Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Life is rolling on here in M-ville these fall days.  The weather is beautiful and crisp.  We have had a few days of chilly weather and have been convinced that winter is coming…only for the next day to be warmer and simply gorgeous.  One day was overcast and rainy and we lamented about how cold it was…only to look at the thermometer and discover it was all of 60 degrees.  Those days where it was 115 must have taken a toll on us!

I don’t have anything huge to write about today…or maybe I do and would rather just go take a nap…so I thought I would bullet point some tidbits of really useful information/random things happening in our life.

First things first: Little t. The kid is a riot. Like I said last time, he is a singing, dancing, marching, yelling, laughing, crying, filthy dirty dusty ball of fun.  He grows up so much each day and we are loving him.

-       He just got a haircut in anticipation of our trip next week.  He sits well if we turn on his current fave movie (Bug’s Life as of two days ago) and he can hold his Daddy’s hand while I trim.  The bribe of a shower as a reward at the end also reaps big benefits. 

-       A made Little t a new scooter type thing that he is still deciding if he likes or not.  Everyone else thinks it is the coolest thing ever. He is really interested in pushing it around and gets frustrated when the rabbit won’t sit on it so he can push him.

-       Speaking of the rabbit. That is one amazing animal.  I will write a post on him soon, but let’s just say he is the coolest.  He is SO patient…like scary patient.   He has been spotted riding Little t’s bike, Little t’s firetruck, in the stroller, and in the wheelbarrow. He takes it all in stride…going along for a little bit and then hopping off when he is done.  I have yet to let Little t give Romeo (the rabbit) a ride in the swing…I just think that might be a little too far…although part of me secretly wants to witness it. 

-       We were very impressed to see that Little t was carrying Romeo the other day.  Upon further inspection, we saw that he had not picked him up by his body as normal people do.  He had grabbed two generous fistfuls of his beautiful soft fur and was carrying him by that.  As always, Romeo took it all in stride.  I had to stifle laughter as I talked to Little t about how to be nice to friends and not pulling hair.

-       Little t asked yesterday if Romeo could do with us to Dubai next week. Again, I was chuckling as I told him that Romeo needs to stay here and keep kAkA company while we are gone.

-       Speaking of kAkA, they spend a few hours outside every morning.  They love spending time together and I don’t mind the extra time to write or get things done around the house.

-       As far as the night guards go, Little t has them wrapped around his finger as well. He discovered a while ago that each time they come, they bring naan (bread) for their evening meal.  The second he hears the gate open around five o’clock, he runs to it saying, “Salaam naan! Salaam Naan!” (greeting them and asking for bread)  They tear off a big piece and give it to them.  If he doesn’t find them first, they seek him out.  A few nights ago when he was getting ready for bed, we were all reading books in his room.  The guard knocked on the door to tell A something about the electricity. Little t heard his voice and started yelling across the house, “salaam, naan, thank you! Okay, naan, thank you!”  It was very funny.

-       Little t seems to be having a vocabulary/speaking explosion lately.  He is ALWAYS talking. Each night he comes in from playing with A before supper to tell me a big long  (and very animated) story about what they did.  New words include: noodles, march, see, watch, Romeo, Dubai, Swimming, Ice Cream, Bumpa, Baby, oatmeal, potatoes, fly. Phrases are also coming along nicely; bye dad, okay mamma, here you go, there it is, got it, go potty, etc. Got it sounds like die, so every time he sees a fly he yells, ‘fly!’ through the house.  Then when we kill it he yells, “DIE!” and claps his hands.  It makes us laugh every time.

-       Potty…he has becoming interested in the toilet a little more and will now announce when he has gone in his diaper, but there is no consistency (I am not consistent on having him sit on the toilet throughout the day either, so the blame does not all fall on him.) He has cool big boy undies  and he loves wearing them…and seems to think they even cooler after he has peed in them?!?  Needless to say, we have a ways to go.

-       Our mornings have fallen into a routine lately where A gets up with Little t and I get a few extra minutes in bed while they get ready, make oatmeal, coffee, etc.  This morning I heard Little t yelling “Bumble! Bumble!” through the house. Bumble is a very scientific term in our house used for someone who is being lazy in bed/has been in bed for a long time.  We say it to Little t when he has taken a long nap or slept in.  A used it in reference to me this morning and it stuck.  Little t thought it was hilarious. 

