Not what I expected: benchwarming at its finest

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Last week I totally geeked out searching for missionary blogs of other Americans here in Kenya or Eastern Africa. I found a ton and subscribed to them all. On one hand, a wave of giddiness swept over me every time I found someone I could possibly connect with (I’m just a tad starved for companionship at this time… I only have two friends that I actually hang out with here and intermittently at that), but on the other hand, reading some of these people’s stories of life on the mission field incited some jealousy.

Grandiose dreams of missionary life have filled my head from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper through the time I flew 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean to get here. With a passionate heart for the orphaned and oppressed and an imagination large enough to solve every need they had, I was anxious to get my hands dirty and change the world.

Let the lofty dreams hit the floor

Aside from a few weeks of volunteering at an orphanage near a place where we temporarily lived, my hands have stayed relatively clean (my hair is a different story) and the world is changing, but I’m just watching from the sidelines… keeping the bench warm.  This was to be expected since Ray and I made a commitment to stay out of ministry for this first year.

There were two big reasons we decided to do this:

1. Ministry can be very taxing on a marriage, especially when you’re only in your first year, so we figured we’d keep ourselves from adding unnecessary stress as much as possible.

2. Because I came over knowing little to nothing about my husband’s culture, and it’s really important that I take the time to acclimate to it before I dig into ministry and start structuring our organization. I need to see how the locals do things, how they tick, what they like, and what they don’t instead of imposing my American ideals on them. Sometimes American systems just don’t work in other cultural systems, or sometimes they do but because I’m a woman I have to be strategic about the way I present them.

Though I know I can’t learn everything about his culture in a year, it has been good for me to just observe. I’m learning a lot, and I know I’ll continue learning well after we have the ‘go ahead’ to hit the ground running. Like any other career bench warmer, I may not be in game, but I’ve got a better advantage of seeing the strategy and skill behind each player’s move and getting a better perspective of the game as a whole. When the coach finally lets me in, I’ll have some insight that those playing the field may have missed.

Changing the direction of my inspiration

Regardless of what I know to be a good plan for us and our marriage, it’s hard to feel like I’m serving a legitimate purpose here. In fact, the other day I was in the midst of having a pity party for myself when it occurred to me that my marriage is my ministry. I may not be able to care for orphans or feed the hungry or preach the Gospel in the streets, but I am called to love my husband. I am able to care for his physical and emotional needs, I am able to feed him, and I am able to encourage and challenge him in our devotional time. Just as my service to the least of these translates as service to God, my service to my husband is just as much a service to God. The more wholeheartedly I pour myself into the act of serving my husband, the more fulfilled and prepared I will be when we come to the end of this year.

It’s about time I stop looking so much to the future and just be who God called me to be today.

“Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of [the] gospel ministry of reconciliation, and that commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage. If my marriage contradicts my message, I have sabotaged the goal of my life: to be pleasing to Christ and to faithfully fulfill the ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming to the world the good news that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.” ~ Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage)

 

Open hands expose the heart

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I admit it. I didn’t leave Kansas to come to Kenya for purely noble reasons.

Ray and I know we’re called to ministry here, so it’s not like I’m living in direct disobedience to God by coming here or anything, but if I’m being excruciatingly honest with myself, there were a bunch of other factors that made it difficult for me to completely negotiate the fine line between God’s will and my own. Maybe He said, “Yes, but not now,” or maybe He said, “Yes, you can go.” I have no idea. All I know is that I was out the door as soon as I heard, “Yes”.

This is the part where you sing the chorus to Taylor Swift’s song “Trouble” before proceeding…

Many times throughout my life I’ve advised friends and family members not to look at leaving any place as an opportunity to flee from trouble, because the trouble will inevitably follow them. Many times I shared that they needed to get to the root of the issue and find healing before they made any decisions to pack up and leave. Apparently I must’ve experienced temporary deafness whenever I shared this advice with others, because I did exactly what I told them not to do. How the plank got stuck in my ear, I don’t know.

When Ray and I decided to get married, I was thrilled by the way our callings overlapped and ecstatic to know that we both felt called to Kenya. I gave the Lord a hearty pat on the back and commended Him for providing a way of escape for me. At that time I was serving in a ministry that had seen better days, and my home life wasn’t all that… homey.

I was convinced that Ray’s family would fill the familial void I felt once I made their home my own. They have that kind of vibe that reminds me of some of the things I miss most about my mom, but I have no idea how to engage with them. This goes beyond cultural differences. This is a heart issue. A heart that needs to be swept clean. Because I never dealt with my dirty laundry in Kansas and instead opted to stuff it in the deepest crevices of my luggage for my journey to Kenya, it should be no wonder that my problems have followed me. Not only is it difficult for me to fully engage with my husband’s family, but all the mess from home continually spills over into my life here. And I’m not just pointing the finger here, because some of this mess came from my sloppy habits. But much to my chagrin, I can’t leave the mess for someone else to clean. I have to take care of it myself, and I better take care of it before the rats and maggots lay claim to it.

