Thursday, March 29, 2018

March

Well, it's been a couple of months since I gave a thorough update on my life, so I'll do my best!

In February, I enjoyed attending yet another wedding of a dear friend. It was a lot of fun and looked kind of like Pinterest in real life, complete with hay bales and a picnic reception by a pond. She looks awfully happy but we miss having her around at Living Hope!


A friend and I at the wedding


Also, in other news, the vegetables are surprised.


The babies are doing well! L is getting so big. He's 17 months old now and a very active little guy. He likes to play with other babies and toddlers who live here (well, the 8 month old irritates him because she steals his toys!) He enjoys swinging, watching shows, and EATING to fuel his endless energy! He spends most of the day running back and forth like a bouncy ball...sometimes with his eyes closed, which he thinks is really fun! He's saying a few words - "thank you," "showtime," "hallelujah" etc but he sings more than he talks (and we can usually tell the song he is singing!) This month he got to go on a field trip and see cows!


Baby "R" is getting so big and is super advanced for her age! She's not quite 8 months but she's pulling to a stand and crawling. She will chase L all the way across the room if she wants his toy, and makes a beeline for any open doors! She definitely thinks she's one of the big kids. She has two teeth and is eating solids, although she HATES green beans!


Some babies went home this month (yay!) and now we have a whole bunch of newborns!

Sweet baby T is about six weeks old. She likes to be carried in a baby wrap. She cries a lot, which is pretty normal for her age, although we are trying to see if maybe a different formula will help! She's growing fast and getting a bit chubby!


Baby K is actually a bit older than T, but she came to us after T did. She likes sleeping a bit more than her "sister" but also enjoys being held!


Baby B is our newest (and tiniest!) addition! He's about two weeks old and is so snuggly. We are happy to have a baby boy in our house of girls!


There has been a LOT of babywearing. I've gotten quite proficient at putting two newborns in a wrap - although here I just have one. Somehow they always want to be awake while the toddler is sleeping! Gotta do what you gotta do to get the house clean!


Tadi (our house parents' baby) is getting bigger (and more stubborn - haha) and talking a lot! She loves her babies and like a good mom, doesn't discriminate between her children, even if one looks a lot like Anakin Skywalker, or, as Gogo Linda likes to call it "the policeman"...


Our rough-and-tough-looking crew out for a ride!


Big T is growing! He's always saying something funny...

T: (singing) I love me, you love me, we're a happy fal-a-meeeee.....

Me: (puts on makeup) 
T: Good job, Abbie, good job! You so cute!

Me: Hey, guys!
T: Hey, Guy Abbie!

I am coming home to renew my visa at the end of April/beginning of May, so I hope to see some of you then! I will be home about two months. I'm excited to visit the States but also sad to leave my home here behind. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Learning to love

I decided to do a bit of a different update this time (since I don't have very many pictures anyway) and write something about what God has been doing here, in my heart and in my life.

I'm here at the library again - the view isn't fabulous or anything but I'm enjoying the quiet! I have about an hour before it closes, though, so I might finish this later...gotta get home and get dinner ready for one little one who will be eagerly waiting for food!


He stays busy allll day! It's no wonder he eats as much as he does!

I mentioned in the last blog post about how difficult the last few months have been. But what has been amazing to see is how God has been working through all of it. When everything was starting, I was pouring out my heart to a good friend...explaining that I felt like the spiritual baby of 1Hope. Or, well, maybe a toddler, but light years behind everyone else. I definitely don't feel mature. Her response? "Well, maybe this is the year you grow up." (This definitely has more of an "ouch!" factor when I write it out like that, but trust me, it was done in love...)

Now, while I certainly do not consider that I've grown up in the last two or three months (ha!) I can see God working in these trials. I'd say a consistent theme of even the last six months has been learning to love. Learning to love others, learning to love Him and rely first and foremost on Him, learning to love the Gospel in deeper ways than I have before.

What does it mean to love? I'm still figuring this out, but as far as I can tell, it's not so hard to love when it's something you want to do. Oh, don't get me wrong, the person doesn't have to be someone who is hurting you (although I've been there too), sometimes they can just be...boring. Really? You need a nappy change AGAIN? You're whining AGAIN? (Yes, I grasp the irony of complaining about complaining, and more often than not the reason I'm singing the "Do Everything Without Complaining" song is not so much for the whiny toddler as it is for myself!) It doesn't have to be a...

