Saturday, April 30, 2011

this guy..

..just surprised me with a night away with just us before we head back. Bibi Rho will watch the girls and we will talk without interruption, eat dinner late, sleep in, and do whatever we want!! Holla! I am a bit giddy. Plus, he is hot. Yeah for us time.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

two worlds

Constant movement is my natural state. I feel quite normal busy, running, talking, buzzing. The thing is I need to remind myself to pause. I feel like I should get a tattoo that says "reflection required." Because while I am quite comfortable in motion silent is brilliant for me. Taking time to process is when I feel so alive and able to take in all around me and learn from my life. Since we have been back stateside doctor appointments, phone calls, hearing lots of opinions, being with friends, family, taking in and soaking up all things "American" have kept us running. I know the speed has been too much as was evident but my emotional breakdown last night. Yeah, again. But after time, quiet, prayers, and sharing and talking with I am J grateful I can identify some if what I am feeling.
Leaving so suddenly was right for our family. We know that regardless of what may remain some unanswered questions about our little girl. We prayed and felt so much peace that we needed to make sure she was ok and He has confirmed that this timing was right. But there were always be some people that will think we are not careful enough or those that think we are too cautious and did not trust in God. We want community, feedback, encouragement, and challenge but ultimately we cannot put pressure on ourselves to be on anyone's journey but our own. And I have come to have peace knowing we are relying and listening to Him. And even though it was a blessing to come home it threw us into an adjustment that caught us off guard. We are all having some re-entry shock. And I guess we should be used to this by now but we are slow learners. We feel it. Our kids feel it.
Annikah has been talking back, complaining even though she is fun "America-land," being disrespectful, and in general ruling our family with her tyraids as of late. My patience ran out yesterday because I was relying on my own reserves which are oft in short supply. Jason and I talked a lot last night and I realized so much of how we have been dealing with everything has caused tension. This feeling of never really belonging anywhere, of moving around, or never being in one place too long, of the unknown. It all needs a voice. This morning we had a great talk as a family. We apologized to Anni for our lack of patience and we prayed together. Anni cried and apologized too through tears and said she was sorry she has not been "honoring her father and mother" (her words). We focus on all the fun here but we also needed to give a voice to the pains of transition. Growing pains are good and healing.

Once thing I am grateful for is that the Lord is teaching me to be so thankful for where we live, for the miraculous ways He moves, the ways He has been faithful, and the ways He has provided in our lives, and that we have gotten to see it, to witness it, to attest to His greatness. I love the culture of our island and as I get to see and learn more my heart grows wider to embrace it all. But I love my culture too. We just "get it" here. Sigh. Deep breath. I love the unspoken, being understood, and understanding with little effort. Being back has meant rare treats, time with family and friends, and a recharge of being where everything is more known. But coming back also has meant we see everything with new eyes. The eyes of living between two worlds. It is a privilege to step back and look at my old normal with eyes that have been changed by living and seeing that my normal is not reality for most people is the world. Coming back to reconnect, allow our girls to get to know their family, and show them more of "our culture" has been good. But also it has taught us that life is not always "greener." Often we can glamorize America, especially when things are tough or we are stretched beyond any sense of comfort. We say "if we were just in the US we could have ......or be."........fill in the blank awesome thing. Let's be real: It is the sin of not being content. Being back here is a reminder that our thoughts are delusional and people struggle here. It may look different but life is bumpy, difficult, a journey, and there is no "easy." Being content has little to do with where you are or what you have. God gave me a clear reminder to never be quick to judge or lacking in gratefulness that all we have is amazing blessing poured out. There is no lacking in His gifts.

Being back I see again with new eyes how much is preached. How much of a constant barrage for our attention, affections, and devotion materialism has. The sheer variety, choice, options, volume, availability, and excess. Now, I love me some American prices, some American choices, and some excess- don't get me wrong. It is what we miss as we pay 8 dollars for a rare box of cereal. I guess I just more clearly see it after living away from it for so long. But as we walked through Target to "stock up" my mind wandered. I actually had time to think. We grazed through aisles and kept saying "we need that" only to have one of us reply "no, actually we have gotten by just fine without it for 3 years." It was weird. The more we are "in" this culture the more the thoughts of needing stuff creeps in. Being around the stuff it tries to attach itself to you. It all whispers... You need it. You want it. You have to have it to be happy. Stuff you never even new about suddenly becomes worthy of pursuit. But that is just not true. Lies. What struck me was how much more difficult it is to live simply here. Where we live we have to live more simply. It is our only option and God gave me new perspective that that can be blessing, abundance, and life giving.

