Another Last…

Warren Group Picture

I am not sure how to write this post.

It seems surreal that we find ourselves in this place.

How did we get here?  Well it was peppered with laughing, first experiences, late nights, ridiculous SnapChat videos, frustrating pictures turned videos…disagreements, frustrations, clash of culture, American experiences, traveling, broadening of horizons, eyes open to the mercy and grace of God.  It was full of trips to Wal-Mart to buy yet again, another cup with a straw and pit stop to Starbucks on the way home.  One can’t forget the rushed morning routine, getting to school with 1 minute to spare and hoping that the side door would still be open! Donut Palace.  Trinity Youth Group.  It sounded like the beep of a blue-tooth alarm clock connecting to an iPhone.  It’s the sound of an alarm sounding on a Saturday morning after she stayed the night with a friend. Music.  A beautiful transition from pop music to contemporary Christian.  Homecoming with friends.  It tastes like fried eggs and pancakes.  It’s laced with failed attempts to make Belgian waffles.  Trips to Waffle House instead.  Running around the neighborhood, trips to Snap Fitness.  Factory Connection, JCPenny’s, Rue21, Forever 21.  Prom with a new-found love.  Cheeseburgers.  Loud music with the windows down.  World Outreach Church.  Sonic Facebook friends discount.  Chocolate shakes.  Shooting stars.  Eyes and heart opened to the mysteries of God.  Insecurity turned confidence.  An entire blog post could be made with such descriptions.

July 11th, 2015 my husband and I went to Outback Steak House to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.  While there, we discussed the possibilities of welcoming an exchange student into our home for the 2015/2016 school year.  Life-changing.  Memorable.  Gosh those seem like such cliche words to use but it’s absolutely the truth.  We knew that we would be exposed to a different thought perspective.  We knew that we would see the world through different glasses.  We knew we’d help her do the same.  What we weren’t prepared for was for our hearts to be knit together as tightly as they have been.  We weren’t prepared for the end of the line…the list of “lasts” that we would experience and the small tears in the stitches of our heart that would happen as a result.  I was just telling her last night that our agency is really good about telling you about all the GREAT things that will happen but a description of how incredibly excruciating it would be to transition from having a daughter to being without one.  How hard the last month would be.   All of these “lasts.”  We weren’t prepared for the moment when we would be face to face with the realization that in 2 Tuesdays or 2 church services or 1 month down the road of life….it would no longer involve all 6 of us, but only 5 of us.  Part of our heart would be getting on a jet plane to go back to her home country.  The unknown span of time was quickly approaching between our, “See you later,” and “It’s SOOO good to see you again!”  The intense prayers scribbled in my prayer journal that she will stay close to Christ and lean on Him when she is faced with the Babylonian mindset and that she takes tools out of her Survival Kit when she needs them.   This past Wednesday evening, we realized it would be the last dinner at church that she would be here for.  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a cheesecake layered desert.  Next to dropping her off at the airport, today was one of the most final things that could happen in a homestay experience.  The last day of school.

The morning went like most others.  Wake up, make breakfast, make lunch, wait for her to get done getting beautiful (even though she could totally get out of bed and take one of those “I woke up like this!” pictures), load up in the car, squeal tires to get to the drop of line by 7:54 so she could get in the door and to the gym by 7:55.  What wasn’t the same was the fact that as I turned the last left turn to head to the school, I realized that it would be the last time we would be doing that.  The last time to rush around.  The last time to say, “Have a good day, Belgian!  Make your brain big!”  The last time to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  The last time to plan my day to get everything done before leaving the house to pick her up at 2:30….wait…I didn’t even have to do THAT today because she was going home with a friend.  Yesterday she went home with Derek….that means…Wednesday was the last day for that, too.  The whole way home I was in a fog.  Could this really be coming to an end?  Is this really it?  See, in my mind, when we started, the end would never come.  That was something that would happen WAAAAaaay in the future…as in…never.  Yet, reality set in today.  The end is nigh. The end is in 11 days.  Wow…

Here’s the crazy part.  As much as I am hurting and so sad that this is coming to an end, I realize that there’s two (sometimes three) sides to every story.  I realize my pain is someone else’s joy.  Partially Audrey’s but whole-heartedly her family’s!  They have been waiting 10 months to hold their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter in their arms.  To hold her close. To hear about her day.  To share life with her.  My selfishness of not wanting to give her back was someone else’s generosity 10 months ago.  Her parents supported her decision to pursue a homestay, spent time, money, energy and effort to make sure she had everything she need to be successful.  My tight grip was someone else’s loose hand.  They took her to the airport and put her on a plane to somewhere they had never been with people they had only skyped with twice.

