Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Guide for Building Your Home & A Giveaway


She clomps into the kitchen wearing her big sister's jean skirt and her galoshes, her curls quickly drying into a frizzy mess.
It's Thursday night.
That means that we've got the language tutor on his way, a friend from church joining us for supper, and Bible study to get ready for.
I'm checking the clock as I rapidly chop carrots, stir the sizzling onions, and try to keep everybody moving in the right direction.
What is my first reaction to this little one in her amazing costume?


For many years, my response would have been anger, yelling, frustration, irritation, a harsh, barked order to "Go get your clothes on," or something along those lines.
{Sadly some days it still is.}
But today I laugh.
It just wells up inside of me as I look at my silly, self-satisfied two-year old, who really did do what mama told her to do ~ get dressed ~ sort of.


I confess that I am an idealist.
It has its good points, but it comes with a lot of bad points, too.
I'm quick to judge.
I hold to strong ideals.
I generally have high expectations.
And though setting the bar high isn't necessarily a bad thing, I'm continually reminded that it can bring death in my home.


Before I became a wife and mother, I had beautiful dreams and hopes and yes, ideals, of what my home and life would be like.
It would be a place of comfortable beauty, full of friends and family, good food, shelves of books, stimulating conversations, fun, laughter, and life.
Then I got married....moved to a foreign country.....and started having babies.
And life got hard. Really hard.
Nothing was turning out according to the way I had pictured it.
 

I decided that the only way to fix that would be to "make" my ideals come true.
If I worked hard enough, thought things through enough to fix all the obstacles, and trained my children just right, everything would suddenly fall together.
I'd have the life I'd always dreamed of.


But it didn't.
So I tried harder.
I tightened down the screws, so to speak.
I got up insanely early, and stayed up ridiculously late.
I had meal schedules, and cleaning schedules, and ministry schedules, and learning schedules.
Everything was perfectly planned, and every time something went awry, I'd screw everything down a bit more.
Truth is, some of my planning began to pay off.
People were doing what I wanted them to do.
But there was no joy, no beauty, no life.


About seven year ago, God took all my perfect plans and all my effort and turned it upside down in a pile at my feet.
He asked me if I would be satisfied with what He wanted for me, or if I was going to continue to run my life my way.
By His grace, I surrendered.
From that moment of letting go of my hopes and dreams and castles in the sky, He began to build a new life for me.
The life HE wanted me to live.
A life full of hope in Him, not in all I could accomplish.
As He began to change me, He began to change our home, too.


When I tried it my own way, I was robbing our home of the very things it needed to be alive.
I was bringing forth death, rather than life.
My ideals were squeezing the breath of the Holy Spirit right out of our home.
All these years later, I can testify to two things: God is a good God who gives the best gifts and a home filled with Him is a home full of life.


Since that day so many years ago, God has given me several guides to show me the path to follow to build the home He desires us to have.
We aren't perfect.
In fact we are just a house full of sinners.
But by God's grace, He has taught us and led us and shown us the way He wants us to go.
Down the path of life; following hard after Him; daily raising up one more Home for His glory.


 The works of Edith Schaeffer and her daughter Susan Schaeffer Macaulay have been invaluable to me as I've grown in my understanding of all God desires for a home to be.
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, What is a Family?, and For the Family's Sake are all wonderful books.
My new favorite, though, is by one of my favorite book-mentors, Sally Clarkson.
Her newest book, The Lifegiving Home is honest, down-to-earth, and very inspiring.
Because it's been such a blessing to me, I'd like to share it with one of you.
Simply leave a comment here or on facebook, and I'll pick one winner in the next week!

*This is available to anyone, no matter where you live, but you must have a US mailing address to receive a hard copy. If you live abroad, you may enter to receive a Kindle version.



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fourth of July



We finished school just in time to clean the house and prepare for visitors and the Fourth of July!
This year we had some missionaries from other parts of Ghana join us, and we had a wonderful day together!
We had lots of food, played many games, and of course, enjoyed one another's company.
{And no, I'm not pregnant, even though it looks like it in the last picture. Most unflattering picture of myself ever. Ugghhh.}





























Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Winner!

