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Mike and Anita James

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Fri
23
Jan '15

Getting Settled

On the 12th, we took all the things we had packed and headed to the airport.  It’s amazing how much you can accumulate after a year and a half.  We were able to get a rate where we each got two bags, but we found that it wasn’t enough.  I wondered why we had collected so much, but I realized that we were going back with an extra person as well.  Getting through the airport with 7 plastic tubs, 3 suitcases, 8 carry-ons and a stroller wasn’t exactly easy.  When we got to the airport, a valet asked if we needed help.  The cheap in me said, “No, I think we can get it.”  Then, after I asked Mike, I realized that we really did need some help.  We thought we had extra cash, but since we won’t be using dollars for a while, we only had $2.  That definitely wasn’t enough to give him.  Fortunately, our wonderful sister-in-law was parking her car and coming in.  She was gracious enough to give us some money to give him.  (Janella, I owe you when we get back!!)

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Going through security was a challenge, but we made it.  I had Samuel in my lap during the trip to London.  Mike had him from London to Amsterdam.  He did exceptionally well.  It’s crazy to think that his first flight was an international one just three days shy of his four-month birthday.  On the way to London, he slept most of the way.  The poor family in front of us had a 20-month old and 4-month old twins.  Once again, the 13 year gap between our children was looking better than ever!

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We’ve officially been in The Netherlands for 10 days.  At times, it seems like it’s been longer, but most times, it feels like we just got here.  In those 10 days, many things have happened.  We arrived on a Tuesday and on Thursday, we had our things moved into our new house.  As you can imagine, we’ve been unpacking ever since then.  As of today, I have 3 boxes to go.  Since I’m so close to being finished, I’ve started reorganizing what we’ve put away.  Why didn’t we get rid of some of our DVDs before we moved?!

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We tried to go register with the city.  When we first moved here in 2005, we were so excited about all the things we were going to do on certain days.  We finally learned to say, “Today, we hope to…” That way, if what you were planning didn’t happen, it was just your plan, not something that absolutely must happen.  Well, we hoped to register with the city, but we had to make an appointment for this coming Friday.  We also hoped to get everything done with the Immigration Department that we needed to.  They needed to take our fingerprints, pictures and signatures.  They were able to do that for Mike, Grace and me.  Samuel wasn’t in their system yet, so we’ll have to go back on another date to take care of him.

I “hope to” get a new oven on Tuesday.  The one left in the house is nearly impossible to use.  The knobs don’t have any markings at all, the seal on the door is broken, and when I tried to turn the oven on (at least I think I was since there’s nothing written on it at all), I immediately smelled gas.  I’ve been doing a lot of cooking on the stovetop and pulled out my crockpot today.

We got our sweet dog, Boomer, back on Saturday.  He ran immediately to Mike and wouldn’t stop jumping up onto him. He really didn’t bother with Grace or me.  We think it might be because since having a baby, my scent has changed a little.  Grace’s scent has definitely changed since she discovered Bath & Body Works!  We were a little concerned about how he would do with Samuel.  He really doesn’t bother with him at all.  Well, that’s not totally true.  When trying to feed Samuel some rice cereal, Samuel hit my hand, and the cereal went all over the floor.  As it turns out, Boomer loves rice cereal, and he won’t leave our sides when I’m feeding Samuel anymore.  Silly dog!

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Grace starts school on Monday and is ready to be in school and see her friends again.  We’ll see how she feels about it all when she gets some homework.

Thu
15
Jan '15

Observations after 48 Hours

When we moved back to the States in the summer of 2013, I wrote a blog 24 hours after we arrived.  I just wanted to write down some things we noticed.  I fully intended to do the same thing after moving back to The Netherlands this time after 24 hours, but between jet lag and doing this with a new baby, I’m doing pretty good to do it after 48 hours.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday was spent mostly walking through our house and deciding where things would go. We also had to get a few things from the store.  Today, we had movers putting all our things in our house.  Everything is in the house, but it’s far from finished.  Beds are put together, but we’ve still got a lot to unpack.  This house is also a little smaller, so we’ve got some furniture to give away.

So, since we’re all still pretty tired, I decided to poll Mike and Grace and come up with our Top 10 observations.  Here they are:

1) It is cold and wet.  Yes, we’ve lived here before, and yes, we know this.  We normally come back in the summer.  That gives us time to adjust to the colder weather as it changes. Let’s just say that July and January in The Netherlands are pretty different.  Don’t worry; we’ll adjust soon enough.

