Monday, June 27, 2011

Couldn't Have Done It Without Them

 Here's that picture I was talking about...fried noodles never tasted so good!  And sitting down for 10 minutes helped too.  Love these two wonderful women!
Here's the men, putting the final tape on the final piece of furniture--the girls' stairs from their bunk bed.  We used 16 FULL rolls of tape!  Can you believe it?  Crazy!!

Some of our dearest local friends, helping out when there was a true need on our part.  It's the body of Christ in action!  We appreciate them so much!  Thanks to all and to all who were praying.

NEWS FLASH:  We just got word that our crate was just this moment loaded on the ship!  PTL!  We hope to see it again!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Before, During, and After

 Here's a brief glimpse of the packing process...just a few of the hundred or so pictures I took in the last week.  The girls' room before the serious packing started is above, below is during...
 And finally, after: taking apart the bed and clearing out the final pieces of furniture.
 Below: our awesome friend and administrator extraordinaire, without whom this crating would NOT have been possible, at work on her computer and two cell phones all at the same time:  LYNN!
Wow, if you can work in this environment, you can work anywhere!  Thanks Lynn!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Packing Craziness!

We've just lived through one of the most challenging weeks of my life.  And we're still alive!  A bit sleep-deprived, but thankful for how things worked out.  We've seen some amazing answers to prayer, even what could be called "miracles" this past week!  Here's what happened:

On Monday afternoon, June 13, at about 4:30pm, we suddenly found out that our crate would be leaving this country FOUR days earlier than expected, on Monday the 20th rather than Friday evening the 24th.  The change had to do with the boat's schedule and the change to a boat which would go to Los Angeles rather than to Norfolk.  The Norfolk route was cheaper (because of trucking costs in America--it's closer to Louisville) but the LA route was much faster.  So in order to receive our crate in about half the time, it made sense to make the LA ship which was leaving on the 27th.  In order to make the LA ship by the 27th the items needed to leave our house by the 20th to go through the customs process.  Yikes!

We had been planning to begin the serious packing as soon as possible, but this news jump-started us into hyper action.  Almost as soon as we found out, Lou, my helper, sized up the situation and said, "Let me take the girls overnight to my house, they can play tomorrow and I'll bring them back tomorrow night in time for supper."  What a blessing!  So I hurridly packed a bag and sent them off with Ayi.  They were SO excited!  That was the first of many days that the girls spent playing with friends--actually, I felt like that was such an answer to prayer.  The whole week, things just "worked out" that almost every day they got to escape the craziness of our messy house and go play somewhere more fun, and I was able to keep getting things done.  Praise the Lord for friends who were willing to watch the girls!  They had a lot of fun and I certainly appreciated it!

John and I spent the first of what would be many late nights packing and packing, sorting, discarding, making piles to give away, and organizing what was left.  Every day we could see good progress but as the days slipped by it was obvious that there was still a lot of work to be done, we couldn't let up!  I think John averaged about four hours of sleep per night until Saturday night, when he stayed up the entire night working on lots of the packing details.

This whole "ship your things to another country" business was actually quite complicated.  For one thing, there was a lot of paperwork involved.  As well, things had to be packed very specifically.  Five months ago already, John had filed some preliminary paperwork with the customs office in our city.  They had asked for an estimate of what we would be taking back in terms of categories of items and number of items.  So, for example, John estimated Clothes would take up 9 boxes, Household items would take 13 boxes, Books would take 8 boxes, etc.  We found out early in the packing week that the local customs officers were going to hold us to that estimate.  We could pack less than the estimate, but could not exceed it.  Miraculously, John was able to make it work EXACTLY and we got our things into the number of boxes that he had specified.

The sorting and organizing was challenging enough but then it was time to actually pack the boxes with itemized lists to go with it.  The list was supposed to be very specific: i.e. box 29, in the kitchen items category, with one cutting board, 50 pieces of silverware, 12 bowls, 15 plates, etc.  Then after the boxes were all packed and lists made, those items had to be valued (i.e. the forms required a value put on each item) as well.  Finally, the boxes were each wrapped in brown paper to give a uniform look, taped very securely, and numbered on the outside. 

After the boxes were packed it was time to break down furniture, wrap the wood from that furniture in bubble wrap, taping and numbering, and also take apart the couches and soft furniture and wrap in cloths.  What a process!  Throughout the week, but especially at the end, we had a LOT of help from friends in wrapping and packaging our items to customs specifications; I'm so thankful for that and for them!  We even had fun during the process!  Sunday afternoon it was me and my two best Asian girlfriends working together in my living room; we had a great time and it made the work go so much faster.  We then sat in the kitchen at 8pm, eating fried noodles from a streetside vendor for supper with disposable chopsticks.  What a memory!

A major difficulty occured on Friday morning.  Here's where we truly saw the Lord do a miracle.  Our dear friend Lynn who is also John's office manager called that morning, very stressed.  She had just received news that our original packing company suddenly dropped us; there had been some discussion about taking a personal crate of items (as opposed to a company's) and they just very suddenly decided that they could not agree to ship our items anymore.  So without warning, on Friday, THREE days before our stuff was supposed to leave the country, we had NO shipping company, NO boat contracted, and all the paperwork previously done was null and void.  The only hope was to quickly find a new company (which, miraculously, Lynn managed to do), then rush down to the customs office and re-file the paperwork before they closed on Friday afternoon.  If you know anything about paperwork and government offices in this country, you know it is a rare thing to accomplish any major work like this in a day, much less a few hours, much less in the hour before the office closes for the weekend.  But, the Lord is so faithful!  He gave favor with those who were working that afternoon; they were willing to help and be patient as John and Lynn resubmitted a bunch of paperwork.   It is just amazing that it worked out!

That was not the end of the paperwork, by any means, but at least it got the process going again.  By Friday night at 7pm, the situation had changed completely.  A new company was willing to take us, they arranged for passage on the boat we previously were hoping to ship on, and the paperwork process was well underway.  Saturday all day John and Lynn kept working--the packing list had to be translated, insurance had to be arranged, and myriads of other details.  Lynn had her computer set up, John had his set next to hers, she had her two cell phones out that were constantly ringing, John's phone was also frequently in use--it was like Grand Central Station! 

But it was Saturday late at night that John started looking again at the size of everything and wondering if everything was actually going to fit in our 20-foot container.  So he began to measure, and re-measure, and make a packing plan, and he ended up measuring off a space in our (by then nearly empty) living room and beginning to try to fit everything together.  My amazing, wonderfully thorough, great-at-details husband actually drew a design with measurements and every item listed specifically so as to make sure that everything was going to go in.  This is what took him all of Saturday night!  Wowza!  I got up blearily at about 5 and asked John if he needed my help but he told me to go back to bed, which I did for another hour or so, thankfully. 

So, knowing all of that history, it was a true miracle when on Monday morning, with the help of many friends and by the sheer grace of God, four flatbed trucks were loaded and trucked to the outside of the city with all our household belongings where they were then loaded (with John managing the exact placement of items) into the 20-foot metal box where they will spend the next month.  Hallelujah, it's done! 

Three years ago when we moved to our current apartment, I hoped to never move again.   But, the Lord has His plans and here we are, moving.  I am so thankful for His help and strength this past week.  He gave John much strength and wisdom to direct the packing, he helped our friend Lynn manage a lot of the paperwork details, he gave our friends the desire and willingness to help us at crucial times, and he kept all of us from getting sick, hurt, or losing our minds.  (A few tempers might have been lost briefly, but we all still love each other.  :))  So thankful for the Lord's grace, so aware of our weakness and limitations!

Well, this post has been long enough.  But, glory to the Lord for His faithful help and care!  This past week was all about things but our next week is all about people and saying goodbye.  I'm not sure which is harder!  However, if our things end up in the bottom of the ocean, I may shed a tear or two but they're just things.  I think saying goodbye to dear friends and this 8 year season of our life here is going to be hard in a much more significant way.  We hope to finish strong with His help.  We'd appreciate your prayers!

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Girls

These are my girls.  I love them!
Clara Anne Danielle, 6
Chloe Rachelle, 4 (almost 5!)
Christin Arielle, 3

Update on my Parents

Many of you have prayed for my parents in recent weeks, especially around the time of my mom's surgery.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  Didn't we see the Lord act in amazing ways?  I wanted to just write a brief update now to let you know what's going on in the past few days and weeks.

My mom continues to recover from the surgery and still so thankful to not be facing chemotherapy or other treatment for cancer.  We are still rejoicing that there was no cancer found in her body!  The incision is healing decently, but Mom has had some trouble with her digestive system.  She is not able to eat normally, her stomach churns and seems to reject the food that she is trying to eat.  It is quite painful for her.  Last week she ended up back in the hospital again for some serious tummy troubles.  One radiologist thought that the results of a CT scan showed a twist in her bowels, and that would have meant another surgery.  We are so thankful, though, that after the local hospital forwarded on the results to Dr. Rojas (her surgeon from a few weeks ago) in Sioux Falls, he did NOT agree and felt that surgery would have been very unwise and risky in her case.  So Mom was preserved from that dangerous situation, and though they still don't know why she is having trouble at least she is not facing another surgery and recovery.  She is home from the hospital now and trying to eat a bit again.  Mom has her 6 week follow-up appointment with Dr. Rojas on Tuesday and I'm sure they will talk through some of these things then.

I had mentioned before that my dad had been having some issues after his heart attack in December; some trouble sleeping, some restlessness and anxiety, and trouble making everyday decisions or focusing on a task.  In recent weeks it was decided that he should no longer work because of some of these symptoms, and so he is now at home.  Apparently these kinds of problems can occur after a heart attack, and recently with Mom's health in such a precarious place it has been especially difficult for Dad.  Of course that makes it tough on Mom, too; she is trying to do what's best for Dad but also trying to regain some health and strength herself.   The plan at this point is to have Dad evaluated by a team of doctors at a Behavioral Health hospital in Sioux Falls the same day that Mom goes back for her appointment, on Tuesday.

