from Diane

We live in an intensely  interesting world. Everyday we  meet people who enrich our lives by our encounter. Thoughts get challenged. Emotions stir that were unexpected. Too many such moments are forgotten before we get the good out of them. This blog is my attempt to capture some of those moments and memorialize them and share them.

To preserve the privacy of those I meet, all names will be changed. Many of my posts will highlight my favorite encounters with people who have touched my life. Some will be about current events and others will be about things I’ve noticed that have intrigued me.

Be blessed and enriched as you share my encounters and surprises.

If you care to email me privately to share your stories or concerns, email Diane

Diane Beth


English Conversation

Q&A in English

I had a golden opportunity to spend a morning with Electrical Engineering students who wanted to practice conversational English.

We’ve talked to Mr. S and his wife several times when we eat breakfast at the same local coffee shop. Just after New Years, Mr. S told us he was going to a nearby university to help some students improve their spoken English. All of these students can read and write English, but they don’t have any one to practice with to hone their speaking. When he heard that I had taught ESL, he asked if I would go with him one morning and talk with his class. I was delighted to have this chance.

For four hours we talked. Before class, I talked briefly with each student and got to hear their names and what they are studying and why. It gave me a chance to assess their level of ability and for them to get used to my accent.

Mr. S asked me to start the class by giving them some of my background, work experience, and about our time in Malaysia. From that time on, they asked questions and I answered. I would ask them questions and they would answer.

How rich an experience!

It is not common for a foreigner, a Christian, and a woman old enough to be their grandma, to talk to Muslim, university students. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, there just are very few opportunities.

They asked my opinions about Malaysia, its food, its culture, its progress as a nation. They wanted to know why I like Malaysia and what I don’t like. They wanted to know what I liked best about working as a NICU nurse. I was asked how would they know who to marry and what I thought was important to ensure a long lasting marriage. One girl asked what I do to stay healthy.

They told me about their families, what they want to do with the education they are receiving. They told me about their favorite music and movies.

There was such respect and interest on both sides of the discussion. I felt completely at ease and shared freely. I really stepped out of my box and out of my usual introvert personality. They took the chance to speak in English and realize a native English speaker could understand them and wanted to converse with them.

I will always treasure the memory of this day as one of my favorites in Malaysia.

Two Mint Plants

2 small mint plants

When I was a child my mother added a small spearmint plant to our garden. It was such a hardy plant and grew abundantly. It grew tall stalks. Its roots spread out and more stalks grew. If we let it, it would have taken over our whole garden.

All summer long we cut sprigs to flavor our iced tea and to give to friends and neighbors who also liked it. In the Fall is would shrivel and die and in the winter it would have snow piled deep on top of it. But when Spring came, it would always wake from its slumber and begin to send up bright green shoots.

Mint didn’t hide in our garden. Even when we were indoors and couldn’t see the plant, with a little breeze we could smell its lovely fragrance. I always loved our spearmint plant.

A few months ago, we found a small spearmint plant for sale. It reminded me of home, so I bought it. I don’t have a garden space, so I kept it in a pot on my back porch. It was growing such long spears that I kept cutting some every day. I couldn’t use it fast enough and I hated to throw away the long pieces I couldn’t use, so I put them in water. They grew tiny, fragile looking roots. When they were too big to keep in the little rooting jar, I planted them in another pot. I became quite attached to these two fragrant, green plants.

In my cool, rainy hometown, spearmint grew without a care. In pots, the hot tropical weather meant my spearmint needed to be watered every day. Sometimes rain comes from the right direction and my plants were watered by rain, but most days I needed to give them a cool drink.

When we were making a week long trip away from home I took my two spearmint plants down to my friend’s garden so they would get the nearly daily rain without anyone needing to tend to them.

Last night I got a message from my friend asking if I had come home early and collected my plants. No, I had not gotten my plants. Out of her whole garden there were only two plants missing. . .my two spearmint plants. I groaned. I was sad they were gone.

They weren’t valuable plants like old bonsai trees. They weren’t rare or unusual plants. Whoever took them, could have bought some from a garden shop inexpensively. But they had meaning to me and were worth more than their monetary value.

