Monday, December 05, 2016

Book List from November


November was vacation, but it wasn't a sitting around on the beach sort of vacation, so I didn't get as much read as one might do on vacation.  

The first book I finished was called The Fringe Hours:  Making Tme for You by Jessica N. Turner.  On the airplane safety instructions, parents are told that if a loss of cabin pressure occurs they should place their own oxygen mask before helping their children with theirs. In the same way in other aspects of life, we are less likely to be good carers of those around us if we don't take care of ourselves.

But who has time for caring for themselves? Jessica Turner helps us find ways to identify "fringe hours" to use for self-care. At first I thought the book would be all about me, me, me, but she keeps things quite balanced between caring for one's self and serving others. She does a great job of showing how women spend so much time comparing themselves to others that they waste time doing things they don't even care about just so they can be like others. One of the first ways to find "fringe time" is to quit doing things out of a feeling of guilt or false expectations. She also reminds us to spend time with our Father, though she did seem a little weak in this area. She also brought out how we should be more pro-active in asking for help and in making sure we rest well.

One thing I didn't really like is that she tries to encourage us to not have to be super moms, but she comes across as one. I honestly don't know how she does everything she does. And I think her examples from her life are meant to be examples, not the way it has to be done. But for those of us who don't have her energy level, this book can make us feel inadequate. Still, as she says, you do find time for what you want to do.

I think this would be a helpful book for anybody who needs to to eliminate some activities and spend that time caring for themselves. I personally was helped to find some things I could cut back on or eliminate or manage better.

The second book was called Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.  Our admin team has been reading this book together and it's extremely helpful!  If you've ever found yourself in a conversation where opinions vary, stakes are high, and emotions run strong, this book is for you!  Some difficult conversations are not that hard to have because you can stay detached and don't have strong emotions about the subject, or you're not friends with the person anyway so if they end up hating you it's not such a big deal.  But more often than not conversations come up at home, among friends, or in the workplace where opinions vary (strongly!), stakes are high, and emotions run strong.

Each of us tends to react in these situations in one of two ways:  silence or violence.  In silence, we may stay in the room, but we're done contributing to the conversation or we may even leave the room.  In violence, we begin to make snide remarks, to lose our temper, to slam doors, and maybe even go so far as the use of actual physical violence.  The authors show how to recognize your default reaction, how to recognize when others are moving into their default reaction, and how to rescue the conversation so that all involved can continue to contribute to the pool of meaning.

There is a lot of information in this book and it would be nice to be able to flip through the book and find the right tools to use when having a crucial conversation.  Of course, in the middle of a crucial conversation it doesn't really work to say, "Wait until I figure out what I'm supposed to do next."  But as the authors say at the end of the book even if you only remember a few things and learn to use them you will have become a better communicator.  I highly recommend this book!

The final book I actually finished on December 2, but I'm throwing it in with the November books.  And this way you'll know I don't read only serious books. :)  The third book was called And Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock.  

The story is told from the point of view of a young girl.  Her mother had escaped an abusive relationship with the girl's father.  She also had an older step brother and a baby sister.  Roz is crushed by her parent's separation.  She recognizes that her father is abusive, but she also knows he loves her.  I'll not tell you more about the story as I don't want to give it away.

Ann Tatlock is one of my favorite authors.  She makes her characters feel real -- nobody is impossibly beautiful or perfect.  They lose their tempers with each other, they hurt each other, they love each other, and they figure out how to work things out. As Roz says, "If I was going to survive in this world, I had to understand that not everything I wanted to be true was true, and not everything that looked good was good." Ms. Tatlock has written several books that involve cross-cultural or cross-racial relationships and this book is no exception.  

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

New Adventures in Travel

Usually when we travel we have the sorts of adventures that you'd really rather not have ... like sitting IN the airplane first at the gate and then on the runway for SIX hours and the flight itself was seven hours, so 13 hours in one plane (I know, I know, my Aussie friends do that all the time).  Or having your luggage not show up and when it does the camera that you had bought for your daughter's birthday had been stolen out of it.  

