Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When it's easy to go, but hard to leave. . .

It has now been 3 weeks since my return from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which means it has been over 5 weeks since I left to go. There hasn't been a day since my return that I haven't thought about or talked about my trip. The trip changed me. Maybe that shouldn't be all that shocking, but it has been for me. Hubby was thrilled for me to go. He knew I would be changed and learn and grow. I kinda kept thinking, "Eeesh! Lots of pressure, here. Don't be disappointed if that doesn't happen!" I also didn't want to have expectations of me or surrounding me, in case I was let down. That isn't a typical "me" reaction. I usually do have and set expectations of most everything in life--not really caring about the fact that I could be disappointed or let down. Sometimes I am, sometimes not. For this trip, however, I was a little guarded from the out-set.

But leave it to my wise Hubby to know exactly the way to send me off! He nailed it when he told me that he was excited for me to go for all the things I would learn, but especially because . . .and here's the kicker. . ."You cling too tightly to the boys and me. You need to be clinging to the Lord even more." HELLO! Wow. It was so true and a little painful, but so true! I am incredibly thankful for the wisdom my wise hubby shared with me and for all the prayers that surrounded me on my trip--especially for those who were praying for my peace as I left my family behind for 2+ weeks!

Back at the end of May, we had a family trip to the beach. What a place for our souls to rest and our family to connect!
I missed these little buddies and my hubby too, but I am thankful for what the Lord taught me while I was away from them. They were okay without me, and that's a good thing. They were also happy to see me when I returned! Sweet little Miles said 15 times the first night, "I'm so happy to see you! I love you!" And that's a good thing too! A couple of days after I returned a friend was asking about my trip and if I would return. Luke or Charlie chimed in with,"I hope not. I don't want you to go again." I get that, understand it, and melt a little too. But I also pray in time that they will grasp, as the Lord leads, we follow.

As I'm coming away from this trip, I'm learning about abiding. What does it mean for me to rest in Him? What does it look like to rely solely on Him and cling to Him? John 15 is the perfect place for me right now. I'm thankful for my trip to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and the friends I was with, new and old, who joined me as I started this journey (just for you, Honey, wink, wink) and especially the Lord as He has taught me what clinging to Him can bring!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kazakhstan: putting Southern hospitality to shame

Still sorting through my trip overseas in many ways and I'm finding that it's really entertaining to me to discuss the locale and culture of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (I'll call them K2). It seems that family, friends and lots of strangers have been surprised to hear that I would go/have been to K2. Honestly, I really didn't know where it was on a map before the Lord had me go there. And even more honestly, once I knew, I wasn't yearning to go. Africa? Yes. Lord, send me! And lots of other places? Yes, send me there too. But to some country I knew nothing about, that was near Russia, well I just had never dreamed of going there.

And then I said, "Yes." Once I did, I was all in. Found K2 on a map and Googled all I could about the origin and culture, etc. of both countries. But, not surprisingly, none of that could have prepared me for what I experienced the 2+ weeks we were over there.

At first blush

My initial introduction to the culture began before I stepped foot on the ground, as we were all boarding my flight from Amsterdam to Kazakhstan. A lady across the aisle from me, maybe 30 and quite pregnant, was sitting in her seat and stretched out a smidge onto the empty seat next to her. A few minutes pass and the doors are being closed, when the flight attendant brings a woman from the back of the plane, maybe 45, to sit next to her. The pregnant lady, whines a little and in English tells the flight attendant that someone else told her she could spread out a little and not have someone sit next to her. By the way, I completely understand her feelings of being pregnant and uncomfortable and about to be on a 7 hour flight. However, the flight attendant did not and kept insisting that this lady was cramped in the back and needed space too. There were several rows in front of us with empty aisle seats as well, so I was confused. Things heated up, and there was arguing and the flight attendant and the lady from the back were making the pregnant woman feel terrible. It was really uncomfortable. That's when the college student sitting next to me, leaned over and told me this was an ugly part of the Kazakhstan culture. I gulped and thought, "Yikes! What will I experience?" Turns out, the pregnant woman was able to sit by herself, though miserable looking and sad, while the other lady made a best friend in the row ahead of her and could not stop telling the flight attendant how thankful she was not to sit by the rude lady behind her. Oh.My.Stars!

There were definitely other times when I noticed that people seemed out for themselves. Not a lot of people let others enter or exit stores, the street, etc. before themselves. It just wasn't the way we live in the South. You know, when we almost fight in the grocery store to let the other person go ahead of us, or practically trip to run ahead to open the door for someone else.

Central Asian Hospitality not Southern

But what I found out quickly, was that if you were a friend, there was nothing these people wouldn't do to serve you.

