Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Praying you have time to stop and enjoy the awe of the moment!

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Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

October Goal Post

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In September my goals were:

1. Complete AAHRH--YES
2. Complete Bride's Tree set--YES
3. Blog at least 4 times--finish Parts 4 of "How to Lose Your Voice"--nope
4. Start DT Summer Garden--Yes
5. 100 stitches in Fairy Moon --closer to 300

OCTOBER GOALS:
1. Move and unpack
2. Finish 25% of DT Summer Garden
3. Another 100 stitches in Fairy Moon
4. Blog something ;-)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Regaining Your Voice

Where the slide to losing one's voice often seems gradual, the act of regaining it is very intentional. Each and every time I have allowed circumstances, or other people to silence me, it has not ended until I reached a point of saying "enough is enough." I must decide to step beyond what is happening and re-gain my voice.

There is a natural need in us to express ourselves. Some use words to do that. Others use actions or talents. But we all express ourselves in some fashion. I was recently reminded that we need to speak because we are created in the image of God, and he was not silent. He spoke worlds into being. He spoke to his prophets. He called people out and expected responses. We, too, are called to express our innermost beings. It is built into us to communicate. So we shouldn't allow others to take that away.

When I've given up something I love because others have inadvertently hurt me, I need to forgive and let it go. Especially since it was inadvertent. Only by forgiving them (in my heart and head) do I have the freedom to move on. In the past year I have re-started an activity that I had stopped because the joy had gone out of it based on some comments. It was not a huge deal in my life, but I was finding that I missed it. Despite missing the activity, it took a concentrated decision on my part that the comments were not going to play in my head and take away my enjoyment while I engaged in the activity. It was freeing to say that the comments did not define me (which they never did) and that I could have fun at something without it mattering to those speakers. It was a little thing, but it was a step in the right direction.

What about those times when it has been more intentional to silence you....forgive then as well. Remember that those people are not who validate you. Jesus is. And he has found you worthy, so don't hold onto their words or their judgments or your need for their approval. Give it to the one who says, "You are worthy and you are heard." I know that it is easier said than done. But I also know that forgiveness is more for our benefit than theirs, and there is a freedom in allowing God to heal those wounds.

In the matters where circumstances have chiseled away at time and voice, it is more difficult. The circumstances may not change despite the decision to re-gain one's voice. It may be necessary to redefine one's voice to the circumstances. Remember when I said I was weary of moving? And remember back at the first of the year when I felt that God was having me wait for something? Well, God has a way of moving circumstances. This is the first year in five years that German is not changing job roles in October necessitating a major if not international move! We were looking forward to a quiet autumn with no change. And then...our landlord notified us that he *might* need the house back for a family member. And we waited and prayed since we have grown roots and ministries. And then the *might* became *definitely* and we continued to wait and pray. And just when I was ready to despair, we found a house. A few miles move will allow us to continue with routines and ministries. But it is a still a move. And I am still weary. (And I had just started writing this, so I asked God what on earth he was trying to teach). And you know what, I don't have the answers. But I know that this time around, I don't intend to let the circumstances take away the thing I love that I was just regaining. It is a choice. And I am trusting that God has something waiting for us there that we could not have here. Something that will further my roots and my ministries.

As I make the intentional decision to regain my voice, I have found that goals help, but can also be demoralising. Set realistic goals. Then be gentle if you need to adjust them. I intended to start writing at least once a week, thinking that was reasonable. But it wasn't. My family's needs in this new place were greater than my need to write. And so I haven't met my goal. And I could be frustrated, or I can be gentle. I'm choosing gentle. I will continue to plan and set goals, but realise that family is first. (And as they get more accustomed to me disappearing to write, maybe I can write more). May I encourage you that you won't write an epic novel the first time out, you won't speak to an arena of people, you won't sing an aria until you've sang those first notes, but that is okay. We are intending to communicate for a long time. And you (and I) will build our skills as we engage in our skills. Don't give up--even when it is tough and circumstances get in the way. I won't give up either.

So that's where I'm at. Finding ways to forgive and regain some voice. Finding ways around the circumstances. Choosing that I will find my voice and my talents. And trusting that God is leading because he is a God who communicates and doesn't leave us on our own.

Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.
Psalm 62:11-12

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Lose Your Voice--Part 4

This is the final installment of losing my voice--the next installment should be about regaining a voice. But today I want to talk about when our voice is inadvertently silenced. I think that this is probably more common than the previous condition. I don't think that most people set out to quieten us or to ignore us. I think sometimes it just happens as a result of their own journey (and sometimes self-absorption). That is a sobering thought, because in it I must admit that I am also guilty of silencing others in my own self-absorbed life.

My mother was one of those classic, stereotyped parents who lived through her children. I knew at a young age that she had been kept out of National Honor Society and I was expected to right that wrong. The day I was installed as NHS President, she was much more excited than I was. She often took over dreams that I dared to breathe. And that often resulted in my withdrawal.

