Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Year in Pictures: 2010

In January, we took a refreshing weekend get-away up to Shasta, and I got to play in the snow while Gary took pictures from the warmth of indoors! Looking back, that weekend felt like the turning point in our lives, closing the chapter on grief and survival, and looking forward to joy and hope.

In February, we took advantage of beautiful weather for a hike out towards Auburn. We discovered a path off the main trail that led to a little alcove with this view. The perfect place for lunch, and one of my favorite hiking finds yet!

In March, we attended the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Old Sac. We'd attended this parade during our first year of marriage, so it definitely brought out a lot of those "we're back home!" feelings. This was my favorite float, with the saddest girl scout troop ever! I don't know why they are so miserable, but they just make me giggle! Don't they look as if they are being punished? Poor kids.

In April, we were invited to spend the weekend with friends (from our old Fair Oaks small group) in Lake Tahoe. There was quite a bit of snow, but we managed to find a stretch of shore to walk along. It was the first chance we had to catch up since moving away, and it was a sweet time.

In May, we had the joy of celebrating with our good friends Eric and Stacy, as they officially tied the knot! I was overwhelmed with joy, as these two both are like family to me, and are deserving of such rich blessing together. The icing on the cake was that we now share wedding anniversaries!

June brought the first ever Fam-Bam camping trip. We took Molly with us to Fallen Leaf Lake, which is a little gem hidden just a couple miles away from Lake Tahoe. There was swimming, hiking, and bacon, in that order (though not all in one day!).

In July, I spotted this tabbycat snoozing peacefully in our backyard. I snapped this pic, which I later entered in the annual N magazine photo contest, resulting in my first publication! Many thanks, mystery cat!

In August, we fulfilled our dream to camp at Crater Lake, OR. In this picture, Gary is pointing to the peak to which we had hiked the day before. Oh, and yes, we know that we are dorks!

September was our trip to Heavenly Hills Family Camp, in Twain Harte. Our former pastor from Jacob's Well was coming down from Idaho to be the camp speaker, and a few of us decided (separately) to pop in and surprise him! If you know us at all, you've probably heard us talk about this church and what a special family we were. To reunite and share what God has been doing in each of us really felt like a holy blessing from God. What a gift, to love such brothers and sisters. I will never forget that weekend.

With October came our annual Halloween tradition, "Candy Poker Night". After years of hosting the event, Gary was proud to finally be a winner of said candy poker, even defeating Ron Burgundy to the last tootsie roll.

In November, we thought we'd be clever and do our own family pictures in a local photography studio. We got our traditional classy images, but I couldn't leave without having a little fun... here's one that didn't make the Christmas card!

In December, we had an early "Holly Molly Christmas" celebration so that we could enjoy Christmas together before Molly headed to Concord to meet up with family. After we all exchanged gifts, Molly and I headed to the kitchen to make breakfast. Baking together on my days off has been one of our special traditions over this past year, and we have discovered some yummy new (low sugar!) recipes. Christmas day was a special treat: orange chocolate pancakes. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why We Proclaim Such Foolishness

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

-- 1 Corinthians 1:18, 26-30

No matter what we do, the world will continue to see our faith as foolishness.

There are a number of contemporary Christian apologists working hard to engage the dominant culture on behalf of Christ. Some, like Ravi Zacharias, strive to earn respect for the Christian worldview in the marketplace of ideas. They want the world to see our faith as reasonable, rational, and logical. Others, like Brian McLaren, are working to demonstrate how our ancient faith can appeal to post-modern concerns. They want the world to see our faith as relevant, powerful, and authentic.

Both of these groups are motivated by a genuine zeal for Christ and a desire to extend His Kingdom, just as we are commanded to do. But it seems to me, we must acknowledge that no matter how well we reason and argue and demonstrate and appeal, the vast majority of the world will continue to see our message as foolishness, choosing to perish rather than to accept it.

