Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The New Year shows up early here in this part of the globe.

With love to all of you
from all of us at the New Year

May we each boldly step into every newborn day of this new year,
celebrating God's power to care for His own.

Excerpted from
Powers of Good
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

With every power for good to stay and guide me,
comforted and inspired beyond all fear,
I'll live these days with You in thought beside me,
and pass, with You, into the coming year.

While all the powers of good aid and attend us,
boldly we'll face the future, come what may.
At even and at morn God will befriend us,
and oh, most surely on each newborn day!
December 1944 - while imprisoned in Berlin

Monday, December 30, 2013

a sad void in the New Year

The call comes at an unusual time of day,
and we know something is not right.

Nothing ever prepares you for the unexpected shock;
'Roger didn't make it.'
A trip to the hospital, a collapsed lung, cardiac arrest.
Words we hope never ever to hear.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
  - C.S. Lewis

As I write, Mark is traveling to be with his mother
in the loss of Roger, her beloved husband, 
the gentle, cheerful grandfather of our children,

Fort Pulaski, 2008
and Mark's kind stepfather of almost 20 years.

Celebrating last New Year - January 1st, 2013
Just last New Year we were all together;
Mark's family joined around the table,
laughing, sharing,
celebrating the turn of another year.

This New Year there is such a sad void,
and something very much amiss
without him.
We love you, Roger, and our hearts miss you already.

“Give sorrow words; 
the grief that does not speak 
knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
  -William Shakespeare

So we give words to our sorrow, and invite you to please pray:
* for Mark's mother in her grief 
* for the rest of the family
* For Mark as he travels (giving thanks that his passport, visa and tickets came together so smoothly)
* for the rest of us in Mark's absence.
thank you, dear friends...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

celebrating what IS

Are you feeling homesick at Christmas?
Christmas is a time when you get homesick
- even when you're home. 
 ~Carol Nelson
I laugh when I read this quote, realizing that it's not just those of us who are far from home
but it's everyone who feels a little of that nostalgia, 
that longing for what used to be -
Christmases of our youth, or of our children's youth.

Precious memories of Christmas 2002
 Perhaps in reality it's a homesickness for what is still to come,
for our eternal home, and for the perfect fulfillment and satisfaction
found only in the presence of Christ.

This Christmas, instead of mourning what no longer is,
let's celebrate what IS this year, this moment,
content with the goodness God has lavished on us with so much love.
Merry Christmas to all of you from us5earthen vessels! 2013

We wish you joy this Christmas,
as you treasure the "good news of great joy for all the people"
declared by angels,
and made manifest in the infant Savior,
the Word of God made flesh.

May this coming new year ahead be,  
for each of us,   
one of celebrating what IS,  
each moment giving thanks to the Father,  
from Whom comes every good and perfect gift.
**edited from the archives

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas cookies

It's time for Christmas cookies!
Our temperature here was a cool 79 degrees this morning...
the perfect time to have our traditional Gingerbread bake.

And with the crew (in strategical planning, above) feeling creative, 
the result this time was everything from a gingerbread raccoon to an android.

But for a go-to Christmas cookie when we need some extra sweetness to share, 
or a snack for a last-minute Christmas event,
these quick Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles are the best!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

3 beaten eggs

1 ½ c sugar

1 c cocoa

2/3 c cooking oil

2 t baking powder

1 t vanilla
1 t peppermint extract

2 c all purpose flour
*Dark Chocolate and Mint morsels...if you are so blessed to have them!  Thank you, A and J, for this amazing treat!!!  

In a mixing bowl combine beaten eggs, sugar, sifted cocoa, oil, baking powder, vanilla and peppermint.  Gradually add flour to chocolate mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined, and add 1/2 pkg of those decadent dark chocolate and mint morsels. (Or consider substituting plain chocolate chips or bits of candy cane)

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or 'til edges are set and tops are cracked. Makes 48.

You can make Chocolate Crinkles anytime of year, substituting the peppermint extract for another teaspoon of vanilla.  They are a moist, brownie-like cookie, all made in one bowl!  Perfect.

