Please note: All images on this blog (except where noted) are original works of Miki Baxter and cannot be duplicated without permission. Also, if you're inspired by a project featured on here, then please link back to me and give proper credit. Thank you!!!


Lists and Questions

Something you should know about me is: I like lists and questions. I like making lists, not only of the grocery shopping or to do varieties, but lists of favorites, or lists of hope to dos, or lists of clothing items to pack for each day of our vacation. I write down each day, every family member's name, then list the items of clothing they'll need for that day of our vacation. Then I try to pack the items for that day all together as a unit. It's fun to me! Late summer, I start a list of people and possible Christmas gift ideas as well as our Christmas card list, which thankfully has expanded every year with new friends. I also like questions........not necessarily the "why is the sky blue, why are we going to the store, why can't I have the toy, why can't we eat at Chik-Fil-A???..." kind, but thought, provoking questions. One great question I was asked at a church training seminar once was, "If money was no object and you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do?" I'm still working on that one. As a matter of fact, I recently figured out that I will be 52 when my youngest is through with high school. What do I want to have accomplished by 52? What do I want to do with my time then? Career? Travel? What will my 40s look like, or better yet, what do I want my 40s to look like? I had a list in my 20s of things I would like to accomplish before turning 30, and I was surprised at the things I DID actually accomplish on that list. I didn't treat it like a HAVE TO DO List, and these things happened in the course of my life. Very cool! The things I didn't accomplish I planned to move to the next list, things I would like to accomplish before turning 40. Only, I never actually started that list. Hmmm, what are some of those items? Things I would like to do before age 40: Spend quality time in Paris Roam the countryside in England, Ireland, and Tuscany Write a book Be fit Participate in a sporting event Have a photography show at an art gallery Go back to school to finish my degree Have things at home organized to run like clockwork ;-) Those are some of the things on my list, more to be added later. Any suggestions?

Just Listen

At the end of last week, out of the blue, I received an e-mail letting me know that the pastor I worked with in Ethiopia was in town with his wife, about thirty minutes from where I live! I was totally stunned at that bit of news, as I've so recently been writing about my experiences in Ethiopia. The chances of this was a total God thing. So many times in my life, God has remembered occasions, anniversaries, meaningful times by doing something unexpected. He truly cares about the details in our lives and shows us that in big and small ways. Ten years ago, I thought the greatest thing I could do for God was to serve Him on the mission field. And it was an amazing time, with all kinds of wonderful and exciting experiences. But I have to say, that the last nine years as a wife and mother have challenged me spiritually and have also been full of wonderful and exciting experiences. The difference is mainly IN me. I can empathize with others much more now, having experienced: marital harmony and conflict, extended family relations and negotiations, childbirth and parenting, postpartum depression, job successes and losses, six moves in nine years... And I have begun to realize more and more that the greatest thing I can do is walk with God, every day. Welcome Him into my life, talk with Him, share with Him the goings on in my heart, talk about Him, share Him with those around me, every day in the big and small things. He doesn't need these dramatic moments to make Himself known, though those are great too. But God is in the every day. One of my absolute favorite verses in the Bible comes from I Kings 19. Elijah had just experienced a dramatic showdown with the prophets of Baal and got word that Jezebel was going to get him. He got scared and ran. And God sent an angel to take care of him. He ended up in a cave where God spoke to him. "11 And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice." Gentle stillness and a still, small voice. I remember a night when my heart was totally broken and I cried out to God. I was in a room full of people, so I hid my tears and screamed inside. I thought I was going to break. Suddenly, in the midst of this crowd of people who had no idea what was going on in me, the gentle stillness flooded over me. God answered my cry. I had peace. It was so amazing. Our firstborn's name means "God spoke." And He does gently speak to us, willing to share His heart and help us along the way. I need to sit still more often and just listen.


