Be True To Your Style

Unknown*Warning- this post contains disturbing mental images.*

I have in my mind the kind of mom I want to be- gentle, nurturing, organized, and never chaotic. I want other women everywhere to want to be like me. And to keep it spiritual, I just want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. That’s not asking too much, right?

So the other day, I was at someone’s house with my kids, enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with a couple of friends while our kids played sweetly together outside. If running around in circles and making lots of noise could be considered sweet. Actually, I have no idea what they were doing, because when I have COFFEE and FRIENDS, I block out the rest of the world. True story.

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In walks my Jordan, a 4-year-old bundle of sweetness and dirt, who can’t sit still and frequently is upside-down, because that’s how he rolls. He was holding the top of his head, and had that look on his face that said “I want to cry but I’m going to be brave because there are other people around.”

I was compassionate to his pain, but if I had been at home, being true to MY STYLE,  I would have simply asked what happened and told him he was going to be fine, assuming there was no blood or concussion. Yes, I know how to check for concussions- I have 3 boys.

But because I was with my FRIENDS, drinking COFFEE and otherwise ignoring the world, I decided to step up my “mom game” and be that gentle and nurturing mother. So I gathered him in my arms, and kissed the top of his head.

Poo. Dog poo. There was no other possible explanation for the smell that immediately went up my nose and on my lips as I kissed that sweet head of blond hair. I’m not sure what I looked like, but I calmly, ever-so-calmly (because I’m that Proverbs 31 woman who doesn’t lose her cool) marched that stinky child to the bathroom to deal. And to regather my sanity and wash the POO off my face and out of his hair.

He wasn’t hurt. He was embarrassed and didn’t want to see my coffee-drinking FRIENDS to know what was in his hair.

Moral of this story- be true to your style. If God gave me the natural reaction to keep my child at arm’s length and tell him he would be fine, then I should trust my instincts. It would have been a lot less gross, and my child would still know he was loved. Because who doesn’t love a sweet mess of blond hair and dirt and upside-down-ness?

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Living with Balance or Margin? Part 1

I wish that I could write inspiring blog posts based on tried-and-true methods that worked for me. However, I’m writing from one of those low points where I can admit I dint have it all figured out. Just doing my best and thankful for God’s grace.

So, we always hear, “living a balanced life” or “just keep it all in balance.” I get this mental picture of a circle, with Christ at the center, and every other aspect of my life in equal-size pieces like pieces of a chocolate cream pie. Or lemon meringue. Anyway, pieces like marriage, children, home, ministry, work, etc. We all know what our pieces of the pie are. And I’ve always felt like I fail at getting it right because I’m either working too hard or not enough. Or putting my husband on the back burner. Or going on vacation and feeling bad that I’m not doing ministry.

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Let’s talk about just how unbalanced it can get when you live and work overseas on donated financial support. When I’m in Africa, I only shop for groceries. We have unlimited babysitting 😄 and can go on dates when we want. When we get to the States, we have enough free babysitting to cover our speaking engagements, which means no dates. Plus, we have to buy enough American goods (clothes, shoes, spices, etc) to last us 2 years. So we basically spend all our time raising money and spending it. Honestly, it’s a relief to get back to Africa where we can be “normal”. Wait, that’s where I DOn’T feel normal, because I’m always different. Are you starting to understand why I’m crazy?

So, a balanced life is out of the question for me. As far as the picture I described, anyway. Those chocolate pieces of the pie are always going to be way different. So, what’s the answer? I heard a friend talking about living with MARGIN the other day, and that really got me thinking.

What is margin? When I was in school, and we wrote on things like…. paper…. it meant leaving enough room in case I needed it, for whatever reason.

(To be continued, in “Living with Margin part 2)

A Few New Words…and a Lot of Dirt

So many thoughts now. Nothing profound at the moment, still processing the last 6 weeks at language school. Overall, it was a great experience.

We stayed at Riverside Campsite, in a little stone “banda” at the top of a mountain, just outside of a village in the middle of Tanzania. The cottages and dining hall and game room and playground are all located alongside the Little Ruaha River, where the kids (and adults!) could swim and fish and climb rocks. Supposedly there is a hippo in those parts, but we never saw him….

I loved getting up early every morning, having to put on a sweater, and hiking down the 118 steps to the bottom of the hill to get to breakfast. I loved having coffee with our fellow language students, all waking up our brains together for another day of learning. I loved doing homeschool with my friend Shannon and her girls. I didn’t mind washing all our clothes by hand all that much, but can’t say the clothes got all that clean. I loved seeing my boys get creative with nature, find a thousand uses for a stick, learn to pull thorns from their feet, help collect firewood for our campfires. I loved playing volleyball, where a team of 5 people might represent 5 different cultures. I loved going to church made of completely of people like us- English-speakers who loved Jesus and are working in Africa. It was like I BELONGED.

So what difference did it make? Why go learn MORE Swahili when we can get by with English? And why did we have to go to another country to learn it?

