Saturday, December 6, 2008


I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.
This is us, really. In our natural, sinful state. Flaws, sins, shortcomings, insufficiencies. And we try, so dilligently, to hold all these pieces together into something that resembles wholeness; something that will fool others into thinking we "have it all together."

I tried last night - when the dog bit Wonder Boy in the face and he needed three stitches on his nose. He chose me to accompany him to the hospital for the stitches. I would have rather stayed home while Daddy went. It was late and I was so tired, having gotten up at 5:15 for our trip back home after a week away. We walked up to the hospital (a benefit of living here is the surgeon is our neighbor, and the hospital is a 2 minute walk away). We waited while he and the nurse readied the place and the equipment. Wonder Boy was so brave - asking only: "Tell me when he's gonna' stick the needle in."

But me - not so brave. My stomach started churning. I got flushed and dizzy. The doctor/neighbor noticed that I was not doing so well and had a stool fetched, while I squatted on the floor, trying not to faint. He kindly reassured me that I should not be embarrassed: "this is a very normal reaction," he said. But I was embarrassed - believing that having a panic attack / fainting spell while my SON was the one in pain and having stitches somehow made me less of a mom, less of a person. Where do these voices come from? The Enemy, I know, whispers into our weakest moments: "You are garbage. You are not worthy of being a mom. You are a failure for not protecting your child."

I did fail, last night - not by not keeping the dog from biting - that was an accident, and the wounds will heal. I failed to keep the ragged, ugly edges of myself stitched together, despite my good intentions. Most days, I keep things well sewn-up. But I think God writes difficult pages into our stories precisely so that we will be unable to stay in one piece. It is in our brokenness that we cry out: "Save me, Lord, for I am sinking!"

When I called, you answered me;
you increased my strength within me.
Psalm 138:4

And he answers. And we survive, more broken, and yet more healed than before. That is grace.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gratitude goes on . .

52.  Little girl's giggles as she discovers the joys of planting beans.
53. Hard work well done.
54. Learning together.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just a thought

From iGoogle's Quotes of the Day:

In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is.
  - Gertrude Stein

I think this is part of why we find life here sometimes challenging.  We are used to the idea of space.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random Thoughts

The weather has turned cold here.  Two nights this week have reached 60.  The children wake up and shiver, rooting around for blankets in the hidden corners.  How used to the heat we have become.  But the poor feel the cold most of all.  They do not - cannot - eat enough to produce extra body heat.

My garden is growing.  Beans are reaching for the sky, lettuce trying to peek through.  The tomato plants are gorgeous - sprouting new leaves nearly every day. But the carrots are being rebellious.  They seem to prefer dying underground to growing toward the light.

School is nearly finished for the year.  Songs and prayers, sums, wars, alphabets, and radish sprouts all studied, ingested, retold.  And we are changed for the doing of it.  Perhaps the teacher-mommy most of all.

A local girl, without a father, and with a mother whose new husband does not want her around, has found in me a soft spirit.  She is certainly in need.  Her grandfather, upon whom she relies for shelter, is badly disabled with leprosy.  But I am limited by how little of her need I can understand.  She had no shoes, it seems.  She has no sweater for these cool nights, or so she tells me.  It may very well be truth, but I can not read between the lines.  I can not see into her soul.  I must ask others to do this for me.  So I have given a little - our eldest's  sandals, too small for her by a bit, but something; a little food; some clothes for a younger sibling.  But mostly, I wait to see what our co-workers can discern of her true need.  It is hard to know how to help best.

A 4-year-old-girl's evening prayer brought a chuckle:  "Dear Jesus, thank you for Mommy and Daddy and me and everybody in the whole world and my brothers and the neighbors and my friends, and that man to get out of jail (she refers to a colleague).  And thank you that they live in a wood house and everything is ok. (??? perhaps the beavers in the Narnia book we are reading?) And Amen.  I said AMEN!

Little moments stitched together.  This is life.

Friday, October 31, 2008


So many things to be thankful for, yet so few written down.  Here are a few from today:

49. Companionable silence
50.  Holding hands
51. Today's sermon

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Letting go

of dreams of a picture postcard life is not easy.  We all have them, I suppose: those mental pictures, reinforced by the idol-images of Better Homes and Gardens, parenting  magazines, or even Today's Christian Woman and (dare I say it?) believers' blogs.  Someone called a brand of this "Mommy-porn":  perfect images of celebrity moms, perfectly fit, in their perfect rooms, cradling perfectly dressed and mannered children. 

