Gogo means grandmother in Siswati.
After over 7 years in Africa God has led me back to the USA. And now He has blessed me with not just one but 3 grandchildren in a matter of 3 days in May 2016. I continue to be amazed at the journey He has brought me on. Thank you for joining me!
"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!" Isaiah 43:19
THE TIME HAS COME! At 56 I have arrived at another new chapter of my life story...... grandmotherhood!!! Wow!!!
(For those unaware, gogo is Siswati for grandmother.)
A delicate balance between getting older (a prerequisite) and enjoying the miracle and innocence of life! You might ask... didn't you recognize that miracle and innocence when you became a parent? Barely. It was a fleeting realization before I became sleep deprived, overrun with diapers and laundry and overcome by a sense of responsibility and fear of ruining them for life!!!
Now, I can sit back and marvel at it and appreciate the preciousness of it all. I now know that all parents (you don't realize that as a new parent) make mistakes but as long as they love and nuture their children, love the Lord and try their best, it is all going to sort.
It only took 3 short days, May 6th to May 9th, for me to go from an ex-missionary, senior citizen to becoming a gogo of not 1 but 3 beautiful grandchildren (the most lovely in all the world...in my humble opinion). God has so blessed me since I arrived back to the states with flexibility, that I was able to spend time with them their first 3 weeks of life. What a gift! Living 12 hours away, I now will start living vicariously through pictures and videos (I love the instantaneousness of technology!) I have to say it is probably good that I live so far away so that the "new" parents can call if they need but not have this strong personality butting in on their parenting skills. Again, they will sort it all out. Differently than I probably would but with just as much love and devotion. So let me introduce you to my 3 new claims to fame!
Ryder Keith Chesterman : 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 1/2 inches long
Analyn Rain Chesterman: 5 lbs 8 oz and 18 1/2 inches long
Aralei Gracelynn Chesterman: 5 lbs 9 oz and 18 1/2 inches long
Today marks a year since I landed back in the USA to make it home. What has the year back taught me? Leaps and bounds! It is just different. The lessons and God's truth is the same but it is, shall I say..... worlds or at least an ocean apart from where I was the previous 7+ years!! Not so much that America is so different than Africa but more like "regular life" is so vastly different than missionary life. For one, I don't get to "do life" together anymore. As a missionary your life has to be so interconnected between life and ministry. Even when you aren't in the same ministries you have to rely on each other more. It is hard to explain but you need people to "pick" things up for you because they are making a trip across the border. You have to have each other's back more because there is no AAA if your vehicle breaks down. You need to bounce ideas off each other because your way of thinking doesn't communicate effectively the idea you are trying to express to another culture (or personality). That said though, I have had a wonderfully smooth and blessed transition and it wasn't until last month that God revealed why mine missed some landmines that other missionaries might have encountered.
Epiphany #1: - 30 days of Thanksgiving
When I first moved I pledged to find something I appreciated about my new home every day for the first 30 days home. I felt it was a wise idea for reentering back into America. But only last month did God open my eyes to what the actual benefit of that was and that it was a key to the spiritual warfare that surrounded me! I'm facilitating Priscilla Shirer's study The Armor of God at my church. We were studying the shoes of peace and throughout the study we have been collecting "actionable intel" on Satan (what we learn about our enemy's strategies). One day when I was out walking the dogs, the Lord revealed the significance of my obedience in giving thanks my first 30 days. It did transform my mind to focus on the positives (all places have positives and negatives and you choose which to dwell on) but it was more. Thanksgiving silences the enemy! He gave me the picture of throwing water on the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz! My reentry went so well because my giving thanks prevented the enemy from many of his attacks! Wow! God is so good even when we don't fully understand the significance of what He is doing!
Epiphany #2: - God did not call me away from Africa but rather to something different. "Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope." Ephesians 3:20...This is the verse God gave me for Africa.
