31 January 2012

BSF 2011-2012: Acts 18:23-21:15

This week we've reached Paul's third missionary journey. This journey was much different from his first two. While those focused on evangelism, this third journey focused on encouraging the disciples in the areas Paul previously visited. Paul traveled to the churches he already established to strengthen them and to encourage them to depend on God.

An interesting character emerges in this passage: Apollos. A Jew from Alexandria, Apollos was a learned man and was very educated about the Old Testament scriptures. He also seemed to understand that Jesus was the Messiah and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But he didn't know about the Holy Spirit's arrival at Pentecost. Apollos was boldly proclaiming the truth to unbelievers, so it was important that he understood the full story. While in Ephesus, Paul's friends Priscilla and Aquila gently but firmly explained the whole story and filled in the blanks for Apollos. After that, Apollos didn't lose his fervor. He continued to preach the good news and even traveled to Corinth to strengthen the believers there.

Two things hit me this week. First, I found a great example in Apollos. He shared what he knew about God while seeking more truths. Am I seeking more information about God? And do I share all I know with others?

Second, I saw the power of the Holy Spirit. He transformed Paul from the early church's greatest enemy to its greatest teacher. He transformed all of these believers in Acts into bold missionaries for the Lord. He has transformed me from a sinner who lived only for myself into a Christian who is fully dependent on God and who lives only for Him. The Holy Spirit still is transforming me today, especially through my many years of studying in BSF. How is the Holy Spirit transforming you?

27 January 2012

Pearly whites

Our dentist told us that he wanted to start seeing Avery once she turned 3. But the more we thought about it, the more we wanted her to see a pediatric dentist who knows how to deal with children. We'd like her to grow up with the same dentist, and unfortunately ours won't be practicing for another 18 years. Luckily, one of our friends is a pediatric dentist. We thought it also would be good for her to go to someone she knows outside of the office.

Avery's first appointment was today. All week, we talked up the experience. We explained that she would lie down in a chair while Dr. Mark looked at her teeth and cleaned them. She seemed fine and was very excited about everything...until she actually got to the exam!

She enjoyed playing with the toys and books in the waiting room but was anxious to start her appointment. She even tried to open the door and go to the exam area by herself! Finally dental hygienist Katie called her name, and we both followed her to the exam area.

Instead of putting Avery in one of those big, uncomfortable exam chairs, she laid on my lap so her head was in Dr. Mark's lap. Then she started crying...big tears! Dr. Mark quickly counted her teeth (she has all 20 that she's supposed to have) and did a fast cleaning. Then he applied fluoride with a little brush.

Once she sat up, she was fine. Katie offered her a toy and a bag full of goodies, like crayons, a toothbrush and even a coupon to a local restaurant. Then she started chatting with Dr. Mark and Katie, and she was back to her normal self.

Mark said everything looks great, except her bottom teeth look crowded. That means her permanent teeth may be crowded, too. He said we need to start saving for braces now! That's no surprise since Chris and I both suffered through braces.

A perk is that we also saw Mark's wife, Gina, and their older daughter, Aubrey, when they stopped by for a short visit. Seeing Aubrey (and watching a Nemo-lookalike swim in the fish tank) helped Avery relax before her appointment.

Overall, it was a good experience. I don't think she was too traumatized! We'll go back in six months and start having cleanings twice a year.

25 January 2012

24 January 2012

BSF 2011-2012: II Thessalonians

Paul wrote II Thessalonians about a year after he wrote the first letter to the Thessalonian believers. During the time between the two letters, the Thessalonians received false reports that the reason they were suffering so greatly was because the day of the Lord had passed and they were experiencing God's judgment. Paul was inclined to write this second letter to refute these false teachings.

Just like the first letter, II Thessalonians also explains how believers should live while waiting for Christ's return. We should live expectantly, ready to see Christ's glorious second coming as described in II Thessalonians 1:7. We should sense a boldness and an urgency surrounding Christ's return.

One of the teachings Paul explained in this book is that while waiting for Christ, we shouldn't be idle when we're supposed to be working. What excuses do I make for not working or not serving God? How can I be less idle and more productive?

God has placed me to work and serve Him in three major ways: as an employee, as a wife/mother and as a BSF leader. After studying the teaching against idleness in II Thessalonians, God has showed me that I am idle as an employee when I spend too much time at work checking my personal e-mail or checking Facebook updates. I am idle as a wife and mother when I don't efficiently complete my tasks at home. And I am idle as a BSF leader when I rush through my weekly preparations and don't spend enough time completing my responsibilities. I need to be more productive and efficient in these three areas of my life so I can be a good worker while I anticipate Christ's return.

