Monday, November 14, 2016

Word of the Year 2017

Having just ended some tumultuous elections in the U.S. between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, I have an election of a different sort on my mind. What will be my next Word of the Year?

And the candidates are:

STRETCH

That's it so far. Rare for me to be short of words. Ha ha.

Stretch myself to finish my book and have it ready for outside eyes.
Stretch myself to try new things.
Stretch myself for a possible new phase in our ministry.
Stretch my children as we perhaps travel more and experience new things.
And it wouldn't kill me to be a little more active physically too. :)

I thought of GROW, but so far, STRETCH is ahead in the polls.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday is my favorite day of the week, except this morning I woke up tired from yesterday's party. I teach Sunday School, and the Lord had some extra grace for me today because my two littlest ones were absent. Teaching a class of almost 2 to 11 year olds can be a bit challenging, but today was a breeze. Everyone sat in their chair. No one fought. No one hit their neighbor. No one cried. It was nice. And we started planning our Christmas party, which was great fun.

Here is Byron's next sermon, enjoy!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Quinceanera

Today we were invited to the special 15th birthday party for the daughter of a friend. Byron led the ceremony and gave the blessing for the girl turned young lady. Kitty was enraptured as soon as we walked in because everything was PINK. Raccoon wanted to know why guys don't get a special party when they turn 15.

It was fun getting all dressed up, and I was so proud of the kids. The invitation said the party started at 3 pm, so we were there at 2:45. An hour and a half later, the party started. But I have not lived here for 20 years in vain, so I was well prepared with snacks and games. Once the party started, there was a ceremony with symbolic items such as shoes, a ring, a crown, and a Bible.

After all the blessings and prayers and words of good will towards the birthday girl, came the kids' favorite part - mariachis! They are a small band dressed in traditional Mexican clothing that sing ballads and old dancing songs. Kitty loved all the bling on the girl's skirt, and she played the trumpet! Racoon liked the bass (huge guitar?). I enjoyed experimenting some of Ecuador's culture with the kids. And the fact that a few years ago, the kids would not have had the patience to make it through a 4 hour party. They're growing up!


The first guests to arrive!


The symbolic items to be given to the birthday girl


Kitty was overcome with delight when she saw this cake.


Dancing to pass the time


Her favorite pink dress, an Easter gift from Grama


Posing with the birthday girl


The Mariachis!


Raccoon danced with a friend of Byron's. 


Time to go home!



Friday, November 11, 2016

This Man

... has been by my side for the last 15 years. After some rough years in the middle, praise be to God that I can now say that our life together is sweeter than ever. Except... when did we get to be so old!



Raccoon took the picture at the party (see tomorrow's post) so it's a little blurry, but he did it with much enthusiasm since he is now the proud owner of his very own camera!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Family Portrait

We actually took this picture on Saturday (two days in the future), but I am backdating my posts to have one a day for Nablopomo. My blog, my rules. :)

The picture was taken by a 10 year old, which is why my expression is so anxious. Trying to smile in between saying, "Push the button harder," is not easy. Ha ha. It took so long to take the pictures that mostly our expression say, "Did you take the picture yet?" Of course in the stress of trying to get the perfect picture, they are anything but that. They do, however, prove that we are all dressed up and clean at the same time. :)









Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dream Houses

The other day my mom wrote about different houses that had caught her fancy over the years. This house is one that caught mine.




If you see my post from yesterday, that is what most of Quito looks like, cement as far as the eye can see. But El Carmen is an old hacienda (ranch) right in the middle of the city. We pass it each time we drive to South Quito. Although much of it has been destroyed or vandalized, it still holds some of its Spanish charm. I have daydreamed about being able to buy it some day and leave it as is, an oasis of green in a gray world.

The day I took this picture, I found out that the land is owned by the city, and an underground metro station is already underway just to the right of the arch. But all is not lost. The city intends to turn the original buildings into a museum, so at least it will be preserved. Someday when they are done, perhaps the kids and I will take a leisurely stroll around the grounds. From now, we can only look in from outside.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Quito, Ecuador

The mountain region of Ecuador is beautiful, with snow covered volcanoes and lush green peaks everywhere. But the city of Quito, while it has its charm, is mostly not beautiful. At least not the parts where my husband and I work as missionaries. I snapped these pictures out of the car the other day on our way to visit our church in South Quito. Someday I will be homesick for these sights perhaps. But right now, it makes me wonder if I really do ever want to move back into the city.













