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!

Abi’s Great Day!

Today is Abi’s day! I took pictures of her all day, and am going to let her explain them all to you…

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I wake up at 6:45am. I laid down my buddies to make my bed. These are the buddies that I sleep with: Molly Bunny, Coconut (the monkey), and Gus the Duck.

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Also when I get ready in the morning, I brush my teeth.

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I cleaned up my shoes today!

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I caught a frog and brought it to show to Mom. It’s tiny! Here’s a picture of it.

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See the tiny black speck on the duck? That’s the frog! I saw it opening its mouth 2 times. It’s got a tiny mouth.

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We spent the morning playing with Priscilla. So fun! Look what Naomi is doing! She’s putting that hat on Priscilla’s head. I’m reading a book and explaining the pictures to them.

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Lunch time is hot dogs with pears and apples. Yum! I like ketchup on my hot dog. So does Naomi.

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This is my favorite book, The Legend of Luke. I read it during rest time.

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I love to dance at ballet. So fun!

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This is my friend Maggie in the picture. We look a little bit alike, but don’t get confused – I’m the one with the buns in my hair.

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On our way to the library to get some more books!

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I love reading! This is at the library.

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We painted a secret sign for Dad! Mom made the picture look fuzzy so Dad can’t read it until he gets home!

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I’m excited to have Dad come back! I love playing with Dad and can’t wait to do it again! Dad went to America. So sad! =( But he’s coming back on Sunday!

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Thank you for reading about my day!

Grocery Day

Grocery shopping day, and Naomi is ready! One can always use an extra pair of shoes with a day as busy as we had!

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I woke up having forgotten that I had 13 meters of fabric spread around our living room. Priscilla had washed and hung it to dry yesterday, but even with using the full clothesline it was still a little damp by the end of the day from being folded on itself at several points. So it spent the night getting out the last dampness in our living room. It was a strange site to wake up to though! I folded it up and set it by the door – it was going with us today…

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Breakfast was a family favorite – oatmeal. With a new not-favorite – chewable dewormer. Think bitter pepto bismol. Thankfully we only had to take these at breakfast and dinner today and we’re done. The girls didn’t balk at all, after a brief discussion of what worms are and why we don’t want them.

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School first before grocery shopping! Abi loves school and is especially good at memorizing, so we recently added catechism with corresponding verses. It’s been great, and especially fun because we have songs to go with every catechism and verse! Dana Dirksen put together the songs into 6 albums, and is in the process of producing the same albums in several different languages – including Chichewa!!! The first album in Chichewa is already finished, so once we’ve mastered English, we’ll work on the same catechism and verses in Chichewa!

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Once school was finished, it was time to get ready to go out. This is how I usually dress when we go out. Malawians dress up to go to town, so I put on makeup, and try to dress nicely. It’s hard work to do the shopping here, and I have 2 little kids in tow, and it’s hot; so my go-to item of clothing is a maxi skirt. It’s modest, stretchy, and not suffocating. Add a top that dresses it up a little and we’re good to go.

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Most Malawians don’t use car seats, but we always have. I pray we never get in a bad car accident here, but if we do, I want every chance possible that these sweet girls will be safe!

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First stop was at the new mall close to our home. Business in Malawi is almost entirely transacted in cash; however, our cell phone company is starting to change that for us! We can put money in our “mpamba” account and then through our phones pay our electric bill, water bill, cell phone bill, and even wire money to someone else’s phone/account. After years of carrying wads and wads of cash, and adding more stops to our grocery shopping day so that we could pay all our utilities in person, this new services is SO NICE. They have nice chairs in the waiting area too. =)

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On to see the Swan Man. For those of you who have followed our blog for a while, no, I still don’t know his name. But he’s still a good tailor, and I took a picture just to show you why he’s called the swan man.

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We’ve been to see the tailor frequently of late, so much so that he keeps pretty and sparkly scraps to give to my girls now! =) Last week we dropped off a suit of Matt’s to be altered, then a few days later half of the cushions that go on our wicker furniture so they could be recovered. We couldn’t drop them all off, because we still had a couple people who would need to sit on those chairs, like the ladies who come for counseling. But we dropped all the rest of the cushions off today (and there’s the 13 meters of fabric sitting on top of the cushions), and should be able to pick up the first batch on Saturday. We’re cushionless for 3 days, but it’s ok.

