Wednesday, November 30, 2011

court discipleship

Amy and Elise were invited 
to assist in coaching the middle school girls' basketball team 
this season.

Amy on far right

Two afternoon practices a week, 
and keeping stats for the Saturday morning games...

Elise on far right

building special relationships with some of the younger girls,

and observing good coaching techniques 
as they work alongside a couple of excellent coaches.
(Thank you, Coach Veronica and Coach Krys!)

What a beautiful form of discipleship going on out there on the court...
women encouraging young women
to encourage the even younger!

So encourage each other 
and build each other up, 
just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday, November 27, 2011

beyond my comfort zone

I climb into the taxi, tossing the weight of groceries for our family of five in beside me.  The wrinkled face of the driver peers at me through the rear view mirror festooned with rosary beads and a stuffed bear. "Asa?" "Where to?" he asks, revealing three missing bottom teeth.  "Palihog sa ang balay nako," I say, "To my house, please," and I add the name of my neighborhood.

"Do you speak Visayan?"  he asks, studying me with a little more interest in the mirror.  "Only a little," I laugh, and he switches to speaking English, in courtesy to me, but also to practice his own.  It's then, as we pull away from the curb, that the real questions begin.

"What country do you come from?" 

I've grown used to the questions, the non-stop queries posed with pure curiosity.  We are something of an anomaly in this culture; not many American families live here in Davao.

"How long have you lived in the Philippines?"  
"Are you here for good?"
"What are you doing here?"

Many wonder why on earth a westerner would come here, when so many Filipinos are trying for all they are worth to get to the West.

"Are you married?"
"Is your husband a foreigner?"
"Does he speak Visayan?"

The questions are sometimes very personal, but I've grown used to it.  So used to it that I find myself now asking some of the same questions, ones I'd never pose to a stranger in my home country.

"Do you have children?" 
"How many?"
"How old are they?"
"Do they study here?"
"At what school do they study?"

If an American taxi driver asked me any of these questions, I'd find it incredibly sinister.  But living in this country, my personal boundaries have stretched.  In fact, I even ask these very questions back, especially about their children, and it tickles most drivers to no end.  I've heard some interesting stories about the offspring of taxi drivers.

"How old are you?"

It took me a little longer to reconcile myself to this question.  I used to answer it evasively, "Tigulang," I would say, "an old person," and we would laugh together. But I realize now that maybe it's hard for people to place me in the correct social category of respect if they can't tell how old I am.  So now I tell them my age with a smile.  But please don't expect me to enjoy it.

As we near our house, the questions drive a little harder.

"Do you rent or own?"  
"How much rent do you pay?" 

At this point I'm glad the journey is just about over, because we've now turned the corner beyond my comfort zone.  I work to stay evasive about our cost of rent for a few more moments while I pay and exit the taxi.  I'm poignantly aware that the amount we spend on monthly rent would probably sustain this man's family for quite a while. And I honestly don't understand why God has provided for me to live here in this house, while others around me go home to one room with a dirt floor and no electricity.

But I also know that the hope of the gospel transcends the amount of rent we each pay.  It's not any material wealth we have that defines who we really are, or that brings us any true, lasting joy.  Sure, I've given him some work, and a bit of a tip, too.  But I could never solve his material poverty.

Yet I truly believe that the hope of Christ, and of His salvation, is the true treasure.  It's what relieves the greater poverty of the soul.  And that's exactly why we're here, to share the only wealth that will bring any real hope, transcending all temporary earthly good, and lasting beyond the moths and rust and missing teeth and dirt eternity.

So for today I'll answer the questions; I'll live a little ways outside my comfort zone with the hope that, as a result, someone might find that real, lasting comfort in glory.

May your unfailing love be my comfort...
Psalm 119:76a

Thursday, November 24, 2011

now thank we all our God...

Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother's arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours to-day.

