Thursday, May 31, 2018

Top Ten Signs…

It’s the life expectancy of a worker bee during the summer, the length of time it takes zucchini to grow, and the time remaining until we board a plane to fly back to the States: SIX WEEKS!  After three years at RVA, we are down to our final six weeks until we return to Indiana for an 8 month home assignment.  As you can imagine, we are a mix of both grief and excitement as we anticipate another round of goodbyes and another round of hellos.

As we mentally and physically prepare to leave, we’ve been comparing notes with others in the same boat and are noticing some common themes.  And so, without further ado, we present to you the Top Ten Signs That You’re Preparing for Home Assignment…

10. Your walls are bare.  At this point in the game, anything that is not purely functional has been packed away, given away, or sold.  Though it makes things a bit dreary, you trust it’ll make things less crazy those last few days.

9. You find yourself getting creative with duct tape.  Broken watchband that needs to last three more months?  Nothing a little duct tape can’t handle.  Oh, and don’t forget that you have to use hot pink duct tape because you already packed away all the more subtle gray.

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8. You start marking the lasts: last staff in-service, last arrival day, last mid-term break, last dorm party, last Kiambogo night.

7. Paperwork has become your middle name.  Leave Requests, End of Term Reviews, and Health Physicals, just to name a few.  Who knew moving across the ocean required so many forms?

6. Your mindset for grocery shopping shifts from buying large bulk quantities to trying to precisely estimate how much you will eat over the next six weeks.  Goodbye 10 kg. (22 lbs.) boxes of margarine and hello smaller 1kg tubs.  And yes, you remind yourself to avoid thinking about the fact that the margarine you’ve been using all these years is labeled as “medium fat spread”.

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5. You begin using silly strawberry toothpaste and babyganics lotion because you’ve already finished the adult varieties and are in “everything must go” mode.

4. Deep cleaning is the name of the game.  You find yourself breaking out the Q-tips and toothpicks and digging in every nook and cranny of anything you are storing until your return.  After all, nobody wants to come back and find spilled spaghetti from a meal they ate 12 months ago.

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3. You start talking to your kiddo(s) about the goodbyes they are going to have to say to some of their favorites.

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2. You’ve run out of pepperoni, parmesan cheese, chocolate chips, peppermint extract, taco seasoning, Ziploc bags, and all the other goodies that you’d brought from home and sparingly used throughout the last three years.

1. And finally, you know you’re preparing for home assignment when the elastic in all of your clothes is nonexistent- as in gone, disintegrated, not functioning.  At first it’s not so bad, but after constant tugging, pinning, or tucking, it gets a bit old.  It’s safe to say that you won’t need much luggage going back; instead of throwing all your clothes into suitcases, you’ll likely just be throwing them away!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Another First

We’ve had lots of firsts since arriving in East Africa six years ago.   Some of these firsts have brought us great joys: embracing a culture where being an hour late is considered right on time, becoming parents, and learning to speak Swahili.  Other firsts have been, well, less enjoyable: being robbed, drinking spoiled milk because it was a delicacy in the village where we lived, and learning to speak Swahili.  (And no, that’s not a typo; trying to learn a new language at the age of 35 brings its share of joys and frustrations.)

This last week we experienced another first for our time here: selling a car.   Many of you will remember that we were able to purchase our red Nissan X-Trail thanks to the generous outpouring during our Indiana church’s 2015 Art Gala.  It has been the perfect car for our family during our time in Kenya.  We’ve used it for countless drives to Nairobi to get groceries, a handful of trips to Tanzania, and a number of precious airport runs to pick up loved ones who were visiting. 

Jared (in the striped shirt) helping a motorcyclist tie down his dried corn stalks cargo on one of our trips to Tanzania:

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Returning to RVA after picking up two dear friends from Indiana who came to visit:

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Using our car’s speakers to blast music during an afternoon of outdoor games with RVA’s junior high students:

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Knowing that our next assignment will be in Tanzania and since Tanzanian laws prohibit importing a Kenyan vehicle, we’d begun the process of trying to sell it.  Desiring to sell the car before we leave in July, we’d e-mailed missionaries we knew were in the market for a car, shared about it in our mission’s monthly e-newsletter, and even advertised it on Kenyan websites.   And then we waited.  And waited some more.  A couple of people expressed interest, but nothing that was serious or led to a sale.  And so, as our third and final school term started back up last week, we were a starting to feel a bit anxious.

