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?

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!

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.

By His own hand He leadeth me.

The decisions we have been making over the past weeks haven’t been easy.  Ironically, the hymn our family has been working at memorizing together is “He Leadeth Me” by Dr. Joseph H. Gilmore.  As we move forward one step at a time, we feel blessed to serve a good Father, who even had our homeschool curriculum present us with a hymn that reminds us that His hand is leading us even when life feels out of control.

He leadeth me. O bless-ed thought! O Words with heavenly comfort fraught!

I need that reminder as I pack up the youngest three members of our family preparing for a journey to the States that will not include their dad or siblings.  For sure, a two month separation would never be what we would choose (especially right after an adoption) but as we have pr@yed and talked to Little Man’s doctors we feel confident that this is what we need to do.

Little Man, Little Monkey, Moe and I will leave for the States May 8th.  We will land in Tampa, Florida where Little Man will have a bone reduction surgery on May 11th.  He then will have follow-up appointments over the next month.  6-8 weeks post-op they should be able to start making our guy a new leg.  He is looking forward to that.  He hasn’t been able to walk for three weeks and he already is tired of us pushing him around in the stroller.  He asked me to pack his old leg so that he would have it when he came out of surgery.  It wasn’t fun to explain to him that surgery wasn’t the only step towards getting him walking again.  The awesome thing about our Little Man – He has a joyful spirit and doesn’t let much get him down.  He has been telling everyone that he is excited to have surgery because the hospital has a great playground and the food in the cafeteria is wonderful!  That’s our boy.

Hubby and the oldest two kids will join us in the States as soon as the semester is complete – sometime the end of June.  We haven’t even left yet and I am already counting down the days. We then will all return to our Asian home the end of August.

Surgery isn’t the only thing that will keep us busy while Stateside.  We will be working at getting Mo’s immigration paperwork filed, will apply for his new American passport and be getting him a visa to return with our family to Asia.

We would truly appreciate you lifting up our family through this season.  So many transitions, goodbyes, and emotions will fill the weeks ahead.  Please specifically lift up:

  1. Me as I travel with an immobile kiddo and a two year old who has never done this world wide travel thing.  So thankful for Little Monkey who is one of my biggest helpers!  I know she will make the task much easier and more fun as she chats with me along the way.
  2. our new little guy…may Moe handle all of the transitions and continue to feel safe and loved in our family.
  3. for Little Man’s surgery and healing process.
  4. think of Hubby as he continues to teach his classes, finish homeschooling Soccer Dude and Roo, and keeps our home running while I am away.
  5. and last but not least, for our family dynamics and relationships.  Two months is a long time.

I know we travel a lot and our lives seem a bit on the crazy side….but really we are a family who enjoys pizza and movie/game night every Friday, shopping at the same veggie stand, and sipping hot chocolate and reading a good book equals an exciting night. Can I say routine?  The next four months are going to shake us up a bit – pr@y for us.

Home Sweet Home

IMG_9530Last night at dinner Soccer Dude casually mentioned, ” Hard to believe the last time I ate noodles at this table I didn’t have scars on my face from a dog bite.”  It struck me again.

I have joked in the past that travel week for us is kinda like living out one of those sci-fi movies.  You know, where you enter a time machine and arrive on a different planet and in a different dimension.  We leave a world of grandparents, bagged salad, dryers, large yards with trees (and speaking English!) — to enter a world of friends, noodles, apartment buildings, and a college campus where we teach English and art.  They are two totally different worlds and it can be unnerving to hop from one to the other.  We really fit in neither, but love both…I struggle to wrap my brain around that, not to mention help my children navigate our two realities.

This summer has been extreme. HA, understatement!  We went from our busy world in Asia to a world of hospitals, dentists, immunizations, doctor appointments — and did I mention doctor appointments?

In a way, it has helped us to be more thankful than ever to be back “home.”  Surgeries are behind us.  Little Man has a new prosthesis that fits and he is running again. (See photo of him during a walk through the woods!)  Soccer Dude continues to heal and the stitches are dissolving.  Life is moving on.  We are beyond thankful for Father’s healing and our ability to come back to our Asian home.

It never felt better to walk in our apartment door.  Starting the routine of homeschooling in our own space has been a comfort and facing a new fall has been a joy.  There is no way we would be back here without the pr.yer and support of so many of you.  It carried us.

A mentor always willing to take a phone call when we needed a sounding board, an ophthalmologist who fit Soccer Dude for contacts the last week we were in the States because his glasses were bothering the wounds in his nose, a pediatrician’s office willing to work us in to talk about hives and swelling, friends who drove an hour to play with us at a park and express their love and concern, friends in Asia calling and sending us gifts, a simple text message saying “we are pr.ying for you”….all these things (plus many more I could add to this list) carried us and reminded us of the love of a Father who provides.

