we made it!

God cares about the small stuff. Wait, I wrote that because I was struggling to start a blog post and so in my jet lagged state (I think it is somewhere around 2am judging by the info-mercial about a pretty wicked looking blender on TV) I needed an opening line but after writing it I realized it is not true. The small part not the caring part. I really think the more I see God at work I see that there is not the sacred and the secular. Not the "big" stuff we need His help with and thus send out a desperate request and the "small" things we were are expected to handle ourselves. I know I don't believe that but can sometimes live it. My experiences are not divided in His eyes. He wants all of it. And sending out a prayer only when you are desperate or in trouble is iin practice believing the Creator of Life is some mystic genie in a bottle. Being deceived like Eve; that we can do it ourselves better. This journey has taught me how much more He wants of me, how much more His power is perfected in my weakness, and how much when I erase the line between God stuff and everyday life else I get to really see Him in everything.

We are in the U.S. It was a long trip. 5 flights. 3 Continents. 6 airports. 2 days. And 2 amazing kids. My husband called the trip a "harrowing journey" and although he gets so many points for that it really was not. Espcially compared to what people did 50 years ago to get from Africa to here but still it was rather epic. Honestly my stomach was in knots before we boarded the plane in Dar. Jason came and waited and prayed with us at the airport as long as he could. After a tearful goodbye I literally felt the weight of traveling so far by myself with the girls and I think everything that has happened in the past few month hit me. Deep breathes and prayers were uttered as we waited to board our first flight at 9pm African time. And now we are here and I honestly I cannot believe how easy it was, how I never felt stress not even once (ok, a little when we missed our flight in New York), how He provided amazing kind people every leg of our journey to help us, and how He was in it. All of it. Thank you for praying. I got so many emails, FB's, and calls saying people were holding us in thoughts and bending knees from Tanzania to Chicago to the U.K. to obscure parts of the world I would have to search for on a map. Even so many people who do not know us but knew about what has been going on in our lives. I did not know all the people who were praying until I am now checking email but I did not need to know because I felt it. We knew we were being cared for and that more than just the 3 of us were traveling. I really have inadequate words to thank everyone. To thank you. For everything; calls, emails, express shipped packages with warm clothes for Anni, dropped off toys and clothes for the girls driven from a state away, enough baby gear for 3 kids, money sent to help with expenses, words of encouragement, and prayers. Your sacrifices have blessed us more than I can say. And I think I am so privileged to see how He mobilizes people to bless other people. I get an insider view of this and His love expressed through His people caring for each other is a beautiful thing. All I can say is thank you. asante.

