Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh the Sticky Glory--QM

We've arrived in Western New York for Christmas!
It's Christmas Cookie time! James loved the animal cookie cutters...
He also enjoyed his first attempt at painting with frosting...
...but guess what was his favorite part?
Finished product. Who can pick out the two my son did?
To celebrate a job (well?) done, a game of Wits and Wagers was called for. The most dramatic face won.

PS Thank you for all the votes encouraging our little camel to come with us to Malaysia. I think it can come, and I intend to make it a yearly tradition of crafting ornaments as a Mast family. Maybe next year we'll do three wise men to go with Mr. Camel.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Downsizing For The Big Trip -- E.

God willing, we leave for Malaysia in a matter of months.  The reality is starting to sink in, and we're starting to prepare for moving stuff overseas.
Project number one is our game collection.  Board games are our hobby, you know, and we own a few.  They rank very high on our list of Items That Will Come With Us, just a few places behind our children.
Thing is, they can take up a lot of space.  Here are some of them, for example:

That's almost enough to fill a suitcase right there.  But inside those boxes is mostly air.  The original game storage designs are pretty but wasteful of space.
Our solution?  Baseball card boxes.  Here are the same twenty-two games packed into twelve small boxes:

We like it a lot!  Congratulations are welcome.

In other news, you may remember Queena writing a post about a paper camel that we made last year about this time.

Now it's my turn to say a few words.  The animal was a pain to make and I think it's ugly.  As we unpacked our Christmas decorations earlier this month, I was dismayed to find that we had brought it home from Dallas instead of throwing it away . . . and now it is hanging up in our living room.  If this makes it to Malaysia with us, it won't be because I asked it to.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Malaysian Contrasts: Part 2 -- E.

Religious Edifices

Pick any one hundred Malaysian people at random. You will get approximately 61 Muslims . . .

This is the oldest Mosque in Malaysia, built sometime in the 1700's.  (Photo by Igor Laszlo.)

. . . 20 Buddhists . . .

This temple has three sections stacked on top of each other:  Burmese on top, Thai in the middle, and Chinese on the bottom.  (Photo by Myloismylife.)

. . . 9 Christians . . .

This is a Roman Catholic church.  I don't know much about it, other than that it's in Penang.  (Photo by Michael Coghlan.)

. . . 6 Hindus . . .

A Hindu temple in Malaysia.
. . . and 4 others of various religions.

A Datuk shrine.  This is a significant site for Datuk Keramat worship, which, according to Wikipedia, is "a fusion of pre-Islamic spirit belief, Sufi saint worship and Chinese folk religion."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mosaic in Greenwood -- E.

Do you know about Mosaic yet? Queena and I talk about this group a lot, so I'm surprised if this is all news to you. We met this band in Dallas a year ago . . . and Queena booked them to come sing in Greenwood!

I cannot speak too highly of what God is doing through these people's music. Check them out on their website: Their mission is to teach God's Word through music -- and they are doing just that. So good!

Mosaic's five members are staying at Queena's parents' place over the weekend. We've been blessed to hang out with them a bit -- and glory be, they are Euro game people! Nobody knows how excited I was to learn that.

Jonathan and Patrick, at left, wanted to learn how to play Smallworld. I think they may have like it. They spent most of the game standing up . . .

. . . while Queena and Holly joined Emily and Devon for some Dominion.

Enough with the games, eh? Nobody cares that much. Here's what matters:
  • Greenwood Mennonite Church
  • Sunday, November 6
  • 6:30 pm
  • Free Mosaic Concert
  • (Be there!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Florida Vacation!

We had a wonderfully relaxing (and warm) week in Florida with Grandpa and Grandma Mast, Ethan's parents, Ethan's four youngest siblings -- Rhoda, Phoebe, Sam, and Keziah -- and Zach and Sarah.

We stopped by to meet some friends, Brian and Tabita and their two children. This video shows the new friendship with their son BoBo and Dorie.

