My American Life Part 2 –The Wedding

Our wedding was nearly perfect. Ok it was perfect. That’s a joke…I’ll explain it later.

As I’m sure you know the planning and preparing for a wedding is stressful. Ours was no different. Quite frankly I could not wait for that part to be over. I just was ready to be married!

We decided to get married on Harstine Island. Harstine Island is a special place to Tim as he spent his childhood years on the island for many school breaks. His parents had a cabin there and they went quite frequently.

Harstine is one of the very first places Tim took me to after we met in person. In fact he had planned for us to have our 1st kiss there but he didn’t hold out and he ended up kissing me in the customs area at Seatac. Ha! But that is a story for another time.

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Tim and I at Harstine for the 1st time.

 

Tim had friends from church who live on Harstine now and we asked if we could have our wedding on the pointe as it is a private area. Sure enough they agreed and booked the venue for us.  Thank you much Doug and Carol!

It really was perfect….But there was a catch. We could only have 50 people at the wedding. That was VERY challenging for us. Tim and I know a lot of people and we both have a lot of family. There are so many DEAR people to me that I would of loved to have at our wedding. If I lost sleep over anything this was it. It was such a hard process but we tried to stick to people who had loved us through our ups and downs and people who were actively involved in our lives at this time.

We had dear friends and family come from all over. New York, Florida, Colorado, California, Idaho, and even my sister and her family from New Zealand. It was a WHIRLWIND the week before the wedding.  I barely remember it. But it was great….in fact I want a do over as I feel like I did not have enough time with everyone!

The day of the wedding was SO lovely. The weather was perfect. I felt so blessed to be marrying Tim. I was just in awe of all that God had done and EVERYONE was so happy for us.

Our friends, my sister and daughter-in-law worked their buns off setting up and making everything perfect. I could go on and on about how our friends and family went beyond the call of duty for us.

The most important part of the day to me was our ceremony. I wanted to honor God more than anything. I wanted everyone to know…GOD DID THIS!

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Chari and Hannah were our darling Flower Girls!

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I walked in on my Dad and Son’s arms…It was so special.

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My childhood best friend Shannon and her daughter Elli were singing Holy Spirit you are welcome here as we walked in.

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I remember feeling so beautiful. That was mostly due to the way Tim was looking at me. He just had pure love in his eyes…and I felt like his beautiful princess. Ladies… Hold out for a man who looks at you like this. This is what it is supposed to be like. Don’t settle!!

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Our Officiate was Peter Kopp! Does that name sound familiar? It should because I spent the last two years with him and his wife Mary Jean in Swaziland. Yes it just so happened that Peter and Mary Jean (MJ) were home for a short furlough and Peter could marry us. That was like the icing on the cake as MJ and Peter had been so supportive of Tim and I as we dated long distance. I had many evening walks with MJ (and Louie) talking about this man Tim Rogers that seemed to pop into my life out of nowhere.

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An important person that was missing from our wedding was Tim’s Father. He is not well and in an assisted living home. Tim, his brothers, and his uncle surprised Tim’s mom by honoring him and singing one of his songs he used to sing when he was in a singing group called the Swordsmen. It was nice to see the smile on Tim’s moms face as she remembered her husband.

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Towards the end of our ceremony we asked some of our friends to read scripture over us and our marriage. If there is anything I believe in it is the power of God’s word.

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Tim surprised me after this with a song. Shannon along with Tim’s brothers Danny and Phil sang… Give Me Jesus. This is a very special song to me as every morning in Swaziland I listened to it. It truly helped me push through some very long hard stretches while I was there. It is my anthem. It was so beautiful and sweet and Tim even became a bit emotional during it.

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At the very end of the ceremony we had our children join us for a family prayer. We wanted to signify not only were we joining as husband and wife but two families were also joining together.

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Then it happened…. We were pronounced husband and wife.

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I am in fact… Mrs. Rogers.

The rest of the evening was so fun as we just hung out….ate food, drank wine, made S’mores and visited with each other. We pretty much did nothing traditional at this point. No cake cutting, No throwing the bouquet. We just enjoyed the beautiful scenery and each other.

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friends

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At the end of the night Tim and I drove off on a golf cart… My son, Courtney, and my sister  with a few others were decorating it. My ADORABLE 4 year old nephew Ayrton from New Zealand came up to Courtney and said in his ADORABLE Kiwi accent. Wow…This is going to be so special! It’s nearly perfect! Courtney said… Oh, why is it only nearly perfect? Ayrton responded… I haven’t put my glow stick on it yet. Then he popped his glow stick off his arm and put it on the golf cart and declared…. NOW it’s perfect.

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SO there you have it….Our Nearly Perfect day that did indeed become Perfect.

Shout outs…

Loree Durham (Super woman!) and Jen Harthorne who met with me and planned with me on multiple occasions to make the day perfect. They also were in charge of set up…tear down and drove crazy amounts of stuff to Harstine Island for me. LOVE YOU!!

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Courtney Chaffin (My daughter-in-love) who designed our lovely invitations, programs, and our signs for the wedding. You are THE BEST! Love you!

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My beautiful sister Kristie and my beautiful daughter-in-love Courtney who came up the day before to Harstine with me and scrubbed tables and tied ribbons on pies. We also drove around in the golf carting yelling…SPRING BREAK! Love you!

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Jaylin Lopez who did my hair and makeup and made me look like a princess.  She drove all the way out from North Seattle and trust me when I tell you that was a LONG drive!  Thank you to her Auntie- My Bestie Teresa Ayers for making it all happen.  LOVE you two!

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My awesome Bro Eric Bodeutsch who made our arch for us. I just showed him a picture and he got’er done. Love you!

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Jen Harthorne… AKA.. Jens Blossoms. Thank you for my amazing flowers. You went way beyond of what I ever dreamt of. Thank you for your beautiful heart!

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Allison Fox.. My friend who said to me…I know I’m not getting an invitation to the wedding so I’ll do anything to be there. Put me to work… and boy did we. You made me able to REALLY enjoy the day. You have no idea what a lifesaver you were. Love you Mama!!

(SUPER UPSET WE DO NOT HAVE A PHOTO TOGETHER!!!!)

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Allison is in white pants and working her tail off!  You rock Mama!!

Paulette Bodeutsch… I don’t know what I would do without you. You are always so willing to serve. Thank you for running to the store with all of my frantic requests! And helping the whole entire wedding! (Before and after I might add!)  You have a heart of gold. Love you!!

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Paulette and I on a girls trip.  Once again I can not believe we didn’t get a picture together at the wedding!

Tim’s college buddies Brian and Michael… Thanks for being work horses… You guys were amazing and the burgers were delish! Seriously we do not know what we would of done without you!! If I wrote what you did to help it would be longer than my blog. You are THE BEST!

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Our dear families… You all helped in SO many ways…Thank you! We love you!

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The Rogers Family

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The Bodeutsch / Chaffin Family

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And of course thank you  to our amazing photographer Steve Schmidt @Olyphotos  who really caught the essence of our day.  Thank you so much for your time and care.

