Blessed are those who mourn

“Before we continue, we need to talk about something that may make you feel a little sad….”  It felt like week after week we’d have to transition out of our Bible lesson with these words.  Clare and I would meet the eyes of our students, gathered in a circle around our “nsaka,” their bellies just filled with their morning porridge.  At this point, some knowing students might nod their heads or utter a name sadly.  Others would be caught off guard.  Still others would not be present at all to hear, since the news had affected them all too directly in their own homes. As the teachers, we would never be sure if that Bible story from minutes before would become the perfect illustration of hope we needed to carry us through the despair we were about to share, or if the story would suddenly seem callous and confusing. Between the months of February, March and April, four TES parents died, leaving voids in this school’s and village’s community.  As I watched, again and again, our students process devastating news, I couldn’t help but admire them and their strength; I couldn’t help but see how God was developing them and growing them.  Below I’ve written four letters to four particular students filled with language they don’t yet understand, but that every day I try to communicate to them in nonverbal ways.  I hope their stories speak to you as they’ve spoken to me.

To the girl who mourns,

If you had the vocabulary, I’d teach you the word restoration. His pain is gone and yours will be too some day.  Clare and I would both tell you, you’ve changed our lives.  We’ve watched you struggle.  We’ve watched you distance yourself.  We’ve sat before you asking God for words we just don’t have.  You’ve revealed to both of us our shortcomings and our undeserved privileges.  But you’ve taught us to run after the one who wants to be left alone.  Because our God is chasing after you, my friend.  On those days when you don’t want to play, don’t want to walk, and just want to sit, know He’s sitting with you, so I will, too.  And, just like your friends call to you to come play, He’s calling to you to be with Him, too.  And just like Miss Clare will lay aside all her decency to make you smile and laugh, He knows no boundaries to win your heart, either.  For a while there was nothing to read on your face about whether or not all of this was getting through to you.  For a while all we had to go off of was how God had met us in the same places in the same ways and what that had done to our hearts.  But, when your mama came to conferences and said that you had told her everything we had said to you.  Everything.  And she said “thank you” for those words in this hard time, we rejoiced.  Because, like we’ve learned in chapel, love overflows and if love was overflowing out of you onto your mama, then that meant love was overflowing into you.  We know it’s still a long, hard journey, but we know that love never ends and never dwindles, praise Jesus.

To the boy who prays…and plays (two commonly mixed-up words in our class),

If you had the vocabulary, I’d teach you the word glory.  Yes, the glory that took David to the streets dancing naked, but also the glory that brought the wall of Jericho down and made armies shudder.  When we taught you to pray but saying a name over and over again, or saying Esther School, Esther School, Esther School or Nyangwena, Nyangwena, Nyangwena, we wanted you to know He hears and understands everything you cry out to Him, even if you don’t know exactly what to say.  I think you find it kind of fun.  Maybe even funny.  Not mad about it.  If there is anyone in the world God wired for fun, it’s you.  And no doubt about it, He loves that joy and is communing with you in all the fun.  But, I hope you also know that in those words you pray, there is a mighty power and glory in them that cannot exist in the same words said outside of prayer and may that add a little bit of reverence to those prayers.  Words that have raised the dead, even a few weeks ago in our own community.  Words that can heal, whether in this life or in heaven.  Thanks for, in between giggles, praying for all those names and for this community.  We’re seeing God answer those prayers, mighty warrior. Last week you were absent, but if you had been here, you would have heard us pray your name over and over again.  What a privilege.  May those prayers have fruit.  May they increase your understanding of a God who made both the fun, jumpy, cricket, and the stars that leave you speechless and humbled.  As you live your life and grow into a young man some day who prays fervently and sees mountains move because of his prayers, may that both make you jump and dance for joy and occasionally make you cry from a God who is so big, powerful and great and yet has poured out all His love for you.

