Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The weeks since being back in Minnesota have been a blur, as I'm sure they have for all of you! Thanksgiving over, enter Christmas. We have gotten back into a routine, and been trying to visit some friends and neighbors that we haven't seen, before we leave again. But, before that, a few pictures to remember Thanksgiving 2013. 

 We split up our time in Kansas between Patrick's parents, one grandma, another grandma/grandpa,, and then a few nights in Pratt. We got really good at packing and loading ;-) Brett, Jessica and Isaac came out too, so it was lots of fun for the cousins to play together. Times have definitely changed, though. I remember back in the day, we liked to stay up late and play games and have fun. That was before kids. Or at least before there were 4 of them. Now kids have to be in bed and moms have to be prepared to be up all night. 

Charlie and I built a tree teepee. I think I had more fun than they did, though.
Caroline loves loves loves to hug. I've been organizing pictures from the year, and she's always hugging somebody. Oftentimes it's more of a chokehold, though. Isaac seems to be taking it pretty well! 

Oh look! It's Charlie, enjoying dessert! ;-) 

It is so difficult to get a picture with all the kids looking and smiling. I would actually say impossible. Sorry Caroline; it was decent of everybody else. 

I get so much out of getting together with family. And I mean literally! My mother in law is a Mary Kay consultant, which is awesome. (She is doing it in addition to her regular job so she can help support us, and other missionaries at their church.) My aunt-in-law (is that a thing? ;-) is a photographer, and has helped us out on numerous occasions, most recently our christmas card. Cousin Jody is a Vault denim consultant, and helped me and Jess find some new jeans. (She also is a marathon runner, so gives me advice on running, and does those crazy races. Told me all about the warrior dash. maybe we'll do it this spring!) Another cousin (Jana, incidentally) is a teacher with so much experience, and I can talk to her about my education questions. I find it very rewarding! ;-) 

The Lemon Park lights. Famous all over the country. (Or is it the county? ;-) We jumped out to take a picture, then got back in the car and started to smell something. Patrick and I had both stepped in somebody's dog mess. So we got out to scrape our shoes off with his pocket knife, while holding a flashlight. The car was running, as it was cold, and then I see Caroline in the drivers seat. I open the door to yank her away, as she would totally try to put the thing in gear, and step in a puddle. IN my car this time. While climbing into the drivers seat, she knocked over my entire drink (which is nearly always water, but of course had to be coke this time). 80% of it went in my running shoe. I carefully held it out the window and dumped it out. Now I had no shoes. What a fun night! 

"Joke's on them! Here I am, driving anyways!" ;-)

We came "home" (which, incidentally, looks familiar to many of you; Kevin and Sarah graciously let us crash at their house while we were in Pratt. Thank you!!!) to make (ok, slice and bake) our first Christmas cookies and watch the Grinch. 

The cookie part went over well, as always. Alas, I had forgotten the Jim Carey Grinch is vastly different from the cartoon version. It was a little much for my preschoolers. Whoops. And I'm usually so careful with that. So, with potential nightmares of scary green monsters chewing on glass, we put them to bed. 

We waited until Saturday to go into town, as black friday with 3 little kids could be a challenge. We met David and Des at a pizza place, where the kids got their own dough to play with. So fun! Then we went to see Frozen. Except it was sold out. At every single theatre in Wichita. For the entire afternoon. :-( We made plans again the next weekend, at home, but Hannah got the stomach flu. We finally made it this weekend. And it was, in fact, frozen. Patrick joked that it would be awfully nice if we could warm up the town just by feeling love. Or whatever it was that resolves all of life's problems in fairy tales, or at least did in this fairy tale

I won't go into this story again, as most people got it on FB. But it just occurred to me, after 6 years of many many roadtrips with kids, that we should travel with airsickness bags. except carsickness. do they sell those? 
Our neighbours have missed us. One friend, with four children, is still out of a job. Another friend has had to switch to working nights, and is gone from 3 to midnight. So her kids are alone in the evenings, and then she is sleeping when they get ready for school. Middle school, elementary, and first grade. After playing outside the other day, some of the boys came in and we had hot chocolate while we made some paper Christmas ornaments. One little guy asked when we were leaving, and if it was soon. I told him approximately February, which didn't mean anything to him except that it wasn't immediately after Christmas. He exhaled audibly, his relief very apparent, and said, "my heart got scared when I thought you were leaving." I'm not sure why God had our lives intertwine with theirs, for only a short time. It makes it harder. I guess we need to get used to that part. It is not easy. 

