October 13, 2017

Life

We are certainly finding our routines as we have already been back in Madagascar for over a month. In some ways, I feel we never left. Canada feels a bit like a dream away. Did we really go there? At times I really feel like I'm living a double life. When we are in Canada we are a different family.... without our own home, in other peoples' lives always, shopping for 2 years in a 3-month period, packing loads of visiting into a short time, the months are broken up into weeks, which are broken up into days, every moment being used to its fullest.... Rob is not at the hangar working, we are talking about what we are doing at many churches, in many settings.... it's strange on so many levels. In Madagascar, the rhythms of normal life flow more easily. The days blur into weeks, which eventually move into months. I find blocks of time a challenge to keep track of because the seasons are not as defined as they are in Canada. When I look at photos of the kids, we are always in shorts and tanks.... the sun is always shining, no matter if it's March or December or September. It's actually amazing how seasons in Canada can be used as memory-anchors. Here, in the tropics I try and use different things.... what's growing in my garden, if we're swimming regularly or not..... there seems to be less cues to use as memory anchors.

In any case, life has found its rhythm once more. The kids are comfortably settled, knowing what to expect from day to day as we cruise ahead in our school work. The days aren't without challenges, to be sure. I wouldn't want anybody to be misled into thinking we are living a care-free life, where everyone behaves themselves, and all lessons go according to plan. Haha. Not by a long shot.

Some of my friends in Canada are studying Matthew and Exodus with Jen Wilkin, so I decided to join along with Exodus. The last study I did was Sermon on the Mount before we left on Furlough, and I have been really missing formal study. It's also more motivating and encouraging to work on a study alongside others. This way we can discuss things together, or work through questions together. I love that.


In My Kitchen

Baking has been a longtime passion of mine. I love trying new recipes and repeating great classics. This week I saw this amazing Battenberg Cake on YouTube and I just had to try it. I found myself making marzipan out of cashew nuts, since I have an abundance tucked away in my freezer.
Not bad for a first effort. I can't believe how this turned out! In 30 degree heat no less. This one will definitely be made again, with a few tweaks and changes. I had hoped the chocolate would be darker, so perhaps instead of cocoa powder, I will try and use something darker... yum. It is a very small cake, but not lacking in richness.

In My Garden


In an effort to decrease our garbage pickup each week, we have built a compost heap, and a paper/garden waste burnables pile.

I love these climbing roses that are taking over on my chainlink fence in the yard. They provide a lot of privacy, and they're so beautiful too.

New amaryllis on our deck.

October 6, 2017

The Time When I Cried While Reading Aloud

The children and I are enjoying a highly comical, light-read together-- Adventures in Waffles. Following two young children's adventures outside on the sheep farm and down by the ocean in Denmark has been delightful. Trille, the young boy in the book, is enamoured by his neighbor friend Lena, and regards her as his best friend. But he doesn't have full confidence that she shares the same sentiment toward him. Aw.

In my opinion, I know a book is extra special when it moves me to choke up with tears as I read aloud. Some of these other "special" books have been Charlotte's Web, and Old Yeller. Now, Adventures in Waffles will be added to this list. The kids weren't moved to tears... but were definitely solemn and shared feelings of sadness as the story took a surprising turn, and I nearly turned to my eldest to continue the chapter on my behalf.

This is where some authentic conversations can be had, memories are made, and love for good stories is created. I'm so thankful for these snippets of time. They are far and few between, but they do come along.

September 29, 2017

My Plans Will Unravel - And That's Okay.

We were blessed by such a good message in church this past Sunday, albeit a challenging one. God is on a mission. He has a grand purpose for everything that's happening. We aren't here by chance; we don't live where we live just on accident. We weren't born into random families. God's mission is all about bringing people to Himself for His glory.

This is amazing and freeing.

I'm amazed, because the God of the universe didn't just create us and the world to sit back and look at it. We weren't created to be His marvel. No, we were created for a purpose. We were created to be put to use. He designed His creation for work that He has ordained.

I'm freed because this means things have purpose around me. I can trust that when I feel like my plans are spinning out of control, or something unexpected comes my way, it's not surprising to God--the grand conductor of the orchestra. My plans can unravel. I will feel like the rug's been ripped from under me. But it's okay. I trust in a bigger God. And ultimately it's not my plans that are going to accomplish His will. Rather, if I am willing to commit my ideas and path to God, I will trust that He can help me be flexible when it falls flat. That all is not lost, and that He has a greater purpose for what looks like a grand fail to me.

On My Side Table


In My Garden



I found this treasure in my garden this week---a passion fruit flower. I'm so glad I took the photo when I did too! Because the very next day it dried up. Such intricate detail contained in this flower. Gorgeous!

September 22, 2017

Knights in Training, and Not Being a Helicopter-Parent

Life

This past weekend my boys were invited to a birthday party. And it's because I wasn't there, that I think my one boy had the chance to learn his limits. It was sad for him, to be sure, and I was sad for the mom of the birthday boy. But I realize, he probably wouldn't have learned this lesson if I had been there with him. I wouldn't have let him. Which reminded me of something profound. I can't and shouldn't be next to my kids 24/7 making sure everything is okay. As a homeschooling mom, I'm easily tempted to want to know everything that's going on with my kids 100% of the time. But how stifling for them is that? Who wants complete supervision, and direction in everything? Where's the discovery? Where's the mess-ups? Where's the problem-solving?

Had I been at the party, I would have tried to control how much sweets my boys ingested, to make sure they wouldn't come home with achy bellies. Well I wasn't there. And not only did one end up with a bad stomach-ache, he also up-chucked outside while trying to make it to a toilet. Poor boy. He won't be forgetting that lesson for awhile.


In other news, what we expected to happen while we are in Madagascar this time, did. My family lost a dear family member. My first grandparent to go and be with the Lord. I'm so thankful we had the chance to say goodbye to her during our summer in Canada this year. We were pretty certain this was it--the time was coming soon. I have been bringing to life good memories of her with my children: giant chocolate chip cookies for birthdays, and welsh cakes at potlucks brought by nana.

On My Side Table

I'm so excited about this book. I have found a resource that,
1-tells me my boys are like her boys: rough and tumble and can't stop moving,
2-helps me, as a woman, see and appreciate how God has created my boys different from me, and finally
3-trains ME to raise them by God's strength, in the ways of knighthood. Helping them recognize their need for adventure, big muscles, and conquering means they can grow in character qualities like bravery, selflessness, honesty, honour, and more.

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!