Tuesday, October 28, 2014

For the Days When You Need Instagram for the Soul.....

Tonight I found a poisonous millipede in the bathtub while bathing Mackay.....
It was alive.
No picture.

I tried my hand at garden egg stew....again.
It was too fishy.
Picture.


{I probably should have guessed that might be a problem since it had fish in the ingredients three times.}

Carey noticed the pit shower had clogged after her shower, so she cleaned it out.
The three-year old had emptied her dirty potty and left the remains in the shower.....
not sure how many days that had been sitting there.
No picture.

School was fine.
I knocked down all the cobwebs in the house.
The baby only ripped up one roll of toilet paper, ate one small box of matches, and smacked her head on anything hard once today.
No picture.

The lights were on.
The water was back after being off yesterday.
I have a mountain of laundry.
Picture.


This is how my life was spent today.
None too glamorous.

But is that the point of life?
That it looks good in the pictures?
Or is life supposed to be lived for good or bad, for beautiful or ugly, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, whether or not supper turns out the way I hoped or there are creepy things in the bathtub?
Because if I base the worth of my life, the amazingness of this one life on how good it would look on facebook.....
many of my days could seem worthless.

I would love to have an Instagram feed.......
but I don't have a smart phone.
{I'm quite convinced I'm not smart enough to use one anyway!}
Then I think about that.....
and wonder what I'd actually take pictures of.
My walk down the dusty road to buy hot peppers for supper?
Picture.


The millipede?
No picture.
School books?
Picture.


Messes that only a one-year old and a three-year old could create?
No picture {*I've shared way too many of those in the past!}.
My overflowing mending basket?
No picture.
The flooded bathroom {again}?
No picture {*see above note}.
Maybe a selfie of my messy hair and sweaty face after a hot day?
No picture {*see above note}.

Then I ask myself......
isn't my life worth more than the things I can capture with my lens?

What if life isn't about the things I can capture with the snap of my camera, but about the things I can't always see.....
the things I have to capture with a heart that searches for the hidden blessings?

What if it is about......
The smiling face of my neighbour when I greet her and inquire about her family and business in the language she can understand?
The millipede that I saw before it stung baby or me?
The twinkle in my daughters' eyes when they listen to their history story and something clicks?
The little ones who've slowly been learning to sit a little longer, play a little quieter, fuss a little less while Mama teaches the older girls?
Picture.


Enough clothes to wear that the mending basket can overflow a little longer?
The bathroom that now has a clean floor {thanks to an unexpected deluge of water!}?
The "less-than-perfect" look at the end of the day that shows I've worked hard and served my family?

Maybe that's the feed I need at the end of the day......
instead of an Instagram of beautiful pictures, I need an Instagram of beautiful truths.
Images that remind me that my God is good,
my life is blessing on top of blessing,
and that hidden gifts are everywhere, if I'm willing to look hard enough.
My own Instagram feed for the soul.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Would You Share?


There are days, weeks, at times that can be so.........heavy.
And really, after a bumpier time in life has passed, I just don't feel up to writing anything too weighty.
Don't get me wrong........heavy things, hard things, deep things, growing things, stretching things are important and helpful.
But some days?
Well, I just want to sit back and catch my breath, and thank God for bringing us through them.

{Before anyone starts to worry, these were all just heavy things for this mama ~ sick kiddos for three weeks running, a wee babe with a scorching hot temperature that couldn't be taken away but had to just be lived through, long hours of darkness as our electricity company tried to figure out how to make enough for everybody, and a few physical problems of my own as baby fully transitioned from mama's milk to family food.}

I'd love to invite each one of you to sit with me at the picnic table on the porch or curl back into our wicker couch in the front room.
We'd sit and talk about what our lives look like right now.
I'd share about the struggle it is on many days knowing how to balance being a mama, and a wife, and a teacher, and a missionary, and a cook, and a friend.
I'd talk about the chaos that explodes on my schoolroom when the two little girls are awake and mama is still trying to finish schooling the two big girls.
You'd share about the things that keep you busy, and the thoughts that keep you up at night and on your knees in prayer.
Maybe we'd laugh about loosing weight or gaining weight or gray hair or wrinkles.
You'd tell me about the ways God has called you to reach out to this world, how hard it is on some days, and what an amazing blessing it is on others.
I'd talk about our church of young believers:  about these women whom I love so much and desire to see grow to become grounded, faithful wives and mothers, about these young men whom I want more than anything to be brave and godly husbands and fathers, about these children who come so faithfully to understand the Scriptures, be saved, and grow up with a burning desire to serve the true God.

