Saturday, May 28, 2011

One of My Very Favorite Things

When I was young, probably my most favorite thing to do was theatre.  My high school had a phenomenal theatre department with a very talented director, and there was absolutely no place I would have rather been than on that stage.  Sewing costumes, the smell of aerosol hairspray, the hair nets and wigs, building sets on Saturdays, the feel of anticipation when the lights go down and elation during the curtain call...but most of all, the amazing sense of camaraderie that is built when working on a play....not found anywhere else. 

"Steel Magnolias," VCHS, 1993

"Traveling Light," Hillside Church, 1996 (this one's for you, MB!)

But it's been a really, really long time since I've been on a stage again.  So when some good friends at HOPAC announced they wanted to put on a musical, I was thrilled and jumped at the chance to participate. 

It is called "A Few of My Favorite Things" and is an adaption of the best scenes and songs from "The Sound of Music."  HOPAC rented the only real theatre in town, and we had ourselves four performances of the real thing....the lights, the sets, and of course, lots of hair spray.  What fun it has been (closes tomorrow) to be back on stage again (I still love it!), but even more, what a joy it has been to feel that wonderful sense of camaraderie with everyone who participated...students, teachers, parents, and even board members. 

I played Sister Berthe.  I have never considered myself much of a singer, and have never sung a solo in public since probably...the 7th grade.  But when you are part of a small school, guess what?  Suddenly you are a good singer.  Who not only gets solos but also gets to sing four-part harmony.  In Latin.  Definitely a new experience for me.  

As you can see, our production did not look very Austrian.  Obviously the Von Trapp family became an adoptive family in our case.  But I think everyone got the idea. 

So anyway, since I know a lot of former HOPAC staff read this are lots of pictures for you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wanting to Buy a Little Pink Toothbrush

Monday is our grocery shopping day. As we passed the shampoo, toothpaste, lotion....I paused and examined the children’s toothbrushes. I almost said to the kids, “Let’s pick one out for your sister!”

But I stopped. Too soon, I told myself. Don’t let your heart go. Don’t start planning…yet. In the past few weeks, I’ve thought about going through all of Grace’s stored-up clothes to see what I have in stock for our new little one. I’ve thought about buying her a dresser. Or getting new bibs or cleaning off the pack n’ play. But I haven’t. Because we still don’t have a due date.

Recently we talked with some friends who are interested in Tanzanian adoption. “It’s important to remember,” I told them, “that you must get used to disappointment.”

Today was one of those days. For the past two and half weeks, we’ve been waiting on a police report. The social worker in Mwanza is supposed to send a letter (it’s always about the letters!) to the local police requesting a letter from them which states that the child has been relinquished and is thus available for foster care. Amy H., the director of Forever Angels, told me that the social worker said she made this request of the police the very day after I visited.

So we’ve been waiting for the police report. To get sent to the social worker. Which then gets sent down to the main office in Dar es Salaam. During the past week and a half, Amy kept telling me that the social worker was out of the office at a funeral, and apparently no one else in the office could do anything without her there. But I wasn’t terribly concerned since really, it was the police were who supposed to be writing a letter at this point. Amy was checking daily (she is amazingly persistent) and finally, today, the social worker was back.

She sent me a text. I was so excited to see it was from her. Had the police report been sent?

No. In fact, Amy was sorry to say, the social worker had not even made the request from the police yet (despite telling us she had). She said that the social worker was writing it that very moment (I’m sure Amy made sure of that...I can imagine her, standing over her shoulder until it was done), but that still means that absolutely nothing has happened these past two and a half weeks.

So basically that means there is no way we will have her by the end of May. Maybe by the end of June.

Today, I am tired of being disappointed and feeling rather sorry for myself. I will get over it. I’ve been through this enough times now, and seen so many delays and so many miracles, to know that God is in control of both.

But I'm glad I didn't buy the toothbrush....yet.

Four Very Different Books About Women

The true story of a Saudi Arabian princess growing up in the 50's.  Truly fascinating look into the lives of privileged middle eastern women.  An eye-opening, disturbing, page-turner. 

"The only knowledge most Arabs have of American society comes from the content of low-grade American movies and trashy television shows...the vast majority of Arabs truly believe that most Western women are promiscuous."  (So what happens when they associate America with Christianity as well?)

Inspiring, encouraging, humble.  I loved this one and highly recommend it for young moms.  Sally Clarkson presents her advice with humility and gentleness, and I felt convicted and inspired--but not guilty and overwhelmed as some parenting books make me feel. 

"If I have integrity and patience in the small moments of life that are so important to my children, and if I approach them with a servant's heart, then I have a far better chance of influencing them in the larger and more critical issues of life."