In non-Little t news: 
-       We are headed to Dubai in a few days for a break.  After a busy/eventful summer and a fall spent helping pack and prepare for our friends leaving (along with the new responsibilities A has picked up in their absence) we are ready for a few days away.  We are looking forward to good food and parks and swimming and shopping and generally not doing much.  If you were to ask Little t he would tell you we are going to “Bye!” (with his hands in the air) and we are going to go swimming and eat ice cream.  Smart boy.

-       This trip has become somewhat of a packing nightmare. Because we all know that an extra bag of chocolate chips or block of cheese is more important than Little t staying warm right? We are in the capital (where it is chilly) for a while and then in Dubai where the temps are around 100. We want to pack as lightly as possible so we have plenty of room to bring a fair amount of goodies back, but the two temperature extremes are proving to make that difficult.  It is a challenge that we have been working on conquering for a few weeks. I will let you know how it goes.

-       We are asking God big time for rest on this trip. We get drained pretty quickly here and need times of rest…and that means sleeping at night. Sleeping at night is something that my very cute and sweet little fart of a son is not known for doing while traveling.  We are really pra.ying for a small miracle that comes in the form of sleep for all of us.  We would not at all mind if you would like to pr.ay for us in that way as well. 

-       In more important news, we are stoked about eating in Dubai. Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Thai, Chinese schwarma, falafel, hummus, ice cream, hamburgers.  We like to eat (that is more obvious for some of us than others) and our list of favorites is not small.  The thought of being able to eat at a restaurant – I am giddy.

-       After Dubai we will roll ourselves back to come back to the capital for a gathering of all of the people in our organization.  We are looking forward to seeing friends who are scattered across the country and catching up with people. 

-       We had an AWFUL dust storm here last week. It was during the night and I woke up to what I thought were bombs. I realized it as wind and thunder. The rest of the night was so loud and dusty. Doors and windows were closed, but it was hard to breathe because the dust was blowing in so bad. The next day, A being the smart aleck smarty he is came up with a joke. He asked all of his local coworkers what causes a dust storm. They had no idea and then he told them that it was me leaving clothes out on the line!  Sure enough, I left diapers out and they were covered with grime.  Because it rained after I couldn’t just shake the dust off like before, so I had to wash them again.  This morning as I got clothes off the line kAkA teased me that he was sure another ‘typhoon’ was going to come last night since he saw I had left them all out.  I am surrounded by smart alecks!

-       It looks like we have another week of no power. This morning angel khAla offered to take all of the laundry home and iron it and bring it back in a few days. She firmly believes in ironing everything…you live in our house and your underwear get ironed, thanks to angel khAla. I tried not to act too surprised, but the thought of how many fleas would get brought back with the clothes just about sent me into a panic.  So I told her that it isn’t that big of a deal if they aren’t ironed for our trip. If I wouldn’t have known better, I would have sworn I had suggested walking around naked…the look of shock on her face was priceless. The woman dearly dearly loves ironed clothes.  I love a flea free house even more!

Okay, my nap is calling my name and this is plenty long, so I will finish for now. I will be sure to check in and let you know how the ice cream in Dubai is! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spring Will Come Again

The view of our garden out the kitchen window of the "little" house we lived in when we first moved to M-ville. Taken in the spring

There was just something about this spring that filled us so full of life and hope.  We spent long days in the garden; working the soil, planting seeds, getting dirty, laughing together as a family. Our team was large and we enjoyed them. Grass and weeds abounded. Our yard was full and the surrounding mountains were green with wildflowers.  Work was good, family was even better.  Life was great. 

Our yard, full of grass and weeds in the spring. We enjoyed it immensely.

We left for the capital for a quick week of meetings but didn’t end up returning to M-ville for 6 weeks. On our surprise trip back to the States for my Grandfather’s funeral, we had the joy of seeing family and friends and we had a wonderful time, but we returned here tired. It was a good tired – sapped of energy by trying to cram every second with memories and family. But still, we were tired. 
As we flew back into M-ville, the change was stark. The lush hills that we had admired as we flew out 6 weeks prior were now brown. Fields that had been sprouting were now being harvested.  The cool spring air did not greet us as we stepped off the plane.  We were taken hostage by the stifling heat of summer. 
Having left as part of a team of 20 (4 families, a couple and 2 singles) we returned only to a family of 4 (the couple and single would return eventually). It felt quiet and bare in many ways. 

