Sunday, March 29, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor...

Remember my musings about commands that seem like common sense but are really hard to keep? "Love your neighbor." Huh. Like I love myself? Yes. Crud. If it were easy for us to do, God would not have spent His breath making it a command.

We have neighbors who are not easy to love. Like, literal neighbors - the ones who live next to us. We know the mom's name and that's about it. They're not disruptive neighbors...they're actually pretty quiet. But interacting with them is like plowing into a cold front. We brought over brownies once and I thought she was going to shut the door in our faces. Friendly greetings are returned with a blank stare that quickly rivets away. Any effort on our part to develop any sort of relationship has fallen flat.

We obviously don't know a whole lot about them...I gather she is a single mom with a couple of older teen boys. I think there was a boyfriend who moved out several months ago. The cops have been at their house a handful of times. The boys' friends walk and stand on our driveway right outside of our house to shout up to the upstairs bedroom. Matt's tried to curb that by running out to the driveway to say, "Are you here to see ME?!" and then follow up with a quick "hey, they have a driveway you can use. Please respect our property." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Well, a year and a half of being rebuffed and having our driveway be the occasional hangout leads to a certain degree of frustration. I mean, I don't have to have a "can-I-have-a-cup-of-sugar?" relationship with every neighbor (though it would be fun!), but can you at least smile and wave back, say hello, respect our space, or something?

Enter...The Fence. Matt's been talking about getting The Fence for awhile, and I'm not gonna lie: our neighbors were part of the impetus. But a year ago, when we were getting work done on our house, we mentioned to our contractor our idea for The Fence. His reply? "Maybe Jesus doesn't WANT you to put up a fence." Not what you expect to hear from the guy who's blowing insulation into your attic. But it pricked us...

Now, we have other reasons for wanting a The Fence - the same reasons everyone likes having a fence...dogs, kids' safety, privacy, etc. Primarily for the Molly/kid factor. I could go on and on about our options for fence placement, type of fence, etc, but the point is, we had to really examine our hearts regarding our motives for putting up The Fence...especially a fence between us and our neighbors.

Are they a threat to our safety? No. Are they, like, setting our yard on fire? No. Have they given any indication that they mean us any malice? No.

Not seeing a good enough reason to put up a fence yet...

What it comes down to is that we wanted this fence for reasons that were completely selfish and unsubstantiated. We're irritated by our neighbors and want to stake our claim on what's ours, and since the police have been there a handful of times, they must be into "something" and we don't want that spilling over into our lives.

Still not seeing a good enough reason to put up a fence...

Well, you're probably figuring out that we're not going to put up The Fence between our houses after all. We agreed that we would like to fence the backyard, but in such a way that it will run along the other side of the driveway, rather than the side that is next to the neighbors' house. And then we got excited about the idea of knocking out the back wall of our living room, putting in French doors, and a porch outside. But I digress...

I'm not writing about this so you can see how we had this great epiphany and now we're just such good Christians that we're going to invite our neighbors over to sing Kumbayah. No. They'll still scowl at us when we say hi. They'll probably still use our driveway as a launching pad for their social activities. We'll probably still make assumptions about them that are completely unfounded and will have to regularly check our hearts and repent of this. We're still commanded to love them as much - no, more than - we love ourselves, and we'll probably succeed sometimes and fail others.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?...And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? (Matthew 5:46-47)

There are enough fences that people erect between themselves. Duane the contractor was right: I don't think Jesus wants us to put up The Fence.

PS - our contractor is amazing and if you want his number...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time to kill...

I have a bitty bit of time to kill before I shed my sweats and change back into my clickety-clack clothes (think about it: black pants, high heels) to go back into the hospital and sit down with a student for a halfway evaluation (already!). So I'm trying to think of a gripping blog subject, and can't, so for the sake of far-away family, I will fill you in on some updating...

Let me see....hmmmmm....

1. Spring has GOT to show up in Michigan at some point. It made a quick pit stop, but was elbowed out promptly by a cold front. My peony bushes are trying to sprout, and my forsythia is trying to put on some cuter duds, so I know it's imminent. It's still pretty chilly, but I absolutely reFUSE to wear my winter coat any longer. I don't CARE if it's snowing...a windbreaker will simply have to do.

2. Matt's slammed at work, but no complaints here as long as he has a job! He's still teaching his junior high boys at AWANA and really digging in deep with them about LUST. Whoa. No cutting corners with him. He's been getting good feedback from the boys, which is awesome.

