Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Around the World

I'm a big fan of The Amazing Race, a race around the world for a million dollar prize. I think my addiction to the show, though, is that it brings back all the emotions I used to go through each July in the (not quite as amazing) Juneau Road Rally.

As junior navigator, I was relegated to the back seat, but I always sat with my arms on the backs of the driver's and passenger's seat, my eyes shifting between instruction booklet and speedometer. "Don't go over the speed limit, Dad. Remember time and mileage both count. Turn left up there. Now watch for something yellow..."

I don't remember what the prize was the year we came in second. The glory of being in the winners' circle was prize enough. Of course that pride was knocked down a notch or two when we came in 26th the next year (even though it was a poorly written clue that threw us off).

Another race that brings back fond memories is the Great Maltese Circumglobal Trophy Dash. It's a race around the world that I did with my friends in 9th grade. And it all takes place on a map laid out on the kitchen table. I've often wanted to do that race again, but thought it expired when Games Magazine went out of print. Lo and behold, it's still going on every year.

So this October, you may see me through the dining room window poring over maps. But in my imagination, I'll be in Mali, or Punjab, or maybe even Antarctica! And, in grand family tradition, I'll be inviting a couple young navigators to come along.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Food Fest!

I don't consider myself a great cook. I'm more into making meals that are at least marginally nutritious and that everyone in the family will eat than serving up gourmet fare. But the layout of our house dictates that if we have company with children, the adults sit at the kitchen table while the kids have the run of the rest of the house.

We had weekend guests which means I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Jokingly, we called it a food fest. Pizza, Columbian potato soup, baked chicken, gyros, baked oatmeal and more cups of tea than I can count were prepared and served up. But the food, honestly, was background to the real feast that went on.

Education, faith, chick flicks, history, agriculture, and video games were all served up as conversation. Nothing was off limits; nothing was too important or too trivial to become fodder for discussion.

Friendship is such a blessing. I know it's a recurring theme for me, but each time I catch up with friends, I'm reminded of God. He created us in his image. He created us to crave relationships. I think friendship gives us just a little taste of what relationship with Him can be.

Just a little taste, but so satisfying.

Thanks, Gene and Laura, for the feast. It was a taste of heaven.

Friday, May 26, 2006

good samaritans

Last week-near the summit of Mount Everest

David Sharp lay dying at nearly 29,000 feet. His oxygen had run out. He was frozen. Only the movement of his eyes told fellow climbers that he hadn't died yet. They saw him and they passed him, one after another, forty people in all.

"Where were the good Samaritans?" the media cried. "How could they just walk past knowing he would die?" Even Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale mighty Everest, wondered at inhmanity of putting a goal before a soul.

"It's different up there," other climbers insisted. "There was no way we could help him. And to rescue him was to put ourselves at risk."

Where were the good Samaritans indeed? It's so easy to judge with our feet firmly planted on solid ground. But in strange environments, when you're out of your element, things become much more complex.

1999, Somewhere in Africa

She lay in the ditch next to where we parked our car. I shielded the children's eyes and skirted past her. Flies hovered around her eyes and mouth. Bones protruded through paper thin skin. How long had she suffered? Where was her family? Edwin and I looked at each other then back at her. How could she die like that beside the road within yards of the nicest restaurant in town? How many had walked by without stopping to help? And if they had stopped, really, what could they do?

We found a police officer and pointed to the body. "A woman died over there," we said. I don't remember his words, but his attitude said, What am I supposed to do about it?

I wonder, if she was alive, what we would have done. We were in a foreign country. We didn't know the language or the culture. We didn't know where to go for help. If a policeman won't help, who will? If a missionary won't help, who will? If a Christian won't help, who will?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

favorite lines

Language is powerful. Most of what we say and write is gone as soon as it is spoken, but some thoughts and sentences endure. In one of my writers groups, we're discussing favorite lines and I've seen that different lines are appreciated and remembered for different reasons. Some are silly, some poignant, some superbly crafted. Here are a few of my favorite lines.

Favorite Book Opening

I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills... There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent.
-Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Favorite Movie Line

Maywidge. Maywidge is what bwings us togevuh. Wuv. Twoo wuv.
-The Princess Bride

Favorite Bit of Poetry

Two roads diverged in a narrow wood and I- I chose the one less traveled by.
-Robert Frost, The Road Less Traveled

Favorite Lame Pick Up Line

Wouldn't we look cute on a wedding cake together?

