Puzzle pieces.

Homes. It’s always around the holiday’s that I start thinking more about this home thing. Where we are from and what we grew up with makes us part of who we are. We try to decorate our homes with things we love that make us feel a belonging. A space to call our own that we can let our hair down and just simply “be.”

Now, that we have an almost five month old -traditions and the thought of a home have become even more important to me. I want my baby to have grand memories and memories that she can pass on to her own children someday. As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach I can’t help but think of where we are going and where we came from. I come from my grandma’s Christmas cookies and cutting down our own Christmas trees in the snow. I come from sledding, and gingerbread making, snow forts, snowball fights, and stockings on Christmas morning.

Wisconsin. marriage.Korea. Morocco.baby tori. Mexico. When I sit down and think about it…it feels like we’ve been around the world and BACK. & whew! It’s been such an incredible 6 ish years or so. but mama needs a break. I needed some roots. At least for a bit.

When we were thinking about where we wanted the next “home” to be Mexico was appealing. After we left Wisconsin for a new adventure in Korea I realized how important it is that you love where you live. It plays such a huge role into my daily happiness level and how we spend our time. Korea had the most gorgeous hiking, camping, mountains, and we lived on the ocean. It had seasons, but much less harsh than those brutal midwest winters. BUT it was so so far from family. Our jobs were extremely laid back, but didn’t challenge us professionally. & after two years it was time to go.

Morocco, was SO INTENSE. After Korea, I craved a place that would just feel. We were seeking passion. Morocco, provided incredible scenery, incredible growth, and a whole heck of a lot of trusting God cause oh, my goodness we walked through that desert. We lived on the ocean and had a gorgeous apartment that proved to be just the oasis we needed. We eventually found an amazing community of other families and other Christians trying to navigate a Muslim world. We belonged. Our friends became family so fast. & we needed it. but we felt so far away. Our jobs weren’t sustainable. We had insanely horrible internet (which sounds silly but it was our connection to our family and friends back in the states) and it was flipping hard. Like so hard. Every single thing was a struggle. With a baby coming we knew that our time in Morocco was finished. I’ll never forget the stunning Sahara sand, the most amazing stars in the desert, our community, the traditional Moroccan music. The spices. The markets. The colors. The passion.

and that brings us to our newest home here in Mexico. Where I sit in our adorable casita in the cutest neighborhood. With the kindest locals. Mexico. Much closer to our families. A lot more like the states. We can DRIVE to Texas. The weather is glorious. Tom is happy in his job (SUCH A BLESSING) and the most incredible gift of it all: I am able to stay home with our precious baby. I get to be a stay at home mom. Which is what I’ve always dreamed of. It’s always taken us just over a year after moving to feel at home in a place. to really find our stride. Find our people. and now I have lots of time to think about this little thing called home and how our piece fits into the puzzle of life here.

What do we want? What’s important to us? Where will be next? What traditions will we create for our daughter?

We have a crazy love for the mountains. We do love the seasons but perhaps just not the long dark winters that last for six months of the year. I would love to be a weekend car trip away from family. I would love to eventually speak the language where I live 😉 We both want our daughter exposed to different cultures and hopefully to be bilingual. We want travel to always be apart of our lives. Right now, Mexico provided a lot that we couldn’t get in the states as far as finances go. I don’t have to stress about working and can focus solely on Tori which is a huge blessing. We are living off one teacher’s salary here in Mexico which is probably nearly impossible without me working in some capacity in the states. We are sooooo much closer to family. It’s a 2 hour flight to Dallas and a 2 hour flight from Dallas to Minnesota. We live 15 minutes from the airport here. We can come back to Wisconsin and Minnesota to be with family for Christmas and also eight weeks in the summer.

So for now, I have a lot of thoughts that sit with me. I always think of our life here on earth as pieces of a puzzle. He has them all in the box & then slowly we put them together. Each experience, decision, or life change adds another piece to the puzzle. Will Mexico be home for more than another year or two? Will we move back to the states or do we want to stay abroad? It’s been five years since we’ve even lived there. Our lives look so different than most that I know. As my friend Diana once said… I so often feel like a “fish out of water.” I am American but I don’t live in America. I am a mama, but I don’t speak the language here. I am a teacher. but I am not teaching right now. I have a home, but we don’t own it.

