Enjoying normal

aby

Abyala started to read.  Words on a page.  Inflection in her voice.  Sounding out consonants and vowels.  Beside me in bed.  Oh my heart!  Years ago, I dreamed of the day,  realizing that living overseas would probably mean that I would get to teach her how to read.  Many days I was overwhelmed by the thought because … what if I failed her?  But God was gracious and frankly, she is a smart cookie. Neither one of them would be thwarted.

ahsa

Ahsa has a pony tail!  Such a small thing, literally and figuratively.  But wow, it changed her from baby to little girl.   That hair.  And her smile.  She’s grown a lot in confidence since she became potty trained.  I never expected it would be such a big change in her personality (mine, yes.)  These days, she loves taking care of her babies and puppies.  She puts them to sleep in blankets, pats their backs, and then shushes us – with eyes very wide open – to make sure that we don’t wake them.  She also likes to yell ‘bear!!!’ and runs around for me to catch her because her favorite book is Going on a Bear Hunt.

everest

Everest doesn’t like to eat.  He purses his lips, puts his chin down, and says “No” very firmly.  But he does like to give ‘two kisses’ before bed, meaning a lot, and making this Mommy so happy!  He’s a book, car, and train lover.  And is starting to put sentences together.  He loves to be chased and randomly runs up to us saying ‘gotchyou!’ so that we’ll get him in return.

daddy

Phil has been traveling all over Mongolia, visiting his team, encouraging them in their communities.  I can’t write much about his work, but I can say that he makes me proud every day.  He’s an incredible father and husband.  He runs around this housing, chasing kids and having dance parties, making us all laugh.  I’m smiling now as I write this because he is simply hilarious!  Phil brings out the best in all of us.

Adventures come and go.  We love adventuring together.  But I want to remember normal, even mundane, life.   This is certainly a season to cherish.

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Some of the greatest joy

family

Family in Mongolia.  A thought I never dreamed.  Because my heart couldn’t fathom the beauty that awaited us here.  Nor that we’d get to share it with those that we love most.

My (Mel’s) parents visited us in September and it was wonderful!  Because for those three weeks we were known.  We could laugh at the same jokes and enjoy the same comforting foods.  We could savor the love of those who were willing to travel out of their comfort zone, just to be with us.  Not for the adventure, just for us.  What generous love!

Those weeks were full of walks around the pond.  Toes in the water.  Climbing rocks.  Giggling.  Ice cream.  Baking pies.  Painting nails. Family dinners.  Movie nights. Hiking.  River crossing. Camels.  Yaks.  Eagles.  Perilous taxi rides.  Counting money.  And chit chatting about life.  (I love the chit chat!  Possible my favorite part.)

We are indebted to this love they showed us.  Grateful doesn’t begin to express the emotion we feel.  You see, inside of us there is a deep desire to be with our extended family.  It’s not that God isn’t sufficient or that we don’t want to be in Mongolia.  God is sufficient.  We love Mongolia and feel certain God has planted us here for this season.  Yet, simultaneously, we want to have it all.  We want our family here too. Because time with them is some of our greatest joy.  A touch of heaven.

hand in handnanapiesrivercrossingwaterfall

father daughter

Off she goes!

Today was the first day of school for Abyala.  She’s four and entering Pre-K at the American School of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.  She starts with full days, straightaway.   I held her hand extra tight.

We were picked up by a new friend who is now our driver.  Taking us to school with old friends whose daughters are also attending ASU for the first time.  These are the girls you prayed for!  God brought Abyala friends to her school.  They aren’t in her class, but they will be nearby.  The familiarity is already comforting.

As we waited for the school day to start, there was an Opening Ceremony outside.  We sang the Mongolian national anthem.  Dark clouds loomed overhead.  Abyala was excited but getting more nervous as she waited.  Her name was the very first on the school roster.  She bravely ran up to her teacher, waving goodbye to me.  I followed her into the building and got her cubby all organized as she went into her classroom to begin playing.  We kissed and said goodbye.  Her eyes a little puffy on top and red underneath.  Holding back tears.  Mimicking mine now.

As I write, I miss her.  We’ve been reading the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe together.  I see it on my night stand and I hold back the tears.  Oh how I love her!  I can’t wait to read to her tonight.

She was strong today.  Not because she had to be, but I think because God enabled her to be.  Praying that she will feel Jesus with her.  His comfort.  His strength.  His joy.  Thank you to the many who are praying for Abyala!  Please continue.  We are continually grateful for you.

Savoring this moment

abyphil

There are days when you can only rejoice.  When I see these smiles and hear their laughter, my heart nearly stops.  Because life doesn’t get much sweeter and I think perhaps we should just stay here, in this moment.

