Friday, March 25, 2011

Ratatouille and Tears

My ratatouille was extra salty a few nights ago. It wasn’t a secret part of the recipe. As I sliced the onions, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, I began to reminisce…and the tears began to fall.

Clear as day I still remember the last time I made this dish.  I can feel the numbness in my toes as the ill-heated kitchen in our capital city vacation home always left me chilly.  I can picture the sun streaming in the windows and remember myself wishing it was the warm sun of southeast Asia that we had just returned from. The air was heavy from the wood fire that A had started a few minutes before.  I sliced vegetables in anticipation of dinner guests. 

A came in and out, bringing in juice he had bought in the bazaar, setting the table, chatting, heading back outside to work on his bike.  Spring was trying to win the season battle. Though the house was chilly, the days were getting warmer.

Dinner was good that night, but the fellowship was even sweeter.  That is what makes me cry today as I slice veggies in this new house of mine two years later.  I think back to the evening we spent with Glen and Cheryl, two young singles who were making a difference in this crazy country.  We laughed till we cried, told stories and got to know each other better. When they left that night, A and I both commented on how much we liked them.  We ended up spending a lot of time with Glen when we were in the capital. He came up and visited us in the village we called home our first two years here. 

While in Lal, Glen and A went on a big adventure. After three days spent mountain biking through the district during Ramadan, eating only bread and tea each day, Glen and A were famished when they returned to our mud house.  Glen literally started to cry when I placed a simple and hastily made meal of spaghetti in front of them. Through his tears, he called it the most beautiful thing he had ever eaten. 

And now I am the one crying.  8 months ago, on their return from a medical outreach trip into the remotest part of this country, possibly one of the remotest parts of the world, Glen and Cheryl were murdered.  Glen, Cheryl, and their 8 team-members were doing what they had been called to do – bring hope and help to the least reached, those the world has forgotten about. 

And that is what killed them in the end. 

I think a lot about them and the sacrifices that their team made.  They were all kind and generous and loving, not to mention brilliantly qualified and diligent. Cheryl worked with female prisoners and drug addicts – the untouchables of society.  Dr. Tom (our neighbor in the capital) had treated hundreds of t-ban fighters and won their hearts in the process. The men who work in the yard where Glen lived teared up as they shared their deep admiration for Glen with A when we returned 5 months after his death.

I have always loved the verses in John 12 where Jesus says:

“I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My father will honor the one who serves me.”  John 12:24-26

Since coming to this country, those verses have become very real to me. I will be honest; now they are little harder to love…or maybe I should say that I love them in new ways. Before, I loved them because they sounded good. They were exciting and challenging.  Now that I have tasted a small part of what they actually mean, they are painfully beautiful.  I see the Truth in them, even though now I know for certain that it comes at a cost

This country is miserable and discouraging and grim…really it is. So many days we wonder how God is going to break through in this place.  The ground is hard and dry. Hearts are like stone and eyes are blind. 

But grains of wheat have fallen.  Not only those 10 who were killed, but others as well have sacrificed so deeply to come to this place. 

Our friend J (who is on home assignment right now) has been here for 20 years.  Her parents just turned 80 and this week she packs her bags and says goodbye to them once again so that she can come back and be salt and light in this place.  It sounds crazy, yes. But God has deeply blessed her work here.  Her parents stand behind her. She is truly living out the promise that her treasures are in Heaven.

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My father will honor the one who serves me.”

We are so privileged to learn from such a rich legacy in this place and around the globe.  So many have gone before us, being the very hands and feet of Jesus to the undesirables of our world.  It is slow-going and discouraging at times, but God is good and truly He does honor those who serve Him.

I read this in the devotional Streams in the Desert right before my tears fell in my Ratatouille:

“It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the ocean, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.
May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though ‘deep calls to deep’ (Ps. 42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Streams in the Desert-March 20

And so we pray for sweetness and beauty to sink into this barren land, for joy to come with the morning, and for the lives of our dear friends to truly bring forth seeds of hope.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

sa-mA-naK

Sa-mA-naK is what I talked about in this blog – it is a thick, almost caramel-like substance that is made from mixing the liquid derived from sprouted wheat germ with flour for long long periods of time.  To say it is very labor intensive is an understatement…they stirred the stuff for 12 hours. Like, did not stop stirring for 12 hours...crazy.  Here is how it all went down…

At about 11 on Thursday morning, I heard a knock on the front door.  Angel khAla was there asking me why I hadn’t made my way over to the office yet. It was the big day of the women’s celebration of Sa-mA-naK (saw-ma-nack).  Seeing as they were talking about it being all night long and a gigantic slumber party, I had no idea it would be starting that early. 

