Thursday, April 30, 2009

and the dancing continues...

....thanks to a little envelope we got in the mail yesterday. We opened it to discover a CD of new kids songs, the case was cracked but it survived and Anni has listened to it at least 6 times. The best part is I like it too! Any CD that has the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing a song called Yertle the Turtle is pretty fab in my book! Thanks cousin Evan for the special CD, you shake what your mama gave you in Idaho and we will work it out in Tanzania!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

lack of posts

I would be suffering from serious blogger's guilt if I could not blame power outages for the past 2 days; at least in part, for my lack of communication. Despite that I must also admit that I have been a slacker and although I have many blog-worthy stories to share (not that there is a high standard for this blog:) I have been busy and exhausted. As soon as someone invents a USB port for my cerebrum (at least I think that is where memory is stored, oh High School health don't fail me now)I will post more...I promise. For now here is some recent life in pics....

the rains are here, it rained on and off for about 30 hours last weekend

....and I left the window of the car open...Pole!

an early morning delivery at our house via cow cart had Anni & Zawadi very excited!

Anni always finds time to relax

Friday, April 24, 2009

news of the weird

Yesterday I was pretty tired and hot so as I walked home I was sure I was a little "off." But I stopped off at my neighbor's yard to greet everyone and saw....PURPLE BABY CHICKENS! Seriously. I thought maybe I had sun exposure but when I went back today to prove to Jason I was not a total nut job there they were: kukus rangi za zambarau. Chickens the color of purple!
Since our camera is still not working well I took a video just to prove that I am not insane or suffering from heat induced psychosis. There really are a troop of baby purple chickens at my neighbor's house. Annikah and the kids had fun chasing them around. When we tried to understand why the only explanation that we got was because of the kunguru or the birds that everyone here calls the thief birds, think pigeons' only bigger and nastier, I guess maybe they dyed the chickens so the other birds won't steal them and eat them? I guess purple baby chicks don't taste like chicken? Hey, don't ask me....I just report this news of the weird.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

blast from the past

On Saturday we finally made it back to the village we built houses in 5 years ago on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip(consider that a plug!). We had been talking about going back since arriving but wanted to wait until we had enough language to communicate. We finally made time and it was a great experience. We traveled with our friend that also was a fundi on the site and the dala dala driver that took our team around 5 years ago. It has been awesome to reconnect with them as well and they have been coming over to spend time with Jason a lot. We drove out and parked the car near where we knew the village was. Although some things look a bit different we immediately recognized everything..."this where we ate lunch, this is where the dala dala parked everyday, that is where the rock we peed on was, etc" We walked a while to the first site we remembered building on and saw the finished house that is still standing! When our team started it was only coral rock foundation and after a couple weeks of building it was almost done (except the roof). Now is still stands but the owner was not there.

the first week of building 5 years ago....just coral rock foundation

the house almost finished the day we left 5 years ago

The house today! Even though we helped build it it is still standing!

We talked to some neighbors and took some pictures but did not really recognize anyone. We were kid of bummed at this point as we thought that maybe folks had moved. Our friend suggested we walk over to the other area where we had worked on two homes. After a sweaty walk we arrived and right away I recognized the Mama of the village sitting in a doorway. She recognized us as well and we greeted each other. I showed her the pictures we had brought and she shared that her husband; the Mzee of the village had passed away. Within minutes several more women and tons of children appeared. Three of the children I knew the moment I saw them even though they are so much older now. We showed all the children the pictures of themselves when they were only 2 or 3 and they loved seeing themselves. Two little girls I had bonded with during our trip were both there and we got to spend time with them and see their homes. I had brought banana bread muffins for everyone and after some women pulled out a mat under the shade of some trees we ate and shared stories about life over the past few years. They said they were very impressed with our Kiswahili which we would hope because last time we were there we could ask for the bathroom, more water, and say bricks please. So at least we have moved up from that :)We heard about the homes being completed, the families, who has passed away, who has moved, what brought us back, and schools for the children. They even remembered us teaching the kids duck-duck-goose or as we named it "kuku-kuku-jugo (chicken, chicken, rooster)." It was crazy to see how much is the same but also to hear about and see the community development the women in this area have spear headed. Given the cultural boundaries to women in leadership I think they are all rock stars! The hospital that was in the planning and beginning building stages when we were here is finished and now provides a much needed birthing center, care for women and children, as well as medicine and help to those living with HIV/AIDS. Although it was closed because it was Saturday they proudly took us on a tour of the outside and told us we needed to come back when it was open to see everything.

