Anna in Africa

Enjoying Today

We have started the process of going back to Africa next year, 2018.  And I’m excited about it! My heart has shifted to long to be back in that ‘home,’ in that culture, and with those people.  Even our Littles seem to be shifting: Bub keeps trying to speak that language, and asking, “When are we going back?” Honey-Bear is back to playing ‘airplane,’ flying from Africa (the foyer) to American (the couch) and even to Chine (the kitchen).

But today I am grateful for here and now.

I am grateful for my Littles and the sweet, fun, even challenging stages they are at.

Honey-Bear, 2.5
Bub, 4, and Little Brother, 7 months.

I am grateful for the big back yard where my kids can run around, ‘fly’ on the swings, and shovel dirt–even it if turns our back bath into a mud pit.

I am grateful for our believing community; hearing the story of a new friend, going to the park with a sister and grandpa, and having a play date with an old friend.

Yes, the double swing was Grandpa’s idea haha

I am grateful for the friends who come to play with my kids when My Love is gone, so I can have time to myself, and then they crash for nap and I have more time! 🙂

Playing “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”

I am grateful for our Small Group that meets every week to love each other, share life, enter my home, eat my food, and pray together!

I am grateful for a husband who sent me flowers this morning:

Yes…it was a text message! ;P

My heart is preparing to go back to Africa and re-make that my home.  But for today I am enjoying what my Father has given me, and I am calling myself blessed!!

Lost..

20/12/2016

Today, my heart it lost.

I’m cleaning off baby puke, finally alone as all three Little are napping.  As I listen to my “Thinking Playlist,” I am overwhelmed with memories and emotions I have tied to these songs.  Many of the memories that come to me are from our time in Africa, when I was missing home.

But today, I am adding memories to those songs.

Today, I feel lost in my own culture.  Alone in my own community.  Missing the foreign and being frightened of the familiar.

How did this all change?  What has change in me that didn’t change here?

“Life and Death” by Paul Cardall is playing and I’m weeping.  At this moment I feel life and death.  Life from a fullness of adventure I’ve experienced and Death from being apart from that world.  I feel Life from being in my home culture and all that is familiar to me, but Death because the familiar is no longer…me.

I have an new worldview, a different perspective on life, Following Him, hospitality, friendship, sacrifice, selflessness.  And I stand frightened of the familiar because it doesn’t share those views, that perspective.

This familiar now seems foreign.

Family Fall Extravaganza: 2016

We celebrated our 2nd Family Fall Extravaganza the last weekend in October 2016.  We are in the states this year, so we made the most of the “fall-ish” things to do!

If you haven’t read Family Fall Extravaganza from last year, our family started a fall tradition to spend a weekend doing “fall-ish” things.  (1) Because that’s my favorite season and it means a lot to me. (2) We have a family we can start traditions with. (3) I LOVE FALL!!!!

We had a short weekend because My Love was gone Friday and we had meetings Sunday, but we made the most of it!!

Without further ado, here was our itinerary for the weekend.

Second Family Fall Extravaganza

Collecting Colored Leaves

Last year, we cut out leaves because the leave don’t change colors in Africa.  But this year we only had to go to our back yard and collect many colored leaves.  Friday evening, My love was still out of town so we had the kids’ Nonna come over and help us start our celebrations.

Pumpkin Coloring Pages
Colored some pumpkins with Nonna.

Thank-FALL Gifts

One of the blessings we’ve enjoyed greatly being state-side is family and friends.  I wanted to make a point to show them our thankfulness before we got into the busy holiday season, where gifts often feel obligatory. So we decided to make Hot Chocolate Mixes and Cinnamon Rolls to give to our families and close friends.

Thank-FALL Labels

I made up some tags and printed and cut them out to put on the jars and pans.  (Click and print the labels here!) Only later did I find out I didn’t have any cute string to attach the labels…so I used tape 🙂 So fancy..HA!

