Benefits of the Basket Life: Learning to Cook a Holiday Meal

I think God has graciously given me selective amnesia to protect me from remembering how hopeless I used to be in certain situations.  For example, I cannot remember the first holiday meal I tried to cook overseas.  I think our first holiday overseas had to be Easter of 2003, but I have no recollection of attempting a meal.  The next would have been Thanksgiving of 2005, but once again, I don’t remember giving turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes a go.  My thought is that it was such a pathetic attempt that God has spared me from the memory.

I have mentioned before that I am not a cook.  Cooking doesn’t get me all jazzed up like it seems to do to some people.  I had home cooked meals growing up, so it wasn’t like I didn’t have an example.  But I am pretty sure I have heard my mother say many times that she isn’t a big fan of cooking either.  So most of our family dinners I would say were relatively simple: spaghetti and meat sauce (my favorite of my mom’s), chicken and rice, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, etc.  My dad was not a veggie guy, so we never had to have an extra side dish there either (mom made us get our fruits and veggies at other meals and snacks).

But in July of 2002 I married a man who came from a family where he went to his grandparents’ house to eat at least once a week.  At these homes there were meals on an everyday Tuesday night that looked like a Thanksgiving spread.  His home meals consisted of food mostly from scratch with about 3 side dishes on average.  Thankfully, he was very patient with me when I first started cooking and also bought into some healthier options that stretched him out of his normal “meat and potatoes” dinner routine.

But holidays were a different story for my husband.  Joe is a homebody and he misses holidays at home.  He is very attached to the memories and “feel” of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  He has certain foods he likes to eat at those times and without them, it doesn’t quite feel the same.  I can remember the first time he asked me to make mashed potatoes and I looked at him and said, “Like from a box?”  I can remember the glazed look in his eyes as he tried to come up with a reply for that.

So I have tried to do my best to make a holiday meal that will be a blessing to my family overseas.  But as anyone knows who has lived as Basket Wife over here: it is not easy.  Not only can it be tough to find all the ingredients you need for things, but you are also using kitchen appliances and tools that are not your own (and can range anywhere from a weak vegetable peeler to an oven with an open flame and no temperature control).  Then add in the fact that you are often doing it all by yourself while your husband is probably off at practice because many of the big holidays for us aren’t recognized by the team, and it can make for a challenging meal.

I have come to see it as a blessing for me though.  If I had lived at home in the U.S. for these last 9.5 years, there is no way I would have ever cooked a full holiday meal.  I would have been happy to sit by while our two families hosted and our older female relatives made the majority of the food.  I may have thrown together a salad or dessert now and again, but that is about it.  I wouldn’t have discovered some of our new favorite recipes for mashed potatoes and stuffing.  I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have failed recipes that we could all laugh at.  And most of all, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sacrificially serve my family by having myself stretched to do something I am not totally comfortable with.

And that has been the biggest blessing to me in this lifestyle: being pushed beyond what I thought I could do.  By God’s grace I have learned so much more in marriage, parenting, home care, language, culture adjustment, etc. than I ever could have apart from this lifestyle.  You are forced you to go beyond your comfort level.  And that is what I think is one of the greatest gifts God has given me as a Basket Wife.

Relegated from the Dollhouse

The other day Abby was setting her dollhouse up so that it could look like our house as much as possible.  She set up the kitchen, living room, along with the boys’ bedroom and the girls’ bedroom.  Then she showed me where Daddy and Mommy’s room was upstairs, but she only had the Mommy doll laying in the bed.  I asked her where the Daddy was and she said, “He got put back in the doll bag because the bag is the Ukraine where Daddy is.”  Poor Joe, kicked out of the dollhouse into the bag!

Happy Monday everyone!

2011-2012 Season (Part B)

So you all know that Joe was in Italy for a month and that last Monday he got home from that stint.  But in between then and now has been a bit crazy.  Joe agreed to another job Sunday night before flying home and headed off again on Thursday.  So we spent last week trying to run around and letting him get to see the kids’ schools and all their activities.

