Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Creation

Creation has been cancelled!!!
This is in blue because I'm so blue, I don't know what to do!
Mostly I feel bad for Suzanne. She has looked forward to this for a long time. Our tickets will be honored next year and we'll be home during that time for the DeValve's 50th anniversary and to get Daniel settled, so maybe, just maybe, we can go next year then John could go too. We'll try to make a decision when we're in CT or else we need to try to get a refund or sell our tickets.
These pictures show the rain in our back yard. That is the reason Creation was cancelled. There is no way anybody could camp out if the ground is this wet at the Agape Farm. I don't believe I've ever seen this much rain here (not that I've had many summers here!) This reminds me of the Jos Plateau in August.
Make sure you read Suzanne's blog at www.xanga.com/barefoot_bushkid. I'm so proud of her attitude and Daniel's too (He was supposed to go to King's Island Amusement Park, but missed the bus. His roommate wasn't going, so he didn't know Daniel had overslept.)

Graduation



This past weekend Suzanne and I were able to go out to New York to help celebrate my niece's graduation. We had a full and busy weekend, with 13 people squished into a house that isn't very big. Fortunately there are two bathrooms! We arrived on Thursday, June 22 and that evening my niece, Erika, my sister, Natalie, my Mom and Dad, and I went to her baccalaureate (a voluntary religious service for the graduates). It was nice and I guess it was the first time this school had had one. Meanwhile, Duane had taken Jeremiah, Suzanne, and a friend of Erika's that spent the weekend with us, to Civil Air Patrol. Later that evening there was a call from my niece, Alesha. She is a wrangler at a Christian camp and had been thrown from her horse. She had planned on coming home the next day, but wanted somebody to come get her that night. So her dad and I, Suzanne, Erika, and Jeremiah all went to get her. Her dad and Jeremiah drove her truck home and she rode in comfort in my van (she was very sore, but not seriously hurt, thank God). It was very late when we got home.

Erika's graduation was Friday night. She, Jeremiah, and a friend did the color guard as they all three are active participants of the Civil Air Patrol. She brought in the flag then ran out, got her gown on and rushed back in as a graduate. I thought she'd be last in line since her last name starts with "W", but the last shall be first was true in her case. Because the W's sat in the back row, they came in first! It was a nice ceremony with a very emotional moment when, after the grads gave roses to their moms, four graduates gave three roses each to the mother of a student who had been killed in a skiing accident earlier in the year and would have graduated that night. There was also a surprise when Erika got the John Philips Sousa Musical Award. That night we watched Walk the Line while waiting for my brother and his family to arrive. The movie was over, it was midnight, and still no Dean, so we went to bed. Just as everybody was dozing off, he arrived! So we all got out of bed to say hey, then right back to bed.

We all worked hard on Saturday to get the house and yard ready for the party on Sunday. We took a quick break from work at noon to eat the delicious curry dinner my dad cooked for Dean's birthday and to have a cake for him.

After church on Sunday we all worked hard to get the party ready. A lot of people showed up and I got to meet friends and relatives I'd heard about but had never met. She'll be going to Cedarville University as part of the nusing program.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Flannelgraph






Flannelgraph is thought by many to be old and out-dated, but I would have to disagree. One furlough when we were home for an extended time while John worked on his Masters degree, we lived in an apartment in Columbia, SC. I had a Good News Club in our home for kids that lived in the apartment complex and I used the CEF flannelgraph. The kids were fascinated and one boy thought I had some kind of magic trick exclaiming, "How'd you get that to stick up there?!" I use the same flannelgraph and CEF lessons in Niger. We've translated them into Songhai and it works well with the kids who haven't been spoiled by high-tec entertainment.

When I started teaching the women, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Because they are illiterate, I decided to take pretty much the same approach I do with kids. I tell stories while stressing a particular biblical truth, use lots of repitition, and illustrate with pictures. The women love it just as much as the kids do! By the way, only 7% of Niger's women can read. In my class of about 10 women, two of them can read.

Recently one of our supporters, a friend in the DeValve's church in CT, gave me a gorgeous set of flannelgraph figures. The figures can be interchanged to give endless variety. This shows a "page" that is just animals. There are also several backgrounds: outdoors, a lake or ocean, and a palace. At the top an outdoor scene is set up with figures of Jesus and people. I can't wait to start using these figures! This was a perfect gift and I just had to show it to all of you!

