Intentional

A weekend away is just what the doctor ordered before the crazy hits. The countdown is on. We fly across the ocean in five days.

We have done this routine many times, but it still catches me off guard. Thinking through what a family will need until the next time we are in the States, packing, weighing, and repacking suitcases to exactly 50 lbs, checking lists, packing up the house we have been staying in the past five and a half months, saying goodbyes and squeezing in as much American food as possible before we leave – well, it is intense.

This time we intentionally started the work early and planned a weekend off before the final push towards being ready to go. Deep woods camping with no internet or cell coverage was such a great break. I needed the time to set aside my lists and focus on the kids. I can’t say that I was totally successful – it is a hard discipline for me to set aside a large job and be present. I tried.

Fishing and playing in a freezing cold river was the highlight of the weekend for some of the kids while others felt that the highlight was playing games and the campfire. Who doesn’t love gathering sticks and throwing them in the fire pit? We swam in a lake and watched the loons. We embraced life with a wheelchair and experimented with short hikes and enjoying nature as we drove trails.

I hate that while I was trying to focus on marshmallows on sticks my mind would wander to the suitcases waiting in our living room. For me, the struggle is real. I know I need rest. I know my family needs the break and the fun – but the story that rolls around in my head can have a desperate tune.

“If you don’t keep at it, then the job won’t get done. There isn’t time to rest. You are too busy for sabbath.” I am fighting hard against these lies. The truth is, I might not have everything wrapped up as cleanly because we went camping in the midst of our craziest week of the year. But play, rest and time to seek God in the midst of the storm is always worth it. That is the truth I am leaning into. I need to set things aside and seek God. I need a break from the demands of life. God created me for rest, fun and relationship.

My goal for the coming year – to be intentional about rest, fun and sabbath so that my relationship with Jesus will be fuller. The camping trip is just the beginning.

Next time I write will be from the other side of the world. I would appreciate your prayers as we prepare and travel, but more than that would, you pray for my soul as I lean into the discipline of sabbath? What have you found that helps you to seek Father in new ways? How do you practice sabbath in the midst of your crazy?

Pursued

I like to be seen as a strong one — able and all together. But, man, I have had some moments when I come to an edge of myself and wonder what will talk me back down.

I was having one of these moments last month as I was driving my girls to meet their Aunt. They had set up a girls weekend with their Aunt, who lives in another city, and we were going to meet halfway for her to pick up the girls.

I was running a bit late for the meetup — all the time wondering how I was late because I had felt ahead of things not 30 minutes before. You know the drill — we are all on time, but then one kid needed to use the bathroom. One kid couldn’t find his leg (a real life problem in our home). I was scrambling for the GPS directions on my phone and Roo had to run in for one more item, one more time.

On time had now turned to LATE.

Twenty minutes into our forty-five minute drive, I realized I did not have my cell phone. The phone with the GPS directions. The phone that gave me the ability to call my sister-in-law.

Seriously, all I could remember was that our meet up location was at some gas station on a country road in the middle of nowhere — but not past the river. If I made it to the river, I had gone too far.

So it was decision time. Turn around to get the phone and be even later? Drive and hope I find some random gas station through the woods — but not over the river?

I was getting hot. Panicking. Knowing I was going to be disappointing those around me. Late would be later. Late would be lost. Having it all together was coming unglued. You know what I mean?

I have the ability to tell myself all kinds of stories in my head. They can be filled with God’s truth or they can be laced with my own harsh expectations for myself. It is in these moments that I have a choice. That day I was starting to go down the path of not showing myself grace. Driving, fuming, wondering why this was the thing that was causing me to unravel. I’m struggling with all these thoughts while trying to find our meeting place.

My mind was whirling…

Wait. Is that a river I just crossed — or is that considered a creek in these parts? Have I gone too far? Do I turn around or keep going? We sure are in the middle of no where!

The five kids in the van with me were silent watching me come increasingly unglued as I kept driving without a cell phone — without GPS. For the love, why am I so dependent on a cell phone?!

Just when I was sure we had gone too far and missed the gas station, one came into view. A gas station with my husband sitting in the parking lot holding my phone.

He had pursued me.

