Monday, January 27, 2014

Letting go

One of the things Bart and I have been talking about lately has been expanding our family.  It hasn't been an easy topic for me.  I think in many ways I've always wanted the American dream.  Part of that means that I would have my kids ordered in a certain way and we would stay in one place.  Our kids would grow up in the home we live in for 40 years.  Our kids would live close.  We would see them often.  We would have consistency in being together and we would be happy.

But that's a lie.  Just because our family could be all together, or stay relatively close together and see each other often, doesn't mean that we're happy.  Or whole.  Or anything really.  I want my kids to grow up and be independent.  I want them to live their own lives.  I don't want them to settle for any expectations I have of them.  But I also want them to dream and live way beyond my expectations.  It's not my life, but theirs.

One thing I do want for them is for them to walk with Jesus.  And I don't want to get in the way of that.  I want to live my life in a way that allows them to see that giving up the American dream is worth it for me.  Right now what that means is living in Venezuela.  It may mean something else when we go back to the States.  It may mean never living somewhere for longer than 5 or 10 years.  It may mean living overseas and not getting to see my kids when they're grown up and in college and making adult decisions.  It could even mean not getting to see my grandkids very often.  It may mean a lot of things.

What I do want our lives to mean is that I gave all for Jesus.  I can honestly say that there are times that I don't know what that means.  But I don't want to put expectations on my family and what I think my family should look like right now.  So what if we can't adopt for another 10 years?  So what if our kids are 12 years apart in age?  I want to let go of some of my dreams.  They may just be holding me back from happiness in Christ.  Thank you, Jesus, that you can fulfill, that you can dream big, that you can bring life.  I pray that you would be the One who sustains when my hopes, dreams, desires get in the way of walking with You.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A sweet day

Tuesday evening we were finally able to celebrate Christmas with the team.  We had decided to do a secret Santa and I think most people really had fun doing that.  We had a no money as a gift rule, but my person cheated on that.  But I was for sure ok with it.  See the picture.

The kids were really precious during that time though.  They knew they wouldn't really be getting presents and they seemed to actually enjoy helping others open their presents.  And they also were genuinely excited for what people were getting.  It was a fun and proud time for us that our kids could love the team well and be so animated and enthusiastic for someone else!

This picture is great for so many reasons.  The kids are
helping Tommy open his gifts.  But in the background,
you can also Tony holding a wooden sword while
wearing a t-shirt with a picture of himself.  Yup,
 some of the gifts were pretty amusing.
Thursday was a really fun and unique day.  I was gone in the morning for some much needed time with Julieta, the Venezuelan staff mom on our team.  When I came back, Bart was ready to leave for campus.  Leah, of course, asked if she could go to campus.

Long story short, she went to campus with Bart.  They had fun.  They took coloring things.  She got to wander around in classrooms and "teach" different people on the team.  She sat and ate lunch with people.  She had a really good time.  And she did really good.

Noah and I Skyped with my parents and there was no chaos or arguing.  Then we decide we would go get pizza.  He picked the place, of course, because he said we should get ice cream there while we waited for our pizza.  He knows what he's doing.

We took a couple of books and I read to him while we waited for the pizza.  We sat together and talked and enjoyed pizza.  Then we had to get ice cream.  Obviously.  Then we bought some milk (buffalo/cow milk, but go with it).  I promised him he could use the iPad for a little bit before Bart and Leah returned.  He decided he needed to watch a show on there, so that was a special treat.

It was a fun little morning/afternoon.  Our kids are really great.  But they fight like cats and dogs quite often.  When they're separate though, they are almost always really, really well behaved.  Overall, it was just fun for both of us to get to spend some one-on-one time with them.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Processing and our future

I read this devotional and I feel like it really relates to a little bit of what our lives have been like lately.  God redeems the Israelites

Sometimes I think, why did we come to Venezuela?  Life is just so hard at times here.  Other times recently, I've had the thoughts of why did you deport us from Venezuela?  None of it really seems to make sense.  I just don't have the wisdom or the foresight for these kinds of things.

It is something that I think most of the team is wrestling through.  As I spent time with the women on our team yesterday, I couldn't help but be broken hearted for them.  Many are just trying to recover from everything that happened.  Many feel like they have nothing to give.  In ministry or in life.  And it just breaks my heart that they've had to deal with these hard realities.

What feels equally as strange is that I'm not even remotely qualified, not to mention going through the same thing as them, to be able to walk them through this.  I wish I could help.  But maybe helping just means pointing them to websites like this, pointing them to Jesus, just sitting and listening.  Really that's all I have to give.