Ok, here is the point where I had a great second half and the poor library wifi didn't back it up and I came home and accidentally closed the wrong tab and lost it all and then people were playing loud music and I had to fight the temptation to not completely contradict everything I'm writing today...

...just keeping it real...

The person who is hard to love doesn't have to be someone who is deliberately difficult. It could be a whiny toddler or a screaming baby. It could be that new person at church, or the person you've known forever but never really talk to or get to know. It could be someone who disagrees with you, someone who pushes your buttons even when they aren't trying, someone who has different expectations of your behavior than you do. (Cross-cultural ministry for sure!) It could be someone who actually is sinning against you, although it might be someone who isn't. More often than not, if I find someone difficult to love, I find that has more to do with myself and my own heart than with the other person.

So, what does love look like? 1 Corinthians 13 does an excellent job of explaining, and I won't presume to improve upon it, but it might be helpful to see how it plays out in daily life. It doesn't always look like warm, fuzzy feelings, in fact, often it doesn't, although those are nice and I appreciate them when they are there.

For me, love looks (or should look) a lot like...

...cleaning up vomit for the fourth time in a meal, without losing my temper, even when I have a sneaking suspicion the child is making himself throw up on purpose.

...pursuing reconciliation when I sense a breach in the relationship, even if it means I have to be a little awkward and admit my own failure.

...not getting irritated when someone shoves me away from the sink yet again without asking. (I'm not sure if this is a cultural thing, or a byproduct of having four people perpetually cooking four different meals in the kitchen all at the same time...)

...not losing it when someone screams for an hour at 2 am. (The someone is a one year old, not an adult, just in case you were wondering. Although after a while one does feel like crying along with them!)

...answering a thousand questions in a day, even ones that seem super obvious. 

...accepting that my culture doesn't always have the one right way to do things.

...loving people even when they intentionally sin against me.

...not letting someone's behavior determine whether or not I show kindness and love to them.

...cleaning up a lot of bodily fluids.

...saying goodbye to a baby when I know it's for their best.

...loving a baby even when I know I'm going to have to say goodbye.

...giving lots of rides. Not ALL the rides, but lots of rides.

...eating meals together.

...asking questions, good ones, that clue me in to how someone's life is really going.

...washing someone's dishes, even if I rarely see them washing my dishes.

...showing grace. Helping clean up messes that don't belong to me, not just physical messes, although believe me, I clean up a lot of those too.

...patience, trusting God to change someone and knowing I can't.

...looking for ways to spend time with people. 

...not answering back when I'm irritated.

...telling someone I love them and encouraging them. Life is too short to keep your mouth shut when you shouldn't. Look at how Paul wrote to the churches! I've been memorizing Philippians and this strikes me.

...refraining from gossip.

...believing the best.

...making an effort to build friendships with people I don't naturally click with.

...not being shocked by sin, but remembering that my sin, too, put Christ on the cross. Loving through pain. By loving someone, I may be willingly taking on a hurtful situation, one where I am hurt again and again, but really, I had someone who took the nails for me. Any pain I experience is far less, and it is a privilege to be able to share His suffering even in a small way. God gives grace, and endurance, and joy.

...doing the hard or awkward or inconvenient thing, the thing that encroaches into my free time. Giving of my time and my money and my resources and my life.

...speaking the Truth, because the Word of God is living and active and more powerful than any two-edged sword, because God alone has the power to bring the dead to life, the power to change hearts, and He uses His Word to work miracles. Speaking the Truth because the Gospel is beautiful and I want to see redemption, to see something beautiful, to watch as God takes my breath away.

...speaking the Truth even when I don't see the results, and trusting God with it.

...giving of my emotional energy until I am left feeling so drained I realize only Christ can fill me...and, to be honest, there's no better place to be than in realization of my full reliance on Him. I rest, yes, but I have to remember where my deepest rest lies. 

...resting in Christ and going to sleep in peace because I know that I can trust him with whatever tomorrow brings in my relationships with others...even if I sometimes struggle to believe that.

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

Monday, January 29, 2018

December/January

I never got to writing the posts for December, so I will do my best to fill you in this month! I'm currently sitting at the library in town and it is SO blissfully quiet compared to trying to write during the day at MBH! Ha ha!

