Friday, November 30, 2007

So what does Christmas "FEEL" like anyhow?

It's that time of year, and yet again I am stuck on the fact that it doesn't "feel" like Christmas! I grew up in Colorado, Michigan and Indiana, which means, that almost all of my Christmas' came with gusting winds, snow and miserable temperatures. It is shocking to me how many things make Christmas for me.

Yesterday the temperature tried to hit the 90 degree mark. It is really hard to listen to "the first Noel" and "the little drummer boy" and think about Christmas when it is this warm. But tonight we sat around a campfire out at our training center and it felt like just possibly Christmas might be approaching. The difference, I was was cold. It was damp having just rained this afternoon, the wind was blowing, and it was cold. We talked about the need to rush in, make hot cocoa and turn on the Christmas Carols before the weather changed again.

Christmas means many new things to me lately. Even though it is tied to my memories of cold weather, it is not the weather that makes it Christmas. Even though I am used to spending it with one of my parents, that doesn't make it Christmas either. And yes, I am used to church on Christmas eve, with everyone dressed in Christmas best, and nope, that doesn't make it Christmas. The fact of the matter is, although it seems like everything here about Christmas seems different, it is only those things that don't really make it Christmas that are different.

Jesus is still the same. No matter what the temperature or climate, no matter who is present or not present, He is there, it was His day, it still is the day that God came near to us and humbled himself to be born in a lowly manger. I suppose if you asked Jesus what Christmas felt like he would give a much different answer than the petty answers about weather and family and tradition (turkey) and gifts. He would probably with joy share about his journey to redeem his people. He would probably share about being made flesh, possibly about itchy straw in the manger, or about the wonder of being made vulnerable and experiencing birth, infancy, and toddler-hood. Christmas isn't about me or my traditions, it is about Jesus, but it is shocking to me over the last few years how much I want to stick to those traditions, those memories, and even make some new ones of my own.

What does Christmas feel like to you?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Confession of a conversion

Well folks, it took 20 months, but I held out as long as I could. I mean really, it is one of the main crops in East Africa. I have to confess, that I woke up this morning, craving coffee! AGH!

I have been an avid coffee avoider. I like the smell but have always run from opportunities to try a friends Latte or Cappuccino or mocha...no matter how much sugar was in them, if they put even an ounce of coffee in those posh beverages I could taste it and how I dislike(d) that taste.

I don't know how it occurred, but my taste buds apparently have changed. I had a meeting yesterday with Annelle. She gets the latte and I get a hot chocolate, but yesterday I was looking at the menu for tea options instead when I noticed the chococcino. Typically at this juncture the chocolate would peak interest for about 2 seconds until I noticed the expresso...but oddly, I said to Annelle, "it sounds good, I kinda want to try it." She was just as shocked as we all are really.

So I tried it. I liked it. I wanted one this morning.

Don't worry though, I am still the same girl, not everything has changed, I still don't care for tomatoes and I don't do fruit in my yogurt.

Monday, November 26, 2007

GROSS!

I eat eggs, almost daily, at some point. Really in any form, omelet, scrambled, fried, with veggies mixed in, plain, add some cheese or some salsa...really I have come up with many ways to eat them. Partly because I struggle to get protein in my diet, and partly because I like them. And yes I pray about my cholesterol.

Today was no exception. After getting off the phone I went to the kitchen to fix some eggs for breakfast. I put some red and green pepper in the skillet and went to crack the egg into a bowl (we do that here, although until today I never found it necessary). The white came out into the bowl, but the yoke was stuck to the shell. I shook, and the yoke plopped down, and there were colors other than the typical yellow and opaque white. I tossed it, grabbed another clean bowl and another egg. Cracked it, same thing, this time it was just more colorful than the first. Most people would either give up at this point, or be grossed out, but red peppers are not to be wasted, so I grabbed another bowl and another egg. Cracked it, same thing, except this time...there were FEATHERS! GASP!

