About Me

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Malindi, Kenya
This blog used to be about me and my new husband starting our life together in Brookhaven, Georgia. Now, 8 years, 3 children, and 1 trans-continental move later, I'm writing for me; to document the emotional and spiritual journey I am on so that I don't forget the paths I have traveled in my heart and mind.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do you know a man called Jesus?

God has filled our cup to overflowing over the last few days, and I really want to share some of the things He has done for us.

Last week, I had a really cool conversation with one of the security guards at work. We have slowly been getting to know each other over the last few weeks, and I ran into him in the break room while he was eating lunch. We chatted just a little bit, and as he was walking out of the room, he paused and looked at me. He said, with a huge grin on his face, "Do you know a man called Jesus?" What a perfect, simple question! I think he really cares about me and wanted to make sure that I knew the same joy he knows. I felt so honored and touched. I said that I did and that I loved Jesus very much and I asked if he knew him. He still had a big smile on his face when he told me that Jesus was his personal savior. It's like we exchanged something that transcends all cultural and socioeconomical barriers, the love of Jesus Christ! Today, he asked me if I was happy when I walked into the building. I feel like he just wants to make sure I am ok, and I'm so thankful for his smiling face every day.

Last friday, I took off early to spend some time with the kids...they have game day on friday afternoons, and I hadn't been able to be there for one yet. I have never had a more captive audience in my life! They gathered around me, from first grade to seventh grade, and they just waited for me to do something. I practiced all the Swahili that I knew, which they got a HUGE kick out of, I sang them a song, and I tried asking them a lot of questions. Some of the younger ones are so shy that if I even look at them they start to laugh hysterically. One girl, named Susan, I absolutely LOVE...she makes me laugh so hard. When I address her, she gets so tickled she can't pull herself together enough to make a response. As soon as she recovers, she looks at me again and her tickle box gets turned over all over again. After a while they wanted me to tell them a story, so I told them the story of the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. They listened to the whole thing, and when I finished, one of the older ones immediately said, "Oh the lion is kind of like Jesus Christ, dying for that boy." The girl who said this is named Grace, and we've gotten to know each other pretty well. Her English is excellent, and she asked me to teach her a song, so I taught her a song about casting her cares on Jesus. I got to know another girl, named Sharon, who is like the class clown. The next day I went into the first grade class to read them some books, and they started singing some songs for me. Videlis (the one who had malaria last week) sang a beautiful song in Luo, and my heart melted! Then some of the girls showed me how they can dance, and they've got some serious rhythm. Next, I was informed that I would teach the fifth grade for the next period, and of course, the topic was HIV/AIDS!!! I did the best I could. And my friend, Molly, helped me out by teaching some on Schistosomiasis. Chris was there, too, and we tried our best to explain that people who are HIV positive shouldn't be rejected or treated any differently. We know that 30% of these children are positive and they are terrified to take any medications because they don't want anyone to know they are sick.

Everyday here brings new challenges, uncomfortable situations, and also really sweet memories. Those kids are really growing to love Chris and feel more comfortable giving hugs...Chris said that children who don't know what love feels like have to learn how to be loved. I hope and pray we can teach them that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey

I answered my own question! I found out on-line that the quote in my previous post is from a poem called Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey.

It has been on my mind a lot lately because I have such mixed emotions, both about going home in one week, and about coming back here for four years. As far as flying home next week, I am a "little bit sad about the place I am leaving." I will miss all the natural beauty that surrounds us here. I will miss the people we have gotten to know, the people from my lab, the people from Ringroad, the Davises (who have already become like family to us), and the new friends we have made in the missionary community here, Matt, Peggy, Brad and Ellie, and all their sweet kids. I think I will miss the feeling of adventure that comes with everyday living here. I will miss having someone to do my laundry and clean the dishes (come on, who wouldn't love that!) I will miss the laid back pace of life. It really is hard to worry here...which is a really good thing for me. I will miss the tea and yoghurt, both of which are really tasty here. I will miss THE WEATHER!!! I think when we move back to the states the only place I will be able to stand is Florida (there you go Dan and Mel...thought you would appreciate that one:) I just love wearing sandals everyday and no sweaters or coats.

