Sunday, October 26, 2014

on seeking safety & sierra leone

". . .I've been listening to the radio, on and off while I've been working on the house,
a lot of news on NPR, and I'm struck that I don't think I've heard Africa discussed even once since I've been here. It's so strange for me. I mean, not that Africa has to be in the news. . . " She turned away, looking out her window. Then she said, "You know, it's always hard, coming back. Bridging the worlds. But this time around, it's so pointed, the sense of disconnection. . .
Somehow- maybe it's just being up here, not in a city, America seems so insular now.   More than before, yes. And the [current political drama], which is so ridiculous, really, is part of that for me. I mean, how can this be what Americans are talking about. . .when there's so much horror in the world."  excerpted from The Arsonist, Sue Miller, pg. 133

When we flew back to Chicago after our first trip to Africa, standing in a fast track customs line as a US citizen, I was just blown away by the lack of patriotism I felt.  American soil!  Wealth! Freedom! All I could think about was how insulated, how blind I had been my entire life to how the rest of the world lives. I think the world revolves around me; that's human selfishness.  But Americans think the world revolves around them and it's considered patriotism.  It's all so very complicated.

". . .we didn't have to worry with the poor because we were paid pros serving the saved.  We spent so much time blessing blessed people, there was nothing left over." Seven, Jen Hatmaker 

I've thought a lot about this over the past year and wondered at the happy bubble we're content to live in.  We want to send money to a crisis, we will quickly jump on board a hashtag activism bandwagon, we give our castoffs to charities and drop our loose change in red buckets at Christmastime.  We aren't mean.  We're actually pretty kind.  We're giving.  (Two years ago, American individual household contributions to non-profits and charities totaled 228.93 billion dollars.But we really don't want to know what's going on out there in the big wide world.  Maybe that's why Time Magazine even prints different covers for their US editions.  That way, during the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, we can think about what's really important, like how dangerous football is.

And Ebola!  It's coming to town! 

I can't find any news source that's not bursting with some new development on this crisis.  Last week, a popular Christian ministry posted an article about the hospital in Houston.  It popped up on my Facebook newsfeed because a friend of mine commented that African Christians have been dealing with these diseases for so long and while it's alarming here, it's important to be in prayer for believers outside of our relatively safe nation.  She was blasted by the ministry's moderator for "criticizing the American church."  I would have laughed if it weren't so sad. 

So much fear and yet so few reasons to actually panic.  Unlike West Africa, we have running water, and efficient public waste systems; we aren't malnourished and we have an unbelievable amount medical options to choose in case something does go wrong. 

I won't pretend to have any knowledge of medicine, or even Ebola; but I have had my blinded little eyes opened to how the other half lives and I refuse to live with sanitary safety as my purpose in life.

Morningstar, a beautiful old hospital-turned-school in Welkom, South Africa welcomes children with HIV; this wall marks and remembers the lives of the little students who have died. 
America today is a "save yourself" society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Labor-saving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result, our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves. John Piper
At Morningstar, there is a bathing area for the older and weaker children.  In an effort to create sanitary conditions, this is a little personalized washcloth hanging area; it is next to an elevated tub, designed to reduce wear on volunteers and staff as they lift the children in and out of their baths.
I found this letter on the wall at Morningstar, written by a fifteen year old wise beyond her years.
Our west coast friends Jon and Kelli are headed to Sierra Leone with their children in February, not on a mission trip or visit but to live and pour into lives and people, extending hope and life and Christ.  I tell Kelli all the time I'm so jealous; ministry is never easy street but it is such a joy to be with people hungry for the Gospel and I can't wait to see what God will do through their obedience and lives. 
Kelli and I at my brother-in-law's wedding

The first time Jon and Kelli stayed with us Daniel was working and I was solo-hostessing.  I greeted them, brought a few bags in and feeling a weird poke on my finger, looked down at my engagement ring and saw four bright prongs staring back at me.  I'd lost my diamond.  I couldn't very well hide my surprise and thus ensued a housewide search which everyone enthusiastically took part in.  I couldn't even believe the irony.  I am hosting missionaries headed to the slums of Africa and I can't even say hello without asking everyone to help me find my jewelry. Jon even took my sink/ drain-trap thingies (whatever they're called) apart to see if it had fallen down there.  Realizing this was a needle in the haystack kind of event, I told myself I'd look in the recent trash and then just be done with it and try not to dwell on my diamond-less ring. I found it twinkling up at me from a pile of coffee grounds.  It was a pretty happy sight and Jon and Kelli were really gracious about my materialism.

In light of all the hubbub about Ebola, I can't help but think of them;  I asked Kelli if I could share from their most recent update and she agreed.  I love their courage, perspective and singleminded vision. 

from Jon. . .

First, I want to state that we are still moving forward towards a departure date of early February.  We are “watching and praying” as the situation unfolds in Sierra Leone and currently see no reason to change this date.  As we watch we are continuously reminded of 2 Tim 1:7.  The news coverage of the situation in West Africa has been VERY sensationalized and designed to promote a spirit of fear. However, God’s word reminds us that the spirit of fear is NOT from Him.

We have to continually bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”. (2Cor 10:5b)  We have His spirit giving us the power of the Almighty God to overcome the fears of this world.  We have His supernatural love to help us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love them that Christ came to seek and to save.  Finally, we have His wisdom giving us a sound mind able to make Spirit led decisions.  We do not need to be swayed back and forth by the fears of this world.  What an opportunity to show the power of Christ to a lost and dying world!

I think that it is very important to keep the current situation in perspective.  There are over 20 million people in the three countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and to date there have officially been under 10,000 people infected with Ebola resulting in the deaths of about 4,400 people.  These numbers show you how small the outbreak is relative to the populations of these countries.  It also needs to be remembered that every day in these same three countries, thousands of people die of Malaria and thousands more die every day from Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Cholera, and Tuberculosis, etc.  We need to ask ourselves why so much fear over this disease?