I was reminded of this recently when I was scanning old photographs into digital form. I was an avid photographer, never seen without a camera. I received my first SLR in Jr. High and I was in heaven. Around the time I was in college, I started actively trying to sell some photos. My mother was also a good photographer. I got my love of cameras from her. But for her, it was always a hobby. Until I got a chance to publish a photograph. Then she decided she would try to sell some of hers. And she succeeded. The talk around her sale eventually soured photography for me for a time. I definitely stopped trying to sell anything, and really rarely took my camera anywhere. I know it was never her intention for me to stop, but it happened. Her seeming obsession took the joy out of what I did. It happened with other things that I enjoyed. She saw my joy, decided to do something similar, became obsessive/competitive/derisive and I would withdraw.

The problem was, I was the only one that was missing out. I let her take my joy and stopped what I enjoy. Hear me clearly, I am the one who must take the responsibility of quitting because it was not her direct intent for me to stop what I was doing. It was inadvertent on her part.

This is not just true in the "voice" of the hobbies we pursue. It is also true of our writing. I've written here and here about the danger of trying to use someone else's voice in our writing--to try and be someone we are not. If we become so worried about using someone else's voice, ours is inadvertently silenced. When I become so worried about how something will be received that I never hit "publish," I have allowed others to inadvertently silence me. When someone's pursuit of something runs us over and we don't speak out, we have been inadvertently silenced. Not intentional. But it hurts just the same. And, for me, it hurts more as I realize that I have to take some of the responsibility of being silent. There is no one I can say is censoring or stopping me from speaking. I am allowing other people to govern how much I say.

If the success or apathy of someone else has caused you to stop sharing your gifts, I encourage you to resume using your gifts. Don't let someone else's actions take away your voice. Instead, look past their short-sightedness and take joy in what you are able to say and do. And, would you please join me in being committed to not inadvertently silencing others. Join with me to celebrate the successes and gifts of others. We must set aside our own jealousies and insecurities to encourage one another. After all, this body of Christ should be more about building up rather than tearing down.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:11-12

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

September Goals

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In August I wrote, then forgot to publish, the following goals:

August Goals:
1. Complete AAHRH--very close, but no
2. Complete Bride's Tree set--again, close but not yet
3. Blog at least 4 times--finish Parts 3 and 4 of "How to Lose Your Voice"--only once, but part 4 is ready to post this week
4. Start DT Summer Garden--no
5. 100 stitches in Fairy Moon --no

So, my goals for September
1. Complete AAHRH
2. Complete Bride's Tree set
3. Blog at least 4 times--finish Parts 4 of "How to Lose Your Voice"
4. Start DT Summer Garden
5. 100 stitches in Fairy Moon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to lose your voice--part 3

First, my apologies for taking so long to continue the series.  This one has been difficult for me to publish--remembering a truly low point in life.  I pray that this will be of help to someone out there to remember that God does hear us.

In parts 1&2 I discussed how circumstances often silence us. This one is a little tougher, it is how people can intentionally silence us. Part 4 will address when people inadvertently silence us.

It was latish on a Thursday night. The pastor and associate pastor came to the house to speak to my husband. That wouldn't have normally been an issue since husband was a deacon. But events of the day made this wrong. Earlier that day, a staff member had responded to a situation involving me in a very intimidating way. He had put his much larger frame into my space, had leaned into my face and blatantly lied to me, with an undercurrent of a threat. His anger was out of control, as witnessed and attested to by others later. My husband had asked for the deacons to meet and address this issue since it was not the first such event. They had met, but had excluded my husband from the meeting. The pastors were there to tell him that the decision was that this incident had nothing to do with his being on staff, that it was a church fellowship matter and that I needed to meet with said staff member and work it out because it was my problem and it was leading to division amongst members. I was effectively tried and condemned by the church leadership. The problem was, not one of them had asked ME what happened. They asked staff member. They asked his wife and other witnesses. They did not ask me. And the decision was not even consistent with what they heard!

I had been silenced.

Over the next week, husband was also caught in a cross-fire of issues, and eventually had to resign from leadership due to the back-biting, dishonest things that were being said in order to change some church decisions.

It was ugly and hurtful and unnecessary. It led to our withdrawal from church activities and eventually our moving away. It ended a myriad of friendships. It took SIX weeks before anyone asked me how I felt. Six weeks of attempting to meet with staff person who refused our invites, deacon invites, and pastor invites. Six weeks of not coming to church on communion services before someone asked if there was a correlation. And in the sixth week, it took sitting through a church meeting where said staff-member was given a bonus for his 'good work.'

Six weeks of silence.

Then, the pastor and the deacon who approached me were surprised by the depth of my hurt.

And although both acknowledged that it had been easier to talk to husband than me, neither would give a reason. Truth is, they had not spoken with him again either, even when he resigned from leadership.

It redefined my expectation of church leadership and it almost destroyed my trust in the organised church.

Sometimes we lose our voice because others deliberately set out to not allow us to speak.