But I think it is idolatry.  At least in my own life, these images, ideas, even dreams become idols:  my rooms should look "like this;" my children should behave "like this;" my meals should taste "like this;" my life should be lived in "this way."

Where is authenticity? Where is reality?  Life is a messy, complicated thing.  It is not, can not be picture perfect.  The ugly, the loud, the failure teach by His grace - as surely as do the beautiful, the  peaceful, and the gentle.  To live in the "someday my life will look like this" dreamworld is to miss the tangible evidences of God in TODAY. 

Yet the dreams persist, creep back again and again to tempt and to taunt.  The dream of "perfect" lures me away from being perfected . And still He calls, beckons me to leave my idols and return to Him.  What grace!

Grateful thanks to Ann whose thoughts and prayers led me to think and pray also; who shares the ugly along with the beautiful. And that is real.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mother Ducks

I am awed and inspired, as usual, by these powerful thoughts from Holy Experience.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Morning thoughts

Keeping a consistent morning time to meet with God has never been one of my strong points. I am not a morning person, and any out-of-the-ordinary occurrence seems to upset my routines. Put more plainly, it is pretty hard for me to get up early in the morning unless I have had a good night's sleep.

This morning was a good one, and I am meditating on Ephesians 2:10.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Though this is not a new verse to me, God showed it to me in a new light today. "Good works" always meant to me the work that we do that others see - like living overseas to work with those affected by leprosy. That makes perfect sense, and I think is an appropriate application of the verse.

But today's thought is that the good works which God has prepared for me to do are most often the hidden ones: parenting gently, preparing meals, holding a child's hand, welcoming guests, listening carefully to the concerns of my husband and children, praying . . .

I think that for this wife, mom, and home educator, these are my main tasks, and were every bit as prepared in advance for me to do as the seemingly larger tasks of my husband's work.

Father, keep me ever mindful that each task in my day pleasant or difficult, comes from your unchanging, loving hand.

Written a while back, this was not posted then due to internet issues.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A beautiful new look

for my blog, courtesy of MaddieLynn. As I told her, its cheerful colors and design are inspiring and just make me feel happy!

She has been wonderful to work with by email and very prompt. I highly recommend you visit her site if you are looking for a cheery re-work of your blog! The link is in the left sidebar.

Thanks, MaddieLynn!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Of highlights

47. A patch of blue in a clouded sky.

48. The dull clouds, framing the blue, highlighting its beauty.

Just a thought - when clouds crowd the sky of my day, threatening to obscure His light, do I see only the gray, or do I look for the brightness of his Glory breaking through?

Lord, let me always see the obstructions and encumbrances of this broken world as frames to highlight your grace, opportunities for your beauty to break through.

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, July 20, 2008


44. A child's hand holding mine.

45. The sound of their laughter.

46. A safe journey.

Thank you, Father. What grace you bestow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

in a day

40. A day to be reminded . . .

41. . . . of hands . . .

42. . . . and feet . . .

43. . . . and purpose.

It's all grace, all from his hands.

Photos from a clinic I was able to attend.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

. . . and giving . . .

37. Tea to sooth a sore throat.

38. A dry day. (Laundry, and other things, drying)

39. The love of a brother. (Wonder Boy and Princess Grace share a towel after playing in the rain)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Seven years worth of half-spent candles fill a bowl to overflowing. Seven winters of occasional warmly-lit dinners; seven advents spent; seven years of occasional electric-less evenings. Candles don't last long here, soon growing gray and dirty - long before they can be used up.

Today, it was time for the red candles to find new life. Red brings great joy to this mommy, so fully half of these old pillars are red. A cutting board and large knife soon reduce the pile to small, ugly chunks. A large old can, a heavy sauce pot, and two or three damp matches are applied to the task, and before long, pieces soften and smooth into a deep red gloss.

Little hands and eyes crowd, eager to see this process. Questions fill the air. String cut and tied to pencils - the dipping begins.
Slowly, 5 small lives (3 homegrown, 2 borrowed) turn bare string into small tapers, ready to be put into service. They will give only a small light, and will burn for but a few moments, but there has been joy in the forming of them.

