There is a dripping sound in our bathroom. It’s been there for months. We thought it was the air conditioning/furnace in the attic above. And it was. Ironic that in this drought, in this period of desert living, we’ve had a hot water leak under the house and an air conditioning leak in the attic. So we had it fixed and stood in the bathroom and marveled because there it was still. The dripping. Hubby has crawled under the house; he has battled the attic; he has searched for any indication whatsoever of wet, dripping something. Nada.

But there’s a crack in the tile of the bathroom floor. IMG_5863It is new in the last months, and it is growing. And my friend has a pool that is sinking on one side, and there are articles that the land is shrinking because of the drought, and so is it possible that our phantom drip is no drip but rather a cracking and shifting?

The drought. There are dire reports that this is just the beginning and California is going to turn into desert, that the lush green and fields and trees and agriculture that feeds our nation are drying up.IMG_5872 IMG_5873

There are talking heads saying this is just the beginning; judgment is upon us. Conversely, there are weather forecasters projecting an El Nino winter full of hearty, drenching, reservoir-filling rain.

The drought. And the moms meet at the poolside and watch the kids splash and they compare their sub-par gardens and their conservation efforts and the dirt of their cars and the grime behind the ears of the kids and the water bills.IMG_5875 IMG_5877

But the kids are in the water; there is water when we turn on the faucet; there is water to wash the scrapes and cuts of summer, to cool a feverish head, to wash away grime and to quench the sandy throats of summer.

Yes, the specter of turning on the faucet and watching the last drip of water eek its way out is there… off in the distance… and we’re praying for God to shelter us from that reality… and we’re saving water with a measured frenzy. And the government agencies are singing their 2-song showers and chanting their 50% reduction slogans, and we hope they’re making plans to be better stewards themselves.

But there is water in this drought.

And now there is water at Chalabesa!

Back in 2011, I wrote about Chalabesa:
The situation at Chalabesa Mission Hospital in Zambia is similar. The clinic is run by a Polish nun, Sister Marta, and is the only one for miles. Sister Marta has been reporting that the solar-powered electrical system hasn’t been working and the water for the clinic comes either from a wind-powered pump that is leaking and that only works when there is wind or from a river 160 yards away. This river is visited by elephants and other animals who not only drink its water but who grossly contaminate it. To compound things, measles, deadly diarrhea, typhoid, and malaria are striking in epidemic proportions due to the drought in that part of the world. In one day alone, with flashlight in hand, Sister Marta took care of over 240 patients who had walked miles and waited hours in the dark, crowded rooms of the clinic. These patients were thirsty, feverish, ill, dehydrated, malnourished, and fearful for their lives. Chalabesa is their only hope.
Currently, the CareNow Foundation is raising funds to supply the Chalabesa Mission Hospital with a “bucket brigade” of relief. They would like to dig two new boreholes, erect two new 2,600 gallon tanks and necessary pipework, and purchase two solar pumps plus associated solar panels and control electronics.

On June 17 of this year, we received confirmation that there is now running water in the hospital! All the necessary pipes and pumps and panels are installed and running!

It has been a long process, one complicated by what we lovingly call “Africa time,” a pace that can seem aggravatingly slow compared to our rush-life. Thanks to our friends at Mission Medic Air for their part in arranging the supplies and the workers and for their aid in accomplishing this monumental task! How thrilled we are that patients at the clinic can now access running water, that treating patients can be both easier and more sanitary, and that precious time helping people can be reclaimed from hauling water from the river. Hooray!

It reminds me of something. Sunday, during church, I watched a dear friend walk up the aisle looking for a place to sit. She saw another sister of the faith and joined her in the pew. But not without the kind of embrace that speaks volumes to the depth of the friendship. Witnessing this, I thought of the struggles that friend has gone through. And I thought of the storms and the deserts she has weathered and traversed. And I thought of the new paths God is showing her. How incrementally He is gracing her with new beginnings, how He has been faithful this whole time to walk with her and to even carry her through those storms and across those deserts. But witnessing it in someone else’s life… oh, the joy!

God has been faithful in bringing water to Chalabesa. He has been faithful in bringing my friend through her drought period. He will be faithful in this drought, too.IMG_5622 IMG_5602

And one day soon, the skies will open and water will fall and we’ll go dance in it, letting the moisture sink in deep, deep into the cracks in our foundations. Because when He is your foundation, the shifting, shrinking earth all around can’t shake you.

