Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Finally a new post! We have been super busy since Don became the pastor at Faith Lutheran. It seems like life has just been go, go, go for several months now. But we know that this is to be expected for a new pastor in a new position and we know things will slow down a little after Christmas and Advent are over. The people at Faith have been wonderful to him and our family. We've had several babysitters so we can go out for the evening, people sometimes sit with the kids and me during worship, we've been blessed to be invited to share meals and/or dessert and playdates with various members at their homes as well. We are so very blessed!

I've been attending MOPS at a nearby church and serving as a volunteer Field Leader/Community Coach for MOPS International. I have attended a few LWML meetings, spend lots of time driving kiddos to school and try to make it to the gym a couple times a week. I've been trying to cook healthier for our family...meaning I've cut out a lot of processed foods and am trying to cook more from scratch, using more whole grains, etc. To that end, I've been doing most of my grocery shopping from WinCo. Most of their prices are lower than other grocery stores (especially the produce) and I'm able to buy so many items in bulk for waaaayyy cheaper than any other way. I can get organic oatmeal for $0.97/pound (no more flavored packets), popcorn (no more microwave), nuts (yay! Healthy, but usually so expensive), cereal, rice, other whole grains, herbs & spices, and sooo many more. I love that I can start my shopping trip with a long list, hit the produce section, the bulk foods section, then get eggs, dairy and meat (all of which is called "shopping the perimeter") and by then, all that's usually left on my list is pasta, canned beans, and bread.

Total: less than $8

So far, this has helped keep our grocery budget to a manageable level, but I'd like to bring it down even more. I just learned about an e-book called
"2012 Family Guide to Groceries under $250 a Month" and I can't wait to see what ideas it will have. I'll be sure to check back in and let you know how it goes!

Hannah is 7 1/2 and still loves arts and crafts. She started Girl Scouts this year and has been enjoying her meetings and activities so far - their first badge will be a painting badge!  Her leader is a member of our church and it's been a great way to meet more friends. Hannah is in 2nd grade and loving it. She is starting to multiply and is reading lots of chapter books - she has over 1,000 recorded minutes of reading time so far this school year. For those of you who are familiar with Accelerated Reader (AR), her initial goal for the first trimester was 3 points. She earned 15. And that's probably all we need to say about her. :-)
Hannah with an art project

Preschool field trip
Bethie is in a Pre-K class at Faith. She has already lost 5 teeth and began reading a few months ago. Preschool is helping her be a little more outgoing, be more comfortable speaking in front of other people, and all that playing on the playground is helping her develop her gross motor skills. It's been a fun transformation to watch.

Noah's 2nd birthday
Noah is 2 1/2 and grows more physical each day. He loves going to Kids Club at the gym where he can run, climb, and play. He loves cars, trucks, and diggers, but it seems like his true, deep passion is for the drums. Literally everything in our house is/will be/has been a drum. He drums with wooden chopsticks mostly, but anything stick-like will become a drum stick sooner or later. He has discovered the drum set at church and as soon as church is over he makes a beeline for them and begins pounding if I'm not fast enough to catch him. Many people at church have said that he really has some rhythm, so we're guessing that drum lessons (and a soundproof room?) are in our future.

Merry Christmas to each of our friends and family. I pray that the season finds you celebrating the birth of Christ and joyfully anticipating His second coming. God's blessings,
--The Rays

Thursday, June 30, 2011

You're Invited - Save the Dates!

Two very important dates are coming up and we’re offering an open invitation to anyone who wants to attend one or both. It would mean a lot to our family, and Don especially, to have you attend. So many of you have supported us these last four years – financially, prayerfully, and in countless other ways. God has used your encouragement and love to get us through this adventure. Now that we are ending one journey and beginning another, we hope to share the celebration with you. 