Hot Chocolate Mix

My mom has a great Hot Chocolate Mix recipe she’s used for years.  So I got that from her and made a double batch of it.

HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

5 1/3 c. Dry powdered milk

2/3 c. powdered sugar

3/4 c. coffee creamer

1 lb. (4 1/2 c.) cocoa mix (I used Nestle)

1/4 tsp. salt

**Add 2 heaping spoonfuls to 8oz hot water & enjoy!

Isn't she so cute?!

I had Honey-Bear and Bub help me out.

Making Hot Choc

They each did a full recipe. I wrote the instructions of the back of the tags that I had printed.

Cinnamon Rolls

We HAD to do these again!! I made The Pioneer Women’s Cinnamon Rolls.  They are SO amazing! We made two 9×13 pans for our family then filled nine small foil pans to give out.

The Cinnamon Rolls
Whom ever said, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” was totally talking about these rolls!

I started the dough on Friday night then cooked them all Saturday morning.

Making icing with Honey-Bear
Making the icing with Honey-Bear.

I think they will FOREVER be a part of our Fall Traditions! SO good and SO worth the time.

Corn Maze/Farm Fun

My Love really wanted to go to a corn maze this year because we are in the states.  So we did some looking around and found one near us that had that and more.

Corn Maze

They had a whole farm of hayrides, pumpkin patch, tire swings, slides, farm animals, a big bouncy inflatable, and more!!  So we hit the road Saturday morning and spent the whole day out there.  It was a BLAST!

Family selfie
Family Selfie
Family selfie take 2
Take two

We almost needed more time to play, but when it hit 3pm the kids were so tired and slept all the drive home. 🙂 yay!

Yummy Dinner

A meat I crave often is Little Smokies and they can’t be found in Africa…yet! So I decided to make that the main course of our Yummy Dinner.  I added mashed sweet potatoes, which are a favorite of Honey-Bear’s.  Then we had peas and potato salad already in the kitchen so it worked out. I added some classy, candle light which the kids enjoyed and finished their plates just to blow them out. Ha–what ever works!

Yummy Dinner

I didn’t realize till I filled my plate that this Yummy Dinner was also Fall colored themed! We had the  green, yellow, red/brown and orange all in one meal–perfect!

Fall Movies

I didn’t do any looking around this year for movies, so we did the same from last year.

Curious George--A Halloween Boo Fest

“Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest” was on Netflix this year.

Amazon--You've Got Mail

And, “You’ve Got Mail”.  We rented it from Itunes to play on our AppleTV.  But My Love said we could buy it if it going to be a yearly tradition! Yay!

Halloween

This isn’t a part of our Traditions, but since our Extravaganza weekend and Halloween were the same time I thought I’d add in our Family Halloween Picture.  Really, I just wanted to show it off!! 🙂

My kids LOVE Zootopia and Bub was SO excited to be Nick!  Honey-Bear liked the idea but once in costume, would not wear the ears. And look at our Little Brother!! So cute!!!!

Zootopia Halloween
We were the cast of Zootopia–Chief Bogo, Assistant Mayer Bellwether, Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, and Baby Toot-toot.

 


It was a great weekend of fun and tradition making!  We enjoyed being able to do more “fall-ish” things this year! We are grateful for our family and friends and the blessings we have!

I wonder what we’ll find next year?!

Saying “Goodbye” with My TCKs

I mentioned in Saying Goodbye: A Process about making sure that my kids’ needs were met when they said goodbye to Africa.  With our TCKs being so little–Bub 3 years and Honey-Bear 20 months–I didn’t know how much they would remember, but I wanted to make sure they had every opportunity to have full closure.  So we did four things that I think helped them process goodbyes and make leaving Africa a reality for them.

Giving Toys

It is amazing how many toys you accumulate in a year and half. It helped that we were given hand-me-downs from several family. So when it came time to get rid of things, I wanted to use the opportunity to help my kids learn (1) how they can bless people by giving and (2) how they can be blessed by giving.

