Monday, December 31, 2007

Golden Birthday - I'm 31!

I've waited 31 years for this: my chance to have a "golden birthday," when I turn 31 on December 31. Now it's here. I'm getting old ;-)

My parents have been visiting my family and me for the past three weeks, much to our delight. It has been a terrific time to catch up with them on details we seemed to miss on the phone. And of course, it's absolutely wonderful to see them grow closer to the kids. We've enjoyed...
  • baking cookies together
  • watching Grandma make a "candy train"
  • singing together while Grandpa played guitar
  • going on river-walks and playing in playgrounds
  • reading books together at home and in the library
  • celebrating Santa Lucia Day on December 13
  • celebrating Ethan's first birthday
  • Grandpa swinging the kids upside-down while singing "Hickory dickory dock"
  • putting a puzzle together with Grandma
  • caroling in a local nursing home
  • watching "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" together
  • observing Advent and enjoying Grandpa's light-the-smoke trick
  • saying goodnight with hugs and kisses (Ethan loves the snuggles!)
  • hearing Grandma's beautiful whistling
  • Grandpa's gift of a kid-friendly MP3 player
  • hearing Grandma's laughter
  • laughing at Grandpa's jokes
  • visiting with Aunt Beth
  • starting a new tradition of a Christmas Eve fondue dinner
And as an adult, I've appreciated my mom's help with dishes, laundry and mending, and my dad's help with many computer and career issues. I only wish they were here longer. Do you think I can somehow kidnap them and keep them for months?

At the last minute, my parents left our house for Charlotte, NC, the morning of Friday Dec. 28, to attend to some unfinished car business (see my dad's blog on the left ... Steve and I decided later that day that we too would drive to Charlotte, leaving Naomi and Josiah with Steve's parents. We got here on Saturday afternoon and have had a fun two days relaxing with Mom and Dad (and Ethan) before they leave us for good.

Sunday we celebrated my birthday (a day early) by eating dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant (so yummy!) and having ice-cream at Marble Slab Creamery. We also played San Juan and visited Border's bookstore (a novelty for us country folk!) I enjoyed almost every minute of it!

Now I've stayed up insanely late, trying to advertize my tutoring on various tutor-locator websites. How will I manage to drive back to Lexington today? And stay up til midnight to bring in the new year???

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ethan Turns One!

One year ago, I gave birth to my baby boy, Ethan Andrew. I went to the hospital first thing in the morning for an amniocentesis, having not eaten breakfast because I wasn't sure if the procedure required a fast or not. I asked my sister if she could stay with my kids for "just 2 hours" until I got back. She agreed even though she was sick.

I never did come home that day! The doctor decided to induce me since I was already at the hospital. Poor Saralynn had to watch my kids for hours, until Steve's mom could relieve her.

I hadn't wanted to be induced or have a C-section, but because my second child had been 12 pounds 10 ounces at birth and gotten stuck on the way out, we opted to deliver early to prevent that from happening again. The pitocin worked well and my labor progressed nicely. At 6 cm, I asked for an epidural (my first after two natural childbirths!) and was thrilled that it killed the pain.

I began pushing and Ethan headed toward the light. But then the nurse said he was coming face-up and forehead first. She called the doctor and the doctor agreed, saying this was a problem. Uh-oh. He gave me the option of forceps or C-section, but told me he didn't have much experience with forceps and leaned toward the section himself. Sigh.

So after two natural childbirths, I had my first pitocin, epidural and C-section, all in one birth. Thankfully Ethan Andrew was delivered safely at 11 PM, and though the wound hurt insanely for 24 hours, I healed well. Ethan nursed well, and after the first four (LONG) months, slept well. We have delighted in our cute and happy third child, and thank the Lord constantly for him. What a gift he is to us.

Happy birthday, Ethan!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snow!

We woke up this morning to see snow falling. This has always been a delight for me personally, maybe especially because I'd only seen a couple snowfalls by the time I was 17. I love the beauty of the gentle flakes and the purity of clean snow. I love the quiet and calm.

But it was even more fun this morning because my kids were so excited! Josiah almost ran out the door in his pajamas, he was so desperate to feel the snow falling. From our bed, we coached him to put on clothes, mittens, socks, shoes (real shoes, instead of his sandals he's been wearing up till today!), and a hat. Steve found Josiah a few minutes later playing outside in our yard with all the get-up but in short-sleeves and minus a COAT!

I have to say that it's very refreshing and relieving to finally have kids old enough to put most of that stuff on themselves. I have to tie shoes and put on the second mitten. But they find everything and get dressed mostly without me. I'm sure that will mean they get out more often this winter. I told them that my dad loves cold and winter, so Naomi's already planning on playing outside with him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Good Company – a positive movie review by Steve & Lisa

I just saw a fantastic movie last night, starring Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, and Scarlett Johannsen. I’d picked it up from the library thinking it looked like a light-hearted comedy that may or may not be great. I was very pleasantly surprised. I’d consider it one of my top recent movies, in the genre of drama/comedy.

Quaid plays Dan Foreman, a middle-aged father, husband, and top ad-salesman for a sports magazine. He’s been in his company for 23 years when a global corporation buys it and changes loom large. Foreman is demoted and placed under the new leadership of Carter Duryea (Grace) who is half his age and has no experience with ad sales. As if this isn’t difficult enough, Foreman eventually discovers that his daughter Alex (who has just moved to the city to study at NYU) has begun dating Duryea, leading to a major confrontation between the two men.

While a child’s coming of age is a theme that runs through many storylines, it’s not common these days for a movie to portray the father figure as positively as this one does. Foreman accuses Duryea of taking advantage of his daughter by sleeping with her, and while Alex was actually the one who seduced Duryea, Foreman is right to challenge the man to take responsibility for his actions. Duryea, who had no father growing up, sees the wisdom in Foreman’s words, though he takes some knocks (literally) along the way. For her part, Alex realizes that she is too young to commit to a relationship, and asks her father to forgive her for concealing their relationship from him. Alex and Duryea never do get back together, a situation that adds a bit of realism to the plot.

The movie also explores the tension between the development of impersonal global, multi-media corporations, and businesses that emphasize person-to-person relationships. Duryea finds his way to the top through one of these corporate acquisitions, and he at first tries to lead through flashy promises of ‘synergy’ with companies that have nothing to do with sports magazines but that are part of this new global corporation. Yet Duryea comes to value Foreman’s belief that good business is fundamentally about building relationships through trust and dependability. When his bosses pressure him to get rid of the ‘old guard,’ Duryea decides integrity and experience really count for something and sides with Foreman.

In Good Company may or may not be right to portray global corporations as badly as it does. But it does put the lie to the idea that business will never be the same, thanks to globalization. While technology may change, bringing people across the globe into contact, business still depends on good work ethics that produce good results and lead to happy clients. And the same holds true for family relationships. Honesty and transparency is always better than deceit. Is it any wonder that this movie gets two thumbs up?

