Wednesday, July 22, 2009

first challenge

There was no rest for our survivors and after sleeping through the first night even amidst the noise of kukus (chickens) and loud music our neighbors played Rhoda came to a local Maulid celebration with Annikah and I on Saturday. We could not let Bibi miss out of this chance to see the local culture and meet our welcoming and amazing friends. No boys allowed so Jason and Jim stayed home to try to rest which soon proved impossible because of the blaring speakers from our party! Pole Sana!
Rhoda's challenge: attend local party where no one speaks English, listen to crazy loud music for a few hours, and try to fit in when everything is very different from a party at home. She narrowly survived eating the food since we took the "to-go" bags home where Anni was more than happy to eat both our shares. Bibi passed this challenge with no problems at all and although I do not think she will be searching for a CD of local music to take home she even had fun. Her reward was soon to follow....

Bibi & Anni take it all in!
the marashi (or rose water) they splash on everyone,
Anni went back for more to rub on her head
the "band"
watu wengi wanacheza dufu
many people dancing

special family announcements, family members names are called and then they get up to tip money
some of the mountain of shoes at the gate
After the party it was time for pictures with EVERYONE! It took forever, I felt like I was back at my wedding :) but Bibi and Anni got to head home for this part.

a taste of the Par-Tay:

Friday, July 17, 2009

2 survivors arrive...

Jason's parents are here safe!! They arrived without any flight mishaps, lost luggage, or delays; a true miracle. Although their arrival on the island at the port was truly a chaotic African welcome they are here and safe. Anni is loving having her Bibi and Babu around to shower her with gifts and attention and we are basking in the fabulousness of having family around. As they were planning their trip and asking many questions about travel here, what to expect, etc (this is their first trip to Africa) Rhoda said she thought of this adventure as her own version of Survivor. Everyone is Jason's family LOVES the TV show and they even got us hooked on it so I could not resist making them their own personal "buffs" for their journey. Who knows by the end of the trip Rhoda may be seen searching for edible creatures along the shore wearing her bandanna as a tube top while Jim forges for materials to build a shelter and collects coconuts. One thing is for sure we will not be voting them out: our tribe has spoken and they are welcome to stay!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

and what does He require of me? just me

When will I "get it"? It still surprises me that I a such a slow learner. But it shouldn't.
Over and over again I am reminded I am in process. Yet God is always there, with open arms, full of mercy and grace. Puts a lot in perspective with my need to be patient with Annikah.

Some have said that I am brave, that I am sacrificial. For "giving up" our lives in America to come here. Sometimes I allow myself to believe this for a minute. But just one. Then reality. Just as pride sneaks in and seeks to destroy I have a reality check.
I would like to set the record straight. I am fallen, I am selfish, I seek to control my life when I know it is better left in His hands. I am only redeemed by the blood of Jesus and more and more I am reminded of this.

Discontentment. It is an epidemic as I see it.

I've wrote about this general theme before but I was humbled after repenting of some nasty feelings that arose in my heart this week. As I hear about friends "back home" that are moving into new houses, getting new jobs, taking vacations, going back to school, you name it, I allowed the green eyed and ugly monster in (also called sin) and started thinking maybe we could have that if we had not; like idiots, sold everything and moved to Africa. Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe, Maybe, Maybe. Maybe THEN I would be happy, maybe then I would feel "secure." Maybe if things were different....Maybe things would be better...maybe.

My first clue that He wants to teach me something is usually that I think it is about something outside myself. When in reality He is using the situation to shine the light on the mirror in front of my face to reveal more. my need. my way. my source. Sometimes it is painful but always worth the journey.

Discontentment. I think a part of me thought moving here would change this struggle for me. After all I am surrounded by people with needs much greater than what upholstery looks best with what paint color and they are definitely NOT worried about being skinny:) (not that all struggles at home can be categorized this way AT ALL, but I often felt convicted that many of MY struggles were a petty waste of time in light of what is eternally of value). But the truth is that this is a struggle, a recurring sin I deal with and it just burrows in and finds a nice place to settle when I am not on watch, when I am not solely focused on all the amazing blessings in my life, the awesome and all powerful God I serve, the sacrificial king that is my Savior.

