Tuesday, January 31, 2012

welcome home, Katie!

with a special friend: Herodia

From across the parking lot Katie waved her arms quickly, almost frantically: apart from the cool demeanor that is our daughter. She motioned us to park and hugged us both. 

The hot Paraguayan summer had kissed Katie's face and styled her hair into the curls I so love. She showed no signs of the 10-hour flight and couldn't stop smiling. She helped her teammates pull hand-carved, 7-foot arrows from a plastic tube and presented one to Bill. "Happy birthday, Dad!" A missionary is born.

Over the weekend Katie introduced us to her three-week missionary journey. The extreme heat, incredible insects, unusual foods and camp-like living conditions didn't discourage Katie from embracing her purpose: to bring the love of Jesus to the Ache people. It appears that she and her team served with a love that only God can provide, one that ignores physical discomfort and lack of American culture and convenience.

Herodia, an 11-year-old beauty, stole Katie's heart. They giggled together every day. Little Chuchugi, a boy of about five, showed up each day for VBS, eager for the games and lessons.

Many children memorized and recited scripture in the barn-like church of Chupapou. The team rewarded them with small prizes, but God's Word is hidden now in their hearts.

The missionary who led the team, Viktor Gomez and his wife Christina, inspired Katie by their tireless dedication to the Ache people. Viktor spent six years learning their language in order to speak God's love into them.

It's good to have you home, Katie. But I'm certain you left a piece of your heart in Chupapou, Paraguay.

a favorite little boy: Chuchugi
Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
Habakkuk 1:5

Tomorrow, another of my girls who's now home!

Monday, January 30, 2012

been sick

Sorry 'bout that. I've been under the weather. A little tickle in the throat last week turned sore and scratchy. By Friday morning I was dragging, and dragged myself out to Indiana to greet our Katie, just in from Paraguay. No way was I gonna miss that!

Friday night and into Saturday, I felt H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E. Between blowing my nose and drinking hot tea, I felt like such a big baby over a COLD. I think my mother did me no service by dubbing me "healthy as a horse" all my growing up years. I'm just no good at being sick and doing nothing.
Much better now. Head clearing, less coughing and looking at my calendar. Funny how when you're sick, you just ignore your calendar?

Whew. Good to be back. Tomorrow: welcome home!

Friday, January 27, 2012


We just talked with Katie ... her mission team has landed in Detroit! The flight from Brazil was uncrowded, allowing the kids space to spread out and sleep.

We'll see her this afternoon and bring her home for the weekend. When she isn't sleeping, it'll be wonderful to hear of her three weeks of ministry.

So thankful!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

happy birthday, Dan-the-man!

Twenty-seven years ago our son Dan joined us on a snowy January night in Defiance, Ohio. We'd only lived there a month and knew almost no one. A kind next-door neighbor kept David all day on January 26. Once home, I settled in for a couple of frigid months, caring for two babies while Bill got his business started. Intense!

As he grew, we nicknamed him Dan-the-Man. What little boy isn't eager to become a man? He had spunk: life was never dull with Dan around!

not-quite-the-man 1986

It's a funny parallel: Dan's starting in the very same business now, with a wife and two babies counting on him. He's Dan-the-Man alright. And a fine husband, dad, son and brother, too.

Wishing you a very happy birthday, Dan, with love!

Dan with his girls

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the four winds

Glacier National Park, Montana, 1998
 About the time this photo was taken, 13 years ago, I began wondering what life would be like when the kids were grown. "Oh," I'd joke, "they'll probably live in four different corners of the country!" And while that isn't quite the case, it sometimes nearly feels like it. I held an unrealistic expectation that Bill and I would fly here and there and visit the kids on a whim. Completely naive, I didn't take into account that sometimes, with four kids (now six, with the daughters-in-love) and two parents, the math just won't work.

