Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rescuing Annie

Three days a week, when I'm teaching, Annie stays home with Grace for a couple of hours. Grace gets her dressed, feeds her breakfast, does her hair adorably and plays with her. It's like having a stay-at-home-mom only better. Yesterday, I was surprised to get a call from Grace because not much can go wrong between 7-10 am. But, my growing girl had locked herself into our bedroom. In America, that's an easy thing to do because babies love to push buttons. It's also an easy thing to fix because you grab a bobby pin off the top of the door frame and pop, baby is freed.
In Rwanda, it's actually a bit of an achievement for a small child to lock themselves in, which is why I've never worried about it. It involves turning a key and what two year old has the attention span for that?
So Grace called and said "Annie locked herself in your room." So, ok, I'm coming home. I have a key to my bedroom. But then, I remembered that we leave keys to the rooms somewhere else (not gonna tell you where :)!!!!!!), so I called her back and told her where the key was. Grace (who is more Rwanda-experienced than I am) reminded me that as long as Annie has a key in her side, no one can unlock the door from the outside. Crap.
Theophile, one of our maintenance staff at KICS came home with me to rescue her. Of course, Annie had no idea she needed rescuing. She was chatting through the window to Grace who was outside keeping an eye on her. I'm so glad Annie didn't head to electric outlets, because there was exactly nothing Grace could have done from outside the bars except scream at her.
While Eddie was hatching a scheme to squeeze Annie through the bars (impossible), Theophile disassembled the lock and Annie was rescued. I mean, I had a feeling like I was pulling up a starving Chilean miner, but of course, Annie had no idea she was stuck.
Despite a whole day of reciting, "Annie no keys"and  "No doors Annie," I found her stabbing our door with a key last night. Gladly, the locking mechanism had been removed.

Grace babysitting from the window

It wasn't until my arrival that Annie realized she couldn't get out. 

Can I squeeze through those bars?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A childhood, past and present

There's something that's been brewing for a few weeks now. In it, I could sniff the potential for my kids' disappointment - the Christmas program at school. Auditions. Scripts. Acceptance. Rejection. Like with most things academic, this is not chancy for Simon. He would almost certainly get a part he auditioned for and bask in his success. For Sweet T, though, the forecast read different. Old enough to audition, but too young to read the script. Old enough to know she wanted what her big brother wants, but too young to understand her capacity. I could see it coming, and I began praying for her heart, and for my mother's shepherding of it. On the surface, there were two options: prepare her for success or prepare her for disappointment. Of course, both of those options are completely wrong. One risks building her up for a bigger fall, and one risks leading her to believe I think she isn't good enough. In speaking to a good friend about our daughters' various disappointments this school year, we chatted about how, of course we would love to protect them from Hard Things, but how so much more, we want them to know Jesus is with them in and bigger than those Hard Things.
Today, my mother's intuition was semi-confirmed by a reliable source that there will be disappointment, and probably tears regarding the Christmas program. I am thankful to know before she sees the list posted without her name on it.
I've spent the following couple of hours reflecting on two of my similar experiences as a child. First, was fourth grade. I was new at a small school and there were 4 girls in my class. Suzanne, Amy, Cara, and I were all each other had. I was immediately accepted by them because they didn't have a choice. The Christmas program was Psalty's Christmas (Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time to looo-ooove.) The auditions were for the ensemble (definition: girls who can sing). Suzanne, Amy and Cara all had (and probably still have) beautiful voices. One might think all 9 year old girls can passably sing, but not true. In fact, I didn't know I had a bad voice until I heard myself during the try-out and realized how different I sounded from the other girls. But, still, would they really cut one girl?!?!?! Yes, they would. And there I was, the only girl I knew that would be still standing on the risers when the stars took the microphone.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this. And he did, in a very appropriate way. He didn't demand that I get a solo, but after he talked to the teachers, I ended up in the "sign language choir" (translation: girls who suck at singing but can be taught to move their hands correctly) with the third graders. Honestly, this did help. And, as a parent and teacher myself, I think it was the best course of action. But, it didn't take away the disappointment. The circumstances changed, and I felt seen and loved and supported by my dad, but I still felt the not-enough-ness that comes when your name's not on the list.
Next came fifth grade and what might turn out to be my worst day ever in my whole life. In one day, I lost the Spelling Bee (pacific. one eff, two effs, whatever, English is a dumb language) and found out I hadn't gotten a role in Pollyanna. I was crushed. It is still a memory that brings tears to my eyes.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this (not in any way that wouldn't end up in a lawsuit), but he didn't.
Instead, when I came home and ran up to my bed after school, I found a heart-shaped box of candy and a letter scrawled on a card in a pink envelope (must have been Valentine's season). And, in the midst of my disappointment, words of love, affirmation and encouragement formed what would turn out to be the most significant memory of my childhood.
That's what I want for my kids. I want them to know they are loved through every disappointment, that they are enough, that they are great. Sometimes there will be a solution that can help. But, sometimes, there will only be the words I Love You.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Missionary Kids