But this time we had two kind of fun things happen that we'd never had before.

When we fly out of JFK in New York, our final stop is usually Connecticut.  From Hartford we can catch "the Connecticut limo" service.  



We always joke because it's never been a limo.  Once it was a small bus and the other times it was a van.  So when we were standing outside the station in Hartford, there was a limo parked down the line-up.  I jokingly said to John, "Look!  There's our limo!"  and he said, "Yeah, right."  Neither of us in a million years really thought it was there for us.  After a few minutes the driver got up and came up to us and asked if we were going to JFK.  Sure enough, the limo was for us!  There was only one other passenger, so it felt like our own private limo.  It was pretty fun, but I think if you packed an entire party of over five people in there it would feel pretty crowded.  This picture of John is blurry, but it's my proof that we did ride in a limo. 

 

That was a first for both of us.

The other new adventure for us was flying in an Airbus-380.  That's the huge double-decker airplane produced by Airbus.  We were in Row 47 which was almost the back of the plane (I think there were 52 or 53 rows).  There were three seats - aisle- four seats - aisle - three seats.  We have no idea what the upstairs looked like!  There were also first class seats down stairs, but I think most first class and business class were upstairs. 

In New York, waiting to board

This was the quietest plane we've ever been on.  The engine noise was greatly reduced compared to other planes and it seemed like even the noise other passengers made was less (maybe partly because they didn't need to talk so loud to be heard!).  The ride was incredibly smooth.  We did feel the turbulence, I think because we were in the back, but we were basically unaware when the plane even started to move down the runway.  The landing wasn't the smoothest, though! There was a video camera mounted on the tail of the plane and you could watch the take-off and landing on the screen which was pretty cool.  As we were landing we could see on the screen that he was banking the plane, but you couldn't even feel that.  Our seats were right in the middle of the middle section which I didn't like ... but I don't like that on any flight.  My favorite is to have a window. And we were thankful for what we got because at first it looked like we wouldn't even be able to sit together.

After landing in Paris.  We took off in the dark and landed just at dawn.



And that is the end of our vacation.  I will probably do a little resume of the month of November, but tomorrow it's back to work.  We'll be struggling with jet lag this week, so please pray for us to get back in the schedule quickly!  

Somebody was happy to have us home. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Grandbaby Quilt #2

My mom made a quilt for me when I headed off to college.  It was so warm and heavy and I had it on my bed my college years.  I still keep it in storage and every time we are home in the winter I pull it out.  I don't know if she made one for my brother and sister or not, but I do know she made one for each of her grandchildren.

So, I decided to carry on the tradition.  I made one for Tera which Suzanne uses as the backdrop for Tera's monthly photos.  I wanted to make one for Hezekiah, but I sure had some challenges with it!  I bought the cloth before I knew what gender he would be and lucked out on that as I had gone with blue (aqua) as I knew that would match the nursery.  



looked up some quilt patterns on Pinterest and other places on the internet and narrowed it down to two I liked.  

My sewing machine wasn't working right, so I decided I would cut the pieces ahead of time and then sew them at Suzanne's house.  



But of course I procrastinated and the week before leaving Niger I was still trying to figure out what size to cut the quilt blocks.  I had a pattern, but no directions to be found anywhere on the internet!  I told John I couldn't figure it out, so he said to give him some time to think about it.  He was doing dishes and figured out an algebraic formula in his head while he was working.  Within 10 minutes we had it all figured out.  




I got the pieces all cut out ahead of time and sewed them at Suzanne's house in the afternoons when Tera was napping. 

 

But I got to the last piece and realized I hadn't cut enough pieces!  So I sent a message to my neighbor, Beka.  She went in our house and found the cloth and sent it with somebody who was traveling to the USA and who mailed it to me here.  I got it just in time to finish it.



I googled "baby quilt sizes" for both Tera's and Kiah's quilts and look at the different sizes of the two quilts.  I hope Tera doesn't grow up thinking I love Kiah more because until I laid the two quilts on the floor, I thought they were the same!





