Category Archives: Left Behind

How I Really Feel – The Heavy Version

So. Vicki moved.  It’s hard to put into words all of the emotions I have experienced in the last seven days since she and her family drove out of town.  I knew the day would come. We had talked about it, I told people it was happening, and I thought I had prepared for it – in fact, I had almost talked myself out of it being a big deal at all.  “She’s just moving to Michigan,” I told myself.  “She isn’t going to Thailand, yet.”

I helped her pack on the Friday before she left. There hadn’t been too many opportunities to help before that due to our conflicting schedules, my constant and comfortable state of denial, and my need for childcare, considering that my youngest would sabotage any progress we’d potentially make. 

Ornery G
“Who, me?!”

As I helped her pack, I found myself feeling a strange mix of emotions.  I felt nostalgic as I packed things I remembered purchasing with her on one of our many shopping trips.   I felt heartache as I listened to our kids play together and as I tried to absorb the sounds as much as possible, knowing that those sounds will be different at the end of three years.  We laughed at my inappropriate labeling and other comments that were made, but then I felt sadness as I thought about how deeply I will miss making her laugh.  

After we were done packing her kitchen, we decided together that we wouldn’t say goodbye in person before they moved to Michigan.  It’s just too hard. So, on Sunday afternoon when she called to say they were driving north, the empty loneliness hit hard.  I felt such deep, deep sadness.  It was the end of a chapter for us.  I know she only moved to Michigan, but in that moment, she may as well have moved to Thailand because the changes for me start now.  I can no longer call her spontaneously from work and say, “Hey – let’s meet for lunch in 10″ and know that she’ll be there eager to pick up from where we left off.  On days when I work in the girls’ school, I won’t be able to stop in and say hi.  On a day when I’m feeling down or frazzled, I can’t call Vicki to let her know that the boys and I are picking up donuts and heading her way for a play-date…or as I call it, “a last-ditch-effort-to-cling-to-sanity-because-my-children-are-driving-me-nuts date.”  She won’t be stopping in to see the boys on her way to get her hair cut and the days of impromptu shopping trips are done for the time being.

Change is never easy and I realize there are far more tragic experiences that can be had than this.  But, this…this is hard. We will see Vicki, Conrad, and the girls several times before the big move across the ocean.  For that, we’re all thankful.  I am surrounded by friends whom I dearly love, but my heart is adjusting to living in this big, lonely, Buckeye State all by myself.  Vicki is my people – she knows me and she needed me here as much as I needed her.  I feel like a loose end and my poor husband doesn’t know what to do with me.  People tell me it’ll get easier and I’m holding on to that promise.  But for today, there’s nothing easy about this.   Not yet.

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Guest Post!

For today’s post, we asked our (distant) cousin, Marye, to be a guest contributor. In 1966, Marye moved to Europe as part of a service program. She ended up falling in love and marrying her Dutch husband, and has lived in Holland for nearly 50 years. I think she understands more than most the emotions Kim and I are dealing with as we face the prospect of living so far from each other. I’m guessing Marye could have her own blog where she could write and write and write and still never tell the whole story. I think you will enjoy a little glimpse into her journey. We love you, Marye! Thanks for contributing today!

Marye.  Isn't she lovely?
Marye. Isn’t she lovely?

I was working as an LPN in La Junta, Colorado when I applied to different places where young adventurous people could work. One especially appealing program was offered by MCC called The Intermenno Work exchange program. It was an exchange with young people from Europe and Canada and the US. You would pay for your traveling to Europe by working. You’d get a small amount of spending money, 2 wks of vacation every 6 months and there would be several weekends of getting together with the group of people you had gone to Europe with. You would be placed in Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. You would write your choices and wouldn’t really know what kind of work you would get or even which country you would be placed in. I had always wanted to go to Europe and this was my way to go. I was not afraid of working and since it was a Mennonite program and I was Mennonite, this was the perfect program for me. I was accepted and would be placed in the Netherlands. This country wasn’t on my list of choices but I couldn’t imagine that since it was such a small country that I wouldn’t get into the other countries. I went to Europe by ship. I was so seasick it wasn’t even funny and it most certainly wouldn’t have taken much to jump overboard to just plain put an end to the whole adventure.

I was placed in a retirement center close to the German border. I had to learn to speak Dutch, the quicker the better in order to speak to the people. I thought I could learn to speak it in no time. Understanding a new language is one thing but speaking it is another. It is a very humbling experience to have to learn to speak in a completely different language. You are literally on the outside edge of things until you do get a bit of fluency in the language. You need to learn to laugh at the mistakes you make and there are lots and lots of them. I was used to making people laugh and also laughing with people and people did laugh at me but not for the reasons I was used to. It took me years before I could really speak the Dutch language and I still have such an accent that some people actually scold me when they find out how long I have lived in Holland.

After staying for one whole year in the Netherlands, I liked it so well that I asked if I could stay another year in the same program and since there weren’t so many applicants, I was able to stay another year but I was then placed in Aalsmeer, a city close to Amsterdam. There were lots and lots of greenhouses in Aalsmeer and I was placed with a lady whose father needed a lot of care. The lady took me everywhere and introduced me to so many things. I also joined the young people’s group and here is where I learned to know my future husband Jan. I also worked in a flower nursery in Aalsmeer. It was during this year that I realized that I just might be spending more than just an extra year in Holland. Lots of questions came up as I considered this. Holland and Pigeon, Michigan aren’t very close to each other. I would be living in another country forever! What all do I consider important? I finally made the decision to marry Jan and live in Aalsmeer and we would eventually take over the family flower nursery.

Marye and Jan and their young family.
Marye and Jan and their young family, approximately 1978!

