Caesar Gives Back

As Eric and I planned out our finances for the end of residency and our summer of traveling before our Kenya departure, we were banking on selling the house to meet our financial needs and pay for our expenses. Months have gone by without the house selling, which is another story, but we are learning some important lessons about how God will still meet our needs. God has been providing for us in some pretty astounding ways this summer, and we just wanted to take a minute to share one of the stories of His faithfulness with everyone.

I, Rachel, do our taxes every year using some online programs, which have always worked well for us. Imagine my surprise when a letter showed up this April from the IRS, stating that we owed the US Government $19,000 in taxes and fines. I just about had a heart attack right then and there. Turns out we had transferred some money from one mutual funds account to another in 2007, effectively selling one set of stock and purchasing another. I entered the amount of capitol gains that we made on the transaction, a small sum, and we paid taxes for that amount. But the IRS saw the amount of the stock sold, and thought that should be the amount to pay taxes on (obviously a larger amount). Thanks to a good friend of ours, who's an accountant, we fixed our snafu and mailed in the corrected form to the IRS.

Several weeks ago we got a reply from the IRS stating that they reviewed the situation and agree with the corrected form. Praise God! What was really amazing, though, was that the letter continued: they also decided that based on this new information that they owe us a refund of over $700. Our financial needs continue to be met in the most unexpected of ways, strengthening our faith in God and our reliance on Him. It reminded me of the passage in Matthew 22 which states "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Every year on April 15th we render our taxes to "Caesar," and this year, through God's mighty provision, Caesar gave back.


Alligator, Simmered in Coffee

We have been blessed with many gifts from people as we prepare to leave for Africa, but we just received one of the coolest ones (and probably most practical) this week. Some good friends of ours, Dave and Becky Durham, aka Eric's sister Sami's inlaws, invited us over to lunch and presented us with a Wycliffe cookbook. For those of you who don't know Wycliffe, it's a Bible translation organization that sends missionaries to the far corners of the Earth to translate the Bible into every tongue. This usually results in the missionaries travelling to rather remote, primitive locations. For those of you know don't know Dave and Becky, they were missionaries to Western Europe for a number of years, and currently reside in Nashville. Dave's blog on many different cultural lessons and observations can be found here.

Anyway, they used this cookbook while they were over in Europe, and the benefit is that all the recipes feature easily obtained (relatively so) ingredients for people living overseas. None of the recipes involve canned foods or mixes (as in, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, or add a yellow cake mix). It also contains a number of more exotic recipes and tips. Our favorite so far is learning that if your alligator meat tastes too "gamey", you can simmer it in strong coffee for 6 hours to improve the flavor. Or another useful tip, green papaya can be used as a meat tenderizer. It's sort of like MacGyver cooking. Thanks for such a fun gift, Dave and Becky!


Old School

Last Saturday, there was a gathering that had not happened in an age, namely a group of Eric's high school friends got together and enjoyed each other's company down on Farmer Justin's land south of Murfreesboro. (Yup, he's a farmer now)

Just a couple observations, then the pictures, which is what everyone wants to see:

1. Lots of kids. You can stop counting after a dozen, plus the 4 in the womb.

2. It was great. These reunions of old friends are guaranteed to have a sense of the surreal, but the amount of pure enjoyment is usually up for grabs, to some degree. But this was just a great time, sort of like Christmas. Gift after gift, all in one place and time.

Without further ado: Above is Justin and Wendy Steidinger, with their 4 chilluns, Dave and Victoria Mason with their 4 (and twin boys in the cooker), Greg and Claire Creasey (with 1 on the way, and Melanie Barnett. Below is Isaac and Stephanie Meek, without their 2 girls, who were with the babysitter, but with their own baby Maggie due any day. Also, Kendra and Josh Parker, and their own tribe. Thanks to all who came, and especially to the Steidingers for hosting.

Maggie Meets The Workmans

Our friends, the Workmans, proprietors of the Aces Wild Blog, got to meet Maggie, and put up some fun pictures and commentary of the event. Click here.



We are loved. And we, of course, know this, and not just on special occassions. However, there are times when it becomes even more obvious. And we have special gratitude to the Belmont Church lunch bunch who, despite our rare appearances in Tennessee since they threw us a wedding shower almost four years ago, wanted to throw us a baby "soiree", and have some time to hear about our Africa plans.

We had a wonderful time, and we are thankful for the part you play in our friendships and in our church home. Special thanks to our fearless hostess, pictured below (husband not included).

The Book of the Dun Cow

This is not a review for our periodic book reviews for a publishing company on our blog. Every once in a while, when I read something really fantastic, I just want to share it with people, and though it may feel like this happens often, I think the last time was Blue Like Jazz. But "The Book of the Dun Cow" will also be added to our recommended reading list.
"The Book of the Dun Cow" was published in the late seventies by Walter Wangerin, Jr, whom some people may know from "The Ragman" fame. I had been hearing more about this guy, especially from The Rabbit Room, and finally picked up Dun Cow from the library.
One reviewer described it as a cross between Lord of the Rings and Animal Farm. The Animal Farm part is easy, because it has talking animals. Done. But despite the lack of wizards, elves, dwarves, magic objects, or scenery more spectacular than a chicken coop and a river, it definitely is reminiscent of Tolkien.
Why? Because of the nobility of its themes, I think. And because, for all their mighty deeds in the end, the greatest strength the characters have, in their struggle against evil, is a plain life full of ordinary goodness.
I have gone back and forth as to whether the nobility of the story is increased or degraded by the fact that the main hero is a chicken. (Or rather a lordly Rooster, who would never let himself be called a mere chicken, but nevertheless...) In the end, the nobility may be unchanged, but it is certainly more memorable for this distinction.
Virtue, strength, leadership, sorrow, and a dog with a giant nose who can run like the wind. But don't take my word for it!



