30 June 2012

~ delighted by donuts ~

chocolate sprinkles, Boston creme, lemon filled, raspberry filled...

Shhhhhhhh.... she's still waking up!

Seeing all that delight (even if melodramaticized by Daddy's coaching and for the camera) makes all the work on Saturday mornings worth it!

Let us know when you'll be in town and your favorite donut...
We'll set a spread on the table for you, too!

29 June 2012

5 Minute Friday - Dance ~

Joining Lisa-Jo today for Five Minute Friday ~

"Want to join our favorite free writing exercise of the week? It’s easy peasy.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt: “Dance” with no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on..."


There is something fascinating, mesmerizing, almost magical about movement set to music. And I think I've danced most of my life, at least in one form or another. Acrobatics and contortionistic tricks, some tap, ballet, even a bit of jazz... on the floor and beam as a gymnast... messing around with synchro swimming moves just for the fun of it...

Then, as a Penn State University student needing one of those required phys ed classes, I registered for ballroom dancing because the class was held in the building about 30 yards from my dorm. It was super convenient.

I was hooked. I signed up for additional classes, waltzing into folk and square and then spinning into international. I was taking classes no longer because they were required, but because I loved the lessons I was learning.

Dance involves submitting yourself to the music - allowing it to direct when and how to move. Dancing with a partner or as part of a line or circle showed me how amazing it can be, not just to lead and be the one who stands out, but to melt into a single unit, becoming part of a coordinated, unified whole where the sum is more beautiful than the simple linking of each individual part. And there's that really practical truth - when you let the leader lead... or as leader you accept responsibility and step out to lead decisively, toes remain a lot safer. As part of a line or a circle, each is responsible to pull his own weight - yet when he stumbles, he has someone on each side to help him regain his footing - and keep on dancing.

Isn't that like life? Or at least it could be... except...

...like these photos I snapped the other day of our littlest and our latest menagerie additions, much of the time it is hard to tell who is leading who. Everyone wants to lead; no one wants, or is willing, to follow, or so it seems.

Yet just like in every dance, that beautiful potential is always there...

May we realize it more and more often.

28 June 2012

Poolside tragedy

and yes... we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Last weekend, we were hanging out on the pool on Saturday afternoon, enjoying our last times with my niece Leandra and her daddy, my brother-in-law Steve. The kids were in the pool. Mary Michelle has just started swimming (she does some sort of funny combo of floating on her back and treading, but can hang out in deep water almost as long as her bigger siblings), and although it feels sort of empty and lonely with everyone who has left in recent weeks, it is still one of our favorite places to be.

The rains also appear to have started - truly one of the earliest starts to rainy season that we've ever experienced while living in this country (It is kinda crazy to think I've lived about 1/4th of my life here in Niger... Brendan has lived about 3/4ths of his... but I'm getting sidetracked.) One of life's little joys, as far as my tribe is concerned, that comes along with regular rains are termite hatches. Just ask Leandra about playing Rambo at the pool and gunning down termites in midflight.

This afternoon, we were at the pool shortly after one of their hatches and the kids were chasing them around, rescuing ones that landed in the water, watching to see who would escape the dragonflies feasting and otherwise studying termite behavior, particularly termite dating behavior.

You see, they find it fascinating that the female will land and start this funny little dance to try and snag a guy's attention. If she is successful, a male will land and they'll dance around each other for a bit until she decides if he's worth the bother or not. If she likes him, she drops her wings... he drops his... and they make a dance line of two. Our littlest ones say they are playing "train." Our kids have been known to play matchmaker - placing two insects in close vicinity, hoping to spark a bit of romance, and in general, they have a great time entertaining themselves with this little piece of God's creation.


So, that poolside afternoon, two termites hooked up right at Tim's feet. She danced, he watched, she was impressed, wings dropped and the two trained off towards the garden and soil where they could bury their eggs and begin a life together as king and queen of a new termite colony.

