Posted in being a mom, communicating trust, God's heart, great helper, Hi, We're New Here, living in their world, thankful and grateful, willing hands

As We Enter Here

We always know when the city is pumping water. You can see it in that little bounce in our steps. We’re actually going to have good water pressure, right now. Quick, everyone take a shower!!!

 

So we live in a city of 100,000+ people, which manifests itself  in a handful of “city blocks” and a never-ending wind of pot-hole filled, sometimes deteriorating, dirt roads. You can almost see the accepted, yet urban pants-wearing young adult woman and foreigner contrasting the overwhelming majority of the skirt-wearing, rural farm-wife community. We are the beautiful tapestry of six blocks of urban gets dropped into the lap of the rural countryside.

For us that means entering the community well. Learning the patterns of city water pumping. Talking to a whole host of “can you help us fix this” people. Beginning friendships with a lot of “can you help us build this” now-familiar faces. We are breaking through conversations as, our previous supervisor says, people put us in “boxes” or “files” of where we belong. Are we a traveler? Are we actually going to stick around? Are we here to hand out stuff? Are we going to respect them and their culture? Are we going to be a flaunting Westerner? Are we going to be a lavish vacationer? Are we going to respond when they speak the local dialect? Where do we belong?

We’ve been told we speak Portuguese like people from our language city. I use it as an opportunity to pray for and thank the Lord for my language teacher and the program up north. The hours and hours of investment. I will never take them for granted.

But with the slight distance of such a “you are foreign” statement, comes a softness in their eyes as we know the normal greeting. Sincerity can be seen and felt. It’s a slow process, but a process that has begun, nonetheless.

We are the white family with four girls. No, we are not in need of a little boy. Yes, they are all just like a flight of stairs. Yes, they all understand Portuguese. Yes, the oldest can carry a conversation with you in Portuguese. Yes, the baby of our family looks like a doll. And yes, sometimes the littlest ones in our family will also say the respectfully appropriate greeting while you swoon and try to tickle their chins. We go through this same routine with every new and semi-new face.

But that’s ok. Because it’s called entering a community. And it happens slowly. Building daily. As we enter here one footprint at a time.

Through our preschooler, you can experience the entrance process: When the house has no furniture, you ask questions of when we will return to our “real home in” our language city. As our belongings come in from our language city (5 days later), you have a flood of delight and still confusion about when we will return to our “real home in” our language city.  The one everyone calls your twin whom you still take naps with, keeps talking about all the homes you have lived in. She lists off grandma’s house, something called FPO which she always refers to as having those familiar names of our friends who were there, then there’s Disney World which she keeps telling you was an awesome home we lived in, but you don’t believe her when she says this is our new home. In the first newness, you announce in your excitement that next time we have ice cream, we should bring Emilia (our house helper from our language city). When your sisters explain that Emilia lives 2 days away by car, you look puzzled and take a bite of your cone.

The first time we walk to the market is an automatic hip-riding experience. Don’t look at me, don’t touch me. I belong to Mommy. The second time, you walk to the entrance of the market holding Mommy’s hand, then the first time someone talks to you, it’s an INSTANT pick-up need. I belong to Mommy.

The next time to the market you make it past the entrance on your own feet, but descending the steps someone tries to tickle your chin and it’s game over. I belong to Mommy, here in Mommy’s arms. Mommy keeps saying they’re just trying to play with you. You don’t believe it. You remind Mommy that they are a stranger, not your real friends. Mommy explains that you said hello to your real friends for the first time back in your language city. You think for a minute. You talk about it a little with Mommy. And the next time prompted, you say hello and ask how the strange lady is doing today. Mommy kisses you and tells you how proud she is of you.

Then the next series of visits come with a mixture of walking the aisles all on your own, the incredibly important job of holding the one left-over coin, saying hellos occasionally and many times needing Mommy’s arms for some extra security when things get too close. BUT you walk to and from the market on your own, willingly.

And then one day comes when you leave the gate, bounce off to the market along with your gaggle of sisters, have zero stress in your body as we cross the threshold into the market, follow right along with the pack of foreigners (also know as your family), smile, wave and say hello to the ladies at the market, and return home telling a hundred stories about how happy our guinea pigs will be with their new lettuce and cucumbers.

We are entering into a community in that we might dwell among those here because He chooses to dwell among us.

Oh it takes time and trust building to dwell somewhere. And it takes security snuggling moments. It takes courage and perspective changes. And it takes a lot of practice. But it’s starting to look like home around here. And it’s starting to feel like home too.

One day at a time.

One moment at a time.

Thanks to our Father, Who patiently and gently guides us.

Our Refuge, Our Rock and Our Redeemer.

May they see You as we enter here.

Posted in Uncategorized

In the Middle of Pastey Peacock Turkies

The phone interrupted our turkey craft. Endless paper feathers to help cut out for our preschool crowd. Paste on the table, turkeys that look more like peacocks and squirmy ants in busy little pants. All as we wiped away sweat beading down our foreheads from the Mozambican Thanksgiving heat. And the phonecall broke into it all.

