Saturday, June 28, 2014

Life at #14

When the furniture starts disappearing and you still want to watch television, you learn to improvise.

Last year, I wrote about how God miraculously provided the exact apartment I had been wishing for, which also just happened to be the same apartment Gil and I lived in our first year of marriage.  

We move out of #14 today.  

In the midst of this crazy year, #14 has been a haven for us.  A place where we could call home for this short time, a place where we could host people for dinner and have college students come over on Thursday nights and where Dad and Josiah could play hockey in the hallway (good thing the walls are getting painted).  
We watched the trees change color in our neighborhood and we always greeted our West African mailman and we walked to the library and the thrift store every week with our rolley bag. 

We had a huge enclosed area for the kids to play--unsupervised, most of the time.  And there were three other families in the complex with kids our age.  If you've ever lived with kids in an apartment, you know how significant this is.  

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places...
Psalm 16:6

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Senders


Yesterday, I came across these cards.  They are from 10 years ago, when we were raising support to go to Tanzania long-term.  People responded by sending in these cards, committing to pray or to give.

I looked through each one yesterday (many, many more than are shown here) with tears in my eyes.  These cards are from 10 years ago, and yet so many people represented by these cards are still praying for us, still supporting us....after all these years.

I can't express how incredible and humbling it is.

Yesterday we got a visit from a friend who just joined our support team.  She's the kind of person who inspires everyone she talks to, and she exudes passion for Jesus and missions.  She was explaining why she joined our team:
"As John Piper says, 'Go, send, or disobey!'"

God has given us the privilege of going.  Yet we don't forget, not for one minute, that we could not go without an army of senders.  I don't doubt that One Day, when all things are revealed as they really are, that they too will share in the joy of what God is doing in Tanzania.

Monday, June 16, 2014

5 Things

What I Will Miss About America

1.  Safety

Never once this year did I wake up in the middle of the night, afraid that men with machetes were breaking into my house.

I walked along the road with my purse and not a single fear that someone would drive by and snatch it.

I stopped automatically locking my car doors while I was driving, as I had no fear that someone would try to open them at a stoplight and steal whatever was on the seat.

And should any of those things actually happened in America, I knew that there were police and firemen waiting to help me, not exploit me.

2.  Comfort

The thermostat is a marvelous thing, isn't it?

I love the soft toilet paper in America; I love how the dryer makes my towels nice and soft, instead of crunchy when they are line-dried.

I love how all the roads are paved, and how we didn't have a single flat tire all year.  I love the sidewalks and neatly manicured lawns, and how my feet stay clean on a regular basis.

3.  Convenience

Tortillas are pre-made here.  And pumpkin pie!  And spaghetti sauce!

The meat can be eaten out of the package, it doesn't have to sit in a crock-pot all day to be edible.  I spent about 2/3 less time in the kitchen in America than I do in Africa.  And if I didn't feel like cooking at all?  Well, there's a dozen numbers I could call that will deliver food to my house.

If we're on the road and we need a bathroom?  Bang!  There's a bathroom!

I could pay all my bills without leaving my computer, let alone leave my house.  I could pay for everything with a card and never had to worry about having enough cash.

4.  Kid-Friendliness

Kids' menus--everywhere we went.

Parks, children's museums, book clubs, church activities, basketball, gymnastics....everything a kid could want.  Even the dentist gave them prizes.

Craft stores, shoe stores, clothing stores--all just for kids!

So many options, so many fun ways to make memories.

5.  Capitalism


Innovation everywhere!
The Kindle--a missionary's best friend!  A hard drive big enough to store all our you realize how much luggage space that saves us???

Competition that drives prices down and makes everything so much cheaper than in Africa.

Customer service!  Attentive servers at restaurants, stores that allow you return items, mechanics that fix it when they say they will fix it.

What I Won't Miss About America

1.  Safety

I don't pray as much in America.  I don't depend on God as much.  I forget what true peace feels like.  Yes, I sleep better here.  But there, I am forced to remember my Source of Security.

Here, I struggle with making safety an idol.  If I lived here, would I be afraid to stay in this neighborhood just because it's mostly non-white?  Would I be challenged to live in a hard place?  Would I be challenged to reach out to people who are different than me?

If I lived here, would I let fear keep me from taking risks for God?  I like how Africa challenges me.

2.  Comfort

I am hot in Dar es Salaam, all the time.  I don't have regular electricity.  The toilet paper is scratchy and you can feel the slats beneath my couch cushions.

Sometimes my heart complains.


It toughens me.  It toughens my kids.  It teaches me how to be content in all circumstances.  It teaches me what is really important in life.

I don't agree with the monks from the Middle Ages who intentionally whipped themselves, or wore spikes against their skin, or slept in the cold to gain spirituality.

