Saturday, January 28, 2006

What better way to say "see ya"...

...than to wallow in American excess and consumerism with an evening at the mall of America?

Ava is secretly dating Snoopy, but only for the food.
Mark doesn't know...

There's a lot of brain power in these two pics...someday you'll be able to say you knew them when.

Friday, January 27, 2006

My new friend's ministry

I met a great mom at Ava's preschool class who is running a ministry called Shoes for Students. Check out their program via the link on the left side of the page. She's a great example of how a small group of people can make a significant difference in such a basic way. I'm sorry I'm not going to be around to get to know her better. Plus, she just met Michael W. Smith at a private function, which is completely cool.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One last thing...

For those of you who might be thinking that this blog is a bit long on text and short on pics, I will try to do better. I'm just pretty sure you don't want to see pictures of a bunch of boxes in a half empty house--or maybe you do.

There's a lesson here.

OK, you how sometimes it feels good when you're proven right--even though you know you shouldn't feel smug about it? So several weeks ago I was on a bit of a tear about how we didn't have housing or any word about our residence papers and no one was looking at our house for rent. Mark kept telling me that everything would work out and that I couldn't control things and I needed to let it go...which might actually be true, but not comforting at that point.

Well, then we got the notice about the glitch with our paperwork and it was Mark's turn to fire up about why they hadn't gotten on this earlier. I SO wanted to point out (tactfully, of course) that I was not wrong when I was fired up about this very issue. But of course, any satisfaction I might have had from being right was swallowed up the added stress of getting everything that we needed together.

Then...8 guys showed up from our church to paint our house on Saturday. We get a note from Clive that he's seen several houses and there are 2-3 that would do for us. We found the diplomas and got the marriage certificate ordered and delivered. Andrea, a photographer that Mark went to Africa with, called yesterday about helping us move our stuff and showed up all day today with a truck and trailer--she also solved my final computer bugs that were putting me into hysterics. We've had 3 showings on our house in a week.

In the movie "Signs" (which is a GREAT movie, by the way--I highly recommend it) Mel Gibson asks "what if there are no coincidences?" When life is rushing, you tend to see events and not think about how they fit together, but when you take time to reflect, you realize that there is a plan and God will guide you through whatever is happening and will take care of you.

My sister-in-law Cathy is a very wise woman and reminds me that if we could see everything that was coming down the road, we wouldn't need faith or God. He only lets us see what we need to see at any one point in time. I hate to admit it when she's right, but she usually is.

Our stuff is on its way.

FINALLY! Mark is taking the final load to the shipping company, where our things will be loaded into a shipping container (along with 12 pallets of books donated by Books for Africa) and it will be off to Africa. In case you're wondering (and my kids thought it was interesting) the boat will cross the Atlantic, enter the Mediterranean Sea, travel down the Suez Canal, and then down the coast in the Indian Ocean to Tanga. (whew!) Then, it will have to clear customs, which can take an indeterminate amount of time, and then be trucked to Arusha. If you didn't know how far it is, it will take approximately 45 days to reach Tanga. The boat is an open barge, so the containers are stacked on the decks, not underneath.

It was unbelievably stressful getting this part of the preparation ready. Neither Mark nor I have slept more than 2-4 hours a night this week. Trying to decide what to bring, are we bringing too much, and all the what ifs...I learned that when pressed, I'm all about throwing it all in and sorting it out later, and Mark is all about leaving it behind and figuring it out when we get there. You can imagine the "conversations" we've had this week! heehee

Really--read my post and get rid of your junk! Or, I guess you create a religion where you worshipped your stuff, whether it has value to you or not, and celebrate it by acquiring more stuff and lovingly hoard it in every crevice of your house. That way, if you ever have to actually pack it, it would seem like a labor of love instead of a burden. Truth to tell, I like my "stuff" as much as the next person--but I am hoping that living in Tanzania will help shape that change in my and our kids to be able to let it all go more easily.

