Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts on Humility

Here are a few great quotes from this book I'm reading called Humility:

"Fill your affections with the Cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin." -John Owen
If I'm focused on Christ and what he's done for me, I'm put in my place and reminded of my need for him.

"Have you realiezd that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" quoted from Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones. We need to tell ourselves the truth of who we are!

When I am experiencing anxiety, the root issue is that I'm trying to be self-sufficient. (wow - good but convicting reminder).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random quotes from the car

Our car has been a place where we've had some fun conversations with the kids (it's one of the main reasons I'm glad we sacrificed their college education to buy one here). Here are a few quotes from the car recently:

Megan, "These are good, they're GREAT, they're AMAZING!!!!" In reference to her first taste EVER of Nilla Wafers. They were on sale at Cold Storage for $4.10, making them what - only twice what they are in the States?

Megan, "I LOVE Chinese New Year!!" after receiving about $40 worth of money in red packets.

Megan, "I know. You could put some in one bowl, some in another, mix the chips in one of the bowls and TA DA!!" explaining how I could make brownies without having the peanut butter and milk chocolate chips (which were also on sale for only twice their worth) mixed in all of it so she could have one brownie without them. She really didn't want them in her brownie.

and my personal favorite, "No one is buying my hot dogs." (from a dejected Ethan). I think I'll let you try and figure out what that was about.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's on my nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand

I usually have a combination of books on my nightstand, both fiction and non-fiction (if I'm lucky and the library has fiction I want). Right now I'm fortunate to have one of each. They are:

Humility: True Greatness, by C.J. Mahaney
I gave a talk to a group of moms when I was in the States recently about what I've been learning in Singapore. It all boils down to one word: dependence. Admitting that we need to depend on others doesn't usually come unless we are humbled (notice I didn't say "humble" but "humbled" meaning it was done TO us). Of course we could choose to humble ourselves before God sees fit to do the humbling, which is part of why I'm reading this book. But I never would have found it if I hadn't given that talk, after which one of the moms there who I greatly respect told me she'd been reading it. Since she is going to give it to all the other moms at an upcoming retreat, she was kind enough to send it to me before I left the States.

I just finished a surprising chapter on Jesus' greatness. It's not surprising that Jesus is great, of course, but it emphasized not only His humility but our lostness, which is essential for seeing ourselves as we really are (which is of course essential to humility). I love this quote, "At the source of all Christian service in the world is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service." At the beginning of humility is acknowledging our Savior's sacrifice for us, and our incredible need for it.

The Crazed, by Ha Jin
On a completely different note, I just picked up a book by an author I hope I like. I haven't read anything by him, though I did buy Waiting at a used book store recently to save for the time in my near future when libraries will be inaccessible. Because I previously lived in China, I love reading anything, fiction or non-fiction, about its history and culture. This book is set just at the beginning of the student demonstrations of 1989, and revolves around a student caring for his professor (and future father-in-law) who has had a stroke. The professor begins to go mad and spout crazy talk. Or is he actually speaking the truth? I guess I'll find out soon.

That's what I have on my nightstand. What about you?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Choice is Clear

Well, I did it. I managed to get up at 5 a.m. this morning. I thought I was going to do it on Sunday and Monday as well, and didn't know why I slept through my alarm (you might argue that it was because I was tired, but I will counter with the fact that I am an amazingly light sleeper who cannot do that). I realized yesterday afternoon that it was because my watch was set for pm when it should have been am. Might explain why it was going off at 5 pm.

So I started what I hope will be a good pattern. I got up, spent an hour studying the Word and praying, then set out for a 3 mile run, showered, got ready, had breakfast, and still had time before we wanted to start homeschool (at 8) which helped me walk into school with a positive attitude. Contrast this to yesterday, when I woke up late, took too long running down to Mustafa and back for the much needed cocoa to complete my brownies, kept redirecting the kids to whatever they could do while independently while I was getting ready, and then spent the rest of the morning feeling frazzled and grumpy. I could have been used for a case study of "What it looks like when you aren't walking in power of the Spirit" a.k.a. "Joylessness."

I'm realizing that in so much of life, the choice is easier when there is a clear picture of why you are doing something. And this involves not only what you could have if you make the choice, but also what will happen if you don't. This thought originated from a quote in The 4:8 Principle, "If you only care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it. Only you must then really wish these things, and wish them exclusively, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly." (William James)

So I want to be a spiritually and physically healthy person who loves and schools her children well, is a blessing to her husband and others. But I can't just want that, because in order to have that, I have to not want at the same time things like an extra hour of sleep, or to stop exercising when it gets hard. Because those things are incompatible with what I want. I'm thankful for the blatant object lesson of these last two days to show me what could be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hot tip on frozen goods

In our never ending quest to live frugally in the land of exorbitant prices, I was thrilled to make this find the other day: a one pound bag of frozen blueberries for $7.10. I also found a one pound bag of frozen raspberries at the same place for $5.65. Blueberries can run around $7-9 depending on where you shop, but that's for fresh ones, and maybe only 100-200g. We tried out our blueberries in some homemade muffins, but I neglected to drain them, so they were actually purple muffins. I'm really good at messing up recipes like that (I should tell you about the purple wild rice soup I served some friends for Christmas one year). But still - yay!

