Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Up in the Air

I keep thinking how nice it would be to have a steady reality for at least a few years in a row, but that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon. We thought that by Steve getting his job at Georgetown University and with our move to the D.C. area, we'd gain a good chunk of steady years ahead. But now it seems that everything is "up in the air" once more.

One change -- the most minor of all -- is that our station wagon 'gave up' (as Nigerians might say) almost 2 weeks ago. We were on our way to church when the accelerator just stopped working, and after having it towed to two different mechanics to get the diagnosis, we were told we needed a new transmission. We've been thinking, praying, and discussing ever since then, knowing that it was an older car, with lots of miles on it. We'd already spent a lot on repairs over the last 14 months, so made the difficult decision to let the car go ('give it up') and try to find an affordable replacement with fewer miles.

In the meantime, Steve's parents have been incredibly generous and gracious by giving us one of their cars. So at least we have wheels while we look for a long-term family car. Still, it's been stressful to say the least, and one of those testing times to see how 2 people can come to a decision together when they don't agree.

A bigger change that is possibly coming up, is a change of housing. We have recently discovered that the state of Maryland does not require its public schools to give special education help to homeschooled students with IEPs (individual education programs -- paperwork for kids with special learning needs). A year ago, we went through a long process in Virginia, getting Ethan evaluated to see if he qualified for an IEP to get speech therapy. He did indeed qualify and the school administrator told us that no matter where we moved, Ethan would get help from any local school with his IEP in hand.

Sadly, this was misinformation. Ethan has now gone for a full year without any formal speech therapy (though he's grown by leaps and bounds, and talks a hind leg off a horse!), and we are trying to figure out how to get him the help he needs. Since the local Maryland schools won't help, but Virginia schools *would*, we've told our landlord that we'd like to move as soon as they can get other renters to take our place. This was a difficult conversation to have with him and his wife.

We have no idea how quickly they could find someone else to rent the home. Our own lease doesn't end until May, so it's possible we'll be here until then. But our prayer is that we could move sooner, to get Ethan help sooner, and to be closer to Steve's work and our new church, and in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. (We're currently in a very homogenous area -- my guess would be 90% black, 7% African, 2.5% Hispanic and 0.5% white.)

The stressful part (for me, the incurable Messie) will be tidying up our house every time someone wants to come view it. Looking for our own new rental home in Virginia, when the time comes, will also be quite a task, as prices there are even higher than the inflated ones here.

(There's another possible change in the air as well, but more on that later, if it becomes more tenable.)

So maybe one day I'll have a home that's "mine" for more than 12-18 months, a neighborhood to grow roots in, and a car that's reliable and long-lasting. But it's not now. Here's hoping it's soon...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

TCKs and the Olympics

If you've never heard of "TCK" before, you're not alone. Most people haven't! It stands for "Third Culture Kid" and refers to children who spend significant growing-up years in a country other than their parents' passport country. My own children are different from many TCKs, as we were never in a single foreign country for more than 2 years, and we didn't go in the normal capacity of military, NGO work, or missions. But I'd still consider them 'third culture kids' because they've spent 40-60% of their lives overseas.

Enough of definitions.

The Olympics began a full week ago, but my kids and I only got to see our first footage of it a few days ago. We don't get TV at home, but discovered that one of our nearby libraries had a TV turned on with NBC showing Olympic competitions. The first game we saw was women's water polo, USA vs. Spain. The kids caught my enthusiasm: as I cheered for our team's goals and defenses, they started cheering too.

And then Naomi said something that startled me. "People in Spain are watching this game, too, aren't they Mom?" It wasn't an earth-shattering observation, but nonetheless it reminded me that Naomi's world has been expanded. She can cheer for the USA, while still understanding that we're not the center of the universe. She knows there are people in other countries, rooting for their own Olympic teams.

We enjoyed part of a women's volleyball game next, USA vs. China. I don't know much about volleyball, but I tried to teach the kids something, and once again, we were all cheering every time the US got a point. There was a time when the US had pulled a number of points ahead of China, and Josiah said (with sympathy, not gloating), "I bet the people in China are feeling kind of sad now." Another reminder of the value that comes from dwelling among another people. I almost teared up to think that Josiah would care what another nationality was feeling.

And finally, as we watched a women's 8 rowing race yesterday, featuring many close-ups of the USA crew, Naomi said in frustration, "Why are they only showing the American team? I want to see the other teams too!"

