Sunday, June 25, 2006

Presidential Visit

Hi folks! We've been busy this week entertaining Piotr Ptak, future president of Poland, while here in the US on a research grant from the Polish Committee for Scientific Research. After two fruitful weeks at Standford University in California, Piotr concluded his research here in the windy city & we were honored to show him around the town during his free time.

We enjoyed a sunny day at the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes. No visit to Chicago is complete without experiencing Chicago deep dish pizza, followed up by Strawberry Shortcake by moi. Shedd Aquarium was worth the admission price with the Wild Reef exhibit voted the favorite by everyone!

My good friend & neighbor treated Piotr to an American baseball game, Sox vs Astros. Compared to soccer, the European favorite, baseball is a rather slow moving game. Thus, the piece that he remarked most was our national anthem, God Bless America! It moves me every time as well. Thanks Nate!

There was wild shopping on Michigan Avenue after commanding views of the city & shoreline from the Hancock observatory! Can we say YUM to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory?? AND what about all that JAZZ as we dined al fresco? Gracie entertained the band as they warmed up with a few modified ballet moves. Fascinated with percussion instruments, Grace imitated the drummer's every move as he readied his drums. She even had her feet going. I think this girl is a future Muzicnet student & CLC band member for sure!

Just to check it off the list, we stopped by Navy Pier for a brief - really brief visit. Not enough time to appreciate the most visited Chicago attration, but hey...we were on a shopping mission!

All this with some of my best cooking/grilling & Gracie fun to boot! Gracie's favorite part was Piotr as her pink horse & protector from the mixer monster as I made homemade ice cream. Of course, there were many wonderful moments at the beach & playing in the yard. We broke in the new butterfly net catching fireflies one night. What memories!
AND speaking of homemade ice cream...butter pecan was on his list of MUST TRY items while in the US so how could I not break out my secret recipe? Don't you know he thought it was better than any we could purchase??

After a time of worship at CLC today & lunch, we sadly dropped our friend at the airport for his grueling flight home to Katowice. It was truly our pleasure, Piotr. What memories! Remember us when you get moved into the Presidential Palace! I checked it out & it's quite impressive. :o)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Songs We Sing~

Jesus Loves Me
Print by Kathryn Andrews Finch

This has been a big week for us - turning TWO is a BIG deal! Gracie never ceases to amaze me but this week I shed some tears. For weeks, Gracie's belted out "Deep & Wide" - there's a fountain flowing deep & wide; a song she learned in CLC KidsTown about the never ending fountain of God's love toward His children. This week as I was putting Gracie's shoes on & she started singing another familiar tune~
Jesus loves me this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Though she missed a few of the words, it was by far the sweetest melody. This child's song is powerful when you really think about those words. The declaration that Jesus, God almighty, creator of heaven and earth, loves ME. And I KNOW it! We, as His children, belong to Him; treasured and cherished of our Heavenly Father. Though we are weak, He is indeed strong; strong enough for whatever makes me afraid. To quote an old song, "His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He'll carry us when we can't carry on. Raised in His power the weak become strong. His strenth is perfect. His strength is perfect."
Jesus Loves Me comforts the soul. When my mom was sick, sick, sick in the hospital - I had no idea it would be the last day she lived, but while visiting her, Grace persisted in trying to get a book, a Bible I thought, off of mom's nightstand. After telling her "not for Grace" a dozen times, I decided we could look at the "book" together. Well, it was a hymnal. Then I remember my sister telling me that she & my cousin has swiped one from the hospital chapel so they could sing for mom. Mom was a singer when she was younger - lovely, lovely voice. I treasure the memory of her singing to me, with me when I was little and then, mom singing to and with Grace. The words were sometimes jumbled but charming still.
Mom affirmed she would enjoy it if we sang a bit. I went through the songbook, finding old favorites I hadn't sang in years...Standing on the Promises, What a Friend We Have In Jesus, Amazing Grace and finally, Jesus Loves Me - with all the verses. Now mom enjoyed the others, moving her lips to sing as she was able, but when I began to sing Jesus Loves Me, she began to breathe deeply, relax & "rest" in the song. I remember all day that mom was looking very deeply at Grace & I, like she was drinking us in. I think mom knew that it was the end and this song gave her peace to rest eternally in the love of Jesus.
Jesus loves me - it's been a favorite for a long time, holding special meaning for a number of reasons. One of mom's favorite stories to tell from when Tracy & I were kids was the one about Halloween when we were 2 & 3 years old. She took us trick or treating and our "trick" was singing Jesus Loves Me. One lady was so moved, she recorded the song to send to her son in Vietnam. I wonder if two giggly girls singing this Sunday School favorite brought a smile and perhaps reassurance that he was being held by the everlasting love of Jesus. I believe it did...
So sing on Gracie! Sing it 'til that message is embedded in your little soul, because He does indeed love you! Sing it for others so they will know they are loved as well.
PS - the print above by Kathryn Andrews Finch hangs in Gracie's room as a reminder of this precious love. AND special thanks to Christian Life Center KidsTown Children's Program for singing with my little Grace. You'll never know how far your efforts go!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Birthday Picnic

