Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflections

Most people make New Year's resolutions as they head into the new year. I'm all for the goals you want to accomplish in the coming year, but as this year closes, I really feel it appropriate to reflect on everything God has done the past year. It has been an amazing year of seeing God unfold dreams and visions right before our eyes. I'll try to make this post short, but I must warn you. We serve a great God and He is doing amazing things here in S. Africa. Praise Him He's chosen to use this vessel called Ten Thousand Homes to bring hope among the hopeless...
  • We ran our first DTS (Discipleship Training School) in February with 5 students. Click on the links to read more about their debriefing and graduation.
  • We hosted about 45 short-termers, not including the 25 that arrived Monday and the 26 that arrived today! See what some of our short-termers do here, here, and here.
  • We hosted the 2009 Youth With A Mission southern Africa conference. What a feat as 300 extra people came onto our property! After the conference, we got an email from the national director, "I have heard so many YWAM staff telling me that the regional staff conference was the best they have ever attended. And there is a general feeling of optimism and hope for the future." Praise God! Related posts :: Highlights, Signs, Commissioning.
  • New works started in 2 communities - Mbonisweni and Kabokweni. Praise God for Victoria and Elizabeth who are our local contacts in these communities. They are the real heroes! Victoria shares about Mbonisweni here and see what Elizabeth is doing in Kabokweni here.
  • We moved onto University Village! It's wonderful to have a property where we can host people and run training and just bless others!

Well, those are the big highlights to an amazing year of pioneering. Thanks for being a part of it through your giving, prayer, and support. It's a privilege for us to do this with you! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pioneering...


Being that this was a year of pioneering, I wanted to share some thoughts on what I've learned about it. Mind you, nothing has been mastered. In fact, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what it means to pioneer a work from the ground up. It's easy to excitedly commit while in the planning stages and then realize later the sacrifice and time commitment it takes. As a leadership team, we have really been counting the cost of pioneering this work with orphans. It's not something you can do in a year, two, or even three. It takes a commitment and long-term thinking to get it off the ground.

The theme of this pioneering journey for me has been patience. It's easy to try and do too much too fast and then nothing sustains. God has given us much vision and has been faithful to direct us in the timing. But it's easy to get ahead of yourself in this process.

As I continue to count the cost and the sacrifice, I simply bring my mind back to the kids. Those precious children who long for home in every sense of the word. And then I pray, Lord, help me to make a difference in the lives of these children, no matter the cost.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cream Of Chicken Soup


Ok, so this isn't a low fat soup! But it is good and filling and, if you are feeling sick, this chicken soup warms your soul! I took the general idea from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and then threw it some of my own touches. If you use the broth from the boiled chicken, there's not a whole lot of taste so be sure to add your favorite spices!

assortment of chicken pieces (6-8 pieces)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup light cream
6 cups chicken broth
2 stalks celery
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
salt, pepper, garlic powder, Adobo, rosemary, to taste

Boil chicken pieces in salted water. Pull cooked chicken off bone. Save 6 cups chicken broth. Boil carrots in water until tender. In saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour. Stir in milk, cream, and broth. Cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, Adobo, and rosemary, to taste. Stir in chicken, celery, and carrots. Cook until celery is tender. Serve with fresh bread.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tips For Travel

So I'm not an expert on the subject but I do have LOTS of experience traveling many miles across the ocean with 2 small children. I've learned several things along the way that would have been nice to know the first time! Here are some tips I've found helpful.
  • PLAN AHEAD!! A couple of days (or more) before travel start making a packing list. This is to help guard against overpacking. It's easy to overpack - especially if you're traveling overseas with children.
  • Bring extra empty bags for the items you will accumulate on your trip. Most airlines allow 2 - 50 lb. bags per person. However, this doesn't always apply to domestic travel outside the U.S.

  • Find out about the in-flight services offered to children. For those with babies, you can request a bulk head seat where they attach the bassinet for your little one to sleep in. Order your child a kid's meal for the flight. You can call ahead (usually 24 hrs.) to order your child a kid friendly meal. It's usually something more appetizing for children and it makes them feel special!

  • Most countries require 2 blank pages in your passport that say VISA. We (and some of our friends) have learned this the hard way. In most cases they won't let you on the plane. If you do make it on, they will either send you back, or in our case, fine the airline a hefty price.
  • Traveling with children just takes longer, so even though they say to get there 1 hour before for domestic flights and 2 hours for international, with kids you should add at least 1 extra hour.
  • For international travel, children under 12 only pay 60% of the base fare plus the tax, and children under 2 sitting in your lap, only pay 10% plus tax. In most cases infants in your lap will get a checked bag, but check your airline for details. If they don't offer this on the website, be sure to call in to get your discount.
  • It's important your children sleep on the plane. Don't feel guilty if you have to help them along with this using natural remedies or prescribed ones. We often have to pry Joshua away from the kid's movie channel with his bloodshot, watery eyes to make him sleep. You don't want tired, grumpy kids when you're trying to get off the plane!