It was gross, but I realize I have grown up a bit since moving to East Africa. My old self would have been grossed out to the extent that you couldn't eat, let alone ever touch an egg again, but I wasn't. Yes I was grossed out, but I was not going to let this stop me from my morning tradition! So, you guessed it, I got another bowl, and another egg, and this one, it was beautiful, all that it should be, and so I got brave and cracked another egg, and it too, was just as it should be. And my omelet was fantastic!

There's food in the kitchen

Today was a scorcher, a real scorcher, probably the hottest day I have experienced here, aside from our trip to Zanzibar last March.

Which is probably why I had to think twice when I went into our "grocery" store this afternoon. I was lazy again and decided I didn't have the energy for the open air market, and I needed fabric softener and you can't get that at the open air market. So I caved, sometimes energy is worth the cost.

I had to think twice when I entered because they were playing Christmas carols and decorating! I took a double take and laughed, thinking about all the Christmas hub-bub of the western world. I enjoy this season when I am in America, people seem more pleasant, there is a more giving attitude, and for someone who loves to give gifts it is a dream come true...

So my laziness paid of, with a sweet reminder of the season where we celebrate our King, and a little giggle as I reflected on life back home. It also paid off with groceries in the pantry, and yes, I only bought what was necessary and I only had to make one trip up the stairs.

And I might add...I got creative and it was successful. It is always a good feeling when you experiment and it works!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blogger should have thought of it...

So I was reading a friends blog, and decided to check out the company who she is writing with...she isn't using blogger...

Anyhow, the group she uses, allows for a password protection to individual posts (I recall suggesting this a few months ago to blogger). That would mean your blog can be public, but you can select entries that require a password.

I am thinking of making a switch. They make it easy for you. But this blog has moved so many times I think it is tired.

Laziness and the 4th floor apartment

My pantry is empty. It is empty because I live on the fourth floor and refuse to buy a weeks worth of groceries because it will mean multiple trips up the stairs.

So instead I go to the market every 2-3 days to get what I think I will want to eat for the next 2-3 days. The problem is, last week was a very busy week, so I didn't make it to the market.

An inventory of my pantry and frige:
2 bananas
1 orange (its nearly rotten it should be in the trash)
too many condiments
juice
milk (its probably spoiled too, I never drink it fast enough)
teas in an assortment of flavors
a package of rice cakes
rice noodles
sweetened condensed milk
cocoa
spaghetti noodles
various seasoning packets
3 carrots
a flat of eggs
2 granny smith apples
a can of tuna

So I have determined I need to either 1. become less lazy, or 2. plan better for busy weeks. Partly because I am hungry, and partly because I love to cook and my creativity is being stifled by the current state of my pantry.

69 steps. It's only 69 steps. Surely I can manage.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Words I appreciated...

This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness
not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest, but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it;
the process is not yet finished but it is going on.
This is not the end but it is the road;
all does not gleam in glory but all is being purified

~Martin Luther

I also read this and this this week, both left me thinking and reminded that I to am in the process.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is hard to believe that it is my second Thanksgiving in Africa! Wow how time flies! It is hard to believe it is a holiday here, mostly because it is only a holiday if you are an American!

Here's a view of my Thanksgiving Day:

6am alarm reminds me I have to work today!
6-6:20 communicate via text between US and TZ! (fun times)
6:20 reset alarm for 7, I didn't really have to get up THIS early on a holiday did I?
7 Skip pilates and start working on the sweet potato casserole (thanks Crosspointe for the canned sweet potates, later about 28 American missionaries and their kids will savor that Thanksgiving Tradition!)
7:30 Shower
8 Post the pics from yesterday that wouldn't load.
8:45 leave for appointment at 9.
10:30-2 Continue week long seminar, getting out a few hours early for the holiday.
2-3 finish preparing my portion of Thanksgiving dinner.
3:30 gather at the Carter's house for a Thanksgiving feast that this year, does in fact include Turkey! (it was ordered a while back from Kenya, and yes, it was costly!)