So week by week, I asked them what toys they wanted to give away.  Some weeks they would choose two toys and other weeks they would choose ten toys, but it was always their decisions.  After choosing the toys, we would decide who to give them to.

For their closer friends, they gave specific and special toys to.  And the gift exchange made a sad goodbye experience turn into a happy goodbye…most of the time.

Speaking ‘Goodbye’

For Bub, specifically, speaking the word “goodbye” was an extremely emotional thing to do.  Even FaceTiming with family back home, he would get so upset when it was time to say goodbye and refuse to say the word.  After a while, he could say, “See you later,” but hardly ever a full, “Goodbye.”

Knowing this struggle of his, we started a couple months before we left Africa talking to him about how important it is for his heart and others’ hearts to speak the word “goodbye.”  When we started giving toys away with saying goodbye, it turned his negative emotional experiences into happy, fun experiences.

Saying goodbye to Si
Saying goodbye to Si

When he gave his dinosaurs to his best friend, Si was so happy to get new toys that Bub go really excited too.  In their happiness, they hugged and said goodbye with no negative emotions.  It was a blessing to Si, which in turn blessed Bub with a happy heart and happy goodbye.

Talking with Honey-Bear

At some point in the leaving process, I realized that we were talking a lot about goodbyes with Bub but not with Honey-Bear.  She was the same age Bub was when we left America and we talked a lot with him about goodbyes.  So I was more intentional with talking about goodbyes with her.  And I know it helped her realize the reality of leaving, and when the day came a good final goodbye (read that story here).  She did great with speaking, “Goodbye,” giving hugs and kisses.

Bub’s Party at School

And to solidify their goodbyes, they needed to end well in all areas of their lives and that included Bub’s school.  He went to a Preschool/Daycare 5-days a week in the mornings.  He attended for ten of the twelve months we lived in Work City.  So these kids were his friends.  Knowing my son, bad at goodbyes and loves to have fun,  I wanted him to have a great goodbye with his class…so we had a party.  I called his teacher two weeks before we left and asked if we could have a party to say goodbye to Bub and she was thrilled.

The morning of the party we came with snacks and a gift.  Bub had chosen to give his Noah’s Ark set of boat and animals to his classmates to remember him.  We had a lot of fun!  We explained we were leaving. Bub passed out snacks and drinks to all his classmates.  Then he showed them his Noah’s Ark set and presented it to the class.  Then 20 some kids 5 and under ran around like crazy, having fun!

Bub's Party at School
Bub and his BFF, Maria

It was a blessing to my heart to see him interacting with his friends and teachers.  It was a blessing to him because he was recognized and got to serve and love his class through snacks and a gift. His teacher snuck out and came back with gifts for Bub, which was so sweet of her!

As we left, he cried and I cried and the teacher cried.  And it was good.


Having fun goodbyes made a big difference for Bub and Honey-bear as we sought full closure for this chapter of their lives.  Being intentional in using “goodbye” words and knowing your kids can make all the difference in ending well.

 

Little Brother: Born July 07, 2016

Wednesday, July 6th was Honey-Bear’s 2nd birthday. I had my 38 week check up and the midwife stripped my membranes.  She told me, “If it works you’ll have the baby within 24 hours.” And I thought, Oh no! It’s Honey Bear’s birthday!

First high-heels!
First high-heels!

We had a “Dora” party at Nonna and Papa’s house.  During the day, while cooking, I  felt things moving around.  And as the party started at 6pm, I sat on the couch with my legs crossed because I knew my body was getting ready and had to wait 6 hours before he could be born on a different day.

We left Bub and Honey-Bear at my in-laws’ for the night and went home because I was quite sure baby was coming tonight.  I slept about two hours and at midnight I woke up and couldn’t sleep.  I felt labor coming.  I had three contractions 10 mins apart, so I woke up My Love and told him, “It’s time.”