The electricity has been nuts around here since the last time I wrote, but I was able to get everything working tonight for a few minutes so I could share the winner ~ Carrie Gomora!
For those of you who didn't win, the summer reading program is a weekly thing, so join when you have the chance. Jamie is hosting it at www.SimpleHomeschool.net.
I'll be back when I've got lights, and internet, and time to post our next guide!

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Guide for Growing Your Family's Heart for the World & a Giveaway


Before I was five years old I had the opportunity to sail down the Yangtze River in China, wander through the countryside of Spain, climb the dikes of Holland, and stroll through the old streets of Paris, thus setting me up for a love of this amazing world God created and the people in it.


Of course, if you actually know me, you also know that I wasn't born into a wealthy, traveling family, my father wasn't an international businessman, and we weren't missionaries either.
I traveled each of these places on my mother's lap as she filled my insatiable story appetite with books like The Story about Ping, The Story of Ferdinand, The Hole in the Dike, and Madeline.

These stories became a part of me. They connected me to peoples and places that I'd never actually been to and filled me with a curiosity and a wonder that left me thirsting for more.
They allowed me to learn from a young age that people the world over are just that: people.
Though everybody might not look exactly like me or dress like I did, they had families, and feelings, and hopes, and dreams, and stories just begging to be told.
Being introduced to those unlike me at a young age removed the fear that often comes with the unknown and uncommon, and replaced it with a respect for those folks I'd never met.


Fast forward a few years to the birth of our first baby.....
Carey was born in Ghana, West Africa. We didn't live in the capital city, but that was where the hospital was located where I would give birth. Two weeks before my due date we headed down to the capital to await her arrival. We had almost nothing for our new baby, so we'd saved our money and scoured the tourist guide book for places to purchase things. High on the list of baby needs was books. I couldn't imagine a home without any books in it for the new baby, so off we went to scour the few used book stores we had heard about. We found almost nothing. As we impatiently awaited our baby's arrival, we checked every little hole-in-the-wall book shop we could find. Nothing.
Then Carey was born, and the dear friend we were staying with came to meet our new baby.
In her hands was a small package, with the perfect gift for our firstborn child ~ books!
These weren't just any books, though. These were books about Africa, our newly adopted continent.
They were interesting, beautiful, funny, and poignant, in turn, and I was thrilled that this was the beginning of my children's library.


Since that day, we've made it one of our missions to collect as many books about our adopted home and her people as we can. In some parts of the world that might be simple to do, but it has taken a lot of commitment for us to do that here. Illiteracy is high in our country, and extra income for things like books is extremely limited in most families, so there aren't many books available. We keep hunting for and buying books about both Ghana and the larger Africa when we find them.
This continent is my children's home, and I want them to know and appreciate it through the stories of children like them.



Our book collection hasn't stopped with African stories, though.
I've sought to follow my mom's wise example, and I too have taken my children to China, Spain, Holland, and France. I've tried to open the wide world to them with atlases and maps and globes and books like Children Just Like Me, Hungry Planet, and Material World.
And I've realized that every time we share these stories and study these pictures and look for a spot on the globe, I'm opening my children's hearts to this world God created, and the boys and girls just like them that need to hear about Jesus.
I'm encouraging their little hearts towards missions.

I believe many of us desire for our families to want to reach out to others with the gospel, but I also think many people aren't really sure where to start. It seems too big, too complicated. It really isn't.
Start with what children love best: stories. With a bit of watering and some good sunshine, those book-shaped seeds will grow roots down deep into their souls.


Would you like to take a step down the path of sharing the world with your children through stories?The first guide I want to share with you this summer is a brand-new book called Give Your Child the World. Maybe you weren't blessed to have an amazing mama like mine who knew all the right stories to read. That's okay.
This book will do the work for you. It is packed full of stories for you and your kiddos to enjoy with one thing in common: the world! Jamie took five years to put together this excellent collection of children's books featuring stories from around the world. She has a chapter about each continent {her African suggestions are spot on!}, and includes suggestions for picture books for the littlest ones all the way up to meatier books for your older kids. She also includes several helpful indexes to help you make the best use of this book.