How it is different:
Most of us don't gather with families, cause they are not here, so we gather with surrogate families!
I won't get to watch the Lions play football but I expect my uncle Jim will give me the details!
It's HOT! No sweaters today!
No pre-Christmas shopping tomorrow, its back to the training!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One pure and holy passion.

In all honesty, I was trying to keep myself awake. It was too early to go to bed, but too late to take a nap, so I did what I do most nights...I pulled out the guitar and the folder of music that I am trying to re-learn how to play...should I mention that I am re-learning the guitar, and it hasn't been like getting on a bike...it has been a challenge, one met with some icky sounds...my poor neighbors...

Anyhow, I was working through a relatively easy song, One Pure and Holy Passion by Watermark. And as I played it the 10th or 12th time it dawned on me, that I was praying the lyrics as I realized my passion wasn't what it should have been.

The lyrics really cause me to think:
Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
to know and follow hard after you.

To know and follow hard after you.
To grow as your disciple in the truth.
This world is empty pale and poor
compared to knowing you my Lord
lead me on and I will run after you.
lead me on and I will run after you.

I was praying these lyrics as I realized my passion, as of late, hasn't been to know and follow hard after Jesus. It has been about many other things....being a good minister, girlfriend, friend, teammate, sister, daughter (all are quite noble pursuits I might add :) and can I dare admit...about starting a vital ministry....screeeeech! When the passion becomes the ministry as opposed to the One who leads us to the throne himself...oh folks we have got a problem. No wonder my heart has been a little achy lately. It was pursuing all the wrong things, good things, but the wrong things.

My passion somewhere went from knowing Jesus, to doing good things for him. My passion for Africa became less about following His lead, and more about starting a good ministry, and completing the task, and doing it well, and about so many other things, instead of being here because he led me here. My passion for working with the poor hasn't been so much about following Jesus' lead either, instead it has been about the job...wow this is an honest post isn't it?

Dear Jesus, Give me one pure and holy passion. Make whatever I do in my life revolve around knowing and following hard after you, wherever you lead me, I will run after you.

Velvet Elvis and transformed thinking...

I am continuing to be floored as I read Velvet Elvis. It really is challenging me to think about how I view Christ, the Church, myself, and well, others.

I am not the only one being transformed this week. If you haven't already noticed, check out what is going on in Unga. It's amazing. Words cannot describe.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The weak Dollar

I never really paid attention to the economy when I lived in the US. I also never really paid attention when I heard about the US Dollar being weak. Now I do. Now I am watching it ever so closely.

Because of the weak US Dollar, we are experiencing a money crunch here in Arusha. Compared to this time last year, with the weakening (as in it goes down daily) exchange rate, we are paying 25% more for everything that we pay for using Tanzanian shillings...which is nearly everything. This time last year, you would get 1300 Tanzanian Shillings per USD. In the last 3 months there has been a steady decline, and it is now about 1100. Ouch. Add to that, the cost of living here has increased. I don't know how Tanzanians are surviving.

Take oranges for example. A year ago you could get 5 oranges for 100 TSH. Today, to get 5 oranges you pay 500 TSH. That's five time the amount folks! Add to it that many Tanzanians don't make enough to spend that much on oranges and you wonder why crime is on the rise, people are malnourished...it goes on.

My car has two gas tanks. It used to cost me about $135 to fill up. It now costs about $180 per fill-up. Cost of living increase, coupled with a weak exchange rate...Ouch. I fill up about once per month...at nearly $45 per month that adds up to $540 per year. You feeling my pain?

We had a meeting tonight as a team, as it also poses a financial threat to our ministries. Each August we make a budget for the following year. When we made our Budget for 2008 at the beginning of August this year, the dollar wasn't suffering so much. Based on the current exchange rate, we are now short $7000 for our team budget for 2008. YIKES! Our budget didn't increase, and the amount of USD that we will receive from the USA didn't decrease, but the amount of Tanzanian shillings we are receiving for those lovely greenbacks is greatly decreasing, and since we operate in Tanzanian shillings...it hurts. The difficult part, is that there doesn't appear to be a change in the future concerning the weak dollar. Ugh.

