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 Crossing Cultures, honesty, Mozambique, my heart, that's just life

Even When it’s Hard to Find Words

You know, it’s really hard to find words sometimes. No, I’m not just referring to our efforts to crack away at Portuguese fluency. I’m talking about crossing cultures back across the ocean.

It’s really hard to communicate how much I deeply treasure these beautifully flawed people. It’s really hard to live in the gap between two very different, but very encouraging worlds and find myself at a loss of relayed words.

What do our brothers and sisters of the United States want to say to our brothers and sisters here? Is He not the same God?  Are we not reading the same Word?

I find myself floundering in an unexplainable loss of words some days. What will I put on the blog? What will be heard back from here? What words will represent a world that so many may never see firsthand? How can I possibly capture the beauty of the world here without others only seeing the ashes? How can I possibly portray the realities here without others there thinking money and pity need to be given? How can my words encourage the depth I can barely express when language seems to slip like sand through my hands?

These are the thoughts that sometimes paralyze me as I think of what and how to share with you all. No, I don’t over-script my words or create situations that are not true to the realities here. But my heart just yearns to share a depth with you all there. My heart longs to connect my people on both sides of the ocean. You all are my world, disjointed as it may feel at times. And I am honored to wrestle with how to cross the ocean with heartfelt words. I am honored to let Jesus stand in the gap through our lives here.

Please know that I think of you often and hold you all so dear in my heart, even when I wrestle to find the words. Thank you for your joy in the pictures and the videos we spend hours and hours downloading through slow internet realities so that we can share life together. And thank you for your patience as things take more time here and as we learn that taking time is not always a deficiency, but many times an opportunity to really think through and treasure each investment.

The ocean between us is huge… and deep.

It’s easy to get lost out there amidst the waves.

Thank you for fighting the surf with us,

riding out this adventure

even when it’s hard to find words.

 

Posted in honesty, Mozambique, Wrestling Language

Loves? How about a strong Like?

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

but he who hates correction is stupid.” -Proverbs 12:1

You know, I’d be lying to pretend like I always want to study Portuguese. Five hours per day sometimes makes me come unglued. Not in like an Incredible Hulk chaos, but more like a potato chip staring at the wall. I got nothing to offer here, people.

Self-discipline. People, sometimes I just don’t wanna! (said in the best preschool whine).

Ever felt that way? Ever heard those words come out of your mouth?

Loves discipline? Really, God? How about just a strong like?

Yeah, that’s the real of it.

And then you don’t like the taste of those words. They just hang there all ugly-like.

So then you get up and go listen to your vocabulary recording again.

 

One of my friends said it best:

“You don’t fully realize the gift of tongues until you’re trying to learn a foreign language.” – from a friend learning Mandarin Chinese

Now THAT’S a language. Oh my! Maybe Portuguese isn’t so bad…. 😉

The gift of tongues! Instant ability to communicate the Gospel without a single hour of studying… Ha! If only…  😉

“Whoever loves discipline…”

Do I love discipline? Self-discipline?

I have been praying for a while now to have a heart for learning Portuguese. Cause you know, then like it won’t feel like death EVERY hour of studying. But I can honestly tell you that I have yet to really have a heart for knowledge.

Maybe I’m broken. Or just super not interested in the world of college study mode anymore. But I’m so thankful that He HAS answered my prayers with a heart for the hot mess people here. And to make things clear, I think all people everywhere are hot messes – just in different ways. I’m so thankful for God stepping into our hot mess to make something beautiful of our hearts.

Anyway…. back to the grind of fluency.

And if you have a moment, please join me in praying for self-discipline for Matt and I both in this process. (Sigh) It’s killer hard work when you really just want to flake out after 7 months of constant fighting with the language.

Thanks for joining me on this super anti-climactic moment of internal wrestling over self-discipline. 😉

He will triumph!

– One step at a time.

 

Posted in Crossing Cultures, God's heart, honesty, Hope, Mozambique, my heart

But He Can

I can’t possibly put into words how things have changed since we’ve come here. Our roles right now are not what they will be come Maxixe, but we are here in Q… studying… still in transition and yet settled…. for a while at least.

I can’t possibly put into words what it’s like to send the very children you feel convicted to homeschool to a public school for a year. And a school in a different language and culture. I can’t put into words how I miss them in the house and how I miss knowing what they are learning. How I wish I could help Rachael on her homework, but it is beyond my Portuguese understanding.

I can’t possibly put into words the sacrifice of sitting upstairs for 5 hours of language and hearing your toddler downstairs calling you. It’s just a petty thing. She wants you to read her a book. But you can’t. I can’t describe what it is like to live on the fence, both dying to understand more in a language that still feels very unnatural and just wanting to hold your baby and absorb the little moments that used to surround you.

I can’t possibly put into words the feeling when you watch them building poor habits that you know you will need to spend months undoing. But their habits are acceptable in your host culture, just not in yours. So they’re not corrected. Some milestone regression will just need to be regression until you are there more consistently. Until things take on a new normal.

