November 21, 2015

Counting the cost

Every time we come back to the States and stay for a while, the cost of living in East Asia goes up. This time is no exception. In just a little over a month we will be saying goodbye to the U.S., and this will indeed be the hardest goodbye.

For one thing, our parents are aging. Sorry Mom and Dad and Shari, but you are. My mother-in-law Shari is 70. That seems so weird to me! And my mom just battled Basal Cell Carcinoma again (we praise G0D for a victorious outcome there). And when my dad got tackled at first base by my brother in a friendly game of ball this summer, he went to the ground rather stiffly, and I found myself running from the outfield as if one of my kids had fallen down.

Don't get me wrong, our parents are still kicking. Shari is still dragging the trash can to the curb, uphill. Mom and Dad are still riding their bikes. Still RVing. But in a decade, will they be doing those things? I don't know. Now is when they are doing those things, and now is when we aren't here.

Usually we're here in the summer, and therefore we've never seen what real life in America would look like. Summer isn't real life for anybody. Being here in the Fall, now we see what we have given up, like sports and other activities, but namely our church home. Oh how we love our church home. The children's and youth ministries here are so amazing. I've seen our kids jump and dance and raise their hands, in corporate worship with other children, in their own language, their heart language, in a culture that gets them (or at least, gets them better than the culture in East Asia). I'm so thankful for this time, and yet it makes the thought of leaving that much harder.

Also there's the family farmland. It was homesteaded 8 generations ago by Daniel's forefathers. It includes 160 acres of cedars and a hilltop house overlooking Lee Creek. Up until now it has been there, waiting for us all, decorated for Christmas this time of year with a fresh cut tree on the lower porch. Momo hasn't lived out there since Sue Sue passed away, but it has still been there. The land has been full of deer and the creek full of crawfish. The dirt road combed and the brush mowed for hay. We've always dreamed, Daniel and I, of living out there someday, feeding the humming birds like Sue Sue did, growing giant ferns in hanging baskets, swinging from the porch swing in the evening sun with a glass of sweet tea and a wedge of chocolate pie.

But the years have gone by, as years tend to do, and the fate of the land and the house is unknown. Will it be there, waiting for us all, when we come back next time? There is just no way to tell. And that grieves me, because if we were here, we would...well...we're not here.

We're not here.

I'm fairly certain I write a post like this every furlough, but I promise, this time the cost has gone up so high it is almost unbearable.

And then...

And then I read this today before breakfast, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).

The truth is, we could move back to the States and move in to the farmhouse, only for it to burn to the ground the next day. We could come back to spend more time with our parents and one of them could die a week later. It happened to my aunt - she went to sleep after a full day, healthy as can be, and never woke up again. In the end, it is all just stuff, and these bodies are wasting away. That is why we hold this life loosely, looking with anticipation instead toward what is to come.

I will have an eternity to play baseball with my dad.

And the promised land is far richer and more beautiful than Daniel's family's homestead.

And when we get there, we will be greeted by people from East Asia who wouldn't be there at all had we decided to stay in the States during these years. And so I echo the words of Paul in Philippians 3:7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ."
 Cousins. xoxo

November 15, 2015

November 8, 2015

Before I talk about what happened on November 8, I will show you this picture of my husband, at the dining table/homeschool table here at Momo's apartment, in his bear hunting head-wrap, working on his PhD.

Just a picture of our lives right now.

And now, let me rewind to Friday, November 6, where I sat at the rodeo arena in Fort Smith, Arkansas, listening to Angus Buchan speak (you know, the Faith Like Potatoes guy from South Africa). At once he pointed his finger directly at me and said, "You aren't reading your Bible. How do I know that? The Holy Spirit just told me so."

Wow! Angus was right! I hadn't cracked my Bible since the women's conference a couple of weeks prior (the women's conference for which I was the keynote speaker). I studied my Bible diligently in preparation for the conference, but then I sort a breather. That is often the case with me, I study the Bible faithfully and then life-as-a-mother-of-four becomes too much for me - becomes my excuse - and my thinline NIV sits unopened for days or weeks on end.

This brings me to November 8, 2015, at Heritage Church in Van Buren, Arkansas, where a guest speaker from the Gideons came before the congregation. He shared the story of a 19-year-old man whose mother's dying wish was that her son read the Bible and pray every single day of his life. The son promised his mother that he would, and from that day on, he was never the same. How could he be, when he was reading his Bible and praying every day? 

How many backsliders do you know of who were reading their Bibles and praying daily right up until the moment they walked away from G0D? I can answer that for you. None.

