Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sealed with a Kiss

 I wrote up a whole post talking about the Night To Shine a couple years ago. This year did not disappoint, but I am not going to do that again,  here it is if you would like a refresher. This year was equally amazing & I took tons of pictures as usual but what made it different this year were friends that I was looking forward to attending. This year we had about 40 of our CUREkids on the guest list. 

These were kids that we had seen at the hospital. Surgeries, procedures, physical therapy. Blood, sweat & tears! These were kids that we have a relationship with. Oh, so sweet!! I got a couple of nice pics  & really enjoyed taking it all in. Here are a few favorites.

I did  much better this year not crying so much. It is super touching & you can see it on the guest's faces; the joy of being treated like royalty, feeling & experiencing something new....make up brushes to the face, being crowned, dressed up, being cheered for & dancing in a crowd with tons of bubbles showering you. From start to finish it is excellent. 

 My most treasured remembrance? Things were wrapping up, decorations were being torn down & this sweet woman approached me. She asked if her daughter could have a picture with me. "Why certainly!".  

Then we met. "Unsa'y imong ngalan?" (visayan for what is your name?) She replied, "Barbie". There she stood not even 5 feet tall in a sweet dark red dress with a huge smile. Leron jumped in the picture too and then, I turned to her and planted the biggest kiss on her cheek. Her response is what made me CRY.....she held her face & looked at me with such delight. I can not even begin to express the rush of emotion. You would have thought I was the Queen of England, it was more than I could take. Her whole celebration culminated with a sweet genuine kiss. I am not  sure she felt exactly what I did in that moment, but I think she did? It was like finding a precious treasure & discovering its worth. Wanting to gaze at it, polish it, never wanting to forget or let it go. It was a magical moment where time slows & WOW. I really do not think that I am adequately describing it. But is was something wonderful!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

So much more than a bunch of bananas

Yesterday, the neighbor from across the street rang the gate bell and had a surprise for me. Ok, Let's back up a bit. When I hear the gate bell, I am usually a bit annoyed. I have to drop everything I am doing and run out. So many times, it is to sign for mail or a village announcement. Silly that they cannot just place it in the mailbox? I will not get started on that topic. So, when the bell rang, I was on the phone with my Mom. Which is always precious to me. I really treasure the fact that I can pick up the phone and talk to her with such ease. I just did not want to go and get the gate....but I HAD to.

Well, at the gate I was greeted by my neighbor. He is one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people! He had picked a big bunch of bananas from behind his home. What a sweet perk of living in he tropics. The fruit is amazing! This bunch of bananas was tree-ripe. Literally splitting out of the skins. They are cute little stubby bananas, bursting with flavor and as sweet as can be. What a treat!! The bananas were so ripe that one started to just fall of the bunch. Joel, my neighbor, lovingly said that we needed to "transfer" the bananas from his arms that were cradling them to mine. We moved close and he gently  passed them to me and then he was on his way.

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Philippine bananas are amazing and my little pup thinks she deserves one?

I got to thinking about this unexpected gift. How often do I meet situations with annoyance out of a bad attitude of not wanting to be bothered? Do I miss these treats? This unexpected gift of love. What a shame. Thinking about the whole interaction with Joel, I thought about how he is. He is in his 70's,  kind and welcoming. Much of the time there are beautiful hymns being played on the piano by his daughter  flowing from his home. Joel and his wife are often out gardening or taking a walk holding hands. I want to grow into my 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s ( who knows how old?) being tender, kind and a source of blessing to those around me. Making the world better. Wow, attitude check right NOW!

