Monday, September 15, 2014

new author spotlight

Several of our missionary colleagues have recently published their first books. It's my joy to share their work with you here. While I have not yet read all their books, these authors have lived authentically the stories they share here. Each of them have been an inspiration to me, and I'm excited to see their stories published. If you decide to read any of them, I'd be interested in hearing what you think!

Miracle Beans and the Golden Book: From a Snowstorm in Ohio to the Blazing Sun of Africa, One Family's True Stories Following the Call of the Gospel 

We've enjoyed this book as a fun read-aloud with our kids. Each of the short chapters is a snapshot of life in Africa. For us, the best part is knowing the authors and their kids and grandkids (our kids' good buddies from Charlotte), but we think you'll like it, too, if you want to instill in your kids a willingness to follow God's call anywhere. Don and Barb were mentors to us when we began our journey into missions with SIM. All the proceeds from the sale of this book actually go to support the ministry of SIM we joined almost 9 years ago: Sports Friends.


Growing Down: God's Grace in Spite of Myself

Sarah Wetzel and her husband, Jake, served with Sports Friends in Ethiopia at Camp Langano. They brought to Langano decades of experience in camping ministry in Bolivia with SIM, helping to build the infrastructure so that the camp could accommodate dozens of young people and their coaches each week. Sarah is a wonderful writer. Here she shares her own journey of spiritual growth. I think you'll find it encouraging!

God and Elephants: A Worshipper's Guide to Raising Support

Heather Ricks and her husband, Jason, joined our Sports Friends team just a handful of years ago after first serving in Malawi. Heather has not only watched God provide for their own financial needs as missionaries, but she has helped to orient others to the support-raising process. She's passionate about writing, about missions, and about seeing God glorified in all things. We've just ordered our copy of her book and we can't wait to see what she has to say!

Deep Waters: a journey of healing from sexual abuse

This book promises to be a fruitful resource for counselors as well as victims of sexual abuse. Our friend, Jasmine, shares openly about her own experiences in hopes that others who have suffered similar horror will find hope in Christ as well as practical help. She says, "This is my story of how God met me in the place of deepest pain and shame." If someone you know could benefit from this book, consider buying them a copy.


While I'm writing, do you know about Amazon Smile? If you begin shopping at smile.amazon.com, you can select a charity to receive a portion of the proceeds from your purchase. It doesn't cost you anything extra. I picked Compassion International. What will you choose?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

all things now living

It all happened so fast.
A hand on my arm. Mom's soft voice rousing me from my slumber. "It's Oma." She was somber. Whatever I was dreaming vanished in a heartbeat. It was 5:00am. Too early for casual news.
"Is she gone?" I asked haltingly.
"Not yet, but soon."

The morning was calm, but laden with significance. Measured. Decisive. My parents had already been up for hours, checking for flights, speaking with nurses long-distance, and considering options. They caught us up and we helped them with the decisions. How does one pack or plan for a journey of unknown duration? Just in case, should one bring funeral clothes? Dad looked through his files trying to find the instructions for his mother's funeral, just in case. They weren't there.

It was Father's Day, and this was not the plan. We were supposed to have a family breakfast with the whole crew. Then Danny and I and the kids would continue our journey westward to meet our moving truck at our new home in Oregon, leaving my parents, my brother and his family behind. A new plan emerged: we would drive my parents to the airport on our way out of town. They would fly to Bellingham, rent a car, and hope to make it to the hospital in time. Meanwhile we would drive as fast as we could to Oregon, unload our truck, and head north, either to see Oma, or . . ..

We ate breakfast together as planned, and prayed and cried (in that order). It was a precious time. Then we loaded up and left, with our hearts in our throats. I called the hospital on the way and asked the nurse to bring Oma the phone. She struggled to breathe and to talk, but sounded grateful to hear my voice, as I was to hear hers. I tried to calm her agitation by telling her that she could just rest; there was nothing left for her to do. Nothing for either of us to do, really, but rest and receive what was given. It was Wyoming, hours later, when the tears started flowing and wouldn't stop.

