Redemption in a Dog: Our Sammy

Sammy Redemption final(1)

There are days when a writer has to sit down and bleed at her computer…to just open up, spill all the words in their messiest, most imperfect, often-ugly forms, and get out what’s there.

It happens some days and, on most of them, those words stay locked away.

Today is one of those days for me, but those words won’t be locked up. They can’t be. They’ll be shared because they absolutely should be.

This is the day I want to tie up a story that’s been told in pieces over the years…here and there, in different places in our lives to others…and share the entire thing. It will be long, it will be messy, and not everyone will understand.

I get it, but I invite you to stay anyway.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m going to do it in honor of the sweet golden retriever boy who shared our lives and love for over 12 1/2 years. He died just over two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to even find words that might attempt to tell about all he was to us. We miss him fiercely and heartbreakingly, but his presence and the ways God grew us through him will always stay with us.

So this. It’s for Sammy.

Sammy smiles final

It started on a Monday night in January of 2006, the kind that was rainy and gloomy and wasn’t stormy, though that would’ve made a great intro. 😉 Indonesian rain and gloom in January is about as close as it gets to winter in the tropics. At any rate, we just needed to get out of the house so we braved the rain on the bike and drove down the hill to the closest Starbucks.

Watching the tropical rain pound the windows from our cozy couch seats, we worked on school…planning, grading, lessons…and occasionally chatted about life. After a few hours, with the mall closing down in just about 20 minutes, we decided to pack up our things and head upstairs to check out the new pet store before we went home.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but I’d like to think it’s as if I semi-remember/imagine. 😉 I stepped off the escalator and locked eyes with a golden retriever puppy. He was panting, he was smiling because goldens smile so darn big and it’s awesome, and I was instantly smitten. I must’ve begged pretty hard to get my hubby to say yes, but within 20 minutes, we’d visited a cash machine, paid for our new family member, purchased a crate, and were on our way home, me and our new boy in a taxi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our, we’ve-got-two-dogs-now, season of life had begun.

It seems like yesterday. And I have to stop here and let myself cry a little because the time just flies so fast. There are so many memories of that night…tied to dogs, tied to a place, tied to a time in our lives that can only be in our hearts now.

We already had an almost-3-year-old Golden Retriever at the time, Andre, and he was truly our baby. (Eye rolling is permitted here as long as it’s gentle.) I guess when I tell you that, I also remind myself that there’s more to this story than just loving a dog. Now, dogs.

It wasn’t all daisies and rainbows from the beginning, though…rather it was double the poop, double the dog hair all over everything, double the cost, double the crazy. And double the love. He kept us up most of his first night home and for a few more after that, life was always a literal wrestling match between the two dogs, and sometimes we felt like we were going crazy whenever we (or anyone else for that matter) walked through the door. But we smiled and laughed and loved it all…I guess we’re just created to be dog people, and we let them add all the love and crazy that came with them to our lives.

And we continued our lives overseas, too…some days were easy, some days not so much. That’s life in another culture when you have a busy job and ministry. It’s good most days, but that good can mix with hard, too…and we messed up a lot. We chose to love…or try to love…anyway, embracing it all, and we had two sweet, big-hearted furry boys along for the ride to help us feel a little more at home.

It was a sweet life, and there were so many incredible blessings. We wouldn’t trade those. Not for anything. 😀

And then there was the year when we decided that maybe we’d like some human kids, too, and by maybe I meant we absolutely couldn’t wait to be parents and by the time we we realized this, nine months felt like an eternity. I never imagined we’d struggle. But after months and months it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy road.

And I guess our dogs became even more precious to us.

Andre&Sammy final

Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not…but there are no apologies in this story today. I’m just sharing it…all of it, my heart wide open.

When I go back to that season, I remember how heartbreaking it was to see one pregnancy announcement after another. Knowing that there was still no baby for us. There were so many days, for me, of surrender and choosing joy in all of it. The faces of my doggy boys made me happy, made me smile, made me forget my aching heart for a few moments at a time. In a very real sense, they were our kids, at least in that season. They filled a void that not everyone can understand.

And so it hit us hard and out of the blue the September morning of 2007 when my husband walked into my 4th grade classroom. I’d just sent my kids off to music class, and I looked up to see his face. I’ll never forget the look on it.

Sammy’s gone.

Somehow, without anyone seeing, someone had taken our precious boy from our yard. Our housekeeper had been home, but like always, she’d let the dogs run around the yard during the day. We had no clue that anyone would ever dream of taking him. Who does that?!

Apparently there are people who do.

That moment tore my heart out as we raced to figure out a plan, whatever that looked like, in a country where things worked differently and where we couldn’t always communicate well.

We didn’t know what to do, but we had to do something.

We spent days and days blanketing the city of Bandung with flyers, promising that we’d keep the police out of it, that we’d offer a large reward…we just wanted our sweet dog back.

Multiple times a day we’d hop on the bike and drive down to the two places in town known for selling stolen dogs. One, shamelessly set up on a street corner and the other in front of a shopping mall, we’d go and ask them over and over: Have you seen our dog? Please help us. We won’t tell the police. No police. Just a reward. Please help us get him back.

We spent six days living like that, on broken sleep with even more broken hearts while still trying to do our “jobs” at school.

Talk about messy people in a broken place.

During the day, my students…oh, my students. They would pray. They would encourage me with the love they poured on a teacher they’d only known for a couple weeks. One was so bold as to approach me one morning and say, “Mrs. Schroeder, God gave me a vision of Sammy. He’s going to come home.” I weep at her faith, even now.

To top it off, all of this went down during our Spiritual Emphasis Week at school.

While my faith was floundering and shrinking and the devil was having his way in my own life, Jesus was being lifted up. Satan wasn’t going to win, and even if I didn’t feel that…everyone else claimed it for me.

Four days after Sammy was stolen, something happened. I’ve gone back to this day, over and over, for two poignant reasons.

That Sunday afternoon I’d reached a breaking point. My hubby had just hopped on the bike (again) to drive by the two stolen dog markets (again) and I knew in less than an hour he’d be home (again) to tell me Sammy was nowhere to be found…again.

The tears had been constant, but I remember them flowing like they never had before. It hurt too much, physically, to even sit up and so I let myself lie down on the cool tile in our hallway. Face down.

And I wept. Tears-pooling-on-the-floor, wept. At first I wept for myself and my broken heart, but then, even more, I wept and surrendered. God, Sammy’s yours. I love him and I want him back so badly, but if this is Your plan, then he’s Yours. If I could just have him one more day…one more. But, still. He’s yours. Face down, I prayed those words as I pressed my forehead into the floor, as if that would make my prayer holier…or something like that.

And looking back, there was more to that surrender than a dog. I think I was surrendering it all then. My plans, my dreams, my hopes, and yes, my dog…and my future children, too.

