April 28, 2009

The brighter side of life

The best things about living here:

They have the best selection of pillows in the world. I mean, any pillow style, shape, firmness, or special feature you could dream up (no pun intended) is probably available here.

Any kind of fruit you might fancy, other than blueberries, is readily available at every other turn, for pennies.

Vegetables abound! Yay! It is a veggie-lovers paradise.

Two words: custom-made clothing. Oh yeah, this is probably my favorite. You pick out your fabric, bring a shirt you love to the tailor, and get the thing custom-copied for a grand total of about $7. Now who wouldn't want to copy their favorite Banana Republic pants from college in a half-size bigger to make room for their nearing-thirty figure? THAT is a perk!

Pandora radio. I know you folks in America (or wherever you live) can also tap into the world of Pandora radio, but here it is like a lifeline. I don't think I could even listen to it in America. I think I will leave it behind, as the soundtrack of our life here.

Electric transportation.

Lack of regulations. This is a perk when you are the one who is benefiting from it, let me assure you!

Custom-made furniture, for about a third of the cost of solid-wood furniture in America.

Ok, so custom-made just-about-anything.

Blind massage therapists. Those dudes have it going on! I guess because they can't see, their other senses are heightened. And again, they are affordable.

The best mani and pedi you can get, for a price so cheap you can't afford NOT to go.

Chopsticks are much easier to clean than a gooey, crusty fork.

The gas range still works (usually) even when the power goes out.

Sugus candies. Can't explain, they're just dang good.

And though I could think of more, I don't want to be boring. So I'll end with this one: being exactly where we know we are supposed to be.

April 21, 2009

The year of the purple elephant

Beth Moore defines disrespect as "disregard for someone's innate human value."

That is how I feel most of the time here (unless I'm safely tucked away in my Americanized apartment). Most of the time I feel disrespected.

Everywhere we go as a family, heads turn, necks crane, cars slow down, hands reach out to get a feel of our skin and our hair. Parents and grandparents lift their kids and babies in the air to offer them a better look at us, pointing their fingers, gasping - like they have spotted a purple elephant walking down the road. If we stop and tarry at any point, a crowd quickly gathers, and someone tries to pick up one of our children, which makes Bright and Zion scream in fear. Recently we were at a restaurant, eating our dinner, and a woman and her child walked in off the street and came up to our table, hovering over us, not intending to be patrons of the restaurant, but just wanting to watch us eat.

Most of the time I feel like an animal in the zoo, like a display at the museum, like a science project, like an alien from Mars...anything but human...anything but valued...anything but respected.

But then, as Beth Moore puts it, from where do we seek our value in the first the place? Living here is forcing me to ask that question. Another question I am being forced to ask myself is, what do I really think I deserve? I deserve nothing. I deserve death and damnation. We all do. But I am getting eternal life. Not only that, but my life here on earth is under the steadfast lordship of a perfect king. I have a husband who is a pure joy, and children who delight me beyond words, and I have my health, and wonderful friends, and plenty of money and resources to live on. So why do I think I deserve anything else? I have been called to be a purple elephant for this season of my life, and I will endure treatment that is dehumanizing, degrading, discouraging, and sometimes maddening, and if that is the toughest thing I've been called to endure right now, than thank you Father for how blessed I am.

April 14, 2009


Zion is finally starting to talk. As of yet, he has been no verbal prodigy. His skills lie more in the area of physical feats. His agility exceeds that of kids a head taller than him, which is not such a good thing (especially when I am busy and don't have time to deal with blood-soaked shirts).

In any case, we are now hearing little words coming from his mouth. He calls his brother, "Big B." He calls his favorite toy, a wooden digger, pictured here, which is in his hand every waking hour of the day, "Bobbeesh." Every hour of the night he clutches this pink bear, which he calls "Baby." Of all the brown and blue and white stuffed animals we have for the boys, he chooses the pink one to attach himself to. It might be the only pink toy we ever have in this house, so I'm not complaining. I'm sure he won't want to take it to sleepovers, though. He says "dup duck" for dump truck and "peesa" for pizza. He says, "Uh-vooooo" for love you, and he says "oweee" for sorry. When we change his diaper, he looks down at it and waves, saying, "Bye-bye, pee-pee."

Just a few of the cute little things that come out of Zion's most-of-the-time busted lips.

We love our ZiZi.

April 12, 2009


We don't have a daughter, and the closest thing I've got to a daughter is my brother's daughter, Sharlet, who I don't know at all.

It is the price for living so far away. I met her when she was born last year, but she was a just a sleeping bundle then. When I look at these pictures (stolen off of my sister-in-law's facebook album) I have a hard time swallowing the lump in my throat. Sometimes I just break down and cry. Sharlet represents all that I am missing back in America. She is the fastest-changing thing that we left behind, and watching her grow up in pictures is like watching an hour glass that has been turned over. She looks, by the way, exactly like my mother. I wonder what it would be like to kiss her perfect little cheek. I wonder what she smells like after a bath. The hardest part is, she doesn't know me, either.

There is no way to stay close to home and go out into the world at the same time. And there is no perfect time to go out into to the world. If we had waited until our kids were out of the house, we would be missing their college years and early carrier lives. If we waited further we would be missing our grandkids. If we waited longer than that, we would be dead. I have to remind myself of that when I start thinking, "Why did we come during everyone's child-bearing years? We are missing their kids, and they are missing ours."

