Wednesday, September 7, 2022

August 2022

How is it possible that we've done so much in just one month? And I know I'm going to feel this way even more in the next few months! We are staying so busy here. Josh is visiting a new church every Sunday, and sometimes leaving on Saturday if the church is more than a couple hours away. The kids and I have mostly been staying at Hardin Baptist. It's been super hard to do that by myself every Sunday, but not as hard as it would be to take this crew to a different church every week. And we really want the kids to make/deepen some solid friendships here so it feels familiar when they return for future furloughs and college.

We said goodbye to Josh's sister and her family as they went back down to Florida. It was really fun having them around all summer.

We went for our first camping trip at Dam 50 in my hometown. It's a really nice little campground on the river, and we had a good time even though it was crazy hot. My mom, Aunt Judy, and her daughter-in-law came out to hang out with us, and a good, sweaty time was had by all. Unfortunately our trip got cut from two nights down to one when the weather forecast said it would be storming the next morning while we would be packing up to go home. That sounded like a 0% fun way to end our first camping trip, so we decided to pack up a day early.

One of the churches Josh preached at this week was Hardin Baptist! It was great having him with us for one Sunday. He also preached at my home church, Union Baptist, which was really special. It was so good to see everyone at Union and be able to mutually encourage each other.

We've been out on Pappy's boat a good bit again this month, and really in the water with a cold watermelon has been about the only sane place to be for much of the month. It's been SO HOT. Jude LOVES tubing so much, and Abe finally worked up the courage to try it, and of course loved it too. 

Josh also preached at the church he pastored for four years, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, and we all went along to see everyone! We got to spend the weekend in this idyllic cabin, which inspired Josh to start planning our retirement cabin. 

Our friend Skye, who lived with us in Malawi for two months a couple of years ago, drove up from Nashville to see us, and we all had a good time catching up.

We've also started going through our storage container that's at Josh's parents' house. We didn't store a whole lot when we moved to Malawi, but you can tell that as I was packing I definitely got to a point where I was just DONE and decided to deal with the rest of the stuff in four years. Ha. Understandably so, though, right? I was trying to pack up a whole house to either store, sell, or take to Malawi, and it was really overwhelming. We'd also put a lot of stuff in there that was intended for a yard sale which never happened. So now it's four years later and we're trying to organize all of that a little better and finally sell or donate a lot of it. The kids also have a good time looking through their old toys, artwork, and books.

This past weekend, Josh preached at a church near St. Louis, and took Taylah with him for the weekend. The church surprised them at the last minute with tickets to a Cardinals game! They had a really fun weekend together, and enjoyed the game and getting to visit City Light church.

Friday, August 5, 2022

July 2022

July has been SO BUSY! Josh's sister and her family have been in town from Florida all month, and we've been making up for the last four years by spending as much time as possible with them. It's been super fun, and really sweet to see the cousins bond. Her son and my boys love playing together, and her little girls and my big girls love each other so much.

We did the traditional 4th of July lunch with Josh's mom's family, and we had family over to our house for the 4th where we did BBQ and s'mores and sparklers and fireworks and all the fun 4th of July things. Murray cancelled the big fireworks show, so we ran to Kroger to get a pack of our own fireworks and had just as good of a time.

We went to see Minions: Rise of Gru in the theater, which was super fun. It was Abe's first time in a movie theater. I remember when we were in Malawi, my mom tried to explain to him what a movie theater was, and his mind was blown by the idea. They all LOVED the movie and the theater experience.

Josh preached at my mom's church this month, and after church we got to go see my grandparents and spend some time with my parents. We haven't gotten to spend as much time as we'd hoped in my hometown, because they're having a water crisis this summer thanks to a breach in the levee at the city water reservoir. The city is giving out rations of free bottled water to residents, and my parents are flushing their toilets with water they collect as it drips off the air conditioner. Anyway, all that to say that my parents can't really accommodate a bunch of extra people at their house flushing toilets and washing hands and stuff. Hopefully soon we'll be able to get up that way more!

