Friday, July 27, 2012

5 Second Rule

I gave a too-skinny mother (that I’m quite in love with despite her never smiling) some hot food. She put the container on her head only to have it spill over as she walked away.

I then watched her start picking each individual pea and chopped carrot out of the dirt to put it back in her bowl. I didn’t really know what to do and started helping her while offering more. I think she thought I was going to take it because she kept repeating 'I have water to wash it' while trying to bat me away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the 5 second rule, but watching yet another person need food that desperately was quite painful. Being THAT hungry is something I will never fully understand.

Made me realize how my heart aches against poverty, in a place of people that aren't truly aware of how poor they are, as they sift through the dirt and trash for their daily needs...but how it doesn’t ache against materialism, in my own culture as I don’t realize how materialistic I am, while I sift through the shopping aisles for my daily wants.

I don’t really know how to battle against the self-indulgence raging within me (unfortunately, if we're not fighting it, it probably means we're giving into it)…one of my main ideas for combat is to close my eyes and repeat “live simply, live simply, live simply”…How effective will that be?…I‘m being serious, how effective?

But thank You, Father, for being a God that commands and reminds me not to “hoard wealth in the last days” AND a God that promises to be a “defense for the needy” as He loves and cares for both me and for the woman picking peas out of the dust for dinner.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

still have all my limbs!

Going to sleep last night, I realized I had one leg hanging off the side of the bed. DEATH WISH!…that is so against the cardinal rule I created when I was three years old and have stuck to ever since…never let any limbs hang off the side of the bed or they will get eaten by the monster that is under your bed. It‘s untaught life knowledge. But when you’re already sleeping with no sheets and your mattress is radiating heat, you have to get a limb off the mattress for some sweet air.

What other random things have changed you ask?

…Now that I have seen the success of saving wrapping paper and reusing it, expect to see your wrapping paper again on Christmas and birthdays. Think of how much money I’ll save! Enough to pay off my debt?

…When I first came I thought NesCafe tasted like hot dirt, but now I think it’s one of life’s little morning miracles. I would rather see NesCafe in the morning than a sunrise, a beautiful dove, or that my shower has water. Judge me for that, I don’t care, we’re in love.

… Seeing snakes puts a damper on my night walk.

… I no longer want to steal children as I have been offered too many. I’d rather moms want their children (okay, I still want to steal them but I’m working on wanting moms to want them)...(and okay, I may have taken a little girl for the whole day without asking but AT LEAST I RETURNED HER!)

… Grace is a way deeper pool than I thought.

… Judgement is a way trickier trap than I thought.

… Normal is the new fat…as far as children go. I see a skinny-normal-ish kid…and I’m screaming with joy…THIS HUMAN IS SUCH A MASSIVE CHUNK OF LIFE, HURRAY!!!

… I don’t like cooking from scratch…oh wait, not a change. I can recall many moons ago flopping myself on the floor in front of Spicy Swiss Nurse and shrieking “I will never cook again!”…that was October, people.

… There is no longer a Wednesday in my weekly calendar. It’s Monday, Tuesday, Cinnamon Bun Day, Thursday, Friday….(the team eats cinnamon buns together on Wednesdays…I would recommend this to anyone anywhere on the world…eat something AWESOME on Wednesday).

… I no longer have to pay $60 to sign up for one of those awesome 5k mud runs because I have done many a mud obstacle course trying to get around since rainy season started.

… Perseverance. This should be talked about all the time in every church at every corner. Accepting that easier ways to live exist but Jesus didn't live those and I wasn’t asked to either.

… I thought the Coca Cola commercial where the guy sings and hands out coke to people was cheesy until I received a Diet Coke from a visitor and I swear it feels exactly like that commercial.

… “Confidence in Christ” is usually one of those terms you tell teenager girls when they think they’re hair isn’t straight enough but I’ve come to discover  is it much deeper, more powerful, and more exciting than that.

… I have never been so aware of my left hand or my knees, even behind closed doors.

… When God said keep a tight rein on your tongue, that pretty much changed any and every conversation I have ever wanted to or will have with people. Stilllllllllll workin’ on it.

… If you had told me last year that I’d be wearing the same three skirts and few shirts for a year, I’d be like BAHAHAHAHHA…what? But now…who is “make-up“?…when is “hair dryer”?

… I swear my hairline is receding from the pull back from all these headbands, head wraps, and pony tails. SERIOUSLY, CAN THAT HAPPEN?!

… Yes, even when the deep suffering of the world a few steps away from you, it is still possible to think about your hair…so no matter how disconnected or distant you feel from the poor and sick..pray anyway, give anyway, “spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed”anyway. Because the best way to combat complacent living is with obedient, radical living…doesn’t happen on accident.

… My sister would go in search of her real sister if I told her how much more I shower now.

…I now can understand Irish accents. Tis a wee miracle. Lovely.

Okay, I’m getting a little carried away. What was this list about again? This is why you don’t blog after drinking coffee...and by coffee, I mean NesCafe!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Biki Brilliance

I want you all to know that you are invited to a “biki” upon the arrival of my first child. Here you are officially invited if you get handed chewing gum but I might not take the time to do that for mine.

For those of you who don’t know what this brilliant idea is: it is a baby naming ceremony! So if you innocently forget about ’bikis’ and so considerately ask moms in the hospital what their child’s name is and they looks at you like you’re a dud, it’s because duh, Jenny! There hasn’t been a biki yet!

I think it’s a magnificent because it happens after the baby is born, which means you won’t get everyone and their mother’s opinion about the name you picked for your child. Like “really, you want to name him Tumnus?!! I knew a Tumnus once and he was a weirdy….”.

You just announce it and BAM, child‘s name is accepted into society.

You also add some mystery into people's lives for a few days or so after the birth and just call your child some really fun pet name that’s associates him/her with smallness, like “cricket” or “chicken pock” or “skittle” or something (I don‘t know if they do this but I would).