Behold! She finally gets to her point

I’ve recently begun the journey towards inner healing… okay, I’m lying. It’s more like I was convicted about it a few weeks ago and asked for prayer, and then I just put it off until the conviction came a knocking again. So let me try that again.

Starting now, I’ve decided to really open my heart before the Lord to let Him do what He does best. I’m going to let the Lord lead me to a place of inner healing so I can love my family, my husband, his family, and others better. I am a strong believer that we encounter and overcome struggles for others more so than ourselves, so I hope to share a bit of revelation about what I discover with you along the way. I promise this will not become S’ambrosia’s personal journal to air out grievances or ramble on and on about Jack, Diddly, and Squat, but I hope it will be an opportunity for me to share the foundational principles of how I’ve learned to wash my dirty laundry (the Kenyan housewife side of me shudders at the thought) and clean house. Maybe I’ll post these reflections once a week or so… and who knows? Maybe throughout the process we can all experience some form of inner healing together.

A special word from the mentor we often quote

Throughout the short life of this blog (5 months now, including our Weebly genesis), we have shared various tidbits of wisdom about intercultural marriage from a mentor who thus far has gone unnamed. Today we’ve asked that mentor, Pastor Anthony Odhiambo, to share a few words of encouragement for our readers. This topic is one he’s drilled into our heads many times, and it has become pivotal not only in helping us communicate as a couple, but also for the purposes of hashing out our future endeavors. We hope you’re just as blessed by what he shares as we have been.

The importance of goals in a family
As two individuals come to the agreement of sharing their lives together, the last thing on their mind is goal setting. Instead, the majority of couples will tell you how much they love each other and what they imagine marriage will be like, and they truly expect their lives to turn out that way. At this point you can clearly see that these individuals may be living in a fantasyland, because love is a choice. If they expect their lives to be that way, they better have a plan to keep it that way. You can only expect what you inspect.

A time will inevitably come when the lady who once was sweet and charming becomes a nuisance, keeping you from living a life of freedom. On the other hand, the man whom you couldn’t wait to spend all your time with has become a road block to your destiny, causing you to figure out ways to fulfill your destiny without him. This is but one of the challenges that occurs when a man and a woman determine to share their lives together.

Proverbs 29:18 states that “where there is no vision (divine revelation), the people run wild/perish/are exposed. But happy are those who follow God’s teachings.” From this verse we discover that there is a teaching which, if followed, will bring happiness and blessing to our lives and keep our marriages from destruction. So before people decide that they want to get married, the first thing they ought to do is sit down and come up with goals for their marriage—both long term and short term. These goals are simply guidelines that direct you to your destiny as a family. They give you a purpose to work towards in unity and love. These goals are not just one’s desire imposed on another, neither are they one’s dream imposed on another to fulfill, but they are the desires of both the man and the woman who have decided to share their lives together.

These goals should be:

Realistic
Most people set goals that are not achievable. When they do so, they claim that they believe God will help them achieve it. The fact that we are spiritual beings does not mean that we don’t have brains. We have freewill to choose what we want, and God respects that, but you don’t have to tempt the Lord or invite unnecessary stress and worry into your life. So for the success of your marriage, take time to plan for it. The best house is the one that has a proper plan with properly laid out foundations. Likewise, a good family is one that has principles that are well understood and have been developed and nurtured along the way.

Clearly Understood
Always make your goals simple. I have talked to some people who have goals that are all over the place. They begin at one point then pause it, and then they begin the second point and pause it as well. Very soon these individuals will be burying their heads in the sand in their search for direction. Simply be directional in your goals. Let your family have a clear purpose to live for. And be sure that your family isn’t competing with other families, but that they understand what their goal is.

Un-burdensome
Never make the mistake of picking a goal that you never mean to fully accomplish. Have you ever applied for a job you didn’t really like? How did you feel waking up in the morning getting ready to go to work as opposed to how you felt when it was time to go back home? If you have a job that you are more excited to get back home from than you are excited to attend, then you are in the wrong place, and your attitude will be terribly affected. In the same way, you don’t want to be in a marriage that you dread to come home to that turns spending time with your spouse into a box to be checked off your list. Please understand that spending time with your spouse shouldn’t be something we dread, but something you love to do. Your goals shouldn’t keep you from spending time with each other, nor should they create an environment of selfishness. Any goal one is planning to achieve should be thoroughly talked over with the spouse and given their full support. Remember these goals are to make you work together effectively and draw you closer to each other having a common vision/purpose and not to cause a strain. It is the unity in the relationship that brings strength. At times there could be no desire in performing the required goal, but as long as there is support and unity both will be able to achieve it.

