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”. ūüėČ

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! ūüėČ 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 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…. ūüėČ

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

“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. ūüėČ

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. ūüėČ 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. ūüėČ

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.

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. ūüėČ

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

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. ūüėČ

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!