Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What is your brain made of?



Did you know all of this about water?  
I sure didn't.  

Tom and have always been water drinkers.  We don't keep soda, or even juice in the house and we only buy them for special occasions.  Depending on where you live and how active you are the amount of water you need to drink to avoid dehydration varies.  Most days we each drink two liters of water.  On really hot and humid days Tom might drink up to four liters of water and I drink three.  When we first got here we bought bottled water to drink and to cook with.  

After experimenting with a few different water filtration pitchers we settled on the Brita pitcher we have now.  But, when the time came to buy a new replacement filter...they were no where to be found.  Our friends saved the day for us and donated enough filters to last an entire year.  Water filters may not be the most expensive gift we have ever received but they most certainly are valuable to the quality of our lives.  Especially in light of how important water is to the proper functioning of our bodies.

So what do you drink the most?
What is your brain made of?!

Monday, January 30, 2012

counting the gifts...

I have surrendered to the fact that while I don't like exercise and sweating...my body seems to like it.  I am feeling much better physically and mentally.  Spiritually, I find myself reflecting on my surroundings and feeling more 'dialed in' when I am out walking.  Last week I walked four out of seven days.  This week the goal is to repeat that.  I am grateful to have found something simple (and free) that I can do for myself that yields such great results.  

554.  knowing there are greater things ahead.

555.  having our friend, Paul, visiting from the states.
556.  taking photos against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea.
557.  having a reliable vehicle that allows us to provide transport for others when needed.
558.  knowing how to make our dollars stretch when there is more month than money.
560.  fresh fruit and vegetables.
561.  fresh smoothies for breakfast.

562.  not believing everything I tell myself about myself.

563.  sharing Tom's birthday with Belizean friends.
564.  passing the mid-term in Tom's counseling class. 
565.  gifts from America.
566.  enough Brita water filters to make it through the year.
567.  pumpkin pie flavored pop-tarts.
568.  a new oven thermometer.
570.  sharing our favorite hot wing spot with our friend from the states.
573.  a phone call from my brother.

574.  understanding why God is sometimes silent during difficulty. 

joining in with the gratitude community:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lolita's broken life...

 Excerpt from Lolita,
 by Vladimir Nabokov                         
"I'll die if you touch me," I said.  "You are sure you are not coming with me?  Is there no hope of your coming?  Tell me only this."
"No," she said.  "No, honey, no.
She had never called me honey before.
"No," she said, "it is quite out of the question.  I would sooner go back to Cue.  I mean-" She groped for words.  I supplied them mentally ("He broke my heart. You merely broke my life").
It took me years to face this book.  Other books by Nabokov are not so difficult to read.  I knew that it was about a middle aged man and his relationship with a 12 year old girl.  I didn't think I had the strength to make it through a book like this.  I read it while we still lived in Russia.  It was a difficult read.  It broke my heart.  It moved me to tears and it made me angry.

Vladimir Nabokov is quoted as saying:

Some people, and I am one of them, hate happy ends.  We feel cheated.  Harm is the norm.

I disagree.  Harm should never be the norm.  

But, sometimes it is. Each week there are children and teens whose lives, hearts and spirits have been broken. Some of them are brought to their knees by their life circumstances. Others were abused or mistreated by someone who was supposed to care for them.  These dear ones often struggle to conceive of a power great enough to mend their lives, heal their hearts, replenish their spirits and redeem all of the suffering they have faced.

I still believe though...that healing can begin with a whispered prayer calling forth the Light of Healing.
Join with us in prayer for those who are still victims.
Please remember the Lolitas of the world.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Determination today...better health tomorrow!

On Monday, I got to work and realized that I had forgotten the power cord for my computer.  Our first client of the day was male so I knew that I had time to dash home to get it.  Tom suggested that I walk instead of using the car.  I was a bit put out...I mean it was only a five minute drive.  Then I thought about it.  The walk would be good for me.  And we were getting low on gas and pay day was not until the end of the month.  

So, I walked home.  

