Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas in the Mess

You know, I think sometimes we’ve got Christmas all wrong. Christmas today is all about perfection—food perfectly cooked that looks like something out of a Southern Living, a house perfectly decorated like something out of Martha Stewart, and thoughtful presents expertly wrapped under a perfectly decorated Christmas tree. There is the way we’re all supposed to feel as well—happy, carefree, laughing like in all the pictures and commercials, and of course everyone always makes it home for Christmas.

As enchanting as this fable is, I’ve never experienced a Christmas like that. My Christmases always seem to involve way to many last minute shopping runs or minor (and major!) kitchen disasters. My tree is lovingly but eclectically decorated, and I’m not sure but that the cat plays with the ornaments when I’m not looking. My presents are wrapped, but you can totally see that place where I miscalculated how big a piece of paper to cut, so there is a patch under the back seam. My food usually tastes the way it’s supposed to, but usually there are some ‘wugglies’ that I have no choice but to serve. I have been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my Christmases with my family, but this year I’m very much apart from the people I love.

That first Christmas was not the clean, neat, glowing picture we like to print on Christmas cards either. It was pretty messy in every possible way. Mary was far from home when her time came to deliver the baby that had ruined her reputation. Despite all the pictures, stables are not generally well lit or automatically full of clean hay in comfortable piles. Tax day is usually one of the worst days of the year, and to complicate matters further, Joseph had to take a road trip for the privilege of paying for the luxuries and excesses of the cruel invaders of his country. I wonder if when Mary later told Jesus the story of his birthday, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry first. Laughter because seriously, you can’t make this stuff up (a stable?), and tears because it truly was all so hard.

Yet in the midst of the very human mess, there was beauty. The baby was born safely, and we can assume that there was enough money to pay the taxes. Stinky shepherd showed up with a story of angelic majesty spread across the skies, and Mary and Joseph received confirmation that no, they weren’t crazy, but this really was Emmanuel in their arms. After hundreds of years of silence, the presence of the Lord was back with His people.

Only this time, it wasn’t hidden behind a thick curtain in the temple that only one man once a year could pass. It wasn’t a pillar of fire or smoke, and it wasn’t an angel. It was God, Himself, in the form of His creation. Jesus, very God, experiencing air on His skin, hiccups, pain, and laughter. God with us—Emmanuel. Jesus living the human experience so He could provide perfect comfort for us as we sorrow, hurt, and heal. Jesus showing us the way God intended us to live so that we could know His joy despite the brokenness of our world.

Christmas is about presence in the mess, rescue from the bondage, and love for the broken. Christmas is about a sinful world that deserved nothing better than abandonment or destruction being given a chance for healing and being cherished. Christmas is about the mess that is all of our lives, and what the Lord does when we allow Him to be here with us in our broken nows. Christmas is the glory of the Lord coming to where we are today, and changing our lives—if we’ll let Him.

So, Merry Christmas in the mess. Because God is in the business of taking the humble, the lowly, and the broken, and making something beautiful. Whatever your mess is this year, may God grant you peace and grace as you wait to see what He’s doing with it. Here’s to messy Christmases, and a God who came willingly to save His broken world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Weary Traveler returns!

I just got back from my trip to the Copper Belt; boy is it good to be back in the bush again! I didn’t take many pictures because I was so busy living, but here are a few of the highlights of the trip.

* I went to the dentist and found that instead of having a massive problem like I feared, I have a gum infection. Easily taken care of; less than $100 for a cleaning and the antibiotics. I love living in Zambia sometimes…

* I treated myself to a manicure and my first non-home haircut. I am very happy with both, and it was a nice way to pamper myself after a stressful term.

* I did a lot of shopping; I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to take a buying trip is, so I stocked up on staples like flour and sugar, as well as not available in the bush commodities like meat, cheese, and apples. I also bought new curtains for my living room, and found a few other nice household things.

* I enjoyed getting to eat out a bit and enjoy gelato every afternoon on my way home. $2 for two scoops? Lovely little splurge!

* I got to spend some time with my ‘Zambian family,’ the Fernandos and enjoy some amazing Sri Lankan cooking as well as lots of laughter and fellowship. I desperately needed some family time, and the Fernandos were a good substitute for my family. No, I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy enjoying my time with them!

