Taylor’s E-mail (and the mysterious absence of capital letters)

Tay Below is an e-mail Taylor sent yesterday. I'm posting it for anyone who may not have been included (I'm guessing, based on what I read here, that capitalization is some sort of cultural taboo there. Perhaps they confiscated her "Shift" key at customs). T.

hey everyone!
here's a long email from your beloved taylor..

yesterday jacob, david and i went out to try and find some lunch. we had no idea where we were going, but along the way this guy struck up a conversation with us and his english was so good it barely sounded like he even had an accent. his name is kahlid and he seemed really cool so we invited him to eat with us. he showed us a bookstore with a restaurant on the terrace. i ate the best omelette of my life. kahlid is almost finished with his BA degree. he goes into the remote villages and teaches public school. his job is to talk to families and convince them to send their daughters into the city to get further education. he's also doing a community development project where he buys the supplies for young girls to make handcrafts and then he sends them to a friend in another country that runs a fair trade store! he really wants to come to america and teach arabic. his dream is to get a masters in international relations and work in an asian country. he was super intelligent and had a lot of cool things to say about his country's economic problems and stuff. he was really thankful for us coming here and helping his country. he said, "the help can't just come from outside though, you know? we don't need the peace core, we need our country to be its own peace core." i thought that was well said. we told him it was autumn's birthday that day and he was all pumped to help us find a way to celebrate so he talked to the owner of the restaurant and planned a party!

so last night we had local cuisine and a birthday cake at this place. there was a fire going and live music. the entertainers made autumn get up and dance and they sang happy birthday to her. tod came with us! [Tod is an American living there. Taylor and her fiance', Clayton, struck up a relationship with him over the internet before Taylor even knew she was going there. Tod has been a host to Taylor and her team. T.] it was really good to talk to him more and find out what exactly brought him to live here, hear about his family in the states, and talk to him about our faith. after dinner i was talking with the team and we all agreed that tod looked super sad and depressed. of course, why wouldn't he be? but we feel so helpless to make his situation better. we're going to all lay hands and pray for him at some point. and hopefully we can give him some money. right now he's working for a man in exchange for his work they give him food and a place to stay. besides that he's pretty much broke. his son is living with his wife's parents in rabat, so he barely sees him, which is really hard for him. he's on speaking terms with his wife. they haven't gotten divorced yet or anything, but he's not living with her and her prostitute friend. he's completely in limbo. but hey keeps going. today he took us on a tour of real native areas, not the touristy stuff. he showed us where he lives and also took us to an old palace.

our school leader jen flew in this morning and is visiting us this week. she, along with most of the team, is feeling pretty sick. 3 people are basically bed ridden with horrible sinus problems and chest colds. you can be praying people start feeling better before our village trek where we'll be hiking 8 miles a day in the cold. trying not to think too much about that 🙂 haha.

i love and miss you all!

Chapter-a-Day Esther 9

Vander wells 001 These days are to be remembered and kept by every single generation, every last family, every province and city. These days of Purim must never be neglected among the Jews; the memory of them must never die out among their descendants. Esther 9:28 (MSG)

Any one who follows these posts for very long will find that I'm a sucker for family history. I find so many lessons in knowing about the generations before me. I find strength in my great grandmother's faith. I find inspiration in my great grandfather's lone journey to carve out a new life for himself in America. I find perseverance and character in my grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression, making a good life for themselves and raising honorable families. There are so many lessons to be learned from what they experienced and the choices they made.

The feast of Purim, remembering what Esther did in saving her people, is still celebrated among the Jewish community to this day. The lesson survives to bless subsequent generations. It has been passed down.

How can I pass down to my children and grandchildren the story of God's hand at work   in our family?

Chapter-a-Day Esther 8

InfluenceThen Esther again spoke to the king, falling at his feet, begging with tears to counter the evil of Haman the Agagite and revoke the plan that he had plotted against the Jews. Esther 8:3 (MSG)

In my work, I am often placed in a position of relationship with company executives. They will sometimes lean on me for an honest appraisal of what his happening in their call centers, knowing that what they hear from their subordinates is often tainted by the natural desire to paint a rosy picture for the boss. It also affords me the opportunity to address real issues that are affecting both the customer and the front line Customer Service Representatives. From time to time, I am able to have a quiet conversation that prompts positive changes to company policy or procedure.

"How did you manage that?" I've been asked by front-line employees on different occasions, adding "We've been complaining about that for years and couldn't get anyone to listen!"

As I read this final chapter of Esther, I can't help but think back to Mordecai's words to Esther in the fourth chapter: "Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this." Esther had been put into the perfect position to intercede on behalf of her people, and to influence the only person with the authority to rescind their death sentence.

Sometimes I can make a difference in someone's life by influencing the influencers God places in my path.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand jamin2

Taylor-Made Update

Taylor in Romania Thanks to everyone who has supported Taylor on her mission trip, both financially and with loads of prayer support. Thanks to technology, we've been in regular contact through e-mail and Skype. She is well, her attitude is great, and she will be home in four weeks!!

Her team spent the past couple of weeks working in a children's handicapped center. It made for long days. Her team had to walk each day to a taxi stop 15 minutes from where they were staying. It was a 15-20 minute taxi ride to another taxi stop. Then a 30 minute ride to where they were dropped off and a half-hour walk to the handicapped center where they would work from 9-5. Then the long trek back.

Taylor loved working with the children and I spoke to her on Friday night after they'd said good-bye to the little ones. I could feel the heaviness on her heart.

The team has now safely moved to another city. She said that they are in a hotel that is about $12 a night, but the rooms are very small. She said that, between she and her roommate, their luggage fills up all the available floor space in the room (we're talking moderately sized travel backpacks)! I think she's going to consider her bedroom here at home a luxury suite when she gets back to it!

Taylor had some health concerns the past week or so. I think the strange diet has had some ill effects on her digestive system. An ultrasound and other tests showed no significant problems. She was given some meds to help and seems to be doing better. One of the women from the children's center offered to let Taylor stay in her guest room so she could have some rest apart from her team. I think it did her a world of good.

The team will be in the city for a week, then they strap on their backpacks and head into the mountains where they will travel from village to village for a few weeks before heading home.

Thanks again for your prayers! Taylor certainly feels them.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 7

The gift of friendship. Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor in your eyes, O King, and if it please the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives. Esther 7:3 (MSG)

Over the years, I've stood at many bedsides with people who were fighting for their very lives. I have had the incredible experience of hearing people whisper their last words and have listened as they breathe their final breath on this earth. When the doctors proclaim that a person's condition is terminal, it has a generally sobering effect. People have an entirely different perspective as they stare down the home stretch at the finish line of life's race.

The King offered Esther anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom. The king, arrogantly secure in his health and position, could not imagine any greater gift he could offer other than money, land, wealth, and the power that came with it. What a different perspective Esther had as she pondered the death sentence and genocide she, and her people, faced.

I can learn from both Esther and King Xerxes. With Esther, I am reminded to consider my  own temporal and transient state in this life. As God promises "ask anything, and it will be done," I must do a heart-check to consider the motives behind my requests and desires. With King Xerxes, I'm reminded to consider the things that are in my power to give. I am certainly blessed and try to honor God by blessing others with material and financial gifts. I musn't forget, however, that intangible, life-giving gifts of love, gratitude, encouragement, kindness, gentleness, grace, time, and friendship are worth far more in the Kingdom economy, and they yield much greater returns on investment.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand freebird

Fancy a Spot of Tea on the Thames?

Big Ben. Wendy and I are blessed to have jobs that afford us the opportunity to take time off on relatively short notice (At least, when client deadlines don't have us chained to our laptops). The planets aligned this past week. I heard that there were some great air fares out there that corresponded with a window in our schedule in March and our tax refund.

A few years ago, when we got married, I talked Wendy into getting a passport. She's never traveled out of North America and hasn't needed one. But, my argument went, you never know when we'll have the opportunity to travel. You don't want to be caught with the perfect opportunity to cross the pond only to find yourself without a passport!

So, Wendy's going to get her passport stamped in Great Britain as we travel to London for six days in March. We're pumped. We've secured a rental apartment in the heart of London and are already making plans for the shows we want to see in London's fame theatre district.


Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand neilsingapore

Chapter-a-Day Esther 6

Vwell_50th_granparents_and_kids1_LR "Go and do it," the king said to Haman. "Don't waste another minute. Take the robe and horse and do what you have proposed to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the King's Gate. Don't leave out a single detail of your plan." Esther 6:10 (MSG)

A year and a half ago, my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. It was a great weekend together with the whole family. My siblings and our families took the folks out to eat and spent Friday evening together. On Saturday, we took family pictures in the park and had a big open house at their church for family and friends to join in the celebration. As a gift, we sent the happy couple on a trip to Hawaii, a place they'd always wanted to visit.

Parenting is a life-long journey and, it often seems, there is precious little recognition in the task. This is especially true during the pre-teen to teen years when the reward for your time, energy, love, and provision is often disrespect, disobedience and dishonor. Nevertheless, those parents who honor their children generally find that, eventually, the children honor them. The reward may feel long in coming, but to see your children raised to honorable adulthood and to receive their love and gratitude has got to be a good feeling.

I wonder if Mordecai ever felt a bit cheated when he saved the King's life and received no recognition or reward. I like to think he did the right thing and never gave it a second thought. Either way, God clearly had a plan for Mordecai's reward. It was an outcome that script writers would scarcely dare to write for fear of being blamed for penning a "Hollywood ending" that no one would believe. Still, it's good to know that God has a plan to lift us up at the appropriate time.

Today's story reminded me of another verse from God's message: So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. I Peter 5:6-7 (MSG).

Chapter-a-Day Esther 5

Choose grace. "Queen Esther invited me to a private dinner she gave for the king, just the three of us. And she's invited me to another one tomorrow. But I can't enjoy any of it when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King's Gate." Esther 5:13 (MSG)

There are certain individuals who drive me absolutely crazy. I mean to tell you there are people I can't stand. In fact, I can look back and name off a list of people from childhood to the present day who got under my skin in one way or another. In some cases, like Haman's hatred of Mordecai, I found the object of my frustration disrespectful, insolent and insubordinate. In other cases, there have been individuals who were hurtful to me in some way. Sometimes the reason for my dislike is rooted in personality differences. In still other instances, I can't find a reason for my personal disdain other than a simple "I don't like him."

It is in these day-to-day, interpersonal conflicts that the teaching of Jesus is so critically important. "Love your enemies," "turn the other cheek," and "bless those who curse you," are among the most difficult of Jesus' directives to obey when faced with a person whom we feel so justified in our animosity. We can see, however, in the story of Haman, the tragic ends of unbridled hatred. I must confess that I look at Haman and see my own reflection.

Living out love, forgiveness and grace frees us from an invisible prison of the soul in which our spirit will, otherwise, surely whither into shadow.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand shewatchedthesky

Chapter-a-Day Esther 4

The right man for the job. "Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this."  Esther 4:14 (MSG)

I've been thinking about Presidents this past week as our nation celebrates the presidential inauguration. There have been good presidents and poor presidents. Historians will tell you that Abraham Lincoln was absolutely the right person for the job at precisely the time our country needed him. The same is generally held for a handful of others. God's message to us is that He intercedes in raising rulers to power. So, I often look at the political landscape across the globe and wonder what God is up to.

It has been debated through the years whether the book of Esther should even be included in the Bible. Naysayers point out that God is never mentioned in the book. The name of God is never uttered. But, like the story itself, God is present and actively at work in the story, though the writer never penned his name. Mordecai nailed it when he suggests that, out of all the beautiful girls in Persia, Esther was chosen Queen so that she could save her people from death. She was the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

So, why am I here, God? Why do you have me at this exact place, at this exact time?