When I got to the house 15 minutes later I realized that the walk was not horrible.  It didn't kill me. I used the time to refocus and reflect.  I was able to throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, drink a cup of tea, and write in my journal for a bit.  I changed out of my cute shoes and put on my walking shoes and went back to work with the cord for my computer and a new attitude.

And I have been walking daily since then.  

Tuesday, I walked to the post office and stopped by the market to pick up some fruit.  Yesterday, we walked over to the counseling office to pick up some copies from the secretary.  Belmopan is a small city.  The first four months we got by without a car.  We got around the city either by foot or on the bikes graciously donated to us by a couple in Nebraska. It takes longer to walk or bike but it is doable...especially since we are now into the dry season.  

There are some health benefits to walking.  
I have been feeling better physically, my mind is clearer, my mood is lighter. 

I know it will take a while for me to make walking a habit but I know that if I put my mind to it I can do it.  Tom has been walking five days a week for several weeks now.  He is determined.  I respect that.  And his faithfulness is admirable and contagious. 

Determination today will lead to better health tomorrow.
What are you determined to do for better health?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thought for today...

I took this photo on Hummingbird Highway on the way to Dangriga.  We were out sightseeing that day.  It was our first weekend with the new car.  It is hard to believe that a year has passed so quickly.  I had Tom stop the car so I could snag this photo.  He is used to me making requests like this and he pulled over long enough for me to get the shot.  We work together like that...after 30 years together it just seems natural.

How important is unity?
Unity at home.  Unity in neighborhoods.  Unity in a country.  
Does it really make a difference to the quality of our lives?

I think so.  When God's people live in unity it is good and it is pleasant.  It is part of His intention for us. We are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Jesus prayed for all believers to be brought to complete unity.  Disharmony in a home or church is an oppression that prevents growth.  The harmony of lives in unity with one another allows each member to thrive.  

I want to see everyone thrive.  
The people we see in the counseling office.  Those we meet as we move about the city.
Our loved ones back in the states.  Our friends back in Russia.

May every home be a place where unity flourishes 
so that individuals are free to grow, thrive, and live as He intended.
And may it all be good and pleasant to Him.

linking up with:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tasty Tuesday...what your cravings mean

I came across the handy chart on Pinterest.  This is fascinating to me.  Not long ago I blogged about my sugar cravings.  And now I can clearly see what my body is missing when I have those cravings and what real foods can give me the nutrients that I am needing at the time.  

How awesome is that?!

Not only do I love sweets but salty foods too.  Popcorn and potato chips are my weaknesses.  Tom and I are both looking to make better choices with food.  As the one who does the cooking I feel a greater responsibility to make sure that I am doing my part to help us both eat better.  And I have been inspired by his commitment to walking.  He has been going out five days a week.  We walked a lot before we got the car last year.  We lived for five years in Russia without owning a vehicle.  But here in Belize the public transportation system is not like it was in Russia.  Since purchasing the car I have gained ten pounds.  I was shocked when I got on the scale.  Absolutely shocked.

Today is Tom's birthday and he asked for a cake.  I will bake him a Texas Sheet Cake today but we will be sharing it with friends so we won't be tempted to eat the whole thing just the two of us.  

We aren't going to be counting calories and weighing in each week. 
 The goal is to make better food choices, 
eat treats in moderation and walk as often as we can.  

What changes are you making for your health this year?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrating Chinese New Year and counting the gifts...

There is a first time for everything.  And yesterday we celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time!

We attend a multi ethnic church here in Belize and one of the ethnicities represented is Chinese.  As part of his message Pastor Han told us about the beginning of Bethel Disciples Church.  It began with a group of Chinese believers who came together to worship.  And they called Pastor Han, a Korean, to be their pastor.  He does not speak Mandarin so he preached in English and used a translator.  Others heard about the church and began to attend.  And now just about every ethnic group in Belize is represented at the church.  It truly is a beautiful sight to see everyone worshiping together each Sunday.  
After church yesterday we were treated to a buffet of Chinese food, made by several ladies from the congregation. It was all very tasty.  I can't decide if the noodle dish or the dumplings were my favorite.  I would be willing to taste it all again, you know, to be sure!  There were also gifts for the kids, lots of laughter and great fellowship to be had.  We were thrilled to be a part of it all.  We have been attending Bethel Disciples Church for a few months now and it is beginning to feel like we have found a home. And that is truly a gift!

