Wednesday, August 31, 2011

taco in a bag

A favorite quick meal around our house is

Taco In A Bag.

We just pop open a single-sized bag of chips
(good things come in small packages here!)

...add some toppings,

...and dig in!

We had a good laugh over the sales pitch on the back of the chip bag the other day...

Bet you're ready to come for a visit now,
just so you can grab a fist full of Jack 'N Jill Sour Cream Tostillas!

Monday, August 29, 2011

the more the merrier

We were expecting two guests for dinner the other night; 
two Christian men who were in town for the weekend, 
whom we had not yet met.  
At 5:30 Mark went to pick them up for dinner.  

On the 5-minute walk back to our house, 
Mark texted to let me know that a couple of extra men 
who had come to welcome our guests to the city 
were coming along for dinner too.  

By the time they reached our house, 
Mark had with him our two guests, and three extras!

Somehow I wasn't all that surprised.  
Here in the Philippines, 
where people are so very hospitable, 
it's not uncommon to tag along 
with others who have been invited for a meal.  

It's just considered being friendly,
and a demonstration of your desire to spend time together.  

The time spent in fellowship 
is more important 
than a perfect dining experience.  

The kids and I scrambled a bit;

we cooked up an extra pot of rice,

cut the chicken breasts in half to make it look like more meat,

and the kids ate in the kitchen, since there wasn't room at the table.

Not all of the American food was a huge hit 
(Alan wasn't so sure about those raw vegetables in the salad!) 

but there were awfully big smiles as they bit into the chocolate cake.

And there was plenty of food and fellowship to go around.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another,
because love covers a multitude of sins.  
Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 
1 Peter 4:8&9

Those of you who know me well 
are aware that hospitality is not my forte.
Though I wish for that gift,
  I've got a long way to grow in hosting others.

God seems to know that I need to learn
by His grace,
and through the culture of our Filipino brothers and sisters,
to see these opportunities not as times to entertain perfectly,
but only to be perfectly welcoming;

caring more about those who walk in our door
 than about what they might think of me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

feed your faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Luke 17:5
if only it could be obtained so easily...

 Mark, Amy, Elise and I are simultaneously reading the book "Mere Christianity."  It's part of Amy and Elise's World Literature course, and we'll be discussing it together next week.  

These thoughts below, from the chapter on Faith, struck me yesterday as an extremely logical reason for cultivating the discipline of spending time in the Word each day.   If I am not continually reminded of the truth found in His Word, then I will be distracted by my all-too-natural responses to the circumstances of the moment. 

"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  
For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes."

"...make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity,
then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind
for some time every day."  

"We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.  
Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. 
It must be fed."  
-C.S. Lewis

All the more reason why people of all nations 
and tribes 
and tongues 
and peoples 
need to own the Word in their own language.  
How else will faith be kept alive?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

things we've learned...#2

More surprising things we've learned living in a foreign culture:

- Men who make lip-smacking, kissing noises in your direction are NOT being fresh.  It's just their way of calling attention, like clearing the throat, or saying "Hey, you!"

- Unwashed eggs don't need to be refrigerated, and will stay fresh on the counter for a couple of weeks.

- Two-lane roads really can support 4-6 lanes of traffic. Sidewalks make good parking space.

- In a cash society, small bills are extremely elusive.  Making change for larger bills is often a challenge. Employees will sometimes say, 'please wait, ma'am' while they run off to the bank or to another store to make change.

- Not all products made in foreign countries for U.S. sellers make it to the U.S.  That means we occasionally find good deals on 'not quite perfect' items that didn't make the cut.  These finds are few and far between, and you never know where or when they will turn up, which makes it all the more fun when you do find one!

GAP t-shirts and jeans for Michael for under $4 a piece

Pfatzgraff mugs for $1 each

Ann Taylor blouse for another $4

- Hair stylists don't work alone.  
- And the cost of labor is very low.
     When we go for a haircut, one woman washes our hair, the stylist cuts it, another woman dries it, and then the stylist comes back to trim it to perfection.  The last time that Amy, Elise and I all went together to get haircuts, the grand total bill was about $17.  This included the three haircuts, a pedicure for one of the girls, and tips for all of the 5 women who worked on our hair.

- Rice should be washed multiple times before cooking.

- The freezer is a great place to store flour to keep it bug-free.

- Ice cream bars from the roadside store on a hot evening are just as refreshing as a gourmet Cold Stone Creamery treat would be.

Not wrong...just different!

Monday, August 22, 2011

things we've learned...#1

We've learned some surprising things living in a foreign culture.

- mold doesn't only grow on food... grows on fabric and leather, too, in this humid climate.

- not everyone in the world uses 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper.

- not all hearses are black.

- it's smart to examine food items for movement before purchasing.

- if you fail to do the above, don't worry, bugs in pasta float to the top when cooked, where they can easily be strained off.

- a top sheet and a comforter are just not feasible in some climates.

- not all dentists rely on their hygienists to clean a patient's teeth.  Here, the dentist does the cleanings, the x-rays, the exam and any other work that needs to be done.  The hygienist is just an assistant through it all.

- not all gas stations have gas pumps.  Below is the station where the jeepneys stop for gas.  They pay a given amount, and a young man comes out with a jug of gasoline to pour into the tank.

the attendant with his jug is on the left

What sometimes seems 'wrong' to my foreign mind is usually just 'different.'  
We have to remind ourselves 
that just because we did things differently in our own culture 
doesn't mean that's the only way to do it!

More things we've learned to follow soon...

Friday, August 19, 2011

kadayawan attractions

It's time for the Kadayawan Festival in Davao once again.  
"Kadayawan" is a "warm, friendly word" used to explain a thing that is valuable, beautiful, or profitable.  The week-long festival is rooted in a ritual from years gone by, when ethnic tribes in this area would converge to give thanksgiving to the gods, 
especially to the "Manama," or the Supreme Being.