Thursday, July 07, 2016 we checked in to the hospital around 1:30am. The nurse didn’t think I was in labor–coming in with lite contractions only 10 mins apart. But she admitted me and quickly got things ready after talking to the midwife! 🙂 (Honey-Bear was born at home because she came within an hour of my contractions starting! Surprise!)

Around 5:15am, I was in hard labor.  And after a couple pushes, Little Brother was born at 5:58am.  I was so thankful to have him naturally, no epidural! He came out crying; I held him right away and My Love cut the cord.  He measured 6lbs 6.6oz and was 19.5 inches long.

Little Brother #1
He’s here!

I held him after measurements and he latched right on–trying to eat!  When My Love was holding him, the nurse thought his grunting noises didn’t sound right. When we transferred rooms, they took him into the nursery and I didn’t see him for another 2 or 3 hours.  The doctor wanted to run some tests to see what was causing the strange breathing.

Bub and Honey-Bear came with family and saw him through the nursery windows.  They were so excited!  Bub kept saying, “He popped out!”

Bub was looking for Little Brother.
Bub looking for Little Brother.

Around 9:30am, a doctor came in and told us she wanted to take him to the NICU for x-rays and other testing because his breathing was getting worse.  She said, “We’ll bring him by to see you before he goes back.” And immediately they wheeled him into the room plugged into all these cords. They picked him up for me to kiss and left!!

I bursted into tears–it was a dramatic entrance and too quick of an exit.  A friend was there and she came over and prayed with me! We were thankful that we made it to the hospital and that we weren’t still in Africa.  Later we were told by the doctor that Little Brother was admitted into the NICU and would be there for a minimum of four days.  I cried some more.

At 1:30pm we got to see him in the NICU.  It was a bit scary to see him with so many cords attached.  But once they explained what the cords were for, I was so thankful for them!

First visit in the NICU
Daddy with Little Brother.

He had Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). He did not have enough surfactant, which keeps the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.  So he was over working himself to keep breathing!  The doctors put an oxygen tube in him to give him a break and gave him medicine to produce more surfactant in his lungs. By 4 or 5pm they took the tube out and put him back on nasal oxygen.

Family and friends were able to come see him in the NICU that afternoon and evening.  I went in to see him at 9pm and got to hold him! The nurse was so sweet and let me hold him for an hour!!  And his breathing was the most consistent it had been all day. <3 My heard was filled with love and mommy pride!

All Friday, we were just watching and waiting for Little Brother to improve.  The kids came by to visit and Bub was so upset he wasn’t allowed to see/hold his brother  yet.  He cried and cried, sweet boy!

Daddy holding him for the first time!
Daddy holding him for the first time in the NICU.

Saturday, I got to nurse him for the first time! Before, they had fed him through a feeding tube.  In the afternoon, they took out his nasal oxygen.  They also turned off the heating lamp above him to see if he could maintain his body heat. I was discharged Saturday, so the next two nights I stayed at a friend’s house close to the hospital so I could drive in and feed Little Brother every three hours. Bub and Honey-Bear got to ‘meet’ him for the first time, through the NICU window.

Our first family-of-5 picture!
Our first family-of-5 picture!

Sunday morning, he failed at maintaining his body temperature so he went back under the heat lamp.  He also became jaundice, so he spent the next 24 hours under a UV light.  And we were only allowed to hold him twice that day.

Monday, his jaundice levels were down.  His feeding tube was taken out and his IV was ready to come out! After the doctor’s rounds, he said they would keep him for observations just to make sure he’s healthy, then he could go home Tuesday around 1pm.

Little Brother
A little smile!

Monday night, I got to ‘room in’ in the NICU with Little Brother.  It’s basically a mock night at home.  He was totally unplugged and in my room.  And the doctors are there just in case I or he needed anything–so great! He did fabulous and cried just to be held! I think he was surprised to find mom was there to get him when he cried!

Our first night TOGETHER!
Our first night TOGETHER!

Tuesday morning, the nurses had a couple tests to run. An hour long carseat test was done because he had respiratory issues.  He passed all of them.  Around 1:15pm, the doctor came in for one more evaluation and said, “Sign your release papers and you are free to go home!!”  So we did!  My Love had brought the kids to pick us up so they could meet him for the first time!  It was such a SWEET moment when they got to see and touch him!

Bud holding him for the first time!
Bud holding him back at home!
Honey-Bear holding him!
Honey-Bear holding him!
Kids made a "Welcome Home" cake with an aunt!
Kids made a “Welcome Home” cake with an aunt!

 

 

 

We are so thankful for all the prayers offered up on Little Brother’s behalf and for our family!! God is good!  As I finish this blog post, he is already a month old and healthy as can be.  At his 2 week check up, he was 7lbs 1oz! We joke that he might have medically enhances lungs because…man, that boy can CRY! 🙂  We love his SO much! Can you tell–all these pictures?! haha

1 Month Old
1 Month Old

Logistics in Returning: Headache

On returning to the States in March, we had a sweet time of reunion with family and friends.  But soon after those sweet times came the headache of dealing with the logistical issues of returning: insurances, vehicles, taxes, etc.

Sweet reunion with cousins!
Sweet reunion with cousins!

Vehicles

Last summer (2015) we started saving up money for a family vehicle.  I knew the probability of us become a family of five was very high, so we needed to be prepared.  We had a Dodge Neon at home that we would use on our return. But it would last long if we were going to have a third baby.  So in November when we found out I was pregnant with baby#3, we were so grateful we’d already been saving money for that family vehicle.

Two months before we returned, we started shopping cars on Craigslist and locally in our city.  We called about a couple, my dad checked some out, but each time it fell through.  Anxiety was knocking at our door, but because baby wasn’t due till July we knew we had plenty of time to find the right vehicle for us.

Two weeks after return, we found one and bought it–IN CASH!!! What a cool feeling!! Yet also very sober feeling, Do I really want this car?  Look at all this cash I’m holding! But I really liked it and we got our Nissan Quest spaceship.  Have you ever seen the front console of one of those things–it kinda feels like a spaceship.  🙂

Selfie in the van!
Selfie in the van!

We were excited about our new van!  But when we went to get insurance on it, the headache began!  We found that most companies wouldn’t insure us because we hadn’t had car insurance for the last 18 months while we were in Africa. My Love looked and looked and researched.  But we were having a hard time.  Eventually we had to settle for a high rate with an online company.  We were thankful to finally have it–it’s always more pleasant to drive legally! 😉 And we are looking forward to the time when we can re-shop for insurance and get a better deal!

Taxes

But the headaches didn’t end there.  April 15th was coming soon–tax day.  This was our first time to do taxes while being out of the country for the whole of a year.  We’d always done our taxes ourselves online, but this was uncharted territory.  My Love looked into going through an Agent, but even the papers they gave us to fill out ahead of time we were unsure about. He decided to give the online method a shot.  He did research and research, navigating his way question by question and figured it out!

Health Insurance

After April, we’ve had a peaceful time until doctor’s appointments and Little Brother was born and figuring out how to use our International Health Insurance nationally.  The insurance we had for Africa was great! But it’s a different ball game back in the States.  I learned that they didn’t cover our kids’ vaccinations–$$ for us.  And the way you place claims is…a headache in itself.

Since Little Brother was born in July, we’ve been trying to solve the puzzle of how our insurance will work and cover our costs.  And especially after seeing how much his NICU bill is…we are PRAYING that they cover our costs!  And to throw in another twist, our insurance renewal is this fall and we wont renew because we’ll be in the States for another year or so. Yuck!

Unpacking

We didn’t expect or realize there would be so many hurdles to jump on this side of returning home.  There were even hurdles in setting up our home–our house.  We rented out our house, that we own, while we were gone.  The renting went well and we are looking forward to continuing that when we return to Africa.  But it was a hassle, in the business and 6-9 months of pregnancy, to unpack and re-setup the house.  If our house was a train station, there would have been many train wrecks. There was stuff coming out of totes, stuff going into totes.  Things coming out of suitcases to be put in the house, put in a tote, put in the basement. And things coming out of the basement to be put in the house.

Wall the bags we came home with.
All the bags we came home with.

We’ve been home five months and I still have a bag of holiday and misc. things from Africa in a closet because I haven’t gotten to put it in the basement yet. We have our tote of pictures and random decorations still setting in our dining room. I have a bag of our Africa treasures still in a bag next to my bed because I haven’t found a place to put them yet.  Little by little, it is feeling more like a home and less like a train station.  But that was a hurdle I didn’t expect.

Conclusion

I don’t know if there is any way to avoid these re-entry issues or even prepare for them.  There was no way we could have fixed the car insurance deal, that was just a bummer of a reality.  Unpacking our house could have been easier and faster if I would have asked for help. From our experiences and what from what I’ve learned, here is my two cents:

1.) Ask for help!  Whether its with taxes or unpacking your house, ask for help!  Are there people who have done this before you?  Do you have an accountant friend that you could talk with?  Is there a college girl needing some service hours, extra money, or just free to help? Do you have family around?  Ask them to help you! They want to see you and spent time with you anyways!

2.) Heads up! Now that you know logistical issues happen, you can at least be mentally prepared for some hurdles.  But are there insurance or tax logistics that you need to look into before hand? If you foresee an issue arising, figure out if there are simple steps to take to make it less of a headache.

3.) Breath and keep running!  Don’t let the stress of unknown and complications get to you.  It’s life, hurdles are all around.  Take a deep breath, pray, and jump! Tackle the problems with a good attitude. More pleasant times are just around the turn.

 

My first E-Book!!!

Hello all!!!

Sorry I’ve been gone for a while–baby #3 came July 7, 2016–Little Brother!! I’ll write about his arrival in my next post.

Little Brother

But now–I want to share with you all that I’ve written my first E-book!! Wahoo!  🙂

It is a small accomplishment, actually.

I’ve been working on several free-lance writing projects this past year and this is the first I’ve gotten online and will be available at Amazon.com.

Dinners To Go

In short, it is an at-home, carry-out business plan for stay-at-home moms.

“The business IDEA is to cook, from your home, oven-ready meals that you sell for “Dinners To Go” in the evening. Cooking in bulk can be simple and easy. And as a plus, you would have dinner ready for your family too. You can make bulk meals after lunch and be finished before kids get home from school (or while they are napping, if you have Littles). Then you would have the full evening to do homework (or play) with your kids, only to be interrupted to hand out a meal and get paid—goal accomplished!”

It will be available to order August 13.


If you know any one who would be interested in this business idea, pass it on!  It is out there to help and bless families!!

Love you all,

Anna

Saying Goodbye: A Process

This past January 1, 2016, I started our 90-day count down in leaving Africa to return to the States.  I’m not much of a last-minute-person and I like to avoid as much stress as possible.  So I started my 90-day count down of what I would pack and when; when I needed to make certain arrangements in the States; and when I would start saying goodbye to whom.

We have been through a lot of cross-cultural trainings and one phrase I’ve heard over and over is,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”

And I wanted to do BOTH well, so I put a lot of deep thought into how we could “leave well.”  I thought about our family’s needs: My Love’s need for a low-stress environment; my need for deep relationship-connectedness; and our kids’ needs for expressing their emotions during transition.