An hour or two of my time went into candle-molding today; an hour or two of me, invested in child-molding at the same time. This is what it is, parenting: moments gathered together or scattered around, events shared, lessons learned.

With each moment, another layer of wax is added to the candle.

With each moment, another layer of being is added to the child.

The hand holding the candle must be steady, attentive, mindful of the wax and the water - lest the candle become crooked and unusable.

The heart guiding the child must likewise be steady, attentive, and mindful of His Heart - for the child is His child first.

Three small candles, newly formed, are prized in this home tonight.

Three small lives, forming, are prized in heaven tonight. How brightly they will burn and for how long, is know only to Him who formed them.

Use me to mold them well, through your grace and for your service, Father.

Friday, June 13, 2008

He gives . . .

33. The night-song of cicadas and crickets.

34. Hymns to sing, a little off-key, with the children.

35. The roof, our monsoon playground.

36. Rain pounding on our corrugated aluminum roof: the music of the season.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Grace that keeps giving . . .

32. The sweetest pineapple EVER!

33. A friend to look after things while we are away.

34. Reading Runaway Bunny with Princess Grace on my lap.

35. A new generator - keeping us cool this evening.

36. The certainty of knowing that HE knows, even thought right now, nothing seems clear to us.

Friday, May 23, 2008


She stoops, shuffling through the remains of what, just a few hours before, had been a field of golden-crowned green. Her back bent with toil and age, she retrieves the missed stalks one, maybe two at a time. Her worn hands tell the story of her life: work, hard and long. The end of her sari is drawn over her head, shading her from sun and scorn. Over and over she bends to add a few more grains of rice to the family pot.

When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 23:22

. . . not so in this place where each bundle is carefully cut, wrapped, and counted. Very little is left for the poor, and so many are so poor. And each must earn her keep.

She struggles on, moving from field to field, finding only a few bits left over. Hopeless.

Is this how I approach you, LORD? Tiredly following behind, occasionally gleaning a bit of hope or truth or life?

Do I not realize this truth:
The believer is a favoured gleaner, for he may take home a whole sheaf, if he likes: he may bear away all that he can possibly carry, for all things are freely given him of the Lord. --Charles Spurgeon

I settle for so little. Yet He has said that everything we need is available to us!

Oh, LORD, you have given so much, yet I notice so little. You have provided thoroughly, yet I seem to prefer the scant pickings I happen to find. Help me to embrace my position as a favoured gleaner, that you may receive more glory!

Art: detail of The Gleaners by Millet

Saturday, May 17, 2008

always giving . . .

29. The smell of rain.

30. Fresh pasta, ready for dinner.

31. Lychees!

Friday, May 16, 2008

continuing on . . .

24. Our restful Friday Sabbaths in our "other home country."

25. The momentary flash of pink in the early dusk clouds - relieving the mundane-ness of washing dishes.

26. An amazing sunrise today, noticed by The Scholar alone; perhaps painted by God's hand for this child alone.

27. The helpful spirit in Wonder Boy as he crouches and crowds to help Daddy install some new shelves.

28. Six small hands eager to help with some painting.

It's all about Him . . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quote for today . . .

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C. S. Lewis

From The Quotations Page.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

His endless gifts . . .

20. Freedom to study history - so that we never forget the mistakes of the past.

21. Freedom to worship - may we NEVER take it for granted.

22. The excitement of a child as he learns something new.

23. Books

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

After the Storm

After the storm I wrote about last, we were out driving to visit a friend/co-worker. It is actually fairly unusual for us to drive anywhere, so I was glad for the chance to see the damage. I was relieved to see that while some fields were damaged, they were for the most part ones that were ready to harvest. So while the plants are laying down, it will not be much extra work for those that hand-cut the stalks.

Praise God!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


A quiet evening. Children tucked into beds, adults sharing a game and quiet laughter around the table. But it was coming. The wind. The rain. Hints of it had lingered in the heavy air all afternoon. My shirt soaked from the heat of the kitchen as I made pizzas for them all, I wished for relief. A breeze. Rain.

But not like this. Not a storm where the rain is blown across rather than down. My comfort is nothing compared to the trauma that this storm will cause.