(For those who care about particular "offenses" in movies, this show does have a little bit of bad language, uses Christ's name in vain, has one reference to homosexuality, and has an implied premarital sex scene. These obviously didn't in any way ruin it for us, but wanted you to know...)

My Parents Are Coming!!!

I am super-excited! My mom and dad will arrive at our home on Saturday, December 8, after not having seen my older kids for 21 months and never having met my baby/toddler. I saw them a year ago during the weeks of my sister’s wedding, but that was amidst family and friends and general hoopla. And it wasn’t in my own home.

Now I get to have 3 weeks with them, watching the kids and grandparents get to know each other again, and hopefully spoiling them a little. I plan to cook for my mom and give her and Dad some quiet space. I’m looking forward to relaxed conversations over tea (when the kids are in bed!) And I’m tickled pink that they get to be here for my choir concert.

I just wish they had a family willing to care for their foster son Luke so they could stay in the States longer. It boggles my mind and saddens me that there aren’t people in Nigeria who would sacrifice and serve in such a way that Luke could be loved and parented while Mom and Dad would get a rest.

Steve and I are willing to go, but probably face too many obstacles to make it a reality given our time constraints (needing to get there in time for my parents to extend this visit into a full furlough). Ethan doesn’t have a passport, Steve’s passport has run out of pages, we aren’t part of a mission yet and haven’t gotten visas or raised funds. Slight problems, right? I’m hoping my parents can get a break even during their short visit. And that Luke does not feel abandoned. Please pray that he’ll be adopted soon.

Kids' Update

Naomi sang in her first choir concert on December 1. She knew all the words to her songs and did a great job of singing out. She was scared ahead of time, but said that once she was up front singing, she wasn’t nervous anymore. I’m glad she had a good time. Our extended family was there to hear her, as well as her Sunday school teacher and another church friend.

Josiah’s reading! I’m using Hooked on Phonics, and starting him on the first unit (Naomi’s halfway through the second unit.) He’s only read words in the “at” and "an" families so far, but he’s getting it! He’s also doing great at Bible memory verses, coloring in the lines, and making up his own songs (usually praising God for “making all things”).

Ethan is walking all over the place. He took his first steps a month ago and hasn’t stopped since. He is increasingly aware of what we’re doing or eating, and usually wants to join in. He has 8 teeth now and is really a joy to play with. He has a great sense of humor and still loves cows.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Travel Trials

On Tuesday, November 20, we left for Rockville, MD, just outside of D.C. We were going to stay two nights with friends, visit with a dear friend in town from FL, then have Thanksgiving day with a friend in Baltimore, and finally stop for a night in Richmond to see my aunt and cousin before heading home.

We had the phone numbers and directions for our first friend on our laptop computer. So when we arrived in Rockville, we got off the freeway and stopped in a random neighborhood to look up our directions. Alas, our computer would not work. Steve kept trying to get Windows up and running, while I began knocking on doors trying to find a phone book to look up our friends. But it turned out that our friends, having only cell phones, were not listed. We had no way to reach them, and had no clue where they lived.

In the mean time, our kids were tired of sitting for 3+ hours in the car, so I let them play in the leaves and grass on the curb in this neighborhood. The sun had set and now darkness settled over us. Our empty computer bag was on top of our car, but I moved it to the grass to show the kids a large moth that had rested on it.

The third neighbor we spoke to asked if we needed help. We asked for directions to a library, hoping we could get online and find an old e-mail message that contained the information for our friend. I hurriedly buckled all three kids in the car again, and found Josiah's sandals that he'd thrown on the grass. We zoomed off, trying to find the library, when finally our host called us and we were directed by phone to her home.

We did not discover until the next afternoon that our computer bag was missing. With a sinking feeling, I remembered that I'd placed it on the grass, and forgotten about it when I loaded the car in the dark. We returned to where we'd left it, but saw no computer bag.

Since people had seemed so kind the previous night, and since it was a quiet cul-de-sac, I figured maybe somebody had rescued the bag for us and we just needed to locate it. So Steve and I began knocking on doors (again!) and leaving notes for people asking if they had any information regarding our lost property. We left our phone number on several doors, hoping we'd get a reply. We also drove by the police station and asked if it had been turned in. Sadly they answered "no."

Twenty-four hours after we had last seen our bag, we were online, buying a new power supply for our computer. We had lost two flashdrives, a power cord and power supply, and many papers of Steve's. Meanwhile our computer still didn't work.

Forty-eight hours after we had last seen our bag, we were in Baltimore and it was Thanksgiving night. We received a phone call saying that a neighbor's son had found our bag the night we lost it and would meet us to give it back. We could hardly believe it. On Friday, en route from Baltimore to Richmond, we stopped at this cul-de-sac in Rockville one more time and gratefully retrieved our computer bag. What an answer to prayer to have found what we'd lost.

Now we just have to get our computer working again... it's better than it was, but not back to normal yet. Hmmm...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Caring for God’s Creation

    There is a BBC production that I highly recommend called “Planet Earth.” My library has it and I’ve been watching it a lot lately. It is a 5-DVD series, four of which teach about various ecosystems (shallow seas, plains, jungles, deep ocean, etc.), and the fifth giving analysis and commentary. I’ve only seen two DVDs so far, but I’m hooked. 
     The video footage is simply stunning, revealing places and organisms I’ve never seen before. My kids sit and watch because of the beautiful shots of amazing animals. I also enjoy the narration, which is informative, interesting, and in a pleasant voice. I feel like I’m taking a biology class, but this time I like it!
      My overwhelming feelings at the end of each episode are 1) WOW at God’s creation – the beauty, complexity, and interdependence, and 2) shame of how humanity (myself included) has plowed ahead with our industrialization and insatiable desires even though we are disrupting and endangering the very ecosystems that sustain us.
      I’m not an extreme environmentalist, and I certainly don’t value nature just for nature’s sake (though it’s tempting after watching these videos!). I care about people and ache deeply at the living conditions of much of the world. But we are all intertwined. My habits and lifestyle as an American affect people in developing countries. Their industries affect the environment. And when the environment suffers, all of us suffer. 
      In addition to the BBC series, I’m reading two books called “Lives Per Gallon” (by Terry Tamminen) and “When the Rivers Run Dry” (by Fred Pearce) which discuss the consequences of “petroleum addiction” and water over-use respectively. I’ve only read a chapter or two in each, but it’s enough to make me concerned and anxious to change if I can. Steve and I are cutting back on our car travel and increasing our recycling efforts, and I plan to look for more ways soon as I read these books. 
      One concept that was new to me was “virtual water,” which means the water it takes to produce the crops that make the food and goods we import and export. For example, it takes “130 gallons of water to grow a pound of wheat, 250-650 gallons to grow a pound of rice, and 3000 gallons to grow the feed for enough cow to make a quarter-pound hamburger” (Pearce 3-4). It’s easy to think that water will always be with us, especially when we live in places where we have running water. But it’s not true. 
       Pearce’s second chapter describes the Rio Grande river as essentially drying up from El Paso to a place where a Mexican river feeds into it. And the rest of his book will describe other river emergencies, as well as the depletion of underground water sources. I’d always thought of water conservation before in terms of reducing my home use, but now I’ll think more in terms of what I eat and buy, and how much water it took a farmer to produce that for me. 
      It’s something to think about… watch the videos so you get inspired about creation, and then read the challenging books so you get concerned enough to do something!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

First Steps and New Nephew

The milestones just keep rolling in!

