Intercultural Pregnancy: The First Trimester

This blog post has been a long time coming, especially considering the fact that I’m working towards my sixth month of pregnancy, but after months of writing bits and pieces here and there, I’ve finally found the time to get it done. As it turns out, taking my time with this blog post was actually necessary. When I first started writing, it was just a three-page long rant. Now that my hormones have chilled a bit and Ray and I have had many discussions about intercultural pregnancy and I’ve allowed the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do its proper work in my heart, I’m approaching this blog differently. Trust me. You’ll be happy that I did.

Relationship vs. Research

One thing I have learned about Kenyan culture, my husband’s culture, is that it is very relationship oriented. Generally speaking, young people learn by sitting under the guidance and wisdom of older family members. The older women take the younger women under their wings and show them the ropes. In fact, according to tradition, an older woman (grandmother, mother, or aunt) will typically move into the home with new parents for a few weeks to help with the household chores and to teach the woman about how to take care of the baby. I’ve been told that this process can start even a month before the baby is born.

The way of my culture is mostly to Google everything. If you want to know anything, get a book, scour YouTube, or find an article or forum. We also have pregnancy classes you can attend on a weekly basis. (What I wouldn’t give for a pregnancy class right now.) Yes, some mothers stay with their daughters after the baby is born, but it’s not a tradition per se, and most women I know end up frustrated with their mothers in the end. I think American women going through their first pregnancy prefer a more do-it-yourself attitude, though they are grateful for the help and support of friends and family. Just as long as people know when to give the couple space.

This difference between our cultures has made accepting help with this pregnancy difficult for me in some respects. I don’t like being told what to do, and because I have been raised in a culture that encourages research, I feel like most of what I read contradicts some of the things certain Kenyans tell me about pregnancy or baby rearing. If I had more humility, I would just listen to what people have to suggest and move on. Sometimes I am capable of that, and then sometimes I find myself arguing with people.

And it’s not just me. Expats from first-world countries that live in third-world countries typically struggle with valuing the input of locals on many fronts. We have a friend from the UK who broke his arm here. He went to see a Kenyan doctor and the doctor set his arm in a cast. Our friend felt like the cast had been completely set wrong, so after two days he removed it and set his arm himself. That’s typical of expats. I’ve done the same thing many times with medicines doctors have prescribed for me or advice they’ve given me.

Ray actually gets annoyed with me when we go see doctors here, because he says I try to tell them how to do their job. I don’t. I just suggest alternative options… I know that sounds terrible, but when I had health problems two years ago, I had three very wrong diagnoses that required me to be put on antibiotics for two months. I ended up much sicker than when I first started seeking help! That has happened to many expats here, so I believe such instances make us very skeptical of believing what we’re told.

Kenyan Healthcare

I don’t mean to paint a bad picture of Kenyan healthcare, but the public healthcare system is terrible. I’m talking two to three pregnant women to one bed. Not one room, one bed. All three women in various stages of labor. But private healthcare here is pretty good. There aren’t any good options here in Kitale where we live, so Ray and I rent a car once a month and travel an hour and a half to a bigger town called Eldoret to see my OB/GYN. She’s delivered babies for some of our Kenyan and American friends, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about her, so I’m thinking she’s the best choice.

One thing I did have to get used to though is the fact that because my doctor is in high demand in this area, she doesn’t have a lot of time. Her office hours start around noon, but she usually shows up an hour or two later (she’s always busy with surgeries and deliveries), and then you have to wait in a room with about 30 other women. Once you finally get in to see her, she quickly goes through what needs to be covered, sends you to do lab work and whatnot, and then you have to come back to the waiting room and wait all over again to get back in to go over the results for her. You have to block out an entire day for about 15 minutes with the doctor. I’ve definitely learned a lot of patience in that regard. And by patience, I mean I usually sleep in the waiting room until I’m called.

On the plus side, healthcare is much cheaper here. A lot of people ask us if we’re going to come back to the States to have the baby. As ideal as that may seem, when you go through the logistics of what that entails, the idea quickly loses its appeal. We’d have to spend $3,000 just to fly to the States, and because I wouldn’t be allowed to fly overseas after I reach 7 months, we would need to find a place to stay stateside for at least five months, not to mention the hospital expenses. To have the baby via natural delivery in the hospital here is just $350. If we require a C-section, it jumps to $1,400, but that’s still a lot less than anything we would pay if we were to travel to the States. So, yeah. The decision was pretty easy for us from that standpoint. I’m just having to adjust to not getting an hour to talk to my doctor about every little question I have, and I’m learning how to make the most of the little time I have with her.

Making More Adjustments

Another area where Ray and I had to change during the first trimester was in regards to sharing responsibilities. When I say “sharing”, I mean Ray did everything. My morning sickness would last all day, confining me mostly to the bed, so Ray had to take care of everything. He cooked, cleaned, and watched me vomit from a distance but with just enough sympathy in the worry lines of his face to make me feel nice.

Culturally, it’s not common for Kenyan men to take on household duties (especially not for three months), but that’s the culture we’ve established in our home. We don’t currently use a house help, though we’re considering employing one after the baby arrives, so we do everything ourselves. Everything but the laundry. I thought I could be Super Wife when I first moved here, and I used to hand wash all of our laundry, then I got overwhelmed. So now we have someone do our laundry every other week. That will be increased to 2-3 times per week once the baby arrives, and we’ll probably have her help clean the house sometimes too, but it just depends on my energy level.

Dealing with Cravings

One of the hardest things about the first trimester for me was cravings. My biggest craving was meat. If I had been in the States, I’m sure I would have visited numerous drive-throughs on a daily basis. That was my point of reference, after all, for all the meaty dishes I craved. There is no fast food here, at least not like what we have in the States. In Nairobi (the capital city) you can find maybe 5 American fast food restaurants, but only one (KFC) has a drive-through. What I know as fast food back home typically operates more like a fancy restaurant here. But that’s 8 hours away from here.

