Friday, December 23, 2016

As the Shepherds Chose

They had a choice to make.

The terrifying, blinding light had dimmed.  The songs of glory sung from before there was time had faded.

They sat in the silent, dark night listening to the sheep baaing and crickets chirping, knowing they had a choice to make.

What do we do with this astounding, life changing news?  Do we dare go?  Do we dare leave the comfort of the known for the bewilderment of the unknown?

The simple men, shepherds by trade, they had a choice to make.

But even as they pondered the choice, it burned deep within.  Their vision changed forever by angels' light; their hearing never quite the same since beholding the angels' songs.

For what they had witnessed, the glorious news they had heard, drove them as a power from within.

They rose and departed in hurry, seeking the child, seeking the promise, seeking the truth of what the angels had shared.  Leaving the comfort of their folds, they went forth not knowing what the night would hold.

Just as the Christmas of long ago held a choice, this Christmas holds a choice for us.

We who walked in darkness and now have seen a great light, we who proclaim the importance of this baby in life, in death and in resurrection,  we who join in to sing with the angels a song proclaiming eternal glory,..

What choice will we make with this astounding, life changing news?  Do we dare go?  Do we dare leave the comfort of the known for the bewilderment of the unknown?

We, simple men and women, we have a choice to make.

May the choice burn deep within, our vision and hearing altered by the angels' light and songs.  May what we know and witness, this glorious news, drive us as a power from within.

My we seek the child, seek the promise, seek the truth of what the angels share- willing to leave our comfort, going forth, not knowing what the night will hold.

May we make the same choice that was made by the shepherds so long ago.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Tanzanian Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving in Tanzania is much like American Thanksgiving anywhere...

Yummy food

Shared with family and friends.

A few fun crafts,

Followed by a chance to welcome Christmas. (At least per our family tradition.)

So what makes a Tanzanian Thanksgiving different?  

No turkey for us. (Too expensive at around $100 per bird.)  We grilled chicken instead.

No creamed soups or quick fixes.  Everything we made was from scratch, from cornbread dressing to pecan pie.  While delicious, this can be quite time consuming.  

No dishwasher...except for our own hands.  Lots of cooking plus lots of eating equals lots of dishes.  LOTS of dishes.

No Black Friday. Just the normal crazy market shopping if you choose to partake. We did not.

No you. While we are thankful for friends here to share the holiday with, this is a time of year when we sorely miss family and friends who are not close by.  

This Tanzanian Thanksgiving we have much for which we are thankful.
We hope and pray your thanksgiving was full of joy and that the gratitude of the season continues throughout the year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Eight is Great is never two late to post pictures of a cute kid who just celebrated a birthday...right?

But there is some humor in the lateness of this post, since Nathan is Mr. Precise and Punctual.

He is our number guru who doesn't want to hear its 7:00, but wants to know its precisely 7:03.

Even with his precise nature, he is still our sweet, cheerful laid-back boy.  

Happiest of birthday (months) to you Nathan!  Here is to hoping eight is great!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Never 2 late

This cute girl turned two a couple of weeks ago.

 I had great intentions of dressing her up and taking a few pictures to remember the occasion.

But I wanted to wait for the rain to come...well because green grass is a better background than brown, dusty dirt.

 Time passed and the rains still haven't arrived, so this weekend I grabbed the camera while David worked on a fence to keep the dogs (and said two year old) out of our small, but growing strawberry patch.

Of course, these two big boys couldn't be left out!

I guess it is never too late for cute pictures...

...and nothing better than ending a photo shoot by trying out the hole Da is digging!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It Was Cloudy Yesterday

It was cloudy yesterday.  Not an immense cloudiness, but enough of a cloud cover to dim the sun and turn the brilliant African sky a pearly gray.

Enough clouds to turn our eyes to the sky as our hearts whispered hopefully, “Could it be rain?”

Standing still for a moment, one could almost feel branches stretching upwards, as their leaves trembled in anticipation.  A sweet wind blew past, smelling of wetness and hope.

Six months have passed since rain last dampened the ground here.  The earth is parched, the grass bleached and shriveled.  Great clouds of dust stir up under our feet, settling onto our shoes, our skin, anything and everything really.

Dry seasons, both of the earth and the soul, come.  Seasons when God's presence seems far off and His voice a distant memory.  Seasons in which you look around, doubting, perplexed, wondering how did I even get to this place.  The psalmist cries out in anguish from this season of dryness, “I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails….” (Psalm 143:6-7)

Dry seasons come to the land and to our souls.  Dry seasons come and we step forward through the swirling dust, pressing on into the promise of more.  Dry seasons come and we wipe away the grime once again, searching eagerly for the promise of a different tomorrow.  Dry seasons come, yet we open our hands, just as the psalmist, spreading them out far in the hope of catching that first drop of rain.

Dry seasons come, but so does hope.  Dry seasons come, but it was cloudy yesterday.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Month of Anniversaries

Facebook is a handy tool...sometimes.  This month it reminded us there were several different anniversaries we could celebrate...

Five years ago this month, we announced our intentions of joining Wycliffe Bible translators as full time information technology missionaries.