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Now please hang on because I am getting to the good part and what I really want to share with you and that is our honeymoon.

Trust me when I tell you this is no normal honeymoon.  It will be my final part to this blog and all about our trip back to my beloved Swaziland.

God is good …all the time.  Thank you once again for love and care.

My American Life – Part 1

It is hard to believe less than a year ago I was still living in Swaziland. SO much has transpired in a very short amount of time. As you may remember leaving Swaziland was one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I left I felt as though my heart was torn in two.

Being back in America is wonderful and not so wonderful at the same time. I love the sense of comfort and how easy everything is here. And yet everyone here seems in such a big hurry, not really happy, and not really grateful for anything. (Ok…Not EVERYONE of course, but just a sense I get as I’m driving down the street.)

I know I am different. I know I do not really fit in anymore.  My outlook on life has changed. I think anyone who has spent any significate time in a 3rd world country would understand this. You just don’t see things the same as you once did.

So here I am trying to fit back into a life that doesn’t really work for me anymore. And so God once again had a big plan…a crazy big plan for my short amount of time since I’ve been home.

A Job

As you know I got home in December. There was lots of processing going on that month. January my dear cousin took me on a super fun trip to CA and I went to Colorado Springs for a debriefing time. I also was just trying to get myself in order. February I worked on my resume and applied for a couple jobs in the Tumwater / Olympia area. I interviewed and was hired with the Tumwater School District as an ELL Para Professional. ELL stands for English Language Learner.

I started work March 1st! I mostly work with Children who speak English as a 2nd language.  Most of these children have recently come from another country such as Saudi Arabia, Korea, Mexico, India, Japan, and even one from Fiji. I work with them one-on-one or in small groups. I can’t tell you how much I love working and building relationships with them. I love to help empower children and build their confidence for success. Being in a different country with a new language is very intimidating, which I totally get after living in Swaziland.

I was rehired with a one year contract for the following school year. This job is such a blessing to me as I have full dental, medical, life insurance, and retirement benefits. This is something I have never had in my life!

My Personal Life

I became engaged on Feb. 14th! All I can say is when you know something is right…and God appointed…well there really is no reason to wait. Tim and I know God brought us together in only a way he could and I’m so thankful to have him in my life. We have similar life experiences, wounds, and faith.   I seriously never saw Tim coming. It is so amazingly outrageous how God brought us together. Is our relationship always perfect or easy? No, not at all. But life and relationships aren’t meant to be that way. It is a constant battle of dying to myself, asking God to change my heart, and helping me do the right thing.

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Tim Proposed to me with a Frozen Olaf Ring at Silver Falls, Oregon on Valentine’s Day.  (The ring he had ordered me had not come in yet)

 

Let’s face it I’ve been single a LONG time….a bit set in my ways. And Tim was a bachelor just long enough for him to have some interesting life habits. (Such as…. a diet of pizza and donuts.)

It was The Swaziland Princess meets the Rogers Rodeo… And Let’s just say there has been a little bit of adjustment time for all of us. (And there still is)

So as we were engaged and I was working for the Tumwater school district I moved in with Tim’s Mom (Bonnie) in Olympia. She was so sweet as she made a room for me. But here is the problem….My life was with Tim and his boys at his house… So I had many late night drives back to Bonnie’s house. SO much back and forth with not much sleep and let’s face it….I’m not 20 anymore. This process about killed me. It was so hard to be constantly going back and forth but I kept telling myself…It’s not forever. A bright spot was Tim’s Mom and I really got to know each other well which probably would not of happened if I didn’t live with her. She is such a kind dear lady. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for her family.

A New Home

After Tim and I were engaged we started the process of blending our stuff together. Tim and his boys were living in a 900 square foot home with 2 bedrooms, one bathroom. A great bachelor pad…but kind of tight for a princess to move into. (3 boys in one bathroom…ewwww!)

Tim and I started looking at houses…but I really had no peace about it. As I was praying about it…I felt God telling me… You have more than enough. Yes… we do. We have more than enough… So we decided to make the best of that small house. We had plans, we went to Ikea and got all sorts of storage options, and we were both purging our things big time. Then the darndest thing happened.

I received a notice in my email from Zillow about a house. I don’t know why I looked at this house but I did. I had a weird feeling that Tim and I should go look at it in person. To make a long story short, we went and looked at it and I knew it was for us. A lot of crazy things happened in the process of buying this house. You could call them coincidences but I know they are God-incidences. You may wonder why God told me I had enough….then the change. But this is what I have learned about God. He wants our obedience. He wants us to let go of our own agenda and trust him. I truly believe God had it all planned out…but it gives Him great pleasure when we surrender our lives and will to His. I’m not perfect at it…but trusting God to His timing and plan is so much better than what I can do in my own flesh.

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Our Sweet New Home in Tumwater, Washington.

 

One of the coolest things about this house is…. Tim and I both left our family homes in our divorces. People don’t really talk about it much but it feels pretty traumatic when that happens. All of a sudden you don’t have a home. Your “spouse” did not have to leave or figure out where to live. They get to live in your family home with the majority of your “things” and I can tell you….it sucks. My story and Tim’s are different but we both were a bit traumatized through that process. This new home feels like God giving us back what we had lost…and not only that but this new home is better than what we both had before.

Even though I knew God’s hand was on us through buying this home, I still had so many fears and doubts it would actually happen. I was so scared it would fall through at any moment. It almost felt like it was too much to hope for. Satan loves to whisper lies in your ears…and I had to fight his constant whispers. I didn’t want to tell anyone that we were buying a house just in case it didn’t happen.

But guess what….Our house closed on July 21st. Exactly 9 days before our wedding. Tim and I are so thankful and feel so blessed to have this home. I’ve been divorced over 15 years and have lived in 8 different homes in that time! There have been many tears of joy and thankfulness for this beautiful home that has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms! (Woo-Hoo…I don’t have to share a bathroom with 3 boys!!!)

Moving into a home one week before your wedding is not something I would recommend but we did it. We literally threw everything into the house. We had friends and family coming from out of town all week long and really had very little time at the house before our wedding. It really was nuts!

Our wedding and honeymoon was so beautiful and special but I think I will save that for my next blog.

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Thank you so much for your love and investment in our lives. We are so blessed to call you our friends. Thank you for seeing me through this process God called me to. I honestly could not of dreamt this if I tried. (And I have a pretty good imagination. Ha!)

Romans 8:28 And we know….that in all things….. God works for the good …of those who love him….who have been called….. according to His purpose.

Friends we’ve all been called to His purpose. Let me encourage you…. God is working for the good for those who love him! I have been on a LONG journey. You may be on a long journey too but stay strong in your faith. God is working for the good. It is in His timing and in His place.   Wait for it… It is so worth it.

Good Gifts

I am home. I’ve been home a little less than a week now. It’s so bizarre at first to be here. It is like a parallel universe. How do these two places exist at the same time? It is hard to grasp. The simple slow paced life of Swazi to the crazy hectic frantic pace of America.