If you feel led to pray for my parents, here are some specific requests:
*That both Mom and Dad would cling to the Lord and His precious promises, that His word would encourage them!
*That the doctors would be able to get to the bottom of what is causing Mom's stomach issues and pain so that she would be able to eat normally.
*For wisdom for the doctors who will see Dad on Tuesday, to understand accurately what is going on and know whether hospitalization for him is necessary in order to observe him more closely and help him function more normally again.  For strength for Mom and Dad, no matter what happens.
*For thankfulness and hearts that trust our loving Father, knowing He always acts for our good
*For good rest for both Mom and Dad, that they would sleep well at night, safe in His hands
*For all of us as we eagerly anticipate being reunited in a few weeks!  Sixteen days, to be exact!

It is hard to share some of these personal needs, but I felt prompted to do it because when there are more of us praying together for something, there are also more of us praising Him when we see Him answer!  So thank you for your prayers.  He is honored by our trust in Him and we are thankful for you all and your care for us.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Let's get Moving!

The month of June is rushing by, it's (past) time to give a little update on our moving plans!  We've had some pretty busy days recently, including a just-completed marathon weekend where we hosted guests three times and had four other gatherings with friends.  We spent some time last week saying goodbye to favorite places around town, finishing up some homeschooling, as well as celebrating Chloe's birthday early since by the time her birthday actually arrives the house will be completely packed up.  I have several hundred pictures from those days but will make no promises about when they might be posted!  Since moving day is approaching with lightning speed, here's our timeline:

This week we MUST get the bulk of our packing done.  We found a shipping company which will allow us to crate our furniture and household items back to the States for a reasonable cost.  This is such a blessing!  When we bought our furniture, we planned to be spending the next 20 years, give or take a few, here in Asia.  But since the Lord has led otherwise, and there isn't much of a market for second-hand items here, we are so thankful to be able to keep our things and continue to use them in the States.  This also saves us the hassle of having to purchase things all over again!  Obviously, furniture--our piano, sofas, beds, etc--is the main thing, but there's no doubt that all that household stuff adds up too.  Kitchen items will fill many boxes, I'm sure, as well as dishes, framed decorations, clothes, shoes, books, and all the random STUFF that is useful to have around the house.  We will leave behind the majority of our electrical items since they won't work in America; we have plans to bring a couple of things and run them on a converter, but the majority of kitchen appliances, lamps, washer/dryer, etc, will all stay here and in fact have already been sold to friends.

The shipping company has certain requirements for us.  By June 20 we must submit to them an itemized list of the number of boxes and larger items we plan to put in the shipping container, for customs purposes.  The truck will come on the 24th to load all of those items into the container, and then we will have a few days of "limbo"--without any furniture or household items but still here; we'll probably stay with friends--and then we leave the 29th at 11:30 in the morning. 

Obviously there are a ton of logistical details to making a move like this.  Let me just say: if this wasn't the Lord's very clear direction, I would never want to do it!  I'm very settled and used to my life here in Asia.  I can speak well (enough), I have friends, I have a house helper, I feel glad and thankful for the work we've been able to do here.  Packing up and moving my whole family overseas sounds like a lot of work!  To be truthful, I'd rather be snuggled up with my girls, reading aloud and sipping iced coffee.  BUT, this is the path HE has us on.  His direction has been clear and confirmed, again and again.  I have no doubt that we are doing the right thing and following Him.  I just wish there was no packing involved!  (can I get an "amen"?  Anybody else hate packing?) 

In the midst of the boxes and mess that my house is right now, I'm trying to steal moments to soak in the presence of the Lord and let Him prepare my heart for what's coming as well.  When the girls bring something up about the move, I try to stop everything and listen.  The other night, while sitting at supper, Clara Anne observed, "You know, Mommy, you have only lived a small part of your life here in Asia.  I have lived my whole life here."  I affirmed that yes, this was true.  She continued, "So, it's different for me to move to America than for you."  Again, I agreed, and reassured her that it's natural for her to feel some sadness at the idea of leaving the place she's known as her home for her whole life.  But, there is also excitement at what is coming.

When asked recently about their feelings about the move, Clara Anne's words were: "I am so excited to see Grandpa and Grandma and Grandma Ann again.  But I don't want to leave home."

Chloe said: "I want to go to America.  Can Ayi (our house helper) come with us?"

When asked directly if she was excited to go to America, Christin said, "Yeah!"  And that was about it.  :)  She's definitely the least aware of what's happening, not surprising since she's only three!

Any and all prayers for us would be appreciated this week!  We meant to start the serious packing last Thursday already, but various things happened instead and now tomorrow is looking rather booked with other things as well.  Soon and very soon, it will happen.  It MUST happen!  The clock is ticking!