Three years ago this month, we landed in Mozambique, Africa to serve the Bibleless there.

Two years ago this month, we left Mozambique to welcome Esther and seek a new assignment with Wycliffe.

And in a couple of days, it will remind us that it was fourteen years ago this month we started this crazy adventure.

We are thankful for the past fourteen Augusts and for the crazy, God-sized adventures they have seen us through...and we don't need facebook to remind us of that!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Of Highs and Lows

This past week has been full of several highs and lows.
Some even literally...

On Saturday, David, Caleb and Nathan were able to join a group climbing 
Mbeya Peak (a mountain close to where we live.).  

All day they mountain-goated up the 10,000 ft peak... be rewarded with this spectacular view.

On Tuesday, we had a bit of a low...

Nathan cut his hand carving and required five stitches.  The cut is in the area between the thumb and forefinger and requires him to wear a splint until the stitches heal.  
Overall, he is taking it well, but is missing being able to play as rough as he normally does.

In both the highs and the lows, we are thankful for the grace of God.  

In His grace, He has gifted us with sweet friendships and experiences like climbing Mbeya Peak.  
In His grace, He provided great medical care for Nathan exactly when we needed it. 
In His grace, He protected Nathan from permanent damage as the cut only went through the flesh.  

It is in His grace that we rest in both the highs and the lows.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mountain Firm

Gently rising from beyond our house is a tall, strong mountain.  Its graceful, curving slopes are covered with trees, while its ridge line is a rugged, jutting grassland.

On beautiful, clear days, it stands there, a sentinel of constant repose.  Patiently watching, a testimony of strength for all who look upon its curves.

Yet, at times, the days grow gray and the clouds move in.  Thick fog swirls and swallows all evidence of the grand giant.  No matter how hard one stares, the mountain cannot be seen amidst its thick cloak of gray.

Yet, we know, the mountain, while hidden briefly from view, still stands.  The clouds break, the fog rolls on and the mountain, as always, remains faithfully on its foundations.

And so it is with our God.  

Although it may be hidden for a moment, the mountain does not gather up its slopes and move away on those cloudy days...nor does the God who loves you with an unending, never moving, unfailing love.

On clear, bright days, He is there with you, rejoicing and exclaiming excitedly over you.  And on those dark, cloud-filled days, He is there, faithfully waiting, strong on His foundations.

As the mountain stands firm, even more so does the God who created that very mount.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Echoes of Thanks

The house seemed strangely quiet as we entered.  Walls that had echoed the laughter and joy of thirteen extra guests, now seemed to echo back only a sense of loneliness.  Even as we got busy clearing the reminders of our visitors (and starting the first of several loads of laundry), it became clear that we would not quickly clear them from our hearts.  “I am so glad they came, but I wish they were still here,” whispered Nathan as he gazed up at me, tears welling in his eyes,  “I am just so thankful.”  

Thankful. A simple, but profound word that defines our hearts' response to the past two weeks.  We are thankful for the team that sacrificed their time and finances to come thousands of miles to love on the children of our branch.  We are thankful for their willingness to use their unique skills and talents to serve the Kingdom of God through the myriad of ways they served our colleagues, our family and the people of Tanzania.   We are thankful for the individuals who remained back in the United States who helped provide funding and supplies, took care of family left behind and who faithfully prayed for our time together.

Thankful.  We are thankful for a week of rest in a beautiful location.  We are thankful that it served bacon for breakfast each day and that it had hot, high pressure showers.  We are thankful to see friends who serve in different parts of Tanzania.  We are thankful for our all that our children were able to experience; for friendships renewed and memories made searching through tidal pools, diving deep in the pool and singing at the top of their longs about “the God of WOW!”  

Thankful.  We are thankful for each of you, for your prayers and encouragement.  As we welcomed the team, we once again were reminded that this journey is so much not about us.  We were honored to have taught five of the team members in fifth grade Sunday School years ago.  This journey is just as much about them, about the seeds God has planted in their hearts to serve Him how and whenever
He calls them. This journey is just as much about you, who faithfully pray and sacrificially give so that His word can bear fruit in the heart languages of Tanzania.  Ultimately, this journey is about Him.  It is about the glory His name will receive as the different tribes of the Mbeya region learn that God speaks their language.  

Thankful.  A simple word, that will echo through our hearts and fill the quietness of our home long after the last reminder of the team is picked up.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Mountain of a Hike

This past weekend, we spent some time exploring the mountain that stands behind our house.  This is something we had wanted to do for awhile, but never seemed to get around to it with the busyness of normal life.  Thankfully, a friend volunteered to show us some of the paths and off we went on a 3-mile loop.

Although the going is steep at times, and the huffing and puffing was heavy on my part (we live in a mile high city and I blame the altitude, not my being out of shape...I am sure that had nothing to do with it....)...

The views were totally worth it, as we looked down over the city we call home.

David and the boys have already returned to play in a creek we came across on our walk...

And I look forward to many more walks and lots more exploring...and hopefully a little less huffing and puffing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When Ants Go Marching

The ants are marching through our backyard. Not just two by two, but hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds.

