I have realized in the silence the last few weeks that what I thought I struggled with in this whole transition period has changed over and over. So instead of writing post after post of that I’m just going to share what I do know.

I’m not an extrovert. I happen to be married to the world’s most extrovert person. Therefore, I happen to fall in the line of fire way more than I prefer.

I’m not a natural leader. Yet I find myself leading a lot in my life. A Lot.

I’m not a fearless person. I am strangled with it consistently. I feel like my poor plants in the garden. Struggling to overcome what is completely out of their control. My son tried to dig some trenches to let the water flow out but the plot was too low to begin with. The “SON” is the only one to fix it. In time. This extra watering may be what strengthens those roots deep into the soil to sustain it in the coming heat. So they wait for the water to absorb and the sun to shine and the fruit to blossom. I wait for the calm to wash back over me and set my world right…again.

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I’m not the world’s greatest mom. I daily ask for forgiveness. For wisdom. For some God-sized super natural “Super Woman” strength. I ask my children to forgive me. I try. I will keep trying until they are ready to be shoved gently guided out of the nest and pray they fly, or at least have a soft landing. I get how, in the wild, mother’s eat their young. When you have a big family you are bound to get at least one that makes your hair turn gray a little sooner. I think in the end that child will also bring you some of your greatest joy. I’m holding out for that. Don’t burst my bubble. Just congratulate me that the odds are in my favor 4 to 5 out of 6 is good, right?

I’m not “Super HOLY Woman.” There are days I don’t even open my Bible. It shows. Yes, I have lived in Africa doing some missionary things. I have also lived in Africa and done some not so spiritual things. I have dared to ask God some really hard questions and tried to lay blame. Me. Who am I? The creator of the universe. The one who loves me most. The one who can see why and how what He’s doing will play out for more than just me. Today I am rejoicing I didn’t miss the blessing of our time in Africa. Today marks 3 weeks since my husband left. I haven’t been too spiritual or holy the last couple weeks…

So while I told you to “stay tuned for why/how I’m struggling with who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do here,” I don’t really have any answers. My mind is still in a fog. Clearly. (from this post) I just felt the need to say something. Break the silence before it got out of hand, and a year passed right before my eyes. It happens ya know…

Tionana~

What am I struggling with, you ask? I am struggling with the “stuff.” I am struggling with this new sense of “keeping a good image.” I am struggling with wanting Africa to be closer and cheaper to travel to. I am struggling with starting a new ministry and investing every part of us into 2nd Milk, and it might all fall apart. I am struggling with the food here. I am struggling with “letting go” of my children. (Thank you Jeff Crawford for the message yesterday. If you didn’t see it go to Crosschurch online and watch it) I’m struggling with who or what am I supposed to do or be here.

Stuff-
It overwhelms me in the stores. We had stores in Africa and lots of them. They all had lots of stuff in them, too. It just wasn’t the stuff I needed or wanted. It was a treat to even go, so it didn’t feel so overwhelming either. Here, it’s easy, most of it’s not expensive, (at least not where I shop…I’m a cheap-o) but it still adds up. I know there’s a lot we actually do need right now, but I still question it because I think about how little you can actually live on. I want to be a good steward and think well it’s just a muffin pan, it’s not part of my decor/theme so maybe if I wait I’ll find one at a garage sale for 50 cents. We are renting so obviously we will at some point move…again. I don’t want to deal with all the “stuff” we don’t need or use when that happens…again. I don’t want to be controlled by the stuff.