He had realized I left without my phone and gambled on which way I would go. He decided to be late for the meeting that he had scheduled to ensure I would not end up upset and lost. We won’t mention how fast he had to drive to beat me there!

When I saw him, the tears started. The true narrative of my soul was brought back into focus. I am loved. I am pursued. I am protected. If my husband (who I admit isn’t perfect — just amazing) will do all of these things, how much more my Heavenly Father?

Why am I sharing this story with you? Actually, this post is more for me than you. I don’t want to forget that I am a pursued woman. One who is loved so deeply by God. When life feels out of control, I want this story to be the one that comes to my mind. These truths are what I want to quiet my soul when the world would blare the opposite.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

God’s love has saved me. It is a steadfast covenant that I can count on. His love never ends and is the message that I want to share with my life. But, you know what I need to claim most often? You know what message I need to repeat over and over? The thing I need to write on a note card and put in my pocket?

God’s love can quiet me and my Lord rejoices over me.

When I am late, missing the mark, unglued, disappointing everyone else. When life feels out of control with small things like forgetting my cell phone or with large things like cancer, politics and injustice…God is pursuing us with the goal of quieting our souls. We are pursued. Loved. Kept.

Repeat the story of God’s love in your head and heart. Sing it. Remember it. Live it.

That time of year

Time for another new leg. Little Man isn’t so little any more and continues to grow out of these prosthetic legs. In fact, this year his amazing team of docs have decided that it is time to up the game a bit. His leg needs to be higher tech in order to meet his physical needs. In other words – our active boy has outgrown the simple leg design he has used until this time.

They are now making him a sleeve made out of a thick neoprene material that will create suction on his residual limb and then lock the leg in place with a pin. It is amazing. At the first fitting, Little Man declared that it felt like he was walking on a marshmallow. He is pumped by the cool lock system and excited by the soft fit.

After his second appointment to test the new leg design, our whole family had a very special treat. Clearwater Marine Aquarium invited us to meet Winter – the dolphin who stars in the movie “A Dolphin Tale.” The timing was perfect. Little Man has been attending swimming lessons and working so hard. He was over the moon excited to meet Winter, who can swim with or without her prosthetic tail.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium went above and beyond in making our day a memorable experience. Little Man was their VIP, and he ate up the attention.

The sweet woman who gave us the tour answered all of his 100 million questions about each animal they have rescued. We got to see places where the movies had been filmed, saw the animal “hospital” and where they prepare food for the animals. We met some amazing animals – so many turtles without flippers, otters who were orphaned, eels who needed help with their symbiotic relationships, and of course Winter with no tail. Hearing each of their stories was inspiring.

But they didn’t stop there – they freely gave to our family in hopes of inspiring our new swimmer. They succeeded. Little Man’s favorite part of the day was his animal encounter with Hope. He wasn’t able to meet Winter up close because she is in intense physical therapy at this time, but he was so excited to hear how they make new prosthetic tails for Winter. Her tail is made of a neoprene sleeve similar to the leg he will have.

Clutching his new stuffed animal (a dolphin with a prosthetic tail that CMA gave to him), he said goodbye to Winter through the glass of her tank. He encouraged her to try hard in her physical therapy, and he would try hard in his swim lessons. Melt your heart sweet. He claimed it was the best day of his life. To be honest our whole family had a great day watching him feel special, celebrated, and encouraged.

Thank you so much Clearwater Marine Aquarium for taking such good care of our animals and for inspiring kiddos like Little Man.

How Mo became a US citizen.

We have had a time of it.  What was an easy process for our other two kiddos, getting Mo’s US citizenship has been one hurdle after another.  We were being told that due to recent changes in the process it could take up to 6 months to get his certificate of citizenship.  No big deal unless you need a passport and visa for your child in order to return overseas to your job!  After multiple attempts, much frustration and even with the advice of immigration lawyers, we were beginning to think we would need to give up teaching this semester and stay in the States to get it all figured out.

On  a Monday we were told that there was no way to have an appointment any sooner than 102 days.  On Wednesday of that week, an officer gave us a call and asked us to come for an appointment in 6 days for the much desired certificate.  We were thrilled.  Felt blessed.  Wondered how there was such a change. Of course, we soon found that it was a total God thing.

I sat in the office on Friday presenting all of the documents required listening to the story of our officer who was originally from the Philippines.  He knew first hand about poverty even though he is now living the American dream.  He spent the first several years of his life on the streets until he was taken in to a boarding school run by Americans who loved him, educated him and gave him a chance in life.  The officer told me how Mo’s profile on his application had reminded him of himself 60 years earlier.  “I wanted to help you help this boy like that couple helped me.”

I could hardly keep myself from crying in this man’s office.  I wanted to weep for the relief of finally having the documents we need to return to our Asian home, but snotty sobs threatened to overtake me as I realized how big this story is.  Only God can change a life 60 years ago and still have it paying forward today.  Amazing really.

I makes me pause.  Anyone who knows me even a bit, knows that I am a rubber meets the road type of gal.  If it isn’t working.  Don’t bother.  If I can’t see results then it needs to be changed.  But honestly, sometimes the things we are called to aren’t measurable.  For me, faithful is putting a lot of effort into things that I don’t know what the outcome will be.  That couple who started a school for street kids…their work is helping our work.  I am sure they never thought to put that down as a goal.  They never got to write a newsletter about how their projects would have world wide ripples.  I wish I could call that couple up – let them know how their work continues today – how their lives are impacting many.

This officer didn’t just help us get the papers we need to return to Asia.  His story reminds me not to measure our work based on what I can see.

We have the citizenship paper that we needed.  We were able to rush to Atlanta to get a passport for our guy and mailed it in for his visa which will give us permission to re-enter China as a new American citizen.  The visa….that is another whole God story and we will see how that ends!

update on our boys

Our borrowed vehicle is full again.  It’s brimming with bags and snacks for 7, as we wear a path between North Florida and Tampa.  But I am thankful for all of the loud voices and our space challenges.  It means that we are all together again.  I find myself taking in our craziness with tears in my eyes – thankful for all of it and thankful our season of separation has come and gone.  We survived and I now have a deep appreciation for single mothers.  Wowzers.  Parenting three kiddos on my own for 7 weeks was totally enough for me!

Granted, the last 7 weeks have not been normal ones.  With one kiddo healing from major surgery and a second who is learning how to be in a family (but his family was oceans apart) created some interesting days.  Like the day I was driving 6 hours from the hospital to our summer home and it took 8 hours because I learned our newbie gets car sick and Little Man was allergic to one of his medications!  Fun times.

But, honestly the hard days were few and far between.  Things went so much smoother than I could have dreamed.  Little Man continues to heal and is delighted with the progress that is being made on his new prosthetic.  Weekly trips to the hospital are tiring, but will be worth the effort once he is walking again.

He has been measured, casted, and chosen a color and design for his new leg.  This past week he went for a fitting – everything has been made except the outer shell.  He walked on it.  The prosthetist adjusted the rod and metal plates that make up the inner parts of the leg after watching him walk.  So cool how they can match his legs and help him walk with an even gait.  Every time we have a new one made I am amazed at the process.  One more week and we should be done.

Little Man isn’t the only one making progress.  Mo has gone from being car sick every ride and screaming in his car seat….to being a better traveler.  I wouldn’t say a great traveler, but he is doing much better.  He also is learning new English words every day – dinosaur, corn, and neck to name a few.  He often will say a new word over and over – proud as punch that he has figured out another piece in the puzzle of communicating with this crazy new family he has been dropped into.

We are learning new things too.  We have discovered that Mo LOVES swimming.  I mean all kids like swimming, but this kid wakes up every morning and only wants to wear his bathing suit and has taken to sleeping with his puddle jumper.  Teddy bear?  No, thank you.  His new comfort thing is a flotation device.  I can’t make this stuff up.  He also likes trains, singing, eating (almost anything) and jumping around after his big brother.  His first 4 months with us have flown by.  He continues to delight us with his sweet ways and I often wonder how we have been chosen to be so blessed by these kids I get to call my own.

If this post is going to be true to its title, I should update you on Soccer Dude as well!  He is about to start an online driver’s ed course and before long he will be starting his Sophomore year of high school….say what?!  Time is flying with this one.  Hubby and I keep asking ourselves what we need to pour into him before he leaves our nest.