Leaving the farm was just as hard as I knew it would be. Lots of tears. So many goodbyes. So many questions. Little hands on my face…with a sweet little voice that said….Don’t go. Serious sobbing from others. One final dance party and play day with Miss Tiersa. I just really can’t even talk about it without crying. I haven’t felt this raw in a really long time.

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Our sad faces

 

Two really amazing significate things happened in my final days in Swazi.

The first…. A mom whose son I had taught for 2 years at the preschool told me me she had a gift for me. She kept telling me she would bring it….but it just never happened.

I found out later that this mom had just had surgery….and she was in a lot of pain and couldn’t walk very far. So two days before I was to leave she called me and asked if I could meet her at the clinic so she could give me the gift. The Clinic is in the local community. To walk there and back would of taken me a good amount of time. Time that I really did not feel like I had. I was packing and sorting and cleaning my house. My 1st response was….no I don’t have time…. sorry. I thought maybe I could send one of the older kids up to the clinic to meet her for the gift. But then the Holy Spirit started to intervene. Go to the clinic. You have time. Make it work. This matters.

I happened to have the car keys on me for one of the farm vehicles…so I hopped in I and started to drive up. I called Peter real fast to make sure it was ok. He gave me the green light…. I stopped and asked some kids if they wanted to come up with me. They said…. YES…so a bunch of kids piled in and we made our way up to the clinic. It is a quick 10 minute drive and mostly just up our farm road. We sang Christmas songs at the top of our lungs on the way there and back…. it really was a special impromptu last moment with the kids.

Once at the clinic I saw the Mom walking up. She gave me a gift in a Christmas bag. I thanked her and we gave each other a big hug. I told her how much I loved having her son in my class and I would never forget him. We actually didn’t say much to each other. I went back to the car and we drove back to the farm singing….We wish you a Merry Christmas.

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I dropped off the kids….and headed back to my flat to finish up my work. I opened up my gift bag and in it was a pretty big box of chocolates. I was really surprised because I have seen these boxes at the store…and they aren’t cheap. For a rural Swazi I know this is a significate amount of money for them. Once again…I was just so humbled. Then I opened the box. Now let me remind you it has been quite hot in Swaziland. Like over 100 degrees hot. So when I opened the box….well it was like chocolate goo. It was just a melted mess.

I put it in the fridge and went about my business. Later on I started to think about this chocolate…the chocolate goo in my fridge. What a sacrifice it truly was. The little boy in my class has not had properly fitting shoes all year. We seriously had to STUFF his feet into his shoes. I gave up…I couldn’t do it. I have no idea how he got his feet in those shoes that were probably 2 sizes too small. I almost bought him shoes several times. Now of course I wish I did. But there is this fine line you try to walk. Letting people have their dignity. Not always giving them a hand out. You can’t do everything for everyone….  Sometimes it’s really hard to know what the right thing to do is.

Anyhow….I thought…that chocolate cost pretty close to what a new pair of shoes would of cost. That is so humbling to me. That is the most precious box of chocolates I’ve ever gotten. Can you imagine the sacrifice?!? It’s baffling to me. I wish they bought the shoes. Lord knows I didn’t need a box of chocolate….and yet I know there is a message to me in that. It’s Love….Love wins. Love matters. Loving others makes such a difference. What an amazing gift I received once again.

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I am so thankful God called me to Swaziland….just to love. Yes I am proud of the Preschool and all that we accomplished there. But more than that…. I am humbled to have had the honor to love God’s precious children.

 

 

The other gift I received was from Gods hand himself. I still can’t actually believe what happened. When I left for the airport from the farm….I was so incredibly exhausted. I did not sleep. I had to say my final goodbyes….and leave Louie. (Which was just as hard as leaving the children!) I was a wreck. I was just so emotionally spent. I had a 6 hour drive to the airport from the farm and then I had to hang out in the airport for 10 more hours before boarding my flight. (It took me 42 hours to get to SeaTac.)

I was getting ready to board the plane and the ticket agent at the desk said…Oh your seat has been changed. She scratched out my old seat and wrote a new seat number on it. I was a bit annoyed. I knew this flight was FULL…and I had picked a seat I wanted. I thought….awesome…just my luck. Well to my great surprise…my new seat was an aisle seat in the exit row…with tons of leg room. I did not ask for this seat.

I put my stuff away and this young man came up and sat next to me. He reminded me right away of Chance (My son). Same age…similar look…etc. We started to chit chat a bit. He was on his way to Nepal. I was like…OH…my son went to Nepal. He was going on a mission trip. OH…my son went there on a mission trip! What was he doing in Africa? He was working at an orphanage in Mozambique….. OH….I was working at an orphanage in Swaziland. And so the conversations began.

But then something happened. All of a sudden….He was speaking over me. He knew things. Things I did not tell him.  He had a message for me…a message from Jesus…. Jesus was so proud of me. He knew how scared I was to go to Swaziland alone. He was so proud of me for obeying and doing what he asked me to do. I just kind of sat there like….Huh…is this happening?!? He spoke to me many other things. Things I am still processing.

After quite a while….it was lights out on the airplane and I fell asleep. But I was in a lot of pain. I did something to my leg a week or so before. I was quite concerned to fly because it hurt the most when I was sitting. I had people praying for me about this issue. Well when I woke up the young man sitting next to me asked how I slept. I said…Not so great. I explained about my leg. He asked me to touch where it hurt and then he layed hands on me and prayed for my leg to have complete healing. I felt this deep heat and tingling sensation in my leg….and yes you know what happened. The pain went away. And it hasn’t come back.

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That is what a life with God is like. Inconceivable. I don’t think I could make this stuff up if I tried.

Just before I left Swaziland I started listening to a song by Chris Tomlin called Good Good Father….and it starts like this…

Oh I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like but I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night and you tell me that you’re pleased and that I’m never alone. You’re a good, good father. It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are, and I’m loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.

It’s a great song. Look it up if you don’t know it. And boy did I experience that. Exactly. Such a good father. Such a loving heavenly father. I’m constantly in awe of how God shows up and loves me.

Just before I left Swaziland I just really couldn’t pray. It was water works if I tried. I just couldn’t keep it together. Like I said I was so raw.

This morning I came across this passage in Romans…

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

I know this is what happened. The Spirit did the praying for me. God sent a special messenger to me. Such a good good father he is.

I encourage you to read the rest of the passage in Romans 8. Take some time in this crazy season to seek your Fathers Face. Let him speak to you. Let him fill you! I know he wants to.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Thank you for your prayers and kind words of encouragement the past few weeks. It has meant so much to me.

I pray you have a Very Merry Christmas.

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It’s all over but the crying…

Ok that is not exactly true. But trust me when I tell you there has been a lot of crying going on here. There have been too many goodbyes. Goodbyes are not my favorite.

