Family Happenings

Yes, we’re still here…just haven’t made time to blog. And I find that once I’ve been away from this space for a while, it’s hard to know how to get back into it. So I’ll just jump in with a few things by way of update.

We’ve been busy on the mission front, as usual, and hope to begin  updating the Kingdom Driven Ministries blog more regularly. If you hop on over there, you’ll see that we recently hosted a regional women’s meeting that was a real blessing, and we separated our overly-large home fellowship into three smaller congregations. (Exciting!)

We’ve leased a property a few kilometers from our current home, which is eventually going to house some livestock (cows, chickens, rabbits) as well as  additional crops (bananas, maize, and I don’t know what else). Milk and eggs are often hard to come by and a little more meat in our diet is not a bad thing. The property will also be used in various ways to benefit the brothers in our local fellowships.  We were  able to enjoy a little more family time than usual at year’s end, which was very nice, so Marc and the boys built some nest boxes and a rabbit hutch for use at the new place.

My intermittent frustrations with homeschooling here in Kenya are no big secret, though things have gotten somewhat better this academic year. I still haven’t seemed to consistently find time for Circle Time, especially for my Littles…and there are definitely things I want to work on in terms of both spiritual instruction and practical training.

2015-01-21 11.37.35For a number of reasons, during this week I asked my oldest daughter, Rebekah (who will be 12 on Friday), if she wanted to take the week off of school and be my “Mother’s Helper.” On Monday she helped me move around the furniture in our sitting room/dining area in order to better accommodate another missionary family (the Nafzigers) who will be moving in with us as of next week. Yesterday, I asked Rebekah to do a short Circle Time with the Little ones, and she did such a good job that we talked about making it a more permanent daily arrangement. We have the rest of the week to see how she (and they) like it. Meanwhile, having a consistent second hand to assist with home management and homeschooling has been a real blessing to me…maybe that’s why I have finally found time to sit down and blog. 🙂

 

 

 

Random Thoughts on Children and Chores

Last week I received an email from a friend who expressed some concerns about her 12 year-old son’s laziness and lack of desire to help with work around the house, and asked for my advice. In her comments, she said, “I get concerned because he doesn’t want to go that extra mile. He doesn’t even want to go the first mile!” I sent her an unexpectedly long response with my thoughts on the topic of children and chores. Figured it would make a good blog post, since the blog muse rarely hits any more and, when it does, time to write is often elusive. So here goes…

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I was chuckling reading your question, as I have often found myself saying to various children at different times, “Never mind going the extra mile–you’re not even going the first one!” I think it’s just human nature to be lazy and unfortunately, it’s our job as parents to conform those tendencies into something useful. Some of my children are good workers and look for ways to help/things to do, others will do anything upon request but rarely voluntarily, and then there are those who grumble through the most basic chores, as if it were the end of the world. (Of course, sometimes all the kids show these various character traits at various times.) We try to teach frequently about the value of work/the importance of diligence (either family devotional times or my time with the kids during the day/homeschooling, etc.) and at a time when they’re not being defensive/rebellious and feeling like I’m correcting them because they’re NOT doing what they should. As for correction when needed, it depends on the situation/reason.

If they’re not working due to a bad attitude, I do try to be encouraging rather than just corrective (“I know you want to do your project rather than what I’m asking, and I’m sorry. But we all need to do our part and serve one another. Try to do it cheerfully as unto the Lord, and you’ll find that you can back to what you were doing pretty quickly.”) Then I tend to leave them alone and let them have a bad attitude if they want to. It surprises me the number of times my encouragement leads to (eventual) repentance over the bad attitude towards work.

If it’s an ongoing problem with laziness, I tend to be a little more firm. (“It’s my job to prepare you for adulthood and if you don’t learn to work you will not be able to provide for yourself, never mind for a family if you should have one. That would be shameful, as our witness to others often comes from our example in working hard with our hands–1 Thessalonians 4:10. So you’ll have to learn to do the job and do it well. I expect you to do your work in good time and do it thoroughly, or you can expect some spankings.” Sometimes the admonition is enough (though the work might then get done with a less-than-stellar attitude) but other times they do need that spanking. If not a spanking, definitely consequences (such as other chores to complete so that they can “practice” working hard!).

Of course, sometimes even my best workers “don’t feel like it,” and I understand that because occasionally I feel the same way. In that case, I usually pitch in and lend a hand, as “many hands make light work.”  I usually find that the example helps and they often get right back to working cheerfully and I even find them “going the extra mile.”

