27 September 2007

TRYING out those Squeaky New Birthday Shoes

(After the video of Elsie Mae plays, at least on our browser, a menu pops up that allows you to link directly to other YouTube videos with similar descriptors. We've not yet figured out how to remove that option - if you know how, please inform us - but not having any idea of the content, only watch videos at your own risk!)

The first time wearing new shoes
is always a bit TRYING.

Imagine TRYING to walk,
for the very first time ever,
wearing any kind of shoes...

She actually did pretty well!

So in this video,
we have one of Elsie Mae's
first TRIES

...to walk in her birthday shoes...

...but she is a bit distracted...

'Cause these shoes are "squeaky" shoes!

If you TRY -

you can hear the squeak
with every step she takes!

We celebrated Elsie Mae's first birthday at a favorite family restaurant with friends. We love the brochettes and fries, Elsie Mae loves the fries, and she had a great time playing with this box of tissues. She's a mostly easy to play child - give her a roll of toilet paper or a box of tissues, and she can contentedly entertain herself for quite some time!

She sure is

a cute little squeaker!

25 September 2007

Our Exceeding Great Reward

What do you think of when you think of Abraham in the Bible? Many thoughts come to my mind:
  • He left so much to follow the call of the Lord - his country, friends and family, his religion - and headed off into the unknown, not sure where the Lord was taking him.
  • God made a great promise and covenant with him.
  • Abraham became the father of a great nation.
  • Abraham was justified by faith.
  • Abraham, like God, offered up his son.
  • Abraham is called "Friend of God."
  • Abraham is a central figure not only for Christians, but also for those of Jewish descent and for Moslems.
There is one particular verse in the 13 or so chapters of the Bible that tell his story that contains such a beautiful offer, such an incredible promise...
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."

I think it was a Beth Moore Bible study in our home church where I first noticed this verse, and as I've spent some time lately reflecting on it.

The first thing the Lord says is "Do not be afraid, Abram." God calls Abram by name. To me, it has a lot of significance when someone is speaking to me and chooses to use my given name, even when it is not necessary to understand that the other person is speaking to me. It somehow makes what they are saying more personal and targets it directly at me. It is both humbling and encouraging to recognize that God knows me and calls me by name.

But the Lord doesn't stop with Abram's name. He also tells him "Do not be afraid." Abraham, a man known for his great faith and his unwavering confidence in God, is being reminded by God to "have not fear," as it is written in French. For one to live and experience a great faith, one must first recognize, live and experience a great fear. And that is encouraging. When those moments of terrible fearfulness come into my life, I can trust the One who is shaping and molding me, that He is directing me to a greater faith and trust in Himself. We are told elsewhere in the Bible that "We march by faith and not by sight," so when we forget and start trying to walk by what we see - to figure things out on our own - it is very natural to become fearful, for faith is beyond comprehension. It is then that I need to hear the voice of my Lord, whether He speaks directly to my heart, through the encouraging words of another, or in His Word, reminding me not to fear.

And Abram need not fear. The next phrase is beautiful promise that God makes to Abram. God says, "I am your shield." (in the French, it reads "I am your protector.") When I taught this part of the study to the women at church, we spent some time looking at different verses in the Bible where God promises to be our shield, learning what is meant by a shield. A shield is a defensive tool used by a soldier to protect himself while in battle. It is an object behind which he can hide and he uses his shield to block or interfere with the lashes, blows, arrows and other weapons of the enemy. The Bible uses this image of a shield as a powerful word picture of the protection He offers to His children.
And we too have this same promise. Nothing can touch us, unless it first passes through our shield and protector. The struggle comes when my meaning of safe doesn't match up with God's meaning of safe - as my viewpoint is almost always initially a temporal one while His is always infinite. One of the startling things that I learned studying through the book of Job is that his story is not so much a story of great suffering, but rather the story of how God grew Job so that he had an immense faith and confidence in the Lord.
The final phrase in this verse is one that, upon reflection, takes my breath away. God says to Abram, "I am... your very great reward." God is not only the rewarder, but He, Himself, is the reward. The same God of the universe, who created everything, who gives to each man every breath and every beat of his heart, said to Abram, "I give you Myself as your reward."
Deut. 33.29a: "Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword..."
2 Sam. 22.2,3a: "David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hands of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: 'The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation...' "
Psalm 119.114: "You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word."
Ephesians 6.16: "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
Phil. 4.6,7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It was Abram's response to this last statement that I found surprising and convicting, however: "O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless...?" Essentially, Abram is saying to the Lord, "Lord, what You are offering me is not what I want. I want a child, the son you have promised me. I don't want You; give me a child."

