Friday, June 29, 2007

The Second Half of Marriage

Can you relate to any of these?

• You have teenagers who will soon leave the nest.

• Your own parents are aging.

• You were recently invited to a 25th high school reunion.

• You exercise more and burn fewer calories doing it.

• You just received an invitation to join AARP.

• By the time you get your spouse's attention, you've forgotten what you were going to say.

If you found yourself answering yes more often that not then the book The Second Half of Marriage might be for you!

David and Claudia give 8 challenges couples must face to successfully navigate a marriage in the second half.

I am currently reading this book and have gained new insight, been inspired and educated along the way!

Additional marriage resources from the Arps can be found here:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

up, up, and away!

Early Thursday morning...

they prepared their cameras...

watched the balloon inflate...

and prepared for take off!

Spencer (17) and his grandfather, Norm (75) went for a hot air balloon ride!

We still aren't sure who was more excited. Both of these brave adventurous men enjoyed their time flying high above the city of Albuquerque.

Tom went with them to see the take off and following the flight, three generations of Sharp men went out to breakfast!

I heard talk of a helicopter ride... who knows if they are serious or not. Time will tell!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The hazards of home assignment #1

What does "home assignment" mean? It means instead of being at work in the country we have been assigned to, we are temporarily assigned to our home country.

For us that means we are here in America for a short time.

What hazards could there possibly be for us in America? Plenty!

The number one hazard of being in America is weight gain!

When we moved to Russia two years ago, what is known today as a small... was a medium.

Portion sizes of food have gotten huge. Tom and I ate at Applebees and don't get me wrong, we loved it... yet, even though we split a dish for dinner we still took almost half of it back to our hotel!

We have had friends who have returned from time in America having gained weight.

I came prepared or so I thought. My number one goal that I set for myself in regards to our time here was... not to gain any weight!

Did I succeed? No!

I gained 9 pounds. Of the 9 pounds I gained while here, over the course of the past three weeks I have lost 5 1/2 of them. I have to carefully control how much I eat, how often I snack and what I eat.

The temptation to eat is huge here.

TV ads jump out at you, print ads in magazines won't leave you alone, radio commercials tempt you to drive through for the latest special.

Food is used for such things as celebrating, welcoming, comforting, giving thanks and greeting! We were at a church in Wichita, Kansas that gave out a gift bag to welcome visitors... inside was a coffee mug, various church flyers and a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies!

There is always a reason to chow down!

Now you know Hazard Number One of being at home in America... more to be revealed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

honey, guess what?

Tom had a couple of exciting things happen for him today.

The first one was; we took some photos of a table display, printed out the pictures, drove over to a local Christian bookstore, spoke with the owner and were granted permission to set up outside the store and sell jewelry.

Shortly after arriving back at the house the anvil arrives!

An anvil?

Yes, an anvil.

Tom will be able to use the anvil to hammer out silver wire to provide texture for some pieces he wants to make.

Tom has made some very beautiful pieces and his jewelry sales have been very successful during our time here. It is vital that Tom pick up any supplies he needs while we are in the states.

I wonder what the customs officials will think when we arrive in Russia with an anvil?!

Monday, June 25, 2007

museum lover!

As a child I saw the inside of so many museums that I remember where we were by what museum was there...

Canton, Ohio- that was the Football Hall of Fame !
Springfield, Mass- that was the Basketball Hall of Fame !

Can you tell that I had brothers that my dad wanted to keep entertained?!

When I was homeschooling the kids I got the museum bug myself so whenever we are in a city that has some type of museum I am up for checking it out!

On our recent trip to Oklahoma Tom and I found the Sod House Museum.

Here is what it looks like!

This is the marker outside:

I found the place to be interesting... the little sod house was fully furnished the way it would have been back when it was lived in.

There were exhibits about the Russian Jews that came to Oklahoma, the Germans who came from Russia, the African Americans who settled in Oklahoma and so much more.

