July 31, 2013

absolutely no eternal significance

There is a deck going up on our roof.  An ultra studly guy with his shirt off listens to rock music and wields a skill saw late into the night, by the light of an LED contraption he wired and mounted on a ladder.
Here it is lighting up our house and night.  Yowsers, don't look directly into that thing!
So the guy, if you haven't guessed it, is my husband Daniel.  And the deck is taking shape.  Here is the foundation for it (a daytime shot, though he only works on it at night).  The deck will run along the edge of our fish pond and navigate its way around two small trees.  There are lots of weird angles and unlevel rock-work to contend with, but if anybody is up to the job, it is my hubs.
The next project we have in mind is giving that horrible-looking roof wall a good coating of outdoor paint.  That's my job.  I promised Daniel that as soon as my novel is finished (I am in the middle of the last chapter right now), I will don my oldest clothes, take a bath in deet, grab the paint roller, and get to work.  I just hope that LED lighting doesn't give me a sunburn!

Our friend, Matt K., recently put it well when he said that sometimes people in our line of work need to do something of absolutely no eternal significance.  Oh how right he is!  One can only fight for the souls of others for so many hours a day, and then it's time to grab a glass of sweet tea and a tape measure and build a deck.

Or write a novel.

July 29, 2013

born on Facebook

Henry Elvin Augustus, born peacefully into the water on Friday, July 26, 2013, at 1:34 a.m., in Marshall, TX; 8 pounds, 12 ounces.  Parents Korrie and Lee of Shreveport, LA; brothers Zeke and Luke; sisters Jesse, Clementine, and Rosemary.  Everyone is happy and healthy.
This lady was BORN to have babies.  Seriously.  She makes it look like ballet.
I love my friend, Korrie, and her water births and her beautiful face.  And I love my friend, Candace, who attended this birth to support and photograph Korrie and Henry.  And I love my friend, Lydia, who was in Kansas City during this birth, getting some much-needed sleep after her ordeal with her daughter, Bethany.

And I just LOVE the fact that because of Facebook - and the fact that I live on the other side of the world, which meant that Henry was born in the middle of my afternoon - I was able to "witness" Henry's birth in a Facebook thread.  I got messages like, "5 cm and 80% effaced.  Korrie is very calm.  In the tub."  And then, "Contracting, contracting..."  And then, "He's here!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Pictures popped up instantly, and I really felt like I was part of it!  And Lydia, when she woke up in the morning, jumped right in on the Facebook thread, catching up on what she had missed during the night.

Perhaps Facebook isn't all that bad, after all;)

July 25, 2013

Bethany diagnosed, and home!

The diagnosis for sweet Bethany has come in.  It isn't necessarily awesome news, but it isn't horrible, either, and most importantly, our Father has been making it perfectly clear all along that He is the one in control. 

How easily I forget that.

So here is the prognosis, in Lydia's words:

"She has been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Evans Syndrome.  Basically, her body is attacking her red blood cells and her platelets.  There are different kinds of treatment plans, but we are starting with a round of steroids.  Usually, it works to get your immune system to slow down and allows the blood counts to come back up.  Every once in a while, it will stop the response all together, and patients will experience a longer lasting remission.  Most of the time it works for some time- it varies in every individual, but anywhere from 1 month to years.  We have no real idea of how well it will work and how long it will last.  We have started the steroids are are praying that the Lord would use the medicine to send her into remission for a looooong time.  We will be in the hospital here until her blood counts come up to a safe level and that could take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks."

"Please continue to pray for us.  Pray for the boys, that they would know they are loved and never forgotten.  Pray for John and I- that in all the separation we would still walk in complete unity.  Pray that the steroids would be the mechanism for a miracle.  Pray for my sweet baby girl- that her heart would know it's precious, amazing, beautiful value.  Thanks friends!"
UPDATE:  After Lydia posted that on Facebook, the steroids started working!  Bethany's levels are still very low, but the doctors said she was healthy enough to recover at home.  Praise the Lord for answered prayers! Please pray for the medicine to continue to slow Bethany's autoimmune disease, and pray for a complete and lasting remission.  Amen and amen.

July 24, 2013

Visiting Orphans promotional video

If you have ever wanted to go on a short-term trip with a long-term vision to bring lasting hope using the skills you have with an organization whose heart is in the right place, then I encourage you to take the time to watch this video.

