Going Out to Eat

There are a lot more restaurants here in Lilongwe than when we moved here years ago, so every once in a while we go out to eat as a family. Yesterday was a bit sad for our family, so Matt took us all out for dinner, to one of our favorite places.

Kortasia is a Korean restaurant with a decidedly African motif. We love their sesame chicken, their sweet and sour chicken, and their bibimbap. It does seem like an odd atmosphere in which to eat Korean food, but it’s fun – and the food is great!

The girls enjoy the adventure of going out to eat, but they especially enjoy the little goodies I keep in my purse for such times. A family of bunny finger puppets, some plastic lizards, a little tub of Play-dough, and the current favorite, which has been nicknamed “stencil and a pencil.” Abigail and Matt use the stencil to write codes to each other, and Naomi and I draw pictures for one another.

Pictures and a few letters. She thinks it’s so great that she can write “Omi” all on her own. Yep, a little bit of school, even on a night out!

Goodbye Priscilla!

Today was a sad day for our family. Our good friend, Priscilla, worked her last day with our family and will next week move far to the north to go to University of Malawi in Mzuzu. Priscilla has been part of our family for more than 3 years. She watched the girls for 4+ years while I taught Bible study, and then about 3 years ago worked full time for us when Martha was on leave for Timothy’s birth. After working full time for us, we realized this lady was a keeper. So she started watching the girls Tuesday and Wednesday mornings so that I could teach and catch up on other things around the house, like finances, blogging, etc. She also worked the afternoons and did all the housekeeping “extras” for us, like dusting the whole house, changing bed linens, washing windows, etc. We have loved her company, her diligence, and her friendship for many years.

The girls adore Priscilla. She played make-believe with then, served tea parties, read books with them… She was that rare find of a nanny who loves your kids, plays with them, and teaches them with kindness. Look at those little grommets! They wanted a picture with Priscilla when we went on a 3 month furlough a couple years ago, so they wouldn’t forget her!

Priscilla will be missed in our home, but we know she is making an excellent choice. She is extremely intelligent, and will be pursuing her degree in accountancy. We know she will do excellent work in her studies, and we are excited for all the employment opportunities that will open for her with such a degree!

She will certainly be overqualified to be our nanny, but these girls are growing up now. With Naomi in Pre-K and Abigail in 2nd grade, school fills our days and we no longer need a nanny. But for the next 4 years every time we drive north through Mzuzu, we are going to go find our dear friend Priscilla! This friend is a keeper!

The Boys

We have some great dogs. Simba is 1/4 Rhodesian Ridgeback and 3/4 Great Dane, and came to us as a little puppy almost 8 years ago. A few years ago, Simba got a “wife,” and they had 2 litters of puppies. The “wife” moved to America with her family and the puppies went all different directions – except Samson, who came to live with his dad.

Samson moved in and, at 6 weeks old, promptly moved his dad out of basket and bowl. He’s been the boss ever since! But who wouldn’t love this face?

Answer: any Malawian. Malawians don’t like 1) dogs, 2) big dogs, or 3) black dogs. These guys are the perfect security pair. And they love and are loved by our girls.

In fact, one of the girls’ favorite games is Follow Simba. One day I found Naomi sitting on the steps in the garage:

“What are you doing, Omi?”

“Following Simba.”

“Where is he?”

“Sleeping under the car. I’m waiting for him.”

Now that’s dedication!

Abigail Turns 7!

We had a birthday at our house!

Abigail turned 7 yesterday. She got roses, paper balloons, a sign, bunting, a Birthday Girl badge, and her choice for breakfast: pancakes. She was in 7th heaven! (Pun intended!) She also got presents.

A detective kit, her own collection of Arch books, an origami kit, and more books.

Naomi had helped me put the finishing touches on Abi’s cake. She kept returning to the fridge all day just to check and make sure the cake was still there!

