It has been over a month since I have really blogged. I know many of you all read it to find out what is going on over here and how we are doing. A few have mentioned they have missed reading the blog.
So I am hoping to start back writing and posting but thought my first one should be, "Why the silence". So this is a honest, how it really is blog post.
Right now, today it is fine. Or as Zambians say, "I am just ok". When I hear that I think "well just ok" that means not doing that well. But to them it means everything is fine. So today, I am doing well.
But the past few months were some difficult months for me.
I have felt discouraged, overwhelmed, burdened down, stressed, drained, and emotionally fragile just to name a few!
Life had become one big responsibility that I woke up to every morning and went to bed with every night. So much work to do, so many needs in my own home and all around us.
People everywhere all the time. This is normal to my African friends, but it is not normal to me. I am hoping it is more normal now than it was last year, but it still stresses me out sometimes.
We had our house helper Maureen's family living with her in the one room house on the back of the property.
We had invited her to bring her kids back home to stay with her since they were farmed out with other relatives for school when she was unemployed. So, in August her 2 kids joined her and Jack making 4 in the room. This was fun for our kids but highly stressful for me because it meant at any given moment I look outside and wonder who is in our yard or what are my boys getting into or why is someone elses baby crying, or at any given moment of the day one of the children would arrive at the door to come and see Maureen while she was working and life was ( still is) always unpredictable. Visitors would just walk in through the gate to see her and I would wonder who is this coming to my house and what do they want. December added Maureen's last son James to the mix and though it was very happy for them all to be reunited, it was yet another person living here. We knew it was temporary until Maureen moved to Kabanana to work full-time with the orphan ministry, but many days had me feeling like I could not wait until that moment. She is now settled in her own place and she is just as happy as I am!
As I read over that last part, that is where the Honesty comes in. Does that sound like a "missionary heart", or a christian heart for that matter? Waiting until someone leaves so you can have some sense of peace and order once again? Well that is how I felt.
I felt like I needed space, and if you cant feel like you have space in your own home, where can it be?
Even now, because each day there are 6 little sets of ears listening to james and I, and potentially 4 adults ( Enock, Ruth- the new house helper, Katryn and Heather) we often go walk around the yard when we want to talk privately. There is no where else it seems.
The pressures and business of the holiday season with the orphan christmas parties were added work and though enjoyable and something I looked forward to all year, by the time it came to travel up to Ndola I just did not feel like going. So I feel like in a sense as soon as that last party happened, Mid december I checked out emotionally and responsibility wise for a little bit from the orphan work. Thankfully I am eager to jump back in and give the direction and decisions needed for the ministry, but a break was needed.
The last 2 times I have walked around in Kabanana this month and talked with the kids, my heart has warmed again and I have been happy to be there wanting to see these kids helped. I am excited at what this year will hold for these kids and us as we seek to minister to them and serve them.
Home responsibilities were stressful. Though a great,huge, answer to many many prayers, blessing--- was the addition of Grace to our family, it has also been an added amount of work and stress for these initial months.
She was not given any discipline for almost 2 years and was given into whenever she cried and screamed.
Her screaming is a daily, sometimes erupting hourly thing right now. Screaming because she did not get what she wanted, screaming because she wants to do something and it is not allowed, Screaming because someone walked out of the house and she didn't go with them, ….the list goes on and on. It has been a challenge to have a patient heart in the midst of ear piercing chaotic screams, and to faithfully and consistently deal with her on the matter. That is the number one thing we are working on with her. In the early months it was getting her used to all the kids and James and having her go to them too and not just me all the time. Thankfully she does not bite the other kids as often as she did when she first came home, but that too was an issue we worked through ( and still are.) Many things still in her from her "everyone for themselves" life in the orphanage. So we have been working through some of those issues.
She is a charmer, full of life and personality, vigor and excitement. When she is not screaming and mad, she is so happy, laughing and getting along well with everyone. ( I guess we all can be this way sometimes…) We love her dearly and are so thankful for her! Just like everything that we do there are blessings and great parts and challenges as well.
So my -mommy meter- was being maxed out and I was often short with the kids and James and irritable over little things that should not have been a big deal, but I made them into something huge. Sad to say.
Spiritually I felt like I was growing distant from the Lord though going through the motions as often as I could of spending time with God. Life adjustments always happen when we add another child to the home, it seems to take a bit of time to iron out the wrinkles of schedules and sleep patterns and when is the best time for devotions, etc.
Since Grace was new into the home and not many churches here have nursery ( or cresh as it is called) many Sundays were spent walking around outside with her tied to my back and thinking I am certainly not getting anything out of the preaching right now. One Sunday in Ndola which happened to be when Jim, Mark Chanski and Rick were there , I lost it.