July 23, 2013

this summer

While we wait for answers about Bethany, we are trying to enjoy the last couple of weeks of our summer.  Most parents prefer the school year, I think, but one would think a home school mom would be the exception.  Actually, I also prefer the school year, because during the school year our days are structured and rhythmic, and as soon as someone starts fighting over a toy, recess is over.

But this summer has been a joy, I have to say.  What with the disgusting convenient neighborhood swimming pool, and the plethora of kids on summer break from the international school with which to play; and in spite of the pummeling rain that often refuses to lift for days on end, and in spite of the mold and the pollution and other such things, we are having a very nice summer.  DJ on the third floor has Star Wars Monopoly, for one thing.  Enough said.

Thank you for praying for Bethany!  She is still in the hospital, and her symptoms are still going strong:( and there are still no answers.  It's a waiting game - and unlike Star Wars Monopoly, nobody likes that game.  I will update when answers start coming in.
For several (rainy) days, these tough guys wore shirts on their heads and were "skeleton pirates."

July 22, 2013

Bethany update

The test I mentioned yesterday is now over, and she is recovering well!  Thank you for your prayers.

Now her family awaits the results.  If negative, they will be thrilled, of course, but also puzzled, as big question marks will remain.

Please keep praying for answers, and that when answers do come, the prognosis will be excellent!  And of course, pray for Bethany's body to heal

Also say a prayer for the little boy on the left, Bethany's eldest brother, Benjamin, as his 9th birthday celebration will need to be postponed:( 

I will keep updating.  Thank you so much.

July 21, 2013

pray for Bethany

See the little girl looking directly at the camera?  That is Bethany.  She is very sick right now, and needs our prayers.  This family is incredibly dear to mine. 
At 8 a.m. Monday morning, July 22, Bethany will undergo a painful test to rule out a serious condition.  Please pray for her, and for her mommy, who must watch her daughter in pain, and please pray for the test results to be negative.  Pray that a perfectly understandable explanation will surface, and please pray for healing.

Thank you!

July 20, 2013


She looked too cute for words today, as we took the escalator, mother-and-daughter, hand-in-hand, to the second floor of the Suning shopping mall where my friend, Leanna, runs a delightful bakery.  Out came the pink table cloth, plastic fashion rings, stickers, paper, and colored pencils.  I ended up standing at the restaurant trash can sharpening colored pencils with a knife, because I had forgotten to bring a sharpener.  My new friend, Tammi, jumped right in and whittled the pencils with me.  The moms sat at the big-girl table and ate our salads and soup and had some lovely conversation, while the daughters sat around the little-girl table, splattering ketchup and chocolate frosting on their party dresses.

The girly-girly luncheon in honor of Jubilee's 4th birthday was a success! 
Dear Jubilee,

I always hoped I'd have a daughter with whom to test new recipes, try on clothes, and watch sad movies.  I never dreamed, however, of a daughter as wonderful as you.  I thank G0D He saw fit to pick me for your mom.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.  May this year be full of love, peace, and immeasurable joy.

I love you forever,

July 19, 2013

pink balloons

He has hung hundreds of streamers.  Blue ones, green ones, gray, black, white, yellow, orange, and red ones.

But tonight he hung pink streamers, and pink balloons, too.  Tomorrow, we will celebrate our daughter's 4th birthday...her second birthday home with us.

Happy Birthday-Eve, Jubi Sue! 

July 16, 2013

moon metaphor

One can endure much in life, but one cannot so easily endure watching her child endure much. 

It pains me to watch Bright ache for America.  Five years later, and he still yearns to be there.  Daily.  And it breaks my heart.

Last week he said to us, in a fit of tears, "I miss the moon!"  An understandable lament, seeing how we rarely have a moon in our smoggy sky.  In fact, it hardly even gets dark here.  Rather, it stays a filmy bright-gray, from the rays of daylight which bounce around inside the clouds and the mist until long past sunset.

But there is a moon; that's what we tell Bright.  It's still up there, even when we can't see it.  The separation only makes seeing the moon all the sweeter.

On putting a woman in the oval office

WARNING:  The following post is cheeky. 

If you had been a fly on the wall in our kitchen last night, as Daniel and I cleaned up the dinner mess, you would have heard the following.  I'll start in the middle of the conversation, so as to spare you the mundane details.

ME:  So what do you think was troubling her?
DANIEL:  I really don't know.
ME:  Maybe she has her period right now.

DISCLAIMER: I am personally acquainted with the potentially devastating effects of hormones, so I have a teeny bit of room to talk here.

