Sunday, December 31, 2006

Malicious, Opportunistic, Clever Little Stowaway

Before hitting the road toward Michigan last Friday, the kids and I attended a great little birthday bash for one of Chloe's classmates. During the party, the birthday girl's mother leaned over and said, "Uh, oh. I'm not feeling very well. I don't know if I'm going to make it through the rest of the party." I expressed my sympathy and offered to help serve the grub.

I believe that was when It snuck aboard.

The 12 hour nighttime ride to Michigan was uneventful. We arrived on Saturday, making sure to hug and kiss all the people we love and miss. Saturday night was a Big Family Christmas Party, with extended family hugs and kisses and more food than I should have eaten in a week, much less in one night.

The stowaway made its presence known Saturday night, and I spent 3 hours huddled in a cold bathroom, regretting every over-indulgent bite I had taken that evening.

I spent most of Sunday (Christmas Eve) fighting It, while Steve and the kids headed over to his parents to open gifts. I joined them in the late afternoon, only to discover that It had crept over to courageous Chloe. Chloe opened her gifts with all bravery and perseverance, pausing between gifts to run to the bathroom or lie prone amidst the discarded wrapping paper.

It visited Jonathan on Christmas Day,
Steve on Friday (tho he refuses to admit it),
My nephew on Saturday.
And in a brilliant maneuver, hopped aboard my brother-in-law to travel the seas with him on his holiday cruise.

Clever, clever, little flu bug. You sure know how to get around, no matter how much Lysol we use.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Beyond the First Verse of Christmas

I know the first verses of our Christmas carols so well, right? When it comes time to sing the first verses, I belt them out with all the Christmas spirit I can muster, and it is something to rival the angels.

Then comes the second verse. And the third. And the fourth. Which are sung with sneaked peaks at the song book and slightly less bravado. If I had to sing from memory, I'd average 1 correct word in 3. I simply never paid as much attention to the verses after the first.

Those poor neglected verses.

This year, however, I considered them closely.
And I found that those beautiful verses are the ones who give the meaning to the story of Christmas...

What happens after the baby is born in a stable and laid in a manger?

How am I changed by the story?

How is the world changed by the story?

The latter verses tell.

We're leaving for the homeland tonight, so I'll be taking a blogging sabbatical.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Of Course I'm Sure?

The kids and I were glad to meet up with a friend and her lovely children for an after school snack today. We decided to head to one of the local bagel shops on the Upper West Side. Like most, this shop is cozy, with an ambitious number of chairs and tables for its diminutive floor plan. It's a favorite place for retirees with newspapers and a hour or two to blow.

The kids had been in school for 7 hours and endured a 30 minute bus ride.
They are aged 5, 5, 3, and 1.
They like each other and seem to find one another hilarious to the extreme.
They were...not quiet.

It took us a few minutes to settle into the corner of the place, take off coats, tuck away scooters and strollers.
My friend went to the counter and placed her order while I stood guard. During this time, Jonathan was stricken which such laughter (brought on by his friend's snorting noises) that he fell off his chair. The one year old started to cry and Chloe asked, loudly and repeatedly, "Mom, can I have a cookie?"

My friend returned with her order, and I approached the counter. I told the nice man what I would like, and he said, "To stay or to go?"

"Oh, to stay, please," I said, with my best I'm-a-friendly-type-gal smile.

With a glance toward the moderate mayhem continuing to erupt in the corner, he snorted, "Are you sure?"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why We're Here

From Nancy Pearcey's book, Total Truth:

...Worldview is not an abstract, academic concept. Instead, the
term describes our search for answers to those intensely personal questions everyone must wrestle with--the cry of the human heart for purpose, meaning, and a truth big enough to live by. No one can live without a sense of purpose or
direction, a sense that his or her life has significance as part of a cosmic story. We may limp along for a while, extracting small installments of meaning from short-term goals like earning a degree, landing a job, getting married, establishing a family. But at some point, these temporal things fail to fulfill the deep hunger for eternity in the human spirit. For we were made for God, and every part of our personality is oriented toward relationship with Him. Our hearts are restless, Augustine said, until we find our rest in Him.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Battery Park City

Today we took advantage of the beautiful weather and explored the Battery Park City and Tribeca neighborhoods as possibilities for a church community.

(See them? Down toward the bottom)

Battery Park City was hit hard on 9/11. More than two thirds of the residents fled to escape the dust and debris of the fallen towers (Got that info from Wikipedia, so take it for what it's worth). Soon after, the gov't began offering insane tax incentives to spur redevelopment, and since that time high rise developments have sprouted like very tall, very expensive weeds.