An Inconvenient Truth (or rather a truth for the inconvenience)

It’s humid this morning and it’s gumming up the works. Like the air is sliceable and we’re moving in slow motion, fighting against the extra resistance of the air.

Which may be why we were almost late to school this morning.

Or maybe it was because I’m cooking out of the trailer right now. Running the house from an off-site location.

Yesterday, I spewed forth a total Pollyanna response to someone’s compassion over our kitchen situation. It went something like this: “You know, we get really comfortable in our patterns and in our habits and sometimes we need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes God shakes us up a bit to get us acting and reacting in new ways. Cooking in the trailer takes creativity and patience and we’re finding ways to be joyful in our situation. It’s actually kind of fun.”

Yeah. That.

Was yesterday. Today, as I tossed backpacks and lunchbags into the truck and slammed the door, I believe my words were, “I’m so done with this.” Specifically done with a 12-inch by 12-inch square of counter space for cutting, preparing, making lunches, cooking breakfast, and putting dinner in the crockpot all at once. Done with leaving the kids in the house on their own while I go cook. Without my constant nagging, and yes, on certain days, it is constant, they wander off the “get ready for school” path onto the “let’s play and lollygag” path. Those walkie-talkies Joseph got a few years back… yep. We ‘re putting them to use starting tonight.

“Roger, roger, kids are you getting dressed?”
“That’s a 10-4 Mom, dressing going on now.”

Did you notice the title of this blog? An Inconvenient Truth. Do you know why that sounds familiar? It was the title of the film that catapulted Al Gore into international fame that went beyond his political career and that landed him the Nobel Peace Prize.

As I watch ¾ of my friends, of my country, struggle under the weight of snow and cold and as I feel for my mommy friends out there who are snow bound yet another day with the kids off school and as I hear the people around me stewing about our drought here in California, I have to chuckle. It’s weather. And it’s inconvenient… as is our kitchen situation. Inconvenient.

And the truth is that we really can’t make a hill of a difference.

Just finished reading the book of Job. WOW. And ugh. Page after page and verse after verse of argument and finger pointing until the heavens open somewhere around chapter 38. And God speaks up. “I’ve got a few questions for you, Job,” God says. Forgive me for this long quote, but really, this is good stuff.

38 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
 and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
 as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors.[b]
The light disturbs the wicked
and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths?
Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know!
“Where does light come from, 
and where does darkness go?
Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there?
But of course you know all this!
For you were born before it was all created,
 and you are so very experienced!
“Have you visited the storehouses of the snow 
or seen the storehouses of hail?
(I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.)
Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind?
“Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning?
Who makes the rain fall on barren land, 
in a desert where no one lives?
Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
 and make the tender grass spring up?
“Does the rain have a father?
 Who gives birth to the dew?
Who is the mother of the ice?
 Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes.
“Can you direct the movement of the stars—
binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion?
Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
 or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
Do you know the laws of the universe? 
Can you use them to regulate the earth?
“Can you shout to the clouds 
and make it rain?
Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?
Who gives intuition to the heart
 and instinct to the mind?
Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? 
Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods?
“Can you stalk prey for a lioness 
and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
as they lie in their dens
 or crouch in the thicket?
Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God 
and wander about in hunger?

Who are we? Who do we think we are? What do we know of God? Who are we to complain? Who are we to stew, fret, worry? Doesn’t the maker of the whole universe, the One who controls the snowy storerooms and the One who directs the path of the lightning bolts, doesn’t He have the ultimate control? And doesn’t He provide?

Doesn’t He provide.

That is the truth of it all. Throughout the incoveniences of life, the salt-shaker that broke between the garage and the trailer this morning, IMG_20140124_194531_592 IMG_20140129_125338_926 IMG_20140129_130840_322 IMG_20140129_131729_852the plate of scrambled eggs left on the table, the garden shoes I’m wearing instead of “real” shoes because of our rush, the car that is in the shop, driving the truck instead, making my Compassion Tea in the laundry room morning, noon, and night, throughout all of that… I have everything I need. God’s love, God’s grace, God’s son. I have God’s promises… spring will break the bonds of the cold, will break free from winter’s prison, rain will fall and the golden state will be green again, mold will be abated, lives restored. Maybe it won’t follow our timing, but it will happen. And in the meantime, I have all that I need.

