If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything At All

I was checking out at the grocery store the other day and had to do a lot to keep my mouth shut. The girl who was scanning all my items, I’ll call her Checkout Girl, was talking to another girl who appeared to work in the deli or bakery, I’ll call her Bakery Girl.  So Bakery Girl started in about how Christmas is SO important to her. She just HAS to have the day off from work. And the way she was going to make sure she had the day off was to tell her boss that it’s a religious holiday and she needs it off for her religion.  She kept going on and on, laughing the whole time about how she was going to get the day off for religion and if she says it’s for her religion they HAVE to let her take the day off. She got Checkout Girl going, too, and they had a jolly time laughing about how Bakery Girl was going to take Christmas off for her “religion.”  It took a lot for me not to yell

IT IS A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY!!!

And to not continue on about how Christmas is about Jesus and not whether or not she has the day off.  {Then indignantly stomp off in a huff because I was SO offended by her yucking it up.}

I kept my mouth shut, paid for my groceries, smiled at the girl who was bagging groceries listening to the whole exchange while also keeping her mouth shut, then went home and whined to Toffer about the preposterous conversation and how I wouldn’t likely hear something similar in Asia. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. I think we can all agree that yelling at Bakery Girl and Checkout Girl would not have been the best way to tell them about the wondrous birth of our Savior.  In hindsight, of course, I wish I had spoken truth in love to them and told them how…

Those who are hungry will be fed for Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Those who are thirsty will be quenched for Jesus is Living Water.

Those who are tired will find renewal for Jesus brings Rest.

Those who are weary will find their loads lightened for His Burden is Light.

Those who are mourning will be comforted for Jesus Weeps with Them.

Those who are seeking Him will find Him here for He is Emmanuel, God with Us.

Those who are experiencing discord will be calmed for Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Those who are lost will find directions for He is The Way.

Those who are confused will be re-focused for He is The Truth.

Those who are dying will be reborn for He is The Life.

Those who need redemption will find it because Jesus is our SAVIOR.

 

Christmas is a special and holy day set apart to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel who came to dwell among us and save us.  My prayer is that God will give me words to say to anyone else I may encounter, words of kindness and truth that reflect this auspicious occasion of Christmas. And that somehow Bakery Girl and Checkout Girl would see the truth themselves of this “religious” holiday and celebrate it for what it truly is.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Grateful We Thrive

Our fall has been a whirlwind of activity and travel.  The males in our household are all sad that none of the travel for them has involved flying (except Daniel, who took a short trip with me to see my brother’s family and meet my new niece).  Had our original plans been in place I would have written my annual “we made it another year on the field” post from the field. Our third year was cut a bit short and with the aforementioned travel I didn’t get it written at what would have been the three year mark, so I’m combining it with my annual Thanksgiving post.

I’ve been grateful to have Christian music on the radio to listen to since we’ve been back in the U.S.  The content on the English-language radio stations can be iffy where we are, so we usually don’t have the radio on in the car. One of the songs I’ve really enjoyed since we’ve been back is Thrive by Casting Crowns. Our first year in the field we survived-God SUSTAINED us and brought us through. Our second year was about learning to really built a new life-We PERSEVERED and God gave us the strength to continue on no matter what came our way.  Our third year was about life becoming richer and fuller. I feel like I can say we began to THRIVE. For that, I am grateful.

I am grateful for so many, many things from this past year and really the past three years as a whole. I’m grateful for things that you may think I’m completely crazy for being grateful for.

I’m grateful for all the physical and mental illness we walked through. I’m grateful for Samuel’s hospitalizations, especially his last one.  God used that week in such a mighty way for me personally and our family as a whole.

I’m grateful for all the trial and error we had to do to learn to live in Asia. For learning to let go of having to get things right on the first, second, twenty-second try.

I’m grateful for all the good-byes I said because it means there were people to say good-bye to and that I’m heading towards hellos.

I’m grateful for every single tear I shed, especially in moments of utter despair.

I’m grateful God opened my eyes to see the world around me and for the love He’s grown in me for people who are nothing like me. He’s shown me that no matter what someone believes or where they’re from they are valuable to Him, so they should be valuable to me.

I’m grateful for Asia becoming home.

I’m grateful for all the friends I’ve made and what I’ve learned about the world from them.  I love that we’ve not only learned the local culture where we are, but also about other cultures around the world because of friends we’ve made.

I’m grateful for playgroup and other moms in the trenches with me and the ladies a little beyond us in life who are there to walk alongside us.