2) The bread is better.  There’s not much more to say about this.  (Well, our strange daughter, Grace, likes American bread better, but Mike and I definitely like the Dutch bread better.)

3) Gas prices haven’t gone down like they have in America.  For our American friends and family, enjoy the low prices and feel sorry for us.

4) Parking spaces are much smaller here.  Sliding doors on the side of the car can come in handy as it’s hard to get out of a parking space with doors that open outward.

5) Houses are much smaller.  Plus, since we’re in a row house, you see and hear your neighbors much more than in America.

6) Stairs are much steeper and smaller.  It usually takes us a few days for us to get used to them.  We’re getting there.  One stairwell in our new house doesn’t have a handrail but has a rope.  That is also taking some getting used it.

7) Fewer commercials – We were watching an American show last night waiting on a commercial break to get something done, but it actually didn’t happen.

8) Formula is much cheaper here.  There isn’t all that much that is less expensive here, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that baby formula is less than half the price of the American formula.  Hooray!!

9) I constantly wonder if I’m doing things correctly.  Things do change over time, and since we’ve been gone a year and a half.  When I started to buy something, I wondered if I was using my bank card correctly, wondered if they still did it the same way as they did when we left.

10) What Dutch we lost is coming back.  It usually takes a few weeks for me to feel normal speaking in Dutch.  Yesterday, I was speaking to the cashier at the grocery store in Dutch, and I was so happy that he kept speaking in Dutch and didn’t switch to English.  Today, however, when talking to the movers, I told them to put something in badkamer 1.  The man looked at me strangely, and I realized that I told him the bathroom in stead of the bedroom (slaapkamer).  Oh well, it’ll get there soon enough.

 

Wed
31
Dec '14

The Countdown

We have tickets to go back to The Netherlands.  We were going to leave a little earlier, but we’ve been having trouble getting our Visa this time.  We were officially rejected, but we have appealed the process and are waiting to hear from the immigration department.  Please pray with us that we will get it very quickly.

We will leave on January 12 and get into Amsterdam on the 13th.  I’ve been trying to get everything done, but we still have a bit more work before we can say our final goodbyes.

First of all, we’ve been getting everything packed up and ready to go with us.  It’s quite a process deciding what to take, what to give away and what to throw away.  We’ve said in the past that moving so often really helps you decide what you need and what you can live without.

Some of the bags we'll be taking with us

Some of the baggage we’ll be taking with us

In the meantime, the goodbyes have started.  Over Christmas, I saw some family that we won’t see again for a few years.  Yesterday, I said another goodbye to my sister and her family.  On Saturday, we decided to have a goodbye party of sorts.  We’re going to be at a Starbucks and hope that a few people can come by.  It’s a nice place to sit around for a few hours, and no one has to host or clean anything.  Win win!

We’re 12 days away from leaving…12 days!!!  We’re also in the process of getting the condo we bought prepared to rent out while we’re gone.  Goodwill has to come pick up furniture, the last of our things must be given away and the carpet must be cleaned.  It goes without saying that I will be very happy when it is all said and done!

Tue
9
Dec '14

I’m Making a List…and Checking It More Than Twice

There seems to be so much to do in the few weeks we have left in the States.  I’m normally a list maker.  Mike laughs at me often because my lists can become quite lengthy.  I have a working to-do list at the moment.  Every day I try to get as much checked off as I can, but every day, I seem to think of something else to add to the list.

We’re in the middle of getting our condo totally ready to rent out while we are gone.  We are also getting the house in The Netherlands totally ready for us to move into in January.  It’s a pretty stressful time in our lives, but if we take the list one thing at a time, we’ll get it all done.

Here are some of the things on our list:

  • Get haircuts before leaving
  • Go to doctors right before leaving.  Samuel will be so happy to have one last shot before moving.
  • Get luggage and start packing up our house.  We’ll need to get things into many bags and have some bags to live out of for the next few weeks.
  • Cancel things like internet, utilities, phone, etc

Getting all this done is a bit stressful.  There is an added stress of saying goodbye to family and friends.  We never have enough time to see everyone, and that is extremely hard on us.  Every goodbye is difficult, and they seem to get harder instead of easier.  This one will be even harder since we’ll be taking a baby away from family.  As excited as I am about getting back to The Netherlands and sleeping on my own bed, having my couch again, getting our dog back, etc, I’m dreading the goodbye when we leave our family again.