“Quick, grab my phone, someone.” came a gut-response.

“Where is it?” came three overly helpful volunteers.

“No idea, follow the sound,” was the routine reality.

We found it on the last ring, with a quick recall button and heard her voice.

I could tell her smile covered her face as she greeted me. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of mine.

A flood of normal hangs in her voice and makes me want to instantly hug her. The mention of her name instantly rounds up my girls, each begging for their turn. Our Emilia.

She was just as eager to talk to each one, I could hear her laughs of delight rising from the speakers as even little Eden greeted her with perfect little preschooler precision. Hannah’s face glowed and she couldn’t stop smiling. All Hannah said was “yes, yes” to questions once she got past the greeting, but I could tell it touched something deep down inside of her. Our Emilia.

Abi burst forth with stories of one such delightful kitten and Rachael paced and carried on with a whole world of stories to share. Soon it was my turn and I couldn’t wait to hear how the church is going, her daughter and just hear her voice. It had felt like ages.

“You know, today is our country’s day of thanks, sister.” I told her.

“No, I didn’t know that!” She said.

“And you just made the day more full of gratitude for us.”

I could hear her big smile.

“I have missed you.” She said.

“We have missed you too, sister Emilia.”

During the holidays is when the ocean feels it’s biggest. The distance between us and the ones we love. Your faces are beautiful and your voices bring a lightness to our steps, but your arms we miss before and after our Skype call.

And today, God knowing our hearts sent us an unexpected phone call while we were still waiting for our beloved in the States to wake up for the day. An unexpectedly wonderful phone call that dripped of “home” right in the middle of a less home feeling kind of day.

Oh how He loves you and me.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Posted in celebrating life, Crossing Cultures, Mozambique, Overwhelmingly Thankful, willing hands

What a Year!

Today we are officially 1 year old American Africans. That’s right, one year ago to the date we first stepped foot in Mozambique. We completed our 18 month language requirement in 11 months and 4 days by the grace of God. Being a one year old American African finds us packing away our things to transport to our job city, a two day’s travel south.

Our house looks more and more bare with each passing day as we are doing our best to give away helpful things to others. Our beloved crate is due to enter a port 6-7 hours from our job city on October 18th and then we will be awaiting however long it takes to clear customs and be delivered to our doorstep on that glorious Christmas-like day of seeing many of our old belongings again.

We are hoping to move south to our new house by the time our crate hits port, depending on moving guy time frames and other logistics. But as crazy as it sounds, here a week before we are moving, we have yet to have an official departure date. I am learning to be flexible (sometimes with gritted teeth) and learning to yield all control to our Sovereign Father (again, sometimes with gritted teeth -ha!) as He orchestrates and directs our every step.

The girls are doing well and learning to give away some of their toys that we brought with us from the States in our suitcases. The girls are learning the valuable lesson of anticipating something that is yet coming, while letting go of something from your own hands first. And honestly, these girls are blowing me away at their ease of giving to others. Goodbye wooden play kitchen sink/stove, building blocks, bouncy cow, and baby doll. They are utterly besides themselves with joy at giving these gift to their friends who literally have nothing to play with. Goodbye coloring books, some art supplies, and some other beloved things. Oh how beautiful to see their hearts emerge as they squeal over the hours of play blessing they know this will bring to their friends they will miss dearly. How delightful to see them leave their own legacy in another’s life.

This past year has been full of sacrifice, lessons and self-discovery for the glory of God. It has been a year of yielding and throwing out pride for the sake of serving another better. It has been a year of tears of delight, frustration and deep hurts as we have walked alongside of others with great depth. This year has been a year of stretch-marks on top of stretch-marks that we were sure were about to burst, but God held together.

This past year a middle-class American homeschooling family became an upper-class (this is still super weird to me, but happened when we entered into a developing country) American private school family who speaks a foreign language in a developing country halfway around the world.

This year Portuguese entered our home until we can flip between two languages at the drop of a hat and our children will respond in either language being used. I can literally tell Eden complicated instructions in Portuguese with what I think may be new vocabulary for her and she goes and does them without batting an eye. We like to play a game sometimes with the older ones, interrupting them in mid sentence and saying, “Portuguese” and seeing if they can instantly flip to Portuguese while still communicating the same depth of meaning in their story. We like to send Hannah to ask familiar adults things in Portuguese for us and return to us with a response as a game to try to expand Hannah’s use and understanding of Portuguese. Portuguese has entered our home and has settled into the fibers of our family until it has become just … normal, so much so that we don’t even really talk about it too much any more. Isn’t that funny? The novelty of the language is gone. And yeah, we just so happen to speak Portuguese… just like everyone else here… 😉

This year we all embraced the reality that each day is an opportunity to open our hearts and our arms to another with Jesus love – even when that fight was just to remember how to introduce ourselves or sit through another hour of class without crying more than 2 times in utter confusion. Excluding Matt, each one of us has cried and, including Matt, fought for every single step of learning a new language and culture in a way that honors and respects those around you, even when you have not grown up with anything even close to their worldview.

