Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas celebrations

We've had a really nice Christmas. As you can see from my previous post, we've had some special meals. On the 23rd I made curry with all the toppings. After supper we made Christmas cookies and played Dutch Blitz.
On the 24th I made dough for dinner rolls and for sticky buns and I made a pie. For supper we had special finger foods after attending the Christmas Eve service at church. We ate supper while watching "It's a Wonderful Life". Christmas morning started with remembering the reason for Christmas. Next on the agenda was opening the gifts. I think everybody was pretty happy with their gifts! Daniel and Suzanne were especially happy with their new Sambas....special soccer shoes. The rest of the day was spent just chilling out, waiting for the turkey to cook. After eating we went over to our friends' house to play games and enjoy the evening with them.

If I haven't had a chance to tell you yet, Merry Christmas! God bless you in the coming new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home-made Ravioli

About once a year, during one of the breaks when the kids are home from school, I make home-made ravioli. Why once a year? Well, it's not that complicated or difficult, but it takes a LONG time to make!

First you make the dough, which is simply water, eggs, flour, salt, and a little oil. After mixing these ingredients, you knead the dough for about 10 minutes and then let it rest for 30 minutes. While it is resting, you start working on the filling. I have always made the meat filling, but the spinach filling is also good. I know because I always order the home-made Spinach Ravioli at Le Pilier, my favorite restaurant in Niamey...and unarguably the best spinach ravioli in the world. Anyway, I digress. The filling is meat, onions, garlic (the more the better!), egg, salt, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.
By the time the meat is done, the dough has rested long enough. So, the next step is to cut the dough into six portions. One portion at a time, you roll the dough out into long strips, then cut each strip into eight or nine two-inch wide pieces. The edge of each of these pieces has to be dampened with just a bit of water so they edges will stick together. Then you put a little of the meat filling on each piece of dough and fold them up and seal the edges. Each ravioli is then placed on a floured towel to dry. While the ravioli are drying, you make a simple marinara sauce (definitely NOT from a jar....that would ruin your hard work of making such delicious ravioli!)

Finally it is done and the ravioli is ready to be enjoyed! This is so amazingly delicious that my family refuses to eat ravioli from a can or even the frozen version. It is a lot of work, but it's worth it when you sit down to eat it. Just don't expect me to make it very often!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Outreach

Last weekend our church had a really neat outreach to our community. As the event was planned, we had no idea how many people would come. Preparing for the event took a lot of work by a lot of people and was covered with prayer.

As people arrived at the church they were greeted outside and welcomed to a bonfire. Then they entered the church. The foyer was a Candy Cane Room where the story about candy canes was told. You can see the full story here. Apparently this is just a made-up story and not the way the candy cane was created, it was a good way to present the gospel in a short amount of time. Also in this room people could have Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.

The next place people could go was in the sanctuary. There was an on-going concert in there and people could come and go as they liked. Of course, it was the little kids that stole the show. All the music was good and I think people found it relaxing to just sit for awhile and listen to Christmas music.

From the sanctuary people could move into the Victorian living room. There Saint Nicholas told the story of the original Saint Nicholas who lived in Turkey and who was a kind and generous man. He also tied in the reason why we celebrate Christmas....to remember the greatest gift ever given.

From there people moved on to the little town of Bethlehem. The picture doesn't do the setting justice. The walls were covered with cardboard on which were painted the walls of a city. There were sellers, a beggar, and even an inn keeper who came out and told us there was no room in the inn. The lady in green told the story of that holy night and then ushered us in to the stable. There we saw more of the story acted out with a live nativity, including a calf who wanted to nuzzle Joseph!

It was a great evening and was perfect for people who wouldn't want to sit in a church service at a church they aren't familiar with.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Trip to New York City

This past Saturday, John and I took the bus to New York City. On Saturdays Martz offers a good deal on tickets if you ride "the Shoppers' Special". Our bus was packed full and we were fortunate to get the front row seats. We made friends with the bus driver and we all had a great time teasing each other.

The Shoppers' Special drops people off near Rockefeller Center which was just a few blocks from where our friends from Niger were staying at the Vanderbilt YMCA. Peter, an Australian, had come to the USA, first to present a paper at the UN and then to travel on to Florida to present a seminar at the ECHO program. He brought a Nigerien co-worker with him. So, John and I walked down to the Y where we had arranged to meet them.

It was raining and quite cold. The first thing we did was to take subways down to Battery Park. The first thing you see as you enter Battery Park is this ....I don't know what to call it....work of art? statue? monument? Anyway, it is called The Sphere and it used to be in front of the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, this sphere was damaged, but not destroyed. I thought it was really ugly because it was all bashed in on the top and I just thought it was somebody's idea of modern art. Then when I got home and read up on it and found out what it really is, I thought it was beautiful. (Which reminds me of a lot of people. When I first meet them I don't especially like them but as I get to know them and hear their story and find out why they are like they are, I begin to really love them!)

Peter and Ayouba really wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but we all knew that with only one day to see as much as possible, going to Ellis Island would just eat up too much time. In spite of the inclement weather, the lines waiting to go to Ellis Island were very long. It seems that Lady Liberty is still calling to the huddled masses.

In lieu of going to Ellis Island, which not only takes a lot of time, it also costs money, we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry. We had been told it cost 50 cents, which sounded like a pretty good deal to us. But when we got there we found out it was free....an even better deal! The ferry took us right past the Statue of Liberty. As I stood in the wind and the cold and the rain with the boat rocking from side to side, I could almost imagine what it must have been like to have just come on a long, miserable journey from Europe, to see the Statue of Liberty, and to know that I was almost at my new home.

