We made it home!

I know you all thought I dropped off the face of the earth.  Sorry about that.  We did indeed fly home to Quito on the 24th of May, although it didn’t go quite like I expected it to.

Dan and I ended up with two different routes to Miami.  Patrick and I flew through JFK and Dan flew through Chicago, and we met up in Miami.  When Patrick and I arrived at JFK, we had just enough time to race to the other end of the terminal and catch our connecting flight.  In all of the chaos, I ended up twisting my knee very badly, tearing both the meniscus and the ACL.  By the time we arrived in Quito, I could not walk.  Fortunately Dan had asked in Miami for a wheelchair or I would probably still be sitting on the plane waiting for someone to get me out of there!  *Sidenote.  Coming through Customs in a wheelchair while crying does wonders for expediting their system.  That poor guy looked at me like he thought I was going to keel over right there, and waved us on through.  I will remember this.*

On Sunday, Dan took me to the emergency room to see what was up with my knee.  The doctor there did his level best to be useless, and I must say he succeeded admirably.  He did manage to let me know SEVERAL times that they only had one knee brace there, and it was TOO SMALL for me.  He emphasized this multiple times, just to make sure that I understood.  -_- .  On Tuesday I went to my hand doctor, who is very good at both hands AND knees.  He sent me for an MRI (let’s just say it’s a good thing I only had to be in up to my middle!) and then sent me to get a brace.  I went to the store where they sell them, and the poor guy working there came over and goes “Senora, this is the only…here.  You had better try this on.”  He must have seen the look on my face.  Apparently his momma taught him to recognize the signs of a woman on the edge.  Fortunately for both of us this one fit my very large knee!  (Seriously–I don’t have huge knees.  It was just crazy swollen.)

Coming home unable to walk put a damper on all of my “coming home” plans.  I am up and about now, although I have to be very careful what I do, as my knee is very unstable and keeps wandering off in the opposite direction from the rest of my leg.  Typically, I have everything unpacked and put away, and my house back the way I like it within a couple of days.  This time it took me two weeks, and put a lot more strain on my poor hubby than I had intended!  I am hoping and praying that I can heal this without surgery, as the surgery that my doctor described to me sounds crazy painful and very invasive.

As many of you know, we are facing a move for the first time in 10 years.  Our sweet elderly landlord is no longer able to care for the rental properties that he has, and so he is selling them.  The other half of our duplex was being rented by Extreme Response to use as overflow housing, but we terminated the lease on June 1st, since we did not need it for our teams this summer and we didn’t know how long we could have kept it.  Our sweet landlord rented it AGAIN.  Ahem.  To some kind of security company.  They are hands-down the loudest neighbors we’ve ever had.  I feel like I’m living next door to some bizarre combination of construction site and frat house.  We had originally decided to ride out the sale of our house (the paperwork here could take six months or six years–it’s a terribly long process) but now I am thinking that maybe we need to step up looking for somewhere else to live before my nerves are shot.

We are diving into Team Season–in fact, Dan’s first team arrives tomorrow night.  It’s always a crazy time around here–most of the guys are out with teams all summer.  It is not unheard of for us to have five teams on the ground at once!  I don’t think our schedule is quite that packed this summer, but it will still be a good time!  Patrick and I are looking forward to spending some time with teams this year.  This is the first time in three years that we’ve been home for the summer and we’re very excited about it.

Patrick’s schooling is going well.  We’ve moved to a “summer schedule”.  Because of his learning issues, his retention is not good, so we are going to continue working on a limited schedule over the summer.  Mostly he will continue with reading and some math, and the rest of his subjects will start up again in September.  He continues to make me laugh all the time–he is just a very funny little boy.

I will post a ministry update soon.  There is an awful lot happening here right now, but because of my handicapped status I haven’t gotten out to see most of it.  Hopefully next week, after this team leaves, I’ll have lots of news!

 

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The home stretch.

“I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.” ~Audrey Hepburn:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s

 

We are down to less than four weeks before we head back to Quito, and as usual, my emotions are all over the place.  When we’re here, we find ourselves looking at houses for sale, and thinking about where we might possibly live if we came back, and who would Dan work for, and what color would we paint the living room, and what church would we go to, and so on.  Then we go back to Quito, and our thoughts turn to how to make our ministry better and what kind of apartment are we looking for and does it really matter if we paint it or not because it isn’t ours…