"My biggest concern is not for [my children] to be happy, but for them to understand how--and why--to be content and to accept their circumstances as from God's hand."

I really debated over whether to recommend this one.  I am not ashamed to say I am a complementarian (if you don't know what that is, don't worry about it), but yet I still cannot wholeheartedly endorse this book.  I disagree with some of Debi Pearl's Scriptural interpretations.  Some of what she says is downright ridiculous.  This is not the book to try to persuade someone to consider complementarianism--it is way too harsh and dogmatic.  And I would never give it to someone from a non-western culture. 

That said, it still impacted me almost more than any other marriage book I have read.  For an American wife who already takes a traditional interpretation of marriage roles, this book will give you a swift kick in the backside.  Debi Pearl does not mince words.  She is not gentle.  It's hard to read, and I would have thrown the book across the room a few times except that I read it on my Kindle! But she says it like it is, and sometimes that's what we need to hear.  I had to grudgingly admit that on more than one occasion, she was spot on. 

"No man has ever crawled out from under his wife's criticism to be a better man--no matter how justified her condemnation."

"God stands with you when you stand by your man, but you will stand alone if you insist on standing by your rights."

Read it.  Even if you are not a Steven Curtis Chapman fan, you need to read it.  I cried through the entire second half, as I knew I would, but it's beautiful and inspiring and a remarkable testimony to God's Sovereignty and faithfulness in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. 

"It's all true!  It's all true!  The gospel is true.  If we believe anything about our faith, we have to believe that we know where Maria is right now and that God didn't make a mistake.  He didn't turn His head, He was in complete control.  Maria's days here were numbered.  We don't like it, but He will give us the strength and the hope to walk this journey."  (Spoken by Mary Beth at her five-year-old daughter's memorial service)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Birds and the Bees

Talking about where babies come from is tricky when your kids are adopted.  Grace, I'm convinced, thinks that all babies come from orphanages.  She'll probably walk up to her kindergarten friends next year and ask them, "So what orphanage are you from?" 

Josiah, on the other hand, is just really confused.  We've been talking about "his baby sister" for months and months (and months) now.  But his mama doesn't have a big belly we can point to and tell him his baby sister is inside.  And we have no due date.  We just keep talking about it and nothing happens, as far as he's concerned. 

Last week we had friends over for dinner who have a newborn.  I was holding the baby, and Josiah carefully examined him.  Then he whispered to me, "Is that my baby sister?"

Then yesterday, he came into the room with a ball under his shirt.  "Look!" he giggled.  "It's my baby sister!  And she is coming out!"  He grandly pulled the ball out.  Then he kicked it across the room.  "She can bounce!" He exclaimed.  "I can kick her!"

Ummm....uh oh.

Poor kid.  He just doesn't get it.  And now I've been trying to tell him that actually, his baby sister is not a baby.  She's two years old.  She can walk and talk and steal his toys.  Of course, this makes absolutely no sense to him.

It will help when we can show Grace and Josiah her picture.  We haven't yet, not until we know the paperwork has been sent to Dar--because then that will mean that it's pretty much guaranteed we will get her.  (After we tell the kids, we'll tell you--I promise!)  And it probably doesn't help that their Dad and I still can't agree on a name!  But I am really looking forward to taking both kids to the orphanage with us when we go to pick her up, because I think it will help them understand their own adoptions a lot better. 

In the meantime, poor Josiah will keep thinking that his baby sister--who is not a baby--will pop out of his tummy someday--or arrive at our house with another family--or brought by a stork, maybe.  When you're three, who knows?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Is Why Kids Need a Dad.

Because Mommy says, "Stay in the shallow end with your floaties on and within two feet of me until a professional trained experienced swim instructor can teach you how to swim."

Daddy says: "Pshaw...throw 'em in the deep end. I can teach them to swim. And dive. And do front and back flips. At age three."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Call of Motherhood and Christian Mommy Blogs

I feel so out of it sometimes. I’ve lived 8 of the last 10 years in Africa. I have never raised children in the States. But I like to keep in touch with life in America. So I read blogs. Some belong to friends, or friends of friends, or sometimes I’ll visit those of people I’ve never met. And from these blogs I have gotten the distinct impression that certain things are very popular right now with young Christian moms, namely:
1. Giving birth to as many children as possible, or at least more than four.
2. Homeschooling all of them.
3. Training them all to cook, clean, garden, and play musical instruments.
4. Doing all the housework “with a plan.”
5. Cooking from scratch with only natural ingredients.
6. “Simple” and “frugal.”
7. Making one’s own laundry detergent.
8. Scrapbooking and/or selling crafts on Etsy.

And when these particular topics are discussed, all are backed up with Bible references.