3. Adoption stuff is on the back burner right now. If you're in the throes of the adoption process and get pregnant, in most cases you're required to terminate the process. And it's pretty much non-refundable. I've talked with other couples who, after struggling with years of infertility, plunked down thousands of dollars and prepared their dossier for an adoption, and voila!! Got pregnant, and lost those thousands of dollars. So we're like, ummmm...let's keep saving our money (hard to do, especially when you read #4), keep gathering info, and work on bio kids first.

4. We had grand plans for our tax refund, but the government had the last laugh and reached WAAAY down into our pockets to extract an abominable amount of money instead (abominable for us, anyway. Just suffice to say it's in the four-digit range). Our accountant stuttered and hemmed and hawed how to break the news that if we had kids, it would have turned out a lot better. Wow.

5. About six more weeks and we head to California!!!!! We haven't been there for about a year and a half and can't WAIT to see Matt's family. We'll be spending part of our time with Matt's family in St. Helena (near Napa), and the last half of our week there we're going to spend in Lake Tahoe. I can't wait to see actual sunshine!! And shop at Trader Joe's and get smoothies at Jamba Juice!

6. And then, we're going to Colorado in July!!! For those of you who don't know, I spent two summers in southern CO as a camp nurse at Sonlight Christian Camp in Pagosa Springs (about an hour and a half east of Durango). So we're going to head there for the last week of July and work as support staff - washing dishes, chopping wood, hanging laundry, WHATEVER we're needed to do. Just getting some good mountain fresh air and listening to kids laugh in the meadow. It's kind of a pinch time-wise to do two big vacations in one summer, but we're kind of thinking it might (MIGHT) be one of our last chances to do something like that before kidlets. And hopefully drop in and see sister/brother-in-law Beth and Dave and nephew Cole in Denver. We shall see...

7. We're hoping to do a little more house work this re-siding the garage and putting a fence around the back yard and along the sides to kind of "contain" our yard for dog, kids, etc. We have a great contractor who did the work on our house last year...during the winter months he works for a mission organization down south, so we know where the money goes, and he's trustworthy and does a fabu job.

Alrighty, I'll bore you no longer! That's about all that's going on here. Looking forward to Spring getting the show on the road here!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Every thought captive...

A handful of friends and I have been working on a study together every other week, and we've been doing Carolyn Mahaney's "Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother." The title sounds a little shmaltzy and mildly idealistic, but it's kicking our butts.

It's slowly dawning on me that the commands and teachings we find in the Bible that everyone can recite - even if they're not really all that familiar with the Bible - are really a lot easier said than done. Love your neighbor as yourself. Turn the other cheek. Love your wife. Respect your husband. Be self-controlled. And on and on. They sound so obvious and even cliche'. Why even bother commanding them...aren't they just common sense?

Well, no, they're not just common sense. They go completely against what our hearts and minds tell us to do. I'm becoming keenly aware that if it's commanded in God's Word, He HAD to command it because He's all too aware that it's not all that easy for us to do. Love my neighbor las much I love myself? Are you kidding me? Do you KNOW how much I love myself? Oh yeah, You do. That why You qualified it the way You did.

Marriage vows are another one of those things that are easier said than done. Of COURSE I want to cherish and be there in sickness and in health for better or for worse...whenI'm gazing in the eyes of my dearly betrothed, standing in a sparky white dress holding a stunning bouquet. It's so romantic. Holy cow!! Is there a parallel universe where any of us actually realize what's going on here? Do we even begin to wrap our mind around the fact that the reason God wants us to speak these promises aloud, in front of Him and a whole boatload of people, is perhaps because there will come times when the only thing keeping you from running screaming down the street IS that vow?? There are many, many times when it goes against Matt's and my very nature to love and/or respect each other. And I'm figuring out that that's why God placed said commands in His Word...written reminders to die to self every day and serve Him by serving someone else.

I'm currently realizing my great struggle with self-control - particularly concerning my thought life. I am very harsh and critical with myself. I'll beat myself up on a moment's notice. Matt detests this and has repeatedly said that he simply can't live with this person who beats up on his wife. It has by far caused more frustration in our marriage than any other issue. I take blame I don't need to take, I pull shame on myself that I don't need to bear, I speak words against myself I don't need to speak. I can be a very sarcastic, self-depricating person...and I'm working on this. But I had no idea how contrary to my nature it is to demonstrate self-control in how I think. I've been asking God to dig this ugliness out of my heart and expose it for what it is...and then I'm astonished at how MUCH of it is in there. It's like tending a garden: the more I weed, the more I realize I need to weed. Argh. He tells me to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Yikes. I have a LOT of thoughts to run through THAT filter.