And the couple dresses in all bright yellow (okay, just at this biki...but I figure any color to get more noticed, ya know?).

And afterwards, everyone goes outside and eats with just their right hands out of big bowls (which is more challenging than it sounds!).

And then the women can visit the mother in her room as she holds the baby and probably breast feeds….cute! And you give money...yay (please take note of this for when you attend my baby's biki).

My dad always tells me when I talk about babies that I have a few steps to go before I can pop out my own child…like man then marriage then pregnancy? What’s the order again? Whatever…boring minor details! But anyway, you’re invited.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What Gets Me Pumped.

 If I was a better blogger, I would flood you with stories from bus tripping around to different villages and cities these past couple weeks….

…But can‘t do everythin’, ya know??  Instead, I will say that if you are one of those people who can’t help but mumble that this world is sooo getting worse (usually after reading the news, watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or after having to chop onions) like I am…take heart! Because even all the way over here in the Land of "Niger? Do you mean Nigeria?” and in the midst of extreme poverty and suffering, we DO NOT serve an insecure God.

And hott lanta, He is using His children’s lives to change lives in crevices ALL OVER.

After visiting an orphanage, an orthopedic clinic, a leprosy hospital, a fistula surgery center, and different ministries with even more people who are caring for and evangelizing to orphans, widows, strangers, prisoners, the sick, the naked, and the distressed…I can truly report to you that:

The blind receive sight, 
the lame walk, 
those who have leprosy are cured, 
the deaf hear, 
the dead are raised, 
and the good news is preached to the poor. 
Matthew 11:4. 

I have met many servants who are persevering through one sometimes-sucky-sometimes-awesome day at a time to live in a way that proves they believe Jesus has done and is doing everything He said He would do.

They are being obedient, self-controlled, alert, seeking God, picking up their crosses and choosing Him, breathing Life into people with their words and actions, and along the way, they are encouraging their brothers and sisters in Christ to keep their butts in gear.

They are doing the real thang for the real God!!…in Galmi, in Niger, in Africa, in America, for both new and familiar cultures around the world, as we speak!

I love that. Let’s get in on that.

Hanging out in one of the leprosy wards.
(And by "get in on that" I don't mean sprawl across the floor at the last second 
to get into the photo like this man did....though I salute his enthusiasm)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fear the Blade

I watched many wide eyed children with club feet get carried into a hospital in the big cit-AY of Niamey (land with lettuce and an air conditioned restaurant!) this week.

I was given The Job of helping hold down the shrieking child.  Easier to do when there's not a vibrating saw (that apparently only cuts the cast and doesn't amputate off the limb) coming at their legs! I don’t blame any of the cuties for their attempts to flee because I too would have feared the blade. But dang, kids are fiesty!...and show hulk-ulous strength when they're trying to run for their lives.

Except for one little guy. He hopped right on that bed and started talking to the assistant. I’m assuming he said something like “what up, doc, looks scary…bring it”…but I know like five words in French so just a guess. I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open as he not only didn’t scream but sat up, wanting to watch that roaring saw-devil cut off his cast. Who says having a club foot stops you from carrying a cargo full of courage?!  Break me off a piece of that. Thank you Lord that it’s not always our circumstances but our reactions to them that make people’s jaws drop. 


I also turned the corner to find faces full of repaired cleft lips! Best smiles I've ever hung out with.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lots of servant warriors have been going home these past couple weeks...
(Don’t ask if I’ve been emotional about it…we all know the answer to that already).

Remember when you see a missionary coming home broken in body and weary in soul, it isn’t the privations or dangers or things he’s done that leave a deep hurt; it’s the things he couldn’t do that break his heart. 
-“World Shapers”

Only Jesus has all the answers for this culture and my own culture...Don’t forget to listen, encourage, and intercede for all the missionaries right next to you and all the ones overseas, ya saints!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The jelly is out of the doughnut...

...The chickadees have left the nest. We came. We taught. We conquered. ...The students have started summer break.

I’m kind of sad my schoolhouse season is over (at least until God pulls something else out of His sleeve).

When else will I get to say ‘take out a piece of paper and pencil and do whatever I tell you‘ and have someone listen??  I just don't see other schools allowing “Love Bites” or “Joke Pokes”. No more hearing squeals just because I pulled out the paint or watching a kid do the robot over to get his pencil. No more stifling my laughter when the answer to the question of “what are the main dishes of Antartica? is “you know, plates and forks and knives and stuff"?

And kids keep you in check! They ask how to spell “lanta” as in ‘oh my lanta’, and then you try to convince yourself they must know someone else in the world that says that and they're not just repeating you.  Another time, I slid across the floor in my matted flip flops and screamed THAT WAS TOTALLY WICKED (I know, I’m five) and lost the next ten minutes trying to pull the kindergarteners back into their chairs. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to live in a way that's worthy of imitation anywhere, but kids are good at showing you the horrifying reality of influence.

There are some things you only get from students. I’ll probably go off the deep end or catch the crazy train without them.

