Dear Family and Friends,
We pray that you had a blessed Christmas this year. In our update today, we share with you some of the Christmas memories we made as a family through the above pictures. We had a great 9 days with my parents and sister while they were here. We enjoyed them so much and it was hard to see them go. We would appreciate your prayers for my Dad who had a 101 temp. last night - we are praying that he is doing well today during their day of travel and that his illness will be short lived. We also attached our Christmas letter above that we sent to our prayer and financial supporters - if you would like to be on our mailing list, please let us know! And below, I have copied a letter from my friend Dawn (Nienhuis) Williams who lost her husband in the plane crash this past August (a picture of their family is above). Dawn continues to encourage me in my own walk of surrender and I trust that God will use her words and sharing to encourage you as well. We thank you for your interest in her journey and for your prayers for her and her children. We will send more of her updates to you in the future as she has given us permission to do so.
It’s been ages since I’ve written. The more time that passes, the more I get behind in sharing news. Until I just decided to skip everything that has happened since I last wrote October 6.
We returned home (to Kenya) on November 17/18. Takes about 36 hours of traveling, waiting in airports to get back here. The last few days, the kids were asking me to move up our tickets to they could get home sooner. We were home sick in a very good way.
My sister Debra traveled with us and spent 2 weeks with us. Her husband and 2 little girls, Grace is almost 6 and Greta is almost 1, managed without her. She hasn’t been to Africa since my family visited me in Tanzania when she was 18. I think she found Nairobi much easier than the village I lived in then. We worked hard to get my bags unpacked, and ourselves settled before she left. We even had time to do some shopping and site seeing. She fed giraffes, pet baby elephants, and went on a game drive. We showed her the hangar, Java House and our church. We even made it out to Rift Valley Academy and attended our missions Spiritual Life Conference.
The Lord (and insightful friends) helped me realize that I will not be able to Home School in our immediate future. Caleb and Levi have been enrolled into West Nairobi School (WNS) starting in January. WNS is a Christian School that teaches according to the US school systems. Caleb is in 2nd grade and Levi is in Kindergarten. They were able to visit their classrooms before the school closed for Christmas break and loved it.
Seth and Chloe are on a waiting list to start pre-school in January at Logos. Logos is a Kenyan Christian School where many of my friends have sent their pre-schoolers and spoke highly of. I am confident they will both be accepted. They will be attending 3 mornings a week.
God has brought our Christmas plans together better than I had hoped. I was anxious about this first big holiday without daddy. And the closer we get to Christmas, the more we are expressing our homesickness for daddy. The Sunday before Christmas we are enjoying a turkey and ham dinner with all the fixings and good friends. On December 22 we fly to the coast for a week at the beach. Wanza, our beloved house-help, sent her husband and son to families house with out her. She will be coming with us on our vacation for the first time. I need to ask her if she has ever flown before. We will be staying at a 3 bedroom cottage with other friends, the Hamilton’s. The kids are getting pretty excited.
But going to the beach is something we always did with daddy. And the kids only remember our staying at Amani Acres. Caleb is mourning that we won’t be staying there this time. So I am anticipating that we will be having some ups and downs.
I am exhausted. After not feeling well for 2 ½ weeks, I finally went to the Doctor and was diagnosed with a kidney infection. I should be finished with my course of antibiotics when we leave for the beach. It was a relief to find out there was a reason for how I felt. I am hoping I have some more energy when we get back.
I’ve found that since we started having sit down dinners as a family, things have smoothed out. Our evening routine is finding it’s new normal without daddy. The more routines we can re-establish, the better for our family. When we first began this journey of grief, we were more volatile and each only seeing our own selves. With each of the 5 of us grieving our own individual ways, life was chaotic. But we are starting to be more perceptive of each other’s grief. And helping each other grieve with more compassion. We still each experience melt downs or just the need to cry but we are not where were 4 months ago. We can’t stay where we are, we need to keep walking. This is different than ‘moving on’. There is no moving on that I can see. This will always be a part of our lives, this missing Ryan. We deeply hurt, all the more because of how much we loved him and he loved us. I find that I yearn for him much more than I miss him. I can pretend that he is at work or running errands. Chloe pretends that he is taking a nap or sleeping in. But eventually the pretending catches up with us, and we fall apart and freshly feel our loss again.
I’ve learned so much about grief. I have great books on grief that maybe someday I will have the stamina and concentration to read. But God has taught me so much more about grief through first hand experience than I could have ever learned any other way. I wonder if the God of the Universe became exhausted during his separation from his son while Christ was on the cross. Not exhaustion in a human sense, but that soul wrenching tiredness that comes from separation from a much loved one. My doctrine may not make sense, but I know how I feel and I know what God is teaching me.
