Monday’s Thankfulness.

So, today, I’m thankful for…

  • The fact that I’m NOT throwing up. I’m sick…. must’ve been something I ate yesterday…. but for once, I’m not throwing up. PHEW!
  • Being able to spend time with Brian working in our yard on Saturday.
  • The fact that the BCM church plant we attended yesterday was SO FULL we had people standing outside!
  • The fact that at least 3 of the people in the church plant were brand new!
  • Feeling really, really welcomed into that church.
  • Being able to stand outside and talk with people, in Spanish, by ourselves, after church. Brian can carry on whole conversations now – I’m so proud of him!
  • Having enough Spanish that I could help explain Hebrews 7 to a Bible school student last night. Most of that time was spent translating Brian into Spanish – and I did it!!!
  • Seeing God answer two rather major prayers last week from within my Bible study group. Our God DOES work miracles!!!!
  • Our 2nd year students’ trip to the jungle over the past three weeks that included witnessing to — ready for this??— 3000+ PEOPLE!!! Talk about putting what you’re learning into practice!
  • Honest, real, true, lasting friendships. It’s so much easier to invest in people’s lives when you work together, have a common goal, and you know you’re not going to leave them in a few years. Haven’t really been able to do this since high school.

I might be laid up in bed all day today, but at least, for once, I’m not discouraged about it. I’m not as sick “as usual” and I’m pretty sure I know what happened. I know, unfortunately from experience, that I’ll be fine by tomorrow or Wednesday. So, I’m just going to try to ignore the awful pain in my stomach and think of this as a day off! Maybe…

God of the Fatherless.

There is little that touches my heart more than a child. I’ve known since I was a child – 13 years old – that God has called me to work with children. That’s one of the main reasons we were so enthusiastic about joining Bible Centered Ministries International – because their goal is to “Reach Children and Plant Churches Worldwide.”

When we were still in South Dakota, there were two organizations that I wanted to get involved with. Unfortunately, we weren’t there long enough for that to come to pass.

The first was an organization that works with the police. That area of South Dakota (or, the mid-West, actually) is known for high rates of meth abuse. So, there’s an organization that was developed that worked with the police. When the police knew they were about to bust a home that had meth inside and there were children known to be present, they contacted this organization that would bring in volunteers to go with the police and take care of the children who would be removed from the home.

The second organization I wanted to volunteer with was a Christian Pregnancy Center. They not only helped out the women, but they also spoke in schools about abstinence. The best thing I think they did, on top of the free ultrasounds, was that when a girl came and said they wanted help, they had them come for classes every month until the baby was born. The things they gave the girls weren’t necessarily “free”; the girls had to sit through classes on how to raise the child and Bible studies. I loved what they were doing!

Before moving to Peru, we learned that Peru has the highest number of illegal abortions… in the world. Part of that is because abortion IS illegal here in Peru, so any abortion adds to that percentage. However, still. That’s a high number. I can’t remember the exact number, but trust me, it was high. I was talking with a friend this week and I mentioned this to her and she agreed that that fact was probably true. She told me that there are signs everywhere that say, “Atraso Mensual?” with a phone number underneath. Those are all advertising illegal abortion clinics. (The sign means “Miss Your Period?”)

Yesterday, on the way to a nearby town, about a 20 minute drive, I counted 85. We were only halfway there. I quit counting.

85 signs advertising an illegal abortion clinic. To be fair, the phone number on each of them was the same, so it was advertising the same clinic. BUT ~ either business is really poor and they need a lot of advertising, OR there’s just such a high clientel, they want to advertise everywhere.

Either way, it’s distressing.

The other issue Peru faces is people trafficking. Prostitution is legal… kidnapping and trafficking people are not. A large number of women are taken every year from Iquitos (the jungle city we spend a lot of time in) and trafficked down to Lima (where we live). One report said that the majority of “street kids” that beg for money, sell stuff, etc, right here in our area are trafficked children from either the mountains or jungles. That’s scary to me. We see literally hundreds of children on the streets every time we go out. I wonder how many of them are not supposed to be here?