Keeping a good image-
People have come up to me in public and introduced themselves frequently lately. I LOVE it!!! I love that people are encouraging and say how much they have enjoyed following us, praying for us, and supporting us! I also wonder what in the heck my kids and I were doing minutes before. Where they begging for the “stuff” and I was scolding them for being a kid? Were they completely disrespecting me and back talking like they just walked out of juvy and I was un-lovingly telling them I was fixing to send them back there? Were my children behaving like a normal American toddler, preschooler, child, teenager and they are supposed to be acting (in MY MIND) like a person who just came from the #1 poorest country in the world and doesn’t ever want to enjoy a bowl of cereal if everyone can’t…

Closer and Cheaper and starting 2nd Milk-
We love Africa and we love Malawi. We love the people and relationships we’ve made there. We have a real business there with offices and staff. I don’t know if you’ve ever run your own business before, but try doing it on the other side of the world…a third world at that, where lives happen to be at stake (babies for goodness sake) is hard. Jason will be traveling every once in awhile to do those business-y things, but what about the rest of us. We want to go to. My girls basically think that is “home” for them. Why did we move? It was time. It was time for our family, it was time to get the U.S. side going, and God said it was time. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not easy being there and it’s not easy leaving, but oh….if it was closer and cheaper to travel to!

Food-
I’m pretty sure I could write a whole blog post on just this one thing. I personally know the difference I have felt from eating healthy fresh food vs store bought American food. The bread last FOREVER here. There, a few days at most. That’s the case with most things you buy from local bakeries or the market verses here. We have been on the go, going back and forth picking up things, traveling, basically so busy those first few weeks we were only eating fast food or fast prepared food. Trust me, we were feeling the effects of it. I am so happy we are getting back on track. I’m so excited it’s farmers market season, and I’m ecstatic we got some of our garden in! When the rain subsides long enough we can get the rest in! :)

Letting Go-
My kids have homeschooled the last two years. Important years for my older 3 boys. Are they going to fit back in? Do I want them to fit back in? Will they be bullied? Will they want to fit in so much they turn their hearts to worldly things? Will they forget the things they saw and did in Africa? Will they be ashamed? I want them to speak and remember truth. I know that homeschool is not the answer this year. I know that Christian schools are too expensive, and even if they weren’t that doesn’t mean they are perfect. I know that public school is the answer for this season, and I know I have to let go and let God.

Stay tuned for why/how I’m struggling with who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do here!

Be blessed! It’s Monday!! Monday doesn’t have to be a struggle ;)

But she did.

We moved our family of 8 to Africa, and we learned so much more about life and who we are as individuals than we ever could’ve imagined. I survived periods with little to no water, little to no electricity, homeschooling, solitude, sickness, hunger (in the beginning), anger, spiritual battles, death, discontent, and no unity in our marriage, or our children. There was also much joy, serving, being served, seeing Jesus in the mundane, spiritual growth, learning to “make it work,” healing, and trust. There were days I didn’t think I’d survive. But with Jesus, only Jesus, I did.

We have been home almost one month. It hasn’t really flown by this time. The transition and re-entry has been long and we are fighting battles, but we couldn’t be more grateful. Truly. Grateful for friends and family. Grateful for church and corporate worship, water (even though it was a little too much), electricity (even the shortages) and a store within 10 min wherever we are.

This is what we’ve been up to the last 30 days:
1-moved into a rental, delt with the pipes bursting and all that entails (aka too much water/electrical shortages)
2-traveling to Dallas to visit with a friend and pastor about 2nd Milk
3-traveling to Nashville for an incredible conference for 2nd Milk
4-oh wait getting our new ministry 2nd Milk off the ground and running (including the website) stateside
5-enrolling kids in school and Dr visits for shots and physicals
6-meeting and loving on our peeps just for fun and for 2nd Milk
7-working 24/7 with the Malawian side and US side for an adoption taking place
8-shopping and gathering gifts to refurnish a whole entire house for 8 people
9-church!!
10-and Jason left yesterday morning to travel back to Malawi

Now that we’ve cleared that all up…

It wasn’t to brag or complain WHATSOEVER. The Lord knows griping and complaining is something I try to keep in check purposefully. I say it to say, we COULD NOT have done those things without some divine interventions. If we look a little frazzled, scatter brained, forgetful, lost, sad, or confused please be patient with us. We hit the ground running, but our hearts and minds are taking their own sweet time to grieve, and re-wire to a new normal.

