Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be Thankful...But In All Circumstances

Give thanks in all circumstances.
What does that mean, anyway?

Yesterday, I did not want to give thanks.  The power went out at 7 am.  I had huge loads of laundry to do that obviously would not happen.  It was hot.  Our house is dark.   My house worker was sick.  How would I get everything done?  At 6:45 pm, when we realized it still wasn't coming on, we sent out dozens of text messages to our students, changing the location of Youth Group.  The power came back on at 10 pm last night.  Lots of chatter in the Dar community about this and we all are coming to the sad realization that electricity rationing has started again, even though the power company has yet to publicly announce it.  That means that the 15 hours without power yesterday will probably be a regular occurrence. 

Yet I am told to give thanks in all circumstances. 

This morning my eyes popped open at 6 am, early for a Saturday.  Immediately I thought, "I've got to get the laundry in the machine while the power is on." 

The laundry went in, the flour came out.  I spent the morning doing what I love:  creating with dough.  The washing machine hummed and my electric beaters whipped up the cream beautifully.  There's my thankful heart. 

My gardener called me outside.  "There's a problem," he said, "A small one."  He told me he was fixing a drain outside our house by pulling up some concrete slabs that cover our drain pipes.  He pulled up the slab for me.  "Wadudu," he said.  Bugs.   

I looked inside the hole and shrieked.  There were about 100 cockroaches of varying sizes.  "SO THAT'S WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN COMING FROM!" Those nasty, nasty creatures who are not fit to live have been creeping into my kitchen cupboards.  Two inches long, those beasties are.

I raced into the house, grabbed the insecticide, and proceeded to empty the entire aerosol container into the hole.  "DIE!" I screeched.  My gardener must have thought I had completely lost it.

Does God want me to be thankful for cockroaches?

Be thankful in all circumstances. 

The afternoon was easy.  At our friend Kathy's house for our "Thanksgiving Saturday," turkey with all the trimmings, a group of friends ranging from ages 2 to 65.  Laughter, chattering, exclamations over every dish served and "Can I get this recipe?"  Kids hyped up on sugar barreling through the house.  Just like a Thanksgiving should be, except without the blood relations.  It was a wonderful day.  Easy to be thankful.

But...Be thankful in all circumstances.  All.  Not griping, not complaining...but trusting His goodness and His Sovereignty in every situation. 

I still have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Different Kind of Pilgrim

Thanksgiving kind of feels lonely when you are not in America.

True, it's sweaty here and there are no leaves falling off of trees.  In fact, I discovered yesterday that the reason my turkey baster is perpetually sticky is because the rubber is disintegrating in the humidity.  But we do always manage to track down a turkey....we can make mashed potatoes and stuffing and green bean casserole and even sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top.  And last night Daddy and the kids cut up my yellow pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern and slept with it in their's hoping it will still make great pie!

But anyway.  There's still something missing, and it's not just the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  Because that's big, of course.   It's just....It kind of feels like, living here, we are just pretending.  In America everyone drops everything on the fourth Thursday in November...everyone has the same menu, the same parade on their television sets, the same cranberry sauce out of a can. 

But here, well, today is just a normal day.  Everyone goes on with life as normal; rush hour, work, school.  We go on a treasure hunt for Thanksgiving foods instead of having them prominently displayed in the grocery store.  And we do our best, we re-create all the memories....but you can't keep the kids up too tomorrow.  Or, in our case, we celebrate on Saturday.  It kind of feels forced. 

It's funny; this is my 14th Thanksgiving outside of America, and these things never bothered me that much before.  Maybe it's because now I have kids.  Maybe it's because on the last 4th Thursday in November, we were gathered around our parents' tables. 

Of course, I still am reflecting on the multitude of what I have to be thankful for, and I am most definitely looking forward to Saturday.  I am not looking to feel sorry for myself; I am not asking for sympathy.  I love my Savior, and I love this life He has given me. 

And now I need to go cook up that Jack-o-Lantern.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Always the Best Day in November

Haven of Peace Academy International Day 2010
The Dutch

Japan, 3 from Tanzania, Madagascar

Good friends.  I LOVE how this little girl's first language will be German.  :-)




Tanzanian...Don't you want to come to HOPAC and teach these cuties???

This is Mikey.  He is Greek.  He's a character. 
Can't help but love him.

Let the Nations Be Glad!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm Going to Miss Two

He was such a great Two.  But I'm loving Three also. 

