Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rooftops Roasting on an Open Fire

The "red" in our Christmas Day celebrations!

This is sure to be a Christmas to remember. We have taken "Go light your world" to a new level!  First, our happened upon tradition (2 years running) of going to KFC and getting our picture taken with a local Santa Clause on Christmas Eve was disrupted by the fact that this year, not only did they not have Santa, they had no decorations up. None. You wouldn't even have known it was Christmas. So sad. We did see a Santa at the mall walking around with humongous sunglasses on, but the kids opted out of approaching him for pictures! Ha!

Secondly, due to Christmas Sunday being a busy day for us we decided to celebrate our Christmas on Saturday morning and ending the day by doing our annual Christmas Eve run to KFC. Despite KFC not working out we had a fun day with all of the kids enjoying their gifts and enjoying each other. Barry and I had quite a time finding gifts here this year but in the end, all were pleased and thankful for the chance to get something new. Sunday would entail ch*rch with nationals in the morning, possible visitors in the afternoon and then a dinner/fellowship with the International ch*rch in the evening. We went to bed feeling ready for Christmas day.

While the family slept, Barry and I woke early Christmas morning.  Barry was getting ready and I began food preparations for the days activities.  In the midst of making tortillas I hear a loud POP....and then all the lights went out.  This was a noise unlike anything I have ever heard.  I thought maybe a transformer had gone out, I went outside in the backyard and saw nothing.  I went around the inside of the house and saw nothing.  I then went into our bedroom and asked Barry, who was in the shower, if he had heard it because it didn't sound good.  About that time I hear my neighbor yelling "Mister!  Mister! Hati-hati, ada api!  Ada api!! Mister!"  So I think oh man, a house is on fire!  I then rush out to see my neighbors hauling a ladder to my roof and lifting buckets of water up it!!  MY ROOF!  Just like those old Taco Bueno commercials would say, "Now that was unexpected." 

Just to clear the record:  Even though I have been given the nickname of "Sparky" due to my electrical mishaps, neither I nor my cooking was the cause of the fire! I feel better, let's continue.

I never smelt anything nor had I seen any smoke inside the house.  I run into the house and yell "FIRE!!" like it's my own hair that's flaming.  All my kids had slept in one room together and it was directly under the flaming part of our roof!  I scream to Barry who comes rushing out along with the kids.  We scoot the kids outside and my neighbor is yelling to see if we have a spigot they can use and a hose.  Uhm..the spigot is in the back and the hose is roughly 5 feet long (no joke!).  That and the fact that with no electricity we have like zero water pressure, none of that is going to be helpful.  We quickly gather more buckets, filling them from the "bak" and hauling them outside.

Kids waiting and watching the action...obviously they have had better wake up calls than this.

Now by this time, we literally have the whole neighborhood, and then some, at our front gate.  They have called the "fire department", the landlord, and the electric company I think before we even knew there was a fire.  Which of course was great of them, and it was reassuring to know that we have neighbors willing to not only watch out for us but help out in such an extraordinary way.  So the fire truck arrives...after the fire is put out (with water, which we are very fortunate because you really are not suppose to put water on an electrical fire) and they begin to inspect and make sure it was contained and extinguished.  While I am grateful for these guys and their attempt to help, let's just say they gave me lots of fodder for this posting!

Looking good and saving the day...sort of!

First of all, they arrive in full gear (a good sign) looking quite efficient they climbed up and inspected the damage on the roof and then asked to go inside.  We showed them the attic door which is in the kids bath and then they asked if I had a ladder they could borrow. 

What?  The firemen didn't bring a ladder? 

I thought ladders and firemen just went together!  So after explaining that we didn't have one they proceeded to stand on each others shoulder, 3 men high, and climbed up into the ceiling.  I am so not kidding!  It reminded me of a circus act!  So once the guy made it up into the roof they asked for a flashlight. 

What?  The firemen didn't bring a flashlight? 

