Saturday, July 13, 2019

I wish I was full of tacos instead of emotions.

It's been a long while since I did a post that was a little deeper than just baby pictures and ministry updates, so I thought it was about time. Everyday life is happening, babies come and go, cars break down and are fixed. Oh yes - I should let you know that Sunshine was repaired for much less than I was originally quoted (that's a blessing!), although she's getting older, and I still am planning on replacing her with something more practical for ministry and community life. This week, the driver's side window stopped rolling down, and the little knob that allows me to fold down the back seat snapped off, so half the back seat will go down, and half won't. Oh well...I guess I now have a legitimate excuse to not buy things from people at the traffic lights ("My window won't roll down, see?"), although it does make paying car guards and drive-thru windows of any kind rather complicated. This is, however, marginally better than several months ago when the window stopped working, but it stopped while it was down and wouldn't go back up.

Much of my life is very ordinary, or at least ordinary to me. I work five days a week, grocery shop, have friends over for dinner, go to church events, work on homework (or procrastinate on homework - I have a book report staring me in the face), wash dishes, clean the house, mend my clothes. For fun, I go to the thrift store, play games with friends, build things out of old pallets, or read (or spend too much time on Facebook, or Pinterest, looking for one more project to add to the list...). There is little resemblance to the exciting missionary stories my parents read to us as children - and, may I add, my life is far, far easier than those pioneers. This is not a plea for more excitement. I'd rather not be eaten by lions or whatnot.

Yet, despite the ordinary-ness of life, it is beautiful and hard and full of many emotions at the same time - and God is working. Many things happen that I can't share here - lots of times they involve my relationships with others, and are private. (Even as I was writing this, a situation came up that caused me some emotional just doesn't let up.) Still, I hope I can share some of what I've been learning over the last year.

You may be wondering about the title. A friend and I have a running joke/observation that emotions pair well with tacos. We've eaten quite a few tacos in the last months. I don't believe in drowning your sorrows, for the most part...but I do believe tacos are one very delicious evidence of God's goodness...

Anyone who knows me very well at all can tell you I'm a pretty emotional person. I'm not like my mother, who cries over sad cartoons and when she's happy and so on and so forth. I'm not much of a crier at all, actually - these days, unless someone dies or there is some life-shattering event (like when I thought my visa was denied), it's pretty rare for me to shed any tears, even though sometimes it would be a relief to do so! No, my unpleasant emotions usually take other forms - nausea, exhaustion, nausea, anxiety, nausea...ok, can you tell that nausea is a predominant one? I never knew physical symptoms could be so closely linked to emotions, but apparently it's a thing.

Emotions, in and of themselves, are not necessarily sinful. We all can agree that happiness, peace, etc., are generally good, but let's look at what the Bible says about various emotions that we would consider less than pleasant.

"Be angry and do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26).
There is "a time to weep" (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
"Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
He "offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears" (Hebrews 5:7).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, He sweat blood (Luke 22:44).
"Abhor what is evil" (Romans 12:9).
Paul had "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" (Romans 9:2)
He and his coworkers were burdened beyond their strength and "despaired of life itself" (2 Corinthians 1:8).
He "yearned" for the church at Philippi (Philippians 1:8).
We are to "be wretched and mourn and weep" over our sin (James 4:9).
Jesus was angry and grieved over people's hardness of heart (Mark 3:5).
David's heart was in anguish within him and he wanted to fly away like a bird (Psalm 55).
He becomes weary of crying out (Ps. 69).
Psalm 43 calls out for God to "vindicate" the author.
Psalm 10 asks why God seems to be distant.

As you can see, emotions are a normal part of being human. Unpleasant emotions are a normal part of being human in a fallen world. Romans 8:18-23 talks about how all of creation is groaning because of Adam's fall into sin.

Within this framework, however, there are several different factors to consider.

One, why am I experiencing these emotions? I may experience grief for various reasons, none of which have their primary cause in me. Recently, my grandma passed away. Someone sins against me and hurts me. A friend is diagnosed with cancer. Another friend loses a child. None of these are grounded in my own personal sin, and most of them are not specifically tied to anyone's sin in particular, although sin does usually cause emotions of some sort.

However, things are not always this clear-cut, and I am not always experiencing emotions solely for reasons outside myself.