Love this boy.  He lights up my life. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God's Sovereignty in the Lives of Two Little Girls

October 12, 2005 email prayer update:

Many of you know that we have been interested in adoption in Tanzania for a long time. This last Sunday, we met with an American lawyer here in Dar es Salaam who has helped numerous families with Tanzanian adoptions. She warned us that the process would be long and arduous, that it would take at least a year to get a baby in our home, and another year to finalize the adoption.
That was Sunday. Then came Tuesday, when we were driving to meet the lawyer to turn in our application. She called us on the way and said, "Uh, I have a baby I want you to meet. She's available for immediate foster care and then adoption." We arrived and she immediately placed a one-month old baby in Gil's arms.

After we picked ourselves up off the floor and our heads stopped spinning around, the lawyer explained that this baby was an exception to the rule, because she had not been turned over to a government orphanage. Thus, her family could hand her over to us immediately, and we could go through the process of becoming foster parents and then adoptive parents while we were caring for her.

This process has more risk than the "long-way" of getting a baby from an orphanage, because the family could change their minds and want the baby back before the adoption is complete. But the baby's mother has died, the father is nowhere to be found, and the remaining relatives are very poor. They have adamantly expressed that they want the baby to be adopted.  She is currently being cared for by a middle-aged (white) South African woman who loves her, but wants her to have a good family.

What does this mean? We have a significant decision to make within the next couple of days! If we decide to take her, as soon as we have received written consent from the family, she would be in our home--as soon as two weeks from now.

October 14, 2005 email prayer update:

To update you: We have decided to move forward with the process of getting this baby! We're not getting our hopes too high yet. This Sunday, at 3:00, we will meet with the baby's uncle, who represents the family.
Then, on Tuesday (hypothetically), the uncle, the baby, the lawyer, and us will go to meet Miss Moyo, the regional social worker.

Once all these consents are done with, we will shortly be able to take the baby into our home! She will not be legally adopted for a number of months. So please also pray that the family does not change their mind before the adoption is complete. We are trusting God with this, but we still want to pray about it!

October 16, 2005 email prayer update:

Unfortunately, the meeting this afternoon with the baby's relatives did not go well. Adoption is a very foreign process in Tanzania; in fact, there isn't even a word in Kiswahili that is an exact translation. The woman who rescued this baby and is fostering her is not Tanzanian, and even though she thought the family had made it clear they wanted the baby to be adopted, we found out today that isn't true.
The uncles were very clear about the fact that they did not want to relinquish rights to this baby; they only wanted someone to care for her for a while. Unfortunately, in Tanzanian culture it is more acceptable to let a child live in an orphanage for her whole life than to have her be adopted by another family.

We are, of course, very disappointed. But we are thankful that this came out before we had taken this child into our home, named her, and had our hearts set on her. We prayed that God would make this very clear to us, and He has answered that prayer.

We were crushed, of course.  I cried a lot that day.  It felt the same way as my miscarriage.

That baby's name was Lisabel.  For a week I thought she would be my Grace.  But she was not.  My Grace was not born until January 2006.  And I did not bring her home until November 2006.

But Lisabel's story did not end there.  The woman who had taken her in as a starving infant (a white South African lady whose children were grown), though she wanted her adopted into a good family, had then cared for her for 4 weeks and was not willing to give Lisabel back into the terrible situation from which she had come.  So she kept her, even though she knew that the uncles did not want her adopted.  After about two years of this, she finally, finally, finally convinced them to let her adopt Lisabel, and it even came down to the very last wire in the court room. 

During the last five years, we have run into Lisabel and her adoptive mother twice, very briefly.  It was always strange to see the little girl who, for a week, I thought would be my daughter. 

So who would have thought, that out of all the roads in this city of 5 million people, Lisabel and her mother would be living on the same road as us.  And who would have thought that out of the thousands of pre-schools in this city, and even the dozen or so on this road, that Lisabel would be going to the same pre-school as my Grace. 

And now they are best friends.

Sometimes the ways of God make me a bit dizzy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Oddness of My Normal Life

Just an ordinary Monday.

Kids up, breakfast made, Gil's lunch assembled, Bible time with the kids.  Walked to school to pick up the car, told Grace, "Be ready for school by the time I get back!"  Out the door at 9 am. 

Drove the mile to Grace's school, she got out, came to my window, and promptly burst into inconsolable tears.  Taken aback at the behavior of my normally sunny, outgoing, I-love-school daughter, I asked, "What's wrong?"

"I don't want to go to school!!!!"

Why not?

"I want to go home!!!!"

