Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

The kids were not supposed to wake us up until after 6am, so Levi waited until 6:02 am to come into our room and wake us up.  He has a watch and counted down the time.  
Here the kids are ready and waiting....

 We don't have too many Christmas traditions but one of them is to have breakfast for supper on Christmas Eve and another is to read the story of Jesus conception and birth from the Bible before unwrapping the gifts.
Below, Zoe and Levi are following along in their Bibles.

 Let the unwrapping begin....

We are so grateful for your support of the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that allows us to live and minister here in Zambia.

Merry Christmas from The Lowes in Zambia!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What is next week?

It was Kids Ministry Day today and it happened to be exactly one week before Christmas.  I broke from chronologically storying the Bible and went back to tell the story of Jesus' birth again this afternoon.  We had lots of kids today - over 80.  It was heartbreaking to me to look out over 80+ beautiful ebony children, ask them what holiday is next week and nobody knows what holiday it might be.  Think on that....a church full of kids that did not know that Christmas is next week.  
I don't even know where to go with that.  It resonates deep in my heart.

Today, I brought with me about 130 brand new Crayola Crayons to give to the kids as a small Christmas present.  I had thought that I might be able to give them two, maybe even three crayons each but as more kids filed into the church this afternoon, I realized it would have to be only one crayon for each child.  They were very, very thrilled to each get one single crayon.  They knew what they were because we had colored pictures together a couple of times before today.  
As I was feeling a bit downcast for these kids, I realized that I had done far more than just give them one crayon for Christmas - I had taken the opportunity to share about the birth of Jesus and make the connection for them that this baby that was born in a stable is the same Jesus that we have been talking about recently - the same one that healed the blind, drove out demons, walked on water, fed 5000+ people; and was crucified, buried then rose again to save the world from their sins.  This is not about me, please don't believe that - about what I did but it is totally about the Gospel.  We would not have this Good News if not for that baby in the manger.  

Just a few of the kids with their crayon.

So, let me go out on a limb here.  Which is better - 1 crayon or the Gospel?  Which is worse - teaching our children that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus but then showering them with mounds of Christmas presents or children who would only receive 1 crayon along with the Christmas Story and a Gospel presentation?  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas

Maybe this is something that you don't know about me - I am usually not extraordinarily excited to put up the Christmas tree and decorate for this very joyful holiday. Case in point - we finally put up our Christmas tree today with a little over two weeks until Christmas Day.  I was actually waiting for the kids to say something about putting up the tree before we lugged everything down from storage.

 Here are the kids going through all the decorations (yes, it's just that one plastic storage container).

 Finding the old friends from last year...

 I used to be worried that the tree had to look just right.
Now, I just let them put things where they want.

The finished product - then they were ready for homemade hot chocolate!

Even though I really do feel that I have adjusted very well (emotionally and spiritually) to living in Zambia, Christmas still is a bit difficult.  Not that I am incapacitated with grief but those twinges of homesickness do come a little more often the closer it gets to Christmas.  Maybe that is why I don't usually like to make a huge deal about decorating for Christmas because it is a little bit of denial that it is actually that time of year again.  

If you go to the major malls here in Lusaka, you can find signs of Christmas.  They have had their Christmas decorations up since October (with no Halloween or Thanksgiving holidays to interfere with the Christmas holidays).  You can hear Christmas music in the grocery store and my kids loved to meander down the "Christmas aisle" which is really only about half an aisle.  Yet when you go to find an actual present to give to someone, they seem about as elusive as Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.  They are that hard to find.  Many, many thanks again to our team who graciously brought all the kids' Christmas presents in July!

I think that Christmas is more difficult for adult missionaries than it is for our children.  Most of our kids had a limited amount of time (or for some, none at all) in the States before coming to the international mission field.  We adults remember 20-30 years of American Christmases with the huge hype that goes along with them.  Now I have always believed that Christmas is not bought in a store (thank you Dr. Seuss) but my, oh my - when I was in the States, I didn't realize just how those Christmas lights, Christmas parties, Christmas cookies, and yes - even all the commercialism actually helped to get me into the mindset of celebrating all the holiday festivities.  When you don't have the world around you telling you that it is Christmas time, it really is hard to 'make' your own festivities.

So, when you think of your missionaries or maybe even as you are giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (hint, hint) - please remember to pray that peace and joy will truly surround us all as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ this year.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Who Is A Missionary's Friend?

Who is a missionary's friend?  That's a question that I have been pondering lately.  This is coming, of course, from a feminine perspective.  Guys might have a different definition or different needs.  I am also looking at this question from a missionary's perspective but in the end, I think, that most of us want/need very similar things from a friend.

Missionaries need friends, too.  As we are off, living in places outside of the United States - we have left so many relationships behind.  This is a bit unique to missionaries as most people do not move as much as we have in our lives.  Each relationship that I have physically left (or they have left me) has broken a piece of my heart.  It never gets any easier.