I'm also "a little bit glad about the place I am going." I will be happy to be back in Atlanta with all our amazing friends! I will be happy to see my family, and to spend the time we have in the states this next year traveling to see Dan and Mel in Ocala, to see Anna and Don in their new home in Perry, to spend some more time with my girlfriends from Harding. I am also really excited to see our dog Emory. She is so sweet and I really miss her a lot.

I think it will be somewhat of challenge this next year to be "fully present" in Atlanta in the midst of all our preparations for moving to Kenya, but that is something I will pray for and strive for. I always want to be fully present wherever I am, because God may have put me there for a reason.

It's hard to think about how much we will miss out on when we move to Kenya. Our nieces and nephews will continue to grow up in our absence! We will miss birthdays, school plays, ball games, performances... I hate thinking about it, but it's true. I love reading my family's blogs, but it's hard not to get a little sad about what we are missing, and knowing that we will be too far away to be active participants in the lives of our families for huge chunks of time. This brings me back to being "fully present" once we are in Kenya, which we are also really praying for.

Dear Lord, please fill our lives here with family and friends that will be dear to our hearts like the ones we will miss in the US. Help us not to dwell on what we aren't present for, and focus on all the amazing things we are present for, while we are in the US and then here in Kenya! Help us also to strengthen the bonds that we have with people in the US as we are far away. I'm not sure how this can happen, but I know you can do it. I ask for this because I know that feeling close to the people we are away from will help me feel at peace in the distance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quotes

Does anyone know where this quote comes from???

"A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going..."

Not sure if I quoted it quite right, but it's been in my mind a lot lately... anyone know where this is from???

Hitting the wall

I knew it was bound to happen at some point, and it happened today...or maybe it was last night. Anyway, the way I see it, any time you spend a significant amount of time in a different place with a culture you're not used to, language you don't know, customs you don't understand, etc., you first find everything very exciting and interesting and adventurous (especially if you're Chris Nicholson, but also, to a certain extent, if you are Sarah Nicholson). Then, you reach a point where you become used to it and start to find it familiar and comfortable and even like the "different" way of things. But, I believe, between those two points, it is very common to hit a wall. And I think this happens various numbers of times for various people before reaching the "comfortable" point. All this to say, I have hit the first wall.

Yesterday, we were out all day (which was supposed to be a couple of hours) involving hours of driving over extremely bumpy roads, loud staticky radio blaring in Swahili, listening to community health workers receive their training, and most of all, NO LUNCH!!! Now some of you may not know this about me, but when I do not eat, I get very cranky (don't worry, Chris has already pointed out to me how I eat 10 times as much as most of the kids he is with all day, and I felt guilty about that like I thought I was supposed to), and I really enjoy eating things that taste good (Kenyan food tends to have very little taste, which, admittedly, is better than bad taste). Anyway, we finally got home and I was so hungry I thought I would pass out. But cooking over here is no trivial thing, so I started to cook the meat that we had been marinating all day. Chris helped so it didn't take quite so long, and when we finally sat down to eat I was really excited for this wonderful meal. Unfortunately, this meal went about like all the others I have tried to cook since we have been here...not so good. Cooking here is, as our new friend, Peggy put it, experimental. Everything tastes and cooks just a little different, and for some reason, I got really discouraged about not being able to cook a good meal for my husband. We ended up pulling out some leftover brownies and having more dessert than we really should have because we hadn't been satisfied with dinner. Chris said, either we will get really skinny while we are here, or we will become diabetics.

Now this experience seems like a small thing, but it has put me into a funk. Today I went out to the field to help collect some data from some children. And, being the only white person on the team, all eyes were on me. There is something demeaning about people getting your attention by calling you "white person." (I know I know, it seems ironic for me to be feeling this way considering that our fellow Americans that happen to have dark skin have felt this multiplied times 1000). They want to say "how are you" but say it very nasally on purpose because they think thats how we sound. I just started getting so annoyed because I was tired and hungry and over it. The other thing they know how to say is "give me sweet." Very endearing, I know. Anyway, I got to thinking, maybe I was struggling because this was a new place where I didn't know any of the children and they didn't know me. There was no relationship there. I just began to look at all their faces and thinking, God, how can I really love all these children? I've past the point where they look the same to me. They all look very different. But how can I have enough love to look at each and everyone and, even though they do and say things that annoy me, still love them because I know they are precious children of God, and they are hurting and starving? I found myself thinking that love can be very cumbersome. It involves getting to know someone, caring about that person, and hurting when they get hurt, and I just don't know if I can handle that for all the children in Africa, or in Kenya, or in Kisumu. Then I was very thankful for God's infinite love, and thankful that I am not God. I realize that he knows my limits. I'm still trying to understand what He wants from me here, but I think I will start by loving people that best that I can. I love the people that I work with, because I have gotten to know them, and I think they see that I am genuinely interested in their lives. As I get to know the children at ringroad, I am loving them, too. The relationship changes when they see that you are not a "catch-and-release" friend, but that you come back, day after day, week after week. This is when you see the ugly side of things, but also when you experience relationship and love that can bring mutual transformation into God's image, as you understand, a little better, who God is (a relationship between Father, son, and Holly Spirit) and how He desires to commune with you.

