Saturday, 21 October 2017

Thoughts from a Morning Walk

There is a lot wrong with this world we live in. There is the all-too-common violence of theft, assault and even murder of our fellow sojourners that we share space with on this planet. There is built-in bias in our society and our workplaces and our schools, and there are predators in Hollywood, government, and at the corner grocery store that harass and abuse those who are weaker or less advantaged that they are. There is a lack of civility that manifests itself in hate-filled posts on social media toward those who don’t hold the same political, religious, or intellectual worldview, and there are those whose lack of regard for anything other than self lead them to operate heavy, potentially lethal equipment at unsafe speeds while talking on their phones and ignoring everything else around them. We live in a world where world leaders publicly behave in childish ways, and engage in a pattern of public brinksmanship that risks the lives and futures of those they should be protecting and serving.

However, despite the evident brokenness of the world around us, we can find things to be thankful for: When I woke up this morning and turned on the tap at the bathroom sink, clean and drinkable water flowed forth. When I stepped outside, I breathed fresh air and didn’t have to wear a mask like they do in some parts of the world. If I’m hungry, I have a choice of restaurants and fast food places within easy driving distance, or if I want to make my own breakfast there is a grocery store less than a mile away that has any ingredient that I might need. I can pick up my phone and be instantly connected to people I know despite the fact that they live thousands of miles away, or I can listen to whatever music, news, or commentary I feel like at the time. If I want to know something, I can “ask Alexa” and she can (sometimes) provide me with exactly what I was looking for.

I am thankful for the many blessings that I experience in the midst of such a broken and flawed world. This morning, my soul resonates with the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Didn’t-Even-Make-It-Before-Epiphany 2015-2016 Letter


As has been usual the past few years, our Christmas letter has become the new year’s-looking-back letter. Join us in taking a look at the past year:


We spent the end of 2014clip_image002 and the beginning of 2015 in Disney World in Florida. It was a great family time. We stayed on property in our camper and visited all the parks. Meeting Hiro and Baymax was a highlight.

February was Dance Mission Preview by Ballet Excelsior and the dance school. This is an annual fundraiser in which dancers levels 5 and up participate.  Aidan had an ecology project (Alaska tundra) and an insect project (termite) for biology class.clip_image002[4]clip_image004.IMG_7645IMG_7744

clip_image002[6]clip_image004[4]Tartan Alex turned 21 in March. There was Project Dance Houston and then in April, Project Dance New York.


clip_image002[8]Tartan and Naomi celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary a few months early on board the Oasis of the Seas. We had a wonderful time away from it all in the Caribbean.

Also- Kyrie graduated! Kyrieseniors (1 of 1)-209 (42) And, she passed her level 8 exam for ballet.


June was the end of year Excelsior School of Dance performance called Awaken. Kyrie danced as a company apprentice with Ballet Excelsior.


And also Bug’s 10th birthday (double digits!). She had an outdoors\camping theme. Instead of cake, we had Dutch oven crumble and s’mores!                                                                               


July was a trip to see Grandpa at the same time my sister was visiting on July 4th weekend.(Tartan’s birthday!)


August and September were birthday months. Kyrie turned 18 and Aidan, 16! Naomi became a year older as well.


October saw another visit to Grandpa & Grandma’s. Abigail celebrated her 14th birthday at the end of the month.


In November, there was Thanksgiving and our annual visit to Renaissance Festival the day after. We added something new this year- we went out Thursday evening and stayed in the RenFest campground in the camper trailer until Saturday morning. Tartan spent two weeks in Phoenix at a training class. Aidan joined an Order of the Arrow ceremony team this year, and Tartan finally got a picture of him as Meteu, the medicine man. Abigail performed at the Bay Area Christmas Market with BET (Ballet Excelsior Trainees).


IMG_2096IMG_2102IMG_2125(do you see the owl?)

Finally we reach December. We spent two weeks on the road to and from California. IMG_2268IMG_2273IMG_2331

We visited friends about to move away and just spent time hanging out, watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and visiting the Mouse. Kyrie got emotional spending time in the place her hero, Walt Disney, actually spent a great deal of time. On the way home we visited the Grand Canyon, so now we can all say we’ve seen it! IMG_2670


IMG_2241(Christmas eve pajamas)


That brings us to a new year and new adventures. Tartan Alex will be graduating from college, Kyrie will be taking college classes at Lone Star, and Kyrie and Abigail plan to go to Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic on a mission trip with Ballet Excelsior in the summer. Aidan continues on his Scouting adventures and hopefully will make progress towards Eagle and a black belt in taekwondo. Naomi hopes to have better success with her garden and Kayleigh will be a sixth grader next fall and will move up to youth group at church.

Wishing you all much joy and happiness in 2016! God bless!

The Colliers

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The After Christmas, After New Year Letter for 2014

Dear Family and Friends, 

As has happened in the past, we're a little slow in getting the annual update out. Our excuse is that we were getting ready for a Disney World trip and then we were on the trip for the first week of January. It was a great trip and everyone had a good time. A few pictures will be posted to Facebook (if you're not on FB and really want to see those, let me know and I can send you a Dropbox link).

We all got a year older. We're a year closer to Aimee, as I try to remind myself. It was a good year overall.

Tartan Alex is now a junior at HBU. He was able to go to Oxford during the summer as part of a school group to take a class on British literature. They stayed in Oxford and visited various locales, including London. He was pretty chuffed to go to the pub where the Inklings used to meet and to visit the White Horse that inspired Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse". He continues to be able to find one class each semester in which he'll get a "B" in the midst of this "A's". He will turn 21(!) this coming March. But don't worry- he figured out he doesn't like alcohol while at the Oxford pubs. He is also the only one in the family who decided to edit his paragraph in this letter.

Kyrie is cruising through her senior year (my word, not hers). This past year she danced at Project Dance Houston and Project Dance New York with BET (Ballet Excelsior Trainees) and then in the summer she went back to New York with a group from church to participate in SpreadTruth NY. Their mission is to spread the truth of Jesus through vacation Bible schools, basketball & soccer camps, and being available to talk to people in and around Central Park. Kyrie was involved in the vacation Bible school at Brooklyn Tabernacle and found it to be an amazing experience. In the spring, she took her ballet exam for level 7 and moved into level 8. No decisions have been made about where she'll be going next year for college.
Aidan is a freshman in high school this year, though he may look at you blankly for a moment if you ask him what grade he's in. He is taking two classes outside home this year: speech and biology. He continues to be involved in his scout troop and with OA (Order of the Arrow). He was on staff for Webelos Woods (a campout where troops introduce cub scouts to boy scouts) and he was able to attend the last winter camp at Camp Strake. The campground has been sold and a new property is being worked on that is further away, but not surrounded by urban and suburban areas. He moved through several belts this year in taekwondo and is currently a red belt. Next is red tip, brown and then black. Shortly after his 15th birthday, he obtained his driver's permit so the driving lessons have commenced!

Abigail, a seventh grader, was excited to be able to join BET this year and danced in their Christmas program in Market Street in The Woodlands the weekend before Christmas along with Kyrie. She took her ballet exam last spring for level 6 and is in level 7. She was the only one examining at that level so she had to do the exam all by herself! She of course passed with flying colors. She is also taking a couple of the level 8/9 classes this year as well as the usual slate of classes: modern, hip hop, and conditioning. The school class she is most enthused about is Japanese. She is using a program called Human Japanese to assist her in learning the language as her dream is someday to live in Japan. She is a big fan of K-Pop and just used Christmas money to order a concert hoodie of her favorite band, Exo.

Kayleigh is a fourth grader. At her recent well child exam we discovered that she is actually 50th percentile for height. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a child that has hovered between 5th and 20th percentile since she was a toddler, that's a gain. She's still pretty light weight but everything is probably going into her stretching out. She enjoys reading, watching movies, playing on the Wii or computer, and when she can arrange it, playing games with her siblings (and sometimes parents, too). One of her favorite games is any variation of the ABC game (ie. animals: the first person thinks of an "A" animal like alligator, the next person a "B" animal and so on). We've done anything mentioned in the Bible, movies, actors/actresses, characters in books or movies, cities, and I'm not sure how many more.