Last year - "For I am about to do a brand new thing. See I have already begun! Do you not see it?" Isaiah 43:19 The verse God spoke through a fellow missionary when I announced God was calling me back to the U.S. A verse that I didn't "see" and still don't fully understand. But again, until this recent study, I hadn't fully internalized that I didn't move because I was leaving something but rather because He was calling me to something new! (Kind of like when He called me to Africa) And this has been so releasing! I don't have the complete picture of what this brand new thing is.... but I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS! Wow! (Double wow if you know me well.) I trust more. I enjoy the journey more. I treasure the relationship connection more than the tasks. That makes Africa so worth it just on the personal level and America so exciting on a spiritual level. It also led to my 3rd Epiphany....
Epiphany #3 - I'm Different
An extraordinary phenomenon is that I have not been seen as a "returning missionary" but as a fellow Christian seeking God. This lack of being on a pedestal so to speak has allowed me not to focus on the expectations of others but just be a Christian growing in her walk day by day. I can see how much God has changed my thinking, my strengths, my passions and how I relate to people. I get to share what I learned on the mission field as it pertains to what we are studying but not as a badge unto itself. I love it and am excited to see God intermingle my different experiences to encourage and challenge others. I love seeing how I value honoring others over having an agenda or being "right". I love the pure excitement in soaking in daily the joy, wisdom, peace and love of the Lord rather than focusing on "doing it right". I love living in my identity as God's daughter and not feeling I have to worry about how others perceive me. I am so thankful for the freedom to be and do things differently than I ever did before. To embrace that I am different because He has been changing me....for the better! And for those that have known me a long time, you know what a drastic, only God could have done it, kind of thing! Amen!
So what are some of new beginnings this past year: (just so you know, not because I am a super duper anything)
***First I want to say that I don't volunteer or say yes to anything I haven't prayed about and felt God's "green light"... I have said no to some things but I am doing more than I ever expected or thought possible. God is good!
I now facilitate a women's bible study with 2 different groups at my church (I never led a women's bible study before---my African missionaries are laughing at this because they've tried to get me to do it for years but I didn't feel the call. I do now and am so blessed by the ladies in my groups!).
I teach young children in AWANAS (3-6yr olds)! This was a yes from God when I was hesitant to jump in but I was obedient. It has been exhausting but so rewarding and I love my kids (and my assistant) and am blessed by them!
I volunteer at a local clothing/food bank once a week. I am thankful for a ministry outside my local church that lets me show love and honor and smiles to others in my community and from other churches that I might never have gotten to meet otherwise.
I also am loving having a gym and a great senior center where I can regularly exercise and dance and laugh and encourage other ladies (and be encouraged by them) (I'm known as a Dancing with the Stars Wannabe!)
There are other activities I am involved in where I am able to administrate or encourage or worship or serve and I am richly blessed by them!
In this year I have gotten a stronger confidence to speak up and to speak out about what God is doing in my life. I can openly share what I feel Him encouraging me to say to others. But, this is important and enormous....I'm okay to let the Holy Spirit go from there. If I or someone else make different choices I know there is spiritual growth in failure and it does not always have to be my way. God time and again works out ALL things for good for those who love Him. I am called by God to work on walking humbly, speaking truth gently, persistently and patiently in love and striving to unite in the Holy Spirit in peace not disunity. I might not fully know what the new pathway God is making for me but that is okay. I am enjoying just walking with Him day by day and saying yes to the different things He gives me that nudge to do.
The future: Currently the future holds becoming a grandmother ("gogo") x 3 in May to one grandson (Michael and Stephanie are expecting May 1st) and fraternal twin granddaughters (Kristopher and Christina are scheduled to deliver on May 9th). They all live in GA. And then in June to be the "cook" for our youth camp at Falls Creek and to teach in VBS! (They have no idea what a stretch in faith this is for me!) I'm also feeling a nudge to really step out of my comfort zone and plan a women's luncheon or conference before the end of the year and speak. (Still seeking God about the details of this one and perfectly fine if He closes that door.)
So as I reflect on this past year.... I am amazed at God's grace, goodness, faithfulness and blessing! I remember one year in the middle of my Africa life when I focused on tapping into my "JOY" in the Lord and how much of a struggle it had been for me over the years of my whole life and now I'm not just tapped into, it just seems to overflow! Things aren't perfect and I definitely fall short but God doesn't! I am excited about the road ahead no matter what "brand new thing" He has already begun! I appreciate my past and am confident that my future is in good hands but more importantly I am excited about today and the blessings it always holds (even when I am fighting the migraines of this past week). Thank you for letting me share. I pray you see the Lord more than me as you have read this and that it blesses your walk with Him. I might not be as efficient in keeping in touch but know that it doesn't mean I value you less. Love and hugs and high five twirls!!!!