Monday, November 7, 2016

Kitty Photographer

Remember a few posts I did about Raccoon taking my camera in July and November of 2013? Well now I have a new junior photographer. Here are some finds among the many blurry shots of our tile floor.


Early morning sun


Her favorite toys on a shelf in her room


Three year old feet, awwww!


There are a multitude of shots of our cat, Jingle Bell.


He finally couldn't take it anymore.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Byron's Preaching

We have started a new church in our home. On Sundays, I like to reflect on the sermon, but now I can do something even better... post the sermon!


This is Sermon #7 Bendecidos (Blessed). You can find the first six online here if you'd like.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Trees

When we came back for our 3rd term as missionaries in 2014, I bought a bunch of fruit trees, plopped them in the ground with a bit of fertilizer in the small hole, and thought that was that. Three years later, we have seen a few skinny fruits, but mostly we are still waiting. My friend in the neighborhood says I need more fertilizer, so I am now indebted one banana bread to another neighbor for two sacks of guinea pig poo.

The other complication is that it hails several times each October, right after the September rains when everything is in flower. This severely limits how many flowers survive to become fruit. In the Bible, it talks about giving the firstfruits to the Lord, but mine were so sickly that I felt bad giving them away. Here's to a better crop next year!


This is my pine tree and beyond a guaba tree.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Homeschooling Again!

Today's post about Julia Butterflies is over on my homeschool blog

But here's a picture too because this feels a little like cheating. Ha ha.

Julia-heliconian-butterfly.jpg

(from Wikipedia)


Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Maine Rock Garden in Ecuador


Shortly after we moved into this house in 2010, my mom came for a visit. She made this rock garden for me as a labor of love, fighting to claim the ground from the grass, and I have kept it up (with much help!) ever since. In Maine, the fields are surrounded by walls, made from the rocks the farmers take out of the ground. Ecuadorian soil is not rocky, so we bought a dump truck load instead. 



I inherited some money from my mother's mother, who I called Whizzie, which Byron and I invested in this land. From the moment we purchased it, I wanted to do a memorial garden. My brother-in-law, who helps with the gardening sometimes, calls this the Inca Walk, but to me, it's more like Grandma's Garden. Whizzie helped me buy it, my mom helped me build it, and I planted it with marigolds in memory of my other grandmother, Joyce, who used to line her driveway with them every year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Adopting Animals

Before we came back to Ecuador, I promised my husband, Byron, that I wouldn't accumulate as many animals as last term. We had 5 dogs, 3 cats, 15+ fowl, fish, and I don't remember what else. It was a lot. When we arrived, we had one dog that someone was taking care of for us. One.

Two months later, we now have 4 dogs, 1 kitten, 1 fish, 6 chickens, and 50+ soon-to-be butterflies.

These are our two newest arrivals. Aw. I just can't resist!


Candy is a female, large breed of dog. We saw her one day just up our road a little. We threw her a piece of bread and went home. A few days later, my mother-in-law told us that she saw a skeletal dog at the bus stop (a few miles from our house). I just knew that it had to be the same one. My husband hummed the theme song to Paw Patrol as my mother-in-law, the kids, and I drove off in our truck to rescue her. A dog that thin and still alive deserves a second chance. We coaxed her into the car with some bread and my mother-in-law gave her a little extra shove. Thankfully, she's very nice and gentle. A month later, she looks like this:



This is Jingle Bell, a small male kitten who spent about a week meowing outside our house. We caught him twice and he ran away again twice. The third time, he stayed. Now he's everyone's favorite.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nablopomo is here again!

This year has been one of much upheaval and rebirth in my walk with Christ, my marriage, and my family. The more going on in my life, the less I'm on here. But this month, I'm attempting (attacking?!) National Blog Posting Month (Nablopomo) and National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), so here I am again.

Where have I been? My husband, two kids, and I spent 9 months on furlough in Washington State, then we returned to Ecuador in August. This was the time that we almost didn't come back, but we had left some things undone in our ministry and personal life, so here we are. Welcome to my home!



This is our house. We're hoping to finish it, inside and out, this term.




For now, this 0.5 acres is our home.


The view from the chicken pen out back.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Love, Henri


Letters on the Spiritual Life

by Henri J.M. Nouwen

I love how letters give us a glimpse into someone's life that a book does not. What they like, how they feel, how they make decisions, it's all there in an open and honest way. Henri Nouwen's book was no different, and I enjoyed the first half of it very much. When I got to the letter where he recommended praying to Mary, I stopped, as I am an evangelical Christian and that goes against my beliefs. Despite our differences, his love for Jesus shines through, and I collected many, many favorite quotes up until that point.

At one point, the editor wrote, "Henri took friendship very seriously... This style of friendship was not for everyone, and there are many people for whom it was simply not sustainable." This made me like Henri immediately as I can relate to his intensity.

The notes about his life were very helpful since I knew only a little about him. The preface was also inspiring. I can't imagine it taking 15 years to organize one person's correspondence! That's amazing, one that he wrote so much and two that Gabrielle Earnshaw devoted more than a decade to sifting through it to give us this book. Thank you.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

I put my favorite quotes together into the letter that I wish, perhaps, he'd written to me:

Dear Becky,

What you seem to ask for is for more intimate, direct, personal contact with Him, a way of experiencing Him more directly. The first and most important task we have is to keep our eyes on God and Him alone. We will never overcome the demons by analyzing them, but only by forgetting them in an all-consuming love for God. I am more and more convinced that the first commandment indeed needs to be the first: to love God. Ministry is to point again and again to the Lord. He alone can bring us what we need.

There is a joy deeply hidden in the heart of the suffering Christ. It is a joy that is not alien to you. You have tasted it already. It is the joy of the children of God who know their weakness and brokenness but who always continue to experience the abundance of his forgiving and recreating love.
You need a lot of time to pray, to spend time in solitude and to speak regularly about your love for God, and God’s love for you. Nurture your contemplative side, be in a constant conversation with Him, who loves you most intimately. I think that a life of grateful prayer and a life of intercession for others will bring you the goal you seek.

It is so important for the people around you to see that peace of Christ reflected in your eyes, your hands and your words. There is more power in that than in all your teaching and organizing. You have to keep saying to yourself: “I am being loved by an unconditional, unlimited love, and that love allows me to be a free person, center of my own actions and decisions.”

The Lord has given you a great treasure: each other and the children. He wants to keep you together in his love. The mystery of God’s Grace is that He often changes us in ways that we were not planning on and that sometimes we do not have eyes to see or ears to hear these changes in ourselves. I deeply believe that God is always active in us and always molding us into new people.

Sometimes it feels as if I never will find words to convey the deep emotions (evoked) in me. I suffer from my inability to say what I see and feel. I guess we all do to some degree... But I trust that a gentle and forgiving reader can hear beyond the words we say. Friendship requires trust, patience, attentiveness, courage, repentance, forgiveness, celebration and most of all faithfulness. But it asks a great faith, a great hope and a great love, and at times I feel so terribly small and fearful.

Try to be very gentle, very open and very forgiving. Minister as concretely and directly as possible to the people with whom you live. Please do not give up.

Love, Henri

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book Review: Doodletopia Cartoons

Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Fun Cartoon Creations

by Christopher Hart

I like to doodle every now and then, but the only thing I know how to draw are stick figures. I appreciate how the author broke down the drawings and included blank space to draw in the book itself. I didn't try any of the people, but I liked the animals. The only thing I wish he would have included is a range of expressions and poses for the same character.  

If you want to pick up cartooning, or learn to draw a bit, this is a great choice.


I received a free copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Worry List

As my mom tells me frequently, I worry too much. But I feel that it's not exactly worrying, it's more like having things on my mind that need to be addressed. I pretty much worry exclusively about my children. There is no parenting report card (hmmmm....) to let me know what is going well and what is not. As I was reviewing my list of Words of the Year the other night, I thought it might be fun to list my top worries. Then later when I look back at them, I will see how foolish (or not) I'm being.


Raccoon (6 years old)

Reading
Homeschooling
Finding food when we travel

Maddie (3 this month)

Weaning
Missing home when we travel


Sleeping!? Sleeping is not on the list for either of my children?! That, in itself, is a miracle. The lack of sleep has been on my worry list for many years. These days, if I am not fully rested it is my fault, late night blogging and all. Who knew this day would come! Hooray!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Word of the Year 2016: LEAN

Three goals summed up into one word

LEAN body

LEAN finances

LEAN on the Lord


Furloughs are tough times with joyous sparks every now and then. Today was one of those days. Church where my dad is pastoring, then an afternoon at the beach. La playa! Not warm like ours, but that smell, the sound of waves, that is the same the world over. I am grateful for today's refreshing beauty. And I am grateful for this extraordinary life we lead.