I’m grateful for the people at the veggie stall and the fruit stand and the frozen food store and the baking store and all the other places we frequent who we’ve started developing relationships with.

I’m grateful for our early return to the U.S. It was under very stressful circumstances and not at all how we wanted to leave, but God knew it needed to happen.

I’m grateful for boys who love to fly!

I’m grateful for my boys. For all the dirt and noise and dinosaurs and trains and hugs and kisses and early mornings. I’m so very, very grateful I get to parent them.

I’m grateful for a husband who really is my better half.

I’m grateful for not having an easy life, but having a good life.

I’m grateful for being uncomfortable and for the discomfort challenging me.

I’m grateful for churches that are rough around the edges, full of people who are real, and that understand all people are ordinary and God is what makes any of us extraordinary.

I’m grateful for being an ordinary person who lives an extraordinary life.

I’m grateful for what I’ve learned through homeschooling my boys and that they seem to have learned something, too.

I’m grateful we work for an incredible organization and an amazing team within the organization.  We would not be so very eager to get back to Asia if it wasn’t for our team.

I’m grateful for good music and impromptu dance parties.

I’m grateful for reunions, especially after such a long absence. The random ones where we’ve just run into someone in town have been particularly fun. We have more to come with family this week with Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful for laughter, especially the pure, unadulterated laughter from the small humans I live with.

I’m grateful for learning to live in paradox and for it becoming easier to do so. I’m much more comfortable with not having to have all the answers. And I appreciate the mystery of who God is so much more.

I’m grateful that whether or not I call myself blessed has nothing to do with financial means or how much stuff I have.  The hardest things we’ve walked through have blessed me the most.

I’m grateful God has allowed me to be the most broken I’ve been in my entire life and held me through it all.

I’m grateful God has refined me, sustained me, grown me, opened my world.

I’m grateful I am not who I was three years ago and I do not want to give up anything I have experienced in the past three years to make me who I am. I do not want to repeat some of the things I’ve gone through and do not wish them upon anyone, but I could not be who I am today without those experiences.

God is good.

 

And It Feels Like Home: Asian Edition

About three years ago I wrote this post about places that feel like home.  At the end I said that I hoped one day our new Asian city would feel like home.  And three years later I can finally write the follow-up to say that it feels like home here.  Toffer quickly took to calling where we live home.  He travels with some frequency and needed to feel like he had a place to land, a place that was a haven and a comfort and a place where we are a family together.

The boys took to calling this home at different stages. Our boys who were born here obviously feel like this is home. Benjamin was young enough when we moved that this became home pretty quickly.  Samuel took a little longer to warm up.  He still sometimes insists that America is home, though we know he’ll miss home here when he’s in America.  I took my slow, sweet time warming up to living here and having this become home.

It took me three Christmases, three Thanksgivings, many birthdays, having two children here, and investing in a life here day after day after day to finally be able to say, “This is home.” One day in my Attitude of Gratitude project I was thankful that my bedroom had become a haven, a safe place for me.  In the months after Isaac was born I hated our bedroom. I honestly really didn’t like our house in general. I really didn’t like being here in general.  It was hard. It was painful. Everything in my life was in transition and I felt lost. I had a lot of anxiety after Isaac was born for a wide variety of reasons.

But I woke up every day. I got out of bed every day. I forced myself to learn how to live here. I prayed for boldness and courage to build relationships here. I kept telling Toffer I never expect to have an easy life here, but I wanted to have a good life here.  Over time some things got a little easier. And over time the richness of life here got a hold of me.  Over time I went from trying to find every way off this island to getting to the point that I was less-than-thrilled with taking the last trip we went on. I wanted to just stay home.

Home is one of those things that can’t be measured or specified. You just know it when you see it. And what makes this home is not what made me feel at home in Tennessee or any of the other places I’ve lived that feel like home.  I’m thankful to have multiple earthly homes where I’ve loved and been loved, where I’ve invested and built a life, where I can go and find pieces of my past.  Ultimately I know my real home is in heaven and nowhere on earth will fully satisfy that longing for belonging and feeling fully settled.  I will live in my earthly home as long as God sees fit and look forward to eternity where I will be settled forever.

We are Weird Redux

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago entitled “We are Weird.”  Apparently we are weird because somehow that post has disappeared. Toffer used all his internet and computer know-how to try to retrieve said missing post, but to no avail. I really liked the original post and wish it still existed (note to self-back up website posts), but the information it conveyed was important enough that I’m going to write about the same topic and hope it generally conveys the same idea.

I have a feeling when we’re in the US people are going to talk to us, and especially our kids, and think (or possibly even say to someone else) “Wow-they are weird!”  They will be correct. We are weird.  We’ve come by our weirdness honestly.  It’s taken us literally years to develop this level of weirdness, so we might as well let the freak flag fly.  The homeschool coordinator at the Christian school here sent out the article I Am a Triangle in the last homeschool newsletter of the year.  He knew people would be going off for the summer or leaving for good and thought it would help normalize the experience.  The article explains what it’s like for an ex-pat to go back “home” after being overseas for a period of time.

The jist of the article: The home country is Yellow Circle Land.  We, as Yellow Circles, leave Yellow Circle Land and go to Blue Square Land.  Blue Square Land is very different from Yellow Circle Land.  At first Blue Square Land is a difficult and confusing place to live.  Over time the Yellow Circles become more and more acculturated to Blue Square Land. Blue Square Land becomes more interesting.  Yellow Circles become less yellow and less circle-like. Yellow Circles can’t ever truly be Blue Squares (I’m much too tall!), but Yellow Circle isn’t a good descriptor, either. Over time Yellow Circles become Green Triangles.

green triangle

We are a family of Green Triangles, all six of us.  Some of us became Green Triangles through lots of stress and tears, trial and error, and praying “God don’t let us do something stupid.”  A couple were literally born into being Green Triangles.  Regardless, we’re all Green Triangles and we’re going back to Yellow Circle Land.  The Yellow Circles will likely expect us to still be Yellow Circles.  We generally look and talk like Yellow Circles, so we must be Yellow Circles.  We aren’t. Our kids especially aren’t. So, that leaves us in an interesting spot.

We know our interactions with some Yellow Circles will be uncomfortable and awkward. We know we’ll have to re-learn, or for our kids-learn for the first time, how to live in Yellow Circle Land.  But in everything we do we’ll still be Green Triangles. We don’t really fit in Blue Square Land and we won’t really fit in Yellow Circle Land. We fit everywhere and nowhere all at once.  We are weird.

And we are okay with being weird. We actually like being Green Triangles.  We know that’s not okay with some people. But we also know some people will thoroughly enjoy our Green Triangle-ness. Those are the people who will welcome us into their lives, laugh and cry and talk with us, and learn to be a little weird like we are.

Our World According to Children’s Books

We read a lot of children’s books in our house.  Some of the books we read to our kids really resonate with us and life overseas.

God Gave us the WorldGod Gave Us the World by Lisa Tawn Bergren is a sweet story that simply shows life in other places is different. A polar bear cub is at a museum with her mom and finds how bears in other places of the world live differently than she does. It’s a simple way of showing how life is not wrong in other places, it’s just different.  Like how we don’t drive on the wrong side of the road, we just drive on a different side of the road than in some places in the world. It’s not wrong to use metric measurements, it’s just different than using standard.  It’s not wrong to eat “fish with a face” (shrimp with the shells still on), it’s just different. It’s not wrong to eat banana leaf meals with our hands, it’s just different.

 

Little PipWhere is Home, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson.  Karma Wilson’s books are popular with our whole family.  In this one a young penguin gets separated from her parents and asks other animals where home to see if she can find her way back.  Each one has a different answer for where home is for them. Eventually she reunites with her parents and they say home is where they are all together.  The concept of “home” is a tricky one for those of us who live overseas, especially kids.  Home is a place that’s different for everyone.  Asking our family where home is will result in different answers from each of us and could change from day-to-day.

 

Grandfather's JourneyGrandfather’s Journey by Allen Say.  This book was part of Samuel’s school curriculum this year.  The book is beautifully illustrated and tells the story of the author’s Japanese grandfather who immigrated to the United States. It poignantly explains the paradox of wanting to be in more than one place at a time and how more than one place can feel like home. We certainly relate to feeling like we have multiple places that are “home.”  Our three youngest kids would probably all say that Asia is home, but Samuel still says America is home at times and the adults in our house say where we are in Asia is home and that places in America are home.  We have bouts of homesickness for the US and know that when we’re in the US we’ll have bouts of homesickness for Asia.  The desire to be in our true home in heaven has become much stronger as we’ve lived here.

 

Red FoxHello, Red Fox by Eric Carle. This book is really cool.  Eric Carle wrote and illustrated the book to reflect Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s color theory.  If you stare at something long enough, then shift your eyes to a white wall/piece of paper/etc. you’ll see the same shape in the inverse color. So the book is designed such that you stare at the illustrations for 10 seconds or so, then shift your eyes to the opposing white page to see it in a different color. I find it relaxing to read the book if I’m not reading it to the boys when they want to hurry through it.  As we have adjusted to life in a different culture we’ve had to shift our thinking, behavior, and lifestyle.  We stared at our old life long enough, then shifted our eyes to our new life to see something sort of familiar and similar, but also sort of the opposite.  And we have learned we sometimes have to really study and look at the various cultures we encounter to see them for what they truly are.

 

 

My Lent Project: An Attitude of Gratitude

Lent started this year not long after Daniel was born.  I didn’t exactly have the mental capacity to seriously consider what I would fast from this year and was so focused on figuring out life with four kids that plenty of the things I might give up I pretty much already had.  So I decided to try to develop a new discipline during Lent instead.  Everyday I would write a short paragraph about something I’m grateful for that day.  Just one thing.  Not a list of this, that, and the other.  One specific thing that I was grateful for that day.  Some days I felt like I had a million things to write about and other days it was pretty easy to stick to just one.

Usually Lent ends on Palm Sunday, but I decided to keep up my new discipline for another week until Easter.  I know what I was thankful for on Easter-it was the first time Daniel and I had been to church since he was born. The two previous weeks we missed because Samuel had been so very, very sick and the rest of us had been sick with this and that and we were gone one Sunday and in the end THAT was the first Sunday our family of six made it to church.  We were so very thankful to celebrate our risen Saviour together.

So I made it all the way through Lent and had pages and pages of my journal full of all these great things I was thankful for.  And I really liked it.  I liked it so much I decided to make it a year-long project instead of just a Lenten project. I loosened my own rules and some days write a few sentences about a couple things I’m thankful for instead of just one. And I’ll be completely honest that I don’t write every single day, but I do make a mental note about what I’m thankful for and write it down when I get a chance.  On the 365th day I’ll be able to go back and see all the incredible things God did in my life just by learning to be more grateful.

Today I’m really grateful for all the people who give to make it possible for us to serve full time.  On Friday I was really grateful for finishing our school year and getting a couple months break before we start again. On 21 May I was grateful for the heart God is giving Benjamin to tell people about Him. On 27 April I was grateful for bed time and the fact that all days end- good, bad, or otherwise.  On 8 April I was really grateful Samuel didn’t remember anything from the time he fell asleep on the 7th until he woke up on the 8th in the hospital.  On 15 March I was thankful for rain after several hot, rainless months.  On the first day of Lent I was really grateful for the gift of marriage and the incredible husband God gave me as a partner in life.

The months ahead will bring plenty of things to be grateful for-birthdays, milestones, seeing family and friends in the US, eating at Toot’s (this will probably make more than one appearance on my list-Toot’s is tasty). No matter how easy or hard a day is, no matter if there are more tears or more laughter, I know God’s mercy and compassion are new every morning and He has promised to never leave or forsake me.  And for that I know I will always have something for which to be grateful.

Family

Everyone is born into a family.  Usually the family you’re born into is also the one who raises you, but sometimes you are raised by an adoptive family.  If you’re married you gain new family members along with your spouse. And then there’s the family God gives you when you join His eternal family.  When you live 10,000 miles away from the first two kinds of family, the third kind of family is what gets you through.

In the past two months our fourth son, Daniel, was born, we made two out-of-town trips with all four boys, Toffer went to the US, and everyone in our family has been sick at least once, including Samuel being hospitalized for almost a week.  I have to admit-I’m a little spent right now, but not nearly as spent as I would have been without our “family” being here for us.

When  you call someone at 10:30 at night saying you need to take your oldest kid to the hospital and they come right then, no questions asked, you know they love you.

When they stay at your house and take care of two of your other children while that oldest child is in the hospital for almost a week and do your laundry (including the bloody mess that led you to saying you needed to go to the hospital) and tell you just to focus on the two kids you have with you, you know they REALLY love you.

When someone sends you a text and asks what you need and says “be honest, not polite” you know they’re serious and you know they love you.

When they sit in the hospital with your oldest and youngest kids so you can get a few minutes by yourself after bringing you a tasty dinner, you know they REALLY love you.

When they bring you a meal on Monday night because you had a baby six weeks ago and your husband is on the other side of the world, you know they love you.

