Multipurpose Living Room

Welcome to our living room! We have LOTS of people through our living room, and our living room flexes beautifully to accommodate all kinds of purposes. It’s a HUGE room – our whole apartment on Newhall Ave in Santa Clarita would fit in here! – and we’ve had 17, 65, and 120 people events staged in and from this room. But right now it is a multipurpose room. A living room and library…

and the church office, which takes about 1/6 of the room for now, until we get some buildings built on our property… may 12-18 months more?

It’s also a music room, for those playing real and pretend pianos!

And it’s also our regular school room…

And our dining room. Though not usually with the covered piano right up next to the table. That’s there because…

Our living room is also currently a construction zone with the addition of a new socket.

And finally, the living room is also currently our temporary kitchen.

We are – today – starting to repaint our house for the first time since we moved in 8+ years ago. There somehow seems to be a significant number of streaks and handprints at the 2-3 foot level. 😉 And we’ve done a number of repairs over the years. It’s time for a fresh coat!

So the kitchen is pretty empty.

And my full-disclosure picture of what the rest of the “temporary kitchen” looks like. 😁 Not as picture perfect as the still life above, but it’s real life around here as we put this big room to good use!

It’s Summertime!

The jacarandas have given us a carpet of purple, the temperature outside (88F) is hotter than inside (78F), the air is full of dusty, dry wind, and the sun doesn’t set til the end of dinner. Here comes summer!

UCLA Team

For the last week and a half we have had 6 of the 15 member team from Grace Community Church staying at our house. They’re all part of the Grace on Campus Bible study at UCLA, and this is the 4th time that group has sent a team to Malawi. They come every year now for the first module of CAPA (Central African Preaching Academy) to help with student registration and to interview the students.

Tuesday night was our turn to have the whole group over for dinner, so we hauled everything outside and had a great time enjoying the cool evening with this team!

Rachael brought over some sugar cane, so Matt taught everyone how to “eat” it.

Eat isn’t really the word, because you chew up the pulp to suck out the juices, then spit the pulp out. Just imagine liquid sugar… which is exactly what it is!

The texture is about like chewing on toothpicks, but that doesn’t stop anyone!

Though it does take a while to get the knack of things!

Dinner was a hit, and I won the game. Anyone else play “the game”? It’s when you estimate food for a group, and you hit it perfectly. We had 20 people for dinner, at 2 tables, and we had 4 1/2 pieces of chicken left over – 2 at one table, 2.5 at the other. You don’t win the game if there’s no food left: you didn’t make enough. And you don’t win if you have lots leftover. You don’t even win it you have 1 piece leftover: that’s the “Christian piece” that no one wants to take because it’s the last piece. 😊 So 2 or 2 1/2 pieces of chicken per table is perfect. Everyone had enough and we didn’t run out! Yes, I’m a kitchen nerd.

It was fun to sit around and chat with this group, to hear what they’ve been learning and experiencing. Having interviewed some of the same students for multiple years, they are seeing growth in the lives of the CAPA students! They were also able to go to some of the students’ churches this weekend, and have been thinking through their experiences and pondering the ways in which they have seen God working – here in Malawi and in their own lives. You can check out the group’s blog here: http://malawi2017stm.wordpress.com.

As the sun set and dinner ended, the twinkle lights began to show in the trees. It’s hard to believe that there were no trees in the yard when we moved here! It’s such a nice space now!

No outdoor meal is complete without a bonfire, so we brought out the marshmallows and had some s’mores. We even had mice shaped marshmallows for the more Malawian s’mores experience!

We are thankful for the work this team is doing. They have conducted and transcribed 100+ interviews with the CAPA students this year. As the team finishes up the interviews and posts them online, you can get to know the students and hear their testimonies at: http://capa.prayformalawi.com/students

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. 😊

Spring is Coming!

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we are nearing the end of winter. For us, that means no more nights with temps down to 54 degrees Fahrenheit. These days it’s already 60 degrees when we get up just before dawn. Soon we will be excited if it gets below 80 overnight. But between now and then we have a short little springtime: September. And there’s already evidence that spring is on its way… the mango trees are blooming!

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!

Drinking Water

Remember summer days of drinking straight out of the garden hose? Well, we don't do that here in Malawi! We have a great water filter for our drinking water and for years we only filtered. However, about 9 months ago the city stopped treating the water for a period of time and we started researching the boil and filter option.

Ugh. Boil water every day? Not me, not in my house. I don't want to pay more for gas to boil 20 liters of water every day, and I REALLY don't want to heat up my house every day with 2 huge pots of boiling water! This is Africa, in the tropics, we're already hot enough! I'll just clean those filters again, and we should be fine!

But then I learned the difference between how to get bacteria out of your water and how to get viruses out of your water. Our Katadyn Gravidyn filters remove something like 99.95% of all chemicals and bacteria from the water. But viruses are so small they just go straight through the filters. Boiling kills viruses. Done. End of discussion. I became a firm believer in boiling AND filtering water that day! I'm not even going to get into the details of the sewer pipe that leaked into the water main of the neighborhood just north of us… Boil and Filter is my new mantra!

So we fill up our two 10L pots with tap water almost every evening and bring them to a boil (which takes about exactly 67 minutes). We crack the lids and let them cool overnight, and in the morning we pour the cooled, virus-free water into the top part of our two filters. Over the next couple hours, the water works its way through the filters and stores in the bottom of the unit for easy access. Is it a process? Yes. Do we have fewer tummy bugs now? Actually, yes. Do I carry the water on my head. Um, yes… a 10L pot of water is too heavy to carry in front of me without spilling, so I lift it up on top of my head to carry it across the kitchen. Sorry, no selfies of that – I'm not that coordinated!

And that's how we get drinking water here in Lilongwe! We drink it, cook with it, and wash fruits and veggies in it. I'm thankful for the modern technology of such great filters, and for the ancient technology of fire that now rounds out our water treatment process. I do think that all that work makes the water taste just a little bit sweeter!