In all cases, I try to model hard work for my kids and almost always refuse to ask them to do anything in terms of work if I am not also working alongside of them (if not on the same task, at least *something.*) Then if they are complaining or not wanting to do a job, I can gently remind them that we ALL have a responsibility to pitch in and they are not being asked to do something that others are not also doing. Sometimes the team mentality helps to encourage. Exceptions are if someone is sick or unable to work (even me!), in which case everyone is encouraged to pitch in and serve to help out for those who are unable.

Though it is hard and I sometimes am too distracted/busy, I do try to check all the children’s work as they finish. Anything that is not done well gets a verbal correction or  “reminder” for what to do differently or better next time. If the job quality is really unacceptable (standards vary according to age an ability) and I think it’s because of laziness/desire to get back to playing or personal projects, I have them re-do the job and sometimes even follow-up with an additional task “because they obviously need practice with how to work hard and do an acceptable job.” This usually keeps things running smoothly.

 

It helps to have times devoted to work when everyone knows that they will have responsibilities, but as you said there are inevitable times when other things need to get done. Don’t be too discouraged about what you perceive as a character deficiency. Just keep on teaching in a positive manner and correcting when needed.

Some questions to ask yourself/things to consider…these are ways that I self-evaluate, which may or may not be applicable in your situation:

–are you investing in your relationships with your kids so that they feel valued and loved  by you, and not just that they are appreciated by you for the work that they do?

–Are you modeling cheerful labor and encouraging a positive attitude in various ways, rather than making household jobs seem burdensome?

–Are you encouraging good work and helping the children see the benefit and blessing of what they do, instead of only correcting problems when they arise?

–Are you being realistic in your standards in regard to quality of work and ability in doing various jobs?

–Boys really are different than girls. I find that I am asking my boys to participate less and less in kitchen work (especially dishes) BUT they are the ones who do the shopping, which is a big responsibility…My oldest son is the plumbing and electrical “go-to” and he often does repairs to bikes and other things around the house, so I think that’s a “fair trade” in releasing him from more of the mundane household tasks. My next-oldest boy is not as mechanically inclined as his brother, but he does enjoy cooking so I’m trying to teach him more in the kitchen (still need to devote more time to that) and he willingly takes care of the animals and works in the garden. So, does your son have work that he prefers, which you can delegate to him “in exchange” for other people doing tasks that he doesn’t like so much? Not that this is always possible, and I think all children need to have proficiency most things. Not to mention, often in life we must do things we don’t “prefer,” and that’s a good lesson for children to learn–even my oldest does dishes from time to time!–BUT, in the short-term sometimes it does help attitudes about work if one can take a break from chores that are particularly burdensome.

–Generally speaking, do you have regular and expected times for chores to be done? We almost always do “wake-up jobs,” something small after breakfast and family devotions (breakfast dishes, quick clean-up to make the house presentable, etc.), and then afternoon jobs (supper prep, clean-up from the day’s activities, bringing in the laundry, etc.) If the children know to expect this, they are less inclined to feel frustrated about projects/play time interrupted, etc. Of course if you always felt that what you were doing was being interrupted, you wouldn’t like it either. If you are asking for an “unexpected” job to be done, a “five minute warning” if they’re in the middle of something is usually appreciated and makes the work less offensive. And although I do expect children to obey a request “just because” and not always need to know “why,” they certainly respond much better to those big or unexpected jobs if you can provide some reasoning and encouragement. (“I know weeding the garden is a big job, but those weeds are going to be flowering if we don’t take care of them and that will give us even MORE to keep up with! We’ll all work together and try to make it easier for everyone.”)

–Do the children have a good balance between school, chores, and personal free time? Of course we are preparing our children for a lifetime of work, but they are children, after all. At age 12, your son should be investing perhaps 3-4 hours in “school” (I find that my older children can complete all their assignments in that amount or less *IF* they are being diligent…which sometimes they are NOT). Then, a roughly equivalent amount of time in actual work, if you have enough for him to do (indoors, outdoors, or in serving others in some way). Of course you have family times where you do various things, and meal times, but that should still give him a good couple of hours of personal/free time during the day. Of course, it’s important to intersperse work with appropriate short breaks, etc. For example, even though our mornings are devoted to “school” (roughly 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM), I tell the kids that they should do their math or language arts first, then they can have a 10-15 minute break. After that, they get the the other primary assignment done and move on to whatever is scheduled for “electives.”  If we’re working on a long job (like harvesting maize/beans or weeding the garden or our Saturday whole-house cleaning), we usually work for 30-45 minutes then take a 10 minute break. Sometimes a cup of juice or a small snack goes a long way. 🙂