I am so thankful for this spontaneous gift that led to this sweet reflection. These were not just any bananas, they were full of wisdom and thought provoking, the sweetest, best that I have ever eaten. And it took an intentional act of the neighbor just to think of someone other than himself, just to bring joy and make me smile. This was love that I did not deserve, expecting nothing in return. They were BURSTING out, begging to be eaten. ;) I could have missed out!! I had to let him inside the gate to get them from him and get close enough to protect the gift being passed from him to me. Man the parallels in my life right now? Relationship and intentionality of life are incredible important! What is my outlook and what am I doing to go out of my way to be loving and kind and to prefer others? It is only Wednesday and I am learning tons just from a bunch of bananas...something truly wonderful!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Kirby AirRide, Kuala Lumpur & the best cake ever!

No matter how old these kids get, I still hear the same sounds emerging from the other room when they are together. Usually it is lots of laughing. This morning, it was hooting an hollering while they played one of their all time favorite video games.....Kirby Air-Ride! It has stood the test of time. They just manage to pick up where they left off. 

Being together is amazing. Ben's request for goodies was a batch of Scotch a Roos. No Christmas season would be complete without them. Mom sent the needed Rice Krispies with the boys and they turned out just fine. Ben and I were a great team. No extra batch this year though, no more Krispies. We managed to gobble them all up  before our trip. 

This year we traveled on Christmas Day. We have had trips to family gatherings but never an international trip that required a plane. Trying to remember exactly when we visited Monkey Island while we lived Niger? We caught our flight from Davao and were whisked straight to KUL. We enjoyed exploring Kuala Lumpur.  

The British influence is apparent (steering wheels on the left) and tons of cool buildings

 and of course we love Asia and there were certainly new things to see, smell and taste. Chestnuts roasting on a an open fire?? Hmmm....there were men playing guitars and singing carols and selling chestnuts....

We enjoyed the market with an abundance of things to look at. I was fascinated with the buildings. 

The mix of old and new was quite stunning. Here are a few pics that I hope capture our fun. 

I am thoroughly enjoying this holiday season.  Becca's request for holiday goodies was a banana chocolate chip bundt cake. Yes, please!! Again, Mom sent a few key ingredients with the boys and we were all set! It was fun listening to Becca and Drew discussing the recipe and making it together. This is an old favorite and it did not disappoint. We did not even let the icing completely set before we ate half of it!!  

I know people used to tell me to enjoy my kids while they were young because it goes so fast...It sure does but I am STILL enjoying them. I love having children who are young adults. I love their perspective, their humor, their relationships, their quirks and individuality.  This journey just gets richer and richer and is truly so wonderful!

Friday, December 15, 2017


I have been pretty sick the past few weeks. Having flu in the tropics is no fun (but where is it ever any fun?). After a slow three weeks, I am feeling much more like myself.  This evening, Freckie and I took the opportunity to get a bit of fresh air and take a walk. Funny, but as we walked the path, it felt so much like fall; the wind on my face, the sound of the wind, the gigantic leaves crunching under my feet.  And I mean Jurassic sized leaves...

Only 86 degrees and 47% humidity...still in the islands for sure. Usually this time of the year, I start feeling a bit sad and disconnected. I can tend to focus what I think I am missing. Such a strange feeling, 10 days before Christmas....

I got thinking about what really makes Christmas, "Christmas" to me. What brings meaning? Yes, I love all the lights, the carols, the snow & cooler weather, The Nutcracker, The Sound of Music, cookie baking & sweets, making gingerbread houses and of course,  family. The things that I enjoyed as a kid serve as such sweet memories. The things that I passed to my own children are even sweeter! These are important for sure.

Living abroad have added other fun traditions with new foods and parties galore. We needed to be present, embracing the newness of where we were geographically. That is not always as easy as it sounds. At times, I have not been very good at this.  I love to think about each year and the highlights. I will take this chance to reminisce a bit.

From Niger to the Philippines, it was a BIG change. The Philippines has the longest Christmas season in the world! It starts in SeptemBER. The joke is that it is all the "cold" Brrrr months. SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER and DecemBER. In year's past, this time of the year could be challenging. Everyone has their own traditions. I tended to feel a bit out of sorts. So, we made some new traditions and carried on some others.
We have even had the privilege to pass out Operation Christmas Child boxes and giving various gifts in both Niger and the Philippines. My kids grew up packing those boxes when we lived in the states! Such fun thing for all the kids.Neat how things come full circle!