My first reaction was to be angry at the thief. Then I thought, their need must have been very great to steal a couple spearmint plants. Maybe they have never had anyone pray for them before. I pray that they will somehow meet Jesus through those plants.

God cares about us, even those of us who feel like we’re just garden-variety. The fragrance of His life in us can draw others to God. Be a loved fragrant herb and bring real joy to those around you today.

2Co 2:15-16 “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. “


This afternoon we stopped at a tea shop high in the Malaysian mountains. The shop was closed, but they had a lovely terrace overlooking a tea plantation and some greenhouse buildings. We took some pictures and were enjoying the cool breeze and sunshine.

I went to a far corner of the terrace and saw a mynah bird hanging upside down from a potted plant. I thought, ‘Ugh, what kind of weird decoration is this?’
Snared Bird
I called Mike over and he said, ‘It’s alive!’ When I looked again I could see it move. On closer inspection we saw that both its feet were wrapped with a string around a branch. How it must have struggled only to be more and more tied up!  He definitely needed help or he would die. We had no knife to cut the string. Mike tried using a key to slide the string over his claws. Nothing was working and the poor bird was screaming like a crow.

We found a gardener nearby and pointed out the bird’s predicament. He went immediately and gently held the bird with one hand as he carefully picked the string with a pen knife. The bird kept screaming, but the gardener held it securely until every bit of the string was removed from both feet. When no string remained, he held the bird up and opened his hand. That unfettered bird flew at top speed with not even the slightest backwards glance.

We went away with a warm glow knowing one of God’s creatures was now safe. Mike said, ‘What a tale he will have to tell his family tonight!’

Psalms 124:7 – “We have escaped like a bird  from the snare of the fowlers;  the snare is broken,  and we have escaped!”

How gently, but securely our Gardener holds us while he cuts us free of the fetters that kept us captive. We may yell and squirm, but He knows for our good He cannot let us go too soon.

He has a plan for good and not for evil, but we have to be set free from our snares first.

Have we seen someone caught in a snare, maybe even of their own doing? God may be asking us to help hold them, while He untangles them?

How gently and how securely we may hold that loved one or stranger in prayer and in friendship until God sets them free.

Some very special kids. . .

I had the privilege of spending a weekend with families who brought their one or two special needs kids (SNKs) for a retreat. My husband and I were there to speak to the parents a few times during the weekend. We wanted to encourage them and inspire them in their walk with God. But I think I got more from my time with them than they got from me.

One 6’2” young man, I’ll call him Asaph,  was especially thoughtful of us. He wanted to know why we were there. When we said, “To talk,” he then asked, “When?” We told him the time for the meeting  and how long before it would start. He drifted away for a few minutes and then returned to tell us we would talk at the time we had told him. We agreed and then he would go away for another few minutes. He repeated this every few minutes until the meeting.

Instead of getting frustrated with his constant questions and reminders, I found him so kind and thoughtful. He really wanted to hear what we had to say and he loved being able to remind us and make sure we knew where to go for the meetings.

Asaph is a real worshipper. Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth. This young man poured out his heart in worship every time we sang. He loved to sing at the top of his voice. Asaph could only remember the last word of each phrase, but he sang it with his whole being. How God must smile and love this young man’s fervor.

Many of the SNKs could not speak or had very limited vocabularies. When they had needs, someone must help them quickly so they wouldn’t get frustrated. Some of the children wandered away from their parents and then did not know how to find them again. Others would go toward something dangerous, totally oblivious to any threat. I saw all of the parents take responsibility for all of the children. This happened so much that I had difficulty pairing up the parents with their own SNKs.

Johns painting

I never heard any parent sound irritated or angry all weekend. I never once heard a comment like, “Why can’t they control that child?” There were no discouraging words spoken, only words of encouragement and blessing.

Not all the SNKs were likeable. One 15 year old girl had to be watched constantly. She began the weekend by reaching out for my husband’s hand as though to kiss it (in the Malay-style greeting) only to spit on his hand. She followed that with a slap. This all happened in about 5 seconds. Imagine having to care for her 24/7/365 for 15 years! Instead of judging her parents’ abilities to discipline, we had a great compassion for the burden they constantly carry to care for her.

During the second night there was a most terrific thunder and lightening storm. Everyone was roused at 2 am. No one could keep from gasping or crying out at the violence and brilliance of the storm. Some of the children cried the rest of the night from the fear. The rooms got quite hot as the electricity was knocked out, so no fans nor aircons could work.

The Sunday morning session needed to be a joint service with all the children and adults in an upper room chapel with benches. The SNKs were seated in the front rows and their parents behind. The battery-run P.A. popped, squealed, and either blared or didn’t work at all. The room was hot. Many had not slept most of the night. The conditions were ripe for total chaos.

To my amazement when I got up to speak, none of that bothered me. I had changed my message when I knew the children would be with us to something simpler and shorter. Some of the antics of a few of the children tickled my sense of humor and I found myself laughing. I did not have a drop of irritation or distraction. When I finished, I thought that no one could have heard what I said or would remember a word. But I was at peace. Whatever God wanted to teach through this, He would teach whether my words were right or heard or remembered.

Any of you who know me, know that public speaking is not my forte. I would not speak in groups for many years. Then when I would, it was only to small groups and with everything I was going to say written down on paper. In recent years I have spoken on Sunday morning in churches occasionally and in smaller meetings more frequently. But to change my message and to have so many distractions, was way, way beyond my comfort zone. But I came out of it feeling like God had helped me take a huge step into more freedom and usefulness. I don’t take any credit for what happened. It was all God’s grace.

I was given a painting John made when all the SNKs painted on Saturday. John offered to give his to me. We framed it this week and it is atop my file cabinet as a vivid reminder of all I learned and experienced among these special people!

There is not one thing in the world that I could have done last weekend I would have enjoyed as much as this retreat!

Not a Senior Moment

Our favorite restaurant in our area is Jaipur. It has been owned and operated by one man and his sons for about 20 years. He’s had the same wonderful cook from India for over 17 years. The food is south Indian cuisine and the atmosphere is crowded, happy, Malaysian coffee shop.

We went to Jaipur this afternoon for lunch as we often do on Fridays. Fridays are special at Jaipur. There are a greater number of vegetarian choices. Then after the meal, they serve delicious, sweet, payasam with cashew nuts and sultana raisins. Oh, how worth the calories it is!

We parked our car about a block away and approached Jaipur. We noticed one shop was completely gutted and they were installing tile and painting inside. We stood there for a minute trying to remember what had been in that shop before.  The hardware store was on one side and the Chinese medicine shop on the other. Now, we had passed this shop several times a week over our nine years eating at Jaipur.

When we couldn’t remember, we shrugged and went on for our yummy lunch. On the way back to our car, Mike stopped to answer a phone call. I wandered up to the new shop and looked in thinking I would see some clue to its former tenants. But no, no clues remained. When Mike continued to talk on his cell phone, I decided to ask the Chinese medicine shop keeper about their neighbor.

I laughed out loud and smacked my forehead when she said, “It was a bank.” Of course it was! That was our bank. We stopped there almost as often as we went to Jaipur. They had moved to a larger, newer lot a couple months ago, so we no longer linked our banking with that location.

How strange! When we see something out of place or so radically changed, we can forget it so quickly. Life goes on, changes occur all the time. Maybe this is an indication of how our minds cope with the fast pace of city life. It seems it only gets faster and faster.

Truth for 20 Somethings

I just read an article about Lies 20 Somethings believe. I thought I’d write some of the highlights of my 20s. I think they prove the author’s point that our twenties are a starting point, a process, not the climax of our hopes and dreams.

My Twenties
1. I finished my three year diploma nursing program, but couldn’t finish my degree.
2. I only managed half a year of Bible School.
3. I just managed to get married before my mythical expiry date of 23 years.
4. I only could work in neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic for 6 months.
5. I miscarried my first baby.
6. We spent 14 months learning we were not cut out to pioneer a church.
7. I went back to working in newborn nursery and was there while it turned into a NICU. I liked it but it was not my long-term calling.
8. My first son was born and I learned how much I still didn’t know about babies.
9. We pioneered another church. (We weren’t slow learners, we just had so much more to learn.)
10. Our second son was born shortly before I turned 30.

Now in the later half of my sixties I can tell you what happened with each of those early steps.
1. A degree in nursing was not going to be important to where I was going.
2. That half year of Bible School began my lifelong love of Bible study.
3. After 43+ years of loving, learning, and companionship, the date we married really was not important.
4. Neurosurgery was not my life’s calling and I’m glad.
5. Though I lost that baby, God had given me so many sons and daughters over the years.
6. That first church pioneering experience was our first classroom in the real world.
7. My NICU work was the end of my career as a nurse, but then I began using my medical knowledge for my family’s health and helping my friends. Because of that background many trust me with their concerns.
8. Our first son is married and they have given us two wonderful grandchildren. He is a very involved dad and valuable employee.
9. In our last church we built strong foundations and learned lessons we still teach today. This church launched us into our more than 30 years in the nations.
10. Our second son is also married and well respected in his field for his knowledge and skills.

I had no idea in my twenties where I would go, what I would love to do, or how important those trials and failures would be to me and all those I’ve shared with over these last 40+ years.

So here’s the lesson in case you missed it. Life will not be as you imagine it. There will be surprises, a few bad ones, but mostly good.

Dark to Brilliant

I woke up on Saturday grumpy. It was a dark day, not weather-wise, but internally. Unfortunately, my husband also seemed under a dark cloud that day. We bumbled into each other a few times throughout the day.

It was time to get ready for service at a Mandarin speaking church. Mike offered for me to stay home since I was so glum. But I decided to go, gloomy mood and all.

It is the custom at this church to share a turkey dinner along with many delicious Malaysian dishes on the Saturday after American Thanksgiving. The pastor leads her congregation in giving thanks on that day. We picked up a prepared turkey dinner they had ordered for the church.

The songs they sung, though in Mandarin, had English translation. I was so touched that in moments  tears rolled down my cheeks and just wouldn’t stop. I had to quietly move to the back  to keep from drawing too much attention to myself.

The pastor led the people in thanks to all who had helped through the year and to the Lord for His blessings to them collectively and individually. Then, before asking my husband to speak, she talked to the people in Mandarin for a long time. She interpreted for us occasionally. She talked about our long friendship with her and their church, about our family coming to Malaysia, our family life, and more.

After the meeting was over and before everyone went to eat the prepared feast, many of the folks gave us cards, small gifts, personal thanks, and a huge fruit basket. They came and asked us to cut a cake. It said, “Happy Anniversary,” on it. After they lit three candles, they sang, “Happy Anniversary,” to the tune of Happy Birthday to you.

Mandarin Church gifts

It was at about that point when we realized the pastor had turned their annual Thanksgiving service into a celebration of our 30 years in Malaysia! We were so blessed and so humbled.

It was almost too much to take in. These people were so kind and generous and thoughtful. We cannot even speak their language, yet they treated us so well!

We love Malaysia and the people. We are thankful we have been able to make Malaysia our Second Home. Malaysians have opened their homes and hearts to us. We could not have chosen any better place to live and serve even if we could have made the choice. We don’t feel like we are doing anything so special or unusual. We just do what we would do anywhere. Yet this place and this people have been planted in our hearts and we feel so privileged!

That dark day now stands out with a brilliant silver glow.


Christmas has always been a special season for me. My mom used to buy Christmas gifts all year and squirrel them away. Each year she selected one gift to be the gift. It was for only one of us, but we were all excited about what that gift would be and whose it would be. We woke up Christmas morning with a tree that was decorated over night and surrounded by gifts. We took turns opening the gifts one at a time so everyone could enjoy the thrill of seeing what each one got. Then the moment would come for the gift to be given and opened. It was always perfect! We all celebrated!

Christmas was about giving. We always found some way to make someone less fortunate than us happy too. A few years, we went to an orphanage and brought Jean home to share our Christmas. We each bought her a gift from our allowance and we tried to make her feel like a queen for the day. Some years we bought gifts, wrapped them, and took them to some family who lived in the poor part of our community. We always took food, as well as gifts.

Most of all, I remember the Advent Wreath and how the story of the first Christmas came alive to us little by little through the month before Christmas.

When we first came to Malaysia in the early ’80s, there was not much mention of Christmas outside of the churches and homes of the Christians. We didn’t expect it to be celebrated much since the majority of the population were not Christians.

