Weekends in Chad

It is Friday!

I’ve always loved my weekends. They are a much needed break in between school and work. They give me time to relax, get personal things done, spend time with loved ones, etc. But I really, really, really love my weekends in Chad.

Saturday mornings start off very similar to how they did in the States. We sleep in, lounge around, and make pancakes for brunch. After everyone is fed – and I’m caffeinated, we each go our separate ways and decide whether we want to read, play, watch a movie, or just stare off into space.

After doing one or all of the above, we gather back together to eat a late lunch/early dinner. Sometimes we decide to play a board game or watch a movie together and other times we decide to each go our separate ways and read, play, watch a movie, or just stare off into space again.

Sundays are just as nice. We attend an English-speaking church service two Sunday mornings each month. The other two Sunday mornings are spent relaxing just like Saturdays. Sunday afternoons differ for me though. I spend my time in the kitchen by myself. I make cookies and muffins for the coming week’s breakfasts and snacks. It’s just me, my music, and my recipes. I love it!

Come Sunday evening, a few missionary families will meet up to play volleyball and hang out. Robert and the kids often join in the fun. But me? You’ll find me hiding in our quiet, dark apartment reading by the light of my Kindle.

Every now and then, the kids might have a birthday party to attend or we’ll spend a few hours with friends, but for the most part, our weekends are very slow. Some may say they are boring. But to me they are lovely.

Weekends in Chad are this introvert’s dream!

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Saturday morning bedhead –  no one needs to see this pic enlarged. Ha!

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A slow morning with a taste and smell of autumn

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Weslee enjoying some alone time in the sun. I think she’s a bit introverted like her momma. 

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The love of rhythm and routine

What a week this has been! School was out, so the kids and I were home all week. I still don’t know the area well enough to make a bunch of plans, and I’m not sure yet if it’s appropriate for the kids and I to head to a corner shop or an import store and browse. We don’t speak French so I do know that would be a problem.

The compound we live on has a small library, playground, trampoline, and a kids’ soccer game every Wednesday afternoon, so there is plenty to do right here. But we are on this compound all the time, which is great for me since I would be happy being a hermit, but it’s not so great for my outgoing family. We’re used to doing special things when we are on break, so there was some disappointment.

Robert came down sick with a kidney stone, so it was best that we didn’t have any plans. He has passed a kidney stone once before, so when the pain started he knew the drill. He drank a bunch of water, took some pain meds, and kept a vomit bucket close by. But two days later, he became dehydrated and felt miserable. Thankfully, a missionary doctor is staying in the apartment above us. She gave him 2 liters of IV fluids and monitored his progress. By the 4th bag of IV, he began feeling like himself again. He’s had little pain since then, and is doing much better. Praise God!

Side note – it was shocking and amazing that the doctor had everything she needed on hand. She used my yarn to tie the IV bag to our bed and I “assisted” her in getting it all ready. When the time came, we sat outside on the dusty walkway in front of our apartment while she removed the IV. Hashtag missionary life. Ha! I’m so thankful we didn’t have to make a trip the hospital. If you know a missionary doctor, you should send them an extra donation for Christmas this year. If you don’t any, I know two here in Chad that are amazing…I can give you their names. 😉

The sickness stint on top of not having anything to do sent us all into a funk. We had moments of feeling blue, snapping at each other in anger, and just feeling bored and useless. It took a lot of patience and grace to get us through last week. I’m thankful for the all games and DVDs we brought with us; they were very helpful!

Tomorrow is a new day and school and work resume. Woohoo! We will get back into our normal rhythm and fill our days with books, work, and friends. Thank God for routine!

It’s crazy, but I can remember a time not that long ago when I hated routine. I felt tied down, boxed in. My free-spirit wanted spontaneity, no deadlines, freedom to choose whatever I wanted. While I’m still very much a free spirit and like a little spontaneity, I’ve learned to appreciate certain boxes and deadlines, which makes me feel like I’ve finally grown up. I’m about to turn 38, so I guess it’s about time. Ha!

Thank you to everyone who is praying for us! We feel encouraged and strengthened by your prayers.

 

After getting the IV

Dr. Ruth checking on things


The kids enjoy playing in the rain when it comes.

Two weeks in Chad

We left the USA two weeks ago. Since then, we’ve unpacked our apartment, enrolled the kids in school, and started working. Those are just the big things. The little everyday things we’ve had to adjust to have been the hardest. Jet lag was tough, but by the end of week 1, it was over. Remembering to brush our teeth, drink, and cook with filtered water hasn’t been too hard, but it does help that one of our kitchen faucets provides filtered water. I think the hardest adjustments for me have been living without air conditioning, the frequent power outages, and the bugs.

Indulge me while I complain a little:

The heat and humidity is suffocating some days. I sweat all the time. By afternoon, I’m sweating as much as I do when I work out. My hair and dress get drenched. I tell myself that the sweat makes my skin look like it’s glowing…trying to find a silver lining. Ha! I’m so thankful that we have plenty of fans. Even when they’re just circulating hot air, it’s better than no circulation at all.

N’Djamena has frequent power outages. That means that we not only lose our lights, we also lose our fans. Not good! Thankfully, our compound has a generator that comes on little bit after the power dies. That bit of time when the fans stop is miserable, especially when it happens in the middle of the night. We have had a couple of times when the generator didn’t work. One night we slept with ice packs and wet washcloths until the power came back on. We’re finding creative ways to stay cool.

The bugs. Oh, the bugs. There are these little gnats that can fit through the netting of our mosquito nets, and they bite. I made some bug repellent spray for our sheets and net last night. I think it helped. Praise God! Once dry season arrives in November, we’ve heard that the bugs and the humidity begin to go away. I can’t wait!

Ok. Complaining is over. Let’s move on to the good stuff:

I love my job! Teaching this little Kindergarten class is so much fun. The kids are wonderful – I think they all are being on their best behavior because I’m new. Ha! We have fun reading and playing and working together.

I love our house helper. It’s a common practice here in Africa for expats to create jobs for locals. We hired a young woman to hand wash our clothes, shop at the city market, and cook our lunch during the week. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, and with all of us working or attending school from 7:30am-12:30pm, it’s nice to come home to lunch already prepared. I don’t speak French, so communicating is difficult. Having our house helper shop and do the bargaining at the market is so helpful. We get to practice our French with her and she practices her English. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

Last week, we attended a prayer meeting with all the missionaries who are working with the Daza and Teda people. I feel so honored to be a part of this amazing group. Chad is a poor and hard place to live, but there is a large group of missionary families who have committed their lives to helping make Chad better through literacy and education, clean water, medical care, and of course, the love of Jesus. I love that we get to be here and assist them. They are truly making a difference in so many lives!

I’ve come to realize that for every hard thing we must endure here in Chad, there is a good thing happening to keep us going.

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Waiting for the school taxi.

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First day of school

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Dress shopping at the market.

 

 

 

An Ode to This Old House

This old house has seen me through more than half of my adult life.

We moved in when Shiloh was 4 years old and Huck was 4 months old (2008).

We have so many heartwarming memories in this house.

The kids and I sent Robert off on many travels and adventures from this house and joyfully welcomed him home when they were over.

I taught Shiloh to read in this living room. I think I also taught her to dislike math here too. Whoops!

The kids learned to ride bikes on these sidewalks, learned what being neighborly looks like from our kind neighbors, and developed life long friendships with some of the greatest people right here on this street.

They experienced the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus here. Built forts, obstacle courses, fairy houses and leprechaun traps in this yard. Had late night conversations and tenderhearted prayer times in their bedrooms.

Their dirty little fingerprints are on every doorknob, door, door frame, window, window pane, windowsill, wall, corner, baseboard, countertop, cabinet…you get the idea.

The hours of snow shoveling done here will not be missed, but jumping in the giant piles of snow will be.

This house is where I planted my first garden. I experienced life coming from my hands. I also experienced death coming from my hands as this is where I learned that I am not a good gardener.

We named our giant maple tree in this front yard Mr. Bark. He hosted many squirrels, birds, fairies and gnomes. He had canopies, tents, faces, and fairy doors hung from his trunk.

Mr. Bark was also the home to our joy-filled tire swing. Our kids and many neighbors spent hours swinging here. The swing became an airplane, a pirate ship, a boredom-buster, and a friend gatherer.

We brought Louis and Bowdrie home to this house. We will miss watching them view the outside world from our living room bay window, but we have fond memories of cuddle and play time with them here.

It was in this house that my marriage died and, by the grace of God, was resurrected. This is the house we separated in and the house where we reunited.

This house hosted many counseling sessions, crying sessions, yelling sessions, and making up sessions.

This is where I was when I received the news of my dad’s death. This is where my friends came around me and helped carry me through that loss.

I had a late term miscarriage in this home. We said goodbye to a little life in our upstairs bathroom.

Then I gave birth to Weslee in this home. We said hello to her in that same upstairs bathroom.

This house hosted birthday parties, halloween parties, dance parties, bonfires, christmas concerts, bible studies, and neighborhood soup nights.

It’s been the holder of happy times and sad times, and it has held my family well.

I’m so thankful God saw fit for this house to be a part of who we are.

722 Palace St, you are a wonderful piece in our story.

722Palace

Mornings Outside

Sun shining.

Wind blowing.

Fresh air flowing.

Leaves swaying.

Cicadas buzzing.

Birds chirping.

Water gurgling.

Webs glistening.

Bells chiming.

Kids laughing.

Lungs deep-breathing.

Shoulders relaxing.

Mind dreaming.

Hope filling.

Peace welcoming.

Here is joy.

Here is rest.

Here is God.

A prayer

I’m feeling the waves, the wind, the sea all around me – the fundraising, the packing, the moving, the emotions. I’m losing my focus on Jesus and focusing instead on the storm.

Lord Jesus, you are sovereign. You have called us to Chad. You have provided the way. But somehow in the midst of all my preparation, my mind has lost sight of that.

I feel like Peter when he walked on water and then began to sink. I was cruising along on the waves with you, and then I looked at the storm around me and became scared.

Take my hand, Lord. Lift me up. Give me strength. Reignite your calling in me.

Not today, honey!

I’m having a hard day. I don’t feel sad or sleepy or angry. I just feel down…exhausted…weary. Depressed.

This has been a hard week. We moved out of our house and signed the closing papers. This is a huge change for us and every emotion is knocking on our doors.

I feel like I’ve been carrying a heavy load all week. And now I just want to go to bed and stay there.

I’m fully aware of my mental illness today. She’s sitting a little too close to me right now. Thankfully, I recognize how close she’s getting and I have my tool box ready to prevent her from sitting on my lap and taking control over me.

I took my meds this morning. I got out of bed, put on my clothes, and took the kids to Chick-fil-A. We ate inside so I had to interact with strangers. I had to be seen and heard. Then we went to Target for some groceries – checked something off my list – and even though I did use the self-checkout, I still had to leave the comfort of my bed and car and be around people. Then when we got back to the apartment, I played on the play ground with my kids. I laid in the grass, basked in the sun, and even asked Weslee to push me on the swing. I sat on my bed, inhaled some essential oils (bergamot, lemon, and patchouli), and wrote in my journal. People, these are HUGE wins for me on a day like today!

To some these tools of mine may seem silly, but to me they are major successes. Today, I stood up to my mental illness and said, “Not today, honey!”

In Between Chapters

This is the part before my new beginning.

I’m not enjoying it very much and that makes me sad.

I thought my time of preparing for Chad would be exciting and thought provoking.

But now, I just want it to to be over. I want to be finished packing, finished fundraising, and have already said my goodbyes. I’m ready to wake up to my new life in Chad.

I know Chad will be here before I know it, so I don’t want to rush and skip the importance of the preparation part.

I think I’ve just been so busy sorting, organizing, de-cluttering, down-sizing, and trying to fit my family’s next year into 15 pieces of luggage, that I haven’t stopped to reflect on the emotional side of it all.

I went through boxes of my late dad’s and brother’s things, and I did it all so quickly and robotically that I honestly didn’t allow myself to really feel the weight of what I was doing.

My mom asked me the other day if I have any regrets of things I’ve sold, donated, or thrown away. Thankfully, my answer is no even though I’ve been moving through everything so quickly.

I feel it’s time to stop for a moment. To pause and let this all soak in. To put all my preparation on hold and breathe in my past and present.

My talented neighbor and friend painted this portrait of our home as a perfect going away gift. Looking at it is helping me slow down and reflect on my time here. I truly have learned and grown so much here in this old house.

722Palace

 

No More Dumpster Diving

We have a huge dumpster in our driveway that we’ve been tossing all sorts of junk into. Everything that’s not garage sale or Goodwill worthy is meeting it’s demise in this dumpster – from broken bricks to an old beat up couch.

The other day, I threw away a couple of old diaries that I was tired of keeping up with. I doubted this decision later. I remembered the fun memories recorded on those pages, and I remembered the not so good memories. I thought that maybe I should keep the diaries to remind myself where I’ve been and what I’ve come through. I went back to the trash and pulled them out.

After reading through them, I decided to return them to the trash. I decided that having the memories from that time is better than having my actual words on a page. I would rather remember what I learned and how I grew in those moments than to have every little detail I documented during the moment.

Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s where my mind is right now.

I’m trying to simplify my possessions. I’m trying to not be sentimental with things unless they’re irreplaceable or trigger a memory I never want to forget. I want to hold on to the things that truly mean love and life to me than have a bunch of stuff just cluttering up my little world.

I guess you could say that I’m seeking a bit of minimalism. The idea of not holding on to things that really don’t add to my life is what I’m after. I only want to keep the items that evoke deep emotion in me as keepsakes. I would rather leave a couple of boxes of meaningful items for my kids to sort through when I’m gone than a whole house filled with things they really don’t care or know about.

My goal is to not pull things out of the trash if my first instinct was not to keep it. If I have to think too hard about something, it’s probably not worth keeping.

**Edited to add: I do have 2 journals that I did keep. There was no doubt in my mind of whether I would keep them or not. They are not just little details about my life, but they contain thoughts and feelings that I want to pass down to my children. Please don’t think I’m trying to be an insensitive jerk. Ha!

A New Purpose

This quote from Rebekah Lyons “Freefall to Fly” hits me right between the eyes:

“…we walk the streets of our cities with appointments and responsibilities but lack a sense that God intended purpose for our days.”

I knew my purpose and destiny in life was in missions/humanitarian work since I was 15 years old. God confirmed that calling multiple times throughout high school and college. Because of that desire and pull on my life, I traveled quite a bit. I signed up for every mission trip I could. I raised support from family, friends, and churches. I remember living in Sweden for 3 months after college and knowing that my purpose in life was to leave the US and show God’s love around the world.

Even when Robert and I got married, we talked about traveling together and raising our family overseas. We satisfied this desire for a while through Robert’s travels with TEAM. I even accompanied him on a trip to Guatemala once. Then God called us to Chad.

We visited Chad for one month in 2014 and fell in love with the people and the mission. After that trip, we knew we were supposed to go back at some point. Our whole family was excited to plan a year-long excursion as missionaries in Chad. We began praying about when and how.

God had a slight detour for us though. He opened doors for both us to start new jobs here in Chicagoland. This seemed to take us away from missionary life. We walked through those doors and did well. We put the kids in a great school, got a cat and a dog, began to fix up our old home and develop deep friendships. We were becoming settled and comfortable and not really thinking much about life as missionaries.

Then God brought along a Facebook post that changed everything.

I saw that TEAM was looking for a teacher for a homeschool kindergarten class in Chad. I immediately emailed Robert saying, “I can do this.” The wheels started turning. We sent emails, Facetimed friends in Chad, and prayed continually about this opportunity. Every door we knocked on opened. It was like God was flashing a neon sign saying, “Now is the time for the Johnsons to return to Chad!”

So here we are in the middle of packing up our home, raising a budget, and planning on leaving in September for a mission that calls us to fulfill the purpose for our days. The plan right now is to go for a year, but I know if God opens the door for us to stay longer, we will walk through it. We’re nervous but excited to see what this next step in our faith will bring.

You can connect with us and hear more about what we will be doing in Chad at www.wearethejohnsons.com. You can contribute to our mission by clicking here.