My dear Oma. My strong, independent, and witty grandmother. She was one of the bravest people I knew, and yet how I wanted to stand beside her and squeeze her hand and help her be brave one last time.

My parents enter the memorial service for Dad's Mom
It didn't take long. The next morning I awoke in our trailer somewhere in western Wyoming to the sound of my cell phone buzzing. Oma had slipped away in the night. The next days were a whirlwind. We finished our drive "home" in one day. While we waited for our truck to arrive the next morning, I prepared a slide show for Oma's funeral and gathered my thoughts. Dad asked for ideas of hymns Oma liked, because he couldn't find her list of favorites. Neither could I.

Oma's brother, nieces, and nephew sing
 "Great is Thy Faithfulness"
With the help of friends, we unloaded the truck in just a few hours, and in a few more hours I had located all of our funeral clothes. Early the next morning we drove the 6 hours to Bellingham and reconvened with my parents and my brother, who had flown in with his family. A few hours later the service was underway, ready or not. The next morning we loaded all of Oma's things on another moving truck and drove it back to our new home, exhausted. Oma had died late scarcely 3 1/2 days earlier, and now my own home was filled with memories of her.

It was a few days or even weeks later that I opened one of Oma's boxes and found her hymnal. Inside the back cover, as I might have guessed, was a list of hymns she wanted to have sung at her funeral (you think about things like this when you're 93). We looked them up, but none were songs we actually sang at the service. Then came the inspiration -- wouldn't Oma be honored if we taught those hymns to her great-grandchildren? And so we began.

Each evening after dinner we read a Psalm and then sing our hymn together. I don't know how these things work, but if Oma can see us now, I'm sure her heart swells at the sight of Easton (age 6) singing with gusto. These hymns may have been picked out for Oma's funeral, but they were written for the living, not the dead. In this new home, gathered around my grandparents' table, our faith is being formed verse by verse.

Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving 
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
His banners are o'er us; his light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
'Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished 
as forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses,
the sun in its orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, 
the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We still should be voicing our love and rejoicing
with glad adoration our song let us raise
'Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving, 
to God in the Highest, Hosanna and praise!

-by Katherine K. Davis, 1939

Today would have been Oma's 94th birthday, but I would not wish her back. Her creator guided her gently until the end of her days. No shadows darken her path now. As we hold her memory in our hearts, we turn to face life head on, joining the growing chorus of those singing God's praise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

back to school panic

This morning InterVarsity published a short piece I wrote for their blog for Women in the Academy and Professions. It went live this morning. Here's a preview . . .

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Photo: C. Imes
It’s that time of year. I can feel it in my bones. In just a handful of days we’ll all be climbing back on the hamster wheel, our arms loaded with books, our schedule packed to the gills. Open days on the calendar are slipping through my fingers; my ambitious summer to-do list barely dented. Panic sets in. I like “back to school” season. But I need more time! What do I have to show for these long summer hours with no classes, no assignments, no grading, no committee meetings?


I meant to be productive. I really did. This was my chance to get ahead. To knock out a chapter, an essay, a conference paper, a book review. This was the ideal time to breeze through all those books on my desk, waiting to be read. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. At least nothing that “counts” on my C.V.

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To read the rest of this piece, visit The Well . . .

Friday, August 29, 2014

why go back to school?

Why enroll in school when you've passed the age where someone make you . . . and there's no guarantee (or perhaps even hope) of gainful employment related to the degree you earn? Why go through all the time and expense, not to mention stress?

Maggie looking out into the Galilee from Nimrod's Fortress
on our trip to Israel earlier this year.
My dear friend, Maggie, who recently completed a Masters degree in Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, beautifully explains what drives her. You can read her post here. Oh, by the way, Maggie turned 60 last year. In addition to being a pastor's wife, she already has a great full-time job working for Tyndale Publishing House. Neither the church nor her employer asked her to go back to school.

