Monthly Archives: October 2013

Unsupervised Memories

She thought we were a school out on a weekend camping trip. I smiled and said “no, we’re from a children’s home.” I’m sure we looked like a school 17 kids 5 adults, four big tents, and an extra tent for all the food. The kids had Monday off school due to a holiday so kind of on a whim Alyssa and I decided to organize a camping trip.

The weekend was a blast. We camped on the lake, the kids sang songs the entire hour drive from our house to the camp sight. We split up into teams and thanks to Alyssa enjoyed everything from a scavenger hunt to three legged races. The kids made friends with some of the other campers, and we spent a lot of time on the boat dock just hanging our feet in the water.

I have to confess that my favorite part of the camping trip was actually when Jeremy and his friend Jason took the kids for awhile while Alyssa, Ruthann, and I escaped to enjoy some amazing food at the restaurant attached to the camp site. I have to say I was a little apprehensive leaving 17 kids with the guys. All I could think of was the giant lake and Jeremy’s philosophy of letting the kids run free. But, I let go (sort of) I’m learning anyway and for a sweet hour and a half I enjoyed some good girl talk and some incredibly amazing tacos.

When we came back, Jason was sitting on the grass with a couple of kids and Jeremy had gone off to take a shower. The kids had scattered—climbing trees, sitting on the dock, playing with new friends, trying to catch fish with a stick. They were all happy, having fun, and everyone was still in one piece. So I relaxed, let them be kids and worked on not worrying as much. It’s a freeing feeling (a bit scary) but at the end of the day it’s nice knowing that I can trust my kids to be responsible and as hard as it is for me I’m learning to step back a little. I’m working on letting go of having to know where they are every second. I’m learning to let them make their own memories and enjoy some times of just being unsupervised kids.

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Starry, Starry Night

The kids were inside eating s’mores for the first time. It had been a crazy day so while our guests from the US (one of our volunteer’s parents) entertained the kids with sticky marshmallows the rest of us retreated to the front porch to steal some sweet silence out under the stars.

The generator had run out of gas so we watched the fading sunset in untainted silence and broke into the Reese cups that my parents had sent out. “It’s the little things,” Jason said as he enjoyed his chocolate. He was up visiting for the weekend and with 17 kids to take care of we always welcome having an extra set of hands to help out around the house.

I leaned my head back against one of the porch pillars and watched the stars appear. The kids were squealing in the background as they enjoyed their sticky treats. They brought us marshmallows toasted over the jico, and I thanked God that nothing had caught on fire.

Our semi-silence didn’t last long as the kids (now on a sugar high) joined us outside. They raced each other in the darkness, sang at the top of their lungs, and Zippi started telling us a story about how she was going to fly us all in a rocket up to the moon. Michelle climbed up on my lap with her fuzzy red blanket. She twisted her fingers in mine and as I looked down at those little fingers and then back up at the sky I thought, “this is life, and I won’t trade it for anything.”

Even with the sticky messes and problems that come with working with kids from difficult backgrounds, it’s so rewarding—seeing them grow, seeing them learn, seeing them realize that this is a stable home and it’s ok to just be yourself, seeing them take care of each other, seeing them understand the heart of God. Every minute is precious. Every day so full of purpose. I’ve found my place, my heart, my home. God creates everyone with a purpose a reason to be on this earth and when you find that purpose complete and fulfilled in the middle of a starry night it’s a beautiful thing. I know He has even more for me. I know this is a path, a journey with even more stories to write, but for now I’m content just to be where He has me. To wrap my fingers in His and to take in each moment one starry night at a time.

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Learning to Roll With It

“I’ve learned a lot,” I thought to myself on Saturday while once again attempting to cook for 20 people and having no idea where to start. It’s funny before I came to Kenya I thought of myself as an accomplished cook who liked to experiment with generally successful results. Now I realize I still have a long way to go.

Not having a refrigerator and having a limited budget for food means that meat is a rare treat (as in a once or twice a month rare treat). I never realized that as Americans we have meat with almost every meal, and think that that this is normal. But here there is no more whipping out a frozen chicken breast to season and serve with rice and no more frying up sausages to go with eggs at breakfast. At home I love using bacon, bratwurst, and turkey to spice up a meal. Here there is rice and potatoes, more rice and potatoes, beans and maize, cabbage, spaghetti noodles, and eggs (thank goodness for eggs).

So I’m learning. I’m learning to cook without cheese (sad I know). I’m learning that being a forced vegetarian isn’t as bad as it sounds. I’m learning to experiment. Although it’s hard experimenting with food when you have 17 faces staring at you at the dinner table 17 faces that are quick to give disapproving looks when anything different is placed in front of them. (Early on after moving to the children’s home the kids informed Ruthann, who had made spaghetti for them, that they don’t eat red food). But, they are learning. Half the time after trying something new they end up liking it and come back for seconds. So while the kids are learning to try new things, I am learning to eat the same thing over and over.

I am also learning that life is unexpected and that days go by much better when, instead of fighting life’s sudden twists, you roll with them. Like this morning when on the way to town the car we were borrowing ended up with a flat tire. No big deal except for the fact that the car had no tool in it for getting the lug nuts off the tire so that we could change it. Fortunately, we broke down in walking distance of a new restaurant that has just opened. The manager very nicely called someone to bring a tool for us, and while we waited Jeremy and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast of omelets, toast, and chai.

An unexpected cup of tea

An unexpected cup of tea

Life loves to throw you the unexpected especially when working with kids. I’m learning that the little angels who are so sweet one minute can suddenly decide to turn the living room into a playground and before you know it you feel like you are living in a zoo.

I’m learning that it’s hard not to get upset when a child tells you that what you served them for lunch makes them feel like throwing up or when they ask for more soap because they left the soap you gave them last week disintegrating in a tub of water. I’m learning that just because a child grew up with practically nothing does not automatically mean that they will take care of what you give them. I’m learning that life is all about learning.

I’m also learning about faith. I’m learning that most days my faith is weak, but that God has put these kids in my life to teach me about childlike faith, a very beautiful thing. When they are sick they pray for each other and mean it, and when they pray things happen. I’m learning that God is so much bigger then what my mind can handle and that is also a beautiful thing. I’m learning that it’s ok (although scary) to have basically no money in your saving account because the king of kings is bigger than all of my needs, and He delights Himself with giving good gifts to His children.

I’m learning to work closely with a group of people that I just met to trust each other, build into each other, and let God use each of us as He sees fit. I’m learning to let go—let go of planning, let go of worrying, let go of feelings of inadequacy, and just let God take control. I’m learning that I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to learn, but every day I’m learning.

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