Happy Birthday, Dear Jovelle

Five Years Old

Please, everybody, look at me!
Today I’m five years old, you see!
And after this, I won’t be four,
Not ever, ever any more!
I won’t be three – or two – or one.
For that was when I’d first begun.
Now I’ll be five a while, and then
I’ll soon be something else again!

-Mary Louise Allen

Five!

Five!

Five.  She’s a sweet-spirited, strong-willed, loving, smart, giving, whining, hammy bundle of energy.  She’s shy but has spunk (as evidenced when she boldly told a 12 year old who was teasing her brother, “Hey!  He’s littler than you!  You’re not supposed to pick on kids littler than you!”), loves learning about Jesus, likes to dance and make up songs and is daring.  I love that she wears stripes with plaid, cowgirl boots with fancy dresses and rainboots to church, and I hope she doesn’t outgrow a sense of style that doesn’t care what others think.

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And, oh, the things she says!

This morning, even, before getting to try something new for breakfast…. “I’m so excited to explore the taste of them!”

Random reflections on her name:
Jovelle: “Jovelle doesn’t really sound like a  name. Bob sounds like a name, but Jovelle doesn’t.”
Me: “Oh really?  What does Jovelle sound like?”
Jovelle: “Just a word.”

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Jovelle: “I feel pretty.”
Me: “Oh yeah, why?”
Jovelle: “I just feel how I look, that’s all.”
Me, chuckling:  “Ok, get buckled up, please.”
Jovelle: “Why are you laughing when you say that?”
Me, not wanting her to think I was laughing at her: “Because I love you.”
Jovelle: “Why are you laughing at that?  I thought it was happy when you love someone.”

Me to Judah, who was building with Legos: “Whoa!  Look at that!  What are you building?”
Jovelle: “Just the fanciest thing in the universe.”

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Jovelle at bedtime, suddenly talking and reflecting on having taken communion for the first time at church that morning: “It’s not actually Jesus’s body and blood we had.  It’s just crackers and juice.”
Me: “Yes, it’s just supposed to remind us about what Jesus did for us.”
Jovelle, a few minutes later: “It’s a good thing I took communion today because I was starting to forget that Jesus died for me so it’s good I took communion so I could remember.”

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Judah, picking up couch: “Look how strong I am!”
Jovelle, trying unsuccessfully to pick up couch: “Look how light I am!”

Happy birthday, five year old!  Still the cutest birthday girl ever!  😉

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This Little One

This guy…. Two. Already.

Seems like so many moons ago….
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Likes: bubbles, balls, books, pretending to be a puppy (complete with tongue-hanging-out-panting and crawling, a feat he can keep up for a good thirty minutes without breaking character, even while crawling on cement at Sea World (I mean in theory, cuz what mom would let her kid do that??!)), throwing things in the toilet and trash can (pretty sure we’ve lost half a set of kids cups and silverware to the trash can and many a lego and marble have been bathed in the toilet), milk (“no no”), nap time and bedtime (a miraculous change from the past!!), throwing food from his high chair to signal he’s done or dislikes something, giving kisses, food

Dislikes: being left out of things Judah and Jovelle are doing, vegetables (as a general rule), characters in costumes (I.e. Mickey Mouse, Chuck E. Cheese, etc.)

In general Josiah is really good natured and almost always smiling, but he’s got quite the stubborn streak as well.  He’s quite snuggly and very expressive.  And cute. Did the very objective mother mention cute?!

Happy birthday, little one!

Coming “Home”

“You can’t go home again.”

Never has that statement been more true for me than this past 16 months. It has been about that long since our family left Nigeria for the last time and settled indefinitely in Orlando, Florida, USA.

Christie has lived in Central Florida most of her life; I lived here for three years before we moved to Nigeria in 2009. We had communities and networks of friends, family and colleagues that we knew well and that knew us. We had our favorite haunts–those stores and restaurants that we gravitated to. Orlando was our home (or at least one of our homes) and when we said farewell to our life in Jos, Nigeria, we were coming home.

Or so we thought.

Our

Our “home” since February 2014.

Many of our friends in Orlando had moved. All had, to some degree, moved on with their lives (not that we would have expected anything less). Our haunts had closed or were under new management. Colleagues had changed roles. Even the look of my commute from the downtown area (where we lived before and now) to the Wycliffe office had changed dramatically.

