Thursday, March 30, 2017

Top Five Favorite Pictures

It's been a long time since I've linked up with Show and Tell Tuesday.  But when I saw on Suzanne's blog that the theme for this week is your TOP FIVE FAVORITE PICTURES, I knew I had to link up.  I love pictures and I can't wait to go back and look through the other blogs that linked up, see their pictures, and hear why they chose those pictures. 

My problem is going to be to limit it to five!  But here we go.

In this picture I am helping my mom pack our belongings to head back to Nigeria.  Our loads would have been shipped on a ship while we traveled by plane.  Back then there were few household goods one could buy in Nigeria (now you wouldn't really need to take anything much), so we took it all with us.  I love this picture for the lighting, but also for the story it tells.  So much isn't said as well .... the tennis rackets waiting to be packed, knowing my mom is going to wrap that bowl in the towel, the vintage wall paper that was vintage even then reminds me of the beloved farmhouse we rented and lived in, and the fact that ladies and girls wore dresses or skirts on an every day basis.

Growing up we moved A LOT.  But I got to do all four years of high school at the same school.  It was a small Christian school, and we all had our typical high school teenage drama, but I had some great friends there, including these four:  Linda, Ann, Mert, and Marilyn.  I've kind of lost touch with Linda, but am in touch occasionally to this day with the others.  The lady in white was our class sponsor along with her husband who was our history teacher and she was my piano teacher.  I'm in touch with her, too!  Facebook is amazing for bringing old friends back together again.  This was on our senior trip to Colorado Springs.  I think we're dressed up because we had just been to church.

This one brings back so many memories!  We lived in a town in northwest Niger for 16 years.  This was probably one year after we had moved there.  This was "our" picnic spot which we dubbed Picnic Rock.  There wasn't a tree in sight, so we'd have to go late in the afternoon.  This day the kids had been playing "Indian" so they'd wrapped a piece of cloth around their heads and stuck a feather in.  Daniel is just typically dirty and I kind of have to laugh about his red socks and the way his pants got all pulled up.  And my glasses, oh my.  But I treasure this photo.

How's this for a couple shot?  Why yes, those would be giraffes standing right behind us.  The largest herd of giraffes in West Africa is found here in Niger!  It's pretty cool how you can go an hour outside of the city and just mingle in with giraffes.  No fences, no boundaries.  

This picture is just kind of a great summary of life in the village.  Life was lived surrounded by people, especially kids.  This was one Christmas Day.  We'd gone to another village, had a church service, and were waiting for the food to be served.  I'd brought along some magazines to look at, but of course, that attracted a crowd.  But I loved that life and miss it now that we live in the big city.

I could go on and on with other favorite pictures.  It's really hard to choose only five!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fixing Our Focus, Part II

In the first of this series, I talked about how the photographer can focus on something in the foreground and leave what is in the distance of the picture blurry.  In my Christian life, I need to focus on what God has given me to do now.  I need to live in the present, not in the past or the future.  I have spent too much time either regretting the past or wishing I could return to it.  I have also spent too much time thinking about the future and wishing I was there.... only three months until we get to make the trip across the Big Pond and see our kids and grandbabies and our parents and other family.  Oh yes, I spend too much time there in the past or in the future and not enough being present.

But there is a sense where I do need to look at the future.  A photographer can focus on something in the distance, leaving the foreground blurry. 

 Paul also told us to do this in Hebrews 12: 1-3 (read the entire chapter for some great encouragement!).  He says (God's Word Translation):  

Since we are surrounded by so many examples [of faith], we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. 2We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
3Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don't become tired and give up.

I am to fix my eyes on Jesus and keep the end goal always before me.  The present is sometimes difficult, very messy, and seems pointless to me.  I look around the world and find plenty to worry about.   But if I keep my eyes on the distance, on Jesus and the goal, I will be motivated to keep going.  Iwon’t be distracted, but I’ll keep running, keeping in my lane, until I finish well.  He is standing at the end with his arms outstretched, waiting for me, exhausted and worn out, to fall into them at the end of the race.

As believers, we live in a very real sense of right now / not yet. My life, your life now is so difficult in many ways.  But there is also the knowledge that it is going to get better.  We are going to be with Jesus.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth.  We long for what is yet to come, but we long with a hope that is sure.  This keeps us motivated and pressing on to that goal.

Fix your focus on Jesus!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

You Know It's Time for Home Assignment When.....

We took a two-year home assignment from June 2009 - July 2011.  Then in 2013 we took a short three-month home assignment. We spent so much time traveling and none resting that we came back to Niger feeling like we hadn't had a break at all.  Now we're wrapping up a four-year term that has felt like a six-year term.  Here are some signs that we'll be coming on home assignment in July.

You know it's time for home assignment when ...

...your sheets (and your underwear) start falling apart and your clothes look faded and worn out.

...your trash cans start overflowing with stuff you are getting rid of and boxes of stuff to give away or store start accumulating in the storeroom and in random corners of the house. spend every Saturday doing a sorting out chore.  I found a great website called Declutter 365.  She gives you one 15 minute task a day to declutter.  A lot of it doesn't fit me such as clean out your garage or sort through your kids' clothes.  So I looked at her one-year list and condensed it down to give me a task every Saturday for the weeks between the middle of January and the middle of July.  So, for example, yesterday I went through my food and spice cupboards and got rid of everything that is expired or that I won't use before July.  