But hey, WE MADE ITTTTT!! Students fluttered away and Auntie Barb and I were left with a triumphant one room school house high-five.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

this week's daily thrills:

4 year old girl with an Australian accent saying she was here to share Jesus with a people group. Shop owner knowing to hand me a pack of Nescafe aka NesPersonality. Laughing at sleepless night stories after loud crickets mate in the corner of the room. Smiling toothless grannies with smiling toothless babies. Blow pops and church sermons while laying on my bedroom floor. Hearing a mom say she's grateful her kids would be more exposed to the other's lives than the American dream. Taking a short coma and feeling refreshed. When kids drop their backpacks outside and then run inside to school. God surprising me through Bible verses. Little eyes at my door asking for Kool-Aid. Receiving a super hero shirt from my Partner in Crime. Seven year old’s dance moves in his pulled-up-high argyle socks. Sitting on Nigerien nurse friends' laps in laughter. Having enough ice to make a snowman after defrosting my freezer. Prayer battle partners. Eye contact with Auntie Barb over hilarious students. Rahamatu's daughter. Tearful goodbyes. Patients beckoning you over to pray for them. Not losing my patience. Kids with loose teeth. Kids in bandages smiling at you. My oven not lighting so I don’t have to bake. The Holy Spirit speaking encouragement. Sticky fingers in awe of your white face. Funny emails about bird attacks. Benefiting from other people's spiritual gifts. Walking through the hospital at night. My neighbor being so blunt it tickles me with delight. Spirit-filled dreams. Skype dates in the wee hours of the morning. Sitting on mats next to skinny toddlers and friendly mothers. Sprinting to catch an afternoon squeeze. Writing "whatever" on my dusty table after a wind storm. Getting handed someone's beautiful brown-skinned baby. Making a fist to say thank you. Girls carrying bowls on their heads and yelling my name on the street. Surrendering. Not waking up in the middle of the night. Wrapping my skirt right. "Being bold means not pretending”.

Sometimes "the problem with life is that it's so daily".

But we forget that Your love is better than life. Psalm 63:3.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Football's always familiar?

Five of us watched the UEFA championship soccer game in Galmi town last night.

Felt like watching Bears games with my brothers except with darker skinned and sweatier boys (the heat added to the intensity of the game watching, I think)….and it was football not American football…no couch either, more mats and a bench.…and there was no coke and munchies just my water bottle…and I didn’t get in trouble for talking because no one understood me…and the reception was more twitchy…and we were outdoors…and I wasn't wearing pants...

Practically the same thing. 

I also realized that boys from every tribe, tongue, and nation take off their shirts in sport-watching victory...why is that?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Just for the record...

Update: I am still very much in love with my house helper. Once again, I came home to her singing as she worked in this rich, white girl’s house.

I can’t wait for the switch in heaven, where I visit her in her mansion with millions of treasures. The treasures she stored up while being on earth and singing as she worked, doing things no one asked her to do, thanking people even though she was serving them, and always looking past the mundane and at Jesus.

Not to mention, she swept out the hairy SpiderBeast I had trapped under a bucket, stacked with books on top for extra safety (because I swear the spiders here can move buckets!!). The adrenaline rush had worn off after the capture and, in fear, I had left him for days.
...If that doesn’t get you a million treasures in heaven, I don’t know what does.

Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted...  Luke 12:33

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hey Mamas...

 I love going to pray for the mothers and their new babies! And by that I mean holding the babies and gushing to the moms until I remember that I came to pray.

Happy mother's day to all the mamas around the world!

can you spot two wee ones in this photo? sometimes it's like where's waldo.
oh my goodness, small human by my feet.
such pretty mamas!
and such young mamas!
proud grandma.
may i just say that getting photos without women's
breastfeeding goods out was quite the miracle....cuz they are hanging EVERYWHERE in this hospital.

this one is minutes old!! helped push her out with my gloved hands!
c-sections always blow my oh cool, the doc is doing some cuts...then all of a sudden...OH MY LANTA, WHAT THE WHAT?! there's a child in there?!?! i repeat, there is a baby in there!!!
 all happens so fast. gets me every time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God Hands Out Benadryl

What I  am about to tell you will shock you right out of your pants and into a Nigerien skirt…


What the what?!?! After seven months of this dusty, cracking, thirsty land, I didn’t think this place ever saw any drops of rain. I stand corrected, my friends.

As you can imagine, it was a screaming, dancing, running, wet, muddy free for all (no, I was not the only one participating, your assumptions offend me…and no, Chel, I did not streak [self-control never ceases to surprise me]).

I’m so glad I mentioned my 3 am-on-the-ground-naked-and-rashy-too much information-all-nighter yesterday so that we could all better understand how much that rain felt like grace.

That being said, pray, that Niger’s rainy season actually brings rain and that the soil actually drinks it up and produces a crop, for our world‘s poorest and starving people. Lord, You see them.

Until then, hello to you, 24 hours of cooler air and a breeze.  Slept like a drugged out cat last night…God handed me Benadryl.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16. ...rain down on Niger!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sorry, can't talk, scratching my scalp

I look like shizah.

Seriously, the heat has declared war on my skin.

My face and neck and back are freaking out. Rash on my stomach. My legs are expressing their disgust for being covered in sweat and yet smothered by my skirt 24/7 with  in an itchy, bumpy layer. I would say I have lice but I think the incessant itch on my scalp is from my head also being suffocated by long, missionary hair and head wraps in never ending 110 degree temps (Should I shave it?! Go big or go home?!).

Not exactly walking around singing “Sexy Can I” (oh the days of Ray J).

But the good news is I don’t feel like shiznits. I mean other than being more tired, moving in slow motion, and looking like a sweaty heap, my spirit is doing prettay good and God is for sure doing a daily work on the whole purify my heart thang (so it's definitely looking way more attractive than my neck…).

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord looks on the heart...not on the heat rash.

Why am I telling you about my skin shenanigans at 3 am after already blogging?? Too hot and rashy to sleep. Safe to say hot season has hit, peoples.

too many potatoes

You buy some potatoes from the trader….they want you to buy two more bags of potatoes…oh, wait, now all of a sudden the bag costs three times as much…and they have lots of children at home…and it’s hot and they need to sell this for food…and I’m lost in figuring out the numbers and the truth and all of a sudden I have four bags of potatoes and no money…what the heck am I gonna do with all these potatoes?!?!

And then I say “thank you” in Haussa and “for robbing me” in English and walk away.

I don’t really know what is too much sometimes. Lord knows the beloved woman who sells fruit every Monday really is dying quickly (unlike the other traders)…so yes, I often gladly spend more on less.

