Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sad news

FISH : Little Squeek

Tom got a fish.
Which was his wish.
We found him dead
But he still had a head!
He was found in his dish.

by Heidi, who is studying poetry- including limericks -in school this month. And they say you never use what you learn in school! HA!

Some like it hot...

"Some like it hot, some like it cold...," says the old rhyme, but I would protest that NO ONE likes it THIS hot. This time of year always brings me a greater appreciation for the verses in Psalms/Proverbs about water; they just pop off the page... trees planted by streams of water that bear fruit even in drought (ahh for the shade of a nice cool, leafy tree.. this is how hard drought is...), good news being like cold water (how refreshing! with ice perhaps... or maybe poured over my head...), the Psalmist thirsting after God as you thirst for water (how single focused my thoughts would be)... A new hot season connection was made for me this week. Hopefully my attempt to explain the nebulous thoughts won't prove, as I often suspect, that my brain has cooked 'en tete'! In Bible study this week, we talked about how longing is inherent in waiting. If you don't long for something, you don't even notice you are waiting. We discovered that, in one version anyway, the same word in Hebrew is translated as "long" in one sentence and "wait" in the following phrase.
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him." Isaiah 30:18
This put a new spin for me on the idea of God waiting for me- there is inherent longing in that. How He longs for a strong relationship with me!?! Amazing but true... Also interesting that he waits to be gracious to me. He has something up his sleeve with the timing there, but most of all, this discovery put another spin on the idea of me waiting on God. There are lots of verses that I have come across over the years talking about waiting on God. "Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength" for instance. What if instead of picturing drumming my fingers as I waited impatiently for him to act, I pictured me longing for HIM? As I drip in my "cool" 96 degree bedroom, this speaks physically to me. Because the humidity has been high lately, each day we wait impatiently for the start of the rains to break the pressure and the high temperatures. Unfortunately, although we sometimes have showers now and again through May and June, it is unlikely that regular rainfall will start before July. So the waiting, full of longing, seeming to last forever, for rain I am doing, is a physical reminder that I need to be longing and waiting - using similar emotions-for something more substantial! The nice part is the promise that is slipped in the end of that verse in Isaiah, BLESSED are all who wait... Someday, the longing will be filled! Both my tangable longing for rain, but even more, my longing for justice, for peace, for healed relationships, for so much more... both now and in the time to come. He who longs and waits to be gracious and show me favor will finally get to the end of his wait. I'm so glad he doesn't leave us hanging! So this year as I sweat, I am trying to use it to remind me to make sure my real longing is for something beyond just the ac!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bunny Surprises

Some of you who know me know my EXTREME reluctance to own pets. I like other people's pets, but to my mind I have enough mess to clean up and people to feed without adding someone furry to the list, because everyone knows that no matter whose pet the animal is supposed to be, MOM ends up caring for it. This December, however, after seeing some unmistakable signs of responsibility from the girls, I finally caved to the pressure, and we got a rabbit. Our rational was that rabbits are fuzzy and fill the cuddling need, but unlike dogs, they stay in a cage so they don't ruin the plants or leave surprises in the yard! Also, given the cage, it is much easier to find "bunny sitters" when we are back in the US for a time. Plus, Heidi isn't allergic to them like she is to cats. Since our coworkers were the ones with the baby bunnies, the price was right too.

The whole family trooped over to pick one out. One of them hopped right up to us and acted very friendly, so we decided this bunny was the one for us. We were told the rabbit was a boy, another plus in our minds: no babies possible! After much debate, the kids named him Cuddles, (much to Ian's chegrin, he was routing for Peter or Jack.)

This vacation we agreed to "bunny sit" another male rabbit for a family while they were on vacation. After seeing the two bunnies frolic in the yard, I told Ian, "Either that is one dumb bunny, or he knows something we don't..." Sure enough, upon further investigation, we discovered that Cuddles was a girl AND now, soon to be a mom! (Ian felt that Cuddles was a much more suitable name given our new knowledge.) Ian and Heidi worked together to make a new bigger cage for the soon to be mama. Kay suggested they paint it green, so Cuddles would think she was in the grass :) The girls have done a great job of caring for the bunny. They remember to give her food and water each day without being prompted, and Heidi frequently takes the bunny out of her cage to cuddle with and give her free running and digging time in our enclosed yard.

