Sunday, October 19, 2014

The dad everyone deserves

I have the dad that every child deserves to have but very few actually get.

The one who thinks you can do no wrong, while at the same time making sure you're properly disciplined. 

The one who puts himself second so his kids can have what they need. 

The one who tells you every time he sees you that you're more beautiful than the last time. 

The one who does the little things for you. Like filling your car with fuel, washing your car, vacuuming your car out. 

The one who is proud of who you are, even if you're not the best at everything you try. 

The one who invests in your friends and knows and loves them because they're important to you. 

The one who you know is so proud to call you his. 

The one who lets you know that you couldn't ever, ever do anything that would make him stop loving you. 

I've long stopped asking God why He's blessed me the way He has in so many ways and learned to just be grateful for the huge, immeasurable gifts I've received. I know I'm able to know God better because of who my dad is to me, and that's the greatest thing I can say about my dad on his birthday. 

I'm so glad I got the dad that every kid deserves to have. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Prayers for Memory (and an attitude adjustment for me!)

I posted yesterday asking for prayers for our preemie Memory. But when I got on today, it had never published! She started having diarrhea and fever last night, so she started a drip and some iv antibiotics, but the fever still wasn't going down. I ended up taking her to Zimba hospital today and we admitted her. The doctor just wants to observe her and see what the fever does. Hopefully, we'll be able to bring her back home tomorrow. She's there with auntie Georgina, and her fever has been down tonight so far. Please keep praying for complete healing for her, for maturation in her little lungs, and for no more diarrhea. 

After getting her all settled in at the hospital, I found a group of people waiting at my car. They all were asking for transport back to Kalomo, which is about a 30 minute ride. One of them was a man I recognizes from around Kalomo. He had three of his kids with him and his mother (their grandmother) had been admitted there and had just died. The other ladies were all with another woman who had just had a baby last night. 

Before I'd even heard their stories or seen who they were, I was annoyed. First of all, I was exhausted from a night of little sleep. Second of all, I was just worried leaving her there and feeling anxious. So I just had in my mind a nice, peaceful drive home listening to my music, praying, and thinking (and being alone!). So seeing them all standing there wanting to cram in my car just made me mad. It ruined my plan of a peaceful drive home. They all asked so politely if I could possibly give them a lift. I agreed, but I'm sure my tone and body language suggested how annoyed I was at having to bear this inconvenience (a pull off on the side of the road when we got into town. Bringing them all home literally took an extra 30 seconds of my time). 

But it didn't matter how little of an inconvenience it really was. It still messed with my plan and my privacy, and my selfishness reared its ugly head. As we were driving home, I was just so disappointed in myself. Why couldn't I just choose kindness at first? Why couldn't I have squealed with excitement for this family and their new baby and sat a few seconds longer and mourned with this man and his children? 

As we were driving home, I did turn the music on softly. I refrained from belting it the way I would have, but every song that came on just convicted me over and over again. How much patience and grace God has poured over me! How little it would take to pour it out on others! I know how refreshing it is when someone offers kindness and warmth to me. It can change my whole day. Every day we're afforded countless opportunities to do that for people. To be living examples of God's love and goodness to us. 

Today I failed. Big time. God changed my heart by the end of the drive and I was able to see how incredibly petty and juvenile my feelings were when I put them in the proper perspective. A long time ago I wrote down in my Bible, "Any goodness in me is borrowed from God." I remember hearing that for the first time and being so taken aback by it. When I'm kind and graceful and patient, it's not me but the spirit in me. Transforming me. Molding me. Making me more like him. On my own, I'm not all those things. When I try to rely on myself to be kind and graceful and patient in my own strength, I fail miserably. Today was just a strong reminder of how much I need God to make me who He wants me to be. 

When we reached Kalomo, I pulled over, dropped them off, and watched them walk away to the different places they were going. I'm grateful we crossed paths today and for the way God used them to keep refining this stubborn heart of mine. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Window Wednesday- Diet

A question about life here that I get pretty regularly is about my diet. What do I eat? Where do I cook it? Is it super cheap to buy food here? So today's look into life here is all about that (fascinating, I know!). 

I have a full kitchen in my house that has a stove, a refrigerator, and running water. If we had power right now, I'd take a picture and show you! 