Sat
29
Nov '14

Househunters International

When we prepared to go to The Netherlands several years ago, we went around to many churches to gain prayer and financial support.  Inevitably, someone would ask me if I had seen the show How It’s Made.  There was an episode where they showed how wooden shoes are made. During this past year, I often got asked if I ever watched the show Househunters International.  Up to that point, I hadn’t.  There has been at least one episode in The Netherlands, and I thought that I’d watch it to see what it was like.  The episode I saw was in Amsterdam.  Grace thought that they should feature us looking for a house in Leiden.

On November 1, Mike went to The Netherlands for some meetings, which all went well.  He was there for 3 1/2 weeks.  We were hoping that he could get housing arranged for us as well.  Looking online in the weeks before he left, we found some houses that were possibilities.  Every time he contacted a realtor about them, they were already taken.  We didn’t have  a lot of hope that he would actually be able to do it.

While he was there, Mike checked websites daily.  One day, he saw a house in the area of Leiden that we’ve been praying about moving to.  He called the realtor and was the first person to see the house.  We put an offer in to rent it and got it.  He was able to get everything arranged during the time he was there, so we should be able to have our furniture (currently in storage) delivered  very soon after we go back.

Getting housing in The Netherlands is a little different than it is here in the US.  First of all, there are often no lighting fixtures in the houses.  We’ve lived in two houses in The Netherlands before, and all the lighting fixtures were taken when the tenants left.  We were responsible for putting up our own.  Also, in a house, if there is no flooring, you are responsible for putting it in.  When you leave, you are also responsible for taking it with you.  Fortunately, the house we got comes with flooring.  That not only saves a lot of headache; it also saves money.

Mike, Grace and I have watched some Househunters and also the International show.  We usually get annoyed with the people who demand “needs.” Often, the people in other countries aren’t realizing difference in cultures and that some things just aren’t available.  We have lived in The Netherlands for a while, so we know what to expect.  Mike and I made a list of things we would really like, but they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers.  What was on our list? Good living room for meetings/Bible studies/etc – CHECK. Three bedrooms and an attic (Attics are usually large rooms that can serve as an additional bedroom.  We have so many people through that it has definitely come in handy.) – CHECK. A backyard that our dog will be contained in – CHECK.  A good sized kitchen (I use my kitchen also for a cooking Bible study group, so an open kitchen would be even better) – CHECK. Storage space (mostly for puppets and ministry supplies) – CHECK. A bus stop nearby (With one car, having public transportation around is extremely helpful.) – CHECK.

Thank you to everyone who prayed with us about the perfect house for our family and ministry.  We’re excited to see how God uses this house as a home for our family and also for a ministry center.  Please pray for our entire family as we transition back to The Netherlands in the first week of January.

Sun
21
Sep '14

Introducing….Samuel Timotheus James

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One week ago, our lives changed dramatically.  On Sunday morning, we were in Royse City, TX doing a family service.  My worst fear was that my water would break while on stage at a church.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  It happened two hours later in the parking lot of a restaurant while we were saying goodbye to the pastor.  We went home, and I wanted to make sure that it was really happening before I called the doctor.  After going home, I decided that it wasn’t as bad as I thought, so we packed bags in preparation for the next day, when I was to be induced.

After dinner, we went to Wal-Mart to get some things, and my water broke even more.  I decided to call the doctor, who said to get to the hospital.  Things seemed pretty normal.  I was at the hospital about 12 hours before I was scheduled to be.  We were all excited.  They let me continue with labor for an hour or so before starting medicine to help the process go faster.  After a few more hours, we suddenly had 4 or 5 nurses in the room, and they were giving so many commands, calling for a doctor and stopping the labor process for me.  It was a little scary, to say the least.  We found out that Samuel’s heart rate had dropped for a long time, and they were having problems getting it back up.  Because I wasn’t far enough along in the process, they wanted to do a c-section because they were concerned that Samuel’s  heart rate would drop, and we would lose him.  I didn’t want to have that procedure done, but I trusted the doctors to know better than I did, and I wanted a healthy baby, so that’s what we did.

God’s hand has definitely been on this child.  I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, so he is a miracle.  I didn’t understand why my water would break and send me to the hospital 12 hours earlier than planned, but God knew.  I needed to be at the hospital so they could monitor him.  During the c-section, the doctor discovered that the placenta was pulling away from the uterus.  God had his hand on this part of the process too and knew when I needed to have the surgery.  If the placenta had pulled away any further, it could’ve caused loss of oxygen/brain damage for Samuel or bleeding for him and me.  I’m very grateful that God was working all things together for our good!

