Tuesday, January 31, 2006

the big picture

The story I share today is not mine. I heard it from the person it happened to who will, for obvious reasons, remain anonymous.

She was young and enthusiastic, a new Christian on fire for the Lord. She wanted to do something that would really show her love. When she heard about people smuggling Bibles into countries where they were illegal, she knew that was for her. She and two friends gathered up as many Bibles as they could cram in their suitcases and headed off on their mission. In fact, they didn't take any of the precautions most smugglers would. She had only one change of clothes and the rest of her suitcase was full of Bibles-- dozens of them.

They agreed to go through customs separately. That way if one got caught, the others might still get through. So, she chose a customs line and stood. She was incredibly nervous, a young woman entering a foreign country for the first time with enough Bibles to cause her a lot of trouble. The man in front of her thumped his suitcase down on the customs table and the customs agents opened it.

They riffled through his stuff and pulled out 3 Bibles. Behind him in line, she watched with horror as the customs agents took the Bibles and started pushing the man around. She couldn't understand their words, but they were very, very angry. They roughed him up a bit before dragging him off-- to prison? or to be put back on the plane?

By this time, she was shaking. Here a man was beaten for having 3 Bibles. What would they do to her when they found she had almost 50? She breathed a prayer and stepped up to the counter. One of the agents put his arm on her shoulder and said, "I'm so sorry you had to see that. I'm sorry we scared you."

He escorted her past customs and out to door to where a local pastor was waiting for her delivery.

Sometimes we think God is foiling our plans when we are trying to do good for him. That man in line must have wondered why God didn't let him get through with 3 Bibles. He will probably never know that God was using him to pave the way for an even greater good.

Monday, January 30, 2006

To Geoffrey

There once was a train that would run on its track
Its engine up front and caboose at the back.
It would clip right along with a clickety-clack
No matter the weather or season.

The caboose got an idea stuck in his head
Why do they drag me along like I’m dead?
The engine should let me lead out instead.

He couldn’t come up with a reason.
To lead the train—that would be treason.

There once was a totem pole stacked high with critters
The bear was a stander, the others were sitters
An eagle on top had a case of the jitters
As he balanced way up in the air.

I wish I could fly, he thought in his head.
Why do I just sit like a lump of lead?
I wish I could spread out my wood wings instead

But he stayed in his place way up there,
His painted eyes fixed in a stare.

There once was a boy in a family of five,
The youngest—he had a strong will to survive
And not just to live, but to break free and thrive
No matter what anyone said.

He was first (and the only) with an advanced degree,
The first to Caracas, the first to Turkey.
He tried out his wings and they let him fly free
O’er a vast world, so beautifully spread.
I sense there are good days ahead.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Going Out Of Business

I lose my mind when I see a clearance sign. Clothes that wouldn't look good on a super model take on a lovely enticing glow under the big red sign. And when it's a going out of business sale...

I was so tempted to buy some shoes yesterday. They were hot pink, with spiked heels and pointy toes. And they were 1 1/2 sizes too small.

But they were 90% off and I still feel as if I passed up something good.

Friday, January 27, 2006


At heart, I'm a list maker. But somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit. Maybe it was having kids and not wanting the list to overshadow time with them. Because, let's face it, I can really only concentrate on one thing at a time. And if there's a list of things to accomplish, you'd better get out of my way!

So, lists were reserved for special occasions like spring cleaning or preparing for a move. But I find great satisfaction in crossing items off a TO DO list. I think I get that from Mom who taught me by example to add things you've already finished to your list just so you get to cross them off.

They don't call it freelance writing for nothing. When I sit down to write, I am often distracted by anything and everything-- email, internet, even this blog. My mind and my mouse wander free. So, I made a list of goals for this week. Not an intrusive list. Most of it can be accomplished before the kids wake up, but just something to keep me on track.