So the majority of cooking I do is just like you do. Because of our frequent power outages, there are times I cook outside over a fire (made by Patrick, lest you think I'm so outdoorsy and capable). That's only if I'm desperately craving something good to eat or I was already in the middle of cooking something and don't want to ruin it. But otherwise, I would just eat something cold if the power were out. 

For breakfast, I eat cereal every day. Every single day. It's kind of my thing, and my family sends me my favorite kinds often enough to have special cereal pretty often. Here in Zambia, my cereal options are bran flakes, corn flakes, and frosted flakes. The last few years we've been able to find Special K red berries, so that's been a step up! They do cost about $10 a box and don't taste quite the same, but beggars can't be choosers! On the off chance I don't have any milk or some other world catastrophe, I'd make some oatmeal or eat a strawberry pop-tart that's kept under lock and key! :)

Lunch and supper probably look a lot like yours, too, except much of my food comes straight from my garden! Some days I eat nshima (Zambia's staple food) with Matilda and Dillon at lunch, or I'll eat with the aunties. I love nshima, and I especially love Matilda's. Some days I eat tuna and crackers. Or grilled cheese. Or rice and beans. Or an apple and peanut butter. Or an apple and cheese. At night is when I tend to make a bigger meal, like grilled chicken and vegetables. 

Although it is cheaper in general to live here, the exception to that rule is food-- at least the food we are used to eating! Yogurt, fruit, meat, cheese, pasta, and things like that are all a lot more expensive than they would be back home. There are very few things I can't make some variation of with things I find here. It's always maybe just a little different than I'm expecting it to taste, but after time that becomes the norm. 

So overall, the diet isn't strange at all. Besides the occasional bugs we eat when the season is right and the exotic foods you can try at touristy places, my diet hasn't changed dramatically living here. I would say I end up eating healthier here probably because of all the fresh fruits and vegetables and the lack of fast food. :(

Even though we can make most things we can make at home, it doesn't mean I don't crave things from home. I just still love something that tastes like home, not an almost-version of home! 

So far on my list of things I want to eat when I'm home are:
A hot dog 
A corn dog
A turkey sandwich
Chick-fil- a
Pei Wei
Dot Wo
Panera every day
Dunkin donuts
Daylight donuts

Okay, I'm stopping. I'm drooling. And the food here is really good, so who needs those places anyway...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Happy Hearts

I cannot even begin to tell you how WONDERFUL today was. I am still feeling the glow of a perfect, perfect day. 

So many people in my world love these babies so much, and sometimes people just send money and say, "Do something special for the babies that you wouldn't get to do otherwise!" And today we did! 

We took our biggest 11 babies to Livingstone for a day at the crocodile farm and swimming in a REAL pool. Because the Harding group is here, I had so many friends willing to come and chaperone the babies one on one. 4 of them are even lifeguards, so that was ideal for the swimming. One sweet Harding, Abigail, even agreed to come along just to take pictures for us! 

When we pulled up in the bus at 8 to pick up the babies, they were racing out the gate! They have been looking forward to this like crazy since I told them. We started off at the reptile park (crocodile farm), where the babies were totally enthralled. 
Checking out the difference between a tortoise and a turtle.
There are so many crocodiles there you can't even count. The babes loved spotting them hidden among the bushes or in the water. 

It's pretty crazy to watch them jump in the air when they're mad. How he doesn't attack this man, I'll never know.

 This is a mother croc who is protecting her eggs. It's amazing how aggressive and deadly they are. 
The coolest thing is that they let you hold the baby crocs! I actually predicted that maybe two of the kids would hold them, and I was right!
This one is 1 year 8 months old, approximately. Jose was fearless.

He couldn't be sweeter. 
Despite Seth's being a weeny about the whole croc farm experience, he faced his fears and held this little guy. I was so proud of him! 
After holding the baby crocodiles, it was time to see all the deadly snakes that live in Zambia. We only got pictures of a few, but of all the ones they had there, there was only 1 I hadn't seen in real life. Frightening!
Spitting cobra

This black mamba, the deadliest snake in Africa, has enough venom to kill 20 people. 
Kenna and Sesa boy resting before lunch!
I loved every second of that experience. I just can't tell you how much joy it brings me to let the kids experience new things for the first time. I love watching them proudly tell the aunties and their friends what they saw that day.

