Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looking Up

In our yard, when we look up, this is what we see.  I tell you, there are days when my phone rings non-stop.  Still, I'm sure glad cell phones have arrived in Africa.  Land-lines just didn't really cut it here but people out in the middle of nowhere now have phones.  Where we used to live the land line was still a 1930's system of us calling the post office where they connected a wire to place a phone call.  Now anybody who can afford a cheap phone and who can buy credit can make a call to anywhere in the world.

I got this text message from the cell phone company this week:
Pas plus meilleur remede contre le stress que de parler avec 1 inconnu, quelqu'un qui ne te jugera pas.  Souscris Afriendz Chat au ____.  Which translated is:  There is no better remedy for stress than to talk to one unknown to you, someone who will not judge you.  Subscribe to Afriendz Chat at _____.



John has really been under a lot of pressure lately.  He has to write 16,000 words and 40 pages for his doctoral studies and he needs to submit the rough draft in March.  So he's been sequestering himself day after day trying to get it done.  John loves being with people, so it's a pretty lonely thing he's doing.  In addition to that he's teaching two courses at the Bible school and advising people on language learning.  He's starting to take care of some details regarding our up-coming home assignment, too.

His birthday is on Tuesday, so last night I invited some friends over to help him celebrate.  I didn't tell him until Saturday that I'd planned a party because I know he would have said he had too much to do to party.    I would have invited more, but this is about all we can fit in our living room!  So if you're reading this and wonder why you didn't get invited, it's simply that you wouldn't have fit in the room!  I made cheesecake and popcorn and others brought dessert, too.

I think a fun evening with friends put a smile on his face!  Please pray for him as he works hard to pull this together before his next trip to England.


If you're following the January photo list very carefully (which you probably aren't), you'll know that Day 25 is smile and Day 26 is big.  But I'm switching them around.

This is a big gao tree in our yard.  Gao trees are a pretty amazing edge-of-the desert tree.  They have leaves in the dry season because their roots go way, way deep in the ground.  They provide shade to people and animals alike during the hot time of year.  They also drop their seed pods during the dry season.  This provides food for animals during a time when other food is hard to come by.  Then just before the beginning of the rainy season they lose all their leaves.  Their leaves are high in soil-restoring nutrients, so they provide a natural fertilizer for the fields.  Because the trees are bare in the rainy season, they don't block sun needed for the millet to grow.  

Don't you love how God created a tree that is perfect for this environment?


I am definitely a breakfast eater.  I really drag through the morning and have a headache by noon if I skip breakfast.  My breakfast of choice is this.
Fat-free yogurt and chocolate granola (see, with the fat free yogurt, I can eat the chocolate without too much of a guilty conscience).  It seems the French love chocolate in their cereals.  And since much of our imported food is from France, our shops have all sorts of chocolate-based cereals.  I don't care for chocolate-flavored/colored corn flakes, rice krispies, puff balls, etc.  But chocolate granola?  The French receive my thanks every morning for this wonderful creation!

I also love all sorts of flavored teas, but not herbal teas.  This morning I had Earl Grey.

And to top it off, a piece of paw-paw or papaya (I guess it depends on where you're from as to what you call it?).  Unfortunately this one was quite bitter, but usually they are good.

Some mornings I have oatmeal, some mornings toast, and some mornings eggs.  If I don't have time for breakfast I'll pick up ceceena (bean cakes) on the walk to work.

The Rest of my Top 10 Reading List for 2012

I started a list of my top 10 books read in 2012.  Then it was late at night and the internet was slow, so I gave up on it after five.  So here are the remaining five now.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  In 2011 I read a biography about Bonhoeffer and was impressed with his life and with the way that he took a stand against what Hitler stood for, prophetically seeing where his regime would take the church.  He ended up in a POW camp and being put to death.  Perhaps what many don't realize is that Bonhoeffer also spent time in the US participating in a growing Civil Rights' movement.  When it comes right down to it, it was somewhat ironic that we were fighting for the rights of people in Europe and Asia while black people in the USA, at least in the South, during that time did not have equal rights (maybe they did in word, but certainly not in principle!).  After reading the biography, I decided to read something written by Bonhoeffer himself.  I did take my time reading this book, but it was well worth the effort.  Here is a great quote from the book:"By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are."  