Can you imagine saying something like that to the Lord? As I asked the ladies at church, they were all quick to say, "Oh no! Having God is better than anything else," which is the right response, but I know as I search my heart, I too, am guilty of this very same thing. God has offered me Himself - the only One who can ultimately satisfy the deepest longings of my heart, for He created me to be in relationship with Him. Yet instead of accepting and truly recognizing the enormity of what He has done, I complain and fuss, because although He's already given me the very best, that was not what I had wanted.

What "other" things might people demand? We came up with a list at Bible study:
  • a child or children (just like Abram);
  • a husband;
  • a family;
  • food or drink;
  • riches (money or material possessions);
  • security;
  • physical beauty or attractiveness to others;
  • good health;
  • peaceful and tranquility;
  • good health;
  • times free from pain and suffering (either physical or emotional);
  • good and faithful friends; etc., etc., etc.

This list could most definitely go on, but in closing, I challenged the ladies and myself to spend some time searching our hearts to find if there was some area, where just like Abram, we are saying, "God, I don't want you. I want ____________ instead. Nothing else will satisfy me." Such areas in our lives need to be confessed and forgiveness sought.

Abram had such a promise - God Himself would guard his lives and keep him safe.

An exceeding great reward...

24 September 2007

Braids, Braids, Everywhere!

It has become tradition that I braid the girls' hair for the beginning of the school year - and it is a process that takes 4 or 5 days, but they always enjoy it.

This was the first time I'd "tressed" Victoria's hair. We jokingly called her Medusa, which she loved, and we were able to leave her hair in braids like this for over a week. I don't know if I actually save any time in the long run, but as we are getting used to new school routines, it sure does help to not have to fix their hair EVERY morning.

Anna's hair is the thinnest of all the girls, so her hair doesn't take quite as long. It also doesn't last quite as long either, but I was amazed at just how tiny I could actually get those braids to be.

Nadia still has the shortest hair of the gang, but hers is also the thickest. As I type this entry, today, the 24th, her hair has been in braids since September 5th - and still looks neat. I wonder how much longer it will last?

Rebekah has had her hair tressed more frequently than any of the other girls, but that makes sense, since she's been in the French School the longest and has been bugging me about it the longest! We try some different things with her hair each time, now. While we liked how this looked when we did it, it didn't last quite as long, so I don't know that we will do it again. She wants to have her hair braided at the beauty shop before we travel to the States the end of November - with extensions. We'll have to see about that! We just loved this photo, of the entire munchkin crew (minus Elsie, who was eating at that moment) and the braided heads all over the place. Not hard at all to find Brendan and Jonathan, is it?

22 September 2007

This is what happens -

- when you let Jonathan choose his OWN clothes.

He most definitely has his very own, but otherwise undefinable sense of style!

21 September 2007

Can you find the girls?

Do you remember those kids' magazines with the "Find the hidden pictures" pages?
I always loved them as a child, although I was never patient enough to be really good at them!
Well, there are two girls hidden in the "fairy grass" below. Can you find them?

Tim was preaching out in one of the bush churches last Sunday; Rebekah Joy and Nadia volunteered to go with him and keep him company. They were quite enthralled with this field of tall and wild grass - they had some other adventures on this particular trip, so check out our other site for an update there! :-)

13 September 2007

Déjà Vu...

These two outfits have been two of our favorites - for a quite a long time, now. :-)

We had a blast the other day, trying to get these two to sit still in the garden, keeping their hats on, while I tried to snap a few photos. You ALL know how grandparents are - always asking for photos of the grandkids, so Nadia and I thought we'd take advantage of a beautiful sunshiny day!

Don't you just wonder what Jonathan means by THAT expression?

The above photos reminded me of another "picture day," only this one happened about 9.5 years ago...

See any similarities? Well, once in Niger, we lost the t-shirts... And the one set of pics were most definitely posed in a studio instead of a garden (Olan Mills, most likely)... But it never fails to amaze me, this sibling resemblance; I've noticed it a lot the past few weeks, especially since school started and I'm home alone, with just Jonathan and Elsie Mae these days - -My memories wander back to the days when I was home with just Brendan and Rebekah Joy...

My, how time flies!

12 September 2007

Look Who's ONE Year Old!

It is really hard to believe that a year has passed - time is "a flyin,' " and way too fast for my likin' !!

