Look Up


A few days ago, when Brent and I were out on our morning walk, we were basking in the predictably beautiful weather.  Always warm… never any wind to speak of… paradise really!  We commented on how beautiful it all was, and then added, “…if you look up.”  It’s true!  In even the nicest of neighborhoods here, one has to be careful to look where you go.  There are all kinds of things you don’t want to step on or trip on.  It’s easy to become so focused on the possible pitfalls, that you forget to look up, and see all that is beautiful.

Life can be like that.  Some of us are born worriers, or perhaps we are just serious by nature.  Or maybe some of you, like me, are so focused on watching for all the dangers that life holds for those we love, that we forget to look up and enjoy all that’s good and beautiful.  We all know it’s not supposed to be like that, right?  Remember the whole “Man is that he might have joy.”?  But…in my vigilance to ensure that nothing bad happened to my family, I pretty much succeeded in extinguishing a lot of the fun too.  In the few videos we have of our life with six young children, there is always one sourpuss, with too much to do to join in on whatever fun the rest of the family is having…. It’s me!  There I am with a deep crease between my eyes and a scowl on my face,… feeding the baby or making sure the kids are doing their chores, or both at the same time.  I was never too happy about Brent catching us in our true state of affairs.  …The house a mess, me in my pyjamas with no make-up and broken out skin (*check at the end if you’re in the mood for a little anecdote)… kids half dressed, fighting in the background…  You get the picture.  My kids think it’s hilarious to watch those old family videos (though those with children of their own now, are not laughing quite so loudly).  I laugh too, but it makes me kind of sad that I didn’t take time to breathe and just look up.

2015-04-18_03.19.34Kolwezi is the coldest city in our mission.  I caught a picture of this guy, as we were driving down the street on our last visit.  It was about 27 or 28 degrees C ( about 78 or 80 F)!  I guess like many things, “cold” is relative.

2015-04-18_04.00.16Kolwezi is actually a pretty nice city thanks to Foreign Mining Money.  Some of our elders there, even have a swimming pool!


This is their bathroom, which is not bad actually… as far as bathrooms here go.



I thought this was cute.  It is their chore list.  (It looks a lot more complicated than the version we had up on the fridge many years ago.)  For the most part, the missionary housing is better than what they are used to back home, and I really do think they try to keep things clean and in order.

2015-04-18_04.06.21This one is for you Johnny.  I’m sure in a day or two you could have this spruced up and purring like a kitten.  I know it’s not a Hudson, but I think it has potential.  Unfortunately, the missionaries here don’t drive.  Well… that is except for our assistants.  Elder Draper accepted the responsibility of giving driving lessons to four of our elders this past week.  The lessons were long overdue.  A few months back, the Assistants went through the clutches on three different vehicles in about as many weeks.  Hey!  It’s a learning curve here for all of us.

2015-04-19_05.20.28On our way home from Kolwezi, we decided to make a long over-due visit to a group of members in a town called Fungrume.  When we arrived, the members were waiting to greet us, and stood in a line to shake the President’s hand.  They are one of about twenty groups much like them, here in our mission.  They are baptized members, who seek help and recognition from the church, but have not yet been officially organized into branches.  Some of these groups have up to eighty members, with as many as a hundred more waiting to be baptized.

2015-04-19_06.02.55 On this day, they invited us into their humble little building for a chance to talk with the Mission President, about their needs and hopes for the future.  Most of the members waited outside because there simply was not room enough for everyone.


We were impressed by the teacher’s beautiful printing.  Church meetings were over by the time we arrived, but they knew we were on our way, and we couldn’t help wondering if the lesson on the board was meant to make a good impression. …It worked!  Hey!… We would all do the same thing!


I’m trying to give you an idea of the size of this tiny building and the shape it’s in.  You have now seen three of the walls, and my back as I take these pictures, is right against the fourth.  One of the members sleeps in the building during the week, to safe guard the plastic chairs and anything else that is not nailed down.  Come to think of it, “nailing down” doesn’t make much of a difference.  If they can get it loose and walk away with it, they will.  “Hey!  It was with you… but now it’s with me!”  That’s just the way they see it!

2015-04-19_05.23.10This gives you a better idea of the size of their “chapel”, and there are two other tiny, tiny rooms with almost no light.  Their faithfulness really is so touching.  In a world where there is so little, the Gospel plan gives meaning and hope to their lives.

2015-05-02_11.34.16Now, for a change of pace,… It was fun to have Elder and Sister Evans from Salt Lake, come to stay with us for a couple of days.  Elder Evans is/was the Executive Director of the Missionary Department for the worldwide church.  We showed them the best the DRC Lubumbashi Mission has to offer!  The next mission they toured showed them the opposite end of the spectrum, in Cape Town.  The senior sisters prepared a delicious meal for all of us to share one evening.

2015-05-04_00.53.52We travelled with the Evans, and had a nice break for a few days in Cape Town, where Interim Mission President’s seminar was held.  This is a shot from Table Mountain, where you are supposed to be able to see all of Cape Town and the surrounding area and ocean.  It’s all there.  We just couldn’t see it that morning.   It was a very cloudy day… at least from down below.  From the top of the mountain where we were… the sun was shining and it was beautiful!  There is a lesson here.

2015-05-04_06.56.08Once we got back down to the hotel, the clouds disappeared and it was a beautiful day!  That is Table Mountain in the background.

2015-05-07_03.58.02I have always loved the ocean (as long as I am standing firmly on the land).  We found ourselves noticing the difference of the air here, from Lubumbashi, and taking in deep breaths.  It was crisp and clean!  (Now I understand the saying “Taking a breather”, in a whole new way.)  Not far from here is where the cold Atlantic Ocean and the warm Indian Ocean meet.  That is where all those shipwrecks from all the centuries past have occurred.   What a great road trip it would be to drive the coastal highway around the southern tip of Africa!  There’s one area where the whales come for a few months to give birth. (We were told that they come in so close to shore, that you could walk out and touch them.   And then not far from there, is another area where all the Great White Sharks gather. (I don’t think there are many who would want to walk out and touch them!)  Amazing!  We’re in Africa!  A very different Africa from what we are used to… but Africa!

2015-05-07_06.47.17Cape Town is another world from Lubumbashi.  Believe it or not,… though we enjoyed our few days, we were anxious to get back “home”.

You know?…  It’s funny how we keep learning the same old lessons in life.  … At least, I seem to.  I guess I’m a little better than I used to be….  But sometimes even now, when I catch myself focusing a little too much on my own personal obstacle course, or stressing when someone I love has less than a perfect day,…  I just need to remember…                 Look up and breathe.


* Thirty-ish years ago, we were poor students living in St. Louis, Mo. with four children, between the ages of six and one.  Between school and church, Brent was never home and I, to earn a little extra money, babysat our neighbors two kids.  One day I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, and had a little rant about my skin.  (I have had zits my whole life!  When I was 16, my mother told me that my skin would clear up after I got married and had kids. Well Mom?!  I’ve been married for 36 years, had six kids, and I’m still waiting!)  Anyway, that day my skin was just the last straw!  As I stood there, in the middle of the chaos, our five year old Kate came quietly up to me, and with upturned face and soft voice, she offered her sweet words of comfort.  “Mommy, when I get big, I hope I look just like you…  Skinny… Glasses… And zits on my face.”  What could I do but smile.  …”Out of the mouths of babes.”  (Too bad for her, two of the three things on her wish list, didn’t come true.  Oh well!  You can’t have everything!) 🙂

About carethomas1

Mother to six. Grandmother to nine. Dislikes bugs, camping, sitting and waiting. Likes to talk, eat, free agency, peace and order. Loves dogs, dear friends, and family (not necessarily in that order). Grateful for the trust Heavenly Father has in me, to ask me to come here and do this, with the one I love most.
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9 Responses to Look Up

  1. Myrna Worthington says:

    I love reading your comments and seeing your pictures. It almost seems like a part of you both is still here. I am so grateful that I know you and for the good example you set. Your family is beautiful in every way. You are always in our prayers. Please say hi to Heather and the Drapers. God bless you all!


  2. Dawn says:

    What a great reminder. I too find myself scooting my family off so I can do something oh so important like mop the kitchen. I need to leave the mopping and enjoy the fun with them more often.


  3. Kate says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy all that life has to offer, regardless of what’s unfinished on my to-do list and the imperfections of each day. I told Dan the other day I am reliving those videos and have fully taken your place;).
    I’m glad you guys had a little getaway even though it always is nice to go home. Love you!


  4. it is so beautiful there in Cape Town! amazing. The air just looks clean and fresh! and you and dad are both looking great. Also, that bathroom is really quite nice! it looks nicer than 2/3 of mine on my mission. But the bathrooms were the worst part.
    Anyways, this lesson is something that I really started thinking about after Ruby’s diagnosis. I made a positive change, but have reverted back a little bit more in recent months, and I really want to work on that. Some days, I will wish that I didn’t spend as much time on the computer or as much time cleaning, watching tv, etc, but spent more time just with the kids and enjoying them. This is a great reminder again. I’ve actually had nightmares the last 2 nights that Eli had to start kindergarten(and skip pre-k) and I all of the sudden wished that I had another year with him home to just spend time with him playing, reading, going to the park, etc. Anyways, this is always an applicable message! love you!


  5. Colin Dunne says:

    Just to let you know we enjoy following your post and your amazing mission. You are an inspiration All our love, Elder & Sister Dunne


  6. Donna says:

    I am more touched and more entertained with every chapter you post! Your portrait of life in Africa has me laughing and crying, but most of all has me in awe of the love that you and Brent have for each other. Miss you and love you!!!


  7. Susan says:

    I can’t see a single zit – just the beaming faces of two very wonderful people who are happy to be together! Lovely, lovely writing! There is a book in the making here! How we enjoyed having the children here for the wedding and the chance for Ray to meet Kate and Dan and family. I am so busy getting ready to move but will send along some photos when I can! The girls were so sweet in their little white dresses – Kate picked out the perfect ones!

    In the Christmas break of 19969, I visited Capetown. I had a penpal through Girl Guides who lived there Her family drove me and her right across South Africa those two weeks – it was an unforgettable journey. Apaprtheid ruled the day at that time so I had a glimpse of what the world was like for the native South Africans. Such restrictions and unfairness at the time. Much has changed in the last 46 years!

    We are packing and planning for our trip north at the end of the month. It seems overwhelming at times but it will all get done. I think life will be more restful once I am at work again! LOL!

    God bless you both,

    Love Susan


  8. Jolyn says:

    Love love love to read your blog Carolyn! You bring such insight and just ooze love and wisdom! Miss you both tons! Enjoy the journey 🙂


  9. Ben says:

    Great reminders, taught in beautiful language. Thanks!


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