Week One in the Big O!

One of the nicknames of my hometown, which I have returned to, is The Big O! (With the exclamation mark, thankyouverymuch.) One whole week has passed since we began our Big New Life in the United States of America. I have come full circle. Getting re-acquainted with the place where DaRonn and I grew up has been fun. Showing the kids around and introducing them to Stateside life has been interesting. Adjusting to the new unspoken expectations has been rough.

We have noted that people in the U.S. compared to people in Bolivia:

Worry about safety a ton more – seat belts, mandatory car insurance, car seats, a disinfection wipes station for the shopping carts at the front of the store, and a very visible presence of well-equipped law enforcement officers all around town, just to name a few.

Have so many more options – huge menus, restaurants everywhere, shops full of shelves full of varieties of every type of thing you could want to buy, channels on tv and on the radio, religious expressions, styles, and employment for a wide range of ages and abilities.

Are SUPER generous with their resources – thrifts shops, homeless shelters, relief aid programs, free stuff on curb-sides and craig’s list, abundance of donations of VERY nice things from perfect strangers, sales and clearance items, and volunteering of their time, not to mention so many gifts of brand new things.

The Midwest is     S…P…R…E…A…D…   O…U…T.

The land sprawls. The ribbon of roads and highways stretch long and wide. The spaces between dwellings feel vast. The immense forests and parks preserved in these borders make me swell with pride.

At first when I began maneuvering in this spread out place I thought of all the space as wasted. My thoughts stopped short. I remembered the reoccurring theme for this season of my life. No, this is not waste, this is healthy. I am regaining the margins which I allowed to be eaten away over time. The corrosion of busy-ness crept in, cramming out breathing room. Reparation begins with the creation of margins.

Margins. Yes, I am letting the margins grow once again.

Margins of time. Margins of space.

Margins for thought. Margins for belief. Margins for health.

Margins to tend my garden. Margins to be still. Margins to breathe.

Margins which allow me to fall in step with the unforced rhythms of grace.

Margins which enable me to be kind, gentle, and faithful.

Margins which suck me down into the plushy, over-sized, purple swivel lounge chair and swallow me up for spontaneous sessions of solace.

the big O

The Big O!

Oh! I had almost forgotten what a livable life looked like.

Oh! There is hope for restoration.

Oh! My God, my Emmanuel, thank you

Removed. 

For a long while I hung my head in shame assuming that God was removing us from our “post” in Bolivia as a punishment for misbehaving. Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think my thinking was skewed. More and more, as I watch this transition unfold, I think He removed us to demonstrate His Goodness and Grace.

This evening I watched my precious nephew wriggle and wrestle and resist the sleep his weary toddler body needed. His mama wrapped him up and rocked and rocked; he finally fell asleep. I smile now as I think about God watching me over the past few years fight and fuss against the rest He knew I needed. Submission to this season came slowly. I am grateful as I look back and see God’s patience with me as He pulled me closer and closer to Him. My, how I pushed against those arms! My, how He rocked my world! Finally I fell…

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“This is NOT home.”

airplane over cochabamba, bolivia, january 2015

Our little mob of weary wanderers rounded the final corner of our 36 hour journey. Mama and Papa caught each others’ eyes and puffed out a breath to prepare for impact.

“You ready for this?” they asked.

“Nope,” they answered.

“Here we go,” they said.

All the kids, with baggage to drag, followed the plod of their parents up the ramp from the airplane to the airport. I saw my parents before they saw us. My mom, my dad, my youngest brother, and my youngest sister came out that chilly Saturday afternoon in January to gather us. You might tell me that was only four days ago; it feels like a lifetime ago.

We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.

The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?

The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.

It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles.

Oh yes, I was talking about the airport.

We walked into view. My mom burst with shouts and ran to catch me. My sister cried and wrapped my kids in her arms. My brother said with pride and joy, “My sister!” My dad laughed as he welcomed us all. What was left of my mascara ran down my cheeks. I felt like my heart would explode.

Then I looked around at my children. My oldest stood off to the side, away from the huddle of hugs. I moved over to her. The anger and helplessness radiated from her reddened eyes as she met me with an indictment. Through gritted teeth and a cracking voice she whispered a gruff, “This is NOT home.”

I wrapped her in affirmation and understanding. Yes, I told her, you are right, this is not home. We cried. I told her we would talk later. She nodded.

We grabbed our 12 checked bags off the conveyor belt. I unzipped a few and snatched out sweaters and jackets for all of us. No matter how many layers and hats and scarves and gloves I put on I couldn’t cut the chill. We loaded up the people and the stuff and drove to our borrowed residence. The rest of the day rushed by as we set up beds, tended to the kitchen and bathrooms, and sorted the bags into the rooms.

When just the Washingtons remained in the home warmed by the wonder of heat blown through vents I called Raimy to my side. She initiated the conversation. Her countenance was calmed yet fatigued, and she said, “About what I said… this is not home, yet.”

Yes. That’s right baby.

Love. Be loved.

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One Week Ago We Didn’t Even Have Tickets

Can you believe that? One week ago we didn’t even have plane tickets for our family to travel to the U.S.A.. Now, we are here, have a great place to stay while we find a place of our own, and OWN a 7 passenger van (which is a whole story for a separate, dedicated blog post). A small army has been working to gather stuff for our new home. My sister and brother-in-law collected from tons of people: some beds, bedding, dressers, towels, toiletries, some groceries, coats, hats, scarves, toys, games, some kitchen items, laundry soap, a laundry basket, Target gift cards, and a coffee maker. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a friend who set up a facebook page to organize people, a few churches helping out, and many people networking, we feel very loved and cared for.

My parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters met us at the airport. There were hugs, happy tears, and lots of loud. It was great! They helped us get into the house of my brother-in-law’s father, who happens to be away on a golfing vacation and graciously opened his vacant home for us to stay in for free. WOW! I am so grateful for the generosity from someone I have never even met.

Before dawn Friday morning dear, dear friends came and collected us from the missionary housing where we were staying in Cochabamba. We said tearful goodbyes and started the 36 hour journey back to the city where both DaRonn and I were born and raised. The kids are amazing travelers! There were lots of talks about our move down to Bolivia way back in 2001. We compared, contrasted, and reminisced.

Ahead of us now in the coming days are: finding a house, filling it, and settling in. Please pray for us, as I know you already have been. Things seem to be falling into place. I am so grateful.

The kids have said some amusing things these first few days. The laughter has been helpful to break up the fatigue and tension.

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Me: Tyler, when you go to the bathroom you can put your toilet paper in the toilet and flush it down.

Tyler: [look of utter disgust] That is so gross!

Me: Yep, your pee, your poop, and the paper all together.

Timothy: [from the other room, singing loudly] We will all go together when we go down!

Cultural orientation – – – in Bolivia the plumbing systems are different and the used toilet paper is thrown into the trash can beside the toilet. Here in the U.S. the used paper is flushed.

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Can I go drink from the water fountain! (Five children RUN through the airport to quench their thirst.)

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Look, a mailbox! Oh look, there’s another one!

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These houses are so beautiful! (In one of the more simple parts of town.)

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There are SO MANY  [you name it on the shelves in the stores]  to choose from!

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This pizza is SO GOOD!

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It is SO COLD! (The locals are in lightweight shirts and no jackets. We are in layers, coats, hats, and scarves.)

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You can drink the water from the faucet. WHAT? Yes, from the faucet.

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Timothy on day 2: I still feel weird drinking water from the faucet. I mean, it tastes fine, but I am thinking in my head the whole time, “I am drinking bugs!”

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on the wall of the house we are staying at

on the wall of the house where we are staying

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