Joy or Sorrow.

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Remember that little tiger striped onesie from the last post? It has a story to tell. I must admit I did not rush out, bursting with joy, and purchase it for just this occasion. No. Rather, it was purchased over three years ago in a thrift shop, on a whim, and at the urging of my dear friend, as we shopped and talked of what the next few years across the ocean might hold.

I tucked that little itty bitty piece of clothing away, and carried it to my new home, a small glimmer of hope for “someday.” Soon, maybe? Time passed. We settled into our house and routine, and almost before we realized, a year had passed. A little nagging ache began to form in my mind. Now and then I stumbled across that little tiger print outfit, and managed a small private smile.

Eventually, I could no longer smile at it. Tears came instead. I wondered why I even kept it around. Several times I nearly gave it away to one friend, or another who brought home a newborn babe. Still it remained, tucked away in the corner of the room, like a bit of tangible hope for the one who wasn’t really sure she had any.

I say this not for pity, but for the sake of being real. And in the hope that it may help someone in some small way. I’ve lived in that place where each day becomes a battle for joy. Where you want to scream instead of smile; stay in bed, rather than greet the sun {let alone the chorus of little voices outside my front door}. I’ve vowed to be “ok”, only to break down again. I’ve tried to bargain with God, promising Him all the glory. I’ve surrendered. Again and again. Sung songs like, “You are God, mighty are your miracles…” and believed them with all my heart. I even tried being strong for a while, until I realized that I really wasn’t. There were days where I felt so happy for all my pregnant friends and yet so sure that if I saw just one more announcement I might go insane.

If you’ve been there…if you ARE there…you understand. And now I do to.  Maybe that is what all this was for. To bring me to a place of not only accepting my weakness and lack of control, but also rendering me qualified on some level to offer a hand, an arm, a tear of comfort. And while it may seem I’ve moved on, that I’m at least on my way to getting what I desired, I still will never be the same. It’s still a subject that causes me to tear up very quickly.


I know that in life’s dark valleys, words rarely “fix” the problem, but I also know that they can be powerful, encouraging, strengthening. I’m grateful for those who invested in my life. And I’m thankful for a God I can trust to hold me, no matter what. Who knows what lies ahead of me? While none of us look forward to hard times, they truly are the growing places of our lives. They can bring us to a place where we find ourselves saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who You are.” {Can anyone name that song?}

The brokenness of life in this world is so evident. It’s not hard to see, especially, it seems, as we grow older.  There are so many difficult situations, so many people walking through pain. Each of us has our own, in one way or another. And whether our struggle is obviously “easier” or “harder” than someone else’s is not the point. We feel our own most acutely because ours is the one we must bear.

And then, oh wondrous mystery, up springs joy, hope, laughter, juxtaposed against our tears. It’s crazy, wild, confusing. It is the great paradox of life – joy and sadness, existing side by side. Someday, I’ll know a place where there are no tears, but in the meantime, perhaps it’s the tears that make the joy that much sweeter? The tears, and this:

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is they faithfulness.” {Lamentations 3:22-23}

Just to be clear {since this post has been a little sad} – I am ecstatic about this new life God is expertly forming inside of me, and I look forward to filling that tiger print with a wriggly, squishy tiny miracle. I’ll be honest, though. It’s a different thing, this 2nd pregnancy. I find I’m not as carefree as the first time around. I think about the “could be’s” and “what if’s” and realize more than ever that my joy and peace must be found in Him; not in my circumstances. In joy or sorrow, I want to live with open hands.


P.S. Thanks to all who have been rejoicing with us in our excitement!


It’s Been A While.

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I could make a list of excuses about why I haven’t written since Thanksgiving. Mostly, I guess I haven’t been sure of what to say. Or maybe I was afraid of what I might say.

I do feel like I owe some sort update to our friends and family – a progress report regarding our plans for moving forward with the farming project. The truth is, it hasn’t felt much like progress these past 5 months. Things haven’t exactly fallen into place the way we envisioned when we left Ghana. It’s been more waiting and “I don’t knows” than we would have chosen. There is something humbling about realizing you don’t know the plan.