I admit, I used to be a bit more of a “drill sergeant” in regards to the children’s work…I think I have become much more gracious in how I ask the children to do things, more realistic in my expectations, and a lot more encouraging of sincere effort, as well as more instructive in taking advantage of “teachable moments.” I have definitely seen that my approach and attitude affects a lot in terms of how the children respond. It is true that they choose their own attitude…but if they “choose” a bad one, I can either exacerbate it or reduce it by how I respond. This has become more than obvious throughout my oldest son’s early teenage years.Re: boys-turning-into-young men…which your son is… they definitely don’t like to be tied to Mama’s apron strings (*wink*). So, is your son spending good time with his Dad? Does Dad give him jobs to do so that he can feel like he is contributing in a “manly” way to the household? In addition to the things you are asking him to do, is he learning practical skills that will help him feel productive/grown up? (I’m not meaning for this to sound sexist, which it might…but boys and girls are definitely different and I think it is important to acknowledge that in our parenting.)  I struggle with this a little more with my second son than I did with the first, as my oldest has always wanted to do the things his Dad does and has just has a mind/aptitude for various skills, which his brother has little interest in and aptitude for. However, I’m not too worried about it. I’m keeping focused on the primary thing (“seek first the Kingdom of God!”) and I figure the future will unfold itself. He generally has a cheerful attitude about work, and although he doesn’t have a penchant for manual labor (particularly things like weeding the garden), I do find that he is particularly meticulous in his work, which I try to encourage and compliment. If the two boys are “sharing” garden weeding, the oldest gets twice as much done in half the time (to his brother’s frustration), BUT the younger one does a much more thorough job, whereas his brother just “gets the job done.”

Whatever the issues are, remember that you can only do your part in training, encouraging, and disciplining, and there is much that you have to leave to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. There is seed time and harvest, and we are given our children for 18-ish years for a good reason…they need that long and that much ongoing work on our part.  And as you know by now, each one his his/her strengths and weaknesses, so we need to encourage the strengths and work on the weaknesses, without expecting that everyone will be of the same ability/personality, etc. For example, one of my daughters, at only age 9, is a VERY capable household helper. She knows what generally needs to be done and jumps in to help. She can prepare complete meals on her own and willingly does so. In fact, if she is “bored,” she typically looks for work to do. Since her personality is somewhat like mine and I definitely appreciate her help, it is easy for me to encourage her, but I find that it somewhat embitters her older sister (age 11) when she gets too much complimenting (from me or others). My oldest daughter just doesn’t have that mind or that work ethic in regard to many of the household tasks (though she generally does whatever she is “asked” to do and does it fairly well) BUT she is an excellent seamstress-in-training, a great artist and storyteller, and generally very creative–all gifts which I know the Lord will use in His special way.

 

I hope you have been encouraged, or perhaps challenged, by these random thoughts on children and chores. Feel free to add your own thoughts (or questions) in comments!

Just Another Day

Yesterday Silas decided that we needed to board his new punda (donkeys) for the night, since he was out late with them and didn’t have time to bring them all the way to his own shamba. It made for an interesting night, as our new visitors attracted several wild dogs, who barked back and forth over the fence with our dog for quite a long time. (Or maybe it just seemed like a long time because I wanted to be sleeping and wasn’t.)

For some reason I ended up getting up much earlier than I wanted (not quite 6:00) and went into the kitchen to make my coffee. Unfortunately, we were out, so I settled for making myself hot chocolate. I sat down for some quiet time, then Jubilee (age 4, almost always the first one up) joined me on the couch. We went into the kitchen and started preparing a pineapple, scrambling some eggs, and putting bread in the oven for toast. Marc was up early, too, and he was going off to teach his weekly Kingdom Discipleship class, so I wanted to get breakfast ready in time for him to leave.

Deborah and Enoch went off to Silas’s shop to get our morning milk for tea, Marc and some of the kids went out chain the dog, open up the chicken coop, and get all the critters fed. Rebekah set the table, and (as is typical) Silas showed up just as breakfast hit the table. Even though it is our regular house-cleaning day (when most everything around the house gets done), Isaiah talked me into letting him go with Silas to run the punda on an errand. I asked how long he’d be gone (“an hour,” which in Africa is probably more like three) and gave him permission to go, provided he’d be ready to work at home when he returned. He put his scrambled eggs in a bag and ran down the path after the donkeys and cart.

