Monday, December 27, 2010


Everyone is reporting on their Christmases, so I guess I should too. :)

We had a quiet Christmas, a good one, but quiet.  We did end up going shopping and buying a small gift for everyone.  I got wool socks.  You'd have to know me to know how absolutely delighted I was with them.

I made all the traditional food - in small quantities.  We had a nice day.  Except that my oldest two got sick.  A teen who will not eat Christmas dinner is sick.  We did go visit a friend in the evening for a quiet time of playing games, but nothing else.

Two days later, my daughter and I are sick.  My son just came out of his bedroom to show me that he has bumps on the back of his tongue and was worried about them.  I asked him to check my tongue, and sure enough, matching bumps.  So I suspect he will be down tomorrow. Sigh.

But, it isn't that bad to be sick together.  We are together, and we are at peace.  It just means taking turns taking care of each other.

We do miss family this year.  It seems odd to make the traditional family dishes, but have no family.  Some things have happened in my family that means we will never have my whole family gathered at one place ever again.  My youngest brother has made some choices making that impossible.  Christmases are hard for me because of this.  It is a horrible situation, one that can not be fixed, and there is a deep sadness in it.

So late Christmas night, after I had been a good mom and given my kids good memories, I lay in bed wrapped up in my husband's arms and cried.  The choices that my brother has made are so terrible that we can not even miss him because it blows our minds what he did.  But, once I had a brother, and now I do not.  There is a deep, quiet sadness in that.

I am thankful for my immediate family this year, for the peace, the love, the joy in being whole.  My heart hurts for two other families who do not have this.... whose father still is missing.  I am thankful for friends who are like family that we can drop in to their house on Christmas day and not be guests.  I am thankful for a Christmas story that includes more than we look at on Christmas day...

.... a mother not able to provide what she wanted to provide for a baby...
.... parents who were mocked and scorned for a pregnancy and chose to carry that unfair shame...
.... a family displaced because of government decisions that would not bend even in the face of their difficult timing...
.... the news coming to the stinky, despised ones first - as if God delighted in telling them before others...
.... a family becoming refugees, fleeing in the night for their lives...
.....this young family living as foreigners in a land that was not welcoming to them or their beliefs.  Separated from their family and friends...
.... God's quiet acknowledgment that Rachel wept for her children and refused to be comforted.  Grieving people are awkward at Christmas.  People want them to "get over it some" so they don't ruin other people's happy mood.  Yet how do you forget and go on?  The first Christmas story contains the story of real grief that refused to be comforted.  Even my tears - for my daughter, for my brother - they all have a part in the Christmas story.  Grief is written in it, real grief. (It just doesn't make it into the carols or happy Christmas cards!)

In fact, Christmas was a mess.  A mess of messed up plans, hardship, difficulty, hurts, pain, betrayal, and in the middle of all that, the Hope that came into the world.

We have that Hope.  It is precious to us.  Life this year is precious to us.  Even with its tears.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Child's Acceptence

I was standing outside my daughter's class the last week of school.  She was going to go to a friend's after class and I had brought her play clothes for her.  I stood quietly out of the way listening to the classroom routines.

They put away their papers, they picked up garbage.  They readied for lunch.  Then the teacher said, "Ok, if you have a sister, you can line up first."  Most of the class came tumbling over to the door, and I felt sad for my daughter, to be alone.  A little wave of sadness went over me for the daughter who is alone instead of the two giggling girls I should have.

But then I saw her dark little head jostling around with those in the line up first, and I was puzzled for half a second.  I thought she hadn't heard the instructions correctly.

Then I smiled.  She did.  My daughter is bright.  She heard them.

It is just that she has always known that she does have a sister.  My heart smiled.  These little moments are a gift for my heart, for the quiet part that grieves my baby who died before I held her. 

The world so often tells us to "get over it" or to "go on".  People think about getting help for us if we continue to remember, so we learn to be quiet.

But the giggle of my daughter lining up, "I do have a sister.  She just lives in heaven". 

A gift.  My daughter is not forgotten.  She is remembered by her brothers and her sister. 

I hugged my daughter and handed her her play clothes and left with a smile.  Grief of a baby is often worse because it seems that there is no one to remember, that your child will slip into the mists of never being known, remembered.  I smiled quietly - she has not been forgotten.

You know what else?  My kids are less afraid of death than I was as a child.  Death is only to them, going on in life.  Heaven is not a strange place - it is where their sister is, where we will all be together one day.  I am thankful that I did not keep their sister's short life and sudden death from them to sheild them.  I gave them a gift with the knowledge of her existence - they know there is a reality beyond death.

And they surprise me with their matter-of-fact acceptance of the sister none of us has yet met.  That makes me heart smile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Empty Tree

Our Christmas tree is up.  It is very pretty, all gold and red.  It sits lit and welcoming in the corner of our living room.  Underneath it... empty.

It isn't that we don't have money to buy gifts.  It isn't even that we don't have friends and family who will send gifts.  We have all that.  I know some gifts are on the way from relatives.  But we have not bought any for ourselves.  We have more money this year than last year.  We have more peace.  But we have an empty tree.

We've talked about gifts, but no one has come up with any ideas.  Not even the kids can think of anything they really want.

I think we learned a lesson this year.  We have everything we want.  We just can't wrap it and put it under our tree.

Years ago, our family was fractured by stress and relationship problems.  This year we have peace.  (We even could win the cute couple award!)

Early this year, we thought we might lose our daddy.  We have him now.

We are all together, warm, happy, at peace.  How do you wrap that?  There is nothing more we really want.  We are content.

We may not buy gifts this year.  We may go to the store and jointly buy a small gift for everyone.  We may chose to do something as a family instead.  But it is not what is wrapped and under the tree that makes our eyes glitter and our hearts beat.  It is the simple joy of curling up by the fire playing cards.  Of peace and giggles through the house.  A decorated tree and some Christmas cookies.

We have only bought one gift this year.  We picked a patient at the old people's home and spoiled him rotten.  We got him new socks, a tin of chocolate, a book to write in, some nice smelling aftershave. 

We have all we want.  This year, our tree is empty, but our hearts are full.

Cleaning Out Cupboards

I finally did it.

I knew I needed to.  That cupboard sat there a total disaster after my friend and I hurriedly threw everything back into it the morning we heard my husband was missing.  I was expecting the rest of our team to arrive within an hour to sit with me, and we needed the living room cleaned up again.  The kids and I had emptied it the night before with great plans to sort it all out and clean it up that day... but that day turned out so differently than we thought.  People would be arriving, and the room needed to be neat.

So my friend and I hurriedly threw everything back in the cupboard and made pots of tea.  When my kids came home from the park, she took them home with her, not telling then what had happened - only that they were going for a sleepover.  I put the tea and cups on the coffee table and went and stood by my front window with the phone in my hand.

Expecting to hear from people.  Expecting them to come.  We would sit through this day together.

Except they never came.  I went more than 24 hours alone before anyone came over to help me carry the news.  Twenty- four hours where I stared blankly, almost not thinking, at the snow falling outside the window.  Where I curled up on my kitchen floor and cried.


Eventually, I cleared the tea things from the coffee table and drank the cold tea.

We survived, and God worked a miracle.

But the cupboard sat there unopened again.  Once or twice, I have opened it with the intention to clean it out, to sort it out.  But I was met with a jumbled mess of pain.  I just could not do it.  Memories - of laughing with my kids as we emptied it into piles, of throwing it back in with no sense of order, of being left alone.

Yesterday, my oldest son threw up.  He's fine, but I kept him home from school.  In the quiet day with a kid that was not that sick, I opened the cupboard.  We did it together.  Now it is organized - neat piles of puzzles and games ready to be played.  Videos sorted into their cases ready to be watched over the holidays.  Clean and organized.

It feels good.  Just having the bulging mess gone feels good.  Time to start a new chapter.  Time to play games and do puzzles with friends.  It may be with new friends this time, but it is time to laugh and play again.  Time to sort out that cupboard and face the pain of cups on a coffee table that were never drunk from.

I couldn't have done it without my oldest working beside me.  Children are a blessing, and I am thankful for mine.  Thankful to see the others come home from school, see the organized games, and grab one to lay on their tummies in front of the fire and play.  It is time to laugh and giggle again.

Some questions may never have answers, but the cupboard is cleaned out and it is time to enjoy life.

Time to make more tea and cookies for new friends. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

God's Grace!

We just got called "a cute couple".  So cute in fact that the receptionist told her sister about how cute we were together.  Ha!  Looking back a year or two, and that would amaze me...  God's grace.

But my husband has done a great job of caring for me.  He still is since I am not totally independent yet.  He's bossy, I'll tell you that.  Made me sleep.  Made me take my pills so I would sleep.  Didn't let me shower even though I so wanted to sneak one in and not tell the doctor.  He's bossy.

But he also managed the kids, the schedules, the cooking, the shopping, and even holding my head when I threw up. (Pain medication and me are NOT a good mix!)  He set his alarm to wake me up to take my pills o schedule and pulled himself out of bed in the mornings to fix breakfast for the kids.  He's a great husband, if a little bossy.

