Living in Africa: Our Biggest Fears May Surprise You

When people say things to us like, "You are so brave for moving to Africa," I'm sure they aren't picturing us getting potentially smashed by a falling window. I know, you are so confused. I was too the first time I saw Matt swing WAY left before walking into the grocery store in the tall building adjacent to ours. When I questioned him, he said he was avoiding falling windows.

(Notice he didn't grab my arm when he did his window-avoiding dance.) 

I'll explain further. There are lots of apartment buildings in Maputo, most of which were built in the 50's by the Portuguese. Windows here are typically wood-framed and open out. In case you need a reminder, it's 2016. That's a whole lot of rainy seasons and coastal breezes. I'd be loose too, if I'd been hanging around that long…that sounded bad…not what I meant.

ANYWAYS. 

Windows fall from time to time; we have even lost one of our own. Praise the Lord no one was hurt! (We live on the 13th floor!) Matt isn’t afraid of snakes or our kids getting Malaria, he’s afraid of falling windows. 

If you want to see Matt tense, put him in a car in Mozambique at night. The guy is a nervous wreck and for good reason. Most Mozambicans don't have the luxury of having a car. Most Mozambicans walk everywhere. Some have to walk at night. Most Mozambicans are black. Not to point out the obvious or anything, but black people are hard to see in the dark. Matt's biggest fear is hitting someone; we pray about it often. 

It'd be pretty scary if you walked up on this guy. Photo credit goes to Matt. 

It'd be pretty scary if you walked up on this guy. Photo credit goes to Matt. 

Mine?

Matt says I don't have any fears. And honestly, nothing really ever causes me to panic, but when we have a house full of college students and I misjudged the amount of snacks needed, my heart races. It is not easy whipping up extra snacks when you have a toddler and a baby, so I thank God every day for the little store where Matt perfected his window avoiding technique. 

Phone call.

I got nervous just typing out those letters, "p-h-o-n-e c-a-l-l." Most people of my-thumbs-are-the-new-lips-generation struggle with phone calls anyway, so when you ask me to call someone in a language other than English, yeah, that will give me chills. Move over freaky baby-doll movies meant to make grown men pee their pants: Calling someone on the phone in Portuguese is much scarier.

I'm pretty sure Cypress' biggest fear is sleeping through the night. She's terrified.

I'm pretty sure Cypress' biggest fear is sleeping through the night. She's terrified.

For real praise the Lord our students like to text! #blessed

Disease, potential war, and sand could cause us to live in fear…joking about the sand thing…well, kinda joking. (I may have to list that as another thing I'm afraid of. All you beach lovers may not understand, but when your whole country is like a giant sand pit, it gets everywhere.) There are moments when Satan gets at us (you can read about that here), but for the most part we have been so grateful that this verse rings true in our lives,

"God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind."

We have made a decision as a family that we won't fear something that hasn't happened; it's a waste of time and doesn't prevent anything. Instead, we are going to embrace what God has called us to. In that embrace we can find peace knowing that he is in control, good or bad, easy or difficult. 

A lot of you understand this WAY more than I do.

You have looked fear in the eyes with a terrifying diagnosis. You have faced another day after the death of a child, parent, sibling. You have lost everything in a fire or natural disaster and started over. Fear tried to steal your identity after a divorce. Abuse had its fingers around your neck, but you struggled free.

You. 

You are brave.

And Jesus. 

He is weeping over you and he's so, so proud that you aren't bound by fear. Praying for you today and believing that fear will never hold you back.

Let's not live in fear, okay?

On Becoming Mozambican: 3 Things That Have Changed About Me

I have been thinking about this post for a couple of months now. Part of me doesn’t want to post this because I am not sure how this will be taken. The other half of me wants to make people uncomfortable (is that rude?), myself included. I also want to remember. It’s too often I forget the deep lessons the Lord teaches me, and I don’t want this to be one of those times. 

