Posted in enjoying life, living in their world, Mozambique, thankful and grateful

Growing Four

I just wanted to share a few little jewels from our archive of our time here. They’re in no particular order, but I just didn’t want to lose the opportunity to share the short stories and the pieces of our normal that come with them.

Here our girls have learned the art of sharing a double bed. And while some moments leave them looking forward to their hopes of bunk beds in our near future, it’s still so sweet to hear them ask each other “will you snuggle me?” Their bonds have grown so strong over this past year, even if Eden looks like she is gearing up to kick Abi in the face. Ha!

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This is a picture I took from across the church of one of the first days that all four of my girlies sat with the children to recite their group Bible verse and present some children’s songs to the church. Rachael and Abi were my first little ladies to make the transition, but the littler ones took a little more time to get used to the drums echoing off of the cement sanctuary. And thanks to the help of a great big sister, the littlest sister felt right at home.

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With a cement utopia of a yard comes some very hard falls from “growing in coordination” girls. I snapped this picture of Rachael’s battle wound to thank those who supplied all our wonderful first aid supplies. We sure are getting our good use out of those supplies, friends! So once again, thank you for the gift that provides comforts and promises of God’s healing. I’m thankful that even though the tears come first, the smile always returns.

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Here the girls have grown in their attention spans and our expectation on their attention spans, especially in church. Children here are welcome, but are also expected to sit quietly and without distracting others. Coming from children’s programs during service time and directly into 24/7 Portuguese was a bit of an uphill climb in encouraging the girls to pay attention and stay quiet. But they have fought hard at this skill and have conquered many a 3-4 hour church service with grace. Thus began our Sunday tradition of ice cream after church. Just call it a thank you gift for your efforts, little ladies. And to think we used to need a lot to entertain those little hands that are now content to bring one picture book a piece for the whole service. Village churches are extra fun at drawing small pictures on the dirt floor with a stick.

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(Never under-estimate the power of a fairy cottage calendar from Aunt Jes, which was Eden’s preference one Sunday instead of a book. =) The Moz kids enjoyed viewing it as well..)

Here the girls take a bath or a shower every night to cut down on dirty feet entering beds and the general over-all fashion trends of “Pig Pen” from the Peanuts. We usually double the girls up in a bath or shower to keep from using ALL our water budget in three days. So whenever you get the chance to take your own bubble bath, it produces nothing but utter delight as is modeled by none other than the lovely Eden.

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And this is how you grown four happy little ladies here in Mozambique. =)

 

God is so good to us.

Posted in being a friend, Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Mozambique, my heart, willing hands

Mai de Y

It started with her report that her dear little friend had not returned to school. The break was over, but still Abi had not seen her buddy. Little Y is a frequent visitor to our home. It began with an innocent self-invitation one day in the schoolyard. “Mai de Abi,” (translated: Abi’s Mom) her little browns looked up at me, “(Can I come play at Abi’s house today?)” Little did I know that the first yes would result in our new normal. Little Y lives only a block away and at 2p we’d catch her eyes at the gate. That little hopeful smile.

Little Y with her “Abi… Abi…” consistently putting forth efforts to play with my little first grade introvert. I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for Y in our lives. She’s so patient, kind and willing. One time she brought her little brother over too and I was impressed at how gentle he was. They just played freely, but so respectfully.

I only met her once, Y’s mom (“Mai de Y”), as she came by maybe the third or fourth time Y had played over at our house. That’s normal for the community here. Mai (My) de Y just wanted to check in and make sure Y was playing well and being respectful. I saw how Y hugged her mom. There was evidence of love and a sweet bond.

But today I found myself in a capalana (Cop-ooh-lah-nah) skirt. I used my nine inches of capulana-alotted walking space wisely, slowly and quietly as Matt and I walked a block over. This time she met our eyes at her gate. Sweet little Y. She played with the neighbor kids this afternoon, but ran over to talk to “Mai de Abi” and “Pai de Abi”. We asked for her father, knowing he had come into town at the news. He was somewhere across the street, but Y told us her grandma was inside.

Out came grandma to the gate as she welcomed us into her home. Three little rooms and a living room space. Our shoes left at the door. A capulana applied to grandma’s nightgown dress. A warm welcome and an offering of the couch to sit. And there she shared the details that had broken all of our hearts.

It started as a headache before her visit down to the capital. She checked into a local hospital, which is as normal as a doctor’s visit for us. And that’s when her blood pressure dropped. Lower and lower. Lower and lower, until they received the news that awful day. Mai de Y was gone.

Just like that.

Gone.

It was just a normal trip visiting family in the capital, but it was the last time Y or her little brother would ever see their mom.

 

 

We sat there in the tear-stained silence of that little sub-let house. Grandma looked at the ceiling as tears streamed down her face. People here don’t cry in front of others. But this she could not help.

Grandma shared of raising eleven children, eight boys and three girls. She laughed at the joys of children and told us the same thing everyone tells us: that one day we will have a boy. We smiled and giggled. Boys here are the heads of households. We know her sentiment well. Children are so valued. They are treasured. She knows the joys well.

The future is uncertain for little Y and her little brother. Things are complicated. Father didn’t live with them, but is now in town to see if he can parent them. The family just waits, knowing he will need help. Then the maternal and paternal sides will work it out. One tradition will speak over another and a final verdict will be made. And then little Y and her brother will move away – somewhere… The family will usually try to keep them together, but Y is getting close to that age. The age of possibly becoming a house helper to a relative with a new baby.

So many things are left unresolved. So much hangs in the valance.

“They are so young” comes a grandmother’s pain. She knows she is not the deciding factor in the children’s future home. And yet she has helped raise them. She has lived with them. She is their normal.

We left a Bible and prayed with and over Y’s household. Her grandmother choked back tears again as we reminded her that Y is always welcome to play in our home. “That is so good for her,” she semi-whispered, “It’s good for her to play with friends.”

And I instantly flashed back to that first day Y was back in school. I was waiting for Abi as usual when Y came running up and threw her arms around me. How my heart hurt as I pet her hair and told her we were praying for her and her family. She just held me for five minutes. People here aren’t big huggers. I just kept petting her hair. She asked if she could come over and play. I assured her that she is always welcome.

 

 

She is always welcome…

 

-Please join me in praying for little Y, her little brother, and her family.

 

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 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 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.