Very specific
Always, always be very specific with your goals. There are couples who are not very specific about the amount they want to spend on a vehicle or the model of the vehicle they are looking for. As a result, they may end up with a good vehicle with a high payment or a cheap vehicle with a lot of problems. That is why they should both do their assignment of educating themselves on different kind of vehicles, their mileage, the availability of parts, etc. After you have done your assignment, then you can make a concrete decision based on knowledge and desires together.

These goals will help give you a purpose in life. I can guarantee you that those who don’t have goals will end up having a marriage that is very shaky and without peace. After coming up with the goals, make sure that you write them down. Habakkuk 2:2 tells us to “write the vision down and make it clear” so that whoever sees it may run with it. So many people have their goals in their head and most of the time, they forget about it and even begin to wonder why on earth their marriage isn’t helping them accomplish those goals. The moment you write your goals down and place them in places where you can see them, they give you a sense of direction, and as you begin to accomplish the short term goals, you begin to have security and fulfillment in your marriage. You begin to see the purpose you both were meant for unfolding before your eyes.

I would like to encourage you to make necessary adjustments to see your marriage fulfill its purpose before your eyes. For those who have not set up goals, it’s never too late to begin. You can get together and have a plan. I hope this will help some of you. Stay blessed and I wish you the best.

Pastor Anthony

How S’ambrosia is getting her groove back

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Just so you know, today’s topic won’t be incredibly novel to most of you, especially if you’re a married Christian woman. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve discussed this issue with your friends or read about it within the past few weeks. A friend of mine even added her perspective to the mix just last week (check it out).

As was typical of me, prior to actually being married, I believed that this could never happen to me.

But alas and alack, it did.

Now, I’m not saying folk music is the devil, but…

I should have known something was up when it came time for us to move and I had to reduce the amount of songs I had on my dad’s computer to fit into my flash drive. The anxiety-ridden task of choosing which songs to delete and which ones to keep was one I had to perform in a small amount of time, so rash decisions were made and inevitably, regret ensued.

My music library contained a combination of worship songs – like the intense kind of worship that makes you want to weep until assuming the fetal position or rocking back and forth incessantly is the only source of comfort you can find – and some rad folk music. I had just recorded an album and was looking to create more music that could hang with current trends, so I figured that listening to some popular stuff would help me make that happen; therefore, I ended up deleting most of the worship songs to make room for the folk songs. So ultimately I came to Kenya with very few worship songs in tow. Apparently I had completely forgotten how big of a role worship music plays in my devotional life.

Jesus is Lord over iTunes too

Whenever I’m doing chores around the house, it’s a given that music will be playing. Now that we have WiFi in the house, my iPhone has revoked its paperweight status and become a useful smartphone again… around the house at least. (It’s difficult to access WiFi elsewhere.) Anyway, because of the wonderful iCloud feature, any song that I’ve ever bought on iTunes is automatically available to stream on my iPhone, even if I deleted it in a temporary lapse of judgment.

As I was washing dishes the other day, a bunch of those intense worship songs that I thought I had lost forever began to play successively at the behest of the shuffle button on my phone, and as each song played, my face got uglier and uglier as I struggled to sing the lyrics through my tears. Songs about an intimate covenant with God played, reminding me of a time when I could hear such words and not feel like they were a foreign language. Songs of joy regarding the freedom we experience when the rivers of God rush into the lowest place came up next, opening my eyes to the drought my soul has been experiencing.

That night I could do nothing but whisper to God, “I miss You.” And there I was, back in the fetal position again.

Oh Lord, I don’t want to be one in this number when the saints go marching in

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I have fallen into the category of women who feel like marriage has cause their relationship with God to decline. Okay, maybe caused is strong verbiage, but I can at least say that marriage sometimes pits itself against God when it comes to my daily priorities and decision making abilities.

Now, like any other woman who’s talked about this issue, I’m not blaming my husband. As I’ve mentioned before, he does a great job of keeping us on track with our Bible discussions as a couple, which is key to our growth in God, but that does not take the place of my one-on-one time with the Lord. I mean, as much as we are one flesh, I still have to stand before God one day and give account of my actions as an individual. He still expects us to search Him out and to seek to commune with Him on a daily basis, regardless of what our marital status may be.

