Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Unconvential List

Instead of telling you how I'm all thankful for my family and friends and health, yada, yada, yada, I decided to tell you all the less praised things I'm thankful for.
  • Kleenex. My sister-in-law loves her husband enough to wash his hankies. I just don't love the environment that much. I love Kleenex.
  • Shoes. At my training conference with people from the Caribbean and Central America, they had us line up in order of how many shoes we own. I didn't even know how many I owned. All except one of them only owned one to three pairs of shoes. I came home and counted. I own 31 pairs. And that's without the shoes I inherited from my grandmother-in-law.
  • Weird kinds of squash. My farm is still pumping us full of squash. Today I tried delicata and sweet dumpling. The description on the web of sweet dumpling is "sweet as honey and shaped like a dumpling." Very sensual for a squash.
  • Lemurs. They're so cute. And plushy.
  • That I haven't had to kill a spider in years. I'm so spoiled, but gratefully spoiled.
  • Toes. I like toes. Not yours. I mean, I'm sure they're fine. But I like Mike's and mine.
  • Indoor plumbing. I have a friend whose parents still don't have it.
  • White and Nerdy. Can I tell you that I think Weird Al looks oddly attractive as a G?

And the number one unconventional thing I'm thankful for?

  • Chick-Fil-A Ice Dream shakes. (You knew it was going to be food.) I love how the one healthy fast food chain added a 900-calorie dream shake for me to add to my slim grilled chicken. You rock, Chick-Fil-A!

Spending Time

I haven't written anything controversial lately, so I thought I'd juice it up.

Friday will mark a new season, the spending season in the U.S. Time for Black Friday and stocking stuffers and credit card debt. If you've ever spent the Friday after Thanksgiving shopping with my sister Tara at the Park Meadows Mall (or "Parkies" as she lovingly calls it), you'll understand why it's called "black." (Just kidding, Tara, you know I love you.)

Because of the company I keep, which is fabulous company, I also encounter a lot of differing opinions about the spending frenzy that is Christmas. Some love it (like Black Friday Tara, who remains one of the most generous people I know). Some call it evil. (Just read the articles of a "progressive" magazine in December that decry that over-consumption, and watch films like What Would Jesus Buy, which, by the way, is an atrocious documentary that is not worth watching.)

I myself have been known to ask my family to donate to charity at Christmastime instead of getting me a gift. This is usually because I really can't think of anything I want, and I genuinely do want that for my gift at Christmas. But I don't belong to the camp that says that this season of buying is evil.

I'm no economist, but the Christmas spending season fuels much of America's economy, and, in turn, much of the world's economy. We all have seen lately what happens when Americans do in fact stop spending. And, as a side note, I'm still no economist, but I still think one of the best ways to help those in poor countries is to support their economies, rather than only giving to charity. (This is why I'm going on a month-long vacation to Zanzibar this summer. Not really.)

I don't think we should spend ridiculous wads of money on ridiculous things just to fuel the economy. That's why I returned the Hummer I'd bought Mike for Christmas. But I see the gift-giving season in America as one of our beautiful traditions. I'll take Tara as my case in point. Tara loves Christmas. She loves to buy people presents. One might argue that occasionally she spends too much money on others. One year, when I was still po in college, she bought me tickets to U2--a very lavish gift in our fairly frugal family. I've never come even close to spending that much money on her. But that is her generous spirit and her love that manifests itself in a gift. I have to be honest that giving me a gift is one of the best ways to communicate love to me (thank you Gary Chapman of The Five Love Languages for making this clear to me).

So although I work at a non-profit and although I wrote Hope Lives and although I occasionally ask that my gift be in the form of charity, I embrace this gift-giving season we are about to embark on. Yes, the world is still in need around us. Yes, we should reach out and help the poor. But just because there is need around us doesn't mean we cannot be generous with our friends and family. The root of Americas material-lust is not in its desire to give to others at Christmas.