So where is the Crispin family’s next stop?  Joe is now in Mariupol, Ukraine playing for BC Azovmash.  It was quite a process to get to the point where he got on the plane.  I have to say it was one of the most torn we have ever been on making a job decision.  So here is a quick run down of how we got there:

1. Joe played with Siena against BC Azovmash back on September 4.  About a week later they came and made Joe an offer.  Due to the particulars of that offer, Joe declined it.

2. A week later they came back with an offer and this time what had turned us off from the contract originally was removed and the salary offer was also increased.  So at that point, we knew we needed to think a little more seriously about the offer.

3. We knew that the financial aspect and the basketball opportunity were both positive.  This team plays in a European league, the VTB league (a league of the top eastern European teams) and in the Ukrainian league.  So Joe would get to play a lot and have a vast amount of exposure.

4. On the flip side, we heard nothing nice about the city from those who had played there and since Joe would be playing so much, he would be gone a huge chunk of the time.  It would be more like an NBA type schedule where he has long road trips every other week at least.

5. After we talked about it a bit, I said I thought we should just give it a shot, but Joe was VERY hesitant.  He was concerned about me being on my own and also not thrilled about a new country.  He is very into the Italian lifestyle and not a man of change!  So Joe called his agent and was telling him “no” when his agent mentioned that we could possibly find some Christians there.  I had also told him how when I talked to our associate pastor about it that morning, he had mentioned that finding fellowship there would probably be much easier than in Italy since there are more Christians in Ukraine.  At that moment, Joe realized he was probably making his decision based out of fear and without God in the equation.  He called me back and said he felt like maybe this was something we should try.  I was still on board with experiencing it for a season.  I felt like although it may be difficult in some ways, it is neat to experience different cultures and in the grand scheme of things 6-8 months is not that long of a time.

6. I think this was such a tough decision for the both of us because we both felt that God could be refining us in saying “yes” or “no”.  We both struggle with wanting financial security, so we could see God asking us to say “no” to a big financial increase and a possible career advancement.  But we both also struggle with the idol of comfort and ease as well, so we also felt like God could be asking us to choose the “hard” and strengthen some spiritual muscles through this experience.  In the end, it was a comfort to know that God sovereignly ordains all our decisions so that we couldn’t make a “wrong” one.

7. A couple of things that have been encouraging in making the decision are that 1) another teammate there has a wife and their four children coming in early November.  I have already been in contact with her and am eager to meet her.  Joe is trying to work it out so our apartments are near each other, 2) We have also been in contact with a couple of missionary groups to get us hooked up with some fellowship in our time there, 3) Joe is now there and said that although the city is not the prettiest, we can still make it work.

So that is where we are at right now.  After his European league schedule gets set we will decided when the kids and I will head over to Ukraine (am I the only one who always wants to say THE Ukraine?).  Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement as we embark on another adventure.

There’s Nothing Better than Daddy Coming Home

Yesterday I mentioned how hard it is to be apart from Joe when he is away, but I didn’t mention how much I enjoy getting ready for his return. I like getting the house set and making little preparations that I know are important to him. It helps build the excitement and anticipation of him coming home and allows me to think about the different ways that I know him so well. But even my excitement seems a bit dull when I compare it to how excited the kids get.

Yesterday we went to meet Joe at the airport and the kids were running sprints back and forth in the airport they were so excited. Thankfully it is a small airport and almost no one else was there!

Enjoy your loved ones today,

The Seasons of Marriage in the Basketball Life

Anyone who is married knows that you go through seasons in your marriage.  There are ups and downs, there are droughts and flourishing, there are times of sweet intimacy and times when you wonder if you know the person you are married to.  Unfortunately this can come as a surprise to many because we all plan for the wedding and look forward to the “happily ever after”, but have no idea the work which will follow that blessed day of union.

Any marriage is going to go through different seasons.  As newlyweds you are growing to understand one another, in job changes or unemployment you experience stress and working through financial matters, in pregnancy you deal with hormones and changing bodies, and when you have children there are a myriad of seasons from sleepless nights with newborns, to coming to the end of your rope with a toddler or just trying to keep your head above water with busy preschooler sand school age children (we haven’t hit the teenage years yet so I can’t speak from experience eon what will await us there!).

