Monday, January 5, 2015

Pinch me...

Soon I'm going to quit writing all of these posts about our transition to the States.  But before I do, can I just say that there are a few things that continue to make me giddy about life on this side of the pond?  Just a few of them are...

  • The smells.  Everything smells so good.  The freshly laundered clothes, the fancy hand soaps and air fresheners, the yummy scents coming from coffee shops and bakeries, and just the clean sidewalks all around.   We are loving it.
  • The ease.  Dishwashers, paper plates, consistent electricity and water, and climate control.  Never gets old!
  • Meal preparation, oh my! Canned veggies, pre-washed salads, ready-made dough, mixes, pre-seasoned sausage, and the like.  And, if the gazillion 20 minute meal options aren't enough, you can pick up a phone and someone will bring you a pizza OR you can climb in your car, drive 5 minutes, and run through a drive-thru.  It's almost too good to be true.
  • Netflix!  
  • Clearance Racks
  • The open road, complete with $2 a gallon gas, 99 cent slushies, 70 mile an hour highways complete with signed exits, and almost non-existent horns.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why Not?

"It's not wrong, it's just different."  

That's been our motto for the last 3 years.  Every time we've been faced with a new food, new place, new cultural oddity, or the like, we have had to remind one another that just because something is isn't necessarily bad.

Obviously, there are some things that our family has been exposed to, which we teach our children are wrong.  Strapping a bomb to yourself and entering a place of worship will never be okay.  Abandoning your wife because she can't have children, we take issue with that too.  Having more than one wife...we're gonna train our children that one's a no-no.  However, eating grasshoppers and rats, not revealing your baby's name until he is six weeks old, or using your car horn with the same frequency as your brake lights isn't's just different.

We've realized, returning to this side of the globe, that we're the ones who might seem a bit "different." Our children aren't used to many of the conventions of life in these United States.  They don't know all of the rules.  That might be why I would walk into the kitchen and find the youngest two eating cottage cheese at 7:15 in the morning.  After all, it's a novelty to them, why can't it be a breakfast food?  Why shouldn't my teenager order a bacon cheeseburger when she's out with friends for breakfast?  Let them have their waffles, she can have those anytime in Africa.  And, I hope that my friend can overlook the fact that my high schooler picked a turkey sandwich for her sleepover breakfast, instead of cereal.

We also find ourselves doing some odd cultural things.  Like, when we were in the middle of a game at a New Year's Eve party and in an effort to encourage someone, I heard myself call out "Hup, Hup" and as I waited for those around my to answer, "Hooray!" I came to the realization that isn't a normal party chant here like it is in Ghana.  We also find ourselves getting excited about "finds" at the grocery store until we come to our senses and remember that jars of spaghetti sauce and cans of cream of chicken soup are readily available here.  We aren't sure what to say when asking for guidance to the restroom facilities...restroom? bathroom? toilet? WC?, which one is it we're supposed to use here?  There are still those moments when we see someone wearing University of Kentucky gear and want to inquire,  "Hey, are you from the States?"  Until we remember that we are IN the States.

All in all, we're adjusting well.  We've all had our moments of "too many choices induced paralysis" as well as "how do you live at this insane pace panic attacks," but all in all, we've had a really smooth and positive re-entry experience.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One Last Hurrah

Before we left Ghana, we decided to squeeze in a quick road trip to the Volta Region of Ghana.  We had heard about some beautiful things there and wanted to see them before we left.  It ended up being a lot of driving on some really rough roads, but we had some neat experiences.  Here are a few pictures of our time there:

We hiked into Wli Falls, which is supposed to be the highest waterfall in West Africa.  Along the way, we saw lots of fruits growing, but the pineapples were our favorites.  Have I ever mentioned that Ghana has THE BEST pineapple?

 This is the view of the falls, as we approached.

 Here are the kids, and our volunteer teacher enjoying the cool water of the falls.

 One of the Wli residents we saw on our walk back
We spent the night at Mountain Paradise.  The accommodations were basic, but the view was amazing.

