Down to the last ships!!!
Down to the last ships!!!
I sent Abigail and Naomi out with a butterfly net to catch a butterfly that they could observe and draw. Five minutes later they came back inside quite proud of themselves: “We caught something!”
Yes they did! But not a butterfly! They caught a DRAGONFLY!
If you’ve ever tried to catch a dragonfly, you’ll know they’re fast! It’s no small feat to catch a butterfly, and even more impressive to catch a dragonfly!
So they grabbed some paper, colored pencils, and their friend Rejoice and started drawing their dragonfly, just as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world to catch a dragonfly. I love sharing life with these girls!
We love Sundays around this house! They are non-stop from 8:30am to 7:30pm, but they are filled with our favorite things!
Here’s what a Sunday can hold for us…
We usually leave the house between 8:30 and 8:45, getting to church in time to clean a classroom. Rachel is currently teaching the 4-5 year old Sunday school class, and enjoys a full house of 8-10 imaginative and fun kids!
Matt is on rotation helping teach the adult class on Evangelism, and this week and next he is teaching on the difference between the prosperity gospel and the true gospel of Scripture.
Main service is next, a time to enjoy worshipping the Lord and hearing the teaching of God’s Word with our friends.
We have a few minutes after church to chat with people, then we rush home for Care Group, which begins at our house at 12 noon!
We eat lunch with our Care Group (I feel them peanut butter sandwiches and they keep coming back!), and we really love this group! We have somehow become the “young singles group,” and more often than not we have to draw up a few extra chairs to our 10-seater table!
During lunch we catch each other up on what God is doing in our lives. Afterwards we explore the practical applications of the morning’s sermon and take time to pray for one another. This group cares for one another well and loves to laugh! We are so thankful to the Lord for them, and have been so encouraged seeing them grow in Christlikeness!
After Care Group, either Matt or I or both of us have have meetings for discipleship or counseling. It’s fun to end the afternoon with both of us saying: “God is at work here!”
By this point it’s getting to the late afternoon and we have a Skype appointment each Sunday with Matt’s parents. It’s a fun catch-up time, usually involving some sort of show-and-tell by the girls.
Either before or after dinner, it’s family fun night! It’s our one night of the week to do something special as a family, whether that’s play dominoes, ride bikes, watch a movie, go out to eat, or throw a blanket on the lawn and star-gaze!
By the end of Sundays, we are all tired-happy. These days seem to embody what we love: worship of the Lord and instruction in the Word, ministry and relationships within the church, and sweet family time. We love Sundays!
And we’re back! The WordPress app wasn’t working for several weeks, so I lost my easy way to post! But most of it’s fixed and we’re back now!
In the intervening weeks both Matt and I celebrated our birthdays! I had a big birthday last year (that may have had to do with the #4…), so didn’t want to make a fuss about it this year. But when it came to Matt’s birthday, I realized we’d never done anything big for his birthday before. And growing up, his birthday was always in the same week with his mom’s, his brother’s, and Valentine’s Day, so it was never made too much of then either. But I wanted to do something a little special, a little different for him this year.
I can’t even begin to express how much I love and enjoy this guy! He is a faithful friend, a faithful husband, and a faithful follower of Christ. He loves deeply and enjoys whole-heartedly. He is adventurous, curious, and courageous. When he sees his sin, he is quick to deal with it diligently. When he sees my sin, he is slow to react and careful to lovingly point it out. He loves and trains our girls with patience and clear thinking. He is artistic and witty and makes me laugh every day! He has blessed me and our family in so many ways. As I said the day I first knew I loved him: I would rather go through the worst things in life with him than the best things in life with anyone else.
Well, now that you know how much I love this guy, let’s get to his birthday party!
We invited lots of Matt’s friends over from 4-5pm, and made a valiant effort to ruin everyone’s dinner with…
Cheesecake! Matt requested cookies and cream cheesecakes, so I made 2 of them, with ridiculously expensive cream cheese. 😳 Oye! But it’s his birthday, and he is worth it!
These guys made the party special. It’s not every day you’re surrounded by so many friends.
I’m so glad we were able to celebrate Matt on this day, and so thankful that the girls and I get to enjoy life with him! We are so blessed by this man every day!
Today we said good-bye to a good friend. See him in the picture with us?
