Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Me and June Cleaver

I really do feel like I’m living in 1954. I have to say...believe the hype! There is something a  magical about life 50 years ago.

For instance...

  1. I am the dishwasher - We do not have a dishwasher so we hand wash all our dishes.  Wow!  Three meals a day for a family of 5 – that’s A LOT of dishes.  June Cleaver made it look so fun in those dresses and aprons! She didn’t sweat! She glowed! Her hair was magnificent and her kitchen sparkled. I think I would be having a much better time if I added some heels, pearls and cardigans to my dishwashing experience.

I’m way too excited about these kitchen scrubbers sent by a friend in America (thanks Jennifer)

2.  Not a disposable lifestyle – We seem to save everything!  It’s almost like I grew up in the Great Depression...I just can’t throw it away!  Ziplock bags, plastic disposable cups, the flimsy container the strawberries come get the idea. I even look at empty toilet paper rolls and think, “I’m SURE Jensen could make a craft out of that!  It’s really TOO good to throw away! I could desperately need this someday!”

In fact she did make a craft out of the TP roll...last week I turned around and she said, “Look, Mom! I made this 'camera' all by myself!" (I was actually pretty impressed)

On a side note....someone was asking me about our “wheelybin” recently.  I kept saying “What?” “What?” Until I realized they were saying Wheely Bin – meaning our outdoor trash can on wheels. I’m not absolutely positive I speak English here.

3. Line drying laundry – Until I moved to Africa...I had never hung clothes to dry outside. Here’s how I used to look at sunny days...
·         As a kid -  Fun! Now I can run around the neighbourhood endlessly and ride my bike and climb countless tress
·         In my teens – Great! Now I can lay out and get a stellar tan!
·         In my 20’s – Not Great! I’m stuck inside working on a gorgeous day.
·         In my 30’s – Fantastic! Now I can line dry my laundry and save $2 on electricity (big savings not using the “tumble drier” as they call it)

4. Jensen’s school – Jensen goes to a “public school” – but it feels like a nice small town school from the 50’s.  Her teacher is a Christian, they can pray in school, and religion is encouraged. The parents are nice, the teachers are’s all just so very nice.

5. He’s on the 20, the 15, the 5, Touchdown Nebraska! Karl found a way to listen to the Husker Game last weekend on the radio.   Kinda like a big screen, high-def TV...but not really. Actually, it was an iPad app that lets you listen to any radio station around the world. Similar to 1950...but in a much more global, techy way. 

 6.  I truly feel like I’m living in a small town.  The valley where we live is composed of several small towns within a 7 mile stretch.  So even though there are about 100,000 people in this little nook on the tip of Africa...every time I go to the grocery store or local cafe, I run into many people I know. Jensen and Karl play the game, “Who can see the first person we know?" (Jensen always wins with her eagle eyes).’re likely to know someone in the parking lot if your car won’t start (it’s happened...came in handy for a jump start). Downside: I can’t just run to grab some bananas in my sweats and hope I won’t see anyone I know. They will find me...especially if I’m make-up less and severely wind blown.

7. Mom and Pop Stores - There really aren't a lot of “chains” around here...the area is largely made up of locally owned restaurants and shops.  Where we used to go to Walmart as one stop for everything...we now have to go to 10 different smaller stores. Fish Hoek, a nearby small town, feels like Ansley, Nebraska 50 years ago – when small towns were alive and well. We can’t help but “Go Local and Buy Green.”

I confess there is a McDonalds nearby, but I have yet to find someone who can understand my thick American accent filtered through the drive-through intercom system (I try to tell them it's not ME with the accent).  This experience is usually composed of two people yelling, “What? What? WHAT??!?” into the microphone till I give up and drive to the window to give my order in person (they are still not quite sure what I’m talking about...which is pretty amazing since I’m just listing items off their menu). Karl is waging a silent war and now refuses to ever order anything through the speaker system (to their shock...he drives straight to the window every time).

