Saturday, July 28, 2012

Walmart Dreaming

I confess. 

I have shopping dreams.  They always take place at a grocery store, mall, or Walmart-type store.  I happily walk through the aisles, filling my cart with anything and everything I could ever want, and then.....something happens.  And I leave the store with nothing.  Sad, I know.

The ironic part is that I am really not a shopper.  As I mentioned earlier, I am a saver.  Shopping has never been one of my favorite things to do.  That is, until you put me in a third world country for years at a time.  Then I start dreaming about Walmart with its endless aisles of chocolate chips and cheap deodorant. 

A number of years ago, Dar es Salaam got it's very first real mall.  It's about a tenth of the size of your average mall in the States, and most of the stores in it are banks or cell phone shops, but it's fully air conditioned (very important) and has a three-screen movie cinema.  It also has a store named Game, which is a chain from South Africa. 

Game is full of appliances, electronics, household items and cosmetics.  Kind of like a Target or Walmart.  Kind of.  Except that it's about a fifth of the size, and five times the prices.  I still shop there, because sometimes it's the only place to find certain things, but I buy as little as possible.  I refuse to pay $40 for a bath towel, no matter how old mine are getting. 

A few months ago, I noticed this flyer at Game:

It's true.  Walmart had bought out Game.  Thus confirming everyone's suspicions that Walmart is indeed trying to take over the world.

So does that mean that we now have a Walmart in Tanzania?

No...No....NO!  Not until I can go there and find everything on my list and spend less than $100, not until then will I admit that we have a Walmart.  (Those "fantastic deals" on the flyer?  Humph.  Whatever.)

It's been well over two years since I've really gone shopping, so I am eagerly anticipating this trip to America, and have been working on a list for a couple months now.  You want to know what's on a Walmart-deprived girl's list?
-bread pans
-bath mats
-parmesan cheese
-chocolate chips
-shoes for all the kids
-watercolor paints
-candy thermometer (for pasteurizing milk; I don't make candy!)
-watch band
-sewing supplies for Grace
-school backpack for Grace

Gil already brought back about 30 pounds of candy and chocolate, so we're good in that department.

Speaking of chocolate, did you know that America now produces pretzel M&M's?  I'm guessing you already know that.  But it's truly a beautiful thing. 

Walmart (real Walmart)....Here I come!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just the Girls

It's sure quiet around here.

Gil and Josiah have been in the States these last two weeks.  (As I wrote here, we didn't get Lily's passport in time to go together as a family.)  They get back Thursday. 

We are counting the days until Thursday.  We miss our boys!

Gil has been posting pictures, and it is bittersweet to see them.  So, so happy for Josiah to get to know his cousins (he was only two when we were with them the last time), get spoiled rotten, and have such a special time with his Daddy.  But so sad that we couldn't be there with them. 

But you know what?  It's been really nice around here too.  I really miss my boys, but I am thankful for how God has blessed these two weeks despite my disappointment in not being with them.  It's probably been the most stress-free time I've had all year.  I cook a meal, and it lasts three days.  We do laundry only once a week.  The girls wake up and read and play quietly....I've been sleeping until 8 every morning...amazing!   I've gotten all kinds of things checked off my list.  We've gone shopping, spent time with students, cleaned out Gil's classroom (with students), hung out with alumni, had relaxed dinners with friends.  The girls and I have been coloring, beading, painting, reading, and dancing in the kitchen with TobyMac.

And a week from today, Grace and I will be on our own plane to America for two weeks.  Butterflies of excitement! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Love My Kindle

I am now a reading fiend.  Gil told me that he read somewhere that Kindle users read 70% more than non-Kindle users.  Totally true for us.  The first year Gil got his Kindle, he met his goal of reading 100 books in One Year.  Oh yes.  I am expecting a thank-you note from Amazon any day now. 