These last two months have been full. I know I say that every time I write an update, but it is even more the case than usual. December holidays happened, I took a trip to Durban (my first real vacation in South Africa!), and a good friend got married. In addition to all these blessings, we went through a lot of hardship. My dear friend, mentor, and pastor's wife, mom of nine kids, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Other friends from our church suffered losses as well, family members seriously ill and unexpected death. Difficulties in relationships and watching dear friends go through hardship and suffering I'd never wish on anyone. Uncertainties regarding our babies' futures. Life has been raw and real but through the midst of it all is woven the golden thread of God's grace and strength and love, sustaining us and binding us ever closer as a family, even when we are hurting and when we hurt each other. I won't lie, the last two months have been painful, but I am slowly watching God breathe life into the ashes of pain, bringing growth and redemption...working His perfect plan even when life hurts.

I'm grateful that we have still had a lot of joyful moments over the last two months!


Traditional wedding in Durban


All dressed up for the occasion!


Hiking with my friend Idel, who accompanied me on the road trip


The view was amazing! Worth braving the slight drizzle.


We had lunch by a waterfall.



What would a trip to Durban be without time at the beach? So glad the weather cleared up! It was supposed to rain most of the time we were there. Our vacation theme: How Cheap Can We Possibly Be? As my one friend says, "The beach is free!"


We visited this little place called "Mini Town." Cuteness overload.


Top of one of the World Cup stadiums - they had a cable car ride.


Friends <3


We left on Sunday and came back the Thursday before Christmas. Saturday (the 23rd) was our 2nd Sort of Annual MBH Baking Day with the nannies.


Trying out a new recipe!


Vim working hard


Grandma Higginbotham's sugar cookies


I took my friend's boys to go see the Christmas lights at a nearby attraction. They also had a Ferris wheel - the boys loved it!


Christmas was spent at three different houses. Christmas Eve was the Drews, where we had a imperfectly perfect Christmas Eve, watching cheesy movies and burning many batches of rolls in the oven that apparently only had one setting, Blazing Inferno. L and I had a lovely time, minus the roll-burning part, although I think someone letting you bake in their kitchen at midnight on Christmas Eve is one of the truest signs they've adopted you into their family!

The next day around lunchtime we moved on to my friend Amani and Natacha's flat, where we had a true African Christmas braai (cookout), complete with enough beef to completely gorge myself.


Hanging out with the kids


BRAAI!

Right around the time I was completely stuffed and lying on the grass staring lazily up at the sky, it was time to move on to the Macks' for even more food! No one ever said being single means you have to be lonely (or hungry, for that matter). I was getting a bit desperate before Christmas and inviting myself everywhere, hoping I'd be able to find someone to adopt me as their Christmas baby - haha - but I didn't expect everyone to say yes!


New Year's was a quiet Sunday evening spent eating pizza, cheesecake, and mournfully watching Vim cream me at Dutch Blitz (which I had just taught her that night).


Our babies are getting bigger! L is now not only walking, but running, except when he's crashing, as seen above (we went to one nap this month). He knows the signs for "please", "thank you", and "all done" and the signs to answer "Who made you?" (God did) and "What else did God make?" (All things.) He doesn't talk much but did say "showtime!" and "Tadiwa!" this month so I wouldn't be surprised if his language starts exploding any day!


J can now ride a bike on his own (just kidding). But really, he's huge. He weighs about as much as L, even though L is 15 months and J is 8 months. He has two teeth now. He loves to give hugs (and pull hair, and earrings - ouch!) He can sit up, roll around, and turn in a circle. He enjoys swinging, snuggles and especially FOOD!


Little Miss C is on the move! She's seven months old and rolling EVERYWHERE! She loves to kick anything within reach - be it furniture, walls, doors, or other babies. She can hold her own bottle and is eating lots of veggies - although she doesn't like peas or green beans!


Baby "R" is growing fast! She's getting really chubby. She's five months old now and has two teeth. She enjoys being held and playing on her tummy and is starting to smile and interact more. She is usually a good napper and pretty content, unless it's feeding time!

That's about all I have to share with you today - gotta wrap up some more work here while I have the chance!

Monday, December 4, 2017

November

I feel like I start each post by saying, "This has been a busy month!" If we ever have a quiet month, I'll be sure to tell you!

