March 31, 2011

Why didn't I think of that?

"Mama, when I grow up, I'm going to be the president, and make all the rules right.  Why didn't you think of that?"
-Bright, solving the problem of evil in the world
Photo snapped on a Daddy-and-Bright hot cocoa date.  Can you tell that this is his only sweatshirt?

March 29, 2011

Please pray for my friends

Here is my friend Josh.  I met him at a youth group event at Kollen Park when I was 10.  This is his wife, Kari, and their daughter, Stella.  They live in California.

They need your prayers!

Kari fell last week on her belly.  She was 38 weeks pregnant.  Their baby girl, Margot June, didn't make it.  She was stillborn at the hospital 30 minutes later.

Now Kari is suffering from renal failure.  Her kidneys continue to worsen.  The doctors are saying that because of her age and health, she will probably pull through with dialysis, but she could be in the hospital for days, weeks, or even months.  

Please join me in praying for Kari's body to heal as quickly as possible.  Her milk came in today for Margot.  Oh, the bottomless well of grief they must be feeling!  Please pray that their hearts will be comforted during this time.  You can read Josh's breathtaking words on his blog.

Updates are being posted at Kari's parents' church website.  Also, if you feel so inclined, visit the site below, set up by friends of the Jacksons, to find out how you can support them:

March 28, 2011

lights in the darkness

As if two days with no water supply during a major stomach virus weren't bad enough, today (and tomorrow, I'm being told) they cut off our electricity in order to do some repairs on the breaker boxes in the complex.  Because our washing machine needs electricity to run, we went a THIRD DAY with no laundry getting done.  And no, the kids are not finished throwing up.  Not even close.

So we will take turns getting up every two hours through the night to change out laundry (because the electricity and water are always on at night, of course, so the residents that work red-eye shifts can turn on a lamp to read?????)

Oh there I go again.  Please forgive me.  I am in a terrible mood.  I'm just having a VERY hard time with this.  Why, oh why, could they (whoever "they" are) not have waited at least a few days after rendering me waterless to render me powerless?  I am cold (space heaters need electricity), dirty (gas water heater needs electricity to ignite), covered up YET AGAIN with soiled toddler clothes/bedding, and stricken with cabin fever (12 floors is a long way to hike with the kids when the elevator isn't working on account of no electricity).  I couldn't even have my hot tea!  Adding injury to insult, I was just about to pop a batch of bran muffins in the oven this morning when the house went dark and silent with a big "wooommmf."  I retreated to the other room to cry, and continued to cry on and off throughout the miserable, long, cold, dirty day.

But you know what?  At about half past 6 this evening, all the lights poofed on.  We immediately began making provisions for tomorrow.  Charging our portable DVD player so sick kids will have something to do, charging cell phones, throwing in laundry, baking, and checking email.  Daniel took advantage of the working elevator and went out to buy himself a treat (along with some much-needed toilet paper and batteries for tomorrow).

Xiao Fu, who hugged me several times while I cried, eventually told us that her village didn't have electricity until 1994.  Boy, did I feel stupid then.  Not only that, but my husband loves me, my parents and brothers are all alive, my kids are alive, and I am so full of food right now I could burst (I eat a lot on bad days).  So I didn't get my hot tea today.  Woe is me!  Bah.  Sometimes I disgust myself.

I want to be more like my children.  For lunch today, Daniel brought home fajitas from our favorite American restaurant, and Bright, who isn't sick, and loves fajitas, said, "Jesu& always does something to make me happy.  He is the valentine of my life."

And then Bright made this:

March 27, 2011

puke in my hair and a song in my heart

Reason #3,567 for you not to leave suburban America, EVER:  Your water might get turned off for two days.  No one tells you why.  Your neighbors are in the same fix.  There is nothing any of you can do about it.  The water, and its supply to your dwelling, are controlled by the government and you should be grateful that they let you have water as often as they do.  Right now, however, you are not feeling grateful, because the government has chosen the very days your kids have a stomach virus to shut off your water.  There are barfy linens piled up in your laundry porch turning into a science experiment.  There are many loads of unhealthy fecal deposits in your toilet, stinking up your small apartment.  There is crusty vomit in your baby's hair.  There are dishes piled up because you can't go out to eat when everyone is sick.  You needed a shower BEFORE the water got shut off, and now that you smell like your 1-year-old's regurgitated roasted goat cheese and corn, you can stand yourself no more.  You would open the windows but its too cold.  You would call a sitter and go out with your husband but no sitter wants to catch this stomach virus and your selfless mother, who would gladly come relieve you, is on the other side of the world.