And now as we move into a new layer of our family and our personal daily seeking of God in our job city, we will “return” to some familiars in the world of homeschooling, home-making, Bible studies, supporting and encouraging churches, teaching and spurring on local Pastors and church leaders, sharing the Gospel with those who have yet to hear or whom have never heard the whole story, visiting the sick, sharing what we have been given to help feed others, and just being a part of the Body of Christ. … We just happen to be doing all that in Mozambique instead of a Western country. 😉

Happy 1 Year in Moz, Matt, Rachael, Abi, Hannah and Eden!!!

Now let’s go celebrate with some chicken nuggets and French fries at our favorite “kid-friendly” restaurant in the city. That’s right, we’ll be celebrating with our little fake American slice of Africa for dinner. =)

Orange Fanta and Coke cheers to the next year… and however many more the Lord would grant us here amongst our beloved Mozambicans.

Posted in honesty, life thoughts, Mozambique, that's just life, willing hands

Goodbyes Again

We stood there laughing as we dripped oil from our fingers. We laughed at how horrendously I attempted to roll the slippery dough before I got the hang of it. We joked about being overly emotional when the onions were cut. We marveled words of encouragement as we learned how to make chamusas together (a meat-pocket of goodness here in Mozambique).  And there standing over the burner stirring the meat, I had a moment.  “This will never happen again. This will only live on as a treasured memory.”

 

I guess after almost a year of seeing someone Mondays through Fridays you just get used to the normal. Oh the normal can feel crazy and out of control and stretch you in ways you never even had a file for back in the States, but still the faces are your normal. The conversations, the shared stories, the depth.

A part of my normal is leaving and it hurts…

 

Someone once said that you know the friendship was real when it hurts to say goodbye.

 

That day I said goodbye to my language teachers. But they were so much more than teachers, they’re dear friends. My sweet sisters in Christ. And while neither of us is dying, Lord willing, fifteen hours south is quite a distance to behold (especially in a developing country).

 

I was talking with my dear friend in Senegal, cause she’s a dear sister. You know, we were just talking one day about real things, deep things… cause she’s a safe place to process depth. And it hit me, “I think sometimes we process saying goodbye when we have to say goodbye again in a new place.”

It’s the quiet underlying that I don’t really know how to put words to. It’s a mixture of excitement and fear of “being on our own” for the first time without dear supervisors to “bail us out” in our city. And yet there is this confidence that I cannot possibly explain that in all my insufficiency, He is and will continue to prove Himself more than Sufficient.

It’s a jumbling of butterflies that make you both thrilled and feel a bit sick to your stomach. It’s a great and very raw new stress. And it’s all coming to a head as they begin to hand over details about our new home in our job city. As we get our new car and trade in our old one (thanks again, Taylor, for the reliable transportation). As we pack away what we will bring with us and give away what we thought we would need when we moved here, but didn’t. As we learn how to settle into just being us again, without schedules and rushing the girls to school and hurrying to get homework done in time for baths and we just find ourselves… embracing us again. It’s the days that we have prayed for, cried over and longed to hold in our hands that are now being handed to us. And it’s just a lot to think about sometimes. A lot to hold in these hands. A lot to pray about.

Life is life, with it’s curves and twists and hilltops. And we are continuing to learn how to lift each day as an offering to the Father who so graciously gives us each day.

Each step forward.

Each butterfly.

Each tear, both good and hard.

Each anxiety that we lay at His feet.

Each moment.

Lord, help us to embrace each part and say goodbye well.

Before we get to say our next good-hello.

Posted in BRAVO, Crossing Cultures, JOY, living in their world, Mozambique

Last Day

Today was the last day of school for Rachael and Abi at the local Portuguese school. These girls rocked out their year with excellent grades (some of the highest in their class) and the casual learning curve of 100% of school being in a foreign language they didn’t even know how to say hello in eleven months ago.

So before I put one uniform away in the memory box and gave away their old uniforms and books to others, I got one picture of their utter joy amidst a year of accomplishments.

Well done, Rachael and Abi! Daddy and I are beyond proud of your endurance and hard work and we are so excited to celebrate being back on the same schedule again. We made it, ladies!!! And you all blew us out of the water with your wonderful selves again this year. Let’s celebrate with our normal Friday pizza and movie night and a night of No Homework for the first time in a long, long time (yes, I too will never forget how you guys had homework every night).

Yay, my delightful loves, WE MADE IT!!!!!!

(Did you catch that ankle friendship bracelet in the above picture, Aunt Jes? It’s still going strong over a year later. She never takes it off. =) – You are so loved. )