And even after I sat up again, I cried more. It was maybe the most paradoxical, soul-crushing-soul-redeeming moment of my life. Yes, the two can co-exist.

A few minutes later my husband returned to get me, and we went down to the second market again. I think we went back there that day because I just needed to be there. I needed to look into the eyes of whoever was working the joint that day and let him know that there were real people and feelings behind this.

I remember approaching the mass of people huddled around all of the animals, locking eyes with a man working there, and immediately trying in my oh-so-broken Indonesian, covered with tears, to ask him to please find our dog.

That was when a miracle happened. I call it one anyway.

A fully-covered Muslim woman, with only her eyes showing, touched my arm tenderly. What an odd thing to see her there, standing and looking at dogs, something her culture didn’t allow. Ma’am, may I help you please? In perfect English.

I explained to her what was happening. She turned to the man and, in Indonesian, gave him every detail.

I thanked her and then I never saw her again.

But I hold on to that moment to this day and wish with all my heart that I could go back and thank this woman again…because my husband got a phone call two days later from the man we’d spoken to. He knew who had our dog, and he’d arranged for Tobin to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts, down by the mall, with cash, so this man could go buy back our dog and return him to us. (Yes, it was exactly like it sounds. Basically paying a ransom. At a Dunkin’ Donuts. In Indonesia. Everyday stuff.)

In just minutes, Tobin had hopped in a school vehicle with one of the drivers and another employee and they were on their way. We were skeptical that this was legit, but it brought a shred of hope. Something we’d prayed for, something to hang on to.

I went back to my kiddos, who had abandoned their recess to stand in a circle and pray. (Golly, this just makes me love them all over again.) And then I went back to teaching…my cell phone sat on my desk, and I shamelessly left the volume turned up, waiting for the phone call that my shaky faith still didn’t believe would come.

But it did. My phone rang and I set a record getting to it.

It’s him, it’s him!!!

That’s all we heard. His cries were loud enough that my entire class heard.

My boy was found.

I’ve never forgotten the emotion of that moment as I told my students to go tell everyone. That’s what they needed to do…what we needed to do. We had to let the people who’d lived this with us, who’d covered us in prayer, who’d supported us though they didn’t understand…that God had answered our prayers.

We’d all knocked down the doors of heaven…and God said, Yes.

He said Yes. And He not only said yes to one more day with our dog…he said yes to 11 YEARS, 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS more. That’s humbling.

I think so often of those days, and while they don’t bring the heartache that they used to anymore, they do remind me of a relentless God. For six days, Tobin and I did everything to wholly pursue getting our dog back. To redeem him and bring him home to us.

And, friends? Our God is the same way.

He moves heaven and earth and relentlessly…WITHOUT. GIVING. UP…pursues those He loves because he WANTS us more than anything.

That makes me weep. He wants to redeem every single one of us.

Sammy & the fam

It’s true that the life we lived with Sammy gave us so many memories. He lived so many things with us besides being stolen and then redeemed…he was there for the everyday joys, heartaches, big transitions, so much love. He lived life with us no matter which hemisphere we resided in, he welcomed Mae and Mac home as babies, let them climb all over him as toddlers, he kept on loving us every day, and he became part of the lives of the people we love so much, too. It’s hard to see that come to an end. It makes me cry today. Every day.

But Sammy leaves us with a lesson that our hearts have held on to for so long…it’s a lesson in the faithfulness of God.

Friends, we serve a God who hears us and knows the cries deep in our hearts. He understands heartache and there are times He allows it, but He never leaves us alone. He brings redemption and that redemption looks so much bigger than we can even imagine.

Tobin and I have talked a lot over the years about what might have happened if Sammy hadn’t come back. It’s not really a place we ever needed to go…but it’s something that would come up as we’d reflect on the miracle…and it really was…of him coming home. Several people told us, gently, that there was no feasible reason Sammy should have been returned to us. And, yet, God allowed it.

We’re so grateful.

Family-101 final

We said a hard goodbye to our sweet boy two weeks ago. My hubby and I both held him as the vet gave him a shot and he went to sleep for the last time. Our hearts broke and the tears felt endless for a few days…and honestly, I’m sitting at my computer bawling. It’s ugly and messy and that’s ok today and tomorrow and in the next days.

But, even as the tears just poured down our faces, we also couldn’t help talking about him as we drove home.

About how God gave us SO. MUCH. MORE. than we deserved in that sweet dog. How the love and the time and the memories were multiplied so much I can’t even do the math…and about how God knew how much we needed him and so He let us keep him longer.

We’re holding on to that right now…and we’re finding ways to remember him. The dog hair on everything feels sacred right now, which is totally stupid. But if you see me and there’s a dog hair on my shirt…just leave it there, yeah? It’s a mark of love.

I will never forget this sweet dog. Our Sammy Boy, who will always occupy a special corner of our hearts and lives and remind us of the faithfulness of our Father in all seasons.

I will always be grateful for what God did in our lives through him.

Goodbye, sweet boy. We will miss you with all our hearts.

Sammy redemption final

Sig

The Dance Between Now and Heartbreak

sammy1

There was a time not so long ago when I’d sit down and the words would pour out. I’d share my heart, my life, and the flavor of coffee creamer I was currently obsessing over with anyone who might listen.

As (slightly) self-indulgent as it sounds, those were good days.

I felt like someone and something in this great, big, bloggy world…and like I might be making a tiny difference when my words were out there, perfectly crafted or imperfectly messy. Either way was ok.

They were my words.

And then the words got fewer and further between and, for awhile, almost completely stopped. There are seasons of life like that, and as the words fell off and away, much like the leaves fall from the mighty oaks in my side yard during October, I entered a season of winter. And like every season, I knew it would pass.

We moved through the pain of heartbreak over a miscarriage, the loss of our sweet first golden, a life-threatening pregnancy gifting us with unimaginable joy and total chaos in the form of a little boy, and marriage difficulties that threatened to tear us apart.

It felt as if winter were lifting just a tad, and then things got hard again. It’s not like I expected them NOT to…life isn’t supposed to be a smooth ride around a predictable, even track.

But the fog was lifting a bit, and there was some clarity. Even joy.

And every day has been a dance since then…not always the good kind, but a dance. I was never a good dancer, and sometimes I can picture myself as a ballerina, but then I laugh over the obvious grace that would not accompany me, were I to be center stage in a tutu. (BAHAHAHA!!!) 😀

K, I needed to publicly laugh that one out. Mad love to all the ballerinas out there…YOU are AH.MAZE.ING.

There’s joy some days…smiles, laughs, and I think to myself, I can do this thing. I can raise this toddler boy and love my daughter well and even be a good wife, the kind who thinks ahead on dinner and stays up on laundry and (GASP) keeps the dining room table clean.