All that nausea I mentioned above? Often, it comes as a result of refusing to deal with sin issues - and if you think it's not the case that physical symptoms CAN be related to personal sin, check out Psalm 32 or Psalm 38, just to begin. (Please, I want to be clear that physical issues are NOT PROOF that someone has a sin issue - the entire book of Job is a case study that shows otherwise.)

Paul, in Ephesians, talks about experiencing anger (and not sinning), but James says our quarrels and fights are due to (sinful) desires inside our hearts (James 4:1) - so if I am angry and quarreling with someone, I can rest assured that that is not what is commonly referred to as "righteous anger."

Even happiness could have a sinful cause, if I am happy because of someone else's failure or pain - like when Proverbs tells me "do not rejoice when your enemy falls" (24:17).

So firstly, I need to examine what is causing my emotions. Do I have a sinful desire that is not being fulfilled?

Did I make an initially non-sinful desire into an idol - would I sin to get it (or sin to keep from getting it) rather than trust God's sovereignty? For example, have I allowed my desire for a quiet, restful evening at home to cause me to respond in irritation to anyone who comes down to my house to ask me for something? Have I allowed my God-given desire for a friend's spiritual growth to cause me to react in panic or anger when they fail, rather than love and grace (even in the midst of consequences)?

Am I experiencing emotions as a result of sin that I'm refusing to confess and repent of? Because believe you me, if you are a Christian, you will experience a truckload of emotions over that, and none of them will be pleasant. (If you are in sin and you are happy, I would be very concerned.) When we were little and my mom would discipline us, she would tell us that the Holy Spirit's conviction hurt worse. I didn't believe her at the time. Ahem...she was very right.

Secondly, what do I do with those emotions, once they are here and I'm experiencing them? We are emotional beings - God Himself has emotions - but as fallen humans, the way we respond to them is often wrong. Emotions have a place. When they leave that place, that's when things become dangerous. My emotions' favorite place to be is in the driver's seat, flooring the gas pedal, hands in the air - who needs to steer, anyway?! As you can imagine, this generally results in a lot of collateral damage. My emotions do not need a driver's license. They don't even really need to sit in the passenger seat, as they like to try to reach over and grab the wheel, and they usually make such convincing arguments I'm inclined to let them. No, they belong in the back seat, the stereotypical "backseat driver" whose advice is sometimes relevant but not always heeded. Occasionally, when they get feisty, I'd like to shove them in the trunk! (Just we learned in class, stoicism is not a sign of godliness!)

It is true that the Bible normalizes a wide range of emotions, but it doesn't just leave it at that. Never once in the Bible does it say "Just follow your heart!" or "well, you can't help the way you feel, so you don't have to obey God's commands" or "if it feels good, it must be right" or "if it feels bad or weird or strange, it must be wrong" or even "your feelings are an accurate indicator of what is true." But the Bible DOES say a lot of other things about our emotions.

One, emotions are not an excuse to sin.

"Be angry and do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26).

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Anger is not an excuse to treat someone unkindly, to allow bitterness to grow, or to refuse forgiveness when they ask (Luke 17:3).

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back" (Proverbs 29:11).

Just because I am full of tumultuous emotions does not mean I need to allow my words to flow freely. I do not need to gossip or slander someone else. I do not need to vent my anger on the object of my frustration just to "get it off my chest." My tongue is a spark that can set off a raging inferno (James 3). It can break someone's spirit (Proverbs 15:4) and pierce like a sword (12:18).

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

Our desires (which are inseparably linked with our emotions) often lead us to want to do sinful things. The next verses in Galatians 5 go on to describe some of these desires - immorality, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, etc. Perhaps I really, really, FEEL like being jealous of someone, or snapping at them in anger, or [fill in the blank]. That does not make it right or okay to follow the direction of those feelings, or even to entertain them in my head.

Two, emotions may be an indicator that I need to think differently. 

"Think differently, you say? How can I help the way I think? The thoughts are just there! I can't help thinking them any more than I can help feeling all these emotions!" The old story where you tell someone "don't think about elephants" DOES come to mind! Do we have any hope for controlling the thoughts that run through our brains? Do we have a one-way ticket on the crazy train, no stops? I know I often sure feel like *I* do! There were several points in my life where I struggled so deeply with anxiety that I felt like someone had hijacked my brain and was MAKING it think in a completely irrational, terrifying way.