The truly sad aspect of the Ebola deaths is that many of these people have died without ever having heard of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” it matters very little what someone dies of, but it matters for eternity in what state they die: Saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or an eternity in hell for the wages of sin is death!  We need to run towards those who need to hear of Christ and are dying without Him, not run away in a vain attempt to preserve our health or lives.  As my wife says so well “We are not going to Sierra Leone for our health!”

For over 2 years we have been going around the country telling people about Sierra Leone and have been amazed and somewhat saddened that so few people had ever heard of Sierra Leone and that even fewer where aware of the great need and open door for the gospel.  We “know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)  Ebola has placed Sierra Leone at the forefront of world news and now, for maybe the first time in it’s history, thousands of Christians are praying for these very needy people.  I believe that God is using this outbreak to further open hearts in Sierra Leone and to call more laborers into this white harvest!  Ebola is an opportunity!

More links:

From the son of the doctor treating Dr. Kent Brantly while still in Liberia

Don't Freak Out

Seemingly off topic, I found this article from the Washington Post fascinating; the thread tying it to seeking comfort and safety is our obsession with ourselves.

Even more terrible things are happening to the American Girl Doll

More on Sierra Leone

Jon and Kelli

a cemetery for children outside Thabong, a township in South Africa
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he could never lose. Jim Elliot

Thursday, October 16, 2014

(decorating blocks)

For sure, the most surprising thing about living in our new house has been how lost I am with how to make it feel ours.

I am so accustomed to a fixer upper mindset where anything I do improves the property.  Here, I'm kind of hesitant because I don't want to wreck anything.

Walls?  Should I hang a  map?  A clock?  I vacillate and hesitate. Before, I thumbtacked up art and clocks and even driftwood and painted with reckless abandon.  I projected verses, quotes, maps onto the walls, penciling the outlines and then carefully filling them in.  I painted my chalkboard wall before it was cool and I painted yucky oak cupboards bright white.  I painted old ceiling fans and used a hammered metal spray paint to redo light fixtures. Once I even painted an ugly linoleum floor a red and tan checkerboard design and coated it generously with wax.  It looked FANTASTIC.  Painting is my go to. And I know I'm biased, but all that stuff really did look nice.  Amazing, even. 

Here, the colors are already chosen and I happen to love them, so there's no reason to paint, but the expansive walls are kind of getting to me and most of my art and pictures are still stored on the floor of the linen closet.  And who has time to stand and squint and stare at their walls to figure out where to hang pictures?

Suddenly I am becoming a decor-challenged person and I have never in my life had that problem. As a tiny child I even rearranged my bedroom furniture one night when I was being babysat.  I was probably five, and I remember pushing the bed across the floor with all of my might.  How I expected this to escape the babysitter's notice, I'm not sure, but when Mom and Dad got home I crept down to the landing to listen to the report.  (I have also never required a lot of sleep.  Who needs sleep?)  "She was really good- except I don't think she went to bed and she made a lot of noise in her room moving things around." I froze.  Busted. 

I have not finished Myquillyn Smith's new book The Nesting Place, but I have bought it twice and and given it away, so maybe the third time I will buy it and keep it to myself.  However, I have browsed it very carefully so as not to crease the pages of my gift and did some speed reading stints.  Also I have given it, and then shamelessly taken it back and pored over the pages.  It is exquisite.  I love it and it is exactly  my philosophy of making a home beautiful.  Well, anyway, maybe I exactly like Myquillyn's philosophy, but anyway. 

Be creative with cheap finds, better yet freeee finds
Use what YOU love
Bring personality to your home
Be brave
Be a little bit reckless
Stop procrastinating
You can always change it
Simplicity is beautiful and life is beautiful and mess is part of both: embrace it

Somehow I feel I've lost this philosophy in the crisp clean spaces of our new house.  I joke that we run a hotel, and we really do, but I don't want it to look like one-- at all.  I want people to feel welcome and at home and have their eyes wander to interesting art and read quotes that point them to Christ and find intriguing books in easy reach.  I want our house to look like our kids live here, too, and like their friends are welcome, because they are.  I want our home to be an extension of who we are, but not what we are and there is a difference!

Tonight after a long day of teaching, house showing, and packing for the weekend, I threw caution to the wind and Cambria and I had fun with our kitchen wall.  IT WAS A BLAST.

Long live electrical tape, chalkboard paint and Myquillyn Smith.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

cambria's pillowcase project

When I suggested that Cambria get Eli the Hawkeye back scratcher he's been eyeing for the last several weeks for his birthday, she hesitated and said:

"Well . . . . . I really was thinking about sewing him a pillowcase with horses on it since he thinks he's Little Joe [from Bonanza]."

Never mind.

That would ALSO explain why I flooded Pinterest with horse pictures yesterday.  [PS- that wasn't me.]

She's so crazy creative and intuitive and artistic, but only in things she likes to do.  It's such a funny personality sandwiched between my two boys.

Like yesterday, Columbus Day, I said:

"Cambria, do you remember who Christopher Columbus was?"

She scrunched her face up and thought; "Well, I feel like I knew once. . . . but it's passed away."

You see what I deal with.

So we hunted high and low for the perfect fabric and she got to work today.

It's truly such a simple project UNLESS you dig your sewing machine out and find the needle broken, requiring yet another Walmart trip to replace it.  Probably my like would be simpler if I lived next door to Walmart.

It was definitely a hit and his three year old head is resting on the horses right now.

You'll need a yard of material, folded right sides together, one L shaped seam to create the pillow case, then a nice deep hem to finish it.  Couldn't be easier!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Leave it to Beaver Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rainy days are perfect for cookies and I know I'm biased but I think my mom's are the best. 

