30 March 2012

5 Minute Friday ~ Gift

World Lit, as a senior in high school, was a class I both loved and hated. I thoroughly enjoyed my classmates and the often lively debates resulting from philosophical discussion and the dissection of well-known works of literature, even when I often did not agree with the points of view expressed. Yet I detested the teacher - a person I considered arrogant at best and cruel - wielding words and a red ink pen as weapons - at worst. That particular instructor said some of the meanest things I ever had a teacher say to me...

I did learn a lot, though.

One of our writing assignments was an analysis of three works, in the genres of art, music and literature, that all explored the same theme... I can't remember much about my own particular project - something about bullfighting, I think - but I actually do remember a few details about a friend's project: she read the book Atlas Shrugged; for her musical piece, she chose a popular song back in the 80s... Whitney Houston singing "The Greatest Love of All."

Some loved the song... some of my peers did nothing but poke fun at it. Musically, it was lovely and Whitney Houston had an incredible voice. The first few lines are captivating, even biblical: "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way..." But the song always left me sad, even if I wasn't clearly able to recognize why... I guess I've been thinking about her story a lot these past several weeks as her name as frequently been in the headlines or trending on Yahoo...

I now recognize that self-love isn't antibiblical - God tells me to love my neighbor as myself. Self-love is as natural as breathing. Learning to see myself as God sees me, on the other hand? Appreciating the unique and amazing creation He considers me to be? Recognizing the depth of my own depravity while at the same time accepting the lavish love and value that He has chosen to bestow upon me, for no other reasons than that He loves me and that He is kind, gracious, always good? 

Learning to love myself is not such a great gift! On the other hand, learning to see myself as God sees me - seeing both beauty and beast within, relishing His hand growing and changing me, making me more like Him... and as He works in me, beginning to discover and treasure those same jewels in others all around me...

That is an amazing gift that will never stop giving.

24 March 2012

Nothing like starting off your vacation with a fun and simple good read!

I mean, it is hard to go wrong with a book that starts off like:
"If you went into a school nowadays and said to the children "What is a gump?" you would probably get some very silly answers.

"It's a person without a brain, like a chump," a child might say. Or:

"It's a camel whose hump has got stuck." Or even:

It's a kind of chewing gum."

But once this wasn't so. Once every child in the land coud have told you that a gump was a special mound, a grassy bump on the earth, and that in this bump was a hidden door which opened every so often to reveal a tunnel which led to a completely different world.

They would have known that every country has its own gump and that in Great Britain the gump was in a place called the Hill of the Cross of Kings not far from the river Thames. And the wise children, the ones that read the old stories and listened to the old tales, would have known more than that. They would have known that this particular gump opened for exactly 9 days every nine years, and not one second longer, and that it was no good changing your mind about coming or going because nothing would open the door once the time was up.

But the children forgot -- everyone forgot -- and perhaps you can't blame them, yet the gump is still there. It is under Platform Thirteen of King's Cross Railway Station, and the secret door is behind the wall of the old gentlemen's coakroom with its flappy posters saying "Trains Get You There" and its chipped wooden benches and the dirty ashtrays in which the old gentlemen used to stub out their smelly cigarettes.

No one uses the platform now. They have built newer, smarter platforms with rows of shiny luggage trolleys and slot machines that actually work and television screens which show you how late your train is going to be. But Platform Thirteen is different. The clock has stopped; spiders have spun their webs across the cloakroom door. There's a Left-Luggage Office with a notice saying NOT IN USE, and inside it is an umbrella covered in mold which a lady left on the 5:25 from Doncaster the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The chocolate machines are rusty and lopsided, and if you were foolish enough to put your money in one, it would make a noise like "Harrumph" and swallow it, and you could wait the rest of your life for the chocolate to come out.

Yet when the people tried to pull down that part of the station and redevelop it, something always went wrong. An architect who wanted to build shops there suddenly came out in awful boils and went to live in Spain, and when they tried to relay the tracks for electricity, the surveyor said the ground wasn't suitable and muttered something about subsidence and cracks. It was as though people knew something about Platform Thirteen, but they didn't know what.

But in every city there are those who have not forgotten the old days or the old stories. The ghosts, for example . . . Ernie Hobbs, the railway porter who'd spent al his life working at King's Cross and still liked to haunt round the trains, he knew -- and so did his friend, the ghost of a cleaning lady called Mrs. Partridge who used to scrub out the parcels' office on her hands and knees. The people who plodged about in the sewers under the city and came up occasionally through the manholes beside the station, they knew. . . and so in their own way did the pigeons.

They knew that the gump was still there and they knew where it led: by a long, misty, and mysterious tunnel to a secret cove where a ship waited to take those who wished it to an island so beautiful that it took the breath away..."
For middle schoolers (and bigger-and-older-than-middle-schoolers-ers) who enjoy fun and light-hearted, wildly imaginative fantasy (even includes a sweet lesson), then I'd like to recommend The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. It was a truly delightful initiation into Spring Break, 2012!

23 March 2012

Five Minute Friday - Loud

This morning, the alarm shattered the blissful silence of sleep, seeming even louder and more obnoxious than normal. It didn't take long to figure out why. While we were sleeping, the electicity had been cut... not that that is unusual. However it does usually happen during the hottest times of the day, not first thing in the morning. As we woke the tribe and began to get ready for this last school day before Spring Break... by candlelight, of course, I  found the loudness of silence somewhat amazing... the loudness of so many other noises that most often escape notice in the continual whirring of fans, our teens' music, percolating coffee machine or budgie birds' morning cacophony just outside my bedroom window - noise that always comes with the rising sun.

Instead, the prolonged sigh of sleepy little girl reluctantly leaving her dreamland echoed while the pattering of bare feet on tile floors filtered into my bedroom. The soft pop of the lid off the peanut butter jar, the gente clanking of silverware in the drawer and the sound of brush untangling long blond hair no longer seemed off-stage whispers, but part of a key dialogue in this early morning episode of life in this home.

Bathroom doors jerking open and slamming closed... the sounds of Sasha the cat crunching a recently demised bird under the air cooler on the front porch... sounds normally lost in the loudness of every other morning were unwelcome, and obnoxious intrusions - adding to my list of little things I still need to do: move the pigeon cage to the carport (we think Sasha likes to terrorize the pet pigeons by eating his winged prey nearby) and teach these kids that they don't have to do violence to a door to simply open or close it.

Still snuggling littlest girl on the coolness of my waterbed, listening to the loudness, first of silence and then of normally unremarkable sounds, I thought maybe the Lord was reminding me that sometimes, He speaks most emphatically and loudly... shouting with a whisper... when I rest quietly in silence, undistracted by my grand dreams, busyness or just the everyday challenges of life around me. Then I can hear, appreciating and giving thanks for the gentle, soft sounds of love, care, goodness, provision and the simple, amazing benefit of His continual unchanging Presence. I can also more clearly hear echoing about those truly ugly things in me that desperately need attention, but that most often I no longer recognize, have forgotten or choose ignore, because I don't like them and don't want to admit they or there or because I have lost perspective and can no longer distinguish how obnoxious and/or abrasive those things in me can be.

Just as an unexpected silence can sometimes seem vociferous, God's still small voice whispers a deafening shout. 

19 March 2012

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ "Irikoy ma saabu tonton!"

I learned a new Zarma phrase these past few weeks... and the older ladies, particularly the ones in our literacy class, really like it when I use it... at least I think so: they laugh and holler back "Amin, Amin!" (or "Amen! Amen!")

That phrase is "Irikoy ma saabu tonton!"
..."May God cause your thankfulness to grow!"
(or something like that.)

(Well, at least I'm pretty sure that is what it means. Zarma speaking readers - I know there are at least a few of you - please correct me if I'm wrong!)

I've been thinking about what a blessing it is to live in a world, in a place, where a phrase like that is part of the standard greetings;

where giraffes roam just a bit down the road, the sun beats ferocious and the sand blows wild dusty wild;

where both food and water can be scarce- and if not scarce, certainly difficult to afford;

where malaria or dysentery steals so many children too soon in life and a good education is a luxury...

Yet people, in general,  are so willing to recognize that all comes from God, that His blessings abound even in the midst of hardship and suffering, that there is so much more worthy of smiles and laughter than tears and complaints.

These people who don't know the saving grace and power of Jesus, but who understand, often better than I who can let my day be ruined by a power outage and the lack of fans for a few hours, that (to quote a song), while "life is hard, ...God is good."

I was thinking about that as I gazed through these pictures of the baby giraffe and the contortions it had to "accomplish" simply to graze... but then kicked up his heels to chase after and play with his companion.

And I remembered this oft quoted prayer that still hangs on the wall at my Nana and Pop-pop's house: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the diference."

this week's gratitude list:
(#s 2013 - 2036)

being able to regularly say "Irikoy ma saabu tonton!" and to pray its truth in my life and the lives of those I love each time I do

watching the m&m feed spaghetti noodles to Cadeau, the parrot... and the smile on her face

little man heading off for a slumber party with his friends - he's growing up

no serious injuries in a little-bit-scary accident I had Sunday morning

still cool mornings - especially as the daytime temps are beginning to sore, I'm thankful for this daily reprieve

eating breakfast on the terrace with Tim

listening to him laugh as he reads a book I just finished and loved, a book that takes me back to my growing up years as an Okie and the place I once called home

big girl laughing after swimming in the river with her friends

big boys trying to plan a W African adventure-voyage

middler girls performing girlish choreographies to Selah sung spirituals

hijacked Bible study discussions

resulting change in Bible study direction-- I'd better get really studying this new material myself, then, eh?

