Do you mind if I write out my weekly thank you notes? 2.0

For more of an explanation of these Jimmy Fallon inspired thank you’s  and to read the original click here.



THANK YOU, supporters and prayer warriors for praying that God would send this single missionary a man to join her on the mission field.  But, next time could you be a bit more specific????  It’s not that I don’t like having my brother here with me, it’s just that I’m creeped out by his love (and I mean LOVE) for the bright (and I mean BRIGHT) yellow pineapple yogurt they sell in Zambia and I’m afraid I, too, might be somehow genetically inclined toward this strange affinity.

Thank you God for sending my brother Isaac to the mission field!  Basically, if you are a single missionary “praying for a man,” you better hope God sends your brother, because it’s awesome.  I don’t like it, I love it.  It’s too good to have a brother to share every experience with it, to help me change my car battery, and to worship a God who’s been faithful with.  What a gift!



THANK YOU, staff members and kids for dressing up spontaneously on Halloween and trick or treating.  I  never in my adulthood had been a treat passer out-er and didn’t know which kind I would be.  The kind who gives giant candy bars?  The kind who passes out tooth brushes?  Would I be the circus peanut person or the fun sized candy bar guru?  Blame it on the fact that the event was unplanned and I didn’t know it was coming.  Blame it on the fact that we were in the middle of the 21 Day Fix.  Whatever the reason, this Halloween I found out which kind of treat passer outer I am.  The kind who passes out carrots, that’s who.  And I better not catch you taking more than one!!!

Thankful to live with creative people and to get to do life with our staff!  Between all the highs and lows of life out here the one guarantee is that there will be laughter and fun.

THANK YOU, hand washed clothes, for meeting not just our hygienic needs, but also our fashion needs with the inevitable stretching.   I used to wear dresses.  Now I wear mumus.  I used to wear skinny jeans.  Now I wear mom jeans.

We have two ladies who come and wash our clothes during the week that deserve a big thank you.  We so appreciate the work that they do and the stories, advice and occasional Nyanja lessons the slip in between laundry and dishes.  We love them!

THANK YOU, Nyanja words that sound like English cuss words.  What my students hear roughly translated is “Put it in the gaga ball pit,” but what I hear is “%**$%& gaga ball.”  If you’re a teacher or you’ve ever supervised a competitive game at recess you would understand why this is so life-giving.

I actually am thankful for recess!  I love the times to watch the students let down their guard and just have fun, and occasionally I like the opportunity to play gaga ball (octoball)  with them.  I love watching them grow in resiliency and character through play.


THANK YOU, someone in the 90’s who gave Isaac a fanny pack with his name embroidered on it.   He brought it to Germany at age 5 when it looked cute and he’s brought it with him again to Zambia almost 20 years later, making it our most faithful, albeit less cute, travel companion.   I’m not saying that fanny packs can’t come back in style, because miracles do happen.  I just don’t think fire engine red ones like this will be the one to bring them back.

Thankful for a brother to tease and for the teasing he gives right back.  Did I mention I like having a brother around here?  😀

THANK YOU to the 6+ pairs of speed bumps on my ride into Lusaka for church. You bring new meaning to the phrase “You are driving me BONKers”

Thankful for a church that it’s worth the hour drive and the speed bumps to get to.  Thankful to be learning that even if a church isn’t a short bike ride away you can still find a community there and be a part of it in a different, but uniquely special way.  Also, always thankful for the long drive to church and the conversations those rides bring.

THANK YOU, CS Lewis, for creating the Dufflepod an invisible, noisy, and nonintimidating one legged creature from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Whenever I hear unidentifiable noise in my house, like the pitter-patter I hear above me right now, I like to pretend it’s a Dufflepod, instead of assuming it’s some sort of rodent.  It helps me sleep much better.


Thankful for the house that we live in that is not without its quirks, yet feels like home.  In awe that God can expand your heart enough to have room for two places to be home.

THANK YOU, new movie theaters that clearly have a few kinks to work out.  Isaac and I started Lego Ninjago and when the movie suddenly shut off 15 minutes in we didn’t know what to expect.  But since we had paid for a cartoon and a kiddy movie, we definitely didn’t expect IT.  Does it still count as my first horror movie if we left 2 seconds into the movie?

Thankful that God interrupts and intervenes in our life, not with a horror movie, but with something new, unexpected and different than maybe what you had in mind.  Thankful that His ways are good and that He can be trusted.

So much to be thankful for this year.  What about you?  What are you thankful for?




Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.  For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all Gods.  Psalm 95:2-3


My Heart to Your Heart: November supporter update (and October, September, August…..etc. It’s been a while ;) )

J O Y,    J O Y,   J O Y,    D O W N    I N     M Y    H E A R T

(Something to make you laugh)

“What’s 6 + 5?”  I asked my first grade friend.  She counted on her fingers and then stopped.  Then she proceeded to take off her shoes, tried again, and sure enough gave me the correct answer.

Also, yesterday I went to the car insurance place to get something changed on my policy.  I sat in a room with cubicles while two gentlemen helped me.  While one of the men left to get a copy of something, the other man’s phone rang at the desk he was sitting at.  After he answered the phone, I noticed that I could hear the other man on the other side of the cubicle wall and he also appeared to have a phone call.  And then I realized it was the same phone call and that they were having a conversation on the phone even though they could hear each other right through the wall. LOL!

W H A T    T H E    H E A R T   B E H O L D S

(A picture that tells a thousand words)

independence day

Isaac and I celebrating Zambia independence!  PC Allison Costley


N O T     F O R    T H E     F A I N T    O F    H E A R T

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

We’ve reached the plague stage of the year, which means swarms of flying termites, mice, and cockroaches.  And by plagues I mean we deal with the masses of these and once one infestation is over almost the very next day a new infestation is upon us.  It’s as unpleasant as it sounds.  However, the critter that comes to mind from more recently is our cat with a deeply rooted attachment disorder.   And by “our” I mean Jim’s cat, let’s make that quite clear.  The cat used to be Alaina’s and Alaina did such a good job showing that cat abundant amounts of affection.  However, after Alaina left the cat had a deep void, so she wanders around from house to house and forces herself in your laps, flops belly up and and begs, “Love me?”  If you ignore her or refuse the begging turns into a demand— “Love ME!!!!!”  You better respond, otherwise you will have holes in your favorite sweater. Trust me, I know.  Jim responded the most affectionately so she gave him the privilege of adopting her, but he left for a short stint in America, so she’s been back on the prowl.  If she hunted mice the way she hunts affection that would be one less plague we’d be dealing with at The Esther School.  Realizing that my judgment of her and her desperation for affection is like the pot calling the kettle black, I let her spend the day with me yesterday.  However, we had to have some pretty real discussions about how my body is actually made to contour to the couch we were sitting on so I, unlike her, have every right to be there and she cannot be mad at me for not petting her while I am there.

S T O R E D     I N      M Y     H E A R T

(Memories from the past months)

My brother Isaac has moved out to Zambia!!  As you can imagine, this is so great!  It has been amazing to watch the brother I’ve always loved transition into the place I’ve come to love.  Zambia looks real good on him!  We’ve continued our solid tradition of cracking each other up and eating popcorn like there’s no tomorrow.  We’ve also done new things together, like changing a car battery, washing our hair in the rain, and winning Israeli games taught to us in Africa by Scottish people (go figure).  It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving to get to live life out here with him and see his his heart for the Lord and see the the growth God has in store for him.

I’ve also started my first year of teaching first grade.  Jumping up to a new grade has made me feel like a new teacher all over again.  There’s a Thomas Edison quote about not failing to make a lightbulb 99 times, but learning 99 ways to not make a lightbulb.  Sometimes days have felt like I’ve been learning 99 ways to not make a lightbulb.  However, lately we’ve been finding some light!!  It’s been a privilege to do life again with this group of students and watch them grow and learn.  Yesterday I sat in front of our house and chitchatted with one of our students and was just amazed at her confidence.  As I told her how in preparing for conferences I noticed how much she’s grown in reading, she beamed and I realized she actually understood my compliment, which I never really experienced teaching preschool (basically with teaching preschool I just talked and they smiled and nodded).  I realized it’s a pretty big opportunity that’s been handed to me to get to find the ways that uniquely encourage each student.

T H E     C R Y      O F    O U R      H E A R T

(How to pray)

-In addition to having a new grade, I also have a new co-teacher, Anna.  Praise God for her and her love for teaching.  Also pray that we would communicate well and grow together as friends and co-workers.  Pray for us to have a spirit of unity and consistency that blesses our classroom.

-Pray for water at The Esther School.  Pray that God continues to sustain us by providing water for our school and community and that He continues to teach us how to be good stewards of the water we have.

-I bought my first car in August, which is a huge praise that has brought me a unique freedom and ability to dig roots into Zambia, which is a big gift  in my fourth year of living in Africa.  However, it overheated the other day and is in the shop.  Pray that they would discover the problem, that it would be fixable with the funds that I have and that I would be a good steward of this new privilege.

-Pray for conferences this upcoming week.  Pray that parents would feel encouraged by their student’s growth and that they see the benefit of their education.

-Pray for safe travels over staff going home for Christmas in the next few weeks.  That includes Isaac and I, which was unexpected, but so good!  Pray for all staff, whether staying or going, that they feel rested, loved and cherished this Christmas.  (Sorry if you are disturbed that I’m bringing up Christmas before Thanksgiving, lol.  I hate to tell you that Dana and I have already decorated for Christmas.  But in our defense, the days between the day we decorated and the day we leave for Christmas holiday is the same number of days between Thanksgiving day and Christmas day, so I think we should be left off the hook).

-Pray Isaiah 61:3-4 over our students: “In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago.  They will revive them, even though they have been deserted for generation.”  I love the image of our students being great oaks, the Lord’s very glory.  You can also pray this over our staff and community, because who wouldn’t need and want Isaiah’s prophesy declared over them?


