Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another month

. . . has passed since I last posted. Many times I have had ideas, observations, thoughts that I wanted to write, but have found myself too busy, or too tired, or too sick, or too something! But today brought blessings too wonderful NOT to write about!

Of course, today is Sunday. That alone is a blessing. A day to rest, a day to worship. For me, it was extra special, as it was my first opportunity to attend our home church since we came back to the US. The rest of the family went last week, while I nursed a nasty sinus infection in bed.

But the most amazing part of today, so far, has been the surprise we woke up to: SNOW!!! Of our 3 children, only The Scholar has even seen snow, and he was only 1 at the time. The 4-5 inches we got was enough to scuff around in, shovel (what joy!) and even sled on. We enjoyed racing down the hill, sometimes more gracefully than others, and landing in the soft snow at the end of the run. We watched our children's wonder as they observed how the snow fell and balanced in strange ways. We laughed with them at the feel of snow, its taste, and the way it chilled them when it worked its way in around their cuffs.I nearly cried over Princess Grace's reaction to the first snow she has ever seen. When I asked what she thought of the snow, she just hugged my leg, rested her head on me, and smiled: too enraptured for words.

What (on earth) could be better than this?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Of Writing and Reading Blogs

While we have been traveling, I found myself unable to post. Sometimes, the internet was just too hard to access. At other times my thoughts were too hard to access. For me, posting is an emotional, even cathartic process. My depression and anxiety, and the medication I take for them, leave my emotions blunted, my true feelings masked. Digging into my thoughts takes time and effort: which travel and chaos tend to prevent. Sometimes, I mourn the loss of my feelings. But I have to remember that I have exchanged them for functioning: for being able to talk to my children without yelling, snapping, or crying in frustration; for being able to get through a day without a 2-hour nap; for being able to be with my loved ones, rather than escaping from them. With this comes a capacity for seeing blessings and feeling joy that previously was lost.

While I have been unable to write on my blogs, I have been able to read other's blogs. Over and over I have been challenged, encouraged, blessed by the thoughts and reflections of others. And for this, I thank you. To Ann V. of Holy Experience, thank you for challenging me to see God where he IS, rather than where I would like to keep him boxed. In one post you have given me weeks worth of stuff to contemplate. Slow down ;-) ! To myfriendConnie at smockity frocks may God bless you for blessing me with things of beauty and practicality. You have reminded me that life in my ugly concrete house mission house need not be ugly. To the whole team at The Common Room, thank you for the ongoing view into what life in a homeschooling family can look like. It keeps me going when homeschool days grow weary. And to Amy at Amy's Humble Musings thank you for great links that have kept this news-thirsty expatriate informed about life and politics in the US. I have been challenged and taught on so many levels. And to the many other blog writers I have read and enjoyed, thank you.

Around the world

It has been a month since I posted. A crazy, travel filled, stress-laden month. A last-minute trip to a neighboring Asian country, continued on to another country. A quick return home to pack up and move out of half of our home. Then the final, big journey, halfway around the world, across 14 time zones, to our "home country" for 3 months of leave.

What a month. We traveled on 2 trains, 6 airplanes, countless taxis and occasional subways. Not to mention 30 + hours in the car. Our children have slept in no fewer than 10 places in the past month, not counting airplanes.

In all of this time, we have visited one emergency room, 2 Sunday Schools, and 3 hotels. We have already enjoyed time with 4 grandparents since arriving in the US. God is good. We are together. And we are rejoicing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Of Bugs and Bats

Perhaps this isn't the most spiritual topic, but I needed some distraction today anyhow. Last week, every evening's peace was broken by my wild children an unbelievable loud squealing noise from outside. I am not talking about the rickshaw-mounted sound systems that roam the villages all night, advertising a movie or promoting some politician or spreading health awareness messages. This was a squeal of more natural origins. It was a bug, or rather, LOTS of bugs, making this loud, sustained noise. It was literally loud enough and of such a frequency that it hurt my ears. If I had to guess, I would say it was cicadas, though I have never been much at insect identification. Insect AVOIDANCE, now there is something I can talk intelligently about!

I am only guessing about cicadas, but I did find this great website from the ABC of Oz (that is the Australian Broadcasting Company) with this photo of a cicada that certainly looks like the giant bugs I flick off our screens from time to time. I was not surprised by the volume of these big bugs - up to 120 dB! I have felt the pain!

