Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tori is having a GREAT week so far! She loves her teacher and is making new friends.
She has funny stories and observations every day! The first day she giggled as she told me about a little boy falling asleep on his desk.
We ALL miss her at home while she is gone. She has helped me in the past even more than I had realized. This week continues to be a big adjustment for me as I am wrestling with what exactly is our routine and how to think a step ahead of my 3 small kiddos!
Just to give you a small insight into what I mean....this morning as we were about to walk out the door...I had just handed Tori her lunchbox and backpack and actually had the thought to myself, "I am doing pretty good this morning!"...Tori said that she was going to head out to the car. I picked up Lael to strap her in the carseat and the other boys followed me out the door and SHUT THE DOOR. At the moment I did not think about it and went ahead and buckled everyone in. It was only when I turned to head into the door in the garage to grab my purse, cell phone and shoes that I realized....NO!!! The door is locked!! Thankfully, I had the car keys in my pocket. I decided to run Tori to school and then return to my house and ponder my dilemma.
I have to go pick Tori up from school now...I will have to write more later...obviously I made it back into the house but it was not without help from a good friend ... a humbling morning for sure and this is just one has been a crazy week of similar episodes!!!
Is this a part of re-entry or what? My life does not seem normal.
I am still smiling.....

Monday, August 27, 2007

The BIG DAY has arrived!

I do not think we could do anymore to get Tori ready for school.
All that was left was for her to go.
My heart is filled with emotion this morning. We drove the 2 blocks to school this morning. Tomorrow I think we will walk. The traffic was amazing. As I turned the corner and began to see hundreds of kids and their parents going into the building, tears immediately filled my eyes.
As we walked into the building holding hands Tori said, "I just wish I knew at least one person." I said, "The great thing is, that tomorrow you will!"
When we walked in the principal said, "Good morning Tori!"
Those words were a welcomed surprise for us both!
We made it into the classroom and Tori found her desk and sat down.
I could tell she was nervous but I know she is also thrilled to be there!
The Lord has answered some very specific prayers and already shown us that we are in the right place. What a comfort it is to know that this morning while I am talking to the Lord about my precious Tori, his eyes are on her.
We can't wait to hear the afternoon report!

Watching Tori and I leave for school was just almost too much for the remaining three to take!
They sure will be happy to see her this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Precious Tori

Tori and I had a night out tonight and it was FUN!
I don't know if you noticed in the pictures so I will point it out, we dressed alike!
We went to finish up some school supply shopping since tomorrow night is Meet the Teacher night at her new school and she is supposed to bring all of her school supplies.
We then went to Starbucks where Tori requested that we go through the drive thru so that
"we could listen to music and just talk." I absolutely love that!!!
My heart is walking around in this little girl. Oh I love her so much!

Tonight I presented Tori with a very special plate.

We talked about 2Timothy 2:21 that says in the Living Bible,

"If you stay away from sin you will be like one of the dishes made of purest gold

- the very best in the house-

so that Christ himself can use you for his highest purposes."

I knew that Tori would not be really excited about a gold plate but I was right that she would be excited about a special cowgirl plate! We talked about running away from anything that gives us bad thoughts and staying close to anything that makes you want to do right.

2 Timothy 2:22 says to "Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts."

Tori and I have been praying daily for over a year about her third grade school experience. We know the Lord is in the details and that he has selected her teacher that she will meet tomorrow night. We know that she will make special friends and that she will be a special friend to someone who is needing one.

School starts Monday. We are gearing up for this day in a BIG way.

Thank you for your prayers for every member of our family as we transition into American life. There is nothing easy about it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A New Reality

Obviously I did not make it back to this blog as quickly as I had originally hoped. This week began a new reality..Randy (Daddy) went to work at Freedom Tire and Wheel. He leaves for work in the morning at 7:25 A and we do not see him again until between 6:30 and 7P every night. Wow! This is a huge adjustment.

Randy and I have had the incredible blessing of daily being together for 11 of our 12 years of marriage, and we have LOVED this kind of life. Sure there have been many days that Randy had meetings out in the village or days of teaching at our house with church leaders, but he has been accessible and usually we had either the morning or the evening together...not so with the new job. I am so thankful that Randy is excited about his new job and senses a purpose in being there moments when I truly have a second to have a focused thought, this encourages me!

This week the scripture that would describe the condition of my heart is Psalm 61:2. "From the ends of the earth, my heart cries out to you. I cry as my heart grows faint; lead me to a rock that is higher than I." I have been overwhelmed. I miss my husband. I love him so much and I am truly thankful for what he is doing right now to provide for our family. He started work in what has been the hottest week in Texas so far. He is physically working harder than he has ever had to do and has an amazing attitude.

Parenting this week has been hard. I am in the midst of learning how to parent 4 small children on my own during the day and how to live life in America at the same time. This is just part of the transition of returning to America. I am where I want to be. I am not longing to return to Benin. I am missing the family time and the way that our family was able to function together. Even so, I know we will push through this and figure it out one day at a time.

Last week in Littlefield we had a wonderful time. When we returned home I quickly realized that I had lost my Bible or at least misplaced it ...this was a big deal. I looked through everything and spoke with all of our family that had been there and no one had seen it. I was literally sick at heart and was mentioning it a lot around my family. One night Tori said, " Mom I just don't understand what is so precious about this particular word of God." She really thought I should just go out and by another one. I did consider this but my heart was aching for my Bible! My Bible has been through a lot with me, in some ways it is like my journal, marked with special dates and worn pages that make it easy to find comforting words in time of need. I AM IN NEED! Today I received a great word from my mother in-law that when she arrived at church this morning, someone handed her my Bible. She is putting it in the mail tomorrow!!! I am overjoyed!!!

Last night after church, my parents offered to take Tori, Timothy, and Jonathan to their ranch in Baird! This gave Randy and I some very special time with Lael this weekend because this weekend marks 2 years since Lael came to our family! We have been so blessed by this absolutely precious baby girl! She has been a daughter of peace! I was teasing her tonight about how peacefully she came to our family and now she is becoming so sweet and sassy! This girl is FULL of personality! We are crazy about her and know that the Lord's plans for her are great!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A lot of fun in West Texas!

We just returned last night from a wonderful week in West Texas visiting Randy's family!
There were many sweet memories made as you can see from these fun pictures.
I plan to post some text tomorrow explaining some of the pictures.
Expect blessing this week! The Lord is good!

Monday, August 06, 2007

34 days in America . . . but . . .

. . . it feels like we've lived 340!

This American life is full of activity, fun, fellowship, community, opportunities, and a host of people to share it with. It is shocking to us that we just passed the ONE month mark since our departure from Africa. It feels like it was another lifetime ago. We've used it before, but I continue to go back to the "Chronicles of Narnia" imagery of the wardrobe. We have now been thrust out of the wardrobe and back into American life. To think of our life in Africa is almost like thinking of a dream, another life, a fairy tale, and another set of characters. I think of a different me.

My one month analysis of myself is this: when I lived in Benin 40 days ago, I knew my role, I understandood (for the most part) the language and culture around me, I grasped the purpose of my days and I knew how to channel my unique God-given gifts and abilities for His purposes. On the other side of life, the American me seems completely stupefied by America.

On the higher spiritual side of things, I must rejoice in God's continual purpose at work in our lives, no matter where we live, no matter our occupation, no matter our circumstances. So, in general terms, we are humbly walking through these days of re-entry, looking for ways to give God praise. We want to continue living our lives for His glory. For His mission. To share the love of Jesus with people around us. That's the mission that transcends all us.

On the lower reality side of things, I astonish myself (and others I'm sure) about how little I know how to do. It's comical. We received some generous gift cards to Home Depot recently, so I thought I'd run out one night and stock up on some tools since I left every one of mine in Benin. I drove to HD with a giddy anticipation (I'll add that I find myself more loyal to HD over Lowes if anyone cares). Who out there wouldn't love a bunch of gift cards to buy new tools?!

I did well with the first few items, yet increasingly feeling the threat of choice hovering around me on every aisle. So many choices! I turned the corner to look at cordless drills. I had even done this trip to Home Depot a few weeks earlier, simply looking and exploring with Donny. But now I was all alone, facing a wall full of colors, brands, specs, and prices. I was overwhelmed! Yes, so much that before I could go any further in my shopping spree (and before I welled up in tears in this very testosterone-feeling place), I pulled out my cellphone and called for backup! I called Donny and he had to walk me through this selection! In retrospect, it is humorous to me, but I was aware at that moment of my awkward feeling of being out of touch with this life. It has revisited me several times (Donny always seems to be around to witness these breakdowns, too). This weekend, I mowed and edged my own lawn for the first time in over a decade. I felt I should have 911 on my speed-dial as I examined myself attempting to manipulate all these high-powered gas motors and complicated equipment.

Perhaps I exaggerate my feelings, but it does illustrate some of how we are feeling at this point (I should speak for myself here I guess since Kelly and I will navigate these waters differently). Not too long ago in Africa, I was sure of who I was and what I was doing, where I lived and to whom I ministered. As we re-enter our homeland, even with all its familiarities, I feel like a stranger in a foreign place. In funny ways, the simplest of tasks seems almost complicated or overwhelming. In other ways, the newness of our life here breeds excitement and anticipation. Still in many days, we are just barely wet and it seems like the freight train has taken off even before I could settle in and get adjusted to my seat. That's the exciting part, but the terrifying part as well. When we left Africa, we left behind a pace of life that is so unique and one that I will always cherish. It seems virtually impossible to mimic it in this place. It's sad to me, yet I don't wish to linger in the past, but rather embrace the future.

So after a week of visiting family in West Texas, I will jump right in and start my new employment. I am equally energized and equally terrified at the same time. It's the same as any new job, new experience, or new opportunity. I totally expect God to walk with me each day in this new environment. Kelly and I were talking today about whether we feel "peace" about where we are at and how it is going. It's difficult to have peace be defined by one particular thing. Can you feel physically tired and still feel peaceful? Can you feel terrified about what's ahead and still feel peaceful? Can you almost dread the day yet still feel at peace about where God has you? As we relived our memories of our opening days in Benin back in 1999, I would say a resounding yes to all of the above. The peace that I'm talking about is not the peace that is defined by the at-the-moment emotion or feeling. It is a peace that does transcend all understanding. It is a perpetual peace that sustains us through times of fear, inadequacy, or the feeling of being lost and out of place. It is a peace that carries us at all times. This is the peace that drove us to Benin, carried us through the ups and downs of life there and the same peace that allowed us to finish strong. So now, we continue in this same peace here . . .

OK, enough for now. I've included some pictures of the kids and also one of us with Tessa Tunnell. We enjoyed a special evening with Tessa and her parents. Tessa will be leaving to spend the fall semester in Zambia, Africa (through Harding University). It was a thrill for us to have them in our home and hear about Tessa's excitement and faith. We had the privilege of sharing our experience with her and praying for her and Todd and Gail. Thanks guys for letting us share in this moment with you all!

We'll try and blog a little over the week as we visit my folks, my older brother and his family, my Granny and alot of other wonderful people.


Friday, August 03, 2007

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A fun trip to Searcy Arkansas!

We just returned from a wonderful 2 day trip to Searcy. Our main reason for going involved eye exams with Dr. Bailey, however, there was much more to the trip! It was a great family get away in our new car...we loved the smooth roads and the gas stations with clean restrooms and fountain drinks and fun snacks! We loved the beautiful trees and opportunities to see cows and horses grazing in the fields. We absolutely loved staying with Dr. Bailey and Ms.Betty! They also happen to be my sister in-law's (Emille) parents which makes them extra special!!! They treated to us great food, slip and slide fun for the kids and Ms.Betty treated Tori and I to a tour of the best places to go shopping in Searcy! We had a blast! Last night after dinner we all went to walk around the Harding University campus. It has changed a lot since the last time we were there and is even more beautiful than before! Our dear friends Monte and Beth Cox live close to the campus so we took a chance and knocked on their door, wondering if they might be in town. They were!!! We were able to have a great visit and introduce them to our entire crew! The picture at the bottom of this post is of me and Beth. This is a dear dear friend who has been used by God to impact my life in big ways! I love her so much and her wonderful husband Monte too! Walking around the Harding campus
Sweet fun at the Baileys' house...
also includes a picture of Lael wearing her DVD headphones in the car!

Beth Cox and Kelly

Beth and her husband Monte are former missionaries to Kenya.

I had the opportunity to intern under them in 1990.

My life was forever changed after that summer.

The Lord's plans are good! His ways are beyond tracing out! I had no idea what the Lord was orchestrating when I agreed to go to Kenya that summer. I love being able to look back and see the trace of his hand, especially during a time of my life when I tended to think that the decisions of my future were up to me and anxiety often filled my soul. The Lord was there, leading me into the lives of people who were equipping me and encouraging me about the days to come. Thank you Lord!