Archives for April 2009

He’s got the whole world in His hands

Just wanted to let you know that the Compassion bloggers are broadcasting LIVE from India this evening at 10PM Central time.  Tune in to chat with them and to hear their most recent stories.

A dream

I’ve been dreaming of an SLR camera for a very long time.  Hearing the luscious ‘shlunk’ of other people’s cameras.  Reading amazon reviews.  Asking photographers what they use.  Imagining the delight of a camera that could suck in lots of natural light and produce that yummy, yummy depth of field. Most likely a Canon, I decided, partly because of my success with my point and shoot Canon, and partly because of the wonderful reviews that Canons tend to get. But after daydreaming awhile, I’d always come back to earth reminding myself that such a camera is a luxury and not an essential.

The other evening my husband looked at me thoughtfully and said, “I want you to buy your camera.”

The vision of that lovely Canon EOS 40D floated to my brain.   I could almost feel the weight of it in my hands. I sighed wistfully and reminded John of the expense.

John shook his head.  “I think we should do it. I want you to have it.”

And suddenly I found myself poring over Amazon reviews and emailing photographer friends and imagining the heft and click of a beautiful machine in my hands.  When one photographer told me he had been contemplating selling that exact camera– 6 months old and used only half a dozen times (just a backup camera for him, he said)– it seemed too good to be true.

Last evening he delivered the lovely thing to my house.

It’s mine.

I’ve been happily clicking ever since.  One of these days I’m going to have to wade through the manual, since I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m doing.   But here are some of my first pictures.  I am amazed at how much light this camera can take in.   I love the soft unfocused backgrounds.  And the feeling (justified or not) that a truly awesome shot might be just a shutter click away.

I am one spoiled girl.

(Remember, you can click on each picture individually to see larger versions)

When trials come

In honor of the Compassion bloggers who are in India right now, I am repeating a story that I wrote from the Dominican Republic on my trip in November.   Please also visit the above link, and read the new stories being written about children around the world who are in need.

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I feel like I’ve told you most of the highlights of my trip to the Dominican Republic by now.  But there’s one boy whose story still needs to be told.  He was one of the children in the 9-11 year old class that I visited on my last day there. The kids were just beginning their devotions when we all showed up, and they carried on, seemingly un-phased by the ring of strangers gathered around their little patio classroom.  First came the singing, including You Saw Me When Nobody Saw Me.  Then a little boy stood up and proceeded to read us a story out of the Bible.

I was impressed with how fluently the boy read.  Because of the class he was in, I know he couldn’t have been more than 11. I currently have three 10-year-olds, and know for a fact that plenty of kids years older  don’t read that expressively and well, especially the Bible.

Once he had gotten done reading, our interpretor read us the same story in English.  It was the story of Peter walking to Jesus on the water. After the interpreter finished reading the story in English, she said, “Now, he is going to explain the story to you.”

And he began. I was expecting a sentence or two that highlighted the key point of the story, similar to what I ask from my children in their daily Bible journal.  But he went on. And on. For three minutes he spoke earnestly, pausing only to give the interpreter time to relay his words to us.

There are difficult times in life, he said, times when we may be afraid, times when we feel like we are sinking. We shouldn’t try to walk alone. This is the time to reach out to Jesus. Jesus will pull us up out of the water, and bring us into the boat.  He spoke eloquently and in detail.

I looked at his handsome face and thought of the rough and ragged neighborhood just beyond the gates of this Compassion project.   The filthy water going down the middle of streets.  The tin shacks and the barred windows and the need for us tourists to leave our valuables in the van so desperate people won’t steal.

This was where he lived.   I wondered about the difficulty he had faced in life.  You could tell he’d seen challenges, plenty of them, because he owned those words. His understanding went way beyond head knowledge, beyond trite Sunday school phrases. He spoke with conviction and with power.

He knew without a doubt where his source of strength was in life.

And he laid his faith out fearlessly to his friends, to his teacher, and to the ring of strangers standing around his outdoor classroom with its chipped formica tabletops and tiny rickety chairs.

I thought again of my precious children, my privileged children, and the ease they’ve had in life. We in the Western world consider it a blessing when children grow up having everything they need. And yet I stood marveling at the rare and obvious strength that God had grown in this young man through trial.

In the midst of bad water and rickety houses and outdoor schoolrooms, powerful work is happening in a young boy’s heart.

I am so afraid of trial.  I avoid it.  I complain when my plans are thwarted.  I take all sorts of measure to stay comfortable, to keep my life easy, to protect that to which I think I am entitled.

