Sunday, November 30, 2008
Join us in praying for safe travel and Lord willing, an earlier arrival home!
One eager mother awaits....
And while I wait for Matthew, I say good-bye for a little bit to Thomas and Andrew. They both head back to school this afternoon for the last few weeks of their semesters. Oh, it's been so good to have them home. They both have papers, exams and all the usual end of semester work so they'll be hard at it for the next few weeks. BUT THEN....it'll be Christmas break and
....drum roll, please.....
EVERYONE WILL BE HERE. THE WHOLE FAMILY. JONATHAN GETS HERE FIRST AND THEN....ALL OF MY CHILDREN (YES, ERIN AND LUKE THIS YEAR), PLUS!
(do you detect a hint of excitement?)
Yes...one very eager mother awaits....
...and remembers the words of the Psalmist, "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalm 121:8)...
...and prays, "Lord, would you be pleased to watch over the going out and coming in of my dear ones and grant a joyful reunion as we celebrate the most important going out and coming in of all...the birth of Jesus. As I focus on my children coming, may my heart be even more consumed with the coming of your Son."
Friday, November 28, 2008
...a phone call from Matthew in Manila. (hooray for Skype).
He leaves the Philippines tomorrow, has one more stop in Asia and then arrives home on Tuesday. The trip has gone very well so far. He has made videos that have already earned kudos from his viewers. One is a short recruitment film for a mission agency and the other more of a travel/documentary video (I think) from one of the places he visited. We haven't seen either of them yet and can't wait to early next week. We thanked God for this incredible opportunity for him, for all that he has seen and learned, for safe travel and good health (mostly).
...a "Turkey Bowl" at the park.
Joel was the organizer this year and not as many "turkeys" as he had hoped turned out to play, but it was still a lot of fun and there are a lot of sore muscles today.
My first ever turkey was delicious. (Really, I've NEVER cooked a turkey before. I was a vegetarian for years and/or someone else always did the turkey). The green beans were yummy, the blue cheesecakes also a pleasing addition to the Waldorf salad for those of us who like blue cheese, the Korean black rice really flavorful (I thought). John's cheesecake recipe was wonderful and the lemon meringue pie from my lemon tree lemons was in Coty's words, "the best I've ever tasted."
...time for giving thanks.
Coty printed off several pages of Bible verses that included the words "thanks", "give thanks", and other words of expressing gratitude. We each looked over the page we were given and chose a verse or two to read aloud and then express why we chose each verse. The reading prompted good conversation about different things for which we are each thankful. Lots of recollection of people who have meant much in our lives. It was a sweet time.
...games of Quiddler, before and after dinner.
Angie and Kay team up.
...a walk after dinner; music (Gary on piano, Andrew on cello, and me on flute); phone calls with children and other family that are far away; a little football on television; a little dance instruction (from Angie!); a little knitting; lots of dishwashing.
I loved our day. Loved the pace, the meal, the laughter, the conversation, the focus. It was truly a day of celebration and thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
261. the early morning sun slants in and illuminates aloe...
262. and sunflower.
263. and reminders on the window sill. Wooden rooster from West Africa tells of a trip taken by sons, small coil pots the work of boys' hands when younger, dancing mirrors a gift from a neighbor. And beyond all, the woods that change with the seasons, always alive, Your creation.
265. tradition. Old recipes and good food.
I have looked around today and seen so many gifts of grace. Thank you, Lord. Keep my eyes on You, the giver of all good gifts, and fill my heart with songs of grateful praise, this day and forever.
Dry Cured Rosemary Turkey
Wild Rice Dressing (made with black rice from the Korean grocery)
Cheddar Pecan Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potatoes Kittichai (Coty pulled this one from the newspaper)
Savory Blue Cheesecakes with Waldorf Salad
Collard greens cooked the way I always do
My grandmother's All Bran Rolls
and for dessert...
