Friday, May 23, 2014

We are back home for a few weeks, now that I am back from Chicago and all of us are back from Minnesota. Both trips were really worthwhile, enjoyable, helpful, and busy! I went to Chicago to attend something put on by Interact International called "TCK (third culture kid) Pre-field Educational Planning Seminar." It should have been called "everything you need to know to help your kid survive yanking them out of the united states (or your home country) and plopping them down in a foreign country." Just kidding. Sort of. We all know that it is no small thing, this decision we are making for our children. But we have actually considered it. We have counted the cost, we are not bringing them along as an afterthought. And we truly believe that this experience, though painful at times, also has the potential to be a gift for them, not just a challenge. I would definitely recommend the conference to anyone moving overseas as a family, be it for international business, diplomatic work, military, or otherwise. As I said before I went, I don't even know how much I don't know. I don't even know what questions to ask, because I've never done this before. Education was only one part of the event, and academics only one part of education. We also talked about second language issues, connecting with your host country, and dealing with transition. The most important thing is that we are going as a family. If something isn't going to be in the best interests of our family, then we don't want to do it. But we believe that we will not only survive in Kenya, but thrive! 

Chicago was like nothing I've ever seen. Prior to this trip, I had only seen O'Hare. I was staying out in Wheaton, but various things took me into the city three times, and definitely came to appreciate the lack of traffic (or traffic lights, for that matter) in our little town. It is a trade-off, of course. I mean, could you find this in Haviland? ;-) 

Don't let the whole fish part scare you. I try to enjoy many authentic cultural experiences, but honestly, I don't eat strange things. And I am so glad that never really came up in Senegal. They do serve the fish this way sometimes, but you can just pull the meat off it same as you do here, when you are grilling a whole fish. Anyways, it was fun. I have to say, it is easy to romanticize things the farther removed you are from them. Let's just say my Wolof is pretty rusty. (Actually, closer to non-existent. Although i did dream in Wolof for a full 4 years straight after I came back. closure issues? perhaps.) When I went into this restaurant, I remembered how flat-out uncomfortable it is to be in unfamiliar surroundings, not understanding what is going on around you, not knowing what is expected of you. Just good to keep in mind. I don't want to have unrealistic expectations about how hard Africa can be. Not just Africa. Any foreign country or cross-cultural experience. 

The next night, I braved the city traffic again to visit some of our partners, and meet their little guy. We are so grateful to have had the chance to interact personally with nearly everybody, and some we will get to the end of the summer. Also while in Chicago, I went out for coffee with a former AIM Air person, and she shared all kinds of stories and information about their career in exactly the same places we are going to. If we aren't prepared, it sure won't be for lack of trying! 

I then went straight to Minnesota and met Patrick and the kids, and my mom and Bob came down to meet us there. It was really interesting, coming from this seminar about kids in transition, to see mine reacting to going back to another "home." And even more so, because we stayed at the same house we lived in all last year, and some of our things were still there. They were are a little confused. Honestly, I was a little confused. Little things, like the muscle memory of finding your way in the dark, knowing where the light switches are and how far to turn the tap before its too hot. And to be inside your house and recognize the sounds that are going on outside. Just very very familiar. But I think the point is, for us, home doesn't have to be just one place. And definitely not just one group of people. We were able to reconnect with nearly all our neighbors, and many people at our church. 
I recently shared something on FB that someone much more eloquent than me wrote about the challenges and rewards of coming and going, from a military family perspective. Is it worth it? The awkwardness of getting to know people, of making new friends, and then the pain of leaving? The emptiness of having friends and loved ones all over the world who hardly ever see, or maybe even shared life with for a set period of time and then never will again? 


I am going with yes. Pretty sure that in every area of life, the most rewarding road is never the easiest. Relationships can be hard, messy, and difficult to maintain from long distances. But I think the absence of a physical home causes us to appreciate all the more the importance of the other things that make someplace home: wherever you are known and loved. 

Some friends let us borrow all kinds of toys and even bikes while we were there. The ways people have reached out to us and helped meet our needs are as numerous and varied as the road trips we've taken. Thank you thank you thank you. We feel so blessed. 

Incidentally, the afternoon we had slated to hang out with the neighbour kids, Ben's mother collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. I think she is ok, but it was terrifying for the kids, as they came home from school and found her. I do not think it was an accident that we were there, I feel like God wanted us there for them at that time, of all the afternoons we could have chosen. They stayed with us the rest of that day until she came home. Helped me remember He loves those precious kids in our neighborhood, and He will take care of them. 

