Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Road Trip!

Okay, so our upcoming travel isn't really in the same league with the American idea of road tripping--packing up the car, stopping as you like, eating at Cracker Barrel, etc, but we're still excited about it!

Tomorrow morning, early (very early, like 6:15) we will leave our house and take a fast train to the capital city. We plan to spend the next several days with our other American partners, having time to talk, pray, plan and fellowship together. The idea is to "retreat" from our day to day work here for a bit and have some time away to be refreshed and renewed. Of course, it helps that there are Starbucks and Subway nearby! John did a great job planning family times, together times, and even a men's evening out and a women's evening out. We'll all be staying in one big furnished apartment, so it will be a weekend of togetherness! We're looking forward to it!

From there, John and I will go directly to another city nearby where we are hoping that our baby can be born next April. There is an international hospital there but it's totally unknown to us, so we wanted to go and look at the facility, meet with a doctor, and generally scope out the situation. [I.e. ask pertinent questions like, "will my husband be allowed to be with me in the room while the baby is being born?" and "What is your idea of natural birth?"] We also will need to look for housing in the area. So after a few days in that city, we will finally arrive home next Friday.

All this to say, I do not know what our internet access will be as we are gone. I may not be able to blog for awhile. Wow, and when we get home it will already be December 7th! Christmas (and Clara Anne's third birthday!) is just around the corner!

Until then, happy trails . . .

A Joyful Wedding Celebration

Last Saturday John and I had the privilege of attending our first Asianese Christian wedding. We've been to numerous weddings in the past, complete with tons of fireworks and cracklers (traditional to drive the evil spirits away), heavy drinking and smoking, and an ostentatiously huge meal. Happily, this wedding was totally different.

It was especially joyful for us because the groom was a young man that we had introduced to our Father almost four years ago, when we first arrived here. He has been a faithful follower, and a passionate share-er of the good news, including leading his bride to the Father more than a year ago. We were excited to learn that the two of them were getting married! They seem to have similar hearts for the Father's work, and that is really exciting.

The wedding ceremony was held at a church building in town. Actually, this was the third ceremony. In this country, a couple is considered married as soon as they obtain the appropriate paperwork from the government; the ceremony(ies) then follow whenever it's convenient. This young couple had already had celebrations in each of their hometowns (several hours away from our city), so this third one was the final one, here in the city where they will now live and work.

We arrived about 10 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start. Other guests had also arrived and the bride and groom were mingling with them out in the street. We tentatively made our way inside, only to find that we were the first ones in! The building had no indoor heating of any sort, so the doors were thrown open and the cool breezes (it was probably about 40 degrees that day) were flowing in. We sat down and began to talk with other guests, just passing the time. About 40 minutes later, things finally began. There was a pastor, a choir, and then the bride and groom entered. It was a very nice service (what I could understand) filled with lots of Scripture and singing.

After the wedding we all boarded buses that took us to a restaurant for the reception. John had been asked to give a blessing, but as we arrived he could see that it might not work out--all of the tables for the wedding guests were spread out over many private rooms. We took our places and enjoyed talking with our tablemates who were also all friends of the groom.

Late in the meal, the bride and groom came around, as is customary, to drink a toast with us. I raised my glass of Sprite high as we wished them many years of happiness together. But after we were finished toasting, and the bride was called away for some reason, our friend stayed and began to talk with us about the good news. He was first just expressing his gratitude to the Father, and as he began to talk he became quite emotional. Some of his friends, feeling awkward for him, sort of smiled and laughed, proposing another toast, but as he struggled to regain control of his emotions he said, "No, no, I'm not done speaking yet!" He went on to testify to the power of the good news, how much his life has changed, and then began to name people around the table, saying how much he desires for them to know the Father. He was literally pleading with them with tears as he expressed his heart's desire. What an amazing witness!

We finished by taking some pictures with the bride and groom. Here's a glimpse of the day!

Clara Anne was glad she'd worn her cozy hat, sweater, and gloves along with her winter coat, since we were essentially out in the cold for about 2 hours.

Chloe, on the other hand, was just glad for her pacifier. :)During the ceremony--here the bride was in her white, fur-lined dress.At the reception--the bride changed to the traditional red dress.

