Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Same old, same old. That’s basically my report on the last year.

Basically my personal life hasn’t changed at all. Concerning my job, my house, my dog, there’s nothing really new to report. But there HAVE been some changes in the lives of those around me this year.

I found out this spring that I was going to be Aunt—twice!—this year. My sister Rachel and her husband Mathew had a baby boy (Reagan Mathew) October 10, and my brother Tim and his wife Kristen had a baby boy (Micah James) on November 11! I got to hold Reagan at Thanksgiving when I went home to Michigan, and I’m looking forward to holding Micah when I go with my parents to Virginia Beach for New Year’s!

For spring break I flew out to Virginia to visit Tim & Kristen. We got to visit historic Jamestown and see some of the Naval sites while I was there.

This summer we had a great family get-together over the 4th of July where all four of us kids could be together. I did the same old Vacation Bible School routine—one time at my parents’ church in Michigan and again in Lafayette.

This summer I guess I did start one new thing. I started volunteering at the Faith Community Center where I learned to check people in at the front desk and also got trained in at the cafĂ©—learning the espresso machine, the ice cream machine, and the grill for paninis and wraps! I have enjoyed volunteering at the Community Center so I continue to volunteer there every other Friday night and on breaks as time allows.

My sister Sarah and I also added a new housemate in August—Sara Denny, who was one of Sarah’s roommates in college. She coaches for Faith Christian School but also has some other jobs in Lafayette. Since she came we did add one new home feature—cable television!

I continue to be involved in playing the piano for school and church activities. I am also active in the local piano teachers’ association. In fact, I am heading up the “Monster Concert 2009,” which will be held June 4 and will involve a big recital with ten grand pianos on the Long Center stage and probably over 200 students from the area.

Our church’s musical this year was called “Shine On Us,” and was a good reminder that in this dark world Jesus Christ is the light. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” May we all continue to depend on the only truth that is found in God’s Word.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Nephew Micah

It's another nephew!!

Micah James Hill was born to my brother Tim and his wife Kristen on November 11! They're making it easy on us aunts for date remembering: Reagan was born 10/10 and Micah was born 11/11.

Micah weighed 8 pounds, 4 oz. and was 21" long--a healthy baby boy. Kudos to Kristen for having a totally natural birth! Someday I want to be like you; you're my hero, Kristen!

Unfortunately little Micah lives a long way away in Virginia Beach, but I can't wait to meet him someday--hopefully around the New Year, Lord willing!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Nephew Reagan

YAY! I'm an aunt now! My sister Rachel and her husband Mathew had their first baby--a boy! Reagan Mathew Eliason was born on Friday, October 10, weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces, and 20 inches long.

Congratulations Rachel & Mat! I can't wait to hold little Reagan (probably at Thanksgiving time)!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Cocina sin Microwave

It was an interesting week in the kitchen at home. We Americans get so used to the amenities we have readily on hand: electricity, running water, freezers, microwaves. For instance, can you imagine life without a microwave? I can! It's really easy after this week!

We get so used to throwing something into the microwave to heat up for a meal. But last week I had something going in the microwave for a couple of minutes when suddenly the microwave started making this buzzing sound, smelling bad, and not heating anymore. Astute as I am, I realized that the microwave was not supposed to be doing that. So I gave it the quick fix test: unplug it and plug it back in; maybe it will reset itself. Didn't work. So I hoped leaving it unplugged overnight might be the remedy. Nope. That didn't work either. So, after a phone consultation with my dad, I realized my final recourse must be to buy a new microwave. So we went for a whole week without a working microwave in the house: no quickly reheating food, no microwave dinners, and, horror of horrors, no microwave popcorn. We had to either eat cold macaroni and cheese (which I did--but I do that anyway, so that was no big deal) or figure out a way to reheat something in the oven (or bring it to work and use the microwave there).

I am very thankful for good church friends who were able to install my new over-the-range microwave yesterday (I didn't want to pay H.H. Gregg the $119 installation fee).

I know people in other countries or in times past have gone without microwaves, and it IS possible, but I am very thankful to have a working microwave!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Chapel Monday

Monday is chapel day at FCS.

First was Kindergarten-2nd grade chapel at 8:15. I was greeting kids as they came in, asking some first graders about their weekends. It went from trampolines to playing with airplanes to playing soccer, until one little girl, surprisingly cheerful, said, "I got to come here Saturday because my parents got divorced." She also told me her mom's going to have another baby. Please be praying for this family.