I got little t and I ready and headed over.  Imagine my surprise when I felt way over dressed upon arriving…usually these women are dressed to the nines and I feel like a dork in my feeble attempt to fit in. This day however, the women were dressed more casually and my dress was way out of place.  Thankfully we live next door, so I told them I would be right back and ran back home to throw my jeans and long shirt and sweater back on.

The women had arrived at 7 that morning and set to work mixing the sprouted wheat germ with water. Days earlier they had bought a bunch of wheat seed, cleaned it and put it in a large canvas feed sack. They kept it in a warm place and each day they gave it some water until it sprouted.  On Thursday morning they mixed the wheat germ with water again to kind of rinse it.  The liquid that was derived from this process was used to make the sa-mA-naK. They would swish the wheat around in a huge basin of water and then grab handfuls of the wheat out and squeeze as much water out of it as they could.  When they had done this numerous times and were satisfied with the liquid, they began to prepare the cauldron. 

Cauldron is the only word that I can think of to describe the place where they did the cooking.  Out of the yard of the office, they had dug a giant hole…like 3 to 4 feet deep and 3 feet in diameter. This is where they had the fire.  On top of this, they set a huge pot that looked like a witch’s cauldron and blocked the sides in with wood to seal it.  Out the side of the hole, they had an outlet for stoking the fire. 

Once the wheat water was ready, they got the fire going and then added the water and flour to the cauldron and started to stir.  In the beginning it was a light brown color and very thin. They started cooking it at 1 in the afternoon. 

Little t was soon banished from the process because he thought taking a dip in the buckets of wheat water would be a good idea.  He also tried throwing fistfuls of dirt in as well and that didn’t go over either.  We left to play with the kids of the ladies that were working.  Little t shared his toys and was shy, but had fun hanging out for a while. 

Later in the afternoon, the sa-mA-naK started to get thicker and darker in color.  There was always at least one person stirring it with long handled paddle made specifically for this.  Some of the women’s husbands came and the whole place had a festive feel to it.  The women handed over stirring rights to the men while they got supper going…

Though the men came to help (and a few slept there because you never leave your women alone) this was mainly a women’s thing.  That night, the dinner was specifically for the women and we had a great time.  The women made meatballs, roast meat floating in oil, chickpeas, pasta filled with spinach and covered in yoghurt sauce, salad, etc.  It was a feed…a very oily feed, but a feed.  We ate and ate and ate. At the end, one of the women said a prayer of thanks for the food and of blessing for the new year. 

And then we danced…

That is just what you do when you get together with a group of women. Someone always has a small radio in her purse, or they pull up a station on their cell phones and the clapping begins.  In settings like this, they are quick to hop up and dance.  Most of them aren’t amazing dancers, but we smile and laugh and clap.

Meanwhile, the kids were dropping like flies.  Most of them ate themselves silly and then literally rolled over on the cushions and fell asleep.  Older ones covered the younger ones with blankets. One little girl fell asleep sitting up with an apple halfway to her mouth…craziness. 

The dancing continued and we were all drug out onto the floor.  Some of the women like to bust some pretty hilarious moves, others are more conservative in their styles.  Some would stay up and shake it for the whole song, others would last about 10 seconds before they were done.  All in all, it was a good time.

The evening got late and we went out to see how the sa-mA-naK was coming along.  Water must be added 7 times and then boiled down to a thick consistency once again before it is finished.  We sat outside near the fire with the stars overhead and talked and laughed.  The women started telling tales of sa-mA-naK parties when they were young. They told the meanings behind the ritual –that is brings wealth and blessing to those who make it and those households it is given to.  They told about it being a positive start to the new year.  They sang songs they had learned in school about it. There wasn’t much talk given to the fertility ritual part of it…for which I was grateful. A few jokes were thrown my way, but it could have been worse.  Give then fact that I am the only one who is ‘young’ enough to be pregnant and they think we have waited too long to have another baby anyway, I was expecting much worse.