I had some issues with the sewing machine and don't know enough to have been able to figure it out, so don't look too closely at the sewing!



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fall. Or is it Autumn?



Is it fall or is it autumn?  Or doesn't it matter?  Is fall American and autumn British?  I googled the question and found that fall is not originally an American term.  It started in the 16th century and became the shortened version of fall of the year or fall of the leaf.  



Autumn comes from the French automne, also originating in the 15th or 16th century.  While Americans use the two terms interchangeably, Americans do seem to prefer fall while Brits and Aussies usually say autumn.




Either way, it's a season we don't get to experience very often.  In fact, we haven't experienced fall/autumn since 2010.  We have been in the USA since then, but only in the summer.  So we have really been enjoying the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of the season.  



Thankfully, the temperatures have been fairly moderate so it hasn't been too big of a shock to our systems.  We've even had days in the 70's which is unusually warm.   Some times it felt more like spring than fall.



John has drunk his fill of apple cider, too.  Best of all, we have a new autumn baby.   In case you've missed it, his name is Hezekiah James Hines, or Kiah for short.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd try my hand at an acrostic.  There are so many things for which to be thankful, I hardly know where to start.

T - Tera, our little granddaughter.  She's a whirlwind of activity, but really a good little girl.  We are so happy to finally get to know her and to enjoy her little personality.

H - Hezekiah, our new little grandson.  He's adorable and we are in love with him!

A - Autumn - The chance to experience one of the seasons we usually miss and to take in all the colors and smells.

N - Novels and other books - I am really thankful for books and the gift of reading and the way it opens up so many worlds to me as a reader.  Reading to grandkids is also a great way to spend quality time.

K - Our kids - Suzanne and Theo, Daniel and Kelly ... they are the best kids we could ask for.  We are so thankful for the spouses God gave them and the godly homes they have.

S - Spouse - John is amazing.  He works so hard, is intelligent, helps me as often as he can, and is a real man of God.  I love him with my whole heart.

G - The Gospel - Without it life would be hopeless and meaningless.

I- Income - We are fully dependent on donations to our support.  I am so thankful for our supporters, many who have supported us for 30 years!  No, we're not rich, but we have all that we need and for that we are thankful.

V - Visiting family - We have gotten to visit all of our siblings but one and have also seen many nieces and nephews and their kids as well.  We spent a week with my mom and dad in Florida and will spend our last week with John's mom in Connecticut.

I - Interest in the Gospel - So many people in Niger are listening to the Gospel on SD cards in their phones and some are asking questions about what they're hearing.

N - Niger - We are so thankful for the privilege to live and work in Niger and to share the Gospel there.

G - Grace - I'm thankfully for God's grace to me, showing me His mercy and kindness when I don't deserve it.  I'm thankful for others showing grace to me, too, even when I'm not very lovable.  I pray that I will show God's grace to others in return.

What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thank a Teacher

We sat in the airport terminal waiting to board our flight.  John and I snagged empty seats beside two super tall young men.  It didn't take us long to figure out that they were part of a university basketball team.  The guy to John's right had on his headphones and was in his own little world.  The guy to the left of me was reading a book.  Google has helped me identify the title of the book as Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success, but I didn't know that at the time.  The player reading the book was really enjoying it.  He came across a line that he really liked and read it to the coach who was sitting to his left and then again to some of the other players.  I heard the line so many times I had it memorized:  "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  I can't tell you why he liked that sentence so much, but he sure did!

Soon another player came over and perched up on the window sill behind the coach.  "Do you have a word for me today, Coach?"  He and the coach spoke quietly together for awhile and I don't know what the coach told him.  Then Book-Reader read the line to the 2nd player, "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  Then the coach took the book from him and said to Player #2, "What part of speech is wild?"  He took a few guesses at it and finally identified it as an adjective.  "What part of speech is tempestuous?" the coach continued with him.  Again Player #2 eventually settled on it being an adjective.  The coach then asked him to identify what part of speech "fling" is.  He quickly said it is a verb.  "Yes," said the coach, "fling can be a verb.  But in this case what part of speech is it?"  Player #2 was really stuck on it being a verb.  "Well, said the coach, what is he flinging?"  