So why did she do it?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

published

Well . . . sort of. We now have 3 cherished books in our family library written by yours truly (4 if you count my MA thesis). Just last week the most recent volume arrived: a bound, hard-copy version of my blog from 2011 to 2014.

Book 1 (blue) is my first blog: www.mythirstysoul.blogspot.com, written mostly in the Philippines, and mostly for me.

Book 2 (pink) is www.seminarymom.blogspot.com from it's beginning until my graduation from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in 2011.

Book 3 (brown) captures the 3 years we lived in Wheaton. I was shocked to see how thick it was. That's a lot of writing!

Ordering the books was simple at www.blog2print.com, and -- thanks to a generous gift certificate from my mother-in-law -- it didn't cost much either (a total of $65 for all 3). My intention was to have a paper backup of what I've written, but yesterday I discovered another good reason to print my blog. Emma (age 8) found the blog books on my desk and began reading. She couldn't stop! She made it through books 1 and 2 before bedtime and started on book 3. The afternoon was punctuated with her delighted cry, "Mom, listen to this one! . . . " Then she would read a post recounting some cute thing she or Easton said when they were younger. It was fun to walk down memory lane. I even fooled her with this post (note the date stamp: April 1, 2010), because, like many, she didn't read all the way to the end. :)

Just yesterday my blog reached 50,000 hits. That tells me Emma is not the only one who enjoys it. I'm grateful for all of you who take time to read what I write! Blogging forces me to examine my soul at regular intervals, to make sure that what I'm learning matters, to connect with real people, and to practice communicating without academic jargon. It's been so good for me. I'm thrilled that my kids benefit, too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

one ordinary life

The trail along the Salmon River offered cool shade that August afternoon. Countless trees, some of them wider than I am tall, others just fledglings, flanked both sides of the river. My eyes landed on a massive trunk and I craned my neck to see its towering top. If that one tree wasn't here, how different this stretch of trail would be! You could almost miss it, the expanse of dull brown bark beside the trail. But it's absence would change everything. Beside the path on either side, leafy ferns crowded together in the shade of the tallest tree, safe from the sun's scorching rays.

Salmon River, Oregon. Photo: C Imes
I climbed down the bank and walked on the stones, worn smooth by centuries of melting snow. Glancing across the water, I noticed a fallen tree. The steep bank where it once stood proudly had been washed downstream, lacking roots to trap topsoil. I stood there, pondering. You could certainly take a tree like that for granted, one of many, until it is gone. The refreshment of a hike through the woods depends on a great number of ordinary trees, growing up side by side, steadily reaching heavenward and shading the earth with their spreading limbs. (Just outside the national forest, on the drive home, lay evidence of mass destruction, several acres hacked to the ground all at once, with their bloody stumps baking in the summer sun.)

Who are the shade-givers in my life -- the ordinary people whose faithfulness makes this world a place worth living? Good neighbors blend in with their surroundings, seeming ordinary enough. But if we pause to imagine life without their stability -- their day-in-and-day-out caring for their corner of the world -- we discover what a difference they make. Subtract one tree and you have a hole in the sky, fewer branches for nesting, the topsoil washes downstream. A bleak landscape gradually replaces the forest. The exposed branches of neighboring trees grow dry and brittle...

My mind drifts back to Hudson Street, the place I called home for the first 9 years of my life. I can still smell it -- the wholesome aroma of Suzie's bread wafting across the street. It's been almost 30 years, but I can still taste the soft buttered slice, fresh from her oven on baking day. Suzie's hands and face and apron smudged with white flour as she answered the door bell. Warm lumps rising in the oven. Then punching and pulling and rolling the dough until it was just right for braiding.

I can still hear her voice, strong and warm, with its European lilt. Swiss neighbors, like swiss chocolate and swiss bread, are hard to forget.

