I can't believe there is only one month left until Shirley is one year old! This month has been full of new things for Shirley:
She has started taking steps. She usually only takes one or two, but one day she took six or seven! I was home alone with her and pretty much went crazy. It might have scared her because she hasn't done it since. I'm not really complaining though. I know it will come soon enough!
Shirley also learned how to climb stairs (and how to get back down). Now we have to keep a strict eye on her at my mom's house.
She copies everything her mama and daddy does. She evens copies my mom's dogs!
Speaking of dogs, she discovered Maggie and Tacy this month and she LOVES them. She's not afraid of them at all. She'll pet them and stick her finger in their mouths and laugh at them. I took her over to the back door one day when the dogs were outside and Tacy jumped up on the glass right near Shirley's face but she didn't even blink. (Her fearlessness may not be a good thing.)
Whenever I tell Shirley "no" or say "Shirley" in a serious tone she shakes her head back and forth.
She also started saying some words and she started pointing at things in books. Shirley loves her rubber ducky at bath time and she often will say "duh, duh" while she's playing with it. We checked out a book from the library last week called "Time for Bed, Fred!" It's a book about a dog finding his bed. At one point he splashes in a mud puddle and gets all dirty so he has to take a bath. Well, there's a rubber ducky on that page and she surprised me one day by pointing to the duck and saying "duh"! Now every time we read it she does the same thing!
At meal times when she's in her chair I tell her to raise her arms up so that I can snap on the tray and now she'll repeat me and say "up, up". She also loves to say "hi" and she'll wave while she says it and sometimes she'll repeat the word, "baby".
I love this little girl so much. It's so cliche to say but it is so hard to imagine that there was a point in life where she didn't exist. She brings her daddy and me so much joy with her sweetness and spunkiness. I just love being her mama!
During the wee hours of Sunday morning my Uncle Gary's gallbladder ruptured. We weren't sure if there were other problems involved but it wound up only being his gallbladder. He had surgery that night and is now in recovery and he is going to be okay. We are all so grateful.
Another little something happened on Sunday and I hesitated in writing this at first, just because I know my own heart and how easy it is to seek attention for silly things. But I am just so thankful to God in the way He kept my little family safe and when I think about it, it reminds me of His loving care and sovereignty.
On Sunday afternoon as we headed back home from church, Kwacha, Shirley and I got in a little accident. We skidded a bit on some large puddles right before a giant wave hit our windshield and completely blocked our view of the road. We crashed into yellow sand barrels, which protected us from hitting a concrete barrier, but which also sent us back into the lane. Kwacha lost control of the car and we clipped, of all things, a tow truck! We didn't have to wait around for CHP in the rain. (Don't worry, we DID file a report with our insurance later that day.) The tow truck owner was on his way back to his lot with an empty truck. So he took us home and then took our car back to the lot with him. Our car was definitely totaled but we all came out without a single injury, not even whiplash.
I mean, God is in the details, isn't He?? We could have crashed into anything after that wave hit our windshield, but we hit sand barrels put their for our safety. We could have crashed into another car causing injury to others but we didn't. Out of all cars we hit a tow truck! His truck was fine and he was able to take us home immediately. And on top of that, God protected my sweet husband and precious baby.
He could have not spared us and He would still be just as good and sovereign. He could not have spared Uncle Gary and yet He would still be just as good and sovereign. I thought of Philippians 2:7 where Paul talks about how God had mercy on Epaphroditus when He spared him from death. He never has to spare us from death, but it is always by His mercy when He does. I am so thankful that I serve such a loving, powerful God!
I don't really have anything in particular to write about today, except some random thoughts perhaps. Shirley is wonderful to me but there are other things in life besides Shirley. Speaking of Shirley though, I do love her so much. And I absolutely love my husband. I have a few friends that can bring themselves to tears just thinking about loved ones dying. I was never one of those girls until I got married. Okay, I know this post is starting to get morbid but stay with me. I know that worrying about what couldhappen is never productive. What is the point in worrying about something that may not happen (and usually won't)? As the Bible says, "sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt. 6:34) But I do sometimes wonder to myself how I would handle a really difficult trial like that. I know that God's grace is great. When my dad died I experienced the comfort of God through His Word and sweet friends. He does give a peace that is beyond understanding. But as hard as it was to say goodbye to my dad for now, in my mind I think it would be even harder to have to say goodbye to Kwacha or Shirley. Could I handle it? I think it comes down to this: Do I love God more than anyone or anything else? That is an important question to ask myself. I may not have to worry about Kwacha or Shirley dying today, but how is my life right now a living testimony that I love God more than either of them? I'm not writing an answer to that right now. I have to search my heart. But the cool thing is, if I love God more than them, I am also going to love them in just the way that I should! That is an extremely comforting thought. I shared the following with a couple of friends recently who experienced the extremely difficult trial of miscarriage. I can't empathize with them, but I definitely sympathize. It's a quote from Stepping Heavenward. One of my favorite books. It's at a point in the book where an older lady who had lost most of her family is talking to a younger girl whose fiancé had just died. Sometimes I find it a help, when dull and cramped in my devotions, to say to myself: Suppose Christ should now appear before you, and you could see Him as He appeared to His disciples on earth, what would you say to Him? This brings Him near, and I say what I would say if He were visibly present. I do the same when a new sorrow threatens me. I imagine my Redeemer as coming personally to say to me, 'For your sake I am a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; now for My sake give me this child, bear this burden, submit to this loss,' Can I refuse Him? Now, dear, He really has come to you in this way, and asked you to show your love to Him, your faith in Him, by giving Him the most precious of your treasures. If He were here at this moment, and offered to restore it to you, would you dare say, 'Yes, Lord, I know, far better than You do, what is good for him and good for me; I will have him return to me, whatever it may cost; in this world of uncertainties and disappointments I shall be sure of happiness in his society, and he will enjoy more here on earth with me than he could enjoy in the companionship of saints and angels and of The Lord Himself in Heaven,' Could you dare to say this?
I hope this may encourage you in whatever trial you may be facing.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
Shirley is in the double digits! This is the first month where I've truly thought, time is flying. I can't believe she's already 10 months old.
In an outfit from her namesake, also known as Tilly. :) My little French girl.
This month was exciting because our friends, the Hodzi's, visited from Zimbabwe! For those of you who don't know, Dany lived with us for 6 months my senior year of high school. After 6 months she went back home to Germany and than she returned to go to the Master's college where she met her husband, Thomas. Thomas is from Zimbabwe and they moved back there when he finished seminary to be involved with full time ministry. (I basically copied her life. ;)
This is the best shot I got of Joel. It was so fun to hear him rattling off in German. I hadn't seen him since he was about Shirley's age and I had never met Aleithia. (I know I'm spelling that wrong!)
The two girls with sweet Dany.
Don't you think they could be sisters??
Aleithia's so beautiful!
And the big accomplishment this month? Standing with no hands!
When I think of Jen, two words come immediately to mind; friend and funny. Jen deeply values friendships and she is a faithful friend herself. She regularly hosts get togethers, whether it involves coffee at a local coffee shop or dinner and a movie at her house. She cares for others and this is seen in her thoughtfulness. Jen is also really funny. She makes me laugh in a way that few others do. She uses her wit and sarcasm to form a creative sense of humor. Why am I going on about these two character traits of hers? Because they shine forth in her book. In "My Forever Friend and Sister" she demonstrates how great friendships can be made within one's own family. A Record of Rights reveals how friends can show us our own sin in a helpful way. An Entirely Lovely Afternoon and Twilight reflect her enjoyment in spending time with those close to her.
Jen's sense of humor is shown in poems like To My Headache, The Subtle Dangers of Whipped Cream and in one of my favorites, The Fugitive - a poem about a weird dream come to reality, a cheeseburger dropping by for a visit!