If we want to get on Americans' backs for spending too much money, do it the rest of the year when we're frivolously buying things for ourselves, not when we're taking part in one of our most noble traditions: giving to others.

If you want to help those in need and give gifts to your loved ones, there are tons of organizations for this. Check out these organizations: Beads for Life, Product Red, Rwandan Coffee

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are We Really Going to Do This?

For the past three years, I've been torturing my husband, making him drive all over God's green country, scouting out potential future hearths for our family fire. We both want a home, but we both have psychological makeups that make home buying difficult.

We're both idealists and dreamers. That means we have a hard time settling. We want our home to be our perfect dream home. I love that we're impractical dreamers. I wouldn't have us any other way. But it makes home buying difficult.

We're also commitment phobes, at least I am. I love my flitting life; flit here, flit there, like a moth. But I know that even moths have to rest every now and then.

So this weekend, Mike and I took some long walks, which is how we make all our decisions, and decided...I think, maybe, perhaps, I'm afraid to even say it...to buy a home. Soon.

Why is this so hard for me? It's a pretty normal thing to do. I know 23 year olds who buy homes. I'm an intelligent, self-possessed, grown woman, but the thought of this makes me feel like a giggly 5-year-old with her hand in the cookie jar.

But when it comes down to it, Mike and I really like cookies. So we're going to get a realtor and try to get a home.

Here's the video that convinced us to live here. Especially the old creepy gawker at the Broadmoor.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Slide Show, Part 2

To cap this week of telling you about my trip, I'll close with a slideshow of my time in the Dominican Republic. Our training was at a hotel on the beach. I tried to enjoy it each morning, and take a walk. On the beach, there were lots of sellers. Yuri and I talked to several of them. The man on the far right has been selling on the beach for 15 years.
At night, I'd try to rush out after meetings to enjoy the sunset.
Doesn't everyone look interested and engaged?
Here I am presenting a topic. Who presents wearing a dress like that, I ask you?
We did a project visit on one day. I decided this will be my official "I'm a photojournalist picture" when I am trying to fool people into thinking that.
I'm posting lots of pics of myself because I'm feeling narcissitsic. Do you see how curly my hair was?
I loved this little girl to my left (the one waving).
On the last day of training we took a group picture. This was our "crazy" shot. Apparently to them "crazy" means cross your arms. I thought "crazy" meant look goofy. Hence this picture.
Then we went to Santo Domingo. It was beautiful. But this outfit isn't. I'm rethinking my wardrobe choices.
Then I came home and we all lived happily ever after.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

At the Batey

Today's blog, about my experience at the Compassion project I visited in the Dominican Republic last week, can be read here at Compassion's blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Slide Show

I thought I'd give you a little slideshow of my short trip to Haiti. First, we went to San Isabel airport in Dominican Republic to fly to Port-au-Prince. The airport was very pretty, as you can see here.
After getting breakfast, we stopped at this Compassion child development center. You can see the mountains behind the project. Throughout Port-au-Prince you have views like this of surrounding mountains.
At the project, we went into various classrooms and met kids and talked to them. I played the role of the shy, demure one who didn't have much to say, while Roberto tried to tell lots of jokes, that weren't always as funny when translated into French. Here he's giving a geography lesson to the kids, and Haiti looks oddly like a huge gun pointing at the US.
Lots of kids wanted their picture taken. I notice the Haitian kids would be all smiles and then they'd pose for the camera and get a very serious dignified look on their faces. Like the boy on the left. Mike thinks it's from the West African tradition of beauty, which is a sober face.
Then we went to our hotel, which was very nice. Instead of windows, it had these beautiful wrought-iron sculptures. Roberto and I were both tired out from the week of training, so we had a big late lunch here and relaxed the rest of the day.
Another view of our hotel.
On Sunday, we went to Ricot's church, which is also a Compassion partner. They had us sit on stage so everyone could stare at us the whole time. I thought it was interesting that more mentions of the devil and evil spirits were made than I'm used to--perhaps a reaction against voodoo, which is still widely practiced. They had us get up and say some words to them, which I bungled my way through.
After lunch we drove up to the top of one of the mountains around Port-au-Prince. On the way, you see many people selling paintings and other tourist items.
Here we are at the top of Port-au-Prince, Ricot, Roberto and Timothee. There is a beautiful view over the city and surrounding mountains.
Here's me at the top.
On Monday, we went into the Compassion office and met everyone, and I had a short time to talk with Ricot and Ephraim. Ricot gave me a huge painting of Haiti. Not sure what to do with it yet. He also gave me a wood clock the shape of Haiti, a hair clasp, a book, and a CD. It was like Christmas. Then I went away to the airport and had a very long day of flying home. On the flight back, I met a Peruvian petroleum engineer who lives in Qatar, which was quite fascinating.
I was quite surprised at how much I liked Port-au-Prince. Of course, I ony had a quick trip and I didn't see the worst parts. But something about it seems very poetic and poignant. Mike tells me Anne Rice likes Port-au-Prince, so perhaps there's just some mystique that intrigues my writer's heart. If you haven't looked at my other pics yet, they're here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A World of Contrast

