Monday, June 29, 2009

This is day four of our "Simple Ways to Support Missionaries" series. To catch up please click on the following links: Praying, Communicating, Volunteering.

Today our means of support requires a little more work and money, but it is such an encouragement to people. We all love getting personal letters in the mail - how much more so, packages! I remember how exciting it was to get a box from the states. Not only did we examine every item, we would sit there and smell the box because it "smelled like America."

Here are some ideas to make this a little more feasible:

1. Schedule it. Decide how often you want to send something and put it on your calendar with reminders ahead of time to be preparing. Christmas and Easter are great times to send gifts.

2. Keep it simple. Don't feel like you have to fill up a great, big box. Even filling pre-paid envelopes with a few seasoning mixes or blank cards will be appreciated.

3. Build up. If you find something that you like on sale and it's worth sending, buy two. Or even consider those "buy one, get one free" offers as opportunities to be preparing gifts. Keep these in a box under your bed or in your closet and slowly accumulate a variety of items.

4. Enlist help. See if other people in your church or mutual friends of "your" missionaries would like to work together on this project. It will definitely give you more motivation to get it done and out the door, not to mention the advantage of shared finances.

5. Save up. If you do want to go bigger, work together as a family to save your spare change in a jar. Use the change to purchase gifts and pay for postage.

The world is shrinking, so very often it is possible to find imported items from western countries or local versions, but some things are just not quite the same in condition or quality or price. Here is a limited list of ideas of what people might like (keep in mind that some things will be restricted in creative-access countries):

Seasoning Packets
Flavored teas and coffees
Unique baking decorations/Flavorings
Holiday decorations
Scented candles
Lotions/Soaps/Pampering items
Blank/Thank you cards
Sermons on audio
Art/Craft supplies
Homemade gifts

I'm sure there are many, many more things unique to each situation. If you don't plan a surprise, then you can always ask the missionaries what they would like.

Again, this one takes a lot of discipline, but it is awfully fun to send off a package and imagine how excited they will be to receive it on the other end. It is also an excellent way to involve your children and teach them the value of giving.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

This is day three of our "Simple Ways to Support Missionaries" series. To catch up please click on the following links: Praying, Communicating.

Sometimes one of the more difficult and awkward things about living overseas is finding someone back in the home country to handle those unavoidable details of life that can't be done from far away. Most missionaries I know have family members who do these tedious tasks because they ARE hard to impose on others. However, being aware of the needs and being willing to give of your time to help could certainly bless someone. Just keep in mind that due to the personal or legal nature of some needs, not everyone can take you up on your offers.
  1. Permanent mailing address - getting all their business, personal or junk mail and either storing it for their return or periodically sending it overseas in bulk.
  2. Letter coordinator - printing, stuffing and mailing prayer letters on their behalf.
  3. Email coordinator - (creative access countries) being the email 'go-between' who edits sensitive content between missionaries and their supporters.
  4. Errand boy - offering (repeatedly) to run those errands that can't easily get done from far away - probably most would be legal in nature and something that would require special authorization, but it never hurts to offer.
  5. Phone Caller - sometimes it is hard to research information or get in touch with offices/businesses when you live half-way around the world. Having someone to be willing to make those calls could be very helpful.
  6. There are probably many more ways to help for specialized cases or things I haven't thought of, so just generally offering your services will definitely be appreciate - even if not taken up.
As is human nature, people are more willing to accept help from those whom they feel they have a relationship with. If you really want to help, it's best if you maintain some level of communication with "your" missionaries.

Remember, as in all acts of service, do it "heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men" knowing that you are "storing up treasures in heaven." It is very likely you will receive no earthly reward or even acknowledgment for what you do. It is possible that you might be taken advantage of or go un-thanked, but that's not why we do what we do. Did I say this was "simple"?...hmm.

Photograph from

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This is day two of our "Simple Ways to Support Missionaries" series. To catch up please click on the following link: Praying.

A very simple, inexpensive way to encourage missionaries is to stay in communication with them. Simple - but requiring discipline.

I know that after years of sending out update letters to friends and family, I've always appreciated it when people respond. Most often it is just a short note to say they are praying or that they received the update, but nonetheless it is nice to know that someone took time to read the letter that you spent a good amount of time putting together.

With all the technology these days, it is easier and easier to stay in touch, yet perhaps because of the ease, it is just as simple to forget to do so or put it off. Putting "correspondence" on your to-do list or calendar may be the best way to commit to this act of support. Write their birthdays down where you will see them in time to send a greeting. Another possibility would be to discipline yourself to respond immediately after receiving and reading their newsletters. As I write this, I am feeling convicted myself... I'm not a good communicator. One of my weaknesses is reading a letter between chores or in a hurry to get the news rather then waiting for a moment when I would have time to respond as necessary. I keep birthdays on my calendar, but I don't plan ahead to send a note on that special day. Like I said... it takes discipline.