The good news is that four days of drug enforced sleeping did conquer the remnants of my cold and I am feeling mostly better again.  I'm still dragging tired, but that may clear up once all these drugs clear from my system.

I am almost healed from surgery.  Not quite yet, and that lingering "not yet" frustrates me.  (I am not extremely patient.)  I am a little worried.  I thought I would be doing better by now and I am not yet.  The doctor is pleased, so I should be too, but I will be happier when things are back to normal.

We did however, get our tree up!  Slightly haphazardly as I tried to direct without being able to see it well, three boys in how to properly space ornaments around the tree.  It is up.  It looks like Christmas.  And i even threw an apple crisp in the oven last night. (Thank God for those jars of apple pie filling we canned a few months ago!)

So, we might not have the best menu yet or the best tree, but I'll settle for being the cutest couple!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just Not the Right Timing

I'm sick.  I rarely get sick and I usually shake it off when I am sick, but this year is a different story.  I got a flu about a month ago, and it keeps coming back.  Still coughing, still a sore throat, still when I push myself I end up running a fever.  My head hurts, sinuses get plugged.

I am just not happy.  I have no extra energy.

It seems that December is a month that requires extra energy.  And I just don't have it.

To top that off, tomorrow I am having minor surgery.  The type that a lingering cold won't hurt, but that will make me even more dependent and sap whatever energy I do have.

I should be decorating the house and doing Christmas baking.  Instead, I am hanging around sleeping.

I feel like a bad mom this year.  My kids "deserve" a Christmas, and honestly, right now, I just wish it would all go away and let me sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Romantic Interlude

My second son is unusual.  I don't really know how such normal people like ourselves gave birth to to such unusual children!

Yesterday, I told the kids that while they were going to an event, their dad and I were going on a date.  (We ended up not going because I got a fever again... yucky flu keeps coming back!)  #2 giggled and giggled and said I should not say we are going on a date, "Because dating is what young, unmarried, and immature people do".

I laughed and told him that people date because they like each other and what did he want me to say?

He disagreed.  "You shouldn't say a date because you are not immature and silly." (little does he know!)

"So what should I say then?"

He put on his comical serious voice and said, "You should say a romantic interlude!"

"So, ok," I said, " Daddy and and I are going out for dinner and a romantic interlude.  Who knows, we might even kiss and snuggle".  Immediate howls and gagging noises came from the back of the car, followed with, "I feel so sorry for the other people eating dinner!  To have to watch people kissing! Ugh!"

"Ok, out of respect for other diners, on our romantic interlude we may try to restrain ourselves and save the kissing for when we are back home IN FRONT OF THE KIDS!"

more screams of "ew, Mom!"

Ah, being a parent of tweens is so much fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sitting Alone Watching the Rain

I just did something that I think I regret.  No, not exactly regret - that is too strong a word, but hesitate about perhaps.

How do you ask for something that you want someone to want to do for you?  If you ask, you run the risk that they will say yes only because you ask.  If you don't ask, you run the risk that they will never know that it was wanted.

There is no clear way to say, "well, only if you want to...."  because there is an obligation in some requests sort of built in.  "Ok, if that is what you need, I will do that, of course."

But that is not what I was asking.  I want someone to want to do something, to take the initiative themselves.  It hasn't happened, so now I ask.  And of course, now they will do it....

but there is a emptiness to it - at least I feel that this morning.  An emptiness because I had to ask.  And now I don't know if they really would have ever wanted to or if my request (in a mild way) forced them into saying yes.

It is raining this morning, a cold drizzly rain.  It matches my mood.  Feeling alone.  I can maybe get what I needed, but only by bluntly asking, not because I was seen.  And there is some sadness in that fact.

I wanted to be seen.  I've been feeling invisible in some pain, and I wanted to be seen.  Seen not because I jumped up and down and yelled, but seen because I was loved and noticed.  So I sit here watching the rain drizzling down drinking hot apple juice being quiet. Sad.

I'll only do this for an hour, and then I get up and go teach.  It is an ok place to visit, but not to hang out in.  Right now, I can sit quietly and listen.  To look up to God and be honest about how I feel.  To set it in front of Him with the unanswered questions, disappointments, hopes, and pain.  And then just sit, drinking hot apple juice, watching the rain

Monday, November 29, 2010


I hate that feeling - being stuck.  Due date for a newsletter hanging over me for weeks... even months over due, but stuck.  Nothing to say.  Oh, there are things to say, but we're not even sure we can say the things that there are to say.  And then so much of my life is very, very repetitious, monotonous.  Boring.

What to write about?  Do I write about how we honestly feel right now - battered about, watching pain happen, struggling?  People in our churches already wonder if we are chasing a hopeless task....  what will they say if I say we are struggling, discouraged, saddened?

But we are not discouraged, not exactly.  We are - the situation is difficult and this year our friends are suffering.  But we aren't discouraged- we are seeing people standing against persecution... difficult things are happening, but people are still standing.  That brings enormous joy... along with the tears as we watch.

But can we share all that?  What can be said?  Difficult questions to answer.  There is a lot to think about before we share much of anything.

So what do I write?

I sat there for weeks.... letter way over due... too much on my heart to write... questions about what could or could not be said...

Then there was no more delaying.  I prayed desperately, and combined all the little beginnings I had made over weeks.  It got done.  Now I have also organized my inbox, done all my address changes, and filed all my letters.  I responded to all the people who needed letters.

Aahhh... time to have a cup of hot chocolate and relax... nice not to have it hanging over me.

just don't tell me the Christmas letter is due soon....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Is That In the Oven?!

My daughter was helping me cook our Thanksgiving dinner.  We only bought a turkey breast this year since we are only six and didn't need the expense of a whole turkey.  She was talking on the phone to her grandpa and asking me what we were going to cook so she could tell him.

Pumpkin pie, apple pie, casseroles, and turkey breast.

She carefully repeated to her grandpa, "We're going to cook, pumpkin pie, apple pie, casseroles, and Cherokee breast."


Then she began questioning me on the history of Thanksgiving and then the Revolutionary war.  I told her the Thanksgiving story - how it is a story of forgiveness and grace of a man who could easily have held a grudge and chosen not to help, but who forgave and helped.  We are familiar with the thought of people who have to leave their country because of their religious beliefs, so the story made sense to my daughter.

Then she began talking about the Revolutionary War for some reason.  She had read a book about the Redcoats fighting, and wanted to know who they were fighting, because the book said that the Redcoats were fighting the, "I think it said the pirates.... or maybe it was the parrots.... who were they fighting, Mom?"

The patriots, maybe?

After defining patriots for her, she stopped asking questions and is now buzzing around the kitchen singing "God Bless America."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gospel According to....

My daughter was excited after church this week.  She gets points for her memory verses, so she works hard at them.  She was very excited to tell me that in two weeks they are going to learn a verse that she already learned last year in school.

I asked her which verse that was.

She replied, "I am not sure exactly, but it is that one, well, you know, that says, 'If I go to bed with my angriness, then I will help the devil climb up the mountain'."

On farther examination, she did understand what the verse meant, but her way of expressing it was something else!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Telling My Story

Tonight we told our story.  We had guests over, ones who wanted to hear, and because they work in similar things, in similar places, they could understand and wanted to hear.

So we told them our story.  Its been several months now - not quiet months among our friends... more troubles followed more troubles followed even more.  The troubles have not ended even now.  I feel odd sometimes sitting here in peace and safety.... others are in trouble now, we think of them, pray for them, work for them... We are ok...  it is over for us.

It is.  All that is true.  At times we feel odd, not guilty, but odd... why are we blessed and in comfort while others aren't?

All that is true.

But it is still a blessing to be able to tell our story.  With each telling, we hear it again.  We sort through it.  We process it.  My story is mine.  My husband's is his.  We went through different things.  Different reactions.  Different struggles.  Different victories.

We never got to tell our story really.  He told his once to people combing for details.  I did not tell mine then - no details were needed from me.  We told it again to a group - again looking for lessons and details...  We both told them then.  That ended in a huge conflict of people upset and angry with us.

We rarely told our story after that.  Once or twice to a group - in ten minutes.  My inability to tell it made it very difficult for me to process the event.  I need to talk to think.  I need to write to think.  To put things to words.  The most I told my story was on my blog.  Then once we had coworkers from another organization visit, and we told our story - both his and mine.  The first time that both of us in detail told our story - not just events, but some feelings too.  That was good.

But then troubles began, and our story got put to the side.  Time to help others.  I don't for one minute regret helping others.  I would do it again.

But we hadn't been able to tell our story well.  To tell my story.  To be heard.  I still have an aching gap - something I would love to say that I haven't been able to say.  Not everything can be written on my blog, and I haven't been able to tell some things.  It has grown into a settled sadness, an awareness that it may never be told.  I haven't been heard well, and may not be.

