There aren't really enough words to adequately describe how we felt about our time home last month. Refreshing. Amazing. Busy. Beautiful. Overwhelming. Perfect. Blessed.
I could go on and on.
I left a week before Steven did (he had a business conference to attend in Bangkok), so I got to spend 30 glorious days in the good ole' U. S. of A with all my dear family and friends. It was exactly what I needed. After 18 months of little community (at least compared to what we had in the States), I was craving some quality time (in person!!!) with the people who love and know me best. I'm so grateful to all of those who took time out of their busy schedules to make time for us. It's hard to put into words, but my heart just felt FULL those entire 30 days. (Not to mention, my stomach was quite full as well. I had forgotten just how much good food America has to offer!)
A lot of people have asked me if we hit any reverse culture shock upon returning to America. And honestly, I really don't think we did. Other than noticing how soft American toilet paper is (amaaaaaazing!) and how big their food portions are, we didn't have any "breakdown moments" where the culture felt overwhelming. We were actually surprised at how normal and easy it was to adjust back into "the way things were". Or maybe we were just too busy to notice anything major. Either way, we were just thankful that we could enjoy our short time home without the complications of reverse culture shock.
One thing that did catch me off guard was how hard it was to say goodbye again. I thought it would be easier this time around knowing that we love Thailand, like the people and have become more established here... But man oh man, none of that really helped as I said my tearful and painful goodbyes to my family. I'm not sure if it had to do with the feelings of fear and loneliness that comes with having our first baby overseas or if was just the fact that it felt so darn good to be with people who love us again. Regardless, it physically hurt to say goodbye, turn away and get on that plane. (I think the guy at the check-in counter felt bad for me because he didn't charge us for our one extra piece of luggage. One of many graces of God on our way back to Thailand...) But enough about that. I'll save that for a hesed pursuit... if I ever get back to blogging again!
For now, here's some pics (okay, a lot of pics!) from our fabulous time back in America. We were reminded over and over again of how truly blessed we are by the people God has put in our lives. For us, home isn't necessarily America anymore... or even Thailand... it's where all of you are. So thanks for being our "home sweet home".
A moment I will never forget! Being greeted by my whole family at the airport and then a celebratory dinner at Portillo's! I remember looking around at the table, with a delicious hot dog in hand, letting out a deep contented sigh and thinking... "Ahhh... I'm home." :)
Since Steven was still in Thailand, I spent most of my first week in America at my grandma's house. We ran errands, hung out and keep each other company. It was hard not having Gpa there, but I'm so thankful for the quality time I had with my grandma! She's still the spunky, boisterous, lovable lady I remember!
I got to meet my nephew, Nathan Thomas, for the very first time!!! I fell in love instantly.
Having lunch with my momma. I've missed spending time with her so much!
One of my first nights back I was able to see the Sauder siblings! I'm so thankful for Skype, but hanging out in person is just the best thing ever. Thanks for making a special trip to see me, guys!
Dinner at Lou Malnatis (my favorite Chicago pizza place!) with my sister-in-laws :)
A highlight of my trip: Being able to attend Leila's 3rd birthday party!
We're best friends :)
Hanging out with my cousin, Katherine, for a fun girls day! Lunch with our moms and a cinnamon roll & bagel baking lesson! I always laugh so much when I'm with them. Brings back all my good childhood memories :)
I got to see some of my college roommates: Kate, Amanda and Michelle!
Picnic in the park with some of the family!
Had to make time to see catch up with Charlotte--the precious girl I used to nanny for 2 years :) She's still the same--super smart, spunky and hilarious!
Finally got to meet my brother's girlfriend, Kristi! (I've wanted to skype with her so many times in Thailand, but Dougie wouldn't let me. ha! He said I had to wait to meet her in person!) It was so nice to meet the girl that I had heard so many great things about and who has made him so happy! Thankful.
Hanging out with two of my best friends, Lindsey & Jenny :)
Oh look! Steven's finally arrived! (I was a busy girl that first week without him!) The first night he got in we had dinner with some of our best friends in Chicago. It was wonderful to all be together again.
Hanging out with one of our favorite families... the Nelsons! We love these 4 so much!
With Steven now in town, we spent the week with his family :)
Hanging out at the Sox game in our cool camo hats!
Delicious breakfast at our favorite spot in Chicago, M. Henry!
Sauder family pic after church!
We went up to Wisconsin for the annual Sauder family vacation!
Loved catching up with the extended family :) Especially with Aunt Jan!! :)
So thankful for Steven and his amazing family.
Steven taking full advantage of the great beef America has to offer! Ordered a 16 oz. prime rib and ate the whole dang thing! Impressive.
