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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A most unlikely angel

Tuesday morning, I opened the front door to read my Bible on the porch, and saw this:

What?  A little dog, in my chair???  

Until others were up, I sat inside, and opened my Bible.  My lectionary of readings comes from the Church of England, and it turned out that Tuesday was a festival to honor Michael and all the Angels.  Historically the church calendar included days like this, to teach the public about various aspects of church history and doctrine.

So, how does a stray dog appearing tie into a festival of readings about angels?

Well, you must take into account that the evening before my first box of books was delivered.  A Chameleon, A Boy, and A Quest features a mysterious dog that appears out of nowhere and without giving too much away, I'll say that uninvited dogs and guardian angels could be significant.  Though if this is our guardian, we may be in trouble.

So here is life imitating art, and what are we to do?

For a day we petted this little dog, and offered her some leftover cornbread.  She is perky and pleasant, eager to please, wagging her little tail, with barely a peep of noise.  Those big eyes.  She has no collar.  Today I biked around to knock on doors a mile or so in several directions.  Which is not as easy as it sounds, since many of the trailers and homes around here have their own hostile dogs.  I chatted with a half dozen people, showed them my photos, and NO ONE had seen this dog before.  Yet she clearly has been cared for, and seems comfortable with people.

The rational part of the family has pointed out that we are on the road half the time.  That it is probably not culturally acceptable to show up as a guest with a dog, even a very small quiet well-behaved one.  We were NOT looking for a dog.  This is NOT our type of dog.  But this little creature has appeared out of thin air and acts as if she lives here.  Another dog came into the yard today and she made her first sound, hackles up, defending us.  She quivers with joy whenever we come outside.  And she hasn't gone more than a few dozen yards away.  She seems to think she lives here.

We are due to leave again this weekend, so a decision must be made.  I will probably take her to the SPCA tomorrow in the unlikely event that someone has reported her missing, or that she has a microchip, to try and reunite her to an owner.  But I suspect she was abused or kicked out or dropped off, she is so quiet and cowering.  Coming on the tail end (no pun intended) of one dog dying and another being left for the family moving into our house, of massive transition, it is much harder than I would have expected to not respond to those big trusting eyes.  Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Where in the World are the Myhres?

Maybe no one is actually wondering, but in case there are one or two out there. . .

Short Answer:  Sago WV, Durham NC, Charlottesville VA, and North Africa, with a bit of Spain and a lot more historical desert thrown in, not to mention Vienna VA.

Longer Answer:
We landed in the USA and began settling into this hundred-year-old farmhouse in August.  Luke was recovering from knee surgery, and Caleb managed a heroic drop-in on a 96 hour pass, and my extended family all gathered.  Then we took Jack and Julia to Duke, with all the orientation propaganda and life set-up that entails.  We returned to nest in our so-called empty nest, which was not as jarring as it would have been had our family actually spent their lives here.

In September we flew to Spain where Serge leadership meetings focused on strategy-revision, long talks, and many prayers.  Twice a year the Area Directors (we and 4 other couples) meet with the Executive Leadership team to keep our organization focused on our mission and vision, and to support all our team leaders on the field.  In order to come alongside what God is already doing, we anticipate nearly doubling in size in the next five years, which comes with its own host of adjustments.  How can we stay prayer-driven, intimate, flexible, and yet accept the growth that it spurring us on?  We spent hours immersed in metrics, in recruitment, in dreaming, in shifting the methods we've used for leadership training.  And a large part of these meetings is just to build fellowship as a group, over meals and prayer and Bocce.

From there Scott and I flew to North Africa, where Caleb is spending a semester abroad.  He's minoring in Arabic (while majoring in Mechanical Engineering, which is no small effort of a combination).  His language intensive program allows for some weekend exploring, so we ended up renting a car and taking several of his class mates along.  Ancient medinas, Roman ruins, rolling surf, dusty sunsets, insane drivers, and abundant hospitality all made for a memorable few days.  After leaving Caleb in his university we spent a couple more days hitting a tourist spot and visiting some friends before flying back to the USA.

We landed in Virginia where we spent the weekend with our main supporters:  Grace OPC in Vienna.  This congregation has prayed for us in the Sunday service weekly for 22 years.  They know and love us and we were glad to share our new short video (which took many hours and days of Scott's effort in August) and speak from our hearts, giving them thanks.  This is the main point of being in the USA this year.

