Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the last of Disney

Still too many pictures and memories I had to share from our week in sunny and warm Florida with family.
Look who we "ran into" at Hollywood Studios...
Tower of Terror with both Bibis (um, And Miss Anni went twice)! Jason's parents are spending a few weeks down in Florida and they met us at the park one day which only meant complete elation for two little girls.
and we were NOT missing Chicago and Iowa one bit!
the joy of children
"the big ball" at Epcot
my girls are I being "crazy"
and being "rockstars" at Captain EO (and yes, it is exactly the same as the 80's)
Jason and I love wandering around all the countries
special birthday lunch for Bibi in Japan
I told the girls to "be British" and this is what I got. So apparently British people are either totally sullen or are super heros of some sort. I love it.
We also explored Animal Kingdom and Babu (my Dad) even took a day off his conference and joined us
going on safari
my children end up barefoot no matter where we take them
Anni danced with these ladies from India for a long time and she was pretty awesome (I might be biased though)
Saying goodbye to vacation with Bibi & Babu was rough but all these memories stored in our hearts and mind are worth smiling about.

Monday, January 28, 2013

post Disney crash

We are back to "normal life" although I'm not really sure what that means most days. Spending 3 plus hours at a clinic helping translate for our friends was sure a wake up call to the difficult realities for most of the world though.  And again I was reminded how we do not deserve or merit the blessings that flow to us and how our reaction and posture in receiving them is so vital.
But the post Disney crash is hard for two little girls who spent the last week in kid euphoria ("what Mama, we have to do school today?!?!).  I swear if you do not have ADHD a few days at Disney might just give you it! There is always something to do, look at, listen to, buy (seriously, 9 dollars for a hot dog! what has the world come to?). But we had a blast and watching the girls experience and take it all in was blessing, one we are keenly aware is not to be taken for granted. So, what more to say but get ready for a whole lot of adorable pictures of my kids in Florida....
had to do the Dumbo
check out the name of the store!!
apparently Evy was totally feelin' her magic carpet ride
but a bit terrified by Belle
J got volunteered (yes, by me) to be a knight- he was so cute!
after lights parade crash but she made it from 9am to 9pm with no nap!
meeting the mouse
our big brave girl's second time on Space Mountain
we tore up the cups yo!
the girl's favorite princesses (an we saw a lot so these ladies should feel special)
my mom noted that "happily ever after" must mean you are stuck at the end of long line of kids signing autographs, smiling from ear to ear, and taking pictures for the rest of your life :)
All day at Disney is a wee tiring. And this may just be one of my favorite pictures ever of our girls who play hard and crash hard and continue to remind and teach me to live life with vivacious resolve and grateful quietness.  More on our adventures tomorrow,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Check us out!

We are in Florida! Specifically Mickey World as Evy continues to call it (and I happen to think it is too adorable to correct). Yep, Warm and sunny and NOT freezing Chicago, Florida. That one. And we are running from park to park, watching two little girl's eyes light up, hearing their giggles, trying to weave through crowds with a double stroller (yikes!), and enjoying time with Bibi and Babu.  And even though it is all extreme and crazy to be sure it is also special and the magic of seeing your kids take it all in is pretty awesome.
The first day we (along with one million of our closet friends) spent the day at Magic Kingdom and we grabbed some precious curb real estate for a parade through 'Main Street USA' and as I sat watching my girls totally enthralled with the parade I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude.
I thanked my mom for providing this experience that we so do not deserve and could never afford for us and we both started crying (I know, big surprise).  She took us all to Disney World for her birthday.  That is pretty rockin'. And God is so good to allow us to be here right now.

After all it is 'the happiest place on earth'
but clearly not for Miss Evy at this particular moment (sorry, I just had to)
Although there was whining about being hungry a couple thousand times and a few near fatal uses of a plush Ariel to assault her sister in line our girls have been pretty amazing. They made it 9am until 9pm the first day! Anni is being so brave and has already conquered Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.  Evy's favourite thing so far: the "horsey ride" AKA the carousel ( J and I think it is hilarious that we came all the way here and her fav thing is something you can do for 2 bucks at the mall). But they are grateful and they know not everyone gets to experience all this.  Anni keeps spontaneously hugging Bibi and thanking her and telling me that "only a few kids in the world get to be here."  So true. So we are soaking it in!
More adventures in "Mickey World" tomorrow,

Friday, January 18, 2013

the mutiny kick-off

Nothing a few (ok many) months to finally get my butt in gear right? But look what came in the mail last week?
Remember when I talked about doing this in community?
So, are you ready? Let's do this thing!