Tribeca has seen some change in the last ten years as well. Many industrial buildings have been converted into residential lofts, and it's the trendy place to live. Tribeca has an subtle vibe of creativity and innovation running through it.

In the past couple of weeks, our eyes were continually drawn to these neighborhoods...people in these areas express a desire for a church that has family-like community mixed with strong, in-depth teaching and preaching.

Many of you are praying for us, and we are grateful for that. This week in your prayers, please ask that we are able to see clearly where God would have us do this work. It's coming down to the wire, and we need to make this decision.

Thank you...

Angela is 30 today.

(Give her a hard time.)
Wish her a Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Good News


These are the languages in which I heard the Christmas story last week.

Ah, was the most beautiful thing I'd heard in many a month.

I couldn't understand the languages, but I understood the breadth and depth of the Love.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Daftly Drafty

One thing that attracted me to our apartment were the soaring windows that occupy an entire wall. Neglecting to consider that our apartment was located on the first floor of a 9 story building and surrounded by numerous other buildings, I actually thought those windows would bring in more light.

And what exactly do those windows bring in?

Not so much.

The windows usher in a brazen and malicious draft that chills the leather of the nearby sofa and encourages the curtains to dance and whisper.
A draft so antisocial it will chase away anyone ignorant or brave enough to sit within 10 feet of the windows.

A draft that relieves any potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

To counter the draft, I've taken to wandering around the apartment in a fleece blanket, wrapped thrice around in a muumuu/sarong/sari style. The blanket is a fire and electrocution hazard, it carries so much static. When I'm cocooned in my blanket the kids fear to come near me, lest the static reach out an aggressive finger and deliver one wallup of a shock. One night I spent some amount of time watching it crackle in the dark, my own miniature fireworks show.

But it keeps out the draft.

The lesser of two evils.

Have yourself a muumuu little Christmas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dutch Bingo

Living in a strong Dutch community in West Michigan for the majority of my life, I became fairly adept at an activity called Dutch Bingo. Dutch Bingo is based on similar principles of the whole "Six Degrees of Separation" theory (where everyone in the world is linked to everyone else by no more than 6 people), or that Kevin Bacon movie game everyone played in college but I was never much good at.

I rocked Dutch Bingo, however.

An example:

Me: Hi, I'm Dana VanDutchwoman. Nice to meet you.
New Person: Yeah, nice to meet you. I'm Dutchie VanVanderMaasma.
Me: VanVanderMaasma...What high school did you go to?
New Person: Excellent High School. Graduated in '92.
Me: Right! Do you have an older brother named Hollander? My best friend dated him for a while.
New Person: Hollander is my cousin. How about you? Where did you grow up...

And so it went. By the end of the conversation, we could usually establish at least a couple points in common, and it was easy to build from there.

My Dutch Bingo talent is all but wasted here, really. This is the best I can do:

Me: Hi, my name is Dana NewNewYorker. Nice to meet you.
New Person: Hi, I'm Joe WestCoaster. Nice to meet you, too.
Me: So, um, do you breathe?
New Person: Yes...?
Me: Hey! Me too! Isn't that great, we've got that in common!

Slight exaggeration, perhaps. Still, the relationships that I've built here are based on no assumptions, which I've found to be an OK thing, because who's to say those assumptions would be true in the first place?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sorry, No Time to Blog...

...too busy negotiating their contract with Carnegie Hall.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Small Things I've Learned Since the Move

  • Over the door shoe organizers are useful for so much more than shoes.
  • It is possible to OD on Starbucks coffee. In fact,
  • I like Dunkin' Donuts coffee more than I do Starbucks. And it's cheaper.
  • You can't overestimate the value of a comfortable, durable pair of shoes.
  • Taking the bus doesn't necessarily save time; it only saves foot wear and tear. But alas,
  • Jonathan gets bus sick quite easily.
  • It's nigh impossible to catch a taxi at 92nd and Broadway at 9:00 am on a weekday.
  • I really, really like a Vietnamese dish called Bun Xao.
  • Any restaurant worth its weight will have the menu items numbered (to help overcome language barriers when ordering for takeout or delivery).
  • Bun Xao is number 78 on the menu at Saigon Grill.
  • I have a thing for bulleted lists on my blog.
  • It is wise to walk around lone wet spots on the sidewalk. Chances are it's dog pee.
  • I have accent envy. European accents in particular. Midwestern accents don't count.
  • Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong is worth a listen. (Nothing to do with NYC, but still.)
  • Our family membership to the Museum of Natural History was a great investment.
  • It takes about one minute to walk one north/south block. If walking with Jonathan, triple or quadruple that.
  • Keeping my feet shoulder width apart while riding the subway decreases the risk of falling into the person standing next to me.
  • My laundry budget is woefully insufficient. Speaking of laundry,
  • If I forget my laundry in the washer or dryer, I can expect to find my clothing (yes, unmentionables, too) scattered across the laundry room table for all to see.
  • Our doorman has an extra key to our apartment, especially handy when I close the door and then realize I don't have my purse.
  • I do love those bulleted lists.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I am an extrovert. And because I am an extrovert, I need to tell you about it.