This year, with two boys off at college wanting family together has felt weightier. 
BUT that is not EVERYTHING! I used to thinks so, but these past few years,  we have enjoyed many gatherings with people we love. Both family and friends. When we are stateside, family time is so much more intentional! 

 I need to consider if all that I know is stripped away, what would be the most important thing to focus on? What brings meaning? So many friends are struggling with very hard things this year. Holidays can be tough in the midst of those things. We all have our trials and it is sometimes nice to escape them? Last year, we were treated to a trip to the states to enjoy all of the traditional American Christmas tradition.! So wonderful! We even got to ice skate. No exactly sure what I am trying to say? I guess, I do not want to hop from experience to experience and let the "seasons" dictate my focus. I want to embrace it all, Good & bad.

 This year, we are far far away again.  D & B will arrive in just a few days, I can not wait!  But then I stop and think that there are people who are missing family members and Christmas comes anyways. They are in my heart and prayers. I guess, I want to focus on the hope I have not what I feel that I don't have. What is my focus? What is the meaning of the season...of life?

At the risk of sounding cliche... the answer is JESUS, He is the reason for  the season. He IS life!  Sharing the truth that we know and rejoicing that Jesus came to give us life and life MORE abundantly is the perfect way to celebrate! "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)." JESUS, He is the Good News! The greatest gift ever!

His pleasures are forevermore! Yes, we celebrate the baby in the manger, but let's move further...he was born and that was incredibly important....he lived and he died on the cross for me personally! This Christmas season, I am finding that the joy is coming from the NOW. Who is Jesus to me NOW. He is the Risen Savior of the World! He loves me and I love Him. That is the simple fact.

So this season, I am celebrating the hope and joy of ALL Jesus means to me! He is My Light, My Gift, My Joy, My peace, My future, My delight!!  Maybe it is not snowing and I haven't felt like hanging my lights yet. All that does not really matter. 

 His will be done, His Kingdom come! In HIM I move and have my being 365 days of  the year...not just December 25. The meaning of life is crystal clear. I think that is something wonderful!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not your typical day before Thanksgiving.

8 years ago, we were moving out of our house in Mechanicsburg to start our journey with Cure International. Much like the picture above, we were headed into waters that were unknown to us. Ever since, Thanksgiving has been a bit unconventional. But has always been a precious time with people we love.

No typical dressing of the turkey and preps before the gathering of loved ones. Seems like every year, there is something new. Here is our first year celebration abroad. We have so many many fond memories. I must admit that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For so many reasons, I just love the fact that it is a day set aside to be thankful. Life is so rich and celebration is so important. The famous Howarth NOODLES have been present most years! 

Our years in the field have been some of the toughest yet most rewarding. Nigerien  & Filipino Thanksgiving have afforded us with fellowship with not only other Americans but including others along the way. Swiss, French, Canadian, Filipino to name a few.

This year, L's sister and husband are here visiting. So wonderful to have family here to celebrate with! That is the HARDEST thing for me. Missing reunions with people I have not seen in a while. We are so thankful for family who encourage us even if it means that we live so far away. We love you all very much! 

It is the eve of Thanksgiving. Traditionally that meant a lot of hustle and bustle preparing for the classic turkey dinner.  It meant shopping, traveling and looking forward to a few days off. Hmmm, excited for charity clinic tomorrow. No day off here. I always send my Mom this.....the funniest video ever! Miss you Mom!

Part of the journey is embracing each day and t he people we are privileged to know, near and far. No school off tomorrow and the boys traveled to my parents house to celebrate with them. Did I mention how thankful I am for family?

