Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Hands That Catch You

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smiling AviyaI love watching Aviya grow and change.  Having a baby sister has been an amazing experience for me.  It won’t be many more months and she’ll be eager to try walking.  As I thought about this, something else occurred to me: as she learns to walk, there will always be hands to hold and steady her, and when she falls, there will always be hands to wipe away her tears and put her on her feet again.  The more I thought about it, the more I considered how it is the same way with God.  Whether we realize it or not, it’s the truth: there are Hands always ready and waiting to hold us and soothe us.  Sometimes we are so afraid of stumbling, of falling and getting hurt, that we never even try to go anywhere.

I was thinking then (more thinking) of this line from a song: “What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?  What if He’s more than enough?”  The point is that it is no real “what if” – He’s going to catch us, and He is more than enough.  He’s certainly big enough to catch us, and He promised He would, so why are we so very afraid?  Do we simply doubt that He will do it?  Doubt that, as far as we’ve fallen, He could lift us up again?  But that’s just the thing: it’s our doubts and fears that hold us back from freely trusting Him.  Unfettered trust is the kind of trust little children have; and when Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven belonging to children, He is actually saying that we need to be child-like in our trust to have a real relationship with Him.  If you never stand and try to walk, you’ll never know just how strong His arms really are.

hand “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Deut. 33:27

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Thankful

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“Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”

Psalms 95:2

Have you ever made a “thankful list”?  I have, and it started out with “I am thankful for. . .”  That list ended up going for pages and pages.  I was amazed at how something so simple could so completely change my perspective.  Around Thanksgiving, people start to think about things that they are thankful for (however, I don’t always think that an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness quite sinks in for most of us).  But I tell you truly, we all should make the practice of giving thanks more a part of each day – annual thankfulness just doesn’t do justice to all that we have been given by our loving Father.

We are told over and over again in the Bible to give thanks, or rejoice, not only in the things that make us feel good but also in trials and suffering: “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, emphasis added).  There are so many things that we could allow to fill us with discontentment and worry, but the truth is that the things we have to be thankful for would far outweigh those other things if we would but open our eyes and see them!

Thankfulness is a choice.  We are not forced to be thankful, but when we make a decision to walk in thankfulness, no matter what comes, life begins to look entirely different.  We too can live lives “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). Such a life opens up our hearts to quiet contentment and overwhelming joy, and it reveals the Father to those around us.  Thankfulness teaches you to find the good in both people and circumstances.  What are you thankful for today?

The rains have come again to Maasailand — thank you, God!

Our Nairobi Apartment

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There are a lot of things that make life in our Kenyan apartment in the city very different from our former life in a suburban house in America.  For example…

All the keys in houses are skeleton keys, and all the doors handles are levers.  Having lived in South Africa, where it was the same, I hardly noticed upon arriving here! 

Our water doesn’t just get hot and stay hot all the time – we have to turn on our “water heaters” (which are basically large electric kettles) with a switch on the wall about an hour before we want to use hot water.  We have a heater for each bathroom and one under the kitchen sink to heat water for washing dishes.

Speaking of electric kettles, they are extremely and pretty much everybody has some sort of kettle.  (People here love their Kenyan tea!)

Electricity is out frequently, usually several times a week, and it has stayed off for as many as twenty-four hours at a time.  Sometimes it is because someone hit a pole or a fuse box, but it is generally because the electricity just…runs out.  (As in, there isn’t any more to be had.)  Too many apartment buildings + no extra power = no electricity

Many people don’t have “pets” here.  They’ll have guard dogs, cattle, goats, chickens, or even a stray cat, but no real family pets.  In fact, a majority Kenyans are afraid of dogs, which is why our loving little dogs are such a novelty.

A dishwasher?  Why, yes, a 1998 model named, Samuel Hoffman. 

I always wanted a canopy bed, and now I really have one…made of net.  Yes, mosquito nets are nearly a necessity here, especially in the hottest part of the year (December- February).  A necessity, that is, unless you enjoy being wakened to a high-pitched buzzing in your ear and bites all over you!

 

The windows here don’t have screens.  Honestly, in a place where our windows are constantly open, it is quite a bother: the dust and dirt of Nairobi coats everything, making it hard to keep things clean.  It would be nice to have screened windows simply to keep the bugs out!

The outlets here need to be turned on and off when you use them.  Seriously, they have switches.  (Unlike windows with no screens, this is a good idea, especially considering that the power comes out at 220 volts, twice what it does in America.)  As a side note, there are no outlets in bathrooms (not a good or convenient plan when it comes to hair styling).

No carpeting here – wood floors and tile are pretty much all you’ll find.  I like wood floors, but they are a little slick for baby Aviya!

