Monday, December 31, 2012


Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; 
I hoist sail and draw up anchor, 
With Thee as the blessed Pilot 
of my future as of my past.
from The Valley of Vision; Year's End

January Calendar painted by Amy

Happy New Year From our Home to Yours!
-us5 earthen vessels

Thank you for your prayers for us in our upcoming travels!

Monday, December 24, 2012

perfect translation

He glanced down at his dirty feet and dusty clothes, remembering the beautifully clean and tranquil environment he had relinquished to come and work in this foreign land.  He had left a home that was serene and inviting, but there was no serenity here.  The sweaty grittiness of this place was unlike anything he had ever known.

He bit into a fragrant crust of bread, fresh, warm and good.  Yet having come from a lifestyle where he had known no need or want, it was humbling to find himself reduced to a humble daily dependence for every meal.  

He had willingly crossed cultures, moving to a place governed by corrupt leaders, and teeming with masses of people greedy for temporal gain, blind to their greater spiritual need.  He spoke the language fluently and had friends in the community, but none who truly understood his heart.  And as he considered the terrible charge that lay ahead of him, he was intensely distressed.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14

Yes, it was Jesus who forfeited His culture of perfection, the splendor and serenity of the Father’s home, the companionship at His Father’s side.  It was Jesus who entered this foreign earth, taking on human flesh to dirty His feet on our roads, taste our daily bread, speak our language, and lay down His life in ransom for ours.  

It was Jesus who was the perfect translation of God’s expression, as the Word of God wrapped in human likeness.  What He sacrificed that we might know Him!  

This is the heart of Christmas.  Immanuel. God with us.

...Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing,
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

happy, happy Christmas

Michael and Amy weigh a suitcase
Last Monday morning our bags were packed  and weighed,
and we traveled northward to St. Louis to return our rental van.
With a few extra hours to spare before taking our flight to the NW, 
we visited the St. Louis Arch,
the Gateway to the West.
(For us it's more of a gateway to the East...)

We rode to the top of the arch; 630 feet up.

The view from the top was breathtaking,
but not more so than the swaying of the arch
under us...

It was  good to get our feet back on firm ground again.

decorating the tree
Then on to Seattle, where we've been celebrating the season
together with family.

building gingerbread houses
  These are sweet times.
Happy, happy Christmas, 
that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, 
recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, 
and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!

~Charles Dickens

Monday, December 17, 2012

wending our way

The house was filled with the cheer of Christmas carols playing this week, but instead of unpacking boxes of ornaments to decorate the house, we packed up boxes of our personal things and squirreled them away in our friend A's attic (many, many thanks, A, for storing our things!) for hibernation during our next term overseas.

Then we swept the rooms, raked the yard, and packed our suitcases, all while saying good byes left and right to people we love here in Savannah.  It seems a strange way to celebrate the season of Christmas.
saying good byes
to friends we love...
But in the midst of it all we found time for a few Christmas traditions, 
like a ferry ride across the Savannah River to the Westin 
to see the Gingerbread houses, 

a gingerbread library!  how great is that?!?
to Leopold's for some of Savannah's very best ice cream, 

watching The Muppet's Christmas Carol while snuggled under blankets, 

and a grand finale of beauty 
in the majestic Lessons and Carols service 
at church on Sunday evening.

Elise and Amy join the youth choir one last time
more good-byes

And now, as you read this, 
we'll be wending our way across the country 
to spend the holidays with our dear families in the Northwest.  
And soon afterward we'll begin our travels back to the Philippines!  

We treasure your prayers for us in all of the transitions.  
Saying good bye is hard. 
It just always will be.  
But as Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  
So we'll smile and give thanks for all these wonderful memories.
We hope you'll give thanks with us!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Typhoon Bopha struck the island of Mindanao, where we live and work, last week, killing over 600, and leaving hundreds of others missing.  It's hauntingly reminiscent of the typhoon that struck the island just last December, leaving over 1,000 dead, and thousands more without homes.

The typhoon didn't touch the city where we live.  But our sweet friend and helper, Bebeng, saw her family out in Compostella, a rural area of Mindanao, lose everything in this typhoon.
Their house flooded, and the corrugated tin roof was blown completely off.  Their coconut and banana trees were demolished; their means of livelihood gone. Then the government evacuated the family, fearing the danger if a local dam would break with the heavy rain.
photo from
By the time the family returned to their property, looters had been through, taking much of worth.  They were able to find enough roofing to cover a portion of the damaged home where they can sleep, but the rest of the roof was rusted and mangled by the winds.  Bebeng's parents and her widowed sister and six children are waiting in lines for food, wondering what is to become of them.

With no welfare system in place, no flood insurance policies or national assistance, this family, and hundreds of others like them, will borrow and make do and hope for others to help them.

Already people who know and love Bebeng in the city of Davao are reaching out to help.  It's an opportunity for the gospel to take on hands and feet for her family who don't know the Lord.  Pray with us that as help is distributed by the Body of Christ, that Bebeng's family would see the love of God toward them, and respond in faith. As deep as their material need is now, we know their greatest need is for the redemption that will last into eternity.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

wordless Word

He was created of a mother whom He created. 
He was carried by hands that He formed. 
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. 
He, the Word, 
without whom all human eloquence is mute.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

where did it go?