Favorite Moral to the Story

Hare today, goon tomorrow.
-Little Bunny Fufu

Favorite French Tongue Twister

Un vert ver va vers un vert verre.

Favorite Line My Mother Used to Say

Just wait and see. Some day you'll like salmon.

What are some of your favorites? Feel free to make up your own categories. Favorite excuse for not doing your homework? Favorite commericial jingle? Favorite one-liner?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

world exploration and a personal quest

"You've got to taste this," Marco Polo said, pulling a bag of cloves from his pouch. And the western world was never the same again.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if not for spices? The search for a quick route to the spice islands spurred the age of exploration. Columbus discovered America. Magellan sailed around the world. The Dutch established a refueling outpost on the southern tip of Africa. All for the sake of spices.

Without them, we'd be stuck in the middle ages, fuedal plebes who farm dirt for a living and fear our own shadows.

Exotic smells and flavors, conjure up distant memories of far off lands.

Cinnamon from Sri Lanka. Vanilla from Tahiti. Cloves from Indonesia. Pepper from India. Anise from Egypt. Cardomam from Turkey. Ginger from China.

All meet together in the bottom of my teapot.

I've been on a personal quest, a search for the perfect homemade blend of Chai spice tea. It's a search that has taken me up and down the tea and spice aisles at grocery stores, to the bulk food section at another store. I've been in touch with the Tazo tea company. I've dug through old spices in Mom's cupboard and raided the international supplies of a friend. And, finally, I gazed at the hundreds of jars of spices in the Market Spice Company store. Each jar held its spice like a secret, ready to be whispered or shouted with the opening of the lid.

The quest is over. Was all the exploration worth the discovery? I think it was.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Now you see it... Now you don't

500 feet tall-- a monument to man's ability to accomplish anything he sets out to do. Or a reminder of what some would call a fatally flawed technology. The Trojan Nuclear cooling tower has long been a prominent landmark along the Columbia River.

Until today.

At precisely 7 o'clock this morning, a series of charges blasted two rings around the massive hyperbolic tower. Its center suddenly gone, the open top leaned toward me then collapsed. In less than 10 seconds, all that was left was a pile of rubble and a cloud of yellow dust. 3 seconds after that, the sound of the blast reached my ears.

For Entropy's video interpretation of the event, click here.

The atom, the basic building block of the universe, has proven harder to tame than we ever imagined. So many images are evoked when we consider the triumphs and problems of utilizing power without a full understanding of it.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Trinity and Alamagordo.

Cold War.


Three Mile Island.

To be fair, the stories we hear are often the bad ones. There are facilities around the world that run clean plants and create energy for countless people. One in particular, Hanford, has provided for parts of my family for years.

If an atom, the smallest piece of substance God created, holds such power, I can't even imagine what other power he has packed into this amazing universe of his.

I have a feeling we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nail Polish

I learned something about my mom yesterday.

She likes to have her toenails painted.

Maybe I used to know, but I forgot. I don't even know how many years ago the Parkinson tremors got so bad she couldn't do her nails herself. I didn't notice.

She's such a trooper. She never complains. She's completely self-sufficient. But she can't paint her nails.

And she misses that.

It reminds me of when my grandma was in assisted living and a lady would come and paint fingernails and set hair for the old ladies once a week. At the time, I thought it was a funny thing to donate, but now I know that it was a beautiful offering of the best she had to give.

It reminds me of when Joni Erickson Tada was paralysed and in traction for months on end. She wrote about someone coming and washing her hair for her and how wonderful it felt.

It reminds me of when Edwin and I came to the States on furlough and some friends in Deleware took us on a limo ride to the ice cream parlor-- totally unnecessary, but fun and refreshing.

It can be so easy to give if we keep our eyes open. Fingernail polish, a hair washing, a batch of cookies. Whose day can you brighten today? Who can you refresh?

Thanks, Mom, for asking. That was the best part of our day together.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

At Home

I think one of the ways you know you're settling into a new place is that you can swap babysitting. We went through a spell of about 4 years when we only got out without the kids about once a year. It takes so long to build up trust enough to leave your most precious assets with someone.

Today, I felt at home in that way. My kids were with friends all day . Friends that I trust implicitly (sometimes more than I trust myself). Then tonight I was able to return the favor and keep another family's children.