The kids play outside the hospital

It was amazing to see and spend time with people we thought we would never see again! God always surprises me! I vividly remembered one little boy named Omar because of his outrageously joyful and huge smile. He would chase after our dala dala everyday as we left the work site until his small little legs would almost give out. He was no where to be found though and when I asked about him some kids quickly got up and said he lived in the next village and they would get him. About 20 minutes later he appeared, same precious, warm smile, just a few inches taller. It was a highlight to see the children. A reminder that the vitality and hope of a community is the children. After a couple hours we left with lots of invites to come back and promises to return. They did say I have to come back to teach them to make the banana bread...I am telling you the secret to cross cultural relations is in the mkate wa ndizi! We hope to return soon! A well spent Saturday afternoon.
The "mama" elder of the village and the kids checking out their pictures from 5 years ago
Anni got to pet a baby chicken!
5 years ago our team with everyone from the village!
same place as 5 years ago front of the Habitat sign
Anni and I with the women and kids today!
Me with the kids 5 years ago....can you find the same kids in the pic below?
This time Annikah was the one making lots of new friends

Monday, April 20, 2009

odd but true

Even though you are surrounded by people it is possible to feel lonely. Today that is me.

Over the past week we have been spending a lot of time with people here which has been great but exhausting as well. Especially since the "terrible twos" have decided to reside at our home and show no signs of leaving. I can only describe this phenomenon as everything said terrible two-er wants I don't have or cannot provide quick enough and everything I request of her is apparently akin to torture. Then 30 seconds later the reverse is true and the game changes; she wants whatever was offered and despised a minute ago. We are tired. It makes it more difficult to deal with when we are surrounded by people. Everyone here is so kind to her but they also treat her like an angel even when she is behaving terribly and it is difficult for us to maintain our version of discipline. And Miss A has figured that out. I keep reminding myself this is why we are here; to learn about the culture, spend time with people, to work on the school, live and work with everyone God brings across our path. And most days we do love it but today I am just at a place of weariness. This past week has been nuts. We were welcomed into homes, fed, and fed again, invited to parties, had people over, visited a village, and spent time with neighbors. But even with all the interaction I feel a bit lonely right now. It could be PMS, or a combo of that and my homesickness at the moment but it is just the way I feel, the space I am occupying right now.

I miss home. I miss all things familiar. I miss my family. I miss my girlfriends. I miss my Mama friends. I miss calling them up and being understood and listening and talking and venting and laughing and spending time together. I would not trade this experience for our family for anything but at least for today I just miss being me in the context of home.

Friday, April 17, 2009

coming along

Since I have been a major slacker in posting updated pics of the progress on the school here are a few.....Lots of progress since last pictures and the rain has held off so far. We are hoping for a roof soon!

Annikah "helps" too! Mostly by joining me to bring chai.

duka la Annikah

Annikah's favorite part of us getting a new fridge was the box.
A huge cardboard box: Oh, the possibilities!

We helped Anni open her very own duka (shop) and she know loves selling empty containers of anything and everything to anyone that comes over. We started calling it the "elfu moja" store because when asked how much any item is; in English or Kiswahili she responds with "elfu moja" or 1,000 shillings (about 80 cents). Everyone who sets foot in our home must shop at Duka La Annikah. Really it is not a matter of choice. She is quite a considerate duka owner as she presents you with fake pesa (money) we made together and a shopping bag before escorting you to her duka window to make your purchases. Most times she even gives you more in change then you paid. Jason thinks she need some business management skills before opening any more franchises. Although she may have more skills that we initially thought....the other morning when I asked how much an empty container of oil was she responded "elfu tatu" (3,000 shillings) but when a Mswahili friend asked about the same container Anni said "elfu moja" (1,000 shillings). Looks like even Annikah gets the concept of white price!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

nutmeg...get some!

I was cleaning out and reorganizing our spices this morning and came across this bag of nutmeg.
I not only LOVE the use of English (if you can call it that) but the suggestion about the uses for women. I had heard this before from friends here, maybe that is why Jason seems to want me to cook with nutmeg. Hmmmmm....

Consider this an AD for nutmeg......get some of you own today!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

wedding of the fly!

