Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Return

We have purchased plane tickets and will be in Indiana from Dec. 22-Jan. 3. Here's the order of visits: Boswell (Christmas Eve), Elkhart (Christmas Day), Bloomington, and West Lafayette (New Year's Eve & New Year's Day); with an initial very brief stop in W. Lafayette to change from t-shirts into sweaters. The pessimistic side of me says we need to be ready to get a round colds when we get back due to the abrupt weather change we'll experience. Dr. Larson, do you concur?

Better now

I have a terrible time coming up with titles for these posts. I'm thinking about dropping the title feature, except that I really like the way the titles look so nice and concise in the "Previous Posts" section on the side column. I intially thought about giving this post the title "Running again", meaning that the girls are running around and playing again, but suddenly realized that such a title could have all sorts of other unintended and unpleasant connotations, especially in the context of recent illnesses. All this to say, we are much improved in terms of health. We hope to stay this way.

We don't have much else interesting to say (but here it is anyway): we have had three major invasions of ants three days in a row (but they eat the ant bait, and in a few hours, they disappear without us even smashing one of them); Mariah let go of the box she was standing up near and stood with no hands for a few seconds on Monday; tomorrow we're having a family picture taken, and with any providence, we'll get it back in time for Christmas; we had a little game shin-dig with some friends from church on Saturday night (the ants timed invasion #1 for when they were here); Ben managed to blow coffee and grounds all over the kitchen while our company was here on Saturday and he got it all cleaned up before I even saw it (I was upstairs putting the girls to bed). Doesn't that take the cake? I was impressed.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sick again

Mariah has been sick since Sunday, running a low-grade fever for 4 days, as well as having typical cold symptoms. I've had a cold the last couple of days, and today Lily is running a low-grade fever. Ben survives unscathed. I took Mariah to the Dr. on Wednesday, and she has ear infections again. Our Dr. here thinks it's quite likely that the infection she had a few weeks ago did not completely heal. Please pray for health and strength for all and the complete removal of Mariah's infection.


What's it like to celebrate a holiday that commemorates American Protestants in a Spanish Catholic country? Everyone takes time off work, cooks turkey, drinks alcohol, and enjoys the holiday. And that's about it. We had a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner at church, enjoying and trying the various Latino sides that traditionally go with holiday meals. No alcohol at church, in case you were wondering.

The whole dinner from arrival at church to departure took about 2 hours. We came prepared to spend a number of hours at church (after all, this is a holiday in a country where people love to hang out, right?) We didn't experience the depth, the feasting, the gratefulness, the welcoming of the season of Advent that this holiday embodies at home. We didn't use tablecloths, there were no decorations, and everything was served on paper and plastic. We just prayed, went through the line, ate and talked, and got up when we were done. There was a brief mention (in Spanish) of the history/meaning of Thanksgiving via a handout. But it's just a bit unusual here: a few hundred years ago, some English speaking guys landed in the US, and established a free, Protestant country. And they were thankful they survived the winter. In Puerto Rico, we were conquered by the US about 100 years ago, we aren't sure how much we even like them, we spoke Spanish and we still speak it, we are Catholic and it's hurricane season that we worry about surviving. Not surprisingly, the meaning of the holiday is mostly lost.

So, it's a bit of a let-down, but we're enjoying the time together; I'm going to cook a turkey sometime soon and we'll have a good feast, perhaps on the Lord's Day. We're thankful for each other, for modern, Western health care, for life and strength, and most of all for the Lord Jesus, who redeemed us from the curse of the law and set us free in Christ. And we're thankful for our heavenly citizenship, which binds us to our brothers and sisters in Christ wherever we reside.

It's always interesting...

...to see who you find in cyberspace. I clicked the link to Jared's blog, read a comment, which led me to Joe Bibby's blog, where I found a link to Zach Peachy's page, and a picture of Daniel and Natalie Faris presumably at their Geneva graduation. Kind of fun. I organized my web "favorites" today and created a new folder for "People we know online". If you read here and have a website, post a comment with a link to your site, will you?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Lilypie baby days

Thanks to the Humphreys for the cool idea (which we shamelessly stole.... imitation is the greatest form of admiration, right?) to stick these little counters on our blog that tell our children's ages. You too can get one for your blog or website!

Happy Birthday, John!

JRM: November 18, 1986 - November 18, 2005. Congratulations on 19 years!

An Island Tour

We have just finished a wonderful 6 day visit with Ben's parents. They came last Thursday and stayed until Tuesday. On Friday and Saturday we planned a little "island tour" and drove a complete circuit around the island (the link shows a map), heading south from San Juan and returning to SJ along the north coast.

We left Friday morning, and drove south to Guyama, which is on the south coast east of Ponce. Guyama is home to Lilly del Caribe, and we drove by the plant site. They have the big Lilly emblem painted very prominently in several places. Then we went west towards Ponce, and stopped at Hacienda Buena Vista, an historic coffee plantation. HBV is a demonstration coffee plantation, and has a long agricultural history. Most recently, it was abandoned in 1949 after being struck by economic and natural disaster. In the early 1980's, it was restored, and today you can see a demonstration of the whole coffee making process, and learn about the history of coffee production. Oh yes, and you can taste some, too.

In the pictures above from HBV, you can see the raw (green) coffee beans first, then the roasted ones (brown), and the roaster. The beans are put into the drum and the drum is turned by hand via a pole while the beans roast over the fire.

In the morning, we visited a lighthouse and a beach at Rincon. The lighthouse had beautifully manicured grounds, and some spectacular views of the ocean. We enjoyed the ocean breeze and view. At Rincon, we were able to find a portion of beach with a large shade tree and no other bathers. We took turns sitting and playing in the waves with Lily and looking through the crystal clear water at the coral reef below the water. The beach was sandy, but the ocean floor was hard, prickly and uneven from the coral reef. Red and black sea urchins were living in the reef's crevices. We promised ourselves that next time we go to the beach, we'll take a snorkel and goggles!We returned home along the north coast.

We'd planned to stop at the Arecibo Radio Telescope but ran out of time. It is amazing to realize the incredible natural diversity within the small confines of this island, and makes us marvel at the Lord's handiwork and design in creation.

Later in the day we saw the Guanica Dry Forest, and as the website I linked points out, it is a neat counterpart to the more tropical rain forests near us in San Juan. There are cacti growing (can you see them in the picture above? They are the green, stick-like things), and other flora that require less water. In the middle of PR are some large mountains, and most of the rain gets dropped on the north side of the mountains, making them wet and jungle-like. The south side of the mountains are more dry. This is noticeable even from the road, because the open land goes from what looks like jungle near San Juan to prairie-like grass as we approach Guayama.

At night, we saw the phosphorescent bay at La Parguera. In the water of this bay, there are bioluminescent bacteria that are excited by motion. We went on a large, glass-bottomed boat (this was not what we thought it would be - is was actually a solid-bottomed boat with about 6 windows cut into the bottom of the boat near the perimeter) and took a short trip out to the bay. At the bay, the boat company had several guys (from their company, not passengers) jump out and swim in the water, and they brought a bucket of water up as well. The swimmers glowed in the water, and when we swished our hands in the bucket the water twinkled, like tiny fireflys were swimming all around. The Lord must have had a mighty good time creating these twinkly little bateria!

We spent the night in Mayaguez in a hotel and experienced many things that have been completely typical of our time in PR. Summary: things were not quite what we thought they'd be. The good parts: it was clean, and the A/C worked.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nursery rhymes

Lily has really taken to nursery rhymes lately. Although we've read them to her occasionally for some time, we recently had a couple of books from the library that caught her interest this time. Today we were jumping around the bench in the pool to the rhythm of various ones including "Wee Willie Winkie" (to which, as we discovered a couple of weeks ago, she can fill in the word "Winkie" as well as the last word of every line but one. It's pretty funny to hear her say "eight o'clock").

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Scooter no more

Mariah has completely left her serpentine scooting movements (which were very effective on our nice slippery tile floors) for the more progressive motion of crawling. We noticed recently that she was crawling sometimes and scooting sometimes, so on Sunday we took a little video of her scooting across the floor since it has been so fun to watch. It was a good thing we did it then, because today I never even saw her scoot once. She's the kind of kid that's going to be a really fast crawler once she gets it all coordinated perfectly, so watch out.

Update on Grandma

Dad sent an email today to say that Grandma Magill started her chemo treatments (for breast cancer) last Thursday, and is moving in with them in Elkhart tomorrow (she just can not be alone during this time as she needs extra care). Pray that they can find good doctors who can care for her skillfully and relate well to her. This move is a major change for her; she loves her independence and many friends in New York.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Theological Interlude

[Editor's Note: Ben is writing this post in the midst of preparation to take his final exam in Soteriology]

As I've been reading several classics of American theology (Redemption Accomplished & Applied by John Murray and AA Hodge's treatise on the Confession of Faith), I've been struck by two observations these men make regarding Christ's Work and it's relationship to us, His people.

First, there is the discussion of how the coming of Jesus Christ changes our worship. As an introduction and in order to understand how Jesus changes our worship, let's review quickly what worship was like before Christ:
In the Old Testament the saints participated in the sacrificial system. This system consisted of ornate buildings (first the tabernacle, then the temple), intricate decor (a golden lampstand, tables, lavers, basins, and altars), attractive smells (fresh bread and incense), grand music (remember the priests ordained to play & sing), and of course the vivid imagery of the sacrifice - large animals (bulls, rams) being sacrificed by the white-robed priest. All of this was one elaborate, yet singular foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. It was intended to help the OT believer understand the beauty, the perfection, and the glory of Jesus Each of these elements of OT worship was a dim, shadowy picture of Christ, which when seen together helped to build the faith & understanding of the OT saint.
Now, with that foundation, we come to the New Testament, and especially to the book of Hebrews - the book that best expounds the transition from the Old Testament dispensation to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. The author introduces this book by showing us the glory of Jesus Christ:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had make purifications of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Heb. 1:1-3 (NAS)
In this passage the writer to the Hebrews introduces Jesus as "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature." Remember that the OT saints were limited from seeing the full glory - it was veiled (both literally and figuratively): they were seeing dimly as through a mirror (II Cor. 3:14ff). Now in the New Covenant, we have Jesus Christ - we have the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. This is why we worship in simple buildings with a podium for the preaching of the word: not because we are less concerned with art and beauty, but because we have more in Jesus Christ. The forms and symbols and grandeur of the OT worship was pointing ahead to Jesus Christ - it foreshadowed His coming glory. But we have Jesus Christ in all His radiant glory with us in worship. We keep our buildings simple so that we aren't distracted from the true glory, so that we can't settle for enjoying the surroundings, but we must rely on finding our joy and satisfaction in meeting with our Lord.

