We’re spending two weeks in the States with our families! While we didn’t reach out to many people because of the quickness of the trip and the current state of the world, I made a couple store runs to pick up some items we can’t find in the DR.
My first stop was Dollar Tree for some teacher supplies! I like to hit up that treasure trove for items I can use as gifts/incentives for our Dominican teachers who go through the teacher training program we’ve started.
As I was hunkered over in an aisle sifting through bulletin board border and classroom organizers, a lady and her two children walked by. A neat interaction ensued.
“Are you a teacher?” she asked me.
“Well, sort of! I’m a teacher trainer! I like to look for things my teachers can use when they have their own classrooms someday.”
She responded without hesitation. “Now, that’s something I can get behind. Let me help you out. I want to give you $20.”
“Wow! That’s so kind of you. How very thoughtful! I actually don’t live here in the States. My family has helped start a school in the Dominican Republic where we work with children who live in the sugarcane villages.”
A few more details were shared, and she left me with the money and a some other kind words.
I had walked in for a routine shopping trip, and I left blessed by a complete stranger. Isn’t it amazing that the the Lord allows us to experience such unexpected blessings?
One year ago today, I was in Lima looking for some of our students’ parents. As I walked amongst the rows of identical, green houses, I saw this little guy, sitting all alone in the dirt. He had no pants on, and he was filthy. I asked some kids running by if they knew his name. Leo, they told me. I knew nothing else about him, but I remember leaving the village thinking how wonderful it would be to see Leo at Freedom one day.
Guess what? This week, Krista delivered Leo’s very first sponsor letter to him right there in front of his house! He didn’t completely understand what was going on, but he paused and gave the tiniest of grins when he saw the picture of his sponsor family.
I’m excited to see how Leo’s little life will be impacted in the months and years to come. While he’s undoubtedly endured some hardship already in the few years he’s been alive, he’s also got a lot of people in his corner. Sponsors, missionaries, and teachers are already advocating for him in some special ways.
Maybe in another year or two, I can share his adorable, round face again. We’re praying this sweet man learns what it means to love God with all that He has.
Sunday marked twelve years of marriage for Scott and I! Wow. My cliche saying of choice is “time flies,” and I use it pretty much every day. I decided to get out the family photos this year, and I thought I’d share a few here!
The following pictures may show smiling faces, sundry memories, and varying lengths of hair on Scott’s part, but there have been hard times, too. Both the good and the difficult have drawn us closer to each other and to the Lord. Looking forward to the next 12 years!
We’ve crossed the halfway point of 2020! This past month, our team was excited to get back out to the villages as restrictions have begun to lift oh.so.slowly. I personally spent most of my time behind my computer screen as lesson planning continues, but the boys have been in the bateys each morning helping with school – social distancing style, of course. Here’s our June in 30 photos!
Less time to read this past month, but still thankful for each minute!
I started another book that was gifted to me for my birthday: Cilka’s Journey. This sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz follows the experiences of a young girl named Cilka, a secondary character from the first book. While Cilka was a fictional character who dealt with a ton of trauma from her experiences, my mind often wandered to those who actually endured these horrific atrocities. Cilka was shipped off to a Siberian worker camp the day everyone was liberated from Auschwitz. I think I would’ve lost hope. To be honest, Morris is not my favorite author – her writing style and excessive use of language are simply not my cup of tea.
If you’re not a history buff, you probably won’t enjoy this one. I’ll admit – it took me awhile to “get into it.” There’s no way I’ll remember all the historical details that were presented in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee with just one read-through, but I’m glad I finished it. Wow – much bloodshed, lies, and deceit on both sides of the battles that took place between the Indians and the whites who were moving westward. Hard to reconcile the wonderful ideals upon which our beautiful country was founded with the terrible actions of many of the men in the government and the military – even clergy. I loved that each chapter opened with a page of important events and facts from around the world. It helped me “fill more holes” in my understanding of history. I also appreciated the occasional glimpse of men from both cultures valuing and loving others even if it meant sacrificing something important to them.
I moved forward in a few other books as well. Here are some thought-provoking quotes that caught my eye!