I allow that itch of discontentment in too often. And it is always something. When I scratch it it soon becomes an open, disgusting, festering wound that robs me of joy. You see it has nothing to do with "them" but everything to do with me. My journey. With the darkness competing for my thoughts, attention, for my devotion when I know what is better."darkness has a hunger that's insatiable" is a lyric to a favorite song and after listening to it the other morning I thought; yeah, right on. I happen to think there are many grains of truth in Indigo Girl's songs but that one hit me. Hard.

Nothing will ever be enough. Unless it is Him. Unless I choose to allow peace to permeate the flesh I struggle with daily. And the truth is that nothing can close that wound. At least no material or temporal thing.

I was worrying the other day about what we will do when we do get home. We won't have any money, we won't have jobs and let's face it living in Africa takes one off the job skill market quite quickly in Jason's field. Then as I was praying about it I felt God say "Yes, you won't have any money, you'll be broke. And Yep it might be hard to find a job. But you will be ok. Because you have to learn a better way; to TRUST my child. Just trust. When have I not provided for you? Abundantly."

I was humbled. A flood of instances came to mind, of miracles in my life that I can only attribute to the goodness of God. From the beginning of my life.....when I was not even 2 years old and only because of diligent prayers and His goodness was spared after my appendix had been ruptured for days. To the current....a month ago when we were questioning how we would cover all the expenses involved in traveling to the mainland so much for my sickness. And miraculously God prompted many people to give to us so that not only our needs were met but we could breathe again. How easily I forget the goodness in my life and dwell on the challenges. But to see these miracles I need to see through a lens. To choose to look. And this is my journey and I know the fruit of trusting in my life. I know the peace that comes from only living your own journey, only following God's calling for you. But letting go of everything else is hard.

One of the reasons I enjoy living here is because people are eager to discuss spiritual matters. They do not have the unwritten "rule" that we have back home that we do not discuss religion or politics. Because that is the stuff of life. They love arguing, discussing, asking questions. And I I love engaging in what matters and how we see the world. One major difference in world view that I have observed living here is that in Western culture we feel that we need to control every aspect of our lives; we plan pregnancy and other major events, we worry about where money will come from and feel solely responsible for generating it, we plan and want a say in every aspect, we are individuals, we must see forward motion in our lives. When we don't we feel cheated. When things don't go as expected we "fix it." Here many people see everything as "written" or decided in advance. Therefore they cannot effect change but simply are a passenger in what God has willed for them in their lives. They do not expect everything to "go their way" and they are familiar with death, with suffering, with wanting. At home most people "have" materially comparatively but yet still want more. As I reflect I think both extremes are tragically flawed. And not what I see the Bible teaching. No cultural; not Western culture nor the culture here has all the answers. To believe that is to be deceived.

The answer is not in culture. In other people. In things. In the changing. In the temporal.

It is in the unchanging.

This is about my life, my journey, what He wants to teach me "and what does the Lord require of me?" When I stand before God at the end of my life He will only ask me to account for me, for my life, for where I put my trust, my life, my hope, my faith.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Phil 3:7-12

The rub? Giving up your life, considering everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus means peace. And I cannot do it for myself. His spirit works in my life. And He has things for me to do. To laying down, to giving up, to setting aside, to sacrificing, to being released from "achieving," competing, trying to live any one's life but my own. To Trust. To have Faith. To know Freedom. So, although I still "don't get it" I am seeking.....What is He asking of me today? What can I lay down to know Him more? What can I give up that holds me back? What can you?

