Welcome to Home Education!

Dear Newly Minted Home Educator,

I am so sorry that you had this situation thrust upon during an incredibly stressful time for, well, pretty much the entire world. Most homeschoolers choose homeschooling either directly or indirectly. You did not. I truly, sincerely am sorry. You have all the challenges of home education without many of the benefits. It’s rough. Again, I’m sorry.

One benefit you do have is that you GET to have your kids home. We have so few days and years of our kids lives where they live in our houses; it’s one of the myriad reasons we homeschool.  So think of that at least as a gift-unfettered access to your kids’ time.

Now, take a deep breath and throw out any notions you had about what homeschooling is/isn’t. Again, this is not the way homeschooling usually happens.  Homeschooling is a bit of the wild, wild west, but we usually got on the covered wagon voluntarily, not forcibly dropped there with literally the rest of the world and doing it while the culture around you looks nothing like it did two weeks ago. Hang in there, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!

I love the book Teaching From Rest by Sarah McKenzie. If you have time or interest in reading it or listening to the audiobook, I highly recommend that you do. Even though home education may not be your long-term plan, it will hopefully help during this time and I think it’s super helpful in considering priorities in your family as a whole. I wish I had read it much longer ago than last summer.

In the book Sarah stresses how important it is to prioritize family relationships and doing what is best for your family. I know this is much harder when you are trying to keep your kid in sync with plans the school is sending home.  But here’s the thing-you and your kids and your family are WAY more important than getting that math lesson done or making sure they know how to diagram a sentence or what order the planets are in. You need to consider what is best for your kids AND you while your world is being rocked in significant ways. Again, your world does not look like it did a few weeks back. That’s stressful.

Even if your kids are doing lessons and keeping up with their class virtually, that’s a lot to process and work through.  The novelty will wear off and you’ll be dealing with culture stress for them, for you, and probably the dog, too.  I know some people may not love this advice, but I’m giving it anyway-when that day comes, give your kids the day off. Give yourself the day off. I know some of your options for stress management don’t exist. A number of ours are gone, too. But finding something that will nourish your family body, mind, and soul will be so good for you. Your kids really will be okay.

We usually simplify when things get more stressful. We’re adjusting back to life here and are living in “seclusion” (that sounds so much better than “lockdown bordering on house arrest”), so I simplified school for our family.  I will probably stick with more simple for the rest of the year. That means our kids continue with their grade specific subjects (math, language arts, reading, etc) and for “together subjects” (Bible, history, science, art, etc) we aren’t doing a full curriculum. And you know what? I’m totally okay with it. They’re learning.

And we’re playing lots of board games and reading fun books and doing Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems and going on short walks on the 300m of road in our housing complex because as a family that’s all the further we can go. And it’s okay. The ENTIRE world is experiencing this. It’s not just you. Everyone will miss things this school year. Again, that’s okay. It really, truly will be okay. Yes, education is very important, but your family is more important. Doing what you need to do to make this season work for you should be your top priority.

Plan a timetable for your days and revisit it in a week to tweak it. Do simple meals.  Get sleep. Make sure you get dressed in the morning. If your kids wear uniforms, do it at home, too. It will help their mindset for doing school. Do things you can usually do, talk through things you can’t. Hug your kiddos super tight (or not if they’re not into that) and tell them you love and try to take some mental pictures of this moment in time, these days you get to have with them.

If you need someone to cheer you on and tell you to take a couple deep breaths and keep on with it, I’m your girl. I’m quite seasoned at being on the receiving end. I’m also quite seasoned at having to step away from school for a few moments to collect myself, so if you need someone to vent to about the curriculum or how this kid did this crazy/annoying/ridiculous thing, I’m also very much your girl. Because inevitably both will happen.

You CAN do this! You really, truly can. And I very sincerely pray that beautiful, amazing, and sweet moments as a family will come of this time for you.

Heaps and Heaps of Grace,
Becky

Welcome to Culture Shock!

Dear Friend,

I may or may not personally know you, but I’m going to consider you a friend if you’re reading this because we can all use friends right now.  In the past couple days I’ve had an email newsletter from Taking Route blog and one from one of our wonderful prayer supporters that both noted that is seems like we are in days of widespread culture shock.  How can this be when few people are traveling away from home? Because in the past week or two, the culture shifted dramatically. It is not what it was two weeks ago.

