Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coming home


How we really felt about flying
 I didn't pack to come back to the USA until 10:30 the night before.  All day I fielded questions about when our flight was, how long it would take, and would we see the cousins right away or the next day.  Ian would ask again why Jeff wan't coming and the older boys asked where we would stay and what car we would drive.  I responded, "I am not sure", or "we will see" as Jeff tried to fill in my distracted answers.  The truth is, I didn't want to come back.  We had finally settled a little more.  We had found our favorite spots to hike to.  We all had beds and enough chairs around the kitchen table to eat dinner together.   We knew our neighbors and looked forward to tea times.  The thought of 18 hours in planes, airports, and security with three boys and no Jeff was down right terrifying.  I felt like a child zipping the blue suitcases and mumbling, "I really don't want to do this, isn't there any other way?"

We woke the boys at 5am and drove through the wet countryside.  Walking into the Edinburgh airport under a large banner that said, you are home now.  Goodbyes, security, the long wait to board.  Luke and Levi are now pros at flying and Ian did amazingly well this time.  Seven and a half hours playing games, play dough, and Lego's on a small food tray.  We watched Mr. Peabody and thumb wrestled.  We ate two meals and Ian went to the bathroom six times.  The poor man in the aisle seat got a proper leg stretching each time he had to let us out.  We landed in Newark, and oohed and ahhed over the American food options.  Customs, more security stop points, another long wait, and onto the smallest plane I have ever flown on.  My parents were at the luggage claim smiling and hugging and asking how it all went.  Ian never cried the whole long day, 5 am Scotland time until 6 pm American time.  And within the first hug it felt right, home is where your heart is, and my heart was with my family again.

We tumbled back into their days and they made room for us.   The cousins all tried to squeeze onto one couch or a small section of counter top just to be together.  My mom made a sign and taped it to the car's dash to remind me to drive on the right side of the road.   They all reassured me again and again that we were not too loud, tired, or cranky for them to handle.  And my dad reminded me that this all would work out according to Gods plans.  Jenny had our favorite foods ready and waiting.  And Phu cooked his famous beef stew.  I am not sure I could have gone through this last week without them.

Because this past week was filled with Visa appointments, paperwork, pictures, applications, and the final trip to the post office to mail them off.  It has been filled with stressful moments and not enough sleep.  My parents helped me with the boys and calmed my fears of doing it all wrong.  Jeff and I squeezed in talks after dinner and late into his nights.  Moments filled with His grace do not always feel graceful.  I have had a week of clunky, messy, falling apart grace.  But this part is done, packaged up and mailed away.  And now we get to wait, pray, and enjoy a little bit of time to say hello to the family and friends we just said good bye to.


There is a place near our home in Wormit that we can walk to.  We go past four or five houses, cross the street, and follow the gravel path under a stone tunnel that the train passes over.  We then walk past the hill top playground and down some steps to the bay.  Just before we left we traveled further down river's edge while the tide was low.  There are small cliffs that jut out that you can easily climb.  At the middle of one there is a spot big enough for three boys to lay down on a large tuft of grass and look out over the river.  The tide comes back in little waves and they rush over the smooth rocks and piles of kelp.  We spent an hour once just watching the tide lap in.  It is a place of being still and knowing.

 "Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10  My mom and dad have quoted that scripture to me growing up more than any other.  Their child with an anxious heart and wild dreams.  It is easy to be still and know He is God on blanket of grass overlooking His creation.  It is painfully hard to do it with life spilled out in paperwork and cranky boys.  But His commands and promises are not conditional.  They are not dependent on our surroundings or frustrations.  So we are waking up  each morning praying for our hearts to be still and to know He is God.  He is God in the post office line and at the computer.  Together as a family and when we are separated by an ocean.  And our hearts and minds can be still because of this.  We get to pick up Jeff from the airport on Thursday, a happy reunion.  If all goes well, the visas for the boys will be in and we will head back to Scotland the first week of August.  Thank you for all the prayers as this transition time stretches a little longer.  We know that in the seasons of stretching we are being humbled and equipped for what is next.  And from the little bit we got to experience so far in Scotland, we are really excited to see what is in store.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The first few weeks in Scotland, the nettle and the dock plant