Raccoon goes back to school today. All I can think about is his time at school ticking down. We leave for the East Coast mid-February. We are about to disrupt our children's lives once again. Our lives. Schedules and food and beds and all the little things that make up an ordinary life. It is enough to overwhelm me at times.

Lean.

Lean.

God has this under control.

Maybe my new word should be breathe. :)

I took some time (maybe last year's words did help!) to look back at my previous WOTYs, starting in 2012, listed below. I feel happy that I have chosen a WOTY ever since starting this blog. Yay me! I often am more of a starter than a finisher when it comes to projects. So here they are, in chronological order:

DO IT NOW

PEACE

SURRENDER

TAKE TIME

LEAN

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Notes: Superforecasting

The Art and Science of Prediction

by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner


In reading this book, or trying to, I realized something. My life is not conducive to paper books anymore. On my phone, I've never struggled to finish a book, being able to read during odd moments and in bed when the lights are out. But when limited to a physical copy, it took me 2 months to get 100 pages in. I am still interested in the book, but have accepted that, at this point in my life, I will not finish it. Because I had to look at the physical copy to write my review, it took me another month to get to this post.

Apart from my problems with the format, I thought it a bit slow paced, but I have nothing to compare it to, having not read another "serious book about psychological research" as the author himself describes it. Granted, it is a non-fiction book about a forecasting tournament, but I felt like it kept circling around the same information, like a newspaper article:

My team beat the government experts!

My team beat the government experts by themselves,

My team beat the government experts by themselves, then in teams!

My team beat the government experts by themselves, then in teams, with a bit of training!

And so on.

Relevant to the subject matter, I realized that I will probably never choose to spend an hour or two a day reading the news about geopolitical events in order to be semi- to mostly accurate about what will happen in the future. Not my gig. I'm more likely to have my nose buried in a book about the past. On that note, his remarks about the history of medicine were terribly illuminating. I wonder what else we accept untested.

As a Christian, I did find it fascinating that no matter the training and intelligence, no human is ever completely accurate. This makes God's test of prophets, that what they say about the future be 100% true (Deut 18:22), a sound one.

Favorite Quotes:

Our desire to reach into the future will always exceed our grasp.

"I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition," Bill Gates wrote, "You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal... This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right."

...broadly speaking, superforecasting demands thinking that is open-minded, careful, curious, and--above all--self-critical. It also demands focus. The kind of thinking that produces superior judgment does not come effortlessly. Only the determined can deliver it reasonably consistently, which is why our analyses have consistently found commitment to self-improvement to be the strongest predictor of performance.

Machines may get better at "mimicking human meaning," and thereby better at predicting human behavior, but "there's a difference between mimicking and reflecting meaning and originating meaning," Ferrucci said. That's a space human judgment will always occupy.

In fact, in science, the best evidence that a hypothesis is true is often an experiment designed to prove the hypothesis is false, but which fails to do so.

But then the train of history hit a curve, and as Karl Marx once quipped, when that happens, the intellectuals fall off.

Stepping outside ourselves and really getting a different view of reality is a struggle. But foxes are likelier to give it a try. Whether by virtue of temperament or habit or conscious effort, they tend to engage in the hard work of consulting other perspectives.

"All models are wrong, the statistician George Box remarked, "but some are useful."




I received a free copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Foody Friday: Changing Countries

Having a supertasting, resistant eater* can be challenging enough, but changing countries with one is enough to rip my heart out. It has been two months, and my son is just now finding new things to eat. When you change countries, everything tastes different. Everything. familiar foods like ketchup and rice are no longer safe. For the first month, he survived on pizza alone. Throw in his allergies and life feels impossible. We were down to 0 safe foods. He was hungry and miserable most of the time. Having meal after meal rejected, or reacted to, is discouraging for us and for him.

But slowly, sloooooowly, we seem to be turning a corner. Tonight he ate three chicken legs, made with teriyaki sauce. Seeing him devour a meal was enough to make me cry. Raccoon told me that if he'd known the food in the US was going to be so different, he wouldn't have come. My heart agrees with him.

It has been a hard road. Things were better but they are bad again. Please, Lord, help us find things that work. Before we travel East in February. May this new year be a good one for Raccoon.



*What is a resistant eater? It's not just picky. It's not a discipline problem or a lack of food training. It's someone who can taste everything and feel everything in the food. Something that would be unnoticeable to a regular eater is like a spoonful of chili powder to them.