I attended a wedding on Friday. And I found out I was going Thursday night. My good friend told me a while back that I was invited to a wedding sometime in April and then she came by Thursday to let me know it was the next day and that I should be ready at 4:30pm. She also told me she would call me to remind me to take a shower and get ready (did she really think I might forget?) She also helped me pick out acceptable clothing and jewelry, the rule seems to be the more the better! Women really get dressed up here and I constantly feel like a shlump-a-dinka so I was very grateful I had just had a shirt, pants, and head wrap made from fabric I picked out with her for our pasaka party so I was ready to go (younger women sometimes wear pants as long as the shirt covers your butt). I also had henna done Friday afternoon with Paula in preparation for our pasaka party so that worked out perfectly as well. Except that I was running so late in returning home and I must have the only African friend who actually showed up early to pick me up. I was virtually naked and was sprinting around trying to get glammed up when she arrived. It is a lot of work to be a woman here! Exhausting for me who is used to wearing jeans and a "nice" T-shirt and maybe putting on mascara if I want to look really special. Even the way I used to get dressed up is no where near as much as they put into to their appearance here for special days. I thought I would go sans Annikah because the last wedding I attended went really late but when my friends showed up to get me they insisted that she came and quickly helped me dress her and do her hair. And we were off!

The wedding was packed with people. Seriously probably about 100-200 women sitting on mats in front of the house where the bibi harusi (bride) was waiting. We were quickly shuffled into the house to greet her and present our gift. She was dressed in green (a color of blessing) sitting on a bed. Every part of her body was covered except her hands and feet which were beautifully decorated with henna. Everyone comes in individually to greet her but she misses most of the party going on outside while waiting.

After greeting the women in the house we joined the hundreds of women outside sitting on mats. The men were a few houses over. The are very separate spheres here for men and women and the only men by us were musicians. We sat, talked, admired the beautiful clothes, and listened to the music. After a bit most of the women would stand for each song and dance. At the insistence of my friend we joined in and of course were quite a spectacle. Anni had the sway they do down perfectly. After about an hour the dancing got a bit more crazy and by the end women were waving money above their heads and shaking everything their Mamas gave them! Of course to be culturally sensitive I joined in :) Plus, I love dancing! After a few hours they served some sambusas and spiced jelly stuff (I do not care for it). Finally, the bride made her appearance after the bwana harusi (groom) had already finished the official wedding, made the vows, etc with the men. She was carried on her relatives backs to the place where the men were gathered and everyone followed (I got a bit of this on video but was too far back to see the bride). I asked the significance of this but the women I asked did not seem to know (much like many of my cultural traditions they just "do it that way"). After we helped clean up a bit we packed about 5 more people than had arrived with us into our car and headed home to drop everyone off. The best moment....before we left a women came up to me and said she heard I was the one who knew how to make the banana bread and conveyed with big arm gestures that she must know how to bake it. I sent my friend over with the recipe the next day and I heard they made 10 banana bread loaves for the family celebration the next day. The Wazungu mkate wa ndizi is the stuff of legends y'all!

before we headed out (the sun is so bright Miss was blinded)
the procession to carry the bride to the groom
Anni liked the eating sambusas part of the party
This pic cracks me up...
I love that she is still booty dancing while I stopped to smile!
the drive home...
just how many people can we fit in the Wazungu's car? So far 12!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

eggs, excitement, & Easter

On Sunday morning we had an impromptu Easter celebration of sorts with our team mates here. And thanks to 2 amazing Roger's Park Mamas back in the Chi we picked up a package on Thursday (perfect timing may I add because the post office was closed Friday and will be until Tuesday). It was perfect because inside was an Easter egg dying kit!! WOOHOO! Anni was so excited and she kept asking "Mama, when me make those eggs?" We dyed them early Friday since I knew Saturday promised to be nuts (it delivered too!). Anni worked diligently and with much concentration. The egg dying kit coupled with some other special Easter present my mom sent (thanks everyone!) made for some special Easter fun!

Here is Anni bordering on artistic greatness...

oh, the concentration of it all

how cute is a chubby lil hand pointing out her finished masterpieces?

Yep, Annikah loves coloring the eggs. Thanks!

On Sunday morning (still with no furniture in our front room...I am too tired to deal with it yet..) we packed up some fun Easter goodies to share and headed over to our team mates place for some singing, reading the Easter story, and hanging out. Of course followed by lunch. I put a little of the Easter footage together into a short video below. I love the girls all dancing. Freely. This is the kind of church I want to go to all the time. Kids free to dance, shout, and sing and families together sharing time, food, and laughter. Good times. After "church" we had an Easter egg hunt. Note to self: American dye is not made to withstand insane heat and will melt off said eggs. No worries though, the girls seemed undeterred from their quest! All the eggs were found, dropped, shared, and placed inside crumbled little brown bags within 10 minutes.
the girls show off their loot!
It was fun and refreshing to have a bit of "home" and to share this day with our team. Maybe I will even mop and get the furniture back in our house soon.....hey, I said maybe...
I am wearing the dress a friend brought to our house as a Pasaka present...So thoughtful of her. I proudly donned it to celebrate Easter!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pasaka Par-tay!