Today was something quite different. A scuba/snorkeling trip, pearl milk tea and an amazing Thai message! New experiences for J & K! So fun to see the Philippines fresh and new through their eyes and excitement. Truly a day off ending with quite a bit of reflection for me. 

Our day on the water was so breezy and relaxing. The snorkeling was amazing. The coral beautiful and the fish so colorful. I LOVED following a small group of banner fish.

They are some of my favorite. There were six darting around and hiding from me when they had a chance. I even saw 2 sea snakes. Usually that is occasion to FREAK OUT.

I totally kept my composure and watched then slide in and out of the coral. We really enjoyed each other's company and loved having B join us even though it was a school day. Senior SKIP day for her!

So strange to wonder what next year will bring?? Cooler air and Fall smells in the air. We will return to the US to a completely different situation than we left. New place? New job? An empty nest. We love this journey and it will not end when we leave the Philippines. Another challenge and adjustment, but God has not failed us yet. I must say, it will be nice to be closer to family, but the traditions that we have created will be missed as well. Here is our first celebration here in the Philippines. 

Each year our group seems to change and it is quite fun. I loved reminiscing through these photos but could not capture it all. There have been many meals shared and many laughs. I love this picture.....I am sure tomorrow will be just as fun if not more!

So tomorrow, it is a reservation for 18 at Vikings. 13 Americans, 2 Canadians, 2 Filipinos, and a Brit! Yep, unconventional as it may be, we are thrilled with the people that God surrounds us with. It will be fun to have family and friends around the table tomorrow evening. That is something quite wonderful...Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wonder Woman has a backache

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Man, yesterday I felt like Wonder Woman. I whipped through all my house cleaning and managed to even launder the curtains, sheets, rugs and complete the ironing.  Quite a productive day, complete with a very yummy healthy meal! But maybe, I did too much? When I recount the day, I probably should have paced myself. Lots of extra scrubbing, mopping and deep cleaning. After my shower, I was still trying to cool down, I discovered that our air conditioner was dripping. Saved that for L. 

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L needed my help to address the drip in the AC unit. This meant taking it out of the wall which was over our heads. WOW, that bugger is heavy and I had already put in a grueling day of physical labor. I felt like Wonder Woman earlier in the day but in the evening I was tired and did not feel very wonderful anymore. BUT, I am still quite the baby and have not acclimated to the hot humid weather. So, I mustered my strength and found myself pinned against the wall on the AC's decent. It's ok. It's all good. Apparently L did that on purpose because he thought I might drop it. So even he was questioning my super human strength and definitely my wonderfulness. 

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We safely get the unit to the floor and ICK, SLUDGE!! Problem located! We cleared the way so that the condensation could exit the unit through the proper hole, but that meant that the water that was currently in the tray now had a place to go....all over the floor. Yes, my clean floor...then if that was not bad enough, I was expected to help hoist the unit back to it's resting place. Another chance to flex my muscles?  Ugh.

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I had a flashback to when L and I were first married and found a cool claw foot bath tub on the porch of an old farmhouse with a "for sale" sign...YEAH, right!! You know how heavy those are?? But we really wanted it and the price could not be beat. Well, I was in my 20's then and yes, I managed to help lift it. Back to last night...I am not in my 20's anymore, but I did it! BUT the rest of the water...out the hole and on to me. ICK again. 

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Now time to clean the mess up.  I had a small freak out when a tiny frog decided to come out from it's hiding place in the rim of the bucket. I can't have a frog loose in my knight in shining armor heard the ruckus and came and scooped him up. What a fiasco. 

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My reflections lead me to feelings of thankfulness. For L, for a problem solved, a clean house, for muscles and even for the frog returned to it's rightful spot OUTSIDE. I am thankful a productive work day and thankful that today, Wonder Woman can nurse her sore body a bit. A different schedule with a chat home with Mom & Dad, a fun hospital visit and lunch with a dear friend. That is something quite wonderful.