Tonight, though, we told our story.  I know it is months later, and there are other crisis going on.  But to be given the chance to tell again.  This time the people listening wanted to know our stories - how we felt, how we dealt with emotions.  No one has ever asked the "how did you feel?" questions before.  No one.

I needed to tell my story.  I needed to be heard.  I will likely need it again.  In letting me tell my story - not for your entertainment and curiosity, not for your lessons to be learned, but to hear me - you help me heal.

Who needs you to listen to their story today?  What story do you have that needs listening to?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Evening in the Life of..... or Why You Should Think Deeply Before Having Four Kids

One evening, not too long ago, I ran out to get food.  I also decided to get some dish soap for the bathroom soap dispenser.  Some idiot had loosened the dish soap lid to almost off.  When I put in in the van, it tipped over and spilled all over me, the carpet, and the sliding door mechanism.

It took me half an hour to get it cleaned up as best I could with towels.  I had bought an extra big bottle, of course.  This turned my ten minute errand into a much longer event.  When I got home, #1 asked to speak to me.

Apparently, while I was gone, the following happened.  (I had left them with simple instructions - please dismantle #1's bed and take it downstairs to his room, which is now repaired again.)  And this happened:

1. They were taking apart #1's bed, so #1 asked #3 to go look for a tool.

2. Girlie was in the hallway and decided to block the hall so #3 could not get through.

3. So #3 kicked Girlie in the stomach.

4. Girlie ran to the bathroom and was gagging over the sink.  (It remains a question if she was really sick or exaggerating.)

5. #1 was holding the bed and couldn't get free right away, so asked #2 to check on Girlie.

6. #2 looked at Girlie, but then decided he would chase after #3 instead.

7. #2 ran outside to confront #3.

8. #3 ran screeching around the house and jumped the wall.

9. #2 hotly pursued #3.

10. #1 called #3 to come in and stop screeching.

11. #3 came in, but then #1 sent him out to go get the tool - the original mission.

12. #2 meanwhile decided to hide up above where the tools are kept in the storage area.

13. #2 jumped out at and/or yelled at #3 when he came in the storage room.

14. #3 took off screeching and running again.

15. #2 pursued #3.  Lap number two around the house.

16. #1 got them inside again and asked them all to come up to his room and work on the bed.

17. #2 got angry about something, so took a bolt and either did or did not scratch #1's radio.  (The truth was unable to be discerned.)

18. #3 tattled to #1 that #2 scratched his radio.

19. #2 yelled at #1 that he did NOT scratch the radio.

20. #1 attempted to find out the truth by asking different people, but by this time he was pretty ticked off.

21. Girlie kept back-talking to #1 and didn't let him talk to #2 and #3.

22. #1 clamped his hand over Girlie's mouth to get her to be quiet so he could talk to #2 and #3 and find out about the radio.

23. Girlie fought and howled.

24. Somehow, #1 set her free and sent Girlie and #3 downstairs to sit on the couch.

25. #1 and #2 then took apart the bed, carried it down to his room, and put the tools away.

Then I came home.  It took over half an hour of piecing together accounts and wading through such lies as "I only ran after him to make sure he was ok and was not going to run in the street and get killed." to figure out the gist of the story.

I told them all I was highly disappointed with them (not #1).  I told them that every single one of them had a chance to stop the whole event with their actions, and they didn't.

Girlie could have let #3 walk down the hall.

#3 could have asked #1 to ask Girlie to move.

#2 could have checked on Girlie and stayed with her to comfort her.

But each chose to make a stupid decision which led to conflict.  Poor #1 was stuck trying to sort out the mess, and he did not do it perfectly.  (They all wanted me to punish #1 for clamping his hand over Girlie's mouth and for grabbing #2 once to pull him off #3.)  I told them that #1 is only 14 years old, and is not a parent, so the fact that he made some mistakes in parenting in a difficult situation does not surprise me, and I will not judge him for it or punish him.  Later privately, I did point out to him where he could have made a different choice.  I reminded all three that none of them tried to help #1, and actually few of them obeyed him at all.  He made really good decisions at first, but they did not follow them.

I told them that especially in a crisis, there needs to be a clear single leader who people follow.  #1 took that role, but then #2 decided to take things into his own hands.

I told #3 that he used his God-given strength in a wrong way to hurt a girl he was supposed to defend.  I told #2 that he used his God-given desire to defend women in a wrong way without wisdom.

So I showed them what I had bought for a nice evening relaxing and having treats and told them I was sorry we could not have it, sent them to shower, fed them supper, and sent them to bed.

First I made them all apologize, starting with Girlie as she had initiated the conflict.  Then I disciplined #3, and told him that he is not allowed under any circumstance to kick or hit a girl.  That men are far stronger in force than women (we just had earlier to ask the neighbor to help me lift something since I couldn't) and they must learn to control the desire to use that force to hurt.  If he hits or kicks Girlie, I will discipline him every single time.  I told him he always talks all the time, and now, in the once instance when he should have used his mouth, he didn't.

Then #1 and I set up the new bed.  While we were working, he apologized for the way the evening went, but I told him that I have no expectations that he will be perfect at parenting now, and that he did pretty well.  He can't control their choices, but in the future to use a "Girlie, go to your room right now" instead of being physical with her.

So that was my evening.... :(  And people think missionaries are perfect and their kids should always be well-behaved... sigh...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crowned with Many Crowns?

My daughter is memorizing James 1:12 this week for school.  A perfect opportunity to have some discussions about what lasts and what doesn't.  There is one thing that can never be taken away from us.  Ever.

Eternal life.

Anyway, she was wondering about what she heard in Revelation where it says Jesus is crowned with many crowns.

" Do they all fit on His head then, Mommy?"

I love the literal minds of kids!  They are able to grasp such deep thoughts so simply, but then they also struggle over how many crowns Jesus can balance at once!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday School and Why I dread what it teaches.

I went to Sunday school.  I even taught Sunday School for years.  I was very blessed to teach under  master teacher and learn how much kids are actually able to think.  Most Sunday School curriculum is dumbed down.  It is only a repeat of a few basic themes:  we need to love each other, we need to be thankful, we need to share, followed with the good old Sunday School standard, "Don't be afraid.  God will keep you safe."

While I firmly believe in the keeping power of God, this Sunday school pablum irritates me.

I lived enough of life as a child to know that God does not always keep you safe.

We live a life where God keeping us safe accompanied by a picture of a child sleeping in her bed with no nightmares does not quite cut it.

This week alone, we are waiting for news of a friend whose decision to follow Christ is likely going to cost him his life.

Then I went to chapel at my kid's school to hear some teacher do a skit with the whole idea, which she repeated several times....

If you make good choices, you will have good consequences.
If you make bad choices, you will have bad consequences.

Try telling that to my friend whose decision not to deny Christ is going to cost him his life.  Try telling that to my kids a few months ago.  Try telling that to..... argh!

How about the very real truth in 2 Tim. 3:12?  
Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Sort of blows our good choices - good consequences teaching out of the water.  Don't get me wrong, I think we should make good choices, and I think that good choices will ultimately have good consequences, but we need to be really careful about giving our kids false promises in God's name.  God never promised them that if they make good choices only good will happen, and we are remiss as parents and teachers if we do not prepare our kids for life.

I became adamant about this early on in my kid's lives, but became even more so when I became a Sunday School teacher to a small group of kids who had been through an awful tragedy where they thought they would be safe.  I glanced through all the lessons that were available to teach and grew nauseated with the pictures of kids sleeping in their beds, smiling on swing sets, and playing in sandboxes while week after week that message that God loves them and won't let anything bad happen to them was taught.

I threw it all away and started again.  What do I need to say looking into the eyes of kids who have seen what we only read about, and how do I help them maintain their faith in God?  We struggled through that year, learning the promises of God, reading through those Bible stories that don't always go perfectly.  We read of Corrie ten Boom, and let them see the truth in the fact that while she survived, her sister and father didn't.  We faced pain, acknowledged its existence in our lives.  We studied the beginning of evil in the world.  And we came back to the promises and power of God.  We read of heaven and how we are instantly there, all pain gone, all fear gone, tears wiped away, forever all together.  We healed and faced our fears together.

Yes, men can hurt us, but God is always with us, and there is nothing that can take us from His hand.  Not even death.  Especially not death.

But I bristled when I heard this taught again in my kid's chapel this morning.  Good choices can have very bad consequences.  My friend is facing those today.  And if I get the chance to hold his children in my arms, I will not throw their faith into confusion and doubt by teaching them a doctrine that causes them to question their father's choice to follow Christ or their God's ability to intervene, but I will tell them of the promises of God.  How He was there for their father, even in the darkest hours.  How He will be there for them, to father them, to care for them through the pain He has asked them to walk through.

And I will tell them of heaven.  Of the forever where tears are wiped away and relationships are restored.

Incompatibilities.... an apology?

I told the person who asked me that question that I wasn't thrilled with them right them.  Why ask that now?  It has been a big enough step for me to get from anger at how we were wronged to knowing that my attitude in response to the wrong was also wrong.

