Encourage Yourself in the Lord

Ups and downs in life are inevitable. Some days, I feel at the top of my game spiritually. I’m up early praying and reading my Bible. I see God answer those prayers. I feel close to Him. Other days, I get up later than I want to, go through the day feeling spiritually drained, or end up regretting missing out on what I see (in retrospect) as “God opportunities.” Practically speaking, maybe I go to bed tired and wake up tired and feel irritable all day. Maybe I successfully hold my tongue when the volume from our nine children increases beyond my tolerance level, or when I hear their cross words and they refuse my kind correction. Or, maybe I don’t hold my tongue, and then all of us feel bad for a while until I sit them all down and apologize. Some days I am productive and feel good. Other days, I just hope no one comes to the door (unfortunately, that rarely happens around here!).

None of us want to be “people-pleasers,” doing what we do to get accolades and pats on the back. But,  the Bible does tell us to “encourage one another and build each other up,” and to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We all need a boost from people around us sometimes, and I think God knows that we need other people to come alongside of us to help us be our best. But in the day-to-day grind and the ordinariness of everyday, there are few people who do that for us with any consistency. Frankly, much of what we do is unseen by others. We live largely independent lives and often just don’t cross paths with people. And maybe you’ve been in the same position as me on occasion: when you do get some words of encouragement  (“Your children are so well-behaved!,” for example), all you can do is think to yourself, “Yeah, they should sit at our supper table for a few nights, then they’d hear how often I have to correct things like feet on the table, eating with fingers, not washing hands with soap, over-indulging in food,” etc., etc. Even what is meant as encouragement, when turned over in a negative mind, can have the opposite effect and we end up meditating on all we wish we could change.

Spiritually speaking, there are going to be times when you lack a mentor who can challenge you and encourage you to stay strong in your walk with the Lord. One of my dearest sisters in the Lord never let a conversation end until she asked me, “What are you reading during your devotional time?” or, “How is your prayer life?” I really loved that about her and, as a result, I’ve always tried to have interactions that SPEAK life rather than just TALK ABOUT life. I try to be consistent with prayer and reading, but let’s face it, we all go through times where we get busy and don’t have regular time for that (even worse if it’s purposely so, because we don’t really want to hear from God…ouch!) If you don’t have someone who knows where you’re at and can provide some accountability, it’s often hard to get back on track. Whether practical or spiritual encouragement, let’s face it: Encouragement is so necessary, but often so absent.

Over the years, I’ve learned something important about both my walk with the Lord and my parenting journey: neither are going to have the outcome I desire unless I encourage myself in the Lord. I can’t depend on other people, my own emotions are often deceitful, and circumstances are out of my control. The only sure thing I have, the only thing I can depend on, is God and His Word. So when I need encouragement, that’s where I have to go. And if I don’t, it’s as Hebrews says–it’s all too easy to become “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (see Hebrews 3:13).

bible_transparent_208I remember being a young Mom of three and sitting in my prayer closet during the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know exactly what I was crying to God about, but that’s what I was doing. And then I opened my Bible to 1 Samuel 30 and read of the distress of David: the Amalekites had destroyed his city and taken his wives and daughters captive, along with the families of all his men. The people talked of stoning him. And what did he do? He “strengthened himself,” or “encouraged himself in the Lord.” (verse 6). What does this mean? This passage doesn’t specify, but if you read the Psalms, you can see it. Even when things wee at their worst (perhaps especially so, in fact), David meditated on who God is: the goodness of God; His love; His faithfulness. He remembered how God had worked on his life: rescuing him from his enemies, keeping his promises, working all David’s circumstances for his good and for the fulfillment of God’s purposes. David also, even in his angst, put his hope in God and in His Word. He trusted God and believed He would see God’s goodness. He knew God would be faithful to His Word, so he focused on that rather than on his circumstances. This is what I have tried to train myself to do over the years (though I still have times when I’m not as good at it as I need to be).

