Friday, August 19, 2016

Of Summer Days

Evenings are starting to come earlier.  The sunlight angles are subtly lower in the sky and it's beginning to feel just a bit more like fall.

Registration is next weekend, and classes begin the Monday after that.  Whatever the calendar or the weather might say, summer is just about officially over for NTBI.

Already I'm missing summer a little bit, even though I'm excited for fall.  The colors, the crisp air, the students making the halls and the classrooms come alive again...

But let's talk about summer for now. :)

- - -

The weather -

Summer storms mean branches strewn everywhere.

And sometimes flooding.

This is standing at the front entrance to the school.

The parking lot slopes towards the entrance, and we had a heavy storm blow through last Friday, so this happened.

The water came up to Tim's knees.  And - I so wish I'd gotten a picture of this - his kids were swimming.  In the parking lot.  Swimming, people.  Not just splashing around in the water, but quite literally swimming in the parking lot.

Tell me that is not normal.

- - -

Work -

This summer our computers have gone through a lot of changes and updates.  You don't need to be a tech genius to know it always takes time to iron out update-induced kinks.  (And oh, the fun during that time if your job is mostly computer-based!)

I'm thankful for the brains God gave our IT guys.

We'd be lost without them.

My project list was attacked, one item at a time: buying new sheets, deep cleaning each of the guest rooms, organizing the laundry/cleaning supplies room (the tiny room in the picture above), getting the carpets cleaned, organizing the guest house basement, and turning in budget requests for the semester.

The basement was like the black hole of my summer projects, literally (because, uh, it's a basement) and metaphorically (because that's where everything went as I was cleaning out the rest of my little domain).

That picture doesn't adequately capture half of the chaos down there.

Slowly (more slowly than I would have liked, because I have unreasonable expectations for myself sometimes), order came to the basement.

The extra furniture is stored in a little side room...

...and everything else - spare sheets, pillows, lamps, windows, etc. - is in the main room, stored in appropriately labeled tubs or otherwise organized.

I was so happy when it was finished I totally could have thrown a party.

Organizing is a quirky love of mine.  I especially love the results.

When I wasn't working on guest house projects or in the business office, I spent my time doing laundry.  Washing, folding, sorting, stacking loads and loads and LOADS of guest house sheets and towels.  I felt like half my summer was spent doing laundry!  Good thing I don't mind it. :)

Most recently, I moved out of my old office and also nailed down a good list of projects to start tackling this fall.  It feels like the guest hospitality department is finally ready for the semester - hurray!  Whether the girl in that department is ready for the semester remains to be seen...

I don't have pictures of my now-office, but I'll get around to it.  Someday.

- - -

The boys -

We went to the park one evening.

"Hey, Isaac, let's take a picture for Mommy!"

Oh, my heart.

He got to sit up in a real fire truck, which he was obviously pretty happy about.

I've said it before, but I love these boys so much.  I love their family just as much.  God has been so good to put them in my life.

- - -

The random -

I found this bug outside one day, and sent Esther a text:
"What is this thing?!"
She wrote back: "A bug who wants to be a bead?"

Sounds about right to me.

And then there was this don't know exactly what, but it was huge.  I'm glad I discovered it outside the guest room I was cleaning and not inside.

I found this in a drawer I was cleaning out, and it made me laugh.

"So that's how it all started!" ;)

The third floor is chaos right now.  Few students stay during the summer, so any work - painting, cleaning, etc. - that needs to be done in the dorms happens then.  Which means furniture randomly piled up out in the hall.  It'll make its way back to the dorms soon, because students are already trickling in.

I'm so happy.  Both for the furniture going back where it's supposed to be and for the students arriving.

My spider plants love the sunny windowsill so much.  They had crazy growth spurts, and now all three of the ones you see here are sporting little baby spider plants (about a dozen or so?).  My plan to take over the building with spider plants is one step closer to realization!

Just kidding.


Meijer had mums for just a couple dollars, so...

I'm so glad God made plants.  I love them.

Sage, peppermint, and lavender tea.  Yummy.

- - -

Lake Michigan -

I finally got to see one of the Great Lakes in person.  It was gorgeous.  The water was unbelievably blue, and it was a lovely (if not quite windy enough) day for a sail.

Jacob, Melissa, and their kids came to West Africa the same time I did.  I hadn't seen them since I left last summer, but happily they were in the States for home assignment and we were able to get together just before they went back.

We had a lot of catching up to do; they'd had a new baby, I'd moved twice, and life for all of us looks much different than we expected it to.

We took a sail on Melissa's dad's boat.

"Does this life jacket make me look fat?"

I'm thankful we got the chance to hang out before they flew back to West Africa - even more thankful, though, for what God has done in our lives and hearts and friendship.