Our next stop was a deli for sandwiches. Peter and Ayouba were blown away by the choices of drinks. They had every kind of soft drink, flavored water, juice, and tea imaginable...many brands I had never heard of or tried. The choice of sandwich or pizza was pretty overwhelming, too. I've been told that the difference between riches and poverty is that the number of choices increases the richer you are.

Then it was back on the subway (some of New York's subways are really decrepit and disgusting) with three changes, taking us back to Rockefeller Center. We got to see the Christmas tree, the ice skating rink, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, famous places (though we didn't go in here), and Times Square. By then it was snowing and Ayouba got to see snow for the first time in his life! We stopped and got some hot drinks and soup to warm us up as we were thoroughly soaked. Then Peter and Ayouba headed back to the Y and we went to board our bus. Before doing that, though, we went to a drug store where I bought some socks to wear on the trip home. I didn't want to spend the next three hours sitting in wet shoes and socks.

The most frustrating part of the day was that so many people had umbrellas up. The streets were jam-packed with people and each person who had an unbrella took up twice as much room as people without umbrellas. Then they would push past you and you'd practically get stabbed in the eye with a spoke from their umbrella.

On the ride home two women just behind and across from me were having a huge fight. One had gone upstairs in the restaurant and hadn't told her friend where she was going. The other lady probably felt quite frightened to think she was all alone in downtown Manhattan! But they went on and on like junior highers (my apologies to all junior highers...probably more like 4th graders). The one wouldn't admit that she was being a little ridiculous and the other wouldn't say she was sorry she had hurt her friend. One declared it was over, done, they were never speaking again. The other one said she was calling her friend's mother (these ladies were in their 50s!), and one of them brought up the subject of a 3rd party who wasn't even involved in this particular issue. Old fights were brought up before they finally realised they weren't speaking and the bus was blissfully quiet for the rest of the ride home.

It was a fun day but I am REALLY glad I don't live in Manhattan! (Not that I could afford it, anyway.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Gifts for Those Who Have Everything

If you are like me, you have several people in your life who when asked what they want for Christmas, say either, "I don't need anything", "I don't want anything", or "I don't know". And chances are that someone is a man. Well, here is the perfect gift for them! It is guaranteed to please most men and it is useful too. Not only will it be a great calendar for the men in your life, the proceeds from the calendar will go to SIMAIR in Niger to help them buy another cost-efficient diesel airplane for their ministry of providing emergency transportation to missionaries in isolated areas. The calendars can be purchased on line from SIM USA. Just click on the words here: SIM USA Bookshop. That will take you directly to the web page for purchasing the calendar.

And don't we all love free gifts! I received this email from a friend and thought I'd pass along these free gift ideas (Author unknown):

1. The gift of LISTENING.
Try giving this to someone in need. And you really must listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your responses. Just listen.

2. The gift of SIGNS OF AFFECTION.
Be generous with your hugs, kisses, and gentle squeezes of the hand. Let these tiny actions demonstrate the love inside of you.

3. The gift of A NOTE:
It can be as simple as "I love you" or as creative as a sonnet. Put your notes where they will surprise your loved ones.

4. The gift of LAUGHTER:
Just cut out a cartoon, send a clever article. Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

5. The gift of a COMPLIMENT:
A simple, "You look good in blue" or "Good supper" can be of greatest value to those who may feel they are being taken for granted.

6. The gift of a FAVOR:
Help with the dishes, run an errand, babysit, etc.

7. The gift of LEAVING ALONE:
There are times in our lives when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Become more sensitive to those times and give solitude.

8. The gift of a CHEERFUL DISPOSITION:
Try to be cheerful around those you love.

9. The gift of a GAME:
Offer to play your loved one's favorite game. Even if you lose, you'll be a winner.

10. The gift of PRAYER:
Pray for your loved ones and let them know you pray for them.

Above all, at Christmas time I want to remember that giving gifts isn't the most important thing. Neither is baking pies and cookies, going to Christmas parties, sending out cards, or decorating the house. Christmas is all about God's love to us and our love to each other.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
I John 4:10, 11

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thanksgiving

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone already. Daniel and Suzanne and Daniel's friend, J.R., came home on Wednesday. They got here a bit late due to some adventures along the way. After a quick supper, we all got into our car and headed off for CT, arriving there around midnight.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Tim and Laurie's house. There were a lot of people (three tables)....
















Lots of pie (13 for 26 people, plus some to-die-for chocolate/peanut butter concoction)
A lot of laying around on the floor because we were too full to move....

A lot of singing, silliness, and game playing....
Christmas, as wonderful as it is, involves a certain amount of trying to please, lots of expense, and a certain amount of stress because you feel like you have to buy a gift for everybody. But Thanksgiving is all about family, food, and fun.

And what am I thankful for this year?

God's goodness and His sovereignty. He knows what He is doing all the time and He is good all the time. I'm in good hands!

John. He is the best husband ever.

Daniel. He is the best son ever and I am proud of the way he is maturing.

Suzanne. She is the best daughter ever. I love her spirit and her heart for God.

My parents and my brother and sister. Also the best ever.

Good health.

100% support this past fiscal year. On paper we are not 100% supported, but all of our support came in.

A warm place to live in a quiet, peaceful environment.

Great colleagues that I work with in Niger.

That God has chosen to heal Suzanne of her asthma and Daniel of his epilepsy.

Grace Bible Church.....and for all our supporting churches.

Internet that works well.

A reliable car.

Even difficult times that make me grow stronger.

That God's love endures forever.

I'm sure I could go on and on! Some times I gripe and complain and you'd think I don't have anything to be thankful for. But I am always reminded: "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."