18 March 2016

Five Minute Friday ~ Surprise

A few weeks back, the entire elementary half of the school my crew attends had a "Winter Outing." The fifth and sixth grades had the option of skiing; 4th grade on down went tubing. And of course, they was need of parents to accompany. 

You'd better believe I signed up, ASAP! I love winter, I love being outside and I love hanging out with my kids and this would be a two for one field trip.

Boy, was I surprised when we walked out to the tubing "hill."

Because back in Oklahoma, where I grew up, a hill that size was called a mountain.

In Michigan, where I'd most recently lived and have done pretty much the only skiing I'd ever done, a hill like that was for skiing, not tubing.

In Niger, where I've probably spent the most recent bulk of my "adult-ish" life, well... we had sand dunes, not mountains... and certainly no snow.

This tubing hill even had its own "tube" lift!

That's M&M in the tube right above me.

Only pictures from the bottom and on the ride up... I deemed it "risky behavior" to pull my phone aka camera out anywhere near the top of that tubing hill. :-)

This was one of the better photos that actually gives
a bit of perspective as to the size and slope of these hills!

We had so much fun and believe me, as soon as we get the opportunity, we will go back with the fam!

So it isn't bare toes on a lawn chair on the beach or beside a pool
(like so many friends have been posting).
But hey, when you live in Quebec and its time for Spring Break,
you do the best with what you've got.
THIS was surprisingly AWESOME!

12 March 2016

Five Minute Friday - Sharing "the Happiness!"

Plenty of people miss their 
of happiness, 
not because they never found it, 
but because they didn't 
to enjoy it. 

~William Feather~

Saturday morning is my favorite time of the week... and I can hear my kids and husband groan (in my mind) as I type these words.


Saturday Morning Clean!

We usually sleep in.

Snuggle for awhile and talk about the week. Some are known to check up on different online games...

Silly snuggle time
Eat a leisurely breakfast.

But then someone begins blaring an iTunes or YouTube playlist... We have quite an menagerie of music ranging from Uncle Kracker to Christy Galkin, from Journey to Owl City, from Josh Turner to Huw Priday, from Vent du Nord to Matisyaho, from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Bryan Adams... and just about every Disney soundtrack (plus Prince of Egypt and a few like-minded creations) in English and some in French...

...and everyone gets to work on their weekly cleaning chores. The little girls clean their bedroom, do their laundry and sweep and mop the hallway. Some weekends, they also get to re-organize their toys or straighten out the coloring cupboard. Jonathan gets to work on his room and the living room. The big girls clean the basement - their room and bathroom, the family room, the office and the laundry room... and vacuum up the stairs. Tim takes care of the upstairs bathroom, mops the kitchen floor plus any repair jobs/outdoor jobs that need to be cared for. Richelle cleans Mama & Daddy's bedroom, works on laundry and cleans up the kitchen and that leisurely breakfast mess.

Look at that spotless room!
Usually, we're all done by noon, sometimes 1, depending on how long we snuggled before starting to work - leaving lots of time in the afternoon to just hang out, bake something sweet, or do something fun.

Funny thing?

Even though the majority of the gang might groan at the thought of the work, it is true that many hands make the labor light. Even better is all the fun we share as we bounce around the house, working together to get what needs to be done done, enjoying lively music and each other's company... and occasionally, teasingly, harassing a sibling or spouse! 

I love sharing Saturday mornings with my gang!

On days when other things and activities mean we have to adapt our Saturday Morning Cleaning Routine... I miss it.

I suspect the rest of the gang, just might... a little bit... too!

06 March 2016

My favorites from 2015... at least as far as books are concerned!

The flag of our new home flying (all pics in this post are just glimpses of our family during the last several months).

I didn't read nearly as many books (only 22) as normal in 2015... 

Transition is crazy hard and busy!

However I did read some.

Most of these top-pick-a-number lists show up back in January... Oh well! Here are my top 5 reads from 2015!

Elsie Mae and her new backpack... a perfect fit for her personality!

#5 Island of the Lost
"Auckland Island is a godforsaken place in the middle of the Southern Ocean, 285 miles south of New Zealand. With year-round freezing rain and howling winds, it is one of the most forbidding places in the world. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death. In 1864 Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew of four aboard the schooner Grafton wreck on the southern end of the island. Utterly alone in a dense coastal forest, plagued by stinging blowflies and relentless rain, Captain Musgrave—rather than succumb to this dismal fate—inspires his men to take action. With barely more than their bare hands, they build a cabin and, remarkably, a forge, where they manufacture their tools. Under Musgrave's leadership, they band together and remain civilized through even the darkest and most terrifying days. Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island—twenty miles of impassable cliffs and chasms away—the Invercauld wrecks during a horrible storm. Nineteen men stagger ashore. Unlike Captain Musgrave, the captain of the Invercauld falls apart given the same dismal circumstances. His men fight and split up; some die of starvation, others turn to cannibalism. Only three survive. Musgrave and all of his men not only endure for nearly two years, they also plan their own astonishing escape, setting off on one of the most courageous sea voyages in history. Using the survivors' journals and historical records, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett brings this extraordinary untold story to life, a story about leadership and the fine line between order and chaos.
Why I liked this book:
Musgrave's example of less than perfect leadership, but leadership that rings of integrity, courage and sacrifice - and motivated by a his faith and a deep commitment to survive and return to care for his family. His leadership is vividly contrasted with the leadership of the other captain. Additionally, the descriptions of what Musgrave and his men accomplished, their commitment to each other and the story of their survival is inspiring and unbelievable-but-true. After I finished reading the book, I handed it over to my 10 year old son (who loves history). He finished it within a weekend!

Homemade raspberry danish... for breakfast one morning.

#4 Ava's Man
"With the same emotional generosity and effortlessly compelling storytelling that made All Over But the Shoutin’ a national bestseller, Rick Bragg continues his personal history of the Deep South. This time he’s writing about his grandfather Charlie Bundrum, a man who died before Bragg was born but left an indelible imprint on the people who loved him. Drawing on their memories, Bragg reconstructs the life of an unlettered roofer who kept food on his family’s table through the worst of the Great Depression; a moonshiner who drank exactly one pint for every gallon he sold; an unregenerate brawler, who could sit for hours with a baby in the crook of his arm. In telling Charlie’s story, Bragg conjures up the backwoods hamlets of Georgia and Alabama in the years when the roads were still dirt and real men never cussed in front of ladies. A masterly family chronicle and a human portrait so vivid you can smell the cornbread and whiskey, Ava’s Man is unforgettable."
Why I liked this book:
My family comes from the south, originally... Another "survival" story, but of a different sort. I find the oxymoron's that people can be absolutely fascinating. But perhaps, that is just a reflection of their humanity. Touching and tear-jerking, hilarious yet heart-breaking... I wish I could have met Charlie Bundrum and his wife. After reading the book, I feel like I know them.

A friend over to spend the night... Elsie Mae reading "princess" stories.

#3 Between Worlds
"'In the hall of an old Inn by the ocean is a sign that reads 'Home is Where Our Story Begins.' But if home is where our story begins, what happens when we can't go back?' Marilyn Gardner was raised in Pakistan and went on to raise her own five children in Pakistan and Egypt before moving to small town New England. Between Worlds will resonate with those who have lived outside of their passport country, as well as those who have not. These essays explore the rootlessness and grief as well as the unexpected moments of humor and joy that are a part of living between two worlds. Between Worlds charts a journey between the cultures of East and West, the comfort of being surrounded by loved ones and familiar places, and the loneliness of not belonging. 'Every one of us has been at some point between two worlds, be they faith and loss of faith, joy and sorrow, birth and death. Between Worlds is a luminous guide for connecting---and healing---worlds.'"
Why I liked this book:
My kids are TCKs... growing up between worlds. I've spent several years teaching TCKs... and teaching English to kids who are TCKs. Marilyn, the author, has become a friend. I appreciate her perspective and particularly her gift to use words to help me better understand my own children.