We had our Pasaka party on Saturday for our friends and neighbors here. The day started with a bang, literally. While running various errands in town for the party Jason got in a small car accident which could have been much bigger. A dala-dala with no brakes light stopped suddenly in front of him forcing him to swerve and hit another car. When Jason arrived back home he was a bit shaken up but thankfully (and amazingly!) our side view mirror and a scratch to the car was the only casualty. Thank you God!

I started cooking and baking at around 8am and thank goodness had some great help. I made 60 banana muffins! We made pilau, salad, cut fruit, chapatis, and lots of other snack foods. It was not stressful because of the help I had in preparing. A true blessing.

pre party cooking marathon!

After some seriously needed showers and getting dressed we waited. And waited. We thought again that no one would show when at the start time only one of my Mama friends and her son had come. But we've learned not to think that too soon. Within an hour there were around 60 people here. I lost count of how many children. Most of our neighbors joined us and friends we know from other parts of the island came too. It was awesome to see so many people here. And really crazy! Sort of a chaotic fabulous crazy. One of the first guests arrived and asked to use our bathroom to shower and needed to iron his clothes before getting dressed (at least he wanted to look nice!). When we asked the adults why so many children had come my friend responded that people here have at least 8 kids. That would make sense. Still, there were about 10-15 kids that we had never seen before but I think word was out about the party and they couldn't resist checking out what the Wazungu were up to.

I think culturally we did a better job this time around only because my amazing Mama friends from our neighborhood helped me. My girlfriend was like a party consultant (seriously she could do this for a living... I can see the ad: willing to help clueless Wazungu throw somewhat relevant parties!). She helped me plan the food, told us to get the to-go trays (not only do you feed everyone at the party but at every party we have been to here they always give out trays of food to go home), and she came early to help me cook and prepare. The "mama crew" quickly sprung into action once the party started; cooking, walking around with a pitcher and bowl to allow people to wash their hands, preparing plates, serving everyone, cleaning, and putting the smack down on any kids acting up. They were an amazing blessing to us as we were pretty overwhelmed with the amount of people that came. We had moved all the furniture out of our front room (because we have seen many people do that here for gatherings) and even with a huge open room there was not one place to sit by the end. To walk you had to touch people's heads and step over kids. Both front doors were wide open and the rest of the people were sitting outside. It was nuts!

I thanked everyone for coming and asked them to forgive us if we made cultural blunders as we are students of language and culture. Jason then told the story of the first passover. I thought he did a great job as back home he's not a big fan of being in front of people but to fit in here he must do most of the talking (something I am still getting used to :). It was awesome to see so many people listening and responding to the story. He told only half of the story and then he prayed and we ate dinner.

The frenzy of serving food was complete chaos. By the end there was no food left at all. Not one bite and although some children were forced to share everyone seemed to have some food. Sodas were a big hit as well and we quickly went through over 2 cases. After dinner the "mama crew" rushed the kids outside so we could clean up the food on the floor and shake out the mats. After sweeping up about 5 pans full of dirt and food we invited people to come back and sit for the rest of the story. At this point there was also a loud wedding happening across the street that was making conversation difficult. The children were making so much noise outside as well that is was difficult to hear but the men wanted to hear the rest and asked Jason to continue. We were advised to get a PA system next time! In the midst of the chaos, Jason had lost the story we had written up and had to quickly print out another copy (thank God there was power). Though we are feeling much more confident in our Kiswahili, we did read what we had written as we didn't want to make any mistakes or leave anything out. Thankfully this is also very culturally relevant as at all events we've been to here the speeches are essentially someone reading their thoughts line by line.

During the cleaning frenzy one of the women that lives behind us came up to me and grabbed my arm and excitedly said that she understood the story and we used very good Kiswahili. That was a huge encouragement. It seems like the telling and sharing of stories is a very important part of this culture.