All of us together. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Thankfulness . . .

Well, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone and a few thoughts have been rattling around in my brain that I wanted to share with you all. After a busy week of preparing for Thanksgiving, a wonderful day shared with friends, and definitely full tummies, I left our celebration in a reflective mood. There's always some let-down after a big event, especially when the event has taken lots of energy and hard work. But, when all the food had been prepared, eaten, and cleaned up, I suppose I was just pondering again what I'm thankful for, and how I desire to have more of a spirit of thankfulness on a daily basis. I was also contemplating how I can encourage attitudes of thanksgiving in my children.

One thought that encouraged me came from my friend Gretchen. She wrote on her blog how recently she had heard a message that talked about the sin--yes, sin--of grumbling, and how we should dare not grumble after all that God has done. Truthfully, this relates so well to my own life. When I take extra effort to plan a special activity, or snack, or spend time with my girls playing with a special toy, and then at the end of the activity time they grumble and complain, wanting more, it's like a slap in the face. Instead of being thankful for the fun things we did together, they are (sometimes) whiny and discontent. That response doesn't make me want to jump right up and plan the next special time! But how many times am I like that with the Lord? Grumbling is the opposite of thanksgiving. A thankful heart looks for God's blessings in every situation. A grumbling, complaining heart can only see what was not given. ". . . And be content with what you have . . . " Contentment and thankfulness are intertwined. Oh, may I have a more thankful, more content heart!

Another thought that encouraged me came from John Piper. Reading on his website recently, I found an excellent article that addressed the idea of gratitude--thanksgiving--being directly tied to the grace that has been given. We are more and more grateful when we realize that what we've been given is ours through grace alone. He also points out that true gratitude is an action, directed at the giver. It has an object. It's not just "I'm thankful for" but "I'm thankful to God for" or "I'm thankful to my husband for" etc. When we feel we have deserved something (i.e. a paycheck after two weeks of hard work) we may feel generally thankful for a job that provides for us, but we have a different sense of gratitude when something is a gracious gift. This idea also encouraged me to keep an eye out for the grace that has been given me, so that I may have a heart full of gratitude to express towards the Lord and others.

So with that said, I am particularly grateful this year for an overwhelming sense of surety that we are where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing. It feels wonderful to be a part of Father's plan for this place, and I am thankful that I feel a renewed confidence in our call here. I'm also thankful for my job as a wife and mother. It is continually challenging, but also provides so many times of joy and contentment as well. Yesterday the girls both had long naps, and when they woke up, Chloe just wanted to snuggle on my lap, for a full five minutes! It's moments like that which encourage me and help me be thankful for the job of motherhood. And now as we prepare to welcome a third child to our family, I'm reminded again and again how vitally important it is to be a godly mother. I'm grateful for my sweet children and for the opportunity to learn and grow myself as I mother them.

No Thanksgiving Day post would be complete without a few pictures, so here's a glimpse of our celebration.
Here's Clara Anne doing her part to add her handprint to a Thanksgiving Turkey decoration using fingerpaint. Remember my friend Rachel, craft-woman extraordinaire? She organized not only this decoration but made Pilgrim hats for the men, bonnets for the women, and then my friend Amy made Indian headdresses for the kids. It was fun times, let me tell you. My little Indian on Thanksgiving Day. "Like my hat, Mommy?" A few of the kids (we had 7 total between our three families, not counting the one as yet unborn!) gathered round for storytime with a Pilgrim father.Little Indians raiding the appetizer table--deviled eggs, veggies with ranch dip, and apples with caramel dip. Yum!Happy Thanksgiving, 2007.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving just hours away here in Asia, (you in America have slightly longer to wait), I am very happy to report that all of my Thanksgiving preparations are complete. We will be getting together with other American friends and divided the duties. This year I was responsible for the turkey, dressing, gravy, and two pies--pumpkin and pecan. It's so fun to gather with other Americans (it is an American holiday, after all), plus we all break out our stash of imported ingredients in order to put on this feast. It's interesting too, since everything has to be made from scratch, the preparations take more time but I think the food turns out more delicious!