re-realizing how madly in love I still am each time I think about this wonderful guy I married

daddy-fried burgers and fries while I was busy finishing my work... everything was DELICIOUS!

looking forward to a long-awaited hair cut

5 days and counting... and VACATION!!

seeing one of my students almost start to enjoy (instead of fear) algebra

saturday morning coffee and conversation - the company really couldn't be beat

unexpected early morning fb chat with a friend from home

dreaming about a possible ministry opportunity

more awesome teachable moments, "grâce à Dr. Quinn!"

laughter over little girl declaring that she potties outside in the garden like the Sasha the cat: "I do because I can!" 

wearing my favorite jeans and realizing I really can't wear them anymore without a belt

tired arms after swimming laps

(giraffe photos by my sister, Julie Shangraw...
unless it was when I was actually borrowing her camera; then I took the photos. :-)

17 March 2012

Letting go...

I love two year olds...

Especially that defiant, just discovering that they have a choice time many call the terrible twos... I think they are a terrifically triumphant time.

Little people suddenly realizing they are independent and have minds of their own - and being brave enough to act on that, even if their actions are often impulsive and wrongly motivated.

And one of the best strategies I learned for coping with the hard days of living with a two year old ('cause honesty demands that I admit -there are some of those... depending on the child, there can be lots of those... and I've shed my fair share of tears over an unruly, defiant, strong-willed toddler - I mean, seriously, is there anything other than a strong-willed toddler, just manifested according to individual personalities?) is the strategy of letting go...

Not worrying about what the other mothers (and fathers) might think...

Parenting for my child's best, not my comfort or my "image..."

Agreeing and admitting that I make lots of mommy mistakes - and then pursuing pardon...

Looking for reasons to laugh at my little person's antics, while teaching him or her to laugh with me at my own silly antics - because there really are a lot...

Applying this strategy to my 16 year old becoming young man... and my nearly 15 year old becoming young woman... seems a good idea, too.

But it is harder.

If you'd told me that back when I just had a 2 year old, I would have nodded my head... but I wouldn't have believed you.

Now, some of their choices and many of their antics have farther reaching consequences - impacting others and determining their futures.

Their exploring and ranging and growing and becoming takes them far out of my reach, out of my sight and into situations and places where I feel I am helpless... where I rebel and have my own heart tantrum that I have to depend on God to care for them instead of myself.

Much of the work in raising them, in teaching them, in training them as they should go - certainly the foundation, at least - has already been laid.

Thankfully, I have the example of other godly mommies and daddies, both steps and kilometers further down the road than I... their examples and their stories give me hope and courage.

I do know the right "church" and "bible" answers... I just don't often like them as they feel like exasperating, perturbing platitudes... and I still have to let my heart flip flop and my stomach leap up into my throat as I (forgive me for borrowing the cliché) let them stretch their wings and fly... or crash to the ground.

These days, I'm still working on letting go and then:

...dusting them off and encouraging them to try again when they fail,
...answering questions, seeking answers and living authentically before and with them,

... applauding their triumphs,
... and trusting them to the Heavenly Father who loves them more than I do.

Yes... I love two year olds.
I'm discovering I really like teens, too!

16 March 2012

5 Minute Friday - Brave


Brash... Resourceful... Audacious... Valient... Enterprising

Bold... Resolute... Adventurous...Valourous... Enduring

Brassy... Reckless... Assertive... Vivid... Expectant

We've been watching episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman over the past few months (a DVD of the entire series was Anna's birthday present back in December). The episode we watched tonight was one of the sadder, harder ones to watch as Dr. Mike makes a difficult decision to intubate, a new and controversial medical procedure, her sister who is sick with diptheria. She recovers from the diptheria only to die a few days later. The cause of her death? Pneumonia... a complication resulting directly from the intubation.

Dr. Mike and her mom struggle over who is to blame for the sister's death - yet at the end of the 2-part episode, as they reconcile over their differences regarding Dr. Mike's choices, her mom says:
"Making decisions is an important part of [any] job. Having the courage to choose a course of action... and to take it. There's a big difference between taking the blame and taking responsibility."
Those words have been playing over and over in my mind today, and are, I think, words divinely ordained for me to hear, on which I need to reflect. A Jesus follower, whether I'm wearing my hat as wife, mom, missionary, teacher, friend - daily I make decisions. I have to choose a course of action, follow through, and then accept responsibility for that decision and its consequences.