Language learning is hard work, takes focus and intentionality, and makes you seem childlike while you wrap your mouth around new sounds. It’s SO much better to do that somewhere else than the place where you work. As to the WHY, we want to speak the local language because it means we CARE enough to invest in WHO they are so they don’t have to work so hard to communicate with us. There are so many barriers to forming relationships out here- language, culture, unspoken rules, food, customs. We are trying to break down those barriers so we can LOVE these people, and show them the LOVE of Jesus. It’s that simple.

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Language School Again?

8 years ago, Josh and I were at orientation in a class that taught us how to learn language. More importantly, they taught us the reasons WHY we learn the local language.

*for understanding
*for acceptance
*to be able to properly order pizza over the phone (harder than it sounds!)

We want to reach people where THEY are. To show them we love them, their culture, their language. Jesus reached people where they were. It means something to have someone learn about you when they are in your country.

I am thankful I have been able to get by on my limited Swahili all these years, after our initial course in Tanzania 7 1/2 years ago. I can bargain, get good rates on public transportation, and meaningfully tell vendors on the beach that I am not interested in more wood carvings. However, I am limited. I can’t hold “real” conversations. I want to.

Josh has done much better at me in expanding his language abilities. Probably helps that he actually talks to people. I use my “I’m an English teacher so let’s talk in English” excuse a little too much. He will be doing the main course learning, because his work depends on Swahili more than my work does (my kids speak English and my students are from Pakistan). But I’m hoping to learn more through helping him with homework (déjà vu from college days!), and just practicing around town where English is not an option. I also want my kids to learn greetings and basic phrases so they can begin communicating.

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6 weeks in a new country. 6 weeks in a small town. Homeschool? We will learn many things, but it remains to be seen how much is from a book. We might depart a little from the technology, take advantage of the surrounding rustic natural settings. I can’t wait. I’m thankful for this opportunity to add to our skill set in our work here. I’m thankful to be able to learn a little better how to be a “local.” I may never look Kenyan, but I hope that when I open my mouth, I can share the love of Jesus in a way that sounds a little closer to home. To their home. >

Youth camp Like You Haven’t Seen It

Lighthouse has started over 70 churches on the coast of Kenya. Every year we train 200 pastors and church leaders through conferences.

But a couple years ago, we got the feeling we were missing something. The youth. The ones with the energy. The ones with a passion. The ones that are unrestrained in their love for The Lord and ability to reach into all circles to bring the lost to Him.

But they weren’t staying in church. They weren’t coming to youth camp. We needed to reach out to THEM. So, we had a college team from Grace Community Church in Tyler, TX come put on a youth leadership retreat and “mock” camp to give the leaders an idea of what can be done. They were incredible. They brought the fun, the games, and the smiles back to the idea of camp.

This year, we had 261 kids come to camp, and 20 of them gave their lives to Christ. Please watch this two minute video to see how Mombasa kids do camp!!

Sand between my toes

This last week was wonderful for several reasons-
–my parents came to visit

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-We woke up to THIS every morning

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-We ate pretty well (and now are dealing with the consequences!)

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-and played with new friends.

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I wish I could take all these things (and a few more that I selfishly love) and hold on to them tight. I wish I never had to say goodbye, or watch my kids say goodbye. I wish life was always “a day at the beach.” But then these sweet moments wouldn’t be as sweet. And we aren’t Home yet anyway. >

Me, Homeschool? Only if I get a neon sign from God…

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How many times have I laid down ultimatums before God that I DON’T do certain things, but because I am a “good” Christian, I will say that I am willing IF I get a neon sign from God saying DO IT!?!?!

First, there was marrying my husband. Just kidding.

Really, there has been one other time where I said I was not an evangelist, didn’t want to work with a certain group of people, and yet God brought a ministry into my life which was just that. Guess what? I love it.

So, homeschool. I’m trained to be a teacher. I love the school supply aisle, I love talking about the importance of education, and I’m passionate about reading books on raising children who LOVE God. However, I had a list a mile long of reasons why I should NOT teach my kids.

1. I want them to live long lives.
2. I am bad about doing anything on a day-to-day basis for longer than 2 weeks.
3. I love MY time. When school starts back in August, when Monday rolls around, when the kids get dropped off for school… I love the quiet.
4. I can’t multitask
5. I just pin things on Pinterest, I don’t actually DO them.
The list goes on…..

Basically, I’m not good enough, I’m selfish, and God knows better than to put something as important as my kids education into my hands.

Which is why He isn’t putting that into my hands. In His own perfect way, He asked ME to put MYSELF into HIS hands and see what He could do. I think this next year is going to be a “potter and clay” year. A whole lot of bending, molding, shaping, and maybe even a little breaking of my “less-than-better” characteristics.

So I can be more like the person. He created me to be. Because I was willing.

I’m excited, because I can honestly say this is God’s idea and not mine. I’m excited because the plans He has for me are to prosper me and not harm me (by the way, God’s version of prospering is not always fun but oh so good). I’m excited because I do love my kids and I’m excited to get to know them better this next year. So bring it on!;