Monday, May 2, 2016

Run with Endurance...

Sports Day at Rosslyn Academy. In some ways I dread the day, sitting out on the field in the blistering sun for 6 hours to cheer on a 2 minute race for each kid. It rubs my to-do list the wrong way. But I remembered the last field day, and how inspired it made me. So off I went, with my water bottle, sunscreen, and packed lunch.
Isaac had been practicing for 2 weeks--by running up and down the hall in our small house over and over again until sweat beaded on his lip and my sanity lost its grip. Thankfully, his race was first. 200m down the track against the other 1st grade boys.

On your mark. Get set! GO!!!!!

Off he flew, quickly establishing a lead. I know our kids are small, but man--they're FAST!

And then...he ran right out of his shoe. Literally. Left it all on the track. And what is a boy to do when his shoe comes off in the middle of a race???

Mom's always said to NEVER play outside in your socks, so you turn around.

But then you realize that all the others have kept running, and you've been left in the dust. After all that practice. All that effort. All the desire. It was heart-breaking!

He was absolutely devastated. He jogged the rest of the way, tears streaming down his face, but he finished the race. In dead last.    His big sister Anya was waiting for him on the finish line. She picked him up, and let him sob on her shoulder. She comforted him. And then she took him to the race officials and asked if they would allow him to run again in the next race. Against the 3rd graders. Just so he could finish well.

So they let him. And he ran barefoot to make sure he didn't loose a shoe again. And Anya ran beside him, cheering him on the whole race. The crowd was roaring. He was grinning all 200 meters.
And he smoked them all.

Oh, the lessons I can learn from my children about running with endurance the race set before us! 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fun, Fellowship, and Nyama Choma

How does one build community among church attenders? Well, we're Baptist, so food has to be involved! And we're in Kenya, so being outdoors is always awesome. And God has seen fit to bless us with a house that has an incredible yard. So...come on, y'all! We invited everyone over after church, and had 30-40 people enjoying the best of life. It was a fantastic day, and we look forward to doing it once a month. Enjoy the photos!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Open mouth, insert money.

There are times when all the signs point towards intervention, and yet God clearly tells someone to stay put. I've seen it happen, and I've supported it, and I've praised God when He goes against conventional wisdom. It happens with financial 'signs,' medical 'signs,' and everything in between.

I know. That seems to go against what I said just a few days ago. But here's the truth: as much as I rage against this isn't a cook-book, or a flow-chart, or any other simple color-by-number endeavor. It's never as black and white as the words on the screen make it appear.

We can't make snap decisions that remove a vibrant relationship as we discern whether circumstances are an opportunity for faith in staying, or faith in changing.

Flashback. (Ladies down south--since you're now my coworkers and you probably don't know this story, go ahead and skip ahead now to save yourselves from retroactive heart palpitations!) Omara was 6 months old, and we lived in Malawi where health care was extremely limited and the central hospital had a pediatric fatality rate of over 60%. She got her 6-month vaccines, and a few days later spiked a 103 fever. Then it crept up-104. 104.9. And then, when I was feeding her, I noticed that her fontanel was bulging. Some of you may know that's a big deal. Fever + bulging fontanel = meningitis until proven otherwise. Except that she didn't show any other signs. She was eating well. Her blood counts were normal. And so I wrestled for hours that night--agonizing over what I should do. I knew if I called my medical coordinators, we would be on the next plane, maybe even an evac flight at an enormous cost to the company. And as I wrestled, I knew in my spirit that whatever was going on could be managed where we were. Against conventional wisdom. And the next night she broke out in the rash that signaled the harmless viral illness, Roseola, with well-documented symptoms of very high fever and 'aseptic meningitis' which needs no treatment and has no long-term consequences. I learned something about faith in staying that night. It's not simple.

Flash-forward. Ethan is 11 years old. He's always been our sensitive one, less able to handle the hard knocks of life, the constant good-byes just when he's made a friend. His ADHD took us on a trip to South Africa from Malawi, because the signs were clear then that he needed some help. It helped for awhile. Then Dad's death in 2013 hit him harder than we expected. We've worked with professionals here in Kenya to help with processing the grief of loosing Grandpa. The ambiguous grief of loosing friends who aren't dead but are just as absent after they've moved away. The pressures of school and grades and handling expectations. We've 'read' the signs and made changes, with home-schooling for a portion of last year. We've pulled together all the possible resources at his school. And as we look ahead to junior high next year, the signs are clear. Our irrevocable calling is to care for him to the best of our abilities. That could be done for awhile in Malawi. Then it could be done in Kenya. And now. Now it's time to put my money where my mouth is.

Hello from the other side.

It's a lot easier to be counseling than to be experiencing! But when I talked with people dealing with similar issues, I spoke from the heart. I believed my convictions. I had faith it was godly counsel as best I knew to give.

And so we are moving forward, learning about faith in leaving this time. We'll return in June, most likely be in North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham area) due to the resources there. We will spend a full year, living out our calling by getting Ethan the support he needs to know and believe in his ability to thrive as God designed him to, and then to live within that confidence. We plan to return, stronger and healthier, in June 2017, ready to keep living out our calling here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


As medical coordinator, I spend a fair amount of time talking with people about calling. Sounds strange, does it? Not out here! Not when overseas workers' ability to do their jobs depends directly on events outside of their control, and when we are committed to affirm God's sovereignty in everything. There is no separation of work and life here--it's all one big circle of action and interaction as our lives minister and our ministry affects our lives in a fully integrated way. When it works, it really works. When it's hard, it's really hard. It's probably how it's supposed to be, how it worked with Jesus and all, but it's not very American. Not with separation of church and state, which so often means separation of public and private; separation of Sunday and Monday-Saturday. We chafe against it sometimes, over here. And when things happen which threaten our 'calling' we cry out, "How can this be? I was CALLED here, to do this!"

And so I've had time to mull over calling, and I've come to some very strong beliefs about this thing we know as Calling; beliefs that fly in the face of traditional understandings. (You may note a striking similarity between this and a recent sermon by Dr David Platt. I would claim he stole my ideas if I'd ever had the chance to 'counsel him (HA!) but I'll have to settle with concluding that he's just very brilliant!) I believe there are only three true, irrevocable callings.
  1. We are called as children of God. This calling can never be challenged, changed, or revoked.
  2. We are called to be faithful to our families. As a married woman with children, that means I am called to be a good wife and a good mother. As long as they are alive, that calling can never be challenged, changed, or revoked (this is not meant to be a debate on Biblically-justified divorce, which I believe does exist as a rare exception).
  3. We are called to make God's name known and His praise increased. This never ceases. This is what being a Jesus-follower is all about. Every one of us. Always. Wherever we are.
Note what's not on my list. Nurse. Missionary. NGO-worker. Pastor. Lawyer. Resident of Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas. Oregon. Alabama. The list goes on, really, of the things NOT on the list. And that's where the greatest confusion lies--when we elevate one of the transient callings to the place of an irrevocable one and distort where our true identity lies.

So when one is called to work in Sudan, and war breaks out and you have to evacuate...there's your sign that your calling to that location has changed. When you're called to India and then your visa is denied, there's your sign. When you're called to be a nurse and then you have a child who needs you at home, there's your sign.

But what about when it's your own body that betrays you? An illness or chronic disease that limits where you can live? It can be devastating to make peace between the presence of an illness, God's sovereignty over health, and a sense of calling to a specific location/role. Or even worse--what you if you're still able to do the work God had 'called' you to, but your CHILD has an issue that requires help? Ahhhh. That's the worst for many to come to grips with, and why, historically, many children's needs have gone unmet on the field.

And these harder cases are where I usually enter the picture, in my limited way. Encouraging people when I have to tell them that a transient calling is incompatible with an irrevocable one. I can't put words on the screen to adequately show how painful that is, what a wrestling match is required before people can find peace. And to be honest, sometimes it is too confused for people to accept, because our identities are too wrapped up in what we do. There are too many needs and not enough workers as it is. As if God NEEDS us to be here to get His will and His work done. But a wise friend recently reminded me...God doesn't need us. He gives us the gift of working with Him, and the honor of presenting our efforts to Him in love, but He's not depending on us to get things done. He's simply asking us to be obedient, even if that means change.

So my advice is this--when a temporary calling and an irrevocable calling are incompatible, prayerfully go with the irrevocable one. Stay faithful to keeping your identity in Christ and not your job or title. Honor God by taking care of your husband, your wife, or your children. Worship God by keeping your body, His temple, healthy and effective. Know that God can take care of the work without your help, as much as it pains us to admit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

And so it begins

I can't believe my last post was back in June. It's now September. You'd think we were busy or something!!!

Home-schooling ended with more than a fizzle than a bang. Ethan finished everything he was supposed to get done to stay caught up with his class even a few days early. But that does not imply it was without tears or gnashing of teeth, or more often, simply just-below-the-surface irritation and an eye-roll suppressed only by the most extreme will-power.

I am not meant to be his teacher.

The rest of the summer passed in a haze of a great vacation, meetings, ministry, moving, and doctor's appointments. The kids had a blast. I rejoiced every morning the alarm didn't go off, and then rapidly reverted to cursing the craziness of four children and three dogs underfoot in our new, single story house. I was so used to saying, "Go upstairs!" in moments of exasperation, that once we had no upstairs I felt paralyzed. Until I realized the whole point of the new house was the large yard, in equatorial Africa where winter is played out in 78 degree days. "Go outside!" saved the day, and I figure the children are better off for it.

Anya, grade 8
School here starts early, so by August 1 the dreaded (by them) countdown was on. Almost to the day the calendar flipped over, Ethan began having trouble sleeping again, started getting into things he shouldn't, started being more sensitive. Isaac started getting mad at 'stupid school' for 'wasting all his time'. And Omara began incessantly crying and whining, and at the same time adorably asking, "If I eat all my dinner, will I grow big enough to go to school too?" Only Anya was unaffected. Or I should say, pleasantly affected. She got out the hair-dryer, practiced with new styles, and upped the teeny-head toss to perfection.

All that counseling we've done prepared me to interpret rather than react.  "Find the reason. Find the reason" I heard the counselor saying in my had to have been the counselor because, as inevitably happens, I was single-parenting for the first 2 weeks of August.

Ethan, grade 5
Ok--this wasn't brain surgery. Ethan: stressed about starting school. Isaac: stressed about starting school. Omara: stressed about everyone else starting school. Anya: never stressed about anything.
So we got cool back to school haircuts, and went out for ice cream, and read extra books, and ignored as much of the reactive behavior as possible, and Chad made it back to take some of the pressure off me.

Isaac, grade 1
School started on Aug 11, and I'm happy to report that everyone is still alive and kicking. Some days kicking all the way to the car, but kicking is better than the alternative, right? Everyone has great teachers; Ethan's in particular is doing so much to ease his stress with modified assignments, oral testing, and gentleness. I can't tell you the relief and gratefulness I feel! It turns out all that African sun bleached out most of what Isaac learned in KG, so he's not enjoying the steep learning curve again, but he'll get there!

After our meetings with Ethan's teacher, and the obvious efforts she is making to help him, and after he started answering, "Awesome!" to the daily, "how was school?"...I somehow expected we were home free. You know--that parenting would go back to being easy (as if it ever was).

Omara, desperately longing to start school
Of course, that's not the case. I shed a few tears in my coffee as that pipe dream blew up in my face. Ethan is still stressed by the very presence of school--be it with me, or with a kind, patient teacher (yes, those are opposites!) We can't ask for a better teacher, and we can't do more to set him up for success, and it's still going to be a daily exercise of speaking encouragement, ignoring irritations, picking battles, and staying positive.

I didn't ask for this challenge any more than he asked for a brain that has trouble processing at the speed in which life goes by. Any more than he asked to be overwhelmed by challenges and discouraged by failures. Or to be distracted by every single sound and sight and thought.

I didn't ask for it, but I'll accept the challenge, because it's the one that's been given to us. And how can I possibly ask Ethan to face his challenges with courage and determination if I don't show the same?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

From the Mouth of Babes

I am task oriented. If you look the term up in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure my latest passport photo is there to sum it all up. It doesn't bode well for life in Africa, actually. Or life with 4 kids. 4 kids IN Africa almost puts me over the line into certifiable.

I've read so many books and blogs about motherhood, and its sacred value, and I believe it all with my head. But in the day-to-day grind its really hard for me to get excited about laundry which just gets dirty again, or dinner which gets rapidly devoured, has to be cleaned up off the table and floor, and then has to be wiped off bottoms the next day. (Sorry if that's too much--I'm a nurse with 4 kids. Poop stopped horrifying me years ago.) What they don't necessarily tell you about task-orientated people is that we want to do a meaningful task, check if off the list, and move on to the next meaningful task---not face the same mundane thing 17 minutes later. Because that's not accomplishing tasks. That's my worst nightmare. And that's life. But as much as I despise the 'wash and repeat' nature of a mom's life, it's still easier to do that load of laundry than to tackle tasks like:

1. turn children's hearts towards God.
2. foster gentleness and grace towards one another
3. embrace each child's differences and build self-esteem without entitlement
4. teach children how to balance life between cultures and how to help without hurting
5. encourage generosity towards the needs around us while avoiding bitterness at the
     things we've given up to be here

Chad has been out of town a lot this year. The first few times were rough, mostly because I maintained such a long list of things to do each day, and I never put being both mom and dad to the kids on the list (cause really--how do you check that off???). But slowly, with gentle reminders from my dear husband and prompting from the Holy Spirit, (and the return of my work partner to take some of the tasks off my plate--hallelujah!) I'm starting to get it, and we're in a rhythm that's working pretty well. There might be hope for me yet, because... miracle alert!...yesterday I put aside packing boxes for our upcoming move and painted rocks with the kids all afternoon. No joke!

Last night, Omara was in tears because she couldn't find any pajama bottoms at bedtime. The clean laundry, folded but not put away yet (see, task undone) was nearby so I pulled out clean jammies and said, "Momma saves the day!" She laughed and said, "No, you don't!" so I tickled her, she squealed, and we went up to bed.

This morning, she was still in those jammies when she wanted to go play, so I told her to get dressed. She cried because she didn't want to go upstairs to get once again, I pulled out clean clothes from the same laundry basket full of cloths still not put away, and said, "See, momma saves the day again!"

Omara rolled her eyes and said, "Mom, washing laundry does not save the day."

I have to admit, that voice inside my know the one that always feels under (or un-)appreciated? It tried to take a jab at me. "For crying out loud child, it totally saves the day, because it's now TWICE averted a 4-year-old-melt-down, and anything that can do that is most definitely a day-saver!!!!!"

But that was just in my head.

Out-loud I said, "I thought surely washing laundry saved the day!"

In her best lecturing voice, she shook her head at me and explained, "No, mom. It doesn't. Kisses, and kisses with hugs, save the day." And with a big juicy kiss planted on my cheek, she danced off.

Kisses with hugs. That I can do. Maybe, just maybe, it'll save the day in the end.

I'll add that to the list...


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