For our immediate future, we are on compassionate leave until August 1 2010. Most missionaries who take a compassionate leave, take the leave in their home country. We did take 10 weeks to visit the states and see many of you. But for the rest of our leave, we needed to come home. During this time, we will continue to heal and walk through this shadowy place.
I need to have an addendum added to Chloe’s current home study. The addendum needs to reflect that our home has lost its husband and daddy. Our Kenyan adoption was competed on June 19. For which I continue to say Hallelujah! But we were still working to complete the paperwork and gather documents for Chloe to become a US citizen. The social worker here in Kenya knows that the US Embassy has a deadline on our paperwork of March 2010. God took Ryan before we could get this done. God also knows of the steps we need to take to get this all done.
We plan to have all the paperwork in order by June of 2010 and return to the USA for a much needed 12 month Home Assignment (HA) in our home country. AIM has it set up that if missionaries finish a 2 year term then they can remain on support for a 4 month HA in their home country. A 3 year term means an 8 month HA. Our term will be 4 years and 3 months by the time we reach the USA. No wonder we are tired.
During this time of compassionate leave, I can look into ministry opportunities that will allow us to stay with AIM in Africa. Mostly we are seeking God’s will for what he has next for us. I am not expected to start any ministry until we have finished our HA and return to Kenya in June of 2011. I have my Kenyan Nursing License which is a big plus. I’ve inquired about being a school nurse at Rift Valley Acedemy (RVA) which is an hour outside of Nairobi. I’ve shared with the administration at RVA that I am interested in moving to the RVA campus in July of 2011. The kids will all be school age by then and able to attend school. We would have our own house on campus. The kids can walk to class and I can walk to work.
Over the years of our marriage, Ryan and I talked about what the other should do if something happened to one of us. We wanted our family to remain with AIM in Africa. Both of us were missionaries with AIM before we met. And until God moves us to a new place, we wanted to stay. The months just previous to the accident, we dreamt of moving to RVA when the kids were all school age. Ryan would be involved with maintenance of vehicles or building and grounds. And I would be a school nurse.
Knowing these dreams and each others wishes, it’s easy for me to see us at RVA. At this time RVA knows of our desire but it is too far into the future for them to fore see the staffing needs of Student health. They also can’t know if they will have housing. But so much can change in a year and a half. I have permission to share this opportunity with you so that you can pray for us.
God has brought to mind several other ministry possibilities for us in Nairobi that I have not had time to look into yet. And I might look outside of Kenya as well. My priority is to make sure my kids school needs are being met since Home Schooling will be impossible if I am in full time ministry. Along with that, I am protective of the family time we have in the mornings and the evenings. I want to work hard at the job I will be in, but have energy when I return home to be emotionally present with my kids around the supper table and bedtime.
God knew our families needs and desires when he took Ryan home. He can meet all our needs in his good time.
Our Calender as I see it now.
December 22-29 we are at the beach on a family vacation
January 12, Caleb and Levi begin school at WNS.
March 1, we need to have Chloe’s Home Study completed and turned into the US Embassy
The week before Easter is spring break and we have invited some of Ryan’s family to come for a visit.
Dawn’s to do list:
Write a prayer letter soon.
Gather a list of documents for our Social worker and be available for her to interview us as she writes the addendum
Look into future ministry opportunities
Get a new suspension, tires, and muffler for our van
Get away for a few days on my own for a spiritual retreat.
Be emotionally, not just physically available at Breakfast time, dinner time, and bedtime.
Have some special times with Seth and Chloe while the older boys are at school.
Please pray for stamina for all the kids when they start attending school. And for wisdom for me in how to encourage them to stay the course when they get sick of it after a few weeks.
Thank the Lord for an opportunity to spend Christmas with good friends at the beach.
Please pray for our social worker and myself as we work together to get this addendum written in a timely manner.
Thank the Lord that Caleb and Levi were accepted into WNS.
Pray for the time, energy, and inclination to look into other ministries. I feel like I don’t have the mental capacity to process all of this.
Thank the Lord for our friends.
One has taken on Wednesday nights. She comes over after dinner and helps with baths and bedtime. Then we either chat or watch a movie together.
Another friend is taking the kids to their house for dinner on Monday nights, giving me alone time in my house.
Still another family saves us seats on Sunday mornings and sits with us, allowing me to absorb more of the service.
Many wives have willingly lent their husbands to do odd jobs around the house that Ryan used to take care of.
Please pray for our circle of friends, that they will have their own circle of people supporting them so that their own needs are met.
Dawn, Caleb, Levi, Seth, And Chloe