Take February, for example. Our third grandchild is due during the first week of the month, so we're for sure sticking close to home for that. David, our oldest, just bought his first house in Florida, and we'd love to go help him with settling in. But that's on a time crunch, since his job takes him away for spring training, beginning the third week in February. And don'tcha know, no sooner would we board a plane for Florida ... Jill would go into labor!

Then during the last weekend in February, Katie has her senior photography show in Indiana, which we wouldn't miss for the world. Also that weekend, Dan's in a wedding here, so we'll want to be around to visit with him a bit.

If you've been reading this month, you know our Katie's in Paraguay, mission-ing to her heart's content. People have asked me: "Don't you want your kids closer to you?" Why yes, I do. Quick lunches after church and more frequent time with granddaughters would be wonderful.

But raising children is like trying to tame the wind, you know? It blows where it will, coming and going. We chose to have four children and we encourage their independence and opportunities. They "blow where they may" and that means we don't see them as often as we'd like.
But when at last the reunions happen, how incredibly sweet!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Moved. That's what I am. In reading the posts from other Lighthouse mission teams, I am moved to witness transformed hearts. What joy to see college kids serving others joyfully, tirelessly. The Ethiopia team, working alongside Project Mercy, heads home today. One of its members wrote this:

“I have started thinking about how I will be or want to be different when I get home. The thing that hit me last night was that my needs are smaller here, and I hope they stay smaller when I get home. Simple things like food I am seeing from a different perspective. At the DC [dining commons on campus], we are offered so much. We waste much of it, but the thing that hit me is how much we eat beyond what we need. There is nothing wrong with enjoying what you eat and eating your fill, but our concept of “full” is skewed. Thinking through needs, especially with food, brings up the idea of “enough” in my mind. In America, at home, at school, we have enough. Even when we look at the food we are blessed to have on our shelves and say, “There is nothing to eat,” because it doesn’t happen to be what we want, we still have enough.”

As I read posts from the various teams, I am humbled. These 20 and 21-year-olds are God's hands and feet, and especially His heart. They have been affirmed of God's absolute goodness and provision. As they find their place in the world, they are examining their motivations and passions as young believers. It's pretty darned exciting if you ask me.

I'm getting excited to see our Katie this Friday, and what she's brought home from Paraguay. Not in her suitcase, but in her heart.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

Saturday, January 21, 2012

on the home stretch in Chupapou, Paraguay

While Katie's mission team had a one-night break in a neighboring town this week (hotel cost: a whopping $10 per night!), we received a short e-mail from Katie, but also the team leader has updated us as she can. From two days ago:

Team leader Taylor Ehrhard called a little while ago and said that the team is doing well! The team has been busy in the Aché community of Chupapou building bathrooms and getting to know the people there. She also mentioned that a family who is visiting the community is recording some of the Aché’s music, so a few of the more “musically-gifted” team members are helping out with the music project. What an unexpected and unique service opportunity that will have a lasting impact on the culture there!

I'm curious to know whether or not Katie joined the music project. She does have musical gifts, but doesn't always let others know it. God wants us to "open" our gifts, I always told my kids!

It's very hot in Paraguay ... it will take some adjustment for the team to come home to temps that are 80-plus degrees colder! They might even miss the bugs and sleeping on the floor.

But more challenging, I imagine, will be that they must leave new friends among the Aché they have grown to love. I'm praying these final days will be full with the richness of serving God in Paraguay.

(Check out updates from all the Taylor University Lighthouse teams here.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

where have all the birthdays gone?

I used to be a madwoman this time of year. Bill and I gave no thought to the timing of our children and piled up three kids right after our January birthdays. So, right on the heels of Christmas and New Year's, we celebrated a birthday about every ten days for seven weeks. Utterly insane.

Since my birthday is first in the line-up, we'd finish that, then Bill and Dan in January, and Mark and Katie in February. No, we never did a "group birthday." What kid wants that? Each received the celebration due him or her, though I finally put my foot down about friend parties: only on alternate years.

I could never plan/shop/prepare for the parties all at once. My mind doesn't work that way. So, just as the last crumbs of one cake were finished, it was time to bake another. And another. And another.

I do remember a fun sledding party for Dan one year at the end of January. His friends all brought their sleds and we headed to the state park, toting hot chocolate and hot dogs to roast over a fire. Super-fun.

Dan (far right) celebrating his 9th birthday in 1994
For all my whining during those years, now I kinda miss all the birthday chaos. All I do is buy a card, write a check, bake some cookies, and drop them in the mail. Sigh. The grass is always greener, isn't it?

Of course, Ari was born on New Year's Day and the upcoming baby is due on Mark's birthday. We Hallers just love winter birthdays!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man.
Proverbs 27:13

My good friend and sister blogger, Karen Dawkins, commented that she's praying for Katie's amazing heart. (As she serves in Paraguay.) I appreciate Karen's kind comment and it started me thinking.

As my children came along, I prayed a prayer for them that went something like this:

"God, good grades and trophies and athletic ability are all good, but it's not the main desire for my children. Give them the courage to always speak the truth and to be humble. I ask you to grow faithful and servant's hearts in them. Make them people after your heart, Lord. Let them hurt for the lowly and give to the needy. Give them the passion to be a friend to those with none. Give them words to encourage and build up others."

God has a lot to say about the heart. He zeroes in on it over and over throughout scripture, due to the fact that without a change of heart, we cannot have a relationship with Him. I tend to love the world and all it offers, but John tells me that all this will pass away. Instead, I'm called to love and obey only God. (1 John 2:15-17) A change of heart is in order!

A quiet, introspective young woman like Katie would not choose to spend three weeks in extreme heat with no hot showers or other conveniences, and work with people whose language she doesn't speak unless her heart was set on a higher purpose. How thankful I am that I prayed for my children's hearts. And that God is honoring my prayers.

... set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:1

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

yay: from Paraguay!

Yeah, yeah, I know I preached on the virtues of letting go of kids earlier. How I wouldn't have contact with Katie in Paraguay this month. But what do you know, she got internet access for a few hours last night and we received an e-mail. Loved it!

Mission work is suiting Katie well. She reports that the team is bonding with the children and building relationships with the Ache adults. The host missionary, Victor, is helpful and talented and speaks several languages. It's hot in Paraguay, but there's plenty of shade. Not too many bug bites. She was getting her first hot shower last night!

Finally, "happy birthday, Dad. I love you all and hope you're having a great January!"

Well. I know my girl is having the best January of her life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

the dance

My third - wow, third - granddaughter is due in about three weeks! I'm getting very excited to meet her, and see Jill and my son become parents, too.

Since Ari and Ashlyn live in North Carolina, it'll be a new experience to live close to a grandchild. Grandmas (and grandpas) have to learn their roles, a sort of dance of how much to be involved. I want to be a help, but not an intrusion. It'll be fun to offer support, but not overbearingly so.   When David, our first, was born, Bill's mom flew down for a few days. What a perfect help she was, mostly cooking and cleaning while I cared for David. I'll take a cue from her.

Mark and Jill will need space to get to know their baby, and how to be parents. How to diaper. How to hold, rock, sway and comfort her. How to get by on less sleep. And in no time, they'll be in love with their little girl. They'll do just fine, I'm sure of it.

Two years ago: January 2010. One of my first - and favorite - photos with Ari.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy birthday to my king!

My love,

Happy birthday! You've always shared the day with Martin Luther King, but you are MY king! You'll be laughing at that ... I know I don't always show it. But I respect your solid leadership in our family...

- smart, yet humble
- determined, yet flexible
- tough, but tender and compassionate
- faithful to God
- committed, honorable and loving

Have a happy birthday on this cold January day. I love you and am so thankful for you, Bill!

p.s. Yeah, I know our hair is messed up in this photo, but I like it anyway. Taken by Katie at the old lighthouse!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

wonderful words from Paraguay

Surprising, wonderful words from the southern hemisphere! The team in Paraguay was pleasantly surprised to get some internet access. This email arrived this morning, written by one of Katie's teammates. It helps me picture how they are and what they're doing! Here we go ...