I do not understand this world. At once it is a world of great beauty and a world of great ugliness. 

I awoke this morning, lifting my head from the deep pillow, and looked out the balcony to the tangle of trees off the wrought-iron balcony. I went down to the patio for breakfast, surrounded by  dense flowering vines and the tinkling of tropical birds. In the Caribbean breeze I sipped coffee and read while listening to the French flowing around me. I read my book about Welsh gardens and the English countryside. Thanks to my muddled ancestry, just as the Latinos had assumed I was Latina and spoke freely to me in Spanish, the white French men here freely converse in French to me as I take my coffee. I nod back blankly, enjoying the elegant flowof French mixed with the burbling sound of Creole. Like French but with the roundness of West Africa rolled in. 

Across the hillside from my lovely morning the white slums climb the hillside. On the drive up to our hotel, a small woman with blank eyes absently tapped on the truck's window asking for anything. 
The view in front of me at the hotel (above) and the view behind me at the hotel (below).
At breakfast yesterday, Timothee told us that when the Bible speaks of the poor, it speaks of Haiti. "The Bible says, 'the poor you will always have with you.' In America, you can live in neighborhoods far away from the poor. But in Haiti the poor are always with you, climbing the hill behind you." He tells us of how the French slave masters in the 1700s would mistreat the Africans, burying them up to their heads and dripping corn syrup down their faces for the ants to feast on. He proudly tells of the Africans' revolt, becoming the first black republic. But the proud heritage is mired now in decades of violent and corrupt government. 

I simply cannot make the world of Welsh gardens and rich coffee and slums crumbling below themselves and men buried to their necks fit inside my head.  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ca Va Bien, Merci. Et vous?!

Where to start? I'm in Haiti now. People told me how hard it was to visit. How poor it was. How hopeless. No one told me how beautiful it is. Flying from San Isabel to Port-au-Prince was stunning. Such tall lush mountains. Even flying into the bay of Port-au-Prince, with its shanty towns tottering on the hills is beautiful. 

The tiny Caribbean airport was a kick. Very laid back. We arrived there about an hour before the airline staff did. I was then seated in the front row of the tiny plane, and got to watch the pilots read the newspaper. 
In Port-au-Prince, we stopped at a small restaurant for breakfast. (We had left at 5 am. Ugh!) I was so happy to see French on the menu. After a week of black rice and Spanish, omelette fromage and French are a nice break. 

Then we travelled to a Compassion project and visited some of the classrooms and saw them doing various fun or vocational classes like cooking and sewing and painting. The kids are so cute. You say "Como ca va?" to them, and they all shout out in unison, "CA VA BIEN MERCI! ET VOUS?!" I posted many a pic here at flickr of it.