Audreys Baptism
If I look back on this year, I have to thank God for putting this whole thing in motion when Audrey was just a little girl.  I believe all things that happen in life are filtered through our Father’s hands.  Do I believe her love for the USA and for the English language happened by chance?  Nope. Do I think that she was born into a family where her father speaks English?  Nope.  Do I think that it’s by chance that she mustered up the courage to apply for and actually follow through with going to a different country when she had never even traveled alone in her life.  Not a chance.  Do I think that her finding our music interesting was coincidence?  Ha!  No way!  Do I think the stars aligned in such a way that made it possible for for her to placed in our home?  Are you Crazy?  The only explanation I can find for this last year is that God knew before the creation of this world that this year would take place. That an 18 year old girl from Belgium would need to hear the Gospel.  That she would listen and learn for 10 months and then go through a complete life change.  I believe he knew that in order for all that to happen, she would need to leave what was comfortable and go to a place where she would be show the love of Christ on a daily basis.  Perfect love?  No, we are incredibly flawed to say the least.  But…a perfectly imperfect love is what we had to offer her.  It is amazing to know that I have a daughter which I have carried in my heart this year.  She came a stranger and leaves my Sister.  Oh Lord, I am so unworthy of this gift.  Thank you for bringing her into my life and allowing me to witness a miracle in her life.  You really leave me awestruck as I think about this beautiful wanderlust of a young woman.  Lord, have your way with her life.  To you be the glory.  Amen!

A Stroke of God’s Love

God is awesome.  Let me just say that really quick.  I just have to give Him so much praise.  Yesterday I lost count of how many times I cried overwhelmed tears due to the way God was moving in response to prayer.  I am still in awe of him and so excited  that so many have seen Him in big ways in the last week or so.  I believe the best is yet to come.  In advance, I apologize if this blog post is a bit back and forth and a bit long.  I hope I don’t miss any details.

Many of you already know that Josh and I have taken in an exchange student from Belgium.  She is such a great fit for our family.  She isn’t used to having much younger kids in the home, but she is patient and has adapted well.  Her spunk and sass is a nice addition to the male-heavy tone in our home.  :)  She has been such a blessing to our family.  We decided to host through Cultural Homestay International (CHI), an organization I would recommend if you are interested in doing the same.  Our family will never be the same having had her in our lives.  She is such a ray of sunshine in our home.

20150804_072947

On August 25th, I logged into facebook to find a message from our CHI Tennessee coordinator saying the following:

Students and families please keep a 16 year old young man from China in your thoughts and prayers today. He is an exchange student with CHI in the state of Illinois. He is in critical condition after suffering a stroke yesterday while in PE class. He has a blood clot in his carotid artery. He is unconscious and on a feeding tube at this time. Please pray that his family will get here safe and quickly and that a miracle will happen for him.

Naturally my heart began to cry out to the Lord for healing and peace.  I instantly placed myself in the shoes of his host family and his natural parents.  My word.  I cannot even make myself go to either one of those places.  God impressed upon me to find a way to serve him during that time.  While our coordinator and her assistant were on their way to St. Louis to show support for that situation, I contact them and asked if I could organize a card shower for the student and host family.  They agreed.

This is what was posted on facebook.  This is still an option of you’d like to get involved:

CHI Card Shower

A. Send greeting cards of encouragement to his host family, his biological family and/or him. We are asking that you put “Host Family” “Student” or “Family” in the lower left hand corner on the back of the envelope so each card can get to the right person without the cards having to be opened first.

B. Send a prepaid debit card to be used by the biological/host family for gas, food and/or personal items associated with staying at a hospital and possibly rehab center for a little while. There’s no telling how long they will be here, but his biological family had to leave China quickly. Changes are they forgot things. We all know how expensive eating out can be and what a hit that can take on one’s finances. If you were a person who wanted to rally your Sunday school class, this would be a great option for a group support effort.

C. Send Domino’s, Jimmy John’s and/or Pizza Hut gift cards. The cafe on site is reportedly VERY expensive. There is a Pizza Hut on site so these could be used there or for delivery. All three of these places deliver. This would be another great option for Sunday schools or small groups to either purchase a variety of cards or one larger card to one place.

D. For those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Cannon, Moore and Warren counties: I am collecting non-perishable foods (peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, pudding, granola bars, etc), gum, mints, small coloring/activity books, cards etc to for the family to use in the waiting area. I will be sending this box NEXT FRIDAY (the 7th) to give people enough time to gather items and meet up with me. Depending on where you are located, we may have to meet in the middle.

The last I heard, nearly $100 in prepaid VISA gift cards had been received and delivered to the family!  Thank you for helping!  That’s awesome!  Donations also came in locally of food and financial support for the care package.  That was shipped out today and should arrive Tuesday!

During the coordinator’s stay in St. Louis, they posted this update:

He has a tiny hole in his heart that has probably been there. The doctors believe that the long flight caused the blood clot to set up and it has just been floating around until it found the hole and that is where it lodged.

They have removed his breathing tube to see how he is going to do on his own. China will only allow one emergency visa so his natural father is getting that. The flight is so long so hopefully he will be here in a couple of days.

At this point many began to pray that God would work it out so that both parents could travel to be by his side during this time.  A time later, we were given this update:

Update: His family will arrive tonight at 9:15. His parents and little brother all got their Visas!!! He is conscious, but still unable to move anything on his left side. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We will be heading back later this evening.

Praise GOD!  God provided for his whole immediate family to travel to be by his side!  That’s something only God could do!  He went above the law of the land to provide for this student!