And in truth, that repaints the morning. The humidity, the tardiness, the mess waiting to be cleaned, the snow, the drought, let’s even throw in climate change… when we look through the lens of God’s control, with a God’s got this mentality, it all seems like a hamster ball exercise.

My friend has mentioned that I’ve got material for a reality show going on in my life right now. I’ve responded that I’m grateful there are no cameras. Can you just imagine. But, I can imagine God laughing in joy at his little Linda hamster, spinning in her wheel of worry and stress, loving my running, shaking His head at me, and reaching down to lift me off the wheel, to hug me and caress my heart. Dear one… get off the wheel. Let Him handle this.

Talk About Weather

I should be a Midwestern girl at heart, and I probably would still be if it weren’t for the weather. I grew up in eastern Indiana and moved to northeastern Ohio when I was heading into high school. I don’t recall ever feeling like the weather was oppressive, although, I do recall staring out across the cornfields at ominous dark clouds watching for a funnel, anticipating the storm’s power. Snow came and went, sometimes with fierceness and malice, sometimes gently and quietly. There were the years growing up when the blizzards hit and the snow draping down off the nearby church roof met with the drifted snow climbing the church wall and we had to cover the doors to the house with blankets to keep the snow and cold from drifting in. And, invariably, June and July would roll around and every single day we had swim lessons or the opportunity to board the bus for a nearby pool grey clouds would settle in and the wind would rise. The pool water was frigid and the air wasn’t much better. The next day, the sun would bake the land around us and send us panting to the shade of a large tree. But I moved in and through the weather, sometimes getting a late-sleep because of a fog delay or a free day off school because the roads had drifted shut with snow. I viewed these days like gifts from the weather gods. Weather was what happened around me and nothing more than that.

When we moved to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I heard expats who had moved there from sunnier climates complaining about the weather. “Why doesn’t the sun ever shine here?” seemed to be their refrain. For me, the fast-moving clouds, the sporadic showers, the breaking sun through enormous puffy orange clouds was heavenly… so much better than the nebulous grey murk of home where horizons don’t exist, where sky and snow-covered landscape blend together in an endless greyness. And then, I moved to California where for several months each year there is no rain. At first, the incessant sun seemed to scorch my soul. I felt dry and thirsty… partly for rain and partly for companionship. I still embrace the first rain of the winter with open arms, but I quickly bid it good-bye. Hasta la vista, baby. Bring back the sun! I have become a sun-bunny and the dark, dreary rain storms that pass through don’t just happen around me, they happen in me too. Headaches, sadness, fears sit like a proverbial cloud over my head; it is a heavy cloud.

I’m talking about the weather here because one of my devotionals today describes depression in the way I would describe a winter’s day in northeastern Ohio – interminable darkness. Please read:

Coming Out of the Dark — 
Mary Southerland

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in – forming an ugly pit.Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.Depression is America’s number one health problem. Someone once called it “a dark tunnel without a ray of light” while some cartoonists often describe depression as a “little black cloud hovering overhead.” I have a friend who says, “Some days you’re the bnd
Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in – forming an ugly pit.
Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.
Depression is America’s number one health problem. Someone once called it “a dark tunnel without a ray of light” while some cartoonists often describe depression as a “little black cloud hovering overhead.” I have a friend who says, “Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield.” Many believe depression is simply a spiritual problem while others insist it is an emotional and physical disorder. I think they are all right. Studies indicate that over half of all women and one out of three men struggle with depression on a regular basis. Because no one is immune to the darkness, we must learn to face it honestly, with emotional integrity.
That moment came for me in the spring of 1995 when I realized that something was drastically wrong. I was empty and completely exhausted. It seemed as if I had been living in the fast and furious lane forever. Overwhelmed, I mentally listed the demands on my life:
• Serving as pastor’s wife in a large and fast-growing church
• Raising two young children
• Maintaining a hectic speaking schedule
• Directing the Women’s Ministry of our church
• Teaching a weekly and monthly Bible study
• Counseling women in crisis
• Playing the piano for three worship services
• Teaching twenty piano and voice students
No wonder I was struggling. I was just plain tired. Being a perfectionist, I had always been very strong, driven to excel with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn’t get out of bed. Getting dressed by the time my children returned from school meant it was a good day. The simplest decisions sent me into a panic and the thought of facing crowds was overwhelming. Many times, I walked to the front door of our church building but couldn’t go in. I felt guilty missing services but couldn’t handle the sympathetic looks and questioning stares as I stood, weeping uncontrollably. I was paralyzed, imprisoned in a bottomless pit where loneliness and despair reigned, wreaking emotional havoc from their throne of darkness. I had no idea how I had gotten there and what was even more frightening was the fact that I had no idea how to escape. I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)
With that single heart cry, my journey from darkness into light began. The first step was to recognize the factors that can trigger depression; a lack of replenishing relationships, various chemical imbalances, and a poor self-image, just to name a few. One of the most common and deadly factors is failure to deal with the past. The “mire” mentioned in Psalm 40:2 means “sediment at the bottom.” When our children were small, we frequented the beach. Wading out into the ocean, they took turns pushing a beach ball under the water and counting to see who could hold the ball down for the longest time. Eventually their arms would tire, or the ball would escape their control, popping to the surface. The “mire” in our lives is like that beach ball. The “sediment” or “junk” that we have never dealt with settles at the bottom of our souls, randomly popping up until we run out of energy to keep it submerged. Eventually, this mire works its way to the surface, spilling ugliness and darkness into every part of life.
“Mire” comes in all shapes and sizes — buried pain, unresolved anger, hidden sin or a devastating loss. I had never really dealt with my mother’s death or faced some very painful parts of my past. As I looked back over my life, a startling realization came — I had painted a picture in my heart and mind of how I wanted my childhood to be, not how it really was. I had spent my whole life running from the past by filling the present with frenzied activity. In the following weeks and months, the Lord and I sifted through the enormous pile of “mire” that had settled into my spirit and life. Together we faced experiences that I had carefully locked away until they slammed into my heart and mind with breathtaking force and fresh pain; an alcoholic father, the trusted family doctor who molested me, times of loneliness and rejection, haunting failures, unreasonable fears that were never spoken. It seemed as if the flood of polluted memories would never end!
But God is good — providing a defense mechanism for those experiences that are beyond our ability to face. He gently tucks them away until we are ready. When we bury pain alive, it keeps popping up at unexpected moments. Pain must be dealt with and buried … dead! Freedom from the pit of darkness demands a confrontation of our past, straining every experience through the truth that “all” things work together for our good. The will of God admits no defeat and penalizes no one. We can allow our past to defeat us or empower us. Harnessing the power of the past is a compelling weapon in the war against darkness.

I’m pretty sure I fall into the 50% of women who have experienced depression. It’s such an ugly, lonely, dark place. My heart has cried out over and over again, “Lord, please take this.” Do I successfully hand it over to Him? Or do I keep grabbing it back? What about the times I think I’m doing great and then something happens to me? Someone says something that hits a nerve, or resurrects the head of the multi-headed serpent of self-doubt and self-recrimination and self-loathing, or throttles me squarely into the middle of a battle I didn’t start and want nothing to do with. These are my beach balls I suppose, the mire-covered buoyant issues that eternally pop up and try as I might to drown them again and again and again I can’t. I would like very much for the beach balls, with their mire-covered relentlessness, to go away. I would like to wash my hands of them, watch them drift ever further out to sea, ultimately to sink from view. But wouldn’t you know, to carry the metaphor a bit further, here comes a dolphin balancing the balls on its nose, tossing them back at me. Here, catch! You’re not done yet. WHY NOT! WHY CAN’T I BE DONE?

Because my work here on earth isn’t done yet. Seriously, I’ve got babies to raise, people to shepherd, tea to sell and lives to change, a husband to love, and parents to help. I’ve got rainbows to see, new foods to taste, faces and people to delight in, and a lot of growing in Christ. God’s not finished with me yet; in fact, He’s not finished with this whole experiment He’s got going on, this thing called “life on earth.” Yesterday, I took a walk and as I walked I marveled at the blue sky peeking through the grey clouds with tinges of pink outlining it all. And I prayed, “Lord, I can’t wait to see Jesus come riding through those clouds with thousands of angels blowing their heavenly trumpets. Because when that happens I will know I’m going home and all the pain of this life is behind me, a flash in the pan, a momentary blip, the bitter pill swallowed and ultimate healing complete. No, God didn’t send His Son back to fetch us all, not yet, although He promises to do so.