Reason #7,421 to get out and do exactly what we are doing:  Three young ladies were added to the book of life this week. 

Barf on me again, world, I don't care!  I have springs of living water that will never run dry.
Hey look, its Tina!

March 25, 2011

Tim Tams and Trash Cans

So pathetic.  Poor little dude.
Today was good and bad, but mostly good.

GOOD: Cuban pork in the crockpot.  Fabulous!
BAD:  Our hot water heater officially pooped out on us, again.  Sad.
GOOD:  Miss Michelle came over for dinner!
BAD:  Zion threw up in the trash can all day long.  Sad, sad.
GOOD:  Tim Tams (the original, authentic Australian chocolate biscuit) softened by sipping coffee through each "biscuit" like a straw.  Oh Tim, oh Tam, its been too long.
BAD:  Our DVD player officially pooped out on us.  Sad, sad, sad.

GOOD:  Witnessing actual prayers actually answered.  We're talking goose bumps, people!

We'll end on that one.

March 22, 2011

Bless the stuffers of the boxes

Lou sent this little blast from the past.  Tie-dyed and smiling, with our whole lives before us.

Lou sent Zion some preschool fun.  He has hardly put it away since.

Dinosaurs.  Oh how he loves dinosaurs!  Good call, again, Aunt Lou.

Some Richard Scarry for the bitty boy.

A "welcome home" gift for Jubilee from Grandma and Grandpa!

Birthday season is right around the corner in the Rupp house.  All four kids in birth order are also in month order.  April, May, June, and now a very pink July!

Um, DELICIOUS!  Thanks, Mom.

Oh my.  I could not be happier had I won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes!!!  

Oh, the love.

We've come a long way since tie-dye.  Love you, Lou!

I ordered this little smocked number (wouldn't you have?) and had it sent to my mom, who sent it to me.  Jubilee's first dress.  I see a shadowbox display one day!

March 20, 2011

the morning after

Thanks a lot, Zach.

March 17, 2011

almost dread-locked

Here is my problem.  I have blond, fine, thick hair in a country full of people with black, course, thin hair.  By "thin" I don't mean that their ponytails are as big around as pencils.  Quite the contrary.  Their ponytails are twice as big around as the one that frequently hangs down my own back.  I say "thin" because if you counted the hairs on their heads they would have 1/3 the number of hairs that I have on my head.  Each hair, however, is strong enough to pull someone out of a pit.

Each of my hairs, however, is a delicate wisp of nearly nothingness, hanging onto my head by a gentle root.  Each is desperate for company, too, attempting at every opportunity to intertwine itself with its neighbors.

So...yesterday I went with my dear friend, Kristy, to get my hair washed.  Sounds weird, I know, but you have to understand that getting your hair washed here involves tiny, soft Asian hands massaging soap and warm water into your hair, massaging your scalp, massaging your face, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, fingers, then styling your hair, all for around 4 dollars.

My particular hair-washer, however, forgot (or never knew) that Caucasian hair is not as durable as the strong, shiny, black manes that bounce around Asia.  While I chit-chatted with Kristy, happy for the break from domestic duties, my hair was scrubbed, rubbed, shimmied, and pummeled like farm pants on a washboard.  When they got around to combing it, we all quickly realized that there was a problem.  My hair was a mess of knotted, gnarled, nests.  I had essentially been given a loose form of dread locks.

I tucked my hair, as is, inside my hat and waited until I got home to evaluate the damage.  The prognosis was grave.  With many, MANY tears and cries for help from all the Heavenly hosts, I realized that my hair was probably a loss and would need to be cut off.

I wept.


Not about to give up that easily, though, I used half a jar of cream rinse and a plastic pick and finally, FINALLY got through my hair.  There was a nice, knotted handful of hair on the edge of the sink when it was all said and done, but I think I managed to salvage most of it.

During the ordeal, Bright said, "Don't worry, Mom.  When I lose my first tooth and put it under my pillow, I'll use the money I get to pay for you to get a nice haircut."  Awwwww.

My husband, though adamantly against bangs, has voiced his support should I ever decide to get dread locks.  I always knew I had the right kind of hair for it, but I never dreamed how right it was.  Perhaps I shall yet decide to take that plunge, but for now, I am thankful I can get a comb through my hair once again.

