December 29, 2010


We had an epic family day Monday...and I'm even using the word in the right way. It was long, drawn out, great...not heroic or poetic, but epic nonetheless. ;) I have no pictures as I forgot to bring the camera, but it was a fun, full day.

We got out the door by 1pm after Charles and Bethany had worked in the morning and went after Christmas shopping at the old Christown Mall (they remodeled it and named it Spectrum Mall, but no one would call it that, so they finally renamed it Christown Spectrum....Arizonans are a little strong willed).

Spent Christmas gift money and gift cards. A lot of time was spent in lines and in dressing rooms.

We went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader (new Narnia movie) also at Christown,  which was not epic, but it was very good, probably my favorite one of the three Narnia movies so far. It had beautiful symbolism of temptation, sacrifice and Christian application that was a little lost in the others, even though it is apparent in the books. We had dinner at Appleby's, then went to Zoo Lights. The Phoenix zoo, where Bethany works is open at night from Thanksgiving til mid January with huge light displays, shows and fun stuff like carriage rides, polar slide, camels rides and a couple of animals exhibits.  So she bought us tickets with her discount as our Christmas gifts.

We went home and watched White Christmas. We vowed not to watch it until Hannah arrived to watch it with us and we finally watched it on a night that Bethany was working. That was not okay with Bethany so we had to watch it again. We then played Wii (our family gift), lots of fun obstacle course games and Mii making.

Then we fell into our beds and fell soundly unconscious for the night. 

Epic should also mean tiring-beyond-all-reason.

December 23, 2010

Sister Day 2010

My girls like to do something special together at the holidays, so yesterday was Sister Day. No one else was invited. In the afternoon they went ice skating (and since I wasn't invited, there are no pictures...sad) and I made them a nice dinner followed by an evening show downtown of the Nutcracker Ballet.

They got all dressed up and when I went to take a picture, they all just stood there (probably tired from ice skating). So without saying a word, I just started clicking one picture after another and this is what happened:

December 18, 2010

Gingerbread guy party

We came home last night to Emma's friends obediently following Bethany's instructions on cookie decorating. She made the cookies and the colorful frostings and turned them loose. It was a very fun time!  I especially liked Sara's googly-eyed gingerbread guys. They work like 3 cups of coffee if you look at them first thing in the morning.(click on the slide show to see the pictures individually mom)

December 16, 2010

I hear rustling....

Every time I walk by our Christmas tree, I think of this verse that I found a few years ago....

Do you hear the rustling? Listen closely...

the heavens
be glad, and the 
earth rejoice! Let the sea 
and everything in it shout his 
praise! Let the fields and their crops
burst out with joy! Let the trees of the 
forest rustle with praise before the Lord
for he 
is coming!
Psalm 96:11-13

December 15, 2010

Gift suggestions

“Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.”

~Oren Arnold~

Need more inspirational ideas?
click here

December 13, 2010

Bad Nativities

Just for fun, The Cavalcade of Bad Nativities again this year.  And how about the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities II?

Oh, nooooooooooooooo....

Kitsch up with ya later.....;)

December 12, 2010

I need a silent night...

This weekend's rush:

~Sunday school class Christmas party
~Driving through midnight and into the wee sma's to bring Emma home from Tucson, where her ride home ended
~Children's choir Christmas play tonight
~Picking out a Christmas tree
~Decorating the tree complete with traditional snackage
~3 Christmas movies
~One afternoon of futile Christmas shopping....

A friend of mine posted this song on her Facebook and I thought it was perfect. Every year I try to do it differently, but it always turns into a whirlwind.....

November 23, 2010

A celebration and a perspective

I'm thanking God tonight for  a rich heritage of people we've known and served with in past churches.

We were just up in our old town of Williams this past weekend for the funeral of Matthew Broehm. After driving up the night before, we stayed in the warm home of Edith Pouquette. The temperatures outside were very cold, so a bowl of hot taco soup and an evening of sitting around her wood stove visiting was absolutely delicious! The conversation was full of catching up on old friends, church news and about our current place of ministry in Phoenix.

The next morning we went for one of our favorite drives up Bill Williams mountain. Beautiful pines, fur trees, aspens and spruces lined the winding road. We stopped at finger rock and walked out to see the view. Not a soul in sight, just wind through the trees and a huge view. It puts a kind of perspective on your mind of how small you are and how huge the world is as you look out across 50 miles of ridges, mountains and canyons as far as the eye can see, no cities or people in sight. The chill in the air drove us back to our warm car and we drove down silently, thinking about our own thoughts. We were so privileged to have been allowed to live in this area for 9 years.

A visit to the coffee shop, American Flyer and then we were off to the funeral processional. We walked from the middle school  to downtown and then back, about 2 miles in all, with the family and about 500 townspeople, church members and military who came to support them in honoring their son, brother, husband. As we gathered to walk, we started seeing not just a group of faces, but individual, dear, wonderful faces from the past. Our old youth group, alot of whom are all grown up and have children now, church members, people from our old small group fellowship that met in our home weekly, people from all walks of life that we had come to share life with for 9 years.

The celebration of life service was really wonderful. This young man was such an evangelist and leader during his shortened life, it was like God knew Matt only had a short time here and packed it full of passion and service. We are proud to have known him and proud of that community for their loving support of their own.

I have tried and tried to describe the kind of closeness you feel to other people in a small community like that, but I am at a loss. It's something you just have to experience and I would wish that at least once in life to anyone.  It puts a kind of perspective in your mind of how large your influence can be and a huge feeling of comfort when everywhere you look there are faces of people who know you and love you from all walks of life in a community.

November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:

1. A leftover chocolate turkey cupcake from last night's youth fundraising dinner (made by Julie, Gabriel and Eleanor)

2. My new Christmas tree lights which are like this picture, but they are all white

3. My friend Cheryl, who I get to spend a lot of time with lately (spending time is good, but radiation treatments are a bummer....pray that this will totally zap the bad cancer cells)

4. Good friends who help us whenever we have a need around our home...Larry and Ed were just here 2 days ago putting in our new water heater, as ours was about to burst)

5. Pain pills for Charles' bad's bad...Please pray for him (sciatica we think)

6. Getting my very first free lance writing assignment

7. An attentive little dog (now if she could just learn how to cook our dinner)

8. Surprise blessings and cool coincidences to encourage my faith

9. Candles

10. A quick trip up to the mountains this weekend (for a sad funeral)

11. A toilet that doesn't leak anymore (which is why Charles' back is so bad, he hunched over it and fixed it)

12. Cooler weather and looking forward to the holidays

November 16, 2010

All in

Full image here

Thanking God today for the 'coincidences' and  constant surprises that we walk right into in places like warehouse stores.

When we went to Africa this past August, John Dina, missionary extraordinaire to Mozambique took 10 days to show us and David and Diana Johnson all of the places, people and experiences that he could that their son Jeremiah had experienced in his mission trip to Mozambique. He never came home to them, but died there in a motorcycle accident. So we went to try to absorb some of what his passion was about. It was an amazing trip, we learned so much about how this young man's life changed into a deep, passionate walk with God and with the Monigan people along the coast of Mozambique.

One of the things John kept saying was that Jeremiah, he was just 'all in'. He was so ready to be serving and to be out there with the people that he barely had patience for the language study and preparation. God was calling him to something and he wanted to be there and threw himself into it full force. John said that usually when mission workers come they are stand offish at first and observe and try to figure out how to fit in or make connections. Not Jeremiah, he just did it. John had never seen someone come so ready.