Finally, when I got to Tennessee (my first trip!), I got to meet the last of my (Daddy's immediate) family. I saw Uncle Jonathan (you know, the one married to Aunt Mariah) just briefly before he went on vacation, but I was pretty sleepy. I'm looking forward to seeing them more in a few days.

Then, later than night, Aunt Jena and Chunkle Brian came over and we had a great time. Chunkle Brian and Chunkle Jonathan (you know, the one married to Aunt Sami) played guitar and sang with my Daddy and it was great! Hopefully, their awesome band, Concerning Lions, will play a concert while I'm in town.

What? You think "Chunkle" is a weird name? Well, it's not quite as random as it seems, since I guess these two Chunkles of mine grew up together, and called each other "Chother" (like "ea-ch other"). So they became my chunkles, and it makes for a good way to distinguish Uncle Jonathan from Chunkle Jonathan.

Yeah, they are weird, but I love them anyway, since one only has so many chunkles in this life.

Tribute to the Friends

This summer, we're getting some great time to spend with family before departing these shores, but also time with friends, old and new, as well. We'll post them randomly as we go along. Before leaving Ann Arbor, we had a little residency-end celebration with Eric's class, pictured here (sans Caroline, who was in England).

And actually our first mini-stop, prior to the Missouri family reunion was a blissfully coincidental mini-reunion in West Michigan, with Basts, the Dykstras, and Miriam Bott (not in picture). We played mini-horseshoes, and played with mini-children. It was great.

More to come...


Senechal Family Reunion

When I was growing up, I was maybe one of the only kids I knew that got excited about going to family reunions. My mom grew up a #5/6 out of 7 kids (she's a twin), and all of her siblings moved from upstate NY to Nebraska for college, got a teaching degree, married teachers (or pastors), and then had kids who became more teachers and pastors. I think I'm the black sheep of the family in medicine. But anyway, starting in 1978, the Senechal family has gotten together every 2 years for a week of fun and games....lots of games. It's always such a fun time, attended by almost every family member. It's been especially fun to watch the family grow through marriage and then the birth of the newest generation. Maggie is the 15th great-grandchild on that side of the family. Sadly, I've missed the last 2 reunions because of work obligations, but we were all able to go this year. Eric met some of my family members for the first time. Fortunately, because he likes games and talking, he fit right in to the primary 2 family activities.

We had our reunion at Heit's Point in central Missouri this year. Highlights included canoe races in the lake, many many rounds of Trivial Pursuit (and every other game you can think of), Maggie getting to meet her second cousins (the photo is of her 3 year old cousin Ella, who loved Maggie

so much that she asked for another sibling!), and Eric being inducted into the family by being forced to eat an Iron Chef "creation" during skit night involving pickles, mayo, oreos, peanut butter, and jelly. He was a good sport about it.

In all, it was just a lot of fun to see family that I hadn't seen in a long time, and might not again for a long while. God has blessed me with a pretty awesome family.

Maggie's Swimming (Mis)Adventure

We were really excited to take Maggie swimming for the first time. She was perhaps less than excited. I think the pictures speak for themselves.A much happier activity....


Summer Itinerary

We decided that it would be a good idea to update all of our loyal readers on our summer plans. Hopefully we're coming soon to a town near you. We really would love to visit as many people as we can before heading out to Kenya. Here's our itinerary, to the best of our knowledge right now. Obviously, things can still change and we're fairly flexible.

(I tried to post a google map of our route here, but it was huge, and kept making Internet Explorer crash...)

July 5-9: We had a great time at Rachel's family reunion in Heit's Point, MO. More on this in future posts.
July 9-Aug 3: Time in Nashville. One of these weekends we'd also like to make a side trip to Chattanooga.
Aug 3-6, 9: Back to Ann Arbor. Eric does special music in church this Sunday, so we'll see the Knox folks then.
Aug 7-8: To west MI for Eric's cousin's wedding and time with the Blanski families.
Aug 9-15: Fly to Raleigh, NC and then drive to Boone for our World Med Mission orientation. Plans to stop in Durham the 14th/15th and stay w/ the Rockes
Aug 16: Leave Ann Arbor and head to Phoenix, likely stop in Iowa City with Eric's Guck cousins for the night
Aug 17-18: Arrive in Denver and spend the next day w/ the Zillingers (Rachel's cousins)
Aug 19-20: Travel to Phoenix. Anyone we know live in New Mexico for a stop off point?
Aug 20-Sept 18: Time in Phoenix.
Tentative: Aug 24-30: Side trip to Loma Linda and southern CA (Burbank, LA, Fallbrook)
Sept 18-27: Fly to Ann Arbor for friends Kyle and Sondra's wedding and Knox's Missions Sunday
Sept 28-30: Back in Phoenix, drive up to Gallup, New Mexico
Oct 1 - Nov 27: Work at Indian Health Urgent Care in Gallup, New Mexico
Nov 28 - Dec 5: Travel back to Phoenix and then out to Nashville, likely via Houston
Dec 10 (or so): leave for Tenwek!

The Great State Race, revisited

Just a quick post to let you know that Maggie has joined her parents in the great race to visit all 50 states. Granted, she only has 6 to her parents' 47 and 46, but she's acquring them at a much faster rate these days. For being only 10 weeks old, we think she's doing well. :)

Click here for Travel logs

Maggie's Remaining states: