Sunday, June 28, 2015

For the Days When the Road Ahead Seems Too Rough.....

Noble mighty woman of God.....that's what my parents named me.
I think they had some awfully high ideals of what they wanted for my life.
From infancy I was fed on the best, the greatest mind food.
The story books read to me and then offered to me as I grew were those that spoke of nobility, honor, courage, faithfulness, beauty, joy, love, and godliness.
They were never shoved in my face or crammed down my throat.
They were offered with a smile, a knowing look, a glimmer in the eye that made me want to know what secret was being harbored in those rough pages.
Not only did my parents fill my mind with principles and convictions of the highest sort, they surrounded me with others who modeled a life of virtue.
No, none of them were perfect people, but they were growing people.

I knew when I grew that I too wanted to live a life like those I'd imagined.
And then.......I grew up.
God began asking me to do hard things.
As I obeyed Him, He strengthened me to the task.
It was a scary place to be, but it was exciting.
I felt many days like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, being asked to jump.
In time I learned to take that leap, and it was nerve-wracking, overwhelming, thrilling.
I was being asked to follow after good things, better things, the best things.

But then I started to notice that not everybody was hiking the same trails I was.
It started to get quieter, lonelier.
The excitement began to fade, and with it, my enthusiasm to follow the path the Lord had called me to climb.
As I searched the mountains around me, I began to wonder when someone else would come along the steep path I'd been walking.
As long as other people were called to face the same difficulties as me then it would be all right.
But the hills were quiet.

I knew this was the road I was called to trod, so I began climbing again, but now I was tired.
I was weary from the never-ending ascent.
God beckoned me upward with more truths, more ideals, more of what He wanted for me.
I was headed straight for the glory of the clouds, but oh, how worn I was.
I needed a break, a chance to plateau a bit.
I didn't want to quit, but a respite from all this would be really nice.
There was no flat place here, though.
In the words of Amy Carmichael, recorded by Isobel Kuhn, it was Climb or Die!
To every man there openeth
A way, a ways, and a way.
And the high soul climbs the high way,
And the low soul gropes the low.
And in between on the misty flats
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low ---
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go. 
~ John Okenham

These are the wild, windy places my mind has been traveling for months now.
The pull between the ideals God has called me to and my desire for a break have almost torn me apart these last few months.
We all get a choice to either follow the trail up the mountain God has for us, or to stay where the path is easy.
Up the mountain is abundant life, joy, blessings, beauty, and closeness to God that is unimaginable.
I pray for the courage and strength to never stop climbing!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What does your summer look like?

Well, hello there!
School has been finished exactly one week tomorrow, and I'm not quite sure how we've been just as busy, if not busier since school got out.
Let's see.....
Hubby and I got to go out to celebrate our wedding anniversary.....just a few weeks late.
We ate at our favorite Indian restaurant. Love. Love. Love.
I always eat way too much and enjoy every minute of it.
Can you tell I'm happy about this?

Found a new strange fruit to try.
I was hoping it was weird strawberries. They weren't.
They were wax apples from Asia.

I've waited years for my girls to be reading on their own, just for fun.
After lots and lots of hard work, we are at that place!
{The Spell to Write & Read program and The Gift of Dyslexia have both been invaluable in helping meet our family's dyslexia needs.}
Need I add that now I can't seem to find my older children anywhere?
They are constantly "getting lost".......reading a book.
Makes my heart happy!

We had an unexpected house guest for five nights.
Poor girl got stuck in Kumasi while here for work purposes.
When I went to pull out our extra bed frame {leftover after we got the girls' bunkbeds}, it wasn't there.
My husband had told me we'd given it away, but I was sure we hadn't.
He was right; I was wrong.
Our friend was very appreciative, but we wished we could offer her more than an extra student mattress on the floor.
This led to a discussion about how we really needed an extra bed for visitors from time to time.
We talked about squeezing in a couch for reading on during school/extra sleeping space.
We even went and looked at some imported furniture while out on our date. It was quite expensive.
We started brainstorming ideas......which furthered the discussion about how we definitely need more bookshelves, because our homeschooling is done with almost all e-teacher's guides and stacks and stacks of old books that are starting to take over every inch of available space.
I've been hesitant, though, to add any bookshelves, because I couldn't figure out where to put them.

In Ghana, we can get all our furniture built out of real wood for a very good price.
There are many excellent carpenters here who can make just about anything if  they have a good picture.
I've been squirreling away any extra grocery money/house money I have left over at the end of the month, so I had a bit to get us started.
We finally landed on this picture for inspiration ~ bookshelves around the window {imagine a window where the painting and lamps are in the photo below}, going up over the window to make more space. Not exactly a built-in, but kind of like it.

And then a wide bench seat with bookshelves underneath and a cushion on top to sit under the window {like where the couch would be in the above picture}. It could then double as a bed, as needed. The picture below was our inspiration for the bench.

We celebrated Father's Day by making daddy's favorite foods : biscuit cinnamon rolls for breakfast and pulled pork sandwiches with homemade BBQ sauce for lunch. We made him some rootbeer syrup and got him a new local shirt, too.
Goodness, we love that man!