And this is how we must encourage ourselves in the Lord when we don’t have others to share our burdens, when we stumble and don’t have someone to steady us, or when we get discouraged and need to re-focus. God is there. He sees and knows. He is our Helper in times of trouble. Hid Word does not return void. One of the best things I’ve done is to memorize God’s Word over the years. Reading is good, but memorizing is even better. I actually haven’t devoted much time to Scripture memory in recent years, but I was very faithful to it during my early years as a Christian and it has served me well. When I am discouraged or struggling and need to hear from the Lord, He speaks to me–usually through the Words that have been memorized over the years. And I am encouraged in the Lord. I put my hope in His promises.

Do you have a Scripture that you faithfully pray over your family, or a “life verse” that you remind yourself of regularly? Are you “encouraging yourself in the Lord” through regular times of reading and prayer? Are you reminding yourself often of what God has done in your life, trusting that He’s still at work in ways you don’t see?

 

Five Loaves and Two Fish, Mama-Style

I was blogging a lot when we first moved to Kenya; it was quite a therapeutic way to process the transition and also to let folks know what was going on with our family. Slowly, I stopped, as life on the mission field got quite busy and I tried to get back into a new groove with homeschooling, which had been reduced to rather bare-bones with the move. I’m still not where I want to be in terms of homeschooling, but our oldest completed his GED last year at age 16, so I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.

IMG_0518Blogging when our children were young was easy; there were so many sweet moments I wanted to document. And when there were challenges, they were the small problems of small children (which don’t feel so small when you’re a weary Mom to many Littles, so I don’t say that lightly!) Now that they’re bigger children with bigger problems and there is privacy to protect, it’s hard to know what to say and what not to say in this space. But, I suppose I can talk about me, so if you’d give me the grace to do so, I’d like to share some thoughts as we have just welcomed blessing number 9 to our family, baby Joanna (born in September 2015).

Being a new Mom again at age 42, after 4-1/2 years of thinking that I was done with babies, has been an interesting experience. I always knew that children were a blessing, but Baby Joanna really feels like one! They say you can’t spoil a baby, but she is held more and loved more than any baby before her. There are few times I feel compelled to just let her cry, but those times that I do, one of her big sisters comes to her rescue! Not only do I have many hands to help with the baby, but also many hands to help with housework and meal preparation. It is a totally different experience than coming home with our first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth children! If you are a Mom of young children now, I promise you, it is so worth the investment in your children as you teach, train, encourage, and equip them with practical life skills and an attitude of service. It is tiring while you’re doing it (believe me, I know!)…that precept upon precept, capturing those “teachable moments” of correction (which usually happen at the most inconvenient times, or happen so often that you feel you get precious little else done!). BUT, perseverance has its perfect work and it is a blessing to see the fruit of years and labor in the Lord.

No, our children are not perfect; I would never claim that. But, neither am I. Yet I cling to the promise of a word that was spoken to me many years ago now. It was during a “revival”-type church service where a guest preacher brought a fiery sermon and ended with a very meaningful time of prayer. I had gone without my husband, who was away on business, and with my 5 young children, aged about 9 on down to 1. I don’t know what compelled me to go, since the service started just about when I would have been putting the kids down to bed. And all Mamas know that you just don’t mess with bed time. I went anyway…seeking more of the Lord and needing some encouragement, if I remember correctly. I fully expected at least two of the children to melt down, but 9:00 came and went and the evening went on in prayer. I figured I’d gotten as much as I would get (though I can’t even tell you now what the sermon was about), so I slipped out of the back row and started making toward the rear exit with all the children. I remember silently congratulating myself on the fact that we were doing so without disrupting the focused prayer that was in progress. Then, the speaker at the front of the sanctuary happened to lift his head as I looked up from one of my Littles at the back door. Our eyes met. He spoke rather loudly: “I have a word for you today!” and suddenly all heads lifted and all eyes were on me. I felt like I could have melted into the floor–and wanted to! But he came to the back where I was and spoke many encouraging words about children and family to me. He even spoke specific words over each of my older children. I wish I could remember them now. Bu then he came to me. He spoke about my weariness as if he knew. And these are the words I remember…words that have echoed over the years and continued to encourage me when things have been hard: “You’re not Super Woman! You’re not a super wife. You’re not a super mother. But what you can’t do, God can.”