The Birthday Picnic
Grace & mom on our 1st day home from the hospital. My, my how we've grown

After some serious water play in the new water table & pool, Grace & I had a lovely picnic today enjoying Aunt Tracy's picnic blanket & gift set. We dined on chicken salad croissants, watermelon & gold fish crackers. For dessert, Gracie enjoyed the yummy Hello Kitty marshmellow sucker from Auntie Cathy & Uncle Dave. Of course you will notice Grace is sporting her charming 2 piece swim suit adored still from last season. We will "grow" into the more modest (prudish) surfer suit from UR, but for now we'll let her toddler tummy shine! :o)

Today, June 14th, is the actual BIRTHDAY - so we will indeed celebrate today with a visit to some water play facility though it isn't quite as warm as I would like. The girl will still have wayyyy too much fun! AND my friends, Nate & Steph are at the hospital as I type preparing for baby Emily's arrival. How cool is that?! The girls might share a birthday! FUN!

Ok folks, got a report to type & test to take before the party starts! Sunny day to you~

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pink Princess Party

A little rain never stops a princess, especially when there's a party! We had the Swirly Twirly Birthday bash for Princess Grace on Saturday. What FUN!

We were tickled PINK to celebrate our 2nd birthday with some of our closest friends and family. Though not quite the park party we planned due to rain, we still had a grand time! Lots of ribbon, tulle, balloons, & yummy pink sweets! For those of you who saw Gracie with her 1st birthday cake, you might say she's quite refined now using a fork for the most part. Compare 1st & 2nd birthday cake shots. Pink icing makes GREAT lipstick!

Gracie has since been developing her skills at walking in her new fancy dress up shoes - all 6 pair! AND she got a too cute pair of real cowboy boots today from Auntie Margie in Texas! Cutie clothes & purses including a handcrafted leather purse made by another good Texas friend, Tony.

Tutu many fun & cutie things to mention here~ poodles, purses, puzzles, playdough, princess dresses, pretty pjs, playhouses, picnic & play-in-the-water essentials, pink books along with lots of other wonderful blessings!

From our giggling hearts~
Thank you, dankeschon, merci, gracias, 謝謝, dank u, grazie,
σας ευχαριστούμε, dziekuje & вы.

Memorial Day Memories to Share

Please allow this belated recount & photos of our Memorial Day celebration...

Longing for the color-filled windox boxes in Germany, Grace & I went with Nate/Steph to Woldhuisfarms Sunrise Greenhouse. Their motto "Growing quality plants to the glory of the Creator"
I was simply in AWE of the extent of their blooming enterprise. Anything you want or have dreamed about for a garden is there. Wow! In prep for this post, I found their handiwork is a purposeful reflection of the glory of God. Now that is worth sharing!