And an out take!
{Notice that Mackay is actually looking at the camera and smiling here? She can't seem to do that when we want her to. Ask me how many photos we had to take before we got the one above? Never mind, don't ask. If you have little ones, you already understand.}

Tuesday started our bi-annual cleaning-the-entire-house-from-top-to-bottom-and-decluttering-week.
This is absolutely necessary after school is out, because while school is in session, the deep cleaning is quite minimal.
And living in the tropics, deep cleaning MUST be done on a regular basis, or your house will eventually eat you alive. Seriously.
This time around I'm trying to complete one room before moving to the next.
This seems to be working much better than my usual "today I'll do all the cobwebs in the whole house and from there I'll move to all the dusting" plan, which causes me to generally end up with a bigger mess than when I started.
{It also usually makes me not want to ever finish the cleaning, too.}

My smaller children have taken all this cleaning as a sign to make more messes than usual....

Good thing I've got some helpers......when they're not hiding somewhere with a book!

So I'd love to hear!
What has your summer looked like so far?
Any exciting plans while the kiddos are out of school?
Please do share!

Monday, June 22, 2015

For the Days When You Feel Like Pouting...

It was about as perfect a day as I've ever seen in Ghana.
The sky was a soft, medium blue with perfectly puffy white clouds.
It wasn't too hot, and there was a light breeze blowing {both of those things are quite out of the ordinary here!}

We had a picnic at the Botanical Gardens, complete with a rousing game of Tackle Soccer {yes, a family invention} and a good half hour of fairy tree climbing.
I couldn't have asked for a better beginning to our school break, but I wasn't happy with it.

Why wasn't I happy?
Because it wasn't how I'd planned our day.
There was a brand-new, first of its kind park commissioned in our town on Friday.
They have a children's playground.
That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is the VERY FIRST IN OUR ENTIRE COUNTRY.
We were excited to take our girls and surprise them.
We drove all the way there......and it's not officially open yet.

I tried to keep my attitude under control, but I was having a hard time of it.
It wasn't that we didn't get other good things done.
It wasn't that we couldn't have fun at the Botanical Gardens.
It's just that it didn't fit my idea of what today was supposed to look like.

As I sat pouting {yes, it really was that!}, my hubby and girls were having a marvelous time running and kicking and jumping and tackling each other.
I snapped a few pictures of flowers.....and moped.
John asked me if I wanted to throw the frisbee.
Though I usually love tossing a frisbee around, I couldn't make it do what I wanted.

I tried again and again, but my feelings were flying about as high as that frisbee ~ lop-sided, clunky, and consistently down in the dirt.
As I chased down that silly frisbee for the tenth time, I tried to figure out what I had really had to be upset about.
I could only come up with one answer: expectations.

What I'd wanted to happen hadn't happened, and now instead of changing my thinking about the matter and letting my feelings follow suit, I'd let my emotions lead my mind.
I'm learning that this is dangerous ground.

My feelings are just that ~ feelings.
They come. They go.
They are up. They are down.
They are NOT something to base my life on.
They are fickle, temporary, and often short-lived.

So I had a choice to make: I could either follow my floundering emotions and look back on this day with regret or I could choose to think true thoughts and guide my feelings back to where they should be.
I wish I could say I did the right thing........
but I didn't.
Oh, I tried a bit to change how I felt, but since I didn't think God's thoughts, it didn't last long.
As we walked out of the garden, I still felt the disappoint rowling in my soul.

My the time we got home, I was miserable.
I sent the kiddos outside and went to a quiet place to make things right in my heart and mind.
I chose to think Truth {Philippians 4:8 being exceptionally helpful on a day like today},
but I can never get back our time at the gardens.
I don't get to redo what should have been done right the first time.

So this evening as I post these pictures and share this story, I choose to dwell in Truth.
Though I can't get today back, He gives me tomorrow, full of His mercies and faithfulness.
In that, I can rest.
I'm praying next time I can guide my feelings into the best Tackle Soccer game ever.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Summer Evening

Some of our days are bright and glowing ~
Moments of noise, laughter, shouting, clanging, banging music.

On those days young feet never stop moving, bodies in full motion.
Food is cooked and fruit is cut and cups are filled over and over and over.
Growing bellies are never full.

From sun up to sun down the air we breathe is creative and invigorating and fulfilling.
The bulging old dress-up box is pulled out and it's contents flung in every direction.
We are surrounded by brides and flamenco dancers and Egyptian princesses and cowgirls and Indians and fairies and strange combinations of happy imaginings.

There's a bit of time to make a Sunday dinner on a Tuesday night.
Mixers whir, the kitchen fills with scents of roasting chicken and carrots and potatoes and tangy lemons.
I've forgotten to mark my lemon pound cake recipe again, and it cooks too hot too fast.
Nothing a serrated knife and some raspberry glaze can't fix.

The babies push babies and back babies and snuggle babies and then drop babies for a chance to lick the sweet beaters straight from the kitchen.
They run and giggle and call for "mama to look" and "take a picture" and "let me see."

They drag out the recycleables box and the scissors and the glue and the crayons and scatter bits of creativity all over the porch table.
Their fairies need some new houses.

They fiddle with some extra bits of rope and work it into a swing of sorts right on the iron bar holding up the clothesline.
They swing back and forth, just a few inches of the concrete, and I cringe, hoping the lines don't topple with their weight.

I grab some shears to trim back the giant leaves of our snakebush by our front porch steps.
One girl snatches them up as fast as I can cut them down, another running for raffia to tie them with.
They twist and knot and work and rework their leaf garments until they've got them just as they want them.

They dance and sing and twirl like the little nymphs they are on days like these.
Their minds spin with ideas as fast as their bodies do.
All is twilight and wind and moon glow and star shine.
And I'm full ~
Full of the joy that being a mama on a simple summer evening can bring.