Tuesday, January 31, 2012

mender of soles

He sits at his makeshift table on the corner
surrounded by simple tools,
and his day's work.

And I always try, as I ride past on the jeepney, to catch a glimpse,
or to catch a photo.

I can't do him justice.

Day after day he sits there,
earning the day's wage, plying his craft, 
repairing worn shoes (and suitcases, it appears!)

"a mender of bad soles...a surgeon to old shoes" 

A reminder of the One Who quietly, faithfully plies His craft,
restoring my soul.
(Psalm 23:3)

Monday, January 30, 2012

vintage baby blankets

As I sewed up hems on a stack of lightweight baby blankets for a local maternity clinic ministry,
using fabrics I'd been given to use for the purpose,
I felt a little sad that these rough flour sacks would be used on newborn softness,
until Elise came into the room and said,

"Wow! These are GREAT!  Vintage fabric!"

Well, they may not be wrapped up soft,
but these babies will sure be in style!

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.
Victor Hugo

Thursday, January 26, 2012

world lit at the coffee shop

Amy and Elise are studying World Literature for school this year in conjunction with World History.
Mark and I decided that we would read all of their assigned books also,
so that we could more effectively discuss ideas and concepts together.

And we decided to make it all the more special by going out to coffee for our post-book discussions! 
It's been very fun to explore various coffee options in the city.
The spot below (Bo's at Abreeza!) is the quietest one we've found so far.

We've read a variety of books together, from C.S. Lewis to Shakespeare.
This week we finished the book
which highlights God's amazing grace in the lives of three key men of the Protestant Reformation:
Augustine, Luther and Calvin.

It was an excellent book, giving us unique insights into the lives of these three men of God, and challenging us in light of both their failures and their faith to see the hand of God at work for His glory.

Now we've moved on to John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and I'm looking forward to some Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Corrie Ten Boom and other great authors in this second semester!
I just love sharing great books with my family! ♥

What great books have you read recently?

     As a side note, while we were having our discussion this week, one of the employees of the coffee shop moved to open the inside blind just next to our window. As the blind went up, he peered outside through the window at us, smiled when he caught our eye, and waved a happy wave.  I was struck again by the friendliness of Filipinos, and by the contrast in America, where it would feel a little threatening, invasive, or just plain strange if a coffee shop employee was smiling and waving at me through a window.  I'm so privileged to live in a place with this kind of friendliness!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

in a dirty kitchen

Last weekend, our friend Ate Fely (below on left) who is a professor at a local university,
invited our family along with some other out-of-town visitors 
to her home for dinner.

When we arrived, Ate Fely and Tata were out in the dirty kitchen
working on the meal.
One thing I learned soon after I arrived in the Philippines
is that the term 'dirty kitchen' is not a negative one!  
It's simply the name of an outdoor room (often adjacent to the indoor kitchen) 
where the real dirty work of cooking takes place.

Here Tata is busy at the dirty kitchen sink, washing up dishes,

while above, Cathy and Chrissie keep an eye on the meat on the outdoor gas cook stoves.

This dirty kitchen is also a laundry room - you can see Fely's clean clothes drying overhead.

Meanwhile, in the indoor kitchen, other preparation was going on.
Ligaya was mixing up my personal favorite, 
a big jug of fresh mango juice.

 This is just about the best drink you've ever had.

Other fruit, salads, and rice were cut and cooked inside. 
They even let me help by slicing the watermelon.
That's a true sign of friendship, when you're allowed to help! :)

Tables were carefully set up in Fely's front yard, 
next to the taxi and the nipa hut.
Fely's son drives the taxi; 
he's allowed to operate a single private taxi with a special license from the city.

 The nipa hut has a bathroom, complete with a bathtub (not many of those in this country!)
and an open area with foam mattresses where Fely and her daughter sometimes sleep at night.

It was a special event for us to be invited to her home.

Mark, at the far end of the table

Fely had prepared a lovely meal, and the fellowship was lovely, too.

Elise, Amy and Michael enjoyed visiting with Tata and Chrissie

Fely, Cathy and Barbara share some laughter

These are my sisters in Christ!  And for once in my life, they make me feel tall.  :)

We were richly blessed with true Filipino hospitality.
Daghang salamat po*, Ate Fely!