We, too, had changed. Five years living in west Africa has a way of re-shaping your worldview. Our mannerisms and diction were different. The kids did odd things (like take power outages in stride as if nothing happened). I was a different leader and manager, and in a different role with Wycliffe, than when we left five years prior.

While there was some semblance of familiarity in our life, it certainly didn’t feel like home!

We all struggled with missing our community in Nigeria. This was particularly hard for Christie and the kids, probably mostly because I’ve had the benefit of going in to the office every day where I am surrounded by people who have made the same transition we’re facing. Skype calls and visits with our friends in Nigeria have been nice but didn’t quite cut it when it came to being a part of each others’ lives, day in and day out. We haven’t yet found any replacement for that community–and we may never find it again–and we are grieving as a result.

A reunion with two other

A reunion with two other “Nigerian” families earlier this year.

There are reasons why counselors are desperately needed on the mission field. It’s not just because of the PTSD, cross-cultural issues and interpersonal challenges that are so common. It’s also because of the transitions we face and the need to balance having multiple homes. It’s a psychological struggle and one that we (both Christie and I, plus the kids) now face every day.

Would you pray with us? Pray that God would help us to reflect upon and remember our time in Nigeria, while helping us find the community He has for us here in Orlando. Pray that He would help our kids understand the new reality we are in, while not losing their life lessons and cross-cultural experiences from our time in Jos. Pray that we would continue to have sweet reunions with friends from our Nigeria life!

Thank you for praying!

Now He is Six

When I was one,
I had just begun.

Judah 018100_3780When I was two,
I was nearly new.

100_0632When I was three,
I was hardly me.

100_5458When I was four,
I was not much more.

100_7716When I was five,
I was just alive.

100_9277100_9367But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.

IMG_0407So I think I’ll be six
now for ever and ever.

by A. A. Milne

…And then he was six.

So soon.

And yet already he can’t wait to be seven. I wonder sometimes, is it just the birthday excitement he wants? If we gave him presents every day, would he want to slow down this fastness then?

I tell him to enjoy being the age he is, that kids get to spend much of their day playing and have far less to worry about, even if sometimes they do get time outs and often get decisions made for them instead of being the one to decide whether to have peas or carrots for dinner (or darn it, no vegetables, just cookies this time, thank you very much) or what time to go to bed… but still.  Still, he longs for the next age and the next and the next, while I long to hold on to each year a little longer.

Maybe Chris and I just make this grown up, parenting thing look so easy.  Yeah, that must be it.  (Cough cough.)

Well, no matter – happy birthday to our fast growing boy!  This boy delights us, tries us, stretches us and amazes us daily.  He is smart and silly, cautious and adventurous, full of questions that challenge us and make us think, and he has an insatiable desire to learn…. I love that he loves playing soccer and baseball and riding bikes as much as he loves reading and school.  (In fact, one of the things he wanted to do for his birthday today – despite being sick and even though it was his birthday and he could choose anything he wanted – was “have school.”)  We pray that as each day passes he will continue to grow in the fear and knowledge of the Lord and in favor with God and man.  Happy birthday, dear Judah!

Growing So Fast!

I can’t believe Josiah is five months old…. so you know what that means – I finally uploaded pictures from when he turned four months.  😉  We’ve been trying to do pictures with this purple stuffed gorilla that we have each month, but usually the picture gets taken several days weeks after I intend to.  On the plus side, though, at least they’re getting taken!

Here are some from months before….

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And four months is a series of outtakes….  😉

Most of the pictures started with Josiah, who couldn't quite sit on his own for terribly long, propped up. Before long, though, he was leaning to eat the gorilla.

Most of the pictures started with Josiah, who couldn’t quite sit on his own for terribly long, propped up. Before long, though, he was leaning to eat the gorilla.

...And then succeeding in eating it....

…And then succeeding in eating it….

...And then landing on top of the gorilla....

…And then landing on top of the gorilla….

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…Or it landing on him.

And then ended with him deciding the paper tasted much better than purple fur.

…And then ended with him deciding the paper tasted much better than purple fur.

Moral of the story?  We never did get that perfect shot, but that’s okay – these pictures much more accurately reflect his wiggly worm self anyway!  🙂

…And his wiggly self is definitely loved a lot….

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…sometimes a little TOO much.  😉

He’s Here!