Meanwhile, Book-Reader wanted his book back.  "No," said Player #2, "when I start something I want to finish it.  Let me figure this out."  About then our flight was called and I don't know if Book-Reader ever got his book back or if Player #2 ever figured out that fling can also be a noun.

Reading this, your first thought probably is, "Poor kid!  He got into university without knowing the basic parts of speech.  What a rotten education.  What a typical jock."  Maybe that's all true, but I was very impressed with the coach!  He had such a good rapport with the guys on his team.  But more than that, playing university basketball obviously isn't just a sport to win for him; it also involves getting an education.  And sometimes getting an education means making up for a years of a poor education.  The coach obviously knew this player needed to learn parts of speech.  He took a sentence that they all enjoyed from a book about basketball, so the subject matter was important to him.  And he turned it into a teachable moment.  He was infinitely patient and kept on in a firm but gentle and often humorous manner.


I have no idea what learning situation this kid had grown up in.  I do know that with the right teacher, he was willing to learn and to make up for what he didn't get in high school.  
This coach is my hero even though I don't know his name.  Movies are made about coaches like this guy, but he'll probably never be famous.  Day after day he makes sure his guys can play ball, but also that they can read books.  He takes teachable moments and uses them to help his players.  He has a passion for education that he passes on to his team.

School after school has teachers like him, teachers who are unknown heroes.  They take an individual interest in their students.  They use teaching methods that involve the students in things that excite them.  They are creative and innovative.  They give kids a love for learning.

Speaking of teachers who work hard day after day, but who will probably never be famous....  In Niger we have a team of three missionaries who are working with Nigerien teachers to help them learn better teaching methods.  The Nigerien teachers they work with have 40 - 80 kids in their class in a country whose literacy rate is 59.6% (and if you separate male from female, it's much lower for females).  They are learning how to use local materials to make teaching games.  They are passionate about moving from teaching by rote to involving the kids.  Please take a minute to hop over to my friend Lucia's blog:  Bringing the Gospel Through Christian Education in Niger and read her latest post.  

If you have been blessed by a special teacher in your life, make sure to thank them.  If you have had the privilege of going to a good school with teachers who care, consider supporting the Christian Education Project  (Project #097422-091). 
If you are a talented, dedicated teacher, considering applying with SIM to join us in Niger as a teacher of either Third Culture Kids or of teachers who are teaching Nigerien kids (the second option requires a good level of French).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

September and October Reading List

Here are the books I read in September and October.  I've got several I've been reading for awhile, so hopefully they'll show up on the November list.

Rescue the Captors was written by Russell Stendal.  Russell Stendal was kidnapped by guerrillas in Colombia and held captive for almost a year. At first he was angry and upset and pulled a gun that he had in his boot and shot one of the guerrillas. Fortunately the guy didn't die and Mr. Stendal was able to ask the man's forgiveness and they became friends. During his captivity Mr. Stendal began to see that if God allowed him to get into this situation, God could get him out of it and it wasn't necessary for him to use violence. As the months went on, he became more and more courageous to share the gospel with his captors. He realized that he would possibly be freed; even if he was killed by them, he knew he'd have eternal life. His captors, however, would be killed by the Marxists if they tried to become free of the organization. So he made it his mission to share the gospel with them. He ended up having a quiet influence on his kidnappers. The epilogue section of the book is several chapters based on teachings on the Sermon on the Mount that he uses to help couples in marital difficulties to reconcile. The last part of the book would be helpful, but I felt that it should have just been a separate book. Mr Stendal doesn't have the best writing style, but he doesn't claim to be a writer, either. He is just telling his story in his own words.  I've been thinking a lot about my personal philosophy of handgun use and Mr. Stendal's conclusions about the use of violence helped me a lot.

