Thursday, August 29, 2013

going like hotcakes

Don't plan on eating breakfast at this IHOP.

Monday, August 26, 2013

by grace alone

As Amy, Elise, Michael and I pull heavy grocery bags from the trunk of the taxi, I hear the drum of footsteps on pavement.  John and Hassan, two young teen Filipino boys, spot us and come running to help.  They grab the rest of the bags and carry them in through our gate to the front door.  They hadn't been hired to help, but I find some cookies to share with them in thanks for their willingness.  When I bring the cookies outside, I find them totally at home in our front yard throwing darts at the dart board in the driveway.

'Salamaat, Tita Barbara!' they say, munching as they play.  Then John asks, 'Buy a coconut?'  And my mind flashes back to a day in March of 2012 when these same two boys lost my trust over a coconut.  They had borrowed my biggest, best knife to cut through the tough shell that day, and after they left I found my knife gone. I never saw it again.

I miss the knife, but the greater issue was that John and Hassan, boys who I'd known for several years, would betray my trust, and steal from me.  I wondered at the time if I'd ever see them or trust them again.

Today I find myself reflecting on how time has healed that wound.  John told me one day that they had broken my knife as they cut the coconut, and from what I understand, they decided that it would be better just to get rid of it.  My communication skills broke down about then, and I wasn't able to ask more questions, or to explain that they should have told me right away.

I still don't know the entire story.  I never will.  But then, how many times do I ever know the full story of a wrong done, even when it's communicated in my own language?  How many times do I interpret motives and actions by the limited information I have, without the grace to realize that there is a whole lot behind the scenes that I don't know about the situation? 

I tell John that I won't buy a coconut today, and he leaves with a smile and a wave.  I know now that John and Hassan didn't act maliciously toward me on the day they took my knife.  I'm pretty sure that it was an accident, and that they may not have had the moral framework to know how to honestly deal with such an incident.

It makes me thankful to God for His amazing grace toward me when I do Him wrong.  I'm grateful that, unlike me, He DOES know the entire story. And His grace covers over a multitude of sins.

What does His grace look like?

It looks like a lender who feels compassion toward the debtor who owes him an enormous sum.
It's not justice. 
It's not unusual patience to wait for the check for damages.  
No, he feels compassion - big enough to extend thoroughly undeserved grace; 
to cancel the debt. (Matthew 18)

That’s me.  The one with the huge debt that’s been cancelled.  And I incur more debt every day as I sin against God.  As I put my desires before Him.  As I neglect to do what I know is right to do. As my wrong attitudes fester deep inside. As I fail to love others as myself.

“God...made us alive with Christ…in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace.”  
 Ephesians 2:4-7
How, in the face of His unprecedented compassion toward me, 
in the shadow of such incomprehensible grace,
 could I refuse to show grace to others? 

Oh, but just like that man of Matthew 18, I find a way…
When I have unrealistic expectations of my dear husband.
When our children once again fail to read my mind.
When I hear about the movie their friend went to see.  How could any good parent allow such a thing?
When a promise is not kept.
When someone upsets my plans.
When the persistent street kid at my gate keeps calling and calling and calling.
When I make a judgement without knowing the whole story.

Only as I receive His grace, distributed from His incomparably rich store, will His grace overflow in my life. Hassan and John's friendliness and willingness to help us with the groceries today is entirely a result of grace. Oh. may my life bear more fruits of grace.

“O to grace how great a debtor 
daily I’m constrained to be; 
let that grace Lord, like a fetter, 
bind my wand’ring heart to Thee..."
 Truly by grace alone...

Friday, August 23, 2013

holy ground

Or maybe more accurately, hole-ly ground.
That's a pretty big hole.
Whatever you call it, just don't fall in.

These photos, all taken within walking-distance of our house,
provide very good reasons for why Mark does NOT go running 
in this town after dark.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. 
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. 
It doesn’t change God- it changes me.
- C.S. Lewis

For the next few weeks, Mark is taking on a job 
that will require lots of time, lots of energy, lots of grace.

As you think of him, please join us in praying for Mark.
We also appreciate your prayers for the rest of us, 
as I'm pretty sure we'll need extra grace, too!

Thank you so very much for praying.
We are convinced that God hears,
and that God answers.

O You who hear prayer, 
To You all men come.
Psalm 65:2

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

down by the seashore

Amy and Elise (far right) with friends
One of the high school privileges at our local
international school is to attend the annual beach retreat.

The human knot (Amy on right)
It's a time of crazy games,
information about the new school year,
cooking up a pot of stone soup,
praising God together,
enjoying the water,
hearing special speakers,
bonding new and old friendships.

What a great way to begin your Senior year!

*Many thanks to all the teachers and other adults who made this trip possible!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

groggy mornings and geckos

Somehow at our house, early groggy mornings
and fat pink geckos seem to go together.

