African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, November 26, 2011

40 days to Africa

I woke up this morning to the realization that we will be boarding our plane in just 40 days.  I'm sure there is some significance to this day.  I feel like I should "do" something for the next 40 days - exercise, fast, pray...something spiritual or good.  I thought about "40 days to lose my blubber", but I hear African people think it's good to be fat.  It might not be true but it sounds good to me.  I want Drew to get the most respect he can for his "healthy" wife so I will forgo the diet.  We could use 40 days of prayer, so feel free to pray for us.   We have so much going on during the next 40 days, I could just call it "40 days of Freaking Out".  Again, prayer would be good.

All kidding aside, 40 is a significant number in many ways.  I googled "40 days" and there were 159,000,000,000 sites to choose from, many of these were spiritual in nature.  For some reason, God used 40 days in many of the events that happened throughout the Bible.   Many of those events were tied to times of trial and testing.  Think of Noah, after obeying God and building the ark, it rained for 40 days.  I would guess that 40 days was not a time of rejoicing (even though his family was saved), but rather a time of adjusting and grieving the loss of the life they knew.  The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. This happened after their spies checked out Canaan (the land flowing with milk and honey) for 40 days and were too fearful to trust God.  Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days at the beginning of his ministry.  Jesus appeared to people for 40 days after his resurrection, a time of great confusion to the early Christians.   There are many more examples but I think you get the idea.  40 days was a good amount of time to get people's attention...and 40 years would definitely get a point across.

Many people today celebrate the Advent season, which was originally 40 days.  Advent is the weeks leading up to Christmas that is a time of reflecting on the events leading up to the first Christmas.  It's a time of getting our eyes off of our selfish desires and focusing on others.   As a family we have followed different Advent reading plans over the years.  The time leading up to Christmas takes on a deeper meaning and gives us a greater appreciation for the significance of the birth of Jesus.  It wasn't just a random event but was foretold throughout the Old Testament.   We anticipate Christmas morning with excitement, not just on getting present, but the realization that WHO we live for was born on this day.  If it were not for the personal relationship I have with Jesus, I would have no desire to even go to Africa.

The season of Lent is the 40 days leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ.  Some use this time to  give up something or let go.  I like the idea of that as we are leading up to our trip.  I want to use these next 40 days to prepare my heart for all that God has in store for our family.  I also want to begin the process of "letting go".  Letting go of my rights, my possessions and my expectations.  This last week has been a time of struggle for me and I feel like I am in a battle.  I want to use this time to prepare for a continued battle, one where I am not in my familiar surroundings.

 Even though I know the battle will be happening, I am excited because I am not in this battle alone.  I also know that you can have joy in the middle of the hardest times.  I am looking forward with JOY to our time in Africa.  Starting today, I am choosing to have "40 days of Joy".


Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

Two things came to my mind when I woke up this morning:  The first one is that we have only 6 weeks from today that we board a plane to Africa - that is going to go by so fast!  The second was the fact that it is Thanksgiving Day and that got me thinking of all that I am thankful for.  The obvious would be that I am thankful for my husband, my kids and my God, but truthfully I wake up most mornings feeling thankful for these vital parts of my life.

 I struggle some with having to be told that today is the day we have to be thankful.  It stresses me out to prepare for this day of thankfulness and now add to that the stores trying to pressure us to shop the day after Thanksgiving or even the day of.  Once I get over myself, and my family pitches in to get our home "company ready", I'm really thankful for the excuse to get together with my extended family.  Even though I talk to my sister frequently on the phone, we go weeks and weeks without seeing each other.  She doesn't live that far away and I used to see her every day when I watched her girls, but now the only way we see each other is by a special appointment.  So I'm thankful that today will bring us together.

Actually, since we already have extended family living with us, most of our evening meals are a joyful event around here.  We spend hours around our round kitchen table laughing and sharing life with each other.  Visitors are always welcome and at times we have crammed 9 - 11 people around our 6 person table.  The difference is, there is no stress to have an extra clean house or to have just the right food.  There is no expectations, which if I am totally honest, is my problem.  Expectations put so much pressure on everyone.  Unmet expectations make me crabby and are usually the source of contention with my husband and I.  So today I am consciously trying to prepare my heart as well as my table with as little stress as possible.  I will be delegating jobs to my family, I cooked the turkey overnight, I got up early and had time to read my Bible and reflect on all the blessings God has given me.