Instead of baking up a batch of cookies, we often keep a bowl of cookie dough in our fridge.  That way we don't have to protect baked cookies from ants, mold, (yes, in this climate it grows faster than you can blink) and from the temptation to have 'just one more!'  

We have a container of Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle dough in our refrigerator right now for when we need fresh, hot cookies fast!  

Stop by for a fresh cookie soon! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013


The senior class of the international school - Amy and Elise: 5th and 6th from left
Yesterday was the last day of the school semester,
and it came with reminders again of the uniqueness of life overseas.

Since the Korean College year begins in February,
four of the Korean seniors graduated at first semester in order to enter college in 2014.

graduating seniors receiving their diplomas
The high school staff and students gathered around them to pray,
to entrust them to God's care,
knowing that this may be the very last time they are all together.

When you live overseas, 
and study with people from all over the world,
graduation means a severance of greater proportions, 
knowing that the goodbyes you say may be the last ones ever in person.

The senior class...photo thanks to Mr. T
Though our children are part-time students,
they belong here with these TCKs (third culture kids);
people who have moved away from their home land (first culture),
are living in a foreign country (second culture),
and have created a third culture here together where they all belong.

You know you are a TCK when:
1. "Where are you from?" has more than one correct answer, and you never know which one to use
2. You get nervous when college applications ask for your permanent address
3. You convert any price to two different currencies before making significant purchases
4. You know that McDonalds tastes drastically different from country to country
5. You are the token exotic friend among your national friends
6. You feel odd being in the ethnic majority
7. You have a passport but no driver's license
8. You think VISA is a document stamped on your passport; not a plastic card in your wallet
9. You get homesick reading National Geographic
10. Your circle of friends is as politically, racially and religiously diverse as the United Nations
11. You are really good at calculating time differences
13. You read the foreign news before the national news
12. You think that high school reunions are all but impossible
13. You can't find your family in an American store because everyone looks the same
14. You sort your friends by continent
15. You know that "home" isn't a place, it's the people in it
16. You realize what a small world it is, after all

Friday, December 13, 2013

good news!

 (DISCLAIMER!  This is not about any family news!)

When I have special good news, 
I tell it first to the people most important in my life;
my family and closest friends.

When God has good news,
He chooses to tell it first 
to those who need the good news most.

"And the angel said to them, 
“Fear not, for behold, 
I bring you good news of great joy 
that will be for all the people."
Luke 2:10

In this case He happened to tell the news to shepherds;
men so poor they didn't own their own animals,
but tended those of others for their subsistence.

I've never seen a shepherd in the Philippines...but there are goatherds!
God's good news of great joy is first for the poor,
the needy, those who are in darkness, those who have no resources or hope.

And the shepherds' response?
It was to tell others.

"When they had seen him, they spread the word 
concerning what had been told them about this child..." 
Luke 2:17

I too was in darkness, 
without hope in this world,
but now, having seen what the Lord made known through His Word,
I want my first response to be like those shepherds;
to share this good news of great joy
found in the treasure of His Word!

Monday, December 9, 2013


Amy plays guard; Elise plays forward
It's basketball season...meaning lots of practice hours on the court
and Saturday morning games with schools in the league
(yes, all in 90 degree weather!).

It's a team with a beautiful testimony - girls who serve and encourage one another,
and a coach who makes the whole experience so positive. (Thanks, Coach S!)

Meanwhile, (above, bottom) Michael and Mark enjoy the year-round 
Sunday afternoon Ultimate Frisbee games!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

home for Christmas

"...in the Tropics you have sun strokes varied by thunderbolts. 
But all these you have on a broad and brutal scale, 
and you settle down into contentment or despair. "
~G.K. Chesterton
our thermometer as I opened the box of ornaments

It seems to me a serious incongruity - decorating for Christmas in 90 degree weather, with a grueling heat index of 107.  But without much climate change on this island, the decorating helps us to mark the passage of time, the movement from one season to another.  The cinnamon apple candles and poinsettia flowers somehow adjust our inner clocks, making us realize that it's really not still summertime, despite the perpetual summer weather.

And the Christmas traditions when far from our home country seem almost more important for our emotional well-being than they were in America.  So we turn on the fan and the Christmas music, and put up our little tree and hang the wreaths and sing "Let it Snow!" while drinking ice water to keep hydrated. 

The Nativity set is placed in its spot on the window sill, where the glaring morning sun bathes it in radiance.  And I smile to think that Christ came to this earth for men who live in every latitude, every climate.  The hope of the incarnation is not indelibly linked to our western traditions of snowy lawns glowing in Christmas lights, or cozy fires, or stockings on the mantle. 

So it's time for me to settle down into contentment; to celebrate in our tropical heat the gift Christ gave in leaving His home country to enter ours so that we can someday go Home for Christmas.

Monday, December 2, 2013

fair trade

These beautiful ladies from church, 
and several more who aren't pictured,
Saturday crafting at our home
and enjoying time together since August.
a few of the crafts we've made
Our goal was to host a Christmas Craft Fair where we would raise some money 
for ministries of the Women of the Church.

And then Typhoon Haiyan struck, and the goal changed
to help those in greater need.

Last Saturday morning we opened the gates of our driveway, 
and held the first ever neighborhood craft fair.

We invited other local women to join us - 
women who cook and craft and create 
to supplement their families' incomes.

Above and below: vendors at the fair
It was such a fun morning!
An exciting chance to share talent and hard work with others in the community, 
and to raise funds to bless others who have so little.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people 
but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
2 Cor. 9:12 NIV 

May our thanksgiving to God overflow in all we do!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

gathered to give thanks

Wishing you hearts full of thankfulness this Thanksgiving!

 I'm thankful today for helping hands in the kitchen; for the joy of cooking with my daughters!

For the beauty of cherry pie...isn't it fun?
Thank you, Elise!

 And for water-color painted name tags.
Thank you, Amy!

 Thankful that though we live in another country where Thanksgiving is not a holiday,
and where our kids still had classes at school, Mark still had work, and Amy and Elise still needed a glass of Gatorade after a basketball practice that lasted til 5, yet we can still celebrate.

Thankful that even here, without the usual trimmings,
we feasted on this amazingly special treat of a moist and delicious turkey!
Thanks so very much, C family...and especially to Abigail(above), and to her sister who combined skill to prepare it.  
That turkey was fabulous!
Thankful for the full bounty of the feast; 
just about every dish traditional to our memories of Thanksgiving...
(and even a few new ones, like the root beer float, Yuri!)

And thankful for a very international group of thankful friends to celebrate with us.
Americans, Japanese and Filipinos...
together with hearts of thanks,
unified in the One Who deserves all our thanks!

...gather us from among the nations, 
that we may give thanks to Your holy name 
and glory in Your praise.
Psalm 106:47

Sunday, November 24, 2013

a heart replete with thankfulness

Aren't you glad that America has continued the
tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving?
If it encourages even only some of us to pause and to give thanks,
then it ought to be a keeper!

Because a thankful heart is a healthy heart.
It's one that trusts that God is doing the very best,
and it's one that finds it hard to complain.
photo by Elise
When we take time to consider the incredible grace that God
has poured out on us, in not sparing His own Son,
and in Christ's gift of His own life in payment for ours,
how can we not be FULL of thanks?!?

I know so little of a true heart of thankfulness, but I'm learning.
I long for greater contentment,
and I'm convinced that choosing to be thankful is a good start.
We would worry less if we praised more.
Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.
– Harry Ironside

Here are some of my very favorite quotes on giving thanks
by people who have said it much better than I ever could...

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep. 
-Robert Louis Stevenson

A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful. – Book of Common Prayer

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? - GK Chesterton
Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. -Apostle Paul

O Lord that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness. –William Shakespeare

You say, ‘if I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. 
 If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. 
 – Charles Spurgeon
Happy Thanksgiving week
to each and every one of you...
May we all be known by our thankful hearts!

*edited from the archives