Here are some recent recommendations:

I have mentioned before that I grew up in Liberia, a country that later was ravaged by 15 years of brutal civil war.  This is the story of an ordinary woman (now a Nobel Peace Prize winner) who lived through it, and mobilized thousands of women to help stop it.  The subtitle says, "How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War"--and that's exactly what happened.  It's horrifying and devastating to read (especially since she speaks of places where I walked and played), but ultimately hopeful. 


Whew.  A depressing read, but I now have a passionate desire to burst into some US foreign policy meeting, ranting and raving.  I still like When Helping Hurts better, but this was also a fascinating book.  Very recommended for anyone interested in Africa. 

"Over the past thirty years...the most aid-dependent countries have exhibited an average annual growth rate of minus 0.2 percent.  Between 1970 and 1998, when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, the poverty rate in Africa actually rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 percent." 

This was a free Kindle download, and I got it intending to read it to Grace.  I'm glad I didn't, because it would have been too emotionally intense for her.  But it's perfect for a 10-year-old.  Beautiful, creative, and simply told.  I will be looking for more by Kate DiCamillo. 

What I did most recently read to Grace was The Secret Garden, which I remembered loving from my childhood.  And though she loved it, and it sparked good discussion on a pantheistic worldview, I would recommend to wait until your daughter can read this one herself.  That is, unless you happen to be particularly good with a Broad Yorkshire accent ('Nowt o' th' soart'). What on earth?   Rather exhausting as a read-aloud!

Seems way too crazy to be true, but it is.  An 18-year-old high school graduate from an affluent family--popular, class president, homecoming queen--leaves her upper-middle-class life to live in a poverty-stricken village in Uganda.  Over the next 4 years, she adopts thirteen little girls.   Katie Davis is a modern-day Amy Carmichael or Jim Elliot.  Though her youth and naivete comes through, one cannot criticize her incredible passion for Christ.  She is truly an inspiration. 

"People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable...  I am surrounded by things that can destroy my body.  I interact daily with people who have deadly diseases, and many times I am the only person who can hep them.  ...  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy."

This is a re-read of one of my top 5 favorite, most influential books of all time.  And I love it just as much the second time around.  This book profoundly changed my life.  Philip Yancey is a master storyteller and an engaging, talented writer who isn't afraid to ask the hard questions or say it like it is. 

"During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith....The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.  'What's the rumpus about?' he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. 
Lewis responded, 'Oh, that's easy.  It's grace.'" 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I am a saver.  As in, a saver of money.   

And since my husband has always happily handed all financial matters in this family over to me, I am the one who has had the pleasure of moving money into our savings account every month. 

In the last number of years, it has brought me great joy to see that little savings account grow.  And brought me security.  Boy, do I sure like security.  A lot.  Especially since we do not own a house or a car that is less than 12 years old or anything else that could be considered assets

But yet, feeling secure over our savings account made me feel uneasy.  Because I know (like every good Christian) that our security doesn't come from money.  But yet, does not the Bible also say that saving money is a wise thing? 

I can remember discussing this with Gil a while ago.  When do we know that we have saved enough and can give away the rest?  How do we know when or if God wants us to give away some or all of it? 

And that made me uneasy too.  The giving away of, or somehow losing, all of it.  Made me feel decidedly insecure

But I planted my feet and set my resolve and told God, It's your money.  Tell us if you want us to do something with it.

And then January came, and we found out that we would not be able to adopt in Tanzania again.  Yet, we knew we wanted another son.  Which left us with one choice:  International Adoption.  And besides the fact that International Adoption requires sheaves more paperwork and documents and emails than a Tanzanian adoption, there was one other major, major difference: 

The Cost. 

Which, to be honest, had not really been a big factor in our other adoptions.  Of course, we had paid for them in time and gasoline and tears and aching hearts and a certain degree of sanity, but relatively speaking, not a lot of money. 

So we knew that by jumping into International Adoption, we would also be looking at a cost that would be about 6-8 times more than our other adoptions.  If you didn't already know, the average International Adoption costs about $30,000.  Gulp.