But God’s been teaching me that giving more than I have is not the boundary problem (APPARENTLY, God likes to stretch us)…it‘s the gladly that becomes the problem. Not usually with money (good thing I raised support so it‘s your money…eh, eh??) but He’s been whispering that saying “yes” to giving time or service doesn’t work if my heart is screaming “no, I don’t want to!”

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Never thought that verse could refer to giving time or service, did I?! So Lord let my “no” honor You and refresh me when my heart is too reluctant to speak a faithful yes. And let my “yes” be full of the honest and cheerful generosity that You dig!

(Luckily, it wasn’t just potatoes today…mango season, babay…that’s a cheerful “aw yea-uh!”).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pillow Talkin

I had a “bad hot day” yesterday.  Vented the heck out about it to God last night in my bed (may have also been because I was sentenced to drink the potion of death, also known as Oral Rehydration Salts, to make a final break from the intimate relationship me and my toilet been having…).

Woke up this morning with laughing women cutting a monster pile of onions and garlic outside my door, rams being slaughtered in my neighbor’s yard, and festivities on the court across from my house. Got to eat ram intestines and participate in an African women booty shakin’ congo line (how DO they shake it without looking skanky??...this young grasshopper has much to learn here).

The Big Dad certainly knows how to cheer me up. No, seriously, congo lines and intestines, my kinda pick up…I now appreciate our pillow talk even more knowing that Someone's got the next day down, over, and out.

The left-right-left action...think that's how they do it??

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Victory Dance

The kindergartener I was working with READS!!…whoop, whoop!!!..whoop, whoop!!!

Sometimes I pretend to pass out  from excitement after he reads sight words, one day I hope to actually pass out. Who knew my heart would rejoice over a child remembering things like "th" and "sh" and “ing”.  I didn’t believe it was true, but somehow teaching kids the alphabet sounds in the beginning of the year  gradually leads to reading at the end of the year?!?!…that‘s ACTUALLY how it works?!?!

So proud of that lil man.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Galmi Warriors

A newcomer mentioned how coming here you realize how overly comfortable it is at home.

There are the smaller annoyance (the first world problems)…where if it's not one thing it‘s another… If the mosquitoes aren’t waking you up, your sweat or dehydration is.  If your water starts to work, your water nozzle might start electrocuting you (this weekend’s problem). If you’re not sick with somethin' this month…don't worry, it’ll get cha next month.

But the worst ‘what if’s’ happen to those who serve here as well.  A family member is extremely sick and across the ocean. There are severe car accident injuries because of donkey carts. Daily, patients' lives are fought for and they still die. Too many dead babies and oppressed women are seen.

God isn't messing around when He calls someone to Galmi, that's fo sure. What missionaries persevere through here constantly amazes me.

“There is a place set aside in the Spirit where we make the enemy confused.

We weary him by our rest.
We discourage him by our faith.
We demoralize him with our joy.
We depress him by our endurance.
He is dispirited by our favor,
Defeated by our grace.

Warriors know that JESUS reigns.”
(Graham Cooke)

I live among some real warriors. There’s no t.v. show or shopping item or binge eating or getting away with friends to make you feel better, you stay sustained by looking to Him. People whisper Jesus’ name for comfort. They pray in His name for power.  Troubled hearts are constantly being lifted to the Son of God.

I had a picture of Galmi on earth…where there was difficulty and grieving hearts and sleepless nights. And then I had a picture of the same Galmi with spiritual eyes…where lights were flashing and swords were slashing as the hearts of these servant warriors conquered the enemy, simply by refreshing themselves in Jesus.

Monday, April 16, 2012

first world girl

A couple friends and I recently found amusement in labeling inconveniences as “third world problems” or “first world problems”.

(For example“Ugh, there is no clean water to drink!“. ..third world problem…Uggggggh, there is no Diet Coke to drink!!”….first world problem).

In the beginning, although we would dish out a fair number of “FWP’s”, there would still be a few “TWP’s” sprinkled in there.

But now that I grabbed onto that joke and ran with it in my head for awhile, I have discovered that most of my so called ‘third-world problems’ are really not third world problems.  The real problem is that I am a first world girl complaining about my first worldliness not working out for me as well in a third world country.

Here are some examples (in case you’re having trouble recognizing my many luxuries, I capitalized and bolded them for you):

Man, the power is out so all my LIGHTS and my FANS and THE MANY APPLIANCES I want to use won’t work…!!!

Darn, my FILTERED WATER tap is at a drip!

Sweet baby Moses, where is a DISHWASHER when you need one?!

You mean I have to wash, cut, and peel all of these veggies?? But I BOUGHT SO MANY!

Dang, my FRIDGE isn’t cold anymore, so I had to move everything to my FREEZER!

My well SCREENED AND ROOFED HOME isn’t keeping all the insects I don’t like out??!

I had to move to the floor because MY BED and/or MY COUCH and/or MY MATTRESS are too hot!!

The AIR CONDITIONING is on in the schoolhouse and I’m still sweating?!?!

What, THE INTERNET isn’t working?!

Ugh, MY COMPUTER is overheating and nothing will play!!

I have to grind  my own MEAT tonight?!!? 

My GAS OVEN is gonna  freakin’ kill me……(unlike my loved ‘375?-Beep-boop-beep-then-press-start’ oven)?!?

Bummer, both my flip flops are broken from the rocks (okay, from me tripping on rocks) , guess I have to move to my OTHER PAIR or BUY MORE (cuz I can).

I‘m not saying that these are things I shouldn’t be used to after growing up for 22 years in the west …I’m just saying…maybe it’s not Africa that’s the problem, ya know?

(Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, Philippians 2:14...I have an NIV Bible but if anyone has a translation with an “unless” in that verse…especially an “unless it’s 110 degrees"…I would absolutely LOVE to read it...)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A dependable Anchor.

Sorry I’ve haven’t blogged in three weeks or something like that…

My family said goodbye to Charlie a few weeks ago and it left me feeling like quite the bottled up little creature. Sometimes I struggle with the lines between 'healthily-internally-processing' and 'bottling-it-up', and since it kind of is one of those events that becomes over for everyone else but not over for you, I struggled with processing it.

I felt like if I couldn’t say something about Charlie then I couldn’t say anything at all. 

But after the court date, someone here let me read a couple chapters from her ‘Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” book…(I don‘t think she knew it was going to be such a God-send or that I was not only going to read it, but write the whole chapter down, and then reread it 78 times)... 

Here is a portion of it:

“Because we live in this world, trapped in the old order of things, tragedy will touch our lives. That’s simply a fact for Christians and non-Christians alike. We will all lose loved ones. We will all eventually die. Romans 8:28 is often distorted to “only good things will happen to those who love God”. But Paul meant just the opposite. Romans 8:35-38...”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

Trials are real. Bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. And we who are Christians don’t escape life. Pauls says, we overcome life….”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

This promise anchors our all too shaky world to His unshakeable Kingdom. 

For while life may shake, rattle, roll, this rock-solid truth from John 11:5 remains:
Jesus LOVED Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 

Love. That’s a dependable anchor.

The love of Christ has for you is a love you can cling to, for it will hold you. Though we may not understand God’s methods, that doesn’t change the fact of God’s love.

God’s plan is released when we believe and obey.

I entered our names into that verse...Jesus LOVED the Stringers and their little boy, Charlie.
...So like Abraham, who “against all hope, in hope believed” Romans 4:18...(which is a lot how it feels), we choose to believe God. That He has heard our hearts and this is the BEGINNING of His radical plan of using this little boy's life to glorify Himself, not the end.

Please keep praying.
For God’s continued protection on Charlie’s heart and mind in an unstable and worldly home.
For our family and that we will be allowed the opportunity to see Charlie.
That the eyes and heart of Charlie's dad will be opened to encounter our Savior.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

happy birfday, Chel!

Happy sweet sixteen to my little taste of heaven!!! Rachel had a birthday!!

I’m a little late because I tried uploading this video to everything and its mother before resorting to youtube.

In case you don’t know Rachel, I think at one point, God was thinking of making another really crazy, swirly, fun, insane planet that everyone would want to live on and never got old, but instead He made her personality.

The other day I was reading about how Paul and Silas were in prison, with their feet fastened, singing hymns to God. And I was like “who the freak does that?!” It’s not like they knew an earthquake was going to come and shake the foundations of the prison and all their chains were going to come loose. Who decided to start singing at midnight instead of thinking of a game plan or asking NOW WHAT, WHATS NEXT or looking for more perfect settings…as in not in a cell. 

And then God was like…”well…Chel is more than capable of doing that".  Chel would go with the 'no plan' plan, the 'sing hymns at midnight no matter how bad things are' plan.  The 'show people a heavenly time without asking what’s next or moaning' plan. And she’d be the first one to think of the jailer.

She is very much a live for today and surrender tomorrow type girl...(okay, but sometimes it affects your homework, let's just be honest, Chel, it does)....But the world still has a lot to learn from her.

Best part is…she’s contagious. I know God is obsessed with me because I got her as a built in to life best friend.

And since one of her love languages is a good dance party, I composed  A LITTLE VIDEO!!! with dancers here, to one of our favorite songs.

Miss you, Chelster!! Can’t wait to road trip the heck out of reverse culture shock with you and your NEW DRIVER'S LICENSE (eeeeeee!!! congratulationssss!!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whining and Dining

I waitressed the summer before I came here and LOVED it. But now having lived in Galmi, I don’t think I could rock it as well as I did the first time. Because the customer is always right, and the waitress has to plaster a smile on her face no matter what type of ridiculously whiny, needy, psycho person sits down.


I’m sorry that us being out of  jack cheese has really ruined your day…but may I remind you there are five other types of cheese to choose from…

I'm sorry, I don't know why the steak is taking longer...oh wait,'s because you ordered a STEAK.

Sure, you can make your own salad even though there are twelve different salads on the menu…let me just pull up a chair so I can write down the exact ingredients you want…

So sorry, sir, that the music was too loud and the service wasn't fast enough and the food wasn’t perfect and the bill was too high...(stay home next time?).

As much as I’ve enjoyed this five minute conversation about how spicy the Spicy Salsa is (on a scale of 1-10, and then going through the thoughts of every customer who has ever tried it), I think the anticipation of spice may be too stressful for you and you should just order something else…

No problem, let me just spend the next hour bringing you more lemons for your water...

Oh, really, the fries were too crunchy for you,…too soft?…too cold?…you want them warmed up?…taken off the bill?

I apologize that your drink refill interrupted your table's intense gossiping…

Ummm…low fat items, let’s see…you could eat just the lettuce and tomato off the BLT…or you could not come to a bar and grille if you're dieting…

Yes, even though cheese fries or curly fries or regular fries or tater tots or onion rings or a side salad or fruit were the choices, I can go ask if you can get something else as a side instead.

No, sir, the tip was not included, you ACTUALLY spent that much money on ONE meal…and now the idea of tipping is what’s haunting you?

Seriously...Galmi restaurant: give the woman your coins…for me, it’s usually 200 cfa…aka 40 cents (makes you think more about how much money we spend restauranting, huh?)…receive your bowl of rice…sit down on a bench outside next to your fellow Galmians and eat your bowl of rice….hand back the bowl.

I‘d waitress here any day.

(And tip your waiters!!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Walked along thinkin' weird that this is normal now

(can you tell that I have just recently discovered a lil thang on here called "add video"?)

Friday, March 9, 2012

No, you may not have the last brownie..because I want it. Love, Mom.

So when do moms decide to NOT sit down their child every night for some solid eye contact to say "mommy wants to sleep in tomorrow so you MUST sleep in too or time out ALL day, I'm SERIOUS"? Or decide to raise them and not just let them play movies and eat popcorn all day? These are the deep questions I ponder after living with three boys for five days when both their parents were away. (That being said it was still fun being the "I-think-I'm-cool-but-really-I'm-weird" mom for a week).

And where do teachers find that stern yet still loving voice instead of shunning students to their death with a shriek? Or think of these things called 'lesson plans' that include creative ideas that make kids want to learn? These are the questions I ponder after 'la one room schoolhouse master/teacher of all teachers' was sick this week. (That being no, always more fun when the other teacher is there).

And when did the women here decide that they can pound millet with their babies on their backs so enthusiastically day after day without complaining or saying the world is unfair? (And when did they decide it was a good idea for me to try?!) These are the questions I ponder after I musta pulled somethin' from doing it wrong after like...56 seconds...

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice .... I am glad and rejoice with all of you.    Philippians 2:17

all I'm sayin' is...moms and teachers got this verse down.^^^^

Friday, March 2, 2012

family prayer request!

So two and a half years ago, my family received a baby boy that we were planning to adopt. And in a mix of events and his can’t-blog-about family member, he is now being taken from our home.

This is no ordinary boy. We were supposed to adopt an older child…and God gave us a baby. This baby was supposed to have a mental disorder…and he is a right-on-track toddler. And this toddler was supposed to have a speech problem…and he is officially talking up a perfect storm.

And when I pray for him, I know he has a revival starting, heart piercing, unceasingly praying, puts-his-feet-on-the-ground-and-Satan-shudders type call on his life.

I know I don‘t serve a God of mistakes. That when He placed lil C and lil C‘s fro into our family, He wasn’t joking around or messing with our hearts.

And I want him to grow up in our family . Not because my family is perfect…we all hate each other after the shortest of road trips and have had tragically embarrassing restaurant experiences and between the ten of us, quite the assortment of contrasting personalities…but because I was raised knowing Grace.

I have a dad who has the patience and goodness of all the saints in the Bible combined (…put up with my charming teen years of ending everything with “-uh!”…as in Dad-uh!!! Why-uh!?!) and who gave me the inner security that only a Heavenly Father could supply his daughter. And I have a 8-kid-raisin, doctor-workin mom whose faith moves my mountains for me. Who taught me that life is not supposed to be easy but that God is supposed to be glorified.

My parents love their children in a way that I don’t understand yet. And C. is their child.

I believe in the Power of prayer and Hosanna in the Highest and that God will move on behalf of His saints.

…So what I’m really trying to say is pray for a miracle, pray for my parents, pray for my siblings, and pray, pray, pray for this little boy. Because we have just a few weeks until his final court date.

Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, for He who promised is FAITHFUL.    Hebrews 10:23

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not to be dramatic...

So lately, I’ve felt like I’m living in a scary movie. But we’re at the beginning of the movie, where the scary part hasn’t happened yet. Like when the music is eery and the girl hears the rattling in the basement and she grabs the door handle to open it, and the whole audience starts screaming,  “NOOO! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!?! TURN BACKKK!!! YOU‘LL DIE!!!” 

Here, that scary thing is a lil somethin’ people call 'hot season'. Like right now, the temperature reaches 100, I’m sweating off three nalgenes, and people still say “in a few weeks, you’ll be begging for this weather”. Cue in scary music. Or a student still shows up to school wearing a sweater to class?! Scary music building. People use phrases like “oh ya, during hot season, we did this or that…JUST TO SURVIVE.” And I’m thinking, oh my gosh, we’re all gonna die.

I think my survival tactics will be sleeping a lot, allowing myself to have no personality, walking around naked, and cursing frequently under my breath. Like any good missionary would.

That or maybe I’ll start filming everything that happens and get some big bucks making a movie or t.v. series similar to Survivor or Lost. I’ll probably play the role of the character who everyone labels as ‘she deserved to die, how did she not see that coming?’

Thursday, February 23, 2012

85%, who knew?!

Instead of having the typical ‘the-conversation-just-ended’ awkward silence today, I had the ‘oh-right-we-both-only-know-like-17-words-in-each other’s-language’ awkward silence.  It was with my two favorite Nigerien nurses in the hospital. And I found myself questioning mid-moment of silence what we had  been doing for the past 15 minutes if it hadn’t been speaking the same language.

I was thrilled to see them because I didn’t visit them last week and was in Niamey the past few days, so that makes almost two weeks (about how long it‘s been since I last blogged…see, didn‘t you miss me too?). So I guess there were a few minutes of me bounding in screaming and leaping on both of them (is that culturally acceptable?…I dunno, but I kept my skirt on). And I guess a few minutes to go through the Hausa greetings, but I’m not really sure what happened after that.

I thought we had a conversation about how my trip was and what I brought them back and how now one of them worked in a different area of the hospital and how we missed each other and no, I didn‘t find a husband in Niamey. I honestly felt like we had been chatting it up like excited school girls after summer break.

But it dawned on me in that silent moment that I don’t know that many Hausa words. I think we must have just been rapidly blurting words in English, Hausa, and maybe French, (that’s how much I know of the two languages…sometimes I can’t even tell them apart) and a LOT of gestures....but it still worked. Weird, right?!

Someone told me the other day that 85% of communication is body language (or something like that) true! Thank goodness! Heck, I'd need that even if I wasn't living in Niger!

And also, I think 85% of people can tell if you enjoy them. That’s usually when I feel most loved by Jesus, when He tells me how much He really enjoys me. So it makes sense that having an "I like you" spirit (which these two women are the bomb at having) around a person is powerful enough to travel across cultural barriers and actually communicate. And thank ya, Lord, for that!... (cuz otherwise I'd be such a mute).