It only makes sense that sinful human beings in a sinful world would probably have something wrong with their thought processes. (Thanks to my class assignments on Jay Adams' book for that seemingly obvious but often neglected observation...) Our thinking is deeply flawed. We do not naturally believe the truth about God and what He says in His Word. We are very tempted to "lean on [our] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) rather than trust what God says and obey Him. Even when physical illness and chemical imbalances are what start out thoughts down the wrong road, we still often sin in our responses to those problems. If you need medical help, please do get medical help, but don't neglect the spiritual side of things. (I'm not qualified to write a paper on all the ramifications of mental illness and medication - I have a friend who is doing that, and I'm looking forward to reading it - but I know this much is true.)  The question is, are we stuck?

This is where so much of what I learned in class this term, and so much of what I have been learning from friends over the last year or two, comes in. (Okay, it came in a lot earlier than this, but this is a pretty important main point.)

Wrong actions and wrong feelings come from wrong thinking. Wrong thinking comes from wrong theology.

If you're anything like me five-and-a-half years ago when I came here, your eyes are probably glazing over at the mention of theology. I came here to hold orphan babies for a few months. I still like doing that, but the thought of how God turned that person into someone who loved Him even more than that, still makes me smirk a little. I'm naturally a very stubborn person (my parents called me a Philadelphia lawyer) and have a pretty one-track mind when it comes to getting and doing what I want...and God usually changes my mind and has me doing the things I said I'd never do - like living here long-term, or studying counseling. I'm starting to think that if I say I'll never do something, that will be the thing I end up doing! (Hmm...surely there is some way to use this to my advantage!)

At any rate, I remember coming here and being a tad bit put off by how theological the church was. I didn't agree with some of the Reformed theology that they so openly and repetitively espoused. Someone had put a poster with the attributes of God on the wall in our intern bedroom - I distinctly remember thinking something along the lines of "why would I want to learn that? That's boring." Not to mention I didn't particularly want to chill in my room thinking about God's wrath and justice. (There were plenty of other attributes on there, but I'm pretty sure those were the ones that caught my eye first.) I thought my friends who read tons of Christian books and got together and prayed in their spare time (not at church!) were a little weird. (I'm looking at you, Abi V...) Now I've probably got a number of you thinking that I never should have come on the mission field in the first place...and I do spend quite a bit of time myself wondering why 1Hope ever decided to include me...but God, in His grace and for some inexplicable reason, decided the best place to give me my training was on the field. And in doing so, He made me learn to love to learn more about Him.

Theology is not some dry, boring textbook study. Theology is how you think of, view, and understand God. It influences our thoughts and attitudes, shapes our behavior, and determines our actions. If you'll really think about this, you'll realize that this means everyone is a theologian, whether they believe what is true about God or not. We all have some idea of what God is like, and that always impacts our actions. Perhaps we think He is far away and uninvolved, so we do whatever we want. Perhaps we think His grace can be earned, so we do all kinds of good works to try to obtain it.

We don't want to be bad theologians. God is worth our time and attention and careful study (and our nausea, I may add) and He completely deserves that we should work to have a right understanding of Him, at least as far as our finite minds can grasp. Not to mention, we will be much more content and fulfilled when we are not believing lies! Thankfully, we are not left on our own in this regard! He is happy to help us! But growth in our understanding of God takes a lot of hard work.

So, how do I start thinking differently?

There are a lot of truths about God that I need to know, believe, and understand to help me start thinking in the right way.

I need to understand WHO God is and WHAT He is like. God has many attributes, so I'll just touch on a few.

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable." (Psalm 45:3)

"[God is not] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:25)

He is infinite - He has no limits. He is self-sufficient - He needs nothing from me or from anyone or anything else. He is all-powerful - nothing is too hard for him. I have many limits. I can't see the future. I can't always tell the wisest course of action. I get tired and have to sleep. I get hungry and have to eat. He is full of immeasurable strength. I am weak and finite and can't do anything without help. I can be frustrated by this, or I can depend fully on my infinite Father. I can rejoice that He, the all-powerful one, is working everything for my good (Romans 8:28).

"For I the LORD do not change." (Malachi 3:6)

God never changes. He is perfectly faithful. What He says he will do - His Word is true, no matter how many centuries or millennia have elapsed since the time He has given it to us. On the other hand, I change all the time. This may be negative in some senses - for example, I don't keep all my promises, I develop new sinful habits, etc - but it is also encouraging, because, since only God is immutable (unchangeable), I know He can work in me to help me change and grow (Phil. 1:6). If I am frustrated with someone else who seemingly will "never change", I can remember that they are not God - they are changeable, by God's grace.

"Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

"His understanding is unsearchable." (Isaiah 40:28)

He is omnipresent (everywhere present) and omniscient (all-knowing). I can only be in one place at one time, and I certainly can't and never will be able to know very much at all, compared to what God knows. His wisdom and knowledge are unsearchable, and neither I nor anyone else could ever presume to tell Him what the wisest course of action might be (Romans 11:33-34). This is helpful to remember when I look at a situation and think "But why isn't God doing [x]??!! This just doesn't make sense! Why is my friend suffering? Why is sin going unpunished? Why...why...why?" I don't think it's necessarily wrong to ask why, but I do think it needs to be asked humbly and with the realization that God is wiser than I could ever dream of being.

(Ok, this reminds me of one of my current favorite songs, and I just have to include it...)

These are just a few aspects of God's character. There are many more - God is holy, loving, just, good, merciful, truthful, patient...and the list goes on. When I am tempted to be anxious, or angry, or discouraged, a good place to start taming my thoughts is to remember what is true about God. It's not enough to repeat "God is love, God is love" over and over in my head, though. I need to think about how certain truths specifically apply to my situation. 

Since God is just (Romans 12:19), I don't need to become all worked up about a wrong done to me. I don't need to worry about making them pay - either overtly or more subtly, by holding a grudge or gossiping about them. If the offender is a believer, God already poured out His wrath on Christ at the cross. If they are not, I tremble at the judgment that awaits them! Nothing I could mete out could compare to that.

Since God has been infinitely patient with me (Romans 2:4), I can be patient with others, even when they hurt me over and over and over. I can love them and even pray for them - "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28). 

Since God is all-powerful and all-wise, I know that He will do what is right and best in the situation, even if it seems confusing to me. I may grieve over a lost child, a sick friend, or someone's hard heart, but I know that even though I don't understand why things are happening, I can trust my strong, loving, GOOD God.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes these things feel like they are the exact opposite of the truth! When I'm overwhelmed by emotion, emotion is the thing that sticks out the most clearly. If I haven't committed ahead of time to think about the truth, it is very hard to stop the thought-train. It's important to learn truth when you aren't emotional, so that you have an arsenal of weapons to fight the lies.

In addition to thinking the truth about God, it's important to realize the lies you are believing and counteract them with specific truth. I'm actually doing this right now, as a homework assignment regarding a certain situation. It looks something like this (more specific, but for the sake of my blog, I've generalized it somewhat).

What I'm thinking: "This is too hard. I can't keep loving and trying to do what's right (and failing and trying to deal with that) week after week, month after month, year after year. This will never end. I want to give up. I want life to be comfortable and easy."

Truth: This hurts, but it hurts like exercise hurts. It's actually building spiritual muscle - that's what James 1:2-3 tells me. (Oh, how many times did my dad tell us, "Count it all joy!") Also, Romans 5:3-5 tells me that


brings perseverance

which brings character

which brings hope

which does not disappoint!

However, these things are only true if I respond in the right way. If I grumble, complain, and fight against God's plan for growing character, I will not develop maturity (or at the very least, will take far longer than necessary!) One way to respond in the right way is to rejoice - to COUNT - to reckon - it all joy. This hit me kind of hard when I thought about it. One question that kept running through my head was "how long will it be before I have joy again?" But I don't need to wait one minute for that joy. I have something to rejoice in now - God is working in me. (I actually went on to make a whole list of reasons for joy, and ended up with two pages.) Peter actually says (in 1 Peter 1:6) that we GREATLY rejoice! What? That's crazy talk, isn't it? How can I GREATLY rejoice when my emotions want to immobilize me with fear, anger, nausea, etc? Well, it's not crazy, but I can only GREATLY rejoice when I count what is unseen as more true and real than what I can see (2 Corinthians 4:18). I can only refer to this situation as a "momentary, light affliction" (v. 17) if I think this way!

Ok, let's look at another one. 

What I'm thinking: I shouldn't need help. Or, I should only need God's help. Or, at the very least, I should need LESS help. I am an inconvenience and exhausting to people who love me. I depend too much on people. I should be more mature by now.

Truth: Sometimes lies do have a grain of truth to them, which is why it's important to look critically at them. 

Sometimes, I do depend on people in sinful ways. I may go to them to "vent" (by "vent" I mean freely express my emotions with no consideration of or concern for whether or not I'm reacting
sinfully or not - aka gossiping, ranting angrily, choosing to believe lies, etc - as opposed to honestly laying out what I'm struggling with and asking for help).