Wanted a picture of baby William's first time on the farm :)
For my birthday, we got to celebrate with Steven's childhood friends! Super fun!
Emily is due Oct. 20th, I'm due Nov. 20th, and Laura's due Dec. 18th! All about a month apart! Crazy!
Just had to go visit Steven's aunt's coffee shop while we were in Roanoke! I volunteered there for a few months before we left for Thailand... I had been craving all her wonderful baked goods!
We found some time for Margie to do an ultrasound. We spent about 45 minutes looking at cute baby William and left with looooots of pictures! :)
The following week we spent time up in Michigan with my family! And... this happened!
Dougie and Kristi got ENGAGED!!!!!
So excited for these two! And it was so special to be a part of the celebration!
The entire Ishikawa clan at the celebration BBQ!
I have missed my brothers so much!
We spent a lot of time that week looking at that adorable drooly face!
And a lot of time doing this... just hanging out with Leila Lou.
I think she's the prettiest girl I've ever seen. But I may be a little biased...
We went fishing...
Uncle Stevo caught a turtle...
Leila learned how to hold the fishies...
We played at the beach...
We just chilled out...
We went for wagon rides...
We went golfing...
We read books...
We spent a day at a local winery...
(But not all of us drank!)
We lounged around...
And just had the best family vacation. :)
Another special moment for Steven & I was being able to attend my Gpa's burial service. It was hard not being there for the funeral last March, but we were thankful that God allowed us the opportunity to be there for this. Steven & I both agreed that it was helpful for us to say goodbye and have some sense of closure.
Something fun for us while we were home was meeting all our friend's kids that have been born since we left! Here we are meeting Cooper, my dear friend Julie's, little boy!
And she got to "meet" lil William, too :)
Meeting Katherine's boyfriend, Jeff! (Seriously, how did so much happen in just 18 months?)
My sister-in-law, Aimee, my mom & my aunt threw us an amaaaazing baby shower!!!
Feeling blessed is a major understatement. Look at all the love baby William got! A lot of people have asked us how we got all this stuff back to Thailand. Long story short, Steven's cousin's husband's father (did you follow all of that?) lives half of the year in Thailand and ships containers of things every 3 months. He generously offered for us to put whatever we wanted on his next shipping container for a very low price! Here's to hoping baby William's things get here before he does!
The following are pics I took with the dear people who came to our baby shower. I like to look at pictures of our friends and family when I'm homesick, so I made everyone take a picture with me that I could take back to Thailand! To all those who were at the shower, THANK YOU. I was too emotional at the time to make a little speech, but I was overwhelmed with love and thankfulness for each of you. Your love and support for Steven and I has sustained us and encouraged us to keep going. We love you all.
Katherine and Auntie Barbara!
Baby William got looooots of "farm gear"!
Liv! My future partner-in-crime in Thailand!
So glad all the grandmas were able to come! Grandma Unsicker :)
Grandpa Sauder even sent a gift! Baby William's first overalls! :)
Andrea & her adorable Ellery! :) (All the way from Wisconsin!)
My auntie Carol & Christina!
Auntie Karen and her mom, Ritz!
My future sis-in-law!
Julie & Gayle! (And an adorable "America" outfit for Willie!)
And baby Williams first tool belt! :)
Aimee and her sweet Leila :)
Our last week in America, Steven went off to San Francisco to attend a training for a potential business idea while I spent the week in Naperville squeezing in as much time with Leila and Natey as possible! I just had to take a picture of this. Leila knew I was coming over to play that day, so she took a chair and a book (with her blankie, of course!) and waited by the door for me to come! Melted my heart.
Took Leila out for an ice cream outing one night :)
My mom's friends from my hometown church also threw me a little baby shower. It was perfect. And my dear friend, Dave, crashed the end of the party! So great!
And our last weekend in America, this happened!!!!!
Tony & Kelsey got engaged!!!!
Again, soooo thankful we got to be a part of this celebration as well!!!
Tony let us be a part of the engagement, too!
While we were in Champaign for the engagement, we got to attend our dear friends' church plant! Christ Community Church is such a blessing to Urbana-Champaign!
And finally, we spent our last day (Labor Day) hanging out at the local carnival and BBQing with my family!
Hanging out at the Naperville Riverwalk :)
Although I said at the beginning of this post that there weren't enough words to adequately describe our time in America, I think the word THANKFUL perfectly sums it up. Going through all those pictures and reliving all those special moments, our heart is overflowing with thankfulness. Thankful for a month of much needed time with family and friends. Thankful for the countless blessings that people poured upon us. Thankful for the special celebrations we got to experience in person.
Thank you God for loving us so well through our special month in America.