Hardin Baptist had VBS, and I somehow now only have two kids young enough for it?? The girls had fun helping in the little kids' rooms, and Jude, Josh, and I enjoyed our quiet evenings at home.

Abe and JJ had a mini motorbike accident (it's kind of a long story that happened because the boys weren't doing what they were supposed to) which sent us racing to the ER thinking Abe would need stitches on his forehead. He ended up with a head CT and ankle x-ray that both came back fine, no stitches, and a big ole goose egg on his forehead. As it healed and the swelling dropped from his forehead, it filled his eye (which wasn't actually injured in the wreck) and his eye was black and swollen for several days. He was proud of how tough he looked!

Josh's parents got a pontoon boat recently, and we are becoming lake people! Jude loves boating and tubing more than any other human on the planet, and it's been so fun to do something he loves so much. It's also been great family time together.

The girls and I have started doing crossfit twice a week! This is something I've wanted to do for a LONG time, and we're building some habits that I hope we're able to take back to Malawi with us (I'm also starting a mental list of what exercise equipment it might be feasible for us to take back with us). I'm so proud of us, and how strong we're getting! We've also been running twice a week with some friends, and have really enjoyed that too! It's really nice to be able to run here without attracting lots of attention, and running with friends makes it even better.

We took the kids to the LBL Nature Station one day to look at all the animals. The boys were the perfect ages for it, and loved it so much. Afterward, we walked around Hematite lake, which would have been fun if Abe hadn't been so grumpy, but honestly that's true of most things we do, so we're used to it. Ha. Look how tall Jude is next to Mammie!

I have a million pictures from this month of our kids + Jessi's kids and all of us on the boat. It's been a busy and good month. We're so thankful for all of the time we got to spend with them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Reverse Culture Shocks

 People are generally prepared to experience culture shock when they travel to a new country. We expect that in a new place, lots of things will be different from what we’re used to, right? But when someone has lived overseas for a while and then returns to their passport country, you may be surprised to know that they often experience what’s known as reverse culture shock. They come back to a culture that should be familiar, but so many things are different! Different from what they remember, and different from what they’ve gotten used to where they’ve been living. It can come as a shock to their system in both big and small ways.

We’ve now been back in the US for 3 weeks, and I’ve been talking to the kids a lot to help them process the various reverse culture shocks we’ve experienced. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the things we’ve all noticed and been surprised by. I’m thankful that the transition has been fairly easy for all of us. We’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed, but I was prepared for it to be much worse.

One of the first things the kids noticed when we arrived in the US was how boring the roads are here, because there are no people or markets to look at. They’ve also been super weirded-out by how few people we see outside in general. In Malawi, there are people everywhere. Houses are mostly just for sleeping, and most people live their lives outside— cooking, doing laundry, hanging out, and walking to where they need to go. There are always SO many people walking on the roads there.

For the girls and me, one of the strangest things has been wearing shorts in public again! For four years, we’ve only been able to wear shorts at home, but when we leave the house we have to wear pants, skirts, or dresses below the knee. It feels super weird to show so much leg in our relatively modest 5” inseam shorts! It has been really nice, though, to be able to run in shorts again in this Kentucky July heat. In Malawi, even when it’s in the 90’s F outside, we have to run in capri leggings to keep our knees covered.

On a similar note, a positive reverse culture shock has been simply being able to run in peace. Nobody stares and/or shouts“azungu” (foreigner) at us as we pass.

I feel like the grocery store is the standard, stereotypical culture shock that everyone talks about when returning to the US. And I really didn’t expect it to be a big shock for me, because we have pretty big, modern grocery stores in Blantyre. But it wasn’t the sizes of the grocery stores in the US that overwhelmed me as much as the selection! Being gluten and dairy free, we have been pleasantly surprised by the availability of things we can have in Malawi, like almond milk and some gluten free treats. But we are used to just having one or two options. The other day I stood in the cereal aisle at Kroger, my mind boggled by all the gluten free cereal and granola options, and trying to compare prices so I didn’t pay an arm and a leg. I stood there long enough that an employee came and asked if I needed any help, and I just said, “no, thanks, I’m just so overwhelmed.”