While I'm waiting for Christ to return, I will stand firm (II Thessalonians 3:15) and never tire of doing good (II Thessalonians 3:13).

21 January 2012

20 January 2012

18 January 2012

A blast from the past

See that precious little girl being examined by Dr. Smith? That's our Avery back when she was a baby! I recently stumbled upon this YouTube video that uses pictures of Avery from a photo shoot back when I worked in marketing for this hospital system. My co-worker needed a beautiful baby to model with a new physician on staff. Naturally, my co-worker thought of Avery. She did a great job during the photo shoot and waited until it was finished before she promptly spit up on her beautiful purple outfit.

17 January 2012

BSF 2011-2012: I Thessalonians

We learned last week that Paul visited Thessalonica during his second missionary journey. The opposition forced him to leave the city quickly. So as he continued to travel, there's no doubt that he continued to think about the Thessalonian believers and whether they had stayed true to their faith in spite of their suffering. So he wrote two letters to them to encourage them, to instruct them how to live and to assure them of the resurrection of believers.

Paul begins his first letter to the Thessalonians by commending them for their faith, labors and love in Christ (chapters 1 through 3). He also thanked God for them and prayed that they would continue to grow in love and deeds.

Next Paul explains how the Thessalonians should apply their faith to daily living. He told them to be sexually pure (4:3-8), to love each other (4:9-10) and to lead honest and productive lives (4:11-12).

Apparently, the Thessalonians were so focused on Christ's return that they were not being productive members of society. It's quite the opposite for us. We're so busy working that we forget that Jesus will return soon! It seems that the Thessalonians also were confused about some of the details of Christ's return. So Paul explained two important doctrines: there will be a resurrection of believers, and Christ will return one day.

Paul gives five points about Christ's second coming:

  • It will be sudden and unexpected.
  • Believers shouldn't fear it because they will be safe.
  • Believers should live as if Christ was returning today.
  • Believers should live together with Christ.
  • Believers should encourage each other.

Are you alert to Christ's return? Do you realize that He could come at any moment? Do you really live as if that's true? Christ's return should make a difference in what we do, what we say and where we go.

Paul ends I Thessalonians with a challenging list of instructions for all believers (5:12-28). I'll include the ones that are most challenging for me personally:

  • Live in peace with each other.
  • Be patient with everyone.
  • Be joyful always.
  • Pray continually.
  • Give thanks in all things.

While this list includes some difficult commands, Paul pointed out that as long as we obey God, He will sanctify us. "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it" (5:24). Praise God because I can't do it on my own! I'm asking God to help me obey these commands. Will you also ask God to help you follow one of these commands this week?

12 January 2012

10 January 2012

BSF 2011-2012: Acts 15:36-18:22

Welcome back as we continue our journey together through Paul's missionary trips!

Just before the Christmas break, we finished the book of Hebrews. Now we move back into the book of Acts. This week we'll look at Paul's second missionary journey, which took him to nearly 20 cities over the course of about three years. After that, we'll spend some time in I and II Thessalonians, letters written to believers in the city of Thessalonica where Paul visited during this trip.

Once again, Satan and his opposition met Paul at nearly every stop on this journey:

  • A disagreement between Paul and Barnabas before the journey even began
  • A demon-possessed slave girl and her angry owners in Philippi
  • Being falsely jailed in Philippi
  • A mob in Thessalonica that prompted Paul to leave in the cover of night
But Paul persevered through this opposition. In fact, Paul's joy in his suffering brought in more believers. Because he didn't give in to defeat, Paul continued to share the gospel and claimed new believers in the Philippian jailer and in people listening to the message in the synagogue in Thessalonica. He was terribly distressed at the blatant sin and idol worship in Athens, but even God used this situation for good. After many people rejected the gospel in the synagogue in Athens, Paul went to Corinth and then committed himself to taking the gospel to the Gentiles. (And I'm so thankful God sent Paul to the Gentiles!) All of this demonstrates that God uses opposition for His purpose!

How do I handle opposition? Am I praying for fruit in me and others through my suffering? Do I go to God and His Word for encouragement in the midst of opposition? What do people see in me as I suffer for God's glory?