Well, the noise of last week has been replaced by a noise that, if possible, is even louder. We have a large tree in our yard that I'm told is a rubber tree. This is not your average, US indoor potted ficus, however. This is a REAL ficus elasticus - in the wild - no wait, if it were truly in the wild, it would be inside my house, not in the garden. Ok, not in the wild, but outside in the sub-tropics, where it has room to thrive. It has 7 primary trunks growing from a central base and an above ground root structure that looks like a floor covered with snakes. Should a real snake gets in there it would be pretty tough to see!

Around this time of year, that giant tree flowers and grows fruit, which attracts the animal causing my head to ache today: the Indian Flying Fox. For those of you that don't instantly see the difficulty in that name, I will give you the alternate name: Giant Fruit Bat.

The Indian Flying Fox is the second largest bat species in the world, according to my 5 minutes of internet research at slower than dial-up speeds. Their wing span is around 4 feet - roughly the size of my 7-year-old. I told him he could lay down and use a bat for a blanket. He didn't go for that. Hmm . . . do you think that will give him nightmares?

So, from dusk until 9 pm, we have a continuous screaming contest concert in our front yard. After dark until morning - well, I don't know when they stop because I have this thing about sleeping at night. But before the sleep, you literally have to shout to make yourself heard over the din if you are on our porch.

There are a variety of bats in South Asia. My in-laws had tiny bats living in their ceiling vents when they lived nearby. When we are in the capital we see a medium size bat quite often at dusk. But none seem to be as loud or as active as our colony of flying foxes.

A few interesting tidbits: Indian Flying Fox bats are sacred in parts of India. In Pakistan, the fat from some bats is used for medicine. Some bat species are under threat from humans - who kill them for food (YUCK!). Bats do sometimes carry rabies, and have recently been implicated in SAARS. At least one of the common names for our bat neighbors here translates into some kind of snake. They are kind of creepy, so maybe it is a good name.

Adding to the ruckus is the rain-like drumming of their discarded fruit seeds on our tin roof. Don't you wish you lived here?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Birthday Dinner

Today I have been cooking. In our house, the birthday dinner menu is generally the choice of the Birthday boy (or girl). Of course, living here, I sometimes have to make adjustments based on what I have on hand or have access to. For instance, vegetables just aren't available right now. For the children this would not be much of an issue, but some of us like vegetables.

Today's menu was based on a more practical theme, however. In less than 4 weeks, we leave for 4 months in the US. So, after an inventory of my freezer and pantry, I planned every meal between now and when we go, with the hope of leaving a minimum of food items in storage here.

Tonight's birthday menu has come together beautifully:

A small pork roast with a cranberry-orange sauce.
Potatoes Au Gratin
Broccoli & Cauliflower - steamed
Apple & Craisin compote

Pineapple cream cheese coffee cake
Homemade vanilla ice cream with toffee bits and mini chocolate chips

The only things I would have liked in addition to the above would have been fresh dinner rolls, but I had to draw the line somewhere!

Now, what is interesting is how this meal came together. Based on my menu calendar, I had chosen the pork roast for today. I noticed a tin of jellied cranberry sauce (left over from last Thanksgiving) while rooting in the pantry the other day for a can of tuna. So, off to the internet to find a recipe that combined these 2 items. Voila! Oh, except I did not have cranberry juice, so I substituted orange juice, freshly squeezed from the Malta oranges that became available last week.

Next came the side dishes. I was hoping for noodles because I LOVE egg noodles with pork. But, making homemade noodles was too much to do today. So, on to plan "B" - potatoes. I dug out bits of 3 different cheeses from the depths of the fridge, all rather desperate to be cooked with, so Au Gratin was the logical choice. Vegetable was easy. Either it came from the freezer or there was not going to be any vegetable. I am out of canned veggies except 1 can of peas that is earmarked for a tuna noodle casserole later this month. The freezer yielded some broccoli & cauliflower. Finally, we just bought apples again for the first time since I can't remember when. Sadly, they were too mushy to be nice to eat. So, they had to be cooked. Add in an open packet of dried cranberries (Craisins), some sugar and cinnamon, and the extra orange juice, and we have a nice compote.