But the basketball life provides even more seasons in your marriage.  And I know for me, part of the challenge can be the adjustment between each of those seasons.  And since Joe will be returning, Lord-willing, this evening, I thought I would take a quick look at each of the seasons we have experienced as a couple.

The In Season Routine

When Joe is in season and we are all abroad together, we face different challenges and benefits than we do in the U.S.  One of the things Joe and I have found especially challenging when we are overseas is our lack of fellowship.  You sort of become a lone island, or as we like to describe it: it is our time in the wilderness.  You miss the support systems of family and friends in simple things like visiting with others or having help with the kids.  But more than anything, Joe and I feel the burden we have to bear for one another because we are really the only face-to-face relationships we have.  Often we have other believers in the city or are friends with some of his teammates, but that isn’t always a guarantee.  You often end up being the only sounding board for your spouse, which can be exhausting.  It is healthy to have other relationships, especially those you can experience in person.

On the flip side, because of the lack of other relationships and the slower pace of life, we get to enjoy lots of family time together.  We enjoy lots of family movie nights, trips to the park (if there is one), going for a walk or out to eat, and just enjoying time together.  We get to start our own little traditions, that can be savored and enjoyed at holiday times.

The Out of Season Routine

When we are home together in the summer, it is like we do a complete 180 degree turn from what we were just living.  We now have fellowship, lots of activities at church, and more activities for the kids to do.  There are babysitters, trips to visit family and friends and enjoying all that we have missed for the last 7-9 months of the year.

But as far as our marriage goes, it can often be a challenge for me.  Joe and I go from having every evening together and lots of time to spend together to being so busy I feel like we have barely said a word to one another all day.  It can be difficult because it feels like we are two ships sailing side-by-side just plugging along but never really connecting.  This is where scheduling date nights has been so important for us when we are home.  Even though there is so much we could be doing, we often have to pull back and make sure we have down time as a family and with one another.

The Away from Each Other Routine

The last few years Joe and I have now had to adjust to being away from each other for about 4-6 weeks at a time.  With the kids being involved in more activities now, we spend that time away at the beginning and end of the season.  And this is another adjustment.  It takes so much extra communication and setting aside time to connect each day.  With me being on my own with the kids and them involved in different things, this can be tough some days. Sometimes I sit down to talk to Joe and feel like I have so many things to tell him and am not sure where to start. It is a great opportunity to be creative in ways that we can stay connected with one another.

I have to adjust when Joe comes home as well because I have been functioning on my own with the house and kids. When he comes home and returns to doing things how we had done them before, I have to be careful not to resent that because I had become comfortable with how I was doing things without him. It is always a good chance for me to grow in humility.

No matter what season our marriage goes through, I am thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn in those times. We have certainly never struggled in cruising along and becoming bored with our way of life!

Why Do I Have to Learn? A Letter from a Daddy to a Daughter

Last week as we were working through what to do with Abby’s school, one of the biggest areas we saw we needed to clarify was helping Abby to know WHY she needed to learn and go to school. So Joe wrote her a letter that we read together in the morning. It was so rich with wonderful truth that I had to share it. Not only because it can apply to any child who is going to school, but because it spoke into my own life too as to why I work. So today I am sharing that letter with you in hopes that it may inspire you in your area of calling today.

Abby, this morning presents you with another great opportunity to learn and grow and become the best Abby you can be. Your school day is designed to bless you, to help you, and to better equip to you help and bless others to God’s glory. I want to help you better enjoy your school days by reviewing the following truths each morning before you school work begins.

First, God loves to see you at play, but He also loves to see you do good work.

We know you like to play. And we love to watch you play. But we also know that it is very important for you to learn how to do good work. Because God created us to do good work. After creating Adam and Eve, He put them in a Garden to till it and keep it. What that means is that He told them to get to work; good creative work that would bless them and honor the Lord.

Your work right now is your school work. And your school work is designed to help you better develop the abilities God has given you for wisdom and knowledge about Him and His creation. Because of our sin, this work is not easy. But because of what Jesus has done, this work can be done…and it can be done very well. Because He died and rose again for you, you can do great school work today to God’s glory.