Part of the sad reality of all of the deportation process is that it has solidified our decision to return to the States and stay with Cru there.  Of course there are many reasons for our decision, but it honestly feels like it's been pretty hard to recover from the past month.  We were already in a place where it felt really hard to stay here long-term and were wrestling with what to do with our future.  But we are just emotionally, relationally and mentally exhausted.  We need time to recoup.

So what does this mean?  We don't really know exactly.  Bart is having conversations with the region about our future.  We don't know much at this point, but we do know that we love our region and we love what we do and we for sure don't want to leave staff.  We are anxious to figure out the next step in our lives, but we also want to be wise with our future.  That means lots of conversations with people about what would be good/healthy for us with the transition ahead.  So for now, we wait.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting settled

The house is clean, the groceries are bought, the presents have been unwrapped.  We are settled.  Getting back into the swing of things hasn't really happened yet.  The last group from the team arrived late last night.  The team is finally complete.

Now it's a matter of figuring out how everyone is doing, what we need to put in the schedule, where classes are actually in session.  We know the main campus shouldn't really be starting until next week, so there shouldn't be too much pressure.  Hopefully next week will look more normal where we have a typical schedule and some consistency.

The past few days the kids have been loving playing with their new toys.  On Saturday we were able to sit down as a family and celebrate Christmas together.  With being in the States and bouncing around during the holidays, it was really nice to be able to just be together as a family.

After about 2 hours of opening presents, we were done.  We took our time and enjoyed the process.  We had received so many presents from grandparents and siblings, that we had an absurd amount of presents to open.  The kids of course didn't mind.  It's a huge blessing to be able to get things from the States, so we are so grateful for everything we (and they) received.

We've also been processing through everything that has happened.  It's been interesting for both of us.  For me, it's involved a lot of tears.  For Bart, it's been processing through what this all means for our future.  Neither of us have a ton of coherent thoughts on how to handle everything that has happened over the past month.  But we do know that we need to move forward with making a decision about our future.  More on that later.  For now, here are some pictures....

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We made it!

We landed around 10:15 yesterday morning.  We were toward the end of the immigration line.  We ended up being with 2 others from the team who had missed their flight from the night before.  We were all a bit anxious.  Tommy got through no questions asked.  Megan was asked a few questions.  And we were by far asked the most.  Leah's birthday.  How old are the kids?  Did we have a number?  It was odd.  But he didn't seem that interested.  He let us through.

PRAISE THE LORD!  At that point, we didn't care at all that it took forever to get our bags.  Nor did we care that we were eating arepas for lunch at the airport.  We just cared that we were there.  We were in and we could live in Venezuela again.  We had a 3ish hour car ride to Valencia.  The kids were pooped and both slept at different points.  It was so relieving.

We arrived to have a few people greet us and help us with our bags.  It was fun to see faces from the team and students.  We enjoyed the warm weather and didn't even mind how dirty our apartment was.  We were home.  The kids didn't even come with us to take the bags to our place.  Kristin stayed with them while they played in the courtyard area.  We went and got water to drink since we had barely any.  Ran into some other people doing that, gathered our kids and just relished in the fact that we were home.

What followed was a nice little time of each of us opening 1 Christmas present.  It was really sweet and fun.  The kids were so excited to see their toys again.  Then the unpacking of the bags began.  This was no small feat.  4 loads of laundry later, and I'm still not done.  We all went to bed at a decent time and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we were no longer living out of suitcases, sleeping in beds that weren't our own and no longer living in limbo.  It feels great!

Today we celebrated Christmas.  More on that later.  For now, we are just super grateful that we didn't have any issues getting back in.  We are blessed beyond what we could ever imagine.  We are home.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

On our way

We're in Curacao.  We arrived last night.  After 3 flights and somewhere around 12 hours of travel time, we arrived at our second hotel in 2 nights.  Tomorrow we will leave to fly to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.  We're hopeful that we will be able to get in ok.  Part of the team, 3 people, were able to get in yesterday.  Another group of 3 arrives there tonight.

Please pray for our family during this transition.  Last night, Noah was awake off and on for about 4 hours.  He had diarrhea and eventually threw up.  Once he threw up he started feeling better and finally went back to sleep.  We're not sure if it could've been something he ate or if it's a stomach bug.  If it's a stomach bug, we'll all probably be sharing it here shortly.  Hopefully not on the plane or the 3ish hour car ride from the airport tomorrow!

Being in Curacao is good for our hearts though.  We're at one of the cheapest hotels we could find and packed a bunch of food, so we don't have to eat out if possible.  It's amazing that it was cheaper for us to stay 2 nights in Curacao than get direct tickets into Venezuela for our family.  It's probably a good transition for our kids too.  We're just taking time today to recoup and swim.  And of course watch some kids shows!

