Sunday, June 7, 2015

...of an unexpected new chapter

Just a week ago, we got some news that completely changed our life. It lead us to believe that God has closed the door to our home on the other side of the world. 

The details are unimportant for the purposes of this blog. But I'll just say that we have been praying for clarity regarding this decision for four months now and planned as far as we could see and felt peace about. The Lord chose, in His sovereignty, to fill the last few weeks and even days with clear direction away from that home and back to our former one in Austin. We feel like we are on a roller coaster, but with the sure and trustworthy safety harness of the goodness of our heavenly Father holding us tight, we are able to enjoy the ride in some way. 

But at the moment, we are mostly grieving. I think that most of our friends and family believe this is the right direction and feel confident that the Lord has been in all of it, but the appreciation for what we are leaving behind is something it feels like we are walking through alone. That place is our home. The things in our house are just things and can be replaced or shipped, but the friends are unique and special. I am beyond grateful for facebook, which will allow me to stay in touch with some of the most amazing people I have ever met and may never see face to face again. I will get to see their children grow or see them get married and hear about their daily life, but it breaks my heart that I won't be a part of it. Of course, we have so many wonderful friends in Austin whom we said good bye to three years ago, but having to go through this process so suddenly with our friends in Fujairah and from a distance is gut-wrenching.

I wish that I could teleport back just to give everyone hugs. To tell them face to face that they have meant so much to us. To assure them that we will never forget their love and their friendship. But I can't. And I have to trust that God is working everything together for our good. He has taken us on a journey that has included many surprises and trials to make our path straight. Straight to Him. And every trial that we face, every good bye we say, every difficult decision we have to make is bringing about our perseverance, proven character, and hope in Him that will never disappoint us (Rom 5:4).

It all reminds me of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. God wanted them to trust Him all the way into the burning furnace and then He protected them from the fire inside. God wanted us to obey Him and trust him all the way up until literally almost stepping foot on the airplane. Then He protected us from what would have been a very difficult return through Abram's pretty inexplicable strep throat (even though he was on antibiotics). And now we are meant to trust him and obey Him as far as we can see in the other direction - and we can't see very far. 

We know that we are going to be back in Austin, but as far as jobs, housing, cars, etc. we have no idea. But God does. And I was reminded by a dear friend the other day that God loves to take care of the little things and tidy up loose ends. He definitely can and we trust that He will.

There are so many things that I am grateful to have in America at the moment - namely access to certain kinds of medical care and food for me to continue to manage my psoriatic arthritis. But there are a lot of things that I will definitely miss about the UAE. I will miss the sand dunes and the round abouts and the camels and the shawerma and the chai carak and the beautiful winters and the ocean. We are so grateful for the two plus years the Lord gave us there; the way it changed our lives, our perspectives, and our hearts is immeasurable. I think I am maybe the most sad that our kids might not remember it at all. They had such a loving  family of believers from all over the world surrounding them and I want them to remember it all. I hope the pictures and stories and blogs will help them to keep the experience in their hearts in some way. 

We honestly don't know what this next chapter will look like, but I am so grateful for the assurance I have that this life (where I live, what I own, my health, even my friends and family) are NOT what is lasting. The good news that I have been reconciled with my creator despite my inherent sin through His grace alone and nothing I could ever or will ever do and I can be certain that I will be with Him in eternity when this earthly life ends is what matters and what is lasting. Any place any of us live could be destroyed by an earthquake or tsunami or our own life could drastically change and we might never be able to return to that home. In those moments (and in every moment) we have to remember that the things of this world are finite, but our God and His kingdom are eternal and as believers we can look forward to His city, because ultimately this world is not my home. 

In conclusion, I'll leave you with a picture of my incredibly wonderful husband and I on a date tonight for our 7th anniversary (a few days early). This man has been the most amazing partner and spiritual leader I could ever have even thought to ask for. He encourages me and our sweet kids every day to seek and love Jesus more. He is so bold and joyful about the gospel that its infectious. Throughout this last week (as well as the 7 years before that), he has been my anchor, my calmer, my guide, my shoulder to cry on, and my very best friend. I am beyond blessed. 

And he's pretty handsome, if I do say so myself :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

...of our return (and some pictures)

Wow. It's been a really long time since my last post! Like, maybe 4 months or something. I know that because I don't think I've posted the whole time we have been in America and we have been in America for 4 months. My deduction skills are amazing, are they not?

In some ways I cannot believe that we have been in the States for 4 months. That's 1/3 of a year! We've been in 3 different states, taken one family road trip, seen tons of friends and family, enjoyed a snow in Colorado, freeze in Texas, rain in Idaho, and now some warmer weather to get us ready to head back to the UAE (which I saw was the hottest place in the world the other day). I've also made some progress with my health and I can confidently say that I am more aware of what positively and negatively affects my body than I have ever been in my life.

Ultimately, the Auto Immune Protocol has been great for me. I arrived in February in Colorado with a lot of pain in my hands and back and some bad psoriasis. Within a few days of being on the diet, I was feeling significantly better. I have also seen that stress and sleep are a huge deal breaker. When I get one night of bad sleep, I can feel the pain in my back. After a night of good sleep, the pain is almost non-existent. My psoriasis is almost completely gone as well, although I am using a small amount of steroid cream every long once in awhile to keep it in check as well as a product called "Psoriaflora" that my friend sent me that's natural and seems to help it as well. When I was doing the diet full force, by myself, the cooking was a lot of work and added to my stress level, which took away from the healing a bit. But in Idaho, my family has been doing a lot of the cooking, I've ventured into eating out a little more, and the stress level is down, but so is the adherence to the diet and I seem to be about the same.

We were scheduled to fly back to the UAE yesterday (the 2nd), but Abram has been sick for about 3 weeks and still had a fever despite being on antibiotics for 3 days for an ear infection and mild bronchitis. After a visit to the ER, we found out he had strep and were switched to another antibiotic. He is on day 3 of that one and his cough is still bad, but his fever seems to be down. Quinn and I decided to try and see if we could change our plane tickets to give him a little more time to heal before a 24 hour overseas journey. We were able to postpone a week for $300. Then, right when we would have been flying yesterday, Selah spiked a fever and got hives with a cough she's had for a few days. That's just the way Abram's three weeks of illness started. After one day her hives seem to be gone and she doesn't have a fever at the moment, so we are hoping that her's will be short lived and we will all be a lot healthier next week.

I think that we are all ready to get back to our life in Fujairah. We aren't sure what it will look like or how long we will be there, but it will be nice to just be back in our own space with some semblance of a routine and with our sweet UAE friends we miss so much. Abram really needs to start school there this Fall (for his sake and mine), but the one school option we have is telling us that there is no room for him at all. We also haven't been able to get enough funds together to send him anyway, so it's possible I will need to make it through this year doing home school preschool and trying to keep up this labor intensive diet and then possibly get him back to America for Kindergarten next year or move somewhere else in the country with better school options.

So that's a basic run down of the last 4 months! Kinda. Sorta. I mean, there was a lot of great stuff that happened and a lot of hard stuff we went through, but overall I think we all feel that it's been exactly where the Lord wanted us and there is a definitely peace in that. But now we feel a peace about heading back to the UAE to see what He has in store for us there! I don't imagine that I'll be blogging anytime in the very near future, but (as usual) I will leave you with a hopeful attempt to be better than I have been.

See you on the other side (of the world)!

And now for a few select pictures from our 4 months...
Their first moment in America. From fast asleep on a plane to being wheeled through the Denver airport by a stranger. Not a happy duo.

Simon at 10.5 months when we first got here. 

Sick Simon on his 1st birthday at In'n'Out in Austin. The milkshake made him happier.

These kids have been on a ton of walks with their daddy in this stroller in the last few months. And he finally figured out how to get all three of them in there!

At a birthday party. Thankful this won't be happening again for another 12 years or so...

Easter blue bonnet sibling picture. A fave.

Sweet brothers.

Fields of blue bonnets. 

Abram took the best picture of us we've gotten in awhile.

Our expert travelers.

Selah's 3rd birthday. Anna braids and all.

Trying to capture Simon's first steps in the grass at 13.5 months. Unfortunately we just got my excited afterward face.

Watching soccer.

Date night on a scooter.

Daddy and his sweet girl.

Modeling Elsa braids.

My mother's day picture.

Pajama parade around the neighborhood with an official toddler.

Best daddy in the world.