Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Remarkable Day

Wednesday morning, December 12, 2012, I posted on Facebook that I felt the need to do something remarkable being as the date was 12/12/12. Getting married wasn’t an option since I took care of that in 1975. And having a baby was, thankfully, impossible. Think, think, think. What could I possible do to make this day remarkable?

Within seconds after posting my comment on Facebook I found a very important piece for my camera tripod that had been missing for months. I was sure I’d looked in every possible location but it suddenly hit me that there may have been one spot I’d forgotten to check. Sure enough, there it was. Now some people may not consider this remarkable but to me it was a bit of a miracle; particularly because I was planning to go to the camera store that afternoon and order a new piece!

Well, right after my “little miracle” of finding the tripod piece I thought to myself, “Maybe instead of trying to DO something remarkable I should just take note of all the remarkable things that happen.  And thus, I present to you here, a few of the remarkable things I noticed.

Remarkable Kids and Teachers: Our little granddaughter, Lady A, goes to a Mom’s Day Out once a week. They had a little Christmas program on Wednesday and it was AWESOME! There is really nothing much more entertaining than a bunch of pre-pre-school kids singing, dancing, standing there with their hands in their mouths, smiling, and crying all at once! The kids (especially Lady A) AND the teachers were definitely remarkable!

The Roads: We had a huge snowstorm on Sunday that has left our Minnesota roads in a bit of a mess. When you start with sloppy wet snow and then the temperature drop precipitously it creates what we call “scattered slippery spots” although to be honest, in some areas they weren’t so terribly scattered. On Wednesday, with temperatures in the low 40’s there was plenty of melting going on and the Minnesota Department of Transportation was diligently working for the fourth day in a row trying to get the roads clear. Too often, we here in Minnesota, take those plow drivers for granted when in fact, they are really quite remarkable.

Parking Spots: After Lady A’s little program I had some errands to run, one of which was to the Mall of America. I had a lot to accomplish in a short period of time so I was very excited to find a parking spot right across from the entrance. This also meant I could leave my coat in the car which is always, well, remarkable.

Shopping with my iPhone: One of the things I wanted to accomplish was getting some Christmas gifts. Now, I can’t tell you where I was, or who I was shopping for, but let’s just say I got some input from someone by sending pictures of certain items to my helper via my iPhone. If you’re under the age of 40 this may not seem so unusual to you, but if you, like me, grew up before the internet was even invented then you know, this was indeed remarkable.

Unexpected Discounts: Some women are geniuses at knowing when stores are going to have a sale and getting there on that day. I am not one of those women. So, when I arrived at a certain, yet unnamed store, and found out that everything in the store was 30% off I was ecstatic. A chance to buy more! Um, I mean a chance to save money. And, on top of that, I even managed to bring along my 20% off coupon which they took off of the total after the 30% discount. Basically the fact that I happened upon a great sale was, again, remarkable!

As you can see, it was a very ordinary day made different by the choice I made to look for the remarkable. And I would be willing to bet that each of us, if we took the time, would be able to find plenty of remarkable things in every one of our days.

Try it! I think you’ll be amazed at what really is remarkable when you are looking for it. Let me know what you find.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's NOT Bob's Tail!

It seems people have a limited tolerance for Christmas music. I would say, based on absolutely no study whatsoever, that most people don’t want to hear any Christmas carols before Thanksgiving and are pretty much done listening to them by December 26. I get this. There aren’t really more than a few hundred Christmas songs that we hear on a regular basis and by the end of the season we’re pretty much done for another year. But maybe the real reason we don’t want to hear those songs all year long are because of the memories they evoke.

For instance, every time I hear I’ll be Home for Christmas it takes me back to the first year I was away from my family for Christmas and celebrating in the foreign land of Minnesota. There were plenty of tears that year, and if I remember correctly, the following year also. Eventually, I adjusted and appreciated the joy of celebrating new traditions with our growing family.

Then there is Silent Night which can simultaneously make me laugh and cry. I’m not entirely sure when this started but for the past several years it seems that a good portion of the members in our family struggle to get through the singing of this song at the Christmas Eve service. We don’t want them to eliminate it from the service, mind you, it’s just we seem to be unable to get the words out without a flood of inexplicable  tears. So now, we all watch each other to see who will crack first; either that, or we avoid looking at each other completely in hopes that perhaps THIS will be the year we don’t fall apart.