Learning how to do good work is a life-long process. But it is a process that begins with school and continues today. Today is a wonderful opportunity for you to do good work to God’s honor by paying good attention, giving good energy, and doing the best you can until you school work is done. To do those things is to do what you were created to do. And that is very good.

Second, you need God’s help to do really good work.

Because your school work today is designed to help you grow and mature, it has to be a little bit difficult for you. It can’t be easy, because if it is easy, you won’t learn and grow the way you want to and the way God’s wants you to. Really, you won’t be happy with such work, because you won’t be doing what God created you to do.

So there will be some difficult things today in school. But that is how God designs things to be, because He wants you to learn to depend upon Him. He wants you to ask for His help, because it is only when you learn to depend upon Him that you can really be strong and do good to work His glory.

We could say that 1 Peter says, ‘whoever [studies], [let him or her study] by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 4:11).

The Lord wants you to study in His strength to His glory today. And because of Jesus you can do so. So ask for His help anytime. Stop and pray whenever you need to. And know that He will give you the grace to do great school work in His strength to His glory.

Third, because your Mother is also your teacher, you have double motivation to submit to her and honor her by humbly and joyfully doing as she says.

Another opportunity your schooling gives you is the opportunity to learn submission to authority. This is something that does not come easy to any of us, but it is vital for you to learn right here and now, and to grow in every single day. As a child, the Lord is jealous for you to learn how to joyfully submit to your parents and to anyone else He has placed as an authority in your life.

It is difficult for you to humble yourself and to submit to authority because of your sin. But the good news is that your sin has been forgiven because of Jesus. So you can defeat this sin in His strength and humble yourself before the authority the Lord has placed in your life. Because of God’s power in your life, you can control yourself and obey your Mother and Teacher.

In this instance, because your Mother is also your Teacher, she holds a double authority and is therefore, worthy of utmost respect and honor. This is very serious, because to show her contempt or to be disrespectful to her is to dishonor the Lord. God has placed her as the clear authority in your life right now for both home and school. And it is obviously in your highest interest to honor her by listening to her and doing what she says with a happy heart.

Take this very seriously Abby. And remember that your Mother as your Teacher is seeking your best interest. Teaching is not easy for her. She is serving you, doing her best to help you become the best Abby you can be. Help her. Bless her. Honor her. By doing the best you can in God’s strength.

Fourth, do your schoolwork with a whole heart and a great focus in order to honor the Lord and to receive rewards from His hand.

God is very interested in how you do your schoolwork. And He delights to bless you best efforts. He commands you to work heartily for Him today, and promises to bless you as you do so. Colossians 3:23-24 says,

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Believe it or not, your school day today is a wonderful opportunity to honor the Lord and receive blessing from His hand. To exercise self-discipline and to work heartily is to serve the Lord by better reflecting Him in His creativity and wisdom.

Because of that, make sure you keep your eyes on Him. Sure, you want to honor your Mother and Teacher. Sure, you want to move through the school day efficiently, so you can have more time to play. But those aren’t motivation enough to be great at school today. Only the glory of God is motivating enough to help you exercise self-control and to pursue greatness in your academic studies. So look to Him and ask Him for help to work heartily to His glory. Ask Him to bless your efforts and to help you reflect Him by being the best student you can be.

We love you Abby and we want you to become the best Abby you can be. One part of that – a big part actually – is your schooling, your studies. Right now it will take up a big part of your day. But that is a good thing for you. A great thing actually, because it holds numerous opportunities for you to honor the Lord by doing good work in His strength.

Having said all of that, I want to make one final, very-important point before you start your school day.

Fifth, remember, always remember that no matter how well you perform today or how poorly you perform today, you are loved and delighted in by your Heavenly Father because of who Jesus is for you and what Jesus has done for you.

Yes, God wants you to do good work. He wants you to honor your Mother and Teacher and work heartily for Him. But He also really wants you to know that no matter how well or how poorly you do, He loves you. He delights in you. And He delights in your efforts to honor Him in the school work you do. If you mess up and sin in laziness or in a poor attitude, He is quick to forgive you because of Jesus. You can move forward. You don’t have to beat yourself up or to think negative thoughts. You can be happy and know joy and move forward with the day in the forgiveness and acceptance that is yours in Jesus.

And you know, even if you do great today. Even if you have the best day you have ever had in school, He also wants you to remember that His love for you and delight in you is no higher than it would be if you had the worst of days. What you do doesn’t matter in that sense, because you are His no matter what.

The Lord (and your Daddy and Mommy) want you to thrive as a student today not so much you can please us or so you can be loved more by us or by Him. That’s can’t be, because we love you no matter what. And He loves you more. No. We want you to thrive today, so you can thrive and know greater joy and becoming a greater blessing to the world and to your Creator. There is nothing more important that remembering that.

May He bless your labors today. And may you embrace today as an opportunity to work in a way that serves others and honors Him. And may you always remember that no matter how well you do or how poorly you do, you are loved the same because of your Savior, Jesus Christ.

I love you my little Boo. Have a great day today.  Love,

Thankful for my husband who bathes us all in the rich truth of the Word and prayer,

Ten Years Ago He Asked Me to Marry Him

Ten years ago today, a shaky-handed 22 year-old Joe Crispin got down on his knee and asked me to marry him.  It doesn’t take much consideration to rank that day as one of the best days of my life. But thankfully I can say that although it was a wonderful day, the days have gotten sweeter as the years have gone on.

Covenant marriage has shown me as much of my sinful nature and tendencies as about anything else in this life.  Little did I know on that day of bliss that the next 10 years would show me the depth of both of our sin in ways I could barely even imagine.  I had no idea we would have 4 children in the matter of 7 years.  I had no idea we would move at least twice a year and live in 6 countries and at least 13 cities over the next decade.  I had no idea that we would be out of community for much of our lives, trying to figure out life, marriage and parenting much on our own in foreign countries.  I had no idea how I would laugh, cry, scream and want to just give up at times.  But I would not change one single moment of it all.

The last ten years have brought me to my knees and showed me that I am a sinner in deeply need of a Savior every single day.  And even now I am completely unaware of much sin that lies within me.  But I have been blessed with an incredible man to go on the journey of life with, who though has seen me at my worst, continues to love me and cherish me the best he can every single day.  It hasn’t always been pretty (and maybe could be classified as ugly a  lot of the times), but God has been faithful to show us more of Jesus as we have walked together these last 10 years.  There has been plenty of stumbling, but God has held us up by His righteous right hand.  He is the only rock and refuge that has brought us through the last decade and I am ever grateful for His mercy and grace to two sinners who often lose sight of how incredibly loving and kind He is.

Today I thank God for His unending mercy towards us because I know apart from Him we would not have made it these past 10 years.  I thank Joe for loving me and showing me more and more of the gospel of grace every single day.  And I thank our dear friends who pray for us and encourage us as we strive to walk through life together.

2011-2012 Season

So the big question has been of the summer (“Where are you going?”) has not been answered on here yet.  The international basketball market has been very different this year due to the pending NBA lockout and more budget cuts by teams as the economy around the world continues to struggle.  As the summer has gone on there haven’t been any opportunities that Joe has felt would be beneficial to our family or his career.  So we were ready to just wait around to see if the mid-season changes that a majority of the clubs go through would bring any desirable jobs.

But then last week Joe’s agent told him that Montepaschi Siena, one of the top clubs in Italy and all of Europe, was looking for a point guard to fill in some time while their starting point guard was with the Macedonian national team.  Although it isn’t a great money scenario, basketball wise it is a great opportunity.  He will be there for about a month and hopefully this situation will open up some more opportunities for the future.

This is a totally new situation for us as a family, but this isn’t surprising to me.  Joe’s career has not been one that would be described as neat and organized.  Some players spend their whole career in the same league, but Joe has played in the NBA, 3 different minor leagues in the U.S. and 5 different international countries in 8 cities.  He has played full seasons and half seasons.  So now he is adding another interesting aspect to his resume.

We are thankful for this opportunity he has and I will keep you updated on where the professional basketball world may take us next!