The Rest of God (Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath) by Mark Buchanan is about taking a Sabbath rest.  Buchanan gives biblical explanations of the definition of Sabbath, why God gave the Sabbath to us as a gift, and why we should be careful to keep the Sabbath.  Does keeping the Sabbath for us today look like it would have for our Puritan ancestors?

Kay Washer,  writes about her and her husband, Dal's, experiences as missionaries first in Niger and then in Togo in One Candle to Burn.   Not only were they missionaries here, but they were also missionaries in the very town where we worked for 16 years.  It saddens my heart to know that while they were there there were people who followed Christ and when we got there years later, where were those believers?  We worked there for 16 years and what is to be shown from our work?  Humanly speaking for both the Washers and us, it would seem that our work was in vain.  Oh, God, please continue speaking to those who heard and who acknowledged Your Word as truth! I have met Mrs. Washer and she told us that she continues to pray for that town as do we.

The Old Wives' Tale is written by Arnold Bennett in the early 1900's.  I found it very difficult to get into this book and almost gave up on it before it got good. I'm glad I stuck with it.  He weaves the tale of two sisters whose lives follow very different paths.  It's definitely one of those books where you feel that you know the characters personally by the end of the book.  As is typical of writers from that time period he does spend a lot of what feels like unnecessary time on descriptions.  This book is free for your Kindle, though I read it in book form.

And number 10 is The School at Thrush Green (or really any book in this series) by Miss Read.  If you ever read and enjoyed the Mitford books by Jan Karon, you will enjoy these books as well.  Set in small town England, Miss Read spends time acquainting us with ordinary people with ordinary lives, leaving you wondering if these are people she actually knows!  If you're stressed and need an easy but good read, I would suggest these books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Today's photo word is "object".  Well, that could be just about one of a zillion things.  So, here's my object. Any idea what this is?  

It's called "African black soap".  I've lived over half my life in Africa and have never used this until recently!  I guess I figured modern, store bought soaps must surely be better.  In the few months that I've been using this, I'm really pleased with it.  My skin tends to be really dry, especially at this time of year when the humidity is between about four and 10%.  Using this kind of soap, I still use lotions, but my skin doesn't feel dry, itchy, and flaky.

What is African black soap?  It's made from plantain skins, cocoa pods, shea butter, and palm or coconut oil. Women, mostly in Ghana and Nigeria, make the soap from recipes handed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers.  They each have their own secret recipe, so the color and texture can be different depending on who made it.  You can see that the soap I bought is not really very black.  I've seen some that is darker than this.  The soap has vitamins K and E and natural glycerin....that's why it's so good for your skin.

I paid 500 cfa, or about $1.00 for this chunk of soap.  If it's like the last chunk I bought, it will last me about three months.

For more information check out this web site:  AfricaImports  (I'm not promoting their products as I have no idea about their customer service record, etc.  They just have the best explanation that I could find.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Where I Sleep

Today's photo is where I sleep.  I recently posted some pictures of our new bed:  Declaring War on Mosquitoes. So this time I decided to show you what it looks like from inside the net.  Our apartment is terrible for mosquitoes.  So we got a net and sleep under it every night.  We now wake up with a lot fewer bites on our bodies and blood smears on our sheets! And I for one don't want to get malaria.  I almost died from it once and that was enough!  But that's a whole other story.  Also notice that we have blankets on the bed!  That happens about one month of the year:  January.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Right now I am reading three books.  One is called Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien.  It's a great book about how we tend to interpret Scripture based on our culture.  When you visit another culture, especially a middle eastern culture, you may get a more realistic interpretation of certain Scriptures.  It's a great book and one of the few on my Kindle that I actually paid something for.

The 2nd book I'm reading is also on my Kindle.  It's called Ready or Not (Aggie's Inheritance).  It's about a 21 year old whose sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident and she has been designated to be the guardian of their eight children.  It's a pretty good book, though the humor often falls flat.

The 3rd book I'm reading is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  This book is so, so good.  In a way her writing style is too flowery and wordy for me.  But then in the very next sentence I am amazed at the picture she paints with her words.  And beyond all that, I am challenged to give thanks for little things, for big things, for hard things.  

I wish the copy of this book belonged to me so I could underline and write in the margins.  Instead I'll have to take time to go back through and write down some of the things that have blessed and challenged me. Or maybe I can buy it for my kindle and learn how to use the highlighting tool! 

Too often my reaction to "frustrations", to "stress", to "discomfort", to "annoying people" is to complain, to gripe, to be cynical. I put them in quotes, because they aren't the problem, I am.  It's easy to label things and excuse myself because of "frustrations", "stress", or "annoying people".  I've started a "gift list", trying to focus on what the Lord has given, not on what I don't have. 

 I loved this today:  

"Pride, mine -- that beast that pulls on the mask of anger -- this is what snaps this hand shut, crushes joy. ...  Dare I ask what I think I deserve?  A life of material comfort?  A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering?  A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences?  Are there times that a sense of entitlement -- expectations-- is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?

"And what do I really deserve?  Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.  God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities.... inviting us to respond to His love-gifts."  p. 177, 178

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Blue.  The church we visited today had blue doors and windows.

We've been visiting a lot of churches for John's research on the local music and the culture surrounding it.  Unfortunately this church turned out to not be of the right people group.  But we enjoyed the service anyway.  It took us two hours to get there and two hours home.  We had a picnic under a tree in the middle of nowhere.  When we got home we took naps!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I love the light reflecting in this little kitty's eyes.  I can even see the reflection of the carport roof in his eyes.

We share our compound with a couple on the other side of our duplex and a family whose house is in front of ours.  All of us are missionaries with the same organization.  

The family just moved in a month ago.  They had been living in another house and as best as I can tell from three very excited children telling me the story at once, this is how White Socks (his feet are white) came to be part of the family.  Where they used to live he was obviously an unwanted and unloved kitten of a neighbor, so the neighbor kids threw him over their wall.  He appeared to be dead, so their dad scooped him up in a shovel and put him in the storeroom to bury him later when they got home from school.  Only when they got home from school, he was walking around as if nothing had ever happened to him!

He is an outdoor cat, so we enjoy sharing cuddles with him.


Pattern....a repeating design.  

Brick upon brick, row upon row.  This is the pattern in the brick work of the wall surrounding our terrace.

Patterns can be visually pleasing.  

Patterns show organization and fore-thought.

Patterns let us know what to expect.

The problem with patterns is that I tend to follow patterns in my life as well.  I do the same things the same ways at the same time.  And that is pleasing, organized, and comforting.  But sometimes I need to be surprised. I need to see beauty in the routine.

Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts, talks about how we begin to expect certain things from life and then are disappointed.  We get bogged down in the routine and forget to give thanks. 
     "Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing -- and are filled.  This breath!  This oak tree!  This daisy!  This work!  This sky!  These people!  This place!  This day!  Surprise!
     "C.S. Lewis said he was 'surprised by joy'.  Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise?
     "The way the small live.  Every day."  (page 170)

Patterns are great, but only if I don't forget to be surprised and delighted with everything around me, to see the beauty in the patterns and even to look beyond the patterns.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I love it when kids play creatively, when their play involves things they find and the use their imaginations to invent new things.  One day recently I was in a rush out the gate when I saw this tucked in the corner between the trash bins and the gate.  The neighbor kids had found the guard's "furno" which he uses for making his nightly pot of strong sweet tea. He's gone on vacation and had left it cast aside in the bushes.  

They've collected rocks from the driveway to ring the furno (sorry, I do not know what to call it in English!).  Then they put straw and yellow curly seed pods from the gao tree under it for fuel.  Today when I saw it again they had put a can of water on it with bouganvilla petals soaking in it.

John saw it and asked who had done that.  I laughingly said, "Well, it wasn't Lois and me."  Which brought to mind a rather comical picture of the neighbor lady and I playing....picking up twigs, making rings of rocks, collecting flower petals, shaking gao pods to hear them we had 40-some years ago.

Ann Voskamp describes in One Thousand Gifts, a moment when she was folding laundry and takes a few moments to ponder her daughter's joy.  She says, "I want that kind of crazy, happy joy, God.  Jeans to the right, socks to the left. How have I lost it in the growing older, duller?  How to see the world again through those eyes?  To live in the wide-eyed wonder of a world that unwraps itself grandiose and larger-than-life, so otherworldly?" (p. 165)  It is when smallness meets grandeur that we feel awe and awe inspires praise and thankfulness.