In the meantime, we work and serve.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who has been facing a number of health issues. The health issues are limiting, and after a lifetime of servitude, this person was beginning to feel sort of put out to pasture, like there wasn’t much left to do. Oh, but there is still so much to be done! One of the things that I keep learning over and over is that we all face hardships and problems. Tragedy, illness, death, financially difficult times, scary times… we are exempt from none of it. It is the definitive in the world… not if, but when. We have two choices when we reduce it down. Choice A is to turn inward and ask things like, “Why is this happening to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?” and crawl into the proverbial bed, pulling the covers over our heads, and shutting out the world. Choice B is to take the necessary time to grieve and adjust and then to say, “God, how are you going to use this? Show me the way for this to become your glory revealed. What role do you have planned for me? How can I serve still?”

We shouldn’t turn each other out to pasture. Our elders are wise and offer a contemplative view of the world. Our youth are full of vigor and passion, which can be harnessed into productive servitude. I think of Dawn Leppan at 1000 Hills clinic in South Africa, who, despite her own health problems, continues to serve roughly 1500 people a day through her feeding center, her nursery school, her jobs programs, and her medical clinic. I think of two of the founders of Compassion Tea who have traded an easy retirement for the rigors of running a tea business, while the other founders squeeze Compassion Tea into already filled days. I think of our members who understand that they are serving others by simply drinking a cup of tea. Or I think of Betty who called the CompassioNow office recently and said she was sending a check to CompassioNow for $9.00. For years, she and her husband Bari have kept an annual jar where they collect money that they find on the street or that falls on the floor. At the end of the year, they take whatever is in the jar and send it where the Lord directs. Recently, Betty read about how patients in Tanzania pay 60 cents for their healthcare costs, a cost that seems miniscule to us but which is actually prohibitive for Tanzanians. Betty said she felt the Lord directing her to “the jar.” She had $8.72 in the jar. She figured by rounding up to $9.00 she could help cover the patient portion costs for 15 patients at Tanzania Christian Clinic.

There is a service yet that you can provide. There are mentors needed, Bible studies to be led, communities to be built, lives to be saved, lives to be drawn out of the dark.

Spicing It Up

It’s summer and it has been hot. Tempers have been running quick and red. Energy has been flagging. Yet, the rigors of summer… the camps, the play dates, the swimming and tennis and horseback riding… must go on. One day at a time, we march through summer, prey to the heat, at the whim of the schedule and our own diminished interests. The garden needs tending, the chicks must be checked multiple times a day, towels need washing, and what the heck, let’s camp out in the backyard tonight. Pop the tent.

Batter speckled with tea… interesting!

And we’re only 1 ½ weeks into it.

Bearing all this in mind, I couldn’t face making a “normal” dinner tonight. Often, when at my wits’ end, I opt for “breakfast for dinner”… a delightful break from the usual rigors of cooking, a quick way to get food on the table, and a sure way to get the kids to eat their dinner. Tonight, just to change things up, I decided to spice it up, too! The results have been nothing short of miraculous. As I type, Clara is reading and singing to Joseph; they are snuggled up on Joseph’s bed together completely forgetting the continual fighting of the other 12 hours of the day. I am chalking it up to chai tea pancakes and I’m loving it!

Chai Tea Pancakes
(adapted from Tracy Stern’s book Tea Party)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder (I used 1 ½ tbsp.)
½ tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (I used 1 ¾ cups vanilla flavored coconut milk)
3 large eggs, separated
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp. vanilla and ½ tsp. almond extract)
2 tbsp. ground chai tea (I used Compassion Tea Cochin Masala Chai)

Pancakes topped with whipped cream, maple syrup, and granola… looking good!

Whisk together the flour, 2 tbsp. sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond (if you use it) and whisk until smooth and thick.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. sugar to the egg whites and beat until stiff. Fold into the batter and fold in the ground tea. Cook on a griddle until golden brown in each side. Serve with maple syrup, yogurt or whipped cream, and granola. Makes about 1 dozen pancakes.

Ready for consumption. Yummy happiness awaits!

These pancakes are thick and fluffy, moist and spicy, sweet and pleasantly unusual. They would make a great brunch dish if entertaining. Add some fresh fruit and candied almonds, a cup of chai tea softened with milk and honey, and viola! Delicious!

Fresh from the pool, the kiddos dig in. Joseph cleaned his plate in record time.

Clara’s eyebrows go up in surprised delight as she tries her pancakes.