Thursday, June 21, 2012

We're Here

Caleb helps Gwen position her glove for a good catch.
We really are here.  We are living in our Chicago house again, as of Monday night.  The house isn't put together, not by a long shot.  We are still waiting for our air shipment to arrive, which means dishes and pots and pans, clothes beyond what we packed into our suitcases three weeks ago, pillows and other bedding.  The air shipment also has some books and games, stuffed animals, bikes.  We hope that shipment will clear customs in the US more quickly than it did on the China side and be to us by early next week.  For now we are sort of camping in our house, but with our beds, which came out of storage after a five year nap.  Beyond that we are waiting for our sea shipment, which includes all the furniture we took to China, like our couches and chairs, dressers and cabinets.  Hopefully those items will make it to us by mid-July.

Despite the missing items in our house, it feels like home to be back in the Midwest.  Lots of the same neighbors still live on our circle.  They've been so welcoming.  Our church feels like home.  The vibrant children's and youth programs there have been awesome for our kids, and I've breathed many prayers of thanks and relief to the Lord for the way they have all been included and drawn in.  Walking back into the big field at the elementary school behind our cul-de-sac to play baseball with the kids in the evenings, Trigger running after the stray balls, feels like home. 

Scott's back to work this week, riding the train into the city.  The boys started driver's ed and got their permits.  The girls have played with friends, and I've tried to make progress with the house.  Tomorrow, our 21st anniversary, we venture to Valparaiso for an orientation overnight with Caleb, while Scott's parents stay here with our other kids.  Life rolls on.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

P.S.  My sweet friend Carol is working on a new header for my blog.  Wait and see what she can do! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Yep, it's a Shanghai photo.  We may be in the US now, knee deep in all the tasks that come with returning after five years away, but China is still in us.  It will be, I reckon, for a long time.  Probably forever.  I can't know that now, less than a week removed from it, but somehow I can't imagine it not being a part of me always. 

It's so good to be here.  The sky is blue, blue, blue.  Coming from the perpetual smog that is the Shanghai sky, I love this blue.  I love driving my own car!  I love reconnecting with our sweet neighbors who have welcomed us as if we never left.  I love the ease of asking for help in a store- surprise, the clerks speak my language!  I love fast internet.  I love having virtually everything I could ever need so readily available.

We are in transition right now.  We are in transition because we are sleeping in a hotel at night, but by day are working in our yard and doing laundry in our house as it is being painted and carpeted.  We are living out of suitcases as we wait for our shipments to arrive.  We are getting US phones set up.  Today I set up the rental of a 96 gallon trash can for use at our home (don't ask!).  We are slowly recovering from jet lag.  We are eating our meals out, as all our kitchen stuff is somewhere en route to us. 

Someone asked me yesterday how we are adjusting.  Really?  We had been in the US less than 48 hours.  How can I know this?  I don't know if we will know this for sure in a month, or even six months.  I do know that God has been so faithful to bring people to us, to show us that He sees us and is walking with us.  I know that Gwen played at a friend's house today, and that Madelyn had her arm around a friend when I picked her up from the all day junior high program at church this week, the one I signed her up for online months ago.  I know that a neighbor hung a Welcome Home sign across our house.  I thought we didn't have any connections here anymore, but God knew differently.  He saved them for us.

So yes, China is in my heart.  I know I will continue to grieve the loss of our life there as time goes by.  So good to be in Chicago though, good to be in our house, even if it's only during the day for now. Good to be in practically the same time zone as our families.  Good to see the sky.  It's all good.

Friday, June 08, 2012

New Grace

Seth and friends on the last day of school.
Madelyn and friends on the last day of school!  Madelyn is wearing the good-bye shirt Concordia gives to all students leaving the school.   
Loved this scene... teachers wave good-bye to the buses as they leave on the last day of school.

Gwenny on Mingyue Lu, the street both our housing compound and Concordia are on.  Walked this way 1000 times!

Lights out, Shanghai...  we've loved you!
In college, Scott sang with a group called New Grace.  On weekends throughout the school year, they traveled in a several state area to perform in churches.  They ended every concert with the same song... and on this last day in Shanghai, the day we move back to the US, it is running through my head.

The time has come, O Lord, for us to leave this place.
Guide us and protect us, and lead us in new grace.
Wherever life may take us, as we go our separate ways,
Help us share with others the things we've shared today.

May the peace of God the Father, and the love of Christ His son,
Guard us in the days ahead, and strengthen us each one.
May the blessings of the Spirit fill us from within.
God bless us and return us to this fellowship once again.

Last day... need to pack up, need to say good-bye to this city and the amazing community we have found here.  Strengthen us, Lord, with grace for the next adventure!  

Hello Chicago....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Last Day at Home

Tonight we said good-bye to our friend.  The place we called the bank when we first moved into it because of its appearance... three stories high and completely square.  We have occupied the first floor apartment in this granite cube for the last four years. 
The girls loved climbing all over the truck last week as it was being loaded.
Today was hard.  It seemed we would never make it out of the house alive. Our shipments have been packed and gone for a week, but somehow there seemed to be lots of stuff still in the house.  I made many trips upstairs to leave random items outside my neighbor's door, and our ayi took many things home as well.  When it was finally finished, Seth and Gwen and I sat on the bare living room floor playing silly games, like balancing various items on our noses, waiting for Scott to return for us after his first trip to the hotel, car loaded with our boxes and bags.  It will take us no small amount of organizing to get this last bit of stuff ready to go with us on our Saturday flight.
I had to shed a few tears as we stood by the car, outside the house in the dark.  The house itself isn't really a place I loved for itself, what with the marble floors inside and the imposing appearance outside.  I loved all the kids that came through that place, though.  All the meals prepared for hungry high schoolers, the sleep-overs, the movie nights.  Loved the time spent in the granite cube with our small group friends.  Loved all the playtime for my girls with the other kids of our Chinese Beverly Hills neighborhood, all the conversations with other moms in the twilight at the little playground.  Hard to walk away from those memories.
Caleb and Zach in his room last week after the packers finished.
Tonight we're in a hotel.  One more day of school tomorrow.  More good-byes to say, and for me I'm sure a few more tears to shed at the all-school closing chapel.  I'm thinking about whether I'll walk "home" from school with Gwen one last time, to stand outside our China house.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Winding Down

Good-byes are hard.  Seems like we've been saying a lot of them.  We said good-bye to Caleb at the airport last week.  We've said good-bye at church and small group and at dinners and coffees and parties and last walks and bike rides. 
Our house has been empty, save our beds and a few other random pieces of furniture, since last Wednesday.  I feel like we are in an extended state of flux.  I told Seth last night that I'm sorry our life is so weird right now... I need to embrace it because we'll be in transition in some form for a while yet.  In many ways I want to leave Shanghai now, this morning, to move on, to move towards some order in our lives again.  But this is a sweet time in its own way...
I'm sorting through the last items in my pantry, leaving things outside my upstairs neighbor's door multiple times a day.  Scott is working steadily at closing bank accounts, phone contracts, and utility bills.  I need to pick up all our records at the doctor, fill out the withdrawal paperwork at school, and host Gwen's good-bye party this afternoon.  Seth gave his portfolio presentation at school this morning, reflecting on his goals for the year in several areas and how he has met them.  I loved hearing him.  He's a confident speaker.   Never mind that all his dress clothes had been packed by the movers last week so he had to borrow dress pants from a friend this morning... it worked.  :-)
I'm getting things settled for our pets, finding places for them to stay until they leave, a few days after us.  Arranging accomodations and rides for animals seems to add to the crazy...  but I am thankful they will be able to join us back to the US.
 So many people we love...
Trying to process all of this, thoughts and emotions are swirling... its not my first time to move, and I know moving is a common experience for so many of us.  I want to help my family process this all well.  I want to process it well myself and some moments of these last days I'm doing better than others.  Knowing that God is behind us and before us, and that His hand rests on our heads helps so very much. 

Wish I could tie these thoughts up neatly, but instead I just get them out.  It will take a while to mentally and emotionally sort all we have experienced and are now experiencing as we leave.  I love the Dr. Suess quote I've seen several places recently, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  I am very glad that China has happened to us.  :-)