And then there are the days when I’m not those things, and it’s hard. It hurts. And life becomes more difficult. Those difficulties aren’t earth shattering, really. Like I said, they’re life.

But sometimes, life smacks us hard.

There’s this sweet doggie boy, our Sammy, who has shared our lives and our love over the last almost-thirteen-years and has poured so much into our family just by being him, and we know the end is near. We’ve been told there’s a tumor and we’ve got months at best, and in the middle of all the other struggles, I find myself waiting for heartbreak.

And it’s so, so hard. Some days, I really have to remind myself to breathe as I look at his sweet golden face and the joy he has brought us.

I can’t imagine our days without Sammy, and yet we know they’re coming.

And it’s this kind of dance I’m tripping through right now…the kind that soaks up every single moment because we have to but knowing that things can turn tomorrow, and our hearts will shatter even more.

I hate the in-between.

And I have fought God on it with all of my being some days…yet the other days I find some type of reconciliation and cuddle my Sam a little closer and remind him that, even though he can’t hear me at all, he has been an absolute gift to us, and we love him so much. SO much.

And I’m not even sure why I’m pouring out all of this, mostly-unedited and all-messy, and sharing it today except I think it might be necessary for me as I try to figure out how to say goodbye to a constant in our lives, one who made our lives better and some days just made us smile a bit more through the dark times.

Maybe I don’t have a right to hurt so deeply, especially over a dog. But as any dog owner knows…they’re never just that. There’s a deep ache in the pit of my stomach all the time. I don’t suppose it will go away for awhile, even if there’s full surrender and even if it’s the kind that says, It’s ok, God. It really is.

Because it is.

Ok.

At the end of the day, much like the rest of us, God has always known how long we’d have this doggie boy. He knew…on that heart-wrenching day, eleven years ago (ironically, exactly eleven years ago) when I found myself, face down on the floor, pouring out my heart and begging Him for one more day with my missing dog…He knew He’d give us almost eleven years more instead.

I serve a good Father, and so even as the pit deepens and aches just a bit more and the tears fall hard and steady, streaking my eyeliner, I can cling to His goodness and know that as we face something so sad…He’s there. Has always been and will always be.

It’s the lesson I’ve always come back to when I think of Sammy…that God has shown Himself faithful, and He’ll continue to.

Maybe you’re there today, friend? I don’t know. I just know how much I need that reminder as I stroke my hand through his fur and rub his ear yet another time, hoping and praying we’ll still have tomorrow.

It’s the dance between the now and the heartbreak I know is coming. I guess we call it life?

But I’ll dance it in flip flops and jeans with tear-filled eyes and cling to the Goodness I know is my Father. May you see His goodness today, too, no matter where your circumstances find you. And may you love a little deeper, knowing it’s all a gift.

And a good gift.

Thank you, God, for Sammy and for today.

Sammy2

Sig

Wandering Home

Wandering Home final 2

I had determined that so much time would not pass before I wrote again, but six months happened anyway.

Six months of life and joy and ups and downs and all the things that come from what happens when less and less time is spent at a keyboard.

I miss it, often. Most days, really.

But I also see the gift in giving myself the freedom to breathe away from screens and, instead, sit on the floor and play with bristle blocks. I didn’t even know they existed until my little boy came along.

Somewhere in the last six months…

…we went from first to second grade.

…we went from seven months to thirteen, six to seven, 38 to 39, and someone, who shall remain unnamed, found his 40’s. 😉

…we went from fourteen years married to a milestone. 15.

…we laughed and cried, fought and rebuilt, hurt but chose love.

…we built a thousand plus more memories.

…we turned a two bedroom to a working-on-becoming-three-with-an-extra-family-room thrown in there. Hello, awesome construction and MORE space. 😀

And so much more. (Including miserably failing at anything related to writing.) 😉

I’ve never been the type to stick my roots down. I think insecurity and painful childhood memories have a lot to do with that. When I actually did fall under the title of nomad, I reveled in it. The freedom to go and see and do…

And leave.

Yet, here we are, and the house at #127 has the deepest roots we’ve found so far. I’m not sure they’ll ever really be yanked up, and that’s oh-so-good.

And hard. Some days, really hard.

The July day we broke ground was the day my Indonesia heart broke a little, too. No one knew because I masked it with a big smile, but I knew that, most likely, an Indonesia life wasn’t in the plans for us anymore. My heart has always longed to return, somehow. Short-term, probably, but long enough to love again. But God has to move in all hearts, not just the emotional one.

And so, above dragging my family across the world and tearing us from a place we all love, I choose to honor God’s calling for us in this season. I press into the relationships and hang on to those that need a little extra hanging-on-to. They’re precious, and friends like this don’t walk into my life every day. I cover our lives in prayer because we always need it, but I think we all need it a little more right now. If that even makes sense.

I choose to invest, even on the days when it hurts; I smile when I sing a praise song because even though the act of praising is sometimes bittersweet, the God I’m singing to is unchanging. Always the same.

And we breathe silently and deeply, the kind of breath that catches in our throats because another year has passed…and we walk our girl to her second grade classroom, where she flits off and gets ready to fly just a little more. And tears pool in the corners of our eyes as we watch it all. But then the stories of recess and art-creating, of singing songs and learning math spill out of her at the pick-up line, and I know to the depths what a blessing this all is.

But my wandering heart is still learning to stay anchored to the One Who holds me.

And so I stumble out of bed every single morning, a bit earlier than I’d like thanks to the baby boy who enjoys those early hours. I sip a little extra coffee, find some time and space for my Father and what He has for me that day, and then she rises so we can really start the day. It’s routine…it’s our becoming.

The kind of becoming that teaches us, again, that no matter where we go, He is always with us. But the part of that verse I never see there, and maybe He just meant to imply it because we should already know it, is that wherever we stay, He’s there, too.

I’m finding myself again slowly, in the most close-to-Jesus way possible. I know he’s my everything, and so I lack nothing.

But sometimes I still wander.

Away from my blog, away from what I should be doing, and even, at times, away from Him.

I’m so, so grateful He doesn’t wander from me.

There’s a lot of life not shared here anymore…and I miss that part. I was half-joking, kind-of bragging to friends the other night that when it comes to words, I’ve still got it. 😉 But the truth is that sometimes He asks silence from us so He can quiet us and teach us more than we’d learn if we were making noise all the time.

So that’s our season. For now.

Seasons definitely change, and I don’t know what the next one will look like. But I do know Who tells every leaf where to fall.

And so I’ll wander a little bit more, looking for His next plan…but I’ll always wander back to Him.

I’ll always wander back to Him, because in the end, He’s Home.

Sig

Thoughts and Favorites (+ a Giveaway!)

almostspring

Or, we could just call this piece the everything-all-at-once post.