In Kitale my options are limited, so we bought a lot of bacon, sausage, roasted goat, and beef-filled samosas. Here’s what fast food looks like for us. Because we don’t have a car, we rely on guys that drive motorcycles (pikis) to run small errands for us. Ray will call them whenever we need to order something, they use their own money to buy whatever we asked for, and then they bring it to our apartment so we can reimburse them and pay them for their service. It usually takes about 30-45 minutes to get whatever we ordered. When Ray was in Pokot (about 8 hours away) on a video shoot, I called him and whined about my insatiable desire for a bacon cheeseburger. The next morning I woke up to our piki guy knocking on our door. Ray had ordered me a bacon cheeseburger from a restaurant in town and had the guy drop it off. I’ve never had a cheeseburger here that compares even slightly to the ones back in the States, but that was literally the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten in my life. He done good that day.

Getting Around

Because I was still small back then, Ray and I mostly got around by piki the first trimester; three to a piki. It’s the cheapest way to get around and there are literally hundreds of pikis around town. All you have to do is go to the main road, and they will pick you up and take you to where you need to go for less than a dollar. We have a couple of piki guys that we primarily take that we know to be safe drivers, but when they’re not available we just take tuk tuks or taxis. They’re more expensive, but they’re safer.

Now that I’m in my second trimester, Ray doesn’t let me ride pikis anymore. Sometimes if I’m late for a meeting or if I need to rush to town, I hop on a piki, but only if I don’t mind having “the talk” with the hubsters about my safety when I get home. Kenyan pregnant women ride pikis all the time and even carry their babies on them. I don’t think I could go that far, but maybe that’s an adjustment we’ll have to make in the future.

Baby Gear

When we announced our pregnancy, some friends of mine announced their pregnancies in the States at the same time. Within weeks, my friends were sharing some of the items they had already purchased for their baby or things they had made for the baby room. I, on the other hand, had not even thought about that stuff yet. I actually had no desire to get anything for the baby. It wasn’t until recently, when someone offered to bring things over from the States for us that I started thinking about what kind of things we might need.

I didn’t need to get a car seat because we don’t have a car (even if people have cars, most of them don’t use car seats anyway). I didn’t need to get a stroller because everyone carries their babies on their backs, and where we live the roads are not nice enough for a stroller to pass. I didn’t need to prepare a special room for the baby, because the baby will be sleeping in the room with us. It’s uncommon for babies to get a whole room to themselves in most Kenyan households. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all the baby really needs are clothes and hygiene items. This is one aspect of raising a child in a third-world country that I’m excited about. It’s going to force me as a mother to learn how to raise this child with minimal product support.

And this brings me back to why even though I’m going to continue to Google, YouTube, and get advice from friends back home, I need to learn to accept the advice of Kenyans around me. They are the only people who can truly advise me on issues like dealing with hygiene properly for babies when there’s no washing machine, or how to protect the baby from Typhoid and malaria, or how to get along without electricity and so on. They’ve been doing it for years and raising healthy children, and though their methods are very different than my own, I know that I still have much to learn.

If you guys have any specific questions you’d like to ask about how this pregnancy has been going, feel free to leave a comment. I tried to be as thorough as possible with this post (sorry it’s so long), and I’ll do another post for each trimester here on.

Much love!

The tension of the moment: dealing with anger and bitterness

One thing that has always been true about me is that when people get on my nerves, my immediate reaction is to put distance between them and myself.

If you say something that I don’t like, I’ll unfollow, unfriend, block, or avoid you, and I’m good.

If you do something that I don’t like… Bye, Felicia.

Eventually, my relationships with such people fade into the deep recesses of my memory, until I completely forget what caused the tension between us in the first place.

Bad habits become a bad lifestyle

As a single person, this is primarily how I lived my life, so it should come as no surprise that this nasty habit still resurfaces in my marriage. Changing your marital status doesn’t change the fact that you are a jerk. It just makes you more aware of how much of a jerk you are. Painfully aware.

When Ray and I first got married, we stayed in my hometown for a month. I’m not kidding when I say that the honeymoon phase lasted a mere week for us before we entered the “Hey, let’s fight every day” phase. As is in my nature, after most fights I would run away. Whether I angrily left the house and went for a long walk around the block or I went to my best friend’s house for hours at a time, I would cut off the conversation, spin on my heel, and leave Ray choking on my dust.

Moving to Kenya changed that with a quickness. While we were in Nairobi, I used to try to leave the apartment in the middle of a fight, but the howls of stray dogs usually forced me to return home. That removed the walks around the block for me. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t know a single soul outside of Ray’s family, so there was no friend to run to either.

Those dogs did me a solid though, for real. Because of them, I had to learn to deal with my problems.

Making a joint resolution

It was during that season that Ray and I made a commitment to not allow the sun to go down while we’re in the middle of a fight… basically, not to go to bed angry. I’m not going to lie or pretend like that happens every single time, but we generally don’t stay angry with each other for longer than 24 hours. Why? Because he lives with me AND works with me AND does ministry with me. We do almost everything together, and we know that not a single one of our ministries can survive if we don’t deal with the issue of us, since marriage is our first ministry, after all.

This particular trip to the States has definitely been the most trying season of our marriage in a long time. We’ve been living out of suitcases, on the road a lot, still working online and with our video business to make ends meet, trying to raise money for our ministry (which has been pretty slow thus far), and on top of that, we’ve realized that whereas we had gotten into a comfortable groove in Kenya regarding how we work together and communicate, being in the United States as a couple has changed everything.

You see, in Kenya I am dependent on Ray, and in the U.S. he is dependent on me. It took three years for me to be able to accept the fact that I had to rely on someone other than myself (I was nearly 30 when we got married and had been single for all but 9 months of my life), so now that we’re Stateside, I can hear Kelly Clarkson whispering in my ear to become that Miss Independent Woman again, and Ray has been forced to deal with the fallout. I’ve become impatient, rude, and insensitive towards his needs and an overall pain to live with.

I originally intended to write about that whole experience, but as I began drafting this post, I received a phone call that changed my mind…

Old habits die hard

At this moment in my life there is a particular relationship I once had that has gradually declined and bottomed out. It’s a relationship that is supposed to be very important in a human being’s life, yet for this particular human (me) the relationship has gotten so far into bitterness that I feel nothing but hurt, anger, and disappointment.

Maybe someone would say, “Well, now sounds like a good time to apply that sundown policy, eh?”

That would be great, but it’s about ten years too late. There is a root of bitterness so deep in my heart that choosing to refrain from daily anger cannot work anymore. In fact, it’s a lack of doing that in the first place that got me here.

And 800 words later, I finally get to the heart of what I want to talk about.

Red or blue? Choose well.

Whether you’re married or not, you have undoubtedly had those moments of inner tension, when someone has offended or hurt you. Just seconds after the knife has been placed in your back or your gut, your initial reaction will of course be one of pain, but then you have a choice to make…

  1. Do you follow your primal instinct and respond in anger?
  2. Do you give way to the urgent tapping the Holy Spirit is doing on your heart?

We all know that feeling, right? We’ve felt it since we were kids on the verge of doing something we know we shouldn’t. Back then we referred to Him as our conscience, but we all know that there is nothing wholesome and good about our hearts and the way we engage in this world. We need the guidance and direction of someone pure who can teach us what it means to love others. That’s the Holy Spirit.

It is in that moment that we have a very important choice to make… to give in to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and mend things or to allow anger to fester until it becomes a giant, oozing sore of bitterness. All too often, the easiest and most desirous option is bitterness. For some of us there may be an issue that has held us captive for years, and it’s simply because every time we’re given the choice of the red or blue pill, we go for the red one. Every. Time.

I don’t say this to be preachy at all. I’m still in the throes of figuring out how to deal with the deep root of bitterness I have in my own heart. I want desperately for the issue to be resolved and would love to do whatever it takes to make that happen, but here’s the rub. How do you do that when the other person believes that they have done nothing wrong? How do you have a conversation about a problem that the other person cannot see? Trust me, it’s impossible. I’ve tried.

And so I’ve come to this place again where I’ve said, “Bye, Felicia,” and written that person off. I noticed my inclination towards running away once again the other day when said person called me and really pushed on a nerve. As I hung up the phone, I said in my heart, “I’m done. I could care less if I ever see this person again.” And these were more than just words. This is how I legitimately felt in the moment, and it’s how I continued to feel as I sat on the couch for the next twenty minutes chewing on the conversation, regurgitating it, and then chewing on it some more.

Thank God for “yet”

Yet, in the midst of my pity party I felt multiple nudges from the Holy Spirit.

Ray and I have some friends that we spent some time with while we were in Manhattan, and they had talked to us about living “on the other side of the line”, which essentially means to see people and situations as Jesus sees them. That conversation kept coming to my mind.

“Take a moment a check out what I’m seeing,” the Holy Spirit said.

I furrowed my brow and dredged up the most hurtful thing the person had done to me and began to feast on it.

“I know that bitterness tastes so good to you right now, but I can give you something that tastes much better. It’s called freedom.”

When we are in our right minds, we all know what we should do, and yet like me many of us still refuse to change our heart position. Unfortunately, the more that we reject the prodding of the Holy Spirit, the harder our hearts become until we can no longer hear Him, let alone respond to Him. I thank God that my heart is not yet hardened to the point that I can no longer feel those nudges. That would be a truly scary place to be. But even so, I know that if I continue doing what I’ve been doing, that’s where I’m heading. Romans 1, anyone?

So what do we do?

To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still dealing with it myself, so I can’t give you a five-step strategy to overcoming, but I’ve at least got three points that I’ve learned so far.

Fill your heart and mind with Scripture

Put something in your spiritual reservoir for the Holy Spirit to work with. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time you spend in the Word or in prayer and your willingness to respond to the Holy Spirit in the midst of turmoil. The less time I spend with Him in the quiet place listening to Him speak, the less inclined I am to listen to Him when He speaks and all my feels are up in the mix shouting just as loud.

Develop new habits

It only takes a few times of choosing the right thing in order to retrain your heart and mind to begin to do it naturally. You just have to take that first step… then do it again and again until you’re walking, and one day running, in grace and peace.

Repent

This is the most important factor. The other steps keep the wall from getting any higher around your heart, but repentance is what tears the existing wall down. I know of people that have testimonies of God miraculously healing a relationship overnight, and I have actually had that happen in my own life, but what had to happen before that was daily confession and repentance. I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t okay in my heart, that I still felt bitterness towards these people, and that I needed God’s help to forgive. For a particular relationship in my life, after years of running the crazy cycle of getting angry and then confessing my anger to God, He literally healed the relationship in one 20-minute phone conversation. True story. I have not had a single ounce of bitterness towards that person since.

I choose to believe that if He did it for that relationship, He will do it for this one as well. I also believe He’ll do it for you, if there’s a relationship in your life that has left you with a root of bitterness in your heart. God desires nothing more than to see His children walking in freedom. So let’s be free, yeah?


Additional shameless plug because… Well, why not?

Ray and I have one month left in the States. We would love to reach the goal that we have for our ministry, but anything helps. We’re going to hit the ground running as soon as we get back, regardless of whether we hit the goal or not.

You can read more about our goal here: A Place to Call Home.

You can visit our general fundraising page here: Gofundme.

You can make tax-deductible contributions or become a monthly partner through our mission page here: Mission Quest.

Cultural expectations strike again

We get a lot of emails from people across the world that read this blog who are in or are about to be in an intercultural marriage. It has been a blessing to get to develop relationships with some of you and to hear your stories. I just want to take a moment to say thank you for reaching out. Though the combinations of cultures differ, we all pretty much face the same challenges, and I’d like to think we can find some solidarity in one another. So, I wanted to write today’s blog specifically for this particular demographic.

Facing a new challenge… again?

One of the biggest talking points for newly married cross cultural couples is cultural expectations. As I’ve been saying the past few years that I’ve been writing this blog, culture plays a big part in how Ray and I understand each other, and without earnestly seeking to understand each other’s culture, this marriage would have been over long before it even started. #truth

In our first few years of marriage, we mostly focused on cultural expectations as they related to our marriage – what he expected of me as a wife, the assignment of marital responsibilities, and the like. But as we are currently working on our third year of marriage, we’re discovering the importance of discussing cultural expectations regarding people outside of our marriage, specifically family members.

Before we got married, my husband was the man of his mother’s household, as his stepdad had died some time ago. Culturally speaking, it was his responsibility to take care of his mother and his siblings. Leave alone the fact that he had become the man of home, there is also a general cultural expectation that once a child gets on his feet financially, he should always be aware of his family’s needs and provide whenever possible. I might even go so far as to say it’s more like a rule, not just an expectation.

I’ve shared this before, but when we had our African wedding reception, we didn’t just feed each other wedding cake; we also fed cake to his mother and grandparents as a sign that we would always take care of them. I had no idea about that wedding tradition or the implications of what it meant for our marriage until later. (Side note for people marrying into other cultures… take time to learn the significance of the traditions you will perform at the wedding. They will give you great insight into your spouse’s cultural expectations. There was no rehearsal before our African wedding, so I was totally clueless about what I was supposed to do or what anything meant. To this day I wish we had done things a bit differently. This is Sam. Sam didn’t take time to learn the significance of Luhya traditions before her Kenyan wedding. Don’t be like Sam.)

The tension of transition

Once we got married, Ray encountered a lot of emotional anxiety because I was crying, “Leave and cleave, bruh!” while he was feeling the pull of cultural responsibility to his family. If you know Ray, you know he has an incredibly big heart for people and an even bigger place in his heart for his family. Even when he came to the States, I was busy focusing on how to pack my entire life into three suitcases, while he was considering foregoing packing his suitcase with clothes so that he could fill it with gifts for his family. Because he had also given a bunch of his clothes away before he came to the States, I made him get clothes for himself, but for months after that he complained about feeling like he hadn’t given his family enough.

In the beginning this issue actually caused lot of fights between us, because my perspective was that his only obligation was to me. As far as my culture is concerned, once you’re 18 you’re on your own, and once you’re married… fahgedaboutit. American parents typically don’t support their children financially after they hit those two milestones, and there is no expectation that the child should support the parents unless the parents can no longer take care of themselves. Generally speaking, what you do with your money is your business.

It took some time before we realized that the tension we were feeling was stemming from cultural differences. He just assumed that I was a miserly, selfish woman (as I’m sure many other Kenyans assumed and still assume is true of me to this day), and I just assumed that he cared about everyone else but me. There may be some truth to the fact that I’m a tight wad and my husband is overly generous, but we also were raised with different expectations about what money and marriage are supposed to look like.

Considering a compromise

As a couple, we’ve really had to work together to come up with a compromise that prioritizes our marriage while being as helpful as we possibly can to his family. For us that means if someone is requesting an amount under $10, he can give out of his discretionary fund, and he doesn’t have to tell me. That’s his prerogative. We’ve decided to do it that way simply because I have overreacted numerous times in the past.  So instead of selfishly asking him to stop giving, this was the next best happy compromise. We also have designated a fund just for requests we might receive from family, and once that fund is empty, that’s it. We don’t dig into our personal money or make ourselves broke and we don’t allow ourselves to feel guilty about it. We do what we can, and that’s that.

If there’s anything cautionary I can say about cultures similar to the Kenyan culture, it’s that I’ve seen young people really incur financial loss on account of family members needing to borrow money so frequently. If the young person doesn’t have a financial plan or doesn’t know when to say no, they can easily give what they can’t really afford to give and later on they find themselves resenting their family for putting them in a hole. As a whole, the culture can pressure people to make unwise financial decisions, which makes it difficult for anyone to get ahead, and it just perpetuates this cycle of constantly needing people to bail you out of financial problems.

But, if there’s anything encouraging I can say about cultures such as the Kenyan culture, it’s that you can rest assured that when you give to those in need, they will be there to support you when you are in need (for the most part). There have been times we’ve had to rely on the kindness of family to get us through a dry spell, when we didn’t have any work coming in or when we had exhausted our savings. Because of Ray’s connection to family, he can reach out to them, and they will do what they can to give a few dollars here and there. One of the greatest attributes of Kenyans is their giving nature.

A Word to the Wise

Now, to those of you embarking on an intercultural marriage, I would urge you and your partner to talk about this particular matter thoroughly. This has truly been a source of stress in our marriage, and considering money matters are one of the biggest reasons for divorce these days, you may want to commit to paying special attention to this area. Trust me, it can come to a head fast. Even the first week that we arrived in Kenya, after only two months of marriage, we came face to face with this issue, and we fought a lot. Seek to establish a cultural compromise for your money matters, and then tweak it along the way as your financial situation changes or even as your perspectives change.

Also, as I’ve said in other posts before, if your family is the side putting financial pressure on your marriage, you are the one responsible for being the spokesperson to share whatever you have decided as a couple. Your spouse should never feel like they have to defend decisions you made together to your family. It’s easier for you to deal with disappointment from your own family than for your spouse to deal with disappointment from their in-laws, if you know what I’m saying.

No matter what, protect the integrity and reputation of your spouse. A lot of Kenyans used to tell Ray that they thought I was controlling, but Ray has always vehemently stood up for me and asserted that we make decisions together. I can’t tell you how much that honors me as his wife and makes me love and respect him all the more. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and instead of fighting about money, foster love and respect in your own marriage as well.

Much love!

Life can leave you so bitter

The Apostle James warned us to beware the power of the tongue. Though it’s small, it can set a whole forest ablaze. For the past few weeks, maybe even longer, my tongue has been out of control. Within in the confines of our home Ray has practically been assaulted daily with constant negativity about this person and that person, and even that person’s mother’s brother’s step-baby. I had something to say about everybody.

A bitter revelation

Last night, as an argument Ray and I had about money led to a time of prayer and repentance, I began to feel convicted about my recent behavior, so I confessed and acknowledged that I knew I was doing wrong and asked the Lord for help. Normally I “confess” and “ask for help”, and then get up and go right back to what I was doing before. It’s no wonder that Jesus never felt inclined to share any insight with me about what was happening or how I could change. But this time my confession was accompanied with tears and a broken heart, so in response the Lord gave me one word: bitter.

Unbeknownst to me, bitterness had crept into my heart, and like a silent killer began to spread its influence abroad. My tongue was only a symptom of my sin-sick soul, of course because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Truth is, I have a lot of reasons that I could be bitter, and when God first gave me the word, my mind went straight to those issues, but none of those things seemed to really touch on the root of my problem. Remember the argument I mentioned that led to the revelation? Remember what was it over?

Money.

Let’s begin again

When Ray and I moved to Kenya, we decided to stay out of ministry entirely for the first year of marriage, so we were just hanging out in Nairobi getting better acquainted with each other and learning how to support ourselves. In the beginning we really struggled financially, but we had both agreed to this lifestyle, and in truth, we were happy. At that time there was no bitterness to be seen anywhere near my heart. I honestly felt a little proud of myself for being able to hack it in spite of what people thought or said I could do.

Finally we started a business and literally made over $1,000 a month. For us, especially in the Kenyan economy, that’s a pretty big deal. It was during that season in our life that we decided we always wanted to work for our living. Even once we got into ministry and I could finally claim my long awaited status of missionary, we agreed not to raise support for personal expenses, only for ministry needs. Yes, we want to serve the people here as missionaries, but Kenya is our home. We’re not just here for a season. We will raise our children here, and we want to build our family legacy here from the sweat of our own brows. It’s just a personal conviction we have.

Moving to Kitale meant we had to start over, and once again it took us a while to get back on our feet. There would be dry spells and then we’d have a bunch of jobs all at once. Before this week we were in a dry spell… for two months. We already had practice living off of 100 shillings (about $1.50) a day, sometimes less, so it was no big deal really. We were used to it.

The inciting incident

The catalyst behind my downward spiral into negativity came as the result of a plan we made to travel to the States to surprise my niece for her 6th birthday. Though we were on track to making that happen when we lived in Nairobi, Kitale proved to be perfect for ministry purposes, but not so perfect for business. Nevertheless, God took care of us and we never went hungry or without shelter. Ray was able to use his skills to do odd jobs here and there that kept us afloat, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again, our spiritual parents here have really covered us. God has used them to make this transition bearable in numerous ways. He has shown us time and time again through them that He’s got our backs.

I’ve written before about how I usually try to be overly optimistic or live a faith-filled life instead of admitting that I have a problem, so even though our savings for plane tickets began dwindling away to cover living expenses, I maintained that I had faith that God would work out all the arrangements. Meanwhile, I watched others travel, shop, eat, and spend like there was no tomorrow, and bitterness began to set in.

I promise you I had no idea I was becoming bitter at first. Every once in while I would comment on how I wish I could live like so and so or how it would be nice to be able to afford to get a new cardigan since mine had holes in it, but that didn’t seem bitter, it just seemed like a normal human response. But you give bitterness an inch and it will rapidly take a mile, so here we are today with me coming to the realization that as content as I thought I was, I really was just bitter.

Time to make a change

Now here’s the thing. I know that the answer isn’t more money. No matter how much money we acquire, I would never be able to rid myself of the greenish film that tints my vision. I would still be a jealous, envious, and bitter person; I’d just be a jealous, envious, and bitter person with a fist full of cash. God knows that better than I do, so I know that He’s revealing this to me now so I don’t crumble under the pressure later. Work is picking up again, some friends have helped us get our plane ticket fund restarted, and we’re coming out of the dry spell, but that alone won’t change my attitude. I have to.

Now more than ever I’m feeling the need to dip myself into the permeating presence of a God who is overflowing with love, joy, and peace. I need to take my eyes off of others and self, and put them back where they’re supposed to be, gazing into the fiery eyes of the King of Glory. My hope is not in wealth, but in God, who richly provides us with everything we need.

A more serious symptom of my sickness was a lack of desire to spend time with God. I can’t say that I was bitter towards Him, but I did feel like escaping our situation through movies and mindless Internet activity was a more appealing option than reading the Bible or praying. I was so wrong. It was the very remedy my soul needed!

I know that bitterness doesn’t just go away overnight. My confession kicked over the table it was feasting on, but it will keep trying to come back for scraps. When I hear stories of opportunity that money has afforded other people, I have to make the choice then and there to say no to bitterness. I have to deny it again and again to the point that it becomes starved and is forced to leave in search of a better host. It’s only by the grace and power of Jesus that I am able to achieve that, so I ask those of you that have it on your hearts to keep us in prayer, that you pray for me in that wise. I’m sure there are plenty of other roots of bitterness or whatever in my heart that need to be dealt with, but this is what God is highlighting to me in this season. I’d sure love your prayer support.

I’d also like to say that though my particular struggle with bitterness is centered around money, I believe this blog post can be applicable to many situations: singleness, marriage, children, material possessions, time, etc. As I search my heart and bring its contents to the Lord for illumination, I pray that this post encourages you to do the same.

Much love,

Who’s the baby now?

There’s something about marriage that turns me into a big steaming puddle of helplessness.

When I was single I enjoyed doing things for myself.

Drain clogged? No problem, let me snake it.

Acquired a piece of do-it-yourself furniture? I did it myself.

My ’91 Saturn won’t start in the middle of winter? Okay, let me just take a wrench and bang on some stuff. Problem solved (sometimes that actually did work).

I didn’t have anyone else to rely on, so naturally, I did what I needed to do when I could do it. Of course there were some things that were beyond my capacity, for which I called the landlord or my dad or a girlfriend to come over and help me, but I always tried to do what I could before asking for help.

Fast forward to today …

“Baaaabe, I can’t open this water jug.” Then I proceed to never open a water jug again and claim that he knows I can’t open it (I can, I just don’t like to).

“Baaaabe, the bowl is too high. I’m too short. Can you get it for me?” Nevermind that when we first moved into our other house I bought a step specifically for that purpose. It was too far away, I guess.

On the phone while he’s in Bungoma and I’m home, “Baaaabe, the knob on the propane tank is stuck. I’m just not going to cook until you come back home, okay?”

I think a small part of my husband at one point enjoyed that Miss Independent was finally becoming a little dependent… in the beginning,  but nowadays even Ray is getting to the point where he asks, “How did you survive when you lived by yourself? I thought you were more independent than this.”

Apparently it’s some kind of phenomenon that happens with women that get used to being around their husbands 24/7. He’s always there to do stuff for you, so you become reliant on that fact… a little too reliant.

Time to make a change

Ray is one of the most accommodating people I know, sometimes to a fault. I used to claim that one reason I was so good for him was because I would jealously guard his time if I felt like people were taking advantage of him. He has such a good heart he’ll help anyone and then wonder why he’s so emotionally drained later. And now look who’s taking advantage. This is bad news bears.

So now I’m declaring independence, well a balance of dependence and independence. I know what happens when I try to be too independent (amoebiasis flashbacks, anyone?), so I’m not aiming for that, but dag. I really do need to find myself a pair of big girl pants and run my pacifier through a paper shredder, ‘cuz a Proverbs 31 woman I ain’t.

If any of you have some helpful tips/advice here, I’m all ears!

This journey is our own

Comparison is a lot like the game Spoons. You can never keep your eyes fixed only on what’s in your hand, and someone always ends up getting hurt (at least when you play Spoons with my family).

Valentine’s Day woes

A few days after Valentine’s Day I posted a blog at She Is Set Apart about the way the lover’s holiday used to cause problems for me as a single person and still does even though I’m now married.

When I was single, using Facebook on Valentine’s Day was difficult because everyone was either posting pictures of their amazing gifts – making me feel bad because I didn’t have any, getting engaged – reminding me that I didn’t have someone to propose to me, or sending me “cheer up, you don’t suck that bad… at least Jesus loves you” posts – which I guess were meant to encourage me as a single woman.

Now that I’m married all I see is competition, oneupmanship. Hundreds of women claiming their husband is the best and sharing all the ways he spoiled her, making hundreds of other women instantaneously lift their expectations of their husband so that when he comes home with a single rose and box of chocolates, she’s looking at him like “That’s it? You hate me, don’t you?”

Long story short, the conclusion I came to on the blog post and in life is that my jealousy is an indicator that my Christian love tank is probably running on low. If I had the love of Christ living inside of me like it should, I should be rejoicing with my sisters and brothers because of the gifts they received. There is no room for jealousy and comparison in love.

Same story, different season

You may be wondering what my point is considering Valentine’s Day was over a month ago. Well, I bringt it up because the comparison struggle has started again but for a totally different reason: babies.

Since we had our miscarriage, just about every single friend that I have back home has announced that they’re pregnant or they’re already pregnant or they recently had a baby. I kid you not, this is true of at least 80% of my close friends.

It can be really hard to think that I was supposed to be on that ship, fell overboard, and now am treading water as the ship sails on. Without me.

As I scroll through my news feed, here we go again with a million baby pictures and birth announcements. It would be so easy for Ray and I to become upset because we had gotten so close to becoming parents, and sometimes I think we both do feel a twinge of envy, but aside from learning how to love others and truly rejoice with them in these wonderful gifts that God is giving them, God has really been giving us a new perspective to tread these murky waters.

Breathing under water

See, at this point in our lives we may not be on our way to parenthood and we don’t know when God will give us the go ahead with that, but with what felt like a tidal wave crashing over us, we’ve discovered that the undercurrent is actually pulling us deeper into our dreams. At this point in our lives we are able to pursue all that God puts on our hearts with total abandonment. The Joshua Blueprint has become our baby.

We’re in a similar position to where I was as a single person. Because I wasn’t in a relationship I was able to get involved in numerous ministries, go on lots of mission trips, and mentor a lot of kids. Now that I’m married I’ve lost some of that freedom, but I’ve discovered new potential in the partnership I have with my husband. Now, as one unit, we can dive into all that God has set before us and accomplish more together than I ever could on my own. The beauty of it all is that we can maintain this perspective through every phase that we’ll go through in life. As we begin to build our family we’ll gain revelation on how we can continue to pursue what God puts on our hearts but in a different way. My friend Kimberly Huffman has a great post about what that looks like as a mother of seven on the mission field. You can check it out here.

That being said, every phase of life looks different. We’re only in the second phase right now and we don’t necessarily plan to be in this phase as long as I stayed in the single phase, but who knows? Maybe God will keep us here for a while so we can spend more time branching out and experiencing new foundational aspects of His vision for us.

Whatever His plan is, our hearts say yes.

I do, but I don’t

Complex.

That’s the word the majority of men would use to describe women: complicated and hard to understand/deal with.

As complex as I know I normally am in my husband’s eyes, my behavior as of late has even got me to the point of wanting to step outside of myself and be like, “Um, I’m not with her”.

Oh, the valley of indecision

In an earlier post I shared a bit about how much I value quality time with myself and that life in Kitale has not been making nice with my personal goals. Ray and I were home together all the time and really rubbing each other the wrong way.

“We need space!” I shouted at his face.

So Ray obliged and began to take on some long distance jobs that would cause him to be gone 2-4 days at a time.

“Come back,” I whispered to the door… then of course I gave Ray the silent treatment for not taking me with him, which made him think I needed more space, but silent treatment obviously means that I want you to talk to me. Duh!

I don’t know what I want.

Do I want space? Yes, but not as much as I once thought.

Do I want Ray around? Of course. As much as I love being with myself, it’s become awkward to laugh at my own jokes without Ray’s laugh to accompany my own.

Do I want to travel? Indubitably. Whether alone or with Ray, I’d rather be outside of the confines of our home.

So my point is …

Pray for Ray.