1. Write 3 scenes for "Home Fires"
2. Write 1 article
3. Contact Pat S. about interview
4. Exercise 5 times
5. Complete week 7 in Beth Moore Study
6. Arrange and pull off birthday party

I've only exercised 3 times so far this week, but I've got 2 days left, so that one's not hopeless. And my study book for the Beth Moore study isn't even here yet, so that one's out of my hands. But everything else is checked off and I'm feeling pretty good.

You don't think I should add dishes or laundry to my list, do you?


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Four, For, Fore,4ever

Happy Birthday, Tabitha! You are 4 now and you know a lot of things.

4 means knowing who you are.

"I'm Tabby!"

4 means knowing what you want to be when you grow up.

"I want to be a mommy... or a donkey."

4 means knowing what you stand for.

"Tabitha stands for T!"

4 means knowing when things happen.

"We read that book yesterday night."
"We went there last morning."
"I'm going to sleep in 3 minutes."

4 means knowing where you live.

"I live in my new house. It's in Amiracle!"

4 means knowing why things are the way they are.

"Because God made them that way. God made the grass and the trees and the dogs and the people and the houses and the universe. He even made the cars!"

4 means knowing how old you are.

"I'm 3, then I'm 4, then I'm 10. It's easier being 4 than 3, but 10 is the easiest."

Tabitha, on your birthday and every day, I hope you know this--

YYYYI love you!YYYY

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Road Signs

Writers, by reputation, are reclusive. I know I can fall into the tendency. I would probably spend my life in front of the computer if not for the kids demanding that I be present from sunrise to sunset. One of the great blessings I've had in the past year, though, is getting hang out with other writers from time to time when we crawl out of our dark places to share and laugh, to recharge and energize before going back into our holes.

Last night was one of those nights. 9 of us got together in Mom's living room to listen to Pat Rushford talk about her writing career. She has written over 40 books and had a lot to share about the ups and downs of the publishing industry. http://www.patriciarushford.com

I've also been hooked up with another full-time author in a mentoring relationship. I'm looking forward to being critiqued, analyzed and criticized.

It is always a blessing when someone farther down the path takes the time to come back and show you the way. It has been a long journey to discover the value of expert advice. How much pain could I have spared myself if I had heeded warnings along the way?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What Goes Around...

It was all over the news-- the big broadcasters all picked it up and it spread (I'm sorry, but I have to say it) like wildfire. I first heard the story from a friend in Botswana.

A man in New Mexico was burning leaves and taking care of some other things around the house. When he saw a mouse, he caught it and tossed it in the burn pile. The mouse caught fire, but instead of burning to a crisp in one place like a good little rodent, he decided to share the warmth. He ran-- you guessed it-- straight back into the house, which caught fire and burned to the ground.

The truth of this story is questionable. It was reported as truth, then the man changed his story and then changed it back again. That's too bad. It was a better story when it was 100% solid. It's a perfect preacher story for those who believe in God's immediate wrath. A classic example of why we should all believe in karma.

What goes around, comes around.

I was sitting in a donut shop with a friend yesterday laughing with (at?) her about the time she went to church with curlers in her hair. I pulled a story from my archives to tell about another friend who had walked out of a major department store with a bra hooked to his cell phone. I'm glad I'm never absent minded.

Guess what? This morning in Bible class, I looked down and saw that my skirt was on inside out!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Beyond the Gates

The End of the Spear comes out today. 50 years after the murder of 5 missionary men in Ecuador, the men who killed them want to speak out. They don't want to be remembered for their savagery or brutality. They want to tell their story of redemption.

We were killers, but we followed God's markings on the trail, and now we have changed.

They want us to know that we, too, can change. Whatever we've done, whatever evil remains in our hearts, God's grace and love are big enough to cover all.

To read my review on Beyond the Gates of Splendor, the documentary that tells the true story behind the story, go to


Thursday, January 19, 2006

and the Winner is...