Our second Mongolian summer has been full of the comforts of home.  Mongolia has become our home this year.  We go outside and play in the grass.  Take weekend jaunts into the countryside to enjoy hillsides full of horses and yaks.  Throw rocks into the pond.  Attempt to sleep in gers.  And hangout on our balcony with fake grass and camping chairs, reading books, talking about how wonderful it is to hear the chatter of life below.

I read a book that talked about how remembering helps put us back together again.  It re-members us, quite literally.  As I look at photos like this one, and think about what God has done to bring us to this point in our lives, I feel tears well up in my eyes because of His faithfulness.  The Lord brought us together, kept us together, and continues to bind us together in His love.  Through separations thousands of miles wide, leaving all we once loved behind, and mountains shaking beneath our feet … we end up here.  The place I asked not to come.  But God knowing all, loving us perfectly, brings us, despite us, to such beauty.  Praying, surrendering ourselves to this God – who abounds in love and faithfulness.  Because He is good.

“His praise will forever be on my lips!”  Psalm 34:1

Togetherness

statue

We treasure our family.  And love being with them.  Living in Mongolia, the distance between us and our loved ones, makes us yearn for quality time together.   And this month we got it!

play

In July, Grandma Nea and Grandpa Steve came to join us in Mongolia !   Their desire to come and live life with us for a little while, touched our hearts.  We were elated.  Lots of people want to come and join you on vacation in Thailand or Bali.   But few want to experience the distant, rugged Mongolia.  (Though they should want to because Mongolia is incredible.)

reading

So for ten days, the kids played with Grandma and Grandpa.  Tea parties.  Storytime.  Playgrounds.  Dress up.  We ventured into the countryside.  Went hiking.  Enjoyed rainbows.  Talked about life.  We ate cinnamon rolls.  Painted fingernails. Grandma snuggled Ahsa.  Grandpa loved on Everest.  Abyala was the star of every show.  And we all just leaned into the chaos and savored the togetherness.

dad

We look forward to days together increasingly more.  The comfort and joy of family is immeasurable and beyond valuable.  Grateful for days like these.  God is good!

horses

Thank you for coming, Mom and Dad!!

family

 

Loving her neighbor

aloki

It’s been a year living in Mongolia and we continue to say goodbye.  Goodbye to friends that reel through our lives like turning pages.

Abyala will have to say goodbye to a friend that has enriched her life with giggles and adventure.  Every week day, Abyala asks to play with the girl next door and soon thereafter her friend whizzes around the corner on her scooter yelling “Abyyyyyy”!  Aby perks up at the sound.  If her ears could move, I’m sure they’d peak like a puppy dog’s.  Their friendship has been a comedy to watch.  It usually involves some sort of digging, then a run to the pond, bringing as much water as they can muster.  They add water to their sandy dirt, drenching every body part Mom will allow and come home filthy, yet glowing.

It seems every afternoon of play with Aby’s neighborhood friend is a little longer than expected but my heart can hardly pull her away from the smiles and bare feet and dirt and giggles.

We have one more day to cherish with this scooter riding, dirt digging, pond splashing, wide-smiling friend.  And today, we have to say goodbye.  There is mourning in saying goodbye.  A sadness that holds uncertainty.  You want to protect your children from experiencing loss and hurt.  But this type of pain is the direct result of joy, and I certainly don’t want to deny her that.

Abyala is feeling broken-hearted.  Please pray for her.  Pray for comfort, a healthy season of sadness, for new friends, and that she would experience Jesus through this.  Pray that she would be filled with joy from the true wellspring of life – Jesus Christ.  Pray that He would enable her to endure these hardships and that she doesn’t feel alone.  Pray that her brokenness will become a meaningful part of her story.  Part of her beauty.  Perhaps even part of her joy.

 

Whisked away

pano

Dear Philip,

Do you remember that Friday you whisked me away to the vast steppe in Mongolia?  Our road trip through the bright blue skies.  And private piano serenade over dinner.  Room 316 overlooking Turtle Rock.  Waking up without having to get out of bed.  Our morning hike with the horses to this rock.  We climbed to the top, prayed for our family and this nation.  We stood there in awe at the beauty around us.  Took a deep breath, relaxed and enjoyed being together.  Just the two of us.

Thank you for always wanting me to come away with you.  I love this life with you.  I love you, my wonderful Philip.  Every day.

two

“My beloved said to me, rise up my darling!  Come away with me!  Look, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtle doves fills the air.  Rise up, my darling!  Come away with me, my beloved.”  Song of Solomon 2:10-13