January 21, 2016

The skill of being still

Furlough isn't relaxing.

It is a time to reconnect with our families, friends, and supporters back home. Which means it is a wonderful time, but it isn't relaxing. In the midst of all the reconnecting, the kids must still be home-schooled, meals must still be prepared, laundry done and clutter managed. There is a lot of travel, packing and unpacking, hellos and goodbyes, super high highs, and stress-filled lows. It is many things, but it isn't relaxing.

Think Disney World. It's a happy place! But at the end of a day at Disney, one is typically left with sticky kids, a cranky husband, a sunburned neck, a lighter wallet, and a long way to walk to get to the car.

It's kind of like that with furlough.

So now we find ourselves, by the grace of G0D, at Juniper Tree in Chiang Mai for Daniel's classes, and I am learning, once again, how to be still.

Being still is a skill. It takes great discipline to be still, and great security in one's worth apart from what one is accomplishing. Rest is as necessary as food and water, and yet we starve ourselves of it. And then when it is forced upon us, we no longer know what to do with it.

But I am learning. I am remembering how. I am feeling myself being put back together from the inside out, and I am determined to keep up the skill of being still.

January 10, 2016

Before we left

Before we took up a whole row in the airplane,
we had just enough time to sneak in a few more memories in Michigan.

There was time for a Christmas pageant.
Zion was Joseph and Sharlet was Mary. Uncle Kody's stick horse, circa the late 1970's, was the donkey.

Jack Jr. and Gene were wise men.
Brave the shepherd.
And an angel named Jubilee. (Did I mention she got glasses this furlough? Severe astigmatism.)

There was also time for a trip to Build-A-Bear.

And time for Christmas dinner.

There was time for Christmas cookies.

And I HAD to see each of my brothers and their families one last time.
Kody and me.
Jack and me.

Oh and guess what G0D did? After a green Christmas (sad), he sent a thin layer of slick snow in our last 48 hours stateside! So there was sledding after all. Whew, that was close.

The sledders in action. Sadly Zion was sick this day and couldn't go.
Cutest sledders ever.
Love my mom.

There was time for a quick dinner at Bagger Dave's in Grand Rapids on Christmas Eve (before meeting up with Liz and Brian and their crew for church at The Barn at The Other Way).

And speaking of Liz, there was OF COURSE time for one last supper, at Panera in Grandville (halfway point for us), where we talked about the cost of following G0D's call on our lives. Tears were shed, love was felt, and a big, bittersweet hug was had in the parking lot before parting ways for another stretch of time apart.
Panera selfie.
Free to live in this moment.

January 09, 2016

Somewhere in middle America

Remember that Counting Crows song?


We have left the States and are back in the Eastern Hemisphere, and I can't say that without a note of sadness. We will miss you, middle America. Until we meet again.

It feels good to be parented

With all of the parenting I do day in and day out, it feels good every now and then to be parented.

When I got word a couple of months ago that George Fuzzy had died - and I hit the floor because I was half a world away and I couldn't say goodbye to my lop-eared friend - my parents were the first ones I called. They knew how George had been there for me when I'd been depressed and strung out with a newly adopted toddler, how I'd buried my nose in his soft fur many times, and stroked him in the evenings while feeding him popcorn. And now he was gone! And I wasn't there! The tears were real, and the pain was real.

They listened and consoled, and then we hung up.

But later that same day, these were delivered to my door. And I felt loved. And known. And understood.

What a gift it is, being their daughter.

January 07, 2016

Mentor me

I asked her to mentor me.

It was eight years ago, when my oldest was two. I had looked at my life and thought, 'I don't know what I'm doing. I need a mentor.'

She was our pastor's wife. Her girls were delightful, respectful, content. Her husband was happy. I wanted to know the secrets she knew. So I asked her to mentor me. She agreed! I implored her to be honest with me always, to never hold back.

And she is (honest), and doesn't (hold back), and I am better for it. So much better than I otherwise would have been. As are my kids. My husband. My marriage.

Mentorship rocks. Allison rocks.