531.  a place to worship and grow in Him.
532.  wooden tables laden with more than enough food for everyone.
533.  sermons that seem to have been written just for my ears.
534.  worship songs that lift up an offering of praise.
535.  text messages that let me know a friend is praying for me.
536.  phone calls and texts from Nathan and Spencer.

537. being the mother of two incredible sons.

538.  Tom taking a bullet for me during my week of no bread. 
 I ate the fish burger and he finished off the bun.

539.  learning to ignore the wires and just focus on the sunset.
540.  beautiful moments to end the day.
541.  Creation speaking words that enchant the soul

542.  Christmas gifts that bring tears to the eye and joy to the heart.
543.  the thoughtfulness of on line friends.
544.  Ornaments to replace items lost in Russia.
545.  sweets from home filled with childhood memories.

546.  papaya-orange smoothies
547.  fresh fruit and veggies from the market

548.  having a friend drop off a container filled with fresh baked goodness.
549.  eating Johnny Cakes for the first time.
550.  watching American Idol after the football game.
551.  having people who trust me.
552.  the serenity that abides in a grateful heart. 


joining in with the gratitude community:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chocolate and water and modern day slavery...

It was hard for me to imagine the connection.  

However, according to Change.org there are five ways that lack of clean water leads to modern day slavery.  In the opening lines of the article we read:
"The global water crisis contributes to poverty and disease, holds back gender equity advancement, and affects the use of enslaved and exploited labor in commercial agriculture. These problems and others make millions of men, women, and children vulnerable to modern-day slavery."
Here are the reasons cited in the article:
1. Lack of water access keeps people in poverty
2. Fetching water can put women and children at risk for trafficking
3. Lack of water keeps women from being equal
4. Unsafe water and unsanitary living conditions cause disease and death
5. Industrial agriculture enslaves people made poor by lack of water.

If you click on the link and read the article you will see each reason expounded upon.  click here

Learning about water got me to thinking about what other industries contribute to modern day slavery.  And then I found this story about chocolate's child slaves.
The chocolate bar you snack on likely starts at a plant in a West African cocoa plantation, and often the people who harvest it are children. Many are slaves to a system that produces something almost all of us consume and enjoy.
We have learned from our work with the Child Development Foundation that poverty is a major factor in child trafficking.  There are unscrupulous people who prey on poor families whose only assets are their adolescent sons or daughters.  We have learned more than we ever wanted to know about the depravity of mankind.  And as we conclude a productive week of working in the counseling office and look forward to another class this weekend of Tom training counseling students...we are praying.

Praying for those around the world who are still victims.  
Praying for those here in Belize who are suffering.  
Praying for the abused, misused and neglected children.  
And praying for the perpetrators to WAKE up and repent of their deeds.  

Won't you pray with us?

If you are looking for a cause to support please consider making donations to the following organizations:
The Child Development Foundation works to bring awareness of the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children and eradicate this situation here in Belize.
Water Missions Belize works to provide whole villages with access to clean water, does education on hygiene and helps to set up micro businesses to abate poverty.
Hearts of Christ works against illiteracy by providing children with sponsors who will pay for their education.  Education in Belize is not free.  And poor families often keep children home to help earn a living.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Do you ever feel this way?

 Some days I just want to run to the store or do my errands and not run into anyone who knows me.

I don't want to be rude I just want to be invisible.  Maybe it's the introvert in me.  Maybe it is a holdover from the five years of being the only black woman in the region we lived in back in Russia. There are days when it is obvious that the feeling of always being on stage hasn't fully left me yet.   

But then there are days like yesterday.  