I am also an optimist, a bit naive, and a tad idealistic. Bear with me.

I know these things not only from the multiple Myers Briggs personality tests that I've taken over the years (ENFP, in case you're wondering), but also from this fact: I am utterly energized by the people of this city.

There are times on the sidewalk when a wave of appreciation for the crowd streaming around me will stop me in my tracks.

Each person, loved by God.
Each person, uniquely created.

What is your joy? I wonder.
What is your pain?
What do you dream?
What stops you from dreaming?
What is your story?

At those times, I am thrilled that my story has crossed paths with the story of the people who shared the sidewalk with me, if only for a moment. I walk on, wondering whose story will intersect with mine in a more comprehensive way.

And I am simply happy that God has brought me to this place.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas is a grand time to be in NYC

We made the pilgrimage through 70 degree temps and spitting rain to Macy's Santa's Toyland last week.

Toyland was a wonderland.

Deliciously gaudy,

Delightfully tacky,

Every Christmas vision a child could have, made tangible.

Happy elves guided us down glimmering paths, each turn revealing another scene of lights and toys and Christmas cheer. And at the end of the path, a particularly elfish elf took the kids by the hand and coaxed them toward Santa's special room (turning their attention away from another elf who was taking another group of children by the hand, coaxing them into the other Santa's special room). Chloe and Jonathan surprised me by marching up to Santa (who had a real beard, I'm convinced) and telling him their heart's Christmas desire. The fact that Santa couldn't understand what they were saying did not pose a problem. He assured them that all would be well on Christmas morning and topped it off by looking at Steve and me and promising that there would be something for us under the tree on Christmas as well.

Afterward, we mulled over the window displays, which were interactive and had full volume sound effects.

Airline tickets to NYC are fairly cheap between now and Christmas week...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

O Tannenbaum...s

Rockefeller Center

The Apartment

Over 75 feet tall vs. 4 feet tall...
But ours was lit first.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

At Least We Won't Have to Worry About Sunday School Curriculum

What a boon to discover this song on another blog earlier today! When the time comes for our church to have children's programming, we'll just put this video on loop and call it good.
I don't know why any Sunday schools use anything else.

"Honor thy father and mother,
The Bible makes it clear.
When you break the rules,
God help you fool,
you got Mr. T to fear!"

Then again, perhaps not.

C.S. Lewis on Love

I was doing some research on love for a newsletter at work, and I found these quotes from C.S. Lewis. While they are not right for my work newsletter, they are true and beautiful nonetheless.

So, I share them with you and hope you are blessed.

If it is maintained that anything so small as the Earth must, in any event, be too unimportant to merit the love of the Creator, we reply that no Christian ever supposed we did merit it. Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely.

Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.
Mere Christianity

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that he may love and perfect them.
The Four Loves
I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e. at the expense of our love for Him) but in another way we love everything too little. No person, animal, flower, or even pebble, has ever been loved too much--i.e. more than every one of God's works deserves.
Letters to an American Lady

Monday, November 27, 2006

Meal Planning 101

I flipped through some cookbooks this morning, looking for a dinner recipe that would use the ingredients I currently have in my lean kitchen (spaghetti noodles, 1 lb of frozen ground turkey, and some cheese slices that may or may not be real cheese).

It wasn't a fruitful search. I wasn't surprised.

Planning for meals is more difficult for me than the actual preparation. I'm not alone in this. I can remember certain afternoons when my mom would give up pondering the "What's for Dinner?' question and whip together a certain concoction called Rice and Raisins. Mmmm. We kids were in for a treat on Rice and Raisins night... a big dish of white rice and steamed raisins, topped with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. All carbs, no protein, no vitamins, no vegetables, no anything "good for you." We loved it. I haven't had Rice and Raisins in at least 15 years, and I can still recall the taste.

