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 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 God's heart, JOY, life thoughts, my heart, willing hands

Refreshing

Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability!

How REFRESHING to know you don’t need me!

How AMAZING to find that you want me!

 

I am completely insufficient of a warrior in this battle. This battle is beyond me in immeasurable ways. The wisdom needed, the grace offered, the endurance, and so much more … I am completely insufficient! I am absolutely nothing on my own!

But the power of CHRIST in me makes me strong

This completely blows me away! How He does not need me. Not even in the slightest! He’s completely and entirely All-Sufficient!

And yet how utterly amazing to find that He still wants me.

I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me as His mouthpiece. ME?!! Oh how HE must be the One bringing the victory through these lips, through these hands…

And how He so willingly receives this offering that I lay at His glorious throne…

I am brought to tears at His utter grace.

How He takes the incapable, breathes the life in them, gives them the words and the boldness, orchestrates the listeners, touches the hearts, and then receives it gladly as an offering unto Himself.

It was all Him!

All Him all along!

Oh thank you, Lord, that You would bless me so to be a tool in Your hands.

How humbly amazing indeed!

 

 

 

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.