Today at the beach Soccer Dude carried Mo on his shoulders out into the waves to give me a break from the toddler who never wants to stop swimming.  (Such a good teenager, right?!) I watched them wrestle in the water and play way rougher than I ever dreamt necessary – laughing, sputtering water, and enjoying each other.  Love my boys.  This mom, who grew up with only sisters, is a much better person now that I play with trains, wrestle and can shoot a nerf gun.

 

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On the road to recovery

Little Man was very nervous rolling into his 2 week post-op appointment.  His surgery went really well, but the first few days of recovery were a bear.  He was so worried about the bandages coming off and what was expected from him next.

We both sighed with relief when they told us how great everything looks.  The nurse actually said, “it looks beautiful!”  Because it has healed even better than they had hoped, we don’t need to make the 6 hour drive back to the hospital again until June 14th.  They also had prepared us for the possibility of needing physical therapy, but right now his knee has full range of motion and he is keeping his leg strong on his own.

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In other words, we have an easy 3 weeks ahead of us!  I am one thankful mom. It is downhill from here. While Little Man continues to recover, we have our minds set on enjoying parks, playing outside, eating a lot of pizza and trying not to miss the other half of our family too much.  They will be joining us in 23 days.  Not that I am counting.

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The next round of appointments, starting mid June, will begin the process of building him a new leg.  He already is starting to think about what pattern he wants them to use and is also counting down those days.  This boy is ready to run again. He is having fun popping wheelies and winning races against his sister on her scooter, but I don’t believe he will be sad to say goodbye to the wheelchair.  We should have his new leg the first or second week of July.

Thank you for all your prayers.  I know people say this all the time, but I really mean it….the prayers are getting me through.  The night after Little Man’s surgery, I was exhausted and he was in so much pain.  We both were reaching our limits.  I asked Hubby, “do you really think everyone who says they are praying is?”  His simple “yes” helped me to pause, take a deep breath, and push through that night.  I also believe that it is by G0d’s grace that Little Man is healing so well.  So you guys keep praying and this mom might keep surviving!

 

I can do all things

I usually end the year by making pizza for my students at the orphanage.  Some of the teens knew something was up when I came in this week with all the contents for a pizza party.  I explained that I needed to go to the States so my son could have a surgery.  Most of the kids simply accepted my need to go and asked if I would come back – everyone except one teen.

He is wheelchair bound and unable to use his hands well.  His speech is unclear, but his mind is sharp.  This amazing teen is caught in a body that just can’t respond.  He inspires me often.  He uses his mouth to hold a paintbrush, will encourage the other students to do their best during projects when he is unable to participate, and has used his spare time learning all of the colors (and many other art words) in English during my class.  Amazing.

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After he processed that I would be gone for several months, he asked if I had an app on my phone that would allow me to call some of the local teachers.  “Then you could keep in touch.” He claimed satisfied with his plan.  I shrugged and said that my Chinese is bad and I really can’t use those apps.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I speak bad.  There are many things I can’t do.  Teacher, YOU can do this. Don’t say that.”  He finished his verbal reprimand saying that he would help me!

There have been several times facing this upcoming season that I simply want to sit down, cry, and tell God that I can not do this.  I can’t say the goodbyes.  I can’t travel with three kids.  I can’t face my baby’s surgery without Hubby.  I can’t be separated from half my family for this long.  Oh, my list (and self pity) could go on.

I have decided that all I need to know I have learned from disabled children and Sunday school.

Really. Who am I to say that I can’t do these things?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  We are going to do this – one step at a time, remembering that it could be harder and that Christ will strengthen us as we go.

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Not unlike my sweet student who was so willing to help his technology challenged teacher – so many of you have offered to help us through this season.  Thank you.  Every encouraging note, prayer, and gift have been deeply appreciated.  They help me to know that Father is providing for us….holding my hand every step of the way.

I have help for every leg of the journey.  A friend is driving hundreds of miles to pick us up from the airport and loan us their car.  Family is taking time off work to sit with us at the hospital.  A local church near Shriners has offered to be my community and help.  We have a furnished apartment to live in as Little Man recovers.

That is a pretty amazing list.

With each of those things in mind, I am going to say goodbyes with confidence.  I will trust that Moe will be filled with peace as we travel.  I won’t worry in the waiting room and I believe our family will thrive during this season of separation.

Through Christ.