Driving along the Fruit Loop

So . . . . for this week’s sign that the apocalypse might actually be upon us:  I have added a post to this blog!  Unbelievable!  It’s a miracle!  Is the world coming to an end?  I know, I know.  I had all those thoughts too.  But it couldn’t be helped!  I said I would put some pictures up on the blog, so here we are.  I know it’s high time this crazy blog got cranked up again anyway.  So . . . . here we go!

Today we drove around the Hood River, Oregon Fruit Loop.  No, it is not a piece of cereal or some kind of insanity ritual.  It’s actually a stretch of highway around the town of Hood River that directs you to all kinds of orchards, farms, shops, and fruit stands.  There’s no better time than the autumn season to visit these places because of the delicious ripe apples and pears and the beautiful fall colors all around.

The kids and I did a few broadcasts on my newest smartphone app, Periscope, from most of our stops.  But there was one orchard that just didn’t have enough cell coverage to do that (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).  So I promised that I would put some pictures from that stop right here on the poorly neglected blog.

Get out there and enjoy this wonderful season!

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everything’s up to date in …

Kansas City!  I just couldn’t resist using some lyrics from the musical Oklahoma!  It’s pretty much impossible for me to even say the words “Kansas City” without that song jumping into my head.  Oh well.  This post has nothing to do with musicals.  But I am trying to keep you up to date with our lives, and it is about Kansas City.

Brent and I went to the M15 Conference, which is a ministry conference put on by the Church of the Nazarene.  It happens every four years and it takes place in, you guessed it, Kansas City.  I had never been before and Brent had been once about 16 years ago.  There were big general sessions (and when I say big, I mean about 3,500 people) with worship and preaching.  There were topical breakout sessions.  And, most of all, there was a lot of talking!  Talking with old friends, talking with new friends.  Talking with people we met for the first time.  And talking with friends from college, friends from our days in Dallas, in Minnesota, in Oregon, even Vancouver, WA.  When you run into all of these people, there is a lot of catching up to do!  Of course most people, including us, don’t live in the same place anymore.  That’s one of the realities of ministry life.  Whenever we ran into someone that we knew, one of the first questions we ask each other is always, “So where are you now?”  The truth is that Brent already knows the answer most of the time because of Facebook, but I’m not a Facebooker, so it was fun for me to find out where all these people are living now.

Brent taught a few breakout sessions during the week.  One was on having a process of discipleship, a few on redefining church to culture, and a few on relating marketing strategies to your church.  This last one was co-taught with our friend from Dallas days, Greg Hall.  Of course, they don’t live there anymore.  And their not even in ministry, at least not vocationally.  He and his wife, Frisa, came up from Arkansas to do the sessions with Brent.  Greg talked about marketing and Brent talked about applying it to church.  It was pretty cool, but honestly, I was just glad to have it as an excuse to reconnect with our friends and learn about what’s going on in their lives.

Maybe we’ll go back in another four years.  Or another 16 years, you never know.  When we do go back, you know there will be a lot of talking!

One of the general sessions:

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One of Brent’s breakout sessions (this pic doesn’t include all the people standing in the back):

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Some friends we saw, old and new:

The Hartleys: we know them from Vancouver, WA.  They’re in Alaska now.

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Some new friends:  I’m pretty sure all of these guys live in different places throughout Texas (for now).

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The darling Frisa Hall:

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The Halls and the Hofens:

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And now you’re all up to date about Kansas City!

Dad turns 70

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January brought a milestone year for Dad.  He started a new decade with his 70th birthday!  Happy birthday, Dad!

Early this month, a whole bunch of his friends packed out Mom and Dads’ house to wish him well.  There was a lot of yummy food, good conversation, and laughter.  It was a comfortable and easy going party, kind of like Dad’s personality.  At one point, Daddy had to read all of the “Happy Birthday” appreciation notes that everyone wrote for him during the party.  It wasn’t difficult for people to come up with something to say.  There were a lot of comments about his role as a Sunday School teacher, his calm and sure personality, and how he is so loving and supportive of others.  But I think my favorite description of the night came when someone wrote that he had “kind wisdom.”  That’s perfect!  Just imagine if we all had Dad’s “kind wisdom.”  Oh, what a world this would be.

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We had a great time visiting with Mom and Dad’s friends.  As one of their children, I’m really grateful for the circle of friends that they have surrounding them here in Bend, especially at their AMAZING church.  In fact, sometimes it can be a  challenge keeping up with my parents.  They’ve always got something going on.  But that’s not a bad thing. It’s probably just the opposite.  In truth, a life filled with family and friends and service is the greatest kind of life.  And I love seeing my parents live it out.

One of the best parts of the night was seeing my sister, Tessa.  She surprised us all and drove down from Seattle to be there for Dad’s party!  That’s about 6 hours of driving just for one night!  But it was so great for all three kids to be able to be there for Dad.

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Congratulations, Daddy, on your 70th birthday!  We’re looking forward to you having many more birthdays in the future.  And hopefully more of your “kind wisdom” will rub off on all of us.  We love you.

P.S.  I apologize now, Nancy Gill, for posting a picture with you putting food in your mouth.  It just could’t be helped!  Sorry!

Christmas cousins

Before we run out of January, I should probably share some highlights from the holiday season, right?  For me, one of the best things about this last Christmas was watching all of the Hofen cousins spend time together.  Everybody easily finds someone close to their age and spends hours upon hours playing and adventuring together.  The Alva cousins are: Madison, age 18, who is doing lots of planning and pondering about the next stage of life that will inevitably come after she graduates from high school this spring.  Braden, age 11, who gets taller and more athletic every time I see him.  He’s always up for some kind of competition, whether it’s basketball or nerf guns or anything.  And there’s Brooks, age 10, who has probably never met a stranger in his life and loves to have a good time (and make sure everybody else is having fun, too).

Of course, the first thing we said when we saw these kids in December was, “Wow!  You guys are so tall!”  Which is true!  For some reason, they just don’t stop growing.  But it’s also great to see how they’ve grown in other ways, like manners and maturity, and for us to be able to observe their personalities develop.  I guess there’s nothing like the next generation to remind us that change is always happening.

Another great cousin highlight was talking with the India cousins.  Thank God for Skype!  Cassia is a charming and outgoing little girl.  We loved watching her give us a tour of her bedroom and chatting back and forth.  Then, a while later, we were able to see our newest little cousin, Candace, who was born the day after Christmas.  Again, thank God for Skype!

As we were skyping (not sure if that’s a word) with our India family, I could’t help but think about all of the overseas missionaries that have served over the centuries.  Many of them had only one way to communicate with their extended families back home- regular mail.  Some didn’t even have that option depending on their locations.  I just don’t know how they did it!  And I especially don’t know how their families did it!  I can’t imagine having to endure such lengthy amounts of time (sometimes years) without seeing or even hearing from your loved ones.  Their sacrifice and perseverance amazes me.

We had a very merry Christmas with our Oklahoma (and India) family.  There’s no doubt that it takes a big chunk of time to get down there, but the people are always worth it.  I don’t really want to think about how much all of these beautiful cousins will have changed by the time we get to see them again.

Lauren and Brooks staying busy during Church

Lauren and Brooks staying busy during Church

Cassia is a Skype expert!

Cassia is a Skype expert!

in Church our first Sunday in Oklahoma

in Church our first Sunday in Oklahoma

Christmas candlelight

Christmas candlelight

two peas in a pod

two peas in a pod

the older girls, Madison and Emma

the older girls, Madison and Emma

meet our new cousin

We are so happy to announce that Emma, Blake, and Lauren have a new cousin! Meet little Candace Hofen! We’re told that underneath the hat is a full head of hair. She was born the day after Christmas in Nagpur, India. I was hoping she could wait one more day so we could share a birthday, but she just couldn’t wait anymore. She was ready to enter the world! She and Mommy are doing well, along with Daddy (Brent’s brother Brad) and big sister Cassia. Praise the Lord for this new precious life!
It will be a little while before we get to see you face to face, but we already have you close to our hearts. We know that God has a great plan for you. Welcome to the family, Candace!

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December birthdays

What to you do when you have a birthday in December and your family is crazy busy with holiday parties and shopping and gifting and planning and wrapping and packing and traveling and a hundred other things? What is a birthday kid to do?
This year, right in the middle of a holiday road trip halfway across the country, we took a timeout. A birthday timeout. It was the perfect way for us to say to our December birthdays, Blake and Lauren, “You are very special to us, no matter what else is happening.” So somewhere between Oregon and Oklahoma, we found a great spot to take a timeout and put all of our focus on spending time with the kids.
On the second day of the road trip, we arrived in Denver and spent the afternoon and evening walking around the downtown area, visiting the German market, eating yummy food, riding the carousel, and best of all, ICE SKATING! How fun is that?
Blake is now 11 years old. He still wants to climb and jump on everything and could play with Legos all day long. But if you can get him to be still for just a little bit, you might be surprised to find a remarkably well-spoken young man.
Lauren turned 9 years old. She dances everywhere! She sings constantly! And is never lacking an opinion, ever. Or a willingness to share it, ever. But one really fun thing about Lauren is that sometimes she likes to surprise her family members with breakfast in bed. When this happens, I know we must be doing something right! Love it!
Happy birthday to our precious December babies, Blake and Lauren. No matter what, the both of you and your sister Emma will always be more important to us than anything else going on in the world.

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the performing arts

The Hofen house has been busy this last month or so with a lot of rehearsals and performances, some big and some small.  As many of you know, Mr. Superman and I have had our fair share of performances on one stage or another through the years.  And I hate to disappoint, but there won’t be any pictures of that stuff today!  Sorry.

