Category Archives: faith

Soap Box #1, part 2

A few years ago, before D and I went to Africa. Before we were called to this church in Orange County. While we were still living in San Diego, I was working as a teacher. This thing happened to me, I wanted to have children. Now I’ve heard that it happens to many people. And when I wrote the post below, this was happening to me. But it was not time yet. I know well that there are seasons. God has reminded me so many times that I am not in control, and the more I give my life to God, the less the worry surrounds me. God takes away that fear and anxiety and replaces it with trust and peace. Over and again I take my life back, thinking I should control it, and then I turn back and give it to God. We are in the middle, constantly having to return to God for grace. I have not arrived. But will be in a constant state of coming to God for grace. I wrote the post below when I was only seeing what was directly in front of me, my wants and desires were in the way once again. But it shows how delicate we are. Which means we should always be so careful in how we interact with the hearts around us.

~

One day (a few years ago), while out to dinner with some friends and some acquaintances, I was asked questions that made me feel very uncomfortable. Starting with, “are you going to have kids?” followed with, “how old are you?” I was half expecting the next comment to be, “well, you’re # years away from thirty-five, so if your kids are going to be more than a few years apart, you better get crackin!” or “you have # years of fertility left, just keep that in mind!” I felt like running into the girl’s bathroom to cry. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. I’m not the best at thinking on my feet. After reflection, I tend to have good comments or questions to share. However, in the moment, if I’m getting worked up, my responses are horrible. All I could say was, “when the time is right” and when asked my age I just said it. I wanted to escape before I was asked about my fertility strength…especially while sitting down for a meal. I took deep breaths, fighting back any facial expressions that would reveal my freaking out. I exhaled and calmed down the longing, only letting my eyes water a little. Thankful to be sitting in such a darkened restaurant. I wanted to say, “yes, we would love to have children!, but why do you ask? I mean, I’ve just met you! What makes you think it’s actually normal to ask me about my reproductive system!?” I would never ever say that second part, but I did think it.

While I was having a conversation with a very loved, respected and close friend of mine, she mentioned that she and her husband were planning to start “trying” to get pregnant, perhaps in the near future. When all I wanted to do was share joy with her, and as the words jumped out of my mouth that it was so exciting and wonderful to be in that place, my heart sank with a rush of sadness and at the same time my desire to have children too was evident. Before I could stop it, my throat tightened, the sides of my mouth were pulled downward to a frown, and tears spilled down my cheeks. My pain was quiet for a moment and then she asked me. I was so flabbergasted at my own reaction and it became so clear that all I wanted was to be a mother. To give my life up, to serve and nurture. Just knowing that, when I give up my life…I come alive. Knowing that when I am selfless and fully focused on loving others is when I distinguish slightly more the presence of God. God wants us to love. To tiptoe away from our humanity just a little. This selfish disposition that we hold. We clutch so tightly to stuff that makes us feel significant, always trying to be the most important, the better one in the room. Who has the coolest stuff, the nicest house, the kindest heart, the best creation. We’re always comparing. Even if in small ways. When I see other people and their joy. I want it.

It comes to this: I want to be a mother. There is a time. A season. If God chooses to bless me and humble me in that way, I will give thanks.

~

Now, the timing is here. Well, this baby is still in my belly, for another five weeks -give or take. I am needing to turn to God in trust and prayer. To know that she is healthy. That the labor and delivery will be okay. That God will carry us as we become parents. Now that the time is so close. I once again, need to turn to God and rest in the trust and peace that is offered.

What season are you in? Are you in a time where you are trying to control, do you need to give it up to God again?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

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Words for a Mother-to-be

With the world telling us that whatever we do is just not enough, here’s a little love and encouragement from some friends… (the words just made me smile so big I had to share)

You are capable of being the perfect mother for this child. Trust your instincts and be confident in what you know is right for your family. Use your phone to communicate anytime you need or want help! You are loved and friends can’t wait to serve! Know that God blessed you with all the gifts you’ll need to be a great mommy! Have your husband get up with the baby after the last feeding at 6am or so and let you sleep for a couple more hours.                   Sleep whenever you can, wherever you can. Find good movies to watch on Netflix with your husband when you’re up at 1-4am. Ask for help. Snuggle, snuggle, snuggle! Have a well-stocked first aid kit! Always inspire her to dream big and reassure her that she can do anything. Just love your baby! Make bedtime special when she’s older. Read a lot (to her)! Sing a lot! Do what feels right. Forgive yourself. Enjoy seeing the world through new eyes. Never sit down to nurse without a glass of water. Pray a lot and have fun! Use friends to help baby-sit! Have your husband bring the baby to you during nighttime feedings. Having children is the greatest and hardest thing you will do in your life… Trust yourself, trust the Holy Spirit in you… He will be your guide. You know what to do!!! Skin to skin really works! It was my favorite moment. Trust your instincts.. Let people help you.. don’t try and do it all yourself.. Go to a mom’s group! Join a playgroup early, it’s really for the mommies! Let others help you when they offer, they WANT to help. Love your baby lots! Stay true to yourself and feel free to ignore the advice of all the moms… You are going to be an amazing mom! Just because you’re amazing!

Feel free to add more in the comments section below!

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Distractions

An aspect about life in Africa was the clear focus we were free to have on God. The media didn’t infiltrate every aspect of life. My days were filled with cooking, praying, reading scripture, being with people, teaching, and so forth. This was difficult because the culture from which I came is not one that is filled with those things, anymore.

We eat out much of the time, because people finish the day and are “too tired” to cook. Sometimes we even forget to eat breakfast, but instead we drink that cup of coffee to get us moving in the morning. Coffee is a delicacy, but here it is essential. In Malawi, often cooking means that we build fires, especially when the power is out. It means cooking ndiwo and then nsima in pots. It means the whole family gathers from their respective places, be it work or school. All eat and rest at the lunch hour. It is not rushed. The fastest cooked food is boiled in a pot for ten minutes.

Prayer is what people do on Sundays or Christmas or Easter, here in America, and because we are so comfortable most of the time, we only pray when life stops going along with us. In Malawi, people pray because God has called us to pray without ceasing. They pray at five o’clock in the morning each day, they wake up in the middle of the night to pray, they pray at every meal, before and after every car journey, at night after dinner they pray. They pray together. Community is how life is in Malawi.

In the hot season there is this time of day about two o’clock when it’s too hot to do anything. One must only sit and be. It is a forced break.

Here there are so many happenings that our eyes are on the doing this or that and I find myself at the end of the day without having prayed or read the bible. Not because I didn’t want to, but only because there were all those things keeping my attention and I went from one thing to the next without stopping in between to be. Praise God that He helps us remember and come back.

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Pause

The last few weeks somehow got very busy for me. David went to Malawi, and for some unknown reason I found every nook and cranny of each of those days and filled it right up. With people to see or things to do. By the time David returned, I was ready to lock myself inside my house and sleep for a three days straight. I did slow down. It’s amazing to me how I could just dive right into that strange normal that so many of us are accustomed to on a regular basis. What exactly are we all chasing after anyway?

Our lives get so filled to the brim that we just forget to stop to take a breath. It is my sincere belief that sometimes catching a cold is good for us because it forces us to pause for a moment. It forces us to stop. Rest. Reflect. Return to God in prayer.

One of the many things that I have noticed upon return to America is that we rarely take time to pause. The moments move so quickly because life is just so fast.

The questions just won’t stop coming. Are you settled in yet? Do you have a job yet? No one asks if the pictures have made their way onto the open walls, or if I have found that one good friend (Lu and the Swamp Ghost). Or how they could be a friend. People don’t seem to want to know if I have discovered that cozy coffee shop where I have found that certain corner to read a good book, or if I have found a farmer’s market that sells locally grown food. The focus is so much on what we are doing instead of who we are being. If you haven’t recently, take a moment, or an afternoon, and just pause.

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Well, you’re in America now and here we…

I only heard this phrase a few times, it came in different forms. It really rubbed me the wrong way. I heard it sometimes after I started a sentence with, “In Africa…”

Living in Malawi for a time changed me. I may be in America now, but the people and experiences there made a lasting imprint on my heart. After a few months of being home, people sometimes asked me if I had made the complete transition back to this culture. My response was that I believe that I had transitioned as much as I would. All the other stuff is just how God changed me from the experience. I find it difficult to stay the same. Especially after going and seeing, living, breathing another culture. Sometimes I hear sermons that impress upon my heart, sometimes it’s books I read or conversations with people. Encounters that compel. I always desire to be open to God changing my heart. Are you open to God changing your heart?

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Kauma Choir

Choir from Hailey Rohde on Vimeo.

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Our last full month in Malawi, June.

I don’t know where to start.

So much has happened since my last blog. My parents came to Malawi to visit. The mission trip team came from LJPC. There was our send-off service at Lingadzi. We said goodbye to the team. I came down with a cold. We tried to pack up our life. Then people came to say a few last goodbyes.

Now I am sitting in a pub in Notting Hill drinking a Guinness and trying to figure out what it all means. It’s raining outside. All is wet and cold. I can only hear out of one ear because of my congestion. Where are we going from here? How will our life be different forever because of this experience? Where do I begin in processing the events of the last ten months?

The fact that I am drinking a Guinness shows that I am ready to make a transition back to my own culture.

When visitors came I learned that no matter what I said, wrote, or did, I could not instill a sensitivity to Malawian culture that I had attempted for so many months myself. No matter what, no one could learn in two weeks what took me ten months. What was I thinking?

If people are not willing to learn, teaching doesn’t do much. In Malawi I saw a ton of willingness to learn and desire for further education. I also saw indifference and little desire to learn or change. I do suspect that I would find this anywhere in the world. No matter where I am, I assume that there will be people who want more and those who are content with what they have.

A mission trip is a lot of work. It is unlike any other type of visit. Plus, Americans are high maintenance. We like to be comfortable. We like to have a plan. We like to have a back-up plan. Being in Malawi, life happens. I would be pleasantly surprised when life worked out. But I learned quickly that I should not plan much, because it would fall through. The first month we were there, I searched for a fan; this took several days and multiple stores. An excursion that I thought would take an afternoon took a while longer. So I stopped having expectations. This way, how could I be disappointed? But I like people to be happy, especially if I am hosting. So I tried and failed to make things go exactly as planned. Another reminder that no, I am not in control, God is. One day when we were on the bus, there was worry that we would run out of fuel. Our friend Jason said to me, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord?” and of course I said I did and to this his response was that all would be okay. Of course it was. Which shows how deep faith is in Malawi. This is something that will remain in my heart.

The send-off service was wonderful. David preached. There were speeches from the church session clerk, the synod representative, the presbytery representative. I even gave a short speech. Then many handshakes, hugs, farewell gifts and smiles. My favorite part of saying goodbye came during the following Sunday when I was in with the Sunday School children and they were sharing loving thoughts and words of gratitude. Bester says to me, “I am wishing you a friendly good luck, safe journey, it is a tough world people can die, as believers we live forever”. He is right. This is a tough place to live because death happens. People do choose to live in opposition to God. They do choose to hurt, to smash, to lie, to steal. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to live that way. We can choose to love. We can choose to love God and love people. It is my hope and prayer that with the power that only comes from the Holy Spirit, that God would help me to live a life of love and not that other stuff.

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Ready to come home

When I went away to college from San Diego, California to Spokane, Washington, I was looking for a new experience and expecting adventure. It is true that my experience at Whitworth shaped me more and my faith deepened. I also found amazing friends there; some who I have lost touch with and others that have remained close despite the distance.

When I came to Malawi, I came looking for a new experience, hoping that it would deepen my faith and I was also expecting adventure. All these things I have certainly found. I have also formed friendships that may fade with distance and time, but I am sure a few will remain close, despite the distance.

In both cases, going away has taught me that home will always be home. There will be no other place where I can enjoy the ocean that I grew up near my whole life. The ocean that I visited daily as a child. The ocean where my husband proposed to me. The ocean where I spent the fourth of July almost every year, playing over-the-line with friends. There will be no other place where I spent countless ours playing soccer starting from when I could kick a soccer ball. No other place where I took my first step, said my first word, squished mud between my toes for the first time, broke my first bone, had my first win, my first loss, took my first photograph, had a broken heart for the first time, considered the value of life for the first time, encountered Jesus for the first time…

When I left San Diego to step into this new adventure, I knew I would miss all the people and places that hold so many memories. I also know that new memories would shape up in Malawi. They have, good and difficult ones.

God has taught me a few things, or reminded me of lessons I continue to learn again and again. God has taught me that God will give the strength to live my faith actively each day. God has also taught me that when I fail, there will be grace and mercy for me. I have also learned that any good fruit that grows in my midst has not much to do with anything that I have done, but has only to do with how much God has done. I just happen to have been nearby to see it happen.

Yes, I will miss our friends in Malawi, and yes, I am looking forward to going, home.

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Being Humbled

I am sure that we have all experienced times when life is, not as we had hoped. We have had to find strength, comfort, or encouragement, to face those things that didn’t quite go as we had hoped. Life is full of unmet expectations and disappointment.

I have written about how, what I considered to be the basics (water, electricity) my whole life, are not always available here. During the rainy season, the water was abundant, clearly. Then come May, the water stopped falling from the sky. So therefore, this week at about nine o’clock in the morning, the water pressure decreased and by ten, the tap was dry. Of course, even though this has happened so many times that I should have been expecting it, but I was, once again, let down. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world I find myself, life is and always will be filled with disappointment. But this is not really a bad thing; this world is not our home. There is life with God after we leave this place. And while we are here, God can provide what we need to step through each day.

God reminded me this morning in 1 Peter, chapter 5, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline  yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory of Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

So I am being humbled, just a little. However, it is good to know that God is and will continue to sustain me. No matter how small or large the discontentment may be.

One of the many friendly reminders in Malawi.

 

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God in the Quiet

Friends of ours gave us a little book with thoughts from Mother Teresa. I was reading it again and was especially brought to this part that speaks about silence,

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.”

I wonder when do I ever have a silent heart. My heart always seems to be filled with the troubles or stuff of this world. Do I ever work on making my heart grow quiet so that I can open it up to God’s words?

I have met people here who have hardly any formal education and the lack of critical thinking in this country is astounding. But some have hearts that are silent. It often seems like they are preaching to God in their prayers, in a loud whisper that sounds like a sort of sputtering petition. But in daily work, they are calm, strong and open to the words God has for them.

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