In the time in Africa we've tried to figure out how to live. Our new team mates said to us, "This country chews up and spits out missionaries..." It's extremely stressful, hard living, we don't have a car, lose electricity 8-12 hours everyday, haul up well-water for our wash, live under mosquito netting, cook with very limited supplies, the slowest internet we have ever had, live on the equator, make everything from scratch, our kid is SO far away, and we are still trying to figure out our ministry. I've already had multiple mobile clinics in different parts of the interior of the country, and Mike and I are both going to start teaching classes in a few weeks. My mother passed away 4 1/2 years ago, and my dad just over 5 months ago. All of that adds up to living under a constant state of stress! I've had more head aches in the last 5 months then I've had in a long time. We live in sweat, in a little 900-square foot brick house.
So...it was time to take a deep breath.
Madison came to spend the summer with us in Africa, and I said to Mike, why don't we leave Africa early, and spend some time together as a family. There are no direct flights to the U.S. from where we live - most of them fly through Europe - so - that's what we did. We left Africa 10 days before Madison needed to be back to start up in her third year of college, spending time in Madrid, Spain, and in Lisbon, Portugal. It's the first family vacation we have had in a very long time.
Some people have said to us - that it must be nice to be able to travel to Europe for a vacation. Yes, it absolutely is! We make enough money to live in Africa, and not much more, so vacations are something we plan for WAY in advance to save up to go.
I was talking to Madison on the way to Spain and I wanted to see how many countries she had been to in her 20 years. We came up with 19 countries! Before we were missionaries, we were already world travelers! We took an annual family vacation, and that typically meant out of country. That, along with our time as missionaries, she's been to a lot of countries! So, I then started thinking about where I had been and came up with 34 countries:
Now, I'm not talking about lay-overs, I'm talking about spending a night, walking around, eating in a country...spending TIME in a country. I've actually been to more countries then States in the United States. My last passport had no space left in it, and I'm already half-way through this one, with new countries coming up including Ethiopia to add to my list. So, I do live a stressful life, but I also have the opportunity to see some amazing places along the way. I am grateful for this time to take a deep breath, take a hot shower, enjoy electricity 24/7, fast internet, and some amazing European food. It gives me a chance to re-group and rejuvenate so I'm able to better do my ministry in Africa where all the stresses will come back as soon as I return.
In addition, I have some AMAZING supporters and friends who just want to love me and care for me. I have so many gifts waiting for me when I get to the U.S. (Christmas in July!!!!!), gift cards to spoil myself, fun things to help me live life a little easier (frying pan, measuring spoons, etc), and some simply fun things - like movie gift cards to catch a movie (no movie theaters in the entire country of E.G.), and restaurants (Olive Garden) to eat a yummy steak and pampering (Ulta/Sephora). In addition, I get to stay with some awesome friends who care for me and have a nice evening ride on a lake in my near future.
So taking a deep breath to allow me to continue on in a very difficult season of life, but where God has me to glorify Him and be His hands and feet.
And...the last thing I want to think about, but know it's in my near future - I won't see Madison for a year and a half! She won't be coming to see us until Christmas of 2017, and I won't be going to the U.S....this will be the longest time I've not seen her in her entire life...and we will be continents away...so - I'm just not going to think about that right now, while I continue to enjoy the last week with my girl :-)