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 celebrating life, JOY, my heart, My Matthew, thankful and grateful

Together for Ten

Today marks 10 years of us. TEN! Wow, that flew by so crazy fast!

And while we’re in the thick of a two week training in our efforts to embrace a culture outside of our heritage, I’m thankful that we get a chance today to stop and just celebrate the blessing of being together.

It all started with a conversation about God’s work in the world and here we are running hard after His plan in our lives.

Thank you, Matt, for the years of laughing, crying and singing parody songs through life together – now brought to you in a bi-lingual version. Thank you for helping me learn to be a better follower of Jesus, wife and mom. Thank you for your endless patience and the grace you extend without fanfare or even comment. Just like I prayed with you last night before we went to bed, today I’m thanking God for my best friend and the utter privilege of getting to do life together.

It’s had some crazy turns: 4 girls, 10 years of serving at Miamisburg FBC, seminary, 2 foster boys, 1 baby who won the race to Jesus first, and now here we find ourselves fighting for fluency in a foreign land… all of which because Jesus said go… and He gave us this together.

So here’s to the rest of our lifetime of together!

Love you so.

Happy 10 Years, Love!

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Posted in celebrating life, JOY, Overwhelmingly Thankful, thankful and grateful, Wrestling Language

Your Love

With the visit of Matt’s mom, which I will be sharing our adventures for those three weeks quite soon, you all overwhelmed us with your love.

We made a list of what all we could think of with full intention of letting things linger until another trip of another family member and then you all surprised us by buying it all in one swoop. And we are overwhelmed by your love.

So much about this season here in language training has been repetitious. Monday through Friday looks so very similar: Get up way crazy early because the sun is up, breakfast, get kids ready for school, drop off older girls, return home to finish prepping for the day, language lessons for Matt from 7a – 10a, my language lessons from 8:30a – 11:30a all while the little girls play and run wild in the house, (which many days looks like juggling taking them on language outings to keep them from going insane playing with the same few shelves of a few toys), pick up the big girls at noon, lunch prep, lunch, littles go down for naps, bigs get homework help, language for me from 2-4p, language for Matt from 3-5p, I play with the kids/start bathtime routine post-language amid dinner prep, Matt enters post-language and helps with dinner/bath routine, dinner together, then family worship/bedtime routine. The sun sets here between 5:30p and 6p year-round and the kids go to bed between 6:30p and 7p. Matt and I then usually have a few hours to watch a movie, study, check email, FB, or chit-chat before we knock out somewhere around 9:30p. And then we repeat that schedule – to the nines, people! – every. single. day. Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday have a bit more variety depending on weekend activities, visiting village churches, etc., but the evenings usually look the same for us in terms of our bath/bedtime routine with the girls.

So you all entered into this, the same-old, same-old. That being said, friends and family, I don’t want to downgrade the training we have had here. While our schedule has stayed virtually the same for our ten months here, consistency has built our language and culture learning. Day after day. Sentence after sentence. The people aren’t boring and neither are the lessons (most of the time), but it’s just the scheduling consistency that can sometimes feel like a groundhog day.

And then along came you all with your blessings. And the squeals. And the delight. Because really I can’t possibly describe to you how much joy filled our household. So we took videos so you could be there too.

It may just look like things, but it’s your heart that we have felt as we received your gifts. This was so much more than a care package to us – it is a chance to finish strong, sailing on the wind of your encouragement.

Thank you, dear friends and family, for your beautifully generous hearts.

You love us far greater than we could ever deserve.

Thank you for walking this road with us.

We love you all so, so much.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all so

for your love.

Posted in celebrating life, God's heart, JOY, living in their world, Mozambique

Their Surprise Porker

The little girls have given up and gained much in this transition and adjustment of moving to Africa. Here in this language and culture learning city, our little girls have had many adjustments. Their weekday routine looks pretty similar each day: get up, eat, entertain yourselves for three hours in the morning while Mommy and Daddy do language, play with the big sisters when they come back from school, eat, nap for 2 hours, play with big sisters again, many times watch a 30 minute film, many times family play time, dinner, baths, and bedtime routine. Then it’s “wash, rinse and repeat”. 😉

Emilia is many times a friendly playmate during the three hours of play during our language sessions, but the truth of our culture shift has left the little girls hungry for their Mommy and Daddy. It’s hard to explain how proud I am of them and yet how hard it is for them to have given up so much intentional time together during our otherwise normal homeschool hours. These girls are RESILIENT, but there is also the double-edge sword of our busy world here resulting in a lot more expectation of self-entertainment by these two. They have grown so much in creativity and their sweet little friendship, though here seven months into our schedule, our little ones are growing a little tired.

So one weekend, I worked to set up “table toy” bins again. Toys are REALLY hard to find here so I got really creative. Back came out the rice bin (never underestimate the power of pouring and filling for the preschool crowd). Magnetic toys made their way into a bin and another bin was donated to our magnetic dolls. Then came a clothes-pin gripping game in which I drew the outlines of a bunch of tiny items that the girls get to match onto the little papers by using “the claw” (a few different kinds/strengths of clothes pins). Then I used q-tips to make little designs and the outline of little pictures and letters to help the girls do a puzzle-type activity.

Toys here are VERY cheaply made and after playing with the same suitcase full of toys and reading the same 20 books for seven months straight, our littles are tired. But these little boxes helped recharge their batteries again. I put the bins out at the table and they can rotate through the seats at the kitchen table until they have played with each box’s contents independently. Many people refer to these little boxes as “busy boxes” but we refer to them as LIFESAVERS!