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From the tailors we made two quick stops: an electronics store to buy a new watch battery for Matt, and a sewing supply store to get some more elastic. We didn’t quite have enough to finish the second set of bedsheets the other day, but we do now. And some pretty shiny red trim for some skirts, and …

And then we drove to the far north end of town to a shop called Carniwors that specializes in meat. By this time we were getting a little tired and very hot, so the Abi and Naomi got granadilla and pineapple “spicy juice” (carbonated). And I let them ride in the cart while I planned out the menus for the team of 8 that is coming to stay with us in just over a week.

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Oh yes, my FBC friends who are coming next week. Yes I did. Think pork – you’ll love it. When else will you get to eat it? And for $1.25/pound, it’s a great deal!

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Finally, with a large ice chest full of meat, we made our way home. We had gotten all the miscellaneous errands accomplished, with only the actual grocery store yet to do. But that would have to wait. Peanut butter sandwiches and a nap were necessary first!

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The girls lay down and both slept for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. I headed into my room and turned on the window box fan and the mister outside the bedroom window to enjoy a little evaporative cooling. I have the greatest husband and he makes some pretty fantastic things! Ahhhh! 

And I found a little friend on the window sill. Little, as in, only about 1 inch long. We’ve seen several of these little praying mantises in the yard lately, and thanks to my inquisitive 5 year old, we’ve looked them up and know that they are actually babies. Various kinds of adult praying mantises can be 1-4 inches long, but you know it’s a baby if it doesn’t have wings yet – like this one.

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After nap time, we were back to grocery shopping, at an actual grocery store this time! Abi is my list checker, and does a great job of keeping me on track. Today she commented “Mom, why are you buying things that are not on the list? You should just buy what is on the list.” Hmm, good point. Thanks. But I’m pretty sure you want toilet paper, even if I forgot to put it on the list. =)

The reason she knows it’s not on the list is because I keep my shopping lists in order of how we walk up and down the aisles in this store and she tracks with the list to know where we’re at in our shopping. I know, it’s nerdy, but it saves so much time running back and forth, especially when shopping with little ones. Even nerdier: I have a series of 4 shopping lists that I cycle through each month. Today was the Week 1 list, when I buy all our meat, milk, cheese, and frozen vegetables for the month. Next week will include a month’s worth of dog food, the following week all the tea supplies for our staff for the month… It just works out better to divide that stuff up and plan to buy in bulk when I can. And because I have a large chest freezer at home, I can.

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Check out is always a little harried. I had 2 “trollies” of groceries today, so I had to put all the groceries on the checkout counter – but not any faster than the cashier could scan them because it’s not a very big counter! I also kind of keep an eye on whoever is packing my groceries into bags or boxes on the end, as it’s not uncommon for the tomatoes to end up on the bottom, and the dish soap to be bagged with the yogurt and they both leak. Paying for it all takes a bit of time too, as I have to count out the money, then the cashier has to count it all out too. Because it’s all cash. And the largest kwacha bill we have is currently worth only $1.38. So, just imagine paying for all your groceries (and those of a visiting team of 8) with $1 bills. It takes a little time and attention. Not to mention I have 2 little girls who need a little attention too. Thankfully, there’s a TV hanging at that end of the store that always plays the National Geographic channel. It’s always interesting, and evidently a bonding experience too!

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We got home just before 5pm. Whew. Mission accomplished. The girls colored while I put all the groceries away and made smoothies for dinner. Like that cup Naomi has? I think most people just throw those cups and lids away after they use them, but I held on to it after a trip to Jamba Juice when we were in California in 2014. Still going strong!

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The girls did great today. They were both super helpful, very cooperative, and didn’t complain! I’m not used to taking both of them with me, as Matt has set aside a couple hours on Thursday afternoons to spend some undivided time with one or the other of the girls each week. We trade off every second week, and it’s know as Abi and Dad Day, or Naomi and Dad Day. But this week, Abi declared that it was Abi and Naomi and Mom Day. I love it. It was still special as compared to all the other days we have been together this week, and still worthy of a special title!

Tummy Trouble

About 2am I decided that I was going to go to the Dr first thing this morning. I should probably have gone earlier this week, as this was the third night out of four that I’d been awake debating the issue. I’d actually been putting it off because I didn’t want to blog about it. It’ll just go away, we always have tummy trouble. No need to make a big deal out of it. I really don’t want to be the oh-poor-missionary, so if you’re going to read further, you’re not allowed to oh-poor-missionary me! Most missionaries that I know in third world countries are pretty comfortable navigating the health systems of mission hospitals and clinics. If you put us in the American health care system though, that’s when you can oh-poor-missionary me. But not today.

