“Hey mama, ‘member Mississippi? When we went there? Do you ‘member that?” Hardly a day goes by without a munchkin-initiated conversation about our trip back to Mississippi this past June. I can’t blame them, though. It was certainly a memorable trip.
Even though we didn’t intentionally plan it that way, it worked out that the trip back home ended up being exactly one year after the solo trip I took last June. So without even planning it, I was able to spend Father’s Day with my dad in person (again) instead of Skype. My kids were able to attend our home church’s version of VBS, and their class just happened to be led by Kelly. They got good quality time with one of the people I love most, instead of me just pulling up the pictures from the event on Facebook, like I normally would. Then, on the one-year anniversary of the death of Kelly’s mom, I had the blessing of taking her to dinner and sitting across a restaurant-table from her as we talked about the past year instead of spending it continents apart on the phone. We also celebrated my sweet little niece’s 2nd birthday by going to her party instead of singing “happy birthday” over a computer screen. None of that was even on our minds when we bought our tickets. I would have felt so sad and distant to miss any one of those things, but what a sweet blessing from the Lord when I realized all the things I would get to BE PRESENT for!
The trip was originally planned because we needed to resolve some issues with Luís’ US citizenship. (We thought it was taken care of back in Sept of 2013, but it ended up being revoked because we don’t currently live in the US. So we have to go through a different process to get it, including a specific immigration hearing with a judge.) We thought we would tack on a bunch of other “business” items that we needed to have completed, and we had to leave the country in order to renew our visas anyway. Plus, our families hadn’t had the chance to meet Luís yet (with the exception of my parents and Nate’s mom and stepdad), so it would be a great chance to introduce him to the family. We had big plans, and LOTS of things to stuff into 2.5 short weeks.
In the end, we STILL weren’t able to get the citizenship stuff resolved yet, (its a work in progress), but we WERE able to get lots of other stuff accomplished during our trip, like documents renewed and updated, doctors appointments, more doctors appointments, more doctors appointments….
As it turned out, doctors appointments dominated a good portion of the trip. By the time I’d been there a week, I’d been to 6 different appointments for various things. The kids came down with swimmers’ ear, one of Noah’s ear tubes started coming out and got wedged funny and caused him alot of pain, all of our yearly checkups and blood work and vaccinations and more, plus a mountain of GI appointments for Barrett that we weren’t expecting. Our amazing pediatrician referred us to a GI specialist when I told him about a few issues that Barrett had been having, the GI was concerned about several different things and wanted to run alot of tests and ended up doing a full upperGI and colonoscopy, but first we had to have clearances by a pediatric heart specialist because of some heart issues he’s had since birth….. which meant DAYS ON END of doctors appointments. Thankfully, Barrett is doing well now that he has meds and a diet modification, but the few weeks of testing wore us out.
Halfway through the trip, we hopped in the car and drove to Chattanooga for 4 days to see Nate’s mom, stepdad, and brothers. Nate and his brothers haven’t all been together in one place since thanksgiving of 2011, so it was really fun for all 4 of them to be together again. Plus, the boys get spoiled rotten by their awesome uncles and aunt (not to mention their Mammaw and Pappaw), so I had no doubt that Chattanooga would be one of the highlights of our trip. The boys played their hearts out, Nate and I relaxed a bit from the jam-packed schedule we’d had of meetings and appointments in Mississippi, and we were so thankful for the refreshing Chattanooga mini-break we had right in the middle of the trip.
Overall, we got alot done. We accomplished all of the “business” items on our checklist (with the exception of the citizenship stuff). We were able to give reports and updates at several churches, including the one where I grew up, our “home” church where Nate and I worked before moving to the field, and a church in Emily’s hometown of Hattiesburg as well. My parents hosted an open house for us to be able to say hello and spend time with so many people we miss, and we had several get-togethers with family and people we love.
We stocked up on items that we can’t find in Peru (or are ridiculously expensive to buy there) like some specific toiletries, spices, clothes, books & educational material in english, and more. I rounded up an entire wardrobe for all 3 boys for the next year or two (mostly of amazing hand-me-downs so I hardly spent a dime!). I jammed an entire huge, colorful living room rug into an army duffel bag and rigged it shut with floral twine, all because my mom said I could have it if I could figure out a way to get it back. (And it actually made it through customs). Sometimes the little things make a big difference.
But really, even though all of those things took up the bulk of our time, that’s not what I remember most about the trip. For me, it wasn’t a business trip. It was a refueling trip. My tank was running low. I don’t think I realized how low, exactly, but it makes sense that after another international move, adjusting to a new place, starting from scratch, and trying to make progress in piecing together a community here in a new country, I was running on empty.
But then I walked back into the familiar open arms of the people and places that raised me, and I felt myself breathe. And I soaked it up. Every second.
I spent every spare moment I could muster (in between a billion doctors appointments) with my family. Kelly and her kids were practically joined to our hips from sunup to sundown, which is just as it should be. The noise level at my parents house reached new heights every single evening with all of Lacey’s, Kelly’s, and my children stampeding through it. They swam and wrestled and laughed, and the mamas sat on the porch and watched and talked and refereed.
Nate and I had long, lazy dinners with sweet friends that I miss daily and who encourage us more than they’ll ever know. I sat on another friend’s back porch until the early morning hours talking about adjustment, adoption, calling, struggles, and just life in general while I soaked up her wisdom and silently thanked the Lord for speaking to my heart through her. Michelle drove down and spent the night just so we could have 24 solid hours before she had to go back home, then again for the open house to bring food and manpower.
Even though all of those moments were just squeezed in wherever I could get them, they added up to something much bigger. They filled me back up. They gave me the community boost I needed until I can build one here in Arequipa. They reminded me what it’s like to belong.
But still, even with all of those things that I loved and cherish so much, even with the deep joy I found in being present in those moments, I was still anxious to get back to Arequipa. I can’t explain it, but I still felt pulled back to this place where I don’t know many people yet, where I don’t have a community yet, where I don’t belong yet. Because I know that I will one day. The Lord is faithful, and he is steadily drawing my heart into this place. I love the kind of deep community that comes from knowing and loving and living life with other people, and that will happen here, too. It will look different, of course, but it’s supposed to. It’s Peru, not Mississippi, after all!
The steady process of building community here wears me out a bit, if I’m being honest, but that’s okay with me. It’s coming, and it will be worth it. In the meantime, I’ll just take a cue from my boys and “member Mississippi” when I need a little boost.
Thanks for loving us well when we were home, folks. You mean more to us than you’ll ever know.
I decided not to take my big camera with me due to all the luggage I knew we’d be wrestling already, so all I had was my cell phone. I didnt get nearly enough pictures, but here are a few more from the trip…