😉

As usual, it’s been too long since I’ve found this place. Life just keeps zipping by, and I can’t believe it’s almost March and that I have a seven month old.

Time can slow down Any. Day.

I started writing a pretty deep post last night…and when I hit 1,400 words and was still only about half there, I decided maybe now’s not the time for (too) deep thoughts. Though there’s plenty of rambling going on here.

You’ve been warned. 😀

But occasionally I have a day when there are a zillion thoughts swirling that aren’t as deep, and so why not hit the blog? Mac is napping, it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I’m basically killing time until we can sneak out for a walk. (And last week when we had those gorgeous, basically-spring temps? It was Mac’s first time sitting up in the stroller and…OH. MY. HEART.)

Mac in stroller

But back to writing…the honest truth is that I’ve been pretty quiet the last year. It felt like the internet was so, SO noisy, and I just felt overwhelmed even entering conversations. And so I’ve hung back and learned to be still and listen more…and it’s been really, really good. Mostly.

But writing is the one thing I don’t want to be too silent on. Sharing words gives me life. I’m not ready to hang up this place yet.

So I’ll keep running back to it and finding words when there are some.

I also haven’t done a favorites post in forever, so I thought I’d do that, too. You know, because sometimes it’s just good to catch up on life, if not for the good of everyone else, at least for me. And how about a giveaway? Cause I love a good one. (Keep going.) :)

READ

I’ve been reading a lot.

Mostly the Bible…I started the beginning of the year in 1 Samuel, and I decided to just read straight through. Some days it’s eight chapters (usually not, though) and some days it’s two. I’m just trying to open my Bible more…and I’m finding that, for the first time in my life, I’m enjoying it. That sort of makes me sad to say, especially after five years of Bible college, but it’s pretty true.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t give up on us.

He’s renewing my heart and showing me a deeper relationship with Him.

I’ve been reading through a couple other books, too…slower than normal, but sometimes I can’t process it all at once, ya know? 😉

The Broken Way (Ann Voskamp) is amazing. I got so excited when it came out that I ordered a few copies. And the study guide. And the DVD. So if you’re local, there might be a Bible study coming up sometime. :)

Uninvited (Lysa TerKeurst) This one just speaks to the season I’m in right now. Some relationships are a little up and down/confusing, I’m not sure where I fit anymore, and I need the reminder that God wants me…even on the days when no one else does. Maybe we all need that reminder?

WEAR

I’m a sucker for cute hoodies, and I’ve loved Evy’s Tree since I first heard about them. Their hoodies are awesome quality but a little on the expensive side…but once in awhile, I splurge.

cutehoodie

I spent some of my Christmas money on this beauty, and I think it was worth the splurge. :) It screams spring, and I love that, until I tone the last bit of my baby belly, it hides it all…well, when I zip it up anyway. 😉 Plus, it’s just cute. If I had an endless cash flow, I would buy ALL. THE. HOODIES. But I don’t and that’s probably better for everyone. :) And yes, yes I do take pics late at night with messy hair and smeared makeup and a wrinkled shirt. That’s just how I roll.

Speaking of toning a baby belly (and not speaking of hoodies) I finally, for the first time ever in the U.S., joined a gym. I’ve been doing a 5:45 a.m. spin class twice a week…and oh, boy. Once I get there, it’s actually enjoyable. (And sweaty) The dragging myself out of bed at 5:15? Notsomuch. But it’s good for me, and it’s one way I can take care of me.

Another thing I’m still loving…earrings. ALL the earrings. 😉 And though I typically gravitate toward the bigger-and-more-dangly-the-better, kind, my most recent pair from Fair Trade Friday kind of has my heart. And the story behind these brings tears to my eyes, too.

FTF earrings

So I’m breaking my rule and wearing them anyway and totally loving them. :)

And should you want a cute pair of earrings in your mailbox every month, go here. It’s the best $13 I spend every month…and every pair comes with a story of redemption. That’s just cool. :)

WATCH

Other than This is Us (and we’re two episodes behind, so SHHHHH!) or some HGTV here and there, I’ve barely turned on the TV in weeks. I go in spurts…lately I’d just rather read or create or get something done around the house.

Maybe I’m getting old. 😉

The truth…and this isn’t the first time I’ve shared this here…is that the “older” I get and the older Mae gets, the more there’s a filter on what comes into this house.

I didn’t always filter what I watched, but especially now it just seems like there’s so much garbage out there. I don’t need all kinds of bad language going into my head, and I don’t need sexual references in just about every show there is. Sometimes I feel like an old prude for voicing all of that. And some days I miss watching Friends, too. (Honesty here.)

But God has been working on me in a lot of ways, and one of those is praying for the strength through Him to make choices that honor Him. So I don’t apologize for trying to do the right thing…the right thing for me and my family. I’m definitely not perfect at it. (No judgment here on what’s right for everyone else.) It’s tough some days, though…and I think it’s ok to admit that, too.

GO

I’m itching to take a trip…it’s been a few years since we’ve left the country, but it’s not gonna happen this year. We’re currently having our garage door replaced, and that desperately needed to happen. (Ask me sometime about the morning I spent three minutes, when we were already late, trying to get the stupid thing to stay down.) 😀

AND…since Mac was a boy instead of a girl, we need another bedroom. 😉  And I LOVE that he’s a boy, but facts are facts. So we’re (hopefully) adding a two-story addition to our house. I’m super excited for an extra family room, a bigger bedroom for him and us (with a walk-in closet and little sitting/writing/drinking coffee area overlooking the river) and just more space.

I guess we finally dug those roots down deep. It feels good.

And also, we’re never moving. Ever. :)

indo green

And the truth is that, most days, I’m sure of that. I don’t usually miss Indonesia anymore.

But I did today. I saw a picture that brought back a memory, and it was hard and the ache was deep. And, again, I had to breathe and wrap my mind around the fact that the Indonesia part of our life is over.

Forever.

It won’t ever be again, even if there are trips back to visit. Life there has changed and gone on and morphed into something that isn’t the Indo we lived. It’s good because life has to keep going and kids need to know our Father, but sometimes it hurts that we aren’t there for it all.

But we know we’re where we need to be, and so…hello, house addition. :)

As I look out the window and see the sunshine coming through bare branches, it calms my heart and reminds me, once again, that my God is so very good.

Even in the changes and the unknowns and wonderings. Even if, sometimes, we have to stop and just give thanks for what was, what is, and what’s to come…even if, and especially when, we don’t feel gratitude.

I wonder how many times I can share this song on one blog…but it’s a perfect metaphor for life and it resonates so much right now.