All in. No hesitations, he was raring to go.

All in, John said.....kept saying it. It definitely stuck in my head. I've used it over and over myself, trying to explain our trip and trying to tell people why Jeremiah's story was so intriguing.

So I was in Sam's club the other day and all the televisions in the electronics dept were playing the same video. Lifehouse is one of my favorite groups, so I stopped to watch and the words hit me and made all the blood rush into my head and I got all tingly for a few minutes while it played on and on, repeating the main theme. The name of the song is All In.....yes, of course it was....there are no coincidences here. It's like it was written for him.

All night staring at the ceiling
counting for minutes I've been feeling this way
So far away and so alone

But you know it's alright
I came to my senses
Letting go of my defenses
There's no way I'm giving up this time
Yeah, you know I'm right here
I'm not losing you this time

And I'm all in, nothing left to hide
I'm falling harder than a landslide
I spent a week away from you last night
And now I'm calling, calling out your name
Even if I lose the game, I'm all in
I'm all in tonight, yeah I'm all in, I'm all in for life 
I want it, I want it, I want it
I want it, I want it, I want it, yeah
I want it, I want it, I want it, yeah

And I'm all in, calling out your name
Even if I lose the game, I'm all in, I'm all in for life
And I'm all in, nothing left to hide
I'm falling harder than a landslide
I spent a week away from you last night
And now I'm calling, calling out your name
Even if I lose the game, I'm all in
I'm all in tonight, yeah I'm all in, I'm all in for life
Yeah I'm all in, I'm all in for life


November 15, 2010

Prayer and surprises

Wow, the days are hustling by here and I am behinder and behinder! 

I left my job last May thinking I'd be back in August, but that wasn't to be. The preschool only had enough children for 2 classes instead of 4 and they did not need me this year. I tried to be glad to have more time for my family, but really I felt a little out of sorts and depressed. Job loss is hard, no matter what the reason. So I started to pray and ask God to make this time off work useful and that I would be able to do some ministry things that I had not been able to do in a long time.

A few days ago I realized that God had answered that prayer. There have not been very many days that I am at a loss for something to do. And it has turned out that my family members have needed more of my energy this year, so I am glad to have it for them, to be an encouragement. And I have more mental energy to observe the people in my world and be able to act on some things that I would never have thought of as ministry opportunities.

God is a good one for surprises.

And the people He's brought around me this year have been a blessing to me as well. I love to see God working in people's lives, but sometimes you have to pay close attention and be patient. 

So I guess today I am thankful for God hearing my prayers and showing me the ways He is answering.....different than I thought it would be, but  better, I'm sure of it!

One more thing....I just have to refer you to my husband's blog, Veritas, today. I  loved it and need to put some words of kindness into practice in my own life.

November 12, 2010

Got blessings?

Talking to some other women in ministry families the other day, we were brainstorming about how we've been blessed by our church members. Things get hard sometimes in churches, there are power struggles and personality conflicts and just plain trouble too.  Believe me, there have been horror stories shared in this same group of women.  So the focus on the positive was very refreshing.

We are so blessed by our church. Not only do they love us and bless us in practical and generous ways, but they get along, love each other and really have a desire for God to work in our church and community. They are a blessing to work, worship and serve with.

And may God richly bless all of our handy men who bless us with their often! This week it is installing a new water heater. You're a blessing guys!

November 8, 2010

Finally fall...?

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona made it's mark on me. Scars from sun burns from childhood/teen years, more freckles than you could count, and eh, a few wrinkles. A few fortunate neighbors on my street growing up had swimming pools. We became their friends as kids.

And when no one had invited you to swim in their pool, we could walk to the community pool. It was about a mile away from our house and in those days (the olden days) we had to cross through some fields to get there. They may not have been technically fields, but they were at least huge yards where you could have horses. To make the trip shorter, my sister would short cut through these places, squeezing under barbed wire and my least favorite, crossing the ditch. It seemed huge to me and I could never make it across in one jump, so I would land in the mud and squish along the rest of the way to the pool in at least one muddy flip flop. We would get beet red and then wait for the big 'peel' to happen, which we found fascinating. It was always a contest to see who could pull off the largest piece of sloughed skin without breaking it. I shudder at the thought of all the skin damage I had as a child. We just didn't know.

Those kind of summers forced kids inside when morning faded (if you weren't swimming), so fall quickly became my favorite season. The weather got lighter, not as heavy....your skin didn't burn as you walked outside and sweaters reappeared in the closet. (I do love sweaters) I loved the rare overcast days and walking to school with a brisk chill in the air. We had huge Mulberry trees in our yard, so there was an abundance of crunchy leaves to rake into piles and take turns jumping into.

The only problem with fall in Phoenix is that it doesn't usually come until mid-November. In fact, up until last week, the weather flirted with going into the triple digits, the air conditioner ran and ran and only the mornings cooled off enough to really say it was cool, and then, not chilly, just cool.

The high today is just tipping into the 80's. It's 81 now and getting cloudy and breezy, so it feels like 70's. I am making soup.

Dare I say it? I think it's fall!

I love cool weather, I love sweaters and soup. I'm thankful today for the relief in the air....literally. But there is also some relief from the traumatic days we spent at the end of last week. Things are not feeling so heavy today. That is something to be grateful for.

November 6, 2010

When young men stumble and fall...

Thanking God for the Hope we have in Him, even when things don't make sense.

My cell phone beeped yesterday morning, so I picked it up and quickly glanced at it to see who the text message was from. Instantly I threw it back down as tears filled my eyes. "Why did I read that? Why did I read that now?" My sister caught the phone in her lap. We were stopped at a light, and I had to keep driving through the tears and gasps of air.

The only words I saw were "Matthew Broehm killed...." I shouldn't have read that text in those moments. Becky distracted me by making me talk and when I was ready she read the whole thing. Charles had texted me and all of our daughters telling us that a dear friend from our church in Williams had died in Afghanistan that day. He was a Marine and I found out today from the news that he did die during combat.

He was 22.

His family and ours had moved to Williams around the same time and we all became quick friends. They were a homeschooling family with older teens, like us. They had 2 tall, strapping boys, one girl Hannah's age and one younger boy who was smaller, that was Matthew.

Matt was a very sincere kid. He always listened intently to anyone who was teaching or telling him something. It seemed like he was just eating up the information and had a great respect for people and great manners and attitude. This sometimes singles a young man out for ridicule, but no one made fun of Matt unless he was in on it too. I think this was because you could tell he liked you and was genuinely interested in you when you were around him. He was the first one to raise his hand when the youth leader asked if anyone would lead them in prayer too. He became famous for it...whenever the leader asked, we would all just look at Matt. Then he would crinkle his eyes, smiling and begin praying. What a cool kid! As he became older, the girls all crushed on him and flirted with him and made him blush.

I had the privilege of working with our youth for a few years in Sunday School and got to see him starting to really mature as a Christian and start to be a mentor to some of the younger boys....always encouraging them and talking to them, making them feel included and loved.  There was some talk of him going into youth ministry too.

Maybe because he was smaller than his brother or maybe just because it caught his interest, he started taking Tae Kwon Do. Then he realized this was his thing and worked his way up to black belt and soon was teaching the class to other kids in town. He was a hard worker. He liked really hard core Christian screamo music, full of passion and conviction.  At some point in those years he went from being called Matthew to Matt.