I don’t know if there is any way to reconcile those two worlds.  Ecuador is not the place where we plan to buy a house and be forever, but it IS the place where we need to be right now.  Our house that we’ve lived in for 10 years is being sold, and we have to find somewhere else to live.  This is the house where we raised our children.  It’s the house that we moved into just 8 short months after we arrived on the field.  We struggled through the first months and years of missionary life there.  We had Christmases and Easters and Thanksgivings and birthdays and vacations there.  This house was robbed once, and even though it took months for our sense of security to return, it was still home and we knew that healing from that trauma didn’t mean finding somewhere else to live.  It was as if we needed each other–the house and us.  When our house sells, it will be torn down.  It is old, and it would take way more money to fix things than it would to just start over.  And the property is worth probably a half million dollars or so, and we know that a developer will snap it up and raze our memories and put up a high-rise with apartments made of glass and steel, and our house with the aggravating wood floors and the crumbling bricks and the 16 foot ceilings and the huge master bedroom and the crazy plumbing will just go quietly into the night.

Coming back to the US presents it’s own set of realities.  This part of our world has changed.  People move on.  We’ve missed births and deaths and job changes and house changes and kids growing up and church changes…so coming back to Ohio would not be “coming home”.  It would present it’s own set of challenges that would be, in their own way, more difficult than the reality of our move to Ecuador.  We would be returning to a home that has no history for us.  Our three oldest children are grown, and they will probably never actually live with us again.  There is no “home where we raised our family” here for us.  There are places and people that make things more homelike FOR us, but it’s not OURS.  We are always on someone else’s turf, and that’s a harsh reality sometimes.  The other reality that would come with returning to the US is that Ohio is no longer necessarily the only place where we feel loved and welcomed.  We have people in Georgia and Texas and California and Indiana and Illinois and Arizona…people who love us.  So where exactly would “home” be, anyway”?

We are not planning to move back anytime soon, unless the Lord makes it quite clear that it’s time.  We are going to head back to Ecuador and pack up our memories and move them to a new place, whether it’s an apartment or a duplex or a house, and we’ll start making some memories there.  Dan, Patrick, Oliver and I.  Maybe the Lord will finally give us that baby girl that has been tugging on my heartstrings.  I don’t know who she is, but in my heart she has a name and she needs a momma and a daddy and some brothers and sisters.  Maybe He won’t.  Maybe He will bring things to an end and we’ll be back on US soil before we know it.  Maybe He will change things up and we’ll end up somewhere else on the planet, doing something that we could never have imagined.

Maybe.

“It’s funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, ‘I want to go home.’ But then you come home, and of course it’s not the same. You can’t live with it, you can’t live away from it. And it seems like from then on there’s always this yearning for some place that doesn’t exist. I felt that. Still do. I’m never completely at home anywhere.”
Danzy Senna

When I grow up.

“Don’t try to make me grow up before my time…”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I am pretty sure it’s the second most asked question of children, right after “Where is your nose?”  That’s quite a jump, when you think about it.  From locating a random body part to planning a career, in the blink of an eye.  And both before you even learn to feed yourself.

I wanted to be a doctor.  Except for the blood and the math and stuff.  Apparently math is necessary in medical school, and you have to be able to find “X”.  Don’t know where it is and don’t care, so there goes the medical career.

At some point I wanted to be a musician.  This was evidenced by my trying to learn every instrument in the band, and mastering none, although I finally did learn to play a reasonably good saxophone.  I gained a new appreciation for what my parents and grandparents went through, attending all of those elementary band concerts.  It’s an entire room full of parents all praying at once for the Rapture, so that they don’t have to listen to one.  more.  song.  Elementary choir concerts run a close second.  Every child in the choir (including the boys) sings soprano, except for that one girl whose voice changed last week and she’s singing bass and trying not to look self-conscious.  The wild applause at the end has nothing to do with the actual performance–everyone is just glad that it’s over, and hoping that there won’t be an encore.

Once, for a very short time, I wanted to be a pastor.  Please don’t ask me why.  I am pretty sure that even God laughed at that one.  I have a fear of speaking in front of people that is literally paralyzing.  When I was a senior in high school, I had to give a speech at the end of the year.  I begged my teacher to let me tape it, or do it for her privately, and she would not cooperate.  I stood up in front of the class, started to cry and ran from the room.  Most churches prefer that the pastor be able to actually get up there and say something profound.  Fortunately I realized pretty quickly that preaching wasn’t my gift.  Neither was being a ballet dancer (no coordination what.  so.  ever.), a pilot (one good eye, and it’s questionable), a singer (Oh Sweet Jesus.  Just.  NO.) and a whole lot of other careers that involved talents that I didn’t possess.  (And before you pop up and get all “But coordination isn’t really a TALENT, I beg to differ.  In our family, it’s a talent.  I can assure you that all of those singers on “American Idol” have not worked nearly as hard at learning to sing as my sister and I have at learning to walk across a room without needing medical attention on the other side.  It’s a talent, people.)

