Tornadoes

Tornadoes. Violent. Out of control.  Can take your life.

Two days after realizing that returning to Burundi was not a reality, I had a dream.  It was the night before we would go house hunting to find a place to land our family after 2 years of high stress, 3 international moves, and a rollercoaster of experiences.  Here is the dream.

I was standing on one side of a beautiful lake that was enveloped by mountains.  I looked over across that water and saw a tornado plowing across the peaks and heading East, to my right. I prayed, “Lord, please let it keep going in that direction, just let it roll by.”  As my words trailed off the tornado turned. It’s power pouring down on the lake that spanned the space between us. It was headed directly toward me.

I was shocked. “What? I just prayed this WOULDN’T happen!” So I turn and start to sprint up the hills into the trees. Before my feet had even begun their race it was lost. The tornado was at my back and I crouched down to brace for impact. Then without sound….or touch….I was suddenly surrounded by a bubble. A ball of air that protected me from the torrent of wind and rain.  I was still in the storm, there was no withdrawal, but I was sheltered as my sphere was tossed and thrown in the tempest. Then, I woke up.

When I awoke form my sleep I didn’t think much of it. I haphazardly mentioned it to my mother-in-law and she looked at me fiercely and said, “Becky, that dream was from the Lord.”  I later broke down in tears realizing that yes, indeed this was a dream from the Lord and one that spoke markedly to my soul.

You see, when we left Burundi in early June we didn’t know if we would go back. We hoped, we planned, but in the end….we had bought one way tickets.  Yet, to get the news and have it all be final that our children were not capable of living overseas without more mental health support, well, that was hard. REALLY HARD.

We had spent years aiming for Burundi. Our family beacon was set on Burundi and each year we took onestep closer. For 5 years we planned, and prayed, and talked with counselors all in preparation for the move. And then, for our time to be up after only 9 months….it was heart breaking. Dare I say, it felt a bit like something, or someone, we loved deeply had died.

I have spoken with other missionaries who have had similar experiences. A quick departure, the unknown of return, and then the final lack of return. And they also say, “it feels as if someone has died.” The grief is heavy, the stages varied, the loss…always present.

Do I feel like we have walked through a tornado? Yes, absolutely. But have I felt the presence of God in the most profound, unspeakable way? Even more so. He has carried us, he has been so near amidst our sorrow. I can say undeniably I am closer to the Lord now than I have been in my entire life.

When tornadoes come into your life run to Him. He wants to be your shelter from the waves. From the pain, anger, denial, doubt, and fear. He won’t take you out of the storm, but He promises us that He will not leave us alone amidst the waves and wind.

Joshua 1:5 “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

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Here and There

 

My best friend delivered her baby, my grandmother passed away,

This morning has been full of emotion, that much I can say!

Last night I graduated language school, Locksley threw up on the floor,

All of this life keeps happening, that I can’t ignore!

My friend adopted her children, Trinity pulled up to a stand,

So many things are beginning  on both sides of our land.

But I want to be there with you and I want you here with me,

To hold our hearts together on the same side of the sea.

To experience life’s joys and all the struggles the same,

To hug you and to cry, in laughter or in pain.

All of these moments keep happening and confirm one true thing,

That our Heavenly Father must be our everything.

He attends all the funerals and all the celebrations the same,

He is our Lord and Savior, and He knows us all by name.

 

 

 

Remember

When we were in Spain last month I went to a breakout session entitled “finding joy in the hard places.”  You can easily imagine that there were a lot of missionaries in that room!  We thought it would be a session about seeing death every day or driving past hungry children every night, but it wasn’t. It was about remembering.  She so perfectly stated that we must remember what God has done in the past in order to find our joy TODAY.  So, in that light, I want to remember. This year has been hard. So, so hard. I have cried more days in a row here than I can ever remember doing before.  The struggle with our kids. The stress with school. The arrival of a new baby in a foreign country. The separating from family.  Darrell and I running our family together instead of him being at work all day….it has all been hard. But I want to remember. There have been such beautiful God moments here and I must remember what He has done so faithfully throughout our time in France.

When we first arrived, a family with 4 kids welcomed us right off of our bus with dinner and new playmates for our kids.

The kids had a beautiful first day of school with only their mother crying!

Trinity was delivered via c-section complication free. One night in the hospital I was crying and right then two dear friends walked in the room. They brought laughter and joy and God knew exactly what I needed in that moment. I also had several moments of begging God for someone to speak English and just at the right moment that person would walk in.

Somehow, by God’s absolute grace I took my first set of exams and passed, with a 4 week old baby.