I won’t speak for the rest of my family, but I will share tomorrow what my personal struggles have been. I pray that it will encourage you. I pray that God will use it to how He sees fit. I pray that you won’t judge me and by NO MEANS am I judging any of you. Mostly, I would just love for you to pray for me, us, and this new Jesus journey!

((hugs))

Apparently calloused knees don’t burn or tan…

We took Anna and Leah (our two younger interns) and Doug (our ” “older” construction intern) and his wife Christy to the lake yesterday. I got lobsterfied (that’s a new word). I will save you all the horrifying tan line pics because there are so many! I look like I’m ready for war with a red checkered tablecloth. There are previous lines, swimsuit lines, and my cover up (gym shorts and a T) all competing to see who can make me the most miserable today.

We did have a blast though. It’s always a tiring restful little day trip.

I was looking at my legs on the way back to the car and realized I had white circles on both knees like I had tried to wear tanning bed goggles around them or something. You tanning girls know what I mean-the raccoon eyes. Except this was raccoon knees, or a Zorro mask, or TMNT…nevermind. I realized that one of two things was happening either really bad moisturizing probs or my knees have hit the floor in prayer more times than ever. I know number one is true…come on, we live in Africa! But…I also know that more than anything else, I’m taking home calloused knees. We have roughly 22 days left and I’ve realized God needed to bring me here in the middle of nothing and no one to find a deeper relationship with Him and a stronger reliance on only Him. Not my friends, not my family, not Dr.s (at least in person), not my church, JUST HIM. I would like to think I was strong and He knew I could handle all of “this.” The truth, I was weak and needed to be stronger, and this was how He gave me calloused knees. I will never trade them in. They will forever be MY white spots in this tanned world.

I have a feeling my knees are just the beginning because in seeing the strong…my weaknesses stand out like sore thumbs. My guess is on my knees is where I’ll stay.

Do you have calloused knees? If so let’s be (weak) friends together!!

Blessings

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It will forever be a part of our life…AA.

You know when something big happens in your life and you define everything from either before or after that point.  Like for instance, before we had children…I can’t even remember that, but anyway.  Or how about, after we had 6 kids…  Yeah, moments that define everything from then til the next defining point.

AA-After Africa.  It’s engrained in us forever.  After we lived in Africa, God called us to 2nd Milk.  (Hosea 14:3 more details to come!)  After Africa, and our time in Malawi, we are now answering the call to serve the least of the least.  The ones who don’t quite have a “voice,” although the cries and tears are more audible than most words, but it’s universal.  No translation needed.  The symptoms and the signs of their fragile bodies…universal, and the 15 month old you are looking at that is the size of a 3 month old.  No doctor needed to say they are malnourished and need food.  After Africa, you are going to do this ___________.  After Africa, your kids will know and do this ____________.  After Africa, you may end up in AA.  Just kidding.  Although, I understand more than ever why people try to drown things out of their life with “things” when they are running from God.

I can’t even fathom what our next milestone would be.  I am good with AA for the rest of my life, if God sees fit.  If not it’ll be a new, After.  And even though, that seems daunting and worrisome (Phil 4:6) I won’t succumb to the “what-if’s.” I know that Jesus will never leave me and the days I can’t stand he’ll carry me.   It’s a beautiful thing when He shows you just how intense His love is!  Sometimes you just don’t see it until hindsight.

So for now, AA is home.  April 8th we will once again start afresh.  It’s time.  Our family is forever changed and it’s good, but there is also some not so good we need to work through.  We are praying for God’s guidance on which school will fit our family best.  It seems financially, public will be best, but as a mother I wonder if that will open up a can of worms and bring on battles for my children’s hearts and souls that may strip us bare.  Where do we live?  How and when?  All kinds of questions, and you know what?  I am turning them over to him!  Completely. (Psalm 4:1) I am trusting Him with the details this go around.  If I try even one iota it may cause set backs that I can’t afford.  I’m not saying it’ll be easy or perfect because it won’t.  The battle has already begun in a HUGE way that someday I hope to share with you. I have been fasting and praying this last week because of it and I am believing, based on God’s WORD, that He wrote, promises He says, we will have victory!   I will fight for my family and the hearts of my children always.  (Neh 4:14)

Humbled and thriving~

 

As you can guess or if you follow us on FB you will have seen we crammed as much as we could in the 6 weeks we were there.