Then the fun started. It is one thing to be a guest in a country or place. People go out of their way to be friendly but when you actually live there, it is a bit different. I tried to accommodate to as many things as I could. It was fun learning new things all the time. I enjoyed the challenge of biting into something I honestly didn’t understand. I did enjoy the hard work with the plants in the nursery and I became a mom to 3 children. We taught them to speak 2 languages at once and there was no problem with that but it wasn’t always fun and easy. Sometimes I got so tired of hearing that my Dutch just wasn’t up to snuff. My cooking skills weren’t really the way the Dutch did things.(Jan never complained however but others did) I couldn’t understand the humor of the country no matter how hard I tried to listen. I missed family gatherings that I enjoyed so much in Michigan. The Dutch don’t eat meals with each other. You get together and drink koffie and then you leave before the meal. (It is now changing a bit, however). I got different jobs of housecleaning for people so I could pay for plane tickets to be able to get the kids and myself over to visit my family as often as I could. This was so special for the kids and they feel like they have 2 homes where they grew up. One here in Europe and one on the Bay Port Rd on Grandpa’s farm. All my traveling seemed to irritate some people too because they couldn’t figure out where all the money came from to travel. I still get told I travel way too much. (I just think it is no one’s business but my own.) I will get a bit huffy sometimes and tell whoever that they haven’t paid for the plane ticket and I can’t see the problem.

I have learned to be flexible and in order to get from A to B it just might not go at all like you expect. I have learned to think like the Dutch and I am still an American. I am blessed with having 2 different backgrounds. I am able to go from one to another without any problem. I have become a much better person and found out I had more inner strength than I ever imagined I could have. I still love the challenges that life keeps bringing to me and I hope I can keep on traveling between the 2 countries for many more years.

When going to another completely foreign country, try to be as open as possible for anything that comes along. Don’t be afraid to cry or laugh and there will be moments where you think you have really made a huge mistake. That is part of moving anyplace. Pray for guidance every day and your prayers will be heard, maybe not the way you expect. Remember also dear family and friends are also praying and keeping you in their thoughts.

Marye and Jan.  I've only met Jan once or twice in my life.  He and Marye rank high on my list of my most favorite people!
Marye and Jan. Married for 43 years and going strong!

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Three in Toddler Years

The month of November is Missions Month for our church.  This worked out well for our family because the first Sunday in November was the day we were able to go public with Conrad and Vicki’s announcement that they are moving to Thailand.  When we got into the sanctuary that morning, Conner noticed an antique globe on the worship arts table.  He wanted to see where Ohio was, so we walked to the front before the service started.  I showed him, most importantly, where Michigan is first and then I showed him where we live in Ohio.  I then spun the world halfway around and put my finger on Thailand.  I said, “Conner, Aunt Vicki and Uncle Conrad are going to move here, to Thailand next year.”  I watched as his face showed confusion and he said, “But what about Ellie?  I’ll never see her!”  

Conner is 5 and is pretty sure that his big cousin, Ellie, walks on water.  According to him, they are the best of friends.  

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Playing peek-a-boo at Nana’s house, in 2011.

They play so well together.  He is usually really sad when we leave their house or they walk away from ours and it’s nice to be able to say, “Don’t worry, buddy.  We’ll see them again in a few days.”  Whether it’s true or not, it always makes him feel better.  I couldn’t say that this time.  Instead, I said, “I know buddy…it’s hard because they’ll be gone for three years.” Expecting devastation, I was surprised when he snorted and said, “Oh, three years?  That’s no big deal.  They’ll be gone three years and I’ll say ‘Psh – how’d they do that so fast?!'” And then he skipped cheerfully back to our church pew as if I had just told him we were having hot dogs for lunch.  

Having kids has challenged me in so many ways.  Every day I am faced with difficult choices. Typically, those choices involve questions like peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly?  Take away privileges or make him sit in time out?  Yoga pants or jeans?  In case you’re curious, that last one is a no-brainer. I will pick yoga pants every time.  On this particular Sunday, I was faced with the choice to sulk and whine about how long three years is or I could look at it with a more willing spirit and recognize that three years really will go by incredibly fast .  

But, the number of years and length of time really aren’t the issue for me.  It is the missed opportunities, the drastic changes that will occur in my pre-teen nieces, the shopping trips and spontaneous lunches that will no longer be…these are the things I grieve.  Also, the fact that Conner will probably be the only one of my children who will remember Vicki living in Ohio and the reality that Vicki will miss out on Greyson’s toddler years.  These are the things I grieve. 

Yes, I know the time will go by quickly.  This picture of Preston, Conner, and Ellie was taken only three years ago…or was it just yesterday?

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The 3 cousins

And this was my monkey, Rylan, only three years ago…or was it just yesterday? 

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So, yes, Conner is right – three years will go by quickly.  And I’m right, too, things will be different three years from now.  But, if our lives will be so different three years from now, think of the Kingdom impact Conrad and Vicki’s family will make in three years.  The lives they will change, the memories they will make.  Immeasurable and priceless.  When I view it through that lens, I can handle their being gone for three years and maybe I’ll even say, “Psh –  How’d they do that so fast?!”  Perhaps Conner has more wisdom than I thought. 

Later that Sunday morning, as I helped the boys get out of the van, Conner asked, “Hey Mom?  Has it been three years yet because if Ellie is back from Thailand, I’d like to go play at her house.”  

Clearly, I overestimated his wisdom, but the challenge remains.  Kingdom impact matters. God’s call is not something to ignore.  I can acknowledge the truth of that statement even if it means being okay with a three year separation.  I just hope the three year commitment goes by as quickly for me as it apparently will for Conner.  

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