I knew it to be true. I still know it to be true. And it’s not just true for me–it’s true for all of us! No matter where you are in this journey of mothering–physically weary Mom of Littles, or emotionally weary Mom of older children, certain of the outcome of your efforts (which sometimes God mercifully allows us to be), or uncertain…know that God can. Like the little boy who brought five loaves and two fish to Jesus, and ended up feeding a multitude, bring your offering every day to Jesus and know that He will do with it what you can’t. Bring your tear-wiping, your hugs, your pats on the back, the Bible-reading, the encouraging (even if you’re discouraged yourself), the kindness when you feel irritable…the list goes on and on. We do when we feel like we can’t do any more. We invest in what seems like a lost cause. We give out of our emptiness. And God knows. He takes those feeble efforts and does what only He can. I’m still living that, but I know it to be true. It’s true for me, and it’s true for you. Press on, Mama.

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. 🙂

 

 

 

The Hidden Enemy: High Expectations

It’s innocent enough: “What’s for lunch?”

“Rice.”

Oh.”

After this same exchange with four children in a space of about five minutes (possibly including a couple of eye-rolls and a sigh or two–not from me), I start thinking to myself. They used to really like rice. I could make six cups of rice and they’d ask for more. Today I’m making three and there’ll probably be left-overs. Their appetites just prefer all the things they enjoy. Why can’t they be grateful with what God gives us? Are they ever going to learn contentment? They don’t think about our neighbors here…for most of them, rice is an indulgence. And they don’t even put margarine and salt on it!

Suddenly when the fifth child asks, “What’s for lunch?” my answer comes in an irritated tone. When the sixth child asks, I respond, “Rice! Let’s just be thankful, okay?,” which is usually enough to send the confused child back to wherever he/she came from.

It’s amazing how I can over-think a situation.  Often, my assessments are correct, but I’ll admit that I have a tendency to over-react. After going through scenarios like this more times than I can count, I’ve realized something: I have high expectations. So often I expect my children to behave like little adults. To respond like I would in a given situation. To remember and do everything we have taught, trained, and encouraged them to do. To apply Biblical wisdom to their life situations, even if their immature minds still don’t necessarily have the experience to do so. And when they fail? I’ve been known to nag. Criticize. Correct unfairly. Over-do the discussion (lecture?)

Sigh.

Aware of my own deficiencies and the potential consequences in my relationships with my children, I’ve been working on it for some time now. Slowly and steadily making improvements and not taking things so seriously. Expecting my children to be foolish (the Bible says they will be). Not making too big a deal of it when a new visitor comes and three of the girls scurry around the corner, giggling, to avoid greeting him (despite how we have tried to train and encourage them to exhibit good manners…without prompting). I’m learning to shut my mouth during conversations and let my children share their thoughts and experiences without putting  in my two cents before they’ve even finished.

The other day I had an email conversation with a dear sister in Christ that confirmed that I need to continue this battle against my high expectations, because they are indeed a hidden enemy. And the stakes are high. I want to share her experience with you–truly, an older woman who is reaching out to teach younger women how to love their children (see Titus 2:4).

She is at the stage where she is watching her children, now fledgling adults, make some decisions she wishes they did not make. There is distance in their relationships, so her influence is limited. She is praying fervently and trusting God to work all things for good. And though she doesn’t say it, she’s hurting.