If you are in that area and have about 20 minutes or so to spare... stop in and check it out!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

this week's goals

Over at Fruit in Season the focus this week is on supporting our husbands in their work.

"Your husband needs your support for his work. How you feel about his work is vitally important. Work is one way he has of defining himself. So how you feel about his work translates in his mind into how you feel about him. If you encourage and back him in his work, your support stabilizes and energizes him."

Since Tom entered ministry I have worked alongside him. I know that I can either help and support or I can criticise... helping and supporting works so much better for both of us. Whether I am researching a topic for him or reading the map while we barrel down the freeway, being cooperative bonds us together.

The other night I was studying this scripture:

Proverbs 31:11-12

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil.

12 She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her. AMP

My desire is that I will be a trustworthy wife, one that can be relied on, believed in, dedicated to comforting, encouraging and doing only what is good as long as I have breath left in me!

This week my goals are:

*To do the tasks he asks me to do without complaining or telling him he can do it himself!
*To pray for him daily (beyond "God bless Tom")

It is not to late to join in the challenge whether you have a blog or not.... simply leave a comment detailing your goals over at Fruit In Season!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

the setting sun

"mama, look!"

The setting of the sun is one of our favorite things to experience together. As a family there are certain things we enjoy doing, places we delight in going, people we love spending time with.

Tonight following dinner out with Mom and Dad, as the rest of us were talking in the car Spencer was gazing out the window taking in the view. Of course this view deserves to be noticed so we went into the house, grabbed the camera and headed back outside to find the perfect vantage point.

We pray that you also take time to enjoy sunsets, your family and all that God brings into your life!

Friday, June 22, 2007

communing with nature

When we were in Oklahoma (on our infamous B&B trip) I was trying to get a photo of Tom as he attempted to connect with the long haired Scotch Highland Cattle...

I heard a rustle and a clicking noise in the brush and greenery behind me. When I turned to see what it was... I saw this!

While I am sure that he was more afraid of me than I was of him... I was shaking so much that I couldn't focus the camera! Have you ever seen a real live armadillo??

Thursday, June 21, 2007

looks like we made it!

We got up early Thursday (for us anyway!) ate, changed clothes and were on the road by 9:15AM.

We made stops for gas, food and other necessities and finally pulled into Albuquerque at 7:35 PM.

We are tired and glad to be done with all of the road trips.

I will write more tomorrow... right now I need to rest!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

a really great day!

After waking up early Wednesday morning we drove down to Dallas for our orientation... we were not sure what to expect of a four hour meeting but, it turned out great!

First we shopped at Sam Moon on the drive down.

Tom purchased beads and I got a new purse! The old has a broken zipper. I will get it fixed in Russia but for now I needed something that would actually shut!

Once at the East-West office we got to meet Brennan & Stephanie, and Gary & Kim. All three of us couples are new to East-West. We enjoyed getting to meet these great people.

We actually had the opportunity to spend some extended time with Brennan and Stephanie who will be joining us in Krasnodar. We decided to go out to dinner together... we felt so honored that they spent part of their time alone in Texas (without their four kids) eating dinner and talking with us!

Following our fantastic dinner at an Italian restaurant we stopped at IKEA. Special thanks to Marilyn M in Andover who told us there was a store in Dallas.

We are now the proud owners of bedroom curtains! I have been changing my clothes in the bathroom for the year and a half we have had the apartment because we didn't have curtains. Now we will have some privacy, shelter from the glare of the morning sun and a more finished look to our room.

Tom is excited about his new clocks... Nathan and I don't like clocks without numbers on them. Tom loves them. So we now have 4! We also picked up some ice trays, we don't have those in Russia. Now we can make ice for you when you come to visit us! Most drinks in Russia are served without ice.

We also picked up a shower curtain... because our bathroom tile is so decorative we went with clear so it could be seen at all times. Clear shower curtains seemed impossible to find at a reasonable price here in the states. IKEA had them for 1.49!

When we wake up and get on the road today we hope to drive all the way through to New Mexico... we should be able to cover more ground since Tom is feeling so well.

