African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blessings from Friends

Last night I got together with some neighbor friends from our previous home in Robbinsdale, MN.   We try to get together at this time of year and catch up on each others lives.  We all have kids in the junior high and high school age and have been friends since they were all just little.  My friend Val, who happens to be the quietest one of the bunch, was feeling disconnected as a stay home Mom of small children.  She took it upon herself to make up little invitations and walk around the neighborhood delivering them to any home that looked like they had kids living there.  I was also home with my 2 young ones in diapers.   Val invited us all to her house for a play date and a chance to get to know other Moms in the neighborhood who were home with their children.  We have been friends ever since that time (about 12 years) and what a blessing these women have been to me.

I have such fond memories of living in Robbinsdale and the friendships we developed during that time.  One Mom loved celebrating Valentine's Day and Halloween and would always have a fun party for the kids.  She was so good about having crafts, games and snacks all revolving around a theme.  Had it not been for her, I don't think my kids would have done some of the fun (but messy) craft projects they did while in her home.  We had alley "Polka" dance parties at another friends house with a real live polka band.  We decorated bikes for 4th of July and had our own parade on the parkway.  We spent countless hours at the park,  the kids playing and the Moms all gabbing.  We had picnics and went on field trips.  We hung out and enjoyed root beer floats before the fireworks during Whiz Bang Days and then walked to the park together to watch the display of lights.  We signed our kids up for t-ball and cheered them on  even when they ran the wrong way around the bases.  We encouraged each other by listening and sharing the day to day struggles of being a Mom.  We walked together at times, we prayed together and even had a Bible study at one point.  Even though we all had different choices of churches, or even schools once the kids became of age, we all were on the same quest of being the best Moms we could be.  I know my experience of being a stay home Mom may not reflect what most people experience, but for the Moms of our neighborhood it was a wonderful community to raise our kids in.  Over the years many of us have moved away but those friendships will always have a special place in our hearts.

At our Moms get together last night, we exchanged blessings and prayers with each other instead of gifts.  Just reflecting on the memories we share together was really a blessing in itself.  As we age we have experienced the heartache of parents dying and relationships that have ended.  We have also experienced the joys together of seeing our children become these amazing and talented people, making a difference in their world.  The focus turned from our children  to my family and our upcoming trip to Africa.  These dear friends all gave me a blessing, a prayer, letter or verse to carry with me on my journey.  They know that missions have an important place in my heart and it was so amazing to have them excited that this dream of mine is about to happen.  I felt so humbled by their encouragement and their faith in that which is not yet seen.  Candles were lit as a symbol of the difference one light + one light + one light etc can make if we just step out and do the task God has given us. 

 I'm proud to know these women who have influenced me in many ways.  I think of the courage that Val had long ago to invite a bunch of strangers to her home in hopes of filling that feeling of being alone.  What if she would have ignored that prompting?  My life has been richer because of the friendships made that day.   What is it that God is asking you to do today?  The blessings that may come from just a simple task may be more than you can ever imagine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Experimental Cooking

I have had so much on my mind lately that I just shut down and do nothing.  My house is a mess because I have started projects and then got distracted and never finished them.  We have one more week of our Homeschool Co-op.  I teach a Critical Thinking class so there are papers to be graded and I need to come up with a final grade for the 14 students in my class.  Thankfully, Drew has decided that helping me grade papers would keep me sane.  Last week I was stressing out trying to get all of our visa applications organized, it was not an easy task.  The visa application is sent, along with our passports, so now we just wait for them to return.  I have had numerous blogs fly through my mind but have not had time to capture them, so unfortunately most of them are gone forever.  With 4 weeks to go until our departure, I am attempting to take one day at a time.  That being said,  I am very distracted by thoughts of Africa and preparations that need to be made.  My brain is divided by what needs to happen to function today and my daydreaming about my future reality.

One of the great unknowns about our trip has to do with what happens once our team heads home.  Usually when you are with a team, a cook is provided and you are well cared for.  I was anticipating that I will feed my family as I do here in Minnesota.  At first I was getting a little distressed about what this would look like and thinking I might want to hire a cook for our family.  It could have to do with the fact that Kerry Bender has been to Ndu and told me about buying a lamb at the market, walking it home, feeding it for a few days and his daughter naming it.  Then one day, they (the locals) slaughtered the lamb and that was supper.  I love to cook from scratch but I have never gone that far back to the "natural".  The thought of killing my supper does freak me out a little.  I dealt with it by assuming there will be no way they could possibly expect me to cook under such conditions, so they must be providing a cook.  That would not be an unusual thing at all in Africa and it would actually help whoever we hired to earn some money for their family.

About a week ago, in the same email that gave the wonderful news that our housing would be half of what we had expected, there was a short note about me "not needing a cook".  Those words left me trembling.  I was talking to my computer even - "What do you mean, I don't need a cook?"  When I had finally composed myself, I simply replied that I couldn't possible kill my supper.  The answer I received left me somewhat relieved when I was advised that indeed I would not have to kill my supper.  After breathing a sigh of relief, I started wondering exactly what that means.  I envisioned how my cat leaves his "treasures" on our door step and wondered if I would find a carcass of some kind waiting for me to skin it and make stew.  I'm guessing not, but that is how my imagination goes.

Once I got over myself (again),  I started thinking about how our full house has been preparing me for this all along.  I would say most of the meals I make are what I call "experimental cooking".  I love to throw things together and use my favorite spices.  My family is very encouraging and most meals get the thumbs up.  Their biggest complaint is that I can't usually make the same meal twice.  Kyle keeps telling me to make my own cookbook.  I haven't had that same response from people outside of my home but I'm thankful my kids will eat anything I put before them.  I've been flipping through magazines and cookbooks feeling very inspired and excited to try my hand at African cooking.

As with most things concerning our upcoming trip to Cameroon, I have had to process and in the end I've come to a point of embracing that which I feared.  I think at this point I will be very disappointed if I am not cooking at least for my immediate family.  I look forward to finding unique treasures of local vegetables and fruits and creating some amazing meals.  The best part is, I will have my family surrounding me, hopefully with double "thumbs up".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Perfect fit for Drew

Going on a missions trip is always a lesson in flexibility.  You may go into it thinking you have an idea of what you will be doing and it won't look anything at all like you imagined.  That is part of the excitement of it all.  I'm a planner so this is not easy for me.  It's interesting because you send your information out of all your skills and talents and then you wait.  Every now and then I get an email that lets me know that they are working on what we will be doing and give me just a hint of what is to come.  Drives me crazy as I try to read  between every line to see if I can eek out just a tiny bit of  information that isn't being said.  In the end, I'm left trusting the people in charge - most whom I have never met.

As the days get closer to our departure I have had to ask a few questions about the plans for our family.  A little over a week ago, we still needed about $3000 in our account.  This was a lot of money to have to take out of our savings.  We could do it but it would leave us with very little upon our return.  I emailed to find out more specifically what we would need to pay for housing while in Cameroon.  The email I got back just made me smile at how well God takes care of us.  Found out the housing where we are going (Ndu) is half of what we were thinking.  That was a savings of $2000!  Shortly after this we were given gifts in person and more deposited into our account.  Financially it is all falling into place - Praise God!

The other cool part of the story is also evidence of God's hand in this whole journey.  Our family has been part of an AWANA program at Faith Baptist church in Minneapolis.  Over the years we have heard about missionaries that they support in Cameroon and their church has also sent short term mission teams to Cameroon.  I was thinking about one family in particular that homeschool their children and work full time as missionaries in Cameroon.  In one of my emails to Wycliffe I asked if we would be able to get gifts to this family from their support church in Minneapolis.  I was informed that we probably wouldn't see them because they lived in the mountains but the gifts could be sent on to them. 

 I guess within an hour from that reply, the person in charge of our assignment received a request from the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS)  in Ndu.  The request was for a job through Wycliffe Associates to do construction work - mainly concrete.  My husband has been finishing concrete for 20 years.  It ends up that this is the same place the missionary family I had just asked about lives and works.  She too saw this as God's hand and forwarded our name on to  Eric Hagman, the Africa Area Director of Wycliffe Associates.  Eric and his wife Tracey were long time members of our home church before moving to Africa, not to mention good friends of ours.  Eric immediately replied that our family would be a perfect fit for the job.  I still don't know what part I will be playing while in Ndu but I'm convinced it will fit me just as well as this job fits Drew.  

This kind of thing makes me so excited.  It's obvious that God cares about the details and was working out the pieces to the puzzle far before I ever even had a thought of actually going to Cameroon.  Now here we are just one month before leaving and a few more pieces are revealed to me.  I have no doubt we are right in the middle of God's plan for us as we prepare to live for 10 weeks in Ndu.