These days, the festival is officially promoted to celebrate the bountiful harvest of fruit, flowers, and other produce, while celebrating the wealth of cultures that meet in this city.
From parades and produce fairs...
to street dancing and talent competitions

This year, since Mark has been out of town on business, we took a less daring approach to joining the festivities.The kids and I visited a local mall, where Kadayawan displays and events were scheduled.

But I'm not feeling guilty for taking the easy way out.
Not after talking to two Filipina friends yesterday,
who both told me that they always enjoy Kadayawan events on TV,
rather than going out to battle the crowds!

At the mall we enjoyed native displays of art,

a native drummer...I mean, drum!

Local produce and plants; lots of photo ops for Elise's photography class!

displays of local crafts,

and musicians playing traditional instruments.

The colors and sounds were distinctly Filipino.

Adorable babies in native dress joined the celebration,

as well as sweet children,

and silly children!

The true irony was that WE were considered a unique attraction.
People wanted their photos taken with US,
the musicians wanted Michael to try the drums
and Amy to dance.
(Which she politely refused, saying she'd rather watch them do it...)

Elise and I escaped some of the spotlight by hiding behind our cameras.
Next time you'll have to bring a camera, too, Michael and Amy.

We give thanks to The Supreme Being, Lord God Almighty,
for all the goodness of the year;
for the bounty of provision He has supplied,
and for His creative genius displayed in  
all the cultures of the earth!

Here are links to posts about the two previous Kadayawan festivities our family has enjoyed...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

third year

Our third school year in Davao has begun!
"Try not to have a good time...
this is supposed to be educational." 
-Charles Schulz 

Breaking with tradition, I have no first-day-of-school photos, since I was back in the USA that day.  Amy, Elise and Michael jumped into the home school schedule on their own, while attending classes part-time at the local international school. (Not to mention that at the same time they were cooking the meals, cleaning house, and doctoring Michael who came down with a fever and cold while I was gone.  I'm proud of my students, and of their wonderful dad who kept the laundry washed, the trash managed, and food in the house!  You guys are the best.)

Thanks to Mark's initiative, furnishings in our home have been switched around, and what was before our bedroom is now the school/family room.  It's a smart choice, since this is the coolest room in the house, and the one we all gravitated to for daily study, even if it meant sitting on the bed. Now we can all sit on chairs!  Revolutionary changes, it's true.

The year's schedule is busy, as one of these three students seem to be continually leaving for or coming home from classes throughout the day. 

And not all of the routine is quiet.

But it's all good.

May it be a year of growth for all of us, in knowledge and wisdom, in grace and in godliness...

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, 
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.  
Proverbs 18:15

Monday, August 15, 2011

blessed be Your name

I landed in Seattle after 18 hours of flying, 
and one of my sweet sisters was there to greet me.
What a sight for sore eyes.
I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity I had to spend precious time with my family,
grieving and rejoicing together.

My sister had brought with her a zip-loc bag of huge, beautiful strawberries 
for me to enjoy on the way from the airport to her home.

One bite was enough to make me cry.
You do not know
how incredibly wonderful a strawberry tastes 
until you've gone two years without biting into one.

My family laughed to see how much I relished my meals.
But the delight of the taste of familiar foods was truly staggering.

A succulent Arby's roast beef sandwich. 
A cool, smooth Wendy's Frosty.
A tender, fragrant homemade roast beef dinner.
A fat, juicy peach.
A gourmet burger.

My sister actually called  me a 'foodie' 
when I fully savored that first delicious bite 
of Panera's Broccoli Cheddar soup.
That would be the first time 
anyone EVER linked that word
with me.

One day as I was helping prepare food for a family gathering,
it struck me;

Blessed be Your name...
in the land that is plentiful
where Your streams of abundance flow
blessed be Your name
(from Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman) 

All of this blessing, 
this plenty,
this abundance,
is food for praise.

I know that many Americans, some of my family included, are suffering real losses as a result of the struggling economy.  I know that people are finding it hard to make ends meet.  
Yet despite the losses, America remains a land of plenty.

Blessed be Your name.

Today, after being back in Davao for two days, 
it was time for me to go and get some groceries.
I hailed a taxi,

and soon found myself in the produce department of one of the local grocery stores.

It's not exactly a Whole Foods,
but the selection is decent.

Yet when you look closely, 
the standard of quality is just...different.

I couldn't bring myself to buy any of the carrots today.
And it took a little looking to find a fresh bunch of broccoli.

The smell of the butchered meat makes me lose my appetite

and the selection at the deli counter includes meats
I'm just not brave enough to try.

The bread is all white flour, sweet...not exactly Panera-like.

A nearby local grocery even had a few peaches
(though hard and bruised) for about $10 per lb.

And a few hard nectarines for about $12 per pound.
I guess I've had enough peaches for the year.

After loading my bags into another taxi for the ride home,
feeling a little wistful over what I'd left behind in America,
the taxi driver made a statement
that made me jolt.

"If you have lots of money, you can buy ANYTHING."
"Walah," I told him.
"No.  You can't buy contentment."

And I knew that what I had said was true.
None of that plentiful abundance in America 
is what brings contentment.

Have you, like me, struggled today 
with what you don't have?
Is it robbing you of true contentment?
Let's purpose instead to give thanks.
Thanks for enough to eat.
Thanks for a roof over our heads
and shoes on our feet.

And most of all...
thanks for a God and Father Who is faithful and true.

These words from Habakkuk are startling:
"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold,
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Blessed be Your name.

Regardless of my circumstances.
Blessed be Your name.