But all things gained were gained at a cost. He knew that 2000 years ago when he paid the ultimate price, because we were worth it to him. And He is worth it to me.

April 11, 2009

Dear Bright,

Four years ago tonight we were in a hospital room in Lexington, Kentucky, starry eyed and scared, holding our new baby son. You made us parents. You turned our world upside-down. You stole our hearts forever.

Yesterday, on your 4th birthday, you were standing in a sunbeam in your underwear, and you said, "Look, I'm growing hair on my legs like Dad." I told you that's what happens when you turn four. I told you it must have happened overnight. You were so proud, you ran over to show Dad right away.

You are very smart. You can see people's emotions. You have a shepherd's heart. You like things to make sense. We are very proud of you in a crowd, how you handle yourself, how you stand up for yourself with class.

This fall you will start junior kindergarten. You are now sleeping on the top bunk. You close the door of the bathroom behind you for "private-see." You talk about being a husband and father. When you grow up, you want to play with your kids. Today at dinner you announced that if you have too many kids, you'll just put some of them to bed while you go to work. We said that was a great idea.

There is so much we love about you. We love the things you say, the clever way your mind works, the way you lovingly guide your little brother, the way you laugh, your sparkling brown eyes, your cute little thigh muscles, your content spirit, your tender heart, your strength, your wit, and so much more.

Happy Birthday, Bright Eugene. We love you so much!
Mom and Dad

April 10, 2009

How to make your 4th birthday cake

First, you'll need an apron.

Then, make sure you've got a knock-out recipe.

The number 4 candle is essential.

Once you're ready, start mixing up the ingredients.

Easy on the pour!

Previous experience with a mixer not required, but helpful.

The good news is, Momma will decorate it for you later.
The bad news is, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to eat it!

Thankfully, your Mom made a mini cake you can enjoy now.

Well done Big B. You really are getting big.

April 05, 2009

2009 Spring Baby Bash

Yesterday we celebrated our friends' new babies with the 2009 Spring Baby Bash! We fit all 12 of our children (the oldest are age 3) on this couch for this fabulous picture. The fact that there was a moment in time when no one was napping, nursing, pooping, screaming, or sitting in time out is a complete miracle. Our third son, the 13th child, was a little difficult to get into the picture, since he is yet unborn. Maybe we can get them all together again for a Christmas picture later in the year. Anyway, the children you see are as follows: (back row) Julianna, Lydia, Callie, Kayleigh, Zeb, Emma Grace, Zion, and Bright; (front row) Isaac, Zane, Sarah, and Jack.

We all had a great time...I dare say the adults even more than the kids. We had a cook-out, for one thing, which is a rare treat here. Andy grilled marinated chicken (which was OUT OF THIS WORLD), Amy made the most delicious baked beans I've ever had, and Danielle made homemade angel food cake that was so good it may have changed my life forever. There were strawberries and potato salad and biscuits and rolls and cold cokes in the cooler...it was a true feast. I got to enjoy watching my husband jump around in the bushes after a frisbee with his buddies. I got to watch my sons play among the kids side-by-side, like a pair of best friends. I got to enjoy the company of eight amazing women while sitting on a soft blanket in lush grass in the sunshine. It was a truly wonderful afternoon.

I am so thankful for the fellowship (and fertility) that we share here in our city! :)

April 02, 2009


A pilgrim is a traveler on a journey of great significance, according to dear old Webster. I started this day of my pilgrimage on my face.

It was a suggestion by Beth Moore. In her study, "Stepping Up," she says that in His economy, the way up is down.

And I am certainly down right now. Not that I am having a particularly difficult time, but I am a woman on a journey through life, a journey that sends me through the daily gauntlet of self-doubts, relational strain, stress, lack of sleep, etc. (the usual afflictions of adult existence). On top of that, I do live in another country, which is a whole other gauntlet of its own.

So let me tell you, it is very good to start my day on my face. It is very good to stop trying to start my day standing tall, pretending I am on top of things. First Pete chapter five verse six says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under [His] mighty hand, that He might lift you up in due time."

How can he lift up what isn't down?

My dear friend, Laura, and her sweet family are finishing up three years in India. Her experience has brought her to her knees. She blogs about it so beautifully, quoting the song "Ruins" by Bebo Norman. In it, Norman sings "Let my ruins become the ground you build upon. Let my ruins become the start."

On this pilgrimage, we are not alone. There is no corner of earth that was not knowingly created by Him, nor is there any blade of grass that escapes his eye. How comforting! Psalm 121 verse 5, in the Hans-Joachim Kraus version, says "Yahweh is your keeper." Beth Moore, in this particular study, points out that the word "keeper" is the Hebrew word SHAMAR, which means "protecter" "keeper" or "guard." Interestingly, the same word, SHAMAR, is used in Genesis chapter two verse fifteen, where God says man will "work" the land and "take care of it." As man works the land, so God works us.

I don't have a green thumb, but the green thumbs I know are hopelessly devoted to their gardens, house plants, and fields. They pour over them, treating the soul, testing humidity and acidity, pulling weeds until their backs ache.

That is how he tends to us. I am not a wild plant growing outside of care and supervision. I was planted intentionally, and I am being cared for. I am being built. I may be a pile of ruins now, but there is no telling what kind of structure will be standing when this journey is through.