I think that she got the recipe from a radio program and I remember them becoming a family favorite in no time at all. I'm pretty sure using shortening is the key to the chewy crispness and all that vanilla is just amazing. 

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups chocolate chips 

Mix ingredients together and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

thoughts from a sunday

 You couldn't spend your whole life in Campus Crusade for Christ,
or raise your daughter as a Promise Keeper,
or count on groups like the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition
to sustain your belief system beyond the next election cycle.
For that kind of staying power you [need] a confessional tradition,
a church,
an institution capable of outlasting its charismatic founders.
-Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics
Wisdom lies in anchoring ourselves to the church
as the church is anchoed to Christ.
Across time and culture and trends,
the church remains.
-Peter Greer, Chris Horst, Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches

Jesus Christ is building His church.  This gives me so much hope.  We are not building it.  He is. 
So when we fail, and people fail, and things and lives get broken, and solutions that seemed perfect don't work, when ministry is messy and discipleship is draining, He is still building and He is still extending grace and the Cross is still power to those who believe and His Word is still not returning void.

I am loving this song today.


I know there is poor and hideous suffering,
and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war.
I have lived pain, and my life can tell:
I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks
for early light dappled through leaves
and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July
and the song of crickets on humid nights a
nd the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls
and all the good things that a good God gives.
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Best Yes

We are working through The Best Yes in our Bible study right now and it has been amazing. 

First of all, the teaching segments are shot in London, and having just been there -

(for three hours) 

(in smelly clothes from two days in airports) 

(we were hardly a good representation of Americans to the UK) 

- it's really cool to see in the background. Okay, I know that's totally shallow, but it's still engaging, instead of a tan wall with ferns ala Emerson Eggerich/Tedd Tripp/John Piper/Beth Moore. 

Second, I can't believe how much Scripture Lysa digs into; it's not a book study, or opinion study-- it is totally a Bible study, taking a hard look at how God wants us to prioritize time. 

Third, I appreciate the little quotes Lysa encapsulates in her book, study and in her Instagram account (she's a great person to follow). They stick with me. 

It's easy to think that our daily yes and 
no decisions aren't all that important, but over time, they can add up:  the decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep; the schedules we keep determine the life we live; the life we live determines how we spend our soul - and how we spend our soul matters. - The Best Yes study guide, pg. 19

Wisdom is like a muscle; if we want to be strong in preparation for extraordinary circumstances, we have to give it regular workouts in ordinary circumstances. -pg. 54

We've got to practice wisdom in the everyday places of our lives.  - pg. 86

I have loved the book, as well, and I'm almost finished.  So much practical application: what do you do if someone asks to move in with you indefinitely? Lysa writes/walks through that decision making process and I could hardly turn the pages fast enough-- better than a murder mystery haha! Why does saying yes always feel more loving? Is it actually always loving? 

This is a great, great study to grab some girlfriends and walk through together.  

(See my little Best Yes display? -- propped up there in an effort to remind myself to choose my time and decisions wisely) 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

my face when. . . we have a family conference

I am folding laundry in our bedroom (laundry is my nemesis) when I hear a weeping Eli climbing the stairs.

He has inherited my flair for the dramatic, my love of the English language, and his dad's intelligence which is a hysterically funny combination in a two year old.

"Mom,"  he wails, "the kids locked me in the house."  He is wearing his most insulted and injured expression, tears rolling one right after the other down his little face.

I find it hard to believe that the children locked him into the house, and tell him so. 

"No, Mom, they did, and they locked the front door and the back door and now they are out on the trampoline jumping!"  New, fresh round of bitter tears.

My blood pressure is elevated at this injustice and I leave the laundry for another moment day year and go downstairs to investigate. The front doors are bolted, latched and locked. Eli is telling the truth.  The little stinkers!

I call them inside and tell them they are in trouble. They are to march to the living room immediately for a family conference.

Jacob chooses the love seat, Cambria the couch, and Eli perches on the arm of the big chair, next to me, his ally. 

I begin:

Number one: I cannot even believe you would lock your little brother in the house.

blah blah blah ad infinitum, ad nauseum

Now would any of you like to add something?

Eli raises his hand.  "I have something to say.  Jacob, you locked me in the house.

Jacob asks his forgiveness and I try not to smile. 

Cambria contributes:  "Well, Mom, I just want to say that we try to include Eli and he fusses so much that it's not fun.  So that's why we try to sneak outside when he's not looking."

Jacob:  "Mom, the last time we were on the trampoline with the neighbor kids, he begged to get up and I helped him and then he yelled at us the whole time and told us to get off."

[I googled my face when to see if there were any photos of expressions that did Eli's face justice. Found one that nailed it. Also, I have no clue who this dude is. ]

Eli's face when he knows JD and Cambria are telling on him

Eli raises his hand again.  And not even kidding, this is what he says:

"I have something to say.  Number three {theatrically holds up fingers}, Jacob is costing us a lot of money.  And he just costed us money.  And he keeps costing us money."

I want to die laughing but I'm the adult who just called this conference, so I have to finish it.  I pull my face together and ask Eli what he has to say about the screaming on the trampoline.

He hops down off of his perch next to me and says:

"I will show you how it is. Jacob, you jump with me.  I will be Cambria.  We are the big kids jumping." ///proceeds to jump up and down with an obliging Jacob on the hardwood floor///  Still jumping, he looks at Cambria.  "Now, Cambria, you be Eli David on the trampoline."

Cambria leaps off of the couch, between the boys, falls to the floor and begins (fake) wailing. 

Eli stops jumping, climbs back up next to me and looks at me. 

I look back at him. "Well, is that how it is?"

He nods.

"Eli, you need to quit screaming like that when the big kids let you jump on the trampoline."

