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

Advertisements

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

These Two

Ahsa and Everest.  These two.  They make every day a wonderful adventure.  They literally run circles around me now.  Here is a little update on who they are becoming…

They’re a year and a half and know Mongolia as their home. They are doing the typical running, jumping, playing and talking.  But they have almost the same exact vocabulary which is amazing because hardly any of their words are pronounced properly, but they pronounce each the same.  For example, ‘wa wa’ is water and ‘ba ba’ is Aby.  I often feel like I’m learning their language more than teaching them mine.

They don’t like being out of sight of each other.  One morning Everest slept longer than Ahsa (which never happens unless he’s sick — he was sick.)  Ahsa was so sad that she cried outside the bedroom door.  Ahsa also barges in on Everest’s timeouts in their room.  I find her squeezing toys through the crib bars when he’s supposed to be dwelling on how much trouble he’s in.

Ahsa loves her plush puppy dog.  Everest loves taking her puppy and runs around the room so that she’ll chase him.  Ahsa loves her baby.  Everest loves taking her baby so that she’ll chase him.  Ahsa loves her blanket.  Everest loves taking her blanket and running.  I think you get the point.

Aside from playing chase, Everest loves throwing rocks in the pond.  Ahsa loves trying to convince us that she can swim in the pond.

Everest does somersaults off the couch.  Ahsa curls her head into your lap and makes you hold her upside down until she’s delirious in laughter.  By the end of the day, both of them transform into daring couch comedians doing tricks and giggling at themselves uncontrollably… until we say ‘time to brush your teeth’ and Ahsa races to the bathroom at mach speed.  Something about the gurgling water has hypnotized them into loving teeth-brushing-time.  We love it.

Abyala, Ahsa, and Everest have filled our hearts with more joy than we thought we were ever capable of feeling.  And we were pretty happy before these guys!  Most days, you’ll find us exhausted, but very very happy.

 

Standing against violence

evac aby

Philip and Abyala giving a speech to more than 10,000 people in Sukhbaatar Square, Mongolia.

Look at her.  Standing tall beside her Daddy.  Serious and proud.  Feeling ‘very happy’. Sporting fuzzy pigtails, and a hello kitty slicker.  Reminding everyone that we work not for policy sake, but for children.  For our child, and every child.  Philip isn’t just the National Director for a Christian, humanitarian organization.  He’s a Dad.  And having his Abyala beside him culminated an overflowing passion and conviction that you could hear in his voice.

the crowdThey stood before a 10,000+ person crowd, amidst a rainy day.  Clouds parting long enough for Phil to give a speech about the importance of joining together to end violence against children.   It was as if God wanted to use the storm to remind everyone that even the wind and the rain obey Him.  The Lord will make a way for His good purposes to prevail.  Many people think this violence, this storm, is too deeply engrained to end in Mongolia.  But we know that nothing is beyond the reach of our great Lord.

 

Standing beside her Dad was a wonderful opportunity for Abyala to make an impact in Mongolia.  She got to show the nation that her Daddy understood something about them.  Abyala connected her Dad to the crowd.  Because of her, they physically saw his heart.  And could sense that he is more than a professional.  He cares.  Abyala manifested sincerity for her Dad.

aby wave.jpg

It’s amazing how God uses each of us in unique ways for His glory.  What a privilege for Philip and Abyala to stand before the nation, urging them to join together to protect their children.  It was exciting!

But most of our days consist of the usual.  Trying to figure out what’s for dinner.  Pushing papers.  Meetings.  Corralling kiddos.  Bedtime stories.  That’s real life.  Praying that we wouldn’t live for the spotlight.  That the light would not be on us, but in us.

And one last picture because they’re cute together!

phil aby

She dances

aby on stage

Our sweet Abyala has been taking ballet lessons at the Mongolian National Ballet School since January.  Tip toeing her way in joy, through challenges.  Every Sunday morning, she joins a group of 4-5 year old Mongolian girls to literally stretch themselves to new limits with their instructor Anna.  I watch her through a slim opening in the frosted glass door.  Often tears welling.  Amazed at her strength, tenacity and beauty.  She’s immersed in a culture that’s familiar but not her own, a foreign language that she desperately tries to speak, no one to easily connect with, doing something that’s painful, yet fun.  And every week, she’s excited to go do it again.  Each day, she dances around our apartment in her leotard, slippers, and leg warmers.  Practicing for the big day.  Anxious to go on stage.  Despite her being nervous.  Willing to overcome the fear because she loves to dance.

She went on stage for the first time on Sunday.  My heart almost burst with gladness when those red velvet curtains opened and I saw her glowing face.  She quickly smiled and gave a tiny waist-high wave when she found us in the crowd.  I was veraciously waving with an unending smile from which my cheeks still hurt.  Then Aby straightened her back, lengthened her neck, chin up and danced.  And danced.  And danced.  Oh my heart!  She was so poised.

on stage

Ballet class hasn’t been easy for Abyala given the language and cultural barriers.  Of the 280 children who danced on stage that night, Abyala was the only foreigner.  Despite the challenges of making friends cross-culturally, she perseveres.  Many say that children don’t need language to play and there is a degree of truth to that.  But to truly connect, we’ve found that Abyala has needed words (sentences) that she can share with her friends.  Words aren’t the only means by which she connects, but they have certainly been an essential piece to her developing close friendships.

As I continue to watch our sweet Abyala grow into this beautiful, multi-cultural little girl, I’m learning that my experiences, abilities, and knowledge to parent her are not sufficient.  Phil and I are not enough.  And we weren’t designed to be.  I’m learning more and more the importance of Christ in her life.  (As well as ours.) And the importance of prayer.

Abyala can dance with her Mongolian friends because of grace.  The grace of God upholding her with his right hand.  He encamps His angels around her.  Protecting.  Giving strength.  And mercy for each day.  He blesses her with understanding and courage.  Relationships come because He provides.

 

aby water

Please pray for our sweet Abyala.  Pray for one or two good friends to come into her life, especially as she begins school this fall.  Pray that God would build her up into a woman of God and use this unique childhood for His good purposes. Pray that she would experience Jesus, see him, love him, and trust in him as her savior.