My older neighbour was so excited, I told her we could come over for coffee, but couldn't stay for lunch, as we already had an appointment for lunch. Somehow I ended up eating coffee, popcorn, this sweetbread (she made the entire thing for us to take with us), two kinds of meat entrees and one vegetable, with injera (this interesting traditional flatbread thing), and, homemade beer, of all things. (That was a new experience for me.  She said I would run into alot of it in Kenya. Alas, I didn't get the vibe it was more for the men, either. Have to think of a culturally appropriate response for that one. ;-)

Good times in Minnesota! When I do think about the difficulties of saying goodbye, I always think, if I had never of said goodbye in such and such place, I never would have made the friends in the next place. I know God has many relationships yet to make, and we are really looking forward to being a part of the AIM Air community, and also make friends with the people around us. (Which is why, crazy person that I am, I just downloaded a learn-Swahili app. ;-) 

I cannot say enough how excited and thankful we are to our partners, and to the Lord, who has so faithfully led us and provided for us. We only have two trips left this summer, one for training purposes and one to visit my mom in Canada. We have some more opportunities to speak locally, at some churches and to a few groups. The rest of the time, we will be doing regular things: swimming lessons, VBS, eating watermelon, and barbecuing, before we head east in August to go to Virginia, and then start Technical Orientation, ie. last stop on this train! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

5 bullet points for a 5 minute update on the Crisps

well, maybe 10. depends on how fast you can read :-)
We try to keep our newsletters pretty short, because we understand what its like to be inundated with mail. There are so many things I really do want to read, but just never get around to. So there is alot of news that doesn't make the cut. You have to pop over to the blog for more details. So here they are, in no particular order

  • Partnership development going well! A huge huge praise here. We are so grateful for each and every one of our partners, you are part of our team, and we are excited that you have caught the vision. Still waiting for a few more partners, either individuals, churches, or groups, that have a desire to extend their ministry and influence over into East Central Africa. Already trying to think of an exciting way to share with everybody when we reach 100%. Maybe by next month. I'll keep you posted. And thanks for praying! 

  • Thankfully, Patrick has had an opportunity to jump in and help at the farm where he used to work, as they get ready for hay season. This is wonderful for 2 reasons: root canals, and he was really itching to get out of the house and away from this computer ;-). He has also been doing some flight instructing. 

  • Kids are doing well, as you can see from our last post. We will be wrapping up school, for the most part, in a few weeks. They have swimming lessons, VBS, and normal kid things this summer. They also, however, have a lot of abnormal kid things: international visas, lots of shots, no stability, and an awful lot of travel, to name a few. We sometimes struggle with knowing when to have grace for them, and when we're actually making excuses for bad behaviour! The stress on them can really take a toll, and it hasn't always been pretty the last little while. We have seen them struggle being in so many unfamiliar situations, with strangers. Parenting is our primary ministry, yet so easy to sacrifice as you pursue other more "glorious" things. You can pray we remember that over the next little while, and that we have enough time and energy to meet their needs. 

  • Speaking of kids, next week I will be leaving them for 4.5 days to go to a pre-field educational planning seminar in Chicago. It is a lot about their educational options overseas, but I also hope to learn a lot about how to help them through the transition and just to be more aware about how kids go through this process so we can anticipate problems in advance, and be as prepared as possible. Its also a time for the parents to spend time with others in this exact same situation. Pray for Patrick. The kids can be a bit trying. ;-) 

  • Lots of travel (some to see family, some to speak, some to check in with current partners, and some for training purposes) coming up. No surprise there. We've got Minnesota, Chicago, Kentucky, Canada, North Carolina and Virginia coming up. All before September. Lots of opportunities to share the vision God has given us, and most of all, to share that it isn't something we have some special handle on. It's for everybody to participate in, for everybody to be excited about. Whether its preaching on Sunday morning, children's SS, VBS missionaries of the week, or just casual conversations at the gas station (its a small town. you know everybody at the gas station ;-), we want to be faithful to testify. It isn't about us, it isn't really our story. It's God's story. He's the One who redeemed us, who called us out of darkness into light, to do good works He planned before the foundation of the world. He's the One who equips us and sends us out, clothed only in His power, none of our own. He's the One who is longing to be reconciled with his people, no matter where they live or what language they speak. He is the One who WILL be worshiped by people of every tribe and every tongue. He is the One who deserves the glory, the only thing on earth worth living for or dying for. It's His story, and we all get to be a small small part of that! 

Everyday adventures

The line between school, play, and life is often blurred at our house. They are young enough that I can get away with calling anything "school." (My favorite science experiment, for example, is baking. All kinds of science involved in baking. And math, too. Good enough reasons to bake all the time.) Math is Hannah's least favourite subject, so sometimes I try to disguise it in activities she enjoys. Charlie helped us learn money by hosting a restaurant :-) 

Hannah did ballet this spring, which she really enjoyed. 