 8. Neighbours with Chickens - Jensen was saying the other day that she really wants to see chickens and “pick eggs.”  When you’re living in the 1950’ naturally have friends with chickens in their back yard. Why wouldn’t you?  Of course we stopped by our friend’s house and Jensen gathered some eggs! Those chickens are on a mission!

Real chickens pecking away!

 9.  Words have new meaning -   Expressions that came from an earlier time in our history have taken on new meaning for us!
·         Don’t let the bed bugs bite – I used to say this to Jensen all the time back in America while I was tucking her in.  Ever since our bed bug incident...Jensen will say, “Mom! Don’t say that!! That scares me!”  She’s right...bed bugs are no joke.
·         Pecking order – Who knew that this expression came from chickens?  When Jensen went to feed the chickens the owner explained to us that there is a pecking order – as the chickens literally peck each other in a certain order. Chickens are not to be trifled with.
·         See you Soon, Baboon – Too many baboons around here that we do NOT want to see soon!

 10. Services – They pump your gas for you at the gas station (job creation is a big deal here so even you wanted can’t pump it yourself) and when you go to the doctor you actually see the doctor for most of the time (instead of all the nurses – the doctor is the one that actually weighs you, takes your blood pressure, and checks out the pee you JUST peed in a cup...right there in front of you...I admit...slightly disturbing...I prefer to think of my pee in a quarantined environment not handled by actual humans)

So there you go!

Of course this is Africa...and there is so much poverty, drugs and horrible situations...right next to all the 1950ness.  My life really feels like a strange combination of The Help, Lean on Me (or Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers – take your pic of inspiring inner city school movies), and Tsotsi (set in one South Africa's notoriously crime-ridden townships).

We hope we are tempting you to visit and experience (or re-experience) America circa 1954 Africa style!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Motherhood is Beautiful

Motherhood is messy and noisy and shockingly wonderful.  Adison beautiful, smiley precious baby girl – is also my marathon crier, Olympic back-archer, and serial nap protester.  You would think my perfect parenting would have fixed this by now!  Ha!

One night a few weeks after she was born, my husband found me in tears around midnight.  I was so thankful for his helpfulness...and my heart was broken for women all over the world who do not have supportive husbands, kind family members, resources or even a separate bed to put their new little baby into at night. I really couldn’t stop crying.

As I looked into my baby girls’ heart was torn to shreds for those without enough money for diapers,  enough knowledge about breastfeeding, enough energy for parenting....for those with not enough of just about everything they really need.

The answer here in Africa is not handing out more cash, distributing bigger bags of food, or even finding someone a job.  We need a holistic way to a walk a journey with the mothers in our community...a journey of beauty from the ugliness that surrounds them.

All Too Common Ugly Scenarios
  • Babies are hit/beat if they cry too much (culture says that these babies are being “naughty” and should be punished)
  • Diaper rashes and cradle cap easily get out of control (babies with a severe, raw and bleeding diaper rash and cradle cap goes untreated for long periods of time and infection sets in)
  • Children often grow up on a diet of chips and soda pop (that’s all these mothers know to do...because that’s what their parents did for them)

I am challenged to resist the temptation is to treat the ugly symptoms I find so appalling...without digging deep enough to see Him bind up hearts where they are most broken and turn the ashes into beauty.

He makes motherhood beautiful when we walk a journey of gratitude, joy and hope together.

“Motherhood is Beautiful” – a new Baby Safe program we are launching next week -  was born out of a desire to encourage and support mothers through discipleship, training and just being living examples.

Strategy: Engage with women 5 days a week (with Baby Safe staff and volunteers plugging in to areas where they are passionate)
·         Discovery Bible Studies
·         Baby Health (breast feeding, diaper rashes, cradle cap, proper growth, colic, etc.)
·         Finances (creating and maintaining a family budget)
·         Time Management (developing healthy life rhythms)
·         Nutrition (buying and making healthy meals for your family)
·         Child Rearing (taking joy in motherhood, communicating with your child, discipline)
·         Exercise (walking and dance lessons)
·         Sewing classes (potential source of income)

So Motherhood is beautiful.  It really is. 