Priscilla arrived at 7:30 and I promptly handed the girls off and headed across town. It was a grey sunshiney day that promised some great clouds later.

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Our first choice for medical care in Lilongwe is the Partners in Hope clinic and hospital. It’s a nice, large facility, is open 8am to 8pm, and has several doctors on staff – two of whom are missionary friends. If you have an appointment you get to go to the special waiting area with nice cushy chairs, but for today I was in the main waiting area.

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I saw Dr Jones and told him of the stomach pain I’d been experiencing intermittently since Saturday. He asked a lot of questions and had some blood work run before we narrowed it down: peptic ulcer. I knew coffee (only 1 cup a day!) had been bothering my usually sensitive tummy, so I stopped drinking it about 2 weeks ago. And then, the most recent aggravation… I’m going to guess it came from KFC on Friday night! Too much grease and my stomach just wasn’t ready for it! Sorry Abi, we’re not going back. I’ll just have to google a copycat recipe for KFC mashed potatoes for you.

Doctors’ offices are not places people usually take lots of pictures, but as I walked back to the waiting room I grabbed a shot of the 3 different eye charts at the end of the hall. The one on the right is the one I’m more familiar with. The one on the left is a capital E and you must be able to distinguish which direction it is facing. But it’s the one in the middle that caught my attention – it’s all pictures or symbols. I could see this being helpful with little kids, but I’m sure it’s in this clinic because not everyone who comes through here knows their letters well enough to navigate the more familiar chart.

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Every clinic I’ve been to here in Malawi has its own pharmacy. Partners in Hope has their own as well, though it’s a far cry from the commercial cacophony of the pharmacies I’ve been to in the States. I prefer this kind. This is what I need; Here you go. And I can take care of both the clinic and pharmacy bill at the same time – which are both 100% covered by our insurance, and Partners in Hope files it for us. Thank you easy medical system.

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By the time I drove home, those great African clouds filled the sky. This is such a spectacularly beautiful country, even just driving home from the doctor’s office!

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I emailed Matt to let him know what the diagnosis was, and he wrote back asking if it would have been better to have had worms. Yep, it would have been. That’s what I thought it was. For worms you can take 1 pill in the morning and 1 in the evening and you’re done – no side effects, just done. For peptic acid, I take a pill every morning, an hour before I eat anything, for 30 days, and should be feeling better in 2 weeks. However, I’m glad to know what the issue is and that it is, relatively, so very easy to treat.

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My medical adventure took most of the morning, but I was back in time for lunch and to put the girls down for rest time. While they rested, I met with a new lady for counseling. Do you know what I love about counseling? I love the confidence I can have in God’s Word and in the work of His Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. I’m not counseling on my own – I am merely a small part of what God is doing in this person’s life. I love that. It’s still hard work though, and especially meeting with someone for the first time. The weight of sin is heavy and it saddens me. Sometimes we bring the sadness, heartache, and consequences on ourselves with our own sin, and sometimes we experience the sadness, heartache, and consequences of living in a sinful world. Whatever the circumstances, counseling is at the same both a heavy and joyful experience for me.

Speaking of joy, Naomi Joy and I got to talk to Matt this afternoon and sent him this picture while we talked with him on Skype!

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It had been a busy day, and a few restless nights this week, so about 5pm I decided that we were going out to dinner. I just didn’t have dinner-making in me tonight. So we headed to Buchanans, a cute little restaurant at a plant nursery that we’ve recently rediscovered. While we waited for our food, the girls kept themselves busy writing me notes (using a stencil!) and drawing me scribble pictures.

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Spaghetti and meatballs was on the menu for the girls, and I had the least acidic salad on the menu. =) All tummies left full and content.

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Back home, a quick shower for the girls and then their goodnight routine, which includes an ugga-mugga nose rub. Naomi looks like she got a little manhandled in this picture, but she’s a fan of the ugga-mugga so she puts up with it!

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The girls are in bed, the house is quiet, and I’m about to head to bed myself, hopefully to sleep through the night with no tummy troubles. Tomorrow’s a big day – grocery shopping day!

Full and Rich Days

Saturdays almost always start with a Skype call to my parents, aka Nana and Papa. I get to talk to them by myself for a while first, and then when the girls are up at 7 they join me and share their happy early morning cheer. Abigail is fascinated by the 10 hour time difference, and Naomi loves showing off all her baby dolls.

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Just as we were finishing up breakfast, Priscilla showed up. Priscilla, affectionately known to Naomi as “My Rilla,” works at our house on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, watching the girls in the morning and helping with odd jobs in the afternoon. While Matt’s away, I asked her to come on Saturdays too, because sometimes it’s just nice to have another adult around. And today it turned out to be especially helpful. The girls couldn’t care less if it’s helpful – they just love playing with her!

My first job of the day was to wash Naomi’s rain boots. It is the rainy season, but she wears these everywhere, rain or shine. I don’t know what was growing in them, but the stink coming from them was unbearable, as were Naomi’s feet. The feet soaked in an antiseptic bath, and the boots went three rounds with 1) antibacterial soap, 2) bleach, and 3) baking soda and vinegar.

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Since the girls were occupied and the beloved boots de-toxified, I dragged myself to my computer and worked on finances and taxes. Blah. That’s all I’m going to say. No, I will add: if you like keeping track of finances and working on your taxes, you should move to another country and enjoy it in 2 currencies. Blah.

In the course of the morning, word spread quickly through the neighborhood that our friends and landlords, living just a block from us, had been visited by thieves during the night. The thieves had broken a hole in their wall and poisoned and killed their dogs. Nothing was stolen, but this seems to be a popular tactic – break the wall and get rid of the dogs one night, come back sometime in the next couple nights to steal things. We once had someone try this at our house, but our dogs were too big for the little poison they were given, and we had the fence repaired right away that day. And installed lights on the street to discourage it happening again.

As I head to bed shortly, I’m thankful for God’s care for us. I know we are in His hands no matter what happens. But I also know that we must be wise, and so I am very thankful for an excellent night watchman and 2 big dogs who sound pretty scary. Our guard told me not to worry tonight, Simba put on his best guard dog face, and Samson stretched in preparation for a night of walking the perimeter. We would all appreciate your prayers for our neighborhood the next few nights.

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I spent the end of the morning visiting a friend, Susan, who is recovering from bacterial meningitis. She is back at home as of Thursday, and just today feeling well enough to want some reading material. If bacterial meningitis can be compared to an extreme migraine lasting for days and days, you can see how feeling well enough to read is real progress! So I took a few books to her, and some wonderful grapes!

Lunch went surprisingly well. Those of you who have/had little kids will know that lunch can either go surprisingly well, or it can be… let’s say, a series of great teaching moments.

After lunch, the girls had their rest time, Priscilla helped with a couple cleaning projects, and I tackled a problem with a candle sconce. As I was finishing up the blog post last night, I heard a dripping noise coming from the direction of the hall bathroom. I figured the girls had not turned the water off completely and it was slowly dripping. So I ignored it for a few minutes while I finished up on the computer. When I went to investigate, I found that it wasn’t water, but that one of our hall candle sconces had a hole in the base or catchment area. Every drop of wax that hit the tile floor splattered in a fine mist about 15 inches across the floor and up the wall. Oh dear. I stopped the dripping last night, but this afternoon I scraped all the wax with my pastry scraper (yay kitchen tools!), and decided to fix the offending candle sconce. So I got out the soldering iron and waited for it to heat up. And waited, and waited, and waited… Then I checked the wiring, changed the plug fuse, TOOK THE ENTIRE SOLDERING IRON APART! No good. It’s dead. So, when all else fails… I fixed the little hole in the candle sconce with a small piece of duct tape. Not one of my fancier fixes, but it will do for now!

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Also during rest time, I had a counseling session for about an hour, our final session, wrapping up a short series with this counselee. It was a good series, and has challenged me personally to think more deeply  and biblically about the true nature of faith and God’s good purposes in our lives.

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But rest time doesn’t last forever! “Mom! Let’s play tickle machine! Touch this knee to turn it on and I’ll tickle you, and this knee to turn it off!” My favorite part was when she thought I was taking too long between tickles and pushed her knee herself to turn on the tickle machine! Lots of giggles and fun times!

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As I write out all the details of my day, I’m struck by how ordinary today was. The only missing part was Matt. But this is kind of how my days go: fix things, pray for God’s protection of us, visit or take care of someone who’s sick, drink lemonade and talk about true saving faith with a friend, play with my kids… I love this life. It’s full and it’s rich. I’m so thankful that this is where the Lord chose to put our family!

On Our Own

Today we dropped our favorite guy off at the airport, not to see him for 9 whole days. Matt’s off to meetings and conferences in the States, so it’s just the girls here in the wilds of Africa!

So in an effort to keep him up to date with what we girls are doing, and to add a little life to the blog, I’ll post on here every day while he’s gone.

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Today’s big event was, of course, Matt’s departure. We spent the first half of the morning helping him pack, running last minute wheelbarrow marathon races with him, and enjoying him as much as possible. Then mid-morning we took him to the airport. The girls did fine, but mom might have shed a couple tears. I was just getting teary on the drive home when Abigail started asking why you can’t take bombs and knives on airplanes… and so I was distracted by explaining why bombs and drugs and such are bad to my 5 year old.

The early afternoon was fine, with rest times for everyone and catching up on Abi’s school that we hadn’t done in the morning. Then about 3 we decided to go on a field trip to the plant nursery across town to see if we could find the three types of plants that Abi has been studying in science – plants that reproduce by seeds, by runners, and by division of bulbs. We found them all at Four Seasons Nursery and *BONUS* water plants too!

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We had a great time – even if I can’t get them both to smile and stand normally at the same time. =)

Then on the way home from the nursery, we did something I never thought I’d do in Malawi.

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We went  to a drive-thru! Seriously! KFC opened up just a couple weeks ago, and they have the very first drive-thru in town (in the country?)! It was at the same time a very African and a very American experience. The American experience was 1) order at the speaker box, 2) pay at the first window, and 3) pick up at the second window. It felt normal and very odd at the same time. The African part was that right next to the drive-thru lane they were digging up what appeared to be a broken septic line. That also felt normal and very odd at the same time.

It’s been about 10 years since I had KFC, and I think I could probably go another 10 years without it. I think Naomi is in agreement with me on this one. Abigail, however, for the first time in her life, declared that she loved mashed potatoes. The part of me that makes 98% of our meals from scratch sighed very deeply at forfeiting this major victory to KFC.

The rest of the evening was normal, but bed time was a little difficult for Naomi. She cried and cried about “Dada, airport!” We walked up and down the hall, finding him in every picture hung on the walls. Then we prayed for him and I sang her a couple songs before she said she would go to sleep. Sweet girl!

Now I sit quietly in the dark, thankful for the inverter that Matt installed to give us enough power for computers and internet when we have a power outage. It’s been a good day, but a little emotional. Matt and I haven’t been apart for more than 3-4 days since… December 2007? I know that we’ll be fine and that the days will fly by, but I think I can speak on behalf of all three Floreen girls in the warm heart of Africa: Absence make the heart grow fonder.

Normal Life: Electricity

“Power’s off!” is a phrase commonly heard in our house. In fact, it’s one of the first sentences our girls have learned. It’s usually accompanied by one or the other of the girls trying all the light switches in the house, and opening the fridge to see if the fridge light turns on.

So the title to this post is not exactly accurate. Electricity is only sometimes a part of normal life. But the way we do electricity here is so different from how we have ever done it in the States, that I thought it would be interesting to show what “normal” looks like for us.

Here’s our meter box.

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All fancy, high-tech, and digital isn’t it?! Well, to remind you we live in Africa, there are usually 2-3 lizards living in this box too. I open it and jump back to see what will come out! Only lizards so far. But anyway, you can see the keypad on the meter. Our electricity is pre-paid, so in order to “top-up” our electricity, I buy units of electricity from the power provider (Electricity Supply Company Of Malawi – ESCOM), and on the receipt, I’m given a code that I must input in my meter in order for the units to be applied to our account. So I check the meter every week or two to see if we have units, and buy and input more units as we need them.

Now. Having units does not equate to having electricity. If the power is on and we have units, then we can have electricity. But these days, we never know how many hours a day we’ll have power available to us. It could be on all day, or it could be off from 4am to 4pm. Usually it’s off 4-8 hours a day (alternating mornings or evenings), and on overnight. But you never know!

Enter the generator.

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With 6.5 KVA available and a battery backup for the starter ignition, this machine is our friend! We’re not the type to turn the generator on every time the power goes off, but if it has been off for 7-8 hours, this generator saves the day by recooling and refreezing my fridge and freezer. Especially if the girls have been checking to see if the power is back yet. (Ahem, yes, we are trying to break that habit…) It’s also helpful when we need to have sign-up sheets printed for church and the power has been off for hours, or if we need to turn in an online assignment for Matt’s grad program by a specific time and the power is, once again, off. I will admit to occasionally asking Matt to turn the generator on for bath time too, because, well, it’s ok, but sometimes I need to see in order to scrub all the African red dirt off those girls!

Can I just point out for a moment how wonderful my husband is? The metal housing held above the generator not only covers the generator to make the side of our house look nicer, it also greatly reduces the noise. And Matt designed it. He’s wonderful! He also designed this little switchover:

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If the green light is on, we have power from ESCOM. If it’s off, we can flip the switch and start the generator. Brilliant!

And if all else fails, we can buy a 6-pack of candles for about 85 cents. We actually like candle light, so it’s sometimes our power of choice! Not that it will run our internet router, but it sure is pretty!

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However you get your electricity to read our blog, thanks for following along!

Martha

A lot happens at our house during the week. We’re often teaching Bible studies, having families over for meals, homeschooling, hosting guests, counseling, meeting people who just dropped by, and fixing something or the other. Sometimes people wonder how I find time to stay on top of those things AND keep our house clean.

Here’s the secret: I don’t keep the house clean!

Martha does.

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Meet Martha. She’s our housekeeper, and she’s wonderful! Every morning Monday through Saturday, she comes in and washes all our dishes, mops our floors, cleans our bathrooms, and helps with laundry. Her family lives in an apartment in our backyard, and has since before we moved here.

Martha has helped us learn how to live in and interact with our local community. She helps us decide if we should go to the Neighborhood Watch meeting, how much to contribute to the neighborhood ladies’ funeral fund, what to do about the local crazy woman who thinks she lives at our house, and tipping us off that our neighbor’s daughter is getting married this weekend (so we can be ready for a night of loud music!). You could say she is the “point guard” at our house. We don’t even know everything that comes through her, because she manages so much without even bothering us.

Best of all, Martha is our friend. We laugh together as she washes dishes and I make lunch. We share recipes and thoughts about parenting. We can ask one another cultural questions and talk about difficult issues without fear of it damaging our relationship. She is indispensable, not only for a clean house, but also for helping us be part of Malawi. Martha is one of the reasons we love to call this place home.

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Wilfred and Martha Chunga, Chancy (12), Rejoice (4), and Timothy (2 months). Christmas 2014

Quiet, Cold, and Dark… Not that We Mind

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It’s the long school holiday here in Malawi, which means lots of people are traveling – for vacation or relocation – and church activities are a bit slower and fewer for us. It’s our break time to take a deep breath and make some plans for the next busy season.

The school holiday happens to coincide with the coldest days of winter. We FINALLY get to put on sweaters and enjoy a cup of hot tea or cocoa in the evenings! Being in the southern hemisphere, we just had our winter solstice a couple weeks ago, so the days are short and the nights long.

Meanwhile, our generator went on vacation. That’s right. Our generator joined an outreach group running audiology clinics on the lakeshore, so we spent three weeks without our back-up electricity. And I do have to say, we kind of enjoyed it. Candlelight throughout the house is really very beautiful. We have been in Africa for 6 years now, but we still enjoy the rustic, romantic, adventurous beauty of life here!

Friendship

We love raising our girls in Africa, for many reasons, one of which is the great diversity of people who are around the girls – and become their friends – as they grow up. Here are a few of Abigail’s friends. =)

Abi Friends 1Rejoice and her family live on the same property with us, and as the girls were born only a few weeks apart, they’ve grown up together. They learned how to roll over together as babies, planted their own gardens – on my front porch cushions!!! – together as toddlers, and now they run through the sprinkler together on hot days.

2015 Zomba Vacation 18Speaking of growing up together, these sisters are starting to become good friends too. One of the good things about sisters, especially growing up on the mission field, is that they go everywhere with you, so you always have a friend close by.

Abi's Friends 2I’m pretty sure that Yami and Abi think they are brother and sister. They are fiercely loyal to one another! They play together on Tuesday mornings while I (Rachel) teach Bible study, and are pretty much inseparable at church. Yami’s parents are good friends of Matt’s and mine, and his little brother is the same age as Naomi, so our families enjoy spending time together when we can – from dinners to family vacations.

Abi's Friends 1Maggie and Abi are always pretty goofy when they’re together, so this is about the best picture I could get of them! Maggie’s parents are also missionaries, and the girls are now taking ballet class together, so we see them fairly regularly.

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Abi also has dozens of church friends. (I think here Vanessa and Allison are teaching Abi to eat the ketchup right out of the packet?!?) She gets to see them each week on Sunday, at church events like the Relationship Conference, and then 5-6 of them also come on Tuesday nights to watch Bible movies with us while their parents have Bible Study in our living room.

I love the diversity of friendships in our girls’ lives – and ours. It’s a great perk of missionary life!