One thing  I learned during that time:
 People may seek to silence truth,
but God never silences it. 
I was assured time and time again that God heard me. I never once believed in that time that he had stopped listening. He heard. He promised deliverance. He delivered.  Although it is true that I miss many of those friendships to this day, I do not doubt that God used that moment to mold me into the leader I am and to place us in our next place of ministry and healing. I learned much about how to notice hurting people. I now hear different cues when a situation does not seem to add up and one of the participants is not saying much. I know the hurt of being intentionally ignored, and I hope to never allow someone to be in that place.  I also know the balm of the two people who continually reached out even when they did not understand the depth of what was happening, and I pray that I can be that balm in someone else's life.

My friends, if you have been silenced by those around you, if your opinions, desires, needs have not been heard, or if those you love have deliberately chosen to not hear you, please do not lose heart.  God hears you.  He draws near to you.  And, when the time is right, he will vindicate you.  Draw near to him and allow him to hear the depths of your pain.  He can soothe what no one else can.  Trust one who has walked the path and survived.  You are heard and your voice matters.

As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me. 

 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.

He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
................Psalm 55:16-18

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Lose Your Voice, Part 2

In part one of this discussion on losing my voice, I talked of being too exhausted to continue to communicate.  The second part of losing my voice whilst I was in Germany had to do with perception and permission.  There were two (greatly generalised) types of ex-pats in my community in German.  There were the ex-pats who complained constantly about the German-way of doing things.  These folks had followed husbands to jobs, but were not necessarily happy about it.  And they complained. About everything. At every opportunity. To anyone who would listen.  Then there was the other type.  The ones who were embarrassed by type one and so who tried to only point out the positives.  In general, unless in the privacy of your own home with your own family, this group did not complain.  They were the eternal "Pollyana's" of the ex-pat world.

Since one of my least favourite groups of people are who we dub "The Ugly American" in our home, you can be assured that I landed in group two.  [The Ugly American is that person, American or not but most likely American, who spends all there time saying "in my home country we did it this way" and refusing to embrace anything about the culture they are visiting.]  I did truly enjoy much of our life in Germany, so it was not a stretch to focus on the positives.  Also, I tend to think if we focus on positives, the negatives are much less looming.

But to never feel able to express the negativity was draining.  Recently another blogger wrote about an entirely different subject, "I did not have the freedom to tell the truth and I no longer had the energy to pretend."  That sums up much of my time in Germany.  I did not have the freedom to express how hard it was.  DH was not having a great time at work and already felt guilty of having moved us yet again in the 3 years and I did not want to add pressure to him.  I knew in my head the first year in a new place is the most difficult and wanted to give it it's best chance.  And, we were convinced then, and I am still convinced, that God had a purpose for us in that place.  Therefore I didn't want to speak against where God had place me.  But it was hard.  Very hard.  And to not have an outlet made it even harder.

Another group-two friend, after she moved away from Germany, commented that she had not realised that she had basically held her breath and held her neck tense for two years until she was back home and could communicate without being afraid of saying it wrong.  Two years of holding your breath and biting back your true feelings is a long time.

But we do this all the time.  We spend years in church fellowships where we are afraid to show that we are hurting or doubting or in need.  We hold our breath and draw in the pain, paint that religious smile on our face and off we go to speak platitudes that are empty.  Why?  Because we don't have the freedom to be ourselves.  Because we are afraid that if we express doubts we will look like "The Ugly Christian" who needs it to be our way or no way.  Or we will not look like a Christian at all.  We convince ourselves that God can't handle it if we are real (and we know our friends can't handle our "realness" because they all have it all together).

Where does this lead us?  To being worn out and "not having the energy to pretend."  Which leads us to drop out of those religious circles that could be life-bringing because they might see that we are cracked and bruised and needy.  We stop communicating with the very ones who could bring us healing.  And we stop communicating the healing others' need.  We need to be able to lay down these masks of "having it together" and be real enough to give voice to our needs and to our ability to help those in need.

I am convinced, maybe even convicted, that we need to build I to our bible studies and our religious circles of friends the ability to be real. I am not advocating for a group one-everything-is-horrible reality, but a reality that is free to say I am having a tough time. I want a freedom to share the hard stuff that God leads me through as well as the easy things. I want to be someone that can handle hearing a friend say "life is tough" and not judge or try to solve it for them. I want to be a Christian community that enhances communication, not stifles it.  In some ways that is easier to build online than in face-to-face life. But I want it in both places.  So this may be a recurring theme that you see here.  As I try to regain my voice, I will advocate for you to have your voice as well. Let us speak in honesty, in reality and of course in love as we share our lives.

Thanks for listening to this rambling heart.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

How to Lose Your Voice, Part 1

I have been reflecting upon how it was I came to lose my words, the very thing that had always brought me clarity and contentment in the changes of my life.  I think it all came to fruition during our time in Germany (although to a large extent it started earlier than that--but that is part 3).

