We’re Baaaack!

I haven’t written for awhile because, well, we’ve been enjoying our time in The States! 

We surprised my family by telling them we wouldn’t be coming home until August 1st; so when I showed up at my sister’s graduation party, everyone was speechless…literally! That is until they started crying 🙂 

Mike has a reputation for surprising his family in unique ways when he comes home so it was nice to be able to see the expression on the face’s of my family members when I surprised them (now I see why he gets such a kick out of it). 

Anyway, Mike and I are usually asked how long it takes us to get back. Well, let me tell you, it’s not a straight shot. We take four flights (if not five…sometimes we have layovers where we don’t actually exit the plane) and end up flying a little over twenty hours! 

I will admit that I never look forward to the trip home but it’s always worth the anticipation of coming back to see the people and the state that we love. Mike and I get so excited about coming home that it’s common for us to be unable to sleep the night before our trip back. 

Oh, I forgot to add that the 20 hours of flying doesn’t include the day trip we take up to Lilongwe, which takes us about four hours of traveling straight north. This may not sound like a big deal, but the traffic and road conditions make the trip uncomfortable…especially with a newborn.

The silver lining to this 20+ hour adventure (to put it mildly) was that David was THE best baby that I’ve ever encountered! He gladly slept most of the way if we were holding him and everyone on the flights was super accommodating.

Fortunately, we always secured the bassinet seats which meant we had tons of extra leg room and were able to move about more freely. Although David refused to sleep in the bassinet, it did give us the chance to access the bathroom for changings and manipulate our bodies into a variety of yoga poses in order to support him while he was sleeping 🙂 

I must admit that the looks of people’s faces when I told them we were traveling with a 5 week old baby were priceless and Mike overheard a couple saying, “I would NEVER travel with a newborn!” While Mike was slightly offended, I took it as a compliment.

Although I am undoubtedly biased…I know in my heart that things go well for us because we place our faith in God. Traveling with David gave me the chance, on multiple occasions, to sing God’s praises. “Your baby is SO well behaved!” ‘Thanks, I prayed about it a lot.’ These little opportunities to plant seeds in people’s hearts was fulfilling to me.

In the end, I’m not sure how we managed it…well, yes I do, prayer (and I gave up sweets in petition for stress-free travel!) but Mike and I managed to get David home without fighting. Although we did practice the…I’ll be standing over here not talking to you for awhile until we’ve both cooled off AND the don’t offer me an $8 latte if you refuse to spend the $8 scuffle; we arrived in America with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.

Praise God for the small (though I would argue this was fairly large) blessings!

Advertisements

Hormones: What’s not to Love?

I’ve said this several times. But I STILL can’t believe how ill-prepared I am (present tense) when it comes to life after labour (excuse me, but sometimes the British spelling of words just comes out because of teaching). What got me today are my crazy hormone levels. Despite being 4+ weeks “postpartum”…I hate the word; reminds me of death? I have come to realize that when I least expect it, my hormones remind me that they are still incredibly out of whack.

What prompted this you ask? Well, I was getting ready to do my yoga when I saw a baby cockroach on the ground next to me. It never ceases to be true that once you feel at peace with the fact that your house is fairly roach-free one surfaces just to let you know who’s really ruling the roost. Needless to say, I killed it which made me feel a bit sad; keywords: “a bit.”

I started up my yoga video and began my breathing, but the entire time all I could think about was that tiny bug and how I had ended its life. I thought about how that bug was somebody’s child and was reminded of how finite our lives really are.

One of my favorite moments I have with David is when I pray over him. One prayer I pray consistently at night, before we go to bed is: “I pray that God is with you in your thoughts, words, and actions and may your guardian angel go before you in all things.” I make sure to make the sign of the cross too; as the more prayers the better.

It’s interesting how we want to give our children everything they could possibly ever need. But, have you ever thought about how most things we give and do in this life are temporary? Those Nike shoes they cried about for a week that all the other kids have, so you caved and bought them just to see them smile? Or being their pack leader so you can spend more time with them?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your children or splurge on their wants rather than their needs once in awhile. But, what I can’t stop thinking about today is that the only thing I can leave my family with…and I’m talking not just Mike and my children, but our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children are our prayers.

I pray not only for Mike and my relationship, but for David and his wife’s relationship (if he chooses to get married), and for their children’s relationships. I pray that their faith greatly outweighs my own and that they spend their lives serving the Lord. This is the only thing that I can leave with my family and the ones I love.

Have you ever heard that our faith can be lost in just one generation? I’m far from perfect, but knowing that I can leave lasting prayers for my family that will continue to live long after I am gone helped me to stop crying over the smashed cockroach, to say the least.

I am so thankful to be a child of God!

 

 

David Michael: One Month Update

David1MonthDavid Michael is one whole month today! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown; Mike and I couldn’t be more in love with our lil’ guy. 

Over the last month we’ve had some extreme lows but many more highs. The first two weeks after bringing David home from the hospital were very rough. I felt that at times, Mike was watching a newborn and a 26-year-old baby! I was hurting in places I didn’t know could ache, and felt like I had been ran over by a truck. I sobbed uncontrollably and questioned my ability to be a mother.

On the other hand, I felt so empowered (hormones are a crazy thing…). I was ecstatic about delivering the way I had intended and felt that my desires about the labor were fully advocated for and I watched with a sense of wonderment as my husband transformed into a dedicated daddy. I couldn’t sleep at night (nobody tells you about the adrenaline rush post labor!) and prayed hours upon hours over my new family. I sobbed uncontrollably and praised God for the blessings He has given us. 

This last month has brought the Miller Family such joy. David has changed dramatically since the day we brought him home, though he’s still significantly more tan than either me or my husband…huh

In these past 30 days, David has grown more aware and his bright blue eyes are open much more often. He is beginning to coo and is the nosiest baby I have ever met. He despises waking up no matter what time it is and will grunt and contort his face into the most hysterical expressions. 

He has learned to hold onto objects close to him and is focusing his eyes on objects near him. The poor baby is SO gassy that he wakes himself up due to his flatulence (he gets that from Mike). For the most part we can now distinguish his cries and body language: tired, hungry, wet, or the most obvious…gassy!

David loves his warm bath time and the activity is deemed Mike and baby’s “special time” as is: directly after Mike comes home from work, right before bed, and before Dad heads for work in the morning. Another one of his favorite activities is to lay in front of the heater we bought to keep him warm. Mike and I always joke that the heater is his favorite toy.

I have adored becoming a mother and while there have already been ups paired with downs, I wouldn’t change the time that we’ve spent together growing as a family. I am so thankful for the time God has given us to adjust to our new definition of family and look forward to showing off Baby to the family! 

Praying your Spouse to Heaven (even if you don’t have one yet!)

Pray Your Spouse to Heaven

You can never begin praying for your spouse too soon, nor is it ever to late to begin praying for your partner. Whatever stage you’re at in your life, it’s important to begin praying for your spouse, current or future.

The problem is, sometimes praying is difficult. You’re not sure where to begin, what to say, and it feels awkward and almost forced. I mean, if you’re not enjoying it and not praying from your heart then why do it, right?

Hmm…I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: If you’ve never done something before, or you don’t do it very often it feels awkward. This is true in all aspects of life. Haven’t ridden a bicycle in awhile, ride around the block and tell me how it feels. Or, call up your sister who you haven’t said I love you to in awhile; awkward? Probably. But that doesn’t mean with consistent practice you won’t get better. Research says that “professionals” in any aspect have dedicated a minimum of 10,000 practice hours into their area of expertise. 

So, where to begin? Well, you could…

1. Thank God—Tell God thank you for all of the things you appreciate in your spouse. What is your spouse doing well? Maybe you’re thankful that they make you dinner every night or rub your feet when you’re tired. Personally, I think God is “thirsty” for our thank yous and enjoys hearing how grateful we are for what he has given us.

2. Ask for Help—You aren’t alone. God is our father, he wants to hear what you’re struggling with. If there’s something in your spouse that you’re struggling to accept; pray about it and offer it up to God. I once took a Bible study that encouraged us to pray about our partner’s inadequacies and let God work in his time rather than nit-pick our spouse; wise words.

3. Be Timely—Not sure where to start? What about with today? What happened that you want to pray about in relation to your spouse? Are they up for a big promotion? Maybe they were super cranky when they got home and you want to encompass them with the Holy Spirit’s peace.

4. Ask your Spouse—It never hurts to ask your spouse what they would like you to be praying for. In this way your spouse is encouraged too by knowing that you’re thinking about them and praying for their intentions.

5. Turn to Scripture—Often when I am at a lack of what to pray for I turn to the Bible, it’s full of God’s promises for us and guidelines for becoming a better Christian. The site Revive Our Hearts has a neat 31 day prayer journey that you can actually print and put up on your fridge. Unfortunately, most things you’ll find will be wives praying for their husbands; but in most cases you can interchange the terms.

My marriage is nowhere near perfect and although I try my best to pray over my family and Mike daily it doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS do it. There’s always room for improvement!

Divine Intervention via Airplane

DivineInterventionGod often challenges us in the least expected ways. I choose to believe that he has a thriving sense of humor.

I once sat by a very large man on a flight back home from visiting Mike in Liberia. He was stuck in the center seat and although I’m a Christian, there was no way I was going to switch him; not very Christ-like huh? But back to the story…the man was large in terms of his height, not weight; he had to be at least 6’3 and his knees were practically up to his ears. His demeanor screamed: “MILITARY.”

He was very disciplined and precise in all of his actions. Without trying, I could hear his booming voice speaking to the man next to him and sure enough, they were discussing their time spent serving the United States.

I tried my best to stop listening, his voice seemed to permeate the cabin, and settled in for a long flight back home, in the opposite direction of Liberia and the person I love most in this world.

Shifting in my seat, I tried my best not to touch the man and stretched my legs out into the aisle. It was during this time that I could feel him staring at me. Awkward, to say the least. I ignored him and stared straight forward well aware that in my peripheral he was still looking at me. Pervert, I thought.

Out of nowhere, he asked, “Are you Catholic?” …. The hair on the back of my neck lifted as I slowly shifted my gaze towards him.

An alarm was going off in my head that alerted me: “proceed with caution!” I was automatically on high-alert as I thought about how to answer him. After all, we did have a VERY long flight ahead of us and we weren’t even in the air yet!

As a recent convert, and growing up in a “half-Catholic” family (Mom’s side) I was well aware that many people dislike the Catholic faith or at least want to voice their opinions about it: “You guys are ALL hypocrites!” ‘Aren’t all Christians?’ But, despite what potentially was going to be a very negative conversation, I simply said, “yes.”

With one simple affirmation; this stoic man instantaneously transformed. He was beaming and shifted his body, or attempted to with what little space was available to him, in my direction. “So am I!” Obviously this was a Holy Spirit inspired moment, I have no other way to describe it.

For the next several hours we discussed my budding new faith and his life-long dedication to the Catholic church. Eventually, the conversation shifted to “What are you doing on this flight?” I told him that I was visiting my fiancé, Mike, and that we were to be married in August and away we’d be going to Malawi for 3 years.

The look on his face was priceless (not that everyone’s wasn’t when I told them what Mike and I were doing) and he shifted the conversation to the topic of family. He spoke about his children, how his family had recently added a new baby, and finally, about his wife.

She sounded like a real go-getter and a deeply Catholic woman. While he was talking about them, his eyes lit up and I knew he cared deeply for them. It was while he was talking about his family that I noticed a shift in him. He was about to tell me something that was very important to him.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about marriage was on this flight from this stranger. He told me that our goal in life is to get our spouse to Heaven. That all of our thoughts, words, and actions should be directed towards this ultimate goal.

I guess I’d never thought about it before. I knew I wanted Mike to go to Heaven of course, but I didn’t think he needed me to get there. What did I have to do with his personal relationship with Christ?

I thought more about this man’s “words of wisdom” all the way back home and have kept them in my heart ever since. The more I thought about what he told me, the more it made sense.

Why did God create the sacrament of marriage? Although you can argue there are several objectives of marriage: reproduction, family-units, etc. I think the most important role of a spouse is to lead you closer to God. To lift you up when you’re too weak; make the right decision when you can’t discern for yourself what that is. To pray for you and your salvation.

So do you? Pray for your spouse on a daily basis? Pray with a ferocious passion and intensity? Pray as though his or her salvation is contingent upon your prayers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that your prayers alone can save your spouse; God has given us all free will. However, prayer goes a long way and is an infinite gift that you can give those around you. Once projected, a prayer reverberates throughout the rest of eternity, across generations, a prayer once uttered, knows no bounds.

 

 

 

…What I like about you!

You really know how to dance… (I am inadvertently on a song referencing spree at the moment). 

But truly, I will resume the list from yesterday. It’s time to talk about the top 5 things I love about living in Malawi.

Number 5: Saint Andrew’s International High School– This past year I worked for 6 months at Saint Andrews High School here in Blantyre and I loved every minute of it. Okay, I can’t say EVERY minute as it was a HUGE adjustment coming from the American curriculum and teaching the British curriculum; but after a few weeks I was back at the top of my game.

The students at Saints are fantastic and were eager to be taught by the only American on campus. “Ms. you’re such a stereotypical American!” “You mean loud and obnoxious?” …. It was neat for me to be able to share my culture with them as they shared theirs. 

The neat thing about Saints is that students come to this school from ALL over the world. At International Evening (a night hosted to celebrate everyone’s different backgrounds) there were 48 countries represented at the school!

Number 4: Afro Lounge Yum! Malawi is known for its coffee production and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. My favorite place to grab a latte is Afro Lounge. A small cafe that recently opened where the service is phenomenal and the prices low (always a perk in my husband’s eyes). 

On occasion we will come here to relax, surf the web (is that even still a phrase anymore?) and enjoy some delicious coffee and food. 

Number 3: Every American feels like Family– This sounds ridiculous, but when you’re in the middle of Africa and you stumble upon an American, no matter what state they’re from, you’re instantly friends. More than this, you feel a sense of camaraderie that is inexplainable. 

Usually, upon realizing you’re both from The States you’ll begin chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” just loud enough that those around you realize that you’re both American. It sounds childish, but you’d understand if you too were so far from home.

Oh, and did I mention Americans are rare? We’re the equivalent of unicorns here in Malawi; most expats are European. 

Number 2: Landscape– Malawi is gorgeous. From the Zomba plateau, to the waterfalls at Mulanje there’s something for everyone here. The country is home to the largest collection of fresh water fish in the world residing in Lake Malawi–which in all reality resembles more of the ocean than a lake it’s so gigantic. 

Even from our house, Mike and I can look out our back windows and see mountains in the distance. The flowers are always in bloom (think San Diego or Hawaii) and the sun is always shining, what more could you want? 

Number 1: Culture– The number one reason I enjoy living in Malawi is the culture. It’s exciting to be able to experience a completely different culture than your own. Whether it be at work where there’s a collision of over 48 different cultures or simply walking into a supermarket and observing the differences.

For example, no one abides by line etiquette. I’m not sure if you realize how frustrating this is for two A-type Americans, but it can cause some severe headaches. “Umm…excuse me? I’ve been waiting for two hours…” 

We’re always meeting new people and this allows us to have a greater understanding of the world around us. It helps us establish patience with all people, and it encourages us to explore our own ideals coming from the U.S.

So there you have it, the top 5 reasons I enjoy living in Malawi. There’s never a dull moment here; whether your roof is caving in due to water leakage or you realize someone has stolen the emblem from the front of your car, there’s always something to make you laugh!

\

Why the Miller's enjoy Malawi

As promised, here is the other side of living in Malawi. While I’ve already identified some of the difficulties, there are many reasons why living in Malawi is fabulous and Mike and I really enjoy our time here.

Just like my previous two posts I’ll break this down into two days worth of content. No one wants to be overloaded with TOO much at once!

Number 10: Isolation–This may sound like a contradiction and in some ways it is, but Mike and I are both very much homebodies. In this way, we enjoy living in Blantyre because it provides us with ample and exclusive family time. We love sitting around on Sunday afternoons, grilling out, and enjoying our back porch.

When you’re back home it always seems like you’re being pulled in a million different directions. You have a volunteer or work obligation, your friends and family want time with you, and you can wear yourself thin. Here, we have uninterrupted time with just each other and David; pure bliss!

Number 9: Sunshine– Blantyre is a fairly temperate country where it rarely gets disgustingly hot (though it does on occasion and October is actually deemed ‘suicide month’ because of the extreme heat). Almost every day, including during the “rainy” season, the sun is out shining. This makes for plenty of time that we are able to enjoy the outdoors; whether it be: swimming, walking, or hiking.

Number 8: Newlands– Mike and I have been beyond bless to discover (through the help of our friend Gay) a beautiful, tiny chapel located within a senior center called Newlands.

Newlands is attended by a handful of nuns and around 15 people on Saturday nights starting at 5:00pm. Mike and I absolutely adore this chapel and we always look forward to celebrating mass there.

Number 7: The Internet–Recently, Mike caved and decided that we could buy the internet. We are now the proud owners of Skyband internet for an entire year-yahoo! While the internet speed and connection is nowhere NEAR as good as it would be in The States, it’s such a blessing to be able to have it.

Now, weekly, Mike and I Skype our families so that they can see David. It’s incredible that even though we are a world apart that the technology is here so that we can see each other.

Number 6: Our House–Is our castle and our home“; seriously. I LOVE our house! It’s beautiful, spacious, and our haven in the middle of chaos. It’s not like anything you’d picture when you hear the words, “I live in Africa.”

Go on…enlighten me…describe our house; what do you think it looks like? Where is it located?

If you’re thinking of anything other than a three bedroom house, with two bathrooms, a large fenced-in yard, with a fireplace, and gorgeous wooden floors, and a view overlooking the mountains, you’re wrong, sorry. Not what you expected?

Actually…us either; we were pleasantly surprised when we got to Blantyre and found the housing to be drastically different than Liberia.

Number 5: The Market– Unimaginably cheap, fresh produce; what more could you want? No matter what you’re looking for…clothes, a bag, sunglasses, food, the market’s going to have it.

The Blantyre Market is located just off the middle of town and consists of hundreds of shops. When Mike and I first arrived here we’d walk from Mount Pleasant (now we live WAY too far away to walk) and go exploring.

Doesn’t a week go by that we don’t go to the market and gather our produce for the week. Although a very chaotic, hectic environment (I’d usually stay in the car when I was über pregnant and Mike would run in) you never know what you’re going to find here. For example, Mike once bought a bow and arrows…HA!

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Malawi: What we Love