On Saturday November 3, Ethan took his first steps, and hasn't stopped since. He loves to walk!

But bigger than that, my sister gave birth to her first baby yesterday, November 5, in Nigeria. His name is Timothy Marc Dauda Nege, and is healthy and cute =) I'm sad that we can't visit them in person, but thankful that everything went smoothly and glad he's here! To see pics, look on Flickr under Timothy Nege. I couldn't seem to attach one here; sorry!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween 2007

Steve and I have slightly disagreed about celebrating Halloween over the years. I've been more eager to dress up, trick-or-treat, and carve jack-o-lanterns than he has. This year I thought we'd avoid the norms since we live out in the sticks. But the kids' friends asked what they were dressing up as, and the moms asked me if I was taking the kids to the downtown trick-or-treating (to the shops during daylight).

So I let the kids use their costumes from last year and we made papier-mache pumpkin buckets again. We went into town in mid-afternoon and waited in a long line for a free horse-drawn carriage ride. Then we walked around with a few friends from church and received candy from local businesses, which just thrilled the kids.

The highlight, though, was going to a church's "autumn fest" in the evening. I left Ethan at home with Steve, and took Naomi and Josiah. The church had a bunch of games set up that were simple and perfect for little ones. Both kids had fun playing the games (Naomi's favorite was throwing balls through a hanging hula hoop, and Josiah's was knocking down a pyramid of cans using a ball) and were tickled to get tickets (especially when I said they'd be worth a prize later).

Naomi especially agreed that getting her prizes was even better than getting candy. She picked out a make-up kit and a pink purse. Josiah picked cars, frogs and snakes. They've been playing with them all day today!

I'm thankful for a local church that endeavors to give kids a safe place to have fun on Halloween. And I'm thankful for a fun day with my kids! In Naomi's words, "Mom, at the beginning of this day, I did not know we were going to do all this fun stuff!"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Naomi lost her first tooth!!

My little girl is growing up. On Friday, October 26, she lost her first tooth. She’d been wiggling it for two days and as she showed Steve that morning, he watched it pop out! She was tickled pink, and as you can imagine, it was the topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

We talked about who she would tell and who she would show. She said she thought she was extra-special because she lost her first tooth at age 5 instead of age 6 (I informed her that I, too, had that “honor” as I’m sure many other kids do too). She was worried about how she would eat with a hole in her mouth. And how would she talk when all her teeth were out?

Her Papa gave her 53 cents and told her to put the tooth under her pillow and the Tooth Fairy might bring her a dollar. I now had an expectation to live up too. Unfortunately Naomi was still awake when I went to bed at 10:30 PM, but as Ethan’s been waking me up at 5:30 AM everyday, I still had an opportunity to secretly leave a few quarters for her (not an entire dollar!). I overheard her excitedly telling Josiah about her money when they woke up and she rushed in to tell me the fairy had come.

I told her that I’d run into the fairy and let her know that Naomi wanted to keep her tooth. Now she was incredulous and asked if I wasn’t just tricking her. She remembered that I’d told her earlier that fairies weren’t real. I told her the fairy was real, but was someone she already knew – ME! She laughed and said that someday she would be a tooth fairy for her little girl.

Pumpkin Patch – October 27

I picked pumpkins from a pumpkin farm for the first time today! We’d heard of “Hay’s Maze” from friends of ours and went together as a family this afternoon. It had rained for the past two days, but today was bright, sunny and even warm. We went through the corn maze first and then picked out a bunch of pumpkins in various colors, shapes and sizes.

The kids enjoyed finding the scary figurines in the maze (we made it like a treasure hunt instead of something frightening). They liked seeing corn still on the stalk and learning how it grows. I enjoyed seeing the different kinds of pumpkins and learning their names (“fairy tale pumpkin,” “Cinderella pumpkin,” “Turkish hat pumpkin”). Josiah liked getting dirty in the mud, while Naomi complained since she was wearing white sandals. Ethan liked being part of the group.

It was a really fun thing to do together. Now we just need to find time to carve the big ones and cook the small ones!

Country Living – Oct. 27

I love my home. I love seeing Ethan look out every window in the hope of seeing a cow and I love hearing him say his first word “bbb” (which means “animal” and sounds like a mooing cow). I love driving to a school playground and stopping on the way to see and pet horses. I love waking up on Saturday morning and seeing thirty cows out my kitchen window. I love watching my husband and kids pet them.

I love the rolling hills and being in the Shenandoah Valley. I love the woods, with the leaves changing colors, and I love the farm fields – wide, empty spaces that breathe life back into me after years of crowded urban living. I love the quiet, the stars, the singing birds. I love watching my kids catch crickets, chase butterflies, and hold frogs.

I’m enjoying it while it lasts, for I don’t know when we’ll leave. Thank you, Lord, for your amazing creation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

When Will I Fit In?

I’m tired of being new. Steve and I went to a newly-formed small group with three other couples at our church yesterday, and it felt so strange. I like all six of them a lot. I would love to get to know them better. I think I would learn a lot from them. But it just hit me that they’ve all known each other for six years, and we’re the newcomers.

The same thing happened when we were first married. We joined a group that had already been meeting for a year, and never quite felt like we fit. In Scotland, we made friends, but didn’t find a small group to be part of. I went to a group meeting once and people had a hard time giving prayer requests because I was there (and I was “new”).

I don’t know if I’ll ever have what I’m looking for, in terms of a small community in which I’m known deeply, cared for, prayed for and held accountable (and where I can do the same for the others). Maybe I need to find others who are new to my church. I don’t know.

Most of the time I feel tired of feeling this way, tired of making an effort, and either want to abandon church or rely on my distant friends instead of trying to make new ones. I know I shouldn’t give up, but it sure would be nice to stop caring!

Progress Report

Mom and Dad Gertz’s house is really coming along. The siding is up on the outside. The drywall is up on the inside and half is painted already. Steve and Dad installed kitchen cabinets last week, and appliances are coming this week. Steve might be working on it only one more month (at which point we really need to have another job lined up!!!). Please pray that he’ll find a job soon. He’s continuing to send out applications.

Steve’s Arabic is also progressing! He now knows all the letters of the alphabet (and their various forms depending on their position in a word) and has written me my first Arabic “love note” =) (It read لس حبيبتي “Lisa, my darling”) My understanding of Arabic is increasing too, though I’m not putting in nearly as much time as Steve is.

Naomi is improving her reading everyday, and Josiah can name all the uppercase letters. It is fun to see how Naomi’s reading inspires Josiah. He looks at print now and tries to “read” it, he thinks about initial sounds in words and often names the correct letter, and he loves to make rhyming words.