The weeks leading up to the move to Scotland could only be described as a whirlwind of chaos.  I knew it would be, but knowing it does not give you a ticket out of living it.  My sister swooped in to help tie and tidy all the lose ends.  We set off, two vans packed to the brim with luggage and kids.  Four adults and five kids.  Good byes at the airport and loading carts, a quick security check, and last minute snack purchases.  All went so smoothly, surely this would be a gracious experience.  The plane took off and all was well with team Stables.  Even little Ian, charged up with steroids because of a breathing issues, was a happy camper.  Then the bottom fell out.
 We landed in London, our short layover, with Luke having slept the most at 4 hours and Ian the least, at 2.  Ian's howling began and lasted through a very long security check (too long to recount here, but we have forgiven the son who mistakenly packed the long, sharp school scissors in his backpack.)  We wearily made our way to where we thought we were to go, only to land in the customs line.  The line snaked through the large room, Ian's howling had not stopped and only got louder as everyone in the room turned to look at the commotion.  We reached the front, as passports opened and closed.  We were then ushered into a holding area in the middle of the crowed lines.  Something was not right with the visas.  We had two choices to make, fly home on the next flight to get it sorted, or stay with the boys on visitor visas and fly home to have it all sorted within the next six months.  We gathered the boys, Ian still piercing the air with his cries of going back home and Aunt Jenny and a real bed.  We prayed and decided to go through the long process of getting five more tickets to Edinburgh because we had just missed our connecting flight.  Six hours later (you really do not need to hear of those details other than it was still hard and Ian still was managing to squeeze out yelps and protests) we boarded the plane.  We were welcomed to Scotland (Ian still howling) and crept into soft beds with heavy hearts.

I woke up the nest morning to a feeling that a very large and very alive fish was dropped into my belly while sleeping.  The next five days was a blur of setting up the new home and accounts.  And then the American team came, along with a dear friend to help run the first ever Taybridge Young Life camp.  This whole time every picture taken of breathtaking scenery had Ian clutching my leg and crying about something.  It could be that we were walking and not scootering along or that we were scootering and not walking.  It could be that he was not wearing his blue shoes or that he was.  He just seemed to always be crying and clutching my legs and pushing me away all at the same time and it was exhausting.  He was struggling for control and I was at a loss on how to help him.


















In our walks and exploring we soon found the Scottish nettle (on the left).  It leaves a nasty sting and depending on how you react to it, a rash and large welts.  Not fun.  We talked to some Scots who were not sure why God created it in the first place.  But then we learned a equally important fact.  Almost always near the nasty Nettle grows the  dock plant.  You can pick the dock leaves, crumpled them, and rub them into the nettle sting and it gives almost immedient relief.  We have now gotten to test this on Luke and Ian.  It really works.



So we felt we had a fair share of nettle stings to the heart in this process of arriving and settling.  But God had arranged dock leaves of comfort in ways we could never have expected.  First, we have met some of the most supportive, friendly, and wonderful people that we will get to call friends and neighbors here.  I joke that our house was furnished by the village of Wormit.  But truly, that is how it feels.  We have had to buy very little and it feels like home already.  Someone came with potted flowers and plants outshining anything I gave away in splendor and color.  The dishes given were blue and white print, ones I would have picked out myself.  This home has more windows than our American home.  Which is simply unbelievable.  The views from those windows make me catch my breath every time.  The sky here is like a constantly changing canvas of white, blue, and washes of grey.  We truly are in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The boys had made a "pray about it and see" wish list for the house we hoped we would get.  This was back when we did not know what town or if it would be a two bedroom flat we would be in. Levi said he wanted to be able to ride to the water or school.  Luke said he really wanted his own room.  And I wanted to be near the water and places to walk and explore.  Jeff said he would rather a house than two bedroom flat and we all agreed with him heartily.  All of them and so much more have happened.


This week Ian has had fewer breakdowns.  He says hello to people and yells he loves Scotland as he zips down a playground zip line.  Luke is trying to figure out if he can become a true Scotsman and stay forever.  He is already saying his a's differently after the camp week.  Levi is running into every new experience with a big smile and bright eyes.  (Well, except for trying haggis.)

We feel unbelievably blessed by our life here.  Our church, friends, and neighbors have been a comforting and encouraging community.  I feel like all these little comforts of home, relationships, and surroundings have clinked in like a perfect jigsaw piece.  And so thinking of packing up the boys and I for an unexpected trip home is a bit of a heartache.  But a good one.  I will travel back with three boys and a thick envelope to fix visas and visit family until the paperwork is in order.  Jeff will meet us for the last weeks, and we will all travel back to our new home in Wormit by mid August.  Jeff is staying the first two weeks to continue the work that was started last week at the first ever YL Taybridge camp.  It has been a wild couple weeks of nettles and docks.  But we are so grateful God places us where we are suppose to be.  And that He plants dock plants near the nettles.

Please continue to pray for us and our many unexpected travels.  For Ian's little heart and mind to adjust to all the changes.  I firmly believe this all happened for a reason.  Miscommunication,  misstep, and visa havoc are not out of His control.  We are trusting that this too will become good in His capable hands.  And as much as we will love our early reunion with family and friends we will have already begun the countdown to come back to our new home in Scotland.  Thanks for following along!  Internet is officially in the house so the blog will be back up and running!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Time to smile


     The morning of this picture I had all three boys and Jeff lined up for a hair cut.  We wanted a recent family picture because the last one we had was when Ian was a year old.  Ian is smiling because he was looking at my mom holding the camera and his Aunt Jenny making faces behind her.   The rest of us were looking at my dad because he had a camera also.  We figured the more cameras the better.  One shot would be sure to turn out alright for our Scotland post card.
     We are all still smiling because we have heard good news after good news in the last couple of weeks.  First, I ended up ordering some luggage that was reduced 75% and came with free shipping.  As the boxes came in we unwrapped them chattering about what was going in each.  Lined up against the office wall makes me feel as if this is really happening, and soon.  
     The next great news was that a very important meeting happened last Sunday in Scotland.  It is the first stage of approved funding from a Scottish church. We will be working with this same church directly and they have been a wonderful help in many areas.  This is a big piece of our fundraising that has nearly clicked into place.  
     Just on the heels of that we agreed on the next family to fill these walls with love and laughter.  We officially have renters and they are a really neat family of five.  When my heart was anxious about what our next home would be like in Scotland I would pray for the family that would take ours.  That this home would be a place of peace and a sanctuary from the craziness of life.  To finally meet the family is exciting and encouraging in so many ways.  Now the last few things on the list left to do will be done with a lot more joy knowing who it will bless.
     The next surprise was our cat "Jub Jub" having three kittens in one of the empty luggage boxes.  We had originally thought we would just foster her until we moved to Spain.  Then we didn't move
and we failed to register that she was the first female cat we have had and we were letting her out every night when she meowed.  Needless to say, she was not just filling out from cat food.  Every morning and afternoon and evening I can find three unusually quiet boys laying on their bellies with chins resting on the box watching the miracle of life.  We know we don't have long to watch them but it has been incredible to watch with the boys.
     And now, for me two of the most prayed about, fretted about, handed over to God again and again issues.  Our future home and school for the boys in Scotland.  There is a beautiful house in Wormit, Scotland being held for us now.  We were fully prepared for a two bedroom apartment for the first year because Wormit is a small town and there is not much that comes on the market.  But this is a wonderful fit for us and more than we could have imagined.  
     The Primary school in Wormit looks fantastic also.  There is only one and it is ages 3-11.  All three boys will travel a mile and a half to get there.  From the school you look across the Tay River and the train bridge that crosses it into Dundee.  There is much more to tell you about what schooling will be like for the boys in Scotland but that will have to be its own post. 
     We are still waiting on our visas arrive.  Any day now!  And plane tickets are on hold for a price half of what we expected it to be.  We are overwhelmed with gratitude.  The community in Wormit has been a wonderful support already!  So friends and family that have prayed and wondered how all these big and small pieces would fall into place, they are doing just that.  Today my make up is off and all the guys are dirtier than the picture above but we still have the silly smiles of thanks plastered on our faces.  

  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Philippians 4:6

Thursday, May 15, 2014

300 questions a day

We have flown through three weeks as if it was one.  We are still waiting on visas before we purchase the one way plane tickets.  The best way to illustrate our current mindset is this picture of Levi on a bungee jump ride at the beach last summer.

It is exciting and we are holding on, but it is like trying to take a sip from a fire hydrant each day.  We had spring break, the stomach bug, and a very suprising trip to the beach.  We spent a day with dear friends and said our first of many good byes.  I wrote blog posts in my head and never typed them out.  We cleared out another room and have had rental walk throughs every other night.  Beds are always made and art supplies tucked back into the cabniet before they arrive.

Because the days are so full, I try to spend a couple hours each morning out of the house with Ian.  If we stay here, I eventually start sorting, packing, and cleaning.  If we go to the park or library, I am all his.  Ian loves this time, and I need it too.  He has become a very chatty and inquisitive child.  He will turn four right before our move.  The boys and I read once that the average four year old asks 300 questions a day.  I am pretty sure he goes over that on some days.  Here is a small sampling of them:  "Why didn't God put our numbers on us? Do you know why we only have two eyes?  Where does sand come from?  Why don't the waves ever stop?  Why do you get mad when I whine?  Are you tired?  Why do you get tired?  Why do Luke and Levi have to go to school everyday?  Why did you spell my name IAN when we say E-an?  I think you spelled it wrong.  Why don't you have a baby in your belly?  Will you ever have a baby in your belly?"  All day long.  Those two hours riding bikes, or whispering in the library gives me time to look him in the eyes and answer each one.  The rest of the day is filled with, "I am not sure", "how about you get out the playdough?", or "let's just paint quietly, OK?"  There is little room for any complete answer before he has thought of the next question.  Ian does not like the "I don't know" answer.  He can't bear to think some things are simply out of his comprehensive grasp.
 Once Ian falls sleep, spilling out the last few questions he can muster, my brain switches gears and I begin asking the questions.  Jeff and I sit down to talk about the day and I ask, I wonder if we will get the house in Wormit, or if we will end up in Newport.  Do you think we should order the luggage now or wait until visas come in?  Would we order the tickets as soon as the visas come or make sure everything else is in place?  Why in the world do we have so many legos? I have always been filled with questions.  The questions aren't filled with fear or worry, they are just wonderings that will not all be answered today or even tomorrow.  Luke said one of the best parts of the suprise week at the beach was the the wind and surf was so loud we were all together but quiet.  And he is so right.  It was a windy, beautiful week.  We spent much of it bike riding, collecting shells, and digging shallow pools in the sand.  All of us together, but all quiet.  I spent time praying and thanking instead of asking.  What a beautiful reminder to make room for quiet gratitude in a season of excitement and transition.

Here are some things we are so thankful for as a family:
-clearer direction on where to live in Fife.  We are narrowed down to Wormit and Newport on Tay.  Both are small towns about 12 miles from St. Andrews.
-Incredible support from churches in these areas
-Two great schools that all three boys could go to in the fall
-both vehicles have solid, potential buyers
-a long list of people that would love to rent our home starting in July
-a beautiful home in Wormit, that may be the perfect fit for our family
-and reaching 98% in funding!

Thank you for all your prayers as we near the last month here.  We are soaking up every little bit of time with friends and family we have!
I  
  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The art of goodbye


As long as I can remember I have had great disdain for goodbyes.  I have snuck out of meetings, parties, church services, and relationships because of it.  Call it selfish, cowardly, or many other unflattering names, I still can't seem to embrace the art of goodbye.  It has always felt like an akward dance that I should just sit out of.  It is the one area in life that holds some regret.  So maybe I fling wide the doors to the heart a little faster than most.  And that same reflex that swings wide, can run when it is time for the G word.  I firmly believe that when lives intersect it changes us.  Even if the walk beside a person is a quick one, we cannot stay the same.  I recognize the significance of relationships, I just need to work on the transitions.  And so here I have before me the biggest goodbyes I have had to say.  And I hope to walk it out a little differently.  One can't really sneak out of the country with a husband and three loud boys.  

I have had chances to not run away from goodbyes lately.  Ones that I know God graciously brought us.  Three friends moved as we were trying to leave.  And sweet Shirley left us soon after.  I was a bawling mess as I pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home.  The parking attendant asked me twice if I was family which only made me gulp cry louder and squeak out a "no, I am just a friend".  He finally handed me his own handkerchief and waved me forward.  I almost didn't go.  I had spoken my heart to her face to face, I didn't really need to go, I reasoned.  I almost missed one of the most beautiful goodbyes I have esperienced.  And it did matter.  It helped me process a little more why saying goodbye is a gift.  It is often wrapped in loss and grieving.  But it is still a gift.  I grieve what I can hold but not keep.  What I get to enjoy but not control.  The most life giving relationships are so clearly not about me.



Two weekends ago I met up with college friends.  Sisters of the heart, who stood with me on my wedding day and held each of my boys as newborns.  They saw me before Jeff, before teaching, and definitely before life hit like a hurricane.  And I cringed and hid all weepy as they shared beautiful words.  As much as it made me ache, I needed to hear them.  And I needed to tell them what they have meant to me.  Because that doesn't always happen over coffee or in a quick catch up call.  We are not leaving forever.  I know the goodbyes are temporary.  This one is just a little longer than what I am use too.

I am reading a book, Third Culture Kids, to help the boys get through this season a little more graciously.  I was surprised when I read that transition time has already begun.  And that this part of the transition is one of the more important ones.  My mouth stretched into a line and then frown as I read the healthiest ways to deals with endings.  Head on, full hearted, and embracing loss as part of the process.  That there indeed is an art to goodbyes.  It is important to let a person know what they have meant to you, to not hide from the emotions that surface, and to be grateful for the chance to have experienced it.  And the most surprising part, the importance of giving freedom to express the loss.  To wrestle with the grief, so that when you land on new soil your heart is tender and not cracked dry.  It did not talk at all about it being okay to just run the opposite direction if all seems too hard to deal with.  I am so glad I got to read that before the boys begin their goodbyes.  I will not try to hide the loss from them but recognize the gift wrapped inside it all.

 "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

To store and to take



After the last post many people have asked me what we will be storing and taking.  The few things we are storing at my Aunt Margie's are family treasures.  The dining table that use to be my great Aunt Julia's.  It is where some of my favorite memories have taken place.  Where we sit to eat, paint, write letters and do homework year after year.  It is where Uno and Monopoly are played late into the night.  And where some of the most important conversations and deepest belly laughing have taken place.  Our bedroom furniture will be stored with the table also.  My parents had it when I was a girl and my mom's parents had it before her.  I remember watching my mom put on her perfume for a date while sitting at the desk where I now write thank you notes.  The sideboard my parents bought as newlyweds and the blue wedding china that was my grandmother's, a few blue glass pieces, and the polish pottery from Aunt B.  And I cannot not forget the basic kitchen items worth storing.  My kitchen was never as well stocked as my art closet, but my mother in law gave me a beautiful cast iron dutch oven this Christmas that my sister will now cook soup in.
So what made the list to take?  Favorite photos that will remind us of our stories, art work, and few other things.  They hold no monetary value but tremendous heart value.  I will take one blue glass piece my sister gave me in college.  A letter from my grandmother reminding me to give and save before I spend.  And a book my mom and dad gave me in college, the note written inside making it impossible to part with.