Good news--we are talking to Clive (who works for PHF in Tanzania) about housing on Wednesday or Thursday. From his descriptions, it sounds as though he may have located housing for us. We also have our first lead on a gardener/guard that speaks very good English and has experience with Swahili tutoring. That would indeed be a great blessing!

Bad news--we just learned that the immigration office says it does not have the necessary paperwork complete--they say they are missing birth certificates (which we submitted), a marriage certificate (which we were not told we needed), and certified copies of college diplomas. Well, colleges here don't certify diplomas--we pay far more attention to college transcripts, but in Tanzania the actual diplomas are very significant. We'll have to bring the documents with us and enter on tourist visas, which we can buy at the airport when we arrive. We'll pray that once we provide these documents it will be smooth sailing, at least in this area.

We will be packing the rest of the stuff for storage and moving it on Sunday. The time is ticking and sometimes I think we're actually going to be moving to Tanzania!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Kong is Wrong.

I love movies. I'll admit, I love pop culture, even if it's shallow and displays virtually none of the values that I aspire to live my life by. I love great action movies and movies that can bring you to the very center of those universal themes that we humans have struggled with as long as we have existed.

So when Peter Jackson--who created absolute magic with Lord of the Rings--decides to remake King Kong, I was up for seeing it. Really, having seen the original and the 70s remake (poor Jessica Lange to be stuck in that one) I figured I knew what I was in for but that "movie magic" would compensate.

No, it didn't. After three hours the best thing about it was the free refills on the large diet Coke and the bathroom breaks I had to take which allowed me to escape this freak show. Even the large grossout factor of gigantic attacking cockroaches and eagle-sized killer bats can't make up for the romantic ice skating date Anne has with Kong in Central Park. Honestly, once I figured out the ape was going to save me from the rampaging T-rexes, I'd go along with him, but when he keeps chasing after me and killing everyone in his path to get to me, I'd be urging the ship captain to harpoon him more than once. And I know everyone likes Jack Black, and he was great in "School of Rock", but geeze, the maniacal eyebrows are old by the time the ship sets sail. And Adrian Brody won an OSCAR, for crying out loud...why he is in this film? Are we really supposed to BELIEVE this inter-species love story?

Mr. Jackson, you look great after losing all that weight while filming this movie, but it really does stink. I know that everyone who hates it won't know they hate it until after they've paid their $8.50 so you'll still make millions, but don't do this again. The worst part is that I'd go see another movie of his, hoping this was an aberration. The best part was the X-Men 3 trailer--which I will encourage anyone to see (the movie, that is, not just the trailer) because it's a terrifically fun popcorn movie and Hugh Jackman is in it.

But skip Kong--you can get that much Diet Coke cheaper somewhere else.

Another blessing.

God bless Trinity Lutheran Church in Hayfield, MN! What a wonderful group of people, led by a great paster and his wife, Stephen and Laura. We had a great opportunity to spend Sunday morning with them sharing the mission of Peace House Foundation. We were so warmly received and so many people were so excited to hear about what we're doing. Mark was able to spend some time with an old college trackmate/friend, the congregation has offered to pay our storage costs for our household goods that we're leaving behind, and we both again truly feelblessed to realize the support that we are getting from so many sources.

When I got home I found the November of "The Lutheran" and read this very timely quote from a book called Loving Jesus:

"My faith is not always strong, my life is not always good, and I do not always think that I am blessed...I don't know what will happen between today and tomorrow...All the things I am grateful for could disappear. But I do know that tomorrow morning I'm still going to be part of the church, and the church is still going to love Jesus. So I know that I will love him, too."

It's such a profound reminder that we are not traveling alone, that there are so many of you that will be supporting us and "praying us through" those difficult times that are certainly ahead. So, tonight--thank you, Stephen and Laura--and thank you Trinity Lutheran for joining with our own congreation of Peace Lutheran, (and us) on this adventure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Purging is good.