Funnel cake fun!

#2 Abraham
"When we rewind history back to Abraham’s era, we encounter people who concocted false superstitions to explain the unexplainable. Powerful kings claimed to be gods, building massive pyramids to achieve immortality. Out of this mass of misunderstandings, one man emerged. The man we know today as Abraham not only claimed that one true Creator existed but also staked his entire life on this belief. Why, thousands of years later, are we still discussing the faith of this desert nomad? One of America’s most popular Bible teachers, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, answers that question and many more in this compelling and insightful biography that will inspire your own faith."
Why I liked this book:
Abraham is one of my favorite persons in the Bible. His faith story challenges, encourages and convicts me. I think that if we had lived at the same time, his wife Sarah and I would have been great friends. Chuck Swindoll is one of my favorite preachers... ever since I was driving 500 miles back and forth from home and the university I attended... and I'd spend time listening to him. His ability to explain Scripture and then draw real-life, practical applications that I can begin to implement, immediately. This book is an awesome Bible/character study, and I'm planning to reread it again this year.

The Catholic church in Charlesbourg all dressed up for Christmas

#1 The Graveyard Book
"An entire family... [is] murdered while they sleep, all except the baby.  The murderer, Jack, searches for the baby as the baby wonders away to the nearby graveyard. The murdered mother, [as a ghost], comes to the graveyard and gives the okay to one of the ghosts living there to take care of her baby. The ghosts name the baby Nobody and he then grows up in the graveyard."
Why I liked this book:
This book surprised me. The synopsis intrigued me. And then? The story was not only out-of-the-box and fun, but the lessons taught are exactly the kind of lessons I want my kids to learn: valuing others regardless of their histories or appearances, teachability, depending on community, the importance of education and that while growing up is hard and means leaving some things behind - it is a good and brings new things, amazing things and people, into our lives.

Family - college-aged siblings and uncle + cousins who came to visit at Christmas

Which of these books most intrigues you? Why? 
Be sure and let me know what you think if you read one! 

Snow, even several inches at a time, hardly even causes a hiccup in daily life routines most days.

Friends from Niger came to visit... nothing beats a snowball fight in Vieux Quebec or silliness by the mural!

Note: All synopses were taken from Shellfari.

02 March 2016

Encountering Jesus - "Believe the Works!"

When we moved into our home in Quebec, we inherited a cockatiel. Her name is Bibi.
This picture has NOTHING to do with the point of this blog post.
It is simply a glimpse of our
daily life in our new place.

If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (John 10.35-39)


It has been almost a year since I last wrote in this series... which started as a slow, deliberate plodding through the book of John, a book which I've always found difficult to understand and therefore have not understood the recommendation to new believers that they start here. I don't know that this study is helping me to comprehend that recommendation, but it certainly is allowing me to encounter Jesus in more profound ways than I have in the past. Now that my hiatus and the craziness of the last 12 months is over, I hope to continue plodding a bit more consistently.

The last time I wrote, I looked at Jesus' statement, "Is it not written... 'I have said you are gods?'" It was a statement that totally befuddled me as Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, and I concluded with these questions: 
  1. In my God-appointed roles, where He's vested me with power and authority, am I acting rightly and justly so that some day, when I give account, He will be pleased?
  2. As I seek to know God, do I rely on others, personal experience, mystical feelings and sensations... or do I depend upon the same authority on which Jesus staked, first in priority: His claims - the written-Word?
  3. Am I allowing God to write His Word deep within on my heart, thus making it a part of me? Or am I trying to scribble it all down and in the process adding, dropping and/or mutating it into something different so that I can say I possess it? 
Continuing on through John 10, look carefully at what Jesus says to His accusers, "Believe the works." First, He tells those who are infuriated by His claim to be the Son of God to believe what was written. If they can't trust the written Word of God, He exhorts them to believe based on what they've seen Him do... to judge rightly whether or not His actions line up with God's nature and attributes. As Matthew Henry wrote, Jesus is effectively saying "...if [my] acts of healing and helping, of mighty consolation and symbolic grace, are obviously such as you can recognize as the Father's, believe them; learn that much..." Jesus was going about doing the types of things that only God could do. 