To the girl who comforts,

If you had the vocabulary, I’d teach you the word captivating.  I almost can’t stop watching you delivering all that joy and peace into our classroom out of such hard times. I watch you on those sad days and I see how your day gets so much busier because you are running around making sure everyone who looks like they need one gets a hug.  As a receiver of many of those hugs, I can assure you that they are just about the finest quality of hug one can get.  You bring extra laughter and cheer into our classroom every day, but especially on those hard days.  You remember who we should be praying for out of those in our school who have lost someone dear.  I am so proud of you.  I am amazed by the strength and power God has used in you!  How He could put sooooo much light in so tiny a vessel is a testament to Him.  I really shouldn’t be surprised.  I’ve watched you scream, and I mean SCREAM, “I’M NO LOOOOONGER A SLAAAAVVE TO FEEEEEAR// I AM A CHILD OF GOD,” and “THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MIIIINE// I’M GONNA LET IT SHINE.”  God never sleeps, so He definitely hears your worship, but I’m sure a few heavenly hosts set their sleep schedules around our chapel time, counting on your voice to wake them up.  You are definitely living up to those words, girly girl.  Enjoy the fullness of His delight each day you bring comfort.  Know He delights in you and loves you even on the days you act like a grumpus.  You’re always His child and He’s always your father.  But on those days you lock yourself instep with His will and be His hands and feet out of all that joy in your heart, those are the days of worship and time with Him that you are made for.  May He continue to supply you with that joy and love that can overflow.

To the girl who weeps,

If you had the vocabulary, I’d teach you the word brave.  I told your aunt in your conference that you are the bravest person I know, and I meant it.  I don’t know if when you got on that bus and you moved here, came to your new family, if you thought you were leaving all those bad times behind. I would’ve.  Yet, again and again, the events in this community brings those difficult memories back.  And you let the memories come, and we know they’ve come because we see the tears.  It’s come to be one of the most difficult parts of sharing the sad news on these difficult days because of the grief it gives you.  A difficulty, but also a privilege to sit with you in those tears.  Maybe you didn’t ever expect to live in a community that wouldn’t bring that kind of grief to you.  Maybe no one in Zambia could ever expect or imagine that.  I can imagine a life without as much grief, at least on the surface, because that’s where I’m from, and, to be unfortunately honest, sometimes when I hear about death here, I selfishly think Why do I live here where there’s so much death when I don’t have to?  But that’s why when I grow up I want to be just like YOU.  Because for all its lack of death, I never encountered half as much beauty there as the beauty in your eyes after you’ve had a good cry and you say “Okay, I’m ready to go back to preschool.”  And I’ll never forget how the first month of school when a Bible discussion question was “Is there anything you can do to make God stop loving you?” and you said, loud and fast, “Yes,” in one of those awkward moments that leaves teachers not knowing exactly what to say, but then how later this year you prayed fervently in Nyanja about God’s love and passion and grace for you and for us.  This why I love this school.  Girl, God is using you to teach me and many others about being brave and taking courage.  What a gift you are.

What a gift they all are!

My heart to your heart: February/March Supporter Update

Joy, joy, joy, down in my heart

(Something to make you laugh)

Me:  The name of Queeny Quail’s letter is “q.”

Students:  Q-cumber???

Me:  Not exactly…..

 

At another time the students were sharing prayer requests and a student was sharing about her baby brother, who has the same name as another student in our class.  She shared how this baby was sick at home.  When she was through, the student with the same name, who happened to be sitting next to her, turned to her and said, “Me??”  The whole class burst into laughter.  Especially since this is one of those students, and every teacher knows the one, who is never sick but sometimes you secretly hope he maybe would miss one day of school.

What the heart beholds

(A picture that tells a thousand words)

I couldn’t pick just one thousand words…..

I got to do a safari over our holiday in March and it was beautiful and a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m still a little shocked I got to do it.  There’s no place like Africa and there’s nothing like getting to experience it with good friends!

 

Version 2

If I had to pick any movie for my students to watch as, for many of them, their first movie, Cinderella wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for a number of reasons.  But, from a teaching perspective it was a great choice because we can really get the story into their heads since theres about 85 different versions of the story and the movie itself has relatively little dialogue so my English Learners can mostly follow along.  And of course, we got to dress up like the princesses and princes they are 🙂 

IMG_1521

This one is for those Walden boys.  Look at him representing! Boom, baby!

Not for the faint of heart

(Because people always ask for critter stories…and there’s always stories to tell)

We had some turkeys who thought it was a good idea to lay their eggs outside our windows.  If you know me, you know this is the worst news ever.  It turned out to be fine  except for a minor scare where I thought I would have to pick up the mama turkey.  Now these turkeys are in an awkward teenage phase.  If you think puberty was hard on you, you should see these turkeys!  And then you should look at the guinea fowl, which are even more awkward looking.  Your sixth grade picture will look magazine worthy in comparison.

