Family Minimalist Misfit Missionary Parenting Patience Perspective Thankful The little things

The Pen

One of the hardest things to do when you’re told what to do, is to do it.

My youngest daughter, Andreya, is 12 years old. She has been doing internet school with Northstar Christian Academy for three years now; she’s an excellent student and a quick learner. There are times when I watch her work that I wonder, what was I doing at her age? I think we had the four-color Bic© pens (red, blue, green and black) that were marks of being uber-cool back in the day. When those went out of style, I remember distinctly a folder called the Trapper Keeper© that only the coolest of the cool kids had in their lockers.

Needless to say I was not one of those cool kids.

Coming from an Finnish immigrant family background, we thrived on frugal living and rarely wasted precious resources on multi-color pens and fancy folders. At the time, being a first-generation Finn, I appreciated both sides of the coin. I knew Mom and Dad hated waste and thus, I managed to hide my brown-bag lunches of Finnish Rye bread with cucumbers and ham (a delicacy for me today) from the cool kids metal lunchboxes with their thermoses filled with Spaghetti-Os©. How I envied those those Spaghetti-Os©!

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Since lunch was the shortest period of the day, I usually managed to hide my lunch and remain generally unscathed from the mocking of any of my peers. It was my simple #2 pencil, blue pen and plain paper folder that got me into trouble. Why couldn’t I fit in and carry the newest and shiniest?

One evening, after a meal of thoroughly Finnish fare, I gathered the courage to ask for the coveted Bic© pen and Trapper Keeper© folder. Prepared for the worst, I steeled my nerves for the expected lecture of why we can’t buy such things. Instead, I was met with gentle explanations of why, in the middle of the school year, we just couldn’t afford to purchase new school suplies. Everything that was listed in the supply list had already been purchased, we couldn’t do anything this year…but…maybe next year.

While I was disappointed, I left the table without as much as a word knowing any pleading would then be met with sternness as my parents were “old school.” Once they said their mind, that was it and I knew it.

On the bus as I made my way to school the next day, with my plain supplies in tow, I envied all of the other kids with their brightly-colored backpacks, lunch boxes and multi-colored pens. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks when my friend Barbara once again asked why my things were so “old fashioned.” I changed the subject.

The weeks rocked on and by the second half of the year, due to the many problems these pens and folders were causing among the students, the school came out with a new set of guidelines requiring students to return to plain pens, pencils and folders. Suddenly, I was in the “in crowd” without even trying. The day this was announced in school, a collective, and painful, sigh was heard throughout the campus.

Later on that evening, at another fully-Finnish dinner complete with short, Scandinavian glasses filled with milk, I explained what had happened to my parents. I clearly didn’t think things through for upon hearing this news, they proceeded to carry on about the importance of keeping things simple for what felt like (to my 10 year old ears) an eternity. My ears only perked up when they praised me for not resisting their decision months earlier to not purchase the envied supplies.

Looking at my daughter now studying for her Science test on Ecosystems, I value the simplicity our life here in Africa gives us. She sometimes bucks the system and wishes for McDonald’s© fries and going to Claire’s© to buy tween jewelry, but she generally goes with the flow.

Thanks, Äiti and Isä (Mom and Dad) for keeping it simple. In today’s life of quarantines and closed airports, it has meant more to me than I could have ever known.

I didn’t need the pens or folders anyway.

P.S. – Andreya got a 100% on her Science test.

Choices The little things

Foxes and Flies



Enough already!

I’m sure you could chime in with me with what you’re going through. It’s enough!

If I have to wake up to no water coming out of the taps and face another pile of unwashed clothes… I’ll do what I’ve always done: make some under-my-breath comments and carry on. Then, I’ll give my husband “that” look meaning, “Find water now or the consequences will be grave.” In no time at all, “that” look brings me water for washing two days’ worth of dirty dishes, but not quite enough for the dirty laundry. I’m holding out hope that the water will come on and that, by grace and mercy, the power will still be on so I can wash the clothes in the machine.

After 5 days without water, it finally did come back on and the power did stay on long enough for me to catch up with the laundry. A little means more than we think; we take the small things of life that keep it running for granted. We take a small thing that we always have at our disposal, water, for granted, until it’s turned off!

Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJ Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.”

It doesn’t take much for life to be interrupted by a very small detail that normally goes unnoticed. Once, I went to start our car and it proceeded to do nothing. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t transport anything or anyone – I was stranded. The long and short of it was that a small part in the starter needed replacing (of course the small part alone wasn’t available requiring us to buy a whole new starter). That part goes largely unnoticed until it is no longer functioning. Then, the entire vehicle was affected which, in turn, turned my day upside down.

Ecclesiastes 10:1 NKJ Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.”


Flies, seemingly innocuous creatures, are not as harmless as we might think. They can carry disease and there are flies that can (and do) lay their eggs anywhere they find that is convenient for them. They are opportunistic creatures and we give them a lot of opportunity. There’s a certain type of fly here in parts Africa that will lay its eggs on laundry that has been hung out to dry. Once you wear the clothes that were out on the laundry line, those eggs can get embedded into your skin. In time those eggs then hatch into maggots underneath your skin. The way to prevent having those eggs embed into your skin is to dry them in the dryer (if you have one) or iron them. If you don’t iron or dry your clothes in a dryer, you are risking an encounter with maggots – which is disgusting and extremely uncomfortable.

In every country I have worked in, I have asked residents if there are these types of flies present. Initially in Burundi, a neighbor told me that she’s never had an issue with them and hung out her laundry regularly without a worry. For a few years, I did the same, not ironing all of our laundry until one day my little boy (who was about 2 at the time) complained of painful bumps on his back. Indeed, there appeared to be some insect bites on his back, to which I applied some antibiotic cream. After another day or two, he began crying loudly that it was painful so off to the doctor’s we went. As he examined my son, the doctor asked, “Did you know that there’s a certain fly…” My baby had 9 maggots growing underneath the skin on his back and I watched in horror as the doctor removed them and prescribed some antibiotics to take to prevent any infection.

My neighbor was wrong. While our family went some time without any trouble with these flies, there obviously were flies in the area. We let the flies in without knowing it and it was a horrible lesson to have to learn.

The small things in life that don’t seem to be important are often what cause the big gears of life to turn. Interrupt the flow of one of these important small details and the entire machine may pack up and stop in its tracks. The dead flies have fallen into the ointment and caused it to putrefy.

Where have the dead flies landed in our lives? Where have the little foxes come in? In our relationships with God? In our relationships with our spouses, children? In our health? The knock-off effects of allowing the flies in putrefies us and can, in the long run, bring us to a sudden and definite halt.

Close the doors to the little foxes and the flies. They might seem harmless but let me assure you, they are up to no good.

Enough already with the foxes and flies!