Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's Try This Again

Ok, so my last post was all true and in a lot of ways is all still true, but I have managed to get a bit more sleep the last couple of days and have been able to think a bit more rationally (and grace-fully) about our time in Michigan.

Emotional breakdowns excluded, we have had a fantastic time here. Hudsonville is where we spent the majority of our married life and raised our kids, so it just feels like home. We have been able to visit our old neighborhood, old places of employment, get a tour of our old house, eat ice cream at Hudsonville Lanes, go to Love Inc, have Frosties at Wendy’s, lunch at Panera, a visit to Hughe’s Park and more. The kids have ridden bikes, scooters and roller blades. They’ve played in sandboxes, swimming pools, trampolines and swing sets with friends, neighbors of friends, relatives of friends and more.

We’ve laughed, like the deep belly laughs that ends in tears, more times than I can count. It has been so good for our souls. We’ve laughed at memories, laughed at movies, laughed at our kids, laughed at ourselves.

We’ve reconnected with friends, so many friends. Definitely more than 2  J The times we’ve spent with friends, while overwhelming in some ways, have also filled us up and the love and care we’ve received will not only carry us through these next few weeks of travel, but will also follow us as we return to South Africa. Being able to share what we’ve been up to over the last 3 years and find out what our friends have been doing has been good. To be able to talk face to face instead of via the internet has been amazing.

We have been reminded of how beautiful and universal the body of Christ is. We have reconnected with our church family here in Hudsonville and have been hearing words of encouragement from other believers around the world who are praying for us as we travel and experience all these highs and lows. We know that the very same God who has been faithfully guiding us in South Africa has not left us to travel on our own. He is with us, providing opportunities to share about his love and goodness, keeping us safe and blessing our time with friends and loved ones.

Now that our time in Michigan is coming to an end, we find ourselves wishing we didn’t have to leave so soon. We are finally feeling a bit more settled and not quite so tired (not quite meaning I don’t think we need toothpicks to hold our eyes open), yet at the same time we are looking forward to heading to Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota to see our friends and loved ones there.

So thank you, West Michigan, for loving us well. For reminding us of the beauty of community, for giving us memories of our children laughing and playing and zooming down the street with wild abandon. We’ll miss you! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sorry West Michigan

We have been back in the states for over a week. It is Tuesday afternoon now and we are heading out on Thursday morning for the next leg of our journey. We have been having a wonderful time here in Michigan, but the exhaustion and overwhelming-ness of this experience came crashing down on me yesterday. Up until that point I felt like I was doing totally fine. Reverse culture shock? What’s that? Tired? Not me! I’m like the Energizer Bunny who can just keep going, with enough coffee and chocolate pumped into my system.

Yesterday morning reality hit and it hit hard. I am reliving conversations from the past week and wishing I’d just kept my mouth shut about 90% more of the time than I actually did. I’m feeling awkward about some moments and sad about others. I've realized that I've probably scared a lot of small children and that maybe ticked off a few mothers as well with my “it takes a village to raise a child, and I am that village” attitude.

I have found myself saying “I’m sorry, I’m not like this is Africa” on more occasions than I can count. I've heard “That’s ok, this is the Jonna we remember” the same amount of times, which is kind of nice, but also troubling. I feel like I've changed, but maybe I haven’t. I feel like I am a better version of myself than I was 3 years ago and I kind of want to punch myself (the old me) in the face for coming in and stealing the show.

I am trying to give myself a lot of grace, because really, this is not like a normal situation. Staying up til midnight and even 3 in the morning is just not my thing anymore and it has been happening way too much since we landed. The kids are doing as well as can be expected and I’ve been trying to be super gracious to them and allowing them to do whatever they want, within reason, because this whole experience is supposed to be fun and filled with laughter and memories and while I don’t want them to love their time in the states so much that we have to carry them kicking and screaming on to the plane, I do want them both to return to South Africa filled with the knowledge that they are loved and being prayed for and haven’t been forgotten.

Darin, my dear husband, is just gliding through. Being in large grocery stores does not overwhelm him, so he is the one running errands. He does not do the whole “open mouth, insert foot” thing like I have done repeatedly. (Why do you have so much CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) He isn't starting up conversations with people at Wal-mart and then sharing kind of strange observations with his new besties in the customer service line. Nor is he scaring small babies by talking like a psychotic Elmo. I, on the other hand, have been doing all of these things. All of them. Me, the lady who manages a children’s home and makes babies laugh and small children smile is now roaming around West Michigan scaring children of all ages. I also have forgotten about this little thing called tact and have been sharing my opinion on everything from squeeze applesauce pouches to putting children in team sports.

The sad thing is, I feel like I have changed and like I have grown and actually have accrued some wisdom and if I had been less like the old me and more like the South African me, people might have wanted to listen and I might not now be thinking “Wow, I think I now only have 2 friends left in Michigan”.

This is why, for all the true and real desire that I have to try to fit in one more face to face meeting with people who I might not see again for 2 or three years, I am just going to be sticking close to our temporary home. I’m kind of coming unglued right now and have decided to just stop now before it all comes undone. I am hoping that the 2 people who are still my friends will understand this and love me anyway. I wish we had another month here so that we could space out these visits and I could show that I really am kind of normal, but that’s just not going to happen. Plus, I have to go upset people in more of these United States. Michigan just can’t take all the crazy.

Much Love and Please eat lots of blueberries for me when the season hits in a couple months! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New pics

Thanks to super fast, unlimited internet, I've managed to update our Picasa albums! Check them out here!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Impressions

First Diet Coke: not as good as I remembered. In fact, I didn’t even finish the whole can.

First time seeing my best friend: Amazing!!! Just being able to hug each other and talk face to face is such a gift. It does not seem like we haven’t been together for 3 years.

First Little Caesar’s Pizza: YUM!! Bonus: we didn’t get sick from all the grease and cheese and pepperoni goodness.

First Ice Cream: So delish! I am eating as much ice CREAM, meaning it is made with cream and not vegetable fat, as I can.

First Time riding in a car with Darin as the driver: Kind of scary, for all of us. He kept turning into the wrong lane and would swoop back over to the correct side of the road.

First Time at a grocery store: Kind of overwhelming, and really cold! What is up with all the air conditioning? Do these people not want customers to stay and browse the aisles?

First Hamburger: So good. Like really, really good. The onion rings were also so crunchy and tasty and just good.

First Time back at church: Wonderful.  We loved being back at Evergreen, singing, listening to Pastor Larry and catching up with so many friends.

First Time seeing our kids with their best friends: Touched my heart. I love seeing them run through the backyard, ride bikes down the road, sit packed together in the back of the car, hear them giggling and shouting and having a great time.

More to come!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

3 years...

This week we will be on American soil for the first time in 3 years. We started our journey to South Africa on June 11, 2011 and landed here on June 13. Now we’ll be heading back for a visit, leaving June 13, 2014 and arriving in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 14 after many, many hours of travel. We are all excited to see our family and friends, to eat at Wendy’s and Pizza Ranch, to drive down familiar roads and avenues, and catch up with people who were, and still are, near and dear to us.

However, along with the excitement is also a bit of anxiety. The members of our family have changed over the last three years. We feel that a lot of these changes are for the better, but what if our old friends don’t like the “new” us? Tyson and Jori are not the same children they were when we left. They are older, have stronger personalities, have been exposed to different people and cultures than our family and friends in the states. We love the bits and pieces that they have taken from people we've met and places we've been and have made their own. Their accents, their likes and dislikes, their dance moves; the way they think, the things that are important to them; these things that make them unique, but which may seem foreign to those who have not traveled along with them over these last few years. Will their old friends find them strange and shy away, or will they be embraced for who they are?

Darin and I have also changed. I like to think we've matured and grown up a bit and I’m guessing our friends and family in the states have changed and grown as well, but will we have all changed too much to remain close, or will the differences draw us together in a new way? I do not think the same as I did before we moved here. I have been through some dark moments, some of which I've shared through email or blog posts, but a lot that I've either kept hidden away or only shared with friends on this side of the ocean, where I could share face to face.

Are we going to be annoyed by the commercialism and consumerism that sums up so much of life in the Western world, or will we be sucked right back in? Will we be annoying to those we come into contact with, when we talk about things that are dear to us, but unfamiliar to them? I am sure there will be a bit of reverse culture shock going on, probably a few tears shed over the changes in relationships that have occurred, some tough moments when our kids say that they want to stay in the states, and a lot of travel fatigue from driving this way and that to see friends and family who are scattered over the country. However, I know that there are also going to be a lot of good times, the special moments that we will gather up and carry back with us to Africa, moments that we will treasure when we are once again far away from those we love. 

God has been so good to us and to doubt that his goodness and grace will continue with us as we travel is foolish, yet it is hard to keep from thinking of the hard moments, the tears and the goodbyes, the pain of separation.

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...