Why ask me to apologize?

Should he apologize first?  He did the wrong first, not me.

"What is that to you?"  - An interesting question Jesus asks Peter when Peter asks, "What about John?"

It is really none of my business if or when that man deals with his actions in front of God.  If he sees he hurt us or not.  If he apologizes or not.  If he corrects the lies or not.

Not. My. Business.

At least, not an excuse for me not doing what is right.

My business - my walk with God.  My wrongs.  My sins.

Not his.

If that means, to deal with my sins, that I need to apologize, then that is the way it is.  Some people will say that we do not need to apologize, especially if the other person may not have known about our attitude.  I was told that as a child, but now that I am older, I don't think I agree with it as wholeheartedly as I used to.  I think we use that too often as an excuse not to deal with things "because it was a private sin".  There is nothing quite so definite about dealing with a wrong attitude than confessing it and asking for forgiveness and grace.

Besides, very little with me - at least with what I am thinking and feeling, is private since my face reads like an open book!  So there was no doubt that the person knew how I felt.

Sigh.  So there was no excuse, no escape, no blame casting.  I want to follow God, so it was time to get up and obey.

It was hard.  First I had to come to the place that I was willing to forgive him for what he had done.  That is hard when there is no forgiveness asked, when the very wrong that was done is justified.  But forgiveness is for sin.  For sin, not just for mistakes.  Forgiveness can include forgiveness for not being repentant.  It can forgive for the hurt of never acknowledging the hurt and the damage done.  God forgave me before I "felt sorry".  He asks me to forgive - no conditions included.  Now, that forgiveness can be offered freely now, but there may be limits to the enjoyment of the forgiveness.  Or maybe I would say to the restoration of the relationship.  Restoration of the relationship would mean the receiving of the forgiveness.... just as God offers to all the world forgiveness and grace, but if we do not receive it, we do not enjoy it.

His heart is not my responsibility.  Mine is to offer forgiveness, and to deal with my sins.

But how?  This man is hard to catch.  Like a minnow, he darts here and there.  Like a house-fly, his attention flits from subject to subject.  I spent two years telling him that when he comes, while he is here, I want ten minutes to talk to him.... but never got it.  He always forgot.  Got too busy.  Just ran out of time.


You know the delight of a great relationship with my husband now?  I can ask his help.  So I did, and we managed to catch the minnow.

It was awkward, but I simply apologized for  my attitude while he was here last and for confronting him on that issue publicly when I should have done it privately.  I think he was shocked.  I think he was even more shocked that I did not confront him more.  I did state that I have been aware of the things he has said over the years and that has made working with him difficult, but that I was wrong to confront him like I did.

It was over in five minutes.  It was relatively painless.... the pain was in dreading it, not doing it! I think I left disappointed in a small way.  If I was writing a book, it would have ended with him apologizing, too, and saying that he was wrong in the things he did.  In restoring the relationship to something beautiful.

But I am not the author of this book.  And this is real life, not a fantasy.

I walk away clean.  How he goes on from here is really none of my business, but belongs to him and God.  Maybe he has dealt with it.  Maybe he hasn't.  It isn't mine to carry.

So, yes, an apology.  You see, I can continue where I am because I am in God's care, not this man's.  I am safe, loved, and do not need to fight every one of my battles to defend me.  God is capable of defending me.  Why He does not seem to have done so in this case puzzles me, but I chose to trust.  I am safe.

Besides, it is God who speaks my value, not man.  I do not need to live the things that have been said about me, not now, not earlier.

The anger went.  My relationship with my husband deepened through this.  And slowly, since that time, there have been those moments where I have seen that those who were on the receiving end of some of those accusations against me do not believe them.  They have gotten to know me.  I am not so defensive now.  Relaxed.  Happier.

I think I am more free.  What this man thinks does not control my thoughts as much.  If he wants to think that, fine.  It doesn't have to chain me down, fill my thoughts, evoke such a response in me.  I am not judged by his words.

Only by God.  Who has declared me loved, delighted in, whole, and beautiful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Late Night Hospitality

He offered to cancel the dinner.  I was fighting off a cold and tired easily.  The house was still in disarray being in the middle of a basement repair job, and the remains of babysitting a friend's toddlers the day before.  I just wanted to crawl back under the covers.

But he had invited them, and they were leaving soon.  He had asked me because he wondered if they needed to talk.

He offered again to cancel the dinner.  I was not looking good.  But I declined.  I am sure we can handle a dinner.  After all, they will leave soon.  The dinner will be, in the typical fashion, after church that evening, so not until at least nine.  They won't stay that long.

So I cooked.  I stayed home from church to reserve my strength, and cooked with my kids.  We had fun - trying a few new dishes.

And then they came.  After dinner, our kids went to bed.  Their child was with friends, so there was no reason to stay up and play.  We settled in to talk.  Small talk... for an hour or so...

We could tell they needed to talk, there were things.  They talked about stress, about needing to rest, struggling to find that...  no definition nor context to the stress.  So we took a gamble, and opened up an area of conversation.

They needed to talk.  Like us, they find themselves in an unique place - mixed marriage, a country foreign to both, working, difficulties, grief... it piles up.  Some things are difficult to talk about to people who do not live the day to day realities of marriages with very different cultures under the stress of 24 hour ministry and small children.

We shared some of our life.  Our near crash as a couple from not seeking help early enough, not knowing how to seek help, and the difficulties of actually finding competent help either on or off the field.  We shared the path we have walked.  There is hope.  There is the ability to speak honestly.  There is a future, still, and hope even though we walk through difficult times.  It is very hard at some times to find what is needed.  Mission groups do not always put a high priority on member care.  Even when they say they do, the process is often so ungainly and very dependent on the person who should arrange it.  Some do it well, and others not.

But there is hope.  The need to find a safe place to talk.  The need to be a safe place for each other.  Things we wish we had known.

It was a good evening.  When we looked at the time, it was near 1 in the morning.  We talked a little more, and then they left.

I woke this morning with a chest cold.  The little sore throat and light fever I had the day before settled into a wheeze deep in my chest.  Breathing is tiring.

I should have gone to bed early yesterday.  I should have rested and canceled the dinner.  But God had some late night hospitality on His agenda.

I don't mind.  I have also been the person keeping someone else up late, late a few nights.  I don't mind.  It is time to pass it on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Incompatabilities - What is my responsibility?

I was not too happy with what I had read in my book late that night.  To have to come face to face with the truth that God, knowing the weakness and faults in the person He chose to put over us, still chose that person to be in authority over us.

I think there has to be a fine line between the "submit to all authority no matter what" which historically has caused much harm in missions and "fight against any authority that does not put your best interests at heart" which would cause chaos and divisions. 

That balance.  It is a tough one - one I think we can only find well as we walk closely with God and lay these situations in front of Him.  I still think some of the things done by my leadership over the last years, and especially during two crisis that we went through, were wrong - very wrong.  I am aware of other situations where this leadership has made other decisions that were wrong that hurt other people.  It is difficult at times.  There have been times we have had to say, "No.  That is not good and we will not do that."  There have been times when we have had to face someone in authority and say, "How you acted in that situation was not right, and you should have considered these factors..."  We have had to speak to those in authority over the ones in charge of us.  These are all appropriate things to do - carefully.  Very carefully.  They have to be done from the right heart and in the right way - first speaking to the individual, and then to others above him - quietly, without gossip.

So, no, I do not believe in blind authority that will allow abuses.

But I also do not believe that every fight against authority is just.

There are some questions to ask:

1.  Is this important?  Is it going to make a difference in the long run?   Is it just something that I could be inconvenienced with today, or is it a long-term issue that I need to address?

2. Is it just about me?  We have an exaggerated defense system when it is all about us.  Or is it an issue if not corrected that will adversely affect others?

3. Is my attitude right?  This is a big one, and the one I think we don't always stop to be honest about before we confront people.

There are times to stand up and say, "no".  There are times, too, I believe when someone else should be standing up and saying no in our behalf.  If we have those people in our lives who can do that, we are blessed.

But back to the truth in the book - that God chose to put this faulty person in charge over us.  It is actually comforting to me to read that throughout the history of missions, people have struggled with this problem.  It is not unique to me.  So, I can assume that God does know what He is doing and is capable of seeing us through it.

(However, that may not prevent me from dancing a happy dance if one person ever gets transferred.)

But until then, my job is to keep my heart right before God in relating to this imperfect person He has chosen to be over me.  sigh....

Because I struggle most on the third question - "Is your heart right?"  I get angry.  What was done was wrong.  Some of it was a very personal attack on me.  It hurt.  It still does.  Thankfully, over the last year, the ones who were on the receiving end of the lies about me have gotten to know me much better and have realized that it was at the least, a very inaccurate view of who I am.  But it still hurts.

It hurt that when I was hurting, I was thrown to the sharks.  That was very painful.

I made a crucial mistake that day.  I confronted this man with his mistakes and wrongs there in front of the group publicly.  I shouldn't have.  The confronting needed to be done, but how and where was wrong.  That led to a huge uproar and a lot of pain.