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced,
Teaching us to breathe.
And what was frozen through is newly purposed,
Turning all things green.
So it is with You and how You make me new
with every season’s change;
And so it will be, as You are recreating me…
Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring

And how ’bout a giveaway? Nothing like changing the subject. 😉

Presents are my love language and I just feel like brightening someone’s day. So I fell in love with this Pioneer Woman mug at Walmart a few weeks ago. (Yes, you read the Walmart part right. I’m currently on a stay-out-of-Target-for-the-sake-of-our-budget kick. And I’m doin’ good.) 😉

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So I’m giving away this mug, some of my favorite coffee (try it with some vanilla almond milk…YUM!) and this chocolate because duh. Chocolate. And a cute pair of fair trade earrings that came in my box last month…they weren’t as much my style, but they’re still stinkin’ cute and someone out there needs them. :)

Wanna win?

Leave me a comment here or on facebook and tell me something. Anything. A blessing, a smile, a way I can lift a prayer for you. I’ll pick a winner Wednesday night.

That’s it.

I hope your week is overflowing with blessings, friends. Happy Monday!

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September Friday Favorites (+ a GIVEAWAY)

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Hi, friends. And, happy fall! (I love that I can officially say that.) :)

So I’m sliding in late this Friday…and I’ve also written this post once already, and then I decided to delete the 1,000+ words and start over. I guess some days are like that.

I want to give y’all a glimpse into life…and also to share the joy when I talk about my month and my faves. I was in just a little too snarky of a mood when I wrote the first round…so we’ll see if the snark reduces a little this time. 😉

When I realized it was time to write this post, I decided that there are a lot of other things I could have (and probably should have) called it. Like…

That Post Where Mel Admits She Basically Hasn’t Written Anything in a Month

OR

All About Making Friends With Other Moms in Target

OR

The Day Mel Got an Extra T-shirt in the Mail and Decided to Ask if She Could Give it Away on Her Blog

So, let’s just roll with all of them, ok? 😉

Here we go…it feels good to end the 3+ weeks of not-so-many (translation: N.O.) words. (Don’t fall off your seat or anything, but I also already have a post written for next week. I. KNOW. I like Riesling, should you feel led to send me a bottle of wine to celebrate.)

😉

READ

We’re being totally honest here, right?

I haven’t read much at all this month. Sadly, not even my Bible has been opened every day. I think it’s a season…and I seem to go all or nothing, meaning I read twelve books at once or none at all. There are so many good ones out there, especially by women I know and love, but I just haven’t been able to…to focus long enough and actually keep a book open long enough to finish it.

And herein, I give myself some grace…and vow to do better tomorrow.

But I do have to share a blog post, written my GSD friend, Kayse. Honestly, the whole thing kinda breaks my heart, and I hate that this happened to her (you’ll just have to read it) BUT I love how she processed it and responded. So you should definitely hop over and read about the time a woman tried to parent her child in Target.

And as a side note, I’ve been feeling convicted about going out of my way to encourage other moms, especially after reading her post. Sometimes my to-do lists and shopping lists and general moods just get in the way of taking the time to encourage. Yesterday, I found out that being intentional can sometimes make my day…and someone else’s, too. I got to play a game of “soccer” with a sweet, two year-old boy and chat with his mama while we waited in line at Target.

And can I just say that it felt insanely awesome to trade confessions of the cereals we sometimes feed our kids? :) (No All-Bran in this house. Think Cookie Crisp. Which is delicious, by the way.)

WATCH

I’m beyond excited that there’s a new season of The Voice happening. Whoop, whoop! Other than that, I’m a TV failure. I know nothing about any of the current shows, other than an occasional flipping to HGTV in order to dream myself some big, home-renovating dreams. 😉

WEAR

This is always my favorite one. :)

So I have this dress that I’ve been waiting to wear. I saved it for a getaway my hubby and I were planning to have this past Wednesday-Thursday in a cute little town about an hour north of us. Sadly, our girl came down with strep throat (at least we think so…still waiting on results), and we had to cancel. (And are hopefully rescheduling for this coming week.)

So this beauty may get to see the light of day at least once this year. (Here’s a sneak peek…golly, I love a cute dress.) :)

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about how much we love a particular saying and how we both wanted it on a t-shirt. So, of course, I went to my beloved Etsy and found the perfect one and ordered two. They came, we both loved them…YAY! And then a few days later, I got two more in the mail.

coffee&Jesus finalPhoto Credit: SavChicBoutique (Etsy)

And I sorta felt like it was my super lucky day since I now had enough of this particular shirt to rock it for the rest of my life, but I knew I should tell the sweet girl who runs her Etsy shop about the mistake. And so I emailed Ashley at Savannah Chic Boutique and told her, and she was SO KIND and told me to give one of the shirts away on my blog and send the other one back. She’s just starting her store, and goodness…her stuff is so cute, and she’s such a sweetheart. (Hop over there or to her Facebook page and check it all out?) :)

And of course I said thank you…and now I’m so excited to pass on the love to one of you! Y’all…I love this t-shirt. And one of you will love it, too! (See the end of this post for how you can win it!) :)

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GO

So…my feet have been going a lot lately. I signed up for a horrendously long (to me) race, which means I. HAVE. TO. RUN. SO. I. DON’T. DIE. ON. THE. DOWNTOWN. CHICAGO. PAVEMENT. (9.3 miles feels like a lot. Just sayin’.)

It’s this race, and maybe the only thing that will keep me going is the chocolate at the end, but a confession? There’s a part of me that really, really wants to reach my goal of actually running the whole thing. I’m shooting for 1 hour 30…just under a 10:00 pace. We shall see. Sometimes I have really lofty goals…but sometimes I surprise myself, too. 😉

So I’ve been pricing trips to Indonesia lately, and I knew it was gonna happen. Two months ago, tickets were hovering around $900 each. (I know. I know. I shoulda bit the bullet and just bought them.) Yesterday? $1700. And so goes goodbye to any chance of an Indo trip Maelie and I may have had in 2016. (In reality, prices could go down again…you’d better believe I’ll be watching them like a hawk.)

BUT. On the flip side I’m headed out to New Jersey/NYC to visit my dear friend in a few weeks. That’s exciting, and I’ve been looking forward to it since April. :)

And, a random blessing today that doesn’t involve travel but that’s ok…my sweet girl is feeling so much better, and we even took a little walk today. I love her so much…and I’m so glad she’s (mostly) back to her spunky, silly, full-of-love, self. :)

Mae+Mel selfie final

So that’s September and what life is looking like around here. :)

I’d love for you to enter to win the t-shirt I talked about. Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the directions.

For reference, the t-shirt is a women’s size large that I think fits like a slouchy medium. I’m a size 6-8, and it’s a little big on me. (Trust me, you want this shirt. And if it’s not in your size, you can always pass on the coffee/Jesus love to a friend.) :)

Happy Friday, friends! Now click this link and enter. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Trusting God When You Can’t See

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

He showed me a picture of it, late one night as we sat awake in the hotel room, taking care of our new little girl.