So what, then? Do we cease to put forth our message because most will reject it? Certainly not! As this passage goes on to state, through this message of the cross, God calls the lowly and the weak and the base in the eyes of the eyes of the world to be saved. It is for the sake of these that we continue to proclaim God's message of reconciliation.

Thus, none of us who are saved can boast. God did not save us because of our worthiness, but rather, He saved us in spite of our unworthiness. We who would proclaim His message to others need to keep this in mind, because it applies to us as well. God does not save others because of our persuasive words. Often, He saves others in spite of them.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

For Kathy!

Harvest Fruit Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 medium banana, mashed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 cup muffin pan (or loaf pan) with cooking spray, set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well, set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil, banana, and egg. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Add apple and raisins.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups (or pour into loaf pan), filling until 2/3 full. Bake until tops are firm and golden, about 20 minutes (or longer for loaf).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stacy and Eric

One of the highlights of this past month was the opportunity to spend some time with old friends Stacy and Eric, who were back in town for their long-awaited wedding! Stacy and I were college roomies back in the day at USC; she was actually the first person I met after moving in to Marks Hall freshman year (don't ask her about the story, she apparently has no memory of it!). We headed to downtown Sacramento for an engagement photo shoot. I don't think we could have had more fun, and I was thrilled with how their pictures turned out. Aren't they cute together?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Trinity on Display

I shared this with a couple of 8th-graders today, and I think it's interesting enough to share here as well.

We were talking about the Trinity, and how the term never actually appears in the Scriptures, though the concept is clearly taught. In fact, there's one particular scene in the Bible in which the "Three-Personed" nature of God is undeniably on display: the baptism of Jesus.

Here's how it's presented in Luke 3:21-22.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
In this one scene, we see all three Divine Persons. God the Son is the One being baptized, God the Holy Spirit descends in a visible manifestation that resembles a dove, and God the Father speaks audibly from heaven. This is a simple, clear, and quite beautiful depiction of the three distinct Persons in our "Three-in-One" God.

So keep that one in your back pocket, just in case you need to blow someone's mind.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's not a picnic, without...

So the hubbo and I had a nice romantic picnic planned down by the river a couple of weeks ago, when who should decide to crash our party:

Skunks! Yep, we were right in the middle of the foraging area for three little stinkers! They didn't seem to mind us much, but we were verrrrrryy careful to mind them! Unsurprisingly, I whipped out my camera for some spontaneous nature photography:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: The Reason for God by Tim Keller

In The Reason for God: Belief in Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller addresses the most common questions and doubts of skeptics that he has encountered, and offers a number of reasons to believe the truth of the Gospel. As the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Keller is no stranger to the urban, post-modern, intellectual skeptic. It is clearly this sort of person Keller has in mind as he provides gracious answers to pressing doubts.

Before addressing these doubts, Keller presents a most interesting introduction in which he introduces his working premise: that every doubt is based on a set of alternate beliefs. He uses the example of someone who opposes Christianity because it seems exclusionary. This person argues that there can’t
be just one true religion, all the while never realizing that their statement is really an alternate belief that requires faith. It can’t be proven empirically. It is not universally accepted. This “reasoning” is just as much a position based on faith as the Christian’s is, if not more so. These sorts of embedded leaps of faith reappear throughout.

After the introduction, the rest of the book’s first half is devoted to addressing the questions and doubts of skeptics. Here, Keller is at his best. It is easy to imagine him deftly answering challenges at one of his post-sermon Q&A sessions at Redeemer. I especially appreciated his analogies, many of which I will hold onto and use in my own ministry for years to come. For instance, in his chapter entitled, “Christianity is a Straitjacket,” Keller addresses the widely-held fallacy that real human freedom is a maximal lack of constraint, that the truly free person is the one who decides for herself what is right and what is wrong without having morality imposed upon her by another. Keller uses two analogies that are simple, yet brilliant, to prove that freedom is not simply a lack of constraint. First, he presents a musician who has given up hours upon hours in order to practice and perfect his craft. He was most certainly constrained by such diligence, but because of it, he is now free to express himself musically in ways he would never have been able to had he been “free” from constraint. Then, Keller turns his attention to an even more universal analogy, that of love. He writes: “If you want the ‘freedom’ of love – the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings – you must limit your freedom in many ways…To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.” Anyone who has experienced a love relationship will be able to relate to this “trade” of personal freedom for intimacy, and will likely agree that it is worth the constraint.

