Tuesday, May 30, 2006


1 to choose and bring into a certain relationship; specif., to take into one's own family by legal process and raise as one's own child

When I was little I had very blonde hair while every one else in the family had dark hair. Since I looked a little different than the rest of the family my dad would tease me and say I got mixed up in the hospital. My friend, Joy Beacham, was born in the same hospital as me but a few days earlier, so my dad said I was really a Beacham. As an adult Joy and I again became friends and I got to know two of the Beacham families. I realized (not that I had ever really believed it!) that I couldn't possibly be a Beacham! I am only 5'2" and there isn't a Beacham who is under 5'9"! I'm just too short to genetically have ever belonged to their family. Don't worry, I was never psychologically scarred by this teasing. I knew I was loved even if I had gotten mixed up in the hospital.

Last week we were invited to an adoption party and it was touching to see the love the parents and older siblings have for the twins that were being adopted. The family had had the twins in foster care since their premature birth over a year ago. How exciting that these babies they had visited in the NIC-unit, that they had taken into their family and treated as their own since day one, had finally legally become their very own children.

Other friends in Eastern Europe just adopted two little girls. They have a son, but found it impossible to have more children, so they decided to adopt. It was a long and difficult process with all the paperwork and red tape involved, but they were finally told there was a little girl they could adopt. BUT.....they would have to adopt all six of her siblings! That was a little more than our friends wanted to take on! To make a long story short, only one of those siblings had the same father and mother as "their" girl and it worked out that they adopted two little girls instead of just one. Even that was more than they had planned, but God is sovereign and he obviously wants both of those girls in their family.

I think these stories are touching....how a family opens its home and its arms to children who, by birth, are not their own. But by a conscious decision, they make these children their own. Their food, their resources, their home, everything they have belongs to their adopted children. Their own biological children make room for them, sharing their toys and their parents' time. The parents no longer refer to "our biological children" and "our adopted children". All are their children on equal footing with no distinctions between them.

These adoptions are a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. I was outside his family, but He adopted me. I had no rights, being a slave to sin and to Satan, but I was adopted into God's family and now I have all the rights and privileges that His Son, Jesus Christ has. It's so exciting! "God sent him (Jesus) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father'. Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir." I can call God "Daddy" and pray directly to him through Jesus' name. Heaven is my inheritance. I have a loving Father who has given me the gift of His Spirit. Wow! It's almost more than I can comprehend.

I love the words to the song You are Mine sung by Third Day. Here are some of the lyrics:

...Whenever I hear
Of your saving grace
And how you gave your life
In exchange for mine
Sometimes I wonder why you even love me
And why you ever chose to call me child
Then I remember
It's by your sacrifice
I can say that
I am yours and you are mine.
So, Nick and Heidi and Scott and Victoria, if you are reading this, Congratulations! God bless you! and thanks for being an picture of what God has done for me!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Malnutrition is Real

This headline jumped out at me today when I looked at the All Africa site: "Annual 'Lean Season' Set to Strangle Sahel". Every year people plant their millet and pray for adequate rains to bring full abundant heads of grain. But even when the rainy season has been good, the harvest is never enough to get an entire family through the year until the next harvest. In a good year the grain may last until May. That means that no "free" (that is food they grew themselves and didn't have to buy) food is available from May until October. Not only is no food available, but those are also the months when they expend the most energy doing hard physical labor in their fields.

The article says "'Every year is a crisis year for the poorest people of the Sahel,' said Mustapha Darboe, World Food Porgramme Regional Director for West Africa. 'For too long this has been widely considered to be normal and acceptable. It is not. People should not be chronically short of their daily needs in the 21st century.'

"'Last year's crisis in the region, especially in Niger, was a wake-up call to everyone; invisible hunger and unchecked poverty kill people in West Africa,' he said."

The article goes on to say, "No country in the Sahel faces a more difficult lean season than Niger, where last year's crisis has left a deep scar, pushing thousands of the poorest further into poverty and debt."

Every year is difficult, but Niger has not had a chance to recover from last year's severe famine. These pictures of malnourished children (from www.guardian.co.uk) are not an uncommon sight in Niger. Consider this. In Niger, according to the United Nations' Human Devlopment Index, 34% of the population is undernourished, 40% of children under five are underweight, and 17% of newborns are born underweight. 61.4% of the population lives on $1.00 a day and 85.3% lives on $2.00 a day.

This little girl by the flower pot is our neighbor. She is not grossly malnourished, but she is underweight. Her hair is dry and brittle and often yellowish in color. In this picture she is 5 years old and about the size of a 3 year old here in the US. Fortunately we're able to help her family with food or she would probably be severely malnourished. She's as cute as can be and I miss her!

Contrast this to the US where 15.3% of the children ages 6-11 are overweight and 15.5% of adolescents ages 12-19 are overweight. Here the headlines read "Overweight Kids: Schools Take Action", "Bullying Keeps Overweight Kids from Exercise", "Helping Your Overweight Child", "BlubberBusters: Overweight Kids site", and "Overweight children: Healthy Lifestyle Tips".