White Chocolate Cheesecake (thanks, John S. for the recipe)
Aunt Maude's Lemon Meringue Pie (an old recipe from Coty's mom, made with my Meyer Lemons)
The turkey's curing, the sweet potatoes are baked, the crust is made for the cheesecake, the lemon pie filling is made. I'll cook some more today and enjoy having extra young men in the kitchen.
My own dear Matthew (16) wrote this poem after an encounter with a beggar on the streets of Manila. He gave me permission to post it here.
The light was red,
The traffic deep,
And he was quick and slow to creep
Up to my window, stare inside,
Watch love and pride as they collide.
The taxi driver locked the doors,
Quick! Windows up!
Let's start the wars
Inside your heart,
Now you decide,
Give? Or just watch?.
Your love and pride.
"Please sir. Please.
I'll sell you these."
His little white flowers swayed in the breeze.
"If you give then many more will come."
The taxi driver, cold and numb.
"I'm lost, I'm little, I'm so alone.
Be kind my sir.
I'm on my own."
What should I do?
What should I do?
Or give up on the few,
Give up on the lost,
Give up on the lonely...
Give up on deserted, the destitute,
Now watch them collide!
Wretched man that I am!
As I run,
As I run,
As I run,
As I hide.
As I look at my heart,
That is laying there, dead.
Because I shook my head...
I shook my head.
I shook my head!
I shook my sick disgusting head!
When I, a rich American,
Would've lost nothing by giving to him,
And he, lost, little, so alone,
Would've gained the world if I'd forgotten my pride.
Would've gained the world if I was humble inside.
Would've gained the world if I wasn't afraid,
Of losing myself,
If I'd given him aid.
If I'd had some compassion,
If I only had grace,
But instead I watched tears as they ran down his face.
I tried not to look into his eyes.
I tried not to listen to his lonely cries.
But they shattered my ears.
They shattered my brain.
They shattered my heart!
I was torn apart!
"You wretch! What have you done!
You monster! What have you become!"
I must make this right!
I must end this bitter internal fight.
I have coins!
I have coins stowed away in my jacket,
I will give them to him!
That will stop all the racket.
And then I will be...
The light turned green.
The car pulled away.
And I lost my chance,
As it fell in the fray.
The smudges he left remain on the window.
I drive through the street.
I feel incomplete.
My love, alone,
That my pride did defeat.
I feel sick inside,
Would you have been able to swallow your pride?
Try to hide!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My amazing, cheerful, all-time greatest grocery helper, Joel, has unloaded bags of groceries and I have put them away, mostly.
The trains are picked up. The laundry basket with diapers is put out of sight for now.
Papers, dishes, crayons, and a big roaster pan are sitting in the kitchen. It's quiet, very quiet. I'm headed in there now to put on some music and clean and cook because...
MY BOYS ARE COMING HOME!!!!!
Andrew and Thomas get in tonight and I cannot wait. Matthew will spend the holiday in the Philippines eating a Thanksgiving dinner with other ex-pats far from home. Oh, we will miss him. But the missing doesn't diminish the joy of having those that can gather together.
I talked with Andrew on the phone yesterday and he said he was sooo ready to be home for a bit. And we're ready, too, sweetheart.
The hours til they arrive will fly, filled with picking up and putting away, washing dishes, cutting, grinding spices, prepping the turkey so that flavors will infuse, making lists and organizing meals for the next few days. I will be in my element. In the kitchen. Good smells wafting. Anticipating welcome home hugs.
I'll share the menu in a bit but for now the kitchen beckons. And my light heart is full of thanks for the work of the next few hours.
Thanks to Karen for letting me share her poetic processing of Saturday's car fire disaster.
For All Thy Mercies
Tonight I am running, running. Lungs freeze, sides are tight. My flashlight bobs an uneven rhythm.
Today people painted, spackled, sanded, cleaned in the ordinary way. My father bought the top coat. Antique Frost or Queen Anne's Lace? I walked fast efficient circles, talking, talking, trying to remember what it was I had to do.