When they ask on Friday what you want for dinner after bringing you dinner on Monday and bring you a hamburger and fries at the hospital after you say “something filling and more American than Asian”, you know they REALLY love you.

When they visit you in the hospital and bring some munchies for you and a book to borrow for the kid in the hospital, you know they love you.

When they also drop off a lasagna at your house the day you get home from the hospital along with some tasty bread to keep in the freezer for later and then bring you soup and garlic bread a couple weeks after that, you know they REALLY love you.

When you send a Facebook message asking them if they’ll make good on a meal this week that you cancelled last week because of being in the hospital and the response is “we’ll be there tomorrow,” you know they love you.

When they come by and pick up their dishes so you don’t have to worry about getting them back, you know they REALLY love you.

When they bring you two lasagnas, one for now and one for later, a month after you’ve had a baby and on the day your husband drove to the capital to pick up said baby’s passport, you know they love you.

When they do it for you even though they’re sick, you know they REALLY love you.

We have been loved on and cared for by our team and our church in amazing ways over the past couple months and especially the week Samuel was in the hospital.  We certainly miss our family back in the US, but having we are so very, very blessed to have local family-incredible people we share our lives with and who are there for us like family would be.

FOUR Boys

So this post is a little late seeing as our newest lad is about a month old, but late is better than never.  We are excited to announce that God gave our family another boy who we named Daniel John. Yes, that means we have FOUR boys five and under.  We’re still wrapping our heads around the fact that six years ago I was pregnant with Samuel and here we are today with four boys.  Labor was a little longer than expected (over 24 hours from start to delivery), but it was completely natural and ended in a water birth, which was an interesting experience and made his birth much different than the others.  He was our largest baby at birth (over 9 pounds) and has grown quite a bit in the weeks since.  He’s a sweet, content baby.  The older three boys love him and have adjusted very well to having another person in the house.

Years ago we didn’t know how God would build our family-if biological children were even an option for us or if we’d have all adopted children or some of each or if God would call us to a childless marriage. And even when we had one we didn’t know if we would have more or how they would be added to our family.  Well, God made His plans clear with four boys given to us each just at the right time over the past six years.  I don’t know why God gave us four boys in six years and we have friends our age who long to be married with children and aren’t or have wanted kids for the past six years while we’ve added one after another.  I do know that we are very thankful for the children we have. We know that having children is a great responsibility and a great joy.  Our house is chaotic and we don’t get as much sleep as we might like, but we LOVE having four boys and thank God daily for them.

Thankful

Sometimes God gives you Peanut Butter M&M’s at just the right time.  Only one other time since we’ve lived here have Peanut Butter M&M’s been available at the grocery store.  I know, it seems SO shallow, but I like them and God knows that and He knew that today I really needed to find that little gem in the grocery store. I love that God knows me so well, so intimately, to know that Peanut Butter M&M’s would make me feel loved and would redeem a day that wasn’t going so well.  I shared a bag with the boys in the car and have 5 in the fridge for the future. For that I am thankful.

I have so many things I could write about that I’m thankful for. I could write thousands of words about the gift of marriage and how thankful I am Toffer and I are just right for each other and the precious and very special gift of children God bestowed upon me.  I am, of course, thankful for family and friends, for a solid church where we have found community, for a job we enjoy that we know has great purpose and meaning, and for God providing for all of our needs and giving so many wants.

I’m thankful I don’t live in a country where I’m told how many children I’m allowed to have, what I am or am not allowed to do in parenting my children, and that I have a choice in educating my children. I have great respect for people who do live in countries like that and do what they know is right. I’m thankful we’re not in a situation where our children, or even myself, have a high risk of being trafficked and that we know people who work to help those who have been.

I’m thankful for the people who give up their families, friends, jobs, freedom and even their lives to follow Jesus.  Many of the nationals we work with have sacrificed a lot in order to follow Jesus and to tell others about Him.  It’s humbling and challenging.

I’m thankful God has pushed me to be willing to give up things for Him, including my own life and the lives of my family.  I’m thankful He hasn’t called me to that yet and know that if He ever does He will see us through.

I’m thankful for the core group of people who have committed to give money and pray for us day in and day out. Without their sacrifices of time, money, and energy we would not be able to be here.  We have people who have supported our ministry for over four years now and those people make our world go round. If you’re one of them-I thank you again.

