Monday, June 29, 2015

30 Years Celebrated

We've just returned from a week at Litchfield Beach, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.  For years I have said that, after we retire, I'd like a MONTH at a beach place, on the ocean.  Off-season would be fine.  I always said it more as a "pipe dream" rather than a true request.  About a month ago Mike told me he'd found a place - couldn't swing it for more than a week, but would I be happy with that as an anniversary celebration?  Would I?!!

So even though the temperatures were way hotter than normal, we had a lovely time celebrating the ocean right outside our back door.

Here we are at the Conch Cafe, a place we discovered the first night and went back later in the week.  We sat on the porch and had a great ocean view.



View to the right from our deck:

The last day, ML came down to enjoy the ocean, as well as Mike's sister and her husband.  We enjoyed the solitude earlier in the week, and we enjoyed their company the last day as well.


Thirty years!  I am thankful for a wonderful vacation celebrating that milestone.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Year Ago - The Trip of a Lifetime

The morning of the start of this expedition.  This beautiful lady is a former student of mine.  It was an honor to start this trip with seeing her again for the first time in many years!
One year ago right now, on the third Thursday of June, I was criss-crossing the U.S. in an attempt to get on a flight to China.  (All this was after my original flight to Chicago was delayed too long to make the flight to Beijing from there.)  I ended up in Washington DC (Dulles) to Los Angeles, with a 7-hour layover, and then the 13-hour flight to Beijing.  Of course my luggage was lost after all that.  After retrieving the suitcase and exiting the back of the airport, seeing my son's handsome face was a great blessing and relief.

It proved to be a 2 1/2 week experience of a lifetime.  One of the new experiences was seeing all kinds of unusual products and items for sale.

I met Andrew's boss and saw the university.

I met the "dumpling lady" whom Andrew knows from buying her street food.  She was so happy to see him, and I was happy to meet her. 

We ate with Chinese people, here with brothers and sisters as well as fellow team members.  We were crowded into a tiny apartment room that served as living room, bedroom, and dining room.

And a few days later I was able to present the lady of the house, at left in picture above as well as in the following picture, with a prayer shawl crocheted by a church group here in my hometown, and tell her it was a gift from Christian sisters in the States.  

We ate with a group of his students, people who have no knowledge of the Book or of the Father, but who love Andrew and wanted to spend time with him - and were glad to let his mom tag along.  (This is at the home of the little blind girl posted about last year.)


We ate with the members of his English Corner (English-practice club) at a traditional "dong bei" (sp) restaurant.  Jessica, at left, is still my WeChat friend and I was able to send her a gift in the last package mailed to Andrew.

And after the return to Beijing, we climbed the Great Wall (actually, we took a chair lift up to the wall itself) with the daughters, and their good friend, of dear missionary friends.

And on the way up, ran into a girl from Gamecocks country!!  She recognized our shirts immediately.

We took pictures of us reading WORLD magazine as well as the Electric City News to take back home and (hopefully) be published.  We made the News; we only made the WORLD website.

Our missionary friends drove us past Tianenmen Square and the Forbidden City.  We drove down the very street that the tanks rolled down, some 25 years before.

 We worshipped in a house church with the missionary's group.  This was a great privilege.

These pictures represent just a fraction of the many experiences of this trip.  While seeing the tourist places was great, and no trip to China is really complete without those ventures, I told Andrew later that the greatest part of the trip for me was really seeing Chinese people in their regular lives.  An interior city, such as where he is working, is very, very different from Beijing, which is practically western in contrast.

Eating in homes, walking to the grocery and making purchases by myself (Who would have ever thought that that buying fruit and some cleaning products would be a great accomplishment for me!), walking into the market and videoing people in their long days of trying to sell various things, taking taxis and buses, seeing how children are cared for in a much different way (i.e. no diapers!!) than we are used to; all these experiences are seared into memory.  And as the verse says, "my eye affects my heart."  I have a much better understanding of the spiritual needs of these people as a result of this trip.  I would love to go back.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Elisabeth Elliot's Writings

Elisabeth Elliot was a prolific writer.  One source said she wrote 28 books in her lifetime.