Summer is upon us - well, sort of. Every time it starts to get very hot, we get a rainstorm and it cools down for a while. I picked my first veggies out of my garden - two zucchini. The zucchini are doing well, the peppers are ok, and the tomatoes were looking great but now I have leaf miners and I don't know how to safely get rid of them!

We celebrated Thanksgiving this month - well, some of us celebrated it twice! I went to our pastor's house on Thanksgiving Day, and then that Saturday, I organized Thanksgiving at MBH for the ladies and their families - I had LOTS of help!

The Saturday before, my coworker Kundai came to help me bake pies. We baked SO many pies! Apple, pumpkin, cheesecake (lots of cheesecake!), and shoofly, with plans to make chocolate pie the next week; everything else could go in the freezer.



I love this recipe for cheesecake. It's so simple and you can top it with whatever you want. The next week when I defrosted them I topped one with chocolate shavings, one with chocolate shavings and raspberry jam, one with blueberry jam, and one with strawberries. You just have to be sure to let it sit overnight - actually, the longer it sits the better it gets. And it did GREAT in the freezer!

I decided to do the turkey the Friday before our Thanksgiving. It was with great trepidation I embarked upon this monumental accomplishment in my adult life - cooking Thanksgiving dinner with no mother around to help. This was my second time roasting a turkey, and the first time hadn't turned out so well - the oven broke halfway through, which was not my fault, but you can imagine how appetizing a half-baked and then boiled turkey is. (Answer: not very.) I was ALMOST the only American at there (Britt came for a while too), so perhaps no one would know what a Thanksgiving dinner SHOULD taste like, but as Makoena remarked, "We know it's supposed to be good food."

Actually, the chief complaints I got about the turkey were 1.) "Why did you take the meat off the bones??! We want to eat the bones!" to which I replied, "No one is getting an entire turkey breast!" and 2.) "Why did you take the meat off the bones??! We want a whole turkey sitting on the table like in the movies!" If you haven't guessed by now, they like bones over here. Never fear, said bones did not go to waste (making stock is still considered to be waste because YOU DON'T EAT THE BONES!). One person, who will remain nameless, devoured almost an entire turkey carcass and most of a two-liter of soda (cooldrink) for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving...

But anyway, back to that Friday. After popping the turkey in the oven, with hopes for the best, my other coworker Gertrude and I set about preparing the rest of the Thanksgiving meat - namely, my chickens which were due to be special guests at the dinner table! I have been keeping laying hens but they were a bit old, two years this past August. Everyone has had their eyes on them and their stomachs rumbling at the thought since the first day I brought them home, and they were pretty happy to finally sink their teeth into them! People love "hard chicken" over here. (I can't say it's my favorite, although perhaps it could be made into stew.)

I've never butchered chickens before. I have assisted with the butchering/processing of cows and deer, but I never had to kill and/or disembowel anything personally. The killing was surprisingly easy, although I felt sad about it beforehand. Taking out the insides was about as gross as you would expect it to be. And did you know chickens can still fart on you after they are dead? It's true.


 Lest you think we were going to throw anything away, just know that they cooked the heart, liver, intestines, undeveloped eggs, feet, heads, and who knows what else. Yum. No, I didn't eat from this pot. Several people enjoyed it and someone finished it off the next day for breakfast. Hey, I'm just glad nothing was wasted!




I then proceeded to bleach EVERYTHING in the kitchen, some things multiple times - we hadn't planned on doing so much of it inside, but it started to rain and we had headless chickens and nowhere else to process them. Don't worry, it was all cleaned to within an inch of its life.

The next day was pretty busy - Kundai showed up again around seven in the morning to help me with dinner preparations. It took us all day! We baked a gazillion (aka six dozen) rolls from the same recipe my mom has used for as long as I remember. Of course there were a lot of other things to prepare too - and we needed to figure out a plan for setting up the tables inside since it was raining outside. Thankfully Britt figured something out while I was running around like crazy. (And if he's reading this, thanks to Garakai for picking up said tables...) We had a lot of people coming and not very much space, but somehow we made it work. It wasn't anything fancy but it was just perfect.

Meanwhile, all the kids ran around in the lounge and played in the cardboard house I built for Tadi and Big T.



The Zimbabwean singing group rehearsed their Christmas number in the office, providing a lovely soundtrack to our day. The rain fell gently outside and the rest of us ran around reheating the turkey and setting the table and getting out all the food.