But I get it.  I get how depriving yourself of comfort draws you closer to God, and I like how it has drawn me closer to God.

3.  Convenience

I like how I have been forced to learn to cook in Africa, and how much I love it.  I like how it's given me a creative outlet.  I'm not motivated to make my own fancy desserts or pesto sauce here.  Why should I?  I have Costco.

I like the discipline I have been forced to develop.  I like how every day things like cereal or chocolate chips become gourmet items, and a can of root beer becomes a Christmas present.

4.  Kid-Friendliness

I won't miss how the expectation in America is that your life revolves around your kids.  I won't miss all the sports practices that take away from family dinners.

I like how in Tanzania, my kids have learned to be more creative.  I love how they spend so much time outside.

There, I like how they learn to appreciate the small things.  How they learn to be grateful; how they learn to have compassion by seeing others who have so much less.

5.  Capitalism

Before coming to the States this year, I had no idea that I had a problem with my pores.  Then Jennifer Aniston told me that I needed to buy Aveeno so that my pores would shrink.  For the first time ever, I looked in the mirror and realized that my pores were huge!!!!

How could I have gone 37 years without realizing this?  Suddenly I was self-conscious about something that had never even crossed my mind.

I find it interesting that in Dar, I am sweaty all the time, I always have my hair back, my clothes are usually faded, and I am often in long skirts....and yet it is America that makes me feel ugly.

As much as I firmly believe that it is the innovation that comes with capitalism that brings people out of poverty, I will not miss the frantic mindset in America to get more, build more, beautify more, travel more, relax more, spend more.

...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Let it someday be true of me in all things.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

So....What Did You Do This Year?

Sometimes people would ask us how our vacation was going.  Wow, if missionaries get a year off for vacations, I want to be a missionary.  Sounds good to me.

We would just laugh.  We're actually looking forward to getting back to Tanzania so that our lives can calm down.  

Here are some statistics from this year:

6 ABF presentations
5 Children's presentations
6 Sermons
4 presentations in schools
4 recruiting presentations
8 Life Group presentations
7 Types of other presentations

32 Meals with guests in our home (and so many more on our list that we didn't get to!)

21 Meals in other people's homes
And that doesn't include the 8 weeks we spent on the road and the dozens of meals we received then.

10 Churches visited

Gil attended two men's retreats; I attended two women's retreats.  I attended a regular Mom's Bible study; Gil went to prayer groups.  We all had doctor and dentist appointments.  We led the college group at Faith Community, including taking them on a retreat.  We attended Family camp, I took a trip to Washington, and Gil was the speaker at a youth retreat.

We met with multiple missions committees; we met one-on-one with people interested in missions; we attended many church events at various churches.  I wrote dozens of thank-you notes.  We regularly attended our own Life Group and took them through When Helping Hurts.

We put together newsletters and reorganized our mailing lists.  Gil prepared sermons, prepared our presentations, and prepared youth and college talks.  He audited three classes at The Master's College and read and studied literally dozens of books to prepare him for our next season.

We put 30,000 miles on our van.

Our kids did soccer, gymnastics, basketball, Awana, ballet, art, and piano (not all of them at all the same time.)

Many, many, many weeks, we had something happening every single night of the week.  In fact, it was so much the norm for our family that if we had an evening at home that was just us, the kids thought it was weird and would repeatedly ask who was coming over.

Oh yeah, and homeschooling.  That little thing.  It's probably a miracle that Josiah learned to read in all this.  (But let me tell you....I'm glad we homeschooled.  There's no way we could have traveled so much and kept the kids up till 10 on a regular basis with traditional school.)

Two weeks from today, we move out of our apartment.  In five weeks, we leave the country.  We're on the home stretch.  It's been incredible and amazing and life-changing for all of us.....
But we'll be glad to get home.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Good Thing They're Worth It

How many times can you adopt a child?

Apparently, quite a few.

Adoption #1 was in Tanzania.  We worked for a year each on those ones, with multiple court hearings for each child that required two-hour long trips into town, usually to find that the judge had not actually shown up that day.

Adoption #2 wasn't technically an adoption, but the process to get our kids their U.S. citizenship required even more paperwork and waiting and money than Adoption #1.

Recently we found out that even though our kids have their U.S. citizenship and their U.S. passports, that if we wanted them to have U.S. birth certificates, that we would have to adopt them again, this time in the United States.

So....we adopted them....again.  Hence, the picture above is from Adoption #3, which just happened last week.

Sometimes adoption feels like you just want to open up your bank account, your important family documents, and every last detail about your lives, and say to whoever is asking, "Go ahead, just take what you want.  Please just leave me some dignity in the end."

And then, in the middle of the night, your little boy whispers, "I love you, Mommy."

And you know you would do it as many times as it takes.