Ray is gone for most of the day, so I have plenty of time to saturate myself in the goodness of God.  What have I been doing instead, you wonder? Well, first thing in the morning, I pull out my iPhone. Then I get on the laptop and start working on transcriptions or writing. Transcriptions usually take hours to complete, sometimes even a full day, so before I know it, it’s late and  I have to hurry and clean the house before Ray gets home so I can pretend like I’m a responsible wife. We have Bible study before bed, and sometimes I get some cool revelation and sometimes I don’t, but it depends on my attitude and how open I am to receive it. There are days where I yawn through the whole thing and I just want to get back on the laptop. Honestly, the longer I spend neglecting my personal devotional time with the Lord, the more frequently those kinds of days occur.

Remembering the good ‘ole days

The height of intimacy in my relationship with God was definitely my college years. It was my joy to spend hours in worship exploring new ways to encounter the beauty of Christ or to read the Bible and get crazy revelations to journal or share with friends. In those moments my heart felt like it was thriving in the fullness of Christ. Even writing this now, my heart feels so crusty and cold in comparison. There was a time I could feel the weight of God’s presence when I would worship. Does being married mean I have to say goodbye to that? I should hope not.

My friends used to tell me about how marriage and family affect their devotional life with God, and I would think, “Well, duh, you have to make time.” It always seemed like such an easy fix to me when I was single. Now that I’m married, I can’t concede and say that they were right and it’s difficult; I just have to step in front of them so I’m the first one in line to receive the finger wagging from other single ladies.

I’m not as busy as I tend to proclaim I am. Yes, I have a lot of responsibilities between work and taking care of my husband and home, but those things don’t keep me busy every second of the day. When I wake up in the morning I can spend time with God, I just don’t feel like it. When I get online and hours go by with me just reading random schtuff that has no significant bearing on my life, I could be spending that time with God. When I refuse to stop playing Candy Crush until I’ve used all of the lives alloted to me, I could be spending that time chatting it up with God. Sometimes I even just lie in bed and do nothing. I could at least be living in an awareness of God’s nearness to me.

My contribution to the conversation

As I’ve been typing this blog, I quickly realized that I didn’t actually have a point. I even ended my first draft by typing, “I don’t know how to end this… is there an answer or am I just venting?” I had to walk away from the computer for a while to get what seems like too simple of a response from the Lord. It came in the form of a Scripture:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

All of those excuses we give for why we can neglect our time with the Lord seem valid at the time, or at least we can talk ourselves into believing that they’re valid, but what would happen if instead of choosing a nap, I chose to renew my strength by meeting with Christ in our secret place? Or what if I woke up in the morning and turned to gaze upon the fairest of ten thousand instead of turning on the television? I know we like to use television as a way to unwind or defragment, if you will, but I want to learn to defragment by pressing into Jesus.

Learning to implement these desires in this phase of my life has been and will be a challenge, but I’m tired of telling God how much I miss Him before I go on about my business and my plans for the day. It’s definitely about time this girl got her groove back.

Who wears the pants in your family?: a co-blog

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Before we got married, Ray and I received very similar warnings:

“Be careful of American women. They’re very controlling.”

“Be careful of African men. They’re very controlling.”

To say the least, these well meant presages have created some very interesting dynamics within our relationship.

Revisiting the power of words (S’ambrosia)

I’ve written about the power of words before in the “Oh Be Careful, Little Mouth” post that went semi-viral (1,000 views within a few days is pretty exciting for a fledgling writer like myself), but I didn’t realize until recently just how much those “beware, take care” conversations had affected our relationship well before we were married. When you have statements like that repeated to you frequently, and by people you love and respect, it becomes very easy to slip into misinterpreting or even demonizing the actions of your spouse.

During my time in Kenya prior to our engagement, I came to know Ray as a big ole’ squishy teddy bear. He was the most amiable guy I’d ever met with a mammoth sized heart of compassion that was bent on serving others before himself (even to the point of being taken advantage of). It wasn’t until I came back home and announced my engagement, that I began to see him in a different light, as various people emerged out of the woodwork to warn me about how mean African men are to women. For the longest time I tried to defend Ray and explain to people that when they met him they would see for themselves that he wasn’t at all like what they described, but my attempts were to no avail. They would give me those “knowing” nods and tell me that they’d pray for me, and I would leave the conversation slightly frustrated, but impacted all the same.

I never knew how bad the impact was until Ray and I would talk on the phone or Skype.

All of a sudden, everything he said was offensive to me, and every single word had a subversive meaning behind it. I became paranoid about whether or not he had ulterior motives for marrying me, and I frequently voiced the concern (not really my concern, but the concern other people had drilled into my head) that he would change after we married.

