This weekend Randy's parents were in town! Sunday evening after our housewarming shower, Randy had been given many tickets to the Texas Rangers Baseball game. He took Tori and Timothy, along with many other Dads and their kids, as well as Randy's parents. These tickets were provided by a good friend who has a Suite at the Park. They had such a blast! Lael has such a great time with Papa! He had the special thrill of hearing her say his name! Here are some pics from the Ranger game as well as our trip to ride the train at Forest Park on Tuesday! That was a lot of fun too! Here are some pics of T and T with their new bikes! As well,we had the opportunity to celebrate Nana and Papa's 42 years of marriage!! We did this on Tuesday night with ice cream and swimming at Donny and Kendra's house!
This weekend Richland Hills gave us a Welcome Home shower. It has been such a generous outpouring of love and we are blessed, honored and beyond my ability to express, we are thankful! We feel the Lord's love and provision through the hearts of such dear wonderful friends from Richland Hills. Some of these people I have known my entire life, some have come to Richland Hills since we left and know us through our brothers and sisters and parents and there are even some that I just met yesterday who have been praying for us and the work among the Aja for many years! What an unspeakable joy to be in the body of Christ!
Thank you Lord!
Here are a few fun pictures from yesterday!
Our moms! Aunt Becky and Sweet Lael Best buds...Timo and Payton
It's been 2 weeks now and Kelly and I are enjoying a very blessed re-entry experience. Our friends and family have overwhelmed us with generosity, love, encouragement and have also given us the space to just live life and be a family. It's been great. We are so blessed by our church family, too! Everyone has been so good to us. Tori was in her bliss today, getting to enjoy a new cowgirl hat, and get a pedicure with Precious, her grandmother. Kelly's mom is so fun with Tori! Tori was excited to get the Texas flag with stars painted on her toes! While a Dad may never fully appreciate the art of toe painting, I can tell you Tori loved it! Isn't she just beautiful!?!!!!
Life in America is full of choices and more choices. We bought a car last week and it was almost too much...in the end, I test-drove only 2 different vehicles (my pre-States mindset was to test-drive a dozen different models, but in the end, I felt like asking someone else, "just pick one for me.") We are not like the missionaries of yesteryear who walked off a boat after being in far-off Africa for 40 years. We are NOT seeing life in America the first time. Thus our culture shock is probably not as severe, traumatic, or overwhelming as it once was for missionaries. We will no doubt encounter our personal experiences when this "new" culture offends us, frustrates us, or even drives us crazy. Probably right now, we're all in that "honeymoon" phase where everything seems just wonderful. BUT, even though as "modern missionaries" (made-up term), we still find America overwhelming with all its options, choices, and personalized selections. If you want pancake syrup, you'll need to know decide in advance: (1) brand-name or generic brand, (2) made with real butter or just butter flavored, (3) original or some flavor, (4) the strong stuff or light syrup, (5) reduced sugar or sugar-sweetened with Splenda, (6) big bottle or little bottle, (7) little bottle or travel size, (8) travel size for multiple servings or travel size for single use and on and on.......
Choices. Wow! While I've been to Wal-Mart and Target countless of times on furlough, I never cease to be amazed by the aisles and aisles of choices. Not so much the amount of stuff under one roof, but rather the number of CHOICES on each aisle (our African friends would never get past the front entrance...they'd be in too much awe of our American SUPER "markets"). My goodness! There are 2 different brands of bottled water in Benin. Pretty easy to pick (and the one we preferred is the default one that is brought if you don't specify the other). Here, I couldn't believe all the various brands, bazillion flavors, and now there are new protein waters with extra vitamins and minerals. Cereal choices in Africa are like 5 (and 4 of those are stale generic corn flakes). Here's there's about 65, enough for 2 aisles! Drive-through fast-food is too much for me at this point. I have to go INSIDE because I feel too much pressure staring at this large board with all kinds of pictures and prices, all the while feeling the honk bound to be coming from the fella behind me because I'm taking too long. That's why we also like Sonic. We pull up to our own drive-up parking spot with our personal little choice-board and just STARE. No pressure. Somewhere about 10 minutes later, we finally get around to pushing that red button (meanwhile the car that pulled up at the same time we did already has their food and is gone!)
The days are long here; so long that it feels like we've been here a whole lot longer than 2 weeks. One reason is the hours of daylight. In Benin, it was black dark at 7:30p and the kids were all in bed by 8:30p at the very latest. Here, it is 9p before it is dark and our kids are having trouble finding it reasonable to be in their PJs while it is still daylight (that'll change next month when school starts!) Our energy level is twice what it was in Benin simply (I think) because our minds understand everything we say and that is said to us. When you live and work in one or more foreign languages, your mind and body are naturally more fatigued by the end of the day. In Benin, when we would eat out at a restaurant in the capital city, I would tune out any other conversations at nearby tables simply because without concentrating heavily, I couldn't really make out the context of what they were saying. But here in the U.S., I find myself eavesdropping on all the conversations around us, simply because I can understand everyone! (by the way, not all conversations are worth listening in on!)