If you live in Singapore and want to take advantage of this, you can find them at this great little bakery store on Bencoolen called Phoon Huat & Co (right side of the road if you're heading toward Middle Road). They have everything you could possibly think of and more in regards to baking. I get lots of spices there, as well as food coloring (every color of the rainbow!) and huge cans of cooking spray for $8.

Here's to saving money in the year of the Ox! (my year, by the way).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Re-entry Thoughts

Why hasn't the sun gone down yet? I think this day has lasted for 17 hours already. Is it bedtime yet? Can I justifiably go to sleep right now? It's only 4:53 p.m.

I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, when she makes the transition from black and white Kansas to technicolor. I hadn't realized how devoid of color Minnesota is in the winter. It's beautiful here!

Megan wants me to sit on her feet because they're cold. She wants me to turn off the AC because she's cold. This from the girl who was still going without socks when it was -40 wind chill outside.

Singaporeans aren't as nice as Minnesotans. There, I said it. It's not that they aren't nice, they're just not AS nice. We Minnesotans have a reputation for being nice. Maybe not me, necessarily, but in general.

It's summer. Why are we doing school? Isn't this summer vacation? Oh no, wait. We still have 16 weeks to go.

If only Singapore could always be as beautiful, breezy and cool as it is right now. We can leave the windows open all day (theoretically all night too but I'm afraid of flying things entering our house). Thank God we came back when we did!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Noting the differences

Under the influence of jet lag, I cracked open a Coke Zero pretty early this morning, and I was reminded of something you might not know: soda is not the same everywhere. I've been able to try Coke Zero and Coke Light (aka Diet Coke in the west) in several countries, and this is how they rank to me:

In Singapore, I like Coke Light better than Coke Zero.

In Thailand, I like Coke Zero much more than Coke Light. Until recently I couldn't stand Coke Light in Thailand. It tasted like nothing. They changed the formula recently but it is still far behind its sister.

In China, I love Coke Light. China is actually where I developed an affinity for it. When I was pregnant with Megan, I craved Coca Cola of all things. I have no idea why, as I never drank it before and don't particularly like it. But when that happened, I decided Coke Light might be a better alternative. And it's so cheap there that developing a habit wasn't hard.

In the US, I don't really care for either. I will drink them if they have cherry flavor in them, and Coke Zero by itself if there's no other option, but for the most part I'm not a fan. Plus, in the US there are so many other options for diet soda why limit yourself to Diet Coke? (as opposed to here, where Coke Light and Coke Zero are your only options unless you want to search).

See, this is something they don't tell you at cross cultural training, "The knowledge you acquire in your overseas living will include such inane things as the subtle differences in flavoring of diet sodas."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bullfrogs and Butterflies

In an effort to make room for the board games which have been accumulating in this house (have you played Pandemic? Ticket to Ride? if not, you might not be having as much fun as you could be), Ethan and I rearranged some storage spaces in the living room. Namely, we moved the record collection to a less accessible place after confirming that my parents don't spend their evenings listening to them. In the process, I was surprised, delighted, amused and nostalgic as evidenced by the exclamations I made:

"Wow! Look at all this classical music! We need this for our music time in homeschool!"
"Hey - Peter and the Wolf! I wanted this one!"
"Aw, Kenny Rogers."
"Is that Pat Boone? Oh, no, it's Richard Chamberlain. Huh - he was good looking."
"Look! John Schneider!"
"The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas!"
"A signed copy of Petra?"
"Hey - Michael W. Smith with a beard."
"Gamble family!" (and I launched into a little tune from it)
"Carman. Gotta love Carman."

But the best of all was finding the collection of records we had as kids which includes: Bullfrogs and Butterflies, Music Machine, Learning America The Fun Way, Nathaniel the Grublet, Sir Oliver's Song, and All Time Children's Hits.

The kids are currently listening to a scratchy session of Learning American the Fun Way since that's what we've been studying in homeschool. The children on the record are currently screaming, "Indians! Indians! What do we do?!?" We'll have a little talk later about political correctness.

The best part was when Ethan pulled the first record out, looked at and said, "Megan! Check out the size of this disk!"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The 5:00 a.m. Club

People often wonder out loud, and in my presence, how I am able to find the things I find on the internet. I would refer them to the previous post and point out that my "Input" strength drives me to search for information. I'm like #5 from Short Circuit "need input." So I find things.

Like this 5:00 a.m. Club, from Girl Talk. I'm a morning person, but while I'm here in Minnesota I've been getting up at 6 instead of the usual 5:40 or so I'd do in Singapore. As a busy mom who has a high value on staying healthy both physically and spiritually, I know that if I don't have time in the morning for God and exercise, I won't find time later in the day.