Pray that the Dollar would gain some strength, or that more dollars for our ministry would flood in to cover the damage.

Unga

Again..check out Unga. In fact, you should come back and check it often this week. It's a big week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unga Goes Rural

Read about it here. These are exciting times in Unga Limited.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dreams

I had a strange dream in Dar. It wasn't a horror story, it wasn't a dream where I woke up startled, but I did wake up with a stirring within me. So much so that I went to the front porch and told Byron and Lisa about it, saying I don't know if it means anything but man, its got me thinking.

I had the dream again last night.

It is a rather simple dream really. I can't say what town I was in, but I knew that I was in a city in the USA. The dream itself was black and white, and I was cold, but my heart was very much alive. I was walking up and down the streets and the alleys of the city I was in and talking to people. Eventually I came upon this homeless man. He was sitting on the stoop and well, I sat down and we chatted, and my heart, exploded with compassion, and mercy, and well, was at peace as well.

I don't know why but I noticed he was older than my dad but not old enough to be my grandpa, and I also noticed he was white. I am not sure why that was important, but it stood out to me. I sat with him for hours. We talked about his family, his hopes, how he ended up there and what he thought would cause change in his life.

So like I said, the dream itself wasn't scary. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It was comfortable, it was familiar, I was at home. That was the disturbing part.

I don't usually put a lot of stock in dreams, I don't usually mention them really, but having this dream twice, in as many months, and the odd peace that I felt in the dream has me unsettled. In fact, I felt more at peace in that dream, walking the alleys and helping that homeless man than I have felt in ages.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Velvet Elvis

Do you build walls that keep people out...or do you invite people to jump on your trampoline...

I like to think that I invite people to jump on my trampoline...but if I was honest I have spent many days laying bricks and building walls.

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell is causing me to think. Its worth your attention.

She's a workin' gal.

I was re-reading through the blog posts about the car accident, police, court etc. earlier this evening and it is amazing to me that it was over 2 months ago. Really. Shocking. 11 weeks ago I was going through what I thought was the trial of a lifetime...it is nice to look back and see that I survived, that although I got beat up (figuratively not literally) it is nice to know that I am again standing on my feet, and again I am walking through Unga (read about the latest in Unga here) and that I am back doing what I love to do.

As for life...it goes on. Kinda reminds me of the theme song of a tv show I watched as a little girl, although I haven't a clue what the show was at the moment...and life going on has been good. I have gradually over the last few weeks stepped back into ministry, and although it was rough I heeded the suggestion and encouragement of many to go slow. This week, I am back full time, and it is incredible. Now I feel like I have finally conquered the battle. It no longer places restrictions on me, the incidents surrounding the accident are no longer keeping me from what I love, they are no longer placing boundaries on my heart and on my life. I feel a new freedom, and my love of this place has returned. I love the people, the culture and the ministry that I get to share in, and it is good to be back in the saddle. Yeah, I still have fears, and I still get to (as in I like it and it is good for me) see a counselor as we continue to wrestle through everything that came up with the accident, and yes, things do frustrate me, like the guy I saw pulling a girl into the classroom today by her ear, yelling at her because she was late, but it is still a lovely place, a place that has found space in my heart.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Fourth Floor

I can't really tell you how many times I climbed up to the fourth floor and down again carrying boxes, furniture, appliances etc...

Really I haven't a clue how many times any of us did (a huge shout to my teammates and friends who helped Kendra and I move!)

I am sure our legs will let us know tomorrow, that even though we haven't a clue how many times we climbed up, that it was too many...

Moving is going well. So far so good. Only 1 thing broken this time, and it was all my fault, I failed to remember that my wireless router isn't compatible with 220V power...oops! Yep, you guessed it, it fried.

Now to find some dinner.