And somewhere along the line, she became more than my mentor. She became a friend of the dearest kind.

It has been a wonderful furlough for many reasons, not the least of which all the time I've had the privilege of spending with Allison.
We both LOVE movies. When Roman Holiday came to the big screen, we were there!

Daniel is not without mentorship, either! Here he is with "Coach" David Montague, sitting in David's and Kelli's living room, catching up during the weekend we spent at their house in Memphis.

December 12, 2015

It's what you do

If you're a young boy in Arkansas, you hunt. It's what you do.
Gene's first deer hunt. 

Fern treed three coons in one night, on our land, and one of em came home skinned!

If you're a young boy in Arkansas, you go for rides with your dad's buddy in a missile launcher.

You pose for a picture with Mater at a salvage yard on the Oklahoma line.

If you're a young boy in Arkansas, you eat donuts multiple times a week. It's what you do.

November 21, 2015

Counting the cost

Every time we come back to the States and stay for a while, the cost of living in East Asia goes up. This time is no exception. In just a little over a month we will be saying goodbye to the U.S., and this will indeed be the hardest goodbye.

For one thing, our parents are aging. Sorry Mom and Dad and Shari, but you are. My mother-in-law Shari is 70. That seems so weird to me! And my mom just battled Basal Cell Carcinoma again (we praise G0D for a victorious outcome there). And when my dad got tackled at first base by my brother in a friendly game of ball this summer, he went to the ground rather stiffly, and I found myself running from the outfield as if one of my kids had fallen down.

Don't get me wrong, our parents are still kicking. Shari is still dragging the trash can to the curb, uphill. Mom and Dad are still riding their bikes. Still RVing. But in a decade, will they be doing those things? I don't know. Now is when they are doing those things, and now is when we aren't here.

Usually we're here in the summer, and therefore we've never seen what real life in America would look like. Summer isn't real life for anybody. Being here in the Fall, now we see what we have given up, like sports and other activities, but namely our church home. Oh how we love our church home. The children's and youth ministries here are so amazing. I've seen our kids jump and dance and raise their hands, in corporate worship with other children, in their own language, their heart language, in a culture that gets them (or at least, gets them better than the culture in East Asia). I'm so thankful for this time, and yet it makes the thought of leaving that much harder.

Also there's the family farmland. It was homesteaded 8 generations ago by Daniel's forefathers. It includes 160 acres of cedars and a hilltop house overlooking Lee Creek. Up until now it has been there, waiting for us all, decorated for Christmas this time of year with a fresh cut tree on the lower porch. Momo hasn't lived out there since Sue Sue passed away, but it has still been there. The land has been full of deer and the creek full of crawfish. The dirt road combed and the brush mowed for hay. We've always dreamed, Daniel and I, of living out there someday, feeding the humming birds like Sue Sue did, growing giant ferns in hanging baskets, swinging from the porch swing in the evening sun with a glass of sweet tea and a wedge of chocolate pie.

But the years have gone by, as years tend to do, and the fate of the land and the house is unknown. Will it be there, waiting for us all, when we come back next time? There is just no way to tell. And that grieves me, because if we were here, we would...well...we're not here.

We're not here.

I'm fairly certain I write a post like this every furlough, but I promise, this time the cost has gone up so high it is almost unbearable.

And then...

And then I read this today before breakfast, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).

The truth is, we could move back to the States and move in to the farmhouse, only for it to burn to the ground the next day. We could come back to spend more time with our parents and one of them could die a week later. It happened to my aunt - she went to sleep after a full day, healthy as can be, and never woke up again. In the end, it is all just stuff, and these bodies are wasting away. That is why we hold this life loosely, looking with anticipation instead toward what is to come.

I will have an eternity to play baseball with my dad.

And the promised land is far richer and more beautiful than Daniel's family's homestead.

And when we get there, we will be greeted by people from East Asia who wouldn't be there at all had we decided to stay in the States during these years. And so I echo the words of Paul in Philippians 3:7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ."
 Cousins. xoxo