Stored in my heart

(Memories from the past months)

These past few months have had their fair share of ups and downs.  One thing I’ll hold onto and remember is how our students have come around one student who lost someone significant in her life.  In the three weeks that she was absent, the students prayed her name over and over again.  Their prayers were literally just them saying her name over and over and over again in repetition.  And then when she returned they were so good about seeking her out and including her.  If one of them saw her and was holding my hand they would let go and suggest I hold her hand.  They were quick to find her on the playground and quick to her side throughout the day.  Love how they love so well!

The cry of our heart

(How to pray)

-Praise God, every preschooler in our class has full sponsorship!!!

-Pray for the 25-50 sponsors needed for our incoming preschool class

-Pray for conferences coming up in a few weeks.  Pray that the parents are encouraged and ready to continue partnering with us for the sake of their children

-Pray for our Assessment Day at the end of April. Pray that God would make it really clear who He wants for the next year’s preschool class.  Pray for peace for all of us involved in the decision making.

 

 

A New Thing

Scene  1:

“There’s a Side A and a Side B to the cassette tape, so if you flip it the other way, you listen to the story with a little DING every time you’re suppose to turn the page.”  That’s me explaining a tape player to a fifth grade staff kid, which she thought was a weird looking camera.  “THIS IS AMAZING!” she says.  “If you move this dial, you can make the voice sound higher or lower, and faster and slower…..” I continue. “WOW!!”  “…and if you push this button it fast forwards, so that’s how you skip songs…”  “LISTEN TO THAT SQUEAKY SOUND!!” “…And this is the play and the pause button.  And here is the record button so you can listen to the radio and record your favorite song once the station plays it…”  “THIS THING IS SO COOL!”  “…and, okay, yeah, now I have just rewound the tape….”  “What does rewound mean?” “It’s something you used to have to do before you returned a vid–never mind.  You wouldn’t understand….”

Scene 2:

The Miedema kiddos invited me to join them as they make their way through the Star Wars movies.  SciFi isn’t really my thing, but I am enjoying it, mostly because of them.  I had never seen the original trilogy, but I was familiar with the franchise because, well, mostly because I was not born under a rock.  But to them it’s all new and they are very happy to help me keep track of what is going on.  So, they say things like”Why won’t that little green guy just stop talking and take him to Yoda?” and “That’s Darth Vader, who killed Luke’s father….WAIT?!?!! HE IS LUKE’S FATHER?!?!?!?!?”

Scene 3:

We’re in our “Let’s Pretend” unit in preschool, which means we read a lot of fairy tales and fables.  I come from a generation that the market had to produce spin-offs, parodies, and retellings like Shrek and The Stinky Cheese Man to keep us interested in these classic stories, but for our preschoolers the stories are completely new.  So, kinda like watching Star Wars with Alaina and Seth, I get to vicariously experience a new intensity for Papa Bear discovering someone has tasted his porridge and how, in a shocking turn of events, the woodsman shows up and rescues Little Red AND Grandma from the Big Bad Wolf!  They become absolutely captivated, no idea how it will end and with happily ever afters not at all taken for granted.

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-7-54-41-am

This was on my Facebook today and felt appropriate to share in remembrance of the “Let’s Pretend” unit last year. Don’t worry, there’s a sticky note in that book that says “CHANGE THE NAME!”

 

Did you notice the theme throughout all these “scenes”?  I’ve been watching a lot of people experience old things as new things.   I’ve seen cliches reclaimed as wonders and predictability redeemed as inspiration.   I’m beginning to think God is telling me something. This might be the first time since 1996 that God has used a cassette tape to speak His message, but I’ve always been a little retro.

I recently committed to the next school year at The Esther School.  I think that when I first started to mull over the decision, it felt like a decision between an old thing, another year at TES, and a new thing, some unknown experience not in Zambia.  Curiously, I had mixed feeling towards the old thing.  Some days , most days, I wanted to cling to the old thing tight and never let go, never see it changed.  Other days the old thing felt like a burdensome backpack that needed to be repackaged if there was going to be space for all my hopes and dreams.