I have a friend who wasn't so fortunate when his mom didn't know what to make for dinner. He got a gourmet dish which his mother called Loose Meat. What is Loose Meat? It is browned ground beef. In a pile. On a plate. With onions mixed in on a good night.

My "I Give Up" meal is usually bacon and eggs. If we have bacon. Otherwise it's just eggs.

Steve doesn't complain; he eats with relish and thanks me.

Then 30 minutes later he eats his way through every snack food box and bag in the cupboard.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Location, Location, Location

Steve and I have been thinking and praying more than ever about where exactly in NYC to begin forming a church community.

Yesterday we explored the possibility of Brooklyn Heights, sometime home of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Brooklyn Heights is one stop across the East River from the financial district (See the awesome view above. I accidentally cut off the Statue of Liberty, but if I hadn't done that, you'd see her on the left). Because of its convenient proximity to Wall Street, Brooklyn Heights is a popular place for white collar professionals. This neighborhood is quaint, full of brownstones and mature trees. It's more subdued, less glittery-seductive than Manhattan, but it's also less transient. There are more families there too, which would influence the tenor of the ministry.
Steve and I both look forward to the time when this decision will be made and we can begin getting to know the particular community in depth. It's like making a new friend, learning and sharing bit by bit, pleasantly surprised by commonalities and enriched by differences.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Of Things Thanksgiving

We had a plan, and the plan was as follows:

  • Gather up snacks, hot chocolate, warm blankets, and deck of cards

  • Locate and don long underwear, snow pants, mittens, hats, scarves

  • Claim a section of sidewalk along Central Park West at approx. 6:30 am

  • Make friends with fellow settlers to decrease the likelihood of sidewalk theft in the case of absence due to bathroom breaks

  • Settle in the for the long haul

  • Enjoy one of the best parades in the world

We forgot to add a crucial element: Find a way to manipulate the weather.


Yesterday afternoon it became clear that the weather was not going to be in a similar state come parade time, and we abandoned the parade plans. As a substitute, we walked to the area around the Museum of Natural History and watched hundreds of people in Macy's jumpsuits inflate the gargantuan balloons.

This morning, with Steve in NJ on a preaching assignment, the kids and I still made hot chocolate and watched the parade--in our apartment. Jonathan lasted for a full 5 minutes, then pronounced that the parade was only for mamas and girls. Chloe and I watched the whole thing, loving every Broadway song and celebrity endorsement. And with every soggy float that rolled across the screen, I was incredibly thankful that we were warm and dry indoors. It is Thanksgiving, after all.

After the parade, Chloe and I discussed the best way to decorate the apartment for Christmas, considering that we left our boxes of decorations in Michigan. We searched for supplies and started to create.

The not-too-shabby-if-a-bit-resembling-a-classroom results:

Good Morning

A sleepy city stirs,
Awakens with a snort
Of garbage trucks and subway squeals.
Opens its storefront eyelids,
Wipes the night from its sidewalks.
Inhales the silence,
And merges into the current of the day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ask My Kids...

...and they'd probably tell you that Daddy Airplane is the best game ever invented.

Not so sure what Steve would say. Or rather, what Steve's back and legs would say.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Careening Career Considerations

This past week, Steve had a conversation with a woman who plays a character in the Beauty and the Beast broadway show. One of the mothers from Chloe's kindergarten class works in textiles, and I'm not sure what that entails except that she travels to Milan and other exotic locales on a regular basis. Chloe had a playdate today, and I learned that this little girl's mother has written a relatively successful book and is running a flourishing consulting business.

These are some inspiring people.

So much so that they've inspired me to write a list of potential jobs that have crossed my mind at least once since we've moved:

  • Hotel Concierge. Mostly I just want to know enough about New York that I would be qualified to be a concierge. I wouldn't actually have to be the concierge.
  • Broadway Usher. And if I could rotate among all shows, that'd be great.
  • European Shoe Store Sales Associate. Comfortable footwear plus discounts equals good idea in these parts.
  • Today Show...Person. I really don't care what the position is. Just let me see how it all works. And hang out with Matt, Meredith, and Anne.
  • High Powered Corporate So and So. Just to see if I could hack it.
  • Central Park Horse Carriage Driver. But not in the winter. And I'd have to get over thinking of that Seinfeld episode when Kramer fed his horse all that chili or hash or whatever it was with its odoriferous consequences.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Steve: Chloe, Chloe, how was your trip to the art museum?
Chloe: Good.
Steve: What did you do there?
Chloe: Looked at things.
Steve: What kind of things?
Chloe: Art things. I'm eating my snack now.