*many thanks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

under the sea

It's a rough life.
How many high school students do you know 
who get to go on a field trip to spots like this?

 Amy and Elise joined the high school for a boat trip last Friday.
It was an opportunity to learn just a bit about the ocean and its inhabitants,
and to have fun in the process.

Amy, on the right, learning about water pressure

 Elise shared her photos with me (thanks, Lise!)
but that means she's not in any of them.
She's blogged a few more photos of the trip here.

Some of the teachers dived
  while the students snorkeled, 
on a treasure hunt for various species.

Among other things, they spotted:
razor fish, 
blue starfish, chocolate chip starfish, crown of thorns starfish, 
sea cucumbers, 
miles of coral, 
sea urchins, 
Christmas tree worms, feather duster worms, 
angel fish, and lots of unidentified fish.

(thanks for the list, Amy!)

Here is the sea, great and wide, 
which teems with creatures innumerable, 
living things both small and great.
Psalm 104:25

Friday, January 20, 2012

you might feel the same way

You might feel the same way
if your big sisters had just left the house
to go on a field trip for the day
in a boat with friends
on tropical waters, 
carrying snorkel masks
to study marine biology,
leaving you to take a spelling test.

...we hope to have a few photos of that field trip up here soon...right, Elise?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

in their shoes

A friend from the U.S. posed a unique question to me one day.  
What could she do with her children at home
to help them better understand the lives of children 
in developing countries?

Out of that question came the following; 
a list of suggestions for a day in their shoes.  
By doing some or all of these activities, 
you just might get an amazing glimpse into the way many children in our world live.

A Day in Their Shoes:

- eat only white rice for the day; for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- or supplement the rice with a little bit of tropical fruit... bananas, pineapple and papaya are all affordable fruits, at least in the Philippines!
- eat all your food with only a spoon
- drink only water, and to be even more realistic, make it room temperature

- but try drinking it without a cup - out of a plastic bag with a straw...fun!
- use no running water for the day, or to be a little less drastic, use only cold running water
- take a sponge bath, not in a tub or shower (and remember to use that cold water)
- and use no soap; soap is expensive!
- spend the day in just one room of your house, or outdoors
- sleep together on the floor on a mat in that same room 
- walk everywhere you go that day - use no private or public transit
- simulate random power outages; these are very common in developing countries
- wear no shoes, or just flip flops if you go out, even if it's cold
- scrub some clothes by hand together, and hang them out to dry

- have your children do some manual labor for a very low wage
- or have them work for a 'rich' neighbor, and all they earn will go toward dinner for the family that night
- dig through your own trash to see if there's anything re-useable

- take off your watch and cover up your clocks; in a developing country, relationships are much more important than time!
- so take a walk through your neighborhood; stop and talk with everyone you see
- or just sit outside your house to talk (chika-chika!) as a family, welcoming neighbors to join you as they pass by
- but keep your mouth shut when you smile, so none of them will notice your rotting teeth  :(
- play with no toys today; instead see how many games you can make up using just a bag of rubber bands, or bottle caps, or other simple recyclables
- squat on the floor as you play your games!

For those who would like to add some more educational value to the experience, 
try one of the following...

-You might do a water purification science experiment and talk about the difficulty in finding clean drinking water in many parts of the world. You can then talk about the many types of illnesses (typhoid, cholera, amoebic dysentery) that come from drinking contaminated water.

-Sleep under a mosquito net and talk about mosquitoes and malaria. This is a major killer in developing countries and bug nets help to save lives. 

-This one may be too overwhelming, but it is very realistic. Visit a city dump. See the trash, smell the smells. Then talk about children living in dumps and looking for anything they can eat or sell.

End the day by giving thanks to God for all you have, 
and in asking Him how you might reach out to those who have so much less...
some of whom are your little brothers and sisters in Christ, 
and who you'll meet one day in Heaven!

What aspect of life in a developing country would be the biggest challenge to you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

oatmeal muffin pie

Muffins are a favorite breakfast food around our house, 
even for Amy who is pretty picky about her morning meal.

