Where Would You Like To Go?

September 15, 2014

Lyllian Abigail - 9 months

Lyllian - 
Sweet baby girl, what a month you have had!  You have grown so much!! You are 27.5 inches long (78th percentile) and are 18lbs (42nd percentile).  I know you had a growth spurt this month but you still seem so tiny to me!  
2 weeks after you turned 8 months old, you suddenly started doing all types of new things.  You waved bye bye, said ma-ma-ma, sat up right all on your own, and started trying to drink out of a sippy cup.  Everything you see goes straight into your mouth - and yes, that still includes your thumb - you do love sucking your thumb!!
Everyone comments about what a sweet and happy baby you are - which is pretty accurate.  This month you've had a few off days due to all of the teeth that you are cutting.  Currently, you have 6 teeth and started cutting 2 more today!  Otherwise, you are quite a content baby gal.  When you wake up from a nap, we find you sitting up right just a gabbering away in your crib.
You had a bit of separation anxiety for a few weeks, that we thought would really be a big deal once we were in America - but you surprised all of us by how much you reach out to all of our family & friends here in MS.  
MS has also expanded your palatte quite a bit!  You've enjoyed tastes of ice cream, chicken, yogurt, cheese, watermeleon, chocolate, and a shocking favorite - black eyed peas! 
You can get around to anywhere you'd like to go and you've gotten much faster now that you have squishy carpet to crawl around on!  You've started pulling up on your own and you love standing on your tiptoes.  
Even though you are loving all the new people and the extra attention - you have definitely been a momma's girl this month and I dont mind one bit.  I love you my sweet baby girl and am so grateful to be your momma!!

September 13, 2014

Oh Ryleigh

Ryleigh tends to be the one who makes us all laugh in Madagascar and she has not lost that title now that we're in America for a little while.  I thought I'd share some things in hopes they'll make you laugh too!

*At a Mexican restaurant*
R -"I want noodles & meatballs"
N - "They don't have spaghetti here, you can have a chicken taco"
R - (eyes light up) "I can make tortillas?!?!"

*Church luncheon*
R - "Can I have more cheese (off of the salad bar)"
Lhi Lhi - "Ryleigh, it's covered up now - so we can't get any"
R - "oh so no mosquitoes will get in it?"
Ryleigh & her cousin, Kaylee - these girls had so much fun together!
*Fast Food Place*
Ryleigh has taken off of her shoes and is walking around
N - "Ryleigh, you need to have your shoes on"
R - "oh or they'll put me in jail?"
*in car*
Due to jetlag, Ryleigh falls asleep ANYTIME she is in a vehicle
N - "Ryleigh, it's time to wake up baby"
R - "my body just needs to sleep, momma"
N - "You can't stay out here by yourself in the car"
R - "but Mississippi makes me tired!!"

And if you're wondering how Lyllian is doing...let's just say that she is LOVING having this "new" stuff to crawl on - carpet is a pretty amazing thing!!

September 12, 2014

We're HERE!

I guess more accurately it would be "We've been here!"  The blog has taken a backseat due to all of the facetime we are able to have with so much of our family & friends!  Hopefully, over the next week I'll get back into the groove of writing.

The journey was long and more than a bit bittersweet.  Overall, the girls did fantastic but we did arrive in Dallas running on adrenaline.  Dallas was the first time we had a delay and those 3 hours seemed a bit longer for some reason!

We made it in to Jackson later than expected but we were greeted by the most beautiful faces.  Hugs are a gift from God - of that I am certain.  There were signs, gifts, balloons (that can now be found in the airport ceiling), hugs, tears, and lots of pictures (of which I've yet to see - I need to check on that).

We are trying to soak up every moment.  It's such a wonderful feeling to know you are with so many who have loved you for so long and through so many different seasons. There's been some reverse culture shock but having family & friends around to get us through those first trips to Walmart and to set up phones has helped tremendously. The girls are loving all of their time with grandparents, aunts & uncles, and the like.

