Because I Love You

Eish! So much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start!
Some highlights of this last packed week…

Ayanda’s birthday!  Last year while I was here, I got to celebrate Pununu’s, Johannes’, and Tenele’s birthdays but missed Ayanda’s, so it was a blessing to be here with her to celebrate!  Hanna and Alex made pizza for dinner (which we ate without the kids because they didn’t show up until three hours after the party was supposed to start…TIA).  But they enjoyed the cake, and we had a dance party, which was one of my highlights of the entire trip!  Tenele was even dancing and I swung baby MK around as we danced, too!  But the best dancer award goes to Pununu during “Shake baby shake!” OH MY GOODNESS can this kid DANCE! Seriously!  Why don’t guys dance like this in America??

Another big event at the end of the week was Mlilwane Game Park!  So last the last time I took the kids to Mlilwane was when Tenele flipped out into one of her mood swings, deserted us at the game park, and attempted to walk all the way home.  Well this time was quite the opposite!  This day was by far my favorite day in Swaziland this trip!  My Swazi friends Marcia and Ncobile kindly drove us to the park and celebrated the day with us, though they refused to step foot near the freezing cold pool!  But the rest of us jumped in…even if it took me awhile…I actually wasn’t planning on getting in.  I figured I’d been there several times, there’s no need to go swimming.  Tenele tried convincing me but I still refused until she hugged me and said, “Please, Mama?”  Eish, how can you deny that?!  So I worked my way in and came up squealing from the freezing water.  Worth it?  To make Tenele-Bell smile, fo sho!

It was amazing watching Tenele with her baby but also seeing Tenele be a girl.  She’s 17 years old now, but she never really experience childhood as we know of it…so it was precious seeing the childlike joy on her face all day long.  Her tenderness is something I’ve haven’t seen since I met her four years ago!  Praise the Lord!  Also, it was wonderful seeing her interact with Marcia and Ncobile; Tenele has a bitterness towards her own adults, and acted with disrespect (culturally) a lot before, but she was very kind and respectful to Marcia and Ncobile and they could immediately identify the beautiful change taking place in Tenele’s heart.

On Sunday, we walked to Mangwaneni to pick up Tenele for church (because she requested that we come for her) but she refused to come.  She was cooking for some people at a little shop in Mangwaneni so she couldn’t go, but I knew something else was up.  She walked around with us to gather the other kids, but then refused to join.  Even Cedric tried convincing her to come, but when she said no, he turned to me and said, “Eish, sorry Mary-Kate she doesn’t want to go. Sorry.”  I’m really starting to love Cedric more and more, too.  He has a sad story from his childhood, too, and the more I interact with him, the more my heart breaks for him, too.  Before we left, Tenele told her friend to explain that she was too embarrassed to go to church because she didn’t have any church clothes.  She had borrowed some from Ayanda before but doesn’t have any of her own.  When I looked over at Tenele, tears were coming down her face as she tried hiding behind her baby.

It was so hard walking away knowing Tenele was hurting, but still not really understanding exactly what was going on with her.  I told Lindsay on the walk back that God put his heart in my heart for Tenele so when she cries I cry, when she’s sad, I’m sad; I can’t control it, but my heart was just so heavy knowing hers was too.
But the next day I got a phone call from an eager Tenele who told me she left the shop.
“Mama, I’m leaving,” she said.
“What? Leaving what?”
“I’m leaving the shop so when you come I am available,” she explained.
Then it hit me that part of the reason Tenele was upset and crying was because she really wanted to come with but couldn’t because she was working at the shop, so she told me she wants to stop so that she can be with me every time I come for her.   “Because I love you,” she said. 

How many times have I said that to her? It was amazing to hear it back after all this time away.  It was amazing to know that Tenele was going to sacrifice her chance at earning some money because she “loves me” and thinks time with me is more important than money.  Wow.

And isn’t that what the Lord says to us again and again?  “Because I love you…” 

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