I remember when I was a little girl we would have people come to visit us…and I always hated when they would leave. I’d actually hide in my room so I wouldn’t have to say goodbye. It really is my 1st instinct…to run and hide. Ha. So as you can imagine I’ve really had to push through a lot of goodbyes.

My 1st goodbye was to the Preschool. That was a killer. I cried a lot. I cried everyday. The kids thought I was sick. They asked the other teachers…What is wrong with Miss Tiersa? Is she sick? I finally told them…Yes I’m sick. I’m heart sick. It is because I will miss you so much. They seemed ok with that. One can only suppose what they told their parents. Ha.

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The Preschool graduation was wonderful. All the parents…. Ooed and Awed…at all their children had accomplished. It was pretty fun to see and hear the parent’s reactions.

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There were lots of hugs….and tears….and many goodbyes. The parents were so kind….thanking me for teaching their children. Asking me if I could stay…. just one more year. They said….Shame Miss Tiersa…we are really going to miss you. And I said through my tears….I am really going to miss you too.

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After graduation….as in the same day… I hosted Thanksgiving at my house. We have had a lot of Americans on the farm lately. So it was hotter than blazes…but we had a very enjoyable evening hanging out together and giving thanks.

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Some of the gang for Thanksgiving. 

 

Since then I’ve had to say goodbye to my dearest friends in Swaziland. Ian and Dreshni Carmichael and their adorable children Skylor and Kaleb. They have taken me under their wing when I needed an escape from farm life. Let’s just say I have had a lot of couch time with Dreshni… coffee cup in hand. Saying goodbye to people you love not knowing when you will see them again is always hard. But I have a feeling our paths will cross again very soon.

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Dreshni and I heading out to the Ladies Christmas dinner for church. 

 

After Preschool graduation I still had a couple of days to meet with my dear teachers that I trained and worked with. I love these ladies so much. Let me tell you…they work hard! They walk a long distance to get to school every day….then work their little hearts out. They basically are clean freaks and even if they get all their work done before its time to go home….they won’t leave school early. Me… You’ve done everything already…you can leave 15 minutes early if you want. Them… NO Miss Tiersa. Our time is up at 1 not 12:45.

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Teacher Sibandze and Teacher Mbali. 

 

They have a seriously amazing work ethic. And they are funny! Oh my gosh, we laugh so hard together.

There is a certain Swazi man that had taken a liking to me and boy did they run with it.

All.Year.Long.

He would pop into the preschool every now and again to say Hi. Mind you he knows very little English. They love to tease me about it….so everything we did together…. they made about this man. Let’s say his name is Fred.

We are mopping the floors…they say…Oh Fred will like you know how to mop floors like a Swazi. Let’s say we are getting water from the river… Oh Fred thinks you are ready to come to his homestead…you know how to get water from the river like a Swazi. Let’s say cows are walking by the school….Oh Fred wants to pay many cows for you…Babe Kopp will be very angry that you are losing the farm money by not marrying Fred and getting him cows like a Swazi.

They go on and on… I always say….Stop it! You know I have a special friend in America. But like I said they just love to tease me. (They love Mr. Tim-o-thy too….They say to me….Eish…..This man I tell you…he is very handsome….I tell you…..He looks like a millionaire!)

Well they really surprised me by giving me a very beautiful gift. They gave me a beautiful Swazi dress with a headdress called a liduku (lee-doo-goo). I wanted a Swazi dress but I didn’t think I would have time to have one made. I don’t know what it cost for them to have it made for me…but I do know it probably cost more than what they could afford.  It was a real sacrifice….this I am sure of. SO I put on this beautiful Swazi dress with the liduku. And let me tell you… I got lots of looks and smiles. Everywhere I went I was told Miss Tiersa….You look very beautiful.

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And of course my teachers could not help themselves… They said…Now you look like a real Swazi…Fred will be ready to marry you since you have the dress and liduku.

I just was so blessed to work alongside these two amazing women for two years. So saying goodbye once again….SO hard. Cried my eyes out.

And every day it’s a new goodbye. Last night at Prayers I talked to all the children and the Makes on the farm. Letting them know how much I loved them but my time at New Life Homes is coming to an end. I was able to share that I hope to come back someday soon and how thankful I am that God sent me here. I told them how much I love Swaziland and my time with them.   That I know God put His love in my heart for them. I wanted them to know I would never forget them and our time together.

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I’m going to miss these faces!

 

Before Prayers I had a little surprise or as Tim likes to call it a “God Nugget” happen. I had a parent come for a visit. Her name is Make Dludlu and many, many blog posts ago I wrote about her and her family. At that time she was the headmaster of the school and her family took in her husbands, brothers, daughter when she was abandoned. (The brother was killed when the Mom was pregnant with her.)

Make Dludlu wanted to thank me for teaching her children….and then she said something that I really needed to hear. She said… You know Sisi… You have taught me something. You taught me how important it is to show love to our children. When European foreigners or Americans come to Swaziland…we always wonder why. I wonder…Do they want a slave? Do they want to make a lot of money so they come here because their government pays them to come? (This is a common misconception here. That the American Government is paying us to come to Swaziland.)  But you….I know exactly why you are here. God sent you here to love our children. My children have never felt so loved by someone.

Yes I cried once again. Because now that’s its almost over… I started to wonder….Did I do enough? Did I fulfill my purpose here? Could I have done more?

And yet I know that is what God told me to do. Go love these children. Tell them I love them. Show them my love. Be my hands and feet to them.

And today as I was reading my Bible I came across these verses in Isaiah 55:8-11.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  

God is in control. What He has deemed and said…. Has been accomplished here. I needed to hear that too. I can fret my life away or I can cling to this promise. God is God. He is Almighty. He knows what he is doing. I can be plagued with insecurity or I can believe in what He has done. He spoke it….it will not return empty. What a blessing to know that it has nothing to do with my ability or whether or not I did enough…. If God spoke it…It was accomplished.

I hope this can speak into your life today too. Sometimes we just think….its all about us…. What we did or didn’t do. But God says…My ways and thoughts are higher than yours.

If God has called you to something…stay faithful and know HIS purpose will be fulfilled. It may not look like anything we ever envisioned or how we thought it should go or turn out….but that’s not for us to say. God says it will not return empty. Stand firm in this promise. And let your doubts and insecurities go. Those definitely are not from God.

SO I had more goodbyes today. I said goodbye to my neighbors Tommy and Mandi Bottoms and their sweet baby Avery as they are traveling to the states to visit family for Christmas. I also said goodbye to Mary Jean Kopp as she is traveling home to help her family as her mother recently passed away. Yes lots of tears.

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Sweetest baby EVER!  Avery Grace Bottoms. 

 

I have 4 days left on the farm. My last official goodbyes will be to Louie and Peter Kopp. After that I’m hoping I can dry my eyes out. But having wet eyes isn’t such a bad thing. It means I loved and gave a bit of my heart away…… That is a good thing because we know….

Love always wins.

Thanks for your prayers. Keep them coming!