I remember being surprised (but not at the same time) that he was enrolling in the military. The  *shudder*  No one doubted that he could do it, but at the same time we dreaded that kind of lifestyle for such a nice kid. His first visit home, he was the picture of a Marine in uniform seeing him at church for the first confident and looked taller too. His parents and siblings were so proud of him.

We moved away and out of touch with many of his family, besides Facebook updates. It was on Facebook where we learned he had become engaged and married a beautiful young lady, his Marine comrades stood with him, all handsome in the wedding pictures.  Then we heard of him shipping out to Afghanistan just a short time later.

And now killed. A wonderful young man. I will remember Matt very well. I can see his cute, blushing smile and his hand going up to volunteer to pray. I can see him talking seriously to our youth pastor at the time or to my husband or his father. He was always watching the men of the church, always learning from them.....he was always in the process of  becoming someone...of having a meaningful life.

I am not questioning God about how He allows things to happen even though it's hard to understand. Death comes to the just and the unjust. Some are young and seem to have so much left to give and some are ready, having lived a long and fruitful life. We will never make sense of it with our mortal eyes. But we accept and we trust God and we will always remember the humble, mature and honorable way that Matt lived and died.

To the Broehm family: I love you all and am just heartsick for you having to give up your Matt so soon.

May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
~Romans 15:13

Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;

 but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.
~Isaiah 40:30-31

Of heart attacks and days gone wild

I missed two days on writing about thankfulness, but I'm sure you'll understand when you're done reading here today.

On Thursday I was waiting until the end of the day  to write my blog post in case something really interesting to be thankful for came my way. Well, let me just say before I begin that what I am thankful for is my family. (just in case this is not obvious by the end)

Thursday afternoon I was just thinking about what to put out for dinner. My husband and I both had large lunches and were not going to eat. And then, the phone rang.... and things got kicked into high gear and my day suddenly had a different plan and reason.

It was my sister Becky. She was frantic sounding as I listened to her voice while Charles was talking to her on his cell phone. He asked her several pointed, serious, urgent sounding questions, then hung up.

"Larry has had a heart attack at the cabin. He's going to be air lifted to Phoenix and we need to go meet him at the hospital."

This is the moment in the caricature my life was becoming that adrenaline squirts out of my head in little drops like a cartoon while I turn into a Tasmanian devil whirling around the house stuffing things I may need in my purse. Socks, travel sized lotion, make up, ipod, some meds, Mentholatum....just the necessities.  I knew I would be spending the night in the hospital with my sister so my practical head made use of the time we had until the second phone call telling us which hospital to go to.

I made calls to family and we jumped in the car. We were walking in to the ER while the helicopter was landing. And we got to see Larry a few minutes later. He was sitting up talking and explaining and answering questions. The doctor looked at the EKG and said, "Yes, you are having a heart attack, let's get you into an angiogram ASAP." Time to visit a moment, pray and they whisked him away.

My sister had to drive down from the mountains to Phoenix all by herself and it had turned dark, so we prayed for her and she arrived about an hour later. It's an hour and a half drive, so you can imagine how she was driving and she was only pulled over by the police once. But she turned into hysterics with the officer and he waved her on, no ticket.

I can't remember how long it was until the doctor came out giving us a good report. Only one blockage and it was repaired with one stint. Simple, quick and as non-invasive as can be.

What happened to Larry is really pretty common. He had been doing some hard work, cutting wood by chainsaw that afternoon, then got tired and felt like the chain saw was extra heavy. So he came in, took a shower and sat down to put socks on. The discomfort in his chest was worrying him, but he didn't think about it seriously until he sat down and began sweating profusely. His clothing was soaked and Becky told him she was calling 911. She was surprised that he didn't argue and by that, she knew it was the right decision. Twenty minutes later, back in the woods in their cabin, he was being loaded into an ambulance, being given a field EKG and was told that yes, it was a heart attack. They just drove to the main dirt road and met a helicopter, where he was quickly flown away and to the hospital.  It took 30 minutes to arrive at the hospital and he was still alert and talking, but still having the heart attack. His main artery was completely blocked and he was sitting up, talking to us.

The doctor said it would have been a much different outcome if they had hesitated on calling or if the paramedics hadn't been so on the ball as to order a helicopter or if my sister hadn't made him eat an aspirin and the paramedics hadn't given him nitroglycerin when they arrived.

It was about 12 hours later when my sister and I were sitting in his ICU room figuring out his Myers-Briggs personality temperament and reading it to him off of the internet. We were all laughing at how accurate the description was and appreciating what a great guy he is....and that he was still with us. This is how two ESFP's handle an ISTJ who is in day one of recovery from a heart attack.

Thank you to all who prayed for Larry and sent encouraging emails or messages. He's going to be just fine.

November 3, 2010

Thank you, November 3!

I'm so thankful, I'm giddy in fact, that the elections are OVER!

It's not about who won or who didn't win, it's that they aren't calling me 10 times per evening and hurling accusations and slander all over my evening television.

Aaah, now this is better.

November 2, 2010

Rewards of a life well lived

For the past 5 weeks, Tuesday has been the day that I take my mom to our morning ladies' Bible study at church. We go  and meet with about a dozen other ladies who range in age from late 30's to 80's. It is a group of seasoned Christian women with lots of wisdom, knowledge and good sense.....and we all get along like old friends every week. I am thankful for those ladies.

They spur me on (and although spurs sometimes pinch, they work). These women have been through almost all life's ups and downs. You name the blessing or tragedy and it's there in that room each week. And they are lovely, wonderful women. Life has not embittered them, but blessed them, even with all of it's trials. I know that when they speak, there is a lifetime of hard-gained wisdom motivating their words and thoughts. Very cool when you think about it.

Today my mom and I went out to lunch and as we sat there trying to decide what to order, a man in the booth behind my mom said something about the elections today. He said something so hateful and spiteful against Christians that I lost my appetite. It was also just plain untrue. I could tell he did not actually know many true Believers and was speaking out of some pain or maybe just propaganda from some group he listens to. 

It made me heartsick and shocked that someone would think that about me.

So I am thankful for that group of ladies. I can see Christ in them and the rich, wonderful rewards of living life for the I AM, the One who is. The world is changing almost daily and we must lift Him up and let our Light shine....

....because if people see Jesus in you, in us, they will be drawn to Him......and they may reject Him. But let it be based on Jesus and not on us.

November 1, 2010

A month of thankfulness

It's November. I was celebrating this earlier today, kind of like this:  I love November because people take the graveyard decorations out of their front yards and put up reminders of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love November because supposedly it will turn cooler....some day this month it will actually cool down semi-permanently until spring. I love November because we gather our family close and have a banquet and remember God's blessings. I love November because for two whole months people talk about being thankful and then about Christmas....CHRISTmas. I love that.

An invitation came today for me (thanks Vicki) to join a Month of Thankfulness so I did. And even though I am not good at making promises to post every day on here, I will 'try' to post almost every day about something I am thankful for.

It has been a long, hot fall here in Phoenix, but we've seen God do some really great things in this season. Things that make tears squirt right out of your eyes before they even well up or anything. It happened to me on Sunday.  Just like cartoon people, sprinkler eyes. The kind of things that just make you raise your hand to the Lord with squirting eyes and praise Him. (then try to find an antique tissue in the bottom of your purse to mop up)

I'm so thankful for God's work, for His hand in our lives.

