Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shelter from the Storm

My previous post may have given some the erroneous idea that I never waver through unbelief regarding our housing situation. Truth be told, though my head is always in agreement with what I know is true, my feelings tend to be more variable.

Sometimes God puts me in lessons that I do and don't want to learn. Certainly I want to grow in my faith, but I just wish it could happen without it being hard. Unfortunately, that's just not possible. What I'm learning, at times quite reluctantly, is how to own that my feelings go up and down, but that they are meant to drive me back to God. There's a great deal of intentionality in this pursuit - I cannot passively drift back to God, but like a ship in a storm I have to set my course back toward the solid rock and cling to it until I feel the ground beneath me again.

Yesterday we saw another place - the best possibility yet - but we aren't certain we should pursue it for various reasons I don't want to elaborate here. It disturbed me so much I had nightmares about it and woke convinced we shouldn't take it. Here I am, 12 hours later, thinking it's maybe a good idea to live there. My emotions are so high today that in church I teared up over the VBS announcement, which involved 5 adults dressed in sporting gear singing and dancing to the VBS theme song. I am convinced I was the only person who had that reaction. Still, I don't think peace is a lack of emotions, but a choice to rest in one place and not let them lead you away.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in Him at all times, O people, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal." Isaiah 26:3-4

Thursday, April 26, 2007

By Faith, Not Sight

Many of you know that we are in the midst of finding new housing, due to the blood sucking nature of the Singapore rent hikes. This process has been long and thus far, not successful. We have 6 weeks before we will be homeless. Many well meaning people have offered help and advice, and others offer simply dire and discouraging thoughts about how this won't get any better. (except my neighbor, who told me that her feng shui knowledge says the prices will go down in two years, because it will be the year of the Ox. Smile and nod, Gina, smile and nod).

It is tempting to want to run in a million directions, hire legions of property agents, and scour the internet for places to rent. (did I mention we're trying to find a place for three families, not just ours? We like a challenge). But I was encouraged this week by a Piper sermon about waiting on God. I've been asking Him to tell me how to be in this time. What is the balance of trusting in God and yet acting on that in faith? In the sermon, he quoted these verses from Psalm 33:16-22:

16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.

21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.

22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.

We don't need to spend hours on the internet looking for places, and we don't need an army of property agents, because God knows exactly where He's going to put us. Will we still use these things? Sure, but with the knowledge that God is our provider and our help, and that whatever we find is His doing. He can make a place where there isn't one. He isn't restrained by anything, and our hope is in Him.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tiger Scout Graduation

Last night was a red letter night for Ethan (where does that phrase come from?). He graduated from Tiger Scouts to being a full blown Cub Scout. He also participated in his first skit, and did a fine job. His drama geek mom was proud.

Ethan has some fun little rascals in his group who like to ham it up for the camera.

Erik is one of the assistant pack leaders. Ethan's receiving his Tiger Scout pin from an older Webelos Scout.

We had to beat the other scouts off with sticks to keep them from getting any of our great cake! (unfortunately, no one was there to protect the pizza that was delivered at the end of the meeting, so some other people ate a whole one!)

Did I forget to mention?

April 15th was a memorable day, not just because it was Megan's 5th birthday, but because she learned to ride a bike on her own! She's already riding like she' s been doing it for years. Even her adrenaline loving father is a little nervous as we watch her whip around the courtyard. So far no major spills, just looks of amazement from the locals as she cruises through the market.

Her courageous riding has inspired three other kids from our complex to lose their training wheels this week too, so on any given afternoon you walk through the courtyard at your own risk. It's fun to see all of them riding. Family bike rides here we come!