So we find them a flashlight and they look around and declare that, "It is good, no more problems."  Uh, ya, thanks buddy.  I'm sure that a less than five minute inspection of faulty wiring is thorough!  After all this I am a little less then relieved and not at all comforted that this ordeal is over.

Here comes the Electric Company...and if you were a child in the '80's that has a whole different meaning to you! LOL
Finally....the electric company has an extending ladder that the firemen can use!
This is about the time that the electric company arrives and so the firemen use their ladder to check the roof again and the electric guys asks if he can come in and check my outlets, of course you can check our outlets!  So he checks them, proceeds to get into our attic (not sure how, I missed that) and messes with something up there and POOF, we had electricity!  Which is nice...but kind of scary!  He smiles at me and says everything is fine.  We want to know what happened, he said, "Some wiring caught on fire but it is okay now, and you have electricity again."  Needless to say I am thrilled that all the outlets didn't fry and fry everything that was plugged in along with it, but having electricity at that point was not at all fact it was down right frightening!  We quickly called the electrician that we always use and asked him to come check it out.  It took him all of about three minutes to declare that it was unsafe and that the whole house would need to be rewired and he was afraid it would catch on fire again.  Lovely.

The electricians checking out the damage on top
 By this time it is lunch time, we have missed ch*rch and there is no way that I can get a dish and dessert done for the evening fellowship.  Now we have the dilemma of whether we leave the house to go to the fellowship or stay  to watch over the house.  In the end, we decided that we would turn off everything and then go to ch*rch that night.  Just seemed kind of weird to not go to w*rship, especially when it falls Christmas.  We had a great time celebrating the birth of the Son and our good friends, the "G's" offered to let us stay in their home while they were on vacation and our house was being rewired.  What a blessing that has been! Barry has stayed most of the nights at our home, first to be on watch for a flare up and then to not leave it empty at night as that just not a good thing here.

So now, by the time I am wrapping up this blog post, the house is completed, all rewiring is done.  We will next have them come and repair the roof where the fire damaged it then all will go back to normal again.  Of course normal here means something else will break, leak, stop working or snap off in your hand or aparently catch on fire.....ahhh....normal is so over-rated! :) 

I don't want to close this post without saying just how thankful that I am that I can place the care of my family into the hands of the CEO.  My thankfulness for His care and protection of my family is something there are not words enough to express.  I know that tragedies are not always thwarted and some things happen with His promises to carry us through, but this time we were spared any real grief and that in itself is gift beyond my deserving.  So.Very.Thankful.

Hope you each had a wonderful Merry Christmas and may this next year be the best you have ever had in terms of your love and service to the CEO and your fellow man!!   Then, CEO willing, Christmas in the great state of Oklahoma next year!!!  Six more months.....not that I am counting!! :)

A neighbor showing them where the flames were coming out.

Not sure who this guy was, but I wanted to show you how the many motorcyclist will often leave their helmets on unless they are going in somewhere and staying

The "stack" of firemen as they stood on each other's shoulders, this is the best pic I could get!
He must have thought it was funny too, he was taking pictures! Ha!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Visitors From the East at Christmas Time

Two weeks ago we got a phone call from our friends who live in Bali.  They might have to travel to "Starbucks" for a visa renewal and wanted to know if they could come up for a visit.  Uhh...YES!!  Then just when it looked like it was not going to happen, they got the call to do their visas and everything quickly fell in place!  They just happen to have sons who are the exact same age as Marshall, Hudson, and Haddon.  So needless to say, my kids were SO excited to have friends come and visit.  It was very humbling that they would spend their time and money to come to "Folgers" for a vacation and stay with us.  Imagine leaving Bali and vacationing in........."Folgers"!  They came Wed-Sun.  A nice Christmas surprise.