 

Give it another day

There are moments within the bonds of marriage that one begins to wish the ropes weren’t so tight. You look at your spouse and all you can imagine is how much better your life might be without him. At the very same moment he may be wishing the same. Emotionally drained and too tired to see beyond whatever the injustice was that caused your heart to change, you have a decision to make… to stay or not to stay.

We encountered this scene our first year of marriage a number of times, but it was generally caused by the tension that comes from the initial shock of discovering that your life is not your own anymore. That was to be expected. To tell you the truth, once we got through the first year of marriage, we both gave each other a hearty pat on the back and said, “That wasn’t so bad.” After hearing the ominous cries of “Beware the ides of the first year,” we assumed if that was as bad as it would get, the rest should be fairly smooth sailing.

The devil is a lie.

Moving out to western where we had to start over financially, make new friends, and be together literally 24/7 proved to be much more difficult than we thought. I don’t know if anyone’s done research on this, but when two people are cooped up in the same house day after day with nowhere to go and no one else to see BUT your spouse, it’s like the air becomes stagnant and there are times you could almost swear you’re suffocating. Some of you know the feeling, so you also know what inevitably follows… *ding ding* it’s time to fight.

And fight we did. All … the … time. There were a number of times that we would just sit and look at each other wondering, “What happened? Why is it that year two suddenly became so hard?” Well, we forgot to take into account that all of the things that helped keep us stable in Nairobi, an amazing church, great friends, separate working spaces, and designated date nights were gone now. We had to start over. New church, new friends, new everything.

I make fun of my husband for being a creature of habit, but apparently I become a creature from hell when I’m pulled from the routines I’ve pacified myself with for some time. The first month we lived in Kitale, everything Ray would or would not do would tick me off, and I would pick fights over anything just because. Sometimes I was very much aware that my argument was irrational, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to fight. In the midst of those moments, I often found myself wondering, “Are you going to let it go or are you going to let it fester?”

There are times that everything within me wants to hold on to my anger, but when I choose to dwell in that moment and let those thoughts fester into bitterness, it’s bad news for everyone. The moment I say yes to bitterness, the nastiest comments from the pit of hell coming dripping off my tongue or this urge to leave the house and run to God knows where comes up and the next thing I know I’m standing by the gate. I would probably actually leave the house more often if I wasn’t afraid of the wild dogs and men outside, but there are times when it almost doesn’t matter. When bitterness is in control, I am totally out of control, and I hate that feeling.

We’ve been reading through Paul’s letters to the churches lately and I’ve been reading the book of James in my personal devotions and they’re totally tag-teaming on ripping me a new one. The greatest challenge that has been surfacing from those books for me is to live by the Spirit. I have the very essence of the living God dwelling inside of me prompting me to travel the path away from the cancer of bitterness, and yet my flesh compels me to live in the moment and get everything out so I’ll feel better. Funny thing is, I often believe the proclamations of my flesh over those of the Spirit, but not once have I actually felt better once I’ve torn my husband down or tried to run away.

Why can’t I remember in that moment the last time I yielded to the Spirit instead and discovered that Ray and I were able to quickly reconcile and restore peace in our marriage? When did my emotions dethrone Christ and become king?

Wake up calls like this are happening for me much more often now and I thank God for each and every one. I’ve seen what happens to marriages when unforgiveness and bitterness take root, and I refuse to allow that to even be an option for this marriage. As much as I may feel in that moment of tension that this is it and I’m done, I’m learning to breathe deep of the Holy Spirit as I breathe out my anger and to give it another day.

Though Ray and I have committed to love and stay married to one another until death do us part, all we can really do is take it day by day and continually submit ourselves and our relationship into God’s hands. If my anger wants to convince me to do otherwise, my response must be to give it another day, and as long as I incline my ear to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, the next day is always much brighter than the last.

2015: a year of rest

Without going into the age old description of how horrible the human race is at keeping new year’s resolutions, I still believe that it’s important to at least set them. I could turn this into a “10 ways to keep your resolutions this year” post, but frankly hundreds of other bloggers are already doing that, and you would probably want to get that kind of advice from someone who has actually kept their resolution longer than a month.

“Not I,” says I.

Hold me accountable, please

But I will say that accountability is probably one of the biggest factors I’ve found to help me stick to my resolutions. Back in my single days, most sessions I had with accountability partners were more like confessionals. Instead of really pushing each other to keep going, we would just gather to confess how we were failing. Thanks to my friend Dana, I realized that that’s not accountability. Accountability is when you ensure that the other person is sticking to what they said they would do. Yes, we should confess our failings, but if that’s all we’re going to do, we’re not helping each other at all.

In that wise, Ray has been a great support for me. Leave it to the person who is around you 24/7 to constantly call you out when you’re “cheating”. We’re big believers in goal setting, so we’ve been practicing this whole resolution keeping thing throughout the year. I’m hoping that this year we can continue to help each other make our resolutions stick.

I will rest in you

Though we’ve created a list of new year’s resolutions related to our family, ministry, and business, we have one overarching resolution to govern them all: rest.

Just to clarify, we’re not talking about the kind of rest that means to take time for yourselves, relax, and temporarily forget about the chaos of life. We’re talking about the kind of rest that is totally aware of the chaos but remains rooted and grounded in faith. The kind of rest that says “Even in the midst of this storm, I know God’s got this so I don’t have to be anxious.” You know, the kind of rest that allowed Jesus to sleep on a boat that was being violently tossed by the sea while his disciples were nearly at the brink of insanity.

This is the kind of rest that we want to live in for the rest of our lives, but especially as we step into this new year.

Here comes the rain again

See, as this year begins so will an increased amount of craziness for the Wasike tribe.

In just a few days from now, our ministry The Joshua Blueprint will officially begin at Mattaw, which means lots of curriculum writing, lesson planning, three day weekly classes, and of course trying to match the energy level of nearly 50 students.

Joshua Blueprint Dance

We’ve also started a photography and videography business in Kitale that specializes in documentaries for missionaries (among other things), so we will spend most weekends and our off days from Mattaw working on things for the business.