We headed to Hungry Lion for lunch. Think Kentucky Fried Chicken. We had ordered their food ahead of time, so we sat down for a quick meal of fried chicken and chips. They were perfectly well behaved. 

Our last stop was swimming! I managed to find the only pool that would really work for our kids because it had a shallow end. I had already talked to the manager of the hotel, and they agreed to let our hooligans swim for the day (for a price of course!). We were greeted by some traditional dancers. The babes joined in for a bit.

And then it was time to swim! When I told them we were going swimming after we'd just seen the crocs, they were a little gun shy. They asked if there were crocodiles in the pool! They'd never seen a real pool before, and when we turned the corner, they gasped! So did the Hardings. This pool is beautiful and somewhere we would never really get to go unless we just paid to go swim there!
I so, so, so love this face. It kind of says how we all felt!
Joel, hard at work
The second they saw this they said, "Boat!!"
Teaching Helen how to swim a bit
Keeping busy!
Sunglasses with Vigi!
Vigi talking to a helicopter overhead :)
Biggie splashing Deaco
A definite crowd pleaser was preparing tea for people! 
Kaitlin and Sesa
Maureen and Mary Kate
We swam for 2 hours, and it could not have been more perfect. It was so hot out, the kids were adventurous and not scared of everything, and the Hardings could not have been better with the kids. They took them to the bathroom countless times, got out when they were cold and say with them, got back in minutes later when they changed their minds, and played any number of games that the kids thought of to play.  Our kids were so blessed today.
Ashley teaching Joel to blow bubbles in the water. 
Ella's full of joy. 
I'm so thankful that these girls took the time to go with us today. Because the aunties don't swim, we really would not have been able to do something like this without them. I know the babies will be talking about it for weeks to come, and I'll have to try to convince them that the baby pool is just as fun!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Going home

I don't usually post about when babies go back the village. I'm not sure why exactly. I know part of it is that my rawest emotions are probably at those times, and I know my words can't ever capture what all my heart is feeling. That frustrates me because I feel like I'm not doing that baby justice. And then because I'm so incredibly sporadic at blogging, I can never manage to write a post when each of them goes home, and I worry that people will assume I love some more than the others and that's why they got written about. All of it is pretty silly when I write it all out like that because I know no one would probably think anything of it at all. But I do, so then it becomes easier just not to write anything.

But because it's the season of the 20-blog challenge, I figure maybe I ought to capture what's in my heart tonight. 
Tracy's family showed up today. It's her grandmother and her aunt, and they seem like lovely people. They were so excited to see Tracy again since their last visit, and they're anxious to take her back home with them now that they are in a place where they can keep her. And we couldn't be happier that they want her and love her. 
But it just is awful. If any of you have ever been foster parents, you know the terrible pain that comes from loving and investing in a child you know will leave you one day. And when they do, you don't always think it's the most ideal situation in the world for them. It's family and there's so much beauty and importance there, but it's also hard. There's a reason that child has been with you and not them for a season. 
People often ask, "Well don't you get attached? Isn't it hard when they go home?" Of course. To both. It's terrible, and one of the worst kinds of pain I think to willingly love when you know at the end your heart gets shredded. Again. But the alternative is not attaching and not effectively loving. And that's not an option. 
So we keep loving and opening up our hearts to kids for the season they need us. For Tracy, that's been a little over 3 years. 3 years of firsts, of beauty and frustration, of growing and changing, of becoming a little girl who we love so deeply. 3 years of wiggling her way deep down into our hearts.
Taytay is special. She's not like any other baby we have. I guess that could be said of all of them, actually, but she especially marches to the beat of her own, precious little drum. She's smart. She's independent. She's funny. She's wild. She's quiet. Until she's not. She's thoughtful. She's warm. She takes a long time to warm up. She takes a long time to decide how she feels about something or someone. She's stubborn. She loves to be singled out for doing something well. She's just special. And no words I could ever write could paint a proper picture of the girl she is. 

I miss her and she's not even gone yet.

But for me, she  pretty much is gone. Even though she will still be with us for a few days, it's important that we step to the back and let her grandmother and aunt take over the main care-giving as she starts attaching with them,. She needs to see us trusting them with her. She needs to bond with them in a place that feels safe to her. She needs to start looking to them for the things she would normally look to us for. She needs to start choosing them, preferring them, and pulling away from us a little bit. And she will. But it hurts, for all of us.