All the while, two women took turns stirring the cauldron of bubbling liquid with the paddles.  A younger girl was in charge of stoking the fire. We all sat around for quite a while, talking and laughing and stirring. I left after a while to head to bed.  I found out later that they stayed up until 2 am stirring the cauldron and preparing the sa-mA-naK before they fell asleep

It was a beautiful night to be out and just really really fun to be involved in something they do. 

Sometimes life with local women feels contrived…they come into ‘our’ world when they come to work at the office.  We see them at weddings and other special occasions and the dynamics are different. 

I find that I most enjoy the mundane, everyday interactions with women because that is when they really come out.  Their guard comes down a little bit. You see small glimpses into their lives that aren’t normally available.  The well put-together and covered-up presentations give way to the people they truly are – covered in sticky goo, stinky from smoke, exhausted from a hard days work, but happy for the most part to be amongst friends. 

It was a good day.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meanwhile...

I am kinda stuck. I had an amazing weekend..mostly filled with spending glorious time with local women.  I want to write all about it...I am working on it. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed at getting it all down...not just the events, but all the thoughts and feelings and stirrings that accompany the very fun times. So, eventually I will post about the weekend and all of its craziness.

My other problem is that it is insanely beautiful out right now. We were outside ALL DAY today - playing with Little t, planting the garden, soaking up the sun. It was great.  So, while I want to be writing, the sunshine is like a giant magnet...

I will get to it, I promise.  Meanwhile...

I found this blog tonight and I really really like it.

Read these two posts and be completely challenged. I dare you...

Out From Under the Umbrella

Whatever He Wants

I then found this blog (linked to the one above) and was totally shattered...so so beautiful.  Please read it. I am telling you, you won't regret it.

Jesus

So...I figure, these three posts should give you enough to chew on (and then some) until I can get my act together and finish up some writing.

I will say it again - just to be annoying - please read these posts - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weak Knees


Last Friday (our Sabbath) we had a wonderful family walk/trip to the bazaar.  There weren’t too many people out and it was nice to enjoy the beautiful weather and quietness of the morning. Our trip wrapped up with a short stop on the vegetable street...it all went downhill from there...

I like to buy my own veggies when I can. kAkA does a great job, but it is somewhat disappointing when I ask for eggplant and he returns with okra, etc. 

We have an unspoken agreement…I buy the veggies while A manhandles Little t…or Little t manhandles A…not sure which way it goes, but it is usually crazy. Friday found Little t adamant that he would.not sit in his stroller. A tried to accommodate him in letting him get out, which worked for all of 3 seconds. Little t quickly tried to tip a tray of tomatoes over, suck on a bicycle tire, pick up handfuls of mud and take a dip in the jewey (ditch full of garbage and sewer water). Poor A couldn’t keep up with Little t and keep a handle on the stroller.  I finally got what I wanted and we got out of there.  Little t screamed for a full 5 years when we strapped him back in the stroller to go home, but we made it. 

We opened the gate to our yard zoo to a barking dog, insistent little girls, our neighbor working on his motorcycle, a hungry little boy, a missing bird, and a birthday party to attend in 5 minutes.  A, still stressed from the bazaar didn’t handle the conglomeration too well, especially the girls insisting we hurry up and run over to the party.  Saying we were both on edge heading to the party is an understatement.

Only minutes into the party, a very tired and hungry Little t smacked his head, refused to eat anything offered and resorted to tipping plates and cups over. A took him home to get him ready for his nap and I followed shortly after.  As we were getting some food poked down the kid, we exchanged a few terse words about the morning and A (reluctantly) headed back to the party.

I sat down to breathe for a minute after putting Little t down for his nap and caught a glimpse of the t.v. that was on. What had been a cartoon that was distracting Little t as we changed his diaper had turned into a memorial to a dead religious leader (very common in this part of the world). Pictures of beautiful landscapes, and verses from the Quran written in calligraphy came across the screen to a background of music/chanting/prayers. 