James was preaching at another church in the area as well as Pastor Jim. Pastor Chanski was preaching where all the kids and I were and Rick was just coming in from another church where he had been. It was the evening service and I took most all the kids out to the car and they were just playing climbing around in the car because I could not carry Grace on my back anymore and she needed to get down. Rick walked up just arriving and asked how it was going, and made a comment about the nursery being in the car. *A needed explanation here. Rick and his dear wife ( my sweet friend) April have 7 children, many of similar ages. Rick is the "nursery deacon" and the guy that loves kids. *
I half way smiled and then started crying. He immediately offered to watch the kids and I told him thanks but no this was his first sunday in Africa I couldn't have him outside watching my kids. He asked one more time and I gave in, sobbing! But where was he going to take all the kids? He ended up driving around ( first time on the other side of the road no less) for an hour with the kids. I was not sure how Grace was even going to do, but he told me if she starts screaming we will just all join in with her!
He left with the kids and I walked back into church and sat quietly and listened to the great preaching that God had prepared for me for such a time as this from Pastor Chanski! I remember getting teary-eyed because I so much needed to hear the Word and it was speaking directly to me. The Lord was kind to provide that for me!
November and December James was scheduled to preach at different churches and so that time was challenging as well, wanting so much to hear him ( God has given him great gifts to preach!) but being out of the service for my "season" in life. Thankfully in recent days we have been able to take turns when he is not preaching, with caring for Grace as we are working on her learning to stay in church. Emma and Sarah as well have been helping in this regard.
These of course are also the holiday months when all family and friends are gathering together, so I know emotions were heightened during this time as well. Then we also now just this week reached the one year mark. One year ago we arrived in Zambia. That certainly gives reasons for reflection and consideration as well.
All these things do not even take into consideration the sheer difficulty of living life in Africa. There is no way to describe or explain how this is, my African friends ( who are reading) this is not meant to put down this country in any way, it is just the realization that life is Hard. Unless you ( africans, americans, europeans) have lived in both places you never will know or understand, no matter how many visits to a country or things you have read, there is just no way of entering into that unless you experience it yourself.
At one point in December I was talking with James about how it is just so hard. ( more than talking, crying and weeping I will say) I told him that I wanted to go back home to our house on Tatum Road ( 5 acres in the country, no people around except the occasional neighbor on a horse) and live there, our old life just for a month. I just wanted to go back to how things were, just for a month and then come back to Africa. I want to be here, but the difficulties and the sadness and missing how things were comes in over me sometimes and the place where I remember the most comfort was our house and life there in Shelbyville.
We were comfortable. Very comfortable.
But my heart is here as well and in recent days I have had a refreshed desire to continue to seek to minister to and love people here, and I am thankful for that.
Another over arching thing that we have begun to realize is how much of our lives are lived with an eye to what will people, supporters, friends, and family members think about this or that. This can be very stressful and burdensome. It is not the way to live.
We are to live our lives for one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have often put weights upon ourselves that God does not intend for us to have and have focused on rules and laws and not on God's Grace to us.
God is so gracious. His love is so full. Why do we worry about how something will be viewed? There is freedom in Christ!
The life lived for Christ is to be one of Joy. And this is what I / we have realized is often missing when we focus in on all the things that are our responsibilities, duties and the like. We are to enjoy this life that God has given to us.
So I am back blogging. What has changed. Some things and then nothing as well.
Hopefully, our perspective. What is our life about. What is to be our disposition throughout our life? A heartfelt love and devotion to Christ, loving others, and Joy in Christ and in this life.
The challenges are all the same. The difficulties and life here are the same.
But practically, for me James has encouraged me in doing some things different for right now. Taking some time each week to go and get a break away from the responsibilities at home. This is something he encouraged me to do many months back but again I felt I just couldn't for whatever reason. Now I know I need it.
Exercise. A true de-stresser. I have been able to go to a local gym to exercise 4 to 5 times a week and that has been so helpful.
Date night. Once a week some time for James and I to go out together. The more things we have going on in our lives the more needful this is. We are blessed now with Sarah old enough to stay home but even moreso what makes me comfortable is having a night guard we can trust if anything should come up while we are out.
Periodic holidays away. We were able to take a vacation at the end of the year and it was so needed. When we arrived back we had an email from a friend who is also a pastor, urging us strongly to continue to make time at least 3-4 times a year to just get away for a break otherwise as he was telling James you will burn out and become ineffective.
That is so true. So we hope to do that this year as well.
I am still seeking to draw near to Christ. I get glimpses and my desires head in that direction and I am seeking to spend the time, but I will not say I am there yet. So you can pray for that for me.
I am slowly getting back to the routine, but now you at least know why I have not been able to respond to emails, or blogged lately. Here is hoping and praying the Lord continues to sustain us for 2011. Thank you for your prayers for us as a family and specifically for me.