He blinks dramatically, pointing to where the scene was just reenacted. "That was not me screaming, that was Cambria Faith."

Where do you even begin?

Yeah, I just parent for the comedy.

After working that issue out he trots off.

I ask if anyone else has any more concerns to bring to the family conference. Both kids join me on either arm of the big chair.

Cambria lowers her voice and shares that she feels Eli has been swearing a lot.  She believes he's learning it from Jacob.  I disagree and defend Jacob.  Jacob is about the most legalistic child to walk the earth; swearing just isn't his jam.  I ask what she means by swearing.

"Mo-oom.  Like Eli says poopoo and peepee.  All. the.time."

I point out that those words aren't swear words and maybe it's because he has the world's smallest bladder and goes to the bathroom about 427 times a day.

I kid you not, the words are not out of my mouth and we hear Eli swing the bathroom door open and the toilet in use. 

The family conference has pretty much lost all seriousness at this point, but I try to rein it in with a short comment about calling bodily functions and parts by their medical names and not cutesy made up ones that invite jokes, like winky and peepee.

Jacob throws out his hands, annoyed.  "Why do people even say that stuff?  It's so dumb."

Cambria's eyes twinkle:  "Like. . . the family jewels?!"  Jacob and I are shocked into utter silence and Cambria dissolves into giggles.

Then I start laughing and I can't stop.  The whole meeting is just a comedy of errors. I need to leave family conferences to Daniel and just get my normal show on the road before I lose complete control.

Late that night, tucking Cambria in, as usual, we discuss the best and worst parts of our day. 

"Mom," she whispers, "I know we were really in trouble, but the best part of my day was when we were all piled on the chair with you having a family conference."

Mine too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

i can't do it all

I have a housecleaner.


here i come with a bunch of excuses and explanations, groveling and apologizing----


Just this.

I can't do it all.

I came a bit late to this stunning realization last August.

We bought four houses in as many months last year, went to Africa, started planning another trip back there, taught a small group, ran a small business, participated in community, church, family and sports events and when it came time for school to start I just felt like I was going to drown.

I knew my husband was gone a lot; besides running a business he continues to work full time at MFD.  Out of curiosity one week I logged his hours gone: 116.  Really, this made me feel better, not worse.  I knew I was carrying a rather heavy load of bedtimes, training, teaching, mealtimes and practices alone, but doesn't everyone?  Why was it so hard on me?  Weekends are somewhat irrelevant since Daniel is usually on duty for either Saturday or Sunday (or both).  I don't get a break most nights when Daddy comes home.  We try to schedule one family day per week, but it doesn't always happen.

I felt like something was going to give and I really didn't want it to be a) my marriage b)our business c) my sanity.

I took a good hard look at what I loved doing, what I needed to be doing, and what mattered for eternity.   And then I started ruthlessly cutting out the rest.

Whenever you start taking things off of your plate in American society, your pride suffers horrendous blows and your very being starts quaking.  What if I'm not frenetically rushing??  What if I appear to have time to push my kid on the swing?  What if someone thinks I'm lazy?? What if I don't appear busy?  Our value as Americans is intrinsically wound up in what we produce and how full our schedule is; relationships, health, spiritual well-being and even sanity fall below the bar when it comes to how we prioritize our time.

So with my pride on the line I knew one of the things sinking me was quite simple:  housecleaning and laundry folding. 

But you're a stay at home mom! 

You are such a failure if you can't manage this!

How lazy!

You could be spending this money to feed starving children!

The accusations in my head were vicious (maybe because I'd mentally flung them at others before?) and I cringed; Daniel laughed and asked what I was waiting for. 

So I asked a teenage friend if she was interested in folding my laundry.  Why, of course! (What teen doesn't want some quick cash?) 

The first day she was at my house for barely two hours.  She folded and put away five loads of laundry, vacuumed the kids' rooms, scrubbed the dining room, kitchen and bathroom floors and washed the front glass door with windex.  I  couldn't even believe it; I kept pinching myself.  And that night when I was making supper at ten pm for my husband and the guys staying with us I didn't even feel guilty.  Instead I felt able to handle the weariness of an extra dinner, of cleaning up the kitchen and dining room late at night and I knew that only my foolish pride and independence would keep me from receiving this beautiful gift: one hour a week of help cleaning my house.

I can't do it all. 

I can't.

It feels good, freeing, now to admit this. 

I am pretty sure laundry is not eternal.  I do not want to give up snuggling my two year old or time with my husband in order to fold laundry.  I do not want to give up having friends over just to be or watching my kids' soccer games to scrub the floors. 

I have had to prioritize what is most important in my life right now and what I want to spend my precious hours on and as much as I love cleaning my house my way it's at the bottom of the totem pole of what's important. 

So I let it go.

Freedom comes in relinquishing my pride and giving God my time and energy;  His yoke is not a burden; His ways are not heavy and weary. 

Unless you believe the Gospel, everything you do will be driven by either pride or fear.
Tim Keller
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

egg roll bowls

I'm pretty sure it's 100% cheating to post recipes for the write31 challenge. . . I can wing through this month with no sweat and no problems if I just write about food and books, two of my favorite things.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, read it, and then lost it, and scouring the internet for it did NOT turn anything up.  So I invented my own, loosely following what I remembered reading.  It is DELICIOUS and nutritious and the smell is just amazing as you throw it together.

Egg Roll Bowls

hot cooked rice 

[I bake rice @ 350 for an hour in a covered dutch oven, 1 part basmati rice to 2 parts water + 1 chicken boullion cube for each cup of water.]