After the story, handing out the to-go trays, and returning mats to various friends the party started to die down a bit. We eventually had to escort some kids out of our gate as they were enjoying Anni's swings and probably would have stayed all night! About 4 guys remained to hang out with Jason and talk while I started the monumental task of cleaning. Annikah was so exhausted she actually asked to go to bed.....that NEVER happens! But she would soon get a burst of energy when a friend arrived. Anni loves her and as soon as she saw her she was wide awake again! Turns out my friend was late because she had not known when the party started and had been trying to call me for the last few hours. I felt so terrible and explained I had not heard the phone over all the noise. She even brought me an amazing gift for Pasaka (a beautiful dress). Since there was absolutely no food left in the joint I quickly grabbed the car keys, a shoeless Annikah, and we headed out to a stand we know that sells chips (fries) and these little meat pies they call "pizzas". She was happy to go with me and since Jason and I did not get to eat much either we brought back some food for everyone that was still left at our place. At around 9:30pm the last guest left and exhausted is not even the word. We could not believe how many people had come and pray that in a small way they were blessed by celebrating Pasaka with us! We could not have done it without the generous help of our friends here and we also learned a few lessons that we will have in mind the next time we plan a big event like this. Crazy, fabulous, chaos; good stuff!

Jason helps make the to-go trays to give out at the end of the party,as we have learned a must for any party here

Jason about to start the hadithi (story) about the first passover

The amazing "mama crew" enjoying some food...finally!

watu wengi (many people)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

pasaka, death, & living in a new reality

Pasaka. That is the Kiswahili word for Passover but here it is also used for Easter. As it turns out for me it gives it a lot more meaning. As we are planning our Pasaka party for friends and neighbors here I have been thinking a lot about Easter. About what it really means. Re-reading the story in Exodus about passover while living in this place brings so much more of it to light for me. I so vividly see the animal sacrifice and the idea of atonement as our friends here offer animal sacrifices on certain holidays. It just all seems more real and I am able to read the story of the New Testament as a continuation of the first passover in a new way. Jesus instituted a new passover within the context of the Old Testament's Passover. I can really feel the trepidation as God's chosen people followed the instructions given about how to be saved from the coming wrath, the tension as they ate in haste and dressed ready to be delivered from slavery, the hope they had as this day was to be celebrated and passed down through generations as a day of commemoration. The Passover meal tradition was a sign of unity with God and dependence on His divine care. It's purpose was to establish a bond of unity between God and His people. Passover remains but the meaning changed with Jesus' arrival on the scene.

Yes, I have been doing a lot of thinking on this. Thinking that has woken me up several times in the last weeks. Thinking about life, promises, and Jesus' sacrifice for once and all. And about death. Recently we have heard of so many deaths here. Back home I no doubt heard about death everyday on the news but as much as I hate to admit that sometimes felt more removed. I was more apathetic because the constant stream of "honor roll student gunned down in a drive by" seemed endless and sometimes hopeless. Here it has become much more real to me. On this small island we hear of death almost everyday. And it is not just wazee (older people) everyone is vulnerable, Jason's good friend lost his 21 year friend to malaria, a small child was hit by a car and died, a van carrying 11 people crashed killing everyone, our neighbor's friend lost his 9 year old son, and just yesterday Jason heard of a woman who did not have enough breast milk to feed both her newborn twins so one died. It seems hopeless. Loss and tragedy are everywhere and some days I feel stifled by it, I grasp for something to say or do to make it better.
But I cannot make it all right. No one on or of earth can. Only One who has overcome death can take that pain and turn it to joy. He who has overcome the curse of death. He who has shattered the grasp of darkness.

But how did Jesus get there? To the point of death on a cross for the sins of the world. To finishing the work of passover. To overcoming.
A week before His death he arrived to a triumphant crowd spreading their cloaks and branches down on a muddy road chanting "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" He met a crowd of adoring fans, on whose lips were whispers of a triumphant victory and of a new king. Buzz. Excitement.
And not a week later many of these same people would be the ones shouting "crucify Him!" The people that were shouting and hungry for Jesus' death did not see it. They missed the triumph that was to come. But I am sure it looked pretty pathetic and hopeless at the time. They were waiting for a King. For power. For a David. A man willing to fight, to conquer, to win. What they saw was a man who talked of a triumph to come, of a victory in heaven, the scriptures being fulfilled. The chasm was huge: between what was expected and what was.

Easy to look back and to know which "side" I should have been on. But would I have had the courage to to follow Him, to believe His promises in light of the current reality, to hold onto hope when things are crumbling around me, to trust that ultimately the way of sacrifice is better than the way of earthly triumph? Would I have had faith that all that is seen is not all that is. Even as I ask this, I know.