So I find myself sitting in the pew actually wishing someone would die so they could make that dying wish of me. Then maybe I'd actually do it!

And then I realized I didn't need someone to die for me to make such a commitment. And so I did, right then and there. I committed to never breaking my fast in the morning (eating breakfast) until I've read my Bible and prayed. Never again will anything pass my lips after a night's sleep - other than water - until I have read and prayed. 

Woohoo! What a day November 8, 2015 was for me! And I expect to never be the same.
Sorry about the pose, my MIL wanted to show her friend a pic of this shirt. 

November 12, 2015

"Rukom" Schoolnight Coon Hunt '15

Daniel learned to hunt years ago from this guy, Clay Newcomb. 
Clay's home office.
Clay is literally a professional hunter (and hunting writer, and hunting magazine editor). A week or two ago, Clay and Daniel took our boys, his boys, and one of his two daughters coon hunting with the Newcombs' young coon dog, Fern. It being in the Ozark Mountains and all, it was so Where The Red Fern Grows I could hardly stand it. 
Five boys staying up way past their bedtime on a school night.

Fern is a young dog, but a good dog, and she treed a big ole coon. Daniel filled it full of bullets (36 to be exact, he counted the shells) but that coon had stopped in a cradle of branches in the tree and its body stayed wedged there, never falling. No coonskin cap for us.

But Clay's daughter, River, who is almost a teenager and loves coon hunting, found a turtle out there in the woods and gave it to our boys as a memento. Zion named it Evan Pee Rucomb (Rucomb because of our two names, Rupp and Newcomb, and Pee because that turtle peed all the way home in the car.
Evan lived for a few days, until one day he didn't, and then we buried him by a tree in the backyard. Zion marked his grave with these two headstones, spelling the turtle's name a little funny. Looking at this grave made us grownups wonder at life, childhood, death, and every other sweet thing in between.

November 09, 2015


My mom tells me they have Civil War battle reenactments in the North now, too. She said one came through Holland, Michigan recently, and there was even a convincing Abe Lincoln walking through the crowds! Hold on, Mom, that's no reenactment like they have down here. Abe Lincoln would doubtless get booed right off the battlefield if he made an appearance in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. This is where the Rebs are the stars of the show.

And what a show it is.

And just to prove we were there:

When Cousin David wasn't looking, I had this picture taken of me, with the Union soldiers marching in the background. Yes, I wore my "Michigander" shirt on purpose;)

November 04, 2015

War Eagle

There is an artisan fair called War Eagle, to which we like to go whenever we find ourselves in Arkansas in the Fall. One is bound to find some way to blow one's money, whether on funnel cakes and lemonade, handmade soaps, personalized ornaments, or carved wooden spoons. Other than record high temperatures, which turned our shopping day into a bit of a dog day, we had a wonderful time!
Scarecrows and cousins
Momo keeping cool near the water's edge.
Stained glass, mums, and our little girl.
Ms. Allison and Gene, friends forever.
Cute Aunt KK
He was a good sport about it all.
And he managed to get some work done in the shade.

Overpriced snacks.
Overpriced beverages.
Overpriced souvenirs.
Beautiful girls, all three of them.
An artisan named Hank in a leopard print/floral silk shirt? Sure, why not. That's War Eagle.

November 02, 2015

Tractor Treating

Halloween is a bigger deal in the States than I remember it being when I was a kid. In a good way, mostly, though some of the costumes and front yards this year were a bit excessive. I had to laugh when Gene said, "How did a holiday that started out as a bunch of kids dressed up as superheroes become so demonic?" Good question, kid!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our first American Halloween. 

Gene as a ghost, Brave as a skeleton, Zion as a dinosaur, and Jubilee as Elsa. Cousin Eliana is a unicorn.
We found one of PawPaw's flight suits and Daniel let me gel his hair to dress as Top Gun.
Our dear unicorn and pickle accompanied us. (Allison and Wes)
The host and hostess, Philip and Kerry.
MoMo came to the party all the way from Who-ville.
Who knew Maverick had a blue-haired sister?
We tried to think of ways to make her hair white, but a black-haired Elsa is pretty cute, no?
Of COURSE we carved pumpkins. Look at that concentration.
And look what they did!
A six-year-old carved this! Way to go, Jubilee.

Then of course there was trick-or-treating, which in our case was "tractor treating," thanks to Uncle Philip and the blue tractor.

Posing by the blue tractor.
Out of costume.

It was a ghoulish,
foolish time.
Happy Halloween, America.