The days that had been spent outside were forcibly replaced with indoor activities. It was too hot to be out. Early in the morning or in the evening we would go marvel at the garden (that had grown crazy and beautiful while we were gone) but we didn’t do much work in it…it was simply too miserable.

I can't help but love this little corner of Heaven.

One morning while walking through the garden and admiring the flowers, I found myself grieving our place in life. 

We had left so much beauty and returned to so little.

Families were gone.

Our team had changed.

The land was desolate.

Security was tense.

More transitions were on the horizon.

We were tired.

I did one of those “inward shoutings’ at God. You know the kind, where the words don’t leave your mouth, but in your heart you are screaming out, “WHY???”
And deep in my heart the reply came, sure and simple.

“Spring will come again.

I have pondered those words for months now and they seem to have become the anthem of our life. 
So much is so far from what we had hoped.
We came full of promise and hope. Each day we are broken and deeply humbled.
We came to a team bursting with families and kids, so excited to raise our son in this place alongside these people. Now we are the only family that remains in this place.

We came excited to work alongside friends and enjoy life here with people we enjoyed.  Some of those dearest to us will no longer live life with us in this place.

We face uncertainty due to security and changes and life…and it is hard to live in the moment and embrace the now when the sands could shift at the drop of a hat.

We so desperately long for Life and Hope to invade this place, but look at the darkness around us and wonder how it will ever happen.

We long for change, only to be met with stubbornness and opposition.

We cry out to the Father for direction, only to hear Him say quietly, ‘wait’.

In the midst of these challenges, every morning I am greeted with the sight of our garden out my window and I am reminded of the promise that spring will come again.

The seasons are changing once again. I couldn’t hold back the tears as the last family drove away this morning. These…our dear friends and a vital part of our community set off on another adventure, leaving us alone…and feeling very vulnerable, to be honest.  The hot air of summer has been replaced with the crispness of fall. Flowers have faded in the autumn light and this morning kAkA, his kids, Little t and I cleaned out the garden. The ground looks barren and dry.  A stark reminder of the world around us: thirsty and broken. Leaves drift lazily towards the ground on the crisp breeze, just like our high hopes for the ideal situation here in M-ville.

I am no stranger to the seasons and maybe that is why I have not completely embraced this new season of life. I can already tell that it will be one of quietness and relative loneliness. We feel Dad calling us to ‘dig in’, to be faithful in this place. And more importantly, to be faithful to His work in us.  We have so much to learn before we can truly give. We have so much soil in our own hearts that needs to be worked and weeded and cleaned up before He can truly invade. I am getting there.

But every morning the reminder is still there. 

Spring will come again.

We pray with fervent hope and longing for His Spirit to move in our lives and in this land. While we wait, we will be faithful – longing for the day when new ground will be broken, seeds will be planted and fruit will come. 
In the barrenness of winter, we cling to the hope that He will bring Spring to this place.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

For the Days When It Seems Hopeless:

I have been doing this following Jesus thing for a while now, so you would think I wouldn’t be so surprised by the obvious. But sometimes it smacks me right between the eyes. 

The obvious fact that Satan is ticked when God is on the move

We are feeling that in big ways here in M-ville these days.  And while it seems obvious, and we acknowledge it, sometimes the swiftness (other times the subtleness) of the blows still takes our breath away. 

For example:
Several good things are happening in the orthopedic workshop that our org runs here.  People are stepping up in leadership and initiative – and not just the “we want to boss people around and feel good about being labeled leaders” but the actual, “we will do the ugly work of calling people out and putting people to task for their actions so that we can all move forward and be better” type of leaders. One of the HUGE needs of this country and the main goals of our org is helping to develop leaders like this, so that is exciting.   The workshop also runs a preschool for disabled kids 2 days a week. Recently a teen girl moved to town (relocated for her dad’s work) who is deaf. She sat down and immediately started interacting with these kids and teaching them sign language (something the program has been praying about for months). Her aunt who is a professional in helping with special needs lives in the city 3 hours away and is interested in coming to help facilitate training for other teachers here…HUGE answer to pra.yer.

