Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Re-entry Has Not Been Easy

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” 
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It has been almost 2 years since we moved back to the U.S.
         Re-entry has not been easy.

There has been a lot about being here that I have enjoyed. Being closer to my college age kids and having a front row seat in their lives. Having special time with my extended family....and enjoying the feeling of accessibility to them....if we have a long weekend we can pick up and drive a while or fly briefly and be with family. It feels less detached as I felt when we lived abroad.

The ease of life here has been nice. Drinking from the tap, plugging things in without a thought to voltage or whether power is on or off, hot running water for bath, a sundry of cleaning supplies, convenient cooking,  and fast internet to name a few.

Being able to find so many gently used things for free or inexpensively easily and in abundance has been awesome!

  TARGET, malls, little specialty shops, and an abundant of thrift shops---I have really enjoyed. Sometimes I like just going to Target just to look without a long list of supplies that I have to get for the next 2+ years...it is nice knowing it will be there tomorrow!

Movies, in theaters and at home, plays, concerts, magazines , T.V and catching up on old T.V. series on Netflix and Hulu on the internet!

I have also enjoyed all the different churches we have visited--old and new, large and small, anglo, ethnic and multi-cultural--my favorite! I felt like I have feasted with all the lectures, seminars, retreats and classes I have attended.

There has also been a special bond that our family has developed as we are experiencing this adjustment together. We understand each other,share common memories, and exposure to new things. Our family has grown even closer through this season. For that I am thankful!

Now for the hard stuff..... I have read a lot on re-entry, and have sat at the feet of others that have gone before me through this... but I guess it is like going to the dentist...no amount of reading and preparing that you do takes away from the pain of going through the procedure. Being prepared did help some in terms of giving myself and  my family the language and postmarks of what we are experiencing.

What makes this hard? I have shared in some earlier posts about the loneliness http://jana-joyinthejourney.blogspot.com/2014/01/loneliness.html
 and making home a choice http://jana-joyinthejourney.blogspot.com/2013/10/home-is-choice.html?

It is hard to fully express what makes this hard...a few things are;

I have changed in the last 20 years as I have lived abroad.

The U.S. has changed in the last 20 years.

Struggling to be understood.

Struggling to understand or process this new place.

Resisting putting all my memories and real experiences in a box or picture album on a shelf.

Looking for where my unique experience and skills can be used.

An overwhelming 'home' sickness that is at times paralyzing.


Sometimes I feel like I have so much inside of things I have seen
 and experienced of God's handiwork and there seems no outlet to share and I feel like I may erupt..... learning how to ponder these things in my heart.....

Another thing hard about this season is that it is not just me.
It is like adjusting to jet lag.
When you are traveling alone jet lag is hard but you can adjust in a few days but when you are traveling with your family who is adjusting to jet leg in different ways
                   jet lag drags on longer for Mom!

It would be nice if like flying you could adjust your breathing mask before helping others but this is not possible when you are a parent or spouse.
You can not tell your kids "just wait till mom gets all adjusted and then I will be there for you..."

But as I have helped my children thrive it has helped me as well and we have processed many things together...

It has not always been pretty...sometimes it is super hard to see your child you love so much hurting...and everything they are expressing is so similar to how you feel and you so wish they were not having to go through this and you know that is not their choice but a calling you have on your life. It is in times like this that I have to trust that God has this and just as he has walked with us in our past He is walking with us now!

Early on in our return an older missionary shared with us not to lose our missionary calling. We have held on to this encouragement and God has showed us more.....I wrote more on this in an earlier post http://jana-joyinthejourney.blogspot.com/2013/10/i-have-heard-levitical-call.html.
I think one thing that has helped us and hurt us is that we are somewhere new.