But Does It Top a Visit to the Gypsum Mines?

Chloe's class is gallivanting off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today. I think it's so great that she has the opportunity, that we are here in a city that can offer something so beautiful. However, I am unclear about how they will help a group of 25 kindergartners and first graders to resist the urge to run their hands up and down the alluring textures of VanGogh, et al.

I vaguely recall my own early elementary class trip to the (defunct) gypsum mines in West Michigan. And the water treatment plant. And the biggy: Gerald R Ford Museum.

I hope Chloe appreciates her trip more than I did mine. Mysteriously, seeing Betty Ford's inauguration dress just didn't do it for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Learning and Re-learning: Grace

If you checked my blog a few hours ago, you might have read a post where I, in detail, outlined some personal struggles. About 4 or 5 paragraphs told the stories of my failures, while 1 or 2 sentences spoke of God's grace in the midst of those failures.

What a backwards ratio.

So now, in this post, I will tell you that living in this city has brought some dark spots in my life to the surface, and I ask for forgiveness and am working to brighten them. That's enough to tell. What I really want to share with you is this: God's grace is sufficient for me and my dark spots.

Philip Yancey, in one of my favorite books of all time, What's So Amazing about Grace?, says this:

Grace makes it's appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it. I am ready, though to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more--no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes (no amount of moving to New York City to start churches). And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less--no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.
Ahh. Now that is a better ratio.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting in the Game

A few weeks ago, I attended a Redeemer seminar entitled "Christian Family Living in the the City: A Long-term View." Tim Keller shared this thought...I've heard it before, but every time I hear it, I think, "Well, doesn't that just make sense?"

Christians complain we are 'losing the culture', but relatively tiny social groups who live disproportionately in cities have far more influence on the culture than evangelical Christians who live disproportionately outside of cities. Jim Boice (in his book Two Cities Two Loves, p.167ff.) asserted that since 50% of the U.S. population lives in cities then only if at least 50% of evangelicals lived in the cities longterm--simply raised their families there and took jobs and served the whole city (unlike some urban 'enclaves') can we expect to see ourselves having any cultural impact at all. He then added that only if we lived disproportionately in cities (more than 50%) would we see great cultural impact.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

48 Hours with My Family

Times Square Toys R Us ferris wheel subway subway subway bus Today Show Central Park walk in the sushine shuffle the leaves playground subway Upper West Side Upper East Side subway subway Staten Island Ferry Statue of Liberty walk Chloe's School Fifth Avenue subway Disney Store People People People subway Hard Rock Cafe Times Square wait in line for broadway tickets Vietnamese Food Riverside Park Soldiers and Sailors Monument subway walk Broadway shows shopping walk walk walk walk Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Indian Food.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I am The Church

Chloe participated in a cool blog project that was organized by a creative fellow named Joshua Longbrake.

Check it: Love in the Key of Longbrake

(And no, I'm not sure why the person on Chloe's picture is frowning. Perhaps because there is an arrow sticking out of his head.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Those Pictures I was Talking About

I never would have known a neighborhood like this existed inside the city limits.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Home sick/Homesick

Home Sick

Chloe stayed home from school today. She's got a cough that's been tagging along with her to kindergarten for the last two weeks, and I thought it was getting better. Until last night, when she started a whole new chorus of coughs and cackles. We went to see the doctor this morning, and he told me her lungs are crystal clear and Cold Number One has been joined by its friend, Cold Number Two, and they should both be on their way out of town soon enough.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share one of the best Home Sick activities that I've ever done with the kids. This recipe creates a kind of squishy clay that keeps them occupied for at least an hour.