The next day, we went to a monkey sanctuary.  With 75 cents worth of bananas, we were all able to let convince them to come and sit on our arms.  It was really an amazing experience.

None of our group shot efforts turned out very well, but this outtake is my favorite.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spoiled Rotten!

After a very busy and exhausting wrap-up month in Ghana, we have made it to the States!  We've been here about 5 days and we are so thankful.  We are also very cold and still trying to figure out how to sleep past 5 AM.  But, mostly we are thankful.

We arrived to an airport full of friends.  After a nice meal with about 5 of our favorite families, our parents took us to the mission house where we'll be staying for the next 5 months.  They had picked up the key and added all sorts of welcome touches.  My mother-in-law had invited several of the girl's friends over a few days before our arrival, and they had put up a Christmas tree and all sorts of decorations.  They also filled the cabinets with all sorts of food, paper goods, and other items.  The beds were made up with clean linens and we even had new winter pajamas and slipper socks waiting for us on each bed.  We are very, very blessed and we have felt very loved and cared for all week long!

It's been a busy week of purchasing some cold weather clothes and making a few Christmas preparations.  But, there has also been some time for rest and just delighting in the fact that we aren't responsible for so many folks for a little while.  It's been a great week of decompressing and we look forward to visiting friends, family, and many of you who have prayed for and encouraged us in the weeks ahead.

 Here's our Christmas tree, which my mother-in-law was able to find at the last minute for $15, at the Goodwill!  The ribbon around it is covered with Sharpie messages from kids in each of the SS classes that my children consider "their" class.
 Everyone, even Ryan and I, had a welcome sign on the wall above our beds.

 That OJ got a squeal.  Along with the cheese, seedless grapes, bacon, and Dr. Pepper
Pa's couponing efforts sure did benefit us this week!  We haven't even had to venture into the grocery section of a store yet.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prepare to Be Impressed...

What does a good wife do when the electricity comes on, right at bedtime when one's husband has to leave for the airport at 5AM and he has need of  clean clothes?  One stays up to rotate laundry and while writing, they might re-write the lyrics of an old favorite song.  And, it might go something like this:

I Can't Fight This Laundry Anymore
(sung to the tune of I Can't Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon)

I can't fight this laundry any longer,
And yet I'm still afraid to let it go,
Because we always stay so hot and stinky,
It simply cannot be re-worn, you know.

And even as I launder,
The end is not in sight,
It seems when we have water,
Then they "off the lights."
I'm not getting closer,
Though sometimes I think I might!

Cause I can't fight this laundry anymore,
I'll never get this pile off the floor,
I really want to simply shut the door,
Just buy new clothes at the store,
Baby, I can't fight this laundry anymore.

Monday, November 10, 2014

On The Move

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that we have accepted a transfer for next term.  This decision really started with our trip to Kenya.  During our time there, we were able to step back and look at the health of our family.  We were challenged to be willing to make whatever changes necessary to get our family in a healthier place.  As part of this time, we realized that if we were going to have longevity in Africa, we had to make a few changes.  The biggest one was that Ryan's frequent travel into Nigeria would have to stop.  Our children, and especially our boys, struggle a lot when he is there.  When we approached our leadership and asked them to consider letting us adjust our jobs to eliminate Ryan's travel, we fully expected that we would remain in our current location. 