He is good.

- - -

Thanks, Lord, for summer - for the lessons You've been teaching me, for the thunderstorms, the fireflies, the starry nights, the sun-ripened fruit, for the quiet to hear You speak (the quiet I was dreading but You knew I needed), for seasons and yes - even for how they change.  Thank You for being my constant in every season of life.  You're so very good.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Looking Back

A year ago:

I was sitting at Esther's dining table, staring at my computer screen.  I had the apartment to myself that morning.  It was quiet except for the swish-swish of the washing machine and the hum of the fans.

I'd been back in the States for almost a month, and it was time to start looking at the next step.

I tried to pull my thoughts together and write the emails I needed to; emails to different NTM centers in the States, asking about ministry opportunities.

It wasn't working.

The emails themselves should have been simple enough, but all I could think about was everything I didn't know in that moment.  I didn't know what to say.  Didn't know if I was crazy for ending up in this situation to begin with.  Didn't know what changes lay ahead or what my future was going to look like.

Between the tears that insisted on coming no matter how hard I tried to stop them, I dashed off an email to a friend -

"So...right now I'm having another one of those freak-out moments.  'What in the world am I doing here and did I make the right decision in coming back and what am I going to do and do I really belong here?'

I just don't know how to sort out all these crazy feelings swirling around inside my head right now.

I don't know what I want.  I don't know what He wants.  And it scares me...the unknown.  I guess if I truly trusted Him completely, it wouldn't scare me...but it does."

She wrote back:

"One day you’ll be able to look back and tell this part of the story."

One day you'll be able to see His hand in all of it, see that this was part of His story.  One day you'll look back and tell how good and faithful He's been.  One day you'll see the wild, beautiful grace woven through the tears and the questions and the fog.

I told her I knew it was true.  I believed it.  But at the end of that morning, all I had were red eyes and my load of clean laundry.  Not a single email written.  Not a single question answered.

Oh, how the fear paralyzed me.

- - -

This summer has brought things full circle in many ways.

The answers came - after months of waiting.

Peace eventually replaced the fear.

The fog cleared and now my heart sings with certainty: This is where God has me, and I know that beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The place where all my lack of trust came to an ugly head is the place I call home today.

I love how God has been writing this story.  It's surprised me.  He writes things so differently than I would.  He always does.  But His way is better.  I value the direction He gave me far more because of the long hours I spent praying and waiting.  The peace and clarity are so much sweeter after going through the fog, the searching, the fear.  He knew that they would be.

His promises have proved true - again - and I sigh, feeling both relieved and foolish.  Of course my Hero was going to come through.  Of course He was.

I know myself well enough to know that I will forget again.  There will be other foggy days.  I'll lose sight of Him and let fear hold me hostage.

But He will always be here with me.  He'll always be writing this story, this story of grace, even when I can't see His pen moving across the page.  Even when what I can see seems a jumbled-up mess.

His stories are always perfect.  Because He is perfect.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Auntie Corner

It's been a while since I've shared any pictures of Malachi, or "Little Dude" as we like to call him.

But how sad would it be not to share cuteness like this?

Seriously, I can't even.

He melts my heart completely.

I just want to squeeze him and tickle him and kiss him.

December.  Must wait till December...

All decked out for the Fourth.

He's getting so big.

He's so curious.

He sleeps in a bed instead of a crib now.

He kisses the phone when I call.


Yes, you read that shirt right.  I'm going to be an auntie again this fall!

And it's going to be a girl!!  I can't wait to meet her.

You know what's super fun?  The day I found out Sarah and Brian were expecting, my good friend Tamara told me they were also expecting again: "You're going to be an auntie times two!"  And I thought to myself...How cool would it be if I were actually going to be an auntie times THREE?!

So I called Angèle up later that day and told her the news.  "Is there anything you want to tell me, maybe...?" I prodded (because that's the kind of friendship we have).  "Oh, no, Rachel.  No, I'm not expecting."  So she said.

She actually was and didn't know it yet.  ("How did you know?!" she asked me later.  "I didn't even know yet!"  I laughed and told her I'd just had this feeling...)

Which means that this fall, I will indeed get to be an auntie times three!  I still get all giddy thinking about it. :)

- - -

Last weekend I got to watch this cutie, his brother, and two of his sisters while their parents snuck away.

I can't even tell you how much I love him.  And the whole family.

I wish I would have gotten more pictures, but...well, let's just say there were a whole lot of other things vying for my attention. :)

Also, T-mama?  You're a rock star, being mommy to all of them day in and day out.

- - -

Well, there you go.  A little bit of cuteness to brighten up your day.  Or evening, as the case may be.