Lou, my helper, pretty much did dishes all day as I worked on one item after another. I roasted the turkey this morning, then took it off the bone and used the bones to make stock, then used the stock to put into the stuffing and gravy. I hope it will all be tasty! New this year--I tried a recipe for Hot Brandy Sauce (never fear, it is cooked so the alcohol all dissapates!) which is to serve with the pumpkin pie. I snuck a lick of it and it was wonderful!

My friend Amy and her family are hosting the gathering, so we will all invade her house tomorrow. She's making the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, and a chocolate mousse pie, and my friend Rachel is bringing her famous cheesecake ball, an appetizer plate, deviled eggs, the dinner rolls, and the cranberry sauce. Rachel is also our craft-and-fun-kids-stuff organizer extraordinaire, she got together several really fun ideas to make Thanksgiving memorable and meaningful for the kids.

Well, there's lots to be thankful for, every day, not just Thanksgiving day. But for now, I'm just thankful that I'm done getting ready, largely due to the fact that Lou helped me all day and my girls happily played together without much mommy time. I'll be sure to post some pictures from our celebration tomorrow, as well as some thoughts on what I'm thankful for this year, in a day or two.

Now the only question is, what will we eat for supper tonight?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hospital Encounters, part 2

Last Thursday I went to our local hospital again for a check-up. I was slightly concerned about the fact that I had recently lost some more weight (of course the stomach flu didn't help that at all) and just wanted to check on how the baby was doing. An American doctor I had been consulting with also wanted to find out how I was measuring, and so I put the girls down for their naps that day, leaving Lou (my helper) in charge, and then headed to the hospital.

There was a slightly longer line, so I ended up waiting quite awhile, but in the end everything checked out fine. The doctor also thought I looked small so ordered another ultrasound, but thankfully everything looked good to the ultrasound technician. What a happy thing to hear that strong heartbeat and see all those limbs moving!

Everything was fairly routine until I was about to leave. I was finishing up talking with the doctor, and a woman came out of a nearby room, crying quite loudly. She had her winter coat balled up in her hands and had buried her face in it, crying all the while. She was totally alone. My heart went out to her, though at first I was not sure what to do. I started to walk toward the exit, and then I remembered my extreme regret the last time after I didn't say anything to the girl about to have an abortion. My spine stiffened in resolve and I turned around, only to find that the woman had retreated into the bathroom. I paused for a moment, just waiting, and soon she came out of the bathroom and headed toward the exit herself. I then took my opportunity to fall into step beside her.

She was still crying at this point, and so I just very quietly said, "Excuse me, you seem very unhappy. Is there something I can do to help you?" She immediately began to pour out the whole story. She had just had an abortion--but she didn't want it. The doctor told her that her baby was sick, and had a problem, so she should abort it, and her family agreed, but she didn't care--she wanted the baby. "I'm already 38, now I can never have another baby. Oh, my baby, my baby is gone," she said as she wept bitter tears. I empathized with her as we were walking, and she responded with the typical Asianese "It's nothing."

We continued down toward the street and the turning point came when I shared with her my belief. I told her that I knew God could help her, that God loved her, and to my surprise, she responded with vehemence. "No, God cannot help me. He can never love me, not now. He can't love me, I just killed my child." I told her again, "He does love you! Look, here I have something that can tell you about his love. Will you please take it?" She took it and seemed to calm just a little. As we parted, she went to catch a bus and I pleaded with her again to read the item I gave her, to be comforted, that God loved her, and we said a hurried goodbye.

I got in a taxi and came home, processing the event. It all happened so fast and I wished I had had more time with her, or at least gotten her phone number or name or something. Since then, she has really been on my heart. Will you ask our Father with me that though last Thursday was a terrible day in her life, that it could be the start of a great work in her heart? My hope is that someday, she might look back and say, with Joseph, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."

I was quite surprised at how willing this woman was to open up and share with me, a complete stranger, about an obviously very personal crisis in her life. Could it be that more people are willing to share more often than I think, if only they were asked? This incident really gave me a renewed resolve to engage others in heart conversation as much as possible. May we all not pass up any opportunity to touch another heart for the Father as we go through our daily lives!

A Refreshing Drink Recipe

Last week, after my bout with the stomach flu, the only thing that sounded good to me was to drink some Orange Julius. Something about the milk and orange mixure, cold and frothy . . . mmmm. When I'm not recovering from the flu, I love to make this refreshing drink to make breakfast extra-special, and it's easy to whip up! The mixture also makes wonderful popsicles.