I see it!

October 30, 2010

Secret gifts

Cute, eh?

I love my sweet black and white Bible bag. But what they represent is even more sweet.

I have some secret friends that these bags represent. Their identities have been hidden to protect their secret-ness. ;)

Last spring I got a written invitation from a friend of mine who is a pastor's wife in our same area. She and another pw were starting a small group with other pastors' wives in our area of town. One of them made these cute bags to make us feel welcome and honored. I was intrigued and excited, and more than a little bit nervous. There is  an online group of pastors' wives that I've been a part of for support and friendship for years now and it has become an invaluable group of very close knit friends. I've met some of them, others I do not even know what they look like, just their name,  because they choose to be anonymous. We share our lives in a way that we can't do publicly. Our husbands' ministries are very public. And though I feel like I can be myself in any of the churches we've been in, a lot of pastors' wives feel under special scrutiny and judgment.  So we talk about our feelings, about our weaknesses, our children, our husbands,  we say things that we would never dare to say in public, but we can be ourselves there with each other and know that it will never go beyond that group. We also pray for each other with empathy and care that I have rarely felt in human friendship.

This is why the small group with real live, in person ladies was a little bit intimidating to me. Would it ever be the same as what I have with my semi-anonymous group of friends? I was willing to find out, so I went. At first it was like any group of women who are almost strangers. Awkward! It was 'on your best manners' and polite. We shared prayer requests that were not too personal, not too dangerous.....testing the waters I think. But God only let us be aloof for so long, He has been guiding us to a deeper level and I am finding some really dear friends, kindred spirits. Even with our differences and wide range of personalities, He is bringing us together.

It's a gift. I say that a lot on here, but I have to give credit where it is due! I want to chronicle in some way the good things only God brings into my life to show His love and care. His fingerprints are all over this group, because we've grown to need human comfort and understanding even more lately.

One of the ladies wanted to do some kind of get away, spend some more time together, so I asked my sister and we went up to her cabin together in late June for a retreat. You cannot get away from getting to know each other better than on a weekend trip to the mountains. Riding up with each other, sharing beds, cooking for each other, eating together, walking, hanging out on the porch in a peaceful setting started to form a bond, letting down our safe boundaries so that we could really share and pray together.

When we got back there was a greater trust level and openness among us. This was a good thing because heck started breaking through in some of our lives and we needed a place to be real, to cry and be totally accepted, not judged or scrutinized.....and prayed for. We have really started to bring each other to the Throne and have already seen God working, bringing peace in the middle of what seemed like chaos, at least inside our heads and hearts.

In August my daughter Beth was at a denominational conference. She was hanging around while helping at the conference and one of my pw friends came up to her, read her name tag and told her, "I know your mother! You are Bethany!" Then it dawned on Beth that this was one of my small group friends and out of her mouth came, "Oh! You are one of my mom's secret friends!" She said this because she didn't know the ladies I was going to meet with several times a month. But I would come home sometimes and if she asked me where I'd been, I would tell her I had been with my friends.

"You have friends? Who?"

"Oh, you don't know them."

So, they aren't really a secret,  just unknown to my kids.

When my friend heard her say secret friends, she thought that was delightful and we are known as secret friends now to each other.

I feel like I've been needing to take a deep breath of cool, fresh air and it finally happened. I've got some people who understand ministry life and how so much of it is confidential or makes you feel so vulnerable, how you can't share the pain you have sometimes or that you shoulder burdens for your husband alone.

I don't know why I was surprised. God gives good gifts..... and from the beginning, even though it was company manners at first, I knew it was something God brought into my life because I had longed for it. Each time we meet together, I see these cute Bible bags lined up together or stashed on a table or chair and am thankful for our group. my online sisters and my secret Bible bag sisters, thank you for being in my life, for sharing yours with me and for taking the risk to join together on this path.

You are a breath of fresh air, a gift from God, my bag ladies, my secret sister chicks, my own prayer warriors and friends.

October 18, 2010

Kettle corn

 A friend posted this on facebook and I tried it tonight. It is so easy and yummy!

Mix together 1/2 cup popcorn kernels and 3 Tablespoons of white sugar*.

Put 3 Tablespoons oil in a large saucepan, heat oil until it smokes (I used medium heat on my electric stove, my regular temperature for popping corn).

Add popcorn and stir until it is all coated with oil. Put the lid on the pan and pop, keep shaking the pot. I thought the sugar would scorch, but it didn't. Just keep the corns moving as it pops.

*Another recipe on the internet said that if you use brown sugar, it tastes like carmel corn. Bethany suggested we should add some cinnamon next time.

When it stops popping turn the popcorn into a bowl and salt as desired.

The sugar coats the popcorn and makes it super crunchy. It's really good! Great snack for a movie night.

Thank you Angie!

October 15, 2010

The van

I think I promised a story here. My apologies for being tardy about it.

This is a story about a van.

The first pastorate that Charles had was doing church planting in New Jersey. One of the churches in that area was Bridgeview Baptist Church, which sat in the middle of an old neighborhood in a tiny borough called Delair in the township of Pennsauken. This church had a parsonage right beside it and since their bi-vocational pastor owned his own home, they wanted the new church planters to live there for as long as they needed it. We did....for ten wonderful years. When our church planting time was over, the church next door to us was just losing their pastor because of a job transfer in his company, so they called  Charles to be pastor at Bridgeview.  I could go on and on about life in New Jersey, it was a place that was different in all ways from the places we had grown up and lived. Some day (not tomorrow) I'll do that little thing.

When I saw this picture below on my friend Sara's blog, I jumped up and down in my heart. (I was sitting or I may have jumped in my legs too) I showed it to all of my kids and to Charles. I posted it on Facebook wondering which of my friends would remember it.  The picture was not of our van. It was taken by Sara just a few days before she posted Oregon. I guess someone could have bought the van in NJ and brought it back to life and driven it to Oregon, but that is doubtful.

The other thing that struck me like a lightning bolt was that it looked like the front of our dear home in New Jersey! We had a sidewalk like the one in the picture, we had huge maple trees in the yard, and we had no driveway, so our van was always parked in front, just like in this picture. Wow, it brought back memories.

Our first child, Hannah, was only 2 months old when we moved to that house. And I was pregnant with our last child, Maggie, when we left. We lived there 10 years and raised our first three daughters there through their preschool years and beyond.

We found the van at a used car lot one day. It was roomie. You could stand up, hunched over, and walk around in it, handy with preschoolers, car seats and camping trips. It had a huge wagon area behind the back seat where we could stow everything we needed for camping trips.  And it was cool.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's and had always wanted to own a VW van.  I used to day dream about taking one cross country and seeing places and doing things. I just never pictured it with 3 little kids and a dog, which in reality is a lot different than my vision, but it was still fun. We did this several times in that van. Once to Colorado to meet up with family for a camping trip and once to Tennessee to meet up with family for another vacation. That trip was murder to come home from. There was a heat wave on the east coast and our air conditioning did not work much of the time in that van. So I bought a spray bottle and would spray our little kids til they dripped, and the dog too, and we drove with the windows down, like we were basting little roasts in a convection oven. We also took that van to Vermont many times on camping trips. We had a campground there that we loved, at Quechee Gorge. That was where we made a lot of memories and built strong bonds with our children.