There were many days that our kids would cry and beg us not to take them back to school. We frequently prayed with them at lunch that God would give them something really exciting and wonderful in the afternoon. More often than not our kids would come home telling us “we got to do a dance class today” (the girls) or “we started wrestling lessons today!” God was so good to hear our prayers.

Hudson was experiencing bullying at one point and we didn’t know if we needed to pull him out of school or not. It didn’t occur to us until a few weeks into it that we should pray for the bullying to stop…and it did, that exact day.

Jack had some really traumatic experiences here, but with each one God has brought a measure of healing through a counselor and through prayer. And by God’s grace Jack has continued to go to school day after day. I could not be more proud of him.

When we found out we couldn’t move to Burundi until our house was done (originally there was a back up house for us) we were worried that the school had another family lined up to move into this house in Aug. But sure enough, God had gone before us and the school has no large families in the Fall so the house is open until Dec.

When I thought I was going to lose my mind in dishes, homework, laundry, diapers, and sleepless nights God would send Hanneke over who would clean up the whole house and help me.

And the list just keeps going. Oh God, you have been faithful. I will stand up and proclaim your faithfulness even in the hard places, even in the storm.

 

 

 

La vie n’est pas encore belle

By Darrell Baskin

Over a lunch break last Friday, I met with Jack’s main teacher who is thankfully very compassionate and wise.  Our five oldest children attend the same French public school, as many of you know; and we typically ride our bikes and scooters for a mile under an expansive panorama of snow-capped mountains to get there each morning returning home for a lunch break before riding back for the afternoon session.  I can’t imagine a better way to spend time with my kids in the midst of a regular old school day.

As a parent whose childhood memories stretch back nearly 38 years to include all-too-vivid accounts of being bullied, scolded by teachers, swatted by principals, and ridiculed by peers, I have felt that I could empathize well and share personal experiences with my children corresponding to each year of their education.  Of course, I also recognized that I never lived in a foreign country or attended a school that didn’t operate in my mother tongue.

When his swimming instructor fist-pounded his head several times at school last fall, Jack swore he would never go back to that swim class, and we agreed, met with the principal and pulled him out.  That was the last straw for Jack’s only other American classmate—he hasn’t gone back to school since.  Jack rebounded well, but we have learned that not all French teachers are reliable, and we’ve taught Jack that his teachers sadly don’t necessarily have his best interests in mind.

When his language instructor ridiculed him and called him “bizarre” in front of his small American class (the Americans have breakout sessions on French grammar about four times per week), I confess that I went and asked some of the other students to verify what Jack said in case it was just lost in translation.  He was indeed called bizarre.  I reported this and how Jack did not like to be forcefully grabbed by the arm by this instructor to the principal.  To the surprise of his teachers, I requested and was granted permission to spend a half-day with Jack at school.  His French teacher minded his behavior in class, but did engage in what I would label “shaming tactics” such as ripping up someone’s paper in an ostentatious manner if they did it incorrectly or giving the students a hard time if they didn’t have the right response to his question.  What was the most difficult for me that day were the small moments when nobody was watching while we walked to the gym (about a kilometer away) when I saw how the kids naturally grouped together and chatted away while leaving Jack with a halo of empty space around him.  Most of the time Jack and I strolled side-by-side, but I took a position at the back to make sure kids crossed the streets, and it was at those times when he would look back and smile at me, that I could see the sad eyes of a lonely boy that haunt me even now, months later, as I type.

A week ago today, Jack was back in the French class (after I had attempted to pull him out but Jack had been cajoled into returning).  This time (per the other two students in class and Jack), another American who was one of his close friends taunted him by repeating in a baby voice, “Oooh, le Français est trop difficile.”  Then his teacher joined in as well, repeating the same phrase and earning the laughter of the other students.  It wasn’t the first time Jack cried in that class, but it was the last.

The sacrifies my children make have not been of their own choice, but mine.  We lived without heat in our van this winter.  It wasn’t pleasant, but despite multiple fruitless trips to the mechanic, we managed it, and if we had to, we could do it again (as we will do the opposite this summer without AC).  But the emotional hardships are harder to countenance.  The only solace I have as a parent who has watched all of my school-age children suffer uniquely due to our decision to move overseas is that I am obeying God.  If there were any doubt about His calling, I would be writing a much happier blog post from the comfort of my home state with a belly full of breakfast tacos right now.