We tried our hardest to fit it all in, but as some of you know we just couldn’t ever work out a time for some one on one. I hope if we didn’t get to meet up, you might have gotten a chance to stop by during our night of sharing. By the way, if you didn’t take a selfie I don’t have your picture posted below :(
It was a much needed time for our whole entire family to regroup and seek wise counsel, prayer and worship time with our very large church family! Lol

Early and late night coffee/ teas and sonic, breakfast, lunch, dinners, sleepovers (we are young at heart!) sharing with small groups and a church in Texas, the new High Rise trampoline park, where I completely humiliated myself without thinking twice, a few movie nights that I may or may not have fallen asleep in, family Christmas parties, Dr visits galore, Target and my beloved Green Bean all made the list! We loved every minute of it and wished we would’ve had more time, but even if we had a few more days we would’ve wanted more. That’s a good problem because we have so many family and friends we adore.

Thank you for making us feel so loved. Thank you for being so gracious and making or trying to make our agendas workout to meet up. Thank you for following Jesus and taking care of us while we were home!

❤️

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The lyrics (Oceans by Hillsong United) during home “Crosschurch” today couldn’t have said it better for me this past week.

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where (MY) feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand

 

I would chalk this up as one of the worse weeks in my entire life…

Part of our back wall fell down due to all the rains.  Ruthie had malaria and we are pretty sure Mia had it, too.  We treated her because it won’t hurt her and we didn’t want to wait to go and see if they had more test at the hospital and pharmacy.  Malaria can multiply by the hour and since she’s had such strong cases (twice) we didn’t want to wait.  Now we wouldn’t necessarily do that on a regular basis, but since Ruthie just had it only made sense.  Not that its contagious…at all!  It’s just they share a room and they have gotten a lot of bites lately.  The electricity has been so sketchy this whole entire month.  Four of the momma pigs had babies this week…yes that’s a pain…we have pigs running out our ears.  Some of them got out this week and ate the neighbors maize.  (which we replaced) I finished one of the best and by far the funniest book series I’ve ever read in my life.  Pathetic that is a downer.  It  was a highlight too, but the bad part is…it’s over.  I’m sad.  I relate to almost every character when I read and so the characters each are a part of me…I know dramatic and pathetic.  Right?  I can’t believe I just told y’all that.  I can not help it.  Maybe at 35 I am still trying to figure out who I am.  ???

Then to end the week, we had a baby and her grandparents (her mother passed away in December) come for assistance on Tuesday.  I was so excited to be able to send them with formula and cereal to get Chisomo back on track.  She was over 15 months old and weighed all of 12lbs.  She was alert, but cranky, and drinking water and some formula.  By Wednesday night/early Thursday morning baby Chisomo had passed away.  The knock came Thursday morning that grandma and grandpa wanted me to know, and for assistance to take the baby back to their home village.  I was crushed.  I couldn’t even hear the words Ms. Jane was telling me.  You know when your brain is in a fog, and you can’t quite make sense of it.  I have once again questioned why, and what in the world, why didn’t I send them to the hospital.  It just never entered my mind.  I remember when they came on Tuesday, and I was trying to think about how much formula and cereal to tell them to feed her.  I just silently prayed in my head that God would give me wisdom for the situation.  I have run it through my head a million times: “was I not listening?” “was I so engrossed in helping that I just couldn’t pause to pray out loud and then listen?”  Maybe even if I had sent her to the hospital (if I had thought of it) it wouldn’t have made a difference.  I am trusting today after wrestling the last two days with all of it, that God will one forgive me if I wasn’t truly listening, and two, that if it was still her time, that at least her grandma and grandpa will have seen Jesus through us even if just a glimpse.   Will you please continue to pray for us?!  Will you pray for Chisomo’s family?!  Will you pray for the other babies that will come our way?!  We need wisdom.  I’m not a doctor or a nurse.  I am so not qualified 99.9 percent of the time, but God promises to stand in the gap and use my weakness.  I do not like not having control.  God is breaking me more and more, and showing me that He simply is I AM.    I am never truly in control in the first place 99.9 percent of the time.