They have also now completed two Godly Composer units, one about Vivaldi and the other about Bach. We’ll begin a study of Handel this week. For math/science, I’m using a book called Count on Math, which begins with a lot of exploration. We played with texture, floating, sinking, color-mixing, food changes during cooking, using our senses, etc. Now we’re beginning the next section which focuses on spatial relationships. For literature, we’ve made doughnuts after reading Imogene’s Antlers, had a pillow fight after reading Ira Sleeps Over, made cookies for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, made shaped bread for Bread and Jam for Frances, and bounced on pillow “islands” to get away from alligators after reading There’s An Alligator Under My Bed.

Ethan hasn’t taken his first steps yet, but just loves to stand. He wants to stand in the bath tub, in his booster seat, outside and inside. He has good enough balance to stand on his own, crouch down to pick something up, and then stand back up. As he’s only 10 months old, there’s no rush for him to walk. We enjoy him just the way he is!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kudos and Boo

Steve and I just read our first Sherlock Holmes short story yesterday. It was great! I enjoy short story mysteries because they don’t keep me up for hours and hours, dying to know the ending. Doyle writes well, of course, so it was refreshing to read well thought out sentences and more challenging vocabulary. The plot was plausible and the solving of it made sense.

On the other hand, I also just watched my first episode of a TV show called “Touching Evil,” and was sorely disappointed. I usually enjoy mystery/cop/thriller/lawyer movies and TV shows. I’ve liked CSI, MI5, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Foyle’s War, Second Sight, among others. This series was compared to Prime Suspect, a show I enjoyed on video a few years ago. But this was definitely the worst I’ve seen of its genre.

One complaint is that there was too little comic relief. In fact, I can remember only one moment in 2 hours when I (barely) laughed. The characters rarely smiled, the tone was dark and serious, and it desperately needed something happy!

Another was that it seemed inaccurate forensically and professionally speaking. There were numerous murder victims, yet the detectives didn’t wear gloves, look for small details, or seem to care about contaminating the crime scene with their own footprints, fingerprints, etc. I realize now that this show is more of a thriller (showing multiple murders) than a forensic investigation. Nonetheless, the characters still should have followed protocol.

Regarding the profession of police, “Touching Evil” was lacking. One policeman was very hot-headed and brash. He beat up the accused, and had no more than circumstantial evidence to bring against the guy. Three cops actually sat around an office, waiting for the killer’s next move. They weren’t doing paperwork or being proactive or even seeming to rack their brains over a clue they missed. They were just sitting, worrying and talking.

Maybe other episodes in the show are better. Maybe I shouldn’t judge harshly after only seeing one. On the other hand, I probably won’t waste my time watching another to see if I’m right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Love Choirs!

In some ways, choirs have become a thing of the past, with most churches emphasizing praise teams and special music. But I still love singing in a choir. It’s especially fun for me when the singers have a certain understanding of music and we can spend our time fine-tuning, instead of learning notes.

I’m in a super choir right now called the Rockbridge Choral Society. We have about 70 singers and meet weekly for 1 ½ hours. Last season we sang Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and now we’re preparing for a holiday concert. The music we’re singing is so beautiful: some of my favorites are Morten Lauridsen’s “Ave Maria” (not the traditional one), Holst’s “Lullay my liking,” Rutter’s “Mary’s Lullaby,” Gabrieli’s “O Magnum Mysterium” (from 1587), and Sargent’s arrangement of “Silent Night.” Ave Maria almost always makes me want to cry, it is so pretty.

The beauty of intertwining parts and voice ranges is what draws me to choral music. I’m not the star; rather, I’m part of a group and only when we’re all together do we have the strength and beauty of a choir. I love standing next to the tenors and hearing their part. I love singing alto 1 while the woman next to me sings alto 2 (a bit lower, usually).

I also appreciate a good director. It’s an encouraging feeling of growth when the director demonstrates how to make something better, and we’re able to improve as he asks. I’m constantly learning more about music by listening to his insights and ideas.

Thank you, God, for gorgeous music and for the opportunity to sing in choirs!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

I just finished this book by Barbara Ehrenreich, and I have to say that only one or two other books in my life (Blood of the Martyrs and Black Like Me) have disturbed and shamed me as much as this one.

The author (a journalist in her normal life) decides to investigate American poverty (in 1998) by taking on low-paying jobs in various cities and trying to find affordable housing and food (and otherwise surviving) using only that income. She works as a waitress in Florida, a house-cleaner and “dietary aide” in Maine, and finally at Wal-Mart in Minnesota. Her accounts are sobering in many respects.

First of all, I was surprised by the ways she is treated disrespectfully by employers and companies, and by some of the corporate laws that I didn’t know about. I hadn’t realized that waitresses are only paid minimum wage after their tips are added to a $2.??/hr. salary. I’d always thought that tips were on top of a normal income. Many of her jobs had the rule that you couldn’t speak with the other employees – even if you’re both hanging up clothes together! When she was housecleaning, she was not allowed to eat or drink while in the client’s house, which meant that even though she was sweating buckets, she couldn’t have a drink of water.

Managers ranged from demeaning to patronizing to downright rude. Only in her dietary aide job did she feel like she had any input and appreciation as a worker. Everywhere else she had to obey the management’s stringent rules, even when it included mopping an entire floor with only half a bucket of lukewarm water, or wiping counters down with a damp cloth and no cleaning sprays.

But these are all trivial compared to the main point of her book: in many cases, a poor person working full-time at one or two “unskilled” jobs, can NOT survive in any long-term healthy definition of the word, right here in America. This was just incredible to me.

I had not thought of the fact that someone might not be able to acquire the money for an apartment’s deposit, requiring them to sleep in a car or a motel (using up more money each week, which puts an apartment even further out of reach). And that cooking healthfully and cost-efficiently requires a minimal amount of appliances and resources that many can’t afford. Some of the people Ehrenreich met in her experiment hardly ate at all, and even she herself could afford or cook little more than junk food.

The most depressing thing about the book was not the widespread poverty in America, but the widening gap between the poor and the rich, and the seeming hopelessness of it all. The people Ehrenreich got to know didn’t seem to feel like they could bring about change or even deserved better in some cases. Companies seem more than happy to exploit the people since it furthers their capitalistic mission. Ehrenreich’s conclusion is that nothing will improve until the poor themselves rise up in protest and demand the income and living standards that would meet their needs.

I’m not even sure how I can help or make a difference in any way … I need to think more about it. I already try to greet “unskilled” workers and often thank them for what they’re doing – cleaning or putting grocery carts away or whatever. I’ve given cold drinks and food to people who have worked on my house in the past. The key for me is not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issue, but instead commit to trying to make a difference right here in Lexington, VA.

Fun Camping!!

We had our first family camping trip on Friday night. Yay! The kids have been wanting to camp for months. We’ve “camped” inside, on the porch, in the yard, in Aunt Beth’s yard, but now we’ve actually spent a night in a nearby campground and hiked and eaten by a campfire!