How can you be a missionary's friend?  STAY IN CONTACT WITH THEM.  This is huge!  There are so many ways that you can contact your friends - email, Skype/Facetime, text (yes, you can text us over here for not much more money) or you can use apps like 'WhatsApp' that allows you to use your data plan to txt for free and/or a phone call (a short one would not cost as much as you think).  Whether you are an old friend from the States or a new friend that was discovered in a new country, this applies to us all. 

I have been gone from the States for a little bit over five years and I do not have anyone who has kept in consistent contact with me.  Yes, that's right - no one. This does not include our immediate family. 

When we were at orientation before coming to Zambia, we took the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.  After you take the test, it gives you four letters that describe your personality.  One of my letters was F for feeler.  As I found out later, I was actually a perfect 30 as a feeler; the most possible. I think that makes friends even more important to me.

We need friends who will ask hard questions to us and expect honest answers.  We need friends who will challenge us to grow spiritually.  We need friends who will listen as we process the hard realities of living in a third world culture.  We need friends to share our lives with us.  We even need mentors - older women who would take a specific spiritual emphasis in our lives.

I know the old adage says, "To have a friend, you must be a friend."  Friendship is a two way street.  We meet each other, coming and going.  It is give and take.  So, I am also shouldering the responsibility to BE a friend.  I want to know about your everyday triumphs and struggles.  I want to be connected to you in some way.  

This is not just a post about me, please don't misunderstand.  The is a post about all women.  We need significant relationships with other women.  Whether you are a homeschooling mom who seems tied to her house or a working mother who seems not to have enough time in the day or a missionary who just wants someone to walk beside her in life, we all need Christ centered relationships to encourage us in the difficult times and rejoice with us in the everyday wonder of life.

So, BE a friend.  Hug your friend if you are blessed enough to actually see them.  Take a few minutes to call them or a little bit more time to sit down and email a faraway friend or even more time to go have coffee with them or out to eat.
Relationships are so important and worth the effort!
Let's do this together!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kitchen Party

A couple of friends and I went to a Kitchen Party yesterday.  Even though I have been in Zambia for over 5 years now, I have never been invited to a Kitchen Party.  This party seemed to be very expensive, so that is probably why they were not done as much in the Western Province where we spent our first term.  I really enjoyed my afternoon and really learned a lot.  

First of all, the invitation invited us to the Kitchen Party and on that invitation was the note that gifts should only be monetary and not less than 200 kwacha - which is about $30.  In the Western Province, that was about 2 weeks of wages for a day laborer.  No wonder I had never got to go to one before!

The party was supposed to start at 1pm.  By the time we arrived (deliberately late) at almost 3pm, there were about 40 ladies present out of about 250 that ended up attending.  We began to notice that there were groups of women with the same colors on.  We were told that these were committees that helped to plan the event and/or friends of the mother of the bride or friends of the bride or friends of the groom to be and so on.  Evidently, each group (I counted at least 6) got together and decided on material then all had their outfit made with that material but they could choose whatever style they liked.  The outcome was a beautiful array of Zambian fashion.  It was so fascinating just to see all the fashion.

The bride finally arrived about 4pm.  She was quickly whisked into a room with her head covered.  About 30 minutes later, several ladies lined up to dance and sing her into the party.  From my vantage point, it may be hard to see her in the middle of the line with the white cloth over her head.

 The Kitchen Party was beautifully decorated in white, fuchsia, and orange.  Here is a bit closer view of the bride to be as she walks up to the front of the party.  Up front, I didn't get a picture of it because I was so far away, was a bed decorated in fuchsia and orange.  With great ceremony, she was placed up front on the bed, still covered.  

Then several women went out to dance and sing the groom to be into the party.  He also went up front with a few of his friends to stand around the bed.  I'm a little cloudy as to what was happening here but a national friend said they were collecting money - not sure why; maybe after enough was collected then he could uncover the bride to be. After a bit, the groom sat down, facing the attendees. As a side note, throughout this whole affair, the bride and groom to be are not allowed to smile or seem like they are enjoying themselves.  This is a sign of respect.  So with the guy sitting, the bride to be stood in front him and then slowly lowered herself down to the ground (in all her finery!), laid on the ground on one side then moved to lay on the other side for a few minutes.  This was to signify her obedience/submission to her husband.  After a little bit, they came back down the red carpet together as the groom to be left.

 The wife of Zambian's former President Mwanawasa (he passed away while in office in 2008) was the Guest of Honor at this Kitchen Party and she spoke briefly on marriage.

They also had some 'Teaching Practicals' about how to make a bed and what to fix for breakfast. :)
I know that I missed many aspects of this event but all in all, it was a great day to spend with national sisters and missionary friends!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Puppy Love

We got our new puppy today!

We tried to find a good Tex/Mex type of name so we decided to name him Cowboy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Zoe's 10th Birthday

Zoe is ten years old today!

 She was super excited to get her own digital camera.