Today is day five in Chupapou. This week has been busy with construction work on the the bathrooms, VBS with the kids, and night services with the community. We have all been connecting with the kids and attempting to learn some Aché so that we can talk to them. Most of us run around speaking a combination of English, Spanish, Aché, and giggles, which the kids seem to understand pretty well. On the downside, we have met a lot of large insects and frogs…

Before we arrived in our village, we spent a few days in Naranjal, at the house of Victor, our host missionary. There we made plans for our time in the village, got to know the family and the Argentinian translators who are working with us, and spent a day at Iguazu Falls (which was way bigger than Niagara!). It was a good time to bond as a team and get accustomed to the culture so we could better serve in in our village.

We also had an opportunity to visit two other Aché villages, Puerta Bara and Ypetimi, to prepare us for our time in Chupapou. We went to a church service in Ypetimi and had the privilege of worshiping with the people and taking communion with them. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that their prayer for us was one of the most moving things things I have ever experienced. We could not understand the words, but their passion for the Lord and joy that we were going to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ in Chupapou was evident to all of us. It was really a beautiful moment, and we were so thankful to have experienced it.

We have about ten days left in our village, and are excited to continue to serve and build relationships with the people as we encourage them in their walk with Jesus. Please pray for continued patience with the language barrier, health and safety for our team, and hearts focused solely on serving the Lord and following where He leads us.

Friday, January 13, 2012

120 degrees!

Only a little news from Paraguay has trickled in this week, where my daughter Katie's on a mission trip. The team made it safely to Chupapou on Tuesday, where they will minister for two weeks. It was about a 7-hour drive and probably not the best of roads. Their accomodations are "better than expected," which Katie thought would be mats on the floor of a building, so not sure about that.

Yesterday we received word that the temperature had reached 120 degrees. And also something about lice ... Wow. It takes intentional prayer to focus on the team's ministry rather than the challenging living conditions. I pray that their VBS with the children is well-received and goes smoothly. That they'll have the strength to carry out the physical tasks before them. That the team is connecting with the Aché and communicating the love of God effectively. And that everyone stays healthy and hydrated!

If you'd like to keep up with the team's updates, as well as the other Lighthouse teams, go to this site.

... how can they hear without someone preaching to them? John 10:14

Also ... happy birthday today to a special friend, Pat Power. Love you, Pat!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I usually only get lost in a book in the summertime. You know, a book that might take a chapter or two before you're hooked. You read in bed and finally fall asleep. The next day, you read instead of cleaning bathrooms and dinner's late, too. By the middle of the book, you read hungrily until your eyes hurt. You look at the clock and it's 1:15 a.m.

Such was the case for me with Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. The story follows a fictional character, 10-year-old Sarah, a Jewish girl caught in the roundup of thousands of Jews in 1942 Paris. Parallel to her story is a modern-day journalist who uncovers Sarah's tragic journey.

I started reading over the weekend. By Sunday night the story had me, and I roared through it on Monday and Tuesday. Now I have just a few more pages.

Getting lost in a good book. It's altogether maddening and wonderful and sad when it ends, like a good friend moving away.

What book has captured you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the grinder

From the time I could peer over the edge of the kitchen counter, I'd watch Mom grind with this grinder, tomato juice dripping onto newspapers spread on the floor. This little beauty has been in my kitchen for over 30 years. And it was in my mother's kitchen for almost 30 years, too.

I only saw Mom use it for grinding two things: green tomatoes and ham. She ground green tomatoes and onions in the summertime for tomato relish, which my dad and older brother absolutely loved on black-eyed peas.

Then, after Christmas or Easter, the leftover ham was ground up for ham salad. And honestly, that's the sole reason I hang onto the grinder. We like a little ham salad now and then.