You see, at our annual summer meeting the leader who was opening up the session started doing random introductions and happened to interview Barry.  He was asking him get to know you questions,  then he asked what the most exciting thing to do in "Folgers" was, to which Barry replied, "Eating grilled corn by the river where you can watch kids jump off the outhouse into the river!"  The man then said, "Wow, makes you want to go there!" and "Ya, that's pretty much what I heard about your city!"  LOL  Needless to say, after those comments, and our city having the reputation of being the "armpit" of Macchiato, we have not been expecting many visitors.  Campbell lovingly says we are not just an armpit, we are an armpit with deodorant now!  LOL

However, because the CEO is so good and understands our desires, not only this family but two other families have sent their sons up to visit and stay with our family while their dads came here on business a few months ago.  How cool is that?  My boys loved having their friends fly up to visit them.  Again, that these families would pay for a plane ticket for their kids to come see my boys is humbling and such a special gift.  Our family, my kids, are so blessed with the people and friends in their lives over here.   (Unfortunately, the other two boys came during Ram*dan and the corn stalls were not open due to the fasting. Boo!)  Guess they'll just have to come again so they too can join "The Order of the Corn", what we have affectionately dubbed this "Folgers" rite of passage.  :)

While the Basha family was here we went to our Team "R" Christmas party, the farm and orphanage, the water park, and the boys went to the PYP Christmas party.  Busy, but fun times!

Here is an explanation for mine and Campbell's water slide pic:  At the water park they barely had water trickling down most of the slides, therefore except for the wide green slide, we all got stuck and had to walk or push our rafts down the slides (um ya...that was fun!)  As Campbell and I come walking out of the tube slide, carrying our raft, the lifeguard made us get in it and insisted that he must push us the rest of the way into the kidding.  I was cracking up, welcome to my life.  No wonder world peace seems so far away, people around the world do not have the same solutions for the same problems.  It never ceases to amaze me!  Oh well you have to embrace the differences or they will drive you crazy...and I would

Hope you are enjoying your Christmas season and remembering to focus on people not things, busy creating memories not stress, and loving the CEO even more because of promises fulfilled in the Son!

One last note.  Barry leaves Sunday to get his cast off.  Can you believe it has already been six weeks since his surgery?  Please lift up him and us as we stay behind again, thankfully only until Tuesday.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gift of Giving of Yourselves

I absolutely love this time of year!  Even here, where the Christmas season seems a bit non-existent outside our homes.  Where to the majority of the population December 25th is just another day on the calendar.  I love the reason we celebrate, I love the cold, I love the family traditions, and I love, I mean I love giving presents! :)

The picture at the top of my blog shows the boys in PYP (their International Ch*rch youth group) blowing up 125 soccer balls and unwrapping and trying to figure out the maze of string for the ball string that came with them. (fyi- I looked up the "official" name of the ball string only to discover it is officially called "ball string," so there you go, who knew?!) lol

This year their group is helping the "G" family prepare 125 gift bags for school children in a neighboring area.  The interesting thing about this school is that while it is a public school (all public schools are M*slim), they are allowing a teacher there to offer a course on Chr*stianity.  This does not mean it is warmly accepted or desired, she has experienced pers*cution due to offering this class, but she keeps doing what she feels called to do. 

To assist her, the "G" family offered to prepare gift bags for their celebration of Christmas.  One way they did this was to gather supplies and donations while they spent the summer in the States.  However, the crate that they put the items in has run into numerous delays and although it left in August, it has still not arrived.  Well, that's not necessarily true.  It arrived in Macchiato last week and we were so excited, until they received word that there was a dock workers strike at the shipyard and therefore it was sent back to Singapore.  So frustrating, but also very much on par for the way things are over here.  But the "G's", despite facing roadblocks, set plans in motion to find a factory in "Starbucks, the capitol city" that could send them 125 soccer balls for these bags and miracle of miracle they were ordered, and arrived this week.  Just in time to put the bags together!  Yay, for the CEO!! 

The way Mrs. G explains it is that after struggling with the fact that the gifts and donations didn't arrive in time she felt the CEO saying that he wanted to do something different here.  He said "she" could supply school supplies, but that "He" wanted to supply soccer balls! Can't argue with that can you?   See, the kids here LOVE soccer.  Daily you can see them running around kicking a ball, usually one that is battered and worn beyond belief, or maybe a wad of paper and plastic in place of a ball if they don't have one of their own.  Isn't that just like the CEO?  He doesn't always just give what people need, sometimes he gives what people want so they can experience His love.  All because He is good. 

