Charge

We had a great weekend in Kigali – finally getting a chance to do something over than survive. On Friday night, we had dinner with some missionaries that have been here over 25 years! They have lots of stories to tell – so many that there’s been a book written about them. (http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Through-Fire-Rwanda-ebook/dp/B008LCP7PM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374498336&sr=8-1&keywords=faith+through+fire) We enjoyed a delicious meal with them and enjoyed seeing their elaborate garden and farm animals, complete with goats, chickens and pig.

On Saturday, we took the city bus to the big market at Kimironko. Hundreds of stalls with produce, electronics, clothing, fabric, anything you could imagine purchasing. And if you’ve ever wondered where your clothes that Goodwill or Salvation Army can’t use/sell, look no further than the African market. I saw a 2005 Twin Cities marathon t-shirt on sale, and I’m pretty sure that guy’s never been to Africa.

Market

Market2

We get a lot of attention when we are out on the street. Besides our general whiteness that causes us to stand out, Fred usually draws a crowd as well. If BB is wearing Fred, everyone stares – men in Africa do generally wear their babies. Likewise, if I wear him on my front, we also look strange. A number of people at the market kept pulling on Fred’s hat and scolding me in Kinyarwanda. I’m guessing they thought he was suffocating or something. They didn’t like that they couldn’t see his face very well.

Beco

We then walked the 5 km back to our house. So much to see and explore.

walk

Sunday we attended Christian Life Assembly (“CLA”) church in Kigali. We enjoyed a lively service in English with a primarily African congregation. The guest preacher from Uganda convicted me about my need to recharge my battery. These past few months – really ever since Fred was born – have been draining both physically and spiritually. I need to plug back into my power source.

Church 1

Church

One of the main reasons we are in Rwanda is to continue our fast from 2012. The purpose of the fast is to draw closer to God, to increase my dependence. To become obviously weak so that he can make me strong. I’ve been feeling quite weak lately, and I’m ready to recharge from the true power source. I’m finally excited to see where this leads!

Finally, Mama Claudia, our new nanny started today. She has been great with Fred, playing, feeding, rocking. Enjoy a picture of my little African prince!

FredBack

Used

BB and I are dying to know – is there some sort of study that has proven that babies prefer the sound of the pan flute as opposed to actual orchestration? Why don’t these baby toys just play Beethoven’s Ninth by the full orchestra?

I’ve been warned.  Being pregnant, giving birth, nursing, all these things will ruin my body.  I’ll be all used up by the time Fred is 6 months old.  It makes me wonder, what would I be saving myself for? 

I want to be used.  My body was designed (in part) to bring forth life.  My breasts were designed to provide food.  My body is here for a function.  Even if it wasn’t child-bearing, my hands are meant to wash, build, create.  My feet are to meant to walk, run.  My back should be bent.  I’m not a priceless work of art, meant only for observation.

Our culture strives to preserve – save your money, use the candlesticks only for special occasions, keep your skin out of the sun, wear rubber gloves, keep your shoes out of the mud.  We don’t want to get dirty.  We don’t want to be used.  We want our bodies, homes, cars, brains, kept fresh until….until what?  What are we saving ourselves for?

We are about to embark on another 7-style purge of our home.  This one’s going to be bigger, deeper, more painful.  I’m scared.  I love my stuff.  It’s not all materialistic – some of the love comes from the memories the things hold.  The warm coat that’s insulated me at the bus stop, the running shoes in which I’ve logged miles, the skillet that has cooked many a meal, the platter given by a friend, the sweater picked out by my mom.

But then I kick myself.  Here I’m giving away so many items that I was saving for something special.  Why didn’t I use the wedding china more often?  Why have I only worn that necklace once?  I didn’t know that one day I would be called to give it all up.

Our vats are overflowing, and we build another barn to hold it.  Spend it.  Use it.  This life is fleeting.  You can’t take it with you…not in the next life, and sometimes in this one.

We save our money for an emergency.  But (as Francis Chan once asked), is it only an emergency if it affects our family? 

