28 February 2013

Enemy territory

Many moons ago, Chris was a student manager for the University of Southern Indiana's men's basketball team. While there, he met two men who went on to have very successful national basketball coaching careers. The first was the head coach at the time, who was Bruce Pearl. And the second was an assistant coach, Keno Davis.

Chris was close to Keno during their years at USI. They went on recruiting and scouting trips together and spent time with each other off the court, too. Chris has followed Keno's career since they parted ways at USI. Keno has held several coaching positions, but they haven't brought him to Indiana. Until this season when Keno became the head coach at Central Michigan University, which is in the same conference as my Ball State Cardinals.

We were very excited to see that the Chippewas would be visiting Muncie in February. Keno offered some tickets, and the three of us joined Grandma and Grandpa Hromada on the journey to campus last night. While Grandma and Grandpa sat in their usual seats, Chris, Avery and I were lucky enough to sit on the second row, directly behind the Central Michigan bench. It was pretty strange for me to be hanging out in enemy territory, but I found myself rooting for my Cardinals team and for Coach Keno. (I'll never be a Chippewas fan!)

Look at this view!

Avery was psyched for her second Cardinals game.

We sat directly across from my parents. Do you see them waving at Avery?

"Go Ball State!" Even Avery unashamedly rooted for the Cardinals while sitting with the Central Michigan fans.

It was fun to be up close and personal with the game. One thing Chris pointed out was the players' speed. College players are much faster on the court than the high school players we're used to seeing. And this was a MAC game...watching games up close in the better leagues must be even more entertaining.

Although I couldn't hear much of what Keno said, I could tell that he is passionate about basketball and loves it as much as Chris.

As usual, it was very entertaining to sit with Chris. For the first time, he talked strategy while watching a game instead of critiquing the officials! He recognized many of Keno's plays.

Avery sat with Grandma and Grandpa for about half of the second half. She was a dancing fool! Sometimes she prefers the band and the cheerleaders over the game itself.

This was a very exciting game! Central Michigan was down 11 at the half and was behind by as many as 14 or 15 during the game. Ball State hasn't had a great season, so I didn't expect them to hold on to the lead. The Chippewas made a comeback and got to within two points before the Cardinals pulled away again. This ended up being a very high scoring game.

After the game, we waited around to see Keno and to thank him for the tickets. Avery started a conversation with him right away and wasn't afraid to ask him questions about his kids and pets. I could tell that Chris liked connecting with Keno again face-to-face.

Unfortunately, we walked away without the most important picture of all: Chris and Keno together! But we already want to go to another Central Michigan game next season.

26 February 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 25:19-34

Do you tend to focus on your immediate problems and circumstances instead of your eternal future? I know I can be guilty of this. As humans, it's so easy for us to get hung up on what's happening in the here and now. But we should consider everything in light of eternity.

In our story this week, we see two twin brothers who had very different personalities. Esau was focused on the immediate and didn’t look at God’s plan. Jacob saw both the immediate and his future with God.

God had promised offspring to Isaac and Rebekah. But after nearly 20 years of waiting for the promised child, they probably start to doubt God. Instead of acting on their doubt and taking matters into their own hands (like Abraham and Sarah), they look to the future and God's eternal promises.

Isaac prays on behalf of Rebekah. While Isaac and Rebekah want God to respond to Isaac's prayers immediately, it appears Isaac prayed faithfully for many years before God finally allows Rebekah to become pregnant.

God answers prayer in His sovereign way and perfect timing. Sometimes He answers with “yes,” sometimes with “no” and sometimes with “wait.” The waiting answer usually is the hardest one. But when I'm waiting for God's answer or timing, I need to rely on His character and trust His wisdom no matter how He answers my prayers. I must wait for His answer and not take matters into my own hands. His plan is always best, so it is worth the wait.

When Rebekah finally becomes pregnant, she experiences some unusual physical feelings. She goes to God, who tells her that she will give birth to two sons. These sons will become two separate nations. One is a line of God's people, and the other is a group of people that rejects God. God also tells Rebekah that the older will serve the younger. This is quite a departure from the typical birthright of the day.

Esau is born first. He is red and hairy. Esau means “hairy.” Later his name is changed to Edom, which means “red.” Jacob is born so quickly after Esau that he is born holding Esau’s heel. (On behalf of Rebekah, I say, "OUCH!") Jacob means “heel catcher” or “trickster.”