He has a doctor appointment on July 2nd and we are hoping to get referred to a surgeon and then scheduled for surgery soon after!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

quick trip

We are off to Dallas for orientation with EastWest.

It will be us and another couple who will also be attending language school in Krasnodar in the fall. We have not met them in person but, "know" the husband through email. Apparently he found my blog and has been reading up on Russian life in our city!

With two hours of driving and four hours of orientation we have a full day ahead of us... Tom is also planning to stop in at Sam Moon's and get some beads on the ride down to Dallas!

Monday, June 18, 2007

models of love

While reading my good friend Allie's blog this poem lept at me from the screen and hit me right in the heart.

Through reading the blogs of friends, participating in discussions over on the Pastors Wives Forum, and talking with my friend Kim here in Texas, I came to realise how grateful I am that there are godly women in my circle of friends who model how to love in a healthy and godly way.

Here is the poem, written by a woman to her husband... enjoy!

"I met you years ago
of all the men
I knew,
I hero-worshipped
you are my husband now,
my husband!
and from my home
(your arms),
I turn to look
down the long trail of years
to where I met you first
and hero-worshipped,
and I would smile;
...I know you better now:
the faults,
the odd preferments,
the differences
that make you you.
That other me
-so young,
so far away
-saw you
and hero-worshipped
but never knew;
while I,
grown wiser
with the closeness of these years,
hero-worship, too!"

-Ruth Bell Graham

Sunday, June 17, 2007

30 day challenge

This will be my first online challenge... I am hesitant to jump in and be held accountable to it especially since my husband is a regular reader! But, here goes!

Christine over at FruitInSeason is sponsoring a 30 day challenge to honor your husband. Click here to check it out:

or you can see some daily guidelines written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss here:

The guidelines at Fruit In Season are simple enough... so I am choosing for my goal for this week to be simple as well:

* to speak in a respectful loving tone to Tom at all times
* not to complain to him about things he has no control over (like other people, places and things)

After 25 years of marriage I don't believe that there are times when I intentionally dishonor him... this next 30 days however, will keep me more focused on looking for occasions to honor him and I am positive that I will learn a few things about myself along the way!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

To my husband Tom, and all the other great dads out there...

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4 tornados and flood warnings

Sometimes all you want to do is relax. And sometimes relaxation is elusive like a toddler who needs a diaper change but, you have to chase him down before you can accomplish the task.

We went to a B&B. Upon arrival the place looked nothing like the photo on the internet.

The 5000 book library they boasted of were mostly old (not antique) moldy books. Some were falling apart and some smelled so bad we tried not to breathe in as we walked past.

Beautiful woodwork was covered up by too much junk all over the place. Bed bugs visited me as I sat up late that first night reading.

Visiting the bathroom in the night was also an adventure. The bathroom was across the hallway. There were mannequins in various places throughout the halls dressed in period clothing. Can you imagine making a bathroom run and seeing someone standing in front of you silent, smiling, and pointing the way?

The scenic walk the innkeeper told us about was littered with abandoned rusted out cars and a few mobile homes.

As we have traveled booking things on the internet has never been a problem. We should have known there was a problem when people who lived in the area didn't know the place existed!

We were determined however, to make the best of it. We went to visit a local museum, then went into a town 30 miles away to eat and take in a movie. We saw "Knocked Up" and "Oceans 13" neither one of these movies wowed us. We walked around the small mall there and toured the city afterwards. Shortly after dinner it started to rain. We decided we better get back to the B&B.

We drove slowly for over an hour in the thundering rain with 50 mph winds - we had no idea if we could even reach the place. Finally, we pulled over and called, they were just getting back home from chasing tornadoes and didn't see the weather as a problem. Tom expressed his concerned about getting stuck on the long sandy clay drive up to their place. I was supposed to speak at a Women's Bible Study in a city two hours away the next morning and we didn't want to take any chances.

After gathering a few supplies like toothpaste and deodorant, we spent the night in a Motel 6. I have never been so happy about a clean bed and a private bathroom! I got up the next morning preparing to drive in to speak but, when I called Vicky she told me not to worry about coming in. She was more concerned about us getting stuck or not making it than that innkeeper was.

Tom drove back to the B&B, picked up our suitcases and paid for the one night we actually did stay. Maybe we will have better luck next time!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

meeting new people

We ate a great meal with Shirley and Gerry at Brick Oven happily topping it off with Sheridan's Frozen Custard!

It was good to see Tom standing behind the wooden pulpit in their 118 year old sanctuary. The congregation is currently remodeling the property with the men of the church doing the majority of the work themselves.

We loved how they kept the original sanctuary in tact...incredible stained glass windows on each side of the room give the room a peaceful feel. I had not felt that serene since my time in Assisi, Italy. We are eager to return and see how it looks a year from now!

Before leaving Topeka we had lunch at On the Border with Kathy and Ray. We met Kathy's son when we were in Oregon. We are so grateful to Brian for connecting us with the loving, caring congregation we spent time with in Topeka. It reminded me of the church I grew up in... small and close knit like a family.

Today we leave for Edmond, Oklahoma after that we are moving on again. I don't know if I will have internet access for the rest of the week. So, if you don't hear from me just know that we are taking a long overdue mini vacation for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast somewhere in the midwest!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Driving through Greensburg

Driving through this city was:

mind boggling

Not knowing whether the 54 freeway had reopened near Greensburg or not we set out Friday morning to drive to Andover on our way to Topeka. As we neared Greensburg Tom asked me to get out my camera. Honestly it was difficult to photograph the devastation. I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing... either nothingness or devastation.

As we slowly made our way from one from one end of the city to the other we were practically speechless.

How do you take it all in?

We gazed at buildings with 3 out of 4 walls missing, trees that looked as if they were made for one of the Lord of the Rings movies, hand made signs pointing to where the hospital was set up or where other city services were located.

Continue to pray for the people of Greensburg as they work each day to rebuild and move forward with their lives.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Small Town America

As we travel cross country seeing what life is like for thousands of folks along the way, Spencer's question yesterday still rings in my ears....

"why is the bank next door to the county jail?"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Praise God!

On Wednesday, we had the appointment to see if we could get some type of financial assistance so that Tom could have his gallbladder surgery before we return to Russia.

We found out that we qualify for a UNM Care medical plan that has a 5$ copay for a doctor visit and 25$ copay for emergency room or surgery.

We are so grateful to everyone who prayed for him. This is such a blessing. Our hope now is to get Tom in to see a doctor very soon and for surgery to be scheduled not long after!

Today we leave Albuquerque, New Mexico and head toward Topeka, Ks. We will drop Spencer off along the way so that he can travel with a group of youth from Andover and Wichita to the Young Life Camp he will attend in Colorado.

After Tom speaks in Topeka on Sunday we leave for Edmond, OK where both of us will be speaking at a Celebrate Recovery meeting on Monday.

We get a brief time out at a Bed and Breakfast before we go back to Andover to retrieve Spencer on the 17th.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What would you pay for a good cry?

Monday was movie day. The guys went to see Shooter and the gals went to see Bridge to Terabithia.

Bridge to Terabithia was about the power of children's friendships and how they transform our lives... when you are going through your awkward phase alone it is much more difficult than if you have a friend to share that struggle with. Friends can make life bearable. Friends can make life fun. My childhood friend succumbed to breast cancer last year. Margaret was one of those friends who changes who you are and I am grateful for her influence in my life.

Sitting in a chilly movie theatre on a Monday afternoon with a wriggling mass of small children it was hard to tell if this was going to be an enjoyable experience whether the movie was any good or not. Mondays at the dollar theatre all you pay is 50 cents. No wonder the place was jumping with little ones. Fortunately, the movie was a good one and the children were well behaved.