As I’ve made the decision to continue in Zambia, almost from the beginning, there’s been ways God has said, “Your feelings toward the old thing are not the point.  The point is, I don’t do old things….I do new things.”  So when it looks the same from the outside, may I be as avid as Abigail was over the tape player with curiosity for what God can do.  When it looks different and that difference freaks me out, may I have Seth and Alaina’s wonder and joy for God’s creativity.  May I be as delighted as our preschoolers for any turn the story takes.  In all things may I always chase after the novelty of getting to be in God’s presence, getting to see Him do what He does, getting to witness the stories that He writes and letting Him awe me as only He can.  That is my prayer.

48f266597f82cb20f42d31f7929c6516

Worship

“You are here to worship Me. Here to worship Me.  Here to worship Me.  Worship Me.  Worship Me.”

It’s a message God has been repeating over and over to me lately.  There’s a call and response song Teacher Getrude taught our class in music last month.  It goes “Praise the Loooord” — “HALLELUIAH, AMEN!” and that’s it over and over again.  The students start to sing it in line and every time it’s like a small whisper from the mouth of babes of reminding me of why I’m here in Zambia.  I’m not actually here to shape a preschoolers mind, change someone’s life, break a cycle of poverty, or empower, although God does all these things and He includes me.  However, what I am here in Zambia for, what you’re cleaning your house in Indiana for, or shoveling snow off your car in Michigan for, or practicing multiplication facts with that student in a school somewhere else for, is to worship a God, give Him that praise.

So, here’s my worship playlist from the last month (enjoy the music in the link):

When I’m cleaning someone else’s vomit off of me…..worship.

When I see God giving second chances to me and all around me….worship.

When I wish I could give my students a childhood with a little less death, sickness, and pain…..worship.

When my co-teacher’s joy amazes me….worship.

When my eighth graders and I laugh over a grammar rap (C-Dubb and the Grammar Chickz is our official name.  Please, no autographs.)….worship.

When his malaria test is positive….worship.

When our class is laughing together at pigeons driving buses, the “Biscuit Boy” (you might know him as the gingerbread man), and our very adorable counting routine….worship

When God asks me to give Him my obedience….worship.

When, even in the midst of an uncertain future, I see that God is for sure doing a new thing around me….worship.

When my students move all the flannelgraph children onto the lap of the flannelgraph Jesus (right where they belong!)….worship.

This is what is punctuated by my worship and what is my worship.

What about you?  What has been your worship lately?

My Heart to Your Heart: January Update

Joy, joy, joy, down in my heart

(Something to make you laugh)

So, I have made myself a reputation and a bad track record for calling Brent and Kathy for the wrong/strange things.  Like, even as I write this, our fridge is making kinda a weird noise, but I know if I call Brent then it will once again sound normal and I will look crazy.  So I’m not calling.  That’s exactly what the fridge wants me to do, but I’m not falling for that game again.  Also, it’s just difficult to have a good track record after you’ve had to ask someone to fish a live rat out of your toilet (yes, that really did happen.  And remember, we let “things” mellow here :/  So, anyone interested in our Facilities Director job opening??).  All that to say, it probably didn’t surprise the Miedemas too much when I called them to tell them that my roommate, who out of the three of us who were home was the only one who hadn’t been struck with “the plague,” was stuck in the bathroom.  You should probably read it in her words, because it’s the best.

Also, this classic moment:

Me: When a teacher is talking, it is bad manners to interru–

Student:  TEACHER!  THERE’S A SPIDER IN YOUR HAIR!!!

What the heart beholds

(A picture that tells a thousand words)

_mg_1457

This is our neighbor (and one of our pre-k student’s grandfather) working in his cornfield.  Woohoo for rainy season and the food that it brings!  Everything has been soooo green. It has taken me three years, but I’m beginning to see this time as one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. I think my appreciation started when Bob started mowing our lawns…the days began to smell beautiful so I began to see them as beautiful, instead of being distracted by the heat. (Thanks, Bob!)