But then we had some great chapel times today. Our chapel speakers today were pastors from our church. It is great to be a part of a ministry where you get Trey Garner speaking about Idols of the Heart to your Kindergarten-2nd graders and Doug Gray speaking to 7th-12th graders about the Heart of Change. "We do what we do because we want what we want." It all serves to enhance our school's theme this year "From the Inside Out."

I am thankful for my church.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Juju Goes Hiking

This afternoon Mommy took me on a hike along the Wabash Heritage Trail. We parked at someplace called Davis Ferry and I hopped out of the car, excited to go for a W-A-L-K!

I'm good at posing for pictures on the trail.

Mom said I couldn't ride my bike or my horse. Or drive the car.

I liked climbing on the bridges; even the pieces of old bridges that didn't go anywhere.

I didn't use the stepping stones to cross Burnett's creek; I just waded through the water. The water was FUN!

Mom took a long time taking pictures of butterflies so I laid down underneath the bush where there was some shade to take a nap.

I didn't get why Mom liked looking at the flowers. The water was much more exciting!! (And chasing deer and chipmunks and birds.)

I decided to try a new black mud treatment on my paws; I hope it soothes the sore spots I've been itching because of my allergies.

I was able to take a little nap when we got to the Battlefield Museum. The shade was nice but Mom made me get in the sun for this pic.

When we got back to the car I got right in so I could go home and sleep!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Donning of the Watch

Summer is officially over. I put my wristwatch back on this morning. I take it off at the beginning of the summer and don't wear it (usually) until school starts. So, this is it. I'm wearing my watch. School's starting!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Butler University...

...is my new favorite place. LOVED the piano pedagogy symposium yesterday and today. Makes me want to go back and get my masters of some sort in piano...

Mondog Park

So on my way home from my vacation in Michigan on Tuesday I passed through Chicago. It was a beautiful day so I decided to drive right along Lake Michigan on Lake Shore Drive (and Sheridan Road). It was close to suppertime for Juju (5:00) and on a whim I decided to stop off at the lake and feed Juju her supper. After I made this decision, I then had to find a spot to park. I passed a few places where I could have just pulled off on to the street, but I didn't. Eventually I got to the divided highway section of Lake Shore Drive and just picked an exit and found a place to park. I pulled off on Montrose Street. It ended up being further from the beach than I had planned, but as long as we were stopped I decided to walk Juju the few blocks all the way to the beach. As I got closer and noticed how many people were around, I wasn't sure if it was okay for me to have a dog on the beach. Aren't there some regulations about no dogs on the beach? But as long as I was that close I wasn't stopping until I got to the beach. Was I surprised, when I got to the beach, to notice DOZENS of dogs on the beach--off-leash and playing in the water!! Then I realized that they were in a fenced-in area with their owners. Whaddya know? I ended up at Mondog park--a city dog park! So I let Juju off her leash for a few minutes and we enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Limber Tail Syndrome

I thought Juju had a broken tail. Thursday night (July 3rd) we had a fun time out at Lake Superior and the beach at Little Presque Isle, then time at the Carpenter's house in Marquette. Juju had a VERY fun time in the water (she'd never really swam before) and playing with Zoey, the Carpenter's German shepherd. That night her tail was very sore and was hanging limp. She would try to bite me when I touched her tail and had a very hard time sitting down. Since it was Friday, the fourth of July, we thought of taking her to the vet, but they probably wouldn't be open until Monday. So we thought she'd just have to tough it out--after all, what can you do for a broken tail anyway? But it was kind of weird because no one remembered stepping on it, slamming it in the door, or setting a chair on it or anything.

Saturday Kristen talked to her dad, who is a large animal vet, and he suggested "limber tail syndrome," which is actually a fairly common condition in larger sporting dogs. So I looked it up online (see AKC Labrador Retriever Club's page on "Cold Water Tail.").

Another name for it is "cold water tail," which some dogs can get after an extended time swimming in cold water and lots of activity--both of which Juju did on Thursday night!! Most of the information I've seen says it's more common in labs--yes, Juju is part lab/retriever! Thankfully it's a condition which rights itself (after rest and possibly anti-inflammatory medication) in a few days to 2 weeks at the most. Now, after 4 days, Juju's tail is getting back to its upright perkiness and she's a little more back to her active self. Who ever heard of such a thing as limber tail syndrome??