We'd share what inspires us.....
the truths from God's Word,
the books we've read,
the people we've been privileged to meet,
the blogs we read,
the sermons that have taught us,
the music that soothes our souls,
the art that makes our hearts sing,
even the food we love!

I'd tell you about the mortifying cultural and language mistakes I've made, and you'd share your most embarrassing moments.
We'd laugh together and maybe we'd cry.
You'd ask me questions about life here in Ghana, and I'd ask questions about your life wherever it is you live.
I'd show you around my house, and talk about how I've worked to make this place our home, and share the projects I'm working on when I get a few spare minutes here and there.
I'd want to hear about your home, and how you've made it yours ~ the renovation projects you have done and those you want to do some day.
Of course, I'd want to see pictures, too ~ they are worth a thousand words, you know!
Maybe as we swapped stories and pictures,  we'd swap recipes, too.
Maybe you'd tell me about the things you make time for no matter what.....
photography, or writing, or cooking, or sewing, or reading, or singing, or painting, or crafting, or hiking, or swimming, or exercising......

And maybe after all that, we'd feel like we knew each other a little better.
We'd be willing to pray for each other a little bit more, encourage each other a little bit more, take time to reach out to each other a little bit more.
Maybe that's why I write in this place......
to share just a bit of myself and this life God has called me to live.....

But I guess that begs the question........
what would you share, if you had the chance?

*If you feel so inspired, please feel free to share in the comments or on facebook!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Our Car


The funny thing about being a missionary is that many people assume that you live exactly like them, but in a different country, speaking a different language, and maybe eating different food.
Most of us never stop to think about day-to-day things in other countries, because our natural default is to think that everybody lives just like we do.
You might find it odd then, if I tell you that we have lived in Ghana for over eleven years and for about ten of those years, we lived without a car.
We had a car for a short while during our first term and begged God never to make us have a car ever again. It was terrible. I'll spare you the details.


Living in a city of 2.5 million people who almost all use public transportation, getting around isn't hard to do.
Time consuming? Yes.
Frustrating some days? Yes.
Rough during rainy season? Yes.
A great way to learn culture and language? Yes.
A way to connect with our people? Yes.


But when Baby #4 came along, we started thinking that it might be time to reconsider on the car issue. Finding room in a tro-tro {a Asian snub-nose mini-van that sits 13 adults} for the whole family, even with kids stacked up like blocks was getting harder and harder. And forget a join-along car {a taxi that you can join as it goes to the next station}, because if there were already other passengers, we had a hard time packing all six of us in two or three spots!


So we started praying that God would give us the right car at the right time for the right amount of money.
My husband was secretly praying for an automatic {as almost all cars here are manuals, and he doesn't like to drive a stick}, and I was secretly praying for awesome African-print seat covers {because I knew John would never mess with getting any made!}


At the end of June, God answered every single prayer we had prayed about a car.
Right car.
Right time.
Right amount of money.
Automatic transmission.
African-print seat covers.

Its tiny size helps John maneuver in and out of our wild traffic safely.
There are no seat belt or car seat laws, so we don't have to worry about four girls in the back seat.
It has run perfectly since the day we brought it home.
Its been a blessing and a help right when we really needed it.


God had it just for us.
And we are so glad He did.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

For the Days When You Think Your Dreams Must Die.....


I'm a dreamer, a visionary by nature.
I have big ideas,
and great hopes,
and build castles in the sky.
But I've now lived long enough,
and grown up enough to know that
not all the big ideas are good ideas,
not all the great hopes are hoping in the right thing,
and that some of those castles are in the sky for a reason.....
they have no basis in reality.