I think someone should write a book about how liking people crosses cultural barriers. And if someone already has then it should be recommended to me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

B is for Booger

Today the kindergartener I work with starting humming the Indiana Jones theme song mid-worksheet. And I was like “uhhh, why did we start humming so loudly?’ And he replied, “I can tell the next part is going to be harder.” 

Last week, while I was gathering his work so he could go home, he decided the floor in the room was lava.  I had to place the mats over to the door so that he could get to  his “lava shoes”. …‘when did everything start being lava?!’ …”When I got bored”.

(Is providing background music for your own life and self-spicing up dull moments a sign of immaturity?! Doubt it.)

I get to hear about anything and everything that is going on in his nose…including but not limited to the location of his boogers and conversations such as “my nose is SO sore!”..why?…”because I pick it SO much!” (Got to appreciate his honesty). 

We are often easily side tracked with realizations like the letter 'f' starts the word fart and 'w' sometimes looks like a butt.

There are wasp nests and preying mantises brought to my desk instead of apples, a constant flow of written sight words (wrapped in paper as gifts) on my home doorstep, and the never ending supply of creative pictures, such as people blowing up trees with dynamite...

*** I admire the perseverance of this girl because, while her hair is clearly being blown away, she has decided that putting on that last ornament is more important than retreating.

Needless to say, the world’s days are being relieved and refreshed, one spectacularly awesome kid at a time.

  (...and I can’t wait to meet this kindermister as the grown-up, brilliant, Jesus-following man he is sure to be and ask if 'f' still stands for fart? and remember when we used to discuss your boogers?)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Still no zebras BUT...

 This little guy showed up on the INSIDE of my mosquito net twice this week.

...he's that shadowy dragon-like structure...
First night, I had Tarzan catch him for me because he was just too fast. But last night, I went all African warrior princess on him and caught him myself.

I choose to believe it has been the same lizard both times. I've also decided that if he shows up again, he will be named Pet and he will be mine.  Speaking of pets, I’d just like to let my parents know that there are plenty of other fish in the sea, as far as pets go, to replace the miniature dachshund (as if a regular dachshund wasn't miniature enough) that taunts and tortures me whenever I'm at home.

And even though I am sure I’ve accumulated treasures in heaven because I have never punted the little turd across the yard (...drop kicked her over the fence, run over her in the alley, etc.) when she was yapping her head off at me, I would be more than happy to replace Dinky (yes, folks, her name is Dinky...I know...I know...) with one of the many animals we have PLENTY of around here...


#1. Hedgehog...Great pet, WHO KNEW?! This one is named Snuffles...


#2. Orrrrrr how cute is he snuggling with Sir Quaker Oat?!
i was obsessed with this lil dude.
i think it may have been the obsessiveness that killed him.
R.I.P. Squishy

#3. Tortoise?? makin' a run for it...
 (unlike Dinky's frequent freedom breaks into our neighbors yards, this guy does it in slow mo)

#4. Small dinosaur...

#5. So cool to look at, yet conveniently easy to ignore...

#6. He lives outside my back door and I think he'd be a keeper (because I'm certain people would ask if he was spray painted and maybe sometimes you could say yes...)

#7. Snake...?

#8. or large rat?? ...haha, sorry, that's kind of gross...even Dinky would be
#9. MouseNOT AN OPTION…NOT AN OPTION…they reproduce like crazy and then their newly formed army proceeds to poop all over your house and eat all your possessions... no cute Ratatouille-cooking or Cinderella-gown-sewing mice on this planet... dream on, Disney...

I would throw out more ideas but...I would have to be patient enough to upload more photos....

Still. Plenty of other fish in the sea (...animals in the desert...whatever phrase pleases you)
....don't even get me started on the bug options...

Don't get me wrong, I’m not saying kill the runt and traumatize the kids for life…but...(…make it look like an accident)...think about your options....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

how are you

Ever had someone ask “how are you?” and you said ’good’ and then they asked “no, really, how are you?” and then you broke down crying?….no? just me?…(like seven times…since I’ve been here….).

Ever had someone ask how you are and you say “good” even though you had been in tears minutes ago?… as your daughter was being taken to the hospital because of progressing cancer….and your two year old granddaughter was taken to a different family member, because your son-in-law had already died two years earlier.

The usually smiling woman that sells fruits and vegetables (with her spunky daughter in tow) was now hacking up fluids into a bucket in her room and unable to talk because she could hardly breathe.  And though the situation of “dying” continues to break my heart, what haunts me is remembering how her mother, though clearly burdened, had answered “well” when walking back to the hospital with us.  I wanted to step in and say “um no, actually, she is not doing okay, her daughter is dying, thanks for asking“.

But that is the typical answer here…even if your family isn’t well, or you’re exhausted, or incredibly sick, and you are in one of the poorest countries in the world, you still answer “healthy“…”not tired“…good.

But when I think about why it’s so haunting, I remember that I do the same thing.

It’s after spending time with people who explain their hearts with authenticity…they're holding patience by a thread, batting away doubts, they felt like they blew it, they’re tired as heck… that I remember it’s not the “I’m a good person” that is encouraging or allows someone to support you, it’s the humility of the honest.

Then I think that we don’t realize how big a problem that is…to not be honestly, humbly real…how it affects fellowship for those who need an I-can-understand-that door for conversation…or our witness to those who assume they have to get well to come to Jesus. Who knows, maybe Jesus wants to butt in sometimes too and say “um, no, actually, she’s not doing okay, I was just crying with her…”.

And since we can share our struggles with the unwavering truth that "My grace is sufficient for you" and "My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), the people around us can sense the sweet aroma of Christ as we do.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

So as long as we‘re on the subject of true confessions, here are a few…
If I saw that a blog was this long, I would never read it.

People ask me all the time if I’ve figured out what to do next and I still don’t know what to say…I guess eventually you just jump when you reach that crossroad (as in leap of faith, not as in off a cliff).

