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 20, 2017

Woman in Training

I hate it when I disappoint myself. Last weekend Chris and Iddy left town for a few days. I wasn’t looking forward to being here with the girls without my guys, but I also wasn’t too worried about it. I’m comfortable enough here after having lived in Malindi for about 10 months. But as it turned out, I’m not quite the supermom I thought I was. My biggest concern was that for 3 days I wouldn’t have anyone else to absorb any of Abby-Jones and Ruth-Michael’s energy, and I was afraid that I would take it all in until my fuse was all gone and I exploded on them. Lately I’m feeling more and more like the mom I never wanted to be: short-tempered, bossy, and just flat out no fun.

Almost every mom I have ever talked to has described the phenomenon in which things go wrong most often when the father is away. As I thought more about this last week I wondered if that is the case, or is it that the same things I can handle well knowing that Chris is there if I need him turn into melt-down issues when I feel alone. Loneliness is an incredibly powerful emotion. I don’t think I have ever encountered it to the extent that I have this past year. Our first eight months here were packed with back-to-back visitors. Since the new year we have had relatively few. Of course the family time has been great for us, but it didn’t take long for that nagging darkness to start seeping in. Right now there is only one other American living full-time in our whole county. We have been able to make a few very precious close friends, but I miss so much the feeling of being a part of a community of people to fall back on.

As I drove around with the girls that first day after Chris and Iddy left I wondered what I would do if something happened and I needed help. I could think of two people I could try to call, but what if neither of them answered? What was my plan B? Sometimes God doesn’t give us a plan B. When God is your plan A, you don’t need a plan B. This is easy to say and incredibly hard to live.

I decided to take the time when Chris was away to reach out to a family that I had been wanting to get to know a little better. Starting a cross-cultural friendship with someone of a different religion, up-bringing, and worldview is actually pretty challenging, and I had forgotten how much Chris helped me navigate these kinds of relationships. After reminding myself of several cultural norms that I have learned a million times but keep forgetting I had a really nice time with this very sweet family. At the end I was pretty exhausted and ready to just be in my home with my family and not have to think about everything I was doing and saying. The rest of the evening consisted of AJ being overly eager to grab her dinner plate, spilling the contents all over herself and the floor, then being sent to time out where she proceeded to pee on the buckets of dog food that I had her sit on, and then the puppy chewed through one of the unopened bags of dog food. For my pride’s sake, I will spare you the details of my reactions to these things. I was pretty down that night and feeling like a crappy mom and dog-owner, but I figured a good night sleep would make it all better. When the dog had me up at 4am needing to go out, then wanting back in, and out, and in, and then I noticed he had pooped in the bedroom, I lost it. I realize nothing about this series of events is anything other than the usual bumps of life, but being awake in the night makes everything seem worse, and not having the person you are used to counting on compounds the frustration. Now I know there are a lot of single moms out there and women with husbands who work all the time, and they are nothing short of super heroes in my book.

This whole experience got me thinking, is God really enough for me? If all I had in this world was God, could I handle my life? Even Adam was lonely when he was by himself on the earth. God knows that we need other people to support us, but at the same time, no other person can ever support us perfectly or entirely. So I find myself searching for the balance between needing and accepting the help offered by others and also resting in the knowledge that God and I are a complete team. I got up the next morning and felt the renewal of God’s mercies that He has promised for me every single morning. I enjoyed the company of my two daughters. I was invited for dinner at my friend’s house and I received encouragement and fellowship that I needed so much. I survived, and we welcomed Iddy and Chris home when they returned. I learned that I can’t rely on one person to sustain me. Me and God are enough. God knows when I need support from others, and He provides it, but He always thinks I am stronger than I think I am. He waits a little longer to send in the rescue than I would like. He is pushing me and growing me. It’s as if he is preparing me for something. I am a woman in training. But what am I training for? Only God knows.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Words are so incredibly powerful. I think they are way more powerful than I can fully grasp. I know it in my head but I don’t really believe it in my heart. Some people believe in the power of words better than others. Last week I was talking to one of our dear Kenyan friends here, and we were discussing the drought that has left so many of the people around us literally starving, and I cheerfully said something about how we had been given money to hand out food to so many people and build farms using drip irrigation and how wonderful that was (which I still think it is). He looked a little underwhelmed, which, I must admit, surprised me a little. I thought he would be just as happy as I was. He and his whole church had been fasting for 21 days together to pray for God to bring rain. He pointed out that, though we had fed many, there were still so many more left without food, and that only rain from heaven could bring true relief. Well, I sort of dismissed this conversation at first, but it came back to my mind later. My solutions always involve me or someone else doing something. His solutions involve prayer for God to intervene. Do I believe God is able to bring rain from heaven to water the earth and allow crops to grow? Absolutely. Do I believe that He will if we fast and pray for him to do so? I don’t know. I hate to say it, but I just don’t know. What I do know is that my friend puts a lot more faith in the power of prayer than I do, and I could probably stand to take a page out of his book. We still need to act and do what we can do to help God’s people, but we also need to pray and believe in the power of the words we are praying. The words we say to each other are powerful and the words we say to God are powerful.