In learning these truths, though, it's easy to give up on all the dreams, the things that don't come easily.
I'ts simpler to just accept that the day-to-day things must be done daily;
that there will always be duties that must be performed;
that the washing, the cooking, the straightening, the folding, the putting away will consume all my time.
That there will be no time for the dreaming things.


I'm inspired this weekend by something that challenges me to do the impossible.
And I feel the dream begin to awaken in the quietest parts of me.
It's been stuffed down deep so that I don't feel like a failure every time an idea has to be laid aside,
a hope has to be deferred.
This dream calls me to live this life to its grandest, fullest potential.

Instead of shoving it back down, this time I stop and think.
I pray and wonder and ask God to show me how to live these dreams.

I ask Him to show me how I can possibly......
walk with Him moment by moment,
and daydream,
and mother my kids,
and write,
and love my husband,
and create,
and clean my house,
and dream,
and minister to my people,
and play,
and share the gospel,
and laugh,
and help the least of these,
and dance,
and be His hands, and His feet, and His ambassador on this Earth,
and yet squeeze every drop of happiness and joy I can out of this one life.
I beg for the wisdom to know how to do it all ~
How to fit all the pieces together.



He whispers it in the stillness.
"Instead of letting the dreams die, hand them to Me, my child. Tell Me your dreams, your hopes, your wildest desires. Pour them into My hands, your own special, secret treasures. Trust Me with them. Then wait. Watch as I give them back in My own way, in My own time, and see if they aren't ever so much more than you could have hoped. You will be living a dream, but not your fragile, finite dream. You will be living what I, your Creator, imagined for just you."  
I step out into the room where my husband is making music and my girls are twirling wildly.
I grab a child and spin slowly, filled to overflowing with His abundant, life-giving hope and grace. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Living.....




We are busy doing lots of living right now......
a babe turning one,
moving away from mama's milk to family food,
stumbling closer to walking.
School squeaking into a workable rhythm.
Family thriving through cycles of light and dark as our electricity supply is not enough.
Big girls growing older,
bodies changing,
relationships stretching.
Living this amazing life God has given me through all the ups and downs.
Wishing you a beautiful and full weekend, friends.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Sour Milk Kind of Week



"Don't cry over spilled milk."
I'm pretty sure that old adage didn't mean that I couldn't cry over the two gallons of spoiled milk that flew out of my warm refrigerator and covered me and half my kitchen in a fatty, drippy mess Saturday morning.

It had been one of "those" weeks, really.
Monday started out a bit rocky, then Daddy volunteered to take the three-year-old to the market while the baby was napping and the older two were schooling.  It helped get us back on track, and I was looking forward to the rest of the week. Daddy headed out to buy fresh milk Tuesday morning. I knew I'd have to process it and cool it as best I could, because our electricity was due to be off most of the day, but if the lights came back on at 6 p.m., I didn't think we'd have too much trouble. The milk arrived about noon, but it was more than I'd planned on. I processed it and cooled it as best I could, and put the mostly cooled milk into my mostly cool refrigerator. We have a tropicalized refrigerator, which means that they are built to retain the cold longer, and as long as the electric company kept there end of the bargain, all would be well.
They didn't.
The magical hour of six o'clock came and went, and nothing happened.
I pasted a smile on my face and went about finishing supper in the semi-darkness. At 6:41 p.m. the lights came back on..............not that I was paying attention to the clock or anything. At 7:05 p.m. they went off again. Back on a few hours later, and then back off again a few more times all through the night.
Thus proceeded the rest of my week.
Lights on, lights off.
Lights on, lights off.
Lights on, lights off.
And every time the electricity went off, all I could think of was that milk in the refrigerator.

*I will add here, that when you live in a place with unstable electricity, all those warnings I heard growing up about food spoilage absolutely get thrown out the window, because if you followed those?
Well, you'd be pitching everything at least once or twice a week!
Those warnings? We like to think of them more as suggestions :)
And trust me, we have lots of practice when knowing if something is really bad enough to be thrown out!
I will also add here that our milk comes straight from the cow, is vat pasteurized by me, and does not go rancid very easily. If we ever have any that lasts more than seven days, I just make it into cottage cheese.