I’m not going to pray for adversity, because I’m just not that brave.  But I want to always remember that little wise-beyond-his-years boy.  And when adversity comes– as it always does– I pray that I will have similar courage. Courage to lean on God as my source of strength. Courage to survive– to thrive. And to share my source of strength with those around me.

What people are saying

It’s been fun to read what people have to say about my book– thanks to all of you who have weighed in!  Here are some links to recent reviews.

Notes from the Trenches (new today)

5 Minutes For Mom (new this week)

Like Merchant Ships

Another Espresso Please

Parenting.com

Amazon.com (11 reviews)

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Steady on

I’ve noticed that the most frustrating moments of parenting tend to come when I’m not seeing progress, when I’m addressing the same issue for the 6th time or the 12th time or the 27th time, when it seems a child isn’t listening or isn’t learning or isn’t thinking. At times like those, my frustration wells up and oozes out, and suddenly my reaction is way bigger than the heap of laundry stuffed under the bed, and way louder than the whining kid in front of me.

What’s going on in my head at those moments is hopelessness, at least on a small scale. I’m fearing that the kid in front of me will be whining instead of working when they’re 27– and consequently be unable to hold a job. That honesty and kindness will be virtues that pass a child by– making future relationships difficult. Or that their eyes will be forever blind to blessings–making true joy in life impossible.

Dark thoughts, those, and not always logical ones. No wonder they leave me feeling desperate to ‘fix’ the child. Now.

On Sunday our pastor spoke from Hebrews and gave me a new insight into that struggle of mine. Because it is mine as much as it is my children’s.

When I am frustrated, it is usually because I’m getting bogged down expecting a certain result in a certain amount of time.  When my idea of a timeline goes by the wayside– again–  I feel like I’ve failed, which makes it harder for me to relate to my kids in an encouraging way.  But really the result– and the timing of that result– is up to God.

Those verses in Hebrews 13 reminded me that I need to focus on the God of Peace, the one who promised to equip me for the work that He has given me, for as long as that work takes.  He promises to give me everything I need.  Sure, I need to make sure I’m headed in the right direction.  But then I just need to steady on, hold the course, abide in His peace. Teach and remind and and love and hold out the standard and dole out consequences as needed, letting loose of any ideas of how long this teaching should take.   Trusting that the victory will come.

Someday.

Not today, oh impatient one.

Someday.

Maybe not even 5 years from now. (Five of my kids are 11 and under, after all).

Someday.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Have faith.

Steady on.

Sunday: Today is the Day

Compassion International in India

The Compassion bloggers are off to India! Read their stories, and pray for the children!

Panda-Style Orange Chicken

I was overjoyed when a Panda Express restaurant was built near my home. There were two main reasons for my delight: their names were chow mein and orange chicken. This version of orange chicken has helped me resist the siren’s call of the panda more than a few times. Maybe they’ll save a few bucks for your family as well. Although this recipe is simple, frying the chicken in batches will take a bit of time. To use your time better, you may want to double this recipe and tuck half of the cooked chicken in the freezer to be heated up again the next time the urge for take-out hits.

Panda Style Orange Chicken

Serves 6
Prep Time: 40 minutes

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Orange Chicken Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup water
Grated zest from 1 orange

1. Place the cubed chicken in a large bowl. Stir in the egg, salt, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil. Mix well. Stir 1/2 cup of the cornstarch and the flour together in a large shallow bowl. Add the chicken pieces, a handful or two at a time, and stir to coat evenly. Tap off any excess.
2. Pour about 1 inch of oil in a wok or deep, heavy skillet and heat to 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until it starts to ripple in the pan. Add the chicken pieces, a small handful at time, and fry until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. When cooking the next batch, you will probably need to turn the heat down to keep the chicken from cooking too fast and possibly add a bit more oil.
3. Once all the chicken is cooked, reserve a couple tablespoons of the oil remaining in the wok in a separate bowl. Clean the wok. Combine the sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
4. Heat the wok for 15 seconds over high heat. Add the reserved oil back into the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, red pepper, and green onions and stir-fry for a couple minutes. Add the sauce and bring to boil. Add the cooked chicken, stirring until well mixed. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix until smooth. Stir into the chicken and heat until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the sesame oil. Serve with rice or chow mein.

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New babies at the Owlhaven!

Aren’t they cute????? You can click on the links to enlarge each picture– and if you’d like to see my 4yo’s whole face!

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Ethiopia Medical Missions Fundraiser

The final fundraising tally for Sophie’s Ethiopia mission is $819.72!! Hooray! Isn’t that just awesome? Thanks so much for supporting Sophie’s work in Ethiopia. Be sure to visit Sophie’s blog to hear about her travel preparations.