Archive for the ‘family stories’ Category

Heroine Worship

Today I was going through the stacks of paper on my desk in the office and I found some hand written journal entries that I made last August when I was visiting my mom and dad. Driving through Peoria, Illinois on the way to a family reunion reminded Dad of a story about his former pastor Stan Giles:

 Stan was an Air Guard chaplain, who traveled reguarly to Peoria for service. Once the Air Guard sent him to Macedonia, where he was assigned one day to supervise taking supplies to a Catholic convent — the same convent that Sister Teresa started. The driver assigned to him was a young enlisted woman, who also happened to be Catholic.  She drove him to the convent and he was very impressed with it. Everybody he met there seemed so happy. On the way home his driver could hardly contain her excitement at having been to Sister Teresa’s own convent.  She said she couldn’t wait to tell her mom where she had been. Stan said, “Well, here’s my phone, call your mom and tell her.”

So she called and launched into an enthusiastic description. “Mom, imagine” he heard her gush, “sitting on the same toilet as Sister Teresa!”


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Recently several people have asked me how I think Christians should respond to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people coming to services in the church. My pastor asked. One of the moms in my Bible study struggles for wisdom to know how to respond to her son, who has come out as gay. Another Christian mom recently  asked me about her son, who was the one who got her going to church and now tells her that he has same sex desires. I think we will face this issue more and more because in the local high schools, being gay is the new cool. Since it has become popular, more kids will experiment and some will choose gayness simply because that’s the cool thing to be.

Behind the question, when Christians ask, is the idea that we should somehow straighten out gay people who attend services, that we should somehow try to make them change into heterosexuals. But that idea misses the point. (more…)

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This afternoon I ran across an old letter to my son Erik in my computer, written over a dozen years ago. Reading it reminded me how I wound up writing an article later based on that correspondence. Today I’d like to reprint the article to encourage any overwhelmed homeschool parents out there. Here it is:

Home schooling our children was such a rewarding experience that by the end of each school year, I was willing to do it another year. The beginning of each school year was a different story, though. Every year frustration took over as I faced the task of setting up the new school year. I felt overwhelmed, drowning in details — all those books to look through, subjects to plan, music lessons and sports activities to schedule, a house to manage, a home school support group to lead, and on and on…

Then one year, in the middle of the annual mess, I read the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible. As I read, it struck me that Genesis 1 not only says God created the earth, it also describes the creative process. For in the beginning, God started with a giant massiveness that was “without form.”  It was empty and covered in darkness. That sounded just like what I faced at the beginning of each school year! (more…)

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This week I decided why the women in my church kiss the air instead of each other when they greet.

I attend Alfa y Omega, a Spanish language church in nearby Anthony, Texas, a small, working class town of 5-6,000 people, but growing. Rents are cheap. A lot of recent immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, live here – not too many Anglos like me. Since the culture of people in my church is in many ways very different from the culture I grew up in, I’m always trying to figure out the customs and the why behind them.

When I walk into Alfa y Omega, even if I’m late and the service has started, people usually greet me. They stretch out their right hand as I pass their pew. “Dios la bendiga,” they say, “¿Como está?” (“God bless you. How are you?”) The men shake my hand. Women who don’t know me well also shake hands, but if a woman knows me a little better, she shakes my hand and leans her upper body forward. I do the same. Then she lays her right cheek flat against my right cheek, and we kiss the air.

I notice that when the men greet each other they shake hands and they often hug as well. And if a man is greeting a woman he knows well, he leans in and kisses her – her check, not the air. None of this Anglo “Hi, Mom!” stuff. When a man sees his mother or his sister in public, he gives her a big kiss. Smack on the cheek. But if a woman sees her mother or sister, they rub cheeks and kiss air.

One of the first things I learned when I started going to this church was the importance of acknowledging people’s presence, of greetings, of hellos and good-byes that pronounce a blessing with words and with touch. I grew up in the Midwest. I was raised to get things done. So when I first started going to this church, I walked in exuding purpose and direction. I had my goal: find a place to sit (hopefully next to someone who could translate), try to hear Spanish, immerse, learn the language. But my progress was impeded by all these gentle greetings, all this blessing and affirmation.


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My friend Ruth Tsai told me recently that when her 82-year-old American mother came to the U.S. from mainland China in the 1970s after living in China for more than 40 years, it took her mother a while to learn to drop her China habits. She was so accustomed to living in an anti-Christian terrorist state that she wouldn’t say God’s name. When she referred to God, she would silently lift her index finger and point to heaven.

“People must have thought this old lady is half crazy,” Ruth said. “Why won’t she say ‘Jesus’ or ‘our Heavenly Father’ or ‘God?’” (more…)

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Last summer I was looking out the window of my office and noticed a squirrel sometimes disappearing into the storage side of the garage. (My husband Dennis remodeled our detached garage into 2/3s office space for himself and 1/3 storage. We covered most of the large garage door opening with plywood and put in an old door composed of 15 small panes of glass,.) At the time, our yard man Gerardo was gone for a week. A pane of glass in the lower right hand corner of the door is missing. Normally Gerardo leaned an old child’s gate up against the door and secured it with a sandbag left over from the flood to keep the door from blowing open. But he forgot to put the child gate and sandbag in place, and the squirrel discovered the open pane. I was afraid to cover the hole in case the squirrel was a mama with a nest of little ones inside. (more…)

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Faith Journey is the Chinese translation of my upcoming book Laura's Children: the Hidden Story of a Chinese Orphanage

Faith Journey is the Chinese translation of my upcoming book Laura's Children: the Hidden Story of a Chinese Orphanage

A day to celebrate! Monday I received a few copies of my new book translated into Chinese. The English language title is Laura’s Children: the Hidden Story of a Chinese Orphanage. The Chinese title is Faith Journey: Laura Richards and the Orphans of Canaan Home in China. It’s ironic that the Chinese translation wound up being printed ahead of the English original.

Laura Richards was my mom’s quiet, shy first cousin, and I grew up hearing stories about how she started an orphanage in China in 1929 and how the Communist government forced her to leave the children in 1951.

A glimpse of Laura’s remarkable, hidden tale of wild adventure fell into my keeping in 1983, two years after she died at age 88, in a collection of her memoirs and old letters, plus notes from my Aunt Jean’s interviews with her. Reading these, I decided to try to find out Laura’s story. At first I thought I’d just try to get the story for my children, but as I worked, and as Laura’s story began to change my thinking and my life, I decided that I needed to write the story for a larger audience. Eventually my search led me to the orphans themselves, inside China. Faith Journey  6-09 book only Altogether it took 24 years to get the information I needed to tell Laura’s story fully.

I am hoping to publish Laura’s Children and have it available by late fall or early January.

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