And therefore my dependence upon Him grows. This is a long and uphill battle for me. It's like a reverse form of pride where I think I can play some part in every little thing that goes wrong. Whether this is a learned behavior or whatever is beside the point; it does not glorify God and spits on what He created, and has to change. One thing my friends have taught me in our study is to employ a five-second rule: I get a thought in my head, and I have exactly five seconds to halt it and change it. And I need to stop LISTENING to myself and start SPEAKING TRUTH to myself. Rather than listen to the same old garbage that I tell me about myself, it's time to remind myself what God says about me. Which requires me to keep digging into His Word for truths (that I then need to memorize and tuck into my heart, rather than cherishing lies about myself). Rather than taking refuge in my beating-up-on-me mind, I need to seek refuge in the shadow of His wings. Hmmm...flogging vs. sitting in the shade of my Creator...why WOULDN'T I choose the latter?

So much easier said than done...

Friday, March 13, 2009

This is how rumors get started...

Don't get too excited about the content of this post. It's merely a silly story. There is no hidden message!!! :D

My friend Carolyn's husband works for a company that produces generic pharmaceutical "stuff," so she has easy access to everything you can think of that you would buy at a drug store...for super-dirt-cheap. Well, she can get pregnancy tests for 50 cents and she said she had a bunch of them on hand, and would I like her to give me a box? I was like, ummmm...sure. I know they're expensive (nope, haven't needed to buy one yet, though), so sure, if you're offering me something that normally costs a lot, I'll take it!

So today, Carolyn calls me and says she's out running errands, and she's going to swing by and drop something off. And she had her dog with her, so how 'bout we get the dogs out for a walk while we're at it? She stops by, with her doggie Tara in tow...who Molly knows very well. Carolyn's on our front step, I'm inside the front door, and it's a chorus of " STAY. Lie down. STAY" before we can get the dogs to settle down. So I open the door for Carolyn, and Molly flew through it to see Tara. Now both dogs are outside. In the meantime, Carolyn had handed me what she planned to drop off: the box of pregnancy tests. Suddenly, the dogs are barreling down the sidewalk after a poor soul who happened to dare to walk on it. Carolyn and I are running after them shouting "NO!"'s like idiots. We corraled our dogs, apologized profusely, and walked them back.

And then I realized I was running down the sidewalk and corraling my dog with a box of pregnancy tests in my hand.

So if you were driving down or walking or live on 26th Street and saw what I was carrying, stop the rumors! They're nestled safely by the extra razors and Nyquil, where they will remain for a bit longer. :D

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friend-filled weekend!

This weekend my friend Renee came from Chicago - she was invited to speak at Hope College as part of a Nurses Christian Fellowship event. Let me see if I get this right: she's the national director for student ministries with the Nurses Christian Fellowship division of InterVarsity - so she fills a big role! The work she does is funded solely on the support she raises, so her "promotion" only meant more funds to raise, which she does so humbly and faithfully. She also works part-time at an inner-city clinic.

Anyway, she came to Holland a bundle of nerves as she prepared for her hour-long talk, but she wowed us all with her speaking finesse!! ;D The title of her talk was, "Nurses: Cross-Cultural Bridge Builders and Cultivators of God's Kingdom," and entailed stories of her many experiences, including the time that she has spent in villages in Kenya and Nigeria, and working with the natives in New Mexico. It was fascinating, and it made me burst with pride that MY friend was up there speaking so eloquently yet humbly about serving others and approaching them in a Christlike manner. It made me excited about my job as a nurse all over again.

*Renee just hours before her amazing speech*

Lucky for me, Renee spent the rest of the weekend with us. The weather was terrible, so we kicked around our usual haunts (Gazelle Sports, The Good Earth for lunch, The Outpost), went to a movie, and watched Gilmore Girls reruns. I'm so thankful to have a friend like Renee in my life, who is thoughtful and fun and sets such an example of servant leadership.

