29 February 2012

An artist at work

Avery has a blast playing in the playhouse she received from Great Aunt Ann and Great Uncle Ron. In fact, she recently chose to play in her house instead of going to a local university's basketball game. That should tell you something about her love for this house!

She enjoys running in and out of the house; using coasters and other small, flat objects to play "mail;" and of course coloring both inside and outside. Avery and her best buds, Janie and Jack, spent much of their time together at our Super Bowl party inside the house.

I thought Ann and Ron (and the rest of our readers) would like to see how Avery has decorated her house.

Daddy has tried to help Avery with some of her decorating. But for some reason, she colors over everything he draws.

When Aunt Karen drew these flowers for Avery, we thought she would color over them too. But it looks like she prefers Karen's drawings over Daddy's.

Avery and Daddy resting after a hard day's work.

28 February 2012

BSF 2011-2012: II Corinthians 8-13

Grace is God's unmerited favor on us. He gives us what we don't deserve, and He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

In this last part of II Corinthians, Paul focuses on God's grace in several situations. The one area that spoke to me most was grace through giving.

We should give generously because of God's grace in our lives. I love this quote from the lecture last night: "The grace of God opens our hearts and our hands." Because of all that God has given me, I should joyfully, generously, enthusiastically and willingly give to others. What does my giving say about my relationship with God?

As a family, we're very faithful in our weekly offering at church. But the giving Paul discusses in II Corinthians 8 and 9 isn't restricted only to money. Christians also should give of our resources, time and even ourselves. Where I have many blessings, I should respond in thanksgiving to God by sharing my wealth with others. I shouldn't ignore the needs of others in my life.

Consider the riches I have in Christ. With all of those blessings, how could I not give to others?

27 February 2012

Avery's third birthday: More celebrations

Avery's birthday fell on a Tuesday this year, and Tuesdays are usually pretty busy around here because that's Chris' class night. Thank goodness her birthday also usually will take place near Presidents' Day. Daddy enjoys that day off from work.

So the three of us celebrated her birthday together on Monday. While Chris and I had our tax returns completed, Avery spent some time with Mommaw Clark. Then Avery chose to eat lunch at Applebee's.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, and Daddy even splurged for a birthday dessert. After a well-deserved nap, Avery opened her presents from us.

She got this Strawberry Shortcake play set. (This probably is her new favorite show.)

We've desperately needed some better storage for Avery's toys, so we got her this pretty pastel storage shelf.

After Avery played with her first hula hoop a few months ago, she was in love. We had to get her one for her birthday. She can't use the hula hoop as it was designed, so she plays with it in her own way.

While Chris is in class on Tuesday nights, Avery and I usually have dinner and playtime with my parents. So we kept our usual schedule, and Aunt Karen also joined us for Avery's birthday.

Grandma Hromada made these yummy cupcakes, and Avery decorated them. Can you tell?

I promise that Avery didn't eat all five cupcakes! She just blew out the candles.

Just before bedtime, Avery and I called Mommaw and Poppaw Clark so they could talk to their sweetie on her birthday.

It's hard to believe another birthday is in the record books. Happy birthday to our beautiful 3-year-old princess!

26 February 2012

Avery's third birthday: The official party

One week later, and I've finally caught my breath long enough to post some birthday pictures!

First up was the official birthday party. Avery made the guest list, which included everyone on both sides of the family as well as friends who are just like family to us. Avery also chose the party theme: basketball. I swear that Chris didn't have any influence on her! I showed her several cakes and party ideas, and she landed on this basketball cake. "That looks easy," I thought.

Looks can be deceiving.

The basketball on the top didn't turn out at all because I used too much batter, causing it to overflow and burn in the oven. And the Twizzlers I used to make the net didn't look good at all.

I was just going to have a plain cake until I remembered that I still had these figurines from the groom's cake at our wedding rehearsal dinner. Avery loved them! Chris added some lines, and my epic failure of a cake was saved.

When I was covering the cake and putting it away for the big party, Avery said, "Mommy, it's so beautiful." That's all that mattered to me. And luckily the cake tasted good, but I never doubted that!

She blew out all three candles on her first attempt!

We didn't have any activities planned for the party except food, presents and fellowship. So enjoy these highlights:

Whew! That was a lot of fun!

The biggest surprise gift was this Allis-Chalmers pedal tractor. Chris' Grandpa Pevler gave him this tractor for his second Christmas. But more than 30 years later, the tractor had seen better days. We knew Chris' parents were going to restore it for Avery, we just didn't know when.

Chris was so pleased to see his little girl on one of his favorite childhood toys. I'd be surprised if he didn't have tears in his eyes when he and Avery walked outside to see the tractor. He thinks it looks better now than it ever has.