We are Americans, proud of our country and teams. But we're citizens of the world, and we cheer for Great Britain, Jordan and Nigeria too. We love to see excellence in others and we strive to feel their pain when they suffer. Thank you, children, for being TCKs and for having hearts that beat for the rest of the world...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our New Church

We had received many recommendations of D.C. churches and visited them all. None was the right fit for us. Since we had been members of a Christian & Missionary Alliance church from 1994-2005, we decided to look up area C&MA churches online. One of them, Arlington Community Church, was hosting a "Family Luau" fun night in May and since we're always on the look-out for family activities and free food is a nice bonus, we went. We had a great time, laughing at a magic show, making crafts, chatting to church members over a hot dog dinner, and watching "Rio" on a big screen complete with popcorn!

The next morning (Mother's Day), we attended our first church service at ACC, and were surprised by how few people were in attendance but also by how much we liked it! The pastor's preaching was very much what we had been looking for, and the music was a nice blend of old and new. We put the church on our "let's visit again" list.

The next time we attended was Father's Day, and we were kindly hosted to lunch by the pastor and his family after the service. We really enjoyed talking more with John and Amy Eckrote, and our kids enjoyed playing with their three boys. It was a chance for us to ask lots of questions, especially about areas that concerned us particularly because of ACC being such a small church. We left the Eckrotes' house feeling much better about ACC as a viable option for us.

After visiting one more Sunday, and after much prayer and discussion, Steve and I decided to commit to Arlington Community Church and make it our new home church. We are grateful beyond words to finally have a place to grow roots, to connect and make friends, to worship every Sunday (no more asking on Saturday nights, "Where are we going tomorrow?") Our children are very happy with their Sunday school and are spending time getting to know the Eckrote boys, as I'm sure they'll get to know other church children soon too.

The church only has about 50 people in attendance on a regular basis, but it has grown a lot since January, and is continuing to grow. We would much rather get to know 50 people well, than feel lost in a crowd of 4,000. Steve and I both appreciate and value John's preaching. He digs deep into the Word, but teaches us with both humor and relevance. We laugh, we ponder, and we come away wanting the Holy Spirit to work ever more in our lives. John also does a good job of leading worship (though he'd rather pass that off to a worship leader at the right time!) He blends hymns and modern songs, all to piano and guitar accompaniment, in seamless continuity so we can really focus. And all with a light heart -- it's not unusual to laugh, and as people who often take life too seriously, Steve and I need that!

Our biggest relief is to finally be making friends! One of the things that attracted us to ACC was that after just attending once, we had a personal invitation to a Memorial Day picnic by people that didn't even know us yet! In just our first few weeks of committing, we have felt loved and welcomed in very tangible ways, and this makes all the difference. If you've been praying for us, thank you -- your prayers are being answered!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We stopped at a thrift store (charity shop) today, trying to find some shoes for Josiah. I could immediately tell that the shopkeeper was African, and at the end of our visit, asked her where she was from. She answered, "Nigeria," and then of course was delighted to hear that I too had lived in Nigeria. I used my little Hausa and agreed that Jos was a "cold" place to live (only cold to a Nigerian!!) We quickly digressed to the recent violence that has marked much of Nigeria.

I don't know if you've kept up at all with the news of Nigeria, but in the past year, a Muslim terrorist group called Boko Haram has ravaged the country.They bomb churches, bomb government offices, and wreak havoc in other ways as well. It's getting to the point where I expect to hear bad news every weekend, and it's really quite heart-breaking.

The country of Nigeria has already struggled for years with corrupt governments and growing poverty. It has a lot of wealth from its crude oil off its coast in the south, but the people and infrastructure don't seem to benefit. The millions of dollars are in the hands of a few.

In January, the average person was made to struggle even more because the federal government suddenly removed its subsidy on gasoline. This not only made it difficult for people to get around (usually by taxis and buses, as most people don't own their own cars), but it also increased the prices of everything else.

The attacks of Boko Haram are an added burden, and I frankly don't know how much longer the Nigerian people can survive. My parents still live in Jos, Nigeria, and I have many dear friends there as well. I pray regularly for this precious country, that God will sustain the people and somehow bring about peace.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Looking for a Church

We are almost at our 7-month anniversary of living in D.C. and have still not decided on a home church. We have tried many, and even attended a few for 4-7 weeks in a row. But it's been a difficult search. The one we felt most sure about turns out to have an attendance of 4,000 and that's way too big for us! We're realizing that there are so many different aspects of church that matter to us -- it's really challenging to know how to hold those in balance, and how to prioritize them.

Some of the issues that are most important to us (besides the basics of Bible-teaching and Jesus-following) are:
1) Community -- we strongly feel that Church is meant to be family, deeply connected and caring for each other. Because of this we're looking for friendliness, small groups, times of fellowship, the ability to participate actively in the worship service, and a vibrant children's ministry. We want our church to be a place where our children feel loved and see Christ-following lived out in a very real way. This also means that size is a big deal to us. We feel the ideal size would be 100-250 people.

2) Worship -- we've experienced a wide variety of styles and media in previous home churches, and find that we strongly value such diversity. We appreciate both the latest songs and hymns, and the lyrics of time-tested classic hymns (though they're more fun with modern upbeat renditions!); quiet contemplation as well as exuberant praise; a bit of liturgy and a bit of freedom; choirs, praise teams, dramas and dance.

3) Teaching -- both through our undergrad years at Wheaton College, and our recent years at Magdalen Road Church (in Oxford, England) and Oasis Church (in Amman, Jordan), we've been greatly blessed with powerful, challenging teaching. We are used to sermons that have been well-prepared, well-prayed-over, and that you can't walk away from without being a changed person! We would love to find similar teaching.

4) Ministry -- we know that our lives in Christ are not just about *us* but about reaching out to the world around us. Steve has spent years learning about Islam, and God has given both of us a passion to befriend Muslims and help other Christians know how better to interact with the Muslims in their own lives. We need a church who has vision for sharing Christ, both in words and in deeds.

I think it's safe to say that at this point we have 3 churches uppermost in our consideration, though we'd like to continue visiting other new ones as well. We say the above 4 aspects are most important to us, but then we find that there are other considerations affecting our decision as well, including demographics and aesthetics. I often wish that I could take all the churches we've visited so far and just combine my favorite aspect of each into a custom-made church. Impossible, I know. So how long do we keep looking? Please pray for us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New England Beaches!

We decided to only spend Saturday in Boston, and take Sunday to drive up the coast a bit to play on the beaches of New Hampshire and Maine. We also spent Monday afternoon on a beach in Cape Cod. We had perfect weather, and altogether a perfectly delightful time. Tide-pooling, sand-digging, frisbee-throwing, rock-clambering, shell-collecting, and lots of running and laughing in fresh salty air and sunshine.

Day in Boston

1) Site of the first public school in America.
2) Old State House -- seat of Massachusetts colonial government, the balcony of which was where MA citizens first heard the Declaration of Independence read aloud.
3) Cambridge commons -- where George Washington gathered his continental army and was encamped for the first 2 years of the war.
4) Site of the Boston massacre -- outside the Old State House, where colonists were shot by British soldiers, which of course helped start the Revolutionary War.
5) Granary burial ground, 1660 -- resting place of John Hancock, Phyllis Wheatley, and Paul Revere, among others.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Worship and Sorrow

Our new church had an evening of worship singing last night (with the intent of making a c.d. soon), and I was so excited to attend. I’ve really appreciated the music on Sunday mornings at The Falls Church, and loved the thought of an extra evening of singing! It didn’t quite turn out like I thought…

My biggest disappointment was the large number of songs I didn’t know. Of course I still appreciated the words and enjoyed the music, but it’s kind of hard to sing along if you don’t even know the music! (Especially if it’s being recorded!) I go through this every time I move and begin worshipping at a new church. Sunday mornings seem easier, though, than an entire night of unfamiliar worship songs.

I was also struck with a feeling of sorrow – missing my recent churches in Oxford and Amman, and the music that I’d grown to love there. The thought occurred to me, “I actually don’t want a c.d. of TFC music as much as I wish I had c.d.’s of Magdalen Road Church and Oasis songs, to remind me of churches I love." That’s always been a dream of mine: to have recorded music from the various youth groups and churches that have been important to me over the course of my life.

It was a great experience, of course, to worship with hundreds of fellow Jesus-followers. Most of the time, I was focused on our amazing God, and relished the Scriptures read and the glimpse of future heavenly worship. I also reveled in the incredible drum-playing (yes, I'm partial to drums, especially African ones!) and other expertise by guest musicians. It was an aural delight and I’m not sorry I went. But I did come away sad and a bit melancholy. It’s not easy to continually move, especially when it means leaving behind dearly loved churches and friends…

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Pics

Pics top to bottom:
The kids visiting their great-grandma in Pennyslvania; playing foozball at a community center's Family Fun Night; college friend Barb visiting from London; and making Valentine cookies together that we gave out to neighbors and the local librarians.

