two years.

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June 6th came and went without fanfare this year. Last year, it was the day I dreaded. This year, I didn’t even notice its passing until a week later.

Two years ago, on June 6th, we flew home from South Asia on medical leave. The kids and I never went back.

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Isn’t it funny how life is full of sadness and happiness, all mixed in together? For awhile there I was afraid to say I missed South Asia because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful.

I’m healthy now, aren’t I? I’m able to be the wife and mother and friend I longed to be and couldn’t when we lived there. I love my husband’s job more than I thought possible. I have a home and a community right here.

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But now I’m a tad bit older, and I know that’s it’s okay to feel both ways. It’s okay to be so very happy and content and to love my life, and it’s also okay to be sad sometimes. There’s an ache that I don’t notice for weeks on end, then sometimes it sneaks up and takes my breath away. A photo. A smell. An accent. The way the woven fabric of my green blanket feels against my leg transports me back to the shop where I bought it.

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Two years later we still have questions. Sometimes David and I sit in the quiet of an evening at home or a date night and one of us will speak, What if? What if we hadn’t left? What if we could’ve kept our dream and it got better and better and we were there right now?

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We don’t have answers of course. You could say God brought us home to plant a church in Columbia. That’s part of it, but what a roundabout, inefficient, expensive way to go about doing it, huh? If that’s what He really wanted, why did we ever have to leave and have to suffer?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that God is not efficient and He doesn’t have to explain Himself to me. Beware of people who try to explain God to you, who try to wrap suffering and mystery up in a pretty package. God is wild and free and so much bigger than we can imagine.

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I trust Him more than ever though, you know? Even in the ache. He knows. He knows exactly what He’s doing. Maybe one day I’ll know too, maybe I won’t.

There’s healing in crying sometimes, in missing my friends and my apartment and my house helper and the food. In missing the quirkiness and color and exasperation of life overseas.

I miss the South Asia part of myself, who hailed auto rickshaws and greeted in Hindi and navigated crazy city streets on foot to buy vegetables. Will I ever meet her again?

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A couple months ago our friend Brewer sat across our table eating lunch and asked us, “Would you do something for me? Would you tell me your story of South Asia?”

So we told him. The words caught at first, but then they tumbled out faster. He listened. We talked. And there was healing in remembering. We realized, South Asia is part of the fabric of our being and that will never change.

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I still ache for it sometimes, but mostly I thank God fervently, over and over, for letting me live there. Eighteen months didn’t feel long enough but it was the exact length of time He had for us to be there. It was hard and shocking and so beautiful.

I thank Him for the gift of South Asia, and I thank Him for rescuing me and giving me a new gift.

I thank Him for the quiet beauty of my life now that fits like a glove.

Two years later, He’s good.

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this day.

I’ve been dreading this day, June 6th, for months and months.  And now it’s here.  One year.  One year since we stepped on a plane and said good-bye to South Asia.  And, because of the time difference, also one year since we stepped off a third plane twenty-four hours later into a hot Columbia summer evening.

I guess I’ve dreaded this day because the one-year anniversary of our departure seems to hold a new kind of finality.  Like a chapter forever closed.  No longer can we say, “This year, when we lived in South Asia.”  No, now it’s, “. . . over a year ago.”  Another life.

And so I’ve wanted to hold these last few months close, to grab on to the still-recent memories, the smells, the tastes, the sounds that still fill my head when I scroll through photos.  I haven’t wanted to say good-bye.

But this morning, on the day I dreaded, I awoke and I saw that long, muted airport hallway stretching before me, and at the end of it my family.  I saw my cousins Eddie and Liz with their kids, I saw my cousin Betsy, I saw my brother, Kenny.  I saw Shari and Owen, and I saw my one-year-old nephew Oliver for the first time.  I saw all their smiles.

I cried all the way down that carpeted walkway, my shaking arms barely strong enough to hold my two-year-old.  I was so sick back then.  David and I both were.  On June 6th we were each on antibiotics for separate bacterial infections, mine left me at close to a hundred pounds.  I was all spent and my dreams were emptied out and I was so very tired and sad.

And there was my family, waiting with all their love.