Orange Julius
2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
about 10 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until frothy and ice is thoroughly crushed. The ingredients are flexible--use more orange juice for a more distinct orange flavor, a bit more sugar if you like it sweeter, etc. Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

So I spent the whole weekend . . .

In my pajamas. Yes, that's right, little did I know when I got ready for bed on Friday night that I would not get out of my jammies until this morning. I hadn't been feeling well on Friday, but just thought it was a bit of pregnancy symptoms gone haywire--after lunch I suddenly felt like I must lie down and rest, and even after resting I didn't feel well, which I attributed to the fact that there had hardly been any protein, just vegetables, in our lunch. So I ate my customary two eggs and expected to feel better, but alas! Friday night John and I (re)watched a movie and took things easy, but when Saturday morning came I couldn't get out of bed without feeling lightheaded, weak, and generally awful. We had to cancel our normal Saturday get-together, a true bummer, because I just wasn't up to it. I basically did not get out of bed on Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday was even worse because I wasn't able to hold down any food or water. Finally at that point, I realized this might be something more than just extra-bad prego stuff going on! Which was good news, in that maybe it would have a limited duration, rather than lasting the 23 weeks that I have left in my pregnancy!

So I think a bit of a flu bug has hit. The girls are now fighting off runny noses, but I am starting to feel a bit better, thanks to a lovely long bath at my friend Rachel's this morning (boy, do we need to get a bathtub!) and being able to eat and drink a bit without throwing up today. It's funny how being able to eat is such a blessing that we truly take for granted 99% of the time. I'm hopeful that perhaps I will be feeling much better soon and that the girls or John won't get it. Kudos to John, by the way, he really stepped up and took over with the girls the last few days. It was funny, though--last night he took them to McDonald's and they ate and played at the play area, and when he got home he was so tired! He said, "wow, it really takes a lot of energy to engage with both of them!" I obviously couldn't agree more!

So now I should get back to resting. Sorry for the lack of posts lately--I keep waiting for my energy level to rise a bit and instead this past weekend is what happened. But, this too shall pass, right? Here's hoping for happier news next time!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ask and you shall receive!

My friend Angela asked recently for another new recipe, so here goes! This is a breakfast pancake recipe, similar in taste and texture to crepes, called "Swedish Roll-Ups." The recipe came from Minnesota Mornings, a great cookbook put together by the Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Association. These are great pancakes to whip up when you only have a few minutes and you want to eat something other than the usual for breakfast! Give them a try!

Swedish Roll-Ups

4 eggs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a blender, mix well, scraping down sides of blender if necessary. Spray a small skillet lightly with non-stick cooking spray; preheat to medium.

Pour a thin layer of batter in pan (about 2 Tbsp for a small pan, 3 Tbsp for a bit larger pan.) Move pan in a circular motion to create crepe-sized pancakes. Cook the first side until the edges start to look slightly brown and dry (about 30 seconds), watching closely as batter cooks quickly. Turn and cook second side about 15 seconds. Repeat procedure with remaining batter. Roll up each pancake and serve immediately with syrup, or spread the insides of the pancake with a bit of jam or preserves, roll up and serve.

We had these for breakfast this morning and I still have some batter left for a few more pancakes tomorrow morning. Chloe ate three by herself, Clara Anne ate one, and I find that 4-5 usually satisfy me. Because of the eggs, though the pancakes are light and tasty, they are also more substantial in a protein-y sort of way than your traditional bread-y pancakes. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Clara Anne's Memory Verse, Oct. 31, 2007

Clara Anne and I have been working on a memory verse each week. We practice it in the morning after breakfast and our Bible reading, and she has been doing quite well with it! This week's was rather long, so we made up some actions to go with it. In the video you can see her looking up (she's watching John) for the actions. The video is a bit dark, but hopefully you can hear her sweet voice speaking even sweeter words of Truth! Enjoy!

More Fun Times with Daddy!

Bouncing games on Daddy's lap . . .
Drumming along to some great praise music . . .

Listening as Daddy reads stories to already-jammied girls . . .

Cuddling and loving on Daddy!