Tartan and I celebrated our 24th anniversary in Galveston this year. It was an incredible experience, well above what we were expecting. We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast and Tartan tried to get us reservations at a restaurant that had been highly recommended: Rudy and Paco's. It looked like they were fully booked through the entire weekend, but we stopped by the restaurant to see if they could squeeze us in. They were closed until the evening, but then we met the owner (Paco) as we turned to leave. He treated us like we were long, lost friends! He made sure we would get seats at the bar if a table couldn't be arranged and then he personally gave us a mini-tour of the 1894 Opera House where they were setting up for a sold-out concert. We did get a table- someone had to cancel and Paco made sure that we were immediately called and given the table. The food was amazing and we enjoyed looking at all the signed photos of famous people who have been to the restaurant. We were even treated to dessert, courtesy of Paco. All that's not even the most amazing part, though. We were at one of the spots for the Art Walk that was going on when Tartan got a call- would we like to go to the concert at the Opera House? Yes, the sold-out concert. It was Aaron Neville and Dr. John. We said yes and next thing we know, we're having champagne in a box seat listening to some great music.

Well, that's a small snapshot of our past year. We pray for you and ourselves that this coming year finds us doing what God has in mind for us and trusting Him with that. May you know the peace and joy of Jesus this year and always.

A Disney dinner at Teppan Edo

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Letter for 2013

The joy of the Lord is our strength. 

2013 was a better year in the Collier household. Honestly, just about anything would have been better, but God has been merciful to us this year for which we are thankful. This letter was started before Christmas, but somehow it didn't quite make it out until now.  

Most of the changes and events in our home as usual involve the children.  

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 

Tartan Alex is a sophomore at HBU. He finished his freshman year well, getting on the Dean's list. He also won first place in the Danny Lee Lawrence Writing Awards for creative fiction. After working over the summer at WalMart, he was happy to get back to school. This summer it looks like he will be traveling to Oxford for a two-week seminar. I look forward to telling you a little about that next year. 

Kyrie and I went to New York in the spring for her to dance in Times Square for Project Dance with the Ballet Excelsior Trainees. She got to experience a little of what it's like to be part of a traveling dance group. She had to keep everything in one carry-on bag, including her costumes.  She learned to travel light which was a great precursor to her traveling with Ballet Excelsior on their Japan tour.  She didn't dance but was part of their stage crew. It was an incredible experience for her; take a look at the previous blog posting for some of what she experienced. Her other big moment this year was getting her driver's license and being able to drive what we oddly call the "Goldberry" (it's a metallic orange color, and the name was inspired by Gus' car on the TV show Psych). Her many hours of dance at the studio include ballet level 7, tap, modern, conditioning, a couple of level 8/9 classes, and, of course, BET, the trainee program. 

Aidan added TaeKwonDo to his schedule this year. As of December, he is an Orange belt. In Scouts, he achieved the Star rank, and was also inducted into the Order of the Arrow. Next he works on achieving the Life Scout rank and then on to Eagle. Besides school at home, he is taking one outside class: junior high science. He is doing well with that.  In September, he'll be 15 and old enough to get his driver's permit. I'm so glad Tartan teaches that subject! 

Abigail is twelve, not quite a teenager, but she seems to think she is one anyway. She is dancing in level 6/7 so she has several classes with Kyrie this year. Apparently, their teachers find their sister dynamic really interesting (and perhaps entertaining). For school this year, she is working on her own Sonlight core which she is finding to be challenging. She is working on balancing that with her busy dance schedule and her need for "socialization". Besides ballet, she dances tap, modern and hip hop and takes the conditioning class. She is an assistant for a couple of beginning dance classes. 

Kayleigh is a laid-back eight year old. She seems to find her school load interesting but not too time-consuming yet. Using Simply Music, she's been learning a few songs on the piano, and Music Ace helps her learn music theory.  She's Grade 2 in ballet, so for the first time she has two ballet classes a week. She also continues with tap and hip hop and has been able to take the drama class at Excelsior. Her other interests include Build-a-Bear (including her own collection as well as the online games), reading (the Percy Jackson series and the Sisters Grimm series are her current faves), and recently she added loom knitting. 

I do often think about what Aimee would be doing now; what her interests would be and how she felt about things. How I wish I could know, but someday I'll get to know all about her and what we're missing now will seem like nothing.  And I can say that with confidence not because of myself, but because of Jesus. Happy birthday, Jesus - and say happy birthday to Aimee for us. 

We have also finally made the first disbursement from Aimee's Memorial Fund. Thank you again to all who contributed to it. We chose to give to Compassion's disaster relief fund. The massive typhoon that struck the Philippines did not severely impact the child we sponsor there, but it did many other Compassion partner organizations and the families they assist. We have sponsored Neil since before he could write his own letters and now he's 16. 