I’ll be home very soon…

Hot Topics

So heres the thing. We all don’t have to agree on everything. I may feel strongly about something and you may feel strongly about something else.

If you have a pang in your heart for homeless vets or homeless families then guess what? God put that pang there. That is your calling. That is your deal. Do something about it.

If God puts a pang in your heart for orphans and widows….then guess what…You should move to Swaziland. Ok maybe that is not going to happen but you get what I am saying…. You will be stirred to do something for orphans and widows.

I truly believe God gives us all very different passions and gifts. They should not all be the same. In 1 Corinthians 12 it talks about how our human body is a unit made up of many parts. It compares it to being a Christian…we are one body…but we all have different parts to that body. God made us all unique with different gifts and passions.

So why would I ever criticize someone else for their God given passion…..their “part” in the body. I wouldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t fight about it on Facebook. The truth is we all are accountable to God for our actions and what we do and don’t do with our life.

Living in a developing country for 2 years now has made me appreciate so much being an American. We are a blessed nation. We really have no idea how good we have it.

But honestly I don’t want my 1st identity to be that I am an American. I want my first identity to be….. I am a Christian….I am a follower of Jesus. The fact that I am an American is a dead giveaway anywhere I go in foreign countries because of my accent. (Them…OH…You are an American….I love your accent. Me….Yes I am an American but I don’t have an accent. Them…Yes you do. ) Ha.

What is my dead giveaway that I am a follower of Jesus? That is a harder question to answer.

I would hope it is because….

I am loving my neighbor as myself.

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I love how it is written in The Message Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 7

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of rusty gate.

If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all of his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Loves cares more for others than self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first”, Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

Then in verse 13 it goes on to say…. But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Let’s face these are daunting scary times. But fear should never be a factor in how we live or love others.

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If I had a dollar for every time someone looked at me sideways when I said I was going to move to Africa for 2 years I’d be one wealthy girl. One person I ran into….when they found out I was going to Swaziland they blurted out…. WHY?? Do you know how dangerous it is in Africa?!? (FYI…Swaziland is probably one of the safest countries in Africa)

I tried really hard not to be insulted….but I wonder how insulted God was. He was the one who called me here. I actually had friends betting on me whether I would make it the full two years or not. How’s that for confidence? But the truth is…. My friends were right. I don’t have it in me. But with God all things are possible.

Am I perfectly safe in Swaziland? No. Am I ever scared? Yes. Did bad things happen while I was here? Yes. (And are we truly safe anywhere…No!)

But I realized sometimes worst fears can happen. And God uses it. It actually has built my confidence in God. I know He is with me. I know He will see me through. Let’s face it BAD THINGS happen and will happen all the time. You can try with all your might to control a situation…. But the truth is there is really very little we can control. So why not submit to God. Why not love our neighbor as ourselves. Why not show a hurting world a love only God can give.

My point to writing this blog is to encourage you to do your part. Be brave. Fight the good fight and let others do their part. Let’s not criticize each other. What good does that do? None actually. If we are loving others….and that is ANYONE… no matter their race, religious beliefs, or ethnic back ground…. it is a win for righteousness. It matters more than we could ever truly know.

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Yes lets be wise. Let’s pray and ask God for wisdom and strength and a love for others only He can give.

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest. People who work for peace in a peaceful way plant a good crop of right-living.

My Prayer as Christians we can walk in God’s wisdom and love for others. And certainly remember…… We are all on the same team. No need to get nasty or rude. Let’s all just do “our” part to what God is calling us to.

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A Whirling Dervish…

So a whirling dervish is a real thing…who knew? I did not until my friend and mentor Machelle Beilke came to visit me in Swaziland. I thought it was just a made up thing like the cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil that spins uncontrollably around.   But Machelle showed me these amazing pictures from when she was in Turkey of these men dancing in white robes whirling around. It was quite impressive actually.

My life has felt like a whirling dervish lately, spinning around, and around, and around. Many of you know I went home for my son’s wedding in September. My time home was incredibly busy and beyond full.

The wedding was beautiful. I enjoyed every minute of it. The preparation was intense but I’ll tell you what. God put an AMAZING army of people around us for this wedding. I could write for hours about my dear friends and family who went SO beyond the call of duty to help us pull this day off. Mind you…. Some of these people weren’t even invited to the wedding because Chance and Courtney had to cap the guest list at 250 people!

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Such a BEAUTIFUL day!

C&C surrounded themselves with their church and college friends, along with people who meant the most to them throughout their childhood years. Unfortunately that meant some of my personal friends and more distant family members were not invited to the wedding. But it just goes to show you….when people really have God’s love in their heart, it’s not about them or hurt feelings… It’s about being a blessing to others. I can’t tell you how blessed we were with amazing friends and family.

I was a proud Mama and as I said, the day was so very beautiful full of love, laughter, and faith. My Mama heart was overflowing.

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My precious son.

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So much love!

I have been back in Swaziland for a while now and it is the final count down. My leave date is Mid December. I can’t believe I am saying this. It is so bitter sweet. Today as I was teaching I was choking back tears. It is so hard to imagine not being here. I pray I have done the job here God called me to do.

Saying goodbye will be the hardest part by far. I love these children so much. I love the teachers I work with. I love my simple Swazi life. I don’t know how I will leave Louie. I love Mary Jean and Peter Kopp and my neighbors Tommy and Mandi Bottoms and their precious new baby girl Avery. We are a family now.

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Some of my New Life Homes Farm Family.

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Sweet little Avery hanging out with Auntie Tiersa.

But…. I miss home. I miss my son and my new daughter-in-love. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my church. I miss the man I have fallen in love with. I miss my dog Frankie. I miss having a life outside of the farm here.

SO you see…. There is no easy answer for me. It is like my heart will forever be torn in two. I want both of my worlds together….and that is never going to happen. So I am praying for strength and wisdom. I am praying to finish strong at the farm. I am praying when I leave every child and adult will know I love them and I am so thankful God brought them into my life. I am praying that God will bring me back to New Life Homes for a visit very soon and I can still be a part of the work that goes on here. I am praying for a lot of things.

I hope you will pray for me too.

Please pray for my financial support. My support has really been low lately. I am at my two year mark….but I made a commitment to stay through the end of the school year in December. I need to be able to make it for several more months. When I arrive home in December I will have a time of re-adjustment. I will be going to a de-briefing program in January that will help me process my experiences in Swaziland.

I will be connecting and saying thank you to people like you….who have been so supportive throughout this endeavor.

God has already provided in such miraculous ways. I know he will see me through as I am reminded in Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Please pray as when I get home I will be looking for a job and a place to live. I know God has a plan for these things but pray I will be patient and faithful and rely on his timing.

Please pray for Preschool graduation that is coming at the end of Nov. This is a very big day for the Preschool and we pray that God would be evident in this day and it will go well. (It is a TON of work!! But SO cute.)

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I’m going to miss this.

Thank you again for your time, care, and prayers. I am in awe of all that God has done in these two years. I couldn’t of done it with you. Thank you for caring about God’s precious children. They really matter to him.