This dear woman has a vibrant walk with the Lord. She’s tried to live a sincere and authentic walk with the Lord before her children. And here, near the end, she wonders, What could I have done differently?

And here’s what she was kind enough to share with me, very honestly and transparently: she could have lowered her expectations.

My thoughts wander after reading her email. It’s evident that she’s realized (and her near-grown children have even told her) that it’s been difficult to be people different than she is, and different than she expects them to be. Somehow, they’ve felt like they could never measure up. Maybe, due to their discouragement, it was easier to stop trying. I imagine myself in her place. I wonder if the children grew tired of being over-corrected, of having their attempts at individuality overly stifled, of being expected to “perform” to a level that perhaps they’ve not been capable of. So over time, they’ve grown quiet. Distant. Independent.

She prays.

And today I pray that for me and my children, that these efforts I’ve made to change myself and alter my expectations (and responses) will have been made in enough time to make a difference in their lives, and in their walks with the Lord. I pray that the experience of my friend, and other Moms like her, will reach other young Moms in enough time that they will surrender their high and false expectations and live in the reality of the everyday. No matter how things look, we must love, we must serve, we must persevere. Most important, we must trust God to do what we cannot in the hearts of our children, and to take the meager offering of our mothering and make a masterpiece of it.

 

 

 

“What you can’t do, God can”

She wakes up early and comes to snuggle under my blanket while I read my Bible on the Kindle.

I lay down in her bed and tickle her; she giggles and tells me, “Mom, you’re my best girl!”

 

Now that so many of my children are getting older, I miss these times with them. I wish that connecting with them was still this easy. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with maintaining relationships with all eight of them, and I wonder if what I’m doing is enough. Life is so busy, our house so loud, and private times with each one so hard to come by.

I suppose all of us mothers feel this way from time to time, regardless of how many children we have or what our life’s circumstances are. I keep reminding myself of a word of encouragement that I received at a church service one Sunday evening. I think we had five children at the time and I had bundled them all up and taken them to this special service (I don’t remember where Marc was at the time, but I think he was traveling for work). I was hesitant, as I wasn’t sure they would all behave–especially as the evening got into bed time. I did end up having to leave early, just as the prayer time was beginning. I tried to be unobtrusive as I made my way to the door, but I remember (to my embarrassment) that the speaker stopped in the middle of whatever he was saying to address me before I made my hasty exit. He blessed my family and spoke some words that I don’t remember, but here’s what stuck with me:

“You’re not Super Woman.

You’re not a super wife.

You’re not a super mother.

But what you can’t do, God can.”

And I trust in that…every day. I strive to please and glorify God, but I know that I fail in more ways than I realize. Maybe I’m not in “sin,” but I know I could do better…invest more…be less self-focused, sometimes. This is especially true in the important area of relationships. I wish there was more of me to go around. But I pray that as I do my part, God would do His. That He would fill in the gaps and do something more with my sometimes inadequate attempts at mothering.

Yesterday, I was reading First Timothy and pondered the qualifications for widows (1 Timothy 5:9-11). She must have a “reputation for good works,” the first among those being “if she has brought up children.” This work we are doing…it is a good work, and done faithfully, it brings great reward. So let us press on, even when we cannot do so with perfection. Let us trust in God that He will be faithful to bring our efforts to completion.

“We were six, now we are four”

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with three women, who gave up many precious hours of their day and traveled many miles just to get to know me a little. Marc has been going to their fellowship gatherings frequently on Sunday mornings and always tells me how much I would enjoy going. They love Jesus and love each other.

Unfortunately, their meetings go long…many hours…and we don’t want to leave the children on their own at home for that long. And equally unfortunately, transporting the lot of us is not practical or financially possible. So yesterday, they came to me.

I appreciated their words of encouragement and their spiritual support, the promise of continued prayer.

I laughed at their enthusiasm about our family of eight children; they are convinced that Americans only have two children and that is “normal.” But I was sad as we asked each of the women, in turn, how many children they had.