Which brings us up to about a week ago, when I got slammed with a flu-like virus.  We barely made it back to our home base before I was shivering with fever.  That week was kind of a blur.  Sometimes there are so many things that all fall apart at once that you know there is a spiritual shift, the heavenly realms and all that.  My mom was super sick (better now), our kids were all having various struggles, our new missionaries landed in Uganda with a partial lung collapse, a kid from Christ School was thought to be attacked by cannibalistic night dancers leading to a student panic-revolt, our Mundri friends fled their S Sudan homes AGAIN due to looting and burning by military, our Burundi friends listened to grenades and gun battles as a failed assassination attempt went down, you get the picture.  A week later we can report that on every front there are at least glimmers of hope.  Better health, a new head teacher signing the contract at Christ School, a building calm in Mundri as people trickle back.  The good prevails, but only by a faltering thread.

This week Luke is home for Fall Break for a few days.  He is studying for med school boards and I am studying for my paeds recertification.  Scott had set up internet and a cell phone booster, and is embarking upon our pizza oven project.  We're doing skype meetings, reading, corresponding, preparing.  Oh, and resting, here and there.

Thanks for bearing with our silence in this space.  Once a week or two slips by, it's hard to know how to restart.  But we're back.
 Highest point in Spain  .  . . a strenuous day-hike.

 This is how we roll at Serge . .

 Midnight dinner with Caleb and friends.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Chameleon, A Boy, and A Quest

Friends, this is really happening.  

Ten years ago, I wrote a short novel for my kids for Christmas.  I wanted them to read a story set in their own world, with African heroes, where capital-T Truth was woven into adventure that glimpses the unseen world.  That became a family tradition, with four young-adult novels whose characters are loosely connected appearing annually on Christmas Eve for four years.

On October 6, this book will be published by New Growth Press, with illustrations by none other than our very own Acacia Masso.  You can pre-order at a 40% discount for a limited time, by clicking here.  Or if for some reason you want to use Amazon (full price), then order here.  Or just google it.  

I am expectant, hopeful, nervous.  I would like this to sell enough to inspire all four to be published, because I truly believe these books represent an area of the world I love with respect and depth, and use story to draw us into hope.  I also think they are just good, engaging stories (and evidently the few people who read the early copy for endorsements had nice things to say which you can read on the New Growth Press site).  Maybe I just don't want to let my kids down, since this was for them.

Anyway, if you're looking for Christmas presents for people in your life, consider shopping now.  Most appropriate for about age 8-14, but our whole family read them aloud together.  Please share with your friends!

Living Seasons

 September 1 and the crickets are thrumming at full volume, I squint in the humid heaviness of sunlight in this emerald basin of grass and weeds and wildflowers.  Only a tinge of yellow to a few of the maple leaves, and the 7:30 am rumble of the school bus on the gravel road hint that Fall is around the corner.  But this is the land of seasons, the latitude and altitude where summer slips into crisp shorter colorful days, where winter chill lurks.  In Africa we had rainy and dry, but those distinctions were blunted of late.

So instead of working on my Paeds recertification study, or on upcoming speaking, or on our support video, or on any of a dozen other good things we could think of to do, yesterday we went to the Farmer's Market and scooped up the last 15 pounds of summer tomatoes, and to Lowe's for an apple and a pear tree, and a couple each of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and grape seedlings.  Then returned for an afternoon of chopping and simmering and stirring those 15 pounds into 1.5 gallons, and of digging holes and scooping pine needle mulch from the forest to place those bushes into the earth.  Dirty fingernails, sweaty clothes and sore muscles will hopefully yield some pies for our children's children.  Experimenting with canning tomato sauce for the first time (I froze most of it, since I know that works) I hope will yield a taste of freshness on a winter day.

Seasons, I realize, push us to live in the now.  Summer will not last.  The farmer from whom we bought the tomatoes was planning to pull out the vines this week.  The bushes we planted have to take root before the first frosts.  On the equator, one could always assume that next week or next month we would get around to it.  Only much of the time, we didn't.  Seasons anchor us in the reality of a turning tilting globe, where babies become college students.  They tell us to bake and to visit, even if there are a thousand other things left undone.

In the 21rst century, seasons may be muted by air conditioning and central heat, by imported fruit and year-round lettuce.  The urgency of the moment can by a tyranny, but it can also be a blessing we are losing by our illusion of timelessness.

So this season, we embrace the tie to the land we have landed on, and the transience of these ages for our kids and our friends, this chapter in God's story.

15 pounds of tomatoes
chop and add to pan with olive oil, garlic and onions
Add tomato paste, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, basil


4 pints canned, 4 quarts to freezer

until we build our oven, the pizza stone put to use

Seasons reflected in children (we look the same of course):

Myhres last sabbatical, 2000-2001
Myhres this sabbatical, 2015