DANIEL:  Maybe.
ME:  This is what would concern me about having a woman president.  What happens when there is a hostage situation in a U.S. embassy in a hostile country, and our president has her period?
DANIEL:  It depends on how heavy her periods are.
ME:  True, but how would we know that about her when we are casting our votes?
DANIEL:  It could be part of her campaign.  Maybe she would put it right into her slogan, "Light periods, heavy hand."

The truth is, I would vote for a woman president - regardless of how heavy her periods are - but I wouldn't vote for me:) 

July 14, 2013

pulse check

During a workout, it is helpful to take one's pulse.  It is a gauge; a way of measuring how things are going.

Life, like an hour at the gym, should be gauged.  It isn't wise to just keep plodding along.  My husband, Daniel, is famously good at this sort of thing, and so today he helped me take my "pulse." 

He posed the question, "If you lived the next 20 years in the exact manner in which you lived the last 2, how would you feel about that?"

Oh dear.  Looks like I'll be making a few changes!  Thanks, Honey, for being my dashboard light (among other things, of course).


July 13, 2013

The largest building in the world

Yes, it is true, the largest building in the world (not the tallest, but in fact the largest) has just opened in our backyard.  We visited the Global Center today.  The amount of marble used to lavishly adorn the entry-area alone would make a king's jaw drop. 
Please notice the size of the people entering the building.  It might help you picture this beast to scale.

July 08, 2013

The banfa

There is a phrase here, "Mei banfa," which means, "There is no solution!"

No solution?  Really?  Are we all dealt certain cards, and that is that? 

For more than four years, life here was peachy.  I wasn't learning the language so I didn't have to enter into the culture.  I had figured out where to buy cheese and how to decorate for Christmas, and all the rest of it I ignored, blocking out everything (and everyone) I didn't understand.

I never set out to do this.  It was a coping mechanism that just happened.  It worked well, too.  A little too well. 

But all that has changed now.  I started language class.  I got involved in a cooking group with local sisters.  I made a few other changes, too, and suddenly now I find myself living in East Asia!  And I'm miserable!  Five years later and I have culture shock and homesickness.  Talk about delayed-onset.

So what hope do I have now?  I could take off for Ludlow, England and lay low until people stopped looking for me (not that I've thought about it), but that would never do.  I could coerce my husband into abandoning the clear call on our lives in the name of my personal comfort.  That, too, would never do.

The truth is, my circumstances, like the weather, will change in due time.  My culture shock will subside and I will thrive again.  For a while, that is, until I come across the next big hurdle in my life.  And then once I've cleared that hurdle, it won't be long until another one comes.  And then eventually, I will die, just like everybody else.  This life is brief and unstable, making it an incredibly futile thing to worry about.

What will last, and what can change, is my heart.  Thankfully that is G0D's business, a business He is happy to handle whenever I ask.  And I know from experience that a changed heart changes everything.

It is why prisoners can sing.

It is why Job could worship.

Because our troubles can break our bones - even taken our lives - but for those of us who have become sons and daughters of the Most High, there is nothing that can take our hope.

We have a banfa!  He was born to a virgin in a sleepy town in the middle east, lived a guiltless life, loved the unlovable, preached bondage-breaking truth, died a criminal's death, and rose from the grave so that you and I might live with Him forever in absolute peace.

That's what I call a solution.

July 06, 2013

growing up abroad

We made a three-year commitment, initially.  That was five years ago.

The truth is, we're just not sure how long we'll stay.  We just...live.  Meanwhile, however, the years are stacking up, one on top of the other.  For Bright, Zion, Brave, and Jubilee, the longer we stay here the more likely they will spend their entire childhoods abroad.

There are things about that which are wonderful.  Our kids are really special kids!  They'll stand out in college.  People will notice how mature they seem in some ways, and how richly childish they still are in others.  Their worldview is exceedingly more vast than mine ever was.  They have a concept of the size of the world in which we live, and the ways in which language and culture shapes the individual, guiding each person like an internal compass through life.

But other things about growing up abroad are extremely difficult.  The Father has asked a lot of them!  We've found that our kids cope best when we, as their parents, recognize how hard their lives are and show the proper amount of sympathy.  Especially when people come and go, constantly.  In-and-out of their lives.  In and out.  In and out.  A new best friend for a few months, followed by a tearful goodbye.  A fabulous, trusted babysitter for 9 months, and then another tearful goodbye.  Etc.