Most of things you read about re-entry talk about going back to a familiar place--some where that has been a place of significance either before you went abroad or some where you visited a lot during your time away....a place where you have family and friends . This can be helpful as you have a base of support but this can also be hard as you may feel that you must fit back into a place where both you and those around you have changed....the puzzle has changed and you, one piece of the puzzle has been re-cut. Sometimes I wish that our family had moved to a familiar place but both of our parents have moved during our time away and even our support bases had also gone through some significant shifts.  There are familiar individuals and shadows of old places but no real familiar place for our family.

We  kind of  had a clue that this would be the case for us and since our oldest daughter was going to school in Wheaton, Illinois; and there was a good soft landing for missionaries( Missionary Furlough Homes) we decided that it might be a good start for us.

After spending the majority of our ministry serving the Diaspora of East Africa we feel a lot of affiliation with them and as we transition from Wheaton into Chicago last fall this was one of the draws.  " I am all of the places that I have left my heart" Marina Sofia ---I so relate to this statement and I am determined to be who God has molded me to be and serve others from this place. Cities have been a part of the common denominator for us in all the places we have lived and Chicago has not disappointed. So instead of re-entry being adjusting back into something known we have seen "Re-entry is the opportunity to relaunch yourself into your next great thing"  Cate Brubaker,PhD

Relaunch.....I like the sound of that word better than trying to forget my experiences in order to fit the norm..... Next great thing.....I have joined God in some awesome stuff in Africa and there a temptation to think.....
was that the climax of my live....
No, I am still serving the same God and He is taking us to the next great thing and I can not wait!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Getting a new dog,morning with our Rwanda friends, loving our children well.

Saturday after much research and dreaming and a little begging we decided that we wanted to get a dog for our family. We have always had dogs. In our years in Uganda and Rwanda we had 11 dogs...some were poisoned by thieves, some died of sickness, some we inherited by people moving away. We never had more than 3 dogs at a time and usually had only 2. We also sold german shepherd puppies as the part of the world we lived in did not have an over abundant of good pet dogs. This also helped to supplement our missionary income.

I must confess I am not a dog lover but the rest of my family is and it brings me joy to see how much joy dogs have brought our family. I have such good memories of our dogs with each of our kids at all different ages. When Sophia, our first child, was a baby we had a great big German shepherd, named Shadow and he would let Sophia lay on him as he gently cuddled with her. Caleb and Ethan loved our dog Hannibal, another large long haired german shepherd and would run around outside for hours! ( A mother's dream when having young children...giving me much needed breaks) I have a very clear picture of my daughter Ruth licking her lolly pop and then 'sharing' it with one of our dogs...."no do not put that back in your mouth!" Timothy wanted a small white dog and prayed about it and the very next week we saw one being advertised in the same notice that we had advertised the launching of our new church plant CCR ( Christ Church Rwanda). We got it for him and he named her after his favorite Power Ranger girl --Kira. Such joy!

I think in my mind a part of settling down and not being on a 'furlough' is getting a dog. We have always had outside dogs. Dave would often say to the kids " Outside dogs and inside kids but this can be changed" So now that we are living in an apartment , we knew if we got a dog --it would be an inside dog.( We are keeping the kids inside too!)

Dave and Ruth visited the Chicago shelter for dogs and found a dog that we would like to bring home. Dave filled out the extensive paper work and they asked for the whole family to come and be around the dog as they would approve wether we would be a good family for her. Saturday was the big day. Everyone was excited. The shelter did not open till noon but we decided to go to the pet store to get some supplies and get all ready for our new dog.  It started out as a great family day.....the sun was shining and it was one of our first warmer days here in Chicago after the coldest winter on record.

We got to the shelter and they had lost Dave's paper work. As Dave filled it all out again the rest of us went to meet the dog and spend time bonding with her. We were all so excited. When we came back to Dave ...I started to realize there was a problem......

I have purposely not used the term we were going to 'adopt' a dog. As an adoptive parent I have never really liked this term used for taking care of pets. I might loose a lot of readers here...I love our pets but they are not my children. I know that they are a part of God's creation and I love this verse,"The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." Proverbs 12:10

There where 3 concerns about us being a good fit for a shelter dog...
        1. We had left our last 2 dogs with friends in Rwanda and did not bring them to the                    U.S.
        2. We have breed dogs in the past.
        3.  One of the 7 reasons that Dave checked for why we were interested in a dog was                for a mouser.