Beautiful at 2 am with a screaming baby. 

Beautiful when you have changed your shirt for the 5th time that day (due to a seemingly never end flow of spit up on your left shoulder).

Adi and the 5 shirts she spit up on that day

Beautiful when you’re late again due to another out of control poopy diaper that has somehow amazingly blown out both the back and front with no substance actually in the diaper (this actually happened to me when I was by myself with a 9 month old Jensen on an airplane – found a large pile of poo in my LAP – none to be found in the diaper. Let’s just say the passenger next to me really appreciated that.)

Beautiful when you realize how much thankfulness, joy and hope are wrapped up in this tiny little bundle of epic smiles, ear piercing screams, and life altering moments when you realize you ARE IT. 

No one else is going to parent this child but you.  Ministry, promotions, projects and hobbies can wait.  Parenting cannot. Parenting is THE gig...and it’s beautiful.

Want to join us on a journey to see mothers in disadvantaged communities embrace the beauty of motherhood?  

Find out how to get involved with "Motherhood is Beautiful!" Click here:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Top Five Moments in Africa With My Parents

I couldn't help but burst into tears when I saw my parents walk out of the Cape Town terminal. This is the first time they have flown over the Atlantic and it was an incredible time together. They got to meet Adison Rose for the first time, experience the breath-taking beauty Cape Town and connect with our amazing community.

Here are my 5 top highlights...

1.     STATE FAIR: Driving on the “wrong” side of the road was quite the adventure for my dad. He would yell “State Fair!” during scary moments.  He said, “It’s a lot like a ride at the state fair... mostly safe, but you still feel like you are about to die at any given moment.”

2.     MEETING ADI: My parents had to wait 3 ½ months before they could meet their seventh grandchild...Adison Rose!  They fell in love with her instantly! The first thing my mother said to her at the airport was, “Adi Rose! Who do you look like?” After carefully looking her over and deciding there was no obvious family resemblance, she said, “I guess you look like yourself!” She does look like...well... herself! I suppose we all look a bit like ourselves. J

On a side note: Regarding Adi...I REALLY don’t know why I get asked numerous times if she is “a doll.”  Finally the last time I said, “No!  Why would I do that?” And the women remarked in deep South American accent “Dees will do anyting!”  At any rate...I guess she’s right.  I looked it up and there are women who buy these “reborn dolls” – made to look like real babies.  They take them out shopping, to restaurants, to events – treating them like actual babies.  I guess people really will do anything!

Adi looks like a doll??


3.     THE BLESSING: My parents took some time to bless our fellow missionary friends in our house church...they said, “On behalf of all of your parents...we just want you to say, We are so proud of you!” Everyone was so touched by the love and support of my parents.

Here is a video of our house church the night my parents came (singing "Spring up O Well")

I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.
Spring up O Well.
Within my soul.
Spring up O Well
And make me whole.
Spring up O Well
And give to me
That life abundantly.

This song is the prayer I want to walk out every day with my life!

4.     FRIENDS FROM OCEAN VIEW. It was so great to have my parents meet Claudine.  She said, “I finally get to meet my American family!”  I also really enjoyed having my mom come to the Yellow House and meet the high school girls from Ocean View I’ve been mentoring for a few years.  She shared her story of how she met Jesus and prayed a blessing over them.

5.     THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE: I couldn’t believe it when my dad said, “Julie, this was the best day of my life.”  It was a great day of spending time together and soaking in the beauty of Africa. We went to the top of Table Mountain and pictures really can’t describe how awe-inspiring the view is – from the top you can see two oceans, all of Cape Town, and many of the small towns surrounding where we live. That night we experienced some African food with live African dancers.

I am so grateful my parents came and blessed us in more ways than we can describe in words.  Since we are not going back to America this year, it was life-giving to have family visit us.