God could have caused Jacob to be born first and thus receive the birthright. But He is sovereign and has a different plan. In Scripture we often see that by God’s grace, He blesses those who don’t have the right to the blessing. I am included in that! I certainly didn't do anything to deserve salvation and all of the blessings that come with it. So praise God for blessing us when we don't deserve it!

These two boys are almost polar opposites. Esau becomes a skillful hunter. Jacob is a reflective, thinking man who stays among the tents. Esau is physically strong, while Jacob is mentally strong. They both are very intense and passionate. Because Isaac has a taste for wild game, he favors Esau. Because Jacob stays among the tents, Rebekah favors him.

Isaac had a spiritual depth early in his life, but it dwindled as he aged. This lack of spiritual influence caused Esau to have no spiritual depth in his life at all. On the other hand, since Jacob spent time among the tents, he must have received many godly teachings from Grandpa Abraham and others in the family.

Isaac's life shows us the effect worldly pursuits can have on us and the generations behind us. Pursuing worldly pleasures dulls our spiritual senses and our desire for God. We have so many worldly temptations and distractions today! They aren't all bad, but are they pulling me away from God? What am I pursuing? Is it taking me away from pursuing God? How are my pursuits affecting others around me?

Several years later, Jacob is cooking stew. Esau enters after a long day of hunting and claims he is starving. He asks Jacob for some stew. Jacob agrees but only if Esau sells him his birthright. Esau agrees because the birthright has no meaning to him. Jacob sees the value of the birthright, but he takes it incorrectly and displays a lack of trust in God. Jacob must have known that God already promised the birthright to him. But instead of waiting on God and His perfect timing, Jacob took the birthright himself. Both Jacob and Esau’s actions are wrong.

Jacob desired the birthright, which brought God's eternal rewards and blessings, but Esau despised his birthright. What do my desires reveal about me?

So will you join with me as I commit to focusing on God's perfect, eternal plan? What will I do to keep my eyes on the eternal? What will I do to show the world that I have a spiritual focus? What worldly pleasures will I set aside so I can sharpen my spiritual senses and deepen my desire for God and His Word?

Once again, I don't have an Avery video. But for good measure, here was her verse for the week:

The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
Genesis 26:24 NIV

25 February 2013

Avery's fourth birthday: Celebrating with the Hromadas

Yesterday we had Avery's final birthday celebration, a party with my family.

Faith didn't seem to mind being passed around the room all afternoon.

My mom surprised Avery with her first doll cake. These were a staple around our house for Karen and me when we were younger. OK, I'll be honest...the last time I had one of these cakes for my birthday, I was well into my 20s!

Avery got lots of beautiful clothes, a few fun toys and this awesome baby-in-a-backpack. Avery wore the backpack all day, and slept with the baby both last night and at naptime today.

We tried taking some pictures of the cousins. Faith was the most cooperative one!

Granny loves all of her great-grandchildren! She had a lot of fun with Joel and Avery yesterday.

Avery's birthday is finally over!

24 February 2013

Avery's fourth birthday: The official party

When it came time to plan Avery's official birthday party, we decided to go low-key this year. I have a feeling we'll have a bigger party next year for her milestone fifth birthday.

Several weeks ago, I asked Avery what she wanted to do for her birthday. She immediately responded, "I want a princess party with a football cake." I said nix to both of those ideas! Then I suggested having a small get-together in the party room at our favorite local fro yo shop, Ella's Frozen Yogurt. She quickly agreed.

We decided to invite the grandparents, Aunt Karen and the Berkemeiers. What fun we had last night!

One of the bonuses of having the party at Ella's was that I didn't have to make a cake this year. That meant that we had to put Avery's candle in her pizza. She thought that was pretty neat.

Avery had some great helpers when she opened her gifts. She didn't mind the extra help at all!

This gift included some bubble packing. The kids seemed to like that better than the gift itself!

After the presents, it was time for the good stuff! Avery chose lemon and strawberry yogurt with gummy worms, gummy bears, Reese's pieces, strawberries and chocolate syrup for the toppings.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend Ella's for your next gathering. It was so nice not to stress out about the party, especially all the preparation that usually comes with hosting a party at home. And the excited birthday girl along with her two happy friends prove that it was a successful party!