He's only 5 once

"I'm going to be the farrest astronaut in the world.  I'll go to the end of space in a spacecraft which has 2 google gallons of fuel.  I'll bring 220 foods made from grain, 50 cream, 30 cheese, 100 fruits, 90 vegetables, and 50 desserts.  I'll bring only 50 deserts because I don't want to have too much.  I'll bring a big empty aquarium with water in it to drink.  It'll be 320 gallons of water.  When I get to the end of space, I believe I'll see a big black dark wall.  Then I'll turn around and fly back and tell everybody and I'll put it on the news and have a big party."
-Bright Rupp, at the dinner table

March 16, 2011

"maid" of honor

So its about time I talk about this beautiful woman.  Meet Fu Xin Mei (last names precede given names in this culture).  Xiao Fu, as we call her (loosely translated "Miss Fu") is our domestic hired help.

Feels weird to put it that way, since a better description would be member of our family, but I will call her our hired help for the purpose of this blog post.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that you, who are more than likely helping us be here, probably don't have domestic help.  That is why I have not been quick to talk about Xiao Fu.  Now I wish to explain why she is in our lives.
1.)  Cultural sensitivity.  The wealthy in this culture (the fact that we have an automatic clothes dryer bumps us into this category) are expected to employ those with less oportunities.  Not to do so would be viewed as selfish, and the validity of our lives here could be compromised.  MORE INFO:  Xiao Fu prepares food for her family in a kitchen that she shares with her neighbor, she has no refrigerator, and we are pretty sure she uses a communal bathroom.
2.)  Who wouldn't?  If you could pay someone a dollar and a half per hour to clean your toilet and scrub your floors and dust your furniture, wouldn't you?  And that is a GREAT wage for her.
3.)  Her presence in our home is the only way the kids and I have acquired any language at all.
4.)  The term "domestic duties" takes on a whole new meaning when you have no dishwasher and your kids go through three outfits a day because their playground is basically a big spittoon and your fruits and vegetables need more than a quick rinsing on account of the fact that the farmers use human waste fertilizer.  No joke.
5.)  There is no Stauffer's Lasagna, if you know what I mean.  If we are going to eat, from scratch is absolutely the only option.

When I was pregnant with Brave and heaving my guts out every day, she was the one holding my hair and stroking my back.  If we get bad news from back home and hit our knees, she is right there with us, crying with us.  She has seen me at my worst, and has only grown to love me in spite (or perhaps because) of it.  Our relationship is almost entirely non-verbal, but it has taught me the power of a look and a touch and a gesture of true kindness.  She is my "employee" by definition but we are equals.  Two women born in 1980 on opposite sides of the world, both trying to make it through the day smiling.

If/when we ever leave this place, the grief I shall feel in parting with Fu Xin Mei will walk with me for the rest of my life.

March 15, 2011

a paring knife in my butt pocket

I posted this, then received a Skype call from one particularly concerned reader (my mom), then took the post off, then woke before 6 a.m. to another phone call from the U.S. regarding Jubilee's impending medicinal treatment, then figured I may as well get up and make myself this over-easy egg on homemade bread, and republish this post - because after all, the one person who really should have been kept in the dark about this already knows.  I love you, Mom, and I did stop crying and fall asleep so no worries. xoxoxo
Two things inevitably happen when Mr. Rupp is not around.  1.) We all get sick.  2.)  We find ourselves in a major, MAJOR pickle.

We are over our diarrhea (hip hip hooray) so now the real fun begins.  Yesterday morning, a cop showed up at our door.  Let me remind you that we live in an Asian country where a cop showing up at your door does not bring warm fuzzies.  The cop proceeded to communicate with my house helper/beloved friend, who then relayed to me, that there was a passport issue that required our appearance at the police station immediately.  I couldn't help but notice that this cop was wearing a pair of worn blue sneakers, as opposed to the stiff black boots that his cronies usually wore.  Hmmmm...

Jump ahead a few hours and a dozen or so phone calls and you will arrive with me at this conclusion:  the police have no record of there being a problem with our passports and they did not send someone to my door yesterday morning.

So who in the WORLD was the guy with the worn blue sneakers?  What were his intentions?  To make matters worse, I heard my house helper tell the man that we would have to handle matters when my husband got back into town.

Yeah.  I know.

Needless to say, it was well past 2 a.m. before I fell asleep last night.  Every light in the house was on.  I was wielding my sharpest paring knife in my butt pocket, and I could even have been seen thrusting it forward and upward in front of the mirror to practice my form.  I am not kidding.  On top of that, I washed my face with a rag and rubbing alcohol so that I wouldn't have to turn on the faucet and potentially drown out the sound of an intruder.