We also drove that van across Pennsylvania each summer to a children's camp by Erie, PA. Every year Charles would be invited to do the music and teach classes at this camp for northwest Pennsylvania and the whole family would come along.  We had our own little cabin to stay in and it was a great experience. I was the camp nurse once but I didn't do it again because I can't stand cleaning up wounds and blood.

It was a traveling sort of van. It evoked a spirit of adventure and exploration. We loved living in New Jersey partly because it was full of things to see. We took the van to Cape May, NJ many times, to Lancaster County, PA, to Baltimore, to Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, the shore (as they say in NJ), even New York City once to see another church planter friend in Queens.

Something that is kind of a secret we found out is that when you drive a VW van, you are automatically in a club. I started noticing right off the bat when we got the van, that people who drove other VW vans wave at you....and give you the peace sign with their fingers or nod their heads at you as you pass by. I told a teenaged friend about this and she thought I was exaggerating until she rode with me in it a few times. Sometimes when we traveled, another VW in the opposite traffic lanes would shout out the window and honk their horns at us. I loved it!  Super cool. What days those were.

The secret club is also the reason I killed our van one day. I was on the way home from picking up Bethany at kindergarten, when someone pointed at me while passing and yelling something out the window. Strange, they were not in a VW at all....maybe they usually drive one and had forgotten they were not in their club van for identification. Then someone behind me began honking.....NOT a VW van either. Wondering if they were impatient, I pulled over to let them pass. I am just slightly not intuitive sometimes.  Then a police car pulled up beside me and asked me if I knew there was smoke coming out of my van.


I drove into a parking lot and parked. There was gray smoke pouring out of the back of the van. Hours later Charles had to have it towed to a shop where it was discovered that I had been driving without oil and the head gasket (I still don't know what that is) had cracked (which is a very bad thing for any gasket).

Sad day.

I mourned for my van, but there was no fixing it. The one part cost as much as the van had cost in the first place. ($2500) So we had to say goodbye to our lovely van. We were booted from the club, which was also a hard blow. We bought a used Honda Civic, 2 offense but there was no love for that car at ALL. A 2 door, low to the ground car, as pretty as it was, was really hard on a family of five with one child still in a car seat.

So seeing that picture, Sara, was like seeing a very old friend, like a box of memories in front of those cool fall maple trees.... a gift from God, a sweet connection to those wonderful days.

Thanks Sara for posting that picture!

September 25, 2010

I think I just had an apostrophe!

Yesterday I saw a small blip on someone's Facebook status announcing National Punctuation Day. I thought it was one of those made up things to emphasize someone's sarcasm about the lack of appropriate language skills we have come to in 2010. But no, it is a real day of recognition, not a holiday, but a remembrance of the language skills we all used to be taught and loathed. 

Punctuation can be difficult in these internet and messaging driven days, where not using end marks or capital letters or even correct spelling is common and accepted by some. But it is important to someone who wants to write well or who wants to appear to be somewhat intelligent or professional. It is very important. It can be life saving in some cases. Just think about the ramifications: 

"Let's eat, Grandma!" becomes "Let's eat Grandma!"

*shudder* I think you see what I mean.

I wrote a post once using the metaphor of a comma to show how my life felt after our first child left the nest. As I just looked back over that post, I actually got the graphic for that post from the National Punctuation Day sight! The original post was 5 years ago. I am so forgetful! Anyway, I love using good punctuation as a way to get my thoughts across to the reader, whether it is in editing or as a metaphor to make a point. 

Personally, I do love apostrophes, commas, exclamation marks and quotation marks, but my favorite of all (do to my explainage tendencies) is the parentheses. This, even though I use the ellipsis  more often. (I had to look up what they were called and found out I really should not use them the way I do...drat!) Although they are correctly used as a way of letting the reader know that words have been left out of a quote, I have been using them in that modern, electronic messaging sort of way, as explained by Wikipedia:
The ellipsis is one of the favorite constructions of internet chat rooms, and has evolved over the past ten years into a staple of text-messaging. Though an ellipsis is technically complete with three periods (...), its rise in popularity as a "trailing-off" or "silence" indicator, particularly in mid-20th century comic strip and comic book prose writing, has led to expanded uses online. It has been used in new ways online, sometimes at the end of a message "to signal that the rest of the message is forthcoming."

Even though Wikipedia is not a really reliable source of factual information,  it is definitely a good source for modern cultural reference. And today, it saved my pride by giving respect to the modern manipulation of our language.  It is a cultural phenomenon I guess. 

What do you think? Does the modern manipulation of punctuation, spelling and grammar bother you or is it an accepted part of your culture?

September 21, 2010

God hears

God hears, God sees, God speaks, God answers the fervent prayers of His children. Tomorrow is an event called See You At The Pole. It is an international event. Any kids who want to can show up at their school's flagpole an hour before school starts, where hopefully they will find other Christian kids who are standing up to prayer for their schools. Besides standing in the gap for the people at their schools, they can also see fellow Christians who go to their school and meet them.

This year's theme for See You At The Pole is Reveal. Pray that God would reveal Himself, His incredible LOVE, in our schools, to this generation, through this generation of students. We adults need to be praying this for our community's schools too. The verse this year is the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13, read from the Message modern language Bible:

With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. 

Watch the video, tell all the kids you know that tomorrow is the day!

September 17, 2010

Reptilian floral arrangements

Something caught my eye as I turned on the light in the bathroom last night.

Our glass shower door was open and a streak of bouncy brown was wriggling across the shower floor. My first thought was a cricket like the one I found trying to hide behind my sudoku book the other day, and although I am nicknamed after that sort of creature, I shriek whenever I have to deal with one in the house (they always jump toward you and not away, freaks me out). So I looked closer, but not actually close and it scrambled farther along and I wondered if it was a scorpion. I am shrinking with a cringe even thinking about that. There are plenty of houses that have little reddish scorpions lurking around in Phoenix, but I have never seen one in this house. Well I put my big girl panties on and looked closer still. It was a wide eyed little, tiny, cutie patooty baby gecko!

He had huge black eyes, translucent body and I could see that he was heaving with fear even though he was tiny.  I wrote about the geckos here once before and that was in September too, so this must be the season for baby gecks.

I didn't know what to do because although I like looking at geckos, I really wouldn't touch one unless it was life or death. Charles was already asleep, so I just shut the shower door really tight. Then I heard flipping around noises. I had panicked him and he was having a fit. So I took the beautiful red rose that was on my bathroom sink counter in a vase and dropped it into the shower, hoping it didn't land on him.  My thought was that he could hide under it and feel more secure instead of flopping around trying to climb the wall, which obviously was not workin for him.   I got curious later and opened the shower. He was no where to be seen, so I touched the rose stem...just a touch. SHOOP! Out he came scampering. So I quickly shut the door again and went to bed.

Thankfully I caught Charles this morning before he took a shower and told him about the gecko.  He loves catching them so he went right back and reported that it was not there. He put the rose on the back of the toilet tank, took his shower, then went to gather his things to go to a meeting.

Curious've got to be curious when there's a gecko somewhere in your house and it is not where you left it....I looked into the shower and looked up on the ceiling and around the bathroom. Then I picked up the rose to throw it out when I saw a little head pop out and look right at me. (can you stand it, the babies are so cute) I guess he  either didn't trust Charles enough to make an appearance for him or maybe he was soundly asleep deep in between the lovely rose petals. (I kept thinking all day about how nice it would be to sleep between soft, velvety rose petals all night. ) By this time I was holding the rose over the bathroom sink and the gecko was trying to decide whether to  jump and run or stay and look at me.

