I have a lot to write about. God has been knocking my socks off and I don't feel like I have actually had a minute to sit down and take it all in. The kids are napping so hopefully this chunk of time on this day will prove to be fruitful. Here we go...
As previously posted, God made it clear to me in February of this year that he had something planned that he wasn't quite ready to reveal to me. It actually started a little before that. There was talk of some acquaintances coming out to run the marathon in October. My Love jumped at the chance for some motivation to run again and other mutual friends who we hadn't seen in six years decided they wanted to train and join the trip as well. Cool. A mini Germany reunion. A Facebook group page was created and the runners started their programs from all over the USA. Life went on as normal. My Love and I were excited about hosting a get together but then came the inevitable "elephant in the room" question. We live here...where will everyone else stay? I made some bold announcement to My Love that I would love to have everyone over for a reunion dinner but I wasn't going to have people stay with us and pretend to be closer to some of those people than was reality. My Love understood my perspective and agreed that being fake after all these years probably wasn't the best witness.
God IMMEDIATELY (like the next morning) turned my face toward his and shook my shoulders to wake me up. What kind of witness was I being to another Christian that I once knew but had never clicked with? It didn't matter how many people were blessed by reading all about what God was doing in my heart and life. If this one person was looking at God's grace on me through the lens of my lack of grace on her everything else was pointless. I was in turmoil. I had chalked up this relationship as something that never developed naturally. We all moved away and our callousness toward one another didn't seem like something that needed to be dealt with. I mean, you can't be best friends with every one. God did not want me to be kind and loving to most and just write this one interaction off. In fact, he was bringing this person and many others to my very town and pretty much told me I WILL welcome her into my home. Um...Yes Lord but how do I do that?
"Pray for her," someone said. Duh! Why didn't I think of that? It wasn't easy at first, but I started to pray. God quickly told me he wanted me to make it right with this person. I wasn't just going to tolerate her presence during the reunion but that I was going to give her a royal welcome. She was going to eat my food and sleep in my house. So I wrote her. I sent an email apologizing for how our relationship never seemed to develop on its own and admitted that there was no single event that sparked a riff but rather it was just an invisible personality conflict. As I had been praying for her, I had to be willing to accept her response or lack there of. She wrote back quickly confirming our strained interactions and was thankful that I made the bold move to reconcile. At that time she welcomed an invitation I had extended for her and her family to stay with us during the marathon.
Now what? I didn't exactly know. We emailed back and forth a few times over the next several months sharing personal prayer requests but life got busy. I wouldn't say I knew her any better by the time October rolled around but my heart toward her had almost completely changed through prayer.
We went through the whole house hunting process and kept updating the visiting friends that we didn't know where we would be living in October but that the reunion would be on. As you know, God built us an amazing house with lots of space. Slowly other friends started asking if they could stay with us too. I took out the floor plan and figured out how we could possibly fit 17 sleeping heads within these walls but somehow we made it work with room to spare.
Life was starting to settle down after the move when we found out that B was in our small town for work and although he couldn't stick around for the marathon and reunion, he wanted to come hang out for dinner. It was an amazing night. I knew B while we lived in Germany but he worked a lot and kind of just popped in to group gatherings every once in awhile. We spent that evening catching up and God gave us a clear look into how we can start praying for B in the future. What a gift! He said this was only the second time in three years that he had traveled for work and he was staying 2 miles away from our brand new house that we had only been living in for 1.5 weeks. Anyway he knew J was arriving the next evening so he planned to come back and surprise her at dinner time. She had just brought the kids in the house after a long trip from Florida. We sat down to crock pot minestrone and the door bell rang. "I hope you don't mind that I invited someone else to dinner," I said to my friend. There was a fourth place set at the table. My Love opened the door and J just about lost her mind. B stayed for dinner and we laughed and talked and reminisced about those days in Germany and all God was doing in his life now. T drove down for the pre-reunion too. God's timing is PERFECT! J and I continue to be blessed by that time with B. I mean, he was working IN our town not the big City up north. Crazy.
The next day we were gearing up to welcome the friend I had emailed, named E, and her family. I was excited to see her and was really overwhelmed by how much love God had given me for her over the months I had been praying. After a long road trip in from Michigan they got in during the wee hours of the morning on Thursday. I was so excited to meet their three miracle boys. Everything went so smoothly. It was like we had all just been best friends for years and a day had hardly passed since we all lived near each other in Germany. E went on to mention several times how similar we actually are and how thankful she was that we were getting to know each other now. I am still overwhelmed. The three of us girls had some amazing talks while the seven kiddos napped and ran around the house playing together. It was amazing. I grieve the years that I missed out on a relationship with E. For the times I told God who and how I would love others. No longer will I choose to be a Jonah.
Then it was the night before the race. J was really debating not going to the race and perhaps staying home with our four kids. She didn't know how she could manage seven by herself but felt really strongly that she thought she could do it. I asked her to think about it before she mentioned it to E. By Saturday night, J was conflicted but confident that she could watch all the kids herself. She and I had kept the seven at home while the the runners went to the Expo that morning. It actually went really smooth. It reminded me of the time I worked at the Child Development Center in Germany. Sometimes having more kids around makes things run smoother. Anyway when J mentioned it to our friend you could tell it was a huge blessing to her that J offered. Lugging three strollers on the metro in the 30 degree weather wasn't exactly ideal but we all expected to do it. J was offering to keep all the kids home with her. We were overwhelmed and thankful for her sacrifice. An hour later the third wave of house guests rolled in from Texas on Saturday night. Ma is 12 weeks pregnant with her first child and feeling sick and Mi HATES the cold. They came out just for the reunion and pretty much announced instantly once inside the house that they WERE NOT going to the marathon that next day. What?!?!?! I was shocked. God literally blessed J's obedience in that moment. They were a huge help and even supervised the kids more closely than had J and I been watching our own. I am still overwhelmed by how God planned all of that.
