Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fall. Or is it Autumn?

Is it fall or is it autumn?  Or doesn't it matter?  Is fall American and autumn British?  I googled the question and found that fall is not originally an American term.  It started in the 16th century and became the shortened version of fall of the year or fall of the leaf.  

Autumn comes from the French automne, also originating in the 15th or 16th century.  While Americans use the two terms interchangeably, Americans do seem to prefer fall while Brits and Aussies usually say autumn.

Either way, it's a season we don't get to experience very often.  In fact, we haven't experienced fall/autumn since 2010.  We have been in the USA since then, but only in the summer.  So we have really been enjoying the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of the season.  

Thankfully, the temperatures have been fairly moderate so it hasn't been too big of a shock to our systems.  We've even had days in the 70's which is unusually warm.   Some times it felt more like spring than fall.

John has drunk his fill of apple cider, too.  Best of all, we have a new autumn baby.   In case you've missed it, his name is Hezekiah James Hines, or Kiah for short.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd try my hand at an acrostic.  There are so many things for which to be thankful, I hardly know where to start.

T - Tera, our little granddaughter.  She's a whirlwind of activity, but really a good little girl.  We are so happy to finally get to know her and to enjoy her little personality.

H - Hezekiah, our new little grandson.  He's adorable and we are in love with him!

A - Autumn - The chance to experience one of the seasons we usually miss and to take in all the colors and smells.

N - Novels and other books - I am really thankful for books and the gift of reading and the way it opens up so many worlds to me as a reader.  Reading to grandkids is also a great way to spend quality time.

K - Our kids - Suzanne and Theo, Daniel and Kelly ... they are the best kids we could ask for.  We are so thankful for the spouses God gave them and the godly homes they have.

S - Spouse - John is amazing.  He works so hard, is intelligent, helps me as often as he can, and is a real man of God.  I love him with my whole heart.

G - The Gospel - Without it life would be hopeless and meaningless.

I- Income - We are fully dependent on donations to our support.  I am so thankful for our supporters, many who have supported us for 30 years!  No, we're not rich, but we have all that we need and for that we are thankful.

V - Visiting family - We have gotten to visit all of our siblings but one and have also seen many nieces and nephews and their kids as well.  We spent a week with my mom and dad in Florida and will spend our last week with John's mom in Connecticut.

I - Interest in the Gospel - So many people in Niger are listening to the Gospel on SD cards in their phones and some are asking questions about what they're hearing.

N - Niger - We are so thankful for the privilege to live and work in Niger and to share the Gospel there.

G - Grace - I'm thankfully for God's grace to me, showing me His mercy and kindness when I don't deserve it.  I'm thankful for others showing grace to me, too, even when I'm not very lovable.  I pray that I will show God's grace to others in return.

What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thank a Teacher

We sat in the airport terminal waiting to board our flight.  John and I snagged empty seats beside two super tall young men.  It didn't take us long to figure out that they were part of a university basketball team.  The guy to John's right had on his headphones and was in his own little world.  The guy to the left of me was reading a book.  Google has helped me identify the title of the book as Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success, but I didn't know that at the time.  The player reading the book was really enjoying it.  He came across a line that he really liked and read it to the coach who was sitting to his left and then again to some of the other players.  I heard the line so many times I had it memorized:  "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  I can't tell you why he liked that sentence so much, but he sure did!

Soon another player came over and perched up on the window sill behind the coach.  "Do you have a word for me today, Coach?"  He and the coach spoke quietly together for awhile and I don't know what the coach told him.  Then Book-Reader read the line to the 2nd player, "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  Then the coach took the book from him and said to Player #2, "What part of speech is wild?"  He took a few guesses at it and finally identified it as an adjective.  "What part of speech is tempestuous?" the coach continued with him.  Again Player #2 eventually settled on it being an adjective.  The coach then asked him to identify what part of speech "fling" is.  He quickly said it is a verb.  "Yes," said the coach, "fling can be a verb.  But in this case what part of speech is it?"  Player #2 was really stuck on it being a verb.  "Well, said the coach, what is he flinging?"  

