Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coming Down of My High Horse (again!)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

I’m going to share something that I’m not proud of in the hopes that it comes across with the humility I intend to show. Last week, in the last few days we had in the States, I woke up in the middle of the night one night and all I could think about was adoption. It’s not something I give a lot of thought to anymore, but that is what the Lord brought to my mind. In particular, I was thinking about how God has used our story in the lives of others.

You see, when we were in process with Abe, I spent a good bit of time learning about orphans and international adoption, it sort of consumed me. I followed blogs of fellow adoptive parents who were getting all sorts of opportunities to share publicly about their adoption stories. During this time, I became pretty convinced that there were a lot of people in my world who should be opening up their homes to orphans and actively living out the gospel in this way. Actually, I’m still pretty convinced that’s true, BUT the thing is, there was a part of me that thought that I needed to play the part of the Holy Spirit in convincing others that this was God’s plan for their lives.

I’ll confess that I thought my church should be doing more to make people aware of this need. I actually was a little bit resentful that they didn’t ask us to share our story on a public platform, especially since Ryan was the children’s pastor. I didn’t share this with people, not even Ryan, but in my heart, I harbored some bitterness and a bit of a haughty spirit about the whole thing. I just knew that if they would let us share, others would step forward and get involved in caring for those orphans I was reading about.

But they didn’t. And Ryan and I aren’t the type to push those sorts of things. And God revealed to me the darkness and pride in my heart. I sort of resigned myself to the fact that our process must not be intended to inspire others, but rather must just have been a personal journey for our family.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do, I brought my baby home and began the process of transitioning to a family of 7. It was hard, and we had a lot of days where we just put one foot in front of the other. Along the way, I’d answer questions people asked and I’d openly share our story in grocery store lines, hallways, kid’s birthday parties, or wherever else people asked. But I left the convicting and the platforms to God, ‘cause He sorta knows best in these things.

Then, the other night, when I was laying in bed thinking about adoption, God brought to my mind some of those conversations I’ve had over the last few years. I realized lying there, that I could count 6 families that are in my “circle of influence” who are currently in the process of adopting from 6 different countries. When I started counting, I really couldn’t believe it. I realize that their adoption decision has nothing to do with me, but I also realize that I have had the privilege of encouraging them in their journeys. It’s not something I purposed to be a part of, but I believe it’s something God has been gracious enough to allow me to celebrate in.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Final Days

Between our orientation and our first field placement, we were given 3.5 weeks of down time. So, how did we spend it? Well, we did a little bit of everything.

For the first couple of days, we unpacked and squeezed in the necessary doctor visits. We also went to visit our friends at the co-op that we’ve been a part of for the last 4 years. It was fun catching up with our friends over lunch, though one hour wasn’t nearly enough!

Then, we packed up and headed to the beach for 7 days with my parents. While we were there, we had a great time. We read, worked puzzles, played games, and explored the Outer Banks. We also spent lots of time on the beach building sand castles and boogie boarding by day and chasing ghost crabs by night.

While there, we visited a local lighthouse,

explored the Wildlife Center,

ate hot, yummy, made to order donuts,

Climbed the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge,

And explored the local souvenir shops.

After we returned from our beach trip, it was time to work. We rolled up our sleeves and spent about 4 days packing, purging, repacking, repurging, and getting our luggage down to this pile.

We were hoping for 14 suitcases plus carry-ons, but instead we ended up with 17 checked pieces, 7 rolling carry-ons, and 7 backpacks.

After all of that hard work, it was time for another break, so we headed to Knoxville, TN to visit some friends. They gave us the opportunity to share with their congregation about the journey we’ve been on the last couple of years. It was fun sharing about what God has been doing in our lives.

While we were there, we celebrated Abe's 4th birthday for the first time.

From there, we headed to Cherokee, where we spent some time with some great friends.

The kids had a blast playing in the hot tub by night and exploring Cherokee culture by day.

Lizzy and Alexa found themselves in the middle of a Cherokee dance line (surprise, surprise!)
The kids enjoyed the tour, but they girls got the giggles when we figured out, quite by accident that the guides undergarments, or lack thereof, were authentic too!