Wasike Creations Interview

On top of all of that we’re planning a trip to the States in August, saving up for a vehicle, and trying again at some point for a baby.

But praise God for that blessed assurance

This would normally be the point where ordinarily my right eye would begin to twitch involuntarily, but that’s where the resolution comes in:

If no one hires us for the next three months, we will choose to live in rest.

If we find ourselves working more than sleeping, we will choose to live in rest.

If the classes turn out differently than expected, we will choose to live in rest.

If our trip to the States is delayed or denied, we will choose to live in rest.

If the conception of a baby occurs in the middle of it all, we will choose to live in rest.

Though we pray that God brings us times of refreshing when we can take breaks and allow our hearts to be rejuvenated, our greatest prayer is that as we keep our minds on Christ and our trust in him, he will keep us in perfect peace. Thankfully, because he’s already promised in his word that he will do just that, all that is left for us to do is rest.

Our greatest challenges: one year later

Unlike the other posts in our challenges and triumphs series, I (Sam) will be the only one writing this one. The window of time we had to post this didn’t allow Ray enough time to get his thoughts compiled. This is the second part to the post: Triumphs: one year later.

Challenge 1: Adjusting to each others’ schedules

Routine. At times it can be monotonously boring, but most of the time it can be the one thing that makes our lives sane. From the beginning of our marriage we’ve sought to establish routines in various aspects of our lives: goal setting, biblical togetherness, weekend quality time, and so on. Kenya can be an extremely unpredictable place, so as much as is possible, we try to maintain a certain level of sanity by keeping whatever we can nailed down.

When Ray was working in Nairobi city, we lived in Rongai – a sort of suburb of Nairobi, I knew that he would be getting up around 5am so that he could catch a matatu early enough to keep from getting stuck in traffic. A trip that should take 20 minutes can end up being two hours if you don’t time it right. Because Ray knows the general ebb and flow of the city and appropriately planned around it, I always knew he would be in the city all day and come home around dinnertime. Whenever Ray knew something would delay him, he made sure to call and let me know so I could plan accordingly. We had a sweet little system going on.

That was our routine. That kept me sane.

Then his office moved from the city to Rongai which meant he’d be closer, he wouldn’t be away from home as long, and I didn’t have to worry about his safety as much (during that time Kenya was experiencing an alarming number of public attacks by Al-Shabbab, and Nairobi was a major target). Before Ray went to work at his new location, we went over what our new schedule would be and we both agreed that it would be better for us.

For a while it was.

Then the time came when a filming opportunity landed in our laps, and it thrust us into plans for starting our own business. As our home-grown business began to expand and his responsibilities at his other job decreased, he started staying around the house longer.

We share a laptop, and normally when he’s gone I’m on the laptop doing work (writing, transcribing, researching, etc.). Most days when I would wake up, he would still be home on the laptop and either wouldn’t go to the office until the afternoon or wouldn’t go in at all. As far as he was concerned, he was working from home too.

That had me all sorts of screwed up. We hadn’t planned this! That was supposed to be my time! Now because he was home there was an expectation that I would make breakfast or lunch for him and engage in conversation, when I was used to just going to the closest duka to buy mandazi to snack on while I worked. As much as I enjoyed the fact that I could spend more time with my husband, it wasn’t part of the original plan, and trying to balance work and a daily schedule that changed on a daily basis was really frying my brain.

That was a huge point of contention when we lived in Nairobi the first year, but even now that we’re in Kitale and around each other all the live long day, we’re having the same issue. We’re having to come up with new routines. We’re about halfway there. We’ve established when each person is to have their quiet time and when we have ours as a couple, and we also have tried to set times for the laptop so that he uses it until I wake up, and I use it throughout the night (I usually go to sleep when he’s waking up).

As for what happens between that… we’re still working it out.

Challenge 2: Resolving Conflict

Every couple argues, and life in the Wasike household is no exception. We have had our fair share of disagreements. Be the reason emotions, culture, negative attitudes, or just flat out stubbornness and pride, we typically find ourselves coming to the same conclusion: there is no conclusion.

See, what happens is when we find ourselves in the midst of a disagreement, things tend to escalate to the point of me shouting or becoming a little too sharp with my tongue, and Ray shuts down. He hates it when I raise my voice and it hurts him to be on the receiving end of some of the snide remarks I make, so generally when we reach that point he’ll stop talking or I’ll run out of words (it happens sometimes) and we’ll go our separate ways.

A few weeks or even months later, what do you know? The issue is back in our faces and the cycle repeats. We’ve since discovered, closer to the latter part of our first year, that the culprit behind the cycle is the fact that once we cooled down, we never closed the case. We allowed each other to state our closing arguments, but we never agreed on a verdict.

Truth of the matter is, our arguments don’t have to reach a fever pitch in order for us to forget that the issue hasn’t been resolved. Even if it’s over something small, sometimes we both share our opinions and we mistake the other person’s “Yes, I hear what you’re saying; that does make sense” for “Yes, you’re right. You’re always right. Let’s do what you want.” Then when the time comes for the matter we argued about to come to fruition, we realize that we both came away from the conversation with different ideas about our game plan.

Even in our second year of marriage, we’re still finding this to be an issue, so we have to make sure that after an argument, once we’ve both cooled down, one of us comes to the other and says, “Okay, so what are we going to do about this? What’s our conclusion?” Usually I let Ray be the one to state the final conclusion because frankly I do enough talking during arguments, and he needs to feel like he has a voice and the final say so in matters.

He’s really good about coming up with the resolution based on what we both brought to the table, so he usually gets no objections from me, but even if I have objections, I’m learning how to know when to let go. I don’t always have to win, the humble voice of the Holy Spirit is whispering “Actually, you never have to win.” I’m recognizing that sometimes I can be so concerned with being right that I can beat a point to death and do a number on my husband’s emotions as well.

What matters is that we’re in agreement, and the more I learn to humble myself, the better chance we’ll have of that being a reality in our marriage.