Thursday, September 4, 2014

teary Summer farewells & the joy of unpacked suitcases

We had an amazing summer with you all. We felt spoiled in every way between amazing meals in your homes, so much loving on our kids, sweet gifts, and special opportunities just getting caught up in your lives. It is so special for us to become a part of your worlds and just be with you. It means so much to have such supportive family. Loaning us cars, providing us with warm clothing for our children for those cool summer days, planning special events and memories for us to enjoy together, preparing rooms in your own homes for us to stay for weeks on end while we just veg on your hospitality. Every day we took as many photos and video clips as we could: our nourishment for those days when we just ache to be with you again. We talk about you every day, breathe in the memories, and ache with the fact that so much time must go by before seeing you again. Returning back to Cambodia was with mixed emotions, especially as Wes continues to ask to go back to grandparents' houses, play with cousins, and go on his favorite "jumpoline".

However, returning back to our home has been energizing. Unpacking suitcases and setting up our home to better suit our needs has been wonderful! Wes and Bria now share a room, and we're working at better sleep-training both of them. The first night was a nightmare! None of us got much sleep at ALL. But, gradually it's been improving and we're to the point now where Wes actually is sleeping in his own bed again! (it's been over a year!) Bria is still waking up so.many.times. through the night, but I haven't lost hope yet. SOMEday I will get a full night's sleep again. I will!
We've also moved our TV upstairs to the master bedroom to better monitor how much is viewed throughout the day. Wesley's question yesterday: "Daddy, why is the TV upstairs?" "So you don't watch so much TV." "But why?" He has definitely entered the WHY? stage! It's so funny/cute!

Both Wes & Bria seem to have jumped into new stages since we've come home. 
For the first time, Wes has discovered a love of stories. He will ask to have books read to him and he actually sits still to listen to them, repeating words, has cute expressions like, "Oh, wow!" and "but why?" His vocabulary has sky-rocketed over the summer and he keeps us laughing with the things he says, often with a British accent (thanks, Peppa! ha!) 

The neighborhood children have been happy for our return, too. We better organized our toys to avoid our previous problem of toys just "walking away" and still welcome children into our home to play. Wes was especially happy to see his favorite boy, Bictu, again.

Soon after our return home, at 13 months and 1 week, Bria started walking!!! She did it for her Daddy, who caught it on film! She is SO cute as she tentatively toddles around the house, trying to stay clear of her over-zealous big brother who often tries to do everything she does. He likes to pretend he is also learning how to walk! Seeking our praise and falling down. Bria isn't sure what to think of him sometimes! haha 

She is also learning how to feed herself! Making rice cereal is no longer necessary. She dives into regular rice, eating it by the fist-full, like it's the last bowl on earth! I've started stripping her down to her diaper to eat, often having to wash her hair AND the floor after each meal. But she is having FUN experimenting with feeding herself! Super cute!

She adores her big brother and does her best to keep up with him.
I snapped some cute shots of Bria enjoying a Popsicle with Wes at their little table. She seems to have left a baby and returned a little girl over the summer! Amazing! 

Wes was so happy to see our housekeeper, Kim again! He often talked about her while we were away, and called her almost every day on his play phone. She was equally thrilled to have the kids back again! She couldn't believe how much they'd changed, and wondered how they could grow so much since she knows they don't each as much rice in America. :D
We moved our laundry drying racks downstairs, since we've been getting glorious downpours almost every day. PTL for the rainy season!! The kids do their best to "help" Kim with work around the house. 

We were invited over to our friend Davis' house for dinner! (he's from Hong Kong and was in our small group the past year) It's so special to reconnect with friends again!

A major highlight for us the past week has been seeing Wes develop interests in movies! (We're so happy to have him move past Curious George!! haha) Over the summer he watch Cars with his Canadian grandparents and Planes with his American grandparents...over and over and over. Since Planes 2 (Fire & Rescue) was showing in Phnom Penh when we got back, Joe & I treated Wes to a little daddy/mommy/son date! It was in 3D and it was SO CUTE to see Wes, hunched over his big bag of popcorn, glasses on (some of the time), jaw dropped in awe of the reallyreallyreally big TV. As soon as it was over, he wanted to watch it again. (that's why he doesn't look very happy in the last photo)

We left Bria with our friend Katherine and her son Khemrin. She had a fun afternoon, too! 

We are rejoicing with our neighbors who had their baby just as we came back! This is their second. Their first, Soboa, is exactly Wes' age to the day. So we have often had times of play together. It was special to meet their new little baby boy!!

Over the summer we told you about how there may be doors opening for us to also work with Chinese here in Cambodia! We have been especially interested in these opportunities, since it is a link, for us, between our experience in China and God's placing us here in Cambodia. We were able to meet some students this week and have lunch with 3 girls (English names: Wendy, Mary, & Yolanda). Since my Chinese was better than their English, I was able to muster up a bit of rusty conversation; however, I was grateful for Joe & the director who served as good translators when I needed it! These students are hoping to receive training as missionaries, since they cannot receive that training in China, they are coming to Cambodia. We are praying that the Lord will make it clear to us how He wants us involved with this unique and special group of students! In the meantime, we'll just hang out, develop relationship, and be open to His leading. Thank you for praying with us about this!

Tomorrow we have a faculty meeting/recreation/dinner day together at the Bible College! We are excited to reconnect with the faculty, pray over the coming school year, and make plans together. We are praying for God's blessing on the Bible College students as they prepare to return to their studies here in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for your prayers for us, your time spent with us this summer, and your constant love for our family so far away from yours. We love & miss you!

hugs from Phnom Penh,

Joe, Nica, Wes, & Bria
(below photos taken in Canada, America, & China!)


