The smell of baking cake begins to drift through the kitchen door. I rise from my chair at the dinner table to begin clearing dishes. Our bellies are full of soup, and for that I am thankful. Many around us have nothing to eat.
On my way to the kitchen sink, the world goes dark. Power is out again. Will it be a few minutes this time? A few hours? A few days? I pause for a few moments, waiting. No lights flicker. Placing the dishes next to the sink, my hand rummages through the drawer to find a candle and matches. Only about 1/4 matches stays lit, and I finally find one to give a glow to the tall white candle so it can be placed in a holder. The flame illuminates the dining room, and I see 6 faces staring at me. What now, mom?
Pulling out a package of store-bought cookies sent from home, I serve the children dessert. This delicacy is a let down after smelling the cake that will now have to be thrown away because it will not finish baking. There are a few sad looks, but also a comment from a maturing teenager, saying, "That's okay, mom, you can't help it. Thanks for trying." As I hold back the tears, I turn away from her. How much she has grown up in the last 3 months! Once again, I am thankful.
After every morsel has been devoured, I carefully pour 7 cups of water from our clean water jug. Each child grabs a glass and heads up the stairs as I lead the procession by candlelight. Entering the bedroom, I grab a battery-operated lantern and pray that the batteries still have life in them. Placing the lantern on the edge of the tub in the bathroom, I put toothpaste on each toothbrush, and the children begin brushing. They use their cups of clean water to rinse their mouths, then swish their toothbrushes in the leftover water. Putting the brushes away, I sit the children down on the bedroom floor and use a flashlight to walk to their room. Grabbing every one's pajamas, I re-enter my bedroom. The boys take turns rinsing off quickly in the shower, because it's cold. There is no hot water when the power is out. Again, I am thankful that we have some water in our tank still. With the power out, it may not last very long.
After each child is relatively clean and in soft pj's, I make sure they are tucked, "Snug as a bug in a rug", into their sheets. Finishing with goodnight kisses, I walk downstairs to begin nightly clean-up.
A large pot of water is set on the propane burner to heat. Once it begins boiling, I pour the water into the sink on top of soap and begin to wash dishes. I am thankful to have a propane burner to boil water on. Many of my neighbors cook over an open fire.
Once each dish has been rinsed and placed in the drainer to dry, I wipe off the table and sweep the floor. Disposing of the crumbs in the plastic garbage can, I blow out the candle and use the lantern to walk upstairs to bed. Alan works on the computer for a few minutes while there is still battery life, and I read a few pages on the Kindle. Then it's "goodnight" for the adults, too. We are lulled to sleep by the sound of rain on the tin roof.
Early in the morning, I am awakened by the sound of more rain. There is no music in the background. No power still.
As soon as each family member has sauntered into the family room to begin their day, I serve pancakes made on the propane burner, along with coffee from the French press. Clean-up looks a lot like the previous evening. What's this? The rain stopped?
Changing our clothes, we all head outside to play mud soccer. Tiring everyone out and building up an appetite are on the agenda for this morning. Those goals being accomplished, the Kicklighter clan runs inside, depositing our blackened shoes on the porch.
I take a chance opening the refrigerator to see if the ground beef inside still feels cool enough to safely cook. Thinking it's okay, I quickly take out the meat and home-made tortillas. Alan browns the meat, I assemble a line of bowls filled with vinegar-water to soak the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and lime. Once they have been soaked, I rinse them all with clean water from our water jug. Cutting begins.
Lunch is announced when all prep work is completed. Hungry children come to the table to fill their tortillas. They devour their nourishment. All except one, who refuses to eat anything other than peanuts.
As another clean-up commences, a game of hide-and-seek is begun. There are no adequate large hiding spaces in this house for bodies, so the game is played by hiding a stick.
Around 2:00 flickering begins, then moves into a steady stream of electricity! Yippee! A fierce scrambling ensues. I throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, hoping that the electricity holds out long enough to finish them (last week it didn't, so I finished by hand-washing from a pot boiled on the stove). I plug both computers and one Kindle into our 3 adaptors. Then I run into the kitchen with my ginger cookie recipe, snatching goods like flour and sugar out of the cabinets. Tomorrow I am supposed to be bringing cookies to church. Not sure if I'll be able to finish baking, I rush to get the dough into the oven.
Three hours later, the cookies are finished, batteries are charged, and the load of clothes is drying on the line. Poof! Out goes the power again. I thank God for the time to get so many tasks done before another outage. We are meeting another family for dinner at a restaurant in the city, so I scramble to wash faces and hands and change into clean clothes minus hot water. As mud flows down the drain, again a prayer of thanks goes through my head for the water in our tank.
Maybe the power will come back on while we're gone? If not, it's okay. We've learned how to make do in ways that we have never experienced before starting this journey in Africa. Every time I hand wash an item of clothing or stir batter with a spoon (no electric mixer here), I think of people all over the world who do these tasks day in and day out. How thankful would they be to have a tank of water for a shower? A jug of drinking water not filled with parasites? A washing machine? A clothesline instead of draping cloth over the bushes? A propane burner that cooks faster than an open flame in the earth?
"11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. " - Philippians 4:11-12
How can I not be thankful?
Please, Lord, help me remember. Help me not take my life for granted. All the little conveniences that I know are awaiting me at home- help me be grateful for them. Always.