...the whole family, actually. After five dogless years, we decided to take on a new pet. Her name is Missy and she's 7 years old. Her old owners said she needed a home where she would get lots of attention. I think, after yesterday, Missy might be wanting a little less attention. She was exhausted by the time the kids went to bed. We had a photo contest yesterday and these are the winning entries.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dans la Tempete

I'm sure you've seen it-- the Jean Guichard photo called Phares dans la Tempete. It's actually one of a series of photos of lighthouses, each standing spectacular and strong in the midst of incredible turmoil. If you haven't seen it, check it out at http://www.jean-guichard.com/.

How did they build such a magnificent lighthouse in such a dangerous place? They obviously thought it worth the expense and trouble to save lives. How many ships have been turned away from the rocks on the Brittany shore because La Jument is standing strong, both in calm and in tempest?

We drive over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from time to time-- the famous Tacoma Narrows where Galloping Gertie galloped to her death. The bridge that stands now is tall and strong. And its new younger sister is even taller and stronger. Every time we drive across, I peer down into the channel far below to see the two places where concrete meets water. How can I be sure the bridge's feet have been firmly planted? I've just got to trust the engineers.

Where is my anchor? How am I attached to bedrock? Do I trust the engineer?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Instant gratification

I am definitely a product of my culture. Instant gratification is my thing. I tap my foot and wait impatiently for 33 seconds while cheese melts on nachos in the microwave. (If you push 3-3 instead of 3-0, it's faster.) I want a web page to load instantly or I move on to the next one. I take a picture on my digital camera and immediately evaluate it on the miniature screen. I'm a harsh judge-- there will be no closed eyes in my photo collection.

I had a pleasant experience with (almost) instant gratification yesterday. I've been hoarding digital photos in the computer for years, but I missed that tangible, flip-the-pages fun of looking through an album. Tabitha loves looking through old scrapbooks, which is the only kind we have since I went digital. It was time to turn cyber pictures into prints.

I uploaded about 250 pictures from our trip around the west last fall. I had the choice to have prints mailed to me or pick them up at the corner drugstore. The price being the same, of course I chose the quicker option. Within an hour I had an email telling me my pictures were ready!

I spent a very fulfilling evening sorting through memories. "Look at this one! Oh, remember that?" As if I hadn't seen the same images a hundred times on my 17" screen. It's just not the same. It's like the difference between reading an ebook and holding a real book in my hands.

So, I'm looking forward to many happy evenings cropping and cutting and sorting and arranging and journaling and putting all those memories down in a format that I and my children can enjoy together again and again.

Funny how the things worth savoring are worth spending time on-- not like microwaved nachos.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A 1-derful 40th to David!

1nce upon a time there was a boy who just loved
2 climb. Whenever he played hide and seek he would find the nearest
3 and climb it be
4 anyone saw him. “I’m going to count to
5!” his mother yelled, but he wouldn’t come down. She nearly worried herself
6 about him It-
7-ly up here, the boy thought while he sat in the tree and
8 a snack. “Are you up there?” his mama yelled from down below.
9!” He yelled back.
10, who said that?” The boy climbed down. The boy and his mother went back home to where they were
11 on the hill. They got home just as the clock struck
12. His mom had a lot to do. “I’ve got
13 things to do and
14 things running through my head and only
15 minutes to do them in. When I’m finished, I’ll play hide-and-seek with you again. But until then, please stay out of trouble. It only took him
16 seconds to climb the apple tree in the back yard.
a minute, he could hear his mother counting in the distance.
! Ready or not, here I come! For
31derful minutes, the boy hid in the apple tree. He stuffed his mouth and pockets with little apples. How many could he fit?
… If he ate them all, he’d make himself
… His mother finally spotted him. “I see you! Now come on down—I have a surprise for you.” Well, a surprise—that was worth coming down for. The boy climbed down out of the tree. He walked around to the front of the house with his mom and there, sitting at a table set up in the front yard, were
40 friends, each holding a little seedling.

“Happy Birthday!!” They all yelled. “We got your own
4-est so you can climb as many
3s as you want!”
2 cool!” He said. “This is my most 1derful birthday ever!”