On Friday, October 12, we drove 30 minutes away to Lake Robertson, just south of Lexington, VA. We got there just in time to get our two tents set up as the last daylight faded. Naomi and Josiah had their own child-sized tent, and Steve, Ethan (in his pak’n’play), and I were in a small dome tent. The kids were thrilled to be outside, looking for sticks, using flashlights, and eating rocks (Ethan!).

Our Indian summer had just ended a day or two before, so we were a little surprised by the cold. But we got a good fire going, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and made yummy s’mores. Naomi and Josiah were excited about every aspect – the “real fire,” the sparks, putting hot dogs on a stick. I loved their child-like enthusiasm.

Unfortunately Steve burned his lip and chin on some boiling water, and that made his evening a disappointment. Ice and medicine helped it feel better by the time we went to bed. The kids took a long time to fall asleep because they heard so many noises, but except for Ethan’s coughing, they slept pretty well.

The next morning dawned dark, early and cold, with Ethan’s waking up at 6:00 and Josiah shouting “potty!” soon after. With another campfire we warmed up and were ready to enjoy a lovely autumn day outside!

We decided to hike around the lake, which we think was 1.6 miles, but took us a few hours! The kids watched a few people fishing, and got to see their worms up close. The children’s highlight, though, was holding their own cat-tails for the first time. We enjoyed the sunshine, the changing colors, the shaded path, seeing little holes and wondering what animal lived in them, finding good walking sticks, singing and talking while we walked.

After lunch back at our campsite, Naomi and Josiah played on a playground, Ethan rolled a ball around, I read, and Steve rested on the grass. Naomi was mad to find out that we weren’t spending another night there, but were going home. It had definitely been a nice break from our normal routine, and I especially appreciated being outside, smelling the pines and campfire smoke. At dinner on Saturday (back at home), Naomi turned to me and said, “Thank you, Mom, for taking us camping!” Music to a mother’s ears…

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wheaton College Homecoming

Steve, Ethan, and I just got back from Chicago. My husband Steve graduated 10 years ago from Wheaton College in Illinois, so we went to his reunion and had a great time! It was a very short trip, but we managed to see most of our close friends (Morse Tan '97, pictured here)

One highlight was staying in the home of our good friends, Mike and Erin. It's probably been years since we've had so much relaxed time to talk with them (since we usually have our older two kids with us). We really appreciated their hospitality and generosity.

Steve also scheduled many visits with other good college friends, as well as previous professors and colleagues. I loved seeing him be encouraged and renewed by those talks. He even got to go "up the tower" with our friends Morse and Sarah Tan, celebrating their marriage as they rang the bell in Blanchard Tower . (It is an old Wheaton tradition to ring the bell announcing engagements and weddings.)

I visited with close friends who still live in the area, and was encouraged by their willingness to "drop everything" and come see me. Our friends Tom and Heather had us over for dinner and again, it was so nice to have quiet time to laugh and talk with them (once the kids were in bed!) I got to know some people better at the 1997 Class dinner on Saturday, including a missionary I'd known as a 9th grader at Hillcrest.

Finally, we both agreed that it was very special to have time alone with Ethan. He thrived on the attention and I enjoyed noticing more of his emerging personality. It helped that I wasn't cooking and cleaning like I usually do. He was a super traveler: flexible, good-natured, and fun.

Our older kids were happy to have us back home, but it was hard for Steve and me to leave what feels like our true "home" and return to a place where we're still trying to make friends. Hopefully someday we'll have the chance to grow roots somewhere else and make a new home.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Simply Romantic Nights

One of the best purchases I ever made was a few years ago at a Christian bookstore. It was a boxed set of date ideas for married couples called Simply Romantic Nights, produced by Family Life. Steve and I have enjoyed using the ideas for a few years now, though we didn’t go on many dates when we lived in Scotland.

Family Life divided their ideas into ones that wives do to meet their husband’s needs, and ones that husbands do for their wife’s needs. The goal is to do one date every other week, and alternate who’s planning each one. The set (done that way) lasts a year, and has a special anniversary date as an extra feature. We have not been so regular with our dates, so we still haven’t finished the complete set.

Steve had invited me on a date last night, and asked me to dress up for it. I was surprised when we pulled up to a local river. His dad arrived a few minutes later with his canoe, and I realized our dinner was to be on the water! We carefully got into the boat and just before we began rowing, Steve turned on some Scottish bagpipe music! (Yes, he’d brought a boombox with us in the canoe!)

We paddled for 20 minutes, enjoying the beauty of the trees, mountains and water. When we stopped to eat, I found that Steve had brought some of my favorite foods! We feasted on pita bread and hummus, crackers and Brie cheese, sparkling white grape juice (in goblets!), root beer, fried chicken, and finished with Irish crème Cadbury chocolate. And this was all by candlelight. Wow!

It was quiet on the river and I relished the chance to talk with Steve. He had read an article on Mother Teresa (from TIME magazine) in order to discuss it with me (I’d read it earlier). We talked about books I’m reading, and the class he’s teaching at church. In some ways, it was easier to talk because we weren’t facing each other. We saw a turtle, the beautiful moon, and trees growing right out of the rock cliff. When we returned to shore, we had a few minutes to pray and then his dad arrived to retrieve the canoe.

This was only one of many terrific dates Steve has planned for me. And mine have been fun to do for him (but not as publishable). I’ll hopefully write about a few more in days to come. I recommend this set for any married couple – it’s awesome!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flexible Teaching

Homeschooling is going great. One of my frustrations when I taught public school (sixth grade) was that I had short amounts of time with each class and I had to cover exactly what the school district told me to. It made it pretty difficult to do anything creative or exploratory. And one of the few times that I did let the kids explore, I got yelled at by the vice-principal.

I had taken my class downstairs to the sidewalk and let them draw large circles using chalk and string. Then I had them measure the circumferences and diameters of their circles using string, and write down their figures on paper. We had quite a few pairs of numbers from all the various circles we’d drawn, and I asked them to use a calculator and find the ratio of circumference to diameter. Everyone had an answer very close to 3.

My 11- and 12-year-olds had just discovered “pi” for themselves. If I simply taught the formula “circumference = pi times diameter” everyone (remotely engaged) would ask “What’s pi? Where did it come from?” But by having them make their own circles and their own measurements and their own calculations, I (hopefully) showed them that pi is a number that just is. It is the beautiful true ratio occurring naturally in every circle.

Our vice-principal came outside just then, though, and was quite cross with me (in front of my class) for putting chalk on the sidewalk (we all know how horrible that is!) We spent the last rushed minutes of class-time ferrying water back and forth from the bathrooms to wash off our offensive circles.

Anyway, all to say that I love teaching at home, where I can be flexible and innovative without anyone’s permission. I can spend as much time as I like on a phonics game or a sawdust exploration time. We can learn measuring skills through real cooking instead of word problems in a mathbook. We can read “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” five days in a row and make “alligator bait” (cookies) or jump around the room on pillows to keep safe from the “dangerous alligator in the water” (8-month-old Ethan). At least for kindergarten, this is the right choice for us!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To my kids...

