Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dear friends, 
Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers!
In Anchorage, the doctors repeated Carlee's CT scan, and 
yesterday afternoon she and Nathaniel met with her oncologist. 
They found NO SIGN OF CANCER in Carlee's bones or 
brain!!! Thanks be to God! They told her that they will be run
-ning a few more tests, but as far as they can tell she is cancer
 free. This is a MIRACLE and we are praising God for it with all 
our hearts!!! I do not know what happened to the spots on her 
bones, or what happened to the cancer that many doctor's grimly 
predicted would spread through her body, but I do know that God 
has POWER over everything, and that with one word from Him it
will disappear! 

It was an emotional week for ALL of us, with these tests and the 
possible outcomes weighing heavily on our minds. The thought 
of Carlee having cancer in her bones was so overwhelming that
if I let myself think about it, it was almost debilitating. I know 
that some people DO receive this diagnosis though, and I had 
to come to the place where I said "Lord, even if I do not 
understand, I will trust You. I will love You. And I will not believe 
the lie that You are unkind or powerless." I know people right 
now who are facing terminal cancer in their loved ones. My 
dear friend neighbor, Melody, lost her own sister to cancer 
years ago and yet sat with me this week and reminded me
of God's goodness and His power over all things: even death 
and cancer. Is God better to us than He is to them because 
Carlee is well right now and their loved ones are not? 
Of course not. 
These are questions that can't be fully answered, but the 
answer is FULLY this: God is sovereign, AND He is good.
 He gives, and He takes away, and He has the right to 
do both and be glorified no matter what. 
So I hope that this post would have been praising God, no matter
the outcome of Carlee's tests.

Just some thoughts I've been thinking.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My dear friends,
Please pray for Carlee. Click here to read her latest blog post. Thank you all and God bless you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Last week the Grens and I took a road trip, staying a few nights in the Poconos, then traveling on to the Hershey and Lancaster area. The home in the Poconos was so beautiful! I loved that it was decorated with an Asian theme (my cup of tea, pun intended --heh--) because the couple we stayed with had lived in Japan for years. Out back was a gorgeous, peaceful pond and wildlife was all around!

We stayed with some great friends, Joe and Colleen, in the Lancaster area and wow... can Colleen cook! She treated us to a delicious homemade spaghetti dinner which made the long drive worth it. :) Always great to spend time with folks who share the Italian love of all things pasta. :) Joe took me for a ride on one of his three racing bikes! The bike we rode is an Itialian bike-his personal favorite I think- and ohhhhh, my goodness:





Hmm, I'm contemplating becoming a biker chick, if anyone wants to contribute to the motercycle fund.



The absolute highlight of the trip was meeting mom, dad, and Grandpa S. and spending one night and an entire day with them before driving back with the Grens. Would ya believe it, my camera batteries died before we could get a picture together!? (This is my lot in life.) How amazingly blessed I am to have such a family as mine. I love every moment I spend with them.

We had breakfast at Hotel Hershey and then went to Sight and Sound Theater where we were treated to "Joseph". It was absolutely spectacular! A must-see! If you've never been to Sight and Sound, go and you will not be disappointed.

A little note about my hand since a few friends have been asking (thank you!).
It's healed amazingly well! Whatever the doc gave me was exactly what it needed. There's a large pinkish circle where the wound was but no more infection, pain, itching, or sign of spreading.
Praise the Lord! :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pete and Benny

Outside my bedroom window, perched on the porch railing, sits an old plastic owl. When I first saw him, I didn't like him very much. He's apparently been there for quite some time, because his paint is chipping, giving him a pretty ragged and decaying look overall. More than once he's given me a bit of a fright as I peer out my bedroom window at night, because I forget he's sitting there and I wonder who on earth is on my porch. (I'm not all that crazy about the dark anyhow.)
So I named him.
Giving things a name makes them seem so much less threatening, and giving my owl the name of Pete has helped matters. Now I kinda like him, in fact; the stoic, plump old codger sitting up there gazing eternally out to sea. I've made up a story in my mind to tell the nieces and nephews, in which Pete comes to life at times and can fly around as free as you please until dawn.

And, recently, it seems that Pete himself has made a friend. That's Benny. He's the perkiest little woodpecker, always with a jauntily rumpled red patch on his head. I wish I could reach out and smooth it down for him with one finger, but then that would detract from the cuteness of his bed-head.