A glimpse into our Thanksgiving...

paper pumpkins - the only kind on this island!

sewing decorations

notice Amy's owl on the table...isn't it fun?

painting rocks...another Amy idea...

there seems to be a common theme here...guess 'whooo' made more owls?
Elise designs place cards

cooking (yum! stuffing!)

and baking
Amy cuts lattice

Elise adds finishing touches

baked pies perched on ant traps

four rotisserie 'island turkeys' (aka chicken) in banana leaves, delivered to our door by motorcycle

Lest you should think I'm unforgivably lazy, our little oven just isn't capable of cooking chicken for all of us as well as the stuffing and sweet potatoes!

tables laid

Elise gives thanks with thanksgiving hymns
O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

and friends arrive to join the celebration

a true feast; thanks to all of you for sharing your delicious dishes, and your precious fellowship!

and at the end of the day, everyone pitched in to clean up!  thank you!!!

All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns,
With them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.


This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for you...
for all of you friends who join us here at
earthen vessels,
and for all of you who pray for us, 
and encourage us in so many ways!

We wish you a Thanksgiving filled with true thanks...

photo by Elise

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a different sort of thanksgiving prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry; 

When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless; 

When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all; 

When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer, 

And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
by Samuel F. Pugh 

Monday, November 21, 2011

it is good to give thanks

"The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One." 
- Ann Voskamp

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord..."
Psalm 92:1

Saturday, November 19, 2011

easy as pie

Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  As hard as it is to believe, the day will be full of normal work and school routines here in our community.  This is one American holiday I really miss. But our family has plans to celebrate anyway!

Homeschooling gives us the option to take an easy week scholastically; we'll focus instead on domestic arts and science; baking and cooking and decorating together to prepare to share this Thanksgiving with others.

Some of our very favorite Thanksgiving menu items are the pies. Toll House chocolate chip pie, apple pie, more Toll House pie, cherry pie, and did I mention Toll House pie?

“Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
 -Yogi Berra

*True story...I once gave a Toll House pie to a friend for Thanksgiving.  She called me a few hours later and whispered into the phone, "I just ate the WHOLE thing!!!"

Today I'd like to share my mom's amazing pie crust recipe, a light, crispy crust that melts in your mouth, and a recipe that truly has never failed me, even though I'm not someone who spends hours perfecting cooking techniques!

Mom’s Never Fail Pastry

*In a large bowl, mix together:
*4 cups of all-purpose flour
*1 tsp. salt
*1 tsp. baking powder
*Add 2 cups of refrigerated shortening, sliced thin, and work it in with your hands, or with a pastry cutter.
          *Break 1 egg into a 1 cup measure 
          *Beat the egg lightly with a fork
          *Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar  
          *Fill the cup with very cold water, stir it all together, and add to the dry ingredients

Stir the moist ingredients in, but handle the dough as lightly as possible.  If you want to refrigerate it for an hour or so before using, you can, (in fact, you can store this recipe in the fridge for a few days before using it) but I usually start rolling my crusts right away...and like I said, it just never fails! 

And every time I make it, it reminds me of my sweet mom 
and the way she delighted in blessing all of her family with delicious food.

Roll the dough thin.  This keeps the crust from being overly bready.  Then follow the directions for whatever kind of pie you are baking!

*This recipe will make 3 crust rounds - enough for one double-crusted pie and a single crusted pie, or for 3 single-crusted pies.

Happy Thanksgiving preparations to all of you! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the fruit my neighbor bore

I clip a clothespin over a towel,
hanging a load of laundry to dry up on our deck,
when across the road I hear calling:

I see a man at my friend's gate, trying to catch the attention of anyone inside.
I wonder who this man is, and what he's doing when he looks up and sees me.

"There's someone at your gate!" he calls up to me.
Sure enough, there's a woman there, with a big bag.
"Mangoes!" she calls, and I think she's selling them.
"Salaamat!" I answer, a polite 'no thanks.'

But she then says that she's my neighbor, and she'll leave them at my gate
along with the ones her son was trying to deliver to my friend across the way.   
My neighbor?!?  I've never seen this woman before, but she's the wife of my M-neighbor, 
bearing gifts for me.

I run downstairs to receive her, speechless.
She hands me a bag brim-full of vibrant golden fresh fruit,

"They are from our tree," she says.
And I gasp as I see the abundance,
and I take the handles, feeling the weight of my humility in her act of kindness,
and I wonder why I've never come to her gate bringing gifts.

I garble out a thanks as she turns to go, a poor repayment for such treasure,
blushing inwardly at my slothfulness in demonstrating any kind of love toward her before this.
I of all people should know better.
Isn't it my Master who commanded that I love my neighbor like myself?

