a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Lamb Tongues September 20, 2011

Filed under: Asian-American,perspective — vivmabuni @ 10:40 pm

I push the grocery cart fast. Breezing through the aisles. Places to go, errands to run, lots of this and that on my mind. And out of the corner of my eye I see the yellow tray. It doesn’t register until after I push past the glass case.

I’m brought to a complete stop. And then I back up my cart and peer in.

A yellow tray holding rows of purplish, pinkish somethings. I read the sign, part Arabic, part English.

Lamb tongues.

Whoa. I’ve never seen that before. Then again, probably 40% of the stuff in the store would fit in that category.

I love this little store. Persian music playing overhead, stacks of Iranian phone books outside, a hefty bunch of red leaf lettuce sells for .59, Arabic pita bread for .75, the produce is fresh and the prices unmatched. But what I love most is hearing the different languages, and seeing people from different cultures. A woman from a South American country picked up a bag of dried brown oval-shaped things and looked at me, “What do you think this is used for?” I read the bag, part Arabic, part English: Dried Lemons. “I really don’t know. But it looks interesting.”

Here in the aisles of this little grocery store I find packages of things unfamiliar. But for most of the patrons, these same packages and smells bring memories of home and comfort food.

And I think about the smell of the pantry in my parents house and it’s the same as the aisles of the Asian markets I visit. These markets have huge tanks of live fish in the back of the store, and duck tongues and chicken feet in styrofoam trays and plastic wrap, placed right next to the drum sticks and chicken thighs.

I grew up eating roasted watermelon seed, the cheek meat of fish, sea cucumber, and not only the sweet meat of the blue crab but also the green pasty eggs of the female crabs. These were delicacies we enjoyed on special occasions.

And I wonder if lamb tongues would hold the same place of honor in a meal shared by a Middle Eastern family.

Like snails and frog legs in France, or sheep brain in Central Asia. Raw fish in Japan.

I marvel at the variety of food, and languages and cultures and it comes to me all over again: God is not an American.

Sometimes I forget this fact and think that God only hears prayers in English or that it’s the original Hebrew and Greek and then the English translation of the Bible. I read my Bible with American lenses, but the details that stand out to me as I read are often from a woman’s perspective. And I wonder how the same passages would be understood by the people in cultures different from me or from a different time period. Or how their lenses would help me understand more richly and deeply the Word of God.

Darrin and I teach from the Bible in different contexts–Bible studies, retreats, conferences, Sunday school classes, etc. and I can tend to come across kind of dogmatic and black and white. But I have come to appreciate and respect Darrin’s humble posture. He says, “The Bible has been around for thousands of years, translated, studied and taught by godly people through the ages. Who am I to say so emphatically what a particular passage says or means?” I don’t think this means that we have a wishy-washy approach to Scripture, but I am challenged to continue to grow and evaluate how I read the Bible in light of culture and context.

I love how God displays His beauty and creativeness through different languages and peoples. And as His image bearers, we reflect who God is through who we are and how we live. I think that it is through bringing together all nations, ethnic groups and tongues that we are able to see Him reflected fully.

What an amazing God and what an amazing, diverse, wonderful and tasty world we live in.


Naming T-shirts September 12, 2011

Filed under: perspective — vivmabuni @ 3:24 pm

I have a quirky thing I do. I give people t-shirts. Not actual t-shirts, but t-shirts in my mind of descriptive words that capture a phrase or personality trait that is true of a person or situation. For example:

Leila (of the Awesome Threesome) says “Lord have mercy!” when she gets overwhelmed or can’t find words to express a big jumbled mess. Her t-shirt would say that phrase on the front.

Margaret (National Director of Leadership Developement for Epic, and truly incredible woman) often prefaces what she says when dealing with complex ministry related challenges, “From an LD perspective” so that would be my t-shirt for her.

My friend, Kierstin, has contagious enthusiasm and passion. Her t-shirt would read: “AWESOME!”

I would give my strong, extremely broad-shouldered husband, Darrin, the same description as Starbucks French Roast coffee: “Smoky and Intense”

You get the idea…

Well, the t-shirt I would give myself that captures these past few weeks and months would read:

“Are you kidding me!?!”

and maybe down a bit in smaller letters: “seriously?”

and maybe on the back: “What in the world!?!”

Lately I’ve been muttering, sometimes sighing, sometimes exclaiming out loud these phrases. Repeatedly.

We have been in a season of bewilderment. This summer between Michael’s broken wrist, surgery and multiple casts, losing our dog Max and nearly $5000 in vet bills, and unexpected but extremely draining ministry challenges, we received a ray of sunshine in the gift of our puppy Koa. Read his story here.

Last week, after multiple visits and calls to the vet, we learned that Koa has a congenital disease called: megaesophagus. You can read about it here. The website x-rays look just like Koa’s after his barium tests.

Are you kidding me!?!