Upon their arrival, CHI hired a translator to help the family speak with doctors about decisions and to gain their whereabouts.  From what I understand, it is unclear how long this individual will be able to stay to offer his services.  Something in my heart just wanted to cry.  Having been to India, I can slightly relate with how it feels to look around and see VERY FEW people who look and sound like you do.  Here are these parents (and brother) plunged into a situation where their son is very sick, they can’t speak the language, are unfamiliar with the food, have no idea how to get around (not that they would probably want to leave their son’s side)…and the translator will only be available for a short time.  My heart just felt so bad for them.  I tried to think of people I knew in the St. Louis area and remembered one of my friends all through school lived in Missouri.  I contacted her on facebook and began to discuss the cards and then expressed my desire to find someone to reach out to them in person.  I began to look for Christian chruches in the close proximity to the hospital with not much luck.  I thought maybe I could help coordinate meals for the family and general outreach during this hard time.  Each time I found one which looked promising, there wouldn’t be contact information available.  SIDE TANGENT:  If you are in charge of a church website, PLEASE make sure there’s a phone number listed.  Your website is somewhat ineffective if someone in need can’t have access to you or your ministries by way of phone.  Looking back, I can see it was God’s plan though.  Just yesterday, September 3rd, I did yet again another  search for churches in St. Louis.  What popped up?  “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church!”  I literally sat there with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I didn’t type in anything special.  Nothing different from the other searches I had done for a week leading up to yesterday.  It was just God’s timing…and it was perfect!  And guess what?  There was a phone number so I called and left a voicemail.

After a couple of hours, I called again because I figured nobody would be in the office on Friday.  The following is a bit of a summary of our conversation:

A man answers the phone: Hello?ME:  Hi this is Andrea, I called earlier about a Chinese exchange student who is currently being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…”
It was at that moment my brain realized when he answered the phone he said, “Hello” and not something along the lines of, “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church, this is ____.  Can I help you?”
ME:  I’m sorry.  Is this St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church?
MAN:  No.  I don’t go to that church anymore.  When I did attend there anymore.  How did you get this number?
ME:  *Palm to face*  I’m thinking, great….I thought this was God’s provision.  “I searched for churches in the St. Louis area whom I thought might help reach out to a Chinese exchange student who is being treated at Children’s Hospital. Do you by chance have the phone number for that church?”
MAN:  They don’t have a lanline number that I know of.
ME:  Oh boy…ok, well…. hummm.  What about an email address?  I tried to email them but the email was returned because that email address isn’t in use anymore.
MAN:  That was also my email address.
ME:  Shoot…ok.  I am looking for a church who can reach out to a Chinese student and his parents.  He is an exchange student and suffered a stroke last week.  His parents are in from China but they don’t speak English at all.
MAN:  Do you have an email that you can send?  I will forward it to the pastor of the church I go to now.  It’s called Chinese Gospel Church.
ME:  Yes.  I will do that when we get off of the phone if I can have a good address to send it to.
MAN: *he gives it to me*
ME:  Great!  I will send it to you when we get off the phone.  Thank you!

A few hours later, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.  Normally I just let it go to voicemail, knowing if it is a sales call they won’t leave a message.  Moments later, my phone beeped with a voicemail.  Because I was making dinner I wanted to check it.  When I did, I got tears in my eyes again.  It was an elder from the Chinese Gospel Church calling to get room number and additional information about the student.  Not only was I connect with this church in a way that the world would say was “by chance” but they had follow through!  I called the gentleman back and discussed the student’s and parent’s situation.  I inquired as to when this weekend he would be traveling to the hospital to make a connection.  He said it wouldn’t be this weekend, but that very evening.  Keep in mind please it’s 9pm while we are on the phone.  We prayed before we got off of the phone and looked very much forward to hearing a report.  Later I learned that he wasn’t able to visit because visiting hours ended at while we had been talking on the phone but that he and his wife had plans to go around noon the today (the 4th).  To God be the glory!  A willing and ready servant!  You know, it’s great to see someone with the shoes of readiness firmly secured.  Praise the Lord!  Not only that, he said that they would be turning this into a local mission of sorts.

We are a homeschooling family.  While I was at Co-op today, I got a phone call from a Missouri number.  I quickly answered it and learned it was an additional elder from Chinese Gospel Church wanting to clear up some communication issues.  He also confirmed that they would be working with their fellowship this weekend to make a plan to surround this family in love and service while they are here.  I was so overwhelmed by God once again.  Currently I am waiting on a report from the meeting that was scheduled to take place today.

Where does this mission project go from here?

Because of the predicted amount of time the family will be at the hospital (they should be able to check into the Ronald McDonald Home sometime soon), I am encouraging those willing to serve somehow through this situation to consider the following in order to keep the support rolling.  Don’t forget you are welcome to rally your own church/Sunday school class to get involved.