We pray blessings for you all this year, whatever it may bring. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

Love, The Collier Family

Saturday, 3 August 2013

My Mission Trip to Japan

In the twelve days that The Messiah Project and Ballet Excelsior were in Japan we traveled all over the island. We held concerts in Shizuoka, Ishinomaki, Fukushima and Tokyo. Normally at each performance site, we would have a day before the show to rehearse and find out where the dancers could dance without falling off the stages. Sometimes, we would get to a performance site the day of the show and would get things set up in the morning and perform in the evening. The first show performed was at Shimizu Terrsa in Shizuoka. We were being hosted by Gordon's Equipping Ministries church. On June 29th, we rehearsed both at the church and at Shimizu Terrsa's stage. June 30th, we attended Gordon's church service before going on to rehearse one more time before the performance later that evening. The morning after the dancers traveled to a local Christian School and performed a few dance numbers for them. Then everyone hopped on a bus for the eight hour journey to Ishinomaki. On July 2nd the group went to a community center in Tomariahma, Ishinomaki where we would use their gym as a stage. The community center was located right next to a beach, and some of the group got to explore around the shore. The next day we made a quick stop at Fukushima First Baptist Church to do a show that night. Right after, we traveled all night to arrive in Tokyo at two in the morning. We didn't have anywhere to be on July 4th, so we took that day to go walking around Tokyo. Some of us went souvenir shopping, walked in a Japanese garden, and had dinner at the Tokyo Tower. On July 5th we got back to work rehearsing at Household of God Church in North Tokyo for a performance the next day. Our last show was at the Christian Academy on July 7th. We left Japan to go home the day after. This trip was an amazing experience and I will never forget it.

On our way to Ishinomaki, we passed a area that had been destroyed by the tsunami. There were buildings demolished and other buildings that had to be because they were no longer stable and safe. Beaten up, rusty cars were upturned and in lines that ran on for a very long time. I was told that the road we were traveling on had been to be covered by 45 ft of water. At Tomarihama we took a short walk down to the beach. The beach was mostly rocks and dock area. There were many mobile homes and homes that needed repair. We were walking through an area that used to be houses that had been swept right off the ground by waves of water. I didn't realize we were walking through destroyed houses until someone pointed out the tiny wall of bricks. Our hearts went out to Japan as we were told what the people had been through. They so needed to see God's love, and as I watched people's reactions toward Savior I knew God had everything planned out so that good would come out of the terror some of the people had faced. I continue to pray for the people of Japan. Praying for the pain and suffering to end. Praying that one day, Jesus will become the center of Japan.

I saw God work in massive ways everywhere we went. Japan was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be, and so much more than I ever could have imagined. My love for Japan grew tremendously as I saw, met and talked with the people there. The Christians love for God was astounding. There was one church service that I attended where I was close to tears as I saw the people in the Japanese church just so overpowered by the Holy Spirit. I could only stand in the crowd with my mouth open as I was taking everything in. They were so faithful, joyful, and hopeful for God, someday, to be the center of Japan. I made so many new friends, with the people in the choir as well as the people in the churches. I was truly honored to spend time with all of them. I will never forget the kindness and love I was shown. The Messiah Project and Excelsior brought the powerful message of the gospel with great success. The last show we performed was very special for me, because I had extended family coming to see it. Even though my family didn't speak English, they brought a friend along who acted as our translator. I asked them before the show if they were Christians and they told me they were “sort of.” I prayed for them as the show went on. I hope one day they will be saved and learn who God really is.

Every show went wonderfully. Sometimes the rehearsal before the show would be very rough and we would begin to think it wouldn't be good enough, but every time the show started, God would calm and strengthen the performers. He never failed to give us everything we needed. He never failed to reassure me that I was important as well. Even though I was not performing in the show, I tried to help with preparations for the show and backstage during the show as much as I could. Some times I would start to feel like I was there for no reason, or worse, in the way. Before I could get upset, or sad, I would suddenly be told that they were glad I was with them. They kept telling me that I had a place on the trip for a reason and God had an important plan for me. They told me I was a blessing, but I was truly the blessed one to have such wonderful friends and an amazing God looking out for me. I still can't believe that I was able to go and help minister to Japan. I am very restless, feeling like I need to travel, and I couldn't think of a better way to travel the world than sharing God's gospel with Japan.