Well, I have nothing to say for myself. I have not entered a peep into this blog since Trae’s graduation week. And my how much has happened since that time. I’m actually quite annoyed with myself for not doing so, as I’ve missed documenting so many things. I’m now going to try and catch up using a list format.
(Warning: I just re-read this and instead of a list format, It’s turned into more of a ‘list’ of paragraphs format. In other words, if you choose to read it all, you may want to break it into several sessions. I’m pretty sure it’s my longest post ever, and if you’ve ever read my blog, you know I write some long ones). Here goes.
Trae’s grad week (that was my last post)
1 week to prepare for trip to US
‘Produced’ the ministry DVD we will be showing to our partners
Left for the US on Tues, July 7th – uneventful flight, arriving into D.C. on Wednesday
Stayed in Towson, MD with friends. Neal’s sister Sarah and family met us in DC and we spent a few days together there, doing DC type things: tour of our nations capitol – that was cool. Lincoln memorial, Baltimore Inner Harbor. Fun
Ministered at Captial Life Church in Virginia (DC area)
Drove from MD to MI where our church there provided a food stocked apt. for our family. The first morning there I cooked bacon and Tobi almost passed out from the incredible smell of it. Apparently, he doesn’t remember ever eating bacon. He couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful it smelled. Then we he tasted it he said he thought it might be the best thing he’d ever eaten. Bacon! Then he suggested that we let our friends in MD, from where we had just come, know about this incredible food.
Ministered in both Sunday morning and evening services in Davison, MI. Neal preached in the morning. Trae and I both preached in the evening service. Trae’s first message in the US. Trae also played his guitar while the kids and I sang.
Left Michigan and drove to Lake Nebagamon, WI, to spend a couple of days with my sister Marcia, and brother in law, Jeff. There no one let Tanika live down the 4 – Wheeler crack up she had the last time we were there. The tree she ran into is now dead…
On to Park Rapids, MN to spend time with my parents and family. It’s a beautiful place on a beautiful lake and Dad always has the yard looking like a golf course. It was there it occurred to Tobi that no one in America seems to have walls around their ‘compounds’.
Ministered at Park Rapids Assembly of God Church
Spent the week mostly wrapped in a blanket while watching the kids swim in the same icy lake I used to swim in when I was a kid. My how times (bodies) have changed. I went fishing one night with my dad and literally wore my mom’s parka, with the hood up. It was July. What we found very peculiar was Tobi. (Well, we often find him peculiar). He never seemed to get cold. He welcomes the cold. In fact when we first arrived in DC and were talking to Grama and Grampa on the phone, they commented that they were trying to keep things warm for us. Tobi nearly came apart saying he thought there was supposed to be snow in Minnesota! So here we are in July at the lake and the ‘natives’ (my neices and nephew) have literally pulled their sleeping bags out of the tent so they can keep warm while being outside – and Tobi is running around in his bathing suit, and asking if he can go swimming. Have at it was all I could say. And swim he did. I expected to see icicles form off his dripping chin.
August has come, and we’re on our way to Illinois – Mason City, IL to be exact. We spent 2 nights at the Hampton Inn in Lincoln.
We ministered to the Sunday School class at Mason City Christian church where Joe Briseno is the pastor. Joe was on Neal’s freshman wing at ORU nearly 25 years ago, and we recently reconnected with him through Facebook. What a great time we had at his alive church, and with his family. Our kids, jumping at any opportunity that comes that will give them a break from us, were able to see a movie and hang out with Joe and Cheryl’s kids. Neal and I secretly welcome those opportunities with the same enthusiasm. Don’t tell them I said that. We were amazed at how great Joe looked after all those years and the day we got there he had just finished a 41 mile run for a charity. 41 miles! I’ve been trying to keep up with working out, but that put us to shame!
We’re now on our way to Tulsa, OK. It’s a bittersweet journey. We’re looking forward to visiting ORU, but it also means the end of the road for Trae. Literally. His traveling days with us while itinerating are over. He will enroll at Oral Roberts University, and when we leave there, he will stay. We arrived in Tulsa on Monday evening. After unloading our car at the condo on 55th and Lewis, (Neal’s parents have a condo in Tulsa which makes it incredibly wonderful for us to be there), we went to find some food. To us, the most logical choice was Goldies – our favorite hamburger place in the world. While raging about the burgers, Tanika orders chili. Chili! It was almost sacreligious! And of course it was no good. Goldies makes burgers, NOT chili. She won’t be ordering that again. While the rest of us were enjoying our burgers (the incredibleness of the burgers was lost on the kids) Neal and I were reminiscing about our arrival to ORU for the first time. I recounted how my parents drove me down, we went through registration, and got our dorm assignments. My parents unloaded my things into my room, and after a quick prayer were on their way. I cheerily waved goodbye, while my brand new roommate began to cry and blubber- because MY parents were leaving. Oh brother. Neal’s story was much the same. Dad came, registered, unloaded and left. Trae’s only comment: “So, don’t you guys want to do that?”
