Friday, May 27, 2011

I feel you girl....

"Oh Man, what was I thinking?..........Ummmm, Mama, I lost my think!!"
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I feel you Anni, happens to me all the time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

baraka

blessing.

Some days I feel like Jason and I just see each other in a blur of crazy chaos. The funny thing is most days begin with some sort of plan. They really do but somewhere around 8:30am that sucker usually begins to unravel. Life here is just predictably.... unpredictable. And you can be bitter about it, wrestle it, and hate it or you can just. let. it. go. At least that is the conclusion this schedule lovin' plan makin' girl has come to. Not that we never want to have things done orderly or that we always respond to everything around us (because we also sense God telling us to sift, choose, rest, and recharge more) but we have found that God brings opportunities to love and serve and learn and be changed through the unplanned. Through the interuptions if only we view them differently. Yep, God rarely respects my to-do list or my calendar.

Today was one of those days. I had a constant stream of visitors, some not staying long but just coming for water, to greet us, ask a question, but still allllllll morning. It was like they planned it; when one would leave two minutes later another would appear at the door with a "hoodi". Even rain which can usually be counted to equate a quiet morning did not stop the droves today. But here is the thing: God has shown me clearly that I receive these visitors for Him. He has changed my heart about being with people no matter when they come a knockin'. But if I am honest some days this weighs on me. Yes, some visits I barely make it through with gritted teeth and then a sigh of relief when the door closes but He is working on me and my need to "accomplish" something in those moments. Being back I am reminded already what a failure I am. Not in the self pity sort of way but in the liberating "Oh yeah idiot! you do not have to be everything to everyone and you can NOT do it in your own strength" way. I need that reminder often you see. He meets me there and remember He knows and loves everyone that passes through my home even more than I ever could. More than I love my family, husband, my own children. My capacity for love is nothing compared to His. That is the Truth of His love for humanity. Do I believe it though? Will I let His love change the lens I wear to see the people He has created? That is my choice. I know when I pray and ask Him for the love, compassion, kindness, and hospitality especially in my weakness He gives it. He did today.

After cleaning and bandaging a foot, running to the post office, and sharing juice and chatting with two friends we had some team members over for lunch. Then our old Mlinzi arrived with news that his wife is recovering in Dar and had surgery with a great doctor at the clinic we recommended and is doing much better! Then we headed out to meet someone (who never showed up) and so we came back home so Jason could get back to the Vocational Training Centre in time for his interviews for new computer students. As he was about to leave some kids from shule came by to see if I could go visit with their mother. I was requested at the home of my friend's relative many times while I was gone because her baby was really sick. She was in and out of the hospital three times. Unable to eat or drink and losing weight. This is a little girl who I think has cerebral palsy and I have visited several times in the hospital and at her home. They have never asked for money or anything but always just want me to come and visit. Because the Waswahili visit. One of the first Kiswahili things I learned is "wageni ni baraka" Guests are blessing. And they mean it. They visit and they receive guests all the time. That is what they do especially when they cannot do anything else. They sit and be and talk and listen. When Jason was staying out in the village he visited people from sun up to sun down some days and when he did not have time to come in people actually told him he was denying them blessing and thus he had to come in, park his butt on the mat, and visit. It is serious stuff. Community and togetherness means everything here. And although it stretches me past my comfort zone it is one of the things I simply adore about the culture.

To be honest when I was told I was wanted my first reaction was to make up some reason or excuse and I have lots of perfectly defendable ones like work, kids, house. I just did not want to go. I just did not want to see her so sick. Again. And feel so helpless and overwhelmed with the pain of people's lives. Again. And struggle with why God placed me there in the midst of it. My heart beats faster like it is swelling inside me. Like it might burst because it cannot handle one more tear, one more death. But I prayed and tears came and I knew quickly I had to go.

