Thursday, May 29, 2014

Keep the baby, Drop the chocolate

It's happened to me on more than one occasion.

The chair starts to fall backward and instead of saving the kid tumbling off, I'm clutching the oatmeal container so it doesn't spill.  The bike starts to fall over, and the phone in my hand distracts me from catching it in time.

Not long ago, I was riding in a rickshaw with the kids.  Silas was in my lap and Jude was tucked under an arm. I wasn't particularly paying attention. We were on the final stretch of the trip home. The driver swerved suddenly to avoid a car or cow or tractor or something.  We hit a bump and Silas almost bounced out. Literally. Thankfully, I caught him in time.  I looked down and found a chocolate tightly gripped in my fingers.  I almost let go of the baby but held on to the chocolate? Yep.

Motherhood is teaching me that my instinctive reaction in unexpected situations isn't always the one to trust.  It takes my brain a minute to process the priorities.  In the meantime, whatever happens to be in my grip at the moment usually has the upper hand.

I am finding a parallel in the more figurative sense within our home.

If someone asked, I could pretty clearly communicate what I believe my God-given priorities for this season are.  I could even write a blog about them.  But when someone calls me and asks me to do this or come here or fill this need, my knee jerk reaction is to forget the priorities and fill the immediate need.

We are in a busy season, and I am seeing ways that my responses need to be tamed to match my priorities.

Here's my encouragement to you this week: Keep the baby. Drop the chocolate.  Or the crazy schedule, the  automatic "sure, I can," the trifles that wield their way into priority over what you value most.  Focus in on what's important and train those reflexes to respond accordingly.

She looks well to the ways of her household….

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Quilling & chilling

I'm teaching a paper quilling class for Asian students. It didn't really start out as a paper quilling class, but it turned into one. 

Truth be told, I'd never even quilled until a few weeks ago. Yet another example of the many places life can take you in Sputh Asia. 

Friday, May 23, 2014


We had a little get together for Jude tonight with a few friends.  Tomorrow is Jude's big FOUR! 

Overall, it was a roaring good time, albeit a little chaotic.  The neighborhood gang of 10 year olds are Jude's good friends.  Their presence at the party was a little raucous.  Let's just say, it made me think we'll probably outsource these types of occasions in years to come.  Boys are wild

To put it mildly, the noise makers were a bad idea.  By the time it was candle-blowing, the poor guy was under the table.  The noise was just too much. He made a quick recovery though. 

The tears reappeared later when the birthday boy realized the Spiderman head piñata would actually be broken before the candy fell out.  It was a traumatic event for the Spiderman lover. He felt it was a destruction of his hero. I should have thought that through. 

In spite of the tears, it did seem that a good time was had by all.  And FOUR will dawn tomorrow, much celebrated in our little world! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Effie Trinket & Me

I finished The Hunger Games Trilogy a few weeks ago.  I've long maintained that fiction, or perhaps just story, profoundly impacts me. My life has been shaped more radically by story than a hundred Sunday School lessons.  No lesson on immorality ever impacted me the way Anna Karenina shaped me.  I still like Sunday School lessons. They are useful.  But stories haunt my life - in good ways.

There's something about seeing myself in a story that startles me.  I never look in the mirror the same way again. I see myself in characters.  Their weaknesses reflect into my own, their strengths illuminate what I value. My interaction with The Hunger Games was that kind of glance. There were aspects that felt like a long look in the mirror.  And it wasn't all that pleasant.

Since my moments of introspection are few these days, I'll just write about one aspect.

Effie Trinket and me.

Her character was so ridiculous, particularly because I first saw the movie and thereafter was stuck on her hair and eyelashes.  She caught me off guard. I would much prefer to examine my interaction with Katniss, Peeta, Gale or even Haymitch.  But she won't leave my mind.  The exaggeration of her frivolity exposed me.

I turn the shower water on and let it run.  I stay in another 3 minutes just because.  And outside my gate, the tanks for someone with less money run empty in the summer heat.

We drive across town to go out for dinner.  The bill is $20 and we walk out to the car to meet a woman with a baby on her hip.  Her hair is unwashed, her baby is nearly starved and we give her a penny.  Or more literally, a rupee. She doesn't make $20 in a month.

I run my a/c all day to avoid the heat.  And when I drive down the street in my a/c SUV, I pass a line of houses made of tarps. The families sit under shade trees, the dust from the road settling on their belongings. And they cook their rice over open fires.

All of the sudden, I am Effie Trinket.

And I have to admit, I always was.

The isolated ignorance of my comparatively affluent beginning shields me from nothing when I am in the world.  The real world that is beyond the invisible walls of the Capitol suburbs.

To find myself so clearly portrayed in a character of such frivolity was, well, humbling.  I had to look into the story and see that the person I most identify with, if I'm honest, is not made of such noble characteristics as the ones I would hope to find myself in. But rather with the frivolity and carefully crafted comforts I would flatter myself to avoid.

This is not a new feeling for me, I have lived an international life through various seasons now. The turning over of the many implications is a life long process, an acceptance of the reality that life in this complicated world is complicated.

I love living on this complicated side where I have to look the reality in the face.  I hate it.  But I love it. It's impossible to be oblivious when the reality is out my back gate. Effie Trinket reminded me again.

So there you have it, Effie Trinket and me. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids to the mall today. It's a bit too hot to play outside. So we called my neighborhood bestie and headed out. It was a good idea, until we went out to get a rickshaw home. And that huge amazing stroller that never gives me a minute's problem just wouldn't fold. It wouldn't. So we did what seemed the only thing to do: we hired a rickshaw for us, and another for the stroller. The driver strapped it in with his belt, and drive 10km with it bobbing up and down.

Put that on my love list for Asian life: there's always a way to make it work out. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Miscellany

1.  We've had a change of course. Jude is now Clifford.  And Silas is his side-kick, T-bone.  The meows have been replaced by barking.  A lot of barking.  

2. This weekend we went to a Pirate Party Extravaganza with Jude's bestie, Harrison.  Check out that pirate ship cake! Jude is now full speed ahead toward his own Spiderman celebration.  And I'm knee deep in the piñata paste to prove it. 

3. Mango cheesecake, my friends.  It only comes once a year, but it's so worth the effort! I confess that it's definitely made from strained yogurt. The taste is just a bit…um…asian. But I'll take it. I really cannot imagine why all you ladies with constant access to real Philadelphia cream cheese do not make at least one per week.

Happy Monday! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Day Away

The honest truth is that we've been struggling through around here.  Summers are never are best season in this life abroad.  This year has been no exception.  This week we decided to take a day away to a resort just outside of the city for some family style R&R. It was so worth the effort to clear the calendar and pack up the banshees.  Here's a little peek at the fun:

We're back now.  And life is before us again.  Pray that we would persevere.  Here's to refreshment for the purpose of greater usefulness when we return! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Meow

Just in case you're wondering, it's been over a month now and Jude is still a cat. This week he made a cat collar and asked me to walk him on a leash. He calls me "owner." 

He continues to drink from a bowl on the floor and meow at me randomly. 

Imaginative or weird? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

fire on the trees

It happens every year.  I never get over the beauty. The hotter the sun, the brighter the colors. The trees seem to just catch on fire.

It almost makes up for the heat.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014


We have to leave the country again in June.  It's a requirement of our visa that's like a mandatory vacation.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the crazy options. I spend hours on Lonely Planet, often forgetting that we'll be taking two wild ones along for the ride. Here's the list I looked up tonight:

Sri Lanka

Perks.  This is one of our big perks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


When I lived in Lesotho, there was a South African lady who came across the border to the international church I attended. Her husband was a businessman who traveled frequently.  Her children were away at college and she was very involved with the ladies in the church community.  She had a reputation as a woman who knew how to pray.  And I was drawn to that about her.  I wanted to see if she might have time to pray with me every week or two.  I remember being hesitant to ask.  I knew she must be so busy.  Important, godly people are always busy, right?

I asked anyways.  And I've never forgotten her answer.

"I'm not busy," she said simply, "I try to keep myself available for whatever needs arise."

I was floored.  I am not sure that anyone had ever looked at me and said "I'm not busy."  Lots of people had told me they were.  There was something so honest and free in that statement.  It was as if her words unlocked something for me.  I began to see how often I substituted "busy" for "important." In my mind, godliness somehow always needed to turn out as flurried and hugely productive.  But as I looked at the Word, I began to recognize that I was substituting a very Western concept of productivity for a biblical concept of quiet, steady, dedicated usefulness.  I have a tendency to confuse intrinsic worth with an output of work.  It's been over ten years since that little conversation but I've long remembered it.  This week I've been mulling it over again.

The boys are out of play school for the summer.  David is traveling more.  Language has slacked off a bit since my tutor is out of town.  There have been quite a few days when I haven't been "busy" by my internal standard.  I'm not accomplishing a lot. I admit that I struggle through that more than I should.  I feel the need to constantly repeat truth to myself.  My life doesn't have to be glamorously productive and importantly busy for it to be faithful, fruitful and yes, valuable. My worth is not defined by how much I accomplish in a day. It really isn't.

 My job right now is to be "available" for whatever needs arise.  A lot of those needs aren't really world-changing either.  The 2 year old who needs help getting a cup of milk.  That super hero cape that needs untangling.  A project that David needs input on.  Bread that really must be bought.  And hopefully, prayers that might just need to be prayed.  Prayers that wouldn't be prayed in the flurry.

Perhaps it's just as well that I know I won't find my worth in these little tasks.

I was never meant to.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Flashback Friday

Jude in Washington, D.C. circa September 2011

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Katniss & Peeta

There's a good reason why I don't have much to say on the blog today. I'm half way through the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy and all I can think about is Katniss and Peeta.

I realize I'm a few years behind on this.  But seriously, so good.  It's particularly fascinating to read in a country where poverty is very manifest yet I am well acquainted with the wealth culture of the West.  Once I've come back to reality and processed a bit, maybe I'll share some thoughts.