Thursday, April 30, 2009

The stuff of Childhood - Boys building a fort

My twins sons, age 11, have been staying after school every day with a few other fifth grade boys to work on building a fort outside of the school in a treed area. They ride their bicycles to school and after school and working on the fort, ride their bikes home.
They have been bringing their hammers and nails and one of the boys even brought his dad’s electric drill, and they are hammering sticks together and hammering sticks to the side of one large tree and the boys talk about this fort all the time and building a bridge and they have been working really hard on it and it means a lot to them.

They have been going after this with a fervor that is refreshing and old fashioned and sweet and so much of a boy thing. The stuff of childhood. Old fashioned childhood.
Lately there has been discussion that certain middle schoolers are wrecking their fort. “I think I know what middle school boys are destroying our fort,” they tell me.
Last Saturday my husband and I and the twins’ 6-year-old brother walked over to the school to see what this whole fort thing was about. I wanted to see with my own eyes what all this excitement was about. I loved it. The boys were busy designing different areas of the fort and helping each other out. “Hey, Andre hand me the nails,” one of my boys says.
The fort transported me back to my own childhood in Corvallis when I used to build forts at my friend Jeanie’s house. Only ours were with folding tables and blankets in her living room.
I love it when 11 year old boys are boys. Outdoors. Exploring. Adventure. Creating. Away once again from neon lights and electronics.

It's Like Holy Ground

My most recent Community service story for Rolling Hills is now posted - title

Crystal Peaks-It's like holy ground-

Jenni is scurrying about like a mother hen, checking in on the 52 other volunteers helping ready Crystal Peaks for the spring and summer. She wants to make sure everyone knows where they need to be.

Some of the helpers on this one-day mission trip are planting purple and yellow and blue and white pansies into planters that line the drive into the ranch. Others are spreading large bark chips on the dusty ground. Another group is digging into a corral area placing wooden beams along the border. Still others are staining the wooden fences where horses roam.

The Snowcapped mountain range beams in the distance.

Jenni stops to talk to Kim Meeder, founder with her husband in 1995 of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch which rescues horses and children. Jenni and Kim are like old friends. They met through Jenni’s mother about 15 years ago.

Says Jenni, “My mom and Kim’s husband signed up for a ski conditioning class taught by Kim who was a personal trainer, and my mom called after the first class and said, ‘I met a girl just like you. She’s got long hair, she’s really athletic, she likes horses, and she’s into that Jesus thing.’ And I thought, ‘How does a girl share Christ in 45 minutes in an athletic class in a natural way and not be offensive’? I wanted to meet Kim right away.”

Jenni worked out with Kim several times and watched Kim interact with her mom. “And I would ask Mom, ‘What’s going on with Troy and Kim?’ and Kim would ask Mom, ‘What’s going on with Jenni and Mark?’ At the time, we were adopting all these kids.”

But not till Jenni’s mom passed away did the friendship with Kim really blossom. About that time, Mark, Jenni’s husband, was looking for short term mission projects for the church to participate in, and Jenni told Mark to look into helping at Crystal Peaks.

“And he said ‘You do it.’"

And she did. The first trip -- and the start of an ongoing partnership with the ranch -- was on May 1, 2004.

“I asked four women to go with me on that day. We drove the church van the night before, staying at my in-laws place at Black Butte, and we worked the entire next day at the ranch.”

The next work day that Rolling Hills would participate in drew 30 volunteers. Then 70. It was so popular they realized they had to do quieter teams for a while.

Jenni helped bring Kim Meeder to women’s ministry events at Rolling Hills, including as keynote speaker at the women’s retreat in 2008.

Over the past five years, Jenni has helped lead 14 volunteer trips to the ranch, with the most recent one in April of 2009 where 53 people left at 6 AM on a lazy Saturday morning to drive three hours to work on the ranch. And eat the most amazing barbecued ribs and steak for lunch.

Jenni says that over 1000 people have been touched by the ranch; either by reading Kim’s books or by hearing her speak at women’s ministry events. “We’ve taken over 200 people on 14 trips and many of those people are repeats.”

Jenni knows why people come back. “It is like heaven on earth. There is a line in the video about Crystal Peaks that says the ranch is like a greenhouse; things come broken and they just grow here. Kids, people, horses, men, women, children.”

“It’s like holy ground. . . the mountains, the aspen trees that make beautiful noises when they move. . . you are just in the presence of God when you are there.”

For more information on Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, visit

For rolling hills stories visit:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boy Scouts Cross-Over Event - Here come the boys. . .

My husband and I went with our older son Ryan and two very excited fifth grade twin sons, on a weekend adventure called crossover weekend with West Linn Boy Scout Troop 149 to the Crooked River.

The twins were just so thrilled about this weekend as they start their years in scouts. They were so excited to be here and it may be one of Ryan’s last campouts with the Scouts. This was my first, though I wish I had gone before. Life in a larger family with younger children.

When we arrived that Friday night, it was pitch black and as we stepped out of our Astro Van, the twins immediately gazed up and noticed the stars.

“Oh, look at the stars,” Wesley said.

“I see the big dipper,” Mickaeljosef added.

Back to nature. And simple joys and the beauty of the outdoors. It felt so good to be there with them.

They were setting up tents by flashlights at about midnight and waiting in line to use the one portapotty for 65 people – this was no holiday inn vacation, trust me.

The fire light was glowing and the boys still full of energy.
I finally crawled in my tent about 1 am to the symphony of a snore fest. Okay, where were those earplugs.

After waking up [or did I ever sleep] on Saturday morning, it was amazing to see the beauty of the Crooked River along the high banks and the surroundings. Adult Scout leaders were flipping pancakes and simmering sausage. Boys were whittling by the fire and throwing stones into the river.

The weekend would be about nature. Flowing river. Dust. Great food. Enthusiastic boys. And no neon lights or computers or electronics. I loved that about it.
The crossover weekend is a tradition to initiate boys into true Scout hood. Up until now it has been Cubscouts and webelos.

I’m the mom here but the boys are on their own. At the beginning of the weekend, Wesley thought I was going to give him a hug and he quickly said, “no hugs mom.” And he is my hugging kid.

Another time during that first day, Mickaeljosef was stretching his hand back and forth after he and some boys had been wrestling on the banks of the river. I asked him if he was okay and he said, “I’m fine mom.”

The camping trip planners kept everyone busy on this weekend. New scout parents had to set up a tent that was missing parts we found out later. New scouts were going through various stations learning skills like whittling and building a fire. Earning badges. And learning life skills.

Seasoned scouts went away for a special project – to build a symbolic bridge for new scouts to cross over. I joined them to watch. Again, amazing what these boys can do, designing from scratch a bridge using only sticks and ropes. I finally figured out what lashing was.

As I watched these boys, I thought how glad I was that I came and that my boys love this, the outdoors. Nature. I wish every boy could come on an outdoor trip like this. No electricity, no I-pod, no high tech life.

After lunch, the new scouts and parents went on a five mile hike- two and a half up hill to the reach Chimney Rock. We all waited for one another along the way. No scout got left behind.

In the evening, all the groups were commissioned to write a skit of some sort, including the new parents, which we later performed in front of everyone at the evening campfire. The seasoned scouts used ketchup and mustard and other food items to simulate an operation. In true scout fashion. Our skit was a spoof on the tent we had to build. I was Diane Sawyer investigating the Scout master’s plot to forget parts to tents on purpose. You had to be there to get it.

Then the desserts, cooked over fire filled our tummies – peach cobbler, berry cobbler, chocolate cake never tasted so good.

The evening was capped off with the ceremony of walking along the candle lit path to the river where the crossover bridge was located.

Each parent there with their sons crossed together and it was total silence. The only time during the weekend that it was quiet.

Sunday was pretty much a packing day before chapel along the river and caravanning home, with a stop at a DQ along the way.

I thought I would have tired boys in the car. Instead, the twins, with a friend sandwiched between them, played their Nintendo DS’s.

Back to high tech city life and neon lights.

But the weekend was not forgotten. When the twins got home in the early evening on Sunday after we picked up their 6 year old brother Augustin, they got their Scout books out and began planning for next month’s campout and what badges they were going to earn between now and then.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch - A Day of Volunteering

TODAY, my son Ryan, 17, my son Mickaeljosef and I went with our church to Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch outside of Sisters Oregon for a one day mission trip helping to get the ranch ready for children.
Kim Meeder and her husband started the ranch in 1995 as a way to rescue horses and use it to help children, and Jenni Reiling from our church wanted to get church members involved in helping. Rolling Hills has come 14 times over the past five years.
It was a wonderful day planting flowers, getting flower beds looking nice, spreading bark chips, building a wall and so much more. A fabulous lunch of ribs and steak and salad was shared by all midway through the day.
I love sharing outreach times with my children. My husband had gone with our oldest two children and our church four years ago to Crystal Peaks and today was my turn. It is a neat activity to be outdoors with the kids, reaching out to help others.
I enjoyed hanging with the others, talking and sharing hearts and our journeys.
We had to get back a bit early as Ryan has Bible study and before we watch a movie with the kids, I just had to download the photographs . . .
It was a great way to spend part of Easter weekend. . . –thankfully I do not have to make the meal!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Out of Lake Oswego and Into Real Life

There was a boy who did not live with his dad, but he was able to call his dad, and he put his hope in being able to meet his dad, and his dad would say he would meet his son at a certain time and spot, but his dad never showed up.

The boy would just say, “Oh, it’s fine.”

“He kept blowing it off as unimportant. They learn to let it go,” says Linda Parker, who served once a month on Fridays for two years at Transitional Youth with the community group that her family is a part of, until Friday nights became unavailable. “They are just kids. They are out there all by themselves. Well, they have their street family. I think for us, this was a real need. The program is trying to do something impactful, just being there for them.”

She thinks about Roger.

“He would hang out with us and he would stay until the end and he would say the closing prayer. And then he stopped staying around at the end. He’s struggling right now. Many of these kids—no one cares about them and just us being there, communicates a lot.”

Kids asked Linda’s group, “Why are you doing this? Why do you come every month?” They are aware that someone is putting an effort out for them.

“We tried to make it clear we were there because they are worth caring about and worth serving. For the most part, they just want someone to sympathize. They are not looking for you to solve their problems. They really just want someone to listen.”

During the time that Linda’s group was helping at Transitional Youth, they were going through some transitions of their own. Some of the kids in their community group were graduating from high school and took off for college or to Torchbearers. Others were moving on to their last year of middle school.

But all grew in some way because of serving.

“The view of the world we received was much larger than that of West Linn and Lake Oswego. It wasn't that we were naive and didn't know what existed outside of our comfortable communities, at least for the adults, but we didn't rub up against it in our day-to-day lives so it was easy to dismiss.”

They kept going because they had made a commitment and they believed they were having an impact.

“We honestly believed God wanted us there and we felt the ministry was important. We see Transitional Youth as a viable opportunity for youth to get off living on the streets of Portland.”

They saw real life.

There was a young girl and young man pushing a baby stroller, with a baby only a few weeks old. They did not have a place to stay for the night. The mother of the young parents had kicked them out and the brother of the young parents would not let them stay at his place.

“As they left the building, it was still a question mark as to where the couple and this little baby would spend the night. The girl was meeting her case worker the next day, but having dad in the picture might alter what kind of help they qualified for. The image of that little baby, so innocent and helpless, with parents that were children themselves, stayed with me. I still think about it. There is so much hurt and hopelessness out there and only God can provide peace. If in any way we reinforced God's love to the kids of Transitional Youth, it was worth all the effort we made over the two years.”

Youth come to Transitional Youth for a warm meal and for friendship and camaraderie and support. And to find a listening ear.
“Through our interaction with them, we looked to plant some hope, and that's what Transitional Youth offers.”

This story was first published on the Rolling Hills community service page at:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Q &A with Angry Conversations with God author Susan E Isaacs

Donald Miller, Blue like Jazz author, will introduce Susan E. Isaacs and her new book, Angry Conversations with God on

Friday, April 3 at Evangel Baptist Church, located at 2830 NE Flanders in Portland.

The Q & A event starts at 7 p.m. nd is sponsored by Imago Dei.

The spiritual memoir by Isaacs was just released by FaithWords -

Here is the publisher's description:
Disillusioned, disenfranchised, and disinterested in anything churchy, Susan Isaacs knew of only one thing to do when she hit spiritual rock bottom at age 40. . . . She took God to couples counseling.
In this cuttingly poignant memoir, Susan Isaacs chronicles her rocky relationship with the Almighty--from early childhood to midlife crisis--and all the churches where she and God tried to make a home: Pentecostals, Slackers for Jesus, and the ├╝ber-intellectuals who turned everything, including the weekly church announcements, into a three-point sermon. Casting herself as the neglected spouse, Susan faces her inner nag and the ridiculous expectations she put on God--some her own, and some from her "crazy in-laws" at church. Originally staged as a solo show in New York and Los Angeles, ANGRY CONVERSATIONS WITH GODis a cheeky, heartfelt memoir that, even at its most scandalous, is still an affirmation of faith.

Home by Marilynne Robinson

I just finished savoring Home by Marilynne Robinson – wow, what a great book. I had read Gilead, Marilynne’s Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction in 2005 and Home was the follow up novel. It examined home as a place to return to, home as a place in the heart – really asking the question – what is home and where is it and do we have a home? The rich narrative that Marilynne writes in, how she draws you into the lives of her characters, the way she portrays faith are all reasons I love her literary work.
In one way or another, every character in Home is searching for the answer to the question of what it means to come home. Glory is 38 when she returns to Gilead, Iowa to take care for her dying father, pastor Robert Boughton, a widowed father of 8 children. Glory’s wayward brother Jack also finds his way back; however, his homecoming is marked with awkwardness as reflections of a difficult past resurface. Glory has not seen Jack in 20 years when he left Gilead with his scandalous reputation. Jack and Glory bond while taking care of their father, but Jack relapses into bad habits which affects their father. Glory continues offering grace to Jack, trying to get him to stay, but he worries the other siblings will not be as understanding as some will be making their way home to see their father before he passes away. Grace and forgiveness and what it means to come home are strong themes here, and the question of whether home is ever the same once you leave and return is always in the back of one’s mind.


Hidden Lake


Cousins bicycling at Champeog Park

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