The rest of us ate, cleaned up the mess, and sat down for morning devotions. After our family time, I mobilized the troops for work: Jonah and Rebekah cleared out the sitting room to wash the floor, Deborah stacked the dining chairs and prepared to do the floor in our eat-in area, Hannah started on the bathroom, and Micah and Jubilee tag-teamed on the dishes. I brought our small throw-rugs from the doorways outside and washed them, then brought out the large living room rug to beat and wash (using Isiaah’s pressure washer, of course!).  While I was outside, our neighbor (“Auntie Jane”) passed by and Enoch caught up with her at the gate. He LOVES Auntie Jane and he always makes her smile–especially now that he’s started saying her name (though more like, “Ah Jay!”) and asking, “Me go Ah Jay?” So of course he asked to go with her and she happily obliged. I figured he’d end up having chai with Nya Nya (“Grandmother,” Jane’s mother), and it would give me some good time to work without constantly looking around to see what the little man was up to.

Once I came in the floors all looked clean and dry, so I had the kids put everything back where it belonged and put several of them to work again on clearing out the veranda for a sweep and wash. Isaiah showed up and I had him empty out the kitchen so I could wash the floor in there (but keep in mind, clean is relative here in Kenya!). I started making some dough for mandazi (sort of a non-sweet donut that is commonly eaten for breakfast here). I needed to make a big batch for our house church meeting tomorrow morning. We used to have a fellowship meal on Saturday nights, but recently switched to early morning chai and mandazi on Sunday. Just as I started frying the first pan full, Silas showed up with a young lady in need of medical attention for her foot.

Just about everyone goes barefoot here, even when they shouldn’t (like when milking cows and standing in cow dung), so foot problems are very common. This girl had one toe nail almost coming off, with blood and swelling. I cleaned it up but knew she’d need some antibiotics as well. While I worked, I asked Isaiah to call our local chemist, who is an absolute God-send. She knew exactly what the problem was and could give me what I needed, but she wouldn’t be at her shop in town for about another hour (which was probably more like two or three; remember–this is Africa). I asked Isaiah if he wanted to go into town or have her ship it by piki piki when she had it available, but he was more than happy to get out of housework and run an errand for me. I asked the young lady to return at 3 PM, thinking that would give us way more than enough time to get what we needed for her. I made Isaiah a short market list and he went off with Jonah, who by now had finished his part of the work on the veranda. Turned out that everyone was done with their morning’s work and were begging to go to Auntie Jane’s, too. The only one staying home was Rebekah, who was anxious to read a book on the Kindle.

I continued to make the mandazi, thankful for the unexpected quiet.  Jubilee returned home once to fetch a plastic bag; Auntie Jane wanted to send me some sweet potatoes. She also reported that everyone was enjoying a snack of roasted maize. By now it was just about 11:30 and I had about half of the mandazi done. Rebekah was asking where everyone went (a sure sign she was bored). I asked if she wanted to take over with the mandazi, and she was happily agreed. By lunch time, she was finished and our count on the mandazi approached 100, which should be just about enough:

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Everyone came home at lunch time, but after all the maize at Auntie Jane’s, no one was really hungry. This meshed perfectly with my plans, which had not yet included any thought of food preparation. Realizing that no meal was to be had and most of the housework was (surprisingly) already finished, Deborah and Hannah started re-organizing the veranda while some other miscellaneous pick-ups got done. Isaiah and Jonah made it back from town without the medicine, since the chemist was late coming to her shop after all.

The kids bolted to our other neighbor, Henry’s, where he has a foundation hole that the community kids all love to play in. Unfortunately, that would mean that everyone would come home dirty, but I figured I’d deal with that later. Ever the engineer, Isaiah stayed behind to work on his most recent project–building a lap-sized weaving loom. In not too long, a piki piki arrived with the medicine–not too much before 2 PM. I started to bring in the laundry, as clouds threatened and the afternoon rains looked like they were coming. By 3:00, I had sorted wet from dry, started dicing vegetables for spaghetti sauce for supper, and then took a break to give the young lady her medicine. (Isaiah noted, with surprise, that she arrived just on time!) Deborah brought over one of the kids who was playing at Henry’s who had gotten a small cut on his toe, so I cleaned and Band-Aided it.

Marc came home from his class, I collected all the kids for afternoon jobs, boiled some water for a few necessary baths, and now I’m blogging as the spaghetti noodles cook.

Just another day here in Kenya…

Field Day, Africa-Style

I remember having a Field Day at the end of every school year–outdoor fun and competition all day long. Frankly, not my favorite day, because I’m far from athletic, but still–it was fun being outside with friends and not stuck behind a desk.

