Temporary Home

We bought a house. In June. Yet it was almost Halloween when I unpacked the last box.

That's a lie. There's a tub sitting in the garage next to the back door, glaring at me each time I walk to the van. "I'll get to you...someday" I say.

This house at first glance, I deemed entirely too small for our family. Our family of 5. Which includes 2 Active boys. However, I re-evaluated the situation the first morning while I was cleaning up breakfast and the kids were within eye shot down the hall where they brushed their teeth, did their chores and completed their morning routine. And the angle hidden from me was clearly visible from Keith who had set up office in our room. (This is my morning view, behind Garrison and the impressive Lego tower.)

Keith and I struck a deal. We shook on it. A pinky deal. Serious business for this family. In 6 months we would rent the house and move our family to better suited quarters, or I was given liberty to go house hunting on my own.

Here we are near the end of our pre-set timeframe, and I’m having second thoughts.

I admit to screaming at my children a few times for not moving fast enough, which probably wouldn’t happen were they not in my line of vision every single second of their waking hours. But perhaps that’s more a reflection of me and my expectations of how fast a child should move when I ask, “Have you brushed your teeth?” (This one can be a slow mover.)

But I’m starting to like it in the matchbox.

I’m also starting to have perspective. I had fewer curtains to purchase, fewer blinds to dust. Who am I kidding? I don't dust blinds. Less counter space to keep clean, smaller rooms to vacuum. It’s been nice. It's been especially nice for the child whose chore it is to vacuum. (This one has that privilege.)

I’ve also thought about the mud and straw home our boys were born in, where they spent the first few years of life.

Our neighbors in Ethiopia with concrete homes, corrugated tin roofs, no electricity and often no doors.

The refugees I see every week who have taken in extra family members into an apartment too small to house their own.

So, the matchbox…is a place to call home. At least while our home is here…in Texas, the United States, planet Earth.

But we do have a great backyard.

With deer and everything.

And great neighbors. Plus family just one block away.



That's the word my friend Kristen used to describe the work we are doing together.

Volunteering with the refugees has been both cathartic and redemptive. Each Friday we load up a van or two with supplies, snacks and people. Make the one-hour drive to an apartment complex whose sole residents are refugees.

It's so much like the work that Keith and I did in Ethiopia, and also the work she does yearly in Kenya. Both groups of women need to know their value. Ultimately, it is in the God who created them. For now, we are helping them see it through their beautiful creations.

I am able to communicate with just a handful of the ladies. The same was true when I spent a day at one of the sites in Ethiopia. But we more than manage. Somehow they know I love them, and eventually they will ask why. Enter Jesus.

It is crazy how God is bringing things around full circle. Somehow, our time here is making our experience in Ethiopia better. It's getting easier and easier to look back on that time and say it wasn't so bad. Don't get me wrong. We loved it and were completely torn when we had to leave.

But the adjustment was a difficult process. And a long one. We were finally finding our new normal, thinking "Okay, we can do this."

My comfort isn't God's priority. His priority is His own glory.

Kristen turned to me one day and said, "I've had this idea for about a year and you're the perfect person to do it with."

I said, "I'm the perfect person to do most things with, but go ahead. What's this idea?"

In a nutshell, it is a way to empower women all over the world. It's a way for their work to help women across the globe but in their same walk of life.

It's a way for you to impact women in poverty all over the world...and for it to impact you.

It's a way for us to advocate for these women. To give them opportunity.

It's called Fair Trade Friday. Check out the site or read Kristen's post about it.

This post was ready to go out on our launch day but blogger wasn't cooperating. So, here it is. Four days late. We sold out within hours of launching on Monday and have hundreds on the waiting list. God is good.


This Makes It Official

A few Saturdays ago, I walked back to bid the children goodbye before I went out for a few hours. Since they still sleep together on Friday Family Fun Nights, they were all in one room huddled on the floor in their cozy pajamas playing with Legos.

"Kids, I'm going to a few garage sales this morning, so Daddy will get breakfast for you when he gets up."

"What's a garage sale?" the little one asked.

"Well..." I looked down to the bed where I sat. "For instance, a bed in a store might cost $500, but at a garage sale it could be $100 or less."

From the child whose incessant diarrhea of the mouth makes me jealous of the deaf, "Five hundred dollars! Five hundred dollars!!! I didn't know a bed costed $500. A bed shouldn't cost $500. Five hundred dollars..." And, on and on and on he goes.

"Awesome! What a great deal. I love garage sales," looking all starry-eyed said the one cut from the same mold as her frugal mother.

And the little one said innocently, "We already have beds."


"Each of us has a bed to sleep in, indeed," I concurred. Here at the grandparent's house, that is true. 5 extra people, 4 extra beds. What a provision.

My kids realize more than I do how God has taken care of us through this.

Technically, "our" beds were stolen by our former tenant. Yes, you heard that right. Stolen. Along with everything we left to furnish our once clean, beautiful home. This post will not make it past the Blog Police if I go any further, so no tirade today. Boo.

I feel like we have been through a year-long hurricane, which seems to be over now. As we pick up the pieces, I find myself struggling.

It's difficult to not let yourself be defined by your circumstances. Although my Sunday School answer that Jesus is the One who consumes me, so often it's my kids, my worries, my planning.

In the literal chaos that surrounds me (because I have no closet), I find it hard not to think of myself as displaced. The truth is I am exactly where God wants me. He has allowed my circumstances, as crummy as they may seem, to show less of me and more of Him.

So, we are starting over.

In Texas. Houston.

The hot, muggy, congested, smoggy, stuffy, humid, sticky pit of the United States. I realize I am offending all true Texans with this statement.

The decision to move to Ethiopia was made more easily than the one to "move" here.

This pretty much makes it official. Keith had to drill holes in the front of my van so that we could display a second license plate. One isn't enough for "The Lone Star State." It's like Texas is showing off to all the others. Two license plates??? Come on, Texas! We know you're bigger and better than the rest of us teeny tiny regular sized states.


Different Ship. Same Course.

Although I have sent out information via our newsletter… Wait. You have a newsletter? Yes, indeed. Why not just the blog? Well, while any psycho can stumble upon this blog, we can see a name for each recipient of the newsletter and have the option to NOT send it to the psychos. I have purposefully procrastinated updating here.

There are so many things I want to say. So many things I want to scream and vent about, yet the Blog Police would veto all of it. In the same way he vetoed all 572 boy names I submitted for Ivan. I would just take a deep breath and accept the Big Fat Negativo. So many things I want to share (because I know you are dying for information), but it would be so very unwise of me to divulge that on such a public platform.

Where do I start after a three-month rebellion? Today? Nothing blog-worthy. Let me tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday was my second week volunteering with a new ministry in Houston. New, meaning it began just three weeks ago and there are only a handful of people heading it up. Maybe I should tell you how I became involved in this ministry, a ministry to refugees. God is all over this thing, the story and the ministry.

In mid-December I met my first friend since our relocation. Is it sad that it took me more than two months to make a friend? It was a first grade Christmas party where both of our daughters are in class. I overheard her explaining to a fellow mom why she travels to Kenya frequently. Kenya is next door to Ethiopia. How convenient, I thought. She and her husband founded a ministry that works with teens who are pregnant either from rape or forced prostitution. Wow. I definitely wanted to know more, but I didn’t want to get into the whole “Ethiopia” story. Despite my excitement, I managed to remain calm and casually engage her in regular conversation. School, kids, the weather, life in The Great Nation of Texas. When she found out I was “Avery’s mom,” she was the one bubbling over with excitement. She’d heard all about Avery (and Ethiopia) from her daughter. “Mom, there’s a new girl in my class named Avery. She moved here from Africa. No, really. Her brothers are from Ethiopia. Mom! She wears paper beads.”

I knew I needed to further stalk my new friend, but how? Was it enough that our daughters were in the same class? Or that both our families’ hearts were tied to Africa? Church! That’s it. In fact, we were looking for a church. So, in January we visited what I hoped to be our future church home. When I happened to run into my new friend (I mean I wasn’t standing in the doorway scanning each face that exited), she seemed genuinely pleased to see me. Score!

She invited me to an informational meeting for a new refugee ministry. They were going to start by teaching some women how to knit, which sounded super lame to me. Do I have blue hair? Or a bedazzled chain on my bifocals? But, she said, “Don’t you knit or crochet? I thought this might be something you’d be interested in.” Dang. How did she know of my mad crochet skills? At the party where we met, she had witnessed me ditching my “party-set-up responsibilities” to sew a finishing button on a crocheted Christmas gift for the teacher. I was caught. Luckily the meeting did not fit in my schedule, but I promised to contact her about it.

A month flew by and I hadn’t made good on my commitment to “contact her,” and now the Valentine party had crept up on us. So, it was either face the music. “Hey, I thought you were going to come help the refugees learn how to knit?” says my new friend, calling me out. And I’d have to make up something, “Yes, well, I crochet (stress the crochet, insinuating it’s an entirely different ballgame than knitting) and think my help would just confuse them.” Or, I could make a pre-emptive strike and just go for a week and let her see the disaster I was capable of causing.

Four of us rode together into Houston, sharing our stories on the way. The gal who began this whole project is a refugee herself, having fled Kazakhstan with her family after a 48-hour notice of their departure. She spent some time in a refugee camp and then was moved by the government to Houston. Explaining our time in Ethiopia to the women in the van was more than easy. It was cathartic. No one was baffled by our having moved there nor by our sudden departure. These women understood the world of missions, living in a third-world country, the corruption in a third-world government and the struggles that come with serving people in a foreign nation.

My life seemed normal. That was nice for a change.

We met in a dirty, smelly common area of the apartment complex. The women took their seats around two long folding tables and pulled out their completed projects for inspection. The room filled with the buzz of two languages foreign to us Americans. Immediately, I was taken back to Korah, the dump in Ethiopia which was the site for the majority of the women we worked with. Here I was, an outsider. Surrounded by beautiful women who cradled their babies as they worked or eyed their children running through the doorway.

I spent a few minutes watching an American woman on a video finish off the knitting, and then I sat at a table, mostly unable to communicate with them, and helped the women finish off their own projects. Turns out, knitting isn’t so terrible.

The women walked into the common meeting room, which was cleaner this week (thank you, Jesus), carrying their first product: a gold neck warmer.
Week 1: teach and practice
Week 2: receive real yarn and begin first real project
Week 3: sew amazing coconut shell button on neck warmer, sell it (for real), and receive yarn for second real project

I can’t explain the experience enough to do it any justice. I watched these women, poor in many ways, transform right in front of me. They realized that they are loved, capable, talented, and responsible. Empowerment. What a beautiful thing.