So, we loaded up with geraniums, petunias, lavender and herbs (grilling in mind) for planting later on. Afterwards, we went back to Steph's dad's house for some grilling & sprinkler fun for the Gracie girl. What a nice time which included some park play & the race/chase Gracie game she loves to play. She was in her element, running in a wide open space when she got close enough to see a neighboring backyard that had a HUGE waterslide play thing. As we sat & watched Grace run, we hoped she wouldn't see the fun those kids were having on their private waterslide. Well, she noticed & now - watch her run faster & with purpose. Nate finally caught her as she neared the kids. We could hear them yelling - "It's ok -she can come" which made Grace run even faster. Though we were worn out from chasing, Gracie's like the energizer bunny...She keeps going & going & going. :o)

Memorial Day itself brought a curbside view of the South Holland parade with LOTS of fire trucks, one lone tractor and NO horses; all of which are parade staples. We applaud our veterans as the primary reason we gathered; to ackowledge & salute their service for the USA.

Of course, Grace loved the candy raining down on her! But not as much as she loved playing in the pool later at Gramma Chris & Papa Jerry's house! We were not prepared for swimming but when you are a toddler, au naturel is the way to go when you exhaust your pull-up supply. :o) She still talks about the doggy jumping the pool, chasing the ball. That Pedro dog is something else!

Good fun, good fellowship & a heart felt thanks to those who served so we could be free! That's what it's all about~

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Cinnamon Trees

Perusing the news this morning, I ran across an article about the aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. It seems Sri Lanka is world's largest exporter of cinnamon, 80% of the world market & a vital source of income to the tune of 58 million dollars last year. 18 months after the tsunami uprooted centuries old cinnamon plantations, experts feared all was lost due to the salt infusion into the soil. Contrary to those fears, the soil is now richer. "You stick anything in the soil and it grows like magic" according to the report on Yahoo News. Not just the cinnamon, but the coconut trees are producing more coconuts. Flood ravaged Sri Lanka produced more cinnamon this past year than prior years, marginally but still an increase despite the devastation. In fact, people are building bigger and better storehouses in expectation of largest crops & harvests!

So, I was thinking about this...Isn't that just like life? You go through some of most arduest trials - backbreaking, devastating, grueling, punishing, strenuous trials that you think have surely done you in. Be it sickness, financial duress, emotional breakdown, relationship woes, or other tremendous loss...You think you're down for the count. I've been there & most everyone I know has been there or come close. But God...
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are pressed on every side by troubles,
but we are not crushed and broken.
We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit.
We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.
We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.
Isaiah 43:1-7
the Lord who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt, Ethiopia,* and Seba as a ransom for your freedom. 4 Others died that you might live. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.
5 "Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west 6 and from north and south. I will bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. 7 All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them."
So, like those cinnamon tress - we endure the ravaging floods and come back stronger, flourish and thriving; producing more fruit that ever. I tell you, I'm excited about this! I'm building bigger storehouses in anticipation of a greater harvest. My soil is infused with strength & fortitude that comes from enduring the flood.
Randy, this is for you~ Larger storehouses for a greater harvest; the latter rain is greater than the former. Let's go, friend! :o)

Ode to Uncle Randy

My Ode to Uncle Randy
I love my Uncle Randy
He's nice as he can be
He let's me climb up on his lap
and gives me yummy candy

Uncle Randy, he's a shopper
He has great taste in clothes
He keeps me dressed in all the best
Cute from head to toe

Oh how I love my Randy
nothing can compare
Except my love for Uncle Bob
but I have enough to share

This is no competition
But you might have an edge
Keep me close & hold me tight
Falling is a dread

Rocking horses, safety seats
So much to remember
Buckle up is a must
Or Mom's wrath you will encumber

With Emily, we all agree
You are quite a treasure
Giggles & glee
'specially for thee
My ode to Uncle Randy

With love,
Your Gracie