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


If you want to teach your kids about life's fragility, buy a hamster. Bethany is, tonight, anticipating the death of her third hamster. This one, Starfire, has only been with us for about 3 months. Bethany rescued her from a pet store after the original owner returned her.

It hurts to see your children hurting. All the words I can say won't make Starfire or Bethany feel any better. All I can do is shower my girl with love and thank God for her tender heart.


Let your yes be yes and your no, no.

Our new house is half the size of our old one. I was tired of rattling around in a too-big space, of cleaning rooms we never used. Also, we moved into a hot real estate market and, in order for me to keep home schooling, we needed to keep the mortgage managable. So, we're downsizing.

Downsizing means sorting, purging, clearing out the things that won't fit. It means trips to the dump, to goodwill. It means learning to use Craig's List.

I listed 9 items on Craig's list on Saturday-- 3 dressers, a saw, a sewing machine table, some free computer stuff, some attic stairs, a washing machine. Listed them and waited. And learned about people. Here are some things I've observed.

1. People are greedy. Anything that says "free" on it is vulture fodder. We had 30 people asking for the attic stairs. Several tried to think of clever ways to convince me that they were the right ones to take the stairs. Ooh-- pick me! Pick me!

2. People are generous. Several who responded about the computer parts said they work with charities. They build computers out of old parts to give to people who can't afford a computer.

3. People are impatient. Apparently, the faster you are at spotting something for sale, the better. "Put my name on that," they said. It reminds me of the story where the man licks his finger and touches every piece of chicken he wants before anyone else even has a chance to eat.

4. People are patient. I sent Edwin across town to deliver a dresser. The wrong one. The people there were confused, but very gracious and will wait for delivery of the correct one.

5. People are decisive. They seem to know what they want, though I can't really seem to pick up on the pattern. One guy even turned around in the driveway and left without looking at the washer he came to pick up. Did he just get a bad vibe from our house?

6. People are indecisive. "I'll be by for that tonight... no, tomorrow... no, maybe I don't want it after all... or maybe I do." I'm getting so tired of people changing their minds.

7. I am just like other people. If only I could look down at these people and say, "I would never act like that." But I am like that. I want to make enough money off of these sales to set aside for other things for the house. One the other hand, most of what we have was given to us, so when a need arises, I just give it away. I want this stuff gone NOW so I can have space in the garage. But I've tried to work with people and their schedules. Off it all goes and god riddance. But I actually pulled the sewing machine from the list because I had second thoughts. Maybe I should put it back on...

I've communicated with a lot of people this week and the one thing I've noticed is that it drives me crazy when people waffle. If someone says they'll be here Tuesday at 3, I want them here Tuesday at 3, or pretty close to that. I'm pretty reliable about things like that, but I want to be 100% reliable. If I say I'll do something, I want people to know that, without a doubt, I will do it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Like Daddy, Like Daughters

We were at Home Depot yesterday. The first Saturday of each month, they provide projects for kids to build. Of course our three kids chose three different projects and each one needed help. Bethany was the most independent, so Edwin helped Tabitha while I worked with Jessica.

Jessica and I worked together on a box. (I would tell you that it has a secret bottom, but then it wouldn't be a secret.) Talk about a clash. I was frustrated that Jessica wasn't hitting the nail straight. She was frustrated that I wasn't holding the wood straight. Together, we were getting nowhere on the box. In fact, Tabitha finished her project before Jessie and I even got 2 boards nailed together.

Dun-da-dun! Edwin to the rescue!

Instead of telling her how not to hit the nail, he showed her how to do it better.

I know he doesn't feel perfect and he feels impatient a lot of the time. But most of the time, he's fun, he's firm and he's a model of what a child of God should be like.

I want to learn that kind of patience. I want to be someone my girls would like to imitate. Maybe when I grow up, I can be like Edwin, too.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Open the Shades

It's a dreary, drizzly day. It has rained almost every day for a month and I've been shut up in the house all week. Just now, I decided to open the shades in my office and look out the window. I hadn't done that before. It turns out, there's an ongoing drama taking place outside.