So, I’ve thinking about what we, as BCM Peru, can do. I have so many ideas. But, I know that none of them can come to pass without a few more workers, better Spanish, and a lot of prayer. Issues like this have been on my mind and heart for years. I’m in a country that needs much more help than anywhere I’ve ever lived before. I wonder what this could mean? And I wonder how it will come to pass?

Will you pray with me – just right now, wherever you’re at – for the children of Peru, the ones that are begging on the streets and the ones that are yet unborn? Pray for wisdom for us here at BCM as we figure out how we fit into this picture. And pray for us to get the license needed to build our own “Casa Hogar” (Children’s Home/Orphanage) within the next year.

Muffins!

You know how everybody seems to have their “thing” that they cook “the best”? I have found the one thing that I think I cook rather well. 🙂 I know, I know, watch the pride. But seriously – I enjoy making them and they always seem to turn out great. I even had a caterer tell me they were wonderful! So, here’s my reveal of the great recipe… that I found on like Taste of Home or something a couple years ago. I even took pictures. Mostly because I was bored and it seemed like a fun thing to do.

Banana Muffins

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All the ingredients and supplies needed! The one thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for anything not available here in Peru. Notice my milk (the containor that says “Gloria” in the back) comes in a box! The nice thing is that milk doesn’t go bad as quickly, so we can keep boxes of milk on hand, in the cupboard, for weeks at a time and not worry about it. The brown sugar (the stuff sitting next to the milk box) is homemade. I had someone bring down some molasses and I made up brown sugar using just a little molasses and white sugar. Not *quite the same, but it works.

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the wet – smashed bananas, vegetable oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla

I discovered a trick to smashing bananas. I was so sick of the mess of using a fork and it took forever. Instead, I keep the banana in the peel and just crush it.

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The peel naturally opens …muffins3

… and then you just use a fork and scrape out the smashed insides.

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It takes just a couple seconds afterwards using the back of the fork and making sure everything truly is smashed. Presto! Clean hands, quickly smashed bananas.

  • Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix just until moistened with a wooden spoon.

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  • Pour into a well-greased muffin tin. I have never had to worry how full I make the spaces; it has never run over. These are not normally high-rising muffins. Place them in a preheated oven of about 425 F (about 290 C).

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  • Immediately after placing them in the oven, turn the temperature down to 375 F (about 190 C).

I gave you this shot so you could kind of see my oven knobs. I only have Celsius and I only have a few numbers BUT I DO have a thermostat! Most ovens, even ones with numbers on them, do not come with thermostats. The majority of ovens come merely come with “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” written on the oven knob! I’m SO thankful for my oven with a thermostat! Granted, it’s not insulated, so the heat just comes POURING out of there, BUT during winter, wow, that feels nice. 🙂

  • Bake for about 25 minutes.

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  • And VOILA! Banana muffins. 🙂

To be brutally honest, mine turned out rather dense this time. I don’t know why, but I’m guessing it’s either the homemade brown sugar or I didn’t use enough baking powder. They still taste fine; they’re just really heavy and didn’t hardly rise at all. They sure look pretty, though! The brown sugar gave them a nice brown sheen to them. 🙂

If you’d like the actual measurements, drop me a note! Happy Baking!

Mi Pensamientos.

Lately, it just feels like I have so much going through my mind. Here’s my current, basically constant, dilemas. (does that have one “m” or two??)

  1. Figuring out home school curriculum for 2010. I will have up to three children in Kindergarten, two of which (the ones that are for sure) who aren’t quite ready for a whole day in English school. They are both seven years old, therefore, they should be in second grade. Alas, this is not the truth. One of them neither reads or writes in any language, although she seems to know her letters. The other does fairly well in both languages, but is still lacking the English to be even conversational. So, what do I do? I hate the curriculum that is being used now and I want to change it. How do I get books and materials past customs? How do I balance teaching English and history to my now 7th grader (but will be 8th grader), making sure my 4th grader keeps up, and keeping an eye on my 10th grader – while physically teaching Kindergarten to barely bilingual seven year olds?
  2. Brian is needed to do some building in the jungle during December, January, and February. I have managed to drive our director insane by saying that, due to culture stress and finding our way in a new country, I’d rather Brian was not gone all the way up until two days before Christmas, leaving me alone in Lima for the bulk of December. I just can’t do it. This is the only time we’ve really said no to something and I hope desperately that they will honor that. However, Brian is needed up there – there’s no way around that. So, the options are – Brian goes up earlier and comes back earlier (still gone about 12 days total) BUT he won’t be actually with the team doing the building in order to supervise. Which can be a problem. OR – we both go up together and I hang out in the house in Iquitos while Brian works all day in the jungle, every day for 12 days. I would be one of two women in the house all day, doing cooking and cleaning for the group of men, and I would see Brian at night. Neither of these options make me terribly excited. I honestly don’t know what to do and I feel like such a jerk for even voicing my opinions on the trip in December because now everyone’s scrambling to “accomodate the crazy Americans.” sigh.

