Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Coordinating dresses from Lollee!

Ellee is turning three and a half tomorrow.  I loved baby Ellee.  I loved toddler Ellee.  I even loved two-year-old-stubborn-as-a-mule Ellee.  But goodness knows I love three-year-old Ellee.  She's still feisty, that's for sure.  But she's my friend now, too.

Last year

This year

Whenever I am in the kitchen, she's sitting on the counter waiting to help.  I try to let her help with whatever she can.  She loves to stir and butter and flip things.  She grabs necessary ingredients from the fridge and cabinets.  And she loves to set the table.  I'm guessing it won't be long before I can just turn the kitchen duty over to her.  She even does the dishes!

The girl loves pink.  When given a choice, she will pick pink every single time.  Pink shirt.  Pink socks.  Pink cup.  Pink crayon.  Pink candy.  Pink everything.  She also loves books.  If I would sit still long enough to read her ten books in a row, she'd gladly listen.  I do read her books, but not as many as I should.  She loves to help me clean.  If I hand her a rag, she will wipe down anything in sight.  Sometimes she helps with the laundry and the other day she even told me she'd cleaned the toilet so I didn't have to.  I wasn't terribly thrilled about that one (gross), but I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Every week we have Sunday Night Sleepover at our house.  It's something Jonathan started years ago with Kyle, before Ellee was even born.  Now that Ellee is old enough, she's joining in the fun.  After I put Sadie to sleep in her crib, we all enjoy a movie and a snack in a tent Jonathan builds in the living room.  Then at some point, Ellee remembers how much she loves to take foot baths and reminds me that it's time for ours.  We pull out my foot spa and read books while we soak our feet.  She loves to paint her toe nails, pink of course.  She used to sleep in the tent with Jonathan and Kyle, but now she sleeps with me.  She loves to snuggle up close in my bed and stroke my face.  She tells me she loves me and that I am her friend.  I sing her lullabies and we pray and within a minute, she's fast asleep.

Certainly my favorite part about three and a half year old Ellee is her love for her baby doll.  She takes such gentle care of her little dolly, who has been named a whole string of names.  I'm not clear on her current name.  Oh well, I just call her Dolly anyway.  Ellee dresses her every morning and changes her cloth diaper.  Sometimes she breastfeeds her and other times she bottle feeds her.  I like her no-nonsense, relaxed style.  Baby is hungry - just get the job done.  Wherever Ellee goes, Dolly goes along with her.  Occasionally Ellee will forget to take her along and come back to get her before continuing to play at the neighbors'.  She tucks Dolly in for her naps; she teaches her school while I teach Kyle; she has even been known to set her a place at the table.  Before bed every night, Ellee changes her doll into the one outfit she's dubbed the pajamas.  While Daddy or I fix her silky blonde locks, she carefully dresses Dolly for bed and then slips her into the tiny sleep sack my mom made for her.  More doll clothes are on order from Lollee for Christmas.  Ellee is going to be so excited!

The very night I found out Ellee was a girl, I began dreaming of what kind of little friend I would have in her.  She's far exceeded my dreams.  I look forward to growing with her and being a friend to her like my mom has been to me.  Sure, sometimes I have to assert my mom status and keep her in line.  But a lot of the time, we just get to get along and have fun together.  For that I am so thankful.  It's obvious that she is beautiful on the outside.  I am blessed to be able to witness her inner beauty as well.  My prayers for her cover a wide range of things, but mostly I pray that she grows up to be a strong woman who loves the Lord.  I adore this girl!

New bed!

I hope she never loses her spunk!


Friday, November 18, 2016

No More No Water

It is a big day!  Today is the day we have water!  We now have 2,500 liters of water at our disposal.  All day.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if Mokhotlong turns off the water.  It doesn't matter if they decide the water supply needs cleaning without warning.  It doesn't matter!  We have water!

Months ago friends of ours in South Africa wrote to ask if we needed any plumbing jobs done.  Mokhotlong isn't just crawling with handymen.  If something needs doing, you're most likely on your own figuring it out.  We really appreciated the offer!  After so much drought and so many water outages last year, we had already decided we wanted to install a reserve tank upon our return.  Having a helping hand in that installation was very welcome!

So our friends came up to scout things out a few weeks ago and we mapped a plan to getting the tank in place.  It was decided we'd put the tank on top of the outhouse to create pressure from gravity.  The irony wasn't lost on me.  We are using the outhouse so that we don't have to use the outhouse.  We then ordered the tank through a local furniture store so they could bring it up the mountains on their giant truck.  We set a date to get the thing hooked up and today it happened.

After many bucket baths, many days of saving flushes for only necessary flush occasions (pew), many sinks full of dishes and lots of hand laundry, we now have water which will run whether the water from Mokhotlong is on or off.  I am so relieved!  Who knew water could be such an exciting thing?

