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. )

Posted in enjoying life, living in their world, Mozambique, thankful and grateful

Growing Four

I just wanted to share a few little jewels from our archive of our time here. They’re in no particular order, but I just didn’t want to lose the opportunity to share the short stories and the pieces of our normal that come with them.

Here our girls have learned the art of sharing a double bed. And while some moments leave them looking forward to their hopes of bunk beds in our near future, it’s still so sweet to hear them ask each other “will you snuggle me?” Their bonds have grown so strong over this past year, even if Eden looks like she is gearing up to kick Abi in the face. Ha!

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This is a picture I took from across the church of one of the first days that all four of my girlies sat with the children to recite their group Bible verse and present some children’s songs to the church. Rachael and Abi were my first little ladies to make the transition, but the littler ones took a little more time to get used to the drums echoing off of the cement sanctuary. And thanks to the help of a great big sister, the littlest sister felt right at home.

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With a cement utopia of a yard comes some very hard falls from “growing in coordination” girls. I snapped this picture of Rachael’s battle wound to thank those who supplied all our wonderful first aid supplies. We sure are getting our good use out of those supplies, friends! So once again, thank you for the gift that provides comforts and promises of God’s healing. I’m thankful that even though the tears come first, the smile always returns.

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Here the girls have grown in their attention spans and our expectation on their attention spans, especially in church. Children here are welcome, but are also expected to sit quietly and without distracting others. Coming from children’s programs during service time and directly into 24/7 Portuguese was a bit of an uphill climb in encouraging the girls to pay attention and stay quiet. But they have fought hard at this skill and have conquered many a 3-4 hour church service with grace. Thus began our Sunday tradition of ice cream after church. Just call it a thank you gift for your efforts, little ladies. And to think we used to need a lot to entertain those little hands that are now content to bring one picture book a piece for the whole service. Village churches are extra fun at drawing small pictures on the dirt floor with a stick.

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(Never under-estimate the power of a fairy cottage calendar from Aunt Jes, which was Eden’s preference one Sunday instead of a book. =) The Moz kids enjoyed viewing it as well..)

Here the girls take a bath or a shower every night to cut down on dirty feet entering beds and the general over-all fashion trends of “Pig Pen” from the Peanuts. We usually double the girls up in a bath or shower to keep from using ALL our water budget in three days. So whenever you get the chance to take your own bubble bath, it produces nothing but utter delight as is modeled by none other than the lovely Eden.

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And this is how you grown four happy little ladies here in Mozambique. =)

 

God is so good to us.

Posted in being a friend, Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Mozambique, my heart, willing hands

Mai de Y

It started with her report that her dear little friend had not returned to school. The break was over, but still Abi had not seen her buddy. Little Y is a frequent visitor to our home. It began with an innocent self-invitation one day in the schoolyard. “Mai de Abi,” (translated: Abi’s Mom) her little browns looked up at me, “(Can I come play at Abi’s house today?)” Little did I know that the first yes would result in our new normal. Little Y lives only a block away and at 2p we’d catch her eyes at the gate. That little hopeful smile.

Little Y with her “Abi… Abi…” consistently putting forth efforts to play with my little first grade introvert. I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for Y in our lives. She’s so patient, kind and willing. One time she brought her little brother over too and I was impressed at how gentle he was. They just played freely, but so respectfully.

I only met her once, Y’s mom (“Mai de Y”), as she came by maybe the third or fourth time Y had played over at our house. That’s normal for the community here. Mai (My) de Y just wanted to check in and make sure Y was playing well and being respectful. I saw how Y hugged her mom. There was evidence of love and a sweet bond.

But today I found myself in a capalana (Cop-ooh-lah-nah) skirt. I used my nine inches of capulana-alotted walking space wisely, slowly and quietly as Matt and I walked a block over. This time she met our eyes at her gate. Sweet little Y. She played with the neighbor kids this afternoon, but ran over to talk to “Mai de Abi” and “Pai de Abi”. We asked for her father, knowing he had come into town at the news. He was somewhere across the street, but Y told us her grandma was inside.

Out came grandma to the gate as she welcomed us into her home. Three little rooms and a living room space. Our shoes left at the door. A capulana applied to grandma’s nightgown dress. A warm welcome and an offering of the couch to sit. And there she shared the details that had broken all of our hearts.

It started as a headache before her visit down to the capital. She checked into a local hospital, which is as normal as a doctor’s visit for us. And that’s when her blood pressure dropped. Lower and lower. Lower and lower, until they received the news that awful day. Mai de Y was gone.

Just like that.

Gone.

It was just a normal trip visiting family in the capital, but it was the last time Y or her little brother would ever see their mom.

 

 

We sat there in the tear-stained silence of that little sub-let house. Grandma looked at the ceiling as tears streamed down her face. People here don’t cry in front of others. But this she could not help.

Grandma shared of raising eleven children, eight boys and three girls. She laughed at the joys of children and told us the same thing everyone tells us: that one day we will have a boy. We smiled and giggled. Boys here are the heads of households. We know her sentiment well. Children are so valued. They are treasured. She knows the joys well.

The future is uncertain for little Y and her little brother. Things are complicated. Father didn’t live with them, but is now in town to see if he can parent them. The family just waits, knowing he will need help. Then the maternal and paternal sides will work it out. One tradition will speak over another and a final verdict will be made. And then little Y and her brother will move away – somewhere… The family will usually try to keep them together, but Y is getting close to that age. The age of possibly becoming a house helper to a relative with a new baby.

So many things are left unresolved. So much hangs in the valance.

“They are so young” comes a grandmother’s pain. She knows she is not the deciding factor in the children’s future home. And yet she has helped raise them. She has lived with them. She is their normal.

We left a Bible and prayed with and over Y’s household. Her grandmother choked back tears again as we reminded her that Y is always welcome to play in our home. “That is so good for her,” she semi-whispered, “It’s good for her to play with friends.”

And I instantly flashed back to that first day Y was back in school. I was waiting for Abi as usual when Y came running up and threw her arms around me. How my heart hurt as I pet her hair and told her we were praying for her and her family. She just held me for five minutes. People here aren’t big huggers. I just kept petting her hair. She asked if she could come over and play. I assured her that she is always welcome.

 

 

She is always welcome…

 

-Please join me in praying for little Y, her little brother, and her family.