Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Beautiful...

If you are my age, you probably remember the moment when your music collection began to transition from cassette tape to CD.  I remember when my parents bought me a "stereo" for Christmas my sophomore year in college.  It had both a tape deck and a CD carousel, so that I could enjoy my complete collection.  It also took up half of my half of dorm room shelf.  Thank you Lord for Ipods!

I had all of the artists that a good Baptist college girl should: Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Sandy Patti, Amy Grant, and Twila Paris.  Those songs still resonate in my head on a regular basis.  My kids roll their eyes when, in the middle of a chaotic day I belt out with "My life is in your hands, my heart is in your keeping," from the Kathy Troccoli song that has helped me through some of my rougher seasons.  

One of the songs that my heart has pulled up multiple times since we've lived here is the Twila Paris song called, "How Beautiful."  One of the lines in there is referencing the beauty of the Body of Christ.  I have always loved church, but this year, I have been more convinced than ever of the beauty of the church, which the Bible refers to as the "Body of Christ."

Our sending agency obviously understands how essential the Body of Christ is to the success of their personnel on the field.  Before we arrived at our training, we were strongly encouraged to find 5 partner churches to support us.  These churches were not expected to provide financial support, just commit to provide prayer support and encouragement.  Finding 5 ended up being a bit of a challenge for us.  Ryan had been on church staff for 10 years, so we weren't exactly diversified in our church attendance.  The first 2 came easily, they were churches we had worked for.  The next two came from friends in ministry whose churches agreed to remember us.  But the 5th church, we. had. no. idea.  

We prayed, we brainstormed, but we could not think of another church to invite to partner with us.
As time was ticking away and our training date approached, we resolved ourselves to the fact that we were only going to have 4 churches.  We knew it wasn't a big deal, but we were still discouraged that we'd failed at this basic task, one of our very first.  

We went to spend some time with Ryan's parents in Kentucky.  They have a little hunting cabin on a bunch of land where we spent a relaxing few days.  We always enjoy our time there catching crawdads, riding 4 wheelers, eating junk, and passing lazy hours.  While we were there, Ryan chatted with the man who owns the land next to them and he was telling us about the little Baptist church that he attended and how he had shared with them about how we were going to go and be "real, live missionaries."  The light bulb came on for Ryan and he asked this man if he thought their church might be interested in partnering with us.  That conversation was followed by a phone call with the pastor and  an agreement that they would be our 5th partner church.

Now, right here, I'm going to confess that I did not expect much out of that partnership.  To me, it was a box checked and a 5th name on the list.  We added their pastor to our update list and I never dreamed that it would go beyond that.  I was so very wrong.

That little church in West Liberty, KY,  the one that we have NEVER set foot in, has loved the daylights out of us.  I can't even think about it without crying.  They have sent us packages, they have made us cards, they have written us letters, and by golly, they have prayed.   Ryan's parents called us one Sunday, after visiting that church this summer and they were amazed.  They explained that every person in that church- young and old, wore a bracelet made by someone in the youth group as a reminder to pray for our family.  Folks, that will mess you up.  And humble you.  And encourage you to put one foot in front of another.  And make you realize that you are not alone.  I can not wait until the day I can go and visit them and hug their precious necks.  How beautiful, is the Body of Christ!

"But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."  1 Corinthians 12:24-26

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Few Things...

Last month, we celebrated our 1 year anniversary on the field.  Actually, celebrate is probably too strong of a term.  Briefly acknowledged is more accurate.  To be honest, the actual day was a really bad one.  It was at the end of my mom’s visit, she was still pretty sick, and I was having one of my “Why in the world am I here?” days.  It didn’t feel very celebratory.  I didn’t feel much like counting the little victories or reflecting on the blog.  A post written on that day would probably have gone something like this.  “We made it.  Nobody has starved to death.  None of us has been admitted to the psych ward.  We’re still here.  What more do you want?”

I’ve learned with the ebb and flow of life here that if I’m willing to ride the waves of grief and sorrow when they come, I eventually find myself back on the beach enjoying the sunshine.  So, even though I wish I didn’t struggle like I have with the realities of life here, I’m learning to live and grow through those struggles.  Which leads me to the point of this post...