I may go to them expecting them to make me feel better - which can be dangerous, because often what is the most helpful actually feels the worst. What is generally most needed - facing up to my own sin in the situation and dealing with that - can be humbling, embarrassing, and painful. I will probably feel better in the end, but I can't go to them expecting them to MAKE me feel differently.

However, it is not wrong that I am needy. I first and foremost need God - and I shouldn't expect others to do what only He can do - but, we ARE needy, and what's more, we are needy by design. Adam depended on God for everything, and what's more, it wasn't good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18)! It is also not good for me, as a Christian, to be alone. I'm part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). It wouldn't be good for a nose or an ear to wander off alone! The various parts of the body are completely dependent on each other to function.

We are told to exhort (encourage) one another EVERY DAY (Hebrews 3:13). We are told to stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We grow by speaking truth in love to each other (Ephesians 4:15-16).

It is true that I'm an inconvenience. Loving someone is not convenient. Dealing with someone's sin is a far cry from convenience. But the truth is that we are all a whole lot more than an inconvenience. Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). I think it may often be pride that says "I don't want to bother people. I want to be perfect and easy to love. I want to be good enough to be worth their time." But I'm not good enough and I'm definitely not independent. I'm a sinner, I can be irritating, I talk (and text) too much and at inopportune times, I'm stubborn, and I fall into the same sin more than once! However, the same God who is helping me to be patient with others and to find joy even when things are hard, is helping them as well.

I, like most people, have way more than one or two lies that I believe when I am struggling, and it takes work to address each and every lie, but for the sake of brevity - brevity, who am I kidding, this thing is already probably too long for a lot of you to read in one sitting - but for the sake of relative brevity, I'll just give you these two examples.

I didn't just pull this out of thin air. These are principles that are taught in Philippians 4 where Paul tells his readers to "be anxious for nothing." He doesn't just leave us with that instruction - he tells us how. We need to pray - with thanksgiving! - and bring our requests and our struggles to God (v. 6). He will give us peace, but not apart from us following the instructions in verse 8 - to think about what is true, right, lovely, etc. As we PRACTICE doing this, God will give us His peace (v. 9). 

Reorganizing my thoughts like this is hard work. Taking every thought CAPTIVE (2 Corinthians 10:5) implies a battle. It's something akin to herding cats - they don't want to go where you want them to, they tend to fight back, and just when you think you have them all cornered, some of them escape again. The good news is, thoughts are slightly more trainable than recalcitrant felines. I am nowhere near where I should be with regards to disciplining my thoughts, but I'm also nowhere near where I used to be, by God's grace.

I've learned how to pull the emergency brake on the "crazy train" of my emotions, even if I do still get on board.

I sometimes still become stuck in my thought-prison, but now I know I have the key to open the door. I DO NOT have to stay there. I am not trapped, no matter how I may feel.

I can't do this alone - I always need God's help and I often need the help of others. But this is a good thing - when I see how weak I am, I see how strong He is, and I can glorify Him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So, we have HOPE! Even when life is hard, when day-to-day irritations wear us down, when others sin against us and hurt us, when we sin against others, when we fail repeatedly, when we aren't strong enough, when we are emotional, when tragedy strikes, when the worst happens...we still have hope, and not a wishy-washy, flimsy, "I hope so" kind of hope, but the sure and certain kind of hope that is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19), the kind of hope that does not disappoint or put us to shame (Romans 5:5). And because of that hope, we can rejoice...we can even "greatly rejoice"!

God is good, and does good. (Psalm 119:68)

God is working everything for our good as believers, to make us more like Christ. (Romans 8:28).

God caused us to be born again, is storing up an imperishable inheritance in heaven for us, and will protect us and hold us fast until we receive it. (1 Peter 1:3-5).

So rejoice, friends. Even when life is hard. We serve a good God!

This has been quite a long blog post, but I'm glad I was able to write it. I certainly don't "have it all down", even if I am able to articulate the truth. I'm fairly aware of how much I fail at this stuff on a day to day basis! But, like I said, I serve a good God, and I'm so grateful for that. And, even the act of writing it helped me with taking my own thoughts captive. I hope it helps someone else as well!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

May Update

Hey everyone! It's been a busy few months over here at MBH! For more regular updates on the babies, you can follow us on Facebook (1Hope Ministries International) or Instagram (muphamuzibabyhome). I do most of the updates on there, so I feel like I'm doing well at communicating, until I think about how I haven't updated this blog!