Meanwhile, Book-Reader wanted his book back.  "No," said Player #2, "when I start something I want to finish it.  Let me figure this out."  About then our flight was called and I don't know if Book-Reader ever got his book back or if Player #2 ever figured out that fling can also be a noun.

Reading this, your first thought probably is, "Poor kid!  He got into university without knowing the basic parts of speech.  What a rotten education.  What a typical jock."  Maybe that's all true, but I was very impressed with the coach!  He had such a good rapport with the guys on his team.  But more than that, playing university basketball obviously isn't just a sport to win for him; it also involves getting an education.  And sometimes getting an education means making up for a years of a poor education.  The coach obviously knew this player needed to learn parts of speech.  He took a sentence that they all enjoyed from a book about basketball, so the subject matter was important to him.  And he turned it into a teachable moment.  He was infinitely patient and kept on in a firm but gentle and often humorous manner.

I have no idea what learning situation this kid had grown up in.  I do know that with the right teacher, he was willing to learn and to make up for what he didn't get in high school.  
This coach is my hero even though I don't know his name.  Movies are made about coaches like this guy, but he'll probably never be famous.  Day after day he makes sure his guys can play ball, but also that they can read books.  He takes teachable moments and uses them to help his players.  He has a passion for education that he passes on to his team.

School after school has teachers like him, teachers who are unknown heroes.  They take an individual interest in their students.  They use teaching methods that involve the students in things that excite them.  They are creative and innovative.  They give kids a love for learning.

Speaking of teachers who work hard day after day, but who will probably never be famous....  In Niger we have a team of three missionaries who are working with Nigerien teachers to help them learn better teaching methods.  The Nigerien teachers they work with have 40 - 80 kids in their class in a country whose literacy rate is 59.6% (and if you separate male from female, it's much lower for females).  They are learning how to use local materials to make teaching games.  They are passionate about moving from teaching by rote to involving the kids.  Please take a minute to hop over to my friend Lucia's blog:  Bringing the Gospel Through Christian Education in Niger and read her latest post.  

If you have been blessed by a special teacher in your life, make sure to thank them.  If you have had the privilege of going to a good school with teachers who care, consider supporting the Christian Education Project  (Project #097422-091). 
If you are a talented, dedicated teacher, considering applying with SIM to join us in Niger as a teacher of either Third Culture Kids or of teachers who are teaching Nigerien kids (the second option requires a good level of French).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

September and October Reading List

Here are the books I read in September and October.  I've got several I've been reading for awhile, so hopefully they'll show up on the November list.

Rescue the Captors was written by Russell Stendal.  Russell Stendal was kidnapped by guerrillas in Colombia and held captive for almost a year. At first he was angry and upset and pulled a gun that he had in his boot and shot one of the guerrillas. Fortunately the guy didn't die and Mr. Stendal was able to ask the man's forgiveness and they became friends. During his captivity Mr. Stendal began to see that if God allowed him to get into this situation, God could get him out of it and it wasn't necessary for him to use violence. As the months went on, he became more and more courageous to share the gospel with his captors. He realized that he would possibly be freed; even if he was killed by them, he knew he'd have eternal life. His captors, however, would be killed by the Marxists if they tried to become free of the organization. So he made it his mission to share the gospel with them. He ended up having a quiet influence on his kidnappers. The epilogue section of the book is several chapters based on teachings on the Sermon on the Mount that he uses to help couples in marital difficulties to reconcile. The last part of the book would be helpful, but I felt that it should have just been a separate book. Mr Stendal doesn't have the best writing style, but he doesn't claim to be a writer, either. He is just telling his story in his own words.  I've been thinking a lot about my personal philosophy of handgun use and Mr. Stendal's conclusions about the use of violence helped me a lot.