Off the subject...tomorrow I will be traveling out to NY for my niece's graduation, then to Creation here in PA, immediately after that to CT, and then down to VA and the Carolinas. I'll try to keep blogging, but I don't know how possible that will be while we're on the road. So if you don't hear from me for three weeks, well, keep checking because I'll be back!

Friday, June 16, 2006

A New Driver



I guess one could say Daniel has wanted to drive for a long time! This push car was his favorite toy until somebody too big for the toy sat on the steering wheel part. That was the end of that car! And all little boys love sitting in Daddy's seat, pretending to drive.

Well, he need pretend no longer. Daniel is now an official licensed driver! He got his permit in October and has logged the required 50 hours of supervised driving. So, on June 14, the day school officially let out, I took him down to the local DMV for his road test. He passed with flying colors and is now the proud owner of a Pennsylvania license. He says his only worry is that I'm going to make him run errands for me now!

He does a good job driving. Things are still a bit mechanical for him rather than automatic, but that will come with experience. Still, it's a bit scary handing him the keys and letting him go off by himself. He went over to his friend's house last night and got home safely. Here in Pennsylvania he has a "junior license" at least until he is 18. With the junior license, he is not supposed to be driving past 11 p.m. Otherwise, he doesn't really have any special restrictions.

I'm proud of him as I watch him grow up, but a little scared, too. This was a big step towards independence. I don't really want Daniel or Suzanne to stay dependent on us, but still.....part of me dreads the day they're fully off on their own.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The REAL Football

The main thing the kids have enjoyed about our home assignment has been the youth group at church. The kids there have welcomed them with open arms and really made them feel at home and accepted. The other thing that has been good for all of us is our Life Group. They were the only kids in the group, but they really opened up and shared things that they might not have with just their parents. We really saw some spiritual maturity in their lives that we are excited about.

We've also been blessed this time around staying at MRF (Missionary Retreat Fellowship) because there have been a good number of teens staying here or nearby. One of their favorite activities now that it's warm is soccer. Before they got busy studying for finals, most evenings would find a group of them in the field playing soccer.

Soccer, known as football in every country in the rest of the world, is a great game involving endurance and skill. It is a game truly played with the feet and not with the hands as the game known as Americna football is played. In case you didn't know, the world presently is involved in a tournament known as World Cup Football, taking place in Germany. Daniel and Suzanne are in grief because we don't have cable TV and the stations we get don't air such an important event as World Cup Football. Get this, in Niger we get one, count it, one station. That station will televise every single game in the World Cup.

Hey, Natalie, remember when we watched the World Cup in the Gambia..."Eat football, sleep football, drink CocaCola."

Oh well, I do like a good football (as the rest of the world calls it) game, but I guess it's not to be this time around.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Old Things

I love old things: old houses, old furniture, old books, old towns. There is an old, abandoned house out on Rt. 348 that is being torn down. Granted, it was beyond repair, but it is so sad to me that it got to that point in the first place. It is especially sad because it is being replaced with new, unimaginative cookie-cutter style houses. As I drive by, I think of how all the land the new houses are being built on was once part of a large farm ruled by the farmer and his wife who lived in that house. I wonder why it was left to fall into ruin. "I arrived at home, and found not a house, but a ruin -- the walls bare, stripped of everything, almost weeping in their nakedness." (Shalom Aleichem in Tevye's Daughters)

We spent a week in England last summer, and I dare say that old buildings are never, or at least seldom, abandoned and torn down there. They are constantly kept in good repair. Do you know the difference between an American and a Brit? An American thinks that anything that is 100 years old is old and a Brit thinks that anything over 100 miles away is really far.

This is a picture of The Eagle and Child in Oxford, England and it has been a public house since 1650. J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis met there on a regular basis for discussion. We got to eat there and it's exciting to say that we ate where two of our favorite authors ate! This is us with my parents (we don't know the chap in the doorway!).

We also got to visit our friends, the Burrows, in Darbyshire. We got to attend Clive's ordination into the Anglican church and then attended church with them when he served his first communion as a vicar. Their church dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and we were told was built in the Perpendicular Gothic style.