Clothe Yourselves

There I was, in a dusty village far removed from modern conveniences, with only the clothes on my back. I needed at least a clean dress, as I was one of the scheduled speakers at the church conference. A local tailor was recommended, and I walked there escorted by a group of male ministers, earnest in their desire to be of assistance to me. Surprise, surprise, the tailors were all male. They asked me to describe the dress I wanted - what!?! No patterns, no catalog to choose from? And I had to do this all through a translator. A male one. I asked for some paper and sketched a basic empire waisted dress that went down to my ankles. I chose my fabric and was promised that the item would be completed in a few hours. The dress was delivered to my room, and I tried it on. I couldn't even describe all of my feelings as I fought to get that dress on - the bust was tight, the waist was low and the dress ended mid calf. AHHHHHHH! For those of you not in the know, this is the absolute worst kind of dress for most women. Only one with no chest and no hips whatsoever could possibly wear this kind of dress. I last wore one like this in the 70s - when I was in elementary school! And only because my mom made me. And it was the 70s. Eager faces waited outside of my door to find out how the dress was, and I carefully replied that it didn't quite fit. This time I requested that only one person escort me, and we made our way back to the tailor. Without actually pointing to the areas that needed correction (one had to be oh so careful in this ultra conservative place), I tried to describe what needed to be altered. A little while later, the dress was once again delievered. The hem had been let out, so it was longer. The bust area was looser. The waist still fell at an undesirable spot, gathered to kind of poof out. Long sigh. I WAS NOT going through that again. Thankfully, a package was sent through another minister who arrived from the capital city that afternoon. It contained the few outfits I had left behind: 2 skirts, a jacket and top that matched. Not my favorites but better than the 70s polyester nightmare. My comfort and solace was in the Lord. I clung to His Word, wrote of my anguish and struggles in my journal, and the gentle voice of God started to speak to me. I was led to focus in on Colossians 3, particularly verse 12: 12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. The Lord was asking me if I would trust Him and choose His "brand" of clothing. Replacing outfits was easy, but would I go deeper and find fulfillment, comfort and identity His way? Would I first and foremost choose to clothe myself God's way? My answer to God then was yes! And though the remainder of my time in that village still had challenges (intestinal parasites, unending marriage proposals, a huge rat in my bed, bugs, monkeys, deep sorrow at others' circumstances, etc.), I walked in a peace from deep inside and knew God was pleased with me through it all. A decade has passed, and I realize that God has never stopped asking me this question - would I choose His clothing, His ways, His perspective? So often in the last ten years as my role changed from missionary to wife to mother to homeschooling teacher, I have chosen my own garments to identify me, my ways of coping, my limited perspective on all of life's challenges. I have responded my way, not God's way. I found solace and comfort in other things, with other people rather than turning to the One who knows me the deepest. And I wasn't even aware of it. But I also realize that the Lord has still been in charge, allowing circumstances in my life to strip me of these temporal comfort zones over and over. He knows the deepest parts of me and that I could never be satisfied with those things. He calls us all to so much more. Let us encourage one another to put on His clothing and to take off the temporal things that never satisfy. Read Colossians 3:12-17. 12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. 13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony]. 15 And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always]. 16 Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him. Amen.


God bless the Spice Girls

Ten years ago, my closest friends threw a going away party for me as I prepared to leave for the mission field. The theme of the party related to being stripped - spirit, soul, and body - to follow God's call and the challenge of fitting one's life into two suitcases. So I landed in Ethiopia with my two overstuffed suitcases and an equally overstuffed carry on bag. I lived with an Ethiopian family with six children ranging in ages from 22 - 13. After meeting with the elders of the Ethiopian church, it was determined that I should teach a Bible class, English class and the children's choir. God definitely has a sense of humor and enjoys stretching us - twice in my youth, I have actually been laughed off of the stage as I attempted to sing in front of the youth group. Several months later, I was asked to travel with a team to a remote village in western Ethiopia, close to the Sudanese border. A church had been planted there, and the pastor and a team went annually to hold a conference and fellowship with the believers. I stuffed my suitcase with all of my modest missionary clothing (the remote villages were extremely conservative and women had to be very careful), toilet paper, water bottles, and toiletries. We tied all of the luggage onto the roof of the vehicle and took off right after dawn. The traffic was heavy leaving the capital city, but the car was in constant motion. After driving all day through valleys and stretches of wilderness, we arrived at a town that marked our halfway point and discovered that my suitcase was missing from the top of the car. All the other pieces of luggage were intact, the cover was still over them as well as the rope securing them. My huge, green suitcase was gone! The only thing I had with me was a backpack with a walkman, music cassettes, Bible, one water bottle, and a can of Pringles potato chips. At the police station I was told that thieves targeted foreigners and were quite skilled at climbing aboard a slowly moving car and throwing down luggage to their accomplices. We never saw or heard them! And the other cars surrounding us in traffic didn't alert us to what was taking place. All of my clothes were gone - no toiletries and spare contact lenses, no toilet paper and extra water. After taking a cold shower and putting back on my sticky clothes, I curled up on top of the bed with my head resting on my backpack. The occupants in the next room kept me up all night with their laughter and smoky drugs. Tiny hotels in villages also serve as places to get together for drinking, drugs and as a brothel. The situation didn't get much better in the morning as I had to go shopping for undergarments and toiletries with a male Ethiopian pastor. And the shopkeeper was male - oh, the humiliation in discussing underwear and deodorant with two foreign males. Yikes! We embarked on another day of travelling through even more remote areas. I was thrilled to see a group of baboons in the forest that our road navigated through - this was the Africa you see on National Geographic! We arrived at the tiny village, checked into another "hotel" and found a restaurant to take our meals in. One of my consolations throughout that entire trip, besides the closeness of God (which I will talk about in my next blog), was the Spice Girls poster hanging on the wall in that restaurant. In the States I did not like the Spice Girls, I did not listen to the Spice Girls, yet I looked forward to every meal and looking at that poster. The Spice Girls poster became a reminder to me that there was more to life than the current challenges. The Spice Girls reminded me of home and connected me to home in the midst of this yuckiness. God used the Spice Girls to comfort me. For that, God bless the Spice Girls.