We were six, now we are four.

We had six, now we are five.

We were nine, now we are eight.

We didn’t want to follow up with the question of what happened to the children who are now not with them. These weren’t miscarriages they were talking about (though that is a difficult enough loss), these were children held and fed and loved, for who knows how long a time before they succumbed to…what? Malnutrition? Disease? I can only guess. But the sad thing is, many women here share the same unfortunate reality: we were six, now we are four.

We have two cats and a dog and can buy Front Line for the dog, but there is no treatment for the cats. The best we can do is flea baths when we notice the little critters. Since the cats sit on the couches and sleep with some of us, we all endure a few days of itchy bites before the fleas meet their demise for another season. This week, about half our family has worked its way through malaria, in spite of there supposedly being few malaria-bearing mosquitoes at our elevation. And how did so many end up with it? Marc was both surprised and disturbed to find that fleas carry malaria, just like mosquitoes do. (Made us think of the Bubonic Plague, and shiver). So although we’d resisted chemical treatment for fleas, we sprayed down the carpet, the furniture, and the beds to get a little more aggressive against the disease-bearing intruders. And for us, though malaria has been a discomfort and an inconvenience, it’s highly treatable. With a visit to the local chemist, a few dollars, and a few days’ time, we’re working our way through it.

What do the visit with my sisters in Christ and our recent experience with malaria have to do with each other? Well, I would guess that one or more of those precious children might have suffered with malaria or something equally treatable. But their family didn’t have the money to get the medicine that is readily available. Such cases are all-too-common here.

This morning, I was reading Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, who serves in Uganda. She gives tirelessly of herself to serve “the least of these.” She removes jiggers, gives baths, provides medicine, offers food, and loves.

I want to do more. I’m trusting that God will show us just what it is He wants us to do next.

Apparently I Missed the Memo that I am Selfish

Many years ago now (and sorry I don’t know the source), I recall reading another Mom’s confession: becoming a Mom showed me how incredibly selfish I was.

Guilty as charged. Over many years of mothering, I’ve slowly become less selfish and more of a “servant” (in a good, “I want to glorify God” sort of way). I’ve come to terms with the fact that a full night’s sleep is over-rated. And that when I’m short on sleep, I still need to be loving...and patient. And as you know, Mom’s don’t get sick days. Not only that, no matter how hard we work compared to everyone else, we need to be an example to our children of how to “work with all our hearts as working for the Lord” and “having the attitude of Christ,” who did not come to be served but to serve. Motherhood has given me many opportunities to put aside my flesh and my selfish desires and do what is necessary and best for my family and for the Lord. I don’t do it perfectly, but after 13 years and counting…I’m getting there.

Or so I thought.

Being “on the mission field” here in Africa has just afforded me yet many more opportunities to work on my inherent selfishness and focus on pleasing not myself, but my God.

We’re “known” here. The mzungus who have come to share the Word of God. They don’t call first, they just show up. They want to talk to “Baba Isaiah” or “Missionary Marc,” as my husband is known. And it’s my job to greet them all and play hostess. If it’s a group of women, I try to take the lead on conversation. I have to admit, that’s a challenge for me. We’re still not fluent in Swahili, and many of them know little or know English, so it’s very often…very awkward. But more than that, the visits usually happen when I’d prefer they didn’t. Like when I’ve “finally” finished my morning’s work and can finally sit down and read a book to the littles whom I can’t help but feel like I’ve neglected for far too long. Or when the children are (for once) all enjoying some free time outside and I might just be able to read a good book for a few minutes. Or it could be that I haven’t even finished the wash yet, and if it doesn’t happen soon, we’ll miss the window of opportunity on the sunshine to dry them…and once dragged in the house, there’s never enough room on kitchen clothesline for the damp stuff, and it’ll just have to get brought out to the line again tomorrow. In the middle of meal preparation? Well, turn down the heat on the unpredictable propane stove and pray that it doesn’t burn. Burnt supper? Let’s see what we can do…

I still want it my way: my to-do list (however noble the tasks might be), my schedule, my convenience.