All around us, the rice paddies stand full and green. Each plant with its head bowed low, heavy with full grains. But not yet ripe; not yet ready for the hands that will cut each stalk, one by one. The storm season has been gentle this year. But this storm, in this place, will cause untold suffering. Delicate fields will be flattened under the weight of their still-green food and the force of the assault. The heads will have no chance to ripen once their stalks have been broken.

Already, our neighbors are suffering. Their staple provisions cost more than they can pay. So many are starving, some quickly, most slowly: the slow death of perpetual hunger.

I whisper, Lord, have mercy on these who don't even yet know you. Spare their fields. Give them another day, month, year to hear your Name.

Tonight, all is dark and quiet. The storm has passed, moved southward on its destructive path. Only the light of day will show the result. Thousands will wake early and survey their future.
Let the rice stand, Lord - and stand in the gap for those whose food has fallen.


16. The Scholar's comment: "I'm going to see if I'm needed in the kitchen."

17. BEAUTIFUL roses from dh. Just because.

18. Laughter over kitten's cherry-tomato soccer game.

19. Grandparents.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

wonderful gifts . . .

13. Freshly grated coconut - still on the tree this morning - ready to be toasted! What a glorious smell!

14. Feather pillows.

15. Air conditioners on the hottest day of the year so far.

Monday, April 21, 2008

His Gifts

just keep on coming:

10. Morning sunlight streaming through the kitchen window.

11. The sounds of birds lifting their songs of praise at 5 am.

12. Little girls' pigtails!

Romans 2:4

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

May it never be that I take lightly or with contempt His overwhelming mercy towards me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

the list continues . .

5. Princess Grace asleep with her no-longer-lost favorite toy.

6. Books that encourage.

7. A "Mommy's day off".

8. Husband's kindness to give it.

9. Sermon podcasts.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thankfulness . . .

1. Fresh pickles!

2. A new kitten to replace one gone.

3. Wonder Boy giggles (while baby kitten tickles his tummy).

4. Waffles prepared and served in our room! By the children!

Friday, April 11, 2008

One Thousand Gifts

I have been reading with care the beautiful listing of 1000 gifts, now continuing as endless gifts, that Ann V. of A Holy Experience has been sharing. As my own life seems many days short on gratitude and long on negativity, I feel led to begin my own listing. How long it will take, or where it will lead, I cannot say. But God is in the beginning, so I will trust him for the doing.

Careful Washing

The afternoon sunlight, growing hotter each day, streams through the window over the sink. The pile of plates and cups is not large, but demands attention. Inattention brings ants.

One by one, soil removed, the stack shifts from right to left: hot water and soap and hands doing their work. Time passes. The water cools. Soapy bubbles disappear. But one plastic box, greasy from Monday's vegetable curry leftovers, awaits. No lukewarm water nor tired suds will be enough.

I add a bit of soap to the sponge, coax some hot water from the faucet, and scrub the offending box. Careful attention to the corners, the edges: wherever the yellow grease wants to cling. That is what it takes to clean a greasy plastic box: soap, hot water, and attention to the details.

Where are the dirty corners in my life: the ones needing extra attention? I know they are there. The ones that I'd rather stuff under the sink or hide deep in my heart. But He longs to give them extra attention, to flood the dirty corners with the hot water of his truth, to cleanse them with the detergent of his Word.

May I let you attend to the greasy boxes of my life.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Just a Thought

I think this is one of the most agonizing lines in all of hymnody, modern or traditional:

It was my sin that held Him there,
until it was accomplished.

From "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" by Stuart Townend. Listen here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Of giving

One of the strange challenges we face in living in a developing country is what to do with the "stuff" we no longer need. Like any westerner living here, we have an embarrassingly large amount of stuff. And those around us are unbelievably devoid of stuff. They own only one or 2 pieces of clothing. They have no table, no chairs, often not even enough food. Toys are unheard of.

So, it seems, the problem should be easily solved. Simply give our excess (outgrown clothes and toys, for example) to those around us. But the HOW of that is the complicated part.

The area our work covers is home to 7 million people. Probably 75% of them are as poor as I described, or nearly so. So what do we do? Were we to simply walk down the street and hand things out, we would be instantly mobbed. (Actually, that happens whenever we walk down the street). Do we ask local colleagues to get the word out that we have kids clothes available? Then we will have a line stretching from our door for miles. To date, we have tried several approaches, none of them wholly satisfactory.

There is no clearinghouse, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill with donation boxes strategically placed around the town.