Early morning reading
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles
Karen, it’s 16 degrees here and 19 in
. The diesel in the van hasn’t been winterized; let it run five or ten minutes before you drive it Charlotte
Okay Dad. See you soon
Kids are still sleeping; should I wake them? No, Ed will pick them up later
Perfect, clear, crisp, cold
Turn the key, wait till the squirrly wire light goes off before starting it, like Dad says
Two tries and a lot of cranking. Neutral, release the clutch
Stalls out. Huh. Musta been in first. Try again, oh good. 8:12
Get the carseats out so Ed can get the kids
Pizzas from the garage fridge. Target 3 for $10
Cold. Shed my purple coat, get Jacob’s big parka
8:18. Gotta go. Dad and the others will be at the house soon
Put the pizzas in the side door. That’s weird. Smells like I drove with the emergency brake on
Take out the key. Heater stops, radio “Goodbye”
Strange sound, what is it?
The engine is running
Dad cell. Try stalling it
Okay. Stall it out. Indicator lights are still on; temp, oil, squirrly wire and check engine light
It starts fine, but you have to stall it to stop. And the dash lights won't go off
His mechanic's mind is grasping, calculating, problem-solving
No idea what’s wrong with it. You can’t drive it
Can I drive your van Beth? They are going to be at the house soon
Purse and the pizzas out, back to the kitchen for the keys
Cirrus smoke wisps from the rear vents
Dad cell. Disconnect the battery
Coty, can you help me? Voice punctures upstairs, tight and demanding. We need a ten millimeter wrench
The battery compartment is behind the passenger seat
I know Dad. Jumped this thing enough times
Gasp, grunt, pant. Seat won't budge. Handle pops off
Hop in, hamstrings do the job
Wrench taps the battery, the van cranks, jumps forward
Why is that sparking? His voice thinks it is an academic question
Side door screeches
The battery is disconnected. His voice considers the question put to rest
The scuzzy haze is disruptive, dissonant, disturbing
We’ve got to move the other cars out of the driveway. Quietly, light brows drawn together like he’s making a sermon point
Okay Coty. I’ll move your van
The vent smoke is pushy, urgent, rubbery. It bulges out in grungy fat roils like caulk. Not the caulk at the house, finger jobs all over. Perfect filthy caulk curls, wasting in a steep slant up the white winter sky
And tell Beth to call the fire department. Mild, calm, controlled
Call the fire department. I am shouting
That hiss and snap is from the engine
My van key doesn’t fit their ignition
My purse, my pocket, no keys. The kitchen again
Can’t find the keys. I am shouting
Dad cell. There's burning liquid dripping from the engine, Dad
Get a fire extinguisher, spray up under the rear of the van
Another set. Back Beth’s van into the street
Dull, dusty, insignificant. Pull the pin. Smoke seeps furiously around the rear door; bend down and aim but can’t get too close. An irrelevant poof. Part of the bumper momentarily free of flames
Sparse winter leaves twist and curl, shrinking uncomfortably in the sudden scorching updraft
Dad cell. Get a hose
Okay Dad. Beth, where’s a hose? Out by the corner of the house
The van is toast, Dad
There are flames pouring from the back of the van
Flames, oh. His voice rises in pitch, not volume. Eyes squint, head bends, brows up and then down
A hose, where’s a hose?
The fire department is almost here. You can hear the sirens now. His eyes are kind, quizzical
Okay, Coty. He's coatless on the grass
All men are like grass
A police car. Everyone is out of the house, right?
Not yet. Charge up the stairs. Everyone has to get out of the house. I am shouting
Grab blankets, coats, Ezra
Mommy, why are the fire trucks here?
