Showing posts with label friends and fun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends and fun. Show all posts

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Great FRIENDS and PHOTOGRAPHY... a win-win weekend for the Chungs!

Due to some unexpected opportunities to experience the stomach bug over Christmas, SM and I didn’t get to go to Texas to visit some dear friends of mine as we had planned. Thankfully tickets are much cheaper in January, and MLK day gave us an extra day to spend with them! So we hopped on a plane last Saturday and headed to (slightly) warmer weather, sunshine, and lots of smiles!

This family “adopted” me over furlough and gave me a “home away from home” when I needed it on those long months of masters classes, Partnership Development, and seemingly closed doors. I got to watch their girls when their youngest was born, and take pictures in the hospital. They welcomed me into their lives, and stepped past any unforeseen barriers into mine in a way I very much needed. They celebrated the joys and mourned the hardships that came along the way. They celebrated my last masters class (of the semester) being finished and walked around – and around – the neighborhood with me as I processed my desires to teach missionary kids, to connect kids in America with those around the world, and to be married someday.

When I finally made it back to Tanzania, and they realized I no longer had access to an English-speaking church, they started worshipping with me over Skype most Sundays (after church for them, Sunday evenings for me) and praying over me over the miles. I could say, “things are going alright,” and they would say, “So by ‘alright’ you mean that you're not sick at the moment, but half the parents are... that the students are driving you a bit nuts as you come up on Christmas... that you're wishing for some cool rain to make it feel like the holidays... that things are hard but you are making it through?" Yep, pretty much. They read between the lines and got it.
Screenshot of Skype Worship...
SM got to meet them before they moved down to Texas last year, and Joy was in our wedding. But it was high time for SM to actually get to KNOW this family that I adored so much (and talked about even more). Besides, who doesn’t want to take a trip to Texas in the middle of sub-freezing January temperatures in Michigan?

So off we went. We got to spend time with their four girls and I got to remember again just how amazing SM is with kids. He played games with them non-stop! We also went hiking/bouldering one day and saw some of the beautiful countryside in a local state park. And I enjoyed not only being “Aunt Crystal” once again with girls that love me, and a sister to a couple who exemplify Christ beyond their knowledge to all those around them… but also loved spending time taking pictures of the adorable cuteness of their kids as long as they would let me (which, by the way, was a LOT!). Here are just a couple of the pictures I captured along our trip.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Ultimate Wedding Day

It was my wedding day. A day every girl, even me, thought about sometime or hoped for even if I hadn't planned the whole day out when I was 5. A day that didn't seem quite real. After meeting a guy I really liked, leaving for 2 years and ignoring him, then talking and finally meeting again... Praying praying praying and asking friends for wisdom, dating, saying "yes" and then planning planning planning as well as making huge decisions on jobs and living locations and everything else and re-prioritizing our lives together... The day was here. And it was all a lottle surreal. I woke up just like any other day (after missing my alarm, nothing new there!) and scrambled to catch up with the goings-ons and responsibilities of the world. It was a day like any other, another wedding I was in. except that no one asked me to hold a bouquet, to tie a bow, or run and find the photographer.

And all throughout the day, I kept looking for and seeing people around me from all around the country and the world. And as I walked down the aisle with my dad, I seriously wished I could stop and spend a couple hours hugging on and catching up with each of the amazing people I hadn't seen in so long, who came just for us and who we wished we could spend a week with but instead had to walk down the aisle to the front and the start my new life. Which I was so glad for, and which was why they all were there. And yet, in my heart, I still wanted to stop everything. Yell, "Halt! Wait!" Not because I wasn't ready to take my vows, but because I wanted to treasure this moment, these people all collected in one place, these memories. I wanted to capture them all in my heart and hold them tight and paint them into forever memories to look back on for the rest of (my) our journey.

At the same time, looking around in awe at the sea of beautiful beloved faces, I could see in my mind's eye all the people who had brought us to this point, the people who had played huge roles in our stories and lives and who couldn't make it because the "world is too big and life is hard and heaven's reunion will be all the sweeter for it." I wished for my Musomaland family and friends, for people in North Carolina who supported and encouraged and mentored me and all the people around Michigan we begrudgingly had to cut from the invite list due to the lack of space available at our venue.

