Monday, August 14, 2017

Enjoying singleness

I think at one point I had a really snarky and clever title for this blog's probably just as well I forgot it, ha ha!

I am 27, and I am single. This alone causes a number of people to feel sorry for me, or at least feel the need to reassure me that "don't worry, someone will come in God's time!" Well, maybe they will, or maybe that time could be "not at all," but either way I'm not sitting around pining, twiddling my thumbs, and feeling sorry for myself while waiting for my life to begin.

Let me clarify here. I think marriage is wonderful! God created it and it's a very good thing. In fact, I do hope I am married one day. And I look forward to loving and serving God alongside someone for life. Marriage is great. Kids are great. I hope I have both someday. (And I'm not opposed to single mom adoption, either, in fact I'm a fan, although I'd have a lot to think through, plan, pray about, and talk through with a lot of people in my life.)

But singleness is also great. This is actually in the Bible, yet some Christians act shocked when I tell them I thoroughly enjoy my current status. I had this conversation recently...and although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the exact words exchanged, I am not exaggerating...

Me: So, I do want to get married the future...but I really LIKE being single.
Newly Engaged Friend: Noooooo!!! That's wrong!! You can't enjoy it!
Me: But...Paul says it's a good thing in Corinthians.
NEF: But still! You can't ENJOY it!!!

My naturally stubborn nature says...why not?? If you tell me I shouldn't enjoy it, I will enjoy it even MORE! Ha. But seriously though, I'm single and I don't particularly enjoy being pitied for it. I actually love my life. 

I love working in ministry, and if I married, I'm not sure I'd want to leave it. I love caring for babies that need a home.

I would say I love my independence, but in my situation, I depend on others, and I have a LOT of people who depend on me for everything from rides to church to finding the sugar (like a mom, I'm apparently the only one in the house with x-ray vision). And although it may be tiring at times, it is good practice in laying my life down for others. I don't think people are meant to be as isolated as we are in the States. 

I love my little room, even when I'd rather have my own place, because I'm learning contentment.

I love my church and the fact that my adopted family is as real as any biological family.

I love the future, the potential of years ahead of loving and serving alongside these people, and the unexpected things God brings into my path.

I love living in South Africa, early morning walks in the neighborhood, trying to learn languages, finding new things and places to love.

I love the good, the wonderful, the crazy, and the obnoxious about living in the baby home...New babies arriving.  Bengu dancing in the sitting room. Four people trying to cook four separate dinners. "You wash, I'll dry." "Can I borrow an onion? Cooking oil? Sugar?" The endless requests to "show me how you cook that!" Embarrassing lessons in cooking pap - which seems like it would be easy, but taught me a very humbling lesson in patience for the next time someone asks me how to scrape a bowl with a spatula. Seven-minute workouts. Saturday morning scones and dancing as people run in and out. Rapping into a bottle of soy sauce about grasshoppers and mice. Earnest conversations, tears, laughter. Endless, endless Psalty, Steve Green, and Slugs and Bugs songs filtering over from our slowly dying TV. Piles of laundry loading into our washing machine that constantly sounds like it's readying for takeoff, no matter how many times it's fixed. Gertrude's stories of her childhood. Labor advice for pregnant moms. ("Scream really loud.") African and American dishes cooking side by side. Babies crying. Babies laughing. Learning to love each other well.

I love my good God. I love the fact that He is my dwelling place, my family, my joy, my ENOUGH, whether He brings someone into my life or not. And I hope He does. Just maybe not quite yet.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life at the baby home

Life here at the baby home has been busy! (But I'm sure you've surmised as much from the absence of blog posts, right?) We currently are full with five babies!

Baby L is 9 months old. He is scooting all over and loves bananas. He loves to make happy sounds and interact with us!

Baby J-1 is about five months old. He also is very interactive. He smiles and laughs so much! 

Baby M is four months old. He wants you to talk to him and play with him, and his hair is finally growing in nicely (he looked like a grandpa for a while...) 

Baby J-2 is three months old. His favorite thing to do is sleep! I joke that we sleep train the other babies but we have to wake-train him! He also likes to eat and I think his ankles have ankles.

Baby C is about six weeks old and is our only girl. If she had her way, she'd be held 24/7. (She does get her way often, because she is a loud one!) And this princess isn't happy with you holding her while you do other things - no, she wants your FULL attention!