God loves Taytay, and I truly believe He shelters little children from the awareness of pain. I know He's knitting all their hearts together as we speak, this first night where grandmother and aunt and baby are sleeping together in Tracy's familiar place. Little by little their hearts are starting to connect, and He's responsible for it. I know He's sending angels to surround the village where she's going, to protect her and to comfort her and to make sure she knows she's loved. I know because I've asked Him to, like I ask for all of them, and I know it's His delight to love His children well.

I'm so glad I believe that about God. What a blessing it is to fully believe that God created this baby girl, He loves her perfectly, and He wants what is best for her. It doesn't make it hurt any less on these days when someone you love so much leaves you, but it does quiet me, that's for sure. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

ABCs, Zambian version

In Zambia, children learn a different ABC song than I grew up learning in America. I love the song schools use here, especially the part at the end where they sing, "Zed. Zambia. Stop!" They say "zed" here instead of "z", so that's where that comes from. 

I thought you might enjoy a couple of videos of our smarties saying their ABCs, Zambian style. The first one is Virginia, and the next one is Deacon. Deaco's video is horrible because you can hear both animals and children in the background, tons of wind, and my camera space in my phone ran out at the letter Q, but I thought I'd let you see a taste of his darlingness, anyway! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Window Wednesday- Safety

Sometimes people ask me questions that surprise me. I think it's just that life here has become so normal to me that the out of the ordinary things don't seem as such to me now. I've forgotten some of the shock and newness of basic things about my life here. So in an effort to have enough blogs to write until I reach 20 :) and to answer questions people have asked about the day-to-day happenings of life here, I'll start giving you Window Wednesdays (or at least this Wednesday- hehe. And I like alliteration, so the window is like a little window into my life here- get it??). .


Something people wonder frequently it seems is about my security. Am I scared? Do I have a guard? Do I have a concrete wall surrounding my house with broken bottle glass lining the top?

 Rarely. Yes. Not at all. Well that was fast! :)

But really, Zambia is a relatively safe, peaceful country. And because we live in the "bush", or basically out on a big farm, we are even further removed from the crime that may happen in a city atmosphere. And the city that we are near is a small town really, as opposed to a bigger city. So all in all, I'm in about the safest place possible if you live in Africa. I can't remember the last time I felt scared (safety-wise, anyway). I have no gate around my house, just a bunch of friendly neighbors on either side. I do have a night watchman, and I sleep so much better when he is here than when he isn't. He's off one night a week (and he hates when I tell anyone what night it is because he thinks it puts me at risk! :)

My night watchman is Patrick, and he's been working with me since 2007! He used to be the village policeman in his small village, so he was primed and ready for a job like this. He usually gets here about dark or a little bit after. He lives 17 kilometers away in a village called Kasibi, and he rides his bike in or walks every day. He usually heads home when the sun comes up. He is fiercely protective of me, my house, my car, and whatever baby is living here at the time!

Patrick and Catherine
Patrick and Cathy reading a bed time story
It's so reassuring to me that he's out there and would hear if anything needed attention. He makes rounds around the house every hour or so, checks for snakes and other creatures, and usually cooks a nighttime meal of nshima on his brazier. During cold season, he keeps a charcoal fire going through the night to stay warm. He uses a "catapult" or slingshot to kill snakes, and he's unbelievably successful at it. Early on in our relationship, I made the mistake of telling him I wanted to see any snake he found, especially if it was a kind I hadn't seen before. So even to this day, years later, I'll hear a little tap on my window in the middle of the night. "Come see the snake I just killed!" I don't have the heart to tell him I've seen all the dead snakes I need to see to satisfy me for a lifetime!
Patrick ('s legs) and my brother Ben dissecting a mamba
Black Mamba
8 foot cobra (and an awesome all brown get up for me!)
To keep from boredom, he reads his Bible, he colors in a coloring book sometimes, and he listens to the radio. He also has some fellow night guard friends who pass by and they shoot the breeze.
Patrick modeling with his tea tray, his bible, and his radio on the seat
Armed with his bug spray and catapult!

I am so grateful to have such a trusted friend and protector in Patrick. He makes my life better and safer, and I love him and his family so much.