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So, at 7:18 Monday, 15 September, Samuel greeted the world.  He was only 6 pounds 14 ounces.  After having Grace at 9 pounds 9 ounces, I still look at him and see the tinniest baby.  Of course, he’s also the cutest baby around.  He has a head full of dark hair, and we just can’t get enough of him.  He is healthy and happy baby.  Our family is so happy that we were in America for the birth so they could meet him as well.

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Grace loves her little brother.  She didn’t know how she would like it when I was pregnant, but she loves holding him.  I’m sure it’ll be even more fun when he’s out of the newborn phase.  She’s looking forward to dressing him up.    They say that life changes when you have a baby.  Ours has definitely changed so far.  I’m sure that there are more changes to come, but I know that God will be with us through every change to come.

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Mon
25
Aug '14

Extra Time

Since we’ve been in The Netherlands, we’ve learned a lot about football (soccer).  One thing that is very common is going into extra time.  The half might be a certain length of time, but the referees almost always add on extra time because of times they stopped for injuries or penalties.  You don’t know how long it will be exactly until they announce it.  In our house, we try to guess and see who is right about how many minutes extra they will play.

We are calling this time in our itineration “Extra Time.”  We were supposed to be gone by now.  A few things have kept us back.  First of all, we don’t have our complete budget raised.  We are very close, so we still could’ve left in time for Grace to start school in The Netherlands this fall.  The biggest holdup at the moment is waiting on the arrival of our son.  As of today, I am 36 weeks pregnant.  They definitely don’t let you fly at this point in the pregnancy – especially over an ocean.  In our extra time, we continue to have services.  It’s changed a bit.  I’m not supposed to travel more than 100 miles from our hospital.  We’ve gone a little over that in the past month, but it’s about to change.  The long trips just wear me out.  Plus, there are some trips where there isn’t a hospital on the way in the case of the baby coming on the trip.  Side of the road delivery isn’t exactly what I have in mind.

Our extra time has really been a blessing to us.  We’ve had amazing services at great churches and been able to meet some amazing people.  Recently, a church really blessed Grace.  The children’s pastors, Jason & Jennifer Libby heard of something we plan to do when we get back to The Netherlands and had their kids help us already.  Grace loves drawing and is really good at it.  We plan on using her in our Kids Club in The Netherlands to draw pictures while we tell stories.  When I was a kid, someone usually did it with chalk.  Today, with the technology we have, we planned on her using an iPad that can be connected to the projector.  She can draw so that the kids can see it on the screen while we tell a story.  She learned of a great app and tool to use to do an even better job.  We were going to get an iPad for her to use.  The Libbys and the kids of Mustang Creek Community Church in Forney, TX raised money and got Grace a new iPad mini.  To say that she was surprised and excited is an understatement!

The children of Mustang Creek Community Church and Grace with her iPad mini.

The children of Mustang Creek Community Church and Grace with her iPad mini.

Our extra time also has us doing everything we can to get ready for the new baby.  The three of us all taken CPR classes hoping to never need to use the skill.  Grace took a babysitter’s class that taught her.  It also taught her things like discipline, first aid, swaddling, changing diapers and much more.  At first, she didn’t really want to take the class, but she’s decided since then that it was a great class and she would like to babysit – not just her brother.

Grace is demonstrating how to do CPR for the parents after her class.

Grace is demonstrating how to do CPR for the parents after her class.

Grace is also going to go to one semester of 7th grade in America.  This year was much different than last year because she knows what to expect from an American school and she has friends already and knows of people in her classes before she even started.  That gave much more peace to her and to us as parents.

We stil have services in September and some in October.  Mike will be going to The Netherlands for a few weeks in November for meetings and to try to arrange our housing.  Everything we have is in storage at the moment, so he will hopefully be able to find a place, get it ready and get our things moved in.  Then, he will come back and we will all go at the end of December.  We’re looking forward to that, but there is a lot to do before that happens.  Our extra time is bringing a lot of changes into our lives, but we know that God is ordering every step/minute.  Even though we don’t know how long it will last or what exactly will happen, we trust Him!

Mon
28
Jul '14

The First of Many Lasts

It’s hard to believe that in approximately 8 weeks, we’ll have another member of the family.  We’re getting to the point where I’m not allowed to travel very much because of the pregnancy.   Because of that, my part of itineration is winding down.  This past weekend, we did some children’s services for a church in Texarkana, AR on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We love that church so much.  I told the pastor that I certainly wouldn’t do something like that for many people but I would make an exception for them.