Yesterday was what I called our “Field Day–Africa-Style.” It started with us dragging our beans out to dry on a big tarp first thing in the morning. We’re waiting until the pods are completely dry so we can beat them with a stick and get all the beans out. We tried some yesterday and found that they were still too wet. Well, several of our smaller kids decided that they wanted to shell beans by hand–it was “fun!” Not to leave them to their own devices, I jumped in to help. Next thing I knew, a few of their regular playmates were called in to help. Here we are (and as you can see by the photo, our oldest, Isaiah, on the far left, wasn’t one of the ones who thought hand-shelling beans was “fun”):

shelling beans

Of course, after we had been working for about an hour, the children went off to play kati (the African version of Monkey in the Middle). The littles commandeered the swing set. Eventually I heard cries of “Ume kufa!” (“You’re dead!”), indicating that the game had morphed into their version of freeze-tag. By noon I figured no one would be going home, so I started making beans and rice for a crowd. Mama Manu, who helps me with laundry, finished up that task and offered to beat the beans. She said they don’t wait until all the beans are dry–they beat them every day to get out what’s ready, then leave the remaining pods and do them again the next day. I don’t say “no” when someone offers that kind of help, so she went to work. Of course, her daughters (who had been playing) got called in to help clean the chaff off the beans after they were beaten. (Wish I had gotten a picture of Enoch (age 2) “helping” Mama Manu with his big bamboo stick!)

Mama Manu, hard at work

Mama Manu, hard at work

Little girls "helping"

Little girls “helping”

After the beans were cleaned off and set out to dry, most of the kids went on a “treasure hunt” of sorts, gleaning the piles for coveted “zebra beans”–they have a pretty, black-and-white swirl but were very rare in our harvest.

How many zebras do you have?

How many zebras do you have?

Then lunch, for two adults and 19 children, followed up by dish-washing on the veranda.

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Then, more play! Jubilee and Enoch had to go in for a nap, but the rest of the little kids hit the swings once again and the big kids decided to set up for volleyball.

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Volleyball net, take one: FAIL. Can’t see through it…oops.

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That’s better…



Mama Manu went home shortly after lunch, but the kids stayed on for volleyball. Our neighbor’s boy, Eliya, ended up coming over and was boasting so much about his fame as a player that the game ended up being Eliya vs. Everyone Else. I never did find out who won, though. Eventually the little ones got tired of sitting in the sun, so Micah set up his watercolor paints on the shady veranda and the fun continued:

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I kicked all the kids out at about 4:00, after a long day of work and fun. And there you have it, our first “Field Day,” Africa-style!

 

 

“I’m Afraid he’s going to be…an Engineer”

Don’t get the wrong idea…we don’t watch Dilbert…but when Marc was working with a bunch of engineers, this little clip made its rounds in the office so everyone could get a chuckle out of it:

Marc immediately thought of our son, Isaiah, who (except for the “utter social ineptitude”) has had “The Knack” since he was just a little kid. Back in Indiana, his favorite thing to do was post requests on Freecycle and see if he could score electronics or things with motors that he could fix. If they weren’t fixable, he’d take them apart and save anything he might use for a future project. He’s made some really neat stuff, including a motorized bicycle (using an old chainsaw motor), a homemade BB gun, and a small blender (though not suitable for much besides having fun). Not only that, he’s constantly fixing things around the house (yeah!!) in addition to being our on-call tech support guy. Here in Africa, he’s also become quite gifted at small engine repair and regularly fixes motorbikes.

The down-side of this great trait is that his corner of the boys’ bedroom usually look like this (and, yes, he made the desk himself):

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I’ve learned to close the door or just not look too often. Unless there’s a window of opportunity for room-cleaning, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago he had a neat idea to make a portable sprayer, using a broken well pump that Marc let him have and some assorted parts he’d collected (see the blue bin in the photo above). He was thinking it would be useful for the garden, but I was thinking pressure washing, so he made two different nozzles. Here’s the finished product:

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Yesterday we harvested our beans and used Isaiah’s new invention to spray the weeds remaining in the field so we can re-plant in a couple weeks or so.

Today I was going about my least-favorite-task-of-the-week, beating and hand-scrubbing our area rug from the living room. (I regret that I ever complained about vacuuming. What I wouldn’t give to be able to vacuum this thing–I’d do it EVERY DAY!!) The easiest method for this is to roll up the carpet, carry it outside, and sling it over the kids’ swing set. After beating it with a broom handle and ripping a few holes in it, now I use some flexible hose instead. Then, I fill a basin with some laundry soap and water and dip my brush in it. Bit by bit, I scrub the whole carpet, continually dipping the brush into the cleaner as I go. It’s a messy and time-consuming process, usually taking me 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Isaiah asked if I could “pressure wash” the carpet using his new sprayer. My only reservation was that it would get so wet it might not dry before the afternoon rain. Then what? But I figured I’d give it a try. To my great surprise and joy, it worked wonderfully, though I did do a quick scrub with a brush on top of the spraying. Though it’s not perfectly dry yet, it seems it will be before the sun goes away. And, good news is, it cut my carpet-cleaning time in half!

