Wednesday, January 30

Definition of a 'Calling'

Today I want to introduce you to someone very special to me. Laurie arrived in Coshocton 5 months after I did with my family. The difference was though, that her husband was permanent staff and there for the long haul and not an apprentice who would only be there for three years. Between them they have 5 children and 11 grandchildren, who all live within about 4 hours drive of their home. We became good friends really quickly and she was one of the people I was really sad to say goodbye to when we left Ohio. 

We will forever be linked though, as she is one of Naomi's (fairy) godmothers! Laurie has also got involved with MMS and has taken a leadership role with regards to the Apprentice Wives group as well as other things. She also writes a devotional blog called Providence Smiles which is based around the book of Acts (although not exclusively), a study we have been working through together as apprentice wives, looking at the first missionary experiences. But today she writes, very honestly, for me ...

I live what some might view as a small life. 

The alarm goes off. It is 5:30am. My husband gets out of bed and starts going about his day. He needs to be at the Missionary Maintenance Services Aviation (MMS) hanger by 7:30. 

I, on the other hand, snuggle down under the covers and doze back to sleep. Our children are grown and my husband can take care of himself therefore, I feel no hurry to get out of bed on this cold January morning. Around 7:00 I arouse myself. I then read through email, do my morning exercise routine and eat a breakfast of oatmeal, berries, walnuts and yogurt. I eat this every morning. My day continues with varying activities that range from shopping for meals, preparing meals, doing laundry, folding laundry, coffee with friends (on a good day) and working around the yard (on warmer days). 

Between the chores and activities of every day life I get to spend time writing. I began writing an inspirational/devotional book three years ago geared toward the wives of the apprentice’s at MMS. Writing is something I have always imagined myself doing. I know this because when I discovered a box of journals I had kept in high school I talked about aspirations of becoming a writer. Then when I uncovered another journal I kept from just five years ago I read again about my dream of writing. 

At around 4:45 my husband gets home, we chit chat, laugh at each other’s jokes, eat dinner and spend the evening, once again doing varying tasks.

This brings me to the question, how do I title this life I am leading? On some days I fathom myself a missionary. This comes from the fact that my husband and I serve with a missionary organization (MMS). 

However, the reality of the situation is that we don’t have what many would picture as the “missionary life.” Three years ago we took early retirement, moved from the city of Cincinnati (population 300,000) to the small town of Coshocton (12,000) for the sole purpose of serving at MMS, an American based mission. We are not deprived of most of our life comforts, our culture shock is minimal and we have no language barrier. If we take an opportunity to evangelize we have no worries of being threatened or persecuted. The majority of our financial support comes from our pension benefit, not a church or other faith support. Once again, this is not how the population at large envisions the missionary life. Nor is it how most missionaries live. 

Therefore, if I am living this life that appears small and not experiencing what many would visualize as a missionary’s large life what right do I have to give myself the title of missionary? If I live my life in the U.S instead of crossing an ocean to live can I qualify as a missionary? If I am not evangelizing am I a missionary? These are some of the questions I’ve asked God and myself. I haven’t yet settled into any answers. In my mind it seems complicated and unclear. 

When other people ask me the question, “what do you do?” I often resort to answering with, “missionary”. Interestingly, very few people ask questions beyond that. However, I often feel the need to validate this with more of a description. I clear my throat and talk about all the wonderful things MMS does, my husband’s part and my part. 

Having shared my ambivalence about how to title my life I also want to share some things I do know. I know my husband and I both felt a “calling” on our lives to be here in Coshocton at MMS. Therefore, three years ago we took the early retirement; we packed our bags and sold our home. We left a place we loved. We left our family, our friends and our church. 

A “calling” is another one of those terms that seems gray and unclear. When I think of a calling it means I am able to look back and see a series of events that pointed me in one direction. In addition there were needs and desires placed inside of me that had to be fulfilled. These needs and desires are somewhat similar to times when I feel hungry. During those moments I know that only food is going to stop the hunger pain, to fill the void or to satisfy. I had needs and desires to live for something bigger then myself and for a purpose that would have eternal results. To accomplish this I knew I needed to depend on God. Only He provides the courage to live as I feel called instead of how others think I should. 

To make the explanation of a “calling” even more specific is to say that I am living my life based on faith. This faith in God allows me to believe that He is at work in my life. It does not mean that I always enjoy the purpose or the process. Nor does it mean I don’t miss what I have given up. However, what it does mean is what appears to most as a small life is not small to the God of the universe. It is what He created me for at this God created moment. I also have the faith that He is continuing to create me for moments He is constructing for the future. 

Lastly, I know that to not have taken the unique opportunity to live out the call for my life would have been wrong. My life would some how seemed cheapened, robbed and shallow. 

Also, I would not have been given the opportunity at this moment to write about my perplexing yet oddly extraordinary life. 

"For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well." 
Psalm 139.13-14

Monday, January 28

Traffic Jams

While we've been travelling round the UK, I've noticed an abundance of traffic jams! (This photo isn't from here ... but it just illustrates the point perfectly!)

For the majority of our driving around, we have managed to quite successfully avoid rush hour and any build up of traffic by arranging our appointments carefully. Of course, no schedule is perfect and the occasional accident is unavoidable but for the most part we only been onlookers when it has come to the really heavy/standstill traffic and not stuck right in the middle!

Living in small town Ohio, traffic was rarely an issue. In fact, there were times when I saw a red light on the horizon and would roll my eye's at the thought of having to use the brake ... even when I was likely to be either the first or second to get to them! Often times I would take a route that gave as many right hand turns as possible ... you can turn right on a red light as long as it's clear. Something I can't imagine would ever translate over to the UK as I think everyone would just take advantage of it and there would be accidents all over the place!

Longer journeys that we took on the Interstate Routes were also very straight forward with majority of drivers sticking to the speed limit, the roads being patrolled to enforce it and everyone pootling along at their own pace. Again something that was alien to us coming from the roads here, where I think the majority of people would agree that they drive at least 10 mph over the speed limit on any given road and for the most part get away with it too.

It was often joked that 'road rage' Coshocton style was when there was more than one car at a junction and each driver was adement about waving the other one on ahead of them ... kind of a 'you go first', 'no, you go first', 'no, really, you go first' type thing! Having been used to that for the last three years I've been slightly surprised by the aggressive and often abusive nature of drivers back here. I know that I have always been one of them (the aggressive not the abusive ones, just to clarify!) but it seems that I've have mellowed out being away from it and am not disappointed about that either!

I am therefore not in the slightest bit sad that we will soon be leaving the crazy, narrow, traffic filled roads of the UK in a couple of weeks time and exchanging them for those around Dodoma. While Dar Es Salaam is crazy and Dodoma can be somewhat aggressive too ... I know they are definitely my preference over the rat race back here in the England. Now we just need to find a car with which to drive those Tanzanian roads when we get there!

Friday, January 25

Day Dreaming

Dinner tonight was yummy IKEA meatballs ... if you haven't tried them, you're missing out! 

This afternoon after some MAF training we took a quick family trip to IKEA ... somewhere we haven't been for quite a few years. The nearest one to where we lived in Ohio was about 100 miles away and when we have been in the UK we have been too busy to fit it in.

Understandably, when we're travelling backwards and forwards with just suitcases, IKEA goods are a little impractical for us to transport. Another good reason not to go shopping there ... but it didn't stop us picking up the odd thing or two!

Today, at a time when we're living out of suitcases in several different locations with no time, space and routine ... and dreaming of getting into a home of our own again ... I walked around the store wishing for all the things we're not going to have for quite some time.

In the space of the hour we were there, I had visualised how I would decorate several rooms in a house we don't own, if we were living in the UK on a salary and not on faith support. In that time ... I also went through the thought processes of where we would live and settle if we ended up here after our commitment to MAF is done. It's funny how quickly the brain can process all that stuff!!

I love making a house a home ... and have enjoyed doing it in rented properties, which I've had to do ever since we've been married. But one of my  personal sacrifices of the missionary lifestyle is not having my own home that I can completely change, restyle and redecorate how I want, rather than just embellish it ... and today indulged my imagination a little bit more than normal!!

I wouldn't change what we are doing as a family for anything but a trip round IKEA is one of those occasions when the thought 'what are we doing?' does flash through my head ... only for minute!

Thursday, January 24

The MAF Office

Before we were living in Ohio at MMS Aviation, while we were there and when we are out in Tanzania ... there is always a whole load of people working away in the MAF UK offices in Kent, making all the details for us, our supporters, other overseas staff, families in the application process and a million other bit and pieces, fall into place.

Some of them we have been in touch with since the beginning, others we only know by name ... some we've been emailing back and forth with over the last year or so but have never met face to face. Each one of them though are really important to us and the work that MAF gets to do throughout the world but often (not always) because they aren't the faces of the actual pilots or engineers out on the mission field with MAF, almost get overlooked. Without them and their support we wouldn't be able to be doing what we're doing or be able to serve the ministry of MAF overseas.

Yesterday, as a family, we got to visit the MAF UK offices. They are relatively near where we are based right now, so it wasn't a huge undertaking to be able to do that and yet so helpful for both us and them to become more than just a face on a prayer card or an email address. We were able to catch up with some of the staff we have got to know well, get a few questions answered face-to-face rather than with a half a dozen emails going back and forth, meet some new people and give a presentation to all the staff, updating them on where we are on our MAF journey. 

It was also a really good opportunity to give feedback on our first stage with MAF and talk through some of the details of what is to come with people who know and understand the processes that we're going through and are working hard to make them as straight forward as possible for us. 

Being the admin half of our family, I have more likely been the one emailing backwards and forwards with them all at the office and I enjoyed being able to talk through some of the things we've been corresponding about and thanking the individuals personally for all they do on a regular basis on our behalf. They really are a bunch of superstars, so if you work in the MAF UK office and I didn't get a chance to say hello and thank you in person for whatever reason yesterday, we really do appreciate all you do for us! 

Tuesday, January 22

Snow Days

The last few days have been really snowy here in the UK. Having lived through three very snowy winters in Ohio, where life goes on regardless ... it's been really fun and amusing to watch the mass panic that has been going on in England!!

As our schedule is reasonably flexible it hasn't affected us too much and we've been able to adjust to fit around the snow ... and very much enjoyed the fun that has ensued! Including making snowmen, snow angels, having snowball fights and sledging!

It's funny how different people or countries react to different situations. It's really not the end of the world if it snows, life goes on and in many countries around the world it functions perfectly normally with several feet of snow rather than the several inches we've seen here. My favourite article about the snow in Britain, is from News Thump, who describe it as weather-based terrorism to bring the country to a standstill!!

I was really disappointed when it seemed we'd missed out on this winter's snow having left Ohio just a week or so before it arrived there. What made it worse was when I realised that this will probably be the last winter for many years that we will be somewhere where we would have the chance to enjoy snowy weather at all! Eight years of living in more tropical climates can have it's drawbacks!!

Abigail has had a few winter's worth of experience in the snow now and has been really eager to introduce Naomi ... who wasn't old enough to appreciate it last year and just looks totally bemused when we're all goofing around in the snow now! While all Abigail seems to have been talking about recently is Africa and how she can't wait to get there, especially because it's 'cold' here ... she, like me, is loving every minute of the snow and can't understand why it's causing so many to get their 'knickers in such a twist'! 

I'm loving it ... maybe it's because it'll be the last time in a long time that we will get to experience it ... maybe it's because I'm just a big kid at heart ... but I'm certainly not disappointed when I hear Abigail praying for more when we say our prayers before bedtime!

Friday, January 18

Traditional English Crumpets

One priority on our agenda's when we are visiting the UK, is always enjoying food that we can't get where we have been living. Perhaps our waistlines expand a little in the process but it's definitely worth the indulgence of 'home comforts'!

There are all kinds of yumminess that I personally miss when we're living abroad. Many of the things would be food that I wouldn't necessarily eat regularly if we lived in England ... but it's surprising how not being able to get them for a year or so at a time makes you want to eat them all the more!

As a family we're been enjoying all kinds of things from bacon sandwiches, proper sausages and cream teas to fish and chips, custard creams and a large selection of British chocolate bars. 

I am always on the look out for how I can replicate our favourite treats from scratch ... so that we can eat them even if we can't get them at the local shops wherever we live in the world. Especially looking ahead to our move to Tanzania next month.

Last week, my dad treated us to what was described as his new 'party trick'! Homemade crumpets, see them cooking below. (For the non-Brit readers among you, click here for the Wikipedia description.) It's been something I've wanted to experiment with for a while and just never had the chance to get round to it ... but now I have a full-proof delicious recipe from my dad!

Here it is ... very British and very yummy!
  • 250g sieved strong white bread flour
  • 1x 7g sachet dried active yeast
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/2 t bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml water
  • 275ml milk
  • Butter for greasing and to serve
  • Crumpet Rings to cook them in
  1. Heat the water and milk together until lukewarm
  2. Sieve flour into mixing bowl, add yeast, sugar, bicarb & salt
  3. Mix in warm liquid to flour mixture with wooden spoon, then whisk for a few minutes until a batter is formed
  4. Place damp tea towel across the top of the bowl and leave in a warm place for about an hour, til risen and full of bubbles
  5. Grease crumpet rings and add butter to pre-heated non-stick frying pan
  6. Put rings into the frying pan, add approx 2 teaspoons of mixture into each ring ... just under half full
  7. Cook on medium-low heat, approx 10 mins until surface has bubbled, formed holes and dried out
  8. Remove rings (carefully ... they're HOT!) then flip crumpets for a few seconds so the tops can brown
  9. Serve immediately with butter, jam, melted cheese, syrup or something else ... or save and toast later
This recipe makes approx 12 crumpets. It is possible to stir in some extra ingredients just before the cooking stage ... the ones we enjoyed had chopped walnuts and raisins in them!

Thursday, January 17

Down Time

You may (or may not!) have picked up from my recent posts just how crazy life is for us right now. Getting 'down time' as individuals or as a family is something that we're trying to prioritise, to refresh us for when it is all a bit more full-on!

A few weeks ago Mark's parents looked after the girls so we could go shopping. Proper shopping. Not the spending loads of money kind. The browsing in bookstores, taking time over a meal, walking along hand-in-hand kind. The kind you don't always get to do when there are little munchkins around!

Yesterday, my mum looked after the girls so that we could go and see 'Les Miserables' ... absolutely amazing and totally worth it, if you're considering it. (Although it was an emotional roller coaster which left me with a bit of a stress headache afterwards, I'm embarrassed to admit!!)

It has been really nice to be with the grandparents while we're in the UK and have the opportunity to do these things and get a little time to ourselves. Something that we miss out on while we're overseas and cherish here. I know they cherish it too, to get quality time with the munchkins ... the only grandchildren on both sides of the family!

Today though, we made time for some fun as a family, no speaking engagements, no catching up, no agendas! We went into London, along with my sister and were total tourists. The train ride itself was exciting enough for Abigail, having lived nowhere near any public transport for the majority of her life ... so it just kept keeping better from there in her eyes!

In amongst everything that is going on right now, days like today are not only important but necessary. To maintain a sense of fun amongst all our engagements isn't something we should feel bad about, it will equip and refresh us as a family to fulfil all our commitments better. If you're from a missionary family and are ever on home assignment with your family, even though everyone will want a piece of you, remember to prioritise some 'down time' too!

Tuesday, January 15

Look Both Ways

Growing up, I was taught to 'look both ways' before I crossed a road. The start of a new year can be similar, reflecting on the year that has passed and anticipating the one to come.

On New Years Day, we took a walk on the beach in Cornwall (see the photo below). Wrapped up under multiple layers. It was freezing but beautiful.

The beach has a 'clean slate' after every high tide ... just as we often feel like we can start afresh at the beginning of a new year.

While we've been keeping everyone else up-to-date with our news at the moment, it has given us a chance as a family to recap what we've got up to over the last year. 2012 was a BIG year for us. These are the highlights ...
  • In January, Mark went to Papua New Guinea for a month to work on a plane for SIL. The longest time we've ever spent apart since we first met. 
  • In April, as a family we drove from Ohio to Florida, for Mark to work at MFI, a mission there for three weeks and for all of us to experience life exploring a new place.
  • In August, we drove up to Toronto for a long weekend with friends
  • In September, Mark took his FAA exams and qualified as an aircraft engineer
  • In November, we flew out to Dodoma, Tanzania ... to see where we would be moving to next as a family
  • In December, we packed up our lives in Ohio, shipped all our belongings off in a container, said our goodbyes and flew to England
Looking back, it's actually quite exhausting when I consider all we fitted in, in amongst all the visitors and other stuff we got up to!

Looking forward at the beginning of this year, I sometimes wonder just exactly what have we got ourselves into! A couple of months of driving around catching up with people and support raising and then moving to and settling into a whole new life and culture in Tanzania! The life of an MAF missionary!! Thankfully we're going into it with our eyes wide open and are looking forward to the adventure that the year will bring.

Guaranteed it's going to be a whirlwind ... but it will definitely be an exciting one, with God at the centre. I can't wait to enjoy it with my best friend and my two little girlies!

Friday, January 11


Happy New Year ... belatedly I'll admit ... but just as heartfelt nonetheless!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit all over the place ... so firstly apologies for the lack of posts without any warning and secondly thank you to all of you who have been checking anyway just in case, I really appreciate your interest in 'The Missionary Mum'!

Flexibility is something that time and again, missionaries have shared is one the most important character traits to survive the lifestyle and different cultures ... I think that it definitely applies to being a mum too. I'm not sure if I've been given a double portion or not? There are definitely times when being flexible is easy and straight forward and other times when it is a real effort ... but most of the time it's worth it!

Life with munchkins this week has required flexibility. With one throwing up one evening, equaling a night on the sofa for me, then two days later the other following suit and me going down with it today. The cranky pants behaviour that goes along with that and just being out of the normal routine of life surrounded by the unfamiliar.

Then there has been, the keeping up with supporters and important emails. The filling out paperwork for all kinds of different things. Organising our schedule for this time in the UK. Looking ahead to life in Tanzania and making sure we're all prepared and ready. As well as bed hopping, 6 beds in 3 weeks.

This blog requires flexibility too. Last week we had no internet, so I couldn't blog. I packed my recipe book in the container, so I haven't been able to include any new ones recently. The guest bloggers I'd lined up have had various important reasons why they weren't able to write last month, so we missed one. If blogger doesn't want to upload a photo, then there's just no photo!

Like with everything else ... when things don't work out or don't get done as planned, I've found that either I can get frustrated and stressed about it or I can take it in my stride, learn from it and move on. As I said before, that's often easier said than done. 

If the whole family is sick, however much we want to see people, it's just not going to happen! If I make decisions that I decide in hindsight are wrong, I often can't reverse them so there's no reason to rehash and rehash them but just move forward and make better decisions in the future. If I get behind with something, then I just set aside time when I can concentrate and catch up. If, as a family, we're living out of suitcases and moving around regularly then we have to except that things aren't going to be 'just right' all the time!

Flexibility is the key ... and is something we're learning from day-to-day, especially not living in a home of our own right now. Hopefully, as a family we're getting it right some of the time ... and helping the girls learn that it's a trait to embrace and roll-with as they grow up too!