Friday, December 8, 2017

Tribute to a Good Dog

Minnie came home to us in September of 2005.  We had just returned to Tanzania, and we bought her from a friend was was breeding Jack Russells.  

Minnie was our first baby.  

I remember when we had had her for about a year, we thought she was going to die.  We had a team from the States visiting us, and one morning, one of the guys told us that he thought Minnie had eaten his malaria pills.  After unsuccessfully trying to get her to throw up, we called the vet.  He told us there was nothing we could do, that she would die and it would probably take a few days.  We were devastated, but we didn't want the team member to feel bad, so we didn't tell the team.  For days, we waited with dread for her to die.  

A week later, the guy casually told us that he had found the pills the next day, that Minnie hadn't eaten them after all.  Having no idea of our inner turmoil, he hadn't bothered to tell us!

Since Minnie was our first baby, that's probably why, once we brought home a real baby, she went through a bit of a shock.  For a couple months, she walked around like she was in constant pain, trembling and with an arched back.  Again, we thought she would die, and I took her to the vet three times.  Each time the vet found nothing wrong with her.  In the end, she recovered, and we attributed it to sibling rivalry.  And once Minnie discovered that this new baby provided a constant source of snacks, all was well.

Minnie was Grace's first playmate.

And when Grace was in first grade and dressed up like the Grinch, Minnie got to be Max.  Daddy decided that Max needed to be brown, not white, so he dyed Minnie with henna.  Except...she didn't turn brown, she turned orange.  And she stayed orange for months.

Minnie gave us two litters of puppies.  

Four in the first set.

And three in the second.

I gotta say, not much is cuter than Jack Russell puppies.  They all went to friends and we still see many of them regularly.

A few years ago, Minnie broke her leg.  (Well, her leg was actually run over, but that's another story.)  The vet made a house call and sedated Minnie on our coffee table while he set her leg.  Grace got to assist.  Since then, she never liked using her back leg.

Minnie killed lots of critters, like any good Jack Russell.  She was loyal and faithful and she loved us, even after we would leave for the States for months or even a year.

Last Saturday night, I could tell that Minnie wasn't feeling well.  We worried about her all day Sunday, and on Monday I took her to the vet.  He couldn't tell what was wrong with her, but gave her antibiotics and was optimistic.  

Tuesday morning, I could tell that she had deteriorated.  As soon as we got home from school, Lily and I jumped in the car and rushed to the vet.  She died in Lily's arms minutes before we arrived.  Ironically, she died on the same day that her second litter was born, six years ago.

Minnie used to sleep in the kids' room.  But in the last several years, we had such a battle with ticks that Minnie spent most of her time outside.  She and I had a nightly ritual when I would pull off about 25 ticks from her small body...every day.  Thankfully, this last year she was finally tick-free. 

I'm not really a dog person.  We've always had dogs because they are important for security in Tanzania.  We've had four other dogs die in the last few years, most of whom came to us when they were much older--and I really wasn't terribly traumatized.  But Minnie is the only one we've had since she was a puppy.  She was with us twelve years.  She's shared our family history since before we even had children.

Losing Minnie makes me feel very old.  Like I suddenly have an awareness of how much time has passed.  It's so strange not having her around.

So I miss her.  She was a good dog.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Choosing the Desert

"Unlike many in the world, I’ve had the incredible privilege of never needing to worry about my daily bread.  Perhaps that’s why God allowed me to be deprived of my daily sleep.  And there are a myriad of other ways we can be sent into the desert involuntarily—cancer, hurricane, betrayal."

I wrote how Choosing Missions Means Choosing the Desert at A Life Overseas.  But I think this post applies to any0ne who has chosen the desert--and that can look like adoption or foster care (or maybe parenting in general!) or church ministry or any kind of sacrifice made in the name of the Kingdom of God.

So this post is dedicated to those who, for any reason, have chosen the desert.  May God meet you there and show himself as your Bread of Life.

Earlier this year, I went through a season of insomnia.  A chaotic furlough, a new job, and lots of life change brought on anxiety, which bred sleeplessness, which bred more anxiety, until I was a mess.

I lay awake many nights and begged God, “You know I need to sleep.  You know I can’t function without it.  I believe you want me to be productive.  So why won’t you help me sleep?”

And the Word of God spoke to me through Deuteronomy 6:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

There I was, wandering in the desert, feeling desperate, crushed, and abandoned by God.  Until I remembered that the desert is the very best place for God to meet me.   

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna….to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

God caused you to hunger.  Just like sleep, bread is necessary for life itself, yet God wanted his people to remember that their very existence depended on God and his Word.

Thousands of years later, our Savior voluntarily went into the desert, and learned for himself that man does not live by bread alone.  And not long after that, he stood tall and declared himself to be our Bread of Life, sent down from Heaven.

Unlike many in the world, I’ve had the incredible privilege of never needing to worry about my daily bread.  Perhaps that’s why God allowed me to be deprived of my daily sleep.  And there are a myriad of other ways we can be sent into the desert involuntarily—cancer, hurricane, betrayal.

As insomnia helped me to understand the value of the desert, I realized that choosing missions is one of the ways we voluntarily choose the desert. 

In choosing missions, we leave behind our support structures:  family, church, friends.

Choosing missions means learning new ways of survival:  how to communicate, how to care for our children, how to provide for our basic needs.  Most of the time, we give up many of the comforts of home, whether it be as simple as McDonald’s Playland or as complex as feeling understood by the people around us.

Missions sometimes means we find ourselves in a spiritual wasteland:  a city where we are one of only handful of believers.  Where the oppression, whether seen or unseen, lies heavy on our shoulders.

Choosing missions means choosing the life of a stranger, an outsider.  We are often misunderstood.  We often feel alone, and as time goes by, we often feel disconnected in our “home” countries as well.  Like it did for our Savior, the desert brings on temptation strong and thick.  But unlike our Savior, we often cave to it.

So why, why, why do we choose this life?  Why on earth would we choose this desert? 

Because man does not live by bread alone, or cream cheese, or even Starbucks.  Man does not live by running water, or air conditioning, or indoor heating.  He is not sustained by paved roads, or fast internet, or stylish clothes.  He even does not live by English education for his kids, by real turkey on Thanksgiving or by cold Christmases and the smell of pine trees.


We live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. 
Click here to read the rest.  

Medina Life, August through November

Grace got to play on a Jr. NBA basketball team.  

My girl sets a mean pick.  She may be sweet and friendly in real life, but her basketball nickname was "Mini Beast."

Life at Reach Tanzania Bible School.

Some of our favorite students with our favorite partners.  

During the October school break, we went away with a bunch of friends for a few days to a conference center at the base of the Morogoro Mountains.  The kids enjoyed the wide open spaces that we don't see in the city.

But the best part about that vacation?  The one-year-old quadruplets.  Their mom has been my friend for 12 years now, and she's in the office next to mine at HOPAC.  Her quads pretty much steal the show wherever they go.

Enough babies to go around for everyone!

Lily dancing at her third grade assembly.

My football-obsessed boy.  He FINALLY is old enough to play on a real HOPAC team--a dream come true for him.

Pamoja Week at HOPAC (like Spirit Week).  FIVE people in our house needed costumes this year!  Thankfully I'm married to a very creative man who is not intimidated by this challenge. 
This was Career Day.

Sports Day.  The only time in my life I've worn shin guards.

Ancient Day.  Yes, I am Moses.

A different kind of dressing up:  Daddy was putting on a tie for preaching, and Johnny wanted one too.

And when he's not creating costumes or preaching, he was coaching Grace's soccer team.  Which came out in first place for their season!

Greek Day in Josiah's fourth grade class:  Acting in their tragedy play.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Invasion of the Millipedes

We're having a millipede invasion.  Sometime during our four months in the States, they must have figured that no one else was living in our house, so they might as well move in.

Now it's a battle to the death for territory: Them or Us.

This is a public warning to the millipedes:  This is not the first invasion we've conquered.

There was the invasion of the cockroaches, which resided in my kitchen for years (yes, years).  They travel in on bananas.  I had to shake them out of the toaster and regularly re-wash my dishes in my cupboards.  I got really good at smashing cockroaches with my bare hands.  Finally found us a poison that worked and they are gone for good.

Medinas:  1
Bugs:  0

There were also the centipedes, which are nasty, nasty creatures with a nasty, nasty sting.  I found one once in Josiah's bed when I was changing the sheets [shiver].  And two guests have been stung by them in bed in our house [we know how to treat our guests well]But luckily my friend Permethrin, when sprayed on the baseboards, kills the centipedes on contact.  So we still see them, but they are always very satisfyingly dead.

Medinas:  2
Bugs:  0

Then there was the invasion of the ticks which also lasted for years (yes, years).  We tried everything to get rid of them:  Frontline, Advantix, drops, powders, and some sort of very scary pesticide that temporarily killed the ticks but also made the dogs throw up.