It was a year ago today that I boarded a plane and moved from South Africa back to the United States after spending 7 1/2 years on the mission field in Africa! I always said that Africa was the same just different than when I lived back in the the U.S. and it was. But it was also life changing. Now that I look back I see how 1) God poured into me and grew me and 2) used me to touch others.
1) Missionaries are just regular, fallible people. We are far from perfect. "Us" missionaries would joke that God called us to Africa because we didn't listen and learn well where we came from. I think this is very true. Being a missionary took away so many of the distractions of life so I could be blessed with seeing what was truly important....my relationship with God and others. There is such a peeling away of layers of yourself when you actually "do life" with others. No hiding the real you. I learned submission, communication (okay I did come with a propensity toward that one), patience, gentleness (still a work in progress), worship from the inside out not superficially, that God is at work even when I don't see it or understand it, that He is faithful even in heartache, pain and loneliness and that God's plan even when I fail miserably at my part, is ALWAYS amazing!!!
2) People...relationships matter. It is not what you "do" but how you do it or not do it with others. One of my first lessons in the field was God using me to be there for Pepe...showing that He put just the right person in the right spot at the right time to fill the need of a specific child! Pepe will grow up and I will be a small piece of her history and her with mine as our lives have gone separate ways but the reality that God is who crossed our paths when she was deathly ill for His greater purpose still blows me away even all these years later!!!
As I said before, I am just a regular person. I am blessed by having been in Africa and of having the privilege of seeing God use my strengths and weaknesses to pour into, challenge, love on (or let others love on me---I love all my hugger friends), listen to and more importantly to let go of (trust God to guide their paths and not me). I see nothing spectacular in any of the things I did, but I treasure knowing that the people I encountered (other missionaries, Africans, visiting Americans, etc), God used me to grow them and them to grow me. He is so awesome and that is probably one of the biggest things I brought back with me!
So tune in tomorrow, on my year anniversary of setting foot back in the good old U.S of A to reside and find out if it is still the same, just different!
I had this saying on my wall both when I lived in Swaziland and in South Africa and I have it here. "When you can't see God's hand... trust His heart"
I love it. But can I share how God has expanded my understanding of it recently? He has showed me that sometimes I don't see His hand, not because it isn't there but because my eyes are focused on the physical circumstances and not the real battle, the spiritual battle. In merely trusting His heart I have failed to get on my knees for the spiritual battle that is blinding my eyes to His hand. Ouch! That was what the movie War Room emphasized but I don't think I fully caught on.
God is so good and made this so easy for my slow mind to grasp this by using the most recent bible study I have been leading. I had decided to do Priscilla Shirer's study on Gideon. I thought it would be good for the ladies in church, many who might struggle with God being able to use them because they feel weak or unworthy. "Your weakness, God's STRENGTH". I love Priscilla Shirer and her teaching but honestly I wasn't excited with anticipation for myself. (In my prideful mind I already knew God could use someone like me because He had.) As usual, as we got into the study, God started stirring issues I needed to deal with. We learned that we are each CALLED by God and EMPOWERED by God to UNITE the people to STAND AGAINST the enemy. (This was taught with hand motions for the capitalized words.) Her second video session she said that God ARRANGES or ALLOWS EVERYTHING in our lives and He will USE IT for His glory if we let Him. To top it off the verse the groups chose (not assigned by the study) was
The key words (humble, gentle, patience, love, unity and peace) are things God pulled out each week as we progressed through the study. It was so cool how He was tieing unintentional things together! But then...... as the study came to an end and we studied how Gideon and Israel took their focus off of God and started looking through physical eyes at the circumstances and how they as a nation spiraled down and away from God, our church's physical circumstances took a nose dive. The pastor at our church for 22 years, resigned last Sunday! The congregation was/is in shock and devastated. And as we all tried to grasp the physical situation and the roller coaster of emotions I was able to see God's hand in this study. God knew about the resignation before we ever started our study and He took the time to prepare us! His heart was to prepare these groups of ladies to be united in Spirit and to spread humility, gentleness, patience and peace during this rough time where many churches fall into the trap of Satan and fight in the physical with blame, anger, frustration. Even IF (I'm not saying it was) the root of this was started with Satan's intention for division, God has allowed it because His plan for our church and for the pastor is far beyond what we could ever hope or imagine. God arranged or allowed it to happen. PERIOD. We have to trust God in the circumstances and for the future. We need to take up the battle on our knees and not with physical desire of finding out the "whys". We have to trust God that His heart, even when we go though tough times or when we will not be alongside someone we care about, IS there and that is ALL we or they need. Easier said than done, I know but I feel impressed by the Holy Spirit to remind us of it. I sometimes joke that part of the reason God called me to Africa was to separate me from those I might have been hindering their growth in their journey with God. I'm not saying that is what He is doing in this situation. I honestly do not know. But I am saying He knows and the battle will be won on our knees more than in one word we say (unless He specifically tells us to say it).
