Saturday, November 24, 2007

Back Home...

I knew when we boarded the plane over a month ago now that the holidays would be one of my most treasured times and memories of this year's furlough. I knew that gathering with family and loved ones, catching up, sharing meals, old stories and new times together would fill my plate in such a special way. And my heart is full!

Not living close to family and loved ones has to be the biggest challenges that we have faced over the past two years. It's a sacrifice we were aware of as we left... but one that I don't think I was truly prepared for. Yet, it's a reality of our life and our work. I was reading about friends who recently celebrated the birth of their second son, but there were no grandparents there to snap photos, to hold the new grandson or love on the mommy and daddy. She talks about how the experience still had its specialness in that there was an intimacy for their family unit, she, her husband and their first son. But I can imagine there were hard moments too of longing for their families to be there as well.

Gary and I were so blessed to have family and loved ones surrounding us at the birth of Nathan, but since then have missed out on the joys of watching him spend special times with those we love from back home. There is definitely an intimacy that our family shares because of the time that our little unit gets to be together far from home... but those weekend trips to Grandma's don't happen for us, the birthday wishes happen over a computer microphone or web cam.

I know that in moments of weakness I yeah yeah about not having the physical things that I have access to here in the states, especially as a mommy. But the reality is that being so far from home has only further taught me that there is nothing in this world more valuable than those that we love. I will treasure the memory of watching my son play with his grandparents and aunts and uncles long after the things we take back with us are used up or outgrown. And that was what I treasured this year, and stored away in my heart just as Jesus' mother Mary did so many years ago.

Yet, in the midst of turkey eating and game playing I was surprised again (as I have been many many times this trip home). God has a special way of whispering in our ears doesn't He? This time He whispered to my heart... reminding of how blessed we are by all who surround us and work alongside us in Bolivia. It was such a treat to be back home for Thanksgiving, and I know it will be just as special to be here for Christmas. But I was reminded of one thing that differed this year from last... an excitement.

Here in the states since we are so blessed to be able to see family and celebrate the holidays with our traditions and activities on a yearly basis, it seems like the excitement, the novelty has worn off a little. Last year I can remember us ladies sitting around dividing up the Thanksgiving meal... who would go searching for that can of cranberry sauce in the import stores, who would try their hand at their first homemade pie crusts, who would tackle the job of the turkey, and so on. It was a challenge, it was an adventure and we all took it together. As young first time mommies on the mission field we had so much fun figuring out how to make it work. Thanksgiving lunch was at our house, complete with extra baby monitors so that we could put little ones to sleep and play games all afternoon. There was a camaraderie as we sat and sang hymns in English together, alongside our Christmas tree clad in all its glory and smelling the wonderful smells from home.

I missed that electricity this year. Last year I was surrounded and blessed by a different sense of "family". God has an amazing way of meeting our needs doesn't He? This year my needs for family have been met ten fold and I will forever be grateful... but even in the times that we are far from them in miles, He fills our needs in our teammates, friends and Christian family in Cochabamba. It shouldn't surprise me that He's so amazing at fulfilling the needs of this daughter whom He created... but it continually does, and with every gift that He gives, my gratitude and humility grow and deepen. That the God of the heavens would take the time to meet my needs continues to amaze me. I pray that your holiday was full... full of life, full of love, and full of "family" (whatever that may have looked like this year for you :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fun in a box...

Since being home we've worked hard not to go crazy buying toys and such for our most favorite little boy, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of us as we've done a pretty good job so far. And true to form it wouldn't have mattered how many toys we bought for Nathan because the entertainment of the hour (and I do mean hour... since he played with Papa and Auntie Em for a few hours) was this big fun box. I wish I could tell you all how much fun it is for Nathan, and what a blessing it is for me, to see Nathan playing with my family! God knew exactly what he was doing in creating family, and I'm so thankful for this time home to share with them!

Dip in the pool...

Needless to say, it's not exactly pool season here in the states... especially when a cold front blows through. But apparently that didn't mean much to Nathan a few days ago as we were passing through Ft. Worth. We wrapped up our time in Brownwood after visiting our supporting congregation there (and what a blessing our time was!) and stopped through to see Nana, Papa and Auntie Em, do a few loads of laundry and pack up to hit the road to AR.