Friday, June 20, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I went to the local DQ Grill and Chill and decided to order a Mocha Moolatte, an amazing frozen blended drink made from ice cream, coffee, and who knows what else. The cashier did something naughty. She handed me a Moolatte Free-quency card with one punch in it. I only had to buy 4 more moolattes to get one free. Of course, you know me and coupons. I had to make good on this deal. So the last couple of weeks I've taken the opportunity to indulge on these cool drinks--which I think are a much better deal than a Starbucks Frappucino. My favorite is the mocha, but the French Vanilla is also good. Cappucino is okay. And I don't think I've tried the Caramel yet. I guess that will be next one; after all, it's free!

Community Center Volunteering

This is Main Street of the Faith Community Center where I've been spending some time volunteering this summer. When my church decided to build a Community Center, I thought it would be a neat place to spend some time volunteering. So...it opened last year, and guess what? I didn't make it over there to volunteer at all during the school year. This summer I was encouraged/invited to spend a few hours working at the Front Desk and the Cup of Faith Cafe, especially since I have the summer "off" of work. I decided to make the plunge and sign up for a few hours each week. It is REALLY FUN to work at the Community Center--whether it's doing laundry, checking people in to the Fitness Center or pool, or even doing daycare. Today I learned how to make sandwiches, ice cream orders, and espresso drinks. It has been a blast! It is a good chance to be able to visit and talk with people, too. If you go to Faith, I would encourage you to consider volunteering a few hours of your time to serving at the Community Center. I have enjoyed it so much and I look forward to spending more time there this summer!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Being 30 and Single

An excerpt from my diary...
I hesitate to share from this portion of my life, because I don't think marital status is what defines one as a person, and too many people in my season of life seem to be all too focused on the opposite sex. I don't want to sound like this is my main focus in life or that I'm getting desperate now. (My God is so much bigger than eharmony.com!) There's more to life than marital status. But, yes, I am human, so I do wonder sometimes about why I'm not married--or even dating. (Or maybe I've been reading too many Christian romance novels.) So allow me a brief post to indulge myself and get it out of my system. When I thought about this part of my life when I was younger, I always pictured myself as being a wife and mother by now (I'd definitely have at least 2 kids by 30, right?), but obviously that wasn't God's plan. Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me, if I'm not good enough, not friendly enough, too solitary, too independent, or whatever.

BUT THEN I work on getting my focus UP--where it needs to be. I believe God has guided me through my decisions this far in my life--college, job in Indiana. I believe I am where God wants me to be, and that's all I need to be focused on. I only want to be married if my husband and I can serve God more effectively together than we could separately, and apparently God's plan for me to serve Him involves my time as a single person. Apparently God has things He wants me to continue to learn in this portion of my life, or He has tasks He wants me to perform. I have so much more freedom now to be a servant at church than I would if I had a spouse or a family. I am enjoying my life where God has put me, and sometimes I wonder if I could be any more happier in life than I already am. I'm okay if God wants me to serve Him singly for the rest of my life. This life on earth is so short anyway--why waste time on trivial earthly matters? And if I can keep my focus on serving God and spending my time in church activities, I won't be sidetracked by the desires of the world. I've always prayed that God would make it extremely obvious to me when the man he wanted for me crossed my path, because I'm not planning to be sidetracked from serving God and working on desiring what God wants for me. Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Big 3-0

Yup. I've finally reached a new decade. I had a great day, starting with Saturday when I received 4 birthday cards in the mail!! Pretty good timing, guys! Sunday morning a quartet of girls sang very loudly to me in the hallway before church. Another friend from church came up to me at the piano after church and handed me a card and gift. Then there were the random birthday wishes from random people (thanks in part to Facebook for spreading the birthday word)! I had a piano recital that afternoon, and toward the end, before they played their duet, two sisters had everyone sing to me, so I had more birthday wishes. And after church that night Sarah and I walked to Dairy Queen and I got a Strawberry Cheesequake blizzard. Yummy! I just had a smile on my face all day. I love birthdays!! (Even if it does mean that you're getting old...)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Landscaping Pics

Here's some pics of the new mulching I did on Saturday and the Common Purple Lilac bush!

Juju and my blooming apple tree in the backyard--and the grass she's killed! :)

The digging and raking I did on Saturday gave me a big blister on my hand that's given me a little bit of grief the last couple of days. I'll be glad to be able to reach an octave again without the pain of stretching my right hand!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Star Wars and Gardening

It was a crazy week--with a Preschool program Thursday night and 2 programs Friday night--K5-3rd and 4th-6th back-to-back. I got to direct the Preschool program and play the piano for the other two--as well as make PowerPoint Programs for all three. Of course, I'm really good at waiting until the last minute to get these things done! ;) And we had rehearsals all week for all of them, too, so my teaching schedule was all messed up. And throw in accompanying a violin recital Tuesday night and a couple of extra hours Thursday morning for the National Day of Prayer breakfast. All good activities, but kind of crazy when it all happens in one week.