Monday, July 13, 2009


Lately we have seen a ton of these nasty dudes around here. Not sure why but a friend said they crawl in through the toilets. Since I often pee at night with no lights on I chose to NOT believe that.* When Anni comes to report "Mama there is BIG dudus (bugs) come see them!" I know what I will find. She is not scared at all and finds them sort of entertaining. Since they are the size of small cats I promptly play sissy and call Jason to get rid of them. He continues to insist that it should not be his responsibility but I say that was in our vows somewhere; "I vow to kill any jumbo sized cockroaches when needed so my dear wife is spared."

*anyone planning to visit please still come!! We will protect you, or at least Jason will!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the pro's & con's according to Miss A

Anni and I were painting and talking last week. It struck me that I love that she is old enough to have conversations and tell me things about her day at school or what she is thinking or how she perceives everything around her. I need to take more time to ask her questions and listen to the world explained by her. Jason was out working at the school site and it was uncommonly quiet around our house; no surprise visitors, no kukus outside the windows, no banging, no neighbors making noise. We took the opportunity to paint some pictures and I asked her if she likes living in Tanzania. She said "yeah, me like it." I asked her to expand and probed a bit further and this is what she reported as the pro's & con's of living here:

What she likes...

"me love my blue baby"

"me love going to mjini (town) on dala dala"

"me have lots of rafikis......lots of best friends too, me like to play my friends"

"me like to paint" (apparently they may only have paint in Africa:), even though it is from the US)

"me love to going to the beach"

What she does not like.....

"me not like the umeme (power) goes off" (amen to that one!)

"me not like Mama always sick" (I explained that Mama would be sick anywhere :)

Her lists are a lot shorter than mine but I love them. Here is a video of our 4th of July at the of Anni's big pro's :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

clean queen

I love when kids aim to please. I rarely got this in my classroom since I taught the age where it was cooler to flip off the teacher than help her but younger kids are so sweet when they live for the "what a big helper" or "Wow, you are doing such a great job helping big girl" praise. Anni is loving the attention she gets for "helping." I made her a chore chart and she is eager everyday to get her stickers for her various tasks. She also loves"helping" our house helper Martha. Now by "helping" I mean bothering, annoying and otherwise redistributing the dirt she already swept up. But Martha is very kind to her and even gives her own little broom and instructions on how she can help. Now if I can just get the kid to clean her room without a bribe :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

at least it is something

So, I HATE being pregnant. OK, maybe that is a strong word......Nope, pretty much right on.

I know it is a miracle and all and really I do feel blessed I get to experience it while many others do not. I do not take that for granted watching girlfriends struggle to become mothers. But for me it is a really difficult journey and I am just done with experiencing it. Well, not yet but soon. The puking WHILE getting fat, stretch marks, peeing every 5 seconds, being tired all the time, heartburn, pushing the baby out, plus the breastfeeding after. Oh Vey!! As a friend pointed out they should use this process to get terrorists to talk. Still, each and every baby is a complete miracle, known and loved by their Creator and we get to be a part of that miracle; pretty amazing! I was proud of myself that I found something about pregnancy I loved last night, even if it is a small thing.

When it rains in our house the sound on our tin roof is so loud that even if you are sitting next to someone you need to shout to be heard. Last night I awoke to a rain storm. It was crazy loud. Immediately after waking a wave of nausea came over me and I sprinted (after fumbling with the mosquito net) to throw up in the sink and pee (which I already do like 3 times a night...what is up with that?) After heading back to bed I could not fall asleep for anything. My thoughts kept wondering to Jorie (Jason's sister who may be in labor as I type since she is overdue with her 3rd baby and they were going to induce her if the baby has not made an appearance yet). My heart was so full with expectation for her and since I couldn't sleep I used the opportunity to pray for her and their family. The heightened emotions during pregnancy mostly make me loopy or a complete wreck but sometimes they make my heart soft for anything family and for that I am grateful.