Someday there will be heaven, and the skies will open and Christ will be reunited with His Bride, and the celebration won't be about me (thank goodness - I'm SO not a center-of-attention person!) but on the Creator and Savior and what He's done. On His true servant leadership heart that we yearn to be more like, laid out for us in a beautiful picture of grace and love and yes a recounting of how we've used our gifts for Him in the time we were given. I can't wait for this meeting, one day, when we get to not only celebrate but be in the ceremony as the bride of Christ, His church. And when we get to experience fully His Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love*... a love that we hope our own relationship and marriage reflects for the world.

* From The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago

Monday, September 15, 2014

Catching Up

It’s a little strange to realize my last blog post was made while I was still in Tanzania. Since then, I finished selling and packing all my things in Musoma, made my way through Nairobi, said goodbye to some dear friends, laid over with a friend in Italy, got stuck in London overnight, and eventually made it “home” to Kalamazoo. I got to connect with a dear friend who I taught with in Dar (now in Minnesota), meet my niece and spend time with my brother’s family, connect with friends new and old from around the world, move up to a place I’m staying in Zeeland, MI through December, and try to take a deep breath as I continue to acclimate to the world of America.

WAY too many people and places are missing from this picture...
these are just the ones I could find quickly :(

I feel that I'm not only continually catching up with people around me these days, but also catching up on all that has changed while I was gone - and the big and little ways that I changed along the way, too. I'm catching up with what's new in Holland, MI since I was a student here 8 years ago, catching up with how to cook from scratch when you can't just go buy 2 kilos of tomatoes, 3 carrots, one onion, and a fresh pineapple at the local market, and catching my breath a bit after "running hard" in serving for a long time without a lot of good breaks along the way.

This still feels way more normal to me than Meijer or Family Fare...

It's been interesting this time around to realize just how difficult the transition back has been for me. I don’t remember it being this difficult last furlough in a lot of ways. Perhaps I’m just more tired, emotionally and physically, after living in a place that I loved, but was often far from easy. Perhaps I've gotten so used to life in Tanzania that it became second nature, and the switch to the American system of, well, everything is just that much more difficult. Or perhaps actually selling everything and leaving East Africa/moving to the US this time has been more wearying than just leaving my stuff there to go back to. Whatever the reason, I’ve been pretty worn out, but ever-thankful for friends in the States and in Musoma for their continued prayers and support, and to family for “getting” that this whole reverse-culture shock thing is actually very real – and normal. And I’m thankful for a God who remains the same no matter what continent or country I find myself in.

The things that made the cut to come back to the States-
so glad it all arrived with me! At Chicago O'Hare
So today, as I begin my new online class, I think of a previous fall season 3 years ago where I was taking on a much-heavier load. I’m not sure I’m excited to jump back into student-mode again, but I’m thankful for the chance to renew my Michigan teaching license and to learn more about children’s literature. I’m thankful for the amazing ways God has provided, sustained, and encouraged me through His Body in community and through faithful friends and churches in the States over the past five years, and as I pray about what’s next, I’m growing in my ability to trust Him even in the midst of unknowns. And most importantly, I know that I’m not alone in the midst of any of this – thanks to incredible people surrounding me and an even more incredible God who will never let me go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lord of the Rings: Tanzania Edition

Ever have those moments where you feel like you've stepped into a movie??  In the midst of our hike this past weekend, we all agreed we could easily be in the Lord of the Rings, hiking towards Mordor.

(aka a rock hill in a village about an hour from Musomaland...)
We zigzaged through shambas (farms) as best we could till we finally hit a river-gorge dead-end.  (Ok, it was an irrigation ditch, but river gorge sounds a lot better!)

My roommate Ronit's mad 4WD driving skills
The parking spot
We got out, asked if we could leave our car where it stood... and then wandered back and forth for a few minutes before appealing to our friendly neighborhood farmer for help on the best place to cross!