What is my responsibility?  Not his actions.  Not his response.  Not even his learning process.

My responsibility was to speak the truth (should have done it in more love!), but to clearly speak the truth.  I think to not speak would leave others open to hurt, and my very firm insistence on the truth being heard did protect another friend when she went through something similar, and for that very fact, I am thankful that I did it - even if it was painful.

My responsibility is to speak the truth and to keep my heart right and to continue to honor those GOD has placed in authority over me.

I saw that that evening when I was reading my book.

I would have been just fine then, if one annoying friend had not asked me the awful question, "So when are you going to apologize?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

Ever since I made the International Barbeque back in September, I've been restless with cooking.  Really bored of the same old same old, and wanting to try new things.

Very thankful for the internet which allows me to study recipes and compare them.  When I made the apple jams and apple butter and apple pie filling, I simply looked online and made adjustments according to what I had on me at that time.  The international bbq was the same thing.  I love the internet.

Recently, I was craving some candied orange peels that I had bought on one of my trips to a certain country.  Oh, they were good!  So I searched, and sure enough, there was a recipe.  Yum.

I made them.  Easy recipe with ingredients most people have on hand - oranges and sugar.  Some people like them dipped in dark chocolate coating, but I don't really.  I have never liked the combination of orange and chocolate.

I ate half of them the next day, though....

Today, I wanted to make some gingered pear perserves, but it called for candied ginger.  Candied ginger?  Never heard of it, but following my ease in candying orange peel, I thought I would give it a try.

Also fairly simple.

And oh, did it smell good!  I could not resist, so snuck a spoonful of the simmering gingered syrup.... mmm..

It was then I discovered I had made two things in one.  Candied ginger and a great sore throat soother!  The candied ginger will taste great tomorrow when it dries, but for now, that sweet, very gingery hot syrup is just the thing for soothing this nasty sore throat I have.

I sneeze horribly if I eat mint, so most cough drops do not really soothe anything for me, but this stuff is great!

If you want it, basically simmer cut ginger slices in a 50% sugar and water solution for twenty minutes or so - wow!

I am thinking it will also be a nice syrup to add to tea to make a great flavored ice tea.  Have to try that one tomorrow.... maybe green ice tea, and it would be like that stuff we get back home that my son loves.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Incompatibilities.... and some late night reading.

I knew that he would be coming this fall.  He always does.  My husband and I had an honest talk one day which resulted in me as kindly as possible putting my foot down and refusing that he will ever stay with us.  We used to host him.  As local team leaders, we always hosted the bigger team leader.  I eventually realized that I am under no obligation to do so and that it was not healthy for me.  Instead, I chose my favorites of those coming to host.

But he was coming.  The events of this spring were doubly hard because of the actions of this man, and his reactions to the crisis resulted in us being thrown to the sharks when we were wounded rather than receiving help.  So I knew that facing him this fall was going to be extremely hard. 

I am not a pretender. I detest having to pretend. It is just not me. I am also rarely rude.  I am usually very nice to this person - extremely nice. Why? Because that is who I am - not because he has earned it, but because I chose not to let him dictate to me who I will be.  I refuse to be something I am not just because this person habitually hurts me. But it costs me something.  It is difficult.

That was when I picked up this book, "Born for Battle" by Arthur Matthews. It's a good book, very good.

One night, I took the book to bed, thinking I would reread the first chapter and think through it again. All day, a phrase had been repeating in my head. "Discipline accepted, discipline rejected". I had remembered hearing that phrase a long time go, but could not remember where. As I thumbed through the book in bed, I was really surprised to see the phrase in it. Really?  It was a chapter title.

Ok... there ought to be a point when I just give in and look suspiciously up at God and bluntly ask, "what are You up to?!" Instead, I just flipped to that chapter to see what it said.

I had read this book back in Bible school with my room-mate.  Every night we had read a chapter, discussed it and prayed together.  I saw that parts of this chapter was carefully underlined in pencil.  I guess back then, that section had spoke to us. Not as much as it spoke to me now, twenty years later...

If we want to be used of God year after year in the place of His appointment, then let us welcome the incompatibilities that toughen spiritual temper and at the same time drive us to the resources of the Life that was laid down for us.

I sat staring at the page very quietly. This was the quiet night before the team was all to arrive the next day.

Then I reluctantly flipped back towards the beginning of the chapter. It talked  about Jesus being able to finish His work because He daily accepted discipline.  It talked about not just His death at the end of his life, but His daily accepting to continue without sin and not give in to selfishness.  The dying to Himself.

"To have relinquished this dying at any point in favor of some escape scheme would have forfeited for Him the right to claim Mission Accomplished."

hmpf.  It did not quit there...  

"The one who will go through to the end with steady pace is the one who accepts the daily discipline of dying, choosing to renounce and repudiate the competitive voice of self. This is what God seeks from those who serve Him."

hmpf.  I kept reading.... a little annoyed, but very, very quiet.. why does He have to be talking about this right now, right now when this man is coming and I can't stand him because he has done wrong which has hurt me?

"...God sends discipline into our lives. It is here that things seem altogether awry. Why does God have to mediate His disciplines through the clumsy and unsympathetic hands of those we dislike and despise and whose authority we resent? We need discipline, granted - but why cannot it be delivered through acceptable channels?"

ugh. Ok. There are times there is not much you can say in answer.... other than, I am wrong.  I am seeing this as an "all his problem" type of thing... and it is not to say that he is without fault.... but I am looking at it skewed.  I can also look at it as these are the circumstances that God has chosen to put me into.

I have been struggling with God about why He allows this hurt... and can't get past the basic fact that everything that people do that affects me, God knows about it. He could stop it, and He doesn't. And that brings me back to the basic fact that I have to trust God, even when He allows things that I don't like. I had even blogged about Andrew Murray's four stones: .. "in time of trouble, I can say I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, for His purposes, for His time".... this....

Straight in my face...even clumsy, despised leader.... even that...

I chose to accept God's sovereignty and acknowledge that in allowing me to go through this, He allowed it for my good, and has purpose in it... Even in this.

Ugh. I did not really like where this late night conversation with God was leading because it led me flat out to a place where I had to accept what hurt me and to continue to live honorably before God accepting both that He put this man in leadership over us with all his faults and He allowed him to act like this in this time....

which then leads me pretty quickly to the place where I have to say that I am wrong - my attitude and my feelings and thoughts towards him are wrong.

Which I knew.

There is a small part of me that protested and says that wrong is still wrong. That struggling with the balance of defending myself and not... But when I view it from the angle that God is fully in charge and is allowing this for good in my life, it is different.  It is different than not defending yourself because you don't think you are worth it. It is not defending yourself because you know you are worth the intimate and detailed care of God... that what He is allowing is purposed for good, for discipline, for my good. It is the difference between saying "I don't deserve better" and saying "I know I can trust because You deeply care". So the protest is small because I know I am wrong, and two wrongs don't make something right.


Because in the end, the only behavior I am responsible for is my own. And I am responsible for my own behavior.

Incompatibilities..... Is there any answer?

If you've been around reading my blog for awhile, then it is no secret that I struggle to get along with some people in our team.  One person, mostly.  In fact, I wonder at times if God derives some odd delight in putting incompatible people together on teams?  (Just kidding..!)

It has made life difficult.  It would be difficult in the best of situations, but in times of trouble, it becomes more difficult.

It's been difficult as we struggled through troubles in our marriage.

It's been difficult as we've struggled through relocations and threats of relocations.

It's been difficult as we faced a crisis in our work involving our family.

I wrestle with my attitude and knowing how to respond at times.  I do believe this person loves God and has a heart to do right.  It seems, though, that he lacks some skills or an ability to see, perhaps intuition.  I think the only thing worse than people who have problems seeing is people who have problems seeing who think they don't.

I lived once in a place where horse carts were a common means of transportation.  To prevent the horses from spooking in the busy city traffic, they wore blinders on the sides of their eyes.  This allowed them very good vision in the direction they were going, but a total lack of peripheral vision.

This person is a lot like that.  What he is good at and what he sees, he does with the utmost attention to detail and insight.  It is just where he does not see that he is clumsy.

I live in this man's peripheral vision - not in the direction he is going, but attached, along the side of.  As a result, I get banged around and stepped on often enough.

It doesn't really matter how much a horse intended or didn't intend to step on your foot - it still hurts.  Intended or not, the pain that has been caused is very real.  And it has gone on for years, over and over and over.

There have been some things that were careless.  There have been some things that were insensitive.  Those are difficult, but perhaps if it had stopped there, I would be managing.  But there have been some things that are incomprehensible.  Things said about me that have attacked publicly my character, sanity, and honesty.  Those are the most hurtful.

I've cried this through often enough with God, asking for a solution, a resolution, a transfer from out from under this person, but God has been silent.  I really do seek to live at peace, to go on despite it, to show love, to serve, and for the most part, I do well enough... but it is my heart that is harder to manage.  The hurt.  The pain.  The constantness of it.  The resentment.  The very fact that these wrongs go on, year after year, unsettled, open, wounds.