Now I'm at the hotel. It's surprisingly swank. There's a woman's art/craft show going on downstairs. So weird. It's like I'm at a craft fair in a small town of Colorado, except the sellers aren't middle aged women in cheesy sweaters, but chic black women speaking French, while outside my window I look out at a hillside blanketed in tiny shacks. Out at the patio restaurant, I enjoyed a delicious bowl of French onion soup for dinner under the tropical trees. So far everyone I've met is charming and kind. The French accent doesn't hurt. 

Last night, we went to Santo Domingo. Americans who are uptight and time conscious like me really shouldn't sightsee with Latinos. But in the end, it was a great night. I bought my mom a Christmas gift I hope she'll love. We all got to hide in a little corner bar in the colonial district while the rain poured like mad. The colonial district of Santo Domingo is beautiful. Because of said traveling companions, we didn't actually get to it until after dark. Luckily, everything is lit up, and it was so romantico. I kept thinking of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, except this was the real thing. 

Miss you all and love you. Will be home soon!
P.S. Don't forget to go look at my pictures. I couldn't get many to load here!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Queen Is Back on Her Throne

So...my evil husband has tried to oust me from my position of power, has he? I would expect nothing less.

The internet and phone service here leaves something to be desired. But, except for not being able to talk to my husband, the sound of the Caribbean Sea makes slipping into unconnected anonymity very easy.
Today is my last day of training. I just finished my last session on structure. It went very well, considering. We got together at 7:30 am. In Latino time, that's like 4 am. Very impressive. Roberto is now training on a topic I'm not involved in, so I've usurped his computer.

After lunch at about 2 or 3 (11 for you in CO), we'll go to Santo Domingo for just an hour or two. Yesterday I did jump in the ocean for about 1 hour, the only chance I've gotten. About 5 or 10 minutes after I jumped in, a huge storm came up. There was no lightning or thunder, so I figured I'd just stay there. So I huddled in a little ball in the surf and enjoyed the warm bath water below and the cold rain above. It passed after about 15 minutes, then I splashed around a little more. I did it for my husband, because he would disown me if I didn't.

In the morning yesterday, we went to a Compassion project on a batey. A batey is an old sugar cane plantation. The mill has closed, but the people who used to work the mill still live there because they have nowhere to go...but there's no work left.
Picture of a girl at the batey

When we arrived, the kids mobbed us. Being one of only two women, I was popular. I had about 3 girls hanging off each arm, like little monkeys. They all loved having their picture taken and then looking at themselves. It's challenging to take pictures with 6 children hanging on your arms though. The project did a dance for us. And we walked around the community and saw the old sugar cane mill. Then I went alone with Roberto to visit one family's home.

The mother had 6 kids, from 6 months to 18. Their home was one big room, with sheets diving it. On the back side, there were 3 twin beds (a lot for them!) where the 8 family members all sleep. In the main room, is a stove, a tv...lots of pots and pans. The mom kept it very clean. As I tried to take a picture of the family, I backed toward the stove and stepped in a big mud puddle. Though the mom kept it clean, the floor was just ground, so there were mud puddles in the "kitchen" from the rain.
The mom's hope is to finish the home. The home is just scrap wood, cardboard, and corrugated metal sheets. But the metal sheets are old and rusty with large holes, so rain gets in very easily. The little girl who is sponsored by Compassion used to work with her brothers, selling lemons, gathering trash (to sell to recyclers), and other things in teh market to make money. Now that she's sponsored, she doesn't have to work anymore. The mom has hope for her daughter that she didn't have for any of her other kids. She says it's "too late" for them.

As we walked to the home, there was a huge line of clamoring people with empty jugs. The water truck hadn't come in two weeks. The have had no water for two weeks. So everyone was lined up with their jugs to get water. People were fighting (verbally), because they were desparate. As we left, some women sat on the ground. They asked me to take their picture, because they were the ones who had gotten no water.

