Monday, June 24, 2013

Timbers Army

Last night I had quite an intense Portland experience: attending a Portland Timbers soccer game and cheering with the Timbers Army. I feel like I was officially initiated into the Rose City.
If you’ve never been to a Timbers game or don’t know much about the Timbers Army, it’s an experience that is difficult to explain. There is a reason these people call themselves “the Army”. They are highly loyal to their team and many of them might actually lay down their life for their soccer heroes. They wear their season ticket pass around their necks like a dog tag. They jump and march (never sit) in the stands while chanting special rally songs at the top of their lungs. They are led by “capos” (aka drill sergeants) who watch to make sure each and every army members is doing their part to cheer the team to victory. If you are standing there quietly, looking bored, you can drop and give them 50! Ok, not really, but you might get yelled at and will for sure get the death glare. They wave flags, not to surrender, but to rally the crowd. They wear (and sometimes wave) green scarves that state “No Pity”. They rip up their programs to create confetti… who needs programs? They know everything there is to know about their team!
So imagine being surrounded by 6,000 of these wonderfully enthusiastic, incredibly loyal, extremely loud, quite sweaty, intensely passionate people. It’s awesome! And how can you not join in? The spirit is contagious!
Thanks to my friend and hardcore Timbers fan Robby, my friends Hannah and Ross who are visiting from Texas (more on that soon!) and Drew and I received the ultimate Timbers experience last night: close up seats in the Army section, brand new scarves for us to keep and use often, and lots of instruction on how to fit into this stellar group. We took our duty seriously, served well and helped lead the Timbers to a 3-0 victory!
The Timbers gained a few new fans last night… when we root, we root for the Timbers!
Hannah and I with our scarves on, ready to cheer!

Robby teaching me exactly how to make Timbers confetti

Ross, Hannah, Mary and Robby taking a cheer break

my friend Valerie (another hardcore Timbers fan) showed me the ropes

Goooooooooooal... Timbers win!!!

Sunday, our section's cheering capo,
has unbelievable Timbers spirit (and lungs)

our Timbers Army group

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lake House Weekend

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful weekend vacation with the family at my sister’s lake house in North Texas! Usually when I travel to Texas, we hang out in Waco or Dallas and things are always busy with people coming and going and me trying to see everyone I possibly can. But this time we were out in the country just hanging out and relaxing. I can’t remember the last time that my immediate family was together – just us.
I had quite a frustrating day of travel on Friday due to flight delays out of Portland because there was a problem getting fuel into all airplanes that morning (first time I’ve heard that one!), but I finally made it to Dallas around 5pm and my parents picked me up and we drove 80 miles north to Bowie, Texas. Sarah and Emily and fam were already there when we arrived. Hannah and Alice Anne gave me a tour of the house, we walked down to the water, had a quick bite to eat, I beat Brett in a game of ping pong, then the adult sat on the back patio and chatted before it was quickly bedtime.
Saturday morning we went down to the lake and toured around on the jet ski with Emily at the wheel (hold on tight!). Then the whole family piled in the boat and cruised around Lake Amon Carter (no relation – that we know of). After lunch, the clouds rolled in so we quickly covered the outdoor furniture, came inside and all sat around the back windows to enjoy the thunder and lightning storm. I love a good storm because we never get those up in Portland. While it rained, Hannah and I used our “quiet time” to pull out the sewing machine and make some summer scarves. We worked on this project off and on all weekend and ended up with some pretty great new accessories. That afternoon we played cornhole, a little more ping pong, laid in the hammock, the kids went four wheeling, and then we grilled burgers for dinner. We had just enough time for a quick dance party before bedtime.
On Sunday morning, we all went back out on the boat and took the tube with us. Tubing was one of the highlights of the weekend! Everyone took a turn, even Jammy! The kids couldn’t get enough of it and we had to finally drag them out of the water. We enjoyed relaxing in the early afternoon before it was time to head home. Wow, there were so many fun things to do at the lake house – we probably could have stayed there for another week! Thanks, Emily and Brett, for letting us all come out for such a great weekend together at the lake. I think this should be a new summer tradition!
The Belfs, Jammy and I drove back to Dallas together and stopped for some delicious Tex Mex on the way home. On Monday, we all went over to the Coleman’s house for lunch with Judy, Bob, Claire and kids, and cousin Kristyn even stopped by for a bit. Last night, we met up with the Dallas Carter crew for dinner at Fernando’s (I just can’t get enough Tex Mex and margs!). It was especially great to see little Lottie, who is actually turning one year old this week and is not so little anymore! This morning, the girls and I only had enough time for a few card games and breakfast before it was time to head to the airport. I was sad to leave these little princesses (they were literally dressed in princess dresses and crowns) and their mommy, but what a great long weekend we had!
Some other highlights from the fun weekend with the fam: getting to spend Father’s Day weekend with my dad, getting to cheer for Henry when he successfully used the big-boy potty, Saturday night firework show by Brett and Taylor, laying in the hammock with Sarah and all the kids, teaching Dad to play corn hole and then beating him, getting dating advice from Sarah (who I’m sure is rolling her eyes as she is reading this), seeing the McCalls for a brief minute when they came to take Mom back to Waco, trying on fancy hats at a shop with the girls, having a beauty parlor (or “beaulor partner” as Hannah says) morning with haircuts, hair color and manicures on the back porch with the girls, a brief theology side discussion with Uncle Les at dinner, Alice Anne crawling in bed and snuggling with me in the morning. Thanks, fam, for making time to hang for a long Texas weekend with me – I had so much fun and can’t wait to do it again next summer!
the Carter sisters

glad to spend time with these cuties!

jetting out on the lake
hanging out on the hammock

Henry jumping from the diving board into the lake... over and over!

Hannah and Carter telling us to go faster!

eating popsicles and being silly
hanging out with Lottie at Fernando's

Friday, June 7, 2013

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: a book that I read when it first came out about 10 years ago, but has leaped to the top of my all-times favorite books list since I recently reread it. This is a book that I think I will reread many times in my life. This story loudly resounds with my faith journey right now and I think it will continually impact my faith throughout my life. So if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. And after you read it, let’s have a book/life discussion.
It’s the story of a young man who grew up in India where his family managed a zoo. As a young inquisitive boy, Pi learns about Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and decides to follow all three religions. When people told him that he couldn’t practice several religions and that he must pick one, Pi says, “If there’s only one nation in the sky, shouldn’t all passports be valid for it?” The boy simply loved God and experienced him in different ways as a Hindu, Christian and Muslim.
As the story unfold, Pi’s family ends up moving to Canada on a ship with many animals in tow. When the ship sinks, Pi is left stranded on a life boat with three other animals. And eventually it is just him and a Bengal Tiger, Richard Parker. A tiger and a young teenage boy stranded in the Indian Ocean! Pi’s father always warned him about the danger of the tiger even in the zoo. He was not to be trusted and not to be crossed. The tiger is not your friend, his dad told him. But circumstances have landed Pi in tight quarters with this tiger and he is now forced to survive with Richard Parker.
At first Pi tries to avoid Richard Parker completely by constructing a small raft that he can tether to the boat and stay on at a safe distance from the tiger. But sharks lurk in the water and thunderstorms violently toss his little raft around. He finally realizes that he cannot survive on the raft and he must coexist on the boat with Richard Parker.
So he trains Richard Parker and earns his trust by catching fish and feeding him. They each understand and respect one another’s roles and space. At one point, Pi has the opportunity to abandon Richard Parker in the ocean and let him drown, but instead of getting rid of him forever, Pi decides to help the tiger back into the lifeboat. He is quickly realizing that he needs Richard Parker to survive. Loneliness and fear could easily destroy him and he knows he needs a companion with him on this journey. Trying to survive in the middle of the ocean alone is not appealing to him and at times seems physically, mentally and emotionally impossible. Pi finally hits land and is rescued. By the end of the difficult and draining journey, Pi believes that having Richard Parker on the boat with him saved his life.
When Pi tells the story of his 227-day journey on the ocean with a Bengal tiger to investigators, they don’t believe him. So he tells them another story that doesn’t include any animals and in which Pi ends up in the life boat on his own; while it is less far-fetched, it is also more disturbing. He lets them chose which story to believe. They chose the story with the tiger.
The symbolism between Pi and Richard Parker’s relationship and our relationship to God is stunning. The essence of the deep meaning in this story is this: For unexplainable reasons, we’ve found ourselves stranded in a life that is chaotic, dangerous, threatening, scary and often quite lonely. We can either choose to believe that we are in it on our own, or we can choose to believe that there is a God who is in it with us.
Like Pi’s somewhat far-fetched story of a tiger in a lifeboat, sometimes our faith seems a bit difficult to grasp and even unbelievable to others that we try to explain it to. But the truth is that at some point, we’re each going to be in a lifeboat stranded in a sea of doubt. It’s going to be lonely and scary. At times we might think this is the end; and at times we might throw down our oars and give up. But hopefully we each come to the realization that we don’t have to be out there on our own; we’re not on our own. We have a companion in the life boat with us. He may be a scary and intimidating companion at first, but he is good and he takes care of us, and feeds us and keeps us from drowning.
But we as individuals get to choose the story we live into. I choose the story with the tiger.