As Karl was pulling out of the driveway to take them to the airport to father was sitting in the front seat.  I ran out, jumped in his lap and wrapped my arms around him. I’m not too old to sit in my daddy’s lap.  

I thought...I understand God better because I have a good father.  A father who knows how to give good gifts, who delights in just being around me, who loves deeply and sacrificially.

This is our God...our amazing Father!  He adores us and is working out hundreds of details every moment of every day for our good.  He is trustworthy...He is perfect...He is worth it all!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Negativity Fast

I’ve decided I want to root out the sin in my life...truly on every level. When I look it in the eye, I think the biggest area of sin in my life is negativity.

How far am I willing to take things to let real joy take over?

I recently heard a woman talk about the scripture that says “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely...” (Hebrews 12:1)

She talked about how some things in our life may not be sin...but are definitely weights.  Things like...

-          A hectic schedule – A schedule that gives you no time to breathe (so much so you are usually praying other people will cancel on you).  She said God doesn’t make the schedule, you fix it.
-          Debt – When you’re in debt you constantly feel the walls closing in around you. She said to make a plan – a real plan to save and get out of debt.
-          Unhealthy Eating – Being overweight  (oh how we love to eat). I recently ate an entire bag of my precious American chocolate chips...before I could even make the cookies.
-          Negativity – Complaining, whining and gossiping.  She suggested a Negativity Fast. Oh dear! Can I give up my precious negativity?

Huh!  I really could improve in all these areas- but the Lord is speaking to me about my negativity.  It’s sad, really, that I need a fast to help me guard my words.  But the truth is...I do.

I want to call a spade a spade – it’s gossip...slandering someone I know. It’s not giving my opinion, supporting a friend or seeking advice. It’s gossip.  There...I’ve said it.

And complaining is just that...complaining.  I’m usually trying to get my husband to do something differently with my complaining– but the truth is that whining is not pretty.

Here is my plan...
1    --  to enlist as many people as I can to join me (or at least hold me to it)
      --  replace my negative words with God’s life-altering words

The first topics that have to go...
-          1. Commenting on crazy drivers (I’m sure I’d be appalled at what other drivers are saying about me within the confines of their cars...I can certainly be a little crazy myself)
-          2. People who have hurt me
-          3. Programs (and the people involved) that I feel are ineffective, ill-intentioned or just plain annoying

The truth is...I can only be negative if there is something I want more than Jesus.  Many times I realize there are quite a few things I want more than Jesus (people to like me, life to be easy, pain to be minimal)....but I WANT to want Jesus more than anything.

So I begin with something small...a 7 day fast from poisonous words. I will lay it aside! I had two friends join me today...and I must admit.  I got a little bit excited! 

What if we did this with our closest friends...our spouses...our community?

What if we all decided not to let one word of complaint or gossip pass through our lips for 7 days?  What about 40 days? What about a year?  I think it would change the would seep in, praise would sprout up, hope would abound. I want it...even if I can only grasp 7 days at a time. I’m all in!

Read what my friend Claudine has to say...

If you have a verse...ANY verse that has been encouraging to you...please send it my way (leave comments below) or email to

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mind Tour of a 5 Year Old

It’s starting to get cold here and African winter is underway!  To get you in the spirit of the flopped seasons of the Southern Hemisphere, here is a little tour of Jensen’s mind (albeit it was during a Nebraska winter a few months ago...but bear with’ll start feeling more “wintery” in a few seconds).

Take a little tour of the mind of 5 year old on a cold winter’s night with new fallen snow (5 questions Jensen asked in a 30 minute car ride to a Christmas program last December)...

#1 Q: What is “moisture?”
·         My Answer: “Uh...yeah...what IS moisture?  Wet stuff!  It’s like water...but just a LITTLE bit of water.”
·         Context – Jensen wanted to roll down her car window to feel the new snow coming down on her soft, warm hands. Willing to accommodate briefly, Karl rolled it down but explained he couldn’t keep it open because it would let in too much “moisture.”  Jensen really was not impressed with the negative long term effects of “too much moisture.”  The car’s upholstery sided with Karl.