And of course, the baby home photo gallery wouldn't be complete without these two who belong to our house mom, the two T's:

Big boy T

Naughty Tadi

Lots of babies means lots of chores! This is only part of my shopping haul for one month. (Psst - MBH needs lots of support to pay for all those nappies and cans of formula! If you'd be interested in directly supporting the ministry, click on the link on the sidebar, but choose Muphamuzi Baby Home instead of my name.)

Lots of baby food needs to be made!

Clothing ALWAYS needs to be sorted. I can't keep up with how fast the babies grow!

I organized the garage, which took forever. It's actually stayed neat for a few weeks now, which feels like it should be a record. Thanks Melanie for your help!

Sunday mornings feel like they come around more than once a week.

With the addition of baby C, there are now five carseats and five nappy bags in this lineup.

We love our new bottle bands! Everything is organized and labeled with a color system - the bottle bands match the carseat labels which match the nappy bag labels, and so on and so forth. It's beautiful.

This is our church. (Actually, this is our Good Friday meal, which shows how long it's been since I have written a proper blog post.) We are enjoying our new (rental) building! We are able to meet there more than once a week, which is really helpful for our rapidly growing congegation.

My room is finally clean. Well, it was when I took this picture...this was when I finally finished unpacking. I'm pretty sure it took at LEAST a month.

I've been enjoying time spent with our MBH interns. Erika and Melanie have returned to the US, and we miss them!

Rachel is also returning to the States after two months of serving with us. Like a good intern, she cheerfully puts up with all my crazy organizing chore ideas.

Baby home ladies all enjoyed a nice surprise "staff meeting" that was actually a trip to the bowling alley...

...and Cinnabon.

We had a power outage one evening and ate pb&j's (or variations on that theme) by candlelight. Thankfully we don't have regular "load shedding" - I've heard it's because we live close to the hospital. Load shedding is when they have scheduled power outages in various parts of the city...I think it's to keep from overtaxing the power system.

We also dealt with a rat infestation in the ceiling. That was delightful...NOT. Thankfully they never came into the house, but I could hear them up scratching around in the attic over the bathroom. They chewed through the wires to the hot water pump, resulting in no hot water to the back of the house and bucket baths for a few days! The chewed wires set off the hot water pump alarm...which could not be silenced...except with five cotton balls, a dozen or so pieces of duct tape, and three blankets to smother the obnoxious thing. I'm very glad that it's all fixed now...and we're starting to see dead, poisoned rats in the yard, which is pretty gross, but at least they aren't in the ceiling!

I've also enjoyed a few hikes lately. The Faerie Glen nature reserve is in the heart of Pretoria East, but it's a nice getaway nonetheless.

Wonderboom is a great hiking spot. It's also in the city, but on top of the hill is a crumbling, abandoned fort. It's peaceful, far above the busyness and you can see both the main part of Pretoria as well as Pretoria North.

Hennops is also a nice place to hike, although you have to drive out of the city a ways. 

There are lots of fun things to see...rock formations, lookouts, a tire ladder to climb down, a cable car across a river, and a suspension bridge.

This was a day or two after I started exercising and I was soooo sore! I could barely move. But it was fun!

So anyways, that's what I have been up to the last few months! Life is good.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spring 2017 Newsletter

Hey everyone, here is my Spring 2017 newsletter! I hope to have some actual blog posts up soon.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Packing and unpacking

I finally have tentative return dates!

I haven't booked my tickets yet - I'm still talking with my travel agent. That sounds all rich and expensive, doesn't it? Well, it's not! Golden Rule Travel is a great missions travel agency that gets me good deals on flights, handles searches/transfers/cancellations and all the headaches involved, and gets me extra "missionary" baggage! I highly recommend them - they save me money and are so easy to work with. I can just pop off an email saying "I want these dates with a layover in this city for this long" and not have to go through all the trouble of searching 50 websites, trying to figure out if purchasing on a Tuesday is cheaper, etc, and rest assured that I'm paying a comparable if not better price. I don't have to call airports and wait through phone trees and be put on hold if I have questions or issues. I love it!

