Rest

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!

Off Adventuring Again!

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? 😊

Thankful

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!

Mini-Me

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:

Normal Life

After a couple days of adventures, we were glad to get back to “normal” life by the end of the week. Here are a few glimpses of the last couple days, in no particular order… just us, living normal life!

Abigail has been very interested in art, so we took a couple hours to go to Round and Square during our shopping trip on Thursday. She had some great ideas to go with her water paints, and then Miss Sue, who is the server and hostess at Round and Square, brought Abi a couple kids’ art books to inspire her. So fun!!!

Abi may be pursuing watercolors like her mom, but Naomi is trying a little photography, just like her dad! Not bad for a four year old!

Meanwhile, the last of the fields in town are being burned in preparation for planting. We’ve had 2 rains now, the last 2 weekends, and it looks like we will have more rain within the week. And yes, by “field,” I mean every available piece of land, including all verges and any land that someone else hasn’t already planted.

After a couple days of crazy, my sweet husband took us out to dinner. Not only that, he kept the whole family entertained the entire time! I love this guy! He started drawing a picture, and then we each in turn had 30 seconds to continue the picture and add to it.

We all loved it! It has so much of everyone’s personality in it, including “a baby sun and a daddy sun!” thanks to Naomi!

Our finished product:

Lastly: my tree. Each member of the family has their own tree in our yard. Mine is a flamboyant, and I love everything about it, especially this time of year as it has the most beautiful blooms!

Thanks for reading along and joining us in these normal but special moments of life!

Last Week

Things were a little too busy and chaotic to post much last week. We spent the week living in a half put-together house,

finding our toiletries in the hallway,

storing our laundry and all miscellaneous chairs in the living room,

and navigating the rearranged furniture in our rooms.

Meanwhile, we had all the white door frames throughout the house and all the tiles in the master bathroom painted with stinky oil paint, and then sprayed the interior walls of our house with Fendona, a crystalline version of permethrin.

And so we spent 3 nights sleeping in our tent, in our backyard, to avoid the various smells in our house.

Despite all the chaos, we had fun camping! Our family loves to camp! And it’s nice now to have so much of our house “finished” and back together. We are not quite done, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

Kiboko

There are not a lot of places for kids to play on play equipment in Malawi. Now, before you get concerned that my kids don’t get to play, you should know that they play ALL THE TIME, with things like sticks, bugs, dirt, sand, etc, etc. They love it, and so do I. But play equipment is a treat. So for a special family outing yesterday, we went to the Kiboko Hotel restaurant for lunch, because they have some play equipment. And not just any play equipment!

Yes! They have a Land Rover playground! It’s this awesome?!? I am told that the rocking zebra likes to run away with little girls though, so one must be careful! 😉

In addition to the awesome play equipment, they have great smoothies…

And wonderful banana pancakes!

To top it all off, we — all of us — decided to eat our lunch in the Land Rover, just because we could.

All fueled up, we’re off on another adventure!

Inside, Outside Today

Today Abigail and I are watching Season 1 of Shaun the Sheep with a sick little Naomi. She’s doing better now, but it was a rough morning.

Naomi isn’t letting me go very far, so rather than jumping on that list of housework I need to catch up on, I’m sitting here looking at the housework: the accumulation of dusty winds, saw dust from woodworking, and fine powdery dust from plaster work… on my living room side table. Looks like someone was having a little fun with it!

It’ll keep for another day. Today I’m going to hold my baby.

Outside is another matter. Fun things are happening out there! Richard and Matt have mounted a stand for our soon-to-be-installed solar water heater.

And Ernest is building customized stands to hold our soon-to-be-installed solar panels! These panels will feed into our inverter, which can prioritize that the power we use first comes from solar, then from the electric company, and then from the back-up batteries, for all those hours our power is off (13.5 hours off yesterday!). The customized part is related to the pitch of our roof and maximizing sunshine reception with the best angle.

Fun, noisy things happening outside, and quiet, good things happening inside. That’s our world here at the Floreen home today!

Bibliophiles

We are quite happily raising a family of bibliophiles. WE LOVE BOOKS! We love libraries, we love other people’s books, and we love bookstores. Libraries here in Malawi are rare and poorly stocked, but thankfully we now have a great used bookstore in Lilongwe!

The lady who runs it loves baobab trees, so it’s named Baobab Bookstore, and the decor follows the name.

I think my girls have barely noticed the trees. There are books, and that’s all they can think about.

The bargain table books are 500 kwacha (68 cents), and most others are 1,500-3,000 kwacha (between $2 and $4). The selection is a bit limited, naturally, but really not that bad. And we’ve discovered some British authors we might never have found – like Enid Blyton, one of Abigail’s current favorites.

Today’s choices: a cross stitch book that will be useful in sewing class in the next couple weeks, the yellow storybook for Naomi, and The Wizard of Oz and a book on sharks for Abigail.

All done, let’s go home. Hello, family? Hmmm, lost them back in the bookstore…

Mondays

You know what happens on Fridays around here… here’s what a Monday looks like!

I was up bright and early this Monday – out to exercise and start the day by 5am.

I’m really enjoying the early morning piano times. I don’t spend the hour that I would want to spend practicing, but I play through a few songs and am regaining strength and familiarity in my fingers. Practice makes perfect!

We are considering painting a section of chalkboard wall on our porch, so Matt hung a dry erase board there as a trial run. I’m really enjoying it! You’re not going to see my barely creative handiwork on Instagram or anything like that, but I hear my kids talking about it throughout the day. That totally makes it worth it!

Matt leads the family in devotions over breakfast every morning. We are going through Long Story Short right now, and really enjoying it! You can see where we are at in Genesis – the brothers are just about to find out who Joseph is, and we are all waiting on the edge of our seats!

Not a part of every Monday, we spent some time this Monday working out some freezer issues. The inverter is not quite big enough to handle both the freezer and the fridge, so we have them on timers right now. There’s a bit of tinkering required to balance keeping both appliances the correct temperature when they have to share the electricity. But I think we got that sorted. But then, of course, one of the plug fuses went out, getting super hot, melting part of the plug… which we only discovered because Naomi tripped on the cord and unplugged it. So Matt changed out the whole plug to resolve that issue. I love having a most resourceful and helpful handyman around!

School! It’s what we do around here! One of Abigail’s favorite things this year is a geography book that has a corresponding CD of geography songs! She can sing all about the continents and oceans, sing all 15 countries of the Middle East, and now she even knows a song all about Scandinavia.

With Scandinavian music coming from my computer and from Abigail, Naomi decided we needed a Scandinavian dance… with a lady bug costume skirt. I couldn’t agree more – it was exactly what we needed!

School stops at 9:30 on Mondays so we can set up for playgroup. We host a weekly 7 and under playgroup at our house for the homeschooling families, which doubles as PE and social time.

Highlight of the week! Friends coming over!

We have a few snacks and drinks set up…

But mostly there are just packs of kids running around our yard. This is Nadia’s animal collection. There was a bunny, a kangaroo, a crab, a street dog… yes, these kids are growing up in Africa, as evidenced by the fact that an animal collection includes a “street dog.”

While the kids play, the moms get a chance to chat and drink coffee. Win-win!

But the time playgroup ends at noon, I’m looking for something quick for lunch. It’s usually scrambled eggs!

A laundry switch-around happens after lunch. We are experiencing longer and longer power cuts these days, so I have to do laundry when the power is on! Doesn’t matter if it’s a busy morning, or if I have 5 families of kids here – the laundry must go on!

Then Naomi and I are off the ballet. She wasn’t so sure about this class the first day, but she puts her whole heart into it now. It’s so precious!

The class is for 4-5 year olds (Naomi is almost 4, so they let her in), and the major skills they are working on are: paying attention, walking on tip-toe, leaping with straight legs, and skipping. Oh the skipping! I love it! Naomi is so determined! She’s about half way there… as in one foot knows how to skip but the other hasn’t figured it out yet!

Back home for a counseling/discipleship meeting. Naomi goes down for a nap, Abigail reads in the playroom, and I have a window to meet with some of the ladies in the church. I really enjoy these times. I can’t tell you about them of course, so you get this cute little picture of my basket garden!

Rest time is over and it’s snack time! Yes, I’m giving my daughter Fruit Loops while I eat a cucumber.

Back to school. We didn’t finish it all before 9:30, so we did the last hour outside in the shade.

Naomi does the playing part of school for us. 😊 And this face is in response to “You get to go the Kopp’s house for dinner tonight!”

With the kids delivered to the Kopps’ house, I got to go to dinner with this guy! Our date night trade off with the Kopps is a fantastic thing! I love talking with this guy, and I love getting to be his wife. I think of how great he is throughout the day as I see him having days just as busy as mine, usually busier, but every second Monday I get a dedicated opportunity to enjoy his company. I am one lucky girl!