As I reached for the off button, a music video came on and I found myself watching. Photos of war and people grieving were mixed with photos of people praying; on their knees with their faces to the ground or looking up to the sky with their hands raised.  I didn’t understand most of the song, only something about god being great and Satan. If I didn’t know better, I could have easily assumed that it was put together by some Christ.ian group. I stood there, in the quiet of my house, surrounded by groceries from the morning's trip, and was moved by the Spirit speaking to me. 

It stirred me deep in my soul and I have been thinking about it all week.  In the quiet moments of these days, my heart is drawn by my Creator to weep for those who pray, seemingly without ceasing and in vain.

How many times in one’s life will a person here go to their knees as they repeat the words that fall from their tongue, ‘god is great’?  

How many times do I fall to my knees and beg mercy and hope for those around me grasping at straws? 

My knees are weak, because I do not use them. 

I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life.  Often I find myself more worried about vegetables than the people around me. I worry a lot about what affects my life. I focus on my boy, my husband, my time, my workout, my blog, my book, my my my etc. 

How much more should I be driven to my knees each day because I KNOW that the One I call to hears me?  

I stand forgiven. 

I am redeemed. 

I come before the throne of grace with confidence. 

Except…I don’t come before the throne enough.

I long for a day when every tribe and tongue will gather around that throne together.  I believe that people from here will be among them. I long just as much for people here today to fall to their knees before the Creator and bask in the Hope they have found in Him. 

Maybe it is just me, but it gives me goosebumps to think about how powerfully these people could worship if they had Hope in their hearts. They are driven to their knees thousands of times in their lives by the need to please one who is far off. Think about what they would do if they worshipped the One who dwells in their midst!

Some days seem futile, but shouldn’t those be the days where the time on my knees is the greatest?

I read this quote by Henri Nouwen talking about St. Francis of Assisi and it resonates with what I am trying (admittedly unsuccessfully) to say:  

“There were many wars, conflicts, and much poverty and misery in the thirteenth century, but we do not remember the political struggles and the socioeconomic events of that century. We remember one man who lived in the midst of it and prayed, and prayed, and prayed until his hands and feet were pierced with the wounds of Christ himself. Who will be the St. Francis of our age?” -Henri Nouwen, Seeds of Hope

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

HeHe

We are not lacking in the kids department here on our team.  Our British friends have an 8 year old boy and a 6 year old girl.  The Finnish family that we share a yard with have girls who are 9, 7, and 4 and a boy who is 6. The other Finnish family on our team will be returning in a few weeks with a new baby boy to round out their family. They have a 10 year old girl and a 5 year old boy.

Our yard has the playhouse and the trampoline...and A. If the kids had their way, his full time job would be to play with them instead of work. Loosely translated, our yard is busy and noisy and all kinds of wild.

The other day A and Little t were swinging in one swing while Charlotte (the adorable Finnish 4 year old) was swinging on the other.  They started going at the same pace and were swinging together.  Very excitedly Charlotte said to A, "we are swinging together, that means we have to get married!"

A told Charlotte that he was already married (to me) and couldn't get married again. He suggested that Charlotte marry Little t instead.

Very seriously, Charlotte looked at A and said, "But I can't. I can't marry my very best friend."

So sweet.


In other...not so sweet news...there is a 'sleep-over' at the office this weekend that I am being weaseled into joining.  It sounds fun, but slightly intimidating.  Little t hasn't been sleeping great, so I am not sure I can get away with going, though I really want to.

The jest of the event is the all-night making of this floury dough stuff that comes from the first harvest of something (maybe I should go so i can actually know what I am talking about)...and it is to signify good crops, etc.

Should be a good time.

The ladies A works with are party animals and I am sure it will be very interesting. Something, though, tells me that they didn't invite me just for my company...

The event is also a fertility ritual...

The truth comes out!

I have been not been pregnant for a whole 15 months.  I know they are worried. They have been asking. I keep telling them that we will start thinking about more kids soon...soon-ish...sooner than later...eventually.  

Apparently they have decided to take matters into their own hands!

Oh Happy (Ladies) Day!