1 pound ground pork
1 head shredded cabbage
4 grated carrots
1 grated granny smith apple
4 green onions, sliced diagonally, white separated from green
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
soy sauce
fresh ground salt and pepper
chow mein noodles 

Brown the ground pork in a large cast iron skillet. Add the shredded cabbage, and slowly, carefully saute the cabbage in the leftover pork drippings.  It will be dry at first and you will have to stir a lot, scraping the bottom to make sure nothing sticks, but all of a sudden it kind of melts down and all becomes very easy. Add the carrots, the white part of the onions, the apple and the garlic.  Saute for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the soy sauce (to taste), sugar, salt and pepper and the green onions and mix together.

Serve with chow mein noodles over hot rice. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

crosses on shoes

"The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship."

- Martin Luther 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

(friends who carry)

Today I sat in Sunday School, sipping on my coffee and studying Mark 2 right out of the Bible since I couldn't find my lesson book at home (story of my life).

I like highlighting the points that stand out to me and dragging my little purple pen along these words jumped out at me as I read the account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Haven't we all been there? Paralyzed by fear, by grief, by sin, by pain?  And sometimes you're just too weak to see your own need, and you're just too broken to fix it yourself or even know who to ask for help. 
Enter the friends. 
The friends that see through to the deeper need and carry you to Jesus.
The ones who stop their schedule and get involved in your mess.
The friends who aren't afraid to be in your face and tell you what needs to happen and propel you in the right direction.
Friends who hypothetically tear holes in roofs to get you to the only One Who can heal and help.
And Jesus saw their faith. 
Today I'm just standing in awe of the power of friendship and so grateful for the gift of friends who have the strength to believe even when I don't.
I want to be that friend.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday Morning Pancakes

According to Jo Frost, Supernanny, toddlers thrive on little rituals.

I think a lot of people thrive on little rituals. The world is enough of an adventure; having boring little weekly rituals gives children such a sense of home and place and security.

One of our family rituals is Saturday morning pancakes.

We even have a playlist dedicated to it. 

Here are our favorites:
Mom's Flannel Pancakes
These make a great mix if you withhold the milk, butter and eggs; when we were kids we made 1/2 million of these and packaged them in brown paper bags with bottles of real maple syrup for Christmas gifts for neighbors and acquaintances.  (Actually, Mom just kept them in a basket by the door and anyone that walked through got one.  That is classic Mom.) I like to use 1/2 whole wheat.
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/4 t. salt
2 cups milk
Fry on a hot  griddle!
Cornmeal Pancakes
From Taste of Home, these are the lightest, fluffiest pancakes I've ever made.
1 1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together and fry on electric griddle. 
Oatmeal Pancakes Smitten Kitchen Style
These are the kids' favorite and probably the softest pancakes I've ever had; they're like velvet.  Delicious with raspberry syrup! I changed the recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen's site, so these are totally ours.  :) We double this recipe. 
1  3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
Fry on electric griddle and serve hot with your favorite toppings.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Malted Pretzel Crunch

This took about five minutes to assemble and we already ate half of it tonight at the homecoming football game. It is definitely a Pinterest win. I changed the recipe I found so I feel free to share the version below:

1 16 oz bag of mini pretzels, crushed
12 tablespoons instant milk powder
2/3 cup malted milk powder
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (I thought this was too much - I'll decrease it to 2 teaspoons next time) 
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together, then  pour 3 sticks + 4 tablespoons melted butter over the pretzel mixture. 

Bake at 350 on a jelly roll pan for about 10-12 minutes, til foamy and golden brown. Pour out onto foil and let cool; break into pieces. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Supervising Teacher Day

Today our supervising teacher visited.

This is a day when you would like your house to resemble a slightly mussed, delightfully cozy Waldorf style classroom-morphed-into living room, with an art project thoughtfully in motion in the dining room and your coffee table strewn with Lego pieces being constructed into intricate structures (not guns) (or diving boards).

Every home school mother of the 70's and 80's can tell you about The Supervising Teacher Visits.  Bless their hearts, I do believe those moms thought if the house was not immaculate and the grades weren't 4.0, their darlings would be snatched from their arms.

But laws and teaching and education styles have changed a lot since then and the paranoia has essentially evaporated.  I have been told by veteran moms to make my meetings be in public, or at a restaurant.  Maybe foolishly, I resist this distrustful, wary stance; we are grateful and fortunate to work with a fantastic, supportive community school district and I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

However, The Supervising Teacher Visit still has capital letters attached to it in my head.

I kid you not, I queued "Classical Music for Studying" and pushed play.

I lay Eli down for his nap upstairs and pick up the fantastical  Lego grocery store (complete with aisles) that the kids built a couple weeks ago to display proudly on the coffee table set in the living room.  I hear voices in the entryway and hesitated.  I surmise that The Supervising Teacher may be early.  I do not have any eyeliner on. I set the Lego grocery paradise on the top step and reluctantly head downstairs to face my hour of critiquing without a lick of makeup on.  This is not starting well.

She is gracious and does have eyeliner.  The kids show her their projects and school work and chat amiably.  Cambria plays the piano and mentions that her aunt is a piano teacher. The Supervising Teacher asks if Cambria takes lessons from her aunt. 

I say,  "No, she's very, very good, but I wanted her to be able to be an aunt and not a teacher for their time together."

The Teacher looks at me: "And how does that work for you?  Mom and Teacher?"

Bahahaha terribly!  I laugh.  (I do not say that it works terribly.)  I do say that it is definitely the biggest challenge to homeschooling, having all the mom waiting when the teaching is done.

"And you don't have to get after them to get their school done?" she probes.

"No," I hear myself lie smoothly. I'm a terrible liar.  "I mean, not much.  Sometimes. I mean, only a little bit."

Somehow, for reasons unknown to me, my inbox is continually full of questions about teaching at home, curriculum, early childhood education, working with the public school system.  Last week I even got some lesson plans via text to look over. I find all of this hilarious.  I mean, who are we trying to kid, I am NOT an authority on homeschooling and certainly have never tried to portray an image of having it all together.  Ironically, the day I got the lesson plan text (and I did tell my inquiring friend this), Cambria was hitting a subtraction wall. 