When I went to make hubby and me a cup of hot chocolate with the milk on Thursday night, I realized my milk was in trouble. As I heated it in the pan, it started separating into curds and whey.... We skipped the cocoa. Our lights had been so bad at this point that I just knew that we'd have electricity on Friday. I'd make my huge pot of milk into several tons of cottage cheese then. Bad choice. Friday's electricity was worse than the rest of week's put together and it just carried right into Saturday morning. At this point I figured out that we'd not had electricity about 20 of the last 24 hours.....not that I was counting or anything. Saturday morning I walked into my kitchen hoping to at least be able to salvage a few things out of my thoroughly warm refrigerator. I knew the milk would not be one of those things. I pulled the door open.......................
Well, you read the first paragraph.
Milk ~ spoiled, rotten, clumpy, warm, slimy, smelly flew out of the refrigerator and landed all over everything, me included.
I spent a lot of time scrubbing my kitchen Saturday morning.
You probably could have guessed that!

I also spent a lot of time thinking about my attitude.
A bit spoiled, a bit rotten, and probably a bit smelly this week, just like my milk.
An attitude that swung between entitlement ~ How dare they keep taking MY lights!
and false humility ~ Look how much I'm suffering as a missionary!
and rage ~ What is wrong with these people!?!
An attitude that was controlled by my circumstances and not by truth.
An attitude whose words were directed at people and things, but whose heart was pointing an accusing finger at God.
Every time I "raged against The Machine", I was really raging against the One who allowed The Machine to break.
I wasn't really just angry at the electric company, in the end I was really angry at God for allowing me to go through a hard week.
And that, my friends, is sin.

So with the scrubbing of the floors, and the walls, and the cabinets, and the refrigerator, and the freezer, and the mop, and my shoes, I made sure to do a bit of scrubbing of myself.
A good soul-scrubbing, washing away every bit of that sour attitude right along with the sour milk.


* I share this not to glory in my infirmities or pat myself on the back, but to simply share how Jesus keeps teaching me what I need to learn again and again. And if you find yourself in a sour milk kind of week? Maybe this story will be a blessing to you, too!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Books Piled Next to My Bed





Oh, how I love a good book.
They are entertainment, adventure, knowledge, old friends, dear mentors.
Some are read once and linger forever in your mind.
Others, must be read again and again and again, each return giving you more to savor, chew on, and digest into your very being.




Reading has not come easy to most of our family.
While I was an early reader, my hubby is a dyslexic, as is my firstborn.
We decided, though, that we wanted reading to be part of the fabric of our family.
So we read.
And read,
and read,
and read.
Though it has been difficult at times, frustrating at others, I can truly say we are the better for it.
It is worth the struggle.



Right now we are reading and rereading some excellent books ~

I am reading A Charlotte Mason Companion, a personal take on the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason. Well-thought out, practical, and thoroughly helpful, it is an excellent view of how to put CM's theories into practice in my own home. Perfect read as we start a new school year.

John is reading Third Culture Kids for the first time, but this is one I reread on a regular basis. This is a must-read not only to help me understand my kiddos, but also to help me through the inevitable transitions that are just part of my life as a missionary. This is also an excellent book for those who have family members on the mission field, or want to better know how to pray for their missionaries.
This one is also available on Kindle.

Carey, my ten-year old, is reading The Wheel on the School. A beautiful tale of hopes and dreams, and what can happen when you wonder. A favorite from my own childhood. Five-stars!

Ella, my 7 1/2 year old, is reading Pollyanna. I read this for the first time with Carey a few years ago, and couldn't wait to read it again with Ella. If you liked the movie, you will love the book! Who couldn't love a book about a talkative little girl who works so hard to be GLAD!
This is also available on Kindle, for free!

 


“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” 

What are you reading?
I'd love to hear........