We stumbled, slid, and got stuck across irrigation ditches, mud-sticky swamps, flooded cow plains, thorn bush patches, corn fields, rainforests and massive boulders. All in skirts :)

Since I was the only photographer in our group,
just assume anything they did, I did too! ;)
At one point Gollum (a local farmer) came over to lead us across his marshy cow pasture, then sent us on our way on the other side.  I was pretty sure he had a secret ring in his pocket, but he didn't offer to share... ;)

Eventually we started to wonder what it'd be like to just start walking cross-country for days weeks on end.  Something like Frodo and his band did (but without the orcs).

 We got a bit torn and beat up along the way...
(Can you see the path?  "Just crawl on your belly under the thorn bushes...")

...but we kept our smiles...
...and finally made it!
We didn't have a ring to destroy at the top, but we did eat celebratory chapatis, take a few pictures, and chat with a bull we randomly met near the top. (How did HE get up here?)

God blesses me with family wherever I go!
My Aussie bro, Lindsay...
...and amazing roommate (for 9 more days), Ronit!
On our way back, we couldn't see the car, so we wandered a bit off-course as the storm rolled in.

BUT we followed our feet through the mud, plunged through the Sea of Swirly Twirly Gumdrops, climbed into the Prado, and found our way back to a dirt road that promised to bring us home. :)
As my students would say, "THE END!!!"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Best Friendemic

Just a few of the people who bring smiles to my heart around the world...
and whose pictures just happened to be handy on my computer.
I have this problem.  You see, I have too many amazing friends.  I’ve been assured that this is normal for my lifestyle – you know, one where I out of necessity develop close relationships in a variety of cities, states, and countries around the world.  But, at the same time, it makes conversations difficult at times.

Last night, my roommate was told “you can’t have that many best friends!”  Well, maybe not best friends, but she’s a lot like me.  Once you’ve lived overseas, moved a few times, and have lived in various places, especially as a single, it gets to be a bit complicated.  I remember arriving in Kalamazoo last year on furlough and realizing that, at that moment, I had amazing friends in cities all over the world, but not a single close friend that I could call to go to dinner.  (A couple of friends from Kalamazoo were away, but still.  It was lonely.) 

I’m not saying that I need more friends – nor that I don’t want any more.  It’s just a weird phenomenon.  And, it’s typical, from what I read.  In the book Third Culture Kids, it talks about how many kids who have grown up overseas have a FB friend list a mile long and how they realize at some point that they just can’t keep up with them all like they want to.  It’s sad – missing out on the lives of those with whom you’ve grown close.  And it’s amazing – realizing that you’ve gotten to meet and be a small part of this many amazing people’s lives!  It’s hard, to continue to get close when you know it’ll end in goodbye.  And it’s easy – to fall into close relationships quickly when you’re surrounded by stressful difficulties and need to lean on one another for everything from medicine to bug spray to food to a place to go and cry on someone’s shoulder. 

It’s weird.  It’s crazy.  It’s life.  My life.  And while there are many times when I’ve asked, “who decided this was a good idea, anyway?” I can honestly say that most days, I’m incredibly thankful for the journey God has put me on.  And more than anything, I am reminded that my home – my real home – is in heaven, where tears and goodbyes will be finished and I’ll get to worship around the throne with my 394 best friends – and a million other amazing people I never got the chance to meet – from all around the world! :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Heri ya Krismas!

Heri ya Krismas (Merry Christmas) from Musoma!

Christmas is my favorite holiday, hands-down, rivaled only Thanksgiving traditions at the Walter’s including eating fabulous food, seeing people I love dearly, and playing girls vs. guys games… that’s hard to beat :).  And I’m always SO thankful this time of year for the Good News that sustains the world around – the fact that the reason we celebrate Christmas, the joy, the Truth of it all, remains the same no matter what continent I happen to be residing on at the moment.  Despite everything else changing and still being in constant transition, this Truth is the one thing that never changes and that I can cling to in the best and worst of times!