OK, I'm packing and packing and why is there all this STUFF still hanging around?! Here's the deal...I have TOO much stuff. And I know if I have too much stuff, then you have way too much stuff. How do I know this? Because I've had two house fires in the past 4 years which significantly cleaned out our house, and I'm married to a man who was born without an acquisition gene. The thing is no one needs or wants or will ever use so much of the junk in their houses. You just think you do. You delude yourselves into thinking you "might need it someday" or "somebody might want it" or "it's got sentimental value". Really? Are you sure about that? Well, I have to admit--I never used the three dozen baby food jars that would have been great for crafts. I'm pretty sure my kids (or their future spouses) are not interested in every scribble they put down on paper in their early years. No matter how clean I am, I'm not using 12 towels. It's not going to come back into style and I'm probably still not going to fit into it even if it does.

I'm not realizing this because I'm moving to one of the poorest countries in the world. I'm realizing this because I'm tired of putting it in boxes. I'm wondering why it was so important to have in the first place. I'm tired of wondering why I have it when someone else could actually use it. Yesterday Mark saw a little boy at school negotiating with his older brother about whose turn it was to wear the one pair of mittens that they shared out to recess--so why do we have 5 pairs of mittens for 2 boys?

The funny part is that my husband comes from parents who are serious savers, and my mother saves nothing. I miss that I have almost nothing from my childhood to show my kids, and I do keep things that they've done or toys they've especially loved. But I don't think you need to wait 1-2 years to see if you'll wear it or use it. Heck, you can probably figure that one out in the store before you buy it! You know you aren't going to wear it or use give it away. Give it to ARC or Lupus or Bridging or Goodwill or wherever the spirit moves you. If you have the urge to make a resolution, resolve to purge your life of the crap that fills up every corner. After you recover from the shock of how much junk you're storing, you'll be amazed at how it feels to let go!

And can't go out and buy just a couple more things for that empty space over there...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How do you say good-bye? everyone and everything? We've said goodbye to family in August, more family at Thanksgiving, still more family in December...but starting to say goodbye to friends here is almost more difficult because it comes so close to actually leaving and along with all the work of packing and moving.
We have the greatest church (hooray for Peace Lutheran!) that we've belonged to for over 10 years. Yesterday they had a wonderful commissioning during the service and a great reception between services. We were amazed and so thankful for the outpouring of good wishes and prayers and humbled by the confidence that everyone seems to have in us! I just don't know how people get through times of change or stress (or life in general) without the support of a faith community and a belief and trust in God. At this point, it's becoming more evident how important that is. We are leaving in three weeks--the well drilling for water on the land is still in progress, we have not heard about housing for when we arrive, nor have we heard anything about our work/residence permits. Who else besides God can we trust to see us through whatever is coming?
To everyone who has offered their prayers and support....THANK YOU THANK YOU! We are neither of us adventurous or risk-takers by nature (which doesn't explain how it is we're heading off to Tanzania) and we are blessed to have spent these years at Peace and will continue to feel a part of the life there. *sniff, sniff* Here come the tears again, and it's just not good to cry on the keyboard...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Christmas Day 2005

Cameron, Ava, and Noah showing off their treasures on their last Minnesotan (American) Christmas for a long time! Funny, but we didn't look at our Christmas traditions as "the last time we'll..." but just enjoyed the days as we always do! There was a sense of ending something, though, especially at church on Christmas Eve and again when I took down the decorations and separated them into "staying" and "going".

Cameron is reading the complete "Far Side" collection, which will bring us lots of laughs in the coming year. It's definitely his type of humor (OK, it's OUR type of humor).

After seeing the ballet on a school trip, Noah put this nutcracker at the top of his Christmas wish list. It will have a place of honor when we celebrate a Tanzanian Christmas next year!

Ava's obsession with ballet, ponies, and kittens was amply rewarded. She hasn't yet opened the box with the tutu and the ballet slippers...she's hoping for dances classes at her new school.

To all who sent Christmas cards, letters, and photos...thank you for your warm words, blessings, and prayers! We will rely on them heavily in the coming months as we begin the final countdown to our departure. We leave January 31 and will carry with us your photos to remind us of our friends and family that we know will be with us in spirit. Here's to a memorable 2006!