Babies are growing and leaving and new ones are arriving! Right now we still have Littlebug (2 1/2 years), Special K (15 months), and Babybear (14 months). Our new arrivals are M&M (2 months) and Pipsqueak (5 weeks). In addition to our five, we also spend a lot of time with our houseparents' kids, Big T (3 years) and Little T (2 years). The MBH toddlers are into everything - and testing as many limits as possible! - and the little ones are at the age where they want to be held 24/7, so we are very, very, VERY busy, even with two caregivers on shift a large part of the time.

"Where's Littlebug?" Hmm, I don't know, certainly not under the screaming, giggling pile of almost every pillow and book MBH owns...

Umm, I think you're a bit big for that, Littlebug!

He insisted this green tomato was an apple, and took a giant bite to prove it. He wouldn't admit he was wrong, either...

Special K's sass level is off the charts. She learned how to say my name yesterday, and spent a good chunk of the afternoon repeating it over and over and whacking me as hard as she could to get my attention (like I couldn't hear "Abbie! Abbie! Abbie!" on repeat!)

Making a joyful noise after church - a very noisy joyful noise!

They can be pretty sweet, though!


I am with the "big kids" 3-4 days out of my week (the other days I'm working with the newborns or in the office). I try to spend as much of my time outside with them as possible - there is much less mischief for them to get into! I found a toy kitchen (in dubious condition) from the thrift store. All the kids are enjoying it to the fullest, despite it missing several more or less essential parts, like a sink and a stove burner, and despite the fact that pieces keep falling off and having to be reattached. One of the oldest kids' favorite books is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and they spend a lot of time cooking the foods mentioned in that book. I can't even tell you how many pretend slices of salami Big T has prepared for me!

Several kiddos had birthdays since my last blog post...

It's SuperBabyBear! 

Recently I had the chance to take Big T, Little T, and Littlebug (with the help of several friends) out to the farmer's market on a Saturday morning. They had a blast. They all enjoyed the "train" but were too afraid to go on the pony ride.

Afterwards we stopped by the German butchery and bakery, where they were entranced. I'm not sure what everyone around me thought when I walked in alone with three toddlers who were all shouting  "Salami! Salami!"

We had an Easter egg hunt.

Some of us seemed more excited than others...

Life with my housemates (pictured below) has been nothing short of wonderful. We have been staying together since October, and have had zero conflicts - they are so easy to get along with! We really enjoy praying together every night and talking about our day - as long as we are all home, we don't skip, even if it's 10 pm! Life and ministry can be stressful and to have your home and family as a haven is such a blessing.

Unfortunately, our intern, Luise is only here for two more months. If it were up to me, I'd keep her in SA forever!

We finished our gallery wall forever ago, but I guess it's been so long since I posted that it's still "new news" here. I just love it! I did most of the pictures, but several were done by church friends.

I also flipped this dingy-looking, lidless box from the thrift store...

...into this blanket chest for a corner of the dining room. The mirror was one of my projects too. I broke my full-length mirror, so I had it cut and made a frame to fit out of pallet wood.

This last month has been rather challenging, due to my (questionably) faithful car, Sunshine, needing some major repairs. Something was wrong with the engine - I don't understand the inner workings of cars particularly well, but I am thankful that I have several friends who do, and were willing to talk to the mechanics and help me figure out what to do. The first repair shop gave me several quotes, one a little over $1000 that would only last for a couple of months, and another one, closer to the original price of the car (!!!) that would thoroughly fix the problem. 

I hemmed and hawed for a while - by no means was I paying that much to fix a 12 year old car! I didn't know whether to try to fix it and sell it - that seemed like I would be losing money, but I didn't think I'd get very much for it as-is. I ended up finding someone who would fix it better for much less, but I have decided it's time to sell. Sunshine has been costing me an enormous amount in repair bills, several hundred dollars at least every few months - and even if this problem isn't an issue, I'm sure there are many more expenses right around the corner. 

So I am going to have it repaired, but then start car shopping (and simultaneously trying to sell it - hope the timing of that works out...)...but this time, for a minivan, or at least the closest South African equivalent, a MPV. The trunk is very small, but it seats seven people. (If anyone would love to donate toward this expense, you can check out the link on the side of my blog!) It will unfortunately be more expensive when it comes to gas/petrol and probably insurance as well. However, our church community in our neighborhood is growing - but most of them don't have cars - and a larger car is a real ministry need, both for my job at MBH and for church. I often have many more people needing a ride than can fit in my tiny car!