If those around us won't trust the testimony of Jesus - the authority of His Word - then we must point them to the things that He did and does. 

I'm a TV crime/drama show junkie. After working all day and then a couple of hours of homework with my kids in their second language, it is a preferred way for me to relax. Often, during the court scenes, people are called to the stand as character witnesses for the one accused of a crime. As they are questioned by lawyers, these character witness often give examples of things the person on trial has done - his/her works - works that either confirm to judge/jury that the crime matches with the demonstrated character of the accused... or works that contradict the possibility that accused likely committed the crime.

Jesus is, in a sense, asking those present at this encounter, to serve as judge/jury. Based on what He has done, could His words possibly be true. 

And, in their case, believing the works should ultimately brings one to believe the words as well.

Again... they tried to seize Him. In their minds, they probably figured they had given Him an opportunity to refute the charge of blasphemy. Instead, He only strengthened the case against Him. It was a similar circumstance to what takes place in John 5 - where the Sanhedrin is ready to kill him for breaking the Sabbath and for blasphemy. I'm struck by how often our preconceived ideas blind us to the truth literally right in front of our faces. They understood the significance of what He said - that He was One with God. That came through loud and clear. What they couldn't grasp, perhaps because their understanding of what it meant for God to be one God, was that they were standing in His presence, beholding the face of their incarnate God. But this makes me wonder what "preconceived" ideas I'm currently holding at this moment that are also blinding me to seeing my God at work, right in front of me.

The again in this final phrase refers back to, I believe, John 7. In verse 30, John records that they tried to seize (same word) him - possibly the crowd listening to Him. In verse 32, in response to the "whisperings" the temple guards were sent to arrest ( a word built on the same root as the word translated "seize" elsewhere) Him. Then, in verse 44, the text mentions that the people were divided in their opinions about Jesus and that some desired to seize (same word). In this last instance, it isn't clear if they actually tried... but the comment made was that no one could lay a hand upon Him - so it could be inferred that someone tried.

Apparently seizing Him was a common theme...

What does that word "seize" mean in the original language?

According to Strong's, it means: "apprehend, catch, lay hand on, take; probably another form of biazo; to squeeze, i.e. Seize (gently by the hand (press), or officially (arrest), or in hunting (capture)) -- apprehend, catch, lay hand on, take." 

Jesus was outnumbered each time they tried to seize Him - but they couldn't. Imagine. Here's how Matthew Henry puts it: "They stretched out hands which dropped harmlessly at their side - another confirmation of the solemn statement of verses 17-18:" "I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

I'm trying to imagine if that had been me - reaching out to grab someone in anger only to find my hands refusing to cooperate...

...If you can't believe the words, then believe the works!

One of the most troubling and convicting thoughts as I've studied these words this week has been: "what "preconceived" ideas am I currently holding that are also blinding me to seeing my God at work, or noting His presence, right in front of me?"

How about you?


Our kitty. She joined our family back in early December as the kids' Christmas gift.
She was a stray who would hang out on our back deck and lived in the big back hedge.
We named her Frankincense (in keeping with the Christmas theme)... or Frankie for short.
However, long before we'd ever enticed her to darken the door of the house, we had
started calling her "Pouf" because she looked like a little puffball of fur.
Frankinpouf seems to be the evolution...

Recently Frankinpouf has been obsessing on Bibi...
So... anyone have suggestions or advice on how to train a cat to ignore a bird?

Ten most recent posts in this series: 

Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.


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