I had no idea that humid June evening what our future with South Asia would hold, no idea we wouldn’t be going back.  That things would get harder before they got easier.

But on June 6th I was very, very relieved to be home.

That’s a memory I’ll keep holding onto.



container day.

Thursday was “Container Day,” as my dad aptly named it. We found out about a week ago that it was making its way down from New York to Charleston, then learned on Wednesday that the truck would arrive Thursday.

The moving company sent men to unload everything, then unpack and assemble all the furniture. It was wonderful! Thanks to my parents for bringing Chick-Fil-A for the kids’ dinner, and to Miriam for giving us a much-needed date night to escape the madness.

It was 51 boxes in all … so our house was in chaos, as you can imagine. We were disappointed to find several things were broken in transit: my desk, our favorite glass-front bookcase, big framed mirror, and our bed frame/footboard. But we have insurance, so should be compensated.

We worked like crazy Thursday and Friday unpacked, sorting, and I’ve done mountains of laundry. Also cleaning. Sheets of dust are still falling from our area rugs–even after I’ve vacuumed about five times! Yikes.

It was emotional for me throughout the morning, opening boxes, feeling a pang pulling out familiar things, noticing how much Priya washed and organized for me. I’m unbelievably grateful that we were allowed to ship our things home. So many sweet memories.

Of course I don’t want to do a house tour until everything’s picture-perfect, but I’m not sure when that’s going to happen (plus, if you remember, I’m supposed to be embracing un-picture-perfection). So here’s our progress as of this afternoon!

David crashed on the sofa after lots of unpacking

The built-ins (they make me so, so happy and make me feel like God had this house picked just for us)

Dining room/homeschooling room

Kitchen (I love my big windows!)


Hallway (I’m trying to redeem our sets of sheets, but they are all, sadly, a permanent dingy gray)

Office/guest room/eventual homeschooling room (and we’ve got guests coming a week from tomorrow … so it better be ready!)

Master bedroom

Kids’ room

It’s been quite a process obtaining and consolidating all our things from storage at my parents’, storage at David’s parents’, storage at my brother’s, and, of course, from South Asia. But now, at long last, it’s all united.

David said, “The best thing about all this work is that next time we move, it will be easy because all our stuff is in one place.”

Hmmm, why does that not make me feel better?

Right now, I won’t even think about “next time.” Right now, I’ll give thanks for our things and I’ll curl up in my cozy living room with a book and I will rest.



packing day.

I woke up this morning and had a fight with my husband.  I was such a jerk, so mean-spirited and distrustful.  And afterward I didn’t feel repentant, but so angry.  The anger just kept welling up inside of me and spilling out all over the place while stomping around the house and while in tears at the breakfast table as my kids brought me handfuls of Kleenex.

I feel like I’m failing as a mom, failing as a wife.  My kids pick on each other and bother me and I snap at them to stop.  I hole up with my cooking project or my books or my blog instead of sitting and spend time with them.  My husband has a mountain of stress on his shoulders and instead of helping to ease it, I add to it by my sour demeanor.

I just want to be left alone.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  I should recognize the pattern by now; this always happens the day, the weekend, we are packing up to leave.

I can’t help it—whether we’re packing to move to a new home, or whether we’re packing to leave a fun vacation, my skin crawls with dread and I’m filled with restlessness.  My anxiety climbs just looking at the suitcases and at stacks of folded clothes.  I compulsively blitz through whichever place we’ve been dwelling, snatching up bits and pieces of our family which have become incorporated into another’s home, organizing and cleaning, mentally checking out rather than stopping and relaxing enough to enjoy that last day together.

I’ve tried all the tactics.  I’ve tried to look at the bright side: We have a beautiful life, we experience so many privileges most families will never know—travel, lots of time together, an amazing community of people stretched north to south who love us and pray for us and give to us.  A whole host of memories made wherever we go.

I am endlessly grateful for these things.  I recognize that I wouldn’t trade this sweet month at my in-laws’ for the stability of my own home.  I’m changed by the conversations I’ve had, even just this week, with friends who amaze me with their stories of pain and redemption and hope.  I am the person I am today because of our nomadic life.