This discomfort is good for me. It reminds me that there is a better place then here and I need to be eagerly waiting for that place and freely giving of myself for His glory. So I packed up a few new outfits Evy really does not need to offer as gifts and we went. We drove over muddy village roads until it was so bad we had to get out and walk the rest of the winding way. As soon as we arrived they hollered in celebration that we had come and handed the little girl to me. A shuffle of people quickly got out mat, took my shoes, and after disappearing for a few minutes brought a pan of communal rice and there we were: sitting, eating, and catching up. We talked America, island life, my trip, my family at home, Evy's illness, her child's illness, hospital care, a death of a Mother of our friend, the funeral, pregnancy, giving birth and when they started talking too fast for me to catch much I just looked at the little girl in my arms. I talked to her. I just said her name over and over and snuggled her. She has had such a difficult life by earthy standards. She was born to a poor family with little ability to care for her extensive needs although they do the best they can. She has never sat on her own or clasped anything. She maybe weighs ten pounds. Her family can only afford the most basic of care. The doctors say she cannot hear or see but I know she heard me. She darted her eyes frantically trying to focus on who was calling her name. Everyone noticed. I just told her God loves her and is with her. I know He is. Even in my admitted fear. And doubt. And my anger.

I am angry. You see the world is hurting and broken. A lot more than I thought it was 3 years ago and I don't know what to do with that. Where to put it so that I can go on with life. I know I cannot do everything but the figuring out what I am called to do is..... killer hard. There is too much hurt. I just want to yell at God and the odd thing is that a few years ago I would have thought that makes me a bad person. Or at least not a faithful one. But I know different now. I have cried out to Him more on behalf of others instead of always focusing on my checklist of things I would like Him to do for me. I know He can take it. I know He sees and hears and is big enough to handle my anger and their pain. I am so angry I can feel my jaw clenching and my pores sweating. I just want healing. redemption. hope. now. But the whole of creation is groaning for it. Yet we wait.

Another friend took the little girl to lay her down on a mat to sleep but she jostled awake and started to shake and scream. Only no sound came out. Nothing but throaty, breathy gasps. I had never seen her cry before. Everyone explained "hana sauti" (she has no voice). Trying to comfort a crying baby that is making no sound was surreal. We took turns bouncing her and swaying her until she finally calmed and slept. Then I felt Him reaching into my throbbing, angry, confused heart. Suddenly I saw and felt more than was in the small brick home with an open roof we were sitting in.

Her pain is visible but yet silent. And so with people's pain; it is often missed by others. We cannot hear it. It has "no voice" but God hears all. Please believe this is not a trite, easy answer. If I have learned anything in the last 3 years it is that those do not exist. If I know anything it is that I am unsure about most everything. That the hurt and pain of the world is far more complex than I ever thought. No, this is real. His reaching in and changing me. If His Word is real and He really is the same yesterday, today, and forever than we can believe what He says even if our eyes deceive us in the present. Our pain may be silent to those around us but it is real to Him. There is One who entered into our pain and suffering taking it upon Himself. Jesus. Not just so that He could understand it but so that He could experience it. Know it intimately. Hear when no one else around us can. And triumph.

Slowly women and children trickled in and out of the home. Some to see the Mzungu, some to grab a pot to borrow, some to greet us. One woman brought her baby and asked me to hold her. The baby was all wrapped up in blankets and when I unwrapped her a bit I saw she was the smallest baby I have ever seen. She was not even 2 kilos (about 4 pounds), born at only 7 months gestation, he eyes not even opened yet. She should be in an incubator, under 24 hours specialist care. Not here wrapped in a blanket visiting me. But this is reality. She was at home with her mother who was just 20 years old. This was her third baby. The first two had died. Everyone just talked about it like they were discussing going to the market. People just talk about this stuff like it is normal. Then it struck me once again. They do this because it is to them. They have grown accustomed to suffering and pain. They are less removed from the dirt and grime and hardship of life. But their pain is silent. It was and some days still is to me. But He hears it.

We needed to get back and said our goodbyes, promises to visit again, and finally took our leave once we had gathered all the children we had to round up. On our winding walk back to the car we stopped off at 2 more homes and sat on mats and visited. We brought blessing and we received blessing. Then we headed back home in time to drop some people off and pick up some others; 5 kids and 2 women piled into the car and we headed out again. We had to search for plastic table covering and rubber gloves for my friend who is due any day now. Why? Because when you go to the hospital you have to bring your own everything. No gloves? They don't use any or turn you away. No plastic table cloth? you give birth on the old mattress covered with blood, urine, and body fluids. I am always learning more about what life is really like for our friends. After stopping at numerous dukas we found the tablecloth! But the gloves would have to wait until tomorrow as Evy was not having sitting in her car seat any longer and Jason called because he was locked out of the house (opps!). We arrived back home and everyone unloaded said goodbyes and we were home. Just our family. After making a hasty meal we ate, cleaned up, scrubbed the dirt covered girls, snuggled and read books to the clean ones, and got them to bed. A whirlwind.

