Saturday, April 30, 2016

Five-Minute Friday: Pass

passI sometimes link up with Five-Minute Friday where we are given a word.  We are supposed to take five minutes only to write about that word.  I like the challenge of fixing a time limit and not having time to edit.  Of course, it can be a bit staged because you can see what the word for the week is, think about it, then sit down and maybe it's really more than five minutes. :)  Also, for me a good blog always has a picture, so I take a little extra time at the end to add in photos.  The word for this week is "pass".

I also like to link up with Suzanne at Outside the Frame.  This week's theme is to write about your strengths and weakness.  So I thought I'd try to combine the challenges and see what I come up with!

As Suzanne mentioned on her blog, our strengths are also often our weaknesses.  Some of my strengths are that I am very calm and practical.  On the other hand, I'm not always very sympathetic with people who are, shall we say, emotional.  This is interesting in a home where two out of four of us are rather emotional. :)   I love to work hard....give me a job with clearly defined parameters and I'll get it done for you.  The weakness for me here is that I tend to be a work-aholic.  I can't stand leaving a job until it's done, even if I've passed the point of diminishing returns.  A strength is that I am honest and direct, especially if you ask me a question.  I probably won't just come right out and say things, but if you ask me, I assume you want an honest answer.  The weakness, obviously, is that sometimes people didn't really want an honest answer!

One thing I hope that I pass on to my kids as they've seen me deal with my strengths and weaknesses is that we all have room for improvement and for change.  I hope I've passed on how to balance being who you are with becoming a more Christ-like person.  I want to pass on to them the conviction that God has given us strengths to serve others, and He's allowed our weaknesses so that we will need others.


 I want to pass on to my grandchildren that they are special in God's sight and that He loves them no matter how they are.  They don't need to be perfect to be loved.  They do need to be humble before God and be willing to let Him change them where they need to be changed.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Unite

uniteThe idea behind Five Minute Friday is simple.  A word is given at the Heading Home blog and you have five minutes to write on that word.  This week's word is "unite".  Why don't you join in.  You can go to the link above to link in.
I love the way my friends here in Niger unite together.  So much is done in groups and being alone is not a concept that is understood.  While John is gone, I am asked all the time if I am lonely.  Being an introvert, and seeing how I'm at the office all day, and because I live on a compound with neighbors, yes, I miss John greatly, but no, honestly, I'm not lonely.  But the majority of Nigerien women would never stay alone in a house.  If a woman doesn't have children, she will usually have a sister or a niece come to live with her to keep her company and to help her with household chores.

Our church uniform a few years back.
Celebrations are opportunities that are seized for showing unity.  At a wedding everybody will buy the same cloth and make outfits that match together.  They call it a "uniform" and I am guessing that the root word for unity and uniform are the same.  Women at a church will often get the same cloth and wear the same outfit to church.  Christmas is another time when people will agree to wear the same cloth to show that they are united together.

Wearing our uniform to the office Christmas party.

Our office staff like to purchase the same cloth and wear to our Christmas parties.  Our church ladies are right now organizing matching outfits. 

Our current office uniform. 
I love this very visible way of uniting together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Had a Little Buddy

Long ago when our kids were little, I had a little buddy named Karimun.  I'm guessing he was about three years younger than Suzanne, but maybe only two years younger.

His mom cleaned house for me, so I'd take Karimun off her hands and put him on my back until he fell asleep.  Let's face it, I'd rather put the baby to sleep than do the ironing! :)  I would take him to the market with me and on other errands and people would even ask if he was my son.

I missed seeing the President of Niger come to town because of Karimun.  He was a bit big to carry on my back by then, but he was dragging and moaning, so I picked him up to hold him.  I realized he was burning up with a fever, so I took him home.....meanwhile the President came and I missed it.

But I didn't realize how very sick he was.  He'd had malaria off and on, so I took him to the clinic with his mom for more treatment.  When I told the nurse that he'd already had several courses of malaria treatment and wasn't getting better, he got a bit testy.  He told me to put him on the scale and the poor kid couldn't even stand up, but the nurse yelled at him for not standing on the scale.  I took him home without getting any treatment and was I ever mad.  Then John took him directly to the head doctor down at the hospital who took one look at him and immediately admitted him to the hospital where he stayed for 10 days.  He was so anemic his blood was pink.  The story of how they got a transfusion is for another day, but it stands out to us as one of the most difficult days we had in Tera, even though we were glad we had the chance to advocate for my little buddy.  They treated him for malaria, worms, and infections and he eventually got well, but the doctor said another 24 hours and he would have died.