There are a variety of ways to communicate these days - some more or less feasible depending on the situations with those you deal with:
  1. Emails
  2. Skyping
  3. Phone calls
  4. Notes on Facebook
  5. Comments on their blogs or websites
  6. Sending postcards/cards
  7. Even letter writing - we all love getting hand-written letters and it is becoming a lost art these days.
  8. Arranging a Penpal correspondence if you have children the same age
Just a reminder... if you have friends working in creative access countries, be careful to watch what you say or write - keeping away from spiritual or political topics except in code. We wouldn't want our act of love to jeopardize those ministries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is day one of our "Simple Ways to Support Missionaries" series.

One of the biggest ways most missionaries would request your involvement is through prayer. When dealing with difficulties, discouragement or opposition, knowing that there are people praying is a huge source of comfort and encouragement.

A danger we often have is promising to pray for people, but quickly forgetting or just letting the days slip by. One way I've seen many families try to remain faithful in this is through the use of prayer cards (not just exclusively for missionaries). We have a list of people that we pray for - one a day - at our breakfast table. When I was single, I had a notebook of names with a few prayer points next to them and I would pray for one or two names each day during my quiet time.

Most missionary update letters have a list of prayer points included that can help us to know how to pray. Otherwise, my top three prayers for people would probably be: 1. A steadfast walk with God, 2. Good relationships (family, cross-cultural, teammates, etc..) 3. Ministry specifics.

One goal I would like to reach is not only praying for the people on the card that turn up each day, but taking a couple minutes to jot them a quick email or facebook note to let them know that they are in our thoughts. Unfortunately, communication is not my forte, so this would be a real challenge until it became a habit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I was challenged a while ago by a guest speaker at our church who was a finance advisor to missionaries. He made a point to encourage the congregation that supporting missionaries is more than just writing a check each month or setting up direct debit. As their brothers and sisters who have sent them out, we need to be there to support their emotional and relational needs as well as financial. It is so easy to fall into the "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome and even more so when we can't relate to or imagine their foreign lifestyles.

From my personal experience living overseas, I have felt both the love of generous people giving of their time and resources on my behalf as well as the discouragement of feeling 'alone' or out of touch.

For the next couple of weeks, I will be giving five suggestions for simple ways that we can support missionaries beyond giving our tithe.

A couple points I would like to encourage:
  1. Commit to do this as a family and involve your children in it.
  2. Don't try to support everyone you know, or you will probably end up supporting none. Choose a family or two to focus on and bless in this ministry.
Just to clarify, in this series, I'm predominately focusing on missionaries who are living outside their "home" countries. If you are a missionary reading this, I would love to hear how you would feel most blessed in our support. If you are someone who already supports missionaries, I want to know your suggestions on how we can better encourage these fellow laborers. If you are neither, then I hope we can encourage you to consider finding a way to be involved.

For more reading on this topic, good ideas can be found at Adopt a Missionary.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Many people have expressed interest in hearing the birth story of our little Miriam. I will post it here:

First, some background... When my son was born, my water broke in the middle of the night, we went to the hospital and then my contractions starting coming. They gradually built up until I couldn't help but start pushing. They must have judged pretty quickly that my son's head was quite large because after a few moments of pushing, they cut me and out he came. This all took place in a Chinese hospital with a foreign and Chinese doctor partnering together.

That was my experience with giving birth. Fairly straightforward, text-book style. So, at about 10:00 AM, June 17th, when I got really sharp cramps, I didn't assume right away that I was having contractions. In fact, it was all rather strange to me... I would cramp up very painfully anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or so apart. I honestly wondered if I was experiencing bad constipation due to the iron pills I had been taking. I didn't want to cry "wolf" and I also had a sick little boy on my hands, so we spent most of the day in bed - where I felt better. When my husband came home from work around 2:00 PM, I told him what was going on and after a particularly bad cramp, he encouraged me to touch base with the midwife.

I called the midwife, and she suggested I take a laxative just to rule out the constipation possibility. Poor husband got sent out in the rain to the pharmacy. At 6:00, I was still in denial but starting to hurt pretty badly and the pains were coming more frequently. After going to the bathroom and discovering my mucus plug (if you don't know what that is, you can research), I knew for sure where this was headed. My husband took a moment to pray with me. Then we called the midwife again and I prepared the bed and waited for her. Meanwhile, my dear husband was feeding my son and getting him ready for bed. It was quite a relief to have the midwife show up, but even more of a relief to have my son asleep and my husband's hands to squeeze. My prayers for this pregnancy were that if it happened before my mother arrived (on the 19th), then could it please happen while my son was sleeping and oblivious.