So this song is for you Baby Chisomo!

(We Believe by Newsboys)

We believe in God the Father!
We believe in Jesus Christ!
We believe in the Holy Spirit!
And He’s given YOU new life!
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe that He conquered death!
We believe in the resurrection!
And He’s comin’ back again!

So until we meet again, rest in Jesus arms and know you were loved sweet girl!  You will never cry, be sick, or hungry again.  My feet may have failed, but my faith remains the same.

Baby Chisomo

Baby Chisomo

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Wanted to give you all a short follow-up on all the building going on at EH.  I love seeing step-by-step photos of projects.   Don’t you??  I love to see where it came from and the tiny stages of progression,  and then the big reveal at the end!!!!  It’s all so Extreme Home Makeover-ish.  I wonder if we could get Ty and his team to come finish it in a week?! haha Either way,  you can guarantee I will be saying, “Move that bus” before unveiling the finished Lodge and the chicken house!
I can’t wait to see how God uses the new chick project.  I wonder if an egg can bring someone to know Jesus?  I wonder which came first…the chicken or the egg.  Wait…no I don’t wonder that.  I don’t even care.  I do care that the chickens and the eggs are going to provide protein and sustainability for our program and I do know a chicken could bring someone to know Jesus!!
We are believing God will bless it and it will provide more than we ever could’ve imagined. For the love of “stage” pics like me, here ya go! :)

I don’t have any current pics of the chicken house but when I do I’ll share!

Footings? Is that was this is called?

Footings? Is that was this is called?

Stem walls

Stem walls

Look carefully they are holding wire up not just doing warm ups! Lol

Look carefully they are holding wire up not just doing warm ups! Lol

Loading the wheel barrows and then running up the ramp to dump them in the big truck. One after another.

Loading the wheel barrows and then running up the ramp to dump them in the big truck. One after another.

Pouring the slabs

Pouring the slabs

Cement slabs are finished!!

Cement slabs are finished!!

Yesterday we took a road trip to the town of Thyolo. We had posted about flood victims here needing help and you gave! So we delivered.

With the initial monies of $250 we bought a 50kg bag of beans, 160+ water bottles, bags, and gas to make the trip! With that we fed 50 family units with 2-4 meals depending on how many people in their immediate family. Thank you for that!!! It may not seem like a lot, but we just wanted to be able to report back with exactly where your funds went, assess the situation, and make some connections for any future money coming and “flood” teams coming.

We didn’t really have a plan when we set out, but we took Steven with us and went to where we knew there were homes lost. Jimmy, was a part of the government team assessing the situation in Thyolo. He took us to a village an hour away where the families had set up home in the school rooms.

I wasn’t sure when we first got there if they were going to be receptive and I’m pretty sure they were a little leery of us, too. It didn’t take long though before they were all smiles and ready to laugh and hang out!!

We weren’t there for long, but left them with the hope of Jesus and a little love from all of us. We told them they were being prayed for here and in America, and we will continue to pray for them! They honestly were more happy when Jason told them that Jesus was the true bread and water of life, than us Americans that brought the tangible food and water. I’m pretty sure we basically had church up in there because the second we mentioned Jesus (in English before it was even interpreted) they were “uh huh-ing” and doing there little yodel-yelping they do with their tongues. I won’t even say it “may have” because in truth it TOTALLY made me tear up! I was so thankful God brought us to that place where we could love on His children. I would’ve loved to love on others too don’t get me wrong, but knowing they were probably asking Jesus “why” or “how” or “what”, and then we showed up on a whim to let them know they weren’t forgotten. Well…its just beautiful, priceless, and something that will stay with me for a lifetime.

