I do not do resolutions, but I do take a moment each January 1st to reflect back. This morning I take a look back at the past year and try to evaluate not if I was a success or a failure at my endeavors, but rather was I human or not. Did I do the things that make Johnny a better man or did I just coast through life? Am I a positive or negative impact on life?
My forty-third birthday was in November. There is no doubt about it, I am a grown up. Full size. I no longer need to be told what to do and when to do it. (Though I am still learning how to do many things, but then again so should everyone.) Mommy does not need to hold my hand as I cross the road. I know what it is I am to be doing with my life, and in 2017 just like 2016, I will continue to do what it is I am meant to be doing.
Which is what?
I, along with my wife Kate, work here in Kenya to bring as much hope for a future, to as many children without hope, as possible. Each and everyday in 2017 will be spent working towards that goal of hopeful futures. You see we learned a secret about nine years ago; it is not hard to love a child. Love is easy. We learned to unlearn all the platitudes, cultural hype, and marketing that taught us that love is hard. It is not. Loving a child who has lost her parents is one of the easiest things in the world. Try it, you will find it to be simple. (Liking a difficult child, that on the other hand is not easy. Loving and liking are two different things. It is nice when they work together, but when they do not one can still love a child or adult whom one does not like.)
The hard part is caring for that child day in and day out for as long as it takes. When we took in the nine orphaned/abandoned girls that became part of our lives we found loving them came easy. In fact from the first moment we laid eyes on them we were able to express love towards them. Inviting these young ladies to live with us as family was one of the easiest invitations we have ever given. Feeding them, now that has proven to be more difficult. Clothing fifteen children (9 plus our 6 biological) makes you appreciate nudist philosophy. Working out disciplinary issues is not as simple as hugging and saying "I love you."
We are still loving and caring for these children in 2017. Not everything looks the same as it did in previous years, but the love has not waned. In fact it has increased. Combining love and care is the way to start restoring hope.
I hope your New Years celebrations are fun, we will be celebrating Starlette's first birthday today. I look forward to continuing to journey with you and working together as we strive to bring hope to the hopeless in 2017.
Each Christmas I write a post about how much I dislike Christmas. (Last year's is here.) Which I really do, dislike Christmas that is. It is a terrible holiday. I much prefer Easter. All of which has been said before. So what do I feel this year? Particularly on Christmas Eve as I type this?
This year I am feeling melancholy. Don't misunderstand there are great things going on right now. I'm with Kate, which is spectacular. The kids of course are fantastic, and I do love them loving the holiday. Plus a baby is coming any day now. Not bad for the season.
Yet the melancholy persists, which is unusual state of emotions for me. After pondering it a while I realize that I miss home. I mean my cultural home, Texas. I miss my Mom, sisters, brothers, and the myriad other family members. I miss all the decorations about town, the parties, the general good cheer that happens this week. I miss the Christmas specials on t.v. I miss Christmas.
Cannot believe that I actually miss Christmas, but well maybe I am getting soft(er) each year that passes, or perhaps I am just feeling homesick.
I am missing the good old United States of America this Christmas.
At least there will be eggnog and mulled wine tonight.
Yesterday was my forty second birthday. I spent the day hanging out with the kids and climbing up the hillside. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
The life we are currently living is not the life I imagined for myself as a young man gazing into the future. Not at all. About the only part I got right was Kate.
I had not imagined having children. There are now fourteen, and one on the way, in my life.
I had not imagined living in Kenya. It has now been almost eleven years here.
I had not imagined a life without religion. I am so glad that Jesus led me to a religionless life. What freedom!
I had not imagined building a farm. There are now pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, chickens, and rabbits outside my door.
This moment, right now, it is not perfect. There are things, resources, people, and skills missing from my life. No, perfection is not a part of my life. Yet happiness is. I am happy. Happy with how things worked out. I tried out some of my imaginings on the way to forty two, none of them brought me happiness nor contentment.
Living out my faith, my ideas, my commitments to family; these are the things that have made me happy to see birthday number forty two.
What will the future hold? Hard to say. I can imagine a future with:
More children rescued and given a hopeful future.
Our children living their lives faithful to their beliefs and convictions.
A farm producing enough food for us and the hungry in this world.
I can imagine a better future, and hopefully just like that younger man gazing forward in time, this slightly older one will find that his future dreaming fell far short of what actually has come to be.
This Friday started off rocky for me, Johnny. Woke up, stretched and experienced a nice big charley horse. Ouch. I was surprised that all my groaning and writhing did not wake up Kate. I managed to hobble out to the outhouse only to discover a wet seat. Andrew and I removed the soil that was on top of the small building. Originally we thought to have a living roof, but the weight was constantly causing the outhouse to shift. Meaning we were always having to push it back so we could open and close the door properly. Plus the thought of it shifting too much and tipping, well not a pleasant thought during one's morning business. Upon removing the soil we unearthed a few cracks in the roof, which water now comes through. Another gold star for this Friday morning. Nothing like sitting on a wet wooden seat early in the morning.
Never fear things are turning around. I heated water and bathed. Being clean makes any day, even a not so great Friday, brighter. Next came headphones and music. Now I can start to think TGIF.
Now that Andrew (our 17 year old son) has moved out to the earth bag house, which has been officially christened; The Barrows, I am using his old bedroom as an office. It is nice to be able to sit at the computer and type without five kids stopping to read over my shoulder every five minutes. Plus the shelf space allows me to spread out some of my things that have been packed away for more than a year.
I almost forgot how nice it is to have a little space to call my own.
Most days I live inside my head for the majority of my waking hours. It's not that I do not like Kate and the children, it's just who I am. I find it difficult to remain grounded for long periods of time. I think. Replay scenes from books or movies. Currently the inside of my head is buzzing with thoughts and theories on the God question. Religion has no part of my life, but faith is still quite important to me. Finding ways to commune with the Divine and understand it have been occupying portions of my brains processing power for awhile now. What this small office space allows me to do is organize those thoughts a bit. I have my journal, which I actually can sit down and write in now. Two books that are being written. Plus Kate and I have decided to co-write a book of stories from our time here in Kenya.
The space allows me to work on these "thoughts" without feeling cramped or monitored. Plus I can actually answer emails, comments, Facebook interactions, and other computer related stuff more easily and quicker now.
The girls in secondary school spent the last few days in Kisumu for a singing competition. Kate managed to capture a few seconds of practice on video:
We have posted about why we do this a few times recently, but this is another demonstration of why. Freedom to sing, go on school trips, and act goofy. Hard to recreate in an institution, but not that hard in a family setting.
Four of our girls headed off to school this morning. (The school is actually just down the road from us.) Yesterday they spent time preparing their uniforms, polishing shoes, and fixing hair. The younger girls have to keep their hair braided during school. The older ones get a bit more freedom in the hair department. The girls in secondary school (high school) will be starting on Wednesday. Tomorrow will be their frantic preparation day. Procrastination is an art, and most of them have taken it to Picasso levels.Our biological children will be starting their school work this week as well. They are all home-schooled, primarily taught by Kate. In fact we could really use more books of all kind for them. Meaning nonfiction as well as fiction. We do have a Kindle that Kate bought me for an anniversary more than six years ago. Still works great. What I am trying to say is that instead of shipping books one could buy Amazon credit for the home-school library.We need approximately $550.00 (which includes a girl that does not live with us, whom we started sponsoring last term,) to pay the fees and buy school supplies. School is important, unfortunately if one does not pay the fees the children are expelled until the money is paid. If you can help follow this link: http://purechristianity.blogs.com/pure_christianity/donate.html
We are thankful to everyone who has helped us keep these girls in school for the past seven years, well more than seven now. Before they came to live with us regular school attendance was impossible. Mostly because they could not pay, or simply where not important enough to their families to send to school. Now they have confidence and assurance that they will attend school, and have all the opportunities that comes with.
Today is Emma's 8th birthday. Eight years ago she was born in our little house in Racecourse Nakuru. We will be going out to lunch, her younger sister ~Eowyn will be coming along as well. Emma's plan at the moment is to eat at Java House, which is an American restaurant. Not my first choice, but then it's not my birthday. Afterwards is home for cake.
We had guests yesterday and Kate, being the overboard kind of person she is, decided to make 19 pizzas. Yes 19 pizzas.
Which could explain the attitude this morning.
Actually going big is one of the reasons that I love Kate so much. She does not do anything half way. If she cannot throw herself into it a hundred percent then it is not worth doing in her mind.
Which could explain how we have managed to do anything over the past 20 years.
When she decided that caring for orphans was the way for us to go, she didn't go and build an orphanage somewhere. No sir. She opened the door and said "welcome to your new family." She poured herself into the girls. Not something that I can do easily, apparently I am emotionally stunted or just too unaware. Kate has loved and is loving these girls completely. (Even when they make it hard, which is often.)
Which could explain the beautiful children we now have.
I was happy living in a rented house and paying, or at least trying to pay, bills each month. Kate insisted there was a better way and suggested we should buy a piece of land. I immediately said it would be impossible, we had never successfully raised a large amount of money before. So she threw herself into it, and in 30 days raised $34,000, and changed everything for us.
Which could, does, explain how we are now living on almost 12 acres of land.
Kate is the driving force of this family. Without her I would be sitting in my Mom's house playing video games.(Which on some days does have a certain allure, but I love this woman and this life.) What is wrong with me? Getting this emotional at the start of the year cannot be healthy.
Twenty years next month.