Our poor dogs were relegated to staying outside all of the time.  I let our Jack Russell in the house only at night, and only in the laundry room, and still had to pick off at least 25 ticks from her small body every. single. night.

Yet still we found ticks everywhere in the house, including in my children's beds.  I cursed the ticks.  I threatened to get rid of the dogs.  I despaired of life itself.  And then a year ago, a friend of a friend (who is a vet) sent us magical doggie pills that killed all the ticks in 24 hours and they've never come back since.  That vet saved my sanity and if I had another child or another dog, I would name it after him.

Medinas:  3
Bugs:  0

(Well, then of course, there's the ants.  I'll call that one a draw.  I kill them when they are in my way, but mostly, we peacefully co-exist.)

So now we have a millipede invasion.

They turn up in odd places like on a wooden spoon in the kitchen and curled up under the towels.  They get squashed in the door jams and hang onto our mosquito nets. Gil and I have found them on several occasions in our bed.  Johnny woke up Josiah the other night because one was crawling on his hand.  Last week, Lily tried to knock one off her mosquito net and instead knocked the net into the overhead fan, tearing a large hole in the net and making a dreadful noise.  Lily is now totally freaked out and insists I check her bed before she goes to sleep (ironically, she wasn't even this freaked out when she found a snake in her bed).

They seem impervious to permethrin.  We plug the bathtub when we're not using it and Gil has taped up the floor-drains, but still they are coming in from somewhere.  They are not dangerous, thankfully, just gross.  I can't bring myself to smash them so I just flush them, alive, down the toilet.  Our kids earn allowance money for each one they flush.

We haven't a clue as to how to get rid of them.

But we will.

Oh, we will.  Like I said, this ain't our first battle.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Johnny Is Six and Josiah Is Ten

When Grace turned six, her Daddy transformed the living room into a castle.  I spent hours making little tea sandwiches out of cookie cutters.  

Then comes the fourth child in the family.  Gil's and my conversation went like this:

Me, on the Tuesday before:  I guess we better celebrate Johnny's birthday on Saturday.

Gil:  Yeah, that sounds fine.

Me:  But if we do it this Saturday, we will have no time to plan it until Saturday morning.

Gil:  Well, then I guess we better do it on Saturday afternoon.

That's what happens when you are the fourth child.

So the party got thrown together three hours before the actual event, but that was okay because Grace planned all the games and Josiah and Lily helped with the decorations while I made the cake.

And the little boys thought it was the greatest thing ever.  

Plus, I remember that the girls at Grace's six-year-old party showed absolutely no appreciation for my flower-shaped sandwiches.  I've learned my lesson since then.  Really, all you need are water balloons.

Then, less than two weeks later came Josiah's birthday.  His wasn't quite so thrown together, although he is easy to please.  Gil set up a nerf gun arena in our training center classroom, and he and his friends spent all morning shooting each other.  A ten-year-old's dream.

Oh, and I made Josiah's cake the same time I made Johnny's, so all I had to do was pull it out of the freezer.  Fry up some hotdogs and we're done.  Bam.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

On Being a Working Mom

This is all new to me.  I know billions of women do it every day, but the last time I worked full-time was over ten years ago, before I had kids.

As any mom knows, raising children is work.  So I'm not implying that I spent the last ten years doing my nails and watching TV (unless you count Dora).  And along with the kids, there was a lot of ministry in there too.  But I figured I would eventually be able to work away from home when my youngest was in kindergarten.  I thought I would ease into it.  Over a year ago, I told the HOPAC director that I wanted to come back on staff this year, but only part-time.

Ha.  Elementary school principal is not a part-time job.  I knew that, of course, but so much for easing my way back into the work force.  More like being hit with a Mack Truck.  And that Mom job I was already doing?  Didn't go away.

I leave the house at 7 and often don't get home until 5.  Wow, that was a really busy day, I tell Gil.  Now he's started laughing at me:  You say that every day!

But it's been okay.  It's been okay because my kids and I are all at the same place and living the same life together.  I am often visiting their classrooms and hugging them in the hall and talking to their friends.  It's been okay because I have a supportive husband who has been willing to do more, and he's at school almost every afternoon coaching our kids' teams.  And it's been okay because I have Esta who does my laundry and mops the floors and cuts up the pineapple.

We're still eating dinner together every night.  Gil and I are still reading to the kids before bed.  The homework is getting done, even the "Build-a-Desert-Home" project.  The boys got their birthday parties and I've made it to almost every soccer game.  We still laugh a lot. 

Of course, there is a cost.  My meals aren't as diverse as they used to be.  I gave up making kefir every day (no one really liked it anyway).  The house is more cluttered.  I don't have nearly the same amount of time to read or to write.  I scan headlines instead of poring over news articles.  My mind is instead filled with how to write an IEP and whether everyone knows the lock-down procedures and how we can get all the kids to learn their math facts.  And the most significant change?  We haven't had anyone over for dinner in months.  It used to be almost weekly.

I miss those things.  Sometimes, I miss them a lot.  I love cooking and hosting and writing and those things are all shoved to the side right now.

The reality is, I can't do everything.  And I am struggling with that balance.  Last year, when I was at home with Johnny and doing plenty of writing and baking, I was also extremely restless.  I know that restlessness alone does not necessitate a change--there were many years when I was restless at home with small children--but I knew the time wasn't right, so I fought for contentment.  But with this job opportunity, everything lined up.

And I love my job.  It's challenging but stimulating and I love how it's stretching me.  It's significant and meaningful and God-exalting, and Gil and I felt strongly--and we still do--that this was the right time for it.

So now I ask myself:  Are my children emotionally and physically healthy?  Are we nurturing them spiritually?  Are we a tight-knit family that enjoys being together?  Is my relationship with my husband strong?  Is my husband okay with how I'm spending my time?  Am I glorifying God with my time and my gifts?

As long as those things are okay, then I need to be okay with letting other things go.  We're still adjusting--and I sure hope that as I continue to learn this new job, I won't be quite so busy, but even then, I'm just really thankful.  It's pretty amazing being a working mom.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

I Get To Be Principal

I love this job.  It's a big job and I keep discovering new things that I need to learn and explore and talk about.  I love that.  But I pray a lot because I often don't know what to do.  Like when there's a deluge of rain and parents send you pictures of the road (or what used to be the road) where half of your buses travel home and the director of the school is out of town so you can't make him figure out what to do.

And of course, there's the kids who are hurting and act out and the upset parents and the teacher who had three family members die in one month.  And four of my six class teachers are new to either HOPAC or their grade level, so we're all struggling together to keep our heads above water.  

But oh, there is so much joy.  There is joy in struggling together.  There's the light in the new teacher's eyes when she sees her kids' progress from then till now.  The discoveries in the storeroom:  Oh, we do have that math manipulative and that resource DVD!   The exhilaration of a problem solved.  Toothless kindergarteners.  Colorful artwork on bulletin boards.  Exuberantly singing children.  And truly, the most creative, faithful, persevering teachers in the world.

And of course, anyone who has worked with elementary school students knows about the amusing conversations.  Here's some good ones:

Fourth grade child:  Mrs. Medina, will the snack bar ever serve sushi?
Me:  No, no it will not.
Child:  Why not?
Me:  Ummm...well...because we don't have a sushi chef.....

Kindergarten child:  My mom doesn't toot very often.  But she does some of the time.
Me: [suppressed laugh] Yeah, everybody does sometimes.

Second grade student:  Mrs. Medina!  K hit E in the peanut!
Me:  [suppressed laugh again] Oh...that's not good....

Fourth grade girl [with much enthusiasm]: Mrs. Medina, can you make an explosion?
Me:  Why?
Girl:  Because I love explosions!
Me:  And you want me to do it?
Girl:  Yes, so that you will get in trouble and I won't.

And one of the best advantages of being the principal of your kids' school?  They can't pull any fast ones on you.

For example, you always win Mom versus Teacher arguments:

Me: Darling, go get your book.  You can do your daily reading while I am fixing dinner.
Child:  But Mom, my teacher says we are supposed to read before bed. 
Me:  Well, this is before bed.  I used to be a teacher.  I know what your teacher meant.
Child:  No, Mom, she says we are supposed to read right before bed. 
Me:  Darling child, I am the principal.  I am your teacher's boss.  So if I say you need to read now, then you need to read now.

Bam.  Win for Mom.  End of discussion.

Here's some of the joy in pictures.  (All pictures below taken by Rebecca Laarman)

My fifth grade teacher and her middle-school-teacher husband.


The charming face that greets me every morning in the office.

Two other co-workers.  We have fun around here.  Enough said.

One of our team of gardeners that keeps HOPAC a haven.

Our new library, less than a year old.

The outside of the new library.

HOPAC kids are reading kids.