Dessert was even more interesting. A can of local pineapple needed to be used. Cans are notoriously poor around here, so it definitely wouldn't last too long. And then, there was the cheese. Yesterday, DH tried to make ice cream. But when he heated the milk with the sugar in it, it curdled, indicating that the milk was no longer as fresh as it had once been. Our milk is delivered to the door every day, still warm and usually with cow hair floating in it. We boil it and refrigerate it, but it does not keep too long. I couldn't see wasting all of that milk and sugar, so I drained it through cheese cloth and had a wonderful, pre-sweetened soft cheese. The need to use this up before it spoiled pushed me to look for a recipe that would use both the pineapple and the cheese. In the end I chose a recipe that I made once before. Of course, that meant some substitutions also. Sour milk for sour cream, pineapple for apples, my cheese for cream cheese etc. By the way, the ice cream turned out wonderfully on the second try: fresher milk.

And whose birthday was it that was celebrated in this interesting way?


Good thing I like to cook!

What a week . . .

It has been a long week. And not a particularly good one. Some difficulties with our work here have been emotionally and spiritually draining. The result is that we are physically drained as well. So, posting has been on the back burner. But today is a bit better. Praise God!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just a Thought

From Streams in the Desert Volume 1 for September 17:
Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only instruments for accomplishing his tender and wise purposes toward us, and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring us. Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts. -- H. W. Smith

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Songs of Praise

For years the debate has raged: Hymns or Praise Choruses? Thankfully, many churches have found a balance, worshiping God in a variety of ways that a variety of people can relate to. I am also grateful for the reality checks that have come from various places reminding us that worship is about God, not about musical style, yet I recognize that some people simply find it easier to worship through a particular style.

Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrow's Nest posted a wonderful tongue in cheek look at hymns and praise choruses here.

There is some truth inside the joke, however. Praise choruses do tend to be repetitive. Hymns, at least the older ones, do tend to use more archaic, poetic language. But I believe that there is value in both for several reasons.

First, many hymns contain an amazing depth of spiritual truth and insight. I personally have found great encouragement from hymns such as I Take Thy Promise, Lord; When I Survey; Holy, Holy, Holy; Be Still My Soul; Hiding in Thee; and Great is Thy Faithfulness. There is a richness in these and many other hymns that pulls my heart and mind toward God as I sing them or meditate on their words.

At the same time, I love to sing praise choruses. Many of them highlight the intimacy that we as believers can have with Christ. They remind us that we can come before Him with our praises and our needs. I also have noticed that in the past 5-10 years many songwriters have recognized the danger of worship time becoming entertainment time. More and more new songs have become modern hymns, incorporating the best of hymn-like theology with more modern tunes and arrangements. We Fall Down, Indescribable, and Ancient Words are good examples.

Thinking again about how we teach our children about worship,I find both types of songs to be helpful. We are currently learning the hymn When I Survey as a family. We talk through the lyrics and what they mean and how they teach us about Jesus. Where there are references to specific Bible passages, we may look them up. Then we practice the hymn. I am trying to keep it in my head so that I can hum or sing it at odd times. Hopefully that will help it stick better in everyone's minds. To me, this is both an academic exercise and a way to help us worship with our minds.

With praise choruses, I tend to sing along as they play on the CD player. I want my children to see me worship from my heart.

Nothing I've written is particularly ground-breaking, but I hope that my love of all kinds of worship music will help my children to see that worship needs to involve the head and the heart.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A cup of beauty

Yesterday, I wanted a cup of tea in the afternoon. I reached for the usual, unattractive, "found it somewhere" mug, then stopped and chose this instead:

This lovely cup, complete with a cover to keep my tea hot, was a gift from a dear friend. Just using something pretty, instead of something simply utilitarian, made me smile. Sometimes the little choices make a big difference.

Common Sense

I have just started reading Common Sense Christian Living by Edith Schaeffer. So far, it is an excellent book. Here is what I am mulling over from this book today:
There is a blur around us, a mixture that confuses us. We need to care about not just muddling on and trying to live in separate compartments. We need to strive for wholeness in a practical way, hour by hour and day by day, that there might be the reality that is meant to be in me and in you.
I think that is something I struggle with. It is easier - or perhaps just habit - to compartmentalize life into work, family, church, worship, etc. But the reality is that life is not made up of little boxes, neatly defined. Cleaning up a child's "accident" is just as holy a work as praising God in song. Easier to say than to live out, however.


I don't think I have the capacity to become a daily blogger. I write when I have something to say. So, for the past few days when we were away, then traveling home, then unpacking, etc., I had nothing much to write. I think that reflects the fact that I had little time to think. When we are in the big city, I am too busy trying to find places in a tiny room to hand 5 people's wet laundry to ponder the greater questions of the universe. Taking the kids swimming takes precedence over contemplation, and this trip, sore throats and runny noses took over any spare minutes I had.