I don't know if the grinder was handed down from my grandmother or perhaps was a wedding gift to Mom in 1950. While it's a bit clunky to pull out and clamp onto the counter, there's something comforting and loving about using it as my mother did many years ago, my hand grasping the wooden handle, smooth from decades of use.

I might not have a huge Kitchen Aid mixer or other trendy gadgets, but somehow my kitchen seems complete.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

look among the nations

Here's the Paraguay Lighthouse team 2012!
Katie's in the second row, second from the right.

Take a moment, look at each of these young, excited faces. They are giving three weeks of their lives in a hot South American land, taking the good news of Christ to the Aché, a people who only recently gained access to God's word in their native language.

The team will serve for three weeks, but the fruit of their ministry might not be known for a long time. I pray for them. For strength, conviction, and hearts and hands intent on serving.

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.  Habakkuk 1:5

Monday, January 9, 2012

news from Paraguay!

I'll admit I've been a little anxious to receive some news from Katie's Lighthouse mission team in Paraguay. All I knew is that they'd safely arrived on Thursday. An email came in this afternoon with good updates!

The photos here are of Iguazu Falls, which the team visited on Saturday. They are taller than Niagara Falls and more than double the width. And they're in Argentina!

Here's the latest:

[Team leader] Taylor Ehrhard called a little while ago with a team update. The past few days have been good. The team visited an Aché community called Puerto Barra Friday and Iguazu Falls on Saturday. Yesterday they went to church in the morning at the Ypetimí Aché community and had a meaningful time. The Aché there prayed for the team with hugs and emotion; they are excited that the team wants to help their fellow Aché in Chupapou. Last night the team went to church in Naranjal, the small Paraguayan town where they have been staying; it is also the LETRA Paraguay Bible translation headquarters. It is very hot (upper 90s).

This morning their host Victor Gomez gave them an overview of the translation project and orientation on Chupapou, to which they are headed tomorrow. It will be approx. a 6-7 hour drive. The road conditions should be good as there has been a lack of rain and the dirt roads should be passable. Today they are preparing in more detail for VBS and other teaching and ministry they will lead.

Praises include that the team is healthy and doing well, they have a great attitude and maturity according to the leaders, and they have appreciated the time to get organized/acclimated prior to starting the ministry.

Prayer requests include tomorrow’s travel, continued good health, and their initial entry into Chupapou to go well so that they can build good relationships with the people.

I'm so excited for Katie and her team. Thanks to so many for your prayers and support! It sounds like tomorrow will be a rigorous day. I continue to pray for effective ministry, God's provision of every need, and the health and safety of the entire team.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

is it spring yet?

Good grief we are having crazy weather. I haven't commented much on the weather lately. (You're welcome.) Maybe because I'm too busy. And maybe because it hasn't turned horrible. Yet.

Yesterday and today the sun shone!  Love, LOVE the sun to shine, which doesn't happen enough here in the midwest. Not only that, temps were in the low 50's. Positively balmy. Car-washing weather. Dog-walking weather. Just step out in the driveway and point your face to the sun weather!

But. It's only January 7. That's just two weeks into winter with lots more to go. And the Farmer's Almanac (online Farmer's Almanac, wowee!) predicts some hefty precipitation and average temps in these parts. I figure that right about the time Jill delivers our newest granddaughter, the snow will begin. And our son Mark, the baby's daddy, will head out to plow since that's part of his winter work. Oh gracious, we shall see.

Meantime, my boots are in the closet this early January day. De-lightful.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas? cards

I find writing Christmas cards a complete pleasure. Always have. It's such a blessing to write a note to each person on our list, letting them know we're thinking of them.

This year's "Christmas" card is more of a new year's card. Since our family had not been all together for a year, I had to wait on the photo until Christmas. Techinically, December 26. That set me to wondering, should our card be just from Bill and me? The kids are grown, and except for Katie in college, on their own. In light of yesterday's post, am I holding on too tightly?