I'm not trying to lay a guilt trip on anybody. But I know as well as anybody about the abundance of food here in the US. I feel guilty myself when I think of how much I've spent on chocolate candy, my weakness and a real source of enjoyment. What if instead of buying chips and candy we don't need we sent that money to Samaritan's Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org) , Compassion International (www.compassion.com) , or World Vision (www.WorldVision.org)? Could I challenge you with that?

By the way, many of my Nigerien friends would think Americans are beautiful. They aspire to be fat and think it's beautiful because it is a sign of being rich enough to eat bountifully. They often tell me that if they were me they would make Yaaye (John) buy them a big bag of rice so they could get fat. One lady told me she thinks I'm pretty because I have big hips!! How do you like that for honesty?

But, seriously, it is hard for us to go from the poorest country in the world to one of the richest and soon we'll be going from one of the richest back to the poorest. And we'll be arriving during the lean time. We'll go from seeing overweight Americans to undernourished Nigeriens. We'll have hungry people at our door every day. We daily live with a certain amount of guilt when faced wtih the dichotomy of what we have and what our neighbors have (or should I say don't have). When you look at the pictures I've posted today, can you help but weep? Like I said, I'm not trying to put a guilt trip on you, but I don't want you to forget the rest of the world as we live in a prosperous one.

It is a land with large, properous cities that you did not build.

The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce.

You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig,

and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant.

When you have eaten your fill in this land,

be careful not to forget the LORD,

which rescued you from slavery....

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 NLT

Monday, May 22, 2006

Suzanne's Birthday

Today is Suzanne's 15th birthday. She has been a joy and I'm proud to be her mom! (Not that we haven't had our moments!)

Because her birthday is on a Monday we decided to have her party on Friday the 19th. The nice thing about that day was that there was no school. The district had set aside a certain number of snow days, but since it wasn't a snowy winter, they hadn't used all the days and so they gave it to them free. Daniel and Suzanne slept in and I cooked and decorated. John came home with a dozen roses for Suzanne. That is a tradition we borrowed from my sister's husband who gave his daughters roses for their 16th birthdays. But since there won't be any roses in Niger when she turns 16, John did it this year. She was really pleased.

She invited 6 girls from church/school to come to her party. They had such a good time together. We had home-made bread sticks, home-made pizza, and a vegetable tray for supper. Suzanne wanted "Dirt" for her cake. "Dirt" is a dessert made of Oreo cookies, pudding, cream cheese, and cool whip and is very delicious -- and rich and I dare say fattening! I did make a low-fat version of it, though, so we could enjoy it without guilt. After supper Suzanne opened her gifts. She got so many cute things -- her friends know her well. She got clothes, picture frames, stuff for making cards, a beach towel, sunglasses, flip-flops, candles, a journal, and an electric teakettle (so she can make chai in her dorm room!). We gave her the best gift last. Her grandparents had given her and me money for tickets to Creation which is a 4-day festival of Christian music. You camp for four days and go to one concert after another. So, I printed out the tickets and the cover page showing all the artists that will be there. I put that in a big envelope and on the envelope I stuck photos of Third Day, Casting Crowns, and Super Chic[k]. I wrote "Third Day, Casting Crowns, and Super Chic[k] would like to wish you a happy birthday." Then I put the envelope in a beach bag with a sun visor and sunscreen. She pulled it out and was reading it out loud, but couldn't quite figure out what was going on until she pulled out the tickets. This picture shows how excited her friends were for her and how stunned she was. It was so much fun giving this to her! We also had a collapsable chair for her to sit in at Creation.

Her friends brought the "princess crown" they pass around for birthdays and she wore that -- that's what the tinsel stuff is in her hair. After presents, we did the cake. While we were eating the cake, the door flew open and two commandos dressed entirely in black brandishing air-soft guns burst in. They were Daniel's friends coming to kidnap him for the night, much to his relief. He ran out of the house yelling, "Freedom!"

Suzanne and her friends spent the evening playing games, running around outside, watching Bride and Prejudice (an Indian telling of Pride and Prejudice), and hanging out in her room doing nails, talking, talking, and more talking. I'm sure they were up most of the night. She had a great party and great friends to celebrate it with.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Birthday

My birthday was May 7. It was a great day. John brought me breakfast in bed, but I told him to just bring me cereal since I had to get up and get ready for church. After church I got to sit down and do some cross stitch while everybody else made dinner! John made a delicious chicken meal and I forget what else.
I got lots of nice presents including some books, some scrapbooking supplies, a sun visor to wear this summer, a collapsible lawn chair, an earring organizer, a DVD (Walk the Line), and a cross necklace, CD's (Jars of Clay, Newsboys, Mercy Me, and Johnny Cash), and money from my parents, my in-laws, and a friend.

Suzanne took all these pictures except the cake one. She's turning into a really good photographer.