So, no posts for 4 days. Until today, when you get TWO!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Among the Chaos

I am sitting at the too-high desk in the not-very-clean guest house, making corrections to a project proposal document for Bob. Around me are several stacks of DVDs awaiting checking for quality; half-a-dozen books I have picked up that I would like to read; 5 varied plastic cups and a pitcher of lukewarm water; laundry in various stages of dirty, clean, wet, wrinkled; a roll of toilet paper doubling as Kleenex; an empty diet Pepsi bottle (thanks, Bob); piles of schoolbooks - some open, some closed, some currently being written in; crayons everywhere; a pile of phonics flashcards strewn on the floor; various shopping bags containing groceries, books, and winter clothes; at least 7 pairs of shoes; suitcases and backpacks of various sizes and descriptions; countless matchbox cars; an open packet of laundry soap; and 3 children in various stages of falling off the bed where they are supposed to be working on schoolwork. All of this in a room that is no bigger than 10 x 12.

Isn't life beautiful?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Beautiful Things

An amazing pink and purple sunset, glimpsed between buildings and buses in an otherwise ugly city.

Kisses from the sweetest daughter on earth.

A husband who showers his wife with love.

Praise the Savior!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


What is it about packing for a trip that I find so draining? I have never enjoyed travel, which explains why God has placed us on the other side of the globe from our home country. ;-)

Today, I have been packing for a week in our host country's capital. Packing for 5 for a week is a practical challenge - just finding enough t-shirts for the kids that aren't (very) stained can take quite a while. This time, packing means gathering the basics of our homeschool as we can't afford a whole week off right now. It is also challenging because the trip takes 7-8 hours, so we must plan to keep children busy while in the van. Otherwise, boredom grows to petty fighting. Snacks are a big part of that plan.

No matter how easy or difficult the logistics, however, packing unnerves me. I find myself fatigued, grumpy, and worried. The sad part is that I probably could pack much more quickly and forget less if I was not fatigued, grumpy, and worried.

So, the question is, WHY?

I think some, maybe even most, of it stems from my need to be in control. I like things I can control. It is the unknown that I don't like. Piling into a van for an 8 hour trip with 3 kids in a country where toilets are - well - different, is still unpredictable, even after more than 6 years of doing it. Flat tires or other car trouble can lead to hours in a muddy field that doubles as a repair shop, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers, all craning their necks for a peek at the "foreigners." Even slow traffic inevitably leads to excess gawking. I don't tend to savor this process: endurance is all I'm striving for.

So where does that leave me. We are overseas for the foreseeable future, and these trips will always be a necessity. So I must learn to handle this differently. I must find a way to do more than merely survive, be it the trip, or any given day. Is it possible to find grace, even joy in things that in and of myself, I despise? Lord God, give me grace to travel, tomorrow, and always.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grace in the Moment

Today, I've been noticing hair. I cut all the hair in our family that gets cut. Princess Grace is still awaiting her first trim, and my husband trims the split ends off my hair once or twice a year. But Bob and the boys all visit Sheri's Hair Salon - a.k.a. a chair, scissors and a trimmer in the living room with the carpet rolled back. Pop in a video for the littles and we are on our way.

Since before we were married, I have cut my husband's hair. At first, it was with great trepidation as I did not come from a home-hair cutting family. But after many years, it is routine. While the boys are squirmier, even cutting their hair is no problem these days.

But today, I was looking at Scholar's recently trimmed head and it reminded me that I needed to give the younger son the same attention: Boy Wonder had been busy playing and his golden locks were sweaty and looking wild. A glance at my husband told me that he is only about a week away from another session in the "itchy chair."

Suddenly, in the midst of my practicality, God broke in. The haircut status monitor faded away as I looked, really looked at the beautiful heads that God has placed in my life to care for. Such a small thing - to cut hair for my family - yet how significant that I have them to minister to in this simple way. And how grateful I am for the privilege.

One of the things that is most difficult for me is finding the grace in each moment. The moments whirl away like dust in a wind, but the beauty, the blessing is still there. I just have to stop being practical long enough to see it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


It is amazing to me how busy life can get sometimes. I worked full time outside the house last week. That is more than rare for me lately. It was an interesting, exhausting week. So Friday came (our Sunday) and I rested, spent time with the family, had church, and so on. Today was spent catching up on clutter and getting organized for the next week of home school. How, in a whole week I wasn't able to blog once is beyond me. Well, I guess having a terrible internet connection for the week also contributed.