We have filled our free time with as much fun as we could; Jack, Hudson and Seattle joined a ski club and went skiing in the French Alps for 3 months and each skis better than me now (granted that’s not saying much); we eat our weight in delicious, not-too-crusty baguettes every week; we make pizza and watch a movie on Friday nights; we have nerf gun wars almost every day (and we’re taking them apart and modifying them to increase the distance (and pain)); we’ve memorized more of the Bible and talked through our hardships; we get to go on enviable vacations (some would argue that vacationing with seven kids under 11 years old is a bit of any oxymoron).  Nevertheless, the good has not erased the bad nor made it much easier to bear.  We point our children to Jesus as much as we can in word and deed.

This is not going to be a tidy blog entry in which all the loose ends will be tied up in a few paragraphs.  I have forbidden Jack’s teacher from ever sending him to the French instructor (and I will not be negotiated out of this position).  We got permission from the school for him to miss a half day a week to meet with an amazing French tutor who lives up in the mountains, has five kids of her own (in France, this is unheard of) and believes in Jesus Christ.  I felt that one of the best tools for Jack to overcome the demons at school was to help him learn the language—he had been tuning out the French instructor for obvious reasons and usually just puts his head on his desk during much of the rest of the class day according to his main teacher.  She said that when he first arrived, he smiled a lot, was very attentive and made some efforts at speaking, but all of that has eroded away now.  My poor son.

Now that our departure for Burundi is delayed and starting the school year in France next fall is a possibility (that hopefully won’t be realized, God willing that our house gets finished); I have realized the necessity of equipping my son better to tackle the problems at hand.  We had been accustomed to telling the kids that learning French would be great, that it would happen passively and that it won’t be important for them longterm.  But I’m changing my tune and repenting of taking the easy street for my kids rather than encouraging and equipping them more.  Life just seemed too overwhelming to ask of them just one more thing.

I know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him.  Jesus said that if we loved him, we would obey His commandments.  But this is a hard path for me, and I need Jesus to shoulder this burden from me, for it is too much for me to bear to see my children suffer.  Please pray for our family when you think of us.  My Sunday school teacher in West University used to say, “If you’re not sure what to pray for, pray for me.  I could always use your prayers and they won’t be wasted.”  If I could be so bold, I would make the selfsame request for me and my family.

I don’t believe in Sleep

I decided to stop believing in sleep these days,

It doesn’t seem worth it, it only causes delays.

 

Without it my kids have done quite well,

So why shouldn’t I join them and bid them well?

Its always disappointing to wake with a start

To the crying, the peeing, or the blanket’s spark.

Sometimes it’s a hug or even a kiss,

Receiving them at midnight I will not miss.

One baby needs to eat, the other has a fever,

It always seems like I am the midnight receiver.

I shouldn’t complain, I have done well so far

With the coffee and chocolate to keep me up to par.

So tonight I’ll surprise them and never go to bed,

I will watch tv and binge eat instead.

They will be in such shock when they awake and see,

That I am dressed for the day and they can’t bother me.

They shall not be victorious, no I will win this battle

For once they will see who sits in the saddle.

They will stop waking me one day and they will see

What a nice mommy I really could be!!

 

 

 

 

 

The struggle is real

I want to tell myself, “Becky, this is France! No you can’t be sad! You can’t miss home! You have fresh warm bread only a few minutes walk away from your home. Pastries you never even dreamed of to melt in your mouth.   Beautiful mountains frosted in snow outside your window. And your parents have even come to visit.  NO! You CANNOT feel sad!”

But you know what. It happens. Life happens. Frosted mountains don’t take away real pain, real tears, real sadness. There is something to be said for time spent with friends who have known you for years and years. Or family being only a 4-hour drive away. Or chick-fil-a and chipotle rescuing you from making dinner and doing dishes. We have been away from all of that for 5 months now and the homesickness is settling in. It’s kind of like mile 3 in a half marathon. You feel like, “shoot, I’m tired, but I started this and I still have 10 miles to go and that seems like a stinking’ long distance right now.”  (I wish I could use a full marathon analogy but I can’t because I haven’t run one) We will go back to the states, Lord wiling, in 2.5 years. TWO AND A HALF! I don’t even want to tell myself that. To somehow keep it a secret from my heart so I don’t have to hurt. So I don’t have to think of my nieces and nephews growing up and changing and……maybe even forgetting us.

So please pray for us when you think of it. Don’t look at pictures of us smiling on Facebook and think that life is dandy, that we don’t cry and yearn for familiarity and friends that feel like your favorite old sweatshirt, so easy and comfortable to be with because they have walked through life with you. We have really great and wonderful weeks here filled with laughter and funny French stories, but this week has not been on of them.

<written a few weeks ago>

Documenting our journey to Burundi.