Today I'm thanking God for the joy of children's play.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Today started out cloudy, which is highly unusual for January.  It's just so dry right now that the sky is generally cloudless.  So at noon I thought I wouldn't be able to take a shadow picture because of the cloud cover.  But by 3:00 the clouds were gone, the sun was out, and this is what I got.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top 10 Books from 2012

I'm amazed when I hear how many books some people read in a year!  I think I read a lot, but my list is pretty short compared to some I've heard about.  I know I'm a good reader but I don't think I've ever been a fast reader.  It used to bother me that my sister read so many more books than me.   I know, I shouldn't compare myself to others.  It's just that there are so many good books out there and at this rate I'll never get to read all of them!

In 2012 I read 40 books. The last time I read that many books in a year was in 2006.  Maybe I got a lot of  reading done because we didn't have internet so much of the time!  I'm not going to try to list them all.  I'll just give a brief review of my top 10 favorites, hard as it will be to choose!  These do not appear in any particular order.

1.  Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman.  Mary Beth and her husband, Steven Curtis Chapman had a house full of children and then adopted two more from China.  One day one of the little girls ran in front of their oldest son's car as he pulled into the driveway.  Mary Beth shares honestly and openly the grief that their family shares because of this experience.  You will need a box of Kleenex at hand for this book!

2.  Beyond this Place by A.J. Cronin.  A.J. Cronin is an excellent story-teller.  My dad goes to second-hand stores and used bookstores looking for A.J. Cronin books and he put me on to them.  A.J. Cronin is probably not well known among American readers, but if you ever read one of his books, you'll probably also find yourself scouring used bookstores to add to your collection!

3.  While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin.  This was an enjoyable story of a young lady who offers to care for a widowers' children while he is fighting in WWII.  Of course, she's hoping he'll fall in love with her.  The characters are well-developed, believable, and very human.

4.  Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  If our love for Jesus is less than crazy, do we really love Him?  Or do we just say we do?  And what does crazy love look like?  Can I love Jesus and have it not result in life changes?

5.  The Man with the Key Has Gone by Ian Clarke. This is another book that is probably hard to find in the US as it was written and distributed in Ireland.  Ian Clarke relates how God used him to build a mission hospital in rural Uganda and what that has to do with the an with the key being gone.  Not only is Ian Clarke a good story-teller, but it also helps one gain insights into African culture in general.

OK, it's late and I'm off to bed so I'll do the next five in my next post.  I just want to keep you in suspense!

Monday, January 14, 2013

TV Show, Dance, Shoes, and In my Bag

So, I've totally missed days 11, 12, 13, and it's already January 14. 

Day 11 was TV Show and I'll probably just totally skip it since we really don't watch TV here.  And I was sick that day and didn't really do anything, anyway.

Day 12 was Dance and I'll come back to that, but it won't really be dance.

Day 13 was Shoes.  I'm not sure where Suzanne got her love for shoes, but she sure didn't inherit it from me.  I'm not crazy about shoes.  I think they're terrible uncomfortable for the most part.  So if I have a few comfy pairs of shoes and some flip-flops, I'm fine.  THESE are the shoes I should wear more often, especially since I'd like to lose some weight this year!

Day 14 is "in my bag".  Today I have cloth I was hoping to take to the tailor on the way to pick somebody up at one guest house and take them to another.  But John needed the car.  I was going to borrow an office car, but then I remembered my license was in our car.  So by the time I got our car I decided I didn't have time to go to the tailor.  The red cloth John gave me for Christmas and the other piece is left from Suz and Theo's quilt.  I also have my jacket from this morning, my calendar book, and a Christmas card we received today.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

To do....

I have several ways of trying to keep myself organized with to do lists.  One way is my diary or calendar book I carry around with me.  This usually ends up being a list of things I need to do at home.  Although if I'm home and a work-related thing pops in my mind, I'll write it in this book so I don't forget about it.

Then I have a written list I keep on my desk.  As things come up, I write them on this list.  I try to update it every Friday night before going home.  This helps me to leave my job at work when I go home in the evenings....I've made my list now I can forget it.  This doesn't always work, but it helps!

Gmail has a great calendar which I've color-coded for arrivals, departures, orientations, and other things I need to do.