Well, we're still family. And I love the annual photo of us on our Christmas card. So as long as I can possibly orchestrate one, there'll be a family photo for our card.

Busy weekend ahead ... writing cards!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

don't phone home!

I spent my college summers working at camps and directed a camp for one summer. One of the most challenging aspects of camp was ... parents! I would overhear a mother saying to her sad-faced daughter, "now if you get too homesick, just call me." Arrgghhh! Pretty much the worst thing for a homesick child is to talk with mom. As camp staff, we were trained in helping children push through their homesickness. I have experienced homesickness and it's awful. But most of the time, a child will get busy with camp fun and overcome her homesickness.

Some parents don't get past this tendency to want constant contact with their kids. They leave for college, and mom is calling, emailing or texting daily. Believe me, I wanted to know how my kids were doing at college in the worst way. (Especially the first one.) But experience has taught me that once a child leaves home, he needs time and space away from us to become the independent young adult we desire. Like it or not, I'm not going to be privvy to every move my son or daughter makes. And, I believe stepping back is a vote of confidence in showing my child that s/he will manage just fine.

I haven't perfected this, but I've decided that parenthood is a process of learning to let go of our children. It begins when they are small, with tiny but intentional steps. The parent who gets "stuck" and won't move forward in releasing her children might face difficulty down the road.

My daughter Katie spent her first freshman semester in Ireland and we talked with her maybe 4 times. It was a little tough for me, but she was doing spectacularly well, loving every minute of her adventure. Today she flew to Paraguay for a month-long mission trip and I probably won't talk with her at all.

We talk about wanting our kids to grow up, but I think parents have some growing up to do, too.

Katie in Ireland - 2008

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

birthday season!

We're entering birthday season!

For most of my life, I've dreamed of changing my birthday from January 3 to July 3. Swimming parties! No school! My family does a good job celebrating, but face it: it's an effort. Following Christmas and New Year's, most of us are ready for a break from celebrating. We're partied out, spent out and worn out.

As a kid, if I wasn't headed back to school on my birthday, I was helping take down Christmas decorations. And there was the year I was a freshman in college and we were moving on my birthday. My mom forgot my birthday! Wow, cool.

Yesterday, my children called me, my hubby bought a cake, and we went out to dinner with Mark and Jill. It was nice. It's just that we're all heaving a sigh of relief after the holidays. And by the way, it's not just my birthday. My husband, granddaughter and one son are also January babies. And two more children plus our soon-to-arrive granddaughter are in February. That's a lot of cake.

Our granddaughter Ari is a New Year's baby, so she and I can comiserate. I'll try to be upbeat about our first-of-the-year birthdays; I'm sure Ari will have a better attitude than me!

When's your birthday? Do you like when it is? (Pardon the lousy grammar.) Why or why not?

Monday, January 2, 2012

off to Paraguay!

New year, new adventures for our family. Our daughter Katie heads back to her campus in Indiana, Taylor University today, but only for one day before she boards a flight - several flights - for Paraguay! She's part of a Lighthouse team through Taylor, who will spend their January term on international mission trips. Two of Katie's brothers also went on Lighthouse trips: to Thailand and Poland.

Katie's super-excited about this experience, where she will serve the Ache people, who until 40 years ago were a primitive jungle people. You can read updates on the team and their mission, as well as the other Lighthouse teams here.

Thanks to those of you who have donated funds and supplies to Katie's mission. Most of all, we pray for the team's safety, provision, and effective ministry. We're proud of you, Katie. Have a wonderful three weeks!

Katie with her niece, Ashlyn.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 and Ari's two!

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday Ari ...
they go hand in hand forever. My first granddaughter, Ari, turns two years old today.

It's really tough to get a good photo of a two-year-old since she is in perpetual motion, but here are a few Katie got over Christmas. They capture Ari's playful silliness and energy. Her personality's emerging more and more and I love it. Happy birthday, my impish Ari. We have lots of fun years ahead!

(photos by Katie Haller)