Being in Musoma means doing Christmas just a bit differently than I ever have before.  I’ve dearly missed family and friends around the world this season, but have also been blessed, loved on, and encouraged by friends here… and by those of you who honored us with an amazing onslaught of cards over the holidays!  What a blessing! :)

Before and after pictures of our wall... and more are still coming!  SO thankful!
So, here are a few pictures of the past few days.  Some are new traditions, some are old that get carried with wherever I go… but all have kept me busy and smiling along the way!  And most of all, I’m just so thankful for the reason that we celebrate this season in the first place – the best gift I could ever be given.
Our tree arrived by truck from Dar two days before Christmas... we were SO excited!
I wrapped all our package-gifts we'd received in kangas (local fabric) and pillowcases
to make Christmas morning more fun
Apparently one of the missionary families goes caroling every year... and this year, I was invited!
We had a ton of fun.  In this picture it was even snowing! 
(Well, we were being rained on by lake flies, which is pretty much the same thing, right?) :)
We dressed up like it was COLD!  Thankful it was actually somewhat cool that evening... :)
And a big shout-out to my friend Sue W for her package containing a santa hat...
she must have known I'd be needing it! :)
Fun opening presents on Christmas morning with friends.
Three of us got a fun package from a Musoma-friend who's in the States...
American candy makes us happy evidently!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What's My Name Again?

(Miss Auntie Lucas Crystal ChRiStY WHAT???)

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about how I was unofficially changing my name to make it easier for Tanzanians to say.   Lately, I've been realizing that I might need to change it more than once.  It might, in fact, become more like a hobby.  It seems that while most people talk about the various "hats" they wear throughout life's challenges, my rotating daily wardrobe change is my name-tag. 

Don't get me wrong.  I've had a great (though busy) week.  I've loved every minute of it.  But I just thought I'd give you a glimpse of what furlough (without Masters classes) is looking like... and the occasional confusion that sometimes happens along the way!

Last Sunday, I started off the day being Crystal.  That worked pretty well for church and an afternoon with my parents.  But by evening, I got a warm welcome of little girls jumping up and down saying "Miss Crystal is here! Miss Crystal is here!" with excitement as I entered their home down the street to have dinner. 

Monday, I was “at work” on the computer, talking to people, ordering needed supplies, scheduling meetings, writing thank yous, etc.  My name was Crystal Lucas.

Tuesday, I went up to Holland to visit my dear friend Anna and her family.  3/4 of her kiddos came into their brood by way of orphanages in Uganda, where the term “Auntie” is applied to every (female) non-familial member.  So I was Auntie Crystal for a day. 

Wednesday, I caught up with some friends via email, slept a lot to get over my allergies/cough, emailed some MKs (and their parents) in Tanzania, and made dinner before a crazy night.  I’m thinking my name might have just been Crystal.  Except in my emails, where my name was either Miss Lucas (for kids in Dar) or Miss Crystal (for kids I'll be teaching in Musoma) respectively.  Yikes.

Then it was time to gear up.  Put on my teacher face.  And pretend to be Mrs. Lucas.  Actually, I was Miss Lucas for the day to a bunch of 8th graders, who of course felt the need to remind me every so often that I was, indeed, subbing for my mom.  Thankfully, it was a pretty low-key day, but I still came home and promptly … well, took a nap.  Ate, then fell asleep again.  I guess I could have been dubbed “Sleepy” since I was so exhausted from the day!  (I’m out of teacher practice, it would seem!)

And today, I woke up with excitement over a snow day that really didn't affect me... but made me giddy and excited and feeling like a little kid.  I got to Skype with a dear friend (I know, it seems I have a lot of those… just wish they’d all stay living in one place!) in Tanzania, where I was properly Crystal... but who often refers to me as Miss Lucas within the school setting of HOPAC.  And then, this afternoon, I’m getting ready to head over to a friend’s house to babysit and hang out with their kids for a couple of days.  So for the next 48 hours-ish, I’ll officially be Miss Crystal again.
Sometimes when I’m with kids, I find I don’t know how to refer to myself.  Am I Miss Crystal?  Auntie Crystal?  Miss Lucas?  Or just plain old “Crystal” who was the now-teenager's babysitter a few years back, before I was old enough to have a distinguished title?  (I guess it's a good thing 8th graders don't make the mistake of calling me "mom" from time to time, as my elementary students used to do!  Hmm...)  I especially have to think before signing an email or a letter to a special little person in my life!  Regardless, I love the fact that I have so many great friends… so many amazing people in my life… and likewise, so many roles (and special names) in the lives of those around me.  I’m so thankful for the people who keep me going along the way… and who hopefully, I can help along a bit as well! :)