How do you offer forgiveness that is never asked for?  Even harder, when what was done and said is justified?  When the public accusation of my character remains without retraction, even though time has proved that it was wrong?  I don't really have the answers to these questions.

It has been a topic that I bring up again and again with God.  Asking for answers here.  Wrestling with the issues of obedience, respect, love, unity, hurt, boundaries, honor, grace, and forgiveness.

Just when I think I've got it settled, he comes by again.  (I guess I can be thankful that he does not live here with our smaller team, but only visits several times a year.)  Then out pours the emotions again.  And I am back to looking up desperately to the God that placed this man in our lives over us and asking for strength, wisdom, and grace.  And quietly, quietly begging my Father to come to my defense, to lift my head, to be my glory in all that has been hurled against me.  Asking for strength to again show love and service.  For comfort for the tears in the night, the pain of arrow wounds from my own side.

This fall, he came by again...  and God had some new lessons for me to learn.

What Do You DO?

Do you ever cringe when people ask you that question?  As a missionary mom?

What do we do?  I still believe my primary responsibility is to be a mom.  Of course, I do other things, too.

But people want a nice packaged answer.

I have one for my husband.  He has a defined job.  I can say, "He does......... "

But what do I do?  Well... I am tempted to say "I am a filler of holes."  That is what I do.  My daily tasks may be very different, but basically, I fill holes.  Where someone is missing, I fill in.  Where something lacks, I fill in.

If I sit down and list all the things I do, people's eyes widen and they say, "Wow, you are a busy woman!"  But I am not - well, not that much.  Not continually.  I just have a wide variety of very part time duties.

Today, for example...

I am a wife and a mom.  I got four kids and one husband off to work and school.

I am a cleaning lady.  I stopped at the school and helped clean out some shelves in the kitchen, and noticed the little oven desperately needed cleaning.  I guess the cleaning staff over look that... so I cleaned an oven.

I am a secretary.  I organized letters and filed away ones to respond to.  Desperately need to get a new prayer letter out.

I am a cook.  I planned supper and pulled out what I need to cook.  Trying to plan a menu and try some new foods recently.  (Of all the things I miss most about being "over there", it is having someone to do most of this job for me.  I am a good enough cook, but it is just not the job I love on a daily basis.)

I am a dictionary.  I answered two phone calls on how to spell words.... as the only native English speaker on our team, I get the job of being the resident dictionary, grammar textbook, and even at times, concordance....  I got woken up groggily after working a night shift once to be asked "When was Moses with seventy elders on  mountain?"  Huh?  Pop quiz time?

I do construction.  Our basement leak is finally fixed, so it was time to plaster the seams in the repaired wall.  I pulled out the tools and set to work.

I am a teacher.  I am about to head off to teach math.  I love teaching kids.

I am a demolition expert.  :)  Today, we need to head over to a friend's house to destroy some very old, huge piece of furniture that can not be moved out without being at least taken apart.

That is today.  Tomorrow, I may be something else.  Where there is a job with no one to do it, that is where I get put.  Like plaster - I am a filler of holes.  Which is just perfect for my slightly ADD personality.  I think God knew slapping me in one role would frustrate me.

How about you?  What do you do?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No Greater Joy...

I was thinking of this verse today as I was teaching math...

Now, I know it wasn't exactly meant for this situation, but still. "I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4) This year, I have a graphic example of that verse almost daily, and it brings a smile to my face.

I've been faithfully teaching Kayla for almost three years now. Day after day we slogged through math. Day after day through the same basics, over and over. Trying to simplify math...

"Kayla, there are only four ways to solve a problem - you can add, subtract, multiply, or divide. All you need to do is figure out which one."

"So, are you talking about parts and wholes here or about groups? Every question will talk about one of those two. Start there: Parts and wholes? Or groups?"

Over and over the basics we went. She made progress, but it was slow and tedious. We learned fractions, measurements, and geometry also, but still slogged daily through the basics.

Then came this year. This year, we did some review without a calculator in the beginning. (We had decided last year that if she was competent to figure out WHAT she was supposed to be doing with a word problem, we had no problem with her using the calculator to get the right answer. More important was her understanding how you found the answer - not the actual calculation with paper and pencil.)

But this year, I decided we would do the basic review without a calculator. She should learn how to do simple multiplication and division without a calculator. I grit my teeth and settled down for a very long and tedious week going over the basics yet again. And I gave her a problem like this:


Then set about it. She multiplied the four times the 345 without difficulty, and then began on the 2, but I stopped her and asked, "What do you have to do first?" She paused and said, "Oh wait! I think I know! Don't tell me, don't tell me!... umm.... um... OH! I have to add a zero first!"

I was amazed, and said, "Yes! Do you know why?" Then my mouth fell open in shock even more when she said, "Oh, oh, because I am multiplying by 20 and not by 2, so it is a tens place!" You could have almost picked me up off the floor when the next question I gave her was multiplying 532 x 285 and she said when she got to multiplying the 2, "Ok, now I have to add two zeros since I am multiplying by a hundred."

You seriously could have scraped me off the floor with a spatula at that point! If you knew how many times we went over these basic ideas with no comprehension for two years, and then she waltzes in at the beginning of this year and just says, "Oh! Oh! I think I know!"

We went on to long division - which she hated, like all kids, but she managed. Now we are finding the greatest common factor and simplifying fractions before multiplying them together, and she is going on. When I began teaching her two and a half years ago, she was at least three years behind. Now she is neck and neck with her sister who is one year behind her, and I would almost say she is catching on faster than her sister.

I stand back in awe. And I come away smiling, tears of joy in my eyes. She is doing well! After all that work, she is doing well! (I don't claim the credit for it, no more than just for sticking to it - I think this year her brain has begun to grow and she is more capable than she ever was. I saw that in my oldest and his spelling ability at that age.) So I am full of hope for her. And joy. It is a delight to watch her work.

And every day, when I walk away from teaching with a great sense of joy, I think of this verse... "I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth."

Imagine if God thinks this way of us. Instead of looking at us and thinking, "How many times have I told you that, and you are just beginning to get it! What is wrong with you?!" He thinks, "I am delighted. It was worth it all."

In all honesty, Kayla is still behind. Realistically, she should never become a math scholar. There are days her mind still goes blank and we are back at asking, "Is it talking about parts and wholes or groups?" But she IS learning, and she IS getting it. And that thrills me.

Maybe God is so thrilled with me. Even when I am slow.

I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Monday, November 1, 2010

If Only....

Number Three was watching an ad on the computer with me before a show. The ad was for So You Think You Can Dance.

His comment?

"I think that would be a nice show to watch if only the people would dress appropriately."

Yeah... well...

Number Two was driving home from school with me, and I hadn't eaten all day, so my tummy was grumbling very, very loudly.

His comment?

"You could probably call dolphins with that noise."

Yeah... thanks...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little Curls and Tears

I woke up the other morning to pounding on my door. It was a friend. To be honest, she had told me she would bring them by, but I had forgotten, and we don't usually wake that early.

I know these kids of my friend's. We watch them every now and then. I don't know what is going on in my friend's life. I know that she and her husband are separated. Why, I don't know exactly. I've heard rumors. I've heard accusations hurled at her by the husband. I've even heard some of the official word that the church is putting out. But I haven't heard from her.

So I withhold judgment. I've seen what rumors are like. I've experienced what accusations can be hurled. I've even known how a church can evaluate a situation.

So I wait. I grabbed her one day last spring when our life was still too involved in recovering from trauma to be able to be there for her, but I grabbed her, looked in her eyes, and said, "Hey, I want you to know that I have heard things going around, but I am not going to believe anything about you until I hear it from you."

She looked up quickly then, her eyes filling with tears, and whispered a quick "thank-you'. My goal is to be there for her. She doesn't yet share, but she knows I am there for her, ready to listen if she wants, but not demanding it.

That morning's knock brought three little kids to my door. I let them in and settled them down with blankets in front of a video. It was a special day at school that day, so I wanted to get up in about an hour so I had time to do my daughter's hair. I wanted to do it up in a pile of curls on the top of her head. She would look gorgeous.

An hour later, I stood at a table with seven heads bent over their breakfasts and mentally evaluated what my daughter's hair would require. My gaze scanned the other heads and paused.

Two other little girls sat at my table, their beautiful hair in rat's nests. I, like others, have grown used to them like this. Unkempt, uncared for. The mother too run down herself to put effort into beauty for the girls. The father unable and unseeing of the damage he does. The grandmother's eyes fill quickly with tears as she sees her grandchildren.

I sighed. I guess I could settle for a nicely brushed out hair and a little bow for my daughter. So I called the girls up.