Here's a picture of Suzanne with Karimun (in the green shirt) and two of his siblings.  He has a traditional "cast" on his leg because he fell and broke it.

A few years passed by and he was horribly sick again.  John again took him to the nurse (yeah, the mean one) and asked for tests to be run.  The nurse would only order malaria test, so when John took Karimun to the lab to have the work done, he asked the tech if he could test for typhoid, too.  The lab tech did both:  negative for malaria and positive for typhoid.  Needless to say, the nurse really didn't like us after that.  But then he seemed to not like anybody!  John did go and apologize to the head doctor for shaming the nurse and for not coming to the doctor.  But we didn't apologize for asking for the test!

He and his siblings grew up with our kids almost as brothers and sisters.  His older brother was Daniel's best friend and his older sister was Suzanne's best friend.  He was next in line, so he was always at the pesky, stop-following-us-around age.  So, while I have a lot of pictures of Daniel and Suzanne with Karimun's older brother and sister, I don't seem to have many of him because they had probably told him to go get lost. :) 

Karimun at the bottom in the black shirt.  His big brother in the blue shirt was Daniel's friend, and his sister in this picture was Suzanne's friend.  I think that all the kids except the boy in the white shirt are related to him in some way.

Karimun at kids' club.  He's the one with the toy in his mouth.

He came to kids' club and Sunday School faithfully.  We know he knew about Jesus and that he'd heard the Gospel message, but as far as we know he never made a decision to follow Jesus.  

We'd kind of lost track of him as we moved from Tera and he grew up.  About a year ago John was getting gas and somebody yelled his African name.  John turned around, and there was Karimun.  He was riding on a transport truck, helping to load and unload at both ends of the trip.  He wanted to get a license so he could drive a truck.  We did give a bit of money towards the driving school, but I don't know if he ever got his license or not.

Today we got a call from a family friend who told me that Karimun had been killed in a road accident yesterday.  I don't know details yet and I haven't been able to get through to the family.  

Though I'd lost touch with Karimun, I'm sad to have lost my little buddy.  It's tough grieving with those who have no hope.  Or who think they have hope, but we know they don't.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Books on Marriage....finally found one I like!

     A lot of books on marriage just frustrate me.  They seem to over-generalize: “all women are like this and this” and “all men are like this and this”.  "Men are from Venus, women are from Mars."  "Women are emotional and intuitive"; "men are strong and make decisions based on data."  I read these books and think, that doesn’t describe me, that doesn’t describe John.  Are we really that a-typical?  There are very few books on marriage that I have found helpful or that I would recommend.

     So, I was really surprised when I started reading Fierce Women:  The Power of a Soft Warrior by Kimberly Wagner.  I resonated with so much of what she said and was convicted in each and every chapter.  I wasn’t sure I liked the choice of word “fierce”.  I think I personally would prefer “strong”.

     I come from a line of strong women.  My great-grandmother’s family moved from Indiana to Nebraska in a covered wagon and lived for a while in a sod house.  When she was 18, she married a 30 year old man, presented him with three children, and then passed away when my grandma was only two years old.  My great-grandfather’s second wife also passed away.  His third wife was a widow with her own children who she treated preferentially over her step-children.  In fact, life in the house was so miserable that my grandma would not even speak of it as an adult.  My grandma was a working girl at a factory during a time when not many girls went to work.  In spite of her difficult childhood, she grew up to be a beautiful, gentle, but strong woman who raised four children.  My mom is also a gentle, but strong woman.  She and my dad, who was headed to Africa as a missionary, carried out their courtship by correspondence.  In Africa she gave birth to four children and buried one of them.  She worked outside the home for as long as I can remember, kept the family together, was a supportive wife, and never complained about all she had to do.  She supported my dad at all times.  One summer she kept the family going in Indiana while my dad took a summer course at Syracuse University in New York.  She drove from Indiana to Colorado (and vice versa) more than once, with herself as the only driver in the car.  Even now, though she is not as robust as she used to be, she gets herself nicely dressed every day and helps with as many chores as she can.  I’ve never seen my mom cry unless she had a good reason.  She’s never been a drama queen or pitched a fit.  (We used to say she was “yelling” at us, and she’d always reply that she didn’t yell, which was true enough!)  Her strength, like my grandma's, was rooted in a deep faith in God.

     So, I’m not bragging when I say I’m a lot like my mom, my grandma, and even my great grandma.  I guess it’s in my DNA.  I’m not sure how much of it is strength and how much of it is just stubbornness.  So, even though I’m quiet and calm and even gentle, I think I am also strong.  In fact, I’ve been told that I have a “gentle arrogance”.  When a friend first told me that, I was kind of mad at him because I recognized the truth in it.