I am no Elliot expert, but I do own 22 of her books.  These are the ones on my personal shelf, with commentary on their content:

The two on the left in this picture are her gold standards.  The common book associated with Elliot is Through Gates of Splendor, the story of how her husband and four other missionaries were speared to death in the 1950s in the jungles of Ecuador.  It is now a classic missionary read.  Shadow of the Almighty is the story of her husband's journey to his outstanding walk with God.  It is the book that influenced me so greatly in college.  And The Journals of Jim Elliot is the raw material from which Shadow of the Almighty was gleaned.

The following picture shows her straightforward books about missions.  These Strange Ashes chronicles her year in the western Ecuadorian jungles, before marrying Jim and moving with him to the eastern side of the country.  It raises very important questions about the value of missionary work - because everything she did that year, in attempting to reduce the Colorado Indians' language to written form, so that the Bible could be translated, was lost when a suitcase was stolen off a jungle bus.  Did that mean that all that effort was in vain?  A worthy question worth pondering.  No Graven Image is Elliot's one foray into novel writing, and it is based on the work of These Strange Ashes.  

The Savage My Kinsman is the one book that includes a lot of pictures.  It chronicles the time she spent with her young daughter, and Rachel Saint (sister of another of the martyred missionaries) actually living with the people who speared her husband.  I was able to use this book in class this past year, to illustrate one of the selections in the eighth grade literature book.

These are Elliot's earlier works on Christian thought.  They've been on my bookshelf since the late '70s.

Elliot became a voice for the principles of allowing God to direct one's love life.  Her first work in this area was Let Me Be A Woman, written when her daughter was about to be married.  It was followed up with The Mark of a Man.  But her work that really captured the Christian reading world was Passion and Purity, which discusses in depth the issues that confront single women and men who would desire a spouse.  Her solution is, to put it simply, not the world's solution.  Quest For Love chronicles the stories of people who followed Elliot's explanations of the Bible's teachings.

These are Elliot's two biographies.  Who Shall Ascend is about a missionary in central America in the mid 20th century.  I've never heard of R. Kenneth Strachan except in this book, nor have I ever heard of this book.  It was on a thrift store shelf and I snatched it up because of the author's name.

A Chance To Die is considered to be a classic biography on the life of Amy Carmichael of India.

These are some more of Elliot's tackling of Bible truths.  Loneliness, A Path Through Suffering, and The Shaping of a Christian Family, which shows how her parents reared their children with deep foundations in their lives.

And finally, her later books were assortments of radio transcripts and devotionals.  Keep a Quiet Heart, Taking Flight, Be Still My Soul, Gateway to Joy (also the title of her radio broadcast), and Secure in the Everlasting Arms.

I would highly recommend delving into Elliot's writings to anyone who is interested in thinking more deeply about the Christian walk and what it truly means.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Through Gates of Splendor

A hero of mine went through gates of splendor yesterday morning.  Elisabeth Elliot has finished her race.

As a child, I'd heard of, and read, Through Gates of Splendor, but in college I discovered Shadow of the Almighty.  My summer-school roommate and dear friend, Barby, and I read through that book, night by night, and absorbed its truths, and Elliot's wisdom and knowledge, as we learned by leaps and bounds.

Throughout the years I've accumulated more of her work.  One piece written about her yesterday said that she wrote 28 books during her lifetime.  I have 22 of them.  All contain profound wisdom about the Christian walk, about child rearing, about the true meaning of being a woman.

She started a radio broadcast in the mid-80s.  She always started by saying "This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, and underneath are everlasting arms."  When Andrew was a baby, I planned my mornings around hearing her broadcast.  She was full of good Biblical thoughts for young mothers.  She would say that God never minds a young mother bringing along her baby when she wants to meet with Him.  One of her most basic statements, yet so helpful for someone overwhelmed, was "Do the next thing."  

I met her in the late 1990s (1998 maybe?) when she spoke in Anderson for an all-day ladies' meeting.  After I got home, Andrew asked if he could go meet her.  He had just read a biography of Jim Elliot for school.  Of course I took him back in, thinking it was a great opportunity for him as well.  She was still at the Civic Center when we got there, and she treated him with great kindness and respect.  I did hold my breath for a minute, when she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  At that time, he had a great fascination for WWF wrestling, and I had visions of him telling the great Elisabeth Elliot that - he wanted to be a wrestler.  I do not remember what he said, but he did refrain from the wrestler comment, a relief to his mother!