As we continue to wait for clear direction on our further involvement with the farm, we’ve had to shift our focus a bit. We can only live in a state of complete limbo for so long. We suddenly find ourselves looking at housing of our own. {We’ve been living in part of someone’s house, which is fully furnished and set up for missionaries on furlough.} Jonathan has taken on a new full-time job. And then there’s the possibility of a little farming venture of our own. On THIS side of the ocean. What?!

There are definitely still many questions surrounding some of these things, but it is beginning to feel as if we may be headed in a different direction than we thought. We’ll keep you informed as things become clearer, but until then, I think I shall leave you with one picture. Since my last post was from Thanksgiving, how about a shot from Christmas? It seems we had an extra gift-giver this year! :)


This cold weather thing was never my, uh, “thing”, but now that it’s snowing, well, I think I may be caving just a little. After all, I AM inside with a hot cup of tea. Another day, it would be coffee, but I’ve got a bit of that special gift of the season – a cold.

Anyway, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and for the first time in three years, it actually FEELS like it. While I am definitely a fan of the warmer climate I’ve been living in, there is something about the Thanksgiving and Christmas season that never quite felt like the real deal. So, I’m plucking up my courage {and putting on a few extra layers} and vowing to relish this wonder known as the changing seasons.

The truth is, I already am! A few weeks ago, I found myself not only getting out in the crisp weather to rake leaves, but also allowing myself to be “buried alive” in the pile by two willing helpers. And then, there are things like pumpkins, handfulls of fallen leaves that have been pressed and preserved, baren branches in a jar and CANDLES that just scream “cozy fall day”. Yep, the season is sucking me in…

This is the mantle above my fridges. Yes, you read that correctly. I have two tiny fridges that live inside of a HUGE old fireplace. It’s cool and quirky and I love it.


Everything you see on the mantle I either already owned, was free, or I picked up for pocket change at a thrift store. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I even got to enjoy my crafty side with some buttons, a glue-gun and an old frame I had stashed away. {Thanks to the sisters who helped me hover over the cauldron of buttons so I could pick out just the right ones. ;) }


Back to the topic at hand – Thanksgiving Day. It’s tomorrow. Not only is my fridge holding a large batch of mashed potatoes to prove it, but, I’ve also got a dinner date with my family tomorrow. The weather is cool {ok – freezing}, and I can guarantee I’ll eat something made with pumpkin, the ladies will discuss Black Friday, and my dad will let fly at least ONE of his “Dad-isms” at some point. {“No pain, no gain, so eat till it hurts”, maybe?} I’ll probably wear something brown and sweater-y. Over the weekend, I’ll turn on Christmas music and begin decorating. These things just make sense, and despite how much I would love to share a special meal with my “borrowed” family in sun-shiny Ghana, it’s good to be able to do it this way again.


What makes Thanksgiving feel “normal” to you? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest. And don’t forget to put on some thankfulness, like our little tree up there. :)



Half a Decade.

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I promised {via facebook} a Birthday Boy post last month. Oops! These days are a mixture of quiet thoughts, slowly, slowly taking shape contrasted with the all-too-familiar ease of a running car and places to go. I’m not ready to share my thoughts. I’m not even sure I could put them together in a way that makes sense. And that car? It is a two-edged gift. It is a tremendous blessing  to be able to borrow it {from Jonathan’s grandpa}, but the freedom it offers means I need to purpose to be at home. It means choosing to focus on school for the little man, and cookie baking, and nature walking, and Lego building and making meals with what I have on hand rather than hopping into the little car on any random whim of mine.

I should add that since we live in a fabulous small town {apparently not as cool as Lititz, though. ;) } everything I really need is mere minutes away, and since Elliot is five now and can manage without a nap every day, it IS tempting to go out more often. So, I guess that’s my reason for not posting this sooner. That, and I wanted to add some pictures from his birthday party, but I don’t have any good ones. {Psst – Judy do you have some??}

Anyway, about that five-year-old boy.


He’s pretty terrific. He’s got the best smile and an oh-so-infectious belly laugh. And those blue eyes…


He loves to pretend and imagine, and thanks to a certain birthday gift from his Grandma Groff, I’m pretty sure he’s convinced he is a real-life super-hero.


Five. Really? FIVE? It sounds so old to me. I used to be able to bathe him in the sink, and now he suddenly stretches out and easily fills the entire length of the bathtub. I used to effortlessly hold him in one arm, and now he’s big enough to push me half-way off the chair so that he can fit on too. Not to mention that carrying him these days is dangerous to the well-being of my back.


But five means he’s able to help around the house. {He loves to vacuum} It means he’s learning more and more about life, yet he hasn’t lost his wonder. He’s beginning to understand more about humor and realize that it doesn’t ALWAYS involve bodily noises/functions {although they still rank pretty high on his choice of topics}.


These days, listening to audio books/radio drama is a must, but, thankfully, he still loves to curl up beside me to hear me read. More and more I hear, “Mom, is this story REAL?” When it’s music that’s being played, he can usually be found “playing” along on his air guitar or drum set. He definitely has his daddy’s inclination toward the musical aspect of a song {as opposed to the lyrics}.


Some things never change. While being five meant this impromptu photo shoot went very smoothly, it did not negate the need for a little craziness. The previous shot is typical Elliot. He’s a goofball, but I love him!





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As a child, I remember being fascinated {and a bit puzzled} by the line, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” whenever I sang the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I inwardly giggled and had visions of an old man {what else would “Ebenezer” mean??}; little did I know that the next line offered a real clue to the meaning. “Hither by Thy help I’m come.”

Today is my birthday. My 30th birthday. I’ve always sort of enjoyed celebrating this day. After all, I very nearly didn’t make it, as I completely flat-lined and needed an emergency evacuation on that Friday afternoon. {You can ask my Mom for all the details, if you wish. I’m pretty sure she remembers. :) } Sure, today is a milestone birthday, and I could complain that I’m getting old, or that I have FAR too many gray hairs for as young as I am. I could be depressed that I’m 30 years old and still don’t have life figured out. Wasn’t I going to be a whole lot more mature by now, and know exactly what to expect in my life?


Birthday Breakfast of  Champions, right? :)

I could look at it that way. Or, I could simply say, “Ebenezer.” For truly, “hitherto the Lord has helped me”. It is by His grace that I live and breathe, and I should live and breathe gratefulness. As my dear Ghanaian friends would say, “I am thanking the Lord for adding another year to my years.”


Thanks for the scarf, Judy!

I am thankful not only for life, but for a life that is filled and overflowing with good things. We have been back in the States for about a week and a half, and the only word I can use to describe our transition is “carried.” God has provided for our every need, and many of you have been His hands and feet. We think of the friends we have left behind in Ghana, and we miss them. Even though it may be hard sometimes, I know we are beyond blessed to be able to have dear friends on BOTH sides of the ocean. And, it would be sheer negligence if I didn’t mention the birthday party my thoughtful husband planned for me last Thursday night. It was wonderful. Thank-you to all who came and made it special. My life is indeed full.




LBC {Last Bible Club}.

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This post could probably also be called “In which I post too many pictures of myself”, for which I apologize in advance.

Today I held the final Bible Club before we say, “Good bye.” We did all the normal things, like sing songs, color and enjoy a snack, but we also marked the occasion by sharing little goodie bags Elliot had made up for all of his friends.  We also took way too many pictures.


Little-man Ransford. He and his siblings have only been living next door for a few months, so we don’t have a lot of memories…but he’s a charmer. And, in all honesty, a fighter. I had to send him home today for whacking Stella in the face with a book. Never a dull moment.


I took some flowers that I made a long time ago for no real reason, and paired them with headbands I don’t really need. The result – a bunch of lovely flower girls. :)


Oh, these two…


Godwin. What can I say? This quiet young man always seems to find a spot next to me. He is well behaved and polite, with just enough sneaky mischief in him to make him the perfect little buddy. He’s been sick a lot lately, and today, his eyes looked quite yellow. Please say a prayer for him.


My Stella-girl. Sweet, spicy and sulky all rolled into one.


There was a lot happening, as the kids were exploring their gift bags from Elliot and I was trying to hand out snacks and field cries of, “Kweku Maame, I didn’t get a band.” and “Kweku Maame, my ring. I don’t have some.” {See, the gift bags were NOT all exactly alike. Elliot just shared some of his toys and books and little treasures that he has accumulated over the past three years. I explained that before we shared the gifts, but still, it’s a hard concept for them.} Anyway, during all the commotion, I was grateful to Joshua and Seth, who acted as my photographers.

Joshua captured the next two pictures. DJ Seth loves music. We always miss his gift of vocal projection when he doesn’t come to Bible Club.