It has been awhile since I've blogged but yesterday when driving back from processing my spiritual journey with a close friend, I felt God said to blog. Maybe He is asking me to share this because someone, and not necessarily in my church, is also struggling. Struggling because Satan has thrown them either a huge curve ball like us or they are in a situation that seems to have snowballed or it feels like the turmoil will never end. I pray in Jesus Name, right now that God opens their spiritual eyes! Opens OUR spiritual eyes. That we will see that the battle is not on the physical front. It is in trusting Him above the physical. It is laying down control or the need to understand. It is the letting go and asking God what He wants us to do. I pray that even if we are seeing someone else in a spiritual battle but they can only see the physical that we will stand in that gap for them and be a mighty prayer warrior for them. Odds are the answer from God will be nothing we would have thought of ourself and might even sound as foolish or more so than Gideon's 300 going against 135,000 with only clay pots, torches and trumpets! But I pray we let go of even thinking we have some control, some logical wisdom, some need to battle in our strength. As Priscilla Shirer pointed out that Lucifer thought on those lines when he fell from heaven. I pray that we will blow the socks off of Satan with our humble, gentle, loving, peaceful, obedient unity in whatever situation we find ourselves in. I pray for a spiritual awakening of the need for our spiritual eyes to be opened. For our hearts to be flooded with spiritual truths and not the lies of what we think we see or feel. I pray that good things that we have gone too far with.... love that smothers and worries that bind us rather than trusts God, good intentions that become prideful and in our own strength and assumes rather than asks God anymore, that all of these will be let go as we take up God's weapons instead, whatever He says they are and that the outside world will be flabbergasted at how God uses next to nothing to transform a life, a relationship, a church, a nation a ______________ (you fill in the blank)!!!
Thank you for letting me share. I am excited to see how God transforms our church as we stand in the gap for the battle to be fought in the spiritual and not the physical! And if you need someone to spiritually attack in prayer with you and/or share the miracle He brings forth, please message me and I will be happy to pray and rejoice with you. God is good...ALL the time!
So, if the first half of my trip back to Africa stretched my bow beyond what I thought capable, the second half relaxed the bow and allowed me to reflect on the places my arrow had flown and hit over the last 7+ years as a missionary. Going back was of course "the same, just different".
It was the same in the way that the people and places were familiar. There were cows in the road. I was able to "hoot" my horn (you don't "honk" in Africa). I was able to return to being comfortable driving on the left side of the road and to stop when the "robot" (stop light) turned red. I was able to enjoy butternut and feta cheese and "beet root" (I was corrected twice for referring to it as only "beets"). It was different in that my "grace" was gone and it was no longer where I belong. Let me explain. Something I learned as a missionary is that if you don't answer a call on your life you will be miserable because something will always be "missing". But when God calls you to do something, He gives you the grace to do it. It is that grace that helps you to overcome cultural differences, environmental differences and a supernatural peace about the distance from the family and friends you love. That doesn't mean being a missionary or doing anything God calls you to do is easy, it just means you have the grace to endure it with a sense that you are exactly where you are suppose to be. Even as seen below as I joined my Nelspruit church cell group dinner and we had to eat by candlelight because of "load shedding" (rotating electricity outages) during our scheduled event.