If I were to die tonight, I would hope that you would…

Remember my laughter

Forgive me for my angry outbursts

Remember cuddling together as we read books

Fall in love with Jesus and commit your life to him

Know that I loved my family so much it aches

Forgive me for my depression

Remember my hugs and kisses

Respect Daddy better than I have done

Be silly and enjoy making others smile

Remember cooking together (bread, cinnamon rolls, playdough, oatmeal, etc.)

Know that you are such a precious gift from God

Treasure your heritage and tell stories about our family

Love each other – siblings are lifelong friends

Remember singing – loudly, softly, in worship, in laughter

Know that I love hearing your own singing and story-telling

Remember that every night I make up songs for you about your bedtime story, Bible story, or what happened today

Remember that we spent great times together as a family

Forgive me for not modeling prayer and Bible-reading for you

Know that I hated spanking you

Remember smoothies!!

Remember sleeping in a tent together and watching meteors

Bedtime Prayers

September 5, 2007

Until now, I’ve prayed with Naomi and Josiah each night as I tuck them into bed. This morning in school, we read the paragraph beginning with Mark 1:35 about Jesus getting up early and going somewhere quiet to pray. So tonight I asked the kids to think of who they’d like to pray for.

To help Naomi with ideas, I suggested the name of someone we know who “does not love Jesus.” Naomi was baffled. Someone doesn’t love Jesus? She asked me why, and I told her that teachers who didn’t love God had told this person bad things about God. Now she was really confused.

She said, “How can that be? Teachers are supposed to teach you about God!” As she’s only been exposed to me (as her kindergarten teacher) and her Sunday school teachers, she couldn’t conceive of a teacher not loving God.

After we prayed together, she asked me to tell her more about these “teachers who don’t love God” later. I asked her what she meant and she said she wanted to know exactly which teachers don’t love God. Ah… here comes the beginning of difficult reality. I hate to burst her idealistic bubble and tell her that the majority of people don’t know or love Jesus. But maybe that will be an impetus for prayer and evangelism.

God, please guide my words and actions, and may we be a light for you.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Naomi had her first day of kindergarten two Fridays ago! She loved it so much that she wanted to do more school the next day, and couldn't understand why we take Saturdays off ("I know we don't do school on Sundays because we go to church," she said.)

I have the aim of reading through Mark with the kids, so that first day, they learned about John the Baptist. Then they both did a coloring/listening activity to learn about Vivaldi. They heard a little about the man and a little about Venice while listening to "Spring" and coloring a picture of Venice. Then we danced to the music, imagining different "Spring" pictures to go with the music. I'd like to make that a weekly part of school.

Then we did an alphabet game where the kids walked around the room, stepping on letter squares, until they heard the music stop. They called out to me the name of the letter they were standing on (or the sound that it makes) and then we kept going.

For math, we're just doing free exploration for a while so the kids get used to describing things and learning about various characteristics. Our first activity was making playdough and playing with it. (Although we also read a picture book that involved counting.)

Later with Naomi, I did the first lesson in a learning-how-to-read book, and an art lesson from "Drawing with Children."

I'm feeling very overwhelmed -- not with how much I NEED to teach, because I have no doubt that my kids will learn what they're expected to -- but with how many great ideas are out there. I've checked out a bunch of books from the library, and want to do everything! My next task is to pare it down to just a couple books and then go with those, so I don't drown myself in ideas!

I'm trying to find a support group in the area to join, so Naomi has kids to see regularly. And I'm also trying to find more information about various teaching methods and philosophies so I can have a long-term framework to work within.

Ethan (8 months) has five teeth now. He's also holding onto our push-train and walking around while pushing it. I can't believe it. The kid seems to be born on his feet. Will he walk before he's a year old?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Revisiting Moving Memories – August 21, 2007

For sixteen years, I’ve remembered August 21 as the anniversary of my family’s departure from Los Angeles, heading to Jos, Nigeria. But now that I’ve moved to and from Scotland with my husband and kids, I remember the 1991 move through new eyes.

As a teenager, I watched my parents sort our stuff into “take with us,” “get rid of,” and “store in the U.S.” piles. I knew that I had the allotment of one box of my things to bring with me. Even today I regret some of the choices I made then about things I gave away. But for the most part, it was my mom and dad’s responsibility to figure out how to move our family of five permanently to a new country using 30 boxes (and storing very little).

When faced with similar decisions in 2005 as an adult and a mom, I struggled with various emotions. Part of me was thrilled to be “cutting loose” and not feeling tied to things anymore. Part of me was very sad to sell or give away items I would have preferred to keep. It was not fun to have a massive yard sale and see people looking at my things through bargaining eyes. I felt a responsibility especially to my kids, to choose what was most important to our family of four and make it fit in only 6 duffel bags and a few carry-ons. At least we were only moving for a year, instead of a lifetime. Even so, for the first month in Scotland, I’d go to bed regretting the loss of one thing or another.

At age 14, I was so excited about moving to Africa. Mom and Dad had been talking about it for a few years, so I’d had time to adjust to the idea. I knew I’d have to make new friends, but in L.A. I would have been changing schools anyway. I preferred the idea of an international school and a class of 30, to a Los Angeles public school with a class in the hundreds.

My parents were the ones who had to deal with logistics: shots, passports, visas, bank changes, etc. They stayed up for multiple nights, packing and cleaning. Each box had to be as close to 70 pounds as possible (but not over) and catalogued with its contents. Mom and Dad were the ones who had to get 30 boxes approved by the airline, amidst stares from other passengers in awe of our amount of stuff. They were the ones who worried about my sister’s refusal to eat during our entire journey, and probably wondered what they were in for in this new land and new job.

At age 28, I was the one responsible for the logistics. First there was getting visas—Steve took a day off work to take a train with me and the kids to downtown Chicago, aiming to come back with the necessary British visas. Instead we found that the visa fees were four times what we thought, and that we could not walk away with the visas in our hands. Then there was selling our home—I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, cleaning and then crying my heart out, full of memories and fondness for our house. And just like my parents experienced, we felt the stares of Europeans in the Dublin airport, condemning us for our carts of luggage (their baggage allowance is even less than domestic U.S. flights). I broke down in tears when the airline attendants spoke harshly to us, accusing us of delaying the flight as our carry-ons had to be checked due to the European baggage allowance.

I’d never really thought about what my mom had to go through, learning to cook and keep house in a different culture. At 14, I’d been wrapped up in my own transitions and my efforts to make friends in my new school. In Scotland, though, I had to adjust my recipes to a different method of measuring and different ingredients. I had to learn to shop by foot and bus, instead of driving my mini-van. I struggled to cook and do laundry with fewer amenities and in a much smaller space. Within weeks I wrote to my mom, saying how my eyes had been opened not only to her international move, but also to her days of mothering 2 preschoolers in a small space and without a car.