Two flatrate boxes were sent to the family of a Chinese exchange student who suffered a stroke last week.  Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

  • Purchasing a package of blank cards from a dollar type store, stamps for those cards and go ahead and address the cards.  When God leads you to encourage the family, host family or student, please feel free to do so.  I am also giving them out to families with whom I share his situation with who want to help.
  • I will be putting together another care package shipment to the family in October.  If you would like to help provide items for the box, financial gift to purchase things for the box or pay for shipping, you are more than welcome.
  • I learned that the host family is traveling every 3 days or so to the hospital.  Their family lives approximately 45 minutes away so they are spending a decent amount on gas each time.  I plan to send a card to them also with a prepaid VISA card in it for gas expenses.  Maybe consider doing the same?  I know if our student was the one sick, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home.  I would be heartbroken and would want to be there, too.
  • PRAY for the student’s healing!
  • PRAY for Chinese Gospel Church and the work they will be doing for this family.
  • PRAY for the peace and comfort of Christ to be accepted by the family of this student.

As of right now, this is what I know about our support efforts. Thank you for those of you who have been a part of this outreach.

  • 4 states are represented among those who have agreed to send cards to the student, family and/or host family!
  • Close to $100 has been sent to the family by way of prepaid VISA cards!  I have been notified that more are expected to be sent as well!
  • One church in South Carolina, primarily comprised of single moms, has agreed to take up a special offering for the family and to send cards!
  • Countless churches across the United States have placed this situation on their prayer lists.
  • God heard the desire of the student’s brother to have Legos to play with.  They were purchased for the care package without even knowing of his desires.

I believe that God has something bigger in store for this student and for this family.  I just can’t wait to see what he does in their lives.  His healing power, his ability to provide comfort and peace during this time of crazy circumstance…  Only He will be able to be glorified in the end.  He has already showed His power and I don’t see Him walking away now.  He is mighty to save and worthy of praise.

 

On a Mission: 48 hours+ back in the United States recap.

I find it every difficult to accurately put into written language what I experienced between the dates of December 26th and January 7th. I have had several people ask if we had fun on our trip. Fun isn’t an appropriate.  Sure, we played games with the boys and experienced fun things, but overall, the trip wasn’t fun.  Eye-opening, for sure.  Humbling?  That’s like saying I like chocolate.  Is that statement true?  Absolutely!  But it doesn’t fully describe why I like it, when I like to have it, which grade or which style I prefer.  It couldn’t possibly communicate the satisfaction or delight I have when the first bite melts on my tongue.  And we’re just talking about chocolate. The bible says in Issaiah 55:

8“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so my ways are higher than your ways

and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

I understand what happened during our stay in India in my soul far better than I can pretend to convey in words or pictures.  You will have to come with me next time to fully grasp what happened.

I am going to do my best to go day by day and recap what was experienced, funny sayings, God appointments and the such but right now I am just not sure I can do it.  God was definitely in the middle of all things and he is so good.  He has show myself, and I feel it safe to say our whole group, that we are disgustingly privileged beyond measure as Americans.  God purposed to have all 14 team members born here in the United States and not somewhere else in the world for a reason.  I am just not 100% sure what that reason is yet.  It is by His grace that I write to you in my warm and safe home where I am pretty sure we will eat tomorrow.  It’s only by His grace.

In the next paragraphs, I will attempt to explain why I am in the state of mind that I am in…not being about to form a clearly communicated thought.  Right now, at nearly 6 am on Friday the 9th, I find myself able to sit up on my own without swaying back and forth.  My entire body doesn’t ache, my ears don’t feel like they rupture anymore.  When swallowing, mere glass shards are felt instead of full sized razorblades.  Nausea has passed.  It is a good day.

Let me back up to Tuesday morning, 7:30am Jaipur time.  All 14 team members are waking up, gathering their belongings and preparing to head downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast.  Once all of that is done we move all said belongings to the lobby where we turn in our keys and say goodbye to any form of bed for the next two days.  From there, we spent the day finishing up gift shopping, eating at India’s version of KFC and walked through the historic Jaipur district, also known as the Pink City.

When we left the hotel, we headed to our friend’s house for a cooking tutorial of how to make authentic Indian chai.  Before getting on the buss to Dehli, we went to their version of Wal-Mart to pick up authentic spices to take home and recreate it!  Several years ago, my sister introduced me to chai at Starbucks and I fell in love.  Little did I know that years later I would find myself in a country where it is found on every street corner, available for pennies a cup, and served at least 3 times a day.  Starbucks is good, but authentic chai is much better.  MMmmmm…

Once we left their house, we went to downtown Jaipur and shopped at Rajasthali.  It’s a four-level department store with everything from framed paintings and marble items to textiles and woodworking.  Though many people bought items to take home to family and friends, we didn’t find anything we had to have.  I’m sure part of that is because this is when I started to feel less than 100%.  My throat started hurting and my ears began to feel like they had pressure behind them.

Seatbelt laws don't apply in India.  Nor do you have to adhere to the suggested seating numbers.  At one point in the trip we had 13 people in this vehicle.

Seatbelt laws don’t apply in India. Nor do you have to adhere to the suggested seating numbers. At one point in the trip we had 13 people in this vehicle.

Part of our group waiting for the rest of the group to finish at Rajasthali.

