We have been back for two months now. That’s crazy. It feels more like six. When we started planning to leave Nz to come home, we weren’t sure where home was, but hoped for Traverse City. The only direction we had was: Jonathan Pool, Colorado, and rest. As we prayed, the idea of visiting the Nambas kept coming up, so we booked our plane tickets: Wellington to San Francisco.
After a day of air travel, Rob Namba greeted us with his big Asian-American smile. Really good to see him. He knew where we’d been, and was welcoming us home. He and his family made the same trip to Nz and had arrived back in the country just a year earlier. They were in Waikanae for two years.
It was good to be home. The U.S. customs agent was remarkably friendly. I guess he didn’t feel the same need to save his part of the world from us; we weren’t the enemy. Good start. Hot Tamales, Club Crackers and hot dogs, were the first things we bought in LAX. That sounds terrible, but they’re favorites that we’ve missed. I was thankful to have Leighton walking along side me through all of the airport protocol. The last time we played the international airport game, he was in a wheel chair. Our 5 checked pieces of luggage made it through intact, and all fit into the back of Rob’s mini-van. Little victories.
I am thankful the Nambas caught us, because they know. It was easy with them. They helped us rest, and get back to life in the U.S. Jen is a fabulous cook and hostess. Our boys had a blast playing with the Namba boys. They will always be our San Jose family.
After reviewing options for getting to Colorado and possibly Michigan after that, Leighton said, “Maybe we should buy a car.” I’d been having the same thought since before we left Waikanae, so I said “Ok.” We looked at about a hundred cars on Craig’s List. Then he showed me a picture of a teal Volvo. “That one. I have a good feeling about it.” We called the owner of the car, and made an appointment to see and drive it. We also called to inquire about a dozen other cars, but no one else returned our calls. We wanted to depart California by the end of the week, so we drove out to Oakland to see the car a couple days later. Leighton drove it, we had a two minute conversation between ourselves, and we bought it. Two thousand dollars in small bills, spread out over a table in a teachers lounge in a pre-school just felt wrong. About ten minutes after we purchased the car, the phone started ringing from all the other car sellers. I prayed that God would keep distractions away and He did. Very thankful.
Back at the Namba’s I removed the car’s bumper stickers, we packed up, and fit our luggage like a puzzle in the trunk and rear seating. The boys seat space was significantly reduced, but they didn’t complain. We said good bye to the Nambas, and headed I-80 E, 1,223 miles to Fort Collins, Colorado.
We knew a day or two before we left California where we would stay in Colorado. A week earlier, Jonathan had put out a request to his church family for a place of respite for us. Our friends at El Rancho also prayed, and asked for a 5 star accommodation. We got it. An acquaintance responded and we were given a beautiful, new, three bedroom home, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir, for the month of May. Wow. We had to be in Colorado because that is were Jonathan wanted to marry his love Jennifer, and they asked Leighton to officiate.
We were excited for a road trip to Colorado. Samuel and I didn’t want to see the inside of another plane for a long while. We drove for three days. First through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Beautiful. After a quick 4 hour drive, we stopped in Reno the first night. Nevada to Salt Lake was the longest. Dry dessert for 10 hours; no AC. It wasn’t too bad, actually. The last day was 7 hours, and we started early. We were meeting the family who were sharing their home with us.
Our hosts were very friendly and eager to hear our story. They made a gorgeous fish stew for dinner that night and we talked. It’s amazing the people God puts in our paths. After a day together we felt like family. The next day our new friends left and we went into town for lunch. William thanked God for the food, and “…for our news friends who are so generous.” They impacted him and he was sad to see them leave. Samuel told me later, “It seems like we’ve known them our whole lives.” I am thankful for the kind imprint they left.
May was restful. We were able to decompress from the past two and a half years in NZ. Colorado was a gift. It is spectacular. Estes Park is a must see. The solitude of three weeks on our own was difficult sometimes, but it was good. We weren’t ready for family or friends who wanted our stories or answers yet.
The differences in cultures were more manageable too, because we were set apart. We could step in and out of American culture when we needed. Grocery stores and shopping in general are very different in the states. In NZ the prices are high and the selection limited. We shopped much less, which was really nice. American grocery stores can be overwhelming, but Fort Collins has a Whole Foods, happy day!
Jonathan met with us in Fort Collins. Our first old friend in two and a half years. It was joyous! He stayed for dinner. O how I’ve missed entertaining. In the course of the week we caught up, and he and Leighton discussed wedding details. For one whole afternoon he listened to our stories, the highs and lows, and what we felt was next. We discussed our challenges relationally and otherwise. Jonathan is a good counselor. We are thankful for him.
