Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Magic Cookie Bars

You know how something small and seemingly insignificant can bring back a flood of memories? That happened to me today. My son brought home Magic Cookie Bars. If you don't know what they are, you are truly missing a treat, but that is not the purpose of this story. For me, magic cookie bars brought back the memory of a friendship, some mischief, and some great camp outs.

When our family first moved to Texas, I was a freshman in high school. I befriended a few girls, all a grade higher than me. We hung out together when we could. I think the one I was closest with was Claire. She also happened to be the Magic Cookie Bar maker. Maybe good food begets good friendships.

Claire was brilliant in school, but most importantly in the art of mischief. She had an angelic face, and she knew it. She also had a kind, sweet demeanor, which we used to our advantage on several occasions. I had a few pluses on my side as well. I was a preacher's daughter, didn't cuss, smoke, with those who do.... It was a perfect cover.

Our particular brand of mischief manifest itself in the form of locker rigging. In a small school, with the lockers in the center of the hall in front of the main office, this took careful planning. We would synchronize watches, feign foreign objects in our eyes and meet in the girl's bathroom. From there we would commence our locker rigging. Claire was a master planner. She rigged cardboard and cheerios in such a way that would bring about the best avalanche of cheerios on the unsuspecting locker owners. They would even bring the rig back to class and discuss it in front of her. She would offer up false possibilities and red was great! No one ever knew we were the culprits of all of those riggings.

We also had amazing camp outs. Her family owned 95 acres, and so we had the run of the place. We would pull the horse trailer into a field, build a campfire, and she would bring out those wonderful Magic Cookie Bars. We would eat and eat, build up a sugar rush, go flour a neighbor's car or toilet paper a neighbor's porch, then crash for the night in the horse trailer and wake up bright and early to help the neighbor clean up the mess.

Funny what something as simple as a cookie can bring to mind. I lost track of Claire over the years. She's still brilliant, I hear. Probably off doing amazing things, looking as innocent as an angel, but I know her potential in the art of making mischief. Maybe some day we will partake again. Can you see it? Little old ladies with walkers TP'ing someone's yard? Who would suspect that?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


"You know you lost that pearl ring I gave you, don't you?"

Mimi gave me a real pearl ring when I was 10. 10!! I kept it for a long time, probably longer than many 10 year old girls. I also didn't know it was a real pearl ring until after I lost it, and she asked to see it. Once she found out I lost the pearl ring, she never let me forget it. No matter where I tried to steer the conversation,it always came back to that blasted pearl ring.

But that was Mimi. (We didn't call her grandma. One, because we didn't want a smack on the behind and two, she didn't like it. Said it made her feel old.) She was direct and to the point. She didn't take much off of anyone. She raised seven kids, six of which are serving in a ministry somewhere. Her discipline is legendary. Dad speaks of the time he hid from her so as not to get a spanking, only to be drawn out from under the bed by a passing fire truck. Said he didn't sit comfortably for a week. My aunt speaks of church: Papa preaching hell-fire and brimstone, Mimi with her brood sitting along side her in the pew (three on one side and three on the other), and a switch in her hand. According to my aunt, if one spoke, they all got the switch.

Mimi took down a cousin once because he challenged her. My dad was old enough to remember it. The cousin walked up to her in her kitchen and said, "Yeah, I could take you," to which she promptly put him in a headlock, rolled him across her hip to the floor, then turned to finish making her biscuits. He never tried that again.

That toughness served Mimi well in Sunday School. She taught Junior High for as long as I can remember, and the kids LOVED her. They also called her Mimi, and she saw each of them as part of her extended family. She taught that class well into her 80's.

In recent years, Mimi had been slipping a bit: Not remembering who people were, forgetting to put her teeth in, but she never missed church. She was there every time the doors opened. And if there was a mix up as to who picked her up, she was on the phone making sure somebody did!

One Sunday, while I was visiting, a missionary was in the pulpit, and looked over and saw Mimi. With tears in his eyes, he told her how proud he was of her and her late husband's ministry, how there are scores of people going to heaven as a result of their faithfulness. He ended it all with a tearful thank you, and said he was so happy to see her there on this Sunday. She leaned over to me and said with a not so quiet voice, "Well, I'm here every Sunday!" That's Mimi.