And these aren't the nice little ants with the little one stopping to tie his shoe.  These are the get in their way, they will climb all over you and bite you till you run around like a crazy person variety of ants.

And how would we know what variety they are?  Well, because yesterday at different points, all three kids came running into the house, shedding clothes and dancing around like...well, like they had ants in their pants.

When I stripped Esther down, I noticed one biting the front of her overalls.  I went to pull it off and its body came off, while the head continued to bite and pinch for a good 10 minutes longer.  One had climbed into Caleb's hair and was biting so hard it was like removing a tick.  Like I said, no nice shoe-tying ants here.

I am not sure why the ants are marching through our backyard or where they are coming from or going to.  Still, I do know we are going to leave them alone as they march down, across the ground to get to where ever they are going.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Got Milk?

Ears strained, waiting to hear the low roar of a motorcycle around the early morning sounds of birds, chickens and cows. Shouts of “He's here!” meet Luka, our motorcycle riding milk man, as he pulls up to the gate. Greetings are exchanged and he pours out six liters of milk from his plastic containers into our large pot. Promises of meeting again the next week and off he goes to his next stop.

The pot is carried inside, placed on the stove and stirred constantly as the milk is brought up to a safe temperature for pasteurization. About 15-20 minutes later, it is poured through a fine strainer into plastic yogurt bottles we have recycled into milk jugs. Placed into a cool water bath, it is brought back done to room temperature before it goes in the fridge to be used throughout the week.

This is how we get milk most weeks. Not as easy as popping into the store for a quick trip to pick up a gallon of milk is it? (In all fairness, it is possible to get boxed milk at the local grocery store. Still, the boxed milk costs around three times the price of the fresh milk and is sometimes difficult to find.)

Much of life here in Tanzania is exemplified by the milk process. Rarely is anything quick or easy. Often simple tasks can devolve into complicated, tedious events that take much longer than you expected. Don't get me wrong, life is good and full and rich...but it takes a bit out of you each day as the process of living never ceases.

That is why it is so important for our family (and for many living in cross-cultural situations) to get away from “normal” life once and awhile. Life is draining and if we do not take the time to refill, we will find ourselves dry, barren and in the long run, no longer fit for service.

A major time of refilling for our family is a yearly retreat with our colleagues from throughout Tanzania. It is a time of refilling through spiritual renewal, fellowship and rest (can we say childcare??). This year our retreat is scheduled for the end of June and to say we (and many others) are looking forward to it is a mild understatement. (I think the first conversation I had with a friend here about looking forward to retreat was in February!)

This year, we have another reason that we are counting down the days to retreat...a team from our church in the States is coming to serve as the childcare team! The team will be hosting a day camp for around 55 missionary kids from many different countries. This vital ministry opportunity is priceless to our family as well as the other missionary families with whom we serve. This time is the only chance many of the kids will have to experience something like this for an entire year. Think, no summer camps, no dance teams, no VBS. The childcare provided at the retreat is a once in a year experience that refills kids and parents alike so they can continue to faithfully serve the needs of the Bibleless in Tanzania.

The next time you are at the store for milk or see that gallon of milk in the fridge, would you take a moment to think of us and the upcoming retreat? As you drink down a cool, glass of refreshing milk, would you say a prayer for our much needed refreshment?  Would you also pray for the details and logistics of the team preparing to come? (If you would like to directly partner with the team financially, you can do so here.)

Thank you in advance for your prayers! We look forward to seeing how God uses this retreat to refill and refresh our spirits in a much needed way.   

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Mad Dash

"And Venus is...Wait! Is that rain?"  Without another word, we all jump up from our science lesson, making a mad dash out the door. (I have trained them well.)

Caleb, Nathan and I all begin to madly pull sheets and diapers off the line.  While they have only been out for two hours, the hot, African summer sun has dried them almost completely.  

And while that hot sun still continued to shine, fat rain drops splattered from the sky.  The three of us made quick work of the clothes bringing them inside and hanging them up on the clothes line we have hung up in our sun room.  

Unexpected storms, threatening almost dry clothes.

Days of rain when nothing feels dry anymore.  

Mildew on shoes and anything else left sitting for too long.  

Bugs galore and the random bug bites that accompany their plenty.  

Lush green grass and soft moss growing up concrete walls. 

Vibrant, colorful flowers stretching up to drink in the bright sun. 

Slick mud and quickly disappearing mud puddles. 

The soothing sound of a gentle rain on a tin roof.  

The deafening roar of a thunderous deluge on that same tin roof.  

This is life and this is rainy season in Mbeya.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Double Digits

In December, we celebrated a fairly special occasion...

This little one entered the double digits and is now 10!  

While I am playing catch up on the blog, this is natural since I have been playing catch up to you since the beginning.  

Looking back through the years, my heart is simply full, to overflowing....  

With praise for the One who gifted me with You...

With joy for the glimpses of the man you are becoming...

With a bit of fear that I have no clue in what I am doing...

With thanksgiving that I am not in this alone and that you have a great role model in your Da...

With excitement for the many adventures that lay ahead for you...

With love for your gentle and compassionate heart...

Happy 10th birthday big man!

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