Little did I realize in 1991 that my first international move would prepare me for another one 14 years later. Even though I’d moved as a carefree teen, I’d seen what my parents went through and I was aware of some of what was involved. Hopefully my next international move will benefit from both of these past experiences. That is the purpose of memory, is it not?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Depression Again – August 13, 2007

I feel like a failure in every way. I don’t know how normal, happy people do it. I’m tired of my messy tendencies and my inability to keep house well. Tired of feeling disorganized and unscheduled.

I feel like a failure with my kids – when Naomi is so insolent, or I have to call Josiah three times before he comes, I just wonder why I ever thought I could parent. And how ridiculous to think I can home-school!!!

I’m a discouraging, nagging wife to Steve, and a non-existent neighbor and witness. I’ve lived here for 9 months and don’t even have friends yet. And I don’t manage to stay in touch with good friends who live far away. Worst of all, I find it so hard to pray and read my Bible.

I don’t know why doctors think that antidepressants and counseling would make an improvement for me. I don’t think anything can help.

Gorgeous Perseids! Aug. 12, 2007

If you’ve never star-gazed during the annual meteor shower in August, you should give it a try! Steve and I put a blanket on our lawn tonight and within 10 minutes, saw 5 meteors! I was so thankful I live in a dark place. I remember that as a kid, my dad would drive us quite a ways out of Los Angeles to get us into the mountains where the light pollution wasn’t so bad. All I had to do was step out my front door and lie on the grass! The sky was beautiful. We stayed out for half an hour and enjoyed talking quietly and seeing God’s creation. Two meteors in particular were gorgeous, with long tails and very bright. Happy gazing!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Everybody’s Learning!

I’ve just begun learning Arabic! We bought the Rosetta Stone computer tutorial for oral, written, and spoken Arabic and I began working on it today. It’s a great system (so far) for learning a language on my own (which I admit is highly inferior to learning it in context). Even Naomi worked on it a little with me, but got frustrated and stopped. I was really worried about learning a new language because I never was able to speak or comprehend French very well when I studied it in school. But I’m liking this so far.

Ethan is learning how to get around! He began crawling a month ago and now also pulls/pushes himself to a standing position whenever he can. Sometimes he waits until there is something above him to hold onto; sometimes he just pushes onto his feet from a crawling position. He loves to move!

Naomi is learning to face her social fears and get to know new people. She attended her first Vacation Bible School in mid-July, at a Baptist church in town. She was so scared ahead of time, and even threatened to throw fits if I made her go. But we talked about it a lot, and I managed to convince her to give it a try. She ended up loving it, and even made a new friend. This week, she and Josiah are both attending another VBS at the Gertzes’ Baptist church, and again are loving it.

Steve is learning about an early 20th Century British missionary to Egypt named Temple Gairdner. He’s considering switching his dissertation topic to this man (instead of Raymond Llull) in part because he would not have to learn Latin in order to read Gairdner’s writing. (He would only have to learn Arabic first!) We’re also trying to learn that though God doesn’t answer prayers the way we hope, he is still listening and providing for us. Steve did not get a job we hoped he would, so we’re unsure what this year will look like, though perhaps it will be a good time for Steve to take Arabic classes and study Gairdner.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Farmer's Market – August 1, 2007

God ministered to us in a sweet way today at the Lexington Farmer’s Market.

My kids love the experience of walking by all the tables displaying bread, honey, vegetables, flowers, and fruit. When we went in early summer, Naomi’s favorite thing was the flowers. For a few weeks, we didn’t make it to farmer’s market because I wasn’t in the habit of driving to town on a Wednesday. This week I made it a priority and we were blessed.

There was an abundance of vegetables and fruit, which was nice for me so I don’t have to buy my produce at Wal-Mart this week! There was a soft puppy for the kids to pet, and a choir friend of mine to greet. A lady selling bouquets of flowers saw my kids and came after us, telling Naomi and Josiah that they could each pick their own flower from her collection. Such a small gesture meant a lot to my preschoolers who love flowers. Naomi’s flower had a slightly prickly stem, so the lady even wrapped it in green tissue paper and tied it with a string.

We bought a few tomatoes and a cucumber at one family’s stand. They were also selling honey and offered to give us a taste. The kids enjoyed two mouthfuls of sweetness and were delighted by the “bear” bottles of honey for sale. The owner told me all the prices, and right away offered me a “two for one” deal. But I hesitated because I only had a few dollars left in my wallet. He said he was so taken with my kids – that they were well-behaved and sweet – that he’d give them a bear bottle of honey for free.

I couldn’t believe it! I was truly impressed by his generosity, and grateful for the encouragement he gave me by complimenting my kids. But it got even better…

We returned to the market two hours later and were sitting in the shade, near the same stall. The friendly vendor remembered that we’d previously bought tomatoes and cucumber, packaged up some more for us and brought them to the kids as yet another gift. Naomi and Josiah dove right in and each ate a tomato and half a cucumber. That they would eat raw vegetables so cheerfully added to his high opinion of them!

It was now near the market’s closing time and the same man came to me one more time and told me we could have any squash or cucumber for no charge because he was going to pack up and go home. We gave him the last of our money and picked out a few more cucumbers (my kids think they’re delicious!). Tonight we enjoyed sweet, ripe tomatoes in our taco salad, thanks to this family at the farmer’s market.

On the way home from town, I asked the kids what their favorite part of the day had been (we’d also been to a story time at the library and done a craft). Naomi’s favorite was the farmer’s market, though she didn’t specify why. I said that my favorite had been the market, too, but because it was so special to be given gifts by complete strangers … flowers, honey, cucumbers, tomatoes and kind words. Thank you, God, for an encouraging day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gertzes Move

My in-laws, “Mom and Dad” Gertz, have now moved out of their apartment. Yesterday was the last day of their lease and they spent it cleaning. They’ve been moving for over a week, taking loads back and forth in their huge van, between their apartment and a storage room in their house that’s under construction still. They’ll be temporarily living with Steve’s sister and her son while they get their new house closer to completion.

We helped them get started with their packing last weekend, and Steve’s helped them more in the past few days. I’ve had them over for three dinners and delivered a fourth to them, including last night and the night before.

It’s going to be really strange not having them down the road anymore. I thought we’d spend more time with them than we did. Nonetheless, I was always glad they were so close by. Sometimes the kids and I would stop by to say hi to Mom on our way home from town. Or if we were all out walking after dinner, we’d go to their place to give them wildflowers and the kids would tell them the latest about their day.

One night there was a lunar eclipse and we couldn’t see it from our house because we’re next to woods. So we hopped in our car, drove for one minute to their place and watched the eclipse together while enjoying root beer floats (they always manage to have ice-cream at their house!)

If we had fix-it problems, Dad often came over immediately to help out. Steve carpooled every morning with Dad, driving together to the construction site. And it was just plain convenient for times we needed babysitters or just wanted to get together. It was nice having somewhere we could walk to! (Being on a farm, we drive to just about everywhere else.)