Dons Ordination
Sunday, July 31, 2011
5:00 p.m.
St. John’s Lutheran Church 
4500 Buena Vista Road
Bakersfield, CA  93311 
This is the ceremony when Don will officially become a pastor. It will take place at our home church in Bakersfield. Pastor Dennis Hilken (who married us) will officiate and Pastor Ted Hartman (who confirmed me back in 8th grade) will preach. There will be a dinner reception following (I think we’re having tri-tip!). The church would appreciate having an RSVP if possible, so they can start planning. You can call them at 661-665-7815.
Don’s Installation
Sunday, August 14, 2011
4:00 p.m.?
Faith Lutheran Church
4000 San Juan Avenue
Fair Oaks, CA  95628
This ceremony officially installs (Pastor!) Don as the pastor at Faith Lutheran in Fair Oaks. Our California-Nevada-Hawaii District President, Rev. Dr. Robert Newton, will preside. We don’t know as many details about this one yet...we’ll share as soon as we know!

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are so excited about these wonderful events and hope to see you at one or both!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Faith Lutheran Church, Fair Oaks, CA

I know pretty much everyone has heard about Don's call by now, but here's the official blog post - almost 3 months later! He'll be the sole pastor at Faith Lutheran, in Fair Oaks. Faith was founded in 1940. They have two services on Sunday (though this summer they're experimenting with only one service) with a Sunday School/Bible study hour in between. About 225 people attend one of those two services. They have a school, consisting of a preschool (where Bethie will attend Pre-K), kindergarten, and first grade. We spent a weekend in Fair Oaks last February when Don interviewed. The people were all really nice - we felt so comfortable and welcomed. We're really looking forward to getting to know them all and seeing what God has in store for Don's ministry and our family. 
Call Day, Concordia Seminary, May 4, 2011
Fair Oaks is a really neat community. It's about 15 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento. There are tons of huge, mature trees, rolling hills, and very diverse architecture. It's definitely not the cookie-cutter stucco homes we're used to seeing in the newer developments! Much of the growth took place in the mid-1900s. The downtown area is overrun with wild chickens! We can't wait to show the kids - it's the funniest thing. It's such a popular area that it's hard to find available housing in Fair Oaks proper, so we've been looking at rental houses in nearby Carmichael, Orangevale, and (the winner) Citrus Heights.

The church is in the San Juan Unified school district. It is HUGE. There are at least 42 different schools Hannah could conceivable go to. Don and I started out looking at the 9-10 neighborhood schools that are geographically closest to the church, preferring to live/work/go to school in a fairly small radius. We also got some great advice from people familiar with the district (thanks Sandy and Melissa!) to look at the fundamental and open schools. These are public schools that do not have neighborhood attendance boundaries; admission is through open enrollment, which means that families have to apply to attend. This typically leads to a "better" school, meaning more family involvement, higher test scores, more field trips and enrichment activities, etc. This sounded perfect to us, but we assumed that since open enrollment began in January, we would be out of luck - that Hannah would be at the bottom of a huge waiting list. But because of all the budgetary issues and class size changes, we had reason to believe that there might be spots after all. So one week when my mom was here visiting, Don and I took a day and drove up to Sacramento and visited all 9 (!) of the schools that we thought might be a good fit for Hannah. (We also drove by quite a handful of possible rentals, visited with an admissions clerk at the school district, and had a delicious sushi dinner before returning home.) Besides being flat-out exhausted, we came away with our first choice school - our last visit of the day was at Cambridge Heights Open Elementary. We really liked the principal and everything about the school just seemed to fit. Soon after that visit, we applied for an inter-district transfer to at least get her on the waiting list. To make a long story short, she got in! We are so excited for Hannah to attend Cambridge Heights - and Bethie and Noah probably will too. Some of you know that Hannah has attended a different school every single year since she was two years old, so I am just ecstatic to be able to build a relationship with a school and the families there for many years into the future. God is good!

A short while later, we hauled all three kids back up to Sacramento with us to look at rentals. We got to see the inside of 5 that day and I definitely fell in love with one of them. It was a little more than what we wanted to pay, but it was definitely our favorite. We went back and forth, we prayed, I wrestled with God quite a bit, and Don offered them $100 less on the rent than what they were asking. We didn't think the owners would take it and I had resigned myself to a house that, while less expensive, was definitely not a house I really wanted to live in. But, just as Don was about to send off the application for that house, he got a phone call that the owners accepted the offer! I really am excited - I just love this house. It's a 3/2, almost 1600 square feet and recently renovated. See the next post below for some pictures. And as always, thank you for reading and thank you for your prayers. We love you all!