I don’t have the answers and right now I’m okay that we really simply just do not know. It sure is often on my mind. I am thankful for the life we have lived and are living abroad because man have I learned so much more than if I had never left. I’ve been challenged, I’ve been humbled, we’ve explored. we’ve learned. and my oh my goodness how we’ve grown. but there’s something to be said about coming…home. & right now home is right here. in this sunny corner of the world in Mexico.

 

A new journey.

As I begin to type this my almost 4 week old nugget is wrapped in her Solly baby wrap and is sleeping soundly against my chest. It’s her favorite place to be and every sweet little inhale and exhale of her breathing reminds me just how truly blessed we are. I am almost always smothering her in kisses because I feel like she’s no longer a newborn. I feel like I took a nap, woke up, and she’s a month old.  The growing and changing is happening so quickly and it’s all going just so darn fast.

I’ve been wanting to write this for about a week, but I haven’t gotten around to it since hello new life with a child & adjusting to our new family. I wanted to get my thoughts down on what these first few weeks of parenthood has been like for us. Things people told us that have simply just not been part of our journey. Much like pregnancy- we heard all the bad on parenthood before we became parents ourselves. Can it be hard? It absolutely can be. Really hard. You question everything you thought you knew about babies. Is she too hot? Is she breathing? Why hasn’t she pooped? Is this normal? We have a great baby, but both Tom and I agree that so far her personality isn’t especially easy going as far as babies go. This girl knows what she wants and she can be pretty dang feisty. A trait that I hope later in life means this darlin’ will GET things DONE! She’s got such a personality even in her first month of life. So here are some things we heard before our babe arrived and maybe you’ve heard them too…

“Sleep now because you will never sleep the same again!” Guys, I sleep SO much better now that I am not teaching. I was always awake throughout the night thinking about the kids I taught, my to-do list, or my lessons. I would come home totally wiped after a 10-12 hour day and go straight to bed at 6pm!  At the end of pregnancy (the last month or so) I was up constantly with restless sleep. Some nights, every single hour. Thankfully, Tori has been an amazing sleeper since she arrived home every single night. She sleeps for 4 hour stretches and then again for 3 hour stretches for a total of 10-12 hours. She wakes just to eat, change, and falls right back asleep. I know many babies don’t do this! and parents of multiples (twin mamas you are my hero because we seriously can’t imagine how tough it would be!)  I am sure sleep becomes less and less with each kiddo…and tomorrow this could totally change… but for now this is where we are at! That statement has not been true. Even the days where our little nugget doesn’t nap during the day for 12 hours straight my sleep is still so much better at night then it was before.

Along the same lines…

“You don’t know tired until you’re a parent” — I would change this to “You don’t know tired until you’re teacher tired!” Wrangling one babe is so much easier than wrangling 20+ children! Also, it’s YOUR baby. To love, to hold, and to cherish. Parenthood is way more rewarding than teaching was in my experience!

When chatting with my friend Amy over at Balanced Ames this one really stuck out to me and hit me. “Once that baby is in your arms…you won’t remember the birth.” This. YES, yes you will. Maybe your story will be different, but I can recall every single detail from the day Tori was born. I remember it all. I would not tell an expectant mama this! I remember how tough those contractions were, I remember my anxiety, praying she would start breathing when she came out blue, and the JOY oh the joy of holding our baby girl for the first time. There is nothing like it in this entire world.

“You won’t remember your life before the baby.”— I do remember our life before Tori was here. It was easier to jump in the car and do something, it was a lot less preparing/planning making sure we have her diapers, wipes, changing pad, snacks/water for us, burp cloths, extra outfit, baby wrap, carseat etc! I remember that Tom and I almost never ever ate dinner separately. What it comes down to is that my life before Tori was a lot less humble and a lot more selfish. There most definitely is a lot more love that I never knew was there. I’ll never forget after getting back from the hospital Tom looked at me and said ” I never knew I could love a tiny human so much.” and it’s true. It’s a joy and an honor to have such a GIFT! Your baby is yours and it’s true that life will never be the same because now I’m forever a mama. It can be incredibly challenging, but what great things came without a challenge? Life is just so much better with our baby in it.

