Goodbye Rift Valley Academy Buffalos! Come on Abilene Christian University Wildcats!! David managed to graduate well, avoiding too many demerits while being in National Honor Society and winning the award for the best Senior student in the Social Studies department which he demonstrated by being a part of the African Model United Nations, taking multiple AP history classes, and being enrolled in the most Social Studies classes of any student in his class. He was proud to have his first term late night boxing match (RVA legend making) mentioned by the school’s graduation speaker from the podium. Last week he went on his “Senior Safo” to the beach, and last night we ended the day with a small graduation party at our house.Today we will take him to his favorite restaurant in Nairobi right after we get our preflight COVID tests done. We are looking forward to his next steps at ACU? Do we have a future businessman, politician, or lawyer? Could we hope for a university professor? The next four years (maybe more) will sort it out!
September will mark 10 years since Mom entered the rest promised to those who love the Lord. So long, in fact, that many of you blog readers have never met her. As I was considering this, the first word that popped into my mind to describe her was “powerhouse.” This may conjure images of a pencil-skirt wearing businesswoman who doesn’t take nothing from nobody and who is getting things done, walking briskly through the office in stilettos. Not that kind of powerhouse. Mom was more like a miniature sun. Powerful, yes, getting things done, yes, but warm, inviting, bringing growth and light. She came into a room and you just felt better, felt like basking in her presence. When you were with Mom, there would be empathy, laughter, genuine peace, Scripture, and probably some good food.
When Mom first died, people would comfort me by saying that now she was looking down on us from Heaven. Heaven just seemed so far away, so remote from the world, and I would say “Thank you” and think in my heart, “Oh, she’s got far better things to look at and participate in where she is. There is a vast gap between Heaven and here.” But in the intervening years, I’ve grown to think differently. Maybe the connection between heaven and earth is stronger than I used to think. Just as the angels rejoice over one sinner, it seems that the victories that Christ accomplishes on earth are celebrated in Heaven.
One of the satisfying things about growing older is having a longer view of what the Lord is doing on the earth and having a bit more experience watching how His plan is unfolding. I consider that might extend into Heaven. Maybe the saints can praise the Lord for the way that He is still moving and changing people, for the redemption stories that dot the earth.
Perhaps Mom can participate in the satisfaction of watching our kids as teenagers, maybe she can still feel proud of the men and women they are becoming. Why not if all good gifts and pleasures are created by the Lord, including seeing people grow up? Annie responding well to a word of correction, Peter talking about praying for enemies, Sarah expressing her creative gifts, David accepting the love of his friends, Will caring for his hospital patients. These are deep joys I know Mom would appreciate. All of this growth comes out of pain and struggle and fight against the flesh, which glorifies and beautifies the victory.
And if it’s not true and it’s only God the Three in One who sees, but it gives us comfort to think of the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we run the race, what’s the harm in that? So, God, thank you for being so intimately among us and for fully participating in our puny lives. And, Mom, if you see me, I sure do love you. Thanks for shouting from the sidelines.
It has been a weird four years. Moving to Kenya as a freshman and then all the losses COVID caused. David heads out on his Senior trip tomorrow. We are super happy for him! He graduates next Saturday. Hopefully we will have a trip to the our favorite restaurant in Nairobi to celebrate the following day, and then back to Dallas. The group in the picture above were the core of his friends. Not all of them made it through all four years as their families moved home or away, but they flew back this summer after they finished school in the US to have one last hurrah in Kijabe! I am thankful for each of them. We had barely arrived in Kenya in 2017, and on our first full day in town this group walked by the house and invited David to go up the hill with them for a bonfire. That was the beginning and they have been good friends since. God has been good to David with these loyal friends. Now we look forward to how God gives him friends at ACU!
Wow! One half of a century is completed today. When I was 25 being fifty seemed so far away. Those 25 years seemed an eternity. Now looking ahead, being 75 seems just around the corner. I thought I might climb Kilimanjaro or visit the Holy Land for my fiftieth birthday, but COVID stopped those plans. Instead I rest in knowledge that life continues with nothing big needed to mark the passing of the years while remembering God is in control. This article from Jared Wilson titled Midlife, Christ Is puts many of my thoughts to words well. So although I cannot put becoming fifty years old into words, Wilson does it for me well.
By God’s grace, I don’t feel the need to buy a sports car or to make a career change or to blow up my marriage. But I do think a lot about the distant past and the quickly approaching future. And I don’t know how anybody handles these things without walking with Jesus.
In midlife, Christ is a consolation for all the things I wish I’d done differently. He doesn’t change my past, but he can redeem it. And I’ve discovered he is faithful to do that. He does not judge me by my actions but by his own, freely given to me in love.
In midlife, Christ is a companion through all the worries and stresses. I’ve gotten more serious about my health over the last year and a half, and while I have no illusions about having the strength and energy I did at 25, I have no doubts that my friend Jesus is as strong as he’s ever been, and wherever I have to go, I know he will go with me. There is no partner like the King of the Universe who will never leave me or forsake me.
In midlife, Christ is a constant encourager. His Spirit has been bearing fruit in my life all along, and the longer I walk with him, the further down the narrow road I wander, the sweeter I find him, and the more precious. As so much is wasting away — including myself, day by day — his renewing presence sustains me, cheers me. I cannot imagine getting old without the daily newness of his mercies.
And I can’t imagine dying without him.
Reading those words warms my heart as what Wilson writes rings true. I am thankful for God’s faithfulness to me and my family. At midlife, Christ most definitely is!
RVA usually has quite a few trips planned during the year. Poor David has missed two big ones he was supposed to take because of the COVID pandemic. One was to Zanzibar, and the other was probably to Ethiopia. Sarah missed her sixth grade safari last year. We are hoping that the seniors get to go on their Senior Safo to the beach at the end of the year. Missing that will bring the entire last two years to a crashing, sad end. Most of the kids that we know will at that point be glad to have high school behind them and moving on to hopefully better things in college. My friend Matt tells his kids, and I echo “You don’t want to peak in high school!” No worries about that for this year’s RVA class. Below are some pictures of Sarah with the 7th and 8th graders at Hell’s Gate National Park. They did rock climbing, repelling, cycling, and hiking. The rock climbing and repelling were reported as fun, no one chose hiking, and the cycling was hot and tiring. However, the cycling had the climax of having giraffes and zebras running alongside at about 10 feet distance. That is pretty cool!
Every year the sophomores put on a dinner for staff and upper class students. Last year it did not occur. This year it looked different, as it had to be outside. Instead of serving tables, they delivered dinners to homes and a few brave souls ate outside the main administration building. We were one of them. This time of year in Kijabe it gets cool at night. So the students sat down on the outdoor basketball court around chimineas. We sat on the porch and shivered. We enjoyed watching the students try and make a go of it under tough circumstances, while we wondered why we were sitting in the cold instead of having it delivered to our house. The food was pretty good too.
Eighteen months ago, pre-Covid, our family went to Egypt. It was fantastic and exciting and dusty and historical. We came home very enthusiastic about Mediterranean food. Since then, I crave pitas and creamy cucumber salads. I thought I would share some excellent recipes in case you would like to make a Mediterranean feast and in that way share a meal with us.
Shakshuka: who knew that eggs poached in tomato sauce could be so satisfying? It’s the feta cheese that makes this special.
Pitas: If you use allrecipes.com, you might already be acquainted with Chef John. These are a terrific texture.
Hummus: I modify this recipe a little (less tahini), but I like the very specific instructions.
Orzo salad: Giada has so many tasty pasta recipes. The addition of mint makes this one fun for Mediterranean night. I usually leave out the garbanzo beans and add a cheese, either mozzarella or feta.
Cucumber: I love tzatziki, but it’s a bit of work. This salad is also popular at our house.
Here is David, looking cool and getting ready to chow down.
One of the things that has given me the most pleasure in this last week is our new “ceiling extractor fan” as the box identified it. We have a (previously) white, all-tile bathroom at the front of the house that never dries out in the rainy season. It just stays a moist, humid, moldy place to get clean every day. Think of an unfinished basement with a bit of septic tank thrown in but right next to your front door. We have always had a plan to remodel it, but after nearly four years, no remodeling has taken place. So three weeks ago I made the drastic step to hunt down a fan in Nairobi and last week a couple of kindly Kenyans installed it.
The extractor fan is changing the atmosphere in the bathroom! There is no more funky smell. The mildew and mold are drying up. The towels are dried in between showers.
One morning I was thinking, “I want to be as healing and as effective as this fan.” Then I realized that God’s grace is like that fan. There are still disgusting, unpleasant things that we do and that are done to us. There is still the daily dousing that can propagate mold and bacteria, spiritually speaking, but God’s grace can keep us cleaned up, can heal what hurts, what causes smelliness and damage. I am a really good receiver of grace but I desire to be a better giver of grace. Only then can I absorb the sin, unkindness, lack of respect, and ignorance of those around me. Only as I extend the grace I have been given can I make the world a cleaner, brighter place. Just like our bathroom fan.
“This is going to be great,” Sarah exclaimed.
This was not going to be great. Dad was making us go on a four day hike that none of us wanted to go on, except of course, my little sister Sarah, who was very optimistic.
We climbed out of the van with the rest of the group and started carefully going down a very steep hill that lasted for, what felt like forever, when in reality was just the rest of the day. While we were sliding down the hill, the group separated because some people went slower and some people went quicker. My parents had walkie talkies to keep in touch with my brothers who were ahead of us. When we dragged into the campsite we were exhausted. My mom was in charge of cooking dinner that night. She prepared the best spaghetti I had ever eaten. After dinner we looked up at the brilliant stars. Mom and I climbed into our cozy tent and fell asleep right away.
During the night mom got sick with diarrhea. “I’ll be okay,” she said. “Don’t worry about it.”
But as we went down the hill mom had to make many stops behind a bush. Mom saw the walk ahead and felt dizzy. We were considering going home, but mom kept going. David and I went ahead with a young couple, David and Ari. I had known Ari since the day I got to Peru. She worked in the hospital with my Dad. She was very funny and had a unique personality. Then she married my peruvian teacher, David. Peter and Sarah were a group, and Dad and Mom were a group. Mom and Dad were way behind. Dad was being patient and waiting for Mom while Mom was doing her business. The hike was super steep and we hiked non-stop. There were no flat parts at all. It was a very eventful day. When mom and dad finally got to the campsite, we had already eaten.The campsite was super cool. It had lots of wind, it was extremely high up, and it had an awesome view. It was a lot better than the other campsite.
We ate at a typical Peruvian house. We paid them some money and they brought us some food. It was cool because we got to see what it was like to live in a Peruvian house. There were guinea pigs running across the floor, and dirt walls. After that I took an extremely cold shower but it felt good. We went to bed exhausted. But I didn’t sleep very well because in the next tent they were playing games and being very loud, but I woke the next day refreshed and ready to go.
We hiked the rest of the way to the Incan ruins. They were pretty cool but definitely not worth the hike. At least that’s what I thought. We ate our lunch there, a few granola bars and some fruit, and then started walking to the camp we stayed at the first day. It was miserable on the way down. I thought I broke my toe because it hurt so badly and I cried at one point. I rode a horse for about fifteen minutes and we were at the camp. Ari and David, that young couple me and David walked with the day before, were in charge of dinner. Basically we had raw rice and raw vegetables. They were not good cooks. I imagine they’ll get better at it. I mean they had only been married a couple months. When I went to use the restroom it was very disgusting. The toilets weren’t flushing so they were overflowing with brown and yellow. Mom went to go talk with the manager about the toilets. It took a while for them to fix it. We went to bed exasperated. That was definitely the hardest day yet.
For breakfast the next day we had granola bars, again. We were hiking up the hill that we went down the first day. Mom and Sarah were so worn out that they got on a horse together and were at the entrance in no time. David and Peter went ahead and so it was just Dad and me. I talked and talked all the way until we got to the entrance. Dad would be like “ I need to take a break Annie,” and I would say “Okay,” and we would stop. I wasn’t tired at all! I told dad about “The Ted Wars.” That was when I stole a stuffed animal named Ted from my brother David. He stole it back and then I stole it again and so on. I told him about my favorite part of the hike, about my friends, and practically everything I could think of! Right when we were walking up the final hill we saw two amazing condors soaring above us.
They were so close I felt as if I could touch them. It was an amazing experience. When we got to the entrance mom gave me some money to buy a snack. The car that was picking us up was very late. Something about peruvians you probably didn’t know is that peruvians are always very late. I ate my snack and talked to my teacher, David. When the car finally came I climbed in ready to get home. We all marveled at how we just did that long hike. I was glad to get home. But if someone invited me to go again, I would say yes.