Bridge to Haven is written by Francine Rivers, one of my favorite Christian authors.  The author based this story loosely on an allegory of unfaithful Jerusalem found in Ezekiel 16. If you read that passage, you understand the love shown by God to Jerusalem, the gifts lavished on her, and yet she turned her back on her Rescuer and prostituted herself with other lovers. But the chapter ends with a promise to make atonement for all she has done. 

Abra, like Jerusalem, is abandoned, then rescued at birth. She is fostered by Pastor Zeke and his wife, Marianne, but when Marianne dies, she is adopted by another family who love her deeply. But Abra grows up convinced she has never been wanted. She wants to be somebody and to be loved for who she is. She runs away with Dylan, convinced she'll find love but he only uses her for his own pleasure. She then ends up with an agent who makes her a household name. He loves what he's made of her, not for herself.

She eventually comes to her senses and ends up back home where she finds both forgiveness and love.

Francine Rivers is an excellent writer, but there were places where I felt let down in this book. The main thing was that the mess that was Abra's life was resolved in the last 100 pages or less (the book is well over 400 pages in length). It just seemed too easy. Mrs. Rivers does a fairly good job of detailing Abra's struggle to return home and the forgiveness she found, but it was all just a little too easy. But then, when the prodigal son made up his mind to go home, his father ran to meet him and forgave him instantly, so this part of the book isn't completely unbelievable. Still, I can imagine that a woman who has been used by two different men for five years wouldn't just so immediately be healed from her past. Mrs. Rivers does hint at the shame and fear Abra has on her wedding night, but it seems like a pretty immediate healing of her past. 

My second criticism is that some of the bedroom scenes border on a little too much information. But then, if you read the account in Ezekiel 16, there's also a lot of uncomfortable word pictures painted, so I'm not sure what to think about the bedroom scenes. I wouldn't let younger teenage girls read this book, that's for sure.

In general, I think the story is well-told. It certainly is a reminder of how we turn our back on God and His love gifts to us and go after other lovers who don't even love us at all and how He will always welcome us back with open arms when we come in repentance.

Marilyn Yalom is the author of A History of the Wife.  First, I think the title was a little misleading and should have been something like A History of the Wife in Europe and Her Descendants in North America. In other words, she said very little about African-American women, and even less about women from the Indian nations, or Hispanic women in N. America. She mentioned European women often, especially in France and Great Britain. The History of the Wife living in Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, or Eastern Europe was mentioned not at all. So the title gives a false impression.

I expected the book to be written by a feminist, and it is. So that bias comes across strongly in the book and, again, I'm not sure A History of the Wife is the best title. Perhaps History of Wives Moving into Feministic Culture or something like that would have been a better title.

That said, it really was an interesting book, whether or not I agree with her world view. I learned a lot and felt that it was worth reading to see how what is expected of a wife in 2016 is so much different from what was expected of a wife in other periods of history.

The Man of the Desert was written by Grace Livingston Hill.  Her books are always somewhat predictable:  a rich person falls in love with a poor person; there is a beloved mom who is either an invalid or has passed away; somebody always plays the piano or can sing; the heroine is impossibly beautiful and the hero is stunningly handsome.  That said, her books are always clean and inspiring.  This one didn't disappoint.  A little Grace Livingston Hill is always good when you want something light and fluffy to read.

Willa Cather is the author of My Antonia.  I recently saw a list of books that used to be required high school reading, so I looked up the books and since most of them were free on kindle, I downloaded a bunch, including this one.  The book is about European immigrants who settled in rural Nebraska.  The book has little plot in the traditional way, but tells the story of an immigrant family through the voice of a boy who lived on a neighboring farm.  

The story is well written, the scenery is beautifully described, the struggles of the immigrant families are sympathetically dealt with, and the characters become real.

I really enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy historical fiction, make sure to add this one to your list.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

October Update

Wow, October has been a busy month.  Here are a few things that have been happening.