Dinner itself was rather a rousing success and before I knew it, the serving dishes were almost all empty!



(There actually weren't any of these left at the end...)




We didn't have small chairs...so we improvised!




The chickens were a hit. The pot was cleared out in no time. I'm pretty sure I heard Hughlan (age 5) remark, as he gnawed on a piece, "Now THIS is what I call MEAT!" Very few things were left when we were done - the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes (forgotten in the oven), a little bit of green bean casserole, and some gravy. Oh, and some pumpkin and apple pie, although that is slowly being eaten. Everyone thinks pumpkin pie is sooooo weird but we had to have some! Of course, part of the reason for the rapid food disappearance is that people here are very serious about packing up the leftovers to take home! Give them five minutes and they can clean out the pans before you know what has happened! Ha ha! Everyone was flying everywhere with pie plates, trying to get a piece of everything. "We don't like sweets," they tell me, then moan happily as they devour the cheesecake. Yeah, right...

Funny moment of the day: Vimbai was trying to ask "Who killed the chickens?" but it came out, "Who killed the kitchen?" I took one sweeping look around at the mess that was Thanksgiving and replied, "Well, I guess we did..."

As far as the babies go - they are doing well! Baby M went to his forever family this month, leaving us with four babies for the time being.

L is growing up so fast! He started walking this month and NOTHING is going to slow this boy down! He would get up, fall, get up, fall, and get up again. His persistence is admirable, although I was thinking of sewing him a small cushion for his bum! Big T likes to take his hands and drag him across the living room, singing "Walk, walk, ev'ybuddy walk..." until L falls over (which is usually only a few steps as Big T goes too fast!) He's now doing quite well, although he still falls over a lot. I'm still waiting for him to start talking - so far he can approximate "thank you" and says "Yeah!" to a lot of things, although I'm not sure he knows what it means! Oh, and he melted my heart when I was putting him to bed the other night and he said "Eeeee!!" (Squeeze!)


J is a sweet seven month old now. He's the fattest little guy and is known as Mudhafi (Shona for, well, "Fats.") He can sit up nicely and is finally starting to push up off of his tummy. He's also getting VERY jealous when other babies are picked up! When you snuggle him, he smashes his face into you and gives kisses. He's so precious! He started food about a month ago and loves it all (avocados caused a funny face at first, but he's ok with them now). He didn't even need to be taught how to eat, he just opened his mouth and swallowed! He doesn't mess around with his food!


Baby C is five months. She's tall and lanky and would probably play basketball if they had it here. She's finally starting to dislike tummy time LESS, which is an accomplishment! She's also napping better, for which I'm very grateful.


C and J chilling before bath time

Baby "R" is almost four months old. She is much more active than C and rolls all over the place! She's currently the only baby in her room and is reveling in all the attention! She eats a lot and is getting quite chubby!


Funny moments this month...

In GC one night, one lady told us, "I have an onion salary. You look at it and it makes you cry."

Makoena and I were trying to figure out how to adjust the stroller. Big T looked at us struggling and advised, "I think...I think...push."

One day Tadi had a nice dress on, and all day, everyone was telling her, "Tadi, I like your dress!" That afternoon, I walked out of my room in my PJ's/workout clothes and Big T exclaimed, "Abbie, ah-like-ah dress!" (I like your dress!)

Big T's eyes water a lot. One day I told him, "T, your eyes are leaking." He then proceeded to go on and on about how "Auntie Leakin' go bye bye." I have NO idea what he's thinking some days...

While doing Bible study, a friend looked at my cursive handwriting (cursive isn't a thing here) and remarked, "Abbie, you write like you talk!" (That is to say: unintelligibly...)

On a more serious note, I've started journaling on my computer this month, and it's been amazing. It helps me remember more things to blog about, but more than just that, there are so many sweet, precious, painful, funny, breathtaking moments in everyday life that I want to remember. Things people say, photos I can't post, videos of everyday life that might not mean anything to anyone except me - but that mean a lot to me. It's a great place to pray, too. It's helped me be more thankful for the everyday moments and even the trials that God is using to mold me and make me more like Him. Life hasn't been especially easy since I've been back. There have been hard moments, some grief, day to day stress, and it's just a very busy life where I sometimes feel pulled in twenty different directions. But, it's a good life, and even when the moments aren't always especially good, God is so good, and I am so grateful for that. He is enough. He is always enough.