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.

15 June, 2015

Elephant Orphanage

  Last week we headed to Nairobi to take Marlin's mother to the airport because she was flying back to the states after being with us 3 months. We arrived in Nairobi on a Saturday and since she wasn't flying out until Monday at 5:30, we decided to visit the elephant orphanage Monday morning and watch the caretakers feed the baby elephants. It was a neat way to end our time with grandma. After all, who doesn't love babies of all sizes and shapes.
Nothing like a drink and a loving hug around the neck at the same time.

These are the little ones. Well, unless you compared them to the babies on the other side of the rope. 

Not every child can claim the distinction of petting an elephant.

He's liking it so very much.

A little love.

Grandma Weaver is one of those grandma's who likes a little adventure in her life. Petting a behemoth? Sure, no problem.

The adorable sleeping quarters for the babies. And for only $50 a year you can "adopt" a baby elephant and have the rare privilege of watching it go nighty-night.

Marlin and i saw these cute mammals and decided to adopt them instead. Putting them to bed is as exhausting as putting baby elephants to bed but far more worthwhile. Baby Christopher was asleep in my sling and being that he was sick, i hated to disturb him. There was a young Brazilian woman who was amazed at our crew and kept saying in amazement how perfect and handsome they are. I couldn't agree more. :)
  Marlin and i have mixed feelings about the elephant orphanage. While we agree that its heartbreaking to have orphan animals, it seems kind of ludicrous to spend millions on animals without souls when there are thousands of hurting children a few miles from the orphanage in one of the biggest slums in the world. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2297265.stm) Even tho i'm not an animal lover as in wanting them to hang around my feet, I hate to see hurting animals and few things make me as angry as a defenseless animal being cruelly mistreated, however, in comparison to children........

  Tonight we sat around the campfire as a family and the conversation turned towards Hades/Paradise and what that is or means and how we can know that we are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Good, heart searching conversations, especially in light of moving back to the States in just 2 1/2 months, Lord willing. Here, poverty and the fine edge between life and death are always present. You leave our compound and it smacks you in the face. Last week we made a wrong turn in Nairobi and ended up in the outskirts of the very slums i mentioned in the previous paragraph. Last week, at a police check, Marlin got locked into a tiny room and then was asked for a bribe. Those kinds of experiences force our children to ask a lot of hard questions. They recognize that their growing up years are in the minority in this world. The safety and love of a two parent home, a warm bed, plenty of nourishing food, and christian friends is something that is hard to take for granted when you see the opposite all around us. They've seen the glue boys, sniffing their bottles for a bit of relief and the drunk, homeless men sleeping in the middle of a grassy patch between two highways. In the city slums, the consequences of not serving Jesus are very clear and horrific. Sin and despair are obvious companions on the streets. 

  So what will happen when we go back to comfortable, middle class America? Our heart is to continue to serve "the least of these" in whatever capacity God calls us. Our mission experience here has been quite the ride and there are parts we weren't prepared for, but one of the main reasons we came has been fulfilled, and that was so our children could see that the world is so much bigger than America. Very few people have had the privileges we have and we pray we won't forget that. God is going to hold us so very, very responsible not, as Marlin says, for what we have given but for what we have kept back. We're excited about going home and wrapping our arms around family and friends. We're excited to move to Virginia and worship Christ with new friends, and to sleep in a house without bars across the windows, but at the end of the day, we want to want Jesus more than anything. 

  Pray for us. It seem the spiritual warfare has intensified in the last several weeks as we start turning our faces towards "home." I'm fighting a lot of fear and at times it's overwhelming. Jesus is calling me to start getting up quite a bit earlier than i normally do. He's wooing me, wanting to have me soak in His presence, and my heart is hungry for that. Not out of law or fear, but out of relationship. To think He loves me and wants to fellowship with me is more than i can fathom, but getting up early is hard so if you think about it, ask God to give me the strength to deny that extra hour of sleep. 

  I'll leave you with a verse that has spoken to my heart.  

John 14:27 - Peace i leave with you. My peace i give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 


13 June, 2015

A Small Word of Advice from Christopher

  Christopher has a few things he'd like to share with fellow baby boy humans. Christopher? Take it away.

   "Hi guys, this is Christopher from Africa. I'm three months old (and counting) and i have a few tips that i thought might be a help to those of you who are also babies and fellow nursers of mamas.

  First of all, it helps to be cute. Really cute. Like me. But of course, doesn't every mama think there baby is the cutest one on the block? Let's not enlighten them. Believing you are the most adorable thing that ever existed will help your cause. My mama tells me this all the time.

  So you get yanked out of the womb into this cold, miserable world which is quite stressful but there are compensations. Mainly warm milk and cozy mother skin. When you first tasted that milk you figured everything will be just ok, and then they have the audacity to stick something called a pacifier into your mouth. Even tho it's miserable comfort compared to the real thing, go with it. You can retrain them later. Here's how you do it.

  Wait until you get sick. You'll hear your parents discussing how a schedule is not the thing to have when you're sick and you'll cough and hack in agreement. Start nursing as often as possible, even at night because there's nothing quite as pitiful as a baby with droopy eyes and a hot forehead. At this point you'll have them eating out of your hand, figuratively speaking. This is when you refuse the pacifier. Absolutely act as if you have no idea what it is. Spit it out, blow bubbles around it, and cry really hard until you get what you want. Which is nursing. (duh!) When you start hearing threatening things like schedules and retraining, it's time to crank up the cute factor.

  When you start nursing, act really, really hungry. Makes mama feel needed and important. After nursing for like 30 seconds, stop and stare at her. Make your eyes really big and just stare. She'll look down and go, "wow, you're really cute." Go back to eating and then do it again. After a while she might get annoyed because you're staring instead of eating so she'll start talking about bottles. At that point, up the cute factor. When she looks down to see you staring at her, give her a big smile. Make it a big one. She will oooh and aahh and forget about bottles and only remember what a privilege it is to nourish you. However, even a smile and stare isn't enough if you do it too often. Time to pull out the big guns. Stop nursing, start staring (making your eyes as big as possible), and when she looks down, give her a big smile and TALK to her. Go "agoo" or whatever makes her heart pitter patter, and your future is sealed. She will tell you that you are beautiful and forgiven of all your baby sins. Even the sin of refusing the pacifier, which i personally have been boycotting. I hate that thing and have a personal belief, bordering on a conviction, that those things are not from a beautiful place but are something dark and sinister.

  So for all babies out there, nurse in peace."

 This is Christopher's mama and what can i say. He has spoken truth.


03 June, 2015

Happy Birthday, Young Lady!

  I can no longer call her my little girl. She is a young lady, with sparkling brown eyes and a sensitive spirit. Her laugh is contagious, her sense of humor well developed, (well really, does she have an option?) and she's at an age where i can meet her eyes across a room and share a private joke. The kinds of jokes that only friends can understand.

  She's beautiful and i'm prejudiced. I'm ok with that.

 I love her. Seriously love her.

 And she's fourteen today.

Happy Birthday, sweet Emily!