My lack of "grace" for Africa didn't mean I was miserable being back... hardly. It was more a sense that my unexpected life as a missionary in Africa had come to an end. When God called me, being a missionary was no where on my radar but at the same time, once I was in the "field" I never expected not to still be one. This trip allowed me to reflect and fully grasp that the era had come to an end. I'm sure, like you, we try to live a Christian life that reflects Him. We don't always succeed and we rarely realize what impact we have had but over time we hopefully can look back and see that we are reflecting Him better than we use to. This half of my trip was realizing the lessons God had taught me, mainly that what is the light of His kingdom is relationships more than my actions. I was fortunate to be able to see that my relationships impacted not only me in a positive way but also helped others draw closer to God. I have to say I grew leaps and bounds in being relational while I lived in Africa. The culture puts much more emphasis on relationships than anything else. It takes precedence over time and/or even financial constraints!!! I'm speaking beyond family and sometimes includes complete strangers. "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 Sometimes I wonder if this one truth is why He had me in Africa. (Actually it is probably one of many reasons God needed me to leave my old life so I could focus on Him.) While I was in Swaziland and South Africa I might not have been able to see everyone I wanted but I had the peace that I saw the ones that were meant for me to hug in person. Regardless of physical touch there are people and memories from my "era" that have impacted me and touched my life. People and memories that drew me closer to God, showed me His love, confirmed His presence in the hard and unexplainable times, taught me to trust more, love deeper and obey Him above all else. The physical "era"of being a missionary in Africa might have finished (which also means another "era" is beginning), but I thank God for all of you that I had the privilege of doing "life" with and the ripples of change and inspiration you have been in my life will continue to enable me to minister to others. (The pictures posted below are not all or just the "important" people but a handful of the ones that I had the presence of mind to remember to take. LOL!)
I am so grateful that God loved me enough to call me to serve in Africa and impact me beyond what I could ever imagine.
"Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope." Ephesians 3:20
Sorry for the delay in updating you on my trip back to Africa. It was amazing in different ways than ever before. Today I am processing on how the first part and reason for my trip stretched me beyond what I was capable of.
Let me back up to January 2014. I lived in Nelspruit and had just separated from Children's Cup and was feeling lost. I went to a small church there that was more charismatic than I am accustomed to but I enjoyed the service. After that service an American missionary had a "word" for me. At some later point in time I will go into more detail of her prophesy but the one part God reminded me of this past week was that He was pulling back the bow and I was the arrow. Thus the title of this blog.
A little more history is that last year, my son Michael and daughter-in-law Stephanie felt the Lord asking them to be the leaders (directors) for a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) DTS (Discipleship Training School). It is a 6 month program for young adults. The first 3 months consists of classroom work, learning who God is, the foundations of being His disciple and learning to draw into a close relationship with Him as well as local outreach and campus work duties. The second half of the school is going out on a missionary journey to usually, for this base, an Asian or African country.
Michael and Stephanie felt led to ask me if I would teach for a week of DTS about "Hearing the Voice of God". Even though I am not a scholar and have never really taught anything, I felt the Lord saying to do it. When they asked it was almost a year down the road and I was living in northern South Africa (they were in southern South Africa). Fast forward through God calling me back to the U.S. and a flurry of processing the emotions and logistics for reentry and even more insecurity about my ability to teach. Talk yes, but teach......oh my! I was constantly battling "worry" and "fear" and a sense of being overwhelmed but I still felt I was suppose to try.
Our ladies group (GIRL Time) at my church picked Priscilla Shirer "Discerning the Voice of God" as our first bible study this spring. (God so good!) This study helped me not only look at someone teaching along the same topic. And yes I was able to use some of her thought processes and quotes from her study in my teaching. But I still had not wrapped my head around "how" to teach it all when I left for Africa. I had lots of notes and material from several sources as well as my life experience and I had started a visual presentation on Keynote (PowerPoint equivalent) but not gotten pass the first day. I kept taking deep breaths. I wasn't trying to not be prepared but I was actually lost at how to prepare. I felt way out of my league.