A month into parenthood, we were also house hunting, having just left the mission field after five years in a country about as far away as we could have been.

We’d loved it, but it was time to be back “home”…and we were struggling to find what that might look like.

We found ourselves in a brand new state, thanks to his new job, and we desperately needed a place for our family to live. We were watching the days tick down into single digits, looking at house after house after house.

But none of them felt like they could be home.

And then he pulled up the picture of the blue, two-story, and I told him no because it didn’t have a fence. This new, very-tired-and-over-the-top-emotional mama, who also happened to have two crazy golden retrievers, Needed. A. Fence.

Mostly for her sanity.

But he insisted we look at it, and so we did.

Today I’m over at Circles of Faith, sharing a story of just one of the many ways God took care of us when we left the mission field. Will you join me here?

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Seize The Vine

vines final 2

Several years ago I had the fantastic opportunity to take a trip to the jungle…like, the real jungle…in northern Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. (We lived there for several years.)

I was invited to join a group of friends for a crazy, whirlwind, three-day trip, and it included a day-long, deep-in-the-jungle hike. Being the adventure girl that I am, I jumped, quite literally, at the chance.

We made a quick, island-hop flight, endured a four-hour van ride (with some of us riding on top of the van…) through the potholed road from Medan to Bukit Lawang, and were dropped off a mile from our hotel, at midnight. Luggage in tow, we hiked through the dark, checked in, and crashed for a few hours before meeting at six a.m. for the start of our adventure.

Because we hadn’t had enough of that yet or anything… 😉

After watching an orangutan feeding just across the river from the hotel, we took off for our jungle-traipsing with a guide leading the way. Up and down, a stop here, a break there, some rock-scaling on the side…it was a tough hike, and I’m sure I spent more time looking where I was stepping than at what surrounded me.

This should probably be where I confess that I’d read too many travel books before the trip and knew the potential of creatures lurking around me. Tigers, elephants, poisonous snakes…yeah.

But at some point during that hike, we stopped for a water break, and I took the time to really look around me.

Vines everywhere…it was totally like the movie Tarzan. And I’d kinda had this dream to be Jane at one point in my life…

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, telling one of my favorite Indonesia stories. Will you join me?

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March Friday Favorites

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I’m really loving writing this post each month. I love that Crystal decided to make it a link up. :) It’s fun to write about my favorite things, but it’s also a ton of fun to read about what everyone else is loving, too. Make sure you check out the link up over at her blog.

And I’m feeling pretty proud of myself this month, too…read on to hear about at least what I consider a major victory in my fashion life. Which may seem a little self centered, but hey…some days we have to celebrate the small things.

😉

Ok, that was goofy, but that tends to be me most days. In fact, I was just telling a friend that on that personality quiz, Which Friend Are You?…I am always, ALWAYS Phoebe. It must be my running. Or the random songs I sing…yeah, most likely that. 😉

Well, I can keep getting more random or I can tell you a little about some of the things that are topping my favorites list right now. Let’s do that before I confess that I had a handful of jellybeans for breakfast…

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Read

I must be stuck in a huge rut, but I haven’t been doing a ton of reading this month, though I’m trying to be more consistent with Bible reading. My journaling Bible has helped a lot…and though the giveaway is over, you can read more about that journey here. It’s not a perfect one at all…but I’m thankful.

Also, I did finally start reading The Hardest Peace…the same weekend sweet Kara went to be with Jesus. It’s a hard read, and I’m taking it slowly because blubbering-Mel isn’t really a very functional Mel. This book is completely undoing me…and I’m also aching so much for her sweet family right now. Will you join me in prayer for them?

Also, a dear friend wrote the book, 31 Days to Coming Alive…and it’s so, SO good that I had to read it again. She’s just funny, insightful, and a breath of fresh air…you can nab the Kindle version for a steal, or you can get it in paperback, too. Seriously. Just buy it. (Also, I can’t wait to meet her in real life someday…I might have also invited myself to go to Nepal with her the next time she goes.) 😉

I’m determined to give myself some grace for the months when I feel restless and don’t read many words. But the ones I’ve read this month have been good.

Watch

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been doing with my time because watching anything hasn’t really happened, either.

Lately, hubby and I have spent a few nights each week watching an episode or two of Friends. (Thank you, Netflix.) We just laugh together, and it’s time well spent. I need it.

I also really want to see the new Cinderella, but I’m not sure that my very active four year-old would actually sit through a movie that is an hour and 53 minutes long. So I might be begging a grown up friend to go with me instead. :) Have you seen it? Is it as amazing as I’m hoping it is?

And I started watching God’s Not Dead the other night, and it’s awesome, but I also fell asleep halfway through because it was after 1 a.m. when I started it. (I just couldn’t sleep, and after an hour of praying for everything and everyone I could think of, I decided to watch a movie. Cue sleep.) 😉 I’m looking forward to finishing it this weekend. (And if you stream Netflix, it’s available there.) :)

Wear

Ok, Y’ALL.

LOOK.

earring selfie final
I. WORE. EARRINGS.

And now I’ll stop with the capital letters. 😉 I’m just really stinkin’ proud of myself for finally wearing them. I’m sorta lovin’ them, too.

And so, of course, I took a selfie. The big, dangly ones seem to be winning out right now, and these are definitely my favorite. My hubby bought them for me the weekend we went away to Galena, and I adore them, and I actually don’t think they take over my head.

So if they do, don’t tell me. 😉

I seem to be in love with dresses right now, too. I have no idea…NONE…what has happened to this girl with a twinge of rebel in her, this girl who scoffed at dresses for over a decade following Bible college. Apparently they got cute…and maybe I grew up a little, too. 😉 (And Target has a buy one, get one 50% off sale this week. That’s not really doing me any favors…)

Listen

This is always a hard one for me. So I’ll tell you a story instead. :)

Our due date was the 14th, and I knew it would be a really tough day. Because as much as we mamas know that a due date is really only a ballpark number, it was etched on my heart for months. I didn’t want to be all boo-hoo over it, but it was a really emotional week…one when I didn’t know what I needed but I’m thankful God did.

And then a friend just asked, Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?

And it meant the world that she just wanted to spend some time together. We ended up grabbing a coffee and wandering Goodwill (which is one of our favorite things to do) and mostly just talking…

and it was so, SO good for my heart.

It was also a reminder that sometimes we just need to take the time to listen and love and be. She’s in such a busy season of life, and she still took that time for a friend.

I’m so grateful for friendship and for a Father Who meets us where we are. Even when we feel lost.