Granted, I live on the 12th floor and the door is steel and double-dead-bolted, and the guy was probably just after our passports, which are worth a lot of dough on the black market, but when your husband is out of town and you are in a foreign country with your kids, you will certainly not get a good night sleep after a faux-cop knocks on your door.

And now the good news.  As the picture of my dad, husband, and brothers (below) was loading, I got an email from my treasured friend, Allison Hilliard in Van Buren, AR, and she wrote (completely unaware of the kind of day I'd had), "The Rupp family is safe in G0D’s pocket." 


So there you have it.  We will be fine.  We are in G0D's pocket, and a very sharp knife is in mine.  
And here are the guys who would protect me if they could.  Makes me feel safe just looking at them.

March 14, 2011

something new every day

"He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth..." (John 7:18)

I wondered, a month-and-a-half ago when I started reading the New Testament in 30 days repeatedly for the year 2011, if I would tire of re-reading the same material.


This morning, the above verse grabbed me gently and I pondered it while looking out at the rising sun.  Something dawned on me then (no pun intended) because of it.  Let me first share with the world my greatest fear.  It is not that one or more of my children would die a young or painful death, though that is certainly my second worst fear.  It is that one or more of my children would grow up and deem the gospel rubbish.

This verse brought me great comfort/conviction this morning.  I realized that IF I am speaking words to my kids about the gospel that I mustered up myself, I will gain honor for myself.  I will be told what a good mom I was and what a good job I did.  Really great adult kids and a few invitations to speak at the occasional womens conference will be my reward.

BUT, if I spend these years working (mothering them) for the honor of G0D, I will end up speaking truth, and truth has been promised to set them free.  In terms of rewards, well, they will be handed to me by G0D himself when I enter into his kingdom.

You learn something new every day.
The boys eating ice cream with their buddy, Nate.

March 12, 2011

a Saturday in March

Even when sons aren't being baptized, and beloved baby cousins in childrens' hospitals are stable, there are still interesting things to note, things that we will want to remember someday. 

This particular Saturday in March included:

-rising before the kids to read Luke 13-22
-a lettuce sandwich for Bright's breakfast, just like Uncle Wiggily Longears eats in the storybooks
-a phone call from my dad to make sure we weren't affected by the seismic activity
-me looking at the news after my dad's call, staring in crushed awe at the devastation in neighboring Japan
-me coddling a sick 5-year-old, both of us wishing he had not eaten the lettuce sandwich
-me coddling my sick self, wondering how it is that we ALWAYS get sick when daddy is out of town
-playing with play-doh while listening to Hillsong
-dragging out every matchbox car we own until the living room looked like a scrap yard
-picking at our Kraft macaroni and cheese lunch (we bring the sauce packets from America in bulk)
-consenting to head outdoors before naps in hopes that some fresh air and sunshine would do our bodies good
-praying together under a tree for Japan and the old woman who was screaming at and shaming her young grandson for all the courtyard to see
-thinking about Jubilee and pulling up her pictures for the umpteen millionth time
-washing the pig hairs from the pork loin I bought yesterday and packaging it up for the freezer
-cleaning our two fish bowls (I'm sure Nemo and Goldie would thank me if they could talk)
-teaching Bright how to sort words alphabetically, how to properly write a lowercase k, why flamingos sing to their young while still in the egg, and which numbers are odd verses even (our school week runs Tuesday through Saturday)
-taking all three kids to dinner by myself, wondering if it would have been easier to make a mess in my kitchen
-stopping on the corner to buy a head of purple cabbage for the science experiment we forgot to perform during school
-discovering that acidic substances will turn the purple cabbage water pink.  Fascinating!
A Saturday in March.

March 10, 2011

written in the book of life

On March 9, 2011, Bright Eugene Rupp was baptized by his father in the family bathtub.
 Then his mama made him a "book of life" cake.
Then he got to open a gift to celebrate, because a kid has got to have a present on his re-birthday!

And the whole time, I just tried to keep myself from crying so he wouldn't get squeamish.
Not surprisingly, in the 24 hours since, Bright has never been "naughtier."  I guess the devil is pretty ticked off that he lost Bright Rupp.  He must know that Bright is going to cause trouble for him in the years to come. 

Welcome to the land of the living, my son.  Life is not easy, even for (and sometimes especially for) those who have JeSus.  Just remember that He promises never to leave you or forsake you, and He will be your reward in the end.

