God Blessed The Work Down In Africa

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jennyWe got back from our two-week trip to Iringa, Tanzania after midnight last night. Despite my jet-laggy exhaustion and disorientation, I wanted to give everyone a quick update of how the trip went.

As a team, we spent most of our time conducting personal Bible studies and inviting over 2,000 Iringa locals to the three-day seminar we conducted downtown. I personally spent quite a lot of time at home with Magan and her three precious girls (our hosts for the two weeks) helping her as much as I could with cooking, dishes, and laundry as she became acclimated to life there (they’ve only been living there as missionaries for a month), as well as helping her with the overwhelming task of hosting four additional people besides the five you care for all the time! When I wasn’t helping Magan, however, I was out with the guys handing out flyers, accompanying them on Bible studies, or holding precious Tanzanian children, as you can see in the picture. On the day before we flew home, we got to go on a real African safari, which was pretty remarkable, to say the least.

Here are a few things I learned (or was reminded of) while in Tanzania:

1.    America could learn a thing or two about sincere, open-minded truth seeking.

As is the case with most third-world countries, we were amazed and refreshed to find just how many people were starving for Biblical teaching and guidance. The work to be done there is overwhelming, but not in a how-can-we-ever-get-people-interested kind of way, but a how-can-we-find-time-to-study-with-all-the-people-who-want-to kind of way. In America, it’s surprising if you find a non-Christian who wants to have a sincere, truth-seeking Biblical discussion with you. In Africa, it’s surprising if someone doesn’t want to soak in whatever Biblical truth you ask to share with him or her. We were amazed, in a good way, at the receptiveness of the area. We were also amazed at the crowd’s behavior at the seminar we hosted in the city library. The seminar lasted around 3 hours every day, usually with no break. When a break was offered, no one moved, but rather asked that we continue, so that they could get as much Biblical teaching as possible during the allotted time. These were non-Christians we’re talking about, people! Just awesome. Every single attendant actively took notes and asked thought-provoking questions that revealed a genuine desire to learn rather than a hard-hearted agenda to prove a point or to attempt to be “right.” It was all about what the Bible says and what we’re supposed to do about it. We had several denominational leaders in the community show up, and their humble, open-hearted questions reminded me that this is the attitude we should all have when presented with an opportunity to search the scriptures, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11).


2.    We’re just so rich.

 According to American middle-class standards, my husband and I don’t seem wealthy in any sense of the word. We’re that couple that shops at Goodwill and yard sales exclusively and doesn’t get to eat at nice restaurants unless we have a great coupon.  But when you get home from being with African families who live in mud huts with no bathrooms, no heating and cooling, no internet, no nice clothes, no security systems, no showers, no running water, no clean drinking water, no car, no insurance, little money for medical help, and no assurance that there will be food to eat each meal, you realize just how rich you really are. I think most of us here in America could use a good wake-up call once in a while—I know we needed ours.

africanhome —>A typical Tanzanian house

3.    Women, as a general rule, are not treated with respect in Africa.

 One of the most heartbreaking things for me to observe was just how pathetically women were treated there. Women are expected to work extremely hard making just enough money to feed their children while, in many cases, the fathers of those children are either nowhere to be found or too lazy to provide for their families. Women, never men, are told to stand up if all the seats on a bus are full and a man steps on the bus and can’t find a seat. Oh, and the reason you always see pictures of women carrying large heavy items on their heads is because you rarely see the men carrying anything heavy—always the women, and no one offers to help them with that load.  And don’t even get me started on what women have to go through to deliver a baby over there. And once that ordeal is over, daddy is never around to help with those children. It’s just really sad. I wanted to hug and comfort every woman I saw, because I know each one of them is fighting a horrendous battle just to survive.

Tanzanian Woman Barrel

4.    Children have to grow up super fast in Africa.

One of the things that shocked me the most was how many precious little children I saw having to do very adult things, like constantly care for younger siblings all day long. Even more than that, it was shocking to see the hundreds of children we saw running around all day with no parent in sight. We’re talking 2 and 3 year olds who may or may not have an older sibling nearby, but no parents. Once babies can walk, they’re pretty much turned loose and taught to fend for themselves. I never once heard an African baby or child cry or whine. They are taught to be extremely tough and self-sufficient in order to survive. And as a total side-note, I was fascinated by how small they all are. I saw so many 4 year olds that looked like 2 year olds, and 16 year olds who looked like 12 year olds. Growth is stunted there, so I was always surprised when I discovered the ages of tiny children.