I miss being able to talk to my mom whenever the heck I wanted (am I supposed to grow out of that?).

Even though I hate having ants all over my counter at night, I like to switch on the lights and practice being a mom yelling at my teenagers for having a house party while I was away.

I like the head wraps because I can wash my hair less (…sorry, too honest?).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What do you get when...

What do you get when you combine... enthusiasm for spontaneous dance parties
+  the 'teaching you to move it, move it'  skills of my friend, the occupational therapist
+  the missionary women of Niger at a SIM conference?

You guessed it!!!…A FLASH MOB.

If we can find a reason to let loose and shake it in the desert then everyone else around the world should be more than able to whip out their spirited and spontaneous moves...take it as a challenge, people!!

...check out more juicy details from my partner in crime herself.

I will leave you with this  spontaneous-dancing little dude who will be supplying next year's moves.
(...and since I live in Galmi, I will only allow myself to be inspired between the hours of 1 and 5 am because we all know that you tube sucks up way too much internet and I don't want to be shunned...)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Never thought I'd thank God for the language barrier...

Andi, the swiss I'm-in-love-with-you-please-don’t-leave nurse here, and I exchanged a 'we have friends' high-five the other day when a nurse who lives in Galmi invited us over for dinner.

(Side note…Last time, we had these two Nigerien nurse friends over to Andi’s house for dinner...and:
...I ended up in the middle of the room without my skirt as they taught me how to wrap it correctly.
...They ate two bites of their food and then said “oooh, SOOO GOOD” and pushed it away.
...They both finished eating and left two minutes later…I’ve been told its cultural here to linger longer BEFORE eating and leave right after eating.)

So although we joked about only eating a bite of THEIR dish and then leaving, our experience was quite the opposite.

After getting lost on the way there and being fifteen minutes down the road (who knew it was only two minutes from the hospital!!), a young girl, who turned out to be M.'s niece, came up to us out of nowhere and said she would take us to the house.
(Wonder how that conversation went at home: “Go find the only two white people on the street and bring them back here").

Our idea of it being best to leave after we ate was shut down when M. popped in a movie from Nigeria. Well, we thought it was a movie. But four discs later, I was starting to think we were watching an entire season of the Nigerian 'Desperate Housewives'.
(Don’t get me wrong, I was really into it…even though the whole in-English film was being explained to me…and our friends only speak Haussa and French).

But about five episodes later, my system started to reallllly feel that ‘I don’t know what I had two helpings of instead of two bites of'’ delicious meal and unfiltered water. And yes, I was thanking God for my first language when I started telling Andi…"I’m not gonna make it through this”…"we‘re gonna need to go“…and with continued explanation, she realized that I really did need to the bathroom.

So we had to leave before the season finale, BUT we were invited back to finish it.

So we still have confirmed friends! And thanks to language barriers…our exit was still lookin' classy.

Someone told me that God has a sense of humor and we're too afraid to laugh.
…just to clarify, Lord, it wasn’t laughing I was afraid of!

***This will not happen to everyone that eats the food here...I have discovered that my fragile digestive system is best suited for sour patch kids.***

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sweet Applause

I watched an old woman learn to walk today. Although she was old enough to need a walker, she was learning to use one because she no longer had a right leg.

She strained for minutes to lower herself out of bed and finally grasp a contraption she had never seen or probably even heard of before.

Then, she shakily and slowwwwwwwwwly moved the walker in front of her a couple inches.
…And with enthusiastic patience, the occupatonal therapist cheered.

And with pain and great struggle, she slowwwwwwly hopped an inch on her one foot.
…And with joy, the o.t. threw her approving hands in the air.

Once more, and then she took a rest on a stool before trying to move her leg again.
…And the o.t. sat down next to her, clapping and hollering.

I felt God whispering…“That’s how I cheer for you. When you’re getting frustrated and thinking ‘what is this!! and by the way, am I even moving?!’…I’m beside you…applauding”.

No wonder people meet Jesus in this hospital.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Skirt Day

I was able to visit my friend who lives in a village (even more remote than Galmi) north of the capital the past see her and another couple’s ministry.

the clinic!!
As I learned about doing ministry in this village, I was also thrilled to see how the simple act of getting to know someone can change your perspective and make the foreign more familiar.

But seriously, my friend lives without power and running water and makes it work!! The outside of a mud hut may look like something you’re not used to living in but on the inside it's quite homey (note: when God hands you a mud hut, paint the inside).  It's much easier to relate to the villagers when you’re sitting with their family in their compound talking about how windy it was yesterday. The couple who started their own clinic and church in the village (awesome, right?!) seem like superheroes until they start fake photo shoots for putting on chapstick, make you chase their van for a ride home, and hysterically laugh in the New Year with you…then realize that they’re secretly really fun, normal people, as well as superheroes.

J. with a healthy baby whose survival she
 prayed for just a few months earlier...

...J. falling off a mountain...
(send in your support!)

But one of my favorite 'things are not always as they appear' stories is when a girl,that I had played duck-duck-goose with the day before showed up with no pants on the next day.

When asked where her skirt was, she replied with “I left it at home!! I DON”T WANNA WEAR MA SKIRT!!” (this is in French but, when I imitate it for people, I prefer to do it in my best 'kid with attitude' English accent). If I could’ve translated ‘you go, girl, this is Africa, run around without cho pants!” into French, I would have.
playing games with some younger girls.
(please see girl in the front of the line)

So even though I don’t want to underestimate the severity of the poverty here, and most of the dusty kids are wearing their only set of clothing…now when I pass a pantsless child, I will always wonder if they own pants or if I should be congratulating them on their day of freedom.

some girls with skirts.

Either way, I am now in the capital (might as well be having culture shock) for a conference with the SIM missionaries of Niger… and guess what phrase I’ve been yelling at my host (/friend) as we get ready every morning?