Dinner and discussion at our new place Monday February 4th,  6pm (kids welcome if you got 'em). If you are still interested from near or far let me know and we will make it happen! I am currently trying to figure out these new fangled "live chats" that folks do on FB or online (hey, cut me some slack I was in Africa for a few years) so that you far-ish ladies can join us.  Come and bring a friend! Let's pray we can come with all of who we are; no guilt, no pressure, no judgement and ready to get more Jesus and less junk in our lives.
Holla if you will join us in the mutiny,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ahem and Amen

"The Holy Spirit is a blazing fire, charring every remnant of selfishness and pride left in our souls, an unquenchable fire that cannot be ignored or denied.  Giving back means giving all; any inferior definition is pure deception. Our money, our resources, our gifts, our time, our dreams, our selfish ambitions, our comfort- these we give back in their entirety. Anything less is not discipleship at all. It is simply a clever substitution by a crafty enemy who has figured out how to use our own weaknesses against us, rocking us to complacent sleep with a consumer version of the gospel and knowing all the while he is making goats out of sheep."
Brandon Hatmaker, The Barefoot Church

Ahem, I re-read this passage several times and even now it convicts me to my core. I am so guilty of reserving some for myself.  Because, after all, I have to make sure I always have enough for me, for my family right?  Some selfish ambition is ok right because you need to make a place for yourself in this world?  We all need comfort because He wants us to be "happy" right?

God wants it ALL, y'all. And I am asking what my "all" is today and then asking for the courage to give it all back.  Amen. 
I'm feeling convicted by His spirit and thankful for His grace.

Monday, January 14, 2013

fellow foreigners

We had a fairly quiet Sunday yesterday which was a fabulous contrast to the constant busy-ness that one cannot help to avoid when you move in a week while still continuing to work, home school  and squeeze in helping the couple from the Congo apply for social security cards and learn to do laundry.  Can I just say it is hard to move to America! But it so awesome to do for others what people did for us 5 years ago.  God placed African friends in our lives to help us when we could not shop, cook, or pretty much do anything.  They became our friends and shared their lives and culture with us.  And we were so greatly blessed by them. And now God in His grace has allowed us to help people here. We understand a small part of what they are going through. And although we choose to go to Africa and had abundant resources we do understand the feeling of not getting anything. The overwhelming feeling of not being able to communicate, of feeling confused every second, or not understanding basic cultural rules. It is wicked hard and humbling.

The first night we met them J and I said goodbyes and got in the car and I immediately started tearing up. Jason understood. He knew that the way they told us to allow our girls to jump around and tear up the joint with smiles was refreshingly familiar  He knew that explaining the difference between African milk and American milk made us remember the many days we laughed and cried about such small differences that really feel like huge chasms when you are the one who doesn't get it.  He knew that a lesson in what a freezer does and how to cook with a stove was needed.  Because we have a new vantage point of having had to learn when everything is confusing and new.

Tonight the girls and I spent 3 hours helping them pay bills at the Currency Exchange, do a few loads of laundry, and kill the time we were waiting with some impromptu English lessons that had a crowd of folks at the laundromat laughing at us while the girls acted out verbs we were learning. And can I just say I was so proud of my girls. Anni wanted to bake them cakes and they both colored, played, and helped them even though it was a long time in kid world to wait.  It was all a blessing. I have been the stranger and the welcome I received made me understand in a new way why God commands us to care for the foreigner among us. It is to remind us we were once foreigners and God made us a part of His family through His mercy and love. It is undeserved and unmerited and that is what makes it amazing.
And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.  Deut. 10:19

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. Ephesians 2:17-19.
I pray our welcome for this family points to the one we have received.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"to having no idea" or what I want to say to anyone who has big question marks

It is a couple weeks into 2013 and already so much change and so much on the horizon for our family.  I should be unpacking right now instead of sitting here processing my thoughts (um, procrastinate much?).  So, we moved to a house this week which means we have been state-side for 6 months.  6 months is the longest we have been here for over 4 years and it finally feels more real.  In an amazing exciting way and in a profoundly sad way.  I miss everything that was Africa and with some space and distance and time I have realized just how rich our time there was, how much it changed me to my core.   How with this space I have realized how much there was vastly simpler and how much was exceedingly more difficult.  And how I needed that experience   All of it.  I hope and pray our girls realize someday how blessed they are to have lived there and seen and felt so much of God bringing His kingdom in our lives and to others. Anni senses it I know.  She created "an Africa" box to put special memories from our time there and I almost sobbed because there is so much I want to pack into my own Africa box.  But in this restlessness I know for sure we are where we are supposed to be.  The closing for now of a chapter of our lives and the dawning of a new one that God wants to write.

A recent conversation between J and I about "where we are right now" ended by toasting to having no idea.  There is moving, school option for the girls, future of foster care and adoption, future of our professional lives, what to focus on and where to be involved here, and being faithful to what He has revealed to us about the future and another stint overseas. Sheesh.
We really have no idea what is next and at the same time we have a fuzzy picture of what He has shown us and spoken to us and a clearer picture of who He is then we did 5 years ago (which mostly means I know more how clueless I am and how big God is).

We are waiting. Again.

Add to that the general feeling I am digging myself out  from that I pretty much suck at everything. I am finally taking small steps towards pursuing things that I have put on hold in Africa or because I was busy birthin' and nursing kids and even as I feel confirmed in these steps my inner critic is fiercely whispering  'You'll never be good at much so why try.' On a recent day when my photography website was particularly kicking my butt (I may or may not have muttered a few unkind words at the screen) I opened an email from a dear friend who was also battling feeling craptastic at this Mama/be good at everything gig.  And I cried because I happen to know she is amazing and often I take strength from the selflessness and grace in her mothering. I prayed and I asked that we could both rest in His peace and His plan and the abilities and skills and talents He has given us.  And that is my prayer for you too. I think some of the pressure we all feel is this constant "image management," as my brilliant friend Dre puts it,that is out there. You know where every other mama in cyberspace has beautiful kids in handmade clothes that never whip a toy at her sister's head (um repeatedly). It is a lie ladies.  We all have things we are great at and things we need to work at and I'm convinced we all need to be kinder to each other and ourselves as we figure it all out.

It is a New Year and I read glanced at some magazine article about being the "new you" and was thinking that this new beginning is my chance to start over in a way, to be the version of myself I actually want to be.  And then I was reminded how I will fail at that before I close this old laptop of mine. I actually giggled at the thought because at the same moment I had this overwhelming sense that in that all His grace will be enough.  His Grace is enough for me and you. That is the Good News.  And I am a new creation, everyday and in every way and it has nothing to do with me.  That as we lose ourselves and lay down our lives He can do amazingly painful and beautiful things. And I don't have to have it figured out and I don't have to thrust myself forward in my own strength. 
I can wait.

I have been thinking back to many times in my life where I read books, highlighted articles, and asked friends in attempts to "be prepared" (ya know, back when I thought one could actually do that well). And those are not bad things but when we put our trust in our ability to 'handle' whatever comes next we are sure to be disappointed. In my experience God is not always in well laid, strategic plans but in the surrendering of every plan I have.

I don't ever want to forget what I have seen and have lived while being keenly aware of how much I still do not know. And I still have no clue what to do with it all.  I have miles and chasms and leaps and baby steps to take but I am changed.  On this strangely warm Chicago winter day J and I walked behind our two little girls, full of life, and laughter, and possibility.  We talked and laughed and remembered that God saved them and they are here and that is enough of a promise for me today that He is present in my life even if I have few answers to what lies ahead.  I have seen God's power, experienced His Grace, and felt His love like I had never fathomed.
Because of this I can wait.
I can wait and watch and feel and listen and act on whatever and where-ever He is leading next. I will not think of right now as merely a stop over between where we were and where He wants us next.  I will dig deeper and put down roots even if those roots might be pulled up again. I know He is working in my life and yours. Right now.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

saying see you later

We drove to Cincinnati this weekend because it was about half way for each of us; dear friends that we met island side.  They were the answer to many desperate conversations I had with God about having few friends and not being able to stay one more day without a girl who got me.  And, as we found out later, we were also an answer to prayer for them. God is good to answer these prayers. We feel right back into our friendship as you do with ease and gratitude when you share limited space and time with those that are from your tribe.

On the drive back to Chicago J and I discussed how grateful we are we left home and family those almost 5 years ago now (even though that was painful and hard and ripped us apart in many ways) because He had so many amazing people He knew He would bring into our lives.  We are so blessed by the vast Body scattered across the globe for His glory.  And we are privileged to be a part of that Body.  Taking these two days to reconnect was awesome.
downtown Cincy
the man folk watching sports on the HUGE bigscreen downtown
awesome local coffee joint we stumbled into and not only got a cup of Joe but a pretty awesome coffee education
After our caffeine buzz we were off to the Museum Center; beautiful, retro, art deco vibe
the kids had a blast exploring together
child labor laws do not apply at the children's museum
IMG_0934 Yep, we were there ALL day. IMG_0960We wore out the hallway between our two rooms and our girls had so much fun they sobbed when it was time to say goodbye.  They sense it too; although it is such a blessing to have friends flung across the globe it is deeply painful to always have to say "see you later inshallah" for now.
Praying our paths cross again soon,