I'm home in Minnesota!
My baby brother's graduating salutatorian from High School at the end of the month and it was looking like there was no way I could be here for him until my mom decided to surprise EVERYONE and bring me home in secret!!
It was the longest journey home in my life. I left Gloucester where I'd been looking after my friends' kids for the week on Monday afternoon by bus, spent the evening in London, then took a bus out to Heathrow Airport about 11:30pm in order to get my early morning plane. After boarding the plane at 8:30, we were told that because of the volcanic ash from Iceland we would have to be rerouted around the cloud and because of the huge line-up of aircraft waiting to take the same route around, we would be grounded for at least 2 hours. I quickly texted my mother in the states to let her know of my later arrival so she could adjust whatever stories she was telling people to explain her trip to Minneapolis to pick me up from the airport without anyone knowing! The new route then added an hour and a half to our journey so by the time we landed in Toronto, Canada, I'd missed my connecting flight to Minneapolis and so had my second night in a row of wandering around an airport all night to contend with, pushing my surprise arrival back a day and extending my travel time to a span of Monday afternoon to Wednesday late morning!
But perhaps it made the surprise arrival all that much more exciting!
My mom picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to my sister's, stopping by her hubby's work for a hug hello since it was on the way. When we arrived at Hannah's house, Mom went in just as she normally would, and I snuck up to their living room window and started singing loudly a lullabye I've always sung to my nieces ever since the first one was tiny :) I couldn't get through the first 2 lines before my sister and 5 year old niece were running out the front door exclaiming, "Auntie Leah's here!" Emmy (3 years old) was so enamored that when the travel-weary, jet-lagged and exhausted auntie asked if she could have her first shower in days, she said, "I'm going to come with you and watch!" hehe :)
Oh, I cannot tell you how precious their cuddles are to this very doting auntie!!!
Mom and I then drove the rest of the way back up home and she made sly phone calls trying to suss out where everyone was and how we might surprise them. We discovered my older brother Josh was going out for dinner with his family and we actually met them on the road driving in to the restaurant so we pulled up beside them and I waved nonchalantly as if there was nothing out of the ordinary about my riding in a car in Northern MN :) They quickly pulled my little nephew Tucker out of his carseat and I had my first cuddle since I first met him when he was 4 months old! He is like a whole different person to me now at 1! But we're fast friends again :)
As we were standing around in the parking lot, me cuddling my little man again, my dad just happened to drive by and look over to see his family in that parking lot and me amongst them! He quickly pulled in and got a hug and started masterminding how we would surprise Jonah-- the main reason for my home-coming this time. He called him into town to "help him with something" and told him to meet him at Dairy Queen where he was getting a bite to eat, promising him a DQ blizzard when he got there. Then he, Mom, and I headed over to the DQ to wait. Jonah really didn't want to come. Haha. Not even with the offer of his favourite ice cream treat. So dad changed tactics and told him he'd run into someone from our old town whom he wanted Jonah to meet. Meanwhile, I hid in the bathroom. Then, once Jonah was sitting down at the table with Mom and Dad with his back to me, Dad rang me and I came out of the bathroom to sneak up behind him and throw my arms around his neck! Goodness, I love this kid...
We rang my other brother Caleb and his wife Danie. He's stationed in Missouri at the moment and Danie's making their home in Kansas. We'll be visiting them just before I return to Europe!
One of the best ones was surprising my mom's parents. They came up on Friday for Abby's 5th birthday party here on the ranch. My mom had this very specific image of Hannah, Jonah, and I sitting around the kitchen table playing cards when they got in (my grandparents have taught us to play cardgames with them since we were little kids!), but we didn't know when they would get in and couldn't coordinate all of our schedules to get it just right. When they did arrive, I just HAPPENED to have gone upstairs for a moment. My mom quickly ran up and ushered me out of the house behind their backs and sent me into town. Haha. She thought that Hannah and the kids and Grandma and Grandpa and she would go join me at the tennis courts where Jonah was having a match. But by the time I got there, the match was finished and Jonah was on his way home! So, we changed tactics. Jonah and I came home, I snuck in while they were saying their hellos, and Hannah called G&G up to the kitchen for a game of cards. I slipped in to a seat beside her and Jonah joined us, so we were all posed when Grandma got up to the kitchen. She saw me from the living room and asked who that girl was, and as she got closer asked, "Well, what's going on?!" with a smile. Grandpa took longer, but as he took the few steps up to the kitchen, his eyes met my big smile and his face was PRICELESS. Just wide-eyed shock that stopped him in his tracks :) Oh Grandpa! As I hugged them and said, "Surprise!" he asked, "Are you home for good this time?" and said that he prays everyday I'll come home... Oh dear... Probably slightly counter-productive. But his protectiveness is heart-warming nonetheless.
I've been home to celebrate my niece Abby's birthday for the first time since she's been alive. She turned 5 on May 13th and we celebrated with a birthday party on the ranch this weekend!
And it is very precious to have time with the family and back on the ranch in the summer sun :) The Lord is whispering many things to my heart. And I am here trying to hold my arms wide open and not let them close too tightly around any of it, but just be thankful for it while I'm here!
Know this Love; love this Lover...