And if they’re not coming here…Marc is going “out there.” I look forward to those precious one or two days each week that he’s supposed to be “off.” But he rarely is. Phone calls, more drop-ins, unexpectedly scheduled meetings, baptisms, paperwork to catch up on…and sometimes (in my more selfish moments), I wish we could have more family time. It’s important to us, and we do what we can with what we have; we try to set boundaries…but I have to admit, sometimes my attitude about being “on mission” and about all of the inevitable interruptions, isn’t the best. I’m still selfish.

But I’m working on it.

Interlude

Seems like we’ve been going a mile a minute since moving to Africa. First, just settling in and getting used to a lot of new routines and ways of doing things (not to mention geography, culture, and so on). Then, figuring out how to balance ministry with life, since there are more opportunities than we can reasonably take advantage of–invitations to teach, discipleship meetings, community interactions, drop-in guests, and even short-term missions visitors. And finally, trying to wrap up our school  year before a new one gets started!

Last week I (Cindy) had scheduled a trip with two ladies whom I’ve been discipling, to speak to a group that was eager to hear more about the Gospel of the Kingdom. I’ve been making more of such trips than I had anticipated, and I was suddenly feeling burdened about being gone most of the day, leaving my still-nursing baby and many things at home that I wanted to attend to. As well, I can see (in various ways) that I have not been giving some of the children the attention they need. I talked to Marc about my concerns, and the questions I had about what a woman’s role in “ministry” is, and how to balance these various aspects of life.

Marc decided to step in and talk to the other two ladies that I was to have gone out with; he explained the situation and told them that for now, I would be re-focusing on things at home and that they could continue with any group meetings or teachings that we had previously planned. I think this is very healthy for them, as they will gain confidence in sharing the Gospel, answering questions, and actively making disciples. I trust that God will continue to open doors for ministry that He wants to see me participate in, but in the mean time I am taking a needed break and working on that discipleship process with my own children at home–something that I feel has been to much neglected lately.

 

Expectations

Lately I find that I have been battling against other people’s expectations. Sometimes I remain confident in what I’m doing, and in other moments I wonder if I need to adjust.

There’s the homeschooling expectations, which are residual from being in America. When we began the huge task of packing, housecleaning, and moving to Africa (not to mention the transition of the move itself), we only “officially” took about two weeks off of schooling, but we were pretty hit-or-miss when we did do academics. We consistently did math and language arts daily, but electives were…elective. Even now that we’ve been in Africa for just over three months, we have not done as much as I would normally expect for a day of schooling. It seems our day’s work is such “work” that schooling is secondary. I still consider it a day if we just accomplish language arts and math. I’m feeling slightly guilty about that, but…that’s been life. Frankly, I think moving to Africa, learning about a whole new culture and way of life, geography, language, and so on, is plenty of “social studies” for now.  Music and art have been virtually non-existent, with craft items in short supply (or unavailable) here, all of our books still in transit in a crate, and our Internet a challenge to use even for email, never mind surfing or video-watching (which is how we often integrated the arts into our school day). So, the expectation battles the reality.

Let’s move on to the garden…

We arrived right in time for planting season (which was a consideration in our plan, actually) but we discovered that without many of our American conveniences (such as rototillers, long-handled hoes, and so on) farming is hard work. Not to mention, we had to learn about a whole new way of doing things (what to plant when, what fertilizers to use, and what needs to be started in beds and transplanted). The learning curve is huge and Marc has been so busy and away so much that we’ve out-sourced a lot of the work (i.e., we’ve paid locals to do it). Not what we expected, but that’s been the reality. My challenge has been that here the work of farming is relegated to women–they are out in the fields hoeing, seeding, and weeding IN ADDITION TO doing wash, keeping house, and feeding the family. It’s a lot of work. I feel that many days I barely accomplish the necessities; gardening as well?? Not a chance! (Not to mention that Marc has always been much more gifted in that area anyway–I have a “black thumb.”) So when we’re hiring a local woman to till our garden, which she does in addition to her own and everything else, with her 13-month old daughter playing in the dirt beside her…I feel slightly guilty and inadequate.