Gooey Gunk
Solution A:
1 cup water
1 cup Elmer's All Purpose Glue (don't use off brand or school glue)
7-10 drops food coloring
Solution B:
1 1/3 cups warm water
4 tsp. Borax laundry booster
Mix ingredients in Solution A together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix Solution B until the Borax is completely dissolved. Slowly pour the Solution A into Solution B. Do not mix! Roll Solution A around in Solution B 4 or 5 times. Lift Solution A out and knead for 2-3 minutes. All set! Store in a ziplock bag. Keeps for a couple weeks.
And on to...
Our family took the train out to Forest Hills, Queens yesterday so Steve could preach at a church there. It was a beautiful neighborhood, a beautiful fall day, a beautiful experience that caused me to miss our old Ottawa Hills 'hood. Here are some pics.
Well, Blogger is not being picture friendly, so I'll try again in a while. For now, you'll just have to take my word for it about the beauty.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Time Wounds All Heels

Steve's foot has been giving him grief lately, and he finally broke down and went to the podiatrist. Turns out his pain is caused by all the walking he's been doing. The doc said that he sees a dozen people each week that have similar injuries...all new to the city, all with tender tootsies not used to pounding the pavement.

Speaking of pounding the pavement, the NYC Marathon is tomorrow and it is a Big Deal. Roads closed, references to the run everywhere, media coverage madness. Last night on the news there was a segment called, "How to be Nice to Your Body after the Big Run," which might have been interesting if I ever ran for more than the bus. Point is, the producers assumed that enough viewers are running the race (or wish they were)that such a segment would be worthwhile.

In more walking-related news, Steve and I (and a sleeping Jonathan in his stroller) spent yesterday afternoon taking a walking tour of Hell's Kitchen. I am still surprised by the individual feel of each neighborhood in this city. HK, with its industrial atmosphere, reminded me of Chicago. There would be some advantages to planting a church there--because the neighborhood is still being "revitalized," space would be more affordable. A drawback (and a large drawback, at that) is that public transportation doesn't reach very far into HK. It would be difficult for anyone who lived outside of the neighborhood to get into it. Still, it is exciting to walk through a place and imagine what impact a church could have there.

Tomorrow, Steve is preaching at a church plant in Forest Hills (that's Forest Hills, Queens). He's looking forward to putting on his preaching pants again (I meant that figuratively, but he really does have a pair of pants that he usually wears when he preaches).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Who is the Superhero here?

Check out the look of unadulterated hero worship that Spidey is giving his big sister,
The Oblivious Angel.
I love it.
Halloween is a big deal here (understatement), although we played it relatively low-key. We joined in with the rest of the families in the neighborhood for a costume parade . Led by bagpipes, about 200 kids with about 400 parents, nannies, grandmas, and other random adults walked a quarter mile down the street and ended in the local playground. There, we costume-watched, listened to more bagpipes, and enjoyed donuts and cider.
And when we were done with that, we went to the roof of our building and watched light kiss the buildings around us as the sun set.

Further Evidence of a PK in the Making

Jonathan's Sunday school teacher tells me that she appreciates how Jonathan is always eager to participate in the class...what she doesn't appreciate is how hard it is to keep a straight face sometimes. She relayed this to me last week.

The children were gathered around the teacher on the rug, listening carefully to the story. The teacher spoke of Abraham and Sarah, and of their trust in God, and of their obedience. She told how God blessed them with almost everything they could want: land, animals, servants.
But there was one thing that Abraham and Sarah didn't have, one thing they wanted very badly. The teacher made her arms into a cradle and gently swayed back and forth. She asked the children, "What do you think that one thing was?"
Jonathan applied all his mental capabilities to the task, thought hard for a moment, and said, "I know! A robot!"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Open House

In the 8 1/2 years that we've been married, Steve and I have regularly attended and/or joined no less than 6 churches. Before you label us "church hoppers," please know that the majority of these church changes have had to do with either a) moving or b) Steve's career change.

And you know what? It's not easy to become integrated into a church community. People in churches already have friends who know them, who have a shared history, who can share jokes over coffee after the worship service. And the newbies, if they're anything like me, will stand awkwardly in the crowd for a few minutes and then bolt out the door. Honestly, that time of "fellowship" after the service can be brutal for a person who is new to the congregation.

It was always nice when people introduced themselves to us and welcomed us to the church. But often, what happened (and please, I know I'm guilty of this, too) is that the brief introductions were as far as it went...the next Sunday, the people were back in their circle of friends and we, the newbies, were bolting out the door, too intimidated to break into the tight-knit group.

But here's what made the difference: People invited us into their homes. I was always thrilled to be invited, thrilled that someone cared enough about getting to know me and my family that they would extend the invitation. When people invited us into their homes, they made themselves vulnerable to us--see, this is where we live our lives... this piece of furniture that was my great-grandmother's, this piano that I never play in public, this dog with the obedience issue, these books that I read, this room that hasn't been redecorated for 15 years...And in response to this gift of hospitality, we felt more comfortable sharing our stories and our lives. I couldn't have cared less if the plates were chipped or if they were fine china. The food could have been frozen TV dinners, and it wouldn't have mattered. What mattered was that we were becoming part of the community.