Yet here I stand with the fruit my neighbor bore,
pondering why I am so slack in bearing the fruit that God is looking for in my life.

I resolve to do better; how I don't know, but tonight as dusk falls and I hear the prayer-song over the wall, I will pray.  I will pray for their family, and for wisdom to know how to bear fruit in loving my neighbor.

Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.
C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

skeleton in the closet

A disconcerting surprise.
Our helper, Bebing, was cleaning the top kitchen cupboard last week
when she found this:

"Lizard," she said confidently.

It wouldn't be the first time I've seen a lizard skeleton;
its carcass stripped overnight by voracious ants.

But this was no lizard.
"Lizards don't have teeth like this, Bebing.  
Nor tails like this, either."
No, this skeleton was the skeleton of a mouse.
And then she found the tufts of fur to prove it.

That skeleton wasn't there when she cleaned this same cupboard
about 6 months ago.
I'm not sure that I want to think too hard about what that means.

Mark did see a mouse in the house in late September,
when he was up doing some late-night reading in our school room.
That mouse was trapped within 24 hours, before he'd done much damage,
only sampling a bag of macaroni.

 But this open cupboard door up there in the photo is where these mouse remains were found.
That means that more than one rodent has penetrated the sanctity of our home.

That cupboard is just an empty cupboard, like all the rest of those top cupboards that are impossibly high to reach.  But for some reason he found a way in, and no way out.

At least he didn't drown in the pudding, like Anne's in Marilla's pantry at Green Gables...

“I suppose it was a romantic way to perish... for a mouse”
 - L.M. Montgomery

Have you had any disconcerting surprises this week?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

it all adds up

Take one eleven year old boy who is growing out of his clothes,
add a bunch of well-loved T-shirts full of memories,
and the seed of an idea planted by a friend, 
(thank you, Christy!)
plus a really fun older sister who loves to create 
and dabble in crafts she's never tried before...

and it all adds up to a patchwork of love.

Michael's been snuggling under his unique new quilt for the past few nights, 
wrapped up in memories and the kindness of a sister,
thanks to Amy and her delight in making all things handmade!

"The irregular and intimate quality of things made entirely by the human hand..."
-Willa Cather

Friday, November 11, 2011

decisions, decisions

Evening's falling, and it's time to turn on some lights.
But how do we decide which switch to hit?
This panel at the head of our stairs gives us 11 options.

Elise probably has more of them figured out than any of us!

I confess I still don't have them all sorted out, though I do know the location of our favorite few.
Some are for outdoor lights, some are for the upstairs loft, and others for downstairs.

But that's NOTHING compared to our neighbor's options.
They have a panel with 25 switches.

An electrician's dream come true - everything wired to one spot!
Now if I could only decide which one I want...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

legally licensed again

Today my renewed U.S. driver's license arrived!!!

What a relief!  
Living overseas, even simple things like renewing a driver's license can entail quite a process.  

In the spring, since my license was to expire in September, my thoughtful husband took the initiative to renew it on-line for me.  The renters in our house agreed to receive it and forward it to me, and the wonderful Mail Delivery lady at our old Post Office (hi Krystal!) was on the lookout for the new license to make sure it was delivered, even though it had my name on the envelope instead of our renter's name.

But another observant Post Office employee found it first, and since we had filed a change of address, they efficiently sent the license back to the DMV. 
First attempt failed.

The second attempt occured when I spent a week in the U.S. for my dad's funeral in early August.  My amazingly kind sister drove me out to a remote DMV where the lines are shorter to try to get a license in Washington State.  But though the information on the WA DMV website showed that I should have been able to do it, the laws had recently changed, and the brochure inside the DMV showed that I needed proof of residency.  We left without even taking a number.  
Second failed attempt.

I began to wonder if I'd just have to get in line with our 16 year-old daughters to take a driving test all over again when we return to the U.S. next year.  Somehow that just doesn't seem right.

Realizing what a hassle that could be, I made two more attempts to renew.  The method that finally worked was humbling myself, and writing to the DMV to ask for their help.  They simply instructed me to go through the same process that Military personnel on active duty outside of their home state would go through.  This included sending a letter with a variety of information from me, a few dollars, and a letter from someone in management in our organization, confirming my status here.