This post is a little old...we have Internet issues this week, so I am a bit behind.  Written March 8th.


Today is a very special day in this country and around the world. I can’t say to what extent it is practiced around the world, but here, especially for women in the development and NGO communities, it is a big day. 

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate…women.  So, today, the men of the office made special food for the women and gave us gifts (hideous fabric for a dress that the women actually picked out themselves and were SO excited about). The women soaked it in.  Given the status of women in this country and context, it may have been completely and utterly superficial, but the women seemed to enjoy it. 

I wore my wedding outfit and Little t and I headed over to the office quickly before lunch.  I was quickly running back home to get plates after the khAla who cooks over there was panicked that she didn’t have enough to serve on. 

So, I finally got in the room and went down the line greeting all of the women.  Sat down in ‘my’ seat in the corner and tried to get Little t situated before the food came. I had planned on feeding him before I went, but ran out of time, and knew that we were going to be in trouble. It simply means that he makes every attempt to crawl across the tablecloth laid out on the floor to get whatever food he can and stuff his face with it…awesome.  I have him a big hunk of naan and that kept him happy for a few minutes while I tried to eat frantically once the food arrived. 

Shortly after food arrived, Little t wanders a little ways down the cushion and gets mysteriously quiet…the momma-urge tells me to find out what he is doing. Trying to cut his nose off is what he was doing! He had found a giant pair of scissors and was rapidly opening and closing them dangerously close to his nostrils.  I try to be a nice person and a reasonable mom, but would like my child to have both of his eyes well into adulthood. So made an effort to take the scissors away.  Tortured screams of protest from the wee one caused all of the women to ask me accusingly what I had done to him (it is bad if your kids cry/throw fits like that). I told them I had taken the scissors away from him. They ‘tsked’ me under their breath and then kept eating. I bit my tongue from telling them that they are more than welcome to let their 15 month old jab random body parts with scissors, but I would rather listen to mine scream than watch him bleed.  I nursed him for a few minutes to try and calm him down and then distracted him with his naan and went back to eating myself.

Little t was playing well and munching on his naan until he saw his friend I (sitting next to us) eating some meat and decided he needed some. I proceeded to have him small bits of meat, which he did very well with and seemed to like. I prayed the whole time that it wouldn’t make him sick, but was also happy that he was eating it and seemed to like it.  My friend E finished eating and took Little t for me while I tried to finish up. 

Meanwhile the women were yukking it up, making jokes about demanding more food because this was Women’s Day and today they were the bosses, etc.  Some subtle hints were made that the food should have been more and should have been better for such a “special occasion”. Not so subtle hints were made by their boss E that they were quite healthy and well-fed and could maybe use their day of power for something more productive…They decided that they would tell their husbands to clean the house, take care of the kids, etc.  Each time they said this, they pumped their fists in the air saying, “I will tell my husband to clean the house, because today is Woman’s Day and I AM A WOMAN!” Then the rest of them would howl and squeal and laugh!  It was pretty funny. 

During their empowerment speeches, Little t had climbed back on my lap and was eating some pieces of orange. He usually just sucks the juice out of them, but today seemed to be doing well eating the whole piece…or so I thought.  Suddenly, halfway through the orange, and midway through empowerment speeches (and talk about make-up and clothing choices for tomorrow night’s wedding), Little t started choking.  I started thumping him on the back and he was still choking.  I thumped harder and he started turning red and gagging.  Everyone got a little worked up and started stating the obvious (he’s choking, something’s wrong). I doubt he timed it this way, but as soon as all…and I mean all…eyes in the room were on him, Little t threw up all over himself, me, the cushion we were sitting on and the tablecloth in front of us.  Two rather large pieces of orange that must have been stuck in his throat came up with everything else and I realized I had not been paying enough attention. He had not been the highly successful orange eater I thought he was. 

Funny thing of the story…true to women of here and true to women who have multiple children…they weren’t fazed at all. There was maybe a 2 second hiccup in the conversation and then Aziza went on to complete her sentence about her planned outfit for the next night.  This might sound rude, but it actually made me really happy because it showed me that they weren’t shocked or offended or awkward about the situation…it just happened and then was over.  Little t took a drink and then went right back to playing.  We stripped his dirty clothes off and he ran around for the next few minutes playing while I sopped up orange colored vomit from pretty much every surface within arm’s reach. 