I went to the post office to pick up a package from a blogging friend
 who was sweet enough to bless us with some treats and Christmas ornaments.

As soon as I walk in one of the workers in the back looks up at me and smiles.  She walks toward me with a piece of mail that had our first address on it here in Belmopan.  The man at the counter is waiting on someone else when I enter.  He goes to get that person's package and mine at the same time.  I have not even given my name or shown him my paperwork yet. When my turn comes he gets me out of there in record time.  Thanking him, I turn to leave, smile, and God reminds me of the benefits of being recognized.

 It is not about being on display. 
It is about being a part of a community. 
And we are truly blessed indeed to be able to live and serve here.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

thought for today...

Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart; 
a wise person draws from the well within.
Proverbs 20:5
The Message

This week, in the U.S., the birthday of Martin Luther King was celebrated.  There were many quotes of his posted on Facebook and Twitter.  One of them stood out for me above the others...

The time is always right to do what is right.

 The older I get the more empowered I feel.  I remember when I turned forty my Auntie Martha told me that I was now old enough to do what I want to do.  As I get closer to fifty I realize how much more courageous I am becoming.  Meaning that I feel more at ease speaking my mind, having an opinion, and acting on what I believe.

 The verse from Proverbs reminds me that knowing what is right is important.  Quite often I know that right thing deep within my heart. It is usually my head that needs convincing.  Drawing from the well of wisdom in the heart challenges me to do more and to not just think about it.  So, for me, whether that means speaking up about injusticeconfessing the pain in my heart or even talking about my issues with food...I know that this year I will be more inclined to surrender to the call to do the right thing.

And like Dr. King said the time is always right to do it. 
Is there a right thing you need to be doing?  

linking up with:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday- Cream of Something...

There are many times when we cannot find exactly what we want here in the markets.  Times when we can find it...but it is outrageously expensive because it is imported.  And times when it was available a month ago but not now.  Those are the times when I turn to my cookbooks or get online to find a substitute.  As I was looking through recipes that I have saved on Pinterest I found one that will come in handy for sure.

Cream of "Something" Soup Mix
photo from One Orange Giraffe
1 cup non-fat dried milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup bouillon, your choice of flavor (if you have cubes you have to smash them up)
4 Tablespoons freeze dried minced onions 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme or parsley 
1 teaspoon pepper

For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup,
 mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup water.
 Cook until thick.

I have most of these ingredients on hand so all I need to do is run to the store for some bouillon and I can make a batch today.  If it works it will be a money saver for sure!  If you have recipes for other dried mixes just let me know...I would love to give them a try.

Monday, January 16, 2012

counting the gifts...

Just like many of you this was a busy weekend for us...
*we had a banquet to attend Friday night for Christian Leaders out at the YWAM base in Banana Bank.  We met several new people.  We were amazed by the turn out. Close to 100 people in attendance. I think most of the various ethnic groups and denominations here in Belize were present.  We had a great dinner, an inspiring speaker and awesome fellowship with other leaders from around Belize.

*Saturday morning was the first class of the new semester at Belize Bible Center.  We had 16 students show up for this second course on Christian counseling...some returning students and some for the first time.  And we were told to expect new people next week as well!  Tom taught on Defense Mechanisms and he was thrilled to be teaching again.

*Saturday evening Spencer came by with some of his YWAM friends.  It was a great time of laughing with them and getting to know them a little better.  

*Sunday service at church was refreshing and the message shared was right on time and in tune with what I needed to hear.  Next week because of the number of Asian believers in our church we will be celebrating Chinese New Year with a meal together after the service...and that is exciting to look forward to!

502.  morning walks with Tom
503.  a hot cup of tea with a friend
504.  great conversations that you don't want to end
505.  crispy salads loaded with veggies and salmon
506.  warm garlic bread

507.  a buffet line with a glimpse of Spencer in the background

508.  a tasty dinner and dessert while chatting with some leaders from the Mennonite community.