There's nothing wrong with your eyes.  I've blurred or obliterated things for privacy reasons.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


I think the final day of conference is my favorite.  Not because it's the last day and it's almost over......  But I think because we have a couple of sessions where we are all together with all the children, with the visiting team, and there's a sense of having been blessed by having been together.  It's just neat to look around and see everybody in one place.  These people are my 2nd family and this is just a giant family reunion. I also loved meeting outside under the canopy of giant gao and neem trees.  God gave us a gorgeous day with little wind and no dust.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I am.....

Day 8   Today, I am.......with Chantelle!  This one is especially for Suzanne at Darza go Irikoy Gaa and Tam at from the inside out.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Day 7 Relax

What's more relaxing that a bunch of friends all in one place eating lunch together?

And here they are serving up the lunch.  

Sunday, January 06, 2013


 Today's photo is work.  We are having our annual spiritual life conference right now.  I worked hard before conference but now my jobs are mostly done.  However, there is somebody still working hard.  The kitchen crew!  They are producing two meals a day for 260-some people and washing dishes as well.  No paper plates and no automatic dishwasher.  No pre-prepared foods and no mixes where you stir in water and you're ready to go.  The kitchen crew is cooking from scratch and doing dishes by hand.  I think the kitchen crew has the hardest job of all for conference.  They spend a lot of time buying things before conference, chopping, and freezing what can be done ahead of time.  Then there is still a lot to be done each day.  Amazing.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

January photo challenge

Suzanne, at Darza go Irikoy gaa, invited me to join her in a January photo challenge.  I thought I'd give it a try.  Of course, I'm already several days behind and heading into a busy five days with conference so we'll see how I keep up.  

Well, day 3 is "organized". I've spent a lot of time in the past two months and enormous amounts of time in the past three days helping to organize things for conference.  My cell phone takes terrible pictures but I didn't have my real camera at the office.  I want to give you an idea of the work the ladies at the office put in to collating 130 song books for conference.  Because of the size, shape, and window situation of our meeting room and because many of our sessions will be outside during the day, we aren't doing power points for singing.  So we made a book instead.  

So many people have worked hard to organize's a lot of work to organize a 4 1/2 day event for about 260 people! You'd be surprised at the details especially since we can't have it at our usual locale.

Day 4 was bright, but I took the picture for bright today.  We had the opening session of our conference today at an outdoor amphitheater.  I love this place with the big stately trees and view of the river.  The sun was beginning its downward journey as we worshiped in song together, casting a bright light on us.  

And today's picture is early.  We got up around 7 this morning.  Which isn't that early, but I guess it's early for a Saturday.  My favorite part about any Saturday morning, early or not, is that John makes pancakes!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Heading into 2013

It's been nice to have nine days off (counting weekends).  I've done some work during that time, but it was nice to get up when I wanted, go to bed when I wanted, ignore it all if I wanted.  Basically I did enough to keep my in-box from getting out of control.

Today I tried to intentionally do things I wanted to do knowing that tomorrow I head back to the office.  So I slept in a bit, then brought my breakfast and my devos to bed.  I spent a long time looking over the past year, making some goals for 2013, and just reading my Bible and praying.  

I looked at Pinterest, something I've had time to do in the past week that I haven't had much time for since the flood.

I took down all the Christmas decorations and did a load of laundry.  OK, that was work.

I started a book on my Kindle called Missionary: An Unexpected Journey of Following God's Call to the Other Side of the World by Christopher Marco.  It's a great book and it was offered one day for free on Kindle!

So,about the Kindle... Remember the $100 Amazon gift card I won?  I decided to use it to buy a Kindle.  A kind-hearted traveler brought it to me from the USA, so today I made a case for it.  I made it like an envelope so that no part of the Kindle is exposed to the dust. The dust here permeates everything and is especially hard on electronics. I also put cardboard in it to make it heavier and more protected.  I can see parts of it that aren't as perfect as I like (I'm blaming it on my sewing machine, which, after using Suzanne's I realize leaves a lot to be desired!), but overall I'm pleased with how it turned out.

We had dinner with the neighbors so I didn't have to cook!  

Now it's off to bed since I need to get back in the routine of getting up at 5:15 to make it to the office by 7:30!