Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Thrift-shop Provisions

Anya is in Virginia, living out a teenager's dream with her own room, own TV, own computer, and no siblings at her grandparent's house for the next 2 weeks.

Chad is in New Mexico, living out an extrovert college minister's dream, networking with collegiate workers from around the US.

I'm in Raleigh, NC, living out a missionary-mom's nightmare, helping 3 emotionally-fragile TCKs adjust to a new place yet again, solo. But I have craig's list and Google Maps, so we've stocked up on wheels for this 'Wheels Warrior' gang. Only--no helmets. I wasn't that worried, since they were just doing circles in the empty church parking lot, but then I got adventurous and took them to a bike trail. Turns out my kids have the need for speed. I'm sure you could have told me that, any of you who know them. But I underestimated the speed at which Isaac would fly down the hills on that flimsy piece of tin, and I could almost see the nurse-shaming headlines reading, "Nurse Practitioner-Mom fails to provide helmets; son in ICU, husband considers bringing charges of malpractice."

So I did what any self-respecting cheap-skate would do; piled the kids back in the car and googled 'thrift stores near me' and hit 'GO.'

1.3 miles made me smile, and I tried not to think about how badly things could go in a thrift store with 3 grumpy, hot kids who would rather be flying down hills on two wheels. But when I saw the store-front, I almost passed it by. Run down, some ugly particle-board end tables outside, an older couple smoking in plastic chairs at the entrance looking like they were most definitely speaking something other than English. I wasn't afraid, let me clarify. Not at all. I just doubted the effort:gain ratio was worth it. But honestly, I didn't really want to take the kids home and listen to their whining, and I figured I could find a cheap toy to bribe them into temporary peace there.

The woman welcomed us warmly, and then proceeded to find perfect items for everything I rattled off on my list. 3 brand-new helmets that fit each kid. New roller blades for me. Plastic plates and cups. Nice coffee mugs. And of course, the impulse buys as well--2 full sets of original Lincoln Logs, 4 puzzles, 2 games, 2 light sabers, a leather reading pillow. And while I was browsing, she sat on the floor and played with the kids. Teased them and gave them free ice cream bars. It was the most peace I've had in 3 days, that 2 hours in a thrift shop.

I was there for so long because a sudden thunder storm hit and the rain was torrential, so she wouldn't let me consider checking out. Instead, we sat and talked. I told her we were new to the area, and she offered to take me around and help in any way she could. She's from Syria, but she's been in the US for years, living all over but liking Raleigh best for raising a family. Her kids are all grown, but she has stayed because it's home now.

5pm hit, and their phone-app call to prayer went off. Her business partner, from Egypt, left the room quietly, but she and I continued to talk. When she asked why we had been in Kenya, I experienced another momentary pause. But why beat around the bush? I told her my husband is a minister.

She repeatedly exclaimed how wonderful that was--us serving other people. And she wanted to bless us in return. She would only charge us what I offered, and no more, even if I only offered her $1. For everything. Of course I couldn't give her only $1; I'm pretty sure we were both happy with the final arrangement.

When I tried to get the kids out the door, Ethan came running up with an electronic key-board. "Oh, he must have that! Take it, too." she exclaimed. "And come back and visit with me again!"

I definitely will.

It's a nice story, isn't it? God cares for us so creatively! But careful. Do you catch the irony?

One of the warmest blessings/welcomes we have received as weary returning global workers came from a Muslim woman. From Syria.

Don't worry--I don't have the energy to get into politics here. But I do know this.

A Syrian-American Muslim woman welcomed me back to the US with sacrificial generosity. If America gives in to its delusional idea that 'we' can do a single thing to protect ourselves from danger by fearing 'different' and excluding 'other,' then we will have lost. We will have lifted our (illusion of) safety as our ultimate god, over human kindness, generosity, and God's mandate to care for the powerless, the widow and the orphan. There is nothing great in that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Textures of the Northwest

As we've been hiking and exploring Oregon, I've been enthralled by the beauty that is so different than East Africa's. The texture of the landscapes is what I love most--so many different greens and browns spots of stunning flowers scattered around.  Here are some of my favorite captures.







Monday, July 4, 2016


The view from our driveway
Landing in Central Oregon felt more like 'coming home' this time than it did last time we came back in 2013. The scraggly trees, the rocks and fields and hay. And oh, the mountains. It's really amazing, actually, that the entire population of the US doesn't up and move here just to wake up every morning and see those mountains!

We have had moments of culture shock, as expected. So much skin being shown. So much PDA

Omara at Tumalo Falls
even in church, where people hold hands (gasp!) and stroke each other's backs (the scandal!). So many options at the grocery store. I've spend literally hours inside Fred Meyers, just wandering the aisles to look at everything. The kids are amazed at dish washers, and that people would just throw away bottles and cans worth 5cents. Gluten-free communion. A sun that won't set until 9:30pm and then wakes up at 4:45am. 
Ethan playing in Elk Lake, in the Cascade Mountains

We've eaten our weight in Oregon berries (strawberries and blueberries) and Washington cherries--with a touch of Angel Food cake and whipped cream whenever possible. And tortillas, and non-stinky cheese...amazing! I really could go on and on, but only a few of you will actually understand the pure joy that can be achieved by simply pulling a meal together on the fly, with no tears or sweat. Unfortunately the washer seems to be shrinking our clothes a little bit--especially mine and Chad's. So annoying. But that's totally a different issue, right????

Anya and Isaac having a real snow-ball
fight after swimming in Elk Lake
Each of the kids has asked when we'll go home at some point this month. And every one of them was referring to a different home in a different place. The farm we're on now? The house we own but have never lived in? The house we're going to live in but have never been to yet in North Carolina? Kenya? Omara keeps getting confused and asking, 'Is this Kenya or America?'. She knows we live in one and visit the other, but she can never remember what each is called.

Chad and the kids hiking Smith Rock
I have twinges of sadness over how hard it is to answer the 'home' questions. My heart sometimes cries, 'my children shouldn't have to be so confused about what home means!' But then I listen to some of the narrow conversations going on around me (because I can understand EVERYTHING now, because it's all in English! It's almost overwhelming!) and I remember how great their world-understanding is. I saw an 8th grade graduation with 1 African-American in the class, and I remember how good they are at relating to people different than themselves. I watch them react in awe to smooth roads, and efficient gas stations, and short errands, and clean parks, and I remember how good it is for them to appreciate the blessings that so many take for granted.
Anya owning the mountains!

The only photo proof that I was along for
the fun. Pardon Isaac's cut-off head!!!
We have stayed in the Central Oregon area, not even making it to Portland or the coast, and not making it up into Washington. I am grieved that we couldn't see everyone, and do everything, but these weeks have been short. The kids--unsettled by the lack of routine and the multiple transitions. Chad and me--physically and emotionally exhausted from the past 3 years. So we stayed put, mostly, and we drank in the beauty and the new-again wonder of the Northwest, and we readied ourselves for the next step in Raleigh, NC.

This is a new day by day without knowing more than a few months ahead what God's plan might be. Not that I always knew. I just thought I did. It was easier to pretend that life was predictable and steady and I had the "power" to plan. Nothing has really changed other than my consciousness of my dependency, and of my poor future-vision. So I keep moving forward, trying to enjoy each day and live in the moment. It's easier to do here than...uhem...some places we've lived recently!!!!


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!

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