16 December, 2015

Jesus + Messy

   Why is it that when a person surrenders their life to Jesus, we no longer expect messy? We expect them to act like an appropriate christian should, cleaning up any mess in their lives and for crying out loud, stay clean. Except that it doesn't always work like that. New christians are like babies, messy and unpredictable. I know, i used to be one. I accused a friend of harboring the devil under her cabinet because she hid alcohol for her brother so he wouldn't drink at bars and kill himself driving home. She hung up the phone weeping while i wondered how it was possible to be so blind. I also told people that unless they changed their ways they were on a fast track to the bad place. All good points but said in a very messy way. Which brings me to another thought. Why do i expect my older children to act like mature believers when not only are the young christians, they are still YOUNG??

   And why is it that we don't expect serving Jesus to be messy? Who did Jesus say He came to save? The nice, clean, church going crowd? Or the prostitutes, the liars, the thieves, the broken? I find myself hiding from the messy people because i might get, look, or act in a way that other people think is messy and ridiculous.

   I grew up in a conservative mennonite culture that had a lot of good points. Good work ethics, high moral integrity, scrupulous obedience to scripture......but messy wasn't appreciated. Our lives were to be lived in an orderly fashion, dotted along the way with handing out tracts and turning the other cheek. The only problem was, people from the "outside" sometimes strayed into our circles that were quite messy and eventually, they usually strayed back out. We comforted ourselves by saying only a few can manage the straight and narrow, but now i wonder if perhaps it was more because we couldn't handle getting messy. They were expected to act, think, and dress a certain way and when it didn't happen, we blamed it on their messiness and not so much on our lack of grace and compassion. Don't get me wrong. There were many wonderful, godly, loving people in my growing up years. This is not a lash out at my church group growing up but as Marlin and i have grown spiritually over the years, we have noticed that the more sold out a person is for Jesus, the more it seems He leads them to reach the unloved and unlovable. In short, He expects them to get their hands dirty.

    For example, we have friends who have a family of six children. Young children. You would think they have a quiver full, at least for the moment. Altho i wouldn't take my word for it since it seems our own quiver keeps expanding. But instead, this family is praying about adopting a little boy from China. A little boy who was abandoned outside a factory, most likely because he had hydrocephaly. As we sat and talked recently, i was totally challenged and excited to hear their hearts and why they are seriously praying about this. They're not naive, and they know it could be very, very hard. In short, she put it exactly right when she said it will be messy. And it was then that a light bulb came off in my head.

   It's messy that Jesus is so often wanting us to serve and it's messy that so many times i run from. Messy is hard and puts us outside our comfort zone. Messy might make us look bad, or maybe stupid, which is almost as embarrassing. Messy can be very expensive and it certainly doesn't guarantee a comfortable life or a fat bank account.

   Not everyone is going to be called to adoption. As of now we haven't. Maybe because it feels like we have all the messiness i can handle right now within our four walls. On the other hand, its not for me to say no to messy if it's Jesus calling us. I can point out a few times in our lives when we obeyed Jesus and it became VERY messy, and as long as we stay surrendered (completely!) i have no doubt there is more of that in our future.

   But whatever you do, don't embrace messy unless you have embraced Jesus first. Trying to serve messy without Jesus in control is disaster and will bring heartache and bitterness. You will need His strength, His wisdom, and especially His love and compassion. But whatever you do, don't try to keep your hands from getting messy. Get out there, tell Jesus you're willing to do whatever, however as long as He is in control, and prepare for the ride. Wherever Jesus is, there's bound to be messy because that's who He came to save and who else to serve them but those of us who have seen our own messiness without Him.

02 December, 2015

Of This and That

The hero in our family

   It's been three months since we've set foot back in the States. It's been good. It's been hard. It's been stretching. In the last three months we've remodeled a store, bought merchandise, (it's a returned merchandise store) and opened the doors. That involved many late nights and much running between house and store as i took meals and boys back and forth. Sometimes we all work at the store and sometimes Emily stays home with littles so i can help when we're on a time limit. It's also been exciting to see God open up doors for ministry through the store. A certain lady comes in almost every day and while she claims christianity, it seems to be more of a "i'm not muslim so i'm christian" thing. I met her for the first time the other week and recently she told Marlin that there is something about our family that is just so peaceful. She thanked him for our family taking time to talk with her and including her. We were amazed because our family feels anything but peaceful most of the time! But we pray it's Jesus she is seeing. I really enjoy helping out at the store when possible. There is a mennonite owned bakery, deli, and bulk food store in the same building with doors that open into ours, making our store smell amazing with the scent of freshly baked breads and pies wafting through. It's fun learning to know the neighbors and we have people that come back on a regular basis to check out new merchandise. There's also stressful moments when we wonder why in the world we thought this whole store idea was a good thing but overall, it's been good. To keep things exciting Marlin sliced the tip of his finger totally off this past saturday. He was cleaning up an ice shaver and next thing he knew he had shaved his finger. He sent me the pic of his fingertip and at first i thought it was a joke but when he sent a pic of the bloody bandages, i knew it was for real. I of course wanted to take him into the ER but he insisted they would simply bandage him up and charge him a fortune so he's been taking care of himself. He puts Dr. Christopher bone and tissue salve on it along with antibiotic cream and it's been doing well. At least that's what he tells me since i haven't looked.

Setting up shelves in our store

Emily painting like a pro
  The last three months have also involved homeschooling and i might as well be honest and admit that it has been a tough readjustment in that area. Homeschooling is something we feel called to do, but i came close to seeing if our church school had openings. Then i remembered that God doesn't call us to things that are easy, but He does call us to trust Him for strength. He's not asking me to have it all figured out (i don't) or to so much as crack open a book without His help. So why do i think i'm tough woman and can do it by myself? We have finally found a rhythm of sorts and it's been a blessing to see the children pulling their share and growing in areas where they have struggled. Emily especially has relaxed without the pressure of trying to keep up and strangely enough, things are all of a sudden making sense to her. She's very self motivated and plans to graduate in the next couple of years. She has the will power and determination to do it. Zachary was very unhappy that we chose to keep him in CLE language but after some heart to heart talks (some threats may or may not have happened) he is doing much better and his grades are coming up. I sat down with him and went over lessons and explained, explained, explained. It looked so overwhelming that he had just given up and was winging it, which never works. Especially in language. Joshua is an easy learner and needs very little help which is a blessing because...........i have the twins. HELP!!! They are almost 8 and struggle to remember what their numbers or letters look like. Meanwhile, Jacob is slowly but surely passing them up. I have done research on dyslexia and suspect the twins have it. They are also immature so how much that plays into it i just don't know. I'm using a curriculum that specializes in dyslexia (http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/) and so far so good. I'm also praying about finding a tutor for them if need be. Research has proven that the homeschool setting or personal tutoring is ideal for dyslexic students since they simply can't keep up in a traditional school setting but i feel quite inadequate. I want to do what's best for them so i'm continually praying for wisdom and direction.

School with my crazy crew

Reading time on mama's bed....one of their favorite times and places. :-) 

Making their letters in salt. We tried shaving cream one day for something different and none of us were real impressed, esp not Eric since we used up the last of his bottle. 

  We are really enjoying this part of Virginia. Farmville, the closest town to us and where our store is located, is beautiful with gorgeous, massive, antique brick buildings that are now retail stores. Lanterns line the streets and there are neat little stores for shopping. The weather has been quite warm for winter but we're not complaining. At least the adults aren't. The kids are hoping desperately for snow but while i enjoy winter, i no longer have a 4 wheel drive van and don't relish the thought of driving on snowy roads. 

What happens when you can't get along with a sibling? Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Simply adorable!
     I think overall our adjustment is going well. When people ask me if i miss Kenya, i tell them sometimes that wish i could say i do. It would seem so much more spiritual. But in reality, i don't. I miss the missionaries we worked with and there's parts that i have a lot of nostalgia about, but Kenya itself i simply don't miss. I pray regularly that God will keep my heart open to whatever He wants for us whether that's Virginia or somewhere else, but for now i'm soaking up family and friends, along with building new friendships and relationships. God has been so very gracious to us.


31 October, 2015

Head Coverings

   I have loosely followed a certain blog for a while and today i was impressed to post a link to an article one of the young women posted. I think it's one of the clearest and well written explanations of the head covering i've ever read. And i think their head coverings are beautiful! I know Marlin prefers diversity in head coverings so i may need to experiment. :-)


09 October, 2015

It works!!

  A deep breath, a quiet prayer that my faith would not be shaken whatever the answer, and i turned the sweeper on. It purred to life and the sweeper is working like a dream. You have to understand that this sweeper wasn't just slightly wet. The nozzle had been used to empty a good portion of sink water. It poured water as it sat on the floor in a soggy stupor. It continued to leak water for a very long time. The padding around the motor was wet for days and no way to get to the motor except to send it into a dealer. Even as i vacuumed and held my breath, i heard a still, small voice deep in my inner being. "O ye of little faith."

                                                 THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!!!!!

30 September, 2015

Silver Linings

    So after i posted yesterday's ramblings, i did a lot of thinking. I'll confess, i put Strawberry Shortcake on for the super charged littles so i could think and process. First thing i decided i needed to bless the men in my family by taking them lunch at the store. I needed to do that for my own sake, not just theirs. I needed to do something for someone and since they're the ones i know best in the area, they were the happy recipients. :-) So while i fried hamburger and chopped salad (what DO you take for a man that can't have many carbs??) i did a lot of straight talking to myself.

  This season i'm in has it's challenges and they seem rather large. I might as well face it honestly. I'm a mother of nine, six of whom are in school. Make that seven. I also have an almost 4 year old and a 6 month old baby. I live in a double wide, albeit a big double wide but still, the noise is constant with no basement to chase them down too. Add in a whole week of rain and my nerves begin to fray. Too make things interesting my man is involved in starting up a returned merchandise store. It's exciting but stressful and in some ways i'm struggling to stay connected with him as i try and adjust to homeschooling again while wanting to be that perfect wife for him. I want to whine and complain about my needs instead of focusing on what his are.

  We are also trying to readjust to simply living in America again and all the guilt that so easily happens with the richness of the American lifestyle. I love living in America but my heart cries out that i don't want to become settled in it or hold it to closely. I want to keep myself open to living in the furthest corner of the world. But lets face it, there are things that happened in Kenya on so many levels that we need to work through. Disappointments, disillusionments, death, sadness mixed with precious new friendships, laughter, and the prayers pouring in from so many believers. I want to slap a Bible verse on everything, a super spiritual smile, and pretend i'm big enough to not need other people.

  Then there are small things that feel big. Such as a certain child taking our BRAND NEW, VERY EXPENSIVE vacuum sweeper that my husband bought for me to make my life easier, and using it to suck up water from the kitchen sink. It certainly sucked up the water, along with saturating the motor.  We can't afford another like that so either a miracle is needing to happen, or we will have to make do with a very cheap sweeper and a broom.

  So i thought and prayed.......I said to myself, "Darla, you have some choices to make or you sink into a hole that will be very hard to climb out of. First of all, no self pity. At all. And yet, no self condemnation. Jesus didn't die for me to sit here feeling sad for myself, but neither did He die for me to heap false guilt on myself. Reality is, it's a challenging time. Be honest about it. On the other hand, neither will i survive this season with joy if i don't get serious about seeking God during it. And that doesn't mean i will be flooded with feelings of light heartedness and laughter. Some days i will cry and that's ok. But then turn my face towards Jesus and make that CHOICE to trust Him."

  I took my iPad to Marlin so he could fix the time so i can set my alarm and have it go off at the right time. I also took a good hard look at what i can change about my life and what i can't. The things i can change, (getting up earlier to spend time with Jesus, getting a school routine in place, learning to drive again with confidence etc) i will. The things i can't, i am choosing to lay down and trust. This is also not the time to make long term decisions on how many children we have, wouldn't you say?

  This morning was off to a great start but i've been tested already. Somehow the children haven't gotten into the same mind set and are still showing their Adamic natures, complete with whining and fighting. It's still raining, the skies are still gray. I'm still waiting on school books and still wondering how it's all going to fit. But there's a big difference. I've met with God and I've asked Him to help me. I've also asked Him to fix the vacuum sweeper. I'm hoping He'll say yes, but if He doesn't, I'm going to thank Him anyway.

29 September, 2015

Seasons of Gray

   I wake up feeling depressed that i have overslept. Again. The gray skies outside match my spirits and i wonder why i feel as tired now as i felt when i went to bed. Christopher is getting up way to many times a night and i know i need to train him out of it but, like everything else right now, it looks overwhelming. I get myself dressed, and stumble out to the kitchen only to discover that not only have i overslept, but my crew is headed out the door to work at the store and i'm too late to make them a hot breakfast. Or a cold one for that matter. Marlin's quiet while he gets his things together, his own body tired from fighting a serious chest cold and no doubt, a bit depressed at a wife that can't even manage to get out of bed in time to feed her family. In my defense, i did set my alarm on my iPad last evening, only to have it go off before i even fell asleep. It is still set at Kenyan time and i don't know how to change it and i was too tired to do the math to figure it out.

  I check my emails and click on the daily devotional that gets sent straight to my account every day. Often it's full of encouragement but this morning it admonishes me to consider the fact that every person that ever amounted to anything in the kingdom of God spent hours, nay, even weeks on his knees. It's been days since i've spent any time worth counting in prayers and supplications on my knees. I've been praying on the run and it's clearly not working.

  Even Christopher, who always wakes with a large sloppy grin, is full of tears and meanwhile, the younger crew charges around the house full of unharnessed energy. I'm still waiting on school books which brings its own set of worries. How will i manage 6 children in school? With two little ones chugging on behind and a kindergartner that is perfectly capable of passing up the two ahead of him? I'm not questioning that we are meant to homeschool, but i am questioning how it will all be done and i know in my inner of hearts that i'm not the only person questioning that. But i know the answer to that one and it's the same answer God has always given. Take that leap of faith and He always, always supplies.

  Except my faith is hitting empty and all i want to do is hide out in a coffee shop, dropping tears into a latte, laden with sugar and caffeine and topped with mounds of whipped cream. I want to take that latte and head over to the library and lose myself in books or stare dreamily out the window. Even better would be for Marlin to go with me to that cafe and have him hold my hand while he listens sympathetically to all my woes and worries. Never mind that he has his own set of woes and worries.

   I think of all the pain and hurt happening the world over and wonder how it can get much worse before Jesus says enough. The gray skies get even grayer as i think of families running for their lives from ISIS, and i heap a bit more of self condemnation on myself at how i even dare feel depressed and overwhelmed. Self condemnation always helps, right?

 I want to end this post in an upbeat kind of way with some well placed advice to myself, and to help prop up any remaining shards of pedestal i've been put on. But no, some seasons are like this, hard and full of self doubt and weepy skies. Or maybe it's self pity? So i will do what i know i need to do. I will click out of the computer and i will choose to serve my family, without the sugary latte and dreamy library. I will serve them in faith that this too shall pass and that God is good and He's big.

  Because faith is most often a choice, is it not?


p.s. Did i just end this post with some well placed advice to myself? If so, i'll take it because i'm desperate.


25 September, 2015


  It has been almost exactly a month since we boarded that plane bound for "home." It's been quite the month.

  Our flights and layover was amazing and the children? It could only have been an answer to many prayers because i don't think it could've gone any better. And the Burger King at Qatar airport tastes next thing to unbelievable.

  Truly, the last month has been a bit of a blur with family gatherings, late night talks with dear friends, and countless cups of coffee brewed and sipped. So, so many people went out of their way to bless us and their is NO way that we can ever repay them. So thank you. Thank you to all who prayed for us and put up with our crazy jet lagged selves. Thank you to all who made it possible for us to start over again.

  We have been in Virginia for a week and it's starting to feel like home. For days i've breathed thank you prayers to God for allowing me to enjoy the beauty and order of America. My order loving soul has soaked in the quiet country roads and stately farm houses. Kenya has it's pockets of beauty but i never realized how sentimental i was until i moved there and longed for the kind of country i grew up with. We live along a winding road, with woods on one side and pasture on the other and almost every evening i hop on a bike or take a walk with several of the children. And it was very strange to me the first week at how there were no people along the roads. The roadsides were empty and i wondered if everyone was on holiday, only to remember that everyone is to busy working to lounge along the road, shouting at white people.

  I still find myself flinching when we're driving and someone passes us or needs to turn. Too many memories of almost head on's and crazy drivers.

  I can tell i haven't processed our time in Kenya or our return. There are a lot of thoughts and emotions tucked away for when the time is right. Right now i'm focused on settling in and getting enough sleep. There have been moments of sadness and discouragement but mostly, moments of joy at being allowed to experience this amazing country again, to wave at new neighbors, and to shake the hands of future friends.

  God is so unbelievably gracious and our hearts are grateful.