Speaking at a children's service in Texarkana

Speaking at a children’s service in Texarkana

One of the highlights in Texarkana for us was the introduction of Mini Foo, a tiny version of Foo Ling U.  This definitely starts expanding some of our family (Grace) in ministry.  It was such a hit that it made her day.  Her response to it all was, “See, Mom, I’ve got puppet skills up my sleeve.”  In the next 8 weeks, we have a few more services when I will not be able to travel.  Grace will get to be the person out front.  We’ll see if she has “talking to puppet skills” up her sleeve as well.

Foo Ling U with Mini Foo

Foo Ling U with Mini Foo

Sunday morning, I had some women who asked how much longer I had in the pregnancy.  When I said that it was 8 weeks, they were shocked because they didn’t think I could get much bigger.  Sunday night, a lady told me that I wasn’t very big for 32 weeks along.  I’ll go with the lady Sunday night.  Things are getting much more uncomfortable for me; there’s not much room for the baby, and things like breathing and reaching the floor are getting more and more difficult.  The end is near however.

There is so much that will happen for us in the next few months.  We will wrap up itineration and have a baby.  In November, Mike will be in The Netherlands for meetings and to take care of our housing.  Right after Christmas, we will all go back to The Netherlands  to stay.  That means a lot of packing and goodbyes in the months to come.  It’s never easy to do, but we know that God will help us through it all!

 

 

Tue
3
Jun '14

The Netherlands in Texas

We’ve been gone from The Netherlands for a year now.  At times it has flown by, and at times, it feels like we just got here.  While we’re in America, we do an awful lot of traveling.  This weekend, we were in Spring, TX for morning and night services.  After church Sunday morning, someone told us about a store in Spring called The Little Dutch Girl.  We were hoping to have enough time to go check it out between services, and when we went, we weren’t disappointed.

Our new favorite store in Texas.

Our new favorite store in Texas.

When we walked in, our senses were immediately overwhelmed with things we haven’t seen in a long time.  All three of us were walking around finding some of our favorite things.  When Grace reached the hagelslag section, she was in heaven.  Hagelslag is sprinkles that you put on bread with a little butter.  They didn’t have Grace’s absolute favorite kind, but we did go ahead and get her some that will take care of her breakfasts for a while.  When we showed people, they thought it was crazy to have chocolate for breakfast until I reminded them what Pop-tarts and cereal are: mostly sugar.

Hagelslag

Hagelslag

There were plenty of other things that we enjoyed seeing, but we couldn’t get everything.  I had to remind Grace that it was like buying American things when we’re in The Netherlands.  When it’s imported, it’s going to be much more expensive.

They had pins among other things, and when I saw this one, I really laughed.  My family thinks that I’m pretty opinionated/outspoken (as we all are), but when I come back from The Netherlands, I’m worse than normal.  We like to say that the Dutch people speak with candor.  Others call it bluntness to the point of rudeness.  I’ve gotten used to it, so it’s normal for me.

Probably the funniest thing we saw in the store

Probably the funniest thing we saw in the store

All in all, we were really happy with what all we found.  We weren’t able to get absolutely everything that we wanted, but we got enough to tide us over for a while!

Grace with our goodies

Grace with our goodies

Tue
22
Apr '14

Easter 2014

For an itinerating missionary, it’s rare to have a service on Easter.  We were blessed because we had a pastor at a church we’ve already spoken at who asked us to come and do the children’s service for a special outreach their church was having on Easter.  We love doing things like that.  We truly want to be here in America not only to raise money so we can go back to The Netherlands, but also to bless churches when we can.

So, we did the entire service: songs, games, puppets, message, etc.  The church had a great turn out.  They really worked hard to reach out to their community.  They had breakfast for everyone before the service started and had an Easter egg hunt afterwards.  They really worked at inviting people.  The pastor told us that they normally have about 10 kids in their children’s church, but they had 55 on Sunday.  Wow!

Doing what we love doing

Doing what we love doing

Easter is a strange time for us.  It’s a huge blessing for us to be able to be in America and be with some of our family.  We really enjoyed being with some extended family on Saturday and having dinner together with Mike’s family on Sunday.  It’s also a reminder of the special services we have in The Netherlands and makes us miss our church family very much!  It’s sometimes hard to tell this to family because they think that America is our home.  Of course, if we were in The Netherlands, we would’ve had a great time with friends but missed being with family.  We really do live between two worlds!

We had to get a little something this Easter to remind us of home.

We had to get a little something this Easter to remind us of home.