Tag Archives: adapting

Live and Learn

We have heard that the first 1-2 years of living overseas can be a shock to your system: adjusting to new foods, new water, new bugs. Some have told us that the first year overseas was the hardest year on their health. One day, we will have our own story to share. But right now, we’re living it.

It had to get pretty bad to go facebook with my status. I know many of you want to know how we are…really. It’s just hard to think that my needs are worthy of people’s time when there’s headlines of children beheaded and believers being tortured. Plus, everyone’s got their own aches and pains, right? 

Last Sunday, after weeks of being sick off and on, we knew we couldn’t go on like this. I spent most of last weekend either laying down or running to the bathroom. Sunday night the pain and sick kept getting more intense. We weren’t sure if we would need to rush to the hospital in the night, so we packed some bags. Then, we remembered our gas tank was near empty. And gas stations in town wouldn’t be open in the middle of a Sunday night. And Andy couldn’t see out of his left eye at night (after a soccer injury a few weeks before). And then the whole issue of what to do with our 3 sleeping boys in a foreign country.

We really just needed Jesus to show up.
Facebook status. Prayer update. Didn’t matter anymore who thought what. We needed prayer.

I can’t think of what happened next without tears. Monday morning…
I woke up! The sickness held off in the night, the pain was lessened. And my email was filled with encouragement and prayers and concern and care and help. We knew we had been covered in prayer. We have seen the Lord at work in the midst of all the unknowns. He has brought peace and relief and hope! No doubt we made it through because of so many of you praying for us!

We still don’t know what happened. We’re still seeking wisdom for what to do.
Since I was diagnosed with celiac disease 4 years ago, I have been gluten-free and have had virtually no problems with my stomach. However, the doc thinks there are foods here that are upsetting my system like gluten would. I’ve taken possible irritants out of my diet, hoping to figure this out, including coffee. [Living in Brasil right where it is grown, sad day!] On top of that, I was treated for parasites and amoeba. The medicine made me really sick. And, we’re still waiting on test results to see if the treatment was enough.
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[Our boys continue to amaze me. Doctor visits mean they either stay in the waiting room OR at home with a movie-sitter. Can’t believe they’re at that age yet, but a giant bowl of popcorn and a movie lets us run into town for a dr. visit. And boy am I thankful for my trusty portuguese translator:) ]

Looking back, we can see better. Wouldashouldacoulda. Probably woulda not chosen the sushi buffet for our anniversary, shoulda not drank the water (we have a filter at home, but wasn’t as careful outside our home), coulda been more careful washing our lettuce (and not eating so many guavas straight from the tree), woulda asked the guy on the street selling meat kabobs to cook mine more, probably shoulda not eaten meat from a guy on the street…
Live and learn.

On a typical day…I get up, hang laundry to dry, walk and pray around the soccer field, make breakfast, homeschool 3 boys, make lunch, wash dishes, catch my breath, study portuguese, staff meetings some afternoons,”passear” (walk and chat with people), make dinner, wash dishes, sweep up the bugs, some evenings we have meetings or family time. Also I’m the school “nurse”, which means people come by for gauze or medicine that have been donated to our school. But these last weeks, some days I could barely teach and make lunch. NO ability to study portuguese, do dishes, clean up…so SuperBabe stepped in. But, he’s got his own load of preparing, teaching, grading, mentoring and all else that comes with living on a Bible School campus.

We try to live life as fully as we can.
But, these days I have felt the full extent of my weakness and helplessness.
When I realize how truly dependent I am upon the Lord, is when I start to I learn…

– Sometimes, when our family is in transition [babies, illness, jobs, moving], things seem to get much harder before they get easier. Looking back, I can see the Lord used times when we felt stretched way beyond what was comfortable and desirable to make our “new normal” not seem so bad. We were able to see with new eyes when the hardship was lifted. That each day is truly a gift! It kinda feels like that may be happening now.

– We came here to serve. I thought that included me learning the language quickly so I could start sharing more and being involved more. I didn’t come to be sick in bed! 🙂 We pray He will give the strength to do what He has called us to do. BUT, the Lord is not surprised by all this. So, we need to wait patiently on Him for what our next step should be.

– There is so much more to my day than how I feel. If I focus on that, I miss so much. I have 3 boys who are as curious and adventurous as ever! I have had some of the most precious moments with them–savoring these ages, their personalities. In all of this, we have not stopped laughing, exploring, enjoying, living and learning. If anything, this has brought all of us even closer. Which is just like our God to work all things together for good.

– Our boys recently had an assignment where they had to write about the Feeding 5,000 Story [John 6.1-14] from the viewpoint of the boy. They asked me how I thought it was for the boy to give up his lunch. You know, it was the first I had ever thought about the boys’ perspective. His momma had packed him lunch. Maybe that was his only food for the entire day. Maybe she knew he needed to eat or would have blood sugar issues. But, here he was in a crowd. I doubt he was the only one with any food, but he was willing to share what he had. He came forward with his lunch. I wonder if he hesitated, not sure if there would be any leftover for him. But, he gave what he had. In doing so, he witnessed Jesus turning 5 loaves and 2 fish into lunch for the masses! I believe the Lord can create something from nothing…like an entire universe! I believe He doesn’t need me to accomplish His purposes and build His kingdom.
The hero in the story wasn’t the boy.
But, we can learn from the boy. To step forward and offer what we have.
Because our God is able to do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine.
To HIM be the glory now.
And forever!

It takes a village…

But what about when you leave the village?

Well, you can probably imagine there has been some homesickness/loneliness that accompanies moving your family halfway across the world. People don’t talk much about loneliness. Crazy that we all feel it at times, but will rarely ever admit it.It takes courage to share our deep-down feelings, vulnerability leaves us…vulnerable! It’s also hard to acknowledge it without wallowing in it, and who really wants to listen to a Debbie Downer. 
But it’s real.
When I stop to think how very far we are from people we cherish so deeply, it feels scary and lonely and empty. 
And yet, I hesitate to admit all this because I don’t ever want to minimize the fact that Christ has always been all around. This song has been the anthem of these days.

Whenever I feel lonely, I am never ever alone.
He is my Rock and Sustainer. I am more convinced of this today than ever.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles,
and You care(!!!) about the anguish of my soul. 
| Psalm 31.7

But the real reason for writing is because when you’re hanging out on a limb, you quickly learn how strong your root system is. We haven’t uprooted. We have only stretched out further. And really, we could have fallen flat on our faces by now. But, you know what??
Our roots have only become stronger.
We may have left the village, but our village has not left us.

Y’all. We have a shoebox full of cards and letters with overseas stamps on them!
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We have parents who hopped on a plane to bring help and hugs | brothers who sent a year’s supply of my favorite Tazo tea and seeds for our garden | friends who left dirt piles all over her house to pick up the phone and call, just because she had the feeling she should | emails to let us know we are remembered and missed | boxes arriving full of fun surprises for the entire fam | friends traveling all the way to spend a week with us | familiar handwriting, written with thought, mailed with care | skype dates | other very thoughtful and kind things that I will recall as soon as this is posted | Sunday school classes that not only remember our kids’ birthdays, but send cards! | churches that put together packages with a few of our favorite things | friends keeping us up-to-date with the latest trends – sending a pair of earrings, pants, hat, book, dark-chocolate goji berries | notes with those simple, yet cherished words: you are loved. | people praying for us every.single.day | all those who sacrifice monthly to be with us – we may be here and they may be there, but we’re in this together.

The tears flow as we count all the ways our cup overflows.

It takes a village to reach the villages.
Words cannot express how grateful we are for those upholding us. Even if you live so stinkin’ far away, you are just as much a part of expanding the reach of the Gospel to this corner of the world. We couldn’t do this alone. Thankful for each and every one of ya making sure we aren’t. 🙂

Between 2 Worlds

Some people have asked why I’m taking some weeks off facebook.

The easier answers are …
We have to wait to watch The Voice finale until it airs on hulu, and I don’t want facebook feed to spoil it for me! OR
After taking out 7 hours of my day (to teach kids, study portuguese, hang laundry), something had to go. OR
I’m really horrible at keeping up with 500 friends. To many, that’s not a big deal. But to some, it has been.
All true.
But not all. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why, but here’s a try.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this place we find ourselves today. We’ve now lived in Brazil for 6 months. CrAzY!! In many ways, it feels like the time has flown. Can hardly believe it’s been that long since a Papa John’s pizza, coffee with our life group, Noa Noa spinach dip, a church service in English…
Kinda amazed we’ve survived! 🙂

Yet in other ways it seems the more time that passes, the farther away we feel. While we are the ones who moved away, sometimes it feels like we aren’t the ones who moved on. Our kids talk about things that happened at school in September like it was yesterday. (When it was really 9 months ago! I just have to wonder how long that will go on.)

In the olden days, missionaries left one country and moved to another. Maybe they’d get a snail mail letter now and then. But that was it. I think that would be SO much harder. Imagine stepping off the plane, it wouldn’t take long until they met up with isolation and loneliness. But it probably was easier to learn to be “all there.” There was nothing else to compare their day with. So, they learned to live it. Sure, there were memories of what they left behind, but the sights of everything they were missing wasn’t always before them.

Nowadays it is much easier to remain connected. Thank you All Gore for our internets! We are so thankful for technology…for the chance to catch up with family over skype, watch our friends’ kids graduate from preschool on instagram, listen to the latest sermons and podcasts, read what’s on people’s minds, know what they think of the weather and all the snowdays on facebook 😉 An English speaker is only a phone call away! We can even save a stamp (and 3 weeks) and send off letters via email! How all this has helped our transition!

But with all this “connection” comes trying to figure out how to live between 2 worlds.
How to keep up with those we care about deeply in a world that is so instant and informationalAND…How to get to know people here in a world that is more relaxed and relational. (Sidenote: It’s crazy how many drink coffee here without taking pictures of it! Who knew it could still be done?? 😉 )

We miss our family and friends so bad it hurts!
In portuguese, the expression for “I miss you” is “I feel your absence.” We feel it.
Every.single.day.
I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my emotions under control. I just need to cry once a week about it all, and it’s all good. But, our boys will share at some point each day something they miss. That’s what gets me. To hear our youngest crying in his bed because he feels like he has “zero friends here…ZERO!” and just wants to play with those back in Indiana. To read the notes they write to their grandma – “I wish you were sitting next to me right now.” I can’t even type that without coming undone.

I keep telling our kids “If we’re so focused on what we miss, we’ll miss out on being here.” We want to learn how to be present here. How to be a good friend here. How to rejoice in this day that the Lord has made for us here. Because I can really see us missing this one day.
photo 3The other day as we were going through all this…Jude sharing how much he misses his friends, me scooping him up on my lap, holding him close, praying over him…it was different. I pictured the Lord scooping us onto His lap, holding us close, comforting us both.
I knew we weren’t alone.
Our God is with us. Our God is for us.

I love the description of the first missionaries to leave a country to venture into the unknown:

They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth.
And obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call their own.
If they had meant the country they came from, they would have found a way to go back.
But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland.
THAT IS WHY God is not ashamed to be called their God.
(Hebrews 11.13b-16a)

This is where God has led us. No doubt in my mind!
So, no use dreaming about a one-way ticket back to familiar.
We must dig our hands down deep in this place we find ourselves.
And should we long for another world, let’s be sure it’s not of this earth.

As for those moments when the isolation and loneliness show up at our door?
Well, guess what. We don’t have to face them on our own!
There is a Holy Lap we can climb upon.
An Almighty Embrace waiting to happen.

For The Lord your God has arrived to live among you.
He is a mighty Savior, He will rejoice over you with great gladness.
With His love, He will calm your fears.
He will exult over you by singing a happy song.
(Zephaniah 3.17)

So, what does this all have to do with facebook?
I don’t really know  🙂
Maybe I just need to step back and figure out how to do our new “normal”…
and all of the above. It won’t be forever.
But until then, let’s make space to listen for that happy song.