Since December, I have caved even farther. Tom is now the proud owner of a VERY small, mostly transparent fish named Little Squeek.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Weekend

We trust you had a great weekend remembering and celebrating Jesus' death and resurrection on our behalf. Easter, along with other Christian holidays, is always a bit different here because hardly anyone is preparing to celebrate compared with the hussle and bussle and mad advertising back home. We didn't even dye eggs this year as we couldn't find any white ones.

Throughout the week before Easter, our family has a tradition of opening a plastic egg each night before bed. Each egg contains an object that reminds us of part of the Easter story and some corresponding verses. This year, however, we got an even more visual and interactive version of the events of Holy Week. We began the weekend with a chapel service at Sahel Academy on Good Friday. The entire school participated in acting out the story of Jesus' last week. Starting with the younger grades with their palm branches, through the Last Supper, the crucifiction, and Jesus' resurrection. Intermingled with the story we sang songs that reflected on what we were seeing. They did a great job.

Saturday we participated in the annual Easter egg hunt at the ambassador's residence. The kids left with LOADS of loot. Tom, in particular, found the "golden egg" for his age group and so came home with an extra big load.

Sunday we attended our church's annual Easter baptismal service. First breakfast was served, a spicy meat mixture on baguette, then we gathered around the outside baptismal to watch as 10 people publicly declared their faith-there was even tv coverage! As usual, our kids are facinated by the chance to watch in an up close and personal way. They stationed themselves right next to the cement edge so that they would see every bit of the proceedings. It made even more of an impact than usual as the big brother of one of their friends from school was getting baptized. This was followed by the normal Sunday service. Africans really are much more open to expressing joy in physical ways than we westerners, so we had a joyful service with singing, clapping, dancing- the highlight of that was the very old grandma that danced down the aisle, a good message, and celebrating communion together. How thankful we are that Jesus has risen so that we are no longer in bondage of death! At this time of year I love remembering John Donne's Holy Sonnet #10 "One short sleep past, we wake eternally and Death, thou shalt die!" Or as the Bible puts it, "Death, where is thy victory!?"

After church, we returned home to prepare lunch for 13. Our neighbors and a few friends joined us and we had a fun time of eating, laughing, doing puzzles, and being silly together-notably the visits of two funny bunnies... I am always so grateful for other adults in my children's lives who love them and play with them and treat them as important people. I loved that the kids were included in conversations and in puzzle solving. How many people do you know that would go THIS far in playing Easter bunny with a 5 year old!?

Today, Easter Monday, is not a holiday in the US, but it is here for some reason! We always enjoy the extra day to sleep late and clean up after a full day on Sunday. Stay tuned for our next post when we will tell you all the latest about our own live, Easter bunny...

Saturday, April 4, 2009


The girls are finishing up their spring break. One of the things we have been doing together while they are home is watching the Olympics. I know, I know, a bit late! Someone recorded the entire Olympics coverage on dvds for friends of ours and they finally finished watching them and passed them on to us just in time for vacation! The kids have LOVED watching! Mezmorized in fact.
Tom wants every team identified. Due to his lack of geography knowledge, it has been easier to identify teams with people. Amazing how many countries we can associate with people! We have Grandpa's team (US)and Grammy and Papa's team (Romania), Uncle Ed and Aunt Linda's team (Canada), Reuben and Jared's team (Australia), and the list goes on... Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Japan, China, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nigeria ... each country is associated with someone he knows and loves. I've come to realize again what a big world our children have been exposed to as a result of our coming overseas. I love that they have faces of real people to match with name on a map. Obviously, like the real event, our dvds have been heavy on water sports at first. As a result, our pool times this break have been full of IM attemps and backstroke starts. Heidi even put out one leg of a pretty decent butterfly attempt! Kay has taken up diving. Tom is even swimming "laps" back and forth the width of the pool, but my favorite reaction of his was his imitation of Micheal Phelps after the come from behind win of the men's relay team. This imitation (complete with no shirt) left us all in stiches (right). It has been fun seeing their interest and understanding of sports expand through watching. They are discovering sports they never heard of before, learning rules, and watching how people win and lose. All of these things we have less opportunity to watch/participate in here, so it is nice they get the opportunity. Now the synco diving is on, and then we are headed to the pool again, so I had better run! :)

Wedding Trip aka Mom's long weekend away

Just a few weeks ago I attended my first ever Christian wedding here. Since it was a 9 hour trip by road, I combined the visit with an opportunity to hang out with some friends in the area for a few days and help with some of the wedding preparations. Heidi and Kay still had school, so Ian held down the fort at home and it was a Mom's long weekend out! It was a fun time and a great chance to have a break from being on call 24/7 at the guest house and at our house!

