I really had the best intentions of getting this posted by January 10th, but being a mom/woman/human in America during and after the holidays will wear. You. Out. But that’s another post for another day….If I hop on down that bunny trail, I won’t get this posted until March. It really would’ve been a great New Year’s post though, so let’s just pretend I made it on time, mmmkay? Thanks. And while I’m asking for favors, forgive me for the length of this post. It’s been a long time since I posted and I’m really excited about it! You have my permission to stop reading at any point…I won’t even know!
This month’s TEN came to me one day in December after saying yet another “goodbye” to some of our very best friends. Over just the last 6 months, we’ve had some pretty tough “see ya laters.” Saying yes to moving our family halfway across the world was an agreement on our part to begin saying goodbye over and over and over again. I know that even in, I’ll call them “normal” lives, (you know, the ones where you buy a house and live in it for more than 24 months at a time?) there are goodbyes. But even though you may or may not think about this part of the missionary life, it truly is one of the few things that remains constant. No matter whether you’re coming or going, there’s always someone or something that is left behind. It’s an oft times painful trade off for “normal,” but we think it’s worth it. In my post from June 2014, I talked about how I’d learned that saying goodbye is hard, but it also means there’s the opportunity to build new friendships, see and learn new things, to grow in ways we simply cannot if we stay in one place forever. I’m happy to say that the difference this go ‘round is that we know what to expect, pretty much, when we arrive in Kijabe. Those expectations include reuniting with friends we can’t hardly wait to see. So, while I’m gonna list our goodbyes, and that’s sad…really sad…just remember, on the other side of the Atlantic, there will be the happiest of hellos! (I am realizing, as I write, that I might have an optimist problem. I simply cannot leave a post on a sad note. I should probably mix it up…but not today.)
Here are 10 goodbyes we’ve said over the last 6 months or so, in the order in which they occurred…
1. THE HIXONS (august).
There’s a family in Wilmington that’s like family to us. We’ve lived in the same neighborhood (off and on) for years, our kids go to the same school, we’ve both adopted from the same place, they were the biggest cheerleaders for Nate when he started Dockside Peds, we’ve made a 12 person emoji blended family via text, etc..and love the way it feels when we are all together. This family, they say inspired by us (why oh why?!) decided to move to Spain for 11 months of cross-cultural living, to learn Spanish and let their kids and themselves experience life in another place. Normally, we’d be super supportive. Honestly, how could we not be? We’d be the pot calling the kettle black after all. But as fate would have it, now that we’ve decided to return to Kenya, that 11 months happens to be part of the small chunk of time we will be in America. They left in August and we were oh-so-sad to see them go. Life in Wilmington just isn’t the same without them. They will return this Summer for all the beach and pool time we can squeeze in before we head out again ourselves. I suppose having our days numbered will force us to cherish each day we will get together. In a twisted way, I guess I have to appreciate that about this life we are living. It sure makes the time together more meaningful.
2. THE KNIGHTS (november).
Returning to America is no walk-in-the-park as one might think. Most people assume that being back in the States must be a relief and that one would be overjoyed to have all that America offers at their fingertips once again. Well, that’s part true. It IS great. But there are certain things that are also missed from the life left abroad. One of those things for our family was having dinner nearly every night with other people. Whether whole families, single ladies or a visiting Doctor in their 70s, we were able to have many interesting and sometimes quite entertaining houseguests. After returning to the States, Sutton asked me every single day, “Who’s coming over for dinner tonight, Mom?!” More times than not, I was faced with that disappointed look as I broke the news that it would just be us, again. So when Corey and Andrea, one of the couples we’d met through a missions team that came to Kijabe from Wilmington, asked in the most heartfelt way what did we need, what could they do to help our kids transition…the first thing I thought of was weekly meals! They instantly agreed. We settled on every Thursday night and just like that, another lifelong friendship was born. Our friendship quickly grew as they could talk with our boys about Kenya. They’d seen firsthand what our experience was like. Their daughter, Lonie, is the same age as Natalie. They, like us, are self-proclaimed “old parents” (40+ with a new baby!). We spent a solid year loving each time we were together. Then, out of nowhere (also a little too much like us), they decided to move to Florida. Noooooooo! We helped them pack, consciously avoided sad goodbyes and promised to visit them in Florida. We know they will be in our lives from here to eternity and for that we are grateful. God had once again provided just who we needed, right when we needed them, but seeing them go is still not fun.
3. THE MESHAWS (december).
There’s an entire post dedicated to the history and story of our friendship with the Meshaws. You can read it HERE, so I’ll keep this short. Suffice it to say, we love them and they love us right back. They were with us when we lived in Wilmington before leaving for Kenya in 2015. They lived with us in Kenya almost the entire two years we were there. They were back here in Wilmington on their home assignment for the entire last Fall semester of school. And they will be there when we return this August. So, while I have thanked Jesus many times over for all the ways that timing has worked out for us to be together thus far…I’m still greedy and can’t help but wish for more! Being in Wilmington without them is simply not the same. They left after Christmas…taking our best date night/talk-everything-through-a- million-times-without-getting-tired-of-it partners with them. Not to mention our kids faithful friends who completely get what it’s like to be a TCK. We waved them out of their own driveway on the last day, consoling ourselves only by commiserating with the family they’d left behind. It was tough and we are still recovering, but again…what a miraculous blessing that we all have each other. And yeehaw for August when the reunion over brick-oven pizza will commence…yet again!
Goodbye “Big Sibs”:
4 & 5: SAM & RAVEN (january).
We moved into our new house last Spring (yeah, we know, it’s hardly been a year and we’re about to move again…it’s fine…we’re crazy). A few months later, two young ladies, who I affectionately refer to as “our millennials” moved in with us. We knew Raven as a teenager back in Kansas City. She went to UNCW for college. After we returned from Kenya, we decided to have her over for once a week meals…because having the Knights over once a week just wasn’t enough for our kids. Ha! Raven frequently brought her gal pal, Sam with her to Taco Tuesday. Our kids fell in love with these two girls, so when they mentioned they were hoping to find a place to stay together for a few months before embarking on their next life journeys, we jumped at the chance to have them in our home. It didn’t take long, for our kids especially to want them around forever. Well, the time flew by and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to Sam and then Raven. Sam is traveling the world as an au pair extraordinaire and Raven is preparing for her Summer wedding…but they both are great at keeping in touch. It helps that we got them addicted to Maggie Joy, so they can’t go too many days without needing a hit of the old Mags’ giggles. The older I get, the more grateful I am for each sweet season of our lives, no matter how short or how long.
6. CHRISTMAS (and other less important) STUFF (january): We are faced with the task of deciding what we will leave in America, and what we deem important enough to take with us to Kenya. This is one of the hardest parts of this entire journey. In many ways, my list has changed since our first trip out. This time there will be more photos in frames, more cozy bedding, whatever makes cooking from scratch easier and anything a child wants to take to make them feel at home. There will also be pepperonis, chocolate chips and real vanilla…for starters. But one of the things that remains the same, is our desire to have just the right amount of Christmas stuff to help us feel properly jolly, nostalgic and serious about our celebrating. I know, I know…we don’t need stuff to celebrate the birth of Christ…but we like it. There’s nothing quite as reminiscent as ornaments from our own childhoods, a stocking my mom sewed when I was a baby, or the ornament I bought for Natalie in a Salvation Army store when she was a year old because she signed “dog” when she saw it. The decisions over the other stuff can be overwhelming in their own way, but deciding which Christmas items to leave behind was a doozy. Did I really need the entire first Christmas album for each child or would one simple photo do? What about the felt pickle to hide in the tree, or Marky our Elf on the Shelf? Could I really leave behind the copy of Twas the Night before Christmas we read on Christmas Eve or that special Nativity set? So many silly, yet valuable traditions come with Christmas. We want to continue those in Africa. One thing I know to be true, is that when you’re a million miles away from “home,” especially at Christmas, having the stuff that feels like home sure helps. Now the deed is done. The boxes are packed and ready to board the plane when we do. No more decisions to be made about what we will unearth in December, or November when Nate starts begging me to begin the decking of the halls. What made the cut, you may wonder? Well you’ll have to visit to see for yourself. You know the mantra of the extrovert…the more the merrier. 🙂
7. 2018. Had this post made it into publication by January 10, this would’ve made more sense. But hey, it’s a little ironic how time got away from me and I’m just posting it now. There have been few years as hard for me as 2018. Too many changes and challenges to write about in this post, but it was tough…mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. If I’m being honest, I can’t say I was all that sad to see it go. I was looking forward to starting fresh in ’19. So many things to look forward to. But even though I was ready for it to be over, and excited for the start of something new, for me, the passage of time also brings a bit of melancholy with it. This brings me to number 8…
8. MY THIRTIES.
Never before has a birthday been a setback for me. Customarily, I see New Year’s Eve as the world’s rightful celebration of the beginning of my birthday month. We, meaning my family and anyone else I can convince to join the party, embark on a month of blowing all resolutions to treat my B-Day self. This year, while somewhere deep inside I knew my 40th birthday was coming…of course I’d thought of all the ways I could use this great excuse as a way to travel somewhere extraordinary…I hadn’t really thought about it all that much. That is, until the middle of the month when I called to schedule a haircut for myself. They asked if January 30th at 1:15 would work? (My birthday is January 31). I looked at my calendar to confirm I could make it, then it hit me. That’s the last day. The last day of my thirties. The end of an entire decade! The end of four decades to be exact. And on average, the halfway point of my life. I spun into a mini mid life crisis of sorts. At least it was brief and I didn’t do anything rash like get bangs or worse, a tatoo (I’m not hatin…just a last minute mid-life crisis tattoo has got to be no good). I philosophised about life way beyond what is healthy, ate twice my body weight in grams of sugar every day and swore to become the fittest I’ve ever been by my 50th birthday. I’m a week into my new decade and, of course, life continues as normal. Hasta la vista 30s. You were great to me. Those decades may be gone, but the future is ahead and it’ll never end. If only I could see a glimpse of the years beyond the years on earth…I have a feeling, if I were ever able to wrap my head around it, saying goodbye to time once and for all will actually be exceptional.
Goodbyes that lie ahead in the next 6 months.
I grew up in the same house until I moved away to college. My parents still live in that house. Our kids have lived in 6 different houses in their short lives already. And when we move back to Kenya, it will be into a different home…just don’t try to argue that one with Beckett…so our grand total will be 7 houses and hopefully holding! Obviously, they know what it’s like to move. They usually adapt quickly and we’ve all learned that home is where we are…all of us together. So, while it’s more the logistics of moving than the emotions of it all, it’s still worth mentioning. We’ve already begun the process of getting our house ready to hit the market in March. Once again, we will be packing things up and moving it back into storage. We love this neighborhood. It’s really the only reason we purchased a home so quickly…a great deal in “our” neighborhood. We renovated, making it ours, thinking we would be in it for longer than what has turned out be almost exactly 12 months. We have quickly met and made some of the greatest friends living here. We will be sad to say goodbye to the culdesac crew and the lifestyle of kids running from house to house so freely. Wait, correction, we won’t actually be saying goodbye to that last bit. That’s Kijabe in a nutshell. Anyways, while moving out of our ‘hood will be stinky, becoming neighbors, yet again with Granny and Grandaddy is always a perk.
10. OUR LIFE IN THE US.
I won’t go into detail here because I’m betting I’ll feel the urge to do a little self-therapy via a blogpost about the things we will be leaving behind come August. But the goodbyes will be many. Grandparents, birthmothers, friends, our Church, the kids’ school, Dockside Pediatrics,Chick-Fil-A, a grocery store that’s fully stocked and 3 minutes from our home, the ability to easily meet up with old friends from the US….the list is endless and I really shouldn’t start, or before you know it I’ll be drinking Sun-Drop like it’s going out of style and eating PTs fries every other day. I can’t think about it.
How can something be SO exciting one moment and SO painfully sad the next? It calls for a word like bittersweet, only filled with ten times the emotion. The goodbyes we’ve had prepare us for the goodbyes to come. And each time we reunite with friends from any of the many seasons of our life, we are reminded why we continue to do this to ourselves. Goodbyes sure are difficult. I’ve heard it said, “Difficult things aren’t easy, but they’re worth it” and I have to agree.