We also found some little colorful wooden building blocks by utter mistake in a store one day. When I speak of the rarity of good, solid toys here you must understand that you can wait for months and check every single store and find absolutely nothing of lasting quality here. So what does that mean for our girls? It means they randomly get a gift of a cheap little chinese store gift from school. They instantly fall in love with the gift and make HUGE plans (you know how kids are) about how that little toy is going to travel all over the world with them, etc. And then we cry big tears when that little item breaks within an hour of play. And for my girls that play really gently with things, this is heartbreaking. So as a Mom, we just avoid the heartache by avoiding the cheaper toys.

In an effort to help the littles more with their “I’m tired of the effect of language learning on my attention level” moments, we have been trying to divide and conquer where we can. This looks like Hannah running errands with Matt and his language helper. And that looks like Eden going with Suzana and I sometimes. Nope it doesn’t happen all the time – not even close. But we do try to involve them in more errands and get them out of the house more where we can.

One such errand I ended up bringing Hannah and Eden both with Suzana and I as we went to a clothing market. Suzana had a few things she was looking for and I was hoping to drop off a dress pattern to a tailor and the material we had previously picked out for a new dress for Hannah and Eden (hence their need to come a well, since it’s hard to measure a child who’s not in attendance). Here the cost of the material AND the handmaking of a dress is about $6 for a child.

The previous week, we took Hannah and Eden to the market to pick out their own material. They LOVED that freedom and ate up the opportunity to have their little opinions validated. With some slight nudging away from more scary choices ;), we all left the shops happily.

Oh and I forgot to tell you, when we are out together and it is language time, we speak Portuguese! Go figure! 😉 So this is nice too to keep the little girls building their vocabulary, forcing me to think on my feet when others approach us to talk about the kids, and allowing us all to be exposed to an ever-growing language and culture experience.

And it was here in the middle of our language and cultural experience one day at the market that we found Mr. Pig lying on a mat on the floor with other toys. Recognize him, Heather McKinney? Our girls absolutely MELTED! With a happy $2USD exchange, this face, that is pictured below, on my ECSTATIC four year old absolutely squealed in delight throughout the rest of our market trip as she and Eden discussed their plans for Mr. Pig (whom they named “Pinky” of course!). They also absolutely danced through the market booths introducing Pinky to their Africa. “And here, Pinky is a store that sells dresses and here’s one that sells beds!” Oh how those two little girls went ON and ON in utter ecstasy.

And then to discover at home after Pinky got a good bath and a fresh set of batteries that he actually works too?! Oh my goodness! This picture below was the face of utter delight EVEN BEFORE we had the batteries to test if he worked. Oh, friends! Oh, family! So great is the utter delight at this little pig!

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And it has brought me to a place of sheer thankfulness that God saw it fitting in His beautiful heart to so bless two little girls whom have made such sacrifices in these past seven months. How wonderful of a Father to reach down to these two little ones in such a beautiful little blessing that utterly rocks their world with delight. I think of His Sovereign hand gently guiding Pinky from wherever he was donated, orchestrating his placement on this very mat of this very booth that we would pass by.

Oh sure, I could give away His glory to some rare chance.

But I know better.

It’s Him, dear brothers and sisters. It’s all Him.

And it absolutely blesses my heart so.

And these precious little girls…

Thank You. Just thank You, Father.

Posted in BRAVO, celebrating life, Mozambique, That's so Africa, willing hands

Six

Today marks six months of being American Africans. SIX MONTHS!!!!

“Wow, that has gone fast,” my conversant commented.

“FOR YOU!” I joked. 😉

In some moments six months has surprised us and in some moments language school feels like a never-ending endeavor. 😉

Six months looks like having enough language to complete our normal needs/wants/tasks without problems, while still forgetting how to congregate some irregular verbs to say something simple like “I have gone to the doctor before.”

Six months looks like preaching and teaching Sunday School lessons. Some sermons even coming with less than 12 hours of notice. HA!

Six months looks like a toddler experiencing some culture shock, resulting in a regression to diapers again, a promise that this is a phase, and more intentional Mommy snuggles. And by the way, this same toddler is reminding me that she wants underwear sometime soon when she does a good job using the potty, so I am encouraged by the grace she has been extended.

Six months looks like knowing what pizza place the family likes and successfully avoiding some other “less delightful” restaurants in town.

Six months looks like moving beyond introductory language to really starting to learn friends’ testimony’s, cultural superstitions, and understanding different ways of life.

Six months looks like looking at future homeschool curriculum so you’ll be ready to order it when the time comes in the next handful of months. (It takes a while to get here, but it’s still an exciting promise of things on the horizon.)

Six months looks like being SO CLOSE to remembering all of Roman’s Road and culturally appropriate questions regarding these verses to engage others in conversation.

Six months looks like celebrating with ice cream while skyping my best friend and her little boy.

Six months looks like a third grader doing 95% of her homework all by herself and casually reading her first grade sister the Portuguese directions to complete her first grade homework. It also looks like two girls enjoying school, but looking forward to returning to homeschool in English (!!!) as well. 😉

Oh sure, six months still has it’s growing pains, frustrations and challenges to rise above.

But six months also finds this country dripping with home, these pot-holed streets and people not so foreign and these hands still open to whatever God would have us learn

here in Mozambique, Africa.

Thank you, Lord, for six completed months.

Happy six months, FPO family!