I texted Deeann: (as I do on all days that are bad)
What abt me makes people ask me homeschool advice???? !!!!!
Abt to go crazy and it's only Monday!
Me (suspenseful voice) to Cambria (weeping): "If 3 + 7 = 10 then 4 + 7 eeeeequallllsssss. . . ."
Eli: ". . . .an elephant!!"

I mean, seriously, I am not lying, teaching Cambria math is one of the most brutally agonizing, frustrating things I've ever done.  It's like this: (I did not show The Supervising Teacher this video)

[For real, during Christmas at my inlaws, everyone was watching some popular war/action/blood/suspense movie (I hate war/action/blood/suspense movies) and I fell asleep next to Daniel on the couch.  I woke up, thinking I was teaching math, because everyone had finished the movie and was watching this video. It was so like my real life with Cambria that I thought maybe I was dreaming it.]

Well, 4+7 does not = an elephant, and Cambria and I dug out a bunch of cool math handbooks and stopped everything and focused on the subtraction principles. Truly, this is what I love about teaching my own kids. When they don't get it you can see, and stop, and slow down and explain and reteach. She's smart and though math may never going to be her forte, she tries hard and it's the biggest thrill when you can finally see the lightbulb turn on.  

I sit cross legged on the love seat and watch my kids show their work, their grades, their short stories and triumphs; Cambria's paintings and Jacob's business cards and ledger for his lawn care proceeds and my heart bursts wide open with pride in them.  They're bright and articulate and smart and they are doing just fine.  We will figure the math out.

It is a ton of hard work, this teaching/mamma thing.  It doesn't matter which educational option you choose for your kids, it's going to be work, and discipline, because education is preparing kids for real life. 

Is any part of parenting a walk in the park?

No, we just try to make it look like that on Supervising Teacher Day.

(on fall and holding some things loosely)

participating in a challenge to write for the 31 days of october - in classic hayley-style I jump on board at 11:39pm

Hello there, it's me, plinking from my phone again. 

Fall is here and school and football - it's my favorite season of all.  My mums are already dead, which is a bummer - I would so love to be able to keep plants alive. They started out gorgeous anyway: 

And then there's the rather sad story of all of my autumn/thanksgiving/pilgrim books, which were stored last November in a plastic bin along with two real pumpkins. Hopelessly moldy, I had to throw my carefully curated autumn book collection away. 

It was sad but God is teaching me a lot about what to hold loosely and what to hold tightly on my hands. 

Hold the book collection loosely; hold the autumn beauty tight 

Hold the fall flowers loosely; hold the open door attitude tight

Hold the schedule loosely (it is not my god); hold tightly to the Word and the Spirit's whisper - place the phone call, drop the note in the mail, make the trip, invite the child in, throw on the coffee pot, set another place at the table. 

The stuff will go, the people will not.

Today I listened to God and we laid aside my often-idolatrous schedule and the kids helped me throw a surprise birthday party for their beloved Matt, who works for Daniel but is our friend as well. It was the sweetest. They blew up balloons and wrapped lil gifts and drew pictures and wrote birthday wishes. 

I want this for Matt, sure, but I want it for my kids as well, to value people and spontaneous joy above accomplishment of selfish goals that can shut others out. 

Who cares about the schedule- it all got accomplished by the end of the day.