What the tub looks like after five people take a spit bath.  Don't drain it!  You can scoop and dump it into the back of the toilet for a flush!

Won't miss this!

I'll spare you the picture of Jono in the bucket bath.  

Wait, no I won't.  Here it is....

The tank was installed under close supervision from the boss, Sadie.

Co-supervisor, the neighbors' name-less dog.

Thanks, guys!  Your kindness won't soon be forgotten!


Sunday, November 6, 2016


When we first arrived in Mokhotlong, it was immediately recommended to me if I wished to hire someone to help with my housekeeping, I should hire Mme MaMopeli.  During the first two years we lived here, I struggled with hiring anyone to do "my" work.  I was fully capable of cleaning my own home and I figured, because most people here have to care for their own things, why should I be privileged enough to have someone do it for me?  It wasn't a case of not being able to afford help; labor here is unbelievably inexpensive.  Painfully so.  I was just stubborn and thought I was doing the right thing at the time.

Over time, we developed a friendship with MaMopeli.  She has a reputation of being a great cook and was quickly hired to do the catering for the quarterly TEE conferences.  She didn't speak English well at the time, but began taking English classes offered at her church some time ago.  Her English has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years!  Communication became easier for us.  Around that time, I was reminded of how desperate she was for a steady job.  So, early last year I decided to hire MaMopeli to come weekly to clean our house.  The day she came to tour the house and learn where I kept cleaning supplies, etc., was the day I found out I was expecting.  I had two weeks sick-free before my health plummeted.  I was relieved that she had already learned the ropes before I was incapacitated by pregnancy sickness.  It quickly became obvious that we needed help more than once a week.  She began coming twice weekly to help keep the house together while I puked all day long.  It is no exaggeration to say she kept this place functioning while I was so bad off.

One day during that time we arrived home from a doctor's visit in South Africa.  When we entered the house we found that some raw chicken juice had leaked out of the fridge and was totally rotten.  The house smelled worse than you can imagine.  Having such a weak stomach at the time, I simply could not deal with it.  MaMopeli happened to come by and she painstakingly cleaned up that disgusting mess without a single complaint.  It brings tears to my eyes;  she has been a Godsend.

Finally the sickness passed and my parents came to visit.  During a walk through town one day, my mom and I were discussing Mokhotlong and it's lack of innovation.  Sure, there are some unique businesses sprinkled around.  But by and large the stores and roadside shops all sell essentially the same thing.  Aside from cleaning for us, the payment for which could hardly provide for a family of five, MaMopeli has a secondhand clothing shop.  To say that her store struggles would be an understatement.  My mom and I dreamed up the idea of a sweet shop.  There is nothing sweet to buy here in Mokhotlong besides prepackaged wafers at the markets.  A few days later, I approached MaMopeli and asked if she would be interested in opening a sweet shop if we helped her get started and taught her what we knew.  She enthusiastically agreed.

Before my mom left, we went through GAME, Walmart's close cousin, and gathered things like muffin tins, baking sheets, oven mitts and cake pans.  MaMopeli's home has no electricity and she did not own a stove.  My parents gifted her with a small gas stove so she could bake goods in her own home and sell them at her shop.  Her secondhand clothes store began doubling as MaMopeli's Sweet Shop.  We tested cookie recipes and muffin recipes and I tried to teach her what little I knew about decorating cakes.  Word began to spread and she was soon hand-delivering cakes to friends in town.

These are poor quality but they are the ones I have of her delivering her first cake!  Her artistic ability has improved greatly over the past year!  

I have been so impressed by her determination.  Nothing holds this lady back!  After baking a batch of cookies or muffins, she would pack them up and take them to the taxi rank, bank, post office and other government offices to offer them for sale!  Rather than wait for customers to come to her, she was busy walking all over Mokhotlong spreading the word of her new business endeavor.  We printed up fliers of simple cakes which she could make for special occasions and she posted them around town.

Recently she decided to reserve a shop in a new building being built.  She wants to open a genuine sweet shop.  She wants to sell cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, bars and muffins and coffee and tea.  It is a convenient location because it is near the main street and close to the taxi rank.  It will also offer electricity so she won't have to use my kitchen to store her supplies.  She generates muffins and cookies out of her own home.  However, I have a large kitchen with lots of work space, so she always bakes and ices her cakes over here.

We Westerners are beginning to grasp this concept of "When Helping Hurts."  Oftentimes we want to come in and throw money and supplies at a problem which can't be fixed by those things.  To the best of our understanding, the most beneficial thing we can do to help the developing world is to teach them to "fish for themselves."  In short, rather than handing a starving person a basket of fish which would feed him for only a few days, we ought to be teaching him to fish which would feed him for the rest of his life!  In a world full of handouts and little initiative, let's encourage and aid those who are working hard to better their families and their local economies!  What I am saying is this, sometimes to get off the ground, struggling business endeavors need a push in the right direction.  One of our friends runs a sewing studio here in Mokhotlong.  She is so busy she can barely keep up.  Do you know how she got started?  Donated sewing machines from mission teams who came to Mokhotlong.  She now employs a number of other people!  Our close national colleague operates a computer training program out of an office nearby.  Want to know how he got started?  Donated computers from believers in South Africa.

If you desire to see MaMopeli's business grow and flourish, would you consider donating towards her startup costs?  She has never asked me for a loan or an advance.  She works hard for her money!  She hasn't asked me to advocate on her behalf.  She hasn't ever asked me for anything!  But I know her financial situation and how difficult or even impossible it will be for her to set up the shop she is envisioning out of her own proceeds.  And I know our Western financial situation and how easy it would be for many of us to help in a small way!  She is seeking to buy a couple small tables and chairs, a refrigerator display case and an electric stove.  If you would like to bless someone this holiday season, please consider blessing this innovated, determined, hard-working lady by helping her start a unique business in Mokhotlong.  Please message me for giving details if you are interested.  Oh, and with three teenagers in her house, she's expecting a baby next month!  I can hardly wait to see her decorating cakes with a baby on her back.  Well, her baby that is.... she already works with my baby on her back!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Look into the Past & 200th Post Give~Away!

Over the past nearly seven years, I've journaled 200 posts on this blog about my life, travels, ministry, interests and family.  I enjoy going back and reading about my life years ago, as memories fade and experience blurs together.  Some things stand out in my mind.  There have been many monumental moments that have brought me to where I am today.  But many things need refreshing.

I think back to my first post.  For a long time, I could not look back at 19 year old me and see a kid.  Now I can.  Goodness I was young.  Living in Mexico taught me so much.  It molded me so much.  It prepared me for more than I could have ever imagined.  I am so thankful we had that foundation for our marriage.  We owned nearly nothing.  It was just the two of us.  We saw a lot of things which influenced our desires for our future.  Because of that time, we were able to settle into our plan to be nomads and not get bogged down by stuff.  We saw ministry being done by the local church and we loved it.  We caught the vision for training up replacements and leaving the work to the local people.  That was monumental in leading us to where we are now.

During our transition from Mexico to Africa, we were able to live nearby my folks.  After marrying so young, it felt like we were on borrowed time living close together again.  I don't regret marrying when I did.  I was ready.  But it was such a treat to be back near my family for those two years.  My parents adopted my youngest brother during that time, and I will always cherish being able to build a relationship with him before moving far away again.  Being near them helped us conquer support raising for Africa.  They also lent me a much needed hand during my crazy sick pregnant days with Ellee.

I've welcomed all three of my babies, Kyle, Ellee, and Sadie Kate, onto this blog.  I've journaled pregnancy highs and lows.  Recently as I was chatting with a group of South Africans who were here for a visit, I realized how often I start by saying, "When I was pregnant with ____."  I've been pregnant a lot over the past seven years.  It hasn't all been easy, that's for sure, but it's all been worth it.  As any mother knows, the journey to children, whether it be through pregnancy and childbirth or through adoption, is a refining one.

Moving to Africa has changed me forever.  It is now a part of who I am.  Wherever the Lord leads us from here, I know I will always cherish these rural years which have smoothed my edges.  They have stretched me beyond what I thought I could handle.  Some days are so long and hard.  Some days are so exciting and rewarding.  Some things I see differently now.  Other things I want to change but cannot.  It is such a different world here.  At the same time, people are still the same.  They have great joys and great sorrows, of which we share both.  We laugh often and we cry at times.  We exchange stories and points of view.  I have so much to learn from people who have walked different roads than I.  Some are cautious of outsiders while others are interested and welcoming.  We have been grafted into the family here in our little corner of Mokhotlong and, in many ways, it feels like home.  I see the Church more clearly now.  We are a body.  We may not agree on every last thing.  We certainly don't all come from the same backgrounds.  But there is a sense of family when we meet a fellow believer.  I've met Christians from more countries than I can remember; I cherish knowing I'll see them all again one day.

I've made blog entries from five different countries : Mexico, America, Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa.  Over the past years, I've spent significant time in all those places.  These places which to me have been home for some time :





South Africa

To recognize my 200th post, I'd like to do a give away.  I haven't made the purchase yet, but I can promise it'll be something special.  It'll take a few weeks to get there after I mail it, so if the winner is in America, one can't expect to see anything real soon.  If you'd like to enter, please leave a comment on here or on Facebook saying something you have gleaned from reading this blog.  Maybe it's a story that impacted you or a recipe you use often.  Maybe it's something you've learned about cross-cultural living or missionary life.  Whatever it is, comment and I'll enter you into a drawing!