The language has changed. The food has changed. Your ability to move around has changed. So much of what you knew to be true has changed without even leaving your house. And that in and of itself is probably a change. Very few of the people going through this drastic cultural shift prepped and planned for culture shock and adjustment.  We’ve been here before, trained for culture shock years ago, and are adapting just like everyone else. You probably didn’t.

Some aspects of this new culture are always true for us. We live a consistently inconsistent life. Yes, this is on a much larger level, but we’re starting at a higher level than some. It’s very hard to live a consistently inconsistent life and I feel for you as you’re finding your way through it. It’s hard to see grocery store shelves empty. It makes you do things like buy 4 cans of refried beans because you haven’t seen them anywhere else and you might want to make super nacho some time, so you better get them and plenty because who knows when you’ll see it again. Eventually you learn that you just sometimes have to wait a week or 27 for that item to come back in stock and it’s all good, but learning to wait for things when you’re used to being able to get everything every time you go in the store is a strange adjustment.

You’re overwhelmed and confused. Your brain feels fuzzy. Getting out of bed and doing anything can feel like a HUGE accomplishment. Very seriously, it is. Doing anything while you’re in culture shock or cultural stress is a HUGE accomplishment.  It’s good to give yourself heaps and heaps of grace and set aside some things for now. Simplify and prioritize.

I have a few things to suggest now and I’ll probably post more things later, especially about having your kids home all day, every day while also trying to educate them.

Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s SO easy to do, especially when the culture shock/stress is hitting almost everyone, but every single person is different. Every family is different. Needs and wants vary from person to person. Values are different between people, which will change how people are affected. Some people seem like they’re doing great, not bothered at all, but then one day they just lose it and explode. Some people get out their culture shock in small doses as things come up. No matter what, you be you and don’t compare yourself/family to others.

Get rest. Sleep is so important for you heart, mind, soul, and body. Get sleep. It helps a lot with stress.

Laugh. I mean, like, watch a tv show or movie, play a game, read a book, find funny memes-whatever will give you good, full belly laughs, do it. Laughter is very, very good medicine.

Grieve your losses.  You certainly have losses as a result of this cultural shift. Talk about them, grieve them, process them.  Take time in your household or on a call with a friend or family member if you live alone and recount the losses. I know some people may think that ignoring them is the best route, but acknowledging them, processing them, and grieving them will be much more beneficial for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Pray. When we did our pre-field training one of the things that has stuck with us is a powerful and simple prayer, “God, help!”  So much is recognized in those two seemingly simple words.  We have found God incredibly faithful every single time we have prayed this prayer. And we have prayed it A LOT!

God is with you. He has gone before you, He is beside you, He is behind you. He is not in the least surprised or unprepared for this season even if we humans are.

Grace and Peace, dear Friend,
Becky

In Thanks for A Future and a Hope

This world is broken. It is full of hurts, pains, sickness, and good-byes. Every day we see both the beauty and the chaos that co-exist in our imperfect world. The beauty, the goodness, the love is what makes me so thankful that this world is not the best there is.  The best is yet to come.  Last year I wrote about how thankful I am for The Church. After spending a weekend in November with one of our supporting churches and sharing with a church and various people during our road trip, I’ll second that post and once again say how thankful I am God gave us The Church. This year, I’m so thankful for heaven.

I’m thankful that faith will be given eyes and hope will be fulfilled.  I’m thankful relationships will be fully reconciled. I’m thankful we will not be sick, hurt, maimed, or broken. We will be whole. I’m thankful all day, everyday I will walk and talk with Jesus, learning more about Him everyday. My heavenly Father will hold me and restore all that is lacking in me. All things will be true, beautiful, and good in heaven. We won’t have to seek those things out, we will be surrounded by them constantly, forever.

Sometimes doubts seep into my heart and mind. I doubt my salvation. I doubt that heaven can really, truly be all that I can imagine. I doubt how much I’ll really relish being in God’s presence. I doubt what eternity is like and how I’ll survive it. And then I beg God for peace that surpasses understanding and faith beyond measure to trust Him in those doubts. I ask for a longing for heaven, for the wonder and perfection that will accompany being there.

I’m thankful God answers prayers and that He holds me and loves me amidst doubts. I’m thankful He doesn’t answer all my questions and that someday He will. Someday all the questions I have will be answered or will be irrelevant. God is mysterious and life brings plenty of mystery of its own. Sometimes, like with questions of heaven, we have to learn to just be okay with mystery, with not knowing. And not only that, but appreciate and give thanks for the unknowns.

God has been so good to me to save me, to reconcile me to Himself. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful He’s written me in the Book of the Lamb and written His words across my heart and that He is preparing a place for me.  One day I will know and see; for now, I will embrace being a manager of the mysteries of Christ and trust that the goodness, beauty, and truth we find in this world pales in comparison to what the next one holds.

Year Eight: Faith

In 2018 I had the opportunity to write for a friend’s e-newsletter.  The last topic I wrote about was pain. Almost a year later, I know God used that topic to prepare me for the incredible pain that would be coming in 2019.  My friend had circumstances arise in her own life that led to ending the e-newsletter and I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with it even if it had kept going. This year has been painful, confusing, full of answerless questions. This year has been faith-building.

Here is what I wrote for that newsletter last December:

Sometimes thinking can seem easier than feeling.  Pain comes into life in so many ways and everyone deals with pain in their own way.  Walking through pain, finding the new normal, is very personal. I’ve had to find my new normal through many good-byes in life either as the one moving away or to those leaving.  I lost my first baby.  I moved to the other side of the world with two toddlers and halfway through a pregnancy.  Dear friends and family have died, leaving an empty space. My old normal didn’t exist anymore. The new normal feels so weird and foreign and getting there feels like it takes so long.  I’m a person who processes (sometimes too much) and processing pain engages the brain in a different way.  This has been what processing pain has looked like for me.

Everything just feels numb, dead.  The pain makes me feel like the Dead Sea, where nothing lives, nothing flourishes.  The Dead Sea is a salt water lake in Israel with a salt content so high that nothing can live in it. Other times the pain is like pounding, enormous ocean waves knocking me over again and again and again. I can’t stand up. I can’t get my bearings straight.  The world seems a blur of salt water and sand with rare glimpses of land or the sun. I’m overwhelmed and think total defeat is near.

But total defeat is not an option. And eventually the waves start to slow a little. Some days I can function. I can see more of the sun and the land.  Life starts coming back after feeling completely dead. The salty tears that fell rapidly and frequently reduce. My head begins to clear and I engage my brain again a bit. Some days I have to only engage my brain. Some days I need a break or need to logically engage my pain instead of being so emotionally wrapped in it.

Those days are more like a meromictic lake.  The water is layered in these lakes and only a few exist in the world. Most lakes the deeper waters of a lake mix with the shallower waters at least once a year, but with meromictic lakes that doesn’t happen. In same cases it means there is a salt water layer and a fresh water layer.

So I engage the pain differently. I decide that for today I will take a break from the grief or anger or whatever strong emotional response I’m having to my pain.  Those harsh emotions, like the harsh saltwater, are separated from the more logical mental engagement, the clearer layer of fresh water. These days may just be what saves me.

Over time, the bombardment ceases.  The healing, clarifying fresh water mixes with the brutal salt water. Life springs anew in an estuary, a place where a fresh water source meets a body of salt water and creates a unique ecosystem. At this place a mixing of healing joins with the pain I’m healing from to bring forth a life I didn’t know would exist, but one that is teeming with life and growth. A new normal.

When I wrote that last year I did not know what life would look like or the questions I would have now. How do you go on after losing a parent? How do you go on after feeling betrayed? How do you go on when people who say they love Jesus have done things very much not of Jesus? How do you go on when your day to day is a life people question? How do you go on when you’ve been unmoored?

You walk by faith. You get up. You get out of bed. You feed your family as best you can. You keep homeschooling even with the challenges. You walk by faith. You cling to the things like your marriage and your children that God gave you as a way to get through.  You build altars even for the small things where you see God working. And, again, you walk by faith.

We’ve spent eight years in Asia. For eight years we’ve walked on Asian soil and eaten Asian food and lived in our Asian house and driven our Asian cars and visited a number of Asian countries. We’ve interacted with so many Asian people and picked up little bits of Asian languages. For eight years we’ve taken a step at a time, or not taken a step at all, all by faith in the One who holds us through it all.