Okay, okay… more like he’s been here for 7 weeks.  😉  It seems that God has us in a season of a lot of changes and transitions (More details coming soon!), but the cuddliest and cutest of all the new things right now is this little guy….

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Josiah Benjamin was born on February 4 at 3:33 am.  (Whew!  And I thought childbirth in general was tough.  Childbirth in the middle of the night takes on a whole new dimension!  We were really blessed, though, in that labor, from start to finish, was about 5 hours, and by the time he decided he was ready to come, a minute and a half later, there he was!)  He was 8 pounds 9.7 ounces – the biggest by quite a bit of either Judah or Jovelle – and 21 inches.  He had a bit more hair than they did, too, which has resulted in a particularly soft head that I have decided is remarkably stroke-able.  It’s so soft!

Fresh from God!

Fresh from God!

He is also quite cuddly and loves being held, and quite honestly, I love that about him.  Judah always liked to be facing out and seeing what was going on in the world, even from a really young age, but this guy, oh he loves being held close and tight.  He is such a sweet little guy… though I must confess that I was pretty shocked when Chris announced, “It’s a boy!”  For some reason, I really thought the baby was a girl; in fact, Chris said when he announced the gender, it was the most alert he’d seen me all night when I sat straight up and yelled, “It’s a BOY!?  What?!”

Josiah means “The Lord heals,” “The Lord supports” or “The Lord saves.”  I’ve always like the person of Josiah in the Bible (See 2 Kings 22-23 for more about him.); I love that he became king at 8 years old and that he was a just ruler who followed God.  In fact, the Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).  He was also responsible for renewing the covenant between God’s people and God.  When Josiah found the Words of God and realized that they had not been following His commands, Josiah basically kick started a revival: He “renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3).  How cool is that?!  Since we work with Bible translation, we find Josiah’s reformation because of his encounter with the Word of God especially moving – it really is such a strong reminder of what can happen when one encounters the living Word and why we believe everyone should have access to it in a language they understand best.

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Of course, Josiah wasn’t perfect, but isn’t that true of all of us?  Still, though, the Bible tells us that “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).

Our hope and prayer is that our Josiah will follow the ways of the Lord, even from a young age, and turn neither to the right nor the left, even with the pressures of a society trying to redefine right and wrong.   We pray that he will follow the Lord will all his heart, soul and strength, and that he will love the Word of God passionately – and that this love for God and the Bible will give him a passion to want to see others walking with Him.

 

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Yup, we’re in love!

 

*Thanks to Tiny Bear Photography for the last picture of Josiah. 

 

Our Little MKs

Our little MKs

Our little MKs

In our latest newsletter (Let us know if you don’t receive it but would like to—it is being sent out this weekend.), we talked about how Judah and Jovelle might struggle with various facets of being back in the U.S. We’ve continued that train of thought here with a longer list. Kudos to our friends Paul and Kelly who gave permission to adapt this idea that was from their own newsletter.

Some things our kids might have to learn (or re-learn) and adjust to:

  • That it’s probably not appropriate to run around barefoot in underwear and diapers (nor very smart—particularly in a Northern Michigan winter!).
  • That they are—shock!—not a novelty and the center of attention when they’re anywhere in public.
  • How to go to a zoo and not stick their hands in the cages to feed the elephants or monkeys from their hands.

Feeding chimps out of your hand…a typical day at the zoo in Nigeria.

  • That every child they meet in America does not go to their playgroup and may not want to be their friend.
  • How to meet loads of new people in a short amount of time—and speak and react appropriately every time they meet someone new.
  • That receiving mail in the United States is not nearly as exciting as it is in Nigeria (and usually doesn’t contain snacks from their grandparents).
  • That being with family in person is WAY better than just talking on Skype (especially since Grandma can’t change diapers virtually!).
  • That those carrots in the store are NOT a free gift and actually have to be purchased!
  • That home is where Mommy and Daddy are, not necessarily a particular place.
  • How to leave behind almost everything they know and experience new things every day.

We are grateful for the time we will get to spend with our family and friends in the States and so looking forward to it. We know, though, that in some ways for Judah and Jovelle, going back to the U.S. is not exactly going home (though Judah has observed that we are blessed to have two homes), so we appreciate your patience and grace if they don’t always act in ways that seem appropriate.