...your cupboards start to look bare as you get rid of things you won't be using. finish the massive helping-John job of cutting up his interview texts and pasting them on cards for easy easier sorting through and compilation of data. try to share the load as much as possible as your husband heads toward the finish line of the marathon that getting a doctorate has turned out to be. start corresponding with supporting churches and supporters to plan out visits. work hard at the office to finish up two big projects required by your international office so that things are in good shape for whoever takes over your job.  You also pray hard for somebody to replace you! are tired and worn out and ready to have some time to spend with family, friends, and supporters.  But you still have the hot season to get through!

Somebody will live in our apartment while we're gone, so we need to put away everything personal.  We'll leave out kitchen equipment and linens and our furniture, but everything else needs to be stored.  No matter how hard we try to get things done ahead of time, we always end up with a bit of a panic our last week here as we pack.  Please pray for us as we sort and pack, for John as he finishes up his doctorate, and for us as we prepare to share our ministry during home assignment.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cooking Ex Nihilo -- Using Ginger

I thought I would occasionally do a food-related post in keeping with my October theme of cooking ex nihilo (from nothing).  If my recipes work here in Niger with a limited list of ingredients, they will work anywhere.   If you are looking for gourmet, this will not be the blog for you.😋

Ginger is one of those things I use on occasion, but certainly not every day.  I always struggled with ginger because I would end up with too much of it and then I didn't know how to keep it fresh and it would just get yucky.  Then I discovered that you can freeze ginger.

Last week I asked my vegetable man for 100 cfa of ginger.  This is the amount I got (some peeled, some not peeled, plus a pile of peelings).  So 100 cfa is about .16 cents.  Since ginger is so abundant here and so cheap, one should make good use of it, right? 


I washed it off a bit since it was pulled from out of the ground and may have sand sticking to it. (Actually I might have forgotten to wash it this time, but I peeled it!) Then I peeled it with a potato peeler.

Next step, I grated it with a vegetable grater.  I only nicked off the corner of one finger nail doing this! 😌

To freeze the ginger, I discovered it works best to spread it on a cookie sheet and then put that in the freezer. 


If you cram all the ginger into a container, it will freeze stuck together into one big blob.  Once that is frozen, which did't take long at all, I put it into old margarine tubs and popped it in the freezer.  Now it's ready to use any time.  I just pull it out and grab a pinch of ginger for whatever I want it in.

I use it in a lot of my stir fry dishes.  John doesn't like spicy, so I don't add too much.  I make a nice tea with regular tea and hibiscus flowers and it's really nice to throw a bunch of ginger in there.  I'm sure there's a lot more it could be used for, but as I said, this amount of ginger last a really long time for me.

We have friends who make a non-alcoholic ginger beer that's really delicious and refreshing on hot days.  He gave me the recipe, but I have yet to work up the courage to try it.  It looks kind of complicated.

Ginger has lots of health benefits, too.  It's good to combat nausea, it is apparently helpful against joint pain, and it boosts the immune system.

So, there you are with a tip for cutting back on waste.  It may take you extra time to grate all the ginger at once, but you'll be glad when you want to make a stir fry and all you have to do is grab the ginger out of the freezer.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Fixing Our Focus, Part I

Every January all the SIM missionaries on our field get together for a Spiritual Life Conference.  We invite a special speaker and spend four days together being richly fed from God's Word, fellowshipping with each other, and just spending time hanging out as a big family.  

This year our speaker spoke on the book of Philippians.  While listening to the messages, one word kept coming to my attention:  focus.  Photography is a hobby for me, and “focus” is certainly a word that occurs often in photography.  I’ve been thinking a lot about focus in our Christian lives and how photography can illustrate the importance of focus in our Christian lives.

And instead of one long post I'm going to write this as four short ones.  The sections will be:  focusing on what is near; focusing on what is ahead; focusing on what is behind; and focusing on the big picture.

A photographer can focus on something that is near while the background of the picture will seem blurry or out of focus.  In my Christian life, I must focus on what is near, on what I need to do now.  I don’t look back and I don’t worry about the future. It doesn't matter if the background is blurry.  I just need to see what God has for me in the here and now.  I need to trust him for the future and for the present.  Photos that focus on something in the foreground often have a beautiful effect called bokeh.  I don't have to know the future for my current life to be beautiful.

 I know I get distracted by what is going on all around me, too.  If I am looking at what everybody else is doing, I'm not focusing on what God wants me to do.  It doesn't matter what they are doing or not doing.  God is caring for them and dealing with them without my help.  What does God want me to do?  

I know what task God has given me to do and I need to do it.  I must take time each day to rejoice, to obey, and to live in love towards others.  I am a disciple of Jesus and I need to be making disciples who follow him.  I focus on what is he has put before me and leave the rest up to God.

Today he wants me to focus on loving and obeying him with all my heart, mind, and soul.  He wants me to love others.  And he wants me to share the gospel and make disciples.  I may not see the future clearly, but the present is here now in clear focus.

Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  Deuteronomy 6:4

He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matthew 28:18-20