Back lowercase-h home

We survived the journey and thank heavens we’re home. {And what do you think about the look around here by the way? Do you “get” what the red and blue stripes are supposed to be about? Please don’t say a barber shop. There are still some more tweaks for me to sort out but I didn’t want to go too wild and have you show up and think you’d lost me and someone else had taken over.}

Jet lag isn’t helping me focus on talking about one thing at the time. Sorry. The journey. Thursday night was the worst night of travel we have probably ever experienced. And honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Although the Hubs referred to it as a night from the bad place. British Airways kind of let me down. I’ve always loved them and been impressed with their service and happy when it works out for us to fly with them. But this time around, tweren’t so. Nuh-uh, it just tweren’t.

{Saturday’s instagram of the mega-tired, jet-lagged, teary-eyed, temporarily-happy-with-an-animal-cracker baby}

Would you believe that all the lighting on the place was functioning properly except for a broken sidelight directly above our seats on the plane? Now please note I’m not talking about a teency lil’ reading light. I’m talking about those bright mamajamas they turn on when it’s time for you to wake up at an unnatural hour for breakfast, because it’s really dark and 3 am but you’re headed for a new time zone and they won’t be ready to land on time if they don’t serve you your breakfast now.

So everybody’s lights were doing just fine until dinner had been served and duty free had been hollered about, and the lights were finally dimmed for sleep, and we discovered this tragic matter of disrepair while poor Blakey who had managed to sleep in the bassinet and survive all the flight attendants who just weren’t interested in using a quiet voice when they came to speak to us even though they could see his tiny little self sleeping. right. there… poor Blakey stirred at some point for some {noisy cart getting slammed into place in the galley} reason, and he woke to a nice bright light shining down on him, and we took turns trying to settle him down and I think the Hubs managed like three hours later.

But he never slept in that little bassinet again for the rest of the flight, because, ya know, a glorious luminescent sunshine was beaming in his wee face. And mine too since I was seated by the window. And the Hubs, too because even though he was on the aisle, that thing was bright.

{And in case you’re wondering, yes, we were the only family with two kids on the whole plane, seated there beneath a broken light trying to settle a wide-eyed sleepy baby while everyone else slept soundly. Ya jerks! Yes, we did think about breaking the light. I may have punched the plastic surrounding it with my fist. Twice. No, we weren’t allowed to cover it up somehow (fire hazard.) Yes, the Bear who can hibernate at any time did sleep through the whole night anyway (thank heavens.) And no, they could {would?} not change our seats. And yes, we do think a flight attendant fibbed to us about whether this had been a problem before. And. to top it off, the food was lousy. That never happens with BA!}

We had a shorter layover in London than we thought, so we just took our time collecting our lion-tired selves and changing terminals. When we told the Bear we were in London again, he said, “No we’re not! This is Gordon’s Bay!” I suppose he was confused.

The next flight just seemed really long, even though it was shorter, because it was a day time flight and there wasn’t much napping happening (although the Hubs has a magic touch for getting babies to sleep on airplanes — reason #684, why the Hubs is a Hero, and Blakey slept beside him for a while.) Another little girl who was on the flight played with the boys for a while and the Bear called some friends we made who were seated behind us and moving from the UK to the Carolinas his new pals. Very sweet.

After a taxi ride to get our car and a two hour drive, my Dad and Claudia came to the rescue, meeting us with food at our house. After the boys went to bed, we pretty much collapsed. And (#685) the Hubs got up Saturday morning to drive to New Bern and shoot a wedding. And he didn’t get home till after half past one. Meanwhile, it was all I could do to unpack the dishwasher and keep the boys from causing themselves bodily harm for a day.

I am dizzy a lot.

Off to the first of his last three days of preschool (summer break) went the Bear this morning. The Tank is taking morning naps like his life depends on it right now. And I am washing Mama Africa’s red dirt and rough sand out of the boys’ clothing, and rejoicing when it doesn’t quite come out of their socks, because I want it to still be there, be with us.

A visit to the gallery I need to tell you more about is ahead of us today. I am planning to get our house in order, one room and one day at a time. {Close your eyes if you come over.} And the Hubs is doing what he does best — juggling a task list a mile long, spinning thirty-seven plates in the air, and still managing to love the boys and me like a champ.

I’m starting to feel settled, and hopeful, and it’s good, very good, to be lowercase-h home.


On the Way Home

If this was a month, it was a month that flew by. I regret not being able to tell you about more of it, but perhaps the fact that we haven’t had much good sleep means I may not have had much worth saying anyway. I trust these things work out as they should.

Tomorrow we fly up to Joburg. The following day, it’s Joburg to London, and after a nine hour layover (and maybe a chance to see the newlyweds!) we’ll be heading from London to RDU and with a two hour drive, we’ll be home.

It seems like the visit back to South Africa has been different from what I expected, but giving it a bit of thought, I am not really sure what I expected. This country is so full of contrasts – unimaginable beauty, jaw-dropping luxury, heart-breaking poverty, frustrating corruption. I see it.

As we drove from Bloemfontein to the game reserve, I saw a man on the side of the road carrying two big red bags. I felt that familiar, sore tug on my heartstrings as we sped past in our rental car, baby sleeping in the car seat behind me, his brother munching a cookie with a smile.

The familiar sights of the N1 passed by outside my window: straw-coloured grasslands stretching on for miles, dotted with green shrubs, brown cows, dusty white sheep. A flock of pied crows flutter into the air, resettling on the road to peck at some long-gone creature once we’ve passed them by. Oddly shaped hills, with bushes scattered about so that they look like the stubble of a man who has missed a couple days’ shave, are in distant view in every direction.

I feel far away, but I also feel home. I find myself instructing the Bear to use words that would only be the right choice in the U.S., then I find myself trying to backtrack to explain “say this here, say that there.”

HH lowered the music to whisper the story of a farmer in Zimbabwe, who was having the land he’d farmed all his days ‘reappropriated’ to someone with the right skin colour. The farmer was gentle and hospitable to the men who came to tell him his farm was being taken away. He instructed the new farmer on everything he needed to know, not knowing what was ahead of him, since he was about to lose everything.

He concluded his letter to the paper by saying he felt it was more important for the men who came to take his land to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ than for him to be angry that his land was being taken away. I started to cry and stared out the window.

This beautiful land. This controversial land. All of creation is groaning together for the revelation of the sons of God, but I feel it here.

I am ready, expectant for what’s ahead of us in North Carolina, but a piece of my heart is and ever shall be right here. Whether I’m in South Africa or back in North Carolina, I carry a constant awareness that all the days of my life I will always be on the way Home.



Trust the Process

If I had to take a moment to give my best description of life as it feels at the moment, I’d probably say “There’s a lot I’m processing.” If you’ve been reading around here you may have noticed that sometimes when there’s “a lot I’m processing” there’s a little less that I tend to say. Because sometimes I have to get to the other side of something I’m figuring out — or maybe I have to get to the other side of a beam I feel like I’m balancing and tiptoeing across, before I can look up and say, “Well this is what was going through my mind while I was wondering whether or not I was going to fall.”

In case you’re keen to know, being a mother of three is something I’m processing. And not just while cutting through the girls’ clothing section at Walmart to try and find some tights to wear to the wedding before we leave Thursday. (I’m also processing what needs to happen before that departure.) How different is three going to be from two? Will I maintain my sanity? Can the fact that I haven’t had the horrific nausea I had in the first two pregnancies be a strong enough indication that I can start buying clothing with pink ruffles and sparkle?

And in processing of a different nature, I’ll expand on that little opportunity I mentioned briefly on April Fool’s Day, before the big news. A few weeks ago, the Hubs discovered a gallery space available inside the Inner Banks Artisans’ Center, a large building that houses multiple smaller galleries and a coffee shop at the back, here in wee Washington. {You know I mean Washington, NC, right?} For lots of reasons which you might find interesting, but you might find boring, this space really seems like a God-send of an opportunity for us.

{I’m not sure this little shell relates to anything in this post. I just saw him again when we were working on this fine art portfolio for Quiver Tree Photography and I remembered how much I do like him.}

Inside the 21 x 15 foot space, we’re planning to sell prints and canvases of the Hubs’ work, do custom canvas and photo printing, sell other photo-related goods, maybe some things of a more crafty nature, and perhaps even a few partridges which would come with their own pear trees. I guess we’ll make the pear trees optional. HH will be able to host photography workshops from the coffee shop, and we might set up a little studio space upstairs for some photo shoots, and the location makes it seem like a really good place for advertising that there’s a new portrait/wedding/family photographer in town, since the only other studio in downtown Washington is turning into Spa La La this summer.

Sorry, I don’t know.

So we’re taking a leap – but it honestly doesn’t feel like a very big one, with small overheads and the fact that we don’t actually have to be present for the things we have for sale to sell. I haven’t wanted to whine or complain about the fact that our finances have been tight since we returned to the States (pretty much just like they were before we returned to the States, except tighter) but this opportunity has me very hopeful that a little change could be coming our way, soon.

But on that note I want to make sure that I tell you that God is a faithful God. Do you believe me? I hope you do.

Over the last two months, (and many times before these last two) we have started out the month looking at our bills and looking at our expected income and saying, “Something is going to have to happen in order for us to be able to make it.” But by the end of it, a special gift has arrived — $400, $500 — and that is how the ends meet. {And I hope you guys aren’t thinking we’re living high on the hog and that’s why we’re strapped. We are tight-portioned, peanut-butter-and-jelly-eating, if-the-money-is-not-in-the-bank-for-the-gas-then-we’re-not-going kind of folk.}

But we are so rich, and throughout the months we’ve lived this way I’ve experienced that truth more and more fully.

And on more than just those two occasions, God has answered our prayers. Besides when a special gift arrives “out of the blue” and we break even. A work opportunity comes up or I sell an advertising space or my Mama just decides that she needs to capitalize on every single buy one get one free deal at the grocery store and bring me “the free one.” God provides.

We are so rich.

It reminds me of Paul, speaking about his hardships to the Corinthians:

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses…in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love, in truthful speech and in the power of God… through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing and yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. {2 Corinthians 6:3-11, abbreviated}

And praise the patient Lord who keeps helping me see the incredible glorious truth of this:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. {2 Peter 1:3}

How sweet it is. And how true.

There will be more to say about Quiver Tree Photography’s store opening, and perhaps you’ll be along for the ride as I process the new adventure in motherhood {bless your heart} but more than all that, please take this with you today:

The Lord! Our God! He is faithful and true! Even the hardships are gifts — and you can trust the process — He is able to work it all out for your good, His glory. And that is glorious!


Kind of a Big Update (But Still Small)

Maywhobiddyhaps things have been a little quiet ’round here. I suppose that depends on your definition of quiet. But it’s for very good reason. A few very good reasons. So shall I continue?

Well, for starters, a little opportunity has come up for the Hubs and myself (which would not involve us moving country or even home – bonus!) and which we are considering and praying about. It seems like a good idea — I am just hungry to know that it’s a God-idea. More on that later.

I’ve tried out going no-poo. (As in quitting shampoo and using this alternative method which is supposed to mean you only have to wash your hair like once a week and it’s still going to be fabulous.) I’ve held off on telling you about this adventure because I didn’t know what to say yet. I fell off the wagon this morning because my scalp was really itchy. I’m going to try again — probably when we get back from SA. Does this relate in any way to the conversation we’re having right now? Mmmm…probably not.


This is what the Bear looks like these days.


Also, we are preparing for a little trip to Atlanta for Easter (scoping out spots for the Bear to hunt Easter eggs) and looking forward to hanging with Unky Russ again. Maybe seeing Rory and Sarah! (Rory whose kilt I was sporting the other day, and Sarah, his unsinkably-good-spirited Lord-loving wife). AND I hope hope hope we’ll be traveling to that South African food store that makes me feel right at home.

Not long after we get back, (11ish days I think?) we take off for SA. Which is VERY exciting. For a gabillion reasons which include seeing Goo-Goo and Gammy and Auntie Lyn, AND seeing Unky Vaughan and Auntie Penny get married. On a game reserve in South Africa — gorgeous!! — where we’ll also get to do game viewing and relax and shew-wee I am pumped!

In other news, I am searching for the bottom of my laundry basket, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it I’m beginning to think it does not actually exist.

This is what Tiger Tank looks like these days. He is taking steps now and then!
I’ve also been working hard on a redesign, so that, true to my word, I will change the name of this here blog because I’m not blogging From Africa any more. (Still with love of course.) By the time I get it done, I might be blogging from South Africa again. For a month.
Here’s a snippety-preview of what might be coming. Unless I throw it all out and start over again. I already did that twice. And lost half my work once. This might be a pattern I should have checked out.