For Josh and me, one of the biggest immediate shocks was driving! In Malawi we drive on the left side of the road, the driver's seat is on the other side of the car, and the turn signal and wipers are on opposite sides. It only took about a week for us to stop thinking we were on the other side of the road or hitting the wipers when trying to turn, but I still have to regularly remind myself what side I should be on, especially when turning. Another missionary friend shared with me the mantra, "driver in the middle, blinker by the door," and that's been super helpful! The switch from driving a stick (in Malawi) to our automatic vehicles here has us frequently reaching for the clutch and gear shift, but it's been nice to remember that cruise control exists.

There are other little things I could mention, like getting mail, not having to check our food for bugs, and cooking on an electric stove rather than our gas one that we love, but lastly I'll just mention how BUSY and full of PEOPLE life here is! We are used to a very laid-back, very slow pace of life. Some of us (the introverts) like that slow life more than others of us (the extroverts), but like it or not, it's what we're used to. We've all been very tired and in need of lots of down time to balance out all of the people time. My biggest introvert actually cried one day when I told her we were going to be seeing people again the next day. That's been a tough transition, and we've talked about ways to sneak off and have some introvert time even if we're with people.

Please don't read this wrong and think we aren't happy to be here, because we VERY MUCH ARE! It's been wonderful to see family and friends again, and to have easy access to so many yummy foods and fun things to do! It's just very, very different! I hope you've enjoyed reading about some of the ways it's different.

Monday, July 11, 2022

June 2022

June was such a crazy month, that it's already mid-July and I just realized I hadn't ever posted a June recap! But I didn't want to miss it completely, so here it goes!

Josh has finally gotten back into his pre-covid rhythm of visiting one Lower Shire church and one Zomba area church a month. The kids and I hadn't been with him to a village church in a long time, so we thought it would be fun to go along one more time before furlough. The coordinator was apparently really happy to finally have Josh visit his region again, and he took us to THREE churches! It made it a very long day, but the kids were troopers and so good. They fed us chicken, rice, and cooked greens after the service at the first church, which helped keep the hangries away during the second two services. It's always really fun and interesting to visit the village churches, and to actually see faces of the people whose lives are being changed by the teaching that their pastors are receiving at Shepherds Academy.

Speaking of Shepherds Academy, we also had graduation for the second graduating class! Josh, Isaac, and Matope work so hard to not just teach these guys, but to also disciple them. For me, it's so fun to see Josh doing exactly what God has gifted him to do.

I met with my Gospel Life Baptist Church Bible study ladies for the last time for a while. I'm so thankful for the chance to study the Bible with them, and I'm so proud of how much they are maturing in their faith as we study together. They are in great hands while I'm gone, with Eunice and Susan (wives of pastors Wilkes and Isaac) teaching them.

The kids did school right up until the day before we left. Partly because it was easier to keep them in their usual routine, and partly because they were pretty behind on some of their subjects and needed every day they could get to finish up. We said a sad goodbye to their wonderful tutors, Taonga, Grace, and Tamala.

Then we said goodbye to Malawi! Isaac, Susan, and their son Jedidiah took us to the airport and off we went!

And we said hello to Rome, Italy! We spent 3 days in Rome on the way to America, and it was beyond amazing! I'm working on some posts on the travel blog all about our time there, because it was way too much to summarize here!

Then we said goodbye to Rome and...

Hello to America! And family! And friends! It's been super busy and exhausting and overwhelming, but also super good! We're so happy to be here and see everyone!

Less than a week after we landed, Haylee, Jude, and Taylah went to Crossings at Jonathan Creek with Hardin Baptist's middle schoolers. Haylee and Taylah stayed with the group, and the plan was for Jude and me to go home at night and just come during the days.  We ended up only coming the first day (it was just too hard with Jude and not set up well for him), but that day we got to do tubing on the lake, and he loved it SO MUCH. We had so much fun and never got thrown off! The girls also had a BLAST, and made lots of friends.