But then they met this guy ~

~ and they never had a chance.

In an instant, their birthing romance was tragically, abruptly and prematurely aborted... in the mouth of the dragon.

Tim couldn't wait to share the drama he'd witnessed with our gang. We all had a good laugh (So what exactly does that say about us?) 

...He's still chuckling if we remind him.

Who knows... maybe I've got several budding entomologists

26 June 2012

I see God moving across the deserts...His brilliant splendor fills the heavens and the earth is filled with His praise. His coming is as brilliant at the sunrise. Rays of light flash from His hands, where His awesome power is hidden.

It seems like we've had more sand/dust storms than ever before this year. And I've decided I must be a storm chaser at heart, for when inclement weather threatens you'll most often find me mesmerized, out staring at the sky and sometimes remembering to frantically pull laundry off the line before the dust and rain turns to mud! :-)

Some find that ominous orange wall of sand rushing towards them terrifying for from this side, there is no way to determine how deep the darkness will be. My niece is one of those. Others dread the imminent mess that will need to be swept and dusted and shaken out of their homes once the air has cleared.

My kids are enticed by the excitement in the air, the roar of the wind, the bending and snapping of tree branches, the panicky barking and meowing of the pets and the screeching of birds speeding through the air, seeking to outrun the storm and each storm leaves them begging to run outside and allow their bodies to once again be pelted... exfoliation au naturale!

Living these storms certainly makes passages from Habbakuk come alive...

How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
so that justice has become perverted.

The Lord replied,
“Look around at the nations;
look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
a cruel and violent people.
They will march across the world
and conquer other lands.
They are notorious for their cruelty
and do whatever they like.
Their horses are swifter than cheetahs
and fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their charioteers charge from far away.
Like eagles, they swoop down to devour their prey.
“On they come, all bent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind,
sweeping captives ahead of them like sand.
They scoff at kings and princes
and scorn all their fortresses.
They simply pile ramps of earth
against their walls and capture them!
They sweep past like the wind
and are gone.
But they are deeply guilty,
for their own strength is their god.”

O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—
surely you do not plan to wipe us out?
O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us,
to punish us for our many sins.
But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.
Will you wink at their treachery?
Should you be silent while the wicked
swallow up people more righteous than they?
Are we only fish to be caught and killed?
Are we only sea creatures that have no leader?
Must we be strung up on their hooks
and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate?
Then they will worship their nets
and burn incense in front of them.
“These nets are the gods who have made us rich!”
they will claim.
Will you let them get away with this forever?
Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?...


...Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lordis my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

23 June 2012

Really Old Photos

Over the next few weeks, I'd love to catch up with posting some photos that I've not posted since all of our internet troubles began back in January.

Looking at these photos again today, though, reminds me of how thankful we are for how the Lord did above and beyond what we hoped as He cared for and healed our little guy's eye!

spectators from the neighborhood

the church decorated for the special Christmas Eve service

Rebekah helping to lead her class

making sure little ones STAY in line

Elsie Mae, Jonathan and Mary Michelle performing with their class...

motions included!

Even though the Christmas Eve service is a late night, the kids are all at church bright and early the next morning, and once again are up in front.

Notice which little girl is shoeless... the ladies in church just don't understand why I'd let her go out in public without any shoes on. What they don't realize is just how often I leave the house, almost forgetting my own shoes!

22 June 2012

Five Minute Friday - Risk

So, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

"It’s Five Minute Friday free write time!

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community...

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:


I don't remember how many years ago it was that my biggest boy played his first game of Risk... you know... that Hasbro strategy board game where to win, you must conquer the world... you know... that kind of game boys really get into. He might have only been 5 or 6 years old.

Actually though? I didn't know.

I'd probably seen the box before in the board game aisle of the toy stores where my parents would take me growing up. But, I was clueless. I prefered games like Head of the Class, chess and checkers (particularly Chinese checkers), Trivial Pursuit. Even a good game of Connect Four could capture my attention.