Anyway, Chris and I are going to the supermarket to try and find me some snack food for during the day to keep grumpy Sarah at bay, and I'm going to give myself a break from the cooking experimentation for a few days. I find myself thankful that my job does not involve going to the field everyday, where I would likely have the above experience over and over again. Instead, I can come to lab where I can build relationship with people here because I see them day after day. I guess the Lord knows what He's doing after all;)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Temporary home

Today I went to the field with one of the field teams to collect some samples for one of our studies on schistosomiasis. My job was to give the children some jewis (juice) and biskwit (cookies) after they had their blood drawn. The man taking the blood, Boaz, is very good at it, but it is still hard to see the children get so sad. Children everywhere hate needles! (and grown-ups, too, for that matter). I have really enjoyed going to this school and interacting with the children, but it has also been a challenge for me. This school happens to take in disabled children, which many schools do not, so there are a lot of children there with unique challenges...as if living in a third world country, sleeping on the dirt, drinking water that makes you sick, and not getting enough food to sustain you aren't challenges enough. I've really struggled to process how one child can be asked to bare such heavy burdens their whole lives. Sometimes I just try very hard to look deep into their eyes and smile to show them I love them, and they smile back in the sweetest way! Lord, shower your grace on these special children, help them through this life so that they can enter the next where they will be beautiful, perfect, graceful, and strong!

Also, one of the sweet little boys from the ringroad orphan day school (where Chris works) has absolutely stolen my heart. Chris told me yesterday that he has malaria which is worse for him because he is HIV+. Sweet Chris went to see him and sat with him for a while since he was laying there alone. I am trying to remember everyday that this world is not their home. A Carrie Underwood song comes to mind: "this is my temporary home, it's not where I belong, windows and rooms, that I'm passing through, this is just a stop, on the way to where I'm going, I'm not afraid because I know, this is my temporary home." There is a home waiting for these little ones where there will be no more tears or sickness, no more hunger, no more sadness. Just think how overjoyed God will be to see His jewels finally shining the way He meant for them to! I try to keep thinking about this.

Oops, I was going to try not to make this blog about poverty, so I guess I slipped up with this one. I guess what is important is to know what can I do to help? I ask for prayers to help me answer this question. Even as I write this request, I know part of the answer. God wants us to see something good to do and do it. I want to live like that, just finding something good to do in each minute and doing that thing.

Blessings: Last night, we had dinner with a wonderful missionary couple that live here in Kisumu. We are sooo excited to get to know them better and to have some like-minded friends here with us. What a blessing! Tonight, we will look at another potential house for us to rent when we move in December. We have several good options for housing, but nothing that we are sold on, so the search continues. Another blessing- we found out through our new friends that their is a place in Kisumu that sells ice-cream which tastes JUST like homemade ice cream! I tried it and it's true! YAY! By far one of the biggest blessings of life out here is seeing the beauty of God's creation every single day (and night-the stars are unbelievable).

Overall, life is good:)

I will try to post some more pictures and videos when I have a better connection. As of right now my camera is dead and I can't find the charger! Hopefully I can find it so I can continue to document our trip.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kisumu, part I





Rural Kenya


video

Chepkong' ony



This is the house Chris lived in for one year.

I was so excited for them to show me their science lab. I snapped a few pictures of their chemicals and supplies...




video

Kenyan food, scenery, and travel

Our sweet driver Joseph, and his precious little boys...one of the many blessings on our trip!




"The Nest"- an orphanage in Nairobi for abandoned babies