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
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,
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.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Beginnings of Summer

"Summer" here in Ghana looks a lot different than summer in America.
That was incredibly hard for me when we first came here, but now it's so completely normal that I have a hard time remembering how people do summer there!
North American summer time is our rainy season, which equals our winter. When the rains really begin to fall, they can last for days. All that rain finally cools us down. My kiddos are often found running around in sweatshirts, because it gets all the way down to 70 degrees!
Here in Ghana, the schools are in session for 3 terms, each about 15 weeks long with a 2-4 week break in between each. Our schedule isn't quite the same, but is much closer to the school system here, than the American ideal of having 3 months off.
We are hoping to be done with this year's school by the fourth of July. We usually resume the beginning of September, but since we will be going on furlough next year, we will have to start a bit earlier to get everything finished before we travel.
Life is busy, but has finally settled into a rhythm that works for us. I'm so very thankful.
I believe we are happier when things are a bit more predictable!
What does life look right now?
A few pictures.......

We've recently added the Sky Map app to our phone, and it's been such fun to head outside whenever the electricity is off and identify everything we can see. My mom taught me the constellations we could see in Michigan when I was young, but we have an entirely different sky we can see here.

John helping the girls find the northern constellations.....and yes, my kids are that dirty after a full day of school and play.....and yes, they painted themselves. Ahem.

John has started a guitar class at church, and both Carey and Ella are taking part.....Mackay wants to so badly, but the ukulele will have to suffice for now.

Lili loves bugs. Seriously. Here she is sharing her compound fly eyes.

We headed to our favorite "wild spot" a few days ago, and found lots to enjoy.

If you look in the upper-right quadrant, you can see a sunbird. They are cousins to the American hummingbird. They are a bit bigger, and don't fly quite as fast, but they are still difficult to capture with the camera. This beauty was an iridescent blue-green with a bright red chest and patches of purple right at his throat.

This huge spider {including legs, he was as large as my fist!} had built a 3-D web. It was amazing!

Baby bamboo...I thought it looked a bit like asparagus.

Sketching from her perch up in the plumeria tree.

In the midst of all the other things we have going on, our landlady is remodeling our kitchen. I've been living without any cabinets for about a month now. Mackay is enjoying the extra space, though.

Lili looking at her picture book before nodding off.

The girls illustrating one of their poems from this term...

And a tiny, daily reminder of the good God we serve....

I hope your summer is off to a lovely start, no matter where you are, or how you observe it!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

This Week

May absolutely seemed to fly by for us.
All the missionaries are settled and into language classes, and we are in a bit of a rhythm with all we have going on:
school {finishing up this year and planning for next year, which will get started pretty quickly!, and figuring out exactly how to incorporate Lili in K5 and Mackay, who is a hand-full!}
helping the new missionaries {watching their kiddos one day a week while they go to language school and translating and planning the next set of lessons after their first portion of language school is done, among other things.}
preparing national leadership for our upcoming furlough {Sunday afternoon Bible classes, guitar classes, and discipleship.}
family {learning and growing and loving each other}
ministry {giving the gospel, preaching the truth, writing booklets, and training others to do the same!}
life {trying to live it to the glory of God!}.
Here are a few pictures from the week, and if you'd like to see more, I'm on instagram as MrsJohninGhana.