Existing in two completely different worlds is our right now. Being here it is hard to even believe that there exists simultaneously with the excess here. I sometimes feel I don't fit in completely here anymore but I am always the different one there too. This living with one foot here and one foot in Africa has a learning curve. And I am pretty sure I am not that great at it. Lots of transition, many mistakes, lots of joys, some mourning. But a friend encouraged me that maybe that is how we all should feel. I had not thought about that way and she encouraged me so much. I am really not supposed to be comfortable here or there. That being in the world but not of it is what Jesus calls us to when he says "They do not belong to this world any more than I do......Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.." I thought about that a lot. I prayed on it. Again, realizing that something I see as difficulty is meant for blessing in my life. Is meant for molding. Is meant so that I can become more Christ-like. And without praying, reflecting, and surrendering to it I can miss it. That we should not be conformed to the world but actually being transformed by the renewing of our minds. That has new meaning for me now and I am trying to lean into that transformation with humility, love, gratitude, and vulnerability. Living between two worlds but looking forward only to the one that is to come. With anticipation. With excitement. With Joy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

our city

Still catching up with pictures that make me smile and experiences I do not want to forget. We headed to Chicago to see the awesome dentist we saw last time we were home. They offered yet again to see us all for free! And that is not all that is amazing about them. They sent us home with toothbrushes and paste for our kids an any of the shule kids that need it. They are so good that once we got in the car and started to head downtown Anni said "Mama and Papa, thank you sooooo much for taking me to the dentist." No problem girl! That was too easy.
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Yeah, I love them! (the kids AND the clarify)

We were done with the dentist early and had a few hours to kill before we could meet up with friends. We tried to search for a free day at a museum since it was still too cold to enjoy much of anything outside. We were foiled but decided to head downtown to see all the new changes. We drove around and then prayed out loud for a street spot and we got one! Seriously a miracle downtown. There is a new parking meter revamp high tech thing that made us feel like we have been gone for a while but J figured it out and soon we were out and looking up at towering buildings, battling for sidewalk space with too many people, and loving every minute of the city chaos. We all split a meal at the big McD's since the prices were crazy inflated and then rode the escalators up and down until we got a few "looks." Hey, our kids are easily amused.
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Then we walked to Michigan Ave being tourists on the way taking pictures of everything.
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ok, so I only included this pic b/c it had the potential to be cute except that at the moment we took it Anni yelled "my butt itches." well then.
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J tries so hard to get his girly-girl into building stuff. He had some luck this day!
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We even hit the Lego store when Annikah built a "flower garden and house" and Evy took pieces and moved them from one bin to another much to the distress of the store workers who have everything sorted by color. We are so "those people."

We love Chicago. It is our city no matter where we end up. And it was fun to show the girls around even if our meter only lasted 2 hours. They agree that is pretty much rocks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

celebrating in pictures

Engstrom clan at church Saturday night.
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just the boys (the grown ones)
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checking out their gifts from Bibi & Babu
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all the cousins listening to the story where God made even death nothing to fear. Where Jesus triumphed and the tomb was empty.
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then we made resurrection rolls- so easy (with American prepackaged goodies)- I stole the idea here (thanks Kim) and the recipe is here. And I think we have a new family tradition!
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each child made a tomb, then laid jesus's body after putting the oil (butter) and spices (cinnamon and sugar) inside
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then we baked them for "3 days" (errr...or 10 minutes)
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and then when we opened the tomb the morning of the third day.....Jesus was no longer there! Or as the astute Joel pointed out "Jesus burned up." Not quite what we were going for but yep he is gone. He is risen! Run and tell everyone you know!
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even frigid temps could not keep these cousins from hunting eggs
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I somehow managed to get great pics of everyone BUT my offspring...everyone was so cute in their matching outfits even if our misfits from Africa had to wear multiple layers and borrow bags to collect their candy bootay.
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Evy totally got the nab an egg and put it in your bag thing
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The Dill boys wore the African kitenge shirts we had specially made for them last cute!
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ummm, I LOVE this shot.

celebrating the empty tomb with family. Happy Resurrection Day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Day!

"He is risen!"
"He is risen indeed!"

A call and response I once would have seen as just tradition, forced and rote, even meaningless meant so much to me yesterday. Being with followers of Jesus celebrating the event that changed everything. For me. For us all. It was awesome. We celebrated at Annie and Justin's church with J's entire fam on Saturday night. Annikah was too loud, giggled with her cousins, made comments about the "fancy" lights, danced in the aisle, and sang wrong words too loudly. I had tears in my eyes thinking I never will take for granted the gathering of the saints again. The gathering together for worship, prayer, encouragement and to be reminded that He is good. So Good.

Celebrating Jesus' resurrection. Celebrating new Life. Worshiping a Holy God. Saying thank you for a perfect plan, for His sacrifice for sinners, for His provision, and abundance. And the beauty of it is that His spirit resides in me. Even in my moments of shaky doubts. And in my moments of sold faith. He is in it all. Miracle.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Just our family went to church on Sunday morning too. Anni was begging to go again and J and I just wanted to be there to say it: He is Risen! and hear the response by His people. To together proclaim His truths. I was reminded that faith depends not on me but on the object of my trust. We all trust in something. The question worthy of reflection is in what do we place our trust? Our skills, our family, our health, our abilities, our money, or the One who is. Who has always been and will always be. The One who has proved Himself faithful in human history. And in my life. The small moments and the huge. In everything. God intercedes and Jesus' promises are worthy of my faith. My life.
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Easter reminds us we have seen miracles. Resurrection. Triumph over death. All that is seen is not all there is. And it reminds me we have much to long for. Redemption. Fullness. Life.
Happy Resurrection Day!

portrait of girls

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter celebration!

We had an easter egg dying par-tay at Jason's parents house this week. All the cousins came and everyone decorated eggs, listened to why we celebrate new life in Jesus at Easter, and mostly giggled and made messes. I think we actually broke more eggs than we ended up with but the process was awesome. Gathering around the table, telling stories, praying, laughing, and getting our creative on. Good stuff.
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some of us did more eating of treats than actual dying of eggs in the interest of full disclosure
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Annikah and I were up early this morning and decided to make a banner for Easter out of those paint sample papers I got nabbed from Walmart, some yarn Bibi had in house, crayons, a hole punch we swiped from Babu's desk. She decided to drape it around her neck and dance around saying "He's alive! He's alive!" And that is how it should be. Celebration. Dancing. Joy.
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We celebrate Easter today with everyone in Iowa so more pictures to come of the festivities which I can guarantee include cute cousin pictures, hunting eggs, reading His Word, making special rolls, eating too much, and being together. Happy Easter...Pasaka Njema.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

girls weekend in C-U

chicago and easter eggs dying 037Us lady-folk headed to Champaign-Urbana last weekend for some time with my little but all grown up and weirding me out because that means I am old-sister; Katy. She graduates from University of Illinois in 4 weeks and we will be able to be there (it is the day before we head back)! More small blessings that are actually pretty huge. We ate at my fav Mexican restaurant, toured a bit of campus to see all the changes since I graduated 10 years ago (I know, old!), took lots of pictures, hit the mall, hung at her apartment playing a dance game on their Wii, and had some quality girl time. My mom treated my sister and I to manicures and even Anni got some purple sparkle polish! That was big people. Talking and sharing and encouraging and crying and nail polish. All good. I'll take quality time over quantity anytime. And I even stayed up past my bedtime and headed out with my sis and her boyfriend (who I happen think is a pretty fabulous guy) thanks to my mom who offered to stay with the watoto so we could spend as much time together as possible. Great girly weekend!
yummy....Mexican food and family makes me happy!
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And even though I look ridiculous I had to post this video of us enjoying the dance game on the Wii at my sister's apartment. Anni is pretty good (and she definitely thinks so too)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

burrr to beautiful

Chicago is cold. A lot. Too much. More than I remember and more than the 3 pants and flip flops and one pair of running shoes I brought with allows you to enjoy without what feels a bit like the beginning of frost bite. Ok, I'm being dramatic but blick. I do not miss the cold.

But the point of this post is to gush about a fabulous warm day! We enjoyed two crazy warm days a week or so back and I spent it with wonderful friends that moved from the city to the burbs about a year ago. It was before J joined us and we went out for the day to hang out, eat yummy food (Can I say Amen for some Trader Joe's), see their home, meet their neighbors, and talk and catch up amidst kid chaos. I was so excited to see how God has really knit them into an awesome community of people with kids playing together, running from house to house, everyone out in their front yards, sharing bikes, washing each other's cars, talking, laughing, and enjoying the well earned warm day after the cruelty of winter. Made me feel much more at home in our new "African" sense of community. A great reminder that communal can happen anywhere. Very cool. We loved our day of being adopted by their 'hood and spending time just being together with dear friends.
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these pics make me so happy- Especially since I am wearing two pairs of socks at the moment. Thanks for a great day Jerozal fam! more catching up to come....

time with my fam

We packed in some fun stuff including eating too much, spending time with fam, and enjoying being "real" Americans for a bit while we were with my family in the burbs. Thanks for everything! Here is a few shots from our 2 weeks there...
reading books with Uncle Rob
chasing Bibi's dogs at the park
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Jason was a happy boy with some ridiculously large man-steaks!
freezing cold weather means we hit the indoor play places! Thanks Bibi!