Refusing to decide... refusing to act - even that is a choice and, in a sense, an action that will have consequences, by default. This path leaves me feeling like a victim.

It is something we all have to do, like it or not.

It is a part of life that forces each one of us to be brave... sometime...

I pray to be able to see and encourage this bravery each day in the lives of those around me. 

I'm thankful for friends who choose to see and in so doing, help make me brave, too.

(added after the 5 minutes... just because I love it and I think it fits...)
"How could we forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples,
tmyths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses?
Perhaps all the dragons of lives are princesses
only waiting to see us,
once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is,
in its deepest being,
something helpless that wants help from us.
So you must not be frightened…
if a sadness rises before you,
larger than any you have ever known;
if a restiveness,
like light and cloud-shadows,
passes over your hands and over all you do.
You must think that something is happening with you,
that life has not forgotten you,
that it holds you in its hand;
it will not let you fall.”
~Ranier Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)

15 March 2012

A Not Uncommon Theme

I stumbled across a blog post about stressed out missionaries... and based on the list below, it seems to be a not uncommon theme in these lives we lead.

Tim and I were having a late night talk (it was sometime after 1 a.m. - he surprised me because he usually won't stay up that late to talk ...at least not since we stopped just dating and got married! I should be thankful my smart man values sleep!), and one of his comments was that everyday things here don't necessarily make life harder - they just take longer and you never actually know if you'll be able to get them done.

For example, today, I'm making a potato casserole for dinner - cooking the potatoes first in the crock pot and then tonight will combine with other yummies, top with cheese and bake in the oven before we actually eat it. As I leave the house to head out, I'll be hoping the electricity stays on, or when I get home this afternoon, I'll find well-soaked but still uncooked potatoes. Just that little unknown, or need for flexibility, or... whatever you wants to call it, adds (depending on my mood) adventure or frustration to life.

The other day I drove the kiddos to school. Tim wasn't feeling well, so I threw the little peanut M&M into the car with us, dropped the kids off, got back across the bridge without waiting in traffic too long and started back the main road to home, only to have all traffic stop because the president was traveling in town. Again, that is a very normal occurrence as I usually end up sitting and waiting or the police or the army to open up the roads again 3 or 4 times a week, at least - adding another half hour or 45 minutes to the already fairly full schedule. This time was a little different, however. The army guy who stopped traffic our direction must have been new because my landcruiser, the car right behind me, a couple of motorcyclists and a couple of bicyclists ended up caught in between where traffic was stopped and a military escort (about 15 vehicles) that pulled up behind us... to escort the traveling dignitary. The army guy standing in front was obviously nervous... and there we sat there waiting for 20 minutes, with soldier standing about 20 feet in front of us, his finger on the trigger of his automatic weapon and his gun pointed in the general vicinity of the headlights on the landcruiser. The Nigerien businessman with suit and briefcase sitting/standing on the moto next to me was looking mighty uncomfortable... I couldn't blame him. I was busy trying to keep Mary's head down... just in case, ya know?

I didn't realize how tense I was during that small chunk of time - I was more preoccuppied with chatting with and keeping the little impatient one in the car with me happy. Then the soldier who looked so very on edge walked to the side of the road and finally, waved us on. I relaxed. And felt more than a bit jello-y... kind of like I'd just swam a mile after not having been training for several months. And all of that happened before 8 in the morning.

So, back to that blog post... here's the link (take the time to read this... she doesn't mince words). I've read several other fascinating things about this expat life our family leads as I've traipsed around the internet (internet permitting, of course), thinking about this topic - and here are a few of them:
I read all of this... I know what I feel as I live this life every day... and today, I'm overwhelmed by one thought -

God is amazing!

That He'll take me and limit Himself by working through me, that He'll allow me to represent His name and His reputation to this world? Why? Because He is Who He is. And it isn't because He needs me... but because I need Him.

This life is a stressful life and it goes far above and beyond that with which I can cope on my own. That, in and of itself is a daily reality. So that means so much of what I do, I'm realizing, is Him. So very little of it is me... I'm too busy just trying to survive and He works all in, around and through that, most often in spite of me.

And that makes me thankful... and encourages me to keep on trying to follow step by step, moment by moment, as He leads... and maybe drops stress levels, at least a couple dozen points...

...as long as I keep remembering and clinging to that!

13 March 2012

That concrete slide at the zoo - I don't know why... It IS impossible to "slide" down concrete.

They say these photos are lots of fun to click through really fast... I don't know if you get the same effect scrolling down the blog page really fast. Just consider it our own version of stop motion cinematography, I guess? I makes me laugh, though, seeing how he has to scootch himself down the slide... and knowing that he still thinks it great fun!

Thanks to my sis for posting these photos on fb. They were taken while she was out visiting last summer.


Related Posts with Thumbnails