I had teased Michael that he invited his mom to CapeTown in the worst month of the year there... the middle of rainy, cold winter. He just laughed and said to pray for summer weather then. Honestly, I didn't really pray about it because I felt praying about how I was going to teach was the more immediate need. But God knows how to speak to our soul in a way we will hear. He loved on me by stopping the rain the day I landed and bringing the sun to shine for most all the time of my trip!!! Stop, take a moment right now and reflect on what God has brought across your path that is special to you! (A pretty flower, a cool breeze, a hug, a smile, a verse in the Bible, a song or just something that speaks to you.) God is ever present in your life and He loves each of us! This was the view from my room on base showing the beautiful day the Lord had made!
Back to my trip, by arriving on Thursday before my week of teaching, I was able to sit in on the Friday class of the speaker the week before me. This time of year DTS tends to be a smaller and more intimate group of young adults. There were students from Canada, Egypt, South Korea, Zimbabwe and different nationalities from South Africa. English was not the first language of most of them, so they relied heavily on notes they could use for review. My notes were not in an ordered manner and since I had never taught before, they were definitely not typed up to hand out. I decided then that my slide presentation needed to be complete so we could convert them to a PDF for notes. I used preparing my slides to help me organize my thoughts. My first day of slides went quick. (Did I mention I was to teach 3 hours a day for 5 days??!!!). Monday night I stayed up until 2 am "preparing" and woke up tired and with a migraine. Tues, broke me. I finally let it go and said "God I've been trying to do it too much of this in my own strength. You have got to show up and direct me and I need to let You." That day I took a nap first and then plugged away knowing that regardless of where I was, I would stop in time to go to bed and it would be what it was. I could tweak it a bit before class the next morning but God had to make it, through my imperfection, what they needed to hear. It was still an exhausting amount of work all week but God showed up and I had material for the whole week that seemed to be what the students could use and apply. I was blessed by encouragement from the staff and at the end of the week received a card from the students and staff that showed God had planted some seeds in several of them to hear Him better and to recognize and attack strongholds that had been holding them back! I was thrilled that God chose to use me this way and that I made it through the whole week!
Ah! But God wasn't done stretching me that week. Thursday night was base worship and guess who was asked to speak? Base worship goes beyond the DTS group to groups visiting on base and the community and staff that live around the base. Now I am far from shy and can do announcements with fun and enthusiasm (I can laugh at myself if I mess up). But having to speak for God or rather let God speak through me is intimidating and a role I would hate to mess up. It overwhelmed me to think of what to speak about even though this was just a 20-30 minute time frame (compared to the hours I was teaching). I prayed to God but my answer was "don't plan and let Me speak". ???? How could I stand up there without a plan? God replied, "tell your story" (this is safe ground for you, you know your life) but "don't plan on what part and I will direct the direction you go". This was another form of stretching me and of me letting go of control. Well, despite my nervousness and hot flashes (did I mention I started having 'power surges' when I landed in Africa?), it went well, nothing earth shattering for me but not a disaster either. I guess I expected to feel a more supernatural event or current flowing through me. Afterwards, several people told me that there were parts of my testimony that spoke into their lives. The next day I was told that a team who was visiting could not stop talking about my talk that night. They related strongly to several parts of my story and specifically to a part that I would never have included and in fact was thinking while I was talking of why I went there. Duh! God!!! He knew what they needed to hear and led me to share how He had worked in my life in a similar situation. No fireworks, just God being God and using one person to be the instrument for Him to speak to another. Crazyily awesome!!!!
Thank you for reading my lengthy blog. I could have given you the nice wrapped up version but I felt it important to bring you through the process with me. That stretching is a struggle. I have mixed feelings about the whole time in CapeTown. I have a feeling of awe and amazement of how God brought it together. I loved seeing Him do what I thought was impossible. I love becoming at least a temporary mama to the students and miss getting to see how they continue to blossom over their 6 month journey. But I also would not volunteer to do it again unless I felt specifically told by God to do it. In my weakness I could see His strength, wisdom and blessing. But it was hard, exhausting and uncomfortable journey. Was the stretching because "teaching" is in my future or was it to "teach" me to let go and let God point my arrow? He knows the angle and distance and bullseye it needs to hit. Or maybe both? Time will tell.