And shopping?

That’s something else that a woman here accomplishes with ease, no matter how far the walk to market or how many children she has. Thing is, homeschooling is unheard of here, so a woman has her independence all day while her children are at school, to accomplish whatever needs to be done. And even if the children are at home, there’s not a thought in her mind against leaving them to fend for themselves while she attends to immediate needs like food-fetching. We have no one that we would leave our children with, nor do we necessarily feel comfortable with leaving all eight of them home alone (for various reasons). Not to mention, it would take me some time to feel confident about traveling into town and shopping solo, anyway. For all these reasons, Marc usually picks up a few things when he goes into town for other reasons, or the boys bike to market and get some stuff. Before we felt comfortable allowing the boys to go on their own, we were paying our neighbor, Jane, to do the shopping for us. This is yet another area where I know that the locals have certain expectations about how things are done, and we’re just not the norm. And again, I feel slightly inadequate. Just being real here, folks–sometimes I just feel like a spoiled mzungu.

But what they don’t see is that I am usually up at 3:30 or 4:00 to feed the baby and have my quiet time (which is, quite frankly, the most important item on my “to-do” list). By 6:00 I’m dressed and ready to meet the day, having started the laundry and made sure we have something for breakfast. I get everyone going and we have our family devotions. Then we do our morning jobs (which require a lot of “management” on my part) so I might just be hanging out my wash at 10 AM, while the mamas next door have already put theirs out at 8:00. Makes me look lazy, but I feel anything but. The rest of the day is spent overseeing whatever we do manage to accomplish for schooling, doing the housekeeping (which has developed into an OK routine), visiting with unexpected guests, and working to prepare our daily bread. I don’t know how these African women “do it all,” but they  do!

I’m quite sure all the folks here have certain expectations of how things should be and what we should be doing, and lately I’ve been catching myself frequently wondering how we measure up. Then I have to remind myself that it doesn’t really matter. Other people’s expectations never really matter–only our faithfulness to what God has asked us to do. And on that score, I guess we’re doing just fine. So I’ve gotta keep pressing on, remembering that that is the most important thing.

 

Having Fun and Enjoying Motherhood

Last night we watched some videos from when our oldest was three and his brother was one. It was some sweet memories. As I thought upon that time in my life, I was kind of wistful over what I felt was now somewhat missing.

I used to have more fun with the children.

We painted with spray bottles full of watered down paint outside. We covered the dining room floor with butcher paper and fingerpainted…body painted! We dabbled in shaving cream, played silly games, and danced.

Many children and much “life” later, I find that we don’t do so much of this stuff. I wondered, can I get back to that enjoyment of life…that fun stuff…with my kids?

And I realized that while, in some ways, I would like to, I thought about where I was during that time…and I had to admit that even though we had lots of “fun” together, I did not really enjoy being a Mom. And, even though my children had lots of experiences…we all had to admit that my oldest displayed a lot of brattiness (and disobedience) in the series of videos that we watched.

So, although doing those things seemed good to me at first blush, I had to admit that the “doings” didn’t promote our overall goals of parenting; nor was I the Mom I wanted to be, in spite of it all.

However, the videos did remind me that we all need to enjoy life more together. We’ve been busy lately…with gardening, canning, now back-to-schooling…and I don’t want the “doings” of life to interfere with our “being” together. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes.

Several of the children have been asking me when we can make “edible playdough” again. I think we will do that today. 🙂 What can you say “YES” to, to enjoy one another and enjoy motherhood today?

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