Sunday, November 30, 2008

A black Black Friday

On Black Friday we dared to go out. Why? Well, we had been planning on buying a new camera for weeks and needed to be with my mom to use her Costco card. (We didn't even benefit from any extra Black Friday sale price.) Since we were home for Thanksgiving we went for it.

The positive part of the day was that for the first time there was virtually no pressure for us to buy anything. Both sides of our families are choosing not to exchange presents as a family, but to spend that money by giving it to someone in need, or to some good cause.

On the way into town we were listening to the local Christian radio station. They took a break from the music to recite the Pledge of Allegiance over the radio. The DJ said that we must be thankful and give allegiance to "the greatest nation on God's green earth," or something to that effect. Michael and I exchanged perturbed glances. We both agree that too often blind patriotism is a little too closely presented alongside God's will. In other words, why do so many Christians believe that God only wants to bless America? But that's a little off topic.

Immediately following this recitation was the news, where they mentioned this story about a man who was trampled to death and a woman who miscarried at a Wal-mart in New York at the opening of Black Friday.

We should have turned around and headed home right then. We didn't, but I sure noticed the irony of the greed and horrific consumerism that is so opposite of anything Christ stands for, and is ingrained in the culture of "God's greatest nation."

My heart goes out to that Wal-mart worker's family. (There are some news reports that the miscarriage report is unfounded, though it was announced as news and fact on Friday).

May God have mercy on our American lust for "stuff."

Our own Christmas village

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been collecting and adding each year to her Christmas village. When my parents built their current home they built the mantle over the fireplace with the village in mind.

Michael and I helped my mom set up the village this year. It took the three of us over three hours to put it all together. This is because it's more than just placing some figurines around the buildings. The village has a story, and each figurine is placed to tell part of the story. And of course, as we place each piece we have to explain what is happening, such as the couple ice skating on the pond who have been in love for years, or the doctor walking home from work. Oh, and Amy Grant's Christmas music was blaring in the background.

We took plenty of pictures as we set up the village. Michael and I just got a brand new camera and were having fun playing with it as we worked, so many of these shots are our attempt to use our new camera.

Here is the mantle before we started:

The church always goes up on the hill looking over the town, on the far left of the village. This is the "country" part of the village, with the barn and farms and the houses. Further to the right becomes the city, with the town square, the inn, the watchmaker, the post office, the bakery, the newspaper, the school, and the train station. To the far right is the lighthouse, next to the ocean.

The Village Square, with the carolers, the shoppers rushing home with their presents, the ice skating pond, and the fountain in the middle of the town:

A must-have for any Christmas village: LOTS of snow!

This is one my favorite "stories": This is a mother with her young children waiting for her husband, who has been away for a long time, to come home on the train. He has just gotten home and is hugging one of the children in front of the train station.

The whole village:

I have a wonderful husband who not only helped set up the village and untangle the messy knot of cords and wires, but was patient as he listened to my mom and I explain each piece and figurine to him for three hours. Now that's what I call a Love Gift!


For Thanksgiving we headed to Mill City, Oregon to spend time with my parents. My sister and her two boys came down from Washington, and my brother, his wife, and their two kids came also. The only person missing was my little brother who is in Virginia in the Navy. We had a wonderful meal, with my mom's tasty homemade stuffing. It's the best!

This is my cute niece:

And these are my adorable nephews:

There is so much I am thankful for. What comes to mind immediately is my family, as well as the blessings of community and all the love and support we are being surrounded by these days as we prepare to go to Rwanda. I'm thankful for God's touch in my life. I know that as I trust in him he will continue to guide our steps.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm Thankful

On Wednesday night we checked our email and received our first financial update regarding our fundraising for Rwanda. I have never had to raise financial support for anything like this before, so this is all a new experience. I shared in an earlier post how I have been a bit intimidated by the process. In fact, for a long while Michael and I had been searching for a job/internship that would specifically not require getting support. But here we are in the middle of the process, and now I'm getting to see the other side of the coin, the part where I get to see God working, not only in our lives but in the lives of so many who are feeling led to support us both financially and prayerfully.

I don't know if I can really articulate how I felt as we looked over those first numbers, except to say that I was awed. Truly. I am humbled and so grateful. The generosity and support from friends and family this soon after sending out letters brought me to tears. Not to mention the numerous emails and inquiries from many more indicating a desire to support us.

We are so blessed to have a community like we do. Thank you.

Michael posted a thermometer to track our funds progress over the next few weeks and months on our other blog. Check it out!

Goodbye TRFC Hello Quaker Hill

I've been intending to blog for a little while now, and the blog posts are piling up in my head. I'm going to attempt to catch up over the next couple days, so stay tuned.