Have you met Curious Garg?

I've always enjoyed Curious Garg books, except the one in which he broke his arm. I remember being very concerned about him when I read that as a child. Have you met Curious Garg? This childhood classic was recreated this morning as my five year old read aloud to me while I worked in the kitchen. Curious Garg? In truth, I heard his voice as he read but my mind was elsewhere...and I almost set the kitchen on fire making tea. Ok, so I'm not a huge fan of gas stoves because of the open flame. And sure enough, my tea bag steeping in the teapot caught on fire as it innocently dangled on the side of the teapot. Never mind the fact that it could have happened on an electric stove as well. Really, it was only a very, very small fire. Anyway, I digress. As he worked his way through the reader, "Garg" was the one word that puzzled me until he finally asked me with exasperation, "Mom, what does G-E-O-R-G-E spell?" I guess the story wasn't making much sense to him either, since the main character was nowhere to be found! "It spells George," I replied. "OHHHHHHHHH!!! I read the whole book wrong but am too far to start over now," he responded. Of course I had to tease him about "Garg," and we enjoyed some giggles over that. Have I mentioned that I'm a homeschooling mom? Faith to go to Africa solo was nothing compared to the stretching faith I've clung to ever since I stared homeschooling. It's one thing to be responsible only for yourself but being responsible for the education of several children?! Yikes! I always thought successful homeschooling was for those PATIENT and CALM mommies, who didn't mind having a 6 foot volcano in the middle of the living room. I minded!!! I could go on and on about the qualities I lack, but I won't. Because those really don't matter. They don't. The bottom line is that I believe that God called me to homeschool my children. I believe that it's the best for them for this season of their lives, especially since Sean and I can impart our multi-cultural heritage to the children, including teaching them a foreign language or two while they are young. Homeschooling challenges me to be more disciplined, aware of the world, in the moment with the kids - all good things. And I am learning so much. Do you know off the top of your head the difference between a frog and a toad? I learned that because my daughter was curious. Off to the Internet we went. What an adventure!!! I like curiousity and consider myself quite a curious person..........a Curious Garg, I guess.


Carving Pumpkins in the heat

Today was a lovely, lovely day. The children and I visited a friend to celebrate Fall and to carve pumpkins. In previous years, my eldest and I carved the pumpkin together (because of her age, I did the actual carving while she dictated the designs), but this year she did it all by herself! And her pumpkin had twinkling, slanted eyes, a friendly grin and pigtails, as all girly pumpkins ought to have! Speaking of pumpkins, I am crazy about all things pumpkin..........such as pumpkin lattes, scones, muffins, pancakes, cookies. I normally don't get overly excited about food things, but pumpkin season sends me over the edge! My contribution to our Fall celebration/pumpkin carving day was homemade pumpkin scones, yummmmmmmmmmmm!!! The key to making scones is to not overly mix the batter, though the ingredients do need to be blended. And I usually decrease the amount of sugar in my scone recipes, especially because this recipe has a glaze. I got this recipe from ENJOY!


Why "Beautiful Century???"

Allow me to introduce myself........
I am Beautiful Century. Beautiful Century is the meaning of my name - the Japanese character for "Mi" comes from "Beautiful" and "Ki" comes from "Century," my mother's hope that my life would be meaningful. And long.


Hello, World!

Having thoroughly enjoyed reading several blogs this evening, I am challenged to thus create my own. I miss writing my thoughts, sharing experiences, etc. in this busy season with young children, and this could prove to be therapeutic. Deep sigh and flutter of excitement, as I begin this journey!