Friday, February 21, 2014

my heart will choose to say...

The other day Steve, Megan and I were hanging out in the kitchen.  Megan told me I needed to stop mentioning my up coming midlife crisis.  She then told Steve he needed to get over his laundry obsession with our 12 teens and their unclaimed, unmarked laundry that he has recently begun hiding.  Steve and I laughed at seeing ourselves through Megan's eyes.  Steve said if someone had told him a year ago that he would be hiding laundry from our house O teens he would laugh them out of the room.  Often reality proves to be stranger than fiction.

The thing is I can't seem to get my mind around the fact that very soon our baby girl will be graduating from high school.  I've hardly recovered from Joe graduating and starting college.  You see we haven't lived full-time with our kids since they were in 8th grade for Sam, 9th grade for Meg and 10th grade for Joe.  We moved away from the states when they were 9, 11 and 13.  We placed them in French public schools for a year and then moved to Gabon.  We home schooled them all the first year with another missionary family and when that family moved away we home schooled them alone in Libreville.  Joe came to me one day saying, "Mom, I don't want to do high school at the kitchen table."  Our kids are very social and fun and adventurous and smart and kind.  Not to brag or anything...  Anyway we agonized over the decision to send our kids to Rain Forest International school for over a year before enrolling first Joe and Megan in the fall of 2010 and then Sam the following year.  In one calendar year I went from home schooling all three to all being one country away from them for the better part of the year.

I remember clearly the first time we came to RFIS to check out the school with Joe.  We drove the 12 hour or so drive from Gabon to Cameroon just months after moving to Gabon in the fall of 08.  We were impressed with the school and visited the hostels where students live who's parents don't live locally.  I remember watching Joe and Steve play basketball, one on one, at the end of the day.  The sun was sinking low in the pink and purple sky.  I was listening to my ipod and the song "Blessed Be Your Name" came on.  I started crying when the lyrics spoke deeply into my fragile heart and soul with the words, "You give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, Blessed be your name..."  I tear up now just thinking of it.  I wrestled with how it could be in God's plan to separate me and Steve from our babies.  I grew up and believed as many do that you raise your kids, in your home, until they graduate from high school, at around the age of 18.  That was the paradigm I was familiar with, the framework I accepted and expected.  Instead we were facing a whole new framework without personal experience to guide us.

This year we have been blessed with the opportunity to live here in Cameroon with Megan and Sam and 10 precious others.  We have a beautiful UBAC family.  I have come to love each and every one in this house with a fierce love.  We get to be here for every breakfast and every afternoon and every game and dance and struggle through homework.  We have gotten to know teachers and students and neighbors and an amazing community.  We get to be a part of our kid's every day life!  It is a much longed for gift.  I don't take for granted the everyday routines often.  I revel in it.  Megan tells me I ask too many questions and they are too detailed.  I have recently realized that I am trying to pack as much into this year as possible.  I want to freeze time.  I want to linger.  I want more.  And the thing is... life just keeps on going.  All I can do is try to live each day on purpose.  And I need to let go.  I need to be content with the time I have.  I cannot be in a continual state of grief.

Joe wrote us an email just the other day, "Been praying about you guys! I love you guys so much and I thank God every time I think of you for having such an amazing family. Today I was reminded of you as it is pretty cold, there’s some snow on the ground (and some of it’s melted - Praise God!), and the sun was just at the right angle to draw the right angle of a shadow of a building on the concrete ground that brought me back to the days of France and you guys driving Megan and I to school. It was one of those rare occasions when I think of France with a fond memory. It also got me thinking about how much our family has gone through together. I just want to say that I would not want to change a thing about how I’ve grown up and how we’ve moved all over the place. I love you guys and I miss you."

It was a timely message as just that day we had met with two young families getting ready to move away from the states and go to language school in Albertville, France.  The same language school we attended back when we began our international journey.  They asked hard questions about how it was for us and how our kids had done transitioning and living life in France.  We shared some laughter and tears as Steve and I did our best to answer their questions.  It brought it all back in living color.  Sitting in the UBAC living room with them that day was a brilliant reminder of all God has brought us through.  It has not been easy or fun all the time, but it has been worth it.

I still will choose to say... Lord Blessed be Your name... even though I've missed many breakfasts and afternoons and dances and struggles and cheering at games, I get to be here this year!

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name






 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12th, backwards and forwards

22 years ago on this date Steve and I met at the Hot Biscuit diner in Kilgore, TX.  My roommate Susan and our hall-mate Cindy and I had gone to the Denny's type restaurant to study and have iced tea with multiple free refills (if we had had money we might have even shared an order of fries!!!)  We were studying and occasionally chatting when we noticed directly across the nearly empty restaurant some guys about our age studying in a corner booth.  The next thing we knew the waitress was walking from their table to ours with a sheet of paper.  She gave us the blank notebook paper saying the guys over there wanted our names.  We gave our names and she crossed the restaurant and said the same thing to the unsuspecting guys.  So over the next hour we wrote all over that sheet of paper, front and back, with the waitress wearing a track in the industrial low-pile carpet between our tables as she delivered our messages.  Steve said his name was Ferris and he had a girlfriend, his friends Paul and Fletcher gave us their real names with no mention of any girlfriends.  We said all manor of silly things as writing to the guys was way more fun than actually studying.  At one point I wrote out a lyric to a song by a very obscure Christian band at the time called "the choir":




"Happy fool reasons have I
Happy fool notions have you
I say the sky is as blue as the ocean
You say you know it's true

So tie your shoelaces
To my shoelaces
I'll tie a rope to a tree
We'll see how the wind whips
Happy fool faces
Come blow away with me"






Steve wrote back and said he knew the band and was planning on going to their next concert in the Dallas area.  I wrote and said I was going to the same concert as it was going to be in my hometown of Arlington, TX (not Dallas thank you very much!)  And so began our great love affair with a single sheet of paper and a bored yet helpful waitress on this date 22 years ago at the Hot Biscuit!  We did end up going to that concert together less than a month later.  Those song lyrics I wrote out quite glibly actually proved to be somewhat prophetic! (I still have that scribbled upon notebook paper, I had kept it to show Tyan, our other hall-mate, the evidence of our "paper flirting" with guys from LeTourneau!)

