica). I've also read that the Metrocard Fun Pass is a good way to go for a few days of riding the subways and buses, as long as it's during daylight hours.

In addition to going to the Brooklyn Tabernacle on Sunday, we'd like to just hit a few of the highlights -- the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, etc.

We sure could use some advice from you if you've spent anytime in New York. Obviously, it's a little outside my area of expertise. Let me demonstrate.
New York City:
...versus my world:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back in their day

Ever wonder how graphic artists and publication layout people practiced their trade in the days before computer programs? Probably not. But, if you'd like to be enlightened, this is a pretty neat Web site:

The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies

Of course, this spring chicken is amazed that people actually used tools like these. I've heard stories about placing lead type, pasting and drawing by hand, all hard to imagine.

I was not born an artist, but ironically, I get paid to design, and I love it. My tools of the trade are a mouse and computer screen. Ask me to paint or draw a straight line, and you'll have an absolute mess.

My how things change -- for the better!

Monday, December 15, 2008

By the way...

Trying canned, microwaved asparagus will make you never want to eat asparagus...ever...again. That probably should have been common sense.

Tomorrow, our department is having lunch together at Beef O'Brady's. Eating out will make it all better.

Seek FIRST, not last

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

With all the rush and distraction this time of year can bring, I thought I was doing so well. I was careful to avoid going overboard on gifts and to get things checked off the list early. We didn’t have as many parties to attend this year, and I had determined not to get worked up over little things.

I thought I was doing so well…Until this morning, when I let the self-generated pressure of the week hit me all at once. Too much thinking while getting ready on Monday morning will do that to a girl.

I am a planner, but every good quality has its mirror pitfalls. I doubt good planning means trying to work the whole week out in my mind before it’s really even begun. Interestingly, Jesus says in the very next verse:

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

At least twice in the last two days has the Holy Spirit brought Jesus’s words to my mind, certain ones he used on Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…” Luke 10:41-42

This morning, those words came as I drove to work, right after showing Gunter a touch of the same resentment Martha used on Mary.

What a stark contrast from Sunday to Monday! We spent last night worshipping and rejoicing as we performed our Christmas cantata at a church in a town nearby. But as soon as we were on the way home, the to-do list started creeping up on me.

What’s silly is that my to-do list is not so daunting. It just becomes that way when I get the necessary stuff or the stuff that would be good to do mixed up with the “only one thing necessary,” according to the One who knows.

It happens so easily when I seek last rather than first.

So I followed Dr. Akridge’s orders to “chill out” and spend a little time with God on the way to work. How different everything seems when I talk with Him rather than talking to myself.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Final clue and answer

Clue #6: I would consider many places on Earth to be beautiful, but where we're going is the only place on Earth God ever called, "the Beautiful Land." (Daniel 11:6)
Give up? In March, Gunter and I are going to Israel.

Gunter is taking seminary classes through Liberty University's distance learning program. The president and dean of the seminary, Dr. Ergun Caner, a former Muslim, will lead the tour, and Gunter will get class credit. We'll spend 10 days in Israel. Click here to see our basic itinerary.

Oh, and the icing on the cake... We'll meet our group at JFK airport in New York City on a Monday evening. Anyone who knows Gunter well has heard about (and has probably listened to) the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. How could we be 12 miles away from the Tabernacle and not visit? Furthermore, how could we be one day away from Sunday and not attend a service?!

In light of the circumstances, we're going to try to fly up maybe on the Saturday morning before, attend a Sunday service (or maybe multiple services?) and stay in New York until we meet the group on Monday evening. So many dreams-come-true rolled into one.

Nervous, elated and clueless would describe how I feel right now. So, considering neither one of us has ever been to New York City or Israel (and I've never been on a plane for longer than 2 hours), we'd appreciate all the advice we can get.

Clue #5

It's home to the lowest point on Earth (1,300 feet below sea level), as well as the body of water with the highest salt concentration.

Check back after lunch today to find out the identity of the mystery destination!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Clue #4

It's a civilized country, but people there don't always act civil toward one another.

Clue #3

Yesterday, Shelia got it right on her second guess. Super-sleuths Jill and Joni found out from one of Gunter's Facebook groups. Keep the guesses coming! Just two or three more clues before I reveal the answer.

Clue #3: It's a good thing I like olives...and grapes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Clue #2

At this point, Gunter and I only know a few words of the language(s), not enough to communicate.

Clue #1

Even though some of you already know where I'm going with my passport, and the rest of you aren't losing sleep over it, let's play a game, even if only for my own entertainment. Over the next few days, I'll post clues about my destination in March. If you guess correctly, I'll recognize you on the blog, but I won't post your prolong the fun, you know. So if I don't get any guesses, I'll just pretend that I didn't post them. ;-) I'll also include a small piece of a photo and show more of it with each clue.