5.    American women need to study African culture for a lesson in modesty.

One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced was not in Africa, but when I came back to America. This is because ALL the women in Tanzania are always covered from their necks to their ankles. It’s considered immodest to wear pants there, or to reveal your knees at all. Extreme or not, it was so nice to see a culture completely untouched by the immodesty that saturates our culture here in the states.


6.    Africans (even the ones who speak English) do not understand sarcasm.

It’s a completely foreign concept to them, so adapting to their humor was a challenge, especially for me.


7.    When people wave at you like this, they are not really waving at you, but asking you to come toward them. If you want someone to come to you, you should definitely do it like that, instead of like this, since that would be a major insult, considering they only summon dogs that way. I learned all of this the hard way.

8.    America is really a wonderful place to live.

America is the land of job opportunities, air conditioning, safe evenings out, malaria-free mosquitoes, clean tap water, clean public restrooms with toilets (as opposed to the choos like this that you’ll find in Africa), ice, free refills, convenience stores, smooth roads, and so many other things people take for granted. My husband took me to Logan’s steakhouse for lunch today, and we felt almost guilty for all the food, napkins, rolls, and drinks we got—things most people don’t really think about. They also never have sweets over there. I had to teach most of the children I met how to open the Tootsie Rolls I gave them, as they had obviously never seen wrapped candy before. Another thing I love so much more about America is that it’s so much easier to get things done quickly, whereas, in Africa, it takes much longer to do anything. Everything is a process, whether it be due to lack of technology or lack of education. We made daily comments about how something that would take us 20 minutes to accomplish in the states was taking us several hours to get done in Africa.


9.    Overseas missionaries deserve your respect and your support.

 People like our hosts, the Evans family, sacrifice all the luxuries and comforts of home to share the gospel with people in areas of the world that most Americans avoid. They face struggles every single day that most of us will never face. They need our daily encouragement and prayers more than anyone. The missionaries you know are most likely the bravest people you know. Treat them as such—with tremendous admiration, love, and support.

evans—>The Evans Family

10. Primitive Christianity works.

One thing I’ve noticed about the church in Tanzania is that it’s really no different from the church in America. It’s as though God tailor-made the church to work in every single culture and every single age. I guess that was the point. And that’s awesome. His plan for the church, and the example he gave us of that church in Acts 2 is timeless, flawless, and profoundly effective, yet beautifully simple. When you go beyond the Biblical pattern, there are so many adjustments you have to make, depending on the culture and region.


This list could go on and on, but it’s finally bedtime here, and my jet-lagged mind and body are so ready. But before I sign off, let me just say, in closing, that the trip was, I believe, a tremendous success, as many seeds were planted and many doors were opened for further church growth in Iringa. I believe I’m better for having gone, and my fervent prayer is that souls were and will continue to be brought closer to God because of my having gone. Thanks so much to everyone who kept us in your prayers!

Sleep well, friends! Or in Swahili….Lala Salama Marafiki!




ARROGANCE: Jerk A Knot In It!

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According to Dictionary.com, the verb form of the word “jerk” means to pull, twist, move, thrust, or throw with a quick, suddenly arrested motion. If you struggle with arrogance, it’s time to pull, twist, move, thrust, or throw that characteristic right out of your heart, and quick! And, as fate would have it, the noun form of the word “jerk” is “a contemptibly naive, fatuous, foolish, or inconsequential person,” which, as a matter of fact, is exactly what you are if you behave arrogantly. A naive, fatuous, foolish JERK. GASP! You know it must be bad if I use that word. I mean, were YOU allowed to call someone a jerk when YOU were a kid? I sure wasn’t. But let’s be honest: One of the most nauseating, most abhorrent things to me is a haughty, cocky attitude. I think self-confidence is a winning personality trait toward which we should all valiantly strive, but you know as well as I do that there is a definite line between confidence and narcissism.

God says this about arrogance:

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:2)

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

There’s a reason God hates pride so much. The following are characteristics of arrogant people:

They brag about themselves. This is the one that comes to all of our minds first. It’s the obvious one. If they’ve done something good, they want you to know about it.

90% of all conversations you have with this person are about them. They’re not so very interested in what’s going on with you.  Brian Regan describes this so eloquently as the “Me Monster” in one of my favorite comedy bits EVER (probably because it absolutely rings with truth). You can watch that (and consequently laugh hysterically) here: http://youtu.be/vymaDgJ7KLg

Out-of-context name-dropping is one of their favorite hobbies. We all know name-droppers. People who LOVE to nonchalantly mention all the big, cool people they know personally. I daresay there are some preachers who struggle with this. It’s way cool if you’re friends with some big names in the brotherhood, but you don’t have to make sure everyone is aware of that every time you open your mouth.

They don’t look at you when you talk. Arrogant people will always be looking for someone more interesting than you in a crowd. They will only be truly focused on your conversation when they’re talking about themselves. They’ll also frequently interrupt while you’re talking.

Their body language is always dominating. When they walk in the room, they want everyone to know they’ve arrived. Especially if they walk in late—they will swagger on in without a hint of an apology.

They have an answer for everything. An arrogant person rarely uses the phrase, “I don’t know the answer, but I can find out.” Since arrogance is compensation for insecurities and weakness, they never want you to think that they might not know everything.

Nothing is ever their fault. They will always blame other people for anything that goes wrong.

They take credit when they ought to give credit to God. I don’t care if you wrote a bestselling Christian book or are the top speaker on the Christian speaking circuit or inspired the world when you fed the homeless. If you’ve done something great that has directly or indirectly led others to a relationship with God, keep in mind that God did that. He used the talents He gave you to work through you to execute His will. You were just a tool He chose to use because you allowed Him to use you.

I’m sure you could add to this list. I’m sure that no one reading this has EVER struggled with ANY of these things. For me personally, I’ve never ever ever struggled with pride or arrogance because I’m perfect in every way, of course (Ha ha). But just in case you sometimes find yourself struggling with pride at times, here are some things you can do to work through that temptation:

 1. Avoid Always Taking Credit. Practice deflecting light off of yourself and on to others.

2Praise Others. Instead of involving yourself in destructive gossip, look for GOOD things to say about others. Don’t pass up an opportunity to compliment others.

3Help Others Succeed In Meeting Their Goals. Nothing attacks the ego as much as helping others meet their goals. Selfless people help others and expect nothing in return.

4Admit Your Mistakes. Saying you were wrong is definitely one of the hardest things to do, but your humility and grace will shine through when you’re willing to bite the bullet and do it.

5Learn From Others. Take notice of the good attitudes and good works of others. Acknowledge that they are better than you, and use the humility gained from that admission to better yourself.

6Go Last. Let someone get in front of you during heavy traffic, or during a weekend rush hour at Walmart. It will do you good.

7Thank God Frequently. Make yourself spend time in prayer everyday JUST thanking God for specific, daily blessings in your life.  It will make you ever aware of how small we are and how dependent we are on God.

8Accept Criticism With Grace. Ask yourself if the accusation is true. If it’s true, thank the person for bringing it to your attention, and commit yourself to improving. If it’s not true, thank them anyway, then toss it in the trash bin of your mind.

9Laugh At Yourself. Really. Instead of getting your panties in a wad because of your frequent human faux pas, let yourself laugh. Learn from the mistake and then move on. Don’t let it ruin your whole day.

10When Others Offer You Advice, Listen. Especially if it’s someone older and wiser than you. Take a few tips from people who have been around the block a few times. If it’s ungodly advice, throw it in the same place you threw the false accusations. But if it’s something that will help you in your walk with God, make sure you put your listening ears on.


What would you add to this list? What can help us to become more humble? 

“Sorry” Seems To Be The Hardest Word

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I think everyone has a little bit of a pride problem. No really—everyone! The reason I think that is that I’ve recently realized that I don’t know a single person who finds it easy to say these two little words: I’m sorry. It’s hard, isn’t it?! Even if you KNOW you’re wrong, something in you chokes the words in your throat, willing them to stay inside like an indestructible force. Pride has us convinced that everything is always someone else’s fault, so the last thing we ever want to say is that we were wrong and we’re sorry about that.

But sometimes, when we’re very brave, we do the right thing. We swallow that beastly pride and force the words out like a champ. But then sometimes, even then, we still get it wrong. I think in our minds we think, “Okay, fine, I’ll apologize and just get it over with,” and then we’re so proud of ourselves for being big enough to say it that we don’t check to make sure the apology was made in the appropriate way.

Here are a few reminders to help you make an acceptable apology when necessary. And at least a few times in your life, it WILL be necessary. We all goof sometimes, but the apology is the difference between hurt feelings that last forever and a little mistake that everyone’s long forgotten.

1.    Don’t say it unless you mean it.

Don’t be one of those jerks that only ever apologizes like this, “I’m sorry IF I hurt your feelings,” “I’m sorry YOU took it that way,” or “I’m sorry, BUT if YOU hadn’t done what YOU did then maybe I wouldn’t have….” You get the idea. You’re only making the situation worse if you continue to play the blame game by attempting to incriminate the other person instead of just offering a clean “I’m sorry I was wrong.” Make the apology as humble and clean-cut as possible. Try not to ramble on about why you did what you did or said what you said.