Last Monday we headed to Twin Rocks for the last time as camp staff family. This will be the first Christmas since Michael and I started dating that I/we haven't been out to the coast during Christmas break (this would have been the seventh year for me). Michael's parents, Bev and Wayne, have officially moved to McCall, Idaho so Bev can begin a new job at Quaker Hill Camp and Conference Center. On Monday night the camp had a farewell gathering and dinner, and we were blessed to be able to attend. It was special to hear all the ways the Chapmans have blessed the camp and the staff over the years. Ken, the director, put together a game, "Are you Smarter than a Chapman?" which was fun. The Chapmans won, but Joseph Thouvenel gave them a run for their money!

Twin Rocks has been a special place for all the Chapmans, and we have a lot of memories there. I spent three summers there on summer staff during college, and Michael and I spent a year there as interns after we were married. We have spent countless other times there visiting family and friends, and know Twin Rocks will always hold a special place in our hearts!

Below are some pictures from the Farewell. Michael and I also had to commemorate the occasion with a visit to a place on the coast we may not see for quite a while.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

This last weekend was our church retreat at Twin Rocks. It was a good time to connect with friends and meet some new ones.

The theme for the weekend centered around the passage in Mark that tells us to love God and love others as ourselves. On Sunday we watched a video from the Advent Conspiracy. (To see the video, click here, and then scroll down to the video called, "Enter The Story.") The idea is to give presence instead of presents this year for Christmas. But it goes beyond that. It's reclaiming the original purpose of Christmas. It's realizing that $10 can give a child clean water for life and that $10 billion dollars is all it will take to solve the clean water problem in our world. Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas last year. So, if every person pledged to buy one less present this year and spend that money on helping with this problem, we could really start to see some change.

Our family has begun to talk about what we can do. Last year, instead of spending tons of money just to buy each other random gifts, we pooled our money together and bought a bicycle for a missionary in need. I am excited about passing this tradition down to my own children someday.

The following 4 points are taken from the Advent Conspiracy website.

Worship Fully.

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

Spend Less.

Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one.  Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.

Give More.

God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right? Need a few ideas? (Head here!)

Love All.

When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.

In what ways do you plan to be intentional in celebrating the true spirit of Christmas??

Our other blog

Round two of letters went out today. It's exciting to be at this point in the process, but it's also a reminder of how far we have to go.

Michael and I are going to be trying to post updates about the process on our mutual blog, which is Part of the purpose behind this is to share about what we're experiencing together and have a place to post pictures and experiences while we're in Rwanda. We both will still use our own blogs for personal reflection.

This may prove to be too zealous, but for now this is our plan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Soldiers of Conscience

I just read about Soldiers of Conscience, a new film from PBS’s “P.O.V.” series, which investigates the issue of war through the voices of soldiers on both sides of the issue, those who believe in war as just and moral, and those who don't.

I'm interested in this movie, and this topic, because I think it's easy to stand on one side of the issue and point judgemental fingers at the other side. This is where the name of my blog came from, the idea that some issues aren't as black and white as we like to think.

The following is taken from an article about the movie. The second paragraph especially stood out to me:

The film features eight U.S. soldiers and the common ground of their conscience. Each faces the same question: to kill or not to kill. Four of the eight believe deeply in the necessity and morality of war, that the strong must protect the weak, and that war and lethal force are morally justified at appropriate times. The others believe equally deeply that killing is never justified, and that peace can only be obtained by individual stances of courage and conscientious objection.

Basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, introduces the film’s topic. “Kill, kill, kill without mercy” is chanted across a field as fresh recruits begin training. Major Peter Kilner, a West Point professor of ethics, shares the surprising fact that 75 percent of soldiers in World War II never fired their weapons at the enemy. S.L.A. Marshall, a World War II historian, found that one in four soldiers of that war became conscientious objectors. The army decided they needed to fix that, Kilner says, so soldiers are now put through “reflexive firing training,” which is designed to bypass natural moral reaction and decision-making.

But such a bypass will eventually require a reckoning, and Kilner has noticed the emotional and spiritual struggle many soldiers meet once they arrive in Iraq and are confronted with the momentous choice to kill or not to. Soldiers can only kill because they’re taught to, Kilner says, but “we never explain to them why it’s okay.” Nor is there much mention of killing when soldiers come home. “We don’t talk about it,” Kilner observes. “It’s a taboo to talk about.”

And the discussion continues.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Video in Rwanda

My sister-in-law Amy posted a video yesterday about Rwanda. I could have tried to post it here, but I've never posted video before and thought this would be easier. So, for those of you who don't already read her blog, I encourage you click on the link above and watch it.

Watching the video Sara Groves made of her visit in Rwanda brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't help but imagine myself holding the camera, interacting with the people of Africa. My heart has always tugged when I watch things like this, and I am looking forward to experiencing this in person.

