The Water Walk

They say a trip to Africa can take weeks to process.  Although jet lag allows for some early morning rising, I have been trying to put my thoughts in print to make sense of what I witnessed. My husband and I just returned from 12 days in Kenya and even though this wasn’t my first trip to Africa each visit steals a part of my heart and emphasizes the theme ‘water is life’.

Since this was my 6th time on African soil I’m not sure that makes it easier but quite possibly my experience has become more urgent to unleash.  So, to the curious, the supporters from afar and to the person who feels a tug to go in the near future, what you have heard about Africa is real.  Specifically the people of Kenya, are beautiful, loving, grateful and full of life.  A mother’s love for their young is an instinct all mothers share and so on this trip I found myself relating to the God given priviledge of a mother’s love when the going gets tough.

My Water Is Life picture was first taken on my first trip to Tanzania back in 2009. We were introduced to the water crisis back then and trying to make a difference by supporting well drilling. Little did I know how much it would change the trajectory of our purpose and life goal.
Our new awareness of a lack of what we take for granted in American was not going away anytime soon. This propelled us into a life of running and raising funds to see this problem eradicated in our lifetime. Fast forward to raising our kids to join us in our efforts to adopting a child born into similar circumstances in Ethiopia.  Africa is apart of the Clode household and now we were given the opportunity to join 14 other souls who shared in a passion to see a change.
The most impactful moment for me was not just seeing but doing. Poverty is  everywhere. Our guide drove us out to a remote area and we waited for women to gather around their source of water for the time being. This can change as the pools dry up and a quest for finding a new water source is high priority.  Some walk a mile and some walk five miles.  On this day we found a group of women and children gathering around two pools of muddy, disease ridden, stagnant water that would cause any North American mother to shudder.  Since this area had two pools one was kept one for animals and bathing and the other was for their drinking water. No difference in my mind. We had a local translator and began telling the woman the purpose of our visit.  We are finding new regions to place a well and after our assessment this area could be a candidate for clean water.  Clean water changes a village dramatically.  A water well goes in and a village is established.  Community is what we were all created for and everyone relies on each other in these parts.  A well will lower the percentage of typoid and malaria among the people.  When a well goes in, our organization plans to establish a church and a pastor.  We have seen a school go in and the children can be educated.  Their livestock is healthier and hopefully their journey is shorter so the task of fetching water allows for more time spent with family.  The danger of encountering snakes and bees is lowered and miscarriages are fewer.  Water really is life.
After we established a relationship with this village we explained to them that each team member wanted to experience the tough trek carrying water from the watering hole back to their village.  They were surprised and curious to see how this would go down.  Maybe some of us looked weak, or their perception of the white man couldn’t hack the challenge but they lead us to their water source all the same.  The girl that was partnered with me took my water jug and walked down a muddy hill to the waters edge to dunk the can into the murky water to fill it up.  This village mostly used 20 L vegetable oil cans.  Some areas use Jerry Cans used for gasoline but we mostly saw the vegetable oil cans and the kids had smaller ones.  Since I was wearing running shoes and my girl filled my water can for me I did not experience the act of getting upclose and personal with the smelling, fly infected, muddy water.  My team took their shoes off and imitated what these women and young girls did possibly three times a day.  Once we were assembled in line to follow the path back to where they lived I lead the group.  My water jug was one of the biggest and I was determined to try and walk without falter.  I had done this once before in Tanzania with clean water and I had a rolled up scarf on my head to cushion the can.  Only a couple of women used the cushion so I did not.  There was no lid on the can so water was sloshing out the top and pouring down my face and shirt.  I kept my lips pursed as to reject any water to enter my mouth and I stayed focused on the rough path.  There are thorny bushes all around, their livestock of goats and sheep and camels were also close by  and I didn’t want to fall.  I was walking through low bushes so I had to duck with 40 lbs on my head.  I wasn’t so much thinking about how good I was performing but we all felt a responsibility to not drip water out of the cans because these women were counting on us to carry back as much water as we could.  By this time, it was about noon and the sun was shining in the big blue sky.  We were hot and all I kept thinking of was what job do I do at home that remotely resembles this act of love.  Nothing!  After about 3 minutes the ladies motioned for us to stop and take a rest.  I didn’t want to but I guess they do this too.  My shoulders were aching and I thought if I stopped now I wouldn’t get that water jug back on my head.  We got started again and we switched it up by carrying the jugs on our shoulders or by our side.  We stopped a couple of times and did not talk much to each other.  Many were moved to tears.  Our men in the group also helped which was quite a sight since this was not a job for a man.  The village men are happy when a well is put in because if it’s closer it frees up the women to be home more.  IMG_3861.jpg

We walked 3/4 of a mile to the village and celebrated our quest.  It was midday and these kids had to eat.  Some girls drank their filled water bottles that looked like orange juice but it was water that is literally making them sick.  Trust me when I say it was hard to drink our own water at any moment on this trip.  We take water for granted and every human being should have the access to clean water!

I would be remiss not to mention the living water Jesus talks about in John 4.  A woman comes to the well alone because she has been ostracized by her village because of her adultery.  Jesus doesn’t discriminate and tells her about the Living Water that only trusting in Him brings.  Ultimately, this is the true water that gives life; life eternal.  Through our organization Hope Water Project, we want to share the life that only Jesus can give.

This crisis shouldn’t cause guilt but thankfulness.  Their plight should propel us into action.  We got to witness pure joy over something we don’t think twice about.  We cried, we laughed and we sang together.   When we realize that people are the same all over the world we form a bond and get along.  They appreciated our visit.  May we never go to just observe and do nothing.  They are counting on us to be God’s hands and feet.

The airplane seat

I’ve said it before and I will say it again; sometimes this blog is for confession.  So I will confess away!  I’ve been traveling by plane a lot lately.  Sometimes I get the privilege of sitting next to someone who I can talk with but usually people I find aren’t chatty and so I put my earbuds in and don’t care where they live or where they are headed.  I revel in the peace and quiet and me time.

This past week I got to go on a business trip with Scott.  I know that  sounds boring except that it was to Vegas so … I went.  Since it was a last minute decision I was booked on a different flight there and back.  I rarely get to travel alone so I tried to enjoy every minute of it.   On my way home I had my earbuds in the whole time even during my layover in Denver.  I love music so I loved the perspective I got walking through the airport watching people with meaningful music playing.  Songs like Come Undone by Duran Duran and Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson.  Details in the Fabric by Jason Mraz and Blue Ocean Floor by Timberlake.   I will wait for you to find those on Spotify and play them to get into the same mood as I was just before I boarded my last flight home.  Ok, ready?

We rarely pay for seat selection.  It’s like $50 and I don’t have to have extra room so usually I don’t mind where I sit.  I tend to be assigned a seat over the wing so I can’t enjoy the view or in a row that I can’t recline but this time I was lucky enough to have the first row aisle seat (not first class).  I didn’t have carry on or luggage to pick up in Detroit since Scott took my bags on his flight so I was a free bird.  I was in the last boarding group and sat contently at my gate to waltz on last and take my coveted seat.  I pass the first class passengers and feeling no envy since I had a great seat awaiting me.  I walk up to 7C and to my horror find a five year old girl buckled and settled in 7C!  I stand there and her mother is in the middle seat next to her and sweetly asks if this is my seat.  Now remember I have my earbuds in and have a ‘I don’t care’ look on my face.  She says I could either sit in her seat in 10C or sit next to her daughter.  Wait! WTF? (what the frig is what you know I thought because I don’t swear)  I gave her a disgusted look and said nothing. I don’t remember but I may have rolled my eyes too.   I sauntered to my ‘third class’ seat and hated that she yanked the waltz right out of my step.  I didn’t look around much.  What I really wanted was to gain the approval for my behavior from every other passenger who also witnessed the injustice here.  The mother then had the gall to hand me a Starbucks card as a peace offering and said something like she does this all the time.  I either refused to hear a thank you or she didn’t offer me one but I dismissed the card like it was garbage.  I wanted to stand up and yell to everyone around me, ‘are you seeing this?  The nerve of this woman  to take my seat and play the ‘kid sympathy’ card.  ‘Unless that Starbucks card is worth $50 no thank you!!’  Yes, I wanted to yell that out.  I did not.  Instead I sulked and plotted what I would say to her as I disembarked this injustice flight. I texted Scott my idea and he texted two words, Love Does.  He was referring to a great book by Bob Goff and it’s our code to each other when we challenge each other to take the high road.  Advice not heeded.  Challenge unaccepted.  Not today.   Yes, that lead to my brush with daring and quite rude encounter with the chipper lady with her two children and no help husband.  I told her that I fly with kids all the time and I’ve never asked someone to take a worse seat and brushed by.  She said how rude and the husband sarcastically called after me with a ‘have a nice day!’.  Trust me I wanted to turn around and tell her that I would have if I was given the option to give up my seat.  That I paid for that seat and that they don’t know me.  They were in the wrong here not me!  I didn’t have to see them at the luggage pick up area.  I hurried my step and felt like an idiot.  What did that just do?  Whether I was wronged or not now my reputation is tarnished.  Even more so because anyone who reads this knows how selfish I acted.

The whole point to this is since that moment 48 hours ago, I still feel horrible.  We are coming up to Thanksgiving and I should have love and thankfulness in my heart.  The bitterness has kept me up and after 20 more scenarios that have played in my mind I finally, yes finally, gave it to God.  Why it took that long I will never know.  I had my bible in my purse and was going to do my bible study on the plane.  How wrong would that have been?  But on this Monday morning I do open my bible and I’m confronted with John 6 where Jesus is saddened by the followers that fall away and can’t take the heat of controversy that surrounds following Him.  I am a follower and did not win anyone over with how I acted two days ago.  But God is forgiving and loving and faithful.  I hear Him say to me this morning, ‘Come!’  With every new day He lavishes new mercies on me.  That’s where I see justice in this little episode of my life.   I don’t deserve it!  Nope!  Not this big baby, but he still says ‘Come!’.  It’s a crazy week but I’m getting on another plane in about 24 hours from now.  Flying to see my daughter at bible school.  The same place I wrestled as a teen with what it means to follow Jesus.  I knew I was imperfect then and still imperfect today but God gives me new opportunities to serve Him, share Him and worship Him.  So, that’s what I’m thankful for this year.  I’m praying for just the right airplane seat 5 times in 7 days.  Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, It is well with my soul and my new favorite, Thy Will will be my travel playlist this week.  Now go to Spotify and play those beautiful tunes and rejoice.

A moms diary 

I used to keep a diary as a little girl. My sister always had one with a lock and key (Like those were made so rock solid) so I wanted one too. My first one was made of thick pink plastic and if I recall correctly it had Hello Kitty on the front. Wow, she has survived the test of time hasn’t she? The lock and key only added to the importance of the secret contents. I didn’t share much. I remember writing about what boy I liked and who my friends were at school. A lot of B.F + ? And crossing out the letters you share in a boys name to equate a percentage of how much your love is worth. Like actual scientific information that does not lie. It’s 4ever you know!

However insignificant the contents were of my young life diary, the act of writing down stuff has always continued. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert or maybe it’s because I don’t like conflict but either way the stuff has to come out in some way or I might explode. Over the years I have started many journals (as we adults now call them). Journals about my kids. Journals dedicated to certain seasons of life and some reserved for prayers only between me and God. I’ve mentioned before that blogging is therapeutic to me. Cheaper than therapy so my husband is good with it. My first blog was birthed out of our beautiful journey called adoption and as I look back God was preparing me for the next craziest summer of my life; the empty nest. Not a true empty nest because we still have 7 year old Zoe but my first two are leaving. Flying the coop! I have witnessed many a baby robin leave its nest from my office window. Hours have been spent spying on a nest that robin families have enjoyed for at least 7 years. I’ve rescued two when they fumbled out of their nest and ended up in my garage. One hopped in an open door and ended up in the kitchen of our upstairs apartment. I love how the mom and dad bird stand by and continue to feed the adolescent bird and guide it off to wherever the family meets up after all the kids have safely moved on. Maybe somewhere fun like Jamaica.

So ya, I have a lot to blog about. I have survived my daughter’s graduation party and stood by while she navigates where she should go at the age of 18. My son graduated college, helped plan his wedding while working full time, and we have hosted a wedding shower at the house back in July. My sprained ankle in May just added to the fact that I needed to slow down and enjoy. Really I couldn’t continue with my running training and had to rely on others helping so it was a blessing in disguise? That’s debatable but regardless, the clock keeps ticking and here we are 10 days from the ‘I do’s’ and then he moves out of state. I’m so full of emotion and I have to process what is happening in a short amount of time. Well actually that’s where I feel some moms might be a little more overwhelmed than me. I have been processing it all along. I remember sending Jacob off to school for the first time at age 10 and cried when he came home and was too exhausted to talk to me. We had bonded through homeschooling so no matter what age he was I was struggling to cope. I was processing when my daughter, Blaire, first chose a sleepover with friends over hanging out with mom and dad for movie night. Something that we later embraced and she has had countless sleepovers in our home. Of course I miss the questions about what topic to choose for their speech or joining them on field trips. I miss celebrating their sporting victories and consoling them in their losses. I’m still a mom. I’ve prepared them for this very moment. One is marrying the love of his life. At age 17 Jacob knew she was the one. I will look on with tears of joy (in my eyes only to not smudge my makeup) that God helped me raise such a fine young man. In three weeks I will kiss the tear streamed face of my 18 year old and hug her in a proud mom embrace as I know she was raised to make wise choices and follow God’s path. Blaire is heading to my school so this just adds an extra dose of happiness and I know she is in good hands. We never stop being their mom. We can mourn the fun years of singing songs together and watching our kids learn a new skill. A time when they really needed you. But as I look at it relying on me will never change. Creating a safe place to come back to provides stability in their life and now I just need to work on that fine line of encouragement and meddling.

To all my friends who are saying goodbye to a child at whatever age, enjoy this like when they were finally out of diapers. The moment you begin to realize they don’t need you cleaning up after every decision they make. They don’t need you to hold their hand but my kids know I will still be their cheerleader and my door is always open.

Yesterday a friend prayed for provision for my family. That’s the perfect word for our year. I’m asking God to provide wisdom to my children in their new phase of life. I’m asking God to provide the necessary needs after marriage and where he plants them. I’m asking God to provide support and care I need to gracefully move through this new stage of life and I pray for God to provide friends and mentors who can stand by them when I cannot. That is how I was taught to mother and although never perfect I can sit back and watch how this new chapter unfolds. Oh, and I bought a new journal for it already.

Romans 15:4
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.