And I was thinking while folding laundry......At the same time I feel completely spent and warmly held by my Savior. I am on the brink but completely sure that is where He wants me. Like simultaneously I am on the verge of tears and smiling from ear to ear all in one enduring moment. I do feel like I am being poured out for His sake.
"But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy"

Because it really is joy. From grace to glory I want to be about His work in this world. And I hold onto this promise that as we live in Him our love grows more perfect! Amazing promise. Oh, how I want my love to be more perfect in this hurting world.
"as we live in God our love grows more perfect" 1 John 4:17

Today was crazy, uncomfortable, joyful, difficult, but for sure one well spent. I also need the days of quiet and rest and I am so thankful for those days too. But I am also grateful that we can love and serve and give and receive blessing. The reminder that we are blessed so we can bless. That it is out of our overflow we love others.
Please Lord, use our family to be a blessing to those you put in our lives. And may we always see the blessing in living for You.
Because people do not only need salvation for "fire insurance" from future wrath. We all need Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Healing. Freedom. Abundance. Joy. Assurance. and Hope. Right Now.

that is baraka.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

rainy season

we love the rain. even if there are a zillion bugs and frogs and virtually everything is covered in mud. maybe because we are comparing it to sweating from every pore in our bodies every second of the day though. but still. we. love. it. bring it on!
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Monday, May 23, 2011

on us being back....

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The girls and touched down on our island just over 2 days ago and J took a solid for the team and took the 4 hour ferry...yep it was 4 hours.... while we flew home and took naps. We are home and the time has flown in a whirlwind of sleepless nights, unpacking, getting back to work, and greeting everyone. Even as we took those first steps off the plane and inhaled the familiar smell of Africa we knew it. We are back in the place we are supposed to be for now. Lots of emotions as always but mostly anticipation.
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thanks Doro for picking our tired selves up and making sure we got home & for the fab welcome home sign!
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and our neighborhood welcome committee
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unpacking meds....nasty bugs we are ready!

Saying good bye. And Hello again. Packing. And unpacking. We do this too much. And it is overwhelming all the stuff one has when moving too and from a developing country. The amount of stuff 4 soon to be 5 :) people have accumulated is now requiring some simplifying. Lots of throwing away and giving away in our future. Unpacking while people are in and out and the chaos abounds has been a bit insane. Just keeping Evy from eating sunblock and prescription meds is tiring enough. Add in being jetlagged, remembering Kiswahili, and entertaining guests and I am tired. For sure God brings challenge for our sanctification, but still argh! I would be very a thankful girl if moving anywhere back and forth was never again in the plans. But for now we deal and we ask to have the grace to not miss the blessing in it all. And we already see it...
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besties. reunited.

There really have been some miracles. Big and small since we arrived back that I don't want to forget. First, all our luggage made it - all 6 huge suitcases even though some of the were battled bruised and duct taped. They made it. That is a miracle. Second, there is power here even though most of the mainland is without power for at least a week. We found that out the night we touched down in a completely black Dar. Here we just have rolling blackouts for 1-2 hours a day; no biggie. We can handle that! Also, it is rainy and COOL here- I know... feel free to reread that last sentence but it is pretty darn cool for here. We are lovin' it!

Other big miracles. The night we hit the island we heard that our former Mlinzi's wife Mama Zawadi was terribly sick. They moved to the mainland in a village over a year ago but called our neighbors to tell what was happeneing and get some help. Version we heard and then understood from talking to her husband: She had pushed for hours to have her third baby but after a day the baby eventually died and so they got her to a hospital where she had surgery but apparently during the surgery they left a scissors inside her! When they realized how bad the infection was they took the bus to another town to get help only to be turned away because the doctor's wife had died and he was not operating. They were now in Dar trying to be seen but had their phone stolen and were out of money. Again, how difficult people's lives are never ceases to shock me. I was so glad we remembered this amazing Greek doctor in Dar who repairs fistulas and cleft pallets for free. That is work straight from the Lord to bless people! He is amazing and we stayed with his family once when we were in Dar and I remember storing away his info if we could ever direct people his way for help. He runs a clinic there and I called him late that first night and he was willing to see her and after several calls back and forth the family made it to the clincic. And as I type she is having surgery! Still uncertain of the outome as she was leaking urine and blood for days but at least they were able to get help instead of being turned away again. I cannot imagine. They might come here after to recover and I am thankful we made it back in time to offer what little help we could. Pray for her.