09 January 2012

06 January 2012

Christmas 2011: The Rorks

Our final Christmas celebration was with my aunt's family. There aren't very many pictures of this occasion because it was a hectic day filled with a lot of activity and food! And a sweet girl who refused to take a nap and then turned a little rowdy in the afternoon.

Chris did manage to capture this video of Avery telling everyone the Christmas story. He missed about the first quarter of the story. If we had known she would do such a beautiful performance, we would have turned on the camera much sooner. You can see her reaction at :42 when she realizes that she's being recorded!

Avery had to show her new wagon to cousin Joel.

We usually try to take a big family picture when we're together since we're not all in the same room (or same state!) very often. It's hard to believe how much our family has grown over the years. This picture includes an unseen family member. Kim and David are expecting their first child in July!

To save everyone from embarrassment, I won't post the outtake pictures! :o)

This is how Avery recovered from all of the Christmas activities. As soon as we got home, she put on her pajamas, grabbed some of her new babies and sat in her new chair to watch a Barbie movie. What a nice ending to a fantastic Christmas season! 

05 January 2012

Christmas 2011: The Clarks

Christmas morning is reserved for just the three of us. First, Avery hops into bed with us and we read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Then after everyone brushes their teeth, we head to the living room to open our stockings and gifts. Finally we prepare and eat breakfast together. It's a relatively relaxing morning, and it's a time I really look forward to and cherish as a family.

This year, Avery was a little more aware of Santa. It was fun to watch her walk into the living room and see what Santa had left for her. I was hoping for a bigger reaction, but I don't think she'll fully get into the spirit of St. Nick until next year.

Before we knew that Great Aunt Ann and Great Uncle Ron were going to give Avery some craft supplies, we asked Santa to bring some as well. I guess we'll need to find a bigger box to hold all of Avery's markers, crayons, paints and activity books!

Santa knew that Avery needed her own special chair to watch TV and read books. This one fits her perfectly!

It's easy for Santa to fill Daddy's stocking. Include something sports-related (a St. Louis Cardinals World Series Champion tree ornament), lots of candy and some random fun items, and Daddy will be happy.

After the stockings, we opened our gifts from each other. Daddy chose many of Avery's gifts this year, including this new IU sweatshirt. He said it was difficult to stop shopping for her. I don't think he ever imagined that he'd enjoy spending money on a little girl so much!

Avery was excited to get this soccer goal set. The weather will be pretty warm this weekend, so maybe we can use these goals before spring.

This was probably the most important gift on Chris' wish list. See how excited he is? Luckily I love the movie too. We made Aunt Karen watch it with us on New Year's Eve, and she didn't seem to mind it either.

I guess I'm finally an official Center Grove resident now!

Chris bought me this beautiful purse. Just like with the I Love Lucy purse, Avery didn't waste any time trying to claim it as her own.

Here is the massive gift from Aunt Ann and Uncle Ron. What's in that huge box? Just wait and see!

After opening our presents, we enjoyed our delicious traditional Christmas breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, blueberry muffins, juice and milk.

Around lunch time, Mommaw and Poppaw Clark arrived with a car filled with presents! Many of the presents were from the Japan Clarks.

Avery got some beautiful dresses and candy from Japan. I have a suspicion that Elvie likes to buy girl clothes. Avery will gladly be the beneficiary of Elvie's shopping habit!

This is a fun cupcake set. Avery can use "icing" markers to decorate the tops of the cupcakes. And the candles are removable. She didn't hesitate to decorate the cupcakes and start serving them to us.

Avery's big gift from Mommaw and Poppaw was an easel. One side features a chalkboard and the other side is a magnetic dry erase board.

I'm extra grateful that Mommaw and Poppaw thought to include a plastic smock!

Now for the big reveal! Here is the special gift from Great Aunt Ann and Great Uncle Ron. It took Daddy and Poppaw just a few minutes to set up this adorable playhouse, which takes up a good portion of Chris' toy section in the basement. But Avery fell in love with it immediately. The craft supplies can be used to draw on the outside of the house...or the inside, as Avery, Daddy and Aunt KK have already done.

The house has several windows and two doors. It fits two adults and Avery pretty comfortably. But those doors definitely aren't made for an adult's wide backside!

Daddy likes playing inside, too. But does this photo remind anyone else of The Shining? Eek!

Mommy had to get in on the art work, too.

The final Christmas post comes tomorrow!