* I ended up transporting 51 point of lay chickens as well as two bags of dried fish back up to the school with me, and picking up the school’s textbook order before heading up. Needless to say it was a smelly drive. I had to have all the windows cracked because the chickens generated so much heat, and so they could breathe. Feathers blew all over me and out the windows the whole way up, and if I never smell a chicken in that state again, it will be too soon!

*On my way back to Sakeji, after leaving the pavement in Mwinilunga, between the first and third river that you have to cross to get to the school I found myself facing a steep hill that had turned into a sea of mud after several cars had shredded it. I had to back down the mud hill to let a lorry down, and then I got stuck as I tried to climb it. I ended up being pushed up the hill by a crew of enthusiastic Zambians in exchange for a loaf of bread. I was nervous about what I would find on the last hill, but that one was still fine. Praise the Lord that it was still light, and that there was enough manpower on hand to get me up! It is very good to be back home in the bush.

Parting shots: This poor robot (what they call traffic lights here) in Solwezi got nailed!

This is what the car looked like when I got back!

This is how narrow the road is in many places right after Solwezi; after that it disappears entirely for large stretches while you are sent on long detours full of speed bumps, mud, and dust. They aren’t fixing it fast enough; this is the main highway through the country!

Finally, my new haircut right after it was done while my hair was still straight. The humidity took care of that in quick order!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

End of the 2015 School Year

I had every intention of updating the blog this weekend with some pictures and thoughts from the end of term, but then I came down with a cracking case of malaria, and quietly fell off the world for a few days. I’m crawling back on as we speak—I’m about to 70-75% or normal—and thought I’d go ahead and write about end of term this time, and the suffering of malaria another day. So, some thoughts and pictures about end of term!

* It’s always interesting to figure out how much you can say to a parent; usually if they agree with/affirm the very mild description of their child’s behavior, I feel like I can go into more detail. Trying to tell one anxious dad that there is nothing wrong with his daughter’s mind except she seldom engages it first and might be adequately described as an airhead? Interesting…

We put icicle lights on the hall!

For leavers party we made copies of part of the kids entrance interview, the dread 'draw a man.' They had to try and guess who's was who's; oddly enough, only one kid recognized hers! Watching them laugh as the answers were reviled was priceless!

* It's really easy to say goodbye to some kids, and very hard for others.

End of term shows give me gray hairs... Here are the kids mostly behaving for a moment while Jill talked to them.

Me with my handwork kids; we made beaded felt ornaments in addition to working on knitting this term.

This end of term program was one of the hardest I've ever done as I had a pinched nerve in my right shoulder, and a strained right hand and arm. Playing was physically uncomfortable to painful, and the music was particularly ill suited to that limitation on my part. I crashed through it by the grace of God, but it's not something I can recommend. I'm working on getting the pinched nerve cleared up now.

In general, it was a good close to the school year, but it also meant that Beth was leaving. Very bitter-sweet days for me, but God is good. Am I ready to do it all over again in a month? HA!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Exam Week

I’m going to make a shocking admission. Buckle up; honesty on its way!

Serving others can be very, very, very tiring.

It’s okay if you scratch me off your good missionary list; I think I took myself off that list about a week into this adventure. It’s okay if you think I’m selfish; I totally am. I’m a human being, right? Being a missionary doesn’t automatically make you some sort of ‘super Christian.’

Dealing with the collective selfishness of over 70 children at short range for 12 weeks and the selfishness of your co-workers who are flawed human beings just like you, is hard. Goodness, at this point in the term I find being stuck with me gets pretty hard to bear! I don’t know how others put up with me if I can barely stand myself…

The toll on my mind, my emotions, and this year in particular my body have been pretty high. The sleep deprivation, the stress, and the sinking feeling that no matter how fast you pour yourself out, you can’t meet the gaping need in front of you.

Need, need, need. Humans are so needy. I can’t even fathom how God beings to deal with a whole history of needy humankind. I guess I’ve learned to appreciate just a tiny bit more what it means when it says that God gives wisdom to all without reproach. Ouch. My wisdom is too often dished out with a rather large helping of reproach. I guess I’ve learned just a little bit more how unlovable I am, and how great God is to love me anyway, raging selfishness and all.