For This, I am Thankful

A few weeks back we were in church sitting in front of a family who has a two-year-old son.  Abigail was quite excited to see her friend and they were just playing and giggling. I’m trying to be Responsible Mom and keep them from making too much noise, but neither set of parents had much success in quieting the joy. Then a woman behind me gently touched my arm, leaned in, and whispered, “I am sure that Jesus would be delighted that these two little kids are giggling together in His church.” Oh boy, cue the tears! It was like Jesus Himself came down and affirmed me in that moment. I guess He did through her. It was a beautiful moment of the church being the church. And it’s one of the many, many reasons I’m thankful for the local body we are part of and The Church as a whole.

Every week we sit in a room with people from at least 15 countries, probably more.  Every person with a different background and culture. Most of us from different church backgrounds. It’s our own tiny slice of The Church and I love it. I love getting to see how vast and diverse the body of Christ is just by sitting in that room each week. I know I take for granted that we get this experience. And I’ve become so comfortable knowing people all over the world that I forget that not every follower of Christ has the same gift of being so connected to the worldwide church.

I am so, so thankful for The Church this year. I am so thankful that God saw fit to bring us into His family and then establish that we should be in community to learn, grow, and serve together.  The Church is where we go for community first. It’s where we find people who will love us and care for us and who we can love and care for. It’s where we find people who not only care about the spiritual lives of people, but also their physical, mental, and emotional lives, too.

I love The Church. I love that God gave us each other and God gave every one of His children gifts, talents, and abilities, all to use to work together for Him.  I love that we’re all different and have different life experiences and that no matter what continent I want to go to, I could eventually find a brother or sister, another person who knows and is known by The Loving Shepherd.

I love how our support teams are made up of people from The Church. We are so thankful for people who are called to give and pray for those who are sent.  He brought five different local churches to support us in one way or another. We have a financial support team with about 80 names on it. And a prayer team with almost as many. We have people who encourage us and are listening ears. All these people, so many of them, who are part of His body and make a way for us. And we see God do it over and over again for so many other people we know. God calls people to do different things. We were called to go. Some are called to send.

The body of Christ is living, breathing, moving, and growing.  We each see such a small sliver of His body that it’s hard to grasp how vast and wide it is, but I love to try. I imagine what life is like for friends we know living in other places-either other workers like us or local believers we have connections to. For some, following Christ is extremely challenging and they give up much to continue.  For some, it’s a time of harvest and great joy. For some, it’s about trusting God when they are the only one or one of very few in their area. For some, it’s trusting God when the soil is very hard and planting seeds seems like it’s going to be fruitless. It won’t be. God’s word does not return void. And it’s why the body matters-to keep us connected and to make a way to keep doing as God calls.

And when this life is over, as members of the body of Christ, we have assurance that we will spend eternity in heaven.  Kingdoms and empires rise and fall.  Countires combine and split. So many things on earth are created and destoryed. Nothing on this earth will last forever with the sole exception of God’s people.  Being part of the church means we are part of something eternal, something that will last beyond anything else we will encounter in this world.  I’m thankful to be part of something enduring and the peace that comes knowing I will spend eternity with my heavenly Father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Seven: Community

Our hearts live all over the world. We know and love people on almost every continent.  Having your heart in so many places can be painful at times. It’s also lends itself to an incredibly rich and complex life. I will never be described as simple again.  Once you’ve spent several years abroad being described as “simple” just doesn’t happen. And that’s okay. Complex works for me. It may just take others a little more time to figure me out.

Our world got a bit more complex this year by investing in more relationships, particularly in our neighborhood.  We’ve lived in this house, in the middle of this same street, for seven years. We’ve prayed for this little neighborhood of about 70 units for seven years. And in this the seventh year, we saw answers.

This is the year that I became “Auntie” and Toffer has even gotten an “Uncle” a couple times. We may not look like we fit, but the kids in this neighborhood have accepted us as theirs.  They play in our home and use our toys. They dig in our little gravel side yard and ask for water when they’re thirsty. They ate cookies and drank milkshakes to celebrate Samuel’s birthday. Our boys know everyone’s school schedules to know which doors to knock on when. They know who can play during the week and who can play just on the weekends. Their local English, especially Benjamin’s, is something to which we can only aspire.