On Saturday night, Matt's friend Timothy (Pastor Timothy - the youth pastor at our church, AKA, "PT") had a surprise birthday party for his wife Tracy's 30th. Since he's quite the smooth operator, it was pulled off without a hitch. Funny - I have great pictures of friends and food, but where's the birthday girl? She was there. You'll have to trust me. HAHAHAHA!!

The spread

The friends

PT - Matt's "broth'a from anoth'a moth'a"

And THEN we headed off to JP's to meet the new summer camp director from Sonlight, who was holding a recruiting "event" to meet some Hope students who are interested in working at Sonlight this summer. I've been doing some slick recruitng among the nursing students to get one of them to spend the summer there - and so far am successful in finding one potential junior who may be interested for NEXT summer. :D I'm just amazed that Brett would jump on a plane and fly from Colorado to come and hang out with college students at a random coffee shop, just to meet them and give them Sonlight stickers and talk about what a cool place it is! I had a GREAT time regaling them with stories and talking the place up, and it lit my fire all over again to spend some time in the mountains riding stick horses and bandaging scratched knees. WHICH, by the way, Matt and I are planning to do for a week at the end of July. I probably won't have to bandage scratched knees (hopefully there will be a full-time nurse there to do that already), but I can wash dishes with lightning speed.

The recruiting spread

Potential Sonlight staff

Wannabee Sonlight staff!!

The weekend was fun but left us exhausted. Matt was already battling a cold, but took one for the team and came to these events with a smile anyway (but was slightly less animated than usual). I am now hosting said virus, so Matt's been kicking in (as usual) to help out around the house. This final picture is to A) brag about my husband, and B) show my mother-in-law what a great kid she raised (as if she didn't already know)!!

No, this picture was not staged!! He really is that great of a guy!

So that's a wrap from the most recent goings-on in the Gouveia household. We both have full plates right now - Matt had had some laaaate nights at work with changes they're making, and between working full-time and having six senior nursing students under my wing, I'm a bit crazy too. So that's why blog postings have been few and far between and not extremely creative lately!! We'll probably be able to power down more by Tulip Time!! Have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birfday, Kelly!

Today is my dear cousin Kelly's 31st birthday! Isn't she beautiful (dancing with her dad during the father-daughter dance we had at our wedding)?

Kelly, I stink at sending birthday cards, but isn't it better to read a post about YOU in honor of your birthday? :D

In our family there are...what...nine of us girl cousins? And for the most part we've come in age-pairs, and Kelly and I were the 1978 pair! Here are some of my favorite memories with Kelly (and I realize a lot of them only she will know what I'm getting at, and I apologize, but this IS her post!)

1. One burned-rubber trail on US-31 between Manistee, Spring Lake, and Ludington - my house to her house to Youth For Christ in Ludington. Just about every week.

2. Weeks spent at each others' houses, staying up until ridiculous hours laughing our butts off, playing poker with beans, imitating Beavis and Butthead (I'm not gonna lie...we thought they were pretty funny).

3. Aunt Sue (her mom) bursting into the room way too early after said nights laughing our butts off, asking, "So who wants to chop wood with me?!" (Literally.) Neither of us ever did.

4. Memory pages that I would craft after said weeks and nights staying up and laughing our butts off.

5. Two trips to Florida during spring break with Youth For Christ. The blue bus. Laughing our butts off on the blue bus. (Did we ever NOT laugh our butts off?)

6. One AMAZING trip to Washington DC with YFC for a youth evangelical superconference. We met some of the best friends of our high school years on that trip.

7. Dancing to the Zales Diamond commercials they used to have on in the 90's - where you hear this symphony playing in the background, and all you see is black-and-white shadows playing out the story. We'd get up and fake-ballet to the music.

8. Anything DC Talk, (DC TALK!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!), Newsboys, or Steven Curtis Chapman.

9. My fannie pack going thru the security xray at the Lincoln Memorial.

10. Me making a complete idiot out of myself thinking I was talking to a huge group of non-English-speaking youth who were actually from West Virginia. ("Where...from?" "WHERE FROM?")

These are only things that come to mind right away, just silly little memories tucked away in my mind. Kelly, I love your enthusiasm for life, your thoughtfulness, and how when we get together we can just pick up where we left off and keep laughing. I miss you and wish you didn't live in another state, but am so thankful you're happy...and who am I to talk about living in another state?? hahahaha!!!

I love you! (And being 30 wasn't half bad, now was it?)