As it were, we were basing in the Tulsa condo for about 3 weeks, while traveling to our partner churches each weekend. We spent the first week helping Trae get pre-registered. Registration was not what it used to be. Some of my closest friends today I met in the 2 day registration line. We had nary a line to stand in, save the one on move in day to get Trae’s room key. And that line proved to be very beneficial. More on that in a bit.
We love the atmosphere on campus and ran into so many old friends while there. You all know who you are. And you can take the ‘old’ comment however you choose. Everyone on campus was all about doing whatever they could to help. After spending much of a day on the ORU campus Tobi made an interesting observation. “People in America are so nice”. What he meant was ‘people at ORU’, but we’ll let him think what he wants.
Move in day was August 7th, also known as Tanika’s birthday. Her 17th. This was the only line we had to stand it, and it was painless. There was a student leader to walk each new student through, right down to helping them carry their things to their new dorm rooms. I forgot our ‘guide’s name, but she and Tanika are now Facebook friends. That’s what was so cool. We would love for Tanika to go to ORU as well, for lots of reasons. One being that we know the place, it’s influence, and excellence. The 2nd being that we know so many people at the university and in Tulsa (not to mention her brother) that would be available for her, since we are a continent away. We didn’t demand Trae attend ORU nor will we force Tanika. Recently, she’s been talking about the possibility of other schools, reminding me that ORU is not the only school out there. This, I told her, I know. But what I didn’t tell her was that I think ORU is the only school for her. I don’t really know if she has waded through and read this whole post or not, but Tanika, if you’ve read this far, you know that we believe ORU is the place for you! I believe she now believes it as well. I do not believe it was at all coincidental that the student leader that helped us was a worship arts minor and plays no instruments. Tanika is interested in music, even as a major, and though talented, doesn’t play any instruments. She sings. She sings well. So our new friend began telling her about the new International Worship Center that ORU is involved in. I don’t really know any details, but it is something about trying to bring in worship from all different parts of the world. I was so excited. This is right up Tanika’s road. And she already has international worship experience. That was a long rabbit trail, but I was so excited about how God hooked us up with someone cool who could speak to Tanika.
Back to move-in day. Trae got his key and we all carried his load to his room. While many complain about the size of dorm rooms, Trae said he was surprised at how much room he had. The rooms have micro-fridges in them, a big addition since I was there, that’s for sure! There were others moving in, and in all on his floor, Youngblood, there were 13 new freshmen. Tobi spent the rest of the afternoon with Trae on campus while Neal and I took Tanika to lunch for her birthday. Our good friends Phil & Brenda Blotevogel had a surprise birthday party for Tanika the night before (her 2nd surprise party, as my family had one for her as well), but we wanted to do something special on the actual day. She wanted Chinese and we wanted to take her someplace nice so we went to P.F. Changs. That’s like 5th Avenue Chinese food. It was incredible! While there, we were able to talk with Tanika about her future. Right now I think she’s considering education – maybe even special ed (she’d be an amazing teacher) as a major, and worship arts as a minor.
The next morning we left Trae at ORU and went to Little Rock, AR. We stayed with some of our best friends, Clifton and Connie, and ministered at Centerpoint, a partner church.
Back to Tulsa for the week where we meet up with lots of old (there’s that word again) friends and get caught up with some correspondence. We also spent time trying to book 2 open Sunday’s we had. We attended ORU’s first chapel, and classes started for Trae. The alumni office gave us passes to work out in the aerobic center, which I tried to do often. It was a very surreal experience, I must say. Here I am, working out on the elliptical machine and I’m remembering back to when I was in the same place 25 years ago. Only I was riding a bike. It takes me back as I look over the basketball court, reminding me how I used to look and see if Neal was playing. Then I’m snapped back to reality when I see Trae down there, playing basketball. What?!! I have a kid in college??!!?
The next weekend we drive to Garden City, Kansas to minister in Word of Life church, the church that came to us 12 years ago asking if we needed support. We had a few friends in Tulsa ask if Tobi could stay with them for the weekend while we went to KS. I told them he had to come with us because I thought it a real possibility that we would lose our support if we showed up without Tobi. Pastor Lenoir & Joe and Word of Life love Tobi!
Back to Tulsa for the ‘work week’, where we have more meetings/meals with more friends. Our friends Gary and Gina offered their home to us and we had a get-together with Tulsa friends. It was great to reconnect. Tanika had an appointment with her Ophthalmologist and he was happy with how she’s doing. He also examined Tobi, and they both had to wander around with dialated eyes for the day. We pray blessing on Dr. Groves practice, as he always sees our kids, and charges us absolutely nothing! I saw Dr. Payas for a broken tooth. She also charged us nothing, made an appt. for me to get my tooth fixed in November, and gave us Sonicare toothbrushes! We are being blessed!
It’s now the 3rd time we are leaving Trae/Tulsa, only this time it’s for a much longer time. That was harder for me. In fact since then, we have ‘t seen Trae. We went back to Little Rock with Tobi and Tanika, to stay again with Cliff and Connie. We think maybe their daughter Jaylen and Tobi may get married one day…
We ministered in Newport, at Southside church. What a blessing it was to find out how closely they follow our ministry. They knew everything about everything in our family and ministry, and even some things I had forgotten. Southside, you are such a huge support to us!
Since Arkansas is our state of residence in the US, we got some things done like renewing of drivers license. We laughed and laughed and laughed with our crazy friends and, visited more friends, and then had to be on our way.
On Wednesday we made the trip to Sullivan, IL, to minister in the evening service at New Life Tabernacle. We were blessed with Liz’s home – she actually moved out so we could stay there for 3 days on our own. And they filled it with food, too. Had such a great time with more old friends.
Saturday we headed on over to Farmer City, IL. It was such a short drive for us (1 hour) that Tobi almost didn’t think we needed to bother with seat belts. You know you’re an MK (missionary kid) when you pray and fervently thank God that your trip the next day is only 5 hours long.
We were invited to stay with some church members who have a really cool farmhouse. Actually, we were given the option to stay in a hotel or with the family. We chose family. Though being on our own is nice, we also are all about building relationships and what better way to do that than living with people! They were wonderful and we were amazed as they gave us their master bedroom. It was a different kind of beauty then we’re used to seeing. There were cornfields all around the house. We had incredible food too. Saturday evening we went to Pastor Scott and Beth’s house for Papa Dels pizza. My, my, my. I’ve eaten lots of pizza, but this one takes the pie! We enjoyed getting to know Pastor Scott and his family (he’s a new pastor in a church that has partnered with us since 1998), and visiting with more old friends. Seems we have lots of those all over the country!
Sunday we ministered in Victory Christian Center and had a wonderful service.
Monday morning, our farmer friend Kyle took us to the part of the farm where the equipment is stored and we got to ride in incredibly huge tractors. From there we were on our way back up to MN. We arrived in the evening at my brother’s house. Nadette, my best childhood friend, came over to visit. We spend a couple of days there getting things organized for our next set of journey’s, and for Tanika and Tobi to be ready for school. Tobi has been a bit apprehensive all along about going to school, so we took him to meet his teacher and see his classroom. That helped. She is wonderful and his classroom is great.
We then went up to Park Rapids, to my mom and dads for the Labor Day weekend. This is a holiday that is lost to us when we’re in Niger – which we have been for the last 12 Labor Days. We had beautiful weather – even nicer than we had in July. The lake was as beautiful as it was frigid – 69 degree water is not warm enough for me to deal with – even if I’m made fun of. Tanika and Tobi rode on tubes with their cousins, and they both tried and succeeded at kneeboarding. We were able to see cousins we hadn’t seen in forever, and my 91 year old Grama that had never met Tobi was able to be there as well. We had a wonderful final Fall weekend together and then headed back to Isanti, to get Tobi started in school. Tanika is doing online classes with Switched on Schoolhouse. Tobi went to school on Tuesday with his cousins. Kim took him to his class and he did well. Though it is all a bit overwhelming to him. 25+ kids in a class, and 6 – 3rd grade classes. We had lunch with him one day and we even felt a bit overwhelmed. Tobi started getting weepy on Tuesday – concerned about us leaving. He is a sensitive soul, but he’s never been this emotional before about us being away. And we have been apart before. All we can think is that us leaving, together with a new school, left him feeling a bit unsteady. Thankfully he’s with my brother and family, as well as Tanika. They’re all great. Tanika on the other hand was ready for us to go, waving cheerily down the driveway as we were on our way. (We had been staying in what will be her room for 3 months).
My friend, Nadette, prepared an incredible meal and invited a few of my high school friends to join us. Wow. I haven’t seen them since, well, High School. What a great time that was. And to top it off, Nadette gave me an ice cream pail full of my favorite soup – chicken wild rice.