And then, this past Wednesday, we received an e-mail from another RVA family, Mike and Kim Saum, asking if our car was still available.  In an only-God manner, support they needed to purchase a car for their family had increased ten-fold in one week, which brought them to the amount they would need to purchase our car.  We eagerly e-mailed back “Yes!”, and later that afternoon they came by to check out the car.  An hour later, they verbally agreed to purchase the car, Thursday we drafted a sales agreement, and by Friday we had completed the legal transfer.  After school on Friday, Mike stopped by and we handed over the keys.  

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The Saum’s are excited about their new wheels and we are thrilled to have such a large item checked off of our to-do list.  We’re ecstatic to personally know the family who now owns our red X-Trail and pray that it blesses and serves their family as it has ours. We’re also thankful to be able to use the money gained from selling this vehicle to help us purchase a car when we return to Tanzania in 2019.  God is so very good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Some days…

Some days just call for setting aside the to-do list, slathering on the sunscreen, and rallying the troops for an afternoon water fight. 

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Love my husband and his spontaneous spirit that led to this afternoon of fun and love these girls and their willingness to join!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Life Lessons

When my eager 23-year old self graduated college, I naively thought I was done learning.  No more homework, no more exams, no more late-night cramming sessions.  Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I’m recognizing that the lessons God has for me have only just begun.  Some of these lessons are hard like learning to trust when God’s answer is not yet, while others bring laughter like recognizing the extent to which my junior high girls love pranks.  Some are monumental, changing the course of our lives, and others, well others are minor, slipping in unnoticed until we reflect back and realize we’re different.

For example, since moving to East Africa in 2012, I’ve learned that it is possible to do laundry without  a washer or a dryer.  Seriously, who knew?

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I’ve learned that Ziploc bags are like gold and completely worth washing and reusing and washing again.  In my mind they rank right up there with duct tape in terms of my must-haves.

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I’ve learned that no matter how many miles I run, I am past my prime when it comes to competing in sack races. One word- humbled.

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I’ve also learned that living on the Equator and at elevation is pretty great.  Mild temperatures year round?  Check. Never having to shovel a driveway or scrape off your car for a quick trip to the store? Check. Wearing your swimsuit to a water sports field day in mid-January?  Check and check.

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     Addilyn was all focus when it came to the water cup relay and loved going down the waterslide with Jared and her sweet friend, Hattie.

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On the chase after a round of “splish, splish, splash” (I.e. duck, duck, goose, but with the goose getting a cup of water poured on their head) and drying off with Daddy in between stations.

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So cheers to life lessons both big and small.  Oh, and for those of you ready to be done with winter, our equatorial located door is always open.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Surviving the Flood

If we made a top ten list of the things no adult ever wants to hear, I have a feeling “A pipe broke and there is water everywhere.” might just make the cut.  That’s the text message we received from our sweet babysitter in late December.  Thankfully we were only at another house on RVA’s campus, so we said hasty goodbyes, threw on our shoes, and dashed down the hill towards home.  On our way, we tried to reassure ourselves that the babysitter was likely exaggerating, but those hopes quickly faded when we opened the front door.

A pipe in the dorm’s kitchen had broken and water was gushing out, covering up to 2” of the floor in parts of the kitchen and living room and staring to move down the hall into the bedrooms.  Jared grabbed a flashlight and ran outside to find the water cut-off switch and then we set to work mopping up the mess.  As we were cleaning, I was thinking of how timely our burst pipe had been.  Granted, a flooded house is never exactly welcomed, but it had happened at a time when we were able to get to it quickly.  If it had broken a few weeks before when we’d been in Tanzania or even just in the middle of the night, both the mess and the damage would have been significantly worse.

As I wrung out my mop and reflected on this, thanking the Lord for His good timing, Jesus reminded me of another situation in which His timing is perfect- the birth of our second child.  You see, for the last twenty-eight months, Jared and I been trying to get pregnant.  It’s been a rollercoaster journey of cautious hope, followed by disappointment month after month after month.  I have cried buckets of tears as I begged God for another baby, rejoiced with countless friends as they got pregnant and had their babies, and laid awake wondering if Addilyn will ever have a sibling.  But here we are, still waiting. 

And yet, I’m choosing to trust.  Choosing to trust that if He is mindful of the timing of a simple kitchen flood, He’s mindful of the timing of when or if our family grows.  Choosing to trust that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than my ways, and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)  And to trust that even if He doesn’t give us another child, He is still good and He is still worthy of our praise.

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Some days the trust comes easy and some days the flood feels overwhelming and the choice too difficult, and so we covet your prayers.  Both for God to bless us with more children, but also for us to continually choose to trust and believe He is good regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Holiday Hop

I happen to like surprises.  So, when a recent dorm night came up on the calendar, I started planning.  Expanding on an idea from a friend (thanks Annie!), Jared and I planned an event for our girls.

Without any advance hints about the night, our sixteen fabulous 8th graders gathered in our living room asking questions and attempting to guess our plans.  Before divulging any secrets, we gave them five minutes to go change into a variety of assigned colors: Room 1-  gold, silver, black;  Room 2- red, pink, white;  Room 3- orange, yellow, red; Room 4: green, white, red.

Once they got back to the living room we announced that we were going to do a holiday hop.  Starting with New Years’ Eve (as represented by Room 1’s colors) and then progressing through the year.

To celebrate New Years’ we watched a video of last year’s NYC ball drop and counted down to ring in the “new year”.  We then toasted with fake champagne (a mixture of juice and sprite) and took photo booth pictures with a variety of fun props.

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(Unfortunately, we were having so much fun that we forgot to take pictures for our last three holidays, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!)

Room 2’s red, pink and white represented our second holiday: Valentine’s Day.  To celebrate we played a game that’s usually played at weddings, but modified it a bit to make it applicable for roommates.  Four roommate pairs sat back to back holding one of their own shoes and one of their roommate’s shoes.  We then asked all the pairs a question to see how well they knew each other and they had to raise the shoe- either theirs or their roommate’s- of the correct answer.  After questions like “Who keeps the room the neatest?”, “Who is more likely to wake up happy?” and “Who sings in the shower?”, our living room was filled with laughter and shouts of agreement or disagreement with the shoes that were raised.  We concluded our Valentine’s Day celebrations with homemade chocolate covered strawberries.

Our third holiday was on display through Room 3’s colors: Autumn.  Instead of carving pumpkins (the pumpkins available here have an extremely thick rind, which can make them almost impossible to carve), the girls decorated them with sharpies as they ate pumpkin cookies.

Room 4 represented our last and very seasonally appropriate holiday: Christmas.  We gave the girls time to change into pajamas, popped bowl after bowl after bowl of popcorn, and all snuggled in to watch The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.

Multiple moments throughout the holiday hopping caused Jared and I to laugh until our sides hurt, but our favorite memory of the night was the girls who came up afterwards to tell us thanks.  Just that extra step they took to tell us they enjoyed the night made all the tracing and cutting of photo props, struggling to get the chocolate for the strawberries to just the right consistency, and missing parts of the movie to pop extra popcorn when we ran out, so very worth it.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Setting the Table for One More

With sixteen 8th grade girls under our roof, plus a recently turned three year old, it can be tricky to meaningfully connect with each of them everyday.  Add in after school sports, drama practice, and a 90 acre campus and some days we may not even see some of the girls until their 7PM in-dorm curfew.  7PM rolls into a mandatory study hall, group and personal devotions, and then before you know it, it’s lights out. 

And so this school year, with our hearts desiring real connections, we adopted a suggestion given to us by another set of experienced dorm parents.  Every Tuesday and Wednesday night we add a 4th plate as we set the table and the girls take turns joining us for dinner.  The food’s not necessarily fancy, and often we’re juggling a near bedtime toddler, but those nights have become my favorite of each week.  Just those 30 minutes of (relatively) uninterrupted time gives us a chance to hear pieces of their hearts we wouldn’t otherwise catch: a shared joy, a recent struggle, a whispered prayer request.  Sometimes there are tears, other times laughter or even awkward silences, but regardless, those nights are always worth it.

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We pray that these nights continue to show our girls that we are for them.  We want them to know that they are a priority and that they are loved.  God has given us the awesome privilege to stand in the gap for these girls as they are away from home and sometimes that looks like setting an extra plate and inviting them to dinner.