The most beautiful part of it all is that they’re just being kids. They don’t usually go out with an agenda. They just want to play and be part of a group. We’ve had interesting conversations about differences in how families raise their kids or in their values.  We’ve had conversations about our own values and how we’re going to treat other people.  We’ve learned about local culture as most of the families are locals as well as cultures from abroad from the couple other ex-pat families. It’s all a learning experience and we’re praying through it all trusting God to shine His light.

We had to say good-bye to friends this year. A couple families moved this summer and I took it harder than I thought I would. It’s part of life abroad and in particular here. Grief and loss follow us around like shadows.  Sometimes it makes me want to quit trying to have friends, but I know it’s not what God wants nor is it a healthy way to live. So I say my good good-byes and turn around to say hellos.

Our homeschool group looks drastically different than it did just two years ago. Some families have moved and some put their kids in school. This year we’re getting to know lots of new families.  We have a new space to use at the international Christian school we’re connected through, so that’s helped.  I’m thankful to not being doing this whole homeschool thing alone.

I still feel isolated and lonely at times. It comes with the territory of homeschooling and living abroad.  I always feel like I’m awkward and weird or will say the wrong thing. Most of the time I probably do better than I think. No matter the awkwardness or three steps forward, one step back we’ve done with relationships, this year has just sort of felt like a flower opening wide to the sun, embracing the warmth of people like the flower embraces the sun.

A Special Strength, A Special Grace

My great-grandmother was an incredible woman. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I’ve heard enough stories to know she was an incredible woman, a woman to whom God gave a special grace and strength.  Along with my great-grandfather, she immigrated to the United States from Norway. They had three children and were a farming family in central Iowa. My uncle still farms land that has been in our family for decades. Of their three children, they had two boys, one of who was my maternal grandfather, and one girl, my Great-Aunt Sigrid.

I will be honest that I did not truly understand and appreciate how remarkable these women in my family were, especially my great-aunt, when I could have taken advantage of listening more. My Great-Aunt Sigrid was born with cerebral palsy. She lived her life in a house with no running water and in a wheelchair when wheelchairs were not nearly as ergonomically designed as they are now. The remarkable thing about her is that she wasn’t bitter. She wasn’t angry. She was the opposite-she was joy and light and sunshine. God gave her this beautiful and amazing faith and she was a prayer warrior like none other.  It didn’t matter that she couldn’t verbally communicate well, she learned to type one key at a time on a type writer. She read her Bible and she prayed her prayers and she was a woman of great faith.

And she was raised by a remarkable woman.  My mom was telling me about my great-grandmother a while back.  By the time her children were adults her husband had died, the boys left home and got married, and it was just her and her adult daughter with cerebral palsy who required a good bit of care. Again, she could have been angry and bitter, resenting my great aunt’s limitations or wallowing in self-pity, but she chose a different path. She drew strength from her God and cared well for my great aunt.  I asked my mom how in the world she was able to physically handle the work set before her and my mom said, “God just gave her a special strength, a special grace.”

A couple weeks ago I was out for a walk thinking about how I have somehow managed to keep our family going, our household running, our kids educated, and sometimes all while Toffer is out of town.  In my own flesh I am completely incapable of doing what I do. Some days I do it much better than others.  Some days school goes well and meals are yummy and nourishing and everyone plays well together and life seems wonderful and beautiful. Other days, my 2 year old throws about 20 Duplos out a second story window before I catch her, my 4 year old soaks everything in {fill this in with pretty much any room in the house because of how much water he’s spread throughout our house in his four years of life}, school just isn’t happening the way I planned, and meals are whatever my taxed mind and body can cobble together.  It’s just life with seven people under one roof.

And I thought about the question I get asked so often, “How do you do it?”  I usually say it’s totally God, which is totally true, but when I thought about it a couple weeks ago my mom’s words about my great-grandmother came to mind, “God gave her a special strength, a special grace.”  That’s exactly my life.  God has given me a special strength and a special grace to raise the kids He’s given our family, in the place He’s put our family, doing the things He wants us to do. Not everyone has the strength and grace to raise my five kids and they don’t need it.

No one else needs to do what I do just like I don’t need to be able to do what other people do.  God gives that special strength and grace to everyone for whatever they are walking through.  God doesn’t guarantee life will be pretty and easy and always full of sunshine and rainbows. He does guarantee He’ll make a way, a way through the wilderness and the wastelands and a way through the lands flowing with milk and honey.  No matter what lands you’re walking through, trust God will give you a special strength, a special grace, to make it through.

Practical Gratitude

 

I just want to write. I miss writing more frequently…or at all.  The previous post to this one was a sum up of our fifth year on the field…sixteen months ago. The words for Thanksgiving 2016 never came together and once 2017 rolled around, all bets were off the table.  I started a year six sum up a couple times and I think the fact that we hit six years in October and it’s February shows about what 2017 was like for our family. The mind-boggling, faith-stretching, intense, learning-filled, blur of a year that 2017 was could possibly have done me in. But it didn’t.

The mouse here in July not long before we left for home assignment ALMOST did me in and then the one in a house in the US where we stayed for a couple months during home assignment got me just that. much. closer. to. losing. my. mind. But I didn’t! I’m still here! Alive and well! Yes, let’s say well.  Fake it ’til you make it, right?

In all seriousness, I’ve missed sharing bits and pieces of our life here.  I have ideas pop into my head, but I don’t write them down and lose them before I do. I sit down to write and the words just don’t come or they seem wrong some how. I’ve thought a bit about trying to write posts about things I’m grateful for, big and small, so I’ll give it a whirl and see how it feels.

You want to know what I’m grateful for? Super practical, but useful things. I’m very thankful we have an automatic washing machine that has hot water functions AND an electric dryer. The dryer can be super noisy at times, but it works and it means the 5-8 loads of laundry I do in a day don’t have be dragged down a flight of stairs and hung out to dry where I hope the laundry doesn’t end up getting used as a bat toilet or rained on. Though I guess the rain might wash away the bat guano….

I’m thankful that we have a system for making sure we have drinking water without having to buy it. We bought all our drinking water when we first moved and we only had four people drinking water then. Drinking water is fairly inexpensive, but when you start adding up all the gallons of water we go through in a week it’s nice having filters and a large water boiler so we have that money to spend on cheese. I’m thankful for cheese.

We have four bathrooms, which means we have four toilets. I’m thankful we have four toilets. We’ve needed all of them at once before. Our bathrooms are not fancy, though I will say that one of the things I liked about this house over others we looked at was the black and white floor tiles in the bathrooms. They’re wet bathrooms, so it’s just a tiled room with a sink, a toilet, a mirror, and a shower.  And they’re not air conditioned, so I have to really decide if locking myself in the heat is worth a few minutes of personal space. Most of the time it is.

Speaking of air conditioners, I’m so thankful we have air conditioners in all of our bedrooms and our couple living spaces.  God even provided over the last year for us to replace units that weren’t working well. We’re much more used to the heat and have areas of our house that aren’t air conditioned (aforementioned bathrooms, the kitchen), but we’ve found we get better sleep if our bedrooms are a little cooler and the kids have an easier time concentrating on school when it’s not 85 degrees or more in the school room.

I’m thankful God has always given us food for our bellies and the flexibility and creativity to learn how to figure out where and how to buy ingredients and then prepare them in our little kitchen. I’m thankful He has always provided funds for the times we’ve needed to stock up on clothes and shoes. Our girl LOVES shoes, so that clearance sale at Crocs a year and a half ago and super clearance sandals from Wal-Mart and Target bought us a couple years of shoe joy for her.

Man, these days I’m thankful if I get all our sheets washed the day they’re changed or if all the dishes are washed by the end of the day. Can I tell you how thankful I am to have a husband who washes most of our dishes without complaining, even though the sink height would be better for hobbits and not full grown men? He’s grateful for the fan we bought for the kitchen to use when we aren’t trying to cook on the stove. Oh, yeah, I’m thankful for our oven. It’s not huge, but it’s an oven. Many a King birthday cake has come out of that oven (even the year I had to make three, yes three, rounds of batter for Isaac’s birthday because I forgot the water in the first two rounds).

I’m thankful we’ve lived in the same house the whole time we’ve lived here and have good landlords.  They’ve been kind to us and even reduced our rent all those months we were in the US during our first home assignment.  Our kids love this house and are really enjoying spending more time playing with kids across the street.  We don’t know how long we’ll get to live here, but we’re thankful for the years we’ve had and know we’ll have almost two more for now.

Well, there you have it-a fresh glimpse into the daily life of our family. Thanks for reading while I’m trying out some new things. Who knows what I’ll come up with next…

Year Five: Transitions

Between a pregnancy, homeschooling, and Toffer’s travel schedule the past year, my life has existed primarily within the concrete walls of our house.  Until a few months ago, most of my excursions outside the house were limited to doctor appointments, grocery and household shopping, church (the weeks I managed to get there), some lunches with our team, and very occasionally meeting a friend.  On top of that, we had fairly limited internet for a number of months, so connecting with people back in the US was not nearly as frequent as it once had been.  I’ll be very honest and say that this was the hardest year for me aside from our first year on the field.  I spent a lot of the year feeling isolated, lonely, and not having a lot of options or energy to change that.

The things that drained and spent me, the things that isolated me, were good and right to be doing. I absolutely would say that carrying, giving birth to, and caring for our daughter was the right thing to do.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave her to us. I’m so thankful Abigail is how God answered our prayers about what was going to come next for our family.  She’s sweet and LOVES her Mama and her older brothers took to having a baby sister like fish to water.  God knew we needed her in our family even when we didn’t.

Teaching our school age boys while trying to keep a toddler from flooding the house or throwing things out the window is a God-sized task I rarely feel that I am properly equipped or adequate for.  But it’s the right thing to do.  We’ve talked and prayed and sought counsel of people who know us and we have yet to find someone who says we should send our kids to school.  Every family is different.  What’s good and right for our kids is to be at home in this season.

Toffer’s work is valuable.  Samuel even so graciously said to me, “People say Baba is more important because the work he does is important.” Thanks, Samuel, for that piece of encouragement. {insert sarcasm emoji}  While I know that the work Toffer does is not more important than the work I do, I do know that what he does is valuable and is the right job for him and a good thing in a dark and desperate world.  And someday, when this world has gone back to dust and we are sitting on the other side of the tapestry the Master Weaver has made, we will see how the things done quietly in these years fit into the grand picture.

Doing what is good and right, following the path God laid before us, does not equal easy or secure.  It does not mean I woke up every morning feeling great and confident in who I am and in what God has for me. A lot of days it was the opposite. I felt burdened with the things I carried in my heart that I couldn’t share. I felt overwhelmed with raising five kids and feeling like no matter what I did I was doing something, or everything, wrong.  I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t enough for anybody, like I deserved the isolation and loneliness.  In reality, this was just a hard year.  I’m learning and growing to understand who I am and what God made me to do.  This year has been part of that process.  I will continue seeking the good and the right, seeking God’s path for my steps, knowing that He will make a way.

 

Our Father Rejoices with Joy

When I found out I was pregnant again I panicked….A LOT! Oh. My. Word. What if this baby is a girl????  I’ve never been one of those women who longed for a baby girl, who would only feel fulfilled in life if she raised a girl, or four. Girls just haven’t been on my radar. I have four boys and I LOVE being a boy mom. So there I was, pregnant and clearly something inside me knew this was different.  So I journaled and I prayed. I prayed frequently and fervently that God would give me a love for whoever this child was that I was carrying. That no matter what I would want to be this little ones mom and love him or her just like I love my boys.

The birth story with this pregnancy is long and complicated. If you want to know, I’ll gladly share. I’m just not much for doing that here.  We were in the delivery room and the doctor handed me this baby, moved away the cord and I saw we had a GIRL! A very blue and not breathing girl, but a GIRL! Waves of both great concern and huge amounts of love rushed over me. The cord was cut quickly, our pediatrician was called down and thankfully our little girl cried her first cry shortly after.

And then I got to really hold her.  The first picture of me with her is me full-on ugly crying, but they were tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of thankfulness that God had answered my prayer. He gave us a girl. A beautiful, wonderful, sweet, amazing little girl. I never knew how much I wanted a girl until He gave me this one.  I’m still not sold on being a “girl mom,” but I’m completely sold on being this girl’s mom.

Her four older brothers love and adore her.  We are smitten and love her more than words will ever express. God knew what our family needed when our family needed it. And so, in early March, we welcomed our very first daughter, Miss Abigail Joy.