In the meantime, I've been car-less for about three and a half weeks. I've been surviving catching rides with others and using public transport, which has resulted in many enjoyable adventures. It IS possible to get around this city without a car, and it's not overwhelmingly expensive to get where I need to go. Despite this, being without a car is not a good long-term solution - I've mostly been living out of my pantry and freezer instead of doing much grocery shopping, I can generally only get where I NEED to go, it's far more time-consuming, it's much more expensive to go out at night, and my ability to help others with transport is now pretty much nonexistent.

Luise and I taking all five of the babies to church - Living Hope has a 16-passenger van, but counting kids, it's more like a 24-30 passenger van...

One of the biggest reasons I've been so bad at updating here, is, as I mentioned in my last post, that I started school. I'm going to Theology of Biblical Counseling class every Tuesday night. Luise is auditing alongside me, but I'm doing the homework...and the homework load is pretty heavy, especially when I am working full-time and heavily involved in my church community. I haven't done any sort of school in 8-9 years, so getting my brain muscles back into shape has been pretty painful, particularly when I already struggle with time management! I've managed to turn everything in on time, but by the skin of my teeth, and it has meant a lot of late weekend nights - due dates are on Sundays. However, I am sort of almost done with my first module, out of eight, so I can see progress! I'm learning a lot, most importantly that most of the issues we have are because we are believing something about God that isn't true. It's hard, but it's been very worth it! Please keep praying that I can learn more and apply more to my own life, and that I would be able to help others - also, that I'd be able to manage my time well.

Thank you so much for all your love and support! I love hearing from you all!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Update

Hey everyone! Sorry - it's been a while. The last few months have been busy with holidays and such, but I'll try to catch you up on things here in my life and at MBH.

The toddlers are growing! They enjoy playing outside every day.

Little T cheesing it up

They enjoy the new "big kid" swing I made for them. 

Littlebug is growing like a weed! He's starting to talk up a storm, and he loves interacting with the babies as well as the big kids. He is getting better at feeding himself, he can take off his shoes on his own, and he is learning to put them on, although I never realized how many steps are involved!

Step 1: Don't put the shoe on your head.
Step 2: Don't bang the shoe aimlessly and upside down against the bottom of your foot. No, you need to LOOK at the shoe. The SHOE. Not me. Not out the window.
Step 3: Open the velcro, Littlebug.
Step 4: No, not that side. The other side. PULL! Good job.
Step 5: Ok, put it on your foot. No, the other foot. No, turn it around. No, your toes are going through the side.
Step 6: Now you need to pull the strap around your ankle. No, not that direction!
Step 7: You can't close it yet. See, the other side of the velcro is stuck under your foot. You have to take it this...
Step 8: Close the shoe! (I open it again and tighten it.) Good job! Now you can go play!
*to be repeated again in 5 minutes when it falls off*

Special K is into E V E R Y T H I N G. She follows me around and jabbers constantly. Her goal in life is to be as underfoot as possible. Here she is "helping" make baby food. It's nice that she wants to help, since she eats about 8-10 ice cubes full of food at every meal! It is almost impossible to keep these babies in food!

Cupcake is finally scooting (she's almost 1), although she'd just as soon scoot on her bum as she would on her stomach! Littlebug enjoys entertaining her.

Mr. "Cool Dude" Babybear is also crawling. He enjoys physical exertion in its varied forms, including planking (shown below).

And our littlest (Squishy) enjoys being the center of a gaggle of attention!

We enjoyed the holidays here in SA! Here we are having an American Thanksgiving. I had plans for a beautiful table set outside amid all the flowers, but it rained cats and dogs and we fit all 30+ people into our VERY modestly-sized house. It was chaos, but fun chaos.

I really enjoyed dressing up the house for Christmas.

My first Christmas tree from 2015

Nativity set and new mirror that I made from a broken one!

In the kitchen

I love the red and green!

Snowflakes were from last year, and the pine garland I made from some branches I picked on the side of the road.

The toddlers enjoyed their stockings!

We had a sleepover and pancake breakfast at my house! It was a great Christmas. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with friends and enjoying a cookout.

Now January has started, and it's back to life as usual! Below is our church's Sunday school - we take turns helping out and it was my turn a couple of weeks ago.