What are you holding loosely and what are you clinging to? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Why can't I write?  I wonder tonight while I run, cicadas threatening to drown my soundtrack, sunlight fading, running, not because I love to run, but because my sisters run and because I'll never be thin and because I love food and because running is supposed to negate everything I ate last weekend.
Why is pain seemingly easier to write about than happy days and good stuff?
I could write books on grief and loss and pain and loneliness but my husband took me to Jamaica for a week in November and I don't know how to write about that.  Is it because it's all too beautiful and fragile, these days, months, now years of joy creeping through?  We leave the kids with their grandparents and drive to O'Hare, pinching ourselves like two little kids, buying mismatched clearanced swimsuits because it's winter in Chicago and I hadn't thought about that; chocolate and granola bars and Nike sun visors at Target and carefully laying out our super crisp passports (we are green to world travel) and asking the hotel desk for a three am wake up call.
We fly to Montego Bay groggy and hungry and disoriented and squinting in the blinding sunlight and then a sweltering bus trip and free-flowing alcohol and winding streets and smells and the ragged beggars and haunting faces out of broken hut windows and I wonder why us, why here? We don't belong here, tourists, vacationing Americans, I don't deserve this, I could never have dreamed of this back when we had nothing but each other and nothing to our names but hard work and delivering papers and furniture and babysitting and stretching ends to meet each other. This is too good to be true. 
Cool tile and palms and pools and the ocean right there and hours on the sand with books;  at the pool bar we order everything under the sun sans alcohol and the salt cracks my lips; we eat jerk chicken on the beach with our fingers; fresh coconut milk, which tastes exactly like soap, cracked open with a knife right in front of us, and we drink it for the experience.  We promise to watch the sun rise and never do, exhausted and spent from our demanding life, we sleep in like kids on summer break.  Lying in bed one night watching TV, I hear Sara Bareilles' Brave on a HP commercial and wonder why I've never noticed it before:
Maybe there's a way out of the cage you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
And it's easy to let the light in here, on an island, with chocolate croissants for breakfast and music late into the night, but sometimes it's scary to let the light in at home, back in my little hometown with so much responsibility and our uneasy truce on whether or not to move and my entrepreneur husband's goals that seem to take him further out of my life. 
I want to be brave and sometimes brave is being happy.  Sometimes brave is letting go of the grief.  Sometimes it's closing a chapter and moving on.
And maybe fear would have been saying no to this beautiful week, choosing to stay in the mundane, choosing to close the door to adventure and choosing to play it safe and secure and so much less extravagance.
We rent a sailboat and go out in the bay and then to the ocean and watch another boat capsize;  I'm terrified and lose a twenty dollar bill out of my pocket in the wind and Daniel laughs harder than I've heard in a long time. We can see clear to the bottom, light all the way down to the sand, but we can't find my lost twenty and it doesn't matter anyway because money can't buy happiness, only a little freedom, and money can't prevent heartache, only pay for the aftermath, and we know all of this from painful experience. 
I've held a $127 masculine wedding band in my hand and said I will and I do,
and I've held a tinny (and tiny) navy blue cell phone and begged my girlfriend Allison to come visit me in this town where I'm so lonely and know no one,
and I've held a pregnancy test with two lines through it far before I thought I was ready to be a mama.
I've held nothing, I've held loneliness, I've held invitations, tentative friendships, I've held shingles and helped my husband roof our first little house, I've held my first child and felt my heart burst wide open with love.
I've held toddler hands and preschool pencils and a little sister's wedding invitations and one morning my little son who wasn't alive anymore and then I held loss in my hands.
I held kleenex and my sobbing mouth and dirt on a grave and cold winter snow; held on too tight and let go of some things I shouldn't have and held my husband as he drifted away from me; in humiliation held the edge of a counselor's couch and in shame I've held letters written with my own hands, wishing I could have taken back bitter, angry words, hurting the broken man I loved. 
I held grief and years of darkness and then another tiny son and I held him and terror, too, watching him creep toward the one hundred twenty-eight day mark.
And I wrote, wrote, wrote about all of this.  What do you have in your hand? God asks.
This, God.
This sorrow.  That's all. 
Tears are healing and life can be wildly healing and our people breathed grace into our broken hearts and then one day my hands held hope.
I held another shocked grieving mother, crushed her to me and stroked her matted hair and rocked her on my shoulder and looked into her swollen eyes and met the grief and I held little black babies all the way in Africa who were alive, but without love, and I learned about this, too, a different kind of loss, and maybe my grief tunnel had gotten a bit narrow and maybe I wasn't the only one suffering.
I held soccer schedules and then school books and choir programs and so much work;  Jamaica and rest and joy and somehow the iCloud loses all of my photos but it happened and I hold it in my heart:   this, sun and salt and water and joy and ten years with someone who loves me all the way to my soul.
And then I held my coffee cup in a restaurant and watched my husband buy a business;  held a pen and signed under his name, too, in shaky handwriting, and I held packing tape and moved to a dream house, brick, and front porch and on the same street as my beloved library, held my breath and said goodbye to that little bedroom where my son had breathed his last, held a cloth and wept as I wiped off the chalkboard wall:
love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm
Somehow the storm seems weathered and I don't know how to document this, the joy.  I feel so undeserving.  I remember being the sleepless insomniac, reading grief blogs, resenting and almost hating the ones who were happy again.  How could they forget the pain?
But now I know you don't ever forget the pain; your heart just opens up wider to hold everything- loss, joy, pain, happiness again- and this, this is a gift.
Lewis writes, "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither."  Earth is thrown in  now for me, and peace and happiness are fragile, unexpected gifts.
What is that in your hand?
Exodus 4:2
This is in my hand, now, God - joy, and thankfulness and I will thank You and and let the light in again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tiger Woods & Duck Towels

"Mom, can I google something?"

I am in the bathroom with a towel swathed Eli, struggling to clip his tiny toenails while he's perched on the counter. 

Granted permission, Jacob proceeds to google: pictures of Tiger Woods' house.


You just never know what your kid is going to be interested in next.

"Mom, look at this. . ." his voice is full of awe as he holds out the phone, scrolling through photo after photo of the golf idol's little massive mecca.  He finds an aerial image with explanations and arrows pointing to the indoor pool, putting green and massive excess of amenities. 

"Mommy, is this the ducky towel?" Eli asks, peering suspiciously at his white wrap.

"Yes," I say absently, thinking that Tiger Woods is not someone I want my son to view as successful.

We discuss golf and success and cheating and faithfulness and what's really important and I think that we connected some loose threads and then Eli's offended little voice interrupts:

"Mom this is NOT the ducky towel!  There are no ducks on this towel! You said it was the ducky towel but it isn't!"

Sorry, bud, not the ducky towel.

Behind me Jacob voice-googles: pictures of the INSIDE of Tiger Woods' house.

Maybe I didn't connect.

Maybe I didn't listen at the right time to duck towel question, maybe I over criticized the golf hero, maybe I undervalued what was really going on: a normal curiosity about public figures. 

It's a wild crazy world out there; a scary one to raise kids in, and I am stretched as  I try to meet the intellectual needs of my nine year old, the social needs of my seven year old and the 157 wide and varied needs of my two year old.

Tonight Daniel took us out for pizza and after finishing and driving away, Eli heaved a huge sigh:  "It was a busy day. . ."  You betcha son, glad you noticed.

I hate busyness for the sake of busyness; my cover photo on facebook is a quote to remind me: stop the glorification of busy. I try so hard to have time for people and carve out moments that really matter, but the truth is life is beyond crazy right now and I am struggling to wrap my fingers around the minutes. 

Deep inside there is this huge fear of missing the most important conversations with my kids or failing to connect with my husband.  I feel:

spread thin
 Almost every mom I know feels this way; relief at the end of each day tempered by the awareness that sweet sleep may be interrupted by
a) vomit
b) nightmare
c) need for a drink at 1 am
d) all of the above
But underneath the exhaustion I am so thrilled  to get to be the one to watch them grow and develop and become little people with thoughts and dreams and interests and personalities.  It is a privilege. . .
weary, yes, absolutely. 
More coffee please.
Also, advice on how to handle celebrity sports figures and their dichotomous lives.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

The title says a lot. . .

