Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friends along the way

Between our time in Michigan and Minnesota, we stopped to visit two families with connections to South Africa. Our first stop was just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, a midpoint we had chosen as a meeting place with our friends, the Van Gilders. We met Tim and Athena soon after we moved to South Africa in 2011. Their family had arrived the week before ours, and with children of similar ages, a son 1 day younger than Tyson, a daughter 6 months younger than Jori and baby Zeke, we quickly became friends. It was a blessing to experience life in South Africa with another family from the states. We often had sleepover swaps with the kids, date nights with the adults and lots of Sunday afternoons spent together. The Van Gilders were also a huge blessing to our family when we moved to Tshepo ya Bana, often bringing special treats for the whole gang there, including Thanksgiving dinner!

We only had a few days with our friends, but it was great to catch up. As soon as they arrived, the kids were running around and catching up on lost time. We spent most of Monday at a local lake and everyone enjoyed swimming and hiking. Ok, the hiking was not such a hit and we barely made it back with all the whining and carrying on, but we survived! Our kids and theirs love the water, so Athena and I even managed to sit and talk for a little bit while everyone else cooled off in the lake. It was really cool how our kids just hit it off again. They watched movies and made movies; shot hoops and shot nerf guns at each other. The adults spent a lot of time talking and keeping the 4 year old addition, J, entertained.

On the 4th we went to the Amana Colonies. The Amana are like the Amish, but totally not. We ate cheese, sampled wine, ate meat and chocolate and missed out on taking our picture in a giant rocking chair, but still, it was fun. We went to the local 4th of July gathering that night, watched a horrible magic show, ran to DQ for ice cream, then came back and watched the fire works.

Wednesday morning the kids were all up early to finish their movie while the adults packed the cars. We are SO SO SO glad that Tim, Athena, Caden, Haley, Zeke and J were all willing to make the trip out to spend time with us. It was wonderful catching up with our American friends from South Africa!!

We left Iowa City and headed north towards Duluth, Minnesota to meet up with a special little lady who used to live with us. Many of you are sure to remember Oarabile and will remember that she was adopted by a family from Minnesota last year. There was no way we were going to be within driving distance of Pete, Lexi, Miss O and M and not stop to see them! It was amazing to see how far Oara has come. She has a power wheelchair and watching her drive it completely by herself was mind blowing. I could not stop watching her. She was also busy reading all of the letters on Darin's shirt and she can spell her name. Again we were just overwhelmed with the assurance of how God had a plan for this little girl and we are so privileged to be a small part of it.

The kids loved seeing their Oara again, especially Jori. It almost took me by surprise at first, but then I was remembering how often Jori and Oara would do things together when she was with us, so I shouldn't have been surprised at all. It was also so good to hear from Pete and Lexi how things have been since being back in the states and just spending time getting to know them more. We only had one evening and the morning with them, but we packed a lot in. Now we can picture things in their house and imagine Oara playing with her sissy there. Thank you for hosting us!!!

We are in Minnesota now visiting Darin's family and I will be writing about our time here soon. We are leaving here on Sunday and the time has gone by too fast. Again, we have packed in tons and will be leaving with so many wonderful memories to look back on.

If you could just pray for my family though. My nephew, Sawyer, was in an accident and has sustained serious injuries, including a broken neck. You can visit his caring bridge site here to find out more: Darin and his parents will be driving to Washington state on Sunday to head to a family reunion and I am going to also be heading west, but will be flying to Oregon to be with my sister and the rest of my family. It isn't what we had planned on, but I am SO thankful that we are in the US right now and not overseas. Thanks for praying.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

See you next time, West Michigan

Well, we wrapped up our final morning in Hudsonville earlier today and are now just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, waiting to see the Van Gilder family!

West Michigan, you were so good to us. Our time in the US has been so much more relaxing and restful and right this time around. I am not sure if we are just more settled into our South African life, if we planned the timing better (like arriving on a Thursday and having time to rest instead of Saturday night and heading out the door for a full Sunday like we did 3 years ago), or if we had our expectations in a better place, but for whatever reasons, this trip has been going a lot smoother. And you all know that when I say "we" I really mean "me" because Darin and the kids are just more even keeled than I am.

I will be posting pictures later, but I have been putting a bunch on Facebook and Instagram when I've had a few odd moments to do so. Our time was PACKED, but also so relaxed. I think it felt packed because it was just so good and full and filling and just right.

This time, rather than entering a grocery store and feeling like I was going to lose my marbles, I managed to go into Family Fare, Meijer, Target and Rite Aid without losing it. I did feel a bit overwhelmed with all the options and trying to just find a regular bottle of lotion and some underwear was almost my undoing, but somewhere along the line I have developed coping mechanisms. Go me.

I felt like a fun person. This was big. I had my moments when I could feel tiredness creeping in, but for the most part, I held it together like a grown up and just enjoyed the moment. Riding a bike to the ice cream store, painful but fun. Let's go a step further and ride around the old bike path that ends on our old cul-de-sac. I can totally do this AND talk to my old neighbor Cory without acting like a total psycho. Shopping in thrift stores, yep, it's my thing. Granted I thought Rachel left me a couple times and kind of felt a bit like I might have a panic attack, but I reigned it in. After all, Jenna and Jori were with me, so I could just lean into the little buggers when I was feeling anxious.

I even managed to be fun and nice to people other than the Huismans, which was a bit of a stretch for me three years ago. We had a great time reconnecting with people from Evergreen Ministries and old small group people as well. I even had a sleepover with my college girls and it was such a good time. Did I make myself sound like being mean to children and keeping the in their place was my goal in life?? Probably, but I think one of the reasons I managed this trip better is that I have learned to hold back in some areas and keep some vulnerable stuff a bit more protected as I am working through it in my mind instead of just throwing out a ton of verbal throw-up. The holding in process sometimes leads to other thoughts seeping to the forefront of my mind and out my mouth before I can stop them :)

I feel like I had my eyes more open this time. 3 years ago we were kind of still limping along a bit and feeling a bit sore as our original plans for moving to South Africa hadn't panned out and we were in a bit of a transitional time at TYB, so I was super focused on ME and MY NEEDS and LISTEN TO ME as I complain and compare and castigate you all. A real party for all involved. This time I feel like I had a softer heart. I think as I've inched closer to 40 I've finally matured a bit and have realized that everyone out there has a story and everyone out there has issues and struggles, high points and lows, and lots of people are doing really cool stuff - like being available to others instead of caring only for their own lives- and they haven't moved to Africa to do it.

We had planned to go to church this morning to say goodbye to a few folks, and I am super bummed we didn't make it, but we had plumbing issues and "plumbing issues" if you know what I mean and things just didn't go as planned. Three years ago that probably would have made me cry and rant, but we've all learned to roll with it. West Michigan, we will miss you. Your air smells so fresh, your grass is so green and your people are amazing.

Minnesota, we're coming for you, we just have a few things to do along the way!

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

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