My friend Sarah and I managed to sneak in a quick "vacation" (aka, we finally had a little quiet to get some admin work done!) for a few days out in the country. We stayed with some friends. Did I mention it was QUIET?!

Our house mom has started her own little homeschool! The kids are doing really well and we have some three year olds that will probably be reading soon! It's so much fun and takes me back to when I was a kid.

Oh, Littlebug....!

I've managed to sneak in a little time to work on home decor. Below is the bookshelf that I finally finished...

Simple shelf and heart garland (from music paper)

I've been enjoying learning to hand letter! I have a whole wall in the dining room with hand lettered art - maybe I'll post a picture when it is finished.

Plant "bookshelf"

Oh - and I can't forget a picture of my sweet housemates who share this home with me! I love them so much - they are such a blessing.

So, probably my biggest news (for those of you who don't know) is that I am *gulp* going back to school...after 8+ years of very little official academic exertion whatsoever. I am taking this program: It is hosted by one of our sister churches and it teaches Biblical counseling. I'm excited to learn but I'm really nervous about homework and due dates and a whole lot less free time! Please keep me in your prayers, that I will be able to keep up, to manage my time, and to really internalize what I'm learning.

It's getting late here, and I have a few things left to do, so I'd better get going! Hopefully soon I'll have time to write something more than just basic updates - but we shall see!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October Update

Hey everyone! While I'm missing the fall colors that are happening back in Ohio, I'm enjoying the purple jacaranda trees here in Pretoria. They are everywhere and the whole city is purple!


The kids are enjoying the nice weather and play outside for hours every day.

The 2Ts love to "help" hang the laundry - especially Little T. We were walking out to the clothes line the other day when she cried "Oh! Beautiful!" Before I could ask what was beautiful, she exclaimed, "Beautiful laundry!" Hopefully she still feels that way about it when she grows up! Ha ha! She is a determined helper and has to turn the basket sideways and crawl inside for each and every last piece of laundry at the bottom...or until I tell her to go play! 

They love "playin' soil" and they REALLY love it when I let them have water to make mud.

They like to "wash" the bikes...with mud...

Petting the neighbor's cat. Big T, always an encourager, told her "I like your tail!"

Everyone swept the patio while I changed out the winter clothes.

Littlebug is kind of obsessed with the guy who helps with the garden.

Practicing balance. I taught them to walk on the low wall (18-24") surrounding the patio and now they want to do it over and over...

This sweet thing turned two in September.

She and I accidentally matched at church the other week.

Big T and Littlebug share a birthday. They turned three and two in October. Little T was very jealous. It probably felt like everyone in the whole world was having a happy birthday except for her!

Puppy hugs!

Big T got a puppy as well.

Enjoying cake

L is growing and exploring. He likes to get himself stuck in the baby walker. He's learning to say more words and to do lots of things, like clean up toys and take off his boots and put them away neatly.

He LOVES to give "hugGIES!" and kisses, especially to his "sister" and roommate, Special K.

Special K got her first teeth!

She is very, very mobile and doesn't stay in the same spot for two seconds at a time! She loves to terrorize the other babies and knock down their bottles. She usually ends up in baby jail (the jumper) when I have to do something like clean or eat.

She is generally happy and smiling! She's a live wire.


I put a blanket down but she won't stay on it!

Chubby Cupcake is growing as well. She likes hugs!

She's not quite as ready to smile as K, but it's in there...

Baby Bear is a happy guy too. 

Someone left the bowl on his tray for a few seconds and he decided to try feeding himself. 

My housemate (and the MBH manager), Britt, moved out in the beginning of October. I miss staying with her but at least I still get to see her regularly! 

The house was soooo empty when she moved and took all her things. I am filling it up very slowly (with lots of thrift store trips)! 

I took EVERYTHING out of the pantry, scrubbed it, and sprayed for the ants that will inevitably come.

I love having a pantry! (And a house!) 

My cozy little room with all its thrift store/handmade decor


Vimbai, my coworker from Zimbabwe, moved in with me. Unfortunately we don't have a housemate picture yet! She shares a room with Luise, our new intern from Germany, who will be living with us for the next ten months. I already don't want her to leave! She is sweet and has a great sense of humor.

Vim and I introduced some color into our empty kitchen. I love it and am on the hunt for even more rainbow things.

Rainbow dishtowel and bowls!

It's getting late here, but I thought I'd leave you with a hug! Love to you all!