30 December 2012

Open Hands

(This was written about a week ago as we began to learn of the possibility of being asked to leave our dear African home.)

In my hands I have so much. The life God has given us in Africa in this season is rich. My heart is here. My home is here. I am invested here. I have found abundant life here. I am thriving here. Now. Thriving like never before.

My hands are full of good things these days, yet I know I’m being asked to peel back my fingers. To release my grip.

In the summer I wanted to drop everything here. I was done. I wanted to rip my hands apart and watch our life here go crashing to the dusty floor. But when I wasn’t able to muster the strength to hold my hands together with our African life safely inside, God put his hands around my weak ones and held them together for me. He helped me hold on.

As summer continued it became clear that God wanted to place more into my strengthening palms than He has in a very long time. He placed in my hands something unexpected. Something surprisingly wonderful. He placed in my hands a precious little preschool.  And that school has felt more wonderful cradled between my fingers than I could have ever known. The weight has felt good. So good.

In my hands along with the preschool is my home. My apartment. My apartment of four years that has taken every bit of that time to make it the cozy comfortable nest that it is now. It’s home. In every way. It’s me. It’s my family. It’s our refuge. It’s where my kids learned to walk.  It’s seen me laugh. It’s seen me cry. It’s been blessed by many a visitor. It’s filled with love and memories.

In my hands are so many dear friends that share this city with us. Precious lives and hearts that have intertwined with ours over the past six and a half years.

In my hands are dreams of what I’d like to see the preschool become. How I’d love to see it grow. Love to see many more lives intertwined with mine through it. I have dreams of how I’d love to see Mike continue to excel and thrive with his business. I have dreams of cuddling my newborn baby in my very own African bed hours after his/her appearance and finding my way to my feet again after delivery for the first time on this side of the globe.

I look at my hands. My palms are hardly visible from so many good things filling the cup they form together.

Thoughtfully I study the contents of my hands again. My heart overflows with thankfulness for all He’s put there. But I know what I must do.

With tear filled eyes, I raise my arms up, carefully cradling the contents of my hands without disturbing it. I lift them up to my Father, painfully offering it back to Him. Choosing to let Him do as He knows is best. Offering it all up, certain that each precious item was placed there by Him.

Maybe He will tenderly lift my chin, look through my tears into my eyes and gingerly press my hands lower, whispering words of comfort that He’s not taking it away right now. These are gifts I can keep awhile longer. Or maybe He will look at me through His tears and gently and lovingly remove these treasures out of my hands back into His own until He leaves my hands nearly empty and I can see my palms once again, empty, waiting for Him to place new contents there.

So here I stand… feeling the weight and beauty of the life I have in Africa in my hands as I hold them up high.

I’m trying to hold it together. I’m choosing to trust.

I’m waiting.


(Now, a week later)

We waited. My hands remained outstretched.

And now we’re saying goodbyes. I’m packing all day and weeping into the night. We’re grieving. We’re devastated. We’re confused.

My palms are indeed about to be empty of all the beautiful things I’ve known for this past season. So many good things are being taken away. It was no use fighting to hold the precious contents inside. I trust my Father to give and take as He knows best. His ways are a mystery to me, but I choose His ways over mine.

And so now we prepare to say goodbye to this land. My heart has so much thankfulness mixed in with all the grief. Africa has given me so much. I’ll never be the same. I’m changed forever. But I don’t want to say goodbye.

27 December 2012


I meant to post this in the fall, but alas… I didn’t.

At the same time so many of you were having your fall hayrides at the pumpkin patch, we were having  a church picnic with…


…donkey cart rides!


That is a about as close as we get around here to a hayride. Great fun!


25 December 2012

Merry Christmas to You and Yours!


"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned... for unto us a child is born..." Isaiah 9:2,6

JOY, indeed!

24 December 2012

A Christmas Story House

In April, Mikey and I had a few days without kiddos just before we returned to Africa from Ohio. We took a lil’ trip up to Cleveland to hang out with each other. Cleveland is the #1 Romance capitol of Ohio, did you know? Ha ha.

It really was a fun time exploring the city, taking it easy and eating deep fried grilled cheese sandwiches. True story.

One of the highlights (and maybe one of our motivations for choosing Cleveland?) was to visit A Christmas Story House. From the movie, in case you’re clueless.

The Christmas Story is a very midwestern Christmas movie classic from our generation. Or at least for my husband, if not the whole generation. Even though it was April, we were pretty excited to see the original house from the movie for ourselves.

It did not disappoint.

And so in the Christmas spirit, I now share with you our time visiting the original Christmas Story House…


It was a chilly day in April. Not exactly the bustling Christmas season. But we didn’t care!


We got our tickets.


And there on an unassuming street in a downtown-ish part of Cleveland stood the house! Wow!


And we weren’t alone. If you think no one wanted to tour a Christmas House in April… you’re wrong.


We were star struck. Ha!


And there in the window stood the leg lamp. (bad photo, I know.)


Once our tour started we were invited inside for a talk before we would be free to explore the house on our own.


This (very animated!) tour guide was clearly passionate about the movie. She shared lots of very interesting tidbits about the property, the producers, the actors and all kinds of details surrounding the taping of the movie. We were enthralled! No, I’m not exaggerating.


This family was also enthralled. They cracked me up. They clearly were also passionate about the movie… grown boys all cozied up on a tiny couch with their parents listening intently to Ms. A Christmas Story Animated Tour Guide.

Once she shared every bit of information she had, she set us free. The house was no museum… it was hands on people. So fun!


We took a look at old family photos.


Awww, aren’t they cute?


We unpacked the lamp in the front hall.


Found the official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200 shot range model air rifle.


Don’t worry. Ralphie, I mean Mikey didn’t shoot anyone’s eye out.


We saw the old radio (no Little Orphan Annie on though) and I risked my life with the electrical wires from the outlet.


I whipped up a turkey for dinner.


I hid under the sink.


So did Mike. He was a bit more in character than I.


We tried on various outerwear.


Warm enough honey?


Then we headed upstairs where Mike locked himself in the bathroom to find the secret message with his decoder.


And sadly he had to wash out his mouth with some lifebuoy. ;)


And THEN, after we waited our turn… Mike climbed into the famous bunny suit.


And posed on the stairs. In character.


And posed on the stairs. Out of character.

I just love this bunny. He’s my favorite!!!

These photos of my husband in a bunny suit are my Christmas gift to you.

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

22 December 2012

A Rare Occurrence

The other day my girlie woke up early from her nap. I knew she wasn’t done, but she refused to lay back down in her bed.


So we got her comfy on a chair in the living room (along with just a few of her snuggle ups). Maybe she thought she’d just sit there a minute, but we were hoping she’d doze again.


And right back to sleep she went. This is a rare occurrence for my children… to fall asleep someplace other than in their beds. (And yes, we mean to do something about that pacifier… aaaack!!!! If we don’t do it soon I won’t have two in diapers, but I will have two in pacifiers. Ha!)

In any case… she’s the sweetest…

20 December 2012

Quote of the Day

“Mom, did you know that the holly jolly Christmas is the best time of the year?”

Be careful what you say (sing) around my boy. Not much gets past him…

A Special Evening

Earlier in the month a friend and I had the pleasure of throwing a dinner party to celebrate our (almost shared) birthdays. We invited mutual friends to celebrate with us and it was a MOST special evening!

Silke and I spent a good two months planning this night. We have busy lives and 5.5 kids between us and we needed that long to make it happen! Once we decided on our five course menu, we did most of the food preparation ahead of time. The night of, these handsome husband helpers did all the last minute preparations, plating and serving on that evening. 


It was a busy night for them in the kitchen… they worked hard and had fun doing it together.

H’orderves served were…


Baba ganoush on cucumber slices.


Quark with nuts on bread.


Bruschetta on toast.

Then we moved to the table…




… and enjoyed:


A most impressive salad plate.


Delicious pumpkin soup.


Chicken fricassee with puff pastry and garlic green beans.




And homemade tiramisu, chocolate and vanilla mousses and fresh strawberry sauce to finish it off.

It was very possibly the most beautiful meal I have ever eaten.

And it was a beautiful evening. One we will not forget for a long long time.

19 December 2012

Never Say Never

I kinda think that foreign women who stay in this country to give birth are crazy. I always have.

Well, guess who is joining their club.

I never ever ever ever EVER thought I’d deliver a child in this country. I’m adventurous, but not in that area, thankyouverymuch. But you may already know by now that circumstances are such that this is the decision we have come to for this next addition to our family.

I plan to give birth in Africa. In my very own city.

I can hardly believe it myself.

When it came down to it, there were lots of reasons to stay and only one reason to go. And that one reason to go in the end, isn’t valid anyway.

Reasons to stay:

1. To leave would mean 2-3 months of living temporarily somewhere. We’d have to travel 4 weeks before the due date (airline guidelines). Then after the birth we’d have to wait for an American passport and a visa for our wee one to return to this country with us. This takes time.

2. While living temporarily we would have no school for the children and no routine and possibly little support (depending upon where we chose to go). But Mike would still have lots of work to do (his work follows him wherever we go). This is a recipe for disaster. Believe me. I know.

3. If we leave for three months in winter and spring, then we’d be back in time to spend  summer back in this African country. No thank you. I don’t want to do that. Summer here is not my favorite (severe understatment, just trying to not sound too negative) and I’d MUCH rather go to the U.S. in the summer, as is our plan each year.

4. The weather is great in February. Like, doesn’t go much past 90. It feels gloriously chilly to us Sahara Desertites.

5. I can still send my kids to preschool before and after the baby is born even if I’m not working. All I have to do is open up my front door and send them down the stairs. Who gets to do that? It’s amazing and would be so good for them and me to keep this routine as we welcome another baby and adjust to life as a family of five (FIVE?!).

6. I have help. It’s true people. I have lots of help. Namely, a lovely Ethiopian friend who comes to help me with many chores around the house. Now don’t judge… this is how things are done here. First of all, it’s a super dirty country I live in. And help is super affordable (read: CHEAP), she is so blessed to have the work, and frankly… I could NOT do what I do without someone like her helping me in my home. So what I’m saying is if we traveled somewhere else I wouldn’t have someone else to do many of my house chores and how nice is it to have that kind of help postpartum?! It’s dreamy. I live a charmed life, I know. (In that one way, at least, ha!)

7. I’ve had two normal and uncomplicated deliveries in the past, so there is no reason to think there should be a problem this time.

Reasons to go:

1. If there is a complication with the pregnancy, delivery or recovery… medical care is not great.

That’s it. That’s the one reason there is to go. Fear.

And when you see it like that: FEAR… it makes it hard to let that be the factor driving the decision, huh?

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Hebrews 13:5-6
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

Who is in control no matter where in the world this baby comes out? God is in control. And He is good. And He is worthy of my trust. Bad things can happen no matter where a woman pushes a human being out of her body. But as a follower of Jesus, I cannot allow myself to be driven by fear. That would be sin and I try not to sin, right?


Sure, I still have moments of worry… I am human. A female human, in fact, with lots of hormones running through my Mama’s system who loves this baby already.

But I choose to put my trust in Him. Halleluiah!

So here we stay. Here we pray. Here I will labor. Here I will labor with no epidural, oh my!! Here I will deliver. Here I will welcome my sweet baby into my arms and into my life.

Never say never.


17 December 2012

A Small Change

Every day in preschool during circle time we do the calendar and we do weather.


A friend gave me this handy dandy calendar to use each day. I love it.  It has places for month, day year, day of the week, season and weather.

The only problem was it had this as one of the weather choices…


Hmmm. Snowing? Never. Ever. Ever.


So I changed it into a weather option that is a lot more common around here…


15 December 2012

Betty’s Bay

Alas, our glorious time at the coast in South Africa drew to a close after about half  a week. Although the cool thing was is that it was so refreshing and relaxing it felt like we were there a lot longer!

The day came to drive back to Cape Town and catch our flight to Johannesburg.

The day was dreary and rainy, but we decided to take the coastal route anyway, just to see something new.


I still really enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t bright and sunny. I think we even saw another whale that day.


We knew there were penguins along the coast, but we didn’t expect to run into any. But we started seeing these signs (the blue one above) as we neared a place called Betty’s Bay.

So… we followed them to see us some penguins!


There was a special place built so that people like us could enjoy the penguins without disturbing them. First we read all about them.


Then we walked along the boardwalk.


There they are. Penguins everywhere. Thousands and thousands of penguins.


Baby penguins.


Molting penguins.


Swimming in the ocean penguins.


Up close and personal penguins.


Lookin’ right at ya penguins.


And these. These are not penguins.


They are my penguins-viewing companions and I’m so glad.


We looked at penguins for a long time.


The kids loved it. It involved animals and lots of running on a road-trip day so of course they loved it.


And then we climbed back in the car and continued our drive.

That day we drove up to Stellenbosch on our way to Cape Town. We saw some very interesting old homes at the Village Museum from various eras and really enjoyed it. It’s a super picturesque town and very old town. But I failed to take any pictures there. Oops.

Late that night we caught the red eye to Johannesburg to start week two of our South Africa trip…