I tried and tried to fall asleep but sound of the rain in surround sound stereo was too much. Then the prego nose kicked in; the super nova ability to smell ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, and all I could smell was the rain. The fresh rain was just awesome. Usually this heightened sense of smell leads only to vomiting, especially in the local food markets here with the smell of octopus and other raw meats hanging heavy in the air. If I had a dollar for every alley way I have puked in let's just say I could afford a private jet to head to Chicago whenever I craved Mexican food. But this one time the smell of the fresh, clean, and aromatic new rain was fabulous. I finally fell asleep proud that I had found something about pregnancy I like, even for a silent moment in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

8 years ago today....

I married my best friend and we began an adventure that I could never have predicted or imagined. It has been a wild ride and I have learned so much about myself, relationship, family, life, commitment, and love. This last year we have experienced so many new, amazing, and challenging things. But we got to do it together; as a family, and that is the best part. I never would have imagined in a a million years that 8 years ago while my best girlfriends and I got 'our hair did' and prepared for my wedding that 8 years later I would be living in Africa! But that is the amazing thing about marriage; if you are open to love, vulnerability, healing, new things, and guidance from Him God just may take you anywhere. I am not sure where we will be in another 8 years or even next year but I know it will never cease to be an adventure!!

Our team leader's wife Doro made us this beautiful cake to celebrate!! It also is a national holiday here for workers called saba-saba (7-7):) so everyone celebrated with us!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

oral society

Annikah has become a teller of tales...This culture is definitely more oral than Western culture and talking and relating stories is quite important. And Miss Anni is fitting right in. One of her favorite things to do is lay in bed and make up stories together. I ask her for a place, a person, a name, "what did they see when they opened the door?" etc. She LOVES these mad-lib impromptu story telling sessions and has started making up her own stories. We will be driving in the car, at a friend's house, or sitting at home and she will cock her head to side and ask "Mama, you want to hear a story?" said with an intonation as if what will follow will be life changing. Her characters are fairly constant: Mama, Papa, Bibi, Auntie Katy, her friends here, Cinderella, samaki (fish), her baby, Elmo, and the nameless but infamous "bad guys." She sometimes even makes up languages for different characters and her excessive use of gestures really makes the story. She still does not quit grasp the whole need for a plot, exposition, sequence, climax, and resolution but her lack of literary expertise has not stopped her. Nor has it stopped us from loving listening to her weave many a tale around here. Here is a recent video....(it was Bibi & Katy's last day and I think they were her inspiration):

Thursday, July 2, 2009


art projects with friends!
Annikah is not usually the poster child for sharing. I tend to think very few 2 year old's are. She will share on her terms, ie. she gets to decide what her friend plays with and when and certain things like her sacred "blue baby" (so named because she has one blue dress) are not ever up for negotiations. This is one reason having a sibling will be good (albeit painful) for Miss only child. But she does have moments of generosity. This week she wanted to invite friends to share the watercolor paints that Bibi brought. It was sweet as she taught some kids from our neighborhood "the rules" to painting; always dip in water first, how to hold the brush, etc. The kids really liked it and while they waited for their master pieces to dry they all shared the swings outside. She also made flower vases out of jars and tissue paper with her fav girls after some quality dress up time. Adorable photo ops.
My favorite Anni quote of the week happened to be about sharing. We were eating lunch and Anni and Jason had rice and beans to eat and I was yet again trying to eat veggie soup broth.She asked for some of my soup and I gave her a few spoonfuls and reminded her of the pile of food on her plate. When she yet again requested more soup I explained that Mama needed to eat this because I could not eat the other food. She sat quiet for a moment and then very thoughtfully said "but Mama, sharin' is carin'." Jason and I exploded in laughter since neither of us have ever said this cheesy line to her and when we asked where she heard that she told us her teacher says it at school. Apparently, sharing is a theme around here these days and the girl got more soup. What could I say to that?
swing carin' & sharin'

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

small pleasures

They FINALLY had broccoli at the market....

And it made one little girl's day!