Being in a culture where I did not speak the language was exhausting.  It was mentally draining,  physically tense, and emotionally depleting.  Try as I could, it did not and would not come easy to me.  I would tell my tutor that I was sure Tree (less than 2 at the time) was going to answer her questions before I did.  I was only half-joking.  The truth was, he was learning two languages at once and took delight when he said a German word and all the German-speakers around us would react with total joy.  They did not react that way when I spoke the language.  I tired of being laughed at or given blank stares--both common reactions.  It has long been my belief that if you live in another lingual setting it is your duty to make and effort to communicate in the common language.  But after a year of struggle, I now have an entirely new empathy for those who do not speak a country's native language.

It is hard. Very hard.

Simple things, like going to the grocery store, became things that I dreaded.  My little neighbourhood store had no English speakers.  To make it more challenging, you had to ask for anything that was fresh--vegetables, meat, cheese.  No just picking your own.  My first attempt at getting leaf lettuce (Kr√§utersalat) was met with giggles from the girl getting the vegetables.  She repeated how to say it correctly.  I tried. More giggles.  That rolling/hard r sound is impossible for me.  We repeated this scene for weeks before the day she threw her hands up and said "you got it right" (in English because she practiced with me after a while). Those first attempts were demoralising. To be laughed at week in and week out just to get lettuce.

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Or there was the day that I was buying a whole chicken (Huhn).  I knew how to ask and low and behold it worked she immediately pulled a chicken from the case.  My tutor had told me they would ask if I wanted it cut up (that word I don't remember).  She asked a question about cutting it, I said ja and she went away and came back with it cut and wrapped.  Success, I thought.  Imagine my dismay when I got home to discover that she had indeed cut it up--in half--and I only had half a chicken.  For dinner in an hour for my family of five.  Did I say demoralising?


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These are just easy examples of language difficulty outside native country.  I got to the point that I just didn't want to try to communicate anything when I was at home.  I was exhausted.  I just wanted to allow my mind to veg.  So I stopped writing much of anything.

This may sound like it is specific to living outside our home country, but I think it can generalize.  Sometimes, we stop communicating because the day-to-day communication is in a foreign language that exhausts us.  This world, this culture, is counter to our identity as children of God (more on this in a post to come).  We can spend the day trying to navigate a world between our sacred heart language and the world we live in.  We can become exhausted trying to navigate the negative and pessimistic culture around us.  We can get to the point that we just don't want to have to speak if not absolutely necessary.

You may recognise this.  You spend your day navigating the murky waters of a work place where ambition is more highly regarded than integrity.  You say the politically correct thing to stay afloat even when it doesn't come naturally.  Nodding and smiling takes the place of speaking your heart. Then you come home and don't have the mental energy to switch gears and speak the sacred. So you think you will do it tomorrow.  Or, if you are a student, you walk the path of choosing words that are true and what the professor wants to hear, but may not be your deepest truth. Then, when it comes time to speak or write of your inmost thoughts, there is no energy left to summon it.  We can lose our words as we navigate the foreign language of the world.  

I know that I must find ways to protect my energy, so that I still have the perseverence to speak my heart's language when so many around me do not want to hear or do not understand that language.  Becoming bi-lingual is a must or I become too exhausted to speak.  But, how?

I was struck this week, again, as I read the words of Mark 1:35,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus was navigating a "foreign" world with a "foreign" language.  He was away from the perfection of his world.  How did he cope?  He got by himself and he prayed.  He found a place to speak his heart language.  He didn't lose touch with who he was whilst he did the things he was called to do.
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I wonder, if that is the key for me to not lose my voice in a foreign world?  It is true, that quiet time and concentrated prayer times are often among the first things to go when I am overwhelmed with life.  That just adds to the spiral of being more and more overwhelmed.  If I am to navigate in a world that speaks a different language than my heart, I must find places and time to speak my heart language.  I must find the time to pray and stay in the word.  I must also find time to speak with those who speak the same language.  Otherwise my speech skills become rusty and I become discouraged, at best, or apathetic at worst.  Even this die-hard introvert needs people!  I need people to come along, encourage, commiserate and hold to account.  And, I need to be that for others.

My friends, if you are losing your voice, if you find you don't have the energy to say another word of anything important, please take some time and reconnect.  Reconnect with God and with others who can speak to the things of God. Reconnect with your heart-language.   Reconnect with me.  I need you.  I need your words, and I am certain others do as well.

God Bless!

photos from www.morguefile.com

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

July Goal Post

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My last goal post was in March.  March!  I am not even sure I remember which of these I managed to succeed at, and which I failed.  But here goes:

In March I said:
1.  Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH--I think yes, because I am on track with this project
2.  Get next unfinished RR to 50% (Fish Bowl)--I actually finished this project in May!
3.  Stitch 2 bride's tree ornaments--Have stayed on track with the ornaments as well!
4.  Finish those 2 books!--I finished one, abandoned one, started/finished one, and started 3 more ;)
5.  Blog at least once a week--LOL!
6.  Plan a trip home--yes, it was awesome
7.  Write 2 letters--no

In July I plan to:
1.  Complete AAHRH (3 blocks to go, so this is a stretch)
2.  Complete one Bride's Tree ornament, this will complete one set
3.  Blog at least 2 times
4.  Enjoy chilling on the beach
5.  Read a book
6.  Plan for next year's science programme for Jewel

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finding Myself

I don't know whether to apologise for not being here, or quietly ignore the fact that it has been months since I have posted anything to note, much less of note, or to just simply start again.

I don't know why I'm surprised it happened.  I sort of lost myself and stopped writing.  Spent more time holding it in my head and less time putting it on paper.  In some ways it has been good--just enjoying and living life without the scrutiny of putting it out there.  But in other ways it has been lonely--since writing is one of my favourite companions.  Truth is, four moves in four years (3 of them international) has taken its toll.  We are all weary of making transitions and making new friends and starting anew.  Even coming "back" to a place we loved before is full of new transitions.  There is a new house, a new village, a new stage of school, a new church building, new friends, lost friends that have moved on.  Well, you get the idea.  And my family is weary.  But this introverted-mother-leader of the family is particularly weary. So I go silent.

There is a song by MercyMe that goes like this...
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

The period of a loss for words has been beneficial.  God has been faithful and we have felt ourselves held in his hands and guided in this last move.  I have enjoyed this time, even whilst understanding the bittersweet of it.  We are settling well.  We have our feet under us.  The house is unpacked and very comfortable.  I have finally framed so many of those cross-stitch pieces done through the years, and the house is decorated uniquely us.  The kids are happy and thriving.  The girls are becoming young women before my very eyes, and it is scary and lovely at the same time.  At least the little one still loves to cuddle in my arms and here "nother tory" and does not mind if I nuzzle that toddler smell in the nape of his neck.  There is a new house group at church that we have the privilege to initiate and lead.  I have so needed a ministry outlet, and at last we again have one as a couple.  I still yearn for a Ladies Bible Study, but am believing that it will come.  We have returned to home educating and 2/3 of us love it (one child misses the classroom but loves that we are on our own schedule again).  We will be breaking our school year in two weeks and going to visit friends and chill on the beach.  A much anticipated time of rejuvenating.  We all need it.  There is something about sea spray.

As beneficial as it has been, it has also been limiting.  I lost that voice, and my soul-well-being has suffered.  I've stuffed feelings and I've hoarded thoughts and I've missed opportunities.  And so, now I come back here.  I come back to find myself, and re-capture the joy of writing and sharing.  I am ready to find my words, to try to communicate a little of what God speaks into my life.  I am not going to promise that I'll be here frequently, at least not at first.  But I've missed you and want to share in your lives again.  Part of sharing is being willing and able to put mine out there as well.  Maybe together we will move a little further on this journey.  Welcome back.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

March Goal Post

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Review of February Goals:

February Goals:

1. Complete 1 block on AAHRH--YES! plus 1/2 of the next block
2. Complete border on Tea Sampler--YES! plus the rest of the project!
3. Write 8 blog posts--only 4 ;-(
4. Finish 2 books--still plodding through the two I started in January, but I did start a 3rd (lol)
5. Write 2 letters--no
6. Help Jewel plan large research project--90% planned now to start

March Goals:

1.  Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH
2.  Get next unfinished RR to 50% (Fish Bowl)
3.  Stitch 2 bride's tree ornaments
4.  Finish those 2 books!
5.  Blog at least once a week
6.  Plan a trip home
7.  Write 2 letters

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Things that Keep Me Humble

As a homeschooling Mom of two pre-teens and a SAHM of a toddler, there are multiple means utilized to keep me humble.  Here are but a couple of examples to preserve for posterity sake.

The toddler is developing quite a vocabulary.  Which is good.  He speaks in typical baby speak, which is not always so good.  The scene is the church foyer where I am visiting with a friend and he is watching out the window.  The room is fairly packed with parents waiting for children.
Tree:  a taxi. Mom a taxi. Look!
Tree: dere a bus! itsa bus!
Tree:  Blue car, geen car, are there lellow cars Mum?
Tree:  (jumping up and down)  (insert R-rated word near the name of another mode of transportation)
(witness one of the dad's almost fall over laughing)

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After church we always spend time discussing what the girls learned in Sunday Club and what we heard in the sermon.  Jewel has just finished telling us about Timothy and some of the characteristics young people can learn from him.  Flower has talked about the Israelites disobeying God (agaaaain!) and what we should learn.  German tells the girls that we heard a sermon on the Fruit of the Spirit.
German:  So, what is the first fruit of the Spirit?
Jewel:  Is it grapes?
(witness me attempt to pick my jaw up off the table)
(yes I told her that this would get blogged!)
Guess what we will be studying this week in Bible time?



Keep smiling!  Have a great day! 

photos downloaded www.morguefile.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Five Minute Friday--Garden

Five Minute Friday

A reminder of the Five Minute Friday "rules"
1.  Write for 5 minutes (set the timer!) on the topic at hand
2.  Link your post at www.lisajobaker.com
3.  Go back and encourage the person who linked up just before you did

Simple. Get's the creative juices flowing and allows for encouraging others.

This week's topic is:  GARDEN

I grew up on a farm.  I spent more hours than I like to think of helping to tend the garden.  I.hated.it.  I am not an outdoorsy kind of gal.  I don't like getting my hands dirty. And (then) I didn't really like the taste of vegetables.  The melons, yes. The squash, never.

Besides that I have definitively non-green thumbs.  My mother used to say that my brother needed to tend the houseplants, because I would kill them.  Experience taught this lesson well.

So, why then, do I sometimes wistfully dream of growing my own?  As I eat another tasteless cucumber from the market and remember how good home-grown was. Or I remember the winter taste of my grandmother's preserved black-eyed peas.  There is a part of me that dreams of growing my own.

But then I look at the pitiful houseplant attempting to survive its mistress' benign neglect and remember that I am no gardener.

I guess I'll have to settle for not-so-perfect veg from the shop. And be thankful that God has made others into gardeners.

(time's up)

Thanks for dropping by today.  Please visit LisaJo and read about her amazing gardening project!  Have a blessed weekend!


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sustainable

In discussions recently about a new ministry opportunity, one of the participants commented that they first wanted to know that it would be sustainable. I think it was probably a pointed remark about whether or not we would be here long enough to invest time in an endeavor with us. (That happens a lot as an expat that moves around, not everyone wants to invest in a friendship that they see as 'short-term'). I let the pointed end of the comment slide, but the thought continued to bounce around in my head. I could not put my finger on why the word "sustainable" was bothering me so. Then, a single quiet thought pierced my confusion,

"I'm so glad God did not wait until I was sustainable before offering me salvation."

God didn't say, "When she stops being prideful, I will forgive her." Nor did he condition any of my multiple returns to the throne with, "Prove that you will change this time." To the contrary, "while [I] was still in my sin" he forgave. (Romans 5:8)

Nothing that is in our control is truly sustainable. This is especially true of ministry.

We had a discussion with Jewel this past week where she asked if it was okay if "witnessing doesn't work".  Of course, what she meant was if someone does not immediately make a decision. We however took the path of how do we know when ministry "works".  We may only be the seed-planters, or the waterers, or the encouragers along someone's path to faith.  Who are we to say that it works or doesn't?  Judgement should not be our role.

The ministry opportunity is moving forward.  It is such a joy!  I'm in a position to teach again after a long period that seemed like a drought but was more God preparing me.  Is it sustainable?  I can't say.  Will I be here to see it to fruition?  Yes.  Because God's fruition is for me to be faithful in serving when he opens opportunities.  Will it be all that the group hopes to happen?  Probably not, because we often dream differently than God plans.  But I trust that it will all be good.

"Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him" Romans 5:7-9, The Message

Is there something in your life you are waiting to do because you are unsure if you can sustain it?  Let go and let God sustain what he has destined.  Be blessed this week!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Goal Review and Setting

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It is time for a monthly review of goals and to set some new ones. January was pretty successful!

January Goals:
1. Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH--Yes!
2. Complete 1/2 border on Tea Sampler--Yes, plus a little more!
3. Read 2 books--1/2 way through Bloody Foreigners: Immigration in Britain, 1/4 way through JB Cranfill's Chronicles
4. Post 8 blog posts--Yes!
5. Write 2 letters--Yes!
6. Find missing cross stitch to frame--no, but it was too cold to go through boxes in the garage

February Goals:

1. Complete 1 block on AAHRH
2. Complete border on Tea Sampler
3. Write 8 blog posts
4. Finish 2 books
5. Write 2 letters
6. Help Jewel plan large research project

photo credit: purchased at istock.com

Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Minute Friday--Looking for a Hero

Five Minute Friday


The topic this week is HERO

GO:

Everyone is gathering in the school halls to collect the children about to be released. In he walks. He zooms around the room. Today he is wearing a spider man costume. Often it is a batman costume. Always a costume.

He is a three-year old super hero. Happily chatting away with anyone who comes his way.

Adorable.

All the little girls swoon at him. Competing for his attention.

All the moms smile affectionately. He is so personable, we all have fallen in love with him.

And my two year old. He follows every move, mesmerized. This little hero was his first friend. And his first hero, outside of his daddy.

Everyone is looking for a hero. Whether you are the two year old gazing adoringly at the three year old in costume or his momma looking for a hero amongst the ladies chatting. We all want someone to look at us....and occasionally rescue us...from the mundane of our lives.

Kind of humbling to realize I'm looking for a hero among the crowd. Shaking my head I wonder how many of them are also looking for a hero? Wonder if they ever look at me. *laughing* They would be sadly let down if I'm their hero. Just like I'm let down when I make them mine.

Must remember to keep my eyes on the true Hero.

Stop.

Join the ladies at lisajobaker.com writing what they think when they hear of heroes. You'll be blessed!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Learning to Visit

Five Minute Friday

Blogger wouldn't play nice yesterday, so I am doing a "Five Minute Saturday". This week's topic is VISIT.

GO

The giggles pour in from the other room. They are having a "smart tea party" complete with real tea cups, sugar cubes and milk. They pass the sandwiches. "Would you like another, Madam?" That's the rule, all sentences must end with "madam". More giggles. More sharing.

Their voices drop as they talk about this, about that. All of a sudden one asks, "Do you know all of the Lord's Prayer?" They begin to recite it. They correct each other and eventually get it right. Why the Lord's Prayer? Who knows. Why does any conversation go the way it goes?

They talk about school, about the weather and about church. They tell jokes and tease one another. They talk quietly and seriously and they talk loudly and boisterously.

Then it hits me, standing in the next room ready to make more tea, these little girls are growing up. They are not playing at a grown-up tea. They are having a grown-up tea. They are learning the art of how to carry on a conversation and visit. They are learning the charms of their nature.

It makes me smile. This visit from these little girls. And it reminds me I need to visit with my girlfriends as well. Maybe I'll call one up to meet me for a cup of tea soon.

STOP

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Thank you for visiting my little corner of the web. I hope that you will come again. To read more brave writer's visiting on the topic of VISIT please join us at lisajobaker.com

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Minute Friday--Let me Encourage you to join


So, I've been attempting to write along with Lisa Jo on Fridays at her Five Minute Friday. It may seem like a strange thing, to limit yourself to a one-word topic and only five minutes. But it is so much more than a topic and a few minutes. It is an encouragement.

It is an encouragement that whatever is on your heart is worth pouring out. It may be messy. It may not be polished. You may look back later and cringe at the glaring grammar mistake or the seemingly lack of coherence. But perfect grammar and beautiful construction is not the purpose. Giving voice to the things inside you is the purpose. They matter--before they are polished. So it encourages me to say what is in there. Sometimes there is more to say, and I write it out later. But it is the initial encouragement to just write.

It is an encouragement to use a little time to do what I love. It is only five minutes. Even on my busiest day, I can take five minutes. And when the five minutes is complete, I am encouraged that what I value is worth the time.

It is an encouragement to read what others are saying. The one-word prompts are open-ended so there is loads of interpretation. It is great to get a different perspective on a common theme.

It is an encouragement to have others read my words. The most important rule of Five Minute Friday is to visit your neighbour and encourage them. I won't lie, I love the feedback.

So it is not a strange little exercise to take part in on a Friday. It is an encouragement. I would encourage you to give it a try--there isn't anything difficult about it. In fact, I just did it---today's word is ENCOURAGEMENT!

Blessings on your day and your weekend.

To read more ENCOURAGing words, please visit Lisa Jo. You will be encouraged.

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thankful Thursday--Leadership


Today I am grateful for a godly husband's leadership.  Without going into detail, we were facing a situation that was uncomfortable.  Not end-of-the-world bad or even really shake-the-world bad, but uncomfortable.  I would have loved to have been an ostrich with head in the sand.  But, he didn't allow that.  He asked me to take a first step ("you won't like it, but I need you to....") and then he followed up by doing the harder riskier thing.  And both actions went well, and things are much less uncomfortable--actually they are very good.

So I am thankful that he is willing to step in and lead even when it isn't fun.

What are you Thankful for today?  Join others at Grace Alone to share our gratitude.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday--SEE

Five Minute Friday  It's Friday, so time for the "writing flash mob" over at LisaJo Baker's blog.  This week's writing prompt is: SEE

 Timer set, GO:

He pulls at my glasses and demands that he wants glasses, "I need see." Emphatically shaking his head.  He's so cute and determined it is tempting to just run right down to the store and get them.

But I don't, because he does not need them.

He stomps into the room wearing his $2 sunglasses bought for those rare sunny days.  He has them on upside down, using the elastic band to hold them on his head.  He declares, "I see."  We all suppress our giggles.

He sits down with a book and proceeds to begin reading.  Then gets frustrated.  He throws off the dark glasses and says "I don't see."

I find him amusing and endearing.  But he also teaches me so much.  How often do I reach for the thing that I think will make me like the others only to be told I do not need it?  How often do I insist on wearing the fashionable when it is not useful?  How often do I do the very thing that blinds me when I am trying to see?

What lessons do I need to see in my two-year-old's antics?   Hopefully I am willing to see the truths that are being taught.

STOP

Come and join the fun!  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Thankful Thursday--A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood



It's been a long time since I participated in Thankful Thursday at Grace Alone.  But with the multitude of changes that have taken place in our lives the past three years, I'm encouraging the girls to look for the gratefulness instead of the grumbling.  Maybe I should practice what I preach!

This week I'm thankful that we live in a place that did not have the extreme weather in many parts of our circle of the world.  We had some wind, but none of the gales that tormented much of this country.  The very small part of our fence that came down has already been put back up by the landlord!  We had normal temperatures for this time of year.  None of the frigidness our US family has faced.  Although living near a river, there was never any thought of flooding.

We have been warm, secure and without weather stress.

