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.

15 August, 2015

Catholic Jewess

  In Africa there are many Catholics and therefore, many Catholic nuns. The nuns wear head veilings and modest, solid colored dresses, similar to what we wear. You can imagine what happens. I have been called "sister" from the time we set foot in Africa. I've even had a drunk man try to argue with me that i can't be married because i'm a Catholic sister, thanks to my white veil. I've been told by a friendly Kenyan woman that she thought maybe i was a naughty nun when she saw a pregnant, white veiled "sister." Never mind if i'm with Marlin and never mind that i may be pregnant or be surrounded with children. In their minds, a white veil and solid colored dress labels me Catholic and since i'm usually either pregnant or carrying a child, i must have purity issues. I've considered wearing a large t shirt that says i'm not Catholic and sometimes i try to get friendly with Marlin when we're out and about and i get called sister, or see people watching me with puzzled looks. But Father Marlin doesn't take kindly to Catholic sisters getting all romantic in the pampers aisle so i mostly keep my hands to myself, grit my teeth, and look forward to the day when i'm not only set apart from the world but also from the Catholic nuns. But i've never been called Jewish in Africa until this week.

  Marlin, Christopher, and i took a plane to Uganda this week to visit our friends Charlton and Natasha Sweazy. Of course i was called "sister" when i set foot on Ugandan soil but nevertheless, thanks to Christopher, we were took to the front of the line in the airports. Even naughty nuns are shown respect. So one evening Charltons took us out to supper at this amazing mall and in this amazing mall, there was an amazing gelato (italian ice cream) stand and of course, this called for denying ourselves in an amazing way and slurping down gelato's. I informed the pleasant lady behind the glass that i would like to sample the rum raisin gelato. She looked at me in shock and said, "there's rum in it." Clearly, she didn't think otherworldly creatures like nuns should be indulging in rum raisin gelato. At that point i informed her that I AM NOT A CATHOLIC AND I AM NOT A SISTER. The Ugandan woman standing beside me looked at me and asked, "so what are you? Jewish?" Frankly i would far rather be considered Jewish than Catholic, since Jewish women are allowed connubial relationships with their husbands. A fornicating Catholic goes against everything i stand for. But of course, i said no, i'm not Jewish. I told her that i'm a christian who loves Jesus. Her response took my by surprise. Her eyes got huge and she said quite emphatically, "NO!!" I told her that oh yes, it's true. I then turned and fumed my way back to my husband in the restaurant and promptly ordered rum raisin gelato. In spite of my Catholic attire, it was every bit as delicious as i imagined.

08 August, 2015

Hi from the Weavers

  Our crazy, loud, opinionated family. I adore them all. So, so proud of my row of handsome young men and beautiful daughter. Ignore Christopher's pained, angry look as he has one purpose in life and that purpose was safely tucked away, giving him an attitude. And i personally believe Marlin gets handsomer every year. LOVE the gray streaking his hair, giving him an air of distinction. Ah yes, i am blessed among women. 

  I also love the green door behind us. 

  We are only days from, (Lord willing....always Lord willing) seeing family and friends again. The paper chain is slowly disappearing and we are cleaning out corners and excitedly talking about who we're going to see and what we're going to eat. Why does it always come back to food with us? We love Jesus.........and good food. We may need help. Preferably with a side of good coffee and dessert. Marlin will take bacon with his. Or sushi.

  We have begun the firsts of "this is the last time we will be doing this..." and sometimes that hurts. I keep telling the children to soak up life here and not focus to much on the future, because never again will they be this age and live in Kenya. They of course take this advice to heart.......NOT. Someday they will know why i say this. Meanwhile i will continue to say it even while i keep the butterflies in my stomach at a low roar. I am also excited. 

  We will have a 6 hour flight from Nairobi to Qatar and then a 15 hour flight to Philadelphia. Fifteen hours, people. That's enough to start many gray streaks in my hair. Since i don't sleep on airline flights, can you imagine the state of my emotions when we land? Calm and collected, only because i will be in zombie mode. So i'm praying for a miracle. A miracle of sleep for all those handsome boys, for myself, and especially handsome baby, along with a gracious stewardess who will allow me to lay said baby on cozy floor bed. Will you pray with me? In the scope of things, it's a small thing to pray for, perhaps even selfish. So pray as you feel led. 

  And now, duty and dirty bathrooms call. So until next time..........


03 August, 2015

Of Death.....and Wildflowers

    Saturday we went to our language teacher's wife's funeral. She was only 48 years old and she lay in her elaborate casket, her face sprinkled with gold glitter. She had been a sweet, quiet woman that always blessed my heart every time i was around her. Which wasn't often, but often enough to make an impression on me. She and her husband had lost several children in excruciating ways and i couldn't help but rejoice for her that she is now free. I think part of her heart was in heaven for a very long time.

   As is part of mine.

   Friday we made our farewell visit to Hadassah's grave. I struggled over going. I was afraid of the pain and seriously considered not going, since we all know that she's not really there but somehow i thought we needed to go for closure. Especially Emily and i. So after visiting our friends who live near there, we trekked over to the church where she's buried. I had debated over buying roses to put on her grave but left it go and after being there, i knew why. The little ones started gathering wild flowers and laying them on the cross that the boys had made for her. The cross was lying down when we got there, so we set it back up and i watched the little's joy as they ran around, shouting with great delight as they gathered bunches of frail, windblown flowers. It was then that i realized that wildflowers fit Hadassah so much better than cultured roses. She was our little wildflower, too delicate and frail to stay with us, badly as we wanted her.

  So how do i feel about leaving her grave behind? For the most part i'm ok with it. I think sometimes we may focus to much on the grave of a loved one and it can actually keep us from releasing and healing. On the other hand, the closer we come to leaving, the more i think of her. I find myself wondering what she would be like if she had lived. So i have a lot of mixed emotions but then Kenya itself holds a lot of mixed up feelings for me. A lot of tears and joy, threaded with a frail pink that's Hadassah.

17 July, 2015

True Missionaries

  I laid my head on the desk, overwhelmed with a something i couldn't describe. It would hit me at odd times, flooding my soul. I had surrendered my heart to Jesus at 25 years old. Totally and completely i had given Him my heart, and somehow i knew these feelings of wanting to serve Him in a deeper way were Him calling. My mother had just died, releasing us from the responsibility of taking care of her, and i was happy and fulfilled with being a homeschooling mama and wife to Marlin. Things were going very well financially and there was light at the end of the tunnel but there was a nagging something tugging at both of us. Was this really how we wanted to spend our days? Working hard to make farm payments, always thinking of the next bill, the next payment? It was then that we got a phone call, asking us to consider moving to Kenya and we both knew we would go. So we said yes, and sold our farm. We sold our beds and our dishes, our tools and our sheet sets. Finally we would fulfill our longing to serve Jesus in an even deeper way. We would minister to the poor, the orphans, the widows. We set our faces towards Africa with a resolve to spend the rest of our days there if that was where God was calling. But alas, life goes rarely as planned or dreamed.

  The first inkling of trouble set in while en route to Nairobi. I didn't expect to be homesick so soon and i was troubled when i sat beside a Kenya family and instead of feeling a rush of love towards my future fellow countrymen, i just felt tired. I had good reason to be tired. 5 months pregnant and no sleep does that to a person but i knew it was something deeper in my heart. By the time we arrived in Kisumu not only was i tired, but i had the flu, complete with nerve shattering head aches. My first week was a blur of black faces and smiling missionaries. I cried when our children went to school, standing outside the school window hanging out clothes, tears dripping down my cheeks. I missed them desperately, even tho they were just feet away from me. I kept telling Jesus i was doing this for Him but it hurt. He felt so very, very far away. As if i had left Him behind in that London terminal.

  Days turned into weeks and life became a semblance of normality. The first time the corruption in the Agape program was uncovered, the whole mission reeled from shock. It was only the beginning and like a stack of dominoes, one pastor after another was discovered to have been unfaithful. Marlin would come in from a day of doing investigations, his face exhausted and his eyes hurt. Meanwhile my dreams of reaching out to the Kenyan women, building relationships and pointing people to the One who had so completed my life, slowly unraveled. I was so tired and sick, day after day, week after week. When Hadassah died, we wrestled with our grief but the world keeps going around and so we slowly picked up the pieces of our dreams and focused on life. It was shortly after Hadassah's death that i sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that He had not brought us to serve in the way we thought, but He had another plan. I was confused. Why bring us to Africa? I felt intense guilt at living in comfort behind gated walls when my African sisters lived in mud huts, some with husbands who beat them. My husband loves me. I am his first priority, not because i insist, but because he takes it seriously when Christ said to love as He loves His church. He has my heart, and he holds it in all its vulnerability as a precious thing. I loved my Kenyan sisters but i longed for more of a relationship with them. I became pregnant with Christopher and my days became even more tied to my house.

  The thing that frustrated me sometimes was something i hadn't planned on. I had planned on being the best missionary ever and it seemed all i was doing was cooking food for people. American people. Wave after wave of guests passed through our home. We were incredibly honored and delighted when friends and family flew across the world to visit us. It was a glorious taste of home and when they left i would fight tears, along with the desire to climb into the plane with them. Mission teams came over....board members.....fellow missionaries.....i would fry hamburger, toast bread, wash sheets, babysit children and about the time i caught my breath, another wave would show up. I felt completely useless as a missionary, forgetting what a missionary really is. There were mornings i would swing my legs over the side of the bed, and remind myself to just do the next thing. I would wonder when my real mission work would begin, altho i loved fellowshipping with old friends and new friends. Marlin and i are both social people and we totally enjoy meeting new people and through it all, we made lifetime friends. But sometimes i got tired of cooking, cleaning, smiling and organizing. I grieved my dreams of what i thot a missionary would be. And then one day my eyes were opened.

  I was rocking Christopher, while babysitting 3 extra children for a week, when i heard that quiet, still voice. In the midst of the chaos of 12 children and dirty windows, He spoke to my heart that this was His calling all along. He had brought me to serve others so they could also fulfill what He had called them too. He showed me that He had called me to be that smiling welcome, to make our home a safe place for people of all ages. Those cakes i baked and the chickens i served were served for Him and in His name. I realized with a shock of joy that i was being a missionary all along. The mundane duties of cooking and cleaning took on a whole new level of honor. I'm sorry it took me so long to realize this. Some lessons aren't learned in a short time but are experienced through tears and self denial.

  Exactly 2 years to the day that we boarded a plane for Nairobi, we will board a plane for America. We will still be missionaries because true missionaries have nothing to do with location. True missionaries are people who serve Jesus with complete abandon, even if it means cooking yet another meal for His sake.