And while that may not have been quite what the word Listen is intended for, it’s where I went with it today. Plus, time with a dear friend is always my favorite and it should make the list somehow. :)

I’m also missing the sound of the ocean, and that kind of fits under listening, too, doesn’t it? 😉 That’s why I chose the photo I did…I love looking at me and Mae in Bali…sigh. The beachThe tropics. Honestly, I’ve been pretty homesick for Indonesia lately. I’m a restless girl with nomadic tendencies who has chosen to put roots down…and that makes things tough some days. Loving two places…always missing one.

It’s the life He’s given us, though, and I’m grateful even when I’m homesick.

Anyway…there you go, at least for the month. :)

Lots of favorites…lots more I didn’t share, too.

What are you loving today?

Friday-Favorites 300

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Lessons From Indonesia: Why We Probably Won’t Ever Rescue a Stray Cat Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I decided that a sunrise photo from the upper floor in our Indo house was a much better picture for you today than one that actually goes with this story. I loved seeing this so many mornings…what a reminder that His mercies are new every single morning.

Oh, late-March Monday morning in the Chicago burbs.

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

Ok, I might need to confess that my brain has this thing where when the calendar turns to March, I suddenly think that life should be daisies and green and NO. MORE. SNOW. (I realize that it IS still March in the Midwest.)

And alas, spring is not to be just yet, and here I sit looking out my dining room window, watching the inches of white fluff pile up onto Mae’s swing set, the same one she was finally able to play on in the last weeks after a frigid winter.

But I’ll get over it because there’s coffee and I’ve got words to share.

First of all, I took sort of a little unplanned hiatus from Indo stories the last two Mondays. My heart needed a break to process life, and it was time well spent.

Life is good, it really is, and I’ve got things to share. Soon. (AND they’re already written which is, like, a miracle.)

But today I want to keep doing what I said I was going to…sharing my stories and giving you a glimpse into Indo life. :)

This story is one that came up in a conversation with friends who were visiting last week. I warned hubby that I was going to share it…complete with maybe a little drama. 😉

His response? I’d expect nothing less from you.

He knows me well…and I love him. Truly.

And when I read this story, I’m reminded that I’m really blessed to be sharing this life with him.

Thanks for reading. :)

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36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Tobin and I laugh now about a lot of things that have happened to us…and not just the Indonesia stories, though those adventures do seem to provide quite a bit of entertainment for people even a few years after our return to the States.

I’ve come to accept the fact that adventure just seems to find us…something that I have truly learned to appreciate and value.

Because hindsight is 20/20, it’s always easier to look back and smile. For one thing, my husband is here, home with me, and our family is safe and healthy and happy.  But there were a few days in March of 2008 where every possible scenario ran through my head…the kinds when I feared a life without him.

So, it’s no secret to anyone who knows us that we love animals.

We brought home a golden retriever puppy when we’d barely been married a year. We had nothing but instant love for the newest member of our family…love to the point of, less than two years later, purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia for him. (Scoff not…at the time, it cost more to get him there than it cost for both of us. Combined.) But that’s just what you do for family.

Less than a year into our Indonesia life, we adopted Sammy…our other golden. Our lives were suddenly full of happy puppy days and tons of golden retriever love…we love it that way still, even now that we have a daughter, who only just makes the love overflow even more in our house.

Neither of us had ever been remotely interested in owning a cat though we have nothing against them. But in Indonesia, it almost felt like it made more sense than it didn’t. At our first house, especially, we had quite a rat problem that, thankfully, the dogs were able to somewhat keep under control, but we thought a cat might help keep them out of the house completely. Still, we never pursued actually getting one.

And then one Thursday night, my husband came home from the high school boys’ Bible study he co-led and immediately came to find me. Almost out of breath, he told me that he’d found a cat about a block away, huddled on the side of the road. It had been there for hours, just bait for another, bigger animal. He said it looked sick, and would I be okay if he decided to bring it home so we could take care of it?

I was a bit shocked that he asked, but I quickly agreed.

If only we had known what was coming.

That night we noticed, almost immediately, that there was something severely wrong with this cat. It could barely walk without falling over and would twitch almost constantly. We set it up with a litter box, food, and a blanket in a box in a spare bedroom and closed the door for the night.

I secretly wondered if there was a point to even trying to help it. The cat was in really bad shape, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what happened for a few days.

Oh, a few days…we truly had no clue what those “few days” would actually look like.

The next morning Tobin was up early, checking on our new friend. He was sitting on the bed, holding the cat and petting it, when Sammy nosed his way into the bedroom, immediately frightening the cat.

The cat’s reaction? Was to sink its teeth deep into Tobin’s hand.

Here we are…5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and dealing with a cat-from-who-knows-where bite.

Not good.

I immediately got on the internet, and…to this day I have no idea why…looked up symptoms for rabies. We always hear about the foaming mouth stuff when it comes to rabies…never the symptoms that precede it.

Guess what?

One of the early signs is neurological issues…including twitching.

We made a quick, somewhat frantic, call to our school PA and tried to come up with some type of plan.

Let’s recount the facts…Indonesia. Possible rabies. We had no idea what to do…with the responsibilities of life staring us down.

While I got ready for school (and desperately tried NOT to freak out) Tobin called around and found people to cover his classes. Following the orders of our PA, he hopped on his bike and drove to the nearest hospital where rabies vaccinations could possibly be available.

I went to school; I had every intention of keeping life that day as normal as possible, but my emotions were exploding so much I could barely stay calm. After teacher devotions that morning, a friend offered to take my class for the first few minutes so I could get myself together.

And I finally cried.

Once I got the tears out, I went downstairs to my classroom, streaky eyes and all. My students, ever the prayer-warriors, wanted nothing more than to pray for my husband, and so that’s what we spent our Bible class doing. :)

Tobin showed up later that morning with the news that he hadn’t been able to find a locally made rabies vaccination, but that the hospital had given him a Tetanus shot.

I wanted to be snarky and make a comment about the fact that a TETANUS SHOT probably wouldn’t do much good, but I held it in.

I knew he was panicking, too…we just had different ways of showing it.

He had found an imported-from-France rabies vaccination in town, but our out-of-pocket expenses would be over $500…and so he was trying to find a local one first. Knowing that he had a window of 24 hours, he spent most of the day looking but eventually went back that afternoon for the imported vaccination.

So…rabies vaccination: check.

We thought it was over. (Well, once he finished the series of shots that would happen over the course of the next few weeks.)

But during a school music concert that evening, Tobin noticed something.

A redness creeping up his arm.

At the suggestion, again, of our PA, he took a Sharpie and marked how far the redness had spread. We were alarmed, a few hours later, to discover that the infection was progressing at a scary speed.

Oral antibiotics were begun the next day, but the redness continued to creep…and we were starting to worry.

In almost a curious way, Tobin asked our PA, So what will happen with this infection if we let it go? Will it eventually just go away?