At the same time, Ray was voicing concerns of his own…

What’s going on in the kitchen? (Ray)

Knowing the culture I was marrying into, I was scared at first because of what everybody around me was saying. I heard things like: your wife won’t let you see your family and friends or your wife will make you wash her panties. The list was endless.  I remember my friend from the States, after I told him I was marrying an American, told me that one thing I should keep in mind is that they should always have their way. Discouraging, right? I tried to safeguard myself from statements like this, but they were confirmed one day by a personality inventory we took from a pre-martial counseling packet. One of my highest traits was the lion, a decision maker who is determined, confident, and likes to take charge. Guess what my wife was. She was a lion too. Needless to say, I was a little bit discouraged.

In our culture a wife is responsible for all the household chores, while the husband is in charge of decision making, manual labor or technical work, and of course providing the daily bread. There was a time that African men never went into the kitchen. If a man was ever spotted in the kitchen, he would be the talk of the village; some would even say that his wife is a “control freak” or that ” that man is the woman in that family”, to list but a few. Even if the wife was the breadwinner, we do have some cases of that here, and the husband stayed home, he would hire a house girl to go in the kitchen. With that kind of background, you can imagine how worried I was about what life would look like for me and my American lioness here in Kenya, but I was relieved when my wife told me that she believes that she is the one to take care of the house (even though washing utensils and laundry is not her thing, lol) and merely requested that I would be helping whenever I could. That was one less fight for us to have.

More than a stereotype (S’ambrosia)

As Ray shared, we eventually discovered that control actually would be an issue for us, not because he’s African and I’m American, but because it’s simply the nature of who we are as individuals. We don’t doubt that our cultures have influenced our personalities to some extent, but at least now we can speak about our control issues on a level that goes beyond the cultural stereotypes. Unfortunately, we still hear comments from people who only see me as a typical American stereotype, but once again we have advice from one of our mentors to fall back on. He encouraged us to be each other’s champion. When people from Ray’s culture harp on me for being too “American”, it’s his job to defend me, not mine. The same applies for him. The logic behind that is that when you’re dealing with people of your own culture, it’s easier for them to dismiss an issue when you address it as opposed to when your spouse does. They’ll forgive you quicker than they will him. This has been another great piece of advice that has really helped us stay afloat in either country. It’s also pretty neat to see my husband stand up for me amongst his peers. It really does wonders for my love tank.

Working out the kinks (Ray)

Through the help of our mentors, we also discovered that for an intercultural marriage like ours to work, though I believe the same applies to any marriage, there was a need to create our own culture as a couple. This means we had to  come up with our own set of rules to govern our marriage.  Some rules favored my wife, and some favored me, but above all we had to be accommodating. Even though my wife has agreed to the duty of being a home maker, I have personally made it a rule over the weekends to give her a break from all the duties in the house. It’s still easy for me to do this because we are just the two of us, so I am not afraid of people laughing at me (Sam: this is a legit fear that he has), but what is more important is the fact that we agree on something beforehand, and we do our level best to ensure that we honor our promises. As far as  decision making is concerned, yes I know am the head of the house, but we both have a right to give input, so long as in the end we have each others blessing, even though some decisions may be hard to bear for the moment.

(S’ambrosia) Although part of the Wasike culture involves shared decision making, a very real and current struggle we have with overcoming some of the things people have said/say to us has been Ray’s fear of exerting any control over me in certain situations. Before we were married, some people told him that if he did something I didn’t like, I would get on a plane, go back home, and leave him. No matter how much I tell him I’ll never do that, he can’t shake the doubt. So there are times we will discuss issues and I’ll argue my point, and to keep from having to deal with me getting too upset about how controlling he is, he’ll just say, “Okay, do whatever you want,” and drop the conversation completely. In his mind he’s keeping the peace and appeasing his cray cray wife, but in my mind he’s giving up the right to use his God-given authority as the head of our house. Truth be told, I actually want my husband to boss me around. I don’t mean that in the sense that I want him to be domineering or controlling (you can unfurrow your brows, ladies), but I want to be able to look up to see my husband at the helm of this marriage with one hand in God’s and other in mine and feel nothing but trust in his leadership capabilities. It’s hard to trust your husband’s leadership when he’s always putting you in that role to keep you from bursting into angry dances all over the house.

I have since given Ray total permission to exercise his authority over me without fear, even if it means I have to perform an angry dance or two. I may be throwing a fit, but secretly I’m admiring his ability to lead me in the best way he sees fit. Of course it’s incredibly baffling to him to hear me say something like that when he knows that me giving him authority doesn’t mean that I won’t argue my case until I need to pause for a water break, but he’s coming to understand that just because I want to make sure that I make my points known doesn’t mean that I won’t adhere to his plan. It’s just nice to know that he values my input.