Now we’ll have the benefit of seeing them when we’re in town. On library days, I’ll have a place to let Ethan nap, in between my various errands. And hopefully we’ll have some lunches together when we’re in town for other reasons.

But I’ll miss having them as neighbors, that’s for sure. Thanks, Mom and Dad Gertz, for everything!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Such As These

The day was hot and sticky.
Many lessons,
many people
Would Jesus ever stop?
Tired and cranky,
wanting to go home.

And then….
Could it really be children?
Who would be audacious enough
to bother the Teacher,
the Healer,
the Lord,
with ones as small and ignorant,
as rude and noisy,
as children?

Convention stripped away.
“Let the little children
come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.”
Upside-down kingdom

In the shade of a tree
during a moment of pause
He pulled the children to himself.
Dirty from playing,
sweaty from working,
these were not bathed and powdered,
nor dressed in new Easter hats and Mary Jane shoes.
Children of the earth
they came,
the least of these.

And he put them on his lap.
His arms folded around them,
holding them,
caressing them,
runny noses and all.
The God of the universe
held children in his arms.
He placed his life-giving hands
on the tousled hair
of their small heads.

And in the silence
of mouths dropped open,
of aghast disciples,
He prayed for them…

July 2, 1996

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

February 22, 1997

The tears gently roll down
in the secret places of my heart.
I bow in bewilderment
burdened by confusion,
as if I were shouldering a ton of bricks.
I lift my eyes in desperation.
From heaven on high –
from right beside me –
you see my tender heart tears
And you hear my whispered heart cry.

“Father, who am I?!
What makes this heart of mine
care so much for other people
and about what others think of me?
Spirit, can you possibly take
this over-sensitive
and transform it into
something –
anything –

Sleepy eyes droop
and one salty tear
escapes from the recesses,
sliding gently down my cheek.
My fingers grope
my guitar
to find the chords
that mean
what I really want to say,
what I really want to say.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Painting Pictures of Egypt, by Sara Groves

This is a song by Sara Groves, and describes how Steve and I are feeling now (and how we felt in Scotland and probably how we’ll feel in our next location!) We'd appreciate your prayers as we look for a job and decide whether to stay in rural Virginia or not (our apt. requires a 3-month notice for another 12-month lease, so we need to decide about our apt. by July 31).

I don’t want to leave here,
I don’t want to stay,
it feels like pinching to me either way.
The places I long for the most
are the places where I’ve been.
They are calling after me like a long lost friend.
It’s not about losing faith,
it’s not about trust,
it’s all about comfortable when you move so much.
The place I was wasn’t perfect
but I had found a way to live.
It wasn’t milk or honey
but then neither is this.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
leaving out what it lacked.
The future feels so hard and I want to go back.
But the places that used to fit me
cannot hold the things I’ve learned,
and those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned.

The past is so tangible,
I know it by heart,
familiar things are never easy to discard.
I was longing for some freedom,
but now I hesitate to go,
I am caught between the promise and the things I know.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
leaving out what it lacked.
The future feels so hard and I want to go back.
but the places that used to fit me
cannot hold the things I’ve learned,
and those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned.

It if comes too quick, I may not recognize it.
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick, I may not appreciate it.
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Journal quips about Naomi

Rachel taught you how to paint rock houses. You designed your own. Great job!

You made a sweet picture for Daddy because he’s sick. You fell asleep sitting up on the couch, reading a book. You think you look like a boy (because I cut your hair short)

You were so sad to say goodbye to our van.

During an evening storm you said, “What do you think, Mom? Will we be washed away?”

You said of Ethan, “You sure keep us busy!” You also asked him, “Are you working on something?” (in his diaper) To me you said, “I hate to tell you this, but…”

Josiah was walking with Rachel up ahead of us on our dirt road and you said, “Josiah is miles ahead!”

You used chalk to color the sidewalk with scribbles of every color.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Journal quips about Josiah

I asked if you like your Sunday school teacher and you said, “Yes, because she’s pretty and her nails are pink.”

Mimi said you and Owen (20 month old cousin) played so well this morning (you both spent the night at Mimi’s). You held his hand and walked him to daycare.

(July 4) Even though we were 5/8 mile from the fireworks, you still held your hands over your ears.

(July 5) You asked if we could see fireworks again tonight.

You helped me hang up wet laundry. You want to move to the top bunk.

I discovered blue stuff on your carpet – been playing with toothpaste? (I later found much more in the closet, all over a puzzle.)

Because we have cow dung on our dirt road, you said, “We live in a poopy place.”

July journal quips about Ethan

You started blowing raspberries and sticking out your tongue.

I gave you a plastic card to play with while I was in the shower, but you couldn’t pick it up off the floor because it was too thin. You kept pushing it around and following it.

You love to grab your toes.

You are popular everywhere we go. Today it was Wal-Mart, where people kept talking to you or about you.

Your eyes got wide when I dipped your toes in the cold wading pool water (from a well)

You are fascinated by our push-train. You stand against it and put your mouth over the horn.

You no longer like to sit on laps. You arch your back to get yourself off. You prefer to stand, sit by yourself, or scoot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gardening Update

I have good news and bad news. Most of my plants are doing great. Both avocado trees are two feet high and doing well. My tomato plant has 17 baby tomatoes on it. The citrus are still small, but look healthy.

The bad news is my sweet potato vine. It was doing awesome up until a few weeks ago. I never even got a picture of it in its prime. Long branches and lots of leaves were reaching out at least a foot beyond the pot, and I had to move it away from my kitchen sink because it was getting in the way.

Then it started to have lots of holes on some of the leaves, and as this increased, I looked more carefully and saw a teensy caterpillar (?). Now, it’s lost almost all of its leaves due to the pest, and I’m not sure it’s going to survive. I moved it outside hoping that maybe spiders would help with bug control. I’ve sprayed some home remedies on it, but I’m not even sure what I’m fighting.

It makes me extra sad because it had been my most beautiful plant in its prime. I had really enjoyed its fullness and rapid growth. Should I start another one or will the same pest just wreak havoc again? Should I bring it back inside or leave it out? I welcome any suggestions from anyone out there with a green thumb!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MATTHEW 18:1-4

I came to Jesus one day
with my degree and diplomas,
my awards and references,
my GPA and skills.

I came to him
so sure of myself,
so eager to please.
“Jesus,” I asked,
“what do you want most?
Who should I be
to be most pleasing to you?”

Of course, I already knew the answer:
I fit the bill perfectly.
For with my pride, talents
and successes,
I more than covered up
any small faults I had.
I was the match.
My successful self was
just what he wanted,

“A child,” he said.
“To be like a child –
to be humble and innocent,
trusting and gentle,
to love me as a child loves,
almost bursting at the heart’s seams.
To be like a child,” Jesus said.

As I slowly turned away,
hot tears came to my eyes.
I felt his arms enfold me
and gently
he began to peel away
the masks of grown-up pride.
he let me cry on his shoulder.
Only Jesus.
Only Jesus.

January 3, 1998