The Temples and the Misomalis came for dinner and brought fun kid cards and little gifts, like tiny bunny erasers, hair bands, and homemade bracelets. The Misomali kids all wrapped their little gifts 7 times! I told Abi I was glad she wasn’t turning 35!

The cake somehow managed to stay in the fridge all day, much to Naomi’s surprise, and was a big hit. Abi had requested chocolate mint cake, so we had chocolate cake with green mint filling, and ganache poured in top. It was yummy! (Yep, I cheated a little on my diet and had a bite of Matt’s piece!)

We are so glad to have this sweet girl in our family. She keeps us on our toes with her encyclopedic knowledge of local wildlife and her voracious appetite for reading. More importantly, we have seen the Lord begin to work in her little heart and life, and pray that his grace and salvation would be poured out on her life. We love you, Abigail!

Up Before the Sun

I’m up dark and early these days to have a little time of peace and quiet. I love being up before the rest of the house! Well, Matt is usually up too, to run and spend time with the Lord. And all of Malawi gets up with the sun. So really, I just like being up before the girls!

A quiet house is the best place for early morning devotions. I’ve been slowly working through Disciplines of a Godly Woman for several weeks, and really enjoying it. My heart and my thinking have been challenged, especially by her chapters on prayer and contentment. I’m reading a section or two at a time and meditating on related passages of Scripture – loving this study plan!

Morning is also when I have a little time to practice piano…without commentary and questions. Those of you who play piano and have young kids will know what I’m talking about! Our friends the Lloyds are on furlough for the year, so they are letting us babysit their keyboard while they’re away. It’s been a bit of work to pick up piano, considering my last lesson was 24 years ago, but it’s coming along.

I also use this time to get ready for the day. With 2 kids homeschooling now, I plan my day carefully. Both girls have periods of the day with me, and periods of the day working on independent work. I try to get that all organized and set out before breakfast.

Those are the normal things I do in the morning hours. Today had a twist. The doorbell rang at 5:30am, and Martha’s husband let me know that she wouldn’t be at work today because she would be taking their daughter Rejoice to the hospital. The doorbell rang again at 5:50, and it was Martha asking for a ride to the hospital because Rejoice was too weak to ride on the back of a bike. So off we went to the hospital. As I was coming home at 6am, the sun was rising: an enormous bright pink ball emerging from a gray and blue haze. Stunningly beautiful.

Back to the house to exercise, shower, and get breakfast ready.

The girls both have lists posted in their room that they need to accomplish before they come out for breakfast at 7. It’s a wonderful thing to have them arrive dressed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, faces washed, and smiling! Yes, “smile and start your day!” is actually on their lists!

Family breakfast in the morning sunshine – a great way to start our day together. If you’re wondering if Matt’s just camera shy, he was out picking up Martha and Rejoice from the hospital. Rejoice had a stomach bacterial infection. She’s on antibiotics, and already doing much better by this evening. 😊

My Little Shopping Helper

Warning: this blog post is full of 3-year-old cuteness! 💕

Every Thursday afternoon I run all our errands and go grocery shopping. Today was Naomi’s turn to come with me, while Abigail got to spend some special time with Dad. We picked up our friend Ashley and into town we went, where every street vendor wanted to sell us strawberries!

But first, since this is special “Naomi and Mom Time,” we went to my new favorite place, Round and Square.

To say that she likes the Chocolate Cloud Cake would be an understatement! The sugar high hit before she finished the piece of rich cake, so we left the rest. Yes, we walked away from some of the best chocolate cake ever… the gleam in her eye and the increase in energy, chatter, and giggles were warning enough!

Off to Akbanies culinary store next. My little helper was better than a shopping basket in the narrow aisles.

She even paid for her items and collected the receipt!

These stores look beautiful and shiny, and yes, they have wonderful things in them… with better selection than most people think we have in Africa, but this is still Africa! Ashley and I were talking about Naomi being born in Malawi, and we decided that since the term “African American” was already in use elsewhere, Naomi would have to be considered an American African. The term fits her perfectly – she feels right at home in this country of contrasts!