We’re definitely still working this out; my husband is only on book 7 of “How to understand the convolutedness of your wife”, but God is faithful and He really has been teaching us both so much about submitting to one another in love. In turn we’ve agreed to just ditch the pants and clothe ourselves in garments of humility and servitude instead.

Five loaves, two fish, and other miracles (pt. II)

Previously on “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World with the Wasike Tribe”…

Ray and S’ambrosia were finally able to wed after nearly $1,000  of visa expenses,  9 months of waiting, and 1 wrecked car.  By the ever abounding grace of God and the generous support of friends, the impossible was made possible.

(If you missed the last episode, you can catch up here.)

On this week’s episode…

The plan was simple: get married, sell everything I owned, use that money and wedding gift money for plane tickets, find a new home in Kenya, get a new job to work towards paying off student loans, start an organization, and… okay, so in hindsight, maybe the plan wasn’t so simple. Nevertheless, with starry eyes and high hopes, we continued the pursuit of our goals.

Thanks to the help of many amazing friends and family members, my costs for the wedding were minimal. Good thing, because my bank account had become used to being trapped in an empty, cold, dark room, and that season was no exception. We figured the money we got from wedding gifts would cover the cost of our plane tickets, but we ended up being $200 short. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, that was before we realized we had bills to pay before packing up shop, so before we knew it, over half of the money was gone. Part D of phase 3 of our plan was to leave the States from New York after spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Maryland with my mom’s side of the family. The bus tickets would take the majority of the little money we had left, but we decided to use the last of our money to at least secure our tickets to the east coast. We had no idea how we would get to Kenya, but at least we knew we’d be one step closer.

Expect the unexpected

So the wedding money didn’t cover our plane tickets, as we originally hoped it would, but I still had furniture and household items to sell. Surely we would get some money there.

Surely we did not.

No one should ever let me price items for their garage sale if they actually want to make money, because I will sell everything for at least half of what I should and still believe I’m overcharging. Even so, selling some of the bigger items in the home brought in a little cash, but when it came time for the actual yard sale, we barely sold anything. Apparently people were just waiting until I posted that I was giving away all that was left, because droves of people showed up that day leaving nothing but a single box of odds and ends. On top of that, selling my car could have made us at least $1,000 (the cosmetic damage could easily be fixed), but I had the conviction that because we had received so many free blessings via the wedding, we should give just as freely. A friend pointed me to a man who was in need of a car, and the evening before we left town, we surprised him with his very own car… for free. As happy as we were to bless someone who was so deserving of a vehicle, we did go back to our empty house and contemplate our own predicament.

Did we just give away our plane ticket money?

We really needed to pray some more.

Answered prayers in mysterious ways

Well, the time came for us to skedaddle, but before we left, we spent the evening having dinner with my family for obligatory farewells. We never mentioned that we only had like $400 in our pockets. No one asked. Why would they? Who in their right mind would pack up to move for another country without having all the necessary funds in place?

As we were leaving the restaurant, I received a text from some good family friends asking where I was. They met us before we got in the car to give us $200. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had put out a silent “fleece” before God asking for a sign that the step of faith we were taking was actually something we should be doing. He asked for a monetary miracle. The gift that night did more for us than contribute to the small pot of money we had for airfare; it gave us an incredible boost of hope.

The next morning, as we prepared to leave, we got another surprise as we discovered that I had almost double the amount of my apartment deposit coming back to me. According to the landlord, I had overpaid at some point, so a good chunk of change was added to the pot.

Before we went to Maryland, we planned a mini road trip through Topeka and Kansas City to visit with friends. By the time we left Topeka we were another $200 richer, thanks to a friend who said he wanted to bless us. We only needed another $200 to completely cover the cost of both of our tickets.

Arriving in Maryland, we were positive that it was smooth sailing from then on because my aunt told me that since they weren’t able to fly out to our wedding (everything was too last minute to book flights), they would give us some money. For the week that we were with them, they put us up in a hotel. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon, so this was such a sweet blessing for us and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Spending time with family I hadn’t seen for years was equally satisfying for my soul. It had been a long time since I had felt such warmth in a family gathering, and it made me so happy to see how well received Ray was by everyone. It was like they had known him for years. My heart was overflowing with that slap-happy kind of giddiness. Things couldn’t have been better.

Enter the plot twist…

That happiness came to a screeching halt the night before we were to leave Maryland for New York, because I realized that the money we were supposed to receive had been spent on the hotel and we weren’t going to make our goal. I thought the only way to meet it was to sell my beloved guitar. My aunts, aware of my plans to sell my guitar, questioned me about our flight plans, and when I hesitantly admitted that we didn’t actually have anything solidified, the fury of my mom’s sisters was ignited! We had a series of long, stern talking to’s, and then they took it upon themselves to help us cover the rest of the money.