He stayed long enough to get Charles in there, who took him out to the front porch to be free to eat bugs and climb the stucco walls at night and hopefully find his mother, who will scold him for sneaking off from her.

*Photos are from google, I didn't have time to get the camera.

September 14, 2010


Okay! I asked for suggestions on rss readers since I am helpless sometimes at finding good solutions out of the huge amount of information out there.

Thank you Joann!

She recommended Google reader, so I looked it over and on Bloglines there is a nifty link under your blog list that lets you export all of your subscriptions to another RSS reader. It was super easy. Now I will still get all of my friends' blogs each day without clicking 60+ bookmarks. Joann is so smart! (and that is not the first time someone has said that about her)

Google reader also has this wonderful tool under the scroll down menu that says, "view settings" called "view in Reader Play" and it is like a slide show of your blogs! Beautiful!

:like:  :happy:


I just read today that Bloglines is shutting down on October 1, 2010. ehn

So if you subscribe to this or any other internet sights through Bloglines, please get busy and save your subscriptions to another rss feed reader. Right now I have not found one that I like, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

I loved having all of the blogs I read on the same page updated daily so I could see who had put up a new post.

What to do....

September 8, 2010

...cupcakes and muzzles

I have to go help my sister make 150+ chocolate cupcakes tomorrow for our ladies' fancy luncheon on Saturday! Chocolate with cherry filling....or something like that.

I asked her if I was allowed to sample if I helped and she brought up the Bible verse about not to muzzle the ox while it's treading.

I think I'm insulted. She just laughed.

1 Corinthians 9:9-10  9 For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? 10 Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. 
[or the cupcakes]

September 7, 2010

Going changes you

"Therefore, go 

and make disciples of all the nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. 

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

God bless Mozambique.

August 30, 2010

Surprise jello

A friend called me tonight and said she wanted to bring something over. I gave her the directions to my house and there in her hands was a glass dish of stripedy jello! We have been messaging about this recipe for a few weeks now....and I procrastinate, but Angie doesn't! She is a little powerhouse and a giver and because I would not get it together and make the recipe, she did it herself and brought it to me.

Angie's been reading my blog and saw the Jello Chronicles section. She has this beautiful recipe for striped jello that her mother used to make and now she makes it for her son. And it makes her really excited! She brought it to us and stood there bursting, so we all sat down to have some.

It is delicious.

Thank you Angie. I know this really was a labor of love for us. Let's see....6 hours making a jello dish then driving across town to deliver it.....when you already work full time and have some huge challenges in your life right now. Thank you so much. We love you and love that you are the kind of person who gets excited to bring us your jello recipe. How fun and caring.  For lots of reasons, it's a treasure from you.

Here is the recipe as Angie wrote it for me:

Warning: need to plan for about 10 minutes each hour for approx 6 hours in order turn out perfect. Will save little bit of time if put the dish in freezer before start so it can harden first layer quicker, it is always the layer taking longest.

1- (3oz)pkg. each of the following jello flavors: 
Black Cherry, Cherry, Lime, Lemon, Orange, Orange Pineapple, Strawberry

1- can sweetend condensed milk

Mix black cherry jello with 3/4 cup boiling water & 3/4 cup cold water. Stir well. Place in 9x13 inch glass pan & refrigerate untill well set. 

Mix cherry jello with 1/2 cup boiling water & 1/2 cup cold water & 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. 
Stir well & cool, place on top of first layer & chill untill well set.

Continue layering jello, making sure previous layer is well set & mixture you are adding is cool. Even number layers are creamy.

When done you will have a beautiful 7 layer giggley jello everyone I have make if for has loooved. You end up with the cherry, lemon & orange-pineapple layers being creamy. Serve scoop of cool whip and yummy. 

I have experimented with changing the flavors of jello and found that the grape is good in replace of strawberry and if you can find it the berry blue is a good layer when creamy.

August 24, 2010

Divine meetings

It is a HOT day in Phoenix, the heat index is near 120ยบ.

It is Tim's last day before he leaves for college though, so we took him to lunch. On the way back to the church, Charles recognized a woman walking across the church parking lot. She is a refugee from Iraq who lives in some apartments near our church. We go there to do some outreach and meet people sometimes. Charles thought he would give her a ride because of the heat...she is paralyzed on one side because of a stroke and walking is grueling even on a good day. With the heat today,  it is just dangerous.

We picked up Aida and drove to her apartment and she insisted that we come in for a drink of water. She cannot drink the water because it is Ramadan and she is fasting (no liquids during Ramadan until sundown).  She kept saying thank you and we got along pretty well with a conversation about her family and what we could help her with. Then, as we were leaving, a young couple came to her apartment too. They are also from Iraq and used to live next door to her, so they come by to see her often. They are also Muslim and they speak English well, so we stayed and talked further with Aida, since we had an interpreter. 

We talked a little about other things, then the man asked if we knew of any English classes Aida could go to. As a matter of fact we do!  Some ladies at our church have really responded to the need for English as a second language classes (ESL) and started a class during our Sunday School hour. Our faithful van driver picks up several refugees and they meet together for and hour learning English through repeating and learning Bible stories. So we got it set up for her to come. 

She also wanted to know if we could help her call her daughter. It's been 5 years since she has heard from her daughter, who moved to Australia. Through the Red Cross she has received a phone number that she hopes will put her in contact with the daughter. So on Sunday we will help her do that too.  As you can imagine, she is really excited about it and I am too. Pray that we can find information about the daughter. She doesn't know if she is even alive or in Australia's heartbreaking.

Aida said she had prayed for God to send her someone to help her, so she thanked God first and us second for helping. He also sent that couple to further things along with those ideas on ways to help her. Amazing to see God work, He is reaching out to this little woman who has had so much trauma in her life and is now here in a country where she cannot even communicate with people or know where to go for help. She had walked all the way to her son's school because they called her and found out that everything was fine, and they just needed some information. It was about a 1/2 mile walk each way and with the heat it was a dreadful chore, but God turned it into a divine meeting. Now she will learn about God's love more and more as she comes and as people befriend her in our church. 

August 21, 2010


Four years ago, there was a monsoon storm thrashing Phoenix on this date. We were keeping vigil by a bedside where a struggle was also going on while the storm raged outside. Then the storm stopped (outside and in) and my Dad left for Heaven, quietly and peacefully, looking up as he left. 

I wrote about it here last summer, but I want to keep remembering so I am linking to that post tonight. I want to remember that there is sometimes a struggle, but there is peace in the end. The night my Dad died, Heaven was so real to me that I almost expected to see it when I followed my his gaze up to the ceiling. 

Now I know that death is just a transition. I've seen it and envy it a little. Can you imagine stepping over with God and reaching your Home that is more familiar and real somehow than the ones we've lived in here on earth?

August 19, 2010

Pets on Parade ;)

I am really glad that I do a double take sometimes. A quick glance misses some fun details.

This morning I pulled out of my driveway to head down the street to take Maggie to school, and at fist glance I saw my neighbor riding up the street on his bicycle. This was not unusual, he is usually out there finishing his morning bike ride when I leave to take Maggie to school.  Today, something about the look on his face made me do a double take and then I saw, there on his shoulder, was a parrot. I started going on about it to Maggie, "There's a BIRD on his shoulder! hahaha, isn't that funny? That is hilarious." Maggie, who is about to turn 13 just looked at me condescendingly and says, "Mom, that is not funny, it's weird."  I thought it was about the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, and then I remembered my own dad.

