September 16, 2017

A Shock to Our Systems

We have made it through our first week of school. This is momentous. After being "off" since mid-April of this year, getting back into it felt a little like trying to start exercising after an extended hiatus. Let's just say it was a shock to the system. Everybody's. There were thrilling "yes" moments, and there were tears of frustration. There were nights I fell into bed exhausted, and another where I lay awake brainstorming ways to motivate respectful behavior in my household.

First week of school is done. On to week number two. :)

The Lord knows the messages I need to hear though. As I slowly go through None Like Him (Jen Wilkin) there are truths I need to know about my God. I need to know He doesn't change. He is the only one who can use the words "never" and "always" with perfect consistency. I need to know He has given me enough time. Not so much time that I can procrastinate and be lazy, or undervalue it. But sufficient time to accomplish what He wants me to do, no more. I must filter my tasks through His plans.... determining whether or not they fit into what's important to Him. Does it glorify Him? Nothing less than relationships are eternal, so what all am I fretting over?

I need to know that we are to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. The devil wants to throw me off track. He wants me to have wrong priorities. He wants me to feel defeated when everything I'd wanted to do, didn't get done.

God's Word is always perfect - and He speaks clearly through it. That was grace for me this week.

On My Side Table

I am using spare moments of quiet, and early sunsets (contrary to what we accustomed ourselves to in Canada) for lots of reading! It feels great to be in novels again.

The Paris Wife is the story of Earnest Hemmingway's wife and their life together as he tries to make it big as a published author. So far the story of their move to from America to Paris post World War I has captured my attention. Paula McLain authored of Circling the Sun, the fictional memoir of Beryl Markham, horse-trainer and aviator in 1920's Kenya.

Normally I love a good Jan Karon book. Her stories are well balanced with some real life scenarios and humor. However, they probably would make a pretty corny Hallmark movie... in fact they did! I started watching At Home in Mitford put out by Hallmark, and I had to turn it off. It was just that terrible.  :(  Sadly, this book didn't live up to the Jan Karon I have grown to enjoy when in need of something light and easy. This story was so choppy, difficult to follow, and she often opened her sections with pronouns, leaving me guessing which character she was talking about.....

I also love a good middle-grade novel. They are quick and easy reads, not overly wordy, and yet still have the capacity to deliver a powerful message.

Counting by 7s has been easy to get into. This book was included in Sonlight's Summer Reading package - I love their picks. :)  Definitely reminiscent of the book Out of My Mind that I read several months back--a story told by a girl born with cerebral palsy and non-verbal.

(From the Back)
"Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read."

September 9, 2017

Organizing - Cleaning Up

Nine days home and I think we are over the jet lag. Most everything we brought back with us has found a new home here, and I have successful re-organized some really disorganized spaces in our house. Mine and my husband’s clothes were in desperate need of sorting and purging, so we were able to bless others with clothes that still had plenty of good wear left.

Before furlough I had wanted to clean up my school room, but instead I left it for our return. So this past week, I went through old notebooks, folders, old papers, and took books off my shelf we wouldn’t be using anymore. It feels so good to unload old things to make space for new, or to just have more uncluttered space.

I am still waiting for some of our school material to clear customs, but we aim to be back to school this Monday---beginning with a lighter schedule, until everything is here, but I think it will make for a nice “ease in” to this shift.

The kids and I have been out shopping, checking out the stores to see if there are any new products available here. There were a few… but I don’t know if we will be buying sunflower seeds or “spitz” as we call them in Canada, for 45,000 ariary per smallish bag. That translates to $18.47CDN. Yeah…. I don’t like spitz that much. Skittles are here now too, something we hadn’t seen in Madagascar before.

It's amazing how strange it feels getting back into meal planning, list making, and even cooking! I have changed some things around for our family. Typically I used to shop on Mondays, and my meal plan would be built around a Monday-Friday schedule. But now we are going to go Thursday-Wednesday, with my shopping day on Thursday. This way our cupboards aren't bare when school starts on Mondays, and I don't have to go out at the beginning of our week. I also like the idea of having a few more options in the house for our weekends. I am using Saturdays to make a big pot of soup for lunches through the week, and muffins and another treat for our week ahead as well. I tend to make bread throughout the week, so we can have fresh bread most days. Changing this around and making new habits is getting me excited to try some new recipes and introduce new ingredients to my family.

This Week:
Banana Coconut Muffins
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Strawberry Gummy Snacks
Split Pea Soup

September 3, 2017

Changing Times

First Airplane, little puddle-jump off Vancouver Island

On our way to Montreal

Boys being boys...... on our way to Paris

My littlest on the floor sleeping while daddy collects baggage
Late on Thursday night (GMT+3:00) we arrived back home in Tana. It was a long trip. Longer than I remembered it being. Rob and I were both feeling unwell about 3 hours into the final plane ride (a mere 10.5 hour flight). I kept telling myself that anyone can do anything for 7 more hours. We were almost there. I used all of my "mind over matter" tricks I knew of to try and distract myself away from how awful we were both feeling. Yes, I prayed. And God faithfully gave us the strength we needed. Neither of us got sick, and we both felt relatively better and ready to brave the tiny chaotic airport once we had landed. We needed this "4th wind" of energy. By this time the kids were getting pretty restless, and almost too tired to walk or stand. My littlest found his place on the floor of the airport (ew!), used my hoodie for a pillow, and fell asleep within minutes of us arriving at the baggage claim area.

It's good to be home. The smell of charcoal hangs thick in the air, noticeable after the first step off the plane. I forgot how comfortable our bed is. The dog was so happy to see us. It was fun watching the kids rediscover their rooms. Also funny to watch them try to remember where things were located in the kitchen. I reminded them to brush their teeth with filtered water again. "Yes, mom... we know."