Of course, God’s words are the most powerful of all. He spoke, and the world is. His words have their own creative abilities, literally. Then there is Jesus, who is also called the Word. The Word creates, the Word heals, the Word loves, the Word convicts, the Word gives hope, and so much more. So what are my words about? The best way to know what my words are doing is not to ask myself that question, but to direct that question at the people receiving my words. Truthfully, I don’t really know what my words are doing except when someone else chooses to tell me, either because my words were particularly helpful or hurtful to them. I can definitely look at my life and see the power of others’ words on me.

In the second grade I had a teacher that I loved so much. Her name was Mrs. Coats. One day, maybe at the end of the year, she gave each of her students a description of themselves and what she saw as that person’s strengths. What she chose to write about me were these words, “Sarah Jones, cool, calm, and collected.” That just struck a cord in me. I loved those words and wanted to be exactly that. The fact that I still remember those words all these years later just shows how much power they have had in my life. I remember in middle school, the darkest and saddest years of my life, my older brother David would tell me, “Sarah, you are the coolest girl in the youth group.” Those words, coming from my older brother in high school who I saw as the coolest person ever, gave me just enough courage to keep getting up in the morning and facing the misery at school day after day. Then there was grad school. At the very end I had to stand up in front of my fellow students, professors, friends and family, and my thesis committee and give a full description of what I had done in the last four years and convince them that I had done enough and knew enough to deserve a PhD. My mentor introduced me before I gave my talk, and, as my heart was pounding with anticipation, he spoke these words that I know I will never forget. He said something about how on the outside I appeared to be just a petite blonde-headed girl with a southern accent, but “inside her chest beats the heart of a lion.” I remember being so blown away by those words. I couldn’t believe he saw that in me. I have replayed those words in my mind in some of my dark moments to remind myself that there is strength and bravery at my core.

Unfortunately, negative words are equally powerful and leave lasting scars. I have been called things like “vanilla” and “Sarah, plain and not-so-tall.” Of course these words were spoken as a joke, but it isn’t funny if it’s not true, right? Deep down I let these words define me a little bit, too. A plain, boring, uninteresting person who is always predictable. During my second year of grad school I had to sit for my oral qualifying exams. This involves standing before a committee of 4 professors for two hours and, with a white board and dry erase marker in hand, answering any question they choose to ask me concerning genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and whatever else. I don’t think I have ever been so scared. When my two hours was over I left the room so they could talk about me and decide whether or not I passed. When I went back into the room, their faces were somber. They started with, “you passed” but went on to criticize every way in which I had responded and spoken and the one word I remember in all of it was “unimpressive.” So there you have it, Sarah, the plain, vanilla, boring, and unimpressive. And then of course there is the 1-10 ratings that guys like to give girls which tends to make it back around to the girl who got the rating. Each point that is deducted leaves me wondering, “ is it my face?” or “is this part too big and another part too small?”

Every day I have to choose what words will define me. If they really are so powerful, which I am more and more convinced that they are, I have to choose which ones I let in and which ones go out very carefully. I also need to direct a few more to God, and I need to let a few more of HIs words ruminate in my mind. You are loved, you are valued, you are precious, you are worthy, you are enough, you are beautiful. I pray that God gives me the right words to offer others who are hurting, and I pray that He strengthens my mind to define myself by His words and the words of other people that originated in Him.