I’m still so amazed at how God works. God took someone (Me) who pretty much hates any discomfort of any kind and put her (and by her I mean…me) somewhere extremely uncomfortable….where she (yes… me again) not only found herself, but also had the grandest adventure of her life. And if you know me (the REAL me) …you know…. this is not really me. I don’t have it in me…but with God in me…all things are possible. It is the truth. I am living proof of that.

He took a city slicker, put her on a farm in the middle of rural Swaziland, mended her broken heart and gave her more love and joy and contentment than she could of ever imagined.

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It is true…. God’s ways are usually not our ways…they are so much better.

Whatever God is calling you to….. I hope you listen. I hope you step out and do that really uncomfortable thing that is on your heart and mind. I know it is scary. But trust me….. it will be worth it.

** Wedding Photo Credit to Lisa Hystek Photography!  SOOOO Amazing! Love you friend.

Dreams, Puppies, and Rain boots…

Time is a flying here at New Life Homes. It is July. The school is year is half over. BIG GULP! That seems impossible and yet it is not. I can’t help but start to think my time is winding down here in Swaziland.

I am the kind of person that mentally tries to prepare for something before it happens. We all know life can and will throw you a curve ball but if I know something is on the horizon I will mentally start to prepare for it WAY before its time. For example….. I am a divorced Mom. The years I knew I would not have my son for Christmas I would think about it, process it, and cry about it in Aug. (For days!) Then in December when the day actually arrived I was fine. I had already grieved it and let it go by that point. Let’s just say the same thing is happening here. I am starting to process and grieve my departure in Dec. I have found myself getting emotional around the children and in my classroom. I’m wiping away tears a lot as I am trying to keep a mental picture of my life here and all who is in it. I have tears right now even as I type this.

My Dream

So I had a dream the other night…. In my dream I had upset some government official in Swaziland. They were kicking me out of the country. (I have no idea why) I was pleading my case with her. Telling her all the reasons I should stay etc. She didn’t care. She told me I had until July 4th to get out and then she said….And you can never come back. I lost it in my dream. I started sobbing.   I kept saying over and over again….I’m not ready to go…..I’m not ready to go.   Then I woke up….and the sobbing continued. I sobbed my eyes out. I had to get out of bed and get tissue…and I kept saying…I’m not ready to go. It took me awhile to settle down and realize it was only a dream and I didn’t have to go. So I think it’s safe to say, I’m not ready to go yet.    I want to make these last few months count. Please pray God will help prepare my heart for when it is time to leave. I know it will be very hard to say goodbye.

Not ready to leave my Swazi family yet!

Not ready to leave my Swazi family yet!

The Puppies

If you remember a blog awhile back titled….My not so Holy week… you may recall Boss our farm dog was in heat. Well…something good did end up coming out of that hellish week.  Boss became pregnant and recently had her puppies…and yes…. you guessed it…..Louie is the proud Papa.

And let me tell you…. they are SOOOOO CUTE!

Sweet puppy just days old.

Sweet puppy just days old.

To say I have been obsessed with the puppies since they have been born would be a bit of an understatement. I eat, live, and breathe the puppies.

I wasn’t weird enough being the lady who walks her dog on a belt. (What the local Swazi’s call the leash I walk Louie on) I now sit with puppies and tell them…Don’t worry Go-Go’s here.   (That’s siSwati for Grandmother) The local Swazi’s here just really don’t know what to think of me. The other day after school I was sitting on a towel in the puppy pen and one of the older grade teachers walked by. She said….Sis Tiersa….WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!? I said…. I am sitting with the puppies…. She said an exasperated…..WHY?!? I said…. Because I like to. She said BUT WHY?!? I said…Because they are my grand pups. I’m their Go-Go.

She looked at me like I was mad….then started to laugh…and walked off. I think I probably have lost my mind a wee little bit. Ha!

Boss gave birth to 10 pups but 3 died un-expectantly. It was a very sad day. 7 are left. Their names are Lily, Lucy, Lola, Junior, Goliath, and Tiger. One is un-named. He’s a cute little guy. Super sweet. But I ran out of names and nothing has grabbed me yet. BUT….We are getting ready to sell them. One actually went today. (Lily) Sniff sniff…. So I am enjoying the puppies while they are here… I think part of my legacy will be the Crazy white lady who loved dogs….aieesh….too much!

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Rain Boots

One of the things I have loved about being here is watching God stir people’s hearts for the children. I simply share my life on Facebook or whatever and God starts to move. So awhile back I had some pictures on Facebook of some soaking wet children who had walked to school. I said something like….The #1 reason I do not like rain on school days. Children come to school soaking wet. I only have 3 children from New Life Homes in my classroom. The other 19 children walk a couple of miles or more to school every day.

Well God did what he does…and he stirred my sweet friend’s heart. She simply couldn’t stand seeing soaking wet children. So she organized Operation Raingear. Let me tell you….All she had to do was ask and people gave in a BIG way. She started out just asking for new or gently used rain boots for the kids. Not only did she get rain boots but socks (Like a bazillion socks), umbrellas, rain coats, fruit snacks, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Even rain boots for the teachers!! Seriously! People also donated 2 suitcases and all the money it would cost for me to take everything back when I was home for my son’s graduation. I literally picked up the packed suitcases, gave her a giant hug, and went on my way. Like the easiest thing that has EVER happened for my time in Swaziland. Super Easy Breezy.

She of course was blessed… because when you obey that little voice in your head that is gently nodding you to do something…..and you do it….you can’t help but be blessed. The joy you receive is amazing. And I am so proud of her for listening to God and obeying his nudge. It could have been so easy for her to say…I’m too busy…Maybe next time…. She has 3 precious little girls and there is no doubt in my mind she is a VERY busy Mommy. But she listened. She obeyed. YAY!   One more step in victory. How fabulous is that?!?

To say the kids were thrilled is an understatement. The kids were so cute.  They actually wanted to go home right away to show off their rain boots. If you go to my Facebook page Miss Tiersa goes to teach in Swaziland you can find videos of the kids receiving their gifts. They were pretty stoked.

Some happy children!

Some happy children!

I of course received all the praise….and I kept telling everyone. It wasn’t me. Friends that love you from far away did this for you. I just brought it. But my teachers said….Yes but you told them about us. They wouldn’t know anything about us if it wasn’t for you. Ok they might of gotten me there. But that is the easy part. I just share a little bit of my life….and God starts stirring hearts. I love it!

A BIG THANK YOU Maya! You did a really great thing for these little ones.

Matthew 26: 35-40

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?

The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it for me.

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A Work in Progress…

I guess if I could define myself it would be that in a nutshell. I have so much to learn. So much God is working on me. I don’t know if you can relate but I spent a lot of my life doing things MY way. Yes I loved God. Yes I went to church. Yes I wanted to serve him. Yes I told many little ones of God’s love for them. But I never really trusted God with the details of my life. I felt like I could “Control” or “Manage” things better on my own.   Let me tell you that didn’t work out very well for me. It made for a lot of heartbreak….. A lot of wrong roads……. And brought me a lot of disappointment in my life.