On this date in just 4 months our baby girl will be clothed in a cap and gown and will graduate from high school!  I can't believe it... I feel a mid-life crisis coming on.  I mean how can I be so old already?!  My youngest is now taller than me and my oldest is the same age I was when I met Steve 22 years ago!  My mind is spinning.  I will end with Ferris Bueller's famous quote in light of life and the name Steve wrote as his own all those years ago!







Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's been a week...

Just in the last few hours we have had 2 significant conversations with 3 different students about various issues relating to character development.  Steve likes to call those special conversations held in our office with said student seated in a large rocking chair "come to Jesus" moments.  When we casually ask a student to come to our office for a talk they visibly stiffen and become very serious asking, "Am I in trouble?"  These talks almost always end in hugs and better understanding all around.

This week the kids are attending spiritual retreats.  The high schoolers are off campus about an hour away having their retreat and the middle schoolers are having daily programs on the school campus.  Since 9 of our high schoolers are away our middle schoolers asked if they could have friends stay the night.  So here we are with 3 of our own middle schoolers and 5 extra for company for the next two nights.  We got off to a great start with a lovely enchilada dinner but not long after dinner there was a loud thunk from the basement where the kids were playing.  Steve went to investigate and found one of the girls had slipped on wet tile and went down hard.  She appeared fine, laughingly saying she wasn't hurt badly.  I went to double check about 15 minutes later.  She was being led around by a couple of concerned girls while she was still in her wet clothes.

It seemed she wasn't so fine after all.  She had fallen then gone upstairs to the girls rooms and hung out a bit before coming into the kitchen for some ice.  While she was sitting in the kitchen with several kids she suddenly asked why she was in the kitchen and why she was at UBAC.  She at first struggled to remember coming this afternoon but soon remembered.  What she couldn't remember was falling and the 10-15 minutes after the fall leading up to being in the kitchen.  She kept assuring me she was fine however she said so through a pale face without much conviction.  I called her dad and he quickly called a doctor.  While he was talking to a doctor we asked our faithful neighbor who happens to be a most excellent nurse to come over if she wasn't too busy.  She came right away, her flash light bobbing in the night as she walked the dirt path through the small forest our homes nestle near.  She had her blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, as well as the nifty ear flashlight thingy.   She checked her out and deemed the student to be doing very well considering.  Then the dad called back and talked with Steve for a while then talked with the nurse then me.  Another of the student's dad will be stopping by soon as  he is a local very trusted pediatrician.  Most likely all will be fine and we will have a night of waking the student up every few hours just to be sure.  The other student's doctor dad did come and do a very thorough exam.  We are blessed to have so much support so quickly.  Within a couple of hours we had a phone consult with a surgeon, a personal visit with a nurse followed by a house call by a respected pediatrician.

The first day of retreat was Tuesday.  We woke at our normal time in a house without power and were preparing breakfast for the kiddos when the ringing of Steve's phone startled us in the quiet of the morning.  Tragically one of the RFIS student's dad had died of an apparent heart attack.  This student is one of Joe's best friends and a dear friend of Megan and Sam's.  What a shock.  We told our kids the sad news as they gathered in the living room before they left for school.  It was a mix of shock and tears as the students processed this terrible news and we prayed for the student and his family.  Everything was delayed as this is a small community and various things had to be taken care of.  Our subdued students went off to school with Steve in the van full of suitcases and pillows and backpacks.  Steve came back and worked with another neighbor to go about restoring power.  The school and one of our neighbors had power but the rest of our neighbors did not.  After some investigation the power problem was narrowed down to our hostel neighbor's circuit breaker in the guard shack.  Steve was to standby in the guard shack as our neighbor went to the school and flipped the main power switch at some kind of junction.  So Steve had just stepped out of the guard shack when a huge pop and flash filled the shack.  Steve was glad to have not been in the shack when that happened.  Me too!  Phew!

The staff gathered all the students in the chapel.  They prayed and sang together for about an hour as details were worked out.  The buses were called and arrived with just a 2 hours delay from the original time.  Megan had gone with a couple of girls, a teacher and a mom to visit their shocked and grieving friend before leaving for retreat.  We skype called Joe last night to tell him what was going on.  He was on break at his campus janitor job there at Moody.  He was shocked and deeply saddened.  It was so hard to be so far away from him.  He just wanted to be here to help his friend through this terrible time.  We didn't talk long as he had to get back to work.  It is really sucky to not be with Joe when we have to communicate such tough stuff.  

So the high schoolers are at retreat and the middle schoolers are here.   We will be up every few hours to make sure our guest is responsive and well.  She will miss retreat tomorrow as her dad and mom need to get scans and keep a close watch on her.  It's been a week...