Slosh down the leafy hill
You can wear Papa’s shirt to sleep while he’s gone, okay? The stretched-out neck of Jacob’s worn white undershirt slants over Ezra’s shoulder
He flaps the extra length of my sweatshirt on his arms and looks down at his toes
Isabelle wears Papa’s shirts too. My purple coat is like a dress. Her face is pale, puffy, sleepy
Beth opens Levi's blanket. Naked and poopy. We were in the middle of a diaper change when we had to get out
He cries up at me, his head pale orange on the wood of the neighbor's deck. Ducky's black button eyes stare up from beside him, unsquinting in the dry winter light
An explosion. Just a small one. A tire
Okay, the fire is out. You can come up to the house now. Casual, matter-of-fact
Pick them up, slosh up the hill
Kneel at the window. For your mercies, God
Dad cell. The fire is out now
Where moth and rust destroy
Through the stop sign, left on
. You'll see the trucks Wellington
Oh, you're here now
They wander regretfully past the fire engines to the charred sodden carnage
Purse in the driveway, pizza bag’s full of leaves
, right, the driveway. My heart-rate slows. Wellington
The gravel of glass and charcoal winks in the weak eye of my flashlight.
Screech of the side door.
Bubbled, peeled, flayed, singed, scorched, scarred, gutted.
A yellow Lego. Aunt Lil’s musical Thomas book. Aunt Debbie’s color shape board. Magnetic ballerinas, Jacob’s Goodwill find. The emergency diaper pack.
Dad’s temp gauge gadget hangs ashy on the dash.
Fifteen years faithful, how many thousand hours of care, research, consideration, deliberation, preparation?
My brothers and I hold each other and weep out our childhood, teenagers new to the strangeness of
We switchback up the Sierra Nevadas, a dozen cars sit steaming at the roadside.
My father. You know I put a Passat turbo diesel in it. Mm-hmm. Oh, about thirty-five miles to the gallon.
Hmmm, I thought I’d work on the van a bit tonight. Got a few things I'd like to look at.
We talk, laugh, listen, sing, pray, discuss, argue, share, sleep, plan.
An expression of my father's genius, a mechanic's art, blasted.
The kitchen is brilliant. Beth swings around, smiling.
The Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire.
Hi Mommy, this is a wand. You can measure things with it.
I was given a reed like a measuring rod.
Brown rice, okra, tomatoes, tilapia, applesauce.Bedtime guys, bring me your teeth.
Mommy, can I play a game for a minute?How 'bout this, Ez, the house is on fire, you drive the fire truck.
Why did Opa's van burn up, Mommy? I think Opa could fix it easily.
Sometimes there are things that even Opa can't fix, Isabelle.
I have an idea. We could get some new glass and then put it in.
Honey, sometimes things are so ruined, so wrecked that you can't fix them.
Time for bed sweetheart, you slept in late this morning.
When all thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view, I'm lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Just chicken noodle soup with lots of rosemary and fresh bay, oregano and parsley bubbling away on the stove. Such a fragrance. Calming, lovely.
Children out for a walk with Joel, the best surrogate big brother around here. (Well, all my guys qualify for that, but Joel's the only one here right now!)
Coty reading the paper.
Karen writing up her account of yesterday's excitement.
Cat sitting in the sun by the lemon tree. (You know it's peaceful if kitty is happy in that chair. He usually finds a quiet spot to escape when there are active, noisy little ones around).
And I'm getting ready to look up my recipe for homemade noodles to add to the soup when we get back from church this evening. (Note to any of our regular Sunday evening after church soup crew, there's plenty. Come on over!)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Karen came in and said her car was acting funny and could she drive our van. Yes, of course.
Then she went out to leave in our van and saw smoke coming out from under her van....
and then flames....
and then, it got crazy.
We called the Fire Department. Karen and Coty moved the other cars. We got the kids out of the house. Poor little guys - they were just waking up - to cries of "out of the house....NOW!"
We feared that the engine could explode.
Smoke was billowing everywhere.
We sat on the neighbor's porch (they were out of town) with the kids wrapped in blankets.
We heard a small explosion - probably a tire blowing.
Praise God, the firemen got here in time and put the fire out with no one getting hurt, and no damage to the other cars or the house.
Here's the aftermath...
Praise God for his abundant mercy:
the van did not explode
the firemen got here quickly
everyone was safe
this didn't happen yesterday when I drove the van home with the kids inside
Isabelle is sad about the damaged books that were in the van but books can be easily replaced. We are so, so thankful...a little shaky after a major adrenaline rush...but oh, so thankful.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Oh boy, I miss him. It will be strange not having him here for Thanksgiving. The Turkey Bowl won't be the same without him.