I can seriously say that traveling with 2 kids for 2 daysby myself was smoother than many afternoons with the girls at home. That is a testament to prayer and our God. My tendency is frazzled and hectic but I had peace. The girls never cried (with one exception as I was getting a security check at JFK Evy lost it for about 3 minutes because yeah the lady with two small kids surely needs an extra pat down). They were complete rockstars. They were cool, calm, and taking in everything with grace. They are used to waiting as it is sorta a pastime in Africa. And let me tell you all that ain't in their genes. Nope, God was good. And I have the best girls. I was so proud of them. Bursting with gratefulness that I am their Mama. Anni never complained once. On the first flight after running around the airport with two new friends she made from Denmark because as she noticed "Mama, they speak English a little bit."
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That made them fast friends and the game of tag was on. Even other people waiting agreed that running around the gate was better than running around the plane and they were allowed to play. They even got to "play" with some of the security equipment after Anni greeted everyone in Kiswahili. Which does not boast well for the actual security of the airport but made 3 little kids day. After getting on the plane in Dar Anni and I prayed; for the safety of the trip, for the food we would get (Anni remembers they give you food and juice on planes), and that He would bring glory to Himself through this trip. After take off I told Anni it was time to sleep and she went to sleep within 5 minutes. Until the plane landed! Yeah, 8 hours. Restless sleep to be sure curled up in a ball in the seat still wearing her seat belt and every once in a while kicking me or the lady next to her in readjustment. I convinced the stewardess to let me change seats to a bulk head and get a bassinet even though Evy is a bit big for it she slept for hours too.
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And when she woke up she would pop her head up and smile at us. Seriously, I could not make this up. I think I even got a few hours of sleep and the airline food was awesome (in fairness maybe I have just been in Africa too long). The woman beside us was incredibly kind and in addition to allowing Anni to kick her also chatted with me for at least an hour about raising her son in West Africa. She was from Germany and we talked and bonded quickly about kids, culture, the West, food, her recent trip to America, faith. She offered to take the girls when I needed to go to the bathroom and before we landed mentioned that she thought there was a kid's play area in the airport and offered to find out the info for me. This turned out to be an amazing blessing because after landing we had almost 4 hours to kill and following her advice I finally made it to a family room tucked far away from the gates. This place was amazing. Like better than some children's museums in the U.S. I have been to with the girls. Anni took off her shoes (true African) and ran to climb the slide and yelled from the top "Thank Jesus for this place." Yep, that is sorta how it felt.
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mama loved it as much as the girls
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Both girls played for 3 hours. No fighting, no crying. Just running (or drunk old man toddling if you are Evy) from toy to toy. There were coloring stations, climbing towers, dress up clothes, play baby strollers, puzzles, and everything that brings a tired Mama close to tears. Can I just kiss whoever built this place? Seriously when we left I hugged the lady working there. She probably was thinking "this lady is crazy" but that is how amazing it was to spend time enjoying my kids playing and giggling as opposed to trying to entertain them at a gate. We had no Swiss money at all and we did not need anything because we were there the entire time even getting free baby food and milk and just left (much to Anni's dismay since she had made a friend from India) right in time for boarding our next flight. Before leaving we also got to change clothes and clean up and I was so grateful the woman sitting next to us had told us about this place. Another way He provided for us.