After evaluating those needs I decided (1) I would slowing start downsizing our possessions, but not start packing essentials till the very end as to keep our environment low-stress for My Love. (2) I would make sure that as we downsized, our kids would be a part of deciding what toys to get rid of each week and where they would go. (3) We would intentionally spend weekly times with friends and then keep our last two weeks free to be with our best friends.

A couple practical ways we practiced “leaving well” were by giving things away, last meals, and writing letters.

Giving things Away–

So…it is amazing what you collect over a year of life even with a minimalist mentality.  And it is amazing what wont fit into just 5 check bags and 2 carry ons.  We had a lot of possessions to go through: clothes we brought in the beginning that we never worn or didn’t fit anymore; replacement clothes; kitchen items; toys; random electronics; and ‘office supply’ types of things.  So I divided my apartment into categories, and week by week went through that ‘area of the apartment’ to downsize–keeping all essentials till the last week.

I had a basket in our bedroom I would toss ‘give away’ items in, then once it was full I would give to a friend.  (The community aspect of African culture is amazing.  And what they didn’t use from me, they passed on to the next person till it all found a home.)

With our kids’ possessions, week by week I would ask them what toys they wanted to give away or were all done playing with.  Some weeks it would be two toys, others it would be 10 toys–it was their decision.  I wanted them to practice making the choices to downsize to experience the feelings in leaving, and to help them realize the reality of,  “We are leaving Africa.”

The second step we took with our kids was prompting them to give their toys aways to their friends and people of choice.  This also helped them ‘leave’ and created for them relational connections.  So Bub chose specific toys to give to specific friends.  He gave his TiLung leopard to Z to ‘take care of for him’ while he was in America. This was a special toy to Bub, but for some reason he didn’t want to take it to America so we gave it to an older girl friend to ‘take care of’ while we are gone.

He gave his Noah’s Ark boat and animal set to his class on his last day of school.  He did it so they could remember him when they played with it.  🙂  It amazed this momma’s heart how thought full and deep children’s hearts can be at such a young age–Bub is 3!  Though he struggled with saying the word, “goodbye,” this helped him.  His friends were happy with the new toys, so goodbye wasn’t a sad thing any more. Honey-Bear was great at speaking goodbyes and did her own give aways with a bit more direction from us.

Last Meals–

Having family meals is such an important part of African culture: a great to way to love, respect, and honor to the people you eat with.  We came to love meal times with other families and value them! So tried to have last meals with our closest friends and their families.

Of course, our friends wanted to host and give us their best recipes, so we enjoyed ourselves.  The honor they showed us was humbling.  The conversations we shared we so rich and meaningful.  These times were so precious and moments I hold dear in my heart.  And after 5-10 minutes of hugs, tears and goodbyes, we walked away sad but with a feeling of wholeness.  I found myself thinking, “If leaving people we’ve known for less than a year is this hard…we did something right!”

And though leaving them was hard and heart-breaking, the wholeness feeling we felt was from saying goodbye really well.  And each time after leaving their homes, we felt our hearts emotionally closing that door behind us, which made us ready to open the doors that were before us in arriving.

Writing Letters–

Writing letters is a practice I used when we left the States in 2014.  I’m a letter girl! I love to receive a letter that I can read over and over again–it helps the love ‘last’ longer–and it is deeply personal and intimate.  I’m also not a quick thinker and usually I leave a conversations and remember 10 minutes later, “Oh, that’s what I wanted to say.”  So…I again decided to write letters to my Africa friends I was leaving to say my goodbyes.

Through my letters, I was able to pour out my heart and say all the things I wanted to say.  I asked my language teacher to help me in this process.  So I ended up writing my letters in English, then she would re-write them in the national language.  With her help (because there are still many things I couldn’t say in their language), I was able to express my heart 100% to my friends. And my heart felt closure from that.

Since then, each friend I wrote to has messaged me saying how personally touched they were by my words.  And though I wasn’t looking for responses, it was an even deeper, more whole feeling to know they understood my heart, it blessed their hearts, and it made our relationships deeper.