9 Years of Marriage By the Grace of God

I am forgoing What I Like Wednesday today to give thanks for 9 years of marriage. Of course, I could have just titled this post:

What I Like Wednesday: Being Married to Joe Crispin

I am so thankful for the way God has used Joe in my life over the past 9 years of marriage. There is nothing like being in a covenant of marriage where you are committed for life and yet seeing one another in the ugliest of states day after day. That is grace at its best in a human relationship.

And I am very thankful that this grace is not just a weak concept that means we just overlook one another’s faults. The grace is there to love one another through the sin and also encourage each other to put off that sin in God’s strength. Knowing that we can confront our sin in love has actually given me a greater confidence in our marriage because I know that we aren’t simply surviving by putting up fronts for one another. We have seen the ugliness and depth of sin of each other’s hearts and still love and cherish one another.

But Joe and I are very driven people, so often that drive to “get better” or examine every little aspect of our lives can become exhausting to ourselves and one another. Over the past year, I have seen the gospel shape more and more of our thinking in how to promote change in one another. There is still sin that is brought to light, but the answer isn’t just to be “more righteous” as it had in the past. But instead to just preach the good news of God’s love for us in spite of any change we may need to make. Having 4 children, getting older in years and being 10 years deep into a basketball career has stripped us down to leave us more desperate for God’s grace as we realize that the days of simply willing change are long past. We need God to do the work or we have no hope.

In the last 30 days, I have been trying to recognize my words towards Joe as part of a type of anniversary gift to him. I wanted to be more aware of what I was saying because I felt like I was falling back into being very nagging and “works-oriented” in my relationship with him. I didn’t tell him I was focusing on speaking more edifying, life-giving words and maybe he didn’t even notice, but I certainly did. I saw that even in “joking” words, I was more likely to give him a hard time than I was to give him “words of life”. So my prayers for our coming year of marriage is that the gospel would invade our marriage in an even deeper so that we continue to strive for a life of godliness, but do it even more so by pointing one another to the great love of God.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11-14

Thankful for 9 years of marriage by the grace of God,

Happy 32nd Birthday to Joe!

Another year has passed in my wonderful husband’s life.  You get small glimpses of him here and there on the blog, but on his birthday, I like to try and show you a little more of who makes up the wonderful person he is.  Two years ago I shared about words others had used to describe him and an area where I had seen huge growth.  Then last year, I shared some random tidbits about Joe.  This year, I wanted to describe one area of Joe’s life that I admire and try to emulate.

For as long as I have known Joe, one thing that I have never seen is a spirit of unforgiveness, bitterness or holding a grudge against another.  To me this is absolutely incredible because it is an area of struggle for me with many people in my life.  But not only does it amaze me because I struggle with it, but it encourages me because it shows me the heart of Jesus more fully.

In order to be someone who doesn’t hold grudges or harbor unforgiveness, you must believe two truths pretty deeply:

1. That you are a sinner that is saved by the grace of God.

2. That God is a trustworthy enough to deal with others instead of taking justice into your own hands.

And those are two areas where Joe has been a great encouragement to me in the almost 11 years that I have known him.  Anyone who knows Joe knows that he is not a very laid back, non-confrontational kind of person. Joe isn’t afraid to say the hard things to people in love and in return can receive a lot of criticism himself.  But the criticism is usually received humbly, knowing that he is a sinful person that has many areas of growth that he often can’t always see for himself.  So because of this foundation, when words are spoken about him that may be hurtful or untrue, he doesn’t harbor ill-will from them.  Joe’s patience with others is grounded in the fact that he knows that he has his own areas of struggle and that except for the grace of God he may often fall into many areas of sin.

Joe also trusts God to handle injustices done to him by others.  He knows that his anger or bitterness will not accomplish anything good in his own life or in another’s life and so he doesn’t waste time holding grudges.  Joe is able to emotionally not get tangled up in feelings of bitterness because he knows that God is working in everyone’s life in some way.  Joe recognizes his own limitations in seeing into everyone’s past and doesn’t allow himself to judge the current state of their heart.

This trust in God and right view of himself and others is a huge area of encouragement that Joe brings to my life.  There are many more I could relate, but for this birthday this is an area I will give public thanks and praise for.  Praying for many more years of life for Joe to shine a light for Jesus and encourage me to seek after God more passionately,