But the reality is that 5:40 doesn't really give me enough time before the kids are up, so I have decided that when I get back to Singapore, I'm going to join the 5:00 a.m. Club again (I used to do this before we had Lisa, at least for periodic spurts). I know it means I'll have to go to bed earlier, but the reality is that I am useless beyond 9 p.m. anyway. Might as well make the most of the time when I am actually productive.

I'm hoping that jet lag will make this process easier - I know I'll be waking up earlier the first week so maybe I'll just maintain it. I've decided to post my intentions here as another means of accountability. Feel free to ask me how it's going! But wait until I get back to Singapore. Until then I'm sleeping in.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Have you done Strengths Finders? It's all the rage right now among leaders. Or maybe it has been for awhile and I'm just getting in on the tail end of it. That's a more likely scenario. But my point is that it's an interesting assessment which tells you your top 5 strengths (out of about 30). Mine are communicator, belief, strategic, focus, and input. I'll let you wonder what those mean if you haven't taken it, because the reason I bring it up is to mention that one of the strengths you can have is adaptability.

I don't think historically I have been a person who possesses a high level of adaptability. I don't know where it falls in the list of strengths for me (other than knowing it's not one of my top five) but I suspect that over recent years it has crept up the scale.

I say this as I do my morning ritual - sitting in the new room at the back of my parent's house from 6-7 a.m., enjoying the silence, my journal, a few books, some prayer time, and the sun slowly lightening the sky behind bare trees in their backyard. It's also a bit chilly.

Well, it should be - it's -2.4 degrees below zero. When we came in November the first week it in the upper 30's. When it hit 20 degrees my impulse was to say, "I'm not going outside again until we go back to Singapore." Of course I realized the futility of this resolution. So I decided to adapt.

I've embraced the fact that I won't ever feel 100% warm here, and that when I go outside it will take longer to get ready. I've learned to turn the heated blanket on my bed to medium before I get ready to sleep, and to turn it off before I fall asleep so I don't wake up in a puddle of sweat. I bought winter running gear, and have braved the colder weather to experience some really fun runs (my cut off is 25 degrees though for outside exercise). Yesterday it was around 15 degrees and I didn't think it was all that bad (although I did choose to go to the gym to exercise!). I've learned to wear more clothing inside, and I've grown accustomed to the fact that most of the time my hands will be cold.

And you know what? I like it. I really like this climate. I love that I have an excuse to wear cozy clothes, to eat soup and drink tea. I love running in 30 degrees weather, seeing the sun reflect off the snow and feeling the cold air energize my body.

Does that mean when I get back to Singapore I'll wilt? Well, maybe temporarily. :) But after awhile I guess I'd just adjust to being back there, enjoying the fact that we can be outside every day, that the world is beautiful and clean all the time. Maybe it's not adaptability I'm developing so much as a positive attitude. Either way, I'm learning to enjoy what I get.

See, that's the key. I don't want to just bear with the circumstances of my life. I want to enjoy them. And I think part of the recipe for success is adaptability - to walk into a new situation and go, "Ok, here's what I've got to work with, let's make it happen." I think I'm getting better at it.
I should be with the amount of variability we have in our lives.

Our kids, on the other hand, specialize in adaptability. Whether it's traveling to new countries or meeting new friends, they don't seem to flinch when presented with change. It's a good quality to possess - I'm glad they're getting it from the beginning.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


When I started telling people I was running the half marathon last year, I had that uncomfortable feeling that comes with making something public. I'm going to do it again. Right now.

They say that if you make your New Year's resolutions known, you are more likely to follow through on them. I don't know - I think I could still manage to drop them all, but we'll see if this works. So here goes:

My primary resolution is that I want to be more other centered. How's that for vague? What I mean is that I want to be more conscious of others' needs and more quick to respond to them. So because it's vague, I have started making a list of things I can do to develop this trait, such as: only asking questions in conversation, rather than talking about myself; offering to help when I am visiting someone else's house until they find something for me to do (assuming that I don't have to ask to the point where they just find something so I'll shut up); asking God daily to bring to mind people who could use help, prayer, encouragement; writing notes to encourage people in my life, etc. If you have any ideas on how to be more other centered, send them my way!

Resolution 2: become a runner. I can't really say I am a runner right now because I just ran that one race and then a few days a week after that. So to pursue this goal I am making a list of races throughout the year (hopefully one in each season) to give me a training mark. Why running? Well, more for the mental discipline than anything else - to push myself to do more than I think I can.

Last one: Develop my prayer life. I'm starting this one by trying to pray 15 minutes a day in January. Sound too cerebral to be spiritual? Yeah, kind of does to me too, but I figure God can use it, and I'm more likely to actually pray than if I say, "I'm going to pray more." The more specific you are with your goals, the more likely you are to actually accomplish them.

I have other goals, like finish this writing project for work, and get my pictures on istock photo, but I don't want to overload myself. What about you - what are you doing with 2009?