Another blessing, one of my closest friends did not have her baby yet! The night I left from Dar we talked and she said she was sad I was going to miss it and we promised to pray Imani would be healed and I would be back before the time came. I prayed everyday that the baby would wait on me and he/she did! Although my friend now blames me for her VERY pregnant and uncomfortable state because as she said "God heard my prayer"...so anyday now we will be off to the clinic. Yeah! My other neighbor had her baby; a beautiful baby girl that I held for an hourlast night. Just a few weeks old. precious. a miracle as all children are.

one more small miracle worthy of mention although not in the same category as births....We checked the post office for some wayward packages and......the one my mom-in-law sent before Christmas was there! A Christmas package full of special pressies was sooo fabulous as a welcome home!
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Anni loves her snow globe! Hey, at least it made it in time for our winter!
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Evy loves the clothes optional weather & friends everywhere
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and this little guy adopted us. maybe he can pull his weight with the mice around here.
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Evy chats while learning some laundry skill

And despite the piles of unpacked goodies, unending to-do's, and dirty laundry we took a real Sabbath yesterday. And that was a sacrifice to Him. Because my busy-body nature wants to always be "doing" but it is in the "being" I am discovering I want to live more. And I remembered what I miss about these times with just us. During our family worship Anni swirled and laughed and told us she loves worshiping God while Evy clapped and giggled and we all knew how much we have to be grateful for and my heart was full. Even though we have some challenges..one being an epic battle to evict some mouse folks who moved in in our absence (I found one in the bread bag our first morning in my half asleep state and screamed so loud the neighbors thought I was dying) and other more worthy of attention like team issues and setting boundaries for our family we know we are in the right place.

So, it's been a few days and little American zawadis have been given out, house cleaned (ok, mostly), we have greeted everyone near and we got our "you got fat comments" which are typical anytime we go somewhere for more than a week. I got 2 "you got fat" hearty congrats and 2 "why are you so thin?" comments said in appalling shock.....I will choose to acknowledge only the latter even though I am pretty sure the former are more realistic after my glutton fest our last week stateside. We will soon make time to visit everyone else, and we are back and ready for whatever comes and we are expectant about what He will do next. It's good to be back.

Friday, May 20, 2011

tumeshafika. salama kabisa.

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we made it. safe. and we are tired. but mostly we are grateful. lots of little and big miracles. more to follow when the chaos cools & the jet lag just lingers. until then.....thanks for thoughts & prayers for our fam.

Monday, May 16, 2011

an ode to all things American...

today chapped lips.....tomorrow sweaty pits. our reality.
We are leaving on the epic journey island side tomorrow morning (errr....in like 6 hours so I really should be sleeping but I am too twitchy) but I had to post some pics I took because... yes... I am a tourist here and want proof of the oh-so-American stuff we will miss even though the excess really is ridiculous. That and my family is awesome!

any way you want it customized everything...
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warehouse clubs and stores that contain way more than anyone really needs.....
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enormous shopping carts...
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way too big EVERYTHING...seriously who could drink that much coffee?
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the land of trans fats....
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playgrounds everywhere....
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leave it to my children to spend the entire time playing in the sand (We DO have that island side girls!)
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lawn mower the size of a smart car....free rides from Bibi & Babu are rockin'..just ask Anni
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sniff......we will miss you...Anni took this picture at our send off lunch at a Japanese Hibachi House- yummy! I already miss you all....
We go back with the usual feelings of excitement, sadness, nervousness, and anticipation....see you all island side!