Elisabeth Elliot said she was writing and speaking to women, and if men happened to listen in, that was their business.  I thought that was a great way to handle that issue.

She was not perfect, of course.  Her sin nature was as profound as it is for all of us, and some have told about weaknesses in various writings.  But she was humble and she was surrendered, and she put out a profound body of work to edify the body of Christ.  I was so saddened to hear of her death, because of the stilling of that great voice - but to think of her walking "through gates of splendor" was a wonderful thought!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 6/12/15

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog.

1. I am really pumped about textbooks.  Sounds weird for June, doesn't it.  We really need to update some of our textbooks at school - and the $$ is already being stretched very far.  Well, I have made almost $700 selling books that we are no longer using.  Someone has donated a generous amount to help with getting new books or getting paperbacks converted to hardbacks.  My father is helping to tape up and refurbish textbooks that just need some new life or some preventative maintenance.  He is working really, really hard to help with this project.  And just now, I found 13 NEW copies of a chemistry text that we need, on Amazon, for a very reasonable price, so was able to snap them up with $$ I just made selling books.  I really, really love getting the textbooks updated with the help of others and seeing how God is making it happen on a shoestring of finances!!

2. My dear friend Nancy and I drove to a nearby town to check out textbooks at a bookstore there, this morning.  We had lunch at a neat place - "Chicken Salad Chick."  I have never heard of it before, but discovered that it is franchised all over the south.  It had great food and even better atmosphere.  It's made clear that this is a place for women for lunch, and there were really funny sayings on the walls.  Some examples:

"I would like to pass along one of my mother's southern subtleties:  "Shuga, wouldn't you feel bettah with a little lipstick on?"

"My mother always taught me that there are two things we enjoy but never talk about:  mayonnaise and money."

"There is no reason to be ugly or hurt anyone's feelings.  We will be happy to always pretend that your mother's chicken salad is the best."

There were a lot more, but I can't find them on the internet.  Anyway - we had a lovely time.

3. ML's birthday was last Friday, and on Sunday we had a nice dinner with my folks and with our friends the McDonalds, who have also been wonderful friends to ML ever since ML was in her fourth-grade class.  We had the traditional porcupine meatballs, along with Swedish meatballs from my mom, and all the sides including Mom's buttermilk chocolate cake.
4. Today I picked up some medicine for my husband, and the woman who waited on me is the mother of one of ML's students this year.  She said some sweet things about how much her son liked ML's class.  It always does a mother's heart good - especially a teacher mother - to hear that her teacher daughter is doing well.  

5. And finally - When you feed sunflower seeds to the birds all winter, this is what you get in the summer!!  Mike calls it "the jungle," but I love it.  :-)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

PIONEER GIRL

Last week I finished reading this - the newly-published, fully-annotated version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl.  It is quite a read - and it cost me a pretty penny on eBay.  :-)  But it was worth the expense.

It is a huge book.  The editor, Pamela Smith Hill, took Wilder's original autobiography, the basis for the fictionalized Little House books, and researched every possible piece of information that Wilder wrote. Every name was investigated, every place, every statement.  The result is a work in which there are more annotations than there is original writing.  That did get a little tedious at times, as the actual manuscript sometimes got overwhelmed with the marginal annotations that sometimes filled entire pages.

The actual memoir is printed exactly as Wilder wrote it out longhand in the early 20th century - including misspellings and other minor errors.  There were two other versions of the book out at that time, and Hill is very careful to point out where they differ from this original writing.

Based on reading this, I would say that 80% of the Little House books is factual.  But as Wilder produced the books, she got a better feel for making up good plots and characterizations.  In other words, she became a storyteller instead of only a memoir-writer--but that kept the books from being completely biographical.  Wilder felt a great responsibility to communicate to future generations a sense of the time and place when all the Little House events occurred.  She was forceful when her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who helped edit the Little House books, tried to change that sense, and insisted that the books reflect actual family life in the late 19th century rather than appear "relevant" to the children of the 20th and 21st centuries who would be reading the works.  She would tell Lane, when Lane attempted an edit that Wilder did not approve of, "No - a young girl of my generation would not do that."