Her creativity with words is seen in Harry the Canary, Questions Over Brunch and Unexpected Endings. While Jen excels with the unexpected and "experimentations on traditional form", you will still find the occasional traditional poem with beautiful word imagery in Unexpected Bougainvillea and Dictionary. I have to admit, my favorite poems are always short and sweet and Jen has a number of these in her book. I'll share a few with you:
Short Summer Haiku
Coffee in the shade.
Nice afternoon naps.
Fun parties at night.
The Inevitable Mr. M.
to hold your hand
as we walk through life
as husband and wife.
and one last one,
At the end of the day,
I open the window and lie in bed.
Freedom flows through the curtains,
and cradles my head.
I actually meant to write this review awhile ago, but things worked out perfectly as it happens to be Jen's birthday today! So, happy birthday my sweet friend! Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us in your delightful book.
You can order one yourself from Amazon, right here. And seriously, you should get a copy yourself, if for no other reason than to read about that runaway cheeseburger!
As per usual I am a little behind again in posting about Shirley. Poor second child. I'm definitely not planning on doing the monthly update again, maybe just a monthly picture.
Usually I'm the one taking the pictures around here, but the one above was taken by her daddy! I love that you can see her little teethies. This month Shirley started pulling herself up on furniture, my legs, the dogs...okay not the dogs, she doesn't even know the dogs, but she'll pretty much pull herself up on anything.
This little girl is such a character. She makes the funniest noises and faces and she finally started saying "ma ma ma". No, she doesn't know what it means yet, but someday! She also learned how to clap and wave to friends.
Before I fell asleep last night I was looking at the picture of when I first met Shirley. I will never forget that moment. All those nine months I was wondering what she'd look like and what her little personality would be, and then I was so surprised to see that to me, she didn't look like either Kwacha or me, she just looked like her own person. And now nine months later I just can't believe there was a time when she didn't exist. I love her so much and daily thank God for her. He is so kind and loving to give us such wonderful gifts.
"How much you owe unto your Lord! Has He ever done anything for you? Has He forgiven your sins? Has He covered you with a robe of righteousness? Has He set your feet upon a rock? Has He established your goings? Has He prepared heaven for you? Has He prepared you for heaven? Has He written your name in His book of life? Has He given you countless blessings? Has He laid up for you a store of mercies, which eye has not seen nor ear heard?
Then do something for Jesus, which is worthy of His love. Give not a mere wordy offering to a dying Redeemer. How will you feel when your Master comes, if you have to confess that you did nothing for Him - but kept your love shut up, like a stagnant pool, not flowing forth to His work. Out on such love as that!
What do men think of a love which never shows itself in action? Why, they say, 'Open rebuke is better than secret love.' Who will accept a love so weak - that it does not actuate you to a single deed of self-denial, of generosity, of heroism, or zeal! Think how He has loved you, and given Himself for you! Do you know the power of that love? Then let it be like a rushing mighty wind to your soul - to sweep out the clouds of your worldliness, and clear away the mists of sin.
'For Christ's sake' be this the tongue of fire that shall sit upon you; 'for Christ's sake' be this the divine rapture, the heavenly affection to bear you aloft from earth; the divine spirit that shall make you bold as lions and swift as eagles in your Lord's service. Love should give wings to the feet of service, and strength to the arms of labor.
Fixed on God with a constancy that is not to be shaken, resolute to honor Him with a determination that is not to be turned aside, and pressing on with an ardor never to be wearied - let us manifest the constraints of love to Jesus. May the divine loadstone draw us heavenward towards itself!"
Shirley turned eight months right after we got home from Malawi. A lot of things happened this month. Shirley flew in a plane across the ocean, she started pulling herself up on furniture, and two of her teeth grew in. (I'd let you see, but I didn't want to have to add another crying picture.)
She still has to don a headband to avoid the "he's so cute" comments.
Shirley has definitely started to reveal that she has a...ahem...will of her own. It is clear that she understands the word, "no." If she starts to touch something she knows she's not supposed to touch and I say "No, Shirley," she'll stop and look at me and grunt, making it clear that she's not happy about it. Oh dear. It starts already.
The majority of our time in Malawi was spent in Lilongwe where we plan on living when we move. We stayed with Kwacha's sisters, Jellita (Jellie) and Evelyn, along with all the girl cousins. (Shirley had the time of her life!) Evelyn was up north working for the first part of our trip but we stopped and saw her on our way to Mzuzu and then we enjoyed more time with her at home later on.
Shirley meeting Auntie Evelyn for the first time
Hanging out on Auntie Jellie's back
We kept pretty busy in Lilongwe. We spent a lot of time with family and we went to two different weddings! Kwacha's friend, Kondi, did his first wedding while we were there and his whole church was invited so we went along. It was pretty fancy, held in Area 10 where all the diplomats live. It took place in a beautiful garden.
Our plans are to be involved with Kondi's church plant when we move. Kondi and Patricia Nyanda were able to come to California for the Truth Matters conference last October and we spent a lot of time with them, so I am thankful that I already have a friendship with Patricia. They have two sweet kids, Warren and Karen. There is also another couple, Newton and Vanessa Chilungulo, (they were sent out from Living Hope Church in South Africa to work with the church plant), who arrived in Malawi two weeks before we came. Newton and Vanessa were both born in Malawi and they have a sweet little girl, Aya. We were able to spend a lot of time with them as well and I already feel like I have known Vanessa for a long time. She was so easy to talk to.
Sunday morning at the church plant
The Chilungulo's, Nyanda's and Simwaka's
My Malawian friendies!
Karen and Shirley :)
We also spent some time with all the missionaries in Malawi sent out from Grace Community. We had dinner one night with the Ayre's and the Floreen's and we had dessert another night at the Biedebach's. CAPA, Central African Preaching Academy was recently launched in Lilongwe. This is something they have been planning for a long time, so it's exciting to see it begin. The plans are also for Kwacha to teach there when we move, alongside Jim Ayres.
I am so sad that somehow I didn't get a picture with all the Ayre's and Floreen's. :( But here's one pic of Shirley and Naomi Floreen at least. They are two months apart.
The Biedebach's. Anita served one of Kwacha's favorite desserts, Mulva (sp?) pudding!
Since our trip was longer this time, we also had some days where we could just hang out at home. This was so nice. We went shopping a few times. Malawi has some really nice grocery stores. And Shirley loved spending time with her Aunties and cousins.
Hanging out on Jellie's porch (My necklace and earrings were a gift from my nieces :)
Shirley enjoyed "skating" on the polished floors
Chipiku, one of the more popular grocery stores
Chigo and Shirl
This just may be my favorite pic from the trip. It was actually on our drive home from Mzuzu.
When we visited Malawi the first time, I fell in love with the chitenjes. They are useful in many ways; carrying babies on your back, keeping your clothes clean from the dust or while cooking, keeping your hair out of the way, etc. I really wanted to get some last time but I never found a place where they were selling them. This time Patricia helped me out and we got a whole bunch!
It is really difficult to start a post about a two week trip to Malawi. I've tried a couple times already! It seems I either have to go into great detail or summarize. I may just have to break it up into a number of posts. We'll see.
This trip was so different than the last trip we took in 2012. For one thing, it was twice as long. Seriously, I can't believe we only went for six days last time and somehow managed to fit in as much as we did. This time, half way through I kept thinking, "I can't believe that we were headed home at this point."
First off, I am so thankful that Shirley did well on the long flight. By God's grace we were given the whole middle row on both long flights to and from Malawi, so Shirley had an extra seat all to herself. We were able to lay her down on a pillow and strap her in with the seatbelt and she could sleep or watch her little TV. Toy Story was the movie of choice. ;) Then for the short flights, we took the advice of friends and put some pillows on top of the food trays and she was able to sleep. It worked great!
So grown up! :)
Another thing I am thankful for is that we were all healthy the whole time! In 2012 I was having a lot of problems with my ulcerative colitis and I had a terrible cold. It made such a difference feeling well and not being in a daze the entire time.
The last major difference between the two trips is fairly obvious. This time, Kwacha and I were married! With a baby! Last time we weren't even engaged. It was such a blessing spending time with my new family rather than just meeting Kwacha's family. It was wonderful having extended time with my new sisters and brother, my second mom and dad, and my nieces and to have Shirley meet them all for the first time!
The day after we arrived in Lilongwe we drove five hours north to Mzuzu where Kwacha's parents live. The one bitter aspect of this trip is that three days before we left for Malawi, we found out that Kwacha's older brother, Granger, died. It was very unexpected. We're still not sure exactly what caused his death, but it sounds like it may have been a brain aneurism. We are so thankful for God's timing though. We had originally planned to go to Malawi in July but that didn't work out. This way we were able to be there to help comfort the family. Especially Shirley! In her youthful ignorance to the situation, she was her normal, cheerful, funny self. We truly think she helped lift everyone's spirits.
The home in Mzuzu
Grandma (abuya) and Shirley's cousin, Chigo
When we arrive in Mzuzu and got out of the car, I saw my niece, Chigo, and I started to say hi to her but she ignored me and went right for Shirley! :) Then she pretty much stayed by her side the rest of the trip, feeding her milk, playing with her and pretty much being a second mama. We were happy to have her come along with us on most of our outings.
We had such a wonderful time in Mzuzu. We were able to stay for about three days. We met so much of Kwacha's extended family as well. They had all gotten back from Granger's funeral the day before and in their culture many people come to the home in order to give their condolences and comfort the family. Groups from their church, their choir, and many other friends came. Some would arrive wailing. After people enter the house they greet everyone with a handshake, sometimes kneeling. I really love this about the Malawian culture. Everyone is so kind and respectful. They truly show their care for each other.
Shirley with Abuya's friends
The lady on the left told my mom and me that she she is Shirley's grandma's best friend. She talked with us for awhile and told us a little more about Malawian culture. I really like her!
There were a few times where I didn't know where Shirley was. On one such occasion I walked outside and found her here. No need to worry. ;)
Hanging out with her cousin, Charity
We were able to go on a few walks while we were there. Kwacha, my mom and I visited Mzuzu University one morning and we saw where Kwacha's aunt used to work. She was in charge of meals for a large group of people! Kwacha lived with her for a year on campus so we also saw the little house they lived in.
The place where Kwacha's aunt worked
The house they lived in
Another day we went on a walk with our nieces to the Mzuzu coffee factory. I don't drink coffee anymore but I'm told it's delicious! It was fun seeing more of the neighborhood and watching Shirley being carried around in a chitenje by her older cousin, Ruth. (We like to call her Hite.)
On the last night we were there, Kwacha, my mom and I walked over to the church that Kwacha's parents attend. A traveling choir from Zambia had come and they had a friendly sing off with the local church's choir...starting around 10 p.m. at night! One of my favorite things about this was that a number of women had their babies with them strapped on their back, fast asleep! I loved it. And their voices are amazing. I will try and post a video later of their beautiful voices.
It was sad to leave the next day. We look forward to spending more time with his parents in the future. Kwacha loves going to Mzuzu because it's a more relaxed place than Lilongwe. When you want to get away from Lilongwe for a bit, Mzuzu is the perfect place.
So it looks like I couldn't write all about our trip in one post. So there's Mzuzu for you!
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24 Every day is a Red Letter Day for the believer because to be alive is more than we deserve. This blog chronicles the ways that God is faithful to me and the many blessings He has given me. Life is great when you know Him!