We ask our children to make a decision about the rest of their lives at the age of 18.  When I was 18, I shouldn’t have been choosing what to have for breakfast.  I slept with my teddy bear until I got married.  I probably would have slept with him longer, but he made Dan nervous.  I’ve been married for 23 years, raised three children (and am well on my way to getting the fourth one reasonably raised), done a bunch of stuff that was never on my radar…and I still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up.  I have a lot of questionable skills now (I can plan a graduation ceremony in three days and run a week-long camp for junior high kids playing only games that involve food, including but not limited to octopus, ketchup, mustard and chocolate syrup), but the market for these amazing abilities is kind of limited here in the US.  For one thing, I am pretty sure that PETA would have a conniption if they found out that I can organize a volleyball game where the ball is an actual octopus.  Yeah.  I’ve got skills.

I have a lot of experience.  And a degree that says that I know some stuff about some stuff.  Maybe, someday, when I finally grow up, I will know what I want to do.  Until then, I will just keep learning stuff about stuff, and see what happens.

“People give you a hard time about being a kid at twelve. They didn’t want to give you Halloween candy anymore. They said things like, “If this were the Middle Ages, you’d be married and you’d own a farm with about a million chickens on it.” They were trying to kick you out of childhood. Once you were gone, there was no going back, so you had to hold on as long as you could.”
Heather O’Neill

The unwanted guest.

It’s not a big secret that I have anxiety issues.  I take medication for them, and most of the time it keeps me on a semi-even keel.  But they never truly go away.  My anxiety is the unwanted guest in our home and our marriage.  It has moved in, taken over the biggest room in my head, and no matter how much I try to evict it, it stays.

Dan didn’t marry an anxious person.  I was never outgoing, or overly brave, but I wasn’t anxious all the time.  I come from a long line of anxious people.  My grandmother, who was one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known, was filled with anxiety.  I can remember as a child her not wanting me to roller skate on the driveway because I “might fall”.  At the time, it made no sense to me, and I thought she was overprotective.  Now that I am a mom, I get it.  And I am worse than she ever was.

Patrick and I are living with my sister right now (who, coincidentally, lives in my grandparents house with the same scary driveway) and my mom lives around the corner.  It is literally 10 houses from my sister.  Yesterday we were headed over to visit my mom and Patrick asked if he could walk to Grandmama’s house all by himself.

I couldn’t let him.

My hands got sweaty and my heart started racing, and I brushed him off and promised that he could do it “another day”.  Then I had the conversation with the crazy person that lives in my head about letting him do it.  By the time we got to my mom’s (in the car, both of us) I had him kidnapped and gone forever.

I know that most of you are reading this and thinking that I am just ridiculous.  You’re right.  I am.  But being ridiculous–and knowing that I am ridiculous–doesn’t change a thing.  It isn’t good for my marriage, it isn’t good for my kids, and it certainly isn’t good for me.

I can honestly say that the most heated, unreasonable, crazy arguments that Dan and I have ever had were almost all caused by my anxiety.  It causes me to see things from a skewed perspective.  This morning I was texting him, and he didn’t answer me.  After a couple of times, I sent him a message asking if he was angry with me (Guilt–it’s the other person in my head) and he answered that he had sent me a text before, but forgot to hit “send”, and that he hadn’t seen the other message.  My immediate reaction was to get upset.  I didn’t answer him, because I knew that I would say something that wasn’t kind or necessary.  I’ve spent the last half an hour talking myself down off of the ceiling, because I KNOW he isn’t ignoring me, or angry with me, but my anxiety tells me otherwise and I have to remind myself over and over that it can’t rule my life, or my thoughts.

I sometimes wonder if my anxiety issues are tied to control–the things that make me the most upset and anxious are the things that I can’t control.  I’ve read all of the verses in the Bible about letting the Lord handle my problems, and not being afraid, and trusting…and I can do all of that for about five minutes.

“Anxiety” is a four-letter-word in the Christian community.  “You’re just not praying enough.”  “You need to believe more.”  “You have Jesus–you shouldn’t be anxious.”  (That one really frosts my cookies.)  And “anxiety” coupled with “medication” is like the Holy Grail of “what-in-the-world-is-wrong-with-you-and-you-are-obviously-not-a-good-Christian-or-a good-mother-or-a-good-wife-or-a-good-missionary-and-here–try some herbs.”  I think what frosts me most about people who respond that way is that, for the most part, they have not been where I am.  They don’t live my life or know my story and they certainly don’t know what is happening inside my head.  I am an introvert, and I spend a LOT of time inside my own head.  I don’t say what I am thinking (and really–y’all should be glad about that) and I don’t confide in a lot of people.  If you ask me what is going on, I will most likely say “nothing”.  Pushing me won’t change that–I don’t push easily.

I don’t have any answers, and I am not looking for them from anyone.  I guess I just wanted you to know that if I am being unreasonable or acting weird, it’s probably the anxiety rearing it’s ugly head.  Don’t take it personally.  And if you know someone who has taken the medication road–please be supportive.  Know that it was not a decision made lightly.  Know that for them, it was probably made after a long, hard, agonizing soul-search and that there really, truly was no other option–for THEM.  Maybe you took the herbs and they worked.  That makes me so happy for you.  Maybe you know someone who beat their anxiety by praying or fasting or going on a personal retreat.  I say “Great!”  But if you took the meds, or are taking the meds, or know someone who is or was…please see them as a God-given method of restoring our sanity.  Because I truly believe that the Lord gave me the right doctor (who is also a Christian) and that my doc knew what I needed at the time because he is a man of prayer and he knows that sometimes the answers are contra to what the Christian society says.

“It was one of those days when I was thinking too much, too fast. Only it was more like the thoughts had a mind of their own and going all by themselves at a hundred miles a second, and I was just sitting back, feeling the growing paranoia inside of me.”
Sasha Mizaree

It’s a three cup morning.

Patrick is upstairs taking his shower.  Patrick’s showers are precisely coordinated events.  The water temperature must be EXACTLY right.  It must be HIS soap and shampoo.  He must use HIS poof.  He must wash every part of his body THREE times.  It’s nerve-wracking.

This morning, before I had enough coffee in my system, I might have sort of yelled “WHAT?  WHAT WHAT WHAT?  FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, JUST TAKE YOUR SHOWER!”

I am nailing this mom thing.  Seriously.

Guilt. It’s what’s for breakfast.

This morning was one of those “ultimate Mom fail” mornings.  Patrick was unusually difficult to get out of bed (he’s never easy, but today was really tough) and he just wouldn’t get moving.  We took my nephew to school and then came home to get started on his schoolwork.

And it all fell apart.

He got through one section of his Language Arts lesson, and then just sort of shut down.  He wouldn’t read, he was whiny…finally, after a lot of raised voices (both of us) I told him to go lie down on the couch for a few minutes.

That was at 10:15.  He is still asleep.

Sometimes I forget that Patrick is only 10.  I forget that international travel and being away from home and routine is hard on his little self.  No matter how badly he wants to get on that plane and come to “Mimi’s house”, it still exhausts him.  He is generally a happy, well-adjusted, go-with-the-flow kind of child, so when he bucks the system it catches me off guard.  And sometimes I don’t react very well.  Poor guy will just have to take comfort in the fact that his siblings survived me, and he will too.

“I cannot admit this out loud. In the first place, we are expected to be supermoms these days, instead of admitting that we have flaws. It is tempting to believe that all mothers wake up feeling fresh every morning, never raise their voices, only cook with organic food, and are equally at ease with the CEO and the PTA.”
Jodi Picoult

 

 

Breathe…

This life.  This thing we do.  It demands.  Like a two-year-old clamoring for attention day and night, it demands every part of me.

It clutches at my mind…the daycare, the After-school program, the ladies learning to sew and learning to live and be women for the first time in their lives and the children in the street and the little old people who sit and beg…it goes on and on and on.  My mind is never silent.  Breathe.

My heart is a thousand places and nowhere.  My children, thousands of miles away.  Who came up with the idea of allowing our children to grow up?  How do I protect them from so far away?  What do I do when it hurts?  When they just need their momma?  How do I trust this world with my babies?  Breathe.

It is the “other woman” in my marriage.  Another email that demands his attention.  Another trip that takes him away from me.  Another crisis that needs handling, and this man…my husband…he can handle it.  He can fix things and talk to people and soothe tempers and roll with life.  I look into his eyes, and there, behind them, he is thinking about how to help.  How to do what he does so well…and do it better.  And he comes to our marriage and he is mine and I know that I have his whole heart for his whole life and the thought that he holds me up so high takes my breath away.  Breathe. 

I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I would walk away tomorrow.  My thoughts shadow-box in my head.  I love my life.  I need a new life.  It’s not His fault.  It’s all His fault.  Why am I here?  Why am I here?  Surely there is someone else who could do this better.  Faster.  More effectively.  Quieter.  Louder.  Breathe.

This life.  This thing we do.  It lets me grow.  It takes my soul and sets it free.  It is the song with no words that I see reflected back in their eyes.  It is the bird that takes the hope…my hope and their hope…and sets it dancing to the heavens.  It is the love that reminds me that I am not here because of me…I am here because of Him.

Breathe.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-6