I’m thankful for living a life that requires me to depend on God day in and day out. I’m thankful for the difficulties living this life has brought because God has used them to refine me, prune me, mold me, and grow me.  I am not who I was two years ago and for that I am thankful.

I’m thankful God knows I am human. He knows I am not perfect and He still loves me and carries me and extends grace to me daily.

I’m thankful for technology, even when it doesn’t always work.  Without computers, internet, and smartphones we would be much less connected as a family and to those near and far.  Toffer’s trips are much more manageable when we can send messages and pictures back and forth. Being 10,000 miles away from family and friends is more bearable when we can Skype and connect through Facebook and emails.  The world has become smaller and larger for us thanks to technology.

I’m thankful for superficial things like Peanut Butter M&M’s and yellow boxes of Cheerios and bagels and all the other treats and tiny treasures God has placed along our way to make things feel a bit more “normal.”  I’m thankful for family and friends who have asked what would make things just a bit easier or would brighten our world and spent ridiculous sums of money sending them our way.

I’m thankful this rainy season has been particularly rainy because it has given us a few days of slightly cooler temperatures.  When you spend 30 years of your life in a four-season climate not having seasons messes with your head and makes you feel a bit crazy.  Monsoon season has helped that just a bit this year.

I’m thankful that each and every day is a new day created by God. His mercies and compassion are new every morning when I wake up and I tell Him that I know that almost every morning.

Thanksgiving is six days away. What are you thankful for this year? What’s on your heart?

 

 

Year Two: Perseverance

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

A little over a year ago I wrote about our first year being summed up in one word: Sustained.  Our second year in Asia can also be summed up in one word: Perseverance.  Our second year fittingly came to a close at it began: with vomit.  That might seem like too much information for you, but it’s true and it’s our life.  Last year on 10 October Samuel woke up at 1 am getting sick (almost exactly a year to the minute of when we landed in our new city) and ended up spending three days in the hospital-his first of two hospital stays this past year.  This year we had a great outing planned to go to a local garden in the morning and dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant we really like.  That plan screeched to a halt in the parking lot of a gas station I pulled into when Benjamin kept saying he felt sick.  Samuel’s almost monthly stomach virus had hit both him and Benjamin and a couple days later I also got to experience it.  If you can’t tell I’ve become rather comfortable with talking about illness. It’s been a significant part of lives this year.

Month after month we’ve prayed and asked people to pray for health and strength as we continued on with illness after illness. And it hasn’t just been our boys. Toffer came home from four or five trips in a row with one illness or another. We joke that we should have a reserved parking place at the hospital since we go so often.  Other than morning sickness and a couple other illnesses God has very graciously spared me from most of what has come through our house.  I’m not sure we would have made if I had been getting sick along with everyone else.

After several months of what seemed like non-stop illness it appeared to us that we weren’t going to get a reprieve, so we began asking for prayer for strength, perseverance, and energy to keep going even with all the illness.  God was faithful to us. He gave us those things and so much more.

Somehow we still managed to invest in relationships.  We got through one year of school and started another.  The boys played outside when they weren’t sick and made friends with a few neighbor kids.  We got to church-sometimes more sporadically than others.  Toffer never had to cancel or change dates of a work trip due to illness in our family.  We continued to settle in to our new normal, which just happens to include a lot of time at the hospital.  We celebrated birthdays and rejoiced in milestones our boys reached.

I certainly would not ever wish illness upon any of my sweet boys.  I would never want any of them to be sick.  But all of the time spent at the hospital, all the medications and treatments, all of the discomfort and pain they’ve endured, the isolation we’ve experienced (which definitely contributed to our homesickness this summer)-it was all worth it.  God grew us and strengthened us and pushed us to keep going when the going was tough.  I would never give back the opportunity to be right in the middle of where God wants me when He wants me there to use me and grow me and bring glory to Himself.  At times I questioned whether we were doing the right thing by staying, but God kept saying “stay” and kept reminding me that going back to the US would not change anything except that we would not be where He wanted us to be.

We say frequently that this life will never be easy (cross-cultural living is hard even without illness), but this life is good because God is good. I don’t know what the next year will bring for our family. We know Caterpillar will make an arrival in February. Our boys will continue to grow and eat every meal like they’re in an eating competition.  Toffer will continue to travel to places near and far as God shows the way for him and the rest of our team.  We will keep going to four or five places to get most of what’s on our grocery list and figure out what to do to make up for what’s missing.  Every day will be a new day created by God to be used for His glory. And we will keep going day-by-day with His strength, perseverance, and grace.