But I'm pretty picky about my muffins.  
I like them to be both somewhat healthy, and also easy to make!  
And the ingredients need to be ones I can access where we live.

So when I tried this recipe and everyone loved it, I knew it was a keeper.  
Whenever I make it, I double the recipe so there are leftovers!

Oatmeal Muffin Pie

1 cup of quick oats
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 scant cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup of white or wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

**Because buttermilk is rare, I just sour a cup of milk.  Pour an overflowing tablespoon of white vinegar into a cup measure, fill with milk, and let it rest for about 5 minutes.  It will be curdled looking, and works great as a substitute for buttermilk!

In a large bowl, soak the oats in the buttermilk for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the egg, sugar and oil.  Then stir in the baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Finally, add the flour.  Yay!  One bowl muffins!

I also toss in some extras to make these more interesting.  Sometimes I'll add 1/3 c. chocolate chips, or some nuts and dried berries if we have any available.  Thanks to our friends, L&J, we're still enjoying cherry-walnut muffins!  Thank you!!

Since we own only 6-count muffin tins, and it takes too long to bake up enough for everyone, I now grease up a Corelle pie plate and pour the whole recipe inside.  Pop it in the oven at 375, and in 20-25 minutes you have Muffin Pie for breakfast! 

Another 5 minutes later, all you have left is crumbs.  ;)

This recipe is so easy, and is so easy to multiply, that it was the perfect recipe to use for Christmas gifts.  I made triple batches, which equaled 10 mini-loaves. Even in our small oven, I could load several loaf pans on a baking sheet, so the baking time wasn't crazy either.

Mini Oatmeal Muffin loaves, perched on ant traps, wrapped and waiting for delivery. 

 What extras would you mix in your muffin pie?

Friday, January 13, 2012

evening glow

Christmas is over,
and the trimmings are stored away,
but if you stop by our house tonight
it will still have that Christmas glow.

There was a time when I thought it was truly tacky 
(or if you'd rather, Mark, in poor taste)
to leave lights up beyond New Year.

Not any more.  
It's amazing how your perspective can change in a new environment.

The lighting in our house wasn't exactly wired for aesthetics.
There's not a warm, welcoming feeling when you flip the switch at dusk.
The naked bulbs are more akin to a deer and headlights.

So when I walked into my neighbor's house one mid-July evening, 
and realized how inviting it felt, I looked for the reason.
I didn't have to look far;
it was the strands of Christmas lights glowing in her kitchen.
I loved it.

So at Christmas I bought extra strands
for the kitchen, the bedroom,
the living room, and the family room.
And without a big fuss,
with no electrical rewiring,
the house now has an evening glow all year-round.

Thank you, neighbor, for showing me another way!

Have you found yourself intentionally doing something lately that you thought you'd never do?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

my God carries me

Mahal na Itim na Nazareno.  This is the Filipino name of the Black Nazarene, a 400 year-old wooden statue of Jesus, carrying the cross, and thought to hold miraculous powers.

It's venerated during the weekly Mass in a Basilica in Manila, but also in annual processions.  The most famous is the procession held each January 9th.  This festival has been celebrated in Manila for more than 200 years.

photo from Reuters

This Monday, about 3 million barefoot devotees thronged around the carriage carrying the statue as it slowly made its way through the city.  Their hope was to have a chance to touch the Mahal na Itim na Nazareno, believing that it would bless them, heal them, or heal loved ones.  Do you see the white handkerchiefs they are holding?  Devotees throw them to the attendants on the cart, who wipe the handkerchief on the image and throw it back, believing that miraculous powers will be imparted through the cloth.

"The Black Nazarene will not let anything untoward take place," said one devotee who has attended the festival with his entire family for the last 40 years. "He will make miracles so that this feast will not be disrupted."
But the event is notorious for injuries and even casualties.  This year nearly 600 people were treated for exhaustion, bruises and minor injuries in a stampede in the early hours of the parade and as people pulled and shoved. Dozens were hospitalized due to hypertension and fractures in the crush of people in Manila's narrow streets, the local Red Cross said. (Reuters)

As they carry their god through the street.  