And here's how the story goes... Nathan was playing outside with his daddy and Papa and riding his most favorite tricycle on loan :) From what I can gather from eye witnesses... i.e. Papa and Gary... one of the wheels of the trike hit a wet patch right at the edge of the pool and the rest was history. All I know is I walked outside to a water logged son who we had to strip and get warm really fast :(

For those who know Nathan well you can attest to the fact that I do not have the world's most cuddly child, but that night I got some good cuddle time as I held him, wrapped in towels, blankets and whatever else we needed to warm him up as we watched his beloved Dora for about half an hour. All in all not as traumatic as it could have been. Nathan is a good little dog paddler and kept his head above water pretty good and daddy made a quick rescue, but look at my poor little winter swimmer...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

From the desk of Nathan Bull...

Well to all my blogging fans out there... my mommy has been a total slacker as far as keeping you guys informed of all the fun things we're getting to do while we're here visiting my Nana and Papa's house! So I thought I'd take the wheel for a little while and let you know first hand how much fun I am having here in Texas! Mommy and Daddy are adjusting to being "home" and I think they're doing a pretty good job so far :) I'm sure Mommy will tell you more about all that later, but I wanted to show you some new pictures of the fun things I've gotten to do since we got here... so here's my past two weeks... take a look -

This is a new family picture that we took our last Sunday in Cochabamba before Mommy and I got on the plane to come "home."

I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that my blankie made it safe and sound to Texas with me... what would I do without blankie?

This is my new favorite toy at Nana and Papa's house... did you know this is the same piano that my mommy and Auntie Em played on when they were little? Pretty cool I think!

And this is the so so so cool tricycle that one of my mommy's friends from Harding, Miss Jennifer, is letting us borrow while we're here. I ride it everywhere... and I mean everywhere, inside, outside, and all around, I'm so glad that I got to borrow it while we're here visiting! Thank you Miss Jennifer and Susie!

The first week we were here it was warm enough to play in the pool and my Papa was my water playing buddy! I learned really quickly that if I stood at the back door and said "water" really pathetic like... he would come and take me outside to play! That Papa of mine is so much fun and definitely a great play buddy!

One of my mommy's best friends in the world came to visit us from Chicago (I'm guessing that's pretty far away because it seemed like a big deal to mommy that she came so far to see us :) Jen and I played and played together and she brought me some really cool birthday presents too... so she must think I'm pretty special.

We got to be here for my Auntie Em's birthday (who by the way is one of my new favorite people in the world!) and these pictures are of mommy lighting the candles, me helping Auntie Em blow them out, and just fun times with Auntie Em.
This was my first real Halloween and it was super fun! My Nana bought me a Superman outfit (that she says I can wear as my Pjs too!) and so I got to be a superhero :) I got to show my great Grannie Sterne my outfit when she came over for dinner and then we went to Starbucks to see Auntie Em who had to work :( But then we went trick-or-treating on my Nana and Papa's street and I have to say I think I did pretty good! I said please and thank-you at every house and even shared some of candy with other people (and one puppy dog :) along the way!

Today we got to do one of the coolest things yet! Mommy wasn't feeling good this morning... but Daddy and Nana decided we could brave the zoo by ourselves and it was so so so much fun!!! We got to see zebras, tigers, and gorillas... but my favorite part was getting to feed the fishes and the birds. There was a place where you could buy these sticks with birdseed on them and then go and feed the birds! It was the best part of the zoo and my daddy got some great pictures of our fun time! Besides all the fun things we're getting to do, we're getting to hang out with Nana, Papa and Auntie Em and that has been so good for me, Mommy and Daddy! Mommy is making her habitual Wal-Mart runs (and occasionally dragging me along for the "fun"). I'm sure she'll tell you all about her fun times soon... but for now I'm going to go to bed... my two-year old body has finally adjusted to the slight time change and mommy and daddy say we're headed to Brownwood tomorrow so I better get a good night's sleep. Thanks for taking time to look at all my fun pictures and for praying for us while we travel! Night-Night.