Mimi had a stroke two weeks ago, and we're all sad. Her feistiness isn't as pronounced as it was. She still recognizes some people, but this strong, vibrant woman now has to have others feed her and clothe her. It's heartbreaking to see, but it also speaks to the will and determination of a woman from her time. Our family has many Mimi stories to pass down to our kids. I sure wish I had that pearl ring to pass down, too!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I wrote about differences, how scary they can be, and how people can see differences as something to reject. On the flip side of that, however, are quirks. Quirks are differences, in that they are actions or behaviors that cause us to stand out from others, but quirks are different in that they are endearing qualities, almost comforting. I love discovering the quirkiness in my friends.

Big Dad is quirky. He's got to have a place for everything, especially in his office. If anything has been moved, he knows it. He doesn't like anyone touching his nose. He has a certain way of putting on his socks and shoes, and he has a certain routine when getting ready. No matter how rushed we are, his routine does not vary. It goes a little faster, but he follows the same routine.

Mom and dad Hughes have a quirk that I used to think was odd. Mom Hughes does not fill up her car with gas. She's a very independent woman, but she doesn't fill her own tank. Dad Hughes does it for her, even if it means going out at night so she has gas in her car for the next day. I used to think it was a little strange. Now I know it's a loving gesture. Dad Hughes makes the point that he is taking care of her on this.

MamaBoo's nose turns red when she's emotional. Sad, happy, worried, stressed, it shows up in her nose. She calls it her emotional barometer.

I'll have to ask mom if dad has quirks. I can't think of any. He used to wear those half glasses at the end of his nose so that he could read small print. Said his eyes weren't bad, his arms were just too short. He had a certain way of looking over his glasses at us. But he has new glasses now, so I don't think that quirk is still around. He does have a certain hand motion that he uses when he's preaching. If I could only see his hands when he's preaching, I would know it was him.

Mimi slaps anyone who takes a piece of chess cake. You don't mess with her chess cake.

I don't like anyone else using my pillow. I don't know why, I just don't like it. Big Dad likes to use my pillow. So when he does, I move something in his office.

Quirks individualize us. Make us unique. Define us as couples. They can drive us crazy, but at the same time they are the things that we miss when that person is gone.

Thank God for quirks.

Monday, January 22, 2007


To be different in middle school is a curse beyond imagining. The primary goal at this point and time in life is to be like everyone else. Same clothes, same way of talking, same likes and dislikes. Any difference is paramount to social suicide.

I am getting a new student. He will be different. New and different. It must be scary for him. I spoke to his class today about his difference, and was amazed at the response. Sometimes, kids have a way of surprising us adults, while putting us to shame at the same time. They were very understanding, even sympathetic to his sitation. They actually put themselves in his shoes, wondered aloud what it would be like to have to take notes or speak in front of the class with this disability. I was pleased.

I occasionally get a glimpse of that middle school student in adults. The unsympathetic one. The one that covers his or her mouth and whispers to their neighbor to let the different one know they are being spoken about. Or the cold shoulder to make perfectly clear that the different one is not accepted. My heart goes out to the different one. I make it my mission to let them know that different isn't bad.

We as adults are uncomfortable with different. We like to see things in others that make us comfortable and safe, and different is scary. It puts US in the situation of being the new kid in that new class, and it's not a good feeling. So we shun different, and applaud same.

But God uses different. God uses weak. God uses broken. It's His favorite thing: to bring out the beauty of different and show Himself through it all. I've become the champion of different lately. I like teeth that haven't been straightened by braces, though one of my kids will soon get braces. I like hearing life stories that are different from mine. I like hearing how God has taken someone with a checkered past and has given them a new heart, life and passion. It speaks to the power and grace of our Living God. How can we shun that?

Friday, January 19, 2007

the Mountain

Living in a village was a real adventure for our family. Living with a local family made it even more fun. They really took care of us, showed us how to survive in our little dwelling place: Where to buy meat, which fruit and vegetable vendor was the most trustworthy, how not to buy cornmeal because it was for the pigs. We taught them a few things, too: how to use a fridge, dutch oven and BBQ sauce. It was a learning experience all the way around.

It was also good for our kids. They learned the local language quickly, and made good friends. Their friends would take them around town with them, show them how they played...

So when Asa, a twelve year old boy next door asked if he could take our 6 year old with him to collect wood, I didn't see why not. Asa was very responsible with our boys, and took special care to make sure they were safe and OK.

I was working around the house that day, since we had sunshine, water and electricity all in the same day. Laundry was my biggest priority. So when a few hours passed, I began to get concerned. Finally, I saw Asa and Christopher walking home from the mountain, and I was relieved.

Later that even, over dinner, Christopher looked at me and said, "Mom, our house looks really small from the mountain." My husband and I stopped eating, and asked which mountain. There were many to choose from. After all, it was the Himalayas.

"The mountain behind our house," he said. Let me just say, it is a STEEP mountain. When we asked Christopher how he got to the top, he told us Asa tied a rope to him and helped him up. He also talked about sliding down the steep parts on his backside.

You could see the adventure in his eyes. He was hooked. Like his father, mountain climbing was in his blood. We came to this place, with huge mountains and mountainside dwellings. How could I keep him from adventures like that?

Stepping Out On Faith

Since beginning the process to come overseas, Big Dad and I have learned quite a bit about stepping out on faith: knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt what Father wants us to do, and just doing it, letting Him take care of the details. It is what happened when we decided to come here. I can tell you when I knew for certain that we were going to come:

We sent in the paperwork to start the process to come overseas with our "company". At that point, it was just a "let's see where this takes us" venture. However, Big Dad started getting cold feet, and two days after sending the paperwork off, he said, "If we don't get a reply by Monday, we're not going." I knew he meant it. I also knew that he had been denying a call on his life for a long time. The thing about his comment was that the paperwork said to please wait 10 days to two weeks for a response. If we were to receive a response by Monday, that would mean five days since we sent it in. Not business days. Five days. That included the time it took for them to receive it. I figured that was it. If He wanted us overseas, then He was going to have to do some fast acting! Monday rolled around, and I came home from school, pulled up to the mailbox and thought to myself, "This is the day I find out if we're going overseas!" I opened the mailbox, and there was one letter in it. Only one. And it was from the "company." I just sat dumbfounded in my car. "We're going overseas." I said it outloud. It was THE moment that I knew our lives were going to change in a big way, and that we were going to be in the center of Father's will. You know what? The changes don't matter at all when you're in the center of His will.

A friend once said, "I'd rather be in the center of God's will and sitting in the middle of oncoming traffic on an eight lane highway than be out of God's will and sitting at home on my couch. Because the highway is the safest place to be." I agree with that one hundred percent.

Father keeps dealing with our family in this manner. He gives us total assurance of what he wants us to do, we step out on faith, and then he fills in the details. It has been so amazing, and I feel guilty at this point of the surprise I feel when He does it. There is a lot to be said about prayer, fasting, and then working from faith. God shows us so much of Himself in the process! I have to say, though, that it is nice to know when big decisions come, that our only job is to seek His will, and then trust.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Compromise Cooking

"What's your favorite game?"
"What's your favorite movie?"
"What's your favorite soft drink?"

These are questions I'm bombarded with daily from one of my students. He's an amazing young man, with an attitude that would put the most educated man to shame. Though he has issues with reading and writing, he still learns and finds joy in learning. He knows his limitations, but is not bitter about them. He just accepts them as a fact of life and continues on, working around the bumps in his life's road and shrugging it off as if it would be stupid to do otherwise.

Today's question was: "What is your favorite type of cooking?"

"I don't know," I replied, thinking to myself that cooking is one of my least favorite things to do.

"I like compromise cooking." He said it matter of factly, and I was intrigued. I had never heard of it before, and couldn't wait to hear his definition. He's known for long and elaborate dialogues about anything and everything imaginable, and this one sounded like it would be good.

"Compromise cooking?" I asked.

"Sure. You know," he said, "when you don't have all of the ingredients, so you add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Compromise cooking. It's always an adventure." We had a good laugh, because I'm very familiar with compromise cooking.

He's leaving this year, and won't be returning to Taiwan. We're going to miss him. He is a character if there ever was one. He's known all around the school, and the high schoolers love him, even though he's only in sixth grade.

Compromise cooking. lt's telling that he sees something as simple as compromise cooking as an adventure. It's an analogy to his life in general. We tend to think about life in perfect terms. Things have to be just so, and if they aren't, then we fix them. If we can't fix them, we're devastated. We just don't know what to do if things aren't perfect.

But our friend is going through life imperfect, and is having a ball doing it. Not because he doesn't know better, because he does. Not because he just doesn't understand....he understands more than any of us ever will. But because he has chosen to enjoy the life he has been given; to see God in the details, and to take advantage of the adventure that a little bit of this and that has added to his life. It's not the same as perfect, but it's always an adventure.