So without further ado, clue #1:

By the time we get there, we will have crossed eight time zones.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It has come to pass(port)

Getting it has been on my to-do list for years. Using it has been on my to-do list for as long as I can remember.

Today, I applied for my first passport. Gunter has had his for several years, from his two mission trips to Honduras. I’ve been meaning to get mine for quite a while so I’d be ready, just in case anything came up. I wanted to be sittin’ on go in case I needed to got the opportunity to leave the country.

My day has come, all of a sudden and stampeding over me like a herd of crazed orangutans. (Found out about possibility of trip overseas on Tuesday before Thanksgiving, signed up and sent in deposit one week later.)

So I went to get my passport, and, as is customary anytime I’m faced with official paperwork, I hit a few small snags. (No, I didn’t get deported. Small snags.) There I was, thinking I was completely prepared. Filled out my application online and printed it out. Paperclipped it to my birth certificate, driver’s license and two perfectly sized color photos – 2” x 2”, head and shoulders on an off-white background, 1-1.38” from the top of my head to the bottom of my chin. Checks already written to the U.S. Department of State and the county clerk’s office. Lo and behold, the clerk’s office only takes cash and money orders.

So, I made a bank run and safely steered my way back around the precarious court square. Lady working in the clerk’s office also called to my attention that I was supposed to apply for the passport card or the passport book, not both. I assumed the passport card went inside the passport book, so I needed both. You live and learn.

Apply for passport – Check. Prepare for new experiences and trip of a lifetime – still working on it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Deck the halls!

We didn't actually deck our halls, but we did decorate our den last night. I started to deck the hall with three Christmas ducks Benjamin gave me a couple of years ago, but Gunter warned me that they were bound to be kicked over where I had placed them.

The fact that we made a spot for the tree was quite a feat in itself. We decided at least one piece of furniture had to go to make room. You should have seen Gunter lift our recliner over his head and carry it down the back porch steps toward the storage building. I helped...a little.

Though my photography skills are lacking here, I'd like to show you Gunter's favorite ornament. It's Santa walking three pigs. It earns a place of prominence on the tree every year. Much like Daddy's cloth snowman the RAs made him before I was even born. It's become a running joke that Mom is going to steal the snowman and get rid of it when he's not looking.

We also have a set of silver martini glasses we received at a church ornament shower. We hang them faithfully...on the back of the tree. So, what kind of strange decorations does your family cherish every year?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Late Thanksgiving wrap-up

It's been a while since I've updated (if you don't count that little fuss earlier today), so here are just a few photos from Thanksgiving, which was great, by the way.

We spent Thursday evening with the most Dye's (Dad's family) that have been together in one place in a long time. Here's me with the two biggest cutups, Cousin BB and PawPaw. There's no telling how many photos BB posed for during the course of the evening. I'm still waiting on the date he promised me to Dairy Queen.

Here are Aunt Lee, Mom, Gunter and my "little" brother Benjamin at Aunt Sally's house. Notice the punch fountain on the left. It could not compare with Aunt Sally's fried rice and wonton -- the highlights of any Dye family gathering.

We missed out on the Bailey family Thanksgiving this year, but we did get to eat supper with the Bailey girls at the Chicken Shack (home of the best fried chicken the world has ever known) on Wednesday night. Here are Aunt Pam, Dear Grandmother and Mama.
After an almost sleepless Thursday night, my feet hit the floor at 3 a.m. on Friday for some long-awaited Bailey girls Black Friday shopping! Aunt Pam and Cousin Courtney were rewarded for arriving in Montgomery at 5 a.m. with a combined $310 in free merchandise from Sports Authority. The slackers (Mom and I) got there about 6 a.m. We had a fun, though rainy, day. Came home with some great deals and no black eyes or broken bones.

Saturday, my "twin" and her husband hosted an Iron Bowl par-tay for the youth. Here are a few scenes from that shindig:

I believe Blake is laughing at all the Auburn fans on the right end of the couch. But Pastor Tony wins the trash-talk award for the day.

We played some fast and furious ping-pong as that fourth quarter didn't look to offer much excitement.

So, there's my Thanksgiving wrap-up. I'd love to talk about how truly thankful I was, but this post is long enough already.

A lesson learned

Just an FYI...

When the U.S. Postal Service says they can't guarantee that an overnighted letter will actually arrive overnight, they mean it. Even when you paid $16 on Tuesday morning to get a letter to Virginia overnight, it's not guaranteed to arrive there by Thursday morning. Instead, it will take its sweet time.

Just thought I'd give you a heads-up...In case you ever try to overnight any letters to Virginia, spend your 16 bucks on something more beneficial.