It just feels right. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Noisy World

We live in a noisy world. Airplanes flying overhead, radio,TV. All kinds of media vie for our time and attention. Billboards scream at us to BUY THIS! and BELIEVE THAT!

Sitting at my desk, I can hear the mid-day news. The kids are talking in the other room. The little one is crying because I'm making her clean up a mess she made. If I turn off the TV, it's a little quieter, but not much. Reggae music thumps along from next door. The computer hums. The dog scratches on the door to be let in.

"Be still and know that I am God." That's what we've been asked to do. But, how, when the immediate noises around us demand so much attention?

I tend to live a slower life than most Americans. I purposely build down time into my life. Just watching other parents makes me tired. But it's so easy to fill the quiet time with more noise. The challenge is to be still and listen, even when the world is a raging storm around us.

Be still and know...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

war of the dandelions

"It's War!" I declared this weekend. "Time to eradicate all the weeds in the lawn!" I marched out, armed with weapons, an hour or so to kill, and a CAN DO spirit.

After about 30 minutes, when I had filled my bucket three times and covered about 1/1000 of the yard, the enemy started looking stronger than at first. Perhaps I had underestimated the shear force of their numbers. It was time to recruit an army.

"I'm paying a dollar a bucket," I announced to my small mercenaries. Their hearts weren't in the fight, but the $ signs in their eyes were motivation enough. Armed with weed pullers and buckets, we formed a strong battle front.

Equipment malfunctions nearly broke their spirits. First one, and then the other weed puller broke. No fear. I broke out the big guns-- Weed and Seed and a rotary hand spreader. But, alas, our department of defense had cut corners and the spreader was soon in pieces.

And so, as a last resort, I did what I should have done in the first place-- negotiated peace talks. We'll still keep up border patrol, but will stop short of total annihilation. In the meantime, our smallest soldier has discovered she loves to eat fried dandelions dipped in honey. So we might have a secret weapon after all.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Divine Appointments

I'm looking over the classes offered at a writing conference I'll be attending this summer. I've had my 1st choice in mind for a long time, but I'm having trouble narrowing down my 2nd and 3rd classes. Is there a right and wrong choice? A better and worse choice? Or do I just toss a dart at the board and pick the class that gets stabbed?

If I'm to believe that God orchestrates meetings and opportunities, then there may, in fact, be a right choice. Problem is, I'm not privy to that information.

How do you navigate decisions when it's not a question of good and bad? Many years ago, Doyle Kee said something that has stayed with me. "Sometimes there is no right or wrong choice. In those cases, you should place yourself firmly in the will of God, take one path or the other, and be faithful."

So I'll pray about my choice, write down my #s beside certain classes and pray for God to be glorified in my writing and in my life no matter where I am.

Mother's Day

Crazy as it seems to us, it’s Mother’s Day once more.

Another year has come and gone much swifter than before.

It’s time to look to our future, but e’er we close the door

On last year, let us hearken back to recent days of yore.

A son of yours, the oldest one, took his life to new heights,

He bought a boat, got a new job, and then he set his sights

On reaching out to other men while taking them on flights.

So he bought half of an airplane. Excitement it ignites.

Next is your girl and her three kids, her husband and their hound

They moved in down the street from you. You knew they’d come around.

Now talking on the telephone and visiting abound.

And for your kid watching service, you really should be crowned.

Before we knew it, number three had moved back to the States.

Not close enough to you, but still he sends daily updates

His winter was so long and dark, but now the cold abates

And we look forward once again to each story he relates.

You may be wondering by now if you will just be stiffed.

"It’s sweet," you say, "but just a poem?" Oh ,please, do not be miffed.

Some say I’m cheap, but I prefer to call that cheapness “Thrift.”

Read the first letter of each verse to find your special gift.


Tabitha, Payton, Katie, Bethany, Jessica, Geoffrey, Patty, Paige, Edwin, David

Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spiritual Photosynthesis

The science book said that seeds need three things to help them grow-- light, warmth and moisture. They don't need soil or sun or plant food. Everything they require to begin their growth is self-contained in their cotyledons (new vocabulary word. Impressive, huh?).

To test this theory, we placed seeds in plastic bags in three places. One set of seeds went in the refrigerator, one in the closet, and the third batch was taped to the dining room window.