509.  candlelight and fresh cut flowers

510.  a free book of choice for each couple or single that attended

511.  Having Spencer spend his free day with us on Sunday.
512.  A timely message from Pastor Underwood for me to process the week.
513.  the sun shining after the rain.
514.  being inspired by Tom's commitment to walk more.
515.  experiencing the calm that comes from breathing in deeply and letting it out
516.  realizing that although we don't have much materially...we truly are rich.
517.  Time with Spencer's new friends from YWAM
518.  the joy of five sugar free days last week

519.  learning not just to sing but to pray this chorus:
Lord, prepare me
to be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy,
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I'll be a living sanctuary for You.

520.  appreciating the difficulty in this process of surrendering all that I hold dear to Him.

521. the delight of knowing that we are exactly where God wants us to be.

522.  a counseling client who is growing and changing and experiencing a fuller life!
523.  teens who desire to work through their feelings and issues in counseling.

524.  the diversity of cultures here

525.  Reading The Hunger Games late into the night.
526.  watching documentaries with Spencer on a quiet Sunday afternoon
527.  a bag filled with oranges from a gracious couple at church
528.  the calming smell of a freshly peeled orange permeating the air.
529.  homework from Tom's class that challenges the mind and the spirit

530.  for His enduring love that becomes more palpable each day

joining in with the gratitude community:

Friday, January 13, 2012

God, grant me the serenity to accept my cravings!

Does the Serenity prayer work for sugar addicts lovers?  I am trying to understand my cravings.  What they mean and why I have them.  I went five days without sugar or caffeine.  And that is probably a good thing.  

My headache is gone.  I am not as tired.  The fog has lifted.

Today I promised to have tea with a friend.   And Tom and I are attending a banquet tonight.  What temptations will I have to face?  I am not sure.  I know that moderation is the key.  Before the holidays I would only bake once a week.  I didn't feel compelled to eat a cookie or indulge with a candy bar everyday.  I was able to keep treats in the treat category and not move them into the field of entitlement.

You know how the entitlement thing goes right?  
I deserve this because... 
 I earned this because...

I find that I can talk myself into or out of whatever I want to talk myself into or out of. 
Don't we all? 
 Or is it just me?

During my year of Surrender I am looking at my eating habits.  My goal is to have freedom with restraint.  To set limits and stick to them.  That is why I took the sugar break.  To get my mind right.   To refocus. To pray about this year with a clear head.  And I made it through.

Even with a Butterfinger candy bar in the freezer...I didn't cave.  
I set a realistic goal for myself knowing that I had the power to reach the goal if I really wanted to.  
And I did.

Next week I am thinking of giving up bread...that one might actually be harder!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seven years without a dryer...

During the rainy season here in Belize I find myself daydreaming about dryers...exciting, huh?
Seriously, though.  No lint on the towels or dog hair in the socks. Joy!

Since we left California we have not owned a dryer.  When we lived in Russia a washing machine was given to us as a gift from a small group in Kansas.  And we had a drying rack inside the house.  Dryers there were unbelievably expensive.  Perhaps prices have come down now.  Back then we thought that $1200 US for a basic dryer was a luxury we could not afford. 

We got used to this life.  Washing clothes a day or two ahead of when you need them.  The real sacrifice is with jeans and towels.  However, if you add enough fabric softener they come out okay.  With towels you can even iron them if you want that soft warm fresh out of the dryer feel.  

Here in Belize we have a washing machine, a clothesline outside and a couple of drying racks inside for when it rains.  Today as I was hanging up clothes in the laundry room I caught a glimpse of the space where the dryer would go.  Dryers here range in price from $650 to $1500 US.  

I got to thinking though.  We live in a good neighborhood.  Many of our neighbors are professional people.  There is a doctor behind us.  An architect a couple houses over, a few university professors live close by. 

Everyone hangs their clothes out on the line.
There is sun here pretty much year round.  
Even in the rainy season you can hang clothes out at least once a week.  
this photo was taken in a small village not far from Belmopan

I love the seeing clothes sway in the wind. 
 I love how they smell when you take them off the line. 