I know in my heart.

I would have been among the scoffers. Among those disappointed that His triumph was not the stuff of man. Wanting those who ruled unjustly to be punished now. Wanting those who lived good lives to be rewarded. Immediately. Unwilling to believe, to wait and see that the Lord is good. Always. Even in the darkest hour.
I know this because I so often can easily praise Him when things in my life are going well, when the world is as I deem right. But how quickly I turn to prayers of advising, counseling, drawing diagrams, suggesting courses of action and shaking my fists at Him when things are tough. Like the disciples that one minute were claiming they would follow Jesus anywhere and the next deserting Him or denying Him. I too sometimes grasp at maintaining mere existence over loyalty and humble greatness. Yes, too many days I embrace disappointment more than hope, anger more than love, apathy more than action. I fail; again and again. And herein lies my need for a Savior.
When will I learn? When will we learn? We cannot look to man or simply ourselves for understanding and overcoming the things of this world. When I feel overwhelmed by the pain that exists here and in the world I know I cannot fix anything but I know one who can. I know His finished work is enough. I know real peace is freely offered. I just have to share the joy I have.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
He has overcome the world yet we are to live in it and we are promised trouble. Not easy, pain-free existence. But trouble. Pain. Refining.

But Jesus can handle it. All of it. My questioning. Yours. He knows what He is doing even if it is beyond me. He uses flawed people like me. Like you. To accomplish His purposes in this world. Not because He must but because he chooses to. Because He loves us enough to refine us, to guide us, to show us what real love is all about.
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Philippians 3:10. More and more I am thinking on this scripture. What does it mean for me to know the power of His resurrection? to share the fellowship of his sufferings? and to become like Him in death? First, is to accept He is who he says He is. And apart from Him I am stuck, unable to fix myself. And He can do for us what is promised. But we get to decide how now we will live.

Salvation is freely offered. The death of the perfect passover lamb was for told and has come to pass.

It is a new reality.

It changed history, it alters the current, it affect the future.

Jesus did not come, live, die, and be resurrected to start a new religion. I don't need religion. Jesus spoke harshly against those who claimed to be "righteous." Those who did not acknowledge their deep need but rather invested in acts alone. Those who claimed that by following every letter of the law they were better off than those around them. I don't need law and religion.
I need a relationship. He came to offer relationship.

But it is uncomfortable. It requires choice. He will not force Himself into my life. Or yours. He left it up to us, His creation to choose, to decide for ourselves. For me this is profound. I guess I realize more and more how much I need Him to cover my sins. How much more I want Him to resurrect my life from the pit I dig it into, time and time again. How much more I want to live in His victory. How much more I desire abundance in my life that only comes from chasing after Him.
I love this passage from Jesus with Dirty Feet by Don Everts, I came across this section last week and it spoke to me as I contemplate Easter.
"Salvation has always been a beautiful thing.
And it has always been an immensely unpopular.
Salvation implies need.
A savior by (definition)
isn't something people merely
or opt for
or settle for.
A savior is someone who is utterly,
fully needed.
Jesus was always clear about this.
very early on he clarified his purpose:
"those who are well
have no need
of a physician, but those who are sick
"I have come to call not the righteous
but sinners."

Just as repentance assumes
people are facing the wrong way,
so salvation assumes people need to be saved.
it's simply logical. And very


Over and over Jesus' repeated
"You need me."

You need me. Jesus' parables and teaching
were utterly saturated
with this one simple message:
You are lost sheep. And I am a shepherd.
You are blind. And I am the healer of eyes.
You are stumbling in darkness. And I am light.
You are branches. And I am the life connecting vine.
You are starving. And I am bread.
You are dying of thirst. And I am water.
You are on a journey.And I am the path to,
and the gate for, you final destination.
Jesus knew that be being killed
and not staying dead
he would change reality forever
for those who would respond to his news,
following him
and entering his Kingdom.
He knew he could offer life.
He knew that after seeing him alive again
people would
wide eyed
and breathe,

"We really do need you."

So, in a steady, compassionate voice, in his life and in his words,
he confided
"You need me.
I come offering real life.
You are the sheep.
I am the one who can shepherd you."
It is no wonder
he was embraced
by those who knew their needed condition,
and rejected and fought
by those who felt
they could get along just fine,
thank you very much!
but he said
"yes, you desperately need life,"
he assured people.