Is that why I've always felt a part of me come alive at the smell of fresh bread baking? It takes me back to those innocent days -- sandboxes and swings, gardens and neighbors who cared. There were others who didn't -- who were more likely to be drunk and yelling than pulling out their knee-high weeds, but Suzie and Marion made up for the whole lot. They were the stately oaks across my Hudson who kept the rich topsoil from washing away. It was their shade under which I flourished and grew. I know Suzie prayed for us then and still does.

I braided my first loaf the other day and thought of Suzie. Her steady demeanor, her no nonsense, no drama way of life. Her long, black (now white) tresses that I only rarely saw loose, when she brushed them. Every day she braided and twisted them into a bun on the back of her head. Suzie and Marion were nosy in the kindest way. "Mare" used to let himself into our backyard each day to check our thermometer and our vegetable garden, as if he didn't have enough of his own garden, bursting with produce. My brother, John, used to stand with his toes right up to the tippy edge of the sidewalk and call for him, "Mare! Mare!"

I'm guessing Suzie canned lots of things and cooked up a storm. But all I remember is her braided bread, for me one of the most delicious smells of childhood. (I wonder -- is her kitchen valance still hanging? -- the one stuck to the wall with the chewing gum I chewed just for her?)

A cherished visit with Suzie and Marion in 2005
I realize now that some of the houses I've imagined while reading books are really Suzie's house, with its galley kitchen looking out over the back yard, its family-sized table off the living room where her children ate their meals growing up, and where John and I sat after they were grown and gone, to fill our mouths with bread still hot from the oven. The piano with a hymnal close at hand. The living room with its inviting circle of couch and chairs. The box of children's books waiting to be read.

My world was a better place because of Suzie. She may be ordinary, but without her my life would have had an empty place. Suzie sheltered us on Hudson Street, providing a safe haven in a broken world. Her bread nourished the body and her company nourished the soul.

Never underestimate the power of an ordinary life well-lived.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

culinary adventures: grinding our own wheat

By far the biggest culinary adventure at our house was buying our own grain mill. We first heard about home-ground wheat from our friends Dan and Corrie 4 years ago. "Grinding your own wheat" sounds so . . . extreme . . . but I can assure you that Dan and Corrie and their 4 boys are totally fun and relational and, well, normal. They integrated home milling into their busy routine on a missionary budget. We were sold on the idea when we discovered the additional health benefits of home-ground flour, but we didn't have the time or kitchen space in Wheaton to take the plunge, so we waited until now.

The initial investment is substantial, including a mill, 25-lb. sacks of grain and food-grade buckets to store it in.* But the dividends are already rolling in! We can totally taste the difference between homemade bread using store-bought flour and home-ground flour. Our bread is just bursting with flavor, not to mention nutrients that are lost or compromised in store-bought flour. It only takes an extra minute to throw the grain in the mill before starting the breadmaker, bringing our total time for breadmaking up to about 15 minutes a week.




After tasting such delicious bread (and watching Bread Beckers' 'Getting Started' video), we were inspired to try all sorts of other baked goods. Here's a list of what we've made in just two weeks:

whole wheat bread
braided whole wheat bread
whole wheat / rye bread
whole wheat / kamut bread
hamburger buns
croutons
tortillas
fry bread
pie crust
pizza pockets
crackers
sausage-filled roll
cheese sauce
muffins
cookies
whole wheat brownies
black bean / brown rice brownies
banana bread
cinnamon rolls

Check out all the grains we can mill right at home in our NutriMill:

The best thing I learned from Bread Beckers is that you only need a handful of basic recipes that you can adapt for different needs: basic bread dough, basic muffin batter, basic biscuits, basic pancakes and basic tortillas. For example, the basic bread dough recipe can make various breads, cinnamon rolls, rolls, buns, and more. We're getting lots of practice this summer so that when school starts we have the kinks worked out. Here's to healthy eating!

*You don't have to buy grains in bulk,
but it's cheaper in the long run, with the added
convenience of not running out of grain so quickly.
Bonus: look for a bread maker at Goodwill.
We've found them for only $8, like new!