Sometimes I look back and wonder where the 13 years since my wedding have gone. How is my oldest nearly 8? How is my baby 3 already? I know that we all feel that way at times, but it seems stronger to me this time. Like busyness itself is a disease that keeps us from living our lives in a meaningful way.

We have some friends who married (each other) in midlife. It was the first marriage for both or them. They have a different life from ours - no children - and they have a few more years of experience on us. What I find interesting, though, is that though they are astonishingly busy, they live life deliberately. They make choices about family, friends, even about their home decor that show that they are living their lives deliberately - and not for selfish reasons, but for the glory of God.

I usually feel as if I'm standing in the middle of a tornado and everything is whirling around me. I am not sure how to make conscious choices that model Christ when I find it difficult to have time to rub two thoughts together. Yet, this is the role God has given me. So His answers must be available. I just have to keep looking, and that is a large part of what my blogging is about.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kids & Worship

In thinking about the idea of authentic worship of God - worship that is our very best - I looked up the words translated as "worship" in Greek & Hebrew to remind myself of the complete meaning. The word worship contains the idea of reverence, but it indicates a voluntary submission. One who worships is ministering to God, and is choosing to perform the "acts of worship". One of the most common words in the New Testament indicates that worship involves prostrating oneself, literally or figuratively before God.

I think we who are parents have to work hard to maintain a balance for our children. We want, rightly, to teach them that Jesus is their friend and brother. We need to model an authentic relationship with God before our children. Yet, at the same time, we must instill in them a sense of awe of God. It seems quite a challenge to me to come boldly before the throne of God, yet do so in humility. But as I sit here puzzling this over, I am aware of a growing sense of wonder at the greatness of our God - how He can be both Creator and Friend, Holy and still Father. Wow!


Friday, August 17, 2007

Worshipping truly

Every week, we listen to a taped church service from back home. This is where we are challenged and encouraged. Today's topic was worship. Drawn from Malachi, the pastor looked at how the Jewish people of the day were offering God less than their very best. He challenged us to think about what we offer when we come to worship. I have to confess that it is often far less than my best. Our time of worship is odd, being at home with no congregation nor "live" pastor, and with the kids sitting in (and often needing to be corrected - they're still small). But I don't think the circumstances excuse us from worshiping with all of our hearts. At the end, dh asked what I thought of our worship. I told him that I thought it was pretty poor. He then asked what it should look like - what we need to change. I did not have an answer for him.

So, this is the question I'm pondering tonight. What should authentic worship look like - for myself personally, and for my family when we worship together? I'll be writing about what I discover in the days to come.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A little more about me . . .

The primary motivation for my beginning this blog was to provide a place for me to mull over the things that come up in life. I am not nearly reflective enough. In fact, lately, I find that I have to actively work to not just float along, never thinking about anything more than is absolutely necessary. For anyone who may run across these thoughts, however, it may be helpful for you to know a little about me. Nearly 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with major depression. Medication has made all the difference, but I am still on it. My family and I live in Asia, though we are from the US. We came in 2001 with our oldest child, and 2 other children have been born here. My dh's work has led us to live in a very rural part of this country, and we are quite isolated from other foreigners. Only 1 other foreign family lives here with us. The culture here is such that I rarely go out. Someone else does the shopping, so I rarely even get to the nearby town. Our major forays are to the larger city, an all-day drive one-way. These trips have become increasingly rare as the children have started homeschool. Interestingly, my personality allows me to live like this. I don't need a great number of friends or social outlets. Others who have lived of visited here have labeled it "a prison". I am sometime insecure about why God has put us in this place. But He has, and so, we remain until He tells us to move on. I pray that I may thrive here, not merely survive.


As I begin this new effort - blogging - I am only beginning to be aware of the huge world that blogs have become. When I left the US more than 6 years ago, I had never heard of them. Now, it seems, everybody has one. I wonder if there is that much to say. I think, however, that no matter how uninteresting it may seem, there is wonder and adventure in even the most mundane of things.

There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy. Mark Twain

Only God knows if anything I write here will be interesting or helpful to anyone else. But I have determined to do it as a way of recording the happenings of my life, whether it be spiritual issues, family, homeschooling, living overseas, or whatever. Perhaps the process will help me grow. That is my prayer.