Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snowfalls and strawberry syrup (can I bottle up enough memories to last me through in a land empty of either?)

I share these pictures primarily for our benefit, who next year will look back on them with much fondness! I imagine Charlie will remember snow. Caroline, I'm sure, will not. It is ironic that we left Minnesota halfway through the winter, anticipating a drastic change when we moved 8 hours south, and what do you know, Kansas (and everyone else, I think) has the coldest winter in who knows how long? But the real irony is that I went to Minnesota thinking I would absolutely hate the winter, and that experiencing it would make me appreciate warm weather so much and therefore prepare me for Africa. But it backfired! I realized it isn't that bad, once you get used to it and have all the necessary gear. And the summers are downright refreshing. Now I'm seriously dreading the summer in KS. I wanted to turn on the air conditioning the other day. I think it was 60 outside. I guess the moral of the story is, it's a good thing I'm not the one choosing where I will live. There are nice things about warm places and nice things about cold places, and you can get used to anything. 

We eventually had about a foot of snow on the ground, from two separate snowfalls, but some of the drifts were significantly higher. We went out to the family farm to play in the yard there, as they had what seemed like a lot more snow! 

I recently put all our snow boots down in the basement. (Not to say I won't need to pull them out another once or twice before summer comes. You never know in Kansas.) And I definitely  had mixed feelings. I mean, sure, it will be nice to wear another pair of shoes; but these walmart boots have kept me warm and dry nearly every day since november. (Except in Canada. They did not keep me warm this Christmas in Canada. But, in defense of my trusty boots, it was not their fault. It was like the bloody North Pole up there, this year.) I know they are just a pair of footwear, but I will definitely associate them with a specific time in my life. And this my last winter before moving to Africa. When will I wear my boots again? I don't know. Where else will my feet have walked before I put them on again? See? mixed feelings. Story of my life. 

What can always raise your spirits if you're suffering from the winter blues? Valentine's Day. (Or perhaps the spring-ish thaw you can see, evidenced by the sight of actual ground behind my big-eyed son.) 

Try as I might, I can think of no appropriate caption. Such a drama queen!

Don't get me wrong, I like romance just as much as the next girl, but my favourite part is not the flowers and cards. We use the celebration also to remind the kids that they are loved, and to help them show love to others in their life. They put together some small cards and cupcakes to take to some family members and friends, 

and we had a special breakfast of whole wheat pancakes, homemade strawberry syrup, and fresh whipped cream. I completely forgot about the special plates and napkins we had for the occasion, and  when I found them later, my first thought was, I will stick this with my seasonal items for next year. Then it occurred to me (as it will continue to do, I guess, until I get my mind wrapped around it) that this time next year, we'll be in Africa. I stood there in the kitchen holding those paper plates, not even sure what to think. Keep them for next year? Who would use up precious trunk space with something as superficial as Valentine's Day decorations? Me, I decided! 

Next January, I'm pretty sure my good buddies at Hobby Lobby will have the pink and red stuff out before we take off (literally :-). And you can bet I will be there. And I will make room in my family's  belongings for heart shaped paper plates. And next February 14, I will do my best to recreate the exact same breakfast. ( I mean its pancakes, how hard can it be? ;-) Because I imagine all 5 of us will be in the throes of culture shock, and a special breakfast shared together, around whatever table we have in whatever type of house in whatever type of neighborhood in a huge, sprawling, massive international city in a developing country might be just the thing to remind us who we are. No matter where we are, we are together as a family, and we are loved. And hopefully to remind us that we are there so we can love, because He first loved us. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

9 moves in 8 years = Crazytown. The making of a home on the fly.

It is a good thing that isn't referring to babies. Or else I would be even more frazzled than I am right now. It's referring to moving. We have lived in 9 different residences in our 8 years of married life. Half of those moves were unrelated to pursuing this particular vocation, but they still count. 9 x of having the above experience: first meal in a new house, using a nightstand (or something) as a table, with paper plates. 

For many (dare I say all? I don't exactly remember. at least the majority) of those moves, we have had the blessing of family come help. Due to our geographically varied "hometowns", each of our family members have had the opportunity to help. (Aren't they so lucky? ;-) God bless each one of those family members who have helped us in one way or another! 

The perspective is kind of funny, but here is another thing I would never want to move without: an amazing handyman! Fixing things in the house you move out of, and putting things together in the house you move into, this is your guy. Thank you! 

my little helpers 

Years from now, when I look back on this picture, I hope to remember one thing: the complete and total nervous breakdown that came after it! While not white glove clean, I do hate clutter. I hate being disorganized, and not having a good system, and not knowing where things are. Or even having a place to put them. Now that I'm trying, I once again find myself at a lost for words to communicate exactly what it feels like to be so adrift. I talk a good talk, and I really do believe it. But sometimes, i guess we all crave a little stability. And we have absolutely zero stability. And I got to tell you, that kind of wears on you. I am trying to get used to it. Just one more thing to surrender, to ask for peace in the middle of unstable surroundings. I just decided I was tired of having to find places for things. Of getting used to new systems. Of not knowing when trash day was. Who the neighbors are. It sounds really silly now that I say it out loud, but just trust me. It isn't just moving so much. It's not knowing what kind of stuff you'll have. Because much of the time, it isn't yours. It's just being happy with whatever you find in your new place, knowing you have limited control over it. And on top of all that, it's feeling guilty that you even care about having matching towels in the first place. Aren't I supposed to not care about that kind of thing?!?!?!?! 

Even though I've gotten used to every place we've lived, the first night (nights) are always rough. Even being the explorer that I am, for some reason, I hate sleeping in strange places. I medicate myself if possible. Which is rarely possible, because my children take a little while to get used the new places as well. The first night, we didn't even think to clear a path from our door to caroline's. (which is very very close!) We couldn't find light switches. The first night was not good. 

But what makes everything better? :-) Have strong strong coffee, will travel. I think I kept more coffee mugs than anything else. I'm always concerned the next place I go might only have little mugs, which are sort of useless. I've even been known to bring my own mug with me, just to be on the safe side. 

So having my own mugs, coffee, and coffee maker helped bring myself back down to a manageable level of stress. The next thing came in a much larger package. As you can see a few pictures up, the wood floors in the living area are in pretty rough shape. And area rugs were a bit out of the question, for this short-ish period of time. What to do? Apparently, it was under control. A brand new piece of carpet was rolled up, sitting in the corner of a local thrift store. PERFECT size and color for our living room. Miracle? maybe not on the level of healing the sick, but it sure seemed so to us. 

another thing that helped: whatever we do, we do together. whether we like it or not! ;-) Patrick and I have been/will be spending a lot more time together than the average couple, and the kids as well. They will be each other's best friends out of necessity, and we will too. 

So if you haven't gotten the picture, things started out a little rough. No small part of that was that we didn't really have much "stuff." Because, well, we got rid of nearly all of it. (At the time, it seemed like the best plan. We were actually confident it was the best plan. But if you happen to be starting out on this journey of transition upon transition upon transition, just be careful: you really have no idea how the next few years are going to go. It just might be better to be prepared. . . ) 
So here we found ourselves, getting ready to move yet again, and we had sheets and toys to our name. (and my coffee mugs :-). Can you say anxiety attack? How am i supposed to make a home out of that? But as it turns out, we feel more homey here than we have since we moved out of the yellow house. (The one we invested blood sweat and tears in over the period of a few years. The only physical residence I feel any connection to.) 
Somehow, the combination of things we had, things our family had, things our church family had, and things Walmart had, have come together to make a home. And that, as insignificant as it may seem, is an Ebenezer for me. Where we are, and what we have, and even how we feel about what we have, is because of God's goodness to us and gracious love for us. 

 As silly as it may seem, my favorite part of this house is the mudroom. Finally, a place for everybody to hang up their coats and put their stuff!

The kitchen is behind me, with the mudroom/backdoor to the right, then basement, then bathroom on the left, and then a door to the living room on the far left. 

Once again, insignificant to some people, but I have a laundry room! In every place we live, I make a mental list of my top 10 favorite things about it. It is probably good that I don't get to choose much, and probably won't until we retire. Because I don't know, a laundry room or a playroom. . . ??? But this way, if I get a laundry room, it makes my list, or vice versa. 

Hannah has her own room here, with a table for school. 

It is cozy, but something else I like about this house is the door between the kitchen and the rest of the house. I can make noise late at night or early in the morning without disrupting the kids as much. 

the kids' bedrooms share a closet in between, so they think it's pretty fun to be able to sneak back and forth. 

This is probably my favorite part of the house, but the light is wrong. The gas stove is not just for looks. We have it running every night, right now. And I have to give a shout out to Walmart's $17 bookshelves. They look pretty good! 

Patrick was planning on making bunk beds, so I didn't mention anything about beds. But then, someone offered their bunks and mattresses, just knowing that we had kids. It was, again, a reminder that God is looking out for us even in little things that can make life easier. One of the things we still have is a beautiful stained glass antique lamp. We tried to sell it, but nobody wanted to pay what we were asking. (Which couldn't have been much. It seemed like we were paying people to take stuff, there at the end!) Wouldn't you know, that lamp is so important to me now. I don't know why. Patrick gave it to me, and now I want to keep it forever. You change a lot on this journey. I appreciate things significantly more than I used to. 

This is where the magic happens, folks! "Working" from home is a real challenge! Especially with homeschooling, and 2 noisy preschoolers. So we set up an office in the corner of our bedroom. 

There is a lot of surrender in this process. At least it has seemed that way for us. And trust. I am thankful that I can look back on each transition and see that it has worked out good. Because even the brave and experienced among us get a little worn out and just have a breakdown in the leftover packing paper sometimes. (And it isn't just the past few years, it's the anticipation of what is coming up, that is what will really get you nervous.) I am so thankful that I am allowed to do that. God expects me to do that. He brings us through these circumstances that force us to get to the end of ourselves, and when we cry and maybe even kick and yell that we don't like it, we don't want it, and we don't want to do it, He listens. And then He reminds me He is with me, and He is worthy of anything He wants me to give up. Any situation that involves unsure physical surroundings or futures, He already knows. He sees me, He sees Patrick, He sees my little girl scared and anxious about going to yet another new SS class. And somehow, He meets all of us at the point of our need. He is enough. (And sometimes, He gives us matching furniture and couch pillows too. Just because He knows we might need it.)