Bridge to Haven is written by Francine Rivers, one of my favorite Christian authors.  The author based this story loosely on an allegory of unfaithful Jerusalem found in Ezekiel 16. If you read that passage, you understand the love shown by God to Jerusalem, the gifts lavished on her, and yet she turned her back on her Rescuer and prostituted herself with other lovers. But the chapter ends with a promise to make atonement for all she has done. 

Abra, like Jerusalem, is abandoned, then rescued at birth. She is fostered by Pastor Zeke and his wife, Marianne, but when Marianne dies, she is adopted by another family who love her deeply. But Abra grows up convinced she has never been wanted. She wants to be somebody and to be loved for who she is. She runs away with Dylan, convinced she'll find love but he only uses her for his own pleasure. She then ends up with an agent who makes her a household name. He loves what he's made of her, not for herself.

She eventually comes to her senses and ends up back home where she finds both forgiveness and love.

Francine Rivers is an excellent writer, but there were places where I felt let down in this book. The main thing was that the mess that was Abra's life was resolved in the last 100 pages or less (the book is well over 400 pages in length). It just seemed too easy. Mrs. Rivers does a fairly good job of detailing Abra's struggle to return home and the forgiveness she found, but it was all just a little too easy. But then, when the prodigal son made up his mind to go home, his father ran to meet him and forgave him instantly, so this part of the book isn't completely unbelievable. Still, I can imagine that a woman who has been used by two different men for five years wouldn't just so immediately be healed from her past. Mrs. Rivers does hint at the shame and fear Abra has on her wedding night, but it seems like a pretty immediate healing of her past. 

My second criticism is that some of the bedroom scenes border on a little too much information. But then, if you read the account in Ezekiel 16, there's also a lot of uncomfortable word pictures painted, so I'm not sure what to think about the bedroom scenes. I wouldn't let younger teenage girls read this book, that's for sure.

In general, I think the story is well-told. It certainly is a reminder of how we turn our back on God and His love gifts to us and go after other lovers who don't even love us at all and how He will always welcome us back with open arms when we come in repentance.


Marilyn Yalom is the author of A History of the Wife.  First, I think the title was a little misleading and should have been something like A History of the Wife in Europe and Her Descendants in North America. In other words, she said very little about African-American women, and even less about women from the Indian nations, or Hispanic women in N. America. She mentioned European women often, especially in France and Great Britain. The History of the Wife living in Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, or Eastern Europe was mentioned not at all. So the title gives a false impression.

I expected the book to be written by a feminist, and it is. So that bias comes across strongly in the book and, again, I'm not sure A History of the Wife is the best title. Perhaps History of Wives Moving into Feministic Culture or something like that would have been a better title.

That said, it really was an interesting book, whether or not I agree with her world view. I learned a lot and felt that it was worth reading to see how what is expected of a wife in 2016 is so much different from what was expected of a wife in other periods of history.

The Man of the Desert was written by Grace Livingston Hill.  Her books are always somewhat predictable:  a rich person falls in love with a poor person; there is a beloved mom who is either an invalid or has passed away; somebody always plays the piano or can sing; the heroine is impossibly beautiful and the hero is stunningly handsome.  That said, her books are always clean and inspiring.  This one didn't disappoint.  A little Grace Livingston Hill is always good when you want something light and fluffy to read.

Willa Cather is the author of My Antonia.  I recently saw a list of books that used to be required high school reading, so I looked up the books and since most of them were free on kindle, I downloaded a bunch, including this one.  The book is about European immigrants who settled in rural Nebraska.  The book has little plot in the traditional way, but tells the story of an immigrant family through the voice of a boy who lived on a neighboring farm.  

The story is well written, the scenery is beautifully described, the struggles of the immigrant families are sympathetically dealt with, and the characters become real.

I really enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy historical fiction, make sure to add this one to your list.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

October Update

Wow, October has been a busy month.  Here are a few things that have been happening.