Thinking back to her arrival day a year ago, there are a few funny memories:
1) On baby #7, you'd think I'd know what labor felt like - but I wasn't really sure she was truly on her way until less than 1.5 hours before she really got here. Just on a hunch, I decided to ride in with Tim when he dropped the kids off for their afternoon session at school (at 3:00) so we could stop by the clinic and see the midwife. As we left the kids at school, I was finally sure I was in labor.
2) We arrived at the clinic and everything was closed except for emergency - afternoon sieste, you know.... I spoke with the dr. on call and he showed us where we could wait until the midwife would arrive - about 30 minutes or so.
3) I calmly informed him I didn't think we'd be waiting for the midwife... and ended up being promptly admitted and taken to the delivery room.
4) Our midwife arrived, told us she was there and then went to call the dr.
5) I told Tim he needed to find the midwife because Elsie Mae had decided to arrive - rapidly.
6) And it was a good thing he got right back to the delivery room, because he was the one who "caught" her.
7) Funniest thing though, they didn't want to give us a break on the delivery and hospital bill even though we were the ones who did all the work.... wonder why?
8) Our first delivery at this clinic, the midwives were a bit hesitant at the idea of Tim in the delivery room - they sure have come a long way in two short years!

People often ask us where her name, Elsie Mae Brianne, comes from. It is easy - one great grandma is Elsie and another one is Mae, hence the Elsie Mae. Brianne was added just because I liked the way it sounded (and knowing me, it has a meaning that I like, but which is escaping me at this present moment).

We are so thankful for our littlest one - she is a happy, cuddly, mischevious and and all around fun kid. She adores her older siblings and is happiest when she is playing on the terrace of the early morning or singing with her sisters. It is always a fascinating and miraculous process as we watch one of our blessings grow, develop and become the person God has made him or her to be.

Of course the rest of the gang is asking when the next one will be coming along. I just like the look on Tim's face when they do!

11 September 2007

Nothing profound or truly significant...

...just some random musings over several things from the past few days -

Carpooling - that is a new experience for us. I mean, I used to be in a carpool when I was a student, but now I'm seeing it from a parent's perspective. I'm so thankful - for many reasons, but in particular - we only have to drive once or twice/day instead of like last year, where sometimes we were running 4-5 times in a day. Another benefit - I think - Tim bought me a cell phone. He says it is so he can keep track of me as I'm running kids all over town. I like one of the games that is programmed into it - and just yesterday, I beat Tim's high score.

It is also fun, interesting and often eye opening to listen to what is going on in the back seats...
I've learned about IPods (I'm still not sure if I love or hate technology), softball strategies, the "good" tv shows - which include 24, Monk, Survivor, Lost... and M.A.S.H. as well as Little House on the Prairie (it is quite the eclectic group), what so and so had in their lunch, who shared what with whom, what constitutes the perfect lunch/snack to take to school, and birthday party themes for the next decade,... I'm still learning the routes to take to avoid the worst potholes so the kids in the back don't get sea sick and thanking the Lord frequently for the blessing of our Land Cruiser.

Tori had my favorite first day of school moment - as I left her at her classroom, she solemnly turned, shook my hand and said, "Bye Mom. Have a good day. See you later." It is easy to forget she's only 4 sometimes. But, reality is also setting in - the fact that she's going to school every day, all morning and a few afternoons a week, too. I was worried about her this morning as she was needing some significant attitude adjusting and struggling with this new reality; but God had already taken care of everything, even before I knew to start praying - one of the older missionary girls is doing a community service project in her classroom, and it is one of the girls that Victoria really likes! So she is all excited about school again and was just beaming as I left her this afternoon.

Hopefully, I'll post some photos of the girls soon - we "tressed" their hair in honor of the beginning of the new school year and they look really cute!

Our freezer is broken, yet again. This is a frustrating annoyance that seems to occur every 3-4 months. Fortunately, the majority of what I had in it was flour and the rest we were able to cram into the little freezer above the fridge. But, we don't know if it is repairable this time or what we will do if it isn't (i.e. buy another one??).

I did find "Millenium Cookies" at the store today, however - that is the occasionally available oreo cookie mimic - something we've not seen for over a year. So I picked up a couple of packages and the kids and Tim promptly devoured them after lunch.

I'm remembering how much I love to be a student myself, as I've started back into "school," taking Zarma language classes. Tim is loving all the extra time at the studio.

Jonathan and I are working on his speech a bit, and I'm also teaching him some signs to help him with his communication frustrations and we are seeing some improvement. He is really missing having his siblings around, but I think he's enjoying the extra time with me and he listens intently for the slam of the gate that announces someone's arrival at home. I'm finding that Tues/Thurs afternoons may be a really nice time to take my two little ones to the pool, ...
but a bit sad as the house is very quiet and lonely since summer vacation is now completely and irrevocably over.

08 September 2007


...and all such things in that same family of machine...

SOME DAYS, I'm not really sure if

I love them...
...or hate them!

05 September 2007

Believe it or Not!

I was recently looking at a friend's blog, and she had posted one of those, "Only in Africa" type pictures. Here's one that we saw late last Spring, in an on-line Nigerien newspaper. They say it was a "for real," undoctored photo - and several Nigerien friends confirmed that they've actually seen this in town.
Photo taken by Mamaki


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