So, thank you for sharing and caring for a people you’ve never met. Thank you for praying for them. Please continue to do so, and thank you for trusting Jason and I and our team to do right by your gifts. I know sometimes we give and wonder where it actually goes, or if it really helped, and I can promise you the people you blessed won’t ever forget it. I hope you don’t either!

Hugs and blessings!!

miles of beauty

miles of beauty

tea trees as far as you could see

tea trees as far as you could see

The men/women wore these yellow rain jackets with open baskets on their backs.  They would chop, chop, chop the tea leaves and then toss over their shoulders in the basket.

The men/women wore these yellow rain jackets with open baskets on their backs. They would chop, chop, chop the tea leaves and then toss over their shoulders in the basket.

D. C.'s office in Thyolo!  Love those doors!!!

D. C.’s office in Thyolo! Love those doors!!!

part of the "road"

part of the “road”

one of the homes that toppled

one of the homes that toppled

giggles and all

giggles and all

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Ethan measuring out beans

Ethan measuring out beans

Steven was a huge help!

Steven was a huge help!

Beans, beans, and more beans

Beans, beans, and more beans

Serving with my main man

Serving with my main man

Leah and Anna (our 2 current interns)

Leah and Anna (our 2 current interns)

Jason and I with the head woman and Jimmy

Jason and I with the head woman and Jimmy

signing the register of visitors

signing the register of visitors

Some of the families and their children

Some of the families and their children

I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in I don’t even know when. I don’t like telling myself I’m going to do something when in the back of my mind I’m pretty sure I won’t finish. If there’s one thing I’m not…I’m not a quitter, until I absolutely have NO other choice. I’m stubborn like that.  Ask my husband. This year I feel different. I want 2015 to be about more than survival and the mundane. So, I am starting where I left off on one of my last blog post about getting my house in order. We are setting aside family time for devotions and prayer and just hanging out with a purpose and being intentional about it. Not the randomness we’ve been used to for years.  I pray it’s something that gets so imbedded in my children’s hearts they will want to carry it on with their own family someday…in the far, far future.

My resolutions this year:

•Read through the Bible along with my home church. It starts today!! You can join to by finding the reading plan at www.crosschurch.com. I’m writing and hanging the plan in our diningroom where we seem to do life the most, for my boys to see.  I hope they take on this challenge for themselves!

 

•Praying intentionally and specifically with my children after dinner at night. We have our prayer calendar going and adding to it daily!! (Calendar for ongoing prayers and sticky notes close by for a temporary prayer request) We have our Pastors, close family (specific names) and all of our extended family, close friends (again specific names bc I think that is so important!!) our support team, our church, other missionaries, other missionaries and orphans we support as a family, our kids, their future spouses, kids and in-laws, our Esther’s House staff, kids, and widows, along with a list of other things!  We would love to add you to our list!

Our prayer board and Bible plan!

Our prayer board and Bible plan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

•The third resolution I have this year was a challenge from some close friends that are real with us, obviously, (I will keep them anonymous) for Jason and I as a couple. The challenge to basically respect each other more to where we aren’t making little “jabs” at each other. You know the funny put-downs you get caught up in when you are in a crowd to make people laugh. (Even though we were laughing hysterically) Yeah, those that maybe you don’t realize are actually tearing down that person from the inside out slowly but surely.  That’s our challenge and my personal goal this year (bc I can’t tell Jason what his personal goals should be) to love and build my husband up in a crowd rather than make fun and joke about his_____.  That in turn means I will be making you the brundt of all my jokes now!!  Lol

 

That’s it in a nutshell.  I think a lot of other goals will fall into place if I follow through with these! It’s like having my cake and eating it, too.