I'm thinking about this today because Steve suggested we invite an acquaintance to our apartment for dinner, and my first reaction was, "No way. Our apartment is too small. We don't even have a proper table to eat on. What would I cook in this tiny kitchen that could possibly impress this man?"
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Was I actually going deny this man hospitality because things wouldn't be perfect? In my pride, I easily forget the power of Christian community.

I've enjoyed a book, Re-imagining Spiritual Formation, which tells the story of Solomon's Porch Community, a church in Minneapolis. In this book, Pastor Doug Pagitt and the SP members talk about their Wednesday night dinners, which are large, informal gatherings that happen in members' homes. What I remember clearly is how Doug explains that they intentionally leave tasks incomplete--the table unset, the salad untossed, that sort of thing-- so that anyone who wants to can join in and be part of the group effort. Perfection is not the goal; building community is. It sounds lovely, and I would love to invite myself to a Solomon's Porch Wednesday night dinner sometime. Better yet, I'd love to start something similar here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

And it was indeed a good pizza experience.

Found this on the side of our pizza box tonight.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pop Culture Edition

One of the mothers from Chloe's school thinks Chloe is a dead ringer for Katherine Heigl, the actress who plays Izzie on Grey's Anatomy. Hmm. Maybe.


If you find yourself missing Dwight Schrute or Michael Scott, and Thursday just seems too far away, check out this link.
Steve and I saw Tim Robbins in Greenwich Village last night. (He's almost as tall as Steve).
Tim joins Liv Tyler, Cynthia Nixon, and Caroline Rhea on the Celebrity Sighting List.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Last night, someone suggested that we plant a church in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. Hell's Kitchen is named as such because there is a warm wind that tunnels through the neighborhood in the summer months, but Hell's Kitchen was also a not-so-nice place for a time. It's changed a lot in the past decades and more families are starting to live there.

Both Steve and I find the potential for a "Hell's Kitchen Community Church" quite intriguing.

It's a "wicked" juxtaposition of words and concepts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Recently I've had an interesting ongoing conversation with a girl (she's the same age as me, probably qualifies as a woman or something equally mature, but I don't feel old enough to be called a woman, so Girl, it is) re: the role of comfort in Christian community. It all started when one of the moms in our Wednesday morning group called and said she wasn't going to come anymore; she just wasn't comfortable there. Which made us all feel a bit sad for her and disappointed that we had failed to help her feel comfortable.

But then this new, wise friend of mine asked, "Is that what it's about? Feeling comfortable?"
She explained that she deliberately chose to attend this particular group even though there was another group with more people like her, more people with the same ethnicity and similar backgrounds. And she told how the first few months at this group were hard and she felt out of place and didn't know what to talk about and many times ended up sitting alone during the social portion of the morning (I nodded my head yes and yes; I'd been sitting by myself for a time that particular morning already). "But," my friend said, "if I only hang around with other Christians that are just like me, how am I growing? If we're all just like each other, our Christianity becomes more of a cultural thing than a true community thing...we talk the same, we do the same things...we sin the same, and who is going to call us out on that when we're all in on it?"

"True," I said. Then I thought of the woman who was no longer going to attend our group and asked, "But how can growth occur if someone is feeling so uncomfortable that they are unable to participate, if they're so uncomfortable that they dread interacting with the group and make excuses to not attend?"

And we talked more about how Christ never promised us the kind of comfort we were talking about (pretty much the opposite, really), but we are still social human beings and have a strong need to feel accepted and Part of the Group. And we wondered, when is it OK to be comfortable, and when is God asking us to be uncomfortable so that we may grow and better contribute to His kingdom?

No one had a straight-up answer.

Like I said, this is an on-going conversation. Go ahead an join us if you'd like.

Friday, October 20, 2006


(You'll need Flashplayer to see this. If you still can't see it, try this link.)

Earlier this week I hopped on the subway to travel downtown to put in my volunteer hours at Chloe's school. With each stop more people clamored aboard, and after 2 or 3 stops the train was so full that there wasn't room for one more body. I saw a teenage boy hurl himself through the open doors into the mass of people only to be crudely ricocheted back onto the platform. It was that full.

