Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fresh Coffee

One of our British friends once said that hot tea is like a "cup of liquid comfort." Since moving to Taiwan I have learned to appreciate tea, but for me, coffee makes me feel at home.

Several weeks ago, our thoughtful Columbia friends sent us an amazing care package that included a bag of Starbucks Sumatra.

Then, one week ago, another thoughtful friend gave us this plastic cup and filter. Now we can make fresh coffee by the cup, without a coffee maker! Amazing.



It makes waking up on these rainy typhoon mornings a little bit easier. :)


(The red star is on Taiwan).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Motherhood

I used to think it strange when my friends were getting married. Now I find it strange that my friends are having babies.

Their shared experiences have gotten me thinking about motherhood. One of my biggest dreams is to be a stay-at-home mom. People typically feel shocked when I share this with them. Why? I think we have succumbed to a modern myth that teaches motherhood is a lesser vocation than a professional career or ministry.

This subtle myth appears behind comments like, "I'm just a mom," or "Look at those mom jeans!" The resulting mom stigma propagates the idea that stay-at-home moms are simply women who couldn't make it in the "real world."

This lie has a bit of truth in it; after all, almost any woman can become a mom, regardless of education or experience. Furthermore, getting to stay home all day sounds easy. No alarm clock, no schedule, no impatient boss, no deadlines.

However, I argue that not every woman has what it takes to be a good mom.

The truth is, being a good mom is incredibly challenging. I think G.K. Chesterton says it well:

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can imagine how this can exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”


I greatly respect my own mother and friends who are defying the modern myth of motherhood. And while I won't be a mother for a while, I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tutoring

Meet Maya, one of my favorite little students. She loves pink-- can you tell? :)


On Thursday night when she came over for our weekly tutoring session, we baked cookies.

She stood on a chair in our kitchen, covered up to her elbows in flour and butter, repeating everything I said in her sweet sing-song voice. "Mix it...mix it...butter...butter...flour...flour..."


I'm not sure how much English was learned, but we certainly had fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anniversary Weekend

Celebrating our first year of marriage

Slowing down: brunch at The Diner




Getting away: Aqua Bella Hot Springs Hotel in Beitou





Eating by candlelight: complimentary hot pot dinner



Reflecting on our year together: our anniversary book



Time to relax: soaking in our hot spring



A little surprise: dessert delivered to our room



Welcoming a new day: another year of marriage ahead



Blessed beyond measure:



"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 15:5-6

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Christian Doctrine

A month or so ago I read Augustine's "On Christian Doctrine". Here are some things that impacted me or I found interesting.

1. Interpretation of the Bible
-Augustine said that since the greatest commandments are (1) love of God and (2) love of men, all Biblical interpretations that lead people in those directions are valid interpretations. This leads to some radical interpretations (like 'burning coals are their heads" actually refers to the purifying fire of penance), but I appreciate his Jesus-centeredness. If love means moving closer to God, as he thought it did, maybe this method of interpretation could help me be a peacemaker in theological discussion and protect me from an overly-academic oriented study of Scripture.

2. Dividing science and superstition
-Augustine spends a lot of time clarifying which resources outside of the Bible are legitimate for the Christian to use in learning and teaching. For example: astronomy is ok, but astrology is not; geology is helpful for the Christian, but geomancy (Fung Shue) is not out of bounds; Christian teachers can use numerology for Biblical interpretation but avoid divination at all costs. At first these distinctions seemed obvious. Then I realized that Augustine, as part of the Christian tradition, is separating science from spirituality in a new way for his time (at least among the public). This in itself is fascinating and it also shows me again how indebted Western society is to the Christian tradition. contemporary Christianity AND any kind of 'secular' thought are indebted this Christian labor.

3. Symbols for our life
-Spending time in Taiwan has reinforced my belief that symbols and rituals are important to strengthen communities and ideas-even when people don't always understand why they do them. I was encouraged to hear Augustine say the same thing. He went so far as to argue that while it is better for people to know what communion or confession are than do them in ignorance, it is better for people to do them in ignorance than not at all. He sees that these symbols and rituals point use to the true God even if we aren't conscious of this directing. I think I agree a lot of this and it renews my desire to build a lot of symbols and traditions into my family as well as support historical Christian symbols in the church.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Humanae Vitae Part 2

I finally wrote a response to the Catholic position about birth control. I think my position comes from a slightly different theology of marriage:

God instituted marriage as the greatest sign of his relationship with his people.

Marriage blesses humans in many ways, but its most important function is to point us to the eternal relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church.

The Catholic position, on the other hand, seems to say that marriage has a human 'end.' They believe that marriage's primary goal is to achieve God's perfectly designed human relationship--a relationship more perfect than that between Adam and Eve before the fall.

I have to disagree with Catholic theology on this point because I don't think that marriages have a perfect human model. They are modeled after Christ and the Church and will be dissolved when we fully experience that union in heaven. Even Adam and Eve's relationship was modeled after the relationship between Christ and his Church.

I find myself with a different position on birth control than the Catholics because I see human marriage primarily as a sign of something greater than a thing reaching toward a goal.

............

One way human marriage points to the eternal heavenly marriage of God and his people is in the creation of new life. Married couples have children, and God gives new life to his children.

The decision to have children keeps this 'creation element' in marriage. Controlling when to have children does not remove this creation element. Birth control vs. natural family planning are only an argument about means. The element of having children is what is important.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gluten Free Banana Bread

One of my first baking endeavors in Taiwan.