We sold our faithful Toyota Hilux Surf. We’ve had some great adventures with him over the last 5 years! From working our way through some rough and muddy roads exploring the back corners of Malawi, to the dirt roads and pot holes in our own neighborhood, he’s been reliable and tough. We can’t imagine a better car for our family, but he’s 21 years old now and starting to show his age. Unfortunately they don’t make Surfs anymore, so he was our last. (Yep, we had another Surf before him!)
The Surf has gone to a great new owner who knows his value, so we are happy. And I’m sure we’ll figure out how to still have adventures without him!
The holidays are over and we are back to “normal life” around here. But we had a great time…
Decorating cookies with friends
Making little gingerbread houses with more friends (yes, even the dads!)
Decorating the house for Christmas
Hosting and enjoying 3 nights of IBF Christmas parties in our home!
(We love the Christmas parties!)
We also got to enjoy giving gifts
And receiving them!
Playing with baby lizards in the early rains
And getting to be a little fancy!
It was a nice break, but we are eager to get back in the regular routine of things around here. Like blogging! 😁
When we were new to Malawi, we weren’t sure if missionaries were supposed to go on vacation. We worked hard every day, trying to keep up with our perceptions of the great missions heroes of the last 200 years. We were not good at resting, and the months and years of working under these perceptions of what a missionary “should be like” began to take its toll. Slowly, over the years, we have started to learn more about rest and the role it should have in our lives. We should rest! We have come to realize that God likes rest so much that he dedicated one day of the week completely to it. In fact it was so important to him that he showed us how to do it by resting himself!
Unfortunately, as any pastor and their family will know, it’s really hard for anyone in ministry to follow the pattern of 6 work days followed by 1 day of rest. We are ON on Sundays, from 8:45am until 4pm. So do we pick another day of the week as our day off? We tried, but here in Malawi people stop by, the generator breaks, someone needs money, this urgent thing came up that can’t wait… suddenly the “day off” looks just about like all the other days. So new plan: if we need to rest, we go somewhere else. And that’s what we did last week.
We inadvertently picked a great place for resting. Kawandama Hills is about a 3 hour drive north of us, but it’s kind of the middle of no where. No power lines, no cell phone service. And really not much to do. We had expected it to be more adventurous, but once we got there we appreciated the simplicity. We were perfectly fine going on a few hikes…
flying a kite…
reading a good book with a cup of hot chocolate…
snuggling with Dad…
watching a movie…
watching the storms roll in…
and going for another hike.
After 3 nights at Kawandama Hills, we moved on for the last 2 nights in Nkhata Bay, a family favorite.
But we were loving the restful days, so we even toned down our expectations for this adventurous city, and enjoyed the view…
caught some tadpoles…
spent hours reading a great new-to-us book (Swallows and Amazons!)…
swam a little…
went for another hike…
ate some yummy banana pancakes on a rainy morning…
and really enjoyed family time!
It was a much-needed, and very much appreciated vacation. We are still learning what rest is and how to do it in a way that honors the Lord. We will keep learning in the years to come, but for this week, we came home feeling rested and ready to get back into the thick of things!
We have 2 visiting CAPA professors staying with us for 2 weeks, so we decided to pack up the family and the guests and go on a little adventure!
Despite our misadventure on a trip a couple weeks ago, we decided to go back to Kuti, but this time spend the night. Kuti’s prime time is “golden hour,” the hour just before the sunset or the hour just after the sunrise. And if you spend the night, you can be there for both. Kuti did not disappoint. We found a herd of nyala before we even got to the chalets!
Aaron and Myral stayed in one of these nice new chalets, and our family stayed in one of the 4-bed a-frame chalets. Simple, but sufficient.
Hotdogs and s’mores for dinner: great camping food, no matter what continent you’re on!
Then off for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, the girls were up early, so Matt took them out so I could sleep a little longer. Not happening though! It was 5am, but the sun was up, the zebra were braying, and I got up! I grabbed my towel and toiletry bag and headed for the bathrooms. I was a little sleepy-eyed, but glanced down the path as I stumbled to the bathrooms:
Hello nyala! So I, and my towel and toiletry bag, took off through the bush to check out a group of 6 young male nyala. They were beautiful. Myral later told me that he had seen a couple of them sparing shortly before I came out. Speaking of Myral, I found him, and Aaron, and my family all nearby the nyala, checking out a herd of zebra.
The variety of zebra commonly found in Malawi is the Burchell’s zebra, the southern variety of the plains zebra. They’re easy to recognize because of the grey stripes that jump into the pattern.
Having found some animals and my family, I decided I’d had enough of a side trip with my towel and toiletry bag, and headed back to camp to get ready for the day and make some breakfast on the concrete braai (barbecue).
There was a light sprinkling of rain in the morning – just enough to feel wonderful on the skin, but too much for the breakfast plate – so we ate in the thatched kitchen/dining area.
Then we packed up and headed out, in time to see a zebra parade.
Next stop: crocodile farm! We brought our own big mouth crocodiles. Sure are cute for crocodiles, aren’t they?!
The crocs are raised for their skin, which is apparently the best quality at 4 years old. So we saw lots of crocs 1-3 years old. This particular enclosure had 2,500 crocodiles, all 8 months old.
These crocs are 3 years old.
And yes, the workers get right in there with them!!! Not me! Not in a million years!
Naomi and I were only moderately ok with the concrete and chain-length fences between us and the crocs. But it was reassuring to know that in the 15+ years of their existence, this croc farm has never had anyone killed by a croc. Yes, the walls are very secure. It’s just really weird being that close to a crocodile, even with a secure wall!
Then the fun part! Crocodile teeth! We all bought some! 😜
The croc farm is along the lake shore, so we headed down the coast a little and went for a swim!
The only crocs in this part of the lake were the cute kind!
After a swim, we ordered lunch at the Livingstonia Hotel and enjoyed both the company and the beautiful setting. We’ve known Aaron for 12+ years, so it’s been so good to catch up with him!
If you can see the water from your table, you should order the fish! The local favorite is chambo, a variety of tilapia, and it’s really good!
One more stop in the way home: the wood market. It’s very touristy and rural Africa, but a great place for visitors to pick up a few souvenirs. Or to find a chief’s chair and sit back to watch people walk by.
My find of the day: new earrings. Can you guess what they are? (Hint: look up 6 pictures)
That’s all – we were all adventured out! Time to head for home and a nice warm shower!
Who’s going to come adventuring with us next? 😊
We don’t always celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal, but we did this year! We have a couple visiting CAPA professors, Aaron Johnson and Myral Watson, staying with us, and Chris and Ashley Mullins joined us too.
We have already established that I’m a kitchen nerd, so I’m ok showing you my detailed schedule.
I found myself a couple of helpers, and they did a fantastic job!
Sweet potatoes! Secret: I could only find white sweet potatoes, so I used food coloring!
After a while, I had so many dishes that I started stacking them on the floor. And then Martha called to say she had stayed in Salima (1.5 hour drive away) and would be late for work. Oh boy, if I ever needed someone to wash dishes for me it’s on Thanksgiving day! Hurry back, Martha!
And then she came and rescued the day! Whew! I was using toddler forks to whip eggs! No time to wash dishes on Thanksgiving day!
In the late afternoon Matt, Aaron, and Myral set up the outdoor lights and moved our table and chairs onto the lawn. We love eating outdoors, and it felt fitting to do so on a holiday! Matt read a devotional for us on God-centered rather than self-centered thankfulness. It was a good reminder for us all!
Then to dinner! Ashley brought yummy salad, rolls, and pumpkin pie, and the girls helped me make the rest. It was quite a feast!
With pie, ice cream, and stories, we enjoyed a special time of thanksgiving long into the night. We are very blessed to share this holiday with friends and family, near and far. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I noticed early on that Naomi is a mini-me. She looks like me, and has several of my characteristics. The strong ones! You know, the bossy, opinionated, independent ones. She excels me in some areas though, and I fully attribute her athleticism and great sense of humor to Matt. But in so many ways, she’s a mini-me. And then yesterday, I was reminded that I am a near photocopy of my mom. When I was 16 I saw a picture of my mom at the same age and thought it was myself. And so it makes sense that my daughter looks like my mom. Courtesy of my dad, check out and compare the pictures of Naomi at 4 years old, and my beautiful mother, Mary Beth Smith, when she was 4 years old: