What I wish I could tell you…

Exactly four weeks ago tomorrow, Dan and I, along with Patrick and Oliver, boarded a plane out of Quito for the last time.  We had made the decision in June to return to the US permanently, for a variety of reasons.  Although we knew it was the right decision, it was not made lightly and it still hurt.

We made the decision to locate ourselves in Indianapolis, to be near our grown children.  We have a lovely house here, and thanks to the generosity of so many people, it is fully furnished with lovely furniture.  I have collected a lot of things that belonged to my grandmother, and having things around me that I grew up with is comforting, in the way that wrapping up in a warm blanket on a cold evening is comforting.

I wish I could tell you that we are settled.  That we feel right at home.  That we have adjusted and gotten ourselves into this new life without a hitch.  I wish I could.

The reality is that right now, I feel like I’ve been picked up and dropped into someone else’s life, and I have no idea how to live it.  I find myself in a muddle over the oddest things.  Things that I used to do without thinking twice now require me to actually talk myself through them.  Something as simple as getting in the car and going somewhere by myself is overwhelming.  In Quito, I didn’t drive very much.  The traffic was horrible and it made me so nervous that I just gave it up.  Dan was usually available to take me where I needed to go, and if he wasn’t someone else was.  Here, I can go anywhere I want to, theoretically.  Except that I can’t.  I’ve gone to Hobby Lobby once and to the grocery store once, but that’s it.  I just can’t navigate getting in the car and going anywhere by myself.  Dan has been incredibly patient with me, but I know he is ready for his wife to get some of her independence back.

Going to church has been hard.  Not because of the church–we actually really like the pastor and are enjoying the sermon series…but it’s not “our” church.  “Our” pastor isn’t there.  “Our” people aren’t there.  I am glad, however, that Our God is there!

Shopping is always an adventure.  I have to keep reminding myself that Target will have what I need (most likely in several different colors), they will have enough of it, and they will have it next week, or next month, so I don’t need to buy 12 of it.  I can’t be in a store for very long (other than Hobby Lobby–it’s my happy place and I could live there) without getting very nervous and overwhelmed.  And going in without a list is just not wise.  The other day I needed dog food, milk and cooking spray.  I came home with three different kinds of candy corn (which I don’t even like, but after 12 years of not being able to buy it, that was irrelevant.  And they had it in different flavors.), ice cream and tots.  No cooking spray and no dog food.  Fortunately the dogs like candy corn.  😛  I think I only remembered the milk because I walked past it to get to the candy corn.

I have had to deal with setting up utility accounts in our name, getting our drivers licenses changed, figuring out how to get someone to pick up our trash…and yes, I know I am saying “I” a lot.  The reality is that Dan and I are processing this very differently.

I wish I could tell you that we’ve been the poster children for how to do this and not have it affect our marriage and our home life.  The reality is that we are both a little snappy (OK, he’s a little–I’m a lot), and life here at our house still doesn’t feel “right”.  Every morning I wake up and for a moment, wonder where I am.  I still look at things in the store and think “I wonder if I can get that home”…then I remember that all I have to do is put it in the back of the car and take it there–no planes or luggage restrictions involved.

When we moved to Ecuador, we had a purpose.  It was exciting and new, and we were down there to do something for the Lord.  I know that somewhere in this move is a purpose, and that the Lord still has work for us to do…but right now I can’t find it.  I feel like a little kid lost in a crowd…looking around for my parents and just seeing people all around me that I don’t know.

What I wish I could tell you is that I’ve got this.

I wish I could.

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This and that, and why I think I’m pretty boring.

I got an email yesterday from a long-time friend/supporter that I only know through the electronic world.  Electronically, she’s a dear, sweet person.  She started off her note by telling me how she couldn’t do what I do, and that if the Lord had called her she would have just argued with Him until He went away.  I tried that, Sweet Sister.  Doesn’t work.

We’ve had an uneventful Sunday around here.  Church this morning.  My blood sugar did That Thing again, the one where I end up lying on the floor in a storage room in the church basement sweating and shaking and sick to my stomach with the black parts around the edge of my vision, until all of a sudden it’s over and I’m fine again.  I have no idea what causes it, and I don’t know how to fix it, and my doctor has no idea what is causing it, so he doesn’t know how to fix it either.  *Sigh*  After church we went to lunch with good friends and talked about the Olympics.  We laughed about the laughy parts and as a collective group tried to figure out curling.  We finally decided that it’s shuffleboard on ice.  We have a shared love for snowboarding (the watching, not the doing) and skiing.  After lunch we came home and I put my pajama pants on, and my hoodie, and declared to anyone who cared that I wasn’t leaving the house again today.  It could catch fire and I would probably just sit on the couch and fiddle.  (Kudos if you get the joke.)

My friend in the email mentioned that she couldn’t do what I do.  But she could, I think.  See, we are pretty normal, and pretty boring down here.  At least I think we are.  Dan gets up each morning and goes to work.  Patrick and I do his schoolwork in the morning and then pretty much nothing in the afternoon, because my body despises the altitude that I live at and runs me out of energy by noon.  The cool part of our lives is that we get to help people.  There are all kinds of amazing things happening here.  Women are being rescued from the sex industry and given a new hope.  We are teaching women who work in a garbage dump how to sew and make beautiful things and earn an income to support their families so that they don’t have to work in the dump anymore someday.  Not today, but someday.  Babies get fed and rocked and loved on, and they are safe and cared for and their mommas and daddies can go to work and not worry about them.  Kiddos get after school tutoring to help improve their grades and their self esteem, all in one shot.  They get to stay at our After School Program until their parents get off of work, and be kids, instead of having to go home and care for younger siblings, or run the streets and get into heaven-knows-what.

There is more.  Much more.  And we get to be a part of it.  Us, with our boring existence.  We get to be a part of all of this stuff.  God uses us, boring as we are.  When people tell me that they couldn’t do what I do, it makes me feel a little funny, because I’m nothing special.  Alone and on my own, I would just continue to do The Things.  You know, like falling off of my back step and ending up with a bruise the size of Columbus on my leg.  Or ignoring the laundry until it becomes an entity all it’s own, with a pulse and stuff.  I swear I’ve seen it crawling across the floor toward the washing machine.  We eat too much take-out, although I’m trying to fix that.  We watch too much TV and Patrick spends too much time on the computer (although in my defense, his schoolwork is 90% computer based, but still…)

What we do–what I do–is only happening because God is right there, in it, making it happen.  My job is to try and get out of His way, and if something amazing happens, to make sure that people know that it’s ALL.  HIM.  Because seriously, people.  This amazing, crazy, boring, exciting life…is all Him.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

 

 

Ten years on…

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of our arrival here in Quito.  I would like to say that we met it with great joy and celebration, but in truth we didn’t even realize it until about 11 in the morning, and then we just mentioned it to each other and went on about our business.  It did get me thinking, though, about the differences between 10 years ago and today.

-10 years ago we were cocky, overly confident new missionaries.  We were going to change the world.  We had been to Ecuador twice before, for a week each time…and we HAD this.  Ecuador was going to love us–we just knew it.  Fast forward 10 years…we still get it, but in a whole new way.  We have a different perspective on missions.  On Ecuador.  On life.  We aren’t going to change the world.  We’re just a little piece of a BIG puzzle.  People all over the world are doing exactly what we do, for the exact same reasons.  We serve a big God, who is doing things all over the world with missionaries who are imperfect, unqualified and truth be told, scared out of their britches most of the time.  And yet, He keeps on working and things keep on happening and we keep on scratching our heads, wondering how in the world He could have made something good out of the mess that is us.

-I am a hoarder.  There.  I’ve admitted it.  This life breeds that mentality, simply because there are so many things we can’t get on a regular basis.  We all have our specialties.  My girlfriend is a “general” hoarder.  Cake mixes, spices, frostings…you name it, she’s got 12 of them in her pantry.  I am a more “specialized” hoarder.  Chocolate chips.  Starbucks coffee.  Canned pumpkin.  We may be good friends, but if you ask me for a can of my pumpkin, I will probably have to seriously reevaluate our friendship.  Boundaries, people.

-The mission field has created an amazing marriage.  For US.  I’ve seen marriages destroyed by the field as well.  There is nothing quite so terrifying as waking up on your first morning and realizing that your support system–mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, friends…is 3,000 miles away.  You roll over and look into your spouse’s eyes…and realize that you’re all you’ve got.  For most of us, this is a sobering reality.  You have just taken your parents grandchildren and put them on a plane and moved them to God-knows-where.  The practical side of it is that you now have no babysitters.  Hmph.  The other side of it is that the next time your mother sees your son, he will be almost six feet tall and have facial hair.  It will freak them both out.  We had been married for 13 years when we came to the field.  For all of that time we had lived within 30 minutes of every member of our family.  We had never had to depend on “us” because there were others around who kept things going.  In the last 10 years, we have found “us”.  And we love it.  We have a great marriage.  Not a perfect marriage.  But a great marriage.  I don’t think things would look like they do now if we hadn’t made this move.

-We have learned to work together.  For the first 13 years of our marriage, Dan worked 50-60 hours a week, and I stayed home with the kiddos.  We had things divided up and it worked out alright.  When we moved here, suddenly we were together 24/7.  Talk about an eye-opener.  I remember rolling over one morning and thinking “Oh.  You’re still here?  Can’t you GO somewhere?”  And lest you think I’m horrible, he was thinking the same thing.  We now work together (in the very same OFFICE, no less) and it’s good.  We enjoy being together.  A lot.

-We have GREAT kids.  Kids who look at the world around them and wonder how they can make a difference.   Our kids live life with their eyes wide open.  Do I think we would have had great kids if we hadn’t come here?  Yes.  But I know that we made the right decision for them, and for us.

-We speak Spanish.  Ten years ago, language school was hands-down the most terrifying thing we could think of.  I’m pretty sure language school is a level of hell.  And when you are 34 and trying to wrap your brain around another language when some days you don’t even have a grip on your FIRST language, it’s just miserable.  The good news is that, as far as we know, language school has never actually killed anyone.  We did discover early on that the reason that they don’t teach missionaries cuss words in language school is because even the most devout of people will USE them.  If you want those words, you need to ask your kids.  Who, because they attend an international school, know them in about 13 languages.

-We appreciate technology.  We LOVE social media.  When we came 10 years ago, calling home to our friends and family involved emailing (using a dial-up connection), setting up a specific time to call, then going down to the HCJB compound and using the phone in Dan’s office, with a special code, to make a satellite call.  It was one step up from smoke signals, I swear.  Now, we have a phone line in our home with an Akron, OH phone number.  We can call anytime, and people can call us anytime.  We don’t call anytime, because I am still an introvert and talking on the phone makes me crazy, but the point is that we CAN, if we WANT to.  We also have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram…we’re so connected it’s scary.  In a good way though.

-We came to the field with three children, ages 11, 10 and 9.  Six months after we arrived, the Lord gave us an 8-month-old baby boy.  He still takes my breath away sometimes.  He has grown up with three mothers and two fathers.  Because he was 9 years younger than Kristina and our kids were into sports and drama and whatever else they could drum up, he’s been dragged here, there and everywhere.  And he is the most pleasant, easygoing child alive.  He is, without a doubt, our greatest blessing from this life that we’ve chosen.

-Being on the mission field has strengthened our faith in ways we never could have imagined.  Because we live on faith-based support, we are wholly dependent on the Lord for his provision.  And how He has provided!  We have never gone without our monthly pay.  We’ve never gone hungry.  Never had our utilities turned off.  Never not been able to get back to the US when we needed to.  And considering that 99% of the people that we work with cannot say those things, it’s very humbling.  Looking at our monthly support income is a tangible reminder that we are loved by so many people.

-We have friends all over this planet.  10 years ago we could never have dreamed that the Lord would put so many amazing people into our lives.  We are so truly blessed.

I could go on and on about what we’ve seen, how we’ve felt, what we’ve learned.  We serve a big God.  He loves us with a big love.  We couldn’t do what we do without Him right there, picking up the pieces and putting them back together.  It’s been an amazing 10 years.  We can’t wait to see what the next 10 hold.

