Monthly Archives: January 2014

Anniversary

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A year ago today, we – the Kelley family of 6 – boarded the plane and started our journey to our new home in Tenwek. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. So much has changed. So much has happened…

Today, we are spending a much needed day of family fun time in Nairobi. When we get back to Tenwek, I hope to take pictures of our house for the next blog post. I need to show you all how much our apartment has become home!

Thank you for being such great supporters! Please pray for us as we venture around the big city of Nairobi and then journey back home to Tenwek. Thanks. 🙂

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2 on the 22nd

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Hannah would have turned 2 yesterday.

As I reflected on the day and all that it meant, I was taken back to January 22, 2012. I awoke early that morning with mild contractions about 15 minutes apart. Though I was filled with fear of the unknown and worry that my baby girl wasn’t developmentally ready for delivery (I was only 34 weeks), I did what any experienced mother would do: lay on my side drinking as much water as possible and prayed. Then, I asked for more prayer via facebook. The contractions did subside a little, but then at 3pm they became strong and only 2-3 minutes apart. I called for Aaron, who quickly got me to the hospital. Hannah was born at 4:11pm, 6 weeks before her due date.  She was tiny but perfect.

Just 15 days old.

Just 15 days old.

Then, on her first birthday, I was a nervous wreck again, but for a very different reason. January 22, 2013 marked exactly one week until we flew to our new home in Kenya. This was the cause of great concern since two of the kids had never flown, none of us had ever been to Africa, and we really didn’t know anyone at Tenwek. Fortunately, we already had her birthday party, so the most eventful thing about her actual birthday was her one-year wellness appointment with the pediatrician. She surpassed all her milestones and had all her one-year immunizations, so she was ready to go. I, however, was over my head with packing and purging and saying good-byes. I still don’t know how I managed to get all 6 of us here safely!

Our house the week before we flew to Kenya

Our house the week before we flew to Kenya

Still not sure how Hannah ended up in the bucket...Levi was probably involved.

Still not sure how Hannah ended up in the bucket…Levi was probably involved.

Yesterday, on what would have been her second birthday, I found myself full of anxiety, and again it was for a very different reason. I have been dreading January 22, 2014. Christmas was hard, but yesterday was harder. Christmas is about Jesus, not Hannah. Christmas has come and gone without Hannah for many, many years. We enjoyed all of our Christmases without Hannah except one. Celebrating Christmas without her was heartbreaking, but it was actually better than I expected.  Yesterday, however, was even worse than I anticipated. I think it’s because January 22, in my mind, is Hannah’s day. That date never held any significance for me until she was born.

Before we left the States to return to Tenwek after Hannah’s memorial services, we purchased pink princess balloons, princess tattoos and stickers and purposed to hold a celebration of her life. I’ve been pondering exactly what we should do for a long time. Our original plan involved releasing pink balloons, but helium is not easily found in Kenya. That part of the plan was replaced by lanterns. We hung the pink balloons, made pink cupcakes and let everyone have a tattoo or sticker, a glow stick and treats. Each family got a lantern to light and release. Although only some of the lanterns floated the way I predicted, it was a beautiful sight.

Party Decorations

Levi getting a princess tattoo

Levi getting a princess tattoo

Lanterns for Hannah

I so appreciate the way God has used our baby girl. While I miss her every day and I still wish none of this would have happened, I am honored to be chosen by God for this work. I am humbled by the way the body of Christ has rallied around us to help us carry this heavy load. I am amazed by the way God is in the details of my every day life. I am encouraged to choose joy amidst the pain and sorrow. I am determined to bring God all the praise, glory and honor that He deserves through whatever the day brings.

Thank you to all who brought us pink flowers!

Thank you to all who brought us pink flowers!

We were given a box of God’s promises, Scripture chosen by some of our supporters here at Tenwek. Let me share a couple of those promises with you.

But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and His righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:17

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy…You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20, 22

Praises and Prayer Requests: 

  1. Praise God for seeing us through a very difficult day. He really is all-sufficient!
  2. Praise God for the body of Christ!
  3. Praise God for His big picture plan. His ways truly are higher and better and bigger than ours!
  4. Please keep my dad in your prayers. He is tired and his throat is still sore.
  5. Please pray for all of us here at Tenwek. I often forget that other people are grieving Hannah. The doctors who took care of Hannah, my house helper who helped with Hannah, the kids and moms who loved Hannah like a cousin/niece, our church here at Tenwek, etc.
  6. Please also pray for each other. Our family and friends back in the States often feel helpless. Pray that God would comfort them as well.
Me, my helpers, my boys and my in-laws

Me, my helpers, my boys and my in-laws

8 on the 18th!

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Noah, our firstborn, turned 8 years old yesterday! As a typical firstborn child, he had all the details planned far in advance. He had two lists: one for the party and one for the remainder of the day. He choose all the games and then had fun making the supplies for them. He also planned each meal and snack for the day. Here is a little run-down of the day’s festivities. It’s great to be 8!

The morning started a bit early (because he was so, so excited for his day!), so breakfast was several hours in the waiting…but it was worth it. Bacon (a rare treat for us) and egg sandwiches, apple juice and milk made a complete meal worthy of any birthday boy!

As soon as breakfast was devoured, we had to get everything ready for the party! Balloons and screamers were hung, the cake was decorated, the game supplies were assembled and the lightsabers were gathered.

Decorating

Once the majority of our many neighbors were present, the party began. First up on the agenda: Pin the Lightsaber on Darth. We used straws for lightsabers. Nana and Noah made Darth Vader on Friday. For blindfolds, I covered the eyes on the Darth and Stormtrooper masks. It was a big hit!

Noah trying to pin the lightsaber on Darth

Noah trying to pin the lightsaber on Darth

Darth Vader Game

Next up was the cake and ice cream. Noah placed the rings on the cake so that the teams for the next game (a lightsaber war) would be decided. Apparently Kenyan food coloring (a powder, not the liquid dye I’m used to using) has a funny taste. All the kids removed the icing to discover a dry, burnt cake…It wasn’t my best attempt at cake making, but at least it looked exactly as Noah designed.

Noah's cake

After the cake and ice cream were eaten and the rings were cleaned, we divided into two groups to have a lightsaber war. The lack of rules and direction resulted in a failed game. We quickly moved onto opening presents. He was sufficiently spoiled!

So many presents!

The Death Star pinata was next on the to-do list. Nana made the pinata in just one day, and it was quite strong. (Thank you to the warm equatorial sun for drying the layers so quickly!) Each kid got two turns at hitting the pinata. The first turn was with the mask blindfolds, and the second turn was without them.

Death Star pinata candy grabbing

Last but not least, we had a water balloon battle. I explained the rules, which included hitting only the people on the grass and waiting until I was off the grass. Then, each kid got two balloons to start the game. I called “Game on!” and watched a total of 3 minutes of balloon throwing.

Water Battle

The party ended just as a little rain storm rolled over Tenwek. The kids walked home and I got to work on Noah’s birthday lunch. Make-your-own stir fry, rice with soy sauce, and egg rolls, which Joyce made them from scratch on Friday so that I could just warm them up, were on the menu.

After lunch, we all enjoyed a little rest time. After that, Noah played with his new toys and ate salt and vinegar chips for snack. Before we knew it, it was time for supper. He chose hot dogs cooked on Daddy’s new charcoal grill (with rolls, ketchup, mustard and relish) and boxed macaroni and cheese. Both hot dogs and boxed mac and cheese are expensive here, so we rarely enjoy this all-American kid-friendly meal!

hot dogs on the grill

Shortly after supper, we got the kiddos in bed. It was a long, exhausting but fun-filled day. Noah went to bed feeling loved and celebrated, so all the hard work was well worth it!

I still can't believe he's 8...and almost as tall as me!

I still can’t believe he’s 8…and almost as tall as me!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for the safe travel and arrival of Jayne and Phil and all of their luggage! We are enjoying much missed time together.

2. Praise God for 8 full years with our firstborn, Noah! He is growing up to be such a fine young man, and I am thankful for the privilege to watch God working in him.

3. Praise God that my dad is finished with his radiation treatments. Please pray that the cancer is really gone and that it will never return.

4. Please pray for us as we prepare for Hannah’s birthday celebration on the 22nd.

5. Please pray for all the kids and adults involved in Bible Quizzing. Pray that the Word, which is alive and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, would penetrate our hearts and minds so that we are effective, diligent workers for Christ! Pray that the kids will be used for a great work in the next generation of Kenyan Christians!

Since we are studying 1 Samuel in Bible Quizzing, I’ll close with a verse from that book. 🙂

I Samuel 2:2 “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

10 Months

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I’ve been sad lately.
I think it all started on Friday. Friday afternoons/evenings are special. While there are some variables, it always involves a movie, lots of pizza and soda! The boys look forward to it all week, and it’s usually a fun-filled night of family time.
This Friday, however, was the beginning of the sadness. While Aaron and the boys watched Star Wars, I sat in the dining room by myself eating pizza. Aaron was on call and Noah was feeling a little sick so we didn’t have company. We decided to do a quiet evening as a family, and the boys wanted a boy movie. I could have joined the ‘man party’ but I was overcome by my lack of a companion. The fact that I didn’t have a little girl to share the evening with was too much to bare.

Missing the chance to kiss her sweet face...

Missing the chance to kiss her sweet face…

Since that night, a new wave of grief has overwhelmed me. I find myself wondering how long her hair would be now. Would I know what to do with it? Besides ponytails and pigtails, I’m a rookie at girly hair dos. Would she like movie nights as much as her brothers? Would they delight in watching girly movies with her? How much would she rule the roost?? How many words would she have? I wonder what she looks like, how she walks and runs, what her voice sounds like, how she would fit into this Tenwek community.

Hannah made some friends in her short time at Tenwek.

Hannah made some friends in her short time at Tenwek.

At this point, 10 months since we said good-bye to Hannah, these really sad days aren’t quite as frequent. They only happen about once a month. BUT when they come, they are still so deep and painful. It’s like the door of grief breaks open like a flood and I’m left drowning in tears.
I don’t think I’m pretending or stuffing the grief down. Whether I like it or not, I’m moving on with life. I’m teaching the missionary kids, hosting visitors, planning trips, joining ministries, etc. I’m trying my best to obey God’s direction for my life, to submit to His timing in all areas, to bring Him honor and glory in it all. Even when I don’t understand, especially when I miss her so much that I can’t stop crying, I still trust God with my life. I trust Him so much that I yell at Him, I question Him, I tell Him I hate this part of the plan!

The 4 kiddos sucking on sugar cane.

The 4 kiddos sucking on sugar cane.

But here is the bottom line: No matter the circumstances, God does not change. If I can praise Him on the mountain top, I must praise Him in the valley. I was created to bring HIM glory. I was brought here to serve a God that is good and holy and righteous. If I fail to do my part in His plan for me, He doesn’t win. I give satan the victory. And that, friends, is not going to happen! If I must endure this season of grief, you better believe that I’m going to make it worthwhile. I will give God all the glory, praise and honor He deserves, even when I feel like He doesn’t deserve it. Because my emotions do not have the power to change who God is. I know my firm standing on my Solid Rock mades satan cringe. It makes his plan for this trial fail. In that, I greatly rejoice.

Playing in the rain!

Playing in the rain!

“…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—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I Peter 1:6b-7

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for visitors! Aaron’s mother and stepdad will be arriving this week! Please pray for their travels. They leave PA on Tuesday and arrive at Tenwek on Thursday.

2. Praise God for great friends! God has blessed us with such a great support system here at Tenwek. When I am feeling especially sad, these friends rally around us and we are so grateful!

3. Praise God that my house helpers are back! They have cleaned the house from top to bottom in effort to prepare for our visitors. The walls are washed, the mosquito nets are clean and even the front porch is spotless!

4. Please pray for my dad. He completed this last treatment today! Pray that the cancer is gone and NEVER comes back!

5. Pray for Noah. He will turn 8 on the 18th. Pray that God will richly bless him and grow him as an 8 year old.

6. Pray for all of us as we anticipate Hannah’s 2nd birthday on January 22. We are planning a celebration, but it is not at all what I thought her 2nd birthday would be.

“10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” I Peter 5:10-11

God always keeps His promises.

God always keeps His promises.

Help!

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Help! I need house help!

Leading up to Christmas and New Year, I was getting a little stressed. I absolutely love the ladies who help in my house, but it was stressing me out to have someone in my house every day. I was missing housework. I know that’s weird, but I was worried that my kids forgot how to help me with daily chores. Sure, they make their beds and have daily responsibilities, but not nearly as much as they did in the States. I just needed the freedom to NOT make my bed, to allow the house to be a wreck for a day if I didn’t feel like cleaning it up, to NOT empty the dirty clothes bin, to cook for my family, etc. So that’s what lead to this bright idea to let my workers go home (their villages are quite a distance from Tenwek and therefore do not get to see much of their family very often) for two whole weeks.

It’s the end of those two weeks, and I cannot wait for my workers to return! I’ve been running and juggling and getting just as stressed…only in a different way. Let me give you a little peek into life without a helper here at Tenwek.

I get up around 6:30 a.m. to work out. I take a quick look at facebook and my e-mail while my body cools down and my hair water warms up in the microwave. I read my devotional, try to memorize a bit of I Peter (which is proving even more difficult than James!), and remind the boys to brush their teeth and make their beds. I get myself ready for the day and make breakfast (from scratch). I put a load of laundry into the washing machine. It’s now 8 a.m. and the morning is just like any other morning before my helpers arrive.

Normally, I start school with Noah at 8:30 and Joyce arrives at 9. But since she’s not here…

I try to get Noah started on school, but then the clothes are ready to be hung on the line. I move him to something he can do independently while I put another load in the washing machine and run outside to hang the first load. Of course, as soon as I’m at the line, I hear Jacob and Levi fighting. I ignore it until they find me. Levi is crying and I’m trying really hard to be sympathetic.

When I come back inside, I give Levi some ‘schoolbooks’ to read in his room while Jacob has a turn with the new Lego fire engine. Noah is ready to move onto the next thing. I do as much of the parent-directed stuff as I can until the next interruption. The phone rings. Noah gets frustrated. We complete another step of school. Someone is at the door. Jacob and Levi have to switch activities. Noah and I can finish up school for the morning. Some things just have to wait for the afternoon.

Now it’s Jacob’s turn for school. Of course, Levi wants to do school with Mommy too. I give Levi an alphabet puzzle while I watch Jacob write his letters. We do a little math, Jacob reads a book and I decide that’s enough school for the day. The boys go outside to play while I tackle the laundry and the mound of dishes in the sink.

By the time I’m finished with those basic chores, it’s time to prepare lunch…because making an easy meal in rural Kenya requires at least an hour. But I have to run up to the dukas because I don’t have all the ingredients. Fortunately, there are enough adults around that I can leave the kids at home. During my ‘quick’ run to the market, I meet at last 6 people that I haven’t seen in a couple of days due to the holiday. I must greet them and ask how their kids are doing. Although I haven’t gotten into a car or walked more than 300 yards, this quick trip takes me over a half an hour.

I get home to multiple stories from the kids of who stole what from whom. I try to hustle inside without getting involved by lovingly and patiently explaining, “If you want to eat lunch today, you’ll let me go inside to cook!”  I start prepping the veggies by cleaning them in Jik, rinsing and drying them, and then chopping them appropriately. Then, all of the sudden, it starts to rain! I must run outside to get the laundry. Fortunately, there are some ladies around to help. I get back inside at 1pm, our lunch time. The cooking is just getting started. It’s a good thing Aaron is usually late for lunch!

After lunch, which somehow was only a half hour late, we finish up Noah’s school once Levi is down for his nap. Jacob wants to play a game, so we do that after story time. Now it’s 3:30 and time to wake up Levi. The boys have a quick snack and it’s time to play outside in the mud. They get disgustingly dirty while I conquer the lunch dishes. By 5 p.m., I’m pooped, so I bring the boys inside for baths.

I whip up something simple for supper so that we can sit down as a family to eat. Then, it’s off to brush teeth, read a story, say prayers and go to bed. I quickly throw all of the dirty dishes in the kitchen. They’ll wait until the next crazy morning. I need to sit and be still for a moment before it’s my bedtime.

I’m so thankful that I survived this week. Each day was different. Each day brought it’s own challenges and interruptions. Each day was fun and filled with new people. We have 4 visiting families, the Bemms moved back to Tenwek, and a new couple moved here this week! (This meant we hosted a lunch and 2 dinners for several of these families…without extra hands to cook and clean up after cooking!)

I’m also thankful for househelp. It is an amazing part of living here. Homeschooling and homework take up a lot of time. It did in the States too, but it was doable because of modern conveniences and the lack of daily dirt. I am spoiled by the way Joyce takes care of my home and my family. I truly treasure her time, service and attention to detail. I wouldn’t be able to study the Bible as much or do as much ministry work or teach the middle school kids or enjoy a clean house or host so many dinners without her. Househelpers are an integral part of our work here, and I just need to give them their due credit. 🙂

Two of these ladies work for me. The others work for neighbors.

Two of these ladies work for me. The others work for neighbors.

1 Peter 4:10-11 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for househelp! Please pray for these men and women who come alongside us in ministry here at Tenwek.

2. Praise God that our MK teacher made it back into Kenya. (Her vista expired so she had to take a quick trip out of East Africa.) Please pray for the teachers and kids as we resume school this week.

3. Praise God for care packages! Thank you to all who sent them. They’re trickling in…Four more await pick up at the Posta. (Christmas may never end!)

4. Praise God for His mighty work here at Tenwek. Please join us in praying that God will continue to bless this place, that He will give each of us a clear picture of the specific role we play in His plan for Tenwek’s future, that MANY souls will be won for Christ!

5. Pray specifically for the medical staff. They are super busy and must deal with death on a daily basis. It is emotionally exhausting. Pray that God will sustain them.

6. Praise God that the Bemms are back!! Tenwek just got a whole lot louder…and fun!! 🙂

Happy New Year!

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Go ahead, call me a party pooper. We didn’t even try to stay up to bring in the new year. Aaron was on call for the hospital, and as you moms know well, I was on call for my children. Between Aaron’s pager and Levi thinking he’d wet the bed, we didn’t sleep much. (Fortunately, Levi made it to the potty and his bed stayed dried.) When we woke up this morning, we felt like we’d stayed up until midnight, but we weren’t partying.

This method of ‘celebration’ is our typical way to welcome a new year. We just love sleep too much. While some people use this time of year to make resolutions, to reflect on the past year, to party, I usually don’t give it much thought. In the past I would treat it like any other day. This year, however, I thought I’d at least take some time to reflect and process the year 2013. Otherwise, though, January 1, 2014 is like any other day.

This new-found desire to reflect is primarily brought on by the fact that 2013 has hands-down been the hardest year of my life. The previous years have not been all sunshine and roses, but nothing compares to the twists and turns we experienced this past year. We moved to Kenya, to a home we’ve never seen, to work in a place we’ve never experienced, to live in a community where we knew no one. Then, we had to usher our baby girl into heaven, fly back to the States to bury her, and then move back to Kenya with a huge void. If that wasn’t bad enough, the remainder of the year brought us two more deaths in the family (both of Aaron’s grandmothers passed away), a long list of new friends who were experiencing the loss of one of their children, and countless deaths at the hospital. Then, my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

While I knew this year would be challenging, because the first year of being a missionary is supposed to be characterized by a roller coaster of emotions, I never would have expected all the trials we encountered. In the midst of processing death and illness, we had to process the calling God placed on our lives. We’ve had the call of missionary for quite some time, but we ARE missionaries now. That means we are walking the walk, we are challenged to live out our faith in a different culture, we are grieving all the things we left behind in the States, we have to process realities to which most people never give a second thought. Some of these things we anticipated. Some we did not. The combination of assimilating to a new home and mourning the loss of a daughter has caused a complex, messy year.

As we begin 2014, I wish I could say that God has promised us a year free from trial, an easy road to 2015. But I can’t. Instead, I can say, “Good-bye 2013! It has been a hard, devastating year. One where we made many mistakes and cried too many tears. But we were victorious because God was glorified!” And I can determine in my heart that no matter what 2014 brings God will continue to receive all the glory!

I Peter 1:13 “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

She had the biggest smile for such a petite girl!

She had the biggest smile for such a petite girl!

Praises and Pray Requests:

1. Praise God for His faithfulness to us this year! We would be a giant mess, never getting out of bed, curled up in the fetal position, if it wasn’t for the God of Comfort!

2. Praise God for the MANY blessings He brought in the midst of much suffering and sadness.

3. Praise God for a larger than expected support group. (That would be you!) We are humbled to have such a far-reaching ‘fan’ base. Thank you isn’t enough, but that’s all I can say. I so appreciate the time you spend uplifting us in prayer!

4. Please continue to pray for my dad. He has daily treatments (Monday-Friday) until mid-January.

5. Please pray for the orphan ministry, especially now that I’m in charge of financial record keeping! While I am organized and detailed, I am still a little intimated by this seemingly big role.

6. Please pray for us this January. The 22nd is Hannah’s birthday. She’d be turning 2. We have a birthday celebration planned. It’s sure to be bittersweet, maybe a little heavy on the bitter that day.

7. Please pray for Noah! He’ll be turning 8 on the 18th! He is doing so, so well. We are quite proud of the way he is maturing and learning and growing. (Am I really old enough to have an 8 year old??) Please pray that God will continue to use him to comfort (his name means ‘comfort’), that he will learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and have the courage to obey what he hears, that he will guard his tongue and grow into a respectful young man of God.