He came to offer life. But this life is abundant,
is extravagant,
is fruitful,
is powerful
is joyful-
is a feast!"

Jesus didn't come offering
bare-minimum rations
to a dying people.
He came offering
an amazing, opulent, lavish, unending feast
to a dying people.

This is the nature of how God provides.

Today is our party for our friends and neighbors here. I have a lot of cooking, cleaning, and preparing ahead but I pray we can show half as much hospitality that has been lavished on us by our neighbors and friends since arriving. I have such joy knowing that even in a small way we can share the abundant life with people who; in a short time, have touched my heart, opened their lives to us, and have made me think more and more about my own.
This Pasaka I am allowing all these things to sink in, to the place in my soul reserved for me and my maker. God reversed the curse of death for all those who believe He did what He said, for all those who hope all that is seen is not all there is, that the victory and deliverance from pain and death is available now. Jesus bore all the mess, all the crap, all the pain.... for us. We should rejoice, take heart, and celebrate Pasaka with a joy that only comes from knowing our deep need and sensing the profound peace that life in the lamb brings. Happy Easter! Pasaka Njema!

Friday, April 10, 2009

an email I just received

How desperate do you have to be to respond to an email like this....

Subject line: From Big BOOBS!!!!!!

Message: I love the way you kiss. email me right away.

Funny thing is I do not even remember making out with Big Boobs?
Maybe it was the same day I entered the Euro Millions Lottery? I am one email response away from 3,450,000 pounds...Sweet!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

a late but necessary cake

Last Friday was busy and tiring. One of those days you are late and in a bad mood from the time you wake up. For no particular reason. I wish I was one of those people that can shake a funk off quickly or not take it out on anyone in my path (namely my poor husband) but *sigh* I am working on it. God is working on me. Mostly I am battling my pride, not wanting to admit that I may be causing some of the chaos around me, or at the very least adding to it. Nonetheless Friday was not poised to be a great day.

After finally getting out of the house to drop off food for the workers at the school site and take Anni to school before rushing to an all morning team meeting we were already a bit flustered. After the meeting, picking Anni up, lunch, and another meeting we headed home pretty exhausted. I knew that it was my girlfriend's birthday and a few weeks back I said I would make her a cake. Nothing in me wanted to. I was tired and hot and still holding onto to my funky attitude. Maybe she would not remember? She is probably busy anyway, I reasoned. I wish I could say it was a kind heart motivated solely by love that finally made me get my butt in gear and bake a cake but it was more my need to follow through on promises, to not lose face. I shredded carrots, sifted flour, measured sugar and oil and made a darn carrot cake. Jason was fixing some things outside and keeping Annikah busy with occasional pushes on her swing so I was able to bake and clean up. After about 10 minutes I smelled the unmistakable waft of burned cake, of hopes dashed. Indeed it was our uneven oven to blame once again (that and my not watching properly but we will go with the oven). At first I thought I could scrape off some of the charred parts but then realizing the inside was still entirely liquid while the outside was petrified I gave up hope. So much for my baking abilities. Now surely I could give up at this point. After all I had given it the old college try, right? It was almost 6pm and I needed to figure out what we would eat for dinner and get Annikah ready for bed. Lots of excuses rolled around in my head but none of them sat right with me. At this point I just knew that making this cake was what I needed to do, even if I did not want to. I mumbled something to Jason about me hating the oven and life in general, grabbed the car keys and headed to a duka I knew sold cake mixes. My saving grace at this point. Anni started protesting my departure so I took her with me even though she was wearing no shoes and just a T-shirt and underwear (as an aside one reason I LOVE it here is that shoes are always optional). We returned with a ridiculous funfetti cake mix (it was either that or orange cake mix...seemed a bit sketchy) and after dumping the mix adding everything popped it is the oven, this time the bottom shelf. Finally it was done and I burned my fingers trying to get the thing out and on a tray so quickly since it was getting so late, whipped some sugar, milk, and vanilla for icing and loaded a bag with candles leftover from Anni's B-day and the gift I had gotten her. I was off. After walking to her house her husband told me she was at his mother's house (the girl hangout in our hood). Once I arrived I "hoodi"ed at the gate and the response was many very excited "Karibu"s. My friend greeted me and after I wished her a happy siku ya kuzaliwa she said that she was so happy I came, that she had tried calling me 2 times and had already stopped over at my house 3 times. Her mother in law and 4 of her friends were there waiting to see if I would show. They were so excited to see me, maybe because I was the bearer of the cake, they kissed my cheeks and thanked me for coming. They quickly grabbed plates and forks and I followed cues to put the icing on and light the candles. We sang, we clapped, we laughed a lot. It was good. In those moments, despite my selfishness and my bad attitude that day, I was grateful. Grateful that even though my heart had not been in the right place He still used me to bless her in a small way. Turns out, though, the cake was necessary more so for me than for her. For me to learn yet again that He can use us in spite of ourselves and that He is always teaching, guiding, and revealing Truth to us even when we don't want to hear it. Even when we are stubborn. But even in small acts of obedience He shows up and makes up for our shortcomings, He makes all things right.