After a few days of helping make ribbon roses for the cake, sample the cake :), giving decorating opinions and making name tags for the "top table" (as my British friend called it), we were ready to prepare ourselves! Here in Niger, the bride usually picks a material for the wedding and the guests will buy the material and make outfits for themselves to wear to the wedding. It is not required, but it is fun to see many of the people attending in "uniform." Because I was outside of the capitol, and because it was a more formal occasion, I had to wear a head scarf. In everyday life in the city, I don't bother, so in preparation, a friend of mine in the office had given me remedial head scarf lessons. Poor Ouma had a very head scarf challanged student! I was thankful that Leng, who I was staying with was the head scarf queen and could tie mine so it would look normal and stay on all morning! The wedding party and friends also often have henna designs done on their hands and feet. Here is a picture of my henna next to the wedding material.

Here is a picture of the bride and groom. Louise and her family have worked and been associated with SIM for many years in many different capacities. Aaron grew up in Nigeria and worked short term with SIM here in Niger for a while. And a picture of the entire wedding party... these pictures were taken before hand, as at the church, the wedding party does not stand at the front, and for the most part, neither do the bride and groom, more on that later. The bridesmaids with the hats are two of Louise's sisters. Aaron's two brothers are standing on either side of the couple.
There were several non-traditional things that happened in relation to the wedding and some traditional things as well. It is not traditional here for brides to smile. They are supposed to look properly sad at the thought of leaving their mother and father. In a break with tradition, Louise did smile, which was nice as hers is such a beautiful one! Also in break with tradition, Louise's parents did come to the wedding. Normally the bride's parents are not in attendance. Following tradition, Aaron's "father" figure here in Niger negotiated the bride price. After the wedding party arrived at the church, the bridesmaids danced up the aisle- very fun! It definitely portrays the joy of a wedding day more than our calm walking into the church. They stayed lining the aisle for the entire ceremony. They were standing for the processional, but when the ceremony got underway, they had chairs placed for them along the aisle. After the bridesmaids, the men entered walking sedately up the aisle rather like a bride does at a North American wedding. Here they are entering the church. Then came the beautiful bride with her sisters following her. They went up to the top of the aisle. The groom was waiting there and they sat facing the front of the church in a loveseat in the middle of the aisle until it was time for the vows. I LOVED that touch! The weddings here may be long, but they are practical!
After the choir (in the pink robes above) singing a number of songs (including a goodbye song for Louise as she had been a member for many years and is moving), the message, making sure there were no objections to the wedding (this a more relevant point here in a country where poligomy is common), the vows were said in English (This was one of the only parts of the wedding I could understand as most of it was in Haussa!), and we moved en masse outside for the reception.

It was a very nice reception. Some of Louise's friends (below) had decorated the head table to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Another friend had made the cake, and her sisters and family worked really hard on the meal. Most of us sat in chairs facing a raised area where the head table and some special guests were seated. They brought around peanuts and chin-chin (a kind of fried dough that tastes like tiny sugar cookies), then bowls of a nice rice and sauce, and bottles of local soda. After visiting with that for a while, then the cake was presented and significance explained and the couple cut the cake. There weren't as many people by this time. Apparently people aren't used to getting cake, so many didn't stay for the whole time. Of course, by then it was the afternoon and the wedding had started at 9:30, and you had to come much earlier to get a seat inside, so perhaps some were just tired as well. Loveth did a beautiful job with the cake. It was yummy too!
So there you have it! My excitement for the month of March. It was really good the kids weren't with me as they wouldn't have lasted the whole wedding. I was glad I got the chance to go, be off mom duty and my extra sleeping and reading time were nice as well.