So, in these last few days of term (the kids go home on Thursday—GLORY HALLELUJAH), please pray for me. Pray that this empty vessel will somehow have just a little bit more oil to pour into the gapping maws of need all around her. Pray that my aching hand and arm will survive the practice I needs to put in for three days of intense piano playing. Pray that I will be able to find joy in the midst of oh so much tiredness. Pray that I will be able to draw deep of my inexhaustible Savior so that I can serve for these last four days.

Because this is all so totally worth it; if I’m going to drive myself to craziness, this is a pretty good place to do it. Right now it’s just hard.

“My [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness…”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Last week of 'normal' school

First, two of the very few pictures I took over half term:

Then, a picture of the after results of my hour of wall scrubbing during half-term:

I forgot to take a before picture, but in this next one where I finally have my pictures back on the wall, the damage to the left one should give you an idea of what most of that wall looked like--horrid brown stains all down it. I'm glad they came off, but it sure took a toll on my arms and hand! I'm so glad to have that cleared up, and to have my pictures back up.

The other big thing that happened over half-term was that I got my new-to-me+newest I've ever experience in my life fridge; having shelves inside is a huge plus!

Life is pretty hectic, and next week, exam week will be even more hectic. Prayers for physical, mental, and emotional strength are appreciated.

Parting shot:

This tree was struck by lightning this Thursday; notice how all the bark was blown off, and how split the trunk is. I was in upper school, but I could totally feel the 'zing' in the air as the bolt hit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Week 10

Very briefly--pictures to hopefully follow at the end of this week!

* We had half-term; it was a nice break before the final dash to the finish.

* I scrubbed a small section of wall for over an hour; it was totally worth it.

* I had another weekend on and survived...barely!

* The bulk of the grade 9 exams are now over--huzzah!

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Exams and prayer

Sorry for the missed week; last weekend was my busiest weekend on, and I was doing well to be ready for Monday morning much less get a blog entry off! I had both afternoon rivers which was sort of nice; outdoor knitting time! But it does take a big chunk of time. Some highlights from the last two weeks

* My class started studying history—we’re enjoying our exploration of the Middle Ages, and there is some castle building going on as well as some fact learning. I love this unit!

* It was officially revealed that we are going to be down a staff family next term; they are not sure whether they will be able to return before the start of second term or not. A second staff family is also going to be away for second term, so as of now it looks like there will be only two full time teachers on station at any one time for the first two terms of next year (one of them me). We have heard that David is willing to fill in during first term, and there are two potential short termers coming for part of second term, but we still have not hint of a grade one teacher, and it’s looking to be an incredibly lean year. I am just praying right now that the Lord will make His will, whatever it is very clear to us, and that He will give me the faith to rest in Him.

* This week our three grade 9 students had their first four national exams; the science, computers, and music practicals. We are not a registered test center, so it was and will be a big undertaking to transport them to Samahina for their exams. They will be writing for about the next week and a half; you can’t get this all over in one shot of course! Now that the practicals are over, the written exams should hopefully go a little more smoothly. We hosted the computer exam here on station; the exams started at 8am, and the last batch finished about 8pm.

* This Monday and Tuesday are our second half-term, so I’ll have more time to get caught up on marking and to work on practicing for the Christmas program. Never bored!

Parting Shot: Our two new water tanks were installed last week; the old one is about to go at any point. They are working on switching over to the new tanks, and then we are in busines!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Independence Day

Life has been busy and...a little complicated lately. I am so thankful that I had a weekend when I could be alone, get some sleep (sleep helps A LOT with perspective), and spend some time being quiet.

October 24th is Zambian Independence Day, and this year marks 51 years of freedom for Zambia. The future is a little clouded right now with the hard economic situation and the upcoming election, but we continue to pray for our country and to be thankful that the door of the gospel is still very much open. To celebrate this national holiday, we have a flag raising ceremony in the morning, then a swimming gala down at the pool, and finally a bonfire at night. I wasn't able to take any pictures of the swimming gala since I was busy getting excited children to their races on time, but here are a few pictures from the day and the bonfire which had to be held on Sunday night because of rain.

Parting Shot: Mango season is around the corner!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The First Half-term

Parting shot: Flamboyants are a very good reason to stick around Zambia through hot season...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

So, week 4, but it's part way into week 5...