Monday, May 19, 2014

Is this the right decision for my children?

This is a question I have asked myself repeatedly since becoming a mom to these two beautiful littles. It's one thing to be obedient to God's calling for my own life, going where He leads, doing what He calls me to do, listening to His guidance. But what about my children who don't have a choice and who are destined, then, to go along with whatever Joe and I feel is the next step? Will they be safe? Will they feel like they miss out on a "normal" childhood? Will they still connect with their cousins and get to know their grandparents? Will they fit in with North American culture when they go back? Does it matter if they don't? Will they be frustrated with us for forcing this un-asked for lifestyle on them? Our situation is not ideal when compared to commonly held "standards." The grass really is "greener" on the other side of the world. Will they be okay with our choice for them? I don't know.

And yet, I feel excited with where God is calling our family. I feel we are where He wants us to be and we feel He has both burdened us and equipped us to meet this particular need. Although I still struggle with letting go of China, particularly the language that we've worked hard to obtain, I feel like our vision can be carried out so much better here. But it isn't the vision of my kids. They're stuck with us as parents and the vision God has placed on their Dad, and subsequently, their Mom, too.  I feel like, as Joe and I make the decision to stay beyond our initial two-year commitment, we are on the threshold of a new phase for our family. I have this vision of our little family of 4, standing hand in hand, looking into the distance, and walking together, supporting each other, committed to each other, determined to walk this path together. I hope my children can someday see the heart of their parents: that we love them SO much and want what's best for them, but also want to be obedient to God's call on our life--on our family. Is it possible that they will one day see that these two are the same? That what's best for them is to be obedient to God's call?

As a mom, my heart beats for my children every moment every day. It swells with pride, it jumps in panic with the cry of a child, it rejoices in little accomplishments, it can't stop smiling through tears when just looking at the soft skin and chubby fingers and little curls of that perfect miracle I get to call my own, it gets overwhelmed with fear that I will somehow make a mistake. The distrust of the people I am called to many times outweighs the trust of the One who called me to them. My heart is overwhelmed with "what if?". Am I making the right decision for my children? Will they be okay with being raised as a "foreigner?"

I have to trust that this is where HE has called us. All of us. Our whole family. And no other place in the world, despite whatever advantages and opportunities and relationships might be offered, is as good for us as it is here. Because this is where His BEST is. I again struggle to surrender my perception of what I constitute what is best for my kids. And we, together as a family, will receive the most fulfillment in the center of His perfect will for us. Here. In this crazy, backward city we have adopted as our home. This is where we plan to raise our children, and this is where we know God has called us and will provide for us.

God will use this place to shape my children's passions, gifts, interests, and callings. As their mom, despite my feelings of inadequacy and doubts, I want to tell them how God provided for us along the way, and show them how He has/will be faithful. I want God to become their Lord as well. Through them, the nations, and future generations will be changed for His glory!

Lord, keep me confident in Your call in my (our) lives, and keep me faithful. Forgive my doubt and replace the fear in my heart with increased faith in Your plan, Your sovereignty, and trust in Your Father's heart, which is so much bigger than my mother's heart. Thank you for showing us that this is where you have called our family! We stand together in this next phase and trust You as our Leader. Let us be used as a family for your glory in this place! Amen!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our family escape. May 13-15

We've been busy lately. I haven't been blogging much the past month, Joe has been busy with his studies as he wraps up his M.Div course for his personal studies, as well as finishing out teaching his portion of the Minor Prophets class he's been teaching at the Bible College. And I've been a little busy, too, with work and just life. In April was Khmer New Year, which was a week long of holidays for the country! We didn't go anywhere, though, since Joe was studying, I was working, and we felt we needed to just focus on finishing out our responsibilities here well before we head back to North America in a few weeks.

However. :) 
Joe decided that maybe a little family vacation would be good for us so we can just focus on our own family before visiting with everyone else all summer. Since Tues-Thurs was a Khmer holiday here (the late King Father's birthday!), we hopped on a bus and escaped to our favorite beach! Yes, I still had to work and Joe still had to study, but how special to be able to do it from such a beautiful setting! I feel so refreshed, sun-kissed, and connected as a family, getting ready for our next BIG trip to come back to see YOU! Four weeks from now we'll be in the air! Amazing.

I snapped this photo while Joey was studying, and I was rocking a baby on either side of me sleeping/resting in hammocks. I wish I could post the smell of the beautiful sea breeze for you to enjoy, too. It was one of those moments I just want to re-live again and again.

Enjoying some lunch on the beach

Bria and I and Wes in front of our bungalow

The kids love hammocks!


I bought a little bracelet for Bria from a girl selling them on the beach
 Why did you put this on me, Mommy?

Yes, Bria and I also got pedicures on the beach (matching polish!)
She was sleeping. She woke up with pink toenails. haha

Wes always loves his swing rides!

And Bria and I made a little "sandless" play area for her to hopefully limit the amount of sand she consumes! 

Have I ever told you how flexible our daughter is?
It's crazy. Is this normal?


HUGE burgers!

Wes loves to play pool! He'll line all the balls up in a row (1-10) but he also had SO much fun rolling them around on the table trying to knock them into the pockets. Great entertainment! 

My little beach bum

Brother/Sister love

Sea breezes with daddy

I remember when we took photos together all the time! Now all we have time for is a selfie. :)

 SO thankful for this little escape.
The next big trip will have a lot more stress involved. I'll revel in this while I can. :)  

Love you all!

 Joe, Nica, Wes, & Bria