Avery can just barely reach the pedals. By the time warmer weather arrives, she'll be ready to ride this awesome tractor and even help Daddy with the yard work!

And what's a birthday party without Daddy in a silly hat? Mommaw Clark gave Avery a fuzzy tiara and wand, thinking she'd wear it during the party and act like the princess we all know she is. Avery wasn't too keen on them at first, so Daddy decided to wear the tiara.

But by the end of the party, Avery finally decided she wanted to look like a birthday princess.

21 February 2012

BSF 2011-2012: II Corinthians 1-7

I could say a lot of things about the content in the first seven chapters of II Corinthians. But there's one part that really stood out to me this week. It's the section about Christians being jars of clay (II Corinthians 4:7-18).

I've always liked this description of believers, as well as the band of the same name! But I got a fresh understanding of this passage this week. Christians are jars of clay. We are frail, delicate objects created by the Potter's hand (Isaiah 64:8, Romans 9:20-21). And inside us is the treasure of the gospel. When life presses down on us, the treasure of the gospel and the light of the Holy Spirit should be revealed through the cracks in our jars. While living in this cracked jar of clay, my goal should be to please God (II Corinthians 5:9).

What is seen in me as my life is being pressed? What truths do I hang on to during these times, and how can I comfort and encourage others with what God has taught me during these difficult times?

16 February 2012

14 February 2012

BSF 2011-2012: I Corinthians 8-16

In just two weeks, we've covered the entire book of I Corinthians! This book is full of so many important truths and doctrines that it deserves a more thorough study. But we have many other letters of Paul to read, as well as finish the book of Acts. So we have to move quickly through each book!

In the second half of I Corinthians, Paul continues to answer the Corinthian believers' questions. It appears in chapters 8 to 10 that Paul addresses their questions about eating meat that was sacrificed to pagan idols. Paul says it is not a sin to do this. But watching a "stronger" believer do this could cause a "weaker" believer to stumble. So Paul told the Corinthians that believers' freedom to do something shouldn't cause a brother to stumble. Things that are permissible may not be beneficial. We should examine our actions and do all things for the glory of God, not causing other believers to stumble (I Corinthians 10:31-32).

Also related to the church as the body of Christ, Paul moves on to discuss proper attitudes during worship and the communion table in chapter 11. In chapters 12 to 14 he explains how believers should use their spiritual gifts in the church. Spiritual gifts help promote unity in the body of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives these gifts for the church's common good. Finally in chapters 15 and 16, Paul tells us that Christ's resurrection empowers us to stand firm in the faith.

I see that the underlying theme in these nine chapters is how believers should treat each other. We must set aside our Christian freedoms to glorify God and build up other believers. And we also must use our spiritual gifts in love to build up other believers.

How could my actions cause someone to stumble? What can I change to bring God glory? Have I identified my spiritual gifts, and am I using them? How am I serving the body of Christ?

08 February 2012

Tasty Kitchen's Cookie Dough Dip

I think I discovered my new favorite snack this weekend. I saw this recipe awhile ago and didn't really have an occasion to make it until our Super Bowl party on Sunday. This sweet dip tastes just like chocolate chip cookie dough, but it doesn't include raw eggs. It's quick, easy and delicious. Probably not really healthy, but it's oh so good!

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preparation Instructions
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Set aside to cool and whisk in vanilla. Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar for 60 seconds. With mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture. Mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Serve with fruit, cookies, crackers, pretzels or a spoon.

07 February 2012

BSF 2011-2012: I Corinthians 1-7

This week we venture into I Corinthians. Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth to tell them to start applying the truths they knew. They were living like the world instead of acting differently because of their new-found faith in Christ. In chapters 1 to 6 , Paul corrects their sin. And in chapters 7 to 16, he answers questions they had sent to him.

This week, we'll cover the first seven chapters. There's so much doctrine packed into these chapters! Here are some highlights of Paul's teachings:

  • The Holy Spirit explains the mind of Christ (2:10), which is in us (2:16).
  • We must be unified as the body of Christ. We cannot divide over petty, "gray" issues. Stand firm on the truth of God's Word.
  • Believers are entrusted with the Word of God.
  • The root of the problems in the church in Corinth was pride (4:6).
  • Sin is sin. God's standards don't change with the culture. Don't let sin permeate the church like it permeates the world.
  • Treat your body as God's temple. Honor Him in the conduct of your body.
  • Be focused on the Lord's work and have an undivided devotion to God (7:34).
This last point really hit me: have an undivided devotion to God. This means that I must be more dedicated to Bible study, to prayer, to serving God and to serving others.