Over the years we’ve watched with sadness the move in America away from Christmas. It became politically correct to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” After all, we were told, there are other holidays around this time and we shouldn’t make anyone feel bad. There is Hanuka and even the new holiday, Kwanza. But then, to avoid all the religions, why not call it, “Winter Holiday.”

It made me sad, but then, I’m not sure anyone outside the Christian community actually understands what we are celebrating. So I was a little sad, but not surprised.

So when were moved back to Malaysia in 2005, we were really surprised to hear Christmas carols, not just winter holiday songs, being played over the P.A. in a major department store! We  turned a corner and there it was! A huge section of the store was filled with trees and all kinds of Christmas decorations and music! It was like going back to my childhood memories of the stores before Christmas.

We have noticed over our recent years here that everyone celebrates all the holidays. Of course we don’t all understand all about each of the holidays, but we all greet each other with the appropriate greeting of the season. Rarely during the weeks before Christmas do the clerks neglect to say, “Merry Christmas” to us. Muslims, Buddhists, free-thinkers, and atheists seem to have no trouble reminding us of our holiday and receiving our greeting in return. We don’t expect them to convert and they aren’t afraid of offending.

But this year, I’ve been surprised again!

The fourth largest mall in the world has chosen for its theme, “It’s Christmas. . .Believe!”

Its Chistmas Believe

Of course, it doesn’t tell us what to believe. But I think if the same theme were used by any mall in America, they would be overwhelmed by law suits from those who think they should be the ones to tell us what we are allowed to believe.

I am happy to be celebrating Christmas where I don’t have to be afraid to say, “Merry Christmas!”

P.S. Preparing this post, I researched the largest malls in the world. See: The 25 Largest Malls in the World. Be prepared for a surprise!

A Widow’s Story

Irene is a lovely, friendly, thoughtful woman. She is always willing to lend a hand and is a faithful intercessor for those who ask for prayer. We’ve talked occasionally over the last few years, but I never knew her story until recently.

When Irene and her husband married, they were church attenders, but had no real faith. From early in their marriage her husband was abusive, but she had been raised that when you chose to marry, you stayed married- ‘you made your bed, you sleep in it.’ He was an alcoholic and she was beaten, but Irene never considered leaving her husband.

She and her husband continued to attend church on Sundays. A friend invited her to attend another church with her, so she went with her friend on Sunday evenings. This friend not only took her to church, but shared books with her. Over time she began to seek a personal relationship with Jesus. One day, all by herself, she prayed and gave her life to Jesus and asked Him to be her Savior.

Irene went to some special meetings by a woman evangelist. This woman talked about her own marriage to an unbelieving husband. She said she treated him as though he were a believer. She quoted Romans 5:5 and the phrase, ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ stuck in Irene’s heart.

She began to see that if God poured His love into her heart, she should do the same to her husband. She made the decision to love him and she told him that she loved him and began to try to show her love through her actions.

Ephesians 5:33 in the Amplified Bible told her how to love her husband. It says, “…and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband—that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

And Ephesians 4:31 and 32, in the Amplified Bible showed her what changes God wanted for her. “Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another  [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”

That was a tall order for her, but she made the decision to live this way with her husband. Instead of praying for God to change her husband, she was praying that God would help her become the kind of person she was supposed to be.

As these changes happened in Irene, her husband noticed the difference and began to treat her better too.

She continued to go to church with her friend and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. One time after that her husband raised his hand to hit her and she merely looked directly at him and said, “Don’t you dare.” He lowered his hand and never again hit her.

She prayed for her husband to be saved and bought him a Bible with his name inscribed on it. It was many years later that he watched a TV show and told her when she came home that he had ‘prayed the prayer.’ She went and got the Bible she had been saving for him.

His life also changed after salvation, but he never was able to overcome his alcoholism.  But he died a believer in Jesus.

Knowing Irene now, I never would have dreamed that she had been abused or that it took the grace and work of God in her life to turn her from such bitterness and anger. She humbly shared her story, not to be patted on the back for being a good wife in a bad marriage. But she shared her story so that other women in similarly bad marriages could know what God can do in them and through them in their families.