However, we were asked to consider a transfer to another country where Ryan would do the same job that he is currently doing, but his work would all be done in the same country, eliminating the need for so much travel.  There was a significant need in this place and it sounded like a good fit for our family.  We prayed about it, made a trip up there to meet the units we would work with and see the area, and decided that it was where we needed to go next term.   We are all really excited about the move for a variety of reasons.  Here are just a few...
  • There is a huge need.  The place where we are going is one of the poorest nations in the world with less than 2% of the population estimated to be Christian.
  • The children will have a good school option.  We have loved homeschooling and if we were in the States, we would probably see it through to graduation.  But here in Africa, it can be really, really isolating- for them and for me.  The kids had actually asked us in June if we would consider finding a school option for them.  At that point, boarding school was the most likely option and I was not keen on that.  So, when an accredited MK school in the city that we were asked to move to became an option, we knew we needed to consider it.  It is likely that Abe and I will still school together for a year or more, but the older ones are chomping at the bit to try out "real school."  Ryan and I got to visit the school in August and we were really encouraged by what we saw.
  • The mission community.  There is an extensive mission community in the city where we'll live, consisting of folks from a variety of agencies who do a variety of ministries.  When you have teenagers, that's pretty important.  Our current city has offered us very limited community and the folks that we have gotten to know and enjoy live in other parts of the city, where frequent fellowship is not feasible because of the Accra traffic.
  • Existing teams.  Ryan and I do support work.  That means that the bulk of our time is spent investing in the ministries of folks who do strategic work.  While we know that helping folks get visas, auto paperwork, and the like is important and necessary, we also embrace opportunities to do ministry with nationals ourselves.  I have struggled a bit with this because of all of the life responsibilities that I face.  I am excited that there are several women there who are doing some neat work and whom I have the potential to team with to be more involved with nationals.  I can't wait to see how the Lord will allow me to invest my time there.
Here are some ways we ask you to pray:
  • Language- once again, we are faced with language learning.  The Hausa we learned in Nigeria will come in very handy, but we also need to be able to operate in French, and learn at least some of  another local language called Zarma.  I have a background in classroom French, but I am not conversational.  Ryan has been taking some lessons for about 10 weeks, but we both have a long way to go.
  • School- transitioning to school will be a big deal for all of us.  While the kids are thrilled and excited, it is a big change for all of us.
  • Rest- we really, really need some refreshment.  We are truly weary and need for our time in the States to be a time of restoration.  We have tried to calendar things in a way that this will be able to happen, but time will tell how that goes.
  • Relationships- we are praying even now that God would provide deep and precious relationships with both Africans and other ex-pat folks.  We have had a lonely season here in Accra and we all are praying for friendships and community in our new home.
Okay, now that I've given you some details, do you have any guesses about where we're going?  Here's a picture we took while we were there, does that help?  It's a picture of the house we'll live in in...
Niamey, Niger, Lord willing!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Different Kind of Supply

When I agreed to oversee the guest house that our organization operates in our city, the ideal was that we would have a long term volunteer who would do most of the oversight and I would simply provide the support for them.  That was the plan.  But, sometimes plans don't work out.  The person we had lined up for a one year commitment had multiple postponements and in the end, never made it.  I was able to get a couple of short termers, but since March, we've been volunteer-less at the guest house. 
I prayed very fervently that God would provide someone.  I knew there was no way I could spin all of the plates without a volunteer.  I work with a really, really great national staff who work hard, but there are some things that they are not responsible for.   God didn't answer my prayer like I had in mind, but He brought me a different kind of help.
When I was approaching panic mode about how we were going to keep the guesthouse going with no volunteer host, a co-worker from a neighboring country asked me if I could use a young volunteer.  She had a request from a pastor friend who was looking for a place for a young woman who wanted to do a gap year overseas.  She had been lined up to go to the Ukraine and with the current climate there, she needed a different location.  I told my friend that I didn't think she'd be a good fit for the guest house, but if she'd be willing to help homeschool, I'd take her.  I honestly didn't think she's consider it, but she did.  And, to my surprise, she came. 
I'm so glad she did.  She's been a big blessing for us.  She works a good bit with Abe, helps nearly all of the others with math and whatever else they get hung up on, and is a good friend to the girls.  While I am still heavily involved with school, she helps to streamline our days in a way that enables me to keep the plates spinning.  Not to mention, having her here has helped us keep traction on the days when I would be tempted to throw school out the window because there are too many other things to do. 

It doesn't always look like we imagine, but I have found time and again that God meets our needs over here in West Africa. 
"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."  Phillipians 4:19