Of course, there is no price you can put on giving a child a family.  Or giving a family another child.

I don't know yet what exactly this adoption will cost us, because we will be applying for grants and scholarships, and maybe, maybe the U.S. adoption tax credit will be renewed (which would amazingly give us and other families a whopping $12,000 to work with).

But what's incredible to me is how easily I have begun hacking away at that savings account.   I do admit that when I am making these large payments, I take one big shuddering breath before I press "Pay Now,"  but it really hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be, giving away all that security

Because when it's worth it, it's worth it.  And when it is crystal clear that God wants you to do it, then it's really not that hard. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How To Go To University and End Up Dumber Than When You Started

As promised, I have wrestled Gil's speech from his hands so that I could post it here.  :-)

My husband is a truly gifted teacher.  And his students love him, which is probably why he was chosen (by them) for the second year in a row to be the graduation speaker.  He usually doesn't write out what he teaches more than just outlines, so when I found out that he had written out this speech, I had to post it.  It's pretty awesome, and it comes from 12 years of working with high school and college students. 

I have titled today’s commencement speech: How To Go To University and End Up Dumber Than When You Started.
Now let’s be honest for a second here. What is all the celebration really about?

If teenagers are known for anything, they are known for calling things the way they are. If something is boring, they will let you know. If you dress funny, they will let you know.  I can appreciate this blunt honesty, even if it hurts the ego a little. So let’s be honest. This graduation is more than just having accomplished 13 years of work and even more than passing your exams. It’s about never having to put on the HOPAC shirt again. Never having to sit in homeroom again. Ride the school bus, or take another memory verse test. If we are honest it is about freedom and fun. It’s about getting out of the house and living life for yourself.  It’s about not having someone there to tell you when to go to bed, to do your homework, not to stay out late, to study for exams. No teachers hounding you for missed assignments or being out of dress code.  It’s the Promised Land. The land of freedom. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  It’s not because you don’t love and appreciate your parents. You just want to go out on your own. You want to live life your way now.  You have spent the last 18 years living by their rules and now you want to do it your way. Now I loved my family, but I can remember sitting in my cap and gown about to graduate, counting the minutes till freedom. I chose my university based on which one was furthest away from home.  I vividly remember getting in my car packed with my stuff, blasting the music with the windows down and on the road to freedom.   For some it’s felt like being baby-sat far too long, for others a gradual development towards this final stage of release, and if we are honest for others, more like a prison sentence.  And now it’s here. Freedom awaits you as you step off this stage with your diploma in hand.  A certificate of independence.  An adult ready to make your own decisions.  Freedom.

The question is: Freedom to go where? Freedom to do what?  Where will you be in 4 years? What will you have accomplished? What will be next? If you are anything like the majority of college graduates, I can tell you exactly where you will be. The place you would least expect to find yourself in 4 years. You will end up right back here! Not here as in HOPAC… but here as in back at home with your parents. The most recent college survey found that last year four out of five graduates moved back in with Mom and Dad. Seven in ten did not have a job lined up when they graduated university, having just spent $100,000 and 20 percent of their lives. So parents, don’t pack up your child’s room quite yet…they are likely to be back.

Shocking, right? How is that possible? How is it that 4 years at some of the best universities will land students back right where they started? There is a dangerous trend in western culture today where we promote the idea of prolonged adolescence. Sure you want to get a car, move away from home, and not have people checking up on you… but many of you don’t want the responsibility that comes along with it. University used to be a place where people went to discover their careers, the passion, and calling in life. Now for most collegiates, it is one big party. It’s a fantasy land of grown up children who love the freedom but skirt the responsibility. The majority of college students will pick up few hundred thousand dollars in debt, a few of STD’s (and noy that’s not a synonym for a PhD.), a little more educated but a lot more stupid. 42 percent of the 2006 graduates surveyed said they’re still living at home.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Hey, isn’t this guy supposed to say few nice things about us; congratulate us on our accomplishment?  It seems most commencement speeches come at this all wrong. They are supposed to challenge you and tell you how to make the most of your future. Well, if there is anything I’ve learned about high school students, it’s that they are more likely to do the opposite of whatever you recommend. You tell them to do something and now they want to do anything but that. You tell them not to do something then they want to do that even more.  So instead, let me just tell you what you really want to hear: How to have the most fun in University and how you can educate yourself to be stupid.

