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 God's heart, living in their world, Mozambique, willing hands

In the Dim and Dusty

It happens week in and week out here in the dusty village church. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of it all. Over a hundred kids. All of whom are struggling to read. And all of whom are needing your attention. Right now. Or they’ll get too squirmy and run off in herds to the “bathroom” at the back of the church. Apparently when you’re a boy you use the overgrown brush urinal best when with a friend… or seven. Ha!

They all sit there in the mud-hut church, chattering on so in the beginning. Two languages permeate the dimly lit space. One of which I am fighting to grasp, the other of which is still completely foreign. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the organization of it all. Math pages in plastic pockets go here. Everyone’s group lists to distribute. Then there’s the list of absentee children that needs to be on hand should once the master list is called we still have bodies in the seats. It’s hard to say “come back next year” to those that have been missing for over a month and have been lost in our advancement forward in the lessons. Try as we may, the line is still a hard one when you’re strapped for teachers.

Sometimes there are so many kids that one can be found looking up from a mat on the floor outside of the church. Reading lessons are complete and they’re now surrounding you. Fourteen or Fifteen big smiles. Their dirty little feet squirming. And they’re all just waiting in anticipation as you grade their math papers. They laugh and cheer as you grade their friends’ papers. And then magically you assign a number. One through twenty. They await with bated breath for a twenty. Sometimes I give the struggling ones three or four chances to gain a twenty. I don’t know if they’ll ever gain a twenty in their school. And that kind of twenty joy is radiant.

This time there were only a handful. So I got a chance to see more than I usually do. Dedication of a generation pouring into the next. Even one that can barely read above the children’s level, trying hard to help them reach and advance beyond his skill level. A teacher who has become a friend, flexing into a patience that only comes from a greater desire to give than to receive. Teaching children may not be her thing, but she’s not going to let that stop her attempt to help better someone else.

But here in the dim light, I see another face. She’s seen this little boy for years. And try as she has, and try as he might, he’s still just here. His peers have left him in the dust as the years have proven more fruitful for them than this little boy. But here she sits, teaching. Showing. Trying to help him embrace a skill that is thus far conquering him. She encourages. She’s consistent. And there I saw her heart. Her desire for this little guy to get it. He has aged out of the group, but he still needs the help so. So she invests and invests. Quietly. In a mud hut. In a country that you won’t find in the news. In the heart of Africa.

And she’s been here for over twenty years.

Not for her glory. None of this is.

And she’d be the first to tell you that she’s just a normal person.

Because she is.

We each are.

It’s all for His glory.

And it was just beautiful to see her heart in that dimly lit mud-hut.

Each of their hearts.

Here in a dusty village church.

Week in and week out.

 

 

Posted in Mozambique, thankful and grateful, Video Update

Eight Month Update

It’s time for another video update. This time we’re celebrating eight completed months here!

We took this video while on our first family vacation away for a night. We went to a beach lodge for a night and enjoyed the quiet, watching a little Disney Channel Portugal, not having to cook from scratch and skipping doing the dishes too! =)

It was truly refreshing and while it was short, we all came back ready to return to the language grind.

So without further adeu, here’s our eight month update video. =)

We love you all! Thank you continually for your love and support.

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…. 😉

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.