Dorie and her GGma (great-grandmother) had a tea party one morning. When GGma Ellie was Dorie's age she lived in China. I heard her telling Dorie some stories of her childhood in China, but when I left the table for a minute, I missed this conversation, so GGma wrote it down for me:

GGMa: Dearest Ms Dorie, I am so very happy that we could have a tea party together. Thank you for inviting me.
Dorie: Well, I am not really happy.
GGMa: And why are you not happy, Dorrie?
Dorie: I don’t have Jesus in my heart.
GGMa: Dear Dorie, you know that Jesus loves you very much, and He hears you when you talk to Him.
Dorie: He is way up in heaven. How can He hear me talk to Him?
GGMa: Jesus always hears you, and He is with us because His spirit is with us. And He will help us, and be with us all the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Malaysian Contrasts: Part 1 -- E.


Close to half of Malaysia's human population lives in its 20 largest cities. For example, Kota Kinabalu, pictured below, is home to 600,000 people.

(Thank you for the photo, Flanegan)

Kota Kinabalu (or KK) happens to be a consideration for where we will move.

Of course, smaller villages are prevalent throughout the country. Here is a view of a valley in Tambunan, a district some 80 kilometers east of KK.

Notice the unpopulated mountains in the background.

Did I say unpopulated? Hardly! Have you heard about the wildlife in Malaysia? Reportedly, about 20 percent of all animal species live in this country. National parks such as this one on Mount Kinabalu (highest point in Malaysia, and just outside KK) protect many such species.

Personally, I love that waterfall right in the middle of the picture, and some day I would like to see it close up.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The "dearest freshness deep down" of my ordinary life -QM

I love the big, grand picture of Glory that I read in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, God's Grandeur. He wrote that
The World is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

I also love the tiny pieces of glory that I read in Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts:
24 Old men looking for words just perfect
54. Moonlight on pillows
55. Long, lisped prayers
56. Kisses in the dark
243. Clean Sheets smelling like wind
244. Hot oatmeal tasting like home

Here are some everyday glorious moments from my day today:
  • waking to the yells of my small son and having him miraculously fall back to sleep
  • a slow jog past a misty, newly mowed field
  • the surprise of tears on my cheeks while listening to a new song
  • a tiny, peanut butter covered finger transformed into a neighing, galloping horse
  • the smell of pinto beans, bacon, and cumin in the crockpot

All this talk of Glory reminds me of the verse that has lodged deeply in my heart this past month: 2Corinthians 3:18. (The above 'new song' comes from this passage--check out Mosaic's Be Like You)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Quote in Title also from God's Grandeur, GMH

Friday, September 30, 2011

Children's Church -- E.

Fun pictures from a recent Sunday. We got to speak to the young folks at a local church about Scripture translation.

(Yes, there's supposed to be a lesson in the activity pictured above. Can you figure out what it might be?)

I think my favorite part of the morning was that map you see behind me on the wall. I don't know whose idea it was, but those words are John 3:16 printed in the International Phonetic Alphabet. One hundred cool points right there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Frog -- E.

A vital skill for linguists is a keen listening ear. We will need to distinguish between various speech sounds as soon as we get to Malaysia -- since our first task in the country will be to learn the national language, Malay. This may prove challenging.
I bring all that up because, in our home, there has been some debate as to some speech sounds James has been using. In the following video James attempts to say the word frog.

Queena believes that our son is unintentionally cussing every time he says that word. I disagree. But I do think that his r's and g's could use some work -- and I think he could avoid the problem entirely if he would just call the amphibians in the picture toads, which is what they are.

Hey, did you see the picture Queena put up a few weeks ago of all the water standing in our backyard after Irene? So did every toad in Sussex county, apparently -- and it gave them all the same idea. This week, tens of thousands of their children emerged from the late-summer swamp and surrounded our house. That's what James is looking at in the video. Here are a few more specimens:
Cute, right? One or two pinkie-nail toads are cute.

But too many is too many. Where are all the natural predators? They're not doing their job.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Once upon a time . . . amen." --E.

How can you tell the difference between the evening news and a bedtime story? Besides the content itself, I mean. It's true that the Libyan civil war doesn't make it into most of the stories I make up for Dorie and James before they go to sleep. But if you hear the words, "Once upon a time, in a little town called Tripoli," you know it's not the news. You also know it's not a history lesson. The story you're about to hear is a work of fiction.