     Kimberly Wagner says that the fierceness of strong women “grabs on to the hem of God’s will and won’t let go.  [It's] a fierceness that determinedly stands strong in a gale of opposition.  This kind of fierceness looks fear in the eye without blinking and confidently forges ahead.”  She also says men are often drawn to fierce women … but then the very thing that attracted them becomes the thing that is hard for them to live with. 

     Some characteristics of fierce women are:
I was given this Coke on Friday when I ordered a sandwich and a coke.  
  •         Determined
  •         Aggressive
  •          Passionate
  •          Controlling
  •          Faithful
  •          Decisive
  •          Bossy
  •          Manipulative
  •          Disciplined
  •          Loyal
  •          Cold
  •          Courageous
  •          Intense
  •          Intimidating
  •          Heroic
  •          Impatient
  •          Devoted
  •          Persevering

     Do you recognize yourself in any of those?  Yeah, me, too.

     Mrs. Wagner examines the word “helper” in the Bible.  The Hebrew word is “ezer” and it is not a wimpy word.  It’s not being a submissive doormat who spends her day being bossed around by her husband and who can’t think for herself.  It means to aid or provide needed help.  It is the same word used in reference to God as a “helper” to his people.  Being a helper to our husbands is “not an insignificant assignment but one of eternal consequences”.  It means aiding your husband in becoming all that God has created him to be.  The problem is that we women often think that being our husband’s helper means we need to “help” him improve!  As Mrs. Wagner says, “With ‘helping him improve’ as my job description, I became his worst nightmare. … The problem with our marriage wasn’t my fierceness, but the problem was my understanding of what I should do with that fierceness.”

     Some of the subjects she deals with are:
·       My tendency to view my husband’s decisions through the narrow grid of my tightly held opinion.  I like to be in control, the flip side of helping.
·       My ingratitude leads to a demand for more.
·       My pride forces me to focus the marriage on myself and my needs.  I become obsessed with getting love.
·       Fear causes me to believe things about my husband,our marriage, or myself that are not true.

     Mrs. Wagner spends much of the book working through an acrostic based on the word “APPRECIATION”.  She encourages us as women to work on fixing ourselves, not on fixing our husbands.  She makes it clear that if your husband is abusive or caught in addiction, steps need to be taken to confront his sin.  It is not in your job as helper to submit to his destructive behavior.  

     Her conclusion is that to be a beautifully fierce (again, I’d prefer the word “strong”) woman, you need to make sure that Christ is the center of your devotion and affections, recognize that your husband cannot ever meet all your needs, and allow the Potter to mold you into His image.

     I did think that Mrs. Wagner divided the chapters up in some funny places that made the book feel a bit choppy and broken up.  Her personal real-life illustrations and stories were really what gave her authenticity as an expert on the subject.  The book is about marriage, yes, but it is written to women, not men.  So it's not going to work to give your husband a copy of the book so he can work on his problems. :)

     For all of us fierce women whose fierceness has caused conflict or problems in our marriage, I highly recommend this book.

     A second book on marriage I recently finished is The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.  This is a good book and I would recommend it to anybody who is struggling in their marriage.  But it didn’t really resonate that much with me.  I actually liked the movie, Fireproof, better than the book.  I don’t think reading this book would be a waste of your time, but I just don’t have a rave review for it.

     Do you have any good recommendations on books about marriage?


Monday, April 04, 2016

Stocking Up for the Lean Times

From December through March, we have so many wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables.  Much of the fruit is imported from other African countries nearby and some is even flown in from far away places such as South Africa.

A lot of the vegetables are grown in local gardens and are delivered fresh to vegetable stands around town.  

Some vegetables, such as zucchini and onions, we can find almost year around.  Others, like broccoli and cauliflower, are here for about two months and then we don't see them again for another year.

And some is grown right here in our yard, such as tomatoes and cilantro and other herbs.  John does all the gardening work!

And then the hot season comes.  And we have days like today when it was 111 degrees in the shade.  And it is currently 106 degrees at 8:45 p.m.  And all the vegetables, just like the people, kind of wilt and look sad and droopy.  And then before you know it the only things available are the limp zucchini, onions, and some imported fruit.  And then you have to buy the tinned veggies....kind of gross anyway, and then to pay $2.00 per tin just seems ridiculous.  Imported frozen veggies may taste better, but they are also costly.

So, during February and March you'll find me in the kitchen most Saturday mornings peeling, chopping, and blanching vegetables.  

All of these veggies end up in the freezer and then we've got good stuff to eat throughout the hot season!  The heat is upon us but we're prepared to eat our veggies through the lean season.