She wasn’t being cruel, just direct, but her reply? No, it will kill you faster than the rabies.

We now realized that we needed to get this thing under control. But the problem was that every option was being tried. It wasn’t like people were sitting around watching Tobin get worse. They were trying everything.

And speaking of control, I was having major control issues by now.

Because cat bites, international medical care or the lack thereof…they don’t teach you how to deal with those things is training.

And I was terrified.

There was nothing I could do to help my husband, and I was scared he might not be okay.

As the oral antibiotics continued to fail, our PA finally found a series of antibiotic shots that, thankfully, worked.

The red that had crept halfway to Tobin’s elbow by this time was finally stopping and even receding a bit.

After several more shots and a few more weeks, the swelling and red were completely gone though Tobin still had a scar from the bite.

And we were so incredibly thankful…like the kind where I really can’t express our thankfulness in words.

I never imagined we’d be in a place like that…a place where something happened and there was nothing we could humanly do to help.

God taught me a lot during those few days. That He’s got it worked out, and when things seem hopeless, He’s still got a plan.

No matter where we are.

Oh, and the imported shot that cost us $500? Insurance paid every single penny. God is pretty amazing, isn’t He? :)

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

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Lessons From Indonesia: A Sweet Friendship

 IbuMae&Mel final

Well, Monday. Hi there.

I’m having a hard time believing that this one isn’t out to get me just a little.

I had the stomach flu all weekend…it was a weird one. Lets just say I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t throw up at all. (Thank you, God, for that part.) I’m still exhausted. Still not really very hungry. And I’m pretty sure I reached my goal weight in just two days. And I spent those two days praying that no one else in our family…or on the planet…gets this because OY.

And now I’ll quit talking about being sick and about how I’ve barely had any coffee in the last 72 hours. (Which could be the biggest record ever. Just throwing that out there.) 😉

There are so many stories I want to tell y’all about Indo…and some of them I still need to write because they’ll pop into my head, and I’m like, Oh! I forgot about that one! And that also always, ALWAYS happens in the shower or when I’m driving or while I’m sitting in church…when I. CAN’T. EXACTLY. DOCUMENT. ANYTHING. (Though I may have blogged something from my phone during church once. I swear it was related to the sermon, though.) 😉

But today, I just thought I’d tell you about someone really special to me.

Let me be up front and just say that while there were things that were rough about life in Indo, there were also a million blessings. And one of them came to me in a most unexpected way. I honestly wasn’t thrilled, at first, about having someone working in my home every day. Yes, I wasn’t all that happy about having a housekeeper.

Really, Mel?! 😉

But a week into it all, I knew that this woman would be a welcome, special part of our lives there. And she was. I miss her every day…truly, I do. (And not just because she did all the laundry and cooked for me!) 😉

Sometimes there are people who come into our lives…and they change us forever.

Ibu S was one of them. She will always be our family.

And though words are hard to find for people who mean that much, I tried. :)

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14

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

She showed up at our house at seven in the morning, one week after we arrived in Indonesia.

I could barely talk to her as I relied on my English to Indonesian dictionary for virtually every word. (I sometimes think about how badly I probably botched the Indonesian language during that first conversation…I don’t even want to know.)

She washed our clothes, cleaned our (very dirty) house, took care of our dog, and cooked chicken teriyaki and rice for us.

I instantly took to this woman.

Ibu S.

And I loved her…not because she did all of the house work so I didn’t have to. :)

She had the kindest smile…that was what told me we were friends. Even if we couldn’t talk to each other.

I communicated with her using that ridiculous dictionary for the first year.

As time went on, we learned more about each other…especially once I could speak a little of the language.

She would cook us dinner almost every night…and she could cook. Yum. I still crave her nasi goreng and mie goreng and wish that I’d taken the time to learn to make it well and not just from a packet. (Though it’s not too bad that way, either.) 😉

She could fold laundry with the best of them. Even after years of having my clothes washed, dried, ironed, and folded for me (yeah, I was spoiled), I would still smile each time I’d see the meticulously folded, organized-by-color, stacks of shirts and pants in my lemari (closet).

She had an infinite amount of patience for the craziness that ensued when our dogs were being their usual, hyper selves. And she loved them anyway.

She would squash cockroaches for me after I’d squeal in disgust over the latest creature attempting to inhabit my home.

She would make me cake with frosting, homemade no less, when I was pregnant, sick, and the only thing I wanted in the land of not-very-good-cake was CAKE. 😉

Sometimes she would talk to me. About struggles, about things that brought her joy. And sometimes we would cry together.

But usually, we would laugh.

We finally visited her in her home during our fourth year in Indonesia. She and her family treated us like royalty, cooking a meal that I’m sure cost the equivalent of what she’d make in several days. She showed me around her kitchen and then took me out to the little sitting area in the back of her house. Tobin sat in the living room and taught her husband and son a card game that didn’t require too much Indonesian.

We would return to her house a few times, and each time she treated us as if we were the most important people in the world.

We would laugh together often. Sometimes the way I would mess up whatever I was trying to say in Bahasa Indonesia was enough to get us giggling. She knew I had said something wrong, and so did I, and that was enough for the laughter to ensue. (And I may or may not be talking about the year I spent saying, I’m a house instead of my house. Yes, yes, subject placement is an extremely important thing to pay attention to. Clearly I did not.) 😉

During my last year in Indonesia, I was pregnant and very sick, and she took care of me. She made sure I ate and would make me noodles in the morning and hold my head while I threw up. On the rare occasion that I didn’t make it to the bathroom, she would insist on cleaning up after me.

She couldn’t wait to meet my little girl, and when we realized that I wouldn’t be delivering Mae in Indonesia, I think both of our hearts broke.***

During my last days in Bandung, there were many hugs exchanged, but our emotions were stuffed beneath the surface.

Until the very last morning.

It was as if God took away all language difficulties and gave us the gift of being able to truly speak to each other. I gave her a few gifts, and she looked carefully at each of them, especially studying the pictures. I thanked her for all she had done for us and for being a friend.

Then the tears began to drip, and we looked at each other.

The five years of fumbling through communication, of wanting so badly to connect on a deeper level, and finally being able to, were coming to an end.

I gave her one final hug, and it lasted a long time. When we finally pulled away, she placed her hand on my belly to say goodbye to my baby girl.

We were just two friends who stumbled through language barriers for years, but we emerged with a beautiful friendship. What an amazing reminder that true friendship is more about heart than it is about having a common language.

I sobbed as we pulled away from the house and waved goodbye to this dear woman who had given so much of herself to us. In our time together, she had become more than our pembantu and friend; she was a member of our family, and we will never, ever forget her.

***Ibu S got to meet our sweet Mae last year when we visited Indonesia. It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

Mae&Ibu final
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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig