Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's a new year...

It's a new year...

New years resolutions, new goals, new desires, new books...

I love the reset of January 1st, looking back and learning from the previous year, yet looking forward to the upcoming one with renewed hope.  New years resolutions can get a bad reputation and honestly this year, I've wondered what's the point?  Every year I try to get to bed earlier and it never seems to happen.  Every year I try to do this and that, and it may get done until about half way through the year, if that.  

Over the past couple weeks, I've taken some time to assess my life using this printable as a guide and really seeking what the Lord would have of me this year.  I really enjoyed looking back at my favorite moments of 2015 (lot's of travel and change!) and yet was challenged by the things lacking in my life - better health and exercise! 

Some of the areas I desire to improve upon are:

 - prayer - My prayer life has been lacking for some time now.  A friend gave me a great spiral journal for my birthday and I've loved filling the front of it with prayer requests, verses on prayer, and literal prayers as I feel the need to write them out.  

- health & exercise - With traveling to two continents last year and moving houses, exercise & eating naturally were put on the back burner.  So this year, they've got to become more of a priority. Specific desires include less carbs & sugar, run two races, and more green smoothies.

 - books - I love to read!!  Yet why do I struggle to finish books? Part of the issue could be due to the fact that we read throughout the day as a homeschool family, but I think one of the biggest culprits is my phone that travels with me everywhere.  It is huge temptation for me to quickly check Instagram, spend who knows how long scrolling through Facebook, read that email really quick, and just browse Pinterest because I'm bored.  I've felt more and more convicted about this.  No concrete ways to remedy this issue yet, but where there's a will there's a way.  

Here is a Reading Challenge put out by Anne Bogel with Modern Mrs. Darcy that I hope to follow and use for accountability.

For those of you with kids, Sarah Mackenzie at Amongst Lovely Things and the Read Aloud Revival podcast has really inspired me and my girls to read aloud more during the month of January.  Just 15 minutes a day!

New books from Amazon always give me a thrill and I'm looking forward to getting to these titles over the next couple of months. 

- Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
- You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan
- The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner 
- Finish The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
- Currently loving Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman

Lastly, I'll leave you with the words of one of my new favorite songs, This Year by JJ Heller

This year I'm not looking back to who I was
Because I'm going to be someone I've never been
This year I'm not focused on the cracks in the walls
Not keeping tract of all the times I fall
This year
So long to last year
It's all becoming so clear
There's no use living in regret
Let's fight a good fight
Train our eyes to see the light
And make this year the best one yet
Starting right here, Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Life after Africa...

It's been exactly a month since my trip to Ghana.  Leaving my family, whether it's just for the weekend in the mountains or across the Atlantic to Africa, is hard!  The older the girls get, the more I miss them, and not having my best friend by my side when I travel is just not as fun.  But this last trip was one without a single regret, with peace through it's entirety, and a week I'll never forget.

Walking off the plane in Ghana felt as though I was walking into a sauna.  Immediately, the differences in culture became obvious as I stood in line waiting for customs.  Nervous feelings arose as I prayed that my luggage would arrive safely and that someone would be there to greet me outside the airport as I knew my sister had just had her baby while I was traveling.  But my worries quickly faded as two blond boys, their daddy, and my sweet mama stood out among the crowd waiting to take me to the hospital.

What a blessing it was to see Joy and my brand new nephew, Enoch Graham within hours of his birth!  To see the happiness in the big brothers faces as they too met their littlest brother for the first time! My admiration and respect for my sister only sky rocketed as I took in the conditions of the hospital (which was one of the best in the area).  

My main purpose in visiting Joy & her family was to spend some quality time with them, meet my new nephew, and to help entertain Joy's oldest two.  What fun they were!  I was nervous before going, wondering what to do with boys, as girls are what I'm familiar with. But they were such a blessing to play with!  Blankets, super heroes, forts with couch pillows, chalk drawing, and "football" outside were just a few of our daily activities.  

Eating coconut, fresh from a local seller

Spending a week with these little guys did amazing things on my heart.  Quality time with Titus at 4:30 am some mornings made me want to kiss those cheeks all the more.  Listening to Ezra's stories of super heroes, defeating the bad guys, and protecting his mama made me a proud aunt.  Sharing one of my favorite picture books, Roxaboxen and watching the movie, Home, with him multiple times will always bring a smile when I see them again.

The smell of a new baby.  There are no words to describe it.  Tears fill my eyes as I gratefully praise our Lord for allowing me the privilege of holding my newest nephew.  God's timing still amazes me!  My plans are certainly not His plans, but how much better His are!

Having my mama in Ghana was a God-send as well.  Anyone that knows her realizes how incredible she is.  To travel around the world to witness the birth of her 8th grandchild (as she hasn't missed a birth yet!), she is quick to step into any role (cook, dishwasher, laundry lady, story-teller, playmate, and so much more). 

One of the trash trucks

A man carrying three bundles of water sachets

Ghana is like no country I've ever visited before.  The poverty, the dirt, the heat...  Pictures and even videos can't even begin to cast a glimpse of life in Ghana.  Even my stay there couldn't accurately show me the day to day life my sister and her husband have been living for the last year.  While staying at the guest house, I had the luxury of warm showers (even though sometimes I chose the cold water), a washing machine and dryer, constant electricity when every other street around that block has scheduled power outages, and not a single mosquito bite!  Everything we did was an "experience."  Riding in a car or taxi was an experience.  Ryan has adapted so well to the traffic there.  He does such a great job maneuvering through all the cars and people! Shopping is an experience.  Bartering in the market was quite thrilling (and sweaty!)  Even attending church was an experience.  Hearing the sermon in two languages, both of which were difficult to understand, and the length of the service made that Sunday one that I'd never forget.  

The yard outside the guest house

Typical housing

Pounding out fufu

You buy just about anything on the streets.

As I mentioned earlier, life as a missionary in Ghana cannot be fully comprehended unless you observe it first hand.  Washing dishes must be done with boiling water, first in the wash bucket then in the rinse.  None of this "quick rinse" under the faucet due to the lack of sanitation.  Same goes for brushing teeth.  Water sachets are always beside the bathroom sinks.  Even buying local eggs involve a process before eating.  Because the eggs are most likely carrying bacteria, they must be dry scrubbed before rinsing under water as egg shells are porous and will absorb the bacteria with water if it's not removed first.  Things we never even think of here.

Dry season arrived while I was there, which was a blessing concerning the lack of mosquitoes, but it also brought with it a haze across the sky due to the sand coming off of the Sahara Desert, and constant dust that covered furniture in the house.  These are only a few of the day to day tasks that are so very different from what we experience in the states.

The time I had with Joy will never be forgotten, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  She truly lives out her name (even when life seems unbearable).  Daily, the Lord showed me ways to pray more specifically for Joy and her family.  Life as a missionary is hard. You can't soften it or really describe it.  It's just hard, yet God is still good.  When He calls, He will equip, even if it only seems on a moment by moment basis.  God taught me more than I thought possible through this trip.  He opened my eyes to my own selfishness, to my complaining heart, to my petty desires, and my need for pure contentment in Him.  

P.S. These three girls were amazing while I was away!  
So thankful for Facetime!