How do you know? It's all about the discourse markers. Every language has them: special hints that help you keep track of your place in a story, as well as what kind of story you're listening to in the first place. Usually you don't think about these makers consciously. They're just there, and they help guide stories and conversations.

Discourse markers are an important study for people who want to translate Scripture (or any other text). For example, the Bible contains a number of accounts that it claims are historical. If you use the wrong discourse markers in telling these accounts, your translation could end up sending the subconscious message that these accounts are fairy tales.

I have not had a lot of formal training in discourse analysis, but I'm always game for a little independent research. So I asked a willing participant to tell me some stories.

Here are three brief data samples:

As for the results of my study:
  • The Observer's Paradox was a clear problem in this research. The participant kept wanting to stop and see herself in the videos I was taking.
  • The participant seemed unsure as to the nature of her discourse. The openings of "Engy and Mengy" or "Ashy and Mengy" sounded like the setup to a nursery rhyme, but the second sample ends as a prayer: "and they loveded each other and amen."
  • No more data collection at mealtimes. Those eggs got so cold it's not funny.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If you must Stress...--QM

One of my favorite memories from this past week in Western New York (and there are many favorites!) comes from an unusual shopping trip. My mother-in-law, Esther Mast, took me to about five different local shops, most of which were located at her Amish neighbors' homes.
The last stop was a bulk food store where Mom bought 50 pounds of flour--and where I bought 1/3 pound of curry powder. A young woman took my money and stuck the packet of curry into a wrinkled bag originally from a Rite-aid pharmacy. She made sure that I noticed the words written on the side of the bag. She pointed them out to me at least two times, with a little smile and a big sense of humor that twinkled from her eyes. The words said "Stress less."

Some days our job can be stressful. Building a team of partners is a lot of fun, but we have a lot of tasks to juggle and the day never ends with everything done. I cut the wrinkled words out of the bag and put them on the fridge to remind me to keep a restful heart.

My devotional today had a similar reminder; we stress less by recognizing our weakness and his strength:
(September 8, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)
"I will infuse My strength into you moment by moment,
giving you all that you need for this day."

"For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you."
2 Corinthians 13:4

Stress-busters from this past week: Ice-cream and Games

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Falling Leaves, Throwing Stones --QM

The formerly dry woods in the backyard

Irene left a pile of leaves around the house and in the pool. Somehow the coming of this storm seems to be the end of summer--emotionally, if not in fact. We swam in Jay and Betty's pool for the last time today, and I thought of the leaves that had been recently vacuumed out. They reminded me of the words of a man from Malaysia. He said:

"When a leaf from a tree by the river drops on the water, it takes a long time for the leaf to sink to the bottom of the river. But when you drop a stone, it goes straight to the bottom. That is how I feel about the Word of God in my own language. When I read it in the national language, though I was educated in that language, it takes a long time before the meaning sinks in. But when I read God's Word in my own language, I feel like a stone dropping to the bottom of the riverbed. It goes right in to touch my soul"

We will be traveling to Ethan's parents' home in western New York from the 1st to the 7th and would appreciate your prayers for good meetings, fun times, and safe travels!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dorie and the Snake--EM

[Eighteen minutes after posting this video, we've gotten enough concerned feedback that we think we should explain that this is a non-venemous Eastern Hognose Snake . . . probably.
We could tell because of its distinctive markings, and because it didn't bite us.]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August Photo Highlights

Time to dump the camera's pictures onto the computer again. That means it's time to review the last month of our lives. Anything interesting happen recently? Oh, yes . . .

Every day in Orlando, on our way to lunch, we passed a handful of these figures. James loved them -- he would always wave and say hi. He and Dorie had such a wonderful time in Orlando.

They have also enjoyed returning home. After nearly three weeks away, they were in serious need of grandparent time.

And they have gotten plenty of their Grandpa Mark and Grandma Polly. They even saw their Opi and Omi at the big Mast reunion last weekend, but I didn't get any good pictures of them. As I should have expected at an event like this, I mainly got weird pictures . . . .

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back Home in Delaware --QM

The first thing Dorie and James did after being released from their car-seats was run to the grass by our front door and pluck clover flowers for their mommy.My first action after opening our door was to put those cute little weeds into my "mom pot."
I just love my little people!

(A good friend of mine, Jan Shilke, gave me this tiny flower pot when James was in the hospital with seizures, and whenever I move, I set up these little things to make me feel like home)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Weekend Fun, Weekday Overload! --QM

As I was walking Dorie and James to Child Care this morning, I heard my daughter singing this song. Here are the exact words:

Every day is a beautiful dayEverybody is going to play with Dorie
This is a beautiful song

Up and down

Up and down

The melody was mostly high notes, with a few low notes here and there.
I'm so glad she is still happy to be going to nursery two weeks since we arrived!

We have 12 hours before we get in our van and head to our Church conference that is happening in Maryland this weekend.

A week ago we asked for ideas for our weekend here in Orlando, Florida. Seaworld was suggested, as well as a visit to the State Park or the Zoo.
We went to the Central Florida Zoo--

What a great decision since it also had a little water park between the birds and the monkeys!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Four Years and Counting--QM

These past four years have been the best of my life...marriage to Ethan has been beyond my wildest dreams. Thanks be to God for giving us more than we asked or imagined!

(Fresh-faced and happy, Ethan 21, Queena 24)

(Surprise! Something's brewing!)

(Dorie's arrived and she is almost one, James is still a secret!)

(Now there are two babies for Omi and Opi to babysit
while we visit Mall of America on our way to a wedding)

(Still fresh-faced and still in love;
our children are almost-three and 1.5, Ethan 25, Queena 28)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

Of course we forgot to bring the camera to the picnic and to the fireworks. So here's a picture of James once we got home at 10:45 on July 4th. Pretty much tells you what kind of day it was.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Literacy is priceless -- E.

I used to wonder whether it's a good idea to introduce books and letters to cultures that don't use them now. Why should an oral/aural society need to change? As anybody who has seen The Gods Must Be Crazy knows, Westernization is a bad thing. If unwanted and uninvited, literacy could be like that bad, bad Coca-Cola bottle.

I think I'm over that now. In the real world, I am learning, just about everybody does, in fact, want to read. Just like everybody who knows what Coca-Cola is wants it. And communities that see their own languages put down in writing, with books published in them and everything, often experience what they would call a much better life as a consequence. (Again, it's all very much like Coca-Cola.)

Here's my son demonstrating the value of literacy. He has recently learned to read out loud, and the quality of his life has skyrocketed.

His sister, valuing her own skills in literacy, does not yet appreciate his.

By the way, I'd like you all to notice the Follow By Email box in the right-hand sidebar. Just as the title suggests, you may enter your email there, and you'll get a notice via email every time something new happens on this blog. I think it's a good idea, anyway. (Thanks very much to my friend Chris for bringing this feature to my attention!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Family -- E.

June 2006
I have just returned to the U.S. after my second REACH term in The Gambia. I intend to study linguistics in hopes that I can apply it internationally someday. Whatever group I end up with, I am excited at the prospects. In addition to the chance to serve in the Kingdom of God, I'll have the added perks of travel and adventure. Can't wait.
(And if Queena will marry me, maybe she'll come too!)

June 2011
Five years later.
It always feels a little weird to have things go the way I want them to. Queena did consent to marry me, and since 07-07-07 we have already had a fair portion of adventure as well as travel (Texas, man!). We may head out overseas as soon as next spring. How did we get so lucky?
I'll say this, though. Do you notice those two young humans in the picture with Queena and me? Those are our children. I am slowly beginning to realize how much of a difference these people make in my feelings about moving across the world. It is a lot more difficult than last time, frankly. Five years ago, if I heard about the personal sacrifice involved in overseas service, I could respond with a casual shrug. But not now. I am beginning to understand that I am asking a lot of my children. Queena and I will be separating them by thousands of miles from their many grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
This is all a part of our pursuit of Christ, and we are not bitter at the things He may ask us to leave behind. Still, it used to look a lot easier.