I also love old books. Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite book and I've read it more than any other book aside from the Bible. I recently came across another "old" book that I enjoyed. I say "old" because the English translation was done in 1959 and I couldn't figure out when the book was orignally written. This "old" book is Tevye's Daughters by Shalom Aleichem and is the book Fiddler on the Roof is based on. It is a collection of short stories, not all of them about Tevye. But the ones I enjoyed most were the ones about Tevye and his daughters. You know all about the first three from watching Fiddler on the Roof (one of my favorite movies!), but the story of each daughter is increasingly tragic. In the story of the 4th daughter, we see Tevye inviting home a rich young man, little suspecting what would come of it. This young man falls in love with Tevye's daughter, but when his mother hears of it, she forbids him to see the girl again. She is heart-broken and commits suicide. The fifth daughter is matched up with a very rich man who just wants a beautiful wife. He gets the beautiful wife, but then is ashamed of his father-in-law, Tevye, and pays him to leave the area. He is on his way to Palestine, but then the son-in-law loses his fortune and moves to America. Which brings us to the ending of the book and of the movie...they are forced to leave by the Russians. I've always wondered if his daughter who married a Gentile really came back like she does in the movie. I was pleased to see that she does, but it's up to your imagination if her husband is really with her. Tevye says, "The same old saying came to me: 'A father has mercy on his children.' How could I be so heartless and drive her away when God Himself has said, 'I am a long-suffering God and slow to anger'? And especially since she had repented and wanted to return to her father and to her God? ... Try to put yourself in my place and tell me truthfully what would you have done?"

Tevye's Daughters is a pretty good book, but slow-moving in places. It is one of the rare occasions where I like the movie better than the book. It is sad to see Tevye waiting for the Messiah when we know He's already come. He says, "And why doesn't the Messiah come? Wouldn't it be clever of him to appear at this very moment riding on his white horse? That would be a master stroke! It seems to me that he has never been so badly needed by our people as now... We poor Jews...watch and wait and pray for him daily. Our eyes are strained from watching. He is our only hope. All we can do is hope and pray for this miracle--that the Messiah will come." Reading this book made me thankful that I don't have to face all of life's difficulties without the Messiah! Now that's an age-old truth that's ever new!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Do I Complain THAT Much?

God has been speaking to me ever since yesterday morning when I read Philippians 2:14. I tend to think, "I don't complain THAT much." So I decided to think over the weekend and through today and take a little inventory. Here are some thoughts I remember thinking and some were even voiced rather vocally.....

It's too cold.
When is it going to stop raining?
Why is there so much traffic?
Why did everybody come to Walmart on the day I decided to come?
Who left that cart in the parking spot I was aiming for?
Why did you bump into me with your cart? Who do you think you are? Why don't they make these aisles wider?
Why did these people bring all these screaming kids to Walmart with them?
I don't know this song. I'd rather sing ones I know.
Why does it have to rain on the night we host the youth group?
Quit driving so slow! You don't have to use your brakes that much!
We have to have the exercise class in the lap pool? It's cold in there! It's too crowded in this pool!
Why didn't Suzanne's school send home a note that we owe money for her lost text book?
I hate these catepillars! They are everywhere. I can't even stand to eat out on the deck. You can hear them chewing the leaves. How gross is that?

etc. You get the idea. Yes, I really need to work on this!


Complaining and Arguing

I've been studying the book of Philippians in my devos. I'm in chapter 2 now and the main idea of the chapter so far is that we should live humbly with each other. Paul then shows how Jesus was the ultimate example of humbleness. After the description of our Perfect Example, Paul reminds us to live blameless lives, but he reasurres us that God is "working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." It's a good thing He gives us the power to please Him, because the next verse would be nearly impossible without that power: "Do everything without complaining and arguing."

WHAT?!!! That seems nearly impossible! Without even thinking, I start to complain or to argue. And how does this tie into being humble, anyway? Well, if I am humbly putting others first, then I'm not complaining when the situation isn't the way I'd like it. If I'm humbly putting you first, I can choose to not argue with you when we don't agree.

