Sunday, March 16, 2014

to peoria, with love

As our time here in Peoria draws to an end, we can't stop thinking of all the people we are grateful for and all the good that happened during our time here. While we are excited about the new chapter in our life, we are also saddened as we think of the friends we leave behind.

We came to Peoria almost 3 years ago--in June of 2011. We came straight from mission work in Mexico--with no job, no money, no green card (just a visitor visa), and just with whatever possessions we could fit in the back of our van and on our small, open trailer. We came to find the first of our great blessings in Peoria: Free housing. Seriously. Beautiful, wonderful housing on 3 acres of land in the country--complete with a dog, cats, chickens, turkeys, and a pool! Talk about high living! Also, upon hearing of our lack of household goods, many friends pitched together and piled items at my sister's house--so that when we arrived, we found furniture, kitchen things, toys, furnishings... all waiting for us!! SO amazing.

The Rinkenbergers had lovingly opened to us their guest home, providing us with a haven to get on our feet and find our way! But, they didn't just offer housing. They treated us as family, often inviting us into their home for coffee or a meal (mmmm... and they hooked us on that good Columbian coffee, too!). Joyce would often peak in and  ask if "Noah could come play" at her house--knowing full-well that Noah lived for his times with her and that I relished the moments of being "off duty" while she stepped in.

While there, we were connected with Easter Seals. Although we did not have the correct insurance, Easter Seals looked beyond that and gifted us with several screenings and 6 weeks of occupational therapy sessions.  6 weeks doesn't sound like much, but those 6 weeks Karen (the therapist) instantly made a special connection with Noah and he trusted her (big deal in those days!). She would work with him on all kinds of levels, helping him face fears and teaching us how to "read" him, and how to help him work through things and be more prepared for life. I can't imagine us without those sessions. Amazing.

Noah also was able to enroll (for free) in the local afternoon preschool, which was a very scary thing for a guy who never even could stay in a church nursery. After a rocky first few days, Noah grew to adore school--and the teachers he had were perfect for him. Another huge blessing.

We found a church that really "fit" us, spoke to our spirits and helped us grow. Although we had been in full-time ministry in Mexico, we have found our time here has been a time of deepening our relationship with God, our understanding of Him, and a time of healing.

Rey still didn't have a job, but we were busy filing for his green card. We were connected with a great immigration lawyer who walked us through all the steps--and, by the end of December, Rey was a green card holder!

I imagine most people who live abroad would say that the hardest thing about being far away is missing life with your family. It was sooo hard, while in Mexico, to miss births, holidays, parties, weddings... And so, we soaked up every moment that we could making up for lost time! How great it is to be back with "built-in friends" = your siblings! Our kids quickly fell in love with their cousins, aunties and uncles... and I cherished watching the bonds form. Summer playdates at the park, outings to museums or water parks, family gatherings for a holiday or birthday... all sweet memories tucked away in our hearts!

Rey got a job as a contractor for CAT in April of 2012, and we experienced the great freedom from stress that a steady paycheck brings!

In the fall of 2012, we were able to move into town and rent a home. It was so sad to leave our beloved Rinkenbergers behind, but we loved our new place! (Although, at times--during the first few months--the kids would ask to go back to "the other house"). ;) Noah transitioned beautifully into a new preschool--and again, his teachers were gifts from heaven, sweetly guiding Noah through his school experience.

Noah quickly made friends--which, is great... because, he also made friends for me in the mommas of his friends! I have been so blessed to be able to form great friendships with the moms of Noah's friends, and am grateful for that!

In the winter of 2012, I was introduced to Noonday Collection... and, in the spring of 2013, I became an ambassador for them! I am SO glad that Noonday has become a part of my life: it has changed my life for the better, and created relationships with many new people I would've never otherwise met (many of them "kindred spirits"!). :)

We also were feeling much more planted at church, and began to form some deeper friendships with people there. It will be hard to leave that behind! How sweet is the blessing and support of friends who know you and love you!

Rey got to join a group of guys doing a study of The Purpose Driven Life at the men's prison in Canton--specifically with the Hispanic population. He has found he has loved doing that, and that it gives him a renewed appreciation for all the things he has (the freedom to be with his family and the ones he loves).

Summer of 2013 brought a great adventure: Driving down to Mexico to see the abuelos (grandparents)! It had been a little over 2 years since we'd seen them, so it was fun to see the changes in everyone! We also LOVED have my brother Mike go down with us. Another sweet and cherished memory for all of us. Nothing like bonding time with the "baby of the family"! :)

That trip also made us see how the health of Rey's parents is deteriorating and that perhaps it was time to turn our focus to them--and to Rey's life-long dream of building them a house. We thought perhaps we should consider moving to Texas for Rey to be able to work there, and then be closer to begin construction. We tucked those thoughts away in our hearts, and began looking ahead into the new year--would we move then?

Noah was "exited" from both occupational and speech therapies in the fall! Yay!

In December, Rey was let go from CAT. We hadn't anticipated his job ending quite so soon, and it made us wonder if we should look for a job in Illinois... or Texas? After much thought, we decided to go for Texas. We feel the window of time is closing, and--with increasing health issues--the need for good housing for his parents is more urgent than ever. So, we decided to take the leap!

(**A special thanks to all of those who have provided Rey with work 
in the "in-betweens". We are SO appreciative!**)

Since we made that decision, life has been crazy and insane. And, crazy. :) But, we also been showered with blessings as friends have surrounded us with love and support... and we are seeing all the details being, yet again, woven together!

So, Peoria. We are sad to leave you, and glad to have spent our last several years here. Thanks for the love, the good times and the sweet memories! We leave both excited for the new adventure, yet sad to leave behind friends, security and the "known". We are both stressed yet calm, exhausted yet invigorated, questioning yet secure.

Most of all, we are thankful!

PS- Whenever you are needing to get away... please come visit!! We LOVE visitors! :)