How cute is this baby? I must admit that his flopping head made me a bit nervous!

Celebrating Abe's birthday for the 2nd time!

Gorgeous view from our cabin!

After that visit, we drove 30 minutes to Maggie Valley to meet Ryan’s parents. They had borrowed a cabin from a friend and we met there for a few more days of mountain fun.

Lily and her Nana

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Some of the many elk that we saw during our day of hiking in the park.

Abby and her Nana
Sweet sisters

This was taken just minutes before the "accidentally" got wet in the creek. They were soaked by the time it was all said and done!

40 years these precious people have been married!

Did I mention the fact that the mountains were amazingly beautiful?

Finally, we headed back to NC for the final round of laundry, carry-on packing, our last day of worship at Faith Baptist Church for the next few years, and of course...

Round 3 of Abe's birthday celebrating!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Humbled, Grateful, Overwhelmed

One thing I've lived over the last year is that everything comes at a cost. In life, you constantly have to count the cost. For us, this process has been days, weeks, and months of cost counting. There has been no part of our life that has not been affected. Our time, our possessions, our relationships, you name it, we've processed it in some way.

The part of this process that has been most costly to us, hands down, is leaving our parents behind. It has grieved us terribly, we've prayed and prayed about it. And, while we still hate that it has to be so hard and that separation has to be a result of our call, we don't doubt that it's what we're supposed to do. I am sad that my children won't have as frequent face to face interaction with their grandparents as they have had, but I know that doesn't have to change the bond that they share. I also know that God has a plan for their lives and that might involve using a variety of people to shape their lives.

One of the things that God has used to heal our hearts a bit with the realities of this separation is other believers. While our parents will always be our children's beloved grandparents, God has also been graciously bringing other, loving adults into our children's lives to invest in them as well. It's been an interesting thing to experience and I've been humbled by it.

There are so many people who are willing to be involved in my children's lives. Already, my children are discovering "uncles" and "aunts" who are sharing this journey with us. These people love my children and are genuinely interested in their lives. There is a strong bond within our community of colleagues that I can already tell will bring enormous benefits in the lives of my children.

In a few short months, there have been several volunteer teams from US churches who have chipped in and loved on my children. Between our time in Virginia at orientation and our first week here, I have been overwhelmed by the people who are willing to take a week of vacation to come alongside us and equip us to do what needs to be done. Just this week, a team of volunteers from Georgia led my children in a week of orientation activities, while their permanent teachers spent some time helping the adults get started. These people didn't just come and put on a program, they really loved on our kids. I have no doubt that they will be faithful to lift our family up in prayer during the months and years ahead.

It's really been overwhelming to see how God has allowed our family to be blessed by these precious people. I am grateful that our Father knows our needs and sends people to encourage and equip us in so many ways!

The Campbell Kiddos along with some precious volunteers from Augusta, GA

Canada- Week 1

We've completed our first week in Canada and it has been one very full and exhausting week. Overall, we love our new city and we are delighted that we get to spend the next 3 months here. It is an amazingly beautiful place and our neighborhood is perfect for our family. We are excited to see how the Lord will use our family during our time here. I thought I'd take a minute and share about our first week.

We flew out of Raleigh EARLY on Monday. With 17 pieces of checked luggage, we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to get settled. I was worried because I knew that several of our suitcases were right at the weight limit, and I really didn't want to pay any overage fees. Thankfully, Ryan had checked in on the computer and then we met a nice American Airlines employee at the curb who took all of our bags and they didn't even have to be weighed. We couldn't believe how smoothly our check-in, security, and customs processes went. I truly believe it was the many prayers so many of you prayed on our behalf!

Ready for take-off!

The plane ride went smoothly, except for the fact that we were famished when we finally arrived. I hadn't packed enough snacks, thinking we would have time to pick up lunch during our transfer in Dallas. But, we ended up having to do a really quick transfer and so lunch didn't work out. American Airlines doesn't serve pretzels or any other complementary snacks, so we were incredibly hungry when we landed. By the time we finally ate, it had been about 10 hours since our modest breakfast. We were all about to come unglued. Lesson learned, we'll have plenty for the next plane ride!