Benny has developed a particular fondness for Pete, because nearly every day I catch him perched on Pete's regal chest, pecking way at his plastic cheek. It's adorable, and quirky, and it makes me laugh! Good ol' Benny! Shouldn't the little guy be afraid of the old owl? I mean, owls are rather carnivorous, after all.

Maybe he's like me. Maybe he was a little spooked by the owl at first, but then gave him a non-threatening name and made friends. Or maybe, as my mom always tells me I do, I'm putting human emotions on animals?

Anyhow, Pete and Benny bring to mind a poem about fear vs. trust which I just discovered and will post my favorite stanzas of below. It is always good to remember and delight in the sovereignty of God. He makes all of our fears about a multitude of issues-- large life issues to scary ol' owls in the dark-- seem so miniscule. Lately the fear that has affected me has disguised itself as "wondering" (I wonder what will happen... I wonder if this matters as much to God as it does to me...I wonder if God's really going to work things out the way I hope He will...). It's a lack of faith, packaged neatly so that I don't always recognize it as fear. And so, God's voice prompts me to "Give to the winds thy fears". To open my clenched fists and throw all those "wondering" thoughts into the winds, letting them scatter like ashes and embracing the divine Guide who'se promised never to leave or forsake me! What better way to glorify God than to trust Him?

Give to the winds thy fears,

Hope and be undismayed.

God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,

God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,

He gently clears thy way;

Wait thou His time; so shall this night

Soon end in joyous day.

What though Thou rulest not;

Yet heaven, and earth, and hell

Proclaim, God sitteth on the throne,

And ruleth all things well.

And whatsoe’er Thou will’st,

Thou dost, O King of kings;

What Thine unerring wisdom chose,

Thy power to being brings.

Far, far above thy thought,

His counsel shall appear,

When fully He the work hath wrought,

That caused thy needless fear.

-Paul Gerhardt

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sammy the Seal

Wow, what an adorable little creature! This Harbor seal swam up to the rocks below our house and spent the evening on a bed of seaweed.

I want a baby seal.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Momento Mortem

Meet Oscar.

Oscar dwells ("lives" is a bit too rosy of a term for him) on an upper shelf in Miss Elisabeth's study, which adjoins my bedroom. I promise you that on especially dark evenings, Oscar slips down from the shelf and opens the door to the study just to make me nervous. I try to always keep it closed after the sun sets, which, of course, has nothing to do with Oscar.

...Or maybe it does...

But at any rate, I think Oscar and I appreciate each other best from a distance. (FYI, I guess Miss Elisabeth got him from someone while overseas and he is very, very old; hundreds of years.) Sometimes I stare at his perpetually grinning face up there and think about who he was. It gives me the chills to think that this is not some plastic Halloween skeleton head from Wal Mart. Oscar once was a breathing, laughing, crying, thinking, sorrowing, eating, talking human being from Ecuador. Someone's son, someone's friend, maybe someone's dad. He had opinions about things and he felt deeply. Now, he (or rather his head) sits completely forgotten on a shelf in Massachusetts.

Sheesh! Poor Oscar.

(Then again I suppose that if my skull HAS to be put on a shelf some day instead of receiving a proper burial, I'd be honored to be on the shelf of someone like Miss Elisabeth.) All this to say, that I've been thinking a lot about death lately. Now, you know me to well to think that I've got some unhealthy obsession so bear with me. Miss Elisabeth called Oscar her "momento mortem;" her "memory of death", and so I don't think she'd call my thoughts morbid or unhealthy. In Psalm 39:4, David prayed this:

O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!

In other words, it's Scriptural to think about death and it's utterly foolish not to. Think about the truth that every single thing you are working towards, every thing you say, every relationship you make, every goal, every dollar, every possession, every ambition, every EVERYTHING will die one day and won't matter a bit. You will not only cease to live on earth; you will cease to matter on earth. No one cares about who Oscar is anymore. No one cares much that his head is on a shelf (well, besides for me, apparently.) So it will be with you and I, some day. I lay in bed some times and think about that. I think about the fact that my body WILL be dead and lifeless some day. Stuffed in a coffin and buried. The hair that I try to style so carefully, the face I try to preserve, the stomach I try to keep flat, will be a decaying shell. (Am I creeping you out? I'm sorry. But I'm not really trying to be tactful and delicate because death is not a tactful or delicate reality.) James 4:14 puts it this way:

You do not know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

So what is there? What is the only thing in my existence that matters at ALL? You could say kindness and love shown to others, but really that will fail when they die so, no not really. The only thing that matters is GOD and MY RELATIONSHIP TO HIM. So I see, when I ponder that, that GOD is the reason I am alive. He is the creator of life and He is the only valid purpose for anything I do. It is only things that are done for God that will last. It is only my relationship with God that means ANYTHING, because when I die, as my body is decaying my soul will be more alive than I've ever been, standing before Almighty God, and suddenly I'll realize that THIS is what my short stint on earth was all about.

Sometimes I want to shake people around me and scream at them to wake up. To stop placing Jesus Christ on the back burner of their lives because He is all that matters and they are nothing. They are a mist. Their lives will end and this short opportunity they had on earth will be squandered because they did not use it to worship the God who created them for Himself. 2 Peter 3:11-

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,
what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and Godliness?

I just wanted to share this because it lies heavily on my heart and I don't know if perhaps, someone who reads this post will need a wake-up-call like I've been getting lately. Think about death. Think about YOUR death. And prepare for it. Then and ONLY then will you discover the amazing joy and fufilment of truly living for the purpose you were made for!!

Oh God, open our eyes! Don't let us waste our lives, because it's only a tiny sliver of a moment that we have to prepare for the rest of eternity!


That's what I'm doing a lot of these days, as always happens when I return from a trip; remembering.
Mostly people of course, and mostly the five kiddos pictured above.

(Don't we all look fine in our tye-die? :)

Scott accompanied mom, dad, and I on the overnight train ride back to Kiev, and I love the wonderful time we had together with him before leaving! I also got some pretty awesome pictures of him and I but I will refrain from posting them because when you're a dignified missionary, some pictures just need to be kept in the family. Heh.

Scott and Oksy, thank you SO MUCH for the delightful visit we had with you and the kids! Thanks for being people that I can look up to and emmulate. Thanks for making it so special for us. You guys are amazing.

So now I'm back in Massechusets, waking up to the sounds of surf and gulls, fallings asleep on Miss Elisabeth's lap (wait shouldn't that be reversed? I'll chalk it up to jet lag...) ...And enjoying life where God has me.

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. Jim Elliot said that. It's really easy to do when you're enoying a foreign country or doing exciting things. The rub comes when you're back home, livin' the grind, doing the predictable daily life things. I've been encouraged by reading in Oswald Chambers' profound book, My Utmost For His Highest, to live the private life of a saint. Worship God in private. Meditate on HIM in the quiet moments He gives me. Concentrate on HIM as the focus of my life; the sphere around which every other thought, action, and attitude revolves.

Monday, September 06, 2010


A wonderful picture of Scott and Oksy!

We've enjoyed frequently seeing Oksana's family. Her brother Max is married now to another Oksana, and has an absolutely adorable little boy Lyonia with one on the way. I tried to tell Oksana in Russian that her little boy has a "beautiful face" an instead told her that he has a "beautiful street". Oops.
Dad, Scott, and David carrying on tradition with a guy's backyard camp-out!

The hardest game of Twister I have ever played.
I think it has something to do with age and stiffening joints.
He won.

Poppi is the bike fixer around here-- almost a full-time job.

A view of Zaporozhe from the water

Damara got sleepy during the boat ride we took on the Dnipir River.


Papa and Damara walking through the market

This babushka was proud that wanted to take a picture of her stand, and offered to pose with it.

By far the most meaningful part of being in Ukraine is meeting brothers and sisters from across the globe, and feeling an instant bond with them even though you can hardly communicate without an interpreter! Below we are enjoying after dinner tea and dessert with Slavic and Larissa. Slavic's my kind of guy; an animal lover! He has several huge aviaries filled with birds and squirrels and he and his children enjoyed showing them to us.

Tolya (Larissa and Slavic's son), Damara and I with two bird friends. Not even going to try to explain but simultaneously holding a chicken and a crow really amused me.

On Sunday evening we were invited to enjoy a very wonderful tea with Anatoly (front) his wife , Natasha, and Artyom (beside me). We may not meet again until heaven, but still we're good friends now, after only one meal together. :)

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

-Phillipians 1:3

Thursday, September 02, 2010

This morning I heard the children practicing their bells with Papa, so I ran down with my camera to video it; morning hair, jammies and all! What sweet little voices!