A long time ago I determined I did not want to be a bitter old woman. As the pastor reminded the graduates in church on Sunday, bitterness starts when you're young. If you complain constantly as a young adult, you will as an older adult, too.

We all know people who complain nonstop. In fact, the Songhai have a proverb about complainers: The complainer is one who when given a piece of liver will find bones in it. We all know plenty of people who can find bones in the liver! And we really don't enjoy being around them. Neither are they a good testimony because the next verse says "so that no one can criticize you." Then we can "shine like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people."

I also know people who aren't complainers, and my Great-Aunt Jeanette is the perfect example of somebody who doesn't complain. On the rare occasions that Aunt Jeanette has complained about something, she has immediately seen the humor in the situation. Not only can she laugh at situations, but she can laugh at herself. If the situation is not at all funny, she is quick to see how God is working good in a difficult time. She isn't walking around with an un-realistic, rose-colored view of the world. She faces up to difficult and bad things, but she can talk about them without complaining.

Do you know her secret? When we were at her house at Easter, John was kneeling by her bed which she had graciously given to us for the weekend. She came in and saw him and said, "There's a cushion under the bed to kneel on if you want to use it." Aunt Jeanette is 92 years old and she still kneels down by her bed to pray!! Now, I'm not saying that you're not very spiritual if you reach that age and you can no longer kneel. She's been blessed with extraordinary good health. But I believe that prayer is her secret to not being a complaining person. She takes all the difficult situations she faces to the Lord. Any complaining she does, goes past the Saviour first.

That's the kind of person I want to be. One who does not complain or argue because I realize who energizes me to live in a way that shows the results of my salvation. One who does not complain or argue because I've spent time with the Lord and I know He's in control.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Other Spring Flowers


This is blog is really part of the blog about lilacs, a sort of P.S.

I like other flowers of spring, too. I believe this is a rhododendron. It is growing in front of our house and I wake up every morning, now that we have the windows open, to hear bees buzzing in the flowers just beyond our bed. It's a nice sound as long as the bees stay in the flowers and away from John who is allergic to bee stings!

I'm going to look at this picture next May when I'm so hot I can hardly stand it! May when we've had eight solid months with absolutely no rain and there are no flowers to be found...May when we're all covered with heat rash....May when we can't stand to touch any body or be touched by any body....May when every body is short-tempered because they're so hot. Oh yes! I will definitely look at these pictures and think of more pleasant things than the heat.

Lilacs



I know I've mentioned several times that my favorite season is spring. But I haven't told you my absolute most favorite thing about spring, and that is LILACS.

I love lilacs because they are so beautiful. Purple, any shade, is my favorite color. Because lilacs come in every shade of purple, I can't help but think they look gorgeous.

And I love them for what one person described as their heady, intoxicating, and addictive scent. On Mother's Day John brought me a bouquet of lilacs. Every time I went past the table where they had been given a place of honor, I inhaled deeply trying to get as much of the scent as possible.

I did a little internet research on lilacs and found out that it is a very durable and long-cherished garden plant that first found its way to the United States in the early 17th century, enduring long sea voyages. The immigrants carefully wrapped roots and shoots in moist burlap or bundled in straw. Early settlers found that lilacs thrived in the cooler parts of the US. In fact, it is the state flower of New Hampshire, representing the hardiness of the people who live there.

One article said that lilacs had been used as the flower of choice at funerals. In fact Walt Whitman wrote an entire poem about a woman using lilacs to cover her lover's grave. When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd is a rather depressing poem, but this stanza is worth quoting:
In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-washed palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle....and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
This is a painting by Mikhail Vrubel, a Russian artist who lived from 1856-1910. I think I like my photographs of lilacs better. This picture seems dark, not bright and cheerful like the lilacs I like to enjoy. Still, he uses light in an interesting way in the foreground of the picture. Maybe this picture is kind of growing on me.
Here's a little trivia for you: Lilacs are a member of the olive family and lilac blossoms are edible. If somebody fixed me something with lilacs in it, I would sample the dish, but I'm not going to be trying any new recipees I don't think!
And, DustyPenguin, I'm so excited that your lilacs bloomed this year. I'm just disappointed that they'll probably be gone by the time we get there near the end of June.