The bottom line from these first seven chapters is that as a Christian, I must look and act differently than the world!

06 February 2012

Dorothy and Dorothy

Avery received several new movies for Christmas since we're trying to have more family movie nights. Karen gave Avery her very own copy of The Wizard of Oz. Recently Avery asked to watch it. But she also asked to wear her Dorothy outfit and hold Toto while she watched her new favorite movie. She was so enthralled with the movie that she couldn't look at me as I took her picture!

03 February 2012

A super weekend

Did you know there's a big football game on Sunday night? If not, you should come check out the party in Indianapolis. Our city is absolutely buzzing with the excitement of hosting its first ever Super Bowl!

The festivities began last week, about 10 days before the big game. Being the huge sports fans we are, Chris and I wanted to check out the activities downtown. But our schedules have been pretty full, and we both were a little apprehensive about the large crowds and high prices for food and parking.

On Wednesday, Chris made an executive decision that we were going downtown Thursday night after work. He already arranged for Mommaw and Poppaw Clark to watch Avery so Chris and I could have a date night in Super Bowl Village. After he went to all of that trouble, I couldn't say no to such a special date night!

Chris scoped out the parking situation and even went online to reserve a spot for less than $15. That was a very reasonable price, considering the average price for parking we saw was probably $20 or $25. After I picked up Chris near his office, we parked on the south side of downtown (easy exit to home) and headed north on Meridian Street to Monument Circle.

Here is our first view of the Circle from Meridian Street, a portion of which is closed to vehicle traffic. As you'll see later, many downtown streets are closed, causing headaches for normal downtown traffic but creating a festival-type atmosphere for Super Bowl guests.

Super Bowl village features several concert stages. Here is the largest one, just outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Until recently it was called Conseco Fieldhouse.) These concert stages have multiple performances each night and feature many popular and well-known bands and musicians.

What's a Super Bowl party without Elmo in a Peyton Manning jersey? This was a bizarre sight. We think Avery would have really enjoyed seeing Elmo.

One of the key attractions is this set of Roman numerals on display on the Circle. Of course, XLVI stands for the 46th Super Bowl.

You can faintly see the lights on the Roman numerals. We were at the Circle before sunset so it's difficult to see how these numerals are lit up.

After enjoying dinner on the Circle, we walked back south to Super Bowl village and the Indiana Convention Center. (We didn't drop the 50 bucks required for the NFL Experience at the Convention Center. I'm sure it would have been a lot of fun, but that was a little out of our price range!) I love all the signage downtown. Everywhere you look, buildings are covered with football-themed photos and Super Bowl advertisements.

One of the most popular activities is the zipline on Capitol Avenue. It's a pretty unique attraction for just $10. The pre-order tickets sold out very quickly, as do the daily tickets. So no zipline for us!

You're allowed to ride the zipline in just about any way you want to. Everyone was pretty traditional except for this brave young woman who did it head down!

You can't have an event in Indianapolis without some connection to the Indianapolis 500. For the Super Bowl, IndyCar teams donated 33 cars, the same number that participate in the 500 each year. Thirty-two of the cars were decorated for each of the NFL teams, and the final car is a Super Bowl car. Last week all 33 Super Cars were lined up on the Circle. But now they're spread throughout Central Indiana.

As usually happens for big events in the city, downtown streets have been renamed temporarily for the occasion. For Big Ten events, the streets are renamed for Big Ten teams. And for the Super Bowl, the streets are renamed for NFL teams.

While this looks like a crazy mass of people, we actually never had any problems with unruly crowds. The foot traffic moved pretty well, and people weren't the idiots they usually are in crowds (but we went pretty early in the evening before the wild partiers came out). We actually have more problems walking around at the 500 than we did last night!

Our final loop back to the car included walking by the ESPN studios at Pan Am Plaza. Above is the main set. Since it was so late in the day, there weren't any live shows or TV personalities available. Come to think of it, we didn't have a single celebrity spotting the whole time we were downtown. Correction...we saw local "celebrity" Anne Marie Tiernon. But she wasn't exactly the type of celebrity we hoped to run into.

Here is another ESPN studio. This is where Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic broadcast their show each morning this week.

The crowds started growing by the time we walked back to the car. But it was a really enjoyable experience.

We passed Lucas Oil Stadium on our way to the car. I really need to learn how to take better pictures in the dark!

And we can't have a date night without taking our famous self-portrait.

I am so proud of Indianapolis. We live in a fabulous city that really knows how to throw a party for the world.  All the talk around here is that everyone is pleased with this event, from the NFL to the planning committee to foreign journalists. Let's hope Sunday brings an exciting and memorable game!