If you've been reading this blog long, you know I'm pretty wild about my family. Proof of how great they are comes in many forms, but one is their frequent visits and investments into my world over here. There's not a single one of them that hasn't either visited, prayed for a baby, sponsored a baby, sent special gifts for the babes, or some other act of kindness towards the Haven.
Their visits are always the biggest encouragement to me and allow my heart to handle being away from my close-knit clan the rest of the year.
First this year, my sister in law Courtney came to visit. Court lived here with me for 9 months in 2009 and has been back to visit before. Her visit this year, though too short, was perfectly timed and a gift in every sense of the word. Our Ezra had just died the day before, and I was in the darkest of times that the loss of a baby brings us. This was followed by the loss of Ba Fortune, my friend and coworker, that occurred while Court was here. Accompanying the grief of these big losses was the exhaustion and worry of having an extremely medically fragile Mary living with me at the time, so there was no time for sleep and rest during this season. And in the midst of this chaos stepped Court, one of the few people in my life who can walk through grief with me, who can sit and be silent and I need nothing else from her. She stayed up with my Mary, giving me rest and sanity and a chance to grieve and process well. I love looking back at moments when I feel so confidently that God was holding me, caring for me, remembering me. This time, he was using Court to do that, and I'm so grateful for our time together. I'm also beyond grateful for the generous, thoughtful couple from my church that paid for her ticket, never knowing it would be for a time where I would need her in such a big way. For asking me, would it be a blessing for us to send someone your way every once in awhile?
And then not a month later came my Emily, cousin extraordinaire, on her fifth visit, this time leading a group of students from Oklahoma Christian (but mainly just visiting me ;)). She is my baby cousin turned friend turned confidante, and God has knit our hearts together over the years in a special way. Every moment with her is filled with laughter and deep conversation, and I love them all. And she stayed up with my Lamb for me, which always gives you MAJOR bonus points in my book.
And not 3 months later, my parents arrived for their 3rd visit to see me, earning them what must be some kind of prize for visits to see your daughter who's deserted you for a foreign land. The problem with these visits is that they are always too short because I have to show them EVERYTHING AS FAST AS I CAN TO FIT IT ALL IN. So when people I love leave me I'm physically and emotionally spent. The greatest gift they give me is a better understanding of where I am and why I am and who I'm serving with, and so I have to show them pieces of it all. This time, my parents got to make their first trip to Lusaka, our capital city, with me, an experience they won't ever forget! We had to take Jonah for his review at the hospital (does it seem like I am ALWAYS taking Jonah for a review in Lusaka?? It sure does to me!), so they tagged along and got a glimpse into that whole side of my life few get to experience. It was nice to have another set of hands, but mainly just nice to have the best company ever on the long drives and long waits at the hospital. When we weren't in Lusaka, they could be found reading and rocking and swinging and singing to our gang. By this time, Suzy was living with me, and so they poured constant love and attention into our sweet Suz. Dad took every early morning feed, allowing me time to sleep a little later than usual, and mom covered the rest of the day! Words will never be enough for the gratitude I feel that my parents love those I love.
And not two months after that, my Aunt Shelley and Uncle Dave arrived! (Just so you know, although my family is incredible, this many visits in one year is not the norm, though I wish it were!) Though they had never visited me before, all of their kids have, so in ways they felt like they had seen this place already, just through other eyes and hearts. I absolutely love showing people I love the world I get to live in, so I loved every second of their visit. Seeing my life through others' eyes somehow reminds me of the beauty in it, the purpose in it. We spent hours and hours talking about life here, while I attempted to explain it in my own understanding. Our conversations were rich and important, and so were the games that accompanied them around the table at night. They spent their days entering into our world, and adding their own gifts to it. Uncle Dave is a big swimmer (actually nicknamed Swimmer Dave in our odd family), so we used his skills to start teaching some of our older ones to swim. He is also a great cook and baker, so we used that to our advantage as well! In this culture where women serve men and not the other way around, it was very funny to see a man cooking our food for us while we sat and played cards at night! He also painted and fixed things around here, while Aunt Shelley nurtured and rocked and accompanied me on clinic visits and all my daily tasks. They also got to be here when Suzy lived here, so they loved her well. Their visit was a treasure to me, and I can't wait until they can come again.
When I started writing this post (almost a year ago!)I was just writing about that year of visitors (2015), but I could go back and back and back all the way to my first ever visitor in 2006.
My parents in 2007
My brother Benny and cousins Luke and Betsy in 2008
My brother Benny, would be sister in law Courtney, cousins Betsy, Emily, and Rachel in 2009
Cousin Mary and would be cousin in law Thomas in 2009/2010
Sister in law Court and cousins Rachel and Emily in 2011
My parents in 2013
Anyway, as far as families go, mine is the best there ever was. They are what drove me to leave them actually, who drove this desire to help create family for those who don't have it. I'm blessed in countless ways, but I always put my fam at the top of my list.