While we were in Kazakhstan, we volunteered at a Young Life camp for children with special needs. We spent our time with the moms of the children with special needs, getting to know them, share in each others' lives and build relationships, all while encouraging them as they spent time away from their children. It was the toughest time for me on our trip. I struggled not knowing the Russian language and learning bits and pieces of these moms' stories through a translator. I questioned why I was there and wanted so badly for them to have Eternal hope in life. I've processed through that part of the trip and definitely know it was a time of growth for me. Part of that processing came through the last few days we were in Kazakhstan.

We had the honor and privilege of being welcomed into the homes of these families. They were delighted to serve us. Some of them prepared elaborate meals, with multiple courses. Some of them took off of work, losing vacation days or pay to spend time with us and serve us their best. Some of these moms had no furniture in their house, and spent hours in the kitchen preparing us food to make us feel welcome and show us their life. And I couldn't have been more thankful.


Bringing it home

These home visits were humbling, reality-piercing, heart-breaking, joy-bringing, encouraging and life-giving. In the South, where I live, people talk about Southern hospitality. People bring out their best, often to make people feel welcome, but maybe sometimes to show-off or to out-do each other. And sometimes, in an effort to keep things real around my house, I do the opposite and have people fend for themselves in hopes of making people feel at home. Eeesh!

But after experiencing Central Asian hospitality, I'm ready to make some changes in our house. I want to pour out love on our friends and family like these new friends did for us.

What an amazing God we have! He's made us all and all so uniquely. K2 is half-way across the world and our cultures are so different. To think of my initial thoughts back in March--Kazakhstan? Really? Oh, how thankful I am that He nudged me and gave me the opportunity to see His other creations, to meet these families, to engage in these cultures and to learn from them!

"even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

Thursday, July 10, 2014

different, yet the same (#k2stan2014)

I thought it might end up this way, but I was hoping it wouldn't. I had every intention to blog while I was over in Kazakhstan--especially since some of you tuned in just for our trip and to pray alongside us! But the blogging didn't happen. Wi-fi was spotty and completely unavailable in certain places, and then I just didn't have time and I was completely exhausted!

And now that I'm back, I'm still completely exhausted! I arrived a week ago--greeted by my sweet hubby! Ohhhh home (him) felt soooo good! But my littles were away with grandparents, so I wasn't able to have them in my arms until the night of July 4th--2 whole days later! The anticipation was killing me! But we are back together again and finally made it back home (we went to pick them up from their grandparents at the lake) last night!

So all is good and I've been processing so much! I'll be sharing the processing throughout the posts, however they come out, but the Lord was with us! It's not at all like I doubted He would be, because I know He is with us every second of every single day, but being so mindful of it over in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan was good for me. For all of us. And for those of  you who prayed for us--I wish I could express just how much it means to me and how much we felt it! We spoke of your prayers daily! We never had one hiccup in the entire trip, and believe me, we could have!

I left my off in my last post as Jeanne and I were going to be speaking to moms of children with Down syndrome. So let me start there. Or actually, lemme back up a smidge. We (Catherine, Jeanne, Marina--friend, National and translator and I) made it across the border from Kazakhstan (a 3 hour drive) into Kyrgyzstan without a problem, which was wonderful. I can give more details on that in a different manner, but let's just say, the Lord made that happen and move on! Oh, and it was hot. Hotter than Memphis, hot. But we made it. Praise God!

the drive from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan--the Kazak steppe
Quite an experience having to take our luggage out of a car and walk 10 minutes to a border crossing and pass through only to wait for our car, which took quite a while to get through! We headed off to find our guest house in Bishkek, checked in, headed out for our first Central Asian meal and came back to crash for the night--we would be jet-lagged for a good week and a half of our 2+ week stay!

Our garden view from our guest house

A typical breakfast scene during our 3 day stay in Kyrgyz. Tea and toast with Catherine and Jeanne!
The next morning, we prepared for our talks. And I felt your prayers. Nerves didn't swallow me up and I was instantaneously comfortable in the coffee shop with women speaking Russian. I immediately felt desperate to know Russian and how to communicate and would long for the ability to speak Russian for the entire trip. I did pick up just a tad, and I might be able to say I know more Russian than French, which I took a year of in college. Not really sure what that says. I'll leave you to make your guesses!

Jeanne's message was wonderful, as it would be the whole trip. She spoke of her story with her son, Jacob, which is told in her book, Parting the Waters. The Lord truly spoke through her to all of us! After her talk, we had tea and cookies and a couple of activities, like scarf-tying lessons (fun)!

And then, I told our story with Way and what the Lord has done in my life with him. I felt instantly connected with these mothers--almost all of them had a child with Down syndrome from the age of 1-3 years old. And while I couldn't speak directly to them without a translator, while I was looking into their eyes, I could see into their hearts. They live in Central Asia. They speak Russian. They are primarily Muslim. And they have a child with Down syndrome. So different and yet I know I have shared some of the exact same thoughts as each one of those women. And I was able to tell them that. And they knew we were the same. Heart-piercing. I was in awe of what the Lord was doing. It was like that for the 2 days we met with the women. Some came both days, some were new. We had a question/answer period at the end of our talks. All kinds of questions were asked and answered. I was even able to pray with a sweet Mama, thanks to lovely Marina who was able to translate for me. This Mama was gripped with fear. Fear of having a child with Down syndrome. In her culture, her child is viewed as cursed and even she is looked at as having done something to bring this on. And so we prayed. And we cried. And we laughed. And we hugged. And then  we said good-bye. I may never see her again, but I will never forget her.

Some of the moms (and a dad) who came to our sessions

A Mama I will not forget! Praying for this one!

My new heart friend, Dina, the one who organized the moms' group, and her cutie pie daughter, Abby!

Wow. So much more to say and so much unsaid, but I cannot express enough, how thankful I am to all of you who prayed! I cannot wait to share more, but the most important part of this trip was the Lord and His amazing work!! I pray I can translate some of that in more posts to come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We've arrived!

And finally, after months of anticipation, my trip to Kazakhstan is here! So many people were asking me before I left if I was ready. In many ways, I was ready. The anticipation of leaving those behind was gripping me tightly. I was just ready to get the leaving part behind! I've talked about my word of the year, brave, and leaving to go was the next step in my *brave* journey!

*a beautiful piece of art, Catherine Burns, our trip leader made for me! She knew my word for the year and I'd say she full-court pressed me with this! She's a big reason I'm on this trip! So happy to be with her!

But also, I've been so excited! Excited to explore a new country and be a part of a different culture. Excited to talk to and share with other moms who have shared some of my exact same thoughts and fears halfway across the world. Excited to have the opportunity to encourage these moms. And mostly, excited to be going because I know the Lord wants me on this trip! There were so many reasons I could have stayed behind. The Lord could have said "No, not this time." but He didn't. He made it quite clear I should go, and so I've gone!

We arrived in Kazakhstan around 4:30 yesterday morning and after a tad of sleep, we got up and drove to Kyrgyzstan to talk to moms of children with Down syndrome. I will be sharing our story with Way and a lot about the therapies he receives (tonight--and I'd love your prayers to keep on comin') and the moms (including myself) will be blessed to hear from our main speaker, Jeanne Damoff, author of Parting the Waters!

*The mountains and sky on our drive from Kaz to Kyrg.

*Who's worried about Kyrgyz traffic when you have the view of those mountains?

I'm hoping to post periodically throughout the trip, whenever I have Wi-fi access, although it won't be from my usual blogging source, so we will see just how easy that is! And Instagram too! Thank you so much for the encouragement and support and prayers you have given me and our family surrounding this trip!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Here I Am! Send me. (off on a mission trip in less than a week!)

Back in February, our church had our annual World Missions conference. The weekend is always one of my very favorite weekends of the year. I am inspired, enlightened, encouraged, challenged, and always heart-pricked each and every year. And this year's conference left me feeling no different. But this year, at the end of the conference, I felt a nudge from the Lord, telling me there was something more He wanted from me.

After several conversations with a sweet friend, who is leading a team to Kazakhstan, I found myself actually praying and asking the Lord if He wanted me to go on this trip. There were several reasons I wanted to go, but several reasons I was hesitant to go for 2+ weeks (leaving my 4 littles, one who would have just had heart surgery, and my Hubby behind, just to name a few). While I wasn't trying to find excuses to stay, I surely kept finding His answers that led me to go!

It seems like ages ago that I committed to going with a team of  6 other women to Kazakhstan. And now, I leave in less than a week! I am thrilled to be going to a couple of days early to Kyrgyzstan to meet with families who have children with Down syndrome. I will be sharing about our Way and his life and our life with him. I will be sharing about joy! These families we will be meeting with, live in a culture that believes people with Down syndrome and other special needs are cursed. It is heartbreaking and crushing and hopeless. We want to minister to them and also provide them with resources and information they don't receive from their government. We want them to see potential and possibilities in their children's future! I cannot wait!

While we are over there, we will also be in Kazakhstan ministering to moms of children with special needs. Some of these mothers have never been away from their children for one minute of their 20+ year old children's lives. They need encouragement and they need a break. They need to know how much the Lord loves them and their children!

There's so much more I want to share, but I hope to be able to update during our trip! For now though, I would so appreciate your prayers. I can share specific prayer requests if you email me @ or you can pray generally for travel safety, families staying back and holding down the fort and that the Lord would use us to glorify Him!

Thank you for following along and especially your prayers and support! Now, off to get ready . . .!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Things I learned in May. . .

Ahhhh, there are so many things I learned in May, but one of the things I did not learn in May is that I can't remember things that happened yesterday---I learned that a while ago! Ugh! So here are just a couple of the things I learned. . .that I remember. . .

1. Children are resilient. Period. Our sweet Waybe had open heart surgery, as many of you know, at the beginning of May. He was on Tylenol and no other pain meds by the end of Day 2. What? Amazing! The Lord is good! And here he is, nearly 4 weeks later!

2. I, on the other hand, not being all that young am not as resilient. I'm leaving in just two weeks to go to Kazakhstan on a mission trip (more about that coming) and had to get a Tetanus shot and a Hep A shot. Receiving the shots was not a big deal. But the next day I had chills and was aching all over. Sheesh!

3. I can still read a book in a day. Okay maybe technically in 27 hours, but who's counting? I haven't done that in a long time, but put me on a beach and I learn it can still happen! My latest book to conquer was Jeanne Damoff's Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness. She is going on the mission trip to Kazakhstan with me and I wanted to read it before I meet her! Cannot wait to meet her! I can't do the book or her story justice, but it's a heart-wrenching and heart-warming true story. You can look it up here. Parting the Waters made me cry and it made my heart smile. Strangely enough, I felt lighter and more comforted after reading it! If you want a faith-inspiring book, you must read this!

4. And on a much more trivial note. . . there's not much on TV these days, except the BEST new show out there! It's on HGTV and it's called Fixer Upper. Really cool aside, is it's created from a married Baylor alum couple! Go Baylor Bears! Chip and Joanna Gaines turn houses that need some lovin' into something AH-mazing! I love everything about her style and I'm busy trying to think of ways to get her to come to Memphis!!! Surely, Hubby and I, both being Baylor alum, could work some magic? And we both have 4 children! Isn't that something??? LOVE this show!!! Thursday nights at 10pm. Follow her on Instagram-- JoannaGaines --for a peek into some serious farm style!

(Linking up with Emily today, better late than never!)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

6 years and ALL heart!

Whew! The last week of school, preceded by a surgery has thrown me for a loop! I'm behind on lots of things, but so thankful for summer break, where the calendar is fresh for a bit and we can hopefully take a deep breath and let things fall into place!

When I started blogging 7 years ago, I was blogging for memory keeping. This little space has turned into more than that now, but I don't want to stray completely from memory keeping, because it is my littles and our family and our love for the Lord that keeps me writing. So since it is May 22nd and Charlie's birthday was April 15th, I think it's time for a birthday boy post!!

Sweet Chuckles turned 6 this year, during his Kindergarten year of school. Oh my what an amazing boy he is! He started his day greeted with balloons and donuts--right up his alley!

And then, it was off to school! This year, we were able to eat lunch with him a school (he chose McDonald's for a special treat, I wouldn't have expected anything else) and we were also able to come read to his class and be with him as his class presented their Birthday Book for Charlie present!
Chuckles is funny. He was super bashful when we were there, but he told us he was SOOO glad we were there! He is shy, yet he's a friend magnet. Doesn't love to be on stage or have the spotlight on him, yet he draws his buddies in! 

Later that night, we had a family dinner at a pizza place in town. That's right, he ate donuts for breakfast, McDonald's for lunch and pizza for dinner. Not to mention cupcakes, etc. We were detoxing the next day! Mimi, Grandpa and Aunt Mary helped us celebrate too!

The little kiddo has been missing a favorite lovie for several months now. Have NO idea what happened to it or where it went. I honestly think it fell out of the car at some point, some where. So, he got a bike and a soccer ball and jersey and a couple of other things from family, but this was his reaction to a new Buddy. . .

He was just beside himself! Just another endearing part of our little boy!

And a couple of weeks later, we celebrated turning 6 with a soccer party (he loves ALL things soccer) and his friends! Chad wore them out with a bunch of soccer drills and a scrimmage, but, they were replenished with cake and treats! These little friends of his have been so sweet and a real encouragement to Charlie, too. We are thankful for them!

Charlie, we hope you know how loved you are! You are so very special to us! You are full of energy and life and can persevere like no other! You are a younger brother and the youngest in your class, but this has taught you to keep on pedaling! You are determined and you try so hard at everything---someone I want to be just like! Charlie, you are full of emotion and just plain people-smart! You can read people and sense things. You know when someone needs to be loved on and prayed for. You love the Lord and have a desire to know the Bible. You can be gentle and encouraging and rough and in control. At 6, even if you are a young 6 for your class, you have an inner peace--something I believe is God-given. Charlie, we are so very proud of you and what you've accomplished this past year, but even more importantly, we are so very proud of WHO you are!!! We love you with all of our hearts! Happy 6th Birthday, Chuckles!!!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...