I will bring the clay pieces the boys have made.  The toothy play dough grin that Levi made when he was four.  It's lopsided grin has smiled me through every dish washing for the past five years.  And Luke's happy made up creature he made when he was seven.  His yellow mitts held up in the air, seeming to always yell "hurrah, isn't life grand?"  One of the drawings I bring will be the picture Ian drew last month.  The one where Levi is towering over me with his hand outstretched and resting on my shoulder.  I love that one piece of art more than any I have created.

Luke wants to bring some of his favorite books. The ones that he pours over late into the night.  Each one picked out by a Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle that knows him well.  Levi is convinced he can pack every Lego piece in the house.  With generous Young Life guys having given the majority, I am pretty sure a large amount will be left at Grandma's house.  Ian wants to pack all things Nerf... and Jub Jub, the cat.  Jeff is happy to bring some books that have helped him get through ten years of ministry with a heart still full.  The things we will take will remind us where we have come from and who we say good bye to.  They will bring pieces of our past and our home with us to begin a new chapter.  It is pretty interesting that a house full of beautiful things can get whittled down to papers, photos, and handwritten notes.  So we plan to land in Scotland with a light load but with very full hearts.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We are blessed to be a blessing

People ask often why we are not just storing everything.  The truth is, our storage options are limited and we don't feel the need to hold on what life looked like before moving to Scotland.  We know when we get back years from now, everything else will have changed. 

So far the emptying of the house has not been too hard.  It has not been fun seeing how much I crammed in a closet or what I have needlessly held onto for years.  But the sorting through and letting go of everything is quite freeing.  Almost everything in our house was given or handed down to us in the first place. We will take one or two suitcases and carry-on each.  We know that half of those will be filled with clothes, bedding, and towels.  The other half will be for items of the heart.  And for each of us that looks different.  I am sure Luke's will be filled with books and Levi's crammed with Legos.

The first boxes I filled to give away were done quickly.  Filled with nick knacks,  books we had read, and clothing outgrown. Easy.  But this last week I filled up the boxes slowly and deliberately.  One was filled with most of my blue glass collection I started in college.  Another with candle sticks and platters from our wedding, and mugs and plates the boys first drank and ate out of.  The two prints that have hung in every home got placed in a box and removed at least twice before the final box got taken.  My favortite blue pot is still sitting on my door step.  I am waiting for the daffodils to bloom one last time for us before giving it to a friend.  And the pile of what we will take or store is getting smaller with every box I deliver to a friend, a thrift store, or consignment shop.

It is funny how the things you have amassed and enjoyed for years can become just things.  Still meaningful, but also replaceable.  When you only have a suitcase to carry with you, you choose the few things that can't be replaced.  I think of how much time I have spent organizing and corralling all the stuff in our life.  How so much of it was not used daily.  

And it feels great to let it go.  One of my favorite sayings is an African proverb we heard at the first Young Life international meeting we went to.  It was over seven years ago and we snuck in because we were curious. At the end a man stood up and with a heavy accent shared "We are blessed to be a blessing."  He spoke about how blessed Americans were, how much we had been given.  And he encouraged us to pass it on.  To not hold on to it all.  I keep replaying that in my head as I pack another box.  It is in the giving this month, that I see how blessed we are.

For those who are curious, we hope to rent a furnished apartment or house in Scotland.  There seem to be many options for renting furnished.  If we are unable to rent furnished there are many "Charity shops" that have been described as really nice thrift shops.  Thank you for your prayers as we near the move date.  We are close to being fully funded and are still pressing ahead in the last bit to be raised.  It will be wonderful to take one more ball out of our juggling act.  The boys are ready to finish the school year well and have more time with family and friends.  If you find a box of random things on your doorstep, know that we are just passing it on.