Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Prize for the Best Bad Guy


But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust, wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.  Open your eyes and there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see…  So nobody has a good excuse.

What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshipped the god they made instead of the God who made them…

Worse followed.  Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either- women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men- full of lust.  And they paid for it, oh how they paid for it- emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose:  rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them:  mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-haters, bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags!  They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives…   And it’s not as if they don’t know any better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care- worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Sound familiar?  If Romans 1:18-32 doesn’t describe our modern era, then I don’t know what does.  We applaud those who behave the worst.  We turn our world upside down to accommodate deviance and perversion.  We shame and scold traditional values.  We tolerate what God has called intolerable.  And we are surprised when all hell breaks loose.

We need to repent as a nation and come back to God.  Only through repentance will we ever find satisfaction with this life.  This is why we needed a Savior.  We needed to be saved from our own wretched, filth.  We needed to be saved from the bad choices we made.  It is because we CHOSE SIN that we are destined for hell.  And Jesus died to rescue us from that horrible consequence.  

Thank you Jesus for dying for our sins.  We are astonished at our own sinfulness.  We are astonished that you would still love us.  We honor you as God and put you in your rightful place above all.  We crown you with thanks and worship!  Good Friday is indeed good… for us.  

Helping Naomi


I thought you might like to see some of the pictures from this week.  When Naomi’s house burned to the ground, they lost everything.  Well, not quite.  They found their family Bible, with all its names and dates carefully recorded from generation to generation.  The Bible survived the fire with only singed edges.  They have their family and they have their history in Jesus.  How sweet is that?!

A room full of donations for the families who lost everything.

A room full of donations for the families who lost everything.

Anyhow, we took up a collection among some of my missionary friends in San Jose.  We sent clothes, toys, food, kitchen items, and shoes.

One of the team members from Dothan, Alabama that is here to do construction for us brought an entire suit case full of mens’ clothes just to give away.  None of us knew how necessary those clothes would be to the father and grandfather of one of the families who lost everything.  You should have seen that father pick up the entire suitcase and toss it on his back with such enthusiasm that you would think it was full of nothing but feathers!  He didn’t mind the weight one bit!  The women were even excited about that old suitcase.  I heard them say to each other, “Something to put our clothes it!”

New Clothes for Dad and Grandpa plus a suit case for storage!

New Clothes for Dad and Grandpa plus a suit case for storage!

But my favorite part of the story involves 6 year-old Naomi.  When we asked her about the fire a few days ago she said, “Me queda sin muñecas.”  It left me without dolls.  Then suddenly something clicked in my memory.  At Christmas we went home to Minnesota for a visit.  A friend of ours at our home church was selling some very lovely china dolls in period piece clothing.  I originally planned to buy two, one for each of my daughters.  But my husband said, buy them all and give them to some girls in Costa Rica.  When our friend heard what we wanted to do with the dolls, she said she wanted to GIVE them to us!  We were touched.

So we came home with 4 extra dolls in our suit cases.  And I waited for the Lord to show me who to give them to.  When Naomi lamented the loss of her dolls, I knew what to do.  There are 2 older girls in family who also lost their precious keep sakes and stuffed animals.  The girls should get all of the dolls, I decided.  Naomi’s mother later told me that she had been saving a very special doll from HER mother for the last 15 years.  She had planned to give it to Naomi someday, but now it was gone.  It was touching to her that Naomi once again had a special doll.  The mother vowed that they would all take care of the dolls.  I just hope Naomi gets to play with it!  🙂

Naomi and her new dollies

Naomi and her new dollies

Finally, my little 5 year-old decided all on her own that she wanted to give those girls something special too.  She selected 3 of her own beloved Barbies, a few outfits each, and a Cinderella princess costume for dress-up.  Lucy wanted to give generously, and I didn’t stop her.  I think not only did she learn a valuable lesson about sharing our possessions, but I think she earned herself a reward in Heaven.  I was so proud of her thoughtful kindness.  Naomi jumped up and down squealing with excitement.  Apparently she loves everything Princess.  We were all happy.


So I thought you all would like to see some pictures from our time of sharing with Naomi’s friends and family.  Enjoy and be blessed.

“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”


IMG_0634“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”  Naomi told missionary Mary.  Even though her house had burned to the ground the day before, little Naomi and her family were at peace.  They were thankful that no one had been hurt.  They had very little to begin with, and now they had nothing.  But they still had the peace of Jesus in their hearts.

The Bible calls God’s peace “The Peace that passes understanding” which is just a fancy way of saying, “Unbelievable peace!”  There’s no way to explain that to someone who has never experienced it.  It’s crazy.  Standing in the middle of their pile of ashes and debris, the family said, “Maybe God has something better for us.”

We just happened to be there on the scene, some of us missionaries.  We just happened to be hosting a team this week.  And the team just happened to be working at the school just around the corner from the 3 houses that burned to the ground.  And the families just happened to be Christians.  And the children of those families just happened to go to the school where we were working.  Was it all a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

The next day we walked down to the charred ruins to see what the family needed.  Turns out they needed everything.  They walked us through a sad tour of the destruction.  I saw a broken plate, some red fabric from something, the skeletal remains of furniture, stairs that lead to the open sky where the second story used to be.  Then I saw the wall with the hand prints painted on it.  The entire family had painted their hand prints on one wall… and that wall was not destroyed!  They still had their family.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

The team and I went to Walmart that morning.  We bought clothes and shoes for the children.  We bought a new backpack and school supplies.  We bought bedding.  But the thing that meant the most to little Naomi was that we bought her stuffed animals.  The ones that she lost were the ones that her sponsor family had sent her over the years.  The value of those lost treasures can never be replaced, but maybe, just maybe a new stuffed dog or bear will bring her comfort as the families begin to rebuild their lives on the ashes.

I read this quote on Facebook today.  “The right thought, plus the right people, in right environment, at the right time, for the right reason, always produces the right result” by Dr. John Maxwell.  I can only thank God for putting us in the right place at the right time to help these poor families who have lost everything.  God is Good.

The Check is in the Mail


A friend of mine named Anna is a teacher at a language school here.  Most of her students are missionaries of various denominational flavors.  Once, about 5 years ago, one of her students expressed his gratitude to her as a teacher.  He said, “I am so thankful that you have patiently worked to teach me Spanish.  How can I repay you?”

Anna was not sure if he meant to give her a gift or what.  She wisely replied, “When you preach in Spanish and someone gets saved, that will be my pay check.”  She saw her ministry continuing through HIS future ministry.  She saw with Kingdom Eyes that we are all interconnected when we work for the Kingdom of God.  She kept up contact with this student through email over the next year.  He went on to El Salvador to be a missionary.

One day Anna got an email that said, “Here’s your check.  This weekend I preached in Spanish for the first time.  I asked if anyone wanted to ask the Lord to forgive their sins and to come into their heart.  Three people got saved!!”  Anna wiped away the tears when she told us how honored she felt to be a part of something bigger than herself.  Her ministry reached to El Salvador because she was diligent, her student was persistent, and God was Faithful.

My English student Leticia.  I'm so proud of her!

My English student Leticia. I’m so proud of her!

Today is a very special day for ME as a teacher too.  I too have been a language school teacher.  And today one of my first students will be getting on an airplane and flying from her home in Chile to her mission field in India.  I taught her English for a year, and she worked so hard!  I am so proud of my student for sticking with her dreams and seeing them through.  I worked patiently, forming and crafting her English.  She worked persistently, pushing herself to study and learn.  Then God was faithful in her fund raising efforts as well.  Now, FINALLY, she is leaving for India today.

Pray for my student-missionary Leticia as she travels alone to a country where she’s never been before.  Pray for Leticia as she works to communicate in a second language.  Pray for Leticia today.  I look forward to the day when I receive a message from her saying that she prayed in English with someone and they received the Lord into their heart.  I thank God that some day soon MY check will be in the mail, metaphorically speaking.

Just for Laughs


It’s been a heavy week in my blog world, and in my real world we are hard at work too.  Our first team of the season arrived on Thursday and Spring Break begins today for me and the kids.  Yes we are spending our spring break hosting a missions team.  Some people spend their spring break GOING on a missions trip to build something in a foreign country.  I live it.  How cool is that?  I don’t HAVE to go anywhere.

Speaking of going somewhere (and this is my lame-o segue into the fun video I want to share), last summer we sent our newly minted 16-year-old son back home to Minnesota to get his drivers’ license.  When we return for furlough in 18 months we don’t want him to be the weird missionary kid at college with no drivers’ license.  So even though it’s illegal for him to drive in Costa Rica, we let him pull the car out of the school parking lot or drive around the block every once and a while.  I thought of him, and all the other weirdo missionary kids who have to learn how to drive in third world countries when I saw this little video.  It’s funny.  This is what drivers’ ed would look like if it were taught by children.  (This video is made with real kids explaining things and then adults acting them out.)

Happy Friday!

Right between the eyes


This is a part of a devotional I read this week in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  It hit me right between the eyes.  Emphasis is mine.

I claim God’s promises for my life and look to their fulfillment, and rightly so, but that shows only the human perspective on them. God’s perspective is that through His promises I will come to recognize His claim of ownership on me. For example, do I realize that my “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” or am I condoning some habit in my body which clearly could not withstand the light of God on it? (1 Corinthians 6:19). God formed His Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). But I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. God instructs us even in the smallest details of life. And when He brings you conviction of sin, do not “confer with flesh and blood,” but cleanse yourself from it at once (Galatians 1:16). Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I must cleanse myself from all filthiness in my flesh and my spirit until both are in harmony with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I mentally rebellious and defiant? Am I allowing the mind of Christ to be formed in me? (see Philippians 2:5). Christ never spoke of His right to Himself, but always maintained an inner vigilance to submit His spirit continually to His Father. I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit. And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived-a level of perfect submission to His Father’s will— where I pay no attention to anything else. Am I perfecting this kind of holiness in the fear of God? Is God having His way with me, and are people beginning to see God in my life more and more?Be serious in your commitment to God and gladly leave everything else alone. Literally put God first in your life.
I think I can just let those thoughts stand on their own merit.  I’ve been convicted.  I’m off to work on my rebellious and defiant mind.  This obedience thing is really hard.
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Angry at God


Excerpt from the book Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand by Rick Lawrence.

A month ago our crazy-making gray cat, Penny, survived, barely, the worst experience of her life.  Among her many other peculiarities (including, but not limited to: scream-meowing in our basement every day for no apparent reason, defecating on the concrete five inches from her litter box for no apparent reason, and sneaking outside to hide out of reach under our deck for no apparent reason) she’s absolutely terrible at cleaning herself after she “does her business,” as my wife’s family likes to describe you-know-what.  In short, there’s what we’ll call “crusty matter” hanging off her haunches on most days.

Finally Bev couldn’t take it anymore and decided (with no regard for what others were doing at that particular random moment, I have to say) to grab that cat Penny and clean off her hinterlands in the bathtub.  At first my older daughter, Lucy, was recruited for this suicide mission, but she quickly realized she’d have to maintain a perpetual death grip on a fifteen-pound cat as she was plunged into water for the first time in her life, and Lucy was having none of that.  So, against my will and despite firm protests that I was NOT going to get involved in this covert operation, I stepped in to manhandle Penny into the bathtub.

cat bathWhile Bev was at one end furiously scrubbing the “particulates” off of Penny’s hindquarters with warm water and liquid soap, I was at the other end, desperately trying to hold on to the scruffy neck of an animal who was sure she was about to die.  Her eyes bored into me with disbelief and panic and she frantically tried to claw her way out of the jaws of death.  But I tightened my grip and gritted my teeth and held on- no small feat, because I’m positive her girth would remind you of Jabba the Hutt.  Thirty seconds into this operation she had the kind of look on her face that you’d have if someone was shoving you feet-first into a wood chipper.  She thrashed and growled and dug her claws into my arm while Bev continued to soap up Penny’s nether regions with the sort of trademark thoroughness that, in this case, we honestly couldn’t afford.

And finally when it was all over, we pulled that pathetic, fur-soaked Penny out of the tub and wrapped her in a warm towel and stroked her head and told her that we loved her.  I’m no cat whisperer, but I’m pretty sure she was thinking what you and I would be thinking if we were a pampered, half-crazed house cat that has just emerged from her first “acid” bath:  “What was THAT?”

Now weeks later, and Penny still slinks from me whenever it looks as though I might actually make a slight movement in her general direction.  Her trust in me has been violated by a shattering event her mind can make no sense of- the comfort and safety she assumed around me has now been cross-examined and thrown out of court.  Before her bathing, I was merely just another piece of useful furniture to her.  But now I am dangerous and untrustworthy to her.  I can see she’s having trouble, intense trouble, squaring the food-supplying, head-scratching, lap-offering me with the incarcerating, torturing, and suddenly random me.  If I was like a god to Penny… then the bath incident has apparently turned her into an agnostic.  A few more episodes like this one, and she’ll go the distance to atheism.

So how do we typically make sense of the inexplicable near-death episodes in our own lives?  What do we do when God seems to be dipping us in acid or shoving us into the wood chipper, with His supposedly merciful face inches from our own and His eyes locked on ours, and all of our desperate protestations and life-or-death caterwauling gets us nowhere with Him?  In fact, many of us would say that His grip on the scruff of our necks gets even tighter the louder we protest… Even when the trauma is behind us and we’re safe and enveloped in our metaphorical warm towel, we can’t forget or forgive the horrific offense of what He has done to us…

I recently heard that another one of my friends from long ago is no longer serving the Lord.  She’s angry about a lot of things.  She’s angry at God, too, I think.  This makes me really sad to think about.  I recently read a devotional with the theme of admonishing people to stop being angry with God.  I was a bit shocked that the author thought that this problem was wide-spread enough to include in an international email.  But the more I think about it, the more I believe he is right.  There are a lot of people out there who are mad at God, for one reason or another.

I think I need to make one thing clear, I don’t think that people who are mad at God are going to Heaven.  Think about it.  If you are mad at God, why would you WANT to be with Him for all eternity?  You certainly won’t feel like worshiping Him forever and ever.  Now, can a person recover from their anger against God?  Yes, but it is in part an exercise of their free will.  It does not happen naturally.  Left to their natural tendencies, an angry person will eventually become a God-hater.  That’s a Hellish rut that requires the tow-truck of the Holy Spirit to pull you out of.  But if, with your free will, you’ve denied the Spirit access to your heart’s hitch, how will He ever be able to pull you to safety?

Like Penny the cat who suffered through a bath, we don’t always understand what God is doing.  He seems random and frightening and torturous and malicious.  But He’s not.  He’s probably just washing the poop off your butt.  With Penny’s little cat-brain she couldn’t comprehend what was happening to her.  With your little human brain, you can’t possibly understand the Divine Being whose ways are “higher” than our ways.  How could we possibly understand what God is doing?

So just like it’s ridiculous for Penny to be angry with her humans over the bath incident, it is ridiculous for you, Created Being, to be angry with your Creator.  Let go of your anger against God before it’s too late.

Photo credits:  the photo was taken from this page

I see you


I wrote this article last summer for an on-line newsletter about women in ministry.  I was under contract not to publish it anywhere until the newsletter published it first.  Now that they finally used it, I can share this story too.  If you want to see the original page, go here.