And this one…HA, HA! Joshua snapped a bunch of pictures in a row of me dividing up the last two cookie bars among so many outstretched hands. In all of the pictures, I am smiling sweetly. Except this one. This one is my classic “Are you SURE you didn’t get some?” face.  :)


Two of the mamas {Akos and Vic} and me.


And THIS girl. My goodness, I don’t think she ever stops smiling.


My two “big girls”. These young ladies help me a lot with cleaning and laundry.


Stella again. See – you never know what mood you’ll find her in.


I am so glad Elliot has good friends like these. He is going to miss these guys.


Departure Date.

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In just two weeks, we’ll be boarding an airplane headed for America. Crazy, huh?


I don’t really know how I feel, I’m too busy taking down pictures, packing away kitchen stuff, using up everything in my fridge/freezer, and filling tubs and bags with things to share with friends before we leave. At this point, our return tickets are set for six months from now. Our house will most likely remain empty while we’re away, and I’m not willing to leave things hanging on the walls and sitting out in open shelves. Mice, bugs and dirt will most likely reign supreme during our absence.

Elliot has been wonderful about giving away books and toys to various friends, and he seems super-excited about his upcoming trip. I almost think he’s too excited sometimes, and I’m not sure if he REALLY realizes some of the things {friends, mostly} that he’ll leave behind. But, a few days ago, he commented that “It’s not easy to live in two places at the same time.” and just yesterday I heard him tell Betty and Sabina that he will miss them. So, I guess I’ll be thankful that he’s not misbehaving or upset because of the upcoming changes. It may be that we’ll deal with some sadness once we get to America and he realizes that his buddies aren’t right next door anymore.

Then there’s this happening in my garden:


Sigh. Guess I won’t get to cook it all down and fill my freezer as I had anticipated. I’ve got several to give away…speak up, if you want any {Cape Coast-ers or Accra-ians}.

All in all, things are falling into place. The house is starting to appear sort of empty in places, and full of tubs in others.  Fourteen days till departure.



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Happy Faces.

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When Auntie Cheryl shows up in Ankamu with her bag of tricks, a flurry of excitement is sure to follow. She already posted a lot of sweet pictures on her blog. Make sure you take a look – and also, if you have a minute, back up and read the previous posts about the Arm of Hope sponsorship program for children in the slum of Accra. Maybe you’d like to help in the next year?

We did a week of Bible Club with the kiddos again this year, and they had a blast. Because these little guys are just too cute, I have to post a few of my own shots. Enjoy!

Fun and games:


These sweeties lost their grip on the parachute almost every time, but they still loved it!


Aww, what a good big brother! Auntie Maggie was thrilled to join in on the singing and dancing.


Handsome Kings.


Maame Esi “selling” pencils. :)


Fisherman Fi.


Blurry, yes, but isn’t she presh?


Ransford. He’s pretty new around here, but he can quickly win your heart with a smile. I think I’ll take him with me when we go. {Auntie Cheryl and I may have to fight this one out. ;) }


Actually, the truth is, the little people behind these sweet smiling faces are the same ones who can quickly drive me crazy, induce an eye-roll or two, and make me crave gates and walls and SOLITUDE! It’s not all smiles and laughter and fun and games from morning until night, but I love ‘em, and I know I will miss them while we’re gone.

Oh, Auntie Cheryl had a traveling buddy. He was a great companion for Elliot {as well as the neighbors, who remembered him well}.

Boys… :)


Party Day!

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As I mentioned in my last post, my plans for the future are pretty sketchy. What am I doing next year? How about in five years? I don’t know. A lot of the time I don’t even know what’s for dinner in an hour, but there is one grand event that has been planned for quite some time, and today was The Day.

Today, we completed our 100th day of kindergarten! I promised Elliot a party way back when we started, and his excitement has just been building and building over the last 100 school days {plus the weekends and days we missed school – whew, that’s a lot of anticipation for a small child!}.


With all the time to think about it, my little mastermind had plenty of time to think about how he wanted to celebrate. I had a few plans of my own, but I figured – hey, why not take his ideas? So, we had our fun, but like a mean Mom, I made him complete his chores and schoolwork first. ;)

We counted 100 bottle caps and let them clatter to the cement floor in honor of the day. We also built a tower with 100 blocks, and of course, filled in the final day on our 100 chart and counted our 100 straws.


Two of Elliot’s requests were a party hat and a tent.


I enlisted the Master Tent Maker {a.k.a. Daddy} to work on the tent while I assembled the special 100 Day snack. I hung some balloons from the kitchen light because he’s always asking for balloons, and, really I wanted to do something to surprise him since he came up with so many of his own ideas. The only problem? He was a bugger to keep out of the kitchen, and actually peeked in the windows and caught me hanging them. Stinker!

The treat. The umbrellas were another of Elliot’s ideas.


As I expected, the treat was MUCH too sweet for Elliot. That, and we don’t really eat pudding, so the whole thing was just a bit too different for him. On sight, he declared it “the awesome-est treat”, but he ended up eating just a little, and sharing the rest with his friends. The shocking thing? They actually really liked it! In case you’re wondering, I layered chocolate cookie crumbs, chocolate pudding, and a cream cheese, confectioners sugar and dream whip mixture, and sprinkled a few Heath bits in there for good measure. It was good, but I too could only eat about half of it at one sitting, and I needed some good coffee to go with it. {PS – yep, it’s time to use up all the “good stuff” I’ve been hoarding, like cream cheese and pudding mix.}


I had one more little surprise up my sleeve – a small gift for the school boy. It really should have waited until he completed the year, but really we only have a few days left. {I assume a typical school year is generally more like 180 days, but I did not follow the curriculum exactly, as most of it was really just reinforcement for him. We cut each of our 26 units short by a day or two. I guess I’m allowed to do that. ;) } Anyway, he received a small Lego car set, a new set of markers and 100 Tic Tacs in a little container. He was thrilled, and I lost count of how many times he disassembled and rebuilt his Lego car throughout the day. I’d say the day was duly celebrated.


Ever feel like your life is one big question mark? Or, if not your life, than at least your future? Some people like to talk about their five and ten year plans. Us? Well, lately it seems we’ve been residing at the corner of I Don’t Know and Well, Maybe…

We haven’t said anything here on the blog, but this morning I woke up to a facebook fundraiser “for the Groffs”. I guess it’s time to do a little updating for those who haven’t heard. The short story: we are headed home.

{Let me insert this small “P.S.” here: We are so grateful for all those involved in the fundraiser. We have the best family!}

You may be wondering when, and for how long. Is it permanent, or just a visit? Guess what: “I don’t know!” :) We came here knowing that we would be here for at least three years, but we unsure of what would happen after that. Our three years will be completed in September. For the past year we’ve wrestled with the question, “Do we stay, or do we go?” It’s been a rough year for us on many levels, but I didn’t want that to be our reason. Life is hard sometimes, and many times, God asks us to stay in those hard places and lean hard on Him.


So, what made us decide {on somewhat short notice} that now is the time to for a change? Sometimes a little change is just what is needed. We’ve come to a point of “passing on the baton”. Not necessarily the one we’re holding. Maybe, but then again maybe not. Rather it’s the baton of oversight and vision. You see, we have been blessed with a group of men who came together and planted a seed. They purchased 78 acres of bush in the small village of Ankamu and trusted us to be the hands and feet of a project much bigger than all of us. But now it is time for others to share in the project.

We are headed home…to what will basically be a giant brainstorming session with the goal of bringing some new oversight {board}  members to the table. The truth is, the brainstorming has already begun on this side of the ocean, and it’s been exciting to see the possibilities unfolding. Again, we don’t know what all of this will mean. We do feel like there would be great value in having Jonathan be a part of the board, since he has had the experience of living here. Maybe that time is now, and God will provide another set of hands and feet to flesh out the day to day here on the farm. Or maybe not. We just don’t know.

So while we have very few definite plans for this next part of our life, here’s what I can tell you: We should be arriving in the States around the beginning of October {just in time to meet my sister’s newest bundle of joy – yay!}, and we’ll probably be staying at least until the beginning of next year.  And as for the rest of the details {housing, transportation, jobs, direction for the farm project} – we know God can handle them!


Maybe it’s OK to look ahead and realize you’re facing a blank page, or at the very least, a sketchy one. Maybe it’s OK not to have a five or a ten year plan. I definitely believe there is more to this whole story. We’ll keep you posted as we find out! Join us in prayer as we move forward?