So what got me through the week was looking forward to the weekend--today--because I could work in my yard. I finally got the lawn mowed and even some flowers planted. When I got stressed during the week I would start to plan some new landscaping, and nothing could stop me from working in the yard today--not even cooling temperatures and the threat of rain. Thankfully it never did actually rain so I spent a good solid 5 hours straight doing some new landscaping.

I've also been enjoying watching the first 3 Star Wars episodes again. I've only seen them once before, and this time I'm enjoying them a lot more. I finished "Attack of the Clones" at the beginning of the week and today the library had in "Revenge of the Sith" so I'm looking forward to watching that soon!

Only 3 more weeks until school's out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday, Juju!

April 20 is the day I celebrate Juju's birthday, so she is now 2 years old! She got a new "monkey" (i.e. toy--this one was a green frog) from PetSmart.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Break in Virginia

I thought it was time I posted a few pictures of my spring break trip to Virginia for those of you who don't have access to Facebook!

I flew from Indy to Norfolk (via Detroit) on Tuesday, March 25 and flew back on Friday, March 28, so I only got to spend a couple of days with Tim & Kristen, but we had a great time. And the weather was terrific with highs warming up to the 70's and near 80 Thursday and Friday!

Tim & Kristen hospitably opened their apartment to me and even got me an air mattress to sleep on! We enjoyed walking around their neighborhood at the "swamplands" of the Elizabeth River...don't get Tim started on that! ;) Kristen and I enjoyed going to the mall that evening while Tim was at work.

Wednesday we enjoyed seeing the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk and touring the U.S.S. Wisconsin, both free and open to the public. We enjoyed chatting with one of the guides about the ironclads Monitor & Merrimac (C.S.S. Virginia). Kristen & I went to church at Colonial without Tim since he had to work.

I enjoyed seeing the green grass, flowering trees, and flowers because we haven't seen much of that in Indiana yet...although it's coming! We enjoyed walking along Chesapeake Bay enjoying the sun!

Thursday Tim took the day off and we drove to Jamestown--after we had a great breakfast and chapel time at Tim's seminary. We enjoyed the great museum there and all the great exhibits.

Tim & Kristen enjoyed trying on the 17th century armor.

I enjoyed touring the ships Susan Constance, Godspeed, and Discovery.

Kristen made us some great food, including the lunch we packed.

In Williamsburg (after having been at Jamestown) we stopped at this HUGE Yankee Candle store--it was HUGE! It was so big it even had a fudge shop inside! That evening we ate out at Cracker Barrel and rented "I Am Legend"--which was scarier than we had thought!--and enjoyed a movie night.

Friday we were able to get in a game of Settlers of Cataan before I had to head to the airport. And another episode or so of the Cosby show, which they had borrowed from the library. Those were some good ol' episodes!

It was a blast seeing Tim & Kristen!

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Do Believe

Have you ever caught yourself doubting whether all the Bible stories you've heard since you were a child are true? Lately I've found myself becoming more cynical and just lacking that child-like faith. I would start talking to someone, or teaching preschoolers a Bible lesson, and as I was hearing myself speak I would catch myself thinking that it sounded so unreal. Am I confident in my belief in Jesus Christ? Is there really a God?

We all get plagued by doubts at some point. I've been through this before. I grew up in a Pastor's home, raised to believe the Bible was true; I almost didn't have any other option growing up. But at some point you have to make your faith real; you can't depend on others to believe for you. I became a Christian at a young age (4 years old) and sometimes I wonder if it was only due to the godly influences at my life at that time. Do I act like a Christian just because it's the only thing I've ever known?

I don't know lately what has triggered these doubts. Who can figure out the workings of our minds? (mine especially...I can think some of the most random thoughts...) Maybe it's been just the nitty-gritties of day-to-day life, trying to "work" God into my schedule--when I should be doing the opposite. Shouldn't God be the focal point? But I do know that I haven't "felt" as confident in speaking up for the Lord. For instance, I might be talking to my next door neighbor about how he's struggling to get along with his dad, and my first instinct (since I've been well-trained) will be to know that Christ and the Bible have all the answers for our daily problems, BUT then I will start to wonder if that's really true and how it applies in each situation. I would be lacking confidence in God's truth.