I can’t possibly put into words the frustration of returning to “school” and wondering if you’ll ever just “live normally”again. You know, just like go to the market and get food. Just do normal life stuff without feeling like it’s a language and culture test. Live in a place without fear of public speaking, when really there’s only just a handful of people in front of you, but the language barrier feels like a mountain before you.

I can’t possibly put into words the internal battle of studying so hard, but feeling like it’s never good enough and fighting that constant battle of comparison with your spouse who “just gets it”. Oh how the temptations can flair in the dark of the night and seem to swallow you whole.

But, precious friends and family, I can’t possibly put into words seeing another month under your belt, one step closer to your job city. I can’t possibly put into words how much of a blessing it is for your front tires to touch the pavement of the highway leading to your destination city. I can’t possibly explain the delight in seeing your children flourish, even if they’re not always running to your arms. I can’t explain the joy in hearing Portuguese church songs sung in echoing abandonment from a four-year old as she plays. I can’t put into words the delight of a small group of believers living in a Muslim community remembering and repeating with smiles on their faces the parables you all studied weeks ago. I can’t explain the triumph you feel when leaving the market after navigating the local market playing a little game of trying to beat your sweet house helper to the punch of asking about produce.

I can’t begin to express the gratitude of overcome tears and deep-heart prayers resulting in fruitful steps forward.

And it leads me to my knees again, praying for His perspective when mine feels challenged again. His patience when this road feels too long and costly. His calm when the uncertainties seem to surround.

Oh how the cost is high, how I long to return to being a homeschooling, ministry wife. But oh, dear beloved, how He proves Himself over and over to be MORE than enough.

Oh, precious friends and family, He IS so much more than enough.

Thanks be to God for using me as a tool in His hand in the midst of this 3 year transition from an American Associate Pastor’s wife to a bi-lingual Missionary Mom living in Africa.

His ways are prefect.

His timing is perfect.

How He refreshes my soul.

Posted in Crossing Cultures, God's heart, honesty, Mozambique

A Cultural Clash Redeemed

Sometimes cultures clash and you find yourself standing in the gap in the sake of your daughter.

 

I hesitate to share this story with you because I hope you will choose to leave this in the Lord’s hands like we have. That being said, I want you to know that we fought the same responses you may when you read pieces of this: frustration, an urge to protect, an urge to respond rashly, and then a settling into God’s Sovereignty in this situation. The benefit for you is that you get to read this situation in entirety verses our wrestling with this over four days of “beyond our control” waiting.

But I have chosen to share this because I really make a concerted effort to share the whole story of our life here: the good and the hard, and how Jesus is capable of redeeming everything for His Glory in our lives here.

 

Abi came home from school frustrated and embarrassed. She brought home a story from the play-yard where she usually finds delight in catching frogs and lizards. This time it was a lizard that she caught triumphantly when another child came over to investigate.  On this day, this child was surprised by the lizard and began screaming when the lizard jumped out of Abi’s hand onto the ground. The child began stomping the lizard in the dirt while accusing Abi of throwing it on her.

Rachael, while standing there, continued to defend Abi (keep in mind that all of this is in Portuguese) as Abi and Rachael told the child that the lizard was on the ground (where she had smashed it). Many children began to crowd around at the great commotion.

The child left and returned with an older child. The older child grabbed Abi while the younger child spanked Abi. Other children circled and shouted and Rachael yelled in Abi’s defense, telling this older child to let go of Abi and continuing to proclaim Abi’s innocence. Abi fought away from the kids and ran toward where she believed a teacher’s assistant would be, but unfortunately the teacher’s assistant was not there.  See, the teachers all take their break during the children’s recess time and two teachers assistance are in charge of the children during the time.

The two children pursued Abi when the school bell rang, informing the children to return to their lines in the gym. The older child was in a line nearby Rachael and announced that she was going to go hit Abi. Rachael yelled in Abi’s defense again, but in the chaos of the kids lining up and the lack of supervision, the two children once again returned to holding and hitting Abi, only this time on the top of the head with a closed fist. Abi sunk to the floor, crying and the teacher found her there. When the teacher asked who hit Abi, Abi’s entire class pointed to the guilty child, but the older child was back in their line and was not identified as aiding in the situation. The teacher told the child not to hit people, not knowing the full story, and helped Abi return to the line.

Abi was not physically hurt despite the incidents. She is a tough kid, but she was obviously scared, frustrated and feeling defeated.

So let’s address the cultural realities behind this in which we battled in addressing this situation with the teacher, the children involved and their parents. This type of rough behavior here is highly common and brushed off as ‘kids being kids”. Kids here are very rough in general, wrestling and hitting each other even when they are close friends. It’s a reality of children in the community spending a decent amount of time unsupervised. I’m not saying unloved, but the realities of the family workload leave four year old children caring for younger siblings while Mom is in the field for the morning. So kids come together, many times in groups outside, passing the time with nearby friends. And kids work out their problems with their limited skill sets, which often involves hitting. Oh sure, friends and family, kids hit. We all know that. But our situation’s kind of hitting took on a different angle when the child acquired a larger child to aid in the fight.