November flew by...
where did it go?
And the first week of December is almost past.

But the memories from November are fresh...

Memories of my sister and brother-in-law's special visit to Savannah,
when we explored Fort McAllister,

Michael mans a cannon

...and beautiful Jekyll Island together.

Yes, we saw a 'gator in the Jekyll Island swamps!

Memories of time outside, playing, working, 
savoring the fall temperatures and foliage.

photo from Wikipedia
Memories of college trips
 to explore options for fast-approaching college years...

Photo by Kay
Memories of time with friends.

Amy takes a shot
And memories of Thanksgiving, riding out to the field to shoot the big artillery
after savoring a simply scrumptious turkey dinner.

Elise aims
Michael's turn

Photo by Kay
All too soon it's gone.
but we treasure the remembering...

A pleasure is only full grown when it is remembered.
-C.S. Lewis

Monday, November 26, 2012

behold the beauty

One evening just a few weeks ago, our three children and I drove through the streets of our gracious city, beneath the ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss, past sparkling fountains in peaceful squares, and by whimsical gates guarding hidden gardens tucked behind stately homes. We eventually reached the church, where our children hopped out and headed for youth group while I parked and greeted the welcoming faces of old friends and entered with them into the church where they had come to choir practice for the coming Sunday.

Instead of joining the choir, I turned into a quiet sitting room with tasteful decor, and an antique divan where I settled down with my Bible and my journal to wait for our children.

My attention was riveted by the beautiful reflected light of the setting sun through the picture windows as it melted the room into a mellow gold.  A blended harmony of voices rose across the hall, mounting in crescendo, as the choir sang a victorious hymn of faith.  

My heart filled with wonder and awe at all of this beauty.  After being out of the country for so long, I felt dry, thirsty to drink it all in; all this natural beauty, the architectural beauty, the beauty of familiar faces and of this glorious music.  But at the same time, my wonder was mixed with sadness.  I began to pour out my grief to God.  It was sadness at the thought of soon leaving again all of this beauty that I love so dearly to return to our work in the Philippines. 

It was at that moment that the choir began to sing the immortal lines from the great hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: Let goods and kindred go!and, His kingdom is forever!  My heart just about stood still, marveling at the timing.  And before I could even sort out what it all meant, the director brought the practice to a halt, instructing the choir to sing those exact lines over again.  “Let goods and kindred go…”  “His kingdom is forever!” 

God knew that I needed to hear those very words, and to hear them repeated.  I needed the reminder that I wasn’t created just to soak up and enjoy the beauties of this earth.  I was created first to glorify God, to praise Him for His great beauty.  And I’ve been entrusted with this honored commission to share the beauty of the Lord with others, so that they too can glorify Him forever.   

All this earthly good that I’ve been enjoying during our six months back here in the US is very good; it is worthy of my notice and my heart-felt thanksgiving!  But each one of these beautiful things I enjoy is really just a pale reflection of the infinitely greater beauty of our Savior.

Tolstoy once wrote, "It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness." Maybe God's greater goodness does not always take the form of beautiful earthly things.

I want to be sincerely willing to let these goods and my kindred go, in order that more people on earth might see more of God’s great beauty, and that they might be able to worship Him as He is due, and enjoy Him forever. He alone is worthy. 

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
Psalm 27:4

Thursday, November 22, 2012

bounty of thanks

 There's nothing quite like being in America
for this American holiday of Thanksgiving,
and we're excited to be able to enjoy again
an old Thanksgiving tradition
of celebrating it with dear friends.

There are certain foods which, in our family,
are essential to making it really Thanksgiving.
One of those is the pie.
Last year I shared my mom's amazing pie crust recipe.

Another essential Thanksgiving food is fresh, homemade rolls.
This year I'd like to share a bread dough recipe I've used for years 
that just might result in the easiest and best holiday rolls you've ever made.

Right in the nick of time to make some terrific leftover turkey sandwiches!

Yeasty Once-Rising Rolls

1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 c. buttermilk  
(or if you don't have buttermilk, just combine 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, plus enough milk to make 2 cups – let sit for a few minutes to ferment)                                                                                                
1/2 cup sugar (or a tad less if you like a less-sweet bread)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (or more, if you like a salty bread!)

5+ cups all-purpose flour (I always use closer to 7 cups) 

Dissolve yeast in water with 1T sugar. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the flour.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes, til foamy.  

Add flour. Mix well.  Form into rolls immediately**, cover, and let rise for an hour. 

Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes.  If you wish, brush with soft butter and sprinkle with a little extra salt when hot out of the oven.

**For a more yeasty roll, leave the dough to rise in your refrigerator overnight before forming the rolls, rising and baking.

This roll dough will keep in the fridge for up to a week.  It also makes great cinnamon roll dough!  

with all our wishes for a very  
Happy Thanksgiving!

The photos in this post are courtesy of The Church Cook,
my dear friend (with whom we'll be celebrating today!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

another kind of thanksgiving prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry; 
hungry for the Word in their own language
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