Anyway, I'm planning on returning to South Africa the end of this month. I will hopefully be able to have a layover in Dubai again and spend the day with my lovely former roommate, Joy! I'm excited about that. Layovers are always a bit of a whirlwind trip but a great way to see a bit of the world on the cheap. I want to be back in South Africa for the big five-year celebration of Muphamuzi Baby Home! That's what really made me decide this was the time to get going. I haven't reached my monthly donation goal yet, but I am over 75% (see the sidebar) and I have had some one-time gifts that will help. I need to return end of next April to renew my visa but that shouldn't be as long of a trip!

Naturally, with any overseas transition comes a lot of preparation. You would think it gets easier, and it sort of does, but there are always about fifty things to do. Thankfully I am not dealing with visa paperwork right now (although that sure would have been easier than coming home again next year...) but I have so many things I want to finish/need to sort out/etc. I have been preparing to leave ever since I came home last August, getting rid of things, cleaning out, sort-of-moving-out-but-only-kind-of because I still have a fair amount of stuff here in Ohio.

So many of my possessions are in limbo - I don't want to get rid of them but they pose transportation issues. What do I do with my treasured childhood book collection? My multiple, very heavy boxes of Currier and Ives that I have lovingly collected over the years? My spinning wheel? All these things that are difficult to move and that I don't have space for in my tiny room, but that I want to save for someday when I have children/a house/a family? Well, for right now, they will have to stay in storage out in my parents' garage! I have gotten rid of a lot of things, but some I'm just not ready to part with. Hopefully someday they can make it across the ocean if I get an apartment...probably piece by piece! I will confess to setting aside one place setting of my dishes to try to fit in because SINGLE GIRLS CAN HAVE NICE DISHES TOO. (Added bonus if they came from a garage sale ;) ) I guess packing all my stuff up for storage will make it easier to see if I've forgotten anything I wanted to pack to take with me...I hope?

In addition to all the packing, there is all the "Oh, but I bought all the stuff for this project/that project/the other project and I need to finish them all before I go because I won't have time there!" I doubt sewing projects are on very many people's last-minute to-do lists but they are on mine! And I need to visit people! All the people! And check my "need to buy while in the US" shopping list that never seems to end. I need to find suitable luggage (probably large cardboard moving boxes from Home Depot - they are the cheapest - but possibly a plastic trunk as well). We do have suitcases, but I don't need to take four or five of them...I have to book tickets, arrange rides, and say goodbye to everyone yet again. I have to deal with the chaos that is nine fundraiser checks lost in the mail. (Yes, I learned my lesson. Certify them. Track them. Do SOMETHING besides just popping them in an envelope and mailing them in, like everyone else does.)

Usually, the moment when I have EVERYTHING packed up, checked in, and I'm heading for my flight is the greatest feeling ever! (Besides goodbyes. Goodbyes stink for any trip that spans a year-indefinitely.) And I'm super excited about going back, don't get me wrong. But I think I'll be happier after a week or so there when I have dealt with ALL THE THINGS on that side....

I did my best to get everything ready for smooth re-entry, but that may have disintegrated. The chickens had to unexpectedly move back in, and I hear they have "fowled" the place up and are putting on bi-weekly reenactments of Chicken Run like it's their job, so extensive fence repairs will be high on the list. This will include digging a trench with a pickax, a totally fun activity while recovering from jet lag, but essential if I don't want to gift all the street dwellers with free chicken dinners. There was that one time I ended up with my chicken locked in the back yard of a retiree who appeared to have early-onset Alzheimer's and be rather fond of the bird... I have food, but it's in the deep freeze and I strongly doubt I labeled much of it so mystery dinners may be the order of the day until I can get to the grocery store! I have a very large woodworking project stored in my room that needs to be carefully moved OUT of my room before I can move any luggage in. And I packed up all the winter things, but now it's getting cold again!

But really, I'm not complaining. I'm super excited to see everyone again and to celebrate a VERY belated Christmas with the ladies. I probably have stuff to make pizza in my freezer, if I can identify it. I have clean sheets on my bed (although I might need to dig out a blanket or two). I share all this exciting insanity so you can get a picture of what my life looks like (and so that you can pray for me!) I just have to keep taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I will, in fact, make it through this, with the aid of God, my friends, and the world traveler's lifeline, Nyquil. Really. I'm not into sleeping pills, but Nyquil for a few nights after TWO overnight flights back to back, is what gets me through. Also, my friend told me today they set up my internet, so I'm very happy about that!