We made it through a full year!  Actually, we’re at 13 months now.  And I’ve learned a few (gazillion) things in that year.  Things about life, things about my faith, and things about myself.  Here are just a few of them:

  • Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.
  • I don’t like guava or grapefruit, no matter how many of them are dripping off the trees in my backyard.
  • Pointsettias can grow to be really, really big.
  • Powdered milk tastes much better if it is refrigerated in a glass pitcher.
  • It is not the responsibility of merchants to carry correct change.  If I don’t have it, I shouldn’t be surprised when I receive my change in the form of really disgusting candies.
  • The rest of the world does not consider America to be the center of the world.   They don’t look at world history through the lens of George Washington.  Who knew?  Making friends from around the world has been enlightening in that way.
  • Reese’s eggs taste really good, even if they have traveled 6 weeks in a bubble envelope and you have to scrape 60% of them off the wax insert with your front teeth.
  • Most of my Muslim neighbors love their kids.  They work hard.  They are kind.  They think it’s ridiculous that “Muslims” are bombing churches, sort of how I think it’s ridiculous that “Christians” are bombing abortion clinics.
  • 24 hours of electricity a day is overkill.  Seriously, we function just as well on 12 or 14.  17 minutes however, is not enough.
  • It’s really, really important to choose your spouse wisely.  If God calls you to the ends of the earth with somebody, you had better like them.  Thank the Lord I got that one right!
  • Chameleons are absolutely fascinating while mosquitos are simply annoying.
  • God doesn’t need Sunday school classes or youth group socials to teach my kids some pretty amazing lessons, as evidenced here. 
  • My kids miss Sunday School and youth group socials.
  • I love bacon.  Especially when I don’t have to cut the hairy rind off of it.  In fact, if I have to cut the hairy rind off of it, I won't be tempted to eat it!
  • It’s a lot easier to save money when your shopping options are limited.
  • The Lord cares about the details of my life and can provide for me in some really creative and surprising ways.
  • I like blue jeans.  I miss blue jeans.  When I visit America, I will probably wear only blue jeans.  So, if you’re going to invite me to a wedding or a fancy dinner or to speak at your church, there’s your warning.
  • I hold enormous powers of embarrasment over my children, as evidenced by their begging and pleading everytime I hint that I’m going to purchase a caftan style dress to wear around the house.  Don’t you think that would make a good substitue for blue jeans?  Oh, and I could wear it when I speak at your church too!
  • Just because you’re certain that God has called you to something, you better not expect it to be easy.  But, you can expect it to be worthwhile.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Have to Admit...

that this silly dog has been a big ole blessing. 

 I readily admitted here that I was not eager to get a dog. It was definitely not my idea.  But here and now, I will admit, it was a really, really good choice for our family.  All of the things I worried about from the start like dog hair, messes, and maintenance are an issue, but nothing compared to the fun and joy he has brought to our family. 

He is so loving and fiercely loyal.  He absolutely loves the kids.  Everyday when I am sitting at the table and studying my Hausa, I know when the kids have been allowed outside for recess because Snickers races to the door and cries until I let him out to jump on the trampoline.  He lives for recess.

 He is a fierce protector.  No one gets through our door without his approval.  We don't need a doorbell, he announces visitors before they can get to the actual door.  He makes darn sure they know they better take a step back.  Normally, once he sees we're okay with them, he's happy to let them pass by.  

Well, most of them.  But definitely not our plumber.  He hates our plumber.  Our Nigerian friends insist that is because everyone knows that our plumber's tribe eats dog.  According to them, dogs know if people eat dogs.  I don't know if it's true, but I do know that none of the dogs on our compound like this man.  Anyway, that's how I managed to get the photo you see here.  Our plumber had come to fix a faucet.  Snickers went spastic, like always, so he got shut into the side room that attaches to our kitchen until he could get a grip.  I kind of forgot about him and an hour or so later, when I was preparing  dinner, he climbed up on the couch and stuck his head up on the ledge of the opening into our kitchen with a "Hey, what about me?" look.  I couldn't help but laugh.

I am very thankful that I got suckered into this puppy.  I caved because I thought it would be good for my children, but he has ended up bringing delight to all of us.  Not to mention, we've decided that someday, I need to write a book about this wild adventure God has led us on called, "Snickers Joins the Circus."

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"  Matthew 7:11

Sarah's Send-Forth

This weekend, we had the opportunity to attend a send-forth for a friend.  This is a gal who has been cooking for us a few days each week for about the last 9 months.   We have enjoyed getting to know her and her family.  She is moving to another city and we are sad to see her go.  She invited us to attend the celebration and prayer service that was held at her family's home this weekend.  Here are a few photos of our afternoon.
 Her house is close to ours, so we decided to walk.  Here we are, approaching the gate of her home.
It is very typical when we attend an event like this that we are taken to a special room or area, away from the rest of the attendees.  We were ushered into a sitting room, while the other folks were out in the courtyard.  When it was time for the prayer service to start, Ryan, Abby, and I asked if we could go outside and sit with the other folks.  The kids were happy to stay inside where they were protected from the sun.  