The wedding was beautiful and different than anything I’ve experienced before. We celebrated Jonathan & Jennifer’s union at the Miller homestead in Woodland Park. Leighton and the Groom set out on the 20 minute hike, about 15 minutes ahead of the Bride and wedding party. Four families were in attendance. It was an intimate wedding. The wedding party walked ahead of the Bride and hid her from view, until we met at the path lined with ribbons in wood. Leighton spoke about God’s desire in marriage, and Jonathan and Jennifer shared a bit of their love story and hopes going forward. He invited her to “Come travel with me.” She shared her joy of his respect and love for her. We prayed over the couple, then Leighton, Jonathan, Jennifer, and her children walked alone, up to the bald over looking Pike’s Peak. They exchanged their vows, shrouded in mystery. When they came down the mountain, as husband and wife, they prepared and served a delicious dinner for us. Then we served Communion to our own families. It was a beautiful day.
This is the event that set our return in motion, and it was complete. We started to look forward to our next step. For the month of May, we prayed and waited. About a week before we were to leave, I told Leighton, “Maybe we can drive to Missouri, to see Aunt Sue and Sharon.” He wasn’t sure. “But that’s south a little.” I shrugged, and walked to the kitchen so he could process his thoughts.
It really is a small world. Before exiting Colorado we got to meet up with Allie Cole in Loveland, Colorado. I made a random call, things worked out, and we made plans for lunch the next day. Allie had traveled from Traverse City to work with us in NZ, and was now living in Boulder, CO. It’s amazing the connections God manages. We were encouraged to see her and the new life she’s built there. It was nice to see a friend who was there during a significant time in our story.
I think we gave Aunt Sue and Sharon less than 5 days notice, before we stopped in for a visit. I am thankful for their willingness and spontaneity. It was a really good visit. We canoed and kayaked the Elk River under beautiful blue skies, stood on the border of four states at once (Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas), and ate too much Mexican food. It was comforting to be with family again.
We didn’t go strait from Colorado to Michigan partly because we still weren’t sure what was next. We are not our own. God gives us what we need for each day, and gives us the next step when it’s time. Uncertainty is less scary now; it’s getting easier. He has moved us from a need to control or a need for certainty, to resting in faith through this adventure. There is peace there.
The day before we left for Traverse City, we made arrangements to stay with the Lane family. It was a gift for us and the boys to stay with such good friends. The boys reconnected with Thomas and Katie, Mike connected Leighton with people and work opportunities, and Jeanette and I got to talk. For days:) Empire beach happened somewhere in between too. We were there about a week when our current house became available.
Once Jonathan and Jennifer were married they started the process of combining two households, and Jennifer began moving out of her rental into Jonathan’s home. Her house, almost fully furnished, was made available for us and Jonathan’s house is just down the street. We share an alley! A friend invited us to her garage sale, to take what we needed. We got everything for the kitchen, and then some. Another friend shared her harvest of chickens and eggs, and a new futon bunk bed for William. The only thing we lack are lamps, and I think those are coming tonight. We owned 5 suitcases and their contents when we entered the country, now we have a house, fully kitted, with a roast chicken dinner on the side. That’s some love.
We’ve learned on this trip is that we can’t guess what God is going to do. In Queenstown, we ran out of savings and were certain a check would arrive in the mail, or something would happen so we could make rent, but He didn’t do that. We didn’t make rent for a month or more, and it was a faith changer. We weren’t homeless. God provided, but not in ways we would have imagined. So, about a week ago, when it was time to leave the Lane house we didn’t know where we would go, but we knew God was walking with us. And once we were in this house, we didn’t know if we could make rent until two days before it was due. He doesn’t promise security, He promises us Himself.
When we stopped in Traverse City, we finished a 2,975 mile road trip from California to Michigan. The bigger Michigan to New Zealand and back again trip comes out to 19,227 miles. Many people have asked the “why” question. I can’t say why, only God knows, but I can tell you what I’ve learned.
I believe everyday is a classroom and He brings us in. We need these places and people to learn, so we see Him, ourselves, and each other better. He helps us see all of the ways we run from love. When we left everything familiar, our false hopes were stripped bare. The things we really put our hope in, what we really look to for our value. We said we didn’t really need those things, but pain helped us realize we did need them. Those relationships, their affection and approval. That stuff or that status. He has helped us transfer our hope to Him.
It was an adventure. God asked us to follow along with Him and enjoy our time with Him. We did. I treasure even the darkest parts, because He was there with us. We’ve met the most amazing people and have experienced impossibly beautiful things. We’ve walked along with our boys as they’ve experience this joy, amazement, and pain too. It has all been a gift. We are thankful:)
There is so much more to say, but I can’t feel my fingers:) We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line or stop by to chat. We have a front porch now and look forward to using it:)
Traverse City, Michigan