Now six weeks later, I am again a legally licensed driver!  If I would have just humbled myself sooner, this process would have been so much easier...

What has God used to humble you recently, and to cause you to admit your need for help?

Monday, November 7, 2011

heavy laden

 She walks down the street on a Monday morning,
calling loud for all to hear
'fruit for sale! fresh fruit!'
Mangoes, Rambutan,
a basket laden heavy with a means of living.

She stops at a gate to make a sale.
The fruit in her basket is past its prime,
and a little bruised around the edges,
but then so am I.

It will still be sweet,
and I hope that the years and the bruising
are producing sweeter fruit in my life, too.

It's not until she turns to go that I see her companion,
her young daughter
burdened too with this task of earning a living;
not in a school with a desk
learning to read and write,
but in training for a life of work and of heavy  load.

And I give thanks again
because that could be me,
walking down the dusty street
with the heavy burden of daily subsistence.

That could be our daughters beside me,
laden with such a load; the weight of the world,
the responsibility of earning their keep
in a school of heavy burdens.

Have you ever considered that 
but for the grace of God,
this might be you,
calling loud for all to hear,
hoping for a sale,
for pesos to buy this day your daily rice?

What burdens are you carrying today?
Are your shoulders bowed with the load?
Financial worries, health issues, tense relationships,challenges with children, 
spiritually dry, aging, loss of work, discouragement or sin...
It's heavy, and it hurts.
May the bruising be producing sweeter fruit for Him in you and me
as we give Him thanks for not leaving us to bear it alone.

His yoke is easy; His burden light.
But only because He is bearing the weight of the load.
"Cast it all on Me," He says...
"I care for you."
 1 Peter 5:7

"Are you in a hurry, flurried, distressed?  Look up! See the Man in the Glory!  Let the face of Jesus shine upon you - the wonderful face of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Is He worried or distressed?  There is no care on His brow, no least shade of anxiety.  Yet the affairs are as much His as yours."
- Hudson Taylor

Friday, November 4, 2011

looking up

I find myself reminiscing tonight about the view I left behind in the kitchen of our old house back in the U.S. What a peaceful view that was!  An expanse of green lawn dotted with tall pine trees, a bench in the shade framed with honeysuckle vines, and just behind it, the woods filled with chirping birds and wind-ruffled leaves turning November gold, falling in crackling beauty on the pine needle beds below.

As I form the meatballs I'm making for our dinner, I glance with a sigh out of my kitchen window to a view of an ugly little courtyard.  The dirty white walls topped with iron bars are laced with barbed wire, and for just a moment I feel as if I've been imprisoned here in this place. 

A tiny bit of sky is visible through the over-hanging roof lines, right at the spot where three dwellings intersect.  To the left, our roof; to the right Miss G's roof - our new backdoor neighbor and co-worker.  And just over the concrete fence, straight ahead, our 'M-cousin's' roof.

Suddenly the sun begins its setting, and all light shifts into a miraculous glow of vibrant oranges and pinks and purples.  I raise my eyes to the miracle; I look up to that tiny bit of sky.  Where else to find real beauty but up?   I have a view, after all, that rivets my gaze toward glory, toward Him!

photo by Elise

All too soon the magnificent colors fade, the sky begins to darken, and I hear our 'cousin' beyond the wall begin his ritual evening prayer-song; that prayer to another god, and then I know.

I know that I am not imprisoned in this place.  I only live next door to prisoners of a lie, a yard from a prison's gate.  I get to be up close here, strategically located to share good news that will set captives free.  Good news that will turn eyes upward, to the real view, to the glories of the goodness of the true and living God!  

...we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
Acts 14:15

Is it worth having given up the lovely grass and shade and wind-tossed woods?

But of course.
If I keep looking up.

What has God used to remind you to focus upward today?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

something fishy

 Michael's Sunday School class is blessed with a great teacher!

Michael listens to the story of the crossing of the Red Sea in a mix of English and Visayan

Heads and hearts bowed in prayer

On this Sunday, we were able to share a craft sent by a friend
for the children here;
(thanks, Mr. and Mrs. B!)
fish sun-catchers ready to be colored and hung.

The youngest class member hard at work

It was a special craft, and even some of the teens wanted to make one!
Michael and friends proudly display their school of colorful fish.

...the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea,
the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Exodus 14:29