Let's see... When we left off last time, I had just gotten word from JD that my favorite house on the hill met all of our criteria (electricity, indoor plumbing, at least 5 bedrooms, and on the main road). It wasn't finished yet, but the owner said that it could be livable in the 11 days we had remaining on our current lease, and he just so happened to own the bank of boutique shops directly out front. AND he would rent it all to us for half the price we were currently paying!
So, just to unpack all of that a little, I don't think I ever seriously considered moving. One, for the last lots of months we had been working on renovating our house. Making it a home. We painted almost every room, hung actual decorations and pictures on the walls, our veggie garden had just started yielding fruit, the flowers in our new window boxes were filling out, we just built a chicken house... And two, moving in Africa. Yeah, I didn't know either.
I realize now that all of the renovations were about me, and about me finding little ways to take baby steps back to myself. The thing is, a long time ago, I couldn't even pinpoint when, I lost myself in the identity of No.41. Which was a bit of a pickle, because I'm not No.41, and No.41 is not about me. Especially in Rwanda, I hide behind it; I hide behind the girls and behind JD because it's not about me, it never was, and it never should be. To put it lightly, they are true heroes of this story and to even stand behind them is my greatest honor. In the States, it's a bit more tricky, knowing how to best convey the life, struggles, and value of one culture while sharing the basic life, perspective, and values of another. All the while, trying to own what's mine, from both sides. I haven't always (or maybe ever) been graceful about it. The second part of that is, in recent years as No.41 struggled, and wrestled with it's own identity, I fell even further into the unknown. "What if this was nothing? Did that mean I was also nothing? If we failed, that could only mean I was a failure." But I digress.
The point is, I was looking for who I was, like really was, and I started to find it loving this house and loving the family who made it a home. I've needed to say that for a long time because I've carried guilt about what you must think, if you've felt my life shift from No.41 to our family. I needed a life, a real life, outside of my work. Outside of my passion. Because I am so passionate about No.41, but I had forgotten. God, obviously, knew that and He was about to take it one step further with a clean slate. Our own space. Their own space. Together. With the girls taking the lead.
Ok, so we weren't looking to move, but with the news of this house and the price, we set the wheels in motion. We gave our landlord a, post-dated, 2 week notice; by the time we told him we were only remaining with 11 days. And we had been advised (wrongly, we would soon find out) that the 2 week notice, even if it was after the lease expired, was already covered in the rental agreement. To put it mildly, the landlord wasn't happy about us leaving and immediately set out on his rampage to get any and every thing he could out of us before we were gone, starting with a lawyers request to pay for the 14 days. There was (a lot) more to come.
This brings us to our next blessing. The money. One of the things smart people probably think about is the cost of expanding a family. Maybe especially when your growing family includes 5 teenage(ish) boys. I've never professed to be smart. I couldn't understand for myself what was happening and if I couldn't, how could I ask for support? The kids came and we (read: He) just worked it out. Somehow we always have what we need. The ladies at No.41 had started working on their own, supporting themselves with local business; which on so many levels is amazing and necessary and what you would hope for, but at the same time, I felt like I was letting them down. (FYI: Healthy Tara knows it was never my job to hold them up.) So, as the ladies moved forward creating and selling their own line of bags and clothes in their community, that was great, but someone still needed to feed these students. And He always did. I don't know why I continue to be surprised at God's provision, but I guess I...am. Your student sponsorships kept us going, a couple of half-hearted fundraising efforts on my part helped a bit, and Fair Trade Friday.... Digression ahead.
Fair Trade Friday, on two different occasions, was the reason I didn't quit. The reason we were able to keep going. They offer the most beautiful Fair Trade products, from all around the world, delivered to your door every month. It's a subscription box, like Birch Box, but way more beautiful and purposeful. I'll never forget crying out in prayer, the first time on my mom's living room floor, that He would just get us through the year. "Send the money and we'll be done." The second time, on the concrete floor of my bedroom in Rwanda. "Why won't You just let this die?!" I'm dramatic, it's a gifting. But seriously, FTF is life changing. And mine is just one of thousands and thousands. One order from them employed our women for the better part of 6 months and, in turn, fed our students when I didn't know how we could. God ordained No.41 and, in spite me and my many shortcomings, He intends to sustain it. One day I'll remember that.
And we're back. To recap, we weren't looking to move. We didn't (don't) have any money. No.41 had been in transition for some time, but had been gaining ground. Well, they had been gaining confidence in themselves, outside of me, and I had been finding myself, outside of them. I think maybe I had been praying, or mostly just pinning on a secret board on Pinterest, about a shop for No.41. They needed to get out of our house. Out of our backyard. They needed a space where people knew they existed. Where they could thrive. Our short term solution was for them to work in the driveway and open up the gates because, again, we didn't have funds and I didn't have the headspace or confidence to ask for it. Turns out, in God's economy, none of that matters. He didn't send the money. He sent the shop. In front of the house. And saved us money. Because He can. And He does. Every time.
So, now, I think there is nothing left to tell, except to finally get to how the actual house is everything I never knew to pray for. To tell you about when I took the first tour how I felt like each room had a name on it, one for each of us. And one room with a bunk bed, just in case. To tell you about the day the girls saw their new shop and were blown away. To give you a little tour. But that's for another time...
P.S. I would love for you go "meet" some of the No.41 crew.
And you should 100% get a FTF box. It would make such a great Mother's Day gift. I just subscribed to the 'Earring of the Month' Club. For myself. (But you can borrow them until I get home, Mom.) :)