3-Dozen Years worth of thoughts

I turned 36 this week. My love spoiled me with fresh-squeezed orange juice and a hand-made table that looks like it’s straight from the pages of Restoration Hardware.
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My boys showered me with all sorts of cards and wrapped up treasures. Jude even gave me my very own lip gloss! (which happened to be the same tube I gave him 4 months ago 😉 )
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My parents brought me a crockpot! And smiles and memories and help and fun…
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The staff ladies here surprised me with “happy birthday” in english and gluten-free cake!
2014-04-09 11.37.11Something about this birthday seems different. I don’t feel any older, except when I make the trek up the hill to our house in the heat of the day. Then I feel every dozen-worth of years. And maybe a few too many dozen-worth of pão de queijos too 🙂

I just can’t help but think back to how different things were a year ago…
when I was able to drive wherever I needed to go. By myself.
I could invite ladies over and hold conversations with them. About heart matters.
I knew where to find the best deals. On anything from rice flour to shoes.
I could take my kids to the doctor. And I could visit the female doctor…without a translator.
I had a quiet house for a few hours a day.
The ability to form intelligent sentences. Share deep thoughts.
I got all of the mail that was mailed to me. And people got mail I mailed to them.

I like feeling confident. Competent. Capable.
But, now?
Honestly, some days I feel more crippled than anything.
While that’s not really comfortable, I’m finding it’s not the worst thing.
I’m inspired by these guys who don’t either.

We were getting to know a group of students in our home a few weeks ago. Andre asked us all to share one thing that’s essential to our being – one thing that if it was taken away, you would not be you. My mind went from being crafty and thrifty, to enjoying cooking and time with close friends…
But.
What happens when those have been taken away? (I still like to cook, but not having a dishwasher takes some of the enjoyment out of it, if you know what I mean.)
What happens when what used to seem “essential” to my being is not yet in bloom in this season of life?
As I was stumbling over what to say, it helped me see that having those taken away is not the worst thing either. Because it is peeling away layers of false competence. Superficial assurance.

I know I’m not the only one out there who feels at times like they are limping along, for whatever reason. I just want to encourage you…you are not alone!

This song has become precious to us these days. I can’t listen to it loud enough. Maybe that’s because deep down we all need this shouted into our hearts sometimes:
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Savior’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

This too shall pass. We will look back on these days and laugh about all my communication blunders, like when a lady offered me ice cream this week and I told her “No thank you. I only eat.” (Instead of “I already ate.”) Ok…maybe we’re laughing now about it 🙂

We’ve been here 4 months.
Until I get the hang of this language, it’s gonna feel crippling, limiting, weakening.

But 36 years is long enough for me to have learned that if His strength is made perfect in weakness, then isn’t this season from the kind hand of our Father?
For when we are weak, He is strong!
And HIS strength is exactly what needs to be essential to my being.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
((even though sometimes my kids feel like they don’t have a friend here OR
some days I have no idea what I’m doing homeschooling AND trying to learn a language))
YET I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

Habakkuk 3.17-19

Let it Grow

People here ask if I garden.
I used to light up and share all that I enjoy growing.
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Then we planted our first avocado tree and were advised to move it or else it will grow up and drop avocados on our roof and break the clay tiles.
Now I just say I used to garden.
I have planted seedlings here.
2014-03-13 15.32.16It is yet to be determined whether or not it will become a garden. The climate here is so very different than what we are used to. It’s blazing hot in January, with rain rain rain everyday, then it stops for months. Currently I’m trying to figure out how to keep ants out of our plants. Anyone know how to build a fence for that?! We bought special dirt because the soil is so acidic and dry. Andre built a table for our planters out of an old door, cuz he’s handy like that. We’re composting and crossing our fingers.
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But still. It’s a 50/50 chance whether or not they will grow.

I think the reason I like gardening so much is what you can learn from kneeling down on the ground, saying a prayer for growth with dirt under your fingernails. As I took these delicate seedlings from their comfortable life in the nursery and transplanted them in a relentlessly dry land with the blazing sun…My mind went to James 1.2-4. The passage is beautiful. It builds and inspires. But, I got stuck on this.

When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…

These little seedlings could have spent the rest of their lives in the nursery. They had a pretty great set up there, sitting in cozy black plastic homes, surrounded by their best buds. A nice lady always making sure they’re never too hot or too cold, and have plenty of their favorite food and drink. There were even little kitties walking around, purring.
But, there was no room for them to grow. No place to expand their roots.

We are doing our best to give them space to bloom.
I hope they will, because it would really complete this analogy nicely.
And, I really miss Basil.

I guess my point is that all too often we find ourselves in a place where we despise the hard. We beg for our troubles to pass. We can not wait until our trials dismiss.
But, if we are never given room to stretch, we will never grow.

When you are taken to a place that is no longer comfortable…give up?
When you are stretched beyond what you find desirable…get upset?
When what is being asked of you is beyond what you are capable of…think life is unfair?

To all of the above, James encourages us to consider it an opportunity for JOY!
Why, oh WHY in the world would he say that?

Because then your endurance has a chance to grow!
Because when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything!

So.
LET IT GROW!
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Miss ‘Merica

I squeezed 6 Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Via packets into my suitcase to pull out on those “I miss America” days. Almost 3 months into our life here in Brazil, and I just opened my 2nd packet.
That’s pretty good!

As I sip on this instant pumpkin spice latte, that is really hardly anything like a pumpkin spice latte. But the longer it goes between now and my last “real” pumpkin spice latte, it doesn’t matter – it’s a fragrant and delicious taste of the freedom of driving myself to a Starbucks and ordering my own cup of coffee without the baristas straining their ears to understand the words coming out of my mouth.
Anyhow.
As I sip on this instant pumpkin spice latte, 2 lists emerged.
What I miss. What I don’t.

The “what I miss” list will probably get added to randomly…when all of a sudden I remember there’s a vegetable out there called celery and how good it would taste with peanut butter. Right now!

During this adaptation to living overseas process, we can wake up feeling like “something just isn’t right about my day…oh yeah, it’s because EVERYTHING has changed.” But when I really started to boil it down, it was surprisingly fun and therapeutic to encapsulate what it is we truly miss.

Of course, we miss friends who have become family. Family who are our friends.
I would trade this whole list to have any of them here. But *besides* that…

I miss:
Tortilla chips.
Celery.
Spaghetti squash.
Grocery stores having what you need. or want. or what they usually have.
Being able to talk to the lady who is cutting my hair.
People praying in English.
Life group.
Dropping my kids off at school. (Really, just the few hours of quiet.)
“Alone” time (I did just start to drive here!! Still don’t feel comfortable driving anywhere by myself until I can communicate better. But it’s a step!!)
Target.
Joann Fabrics.
Modern conveniences: dishwasher, dryer, crockpot, mac and cheese in a box.
Not rationing out my Tazo Zen tea bags, or KIND granola bars.
Feeling capable {insert… to hold a conversation, to order coffee, to take my kids to the dr.}
Letting our kids be kids in public and not having to hush their English (for safety reasons).
Watching the Olympics.

But! That’s not all!!
As I started to pen on paper what it is we miss, a different list came with it: what we don’t miss!
No doubt because of many prayers for our sustaining grace and our resolve to love it here.

I don’t miss:
Texting…maybe it’s more the “What to do when I’m making dinner, or reading to my kids, or talking with my husband, or having quiet time, and someone else enters into the moment…should I pause and write them back now, or write them later…can the world really wait?”
The speed at which is normal life as a mom in America.
All the peripherals that kept me from my priorities.
Needing to be places on time.
Wondering how my kids are during the day.
Missing them.
Homework.
Having to plan out my week to see people. I love that people just stop by!
Flatlands. I really really really like looking out at the mountains.
Driving in snow.
Chapped lips.
Fruits and vegetables from the grocery that don’t taste like real fruits and vegetables.
Wondering if we are where we are supposed to be.

I really love seeing Andre do what he was made to do.
I love getting to know the students and needing to learn Portuguese.
I love that our kids are growing up with a bigger worldview.
I love to hear their gasps from the backseat when we pass a house that is barely more than cardboard and plastic.
I love that they understand now what abandoned children are, and ask when can we adopt some.
I love picking them up from Sunday School, and they share about their class in Portuguese.
I love that we met the pastor of a church on Saturday, and when he heard Andy worked in a church in the US, he asked him to preach the next day.
I love that when we visited the church the next day, he said “Is that pastor from the US here? Could he come up and pray for this man?” LOVE THAT!!
I love not caring that I wore this shirt twice already this week.
I love that I wrote tortilla chips on the top of my “MISS” list, and the next day we went to the grocery and they had TORTILLA CHIPS!
I love seeing the simple ways the Lord cares for us.
I love feeling sustained by Him.
I love no longer wondering if we are where we are supposed to be.

We’re here.
While we may miss ‘Merica, there is much to love here.
So, I might as well sip on this quasi-pumpkin spice latte and focus on that 🙂
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Home

My parents still live in the same house I was brought home from the hospital. I lived there all my childhood, elementary, NKOTB, and high school years without packing a single moving box. DSC_0754But the last umteen years have made up for that. This last year alone, we have moved 3 times. Each space has been different. Each has had its own character, hosted its own share of dinner-parties, made its own memories. I will always smile at the good times we shared under the different roofs.

We spent newlywed months in an apartment where we could vacuum the entire place without plugging into a different outlet. Our landlord would mow our lawn in her bikini and direct our guests to where they should park in her bathrobe. But nothing mattered, because marital bliss!

We had a cardinal that banged into our living room window for 2 years until it turned from red to ragged-gray. Here we saw 2 lines for the first time!! 9 months later, we welcomed the teeniest, loudest, preciousest little bundle into our family.IMAG1938
We moved to a house right across the street from the church Andy was pastoring. Here, we saw 2 lines as well…although they seemed much blurrier holding our 4 month old. It was a beautiful dream to live 30 minutes from my parents for these years. DSC_0696
When we moved back to Indiana, we rented a space for some months until our house was built. 14 cats lived here before we moved in, and our allergies regretted every day of it.
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We built a little house that turned out to be where all our money went and when we realized we had bigger dreams than keeping up with our mortgage, we put a For Sale sign in the yard. The pic is not very flattering, but it’s real life. (Also real life is not being able to find most of the pictures we took during those 3 years.)
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We were uncertain where circumstances would take us, and some dear people let us rent their house as we waited on the Lord for the next step. Meanwhile, we savored the crimson sunsets across the fields, barefooted play in the yard, blankets of snow, and laughter of friends that filled this house.

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We bought an old house that had been condemned and poured blood, sweat and tears into making it new again. We loved this place. But when it was time to move on, we were so thankful that all along we knew it was a gift.
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We sold it all, packed it up, and in our last months before moving to Brazil, we were blessed by the generosity of a family who let us live next to them. And sunsets over the lake!!
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We moved into a house where parrots were nesting in our attic. We didn’t mind, because we heard they eat the scorpions…which was a relief, since we saw 5 there. Our kids haven’t let language become a barrier and never skipped a beat in inviting friends over.
2013-12-12 10.47.39And now. Here we are!!!IMG_5728This is the view of the school from the road. Our house is in the top right corner.DSC_0100It has been quite a hike to get here. But, some One hooked us up with an amazing view!!!IMG_5740After living out of boxes since we sold our house in September, it feels like we are finally settling. We’re unpacked, and able to put down some roots. But I just don’t want to forget that this is not our home either. Literally. This is a house the school built for us to live in, for right now. It’s not ours.

Sometimes I wonder how it will be for our boys, moving around so much…
I wonder if they will grow up feeling uprooted.
I wonder if they’ll feel conditioned to have to move every 3 years.
I wonder if they think their home is in the US…but when they get there, not feel like they fit in.
I wonder if they will then feel like they belong neither here nor there.
I wonder if they’ll want to revisit these places.
I wonder if disappointment will follow when they do.
I wonder if they realize the treasure was not in the structure, but in the memories we made.
I wonder if they will know that wherever we are, we have done our best to make it home.

But I hope they always know that it doesn’t matter whether we own or rent.
Whether we are near or far from family and friends and everything familiar.
Whether we live in North or South America. Or, wherever we live on this round world…
We have a Home that is greater than anything out there!

Through all the generations,
LORD, You have been our Home.
Psalm 90.1 (NLT)