After we scouted out a Burger King in the airport, it was time to find our way home. The representatives from our training organization took most of our luggage, but we had to make our way home on public transit with one piece each. This went fine during the Skytrain ride, but when we transferred to the bus, things got crazy. It was standing room only on the bus, we had an exhausted preschooler, 7 pieces of luggage, and we had no idea where we were going. We missed our bus stop because we didn't know that we needed to pull the "stop" cord, so we ended up walking farther to our home than we should have.

We were pleasantly surprised by our house. It is perfect for us. It has adequate space, more than we've had since moving out of our house 9 months ago. We are only 2 blocks from a grocery and a dollar store. We are just a few blocks from a Pizza Hut, McDonalds, several local restaurants, a nice library, and a large park that has a year round, indoor swimming pool and fitness center. It's going to be a great area for us to build community over the next few months.

This is our new living room. Those of you who know my husband well know that he's loving the plywood over the fireplace. Mr. HGTV will find a solution for it soon, I feel confident!

Abe, finding a way to entertain himself as we unpack.

We had orientation this week which included 2 days of information regarding logistics, expectations, and getting to know the other folks in the program. The third day, we spent prayer walking in our assigned section of the city. Each family is given a section of the city, called a 7x7, that includes the area where we live as well as some commercial, residential, and community type locations that will be where we will focus our energy during our time here. As we learn different strategies, we will focus on applying them in our 7x7. This is where we hope to build relationships and attempt to push back the darkness that is so evident in our city.

Day 4 was so much fun! We were split into 6 teams and sent out on a scavenger hunt of our city. Spouses weren't allowed to be on the same team, so I had a great time dashing across the city with three other ladies. We saw some really great places that I can't wait to go back to and savor when we're not racing. Our team didn't win, but we sure had fun. Second place didn't seem too bad, since it was actually Ryan's team that beat us!

Our team in front of the Olympic Cauldron

One of the items we had to find was an octopus. This counts, doesn't it?

Do you see why I'm in love with this place? Breathtaking!

This picture is a common sight in our new world. This city is so diverse, with over 200 languages spoken. There are huge populations of Asians and South Asians all over the city. It truly is a cultural mosaic!

Today, we were assigned a church to attend from either our people group or a near people group. Ours was over an hour away and the pastor of our church is actually from the country that will be our home in West Africa. I don't know that the service was much like what we could expect in our host country, but we enjoyed meeting some folks and hearing English spoken with the beautiful accent that will soon be a part of our everyday interactions. The service didn't start until 3:00 in the afternoon, which meant we got to sleep in a bit today.

One thing that I have not enjoyed about our time here is grocery shopping! Of course, the fact that we're establishing a pantry totally from scratch for the first time in 16 years has complicated the whole thing. I've been thinking about what it is that it wears me out so much and I think I've boiled it down to 3 things.

First, it is so expensive. I mean, CrAzY expensive! I had been warned and I even know that our company will help us compensate for the cost of living here, but that doesn't make it any easier for me to think through whether or not I should actually pay $20 for 5 chicken breasts. I mean, couldn't we just go without chicken for the next 3 months? Even though that's basically the main ingredient I have cooked with for the last 10 years?

Secondly, they carry different things here. My standard items may or may not be available and if they are they may or may not look like what I'm used to. Everything involves reading, thinking, and comparing. I came to the realization last night that I have to memorize some conversions from kilograms to pounds before I go out again.

The third reason why I find it so exhausting is the whole public transit thing. To go grocery shopping, we have to walk to the bus stop, ride a bus with our empty bags and carts, then we have to walk across the shopping center, do the shopping, fill up our bags and carts, and then walk back across the shopping center to the bus bay, get all of the groceries on the bus, get off of the bus, walk the rest of the way home, and put them all away. Of course, we could go to the store that's around the corner, but the cost is really only reasonable for the items that are in their sale flyer, so that's not practical for the bulk shopping that our family requires. And yes, for those of you who are going to point it out, I do realize that this is nothing compared to the culture shock I'll face when we get to our final destination!