04 January 2012

Christmas 2011: The Hromadas

Christmas Eve is the day we have designated to be with my parents and sister. The day usually includes relaxing, eating, playing games and opening gifts. We enjoyed two new board games this year: The Logo Board Game and Word on the Street. We highly recommend both of them. They're great family games!

Here's Avery with her mound of gifts.

Aunt Karen and Mommy got some gifts, too. After each of the adults opened one gift, Avery opened two. And she still was the last one done!

She is very excited about this Winnie the Pooh storybook from her Great Aunt Ann and Great Uncle Ron.

She was even more excited about the collection of art supplies from Ann and Ron.

The art supplies included paint, markers and crayons. Ann is a great artist herself, and I'm sure she's trying to develop those talents in Avery, who is a budding artist as well. These fun and messy items accompanied a bigger present that Avery opened on Christmas Day. You'll see that gift tomorrow.

Grandma Hromada made a lot of clothes for Avery, including a cat scarf-mitten combo and two sets of pajamas. I'm glad my mom picked up sewing again since Avery was born. She made so many clothes for me and Karen, so I'm excited to see Avery enjoying these special homemade outfits, too.

No offense to anyone who gave gifts to Avery this year, but I think this easily was her favorite gift. Karen gave her this large musical jewelry box with a spinning ballerina. But the best part was inside. The jewelry box was filled with bracelets, rings, necklaces and even sticker earrings (a fond memory from my own childhood!). At first, Avery put all of the rings on one finger. She's getting better about distributing them among all of her fingers now. And we go through at least one pair of sticker earrings every day. We'll need to replenish her supply at her birthday!

To complement the jewelry box, Avery also got her first tutu along with a sweet book called I Wear My Tutu Everywhere.

KK deserved lots of hugs and kisses for these awesome gifts!

Grandpa thought the tutu looked better on his head than on Avery's waist.

And what's a family get-together without some Wii? Avery loves playing Duel. She loves pushing her opponents off the platform and watching them fall into the water. She hasn't figured out yet why she wins every single game!

Our original plan was to let Avery sleep for a little while at my parents' house then wake her up to go to the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service at our church. But she wasn't very interested in sleeping, which meant we had a wound up little girl who was wide awake at 9:30 p.m. So, much to my disappointment, we skipped church. But I know the people who would have sat near us during the service were glad we weren't there with a chatty, excited Avery.

When we got home, we prepared some cookies and milk for Santa. We also put out some carrots for the reindeer. Avery wasn't too sure about the whole Santa thing this year. At the mall, she waved at him from a distance. And she talked about him a lot. But she didn't like the idea of him being in her house. We explained to her that Santa visits when we're all asleep, and he doesn't have time to stay long at our house since he needs to visit all of the other boys and girls. She kind of understood that, but she still was looking around the corner for him on Christmas morning!

She liked putting the snacks on the fireplace for Santa and the reindeer. Check in tomorrow to see the Christmas morning video!

03 January 2012

Christmas 2011: The Sandlins

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Obviously, we took a break from blogging in December. It wasn't necessarily planned, but you know what I mean when I say the month flew by! The good news is that we'll have several big posts full of pictures over the next few days.

Avery made Christmas extra special this year. She was so excited to open her gifts, and she got some great presents. I don't know who enjoys them more: Avery or Daddy (and sometimes even Mommy!).

I'll start our Christmas in review with pictures from our celebration with Chris' aunt's family.

A new baby from cousins Emily and Josh! Chris' mom promptly told Josh about our custom for naming new babies. (When someone gives Avery a baby, they have to name it.) He struggled for a moment. Then cousin Suzanne suggested naming the baby Lucy after one of Josh and Emily's dogs. I was pleased with that! So Avery's newest baby was named Lucy.

Cousin Suzanne gave Avery this microphone that plays Christmas music. You also can change your voice to sound like an elf's voice. It's really just a lot of squeaking and squealing. But Avery loves it (as does Poppaw and Daddy).

I got the lovely I Love Lucy purse you see here. Avery quickly scooped it up and used it as Lucy's diaper bag. It is a good size for Avery, but I wasn't about to give up such a beautiful and unexpected gift! After Christmas, I eventually convinced her to stop using it, probably because she had plenty of other toys to play with.

Best buds Suzanne and Avery. That girl loves her cousin Suzy, and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual!

Watch for many more Christmas posts in the coming days!