I was asked to share some words of encouragement with her concerning her marriage.  Let's just say that it is very intimidating to share those sorts of thought in front of a crowd of folks from a completely different culture.  That's when you have to just stick with what God's word says and lean not on your own understanding.  

Here is our sweet friend, Sarah and her handsome son Nathaniel.  We are really going to miss them!
After the service, it was time to eat.  Some of the guests received plates of jolof rice, chicken, and cole slaw.  Other guests received tuwo (which is a ball of starch made of pounded yam or rice) and stew.  From what I have observed, it is very common, when attending a social event here, for different guests to receive different meals depending on their relationship and position to the hosts.  We always get rice and meat- goat or chicken at these sort of events.  Of course, everyone gets a warm mineral to wash it all down with.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Where Did the Month Go?

I'm not sure where my days have been going, but they have been absolutely flying by.  We haven't had anything too spectacular happen, but here are some highlights from our last month.

  • My mom got home without any problems.  I don't really have pictures of our last week together, because she got very sick and we did not get to have many adventures the last week.  She did get to experience a Nigerian hospital, which was really, really rough.  She was admitted into one of the nicest rooms they offer, which was "nice" because it came with a private bathroom.  There was not, however, a toilet seat on the toilet, nor was the water actually running during our time there.  Thankfully, we had fine care from an American doctor who did what he could and got us out of there in about 8 hours.  She was able to get the IV fluids she needed and rest at home for the rest of the week.  She was pretty irritated that she was taking high quality anti-malarials and still managed to get malaria.  But, unfortunately, that's Africa for you!
  • We did get to enjoy a couple of days together in Abuja before she left.  Ryan and I debated how we should handle the goodbyes, knowing they would be tough.  We finally decided to tackle them at the guest house, rather than the airport.  So, only Ryan and Lily took her to the airport while I stayed back and consoled the others.  It was awful.  They cried, which made me cry.  About the time I would get one of them settled, another one would start again.  Finally, I had everyone under control when Lily came in and had her meltdown, explaining that she had tried so hard to be brave but she was just so sad.  It was really not fun.  Even the next morning, I looked at my husband and said, "Today, the only reason I'm going back to our house and not getting on an airplane to America is because I'm hopeful that the kids will get cheap college tuition for being MKs.  Tomorrow or another day, I may be here for the right reasons, like impacting eternity, but today, I'm staying for the college tuition."  I'm happy to report that I am back to having slightly better motives, but it was a rough couple of days.  Those are the times when you really wonder if the cost is worth it.
  • Upon returning home, we had a meeting with all of the other workers in our country.  We met with some of our national brothers and sisters to help us understand what local churches and conventions are doing, so that we can better partner with them.  While everyone was in town for the meeting, we took the opportunity to have a little baby shower for one of our families who is about to have their first baby.  I attempted to make a cake, using my limited resources here.  The new mommy was happy, so it was a success.  Entertaining is so different here.  So many of the things I worried about in the States just can't matter here.  It can't matter that I need to spread the icing thinner because butter is $10 a pound.  It can't matter that the shades of pink in the napkins and plates don't match.  I need to remember to be thankful that we found pink plates at all.  It can't matter that there is no ice because there hasn't been electricity.  I know these things don't bother anyone other than me and I'm having to learn to overlook them and remind myself that I'm not trying to create Pinterest perfection, just some good fellowship.  
Here we are, ready to celebrate a special baby girl!

  • After our meetings ended, it was FINALLY time to return to routine.  After Kenya, Christmas, and mom's visit, we were ready for routine.  We were happyy to welcome our teacher back and start school full force again.  I have been increasing my language time again, in the hopes of advancing as much as possible before we lose Ms. Laura, our teacher, at the end of May.  This means my weekdays are filled with juggling my part of the kids schooling, studying for my lessons, having my lessons, supervising our house helpers, and making sure that meals are ready.  Oh, and did I mention being a wife and mom?  I tell you, my current pace is not sustainable.  I just pray that it's sustainable until May 31st and that I will become miraculously fluent in Hausa between now.  
  • Of course, even with all of my attempts at routine and self-discipline, I'm a sucker for holidays.  So, this week, we took time to celebrate with lots of red and pink.  Our tradition is to have a special breakfast.  We enjoyed heart shaped sausage pinwheels and danish, made with our (not so) easy homemade crescent roll recipe.

The kids got a special lunch of Cheetos and turkey sandwiches, which are both a rare treat here.  We even busted out some of the cherry Jello folks have sent us and enjoyed jigglers for dessert.