#2 Q: Umm...Mom...what does “deal with disappointment” mean?
·         My Answer: “It means you don’t always get what you want and you have to be OK with it.”
·         Context – Jensen was very sad she had to roll up her car window and we told her she needed to “deal with disappointment.” After this was explained, she voiced her general preference for getting what she wanted all the time and in pretty much every circumstance– she would be much more OK with no disappointment to deal with.
·         Side note: Whether 5 or 95 – do any of us really want to “deal with disappointment?”  I’d rather skip that part of life myself.

# 3 Q: What does “silent night” mean?
·         My Answer: “Well, silent means very quiet.  This song is about when Jesus was born – someone thought the night was very quiet and still.  But Jesus was born in a barn with all those animals.  Do you think it was quiet?”
·         Context – Listening to “Silent Night” in the car.
·         Side note: We both decided the song was pretty but might have some factual discrepancies...what we lowing cows and all (I wish someone would tell ME what “cattle lowing” means).

#4 Q: Why does snow sparkle?
·         My Answer: “Well since the snow is wet – when the light shines on it, it looks like it sparkles – kinda like God’s glitter.”
·         Context – Looking out the window at the newly fallen glitter snow.

#5 Q: What does “jazzy” mean?
·         My Answer: “It means funky (realizing she doesn’t know that word) means the music may be a little TOO exciting.”
·         Context – She overheard our conversation about how someone thought the music last year’s Christmas program was too “jazzy.”
·         Sidenote: After the Christmas concert Jensen decided it was not possible for the music to be “too jazzy.” And really – can music ever be too exciting for a 5 year old?

Can you remember a time when you didn’t know what “disappointment” meant? When every wonder of nature had to be explained...when the mysteries of life included discovering ear wax, no slumbering at “slumber parties” and realizing wet braided hair = cool crimped hair style hours later?

I want to enjoy every second of this 5 year old’s life.

All too often I am rushing – rushing past her precious days filled with a hundred questions and the joy in her eyes when she says, “Mama, watch! Watch me spin!”

Here are 3 quotes that have inspired me to SLOW IT DOWN:

“On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.” 
-       Evelyn Underhill

 “My biggest regret is being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.… Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”
-        Mark Buchanan

“That in Christ, urgent means slow.
That in Christ, the most urgent necessitates a slow and steady reverence.
That in Christ, time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. In Christ, we fill – gaining time.
We stand on the brink of eternity.
So there is enough time.
Time to breathe deep and time to see real.
Time to laugh long, time to give God glory and rest deep and sing joy. And just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done.”
-       Ann Voskamp

Today I’ve decided...I am going to REFUSE the rush. I’m going to watch her spin...and think about why snow sparkles...and take time to appreciate the “jazzy” parts of life.  Jensen sees jazzy everywhere she looks – and when I slow down just a little bit...I can see it too.

See the spin...

Monday, April 2, 2012

By Any Other Name

Ahhh...what’s in a name?

Shakespeare’s Juliet said..."What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Really William? Could a "Rose" ever be called "Smelly Tuna?" with the same effect? “Adison Smelly Tuna” would truly not be quite the same as “Adison Rose” - even if the flower smelled just as good.

When choosing a name for our third daughter I really wanted to stay in theme (parties, room d├ęcor and names should ALWAYS be in theme).  But in the case of Adi Rose - the theme was thrown out the window.

Bare with me on my love of themes – especially with the names of daughters. Our thematic rules were...
-          -   A first name that ended in “son”
-          -  TWO middle names that reflected the female members of our family, preferable in descending order (great-grandmas for Jensen, grandmas for Emme, and the mother for Baby #3?)

Daughter #1: Jensen Yvonne Francis
-          -    FIRST: Jensen was my maiden name  
-          -    MIDDLE: Yvonne Francis is Karl’s two grandmas’ names

Daughter #2: Emerson Dorothy Joan
-          -     FIRST: I just loved the name Emerson (which also happens to be a distant relative’s name)
-          -     MIDDLE: We borrowed Dorothy, my mother’s name (also happens to be the name of both my grandmas – it’s a wonder I wasn’t named Dorothy too – thanks, Mom for that one!  Can anyone see me as a “Dottie?”)... and Joan, Karl’s mother’s name

Daughter #3:  Decisions, decisions...

-       -    FIRST: Here were some contenders for the “son” ending...

o   Winston (Winnie for short) – I loved this one!  So Winston Churchill!  Karl hated it – thought we should just go ahead and use Marlborough for her middle name.
o   Ellison had so many great options for short names – Elle, Ellis, Ella.  The only problem is that Ellison and Emerson seemed a bit too close.
o   Adalyn (Karl’s second fav- but sadly no “son”),
o   Graceson (Grace would have been adorable for short)
o   Anderson (I loved Andi for short but Karl thought it was too masculine) – Anderson is also a family name (all of Karl’s cousins are “Andersons”)
o   Adison – Karl LOVED this name, and although I really liked the name in and of itself, I was very disturbed that it was #11 on some name lists.  I really, really prefer to avoid trendiness (my goal was not to use any names ranked in the top 100)

-          -    MIDDLE: What actually tipped the scale in favor of Adison was choosing Rose for the middle name.  I just fell in love with the sound of Adison Rose (or Adi Rose). 

First off...Rose is SO out of theme (only ONE middle name – and not in the descending order of great-grandmas, grandmas and then the mother– which would have been “Julie Annette”).

However, we felt like “Rose” is the name the Lord picked out for her. Here is the scoop...

THE SHOWER DECORE: When I showed up for my  baby shower last month I noticed a beautiful bouquet of pink roses on the table.

Roses from the Baby Shower

THE LETTER: At that shower my friend Nicole wrote a letter about how she was praying for the baby and saw a picture of a rose – a rare beauty...with thorns (not to be easily grabbed).  She got the verse Song of Solomon 2:1-2 (I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley. Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among young women).

The  original Hebrew here for “Rose of Sharon” is a word that indicates this flower seems to mean literally “Overshadowed By God's Love.

THE PRAYER: At the end of the shower, everyone gathered around me to pray for the baby. Whitney (not knowing about Nicole’s letter) said, “I pictured a rose and felt like God said that her life will be fragrant before him! Also I asked God who she is to him and he said ‘she is my princess!’ I felt that she will know her place next to the Father as the daughter of the King. And that she will carry an anointing to give that knowledge and assurance to other girls as she grows up!” 

Prayers at the Shower

THE FLOWER: The next day I did some research on the plant called the “Rose of Sharon” and as I prayed, felt some of these plant qualities will apply to the personality and spirit of our Adison Rose:
o   Rapid growth and high yields
o   Very colourful (white, red, lavender or light blue)
o   Offers color when many other flowering shrubs have ceased to bloom (due to blooming in late summer)
o   Attractive and plentiful blooms
o   Can be trained through pruning/ Last season’s growth should be pruned away (which helps produce bigger blooms)
o   Prefers full sun (can get fungus when older if not in full sun)
o   Can hold it’s own as a specimen
o   Drought tolerant
o says, “Don’t give up on the Rose of Sharon, thinking it’s dead just because it hasn’t leafed out by early summer. The Rose of Sharon not only blooms late, but leafs out late as well.”
o   Good pollution tolerance (appropriate for urban gardens)
o   Easy care and low maintenance
o   Buds may drop if plant is watered too much or too little (or if too much fertilizer is applied)
o   Blooms in Palestine (plain called Sharon) and is well known for its soothing aroma and pain relieving qualities

Rose of Sharon: very colourful (white, red, lavender or light blue)

As I step into a new phase of motherhood, with an emphasis on spending time with my children as Karl begins several new ministries, I am excited to see what God has in store for a baby with the name Adison Rose!

 I think it will be quite the ride!