Weird. This word comes through our home more often these days than it has in days past. “That’s a weird-looking tree.” “How weird was that bug?” “Did you taste that weird food?”  “What a weird feeling to be here now.” It’s the new normal for us. Wisdom from my father comes back to me in regards to this odd word; rather than looking at something new and different as weird and unacceptable, consider looking at it with the mindset, “I’m probably weird to them.” So as we are here in this new place with so many things different than we are used to, rather than turning our noses up at everything we come across, we are trying to embrace a new normal when our normal is so far away. It does seem to make things a little easier, open our minds a little further, and give us a little better perspective on the gift of life we've received.

On that account, as my mind wanders towards home during this joyful and festive season, I just want to make note of some of those “weird” things so that one day we can look back on them and think, “Wasn’t that weird?” followed by, “I’m glad we experienced that.” :) This post could lend itself more to our personal scrapbooking interests than actually sharing some brilliant truths for you as the readers, so no pressure to stick with me.

Here it is…things we notice, things we experience, things we miss, and things we love. And no matter how insignificant they seem, they are all parts of the way God is shaping us with His strong, gentle hands - shaping us to be flexible, to be grateful, to notice Him, to seek Truth, to love intentionally, to fend off frustration, to choose joy, to release our grip on “stuff,” and to lend ourselves toward laughter.

We haven’t showered in almost 3 months! But…we take baths! (Ha! Did I get you with that one?) This was a big adjustment at first, and now it’s just part of getting ready on any normal day. It’s especially nice when Taylor finishes picking tomatoes and his bath water turns green! Let’s just say I am faithful to my Saturday morning house cleaning! A bath is nice. It forces you to slow down and breathe, which is not a bad thing.

It’s funny that you can drive for 20+ years on one side of the road and within 3 months of switching it around, you’re not quite so sure what’s natural anymore! Thank the Lord that this adjustment came fairly quickly. There were a few close calls along the way, but we can now turn right without having to remind ourselves that we are crossing over traffic. We occasionally still attempt to unlock the passenger door to drive home from the grocery, and I’m especially vulnerable to wrong-side driving when I’m giving a tour and chatting away, but for the most part we have mastered it!

At the grocery the other day, there was a big sign that said “Get your Christmas fruit!” and you’ll never guess what it was advertising.... Canteloupe. Never in my life has cantaloupe been in my Christmas recollections. But you better believe that this year was the year! “Spanspek” is what they call the orange melon here and it is a tasty summer treat on our summery Christmas table. Also on the menu… watermelon! http:// photo C053F3B0-84C8-4068-A153-301038CD5602_zpsjxsk02zu.jpg We miss birds with songs! There are a lot of birds here, but not many that you can whistle back at. Don’t think it stops my sweet husband from speaking their noises back to them though… he likes to think he is one with nature and carries on consistent conversations with them from our porch. However, there are a few “honkers” that like to land on our straw roof right beside our heads in the morning that we must admit have fallen victim to Taylor’s sling shot. But hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

http:// photo IMG_3734_zps93d0abc2.jpg The sun is HOT. The temperature is usually nice, the breeze is always blowing (and sometimes blunt force winds!), but direct sunlight will scorch your skin right up! Taylor was burned through his t-shirt a few weeks ago! Let’s just say sunscreen is a must around here. Thank goodness Santa sent us some early this year because Mrs. Clause knew summer was approaching and kindly reminded us that “melanoma is a horrible thing.” Thanks Santa!

We love the relationships here. Time in America is beneficial for accomplishing tasks, and time in Africa is relational. It challenges me, indeed, to remember that the most important thing is not always my checklist, but the person in front of me. Taylor and I are learning from the people here. “How are you?” carries meaning with it. “ I need to talk” always creates time. What a blessing it is to be brought back to what God really cares about…His people.

http:// photo F367457F-F4D3-4D4C-AD72-31A038DF4947_zps9r9vj8ba.jpg Just a side note for a funny story: we have been here since October 8., I go to brush my teeth one November night (one month into our time in Africa) and find that my toothbrush is wet. I ask Taylor about it and he responds with, “Oh wait…your toothbrush is the red one?” Oh marriage.

Haagen Dazs ice cream is $9 a pint. We opted for a new brand and we are satisfied…because what ice cream that your husband would eat in one sitting is worth 10% of your grocery budget?!

We love tea and biscuits! A normal night for us consists of hot tea and these delightfully delicious cookies called Choc-kits. Oh man. Can't even talk about them without wanting one. Weird that my southern farm-raised man enjoys this? Probably. Do we care? No way! We're just assimilating! Mmm! :)

The work-week is the work-week and weekends are weekends. You soak in your Saturdays and you rest on Sundays. Granted, you must remember to grocery shop and pick up that thing you needed at the drug store beforehand, but the rest is nice. I’m probably weird to them when I insist upon getting this and that done on the Lord’s day. The Sabbath is honored here and it just feels right. Wonder why?

Salad dressing consists of oil and balsamic vinegar. That’s about it. Healthy? Of course. Delicious? Sometimes. But for those who have tasted the glories of ranch dressing, you find there is quite the void when a cobb salad is delivered to your table. Thankful for care packages from ERBC preschool to fill our void!

http:// photo F8CA67D4-4C5B-40AA-9068-573B0300B9FA_zpsmk3ozzow.jpg On another note- bread, cheese, and pizza are exceptional here! We must remind ourselves that calories are the same in Africa as they are in America! We sure do enjoy a Gouda grilled cheese though! We have to hold our breath and brave the walk of temptation past the muffins at Food Lovers…that’s a tasty muffin, folks!

Despite efforts to save the toads, it was a somber night as a result of our roadside discovery… http:// photo IMG_1746_zpsf76932fe.jpg http:// photo IMG_1747_zps6bb82a14.jpg We miss our families. We miss our friends. We miss home. But how thankful we are for each other! We could leave here tomorrow and say without a doubt that our marriage has benefited from our time here. We have been challenged. We have been pushed to communicate. We have encouraged one another. We have cared for each other through sickness. There is no hiding when you are alone together and God has blessed us in this. As hard as it may be to be so far from others we love, how great it is to be so close to the one we vowed to love forever. We are both learning and growing in big ways. How sweet it is to watch my Taylor fall deeper in love with our great, big God, follow Him in obedience, and lead our little family in line with Biblical truths.

http:// photo 34792AD4-A8A7-4392-8591-7EF5D39958CC_zpsacqjstfa.jpgNature here beckons God’s glory!

Our eyes are daily on mountains and seas that will happily bow down if we don’t. He has planted one of the biggest flora and fauna kingdoms of the world right here in the dirt on which we stand. Do the trees or plants or flowers look “weird” to us? Indeed they do. But how cool that the same God that thought up the flowers we love from home, also created the flowers we are looking at now! What a creative God! Some things here remind me of Dr. Seuss books, but they were designed all the same by a life-giving God. What a grand opportunity we have to wonder at all of God's wonders.

http:// photo IMG_3605_zps1ffc37c6.jpg http:// photo IMG_3582_zpse017500a.jpg Food can be a bit…”foofy”…here. We have days that beckon a nice meat and three and some biscuits, and we allow the indulgence. I’m growing to like my time in the kitchen! Can’t wait to be back with my mom and cooking together.

Taylor saw a cobra. Yes. Like the big snakes with a hood on their face that raise up to the little flute instrument on cartoons. We heard stories, but now we know…They do exist. Yikes. (I thought I saw one too, but it was just a cat’s tail in high grass…paranoid?)

Some things just remind you that you are not at home. We call it our friend TINA (This Is Not America.) I took this picture at the local bakery. I went in for some nuts and jelly, but you never know when your day could turn exciting. Just be ready. :)

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We miss front porches and driveways and yards that welcome you in. In fact, that may be one of the things we miss most. Security here is not a joke. Electric fences, gates with spikes, alarms, loud growling dogs, and big walls… not exactly the warm southern welcome we’re accustomed to. There aren’t surprise knocks on your front door because your house is barricaded. It’s new. It’s different. It’s weird for us. However, Taylor can leave me alone without fear. Our car is protected. We open our windows and feel the wind and breathe the fresh air. God answers prayers and He has given us a safe place to live and we must praise him for that… even if it comes through barbed wire.

http:// photo IMG_1250_zps3a9e76f4.jpg We miss reflective paint on the roads, the serated metal edge on cling wrap, dashes in phone numbers, salsa, things that don’t break easily, Lysol, Clorox wipes, the convenience of going to 1 grocery store to get everything on your list, changing leaves in fall, quick to-the-point meetings, and the guarantee of soap in bathrooms.

Of all things unfamiliar, new, different, “weird,” we thank our Savior that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In America. In Africa. Black. White. Rich. Poor. With family. Without family. Happy. Sad. Healthy. Sick. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

We thank Him for placing us in spots where “we are weird” so that we don’t grow up thinking that we are right. We thank Him for showing us what we need and what we want, and for bridging the gap in between with His love and grace.

Most of all, we miss family and the joys that come with them. At this time of year, there are many things we’ve come across or traditions we’ve left out that threaten us with feelings that  “Christmas just can’t go on!” [insert dramatic voice]. But we have run from those feelings in the opposite direction. Of course Christmas MUST go on! To us a Son has been given and He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Oh come! Let us adore Him! How has the Son been those things for you this year? Merry Christmas to all. Sending joy your way from this side of the ocean. Thank the Father today that He is good…ALL the time.

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