authentic

last minutes of fast internet (note to self: you should be sleeping!)...just uploading because I CAN!! And I want to remember all my amazing friendys I got to spend time with during our short time here. The chaos of running around is nothing compared to the insane amounts of encouragement, thoughtful challenge, and blessing these people bring into my life. To have friends that know you so well for so long through so much and still love and cherish you is...well....awesome. Thanks to everyone to spoiled us, prayed for us, shared a meal with us, listened and shared with us. Thanks for being you. And for being authentic and loving us. We also met new friends that are living outrageously for Jesus. Rad. True friends are rare and I treasure these times, savor them, and save them up for days ahead when I miss you all. Spending time with people that get you and spur you on to live more fully is just amazing.
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Jason's cousins and their wives....grilling & sharing and laughing too much about what having kids has done to our lives :)
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had to post the best double chin pic ever- you know you love it Jess!
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Chasing our kids & reflecting on ten years on a rare but appreciated warm day
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snuggling sleepover style until the wee hours of the morning with one who knows me too well....thanks Jill
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thanks annalea for our quick but fab coffee date on a rainy Champaign morning
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the girls of Habitat at U of I..love you ladies!
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Thai food with the ever chic and amazing Laura
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we all said when this pic was taken it should have a disclaimer: all of us looked much better when the evening started at 4pm, this photo was taken closer to 12am....but I think we are still pretty darn cute :). We spent a great night eating too much, laughing, sharing what God is doing in our lives, praying for each other, and ended sharing communion together out of plastic tequila shot glasses we found in the kitchen. The sacred and the sketchy. Sublime.
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seeing a college roomies new life in Chicago and staying up way too late catching up...praying for #3 soon James!
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chatting life, loss, struggle, and triumph. Margaritas always make a night with Beck just feel like old times: you rock girl!
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and yep..Mexican food again....catching up with Katie Z over salsa!
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a chance to share passions with new friends and a kids eat free day was too awesome to pass up! Thanks Stacey!

.........and to everyone that made our time here abundant and recharging and special: Thank you!! I could never post enough pictures or tell all the stories but I head back knowing we are loved and that means more than you know. You are all part of the story God is writing in my heart and being a part of your story is blessing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

childhood hangout revisited

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One morning this week Jason had a lot of packing and work to do so I grabbed the girls and we walked to Cantingy I love this place. It is all about the memories and I wanted to share it with my girls. Hiding in the gardens with my brother and sister pretending we were in scenes from the Labyrinth (minus the scary tight David Bowie pants....I shutter!). Climbing on the tanks and daring each other to jump. Picnics and journal writing in the gardens when I needed to get away from my house. Visiting the war museum and touring the McCormick Mansion. Swinging from the weeping Willow trees. We even took our wedding pictures here because it is beautiful. It was a warm morning and the girls loved being outside. Anni was amazed by the flowers and Evy showed no fear climbing the massive tanks (that Anni called the BIG trucks). We split a double chocolate brownie at the snack shop and even got to tour the mansion. Oh, and we may or may not have run through the sprinklers on our way out.
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look who tried to chase a big turkey!
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I love this moment...she yelled "oh my mama, there are so many beautiful flowers!!"
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joining the alums

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We headed down to Champaign this weekend to see my baby sister who is actually all grown up (weird!) graduate from the University of Illinois College of ACES. It was a bit crazy and busy with two small kids but then again what isn't? Added bonus was eating good Mexican food at Dos and seeing our dear friends from our days in Champaign; the Suttons and Foleys! Anni and Evy even managed to squeeze in an early morning play date. Good stuff.

Congrats Katy- we love you and we so happy we could join you on this special day! Welcome to Alum status lil' sister!
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

something you should know

..I love having girls. I was so sure Annikah was a girl that I think I would have passed out/ and/or handed her back and asked for a recount if they had announced "it's a boy!" Of course any child is blessing. Crazy abundance. But just saying I like having girls (someone may need to remind me of this in 10 years:). My husband also loves his girls. And he fathers them in ways that humble me and make me fall in love with him more each day. But truth be told he just wants to play cars. He has always tried to get Miss Lover of All Things Pink & Girly to get into cars, trucks, legos, you name it. He even offered to buy Anni any Match Box car she wanted and she would always reply "no, that is for boys. I don't want that." Add in my feminist leaning reply about girls being hardcore and awesome, and able to play with any toy a boy can play with. Most of the time she was unswerving and would go about her lip gloss schlacking ways. So J has played princesses like a champ more times than he can count. But last week Anni decided she wanted a car. A matchbox car. And Jason practically ran to the the car aisle where he and Anni poured over cars until Miss Anni found the ONLY hot pink matchbox car in the joint and promptly announced her victory. What followed was 2 hours of the best playtime with Papa EVER!
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