Ingredients:
2 mashed bananas
1/6 C melted butter
1/2 C sugar
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 C gluten-free flour mix (I use brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch)
a pinch of salt

Directions:
Mix butter and bananas. Add in sugar and the egg white. Add baking soda and salt. Last, stir in the flour.
Pour in two small greased bread pans and bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes.
Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Long and Short of It


Since our move to Taiwan almost one year ago, I have been afraid to get my hair cut. Foreign coworkers have told me horror stories of haircuts in Taiwan. I guess I don't really blame hairdressers here...I mean, foreigners aren't terribly common, and curly-haired foreigners are even more rare. One curly-haired girl told me that her hairdresser didn't know how to cut curly hair, so she straightened it first, and then cut it! Needless to say, that didn't turn out so well.

Fortunately, I recently discovered a hair stylist named Sandra who worked in L.A. for many years. She seemed trustworthy, so I finally decided to cut my hair short--something I've wanted to try for a while.

As I walked into Dra's Hair Lab I felt nervous, but Sandra and Roz quickly put me at ease. The whole experience was great! I couldn't be happier with my fun new hair.

Before:


After:




I highly recommend Dra's Hair Lab to other foreigners in Taipei.
Address: 2F, #175 Zhongxiao E. Rd. Sec. 5, Taipei
Phone: (02) 2768-6038

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Love in Action

These days I'm reading Things as They Are: Mission Work in Southern India by Amy Carmichael. As a Christian missionary, she opened an orphanage in Dohnavur and served there 55 years without a furlough. Her selfless dedication to a people so different from herself inspires me. She faced many hardships. When one young woman considering missionary service wrote to Amy to ask what it was like, Amy replied, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die."


Another quote from Amy Carmichael that I've been pondering is this:

"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving."

It reminds me of 1 John 3:18, which has been on my heart the past couple of months: "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

As Christians we are not only called to love--we are called to act.

It makes me pause and ask myself not only "How am I loving?" but "How am I giving?"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Brownie's Sweet and Sour Fish

Last Friday when the girls came over, Brownie taught us to make Thai-style Sweet and Sour Fish.

Step 1: Go to the market and buy a fresh fish (ours was still alive when Brownie bought it!)


Step 2: Cut the fish in half and clean out the guts.

Step 3: Heat some oil in a frying pan. Put the fish on. Flip. Fry until cooked.


Step 4: While the fish is frying, make the sweet and sour sauce. Mince 3 cloves garlic, 2 hot red peppers, an inch of ginger, and a bunch of parsley. Put it in a bowl. Add the fresh juice of two limes. Cover in special Thai sweet and sour sauce (you can buy it at any Asian grocery store). Add a pinch of salt to taste.


Step 5: Move the cooked fish to a plate. Pour the sauce over the top.



Step 6: Enjoy with hot rice. Delicious!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jiaoshi

Already, the average daytime temperature in Taipei has been hovering in the mid- to high-80s. We are determined to take advantage of this "cool" weather before summer truly hits. So...our Saturday hiking adventures continued last weekend...in a small hot-spring town called Jiaoshi.


Jiaoshi is two-hour ride from Taipei. We've learned to enjoy our time on the train. Usually we talk with each other (or attempt to practice Chinese with poor unsuspecting neighbors), read, journal, or listen to podcasts (our recent favorite has been Tim Keller).

After a quick stop at the visitor center, we started our exploration. First, we came upon the local swimming hole, complete with a clearly posted "NO SWIMMING" sign. About 30 high schoolers were splashing around, and we felt tempted to join them, but decided to press on.


We hiked a short trail up a mountain that took us to three waterfalls and--surprisingly--a Catholic church!




We picnicked next to one of the falls with a nun who was dipping her feet in the water.

On the way down, we stopped for some local snacks. Kalan tried this shaved peanut and ice cream wrap topped with cilantro. Yes, cilantro.


Next we headed to the Paoma Historic Trail.



It was mostly wide, but continuously uphill. We expected to hike it to the end and then take a bus back into town (a three-hour trip). However, once at the top, the locals told us that no buses went up there. A kind toothless grandfather let us hitch a short ride in the back of his truck to the narrow part of the trail, and we hiked back, enjoying the help of gravity. We didn't mind...it was a beautiful day.

When we did make it back into town, we were rewarded with a foot soak in one of the free hot springs in the city square while a saxophonist serenaded us.


A great ending to a great Saturday.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Santiaoling Waterfall Trail

Pictures from our most recent weekend adventure:


Above: Kalan's new language exchange partner, Joe
Below: Our day started with a bus ride to the Pingxi Branch Line, a rickety old railroad formerly used by coal miners.




The trail through the jungle took us about five hours. Waterfall #1:


A bridge that was fun to jump on:


Waterfall #2:


Exploring behind the waterfall in "Gollum's Lair":


Some parts of the trail were rather steep, and we got to use ropes and chains!


Waterfall #3:




After a few hours we came to a road that we followed back to the next town. The views from the top were gorgeous.


Hiking on the road was more dangerous than we anticipated. Earthquake!!! :)




We found a yummy snack on the side of the road.


Overall, it was one of our favorite hikes so far in Taiwan.


From left:
Kayt, Kalan, Joe, Jen (a new friend from church)