Every Thursday in our class devotions in grade 1, my co-teacher Anna, and I talk about Restoration.  The students all shoot their hand in the air, prepared for one of us to ask “What does restoration even mean?”   We choose a hand.  “Making things new,” says the proud sesquipedalian.   We then place a paper crown on the head of one of our students, ask them to pretend to be some Bible character, and we as a class “interview” said character about what God did in their life that made them new.  We had a lot of questions for “Joseph” about how God could turn a prideful brother into the his family’s salvation and for “Noah” about the new world God created and for “Sarah” about big promises that she had to wait a long time for.  We also ask a lot of questions about how long their long beards were, what they ate with their nshima, and if they ever played tag with God, and if so who won, but that’s really quite beside the point. 

Before we can get to Thursday’s devotion and the much coveted paper crown, we have to do Tuesday’s devotions*. Tuesday is the day we talk about Sin and Sadness.  We talk about how the world is a broken version of the one God created.  It’s secretly my favorite day because I love reminding them (and myself) that God cares about what makes us sad, I love hearing their uninhibited prayer requests, and I love hearing them pray on behalf of each other.  Nevertheless, despite being my favorite day of devotions, the reality of a broken world has been one I’ve had to wrestle with God with this school year.  With teaching grade 1 and a class of students all of whom I had as preschoolers, I expected and hoped to see how The Esther School has impacted and grown them as learners and servant leaders.  And they have been impacted by TES in that way.  But what I’ve also seen that I didn’t prepare myself for was that TES is not the only thing impacting them.  They’ve also had one more year in this broken world we talk about on Tuesdays and that has also affected them, because how can it not?  So while the class set before me is made up of more readers and thinkers and discovers than 2 years ago when I met them as preschoolers, there is also more fear, anxiousness and desperation.  And to be honest, that can be hard to see.  But despite all this God shows up and He still reminds us of His character.  And I was reminded of that this past week through the life of one of our students.


What do you mean we can’t stay this little for forever??

In April, 2015 I was sitting in a room with a few other staff making our final decision about the upcoming preschool class.  We had three boys’ names in front of us.  We had two spots left.  I remember when we moved the two names to the “yes” pile and the one to the “no” pile that I understood the reasoning and I respected the team decision that it was.  But, I also remember the pit in my stomach for the boy who had just been rejected and I remember carrying that feeling to bed that night.  I wouldn’t say I’m someone who often feels like she can hear the voice of God in a way that she is certain without a shadow of a doubt she knows what He is saying.  But I remember that night as clearly as if I had heard it with my ears, I heard God say, “It’s okay.  He will be at The Esther School.  I will make a way.”  And almost instantly I went from tossing and turning to sleeping.

Fast forward to around October of that year, and sure enough a spot opened and the boy from the “no” pile was a yes.  It just so happened that the day this boy came to join our class, we happened to be learning the story of his Biblical namesake that very day in Bible class, which is why we’ll call him by the pseudonym Jacob from this point on.  Literally the day Jacob came we learned about the promises and blessings God poured out on someone with the same name in the Bible and I remember thinking, “Wow, God’s got some promises for this one!” 

This year as we entered the school year we began to notice that Jacob constantly moved and squirmed, even beyond the typical first grade fidgetiness.  We observed and investigated, monitored his eating and drinking, and probed his kindergarten teachers.  It became clear.  Something was not right.  His little body was clearly agitated and out of his control and progressively getting worse. 

“But, I thought.….didn’t You have promises for him, God?”   This is where I’ve been before the Lord this year.  “But, don’t You speak words of truth into her about how she is a child of God?  Why do I see she is burdened by bitterness toward her earthly father?”  “But, don’t You provide us with the means to feed them breakfast, snack, and lunch every day?  Why is he still so desperately clinging?”  “But, I thought….”

Jacob went to the doctor this past week and got a diagnosis.  The details aren’t important, but basically, a broken and skewed creation had its way with Jacob and his precious little brain.  But, by God’s grace the sweetest relief  of all is that it’s curable and he has what he needs.  God is so faithful and Jacob’s body is going through restoration.  CeCe, when you forget what this word means, go ask a first grader.  I hear they learn about it every Thursday…from you.

Jacob’s story has been a reminder someone out there must have been praying I’d get.  A reminder that God’s promises are true and His faithfulness and love cannot cease or diminish.  I’ve been doing a timely study of Isaiah 61the past few weeks and one thing I never realized is that those are actually the words Jesus used to declare Himself the Son of God in Luke 4.  The words are first and foremost Jesus’ ministry to us before they’re my ministry to the world.  He has come to bring good news to the poor.  He has been sent to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners freed.  He promises that to those who mourn, the time of His favor is coming.  Jesus, thank you for your favor, and we dare to hope for even more.









*Each day in devotions we highlight one word associated with a five point salvation story outline.  Each word is associated with a color: Green, creation; Blue, sin and sadness (don’t worry, I always sing ‘I’m blue aba-dee-aba-die’ to help them understand the cultural significance of “being blue” 😉  );  Red, blood of Jesus; yellow, restoration; clear, faith

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 🙂 


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.


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.



“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?