The clinic has also received money to build guest accommodation for people who come from far reaching villages for surgery or therapy. This will help save money in the long run. It will provide stable care for patients with acute cases. Another big answer.

And what is Satan up to in the midst of the joys? The biggest thing happened this morning.  A decision was made to fire a girl who has been misbehaving in major ways lately. Long story short, there has been major issues with her and her family and it had to end.  She threatened to kill herself when she was told her job was over. She disclosed that her mom has been selling her to men and it will only get worse now that she doesn’t have a job. There are many more details, but they just make me kinda sick, so I will leave them out. Her parents showed up in the middle of her hysteria and blamed the clinic and our workers for “forcing” her into this behavior. They were upset she was being fired.  Three days ago, they were demanding she be fired because she shouldn’t be working in a place that “allowed” her to misbehave so greatly. What a mess…now she is seen as used goods and if they don’t kill her first they will try to marry her off.  Makes me sick…and wonder why we are even here.  Kinda overshadows all of the good things taking place.

Or another example:
I had just finished writing our newsletter expressing the deep peace we feel about being here when I received a message from a loved one stating their concern with us being here. It put me in a funk all day…which led to the downward spiral of seeing the devil behind every bush, which led to the unhealthy attitude of hopelessness and fear about everything…which led to an hour or so of lamenting why God didn’t send us to a quiet safe beach somewhere. Because fish need Je.sus too, you know! So quickly I lose sight of that peace that anchors me and drives me to interact with people here and love deeply.

Or another...
Today we invited Little t’s friend Pete over to play. Being that Little t will be the only foreign kid here in a few weeks, I am trying to be proactive in the whole “play with locals” thing.  Pete loves coming over and we love having him, so I was optimistic about it.  I didn’t even think twice when his older cousin (10 year old Henry) asked to join.  Usually Henry is a good kid, but today he was a mess.  He played rough with the little boys all day. Kids usually play rough here…like really rough…but this was a little too much for me.  He would make Pete cry and blame it on Little t. He would scare Little t and laugh.  He laughed as he stole toys from Pete in the sandbox and worked the little guy up into a rage as he taunted him.  When Pete started to cry he smacked him on the head and said “don’t cry” and then laughed when Pete cried even harder and did it again.  I asked him how old he was and told him he was acting younger than the two little boys. I finally got so sick of it I told them to go home.  There is only so much ugliness I want my two year old subjected to at a time…and he had had more than his fair share for the day. 
I was discouraged.  Here I talk up this interaction with local kids and how great it will be…but sometimes it just plain sucks.  I found myself doubting us being here and Little t growing up in this environment, even though I know he is happy and healthy. I have confidence that he can glean great truths from being exposed to the harsh realities of the world while we humbly strive every day to show him Jesus in every way possible.  I am scared, but I trust that the Father's  grace is enough.

And in the midst of the blows, God brought 2 Corinthians 5 and 6 into my mornings. I was deeply humbled and reminded that none of this is beyond His reach. That these hardships are refining us and bringing us closer to the Throne of Grace. I was challenged to once again testify that every person in this dark city matters to God just as much as I do. My life is no more important, I am no better. I mustered up the strength to rejoice in the moments…seeing through the stars of the sucker punches into the face of the Savior who cleans my wounds and fills me with peace. 

It is true that Satan works his hardest when God is on the move and we believe that the King of Kings is doing mighty things in and through us in these days…mainly because we are broken and can do nothing but cling to him. 

So, this is a reminder for myself as much as anyone for the coming days that may seem hopeless: God is on the move when we are in the throes of the battle.  He has not forgotten us and ALWAYS comes out victorious in the end.  I am clinging to that Truth in these days. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lord Have Mercy

The reverie of our bedtime routine had left a smile on my face and lightness to my step as I left the house and entered the inky darkness of the garden.  I purposely didn’t ask for help from A as I hung diapers on the clothesline, mainly because this was one of my favorite times of day. The boy had gone to bed happily shouting “nigh-night Momma” and blowing a dozen kisses my way as I closed the door to his room after our nightly book reading/pra.ying/snuggling/nursing session. The air was still and quiet. Dogs barked in the distance and strains of wedding music floated on the light breeze. Over the neighbor’s wall, dishes clanked as they sat down to their evening meal. 