Their eyes danced with the thought of being beautiful for the special day. Their grandparents would be coming, and they could look beautiful. It took about half an hour of combing and detangling, but we got the hair glistening. I asked each one if thy wanted braids, pony tails, or curls. Their eyes lit up and they whispered "Can I have curls?" So I put half their hair on the top of their head, curled that portion into ringlets that cascaded down over their smoothly brushed hair, and put a bow on each.

Then I quickly pulled my daughter's hair to the side and put a bow in it, too.

We were a little late to school, but they looked lovely.

That afternoon at the program, I was rewarded with happy tears in their grandma's eyes when she saw them. They no longer looked like the unkempt kids in the middle of a divorce, but like loved and cherished girls made beautiful for this day. They looked up and smiled, knowing they were done up like princesses.

It was worth it. My daughter did not look as drop dead gorgeous like she could have if I spent half an hour on her hair, but she looked fine. True beauty comes from the joy you give others, not shining above those around you.

It was worth it, even when after the program, I stopped in the class that was filled with grandparents, aunts, and uncles oohing and aahing over student's work, and my son was sitting bent over his desk with hot tears running down his face. "How come I never have grandparents here on this day? I don't have any family that ever comes!" There was nothing to say. My daughter had made a special card for the substitute family that had come to her performance, but they had left early and had not stayed to go into her class, so she sat there with her special thank-you card and no one to give it to. Tears poured down her face, too.

We packed up early and headed home. It was a good night for popcorn, a movie, and doing nothing as a family together.

Little curls, little tears, little hearts that suffer for adult's decisions, and little minds that try to wrap around big questions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something About Me

I'm learning things about myself and how that affects what I do.

I am a fiercely loyal person. Intensely loyal.

To the point that if someone criticizes someone I love, even if the criticism is valid, even if it is needed, I struggle not to go into attack mode.

We had to have some honest discussions tonight about some people in some situations, and it was hard for me to objectively evaluate people's performance and abilities because some of those people are people high up on my list of people I love and would defend.

I suppose it is useful information to know about myself - if only to be able to stop myself from the fierceness of a tiger defending her own. Back down... it is only a performance evaluation....!

I guess you can relax if I love you - you can be sure I won't be listening to comments about you behind your back!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quick Question

I am speaking in a few days, and working on that, I wonder something...

What are the biggest issues women in your area of the world face?

I asked that question of many people when I traveled this past spring and was interested in the answers. But now I wonder about other areas of the world. What are the biggest issues where you live? Be as brief or as long as you want... but would you answer that? Even if you live in the US, go ahead and answer.

I have to speak on the topic of women's needs around the world, and while I think I have some ideas, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ministry Around Us

I'm seeing something interesting happening over the last year or two. Now that life inside our home is more stable and peaceful (and wonderful!), new things are happening outside.

I live here, minister to over there, and my home church is back there. Yeah, confusing. So while we live here, most of our ministry is not happening here. Yet we live here. Daily rubbing shoulders with and involved in the lives of people here. Of course, our lives would mostly consist of church, school (which is highly multicultural!), and the office. The only exception is my work. It is a very part-time thing. I'm not qualified enough according the the rules of this country to work as a nurse, and honestly not sure I want the headache, so I simply work as what you would call an aide. I only work a few shifts a month, but enough to keep my foot in the door and do something. Besides that, I love old people.

The last new months, I've been noticing that there have been doors opening for quiet ministry here - where we are. Not a full-time job. Just being friends with, being involved in the lives I come in contact with. Dealing with abortion, abusive marriages, tired moms, friendly neighbors... I'm enjoying it... I guess... I mean, I enjoy being able to minister and comfort those around me, yet my heart breaks with their burdens, too.

The village I work in is mostly Catholic. Interesting to me, an American, because we don't naturally think of a village being anything. People are... but a village? Yet, it should be obvious. Tiny village of only a few houses and a huge steeple of a church towering over the village. The nun's home is beside the church, the school is right across the street, and the old people's home is sandwiched between the school and the graveyard. (I always thought that a bit odd - the view from the old people's living room window is the graveyard!) We've had a few real believers come in to the home, but most of our people would be Catholic or nothing. We've had a high number of nuns, priests, and now a um.. a... a monk? He is not a priest, yet not a nun (obviously!) He's a "brother".

But as I have cared for the nuns, priests, and brothers with Alzheimer's, questions go through my head.... the nun who always wanted to shut the door and make sure it was "just us girls" when she had a bath... once told me, "I don't like it when Father so and so comes in our room at night." .... "I told him no, but..." and she mumbles... Last night I had the "brother" say something very odd, too, in the shower room. Is it only Alzheimer's or has more been going on in that impressive stone building than we think?

I don't know. I only attempt to deal with the nightmares of Alzheimer's patients who have lost the ability to sort out the difference between the past and the present. Abuse, war, trauma, death... all these experiences tumble together in their minds and emotions while their coping strategies fail.

And in between that, I listen to the lives of my coworkers. Then I come home exhausted - at times not because of the work, but because of helping carry some burdens.

Then I come home, back home. I won't work for a few weeks again, and my mind switches to the needs of over there... to a different work. Yet the needs of a hurting world are so much the same. Different causes, same heartache... same emptiness seeking an answer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Right Response to Abortion?

It was an interesting conversation around the nursing station late this evening. My coworker in tears on and off throughout the evening.

Her daughter is pregnant.

The daughter who uses drugs, whose boyfriend is a drug dealer. The daughter who has been trouble for years, but whom the mother loves dearly.

The nurse at the desk was the one who had the conversation with me weeks ago about abortion. She's had two.

My friend has been raised in the church. She has her problems and faults, but she believes in God... and in life.

And me.

An interesting mix.

My coworker in tears because her 18 year old daughter has decided to have an abortion. And there is nothing the mother can do. So she cries at work because she is not home and she can.

What do you say? I'm sorry? It seems so little.

The boyfriend's mom is pushing the abortion. Saying that it is the "only option". My friend cries. Her first daughter and her second, the one who is pregnant, were both conceived outside of a marriage, but she chose life, and has tried her best at the responsibility that was given to her. She's done well, really.

But my friend cries. "How can that mom say it is the only choice? How can she say that to me?! I know, she knows, my daughter knows there are other choices!"

But what can you do? You can not force someone.

So she cried. It will be next week or the next. There are laws in this country that will take awhile to get some hoops jumped through first. Then the daughter asked her mother to drive her there. She said she hopes it is in the morning, or she will have to get a day off work (there are no extras at work so that would be tough). She says even if it is in the morning, she will not be able to work. She will be bawling.

I said to phone me. Right now, I am not taking more shifts, but phone me. Just tell my you need to take your daughter to the doctor, and I will take your shift.

On the way home, I felt odd. I just volunteered to cover for someone for an abortion. Is that the right response to abortion? But what else could I do? My coworker is sick over it. She was heaving and threw up in the garbage can over the thought of her daughter killing her baby. But she can not stop it. My response is the only one I have - to show love to my friend. To cry with her. To pray.

Right now, that is all I can do. Pray that she will change her mind, and be there for my friend if her daughter goes through with her plan.

It's sad. Very, very sad.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Only on a Sunday - They are at it Again

My husband is gone traveling and I am home with the troops alone. We went to church today, and the kids were extra wiggly. Perhaps getting up early and making french toast and syrup is not the best thing before church...

They wiggled and squirmed throughout the service and I tried to hush them. Then for some reason, in the squirming, the head of my oldest son connected with the mouth of my daughter, and it was a pretty hard blow.

Next came, of course, the blood. It wasn't bad, but her tooth was bleeding. (It should come out soon, so no serious damage, but blood.) Blood freaks her out, so there came a stage whisper, "Ooh, is there blood, is there blood?!" to which I had to answer with a positive. This led to somewhat hushed squeal, and she ran from the service to the bathroom.

My only consolation in the entire event was that the pastor's wife was sitting in front of us, and her preteen son let go one of the loudest passing of gas one has heard in a church, which led to her and the rest of her family struggling unsuccessfully to regain control of a horrendous case of the giggles.

A Hairy Compromise

I've got beautiful kids. Of course, my boys might not be so delighted to hear me call them that, and my girl would roll her eyes and make a face, but they are beautiful.

My daughter has long dark hair down past her waist. She refuses to let me cut it, which means long combing sessions every day. I just learned this summer from Lilly that if I put oil on her hair after I wash it, it is so much more manageable! My in-laws don't use oil, so I hadn't thought of it, but they don't have long hair, either. Putting oil on my hair would have been the last thing I would do to my hair! But it has helped tame the tangles on my daughter's head.

Usually, my daughter wears her hair in braids. We get the option of one braid or two, and on rare occasions a pony tail. Her hair looks absolutely gorgeous in a bun, but she hates buns. She says it feels like a bump nailed on the top of her head.

I seriously hope when she gets older that she is willing to try some of these styles that are options with her hair (mine is too thin to ever grow long), but in the meantime, we have come to a workable compromise. She gets to wear her hair any way she likes Monday to Saturday, and I get to play with it on Sundays (if I have time!).