After two weeks, there was a dramatic difference between the three seeds. The seeds in the fridge were, not surprisingly, still seeds. A little wrinkled, but showing no signs of growth.

The seeds in closet did grow. They sent out their sprouts in long, lean tendrils that reached for the sun, but never found it. Their pale yellow leaves could not produce chlorophyll and the plants eventually died.

The third group of seeds, the ones in the window, grew more slowly than the ones in the closet. They sprouted little green leaves and sent out hairy roots. They grew strong enough to be transplanted to the garden where they will continue to grow and produce hundreds more seeds after their kind.

As I watched the progress of the seeds, it reminded me of a modern-day, homemade version of the Parable of the Sower. There are people who, like the seeds in the fridge, freeze their hearts against change. They cannot hear the good news or any other news.

The darkness growers are those who get a taste of some spiritual experience and chase after it. They reach out, seeking after something they cannot reach. At first, their growth looks healthy. But they reach a point where there is no substance to their experience and they shrivel and die. Unless they look to the light, they are doomed.

The last group, those who grow in the living water and in the light of God, will thrive. They are the ones who will produce according to God's design. They will bear fruit many times their own ability.

This little story is not really about the seeds or their locations. It's about being the right kind of person in the right kind of conditions. It's about finding a healthy place to grow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tae Kwon Dodos, Attack!

Once a week, four of us dress us like marshmallows and head off for taekwondo class. Actually, I'm the only one who looks like a marshmallow. The others look like lean, mean kicking machines... or baptismal candidates.

Taekwondo was Edwin's idea. He wanted to get some exercise. The class was free, the kids wanted to join, and I hate to be left out of anything. So we went.

I never in my life imagined myself doing martial arts. Never. Never thought I would enjoy it. I hate violence. But TKD is not about violence. It's about discipline. I've learned a lot of lessons at TKD, and not just about punches and kicks. I'll probably share some of these lessons along the way. But the one I wanted to share today is

Aging dogs can learn new tricks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Full Circle

I'm not sure how this happened. I tagged someone who tagged someone who tagged someone who tagged me back. The questions morphed along the way, so I'll answer these. But I am NOT tagging anyone else. I would love to see your answers in my comments box, but I'm not requiring it of anyone, not even Mom or Brenda B. (hint! hint!)

my favorite spices/flavors
chai tea

four things I must do daily in hygiene
brush teeth
clean under fingernails
tell the girls to comb their hair

four things I'd rather be doing
getting a massage
taking some kind of class
boogie boarding at Ramatou Beach
trekking through Nepal

what I'm reading
Things Unseen (C. Leonard Allen)
In My Father's House (Corrie Ten Boom)
The blogs linked to this page
a variety of magazines, looking for writers markets

4 people I'd love to meet
John and Elizabeth Sherrill, who wrote some of the most brilliant testimonies of faith
Steve Saint and Mincaye, who continue to tell God's story among the Waodani
Randy Alcorn, who reminds people to keep an eternal perspective on things
Harper Lee, who wrote one of the most brilliant novels ever

jobs I would have liked to do
Linguist/Bible translator
Art Therapist
Travel Writer (who knows?)

stores I visit often
Safeway (the closest grocery store to my house)
Winco (the cheapest grocery store in town)
Target (for all those one-stop shopping needs)
Joann's etc. (for scrapbooking, stamping and craft supplies)

people I'm tagging
just kidding

Monday, May 08, 2006

Moments of peace

The first sip of hot tea on a busy afternoon.

The long breath between "Let's pray" and "Dear Heavenly Father".

These are the two most relaxing moments in my life. Something about the velvety texture of perfectly brewed tea slipping down my throat is like a sigh. I can feel the tension drain from my shoulders. It's more than a drink; it's a ritual that sets everything in perspective.

In the same way, praying is a sigh, a chance to let God's spirit blow his sweet breath into my soul. In that instant before a word is spoken, the worries and cares of life slip off my shoulders. In truth, I don't even have to put voice to the prayer. It's enough just to let out a sigh that speaks for itself, wordless groanings or satisfaction.