A familiar sound caused me to look upward and the silence turned into a deafening rumble.  Four military helicopters flew close overhead, I could just barely make them out by the light of the moon. Without it, they would have been invisible in the night sky. 

In that moment, my heart was once again torn in two.  The reality of this broken world ripped through the peaceful beauty of the evening and I remembered where I was.

“Lord, have mercy.”
The thought escaped from my heart and out my lips before it even had time to register in my brain.
Though I didn’t cognitively think it, I felt it deep within my soul.

Torn between two worlds my heart ached for both. On one hand, I thought of the families back home worried about their loved ones here in the heat of the battle and of those who might not make it back to the camp alive tonight. On the other, I grieved for those who fought for what they so determinedly believed to be right; so blinded by fear and religion and empty promises of righteousness to come. And don’t even get me started on the agony my heart encountered when I thought about the innocent men, women and children who would be caught in the middle of the battle. Their homes and villages bombed and torn apart, terrorized and ransacked by both sides. 

Flesh and blood destroying flesh and blood.
Oh how it makes my heart ache. 

Many days I feel like the woman with bleeding, tugging at the cloak of Jesus in Luke 8.  So overwhelmed with the issues of life around me, all I can do is call out, “Lord have mercy”, as I desperately tug at His cloak. In those moments I hear His words speak deep to my despairing heart with promises like the one a friend reminded me of today: 
In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)
The battles will continue to rage and my heart will continue to break, but I trust that His mercy is new every morning.  I rest in the promise that one day He will bring peace to this broken land. 

“Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Have mercy and come”. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Savoring the Days

We may have started a family tradition last night.  In fact, by the glimmer in Little t’s eyes tonight, I am sure we have.  He excitedly got down from the table after finishing his supper and immediately grabbed the blanket laying on the toeshack. A was there in a second and soon they were laughing and giggling under their tent blanket.  I joined in and we sang songs, laughed, tickled, laughed, gave kisses, and just soaked up the time together. 

It was a perfect example of the point that A made at the table just minutes before.  He had just stated that not only is he at peace here (something we had been thanking God deeply for as we lay in bed one night last week), but he is so at peace with raising our kid here. He stated that he really doesn’t think that there is a better place for him to be growing up these days.

I couldn’t agree more.

To many people that may seem crazy, but it is the facts of life for us. That is not to say that life here is a walk in the park, or that we don’t wish for something more fun/easy/glamorous every once in a while. But for this season in our lives, raising our son here is a very good thing. 

Like A mentioned, we don’t run around like crazy (like we would be prone to do in America). We eat supper together as a family every night. We play together afterwards. We read books. The boys play outside and chase the rabbit while I cook supper.  Weekends are spent in our pajamas and building great things in our yard.  Little t spends his mornings helping kAkA pick up weeds and sticks in the garden. He smiles and chats the whole time.  We find ourselves on our knees constantly and humbled all the time. 

It is a good time in life. 

So, even though some people think we are crazy, and others call us irresponsible parents for ‘forcing’ our son to grow up here, we bask in the beauty of these days.

We savor peace in these days.

We grow as a family,

And we live with joy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy Bird-Day

When we visited M-ville while living in Lal, we kind of fell in love with the charm of the place.  Streets lined with tall pine trees, horse drawn carriages instead of taxis, the coolest rug bazaar, ornate hand carved wooden gates.  It is a very old town and has a lot of charm. 

We still like to remind ourselves of those things on days where the ick of this place seems to prevail in our minds.
One of the things that M-ville and the surrounding area is famous for is rugs.  The rug bazaar boasts many many beautiful (and sometimes very expensive) works of art.

First, a word about carpets and rugs:  This country is known for both, and sometimes in the West we use the words interchangeably, but there is definitely a difference between the two. A carpet is knotted and the top of the yarn sticks up. A rug is woven and the yarn is flat on the ground.  This seems like a no-brainer for some of you, but it took me a while to make the distinction. Now, I realize that it makes sense…but I am a little slow I guess.

So, M-ville is known for it’s rugs.  Maybe I should say that the surrounding areas are known for their rugs. Because M-ville is the commercial hub, many of the rugs are brought here to be sold in the bazaar. There is no end to the number of rugs in the rug bazaar…each shop has piles of them. Literally. While each one is unique, they all have similar characteristics.  Most rugs here are made with very bright and bold dark colors. The base colors are usually a deep red and black. Then they have greens, blues, creams etc. woven throughout them. Some absolutely crazy person started a fad of fluorescent wool. So many of the rugs may have nice colors…with a splash of neon orange or neon green running through them. They make me cringe to be honest.  Also, the pattern is usually made up of small geometric shapes. While many are pretty, they are just a little too busy for my taste, especially when paired with those obnoxious colors.

There are some fascinating tales of the making of rugs in this part of the world…maybe I will expound on them in a later post. 

Today, however, I want to talk about a specific rug. 

When my mom was here we visited the rug bazaar (as we do with most guests) and I fell in love with a certain rug.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The colors were different (more mellow and much more my taste) and it had a great pattern that was striking but not too wild. It really stood out to me. It was hanging on the wall of one shop and I asked the shopkeeper about it.  He told me where it was from and that it was old.  He was asking a fair price for it and I was interested.  I pointed it out to A and hinted strongly that I thought it was great.  He rolled his eyes.  He knows I have a thing for special pieces of ‘art’ and wasn’t surprised that I had found yet another! We walked away empty-handed that day. Having just arrived A was not ready to invest in a rug.

A few months later we were back in the rug bazaar with other guests and I went right to the shop to see if it was still there.  I chatted with the shopkeeper and told him that my husband was the problem – the reason I hadn’t been back to buy the rug. He laughed and said they usually are.  I made sure to point the rug out to A once again…this time with a hint that my birthday was just a few months away.  He nodded and didn’t say anything.
Months passed and we found ourselves in the rug bazaar a few more times. I would look at other rugs, but find myself not grabbed by them. Each time I was drawn back to that rug.  My husband kept a straight face each time. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t like it or was just being obnoxious…either way, I was a little irked.  I mean, it isn’t like we will be here forever…and we would be crazy to leave this place (so famous for its rugs) bereft of one.  But, I try (really really hard) not to nag. So, I held onto hope that it would still be there after my birthday and maybe I would have some birthday money I could use to buy it myself. I would take matters into my own hands if he wasn’t going to come through!

A few weeks ago, we went back to the rug bazaar and much to my dismay, my holding out had backfired.  I went straight to the shop and THE rug was gone.  The shopkeeper immediately knew what I was looking for and informed me that someone else had bought the rug.  “It was a great rug, I don’t know why you waited so long,” he replied.  I agreed…and walked away very sad. We looked at other rugs that day and though I found one I could live with, I was not heartbroken when my hubby pulled me away without it. 

I made a decision that day to ask kAkA if his wife would make me a rug.  Many women do around here and I thought it would be special coming from her.  I was all set with the colors I wanted – light neutrals with blues woven in. Not popular here, but what I knew we would love. 

I put off asking him about it for a few weeks and woke up the day before my birthday with that in mind.  I didn’t think of it again until later that evening when A handed me a package with my gift in it.  It was a rice sack…so romantic right?!?

Inside was a rug. I squealed before I even got it out…because it was a rug, and because it was colors that I loved.  When it was halfway out of the bag A asked me if I recognized it. I then realized that it was THE rug…the bird rug that I have had my eye on for months....that someone else had bought.
I couldn’t believe it as we unfolded it in the living room. It was more beautiful and detailed than I had remembered.  I couldn’t stop smiling and saying thank you.  Seriously, the Hubs totally came through on this one! He went on to explain that he had taken note each time I had mentioned it to him and had held out until summer to buy it.  He was afraid that someone else would buy it when we were home in the state for 6 weeks, but lucky for him that didn’t happen.  He bought it and hid it. He also told the shopkeeper to not say anything to me the next time I was in the bazaar and (inevitably) asked about it.  They managed to pull it off beautifully. 

Speaking of beautiful…here the rug is, in our house, in all of its glory.  Even the pictures make me happy!