Priorities

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Priorities. Getting the right ones. Getting them in the right order. KEEPING them as priorities. KEEPING them in the right order. Man it’s difficult. Talk about ‘easier said than done’.

It’s been a very busy week at work – starting training officially and at the same time hosting guests and heading into the very busy Holiday season. I saved the picture above a while ago and I remembered it today. What a good reminder. Slow down. Breathe. Get back on track. Make boundaries. Take time. Re-set my standards.

So I’m going to try to hit the re-set button for myself and let God consume me once more and watch as everything else falls into place perfectly in HIS timing.

Maybe you needed this reminder today too.

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A Little Shout Out To My Hubby

Today is my Husband’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old he is – but he’s older than me and always will be.  🙂

Because it’s his day today and because I should probably tell him these things more often (even though I think them a lot) – here’s my list of why he’s simply the best.

1. He loves me – flaws and all. (I won’t mention said flaws but I’m more than grateful for his love and patience with me).

2. He puts his family first.

3. He gets down on the floor with the boys and plays and wrestles and does rough boyish things with them – which I am not good at nor do I really enjoy.

4. He deals with a lot of little things so I don’t even have to worry about them. (i.e. garbage, paying bills, dealing with my phone (buying credit, helping figure things out, doing updates etc.), dealing with my computer (back-ups, trouble shooting etc. – you can see I’m not so techy – good thing he is), small repairs around the house (he’s actually quite handy), BBQ-ing, and more.

5. He even cook sometimes! And he let’s me get away with making french toast or pancakes or eggs or some other easy breakfast-type food for dinner at least once a week. 🙂

6. He’s not a complainer; he’s a problem solver.

7. He’s silly and fun and he makes me laugh a lot.  (Which I need, since I can be (a tad) uptight).

8. He makes the coffee every morning. Enough said.

9. He helps with bath time every night.

10. He puts Ezra to bed every night, and makes that time with him really special. They tell stories to each other and pray – they have a little routine which I know Ezra looks forward to every night.

11. He believes in me and pushes me to be my best.

12. He has been known to do laundry! It doesn’t happen often, but just saying, he’s capable. 😉

13. He is generally calm and doesn’t get uptight; he doesn’t sweat the small stuff – which is the balance (and example) I need.

14. He changes some diapers. Even poopy (sp?) ones.

15. He thinks I’m beautiful in my sweats, with no make up and my hair up in a messy bun. (Of course I’m sure he thinks I’m even more beautiful when I’m done up a bit more but like a good husband he never says this and I love him for that).

16. He’s oh-so-handsome and charming and still makes me swoon a little – 8 years together, almost 6 years of marriage and two little boys later.

17. He always makes me feel safe and secure.

18. He is an extremely hard worker and a very determined person.

19. He is an excellent leader and someone I admire as a person very much.

20. He (sometimes) will let me watch Gilmore Girls while he’s home. 🙂

I could go on, but I’ve reached an even 20 so I think I’ll stop here. Bottom line? My hubby is the best and I am so incredibly grateful for this amazing life we live together. I hope and pray we are able to celebrate many more birthdays together.

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I Want To Be A Present Parent

Parenting – it’s so many things – all at the same time. Who knew you could feel so many emotions at once!

Excitement, exhaustion, joy, frustration, fulfilment, drained, exhilarated, defeated. I could go on.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the craziness of being a parent. To get caught up in managing everything and finishing all the tasks on the to do list. You can find yourself lost in the middle of it all somewhere between changing 10 diapers a day, preparing three different meals-three times a day and an endless pile of laundry. But I am reminded today to slow down. To let the laundry sit a while more, to leave the dishes for an hour and to just be with my kids. Sometimes it’s easy to just get lost in doing everything for your kids. It’s hard especially when they’re small and they are very dependant on you. But even more than they need you to do things for them, they need you to take time and just be with them. Play and laugh with them. Learn with them. Hug them. Listen to them. (I know the stories three year olds tell can be hard to follow sometimes – listen anyways).

I am reminded today to just take time to BE present with my kids, not distracted by all I have to finish or work or preparing things for the following day. But to be completely there for them and to take time with them. I know it’s those precious moments that I will remember and cherish for years to come (not the 1 million loads of laundry I did) and that they will appreciate those times more than I’ll probably ever know. These early stages can be demanding it’s true, but I don’t want to miss out on special moments because I’m too concerned with doing instead of being. 

So here’s to having a slightly messier but more joy-filled home. It’s like that saying: “T-I-M-E  – how kids spell love.” Take the time, I believe it will make a bigger difference then we could ever imagine.