What are the most relaxing moments in your day? Do you make time for them every day or do you put them off as I tend to do?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wisdom of a 4-year Old

Living with little ones is sometimes challenging, often entertaining, and always a learning experience. Here are a few conversations with my youngest in the past couple of weeks.

on anatomy

It was communion time. Time to be quiet and reflective. She was sitting on her daddy's lap and running her tiny hands over his face. She put one hand on either side of his cleft chin and whispered, "Daddy, you have two bum-bums."

on love

"I'm going to marry Daddy when I grow up. You can marry Papa, but I'm gonna marry Daddy."

on fair trade

I was driving the car and she was buckled in her car seat behind me. She had a water bottle in her cup holder, but she was obviously thinking about the diet soda she could see beside me. She asked for a drink, but I said no, she could have her water. She didn't say anything for about 5 minutes. Then, out of the blue she asked, "Mama, do you like water?" "Yes, I do," I said, oblivious to the fact that a trap was being laid.

"Then you can have my water and I'll have your Pepsi."

on beauty

I bought a bottle of Aussi shampoo. When I pulled it out of the shopping bag, she clapped her hands in excitement. "I wanna take a bath now. I'm gonna smell like a kangaroo!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Conversations with God

I grew up in a church that wasn't much into vocal response. You might hear an "Amen" once in a while if the preacher asked for it, but it was hard to distinguish the "amens" from all the men clearing their throats after the Lord's Supper.

Over the years, I've discovered a certain joy in verbalizing agreement. I'm not so much into shouting out "Preach on!" in church, but I've found, especially in prayer, that acknowledgements and agreements drive prayer to a more intimate level.

I sat in a circle this afternoon with 3 dear friends (or was it a square since there were 4 of us?). We prayed in agreement by reiterating each other's concerns. But we also prayed in agreement as we felt free to finish each other's sentences, interject opinions, and pop in with another request as it came to mind. Moments of serious-ness, moments of laughter, moments of tears, all offered up to the one who sits on the throne.

By the end of the hour, we had a pile of demolished tissues and peaceful hearts. It was truly a joy to include God in my conversation with friends... and to include friends in my conversation with God.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The birds and the bees

I guess I wasn't paying attention in biology class.

Did you know that a colony of bees uses nectar to make honey to eat through the winter?

Of course you did.

Did you know that on any given day, all the bees from that colony gather nectar from only one kind of flower?

I didn't.

This has nothing to do with what the bees need. It is all about getting pollen from one flower to another of the same kind so the flowers can make seeds and propagate their species.

"Survival of the fittest!" was Darwin's battle cry. He based his whole theory of evolution on the assumption that plant and animal species evolve in order to ensure their own survival. To what advantage is it for the bee to travel far afield to pollinate similar flowers? Wouldn't it be easier for him to stay close to home and just gather nectar from any old place? But the cherry tree in my neighbor's yard can't bear fruit without my bees, so off they go to help.

A few years ago a friend suggested we do a Bible study on creation. I must admit I rolled my eyes. Creation? I've probably read that story more than any other one in the Bible. After all, it's the one you read every time to commit to reading the Bible straight through.

An hour a day, five days a week for 13 weeks we studied creation. And you know what? I ended up knowing a whole lot less than when I started out, having a lot more questions, and a greater appreciation for God's awesome power and design.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Hundreds of thousands of people marched today to support illegal immigrants in America. I'm not sure how I feel about amnesty for these "undocumented guest workers." After all, our country was built on the idea that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Irish, Germans, Japanese, Filipino, Spanish, Mexican, all mix together in a giant melting pot... or perhaps a tossed salad.

What's interesting to me is the idea of being an alien in a foreign place. It seems that some aliens these days are making themselves very much at home in a place that is not their home. And I'm not talking about Mexicans.

As a follower of Christ, I am to be an alien, a stranger in the world.

I know, in the physical sense, what it feels like to be a foreigner. It means not knowing how to flush the toilet, not knowing where to put my hands when I eat. It means being recognized as a stranger because of the shoes I wear or the color of my skin or the decibal level of my voice. It means standing too close to people when I talk... or too far away. It means not knowing how to do all the little things that come naturally to a native.

If I settle too deeply into life on terra firma, I start picking up the local customs. Too many home improvement shows and, "Oh, my God!' starts sounding like just a cry of surprise instead of a cry of worship to the king of my homeland. Too many trips to the local Wal-market "just to look around" and the bright baubles and trinkets look less like tourist attractions and more like necessities.

I don't want to go native here. My citizenship is in heaven and I don't want to lose anything that makes me a Heavenite. So, for me, no green cards, no border crossings, no protests. Just send me home.