So we have adapted to the culture around us.  I don't have a strong overwhelming desire to buy a dryer.  It would be nice to have some days.  The dry season is coming on strong.  It is getting warmer every day. If we were going to buy an appliance to make my life easier I would rather have an air conditioner...but that is another post.  The cost of electricity here is outrageous!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

thought for today...

No matter what direction we are going in our car this compass always has the same reading.  I didn't notice it at first.  Because I don't use it to navigate around town. It was on our trip to Maya Beach for our anniversary when it dawned on me that something was wrong.  The problem is that it has a leak in it.  And the ball is stuck now in one position.

I feel like that sometimes.  Stuck.  
Our life is still moving forward and our ministry here in Belize is growing and active.  
But, there are days when I feel like I should be farther ahead than what I am spiritually and emotionally. 

 Tom and I turn 49 this year.  50 is gaining on us.  We should be grown ups by now.  

Following God's direction gets me back on course.  Time in the word helps me move forward on the path toward Him.  Toward spiritual growth and emotional healing.  I love this verse in the The Message because it reminds me that I won't stay stuck if I keep moving toward Him.  I will make it.

linking up with:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday...kind of.

This is a melancholy post...so be warned!  I don't often do this publicly.  Seven years ago we sold our home in California and embarked on this missionary journey.  We stayed in various homes in several different states until leaving for Russia in April of 2005.  We have said  goodbye a lot since then.  But, whether it is a life change or a location change it still is a change... and that means letting go of what was to accept and embrace what is.  And I am trying to doing it sober.  For me, that means not medicating with sugar as I would love to  do.  After all of the holiday indulging however, today is day three of no sugar.

I would love to eat my feelings away.

I mean...these would help, right?

or this

I could easily bake a cake or fry some donuts and get lost in the flavors and aroma for a while.  But that would be self sabotage.    So, I need to remember to breathe, let go and move again today.  Why is this so hard?  I mean, seriously?  I think it is because today I miss the daily interaction from when Nathan and Spencer still lived at home.  You know, the talking face to face and the hugs. Now we are all back to texting and Facebook to stay in touch.  Growing up sucks.

There are ribs in the crock pot and veggies in the fridge that need to be turned into something to go with the ribs. Tom is out doing the shopping and running errands.  So before I chicken out of letting you all know how I am really feeling today, it is time to hit publish, jump in the shower and finish my pity party with a good cry while I wash my hair.  

Monday, January 09, 2012

counting the gifts...

breathe, let go and move on.

Spencer moves out to Banana Bank today to work at the YWAM base there.  We know we are letting him go into good hands.  And that he will be a 15 minute drive away.  And yet, it still feels like a loss.  We had a family Skype time with Nathan and though I could see his face and was grateful... it makes it hard to wait for June when we will all be together again.  I am struggling learning to breathe, let go and move on to whatever comes next.  

This will be our first full week back in the counseling office since the holiday break began. There is a banquet on Friday night for Christian leaders and their spouses.  On Saturday Tom starts teaching the second counseling course at Belize Bible Center.  We have a full week ahead.  So we must breathe, let go, and move on with the tasks before us.  

and I am so grateful that there are gifts to count along the way...

487.  dinner with our new friends Dion, Andrea, and their children, Kaelen, Janae and baby Zaira

488.  making enough pizzas for us all.
489.  the joy of watching the children eat several slices of pizza and the salad to go with it.
490.  carrot apple slaw.
491.  Skype calls with the whole family.
492.  long lazy Sundays.
493.  homemade treats from Mom & Dad Sharp.
494.  Christmas gifts for Harley, our dog, too!

495.  watching 1940's House

496.  discovering Downton Abbey

497.   bursts of color in our front yard

498.  watching the hummingbirds enjoy the flowers
499.  and the butterflies

500.  being moved to tears by a few of the poets and their stories
while watching Louder Than a Bomb.

501.  the opportunity to breathe, let go and move on.

joining in with the gratitude community: