Right now I’m sitting with my ear glued to the monitor while the boys nap. Normally, I use naptime for things like cleaning, packing, sorting, laundry, dinner prep, and hammering through my To-Do list for the move…you know, productive things (except for weekends, which is also naptime for me!). But not today. Today, I sit here and blog while I listen intently for the first peep coming from the closet where the boys sleep. Why? Because this nap is the first time the boys have ever slept on a mattress. The first time in big-boy beds (which are really just crib-mattresses on the floor), and if there’s a bunch of giggling or shuffling around or bed-jumping coming across the monitor, I need to be able to go in there and lay down the law.
It might not look like it, but this is mission-field prep.
Before I started getting ready for the field, I always assumed that preparations went something like this: Raise your money, pack your stuff, sell the rest, and go. Doesn’t sound too bad. What a naïve little pre-missionary…I knew nothing! I’m still a naïve pre-missionary, and I still know nothing, but now I’ve learned that there’s alot more to preparations than that. And every single day it looks different. It takes many forms.
Preparation is raising the money we need to fund a ministry in Latin America. It’s a crazy travel schedule and resigning myself to the fact that I haven’t been home for more than a few days at a time since January. It’s knowing that every time I pull out a suitcase, my kids whine and fuss and get clingy because they know I’m about to load them in the car again. It’s being able to pack 4 people for a 3-day conference weekend in about 20 minutes, because I’ve done it so many times.
Preparation is selling my house and sorting my stuff into categories like “Goes to Colombia,” “Stays in Jackson,” “Sell,””Donate,” and “Trash.” It’s having a dining room full of plastic bins with labels as I try to figure out which pieces of my life are important and which ones are expendable. I’m not gonna lie…that part is hard.
Preparation is trying to get ready for a bunch of random uncertainties. Like learning how to give my boys haircuts in case it’s hard to hunt down a hairstylist who speaks English in Bogotá. And stocking up on Gillette Venus razor cartridges in case I can’t find them in the store there. And buying waterproof tennis shoes for the days I have to walk to the bus in a downpour so I can get to language school. And a stroller with monster-truck-wheels that can handle the insane Colombian sidewalks.
Preparation is streamlining. It’s transferring all of my favorite recipes to my computer so I don’t have to make room for a heavy cookbook in my valuable luggage space. And scanning all my photographs. And transferring all my books to Kindle versions. And boxing up all my originals and leaving them in a box labeled, “Originals: JXN.”
Preparation is researching. It’s figuring out which visa is best and where we have to go to apply for it. It’s finding a good CPA familiar with international tax law and an attorney to help us make sure we’re legally prepared to live outside the US. It’s being informed and up to date on vaccinations, medical records, checkups, and appointments. It’s figuring out the cheapest and most efficient way to get our family and our 15+ duffel bags and footlockers to Colombia.
Preparation is soaking up the time I have left with people I love, and storing the memories to hold me over until our first trip back home. It’s spending time at the condo with my family. It’s going to the park with my best friend and her kids. It’s giving my grandmother a webcam for mother’s day so she can Skype with her great-grandtwins. It’s having the boys’ friends over for playdates even though my true motive is just to spend time with their mamas. And silently asking God to prepare my heart to leave it all behind.
Preparation is spending time in the Word, prayer-journaling, praying for the missionaries I know and love, and asking God to please put it on other’s hearts to pray for us when we’re gone. It’s asking God to build new and lasting bonds with the team we’re joining. It’s trusting that God is going to teach me how to depend on him for everything, including how to do my goodbyes gracefully and still have rock solid long-distance friendships from afar.
And today, my preparation is manifesting itself in transitioning my children to real beds so that I don’t have to haul 2 pack-n-plays all over the place every time we travel. Not to mention 2 less things to check on the airplane along with the mountain of duffel bags and footlockers when we move. And to be honest, I’m not really ready to move them to big-boy beds. I’m not 100% sure they’re ready for big-boy beds. But I know it’s one more thing that needs to happen to get us ready to go, so we’re doing it. This is preparation.