My cake was an angel food cake with fresh fruit and Cool Whip.
I took this picture so I can look at it when I get to Niger and am starving for such a special dessert. I don't know, maybe I shouldn't look at it....maybe that will only make me long for the "leeks and garlic of Egypt"!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Drinking Chai

We've done a lot of traveling this year to speak at different churches. In the fall we went to a church in central PA and we stayed with some friends -- people who had been kind to John when he was first starting out as a single man on his own. They gave us a drink of "Mystic Chai". It sounded kind of new age to me...could Christians drink this stuff. Well, I got over my hangups about what it was called, I mean, it's just a drink after all. It was delicious and Suzanne and I loved it. Our hostess said she had bought it at Sam's Club, so we got some there. But, being the penny pincher I am, I decided if one could make their own mix it would be cheaper. So I got on the internet and found a recipe. I made it and we decided it was just as good or better than the store bought stuff! Suzanne drinks it every morning and every night. It's her comfort "food".

The recipe takes a little time to make because you have to run it all through the blender, but it's worth the effort. I make a lower-calorie, lower-fat version of it, too. Here it is:

Mystic Chai
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer (I use lite)
1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer (I use lite)
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea (plain, not lemon flavored)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (this is expensive, but vital to the recipe)

1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar, and instant tea. Stir in giner, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.
2. To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.

Note: You can spice it up even further by adding 1 teaspoon nutmeg and allspice and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper.

Makes 36 servings.

When you need a little comfort next winter on a cold night, try a cup of Mystic Chai! For other fun recipees, look at http://ThriftyFun.com.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pray for Jean DeValve

On Monday, May 11, my mother-in-law, Jean DeValve goes to the hospital to have one of her kidneys removed. She has a cancerous growth on the kidney, but we are so thankful that it appears to not have spread elsewhere. In early March she wasn't feeling well, so went to the doctor. He diagnosed her with divirticulitis, but, while running tests, noticed something suspicious on her kidney. While the divirticulitis wasn't fun, we're glad she had it so the doctor was able to catch the more serious problem! He told Mom she was lucky, but she told him it was God, not luck. Do pray for her as this will be major surgery.

This is a picture of my mother-in-law and me in December at a Christmas tea at their church. It was an international theme, so I wore my Nigerien clothes and she wore this beautiful top a Chinese friend gave her. I spoke on "Christmas in Niger" and another missionary shared about "Christmas in India". Unfortunately, it's a bit blurry.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Birthday Boy

February 23 is long past, but I decided to take a small step back in time for today's blog.

Daniel turned 17 on February 23. I can't imagine where the years have gone! It seems just yesterday we celebrated his first birthday and now he's filling out college applications and preparing to leave the nest. He's a great kid and I have enjoyed every one of his 17 years.

Daniel was born in Niamey and that is where we celebrated his first birthday. He was just beginning to walk at that point. Wasn't he cute?!

This year we celebrated here in Pennsylvania. He wanted Nigerien food, so I used safari decorations. He invited guys and even some GIRLS! After supper the kids played some party games and then Daniel opened his gifts and we had an ice cream cake. Then the kids played board games.

Most of Daniel's gifts were air-soft things. Air-soft guns are pellet guns that shoot plastic pellets. The boys run around in the woods, chasing each other and shooting at each other. It's basically a teen-age version of the age-old Cowboys and Indians. He and his friends spent most of today (May 6) playing air-soft.

Youth comes but once in a lifetime. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Favorite Chores

There are a lot of chores I don't like: dusting or doing dishes for example. In fact, I'm rather indifferent about most housework. I do it because it needs to be done, but I neither love it nor hate it. But there is one chore I actually enjoy and it is doing laundry. I know, I know, all that hot Nigerien sun has given me brain damage.

I get more of a feeling of accomplishment from doing laundry than I do from my other chores. The day starts with piles of rumpled, dirty, smelly clothes and ends with neatly folded piles of sweet smelling wearable clothes. I love standing out in the sunshine, watching the squirrels scampering through the nearby leaves, seeing the trees budding out, and hearing the birds calling back and forth. I like organizing the clothes on the line: shirts together with towels and then trousers and shorts together, and socks and other small things in one place. I stop often to sniff the fresh aroma of the fabric softener. Often I'll pray as I hang the things on the line. Then I stand back and enjoy the colorful array of drying clothes blowing in the breeze.

It's a lot different in Niger where I don't have a machine. I hire a lady to do it by hand and hang the clothes on the line. She doesn't hang them quite like I would, but she gets the job done! She washes with a hard, brown bar soap. It works effectively, but doesn't smell as sweetly as American soap. Sometimes there is so much dust in the air one wonders if the clothes are much cleaner than before they were washed! Here is my friend washing and hanging my clothes in Niger. She also does the ironing for me. Wow! That's a relief....another of my not so favorite chores. I think she enjoys ironing because it's a man's job in Niger (hey...maybe we could get that to catch on here). It gives her a certain feeling of pride and accomplishment to do a job that most women don't know how to do.

Well, I guess I'll go look for some clothes to wash.....! :)