Here we are on our morning bus ride. We've discovered that if we ride the bus all the way to school, rather than transferring onto the Skytrain, it takes a little longer, but there is no crowd. So, when we have time, we ride all of the way there on the bus.

You can tell by the windows, it's a cool and rainy morning- our new normal!

This week, we'll start to settle into a pattern that will resemble the "normal" for our family these next few months. We'll go to class four days a week from 9-12:30. In the afternoons or evenings we will have application and engagement assignments to help us apply all that we're learning. The kids are schooled during the morning class time and then they can be involved with our work after class.

We're so thankful to be here and we can't wait to see what we're going to learn while we're here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

When the Rubber Meets the Road

"I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1

So, it’s here. The time we’ve been preparing for is approaching. After months of time crawling by and it seeming like it will never ever get here, time is now flying! It’s down to the point where we can count by hours and they number less than 100. CrAzY!

The reality of the fact that we’re about to leave the people and places that we love for 3-4 years is staring us in the face and those goodbye moments we’ve been dreading are becoming a reality. We are dealing with it the same way we’ve dealt with all of the other hard parts of this journey. We simply keep doing the next thing, putting one foot in front of the other and clinging to the call and the truth that propel us forward.

Our first tough goodbye happened earlier this week. Our family got to spend a few days with some of our dearest friends, the Nemitz family. Our Lizzy and their Alexa are “kindred spirits.” They have loved each other's company since they met as preschoolers. They both love to laugh and they have no reservations when it comes to being on center stage. They both have NO filter and they consistently complete one another’s sentences.

But, our friendship goes well beyond Lizzy and Alexa. Our families just love one another. We parent in ways that are similar and our kids get along great. We find it easy to spend time together and though our schedules often go different directions, we always have a good time when we get to have time together.

This week, we spent some time together in a mountain cabin in Cherokee and we had a great visit. At the end of the time, we all gave hugs- from the youngest to the oldest and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone held it together. But, as we climbed into our vehicles so that we could head in different directions, I couldn’t help but tear up. My situation was complicated by the fact that I looked back to see a whole vehicle of misty eyes. While we all sat their sniffling, we waited for the Nemitz to pull away first. Lily, who uses her words sparingly, spoke up and said, “Hold on, they’re probably all having a moment in their van too!”

Needless to say, we all laughed, as the tears continued to stream down our cheeks. Ryan cranked up the praise music and we made our way down the mountain, crying, singing, and attempting to regain our composure. I think the tears were partly because we really will miss our friends. And I think they were partly because we’re just grieving so many little things. Beloved things lie behind and uncertainty lies ahead. That’s the reality. But the other side of that reality is that adventure also lies ahead as well as new friends and exciting opportunities. That’s what we choose to focus on in those “down the mountain” moments.

Friday, October 14, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End

After 8 weeks of tough, exciting, challenging, and ever stretching training, our orientaion time came to an end. On September 21st, we finished up our training time and headed back to NC. Our last week there was a time of celebration, reflection, and goodbyes to people that we’ve grown to love. There is no way that we can explain the bonds that were made in such a short time. When you’re united in a love, a passion, and a call like we were with these folks, friendship comes quickly. They are about the only people in the world who are not wondering if we’ve lost our minds!

The last week, the kids had an open house to show off all of the research and projects that they’d been working on for the past 8 weeks. These kids really came to love and respect their teachers, our family’s call, and the country that will soon be our home. We couldn’t be more pleased with the way they prepared our children.

Here are a few pics of our last days in the bubble:

Abby, showing off her hard work.

Lizzy and her friend Emma.

Isaac and his projects.

Lily is so proud of her hard work.

Abby and her fabulous teacher, Mr. Dustin

Ms. Becky won Lily's heart from the start, what a gift she was.

Our good friends, the Nemitz family came to see our commissioning service. Afterwards, their son Ian declared that he was going to be a missionary to Thebes. (Can you tell that they're currently studying ancient history?)

Oh, how Abe loved this dear friend. He is still talking about him nearly every day. Maybe someday, their paths will cross again.