She is also hosting a summer book club based on this book. It's really easy to be a part, and she is offering a lot of really cool prizes.


So today I'm giving away one copy of this book! Anyone is welcome to enter this drawing, but if you want a physical copy of the book, you must have a US postal address. If you live outside of the US, I will happily send you a Kindle version. Just leave a comment here or on facebook, and I'll pick one happy winner on Thursday!


*The African books pictured above include The Coming of Night, Fly, Eagle, Fly, The Fortune-TellersKathy Knowles' collection, Atinuke's books, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, Jamela's Dress, Juma and the Honey Guide, and Anansi the Spider. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

For the Days When You Need a Guide........For Just About Everything!



It's not quiet as we step into the forest, but the noise is different than what we are used to ~ hushed, calmed, low and murmuring.
Our guide is leading our pack of kiddos, high rubber boots on his feet and machete in hand.
We've come with our friends to learn more about this old, protected bit of forest and the butterfly sanctuary here.
As we follow our leader's steps, some of the children are tempted to run ahead, but we continually call them back.
In some parts of the world that might be acceptable, but not here.
Here the forests hold many deadly things, including lots of snakes, but that's exactly the reason we explore with a guide: he knows how to keep us on the safe path.
We enjoy our time in the woods learning about trees with spikes, and trees that bleed, trees that can be "shot like cannons" if we get lost, and trees that will treat malaria.
We find giant centipedes, and strange ground flowers, and fungi, and resin oozing out of trees.










After some time we follow the guide out of the forest and enter a small glade full of flowering plants, trees, and bushes.
Everywhere are living flowers ~ butterflies.
They flit and flutter and flash from place to place. The air is full of them.
They are sapphire blue, palest buttery yellow, onyx black, striking coral, sea green, splashes and splotches, and stripes and swirls and dots of every color imaginable.
Some fly in lazy curly-Q's, others zip from blossom to blossom, still more whiz by like hummingbirds, hardly slowing their furiously beating wings for more than a second.
Our guide leaves us here in this safe place to enjoy another aspect of God's creation.
After the dark dampness of the forest, the warm sunshine and these bright jewels that surround us fill us with wonder.







As you may or may not have noticed, things have been a bit quieter in this little spot since January.
This has been a learning time, a stretching time for me, and I've not really been sure exactly how to share it.
Some stories in this life are our own, to share with others as we please.
But other stories don't belong exclusively to us, and those may only be shared with forethought and a good dose of caution.
While there are large portions of my story right now that I can't safely share, I can say this:
In the last six months,
I've been reminded anew what my first hard, grueling days on the mission field were like,
how difficult and tiring and overwhelming my early years of motherhood were,
how hard it was to learn a new language and acclimate to a culture that made no sense,
how easy it was to NOT communicate with my husband or to NOT love him the ways he needed to be loved when we were a young married couple,
how often I felt like an utter failure as a homeschool mama, a cook, and a keeper of my home,
AND
how good God was to give me the guides I needed at just the right moments so that He could keep me on the safe path and bring me to a place of beauty and light.


My life is not perfect, and I do not have "all the answers."
And even though I faced many of these difficulties a long, long way from any physical "aged women," God was gracious enough to use His Word, sound teaching I received in my youth, and godly "book mentors" to help me learn what He wanted me to know.

This summer, I'd like to share just those things ~ some teachings from God's Word and lots of good book recommendations ~ with you.
Since summer is often a time of rest and refreshment, maybe it would be good to set aside some time for your own soul, spirit, and body nourishment ~ marriage, motherhood, cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, teaching...we'll see what else!
As the summer progresses, I'll be giving away a few of my new favorite books, too!

*We'll start on Thursday {Lord willing and the creek don't rise, as my mama always says!} with a great, simple way to stir the hearts of you and your family towards missions.....and I'm pretty sure it's not what you think!

**These pictures are all from our recent trip to Bobiri Forest and Butterfly Sanctuary here in Ghana.