A few Sundays ago, I did this:

I loved it; she hated it, but she wore it for one day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I Have Been Up To

Wow, I've been busy! Four kids with four different schedules keep me busy. I've gone with them on various events and trips this last week.

A Conference on World Issues
This was heartbreakingly sad as our kids were inadvertently exposed to some disrespectful and horrific images of aborted babies. Now while I am adamantly opposed to abortion, I do not condone everything done in the name of pro-life. This was gruesome, horrific, and highly disrespectful. We had invited someone to speak, and did not expect this. They knew they were speaking to younger children - ages 11-13, so we were completely horrified by what was before our eyes.

They showed a video of moving parts of ripped apart babies around. While a still photo would have captured the image for these little minds, the video went farther. They picked up a piece of a baby's face - without the skull, and with forceps squeezed the face so the mouth opened and closed. Then they posed a dead baby on a dollar bill and in a few other places. It was horrific, gross, and highly disrespectful, and I am ashamed to say that we adults in the room reacted too slowly to march our kids out in protest. We were in absolute shock!

Then it turned personal when a kid raised their hand at the end of the video and asked, "What do they do with the body parts?" The speaker said, "Well, they throw them in medical waste and they are incinerated." She continued very derogatorily, "So they basically throw their baby in the garbage, and what type of a person would throw their baby in the garbage?"

That was when I lost it, and tears began to pour down my cheeks. The problem was, I was at the far end of the room, and the only way out was through the presentation, so I stayed with tears pouring down my face.

You see, my daughter was thrown in the garbage.

Not because I did it. Only because the nurses caring for me after she died did not consider her human. She was three days short of the "magical" twenty weeks.

We strongly objected, but the group laughed at us and told us that if kids are old enough to think about abortion, they are old enough to see this. They thought it was not offensive.

Needless to say, we will be very careful next time about who we allow to speak to our kids - even if they call themselves a Christian group!

When we walked out, my friend caught me and held me and let me cry. She did not attempt to correct my pain or tell me that since I didn't do it that it didn't matter. She only let me cry and said, "I know. I'm so sorry."

A Cross Country Run
What a relief to be outdoors today watching my younger two run. It was a beautiful day, and they ran well. Thankfully this year, the people watching the course allowed me to be on it with the request that I stay out of the way. Of course. But I have a child with asthma and heart murmur. A long run pushes him a little hard, and I need to keep my eye on him.

One year, I could see him running tipped back with his hands above his head struggling to breathe well, and the officials would not let me go to him. "No parents in the course area!" I was furious and waited only a minute before shoving the over zealous official out of the way and heading out with his inhaler at a jog to my son. I'm not a crazy sports mom out to knock down other players or swear at my child for not running harder. I simply want to make sure he is able to keep breathing!

A Moving Experience
What would life be if we didn't rearrange furniture? We have new people coming next year likely. We got a phone call from some friends who are moving to a smaller home now that they are older. "We have a nice table and chairs and a whole bedroom set from our guest room. Would you want it for your new couple?"

Of course we want it. Just where to put it?

We figured it out. But it meant shuffling things around a little. On the plus side, we now have a double bed in a kid's room, so when we do have guests, we can put them in there!

Now that I've learned to spell it, it was time to take the next step. Well, I did do a jog around a cross country track to keep an eye on my son. But, I cleaned out the one place I have in the house to work out and got my equipment laid out. I gave it a few tries, too, but moving the furniture around has been pretty good for cardio and weight lifting for today! :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Hardest Part

I worked today. Back to caring for the elderly.

Oh, someone asked me the other day what I job do... um... well.. I do several. I teach. I work with the elderly. I write and edit. I do occasional office work. I cook at times. I really wasn't sure how to answer them. I think I simply am. Here I am - and I do what needs doing.

But I was at work today with the elderly. One of my patients is a sweet lady who is at times confused, but not always. She is almost completely blind, and as a result needs quite a bit of help. Today was her birthday, and her family had gathered. At the end of the evening, her son was telling her goodbye. She held his hand and happily talked about how wonderful it was here, how we always took such good care of her, and how she was so happy that they were leaving her here where she would be cared for. He took his time saying goodbye, and she kept telling him how happy she was to be in our home.

Then he finally walked away, and I stepped into his place to take her to her room. She looked towards her son's retreating back and sighed. Then she said, "Of the whole day, that was the hardest part right there."

My eyes filled up with tears. She is so lonely here. She misses her family so much. But her thoughts were with her son - making it easier for him to walk away. Taking his guilt away.

When he was out of sight, her body sagged with tiredness. "Can I go to bed right now? I've had a really long day."

We tucked her in early. It is true - we do take good care of her. But saying goodbye is still the hardest thing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bits and Pieces of Mostly Good News

Bits and pieces...

1. Great weather meant I got needed stuff done in my yard. Yay!

2. Decent day at work.... which is a huge blessing since my tummy hurts.

3. Got home to good news of hope... one is a friend of mine who today after six months has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own! I'm sitting here in tears..

4. There is also hope for another man... one whose story I can not share with you... but these two news coming in one night is amazing... interestingly their stories have paralleled each other - totally different, yet so much the same.

5. My husband's packed suitcases sit at the end of our bed. He's leaving tomorrow - to a perfectly safe place... but... he's leaving. I still haven't been able to cope with the leaving part well... not without fighting panic and tears. It is one thing to tell your head that he is going to a safe place. It is a completely different thing to tell your emotions.

6. There are other good things in my life, but I will have to grab some time here soon and sit and write.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I am making a commitment to exercise.

Not to make any huge steps too soon, I am first committing to learn how to spell it correctly. Somehow, it seems to be one of those words that I just can't get right. I keep throwing in an extra c or mixing up the c and s. But I will plug away at it and get it right.

I've been getting lazy. I am an odd person, and almost a complete opposite to most. I tend to eat very little or none at all under stress, and lose weight. When life is going well, I gain weight. That's worked fine for me when I lived with stress with a few fine periods thrown in.

My problem is that life has been pretty good recently.

Ok, I've had some issues with friends, with tragedies, with other things - but they are more remote stress. Life at home is good.

And I am showing the results of that. Add in the fact that this summer, which is when I am typically more active, I had two with their arms in casts or bandages so no swimming or biking for months. I seriously need to get moving.

I went to the doctor with my daughter recently. On her weigh in, the doctor just mentioned that she is in the 90th percentile for her weight and encouraged me to get her more active.

Now, my daughter is not fat. She is not even really chubby. She is, perhaps, like me - a little dense. I and others noticed when they picked up my babies - they were heavy! Not chubby - just heavy. But my daughter is a little rounder than her scrawny brothers who are built of sheer muscle packed in a tiny frame.

I want to be a responsible mom. I don't want her to grow up to be chubby and struggle with feelings or inferiority. She already eats fairly healthily - whole grains, fresh foods, etc. She just needs to be more active.

So today, I pulled out the bikes. The weather picked up, and we are back to biking back and forth to school. I want to take them on a hike over the weekend. Gently including her in family activities that are active instead of passive.

I'm doing this for her.

But I am also doing it for me. When I hit 35, I told myself that I wanted to get myself in shape before I hit 40. I did well enough, but now I am losing ground. I wanted to be able to keep up with my boys.... well... my son is now running 5K two or three times a week as well as two other practices for cross-country. He can run 5K in 24 minutes. I don't think keeping up with him is an option anymore! (However, I can borrow his shoes and fit into his swimtrunks - with a little wiggling - so I may have to be happy with that.)

I'm still getting closer to 40, but farther away from my goal. Stress used to push me. Now I need to push myself - for my sake and for my daughter's.

Monday, I meet up with a friend to work out. Hoping this develops into a stronger me and a stronger relationship with this friend.

Lacing up my runners... tennis shoes... trainers.... boots....

ever marveled at the wide variety of names for our exercise shoes?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting Back in the Saddle

Well, I must say I am a little disappointed in the lack of response to my invitation to introduce yourself, but life goes on. Maybe it is just the two reading this blog an awfully lot! :)

But I have a question for you today. How do you make yourself do something you do not really want to do?

You see, summer is over, the crazy month of September is over, and it is time to get into routines and patterns, settle down in some sort of way. October is always a month that my husband travels in. I thought perhaps this year would be different since he is not going back "over there" for awhile, but nope - he's off to another end of the world doing something else. So October is gearing up to be what it has always been for our family - a month to settle down, to find routines and patterns, and to set the tone for the rest of the school year.

The problem is that I am running low on the ability to make myself step into things I should be doing.

I need to clean out the fridge.

I need to cover the gardens.

I need to clean out cupboards and go through winter clothes.

I need to simply clean this house!

I need to organize my kids so they get up on time, go to bed on time, make their beds, eat their breakfasts, finish their homework.

But it goes deeper than that. I need to again make time for regularly sitting down to read, pray, and study God's word. It is amazing how easy it is to break a habit and how difficult it is to regain a habit.

How do you go about starting up routines in life when you've fallen out of doing them? When all you feel like is sitting and staring off into space? How do you get back in the saddle again?

Ever been there? What got you through it?