But deep in the core of my heart, on packing day, none of this knowledge does anything to ease the pain.  Choosing a new CD at Target for the trip south doesn’t ease the pain.  Popping a Xanax doesn’t ease the pain.  Knowing that friends back home are helping us find a house to rent doesn’t ease the pain.  Knowing we’ll see Steve and Linda at Thanksgiving doesn’t ease the pain.

I know there’s probably some psychological answer for this, but I can’t fight back the flood of memories, on each and every packing day, of close to a decade of packing days.  And worse than packing days, a decade of good-byes, of making friends and losing them.

I’m tired of packing day.







the state of my heart on august 27.

We’re still nomads. The other week I asked my nephew, Owen, if he wanted to come play at our house and he asked, “So … which house are you staying in now?”

He also told his mom in the car, “I’m so happy David and Julie aren’t going back to South Asia and get to stay here with us.” I’m so happy too, Owen.  I don’t want to leave you again, ever.

And our kids are amazing, truly amazing.  They are faring one hundred times better than I am.  They are being sweet to one another, affectionate with Mommy and Daddy, happy with all the places we go and the friends we get to see.  That is God’s grace.

They said “good-bye” to our August house yesterday, cheerfully went back to Nina and Papa’s for a sleep-over, while David and I cleaned and packed and cleaned some more.  They are bursting with excitement to drive up to Lititz tomorrow and see our family and have Judah’s birthday party on Saturday with their cousins.

Today, when we arrived back at my parents’, David, blessedly, took the kids out for a morning of errands and the Chick-Fil-A playground, while I unpacked each of the eight suitcases we brought from South Asia, and sorted it all once again: the “stay here” pile, the “month in PA” pile, and the “back to South Asia” pile.  I sorted through clothes, putting aside everything the kids have outgrown this summer, everything I’ve outgrown this summer, to send back to Priya.  She’ll know who needs them.

I feel like every move, every packing-and-repacking, takes me a little further away from South Asia.  And now, in September, the break will be final.  David’s dad will drive him to Philadelphia next week to fly back to South Asia for two weeks; he’ll sell our things, fit whatever he can into two or three suitcases to bring back to me (how do you cram a life into three suitcases?), and close up our apartment on King Street for good.  It will be a huge relief.  And a huge sadness.

So I worked alone all morning, crying because I know Priya will be there on the other end to help David unpack, to pass out gifts for my friends, to sort through our possessions and clean our apartment one last time.

But I don’t get to be there with her.  I don’t get to watch her open the things I sent her, see Roshan’s face when he gets his Spiderman and Batman toys.  I don’t get to laugh with her and work side-by-side in the kitchen with her.  I don’t get to say good-bye to our beloved city apartment, to walk the dusty streets of our neighborhood one last time, to eat a burning hot masala dosa with coconut chutney.

I don’t get to see our American friends, two families of whom are moving into new apartments this month.  I won’t get to picture in my head any more what their homes look like and which supermarkets they shop at and which parks they walk to.

I won’t get to say good-bye to Amanda and Asha, Ammara, Minoo, Deepakshi and Sakshi, Asha, Shammi, Sharon, Neetu.  Friends who made my life there so rich.

I know it’s best I’m not going with David.  It’s best for my health, which is still in the process of improving.  It’s best for my kids.  I know I’ll have a blast in Lititz with my in-laws, see friends, drink in the rolling farmland of Lancaster County, meet Lauren’s new baby boy, walk Judah and Ams to the park.

But my heart is so sad that I’ll be missing out.



my health.

We’ve been home six weeks today, and I know many of you are wondering what the status is on my health.  I’ve been wanting to write about it, I really have, but it’s just hard.  I apologize in advance if this post ends up being long and super boring.

First the good news: I am feeling great!  I am now eight weeks sinus-infection-free, and that is a truly wonderful feeling.

The harder news is what that possibly means for our South Asia life.

My general practitioner here built on the CT scan and blood test results from my specialists in South Asia, and did a few more blood tests–and ruled out Celiac’s, by the way–then passed me on to an allergist/internist in Columbia, Dr. Lisa Hutto.  I have now seen her twice and she, along with her entire office staff, is amazing.  I feel like she is a gift from God to me, an answer to long-prayed prayers.