Not many people have an oven, and I am very thankful to have a tiny but nice Elba oven.  Some people have stoves (called “cookers”)  or hot plates to heat meals, but many people use LP tanks, parafin, and plain old fires.  While we’re on the subject of kitchen things, there aren’t crock pots here…plenty of rice cookers, though!

We, like most of the population here, don’t have a clothes dryer.  Actually, we do, and it is free, though not always available: the sun.  Mom and I, together, spend a total of about twenty hours a week doing laundry for our family of five.  It is a lot of work. 

There aren’t any built-in closets; all our closets are cupboards (and take up lots of floor space!).

We have a big gate to enter and exit our apartment complex, and armed guards 24-hours a day.  The guy in the photo is our day guard, Wycliff, and interestingly our night guard has the same name!

These are just a few of the things that make our life in Kenya so interesting and, on occasion, a bit frustrating.  We love our life here, crazy though it may be, and wouldn’t trade it.

Beautiful Thoughts

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Lunch at Tamambo Restaurant — Karen Blixen Tea Garden and Museum in Karen, Kenya.

I sometimes think the most profound thoughts.  But I can’t really take the credit for them; they are the thoughts of my Father’s heart that He shares with me.  God will show me the most amazing things, and though I journal about them, I often forget to share them with others.  Who knows?  Perhaps God tells me things so I can tell others.  I’ve been thinking a lot about doing more writing.  I love reading words, writing them, and thinking of them.  I guess that’s why I began to journal.  I feel so close to my heavenly Father when I am writing.  Often as I write in my journal, it is as though the words flow directly from His heart to mine, then right off the tip of my pen.  I can’t always remember what I write and tend to find myself astounded when I go back to read through my entries again.  I sometimes wonder, “Did I really write that?”  But that is because the power and the wisdom aren’t mine; I just captured a piece of them on a page while I was soaking in my Father’s presence.  I love to hear the beautiful thoughts of my Father.

All My Worship

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A thought occurred to me while I was home alone, twirling around with lifted arms, singing worship songs: if I can dance and sing for my King when I am alone, how much more should I do it before others?  I am not talking about putting on a show for others; I am talking about showing One just how much we love Him and how serious we are about our worship.  Have you ever felt like you wanted to sing loudly, even if your voice isn’t particularly lovely, or like you wanted to fling your arms high during worship?  I have, but I must admit that sometimes I did not do it.  Why?  I was afraid – afraid of what others might think of me, afraid of what they might say.  In the words of James, “Brothers and sisters, this should not be!”  When we don’t worship our King with abandon, it begs the question, “Who are we worshipping for?”  Worship is about you and Him, not about those around you, be they friends, family, peers, elders, or even enemies.  It is a tempting trap: worship with your entire being and perhaps be misunderstood, or hold back and look like everyone else.  It is tough to ignore that desire to be understood and liked, but it shouldn’t be.  After all, it is about honoring the King of all creation, the One who was, is, and is to come.  We should realize that worshipping Him is both our privilege and our delight.

hands raised in worshipHonestly, I think it is insulting to offer God lukewarm worship as our “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).  It’s not that we all need to jump and screech and act like a bunch of scary lunatics; it is really, simply this: we need to open our hearts and allow ourselves to be swept away as we worship.  When I feel God’s presence really strongly – as often happens to me during worship – my whole body begins to tremble, and I can’t control it.  He totally overwhelms me, and I never want that to change.  I would rather be called “strange” for being wildly in love with my King than be called “normal” for acting like everyone else around me.

Mzungu, Mzungu!

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Chad leading the weekly Bible lesson at Shangilia Children’s Home & School.

“How are YOU, Mzungu?”  That is the most popular line used by small children here when they see our family.  It is hilarious to me when kids ask to “feel” my hair or my skin; and it is – quite apparently – hilarious to them as well.  At church one week, one little lad reached out and gave me a swift poke in the arm and then, a huge grin lighting his face, yanked his hand back.  He then proceeded to have a giggle-filled conversation about it with his buddies (I only knew they were talking about me because I kept hearing, “mzungu”).  All the girls want to know where I got my hair (wigs are very popular here, and a blond wig would be quite a novel find) and then stare at me with disbelief me when I tell them that it is real.

Kids (and little old ladies) love to touch Sam’s hair as well – nothing like innocently sitting in a church service and having your hair rubbed every which way!  People like to hear us talk because our accents are so very “exotic.”  We have even been asked by curious children if we are “white underneath our clothes too”!  For quite a few of the children (especially in rural areas or the slums), we are the first “white people” that they have ever seen.

Dancing with the Shangilia kids!