Dave tried to explain context as to why we have breed dogs. In the region we lived there was not very many dogs. In Rwanda during the Genocide where over a million people were brutally killed in 100 short days. That is "On average about six men, women and children were killed every minute of every hour of every day for three months."

One of the horrific scenes that occurred was that dogs were eating the flesh of the victims. The U.N soldiers were not able to shoot those that were perpetrating the Genocide but shot all the dogs to prevent them from scavenged the bodies of dead. ( There is a very good film called 'Shooting Dogs' about these events but when this film was released in the U.S it was retitled 'Beyond the Gates') As a result of these events, when we moved to Rwanda there was still a very small dog population. 

As Dave was trying to explain these events, I found my emotions raising...this month of April is such a hard month. I did not loose family in 1994 but have many friends that are in my community that have lost family and I have forever been effected by these tragic events. I was wrestling with the trivia of this experience of wether or not we would be accepted to provide a home for this dog and thinking about all those who lost their love ones in 1994. I was so distracted by my own thoughts that I could hardly follow the conversation. 

The women was saying something about being racist...What? RACIST? That caught my attention. Dave said, " what I am saying is please do not compare my children to dogs!" 

"Well you brought your children back from Africa why not your dogs?" she said as she rolled her eyes at my kids. I looked at my kids and hoped they did not catch fully what was happening. " Where did racism come in? I am just saying I do not want my children being compared to dogs", Dave reiterated.  

" Well your request is denied." She said. Dave and I both said almost in unison" Thats ok, we see we are not a good fit for your shelter, Thanks!"

We ushered the kids out and told them we did not qualify. We were all so disappointed about loosing the dog but we were also upset!
We all got in the car and began to try and help the kids and us process what had just happened. As the story came out more, we realized we did not share the same values as this shelter. Dogs are pets not children. We love them but they are not the same. My 17 year old son Ethan, expressed wisely do they really believe what they are saying? It does not seem they would keep these dogs in these cages and then euthanize them because they can not find 'qualifying ' families if they see them the same as humans.

We were all trying to figure out the racist statement... We asked the children if they heard what she said and they said yes. " What do you think about it?" "She did not seem to make since." one said, my youngest was so upset he did not want to talk about it. 

We affirmed our children and Dave said when we get home we are going to look on Craig's list and see if we can find a dog. I began to pray again, God I know you have this and you are in control...maybe there is another Dog for us.

When we reached home we were all a bit down but hopeful that Dave would find something. One of the first dogs that caught his attention was a dachshund / beagle mix. He sent a message and it was still available. After looking through the rest of the options we all decided this might be the one. After spending most of the day driving around, Dave and Ruth were the only ones that decided to drive the 1 hour plus to go and see this new dog. The owner had just gotten a 2nd job and felt she was not able to give the dog the attention he needed. 

The rest of us that stayed home waited eagerly for any news....the phone finally rang and Ruth was on the other end sharing that we got the dog! " He is so sweet and his name is Loki." Timothy was so excited! It was so fun to see the joy this brought the family. We waited not so patiently as Dave, Ruth and Loki returned. 

Well, it has been a few days only that Loki has been in our home but he has already brought many gifts....Ruth has a new companion and room mate( bed mate actually--Loki sleeps at the end of her bed all curled up --Ruth is all curled up at the top of her bed) added chores--so far the kids are more than willing to do them--Dave enjoys patting and snuggling with the dog in the evening---yesterday he took Imani ( the baby that I babysit) and Loki for a nice long walk.

For me the gift has been the gentle awareness that this is home for now...not a temporary pit stop but God is asking us to put down some roots...getting a dog is a start....

Loki--- Our new dog!