The flight from Zurich to New York was long as the second 8 hour flight but again it was amazing the ways He was with us. First, we had the NICEST flight attendant. He was so kind and helpful and loved to chat; like me! He speaks 7 languages and loved hearing about life in Tanzania. Can I just say why is my brain barely capable holding 2 languages and so many other people can speak half a dozen languages. Awesome. Anni loved showing off her Kiswahili skills and it quickly made her adored among the people sitting around us. There was also a women next to her and we started talking right away. If there was purpose in this flight it was for me to meet Gina. Gina from Florida who has been in the military, lived in Alaska, has a 4 year old son as a single Mom, and is a pilot. Seriously, she is hardcore and I want to be like her when I grow up. She defied all my initial impressions of her as she sat next to me in a pink and white flowered sweatshirt. I love when that happens. She was traveling back from visiting her boyfriend in Nairobi who is also a pilot who grew up in Africa because his mom works for the UN. I kept apologizing for asking her questions and talking to her but I think my pent up "I need girlfriend who speaks English" vibe was unable to be contained but she seemed not to mind and we became fast friends. I know this may sound crazy but I feel like our paths will cross again and we were meant to meet. She helped me so much and we talked and talked. She helped us get off the plane, carried our luggage and then let me call my mom using her phone. We were escorted to the front of customs because we both had connecting flights and made it through unscathed and then I had this feeling I should check my luggage. They promised it would be checked through to Chicago but I just thought I better make sure and sure enough there was our one beat up, broken zipper bag on the carousel. Gina helped as went through customs and then to recheck my bag and get our gate info. Anni and I made a "we are in America"dance and shuffled our little booties all the way through the long hallways. After that I had one mission: Starbucks coffee. And my new best friendy joined me in my mission for overpriced and oh-so-American coffee. God bless America. We got our coffees, Anni took a picture to commemorate it (I think I was in some sort of sleep deprived slap happy state at this point).
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We got to the gate and enjoyed our coffee and talked. About everything, our pasts, marriage, divorce, Africa, raising kids, American culture, relationships, and life as a mom. Here is where it gets all "Rox" on us. So we both heard the lady at the baggage area tell us gates for each of our flights. And we both heard the same gate and we went there. When we arrived it was so early and nothing was displayed and I was so tired frankly I did not even think to check again after 2 hours passed. We were both sure we were at the right gate. So, yes, you can see where this is going we chatted and enjoyed our coffee right through my flight to Chicago. When we finally realized this and dashed to the correct gate 100 feet away it was gone without us. Gina helped me gather my stuff and my idiot deflated ego and make it to a counter to ask for a stand-by flight. The next flight was a few hours away and by the grace of God had plenty of seats so we were now in possession of stand by seats for the next flight. So yes, to be clear I missed my flight because I was chatting it up and drinking coffee; how me is that? Gina felt terrible and helped us get to our new improved ACTUAL gate (I checked 4 times) and then let me call my mom to report our stupid-ness and apologize for now extending the trip even more (although we would rush hour in Chicago- Bonus!). Then Gina headed off to catch her flight but not before treating Anni to some Poptarts (per a discussion we had on package items she loves) and getting a huge hug from me with promises to stay in touch. She was such an amazing blessing to me it was worth missing that flight and the 5 hours it added to our travel just to hang with her.
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After a nutritious dinner of bottled water and a Big Grab of Doritos we hung out near our gate. Hoovering is more like it. I had no phone and there was no clock nearby so I kept asking this poor airline agent at the check-in booth the time. She asked why we missed the flight and she asked how I was not crying. Good question. I actually did admit that was quite un-me like but that I new God had purpose in it and that the girls were being amazing and I was not sweating which makes everything is life easier. And I meant it. Of course I felt like an idiot and neurotically asked everyone around me the time so not to repeat my idiot-ness but I felt total peace about the situation. After watching the girls play for an hour the agent at the gate agreed and even said that she wanted to move her and her son to Africa if it would result in kids as good as mine (insert big smile by me and all credit to Him). We finally boarded but then found out we were on a flight that had a stop over in Indianapolis first. Blick. Meaning the less than three hour flight to Chicago would actually take us 4 or 5 hours. Deep Breathes, more prayers, and two sleeping kids made this flight ok. Although my body was numb in places I did not know were possible and I had to pee so bad I thought I would wet my pants from Evy sleeping on me for the whole flight. Once we got to Indi they told us we had to get off to reboard but I begged the flight attendant who had asked me tons of questions about Africa and promised to come visit one day to please beg them that I could stay. They agreed and the whole delay on the runway and re boarding I read my book while the girls slept. Um, yeah. Amazing. We took off again and headed for the last 38 minutes of our journey. I was so glad I was on this last flight. If I had caught the earlier flight I would not have met Carmen; the sweet flight attendant from Atlanta who has always wanted to go to Africa, or the older couple in front of me who was so cuddly and let me use their phone to call my mom to tell them we had arrived in Chicago but were waiting for a gate and asked about Evy and then promised to pray for her, or the 6 foot 2 inch (we bonded about being tall) basketball player from inner city Chicago who went to high school ten minutes from where I used to teach and who now plays basketball professionally in Finland, or the gorgeous woman from Peru who looks as I imagine myself looking when I travel; fabulous boots with skinny jeans and messy sexy hair tied back. Alas, the reality is I am a sneaker girl but it is good to have a dream. But her appearance was only rivaled by her beautiful accent and even more amazing story of being burned from neck to feet as a child and her family sacrificing everything to move to Japan for treatment and her father's job at a bank. She rolled up her sleeves and showed me the scars and I just knew she is such a survivor. She is now working in the states but said she has been feeling not challenged and needs to discover who she is. I invited her to come and stay with us in Africa if she ever felt that would be part of her journey since she said she wants to travel. She asked tons of questions, told me tons of stories about Peru and Japan, and looked through my bag whenever I needed something, got me water, and helped me gather my mountains of stuff as we departed. I honestly feel God ordained all these meetings. I was so blessed to talk with so many amazing people. I was so blessed to travel with my awesome girls. I was so blessed by the kindness of so many strangers. We finally got off the plane and my mom was waiting at the gate with an armed guard of sorts who she had convinced to let her break every safety regulation and not only enter the airport but bring a cooler full of food and a wheelchair in case we would pass out on finally arriving. I love my Mommy. Big hugs and Anni happily climbed in the wheelchair and we headed out to claim my bag; which unlike me was not drinking coffee and chatting it up and had made the first flight to Chicago. We got it, loaded into the car and headed out. And it is COLD here!
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To say I was tired really does not cover it but God gave us the energy and strength and peace for the entire journey. And I am so thankful. We got home and put the girls to bed around 10pm and despite my requests for a mosquito net for Evy (in my defense I was TIRED) my Mom assured me that malaria has not be around in the winter in Chicago for some time. I went to bed (ok, after eating some of my favorite hummus) and slept soundly. Surreal; we are in the states! Now it is way too late as I have been through 3 infomercials and tempted to actually buy that magic blender all in one thing which is evidence I am too tired to be awake. Evy had her doctor appointment today with the specialist downtown and I will update soon but she is doing well.
Again, thanks to everyone who has helped, sent messages, offered to help, prayed, and encouraged us. We are loved. And grateful. And blessed. On this trip I realized yet again the power of people's stories. I love listening to them and telling them. Makes me feel so human, so connected, so a part of the rush of life passing us every minute. We just have to take time to be IN it.
We made it!

Comments

Gma Rho said…
I loved reading this detailed version of your trip after hearing the short version yesterday. All airports should have playrooms - great idea! Loved hearing about all of the people you crossed paths with. And I'm so glad you're here, safe and sound!
Annie said…
love this story, love you, love god's grace and loving kindness!!
Kim said…
Can you please quite posting blogs that make me sob? Phin is looking at my like I am crazy!;) THANK YOU for sharing every detail of this post...Made me think of the kid song, "God is so big and he's so small"...cuz he's amazing huge, creator and rule and yet care so deeply about our tiny little lives...LOVE IT...and you know what, I LOVE that you missed your flight. Some may say insane, I say you were chosing what was more important- people and I can't imagine how touched that girl was by you!
hey, Rox. So thankful for this post. I am about two weeks away from heading back Stateside myself. (Long story short: home for Christmas, hospitalized with pneumonia, return to Dar, relapse, doctors here say time to see a specialist.) But because of the timetable, HOPAC has needed to post my position, so I'm in the States for a long haul. It's hard to think about "abandoning my life" here but your blog has helped me feel a little more encouraged that God is still using even this for His purposes. (things we know but need constant reminding of :) Blessing on you guys there! Prayers for little Evie.
Beck said…
Timely updates make you rock out loud. I loved all the people you met! And boy are they lucky to have met such a gem as you Wox! Gina is a hottie. A new TV Series: when hotties help. Glad you're safe!
Nicole said…
Great post Rox! Your whole detailed journey reminds me of my new catch phrase for God- "Never surprises, always amazes!" Your crazy Amazing Race journey was completely ordained and blessed by God, and none of us should be surprised by it, but truly amazed at His goodness and provisions. I do inspire to be more like you in not sweating the small stuff and the relationships you form with strangers-amazing! Let me know how I can help!
Jason said…
WOW! This is truly amazing. And God is SO GOOD! He answered my prayers and exceeded them!! The whole time I was praying for a miracle of a trip - and one that was even surprisingly enjoyable for you. And it looks like it was exactly that and then some! PRAISE GOD!
McKinze said…
Rox, I am just catching up and so happy to hear of your successful journey home! If you need anything while you're Stateside ('cause we're staying in Iowa through the end of May), please please ask. Hugs to you and the girls...enjoy the Starbucks!

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