Spades and Scrabble were my two favorite. So this game was not only a complete unknown... it was also one that had absolutely so little appeal to me that it had remained a complete unknown for 20 something years of my life.

My husband, on the other hand? Growing up with brothers and a dad who enjoyed strategy games? He knew all about it. Through the years, my big boy, his daddy, his friends, sometimes sisters and lately my little boy - have engaged in too many to count, seemingly unending contests - striving to elimate the competition and conquer the world.

I've always found it interesting that my guys love this game so much, because in real life, I'd be hard pressed to describe any of them as risk-takers. Brendan can attest to the ad-nauseaum number of times I've encouraged him to try something that puts him outside of his comfort zone - I see that he has so much potential in so many areas - and yet he is so seemingly reluctant. Risk, by definition, includes the real possibility that my specific choice will lead to some significant loss or undesirable, unwanted result. As his mama, I want him to strive for something beyond mediocrity... or mundane normalness. I want to see him excel.   And I probably push too hard for him to accept my acceptable perilous outcomes, closing my eyes to all of the very real challenges my becoming young man risks every day.

To think I once thought...

Parenting littlers through learning to love Jesus, scary tropical diseases, long airplane rides, long goodbyes to grandparents and cousins, tumultuous foreign political situations and national, different language schools...

carried more imminent and inherent risk than 

parenting those biggers by coming alongside as we traverse broken hearts, friendship losses and painful goodbyes, peer pressure, final exams, college decisions,  scholarships and financial aid, teachers who don't get MY kid, questions about God and how significant He will be in their  young-but-almost-adult-lives, and all of those other future-impacting choices and life-changing decisions. No, the jeopardies and hazards have only grown.

But so have the possibilities.

21 June 2012

"Nin go ga ti bora din..." or "You ARE that man..." (Yes, you've seen that title before because this is try # 2)

(I published this post a few weeks back - but somehow, the whole middle section disappeared forever into blog nothingness. So, now I'm trying again, because I'd really love to let you all see how much these ladies are teaching me!!!)

We've been talking about sitting in the hot seat...
about having others question the rightness or the wrongness of what we are doing...
of questioning the rightness or wrongness of what others are doing...
of judging...
of being judged...
of our liberty in Christ...

And it has been interesting.

After all these years, a Bible study topic where I don't feel like I have to literally drag participation out of these women. I keep praying that  a few more of the women would show up.

Last month, we met again, to continue our discussion and I did have my "notes" all written out, but we didn't end up following them.

The Lord had shown us something during our last Saturday afternoon together: He'd shown us our own hypocrisy as we realized, each lady present, that we much prefer to be in the position of the one correcting or confronting rather than sitting in the hot seat as the one being corrected or confronted - about anything. When asked, "Why?" each person agreed that the elevated position of teacher is preferred to the lowly position of learner (or disciple).

I did follow my notes long enough to ask the ladies to think about that "revelation," because it was not biblical, especially in the light of several Scriptures. I'd  been meditating on them for two weeks already... and so we looked at several verses (Proverbs, Philippians 2, Sermon on the Mount), reminding us of this theme: God is opposed to the proud and He lifts up the humble. Obviously, if our group of women so blatantly preferred the perceived elevated position of confronter to that of confrontee, we were all dealing with some measure of pride issues.

In the midst of those verses, the Lord brought to mind a rather scary "hot seat" moment for me that had happened the previous week. As I've mentioned before, these women LOVE a story, so I decided to tell them all about my own hot seat experience just a few days earlier...

I was driving a group of Sahel Academy students back to the school after their PE class at the pool - which involved traversing the Niger River. There are only two bridges in town; thankfully, the pool was nearer to the bridge with less traffic and also the "back" way to the school, again, avoiding more traffic. This bridge actually resembles a "freeway" bridge back in the States: 4 lanes, divided, and limited access of a sort. The "exit" to take the back roads back to the school, however, is a fairly sharp right turn for a vehicle the size of our Landcruiser, meaning to make the turn without having to stop and back up and turn some more, I'd have to haywagon (i.e. swing left to have more space to turn right). That was my mistake...