How grateful I am that it's not up to me to support my God. 
It is His powerful person who bears me, who carries me. 
  Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! 
I have done it, and I will carry you; 
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.  
Isaiah 46:4 

He is found not in thronging masses of desperation, but in stillness; 
it is here He is exalted.
Be still, and know that I am God. 
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth!   
Psalm 46:10

And the miracle that is needed most, 
far beyond physical healing or temporal blessing
is His free gift of salvation, the eternal treasure.  
Earthly blessings will end, 100% of us die, but His salvation is for ever.
...by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, 
having obtained eternal redemption for us.  
Hebrews 9:12

The devotees of the Black Nazarene challenge me.  Do I exert as much faith, as much energy in trusting the power of God? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

friends we left behind

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.   
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

   Two and a half years ago, when we left our home in the U.S., we also left behind boxes and boxes of books. For some reason, of all the stuff we left, it was the books that were really hard to let go. Their pages told our stories.  They had been with us for years – some of them since our childhoods. Others were high school friends, and others we’d learned to love as adults.  All of these books, the Lewis, the Tolstoy, the Gaskell, the commentaries, the Beatrix Potter, the Elizabeth Elliott and the Bibles represented more memories, more lessons learned, more joy than could be measured. And I wished I could share them with our children.  I ran my fingers across their bindings, each like the face of a loved one.

    “They're just books,” we told ourselves. “Just covers and paper and lots of words.  They’re replaceable.”  And then we’d weed out another layer, emptying another shelf or two. As we flipped through the books preparing to give them away, we’d find tucked inside pieces of our stories.  A receipt for a special dinner, bookmarks made by our children when they were small, a faded ultrasound picture.  Then we offered the books to friends who we knew would treasure them, too.  Friends who would care for them, and learn to love some of them like we had. 

  But, oh, the Brontes. No, I just can't bear to let go of this Dr. Seuss that Mark read to the girls when they were still babies. Oh wait, the Dickens. I think I’ll keep it a little longer.  And no, not that one!  That Peter Pan was a gift from my brother when I was only ten!  It was like saying good bye to so many old friends. 

  Then God in His goodness timed the emergence of the Kindle (Amazon’s e-book) simultaneously with the emptying of our bookshelves. This was one device that even conservative, gadget-free me could get excited about. And because of this amazing little tool, we didn’t have to be parted from so many of the authors we love. 

  Actually, because my favorite reading is the classics, most of my Kindle collection has been free.  For those of us who prefer the dead authors, Kindle books are very economical.  And I’m actually discovering many works by authors I love that I’ve never ever seen before in print.  What a totally unexpected bonus! 

  We do miss our books.  But we also love e-books, and we’re so thankful for the options they give us to keep on reading, even far from a public library system, and without rows of shelving.  They are dust-free, portable, and oh, what a blessing!  Sometimes I like to think that God timed the Kindle just for me...♥

What  books would you never give away?

Friday, January 6, 2012

here we go a'caroling

Each December it's a tradition for Amy, Elise and I to watch one of our favorite movies,
Little Women.
It always makes me cry.  
But my daughters still love me.

One of my favorite scenes is the one 
where Jo and her sisters stroll merrily through the snow, 
bearing food for their poor neighbors 
while singing "Here We Go A-Wassailing".

I never dreamed that I would be similarly serenaded at Christmastime.

But every December, 
from the very first day of the month,
Filipinos celebrate by going from gate to gate, 
caroling and hoping for some pesos or a treat in return.

It sounds like a lovely idea,
but after about the third night of carolers every ten minutes, 
singing the same three songs, 
and repeatedly calling out "Advance Merry Chreestmas!" 
in hopes of some return,
it's easy to feel like it's a rerun of Halloween each night. 

Still, some groups try harder than others.
This group was definitely not Jo March and her sisters,

but they had obviously put some thought into their performance,
and they reminded me of how God has given us special gifts here
that we never would have expected.

Like serenading carolers at our gate.

What surprising gifts has He brought your way?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


So, you thought you knew us pretty well.  

But the names we go by in this community probably aren't the ones by which you know us.