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So if you have a budding engineer in your family, don’t despair. Let ’em take stuff apart, overlook the mess,  put up with the single-minded focus that makes projects preferable to breakfast, keep encouraging the successes and sympathize with the inevitable failures, and enjoy the fruit of “The Knack” when you can.

“Idleness Teaches Much Evil”

I’ve often heard the expression, “Idle hands are the devil’s work,” and wondered where it came from. I hear it quoted like it’s Scripture (similar to phrases like, “the Lord helps those who help themselves“), but I never knew the origin. So I was intrigued when we started reading the Wisdom of Sirach (from the Septuagint) and we stumbled upon this: “Put him to work that he may  not be idle, for idleness teaches much evil” (Wisdom of Sirach 33:28-29). I’ve often seen this to be true, and the Scripture I usually remind our children of when they start having “too much fun” is Proverbs 29:15 (ESV): “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” That’s usually followed by a request for help with some chore or another.

Case in point: our almost 14 year-old son. He’s had some difficult moments…okay, maybe days…in the transition to Africa. He has a sharp mind and has always needed a project to work on. When he’s left idle, he complains of boredom and here, where good “project materials” are in short supply, that boredom has often turned into a general bad attitude. I understand it and have made many suggestions for profitable things he can do, but mostly I’ve just prayed that God would bring a solution.

He’s taken his own dirtbike completely apart and done quite a few repairs. Other times, it’s been another motor bike in need of repair–along with a driver that lacked the money to pay for parts or service. Most recently, it’s this:

Marc decided that the time has come to get our family a vehicle. We didn’t think we would; we’ve made do quite well with public transport and Marc’s motorbike. However, since his accident he’s needed to hire a car more than once, and when he takes a large team (4-6 people, who lead the Luke 10-style eveangelism teams) out for KDM missions, transport gets expensive. So it seemed that the time had come to get a car–now one of two in our little village!

However, it’s in need of some TLC and, as we’ve discovered, mechanics here leave much to be desired. Marc grew up working on cars with his Dad and has taught Isaiah quite a bit but they’ve never been able to get their hands dirty together very much–until now. They spent Monday and Tuesday at work over the car, and yesterday when Marc left for a training meeting, Isaiah spent the day solo doing some more repairs. He was in his element, and pretty much only took a 20-minute break for lunch. Oh, well, he wasn’t exactly solo–he had a frequent little helper:

Grabbing tools

"Helping"

As parents we are often limited and can’t always give our children what they need. But God can. My son has a heart for God, but he also has an analytical mind and a need to do something productive. Though our opportunities here have been limited, we’ve grown in grace as we’ve weathered all the bumps in the road and the Lord has been faithful. I’m thankful.

Hosting our first African Wedding!

Yesterday was a big day for the Carriers as we hosted our first African wedding. Charles, the groom, was a widower whose wife died several years ago, and he recently lost the youngest of his three children to TB. Due to his wife’s death (and his need to work outside the home) and the prolonged medical care needed for his little one, his older two children were being cared for at a local children’s home. Ester is a widow of just a few months, with nine children (the youngest born just weeks before her husband passed away). Both Charles and Ester (and Ester’s husband) had been baptized by Marc earlier last year, and they are part of a solid local house church where they have been discipled and have been growing in their faith. Charles had been Ester’s husband’s best friend for several years, so they have known each other well. Both saw the possibility of their marriage as a way to honor God and bring their children together in a strong family unit, also enabling Charles to bring his own children home. It was an honor for us to assist them in making their commitment official.

Set up and ready for the big event!

We spent the day Monday cleaning the house and the kids greatly blessed me by going the extra mile. I wanted to make sure our plastic stacking chairs were all wiped down, and the chalkboard wall and dry erase board needed to be cleaned off as well. I figured after they finished the bigger jobs like floor-washing, I’d get someone to take care of the little things. But lo and behold, while I cleaned carpets and washed the kitchen floor, the kids  jumped right in to get them done on their own. Not only that, Jonah noticed many of the spots on the walls (which have not escaped my attention, but time does not usually allow me to address them), and he got a wash basin and cleaner and went to work to make the walls sparkle!