Coming soon is the second half of my trip to Africa, visiting the people and places where I use to minister.
Wow! I have been in the states for only 3 1/2 months now. It is less time than I spent on my first leave in the states in 2009 yet it seems at times like so much longer. And it has been so different! When I came home that first time in March 2009 I had severe reverse culture shock. I was uncomfortable back in what should have felt like home. Over the years I was able to find balance and enjoy my time in the states but it never felt like it was "home"...."home" had become Africa. So, needless to say I was apprehensive when I felt God calling me to move back permanently to the U.S. even though I had peace that it was what He was telling me to do. If you look back at old blogs it always said "to the states" not "home". I wasn't naive. I have known many who have moved back "home" and encountered depression, issues adjusting and trouble connecting and reconnecting. With that in mind I actively worked through the "ReEntry" book by Peter Jordan and tried to make sure I had strong closer leaving Africa and realistic expectations about returning to live with my mom. And I made the 30 day find something positive every day goal for my new surroundings. So I did my part but honestly God has shown up in unbelievable ways!!!! I don't know how to explain it. Although mom and I haven't worked out all the kinks of two strong independent ladies who have lived alone the last several years and now find themselves roommates; and I am in a state that I have visited and was born in but haven't lived in for almost 50 years; and I can't yet see what the long term plan God has for me in ministry or work....I can honestly say, I feel like this is "HOME"!!! (I'm afraid only missionaries will fully understand the miracle in that statement.) It can only be by God's grace and confirms to me that God did call me back here. As a missionary, one of the things you discover is that if God calls you, He gives you the grace to adapt. When you are where God has for you it just fells right. Not necessarily smoothly but with peace. The cultural frustrations don't seem as overwhelming. The weather doesn't seem so hot or cold. You can see the beauty in the world you are in (whether poverty, bugs, long lines or cultural differences). When my son Michael went to India on his first outreach with YWAM we marveled how the extreme heat didn't seem oppressive to him. I was always amazed that I could handle cows and/or potholes in the road, clotheslines, no cable TV, no air conditioning or doing things differently with an attitude of "it is the same, just different". I've come to realize, it is not because we were special, it was by the grace of God. And I am feeling His grace now. In this short period of time, I feel a sense of belonging to something bigger. God is moving and He is including me on some level in it. Step by step. Trusting, loving, encouraging and evidently teaching are my current steps. In many ways it feels the same as my first months in Swaziland, when I was learning and growing in my role there! It is exciting yet scary, strange yet comfortable, new yet not so new....... the same, just different! And yes, like it is "home". "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" Proverbs 16:9 And now, in less than 3 days, I will be getting on a plane back to Africa for 3 weeks. The first week for a teaching engagement I had agreed to last year with YWAM (where my son Michael and his wife Stephanie are directors for this 6 months Discipleship Training School) and then of course, to go back and visit Swaziland, Badplaas and Nelspruit. I am full of such a mixture of feelings. In some ways, surprisingly, I don't want to go. I've just started feeling in a routine. I'm feeling that I'm finding secure footing and my niche in many areas of my life. Then there is the stretching of teaching, which is something I feel totally weak in. God will sort it and my prayer is that in my weakness that He can be seen all the more! And on the other hand, I miss the relationships, I long for my friends. I miss my son and daughter-in-law but especially my missionary and African co-workers I have built such deep friendships with. Yet I know from moving around often as a child that going back is never the same. We will be able to pick up where we left on some level but there is an ocean between us now and that distance will change us and grow us apart in some ways. God gave me a word the other day that my journey back to my "old life" is not going to be at all like I expect. Since I wasn't sure what I expected, I felt blogging would help me identify those expectations so I can reflect on them after I return home. I know I should have been blogging more since I arrived in the states and I apologize. In many ways my journey on paper seems smaller than being in Africa. But you are all such a great support and encouragement to me even if I don't get to run around with cute little kids any more. I thank you and I will try to be better about processing the ups and downs in my life on a more consistent basis. It will just be "the same, just different"!