 She wanted to do her birthday meal at lunch today.  
She chose fried chicken, green bean bundles and mashed potatoes.

 And for dessert, she chose Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Brownie Squares - four layers of homemade yumminess....

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Presidential Procession

Zambia's President Sata passed away on October 29th.  He is to be buried tomorrow.  The processional passed right by our house this morning.  This is the busy road that runs beside our home.  The road the military guy is standing in front of is the road that runs in front of our house.

 There were many, many vehicles in this procession - including several tanks, trucks filled with Zambian military, dignitaries and presidents from surrounding countries, past Zambian presidents and much more.

 Here is the body of the late president.

 As we were leaving after the processional passed by, we were snagged by a local tv crew who wanted to interview our children for Zambia's Kids TV.  Here they are, being interviewed...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Visiting the Northern Province of Zambia

Recently, we travelled to the Northern Province of Zambia to visit two missionary families.  The first day was a long 12 hours.  We stopped on the side of the road to eat lunch.  We usually eat lunch in the car as we travel but this was the day that the Zambian President Sata passed away and Jeff was trying to find cell coverage so he could send out an email to our mission family.  

At our first stop, we went to visit Kalambo Falls.  It was beautiful.  It is in a total, out of the way spot (if you know what that means in Africa) :) but they have put in new stairs and railings.  It was a great time to trek up and down those stairs to see a glimpse of God's majestic creation.

I forgot my camera and only had my phone to take pictures, so I didn't get any pictures but of the falls.  The following pictures are courtesy of my friend, Dawnya.  We had a free afternoon on Monday, so we played Mexican train.  It was super hot that afternoon with hardly any breeze.

 Here, the girls are playing board games.

 A picture of all seven kids.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thankful Thursday

In random order, numbers picked by Levi:

#66 - Eternal Security

#140 - The spiritual wisdom of my husband

#128 - A chatterbox sitting next to me during my Quiet Time.

#309 - A newly seven year old boy

#499 - The chance for my kids to play a lot with missionary cousins while I was in RSA.

#505 - A new faucet

#472 - The Living Word that refreshes my soul.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10 Things I Have Learned

Our ladies from Sub-Saharan Africa - from Niger, Mali, Chad, South Sudan down to South Africa - have just returned back from a Ladies Conference in South Africa.  This conference may seem trivial to some but a humongus thank you goes out to all Southern Baptists who helped make this conference a reality.

The theme of the conference was 'Joy in the Journey'.  Here are some things (in no order) that the Lord taught me - or at least, reminded me last week:

1.   The journey is our daily lives and we can choose to have joy or we can choose to go our own way.  It really is a choice.

2.   Some days, it is a monumental fight for joy but it is always worth it.

3.   Every sister in Christ that was there have experienced very (very) similar ups and downs in their missionary lives.

4.   Worship with hundreds of missionary sisters was one of the best aspects of the week.

5.   God is not captive to our own human expectations of what our life and ministry should be and I should not be either. This was a HUGE one for me.

6.   God has not called us to a place but he has totally called us to HIMSELF.  Again, this is something that I have believed but it had gotten buried in the midst of the recent changes.

7.   I am not in this missionary life alone (besides my wonderful husband and children).  Every woman there seemed ready to love and support her sister in Christ. 

8.  This missionary life is hard but life was NEVER meant to be easy.

9.   The joy of the Lord is my strength!!! Nehemiah 8:10

10.  Our greatest joys are found in our trials.  A life without hardship is not really life at all.  How we show joy in the journey of our daily life gives great glory to God - and maybe that was the reason in the first place.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

South Luangwa Park Vacation 2014

We have just gotten back from a week in South Luangwa Park.  It is considered the best game park in Zambia and as you will see, it lives up to those accolades.

This seating area is just out back of the house that we were staying in.  Each day, except for Friday, elephants came to drink and play in the water/mud.

 The house also had a pool and honestly, the kids were more excited about the pool than they were the elephants, giraffe, warthog, bush buck, puku, impala, baboons and monkeys that we could see from the outside sitting area.

 There are 80,000 hippos in the Luangwa River.  We saw lots of them.

 Leopards are not easily seen in the park but we ended up seeing 4 of them in one day!

 Two baby giraffe (or at least, small) had just bounded across in front of our truck.  This one walks right out in front of us and stared us down - wondering what we were, I guess.

 This leopard was eating a impala when we drove up.  I guess he got full and decided to lay down and rest for a bit before finishing his meal.

 These lions were literally just laying in the middle of the road.  They were all sleeping while about four vehicles just watched them.

 As you can see, we were very close to the lions.  They were not impressed with us.

 From what our safari guide said, wild dogs are extremely rare to find.  We found four adults and three pups on the hunt for some food.

 The hyenas were likewise not impressed with us as they rested near where a group of lions had made a kill.

 This is inside the house where we stayed.  You can see the elephants coming in for their (almost) daily mud/water time.