Monthly Archives: December 2013

Boxing Day

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Since Aaron did such a fabulous job posting about Christmas on his blog, I’ll focus on Boxing Day (December 26).

I’m not sure what Boxing Day is celebrating, but I do know that Kenyans call it a holiday. Aaron had the day off from work and we had big plans to visit Bosto Children’s Home, one of the orphanages that Tenwek sponsors. Unfortunately, Jacob woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, so Aaron stayed home with Jacob and Levi while Noah and I took a long safari to Bosto.

We loaded up 2 vehicles with lots of people, cakes, hula hoops, balls, gifts and crafts in the morning. Then, we drove up and around and up and up and around a really bumpy, dirty road for about 2 hours until we arrived at the top of a mountain where we found Bosto Children’s Home.

The main building at Bosto Children's Home

The main building at Bosto Children’s Home

The first thing on the agenda was to play! We played some song games with the girls while the men played soccer with the boys. Some of the kids learned how to hula hoop and others jumped rope.

The girls playing song and hand games.

The girls playing song and hand games.

Once everyone was tired from all the fun in the sun, we headed inside to the dining hall to make paper ornaments.

Coloring paper ornaments

Coloring paper ornaments

Next, I told the story of salvation through a cake presentation. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

And then, we ate cake!

Cake and Lunch

Cake and Lunch

A lunch of rice and mandazis followed the cake. Holidays are great…dessert BEFORE lunch! Christmas is particularly great because we get presents! Thanks to some local businesses and several churches from the US and Canada each child received a red backpack. Inside was a bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, pencil and eraser, lollipop, coloring pages and crayons. They were so very thankful!

Children with their red bags

Children with their red bags

Next up was writing thank you notes to those local businesses and learning some origami.

Peter making origami!

Peter making origami!

Origami was a big hit...even with the adults!

Origami was a big hit…even with the adults!

The program was ended by a prayer of blessing, the children hanging their ornaments on their Christmas tree and singing a Christmas song.

The closing song

The closing song

Since our little party was over, we loaded back into the trucks for the long, bumpy ride home. We enjoyed great conversation and found a short-cut, so our trip was a little less headache and stomachache inducing.

What a blessed day! The children are adorable and appreciative for such humble gifts and festivities. I am honored to play a small part in their Christmas celebration. May God get all the glory!

James 1:27 says “Religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

There was one story Aaron forgot to mention in his post about Christmas…

I took each of the boys shopping at the local dukas. When it was Levi’s turn, I asked him what he wanted to get his brothers and Daddy for Christmas. Even before we reached the first duka, he said, “I get Noah and Jatub wittle bags and I get Daddy a reawy big bag!” While I immediately knew what he was talking about, I attempted to divert his attention to more reasonable gifts. We stopped at our favorite shops but nothing caught his eye. Not balls or soapstone figurines or food would be good enough to top “reawy big bags!” so we continued up the hill. Finally, we reached the duka with the big plastic bags hanging from a tree. He didn’t see them at first, but as soon as I pointed them out he was so excited. The store owner cut the biggest bag and 2 medium sized bags down from the tree and we paid about $10 for the set. He proudly carried them home and then announced his purchase at dinner. Fortunately, no one figured out what he was saying.

Levi's gifts to Noah and Jacob

Levi’s gifts to Noah and Jacob

The looks on the boys’ faces were priceless when they opened their gifts from Levi. They were less than thrilled, but they have used them to store all their Christmas gifts. Levi loves Aaron’s bag, which is where he is keeping his Christmas goodies. It’s so big that he has to climb inside in order to find anything!

Levi in the bag he gave Aaron

Levi in the bag he gave Aaron

With Levi around, it isn’t too hard to choose JOY even during the hardest of days. ūüôā

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for safe travels and a beautiful, rain-free day!

2. Please pray for the children at Bosto (and the other homes). Pray that God will direct their lives, will bless them and keep them, will shine His face upon them and give them peace.

3. Praise God for a blessed Christmas day! We kept things simple but special. The boys were very happy. They loved their new toys, the “feast” (as Jacob called it) that I prepared for lunch, and all the family time.

4. Praise God for technology! We facetimed with parents, received holiday wishes via facebook and got to see many of our friends’ Christmas festivities.

5. Praise God for fun friends! As I’m sure you saw on Aaron’s blog, one family received fake snow as a gift. They were nice enough to share, so Noah got to play in the snow on Christmas. (Levi was taking a nap, and Jacob wasn’t feeling adventurous.)

6. Please continue to pray for my dad. He has lost his voice and does feel some discomfort. Otherwise, he is doing well. Pray for endurance and strength, both physical and spiritual.

7. Pray for South Sudan. Pray that the believers there will stand firm in their faith. Pray for peace.

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9 Months

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9 months and counting. How could it feel like the last 9 months has flown by and yet feel like eternity since I’ve seen her sweet face…and still have to wait another eternity to see it again?

Sweet Hannah

Sweet Hannah

On these month markers, we usually take time to look at pictures and videos of our short 14 months with Hannah. The boys love to see how cute and silly she was, how they interacted together, and how much they have grown since then. It’s good therapy to remember and laugh at the good times we had. All of our hearts grew 3 times the moment we laid eyes of our sweet princess. I’m so blessed that my boys have a sister. I absolutely loved how she immediately wrapped them around her little finger, changed them, made them knights in shining armor. I am blessed to have witnessed that phenomenon…and I miss it.

My 4 kiddos last Christmas

My 4 kiddos last Christmas

The boys are back to being boys. With the overabundance of boys here at Tenwek, testosterone is never is short supply. They’re out conquering the world with lightsabers and superhero masks. They rarely stop to be soft and silly like they did when Hannah was with us. I miss the sweetness, beauty and spunkiness Hannah brought to our family. But God has given me hope in a glimpse of what I lost.

MKs with (Nerf) guns

MKs with (Nerf) guns

Right now, there is a family living next door to us. They’re here for 3 weeks and they have a 15 month old girl. She has brought that tenderness out of my boys. It’s precious to see that they haven’t forgotten all the things Hannah taught them! It’s also hard not to feel saddened by their obvious longing to have their baby sister back. Jacob has asked to take naps (and he rarely takes naps and¬†never asks for one) in their house. Levi tries all his crazy antics to make her laugh, but he’s sadly failing on all fronts. (Hannah was quite rough and tough for a girl, and she loved Levi’s insanity.) He doesn’t understand why she cries at him, and apparently doesn’t care, because he’s relentless! Noah, too, loves to make this little girl laugh. His tactics are quite effective though. Those two were cracking each other up the other day at chai. Too, too cute!

God has been speaking to me about suffering well and teaching the boys to do so. I pray that I’ve been doing a relatively good job so far, but I’m thankful that He’s been bringing sermons and blogs and devotions and Bible studies all together at this really hard season to remind me that what I do and how I handle my grief is important. People (specifically my boys) are watching. My boys are learning how to walk through the valley. They’re learning that God is sovereign and good and loving, but life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. They can do all the right things, obey God to the best of their abilities, give their lives to serve Him and yet still suffer. It’s an important lesson, one that they are learning young. I trust that God will bless them in their suffering, that He will be more real to them because of Hannah’s death, that each of them will serve Him wholeheartedly all the days of their lives, that they’ll willingly and joyfully choose the narrow and oftentimes more difficult path when God asks them to do so.

I’m sure I could write an entire post about what God is teaching me right now, but I’ll save that for another day. Today, we are taking a little family trip to Narok, a town about an hour away from here. We are eating lunch at a coffee house that serves milkshakes and hamburgers. We’re shopping at Naivas, but I’m pretending that it’s Target! We’re just getting away from Tenwek for a few hours in order to have some undivided family time, to do something we did quite frequently in the States, to avoid our precious friends for a few hours! (I love you all, but I need someone new to look at! :)) Although there won’t be Christmas music or a toy section to explore, I’m hoping it helps my homesickness for an American Christmas. If nothing else, I’ll get some Christmas cookie ingredients…and a yummy milkshake!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for being in the details.

2. Praise God for always giving us what we need (and not always what we want).

3. Praise God for the awesome, Christ-centered Advent we are having this year.

4. Praise God for Navais and Narok Coffee House.

5. Please pray for the boys’ hearts, their lives and their faith. I know God has big plans for each of them!

6. Please continue to pray for my dad, who is going through radiation, and my whole family as they celebrate Christmas without us.

7. Please pray for the Tenwek community, that we’ll be patient and loving and compassionate with each other, especially as we celebrate Christmas without our families (some of us for the first time).

I miss my little helper!

I miss my little helper!

Let me end with two quotes by godly men:

There is a glorified Man on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We are left for a season among men; let us faithfully represent Him here. ~A.W. Tozer

Every believer may be brought to understand that the only object of his life is to help make Christ King on the earth. ~Andrew Murray

Amen!

You know you’re a missionary if…

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Ever since we pulled out the Christmas stuff, I’ve been grumpy, homesick and sad. I miss Hannah and I really don’t want to celebrate Christmas without her. She gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with Jesus Himself! It would be nice if I could go up to heaven just for a day to join that birthday party. I would come right back to earth to finish the work God has given me here. I just want one more moment with her, one more smile to savor…

But the reality is that one moment wouldn’t be enough. I’d soon want another…and another…and another…until the day comes when I do join her in eternity. It makes me wonder what Christmas is like in heaven. Is it like any other day? Is every day like Christmas? Or do we get to eat birthday cake on the birthday of Christ? Do we give each other presents? Do I get to celebrate my birthday in heaven? Hmmm…So much to ponder.

Anyway, in an effort to laugh – and choose JOY – I’ve decided to write this post to poke fun at all the little things I miss from the States and some of the small stuff that is annoying me here. I mean, I totally expected to miss my family, our traditions, my friends, and Target. But some things that I miss are really random and unexpected. Other issues that I’m facing are so trivial but seem quite large in light of everything going on in my head and heart. So here it is. My list of missionary funnies.

You know you’re a missionary if…

1. you miss Dawn dish soap. I loathe washing dishes, but at least they were clean after I washed them in the States. I put everything possible in the dishwasher. I’d arrange and re-arrange the contents so that I could maximize what went into it before I ran it. But I don’t miss my dishwasher. Instead I miss dish soap…And here is why: During the week, my helpers wash my dishes and Aaron usually helps me on the weekends. Regardless of who’s washing the dishes, I do miss good, grease-cutting dish soap. Soap that gets dishes sparkling clean…the first time.

2. you miss Lowes. Of course I miss Target and Ann Taylor Loft and Gymboree! Who would have guessed that I would miss Lowes? I miss it because my apartment could use some TLC. Aaron and I actually have time to do little projects around the house, but we rarely have the right supplies. A quick trip to Lowes could fix that problem, and I’d be loving DIY home improvement. (I might have to wander around Lowes instead of the mall when I get home!)

3. you need a spa day like never before! I’m really not high maintenance when it comes to hair and nails. I rarely get pedicures…or haircuts for that matter. However, my feet are unrecognizable! Really dreadful. My hair could use a trim too. (Maybe a spa should be my first stop in the States. I don’t want to look too rough going into Lowes!)

4. you can leave your kids at home while you buy produce from the local farmer’s market. Seriously. Even if my helpers aren’t home, I can walk up the hill, still see my house, and buy tomatoes, cabbage, green peppers, red onions, etc. The best part is that I never spend more than $5!

5. you can tell someone is being attacked by pincher ants by the scream. True story. Just happened the other day…and it wasn’t even my kid!

6. you de-worm your kids every 6 months.

7. you’re always wondering if the “stomach bug” is caused by a virus or an actual bug (or worm).

8. you feel scandalous if you wear jeans during the week. I just did this last week. I was feeling especially homesick, so I thought wearing a ‘normal’ outfit might help…at least it couldn’t hurt. For whatever reason, wearing jeans did make me feel more like myself, but I don’t think the neighbors or helpers really liked it. I wore skirts the rest of the week.

9. you miss processed foods. I had eliminated almost all processed foods from our diet. I made as much as possible from scratch. I loved doing it, so I’m pretty sure this is completely psychological. I miss boxes of mac and cheese and frozen pizzas and oreos and a large variety of junk food! It’s because everything has to be from scratch here in rural Kenya and I can’t get all those indulgences I made oh so infrequently. (I’m anticipating a good 10+ pound weight gain when I’m back in the States…I haven’t even mentioned all the restaurants we’re missing!)

10. your idea of recycling does not include a bin you set by the curb on trash day. Here, everything is reused. My current method of recycling is cleaning every single plastic or glass container that comes from Nairobi (or was brought from home). The squirty jelly container has become my ranch dressing dispenser. The tomato sauce jars are used as homemade salsa containers. Cans can house seedlings. We even wash Ziploc bags so that we can reuse them!

So there you have it. A top 10 list of the current ‘issues’ I’m having as a new missionary. I realize that these are first world problems. I realize I wouldn’t have this frame of reference if I didn’t lead such a plush life in the States. I also recognize that I can solve a lot of these problems by focusing on the blessings. Noah, when he heard of all the snow PA has gotten, said, “Mom, I really miss the snow. It would be nice if it snowed in Kenya, but I’m glad I get to play outside everyday here. I didn’t like being in the house so much in Pennsylvania.” He’s absolutely right. I miss the snow too, but I don’t miss the psychosis that winter causes in my children. I love that my little balls of energy can explode outside everyday. I love that this is becoming a home to me. I love so much about Tenwek. Yes, there are things that are difficult, but life isn’t supposed to be easy. Life is real. Life is messy. Life is good…as long as you are following the only God that is good.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for children who so often teach us important truths.

2. Praise God for this advent season when we can really focus on Christ.

3. Praise God for great friends from both my earthly homes.

4. Please pray for the orphan ministry. We are celebrating with one of the orphanages on the 26th. I am in charge of the party. Please pray that I will know how to share the true meaning of Christmas with the children and that Christ will be honored and glorified in all we do. If you’d like to donate to the orphan fund, please do so at the WorldGospelMission¬†site.

5. Please pray for us as we anticipate December 14, 9 months since Hannah’s homegoing.

I Peter 1: 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!¬†In his great mercy¬†he has given us new birth¬†into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,¬†4¬†and into an inheritance¬†that can never perish, spoil or fade.¬†This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,¬†5¬†who through faith are shielded by God‚Äôs power¬†until the coming of the salvation¬†that is ready to be revealed¬†in the last time.¬†6¬†In all this you greatly rejoice,¬†though now for a little while¬†you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.¬†7¬†These have come so that the proven genuineness¬†of your faith‚ÄĒof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire‚ÄĒmay result in praise, glory and honor¬†when Jesus Christ is revealed.¬†8¬†Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him¬†and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,¬†9¬†for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Christmas Decorating, Missionary Style

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As we were packing to move to Kenya, Christmas seemed so far away…and the daily essentials seemed WAY more important. Now, Christmas season is upon us, and I’m so glad that I included a few of our Christmasy things AND that my neighbors are generous sharers. Here’s a little sampling of how we’re making our first Christmas in Kenya special and festive.

First of all, we are super excited to have a fireplace this Christmas! The stockings can actually be hung by the fireplace!! When I made them, we didn’t have a mantle so I didn’t attach loops or ever think about stocking hangers. This forced me to improvise a little this year. I hid small i-hooks under the wooden mantle, strung some twine and used clothespins to hang the stockings! It looks pretty cute, if I do say so myself! ūüôā

fireplace

Look closely for the snowflakes!

The tiny Christmas tree on the mantle came with the house. A friend gave me these adorable Maasai angels. I brought the tree skirt and nativity from home. (Aaron’s late grandfather made the nativity, and it’s one of my favorite things!) The red Kisii stone plate was a gift from the Weavers, and I thought it was an acceptable Christmas decoration since it was so red. The candlesticks were made by a local pastor. And, the StarWars snowflakes (they’re hard to see but they’re there) were made by my talented and patient husband.

The adjacent wall displays our advent calendar and various other homemade things. I somehow forgot our nativity Advent calendar, so I had to improvise once again. I strung twine from one window to the next and used clothespins to hang 25 squares. (Twine and clothespins go a loooong way when there isn’t another alternative!) The squares are numbered 1-25, and there is an activity on the back of each one. Twelve of the activities are making the 12 ornaments for the Jesse Tree. Others include drinking hot cocoa, making paper snowflakes, and making a nativity scene. So far, Noah and Jacob have constructed the stable and placed animals in it. It’s so cute to see their artistic sides come together with their Bible knowledge! The little tree was a collaborative effort by Aaron, Noah, Jacob and me. (Levi was asleep and hasn’t shown as much artistic enthusiasm as his brothers.)

advent wall

The Advent Wall

the beginnings of the nativity

The beginnings of the nativity…I love the camels!

The dining room has a few Christmas treasures. The tapestry, table runner and snowman towel (more handy-dandy twine!) came with the house. I love my Kenyan Jesse tree! We have completed 3 of the Jesse tree ornaments. Aren’t they cute? The candle was a splurge from our second trip to Kenya. It makes the whole house smell like Christmas!

A close-up of the 3 ornaments we’ve done.

shelf in dinning room dining room wall dining room buffet

Jesse Tree

(Sorry if the crazy curtains are distracting. I have some nice brown ones picked out at Target.com, but I haven’t convinced myself or Aaron that it’s worth the cost…They didn’t bother me until I decorated for Thanksgiving, and now they’re really annoying against all the Christmas colors!)

Last but certainly not least, we hung some Christmas lights outside. Our neighbors brought the icicle lights for the entire 5-plex. We had the lights brought over by some new friends. Unfortunately, I ordered indoor lights…the cords are green, not white…It’s a good thing they are under the porch roof and that we’re in Kenya where these details are easily overlooked!

outside!

So, there you have it: the Kelley’s First Christmas in Kenya. It’s small and simple. It’s Christ-centered and fun. The boys haven’t thought of a single thing from our regular stash of Christmas decor that they’re missing. However, they are missing Hannah, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and great-grandparents terribly! They wish everyone could come live with us here, which is a nice thought….anyone want to join us for Christmas in Kenya??

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for the true meaning of Christmas. When Christ came down to earth as a baby, His main purpose was to become the Sacrifice for our sins. We are thankful this year that all the media and commercialism is missing from our normal holiday celebrations and that we can focus our attention on Christ.

2. Praise God for one week of radiation down! My dad has 4 more weeks to go. Please help us pray him through the next 4 weeks, and pray that this treatment will cure him completely!

3. Praise God for all of you! We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from all of you! From personal messages to huge care packages, we feel so loved this Christmas!

4. Please pray for the God of all comfort to be so real to us this Advent. We miss Hannah so very much, and we don’t want to celebrate without her. We do praise God that she gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with HIM! (And we’re more than a little jealous of her!)

5. Please keep the Weavers in your prayers too…and all the other people you know who have to celebrate without a loved one this Christmas.

Hannah-Christmas 2012

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Romans 12:12

Turkey Day at Tenwek

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Thursday, November 28, came and went this year without much fanfare. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, all the medical missionaries here at Tenwek had to work a regular day. The kids went to school as usual in the morning. (They did have the afternoon off.) We had no power since Thursdays are our days to go without power. (Power rationing is a must until the second turbine is installed by the waterfall.) The leaves are green, the weather is warm and sunny, and I still dress in the bright colors of summer.