Part of our group waiting for the rest of the group to finish at Rajasthali.

After we shopped, we went to KCF, India style!  Most of us got chicken tenders, fries and a drink.  The chicken was great, the fries weren’t like they make them here and the drink was cold.  All in all it was a great trip.  It facinates me how differently other cultures translate things.  I don’t mean just in language but in the way they portray things.  See pictures below:

It seems most places deliver where we were.  KFC does it by motorcycle.

It seems most places deliver where we were. KFC does it by motorcycle.

20150105_030147[1]

Part of our team waiting to order.  I think the majority of us just got chicken tenders (which were really good), fries and a drink.  They cook their fries in a different kind of oil so they were different than we expected but all in all, it was good.

Part of our team waiting to order.  This is done on ground level and then you go upstairs for seating.    I think the majority of us just got chicken tenders (which were really good), fries and a drink. They cook their fries in a different kind of oil so they were different than we expected but all in all, it was good.

20150105_031341[1]

Selfies...even in India!

Selfies…even in India!

Melissa giving Tangy Sauce (Ketchup...sort of) a try.

Melissa giving Tangy Sauce (Ketchup…sort of) a try.

Once we finished eating, we had about an hour and a half before we had to load up and go back to our friend’s appartment.  We had to allow enough time for a few to go to a music store to pick up drums like we used in our worship time with the nationals and for the women to run to the store to get the spices for chai.  Seven of us decided to head to the Pink City to check it out.  Scott, our fearless leader, had never been there before and he has been to India I don’t know how many times.  It was an adventure for sure.

One of three gates to the old city.  The Pink City is the original layout of the original city of Jaipur.  There isn't much of a difference between the two sides of the gate, but it was fun to say we'd been there!

One of three gates to the old city. The Pink City is the original layout of the original city of Jaipur. There isn’t much of a difference between the two sides of the gate, but it was fun to say we’d been there!

Truth be told, the gates are more orange than pink.  India is kind of like that.  You many be told one thing, but you come to expect something completely different.  In all of my research of India before we went, it was often said that India is full of contradictions. We, too found that to be true a time or two.

Pink City is full of...basically mini storages side by side by side by side with apartments above.

Pink City is full of…basically mini storages side by side by side by side with apartments above.

One of the things you can see in this picture is kites.  The kites are part of the Kite Festival which will take place on the 14th.  Kids and adults alike will try to fly these kites to see who can fly A. the highest and B. the longest.  The first 20 feet of string closest to the kite is coated in glass.  When the kite is in flight, each person tries to cut other people’s kite strings.  I wish we could have seen it!  The festival takes place on the 14th which will be…Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

It had been several hours since we had taken chai, so we sought out the closest chai stand.  We crossed the street and found this little, traditional stand.  There we met a group of Muslims how educated us on the five-per-day call to prayer that can be heard all over the city.  Very informative.

pink city chai

All of that conversation was going on while we waited for our cups to be poured and served.  They serve it straight from the big pots right into plastic cups thinner than Solo brand cups and much much smaller, too.  It is a mystery to me how this near boiling mixture doesn’t melt right through!  When it is handed to you, you have to hold it by the thicker rim at the top.  One, because the hot liquid isn’t there and two, because the plastic is thicker and harder there.  Theoretically that means it’s safer to hold there.  Unless you are me.

Have I mentioned that they serve chai VERY HOT and in thin plastic cups?

Have I mentioned that they serve chai VERY HOT and in thin plastic cups?

I was contributing to conversation and having a great time until…the upper lip of my cup snapped, the cup caved in causing the liquid the temperature of lava to flow down my arm.  It was pure luck that my friend took this picture when she did.  I am gasping for air…it burned so bad.  Eventually, the chai man swapped my cup and poured it’s remaining contents into another cup.

There were cows everywhere in India.  They believe that their ansestors are reincarnated into cows so they don't kill them and certainly don't eat them.  This cow was just hanging out on the road.  Just...hanging out!

There were cows everywhere in India. They believe that their ancestors are reincarnated into cows so they don’t kill them and certainly don’t eat them. This cow was just hanging out on the road. Just…hanging out!

One of our team members is 17 and came with her parents.  At one point, we had to make our way through a herd of cows and bulls on a very narrow side street.  There were cow pies EVERYWHERE and if there wasn’t one of those, then there was an actual cow/bull.  Feeling overwhelmed and without thinking, she yells, “Holy COW!”  We couldn’t help but crack up because, well…there, they are considered holy!

Scott ordered some hushpuppy-like things from a street vendor and he shared them with Josh and me.  Whoooooooo weee!  They were HOT!  That was my second adventure eating food from street vendors.  Later, I will share about pani puri.

We made it back to our rendezvous point (KFC) pretty much on time.  We saw half of our group on the other side of the street so we each had to make our way over there to be together.  Want to see how to cross the street in India?

Afterwards we went back to our friend’s apartment and Josh went to buy drums for the boys while I bought chai supplies.  Our host family’s wife had a birthday that day (Jan 5th) so we sang happy birthday to her, ate cupcakes and ordered pizza to take on the road with us.  Once it arrived, we loaded all belongings into the bus and made our way to Dehli via bus.  This bus was supposed to be nicer than all busses we had been on but several still got sick.

Dehli greeted us at about 12:00am on the 6th.  By this time, our team had been up for 17 hours.  We went right away to check in, get bags checked and headed to immigration.  At this point I had body aches and was sore all over.  My throat was hurting  pretty bag, too.  Immigration could also be called the inner depths of hell, the iron grid, a long winding hallway with a thousand people pushing/cutting/yelling/cussing to get to the end to claim free money.  There was one…1…one security guard.  Like one guy can control that many people.  I cannot describe the heat, attitude or atmosphere…the stress, anxiety and tension we went through.  It was horrible.  This alone will make me seriously examine things a second time when deciding to go back.  The Dehli airport.  Ahhh!

Because it took us so long to get through security (our flight was at 3:25, they were holding the plane for us) and immigration, we literally had to RUN to our gate, somewhat ushered by a British Airways employee.  We all get checked in only to find out one of our team mates didn’t get her bag stamped when we checked in before immigration.  She had to go back to a secondary check point to get her bag checked again and stamped.   When she was there we learned that earlier in the day a bomb threat had been made on a flight headed to London so they just had to be sure.  Great… so after all of the stress through security, running to the gate, now we have supposed bomb threats to flights going to London?  Enough is enough, folks…

We get on the plane finally.  I wasn’t able to sit with our team because of original seating arrangements and the fact we were the last to board the aircraft.  All I wanted to do was go to sleep, get off of this plane and make it on to my next connecting flight.  I don’t remember much of that flight except for the horrible food.  Up to this point plane food had been awesome.  Not so much this time.  It was an English breakfast of sorts but it just wasn’t so yummy this time.  I was just glad to hear the tires hit the pavement in London and the “fasten seatbelt sign” go off.

It was very clear to me

at this point that I was coming down with something more than just a sore throat.  My head was killing me.  I couldn’t stay awake, I was coughing and my entire body was wanting nothing more than to crawl in my bed and sleep.  Unfortnately I had a 6 hour layover (I think) in London and another nine hour flight plus another four hour car ride until we reached home sweet home.  We made our way through security again and then found our gate.  A gate.

I settled into a chair in the airport and napped for about an hour, I think.  Josh went on a search for a charging station so we could get some juice back into our electronics.  When he got back I set out to find Starbucks.  I had really wanted to find mugs from India and from London.  Unfortunately I didn’t find the first but I did find the second.  :)  I also got a Peppermint Mocha but it wasn’t like they make it at home.  I paid nearly five pounds for it so I felt like I had to finish it.  Ughhh…  Josh and I got some lunch once resturants started serving.  I didn’t have much of an appitite but figured I could at least finish a burger.  Boy was I wrong.  I took a couple bites and had a few fries and that was all I could stomach. Josh ordered a “Take away bag” and we went back to our seats.  It was about then that we realized that our flight was moved to gate C.  That meant we had to go back down to main level and take the transit over to another terminal and take the trek back down that terminal.  I was near to tears the whole time.  My body just didn’t want to go anymore.  All I wanted to do was sleep.

After sitting in our gate for a bit I looked at my ticket and realized that I had been upgraded from coach seating to World Traveller Plus!  That meant I got a choice of nicer meals, more elbow room, bigger TV screens, better earphones, nicer pillows, more drinks and a few more snacks.  I was very happy to learn this because I really really really really wanted to be able to sleep in a more comfortable place.  I got to my seat and snuggled in.   I got the first flight attendant I could and asked for water to take my motion sickness meds.  I took those down and attempted to start a movie.  “Jersey Boys.”  It was a movie about the Four Seasons.  Because of a broken tug, the little vehicle that pushes the plane back from the gate so it can taxi to the runway, we had to sit for nearly 40 minutes.  Thankfully I had my blanket, a pillow and a good movie to pass the time.  When we finally took off, snacks came around pretty quickly.  I was glad to have something to drink but I had really wished I could have had something warm because I was sooooo cold, even with my sweatshirt and blanket.  I am actually suprised they let me on the flight without checking me out first.  Praise God they didn’t, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to board the plane.  I was officially sick.  Dinner came around.  I ordered Filet of Beef with roasted potatoes, baby carrots, fancy bread roll, caramel dessert and some other things.  REALLY NICE meal.  I opened the foil and closed it again.  I took the water off of the tray and passed everything else over to one of my fellow team members who also got an upgraded ticket.  I went to sleep and didn’t wake up again until the captain came on to say we were scheduled to land in Atlanta in 40 minutes.

At that point they were serving breakfast so I flagged the flight attendant down and asked to be served since he had already passed my row.  I ate the biscuit and jelly and attempted to eat the chicken salad sandwich.  I did take the water and drank it slowly.

As soon as my feet hit US soil a small part of me rejoiced.  It was an interesting feeling.  I was sad to have that small chapter of my life done, rejoicing because it was one step closer to my bed and yet another part dreading the 4+ hour car ride home.  We made it through all of the check points, customs, etc with no problem.  We collected our bags and met our church family at the doors.  It was so nice to hear English and see familiar faces.  I enjoyed my time in India but there truly is no place like home.

Part of the way home, we stopped at a Wendy’s for a burger.  I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating so I just got a drink.  We got back on the road and at one point had to take a detour because of road construction.  Outside of that, we had an uneventful trip home.  The last twenty miles were the longest.  Finally we reached our home church, gathered our bags and headed home.  We decided we would leave our bags in the garage and deal with them in the morning.  The needed to air out anyway from being in India for two weeks.  I took a nice, hot shower and then went to bed.

By this time, our team had been traveling, without a bed for 53 hours.  Needless to say, that was a very long awaited moment.

I woke up the next morning at 5:30 I felt like death warmed over.  I made the decision to stay up until 8 to see if I could get chiropractor appointments for both of us.  Our backs and joints were hurting so badly.  I wasn’t able to get in with our chiropractor so we called the local one that we used to go to before insurance changed.  We made appointments for both.  We made one for that day (the7th of Jan) and then another one with our chiropractor for the following weeks.  I needed it so bad.  I figured if I could get my neck in line, maybe all of the pressure and congestion would go away.  While it did help it didn’t solve everything.  I had planned to go to a walk in care clinic afterward but decided to give the adjustment and massage time to work. The therapist who worked on me for an hour said I felt as bad as some of her better MS patients.  I don’t doubt it.  I felt better but far from all better.

By the time I got home my mother-in-law had gotten to my house with my boys.  It was so good to see them but I couldn’t fully enjoy the moment because I felt so crappy.  At 2:00pm, I had to go take a nap.  I slept until the next morning(8th of Jan).

I woke up and knew I had to go to the walk in clinic.  I was there when the doors opened.  They did a urine annalysis, took two viles of blood and gave me a bag of fluids.  It took them three times to finally get into my veins.  Yuck.  Man did that hurt!  I did feel a little bit better after the fluids but was still far from better.  I was given instructions to rest as much as possible and to wait for their call the next day (9th of Jan) which would show my results from the blood tests.  As of noon on the 9th I still hadn’t heard from them.  I am really not concerned because after I got home from there, I took their advice and went back to bed.  I didn’t wake up until 2am on the 9th.  That’s a Friday.  For the first time in DAYS I finally felt a little bit better.  As a matter of fact I got up and made breakfast and even had two of our team memebers over to help us eat it all.  I actually ate a full plate of food!

Finally I can say I am on the mend.  However, as you can see I have had a really full, stressful and sick filled last few days.  I am just not sure I can relay everything I’d like to about the days of our trip right now.  Hopefully I will be able to work on it more and more as the days go on.  Please pray for me and the rest of the team to recover 100%.  We’ve been through so much in the last few days.

Cheers,
Andrea

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a Mission: Atlanta International Airport

This is going to be short and sweet so that I save battery power.

WIN_20141226_193644

We left Manchester today, got stuck in traffic around Chattanooga and sometime in there a crown popped off of one of my molars.  Yea! Then we stopped for Chic-fil-a for lunch.  That wasn’t the easiest thing to eat without a molar…considering the post that was left was sensitive to say the least.  We hit up a Walgreens to get some Fixadent to see if that would help.  It didn’t.

We got to the airport with a 2 hour delay and found out we would then miss our connecting flight all together.  No worries, we get to spend nearly 8 free hours in London.  God willing, I may be able to find a dentist to get at least a temporary crown put on my tooth, or get my old one put back on.

Happy birthday to my friend on the trip who’s birthday is today, another one on the team who has a brtihday tomorrow and then a third still on the trip who’s birthday is the day after!  Woop!  Party in London…Kim Kardashian style!  Invite all your friends and party in another county!  EEEEee-owwww!

I am confident, even with all of the mix up in scheduling that God has us exactly where he wants us.  I am looking very forward to the unplanned (by us) appointments and agendas.

Thanks for continued prayer.  I need to finish drinking my Starbucks and eating my muffin.  BTW:  Thanks, Nancy, for the friend rice!

Cheers,
Andrea

Thanksgiving Isn’t All About You, You Turkey!

Each year, my family tries to carve out time in the month of November and/or December to honor our elders.  The bible is clear that life is important and that includes the older generations.  One of my goals as a mother is to make sure that my kids know those who have gone before us are to be honored and respected.

One of the ways we do this is to periodically visit a nursing and/or retirement home to spend time with those who live there.  Typically we also take along crafts we have made to hopefully put a smile on their faces.  Check out our evening of preparations!

Jackson is drawing circles for Peyton to cut out.  He is SUCH a good big brother.

Jackson is drawing circles for Peyton to cut out. He is SUCH a good big brother.

DSC04373

Peyton is cutting the white simi-circles which will become the feathers of the turkeys! He is getting pretty good with scissors.

DSC04371

Gage just finished cutting out the bigger brown circles which will be the turkey bodies.

DSC04372

Jackson is coloring the feathers for the turkeys.

 

Peyton is gluing the turkey parts together.