Part of the goal for the day was to show Ashley a few of the lesser known stores in town. As Tutlas was just around the corner, we stopped by to show Ashley the largest selection of spices in town! (And they had thyme! Yippee!)

Last up, our mainstay grocery store: Chipiku. I do about 80% of our shopping here, and even have my grocery list organized by aisle. The girls like it because I get them a little Energade (like Gatorade) and I let them ride in the cart. The cart is such an important part of shopping for them that they have serious culture shock when we go to America and they see signs on shopping carts that say kids can’t sit in the cart! We live dangerously here in Malawi!

After 3 hours of errands and adventure shopping, my helper and I are tired and ready to head home. Our last treat of the day was to drive home into a beautiful African sunset.

Splashing in the Puddles!

The dry season here in Malawi runs roughly from the end of April to the end of November. However we do live in the tropics, so every once in a while we get a day or two of rain in July or August. Like yesterday and today!

I would have expected about 15 minutes of light rain, but it rained fairly steadily for over an hour today! Enough that it was rushing down the gutters and pipes!

The girls begged to put on rain coats and go splash in the puddles of our driveway, so I sent them off to have fun. Matt had a little fun too and set up an impromptu photo shoot. Here's what I got:

And here's what he got:

Clearly he's a better photographer than me, and I happily enjoy the benefits of that all the time! ☺️

It was getting cold outside (69 degrees F when I took these pics), so I headed back to the warm kitchen to finish dinner and make some hot chocolate for my family.

We never know what surprises await us each day, so we enjoy them as they come – rain or shine!

7 Years Strong

This last Friday we celebrated 7 years in Malawi. SEVEN YEARS!!! In some ways it has gone quickly, but especially for the girls – it’s a lifetime. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the love we have for the Lord’s work, the bride of Christ, and Malawi have grown exponentially over these years. We thank the Lord that He chose us for this work and for this place, and we look forward to all that He has in store for us in the coming years!

Floreen family May 2016 – Abigail 5 1/2 years old, Naomi 2 1/2 years old

May 2016

He’s Back!

Naomi woke up this morning yelling “Dada! Airport! Dada! Airport!” She was a little disappointed that we went to church first, but all was forgiven when we got to the airport.

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The (“secret”) sign was out and ready! Naomi was a little distracted from Dad Watch by all the people at the airport who were taking pictures of the girls and their sign. =)

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And then all of a sudden he was here! Abi chattered away trying to tell him about the last nine days within 9 minutes. And Naomi tried to keep up: “Dada! Hi Dada airport. Fweooooo! (airplane noise) Hug Dada, hi!” The long wait was over – Dad was home!

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As happy as they were, I might have been even happier! (See the little photo bomber in our picture?) It is so nice to have Matt home! On Wednesday we will have been married 8 years, and while things are ok when we’re apart, they are great when we’re together. I’ve known for almost 10 years that I would rather go through the worst things in life with this man than the best things in life with anyone else. In God’s grace, we have gone through some difficult times, but the life that God has given us has been filled with far more of the best things. I am truly blessed to be married to this man!

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I heard from several people over the course of this week in comments or emails about how “brave” or “strong” I was. I didn’t feel especially brave or strong this week. I felt that I missed Matt, but I also felt that life just continued fairly normally. We are missionaries, but I’m a mom, and a wife, and a church member, and a counselor, and a home-maker, and a friend, and a daughter. The wife part was different over the last week and a half, and some of the mom part, but the rest of life and all my other roles continued normally.

I think that sometimes, just because we’re missionaries, I want to spiritualize everything we do – or at least how I portray it. In chronicling these last 9 days, I’ve had to set aside the temptation to spiritualize things. I just didn’t have time every night to make things look all godly and perfect! =) But I did want to share about what my life looks like from day to day. It is filled with all those normal things: homeschooling, grocery shopping, telling my girls to stop fighting over who gets to play with the blue ball. My roles right now revolve primarily around raising our girls, freeing Matt up to do more things at the church and CAPA, showing hospitality, and helping the women at our church through counseling. Only one and a half of those things sound “spiritual” enough to write about in an official missionary newsletter. But really, they’re all spiritual and whether or not I’m fulfilling the roles God has given me is found in the hows and whys of what I do. I’m not Amy Carmichael, or Gladys Aylward, or Elizabeth Elliot. I’m Rachel Floreen, and I want to follow what the Bible tells me to do as a wife, as a mother, as a church member. Do I aspire to great things? Yes, and right now the greatest things I can do are raising two little girls to love the Lord. And being delighted to do whatever I can to help my husband. And visiting people in our church who are sick. And helping women to biblically navigate the troubles of life. My life, like the lives of so many moms, is lived in the “small” things. But those small things are good – so very good! – when you get to do them to please the Lord.

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Unlike many of the moms who will read this blog, I get to do those small things in Malawi. It’s home for us, and we are so happy to be here – especially now that Matt’s back! I hope that these 9 days have given you a glimpse at what normal life is like for me and the girls. Thanks for following along!

Adventuring Out of Town

It was a great day for an adventure, so we went on one!

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It started out kind of like this picture below, bright and a little fuzzy. We were all a little tired, and I think our life-without-dad threshold was reached on Friday evening at the 1 week mark. But we pushed through it, and our Saturday was off to a hopping start. We chatted with my parents at 6:30am again, about an hour later the electrician arrived to replace a light switch that was melting and smoking last night (!), then at 7:45, Carol and her sons stopped by for tea on their way to James’s hockey tournament. By 8:30, we’d already had quite a morning!

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By 9:15, we met up with Anita and Bethany and all the kids to drive in convoy about 45 minutes outside of town for a day on the farm with our dear friend Rene!

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Hennie and Rene Pretorius live on a great farm, with a beautiful yard and lots of places to explore. It’s every kid’s outdoor dream world, even for little ones who are a bit shy.

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Alli Biedebach adopted Naomi and took little Miss Shy out exploring the grounds for a bit.

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Abi and Moriah were virtually inseparable for the day – pushing one another on the swing (with brother Titus’s help), running away from the boys, and organizing bean bag toss games.

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While Miss Shy was still being a little coy. Raggedy Ann helped her be brave.

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At one point we walked down the road to go see the cattle.

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The cows are usually a little forward and will come right up to the fence, but it was hot, so they preferred the shade to us today. I don’t blame them!

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Back to the lush green canopy of the Pretorius’s drive way!

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While the kids played, it was so nice to catch up with these two dear ladies!

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And with this gem. Tannie (Auntie) Rene is such a sweet friend to us. As Abi said when we were leaving “She is SO kind!” We always feel refreshed and blessed when we have the chance to spend time with Rene. We treasure her, and were only sad that her husband, Hennie, was out in the fields working all day.

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Back to town, on another of those glorious African days.

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A quick stop at the tailor’s on the way home gave us a rather pleasant surprise. ALL of the cushions were finished and ready to be picked up! So we piled them in and took our treasure home!

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I may sew bedsheets, and I may have sewn the first covers for these cushions over 5 years ago, but I’m more than happy to have the tailor do these so quickly for me this time!

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And they’re well done. I’m very happy with them!

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By the time we got home, it was time to make a little something for supper, so the girls clomped around on their tin can stilts for a few minutes, we ate a little supper, had some quick baths, and they went right to bed. They had played and enjoyed the day with friends so much that they didn’t argue with going to bed a little early!

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I figure they will need a little extra sleep tonight, because they won’t have a rest time or a nap time tomorrow – because we’re going to pick up Matt just after church! He made his flights, and we even Skyped with him when he was at the JFK airport in New York. So he’s on his way! As they say here, one more sleep!