Thank you all for covering our family in prayer - not just during the trip home but for every moment of our 1st term in Madagascar.  You are a gift to us that we do not take for granted.  We can't wait to hug your necks!!

After we recover from jet lag - I'll be sure to get more than just some iphone pics but for now they'll have to do :)

September 6, 2014

When We See You

I'm grateful that so many of you keep up with us through our blog, facebook, and/or instagram - and even more know atleast what's going on once a month when we send out our newsletter updates.  Even though you have heard a lot - we are still excited to come home and share stories with you about life and what God has done in Madagascar.  

Unfortunately, we don't get monthly updates from you.  We miss knowing what's going on in your lives too.  Not just the job changes, moving houses, or 1st day of school pictures - but the day in and day out.  The details that make up life. Tell us about how God has been working in your family, your marriage, your life, and/or your church.  When we have dinner with you or see you at Walmart - take the time to tell us about your lives.  We're interested in what's gone on and would love the chance to hear about you.  It's important to us!

September 5, 2014

Headed to the 'Sip

boarding our flight to Madagascar - 2011
July 1, 2011 we flew from Meridian, MS to Madagascar for the first time - it's crazy to think that it's been over 3 years since that day.  Pray for us as we fly to Mississippi today/tomorrow?  Pray for understanding folks to be sitting around our girls on the plane and for sleep to come easily while we are flying.  Pray that the luggage will be where it needs to be, when it needs to be there and that the flights would be as smooth as possible.

Ryleigh - 5 months old
Then will you pray specifically for our girls?  For a 3 year old who is all too aware of what she's leaving behind and still very excited about who she is going to see - this is a very hard balancing act emotionally for anyone but definitely for a preschooler.  And for Lyllian, will you pray that she figures out her days/nights?  She's worked hard (and so have her parents) to help her get into a schedule and now we're switching it all around on her.  As far as Steve and I go - will you pray that we'll be aware (even when we're jetlagged) of how we can demonstrate His patience & grace in the same way He has extended it to us over and over again?  
Lyllian's 1st flight to Mada - 2 months old

If you know me - you know that I can be described as "emotional" on any day of the week - throw in all the variables that the next 72 hours...and well I'm confident there will be tears & a lot of them.  Your prayers are never taken for granted and I promise we won't start doing so now.  Thank you for praying over our travels and reentry to the States.  Hope to see many of you soon!

September 4, 2014

And Away We Go

Ryleigh - 6 months
We're flying over to Johannesburg today.  Looking forward to dinner with sweet friends tonight and then a doctors appointment tomorrow, before we start making our way to the States.  Prayers for a safe flight & no problems with luggage would be greatly appreciated! And a little comparison picture (same outfit - different ages) because I think they're fun!
Lyllian - 8 months

September 3, 2014

The Struggle

Bare walls and boxes - that's what our home has looked like for the past 2 weeks.  Our lives as far as possessions go are about to fit on the back of a truck and the rest are in 5 suitcases + the Amazon packages that I've been sending to my sister & brother in laws house (thanks guys!).  I can't escape the feeling of how not normal this is.  To slowly pack up things that we won't see for 6 months...to get ready to go "home" for a while and have that place be almost foreign to our girls...there's no denying the ache that presents itself from time to time.  

The struggle is real.  Just thinking about answering the question "how was it" in regards to our 3 years of life overseas is overwhelming.  How do we fit 3+ years into a few sentences?  It's hard to explain but I think sometimes people might forget that we're really living life here.  Just like our families and friends and churches are living their lives in America - life continues even when we're in different time zones and radically different cultures.  The world doesn't stop spinning.  A lot has happened in our lives and we have missed out on a lot in America.  We've missed weddings, births, and funerals.  We haven't been there for graduations, birthdays, holidays, and family dinners.  
It's a strange position to be in when you are around your family.  The people you grew up with, took family vacations with, lived life with...and suddenly you've missed a lot.  Skype is fantastic and being able to email pictures and videos - helps more than we could even fathom in keeping up to date...but some things fall through the cracks.  We're all busy simply living.  I honestly don't have words to describe how much I'm ready to see my family and have the opportunity
(again!) to live life with them.  To have game nights, family dinners, road trips, and vacations - with the people who hold such a special place in my heart...it's enough to make my heart burst.
At the same time, people have already started saying "I know you'll be so glad to be back" or "I know you can't wait to be home".Well...yes...and no.  We are thrilled beyond belief (and lately beyond sleep) to see our family and friends (and to eat Chik Fil A).   At the same time we are sad.  It is hard to leave a place & people that have become home.  Right now - a week out from worshipping with our different English speaking church families & eating at my favorite Mexican restaurant - it's easy to rattle off all the reasons I miss America (and no they aren't ALL food related).  
But, I have a feeling that it won't take long at all to miss things about this home too.   

Are there words to describe the excitement of being in the same country - the same state as our family!?!?!  
No - there's not...but there's also not a time that I wouldn't enjoy for them to just come and live in Madagascar with us.

Will I love that our amazing pediatrician is just a few minutes away from our house?  
Absolutely, but I will also miss the lessons that I've learned in depending on Him to be our Healer - truly putting my faith into action.  

Am I looking forward to road trips on paved roads & logical traffic laws?  
Yes!  However, I'll miss walking outside my gate and hearing Ryleigh stop a pousse for us to ride to the market.
The struggle is real but what a great struggle to have.  He is always reminding me that this world, Mississippi, or Madagascar is not my home.  He has given abundant gifts in each place but they alone can not satisfy.  Only eternity with Him will.

September 2, 2014

Fanomezana (Gift)

The ESL class (also known as ECS) is one of my absolute favorite things to be a part of in Tulear.  Made up of mainly high school & college age students - they are some of the most brilliant folks I have ever met.  Their drive and determination towards learning as much as they can is inspiring.  Most of the them are not simply working on English but are fluent in French, Spanish, and Chinese.  All of the language study is on top of their normal class work load - seriously, they rock.
I often wonder as I'm teaching, if their work ethic is why some of them struggle with the truth that God's salvation is a gift...something that can not be earned.  Nothing here comes for free.  I know that's the case in most places in the world but here it seems even more so.  Gifts are not taken lightly - the geneorsity behind them and the sacrifice required is not taken for granted.

Their struggle has become my struggle but in a different way.  Do I take time to consider the generosity of God?  Am I thankful for the sacrifice that it required for Him to offer me eternal salvation as a free gift?  And at the same time, don't we fall into the same traps of thinking that there is no way His gift can truly be free?  We strive to do the right thing, to be a "good girl/boy", to have a strong Christian resume full of committees, teaching positions, and faithful chuch attendance and tithing.  Somewhere along the line, we bought into the lie that we need to earn His favor, His grace, His mercy, His love, and His forgiveness.
It's always humbling to be teaching and to be so desperately passionate that people "get it" and realize that there is still so much for me to "get" myself.

His salvation is a gift.
His salvation is free to anyone who believes.
His salvation was not free to God - He sacrificed His one and only Son.
He is the One who paid the Cost.
Glory to Him.

September 1, 2014

Things I didn't know before

- a spoonful of Jif Peanut Butter should be on the top of the list of comfort foods

- there is no rule to figuring out if you should kiss someone 2 or 3 times on the cheek

- there are places in the world where you have to sweep your house multiple times a day due to the amount of dust/dirt

- to be thankful when the electricity is on

- whether you have salted or unsalted butter does matter

- to appreciate a strong and hot shower (especially if both happen at the same time!)

- that I am immensely thankful for technology

- that I really enjoy taking a pousse (rickshaw) or walking places

- finding self rising flour can bring great happiness

- a market is more fun (albeit sometimes more frustrating) than a grocery store

- fresh meat is NOT always the best option

- board games with the right people are quite possibly the best way to spend an evening

- mixing creme cheese & an egg will make a decent substitution for cottage cheese 

- power outages make for amazing star gazing nights

- that Ritz crackers can be frozen...actually almost anything can be and will still taste just fine

- being a life long learner takes on new meanings when living overseas