"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good," wrote Solhenitsyn.1
It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises...2
Oh, my brothers, the Almighty looks down on me, and knows what I am, and hears my words. May the Almighty send a good spirit to brood over you, my brothers, to move you to help me.2
There was no hope on earth, and God seemed to have forgotten us... -Red Cloud2
When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream...2
One fault, one crime, and one crime only, can rob the United Nations and the British people, upon whose constancy this grand alliance came into being, of the victory upon which their lives and honour depend. A weakening in our purpose and therefore in our unity - that is the mortal crime.3
We do not war primarily with races as such. Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must for ever be on our guard....3
...I have recorded two characteristics of his which seemed to me invaluable in those days: first, his power to live in the present yet without taking short views; and secondly, his power of drawing from misfortune itself the means of future success.3
"When the heart sees what God wants," Oswald used to say, "the body must be willing to spend and be spent for that cause alone."4
I'm going away from my home now, like a bird leaving an old nest.... Here I have drunk in God, here I have prayed, here I have wept, here I have worked, here I have agonized, and now, Farewell home! I smile because of all you know and have seen, God has known and seen too. How grand, you'll never tell the secrets whispered by me in the ear of God, and God's whispered words in mine....4
1Cilka’s Journey, Heather Morris 2Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown 3Churchill: The Power of Words, edited by Martin Gilbert 4Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, David McCasland
Two sweet missionary friends (one who lives right next door, and one who lives halfway around the world) have been telling me for quite awhile that I absolutely had to read Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. They weren’t wrong! This fantastic book, first published in 1869, is a coming-of-age story – journal style – that traces a young girl’s life as she grows up, starts a family, and deals with life’s various hardships and struggles. Prentiss so artfully shares how Katherine falls more in love with Jesus each day. The language and cadence may be difficult to grasp at first (it’s a 150-year-old work after all), but I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
I also worked through The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. The authors, Lukianoff and Haidt, while operating from a pragmatic point of view, make some excellent points about the culture of “safetyism” that is overtaking America today. As far as I can tell, these two gentlemen are not believers. While they’ve missed the wonderful difference Jesus could make if He were invited into the conversation, they do a great job identifying problems and trends in our country, and they recognize that, as a nation, we must value truth more than comfort.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a birthday gift! This story falls into my favorite genre. I finished the book contemplating the various decisions each of these characters was forced to make to stay alive. Are there any instances when compromise is OK? What happens when personal decisions affect the lives of others? This story is certainly not a pretty one, but I continue to be drawn to the experiences of those who lived through the atrocities that Hitler unleashed. (From a writing standpoint, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m old-fashioned. Novels written in the present tense usually tend to annoy me. Overall, I was much more impressed with the survival story upon which the book was based than the actual writing. Five stars for storyline, 1 star for delivery.)
Below are some favorite excerpts I read this month!
We are all very happy together when nothing goes wrong.1
I came away, and all the way home I fought this battle with myself, saying, "He loves me!" I knelt down to pray, and all my wasted, childish, wicked life came and stared me in the face. I looked at it, and said with tears of joy, "But He loves me!" Never in my life did I feel so rested, so quieted, so sorrowful, and yet so satisfied.1
Then I began to hem those handkerchiefs Mother asked me to finish a month ago. But I could not think of anything to do for God.1
I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all. And there is this wicked reluctance to do that. I want Him--but I want to have my own way, too. I want to walk humbly and softly before Him, and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded. To whom shall I yield? To God? Or myself?1
I wish I did not take such violent likes and dislikes to people. I want my religion to change me in every respect.1
"...the first thing you have to do is learn Christ." "But how?" "On your knees, my child, on your knees!"1
If Christ do all, what am I to do?1
It is easy, in theory, to let God plan our own destiny, and that of our friends. But when it comes to a specific case we fancy we can help His judgments with our poor reason.1
Instead of fancying that our ordinary daily work was one thing and our religion quite another thing, we should transmute our drudgery into acts of worship...1
...if I had been told what I was to learn through these protracted sufferings I am afraid I should have shrunk back in terror and so have lost all the sweet lessons God proposed to teach me. As it is He has led me on, step by step, answering my prayers in His own way; and I cannot bear to have a single human being doubt that it has been a perfect way. I love and adore it just as it is.1
We can all be more thoughtful about our own speech, but it is unjust to treat people as if they are bigots when they harbor no ill will.2
"I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong. That's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity."2
... Americans are now motivated to leave their couches to take part in political action not by love for their party's candidate but by hatred for the other party's candidate. Negative partisanship means that American politics is driven less by hope and more by the Untruth of Us Versus Them. "They" must be stopped, at all costs.2
Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.2
Having people around us who are willing to disagree with us is a gift. So when you realize you are wrong, admit that you are wrong, and thank your critics for helping you see it.2
... thinking is social. As lone individuals, each of us is not terribly smart, for we are all prone to cognitive distortions and the confirmation bias. But if you put people into the right sorts of groups and networks, where ideas can be shared, criticized, and improved, something better and truer can emerge.2
He must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honour to be the faithful servants.3
1Stepping Heavenward, Elizabeth Prentiss 2The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt 3Churchill: The Power of Words, edited by Martin Gilbert
Zipped through some fiction books this month and made progress on a few of my non-fiction reads.