  • Plan for those L O N G layovers! A 15 to 18 hour layover can be a doozy. We learned early on that it's not realistic for small children to stay content for that long. We started going into the city or getting a hotel room for several hours. It may seem like an extra expense but it is well worth it! Grumpy parents influence grumpy kids and vice versa!
  • Pack your toiletries in ziploc bags. You don't want to open your luggage and find that your entire shampoo bottle exploded all over your clothes!
  • Remember to RELAX! Children are smart and will pick up on your stress. When your child throws up on the business man's expensive shoes, apologize but know you probably won't ever see him again! Or when your child screams uncontrollably out of sheer exhaustion, relax and know your job is to comfort them to sleep. Those angry stares are probably coming from people who don't have kids!
Above all, try to make the flying experience an enjoyable one. Our kids absolutely LOVE flying because we've made it a fun experience for them. And now that you have all these handy tips, practice by coming to see us in South Africa!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reading...False Witness


Randy Singer is described as the Christian John Grisham. Being a huge John Grisham fan, that's what intrigued me to read this book. Full of twists and turns, some predictable some not, this book didn't seem to have the same caliber that I'm used to with Grisham. It's an easy read with the main plot involving an algorithm, so if your thing is math and internet securities, then you might enjoy this thriller.

Tiramisu


I've been wanting to try my hand at tiramisu for a while now. I found a couple of easy recipes and kind of combined them. Although it doesn't look awesome in the picture, it came out quite tasty. Next time I will refrigerate it longer before I serve it. Definitely one I will make again.

200 mL heavy cream
5 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks
500 g mascarpone cheese (*See after for a mock mascarpone cheese recipe.)
200 g ladyfingers
4 tablespoons strong espresso
4 tablespoons amaretto
cocoa powder

Whip the cream and 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff. Mix egg yolks with rest of sugar until creamy. Add mascarpone. Then stir in whipped cream on lowest mixer setting. Line square baking dish with ladyfingers. Mix espresso and amaretto and trickle generoulsy over ladyfingers. Spread a layer of cream over ladyfingers. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers and cream. Dust with cocoa powder. Refigerate at least 6 hours.

Mascarpone Cheese
12 oz. cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup cream

Allow cream cheese and butter to reach room temperature. Beat until butter is mixed in. Add cream and beat until well blended.
*Makes 500 g of mascarpone cheese

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This Is What It's All About...


Yesterday we had a Christmas party with the kids in Mbonisweni. It was a celebration of the birth Jesus with lunch, cake, balloon animals, face painting, and gifts! (Again a HUGE thanks to Coca-Cola and FUMC Olton and Littlefield!)



At first I thought, "Why do we have to do this on Christmas Eve? I mean, can't I have a day off and spend this holiday with my family?" And then it hit me. How selfish could I be? Isn't Christmas about giving? Sure, we give gifts to one another but isn't it about so much more? I mean Jesus came to this earth and gave his life. Surely He deserves mine.



Seeing Emma Grace, in all her precious 4-year-oldness, painting faces and handing out gifts blessed me beyond words. I want so much for my kids to understand that life is about giving of yourself. And especially this Christmas season to understand that it's not about the toys you get but about something so much bigger.



As you spend time with your family this Christmas season, amidst all the wrapping paper and bows, remember to take the time to pause and reflect on why we celebrate this special holiday and the importance of giving of ourselves to bless others.

By the way, over 100 kids were blessed with gifts. So glad that we could help put a smile on their faces this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Baking

Ahh, I love the holidays. The smells that fill your kitchen as you bake the delicious foods that are so pleasing to the palette. In preparation for hosting a Christmas Banquet, I baked all day yesterday! And what's on the menu? Sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting.


Some new picks from my new Taste Of Home Appetizer cookbook (see sidebar to the left) including roasted eggplant dip (see picture), fruit salsa, honey garlic glazed meatballs, and potato skins.


And then we have some favorites like fresh bread with rosemary from the garden, hummus with pita bread, and cream cheese with jalapeno jelly.