 I feel excited for the fun to begin, not because George Washington (or Lincoln or Roosevelt) decided today would be the day we give thanks, but because I really am thankful for the people I have in my life.  God Bless you and have a joyful Thanksgiving!

Psalm 92:1 - 2
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Blog about Blogging

Originally I wanted to blog because so many people had been asking how I would communicate while we were in Africa.  I thought I should get the hang of it before leaving since I would probably have more time and electricity to do that here in MN.  Occasionally I would read other blogs but I didn't actually follow any one blogger, I just read what happened to come across my path.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

 The more I blog the more I find myself interested in what others are blogging about.  I have one friend that has a blog a day.  I have no idea how she can come up with something interesting every day but somehow she does.  I sometimes have to wait until the end of the day to see what she has to say because she is waiting for a burst of inspiration but she never fails me.  Her mind is as random as mine so you never know what you will get.  She inspires me with her writing because I can see how some seemingly irrelevant thing will resonate with me, maybe my blog is doing the same to others.

Blogging is a little like scrapbooking but with words.  When I first start scrapbooking, I would see everything I did in life through the lens of a camera and what that would look like on a page.  Now as things happen in my day, I jot myself a note of what's happening if I think it might be blogger worthy at some point.   It does become a bit obsessive at times.  I can focus too much on how many people have read certain articles or if anyone bothered.  Sometimes I think I have something really important to share and just a few people take note.  I wonder what it is that will draw their attention, and laugh when it is "deep" things like toilets around the world.  I shared thoughts about missing my Mom, since I know that many of my friends have also lost their Moms and could relate to the feelings that I was having that day.  I guess that was too deep of a subject because very few even read it and the ones that did probably thought I was depressed or something.  Grief is weird, it shows up occasionally when you aren't expecting it and I chose to expose myself in hopes that it would encourage even one person going through a similar time.

The thing that has surprised me the most is how many people have told me certain things I have written have touched them or encouraged them.  I shouldn't be surprised because I have been encouraged by others in the same way.  I'm surprised sometimes by how much I have in common with events from other peoples lives.  I have had people comment on that about my blogs too, that they have been through the same thing or felt the same way or wanted to do the same thing that my family is doing or has done.  It's when I am the most transparent about myself that what I say resonates the most with a reader.  It's scary at times to be truly transparent and exposed.  I run the risk of judgement or being misunderstood by someone who is only getting a small glimpse into my life.  I think of that when I am reading other blogs, that I am just getting one snap shot and not read too much into that little piece of their life.

So fellow bloggers, keep up the good work!  Your words have encouraged me, they have made me laugh. Your words have given me food for thought as well as ideas for actual food/menu plans.  You have shared God's Word when I have needed it. You have given me fresh ideas and insight into my homeschool day.   You have reminded me of all I have to be thankful for and blogging has given me a place to share that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Outside My Comfort Zone

Now that the weather is getting colder and we actually have a bit of snow on the ground, I find all I want to do is stay in my nice cozy house.  I'm actually a home body all year round but especially in the winter.  The past few weeks have been busy ones for our family and I have had to leave my cocoon almost every evening.  This weekend I was finally able to put on my comfy cloths and just hang out with no where to go - it was wonderful!

This morning the kids and I will be heading over to Heppner's Legacy, to the new store to help paint.  Painting is not my favorite thing, probably because I have done quite a bit of it this year.  I am excited to go because Nancy and Brad are such giving people, it makes me  want to give back to them.  Deep down I would much rather stay in my pajamas all day, turn the fireplace on and read a good book.  Laziness is my flesh in full power.  The other thing that draws me is being around people that I enjoy.  It will be a fun day with lots of hands to get things done.  That's probably what draws me to my own home too, the people I live with are some of my favorite people.

So yesterday I was thinking about how much I like to stay home and it hit me - WHY would I ever want to go to Africa when I can barely stand to leave my house?  That is a very good question.  One answer to that is that I want to go wherever God asks me to, even if it's uncomfortable.  I want to be uncomfortable.  I know that when I am outside of my cozy cocoon, I need God so much more and I'm so much more aware of all that He is doing around me and through me.  The other part of going to Africa that makes it doable is the fact that my family is going with me.  My physical house may be a comfort and a place of refuge for me but really it's the people in it that make it that.  Ultimately God is my refuge and my strength and He promises to be with me wherever I go.

Psalm 91:1-2
"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare of the Lord;
He alone is my refuge,
my place of safety;
He is my God, and I am trusting Him."