We're hopeful that in approximately 26 or so hours, we'll be back in our apartment.  Of course that means getting suitcases unpacked, laundry to do, grocery shopping, cleaning up our apartment after sitting for a month.  And it wouldn't be complete without opening some Christmas presents!  We haven't decided yet how to do it, but it would just be pure torture for the kids at this point, not to let them bust into something tomorrow.

More to come, hopefully from Venezuela!  Until then, here are some more random pictures from Aruba.  We're looking forward to being back home to have a working camera and take some actual pictures of our own.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The coming storm

Ohio has a storm coming.  A brutal, blizzard-like storm coming.  Not exactly the kind of thing you want to happen a couple of days before you leave the country.  Flights have been delayed and cancelled all over the country from the previous storm.  The temperatures are at or near 0.  The wind chill is in the negatives.

To be honest, we're really enjoying being here during the winter.  It's a very much nice change of pace from the hot weather in Venezuela.  We never checked the weather there.  Hot and sunny.  Or hot and rainy.  Pretty predictable.  But this, this Ohio weather, you just never know what you'll get.  And we love that.

Ok, don't get us wrong, there will be a part of us that's very excited to enter back into the world of no socks, no coats, no gloves, etc.  We'll enjoy the kids feeling confident enough to dress themselves because it's not quite so complicated.  Leaving the house is a breeze.  But we don't have a car.  The grocery store might or might not (this is more likely) have milk.  It's for sure a trade off.

With going back to Venezuela comes the time of getting resettled.  It could be challenging.  Or it could be easy.  At the very least, it will be a difficult transition for some on the team.  There is potential for a really hard first few weeks back.  For everyone, including us.

We're hopeful that our kids will transition well.  They consider it home.  However, it's not easy the longer we're here.  They enjoy life here, but this also isn't reality.  This is "a special treat" as we tell the kids.  More tv to watch, more desserts, more foods they wouldn't normally get.  Of course, it's difficult for them to understand.  How do you explain what's happening to a 3 and 5 year old?

Right now, we're a little bit anxious, to be honest.  What will the coming weeks look like?  Will we even be able to get into the country again?  Will our apartment be a filthy mess (and probably incredibly hot)?  Will we be glad to be back?  Will it be easy or difficult (or somewhere in between) to step back into normal life?

This is the reality of our lives right now.  It's messy.  It's not always easy.  But we are very much ready to not be living in limbo anymore.  Our hearts need to be settled right now.  The emotional toll that this all has taken has been almost too much.  Sure, we can try to cover it up with food or time with friends or really anything, but we're ready to be home.  Will you pray with us that our hearts would embrace what God has for us during this season?  We want so much to just rest in whatever plan he has for us.
These pics are all from our time in Aruba

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The holidays....a blur

Christmas came.  And it went.  Very quickly.  We feel like it's been busy.  It's been filled with lots of things to do.  People to celebrate and see.  It's been fun, but tiring.

It's a little surreal to think that at this point in time we have spent time with both of our families, in northeast Ohio, as well as northwest Ohio.  We've driven to Indianapolis, Illinois and back to northwest Ohio.  We're ready to be done riding in a car.

One more week.  On January 8th, we leave bright and early in the morning to fly to Curacao.  There, we will stay for 2 nights and then get a flight to Caracas, VZ.  It was actually cheaper to do it that way and pay for a hotel than to try to do the travel all in one day.
The dreaded overnight bus taken on Dec 5th

We're ready.  I think.  The longer we're here in the States, the harder it seems to feel to want to go back.  Part of that is because we were able to spend the past four days with some really great people at the annual conference in Indy.  It was really good for our hearts.
Enjoying the hammock at staff conference in Dec.

Our kids stayed with Grandma and Grandpa while we were in Indy.  They had a blast and didn't really miss us much.  Such a blessing.  It also freed us to up to be totally flexible during our time in Indy to go to set up meetings with friends, co-workers and just all around great people.
The surprise visit from Mickey
while out at dinner
Now we take the next week to figure out what needs to be packed.  What needs to be thought through?  What does the team need once we're all there?  There are many questions to think through to figure out how we can help the team get settled after all of this and enter into another semester of ministry.  We want the team to be in a healthy place.
Leah posing with Santa at Wendy's
in Aruba (the 1st time)

With all this to say, I think we're doing pretty well.  We are exhausted.  We need a lot of extra grace right now.  But we're ready to not live in limbo anymore.  We're ready to get back to our home and finish what we've started.

We'll try to take time over the next week to share more of our thoughts over the past two weeks.  It might be fragmented.  It more than likely will be messy.  But it will be our hearts.  Welcome.