One of my favorite librarians left me Things I Never Told You on her last visit to the DR. I enjoyed reading about these three sisters who work through their broken relationships and try to process their fourth sister’s death. (From a writing standpoint, I’m still not sure how I feel about the switching between first and third person, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit reading.) Not a 5-star read, but I liked it enough to purchase the second of the Thatcher Sisters trilogy for a couple bucks on my Kindle.
Moments We Forget, book #2 in the aforementioned series by Beth Vogt, continues the story of the Thatcher sisters, focusing on Jillian and her battle with cancer. I liked “getting to know” the three girls better. It was cool watching another sister become interested in developing a relationship with the Lord.
More than a Carpenter is a classic read that I’m not sure I’ve ever picked up before. This new edition was co-written by Josh and Sean McDowell; the study questions were well-thought through. This is a great read for new believers or anyone curious about Christianity.
Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin was my favorite read this month! I downloaded this piece of historical fiction awhile back, and it’s been sitting dormant on my Kindle for several years. I accidentally opened it a couple weeks ago and thought, “Why not give it a try?” Ended up loving it. The characters were fantastic, Caroline’s slave Eli being a favorite. (I was reading this simultaneously with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a non-fiction book about the same time period but focused on events out West. Neat to see Lincoln mentioned in both. I was able to make some more big-picture connections in American history.) I know life doesn’t always bring the happy ending for everyone, but it felt good to see things resolve after so much conflict/loss.
I tried awful hard to pare down my favorite thoughts/quotes from this month, but I wasn’t very successful. Skip them if you must.
How did forgiveness work? The divine interacting with the less-than of mankind. How did the supposed goodness of God not get overpowered by the world’s darkness?1
Mark Twain said this--'I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.'2
But maybe...maybe faith wasn't so much about believing enough. Being enough. Maybe faith was realizing the truth of who God was, and what He promised, was enough for all her doubts.2
Forgiveness always has a price.3
As G.K. Chesteron says, 'The purpose of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to close it again on something solid.'3
Christianity is not a religion; it's not a system; it's not an ethical idea; it's not a psychological phenomenon. It's a person. If you trust Christ, start watching your attitudes and actions because Jesus Christ is in the business of changing lives.3
'He put us where we are for time being and give us a job to do. And even if I can't see a reason why, I gonna do this job for Jesus. I gonna love white folks, whether they love me back or not, 'cause that's what Jesus tell me to do.'4
'Seem like a mighty hard thing to change someone's mind,' he said. 'Most folks won't change their mind unless they have a change of heart first.'4
'Some of these men never once thought about Jesus their whole life,' he said. 'But they crying out to Him now cause they hurt and afraid. Jesus wants to answer them. He wants to help that poor dying boy out there, but the only arms and the only voice He has is ours.'4
'Can't never go by your feelings. Got to go by the word of the Lord.'4
'I won my freedom long before the Yankees came,' Josiah said quietly. 'I was free the moment I picked you up and decided to forgive Missy Caroline and her daddy. You can start living as a free man, too, once you forgive...."4
Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear - I fear greatly - the storm will not pass... There is no chance of a speedy end except through united action.5
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.5
There are vast numbers not only in this island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this War, but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a War of the Unknown Warriors...5
Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.5
Be of good cheer. The hour of your deliverance will come. The soul of freedom is deathless; it cannot, and will not, perish.5
Goodnight then: sleep to gather strength for the morning. For the morning will come.5
'There are bad white men and bad Indians,' [Black Kettle] said. 'The bad men on both sides brought about this trouble.'6
If you see yourself or your fellow students as candles, you'll want to make your campus a wind-free zone.7
A culture that allows the concept of 'safety' to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.7
1Things I Never Told You, Beth K. Vogt 2Moments We Forget, Beth K. Vogt 3More Than a Carpenter, Josh and Sean McDowell 4Candle in the Darkness, Lynn Austin 5Churchill: The Power of Words, edited by Martin Gilbert 6Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown 7The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt