Monday, June 28, 2010

Kongwa

The other day, I realized that it has been nearly 6 months since I slept somewhere other than Dodoma. To my on-the-go husband, who has happily traveled nearly every month since we moved here, staying put in one place for that long is highly undesirable.

So, he suggested that maybe it was time for us to get away as a family (and pull me away from my little cocoon. Yes, I'm a happy homebody.) On Friday, Josiah completed his final term of the school year, so we figured this might be a good time to plan a short getaway.

Some friends of ours told us about a historic guest house nestled in the mountains just outside the town of Kongwa (about an hour away from Dodoma), so we decided to give it a try.

The guest house, Westgate Hostel, sits on the St. Phillips Theological College compound. According to a plaque on the front of the building, it was built in 1914 by a Canadian missionary. Cool! We stayed on the top floor, and had to climb some rickety stairs to get there. The space inside wasn't anything fancy, but it was definitely full of character. (They just don't make windows like that anymore.)
It was also comfortable and clean, and was just the kind of change of pace that I didn't know I needed.

It was quiet. It had a nice view. It had no neighbors. (Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my neighbors, but I guess that sometimes - even for this homebody - it is nice to be off our housing compound.) We were only in Kongwa for one night, but we had a nice, relaxing time.

We ate good food.
The boys did some hiking.
(We tried taking Anna, but it didn't work out so well. "That was a hard trail, Mommy," she told me.)
They saw some great views.
We spent the rest of our time resting, watching a movie or two, and talking. It was nice.

As we headed home, Paul and I commented to each other that we need to make getting away as a family now and then more of a habit, even if it's only for a night. Change of pace is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where Two or Three are Gathered

One of the highlights of my week is attending a ladies Bible study on Wednesday mornings with a few other moms here in Dodoma.

We are a multicultural group. Two of the ladies are from the UK, one is from Switzerland, one is from Sweden, one is from Northern Ireland, another is from Germany, and I am from America. (Unfortunately, two members of our group are missing from the photo.)

Today, we met for our final session before the school's summer holiday (I mean, "winter" holiday - we are officially in our cool season of the year). It was a bittersweet meeting because several of our members are preparing to move away from Dodoma to minister in other places. Someone once told me that the life of the missionary is a transient one. They were right. It always seems like someone is leaving on furlough, moving to a new assignment, or returning to their home country. While I'm sad to see these ladies move on from Dodoma, I know God will use them greatly in their new roles.

Since January, we have worked our way through two study books, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver and The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin. I've learned many things during both studies, but the best part of our Wednesday morning meetings was having a chance to gather with other Christian women to learn, share, laugh, and pray.

In Matthew 18:20, the Bible says, "For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them."

Since moving to Dodoma, the truth of this Scripture always comes alive to me as I'm gathered with this group of ladies. I am so encouraged to be able to share my joys and my struggles with other women who can relate to what I'm going through. I feel the power of the Holy Spirit as we pray for each other and encourage each other.

I can't wait for August when those of us who remain will start the Beth Moore Study my mom sent us. (Thanks, Mom!) Praise the Lord for these dear sisters in Christ!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Good Boy

Josiah came running into the house after school today, simply trembling with excitement.

"Mommy, I want to show you something. Look!" he exclaimed, shoving a paper into my hands. "I got a 'certifi-cat'!" (My dear child attends an international school, so he's copying the Tanzanian, New Zealand, British, etc., accents he hears. It's too cute to correct him.)

A parent often wonders how their child is behaving when they are not around. Is he listening in school? Does he obey his teacher?

Well, apparently Josiah is doing just fine because today his teachers presented him with the "Good Behavior" award, earned by accumulating the most good behavior stickers throughout the term.

Good job, Josiah! Mom and Dad are so proud of you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Traumatic Threes

Parenting is tough. I'm certain no parent would dispute me on this fact.

Every stage of a child's life has it's challenges, but most often I hear people moan and groan about toddlerhood and adolescence being the worst. I'm not a parent of an adolescent yet, but I've certainly had some experience with the toddler and preschool years.

I've heard people describe a child's second year as the "Terrible Two's." True, the two's can certainly be terrible, but I think the three's can be just as bad or even worse. At three, a child has developed an even stronger sense of what what he wants, his cognitive abilities are stronger, and he has usually become really, REALLY good at talking.

Lately, well, this entire year in fact, I have felt like I've been embroiled in a seemingly constant battle of the will with my precious three-year-old daughter. One minute, we'll be having a grand time playing or reading a book, and the next minute a tug of war for control ensues. I ask Anna to do something that wasn't her idea and she balks. I respond, assuring her that I understand she might want to do said thing, but Mommy is the boss and God tells her she needs to obey.

Sometimes, she thrills my heart and agrees with a smile and a hearty, "Yes, Mommy," and our day can continue in peace. But other times, it's not so easy. She decides she doesn't want to obey. She doesn't want to listen. She wants to do what she wants to do, and she's going to get her way. So she argues and cries and screams, and everyone on our small compound (with houses in close proximity and windows that don't really close) gets the joy of hearing her tantrum.

I'm ashamed to say, that on many occasions, tired and wanting to avoid a possible tantrum, I've caved and have given Anna her way. Or I've bribed, offering her a treat or a privilege if she agrees to what I have asked. (I certainly bow my head in shame on this one. I am letting the girl with a wrong attitude win fair and square.)

Other times, I make the right choice and decide to go the distance. I stand my ground, and I fight the battle. I tell her that if she chooses to disobey, she'll be disciplined. Sadly, sometimes she still digs her heels in and chooses to disobey. And I hate that. I hate when she stubbornly chooses disobedience. But I know that even when I'm tired, I must engage. It's my duty as a parent, and it proves that I truly love her. Proverbs 13:24 tells me, "If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them."

As parents, God has commanded Paul and me to teach our children to obey authority. They will answer to some sort of authority figure every day for the rest of their lives, so it is better they learn to obey now when they are small. We are also called to bring the wickedness of their hearts to their attention and point them toward their Savior. But some days it's HARD to do what's right. I'm tired from a day of functioning in another culture or dealing with the other stuff of life. Some days I'm LAZY. I just want to finish reading my book or cook a meal in peace.

Praise the Lord, as they grow, we're slowly seeing progress in Josiah and Anna's willingness to obey. Every day isn't a battle, but on days when their stubborn wills do surface, particularly Anna's, life can feel extremely challenging. I do remind myself often that Anna has gone through a great deal of change in the past year (we have lived in 5 different towns since June 2009, not to mention moving to a different continent), so it's no wonder she acts out every now and again.

God still has much to teach me as a parent, and I have a lot of room to grow. So when you think of me, pray that God will help me be consistent, patient, and loving with my kids. Pray that I won't take the easy way out when a battle of the will threatens. And pray that they will choose to obey and have sweet attitudes as well.

Parenting is tough, but even with all the struggles that come with it, the rewards are even greater!