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Mob Justice: An Outsider’s Thoughts

I’ve seen it quite a number of times over the last few years that I have lived in Tanzania; it never gets any less disturbing for me. It bothers me that whole day and for days afterward. I keep coming back to it in my mind. I keep trying to understand, to put myself in their shoes. But it’s hard. I’m still an outsider. No matter how long I end up living here I will always be an outsider. Even though I have taken time and I am working hard to learn a new language so I can communicate well with people; so I can connect in a deeper way, I’m still an outsider. I wasn’t born here. I didn’t grow up here. This culture is not my culture. So there will always be some things I can’t fully understand. I will try my best of course. But I will always have a bit of a different perspective on some things. It doesn’t make me right and ‘them’ wrong or ‘them’ right and myself wrong. We have just grown up in two VERY different environments with completely different world views. We see the world differently and it’s a good thing. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought exactly the same way. However there are some tricky issues. Some things which I will never understand, hard as I may try. Mob Justice is one of those things.

I grew up in Canada and before moving to Africa I had never seen anything like ‘mob justice.’ It was a completely foreign concept to me. I remember the first time I saw ‘mob justice’ in action in Dar es Salaam. I had witnessed it before but always after the fact. We were driving to the church where we worked and there was some traffic. As we inched forward we saw a large crowd up ahead. As we got closer we could see that many were yelling and throwing stones into the ditch they were surrounding. Others were standing, forming an outer circle watching. Traffic wasn’t moving much now; everyone was stopping to see what was happening. The police had just arrived and were breaking up the mob as it was dying down. There was a man lying in the ditch, bloody and motionless.  I felt sick to my stomach. Julius rolled down his window and asked one of the men standing nearby what had happened. The man said it was a thief that had been caught. Julius asked what he had tried to steal. The man said he has tried to steal a side mirror off a car. Julius tried to talk to this man and asked him, so you think for stealing something so small like that he deserved to die? The man just kind of laughed it off and said, “he’s a thief, that’s what happens to thieves.” By this time two police men had descended into the ditch and had picked up the man; he was still alive, but horribly injured. They put him in the back of their pick up truck and drove off. I asked Julius where they would take him. He said he didn’t know but it wouldn’t be a hospital, and he would likely die. I can’t get those images out of my mind. There were little children standing watching everything. The image of that crowd surrounding that man’s broken body is burned in my brain. That day I was physically shaken. I felt like crying and I felt sick to my stomach.

Since moving here to live and witnessing that event I’ve really tried not to think about it too much. But in the last week and a half I’ve seen it three more times – thankfully not in action – but shortly after. This morning it happened again on my way into work.

I could see a big crowd of people up ahead, in front of one shop beside the road, as I drove. They were all standing in a circle formation, crowding around something…but I had that sinking feeling, that pit in my stomach as I knew it wasn’t something but someone in the middle of that crowd of people. I saw two Police Officers walking towards the crowd and as I slowed down and drove past, my thoughts were confirmed as I caught a glimpse of the man lying on the ground, motionless in the middle of this group. He wasn’t moving and the crowd wasn’t doing anything now accept standing around looking at him and talking. I continued driving my thoughts swirling now; so many questions. What was the story this time? Who was that man? Had he tried to steal something and been caught? (That is the most common story). Was he still alive?

I’ll never have the answers to these questions. But the image of that man lying motionless on the ground will be forever with me.

Mob Justice – the name given to these kind of situations – is common here in Tanzania. People take justice into their own hands because they have no faith in the law enforcement agencies here. You have to understand where people are coming from. I’ve talked a lot to Julius (my husband) who is Kenyan and grew up there and to many of our friends from Tanzania about why this happens and is so common.  You don’t just become part of a mob of people that kills someone in the street randomly. It’s years of pent-up frustration, disappointment, deep hurt, hardships and loss – all suppressed; kept under the surface. Maybe your house was broken into and they stole everything you had, raped your wife and daughter and then beat you and left you for dead. The police weren’t reachable and if they came they weren’t helpful or even made things more complicated. You survived but you carry that pain with you everywhere you go. There is no outlet for it. There is no one to talk to. There is no counselling. You just move on – outwardly. But inwardly the pain is fresh. Then you witness or hear of someone stealing or taking advantage of someone and suddenly something inside of you breaks. All the years of suppressed anger and bitterness rise up. There is an opportunity to release all of that pent-up rage. And so without even thinking about it; almost subconsciously you become part of the action. Part of the mob. And before you have even had time to think, someone lies dead in the middle of the group. But it’s ok. They deserved it. It’s justice. You know the police wouldn’t have done anything; he would have gotten away with it. So justice had to be taken into your own hands. You justify your actions. And you’re not alone – many are standing there with you.

As an outsider it’s difficult to put myself into the shoes of people here. I haven’t lived their lives. I haven’t faced many of the things that they have had to endure. I can’t begin to imagine how they feel.

In some ways it makes sense. I can imagine where they are coming from; what leads to mob justice. I know the facts and the factors present. But despite all of that, I know it’s not justified. I know it’s wrong. I know that feeling it gives me in the pit of my stomach. It’s disturbing to me. I won’t ever get used to it. It won’t ever be ‘normal’ to me. But it is one of the things that happens here and I can’t escape it. I don’t have any power to change it. It can actually be dangerous to try and stop and get involved and try to stop people – because at that point the rage has engulfed them and they can even turn on you if you are against the crowd. But it never gets easier to just drive by. It’s a very helpless feeling.

I know it hurts God’s heart too – more than mine. He loved that thief as much as the people who killed him. He loves them all.

We live in a unjust world. Too many injustices to count. It can be overwhelming. And while I may feel powerless to change anything I know what I can do and what I’ve been called to do. I can pray. I can do my small part in working with the church here and the organisation we are a part of to help raise a generation of Tanzanians who know Jesus and who have been transformed by him; the ones God will use for His glory to transform a nation. The problems are big, it’s true. But our God is bigger and His ways are higher.

So even as I have been dealing with that awful feeling in my stomach again this morning, I am choosing to focus on HOPE. I look at the faces of our kids here in Village of Hope – Mwanza and I see hope and light. I know God can and will use them. So today I focus on them; pouring into their lives the love of Christ so that they can grow to do the same to others. That is what will make a difference in this world. I choose to love and leave justice and revenge in God’s hands.

 

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. ~Romans 12:19

What a tired Mommy you know needs to hear today.

Photo Credit: mommyshorts.com

Photo Credit: mommyshorts.com

Do you have a friend who is a tired mommy? A co-worker? A daughter?  A sister? A wife? Then listen up people! I’ve read quite a number of blogs with similar lists – some variation of, “What NOT to say to a tired mom or a mother of young children.” They are all right and true and I tend to agree with them completely. But I want to take the opposite approach today and tell you what that tired mommy in your life needs to hear you say. So please, take notes and say these things often – it will make a bigger difference that you could ever imagine.

1. “You look great today!” or “You’re beautiful.” or “That outfit looks great on you.” or “I love your hair/make up today.” You get the idea. Us tired mommies –  we need some love and encouragement! Compliment us. PLEASE. We spend most of the time in sweats covered with snot, baby puke and drool, trying to cover up our huge bags and dark circles, with our hair up in a crazy-lady bun. – We need to be reminded that we are beautiful. So please take every opportunity you can give us a compliment. It will make our day and boost our confidence – especially when we’re emotionally on the edge because of never getting a full night’s rest.

2. “I’m so sorry.” PERIOD. Just stop right there. Please restrain yourself from offering cliche phrases such as, “It will get better” or “This too shall pass” or “Enjoy these moments when they’re small, they grow so fast” etc. While these phrases may have some truth – they’re not helpful. All we want to hear you say is, “I’m sorry.” Just knowing that we have your sympathies helps more than you know. Support and sympathy are what we need – not solutions. Maybe something worked great for your kids – I’m all for the sharing, but when we’re so exhausted we are barely holding it together – we don’t want another option to try out. We just want you to sympathise with us. Give us a hug and tell us you’re sorry and you’re there for us. That’s it. You might not think that will really help – but it will.

3. “I am bringing dinner over tonight.” or “Go take a nap – I’ll watch the kids.” Don’t ask us what we need – while your intentions are good, because we want to appear as though we’re not falling apart, we’ll never tell you what we really need help with. We’ll say we’re doing fine even when we’re not. So instead of asking what we need – just take a guess and do it. Bring over dinner. Bring over chocolate. Watch the kids while we take a nap or just have some alone time. Take us out for a coffee. Arrange a babysitter for the kids so we can get out for a date night with hubby. Anything will be greatly appreciated.

4. “Your kids are beautiful.” A compliment about our kids is as good as complimenting us. It makes us feel like we’re not totally messing them up. 🙂

5. “You are an amazing mom and you’re doing a wonderful job with your kids; they are blessed to have you as their mom.” This statement (or a variation of it) is more important than I think I could ever convey in words. Please use it. We’re exhausted and it’s easy for insecurities to creep in and for us to doubt our abilities as a parent. We need to hear often that we’re doing a good job.

Thank you for reading. Please put these few things into practice. Say these things to the tired mommy in your life and you might be surprised at the changes you notice in her. Oh of course she’ll still be exhausted – but maybe, just maybe, she’ll be a little happier and able to cope better despite the lack of sleep.

And if you are a tired mommy reading this, let me tell you a few things:

~You look gorgeous today – your smile is beautiful especially when you’re smiling at your kids.
~I am genuinely sorry that you had to wake up 5 times last night with the baby/toddler – that just plain sucks.
~I hope someone in your life will read this and bring you a dinner, or some chocolate or let you take a nap or arrange to take you out for a break. You deserve it.
~Your kids are absolutely beautiful.
~Please believe me when I say – you are doing a fantastic job with your kids. You’re a wonderful mommy and those kids of yours are so blessed to have you as their mom.

OK. I’m off to get more coffee. Hang in there all you tired mommies! You’re not alone – and you’re doing a better job than you think you are – I guarantee it. 🙂

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