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.”  Habakkuk 1:5

Retreat…

I’m a retreater.  For instance, right now, I am supposed to be at a gathering for my department.  I am, instead, at home listening to it rain.  And retreating.  Some people, when life gets tough, rush headlong into the fray.  I can’t do that.  Even on my best days, the thought of rushing into the middle of things is enough to bring on a migraine.  On days like today, when the stress is piled in the corners and sitting on the stairs and knocking on the front door, being with people would send me into a catatonic state.  It’s not that I don’t like people.  I do.  What I can’t handle is just…being there.  Making small talk.  While my mind is running elsewhere.

I saw a quote today that said something like “Everyone needs someone that they can say anything to without the fear of rejection.  BE that person.”  It’s true.  And being that person doesn’t mean that someone has to speak.  Just listening, without judgment, is OK too.  I have a hard time with this.  I know that I have people in my life that would be that person.  What I can’t bring myself to do is talk.  It’s so much easier to just stay here, inside my own head, where no one can hear my thoughts.

I live in a culture where, if you mention to someone that you’re worried or stressed, their immediate comeback is “Why would you be worried?  You have Jesus.  People who have Jesus cannot be worried.”  End of conversation.  I wish that were true.  Maybe it is for you.  But for me, it’s just one more reason to feel guilty about myself, about my faith (or the perceived lack thereof) and about my inability to just “let go and let God.”  And the last thing in the world I need is guilt.

All of this to say that if you know a retreater–someone who just has to be alone–don’t criticize them.  Don’t beg them to join you because “they need to get out and stop moping around.”  And for goodness sake, please don’t get angry with them because they aren’t dealing with life the way that you think they should.  Because believe me…they are doing the best that they can.  And it’s taking every single ounce of emotional and physical energy that they can muster to just keep holding on.

“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

She LIVES!

Seriously.  I’m still alive.  Barely.  Who knew teaching required actual WORK?  Like in the evenings and stuff?  (OK, all of my friends who are teachers knew.  But who ELSE?) 

I started as a real, honest-to-goodness-having-to-make-lesson-plans-and-actually-grade-papers teacher back in September.  It’s been a wonderful, crazy, amazing year.  I’ve kind of gotten into the groove, which is nice, considering that we have like 11 weeks of school left or something.  I can hold my own during parent-teacher conferences (in SPANISH.  So THERE.) and I finally figured out how to correctly put the grades into our computer system. 

On the homefront, my personal children are doing fine (at least I think they are.  I’ve been grading papers for six months.)  Our house usually looks like an army has just decamped, and we won’t discuss the laundry situation.  Last week, we were allowed to wear jeans to work all week.  I couldn’t, because I had no clean jeans.  *shame*

Dan has officially been made Extreme Response’s Regional Director for Latin America.  His first official act of business was to head to Haiti for a week and visit some of our partners there.  I’m usually insanely jealous when he gets to travel and I…don’t…but this time I took a pass on the jealousy train.  It’s HOT there.  And they have bugs that are so big that you can give them the car keys and send them out to get a pizza.  I stayed home and had one or two nervous breakdowns over the course of the week that he was gone.  Actually, it was more like one big nervous breakdown, with brief moments of rationality thrown in to keep the children from moving in with the neighbors.  I did actually cook dinner for the children for FOUR nights in a row, which is some kind of record.  Dan was so proud.

I am getting ready for some major changes in my world.  At the end of this year, I will be leaving the Alliance Academy, where I’ve worked for almost 7 years, and pulling Patrick out to homeschool him.  This decision wasn’t made lightly, and I’ve spent the last several months thinking about all of the pros and cons that come with it.  I’m going to miss my friends at the school, and I’m going to miss my students, and I’m leaving a job that I love.  On the other hand, I’m going to be more free to work with Extreme Response, and possibly travel with Dan some, and go back and forth to see our three older children who are going to be in college.  And Patrick has some pretty wicked learning issues that we believe will be better addressed in a one-on-one situation rather than in the general classroom.  And hopefully the house will stay a little cleaner and my poor hubby can expect to have a conversation with me once in a while without having to snap his fingers in front of my face and bring me back to reality because my brain has wandered off to it’s happy place again.  And maybe…just maybe…I’ll have time to update this blog a little more often.