We planned to leave Friday so had to say goodbye to Tobi when he left for school. It was not a happy scene as he has tears running down his tanned cheeks while he hugs us. He’s speechless until he gets into the back seat and Kim rolls down the window. As she’s pulling away, Tobi smiles through his tears, waves, and says “Bye Mom”. There is no way I can reproduce the sound of his voice with words. I can’t say I was tearless myself. Sheeesh! It was harder leaving Tobi for a few months than it was leaving Trae! We plan to be back to MN in 4 weeks to visit the kids and know with all the activities planned for all of us, that the time will go quickly. Right? For now, we talk to Tobi and Tanika daily, and today his teacher even sent me an email and picture of him in class. Pretty cool. He’s doing well, but still feeling uncertain about all the protocol that is called school.
Now we are doing something we have never done before. Itinerated without our kids. We’re hoping we’ll maintain/increase our support. We have always known what an asset our kids are to our ministry, and they still are. But now they’re not with us! We had a 2 day drive in front of us so we broke it up and stayed Friday night in Champaign, Il. Actually had a nice drive/night. It is definitely easier and cheaper without the kids, but not necessarily better. I got Neal to work out with me in the fitness room, then we had dinner and enjoyed the hot tub.
Saturday we made it the rest of the way – to Spring Hill, Tennessee. It was great to see Pastor Jim Maddox and we loved hearing about his biblical views of politics over dinner. That is one passionate man! We ministered at his church on Sunday morning and enjoyed being in the new sanctuary of Straightway Christian Center – a building that has been in the works for many years. Everyone was asking where the kids were! Neal and I sang as we usually do, but it was seriously lacking without Tanika and Tobi!
Believe it or not, I’m almost up to today’s date. Monday we left Spring Hill, TN, to drive east to Kingston. We are currently staying at Whitestone Inn. It’s a luxury Bed and Breakfast and is it ever incredible. It’s owned by Paul and Jean Cowell and they make it available free to missionaries for 2 nights, then half price after that. We decided to stay an extra night for 1/2 price. Yesterday when we arrived, thrilled with the hills and beauty, we were presented with a note from Miss Lucy, a woman we do not know. It said that she wanted us to know that she was praying for us, and that she was taking care of our entire bill, and also wanted us to have a meal in the reservations only restaurant, on her. We were astounded. But that’s how our God is! Indescribable! We have really enjoyed our time being away, alone and anonymous. I guess I’ll call it our Triple A trip. I’m just too funny. Yesterday we played croquet, surrounded by small mountains, pastures with beautiful horses, and a lake. Today we worked hard at relaxing and nearly missed breakfast. I began working on this epistle, and Neal read and napped. Our room has a jacuzzi tub and I have used that 3 times in 24 hours. This afternoon we went for a walk around the gorgeous grounds. We came across a sign that said “Trail” Go left for the 2 mile version and right for the 4 mile. Since it was 5:15 and our special dinner reservations were for 6:30, we opted for 2 miles. Well. There were lots of trail signs. Lots of them. But none specified which trail we were following. Keep in mind that we’re in Tennessee. Think hills. Lots of those too. We got lost. Didn’t even know which way the road was. These are some thick wooded hills. And we’re talking about people (us) that are now more accustomed to deserts and wide open spaces. Getting concerned that we’ll miss our dinner, we started jogging. Uphill. Did I mention it was humid? We finally managed to find a place we had been – only because it was an open field with some very large and hairy cows. Big. So we backtracked. Jogging. We arrived back at the ‘Farmhouse’ at 6:30. Others were already seated. We nearly ran into the waiter. He looked at us and said “Is it hot outside?”. No, thank you, it wasn’t hot. But it was humid. And we had just run a marathon in the hills and were literally soaked through all our clothes. We quickly went up to change – and decided a quick shower would be required, just so we could stop sweating. The waiter, an MK we later learned, was impressed with our speed getting cleaned up. Our heart rates returned to normal and we enjoyed an incredible meal. We then went to play another round of croquet – which I will admit Neal is ahead of me 3 games to 1. But there is time for a comeback. We don’t leave until Thursday morning.
There you have it. The last 10 weeks of my life. I am thrilled to have this finished, and I vow to myself to do a better job keeping up with my life. I’ve missed alot of funny things Tobi has done/said, and now I can’t remember them. I’m hoping circumstances will jog my memory so I can get them down. For now, I’m signing off. Just not sure I can move to put this computer down because my marathon sore legs don’t want to.