The approach ramp to/from the bridge on the south side of the river is a long one. Several hundred meters earlier I'd passed a man on his motorcycle, signaled to return to the right hand lane, returned to that lane, turned my signal off, drove a bit more and then signaled to indicate that I'd be making that right turn to leave the bridge ramp (I'm pretty fastidious about signaling. In this city, you are more likely to get a ticket for failing to signal than you are for running a red light or driving to fast. And then I made that haywagon move I just described so that I could actually negotiate the very sharp right turn. As I did that guy on his motorcycle, the one I'd passed several hundred meters earlier, slammed into the passenger side of the car. He ignored my blinker signaling a right turn and tried to pass me on the right anyway.

As I got out of my car to check and make sure he was okay, I quickly noticed that he was a military officer... and he was mad, very mad actually. He immediately started yelling about how the accident was my fault and a crowd quickly gathered behind me. After he'd hollered for a few minutes, he asked, "What did you think you were doing?" So I asked him if he'd seen my blinker signaling. He had, but insisted that didn't matter because I'd passed him and knew he'd be coming up on the right.

At that moment, I knew I was right and could have insisted... but instead I simply said to the officer that he was correct. If I looked back, there was the chance I would have seen him coming and thus waited for him to pass before I turned, thus preventing the accident.

His next question was, "So, Madame, what are you going to do about this?" I asked him if he had papers for his motorcycle. He said he did, so I told him that according to my understanding, we exchanged insurance and license information, filed accident reports with our respective insurance companies and then they took it from there. He agreed... but didn't seem to want to pull out his papers.

"Madame, I don't want to cause you any problems. I just want to make sure my motorcycle still works." There was some obvious damage and the front wheel didn't seem to be exactly aligned properly, but the machine started and was drivable. And then we waited, until he said again, "Madame, I don't want to cause you any problems, but I did collide hard with your vehicle and my chest and ribs hurt."

I replied, "Sir, I agree. I'd hate to think that you were injured as a result of this accident. Don't we follow the same procedure of exchanging papers and then any medical care that you need as a result will be covered by either my insurance or your insurance?" and I again waited for him to pull out his papers, but he didn't.

He simply said, "Have a good day," and drove away... and the surprisingly large crowd that had gathered behind me began to disperse (I was very thankful one of the older young men in my Landcruiser had gotten out and come to stand beside me, as I felt a little vulnerable before that point).

As I concluded my story, the women began to laugh... but I asked them if they could identify the confrontation that occurred in my story. They could - and quickly noted that I was the one in the hot seat that time around. So I asked them how they thought I did in handling the confrontation, and then asked them to tell me what I did well and what I didn't do so well. The general consensus was that when I was willing to accept at least some of the responsibility, I allowed him to ride away without feeling shamed - even though he was clearly in the wrong... even though I clearly had the right and could have protested.

Now that they had some experience analyzing a "confrontation," I took the ladies to 2 Samuel 12 ~ the biblical account of Nathan, sent by God, to confront David with the reality of the sin he had committed towards Uriah the Hittite (and others), helping David see just how deeply he had offended God. I told the ladies I wanted them to know this story because it gives us a Biblical picture of confrontation both done and received well.

The rest of our study was spent with me reading the Zarma Biblical account (slowly and surely, one little step after another, my Zarma language abilities make minute advances) followed by some basic clarification of the events that took place in those verses.

We finished up Bible study with two questions, the same two questions I'd like to leave with you today:
  1. What did Nathan do well as he confronted David with his sin?
  2. What did David do well as he found himself sitting in the hot seat?

19 June 2012

summer Saturday mornings = more homemade donuts!!!


One of the benefits of sleeping in all week long? Mama is more likely to wake up in time to make some donuts!


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