 

Not for the faint of heart

(Because people always ask for critter stories…and there’s always stories to tell)

There was a mouse in one of my roommate’s rooms and we basically spent over an hour trying to figure out how to get rid of it with a broom, a mirror, and a laundry basket.  Oh yeah, and none of us actually wanted to be in the same room as the mouse, so that also made things difficult.  Anne from next door was brave enough to go in the room, but only as long as she could be zipped behind the bug net.  The rest of us stood behind the door.  Dana and I, the seasoned missionaries, offered the best advice we could, which was, “Pretend that it left.  It probably left.  Close your eyes and go to sleep.   Surely, it left.”  I believe we were also the two to run into the other room any time the mouse came into the view. In my head, that goes something like this:  “Eeek!  I see a mouse!  I don’t know what to do about a mouse.  I don’t want it to die, but I also don’t want it to exist….what to do, what to do — AAAAH! The mouse sees me! IT SEES ME!  IT WANTS TO EAT ME! RUUUUUUNNNN!!!” (Huh.  All of the sudden my reputation described in the beginning is feeling justified). Somehow, even with our weak offense, the room still managed to be put in total disarray. So, I did what I do best–I called on Brent and Kathy for help.  This time I asked if I could borrow their cat Jew Jew.  This is how much I don’t like mice:  I thought about snakes the whole walk down and back to my house to fetch Jew Jew. Also, I’m allergic to cats.  But, Jew Jew proved to be the hero of the evening.  Like Tom and Jerry, there was a legitimate cat chase, curtain scaling and everything, and then the mouse was no more.

Stored in my heart

(Memories from the past month)

If you haven’t read this post from last week, please do.  My co-teacher and I continue to be amazed out how God is working through our little Story Hour program.  It continues to grow more and more each week!

15965813_10154410505758717_5110710688929737533_n

Speaking of our plants unit, I am quite obsessed with these paintings. I like them soooo much I am tempted to find something equally cute that can be made with spoons and knives…although, it’s probably frowned upon to bring knives into a preschool classroom….

We also did our plants unit this month.  While gardening is basically second nature to our students, they still enjoyed a “field trip” out to our TES garden and making flower pots and then planting flowers.  It is pretty incredible to see that garden and think about what it provides to our school and how it will continue to expand. As we watch our flowers grow, I’m also reminded by how much our students have grown.  They are becoming kindergarteners before our eyes!   They can read each other’s names off of a white board and are finding patterns and shapes all over their world.  We so enjoy this time of year and all the growth and learning that we get to witness before our very eyes.  God has given us such a privilege to get to be a part of their lives and see their hearts and minds expanding.

The cry of our heart

(How to pray)

-Pray for us our second semester that starts Monday

-The Esther School is still looking for sponsors for our students!  Pray that the needs will be filled.  (If you are interested in sponsoring click here)

-Pray for good health for our students and their families as we enter into malaria season.

-Pray and rejoice your way through this post.  You might not know Rachel, but trust me when I say this is reason for big praises for answers to big prayers

-Thank God for a house and a community where we laugh through sick/stuck-in-the-bathroom days and nights where we’re being terrorized by mice.  I think typically in the past January and February are some of the worst times for homesickness, but this year we seem to be laughing our way through it.

-Thank God for His endless grace for us.  We are doing a study on Jonah as a group and it has been a good reminder that God continuously draws us to His heart!

-Continue to pray for Story Hour.  We get to share the Word of God with these parents each week, and we don’t want to take for granted the power of the Gospel and what it can do in people’s hearts

-We are going through a season of asking God for both people and finances in preparation for TES’s future, so pray Philippians 4:6:  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.   Also, if you’re interested in giving, any TES donations now through Valentines Day * put a valentine in the hands of one of our students.  This is sure to mean a lot of smiles and glitter everywhere!

 

 

*(No, I didn’t just learn how to put website links in a blog post.  This post is just a little link-happy because there are many link-worthy things out there.  Why say something when someone else has already said it excellently?)

When God Paints the Picture

Version 2

PC Dana Krol

The main thing was that Clare and I wanted to feel less like we were holding our breath in a toddler tornado.  Because that had been what Story Hour had come to feel like. Story Hour is our Wednesday school preparation outreach where we invited young children into our library and offered them access to toys and stories. It has always been a great outreach, started before I ever came to TES, but when attendance jumped to the 50’s and then to the 60’s, not just once, but week after week,  we knew something was going to have to change.   

When conferences hit in November we found ourselves telling our preschool students’ parents, “You are their first and best teacher.”  It’s a mantra I picked up in college and I’m thankful that was what we were taught instead of the more popular “Some people just shouldn’t be parents.” Clare and I say over and over again “Parents are the first and best teachers” during conferences, but I realized even though we say it and DO believe it’s true, we don’t always live by it.  Sometimes the North American teacher in me wants to control everything, from the food they’re receiving to the social skills they’re developing, short of their bed time, although if there was a way I could control that, too, I would.   I’m not saying students don’t come from difficult home lives, because many do, but God didn’t give me the role of their parent, He gave me the role of their teacher, with all the limits and capabilities that that role entails.

Version 2

In that week where we said that mantra over and over again, I realized that when it came to Story Hour, we were living like we could be those children’s best teacher.  Which was ridiculous.  There were two of us and 65 children.  And while I joked that God must be giving me practice for my future TLC show featuring my ginormous family, my limitations at Story Hour were pretty clear–Story Hour children and I don’t even speak the same language.  So, on the back of a scrap piece of paper, Clare and I scribbled out an idea for how to invite parents to be a part of Story Hour, considering the culture, etc.  Then we left for Christmas break.  I am someone who has no problem seeing the forest through the trees, but who won’t know whether she’s in the Black Forest or the Candy Cane forest until a bird poops a tootsie roll on her head–I’m a big picture person.  So, I knew there would be details I overlooked.   I assumed any Story Hour changes would need to be presented, discussed, questions asked, kinks worked out, and then maybe implemented a month or two after returning from Christmas break.

Nope.  Our scrap piece of paper was passed around and that Thursday after we returned from the holiday we broke the news to the community that Story Hour participants would now be required to come with someone whose lap they could sit in and who could play with them and look at books with them.  It all happened fast!  So when Wednesday rolled around we held our breath, no idea what to expect.  But it would be the last time we would hold our breath for Story Hour.  Because in all the rush, God painted the picture, which included details like sweet breath after sweet breath, no more trying to grasp control of the tornado.  A mom read the pictures of a book to her son.  An older sister named colors as her little brother built a tower out of blocks.  A grandson stayed glued to his grandfather’s side as they worked on a puzzle together.  To top it all off, we ended our time with a Bible story read from Clare’s Chichewa Bible (the closest translation to the Nyanja).  Clare decided to have three mamas read the story.  If you’ll excuse me for geeking out for a second and let me tell you what this means….40 young, young children.  In a mostly illiterate community.  Heard the entire creation story!  Gen. 1:1-2:3!  About how they were seen as “Very Good”!  AND made in His image! From The Bible!!!  In their native language! In their heart language!! From their mothers’ lips!!!!!

Version 2

PC Dana Krol

Version 2

PC Dana Krol

Version 2

PC Dana Krol

I wish you could be here to see it every week as we continue.  As a teacher, I would take you for a tour around the room and point to each child and explain how we are witnessing readers, scholars, creators, and disciples in the making.  As a onlooker, I would sit back with you, breathe, and watch our TES gifts like a library and toys be used by mothers, aunts, sisters, fathers, etc. who know just what to do to be the caregiver God made them to be. And as a worshipper, I would tell you how I had been settling for that old nursery rhyme about the old lady who lived in the shoe (SO many children! No idea what to do!) when God had a much more profound masterpiece in mind.  Hallelujah!  Amen!

Version 2

PC Dana Krol

My Heart to Your Heart: November/December Supporter Update

(Note: this was written two days ago while I was traveling and posted on the ground in Zambia)

Joy, joy, joy down in my heart

(Something to make you laugh)

This isn’t technically my story to share, but I know it will make your life better if I tell you anyways.  We had a Thanksgiving meal where we sat down with our Zambian teachers and their families and enjoyed the classics, like turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  We do this every year, and it is hard to decide who is more excited—the Zambians or North Americans.  One of our Zambian teacher’s husbands joined us, and it was his first time joining us for Thanksgiving.  Towards the end of the meal he started slowing down in his eating.  Someone noticed and asked if he liked the food.  “Yes,” he replied.  “But it’s all new to me….I need to stop eating, because I don’t know how this is all going to end up.”  Every missionary ever can sympathize with him!  (Me especially at this moment, as I sit 33,000 feet above your heads, trying to digest the airplane food…never goes well).

One more short funny story: I was just in Indiana for Christmas and my brother told me I, quote,  “looked tan.”  Okay, okay, don’t bust a gut.