There were a few things in Pioneer Girl that were not included in the series.  Some of the incidents were best left not included for various reasons, or did not advance the story, or simply did not fit.  For example, the family's move to Burr Oak, Iowa, and the birth and death of Wilder's little brother, was in the memoir but not in the series.  However, some things, such as the romance between Laura and Almanzo, were written in more detail in the memoir, and cause any longtime reader of the books to smile at learning the additional information.

Hill is a very careful researcher and writer.  Pioneer Girl is a great read for anyone who loved the Little House series, or for anyone who enjoys reading and learning more and more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life.  I will add it to my collection of other books about the Little House series, and will use it as a reference as well.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Worst End of School Year Mother Ever

This blog post from a woman named Jen Hatmaker is two years old.  And hilarious.  I cannot read it without laughing through the whole thing.  This woman nails it!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Brief Thoughts About the Duggars, Sheltering, and Our Own Sins

Yesterday while waiting in a doctor's office, I glanced through an old copy of People magazine - the cover story (The cover!  Not just a brief side article.) was about the Duggar daughter who had a baby in April.  All the details about the anticipated home birth that had to be moved to the hospital for a C-section.  History of her labor.  Sidebars about the other kids.  All this was printed before the news about Josh. 

 Why would any parents subject their family to such publicity and therefore scrutiny?  Especially knowing there was such an explosive skeleton in the closet.Their model in family-rearing is sheltering.  How ironic is it to shelter your children, but then expose them deliberately for all the world to see.  

This link to a Gospel Coalition article, about both the Duggars and sheltering, is extremely instructive.  So many Christians are bound up in the pride and the untruth of "If we protect our children, they will be OK." - as well as "If I protect myself, I will be OK."  That ignores the flagrant sin in our hearts, and in our children's hearts.  I will not be OK just because I am careful.  Neither will my children.  Oh that we would grasp the depth of sinfulness in our own hearts.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 5/29/15

Link to Friday's Fave Five Host Blog

1. Exams are graded, high averages calculated, nothing left but awards and graduation.  Always a nice feeling to be DONE with all of that.  At the end of the year, I taught To Kill A Mockingbird to the juniors, and found this comic, which I put on their exam.  I thought it was funny.

2. I have a lot of energy right now and am putting it to good use, cleaning out closets as well as taking care of several projects at school.  Who knows - when the adrenalin collapses, it's gone - but until then I will try to make the best use of it.

3. The gym has been seeing me lately.  When Gold's dropped their prices considerably (think, "Planet Fitness came to town"), I decided to join back even with having an elliptical out back here at home.  And after five visits I can already tell a difference in my bad knee.  It's stronger, it doesn't bother me as much, and is not nearly as painful.  I hope to get it to the point of being able to do other things like walking the treadmill eventually.  I do not go every day, but every other or every third one, in hopes of not overdoing and setting it back, as that would mean starting over.  I stay on the elliptical until the first sign of pain, then transfer to the sitting elliptical and go awhile longer.

4. The "garden" (a few tomato, squash, and cucumber plants) is looking better, thanks to the good rain we had the other night.  The thought of good vegetables from the back yard is a good one.

5. Reservation is made for a place for our 30th-anniversary getaway!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This Is Why. . .

This is (one of the reasons) why I teach in Christian school.  It is from a book review written by a 9th grade girl.  They had to read a classic book, but on the list were included a few Christian classics, and   I recommended Not My Will, by Francena Arnold, to her.  This is from the evaluation part of her book review:

"I do not actually know why I chose this book.  All I know is that I am glad I did.  I have not read any books by this author, but I would recommend this book to a friend.  In the book, Eleanor goes through tough situations that are hard for her.  In the end when she gives everything over to God she finally realizes that God's will for her life is better than her own plan.  This book has changed my view of life. From this point on in my life, I will follow God's will for my life.  This book caused me to even think about my own walk with God.  I am glad God allowed me to read this book.  It really did change my life."