1.  I attempted to blog every day of the month on a theme:  ExNihilo Cooking.  I started out well, but helping take care of our daughter, new grandson, and two-year old grand-daughter meant I was pretty busy.  Even though I was cooking every day, I just kind of lost interest in the theme.  I tend to be hard on myself when I don't carry through on things.  I'm a plodder and once I start something I will see it through, stubbornly carrying on past the point where I should just quit.  So, I refuse to feel guilt for dropping that one since something more important came along.

2.  At the beginning of the month, we had three days of field conference.  Both John and I were involved in that, so those were really busy days.  After that week, I worked hard to finish up as many loose ends at the office as I could so they won't be there waiting for me after vacation.  

3.  We left Niger on October 14 just before midnight, landing in Paris early in the morning, with a six-hour lay-over there.  While there we had a pain au chocolat (one of those great French pastries the whole world should's basically chocolate inside a croissant, only it's not a croissant.)  

We also found some benches and slept for awhile, then checked our email and found out that our grandson had been born shortly after we took off from Niamey!  We also found out some bad news from Niger.  (If you want to know more about that, contact me personally.)  Once we landed in New York, we caught a "limo" (in reality, a van) up to Connecticut, arriving there around 6 p.m.  John's brother and sister-in-law picked us up at the station and took us to my mother-in-law's apartment.  We all went out for supper and then dropped in to bed, exhausted.  It had been about 36 hours since we had last seen a bed.

4.  The next day, Sunday, we went to church at our sending church, Trinity Covenant Church.  

Then we had lunch with John's brother and sister-in-law.  John's mom, Jean, let us borrow her car while we're in the US, so we took her back to her apartment and then headed off to Pennsylvania.  We spent the night there with good friends, and then continued on our way to Ohio the next day.  We really enjoyed the fall colors as the mountain areas of Pennsylvania were at peak.

5.  We were so excited to meet Hezekiah James Hines and to get re-acquainted with our grand-daughter, Tera, who we hadn't seen since she was just a little over a month old.


If you'd like to know more about Hezekiah's name, click here.  Suz and Theo are calling him Kiah for short.  That is from the last half of his name.  We are so in love with both Kiah and Tera and Theo and Suz are doing such a great job at being parents.

6.  We've done a lot with Tera, especially. 


She's accepted Kiah and doesn't seem to have her nose bent out of shape, but it's most helpful to Suzanne to have help entertaining her while she and Kiah work on getting on a schedule and recovering from the birth.  Both are doing well, but it's just hard work to have a newborn!

7.  I've made seven freezer meals for Suzanne and may be able to do one more.  She had already made some, too, and I think somebody else left a few for her, so she's got some easy meals for those days when everything happens at once and she can barely get herself dressed, let alone cook a meal!

8.  I've done piles and piles of laundry and lots of dishes.  At least I have a good helper to keep me company.

9.  We try to get in as many baby snuggles as we can.

10.  Daniel and Kelly got to come down both weekends that we've been here.  One weekend it was so warm that we took a hike at Clifton Gorge and had a picnic supper there.

11.  We've gone over to my sister's house twice and she brought a meal here, so we got to see them quite a bit.  This picture is not at her house, but you can see how much Tera loves "Aunt Natawee". 


12.  I've been working on a quilt for Kiah.  I cut out all the pieces while I was in Niger, but alas, I forgot one piece!  So my amazing neighbor has gone in my house, found the cloth, and is mailing it to me with somebody traveling this week.  I should be able to finish it before we leave, but just in the nick of time. (I'll do a full blog on the quilt later.)


13.  I managed to come up with a Halloween outfit for Tera.  I looked at a certain store and all the costumes there were expensive for the quality and many of them, even in size 2T, were inappropriate.  So on a visit to a thrift store, I found a duck outfit that fit her perfectly.  Then I had to look at other stores to find orange pants for her legs and a yellow sweater for her arms.  A local church had a trunk and treat, so we took her there.  We also found at a thrift store this little duck basket (I think it was meant to be an Easter basket) for her to use to collect her loot.  

Peepaw also carved a pumpkin with her.

And that's pretty much been our October!