One thing I have been doing is to give clothes to mothers who come to the door asking. Usually the wives of patients in our hospital, several come once or twice a year. Sometimes I will also give them a toy or two. Does this kind of handout really help?

But (thankfully) the numbers for this are low, and the pile of remaining goods stays large. I hate storing (and possibly having things rot while in storage) piles of outgrown clothes, so I have given things to some of the manual laborers we know for them to distribute in their villages. Do they do this or do they sell the clothes and keep the profit? I will never know. Does it really matter anyhow?

One of the regular ladies came to my door last week. I always try to chat a bit with the children, though they usually are pretty frightened of me. While she waited in a chair on the veranda (kept there for unexpected visitors),I pulled out a few girl's outfits (from a bag ready to go to a village) for her daughter. Grabbed 2 shirts - almost outgrown - from Wonder Boy's drawer, and scrounged up a pair of sandals for his bare feet. She asked me for another toy. As we have just returned and most of the toys are still in a box somewhere, I said no. She left without a pleasant word or farewell. I felt a bit like she had come to my house to "go shopping".

I don't need to be thanked, but I also don't like to feel used. Yet I find myself frustrated by my own annoyance at her when I hear the echo of God's voice in Isaiah 53:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;


because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors. (NIV)

Of what consequence is my comfort when he gave all for me?

And then tonight, this reminder from Isaiah 58:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

It often isn't easy to be "rich" is so poor a place. But it gives me an opportunity to worship God through serving those who come to my door or live in the local villages. May I do so with joy through the grace He gives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On His Birthday . . .

To My Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more then whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet

Blessings on you today, dearest, while we are apart.

At Last

A beautiful poem I ran across today about love come late in life:

At Last

At last, when all the summer shine
That warmed life's early hours is past,
Your loving fingers seek for mine
And hold them close—at last—at last!
Not oft the robin comes to build
Its nest upon the leafless bough
By autumn robbed, by winter chilled,—
But you, dear heart, you love me now.

Though there are shadows on my brow
And furrows on my cheek, in truth,—
The marks where Time's remorseless plough
Broke up the blooming sward of Youth,—
Though fled is every girlish grace
Might win or hold a lover's vow,
Despite my sad and faded face,
And darkened heart, you love me now!

I count no more my wasted tears;
They left no echo of their fall;
I mourn no more my lonesome years;
This blessed hour atones for all.
I fear not all that Time or Fate
May bring to burden heart or brow,—
Strong in the love that came so late,
Our souls shall keep it always now!

Elizabeth Akers Allen

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Returning again

It continues to amaze me how time can fly. How is it possible that our 3 month "home leave" is over and we are back "home" in our host country? Where did the time go? Well, I do know that for me, most of the month of January went to coughing. Nasty bugs you have over there in America. I had better stay here where we only have bird flu, fillaria, malaria, dengue fever, leprosy, tuberculosis, cholera, dysentery, Japanese encephalitis ...

While looking for a basic broccoli soup recipe today, I ran across this. WHY would you want to do this??? As if finding interesting recipes is not time consuming enough?

We are now 2 days into our new year of homeschooling. Everyone is doing very well, especially considering the circumstances:

This is the living room, which was being sanded to remove some of the chalk that had been applied to the walls to prepare them for painting. No, I don't understand that either. And, my camera lens was not dirty. The dirt you see was the chalk dust floating in the air.

Welcome to the bedroom. Yes, the living room furniture has invaded the bedroom. And it seems the mattress has taken wing - perhaps looking for a less dusty abode.

And the playroom/family room has taken on the role of storage chamber. Hmmm, the mattress landed here. I'm not sure the its new home is any less dusty. The computer desk seems to be holding everything except the computer.

The porch. We have to walk through here to get to the kid's room, the school room, and the laundry. 'Nuff said.

Ahhh! We have arrived in the school room. The scene above is the result of telling the kids to "Carry these things upstairs and stack them neatly in a corner."

And the school table. In our absence, it became home to the pictures that should have been hanging on the walls. I have managed to carve out a space for my coffee mug, though. Always take care of the important things first!

And finally, will someone please tell me why our closet is now in the school-room???

On the up side, 3 of our 7 boxes of books arrived today. Receiving books is always cause for celebration! Praying for the other 4 boxes to make it through. Will keep you posted.