So if you haven’t heard it yet, let me say it again,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”

 

Our Last Day in Africa

Our last day in Africa, we weren’t leaving our apartment till 11/11:30am that Monday in March.  We woke early–I with not much sleep–ate, washed dishes, re-weighed bags, and saw a couple more friends for our final goodbyes.

Last Day in Africa
Right before leaving our apartment.

Our transport came and we loaded bags into the car.  My Love walked through the apartment making a video of it for memories. 🙂 Then we said goodbye to our house helper, and began walking down the three flights of stairs. And that’s when it hit for Honey-Bear.  Saying goodbye to a most familiar face (our house helper) and to a most familiar place (the apartment she learned to walk in, talk in, had her first birthday in) she began throwing a fit, saying, “No, no, no,” very aggressively. I had to pick her up and carry her down the rest of the flights as she was shouting, “No, no, no!”

As we drove out of our beloved Work City, we asked the driver to pass by some of our favorite spots so we (mostly the kids) could wave a final goodbye.  We passed the walking pier and said goodbye.  We waved goodbye at the distant mountains fully in view.  We passed the slides where we most frequently walked to play.  And that’s when in hit for Bub.  He bursted into tears crying, “My slides! My slides!  No, no goodbye! I want my slides!”  And that’s when in hit for me.  Not only was I saying goodbye to this new place; my children were having to say goodbye to their home!!

Work City…Africa…had become their home.  Honey-Bear was two months old when we came.  Bub was 20 months old.  And here they were at 21 months and 3 years saying goodbye to what they now knew as home–Africa!  My heart broke for their loss.  And I wondered, “What am I doing taking my kids away from their home?”

After that initial leaving day, we spent two days in Spain before making the final fights home.  We were exhausted from goodbyes!  Our emotional tanks were pretty empty, and the rest of…honestly doing a whole lot of nothing was refilling.  We spent some time with friends, time at parks, and time eating good food. It was a transitional time to leave Africa behind and starting thinking towards what was coming the next couple days.  As Wednesday came around, we felt ready to leave the transition spot in Spain and return…home?

One Month From Re-Entry: Mourning My Loss

We are five weeks out from re-entering back into the States. Next week we are traveling back to Lang City to start our goodbyes. And as I was thinking and processing through the people I wanted to talk to and exactly what say…and I started weeping, but not for the reason you would think.

And all I could think about were the people and life I would be leaving in America when we return full-time to Africa.

I thought about High School times and the people I poured my heart into at that time in my life. And wept because I wont ever get to live a lifetime along side them again.

I thought about our young-married friends and all the times and dreams we pursued together during and after college. And wept because upon our return to Africa, those dreams will officially die. How my heart longs to live a lifetime with them! We will still pursue the same goals with the same passions, just 1000s of miles in between us.

I thought about leaving America to make Africa “home” and wept.   How am I supposed to close the door to 24 years of life, to make a new life? How will my heart be able to handle closing the doors to SO MANY deep relationships, so I can open the doors for relationships in Africa? I don’t know how I’ll get through that—except with buckets of tears and honest, deep words expressed from my heart.

I thought about our families. And wept because our leaving will be hard for them. And I’ll have to live with missing more weddings, babies, graduations, and holidays.


At this stage of leaving Africa, I’m not too sad because I know I’m coming back and our return to Africa wont be for two or three more years, but my heart is already mourning the loss…because the loss will be great!!

This is a HARD call!!! But I am confident that The Prize is worth cost!! After my weeping slowed and I shared my thoughts with My Love, I was filled with peace.

And in that moment, I have never been more grateful for our “Blessed Assurance”! It eases my heart to know that even though I can’t live a lifetime with our dear friends and families, we WILL LIVE together FOREVER!!! That gives me peace and gusto to run this race with all I have to give to reach the finish line and celebrate with them in the after-race Party!!