Thursday, October 25, 2018

Living a country away from our 14 year old

On a special run that Isaac and I ran together in our neighborhood one day last year

Where and how do I begin to share what it's like to have my son go to boarding school?

 Many friends have asked how this first term is going and as my heart has grieved and processed this new adjustment over the last couple of months, I think I've come to a place that I want to share what it's been like. The decision for Isaac to go to Rift Valley Academy has been one Eli and I knew was coming for a long time. Our plan has been that I'd homeschool our kids through 8th grade and then they'd go to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids in Kenya, for high school to prepare them for college. But when Isaac was about 11 or 12 I started noticing a change. He wasn't as content to run around with the younger village boys and his little brothers, climbing trees, fishing, or kicking a ball around. He preferred to work with Eli under the hood of our car or help me with odd jobs around the house. That same year we went to Rift Valley Academy to have the boys tested to make sure they were keeping up and they got to experience a week of school at RVA. It was after that visit that Isaac told us he was ready to start at RVA. That was when he was in 6th grade. We went ahead and applied to get him on the waiting list knowing that it could take a few years. I can't tell you how badly that broke my heart. I knew it was what he needed and therefore what was best for him, but I grieved the thought of him not living at home with us anymore - and it felt premature. I know he'll "leave the nest" for college one day but that's when he's 18, not 14! It's been a few years of constantly giving it to the Lord and asking God to do what was best for our boy (well, all of them) by making it clear when they should go.

Last year we spent in the States and Isaac, Evan and Joshua all got to go to a great Christian private school in South Carolina. We're so thankful for that year of school because it was such great practice for this year when Isaac would be in charge of studying and doing his homework without our supervision! 

When 2018 rolled around, my heart began to cringe again, knowing each month that I was counting down the days until he started school at Rift Valley Academy in August. So much happened in our family with the adoption of new baby brother Carson and then moving to Uganda - a new field. We moved back to Africa only a week before Isaac needed to be at school to start his first day of 8th grade. It was A LOT, let me tell you. I wondered how my heart would manage it all. But truly it was the grace of God.

I remember the morning Eli and Isaac left to catch the bus that would take them to Kenya. Other parents had encouraged us to make our goodbyes short and sweet, not to make it harder than it needed to be. It was early in the morning, still dark, and I was only half awake. My heart was numb. I hugged Isaac, gave him a squeeze and told him how proud I was of him and how much I loved him and then they were off. 

When I had anticipated that day, I thought I would go back to my room and cry for hours. I thought I would cry for days. I thought it would be hard to go along with regular life. But I didn't do any of that. I was so surprised! I went through that whole first day without a tear. Even when our 12 year old melted into tears at the dinner table that night because our family was changing, I stayed unemotional. Until that night. I got into bed and suddenly the tears came. It hurt so bad. I was missing my boy, my first born, the sweet little blond kid that made me a mother. 

The next few days my heart would twist over certain things:
-when I accidentally called one of the other boys Isaac
-when I folded his laundry that had been left behind
-when we only had to set the table for 4 instead of 5

But it was still way easier than I'd expected. I felt guilty about it. Why wasn't I crying more? Why wasn't I thinking about him more? 

We only talk to him on the phone once a week. We might send a few texts here and there during the week but we'd been encouraged by others to release our boy and give him some space to adjust and make friends and not be constantly reaching out to him. He needed some separation. So we decided on a Sunday afternoon phone date and every time we talked to him he couldn't stop gushing about how much fun he was having, how much he loved dorm life and how busy he was! He has told us again and again, "No offense Mom and Dad, but I'm still not homesick. I miss you all a lot but it's like I'm sad about it." 

I think this is why I haven't struggled as much as I thought I would. Because he's so happy. He's thriving. He's made lots of friends. He has great dorm parents. He enjoys his classes and he's doing really well.

In October we got to go to Kenya to spend 5 days with Isaac over his midterm break. We hadn't seen him for 6 weeks. We stayed in a friend's empty house far out of town so we could enjoy being just a family. We soaked up family meals, games, hikes, swimming, and even the things that usually bother us like sibling fights and annoying noises and habits. :)  

As I expected it was hard to say goodbye again when we had to take him back to school- kind of like ripping off a scab. But now we know that in a month he'll be home with us and this time for 6 whole weeks before he has to go back to school.

We day we picked Isaac up at school - this was our first meal together again.

Brothers together again

One of our cool hikes

Isaac said he missed Carson the most!
 I'm not trying to whine and talk about how hard my life is. I'm not asking for your pity. I just know that many of you can't imagine how I could ever do this - send my child to a whole separate country for school before he's 18. Honestly, I can't believe I'm doing it either. But I'm so thankful that it seems to be a great thing for him.

Guess what? Now he's telling Evan he needs to come next year! Evan has decided he wants to go next year. He'll be 13.  I'll be honest. I haven't allowed myself to think too deeply about it. I don't want to think about how it will feel to have two of my babies gone from our home, living in another country. I don't want to think about what it will be like for our 10 year old who will be left behind with a baby brother to keep him company. It's too much right now.

I'm reminded right now of a night in 2006 when Eli and I were preparing to head to Sudan for the first time. Our boys were only 2 and 9 months and I was experiencing an emotional crisis as I wrestled with the fears of taking my two little babies to Sudan - a remote place with no medical care. A missionary friend encouraged me to kneel by each crib as my precious little ones slept and give them over to the Lord. Recognize that they were not mine. They were his. And God wasn't just calling Eli and I. He was calling each of them to Sudan as well. That simple act of kneeling with my hands out and offering my children, these gifts from God, BACK TO HIM, is etched in my memory and I've thought back to that night many times. So I keep on trusting that my Heavenly Father is holding each of my 4 sons in His hands. They are His.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

How are we doing 2 months in?

The pretty street we live on

In some ways it's been a very typical season of settling down:
- unpacking and moving into a house
- getting to know our new town, how to shop in the market, where to buy things, etc.
- finding a church family
- making friends
- starting our home school year

The banana section in our market

But in other ways it hasn't quite been normal:
- we're not in our final home/location yet
- we've traveled quite a bit

Basically: we've still felt like we are in limbo.
Being in limbo isn't a bad thing but as many moms know, it can get old after a while. So we are excited to now have a plan and a flexible timeline for what we can expect for the rest of the year.

This weekend Eli will travel back to Kenya for a week-long Theological training conference and he is taking 2 South Sudanese theological trainers and 1 from Uganda.
Starting the beginning of November, we will take another trip up to Adjumani which is 2 hours away and is the town we hope to settle in by the end of the year. Our next trip will be to try to secure a house for us. We found one that we really liked last time we were there, but we want to look around a little more before we settle on one.

The house we really liked while house hunting

Once we have a rental agreement for a house in Adjumani then we'll need to go on a huge shopping spree most likely in the capital city (Kampala) to buy all the furnishings for our new home. Once we have everything then we can move! Isaac will come home for his Christmas break two days after Thanksgiving and will be home for 6 weeks so we would like to make our move when he's home so he can be involved and feel like it's his home as well. My Christmas wish this year? To be in our new home to celebrate Christmas. :)

It's been an interesting time I'll admit. It was kind of crazy to land in Uganda - a big change from South Sudan - not fully knowing yet where we were going to settle or what our ministry would be exactly. But as we've prayed and sought the Lord and asked daily for His wisdom, He has answered and has allowed His plan to unfold little by little - just enough to encourage our hearts but also to keep us completely dependent on Him. Though never easy, I am grateful that the Lord designs these types of seasons so we can feel and know His nearness and be comforted by the truth that when we are weak and have no idea what we're doing, HE KNOWS and is perfect in His strength.