Here are 4 simple ways to go to university and end up dumber than when you started:

1.     Major on the minors. In other words, let the smaller insignificant things in life become the most important.  Put God and your faith in the back until it slowly fades away. 70%  of college age people walk away from their faith. A conscious decision convinced by empirical evidence and logic? Or more likely distracted by the simple pleasures in life to remember God? Hanging out with friends, staying up late, going to parties, watching movies, Facebook. Many college guys spend more time on video games then they do in class. Most college girls spend more time getting ready in the morning than they do on homework. So the easiest ways to fail your classes, lose your faith, abandon your principles is to get caught up with the minor things in life and allow them to squeeze out the major things. If you want to want ensure failure, learn to succeed in the things that don’t matter. Best FIFA player, having the hottest boyfriends, skipping the most classes and still managing to pass (most of the time). You see 30 percent of university students drop out after their first year, and half never graduate.

2.     Answer the wrong questions the right way.  I’ve known too many students who had did an outstanding assignment but for the wrong thing, and there is nothing worse than wasting precious minutes on quiz question you don’t have to answer. Same principle applies to life. If you want guarantee failure, then learn to answer correctly the wrong questions. You have heard your whole life that there is no such thing a dumb question. How do we know the person who said that wasn’t dumb? In fact, if I was dumb, that would be the perfect thing to say to help cover up my lame questions. Now it’s true teachers say that to students to encourage them to ask questions but we all know there are such things as dumb questions. We get them all the time. It just warms our hearts to see students raise their hands in eager anticipation. I love that moment in teaching when you’re in the zone. You’re passionately explaining an important concept. Students are engaged, soaking it up, on the edge or their seats. A hand shoots up waving around confirming to you that students are desperate to understand what you are explaining. So eager with anticipation and a smug look you call on the student. The question: Is this going to be on the test?  (translation- do I need to pay attention or can I keep tuning you out), or the classic, Can I go to the bathroom?  And my all time favorite: When someone asks the exact same question someone just asked. Talk about stealing the moment. Close your books, might as well call class over.

Well if you want to end up dumb in university, then learn to ask the right questions to the wrong subject. There is more to life than grades, papers, diplomas, and PHDs. More to life than money, fame, and success. If you want to be dumber when you leave school than when you entered, never learn which questions are the most important ones to answer.  Meaning of Life? God? Calling? Values? Beliefs? Miss the opportunity to engage and discover wisdom by settling for just knowledge. Rather than discovering who you are, and what you are meant to do, settle for asking where the best pizza place is, where to find the cutest girls, and which teachers give the least amount of homework.  Go for fun and hope for a diploma, and tell mom and dad to get your room ready. You just spend the last few years learning to be dumb.

3.     Step 3:   Let your friends choose you, and then choose for you. Proverbs is quite clear how bad company corrupts good character. So if you want to make college easy and fun, then follow the crowds and let your closest friends choose you. Blend right in. Forget who you are, what you believe, be tolerant of everyone and everything until nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Lose your identity and let people tell you how you have to live and how to be accepted.  Don’t stand up for what you believe and don’t find people who share the same values and beliefs. Learn that image is everything. Believe everything you see and hear. Don’t test it. Follow the rat race. Buy the right shoes, get the right phone, act the right way. Doesn’t matter what’s inside, focus on the outside. Grades. Friends, money, spend more time looking good than being good. Don’t focus on true relationships; go for the quick and easy. Find friends who are more than happy to get drunk with you but not around when you really need help. Surround yourself with people who will use you and pretend to like you but never really know you. Don’t be picky about who you spend time with because we all know the most important thing in life is to have the most friends possible on Facebook. Then you will have succeeded in university but failed in life.