I thought this story was beautiful.  It reminds me of how very good the CEO is and how He is always looking out for us.  We certainly do not always understand His ways, but I love that we can always trust him to do what is best for us.  See, as much as we believe that our circumstances, life, wants, and needs depend on those around us, the truth is that the CEO is always in control.  His plans will not be thwarted by the actions, lack of actions or the obedience or lack of obedience of others (or a crate that is 3 months overdue!).   I love that!  If something is/is not being done that you are praying for it is because the CEO, in his infinite knowledge and love, has a different plan/timeline than you do.  Don't let that discourage you or cause you to grumble like an Isr*aelite in the wilderness (after all, that didn't end well for them), allow it to strengthen your faith by believing that He works all things for the good of those who  love him and are called according to His purpose. 

I know some of you might say, here we go again with the worn out scripture verses.  But these are not some contrived words of pseudo empathy.  This is TRUTH.  This verse is so often misquoted without the last half, and that is an important part that should not be left out!

Definitions -
 "..for the good.." - That which conforms us into the likeness of the Son.

"...called according to His purpose.." - His children for His purposes, His divine will and plan of redemption. (not our plans and purposes, even with the best of intentions)

So often we focus on ourselves, but there is such a bigger plan in motion!  Yes, we are a part, but the CEO wants to mature and grow us into His Son's likeness, being outward focused so as to draw men to Him.  Now, if you are anything like me, that is no easy task!  I readily admit, this is not something I have conquered.  But being over here and being stripped of so many things that I thought I needed or thought I would do here, I have been humbled in more ways than I care to count.  It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes I can be focused on my plans and purposes while living in a place that so desperately needs people willing to live out His plans and purpose.  To be willing to say, "Okay, I surrender my will.  This '(situation)' is not what I wanted but I trust you and what comes from Your hand is enough.  I will keep doing what I need to do in obedience and trust you for all results!"  (which might mean giving soccer balls instead of toy cars and school supplies)  When we can do this without grumbling or worrying then we are truly maturing and growing into the Son's likeness, willing to be content with what He supplies.  That, my friend is not an easy lesson to learn, but the rewards of learning it are priceless when it comes to living out your daily life with joy.

Join me in lifting up these precious kids who will be hearing (some for the first time) about the amazing gift that the CEO gave them on that first Christmas morning.  This is in an extremely impoverished brick makers village, bricks sell for maybe $60 USD per 1,000 bricks and their equipment is very old.  The kids here would never dream that they would own their own ball.  They will be so excited!

I am so grateful for the "G" family.  They are tender hearted and giving, we are blessed to call them our friends.  I am so thankful that they take the time to lead this youth group and offer our kids a place where they can give of themselves and serve others.  We truly feel they are an answer to our prayers as they formed this group at a time (unbeknownst to them) my boys were having trouble adjusting to life here after leaving the International School.  It has been such a blessing to them.

The girls are making dozens of snickerdoodles for the gift bags.

125 un-inflated soccer balls waiting to be aired up and placed in their own string bag.

Marshall trying to unravel/untangle the string bag for the soccer ball, it was no easy task!

Snickerdoodles waiting to be placed on the cookie sheet.  The girls did a great job.

Mr G.  passing out hot cocoa, Hudson was thrilled that they also had marshmallows that they brought back from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  What a treat!  We can't get them here.

Here the group is putting together bags of candy for the kids.

A few of the bags that were filled with the soccer balls.

The PYP group, here in Folgers!  They are great kids, and don't you love that huge tree?  A mall where the "G's" live in the States was getting rid of them and they were able to snag one, so pretty!

Remember, you are most like the CEO when you focus on others and give of yourself, you are least like Him when you are inward focused and dwell on yourself.  For the CEO so loved the world that he gave...
Love = Giving