Another cultural reality that we learned in this process is that an older child entering the situation is supposed to be a voice of greater wisdom and an aider of calming the situation. This was helpful information when I spoke with the older child about their part in this problem. And quite honestly, this was nice to know was an underlying cultural rule in this community as our children play in the community.

There’s also the culture of fear of frogs and lizards in general among Africans. There’s also the culture of unsupervision which carries over to the school setting. For example, many times a teacher has to attend to other work and instead of finding a replacement teacher, the class is just left to color pictures… for 3 hours, unsupervised. You can imagine that running, yelling, sometimes hitting and general chaos happens. Usually another teacher leaves her classroom to recalm the other classroom temporarily. Yeah, it’s just Africa, and the girls are learning how to follow good examples and avoid being in the line of fire of bad examples.

Then we rubbed up against the culture here that most people are not pro-active. They tend to wait until a situation gets so problematic that it has to be addressed. We were not sure if this situation would have been brushed off as normal kid behavior or if it would be agreed upon that it was needing to be addressed. But either way, this situation in our culture absolutely had to be addressed.

 

My first response was most certainly fight or flight. My flesh rose to heightened Mama Bear protector mode and I am thankful for Matt’s sensibility once again. 😉 I am also thankful that in this moment my Portuguese is not as strong as Matt’s so he was our public voice for most of this situation because quite honestly, I was not as level-headed for the first 48 hours. Respectful, yes, but I had less control in my inner person and was not sure how I would respond if in a parent meeting the other child’s parents defended their child’s behavior.

We used the culture in our favor to require the teacher to call a parent meeting with the children involved and their parents. Since the older child’s parents were very hard to get to come to the meeting and the older child was repentant, the child who did the hitting’s mother came to the meeting as well as the 2 other children.

The day after the situation, I confronted the older child, trying to swallow my inner burning for justice. When the older child defended the classmate’s behavior because she said Abi put a lizard on the classmate’s head, I informed the older child that that was a lie, just as Rachael had said because Rachael was standing there to see the whole thing. I asked the older child if she saw the situation for herself before holding down my daughter so another could hit her. And I told her, leveraging the culture, that she is supposed to be a helper to the situation, not a bigger problem. When the older child found out that the situation was a lie, her face broke into repentance and she immediately apologized. I think the public hearing this also helped curb her respect for me (the adult), which is a building block in this community. And while approaching the child after the situation was over is not really a part of this culture (I would have normally approached the parent), due to the situation, the timing, and the lack of parents picking up this child, by the grace of God, the road was paved for further conversations. Then I felt the Lord swelling up within me as I softened my voice further to encourage this older child to protect and care for younger children. I reminded her that that job is one of honor.

 

Matt attended the parent meeting to find a mother broken by her daughter’s behavior. And that was nothing but the grace of God. The mother said even if Abi had thrown a lizard on her daughter, though she knew Abi did not, that her child’s response was completely unacceptable. This is a grace of God to find a parent in this community who would say this. Beyond this, the mother apologized and required her child, who was sick that day from school, when she returned to school, to apologize to Abi.

And then we learned that behind the scenes our little Mama, Rachael, had stood in defense of Abi when asked by her teacher (who adores Rachael) and the teacher of the older child. Rachael was leveraged as a voice of reason to clarify and solve this problem. While we didn’t ask Rachael to play this role, this also was not a problem because we learned that the more school community that knows about this situation, respectfully, will aid in helping to curb further behavior. This was evidenced in other teachers entering the situation to solve the problem. Community is a big deal here! And people modify their behavior based on the accountability of community.

The child has since apologized to Abi, hugged Abi and, thanks to the grace of God, has been friendly toward Abi again. And how’s Abi?

Well, Abi is a really resilient kid. And this move overseas has only heightened her resilience. We have had many conversations about forgiveness, not living in fear and this situation’s resolve has left her as happy and carefree as normal. We have advised her to not catch lizards and frogs during recess at school, especially since she can’t keep them anywhere. And instead we’ve given her some time after school to grab a few helpless victims to add to her plastic tuppowear for 12 hours of prison before they are returned to the outdoors. 😉

So thus this situation was resolved with care and grace extended. And God in His Sovereignty has showered his grace over us all as we are continuing to learn how to thrive in this community.

Thanks be to God for His presence amidst a hard cultural clash in our community. How He can make beauty from ashes. How He can speak in our hearts to still and calm us and to spring us to action where we must. How He is a trusted friend who walks beside us in times of uncertainty. And how He frees us to forgiveness and returned joy. Oh and thanks be to God how he protected our Abi’s innocence amidst a potentially future fear-creating situation.

Thank You, Lord.