I could feel my palms sweat and the index cards in my hands tremble. Taking a deep breath, I slowly recited my Bible verse in Spanish to my conversation partner, Sujen. As a new missionary on the field, three times a week this young Nicaraguan woman would come to my house to teach me how to clean my ceramic floors or how to cook the perfect chicken and rice dinner. And three times a week this introverted missionary would be pushed to my conversational limits by having a Spanish speaker in my house. It was way beyond my comfort zone, but I pushed myself even further.

One day after practicing my Bible verse with Sujen, she casually told me that she was having marital problems. She asked me if I thought prayer would help. I said, “Of course!” With my 3 months of Spanish, I said a simple prayer for Sujen and her husband Jimi. When I opened my eyes, Sujen was crying. I was shocked that the Holy Spirit could do anything with my pitiful little vocabulary – my loaves and fishes’ sack lunch. Right there in my kitchen, I prayed with Sujen to accept Jesus into her heart.

Soon after, Sujen invited my family over to her house for lunch. We followed her directions to the entrance of a little alley where she met us and lead us back through a maze of make-shift houses. Her house consisted of one small living room with a kitchen divided off by a curtain, one bedroom, and a small bathroom with the only running water coming from a pipe shoved through the wall. Her “kitchen sink” was a cold water tap shared by several neighbors just a few steps outside her house. She considered herself fortunate to have running water so “conveniently” placed near her kitchen.

I sat humbly on a stool in her kitchen watching and listening as she taught me to make tortillas by hand. It was such an awesome thing for me to feel the love of God radiating from Sujen towards me. I was the missionary – the one who was supposed to be blessing her – and on that day I felt God shine His love on me through her. There was nothing in her background that could have prepared her to accept a foreigner. Nothing taught her the patience she would need to converse with someone just learning Spanish. No one could have prepared her to be my friend, but God had glued us together somehow, and we were both blessed by the relationship.

I was blessed with her trust when she showed me her wedding photo album. I was blessed with her intimacy when she opened up a well-loved box of photos. With tenderness and a few tears quickly wiped away, Sujen showed me the birth certificates of two baby boys, both stillborn. I saw little faded footprints stamped onto the treasured pieces of paper. I saw a glimpse into her pain. I saw her mother’s heart. I saw her.

After my visit to Sujen’s house, I struggled to put the experience down on paper for my interaction report that week in language school. It was more than just a cultural experience for me. After reading aloud the first few paragraphs, my Spanish disintegrated, and I dissolved into tears under the weight of the kindness I felt from Sujen. I simply lacked the vocabulary to describe it.

In English, I apologized to my teacher. I said, “I just don’t have the words to describe how much it meant to me that she invited me into her home, and that she loves me like that!”

My teacher had such a tender heart. She told me, “But April, we see who you are in your heart. And we can tell that God’s love is there even if you don’t have the right words to say in Spanish.” After that, I began to relax in the knowledge that God’s love was indeed shining out through the cracks in my paltry Spanish and my nervous, introverted social habits.

We don’t need to worry so much about being missionaries who want to save the whole world. Instead we need to see ourselves as women with the love of God in our hearts, just looking for friends with whom to share His love.



I don’t have to like it…



Recently God and I were locked in a battle of the wills.  (Of course you know who won.)  As I squirmed under his thumb, I felt him speak to me in that Fatherly tone that he often uses with me.  He said, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.”  

Now clearly I would be assured of a greater blessing if I submitted with humble faith to the thing that I didn’t understand.  But God and I were beyond the point of tender prodding and gentle leading.  I had gone through all my whining “Whys?” and settled into a defiant pout.  Now all he could do with me was to pull the “Because I said so” card, the Parental Ace.

I go through this with my own children sometimes.  They whine, “I don’t want to brush my teeth.”  You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.  “I don’t like peas.  I don’t want to eat them.”  You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.  I don’t always explain my reasons to my children for the very purpose that learning to obey a parent will help them learn to obey God when he is also silent about his motives.  Sometimes children just need to trust that the grown ups know more than they do.  And sometimes I need to trust that God sees things that I don’t see.

I’m still not happy about what I know I’m supposed to be doing.  I still don’t understand it. But I have grimly set my face towards obedience, like Jonah plodding towards Ninevah with whale vomit pooling in his shoes.  I don’t have to like it.  I just have to obey.

Last night I prayed, “Lord, change my desires.  Give me your desires.”  And immediately I felt my cold heart begin to melt a bit.  This is going to take some more praying and more submitting of my desires, but I think I’m learning little by little.  I still don’t understand, but I choose to obey.

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Picky Eaters in the Desert


picky eaterMy Mother, the stoic, had an expression that she used on us when we were children.  She would say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”  When we didn’t like the sensible, brown shoes in the hand-me-down bag, she would say that.  When we turned up our noses at leftovers for dinner, she would say that.  Somehow it didn’t make me feel any more grateful.

This week I had the opportunity to do the devotional in our morning assembly at school.  I was assigned the theme, “thankfulness.”  I started by asking the kids to raise their hands if they were picky eaters.  (My own children should have raise their hands.  I forgot to look and see if they did.)  Then I told the story about the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness, who dared to be picky.  If anyone deserved the title “beggars” it was them!

The Israelites had been delivered from slavery in Egypt.  They were set free in a blizzard of miracles from the 10 plagues to the parting of the Red Sea to the presence of God with them day and night as a pillar of cloud or fire.  They should have constantly been walking around with their mouths hanging open in amazement at all that God had done for them.  But no, they repeatedly forgot to be thankful.

So after a few months in the desert, their food ran out.  God did another miracle for them by giving them Manna, food from Heaven, every single day.  At first, they were thrilled.  The Manna tasted like flakes of honey.  It was delicious, healthy, versatile, free and abundant.  But after a while, they started to get bored with Manna.  Let me say that again, they got bored with the Miracle that happened every single day before their very eyes.  They forgot that without this miracle, they were beggars.  And beggars can’t be choosers.

That’s when the complaining began.  Once they started being ungrateful, the Manna no longer tasted sweet.  It tasted bland because their hearts were no longer joyful and full of thanks.  Their attitude affected their appetites.  They no longer hungered for the things of God.  They started looking back and hungering for the food in Egypt.  They forgot that as slaves, they would not have eaten like kings.  But they romanticized the past and complained about their present conditions.

They complained that they wanted meat.  So God got angry and decided to teach them a lesson.  He told Moses, “I’m going to give them so much meat that it will make them sick.  They will eat meat until it comes out their noses!”  God send a huge flock of quail into the camp.  They were thrilled at first!  But they quickly over stuffed themselves. Then they got sick and threw up.  The meat came out their noses just like God said it would.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but once I got food poisoning from McDonalds.  I threw up for two days straight.  I haven’t eaten a chicken sandwich since!  That was enough to cure me of any McDonalds cravings for a long, long time.  The same thing happened to the Israelites.  They didn’t want meat after that.  And we heard no more grumbling about Manna for the next 40 years.  They finally accepted the fact that you can’t be a picky eater in the desert.  Better to be thankful than to pass a drumstick out your nostril.

I have my own little tribe of Israelites at home.  All of my children have been picky eaters (though the teenager has pretty much out grown that phase).  My youngest one just surprised me recently.  She went from an all noodles and cereal diet to suddenly agreeing to taste a bite of chicken.  The bribe was, she would eat a piece of chicken if I let her cut it with a knife.  So with my protecting hands over her little paws, we cut the chicken together and she held up her end of the bargain.  Then she declared, “I like it!”  I about died!  Five years of refusing to eat chicken and suddenly she likes it.  I felt like God looking down on his own picky eaters and breathing a sigh of relief.  Finally they are eating and not complaining.

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