Of all the puppies in the world…

Our sweet Koa can’t swallow food normally because his esophagus muscles don’t work and the food just pools and balloons in his esophagus. This explains why he repeatedly threw up the first week we had him. It wasn’t the worms, the deworming medications, me overfeeding him, food allergies, puppy vaccines or trying a new dog food. Nope. Koa has this condition that he likely will not outgrow (a very, very small percentage of puppies outgrow it and that’s what we are praying for).

What this means is that we have to feed him six small meals a day and give him medications and we have to feed him upright so gravity can move the food down to his stomach. We need to hold him upright for about ten minutes after he eats or drinks and watch carefully so he won’t aspirate. This could lead to pneumonia which can lead to death.

Are you kidding me!?!

So this is the way Koa eats and drinks in our kitchen six times a day.

And when he grows too big to hold upright after his meals he will need to sit in one of these contraptions called a Bailey chair to eat:

Are you kidding me!?!

I’m laughing. Then crying. Then laughing and crying at the same time.


Even as I type and look at that picture I am laughing.

What in the world!?!

So now we have a specials needs dog. We have been talking as a family about what this means for us. We are praying for supernatural intervention and healing for Koa. He is not experiencing any pain and is putting on weight. Since he was born with this condition, this is all he’s ever known. Darrin wisely said, “I don’t want the kids to grow up associating that good means blessing. Life has both good and hard. Just because things are hard doesn’t mean that God has stopped blessing us or stopped being good.” We don’t know how long Koa will live because of having this condition. I’ve read about puppies who only make it a year because of complications with pneumonia. I’ve also read of dog owners spending tens of thousands of dollars getting feeding tubes and various medical treatments and we certainly don’t have that kind of luxury. There is no cure for megaesophagus. His condition taps into my ongoing struggle of wanting to fit in all of my life (it will be my second book after the cancer book). Now I’m one of THOSE dog owners. I’ll have a doggie high chair in my kitchen.

What in the world!?!

So laugh with us, cry with us. We sure would appreciate you praying for us and for Koa, too.




Beautiful Things July 2, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 9:48 am

Here’s the song I mentioned at the end of my last post, Compost Redemption.

My friend, Lisa, introduced the song to me a few months ago. It has brought encouragement and hope.

Only God can:

  • create something out of nothing….fiat
  • bring dead things back to life….resurrection
  • take bad things and turn it to blessing….redemption


Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!


Compost Redemption June 29, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 8:58 pm

I grew up in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. It was part granola, part college town, part triathlete mecca, and very cause-oriented. The same spirit that cities like Berkeley, CA and Madison, WI share. I remember in 6th grade watching my classmate, Leslie, make a tear-filled plea on the six o’clock news for the plight of the prairie dogs.  Bulldozers were clearing an abandoned field, their home, away to build a gas station. “Prairie dogs have rights, too!” she said with deep resolve and eyes and nose running with raw emotion. We were ecologically minded in Boulder before the term “green” became a household word.

Fast forward several (and I do mean several) decades and now I find myself as a mom of three, and woven into my make up are threads of cause-oriented, save the earth passion. I am, however, a self-proclaimed “light green” member of earth. Our recycling trashcan gets filled twice as fast as regular trash, I use cloth dinner napkins, Tupperware instead of plastic baggies for Julia’s lunches, I bring a personal travel mug and water cup to Starbucks and I faithfully use my reusable grocery bags (thanks Abby and Simone) everywhere I shop. But that’s about the extent of my “greenness.” So when an opportunity came to accompany Julia on her third grade field trip to Mission Viejo city hall to learn about taking care of the environment I was all in.

My favorite station was learning how to make compost. Combine and mix green waste, brown waste, water and scraps of fruit and vegetable discards from daily food prep at home and lots of coffee grounds. Lots from our kitchen. Lots. Seemed easy enough. It was worth a try.

Julia and I returned home and emptied out a large plastic pot and followed the directions in the pamphlet they gave us. Grass clippings, dried leaves, water and then what ended up being a large bowl of bruised fruit, onion skin, wilty lettuce, and coffee grounds–all stuff I would have normally thrown out. We placed the top of the unused plastic green turtle sandbox cover over our magic mixture. The next day we added another full bowl of kitchen discards, mixed it up, recovered it.

And now it sits. Each day another bowl full of discards gets mixed into the muck.

And over time the stuff that would have normally been thrown away turns into an amazing source of nutrients for whatever trees or plants I chose to bestow the amazing black gold (the term the compost lady called it).

This process of compost redemption reminds me of a quote I read a few months back:

“When we grow, in contrast to merely change, we venture into new territory and include more people in our lives–serve more and love more. Our culture is filled with change; it’s poor in growth. New things, models, developments, opportunities are announced, breathlessly, every hour. But instead of becoming ingredients in a long and wise growth, they simply replace. The previous is discarded and the immediate stuck in until, bored by the novelty, we run after the next fad. Men and women drawn always to the new never grow up. God’s way is growth, not change. Organic is a key image. Nothing in our past is thrown out with the garbage; it’s all composted and assimilated into a growing life. And nothing–no “moral, no “principle”–is tacked on from the outside. David at thirty-seven was more than he was at seventeen–more praise, saner counsel, deeper love. More himself. More his God-given and God-glorifying humanity. A longer stride, a larger embrace.”

P. 136-147 Leap
Over A Wall–Eugene Peterson 

So day after day I am finding hope as I think about that compost pile and my life. All those things that I would have deemed discards–poor choices, immature attitudes, blatant sin, disappointments, the years the locust have eaten, character defects, all those things I would rather toss out in shame, my loving Father is able to Romans 8:28 * them into something useful, rich, beneficial. Nothing wasted. Amazing grace.

I have just the perfect song to share, but still need to learn how to add a you tube clip to a blog post. Will post it as soon as I learn.

* Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.


One Glimpse April 29, 2011

Filed under: perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 12:30 pm

A few days ago my dear friend, Danielle, paid a surprise visit and stopped by after a home schoolers field trip in our neck of the woods. I had not seen her in over a year. I had just finished picking Jonathan up from school. Max, our dog, was still in the car and the garage door was up. I caught sight of a familiar face that I couldn’t place as her middle daughter walked  around the far edge of the driveway. I finally walked out the front door and saw Danielle. “Yippee’s” and squeals as I excitedly raced to her minivan and greeted her crew of three kids, six and under. In my mind’s eye, I saw snap shots of memories with Danielle: meeting her as a freshman at UCLA, talking in the dorms on summer project in East Asia, hearing her voice singing worship songs to Jonathan when she would babysit, laughing at her fun dance routines from high school, the Pledgewagon, hearing stories of her adventures on Stint in France… Ah, Danielle, always a special place in my heart reserved for her.

Her youngest had fallen asleep in the car seat and her two older ones wanted to play on the swing set in the back yard. We decided to open the front door and sit inside the house so we could keep an eye on the front and back simultaneously. I welcomed her into our house. Dog hair on the ground, sticky kitchen floor, BUT for some reason I had decided to straighten up the living room and clean up the kitchen earlier in the day. I also had pulled out the bread maker and was baking bread (uh, it’s been maybe a year since the last time I did that), had a beef stew going in the crock pot, had gone to the market so I was able to offer her kids juice boxes and brownies, bananas and other snacks. Jonathan went and picked up his siblings for me to give us more time to catch up. Julia returned home and willingly shared her toys and played with the kids.

And after they left I laughed.

It occurred to me how quickly I make judgements about others based on a glimpse. Danielle, could (I hope not) conclude that I was a wizard-super-organized, got it together mom because my kitchen was on the cleaner side and I had dinner going and it was only two and my kids were polite and helpful. Oh, BUT, if she had come the day BEFORE, it would have been a whole different story. Dishes filling the sinks and counters, no food, newspapers and junk strewn about the house…or even, like, RIGHT NOW (same EXACT description except the kitchen floor is now even stickier). But she happened to catch a glimpse at just the right moment between order and chaos, peace and conflict, helpfulness and complaining. I live in both and to conclude that I am doing either a good or bad job based on a glimpse is just not an accurate portrayal of the whole story.

Lots of times I read of great heroes and of people I want to emulate. But unfortunately, I only catch a glimpse of their lives. Susanna Wesley bore nineteen babies and ten reached adulthood. She was the mother of John and Charles Wesley, who are on many “Christian heroes” lists. John is the founder of the Methodist church, Charles wrote most of the most famous hymns. She homeschooled them all in theology, Latin, Greek, and often from a sick-bed. She was rigid, orderly methodical (ala Methodism) and her husband, Samuel Wesley, described as an easygoing, spend thrift was away for months on end. One book I read described that her strict ways drove him away. There was no money for decent clothing. Everything went to feeding the family and funding their dad’s get-rich schemes.  Their oldest daughter, Emilia, picked up the slack when her mother was too weak physically and helped with the children and housework all of her childhood. She married a man she didn’t love because she was sick of working and wanted to rest, be treated well and taken care after always caring for others. Unfortunately, her husband, Rob Harper, wanted to quit work, take it easy and be kept by a successful woman. He left Emilia after their baby was born, taking her savings and leaving her his debts. Now, I know that Susanna did have qualities that were admirable, but until I read about her daughter, I had always held her on a pedestal. Clearly, there were also some major misses. And without actually being there, I cannot play judge on either side because I only have a glimpse.

Before Danielle arrived I was out walking Max. An older lady in our neighborhood watched from her driveway as Max and I rounded the corner. I waved and she said, “What a beautiful dog! He sure walks well.” Max was loose leash, walking obediently beside me. I welled up with Dog Whisperer pride and replied, “We have loved having him.” And just then, across the street another lady was walking her little dog. One whiff, and Max was yanking me along, trying to cross the street, whimpering at the little ball of white fluff trotting along the sidewalk.

One glimpse.

I’m still laughing.


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