4.     Last but not least on your path of educating yourself to be dumb: Learn to waste the opportunity and gifts that have been given to you. Believe that you have made it to this point all on your own. You did it all. Neglect the fact that God created and gifted you with your abilities and opportunities. Forget the years of sacrifice your parents and family have invested in you to get you to this point. Mock the opportunity given to you that so many millions in the world would die for. Take all that potential and waste it all. Waste your body through any number of eating disorders. From anorexia to the Freshman 15. Kill your brain cells with drunkenness and drugs. You don’t need them for the class you’re ditching anyway. Why go to class if the teacher doesn’t take attendance? Something to think about next time you consider sleeping through a class: If a semester of college costs $12,500 (not counting room and board), and you take five classes, that’s $2,500 a class. If the class meets three times a week for fourteen weeks, that’s about $60 a class period. Each minute has a value of $1. By all means, throw the money away.  Learn to sacrifice your heart by engaging in the hook up culture that 80% of college students have adapted as their life style. Try to fill the emptiness with immediate gratification that will leave you empty and hopeless. Finally, abandon your beliefs and values that your family and HOPAC have tried to instill in you. Take all those gifts and blessings and waste them on 4 years of fun. Then you will be like the majority of college graduates who end up educated to be dumb.

Proverbs 14:12  There is way that seems right to man and in the end it leads to destruction.

We have all heard the saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, welcome to this generation of overgrown children. Ready for freedom but not ready for responsibility.

If you want to go down that path, the choice is yours. It’s easy. As Proverbs says, it should be more about finding wisdom than educating yourself to be dumb. Choose right now what path you will take. Those that don’t choose will have it chosen for them. There are two types of people. Those that understand that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the fools who despise wisdom and instruction. Those fools major on the minors, answer the wrong questions the right way, Let their friends choose them, and waste the amazing opportunity given to them. The majority of your college classmates will follow that path. If you don’t, if you want something more, then make the most of these next few years. Get the right answers to the right questions. Discover truth. Find purpose and meaning. Today is more than just finishing high school. It’s about starting the next phase of your life. As your family, friends, and teachers are gathered here, we will be hoping and praying the best for you in this adventure. We wish you all the best, Haven of Peace Academy Class of 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Case You Were Wondering

Our next son will be coming from Ethiopia. 

Don't know who he is yet, or when he will be coming.  But Ethiopia will be the place.

When I was in 9th grade, my family lived in Ethiopia for a year.  It will be very, very fun to go back, especially for this reason. 

Our home study is almost done.  Onwards with the dossier! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Camp 2012

I was dreading camp this year. 

I was tired.  Exhausted, really, from a totally crazy June.  We had the smallest group of kids sign up in the seven years we've been doing this camp, and I was discouraged and frustrated.  Plus, this year I would have three children to keep track of instead of two, and I wondered if it was even worth it for me to go. 

But it was.  Oh, how it was worth it. 

Over the course of the week, it became so clear why each of those students was hand-picked by God to be there.  They each needed it, each for different reasons.  And because the group was smaller, those kids got a lot more attention than they normally would have.

The team of leaders sent out by Hillside Church did a fantastic job.  Everything went smoothly and was stress-free (which has never really happened before!)  I enjoyed myself immensely. 

And why did I worry about having three kids there?  They had 40 laps to sit on and 80 hands to hold. 

The Annual Talent Show.  That's all I have to say about that.   

Grace and Mommy ganged up on Daddy.  Sorry, Daddy! 

 And this is what they played on and under every day.  Who wouldn't be inspired?

 Gil's annual bonfire trick photography using glow sticks. 

They had the time of their lives. 

So did they. 

This was most likely our last-ever youth camp.  What a great way to go out.