Before she could even do the allergy skin testing, I had extensive health history questioning and had to get a lung test and chest x-ray.  Dr Hutto’s immediate concern was that there was lasting damage from all my sinus infections, bronchitis, and cycles of antibiotics, in the form of asthma or lung damage.  Thankfully, all my tests came back clear.

This Monday, I went back for my five+ hours of skin testing, which I documented for you:


This is what both my fore-arms and upper arm looked like: 73 needle pricks in all.  Not awful, but definitely not fun.

Here I am surveying the damage.


I did get a lunch break, and treated myself to lunch at The Gourmet Shop.

The allergy testing revealed, surprisingly, that my only current allergies are to dust and cockroaches (pretty gross, huh? those two go together because cockroach bits are apparently part of what dust is comprised of).  I knew I hated cockroaches for a reason.

Ten years ago I tested positive for dust, mold, dogs and cats.  So, that is more good news!

But, these results, by eliminating 71 other allergens (including grasses and trees), points to Dr. Hutto’s suspicions that the culprit in South Asia is the pollution and burning trash.  Her office sees patients living overseas and has found this occurring more and more in people already susceptible to allergies.  Her firm opinion is that I cannot live in South Asia or any country with high pollution.  She’s concerned that if I return to that environment, my upper-respiratory problems will quickly become more serious and more permanent.

We are still reeling from these words.  No final decision has been made yet, but in our hearts, we suspect what this means for our future.

In the meantime, we press on with health visits . . . a volley of more doctor’s appointments than I’ve ever had.  I met with a holistic nutritionist, another woman whom I instantly loved.  Her goal is to work on rebuilding my immune system from all the antibiotics I’ve taken, and this will include working with my diet and vitamin supplements, as well as a natural parasite cleanse.

If you’re wondering what came of my short-lived gluten-free diet, I do still feel like I have a gluten and dairy sensitivity.  My nutritionist wants my permanent diet to be as gluten, dairy, and sugar free as possible, as all these things wear down a compromised immune system.  I can’t tell you that I’ve actually started this diet yet, but I will soon, I promise (so don’t judge the above croissant-and-pasta photo.  It was delicious, by the way).

The final big doctor’s visit was to see a counselor, and that has proved to be a step in the direction of healing already.  My counselor feels like so many factors have contributed to my present emotional struggles, and has high hopes that with rest, medication, and better physical health, I will feel improvement over the next months.

For now I have to say, this is a really, really hard season for us.  There have been many dark moments in the last six weeks.  And God is very strong.

I am unspeakably grateful for your prayers, and grateful that I have a couple of friends here who have experienced the things I am now experiencing.  I truly believe their willingness to open up about their experiences, painful as that may be, have made all the difference in my life.  It’s the difference between total despair and a sliver of hope in the darkness.

So.  That’s me.  Raw and exposed.  I know I should write about how David and I feel about all of this news, but that’s hard to even describe.  Relief.  Sadness.  Confusion.  Heart-break.  Gratitude.  Sometimes all of these emotions in the space of a heart beat.

Thanks for caring for us, from near and from afar.  I am grateful for you, dear blog readers.

And, I part with some good news:


This little diva has potty-trained herself in the last several days.  Thanks, Ams!



what we miss.

me: “I miss our apartment in South Asia.  What do you guys miss?”
Judah: “I miss New York City.”
Amie: “I miss some butterflies.”

And there you have it.

 



“so long, gentino’s!”

Some of our dear friends gave us a sweet farewell party at Skyline last night.

The menu: Chung’s chinese delivery (my request!), and to-die-for ice cream sandwich cookies by the lovely Maggie (a big thanks to Maggie’s mom for our first real chocolate chips in a year!).

Please forgive the poor quality of these photos due to my flash.  I just couldn’t not capture the festivities on camera . . .

Princess dresses and dancing . . . what more could little girls ask for?

Annie and Hadi taught everyone what they’ve been learning in ballet class.

Amie learns to twirl

Josiah throws caution to the wind and joins in (note that he also found himself a pair of high heels . . . sorry Richey, couldn’t resist!)

Enjoying dinner together

Judah checks to make sure Annie didn’t get more ice cream than he did


Wonderful friends

Thank you so much, friends, for a fun, relaxing evening!  We miss you guys already.