It was so neat to have so many fans cheering her on at her recital. Thank you, everyone, for making the effort to come! 

The basis for our curriculum this year is American history, and we just got up to the Civil War, and the Homestead Act. Lucky us, we were able to have our own personal field trip to talk to Patrick's paternal grandparents about the kids' great-great-great-great-grandfather, who died in the Civil War. We still have his coat, and letters he wrote! His son came out to Kansas from Indiana and homesteaded here, on the exact property. This very farm. He built a sod house first, and then soon built a lumber house, that has been added on to and changed, but is still the same living room we sit in to visit, now. The kids's great-great grandfather is Charlie Asher, the little boy in the right of the picture. 

an original wash kettle, for the girls 

and an original plow, for the boys :-) 

Sometimes knowing (at least part of) where you're from can make you feel more confident about where you're going. 

As it turns out, we were also able to experience living history at Western Days. We watched roping competitions,

shot black powder rifles 

threw tomahawks 

made our own rope 

visited a chuck wagon 

and visited with Civil War soldiers 

We also heard a great bluegrass band and watched a gun show with Wyatt Earp. So much fun! Except hot. very very hot. And, negligent mother that I am, I forgot sunscreen. Must make mental note to always remember sunscreen, before I take my children to Africa! 

The other day I was making breakfast and looked through the window to see Caroline trotting down the driveway wearing nothing but her pajama shirt and rain boots. I called her back inside and asked what she was doing. Mommy! I have to go see the 'tuwips!' Well, alrighty then. just put some pants on please. 

Balloon races to illustrate force and motion. (At least that's what the book says. Pretty sure they didn't actually learn anything. But we had fun.) 

And the BIG news of the week. I discovered the town nearest to us has an ice cream place! They don't even have an ice cream place in Pratt (the next nearest town). So we were pretty excited about this. #itsthelittlethings 

Lemon Park might actually be, other than people, what I missed most about Pratt. It has a very nice paved walking path, a playground, a pond, a small branch off of some river, and paths through the woods. The kids were a little too young when we lived here before, but now they're really enjoying it.  Caroline especially is our frog catcher. 

Hannah and Charlie decided they were Lewis and Clark. And Caroline was "Baby John." No idea where they came up with that. Don't remember that in the actual story. But at least they are remembering something! The fact that there were explorers named Lewis and Clark. That's good enough for me. 

We usually pack our own lunch on our "town day", and then sometimes hit up Sonic for happy hour. (That's half price drinks from 2-4. Slushies. in case you were wondering ;-) Sonic slushies being full of sugar and food colouring, my kids are always excited to have one. (All four of us get a special drink, for $3.04. That's a great deal!) Yesterday, Hannah told me conspiratorially, "Mommy, you might get to be the fun one. We got ice cream and a special drink! two treats in one week." Watch out, Patrick; your title is up for dispute ;-) 

As absolutely crazy as my kids drive me (and they do. they definitely, definitely, do.), I love spending time with them. Most of the time. So, Happy Mothers Day, I guess! 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebrating the Resurrection!

And doesn't everybody do that with miniature horses? ;-) My inlaws live in a town in the country (if that makes sense. in town, but surrounded by country. like we do. like most of Kansas does. :-) And on Saturday we went to see these miniature horse babies. 

The official Easter 2014 picture. (Except the photographer. We'll have to photoshop him in.) The rest of the pictures are a collection of moments spread out over a very special weekend. 

In the season leading up to Easter, we do some special things to help us be prepared for commemorating the cross, grieving our sin, and celebrating the Resurrection and our new life in Christ. This is our Jesus tree. This is the third year we've had it, it works like an Advent calendar, reading a story in the life of Christ each day, and putting up a picture. They are really starting to know some of the stories now. 

I decided the kids shouldn't be the only ones with a visual reminder! I was really blessed by Ann Voskamp's Lent devotional. Each day corresponds with a painting from classic art, which depicts one part of the atonement thread running through the Bible. The first picture was the Garden of Eden, where it all began. Every time I went in my bedroom, I had to look at the pictures hanging on the door. It definitely helped me meditate more, throughout the season. Sometimes I find myself guilty of wanting to partake in the celebration of Sunday morning, without also acknowledging the horrific, yet amazing, events of Good Friday. 

We grew an Easter garden to help us remember what brought about the need for the cross in the first place. Man's sin, our sin, in the original garden. But it didn't end there! Our decision to rebel against God only made Him all the more adamant to restore our relationship with Him, no matter what the cost. It helped us remember the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus wept and prayed. Prayed not just for the disciples, but for us. And finally, when we took the stone away from the tomb, we put reminders of all the Cross had bought for us. And to remind us that our life is now hidden in Christ, and He lives in us.