This weekend on was a little...crazy. Last week was a bit crazy! Wednesday was Birthday Party; the theme was space. I went as the planet Uranus with a little extra sci-fi for anyone who cared to notice. Here I am sans my rings also known as a hula hoop

Since it's the end of dry season, the maintenance guys have been doing some work on the channel that feeds our pool and turbine. So, on Saturday the pool was empty, and the kids got to play in the river. I would have got some pictures, but I was busy getting splashed and making sure that the fun didn't get too out of hand.

This Friday and Saturday are half-term, so hopefully I'll be able to post a 'real' entry. Till then, I have math to mark! Thank goodness that we've left percents and are into geometry...

Parting shot: Look what came up in my garden!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 3--The Jacarandas are blooming!

Not much to report this week; there was a whole lot of life going on, but nothing particularly exciting. My 7th graders are tackling percentages, and we are reading The Bronze Bow in literature class. Friday afternoon we did some experiments with ramps and skates to explore incline planes, and the 8th and 9th graders had an intensive session on intervals in music class this week. Friday was the board meeting, and this weekend I'm off. I've been updating and uploading a few new things to my Teachers pay Teachers store, as well as the usual smattering of marking and relaxing.

There is still no word on new teachers for next year, and we will soon be starting our first interview week. Prayers for the right staff and for wisdom going forward are appreciated!

Parting shot: I love the jacaranda trees; the splash of purple is a real relief to the eye amidst the brown of dry season!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week the Second

Another school week down, ten more to go! I'm hoping that this week my students will be a bit more attentive and plugged in; hopefully the weekend off will do them some good. The big thing that happened this week was as a part of our study of energy which is moving into machines, my students got a tour of our generator house,

and the turbine which right now is only producing a small amount of 240 power for the school, but every little bit helps!

I was thrilled that it worked out for this 'field trip;' we've been trying to get the kids to be more energy and water conscious as we come to the end of the dry season, and it was great that they could see the different turning on just one set of lights made.

Speaking of the dry season, we've had rain on the last three days! I don't think they have come for good, but they made for a very welcome respite from the dryness of the last few months. Plus, when it rains the afternoons aren't quite so oppressively hot!

Parting Shot: For my mom, here is a picture of the old water wheel. There is rarely enough water for both the turbine and the water wheel, and since we now have a solar array which does the job of charging the 110 battery banks, the water wheel is enjoying a quiet retirement.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

They’re back!

Not a whole lot to report from our first week of school; it is only 4 days (counting the Saturday classes). All our students arrived back safely, though I had kids arriving all the way to Thursday morning (Tuesday evening is the target arrived-by time), I've pretty much managed to get everyone plugged in and sorted out. This saturday for handwork class we get back into what we were working on at the end of last term, and did our Kool-aid dying project. I couldn't take pictures during the actual activity; my hands were rather full! However, here is a picture of all the bags of Kool-aid and yarn sitting at the back of Upper School to get as much sun as possible to set the dye. That's why I do it in this term!

I will rinse them out and dry them for the girls, and at some point in the next few weeks I'll get the wound up on my ball winder. The girls love this activity, and though there are several cases of "Kool-aid hands" (mine being the worst!), there were no dying disasters.

One of my big projects this week other than getting my classroom ready for the term, was to order the supplies I'll need for the beginning of next year to go on the fall container. That meant a book order from Amazon for extras for my classroom and the library, a recorder order for music class, and a personal yarn and skirt order. I am so thankful for the people who pack the containers and make it possible for us to get North American goods! The fun thing is that I usually forget exactly what it is that I ordered, so it's not only exciting to receive the boxes, but it's exciting to see what I get!

A praise for this week is that we now know when the grade 7 exams are; the week of October 12-16th. Last year I only had three days warning about the exams, and my poor students had just got back from their Copper Belt tour. We were doing some more work on bases in class today in preparation; interesting concept, though not terribly practical...

Parting shot:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Karibu Kenya!

I just got back from a 10 day vacation in Kenya; what a blessing! I’m so thankful that it worked out for me to go, visit some dear friends, and hang out with Beth. Here are a few pictures from the trip:


Kijabi/Rift Valley Academy


Now it’s back to earth before the students arrive on September 8th. Ready or not, third term is coming!