This is the fictional account of a community who wakes up to the realization that life is short and our days with our children are numbered.

While the plot is not very complex, reflecting the screenwriting strengths of the author, the message is simple and direct: eighteen summers with our children are not that many.  In the form of novelization, the authors address four different parenting angles: single parent, hover-parenting, success-driven parents and relaxed, laid back parenting.  All styles have challenges and regrets and joys, but it's easy to see by walking through the storyline that our children need us, not a formula or method.

This book was an easy read, yet it may take you awhile: every time I started in, I wanted to lay it down to do just what it encourages: enjoy the summers I have left with my little ones.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Tyndale House Publishers.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn

Oh, this book is fun!

When faced with the possibility of prison for a technicality she was unaware of, successful businesswoman Brenda Spahn's eyes were opened wide to the hopeless cycle of incarceration for women.  She sees the despair of new parolees as they are sent back to the exact environments they came from without any hope for change; Brenda decides do jump in and do something out of gratefulness to God for reversing her own prison situation. 

Brenda is a rich lady.  Rich, rich.  While it is super heartwarming and movie-like to read the account of  seven ex-cons living with an extremely wealthy woman, the heart of  the story is clear: get involved. It's so easy to throw money at a situation rather than sacrificially giving oneself. 

This is the story of a woman who embraced the unlovable at great personal cost, and her courage moves you to reach out of your comfort zone. Whether it's taking newly released women shopping for undergarments at Walmart or bringing chocolate covered strawberries to prisoners, you will be motivated by all of the practical ways to speak life and Christ into those around you.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianityby Nabeel Qureshi

What if everything you knew to be true wasn't truth?  Would you embrace the truth even if it meant walking away from everything you've ever known?  Would you choose truth over family? Truth at deep personal cost?

Raised in Western culture, Nabeel Qureshi traces his childhood steeped in Islamic tradition to his adulthood and his deep desire to seek truth.

Although I was reading to understand my Muslim friends and their background, I found my own faith strengthened as he wrestled with the difficult questions of Christianity: did Jesus really die? what about the swoon theory? what about the conundrum of the Trinity- isn't that polytheism? As Nabeel tackles these questions with intense scrutiny and deep skepticism, he finds over and over that science and history prove the Bible to be true.

Another thread running through this excellent account of a man's search for truth is the power of a friend who won't let go.  Nabeel's friend David doesn't just love him to Christ - he prays, he spends years building a relationship,  he doesn't shrink from the tough questions, and most importantly, Nabeel knew beyond any doubt that David loved him. 

I chose to read this book because I'm interested in apologetics and usually this genre of book is slow reading and a lot to digest: however I read this in a weekend and couldn't put it down.  The chapters are intense and deep, but also short.  Because of the comprehensive glossary throughout, there's so many aha moments for anyone who cares about Muslim people that you are compelled to keep reading so you can understand your friends even more.

This is a fantastic book for anyone who is interested in Islam, anyone who loves a Muslim friend and wants to understand their culture, and for anyone who is seeking truth. 

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Zondervan's blogger review program, BookLook. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

(why i went to south africa x2)

just some of my notes from when our team shared with our church family as we prepared to go to africa 4/16 - 5/1

CS Lewis said: "I pray because the need flows out of me, waking and sleeping.  It doesn't change God, it changes me."

For me this statement applies to this mission trip as well. Holding little abandoned babies actually changes very little about their circumstances, and it doesn't change God.  But it changes me.  I want to keep my heart tender and broken to the needs of people. Africa does this in a stunning way. When I grow weary and burdened with the frustration of sorting purpose out of the American Dream, looking back and forward to our time in Africa brings clarity and motivation to my days.

Recently Daniel and I took my younger sisters to a Rend Collective concert.  We quickly realized we might be a little older than the target age for the attendees when as we struggled to find seating, we found no chairs.  We'd had a really long week, and had been looking forward to sitting and taking in the concert.  Looking around, this lack of chairs, designed, I'm sure to avoid spectator entertainment and  encourage participation- this bothered no one but us, and it was a beautiful concert.  A two hour participitory worship concert. As  I looked around at all the cardigans and skinny jeans, I was impressed with the young people I saw. They were absolutely passionate, in love with Jesus; they'd taken packets to support children through Compassion; they were on their feet singing to Jesus with direction, focus and energy.  As I sang 10,000 Reasons, too, with a little less passion because my feet were numb, I thought how that passion leads to action.

Because active worship is not usually easy street,  10 years down the road, that passion will be working 90 hours a week in order to support a family and still give compassion, coming home from work and then leading a discipleship group, pouring into the local church, maybe running an orphanage in India or Africa.  But there may be a lot less energy.  You see a lot more discouragement.  You have more responsibility on your shoulders and more people depending on your passion/action . 

Passion led to action for the staff at RHI and they are on their feet in what God calls true worship, caring for orphans.  My main desire this trip is to metaphorically - offer them a chair.  Please sit.  Take just a moment and breathe.  We value you. Your labor is not in vain.  Thank you for pouring your lives out.  Can you just let us serve you for a moment?  Can you - just for a moment- let us care for some of your needs? What you're doing for these little kids matters.  Thank you for not wasting your lives.  If they can feel refreshment - for just a bit-  the trip is totally worth it for me.

In Exodus 17 the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites; As long as Moses help up his arms, the Israelites won, but when he put his arms down, the Amalekites started winning. When Moses' arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on and they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down.  In this way Joshua totally defeated the Amalekites.  Then Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner.  . . He said "hold high the banner of the Lord."

I can't wait to go, and I'm so grateful for the unwavering support of you all here. Thanks for helping to hold the banner high.