Josh's sister and her kids are staying with their parents for a long visit this summer, so we've spent as much time as possible there with them! The boys are having so much fun together, and my big girls are bonding so well with her little girls. It's so sweet to get to see them all together.

Well that is a very quick recap of our crazy, crazy June! 

Friday, June 3, 2022

May 2022

We started off in our Star Wars shirts on May the 4th! I have fun looking for these shirts throughout the year at our local used clothes store. It's like a game for me to find things for various holidays- St. Patrick's Day, May 4th, July 4th, and sometimes shirts from different countries for the Olympics.

Our electricity supply has continued to be worse and worse since the cyclone in January. We are so thankful for our solar backup, but it is just a backup system and doesn't run everything or run for the full time that the power is out (especially if we forget we're on solar and accidentally use a high-energy thing like the electric kettle or water pump). So we're going without power a good bit these days. Which isn't too awful, we're pretty used to it by now, but does get a bit annoying, especially with the girls' live classes and several of us doing counseling on zoom.

Josh and my health has continued to be up and down (but mostly down) since we all got covid in January. We are just so exhausted for no good reason. We've tried multiple times (as pictured above) to get back into running when we start to feel better, but every time we try our bodies crash for several days afterward and we can hardly function. It's super discouraging, because we were both just starting to really get into running before this, and now ALL I WANT TO DO IS RUN. Please pray for us that we would really truly feel better for good and get our energy back, because this exhaustion is 0% fun.

We celebrated American Mother's Day with our family and our friend Rachel by going to church and then out to lunch at our favorite place, Casa Rossa. I felt very loved. I'm so thankful for these five people who call me mama.

Josh held one last full-team meeting before our furlough, and took the team plus spouses out to eat at Casa Rossa. It was a great time for all of us! We are so thankful to have such a wonderful ministry team here.

We are just a couple of weeks from leaving for our 7 month visit to the US! We can't believe it! Our parents have been working hard to get the home we'll be staying in ready for us. Josh's uncle owns the house, and the tenants just HAPPENED to decide to move out at the perfect time for us to move in... of course it wasn't a coincidence at all, God is so perfectly sovereign and provides for us in all things! It's an adorable little house, and we're so thankful and excited to call it home for 7 months. 

Josh and I celebrated our 16th anniversary this month! Our marriage is now old enough to drive! Ha! Thanks to our friend, Rachel, we got to get away to Zomba Forest Lodge for 2 nights and enjoy some peace and quiet together. It was such a great time.

The girls wrapped up their Veritas Press live classes for the year! Haylee took 3 live classes this year: Latin transition, composition, and omnibus II (omnibus is actually 2 intense classes, which combined give 3 high school level credits in history, Bible, and literature). Taylah took her first live class this year: literature transition. I'm so proud of how hard they've both worked. Live classes with real assignments and tests are a big leap from our usual laid-back homeschool style, and it's been really good for them to have that external accountability and teaching. In the picture above, T is sitting beside the books she read for literature transition, and H is sitting besides the books she read for omnibus.

Josh spent 2 weeks teaching pastors this month, 1 week at our campus in the Lower Shire and 1 week here in Zomba. He taught from Romans 9-16, and our colleague Isaac taught on spiritual gifts.

Rey got to practice search and rescue a couple of times during Abe and JJ's soccer practices. They practice at a secondary school, so Jude and his afternoon helper, Taonga, will walk around the grounds and hide somewhere, and then Rey and I come to find them. Rey had a lot of potential distractions (lots of monkeys, chickens, and students), but she still did great! It's so cool to see her catch his scent and just TAKE OFF after him. I basically turn into a human kite behind her trying to keep up! We really need to practice more often than we do, but a little is better than nothing.

