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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Autumn! I'm Back.

Hi everyone!  Happy Autumn--my favorite season!  Here's a picture that I took yesterday morning of some leaves just behind the mission house where we're staying in Oregon.  Man I love fall!

So what have we been up to?  A lot actually.  Here's a quick overview of our past few months in a few paragraphs and a dozen photos or so.

Joy and the kids left Indonesia and came back to the U.S. in May.  I stayed on in Indonesia, flying, and packing, and clearing out our house that we had called home for the past two terms.  In July I flew directly from Indonesia to the UK, where I met Joy for two weeks of MAF training in preparation for our upcoming move to the Uganda program.  We learned a lot, made new friends, and got a chance to see the MAF International offices in Ashford.  It was an excellent time!

After that, since we were already in England, and since we were busy with training during our wedding anniversary, and since the kids were having a great time back in the U.S. with Joy's parents, and since we'd been going flat-out for a long, long time, (is that enough reasons?) we figured that it would be silly not to take a few days vacation in a B&B in the English countryside.  So we did...and loved it!

Upon returning to the U.S., we then went to MAF U.S. headquarters in Nampa, ID for a week of meetings and check-ups that they do with each family who returns for furlough.  I don't actually have any pictures of our time there, but here's a shot from the side of the road as we were driving through central Oregon on our way to Idaho.  It was great to see a lot of friends there at headquarters, and have a chance to be thoroughly checked from head to toe (both literally by a doctor, and figuratively by a counselor).  MAF does a good job of trying to make sure that their folks are doing well, not just "surviving."  More on that later.

And here's one of our little road warriors--Tyler. Our kids are great travelers, be it in a plane or car, and we love road trips.  By the way, this is truly Tyler's personality--he didn't do it just for the picture, this is how he looked in the car too, even when no one was paying attention to him.  He's got a very "flamboyant" personality.

A few days after returning from Idaho, the five kids and I flew out to PA for a few weeks.  It was a wonderful opportunity for them to have a ton of fun with my parents, and their cousins, as well as their aunts and uncle.  They really bonded and made some great memories!  When you're that age, a lot changes in four years!  The twins were only two the last time they were out East, so they had no memories at all.  It's important, when you have an opportunity like this, to really let the kids bond and make memories with their grandparents and extended family.  So that's what we did!

In addition we had the chance to share in a couple of large, open-house style events at a few of our supporting churches, and meet up with some of our wonderful ministry partners.  I wish we'd have been able to get together with each and every one of you, but alas, time did not allow.  We're so blessed to have such a faithful prayer and ministry support team behind us, without whom we couldn't be doing what we're doing.  Thank you!

Whilst visiting my sister in D.C. she took the kids and I around to see a bunch of the memorials, monuments, and museums.  Having lived around the world and seeing so many people who would give just about anything to have the opportunities and freedoms we have in America, it was a great chance for us to be reminded of those who've sacrificed so much on behalf of our country, and many others countries around the world.

Upon returning to Oregon we found ourselves with a few weeks to kill before the mission house at our church would be available.  In truth, we were actually originally intending to be traveling around the country as a family for three months from September through November, speaking and sharing about our ministry with MAF in Indonesia, and our upcoming move to Uganda.  So we weren't even supposed to be back in Oregon until late November, which is when they were planning to have the house ready for us.

But as I mentioned earlier, MAF is concerned about the overall well-being of their staff, and during our time at both MAF International offices in the UK, and MAF U.S. offices in Idaho, it became obvious to both us and MAF that we were pretty much totally exhausted from the pace of life, ministry, and preparing to move that had preceded our departure from Indonesia.  With that in mind, MAF helped us see that we needed to prioritize the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our family.  In other words, we needed rest.  We were flat-out tired.  And anyone who's ever tried to live on the road, and speak multiple times each week, with five kids en-tow, knows that it's not a recipe for rest.  So that's what led to our sudden change in plans (see previous post), and resulted in only the kids and me flying out East for a a few weeks, rather than the whole family for a few months.  We really appreciate the understanding of our churches and wonderful ministry partners in the central, eastern and southern states, with whom we weren't able to connect this time.  We really value each one of you, and look forward to hopefully connecting with you next time.  And of course, in the meantime, if you're looking for a bit of travel and adventure, you're always welcome to visit us wherever we are in the world. :-)

But alas, here we were, back in Oregon with a few weeks to kill before the mission house would be available.  So we decided to do something wacky.  We decided to go on a wandering, extended, tent-camping trip throughout the west--something that would be cheap, adventurous, and provide some good time for us to be together as a family, soak in God's beautiful creation, and just rest.  So that's exactly what we did!  (The shot below was taken from our campsite in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.)

We were continually awed by the majesty and beauty of God's creation.  At times, we were literally left speechless, knowing full well that the limitations of photography would never be able to fully capture the magnitude and awesomeness that we were experiencing first hand.  But the memories we have are 100% vivid and accurate, and they will last a lifetime!  (Below, from our campsite at Two Medicine Campground, Glacier National Park, MT).

The kids had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and experience first-hand, several of our countries most amazing national parks, and famous landmarks.  (The arch below is the one featured on UT state license plates, and is perhaps the most photographed arch in the world.)  After going at what seemed like a break-neck speed for such a long time now, and burning the candle at both ends for many months, we finally soaked in the chance to be together as a family and rest and simply enjoy the beauty around us.  And it was like medicine for our souls!

Of course, as you can imagine, with seven of us in a tent and/or car day after day, there were definitely those times when we all wanted to kill each other.  But overall it was a great family-bonding time, and a therapeutic, rejuvenating trip that we'll never forget.

Another thing that we'll never forget is the Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park.  Wherever we camped we always did a bunch of hiking as a family.  I think we hiked about 20 miles in Bryce Canyon--even the twins.  It was so much fun!  But at Zion there's a very unique trail--like none other in the world!  And it's not for the faint of heart!  Or those afraid of heights!  The Angels Landing trail is a five mile roundtrip hike that starts at the canyon floor and climbs 1,500' to the very pinnacle of a narrow, knife-edge, rock fin that juts out into the canyon for spectacular views in all directions.  There are places where the trail is just a tad over three feet wide, with a sheer vertical drop on the one side of nearly 1,500', and an 80 degree drop-off on the other side of about 800' or so.  It boggles my mind that they even let people climb up there at all in todays day and age--because there are numerous places where even a small stumble or mistake would result in certain death.  But then, I guess that's part of the appeal to certain me.  If it were a flat, boring trail that everyone could access with ease, then it wouldn't be nearly as fun.  In many places there are chains anchored into the rock to provide hand-holds.  In other places, there are no chains.  Over the years many people have fallen to their death from this trail.  But the effort, and risk, is worth it when you get to the top--as the view is like none other!

It was a great opportunity for Britton, Hudson and me to do some good ol'-fashioned, father-son bonding as we carefully and methodically tackled the challenge and then shared in the celebration of it's success.  There's so many life-lessons and analogies that a father can draw for his sons from an experience like this!  And, it's a lot of fun to boot! 

I have a lot more pictures of this and the rest of the places we experienced, and I'm sure I'll share some of them in the weeks to come.  Frankly, I haven't even had a chance to look at most of them yet.  But as I get the chance I'll throw some up here on the blog so you too can enjoy seeing some of the beauty that our amazing country has to offer.

So now we're back in Oregon, living in the mission house beside our church here.  Joy and the kids are busy with home-school and reconnecting with family and ministry partners in this area.  I've been spending long hours at the desk, trying to catch up on many months-worth of post-poned paperwork and such.  I've completed the process of updating all seven of our passports, generating a pile of paperwork and documents required for the MAF Uganda Program to begin the process of acquiring my work permit, and have begun working on many other details related to our move to Uganda.  When there's seven in the family, everything seems to take time!  It took me many hours just to compile a complete list of where we all stand on immunizations and vaccines--and in the process I generated more questions than answers for a few of us.  So we're meeting with an international immunization specialist next week to make a plan of attack.  With needed booster shots for all of us for Tetanus and Typhoid, and the addition of Yellow Fever and Meningococcal vaccines, as well as a slew of other individual doses of various immunizations that are lacking or missing, we're looking at probably about 50-70 shots total! Tell that to your kids if you want them to freak out!  Yeah!  OOPS!  I learned the hard way.   And then there's the dentist and doctor appointments...times seven!  And of course we're preparing to speak and share here in Oregon a number of times this fall and winter, and meet with many of our friends and ministry partners.  And there's a myriad of other things we're working on as well.

But through it all, we're of course enjoying the little things--like the colors of fall (photo below taken in the back yard yesterday--an oak leaf), drinking coffee with pumpkin spice creamer, and the cool, crisp, clean air.  We're enjoying being part of a good church where we can worship and learn and fellowship in our own heart language.  We're enjoying re-connecting with family and friends.  We're enjoying the freedom of open roads and beautiful countryside.  We're enjoying the opportunity to be "anonymous" when out of our house.  And many other things.

We miss Indonesia a lot!  We miss our friends and ministry there!  And we're grieving that loss.  (It's nice that Joy is on Facebook and such, b/c we're still able to keep up with much of what's going on.)  But we're also very much looking forward to our future in Uganda.  We feel so blessed that God has opened this door to us, and we're looking forward to what he has in store for us there in the future.  But in the meantime, we're soaking in all of the "little things" that we can, about being here in America. :-)

Now that we're "settled" for a bit, and have sort of a "routine" in place, I'm hoping to be posting pictures more regularly here on the blog again.  But since I haven't gotten to Uganda yet, I obviously don't have any pictures from there to show you.  So I'll probably just be sharing some of the shots from our camping trip, time out East, and whatever is going on here on the west coast.  Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you have any questions or comments or want to get together or whatever.