I'm even more excited about going to Rwanda in January after watching the video, so thanks Amy for posting it!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Last week we received our (mostly) official budget for Rwanda. We need to raise about $11,000, and our goal is still to arrive at the beginning of January.

I have never had to raise financial support like this before. When I was in elementary school I remember asking a few neighbors and close family friends to sponsor me in our annual Spell-A-Thon. We also sold some holiday popcorn tins a few times as well. As far as I can recall that is my experience with fundraising. I don't like asking people for money. I don't like owing people money. I am always aware of money issues, such as pooling money for a gift or chipping in for gas. It always feels a little awkward to be on the receiving end, even when it's agreed beforehand that everyone will contribute.

I've had many friends and family members raise support for various trips or longer-term missions. I've heard all kinds of amazing stories about how the funds came in at the last moment by some anonymous donor and saved the trip. I have no doubt that the Lord has worked in mysterious ways and provided in unexpected ways for many of my friends and family members.

Now it's my turn.

And I'm humbled by it all. Recently Michael put a Facebook group together called, "Send the Chapmans to Rwanda!" At first I had a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth about that. It seemed bold and new. The purpose of it is to keep people up to date of our plans and to raise awareness of our financial and prayer support needs. Again I felt humbled about asking for support (mostly financially, I don't seem to have a problem asking for prayer support.) And then I started realizing how many people are excited for us-how many people God wants to use to send us to Africa-how many people will bless us and be blessed by supporting us.

Our current status is trying to get our letters sent out as soon as possible. Again, it's humbling, it's exciting, and it's in God's hands.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to the future 44th President

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

Congratulations and you're welcome for my vote.

I am feeling a lot of emotions regarding last night's results. I am excited and ready to look forward to what the future has to offer. I am brought to tears at the thought of seeing our country move beyond our racist past. I am fearful of being let down, though I think it will be inevitable to some degree. I am anxious for those Americans who don't trust you to get to know you and accept you, and I am hoping that many of the misconceptions and blatant lies about you will come to surface and be cleared in the next few weeks and months.

I have faith and hope in you, but more importantly, in Christ. Jesus Christ is who I must put my ultimate faith and trust in, not you, Mr. Obama. But I am excited for what your election will do for our country and for the world.

I am excited at the possibilities including healing relations with many other countries and focusing on poverty and the needy, issues I'm hoping to see a lot of change in. (I especially appreciate your emphasis on getting to the root of many problems of poverty and social injustice, and look forward to seeing you do that).

As an educator I am excited about your emphasis on education. As a social studies teacher I am excited to be a part of this historic time. It is a very big deal that you have been elected as the first black president of our country. I see the potential for a lot of healing to happen. There is still a lot of racism in this world. I imagine that my own children someday, as well as my future social studies students, will not quite grasp the significance of this time. Why? Because having a black president will be all they know. I will have to teach them the significance so they will not take it for granted.

I know that you will have a lot on your plate over the next few weeks and months. Frankly, that is what concerns me a little. I'll be honest, I don't think you can do everything you want to do, or have promised, and I don't think it's realistic to assume otherwise. I know that as President you will be more limited than we like to believe during the campaign season. And, I know that the realities of politics say that you will be looking to solidify your chances for a second term even as we are still winding down from getting you into your first, and this means you may make decisions with that in mind.

I worry about how people who did not vote for you, including many Christians, will react to your election. I know I shouldn't worry, but I do. I know that you are a Christian and not a Muslim. I know you value your faith and I pray that you will turn to Christ to lead you. I pray you will learn to value all life, including the unborn. I know you care about those less fortunate than yourself, and I pray that guides your administration.

Speaking of your Cabinet, I pray you surround yourself with people full of wisdom, and that you seek guidance from God-fearing individuals. I'm happy to see you in contact with people like Donald Miller and Jim Wallis. This gives me hope.

I voted for you because I believe you will look to the "least of these" in our country and around the world. I voted for you because I believe you are passionate about helping our country get out of the muck and mess that we're in. I voted for you because I like your emphasis on education. I voted for you because I am a statistic, one of the many without health insurance, and I believe in your plan. I voted for you because I believe you have the potential to be a good, maybe even a great president.

So, Mr. Obama, I pray that you will not forget the promises you have made. I pray that God will use you in ways we can't imagine. I pray you will be humbled by this.

I will be praying for you because you are my leader and God has instructed me to do so.

May you seek Christ every day and in every decision you make.

God Bless every global citizen; we are each created in His likeness.

And God Bless you, as you take on the challenge of leading this country for the next four years.

A Christ-Follower Who Happens To Be An Obama Supporter