So it is probably cheesy to write a year in review but since really this whole blog is an exercise in self indulgence I shall. Since it is my blog and I process out loud by writing (which is why there should be a disclaimer on the top of the blog that reads Warning: woman in process & on journey: read everything at your own risk and with caution). It never ceases to amaze me that people actually want to read about my life. But I love to read other people’s blog, it sort of makes me feel connected, not alone in the joys and frustrations of raising kids which let’s face it can be lonely at times. So I guess you out there reading are just like me in some weird way and we are connected even if we have never met. I also blog because I have the worst memory ever! Seriously, Jason can remember not only his second grade teacher’s name but the classroom he was in. I on the other hand did not remember something that happened last year (and that I blogged about!) until someone told me they laughed reading about it. Pathetic. So I write to process, reflect, and remember!
A year in review is not the same as resolutions. I don’t really make resolutions since most of them, especially those having to do with decreasing the numbers one sees of the scale or lowering the digits in the seam of one’s jeans never seem to pan out. Instead I want to reflect back and look forward to start 2010. This past year has been rich in experience, pain, joy, love, and all things new.
So here goes…random thoughts on the last 12 months….
January: It was HOT, HOT, and more HOT! After about 6 months of living in Africa we were adjusting but also struggling with moments (hours, days) of culture shock and of homesickness. Language learning was really hard and at times felt fruitless. But at the same time we were finally starting to feel like this new place was home (or at least home for a time). Car break in. More health issues for Jason and learning to trust in His care for all of us. Anni’s behavior proved to be a BIG challenge (I needed lots of my diet cokes) and we had to go “commando parenting” as we dealt with some major disobedience, minor eating issues, and lots of whining (for about 3 months). We survived although there were many moments I thought “whose child is this?” Lots of reminders of how sinful and disobedient I am when it comes to following God and lots of Grace and forgiveness all around for all of us. A trip to the mainland helps us relax and enjoy some Western fun. We broke ground on the vocational training center and had the official ceremony..things were starting to move forward!
February: still HOT! explored more of our island, celebrated Jason’s bday and although the lasagna was a disaster of epic proportions we enjoyed celebrating together his departure from the 20’s. Took a crazy long road trip to Kenya (that involved some “only in Africa moments“) and enjoyed a great conference, yummy food, cool weather (can I get an Amen!), getting an actual haircut and my nose pierced (some pampering I had forgotten about), and time with friends.
March: Yeah, still HOT!! we were starting to really feel like we have local friends on our little island. Learning the language FINALLY feels like it is paying off as we are able to communicate more and we are also attending more local events and learning more about the culture ( even getting my hair did :). Hosted an amazing family living one island over while they dealt with crazy and frustration bureaucracy to get needed government docs. We had a great time comparing stories of living here and raising kiddos. Anni gives up her nuks and does a billion other things that make us realize our little girl is indeed growing up. Building on the school really starts speeding up and we even get a chance to get in on the action a few times. Getting a new fridge (with generous funds from amazing friends) proved to make our world a much happier place and taught us AGAIN how much the Lord provides!
April: After J built some swings our house becomes the “it” spot for watoto everywhere. I start running regularly with some women from my neighborhood and while I love the exercise and conversation I (and J) are not so crazy about the early morning phone calls. Visited a smaller island that has become a frequented weekend fun spot for us complete with amazing beach and giant turtles! Really struggled to find balance between work, family time, time with friends, and what seemed like an endless stream of visitors. Still working on that. Threw a crazy Pasaka (Easter) party for friends and amazed ourselves at our ability to tell the Biblical story in Kiswahili and actually avoid many of the cultural mishaps of our earlier shindigs (we are actually learning:). Visited the village we had built homes in 5 years ago and caught up with the people there. Got knocked up 🙂 after many months of trying. excited…. After a couple weeks of feeling OK and thinking “maybe this pregnancy will be easier” I started to feel terrible and vomit everyday.
May: the weather started to cool down a bit and we actually did not need 3 showers a day. Approached the one year mark of living overseas. Really felt like this place is home, put down more roots; emotionally and physically. Found a groove in our team and start to feel at ease with our roles here. But the dominating force in my life was being sick, it governed the way I felt about EVERYTHING. Non stop vomiting, fatigue, and general feeling crappy was taking its toll. We told family and friends that we were expecting and shamelessly solicited prayers. Guilt started to settle in; guilt about being a crappy wife, friend, mama. Started losing weight and we traveled to the mainland to seek medical advice and drugs (non of which helped!) I honestly felt hopeless and if I am honest wished I was not pregnant most of the time (resulting in even more guilt). Felt scared about how we could cope. Sort of went on survival mode.
June: Way less hot! Yeah! Still sick! Boo! I started realizing that this sickness was a.) not going away any time soon (passed the 12 week mark, etc) and b.) way worse than anything I had experienced before. After some more needed doctor’s visits to the mainland because of continued weight loss, light and motion issues, etc I was diagnosed with HG and at least I was able to NOT feel crazy! I was starting to worry about depression as nothing changed day after day and it was taking a toll on my marriage and family. More guilt. But the blessing was also lots of talking about everything with Jason, setting new boundaries as a family, sticking together and working through everything. We also always felt God was firmly in control of the situation and had His hand in everything which somehow made us able to cope. Learned to allow others to help us, both our team members and local friends. Accepting help is sometimes hard but God taught us a lot about being open, vulnerable and real with our struggles. My mom and sister arrived in mid June to visit and give Jason a much needed respite from being the sole caretaker around our house and to see how our lives had changed! We showed them around the best we could (with both touristy fun and local flavor) and they spoiled Anni with fun American goodies and lots of time together. They got to meet our friends, team members, see the school, and explore a bit. I cried a lot when they left and even though I think I had convinced myself we are fine living so far from family I realized it is a huge sacrifice for us and for those we love.