Somewhere on a bathroom wall . . .

are the words, "For a good time call Gina at ****-****." Or so it seems. I had a text message several weeks ago that said, "Hey Gina want to chat?" from no one I knew. That wouldn't have troubled me much aside from the fact that they knew my name. This afternoon, I got a phone call from a man and initially all I could understand (due to his thick accent, and the fact that my reception in the stairwell wasn't great) was, "company" and "rent." Since we'd just talked with a property agent about someone taking over our lease, I thought he might be calling in reference to that. I asked him again what he wanted. He said "I am looking for a company."
I said, "You want me to help you find a job?"
He said, "No, I am looking for company."
And I realized that the first thing he said was, "I am looking for company for rent." In other words, he thinks I'm a call girl.
So I said, "I am married with two small children. Don't ever call this number again." Then proceeded to call my husband and ponder why people out there seem to think I will respond to this kind of propositioning.

My hand phone isn't the only place I get this. On an almost daily basis, I get instant messages from random men across Asia asking if I'd like to chat, get to know them, meet them when they come to Singapore. At first I thought it was because my husband put my kindergarten picture on my IM (I was a pretty cute 5 year old, despite my Dorothy Hamill haircut). So I changed it to a picture of me and Erik. Doesn't deter them. I'm sure they're sending out their creepy messages to many people across the globe, but I have no desire to be included. Once I responded and said I was enormously fat and had horrible body odor. He didn't care, so I blocked him. Now I just block them all.

One more call or message and I'm changing my number. Just goes to show - there are perverts everywhere.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Off the Beaten Path

For months I have wanted to take my kids to Tay Guan Heng, which is a store specializing in the lost art of making cinnamon trees into little clay creations. Sounds strange, but what they do is grind the trees into a fine powder that can be reconstituted with water into a playdough like paste. They shape it into various objects, mostly Chinese figures like a man pulling a rickshaw or carrying water buckets. Then the figures dry in the sun for several days. Some time this year I plan to go there and buy a full nativity set.

I thought my kids would find it interesting to see how they do this, and I've heard they're very patient with children. The rumors were true! When my friend Wendy and I arrived, they pulled up a small table and chairs for our three kids and gave them each a ball of dough. The tools of their trade are commonplace - straws, toothpicks, a glass bottle for a rolling pin. Then while Wendy and I browsed their open air shop, the kids were assisted in making figures. Ethan was thrilled to make a dragon. Megan spent her time making little marks in a Christmas tree with a straw. I bought a man carrying water buckets for a friend, and one kilo of the powder for home use. We brought the kids' figures home where they are drying in Ethan's room.

I feel quite blessed to have experienced that. The men were very eager to show us how they work and to explain it all. I wish I had pictures, but I didn't have my camera. Wendy did though, so when I get the pictures from her I'll post some. Meanwhile, I think the kids and I might crack open that bag and create some more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Princess Party

April 15th may mean tax day to the rest of you, but to us here in Asia, avoiding US taxes (just kidding, sort of) it's a much more joyous occasion. It's Megan's birthday! I was actually induced on the 15th, not realizing it was tax day. I was in China, and I was just glad I'd missed April 14th, because 14 in Chinese sounds like the words for "I want to die!" Anyway . . .

Megan wanted a princess party. I think what she really wanted was for me to inundate the house with Disney Princess party supplies, but our budget and my personal preferences forbid it. She had Cinderella napkins, but the rest was pink and ribbons, aside from the big blue castle door we made.

We went earlier in the week to choose a new princess dress for Megan. Of course she fell in love with the Disney Princesses dresses at Toys R Us for S$70 each. So I went to Mustafa and found they had Disney Princess dresses there for S$30! Score another point for Mustafa! Man, I love that store. So I took her on Saturday and she chose this one, which is Erica from Barbie's The Princess and the Pauper. She was thrilled.

We kept the party small because Erik and Ethan were off at another birthday party and I was on my own. I never plan enough activities, but the girls were happy playing. Megan had a great time and that's what counts.

Welcome ye to our humble kingdom
Princess Megan and her throne (she guided the decoration of that).

What a bunch of cuties! Princess Megan and her royal court.

After we played Pass the Parcel (a game we learned from our Australian friends) the girls wanted to do the actions to the song I'd played. The mom of three of the girls here taught them all the actions to Every Move I Make (the worship song, not the 80's hit).