Their lives are like trains on tracks.  People get on at one stop, ride for a while, and then get off at another stop down the line.  Our prayer is that they'll not tire of picking up passengers.  Our prayer is that they'll not close and lock their doors.

Most recently, the kids said goodbye to their babysitter, Bella.  She had been coming every Thursday evening all school year, forming a close bond with the kids.  Being a junior-higher, she was young enough to play with the kids, but being Bella, she was responsible enough to be a great sitter.  But alas, Bella moved back to America with her parents and big sister this month, to join a culture that is hers to claim, but one in which she has never lived.  Bella has also grown up abroad, and is no stranger to goodbyes:(

But though it was difficult for us to loose you, Bella, we wouldn't have traded the year we had with you in our home and in our hearts!  America will be a better place with you in it.
"Sheddy," the bear we inherited from Bella because clearly, Sheddy could not fit in her luggage.

July 04, 2013

The banner yet wave

Today was our precious USA's Independence Day (patriotic Bright's favorite holiday).  We were planning to stop at the visa office in the morning to renew our student visas, and then return home to enjoy an afternoon of poolside fun, followed by pork BBQ sandwiches and fireworks with the rest of the Americans in our neighborhood.

Things did not go as planned, of course.  Our "quick stop" at the visa office turned into an 8-hour ordeal.  We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and we didn't have our visas until almost 5:30.  If it weren't for Winnie the Pooh, matchbox cars, and the fact that our children are well-behaved, I would have lost my ever lovin' mind.

But the visa trouble wasn't our only holiday hang-up.  At about 3 o'clock, the skies opened and a vivacious downpour pummeled our city.  There would be no swimming after all, we informed the kids, nor fireworks.

Bright wept.

"I'm so sorry, Bright," I comforted.  "Unfortunately, Independence Day is hard to celebrate in the rain."

"It's called Independence Day!" he said.  "It shouldn't be dependent on the weather!"

I bit my lip to avoid laughing.  My clever, dramatic son.  Bless him.

And then the time came to leave the visa office (which felt a little like being released from jail, though I wouldn't know from personal experience) and there we stood staring out into the downpour, umbrella-less with four small kids.  Our car waited for us in an obscure parking lot a quarter of a mile away, because as things go, the visa office parking lot is under construction.

Of course.

"OK, kids," I said, bending down like a pee-wee soccer coach before a big game.  Daniel, meanwhile, just stood glaring at the rain, visas receipts in hand, completely spent.  "It looks like we're going to get that afternoon swim after all!  This'll be fun, right?  Yay!  We're going to get soaked, just like we're in the pool.  You guys ready?  Let's go!"

SPLISH, SPLASH, SPLOOSH, SPLASH, we went as we ran, pellmell, through ankle-deep water all the way to the our tiny red van.  I sang Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American at the top of my lungs.  Nobody joined in, but neither were they screaming or crying.  Considering their ages and the amount of rainwater that was dashing against their faces, I thought that the run to the car was a success!

And in the end, we all agreed to be grateful for our 4th of July at the visa office.  We need visas, Daniel pointed out, because we are Americans.  He's right, we are Americans.  We are!  And proud of it (especially Bright).

The poolside party got moved to a ballet studio in the community building on the premises of our apartment complex, and we ate those delicious pork BBQ sandwiches, and we vowed to reconvene on Saturday to set off fireworks.  Not all was lost!

Thank you, L0RD, for the American passports that we carry.  May we steward our privilege well, and for your glory.

July 03, 2013


Late one night in June, around midnight in fact, when most couples were asleep in bed, oblivious to the fact that each was breathing open-mouthed into the face of the other, Daniel stood at the door tying on his shoes.

"Where are you going, Babe?" I asked.

"I have to get up to the roof with these pepper plants before they die," he said.  "My friend, the gardener, dropped them off this morning as a gift."

Sure enough, in his hand was a plastic bag holding several wilted seedlings, barely hanging on to life.

The gardener and my husband have become friends, bonded by their shared love of things that grow.  The gardener visits our roof from time to time, and when he does, the two of them stand like mandarin-speaking Hobbits, talking about sunlight and water, spacing and soil. 

It's a beautiful thing to see.

Which is why Daniel couldn't let his friend's seedlings die.  Even though it was midnight, he was determined to put those pepper plants in the ground. 

And a month later, we have these!  They were absolutely delicious sprinkled on our enchiladas this weekend!  Good job, Babe.  Good job.