The second half of the book changes focus, from answering doubts to presenting “sufficient reasons for
believing.” Keller asks his reader to “put on Christianity like a pair of spectacles and look at the world with it. See what power it has to explain what we know and see.” This tour of the Christian worldview includes a review of various evidences that point to the existence of God, a discussion of moral obligation as a divine fingerprint, an explanation of the fallen world we see around as through the lens of sin, and a presentation of the Gospel.

This section did not seem as strong to me as the book’s first half did. Nevertheless, I thought the chapter delineating between religion and the Gospel was very well done. Keller writes: “The primary difference is that of motivation. In religion, we try to obey the divine standards out of fear… In the gospel, the motivation is one of gratitude for the blessing we have already received because of Christ.” Here, we hear an echo of an earlier chapter, denouncing fanaticism as modern-day Pharisaism. Moralist religion is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By making this distinction, Keller gives himself ground to criticize the abuses of Christian “religion” in the world even as he advocates forcefully for the Gospel.

On the whole, I was very impressed with Keller’s book. He speaks powerfully, yet gently, and he addresses questions that people are actually asking. The first half seems to me especially powerful for equipping believers to address these questions as well. I would be interested to hear the perspective of a seeker or skeptic who has read the book, but it seems to me the arguments would resonate. Based on clarity, utility, and provocation of thought, this is the best book I have read in any of my classes this semester.

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Paddy's 2010

This past Saturday was the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, held in Old Sacramento.

It was a grand time for all things Irish!

(and not so Irish)

It's not St. Patrick's Day without some Dancin' Girls. I soooo love the big fake curly hair!

... and more Dancin' Girls! These girls have to concentrate harder, because they are dancing on a moving float... whoa~!

I absolutely adored the Girl Scouts float. Check out these proud dads!

But these must be the saddest Girl Scouts ever! Awww... =(

Doesn't this bring back high school (whether you cheered, or not)?

Nothing short of fearless:

Hope you can join us next time!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life these days...

Hi friends, I've gotten the hint that a few of you may be interested in an update on us Westons. I'm home sick from work today, too ill to do my job, cough cough, but not too incapacitated to write, so hopefully this will work out well!

By now most of you know that we are living in Sacramento and Gary is doing full time school. We made the move at the end of last October, after four months of house hunting in the Sacramento area. The timing aligned fairly well: our housing in Concord was no longer available, Molly was heading out on her mission trip, and Gary's fall semester was starting up at the Sacramento campus of Western Seminary.

We found a home in the Natomas area that looked like a great deal - unfortunately we were outbid in cash and had to start the search over. We ended up purchasing a 2 bed 2 bath home, also in Natomas. What with the housing market crash, combined with our saved down payment, our mortgage is less than half of what we were paying for our first home. That is definitely a blessing while Gary is in full time school! We're probably a couple of miles from the apartment that was our first newlywed home, and the house we had owned prior to the World Race. We are adjusting to the smaller living quarters and looking forward to summertime BBQs on the gorgeous back patio. I just last weekend unpacked the last box in the house - a victory in and of itself! (Our garage will be the next project to tackle...) Our Shih Tzu, Billy, has a chair set up by the front window where he loves to lay and watch the neighborhood goings-on. We are walking distance from the power line easement that runs through the neighborhood, and it's got a good paved trail that is perfect for walking the dog on good weather days. We have met several of our neighbors and are developing some good relationships. The neighborhood is incredibly diverse, which I love, and most of the residents have been here over ten years.