2.    Don’t say it until you mean it.

Don’t allow yourself to, in a fit of rage over being criticized or rebuked, yell or whine, “I’m SORRY, OKAY?!” Don’t apologize until you’ve had time to reflect on it calmly and rationally. And if the person you’ve wronged wants to talk about it, by all means, let them talk about it and listen humbly. Otherwise, your apology will seem cheap and insincere.

3.    Remember that you don’t get to make the rules.

If you’re the one who’s in the wrong, and you realize you need to apologize, remember that you don’t get to make the rules about how the other person should respond to that. If you’ve hurt someone unnecessarily, you don’t get to scold them for not receiving your apology exactly like you think they should. When they don’t feel like joking and laughing and being your BFF again right away, you don’t get to be angry at them and say something like, “I SAID I was sorry!!!” Sometimes it takes people a while to stop being upset, especially if you’ve insulted them or betrayed their trust. You don’t get to put a time limit on how long they’re allowed to be upset. Sometimes, you just have to apologize, and then give the person time and space to try to get over it. If you want to make the situation a million times worse, you’ll get this one wrong by telling the other person how they ought to respond to you.

4.    The size of the apology should reflect the size of the mistake.

Your apology should be as big as your blunder. For example, the way you apologize when you bump into someone on the sidewalk should be a lot different than the way you apologize when you’ve accidentally run over someone’s cherished pet with your car. If you’ve deeply hurt someone, don’t shortchange him or her by offering a half apology (e.g. “Sorry for whatever I did wrong”), and try not to do it over the internet, if you can help it. If it warrants an in-person apology, do it in person, so they can see the sincerity in your eyes and hear the genuine tones of your voice.

5.    Blink first.

My dad always taught me that in conflict resolution, you should remember how as kids we used to have staring contests to see who could keep their eyes open without blinking the longest. Then he would always say in reference to conflict with adults, “when both of you are wrong, and both of you should apologize, you blink first.” In other words, don’t be so stubborn that you can’t admit your own faults before the other person admits his or hers. Blink first. If you try to wait until they ‘fess up first, you could both be waiting forever, and your relationship will never be the same. Take the high road. Blink first. Almost always, the other person will make things right when they see you’re willing to do so on your end.

6.    If you’ve sinned against another person, remember you’ve sinned against God.

Even if you’ve made a stellar apology full of genuine sincerity and humility, you’re not done until you’ve made it right with God. Make sure you ask His forgiveness if you’ve wronged someone so that the matter can truly be mended—at least as far as you’re concerned. You can’t change the other person, but you can always do something about you. In Romans 12:18, God said through Paul, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

We’ve all received chintzy apologies before, which is why I think this article will resonate with a few readers. I hope this article helps you think through what you’re about to say when you realize you owe someone an apology. It’s no small matter, and it’s something we should never take lightly. If you’ve messed up, go make it right today. Truly right.

How I Save a Ton of Money on Clothes (Not So Much Car Insurance)

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While at PTP, I attended a lecture entitled, “How to Buy Clothes on a Budget” delivered by the lovely Jennifer Webster.  I was thrilled to discover that most of the things she suggested, I already do! Then it occurred to me—I bet a lot of wives and moms on a budget out there would be interested in a few suggestions to save big on clothes. Obviously, I see my quest for deals as a way to honor my husband by saving for our family, but I also see it as a hobby because it’s just so much fun. It is an absolute rush to spend half or a quarter of the amount something is worth or even less sometimes because you’re a deal savvy diva.  People ask me all the time where I got an outfit and are shocked when I tell them.

So, if your husband is a heart surgeon or a criminal law attorney, you might not want to bother with this article. But if your husband is a preacher or something else that pays so royally (I kid, obviously), you might want to read this. So, at the potential risk of sounding like the biggest cheapskate on the planet, here are my tips (and Jennifer’s!):

1.    If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Figure out with your husband exactly what your budget is for clothes and stick to it. My husband and I loosely follow the Dave Ramsey system with different envelopes for different things, and when the cash is gone, it’s absolutely gone until next month. This makes it easier for me to say no to things I don’t need.

2.    If you have to, spend money on quality classic pieces that go with everything.

Bargain shop for everything else, but when it comes to key items that you will seriously wear all the time, it’s okay to splurge a little to make sure the item is going to last a long time. I’m thinking of things like a black skirt, black pants, one good pair of jeans, one good pair of tennis shoes, a denim jacket that you’ll wear with about every skirt and dress you own, etc. These are the only items on which I will spend the full-price amount, and these occasions are rare.

3.    Frequent Thrift Stores

Don’t laugh—some of my most coveted brand name items came from thrift stores, and if I were to sell some of them, would be worth at least $50 more than what I spent for them. I’m talking brands like Vera Bradley, Free People, Anthropologie, White House Black Market, GAP, Ann Taylor, and lots more for $5 or less a piece.  With many items you find there, as long as you wash them when you get home, they truly are just like new. My favorite thrift store I’ve ever been to is America’s Thrift Store, but I’ve only seen them in Alabama and Georgia, so here in Louisville, my thrift store of choice is Goodwill. I like Goodwill because they have set prices. $3 for tops and $5 for pants and dresses. Even if it’s an item I would pay over $100 for in the store. There’s no discrimination here between Abercrombie and Walmart. Always $5. Jennifer brought up the point that you should go at night, because at night is when they put out all their new merchandise and if you’re there at the right time, you can get to it first.  Also, keep in mind, if you find something that would be expensive, but it’s not in your size, buy it anyway because you can sell it on Ebay and make a killin’.

4.    Frequent Yard Sales.

Ah, my favorite way to save big. You have to get up early on Saturdays to do this right (I like to leave home at 7:30 am—some leave earlier to see if they can find any that welcome early birds), but the rewards are often phenomenal. I’m the girl who found a never-used Heavy Duty Kitchen Aid Mixer for $10, a new large pool table with all the pieces for $50, an almost new large Keureg for $15, almost new, clean Vera Bradley’s for $1, new board games with all the pieces for $1, and many, many amazing clothing finds. Unless the item is like 25 cents, don’t easily settle for whatever the price is on it. Offer something less. The more you do this, the more you’ll become a pro at it. It will feel uncomfortable at first to say things like, “Will you take $3 for all of these items?,” when each of the 5 items is $1, or offering $5 when the item says $10. Sometimes they’ll say no and you can work your way up, but almost always, they’ll agree. Also, keep in mind that people will be much more likely to come off the price when it’s later in the morning—10 am and after. By this point, people just want to get rid of stuff. After 10am, I start looking for big boxes of books that people still haven’t sold. While the books may be priced 25 cents a book, I’ll offer $3 for the whole box at the end of the day, and many times, people will take it. At that point, I take that whole box of books to Half Price Books, a bookstore in Louisville that buys used books, and I’ll sell the whole box for $20. Just like that, I’ve made $17 easy. And as you know, I can get quite a lot of clothes at Goodwill for $17! Even if you don’t have a Half-Price Books, it’s likely that you live near a bookstore that is similar and will buy your books off of you.  The selling books idea brings me to my next point….

5.    Sell your clothes.

If you take good care of your clothes (don’t put your nicest items in the dryer), you’ll be able to sell them easily if you so desire. I often sell clothes to a local consignment shop here in Louisville, but if it’s a highly valuable item, I can usually make more by selling it on Ebay. Every now and then, purge your closet of all the things you don’t wear, and get rid of them either by donating or selling.

6.    Get on the email list of all your favorite stores.

When you do this, you get coupons sent to you and you will always be notified when there is an amazing sale about to hit your favorite store, so that, if you’re like me, you can sometimes justify shopping in a “real” store. (I’m not as crazy as I sound, I promise!).  P.S. We do this with all our favorite restaurants, too, and only go to them when we receive a coupon—which is often!

7.    Download “RetailMeNot” or something similar as an app on your phone so that whenever you go into a store, you can look up coupons easily.

Most stores will accept the coupon just by showing them your phone—no printing or clipping necessary.

8.    Use Ebay.

If there is a particular brand or item that you just really want, use Ebay to get it for half the price you’d spend in the store. I just bought my first pair of Chaco’s on Ebay for half of their retail price. I wanted that particular brand of sandals because I’ve heard rave reviews about how good they are for walking, and I thought that’d be a good idea for my Africa trip in a week. If I decide I don’t like them, I can easily sell them on Ebay for possibly even more than I spent for them. Jennifer advised, “Don’t buy from anyone who doesn’t have a 100% rating” and I tend to agree with her. Play it safe and you’ll save big.

I could keep going and make this list an even 10, but because it’s already so long (and because my to-do list for today is kind of ridiculously long), I’m going to put a peg there and ask you ladies the question:

What do you do to save money on clothes? How have you saved your family money?

I look forward to your responses!