My dad always got some kind of regular exercise too. He jogged for a while, then his knees hurt, so he took up riding his bicycle, but the ten speed bike hurt his back bending over so far while riding. He then got the idea to put long upright handlebars of an old kids' bike onto the tall, skinny, sleek ten speed bike. It looked funny....not haha funny, but ODD funny.....embarrassing to preteen daughters type of funny. I was about Maggie's age at the time. These days, this would not be an odd sight, but in the '70's it was pretty weird. When I tried to inform him of this, he just laughed.  He liked his invention, he was always improving things by fiddling around with them. There was no stopping him. My dad was a nerd. I just made peace with it, even as a preteen daughter. (and I tried to stay off of the street at bike riding time)

One day he decided to take our dog for a bike ride...our poodle. He wired a metal milk crate to the back of the ten speed bicycle and put a little cushion in it and put the poodle, Muffin, into the crate. Off they went, a spectacle on wheels! He liked it... Muffin that is, (yes, Muffin was a boy dog with an embarrassingly sissy name)  so Dad would oblige him almost every day from then on with a bike ride, to the enjoyment of the whole neighborhood. He wasn't a spectacle to them, he just made them smile.

I only wish I had taken a picture, but I didn't want proof back then. Some things you are only fond of by way of memory. (especially when you're a preteen girl hiding in the basement while her dad takes the poodle on a ride through the neighborhood on an incredibly strange looking bicycle)

August 11, 2010

Flying Home

I got a new hard drive, so I am back online. There are a few more posts rattling around in my head about our trip and I wrote a couple on the way home in my spiral blog.

August 6, 2010:

We are waiting to take off in a jet out of Mozambique. As we sit here in the air conditioned plane, there is a stunning sunset out the western window. The sun looks huge and deep red....sinking down through a line of clouds, we watch it drop through and emerge from the bottom.  It's like the punctuation mark on the end of an epic, unforgettable  trip.

We just said our goodbyes to Charlie and Angie Lechner and their family. They are a missionary family in Maputo and we spent the night and a very fun day with them, breakfast at a cute coffee place, shopping at the town crafters' market, and lunch by the bay. I highly recommend making a layover in Maputo to stay at the Lechner B&B! Very fine people serving there....and now they are our friends.

The stewardess is telling us instructions over the speaker and it sounds like she is whispering a love poem to us. Charles was interpreting what she was saying, "Dear passengers....You are the most beautiful passengers we have ever seen. We will love serving you this evening, you lovely people." It makes us laugh until tears come. (When we landed and the stewardess started in with her sultry voice, Charles leaned over and interpreted again, "Dear John....leave this plane at once for you dirty rotten passengers.") Portuguese is a beautiful sounding language. It sounds like Spanish, French and Italian all mixed together. I will miss saying our most used Portuguese phrase, "Obrigada" which means "Thank you", because it sounds so nice if you can roll your r's and I can, so it's lovely to say. ;) Bon Dia means "good day" so we would say that as a greeting as we entered a village.  One morning John Dina offered Diana a cup of coffee and she sleepily said, "Bon dia" instead of Obrigada, so now we use them both interchangeably to razz her a bit. Although it really is a good day when it begins with someone offering you a cup of coffee.

We are in the air now, beginning our 31 hour trip home. Before we sleep again, we have an hour flight to Johannesburg, a five hour layover there, an 11 hour flight to London, another 5 hour layover, then a 9.5 hour flight home to Phoenix, where we hope to find our families waiting to hug our necks and take us home to our beds!

We're glad to be headed home, but it is a hard goodbye. We have deeply meaningful memories and insights from God now in Mozambique. Our hearts are full even through the lingering grief.  Just as the Bible passage that Michael gave to David in the Johannesburg airport on our way here, I think that God is causing a great joy to rise up in David and Diana's spirits as they come out of this journey.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
   you have loosed my sackcloth
   and clothed me with gladness...Psalm 30:11 

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
~Matt Redmon

August 5, 2010

A powwow and a barbecue

Today, Thursday, August 5th, we stayed around the Dina's home, but we were still busy. After a quick breakfast, some local pastors started arriving for a pastor's powwow. They met in the living room while Wanne, Diana, Earnesto and I worked in the kitchen and Earnesto outside, making vegetable/not beef soup for the pastors.

We got everything chopped and into the pot to stew, then got in the truck to buy fresh bread. On the way we stopped by the apartment where Jessica R and Sally will be living while they are in Quelimane for 2 years working with students. The landlord lives on one side of the duplex and the empty apartment is on the other. Since her husband had the keys with him and wasn't home, the landlady let us look at her home. It has the same floor plan on both sides. They are a family from India and really friendly. (Cheryl they are in good hands! She is a mom of 4 daughters and they are going to keep a close eye on the girls....maybe too close, but it won't hurt  It is a beautiful apartment and in the small backyard, they will have their own coconut and papaya trees! Pretty cool, Jessica!!!! The duplex is right across the street from the bakery where we bought bread and the local 'Walmart' which is called Pep....more like a Family Dollar Store, but it was fun calling it Walmart...I have to do word associations to remember sometimes.

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig and we fed the hungry men. Then we visited, rested and used the computer while the pastors talked again....we were so glad we didn't have to be in there! Nothing but pastor talk, blah blah blah, all day! (we can say that since we are their wives) The report was that it was a good meeting though. A family who are good friends of the Dina's came by this afternoon also to talk to the Johnsons, as have several Mozambican families this week. Everyone is so comforting and speak with such love for their son. It is a huge thing to them that  we all came this far to visit.

We made a trip to do more errands with Wanne. I think trying to hold firm while going over the multitudes of potholes here really works the abs baby! Too bad we are eating so much to counteract it.  Wanne is a great cook and is always whipping something else out to feed us....such a good hostess. These errands were paying a bill at the car insurance place, then picking up some supplies at a place that reminded me of Walgreens....shampoo, cleaning supplies and a few food items. It smelled really good because of the detergents.  We have been given an abundance of bananas, so I was looking for something to make banana pudding and Diana found custard mix and a thin wafer cookie there so we got it. An adventure in translating measurements and we have a huge pudding to go with our barbecue for tonight. Everyone is outside cooking and talking so I will join them soon. I have to go and see what kinds of exotic things Wanne and John are cooking out there. Some of it will include coconut chicken, coconut shrimp, some kind of red meat that I think was reed buck, potato salad that Wanne made this afternoon and of course the puddin.

We are waiting for  a missionary family who is driving through Mozambique on their way to move to South Africa. The Dina's have known them for years, so it will be a nice reunion of them tonight.

Gaining understanding and perspective

Wednesday morning we began the day with Wanne's scrumptious coffee cake! It was my birthday and she made a special breakfast....she didn't even know coffee cake is one of my favorites. We headed out to a village just past the quelimane airport. The women's or youth's mission team went here to work when they were here.  The houses are more spread out and there is tall grass, mango trees and gardens everywhere, then a hut, then more vegetation, another hut and so a country village.

The church is large and made of mud, but another church building is almost built next to it. It is even more large and made of cement blocks. They make the blocks 2 at a time in molds kept by the stack of finished blocks in the current church.  Cash is scarce this year, as the rice harvest was so bad, so the tithes of cash were next to none and the building and making of blocks has come to a halt until more money is available.