This one startled me out of my sleepy-eyed state
and simultaneously convicted me about leaving dishes in the sink overnight...
even if they are soaking in hot soapy water.

He was not in the best of health,
and really didn't budge much at all when I reached into the sink to start washing the knife.

That's when I drew the line,
and decided to wait for my knight in shining armor (aka Mark)
who valiantly drove the beast from our home.
(Thank you, Sir Mark!!)

Once again, this gecko reminds me to choose to give thanks;
1. thanks that it wasn't a bigger or hairier something
2. thanks that we have an indoor sink with running water for geckos to hang out in
3. thanks that I have a brave and kind husband, willing to rescue me from unpleasantness
4. thanks that this isn't a regular occurrence in our home

What are you giving thanks for today?

Monday, August 12, 2013

smiling at the future

I stand off to the side watching as a cluster of parents take photos of their new little kindergarteners posed with their teacher on the first day of school. I can feel the pride and the hope and the bitter-sweet tug as several of my friends watch their children form a line and walk away to their  kindergarten classroom.

From where I stand I can also see our twin daughters sitting in the opening high school assembly.
Pride, hope and a bitter-sweet tug mingle together in my heart too, as I watch them enter their last year of school, their senior year.

Was it really 11 years ago when our sweet little girls graduated from Kindergarten?

The years pass very quickly. 
But too quickly?
Actually, for our children, sometimes the days have passed too slowly.

As for me, yes, I do miss the little girls they were.
But I love even more the young ladies they are today.

Could I ever be satisfied with how much time I have
to enjoy the goodness of these family relationships at home?
Probably not.
Because we weren't designed to be satisfied with anything about these limitations of time,
 since we are created for eternity.

He has also set eternity in the human heart; 
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
 Ecc. 3:11
 Every age, from 1 to 101, has its challenges and its joys.
Each year holds the potential for new growth and new blessing.
Would I hold them back from that?
Would I hold back time from carrying us forward and onward?

...she smiles at the future.
Proverbs 31:25b
I don't want to be a woman who lives life longing for what was.
Though their childhood was so very good, and I deeply treasure those memories,
I want to be a woman who looks with joy at the future,
thankful for all of God's faithfulness in the past,
hopeful for what He will do in the future,
confident that it will be the very best yet.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Note: Our new school year began on August 5th.  We continue to home school part-time, but are also thankful for the option to participate in classes and athletics part-time at the local International School.  Amy and Elise are seniors this year, and Michael is in 8th grade.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

the one less traveled by

Mark begins many of his days with an early morning run.
In fact, he's often up and out the door by 5:45, 
before I've peeled myself out of bed.

And on his 3-7 mile runs through the streets of the city,
he gets to see a different side of Davao than this non-runner will ever see.
He explores new and different routes all the time.

Mark loves seeing the city come alive in the morning;
the bustling market, the uniformed students walking to school, the maize steaming in huge cans,
chess games outside of bamboo houses, and chickens and dogs all over the place. 

Lately he's taken a camera with him,
holding it by his side to take photos
so that people won't be intimidated by the lens.

The following are a few shots
from a runner's view...

Down a foot-traffic-only road

A cart-load of pomelo in the market

Early morning along the Davao river
(Mark hopes to take the ferry that crosses this river on a run some day)

A neighborhood pick-up game of basketball

Weighing ginger root in the market

A makeshift home - complete with television (!)

A road-side gas station 
(the Coke bottles are the perfect way to measure a liter of gas)

Tin roofs and bamboo walls

A trio of guard dogs

And nearing our home again, a pig truck.
(We hear these trucks pass our house occasionally -
 all the squealing makes them unmistakable!)

Mark loves the interactions along the way,
the startled smiles as Filipinos see a foreign guy running past their homes,
or a "Hey Joe!" and a "Maayong Buntag" (good morning) shouted out.

Are you a runner? Come for a visit!
Mark will take you for a run on a road less traveled by
so you can see for yourself the heart of this city.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
-Robert Frost

Saturday, August 3, 2013

such sweet sorrow

In a community like ours we find ourselves all too frequently saying good-byes to colleagues
who are either going back to the US for a short time, 
or to colleagues who are leaving Davao for good,
moving on to other areas of ministry and work.

This summer I said one of those long-term good-byes to a very dear friend,
Leanne, (center) who befriended me from the first days of our arrival,

who along with her husband invited our family to join their family 
in the village of their ministry back in 2011,

who celebrated holidays with us,

and who worked and prayed with me on several exciting projects.

Leanne will be missed in many spheres - 
including her ministry at a local maternity clinic,

and in her loving, quiet service and encouragement toward so very many of our colleagues.

A send-off for Leanne and her family
You are and will be missed, Leanne.
We trust that God has wonderful things in store for your family,
and that He will bless you as you have blessed others
in His name.

Go in peace! 
I will not say: do not weep; 
for not all tears are an evil.
J.R.R. Tolkien