Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Family Pics

Hi!

For the last two weeks our little fam had the immense pleasure of having our pal Lacey here visiting. If you've been following along for a while, you know that Lacey has been with us in Rwanda a few different times over the last 5 years. So have several of her family members. The last time Lace was with us was 2 years ago, as we were all just getting started on our journey together as a family; Angel and Ange (the big sisters) were both still at home, one boy was home, one at boarding school, two just moved in and were testing the waters while interning at No.41, and one was still yet to come. 

Lacey has developed quite a reputation around here, with her zest for life that is virtually unmatched by anyone I have ever met. And we all couldn't wait to have her back! The 41 girls asked nearly every day when she would be here and when the day finally arrived, they were too excited to work and we all just sat outside on the front porch and waited for her bus. While we waited, to pass the time, each of the girls performed their best Lacey impressions, which all included lots of shouting and stomping, followed by roars of laughter. Finally, we saw a backpacked figured walking up the road, they all went running! 

From the moment she arrived, the boys and I were constantly in stitches and Lacey, officially, claimed the title of "Auntie Lace". We cooked, we explored, we watched all the Harry Potter movies. She rode Mo's bike and drove JD's car, both with a flair and enthusiasm this little village has never seen before. She also took some family photos for us that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Innocent, Wizzy, Terry, Prince, Chazzo, Frank, Tara, Caroline, Moses, Bobby

The whole thing was all very last minute. We had talked about it a bit, but made no real plans. As our time wound down, we were at the school one day eating lunch and decided this would be the only day it could happen. 

Here's the thing, if you've ever heard anyone say "African Time", I want to tell you that.is.real. Please hear me smiling as you read this: it's not rude, just a matter of fact. African Time is not just about arriving at a time on the clock, it's the time it takes to accomplish what needs to happen, pending whatever may happen, before reaching said time on the clock. It's more of an attitude about time, in general, or a more laid back approach to reaching a point in time. On time. What I'm getting at is "hurry up" is a new (and funny) concept to this little crew. We wrangled the cats and begged them to all be home on time. The boys finish school at 4:40 and it's about a 45 minute (purposeful) walk home. We would have a very small window for them to change clothes and take photos before it got too dark around 6. 

Lacey and I got to the house first. We raided rooms and picked out clothes that could all work together. Then we laid each outfit out on the backs of the couches and waited. And waited. And paced. And waited. Poor Mo accidentally came home early and was held against his (very strong) will. (Obvs, I can't speak for all Africans, but in my experience, with my Africans, forcing them to endure the wait on "African Time" is maddening.)

At 5:30, after I ran out onto the road and yelled, and waved, and mimed for them to "run!", they all shuffled into the house, happily put on their matching outfits, and wandered outside. And then it was all business. If there is one thing this family does well, it's picture taking...




The boys had a little solo shoot while I went to grab Caroline. They called out each new pose....



And tried to get Inn to smile.


"Cheeeese." -Mo

I'm pretty sure I am being given the "where to and what for" by Terry in this photo. Look at those hands. And that eyebrow... I know the look well.



It's hard to fathom that we have ended up here. I don't think this anything any of us even knew to dream of, which makes me incredibly excited and hopeful for what's next (and we do have some things up our sleeves). It's been a ride, for sure, and it's certainly not perfect. But I think it's something better.


A few last things: One, would y'all join us in prayer for two of our next big steps that we aren't ready to talk about publicly yet? Prayers for patience, provision, and wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Two, some have asked about how they can help support our crew and we are so thankful. Sometimes I don't know how to ask for help, sometimes I don't know what to say, but I pretty much keep a running Amazon list, that we have only ever shared with Grandma, for things like Christmas and Birthdays and just to help me remember basic things we can't get here, so if you've got an itchy "add to cart" finger click here for our list. Thank you for following along and thank you for loving and supporting us so well.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Taking Stock

Hi! Happy Friday!

I thought maybe since it took me the last couple of months to bring this tired little blog up to speed (mostly), I could maybe be a bit more consistent with some updates. So let's take some quick stock...


This month Angel, our working girl, and Caroline the chicken are out and Bobby the puppy is in. The wayward child from early last month is home. Our determined student is doing well at his new school. And it turns out, the dream house has a nightmare landlord, so more on that soon.

Peeps: Tara, Moses, Terry, Chazzo, Innocent.
Dogs: Franklin, Prince, Wizzy, Bobby
Chickens: Caroline, Elena, Bonnie, Ruby, Noodle, White Betty (aka Betty White)