I never would have planned on raising missionary kids, although as soon as I fell in love with Ben, I began to learn about what it means to be (or marry, or give birth to) "third culture kids." TCKs are people who grow up with multiple cultural identities, and this life breeds all kinds of unique strengths as well as creates some challenges.

One of the great things about staying on staff with Cru when we made this transition is that the organization cares for our entire family. When we were at our pre-field training a year ago, a couple of Cru staff members came up to visit and spend time with our kids. They encouraged them to be Missionary Kids (kids who share their faith in a new culture), as opposed to Missionaries' Kids (kids who are dragged along by their parents' jobs). They gave our kids a book called Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World, which Simon has devoured at least twice.

This week, he came into my room and asked if he could borrow some paper to make a list. Later, he requested tape so he could hang his project on his wall. This is his list: "Tips on being a successful missionary."


Obviously, I am proud of him, but what brings tears to my eyes is how pleased I am that he is embracing this experience and choosing to learn from it.

(It should go without saying that not all of our moments are rosy, but some of them are!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Highlight, Lowlight

Highlight Lowlight is a tradition/game/conversation we try to have daily as a family. We each go around and share the best and worst part of our day. For the kids, it usually sounds like this, "My highlight is I was line leader. My lowlight was someone laughed at me."

Today I'll give you my overall Rwandan Adventure highlight and lowlight, which both happened within the past 24 hours.

Last night was my lowlight when, driving home from a friend's house with Talya in the backseat, I was sideswiped by another (bigger) vehicle. We were both fine and the damage to the car was minimal, but it was just an overwhelming moment of NOW WHAT DO I DO? I've never been in an accident before, much less in a country where I am a foreigner and in a car that I don't own, and in a situation where I am likely to be blamed just by reason of my appearance (Mzungu), and can't communicate with the authorities because of language difficulties.





It got additionally confusing and comical when the police informed me that the other car was a government car ("His Excellency's"). My response was, "The government should drive better, no?" I thought this was hilarious, and the police officer giggled. Looking back, that is a very unwise thing to say in a country that offers no freedom of speech. Yet, God protected me from another driver, a system I didn't understand, and my own foolish words. I came home and the car is at the shop to get the fender put back in place. Where is Van Eck Automotive when you need them?

And then I had my highlight today. I believe I've mentioned chapel groups. Each week at chapel, we break up into discussion groups to chat about the morning's lesson. We keep the same groups, so it is a great opportunity to get to know four of my sixth grade girls. I've been amazed at the opportunities to talk about the gospel both in class and in chapel groups. These kids know the salvation gospel - Jesus died for your sins - but what a privilege to be able to talk about how each of them can be confident in God's love for them and what that means in their 6th grade lives, and in my life.

The last week of the month is set aside for chapel groups to spend more time together. The school provides sodas to set the tone and we planned today at lunch as our time to chat. So fun! Ineza, Laura, Elise and Nicole joined me over cafeteria food and Fanta and I told them we could talk about whatever they wanted. The questions started with what percentage of the world is Christian, which I googled and we discussed what that might mean. That led to their experiences with people of other faiths and Catholocism, which is predominant in Rwanda. It was fun to explore the richness of Catholic theology and a few practices which differ from what we teach at KICS. Then they asked how I met Mr Thomas, which is always a great story to tell to pre-dating adolescents.

It is a highlight to share our life with students - that is why we're here and I'm thankful God is providing opportunities for both me and Ben.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Keep Singing Oceans

Oh my gosh, I'm about to be a brat. But, today is Sunday and it's been a great day of worshiping in a church, eating with friends, resting at home, and getting to know new people.

And, earlier this week, I saw this post on Facebook called Stop Singing Oceans. And I skimmed it. So, let's be honest. I SKIMMED it. I didn't finish it and I didn't study it. What I read got me all fired up; it felt judgmental and critical and I started crafting a fine blog critique of blog criticism. And then I called myself a hypocrite and put the thing to bed.

But then, as I walked into church this morning (late), we started singing Oceans. So, of course, it all came back. What I took to be the author's point was that we shouldn't ask God to lead us to place with no borders if we don't mean it. Again, all fairness: maybe that wasn't her point. Maybe in my judgmental high, I missed some irony or a deeper point.

But what washed over me this morning as I re-wrestled with these ideas was thanksgiving. Because, every Sunday morning, I am invited to loudly and with spirit sing songs full of words that are impossible to fully mean. As a wretch, a sinner, at war with my flesh, I am unable to worship God with complete purity of heart. But, we gather together anyway and do it. And I am so thankful that we can do that. That we can enter into a place with God where we can say/sing/pray/recite/responsively read deep words of affirmation of our faith - a faith that I don't always feel, and I don't always mean, and I am terrified of where it will lead, and I still know is Truth.

I can do it with transparency before God because he knows my heart. He knows the things I am holding back. He knows the borders I'm hoping He will let me keep erected. He sees those things and invites me to worship Him anyway. He invites me to sing Amazing Grace even on the mornings when I'm sure I'm less of a wretch than you. He has allowed the great hymns and the contemporary tunes to be authored by sinners and sung by the masses. He asks for our my whole heart, but promises that where my worship is incomplete, insufficient, and inattentive, He intercedes for me with the Father.

So, I can sing Oceans or the Doxology or Holy, Holy, Holy to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. And on the Sunday mornings when I do it as a hypocrite (about 4 times a month), He sees what I'm holding back, accepts what I offer and calls me His.

One of the songs that I kinda hate, but still holds so much meaning for me is "Here I am to worship." The tune kind of gets to me, but the sentence, "Here I am to say that you're my God," feels like exactly what worship should be. Me saying that over and over again. Sometimes I don't have a lot to bring, but I can always say that with confidence and joy.

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So, we have found a church that we are enjoying. It's called Christian Life Assembly. It's a fairly diverse congregation, but *feels* mostly African, which is something we were desiring. Today's sermon was a beautiful, truthful, deep, artful exploration of the gospel (Galatians 3:3) throughout Scripture. We are hoping to join a neighborhood cell group soon and get to know some more people. We just had a great dinner with one of the pastors and his family.

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Disclaimer: Ben hasn't read this post and the opinions expressed herein are mine alone. (Susie)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A brain update and a pretty picture (not of my brain)

I had a brain MRI last week and it has yet to have been reviewed by my dr in the states but a few docs here have peeked at it and have given us the thumbs up. So, we pray thanks, breathe faith, and take another step into the future. 

Also, we are on a staff retreat right now in a beautiful place called Kibuye. I mean, these forested hills overlooking a lake look more like my lake George than my preconceived notions of Africa. 



Monday, September 8, 2014

Baby, Baby

In no particular order, here is my firstborn through the years:










Gosh, I love him. He gets better every day. He's smart and funny and interesting. He loves to learn and read and ask questions. He is kind to others, and helpful to me. He has weathered this change with courage. He's nine and the older he gets, the less I find myself hoping it slows down, and the more eager I am to see who he's becoming. Happy birthday Simon - use your powers for good!