After all the work was done, the kids decided to bless Charles and Ester’s kids with some gifts–treats like cookies, lollipops, and gum from a local shop, AND some of the toys from their small box of toys in the living room. Jonah has two Beanie Baby bears that they all like to play games with, and it seems that all their games involve both bears for maximum fun. He thought aloud that maybe they should put one of the bears in the bag for Charles and Ester’s children. One of our littles said, “But then we won’t have two!” And Jonah replied, “Well, right now they don’t have any, and we’ll still have one!” So into the bag it went. Not every moment here is a “proud mama” moment, but once in a while it is nice to see that God is working something in our children’s hearts. I was blessed to see their excitement in giving and to experience the unusual camaraderie over housecleaning.

Also on Monday, I made a wedding cake (my first attempt), and I hoped it wouldn’t be too “un-professional” for the big day. Isaiah did the writing with some colored frosting and a syringe, having had some experience with that when the boys made me a special birthday cake back in December. Marc and Isaiah went shopping for some of the food, including a HUGE amount of beef (8 kg, the largest amount of beef I’ve ever prepared). When they got home, Marc diced tomatoes, onions, and peppers and tried to add that and the diced beef to my 8-qt. pressure cooker–the only way to prepare really good beef here! But alas, my pressure cooker was much too small. Rather than do it in two batches, we decided to use my large pressure cooker/canner, which I’ve only used as a canner and never as a pressure cooker. It worked perfectly and the beef turned out delicious!

On Monday night, the officiating Bishop unexpectedly wanted to change the time of the wedding from 10 AM to 1 PM. This posed a scheduling problem, as we would have to notify everyone, and some were already traveling from some distance away. Not only that, but being on “African time,” we were pretty sure that 1 PM would probably end up being dinner time and we weren’t really sure how to “entertain” everyone until the Bishop made his entrance. Even so, we tried to work everything out and hoped for the best.

We wanted very little to do with directing the actual wedding, as we weren’t sure what the local customs would dictate. It was surprisingly similar to an American Christian wedding, except that the couple didn’t hold hands or enjoy a celebratory kiss after the vows were official. When the vows were taken, they actually held up their right hand rather than holding hands with each other, as is our custom. The cutting of the cake was part of the ceremony, and the bride and groom served bite-sized pieces to all the guests. I was called upon to assist with the cutting of the cake, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. The instructions I received weren’t very clear (and the tradition not familiar) so I fumbled a bit and was a little embarrassed, but everyone seemed gracious enough about my misunderstandings.Unusually, filling out of the official paperwork was done during the ceremony as well.

Here’s the happy couple when it was all over, including a parting shot with some of their children:

  

We praise God for allowing us to be a part of this blessed event. Kingdom Driven Ministries was not only able to fund the wedding through donations, but Charles and Ester should also have assistance in purchasing some property. This will go a long way in helping them to provide for their new, large family. Please join us in praying for Charles and Ester as they begin their new life together!

 

 

Community Gardening

Marc is recovering amazingly well from his motorcycle accident 2-1/2 weeks ago. We had a follow-up appointment at the hospital this week to check on his knee, and the doctor was very pleased with the healing progress. He’ll get stitches out in two more weeks. When I had malaria over last weekend, he started hobbling around on his own (first with crutches and then without) because he wanted to let me rest. So things are looking good–just in time for a training meeting this week!

However, it is planting season here and he was not quite up to that. And I have two brown thumbs, so I’ve always been on the weeding, harvesting, and preserving side of the garden. Earlier this year, Marc attended a Farming God’s Way seminar and wanted to pioneer a FGW garden on our property to show our neighbors that it’s possible to improve their yields and do better for their families. He trained our son, Jonah, on how to do the planting (it involves some precision measurement and he wanted it to be done right), but for us to do it ourselves would have taken quite a few days and a lot of labor.

We were pleasantly surprised and blessed to have several of our friends and neighbors volunteer to help with the planting. We coordinated for everyone to get together this past Saturday at 9:00 AM, and for once almost everyone was on time. We planted maize and beans–some hoeing, some fertilizing, and some planting and covering seeds. We enjoyed a lunch of kitheri (corn and beans) and finished the whole garden by about 4 pm. God is good! Rebekah took some photos while we worked (her primary role was keeping baby Enoch out of the garden and out of trouble–no small task these days).

 

Grumbling, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes

I don’t know about you, but all three of these (grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes) are an occasional reality at our house.