Peyton is gluing the turkey parts together.

All three boys working their tail feathers off to make turkeys!

All three boys working their tail feathers off to make turkeys!

After we got this far, we put WOW! Kid’s CD in and spent some time dancing around to get some wiggles out and to get our creative juices flowing for the next part of our project.

Oh yea!  Watch out "America's Got Talent!"  Here we come!

Oh yea! Watch out “America’s Got Talent!” Here we come!

They've got moves!

They’ve got moves!

We took the turkeys that we made and glued them onto half sheets of paper, folded in half to create a card.

All of the completed turkeys waiting to be attached to the cards.

All of the completed turkeys waiting to be attached to the cards.

It's glue time!

It’s glue time!

While the kiddos got the turkeys glued I made a batch of peppermint hot cocoa.  Its a family favorite for sure.  I only wish I had some whole milk on hand.  It is so much creamer made that way than with 2%, but don’t be mistaken. The whole pot was consumed!

20141125_203051

Yeah, you thought I’d miss out on the action? HA!

20141125_203029

In true Gage fashion, he sipped his nice and slow…enjoying every sip.

20141125_203024

I decided to put two ice cubes in his. Bad move…he sucked it down in less than a minute and was asking for more. Next time, maybe a half an ice cube!

20141125_203101

On his second cup, he is rocking out to the music still playing.

The last step was to design the insides and sign the cards.

"Coloring [his] name" on one of the cards.

“Coloring [his] name” on one of the cards.

 I guess I didn’t get pictures of the older boys decorating theirs.  I will make a follow up post tomorrow with pictures in the home and them with their cards though.

All in all we spent about three hours on this project.  We did some of the preparation work beforehand but this evening we worked for three hours.  The boys had fun, memories were made, great conversation was had.  We talked about why we were doing these crafts.  We talked about the fact that we need to reach out to the people who may or may not have family to visit them.  We have to take care of the  people who feel forgotten.  We have an obligation to make sure they feel loved, special and cared about.  I asked them how they would feel if they were in the hospital, let’s say, and nobody came to see them.  Then I asked how it would feel if they were in the hospital around Thanksgiving and nobody came to see them.  They have big hearts anyway so they totally saw the need of spending a few hours at the home tomorrow.

We also talked about Saeed Abendini, a pastor being held in Iran in a prison for his faith in the One True God.  We talked about how his family would have to be without him, and he without his family on Thursday.  I asked them if they thought it would be hard to be thankful in a situation like that.  I don’t remember which one it was, but one of the big boys said, “Yea it would be hard, but at least they know God is with the other one, even if Saeed is in jail and they are in the United States.”    Even in a situation like the Abendini family is in, there are things to be thankful for.  Our God is so amazing, He can be the glue that connects a family even in a situation like theirs.  He is so big and mighty that He can span an ocean, and circumstance, to bring hope to both parties.  Yet He is simple enough that my little boys can understand and relate to him.  We have an awesome God, amen?

I hope as this Thanksgiving season surrounds us, you can find things to be thankful for, outside of yourself.  Sure, I am thankful for my family, my house, my job, my ability to walk, talk and run.  But I am also thankful for missionaries who are around the globe, apart from their families, spreading the Word of God.  I am thankful for a reality that I can have a personal relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of life.  Thankful doesn’t come close to scratching the surface that my family is alive and well and that God has chooses imperfect people (my husband and I) to go into the international mission field to do His work.  I am thankful that He is powerful enough to soften hearts, cultivate compassion for others in those hearts and a love for all walks of life.  I find myself standing amazed and who He is this Thanksgiving season in more ways than I can put into words.

What are you thankful for?

Cheers,
Andrea

Three Leaves Have Fallen From My Tree…

…and I think they are beautiful!

This past Thursday, I spent the morning hours taking my boy’s fall photos.  I am far from a professional but we have fun when we get the props out and find a sunny patch or two.  I just can’t decide which ones to print and which ones to leave as a digital image.  Feel free to comment below to let me know which ones to print.

BoysLeaves BoysLeavesHill BoysRiverStump BoysRiverWagon BoysWagonDone BoysWagonGroup DSC04118 DSC04192 GageRiverIndiv PeytonLeavesHill PeytonRiverIndv1

I want to have one or two group pictures and then one of each of the boys on my mantle.  The group pictures will be 8X10 and I think the individuals will be 4X5 or a 5X7. Thanks for looking!

Cheers,
Andrea

I Want You To Meet a Special Friend of Mine!

LEGO LIAMMany months ago, I wrote a couple posts about a group I belong to called www.whoirun4.com.  They match up runners with a special child who, for whatever reason, can’t be an active runner themselves.  Many have terminal illness, some can be active but may have autism or other special qualities which make it difficult for them to go about their daily lives like the mass majority of the population of the world.  I wrote one post before I was even matched about how excited I was about this group.  Then when I got matched, I introduced my buddy, Liam, to you all!  Today I want to introduce you to Lego Liam!  He is a physical, tangible representation of my buddy Liam in Lego form!

When I first was matched, I felt very excited to have Continue reading