...gracing my table. I love this little teapot. Andrew brought it back from his Tibetan trek two summers ago. Such a warm, golden glow in the late afternoon sun. It's filled with rosemary spikes, the last of the purple basil from the garden, deep red mums and the last of the bright yellow maple leaves from up the street.
So, today I made friends with the shop vac. What a wonderful machine! I wish I'd taken my camera to give you some before and after pictures. I picked up the biggest pieces of rubbish with my gloved hands and that amazing shop vac did the rest. Woohoo! A couple of rooms went from looking like construction zones to resembling livable bedrooms. What a transformation. There is still patching and painting to do on the ceilings, but hopefully some bedrooms and bathrooms will get painted this weekend.
The kids were amazing today. They played well together, helped dust baseboards, ran up and downstairs to fetch and deliver tools. Levi (6 months) and Ezra (2) took naps in the newly cleaned rooms. Isabelle enjoyed quiet time with books in the living room where the ceiling was being scraped. They lunched on pretzels and peanuts.
I left before the height of rush hour to bring kids home for baths and dinner. It's Friday so it was pizza night. Ezra and Isabelle are getting to be pro's and helping me make pizza. We've done it together each of the last three Fridays. In the midst of all this transition for them, a little routine is surely a good thing.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Karen and the kids are staying with us while Jacob is away. It's been a fun time with little people. Joel is being a "big brother" for the first time in his life. He's a good one. He cheerfully holds the baby while I change a two year old's diaper. He rakes up leaf piles for the kids, he reads books, builds train tracks, and more.
Pictures will surely tell the story better, so here are a few from the last week.
one day and the next it was a carpet of russet again.
We've set up Erin's little old desk in the front room and
Isabelle happily works in her own special place now.
"Helping" Coty clean leaves off the pool cover
Levi moved on from bananas to orange veggies. He tried pumpkin (top picture)
and sweet potatos (bottom picture). Pretty easy to tell which one he liked better.
Speaking of the two Asian countries he's been in so far, Matthew said the first was sort of like England, only poorer, and the second was sort of like Cameroon, only richer. Interesting comparisons with his previous international experiences.
The bulk of the filming is now done. Matthew got around 8 hours of taping done and is now on to the editing process. He'll have some time while in the Philippines to get caught up on some school work (I hope) and begin work on the editing.
Thanks for your continued prayers.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Anyway, later he and Jacob went to a local mall in the city and people came up to him and said, "Hey, aren't you the one that was playing soccer?" I guess it's pretty easy to pick him out in a crowd in a city where practically everyone has dark hair. I think his barefoot soccer and blond hair may be bringing him a little celebrity status. I can't wait to sit down with him in early December and hear all these stories in person. I hope he's keeping a good journal!
Thanks for your continued prayers.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Thanks for your continued prayers.
Friday, November 07, 2008
After this trip, Matthew will definitely be what the sign says. Sorry, the photo's a litte fuzzy of him. It was one of those moments when your loved one is halfway down the security line and you want to run and give him one more hug, but knowing the security personnel will not look kindly on that, you call his name and flip the camera up for one more hurried, fuzzy shot. And then you wave good-bye one last time. Or so you think...
Ten minutes before the guys were due to board yesterday, their flight was cancelled. They spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get re-routed, only to be told it wasn't possible and they'd have to come back the next day - which is today. So, they were picked up at the airport last evening and came home for one more night of rest before a whirlwind day today. After a good breakfast and a few more hugs, they flew out of here this morning at 9:55 to one US city for a few hours, another US city for a few more hours, a European city for a few hours, and eventually on to South East Asia. The original booking was not nearly so complicated but the cancellation yesterday threw monkey wrenches all over the place. They are going to be two tired but expert travellers when they finally reach their destination, sometime tomorrow - or is it Sunday??? I'm totally confused now.