Today I am aware of the uniqueness of American privacy and seclusion. In Benin, life is lived out in the open. In America, we live so much of our lives behind the walls of our home (of course, lovin' that good ol' reliable AC!) We now live in this small town north of a large Texas city. If I moved into a small town in Benin, we'd know everyone in that village by the end of the day. It's been 2 weeks now and I have met (and SEEN) only 2 of our neighbors on our street. People drive in their cars, pull into their garages, and all you really see of people are their heads. I'm so thankful WE enjoy the community of our church fellowship and the rich blessing of family. There are plenty of people in this country who have neither one and are very lonely (and subsequently engage in all kinds of sordid activities to fill that void). One of most powerful witnesses of the American church is for us to share this rich community and fellowship with other people!!
I was talking with an African friend one time who himself had a friend who had visited America once. I asked my friend about his friend's most memorable impression of life in America. He told me that his friend said, "in America, people don't get their feet dirty. They live in clean homes and then get into clean cars and drive to clean stores and back home again. Their feet never touch the soil." While this one-time visitor only gleaned a partial truth about life in our culture, it is interesting to view such a way of life when we just left a place where the red dirt permeated your feet, sandals and clothes! This African brother wasn't necessarily even referring to hygiene, but rather proverbially having doubts that we lacked a strong fellowship between us as people because, to him, Americans don't spend alot of time walking down to their neighbor's house to visit and fellowship. While I hygienically prefer cleanliness over dirty feet, how do I challenge his perception and actually engage my neighbors in conversations about their lives? God has called us to dwell in this house in this small town. How do we dwell here? If dwelling is more than just eating, sleeping and playing, how do we minister the love of Jesus from this home into the lives of those people around us? Do we invite these strangers into our home? Do we take our very active household of 4 kids into their house? How do you get to know people, minister to them, and share life with them?
OK, that's enough for today. We're experiencing new stuff everyday and having lots of things to talk about in our home. Thank you to all of you local folks who are bringing us meals! What a blessing that is!
Randy and I are finally connected to the internet! We hope to begin blogging regularly again soon. We have been so generously blessed since our return to America! Yes we are daily overwhemled with choices and decisions to be made but this is life in America. Just as it took much time to orient ourselves to the Benin culture, it will take a lot of time to re-orient ourselves to this culture! Our kids are doing wonderful. They have been surrounded by cousins and friends since we arrived and they absolutely LOVE our rent house.
Yesterday we celebrated Lael's 2 year old birthday! What a sweet surprise gift from God she continues to be in our life! It is such a joy to finally be able to share her with our family and friends.
It is wonderful to be back in Texas, surrounded by family and friends! We have been showered with love and blessings! It was so good to enjoy a great 4th of July day with our family...just hanging out, visiting, laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying ALL the kids...15 kids under one roof!
Our days are full already but we are loving it. We are so rich to be covered by the prayers of so many...many in America as well as so many of our friends in Benin. We are blessed.
We arrived to a beautifully furnished rent house and we absolutely love it. Thank you to any of you who had a part to play in making it feel like home!! The kids love their rooms and all the special touches that people put into them to make them great kid rooms. It is a great place to be and we feel very at home here already!!
So much more to say in the days to come, as well as a thousand pictures. Here's a family photo from this morning!
Today has been a FULL day of goodbyes and parting gifts. We decided to spend our last night at our favorite hotel. This place has been a special place of rest for us over the past 8 years and we have become very close with the staff. Some of them have even made it out to Aplahoue to stay in our home. We wanted to do something nice for the staff so we had some cakes made and presented them this morning. Randy and I both took a turn at thanking them and then they had some very kind words for us and then they sang a song to us about thanking the Lord for the good things that he has done for us! Amen!!
At this moment we are taking showers, having Lael's hair done one last time by Laurance, and waiting for Randy to return from his last meal with the church leaders who traveled to Cotonou this afternoon from Aplahoue to see him one last time.
This is an amazing transition for our family. We are so thankful for our former teammate Jim Kennell who has been with us this weekend to share in the final days. We are on the same flight tonight! And we are SO thankful that my mom has endured these final weeks with us. What a blessing it has been to have her here. That sentence seems too small to say what it has meant to have her here. Thank you Dad for sharing her with us.
Our hearts are full of emotion and thoughts of the days to come. We are so thankful for your thoughts and prayers! We will see many of you very soon and we can't wait!!!
My husband, Randy, and I have four wonderful kids:
Tori (9), Timothy (5), Jonathan (3), Lael (3)!
We were church-planting missionaries, serving in Benin, West Africa from 1999 until July 2007. We are now back in Texas, learning to live in the good ol' USA! It's very challenging, yet we are so thrilled to be near our family & friends!!