having: the best time working on new No.41 goodies with a sweet pal.
feeling: really settled these days. Maybe now more than ever.
planning: some fun friend time next week! And by 'planning', I just mean I'm ready.
missing: Mexican food.
loving: the longer moto rides into town.
not loving: the price of longer moto rides into town.
exploring: our "neighborhood".
getting: excited for a visit to the States this fall.
keeping: so. many. plants alive. WHO KNEW?
reading: The Idealists Survival Kit: 75 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout and so much Mary Oliver.
wearing: sweats and flannels most days.
wishing: we had a real kitchen instead of a stove posted up in the No.41 stock room. And a door on the bathroom would be nice, too.
learning: to keep better boundaries.
stressing: less about what isn't and focusing more on what is.
taking: weekly(ish) work/shopping/friend-time/eating trips to Kigail .
completely obsessing: over catching the boys humming or singing "my" songs. (I tried to video Mo belting out TSwift behind his closed door, but I got caught!)
drinking: Ethiopian coffee!
hiding: cheese, sugar, and peanut butter in my room. You know, the essentials.
writing: is my favorite release that I always forget about.
making: all the oil blends. And sprays. And serums....
collecting: planters and getting laughed at for my random selections of everyday Rwandan items.
looking: at all the houses. All. the. houses.
thinking: about buying one. #yikes
dreaming: about white paneled ceilings and black painted floors.
noticing: my oils keep finding new homes in the boys' rooms.
needing: more veggies in my life.
watching: Survivor every night. Terry and I are on Season 20.
embracing: chaos.
knowing: that we have so much to be thankful for.
praying: so boldly and so often.


xo

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Not What I Intended

Mornings are my favorite part of day. Not because I'm a morning person currently (I tend to go in phases), but because I've carved out the perfect little routine for myself. I wake up at the crack of 8 to a quiet house; I put Franklin and Caroline outside (separately, of course) and head to the kitchen to get my coffee, which is already prepared for me by a sweet boy who loves cookies. Properly fueled, I collect all the animals and head back to my room where I put on my favorite worship album of the moment (Elevation Worship: There Is A Cloud), favorite diffuser blend (Joy, StressAway, and Lemon) and sit down for some quiet time (Jesus Calling). This time has literally been so huge for me in setting my heart, mind, and intentions for the day. First.


Yesterday, I had just gotten going. I wrapped up my quiet time and was socializing Caroline (with herself, in the mirror, because her "friends" aren't that excited about her) when I heard the gate slam. It could have been several different people; our housekeeper, one of the many workers still working on the house construction, one of the 41 girls.... it wasn't. It was one of the boys. It's not totally uncommon to find one during the day, especially this one who goes to school very near our house. When he came in the backdoor I was quipping something about Caroline and him getting us breakfast but, as he entered the room, I could tell immediately something was wrong. As soon as he opened his mouth the tears started to fall. His and then mine.

He composed himself and told me that he, along with about 30 of his classmates, had been late for school. They were all brought outside, in front of the entire student body, and forced to kneel down and "walk", on their knees, around in a circle. My student, who is the Head Boy in his class and has had no other behavior problems at this school, did kneel down but explained that, because of a bad knee, he could not walk around in circles. He asked for a parent meeting instead. The teacher accepted and sent him to the Directress to get the form requesting the parent.

After explaining the situation to the Directress, who also happens to be the wife of our Mayor, he was again forced to kneel down and was beaten, violently and senselessly, more than 10 times on his head, shoulders, and legs with a stick. And, worse than any beating, this vile woman spoke words over my child that no human being, much less a so-called educator, should ever speak. And there's probably nothing we can do about it. Which leaves me with nothing, constructive, left to say.

Yesterday, before all of this happened, I intended to write this post. Albeit with a different tone. I was going to tell you about my slow mornings and setting intentions, about my prayers for our home (not the house, but the feeling) and about seeing those prayers answered in our family structure. I wouldn't wish what happened yesterday on my worst enemy. This woman did her level best to tear my guy down, but God met him there, and the lies she spewed were overpowered with Truth. God spoke to His (seemingly) unlikely warrior yesterday and He used the most unlikely mama bear to do it.

I'm not tooting my own horn here. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I, hourly, feel like I'm failing at this, and maybe I am, but He is here and He is working, through my weakness and through the boys' weaknesses. This family, that He built, is our strength and this home, that He provided, is our refuge. For all that we are lacking, there is some kind of fierce and supernatural love here and He continues to shape and sharpen us, together, for His purposes. My boy and I got that message yesterday, despite any others, loud and clear.

So, he was kicked out of school for being late and for being disrespectful as he was being beaten. But this morning, as I drank my coffee, listened to my worship music, and set my heart and intentions for the day, my boy was in the other room pressing his new uniform for his first day at his new school.


There Is A Cloud, Elevation Worship

Hear the Word, roaring as thunder
With a new, future to tell
For the dry, season is over
There is a cloud, beginning to swell
To the skies, heavy with blessing
Lift your eyes, offer your heart
Jesus Christ, opened the heavens
Now we receive, the Spirit of God
We receive Your rain
We receive Your rain
Every seed, buried in sorrow
You will call, forth in its time
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest
Calling our hope, now to arise
We receive Your rain
We receive Your rain
We receive Your rain
We receive Your rain
Like a flood
Like a flood
We receive Your love
When You come

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not Your Normal

Hi.

Today No.41 is participating in a global giving day, hosted my Mercy House Global, called She Is Priceless. Don't worry, I'm not asking you for money. Yet. I wanted to tell you a story. My story about lack of comfort and convenience and her story about survival. This post is inspired by my amazing (actual writer) friend, Kristen, the founder of Mercy House Global, and her latest post here.