And I'm grateful.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

January 2014 Goals

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I find that I really do accomplish more when I post my goals somewhere.  So, it is a discipline that I will continue here in 2014 (plus it is a nice record at the end of the year to see what was accomplished).  I do have a master 2014 goal list, but will only post the monthly progress reports here.

So without further adieu,

DECEMBER goals:
1. Four Christmas ornaments --only did 3 since there was no board ornament exchange this year
2. One block on Autumn at Hawk Run Hollow--completed 1/2
3. Christmas cards--done
4. Enjoy Christmas--thoroughly

January Goals:
1.  Complete 1/2 block on AAHRH
2.  Complete 1/2 border on Tea Sampler
3.  Read 2 books
4.  Post 8 blog posts
5.  Write 2 letters
6.  Find missing cross stitch to frame

photo credit: purchased at www.istock.com

Friday, January 03, 2014

Five Minute Fridays---FIGHT

Five Minute Friday

Joining with the amazing writers that write for Five Minutes every Friday at Lisa Jo's place.  Just five minutes, to get something on screen--less edited, more real.  This week's prompt is: FIGHT

GO:

They are arguing again. Over who's turn it is to do something. Or who left the book on the floor. Or where the sweater should be.  They argue, they fight.  Comes with being sisters who are sharing a room (one that is less space than the last room they shared). They fight because they are both head-strong and confident and independent and hate to yield.

And I fight to hold a little self-control and not shout at them to get along. And sometimes I lose that fight, but sometimes I win.

Then just when I think I cannot take any more, I hear singing. And giggling. And joyful chatter. Because they do that. They stop fighting and start enjoying each other's company. They do that because they are sisters.

And now I am fighting to not smile and tease them about liking each other.  Usually I lose the fight to not smile. 

They fight...and they love...because they are sisters.

STOP.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

New Year Reflections 2014



It is time for the annual review and choosing a “year word” to guide my learning this year.  Last year I wrote, 


First, I believe that 2013 is a year of TRANSFORMATION. Now, that word in and of itself is terrifying to me. I am a creature of habit and change is not always my friend (yes, you can laugh knowing how many changes that our family has made in the last 3 years). I prefer quiet and home and the transformations in our lifestyle over the last few years I have known were preparing me for something. Maybe this is year I will more clearly define the something. The verse that accompanies this thought is probably obvious but here it is:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (ESV)

This year I want to be intentional about the things that I put into my mind, that I put things to memory that will transform me and edify me and aid me in edifying others.
Secondly, I believe that 2013 is a year of EMERGING from one way of life into something that God has been preparing me for all along. I don't know exactly what that is yet, but I believe that it will involve a more intentional emphasis on ministry and writing than I have had in the last few years. I can't wait to see what is planned!

In 2013, I did not emerge from the chaos of the year before.  No, I probably became even more entangled. I did not intentionally write much of anything. I did not see huge transformations in my life (other than yet another international move that was far from what I intended when I wrote those reflections).  I did not do much of anything at all with the words that I chose for 2013.

And, yet, I do not believe that it was a failure.

The words that are imprinted on my heart at the beginning of the year are just that---words.  I can use them to guide me and give me boundaries of purpose as I study and learn. I can allow them to give me freedom to explore new areas that I believe God is making me tender. Or, I can make them legalistic tools that dictate my writing and reading and reflecting. If I do the latter, I lose the joy of the year.  Last January I was truly excited about the pictures of metamorphosis I was seeing and knew that the picture could explain some of my yearning.  But I had no idea what God had in mind.  Yes, our life was transformed. Yes I did some things intentionally and furthered those foundations. But, no, it was not as I had planned.  I am choosing to believe that it is more of a success to keep getting up and follow as faithfully as I can what God is showing me than it is a failure to not have brilliant commentary on a couple of words chosen in faith.

So it is with more than a little apprehension that I choose a word for the 2014.  On Christmas morning, one of the ministers at our church was preaching on Simeon and Anna.  He said
 “Simeon was a man ready to recognize the work of the Spirit on the most significant of days only because he had walked with the Spirit on thousands of seemingly insignificant days…..Simeon had been promised he would not die before seeing the Messiah….So Simeon had waited and believed. And waited and believed. And waited and believed. For how long, we don’t precisely know. Years. Decades maybe. Through them all he waited and he believed.”
There are promises I have heard breathed in my heart and spirit.  I believe that they will come to fruition.  On Christmas morning some of those promises were re-whispered in my heart along with the admonition…Wait, and believe.  

My word for 2014 is WAIT.  I am not totally sure for what I am waiting.  It involves ministry and writing and family.  In the waiting I expect to find growth and contentment, but mostly I expect to find the Spirit teaching me to BELIEVE even when the timing is not my own.  As the sermon’s word on Christmas morning reminded me, “God’s people are a waiting people,” I want to be a waiting follower looking for what God is preparing for me.  

Thank you for waiting with me in 2013 when I was quiet. I am glad I have friends who have stayed with me.  As we wait on the Lord this year, may we find together meaning in what we see and experience.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

Lamentations 3:22-27 (The Message)