This quote sums it all up best for me:

“If you have a child, then you have an assignment from God. Whether by birth or adoption, whether you go to work in an office or the kitchen, regardless of your age or experience or natural talent for nurturing, God has called you to be a mom. And it’s an unrelenting, heat- wrenching, beautifully ordinary, holy job.” 

and so as I continue down this parenthood journey I keep that quote close. I try to take in each little whimper, every smile, and those hilarious concentrating cross eyed moments, and engrain them in my memory because it’s all going too fast. As I took a leap into this motherhood thing I’m embracing this new journey while knowing that life is gonna look a bit different from here on out- and a whole lot more beautiful.

Christmas Joy.

Last month I walked into my friend Lori’s apartment it was April and her Christmas tree was up. I laughed and then I stared awhile and I touched (as I often do with most things) a few of the ornaments and branches. WE caught up and had a nice chat over coffee and her delicious quiche. Later, when I was alone it got me thinking though. That Christmas tree. In Morocco. In April. What was Christmas to me? How do I feel around Christmas time? What memories do I have?

Christmas to me is my grandma Meyer’s sugar cookies. Gatherings with both sides of my extended family. Christmas to me was cutting down or finding a deliciously smelling tree, needles on the carpet, my mom rearranging the ornaments we would put up as kids, angel Gabriel at the tippy top. Candlelight Christmas services, silent night, and Christmas morning pajama joy. Stockings, driving around to see the lights, and playing in the snow.

Christmas got me thinking and stirred up so many emotions inside of me. What were my Christmas traditions the last four years? Surely, they weren’t how Christmas was “supposed” to be…but then again- my life didn’t turn out like I thought it always would and I can’t imagine it any other way. The past few years I’ve spent Christmas in sunny South Africa, at 10,000 feet at the top of Germany with family, in South Korea with our tiny tinsel tree.

When I asked my husband what Christmas meant to him he had similar memories to mine, but says it’s always been about the people you’re with. This is the daily struggle of an expat. When I sit down and have time to reflect I know that no matter where we are my heart longs for some distant place, an island we visited, a memory, a feeling, or most importantly family or friends who seem so far away. To say I’ve had some big struggles, with this exact thing the last two years while living in Morocco, is putting it lightly.

I recently read the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and one part really stood out to me and has stuck with me over the last few weeks. I’ve revisited it and read it again and again because. WHOA, hello my life the last two years. There have been dark moments of lonely, sad, and empty feelings. Struggling with our job situation and the darkness of it all would overwhelm me to no end. I would pray. I would cry. I would hold on. But this, it just summed it all up so perfectly:

“The last round of decisions have been made in silence and solitude, and that’s been necessary and healing and challenging. I’ve wanted the committee, and at the same time, I’ve sensed that there are some seasons in which the only way through is alone, a solitary path of listening and learning. This is uncomfortable for me and I’ve yearned to gather around my people at every point, for familiarity, for safety. There are, though, certain passages you have to walk alone. When you arrive at the other side, the people you love the most will be there to meet you, certainly, to wrap their arms around you and walk closely with you once again. But it’s only when we are truly alone that we can listen to our lives and God’s voice speaking out from the silence.”

God has taught me so much the last two years here. It’s no secret that it’s been hard for us- I blogged about it here. I always say that I don’t know many things. I still have so much to learn- but what I do know is this:

He is faithful. He is there in the darkness. He has gone before us. He will honor our commitment. I learned that we needed to be the Christmas light & that Christmas joy that I love so much to such a dark world. That we were here, in Morocco, for a very specific reason. That people would come into our life at exactly the right time. and that it was by no accident. That they would take us in, dark moments and all, and that they would remind us of God’s everlasting love.

and so some seasons you walk alone when all you want is the company of your loved ones. You navigate that darkness, but you become stronger because of it. God used Morocco to bring the silence so that I could listen. Even when I would fumble through terrible internet connections and feelings of isolation & just not being able to relate or connect like I longed for to our peers back in the states. So even though it’s hard having all these Christmases away I know that God drew us near. That even though it feels we are often worlds away and who knows where our next Christmas will be spent– that God gifts us each and every day with so much more than I deserve. That as we anticipate the birth of our baby in about a month that Christmas joy I so often long for isn’t in the things, but the people that God continues to bless us with.

5 years ago around Christmas time Tom wrote me this note and I still have it saved.

JOY.