And finally, I've actually started packing for our visit to the US and our stop in Rome on the way there! We're so excited and overwhelmed and nervous, but as it gets closer the excitement is becoming the prevailing emotion. We can't wait to see our friends and family and experience some parts of America that we've missed, and we're really looking forward to seeing Rome, too!

Monday, May 2, 2022

April 2022

We kicked off the month celebrating Abe's 6th birthday! We celebrated a day early by going to swim at a small local pool, and on his actual birthday, which was a Sunday, he went with Josh to visit a church in the Lower Shire. He's growing up so much, and is finally pretty good riding in the car (he's always gotten bored and cried quickly). He's so funny, and we love him so much.

Our 8 month old boerboel (South African mastiff) guard puppy almost died this month from eating a toad. Did you know that toads are poisonous for dogs? We do now! Thankfully he's a big boy (71 lbs and counting), and I think that's what saved him. If he'd been smaller I think it would have gotten the best of him. He was really sick for a few days until I took him to the SPCA in Blantyre and they gave him a shot for nausea, then he turned around pretty quickly after that. I hope he's learned his lesson and will stay away from toads from now on! The picture above is from when he was not feeling great and had thrown up the charcoal we'd given him all over his front legs.

Josh and I have been on a mission to declutter the house before we leave for the US. Four years is the longest we've ever lived anywhere since we were married (tied with the 4 years we lived at the parsonage at Mt. Tabor Baptist), and the house is desperately in need of some spring cleaning! In the picture above, we had to eat lunch in the floor because we'd emptied out the pantry and stuff was all over the table and island. It feels so good to clean and organize everything, and it will be great to come home to a tidied home in January.

Josh and I have also spent most of April driving the clinic team all over southern Malawi for our mobile medical clinics. We don't have any medical expertise ourselves, but we have an incredible team of doctors, nurses, preachers, and organizers who make these clinics happen. I spent 4 days and 3 nights in the Lower Shire (the southernmost region of Malawi, south of Blantyre if you look at a map), and it was grueling to drive such long, difficult roads every day, but it was so worth it. Especially in the village of Million, there was a malaria outbreak and almost all the kids in the village were very sick. They're too far from any clinic or hospital to seek care, so our team showed up just in time. Malaria is almost always fatal if left untreated, but easy to treat with medicine. 


We celebrated Easter with Gospel Life Baptist Church here in Zomba, and our family wore our Gospel Life shirts from last year, since we haven't had a way to get our 2022 shirts here yet. Now that there are multiple years of shirt designs available on our bonfire site (shirts are available to buy year-round, we just do a big push in the spring because a lot of people like to wear them on Easter for Forget the Frock), it's fun to see people wearing all different Gospel Life shirts!

The 18th marked 60 days until we leave Malawi for our 7 month visit to the US, so the kids and I made a countdown for the pantry door! We are feeling ALL THE FEELS about this trip. Excitement to see our family and friends, obviously, but also overwhelm (for Josh and me especially with all of the planning, packing, and logistics), apprehension about how much everything/everyone has changed in 4 years (including ourselves) and how well we may or may not fit in now, sadness at saying goodbye to our friends and home here for more than half a year... so many feelings. As with all of the major transitions our family has faced, I'm doing my best to get the kids talking about our feelings and understanding that it's ok to be unsure of ourselves and to hold conflicting emotions at the same time. 

Finally, we celebrated Josh's 36th birthday. He's officially in the late 30's that he's been teasing me about for a while! He's the most selfless soul and only ever asks for Nestle Toll House recipe chocolate chip cookies (with real flour, butter, and sugar, not the healthier changes we usually make to recipes) for his birthday. We went on a short hike on the Zomba plateau, and the weather was perfect. We are the luckiest people ever to get to have him in our lives.

I can't believe we can now officially say that we will be in the US NEXT MONTH! (I'm finishing this post up on May 1st.) It's so crazy!! April was insane and exhausting and stressful, and May and June look like they're going to continue that trend. We have so much to wrap up here with the ministry and our life here before we can step away for 7 months, not to mention all of the planning and packing we have to do, so please pray for our family any time you think of us.