Okay, so those are my two main issues. Somehow there seemed like there was more! It just seems like that’s all I’m thinking about or talking about these days. Poor Brian. I must drive him insane.

Like I mentioned yesterday, one of my best friends from high school will be a dad in April. This brings me to thought #3, even though it’s not really a decision I need to make. I’ve mentioned this before, but honestly — I want to be a mother. Maybe I want it too much? Maybe I’m missing out on something else God has for us? I don’t know. I’m trying to be patient and trust the Lord. It’s hard. Can I just admit that, guilt-free? It’s hard! I had someone tell me last year that I was horribly insensitive to ladies that can’t have children and that I should never be allowed to talk to someone who’s infertile ever again. It was the most offensive email I have ever received. If she only knew. I think about that often, though, and it’s really made me realize that above all, no matter what happens in the years to come, I never, under any circumstances, want to become that bitter. So bitter that nobody can say any words of encouragement (I sent the exact same email to two friends in the process of adopting. One commented that way – the other said it was the most encouraging email she’d received in awhile and loved getting emails like that. Hmm…). I want to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” and have it be sincere. I can honestly say that in the last few weeks, my heart has changed – in leaps and bounds. For once, I didn’t bawl my eyes out when I heard about a pregnancy that wasn’t my own. But, I have to say, my heart filled with tears and anxiety when I told Brian the news and his face just fell and I thought he was going to crumble. He told me he understands and desires it as much as I do. That’s hard to bear. It’s one thing when it’s just me that wants a baby and is dealing with this; but to hear it from my husband? Ouch.

On the other hand – we’ve both begun to think that adoption may be the way for us. My house cleaner tells me every week about another child she knows that needs a family. These stories literally break my heart and I just weep for these children when she leaves. I hate hearing about kids who come to the daycare dirty, uncared for, unloved, unwanted, poor, bedragged, riddled with curable diseases. Above anything else right now, I am determined to give a home to at least one of those children. If not more. I’m beginning to hate having such a big, empty home. When my house cleaner comes with the deaf child she cares for and the house fills with Cielo’s laughter – that’s when I feel the house is a home.

So, what does God have in store for us? I have no idea. I wish I knew. I wish I had just an inkling – a glimmer – a ray – a spark, even, of what the future holds for us. But, I don’t. It’s like we’re stumbling in a long, dark tunnel and we know the end is out there, but we don’t even know which direction to head to get there.

On the plus side, we have kids around us pretty much constantly. Mondays, I have at least two handicapped children in my house helping my house cleaner clean. Weekends, we give the kids on campus rides on our golf cart and invariably, two or three hang out with Brian and help him work. Sunday evening, the neighbor lady who walks her cows was outside with her granddaughter (who absolutely LOOOOVES Brian). I took her granddaughter, Esmerelda, on a ride on the golf cart with four other little girls from campus and when I got back, Brian said he’d talked with the grandma. The grandma had asked if Esmerelda was with me and when Brian said yes, instead of getting upset, the grandma said, “Oh good! Every time she stays with me, she asks if the nice couple is still living in the house. She wants to visit you every week because she thinks you’re some of the nicest people she’s ever met. She was hanging out in the field by your house waiting to see you today.” Yup. Made our day.

So, I have no doubt that God knows what He’s doing. I have no doubt that He has my best interest at heart. I just gotta keep plugging away and not let “mi pensamientos” (my thoughts) get the best of me.