The youth worship team here was amazing. I took a short video, but it will only give you a taste of what it was like. Drums, yambi's (long flat shakers), dancing and really loud, beautiful was contagious and inspiring. There was a woman with short curly hair who lead the singing, the band and also kept shooing and shushing the little children who all sat in one place together on a mat. We called her Jackie and children's leader. ;)  The youth here all knew Jeremiah, they worked with him in other areas and played competitively with him in soccer. One of the young men got up to read the Johnsons a 2 page letter about Jeremiah's legacy and their experiences with him. It was beautiful and full of love, but half way through he had to put it down and dash from the church. He was so overcome with emotion that he cried the rest of the time we were there. Sobrinho and John both tried to console him, but he was very broken up.

I think Diana and I came to a conclusion on why Jeremiah fit in so well here. Even at our church in Phoenix, Jeremiah was loved from preschoolers to senior adults. I told Diana that I remember when I would talk to Jeremiah, it was like he was fully engaged in the conversation, not just nodding and enduring a conversation with an adult. He always seemed genuinely interested in whoever he was talking to.....what a gift to give to people. We talked about how awkward it is to be here going to villages each day, not being able to communicate with the people and just smiling and nodding a lot, then you are exhausted from it. Jeremiah didn't do that. He engaged people, played with them, didn't let language or culture separate him from them. I think that was what the secret was, because we've heard the people from the villages, time after time,  give testimony on how he didn't stand alone, he was one of them. And I really think this was why they felt that. God equipped him just like they needed him to be. We are having amazing revelations  here.....things are coming together and understanding is taking place. Another amazing gift. I'm so glad we came.

We took the Dinas out to dinner in the evening. Eating out in Quelimane is a little adventurous and a little  scary. We went to the Quelimane Hotel and all was good, it was a very nice meal. I had something called escallope, which I was glad to find out was not an exotic animal, but something like chicken fried steak, salad and potatoes and rice. The restaurant is on the 7th floor and it has an outdoor balcony, so we stood out there for a while, looking at the city and the river front/bay area. Then we came home exhausted again to a birthday cake made by one of Wanne's missionary friends named Debbie, who is from Australia. So we had African chocolate birthday cake baked by an Aussie. Fun! (and yummy)

August 3, 2010

Orlando's church

Orlando's church is not as far away as the other villages, but the dirt roads here are washed out from unseasonal rains with deep ruts and 'pot holes' that are more like small ponds filled with muddy water.  Driving anywhere  is slow going and I want to say bumpy, but there's got to be a more descriptive jolting, body slamming or as if you were driving in a trampoline. Your body moves side to side and then back and forth. You discover body parts you never knew could jostle....or at least never felt before, like your liver and spleen. I know just where they are now and I also know it's best to not disturb them.  It's not just a drive, it's a workout. I am home while the others are out to another village. My back felt stiff when I went to bed and when it loosened up around 3 am, it did not go well. This morning I am sitting in the Dinas very pleasant living room with high ceiling, open windows and chiming clock. I have a heat producing gel pack between the couch and my back and 4 ibuprofen floating around in my bloodstream being nice to me.

Earnesto, the house helper, has been busily washing up breakfast dishes, sweeping floors and is now running errands. He speaks only Portuguese and I only English but it only took us 3 or 4 minutes to communicate and understand that he was going out to run an errand. He is so nice, always smiling and busy and he stays later than he is supposed to most of the time.  It looked like Wanne was fussing at him the other day and she explained that she was shooing him home. But I think he wants to be around the Johnsons too since he knew Jeremiah so well. They spent 3 long weeks here by themselves while the Dinas were gone last Spring and he loved Jeremiah. We learned this morning that Earnesto also helped with a new mission started recently here on the outskirts of Quelimane. He is not the pastor, but is a disciple and believer. The Dinas have a high respect for him.

I sure wish I knew some Portuguese to say some things to him. That is one of the most frustrating parts of being here for a short time, you cannot personally communicate with people and you want to. In every village, forging along down roads, in the shops in town, you can see so clearly that these people on the other side of the world are exactly the same as people in your own culture. Humanity is a common condition, with common habits, personalities and love of friends and family.

Yes, and now on with the story. We arrived in Orlando's village, called Machimano in the Madal region, to singing. Their songs have verses and choruses and they have their own musical score, although it is not written down as far as I know. Most of the songs are in Shwabo, which is not usually written. Where I was sitting was right in front of the drum section. Two young men were on big normal looking drums that fit between your knees and are beaten with open hands. The other man was on a drum that was small and stood up on a stick. He beat that with two thick drumsticks. And though the drum he played was small....about 10 inches was the loudest one. His arms went high into the air and came down with precision on that thing, beating a really enthusiastic rhythm for the singing. And all the time he played his little son, maybe a year old, sat at his side, never even blinking at the loudness or the wild arm swinging. He was almost an exact miniature of the drummer. Cute! At one point in the second song though, the people all just looked at him and the other drummer took the drumsticks and showed him how the song went. He tried again and another young man came up from the audience and took the drum and moved into that position to continue. He didn't look ashamed or embarrassed, he just scooted down the bench and clapped along. Later on after a few more songs, he silently went back and shoved the other guy out and continued playing.

As before the church members stood up and talked to the Johnsons about their son who they had come to know and love. Their admiration and honor of him really touched them. Juli McFadden said in one of her comments, "I knew God would show them amazing things that they would not know if they had not gone. (to Mozambique)" And He has. It has been amazing to hear it from the mouths of those who knew him here and see their love for him and how his influence is going on. They are so proud of how Jeremiah was letting God work through him. 

Jose from Madumwe was there and added his testimony (Orlando is working with the church in Madumwe and discipling Jose).  And Joao, a young man from Quelimane came with us this day. He works for SIL ministries and is college trained in Greek and Biblical studies, so he is helping translate parts of the Bible into Shwabo language for people to use in building up the churches there. Most people in these villages speak Shwabo and Portuguese, but Shwabo is their first language. He charged the church with this verse:

 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

 A few times when people here gave testimony John got very choked up and could not translate. Other times, he spoke too quietly for me to hear the translation, so maybe I will get some of those stories from him at a later time. But this service seemed to be especially meaningful for David and Diana. God is turning their sorrow into joy.....which reminds me of a story....

When we were having problems in Maputo airport, getting another flight to Quelimane, David and Charles met a man who worked there named Michael. Michael helped them with the changing of flights and would say things like "God bless you" or "God is good" and he was very kind and helpful. Then we saw Michael again at the boarding gate. This time he had a little extra time, so David and Charles talked to him more. They asked if he was a Christian (but they never told him the reason for their trip or anything about Jeremiah) and he was, so they told him they were pastors. At this, Michael looked up at them and said, "Oh! I have something for you!" He got out a slip of paper and wrote on one side 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Then he turned the paper over and wrote Psalm 30:11, just writing the references for the verses, not the whole verse. David said he knew what 1 Corinthians 10:13 said, but what was Psalm 30:11? Michael looked at him and quoted,

 You turned my wailing into dancing; 
       you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

How absolutely, astoundingly COOL is our God to send us Michael, the prophet to encourage them like that?  I'm telling you, this whole trip is full of little nuggets, but that one was huge.

One of the songs the people at Orlando's church sang was a simple chorus that talks about how there in no one like Jesus. I have looked and searched and there is no one like Jesus. They did motions of walking, of searching, of turning around to see, but there is no one they have found who is like Jesus.