So T drove down from his place an hour north and spent the night on an air mattress in the basement after the carb-loading pasta feed Saturday night. T and E were supposed to run the marathon but were both injured and had to defer their slot to next year. So we had a house full of people and only E, T and I drove up to watch the race. It was crazy. Before everyone arrived we were trying to figure out logistics with caravanning. My Love drove up early with K as they were both running but the spectators fit in one other car. I was SO thankful that T was with us because he was able to maneuver around the city easily and we road the metro to different places on the course based on the varying running paces. Mo was running too but was staying in the city with friends until Sunday night when she and her family would be bunking with us too. So E, T and I were doing our best to catch all three runners. The whole time we were thankful we didn't have strollers FULL of seven cold kids to push around. The metro was crammed. I was huffing and puffing behind E and T (marathon runners mind you) and we managed to see all three runners twice on the course.
They all did great and the weather turned out to be gorgeous. On Saturday before the race, I realized God was replaying a scenario that took place six years ago. My Love and E ran the Rotterdam Marathon in 2005. K, T, Mo and I went up to The Netherlands to cheer them on. This time K, Mo and My Love were running and T, E and I were watching. I was overwhelmed at the thought. There is no way we could have planned that on our own. I mean we now have seven kids between our families. It was amazing!
We drove home and got ready for the reunion dinner of two kinds of chili and cornbread that J was pulling together. Two more families we knew in Germany who live locally came down for the gathering. We had 24 people here and eleven of them were children. Everything went flawless. The conversations were rich and the laughs were hard. We watched a photo slideshow of the memories we had made together at our first assignment in Germany as far back as nine years ago. Like I said, some of us had stayed in better touch than others but nothing could replace the beginning. We have all grown as we have moved around the world in different directions since then, but somehow the bond was still there.
I was blown away with how well everything went logistically. All the kids were healthy and slept well in a strange house. My kids were carted around from room to room based on which rooms were occupied that day. The meals we organized and there was plenty of help with managing the kids and cleaning up. Everyone pretty much made themselves at home. I was so blessed!
Monday we took a long walk to the playground with most of the kids and had Costco pizza for dinner before dressing up all nine children for halloween. It was so much fun. It was crazy but it was fun. Our neighborhood was packed with kids on the street trick or treating and most of the home owners were on their porches or driveways passing out candy. Babydoll refused to let go of her candy bucket even when it got really heavy.
Tuesday brought the first goodbyes as Mo and Ku (who came along after our Germany days) and their twin boys headed back to Texas. Their visit was way too short but we were so glad they came. Then E and K loaded up their triplets after lunch to start a road trip back to Michigan. I am certain that the friendship that God grew out of this weekend that for some reason didn't come to us naturally while in Germany will be life changing and long lasting. I am blessed to call you friend, E. I can almost guarantee that the flight back to Texas on Thursday for Ma and Mi was full of lots of conversation. Mi surrendered his life to Christ after we all moved away from Germany (praise God!) and Ma joined the picture later but somehow fits perfectly into this crew (loved her!). Spending time with nine kids under four years old when you are expecting your first baby is enough to get you talking about all you might want to do once your baby arrives. J loaded up her two kids and started her two day drive south to Florida on Thursday afternoon as well. Knowing she will be back up in January made the goodbye seem easier but we did linger our hug in the street for quite awhile. She is the best girlfriend any one could ever have. J vacuumed my whole house before any other guests arrived, made me two dinners to put in the freezer to use after the crowds left and cleaned the bathrooms the night before she went home. Can anyone say "acts of service" love language? Sometimes I don't know how to accept all the love God gives me through her willing servant heart but I know it is a gift from Him so I say thank you and thank you. Did I mention we also delivered two meals on Wednesday that J made for another family we knew in Germany who lives locally and had a baby last week? J is amazing. Wish the R family could have joined us for the reunion too but I am thankful we were able to swing by with our four kiddos.
So all in all the week went PERFECT. There was one glaring absence though. We are hoping M will be in country next year when we do this again. That is right people. Germany Reunion 2 is on the books. This time there will be more runners so we are thinking me might all need to fly out the Anderson grandparents to watch all our kiddos.
And the bonus cherry on top...
Because we had lots of expenses with just moving in, we kind of communicated to the troops beforehand that we weren't in a position to feed everyone for every meal. Clearly I have never asked house guests to pay while they visit but this scenario and timing was different. Of course everyone agreed to contribute and by the time the last family left God had provided every dollar we had spent for this reunion to happen.
Why? Why did I ever waste a moment of my life worrying about anything? If God wants to do something he can make it happen. He can fly babysitters for marathon day out from Texas. He can build old acquaintances into new close friends. He can bring people in town for work who otherwise would have to miss an amazing opportunity to reconnect with old friends. He can provide the means to feed and house 17 people for days at a time. He can bring the same six people together on a marathon course to watch a different set of runners. He can build a big house to be ready at this moment during this year months after plans of a reunion were made and before talk of moving was even started.
I am overwhelmed. Every person who walked through this door was blessed by Him and I hope that it is a predication of all God has in store for this house in the future. It is His to do with as He pleases and I can't wait to see Him work as we learn to surrender every earthly thing to His perfect plan.