Shortly after the midwife arrived, my contractions were still fairly spaced out, but long and painful. At one point I told her I was starting to feel the need to push. She then checked my dilation for the first time and we were all rather surprised to discover that it was at about 9 cm. She quickly went to the car for her gear and called the back-up midwife to come. The second midwife showed up and shortly after it was time to start pushing. These midwives were such lovely ladies. Unfortunately, my midwife was off this day, and she was equally disappointed to not be there, but these two women were so encouraging. We were all surprised at how fast it was progressing, and they kept making me feel like it would be just a matter of moments. In reality, it really was quick. The first midwife showed up at about 6:30ish and little Miriam was born at 8:46. It took a bit more work for her to come out than it did with my son because they just let her come naturally. My legs were cramping up, so I moved to my hands and knees. It was amazing because I actually able to watch the baby come and bring her up to me as soon as she was born.

The placenta took another half an hour to show up and then they saw I would need a couple small stitches, but the baby was healthy and well and OUT! We tried nursing pretty quickly and she took to it right away. The midwives then took another couple of hours to do paperwork, clean up, and check both of us a couple of times.

Miriam weighed a decent 7 lbs 12 oz or 3.53 kilos

If there are any men reading this, I just want to say - don't underestimate your role in being next to your wife as she delivers. I find so much comfort and support in having my husband's hands to squeeze. (I should check to see if he has bruises!) I can't imagine going through it without him and I thank God that he was available just as it started to get really hard.

With all the commotion and being unwell, my son had woken up again and so we brought him in to check out his little sister. We had been talking for the past couple of weeks that when the baby came out of mommy's tummy, we would say "Hi, baby!" and we would be so happy. Now whenever he hears the baby cry he will say, "Say 'Hi, baby'!" I praise God for the timing and smoothness of this birth. One of my biggest concerns was how my son would handle this big change, but he was asleep for the majority of it and has taken to his sister very lovingly.

Originally, we chose the name "Miriam Johanna" (pronounced: Yo-ha-na), but each time the midwife checked her heartbeat while I was in labor, she would say, "This is a happy baby. This baby is happy." After she was born, my husband suggested she be called "Miriam Joy" and I loved it. We chose "Miriam" because we liked the name, not because of the meaning: bitterness. But I find it rather fitting that her name has opposite meanings. Life is both - sorrow and joy, ups and downs. What we hope and pray for Miriam is that despite the mountains and valleys of life, she would look to the Heavenly Father as her source of strength and joy. As the song goes, no matter where she walks or what she faces, may she be able to say, "Blessed be Your Name."

Certainly, He has blessed us with this precious gift.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This next week is going to be a fun one:

On Monday we celebrate my son's second birthday (we'll wait for his grandparents for a proper party, but we'll do something small on the actual day).

Where did the year go? Here are a few pictures from his last birthday:

Wednesday is the day that I am due, but of course that is never a given.

Me, at 39 weeks with an awful cold:
Lastly, Friday my wonderful mother and brother arrive (Dad to follow next week):

Fun, fun, fun!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm afraid I find myself slowing down in the blogging endeavors as I get closer and closer to my due date. The reasons are two-fold:

1. I've had a terrible cold - it's just draining me, and I'm praying it will be gone before I give birth.

2. After listening to a good sermon at church that convicted me about time spent on the computer, I am trying to be more scheduled and disciplined about my internet time - even before a baby forces that upon me.

So, please forgive me as I cut back a bit. Or maybe it won't seem like I have since I have prepared some posts for after the baby is born. Either way, it doesn't matter. What is important is keeping my priorities straight.

Meanwhile, if you are doing a mindless task and need something to listen to:

1. Our pastor (Andy Gemmill) is doing a series called "iWise: Gospel Perspectives on the Virtual World." From their main page, click on the Audio option and you can find his past three sermons to download. The one that I referred to is the third sermon: "iKnow: Blogging, Wiki and Revelation."

2. I have enjoyed listening to Dr. Voddie Baucham's "Biblical Womanhood" on YouTube. He has some good reminders for us women about what it means to live as a Titus 2 woman.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I originally found this recipe on Allrecipes, but what I will post below is my rendition of it. They are fairly healthy for a snack, extremely fast to make and wonderfully versatile. (Enjoying my excessively used adverbs?)

Playgroup Granola Bars

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (or whole wheat flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey (or 1/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. corn syrup - if you don't like strong honey flavor)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1/4 c. oil and 1/4 c. peanut butter)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional additions: coconut, buckwheat kernels, favorite seeds, favorite nuts, dried apples, cranberries, dried apricots, chocolate chips, etc... (I did try it with chocolate chips once, but I wasn't impressed. My version reduces the sugar by two-thirds because the dried fruit adds plenty of its own natural sugars, but if you only add chocolate chips you may need more brown sugar.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a 9x13 inch pan with tin foil and grease.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and any additions you've chosen.
3. Make a well in the center, and add the honey/corn syrup, egg, oil/peanut butter and vanilla.
4. Mix well using your hands and pat into the baking pan.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them. Once the edges start turning a nice golden brown, remove.
6. Immediately flip upside-down unto a cutting board and peel off the tinfoil
7. Cut into bars before they cool and get crumbly
8. If you can wait, allow to cool... or just do like I do and test-taste one... two... three... yum!

Friday, June 5, 2009

I love the philosophy of "Simple Mom".  She has many great tips for simplifying life, saving money, managing time, etc...   It totally appeals to my minimalistic self. 

This week she is focusing on cloth diapers. Part of the week is a cloth diaper give-away.  In unashamedly trying to boost my chances for a win, I am sharing the news here so that you can track back to her website. =)  I've collected pieces here and there to try cloth on baby number two, but everything is used and not necessarily matching. Some good quality, new diapers would be amazing!

Seriously... if there is any chance you might be in the cloth diaper world sometime, she and guest posters have shared very clear explanations of what it entails, the products out there, videos for us visual learners, and some excellent give-aways.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I am a hand-washing fanatic.  I couldn't tell you how many times I wash my hands throughout the day.  I also don't like using gloves to wash dishes because I'm semi-obsessed about being able to feel whether all the food bits have come off.  On top of this, I have used a variety of lotions with very little success because I have small pores and the lotion doesn't soak in.  A couple of hours after applying, when I go to wash my hands, the lotion will wash away.

Can you tell where this is leading?.... VERY DRY HANDS!  Or, as one of my students once pointed out: "Grandma hands!"  

This was brought to an embarrassing focus last week when I was accosted by a vendor trying to sell *miracle* Dead Sea salt scrubs.  He asked to see my hands and I jumped back with a horrified, "NO!" We decided to be nice and let him do his spiel, and I walked away with softer hands - for a few minutes.  

All that to say, it reminded me of a sugar scrub that I used to make and give as gifts to people.  I decided it was time to make some more as a gift to my poor, abused hands.  I love how simple it is, and it leaves my hands soothed and smooth.

Sugar Scrub
1/2 c. sugar
2-4 Tbsp. olive oil (or almond, coconut... those nice ones)
2-4 drops of essential oil or extract (optional additions for their pretty smells)

Stir together.  
Rub about a teaspoons worth on your hands. 
Rinse and dry.  
Ah... the softness!  

It is better to make smaller batches more often to preserve freshness.

The sugar exfoliates, getting rid of dead skin cells while the oil protects your skin from moisture loss.

I found different variations of this scrub here and here with some fun additions.  One person said it made a great face scrub - worth a try, me thinks.

Picture from

Monday, June 1, 2009

When we lived in China, we rarely ate sandwiches. Good bread was hard to find (I made my own most of the time, so it was a little more rationed), deli meats were untrustworthy, cheese was expensive, etc... We ended up having two hot meals a day - one being left-overs or quick (cheap) Chinese take-out.

Now that we are living in the western world, sandwiches have become our lunch-time fare with left-overs thrown in when we have them. But, I'm getting tired of sandwiches... or at least the same old versions. I need help to think up some creative, inexpensive new ideas. Below are some of my sandwich varieties... I hope you can give me some new suggestions. I would prefer the ingredients to be fairly common. As good as avocado and mango chutney sounds, I don't really keep that in my kitchen. (Well, that's not entirely true.. I have a big box of mangoes in there right now and chutney sounds kinda good...)

Cold Sandwiches

* PB & J/honey
* Ham/Salami/deli meats and Cheese (with pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc...)
* Egg, Ham and Cheese
* BLTs (except it's hard to find American-style bacon here. What they say is "bacon" is our ham. What they say is "ham" is ham. And what they say is "gammon joint" is ham. Sigh...)
* Peanut Butter, Tomato and Mayonnaise (an oddity from my mom's side)
* Fruity Curry Chicken Salad (always a big hit wherever I take it)

Hot Sandwiches

* Ruebens
* Sardines or Pilchards (in Tomato Sauce) on Baguettes, topped with Mozzarella and broiled
* Hot Subs (with left-over spaghetti sauce and mozzarella on top)
* Grilled Cheese