I was in such a hurry at the last minute that I forgot the silver balls and pink sprinkles for the cake. Oh well, they probably would have broken their teeth on those little balls. I don't know who thought those should be edible.

Megan had quite a time trying to blow out her candles. As you can see, I had to help her a little (ok, a lot - I think I blew them all out).

Monday, April 09, 2007

A day with daddy

It's a disappointment the first time you head down to the coast in Singapore and find that the beautiful ocean view you hoped for is obstructed by oil tankers. Still, the kids love a day with daddy at Sentosa Island, off the southern coast of Singapore. This was taken riding the lift back up after taking the luge down the hill.

To Ethan's left you can see the Singapore skyline, and the coastline crowded with shipping docks.

Megan on a roll

Up to this point, Ethan has been the one to spout the most quotables, but Megan has been stepping into the spotlight in the last few days with these gems:

She told me when she grows up she wants to be a cat (yes, a cat), a doctor, and a baker. I asked her why a cat, and she said, "So I can fit in drains and hide from people." And now you know that cats are not as domesticated here as they are elsewhere.

Today, Ethan told me in the car that he would like to be baptized when he is older, like 20, or 10, or maybe 18. So Megan chimed in and said that when she get "bathetized" she would like to wear her swimsuit, so her clothes don't get wet. It seemed no matter how many times Ethan and I said "baptized" she was stuck with "bathetized."

And finally, when getting the car after the Easter service, Erik tried in vain to sing one of the hymns from that morning (among my husband's vast array of impressive talents does not lie perfect pitch). I said that maybe daddy wasn't the best singer in our family, to which Megan responded, "I'M the best singer in our family. I'm the best singer in the whole WORLD!" And humble to boot.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tales of a tropical Easter

Ok, not the most flattering picture of Megan, and I'm dressed in my workout clothes, but here we are at Easter breakfast with pancakes, fruit and strawberry lassi. The strange black and white splotches on the left side of the table are lambs made from handprints and cotton balls.
We took advantage of our tropical weather today to have an Easter Egg Hunt outside. I've never done this with my own kids (though they've done it with our small group from church in years past, and will do it again later today). I asked myself last year why I never had egg hunts outside as a kid. Then I remembered that I grew up in the frozen northern tundra of Minnesota. There was often snow on the ground at Easter.

I thought this might be a great new tradition, but now I began having doubts even as I planted eggs. I tried to put only plastic ones in the planters and bushes because they were still wet with dew and infested with ants. Despite my efforts, the dyed ones still got damp and melted a bit all over their beautiful baskets. And we brought a few outdoor critters in as well (their unexpected journeys to a new and exotic location were quickly cut short).

So I don't know. Maybe I wasn't really missing out that much as a kid. Or maybe I should wait until the afternoon to hold egg hunts outside.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Evidence of our vacation

So here it is - photographic evidence that I didn't fabricate my previous post.

The kids spent a good portion of their pool time climbing these stairs and coming down the slide in as many different ways as they could imagine. And that waterfall is the poor man's massage (Karen and I still decided to partake in the more expensive one at the hotel's spa).

This man is explaining how they harvest rubber out of this tree. Unfortunately soon after this photo our battery died so we don't have pictures of the cool house where we ate, or the old Malaysian man with, I kid you not, four teeth in the front of his mouth.

This is the beginning of the nighttime firefly tour on the river. Notice how the kids all look excited and happy. This look was diminished by the end, partially because it was late and partially because Ethan was at the beginning of a head cold. They were able to catch several fireflies in their hands though - these were tiny, the size of mosquitoes.

I'm afraid this boy was born to fish. My dad warned me never to marry a man who fishes or hunts, because I would never see him on weekends. Looks like if I'm going to see my son, I may have to take up fishing myself.

Here's Megan and Faith once again. These two have the best time together. They'll have to make the most of it, because the Hausman clan will be moving in about 2 months. And so the mourning in the Butz household continues.