I've decided to crawl out from under the Blog rock with our 2009 Year in Review. This has been one of the most tumultuous years of our lives, and we've really identified with Solomon through this season of our lives.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
This year, we have experienced times of death as we lost my Uncle David and miscarried a baby; times of refraining from embracing as we left our families behind in America to move here; times of seeking as we tried to make sense of our new life here. We've also experienced times of laughter as we've bonded with locals here; times of planting as we've put down new roots and developed new family traditions; times of building up as we've been so encouraged by how God has led us during 2009.
We kicked off the first of the year with the completion of one of my life goals: to run a marathon! I finished the Texas Marathon in 4:08.
Four days later, with sore thighs and all of our earthly possessions packed up, we boarded a plane for our new home in Asia. Once we landed, we had a whirlwind of a week, including a quick trip to the capital city for teacher training for our school, choosing paint colors and having squatter painters live in our house while they worked, all on top of dealing with jet lag.
We headed to Thailand to escape the gray winter skies for a few weeks. It seemed a little silly at first to leave the country when we had just arrived but it ended up helping break up the cultural stress.
When we returned "home" from Thailand, things still didn't still feel quite like home. We only had bedroom furniture so our apartment felt a bit like a cave. Not knowing where to grocery shop or even what to buy, our first meal (beyond the pb&j sandwiches we had been surviving on!) was as simple as they come.
After yet another trip to the capital city for an IKEA shopping spree, all our boxes arrived. My dear husband spent some quality time with his Leatherman in order to help our cave become a home.
I also started volunteering at a local orphanage with some other American friends. The need for loving arms was so great there, and I had to practice self-restraint every time not to take one home with me. Unfortunately, in the summer, we were asked not to return because of concern of a disease scare.
Once the weather turned warmer, we started venturing out to explore our new city more. We gradually became accustomed to the staring we received from the local people and, with about two months of language study under our belts, we were even able to have simple conversations with people.
Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country (Proverbs 25:25). We found out just how refreshing visitors from home can be this month when some friends from Louisville came for a week. Just hearing stories about mutual friends, laughing, and chatting was such a break from the normal grind of life. Not to mention the yummy American goodies they brought too!
We helped our American friends put on an Easter egg hunt for all the kiddos. We have become "auntie" and "uncle" to some really fun kids since we've arrived here, and we've been so thankful to serve our friends by babysitting and loving on their kids.
With our English school's first semester in full swing, we planned a special party to celebrate Easter with the kids. We played games, sang songs, decorated Easter eggs, and learned the story of Easter.
Besides celebrating my 26th birthday this month, our househelper Gigi joined our family. In order to free up our time for language study, she comes over four days a week to help me around the house and to cook us really good local food for lunch. Not only has she helped maintain my sanity and stress levels, she has become my best local friend and our unofficial language teacher. Her 9 year old son is one of our students as well.
Summer months brought warm weather. Though I'd like to add clear skies, they were still an unfortunate shade of polluted gray. But we found a makeshift "backyard" in our apartment complex (don't think American apartment complex--think small, concrete city of 2000 residents) where we could have BBQs, play badminton, and lounge in the sun. I know our measly BBQ pit doesn't compare to your mammoth one, Mark, but we still attracted a fair amount of attention, as you can see from the little girl in the background of this pictures.
Kevin's appendix also decided to call it quits in June. After a harrowing day in the ER, he ended up in surgery. We were so thankful to be provided a suite in the international wing of the hospital for Kevin's recovery stay. I can't do the complete experience justice here, but if you'd like to read the entire tale, you can click here.
We headed to Malaysia in July from a vacation and for Kevin to take a class. We shared a hotel with some good friends of ours from Louisville. While the husbands went to class, the wives explored the island, hung out by the pool, and hit the beach. Tough life, I know.
The r&r was much needed in order to prepare for our English summer camp at school that kicked off as soon as we returned. We had a handful of students come for a week-long day camp. We ate Western food, played outside in the sweltering heat, and studied English. (I'd just like to point your attention to the color of the sky in the above picture. No photo shop. Real thing. Enjoy your blue skies, America!)
Though summer months didn't mean a break from full-time language study, it did mean a break from teaching English on Saturdays. With our free weekends, we were able to hang out with local friends more. We took a trip to the zoo with the family of a little girl that Kevin tutors (the girl from the "grass on your arm" story if you remember) If you think zoos are inhuman in America, you would really hate them here. In fact, the word I added to my vocabulary that day was "pitiable."
We also took a hiking trip with some youth on the outskirts of town. The spoke zero English so it was fun to connect with them in any way we could.
This was one of the most difficult months of 2009. At the end of the month, we miscarried our first baby. Through the trial, God dealt with my heart so tenderly. I still miss our little baby and wonder how he/she would be doing today inside of me. We are still waiting, trusting, and praying for children and hope that in 2010 we will be able to welcome a little one to our family.
God knew we needed some distraction and laughter in our lives after losing our baby, so only three days after the miscarriage, he gave us Beans. Some of our American friends bought her at a local pet market but discovered her puppy energy wouldn't compute with their three young children. We had been talking about getting a dog for a while so we more than happily welcomed this little Beanie Weenie into our home.
We're not playing, we're studying! During October, we also started a new language learning method. Since the beginning of the year, we had been slaving away with textbooks, memorizing vocabulary and listening to endless dialogue, with moderate success. But we were introduced to a new method that uses toys and wordless picture books to build both our vocabulary and listening comprehension. Our progress has been so much quicker, and I actually look forward to studying because it truly is fun!
We had our first snow day! It's just wrong to study on a snow day so we quit earlier and built a snowman, threw snowballs, and just played.
We kicked off the holiday season by hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We had over 30 people here altogether. We had all the traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, greenbean casserole, sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, cranberry applesauce, pecan pie...the list goes on! How is that possible, you might ask, when we live in Asia!?!? It was a sweet time of fellowship together as we discussed how God had blessed us during the year.
The family gatherings and parties that kept most of you busy this Christmas season was what I missed most being away from home. But nonetheless we were very busy.
We were invited to give a lecture at a college English club about Christmas & American holiday traditions. We also threw a Christmas party for our kiddos at school.
I found a Christmas tree at a local market. Though the lights all blinked, flashed, or pulsed at different intervals, thus earning it the name "Seizure Tree," our home felt festive enough. We also started our own family Christmas traditions by having a sleepover in the living room by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. We had lots of Skype & phone dates with our families to open gifts.
But most of all this Christmas season, we were thankful for Emmanuel, God with us.