Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Experiencing all the fun St. Louis has to offer

If you remember, in a previous post, we were debating about whether to go to MoBot or the Magic House on Friday July 20. We thought probably the Magic House because it's mostly indoors and the week had been hot. Surprisingly, Thursday started cooling off and Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we opted for MoBot so we could enjoy the beautiful weather. Hannah had a blast playing in the Children's Garden, climbing on the ropes, going down slides, playing music, and especially playing in the water area. See the evidence below!

As Don already reported, that next Sunday we visited St. John Ellisville for worship and ended up signing Hannah up for their Vacation Bible School program. It was a great program and we may go back next summer too. She told us after the first day that they played Duck, Duck, Goose, but she "didn't have the choice to run and go in the tea pot." I tried to clarify the statement, and she confirmed that she didn't get to go in the "mushroom pot." Here's a shot of their chapel time with the horse that Hannah just loved.

Here's a photo of Marc & Anissa Marmolejo's twin boys - they are way too cute and growing strong. We're going to visit them in Texas at the end of August - can't wait!

Braden and Jaxson Marmolejo

My Mom is awesome and sent us money for a shelf/organizer for Hannah's room. Now it is much less of a disaster and Hannah enjoys that fact that she can find her toys when she wants them. She loves playing dress-up with her many necklaces, bracelets, purses and hats. Here's a photo of her and her shelf - she told us she dressed up "to go to a meeting!" She might liven up a church board meeting with her outfit, that's for sure!

Finally, we came across a baby photo of Don when we were moving in. We think he's about 1 year old (maybe his first birthday?) and we were instantly struck by how much Elizabeth looks like him! After hearing for 3 years about how much Hannah looks like me and her Noni (but not her daddy), now Don has a daughter that looks like him. (We think Hannah has Mommy's looks and Daddy's personality...while Elizabeth has more Daddy's looks and Mommy's personality...what going to happen if we have a third child!!??) Anyway, let us know if you agree about the resemblance:

Don took his mid-term for his New Testament class yesterday and did well. He gave a presentation today with another student on 2 Corinthians, which he chose because of its emphasis on Godly stewardship. He feels blessed that his first seminary presentation focused on God's direction for how we're to use the resources He entrusts to us.

Time to go make dinner. We love you all and miss home, though we're also thankful that we're settling in here and enjoying all the fun stuff there is to do (we went to the Magic House today - more on that later!).

God's peace and blessings,
--Stacye & co.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The New Testament in a Whole New Way

DR: Hi there! I am happy to report that I am half-way through my New Testament class...well, almost. On Monday, we have a mid-term exam, which will test our knowledge of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts. Then, on Friday (8/3), we take our final, which will cover the entire New Testament.

I described to Stacye and another friend of mine last night what it's like to study the New Testament and Old Testament--from a seminary professor--in such a compressed amount of time.

It's like drinking from a fire hose, and then being asked to describe the individual drops of water I've swallowed...and in what order!

The amount of detail we are required to absorb for our exams is rather daunting, but through ongoing prayer and focused study, I continue to learn new and amazing insights about God's Word each day, so that as a pastor and teacher, I can faithfully share the Gospel and equip others to share God's message of eternal life...so that all may know Jesus.

As the Apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 4:10-11, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."

It has been such an incredible blessing to study God's Word full-time, and I'm only in my first month on the job! It is only because of the blessed support we continue to receive from our friends, family, and the seminary that I am able to focus full-time on my studies at this time; a tremendous blessing indeed. Thank you for your continued support, through your gifts and prayers. We are incredibly grateful!

Do also continue to let us know how we can be praying specifically for you and your loved ones. Many people have done so, and it is a blessing and privilege for us to be in prayer for you. We pray together as a family every day, and we keep an updated prayer list prominently displayed in our house, as a reminder to lift you up to the Lord each day. You can call us or email us with your prayer requests (or even just send us a quick "hello"), at rayfamilyblog@gmail.com.

We'll write more very soon...Stacye tells me there are pictures coming...so bookmark us (if you haven't already) and check back often!

God's grace, love, and richest blessings to you!
Don & The Beautiful Trio

Sunday, July 22, 2007

St. John('s)!? In Missouri?!