So as you can see, there are a lot of physical things to pack. And organize. And accomplish. But my transitions overseas always seem to bring up emotional/spiritual issues too, and I'm reminded that although I have a lot of things to pack, I have a fair amount of intangible issues I need to unpack , deal with, and dispose of. There simply isn't space in my head or my heart to take these things with me.

I always tend to struggle somewhat with nervousness and dread before a return trip - even though I love my calling and am happy and even excited to go back.

This is a little hard to admit as a missionary, because although we aren't supposed to be perfect, I can't help thinking I'm supposed to struggle a little less, and people don't always understand. Like that time I was sharing with a friend how discouraged I was with how slowly fundraising was going, and they asked, "Well, how long do you think you'll wait before you decide God doesn't want you to go back?" or something similar. I'm not questioning my calling when I struggle, and when I let you know...I'm just...dealing with things.

But as I get ready to hop on a plane yet again, the issues from the last several years, resolved and unresolved, tend to pop up in my mind, trying to stow away like unwelcome luggage.

"What about that one person? Or the other one? You've had issues getting along with them before. What if it happens again?"

"You're never going to fully make it through cultural barriers with many of your friends."

"It's going to be so hard transitioning back into shared living."

"You've been leading a very laid-back life for the last eight months. How are you going to manage being thrown into the craziness again?"

"For the love of Pete, when will people stop nagging you about marriage?"

"You're really going to miss your American comforts like TV and Taco Bell!"

"Sure, your OCD-style anxiety about certain issues has laid low for a while, but it's only a matter of time before it pops up again. What if this cripples your ministry?"

"You have about 500 things to do. What if you forget one?"

"Your grandma is getting old. Will this be the last time you see her?"

"You're going to have to say goodbye to people...again. You're probably going to cry in the airport...again."

"Everything's going to be different and weird and hard to get used to after eight months away."

And on and on they go, until this unpaid suitcase has definitely exceeded the weight limit. For a long time, I dreaded these feelings. Everything is generally fine once I get settled. I'm just like a child who struggles with transitioning, even between two activities they may love. Then one day recently I realized these transitional weeks were an excellent time to do some unpacking as well as trust in God and unwind my tight-as-a-spring self. After all, you can't deal with stuff if you can't see it, right? Here all my issues are lining up to present themselves to me!

So I can remind myself I love what I do more than I love never taking a risk.

I remind myself that I have years ahead of me to work out conflict and cross-cultural issues with my family in Christ.

I take some comfort in the fact that if I don't see my grandma alive again, I know where she is going, and my last memory of her isn't a funeral.

I remind myself how much I love the friends that I live with, even if we don't have much personal space.

I remind myself that I have handled the craziness before, I can do it again, and I'm going to stop being stupid about not getting enough sleep before I handle said craziness.

I remind myself that I can survive without TV and Taco Bell (or at the very least, that I can order seasons on eBay/learn to make Taco Bell knockoffs/binge on both next year when I come to renew my visa...haha). Also, that I'm too busy to watch TV and should be using my free time to learn a language, or read books from the amazing Kindle selection in our Ohio library...

I remind myself that if anxiety cripples me, I have friends who are my crutches to take me to the Great Physician.

I remind myself that I should probably make some kind of master list, but the fate of the free world doesn't depend on me remembering to pack Tide stain removal pens or some other such object.

I roll my eyes and remind myself that the some things will NEVER end, like the questions about marriage and the offers to set me up with someone's brother, so I just need to make my peace with that. Yes, you know who you are, the lot of you, and if you're reading this, you deserve it for all your teasing/attempts at facilitating matrimony - so there!

I remind myself that even if goodbyes sting, I'm kind of used to them by now, and they generally aren't forever, even here on Earth. And I remind myself that I have close friends in both places, so I'm never lonely.

I remind myself that God is my dwelling place, and no matter how far I travel, I am always home.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

More bookbinding adventures

I haven't made any books in a while (not since I was home last time) but I had this old cookbook that was my great grandmother's on my mom's dad's side. Fun story - did you know my great-grandma used to babysit Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon? Cool, right? And my grandpa (her son) didn't want to play with him because he was too little!