Firm Mommy.  Pried her fingers off the car, deposited her in the arms of one her teachers, and drove off with the vision of my daughter's screeching face, outstretched arms in my rear-view mirror.

Horrible Mommy.  And my mind races.  Why didn't she want to go to school?  Are they mistreating her?  Did something terrible happen that she didn't tell me?  Mega guilt.

Next stop:  gas station.  Only and always full service in this country.  I asked for 40,000 shillings.  "Oops," the attendant says to me, "I accidentally put in 46,000."  Well.  Good thing I had the cash, since that's the only method of payment. 

Drove for five minutes and realized the gas gauge was barely budging over a quarter of a tank.  For $30 worth of gas.  Irritated.

Stopped by the appliance store.  Since the weather has heated up, our fridge no longer can keep up and everything is spoiling, and no one has been able to fix it.  So we need a new refrigerator.  "We no longer sell refrigerators," the clerk tells me.  "Now we only have air conditioners."  I day dream for a minute about that air conditioner that is the size of a walk-in closet.  Maybe we could just make our whole house the temperature of a refrigerator.  Would that work?

Got to the grocery store.  I have recently fallen in love with weekly meal planning; it makes life so much less stressful.  That is, except when I can never find the things on my list.  Lasagna on the list for tonight; it's Bible study night and I need something that will feed 8 people and can be adapted for our token vegetarian. 

No lasagna noodles.  I sigh and buy manicotti instead.  No fresh milk.  I debate for a while; do I want to buy boxed milk for the ricotta cheese, even though it's twice the price of fresh milk and probably not even really milk?  (I mean, how can real milk sit on a shelf for months and not go bad?)  I sigh again and dump four boxes in the cart.

On the way home I stop at two other smaller shops.  But apparently all of Dar es Salaam is out of lasagna noodles and fresh milk. 

I go back to the gas station.  I put on my angry face and show the attendant my gas gauge.  "Is something wrong with the machine?" I ask.

"Maybe," she shrugs. 

She pulls out the hose and puts another 15,000 shillings worth of gas in my car.  "Now check your gauge," she asks me.  "Is that enough?"  The ludicrousy of this exercise does not escape me.  "I guess so," I say.

Guilty Mommy is still present, so I decide to pick up Grace early from school.  I pull in and she is playing outside with her friends.  "Why are you here, Mommy?"

"Because you were upset.  Because you didn't want to come to school today."

"Oh."  Long stare.

"Why didn't you want to come to school?"

"Because I didn't think it would be fun.  But it is."

Sigh again.  "Do you want me to come back after lunch like usual?"

"Yes, please."

(She and I will be "discussing" it this afternoon.)

Came home, gave Josiah hot dogs and mango for lunch, and now he is singing in his bedroom instead of sleeping.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkins and Pineapples

November 2009

I love Facebook and reading blogs because it helps me keep in touch with people so well. I love that I can see pictures of my friends’ kids as they are growing up….that I can hear about major events in their lives so that when I see them again, we can pick up where we left off.

But then there’s the hard part.

I was thinking about this recently when everyone started posting pictures of taking their kids to the pumpkin patch. And talking about fall colors and cold air and pumpkin pie scented candles. But over here on my side of the world, I laid awake till 1 am last night, staring into the darkness, with soaking wet hair, trying to breathe, waiting for the power to come back on so that we could turn on the air conditioner. As my friends in America are layering on sweaters, we are layering on the deodorant. I put out a fall-themed table runner last week, and this really confused Grace. Is it autumn, Mommy? Well, no, Sweetie, not in Tanzania, just in America. There is much discussion among our American mission friends (as every year) on how we will track down a turkey (a major undertaking) so that we can celebrate Thanksgiving (on a Saturday, since it’s not a holiday here).

It’s often not been so bad as long as I can forget what “my other life” would be like if I were in it. But having just gone through fall/winter last year in the States, and with all these reminders on the internet, it is, well, hard. So I struggle with wanting to keep in touch with people but not allowing my heart to dwell on what I don’t have. I struggle with wanting to remain “American” but yet allowing my children to delight in being Tanzanian.

And you’re probably thinking anyway, “But look at your amazing pictures of Zanzibar!” True. I know that. And though we don’t have bright orange pumpkins appearing in October, we have enormous pineapples being trucked in. So how do I live between these worlds? How do I retain my American-ness while embracing my Tanzanian-ness?

I realized recently that I have spent almost 14 of my 33 years in Africa. Just about half my life, isn’t it? It’s a strange feeling. I’m not quite sure which one is more me.