Pictures of the house

Backyard with new landscaping

Living room. Here, you're standing in the dining room with the kitchen at your back. To the right, there's some built-in storage and a wet bar along the wall along with the hallway to the bedrooms.
Kitchen, looking out to the backyard so I can keep an eye on the kids - score! Notice also the new stainless appliances. Two more reasons to love this kitchen: the garage opens directly into it for easy grocery unloading and there's an indoor laundry room with more built-in storage.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Call Day!

Just a quick post reminding everyone that Call Day is only a week away! On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, Don will receive his first call into the pastoral ministry. We will be in St. Louis attending the service, which begins at 7:00 p.m. Central Time (5:00 California time). For those of you who want to watch or listen to the service along with us, here is the Call Day website. Please pray for all those involved with making the call decisions, that all the guys get placed in the congregation God has picked out for them. (Please let us know if you have any questions about Call Day logistics, or anything else.)

In other news, we would appreciate your prayers for Noah. He had a 103.5 fever last night and today, though his fever is down, if I ask him if he has "ouchies," he points to his forehead. He had an awful night of sleep last night - waking up every couple hours screaming or crying. It's frustrating not being able to help him and not even knowing what the problem is. 

We can't believe our time in Turlock is ticking away so quickly. We've had a great year and Don has learned a lot. The people couldn't be nicer and it'll be hard to say goodbye. We love being back in California, near friends and family. Recently, my mom was here visiting for Bethie's 4th (!) birthday, and she spent an entire (loonng) day with the kids so Don and I could meet my college alumni group's Sacramento chapter for wine tasting in Amador County. Here we are with our friends Chris and Kerri (Kerri was a bridesmaid in our wedding).

 May will be a busy month for us, as we spend some time in St. Louis for Call Day, wrapping up our seminary experience and truly saying goodbye to that wonderful chapter in our lives. Hannah, Noah, and I will all have birthdays. Hannah and Bethie will have their last days of school. I'll try to take some time to update on all our fun activities. In the meantime, God's blessings to each of you. We love you!

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Official

We have just passed the halfway point in Don's vicarage. Because it's been so long since I've blogged, here's the update: Last summer we moved to Turlock, CA for Don to begin his one-year internship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. This internship (vicarage) is the last hurdle in the four-year seminary process. When he was assigned here we knew that Good Shepherd was considering calling him as the full-time associate pastor once his vicarage ended. Over the last couple months, the church's board of directors has been meeting privately and with the congregation to asses the viability of adding a full-time staff member. The final conclusion: they will not be calling Don to stay.

There are two main reasons for this. One is financial. The church has determined that at this time they do not have the financial resources to add an associate pastor. Second, it seems that Don would be best suited to being a sole pastor and at Good Shepherd, the position of associate pastor that would focus on outreach just doesn't seem to mesh well with his gifts.

So what does this mean for us? We'll find out for sure on Call Day, on May 4, 2011. Our Lutheran church body is divided up into 35 geographical districts. St. John's Bakersfield is part of the California-Nevada-Hawaii district, which we consider to be our "home district." CNH covers all of those three states except southern California and Las Vegas (those are part of the Pacific-Southwest district). We have a relationship with the CNH district president and the executive director. They are actively working to assign Don to another church in our district, so we feel quite blessed by the strong possibility of being placed nearby. And for now, that's all we know.

In family news, all is well. Hannah is loving first grade and her mornings spent on reading and language in a second grade class. A spot finally opened up for Bethie to attend preschool, which she is ecstatic about starting on February 2. Noah literally runs everywhere he goes and is, as we like to say, "ALL boy." I have been asked to become a table leader for my MOPS group and I recently finished reading the entire Bible - a 2-year project that stretched into 3 1/2. Don, of course, is spending his days writing sermons, visiting shut-ins and hospitalized folks, teaching junior high confirmation, and other pastoral duties. Our small-group Bible study will be serving dinner at church on Saturday night for 60+ homeless people through the Turlock Gospel Mission.

Remember to check out our pictures in the post below to see more of what we've been up to. Blessings and love, from our family to yours.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Closing out 2010

I've posted some new pictures that span September through the end of the year. Here they are - enjoy!
September 2010
(There are a few new ones at the end of this album.)

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010