While in America, we dealt with these issues much less than we do now in Africa. I recall a conversation I had not too long ago with my oldest son, in which he confessed that he had been struggling with his attitude–something he said he didn’t feel he had a problem with in America because we had so many distractions. For example, if the overtone of our home was negative, we might put some praise music on a CD while we did our morning work. Our daily chores were a regular part of our routine, but they had a definite beginning and end and we could look forward to some free time when we were done. We had NetFlix on-tap for both education and entertainment. If we were having a rough day, we could jump in the big red van for a trip to the museum or library. Even if we were stuck at home (though we tried to be wise and reasonable about our possessions), the children never lacked something to do.  All of these “distractions” have been removed since our arrival in Africa. Couple that with a marked increase in daily labor, and certainly, grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes should be expected.

In spite of taking advantage of as many “teachable moments” as possible in an effort to encourage the children in a more positive direction, I admit to feeling occasionally discouraged about the lack of progress in this area. It seems that while one child might show some improvement, another falls off the wagon and there are constantly one or two (or more) among our brood who just don’t like the way things are, don’t want to do what they’re told, or can’t get along with someone else in the family. So I hear grumbling and complaining and see those bad attitudes.

But I must confess, I have not been immune to the temptation. Perhaps that’s why we have all struggled so much. I realized in conversation with Isaiah the other day just why I fall prey to grumbling every once in a while–and just like any other character deficiency or sin issue, it’s interesting how that root cause analysis really leads you to repentance. It’s not that the work bothers me or that I’m particularly overwhelmed. Though that is sometimes the case, it’s more often that I fall victim to what I’ve heard called the “Mommy Martyr” syndrome. I feel that I work harder, serve more, and benefit less than most other people in the household. And it just wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t know it. So I sigh while I wash that second sink full of dishes. I mutter under my breath about how if the girls didn’t keep throwing clean clothes on their dusty concrete bedroom floor, I wouldn’t be forced to wash them a second time even though they hadn’t even been worn. I sit the children down for a  lecture about how it would be nice if they could notice how I’m doing jobs they normally do, just so they can enjoy a break–and wouldn’t it be nice if, just for once, someone offered to help?

Why? Because I want someone to notice my efforts. Occasionally, some unsolicited help would be nice. Even better, an encouraging word would be so appreciated, given how hard I labor on their behalf. I want that proverbial “pat on the back.” And while it is true that we should encourage and help one another, there is a not-so- fine line between appreciating a positive response to our service and trying to force it upon those around you by making them feel guilty. As I said to Isaiah, cheerful service (“as unto the Lord”) brings us a reward from God, but in seeking praise from men, we have already received our reward in full (see Matthew 6).

I don’t think that all of my grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes can be attributed to selfish manipulation or a desire for attention. However, when it is, I want to to repent and learn to seek my rest and reward from God. Just one more issue where I’m thankful for God’s grace and in which I want to press on to perfection.

 

Kids, Animals, and Bananas

Enoch and Slightly Unwilling Friend

Mama and Babies

We’ve officially hatched our first set of chicks–they are VERY cute, and we have another set due in just about 5 days. Enoch (who continues to be fascinated by all our critters, especially the bunnies because they are easy to catch) had great interest in the chicks at first. Then he met the pecking end of an unhappy Mama and decided to leave them alone (for the most part). Instead of actively chasing them, he has learned instead to follow Mama while her back is turned and try to do “Nice” (i.e., pet the chicks). But as soon as she catches on and turns around, he runs! Smart kid.

As of this weekend, we’ve also welcomed a new puppy to the family. Don’t know how old he is for sure, but he’s not little and not big. His name is Simba, and he looks like a cross between a German Shepherd and a Yellow Lab. He has integrated into our family surprisingly well. He was a little skittish his first day but now is learning to come when called and already barks when people come into the yard. Isaiah has taken charge of dog training and baked up some dog treats to use as rewards. Unfortunately, we had to make another batch in not too much time because everyone decided that they made really good snacks! (It’s not as gross as you might think. They’re just corn meal, wheat flour, beef broth, egg, and salt–a tasty cracker substitute.)

Spoiled "mzungu" dog. You'll never catch an African dog sleeping on a chair!

Can't wait to eat these!

We’re all excited also for our first harvest of bananas. There are two varieties here: sweet and starchy. The sweet bananas are what you’d expect (smaller than what you’d get in a US grocery–kind of like the ones they try to sell you for a higher price because they’re so small that they must be “gourmet” or something). The starchy bananas are eaten while still green  and they’re boiled and mashed or cut and fried. Of course we prefer the sweet variety but we have both in our back yard. It’s been interesting watching the baby bananas form–not what we expected. The flower is HUGE and the bananas literally unfold row by row and eventually the flower falls off.

And, totally unrelated to the “new developments” featured in this post, here’s a photo of Enoch “helping” Rebekah do laundry this morning.

Happy and Cute!

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