We have found a church in the area that we've been attending: Gateway Fellowship, pastored by Mike Phillips, which has been a good place for us to land and get involved. Gary and I have been enjoying a Sunday afternoon adult small group, led by the pastor, and Molly has been getting involved with the thriving young adult ministry. A fun fact for us is that Pastor Mike had been close to our former pastor, Darrin Sligar, during the Jacob's Well days. In that sense, Gateway feels like extended family that we are just now getting to know. Gateway is a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, with a high priority placed on supporting missions. Another Gateway distinctive is their commitment to the Spanish speaking community. English and Spanish services are held simultaneously, and once a month the two congregations merge to share a powerful time of communion and worship!

Molly continues to be a valuable part of our lives and we feel so blessed to have her in our home. She first moved in with us a year and a half ago for a summer of discipleship, and since then we have grown into a family. She had spent over a year preparing for the mission field and departed last September for missions team training in Mexico. During the training, she had to unexpectedly return home for health reasons, and though she recovered quickly was told by her organization that she would not be allowed to return on that particular trip. Since then, the program she had signed up for has been discontinued.

A career on the mission field, hopefully in Africa, continues to be Molly's passion and goal, and we are praying with her about when, where, and how that will take place. In the meantime, she is optimizing her time at home by studying at a local community college for her EMT Basic certificate. She has been extremely diligent in her studies and is at the top of her class! I am excited for her that once she does return to the mission field, she will be equipped with skills in the medical field that I'm sure will be a blessing to many.

Gary is now in the latter half of his M. Div. degree program through Western Seminary. He is currently studying church history, theology, and evangelism, and at any given moment will be found reading yet another book! With the move back to Sacramento, he's had the opportunity to jump back into a weekly men's breakfast he had participated in five years ago. The group has shifted somewhat, but the core members are going strong! Gary will also soon have the opportunity for some part-time work as the Driver's Training school he worked at in Concord is expanding into the Sacramento region. I know you are all jealous of those high school kids that get to do their training in the bright blue mini-cooper!

Overall, life feels as if it's whizzing by... It's frustrating at times to still be in the middle of transition and wonder where we will be two years from now, but we are surrounded by so many blessings that I have to just remind myself to keep taking it one day at a time. One thing is for sure, we're not bored!

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Hike of the Year

Last weekend, Gary and I took full advantage of the beautiful (65 and sunny) weather we were enjoying to get out on the trails. Hiking is one of our "things", and winter seems oh so long when we're cooped up in the house. This is the first hike we've done since I bought my D-SLR, so of course I was more than excited to try it out on the trail. So, I grabbed my camera, and Gary found us a great new trail in the Auburn area that leads us down to the middle fork of the American River.

Even though it's still February, spring is obviously pushing winter aside with full force. I couldn't get enough of the budding trees that lined the first part of the trail. In the picture below, I love the sense of motion as the tree branch "comes at you":

A little further up the trail, these leaves are already budding. To see the sun backlighting the buds brings back that glorious sensation of the sun on my face.

About 4/5 of the way down the trail, we snuck down the side of the hill and found THE perfect lunch spot. This is my new favorite place; surrounded by lush ferns and moss, a rushing creek at your feet with waterfalls bookending the site. There's a little ledge along one hill where you can sit and watch the water rush by. A little piece of heaven.

This next pic is kinda weird, I'm warning you now. When we arrived at the bottom of the hill, we discovered that a large swath of riverbed had clearly been underwater and just recently dried up. River rocks were either covered with sediment or decorated with bright green filaments of algae. I couldn't get over how similar the algae looked to hair, and how the rocks looked like the tops of heads. It was bizarre stepping across them and waiting for one to turn up and blink at me, as if out of a Harry Potter movie.

This was the view after we concluded our descent: beautiful, open, free, so quiet and peaceful. I often feel that these times in nature move my heart to bring me the closest to God. This is His handiwork; He is the one who invented these beautiful places that give me such joy.