While recently back in the states to have our baby girl Cypress I had my first true run-in with reverse culture shock. I had heard of people dealing with culture shock when returning to their home countries before, but to be honest, I thought it was a load of dirty diaper (pretty appropriate for my current life stage). I mean, I deal with issues when I return to the states like not being able to think clearly in English, being overwhelmed by a room full of people chatting (when you are used to straining to understand what one person is saying, it’s a crazy feeling to be able to understand all the conversations around you at the same time), and forgetting that I can drink the tap water. This last trip I went thirsty in the middle of the night many a time—hello, breast feeding—at my mom’s because I didn’t want to walk downstairs to get water out of the fridge. There was a bathroom sink 10 feet from my bed. Bet you didn't know I was dumb AND lazy.) This time was different. I had all the usual adjustments going on, but there was something else. I was having a lot harder time relating to the people and responding appropriately in conversations. Here's why: I was different. Two years in Mozambique had changed me.

ONE: YOU GUYS! I was totally in Hobby Lobby (think holiday crowd) with my mom and this lady in her mid 50’s kept staring at me…and it’s not because I was looking fly because I doubt I washed my hair that day. After the third eye contact as we were passing each other in a main aisle…I GENTLY GRABBED HER ARM AND TOOK HER HAND IN MINE AND ASKED IF I KNEW HER?!!!!? After her stammering, “Na-na-no” (and by the way my brain didn’t even register her look of terror until later) I continued to hold her hand in both of mine and say something like, “Oh, ok, you kept looking at me so I thought I knew you. Blah, blah, blah have a Merry Christmas!” Yep, that wasn’t weird. Nope, not at all. This is a true story! (I really hope you got a good visual; it deserves a good visual.) I let go of her hand and rounded the corner and something about seeing my mom with a clean buggy in an organized aisle full of giant paintings with things like, “Be your own kind of beautiful“ in scripted fonts made me snap back state-side and realize I had just freaked some poor women out. I went straight up Mozambican on that chick; direct, personable, un-rushed, with a dash of PDA. I knew in that moment that part of me was different. And I wasn't upset about it.  

TWO: The majority of Americans are so dis-satisfied with their lives. From conversations about hating work to commercials for medications that will put a smile on your face, I heard complaining everywhere. If I’m going to be honest, it was like nails on a chalkboard to me. Now please don't think I am saying I am above this. COMPLETELY FALSE! I have been in Mozambique for two years now and Mozambicans don’t have the art of complaining down. They are pretty much bad at it, especially believers. Let me say that again, especially believers. Ok, got that out of my system. Two years of not hearing un-warranted negativity AND having no one to complain to will purge you of your pettiness. Trust me. Every time I heard someone say anything even slightly negative, I automatically thought about the positive side of it. Being in Mozambique has taught me that every shadow is a declaration that light is near. This is not how I have always been and I am still working on it, just ask my friends and family. Right now, this positive way of thinking is a newly formed habit, but I want it to be my heart condition. I want to have satisfaction. Satisfaction—knowing Christ is ALL I need—what an amazing feeling. 

We were playing the other day when I looked over at this guy and he was practicing carrying water on his head. Looks like I'm not the only one becoming Mozambican. 

We were playing the other day when I looked over at this guy and he was practicing carrying water on his head. Looks like I'm not the only one becoming Mozambican. 

Look at that form...and the amount of drinking devices in this photo, haha. 

Look at that form...and the amount of drinking devices in this photo, haha. 

THREE: What in the world people!? I mean come on. Let’s give each other a break. I was in SHOCK at how many snide remarks, eye rolls, sarcastic comments, and hurtful things were said, but almost NEVER to the person they were intended for. This is straight up not normal for me anymore. If a Mozambican has an issue with someone or a question about something, they either keep it to themselves or address it. Period. Example: Two of our students were playing with Cypress and one of them looked over at me and said, “Is there something wrong with Cypress' feet?” Now, in the U.S. this would be a no-no, BUT five seconds after the poor mom walked away there would be hushed whispers and “bless her heart...” Here, everything is out in the open. You deal with things together. It took a bit to get used to...my jaw dropped in the middle of a leadership meeting one time when one of our student very directly called out another for being rude and speaking over someone else. Do you know how it was received? The guy said, "I'm sorry; you're right." That was the end of it. I was expecting drama, but nope, issue resolved. 

SIDE-NOTE: Nothing is wrong with Cypress' feet. But she does have freaky long toes. 

It's amazing how our surroundings shape us, how what goes in our ears really does come out of our mouths, and how what we see modeled in front of us, we often do. Sometimes, this works against us, but it doesn't have to. If I am becoming Mozambican in many ways after only two years, then I can become more like Christ, I just have to spend more time with him. I keep imagining how different I would be if I let myself be fully influenced by kingdom culture and, you know what, I am not going to imagine anymore. Who's with me? 

Have you ever experienced culture shock of any kind? I'd love to hear your stories!

Someone please go hold hands with a stranger in Hobby Lobby. Kidding, DO NOT DO THIS! Have I mention that I love Mozambique? You should come visit.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

Ok, so really it was 6 years ago on September 5th 2015. It's not just the blog post that's late: Matt and I haven't celebrated yet. BUT, we will! Just not sure when. Anyone interested in flying to Mozambique to watch Cedar and Cypress for a few hours? 

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage:

Us as an engaged couple. This photo was taken in Africa, before we knew we would spend our lives here.

Us as an engaged couple. This photo was taken in Africa, before we knew we would spend our lives here.

One: I am crazy. This is for real. I had no idea a person could have so many raging emotions locked away just to unleash on a poor unsuspecting husband. Our first year was tough. Looking back, it was beautiful. In the moment, not so much. There were nights when childhood memories plagued me and I was just SURE Matt was going to fail me in every area. In those moments Matt would lay his hand on my head and pray that God would "...re-route the patterns of thought in her mind." I remember this prayer almost word for word because my patient husband prayed them over and over. He also told me he loved me about every five seconds. This drove numerous people crazy, but what they didn't know is that he was trying to make me believe him. 

The night we officially started dating, it was at a Chi Alpha event non the less. 

The night we officially started dating, it was at a Chi Alpha event non the less. 

Two: I can almost always convince myself and even Matt that I won a fight. THIS IS NOT GOOD! I gotta be real--I have done this many, many times. Like 10,000,000,056 times. (If you are able to say that number without thinking about it for a whole minute, you are my brain hero.)

Three: I learned that I don't need Matt. Or anyone for that matter. I don't mean this in the hand-in-your-face, "Boo trick! I don't need you" way. I mean, "no matter what, Jesus is always with me and He really is enough." Is it weird to tell you that I was sitting on the toilet when I came to that conclusion? TMI? I don't think I was actually using it, but I had just locked myself in bathroom during a fight. It was years ago when we lived in a loft apartment and that was the only room with a door. I no longer do that by the way. #progress

Four: I realized that Matt is my forever best friend, and I should treat him as such. Texts, calls, special moments, secret hand shakes...all of it. BFF! 

Five: This one is super serious. I learned how to calm down my happy/chipper/hyperness. Matt is NOT a morning person, and sometimes he's not a night person either. Although he wasn't an only child, he definitely has only-child tendencies. I like to pillow fight, tickle, prank, and I will do said things during all hours of the day. Marriage is not the place for the "do you" mentality. Instead, I try to wait for more appropriate moments to dump ice cold water on him while he is showering; it's the little things that make a marriage blissful. Half of you are thinking, "I would divorce that chick so fast." I know, I'm a mess. 

Six: When we moved to Portugal we had to become deep down real with each other. The moments after a fight went a little like this: "I'm going to go hang out with my friends!!!. Crap, all my friends here speak Portuguese. Wait, I don't have any friends here. NO ONE GETS ME!!!"  That never happened, but we were stuck with each other, and I loved every minute of it. I learned how to intentionally do life with Matt. Each moment is an opportunity for me to fall in love with Matt, just like my relationship with Christ. It was a lesson I needed to learn in two areas of my life. 

For all you unmarried people with future aspirations, don't worry, there are still sweet, romantic moments like we had as newlyweds. But when Matt is tickling a giggling Cedar over and over while I cook dinner, that's when I swoon. When I catch his ear-to-ear smile as students fill our apartment, that's when my heart skips a beat. When I hear his voice echoing off the bathroom walls in worship, that's when I feel safely loved.

Happy 6.5 Years Matthew Lee Marlin! I love you...and your pile of clothes in the corner of our room right now. 

What have been your biggest lessons in marriage? And, if you aren't married, what freaks you out the most about the possibility? Can't wait to learn from what you have to say.