We are so grateful for your continued prayers for our traveler. We'll keep you posted....
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
This week we send another son off across the ocean on a mission to capture in moving pictures the stories of places and people in need. Matthew is traveling with a dear friend, J, to three Asian countries for three and a half weeks.
Our friend, J, who works in one of the cities, is now on home assignment in the US. He has a painful foot condition so on this long trip, he needs a companion and assistant to help with luggage and other physical tasks. Matthew goes as a helper.
Matthew also goes as a videographer. Several years ago, he got interested in making movies. He's had lots of fun making funny videos with friends and even won a computer last year for a video he made for a World Book encyclopedia competition.
This summer he had the opportunity to help with a film shoot and sit in on editing sessions with a producer friend of ours. Then this fall, another senior producer took an interest in Matthew and began mentoring him, helping him especially to learn how to tell personal stories in film, hone his interviewing skills, and learn more of the technical aspects of filmmaking.
So, tomorrow Matthew takes off to the other side of the world with his video camera, tripod, and editing software on the Macbook to work with J to tell stories of a needy place and it's people so that others might be encouraged to care and go.
It is not an easy thing to send a 16 year old off on a three and a half week journey to three Asian countries. I have thought of things that could go wrong. I have sent sons off before (to England, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt) and I will do it again, Lord willing. It is never easy, but it is always a great joy as a mom to see your children willing to step out in faith and do something out of the ordinary. If you would like to join us in praying for this trip, we'd appreciate your prayers for:
no equipment failures
good health for Matthew and J and especially continued improvement for J's feet
good filming conditions
creativity in setting up shots
peace of mind for Matthew who feels the weight of expectations to produce excellent videos
eyes wide open to God's sovereignty and providence as they travel
Thank you for your prayers. I'll share updates as I have them in the weeks ahead.
I have lived in places where this is not so. I lived through a coup attempt in Kenya at a time when military opponents of the government in control tried to take over by force. I remember the sound of gunshots on that Sunday morning. I remember trucks with armed men patrolling the streets, a dawn to dusk curfew, and fear. I stood on the roof of a building in a Nairobi slum a week later watching as people suspected of opposing the government were rounded up at gunpoint. I am extremely thankful to live in a country where power is transferred peacefully.
256....thankful that I live in a country where the poison of racism and bigotry are growing less and less powerful generation by generation. The poison is still present in many hearts, but how many older African Americans have said they thought they would never live to see this day. We can rejoice that this barrier has come down - that an African American will step into the highest office in the land - and we can work for greater racial harmony in our neighborhoods, communities and churches.
257....thankful that I live in a country where people are willing to stand in line for hours to vote. I am thankful that each of my voting age children made whatever effort was necessary to cast their ballots. I pray that they will vote in every election of their adult lives and let their voices be heard. It is a privilege that we must not take lightly.
258....thankful that, at long last, the venom and ugliness of campaigning have been replaced by gracious words. Wouldn't it be something if the kind of words we heard last night continued to be spoken by and about our leaders. How refreshing it would be if this election ushered in a new day of respect and honest words.
259...thankful for the thoughtful words of many, particularly those who shared the quandary they felt they were in as they considered the candidates in this presidential election. Their words encouraged and informed. I appreciate the freedom we have in this country to express differing views, knowing that this freedom is protected under our constitution.
I woke up this morning, thankful, but burdened. I share with many a deep concern over what will happen in the months and years ahead in the fight to protect unborn children from the horror of abortion. That is the issue that burdens my heart as Mr. Obama steps into the presidency.
I know there are many other issues of great importance. Our economy is in a mess (though we are still some of the wealthiest people in the world and I expect most of us in this country had food to eat this morning). We are in two wars and families long for their soldier loved ones to return home. We have lost standing in the world as a country. My son, Jonathan, has written persuasively about his concerns about international affairs. Yes, there are many issues and I want to be a responsible and caring citizen. I hope, with so many, for better days ahead.
For today, I am thankful. Thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, thankful for the benefits of such freedom, thankful for an election concluded, thankful for this country.