What the heart beholds

(A picture that says it all)

img_1410

Our Christmas program!!  Details below….

Not for the faint of heart

(Because people always ask for critter stories…and there’s always stories to tell)

Rainy season has come, which brings two types of bugs.  The first are called Christmas bugs, and they are like a cross between a ladybug and a bright red pompom.  They are way too interesting and fluffy to make you squirmish, so I really don’t mind them.  Which is good, because collecting Christmas bugs becomes a BIG preschool recess game and I ended up with a bowl of at least 100 as gifts.  Like a true American, I later returned my “Christmas gifts” to where they came from, some place called “the outdoors,” which, for said Americans, is kinda like Cabella’s, but less organized and you don’t need a gift receipt to make returns.   You might remember such a place from yesteryears before winter struck.

The second one is not as pleasant, called a chichongelolo/millipede.  They’re nasty, but usually the worst they do is distract my class and I can kick it out of the room.  However, one night we found a group of them outside our house in a pile.  The most I’ve ever seen in one place and the biggest.  It was like something off of Fear Factor.  My mom wouldn’t let me watch Fear Factor when I was a child and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still not old enough for that kinda of graphic material.  So, go, go, chichogololo!

Stored in my heart

(memories from this past month)

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!! Clare and I loving teaching about that time God gave us the best gift in the form of a little baby.  This year Clare particularly has enjoyed staging the students into the stories and so we’ve had lots of mini nativity plays during our Bible time. Also there was extra excitement over the stories since many of us our named after key characters:  not only do we have three Mary’s in our class but also an Emmanuel. I can strongly identify with Emmanuel’s preference for certain Christmas carols. As a Cecelia, I know a thing or two about having your name in a song—I think on my last count I’ve had six songs named after me, including “A sailor went to see CeCe.” We did our whole school Christmas program and our students got to be animals, which they loved and they got to stand on an actual stage. They also got to make animal cookies for their parents as a a Christmas gift.  It was a highlight to watch them carefully choose which shapes they wanted for their families and decorate their bags to “wrap” the cookies in. And equally fun for Clare and I to share our gifts for them with them.  You haven’t seen joy until you’ve watched our kids cheer that they get to take home their very own pencil. 

I also got to be home for Christmas this year!  It was amazing.  I spent a lot of time in toasty warm things that could be mistaken for pajamas and puzzling and getting hugs from my mom and discovering I have something called FOMOFF (Fear of Missing Out on French Fries) and being told by my brother that I need to NOT let yellow mellow when company comes over.  Christmas break will never be long enough and there were too many people I didn’t get to see, but I was super thankful to see those that I did and to finally listen to an entire Christmas CD without skipping “I’ll be home for Christmas.”  I’m really thankful for all those I did get to see and your kind words and comments for things I know you only know from reading this blog, like about lions, dogs and scorpions spiders (oh my!).  As a teacher, a missionary, and, heck, a person living in the 21st century, the word “enough” is a bit of an anomaly, but your positive feedback affirms that there are people reading and praying through this blog and that other anomaly in my life, “effective communication” is attainable.  Whoohoo!

The cry of our heart

(How to pray)

-Thanks for prayers about my dental surgery!  I did not bite the surgeon and I’ve only sneezed out my temporary tooth once or twice, so all and all I’d say it went well.  But seriously, I really appreciate your prayers!  There’s still some unknowns but I feel well taken care both in Zambia and by your prayers back home.

-Pray for our first days back to school! <— Either typing that simple sentence out or the fact that my plane just crossed hemispheres has replaced my sad “leaving” feelings with happy “COMING!” feelings.  There are some kiddos I sure did miss!  Pray for a smooth transition back and for endurance through a new semester.

-Pray for those of us who will be making decisions about next year and whether to stay in Zambia.

-On Wednesdays, pray for our weekly Story Hour ministry.  In November we hosted 65 pre-preschool aged children for games, picture books, and Bible stories. Pray that we can both meet the needs in quantity and also in quality during that time. I keep half expecting to see the roof dug through and children being lowered down from the ceiling, although probably less as invalids and more as acrobats.  In case of incidents like that we have Alaina Miedema, who is not only a great Story Hour helper, but also Brent Miedema seems to really like her, so she also has the unofficial title of Roof Repairal (Again) Request Work Order Form Delivery Girl.

Happy New Year!

CeCe