And now we work to get over jetlag. The first night was short. The second night, found us all up at 2am, snacking, and then back to bed at 4:00. Third night, the kids have slept better, and we tried hard to stay in bed until 4:00. It will take some time.  :)

It will also take time to get the house all put back, the grocery shopping done, meal planning started, and even those first couple of school days running. I need grace in these days. I feel anxious, wanting everything to be back to normal right away. I know it takes time to unpack. It takes time for our body clocks to re-adjust. Time for routines to return. Time to find our rhythms.

Jasmine Blooming on our security wall - smells so good. A gracious welcome home, to be sure!

August 27, 2017

I found a couple of cool things while in Canada this summer.

We’ve loaded up on lots of new books, Christmas and birthday presents, clothes, tools, electronics, and a few grocery items we can’t get in Madagascar. But there are a couple of simple pleasures too…

The first thing that I bought a couple of, to see me through the next couple of years is Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm. I have purchased Burt’s Bees products in the past, but this is the first tinted one I’ve seen in a traditional chapstick format. It works very well as a moisturizer, and I like the subtle tint.

The second item I have seen around this summer are small bracelet-sized rings that look like they are made out of old fashioned telephone wires. They are used as ponytail holders. They’re non-slip and they claim to not leave a pony-tail wave in your hair when removing them. So far so good. I love how I don’t have to tie them super tight to keep my hair up during the day.

Our time in Canada is coming to a close quickly. We are mere days away from leaving. The luggage is being secured and labelled. We have started filling the electronics with ways to occupy ourselves during the long journey.

Next post will come from Madagascar.... until then.

August 19, 2017

This summer reconnecting with friends and family has been marked by a lot of sadness in situations around us, and things happening way out of our control. My emotions have a way of taking me on a roller coaster ride, and spiralling me into sinful attitudes, actions, and lack of trust in God. It's at these times I must be even more aware of the facts of my faith. What I know God's Word says about Himself. And when I can hear the facts about who God is, I can understand myself better---why I am left wondering, confused, and out of control. Left to myself, that's exactly what I am. But God has given Himself to me, through His Holy Spirit. I must think on His promises. Those ones of comfort, of guidance, of Him being sovereign over all. He calls me to be His child, to be in a posture of trust. And not blindly trusting, no. God reveals Himself to me and builds my faith when I see Him answer prayer, when I see the Holy Spirit's fruit in my life and the lives of others. This is a gift!

Our Immeasurable, Measuring God

Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven--what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol--what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth
and broader than the sea. (Job 11:7-9)

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3)

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel? (Isa. 40:12-13)

Jen Wilkin asks, "Who has measured everything? God has, Who has measured God? No one."

Part of me feels overwhelmed by these truths--unable to even attempt to understand how we could be close to the God of this universe. The One who is immeasurable, who is over all things, and in control. But the other part of me feels peace. I have peace because I know that He's in control of things I can't understand. I can rest in this. Like the child who rests in the care of his parents who know the bigger plan for the day, or trip, or move. The child doesn't have to worry about all of the logistics and how it will work out. The parents have the plan under control. I want to rest in knowing God more and more each day in that healthy parent/child relationship.

August 13, 2017

As we sit in the ferry line-up waiting to board our second to last sailing before we leave Canada, I’m keenly aware of the calm ocean breeze and the natural quiet of travellers in the early day. The sun peeks behind a thin layer of cloud, and I’m thankful for this warm mid-August morning.

View from the ferry terminal
“There is no such thing as impossible,” by Building 429, plays from my husband’s speaker connected to his phone where he keeps his favourite music. I ponder this truth.

The gospel assures me that there’s no such thing as the impossible. Even when things are looking un-repairable, God redeems, God heals. When Adam and Eve made their first mistake, not trusting God’s best for them and making their own plan, He was already orchestrating the way of redemption. His plan to restore and heal. God's grace is for us, and we all need it desperately.

In my limited perspective, it can feel like all is being lost, time has run out. But fortunately in God’s sovereign view, nothing is impossible. Nothing is too big for His grace to cover. The bleakest of circumstances can be redeemed with Him. What He has done for us, forgiving lifetimes of sin by the sacrifice of Christ, and welcoming us into His family under the covering of Jesus, means we can live with the hope of the best yet to come.

August 5, 2017

More Reads

I haven't yet started this book, but it's sitting on my side table thanks to my mom for ordering two copies, one for each of us. I'm looking forward to getting into it.
From the back:
Our limitations are by design. We were never meant to be God. But at the root of every sin is our rebellious desire to possess attributes that belong to God alone. Calling us to embrace our limits as a means of glorying God's limitless power, Jen Wilkin invites us to celebrate the freedom that comes when we rest in letting God be God.

As for fiction and what I'm reading at the moment, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. This series is set in Botswana where an African woman is on the case. I just discovered that HBO and BBC have produced a tv series based on Alexander McCall Smith's novels. That might be interesting to take a look at.


I have placed a schoolbook order to be shipped to my home in Madagascar. If you were to ask the kids what they think, they would likely baulk at the idea of starting school soon. But I think I know better, as we have been on break since mid-April. It has been a very full summer, but everyone will appreciate routine when we get back into it. Besides getting excited about the new things we will dive into in the coming months, I'm also brainstorming ways to ease more gently into school. In the past I've thrown a pretty full schedule at the kids, head-on, with a sort of sink-or-swim mentality for us all to face. Without feeling like we are starting things late, or starting slow, I want to somehow ease into our routines. I would like this year to be different. I don't want us all to be "shocked" back into reality. Rather, ideally I want to rev everybody up, exercising each one's abilities until we're back up and running at 100%. We'll see how that goes.  :)