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

We had the opportunity to worship today at St. John Lutheran Church in Ellisville, Missouri, about 20 miles west/southwest of Concordia Seminary, where we live. With about 4,000 members (according to an elder we met today) and approximately 2,500 souls in worship on a given weekend, it is one of the largest churches (if not *the* largest church) in the national Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

We enjoyed it so much (as did Hannah) that we signed Hannah up for their Vacation Bible School (VBS), which starts tomorrow!

The worship was terrific and the people we met were quite friendly. Rev. Dr. Stephen Hower preached on "Fear and Courage" as found in Joshua 3, where Joshua leads the new generation of Israelites across the river Jordan into the Promised Land. The message was particularly enjoyable for Don, who had just finished studying the Old Testament and had the Book of Joshua fresh on his heart and mind.

The music team lead the congregation in song that filled the sanctuary and your soul! Hannah had a huge smile on her face and was dancing in the aisle--literally--as the praise team sang away! (We were sitting in the very last row up in the balcony, so she didn't create too much of a distraction!) :-) (Interesting side note: their "stand-in" music leader was a young lady who is on summer break from Concordia Irvine, where she is studying in--you guessed it--their music program).

St. John Ellisville has an elementary school onsite; a "Next Generation" emphasis, with dedicated spaces for youth and young adults; a small bookstore; and a cafeteria downstairs that the school uses during the week, which the church uses during weekends for wedding receptions and breakfast/brunch service before and after church. The buildings are multi-level and built immediately adjacent to one another--connected by internal hallways--so the footprint of the entire campus is remarkably small for as much punch as it packs. Take a look at the satellite image (from Google Maps) here and you'll see what we mean.

This is the third church we've visited in three weeks--each of the ones we've visited have been as different as you can imagine, and each a blessing to the community in their own special way. We may continue to "church hop" until Don gets assigned to his field work church in the Fall; from then on we will worship there, whatever church that may be (there are about 150 LCMS churches in the greater St. Louis area).

Tomorrow, Don starts his New Testament class, which will run for two weeks. About 5 weeks from now, Fall classes start...and that's when Greek begins and the intensity of seminary academic life will really begin to kick in.

Thank you for your continued love and support. Do let us know how you are doing, so we can be praying for you--you can click the email link at the top right of our website and send us your prayer requests there; we'd love to specifically be in prayer for you, your family and loved ones.

God's love and richest blessings,
DER, SJR, HGR, EJR :-) :-) :-) :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Mr. Ray got an 'A'"

God is good! Don got an A- in his Old Testament class! They took the final today and he scored 90/100 (you know, nothing is perfect this side of Heaven...and truth be told, no one in the class got a perfect score). He starts his New Testament class on Monday, which will eventually include an oral presentation on one of the epistles.

DR: It is such a blessing to be in God's Word for as long as I get to be each day; there's just nothing like it. My first professor, Pastor Mark Hoehner (who serves in his "day job" as Senior Pastor at Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church, about 30 minutes north of the seminary) said on Day One of our class, "You have to stay in the Word. And that doesn't just mean for your job, or for sermon preparation; you have to read it for yourself. Spend at least 90 minutes to two hours every day in the Word, and God will fill you and prepare you for ministry." Wonderful advice, and I took it to heart, starting the very next day. Hearkens back to John 15:1-8, "I am the vine and you are the branches...if a man remains in Me, and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing..."

God is so good.

Thanks again so very much for your continued love, prayers, and support. We love you.
Don, Stacye Jo, Hannah-boo, and Bethie :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chugging along

No, not chugging beer, though Don may feel like it about about this time tomorrow. Tomorrow (Thursday), is his first chance to take the Old Testament exam. I've been quizzing him on the major and minor prophets and he also went to a study group last night. So pray for him along with me that he passes his test with flying colors and doesn't have to go back to class on Friday.

If he has Friday off, we'll probably go find something fun to do here in St. Louis. Probably either the Missouri Botanical Garden (MoBot) or The Magic House (St. Louis Children's Museum). We feel really blessed because the MOPS Steering Team at St. John's chipped in and bought us season passes to MoBot and our good friends the Josephson and Martinez-Ekegren families bought us season passes to The Magic House. These are two very popular St. Louis destinations and they're great for families and kids.

We visited MoBot when we were here last fall and really enjoyed it. We were there all day and still didn't see it all. They have a great kids' section and a lake where kids can feed huge koi fish.

Hannah playing in the kids' section of MoBot in October of '06

We've never been to The Magic House but have heard great things about it and are really looking forward to our first visit. I'm thinking we may go there on Friday because it has been really hot and humid these past few days. Almost everything at MoBot is outside, but much (or all?) of The Magic House is inside. Wherever we decide, we'll take lots of pictures and post some of them soon.

Join us as well in welcoming Jackson and Braden Marmolejo, the 2-day-old twin sons of our dear friends, Marc & Anissa. The Marmolejos live in Texas now and we miss them tons. They are Hannah's godparents and we are godparents to their daughter Isabella. We are planning to go visit them in Texas in August and can't wait. Please keep them all in your prayers for continued good health. Congratulations and God's blessings to all 6 Marmolejos!

Also - today is my mom, Jill's birthday. Happy Birthday Mom - we miss you!

Another wonderful blessing - a friend from St. John's Bakersfield sent us a huge box of diapers for Elizabeth. Thank you so much for your love and support - we are truly grateful.

With love,
Stacye & the samily (as Hannah says)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Updates and pictures

Finally - an update!

Don is in class right now - today marks the half-way point of his Old Testament class already. He's also having his first one-on-one meeting with a seminary advisor - a "getting to know you" visit, which marks the first in a series of several visits like it over the next few years that the seminary will use to aid in Don's pastoral assignments and his ultimate placement.

I just uploaded lots of recent pictures from my camera to our computer, so I'll use those as an outline for my post. Ready? Here we go!
Fourth of July

Here's our big July 4th celebration - sitting around the apartment! Actually, we had planned on going downtown for the celebration and fireworks, but it was supposed to rain and the fireworks didn't start until after 9:00. We decided not to risk the rain and keeping the girls out 2-3 hours past their bedtime, so we stayed home and watched the downtown fireworks on TV. Exciting huh?

Elizabeth rolls over! (Cue the crying.)

Here's a picture of her first trick. Bethie is doing the same thing her big sister did - she rolls over from back to front, and then cries frantically because she can't figure out how to get off her face. Pretty much any time she's left on her back, she rolls over. She only rolls toward her left side so far - she needs some practice I guess.

Our first summer storm

Daddy was in class and we kept hearing loud thunder and seeing lightning. Finally the skies opened up and Hannah and I just had to go outside and experience the rain. Our porch collects quite a puddle of water when it rains, so Hannah's favorite part was splashing and playing in the water. (After the storm, we use the push broom to push a waterfall of water down the stairs - fun!) I took this picture shortly before I found Hannah on all fours trying to drink the rain water. Yes, you heard me right - trying to drink from the puddle. I guess when you're three and you've never seen a rain puddle before, it makes perfect sense (remember, we're from Bakersfield, where .10 of an inch is a flood). Shoulda taken that picture!

Our view

On the left is the view out the den window - Don's "study view." On the right is the view out Hannah's (eventually both girls') bedroom window. I can't wait to see it in the fall! Our apartment is in a great location - on "the circle" so we get less traffic, positioned to get great cooling cross breezes, and with this awesome view out the back windows. God's creation is just beautiful!

The Zoo
The girls and I had our first real outing since we've been here. We went to the awesome, free St. Louis Zoo. Can you believe the third-highest-rated zoo in the country doesn't cost anything to get in?! And it's less than 2 miles from our house! If you get there in the first hour the zoo opens, the Conservation Carousel and the Children's Zoo are also free. I had hoped to go to both, but by the time I made a wrong turn and wound a ridiculously long way out of my way, we only had time for the Carousel. Now that we know how to get there and where to park, next time we'll try the Children's Zoo and report back on that.

This elephant fountain was one of Hannah's favorite parts of the zoo. She loved kneeling on the ledge and putting her hands in the water.

Well, Don will be home soon and I've got to start on dinner. It was fun updating you - we'll do more soon. Love to everyone - we miss you! Keep in touch - please comment on the blog so we know you were here, or call or email. God's blessings to all,
--Stacye & co.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Good news! We found the toilet paper, we can usually find our shoes, and we haven't yet needed an alarm clock!

Don will need an alarm clock on Monday, July 9, when his classes begin (although his first class starts at 12:45pm...so if he's still asleep by the time noon rolls around, we're in trouble...) Don will be taking Old Testament for two weeks, 4 hours a day in class plus homework and extensive reading, and then New Testament for two weeks, the same.

We've learned that there are only about 95 guys in Don's first-year class, the smallest Concordia Seminary has had in the last 5-7 years.

We went to our first community barbeque last night, which happens every Friday during the summer. Everyone who wants to come brings meat to grill and a dish to share, and we sit under the huge shade trees outside our apartment and enjoy each other's company for about 2 or 3 hours. It was a lot of fun, and the kids got to run around and play while the moms and Pastor-to-be dads jib jabbed about life. God is good, and the seminary community is very welcoming and warm; we are blessed to be living on campus and getting to know such great folks so quickly.

We will write more soon...still settling in to the new digs, but life is beginning to feel somewhat normal again, after all.

God's love and richest blessings to you and yours--
The Rays

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


"Somewhere" is our favorite word around here lately..."Where are my shoes?" "Somewhere."

"Where did we pack the alarm clocks?" "Somewhere."

"Do we have any toilet paper?" "Somewhere..."

I think we'll be using that word quite a bit for the next few weeks or so.

We are settling in, though, which is nice. The kitchen (which is bigger than my kitchen in Bakersfield) is mostly unpacked. The girls' room is unpacked, though totally disorganized. The computers are up and running, including the internet. Everything else is about half-way unpacked. We'll get there eventually, I suppose.

Tonight we took Grammies to Fitz's for dinner (though she ended up paying, so I guess she took us). Even though Hannah hasn't had a real nap in about two weeks, she was a jumping bean during dinner. Don asked her, "Where do you get all this energy from, girl?" and her response was, "I got it from Christmas." Ha-ha.

Well, I think I need to head toward bed - I'm exhausted and we have a busy day tomorrow. We're planning to keep unpacking in the morning and head down to the waterfront/downtown for July 4th celebrations at Fair St. Louis. It'll be a long day, but fun too. We'll try to post some pictures on the 5th for all to see. Take care and we love you all,
--Stacye, D, H, & E

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Getting Acquainted

We had our apartment walk-through today - our first glimpse of our new home for the next 2+ years. The apartment is upstairs and we share a balcony with our next-door neighbors, who we met today. The husband and wife are really friendly and he has just finished his first year, so they'll probably be a great source of information when we have questions. They have a boy and a girl, about 8 and 10, respectively. Hannah just made herself at home, walking into their house, playing trains with Alex in his room, and sharing popsicles.

Our apartment is actually really nice - the girls' bedroom is larger than Hannah's room back in Bakersfield. And since our building was built to ADA standards (as our neighbors told us), the bathroom is bigger with a linen closet and (best of all), we have a ramp down to the basement instead of the steep, scary stairs that I've been afraid of. (Our washer, dryer, and storage will be down in the basement and I've been really nervous about carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs during freezing weather.)

One thing, unfortunately - we hadn't realized that our kitchen, though bigger than the one in Bakersfield, doesn't have a dishwasher... So that should be interesting. I told our neighbor, "Paper plates, here we come!"

We came out the first time to visit in fall of 2004. Most of the students and wives we met started in summer or fall of '05, which means they're now 3rd-year students and headed out on their vicarages (internships).

One couple we definitely clicked with back then were from Tracy, CA. We met them again when we were here last fall, but didn't expect to see them this year because of they were supposed to be out on their vicarage this coming year. However, we saw them tonight and learned that he has deferred his vicarage and they'll be living a few buildings away from us in The Woods. So that was really nice - to see someone we know, from close to home, who can help show us the ropes. God is good!

More to come soon...bookmark and share our blog website address with friends and family and check back often, as we will continue to provide updates regularly.

Love and blessings,
Stacye & Family