I had an absolute blast! We all fed each other cake, took tons of silly pictures, and she opened her gifts from me and another friend. Then she turned on some loud music and told us all to get up and dance. This was hilarious as a rapidly gathering crowd outside was laughing at us and our mad skills. After dancing a bit we chatted about the news in the neighborhood. One priceless comment I will never forget was her Mother-in-law saying something to me about being fat. Now at first, like many things I only picked out certain words so I asked her to repeat it "pole, pole" so I could understand. And understand I did. She said "when you first came here you were fat but now you are skinny" Now, how does one take such a comment? Which part is meant to be a dig and which part a compliment? It was obvious by what followed. Her grabbing my shoulders and waist and saying "you need to eat more" and "do you need help with cooking at your house?" So "fat" is what I am shooting for. Sweet! I must say living here is pretty great for a curvy girl's self esteem since apparently I am wasting away to nothingness even though I am fairly certain being all the all carb and oil diet I have not lost a pound since arriving.
They all praised the cake and asked me to teach them how to make it. Alas, I must now admit the secret of Western women everywhere: the mix. I hope they still respect me in the morning.

The b-day girl & the infamous keki!

the best part of this pic is the boy in the background making the same face :)

feeding each other cake..this tradition cracks me up....
I have flashbacks to many a wedding

my little girl & her swing: a series

I love these pictures and I love this kid.

Even on days like yesterday when she drives me nuts. Parenting constantly humbles me and brings me to back to how often I rebel against my Father and how every morning His mercies are new, His grace is sufficient, and His love has no depth. I pray that I can exhibit such mercy, grace, and love.

Beauty. A thought. I was cleaning dishes in the kitchen yesterday and I overheard Jason tell Annikah "you are such a pretty girl, do you know Papa loves you so much and Papa thinks you are beautiful?" To which Anni promptly responded "yes, Papa, me know." I felt warmth through my body, like a really big hug; familiar yet treasured. I love my husband and I love the father he is. Every little girl should hear that. Over and over again so that when life tells her she is not she always has that voice, somewhere deep inside. I think if more little girls heard that from their earthly father perhaps they could better understand how treasured they are by their Heavenly One.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anni has a new favorite place

There is actually an amusement park here. I remember driving by it our first week here and wondering if the thing even worked because it looked so run down. Apparently it does and I guess in the 8 months of living here it started to look not so shabby (that or my view of what is acceptable has changed a lot).
This is why I was a bit leery about going....
This is what most of the place looks like, run down and not exactly your picture of safety. At one time it was probably really nice but like many things here it was not maintained as we in the West we call maintenance. We have heard people say more than once "why fix or work on something until it is completely broken?" But after about 4 gracious invites from a friend and her insisting that Anni must see it we went together on Sunday afternoon. Anni and I first took the dala dala to met her at her house. As an aside Anni is becoming obsessed with the dala dala. She constantly asks to ride on it and is seriously disappointed when we take the car. Why she likes to be stuffed in a small, sweaty bus is beyond me? Actually, who am I kidding, it is because when she whips out the "shikamo" (respectful greeting for those older than you) she has about 15 adoring fans and she knows it .....and she loves it. After greeting everyone at our friend's home we walked to the the amusement park. About half of the rides do not work and another third looked a bit too much like a death trap to allow Anni to try them out but we did partake of a little train, the Ferris Wheel, and the Merry Go Round. Annikah had a blast and she cried hysterically when I told her we had to go home. Pole! It was great to hang out with our friend and meet lots of other Mamas and families. I am pretty sure a Wazungu at this joint is a rare siting indeed. Looks like we shall return and at about 2 bucks for everything we can afford it.

Annikah's favorite ride

at about 8 cents a cone we all enjoyed some ice cream...before dinner too (don't tell Papa)

my favorite part of this video is the little girl screaming in horror:) I guess she was not as much of a fan as Anni.