I was so ashamed to have looked so immature in front of my family, but my heart was also incredibly encouraged. Without going into detail, my immediate family’s ability to communicate properly was very poor even when I lived in the same city, so I knew that communication would be pretty much nonexistent when I moved over 8,000 miles away. Thus far, my suspicions have been confirmed. Receiving those lectures from my aunts meant so much to me because it showed me that they actually cared about me. They wanted phone numbers and contact information for Ray’s family, they wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed, and they wanted to make sure that we had a proper plan for when we reached Kenya. I could see my mom in every action they made that night, and it spoke volumes of love to my heart. I know God could have easily provided that last bit of money without anyone knowing our predicament, but I truly believe things happened the way they did so my heart could receive a little healing… healing I didn’t even know I needed.

How much more will your heavenly Father give?

The next morning was my uncle’s birthday, and he was ultimately the one that gave us the final $200 we needed for the tickets. He also sat us down and lectured us (who knew I would grow to love lectures so much?) and then closed by commending us on our faith. He shared how encouraged he was by us and the way we just packed up and left home even though we had no idea if or how the money would come. It was quite a stirring word of encouragement, and all the tears I had pent up trying to be a big girl in front of everyone took nose dives down my face. My family prayed with us, helped us book the tickets (with the help of some of my cousins), and sent us on our way.

All of the money that we had went to the tickets, so we had no extra cash for post-departure. We got to New York to spend the night with Ray’s uncle before our flight left, and as he dropped us at the airport, he handed us another $200, not knowing that we were broke or anything about the journey we’d been on to that point.

Let’s do this thing together

In the last post on our faith journey, I shared that the lesson I learned was that sometimes the negative events we face in life are simply blessings in disguise. I would say that is still very much true here, but I also came away with the understanding that a faith journey isn’t something you’re supposed to do alone. Maybe it was pride or maybe it was immaturity, but I believed that we could get to Kenya without having to share our story with anyone. I knew God would provide, so there was no need to reach out to anyone else. The response of my family, when they found out the truth, not only broke down some emotional barriers in my heart, but it helped me to understand that you don’t pursue faith in spite of the ones you love, but you pursue faith with the ones you love.

To tell the truth, the emotional pain I had hidden in my heart was because of a family member acting on faith in spite of the rest of us. He made a big decision and told us God told him to do it and then left us wondering where we fit into God’s plan. I had no idea that I was doing the same thing. I have since resolved to be more transparent about where I am in my faith journey, especially with those nearest to me (hence this blog), and I pray that everyone who reads this will also be encouraged to let others into their faith walks and allow them to help carry the load.

Wedding cake & a great big slice of humble pie

One of my favorite quotes from my teenage years comes courtesy of my mother. She had come into the dining room just as I was ending a phone conversation with a friend. As I placed the phone back on the receiver (this was back when everyone had a land line, and cordless phones were on trend), I proceeded to inform my mother that I was getting bored with my friend and that I planned to stop hanging out with her soon. My mom gave one of those long exasperated exhales and shook her head before saying, “I just don’t know how you manage to keep any friends.” Maybe I wasn’t supposed to laugh at that since she was expressing disbelief in the fact that she had raised such a rude daughter, but it was and has always been funny to me. According to my mom, the fact that I have friends is a miracle.

I wish she could see me now.

I am married and amazingly enough, the clerks at the nearby hotel don’t have a secret room permanently reserved for me. Nothing short of a miracle.

A growing distaste for my favorite word

In recent years, one of my favorite words to throw around in any conversation was “introvert”.

“Hey, Sam. You want to come over for dinner tonight?”

“No. I’m an introvert. I’d rather eat alone.”

—–

“Look! There’s a warthog over there!”

“No thanks, I’m an introvert. I don’t follow the crowd.”

—–

God: “Go witness to that person over there.”

“Is it going to start with small talk? I’m an introvert, remember? You know I hate small talk.”

—–

When I first came to understand what the word introvert meant, I felt totally liberated. There was finally scientific evidence to explain why my brain would literally cease to function properly after a few hours of social stimulation, and apparently it was normal. It wasn’t a malfunction! In my excitement, I threw that word around as often as possible. Everyone needed to know, or else they couldn’t be my friend. How else would they understand when I rejected their invitations for large gatherings? Nowadays I can’t help but groan inwardly whenever I hear the word “introvert” leave my lips. Yes, it defines me to a T and has really helped me understand myself and my brain better, but it also has become an excuse for me to refrain from engaging properly in relationships.