The End of October Draws Near.

Coming up with things to be thankful for is more of a chore today. Not necessarily because life is bad, just because I have a lot on my mind that I’m NOT particularly thankful for! Anybody ever have days like that?

So, I AM thankful for…

  • Date Night with Brian tonight. We’re going to an American restaurant and just spending time together.
  • A good weekend with my husband. It looked like the weekend wasn’t going to go so well, but it actually went much better than expected.
  • The fact that one of my best friends from high school will be a father in April. He’s going to be SUCH a good father; I’m so happy for him and his wife.
  • Finally finding refrigerated pizza in the supermarket. =) It’s cheaper than in a restaurant and with some homemade pizza sauce to put on top (Peruvians don’t believe in putting pizza sauce on pizza), it’s just about perfect!
  • The girls I do Bible study with once a week. We can be open and honest, share our joys and our tears, and feel perfectly comfortable with each other. It’s developed a relationship that goes beyond culture and just means the world to me each week!

I’m also thankful that it’s NOT snowing here. hehehe. 🙂 Happy Almost the End of October!

Insert Snappy Title Here.

I’ve given up wanting to title my blog entries. I think I’m just going to insert random phrases that have nothing to do with my entries, just for fun and to see how many hits I get. hehe.

Thanks to spazzy internet, my Thankful Monday has been moved to Thankful Tuesday. 🙂

  • A wonderful, almost unbelievably nice, weekend with Brian. Movies, motorcycle rides, a barbecue… it was just SO nice after such a LONG week!
  • Finding Vanilla Coke. Slightly over-priced, but oh wow was it good.
  • Louise’s apple cake recipe. 🙂 Ode to Louise. It is WONDERFUL. Thanks, friend!
  • My beautiful, newly painted bathroom – the last room to need a paint job! I realized I did it all in fall colors and I’m so glad it turned out that way. It’s beautiful!

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  • The fact that my third grader is now writing summaries of books I have her read. They’re not perfect, but they’re finally understandable (English is her 2nd language and she’s still not what I would consider fluent.), including correct punctuation and capitalization.
  • Finding “The Office” for sale in the local market! Woohoo!
  • My mom. Her birthday is today:

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My mom is my hero – hands down. She is a phenomenal pastor’s wife who has put up with SO much in the ministry. She has stood by my dad through thick and thin and downright awful. She’s put up with more than I will ever know or understand. It’s merely her health that keeps her close to home these days. She is the sweetest, funniest, most wonderful woman in the entire world and if I can be half of who she is, I’ll be satisfied. She’s my best friend, after my husband, and I miss her dearly. I know it’s dorky to say you’re close to your mom, but we’re just so much alike, how could we NOT be good friends? We have the same sense of humor. We’re not allowed to shop together anymore because inevitably, we talk too loud about how HORRIBLE the clothing styles are and we make fun of… well, everything… and I tend to add random items to her shopping cart… We used to just sit in the living room at least twice a week and recap our lives, even though we lived together, and just talk for hours and hours and get NOTHING done. We’d yell and scream at each other, slam doors in each other’s faces, and then a half hour later, we’d be crying and apologizing and it’d be all over. She drives me crazy cuz she’s so MOM. Yet, going months without talking to her on the phone drives me crazy more. She’s so strong. I remember the day she was waiting to find out if my uncle was being taken off the respirator, she played the piano at a wedding and never once mentioned to anyone what she was going through because that day wasn’t about her.

So ~ Happy Birthday, Mom. You’re the best!

Strange Ashes.

Literally two weeks before we left for Peru, I was handed a book by one of my favorite people on earth – Elisabeth Elliott. It was a book I wasn’t even aware she had written. It’s called These Strange Ashes and is about her time in Ecuador before she married Jim. I literally could not put it down. I poured through the book and ended up copying down a bunch of quotes that I knew someday I’d go back to. Unfortunately, this book is still in Pennsylvania; hopefully it can come down in a suitcase with a friend within the next couple of months.

I love the title of the book – These Strange Ashes. It’s taken from a poem by Amy Carmichael:

“But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness, This baffling sense of loss?  Son, was the anguish of my stripping less Upon the torturing cross?”

The last couple of weeks (probably the last month or so) have been really difficult, in just so many different areas. I wrote about it this morning and was going to post it, but when I re-read it, I realized I really shouldn’t. I don’t want to become a bitter missionary; I don’t want to be one of the ones that lives for furlough. I want to thoroughly love what I’m doing and dive into life in a new country.

But, for now, that’s not the case. I love my job, but I haven’t been this stressed out about a job in a long time. I love the country I’m in, but I’m struggling with language. I love what we’re doing and why we’re here, but I’m missing family right now. I love our new friends, but I miss our old ones – especially the ones that seem to have forgotten about us.

But…these strange ashes…this nothingness…this baffling sense of loss…?

I know exactly what she meant in these words. I wish I didn’t understand, but I do.

I read this quote this morning:

“Each separate experience of individual stripping we may learn to accept as a fragment of the suffering Christ bore when He took it all. “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.” (Elisabeth Elliott, These Strange Ashes, p. 127)

As I was getting ready to leave my house this morning, I asked myself: Where do I go from here? The last thing we want is to get stuck in the pit of culture stress. We both recognize that we’re there; now it’s up to us how long we stay there and how we get out.

The answer to my question, I realized, is to give it all back to God. These strange ashes that I don’t understand; this feeling of nothingness – the ache of feeling useless; this baffling, confusing, downright frustrating sense of inexplicable loss… If I offer it all back to God, somehow, He will take it as an acceptable sacrifice and turn it into something beautiful. That’s what’s so strange about these ashes. There’s nothing great in them, nothing worthwhile of becoming a pleasing aroma, a pleasing sacrifice, to God. But, He takes it because it’s all I’ve got right now. In Romans where it talks about offering up our bodies as a living sacrifice, God doesn’t specify that our bodies (or our minds!) need to be perfect or worthwhile. He just wants us to give of ourselves, whatever that looks like.

So, here we go. I’m going to give it all up because to be honest, I have nowhere else to go with it and I don’t want it anymore.

Simplicity.

Yesterday, on our way home from church, I started listing the things I’m grateful for this week. I had an awful lot… now to see if I can remember them all!

I am thankful for…

• My new furniture! Somehow, no matter when you do it, unpacking suitcases ALWAYS makes you feel like you’re finally settling in. It’s been seven months since we’ve lived out of a dresser; I can’t describe how good it feels to open and close drawers instead of zipping and unzipping unorganized suitcases.

• My very first coffeetable. I have always, always, always wanted a coffeetable. I don’t know why; I just have. We never got around to purchasing one in South Dakota; seems like money could always be better used elsewhere. But here, in South America, I finally have a coffeetable. It even has a spot in the middle for putting items under glass to display. I’m so incredibly happy.

• The fact that I can trust my husband – totally, implicitly. I trust him with my well-being, my big decisions, my love, and my life. • Internet access. I’m never more grateful for internet than after we go days without any access.

• Being in country seven months and still holding it together!

• The fact that it is NOT snowing here in Picapiedra and it WILL NOT snow here in Picapiedra… ever.

• Spring! Ohhh it feels SO nice to see the sun again for more than just a couple hours a day per week!

• How cheap vegetables are in Peru. Fresh veggies were killing our budget in the States. Here, I spend about 30 cents and get over a kilo of fresh veggies.

• Encouraging emails out of the blue from people I think have forgotten about me.

• The fact that I am not pregnant because I get to enjoy the freedom of our motorcycle for at least one more month (we’re taking it a month at a time now…).

• The new burdens God has placed on our hearts. Since He put them there, I cannot wait to see how He accomplishes them!

• The fact that I’ll spend at least another two, maybe four, weeks in the jungle in January!

• Feeling genuinely useful, wanted, and included.

This weekend, I was browsing my favorite blogs and I ran across this entry: http://livingproofministries.blogspot.com/2009/10/coffee-shop-hop.html (yes, Becky, I want to know how to the link thing!!). She described the beautiful things she saw this week amidst a world of utter evil and confusion. Here’s a few pictures of the beauty in MY world recently. Check out her blog; maybe it’ll inspire you to look for things off the beaten track during your normal routine this week.

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