Recently I came home for my son’s graduation at Washington State University.  (GOCOUGS!) It was a whirlwind trip. I tried to keep it more of a private time with my family while I was home. There were some pretty crazy things that happened.

Proud Mama with her boy!

For starters…..One of my dearest friends died un-expectantly. I felt so blessed as I was able to see her 2 days before she died and give her a hug and tell her I loved her. Such a gift from God but also so heartbreaking.

Three days later my son became engaged! It was so special to be a part of the proposal and to be able to celebrate it with my family. I will be coming home again for the wedding in Sept. Everything I never imagined could happen….has happened in a year and a half since I’ve come to Swaziland. It really is mind blowing.

Chance and Courtney are engaged.

But God showed up in such a big way at my son’s graduation. I am going to try to tell this story as delicately as I can. As you can imagine in divorce situations…. times like graduations and weddings can prove to be very stressful. You have two different sides of the family that for many reasons don’t get along. A lot of times kids feel put in the middle and feel like they have to choose sides. They just want to have their Mom and Dad there….and they want everyone to get along. Sounds simple enough…. right….   Well this has not always happened for my son.

Divorce has a trail of bitterness that can last forever. I think everyone knows what I am talking about. If you come from a divorced family or are divorced yourself….. you get it. So Chances graduation had the potential to be really uncomfortable to downright hostile. It was worrisome for Chance and it was worrisome for me.  So I began to pray about it. I prayed for peace. I prayed we could all come together for Chance. I prayed that if I needed to be the “bigger” person I could for the sake of Chance. Well God had other ideas in store.

In trying to be sensitive to the situation….I am not going to tell you all the details. But it ended up being an amazing day. There was so much kindness and love that surrounded Chance that day. We all came together and just celebrated Chance. We celebrated the amazing young man he has become and all that he had accomplished at WSU in 4 years.

There was no need to be the “better” person because I simply wasn’t it. I was beat to the punchline by Chance’s grandparents from his father’s side who set the tone for the day, by saving seats for everyone (My family included) at the graduation ceremony. I was so humbled and in awe of what God was doing. Four years earlier at Chance’s high school graduation we all couldn’t even look at each other.   There was no love lost. This time we were all sitting together, hugging, and giving high fives all around.  It was so different. I felt like I was in the twilight zone at times.

Chance with his Dad and Mom on Graduation Day.

I know they say time heals all wounds….but I don’t really think that is always true. I know some pretty bitter people out there….decades and decades after they have been hurt by someone they are still hell-bent on hanging on to their bitterness.

I know God was at work. God had mended some wounds and broken hearts. And God heard and answered my prayers.

So what was a weekend I was dreading ended up being a weekend of God’s amazing goodness and grace. I was really emotional the whole weekend and just in awe of God and how he works. I never thought that kind of peace for us and my son would happen.

Courtney, Chance, my brother Eric, and proud Mama.

So my point is this. God is working on me. Still. He is telling me to trust him with my life….every single detail. Every single wound. Every single insecurity I have. Give it to him….and trust. Let it go into his very capable hands. And honestly I never want to go back to that girl who thought she had to know and control everything. She just spun in the sand. She didn’t really go anywhere…..

I know this blog is mostly personal but I hoped I could share how God is working in my life. Even when I am 8000 miles away from home…. he is working behind the scenes.

After graduation Chance came back to Swaziland with me and I am hoping he will share some of his experiences he had here in my next blog. It was such a special time for me to have him here in my Swazi world.

Psalm 31:23&24 ~ The Message

Love God, all you saints; God takes care of those who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.

Boy did he show up! Don’t go it alone….don’t take things into your own hands. Give it to him. Let Him show you….How he loves and cares for you. But you have to let him. I pray you can.

Thank you again for all of your love and support. I am so blessed to have such dear people Like YOU in my life.

My Not So Holy Week….

This week. This week has been a doosey. It started with crazed dogs. Crazed dogs in heat. Let me just say…. not really experiencing anything like this before I am in awe and I have a whole new level of respect for the saying….Like a dog in heat. This is serious business.

Louie on the right and his BFF Boss on the left.

Louie on the right and his BFF Boss on the left.

Our trusty farm dog Boss went into heat. (Yes don’t ask me why She is named Boss… I didn’t name her.) My dog Louie and our other farm dog Spotty are males. I’m sure you know where this story is going. Louie is a Big dog …Spotty is a little dog ….But that didn’t seem to matter to either dog. They both wanted “time” with Boss and weren’t willing to share her.

I’ve had to keep Louie on his chain at our house more than usual. Louie has been beside himself all week. He refuses to eat. He howls at the top of his lungs. I gave him a chip to eat….something he usually will gobble out of my hand….He spit it out at me. He is REALLY bent out of shape that he can’t be with his beloved Boss.

So about mid-week Louie started breaking off his chain. I have no idea how…he is like Houdini or something. He ran straight to school where Boss and Spotty were hanging out. Well Spotty was not happy to see Louie….and so ensued the biggest dog fight ever….right at school with all the kids watching. Mandi had to grab her broom and try to wack them apart. It was horrible….blood everywhere. Not good.

After breaking up the fight I drug Louie home and tried to clean him up. He was a mess and so was I at this point. This similar scenario happened 3 more times during the week. (Super Fun and Awesome) I ended up putting Louie in my bathroom when I went to school because I just could not keep him on his chain.

Thankfully Boss seems to be out of heat now and the dogs have gone back to normal. It’s amazing. Louie ate 3 bowls of food last night and him and Spotty were like…Hey what’s up…. when they saw each other. No problem.

Besides dog madness…..I got to help bottle feed premature baby goats (Yes they were SUPER cute but one died… So sad…) and Oh some of the calves are weening….so they moo’d all night right by my window. Perfect…Who needs sleep….

But the thing that almost put me over the edge this week was some of my students were missing for school on Thursday. I had a parent call me wanting to know what time school was out because of the Eater holiday. I was surprised she was calling me because her daughter wasn’t at school. There actually were 5 children missing from school but we thought it was due to the Easter holiday. Many families travel a long distance for Easter services and leave on Thursday so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for some children not to be there. And as I have stated before….. communication with parents is an issue so it’s hard to know at times what is going on.

When she was told her daughter wasn’t at school…she was very concerned. She said…..I sent her to school on the Kumbi (a public transport vehicle) early this morning. She should be there. School had started 45 minutes ago. It was very late for children not to be there. They usually are early.

When I hear things like this …..it literally feels like my heart will stop. I go into worse-case scenario mode. I started to pray…Lord please help us find her.

I headed out the door telling my teachers I am going to look for her. I called the Mom back….asking where should I start to look. In the distance I see 5 little children walking…. I start to run towards them. Sure enough it is my little ones.

They are looking at me with HUGE eyes….like…Oh why is Miss Tiersa running to us. And then I talk to them in my very stern Miss Tiersa voice.