We save our time like misers.  We have to work hard, and we will serve others later.  We will have that date night with our spouse next month.  We will spend more time with the children once we get this last errand run.  What if later never comes? 

Spend it.  Wear it.  Use it.  Jesus’ body was broken, used.  His blood was shed for us. 

Media Fast

One of my favorite months of the Seven fast was the media fast.  It was hard.  I am pretty addicted to media – tv, music, blogs, Facebook.  I don’t like to think that I am.  I like to think that I a purist and above getting sucked into media, but it’s all false.  It was a great experience to detox and have to quiet my mind and thoughts.

Our pastor gave us a challenge this week to detox from media for three days this week, and I’m excited to accept it!  I really need this right now.  Since I’ve been away from work, I spend a lot more time on the internet and watch a lot more tv.  With Baby Bean’s coming arrival and a few other decisions about the upcoming year on the horizon, a fast is absolutely right for me.   I need to hear from God right now.  I need the quiet of my mind so that He can speak to me and prepare my heart for this transition. 

I’ll be back on Thursday!

Happy New Year!

In what can only be described as a perfect ending to 2012, I spent most of Monday with severe back pain and contractions believing I was in labor only for it to stop abruptly with no baby.  Screw you 2012.  The feeling is mutual.

I kid, of course.  2012 wasn’t “the year we were introduced to the show 24 (2005)” good, but it wasn’t all bad.  We spent a lot of time reminiscing about 2012 – the highs and the lows.  You all know the lows all too well, but here are some good moments of God’s blessing and provision (and some good clean fun!).

  • We spent an amazing week in TN, AL and MS learning about Civil Rights history and eating BBQ.
  • I turned 30 and celebrated with a lovely dinner with friends.
  • So many friends had babies that I love to snuggle.  And lots of friends brought their children home through adoption.
  • We went to a fantastic couple’s retreat in Lake Geneva that ended with a dance party.
  • I attended the CAFO Summit conference at Saddleback.  [Sidenote: Why can’t God call us to move to southern California?  Seriously, the weather there is perfect every.single.day.]
  • Baby Bean (previously known by us as Spec and Blueberry) entered our lives and wreaked very little havoc allowing me to ignore him/her for the first 5 months of his/her life. 
  • We had a visit from our awesome friends, Charles and Amelia!
  • BB sang in a bunch of great concerts and operas.
  • We had a fabulous trip to Paris after a safe and eye-opening trip to DRC.
  • My sweet friends through me a beautiful adoption shower, and out-of-town family visited us.
  • I repainted the apartment.
  • I had the privilege of walking through difficult adoptions with other friends and providing a listening ear.
  • Our friends Tommy and Tracey got married!
  • We had a great Thanksgiving with BB’s entire family – the first time we were all together in 5 years.
  • We saw Les Mis.  And I can’t stop singing the tunes (not sure if that’s good or bad….)
  • And of course, we were blessed with good health, a safe place to live, loving families, good jobs, and many opportunities to show God’s love to others.

Not so bad after all.  I definitely feel like I was stretched in 2012.  My faith took a beating but came out stronger in the end, and I experienced more spiritual growth than I ever have.

So much of 2012 was defined by the fast.  It makes sense then that 2012 would be difficult.  Fasting isn’t supposed to be easy.

When we were going through the memories of 2012, we kept marveling at how crazy it was and how absolutely stressed out we were throughout the year.  We wondered if we could ever do it again.  While I would like to say that I want to seek out a more casual, comfortable life to avoid the drama that 2012 brought, I would be lying.  Bring it on 2013. Let’s see what you got.  I’m ready to get back in the game.

Happy New Year to you all!!

The Year of the Fast

We need to go back in time a little to recap on a few events from this fall.

On September 22, I had the privilege of sharing our 7 fast journey with the women of The Moody Church.  Three of the other ladies who joined me in the fast also shared, and we had a really rich discussion.  We shared our many failures as well as the things the Lord has shown us and continued to show us.  It was such an encouraging morning!

 

The discussion opened first with the 7 trailer video, and it was almost surreal to think that we actually did all those things over seven months.  As I prepared in the days before the conference, I realized how much happened over the course of those months.  Each month there were so many lessons, and it was so nice to take time to reflect on that experience.  The fast ended somewhat abruptly for us and in the middle of the post-adoption fallout that we never had a chance to really debrief and process what we had learned.  The conference was a great opportunity to go back and look through the old blog posts and recall the crazy journey.

I still can’t believe that we did it, and I really can’t believe that other couples joined us!  When I originally saw the book, I thought I was crazy for wanting to try it myself.  Apparently I am friends with other crazy people!

It’s been amazing to see the response from other women at our church after hearing us speak.  I’ve had a number of women come up to me on Sundays to share their journeys.  One woman proudly declared that she wore the same outfit for three days in a row and that it wasn’t too hard.  Another woman cornered me in the bathroom to talk about how hard it would be to give up wearing accessories.  I love these hearts!  Most people would hear this idea and just brush it off.  By letting the Holy Spirit creep in ever so slightly to challenge, these women are ready for God to do amazing things.

These are my sweet amazing friends! Apparently I am some sort of giant.

Mary Welchel, our director of Women’s Ministries, pushed us to reduce excess in our lives in some way over the coming months, even if not through a 7 month fast.  I personally was again challenged since I’ve been off of fasting for almost two months now.  We are kicking around some big ideas for 2013, but in the meantime, I’ve been re-challenged to confront excess.

We have kept a lot of our habits from our 7 experience.  We are still recycling, keeping car use to a minimum when we can, eating in, avoiding shopping, and stretching those groceries as far as they will go.  I’ve been trying to learn more about products that are regularly produced through slave labor, the biggest culprits being chocolate, coffee, sugar, and clothes.  As a result, we are having a fair-trade or non-chocolate Halloween.  I am threatening to give out pencils, but we are slightly concerned about getting our tires slashed.  As I research baby clothes/products and maternity clothes, I am avoiding brands that are known to use slaves.  Also, we are planning on using cloth diapers to cut down on cost and waste.

One big area where we are trying to avoid excess is in baby preparations.  So far, we’ve managed not to acquire any baby products in our apartment (although I suspect more than a few people who will remain nameless are stockpiling stuff in their basements).  The purpose is two-fold.  First, we want to focus on the present and not plan for the future.  This process is in God’s hands, and He has made no promises that a baby will be born in January.  We are trusting in Him and not living in fear, but we also want to respect this reality.

The second reason is that we don’t need anything yet.  One of the big lessons I took away from 7 was that I only want to buy what I need.  [Now, granted, my needs are often wants in disguise.  I try and be reasonable, and this is an area that is personal.  We all define needs differently.]  The point is that I am the type of person who would buy three bottles of shampoo so that I wouldn’t have to go to Target again for 6 months.  I once found 6 cans of shaving cream under the bathroom sink.  Apparently I was fearing that the recession might cause a nation-wide shaving cream shortage.  Bottom line is that in the world of baby preparations it seems that it is absolutely reasonable to talk about which tricycle to buy a fetus. I am trying to stay away from that discussion for as long as possible.

The other big 7 takeaway for 2012 will be felt at Christmas.  We have decided to fast from Christmas gifts this year.  I am scared and excited.  If you know me, you know that gifts are my love language and that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love love love gifts.  I love buying them, wrapping them, making lists of what I want, seeing them under the tree, and unwrapping them in excitement.  When I was a kid, I would wake up every hour and creep downstairs to see if Santa had come yet.  This is going to be hard for me, but I am anxious to see what God will do.

The idea was really born last Christmas with my parents and sisters.  We talked about how it would be nice to have a Christmas not focused on gifts so it was an an easy sell to them this year, and the whole fam is on board.  We’ve decided that we will do some sort of family event to celebrate the day (either fun or service or both).  My parents are in charge of scheduling that, so I’ll have to let you know what they decide.  I am also excited that we will have some extra money that we will be able to donate.

This gift-free Christmas is not totally born out of a desire to keep Christ in Christmas or some silly slogan like that.  Although the amount of money, advertising and focus on gifts at Christmas is nauseating, I do realize that there are lots of benefits to gift giving.  I’m sure I’ll share more posts on that in the future.  The main point for me is to keep focusing on areas of excess and detox from my obsessive consumerism.  There have been too many negative things associated with gifts at Christmas, so we need to take a step back and reassess.

These 7 lessons continue to pour out and infect my life.  I can’t get away from the lessons learned, the opening of my heart to the world, and the communion with my Lord.  I almost want to do it again…

Week 4 – Repentance

I can say with assurance that sin has been revealed in my life over the last four weeks – from the obvious to the not so obvious (at least to me, probably obvious to everyone else).  Initially, it was perfectly obvious that I idolize food and pleasure much more than Jesus.  It only took about 2 hours for that to be revealed.  I ended day 1 literally on the floor crying because I could not imagine eating rice cereal for a whole month.  

About halfway through the month, I became extremely convicted about the excesses of my life.  I began to see how many of the choices I make to satisfy myself at the expense of another.  Quite literally, I have too much.  I have been given more than I need.  God has a purpose for giving me more than I need.  News flash – it’s not so I can buy myself more stuff!!  This seems obvious, but it’s so hard.  I am addicted to my life.  I truly believe that I cannot live without the comforts on which I rely.  I do not trust that God will provide.  There’s nothing in the Bible to suggest that it’s ok for me to live a comfortable rich life while people have unmet needs right outside my door (please tell me if there is because I would love the justification!).  If I lived the life I do in a third world country while starving children knocked on my door unanswered, there is no doubt that everyone I know would think I was the most heartless, evil, cruel being that ever lived.  How is that not exactly what I am doing right now?

If that revelation wasn’t enough, the repentance really got personal.  In the last week of this month’s fast, I’ve been aware of my seriously negative spirit.  DH challenged me on my complaining, and while it hurt to hear.  He was not wrong.  I do complain often and he usually gets the brunt of it.  When I am stressed out (which is a lot these days), I take it out on him, and I do it self-righteously, expecting him to be compassionate and listem to the latest litany of complaints (which he usually does with a gentle spirit).  It’s certainly a burden that he need not carry.

While I could go on and on with the list of the sins revealed, that may be depressing, and no one would want to continue reading my blog.  

As difficult as these revelations have been, I am so encouraged and grateful.  Encouraged because I know that I serve a God who can handle my sin.  Grateful because his grace abounds.  

So excited for Month 2 (and to celebrate the end of month 1 with a cookie!).

Week 3 – Prayer

Throughout this month, I have been brought to my knees more than usual.  Most times that I start craving something or feel that temptation coming, I immediately repeat Scripture, a phrase from a praise song or some other mantra to keep my eyes on the Lord.  Some of my favorites – “man cannot live on bread alone but on every Word from God,” “I need thee, oh I need thee,” “Your grace is enough,” and “Jesus will satisfy.”  These mini prayer moments were so helpful and joy-filled.  I need these throughout my life.  

I’ve been reading through some Spurgeon sermons on prayer, and it’s been challenging me to boldly pray.  I’ve been challenged to pray such that I actually trust that God will answer me.  Imagine that? I need to move prayer from the task list to the needs list.  I want God to move in me such that I can’t get through a moment without turning to Him. 

Tomorrow we depart for vacation.  Heading to Tennessee and Alabama to visit sites from the Civil Rights movement.  We have been reading so much about race in America, and we wanted to really dive into this area of history about which we know so little.  Unfortunately and appallingly, as a white American, this part of history has never seemed relevant to me.  I’ve been walking through life thinking that race didn’t matter (easy to say when you are in the majority).  I’ve been learning how wrong I have been!  It’s so hard to learn what really has gone on (and continues to go on) in our country, a place of which I’ve always been proud.  I still believe in the greatness America, and I’m proud to be an American, but those feelings have definitely tempered over the past few months.  Even though I will never truly understand what it means to be Black in America, I owe it my children to learn as much as I can.