I was challenged by this passage, especially as I prepared for the Lord's Supper this evening, which we celebrated in a small concrete building with lumber (2x4 and plywood) pews, a small podium, and no artwork to be found. Yet this is a congregation in which the Spirit of Jesus Christ is present and active. We enjoy this worship because we enjoy being in the presence of our Savior, and usually we don't even notice the simple surroundings.

So may we all find more joy in meeting with the Lord of Glory, than in the audible and visible glory of our surroundings - and may this be the case not only in our church buildings, but in our homes as well. Amen.

PS: I'll try to post about the other interesting thought later this week, for now though, I'm out of time.

Sabbath ramblings...

We approached one of the ladies at church this morning about informally helping us to learn Spanish. She was an English teacher for 21 years, but has never formally taught Spanish before. She is our current "best candidate" for someone to help us, and we hope she'll accept.

One practice that IBB (our church) maintains is that of an Old Testament and New Testament Scripture reading each Lord's Day (OT in the evening, NT in the morning). I enjoy this practice because eventually the congregation hears the whole Word of God read from the pulpit. We are currently reading the last few chapters of Ezekiel in the evening service...when was the last time you heard those chapters read in worship?

This past Tuesday we had a little baby shower for Karen Lebron (her family came to our house for lunch 2 weeks ago) hosted by some of the women from the Thursday Bible study at Calvary.

Potty training is going ok. There is more parent-training in this process than I anticipated, and I occasionally have to resist the temptation to put her back in diapers because diapers are more convenient for me (I can't believe I'm actually admitting this).

Should a parent be concerned when his/her under-2-year-old knows what coffee is and pretends to drink it?

I learned how to use the hem rolling foot on my sewing machine this week. The work this foot can do looks very professional and could not possibly be replicated by hand. It is also immensely easier to use the foot than to try to roll a narrow hem by hand.

Speaking of sewing machine feet, did you know that a foot exists that will fold and put on binding perfectly for you? I'm thinking this may go on my Christmas list. I can think of lots of cool ways and handy times to use such a device, and doing binding by hand is very tedious.

Ben's parents are coming on Thursday and we are really looking forward to their visit. We've identified a few places on the island that we'd like to check out while they are here. Hopefully we'll get some good pictures to post.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What we've been UP to...

Mariah is moving "up" in the world, literally. She has pulled up to standing several times with the laundry basket being a prop of choice. Though she has actually gotten both feet under her, this is the closest I've gotten to a picture of her standing efforts.

Lily and Daddy went swimming on Saturday. It was Ben's first time in the pool with her since we've been here. He is working alot, it gets dark early (by the way, Lily has just realized what "dark" is and notices it now), and we've been doing other stuff on Saturdays.

Lily is standing next to an orchid. When we moved in, I noticed that there was a pot shoved into the flower bed outside with an orchid planted in it that had finished blooming. I just left it there and did nothing, and a few weeks later, I saw this pretty yellow flower in that bed! So it's pulled out of the bed now and on a table outside where we can see it from the family room. Lily really likes the rocks that compose the "soil" in the pot.

For the biology nuts: Ok, getting orchids to bloom a second time in Indiana is something on par with a miracle from what I hear, so I was pumped to see that it happened here without any care. I guess the tropics are just the right environment, and maybe that explains why it's so hard to care for them in IN! If you look closely at the picture, you can see where the spent stem (blooms round 1) were. Below that are the original leaves, above that is the new growth. I've never seen an orchid with so many leaves. If you look closely as well, you can see the incredible root structure, much of which is above the "soil" line. I think that some of the root growth is from the old leaves section and some from the new leaves. In fact, when I pulled the pot out of the flower bed, some of the new root growth had started to root into the mulch of the flower bed outside of the pot. These are the healthiest, whitest, fat roots. This has been so fun to watch. I think if I had a orchid in IN, I would just put it outside during the hottest month or 2 of summer, water it a ton, and see if I couldn't get it to bloom again. There is just no physical way to create this kind of hot, wet, humid enviro. indoors. It's not the most beautiful orchid I've ever seen, but this has been a really cool "experiment" to observe.