So when we are weary from jet-lag, facing another busy semester after a crazy summer, when Soccer Dude breaks out in hives again…we have no doubt Father will provide.

Wow!  This post has been full of lists!  I am sure you could make your own list.  How is Father providing for you this season?

 

Thanksgiving in August

We ate turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.  Yup.  It was August 19th and we pretended it was Thanksgiving and it was so very yummy (mostly because it was lovingly made by my mom!)

Even though it was a fake Thanksgiving, I still paused over the gravy bowl and took a second to realize how many things I have to be thankful for.  Even just a week earlier I would have been hard pressed to visualize my whole family healthy and sitting around the dinner table.   I am one thankful mom.

Two and a half weeks ago Soccer Dude was bit in the face by a large dog – a large well trained dog.  It was a freak accident.  Really.  But as freak of an accident as it was, it landed our boy in the hospital for 5 days.  He needed two surgeries to repair the damage and in the process we discovered he is allergic to several antibiotics. As you can imagine, none of us were happy about this turn in events. We were supposed to be having fun at my parents home in Michigan – not sitting around a hospital in Detroit. Every time Soccer Dude would introduce himself to the nurse coming on duty he would mumble between the hundreds of stitches in his mouth, “this is the worst summer vacation ever.”

At about the same time, Little Man was struggling with muscle weakness and the process of making a new prosthetic leg was not going well.  The physical therapist who was helping us shook her head and told us he would need months of physical therapy.

So things haven’t gone as we planned this summer. It has been a ride.  But, we are amazed at how two weeks and a lot of prayer can change things.

Soccer Dude’s face is healing and he has had no infection in his wounds. He is still struggling with crazy allergic reactions that are causing full body hives, and he has some swelling in his face.  We are starting a new journey with him to figure out what all he might be allergic to…related to antibiotics, the accident and maybe even more.  Let the fun begin!  We would appreciate you keeping him in your thoughts.

Little Man –  He has worked hard over the past two weeks and his strength is coming back.  His story also is nothing short of miraculous. When the docs saw him Monday they were amazed and instead of recommending three months of physical therapy as they expected, they declared there no longer is the need.  We were able to move forward in the fitting process of the prosthetic and he gets his new leg tomorrow.

There have been times this summer that I wondered if we would be able to return to Asia this fall as we had planned.  We still have some loose ends hanging out there, but we are taking strides to be off this coming week.  We are taking it one step at a time and are thankful for each small victory that takes a step closer.

Growing up – With photos

You ever try to write a blog post, edit photos, answer homeschool questions with a four year old rolling around under your feet?  I shouldn’t.  I did which resulted in me hitting “post” rather than “save as draft.”  Here is the full post with photos from Little Monkey’s special day.

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IMG_9096During our travels in February we celebrated the birthday of our sweet Asian beauty.  I truly love watching as she grows and matures, but I must admit that each milestone also brings my heart a twinge of pain.  Eight.  Sigh.

To further confirm my theory that this child is growing up fast….she has a bucket list of things she wants to do/see in her lifetime.  What 8 year old does that?!  One of the things on that list was to see the Terracotta Warriors.  We just happened to be traveling through the city where they are located around her birthday.  It was such a fun way to celebrate our girl!  We spent the day learning more about the buried army, Chinese culture and taking many photos to remember the day.  Not sure which we like better…the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors.  Each soldier made around 221 BC has a uniquely carved face.  Cool.   But the Great Wall is the biggest man-made structure in the world and also constructed way before power tools.  Unimaginable.  We love the history and rich culture of this country!

 

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Don’t let Soccer Dude’s “been here done this” look fool you.  He acts to cool for school when I ask him for a photo, but when it comes to reading about this stuff and watching the work of the archeologists….He might have enjoyed our day more than the birthday girl.

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Now the other two kids…they might not be our history buffs, but they can make anything an adventure.  Here are my two crazies making the day just that much more fun.

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We wrapped up the day with a trip to McDonalds for burgers.  We can’t get burgers in our city so it was a treat.  Little Monkey was a bit put out that I couldn’t make her a cake in our hotel room, so a surprise fruit topped cake compliments of our hotel was a fantastic way to end our day.

I could tell you so many more stories…like how we decided to save money and take the public bus out to the Warriors.  We were the only crazy expats on the bus and the driver decided he didn’t want to finish the route and just dumped us out in the middle of no where.  We ended up on a mini bus with a bunch of grannies who had never seen white people on their local buses and where sure I didn’t know how to parent since my children weren’t wearing enough clothes.  You should have seen the look on their faces when I clued them in that I understood what they were saying and respectfully told them in mandarine that the kids weren’t cold and that many American families have four children.  I love shocked expressions….followed by conversations with locals! Wink!

All in a day in the life of a crazy family who live cross-culturally.