Living out of a suitcase wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I don"t mean the practical space part, I mean the limited selection. Being the girl that I am, I wasn't sure how much I would miss the shoes, scarves, jewelry, make up and other accessories that did not make the cut when I packed. (Before someone raises their eyebrows that missionaries in training enjoy such things, just remember, I like shoes just as much as you do. Missionaries are people too ;-) Anyways, we got home, and I was overwhelmed with clutter. All this stuff, did we really need it? How had we accumulated so much stuff since being in this house? Alot was here when we got here. For some reason it was driving me crazy, and I had to get more organized. So Hannah and I went on a rampage of sorts. Picture above is the contents of the bathroom. Seriously. Just the bathroom! I almost wanted to go back to only having to take care of what fit in our suitcases.  
So you'd think Patrick and I would have a better system by now. Like, perhaps getting the tree chopped, trimmed, in the house, in the stand, watered, and get the lights on, and then invite the kids to help decorate. But no. And i just have to say props to any dad who can put up a 6 ft tree with two kids sitting on him. Yes, literally sitting on him. And constantly trying to hang things on it before its even up. So, pulling it over in the process. And 'helping' with the lights. Then when I send them away to have their cookies and eggnog until we're ready, there is none left for him when he finally sits down. It isn't easy being a dad! 

As you can see, everybody feels differently about being made to wear coats and hats ;-). But we're having a heatwave tomorrow. Should be in the 30's. We probably won't bother with coats at all! (The other day, I was so proud of myself that I was adjusting well; I went out voluntarily when it was 3 degrees Farenheit and blowing snow. But then as I was sitting in my car putting my hat and gloves on, I saw people going into the grocery store with no hat or anything. I sighed in despair. I will never be as tough as Minnesota folk!) 

Doesn't Charlie look absolutely thrilled to be helping me with Christmas baking?!? And, one very busy week  for me and my (borrowed) Kitchen Aid later. . . 

We had 8 tins ready to deliver, and 4 more ready to take up to my moms for Christmas. 

This child is crazy, if I haven't mentioned that before. I have read that mothers with many children (as in, 6 or more, maybe?) are actually less stressed than those with fewer, because they take everything in stride, knowing that it is just a season, and will pass. And life goes on. It does help me to remember that Charlie used to do what Caroline is doing, which is waking up in the middle of the night hungry, turning on all the lights, and getting herself a snack. (At least this picture was just yogurt. This morning, she ate an entire bag of gummy worms that Hannah had been saving from a Christmas party. I was worried that violence would ensue, but she handled it pretty well.) It wasnt the light that woke me, at 4 am. It was a little voice singing what does the fox say. Seriously? 

Our church had a family variety show as part of the children's Christmas program. We were to sing Away in a Manger. I have to say, I have the utmost respect for anyone who endeavours to organize a group of children into something resembling a Christmas pageant. It is a miracle, no matter how it turns out. And there is alot of humility involved with sending your children up on stage. EVERYONE can see them. And they all know who they belong to! Charlie didn't sing at all, but he did yawn loudly and often throughout a good chunk of it. In one song, they had large cardboard stars, which he enthusiastically waved back and forth, driving it right into the temple of the little girl next to him. She kept scooting over to avoid getting stabbed with his star. Then they sat down for the rest of the time, still on stage, and were to just listen to the rest of the program. But he was bored, and kept poking Hannah as she tried to swat him away. Then he was so tired, it was getting late, he put his head down between his legs, and tumbled headfirst off the riser. Patrick and I couldn't stop laughing. What else can you do? :-) 

We dont need an elf on a shelf. We have a Caroline, who wags her finger at you, raises her eyebrows, and says, "no, no! Don't you do that Mommy! I will be mad at you!" Or some variation thereof. Her hand is blurry in this picture because she was upset with something someone was doing, probably me. Apparently she's the only one allowed to misbehave. 

So our Christmas season is a little abbreviated, and feels a tad strange, to be honest, as everything is filtered through this lens of our in-limbo-life. But we want to enjoy the special things here while we can, like live Christmas trees and children's pageants. The trick is to enjoy it while not getting too concerned about what Christmas will be like without it. What will Christmas be like in Juba this year? As you have probably seen, the capital of South Sudan is in a crisis right now. One of the AIM Air families we keep up with lives across the border in Kenya, not too far from there. They are not in any danger, this fight is between ethnic groups. But it does affect them, and definitely affects their ministry. This year is friends and family, eggnog and Frasier firs. What if a future Christmas involves refugees sleeping on my dusty kitchen floor? 

I am so thankful that God enables us to be His hands and feet as He needs to use us, and not necessarily before. When I want to hang on to what I have, because I'm not sure how much I am willing to do without. When there are some things I want to stay the same. Some things I want to keep for myself, my family. Some rights I want to defend. I will enjoy, with everything in me, my special Christmas with my family, my kids opening presents, Christmas Eve service, everything warm and safe and comfortable and familiar. I am so blessed, and so thankful for all these blessings! To be honest, I want to go to Africa, but I want to go with the assurance that I can keep as many of the above mentioned things as possible. They are good things, and I want to fight to keep them, for myself, and especially for my kids. I start to have problems when I remember that I am not necessarily guaranteed these things, any more than a refugee from Juba. But there are some things, better things, I am guaranteed of, me and every child of God, here or in South Sudan. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Relief, Rest and Relaxation

So if you haven't heard by now, Patrick passed the Technical Evaluation! I won't lie: it was a stressful time! He finished everything Thursday afternoon, and it was a full 24 hours before we were called in. That was not a fun 24 hours for either of us! I am so proud of him, and we are so excited to have this milestone behind us and now be ready to move forward. We spent the last two weeks since the TE enjoying some celebrations with my extended family in Charlotte, a few days of rest with our little family in the Smoky Mountains, and then Thanksgiving here in Kansas with Patrick's family. It has been a busy busy month, but I think everybody has done really well. (Except Caroline. She has become an octopus. or a barnacle. or some other really clingy thing that won't let go of me. To be honest, I'm not sure she remembers Minnesota at the moment. Today she was walking around the house we are staying in and out of the blue asked, Mommy, where is my home? Wherever I and her Minnie Mouse are!) 

I did not take alot of pictures in Charlotte. I want the pictures, I just dont want the hassle of taking them. But we had to commemorate going to the Panthers/Patriots Monday night football game. My dad took Kim, Lara, Meghan, and Patrick and I. It was fun! 

Pigeon Forge

Watching pottery being made 

At the Old Mill 

The kids were awed by all the activities and entertainment available, so although we were there to enjoy the mountains, we did do some fun things with them the first day. Charlie and Hannah got to drive their own bumper cars, which, as you can imagine, was quite the disaster. But they had fun. 

Our hiking backpack did not fit in the car this trip, so we were thrilled to find we could rent one very reasonably! Patrick definitely "shouldered" that responsibility. She is heavy! We did two hikes. The first was uphill and challenging for the kids, up to see a waterfall. The next day was through a wooded area, and to tour some historic homesteads. 

We knew that most of the park's 1500 bears would be hibernating, so we were thrilled to see one at the very end of our trip! 

Towards the end, Charlie had definitely had enough. He told us he wasn't going any farther. 

We were very grateful to have some time together, in the middle of this crazy November. 
Thanksgiving was good, although we missed the presence of Patrick's great aunt Jean, who passed away only the week before. Tomorrow, we will be at our home church in Pratt, where we will share a short update and hopefully see lots of you. Then Monday, its back up to Minnesota. Thank you so very much for your prayers and encouragement this last little while. Excited to begin the Advent season this weekend, celebrating the coming of Christ to earth, and looking to His second coming!