You have heard me moan and complain somewhat consistently on this blog, however I'll be honest and say that I've not always been totally honest. Or maybe I've just not often given you the whole story. What I mean is, I've gotten pretty good at glossing things over, or at least waiting to talk about circumstances until everything is generally fine or on it's way to that. Hindsight is 20/20, it's also much easier to swallow. Perhaps most important to note is, the privilege (and expectation) of a comfortable and convenient life because of where and how I grew up is not at all lost on me. Equally true is that pain and struggle is more often than not the disadvantage (and expectation) for so many I've come to love because of where and how they grew up.

Living in Rwanda, for me, has been far from a walk in the park. I love it, obviously, and I'm (usually) up for the challenge. I wouldn't still be here if I wasn't, but I also have reasons to stay. The purpose that I feel here far outweighs many of the struggles most encounter in the day to day life. And I won't pretend for one second that I and my family don't live here very comfortably, by Rwandan standards. I had a sweet friend in the States, trying her best to understand my life here, ask me one time, "But why is it so hard?" and, well, it's hard to explain. The best answer is, it's not normal. Not one single thing on any single day is normal, our normal. Let me be clear, as a foreigner, living in another country, I don't think it should be normal for me, but the reason I feel like I'm bumbling around so much here is because it IS normal for my friends and my family here. And it's hard. Harder than your normal could ever imagine. Maybe I'll try to talk more about that in a later post, but today isn't about me.

".... I couldn’t wait to leave her home. I didn’t feel brave at all and longed to return to my normal.
But as soon as I thought it, I heard the words thunder in my heart: This is her normal.
I closed my eyes and silent tears slid down my cheeks. My God, this is 75% of the world’s normal.
It’s a truth that’s easy to avoid: a small percentage of us have most of the world’s resources to last a life time, while a large percentage of the world don’t have enough for one day.
It’s so easy to get absorbed in our own little world that we completely miss the way the rest of the world lives.
And I can say it because that’s what I did for a very long time. But I dare you, I beg you to here this truth:
your normal isn’t the world’s normal and the greatest deception is that you believe that it is." -Kristen Welch

I've learned so much from Rwandan culture about faith, joy, contentment, forgiveness, resilience.... I could go on. They are a proud people and they have every reason to be, that's why so often I don't feel it's my place to talk about the hard, especially when it's not my own experience. But the fact that I don't talk about it, doesn't make it any less true. For many families here, some of my very best friends, it's a daily struggle to survive; to have a roof over your head, to put food on the table and have clean water to drink, to find work, to get paid for work.... It's a daily struggle for rights and for justice.... I could go on. But I would rather let my precious friend and colleague, Patrice, tell you about her life and her daughter, Isimbi.


"I love my daughter, Isimbi. She is 8 years old. I got her from violence by the boy who wanted to be my friend by force. I stayed in his house for two weeks and got Isimbi since then! It is very difficult to be a mom. Sometimes, when we did not have anything to eat, my daughter used to ask me, "We will live like this until when?" I used to cry and answer, "Some time things will be better."

My job at No.41 has helped me so much, because I no longer cry! Now, I have people to talk to, I can pay school materials for my daughter, I can pay food, the rent of my house.... It makes me very proud to help myself and other moms fighting to feed their children. This is the unbelievable thing, that a lady like Patrice can do something helpful in the community. It is only the blessing from God! It makes me strong and confident of my future! I hope in future, Isimbi will finish her studies and become helpful in our community too."


Y'all. If you don't have a knot in your throat right now, you may want to check for a heartbeat. Patrice is priceless! For the first time, she is starting to realize that for herself and she is going to be able to pass that down to her Isimbi. Patrice had no idea that by the work of her very own hands she could, not only provide for her family, but come alongside so many other hardworking mothers in her community to help them provide for their families, as well. She is doing dignified work, supporting her little families, as well as the 1000s of families she supports by providing meals to students in her community. For the record, I don't believe that any person or any job gives another person dignity. Dignity is God-given, bestowed on each one of us; however, I do believe that every person has the ability to affirm or deny the dignity of another. Patrice was denied dignity for far too long. But no more!


Today we are joining our hands around the world and raising money for 8 non-profits who exist to empower women in oppression and poverty with She Is Priceless, a Global Giving Day.

We are donning our pearls (#putonyourpearls), taking selfless selfies, giving sacrificially and standing up to say we see these injustices, these desperate women who are begging God for provision so they don’t have to make desperate decisions.


Will you give to one of the organizations we are partnering with–working in hard places, with the most vulnerable?

God doesn’t call us to a convenient life—He calls us to an important life…We aren’t meant for self-gratification, but eternal greatness…and greatness is giving our lives away. -Ann Voskamp

I'll tell you what, maybe giving your life away feels like a big ask for a Tuesday, it's ok. You have the ability to give life with just your dollars. Please don't miss the opportunity. xo

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