By the end of the movie many of us were so touched by the action on the screen it lead to tears. So what was the price of a good cry? You already know... only 50 cents!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Valley of Geysers

Landslide damages famed valley in Russia


Associated Press Writer

Tue Jun 5, 1:27 AM ET

A severe landslide has nearly obliterated one of Russia's most noted natural wonders, the Valley of Geysers, officials and environmental activists said Monday.

The valley in the Kronotsky national reserve on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula contained about 90 geysers, as well as an array of thermal pools, and is the region's most popular tourist attraction.

A snow-covered mound collapsed Sunday "within seconds" and caused a massive landslide, about a mile long and 600 feet wide, burying two-thirds of the valley, park ranger Valery Tsypkov said in televised remarks.

The landslide dumped millions of cubic yards of mud and stones and destroyed most of the valley's geysers and dozens of thermal springs, stopping yards away from the valley's only hotel, he said.

Tourists and park personnel had to be evacuated, but no injuries were reported.
"The splendor of the valley has changed beyond recognition," Kronotsky national reserve director Natalya Radugova said in televised remarks.

Some officials were more hopeful about the valley's future.

The natural dam created by the landslide will turn the valley — which was discovered only in 1941 — into a thermal lake that could become a new "tourist jewel of Russia," tourism official Denis Lazarev said, according to Russian news agencies.

Experts feared many of the valley's geysers were obliterated.

"We witnessed a unique natural event," said Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of Russia's environmental watchdog agency Rosprirodnadzor. "But the consequences of such a natural catastrophe are irreversible."

A sparsely populated peninsula, Kamchatka is located some 4,200 miles from Moscow. It was completely closed to foreigners until 1990 and now attracts thousands of tourists annually with its volcanos, geysers and national parks.

"This is tragic for humankind, in that we have lost one of the great natural wonders of the world," Laura Williams of the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement posted on the group's Web site. "But for nature, this is only a blip in the history of the planet's evolution."

Letters of Invitation

We received an email from Tania the director of the Language School that we attend in Krasnodar... she says that our "letters of invitation", which are needed to get a Russian visa could be ready in 2-3 weeks.

We asked her for new invitations so that we could renew our visas early. Our current visas are up in September. If we waited until September to renew the visas, then that would mean another trip out of Russia to get everything processed. By renewing them early we will be able to stay in school, save the cost of another trip out of the country and we would not have to leave again until January.

We speak to one another in Russian, we listen to tapes, we still text message and email in Russian but, there is nothing better than being immersed in the language as we are when we are in Russia. We are so eager to get back to school, back to work and back among our Russian friends!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rock of Love

Looking at the mountains beneath us as we rode the tram down from Sandia Peak the other day, I saw this heart-shaped rock and quickly snapped a picture.

Each time I look at it, I am reminded of how God's unfailing love has been the rock we have leaned on over the years. His love has helped us to survive life in a foreign country. His love has helped us endure the pain of our first two children being stillborn. His love has been the foundation that our marriage and family have rested on for 25 years.

May God's love be the solid rock in your life, today and everyday!

Friday, June 01, 2007

stop and smell the roses

Time goes by so much faster than I ever realised possible. It seems as if it was just yesterday I was driving to Seal Beach to get out of the Pasadena smog for play time so the guys would take a better afternoon nap.

Nathan is leaving early Sunday morning to fly to Pittsburgh to visit friends. Spencer leaves the next weekend for camp in Colorado. Neither one of them needs me to pack their bags and decide what they will wear or to plan out their itinerary. In all of our years as a family this is a first for Tom and I.

Last year we left Nathan and Spencer home alone, Tom was here in America and I was in Rome, Italy. They spent their time playing video games and eating whatever they wanted for ten days. We were connected through text messaging and email.

This year both of them are happily leaving us behind.

I, being a mother, have mixed emotions.

I want them to grow, mature and experience life. But, I want to make sure they don't get hurt. And yet I remember when they were little "falling down and getting back up" was part of the process of development each one had to experience. It is the "falling down and getting back up" that leads to growth and maturity.

My heartfelt prayer is that they will both (like Christ) grow " in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Luke 2:52