But now we’re in a new phase where we get to be the proud parents in the audience and watch our kids have their turn at taking the stage and participating in productions.  The first was “Journey Through the 1700’s” with Central Oregon History Performers.  This has been an annual thing for us for quite a few years now, but this time all three kids got to be a part of it.  There was a lot of singing, dancing, acting, narrating, costumes, and everything else that comes along with it.

Our kids have loved this group and welcome the opportunity to take on whatever roles they are given.  During the performance, one of the directors took some time out to thank all the parents for working with their children to learn their lines and practice their music.  At this point, I leaned over to Brent and whispered, “I don’t think I’ve even spent five minutes working with our kids on any of this stuff!  Most of the lines I’m hearing them say tonight, I’ve never even heard before!”    We laughed a little and just realized that sometimes you just have to point your kids in the right direction and say, “Go for it, kid,”  and then let them handle the rest.

Here are some pictures from that show.  The costumes are a mix of skits about different events in the 1700’s.  So you’ll see Scotland, Native America, and a variety of other places represented.

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The other performance in our family was a totally different style.  Lauren has been a part of her very first ballet class this fall.  It’s the best set up ever:  the class is taught by two lovely young ladies and it meets in their home.  Lauren gets lots of attention and instruction in a wonderful and nurturing atmosphere.  She’s loving it!  For Christmas, they did a dance for family and friends to a piece from “The Nutcracker.”  So cute!

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It will be awhile before we have anymore productions at our house.  But we feel that this has been a rewarding season of the performing arts for the kiddos.  And for the parents, a very rewarding season of being audience members.  We’re very good at giving applause!

advent calendar

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We are in the midst of another exciting and busy Christmas season at the Hofen house.  There are “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.”  Like so many others, there are so many things to do and people to see and places to go during this “most wonderful time of the year.”  But even in the midst of the busy schedule, we are still trying to maintain some simple and meaningful traditions in our home.  And one of those traditions is to keep an advent calendar.  In the past, I’ve just gone to the store and picked up some of those flat, rectangle-shaped calendars that have the little doors that flip open to reveal a little piece of chocolate every day.  I just love those things!  But for some reason, I’m feeling adventurous this year and decided to switch it up a little bit.  (I blame it all on Pinterest!)

Here is our recipe for this year’s advent calendar:  small cardboard boxes that look like cute little milk cartons when they get assembled, ribbon for decoration, and last but not least, chocolate (or whatever fun treat you want to put inside each box).

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Step 1:  Assemble the boxes.  I used Recollections brand from Michaels that came boxed in a set of 24, which turns out to be the perfect number for our calendar.

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Step 2:  Fill the boxes.  I put four Lindor truffles in each box, one for each kiddo and one extra for Superman.  If I didn’t put one in there for him, he might just steal (ahem, I mean borrow) from the kids, so it’s easier if I just give him one too.  Please tell me I’m not the only mom who has to deal with this issue!

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Step 3:  Add ribbon.  Our house is filled with touches of tartan this year.  (Again, I blame Pinterest!)  So this little ribbon gives a little holiday touch that matches the rest of the house, but it’s still simple and easy.  I probably could have gone for the gusto and made labels with the numbers 1-24 to mark the days, but I was trying to keep it user-friendly.  My oldest, Emma, marked numbers on the bottom of each box, just so we can  keep track of  which box to open each day.  But you wouldn’t have to do that step if you don’t want.  Also, I didn’t want to permanently attach anything to the boxes so I could still use them for other years and other seasons.

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Enjoy!  It’s not complicated, it’s not super fancy, but it’s fun and helps our family keep up a Christmas tradition that my kids look forward to every year.  Hopefully you’re December is off to a great start.  I’m sure that “they’ll be much mistletoeing, and hearts will be glowing as loved ones are near.”  Don’t get too busy.  Take some time to savor “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Now I’m off to go find Superman and start some mistletoeing!

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Wednesday worship: down memory lane

This song selection was just too tempting to pass up.  Listening to it is like a sort of time travel for me because it takes me right back to my childhood when I was a little girl sitting in a pew at Central Church of the Nazarene in Vancouver, WA.  Back in the day, the church would periodically have “request night” for Sunday evening service.  And usually some very smart person with very good taste would put in a request for my mom and dad to perform this song.  In my mind I can hear my mom’s beautiful singing voice and my dad’s deep and steady narration with the amazing accompaniment of Mrs. Ketchum on the piano.  I think she could play anything!  And I know I’m biased, but my parents are wonderful singers.  They have smooth and rich voices that make it easy to listen to them.  You see, it could be said that I grew up on Gaither music.  But even more accurately, it could be said that I grew up on my parents singing Gaither music.

I’m pretty sure this video is from a Gaither Homecoming video.  And no disrespect to Sandi Patty, but she doesn’t quite do it like Mom.  And no disrespect to Bill Gaither, but he doesn’t quite get the same effect as Dad (not that anyone could).  So enjoy this well-written song.  The chords start out simple, but then build up in a beautiful and dramatic way as the song progresses.  And the truth of this song is profound and lasting.  It’s good for me to remember that “God Gave the Song.”