I also tried 2 kinds of rolled chicken including some with coriander pesto and another with cream cheese, garlic, and basil. With a little help from friends, we have more on the menu! I had a blast making new things and can't wait to see how they taste! Happy Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Crafting

As I take the first steps toward more handmade gifts, I'm pleased to show you some of my work! Ok, so they're not perfect but they are lovingly created with my hands which is just perfect. First up we have the "Sweet Little Purse." The pattern can be found here. I made this for a friend and included some notecards I made with some of my photos. The purse didn't come out looking exactly like the picture with the pattern. I realized my mistake when it was too late. Should have freshened up on purling!



I also made this simple dishcloth for our house cleaner along with some scones and homemade pear butter. Nothing too fancy - just a simple knit and purl pattern.


I've always said that there's nothing better than homemade. Now I have to also say there's nothing better than hand made. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us hands to create!

Decorating The House


Since we just arrived back to SA, we are just now decorating for the holidays. The kids love the fun of putting up the Christmas tree, hanging the ornaments (usually clustered in the same spot), and making a gingerbread house. It's all a bit different this year but still just as fun.

This is the first year we've had a fake tree! The beautiful pine scent has been replaced by plastic fumes. The kids didn't seem to mind though and were eager to make it special. Joshua's favorite is always putting the ornament up top. This year's pick - a star!



No need to sit by the fire and warm up to a hot cocoa. We were sweating by the end of this decorating!



My favorite ornament. Stop laughing, my friends. It is highly missed over here so we had to have some kind of reminder! Those red holiday cups filled with the Christmas drinks. Ahhh...


Every year we make a gingerbread house. I contemplated buying one and bringing it back with me. But then I thought, "No, I will be ambitious and make my own!" I found a recipe here. It was my first time and after decorating on it for a while, it all came tumbling down. I think next year I'll opt to just buy one. It's not like we ever eat it anyway.



So I'm sure most of you have had your decorations up for several weeks now but thanks for sharing in my joy as we decorate and prepare for our first Christmas celebrated in our home.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas, Kabokweni!


Yesterday, in the sweltering African heat, we had a Christmas celebration with the kids in Kabokweni. The 3 hour festivities included dramas, singing, dancing, and eating! Through generous donations of clothing, matchbox cars, baby dolls, and candy, we were able to bless these children and give them a little something for Christmas. On the US side, many thanks to YWAM Minnesota for the clothing, FUMC Olton and Littlefield for the cars, baby dolls, and candy, and Coca Cola for the cool drinks. You sure blessed many kid's hearts through your generous giving this Christmas season. All the kids say, "Siyabonga!" Now to see the day's events...














Saturday, December 20, 2008

Does The Tooth Fairy Visit Airplanes?

Let me replay the scene for you...

Jen, snoozing as best she can in an upright position on a REALLY long flight.

Tap, tap, tap.

Annoyed that she was awoken from her slumber, Jen turns around.

In an instant, annoyance was replaced with excitement as she saw her firstborn, smiling with a gap in between his bottom teeth. Hand outstretched, there it was. A small, white tooth resting in the middle of his palm. Picture time!

Joshua: "I pushed my tooth with my tongue and then I was like....where is it?!"

Luckily, he found it floating around his mouth!

December 16, 2008

Joshua loses his first tooth...

This little event prompted me to find out the origin of the tooth fairy. As kids, we always hid our baby teeth under our pillow for a few bucks, but why? After doing some research, I found out that it is indeed practiced in S. Africa as well. "Some academics hold that the Tooth Fairy evolved from the tooth mouse depicted in an 18th century French language fairy tale. In "La Bonne Petite Souris," a mouse changes into a fairy to help a good queen defeat an evil king by hiding under his pillow to torture him and knocking out all his teeth."

Many nations have different traditions when it comes to losing baby teeth. In the U.S. the tooth fairy started showing up around 1900. One of the earliest depictions was in The Little Rascals short entitled "The Awful Tooth" where the boys started pulling their teeth to make money. To read more about the tooth fairy, visit here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

After A Long Journey, We Made It Back!


Despite weather issues, we arrived back to our home in SA about 11 Wednesday evening. Between icy roads in Texas and waiting an hour for the plane to be de-iced at DFW to LOTS of turbulence from Atlanta to Dakar, we arrived safe and sound. It's good to be home. I think the kids have already managed to pull out every single toy they own. Who needs to buy Christmas presents!?

We're excited for the upcoming Christmas holiday, although it's still strange to think we are about to put up a Christmas tree while wearing t-shirts and shorts. A warm and sunny Christmas. Ahhh, sounds great actually!

I have a few more posts to write about our trip back so stay tuned!
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