Traditionally speaking

Since I’ve been in Kenya, I’ve called home less than ten times. I’ve been away for nearly five months, and look Ma, I’m still homesick free! Yes, I love my family, but I really can go months without talking to them and be just fine. I can’t say the problem is that we’re all introverts, though some of us are, as much as it’s just that we simply lost the ability to communicate properly when we lost mom. You can imagine then how much of a struggle I’m having being in a culture where family ties are very important.

Our African wedding was my first hint of this reality, when after we cut our wedding cake I was instructed to take some to Ray’s grandparents and mom and feed it to them (literally put the cake in their mouth) to symbolize the fact that I’ll take care of Ray and that I’ll look after them as well. We also attended a birthday party for a five year old last week and the same ritual occurs there. The child helps cut the cake and then feeds her parents. From a young age kids are taught to value family ties, and various traditions serve to reiterate that point throughout their lifetime.

Difficulties with ‘leaving and cleaving’

This is definitely something I admire about the culture, as I hope to raise our children in an environment that fosters togetherness, but as someone who would typically choose to spend a Friday night sitting on a warm vent in her apartment watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” for the twentieth time instead of going out with friends, this has been incredibly hard. As newlyweds, Ray and I decided to take this first year of marriage to focus on adjusting to one another. During this year we aim to stay out of ministry, treat the weekends as sacred time for ourselves, and not have any kiddos. By doing this we hope to establish a good foundation to our marriage before building a ministry or family.

For the most part we’ve done well in this area, and we feel that our relationship is stronger for it, but it’s kind of unfathomable for his family to see how we can be so “distant” when we’re so close. We hear remarks often about how it’s like we live in the States because they never see us, and how we’ve become strangers and so on and so forth.  Growing up a PK, I’m used to having people gossip about me, so the comments themselves don’t really bother me. What’s most bothersome to me is that in America I could tell people, “Hey, listen. I’m an introvert,” and they would back off and give me some space. They might even apologize for being so intrusive. But Kenyan culture is like my introvert kryptonite. I’ve yet to meet a Kenyan that isn’t impervious to my introverted powers.

Will this be the end of our not-so-super heroine?

There are days, especially when Ray catches wind of some of the gossip that circulates about us, that I feel like detaching completely. I mean, that always worked back in the States. Whenever people got on my nerves, I would just slowly back into my cave and hibernate for months. I can’t do that here. People would either complain until you were guilted into spending time with them or just show up at your house. Like I said, completely impervious.

For a long time I thought the problem lied with the people who didn’t know how to take no for an answer, but if marriage, leave alone culture, has taught me anything about myself, it’s that the problem lies with me. My introverted “powers” are actually a weakness. They indicate a deficiency in my ability to engage in healthy ongoing relationships with people. I don’t know how to work through issues with people, because I always shut them out when the relationship becomes too cumbersome.

That conclusion is pretty easy to come by when you move into a home with your brand spanking new husband, and then after a doozy of an argument, you realize the place didn’t come equipped with a secret hiding place behind a bookcase. There’s no running away in this relationship. I can’t shut him out and pretend that he doesn’t exist when he’s lying next to me in bed snoring to the tune of a steam engine.  I have to choose reconciliation… especially if I plan on sleeping next to him for the rest of my life. I have to choose to pop the bubble I frequently don as my outfit of the day, and let him in so he can become part of my processing routine.

Something I should have done a long time ago

This transition hasn’t come easy. I’ve tried to storm out of the house a number of times, only to walk a few feet out of the gate, hear/spot wild dogs, and run back to the complex to find a safer place to “be alone”. It didn’t take me long to realize that my disappearing act didn’t accomplish much. I was only doing it to punish him, which usually ended up making communication even harder when I would finally return. I’m still allowed time to process, and Ray is really good about giving me space to do that if I absolutely need to work some stuff out internally, but I’m no longer allowed to run away. I mentioned in our co-blog last month that we stress verbalizing issues with each other. Ever so slowly I’m learning how to process outside of myself with my husband instead of shutting him out so that I can sort out the hurricane of thoughts and emotions on my own. Even when it comes to processing, two are better than one.

Throughout my lifetime I’ve offended my fair share of people, and as I reflect today, I realize that I need to apologize. If you’re reading this blog and I’ve used the “introvert” excuse on you, this is for you. First, I want to apologize for using a personality trait as an excuse to put my wants/needs before yours. Secondly, I want apologize for lying, because in order to avoid hanging out, I most likely lied to you. And finally, I want to thank you for still being my friend (I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog we’re still friends) even though I wasn’t a very good one myself. Hopefully by the time we head back to the States I will be in a position to call you just to hang out.

To quote J.P. in reference to the miracle of seeing angels in the outfield: “Hey, it could happen.”