Just the other night, however, I noticed that there is one Christmas song that brings back a memory that still annoys me – Jingle Bells. Yes, Jingle Bells. Remember in the 80’s when the game Trivial Pursuit was so popular. (If you weren’t born yet consider yourself lucky you missed this game.) You could hardly go to a party without playing that game and occasionally it was the reason for the party. In general, I love games but I never really enjoyed Trivial Pursuit; probably because I’m pretty competitive and stink at remembering what other people deem important. So, what does Jingle Bells have to do with Trivial Pursuit, you ask?

Well, one of the questions in Trivial Pursuit posed to my team during a highly competitive round (they are all highly competitive in my mind) was “What is the name of the horse in the Christmas song, Jingle Bells? Now I could sing Jingle Bells in my sleep and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is not one mention of any horse’s name in that song. In case you are unaware of the lyrics I present them here: 

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

Do you see a horse’s name? Do you want to know what the makers of Trivial Pursuit said it was? Bob. And that was the night I quit playing Trivial Pursuit. It’s not “Bob’s tail,” people, it’s “bob tails!” It’s what you do to the tail of the horse, which if I’m not mistaken means “cutting it short” although I believe it can sometimes mean tying the horses tail up to make it appear shorter. Either way, THE HORSE IS NOT NAMED BOB!

I suppose I really need to let this go, huh? I mean, it’s been 30 years. I don’t even remember if my team won or lost that night. And to be totally fair to the Trivial Pursuit team I have been known to misunderstand the words in a song or two in my life. But that’s a story for another day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spreading Kindness

The other day I received a card in the mail. Not a Christmas card, not a Thanksgiving card, just a sweet note card. This is what it said, "Nancy, Just a little note to say hi, you're loved, and I'm thankful for you in my life! You are such a blessing to me. Love, . . . . " It MADE MY DAY!!!  I doubt it took my friend more than a few minutes to write this note but seriously, to me, it was like she'd sent me fifteen bouquets of roses - better, really!  It was mostly the fact that she thought about me, appreciated our friendship and took the time to say something. What a blessing!

Today I was reading a blog, written by some friends of mine, about Advent Acts of Kindness.  Basically, what they are promoting is spending the next few weeks and finding ways to bless others so that the whole Christmas season isn't focused so much on what we are going to get and more on the kindness we can share with others.  I LOVE that idea!  And, having just been the recipient of that kind of kindness, I can tell you it's BIG!

The Advent Acts of Kindness blog has several links to get you started thinking.  One of my favorite links went to "Lil Light O' Mine" which listed 100 ways to "Light 'Em Up" during the Christmas season. Be sure to check out both of these blogs for some great ideas.

The picture at the top of this blog is from a project I worked on last year at our church. We all got together one evening and packed up boxes to send to the military men and women serving overseas. It was a blast!

So, here's my challenge to you. Do at least one Random Act of Kindness between now and Christmas. It could be a simple as writing a note, bringing cookies to a neighbor or picking up groceries for a friend who is stressed and overwhelmed. Once you've completed your Act of Kindness post a comment on this blog and let me know what you did. It'll be fun to see what creative things people come up with.  I can't wait to hear all about it. And I guarantee - you'll be blessed!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm in Love

It's totally possible that I am in love with a man that I've never met. Don't panic, I'm not going to leave my husband, but seriously, this guy, Dr. Weil is his name, has designed a tennis show that actually fits my foot!

I could tell you all about my foot issues and my search for the perfect shoe. OR, I could tell you about the hundreds, no thousands, of dollars I've spent on shoes through the years that end up going to the Goodwill in perfect condition because I've never really worn them more than a few times. But, instead, I'd rather just keep this brief and tell you that if you have problem feet, such as I do, this Dr. Weil guy just might save your life.

There are a few stores on the west coast that carry this brand; which is where I originally tried them on. Unfortunately, they didn't have my size so I went online to look for them. As with a lot of athletic shoes, you'll want to order them about a half size larger than you'd normally wear. I also found them at Truly, I am so in love with them. 

Basically, you can just consider this short little update a public service announcement. You're welcome. We shall return to our regularly scheduled programming as soon as I have more than five minutes to sit down at the computer and dump out everything else that is on my mind.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Reading Maniac

I’ve been a bit of reading maniac this year. At least I’ve been as much of a maniac as a painfully slow reader can be. I like to put book reviews on my blog because personally, I like to know what others are reading and what they think about the books they’ve read. I suppose, in fairness, I should include the books I’ve read that I didn’t like but I’m a firm believer in the old adage “if you can’t say something nice, it’s better to say nothing at all.” In an effort to keep this article short, I’m only including three book reviews. I’ll get back to you with more later.

Choosing to See – by Mary Beth Chapman
I had no intention of reading this book. I already knew the story of the tragic death of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter, Maria Sue, and didn't think I needed to hear it again. But, my sister-in-law insisted that I read it. She told me I wouldn’t regret spending the time on this book and she was oh so right. This amazing book isn’t just about the loss of Maria Sue. It’s the story of a family; how they started, how they grew, how they lived and how they grieved. It’s a story of hope and the amazing love of God. It’s truly a must-read book.

The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill
When we went to Amsterdam last spring my friend was telling me that we should go visit Corrie Ten Boom’s house and watch shop museum in Haarlem. I loved the idea but we only had a short time there so we had to choose wisely. I thought if I could get my husband to read her book, I’d stand a better chance of us adding this to our itinerary. My plans were foiled by my husband’s insistence that sleeping on the airplane was more important than reading (he’s annoyingly practical sometimes) and the fact that of the 2.5 days we spent in Amsterdam, the house and watch shop museum was only open on the last day. But, getting the book wasn’t a bad idea at all. What an incredible story of strength, faith and forgiveness. I remembered much of the story of how Corrie and her family hid the Jews during WWII from hearing it in high school but I most definitely did not remember the depth of her faith and the length of her love. If you’ve never read this book, read it; if you have read it, read it again. You’ll be blessed!

Running for My Life – Lopez Lomong
I have a huge long list of “books to read” – so many that I’ve been trying NOT to add to my list before I get a little further down the list. But, when I saw that this story had come out I knew I simply must read it. I bought it and moved it to the top of my list. I’m so glad I did. Lopez Lomong was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and yet, competed this past summer in the 2012 Olympics. From start to finish this book is gripping. It’s the amazing story of a little boy who loved to run, stolen from his parents, escaping his captors, living in a refugee camp and eventually moving to the United States. It’s horrific, sad, funny, touching and inspirational.

Let me know if you read any of these books and how you like them.  I'd love to hear!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Family Fun

My friend, Becca Groves, has a great blog.  It's one of my favorites because (and I know this sounds shallow) it's usually long on pictures and short on words.  Don't get me wrong; sometimes she tells long stories and they are awesome, but usually, it's just filled with fun pictures.  I love watching her little family grow and she is seriously funny, too.  So, I decided that tonight it's time for a little "Becca Groves style" blog.

A little over a week ago we had both grandchildren around so we took a fun morning adventure to the Afton Apple Orchard.  I hope it will become a yearly tradition because there is so much to do there that it's fun for kids of all ages.

We started off with a tractor ride into the orchard.  This is Amelia's fun face.  What?  Can't you tell?  As for Charlie, well, he's o.k. since he has a stick in his hands and he's on his momma's lap, but wow, that tractor is LOUD!

 Time to pick some apples.  Charlie is concentrating very hard at getting one off the tree.

 He pulled so hard that somehow the tree branch got loose and hit momma in the face!  Oops!

 Walking through the apple orchard with his momma.  He still has his stick.  It's his favorite toy.

 And then, there's Miss Independent.  She is navigating her way through the fallen apples. 

 Amelia finds some apples she wants to pick; two at a time.  Let's fill that bag up!  I'm not showing you the part where she heaves them at her dad immediately after picking them. 

 After the picking is done there was a fun petting zoo area to visit. 

 Too close, too close!

Rocking her sunglasses and riding the dinosaur.  How much more fun could a toddler have?

 The cutest, sweetest picks at the orchard!

Not only did we have a fun family outing, but the apple crisp that showed up later that night was AMAZING! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Win - One Loss

I recently went to Panama on a mission trip.  One thing I learned is that automatic doors work a bit differently in Panama than they do in the United States.  That’s my story, at least.

Admittedly, my first automatic door experience was more operator error than a difference in culture.  I was with a team of mostly women; we had just picked up our luggage and were loading the bus.  Two girls were missing so our team leader went to search for them.  Of course, about 30 seconds after she left the bus, the two girls arrived.  But now, our team leader was missing.  I thought to myself, I’ll run back into the airport, look quickly and if I don’t see her I’ll head right back to the bus because as we all know; if one person keeps looking for the other the cycle can go on for hours. 

I went through the doors into the airport, took a quick glance in each direction, didn’t see our team leader and turned around to walk back through the doors I’d come in.  They started to close on me and, thinking they were akin to elevator doors, I put my hand out to stop the door from closing.  It was instinct, I suppose.  What wasn’t instinct was to actually get in a fight with said doors.  They continued to close and I immediately decided I’d have nothing to do with that.  I took both hands, and with one on each door, I forced them open.  There was another guy trying to go out the doors also (which turned out to be “enter only” doors.)  At first he just looked at me like I was crazy but eventually he decided to join in the effort.  We won. 

A couple days later I was standing in the elevator of our hotel.  A hotel employee was on the elevator with me and had gotten out to go tend to something on whatever floor we were on.  Just as the doors were starting to close I saw a couple of my team members, so I quickly stuck my hand out to hold the elevator doors for them.  I hold elevators for people this way all the time. Only this elevator door would have nothing to do with that kind of nonsense.  They CLOSED on my arm and refused to open.  My arm was stuck and stuck well. I couldn’t move it in or out, up or down.  I had a pretzel in my hand but I was NOT going to let go of it until I determined there were no other options.  I mean seriously, it had peanut butter on the inside!  I wish there was a picture because I’m sure that my arm sticking out of an elevator door desperately clinging to a pretzel looked pretty funny. 

Being as my brute strength had worked in opening doors before, I asked my team members to please try to see if they could pull the doors apart.  The doors didn’t budge. At this point I was afraid I might actually have to drop my pretzel.  I really don’t know why I thought that would help.  It’s not as though letting go of my pretzel would make me stronger than my teammates. I guess I just thought it looked kind of crazy to hang on so tightly to a pretzel when one’s life was in peril.  I was seconds away from opening my hand and releasing my pretzel when the hotel employee who’d come up the elevator with me showed up exclaiming, “Oh my goodness!  Push the button!” 

The button?  Which button?  There were six floor buttons, an emergency button (which I was seriously considering), and a button that said “AP.”  Though I didn’t know that AP stood for “abra puerta” (translating to “Open Door” in English) I pushed it anyway because that seemed the most logical – way more logical, it seems, that letting go of my precious pretzel. 

I heard later in the week that one of the male team members had both hands full when he decided to “hold” the door for someone approaching the closing elevator doors.  He used his head to stop them.  That would most definitely have been an even better picture than me standing there gripping my pretzel as though it was my last meal.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Un Poco

Un Poco – that’s the Spanish word for “a little,” which is exactly the amount of Spanish that I understand and speak.  But, I leave on Monday for a mission trip to Panama, so that, combined with my general desire to possess at least some understanding of a second language have me studying Spanish.   

A few years ago, before leaving on a mission trip to Russia, I was given Pimsleur’s Conversational Language CD’s and was able to learn some rudimentary Russian.  Not enough, really, to converse but enough to get by for the eight days I was there.  So, now that it’s time to learn a little Spanish, I decided that Pimsleur would be my choice for getting started. Besides, the beginning (quick and simple) guide was only $8.50.  What did I have to lose?   
I did take a year of Spanish in both high school and college so I figured that would give me an edge.  It has, but it’s a slim, slim edge and I’m fairly certain there is a direct correlation between giving birth three times and the death of my language learning brain cells.  (Not that I wouldn’t do it all again.)  
What I noticed about both the Russian and Spanish version of Pimsleur’s language CD’s is that the first phrase you learn is “Do you understand English?”  I guess they figure that if you can coerce someone into speaking YOUR language, you can immediately drop any pretense of knowing theirs.  Personally, I think this is a brilliant scheme. 
So far, I know how to say, “I don’t speak Spanish”, “I don’t understand Spanish”, “Where is the Columbus Hotel?” (which would be really handy were that the name of the hotel where we’re staying), “I’m from Chicago” (which I’m not), and “I have lots of pesos” (which doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing you’d want to brag about.)
When my husband and I were in Cozumel a few years ago there were lots of merchants trying to get us to come into their stores and spend our money.  Someone taught my husband how to say “I don’t have any money” in Spanish - “No tengo dinero.”  The next time a guy tried to get us to come into his store my husband said, “No tengo dinero,” and in response the man said, “We take credit cards,” in perfect English.  It still cracks us up.  Then, when it came time to learn “I have” and “I don’t have” on my Spanish CD’s they connected it to money – pesos and dólares.  Consequently, I have it in my brain that the word “tengo” only ever has to do with having money.  I’m guessing this is not the case. 
I’m only on lesson six of the first ten beginner CD’s.  The price for subsequent lessons goes up substantially, so we’ll see if I make it through the first ten before ordering more.  I’m hoping by lesson ten I will have learned to say “Please talk more slowly,” because that is going to be key to me actually understanding anyone. 
Other than a million more words that I’ll need to learn in order to be fluent in Spanish there is one other thing I’ll need to master – rolling my “r’s.”  How do they do that? 

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's a Shuttle Elevator?

The other day I had the opportunity to meet a couple of friends in downtown Minneapolis during their lunch break.  I got detailed instructions on how to find the building my friends work in, how to park in the building’s private lot, and how to find one of their desks.  It all seemed very simple; “turn right into the driveway marked ‘private’, come up the shuttle elevator to level 2, turn right and walk straight ahead to find me.” Easy peasey.  But wait, what exactly is a shuttle elevator?  In hindsight, I probably should have clarified this point.
All went as planned.  I pulled into the driveway marked “Private”, rang the buzzer, and told the security guy who I was visiting.  He responded with “is this Nancy?”  I was impressed and felt ever so slightly important.  It’s the little things. 
I had been told to drive to the first unreserved spot which ended up being a few levels down.  So far, so good; now to find the “shuttle elevator.”  I glanced around the parking lot and saw nothing that even slightly resembled an elevator; shuttle or otherwise.   I did see a sign for stairs and elevators are always close to stairs, right?  I noticed a set of metal doors next to the stairwell and thought perhaps I should check to see where that led.  Sure enough, behind those doors was a dark closet, about three feet deep and six feet wide, and in the darkness I could make out what looked to be an elevator.  It all seemed a little scary to me, but not seeing any other options I bravely stepped inside the doors and pushed the elevator button.  As it turned out the “closet” did have a light which was activated by a motion sensor and gave off about 20 watts of light – at least until it warmed up a bit – which it had plenty of time to do while I waited for the very slow elevator to arrive. 
I remember thinking it odd that the men and women who came to work here every day had to step into such a dark spot but hey, if you have your own private parking lot, I suppose you can put up with a few inconveniences.  Once the elevator doors finally opened I noted that every wall was covered in what appeared to be bullet proof/fire proof metal.  It wasn’t terribly attractive but it did seem to me that this is what a “shuttle elevator” should look like.  
I emerged on the second floor a few seconds later and began the hunt for my friend’s desk. It certainly wasn’t just to the right.  Turning to the right, it seemed, would take me past the dry cleaning business and out of the building.  Why, I wondered, didn’t I get my friend’s phone number before leaving home?   Eventually, after a bit of perplexed wandering, I found my friend at her desk - to the left.  When I told her which elevator I’d used and she laughed, “That’s the freight elevator!”  Well, that explains the industrial strength walls!  Can you imagine what people walking through the skyway thought when I emerged from the freight elevator? 
When it came time to go home my friend walked me to the “shuttle elevator” and used her pass key to open it. I figured out that “shuttle elevator” refers to the one that takes people to and from the parking lot but is not for use by the general public.  But now, I had to decide which level to go to.  Couldn’t I just go back down the freight elevator?  It’s right across from my car!   It took a few minutes of searching, and a couple of “beeps” from my car’s locking system but soon enough I located my car and before I knew it I was heading home; with a brief stop to bid good-bye to George – the security guy. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

With Gratefulness

Who invented the cotton gin? – Eli Whitney

Electricity? – Benjamin Franklin

The Model-T? – Henry Ford 

The light bulb? – Thomas Edison  

Right?  Well, sort of.  These are the inventors I remember hearing about in school when I was growing up.  Turns out, according to my extensive 15 minute internet research, some of these “inventors,” while brilliant men, were often improving ideas that had already been formed, thus not the actual “inventor.”  But, that’s a complicated concept for a third-grader, I suppose.  

There is one man whom, I determined today, is NOT getting enough credit in the history books; the guy who invented air-conditioning.  It’s 90+ degrees today with plenty of humidity to go along with it, and this afternoon I, for one, found myself wondering who in the world this genius was. 

So, tonight I decided to do a little research into the subject, which is what sent me into my “extensive research” mode.  Turns out, Willis Haviland Carrier is considered the inventor of modern air-conditioning.  Hey, you don’t suppose that’s where Carrier Air-Conditioning Systems got their name, do you?  Hmmm . . . . . 

There’s actually a lot to learn about the invention of air-conditioning but hey, this is a blog, not an encyclopedia site.  I’m just content going to bed tonight with gratefulness in my heart for the fact that God put Willis Haviland Carrier on the earth before me.  

I’m also grateful for the fact that we have said air-conditioning installed in our home.  It sure beats the days of sitting in front of a fan with our feet in cold water.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Back in the Day

When I was in High School, back in the day as they say, girls and boys had separate gym classes.  Call me old-fashioned, but I thought that was a good idea and still do.  As if it’s not bad enough that every girl in school knows of your pathetic athletic skills does every boy really need to know, too?

As I was exercising the other day something passed through my mind that brought back those less than cherished memories of high school gym class.  There was an exercise that we did routinely in gym class that would, we were told, increase the size of our chests.  To do said exercise we’d stand with our arms basically reaching across the front of our bodies, hands facing downwards with one forearm over the other.  Then, we’d stretch our elbows back with our arms still bent, bring them forward again, followed by another backwards stretch in which we’d unbend our elbows and extend the entire arm back as far as possible.   As we did said exercises there was a little chant we said to go along with it; "We must, We must, We must increase our bust."  I’m not saying they don’t do this particular exercise in gym classes today, I’m just guessing that the accompanying chant has gone by the wayside.  Kind of sad.

Speaking as one who hates to exercise, I have to admit, this was a pretty sneaky tactic those gym teachers were using.  I mean seriously, 99.9% of the freshman girls would probably have swallowed goldfish had they thought it would give them a little more up front.  But alas, I’m not convinced that it actually did any good as we all seemed to end up to be the size that God had created us to be.

It did, however, give me something to look back at and chuckle.  I wonder what else they lied to us about?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where'd He Go?

One of the things I like most about the Bible is that it’s always fresh.  By that I mean that I can read the same chapter, or verse, that I’ve read a hundred times before and have something new pop out at me.  It never ceases to amaze me. 

A few weeks ago I was reading in the book of John, Chapter 8. Towards the end of the chapter Jesus is talking with some of the Jewish leaders and basically telling them that they will only be truly free when they start to follow Him.  This irks them a bit and in verse 48 they say to Jesus, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”  Call me crazy but saying to anyone, “Hey, I think you’re demon-possessed” is not really the smartest thing to bring up during a “discussion”; particularly when said discussion is with the Son of God! 

Well, as this little chat of theirs continues the Jews, with whom Jesus is conversing, get more and more riled up and they are ready to go to battle.  They are so angry that they start picking up some stones with which to stone Jesus.  Now here’s the part I love. John 8:59 says “At that point they picked up stones to throw at him.  But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.”  So wait, let me get this straight.  He was right in front of their eyes and then “bam!” they couldn’t see him?  How cool is that?  Did he just “slip out” when they were all bending down to pick up a stone?  Did he vaporize right in front of their eyes?  Were they blinded?  The verse doesn’t really clarify how it happened, just that it happened.
 Can’t you just see the Jews looking at each other with befuddled looks on their faces?  “Hey, he was just here a second ago, where’d he go?”  I love it!

Personally, I think this says something about the amazing power of God.  To me, Jesus’ ability to be “hidden” is nothing short of miraculous; but more than that it says that everything happens at the right time.  We already know that Jesus is going to die at the hands of the Jews but that was not the day for it to happen.  God had already chosen the time when Jesus was to die. In the meantime, He made sure nothing happened that wasn’t supposed to.

We can always trust God’s timing.  Some days it may seem as though He is moving particularly slow, and we may think He’s forgotten us . . . . but He hasn’t.  He’s just waiting for the right time – His time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mules, Carts and Pigeon Poop

Fez is one amazing very old city.  We started today with a tour of some of Fez's highlights. It was so fun to have a guide who knew his way around and got us into some places that we could not possibly have found on our own.  

First off, I'd like an aerial map of this city.  There are over 9000 streets in this walled city built in 808 AD.  As far as I could tell there weren't any street signs but I guess, to be honest I was trying to keep an eye on our guide and didn't look for them.  I think if you’re looking for something your directions might sound more like “turn right at the fig stand, left at the nougats, then straight past the sheep heads.”  And no, I’m not kidding about the sheep heads; we did indeed see sheep heads for sale.  I’ll spare you the pictures.  Don’t ask me what they do with them; I don’t know and I'm pretty sure I don't want to.

No cars are allowed inside the city of Fez so everything from produce to propane is delivered by mule, donkey or a cart.  The buildings that make up the city are three or four stories high and the streets are narrow – maybe eight to ten feet wide.  It’s kind of like if you took New York City, got rid of the cars and shrink-wrapped it.  When animals or carts are moving in the streets it’s the job of the pedestrians to move out of their way – and you might just have to dodge some droppings while doing so.  It was a cultural experience like no other. 

 Shy guy or part of a witness protection program?
There were four highlights on the tour.  We visited a pre-school with about eight kids in attendance.  The school was inside of a small room – maybe 13 x 13 at best, the kids sat at desks and it didn’t appear that there was a playground anywhere nearby.  Nonetheless, the kids were adorable and sang songs to us and recited the five pillars of Islam to us like they’d been born knowing them.  Interesting.

Of course, visiting a mosque was bound to be on the agenda.  Our guide told us that there are five things you’ll find inside of a mosque; a fountain (or some sort of water), marble, mosaic, plaster and carved wood.  I have to say, however, that I’ve tried to find this information online and can’t see it so I don’t really know if this is true.  One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes guides make stuff up. 

We also stopped at a weaving shop where we had the chance to watch scarves being made and make a few purchases.  After they demonstrated the loom for us they put scarf turbans on everyone on our team for a photo op.  I was in awe of how fast they were able to do so many different styles of wraps and match the color with each person’s outfit.  
Here’s a little tip I’d like to share with you; if someone ever offers you a sprig of mint either take it and stick it directly under your nose, or run the other direction as quickly as you can.  We were starting into this little shop when I guy offered me a sprig of mint and I tried as nicely as I could to refuse it.  To be honest, I thought he wanted to sell it to me; but he was insistent that I take it.  Little did I know it would be my only link to a pleasant smell for the next half hour.  We were entering, it seems, a leather shop, which conveniently overlooked the local leather tanning operation.  STINKY!  
I really can’t tell you everything the guy told us about the leather tanning process but when he mentioned pigeon droppings I questioned him on it, for clarification purposes.  “Pigeon droppings?” I said.  And he replied, “Yes, pigeon droppings, as in pigeon poop,” as though I didn’t know what droppings were.  Apparently they are used to help make the leather soft and supple.  Think about that the next time you buy a pair of shoes.  I found this video online  which is really pretty intriguing and shows the life of a worker at the Fez Tannery. 

Our tour ended with some time for shopping and some lunch.  It was an experience that I’m glad I didn’t miss but I’m not feeling a strong need to repeat any time soon, either. 

We left Fez on Tuesday morning to begin our trek back home.  We stopped back in Khemmiset for lunch and then headed to Casablanca for a farewell dinner at Rick’s Café, made famous by the movie, Casablanca.  What an amazing trip!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Saturday - April 28 

We woke up this morning to pouring rain.  This would not do because today we were throwing a party - a very special OUTSIDE party for 100 orphan boys.  Ephesians 3:12 says that “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence,” so during our prayer time that morning that is exactly what I did.  I boldly prayed and petitioned God for sunshine between 10:00 - 3:00, because a party, in the rain, with just over 100 boys sounded less than fun.  And, as we set up for the party there were still some clouds but it was clear that sunshine was on the way and not one speck of rain fell between 10:00 – 3:00.  Nothing short of miraculous if you ask me.

After we got things set up for the party we visited a nursing home that was on the same grounds as the orphanage.  It was truly one of the saddest things I've ever seen.  Most of the mattresses were on the ground with a few up on bed frames, I suppose for those who can't get to the ground easily.  Although, one of the women on the ground was paralyzed which means when they move her someone has to lift her up off the ground.  In spite of their circumstances they were all so excited to see us and we brought them a little kit of essential care items like soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.  It was a sweet, tear-invoking visit.
We ate lunch with the boys, which was quite the experience.  They were very polite and we tried to communicate with them, which generally led to laughter at our attempts to speak each other's languages.  Most of them know French, as well as Arabic and some even know a little English.  I learned how to say, "What is your name?" and "My name is Nancy." and from there we just smiled and laughed at our ineptness. 

After lunch the fun began.  We had all of the same games that we’d done on Thursday (minus the now dead 12-foot beach ball) plus a few more.  There was one station where the kids had one minute to eat four Saltine crackers.  That was hysterical.  They would put all four in their mouths at once and try to chew and swallow in less than 60 seconds; which apparently can’t be done.  After about 30 seconds they’d start to realize there was no way this was going to work and they’d get the giggles which prompted a saltine cracker eruption from their mouths.  Earlier, when we’d been discussing this game I said “Do we have a prize if they are able to do it?” and was told that it isn’t humanly possible.  I’ve not yet tried it myself, but hey, you go ahead and let me know how it works for you. 

My job at the party was to take pictures of the boys on a motorcycle.  The worker from Convoy of Hope that we were helping is planning to make prints of these pictures and deliver them to the kids later.  Can you even imagine how few pictures you’d have of your childhood if you grew up in an orphanage?  I loved the kids’ expressions as they got on the motorcycles because they would be all smiles up until the moment that they were ready for their picture. Then, they’d put on this “I’m a cool biker dude” look until I clicked the camera and then back to all smiles. 

During the party, in addition to the games, dancing and cotton candy, all of the kids got new shoes, sandals and a new outfit.  Each child has a locker in his room to store his own stuff.  I can’t imagine having just one little tiny cubby to store everything I owned.  It sure puts a person’s priorities into perspective. 

The day ended with a wild game of “Last Man Standing” where each child had a balloon attached to each foot and was supposed to pop the other person’s balloon but keep their balloon inflated.  There was no clear winner, unless you count the fun that they all had.  In that case, they all won. 

After three days of work (if you can call it that) I can honestly say that I felt like we were on the front end of a miracle.  Though my work in Morocco is finished for now, there is one thing I know for sure; God has only just begun.    

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Community Service Day

You know how you see those people alongside the roads picking up the garbage?  Well, that was our team on Friday, April 27.  On the opposite side of the lake from where our hotel was located there is a little beach area where locals go to enjoy family time.  But apparently, they don’t clean up.  Bizarre.  It would probably help if there were some garbage cans in the area, but there aren’t.  So, our team had their work cut out for them.  

Perhaps you’ve already noted how I refer to our team as though I wasn’t a part of the group and well, this would basically be true.  You see, with there being a party planned for the next day there was a need to fill 125 bags of candy for the kids and, well, someone HAD to do it so when they asked for volunteers my hand went up faster than lightening.  So, while the rest of the team was outside enjoying the fresh air and gathering garbage, my friend, Patti, and I LABORIOUSLY packed 125 Ziploc bags full of candy.  It was a sacrifice to be sure, but hey, someone had to do it. 

O.K., the truth is that Patti and I had a fabulous time packing the candy and getting to know each other better while the rest of our team, and some kids we’d hired to help, filled 180 large garbage bags!  Patti and I were able to join them after lunch but we didn’t really have to work very long before the job was done. I do believe, though, that I filled a half a bag.  And pictures, I took pictures to document the work done.  Let’s just say, I worked within the realms of my skill sets.

Because I’m writing this after returning home I can tell you what happened the next night as a result of the trash pickup.  We went for a late dinner at the restaurant at our hotel.  There was a couple there that looked to be an American couple and I’ve gotta tell you I wondered what in the world brought them to this little-known town in Morocco.  As we were walking in they asked if we were the group that had cleaned up the lake.  I was standing closest to them so I said yes as though I personally had done the bulk of the work myself.  They thanked us and started clapping!  They went on and on about how nice it was and how great it looked which implied that they’d seen it when it didn’t look so great. 

As it turned out they are working at the American Embassy in Rabat (Morocco’s capitol city).  They told us that they’d be letting the Embassy know what we’ve done.  And once again, I see that God has a purpose and a plan for the reason we were in Morocco.  I may never know the reason entirely (at least not on this earth) but the sense that I went for no good reason was quickly fading from my thoughts. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rockin' in Morocco

Written on Thursday, April 26  

This morning we started out at Arabic lessons.  Whoa, that was interesting.  It probably would have been best if we'd spent the entire hour and a half learning how to say about ten words and then repeating them over and over and over again.  But instead, we started with ten basic sayings and then moved on to numbers, things we might say while shopping and the ever important "where is the toilet?" phrase.  

In other words, imagine trying to learn basic French in 90 minutes.  Probably the easiest word I learned was "no."  It’s super easy to say (Lla) but the best part is the hand signal that you use at the same time.  You're supposed to take your index finger and kind of wave it back and forth a few times.  It's very effective.  I now know how to say “no” in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.  It’s a start, but I’m not even close to being bilingual.

After our language lessons we went to lunch and then headed to the town of Ait Wahi to put on a party for 350 middle school kids.  We had four game stations for them; Nerf Basketball, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Toss, and Bobbing for Apples.  I know what you're thinking, "Bobbing for Apples?  Isn't that kind of germy?"  Why yes, it is, but in Morocco germs don't exist. Or so I'm told.  I know it's hard to imagine middle school kids enjoying things like a bean bag toss but they've never done anything like that before.


In addition to that 150 kids got a new pair of shoes (the ones who were in the most need), there was a snack station, and a DJ playing incredibly loud music.  Things were rockin'.  I love this picture of this little boy showing off his new shoes.  He was so proud!

At the very end of the day we brought in a giant 12-foot beach ball.  It had taken several attempts, and hours of time, to get the ball blown up and within 30 seconds the ball was slammed into a prickly tree, got a huge gouge and died.  Pastor Rob said it was like a seeing a falling star; fun, beautiful, and very quick.  But, the kids LOVED it!  This is the biggest event of this type that has ever happened in Ait Wahi, and maybe the only event like it ever to happen there.

My main job today was to take pictures.  It would have been a no-brainer had my camera not started giving me fits.  Electronics - it's a love/hate relationship.  It was still fun though and as time went on the kids got comfortable enough to come over and ask me to take a picture of them with their friends.  Some even wanted to have their pictures taken with me - so sweet.

At the end of the day the principal came up to Pastor Rob and said "You are a friend to the children of the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  God bless you."  Suddenly the answer to “why did God lead us here” becomes clearer.

It was a good, good, day.