Saw amazing answer to prayer as I stopped losing weight and we were able to remain on our island.
July: Much cooler temps and lots of rain made us feel like we could actually survive living here! J and I celebrated 8 years of marriage!! Started to feel a bit better and able to actually leave the house and what had become my permanent butt dent in the couch. Still struggling with eating but able to keep something down each day. Grateful. Reflected a lot of the new normal of my life. J’s parents arrive to visit for their first trip to Africa!! Again we showed them around and tried to mix in lots of cultural and local with some touristy highlights for our survivors (we even made them ride local transport). After a road trip to the mainland and Jim and Rhoda’s safari we had to say goodbye. We also found out that mtoto mchanga was a GIRL! At the same Dr. visit we learned about a potential risk that could pose a threat for the baby later in the pregnancy. This was another stress on an already difficult pregnancy and we were unsure of what this meant for our plans.
August: Jason leaves for Asia for a conference for a couple weeks. Anni and I miss him tons and cope with the help of another Mama and her kids by spending time together and keeping busy. Still puking daily but generally able to get out more often and feeling a bit better. J arrives home refreshed (he needed a break and some Western fun) and he came bearing fabulous gifts which made a sick prego feel much better 🙂 I start to really think more about what life with 2 kiddos will look like, start to freak out a bit that I will not bond with the baby since the pregnancy has been so difficult. Talk with friends, process, cry, pray a lot. Anni turns 3 and we celebrated with a small pink princess party!!! I am shocked at how big my little girl is getting and while I love that she is such a big girl I also mourn a bit because it is going so fast. Ramadan lasted almost the entire month and all our friends and neighbors were fasting and life on our island was vastly different. This year we were able to participate in more of the festivities as well as really learn more about the spiritual aspects of the month.
September: Anni starts her new local school! We got amazing news after many disappointments that the German embassy was funding our computer lab for our school. God provided abundantly yet again! Ramadan is over and everyone is eating and celebrating!! We were invited to join in and took every chance we could to learn more and celebrate with our friends. I start volunteering at Anni’s school and love the opportunity to work with kids again. I still struggled with being very ill and after more doctor’s appointments we made the difficult decision to return to the states for the birth. The decision weighed heavily on us and I struggled a lot but after much thought, prayer, advice and counsel we felt peace about and finally felt relief. Tons of thoughts and fears about returning home went through my mind.
October: Getting ready to return to the states in a just a few weeks made us crazy busy! Many events and outings before we head stateside including Annikah’s insanely crazy birthday party. Looking around at our crowded house at her party made me thankful we had come to know and befriend so many people. They had opened their lives up to us and we reflected about all the blessings of learning about the people and culture we had done in just over a year. Jason was so busy setting up the computer lab before we left and we were amazed to see it up and looking great. So much progress gave us a huge boost. It was a high point and a good time to leave and we are excited to return. Arrived back in Chicago after a chaotic leaving but pleasantly smooth couple days of travel. After some weather (Brrrr) and culture shock we enjoyed some fabulous things about America: excess and convenience! We went to a pumpkin patch, saw many friends and family and headed to Iowa where Anni got to go trick or treating for Halloween with her cousins.
November:More time with family in Iowa. Lots of doctor appointments and updates on how baby was doing. Celebrated my entrance into the 30 something crowd in Iowa with super fun pedicures and yummy dinner. Lots of outings to enjoy things we cannot do back home (can we say malls, museums, and bowling:). Celebrated Thanksgiving with both families and Jason and I both cried at the table…… I believe that is called reverse culture shock.
December: Lots of Christmas and winter activities most of which are firsts for Annikah. Waited and waited and waited for what seemed like forever for Evy to arrive. She made her appearance after the LONGEST 9 months of my life on December 21. I am not sick anymore and still cannot believe it. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful!!! Anni gets into her new role as big sister and we love watching her love on Evy. Celebrated Christmas with my family and watched Anni open her multitude of princess presents. Our cup overfloweth with with family and blessings!!
January so far: Traveled to Iowa to have Christmas round 2 and laughed way too much at the chaos that has become our family get togethers with all the cousins. Lack of sleep is catching up to us but having family around to hold the baby and play with Anni helps a lot. I got Mastitis which is wicked painful but still NOTHING compared to being sick nonstop so no complaining here! Right now we are enjoying some time at Lake Geneva.
I could never have predicted all that would happen, all that I would learn, and all the challenges and blessings of the last year but it has been full of changes, pain, adjustments, Grace, love, joy, His provision, and life.
We are realizing our time here is short and planning our return to Africa. As I look outside at the snow and ice covered lake, trees, and roads our life there feels like a million miles away from this reality. But we are excited to return, to continue to be challenged, learn, grow, work hard, watch our girls grow up, choose joy, and experience all that God has planned for us.
So no resolutions just a restating of the things I do not want to let slip away in the busynesses of life. I need to always remind myself of the things that are central, core, necessary and let the other stuff fall away. I want to read the Word everyday, spend more time investing in people and not in things, move, breathe in deep moments with my family, and enjoy the world He created. Modertation is not my goal. Actually, I want to live more extreme…….love more unselfishly, pray more unceasingly (for myself and my journey, for my husband, daughters, family, and friends), look for justice in the world, and seek peace in my soul.
And more than anything I want to be more sold out for Jesus and throw off those things that hinder me from living more abundantly, more freely.
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” John 10:10