We finally fly back to Arkansas today. And WOW am I super excited. The last four weeks have been a whirlwind of traveling around the globe and full of wonderful people and experiences. I'm still planning to go into hiding for the first two weeks in June because I desperately need a mini-sabbatical. If you want to peek into some of the thoughts and feelings that our family is experiencing as we return to America, here are some links to which I've recently found myself nodding in agreement:
Monday, May 22, 2017
Each of the weekends on either side of our re-entry seminar, we took the opportunity to go visit people that we have known and loved for many years. We planned this trip in January and the calendar filled up quickly.
But God still surprises us with joy, and on Friday during lunch, I felt a hand grab my shoulder and turned around to find a friend from Texas! She had moved to Orlando while we were in the Solomon Islands. Aaron's shiny bald head drew her attention from across the crowded cafeteria, and she made a beeline to find our family and to schedule a coffee date with me that afternoon.
Saturday morning, we drove to visit our precious friends from college. This is the first time we've visited them since Mike died, and we knew the chance for tears was high.
As always, the kids had a blast together, even though their lives don't intersect on a daily basis.
Joy caught me up on some music theory resources online, which was especially helpful for me since I'm considered recertifying as a music educator.
It was so hard to pull out of that driveway, I felt like I left my heart there.
Our next stop was St. Petersburg. Since our last visit in 2015, the amazing McBride family has added two daughters-in-love.
What a joy to see multiple generations of our families soak up time together. When we met James and Barbara, they were expecting their first child. Since then we've watched their kids grow and blossom into godly men and women who are beginning homes of their own.
The McBrides and the Choates each have a Benjamin and an Olivia, too! Spiritual conversations and mentoring happened all over again as our kids visited around the table with their kids.
Barbara feathered a nest for us by putting good books in our room and covering our bed with a beautiful quilt from GranMollie. Not that we spent much time in the bedroom, we were too busy staying up till midnight and chatting like college kids.
When we met James and Barbara almost twenty-five years ago, they modeled an open door policy. Somehow, even with little ones running around, they maintained authenticity and begin to instill in us the importance of adopting people so that they feel loved and accepted and part of the family. They still live that way.
"We must understand homemaking not as a retreat from the fallen world, not as a retrenchment from culture, but as a profound engagement with it." ~Sarah Clarkson "The Life Giving Home"
This family makes being friends across the miles seem easy.
Then we zoomed over to Tampa (where the map app led us on a wild goose chase!) to enjoy a quick meal with my college roommate's mama.
I'm so grateful for faithful friends across the miles and the years!
Saturday, May 20, 2017
We are so grateful to Wycliffe for the re-entry seminar they provide for teams serving overseas. They included every member of the family in age-appropriate activities.
We worshipped in our heart language together and filled up the room with praise (really, we could have recorded it and sold many copies of people truly grateful for the opportunity to sing in English). Oh, how they nurtured us this week.
We were giving a fire hose of information, reminding us how to navigate retirement and insurance and the in-house websites and all of that business stuff that we really never think about when we are in the Solomon Islands.
The sweetest part was rubbing shoulders with people who have a heart to see God's Word translated into every language around the world. These are some of the most amazing people I've ever met. The MKs especially forged strong friendships. We prayed for each other, cried with each other, and rejoiced with each other. All week long.
What a great rocket pad to launch back into the "real world" in just a few days as we return to Arkansas...
Friday, May 19, 2017
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
We landed in Orlando Wednesday evening, and our poor bodies didn't know quite what hit them! Grateful for somebody to pick us up for the airport, we got checked into the apartments at the Wycliffe headquarters and navigated the grocery store for the first time by ourselves. A quick supper and showers finished the evening.
Then we began several days of fun and flexible travels back and forth to the town where we lived during our delightful college years. Lisa and her girls were willing to drive and meet us halfway in the midst of a very busy schedule. I love it when reuniting with somebody feels like no time has passed.
We also spent some time with precious GranMollie and Grandpa T.
This sweet couple has been pouring into our family since we arrived at college twenty-five years ago.
Unexpectedly, we found ourselves invited to participate in an "ice cream walk" with some of our friends from college.
It was a super fun way to spend a Friday evening, trying a bite of sooooo many different flavors of ice cream as we walked around beautiful downtown DeLand.
Of course, in our driving back and forth between Orlando and DeLand, we had to stop and visit The Muse, our favorite independent bookstore. It smells like old books and old buildings, because that's exactly what is inside.
I really wanted to pick up several of the G.A. Henty first editions, but the price was a little bit out of my budget. We did find a beautiful and affordable old Kipling and "Tristan and Isolt: A Play in Verse" for Aaron.
We didn't forget to stop by Rodeo Whip for ice cream, either.
One of the places we stopped on Saturday was the Old Spanish Sugar Mill.
In year past, we met Bill and Renee here for some delicious fun together. On our honeymoon, this generous couple even took us for a boat ride in the waters surrounding the Sugar Mill.
But in January, Bill, Renee, and their middle son were killed in a car wreck,
so we met another friend from college and celebrated our sweet memories of the family who opened their home and hearts to so many college students.
On Sunday morning, we were invited by an old college friend to speak at Christ United Fellowship.
Sunday afternoon's plans changed radically, and through the generosity of a pastor and his sweet family,
our families spent the afternoon together getting to know each other a little bit better while adjusting to life in America with roller coasters.
Monday before our re-entry workshop began, we met a fun couple for breakfast. This spunky lady was the very first person to sign up to partner with us financially when we began serving with Wycliffe so many years ago.
And now we are fully engrossed in workshops to help us with all sorts of odds and ends crucial to living well in our passport culture. We're so grateful that Wycliffe provides resources we need to help us navigate transition!
Saturday, May 13, 2017
On our last full day with Julie and her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, they took us to Fort Casey.
Once again, I loved watching the kids work together.
Although sometimes, it was fun to watch our kids be spunky and independent, too.
Fort Casey sits on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound,
a perfect location for defending the area,
but also a location with a gorgeous view!
While the kids roamed around and had a blast exploring,
the mamas chatted while exploring (and never ran out of things to talk about).
We left Fort Casey and stopped on the way home at gorgeous Deception Pass.
Finally, we ended up at Rosario Beach, just around the corner from the Deception Pass bridge.
Once again, I was struck at the difference in the climate and especially the beach. This is the same Pacific Ocean we left only a couple of weeks ago, but it looks so different.
Once we got back to the house (a little sun kissed, I might add!), it was time to repack and weigh the bags and get ready for our 3:00 a.m. departure.
You know you have good friends when they agree to take you to the airport that early in the morning so you don't have to catch a red-eye flight!