We Made A Mistake (a few of them actually)

In February this year I went to New Zealand NZ) and Australia on a 7 week speaking tour in schools, Rotary Clubs and churches. While I was there I had the honour of spending time talking to the pastors who oversaw our wedding ceremony nearly 27 years ago.

Mick & Colleen Marshall were my pastors (Pete went to another church) and over the years they have served both internationally and locally. They’ve now got a brood of grandchildren and instead of retirement are looking at refirement.

Here's Mick leading us through our vows.

Here’s Mick leading us through our vows.

It was so special catching up with them and there were a couple of things they said to me which they were dead serious about:

  1. When you return just be aware that people will put up with you ‘Africa stories’ for a few minutes but after that, they really don’t care.
  1. Whatever you do, don’t get so overworked that you burn yourself out.
Colleen and Mick this year.

Colleen and Mick this year.

I listened to them on Number One. It’s true, the world we live in Kenya is so foreign to even try and understand or explain, it’s just too much for people to hear and understand. When you talk about a traffic jam in Nairobi it is vastly different to that in Sydney. I’ve read where people in NZ complain because they have to get security checked before going into WINZ. Here, we have to avoid shopping centres because of bomb threats. Yep, it’s a bit different here.

Number Two, that’s a really hard one here. It’s not unusual to be chatting with someone overseas at 10pm, doing radio interviews at 2am or working 12 hour days, three weeks in a row. All this leads to burning out.

Here’s a definition of burnout:

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload).

We’re not burnt out, but we did come close to it a little while back. Physically and mentally run down we took stock of where we were at and where we wanted to be.

So here’s where we’ve made some big mistakes:

1. Not taking holidays

In the two years we’ve been here we’ve only taken off a week. How dumb is that!! We bought Liz a camping bed for her birthday in December last year and the only time it’s been used is as a spare bed when we have visitors.

A lot of that was because we didn’t have the money. Our plan for 2015 is to take a week off every 3 months just to renew our batteries. Even if we have to camp in the middle of nowhere, leave our laptops behind and sit with the zebras, we will take a break.

We’ve lived here for 2 years and travelling here since 2007 and in all that time we’ve never been to Mombasa on the coast nor Masai Mara. Next year baby, next year.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

2. Working too many weekends

There’s nothing wrong with working through a weekend if you get a day off some time during the week. However, if you end up working 3 weeks in a row, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional breakdown and big family arguments because of tiredness. We found that we were working three weekends a month. Now, we’ve got it down to two.

At the beginning of the year we thought we could take Wednesday afternoons off. It worked for a while but too many things got in the way.

life3. Lack of sleep

It’s pretty noisy here. Anywhere from 5.30am there are people outside washing their bosses car. Also, no matter what we seem to do, there is at least one mosquito wanting to attack. Someone at the apartment above us seems to like moving furniture late at night. The best day to sleep past 5am is a Sunday – and it is most welcomed!!

Because there’s so much work to be done there’s not so much room for the odd nanny nap. I have to admit though, we’ve both fallen asleep on the sofa, there’s the Facebook photos to prove it.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

While we’ve made some mistakes, at least they’re all fixable. As we head into the start of our third year we expect to be working harder and at times, longer hours, we hope that if we change a few of our behaviours we will have even a better year. We’ve set some goals for where we want to head and have even planned a ’round Africa’ trip in 2018.

What about you, what ‘adjustments’ do you need to make to improve both your mental and physical health?

 

 

Dating, Marriage, Sex

This week we had an interesting conversation in the office and that was to do with how girls and guys date, what’s expected and what the general norm is.

It all started out when I shared about how in our family there’s a certain way we do things:

1. No boyfriends before 18

This went down like a lead balloon. Kids are too much in a hurry to grow up. They need to enjoy some of the most challenging years of their lives without the complication of ‘going out’. We always told our girls that you don’t have to be attached at the hip of a guy to be someone.

 

2. The guy asks permission to ‘court’ our daughter

We don’t believe in the try and buy scenario of dating. A relationship with the potential new family member is really important and if they respect you enough to ask permission, then they hopefully will respect your best investment – your child.

 

3. If one of our girls are in another town or country (as what we have now) they have to be sussed out and approved by a family member.

In line with our Pacific Island upbringing, Aunty is a pretty powerful person in the family. In New Zealand we have a cousin who has ‘Aunty’ status who keeps an eye on things. In Australia we had a friend who was an ex SAS member and he (okay he was a guy but you get the drift) would ask the hard questions on our behalf, it was great. I am sure they were scared of Jeff!

 

4. As a couple who profess to the Christian faith, they are encouraged to meet with their pastors and be accountable to them.

It takes a brave couple to tell their pastors that they are going to the next level in their friendship because it gives the pastors authority to speak into their lives and they may not like what they hear.

 

5. The couple set boundaries to keep themselves out of situations they may regret.

If it really doesn’t go anywhere, they can remain friends and still look each other in the eye.

 

6. Both parties take their ‘friend’ to their families homes.

This means involved in family activities such as dinners, going out to movies, church and special events. When you marry someone, you marry into their family as well.

Of course it all has to be in context. We have always encouraged our girls to make friends both boys and girls and if they are to go out, do it in a group.

We’ve openly talked about sex since they were 9 &10 years old (they’re 22 & 23 now) – in an appropriate manner of course. Both our parents never talked about ‘the birds and the bees’ so we decided to, bringing in a Biblical viewpoint. They were homeschooled till they were around 11 & 12 and then put into a public system when we moved to Australia.

We’ve always made a point of being involved in our girls lives. Even now we take them out of dates and a good catch up time. While we never had a lot materially we made this investment. When Hannah had finished secondary school we insisted that the whole family go on a two month tour of East Africa. At first she wasn’t happy about it (insisting she wanted to work, I pointed out that she had the rest of her life to work), but it changed her world forever. Both of our girls are global travellers and have experienced many cultures, which has broadened their personal worlds.

heartHere in Kenya I’ve discovered things are quite different.

  1. The only time the family sees the new ‘friend’ is just before the engagement happens.
  2. If the parents don’t like the potential addition to the family and the girl really wants him, she has to choose between her family or his if things get really bad.
  3. When the two families meet they sit formally opposite each other. This is when the dowry is discussed. It goes through stages of friends who can vouch for you (at the serious stage), then the uncles go.
  4. Parents don’t talk to their kids about sex. That happens in school (apparently).
  5. If a girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, she will most likely be beaten badly and kicked out of home. Some parents are more supportive but the guy involved has to front up to them.
  6. If you’re not married by your late 20’s you’re over the hill.

Of course, within the Kenyan culture there are lots of ways of doing things but above is what has been a long held tradition. I have a Kenyan friend who said when she got pregnant her mother accepted her and supported her.

I have another one who is not allowed to get married to the father of her child, but they can live together, because they don’t have the money for a huge wedding (the father knows some high ranking people who HAVE to be invited). When they go to her family in the country her partner is not allowed to sleep in the same house as everyone else.

ringsEven if my girls were raised in Africa, I still would keep to how we as a family do things.

As our kids grow into adulthood they have to make their own choices and live with the consequences. As a parent all you can do is your best and support your kids in the same manner.

So:

–        Do you talk to your kids about dating, sex, relationships or leave it up to others (school, friends, social media)?

–        When was the last time you took one of your kids out on a date by themselves, just for the sake of it?

–        What values do you hold as a family?

–        What memories are you building that your kids will take into adulthood?

25 Years and Still Going Strong

Aside

Well, officially, we haven’t been married for 25 years until December 5th, but because we are leaving the country in a week we thought we’d renew our vows in front of our Aussie family.

We both cried in front of a crowd of 40 people, telling each other how much we cared and how grateful we are to God for how far we’ve come.

So, I thought I’d write something a little different this week and talk on commitment. It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey to get where we are, but one thing I’ve learnt is that without sticking in there, you won’t get great results.

Commitment is treated as a swear word in this day and age. It seems old fashioned, narrow and judgemental.

So, here’s a few pointers for keeping your relationship the best it can be:

  1. Remember, he/she is your best friend.
  2. Laugh lots.
  3. Go out on a date night once a week. When you have kids, take them each out on a date every couple of weeks.
  4. Find similarities, don’t focus on the differences.
  5. Make it a win, win situation.
  6. Forgive fast – don’t let it drag on and on.
  7. It’s nothing like on television – Hollywood is a false world.
  8. Remember that your spouse, or any other relationship won’t 100% fulfil you – that’s God’s job.
  9. Make your spouse a priority.
  10. Have fun – all work and no play is a bad idea.
  11. Don’t try and change them to fit into your mould – the world would be boring if we were all the same.
  12. Realise that you don’t have to like 100% of everything that your spouse does.
  13. Keep your walk close with God, it’s the key to everything.