As you can see, it was pretty tattered. This cookbook was published in the 1930's and by all indication was used for decades. (The pages you see here are the blank ones at the back, used for writing in her own recipes.) In addition to writing in many of her own recipes, she collected many from newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, etc, and either pasted them inside or folded them up and stuck them between the pages. I found a newspaper article from 1972 talking about how useful computers were proving to be in police work! It also advertised Cuticura, which is a salve I use in South Africa but can't find here in the States. Instead of removing all these tidbits, I decided to bind them into the book.

This is by no means any kind of professional restoration. I used regular contact paper and packing tape, which probably would turn the pages yellow or something if they weren't already yellow and stained with decades of food splatters. I started by taking the covers off. The binding had fallen off long ago and been replaced with packing tape, which wasn't doing much good at all. Then I cut the signatures apart. A lot of them were still ok - if rather brittle - but the ones at the front and back of the book were falling out and falling apart. I encased them in contact paper and folded them over to create new signatures. I also created new page sections from clipped recipes, index cards, etc by creating "pages" with contact paper - sticking the scraps between two pieces of contact paper and folding them over to create new signatures.  

For the sections where the stitching holes hadn't been ripped out and weren't too badly damaged, I reinforced the folds and edges with contact paper (and sometimes packing tape).

I punched holes in the cover and began sewing everything together. This page has an excellent article on the mechanics of bookbinding.

I used waxed linen thread from Hobby Lobby, and regular needles with holes large enough to accommodate it. I broke several needles!

I cut a strip of leather and bound it to the edge of the book. I unfortunately didn't take photos of this step or any of the stitches but it wasn't too hard. I marked the design on the wrong side of the leather and used an ice pick to poke holes in the leather and the book. Dad has an awl somewhere but I have no idea where!

I was quite happy with the result! The spine is flexible yet sturdy. All of the most fragile pages are pretty securely protected, and most of the pages have contact paper/tape on the edges to keep them from ripping when I flip through the book.

I will still have to be careful with it, but I don't have to keep the whole thing in a Ziploc anymore to keep the pieces all together! Hopefully I will be able to use it for years to come!

I had a bit of leather left, so I made this little thing too:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Winter Update

Hey everyone!

Sorry, you haven't heard much from me lately on this blog (besides the occasional crochet pattern). This is mostly because I'm still at home and don't have a whole lot of new things to say.

I'm currently ALMOST 3/4 of the way to my monthly support goal (if you see on the thermometer graphic to the side of this blog). When I hit $1000/month, I am going to book my return ticket to South Africa. I have had a lot of one-time gifts, and I will trust God to bring in the rest when I need it. I have to return for a little while in late April 2018 (next year) to renew my visa, but hopefully that trip doesn't take too long!

As always, if any of you have more questions about monthly support or how it works, don't hesitate to email is

I have been doing my best to keep busy at home with visiting friends and speaking at churches, working on my crochet business, and sewing/doing other crafts. Here are some things I have made recently:



and more dresses,

as well as these quilts (no, most of these aren't going back with me...I don't have THAT much space! But the dresses are!)

It's been nice to spend lots of time with people too - my grandma, as she's getting older (and isn't so happy about me moving away...), and friends farther away - I've been blessed to be able to travel some while I've been home.

Making Christmas cookies with my grandma


Visiting a friend with adorable puppies!

She has lots of chickens too. I miss my chickens! I have lost two to snakes (or who knows what) while I've been gone.

And, of course, time in the States wouldn't be complete without frequent trips to the thrift store. No, I didn't buy these beauties! Ha ha!

It was nice to spend the holidays at home. We had Thanksgiving at my aunt's. Isn't this a beautiful table?!

Christmas was fun too, with lots of decorations.

All these nativity sets! Yes, that is one made up of bunnies!

Sweet baby Z is the only one of the babies I left who is still in our care! We have had a new bunch of kiddos come in since I've been gone. He's so big now - he just turned one and has started walking. As you can see he is enjoying his mango - I'm jealous that I'm missing mango season!

So, that is my life here in Ohio - it hasn't been super exciting, but I wanted to write an update so people didn't think this had become entirely a craft blog! ;) Hopefully I will return to South Africa soon so there will be a lot more baby pictures then!