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That's a Whole Lot of Thoughts

Johnny's recent airplane picture.  I am the pilot (so he tells me).

These are the days my mind is in many places and many times.

Thinking about here:  How do I prepare my house to be empty for four months?  Buying lots of dog food, going through piles of papers I had put off.  How do I make sure our workers get paid?  What does the landlord need to know?  What clothes can we give away before we leave?  Making sure the kids are caught up on vaccinations and doctor's appointments.  How can I use up everything in my pantry?

Kids:  Mom, the ketchup is finished!

Me:  Too bad.  We're leaving in a week and I am not buying any more ketchup.  Eat your eggs plain.

Thinking about life when we return:  I will hit the ground running when I come back on August 4th.  What can I learn from the current principal before I go?  I've been shadowing her, asking hundreds of questions, talking to all the current teachers.  I am stuffing my brain with schedules and facts and feelings that others are giving me.  

Everything will change when we come back.  Johnny will be in kindergarten.  I will be a working mom.  What can I teach my houseworker before I go?  What new responsibilities will I ask of her?  We cleaned out the kids' toy room and easily boxed up half of their things to give away.  They don't play with many toys any more, and Johnny will no longer be home.  For the first time in 10 years, I won't have a pre-schooler with me all day.  I gave away Candyland and the alphabet practice books.  I once yearned for the end of those days, and now that they are here, I am sad.  

Thinking about preparations to leave:  Getting school materials from all the kids' teachers so that I can homeschool them for their third term.  Writing to churches and scheduling visits for when we are in the States.  Working through our home assignment budget with our business manager.  Communicating with a friend back at home who will make us a video of our ministry to show to everyone.  Buying gifts to take back to friends.  Renewing the car insurance.  Making an appointment to get the girls' hair done.

Josiah:  I'm really excited about going to America, but I'm also really sad.  I'm going to miss my friends.

Welcome to the world of bittersweet emotions, kid.  You're learning it young.

Grace is sad she will miss Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and her 5th Grade Graduation at HOPAC.  Josiah is sad he'll miss Sports Day and the 5K run.  But simultaneously, they both are counting down the days and announce it every evening.  They are educating Johnny about Chuck E. Cheese and garage door openers.  Last week, we received a package with the Christmas cards from our home church.  We reminded the kids, See?  You know this person!  Do you remember playing with her?

Last week I told the kids to put their shoes on at dinner time because a lightbulb had shattered in the dining room.  They all commented on how weird it was to wear shoes at dinner.

Me:  In America, a lot of people keep their shoes on in the house.  If you visit someone else's house, you keep on your shoes.

Josiah:  REALLY?  Like, what if your shoes are all muddy?

Grace:  They have these things called sidewalks in America.  Your shoes don't get muddy.

Dad:  There is no dirt in America.

Me:  There are no cats in America.

*cue family singing while Johnny looks on blankly*  I guess we need to show him "An American Tale."  

Thinking about the journey:  Of course, this part should have been routine, and then last week America decided that it didn't want people who are flying through the Middle East to carry their electronics on the plane.  So where are we flying through?  The Middle East.  Thanks, America.  My brain didn't have enough to think about already.  Yeah, going back to the Dark Ages of Children-Before-Ipads is one thing, but honestly, making sure our valuable electronics get to the States unbroken and unstolen is a much bigger worry.

Thinking about there:  Dreaming about salami and sourdough bread and good yogurt and nectarines.  Planning vacations with our families.  Emailing with friends who want to see us (one who will travel all the way from Wisconsin!).  Anticipating hugs and conversations and nostalgia.  Daily adding to my list of things I will need to buy in America.

We are so excited to see all those we love deeply, yet I know acutely that the joy will also be a poignant reminder of the loss.  My six-month old niece is now three years old.  My own 5-year-old is now eight.  There will be the three nephews we have not yet met.  Joy, but sorrow, because we can't get those years back.

It's funny though, that in spite of all the looming change and mixed emotions and scattered thoughts, there is now something new in my brain:  Familiarity.  I have done this so many times now that even the craziness seems routine.  I can fit my emotions into predictable categories:  Yes, I feel this now, but I know it won't last.  I know I will even out.  I know it will be okay.  I know there will be stress and culture shock and joy and sorrow and frustration, but I know it.  None of it surprises me anymore.   And there is something deeply comforting about that.

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