1.  I attempted to blog every day of the month on a theme:  ExNihilo Cooking.  I started out well, but helping take care of our daughter, new grandson, and two-year old grand-daughter meant I was pretty busy.  Even though I was cooking every day, I just kind of lost interest in the theme.  I tend to be hard on myself when I don't carry through on things.  I'm a plodder and once I start something I will see it through, stubbornly carrying on past the point where I should just quit.  So, I refuse to feel guilt for dropping that one since something more important came along.

2.  At the beginning of the month, we had three days of field conference.  Both John and I were involved in that, so those were really busy days.  After that week, I worked hard to finish up as many loose ends at the office as I could so they won't be there waiting for me after vacation.  



3.  We left Niger on October 14 just before midnight, landing in Paris early in the morning, with a six-hour lay-over there.  While there we had a pain au chocolat (one of those great French pastries the whole world should have...it's basically chocolate inside a croissant, only it's not a croissant.)  



We also found some benches and slept for awhile, then checked our email and found out that our grandson had been born shortly after we took off from Niamey!  We also found out some bad news from Niger.  (If you want to know more about that, contact me personally.)  Once we landed in New York, we caught a "limo" (in reality, a van) up to Connecticut, arriving there around 6 p.m.  John's brother and sister-in-law picked us up at the station and took us to my mother-in-law's apartment.  We all went out for supper and then dropped in to bed, exhausted.  It had been about 36 hours since we had last seen a bed.

4.  The next day, Sunday, we went to church at our sending church, Trinity Covenant Church.  



Then we had lunch with John's brother and sister-in-law.  John's mom, Jean, let us borrow her car while we're in the US, so we took her back to her apartment and then headed off to Pennsylvania.  We spent the night there with good friends, and then continued on our way to Ohio the next day.  We really enjoyed the fall colors as the mountain areas of Pennsylvania were at peak.



5.  We were so excited to meet Hezekiah James Hines and to get re-acquainted with our grand-daughter, Tera, who we hadn't seen since she was just a little over a month old.

  

If you'd like to know more about Hezekiah's name, click here.  Suz and Theo are calling him Kiah for short.  That is from the last half of his name.  We are so in love with both Kiah and Tera and Theo and Suz are doing such a great job at being parents.



6.  We've done a lot with Tera, especially. 

 

She's accepted Kiah and doesn't seem to have her nose bent out of shape, but it's most helpful to Suzanne to have help entertaining her while she and Kiah work on getting on a schedule and recovering from the birth.  Both are doing well, but it's just hard work to have a newborn!



7.  I've made seven freezer meals for Suzanne and may be able to do one more.  She had already made some, too, and I think somebody else left a few for her, so she's got some easy meals for those days when everything happens at once and she can barely get herself dressed, let alone cook a meal!



8.  I've done piles and piles of laundry and lots of dishes.  At least I have a good helper to keep me company.





9.  We try to get in as many baby snuggles as we can.





10.  Daniel and Kelly got to come down both weekends that we've been here.  One weekend it was so warm that we took a hike at Clifton Gorge and had a picnic supper there.





11.  We've gone over to my sister's house twice and she brought a meal here, so we got to see them quite a bit.  This picture is not at her house, but you can see how much Tera loves "Aunt Natawee". 

 

12.  I've been working on a quilt for Kiah.  I cut out all the pieces while I was in Niger, but alas, I forgot one piece!  So my amazing neighbor has gone in my house, found the cloth, and is mailing it to me with somebody traveling this week.  I should be able to finish it before we leave, but just in the nick of time. (I'll do a full blog on the quilt later.)

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13.  I managed to come up with a Halloween outfit for Tera.  I looked at a certain store and all the costumes there were expensive for the quality and many of them, even in size 2T, were inappropriate.  So on a visit to a thrift store, I found a duck outfit that fit her perfectly.  Then I had to look at other stores to find orange pants for her legs and a yellow sweater for her arms.  A local church had a trunk and treat, so we took her there.  We also found at a thrift store this little duck basket (I think it was meant to be an Easter basket) for her to use to collect her loot.  





Peepaw also carved a pumpkin with her.



And that's pretty much been our October!