March Update

Happy March everyone! We enjoyed the Spring-like weather today by going to the local park, running some laps around the football field and playing frisbee. That is, until Ethan got hit in the mouth by one of my high-speed throws. Sigh… The sight of blood did him in, and we came back home for lunch, nap and more school. Now the kids are outside, sucking on homemade popsicles with a couple neighbor boys from across the street. I’m hoping that warmer weather will make it easier for my kids to make friends, as more children will be playing outside after school.
It’s hard to believe we’ve only been in our new home for 3 ½ months. It feels like it’s been longer than that. Not counting Steve’s parents, we’ve already had 3 overnight guests at various times, and have another lined up for later this month. In fact, we have a friend from Amman who might be staying with us for weeks as she transitions back to U.S. life later this Spring. It’s nice to be in a place where there are 3 airports, many attractions, and work conferences that friends need to attend. I love hosting people! (If you know me, feel free to invite yourself!!)
I’m still struggling to find routine here … trying to balance my housework, my cooking, my teaching, and my computer work, all in the midst of Steve’s new commute and crazy-busy schedule of combining PhD research with a full-time job. I wish I were a naturally organized and structured person so it wasn’t such a battle for me. Plus I’m trying to throw in extra things now, like Community Bible Study and church (now that we’ve found a home church – yay!). I also continue to feel a bit “at odds” with my surroundings since we are the only white family in our entire neighborhood, and perhaps even town. It probably bothers me less than it bothers the rest of my family, since I have more experience than they in being a minority. But still… for some reason, it makes me feel a bit inhibited and self-conscious.
The kids are doing okay. I still haven’t gotten Ethan speech therapy, but he does seem to be steadily improving. His favorite activities are playing card games and playing with Josiah & his stuffed animals. Naomi has almost finished a 24-book series about wild horses in Nevada, and has gotten excited about the idea of trying to save land for horses (from cattle grazing). Josiah seems less and less content every time we move – he used to be the most happy-go-lucky sort of guy and now he complains a lot. I’m not sure why…
So such as it is, that’s our latest “news” (if you can even call it that!). I’m praying for friendships to develop soon. We’re all getting a bit tired of being friend-less.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

After church today, Ethan said to me, "Mom can you buy me a Bible?" ... "But first, can you teach me to read?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Restoring Sanity

I've been struggling with my temper lately. (It's actually always a struggle, to be honest!) My kids seem to be grumpy and prone to fighting, and that puts me into bad moods. I've also been lacking in sleep, due to working late nights. And after moving to Maryland, I've neglected to meet with a new healthcare provider and get my antidepressant meds refilled.

Yesterday things were really not going well, and by the time Steve got home from work, I knew I had to get away. Thankfully he was fine staying home with the kids while I "ran away" for 3 hours, hiding out in a Mexican restaurant (because Starbucks was shut at 8:05 PM!!!) to read, think, pray and generally enjoy silence!!

The first thing I did, before I even got there, was to pray in the car, confessing to God how sorry I was for my mean and unjust behavior towards the kids that day. Then when I sat down to wait for my food, I opened the Bible to read Philippians. I was really struck with chapter 1, verse 27, which says, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." It hit me hard, as I knew that I had *not* conducted myself in a manner worthy of the Gospel that day!! I'd like to make it my "mantra" of sorts for the next few months.

I spent the rest of the time jotting down lists (what exactly is bugging me about the kids, goals I have for school, home, chores, and my own self-discipline, etc.), speed-reading a few books ("Teach Your Children Well" by Christine Allison and "Creative Correction" by Lisa Whelchel), and giving myself the time and quiet to re-focus. I couldn't believe how refreshing it was to have a 3-hour chunk of uninterrupted-by-children silent time!! I think I'll try to make it a regular habit, if not weekly then perhaps biweekly. It definitely restored some sanity!

Playing at St. Simon Island, Georgia with cousins!

Two Months in Maryland

We've been in our new home for 2 months now, and I've been frightfully negligent about writing! It's been a whirlwind 2 months of having overnight guests, going away for Thanksgiving, having family stay for Christmas, 3 of us having birthdays, and then going away again -- first to Williamsburg and then Steve to England and the rest of us to Georgia. We've hardly had any normal weeks!!

But we're definitely feeling more and more settled. We really like our townhouse. Highlights of it include a fireplace, 2 spare rooms which we use for school and guests, a gorgeous kitchen, and a play area just across our tiny street. It's been hard to get to know our neighbors, partly because we've led such crazy lives ourselves, and partly because it's been getting colder and colder so fewer kids are playing outside. But we have intentions -- now we just need to act on them!

Steve is enjoying his new job, and finding that it really does suit his skills and interests. He's gotten many compliments on his editorial work, which confirms that he's doing the right thing! He's also just formally begun his PhD work through the University of Exeter, which at the moment means lots of extra reading. He's "all-but-dissertation" so the next few years will entail lots of research and writing, and editing and writing, and yearly trips to Exeter, England.

Our most recent news is that we've finally found a church that we're 98% sure we'll commit to as our new home church. We're really excited about The Falls Church -- about their worship, outreach, preaching, people and devotion to Jesus. And we're grateful to finally know where we're going every Sunday, and to finally look forward to church!