Screen Shot 2012-03-28 at 10.23.09 PM.png

{Any guesses at what that design is going for?}

In addition to that tidbit which I’m sure will keep you on the edge of your seat, there is a significant possibility that we’ll be able to go to Agnes’s wedding. Yes, it’s Alan’s wedding too, but ya know, Agnes was pretty much the missing link that made sure our second child wasn’t born in a car or on the side of a highway. And so to us it’s Agnes’s wedding. {But we love Alan and we’ll be very glad to see him, too.} And ohmyheart I am already thinking about what the Ring Bear should wear. Lord let it be so!

Then there’s this last little piece of information that draws to a conclusion the many reasons why I’ve had a less-than-average amount to say lately. It does involve the fact that I’m not good at keeping things quiet and so I’m better off just hushing until it’s time to speak. It also involves me being ridiculously tired and fighting regular bouts of nausea. And needing to tinkle at 3 am.

And doing something for the first time and the third time at the same time, this November. (See if you can figure that one out.)

And thats the Big (but still small) update!

Tales of an Expat Repat: On Identity

One of the things I’ve observed after being home for six months now is how much more concerned I suddenly feel about my appearance or behavior in just about any given situation. They say that when you move to a new place where no one knows you, you can choose to be whoever you want to be. I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement.

In Scotland and in South Africa, I used my ‘differentness’ or ‘foreignness’ or even my ‘Americanness’ as an excuse to do what I wanted to do and say what I wanted to say. I often asked bold questions or wasn’t afraid to step out and do something different (perhaps even unusual?) because I trusted that for the most part people would chalk my quirks and eccentricities up to me being a foreigner.

Being a foreigner becomes the element of your identity that seems to ground the rest of who you are — why you choose the words you choose when you speak, why the words sound the way they do coming out of your mouth, why you eat the food you eat or behave the way you do — so much of your identity is marked by different.

I suppose after growing up in a small town with lots of other people with similar histories, I relished the opportunity to be unabashedly different. I embraced being different because it seemed to give me a leniency with people — “well it’s okay that she isn’t doing that the way we would normally do it — she’s not from around here.”

At the same time, I found myself to be a bit of a chameleon. In conversations with Scottish people, I began choosing words that were more commonly used in ‘Scottish English’ and I adapted my accent to be better understood. In conversations with Afrikaans-speaking South Africans, I sometimes found myself speaking English in the unique way that native speakers of Afrikaans speak it. And now, back in North Carolina, I feel like I’ve heard about thirty-seven different manners of speech come out of my mouth.


{Edinburgh, 2009: Embracing Scottish culture in my friend Rory’s kilt. Can you believe how tall he is? Or how short I am?}

What was initially a pretty thick southern accent toned down a few notches while I studied Communications for my undergraduate degree. Four years in Scotland toned it down even more, as I began to recognize that I wanted to speak in such a way that people might spend less time thinking about how I’d said something and more time thinking about what I’d said. Being married to a South African certainly changed my attempts at ‘Briticizing’ my American English into some kind of South African-British-American-hybrid speak.

And now, back here, six months on, I am not sure I know what normal speech is for me — it often depends on who I’m talking to. I listen to locals repeat things I say because they are different — and I feel awkward. But as an old friend with a very southern drawl said goodbye and left the treadmill beside mine at the gym this morning, I heard the thickest, southernest tawk to yew late-ur come out of my mouth. I stared at my reflection in the video screen for a moment with a furrowed brow, thinking, what was that?

For six years, I found my identity overseas in being a student, a wife, a mother, a church planter, and perhaps more than anything else, in being a foreigner. And whenever I came home, my identity felt wrapped up in the fact that I was living overseas — I wasn’t ‘a local’ anymore. But now, enjoying the grace to say things differently and do things differently feels like it’s no longer a part of my life, and I regret it. I’m from here, I should know what to do… right?

Last week I went to a ladies’ luncheon at my Mom’s church and sat uncomfortably in my seat for those two hours — perhaps out of a couple hundred women there, I was the only one (besides the team with aprons serving the meal) who was wearing jeans. I almost felt like I could actually feel people feeling sorry for me as I walked up — Shame, she didn’t know she should’ve worn a skirt or a dress to this.

I no longer have my foreign identity to blame when I make a mistake — and I feel kind of naked without it.

As I’ve processed this change — and even a little bit grieved the loss of that identity these last six months, I’ve been reminded that my identity has to be found in Christ. Everything else is secondary to who I am because of who He is. As Paul put it in his letter to the Colossians:

If then, you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. {Col. 3:1-3}

The truth is, every earthly identity I ever cart around this earth — being a runner or a mother or a swimmer or a crafter or a baker, even a writer or an ethicist — will no longer matter in heaven. We will all be worshipers of God — His beloved children — when we get there.

I consistently sense myself internally resisting re-assimilation. For all its beauty, my culture — and every other culture — does not lend itself to fully living out the Gospel. Jesus was so incredibly counter-cultural. And His followers — selling their possessions and giving to their brothers as they had need — they were counter-cultural, too. Our culture might try to label that way of living Communist — but what if there are aspects of it we should be living out as the body of Christ — regardless of what our culture says?

How should we handle the foreigners and immigrants among us based on a Biblical worldview?

What about the poor, or people with disabilities?

The challenge, I find, is to continue to look for my life in Christ, so that His example — and not my culture (or ‘the norm’ in my current locale) is what tells me how to live out the Gospel.

Have you ever experienced the need to reject some aspect of your culture in order to embrace the Gospel?


Observing with Thanks

We’ve been doing a little unpacking around here. Those Eighteen Boxes {you know, the15 boxes, two bikes and a guitar} finally made it here to the Carolinas, eight months to the day after they were closed up and sent off to sit patiently on the docks in Cape Town, waiting their turn to squeeze into a container, board a big big big big ship (as we explained it to the Bear) sail the seas, decant, detox, retruck…whatever the steps were on this side that got them here from New York.

It has been a stranger experience than I expected. I’ve been reunited with this…


{Remember when my last Bible’s Genesis made an Exodus and Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a new one?}

{In case you’re wondering, I travel with a sweet little yellow 4 x 6 picture-sized Bible because this big one is too big for international adventures — for the sake of the Hubs’ back!}

And the Bear has been reunited with this…


though he looks much bigger with it now.

And I put Blakey in these just-arrived pajamas that were once the Bear’s a few nights ago and my heart hurt so bad!


Blakey is filling these out several months sooner than Bear Bear did…but the Bear had a lot more hair going for him…somehow I suppose it all balances out.

Even after giving so many things away before we left, I am almost appalled at how many articles of clothing there are in my closet. And I haven’t even finished unpacking.

I may have liked it better when the choice of what to wear was much simpler.

But the strangeness of this experience has come from finding myself celebrating these things that were ours all along. I’ve been pulling out all this clothing that was once the Bear’s, now the right size for Blake, and I’ve almost been in tears over it.


{My favorite beach pic of the Bear ever…and now this little shirt is on his brother, and TIGHT!}

So I see it in a way I never have before: we are ridiculously blessed. Though there is indeed so much more to life than clothing or the remaining plates from our wedding china or my cookbooks and garlic peeler and the Bear’s first bike, still these things are rightly seen as gifts from a gracious God who has provided for us with exceeding abundance.

And perhaps it took this separation and reunion to really see it.

Have you ever thought about all the things we probably have to be thankful for that we never take notice of?

As the Pentateuch — the first five chapters of the Bible — came to a close, the Law and instruction for the people of Israel, preparing to enter the Promised Land was given. Along with those consistent reminders to Remember God’s Goodness in the great and mighty acts he performed on Israel’s behalf, Moses also pointed out the simple provisions of God, more reasons to trust Him, to listen to His leading, to obey His word, and trust that blessing would follow.

Moses pointed out:

“For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out.” {Deut. 29:5}

I wonder if they ever thought about the fact that their clothes and shoes didn’t wear out. Did the Israelites even notice that their clothes were not getting thread-bare, their sandals not losing tread? {Would I?} Or did they get up in the morning and say, “Well I guess it’s this outfit again…” {I think I’d fall into this category…}

It’s an easy thing, getting so distracted by what you don’t have that you forget to be grateful for all that you do have.

And I suppose sometimes, as Sherlock Holmes once put it to Watson, “You see, but you do not observe.”

My fresh attempts at observing the gifts of the present and giving thanks are breathing new life into my every day. We could never possibly say thank You enough to the God who has gloriously planned our enjoyment of His glory for all eternity. But for our own hearts, perhaps we ought to try.