Where Would You Like To Go?

August 27, 2012

Zazakely sa Ankizy

My baby girl is no longer a baby girl.  It's sad to report but ever so true.  She walks everywhere, to the point of when I try to pick her up she tells me "down mommy".  She talks all the time.  Her little words are so cute and she impresses us everyday (I'm sure alot of that has to do with us being 1st time parents!)  She has an opinion on what she wears, what shoes to put on, what bow she'd like and if she'd like one at all, what food she eats, what she'd like to play, and where each of us should sit.  This age has been lots of fun but also an ever present reminder of how much wisdom I lack as a mom.  I am continually throwing myself at the feet of His throne asking for wisdom from above.
Wisdom on how to encourage her to have her own voice and opinions 
Wisdom on how to teach her when her opinion isn't always going to win 
Wisdom on teaching her God's word through every aspect of her little 19 month old life
Wisdom on how to shower her with love, consequences, grace, & forgiveness
Praising Him for His promise in James 4 that says there will be a "harvest of righteousness" for those who heed His wisdom from above. 

August 23, 2012

A Year's Worth of Emotions

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since we first set foot in Madagascar.  I can remember getting off the plane and being filled with a sense of peace – I knew we were “home”.  Over the past year that peace has remained but there have also been quite the array of other emotions and feelings.  I’ve had several colleagues that have done some unique blogs reflecting on their 1st year on the field and thought (even though I’m a little late) that we’d share with you some things that this past year has brought.  Below you will find some examples of why we have indeed experienced every emotion possible!
Our 1st family picture in Madagascar - July 2011

Open?  Closed?  On Break???
Most places in Madagascar close somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 until 2.  However, we have learned that you really have no idea which places these are or if 12 really means 11:30 or 12:30.   Opening at 2 seems to be optional depending on who is working, if the person with the key decides to show up, or if they just need more rest that day.  There are normally no signs posted to tell you “hours” that the shop (if you want to call it that) might be open – more than likely b/c it changes on a daily basis.

Early Bird Dinner

This does not exist here.  Yep, seriously.  There are no early bird discounts or “beating the dinner crowd” to the nearest restaurant.   Why?  Well, I can’t really give you an answer except that no place is open from lunch through dinner – they all still close for their “break” and most of the time the chef doesn’t come to work until somewhere around 7pm.  Occasionally, there is a place that will allow you to come in around 6ish but there will be no food until the chef arrives!!

Grocery Shopping
 When you see something that looks good – you buy it.  It could not be there tomorrow – or again for 3 months.  Just because something is being sold on a shelf does not mean that it has not expired or that there are not holes in the can where the insides have completely leaked out.  If it’s in the “cold” section, it is not a guarantee (probably the opposite of) that it has stayed at a cold temperature for a complete 24 hours (multiply that by however long it’s actually been in the store).

There are no rules.  People can be run over by bicycles.  There are no rules.  There is no limit to how many people can sit in a 15 passenger bus.  There are no rules.  Often, it is not the “best road” choice but rather “which way is not the worst road” choice.  There are no rules.  You can get a ticket for parking in the same spot that you have every single week (without getting a ticket before).  There are no rules.

There are no drive thrus.  There is a line inside…which has no rules.  If you are important you go to the front.  If you are not important you sit and wait…for hours.  Going to an ATM does not guarantee you money, since there is not always money inside of them. 

We’re blessed where we are – that is for sure.  On the days when it does go out for a few minutes or a few hours…well, it is just out.  There is no phone number to call.  There are no quick fixes.  You just break out the flashlights and enjoy the darkness & heat J 

One year after arriving in Madagascar

August 21, 2012

Changes Changes

If you keep up with our monthly prayer calendar, there are a few changes for this week!  As most Ms say in this part of the world "TIA" (this is Africa).  For various reasons, the guys didn't head out today to the bush and Ryleigh & I will not be making a trip out to the forest due to a canceled trip there as well!  However, the guys will head to Mahafaly land on Thursday of this week for a fast trip.  They will be splitting up once they get there so that stories can be shared in various villages.  Please keep all of them in your prayers.  They will all be working with alongside one another to share stories, build relationships, & as always learning more about the dialect and culture.  Health seems to always be an issue for one family or another lately - so please also pray against sickness.  We appreciate all of you so much and we hope you know how vital you are to what He is doing here in Madagascar!  We are looking forward to updating you with stories of His work!

August 20, 2012

Grace for the Good Girl

At the recommendation of a friend of mine, I’ve been reading through “Grace for the Good Girl” on my kindle.  I’m a fast reader but when every chapter (ahem, paragraph) sparks a need for a quiet time with my Savior, it results in making my way very slowly through this book!  Anyway, if I thought you’d read it – I’d type up the whole book on here but that’s probably against some copyright law anyhow.  So, I’ll just share with you my latest favorite quote (which should translate into – the last thing I read – because He has been using every word so immensely in my life). 

“Because if you are working in your own strength who gets the credit?  You do.  If you aren’t rewarded for your hard work who gets offended?  You do.  If things aren’t going the way they should who gets angry?  You do.  Sometimes, I am this way with Jesus.  Even though I know the Bible says I’m not saved by my own works but through faith, I still believe deep down that God is more accepting of those who perform well and do the right things than He is of those who do not.  It’s only fair.  Cinderella?  She wins.  Stepsisters?  They lose.  But that’s not how salvation works.  And it’s not how walking with Jesus works either.” - Emily Freeman "Grace for the Good Girl"

 I need to end this post by saying that my highest book recommendation is the Bible.  I really enjoy reading and over the past year have really been convicted about how much time I spend in other books (fiction, biographies, Sunday school lessons, aka any other book) vs spending time in the Bible.  So, He has been using this book in perfect alignment with what He has been teaching me in His word.  There is indeed nothing more perfect that the words that He spoke so long ago that are still speaking today. 

August 18, 2012

A Week in Isalo

We had such a great time in Isalo National Park for our team retreat this past week!  We all “roughed” it a little via living in tents, cooking over a campfire, and being without internet, but we still had hot showers which was nice!!  We are so thankful for our time together as a team and enjoyed the company of the Nortons from the rainforest plus our member care representatives from Joburg!  It was a fun time of playing “Survivor: SWMada team building style”, making smores around the campfire, having quiet time with the Lord with the backdrop of incredible beauty, hanging out with friends/family, and some quality prayer time with one another.  Here’s a few pictures of our time together!
Ryles didn't mind eating around the campfire!
In the middle of an intensive "immunity" challenge 

Our beautiful view that we had

Girl time in the hammock!

love my family and am so thankful for them!

August 12, 2012

Team Retreat

We are off again on Monday morning!  We're driving about 3 hours north of here to a national park in Isalo.  It is a beautiful place, that we refer to as the "Grand Canyon of Madagascar".  Our whole team is going and we'll be joined by a few other IMB'ers too!  We'll definitely have a large group!!  Please be praying for us this next week - we won't be returning until Friday afternoon!
  Here are a few ways we'd love for you to be specifically lifting us up...
* Safety in traveling
*Team bonding
*Personal solitude time with the Lord
*Health for everyone on the team
*Babies/Toddlers to adapt well to new surroundings (we'll be camping!!)
*Renewing of our minds, hearts, & souls
*Focus & direction as how we can function as a team to spread His word among SW Mada

Thank you so much! 
We'll be out of internet contact all week, but we'll be posting updates once we get back!!

August 8, 2012

goodbyes are never fun

I knew this blog was coming...I knew that at some point (August 8th) it'd be just the 3 of us again in our home.  While we do love our little family of 3 - we have enjoyed having Alanna with us for the past 9 weeks and Karen for the last 2!  I also knew that saying "goodbye" would be hard - so we decided to make the last few days packed with fun things to do!
Instead of having Alanna & Karen fly back to the capitol, we decided to drive them up since we were in need of a "supply run" to the big grocery stores anyway!

We stopped in Antsirabe (where we had language school) and showed them around town & ate at a few of our favorite places! 
We took some walks :)
 This wasn't planned - but in Mada you take what you can get when you can get it - did you get all of that?!?  They had a blast though! :)
Everyone loved going to the Lemur Park
and then, sadly, it was indeed time for them to go - a pic from our last meal together :(
Karen & Alanna are both in the air somewhere between Paris and Atlanta right now - your prayers are greatly appreciated!
We miss you both already!!

August 2, 2012

Grandma Time!!

We are SO glad Grandma got to come to town (thanks Grangran for living without her for a little while!)  We've had a blast hanging out and showing her the "ins & outs" of Tulear!
Ryleigh showed Grandma how to play pool "Ryleigh style" at a local restaurant.
Doing some shopping together in the market
Playing in the sandbox is a daily activity
Going on daily stroller rides and drawing with sidewalk chalk
Grandma has been working on teaching her the word "yes"!!!

Grandma and Ryleigh even made the trek out to Ambolofoty on Tuesday
to see a little bit of village life too!
Thank you Lord for allowing us to have such sweet time with family over the summer - it has been such a blessing!  We love you Grandma and hope you have enjoyed your time here as much as we have!  Please be praying for us to all have a safe drive up to Tana over the next few days (it's a good 16 hour drive!).

August 1, 2012

Vansant's Bush Trip

Over the past few days this team headed out to Mahafaly Land...
They had a long 1st day and drove about 8 hours on a really rough road.  The next morning, they spent visiting two different villages.
These are new villages where we do not have relationships yet, so there are no photos from inside the villages - but their time there went very well!  The team was able to share Creation to Christ with both villages!!
They were also able to try new things, like fresh "fried" fish!!
They have all had a long week already but are excited about the vision that God has given them in helping to reach the Mahafaly people.
Please continue to pray as they finish up their time here in Tulear and start the long trek back to VA tomorrow!!