And we are behind you, praying you on, every single step of the way.

March 04, 2011

Biggest step toward manhood

Kayla is out of town on a well deserved retreat, so just it's me and the boys.

Today at breakfast Bright looked at Zion and began to explain, "G*d has three jobs."  We had never talked about this before, so I was curious about what he would say next.  "The first one is to make the earth.  The second one is to come and take our sin.  The third one is to come live in us and help us make good decisions."  I was really impressed and we kept talking about it.  After a little discussion, we decided that G*d's fourth job was to make a new earth and bring it to us someday. We all seemed satisfied and I thought that was the end of it.

Yesterday, when we told them Kayla was going out of town for four days, I reassured them by saying that I wasn't going to work so I could be home with them the whole time.  Bright's first response was, "How will we make money then?"  He likes to think of people's jobs, their purpose, what they do.

After breakfast I didn't think about it much and the day went really well.  Then in the bathtub before bed tonight he started having the toughest time.  Really just having a bad attitude.  I told him, "Bright you're the one who's gonna decide if you get to stay in the bath or not.  If you don't change you're attitude, you won't get to stay in the bath."  Usually, that would do it, but tonight he was especially cranky...  Soon he was wrapped in a red and white dragon towel on the bean bags in his room while Zion enjoyed a nice long bath.

A little later, when I was getting their pajamas on Bright said, "This is so hard, I can't do this!"

"Do what?" I said.

"I can't make the right decisions for the rest of my life.  J*sus was the only man who could do that."  He said, in a very defeated tone.

The culture of our family, our roles here, and how we do life means that our kids are constantly hearing about the B*ble and G*d.  Obviously I think that's a good thing, but I also want to minimize any pressure they might feel from us about the decision they will ultimately have to make.  So, I decided a while ago that whenever one of them is ready to put their trust in Him I wanted it to be their decision as much as possible and not coerced by me whatsoever.  In many conversations we've come very close but I've always just let him kind of take the lead.  I fee like my job has been to explain to him as much as he's really wanting to hear.

So tonight after the bathtub incident my main goal was to get him to think about both his consequences and the conversation we had earlier at breakfast.  "Bright, you remember G*d's jobs don't you?"  Of course he did, and judging by the look on his face he may have even been a little perturbed that I was asking him a seemingly unrelated question during his moment of great distress.  "Do you remember His third job?"  I went on.

"To help you live life, and make good decisions."  Bright said.  And there it was, he didn't just spit it back at me, but really took it in as he said it.

He definitely saw his need, saw the answer, and wanted it for himself.  So we talked more about that.  While I still didn't want to force anything, I also don't want to hold back exactly what he needs and what he's asking for.  We talked about how scripture says to believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that J*sus is Lord.  He said that he wanted to, but was going to do it in secret and we could talk about it later.  That was fine with me.  Though I knew he was genuine, I half thought he might not talk about it again for months - he does that kind of thing all the time with stuff.

Half an hour later, after stories and getting tucked in, he looked at me through the guard rails on his top bunk.  He leaned in and whispered.  "I'm ready to ask J*sus into my heart."  Before I could respond, he folded his hand and prayed, "J*sus, will you come into my heart?  Amen." 

Knowing that he is shy about stuff like this, but also knowing that I had to make a big deal about it because it was a big deal - I asked him if it would be ok for me to bring in three of my friends who just happened to be waiting in the living room to do a B*ble study with me.  I explained to him that when men like Paul, or Silas, were getting ready to do something very important for G*d that all the men would come and lay hands on them and pr*y.  Bright's been listening to the NT over and over on mp3's during his quiet times so he knows those guys.  He and I often play a little game where we list out heroes of the B*ble to each other and they always make the list.  Now, he was going to be like them.  That's a big deal.  

So, Chad, Justin, Zack, and I laid hands on Bright Eugene Rupp right around 8pm, far east time, on March the 4th, 2011 and he became a child of G*d.

Before I finally shut the door for him to go to sleep I gave him a fist bump and said, "You just took the biggest step toward manhood.  That's a big deal Bright."  To which he responded, "What's the second step?  I'll need to practice that tomorrow..."

Bright will be 6 in a little over a month.  You might think that's pretty young, but I was 7 when I responded to an altar call given by Johnny Clayton at a little white ch*rch on Rena Road in Van Buren.  I still remember that day, and I very clearly remember my baptism a couple of weeks later.  I know him, he will never forget this. 

Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture on the big day - but I did take this video over dinner.