I found myself in the middle of the jumble, trying to find an appropriate place to rest my eyes....
I'll tilt my head this, I don't really want to look at that woman's rear end for 15 minutes
Maybe if I turn over here...*cough* that's some coffee breath you have, sir
Here,, my face is so close to that woman I could accidentally kiss her cheek if the train jerks

You get the picture. I ended up looking at the ceiling and at my neighbors' hands grasping the bars above their heads, noticing how much a good manicure can do to make a person's hands look decent. I also started thinking about the rules of etiquette in regard to public transportation. They are as follows:

  • Pretend with all your might that you aren't pressed in on all sides by complete strangers.

In other words, being polite means ignoring people.
This idea wouldn't fly too far in the Midwest, where making small talk is a sign of friendly respect. Steve and I, being the Midwestern extroverts that we are, test the boundaries of this rule of etiquette regularly. We're learning, but it wouldn't be so bad if we don't learn it too well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


A glimpse of our dinner conversation this evening:

Dana: Chloe, anything interesting at school today?
Chloe: We had Bible.
Dana: Oh yeah? What story?
Chloe: The tower of Babylon and the story about Joseph. Not the Joseph that had a baby, you know, with Mary, but the other Joseph.
Steve: Oh, the Joseph with the jealous brothers?
Chloe: Yeah. And God was going to kill all the little babies in Egypt.
Dana: I think you're talking about the story when Pharoah was the one who was going to do the killing...
Jonathan: Yeah! All the Israelites were going to die because...they were Israelites! And Jonah was going to kill them! With a HUGE whale!
Chloe: (with scorn) Sheesh! Jonah was a GOOD guy. He was a prophet.

We've got some excellent PK's in the making.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Here's the Deal

  • I have a deal. As in, "Dana, what's your deal?" which was asked ever so lovingly and not at all accusingly by Steve earlier today.

    I have been a bit snarky the last few days; it's because all the adrenaline is gone, and I may have been a bit addicted.
    The apartment is settled and cozy.
    Chloe is tucked away safely at school and is flourishing (I think one of the little kinderboys may even have a crush. She's been getting notes and he pulled out her braids).
    Steve is officially ordained, working hard and working well.
    Jonathan is his sweet, funny self, making me laugh all day long.
    Public transportation is no longer intimidating.
    I can make my way down crowded streets with the best of them.
    My New York drivers license came in the mail, making me an official resident of the Big Apple.

    Things are good.

    Things are as settled as they've been in a long time.

    And I'm not sure what to do with my Type A self.

    I recognize the irony in the fact that I've come to bustling NYC to learn how to slow down. It's a lesson long overdue. It will be my challenge to be a gracious student.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday Night Out

This evening the family detoured to Dylans Candy Bar, a two story cornucopia of all things sugar (they even have imported Cadbury stuff, Clayton. One more reason you need to get here...). Steve and I gave the kids each 3 bucks and told them to go wild. We spent a good hour looking and relooking, until Jonathan decided on Jelly Bellies and Chloe went for the (less than) appetizing Make Your Own Gummy Pizza.

It was in the check out line when Chloe leaned in close and whispered,
"Mama, this place is my wonderland."

In that case, it's my wonderland too, Kiddo.

All in all, a good way to spend a Saturday night out.

Quintessential New Yorker?

Our small group morphed again last night and we welcomed 3 new people into the group. As we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, shared something interesting, small group small talk, etc... it became apparent that out of the 6 people in the room, a total of none had been in the city longer than 3 months. Which caused us to ask, "Of all the people you've met here, how many of them have been born and raised in the city? All boroughs included?"

One guy could think of one. I could think
That's it.

People love to make sweeping statements about New Yorkers. And they're not always complimentary.

New Yorkers are rude.
New Yorkers are disillusioned.
New Yorkers say it like it is.
New Yorkers are...whatever.

But who are these rude, disillusioned, straight-talking New Yorkers? People are arriving here every day from everywhere in the world, and they are taking with them their own cultural values. These values may or may not be in line with the New York stereotypes. Chances are not.
And if indeed the city as a whole promotes a certain attitude or worldview, how long does it take for someone to adopt that worldview, if at all?

Who is the quintessential New Yorker?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Today at a Glance

Our apartment is down this street.

Looking north on Broadway. That's our subway station.

Chloe picked out some irises for my birthday from this corner market.

Jonathan is becoming accustomed to the local cuisine.

Chloe tells me that rolling down the knee socks is all the rage with the kindergarten girls.