Me: Where have you been?

Them: Big Eyes…. No answer

Me: You are late!! Where have you been?

Them: Big eyes…. No answer.

Me: I was worried about you! Mom called. She said you should have been at school. Where were you??

Them: We were playing at the river. (Teenie tiny barely audible voice)

Me: You can’t play at the river. You have to come straight to school. The river isn’t safe. I was worried. I thought something bad happened to you.

So I marched them to school and then I had one of the teachers speak to them in SiSwati and tell them what I told them in English because I wanted to make sure they understood perfectly well what I was saying.

Later of course they got a kinder gentler Miss Tiersa saying…Please don’t do that again. You scared me. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. And then we moved on with smiles, hugs, and kisses.

But the truth of the matter is…. it is so easy to go into worse case senarios here because they happen a lot. Children are sexually assaulted when they walk to school. This is not the 1st time I’ve ran after children who could be in trouble.

And this week….this week that should be reflective and feel holy for what Christ has done for us…..has felt anything but. It’s felt like madness.

And I started to think about it. I’ve noticed the past few years… Satan has this diversion tactic. He throws whatever he can to divert our attention from what God has done for us. Maybe you have noticed it too. We are so stressed out that we barely even acknowledge what really matters at Christmas and Easter.

The Easter story is so special to me. I cry every time I tell it to my preschoolers. I see their precious faces and see their child-like faith and I get it. That is hard to do though when your dog is fighting outside your classroom door and your children are missing from your class. (And a million other little things that are going on)

Grade 1 and 2 sharing about Easter.

Grade 1 and 2 sharing about Easter.

My prayer for me and for you is…. That we will be still. We will take a moment and really absorb what Christ did for us on the cross.  Go get your Bible. Read Isaiah 53. Let those words sink into your soul.

He was despised and rejected. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. He was lead like a lamb to the slaughter. By His wounds we are healed. Please read it….so good.

It is a holy week. It is a holy weekend. Satan would love for you to think otherwise. He’d love for you to be too stressed out to notice or even care at this point.

But it’s worth remembering. It’s worth living and fighting for. It’s worth dying for….. 150 innocent people were murdered in Kenya this past week simply because they were Christians.

Yes Satan would love to throw you off…. But the truth is. Because of Christ…. death has been defeated. Because of Christ…to die is gain. Because of Christ…. I have an everlasting hope and future.

God is so good. All the time. Let’s not forget it. Even when it feels like an unholy week.

Colossians 2:13-14

You were dead because of your sins and your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Making Progress…

I’ve been back in Swaziland about 2 months already. Hard to believe. Time goes so fast here! Teaching Preschool and Grade 0 is always very challenging in the beginning. Imagine working with children who literally have no idea what you are saying. The blank stares I get and blinking eyes of no recognition are a bit overwhelming and bewildering at times. I know repetition is key…and I literally say things over and over and over. Usually to each child individually (that’s 22 times saying… Look at me…or point to letter D…. or sit down…or countless other things.)

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I asked my teachers I work with…Is it just me or do these kids understand even less than the kids last year. The teachers said to me….No… it’s just you. This is normal. You forgot.

Yes I did.

There are 8 children in the preschool and 14 in the grade 0. My patience and energy levels are challenged every day. Let’s just say some days are better than others. It also has been extremely hot here. Last night at 10 pm it was still 80 degrees. The power has been going out a lot which also just makes everything that much harder. No fan at night = No great sleep = cranky teacher.

Yes it is challenging….but of course I knew that it would be. It is all part of the process. Dying to oneself is a daily challenge here. I can get bent out of shape about it…. (which honestly what good would that do!?!) Or I can trust God that he is using all of this to mold me to be the person he wants me to be. Of course every great challenge has great rewards.

The children that were in my Grade 0 class last year are doing great in Grade 1. Mary Jean told me they are probably the strongest class she has ever seen go into grade 1. Coming from her I take that as a great compliment.

This year there have been some pretty funny stories already. One of the Swazi teachers heard some of the preschoolers talking in SiSwati as they were walking home. One said to the other….That white teacher doesn’t listen very well. I keep telling her I need to use the toilet and she won’t answer me. Ha! Needless to say I now know the SiSwati word for toilet.

And there is a rumor I have a baby in the class. Phiwo our little albino girl is very confusing to the kids here. They just don’t understand why she is white…So one of the little girls in the class told her Mom…Miss Tiersa has a white baby at school…but she speaks SiSwati. The Mom asked one of the teachers if I had a baby. The teacher said…Yes… thinking she was talking about my son (my 22 year old baby) And the Mom said…. How does her baby know SiSwati? Make Sibandze was confused and then the Mom explained what the little girl had said. We all had a good laugh about it.

My Swazi Baby Phiwo.

My Swazi Baby Phiwo.

In mid-February I had a meeting with all the parents of the Preschoolers and Grade 0 students. This is a REALLY big day for me. It is my one shot to really communicate with the parents. I may not see them again until the end of the year at graduation. We go over everything from what we will be learning in the class, to brain development for preschoolers, how much sleep the children need, food and nutrient, healthy habits, and getting the children to and from school safely. I have to say I just love these parents. They really listen. They really want to do what is right for their children but are lacking just some very basic knowledge. It is culture vs. education. It is a hard barrier to break through.

I don’t claim to be all knowing but I have 20 years of early childhood experience. And I love their children. I truly want what is best for them. So I spoke rather boldly. I expressed I knew we wanted the same things for their children. That God made them and knew them before they were born. That God has a good plan and purpose for their lives and as parents and as their teacher we all needed to do our part. God has entrusted them to us while they are so young and vulnerable and we need to help them grow into healthy strong children.

It was really exciting to see the parents come together after the meeting and make a plan on how to get their children to and from school safely. The next day after talking about nutrition kids had fruit, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, and MILK in their snacks.  I was over joyed. Parents are communicating with me in their child’s communication notebooks. That is a very hard thing to do here…with language barriers and not a lot of media options.

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The bottom line is we are talking. We are working together. We have mutual respect. We are making progress. And that makes it all worth it. I don’t know what the future holds (and BTW…neither do you…) But I do know God is in control. He is using every hardship, every trial to mold us. And when you look at this big dark world….and all the horrors that seem to be screaming in every headline lately…. know there is light. There is good…there is a wonderful Savior who hasn’t forgotten his children.

Sometimes it is hard to see… Sometimes I am so wrapped up in myself and my discomfort that I almost miss the miracles that are right in front of my eyes. I pray that you too will open your eyes…and see what God has in store for you. It will probably start with something like….Loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s definitely a good place to start.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and support. I am so blessed by my faithful friends who are constantly lifting me up in prayer and reaching out to me.  It means more to me than I could ever express.

*Sammie Update: Sammie is home and to the best of my knowledge is feeling better.  Still not 100% yet . No tests have come back conclusive yet as to what is ailing her. Thank you for all of your prayers for her. I know her family is very appreciative.