So I look at this list and compare myself:

I have never given birth to a single child. I have no intention of homeschooling. I have a full-time house worker who does all my cleaning and laundry. I cook from scratch out of necessity, but in this country, the raw milk will kill you and the whole wheat flour won’t rise. I have no idea if what I am eating is organic and no way of finding out.  Coupons don’t exist here. I have never found borax in the grocery store. I hate scrapbooking and my idea of craft time with the kids is to hand my daughter a bunch of popsicle sticks and some glue (which kept her entertained for two hours, I might add).

Is this really how it is in the “Christian Mom” community or is it only in the blog world? I could never live up to those standards here, yet I don’t think I could do it in the States either. But I feel myself succumbing to the pressure. I purchased Nourishing Traditions. I made a chore chart for Grace (which lasted about a week). I spent an hour on Tuesday researching “safe” sun screens.

No one is actually pressuring me, of course. Not a single person has criticized me for the lack of borax in my house. But I feel like they would, if these invisible women saw me. Ha! What kind of mother are you? Look at all these plastic toys! Your children can’t name all the classical composers! And you have a maid!

So I ask myself: Why am I feeling pressured?

Because I want to be a good mom.

Because what they say makes sense.

Because I get their biblical interpretations.

Because I want to do it right. “It” meaning “everything.”

It’s funny really. My childhood dream was to have 16 children and live on a farm with a husband who had a beard. The beard part was very important. In that life I would have had plenty of raw milk.

I wanted to live that life. I would have been happy in it. Maybe I would have even liked scrapbooking.

But even though in my heart I am so similar to those women, I have been called to a vastly different life.

I don’t have 16 children because even if I could produce them, it’s not prudent or realistic for an overseas missionary family. I don’t homeschool because our lives and community and ministry are completely wrapped up in HOPAC—and our kids are part of that ministry, and one of the best ways our family can minister to students and parents is to have a daughter attending the school (and there’s no better school in the world for her to attend). My children may not learn how to do all the things they would do if they were in America, but they will learn to communicate with people from all over the world and identify and experience a multitude of cultures and religions (with some piano lessons thrown in there too). I have a full-time houseworker because she is the sole breadwinner for her family; there is 40% unemployment in this country, and I am thus given the freedom of time to minister to more people. I do not garden beause vegetables are plentiful, beautiful, and I want to support the local economy.  The food we eat and the laundry detergent we use and the sun screen we slather may kill us….but we would eventually die anyway. The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.

I certainly hope no one sees this as a criticism for living the life of simplicity and frugality and organic, natural homes of 16 children. Don’t you get it? I want to be like you. Does that seem silly to you? Maybe you see my life as glamorous and exciting. The grass is always greener, isn’t it?

So I’m writing this post to myself, really, to remind myself of God’s particular calling on my life as a mom. And maybe to any other moms out there who feel like they can’t live up to the Christian-Mom-blog standard.

It’s important to see the difference between a biblical mandate and a calling. Even in my own passions. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. I used to think everyone needed to be a missionary. Then I grew up. It’s a command for everyone, but what it looks like in everyone’s life will be different. True religion is to care for orphans and widows…that’s another passion and calling of mine—applied through adoption in my life—but applied differently for others. But it’s thus true for other commonly used passages as well, such as Be fruitful and multiply or Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us not confuse calling with command.

Don’t get me wrong. I found coconut oil on the grocery shelf last week and it made my day. I like simple and natural; it’s just not always realistic. In certain other life circumstances, I would home school. But it is so easy for me, in my quest to be a “good mom,” to lose sight of what really God requires of me. Love. Train. Discipline. Impart wisdom and truth. Listen. Sacrifice. For every mom, in every life situation, that’s going to look different. The most important part is that I am in God’s Word, my heart is right, and I am faithful to His call on my life.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To the North

We took a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, during our spring have a little fun, but also to do a little work by visiting a couple other MK schools and getting some ideas and inspiration. We accomplished all of the above.

Nairobi's giraffe center:  the stuff African dreams are made of

We have chosen to teach at HOPAC instead of RVA, even though this is the view from there....sigh.  But our hearts are still with HOPAC.  Fun to visit RVA's where I attended in 9th grade, so it felt like going back in time. 

Nairobi is famous for its BBQ restaurants with all-you-can-eat meat...including things like crocodile.  My husband decided Josiah needed to be a real man and refused to allow him to eat anything else but meat, all evening long.  Josiah did not complain.

We stayed with some wonderful friends we knew from Tanzania years ago.  We love you, Hannah!  Such a beautiful senior girl now...and will be attending APU!

Easter Sunday

Lots of blasts from the past on this trip. The chaplain at Rosslyn is married to Robin, who I grew up with in Liberia and haven't seen for about 20 years. For many reasons, we have a lot in common...amazing to spend time with them!