Hmm...what a depressing end to my post....tomorrow I'll fly to Haiti. I probably won't have any internet or phone there. I miss you all and love you!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey, all y'all

Hello minions, slavering fans, sycophants, and general layabouts. Yes, it's still Mike controlling the blog, as Amber is currently asleep in the Domincan Republic. All is well on her end and she's going to get to see Santo Domingo tomorrow, the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas. There's all sorts of fun things there, like the first catholic cathedral built in the Americas, and so on. No doubt she'll have lots of pictures to show when she gets back. She got to go the ocean briefly today during a rainstorm, and she said the water was very nice.

Normally Amber would titillate you with some sort of video or pop culture confection for the amusement of tiny minds, and so I will oblige. Since I know how many fine females (like my sisters in law and mother and aunt in law) and adrogynous males (like Jon Hart) read this blog, I've decided to feature Oprah as my MacGuffin. Enjoy. I must retire now. It's late, and I have some curiously painful goosebumps on the back of my right arm. I must be chilly. By the way, if you haven't seen the real thing, just follow the link to HULU and watch the whole episode, or at least whole part with Oprah.

Love-loves to you all,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Blog Has Been Usurped

Well, well, well. Alas for all you blog followers, Amber is out of the country. But, luckily for you, I happen to know her password, so you don't have to miss out on getting to read something. Unfortunately, I'm not as witty and winning as she is, so you'll just have to make do.

I've been a bit accident prone lately, to be honest. A week or so ago I spilled a pan full of hot oil on my leg, making for a nice little drumstick. The crispy breading is falling off now, revealing the new skin underneath, which is nice. Hopefully I'm not horribly scarred. And just a couple days ago I reached into the oven and put a finger on the heating coil, giving me a nice deformity on my left index.

Amber made it to the DR just fine (though a little late at night) and she's enjoying the lovely scenery and weather and the ocean view from her room. As for myself, I'm keeping busy. I'm writing reviews and doing some proofreading for Waterbrook and making up some writing samples for Window International Network, who are interested in hiring me on contract as a writer. All good stuff.

Amber and I trying to move ahead still with looking at houses. It's a little tricky with Amber gone and the holidays using up most of our weekends from now until New Year's. Which I guess is why not a lot of homes sell during that period, and people are low on cash. Recently I discovered a neat thing about Zillow. Apart from all the other neat neighborhood data they offer up, they classify the top three groups of people who live in an area (Bright Lights Big City, Home of the Brave, Power Singles, Comfy Couples, High $$ DINKs, etc). Both my brother and sister live in big cities now (Omaha and Salt Lake City), and sometimes I wonder how they adjusted and how they like it, considering we're from a town of 12,000 in the middle of nowhere. Me, I struggle a little, and I much preferred Longmont's 70,000 to Fort Collins' 120something. At least it's nice and mountainy here and we aren't living (and aren't looking to live) in anywhere very cityish.
The question is, if my siblings did have an easier time adjusting, why did they? Am I just more of a bumpkin? Is it because my bro and sis were at least born in big cities but I entered the world in a little country hospital with beds of corn husk and burros browsing amongst the wards? Did I inherit some odd genes from my Kansas-farming Grandmother? Amber's family is thoroughly settled in Denver, but even though she grew up there she doesn't love it. What happened to her? Did she get some bumpkin genes from her Texas Toast dad?
So what about you all? Do you fit in just fine to where you are or do you long for the bright lights or the simple life?

Monday, November 10, 2008

At the Airport

This is probably more of an update than you wanted, but here's an update to my first day: I'm bored, oh so bored. I've been sitting in Miami for several hours, and my flight was just delayed.

I've already called Mike twice and emailed him two or maybe three times. How pathetic is that?

Everyone around me is sneezing and coughing. I really don't want to get sick. The lady next to me from Denver to Miami turned to me after about 15 minutes and said, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, I have the flu." Luckily, the row in front of me was empty.

Now I'm just killing time. People watching. People wear much tighter pants down here. Men and women. I feel a bit country. As Sarah would say, "it's country, and you look country in it." Maybe I'll email Mike a fourth time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Beach, Here I Come

Some of you (by which I mean my mom) will want to know what I'm doing and where I'm going next week. So here's the 411.

Monday: Fly to Dominican Republic. Because it's 3 hours later there, I get in at 9. Which is sad because all the others (who are coming from Central America) will get there at 2 and play in the surf without me. I'm staying here. Which at first seemed a bit extravagant, but now that I've looked into it, it's cheaper than staying at a normal hotel in CO, and comes with all meals (and a dance club to boot, which is where you know I'll be).

Tuesday: Eat lots of tropical fruits for breakfast. All our meals are at the buffet, so I'll see you in 10 pounds. We have training 8-5:30 this day, but I don't lead any of them, so I'll be staring out the window at the beach. Here's a picture of the beach at the hotel.

Wednesday: I teach two sessions today on how to write good and stuff. Again 8-5:30 so I don't know how I'm gonna get me in the ocean. Luckily, dinner is served Latino style, until 10:30, so maybe I'll just swim 5:30 to 9:30 with the sharks. (Kidding, mom.)

Thursday: This day we'll visit a Compassion project. So we'll play with kiddos and such. Then we'll come back to the hotel and do writing exercises about the experience.

Friday: This day I'll be teaching another session, which no one will want to pay attention to, because it's on a boring topic (story structure) and because after I'm done, we'll go to Santo Domingo to sightsee! Jajajajaja! (As my co-trainer Roberto would say.) Santo Domingo is one of (if not the) oldest European city in the Americas, so I'm really excited for this.

Saturday: I'll fly to Port-au-Prince with Roberto. We'll be met by the Haiti staff, and we'll visit some of the Compassion projects here.

Sunday: We'll go to church, then do "cultural experiences." A fancy way of saying, "be tourists."

Monday: I'll go to the Haiti office in the morning to poke around, then go to the airport and fly home!

I'll try to post pictures and write if I can! Hasta la vista!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What I Do When I Can't Think of What to Write

Outside my Window... Darkness
I am thinking... I should have tagged my blogs while writing them instead of all in one chunk. There went 1 hour.
I am thankful for... weekends and oceans and mountains
From the kitchen... Mikey made spice-rubbed ham sandwiches with spicy, creamy coleslaw.
I am wearing... A crazy silk Japanese robe that is an inheritance from my late grandmother-in-law.
I am reading... My Jesus Year (Benyamin Cohen), I'm a Stranger Here Myself (Bill Bryson), and about to start The Book Thief (by someone or other)
I am hoping... To sleep tonight
I am hearing... Mike chortle at 30 Rock.
I am creating... A presentation on how to write good and do other stuff good too.
Around the house... Fall decorations abound.
One of my favorite things... Donuts. Like I said, I was tagging my blogs, and donuts came up an astounding number of times. But I haven't had one for at least a month and a half. Do they have donuts in Dominican?
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... Write a chapter of a book, go to the Dominican Republic and eat lots of coconut-oil drenched food on the beach.
Here is a video thought I am sharing with you... If you didn't like my video yesterday to make you shout "Obama! Obama!" then maybe this one will do the trick. (Mike just said, "You're not posting that are you? I feel like there should be like, you know, standards." Thanks, Tara, for lowering my standards.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Zombies and Disgruntled Old Men

I have to tell you something. I don't know why, but whenever I hear Obama's name, the only thing my brain can do is sing "Obama, Obama!" like Wyclef Jean sings, "Shakira, Shakira," in "Hips Don't Lie." I don't know why. I can't help myself. So when people are having serious political discussions, I'm really standing there singing, "Obama, Obama...You make a girl wanna speak Spanish."

I just wanted to share this with you so that for the next four years you'll be singing "Obama, Obama," along with me and Wyclef Jean.

(This isn't the real video, but I'd rather have a scantily-clad overweight white guy on my blog than a scantily-clad Shakira.)

Obama! Obama!

Obama Zombies
In other news, this video cracks me up. I'm really not making fun of Obama supporters, as some of my good friends are Obam-tastic. But this is just so funny.

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Disgruntled Old Men
And just to be fair, here's a jab at them McCain supporters too.

Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain

The Brays Won't Die

My parents had the impeccable taste when I was born to give me one of the loveliest names in the land: Amber Noel Bray. It melted off the tongue, and I would dream of those 13 letters gracing the covers of all the books I would write. The perfect name.

I love the name Bray. It makes me think of the green hills of me homeland, Ireland. The bonny white sheep dotting the hills. Me shepherd pa driving them down a country lane. In truth, I am a mutt--a European hybrid of German, French, English, Irish, and Scottish. But I love to claim the Irish the most, with their wild passions and poetry, and so I do. And I hug the name of Bray.

But then I met a Van Schooneveld. I fell in love. I took his name. And if that's not love, I don't know what is.

My desertion of the Bray clan was the third in our family, a family of all girls. The Brays were fast dying out. We thought there might not be hope for our bonny clan here in America. There were only 2 men left to carry on the name, and they didn't seem to be populating the place. But then.

Evan Bray was born. Hooray for the Brays!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Your Wildest Dreams Have Come True

Have you ever sat across from me at a restaurant...We just finished our crepes. We're chatting about Proust. I'm signing my credit card slip. You see my hand holding the corner down, while I loop the Os of Van Schooneveld. You lick your lips. You think, If only, one of these days, I, yes even I, could have that signature for my very own.

Well, whether you're an identity thief or just plain creepy, now is your chance. Head over to the Compassion blog to find out about their first ever blog contest.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ode to Women

"He has made everything beautiful in his time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

I praise God for how beautifully and wondefully he created woman. A dim yet spectacular reflection of him. A prism smudged with the dirt of this world, yet breaking out in a flash of color.

This world, long known for trampling, covering, and spitting on his prized possession has tried to mute us, hide us, and break us. But in God's economy, he drops the supposed wise on their heads and sides with us foolish things.

I praise God for my time and place: One of the best time and places a woman could have been born. Free to vote. Free to work. Free to live. Free to have an opinion. Free to voice an opinion. Free to be his voice in this world.

I praise God his mandates aren't sequestered to one sex, race, country, or sect. I praise God we women take part in ushering in his Kingdom. I praise God he's given us women talents not to hide but to spend. To spend ourselves for him.

I praise God for the female dynamos who kick this ugly world in its ugly head in his name. Dynamos like Menchit in the Philippines, who lovingly raises her children while being the voice that shouts out for little girls who are abused, trashed, and forgotten.

I praise God for the women, nameless to their country, who work and work and work each day to feed their babies. Who scrape potatoes out of the unfeeling ground. Who go door-to-door to do a manicure for a buck. Who don't know the luxury or concept of a stay-at-home mom. But who are fierce in their determination to love and protect.

I praise God for the women who stay at home and pour all their heart and love into their blessed quiver of children.

I praise God for the faithful women who go to work each day to manage, to speak, to fight, to free, to love, to lead.

I pray to God for the women, oh the millions of women, who have heard the lock of oppression click over their heads. Who are killed before they are born. Who are fed less in preference to their brothers. Who cannot work. Who cannot speak. Who cannot breathe but with permission. I pray to God for them.

I praise God for the women who don't fit into the mold. Who don't have what we've been told constitutes female success. A straight nose. A minivan. A size 4 pant. A child. A two-story in the burbs. A man.

I praise God for our differences, each displaying a diffferent facet of his glory, the worker, the stay-at-home, the bold, the meek, the mother, the single, the warrior, the nurturer.

I praise God for the women who for His glory, break out of the patterns and the chains this world forces over our heads and necks, to reveal the light he has placed in each one of us, who as we grow more like him do not become more like one another, but more and more disparate in the individual glory he has bestowed on our heads.

Who bravely run each day with their eyes fixed on Jesus, irrespective of anything but Him.