Friday, October 24, 2008

Detroit Part 2: Kids Club

As you’ve seen previously, we have a number of boys who live on our block. In an effort to have a consistent time with them once school started and to establish some much needed order and boundaries for me, we have Kids Club at our house every Thursday after school. We make snacks, play games, do crafts, hang out, talk about the day and just have fun together in a safe, loving and healthy environment.

Last week we made fruit pizza. It is certainly not the healthiest snack ever, nor the most frugal, but it sure is fun! I made and baked a cookie dough crust before they came, got the “sauce” ready (cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar), and had the fruit all cut up. They spread out the “sauce,” and arranged the fruit.

Ways to pray:
- Grace for me to love these kids selflessly and sacrificially and to be patient and understanding with them
- Wisdom in advising them how to deal with difficult situations they face in their lives, including handling conflict and violence. Sometimes what I would tell them differs from what their parents would tell them or from the "rules" of the street. I know that my experiences growing up are so different than theirs and I don't always understand what they're facing, but I'm trying hard to teach them a different way.
- Healing for D from past hurts and freedom for him from anger and fear

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Detroit Part 1: Breakthrough

A friend pointed out recently that I need to change my profile, seeing that I am no longer a graduate student. An updated profile is still coming, but in the next week or so, I'll be sharing with you several aspects of my work, life and ministry here in Detroit. We'll start with Breakthrough.

This week was the third week of the year at our Breakthrough Enrichment Program. On Tuesday nights, about a hundred kids come to Breakthrough, where they eat dinner and then have Bible, creative arts and academic enrichment classes. I co-teach the kindergarten, first grade and second grade academic classes. If the kids have homework, we help them with it, and we do activities with the rest to reinforce the skills they're learning at school. My main goals in the class are for them to know they are loved, to see that learning is fun, to develop solid reading, writing, math and problem solving skills, and to stay as close to grade level as possible.

Here are some of the precious kids that I get to teach every week. I love them so much and I am very proud of them:

Ways to pray:
- For the LORD to provide for the children's physical, emotional and spiritual needs - for adequate food, shelter and clothing, for love and security, for physical safety in their daily lives
- For a spirit of confidence and hope over self-doubt and fear, that they would not be trapped by the labels people have put on them
- That each of these kids would know Jesus and be transformed by him
- That the LORD would protect each of them from the forces of darkness that are so strong in this community
- For wisdom among the teachers and leaders as we work with the kids - to see beyond the surface to understand what they really need and to know how to deal with the various discipline and personal issues that arise

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting some answers

I took all three of the cats in for vet visits this week. Mostly they were well kitty check-ups, but there were a few things I was concerned about with each one. The fact that we had a stray infant kitty in our house recently (separate from the others, of course) was another impetus to take them in and just make sure they were all okay. When the vet and techs heard that we’d had new cats in the house who had been outside a lot without testing them for a few common kitty diseases, they decided we should do some tests. Marshal tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), the feline equivalent of HIV. He’s fine and healthy right now, and many cats live for years FIV+ without getting sick. But we know to keep him away from other cats, keep him inside and make sure he gets regular checkups. Fortunately, I took Kate’s cats in today for their checkup and they both tested negative. This means that Marshall and Miles most likely got FIV from their mom. This explains a LOT about Miles being sick. I didn’t write much about him being sick in the spring because, really, who wants to hear about recurring rectal prolapse? But the underlying issue was that he kept getting infections that he just couldn’t fight. He seemed to have a compromised immune system. Now we have a pretty good idea why.

FIV is not something routinely tested for in the shelters because the test is somewhat expensive and only about 3% of healthy cats have it. At first I wished we’d known. We probably would have let Miles go a little earlier, knowing that he was almost surely not going to get better and spared us all a lot of pain, expense and drama. I’m a little torn though, because if we’d known they were FIV+ we probably wouldn’t have adopted them. Once they were ours, I wouldn’t have traded them for anything. Marshall is a great, fun, healthy cat and knowing him now I would hate for him to have been put to sleep as a kitten. I’m also really glad now that the cats didn’t get along very well and that Joey and Dorian have been living separately from Marshall, even though it was frustrating at the time. Even in this, I see God’s grace and faithfulness.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A little absent minded

Check out how I made the bed last week:

The funny part is that I totally emptied and repacked my backpack on the bed without even noticing that I hadn't pulled the comforter up. I didn't notice until I walked by the door later in the day and was shocked when I looked in and saw the bed like this. I collapsed on the bed cracking up, but Dave only thought it was funny that I was laughing so hard.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Inch by Inch

… order is emerging. I’m finally (I think!) learning to change one thing at a time. A couple months ago, I cleaned off the credenza in our dining room and put a little sign (mostly for myself) saying, “Please do not set anything here.” After a couple weeks, I was in the habit of not setting things on the credenza and could take the sign down. It’s been nice and neat ever since:

Well, over several weeks that included being sick, being out of town and just generally being busy, both the kitchen and the dining room table had turned into disasters. Like we-can-barely-make-room-for-the-two-of-us-to-eat disaster. Check it our for yourself (I can't believe I'm posting this!):

Last week I cleaned off the dining room table (my first version of “shining the sink”). Every night I’ve made sure that the table is cleared off before going to bed. So far so good.

We’ve spent a few extra minutes cleaning up the kitchen each day and today I spent a bit more than a few minutes (2.5 Dave Ramsey podcasts and then some) finishing the job so that all the dishes are clean and put away, the counters are neat and clean and the sink is empty. It’s not shined, but it’s clean and dry. It feels SO good.

Dave was working all of today and I had no other commitments, so I took advantage of time on my own and got a lot done:
- paid some bills
- balanced the checkbook
- went to the bank
- mailed several items at the post office
- washed dishes
- baked 2 loaves of banana bread
- put away dishes
- made a big batch of refried beans
- washed more dishes
- peeled and cut up 5 butternut squash from our garden
- cleaned the kitchen
- took out the trash
- talked to my parents
- wiped down the dining room table
- emptied the cat litter boxes
- read a few chapters of a novel

It feels good to have gotten a lot of things done, but most importantly to celebrate the accomplishments rather than beating myself up for all the things that haven't been done yet. I think I can live with this kind of change!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New source for used books

Yesterday afternoon I went to our local recycling center to drop off a load of cardboard. While I was there, I took a few minutes to go through the book bin and boy am I glad I did! . Someone had obviously been going through their cookbooks and gotten rid of a large stack. I love cookbooks, being of the "read them like novels" persuasion, so I was excited to see them. But I was absolutely thrilled when I pulled out The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen!

If you aren't familiar with her work, she's most well known for the Moosewood Cookbook, a classic vegetarian cookbook that I've had my eye on for a while. Granted the cookbook in the bin was the older version, not the new one (which is what's featured in the link above), but I still can't believe someone would just throw out such a gem! In fact, there were TWO of them in the book recycling bin. I gave the second one to the gentleman who was eyeing the other vegetarian cookbook in my stack.

I am so glad I took the time to dig through the box and am thrilled to have a new source for free used books! (By the way, we also got an old but working computer monitor out of the electronics recycling bin once to use when our monitor was on the fritz)