So how do I remedy this? Do I truly believe that Jesus Christ came in human form and literally died on the cross over 2000 years ago? How can I refute all the historical evidence for this? And if Jesus actually lived, then the Bible must be true. And if the Bible is true, God really does care about every aspect of my life. Yes, the Bible is true. Yes, Jesus did come. Yes, Jesus did die. Yes, Jesus did rise from the dead. Yes, Jesus is still alive today preparing a place for us. It's incomprehensible, but I step out in child-like faith. Yes, I do believe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring is Springing!

I was very excited to look in my garden last week and see the tulips and daffodils making their appearance!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Tribute to Grandma Helfinstine

Jeannette Grace Lang Helfinstine
October 16, 1925 - March 5, 2008

Grandma is home with Jesus now. I was able to spend time with her at Christmas and visit her in the nursing home (where this picture was taken). I was thankful she still recognized me at that time. She had been deteriorating in health for the last couple of years (cancer, strokes, etc.), but the last few months were especially hard on the family as dymensia set in and she really had a hard time knowing where she was or recognizing anyone. She pretty much stopped eating, too. So we are thankful we don't have to worry about her health any more; she is much better off in her glorified body now! One of her last phrases was "I have a new home," and we are so glad she does.

At her funeral on Monday her children shared some memories of her, many of which I didn't know. She was a great mom. And a good cook! My memories of Grandma include traveling to Minnesota at Christmas and during the summer. I would help Grandma set the table or do the dishes. (We loved having a special treat of Jello-Pops!) We enjoyed talking about books we were reading, because Grandma really encouraged my love for reading. She and I were kindred spirits in a lot of ways, I think. One time I remember I needed to help Grandma with some chores at her house, and I wanted to wait until some other family members had left to run an errand (or something). She told me that she was like that too--she preferred to get work down around the house when it was quiet. That made me feel especially close to Grandma. She loved to listen to Christian radio around the house--the love of which she passed down to my mother and me, too! Grandma's love for the Lord was a real testimony to me and has continued to pass down to future generations, as all of her 4 children and 9 grandchildren are walking with the Lord now. She was a prayer warrior! One of my earliest memories of Grandma was when she and Grandpa were visiting us in Michigan, and mom and Grandma were doing dishes while I was folding clothes in the living room. Apparently I was singing, because I overheard Grandma tell Mom that it sounded like I would have a nice soprano voice when I got older. I still remember being pleased that Grandma thought that. She has always loved music and encouraged us to love music, and to love the Lord.

We will miss not having her around, but we are thankful she is enjoying the presence of the Lord. She was 82 years old, and she and Grandpa had been married for 57 years! Things will be different in our family now, but we are thankful we will see Grandma again someday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Melody Bober

One of my favorite piano arrangers is a lady named Melody Bober, who has published lots of hymn arrangements and lots of neat sheet music pieces that are fun for students to play. I played one of her arrangements in church at the beginning of January, and the new home ec teacher at Faith Christian came up to me afterward, very excited, and told me that Melody Bober was her MOTHER! I didn't quite believe her at first, but she was telling the truth. So I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks later when Melody called me, telling me she would be in town visiting President's Day weekend, and wondered if we might play one of her duets in church! How could I pass up that opportunity? The date got closer, and I wasn't sure if it was going to work out because I had forgotten to get a hold of the music, and I had not confirmed if we would be able to play with the music pastor, but in the last few days it all came together! Saturday I was able to get the music and we were able to rehearse and Sunday morning (just for the 9:30 service) I played a duet with Melody Bober in church! What an exciting experience!

Monday, February 18, 2008

February Conference

We enjoyed having 5 ladies stay with us for a week while they attended the Biblical Counseling Conference at our church. We had Lynn Kenny (from Ishpeming, MI), Aunt Louise Helfinstine (Des Moines, IA), Aunt Elaine Kari (Ishpeming, MI), Mom (Ishpeming, MI), and Marcia Karvonen (Negaunee, MI). We were able to house them all (thankfully they didn't mind sharing beds)--and Lynn brought a wonderful air mattress, too.

In our free moments at home we enjoyed putting together a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, although Juju must have eaten one of the pieces--or else it fell on the floor and is lost.

We celebrated Valentine's Day while they were here, so these are the flowers that Dad sent Mom (Dad, this is what they looked like). He also got her a balloon and a card. And Marcia got a teddy bear!

We enjoyed fellowshipping together around food. Sarah and I made some meals for them (tacos, split pea soup, lasagna, and chef salad--and cheescake!) but we also went out to eat. This is at our final destination Saturday morning--IHOP!

We had a great time. Too bad they couldn't stay longer, but we did still make it to the mall (twice)!

Juju enjoyed the extra attention and made herself quite at home with the company!

They left Saturday morning. Hope to see you soon!