In the Filipino economy, titles of respect are very important.  It was challenging enough for me to get used to the 'Ma'am/Sir' titles when we moved to the American South, titles I didn't grow up with, but the Filipinos take it to a whole 'nother level of respectfulness!  

So, Amy and Elise are aka "Ate" (Ahtay) which is simply a title of respect for females who are older than you.  So neighbor kids, church kids, and ahem...yes you, Michael, should call them "Ate" too.

Michael's alias is "Kuya" (Cooyah) which is a title of respect to boys/men older than you.  So some of his younger friends know him as 'Kuya Michael.'  He also gets called 'Hey, Joe!' by unfamiliar, cheeky kids and teen boys who seem to call all American guys "Joe."  Michael just smiles and waves.

I am known to the street kids as "Tita Barbara," a title meaning 'Auntie.'  I hear it at our gate, as I walk down the street, and sometimes by children I don't even know!

Mark is called "Sir Mark" by the Filipinos he works with.  Seriously.  It's the proper way to show him respect.  I always knew he was my knight in shining armor, and now he's finally properly titled! But I'm afraid we don't use the title at home...yet.

And when Mark and I are out together, we are addressed with a joint name: "Ma'amsir"  or occasionally "Sirma'am" but both spoken as one word as in, "Good afternoon, Ma'amsir!"

And we answer to them all.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches
Proverbs 22:1

Have you been given any unusual names?

Monday, January 2, 2012

a day in our life

Each and every one of our days is different,
but we welcome you to join us for a look at a typical day
in the life of our family!

5:30 am: The sun has risen,
and our cat, perched in her favorite window, is just waking.

6 am:  Amy and Elise check their email.
Elise is wrapped in a shawl, commenting on how cold the morning feels. 
I check the thermometer. 
It reads 80.

Breakfast for Amy is always small - it's her least favorite meal of the day.  
She'd rather be reading.

6:45 am: Mark gets home from his morning run

No morning is complete without my cup of tea!
Yes, hot tea,
even when it's 80 outside.

Tsinelas the cat climbs the door to peek in and remind us to give her breakfast, too.

7 a.m.: Breakfast dishes are done, and studies begin

Michael sees Mark out the gate, on his way to work

I hang a load of laundry, trying to maximize the days' drying time

Studies continue, including Algebra II,

World History...

and trumpet practice.

The morning flies by, and Mark is on his way home for lunch.

After lunch Mark does a book study with Michael,

and everyone has classes at the international school:
here Michael participates in P.E.,

Elise and Amy study Tagalog in their outdoor classroom with Ate Bebe,

and Amy's on her way home from her Instrumental Music class.

Neighborhood kids stop by to draw.
Since their teacher is 'sakit' or sick this afternoon, there are no classes.

Kenneth and Neil are fascinated by Michael's newest earthworks project -
a mini waterfall and river, road system and runway for Matchbox-sized vehicles.

Kenneth asks to take a photo of his favorite scene.

After the neighbor children leave, 
I hop on a jeepney to this nearby mall to buy a few groceries.

I arrive home to find Elise experimenting with reflectors 
for her photography course,

and Michael's up at the school playing with friends,

while Amy is memorizing a verse for her Tagalog class.

I spend an hour or two producing and laminating some bookmarks for a fellow-worker's use, editing newsletters, correcting schoolwork, or whatever else needs to be done that day.

A classmate comes by to work on a homework assignment with Amy.

Then it's time for dinner!  
Elise often comes alongside to help with dinner prep, 
and when Amy's really hungry, she offers to help, too.  

This day Michael was out working 
until nightfall
pouring the concrete for his mini runway.

Dinner's served!

After the jr. members have finished the dinner dishes, we often assemble in the computer room, turn on the air con, and relax together reading, enjoying a bit of dessert (mango crisp in the photo above!), playing games, doing homework or crafts, or watching a movie together, 
and then ending the day with our Family Worship.  
It's a sweet time of the day.

Then off to bed for the jr. members, to read and sink into sleep while Mark and I read, or catch up on correspondence, or on other work or relaxation - like Mark's puzzle above, (which he finished at 10:45 last night)
before slumbers and another new morning...

Thanks for joining us for the day!

This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24