From where I sit, I can see our walnut tree. It is, apparently, the neighborhood playground for squirrels and crows, jays, chickadees and junkos. Every time I look up, it hosts a different set of feathered and furry friends.

When we lived in France, our apartment was just big enough for a bed and a small table with 2 chairs. It was more like a bedroom than an apartment. Cramped, crowded, musty. The window, though, was a masterpiece. It framed a pristine view of a chapel in the foreground with the majestic Alps behind. I would sit at the table with the window wide open and breathe in great gulps of mountain air scented with cherry blossoms. France soaked into my heart in those hours. Often, the hills beckoned me, just as they did Maria von Trapp on the other side of the mountains. I would throw off my resposibility to study and go tromping up the hill to the chapel, or across the river to the medeival village, or up the other way toward the Belle Etoile.

In Togo, we had bars on our windows. Inside the bars were dusty screens and inside the screens, frosted louvered glass. I never looked out the windows there except the call for the kids to come in. I got out of the habit of looking outside.

Today, though, I got back a little taste of what it feels like to be beckoned. I look forward to exploring my new neighborhood. And even to walking up the hills around here. True, they're farther away, but I know they're there and they're calling me today.

Put on your raincoat and come out to play!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sonnet to my Father

Old Shakespeare, when he said it, said it well.
The words dripped off his pen like honey gold,
with purity like that of distant bell
rung on a wint'ry morning clear and cold.
A justice, he would say, with capon lin'd,
has fair round belly and a formal beard
He plays his part with vigor, unresigned
and, I might add, stays to his wife endeared.
Oh, father mine, you taught me from the first
To use my words for good and ne'er for ill.
I wish to write, though I am not well-versed,
The message dribbling out from modern quill.
And so, ere I speak words, I say them true,
A mirthful, merry day of birth to you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ode to Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom.

I wrote this for you because, deep down, I know you really love those greeting card poems and all these years you've been covering the fact... very well, I might add. To be sung to the tune of "This Land Is Your Land".

This mom is my Mom
She isn't your mom
Except she's David and
Geoffrey Kent's mom.
From Andrews, Texas,
Juneau and Tuscon,
Beaumont, Vancouver, and L.A.

Your life was calm when
you were a child
Then you married Dad and
it all got wild.
He hauled you off to
the great white northland.
Twenty years and your feet were always cold.

You raised a family,
three little eskimos.
It rained a lot there,
we all grew webbed toes.
Beneath the mountains,
beside the glacier
Was a great place to turn to sourdoughs.

You pulled up stakes
that fateful summer.
You moved down south.
It was a bummer.
But you put down roots
in East Vancouver
God's blessings seem to overflow.

You've got a Target
You have a WinCo.
A huge back yard
where fruit and squirrels grow
A huge church family
that loves you both so
And grandkids that live just down the road. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

the paralyzing freedom of choice

One cheeseburger-- no onions, no pickles, one cheeseburger with lettuce and mayo only, an order of fries, cooked twice so they're extra crispy, and a diet coke, no ice, please.

We have gone crazy over the importance of choice. Choice means I want to have it my way, every time, or I'll call the manager.

I think everyone who has lived overseas finds the abundance of choices in America overwhelming. I've stood in tears in front of the tomato sauce aisle. How do you pick the best kind when there are so many to choose from? I've left a store without buying anything because I was too overwhelmed with the number of choices I had to make. It's completely baffling to me, still, to stand in front of a fast food menu and try decide the perfect sandwich. And don't even get me started on Starbucks. I always have to apologize to the barista.

It's the middle of our home school year and it's time to order materials. We've been weak in science this year and I recently realized that though we've studied American history twice, we've never really made it past the Civil War (in the grand tradition of my public school education where, in 12 years, I don't think I ever learned about anything after the carbetbaggers).

So, I need to choose a science curriculum and some history materials. I thought choices were hard before. Now, thanks to the power of the internet, I can be even more confused than ever. And all this from the comfort of my own home.