The silver lining in the clouds?  Little t may or may not have…okay it is a may…ingested several healthy handfuls of dirt earlier that morning. He just would not stop putting it in his mouth…so I am hoping he puked up some of those germs as well.   

Ladies day was a hit – the women got their little power trip, Little t only puked all over everything, and I got more ugly fabric than any girl could ever ask for!  Happy Ladies Day!

I Needed This Kick In The Pants Today...

funny sidenote...I attempted to use a King James Version to find the verse numbers...it was quite humorous...

from The Message


Matthew 5:38-48

"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look:

 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' 

Is that going to get us anywhere? 

Here's what I propose: 

'DON'T HIT BACK AT ALL.' 

If someone strikes you, stand there and take it

If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, 

giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it

And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, 

use the occasion to practice the servant life

Nor more tit-for-tat stuff. 
LIVE GENEROUSLY.

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' 

I'm challenging that. 

I'M TELLING YOU TO LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Let them bring out the best in you
not the worst. 
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer
for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.  

That is what God does

He gives his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: 
the good and bad, 
the nice and nasty.  

 If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus? 
Anybody can do that. 

If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? 
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 

"In a word, what I'm saying is, 
GROW UP.  
You're kingdom subjects. 
Now live like it.  

Live out your God-created identity.
Live generously and graciously toward others,
the way God lives toward you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thursday


Thursdays are our Saturdays. They are (usually) good days in our lives. Here is what this most recent one looked like:

5:00 a.m. Dog barks outside our window, waking us all up...A mutters something about the necessity of killing the dog. We all doze on and off for another hour

6:00 a.m. Little t cries. I got in to nurse him in hopes of getting him to sleep a little longer.

6:45 a.m. Little t cries (has been babbling and playing for most of the 45 minutes). I go in and change a poopy diaper and tell him to try to get more sleep.

7:00 a.m. Get over my denial that Little t is really up for the day and climb out of bed.  Taking my pillow with me, I put in a movie for Little t and curl up under the blankets on the cushion in the living room. He leaves me alone for half an hour to doze before coming to sit on my head…classic sign that he is done entertaining himself.

7:30-8ish we get the breakfast ball rolling…naan (that apparently came from all the way across the country according to A – measured by how long it took kAkA to get it), Pop-Tarts, zucchini bread…anything to fill our stomachs…we are currently out of oats and wasting away more and more each morning…

8-9 a.m. drink coffee, watch the news and Little t’s local language cartoon, read, start a load of laundry, change clothes, diaper, etc.

9:30 a.m. head outside, talk to kAkA, jump on the trampoline. Go to the other yard to swing on the swings, chase Gorgeous the Cat, play hide-and-seek in Miss R’s curtains hanging on the clothesline, gossip about last night’s wedding, chat about gardening, crack up at E’s story about getting woken up at 10.30 a.m. by the small neighbor girl standing next to her bed, soak in the sunshine, laugh, marvel at the beauty and simplicity of life in this place.

11:30 a.m. head back to our yard…sneak in a game of hide-and-seek in the office yard along the way. Jump on the trampoline, hang laundry, push Little t on his trike, admire A and kAkA’s work in the garden.

12:15 p.m. quickly heat up some lunch for Little t, poke some food down him, change his filthy clothes and put on a clean diaper.

1 p.m. Little t crashes while nursing and is laid down to have a good long (hopefully) nap.

1:10 p.m. heat up leftover pizza and make some Japanese ramen noodles for lunch. Watch Flubber and chat while we eat. 

1:50 p.m. Meet E and J with our burkas for a pryr walk around town. Totally thrilling, overwhelming, heartbreaking and addicting. Beg God for His mercy and grace and Truth to be poured out over this place and it’s people. Vow to make it a weekly thing…this place needs it…bad.

3:00 p.m. return home to a quiet house, A having checked e-mail and now working on projects. A heads back out to work on the garden.  I sit around for a few minutes before deciding to work out while Little t is sleeping.  True to form, as soon as I begin, he wakes up.

3:30 p.m. watch a little t.v. with Little t while he eats a snack and wakes up.  Then head outside to play/work in the garden.

3:45-4:45 p.m. work in the garden as much as the clingbot will let me…finally after a few minutes, distract him by letting him play in a giant mud puddle created by the overflow spout of the water tank.  I work in the strawberry bed, A plants veggies in the greenhouse, Little t sits in a giant mud puddle.  We are all playing with dirt and all happy.

4:45 p.m. Take Little t in for a bath quickly.  He splashes and laughs. 

5:10 p.m. After frantically running around to get ready, we are out the door to head to the other side of town for our weekly sauna trip. 

5:20 p.m. Drop Little t off with our German teammates and head across the street to the house with the sauna. 

5:30 p.m. finally able to breathe a little…a few minutes to ourselves…our date of the week. No talk of Little t, no worries, just time together. 

6:00 p.m. Get out of the sauna and shower

6:10 p.m. back across the street to get Little t who spent the whole 40 minutes chasing their dog around the yard. 

6:20 p.m. get in the van and head back across town.  Decide not to get chicken for dinner because it is too late. 

6:40 p.m. supper is on the table for Little t. He hams it up during the meal, he jabbers away and cracks up…laughing even harder each time we laugh.  We realize that today is Little t’s 15 month birthday. We find ourselves thankful that it has been such a good day.

7:00 p.m. We wind Little t down, change him into p.j.’s, watch a little bit of t.v. while he gets ready for bed. 

7:10 p.m. Give Daddy kisses, pray, nurse and put him in bed. 

7:15 p.m. Scrounge something together for supper.  Watch a little t.v.

9:15 p.m. We are exhausted, we chat a while and then head to bed – lights out by 10.  Good day. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just Can't Help It

When you have a kid this cute and the ability to post pictures...it is going to happen...so for your enjoyment...

Little t and Dad (A) singing and acting out "If You're  Happy and You Know It".


Little t playing outside...this was a 70 degree day in the middle of January

A is so proud of the little boy/man he is becoming (notice the rocks he stacked on the cab of the backhoe)! He makes a puttering sound the whole time he is playing.

Grinning a little grin for some reason.

Being very good at playing takes concentration...

And his sweet little feet. He has worn holes in his turtle shoes...we are in mourning. If I could ask anything of him (other than he be kind and gentle and respectful and put others first and love Jesus....) I would ask him to not outgrow his little Fred Flintstone feet. With the extra padding on the top, they are just too hard to resist!

Speaking of hard to resist...little dimples in his hands...wow...

And that little face...What a boy! How blessed am I?!?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Alien Will of God


Many are the moments on this journey where we have looked at each other and said,  ‘this is crazy! We are crazy for doing this!’

Many more are the moments where other people have thought and/or said that as well. 

And yet, isn’t this what we are called to?  We talked yesterday in church about what it means to be a slave.  Today the weight of this term is lost to those of us in the Western World. If we were to ask any person in Jesus’ time they would have given you a serious answer. Today, ask any man, woman, or child the world over who is forced into labor, prostitution, debt-slavery, etc. and they will tell you that slavery is obedience to an alien will.  It means putting aside your thoughts, desires, plans, comfort, feelings, etc. for the desires of another. 

That is what we have been called to, people.  The Word tells us that, the Spirit tells us that, Jesus lived and breathed it.

Think about how often common sense is thrown out the window when it comes to serving the Creator.

I don’t want to this to come across as self-righteous bragging or holier-than-thou at.all. but this is what it currently looks like for us:

We give up a nice house and a secure future in the States to come here…to a country at war.

Carrying on the family farm is replaced with teaching people where to poop properly.

Having our kid grow up with cousins and grandparents and friends and family is replaced with a handful of (wonderful) friends and angel khAla who pulls him around the house on the vacuum cleaner. 

Instead of packing for a weekend trip to see family and friends, we pack an evacuation bag and leave it by the front door…just in case.

Instead of weekly reports on crop prices, we get weekly reports on roadside bombings across the country. 

Instead of going for long, leisurely runs through cornfields, we lift weights in our kitchen. 

Instead of asking Dad to bless our kids as they go to school, we ask Dad to provide a teacher so they can keep going to school…so that their parents can keep working here.

Our weekly gathering consists of very loud off-key singing and a traveling bag of song books.

Ice cream is a figment of our imagination.

There are times when we look at that list and look at each other and ask, “what are we doing here?!?”   Why are we in the middle of a war-torn country, working with people with hard hearts and blind eyes, wondering if fruit will ever come or if people will ever learn how to poop right?  Why.are.we.here??? 

The obedience to an alien will.

We have wrestled and wrestled with these questions. We have asked and sought and reasoned and pleaded with the Most High (as have our families) about our place in His plan for this country and these people.  We have suggested other people would be better. We have tossed in our nominations for other countries (always with better food and beaches of course…). We have asked noisily and delved into long periods of silence. 

 The alien will…

So scary

So beautiful

Like a moth drawn to light are God’s children drawn to His ways when they earnestly set their hearts after His ways.

We don’t always know

We don’t always want to follow

But we can’t help but move where He leads.

WHY?

Matthew wrote it this way….

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One who is most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
- Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount  from The Message Bible


And so blessed we are.

We have plenty to eat and a roof over our heads.

We have a great team here who are dear friends, great support, and our biggest cheerleaders (as well as wonderful babysitters).

We have family who sees the value in the work we are doing and love and support us in it. 

We have a beautiful little boy who makes us smile…a lot.

We have the love and friendship of each other that gets sweeter as the days go by.

We have work here that is challenging and meaningful.

We have a yard full of crazy kids who are amazing role models for little t and are so good to him.

We have angel khAla and kAkA who make life easier and help us find joy in the simple things.

We have HOPE and TRUTH and LIFE.


Truly we are blessed in these days.

Is life easy? No

Would we want it to be? No

We are so thankful for the things that Dad is allowing us to be a part of, to see, to experience, to smile at and to grieve over.  How could we turn away from being a part of His work?

The alien will of God can be painful, or frustrating, or mysterious, or intangible. But, it will ALWAYS bring blessing.  ALWAYS.

It may not be the blessing the world would place their money on. But like Matthew describes:

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Everything that can’t be bought: HOPE and TRUTH and LIFE, MERCY and GRACE and PEACELOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO.

This is the alien will of our great God. 

My Happy Place...

The hubs and I were talking about our last trip to the Philippines the other night...and it made me miss it. I looked through these photos today and couldn't resist sharing a few


This is pulling into Puerto Galera with the ferry...we went to the beach here a lot...cheap little huts, warm water, snorkeling, great food...a wonderful place to get away from it all...


This is mountain coffee - grown, roasted and brewed in the mountains of northern Luzon, our other favorite place to get away. We had some very memorable motorcycle trips up to the mountains complete with their wonderful people, rice terraces, small villages, freshly grown rice, coffee, vegetables, etc.  Such an amazing place.


This is homemade banana vanilla yogurt with homemade granola from a little place called The Yogurt House in Sagada - a.k.a. A Little Piece of Heaven On Earth.  To die for.

 And this is us on the beach...everywhere is happy when he is around...

If They Had It Their Way...

The ladies that Andy works with would use me as their living breathing make-up practice dummy...every day...

This photo was taken 2007 or 2008...whenever we visited M-ville while we were still in Lal. We went to the village on an overnight trip to research work being done here. The hubby walked away with some very insightful tips on development work...I walked away looking like this.

The women still bring this up constantly...and comment that I am pretty, but would be much prettier if I let them doll me up like this every day. I remind them that they would only need to do it once a week...because that is how long it took me to get all of the gunk off the last time. I am a sucker, what can I say? When we went to the wedding a few weeks ago, they kindly offered to do my make-up. I took care of it myself...but left off the lipstick. They chased me around for 30 minutes before I finally buckled to the pressure and my lips were a nice orange hue for three days after that. Word on the street is that I have 'gained points' with them for being so vulnerable stupid. Don't get me wrong, I love it...except when my raccoon eyes scare myself each time I look in the mirror. Some sacrifices have to be made I guess...


One of my favorite photos from Lal..with three dear friends and co-workers...such blessings to me.