I did get to facetime with several members of my family, which was a huge blessing. Thanks to facebook, I saw pictures of the family gatherings I missed. Boy! Kids grow so quickly! I may not recognize anyone by the time I return to PA! Otherwise, Thursday was a normal day.

Saturday, November 30, however, was a grand day of celebration! If there’s one thing the Tenwek community is good at, it’s throwing a party! We started the festivities bright and early with the 1st Annual Tenwek Turkey Trot. It was a 5k friendly race. I think I came in 4th place for the women…not sure what my time was. (As you can tell, it wasn’t too competitive.)

Turkey Trotters

The adult race was followed by the Mashed Potato Mile, a one-mile fun run for the kids. Noah and Jacob ran it, and I jogged with Jacob to cheer him on. Jacob won the ‘5 and under’ age group, and he is quite proud of himself!

the big winner!

Noah did really well too! Since neither of them had ever run a race like this, I was a little worried about how they would do. They both surprised me with their endurance! I think it was Jacob who said, “Momma, it hurts when I breathe!” after the race. It is surprisingly chilly in the mornings here in the mountains of Bomet!

me and my boys

Levi and Aaron cheered us on and took pictures. Levi is anxious for his turn to run! “Team Tie-Dye” did a great job…and I’m not sure when my boys got so big!!

After hot chocolate and breakfast breads, we headed back home to prepare for the Thanksgiving feast. I was listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s¬†Beauty Will Rise album while I got myself ready for the day. The lyrics washed over me in a fresh, raw way. I suddenly found myself crying and missing Hannah so deeply once again. But I’m thankful for the time I did have with her, that she’s celebrating thanksgiving everyday with our LORD and Savior, that I still have 3 beautiful children to mother, that I have a wonderful and godly husband, a supportive family back in the States, and a great family of believers here in Kenya, etc. My list of blessings could go on and on, so I allowed myself this time of mourning and then chose joy once again.

Lunch was a huge family event. Four giant turkeys were cooked. Everyone brought the side dishes. The room was decorated with as much Thanksgiving decor we could collectively find. The picture of the smorgasbord says it all…

the Thanksgiving feast!

I think we had as many tables of food as tables of people!

Part of the Tenwek family

The turkeys at my table used the centerpieces as hats…They’re so much like their father!

Two of the turkeys at my tablethe third turkey

 

After stuffing themselves silly, Aaron and the boys went home to take naps. I stayed to help clean up and then headed home to rest. While we were resting, though, many of the more ambitious members of the community got together to play flag football. Only a few injuries ensued. And then, it was time for pie!

pies with nutspies without nuts

 

Oh my! The pies were even better than the feast! We each had the privilege of choosing two pieces of pie. I went with an apple-cranberry pie and my own pumpkin streusel pie. I also tasted the upside down banana split pie and my blueberry-peach pie. (Thank you, boys, for sharing with your momma!) So, so yummy!

The night ended with the men watching football. (Yes, we were able to stream a game…The internet was cut from everyone else’s homes so that the one connection would be fast enough.) The older kids watched¬†Elf.¬†The younger kids (i.e., my 3 boys) went to bed. They were exhausted after all that running, playing and eating!

Needless to say, our first Thanksgiving was a blessed event. Despite the fact that we are half-way around the world from our families, we felt extremely blessed and thankful for those blessings. May God receive all the glory!!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for freedom to worship HIM!

2. Praise God for the Body of Christ, for the family of believers around the world!

3. Praise God for technology that allows us to stay in touch so easily!

4. Please pray for my dad as he begins radiation Monday, December 2. Pray for complete healing!

5. Please pray fervently for us this holiday season. Hannah’s stocking is hung with the rest of ours. (We have a fireplace for the first time!!) We want to honor her life as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our decisions in how to honor her and comfort us as we miss her this Christmas…and everyday.

Christmasy fireplace!

(We spent the day decorating for Christmas! Stay tuned for more pictures. ūüôā )