McKinzie Family Update

any of you have followed our journey since returning to the states. My last blog post is found here. Since moving to California, I haven’t blogged much. We have almost been in CA for an entire year. That is unbelievable to me. Our 2015-2016 year has been overwhelmingly full, and I would love to share more of our story.

To be absolutely honest, our first semester (Greg’s first PHD classes at Fuller, my first semester as a full-time working mom, the kids’ first semester in a CA school) was very difficult. It took that whole first semester to figure out a new rhythm of life. We were pulled in many directions. A first year of teaching in a new school is a lot of work. I was constantly exhausted, and it seemed like the kids were so clingy when I got home from work. On top of feeling exhausted, I lived with a guilt that I wasn’t being the mom that my children needed. Greg was doing PhD work…enough said. On top of a PhD study load, he took on stay-at-home Dad. He arranged our menus for the week, he was in charge of Cohen and the girls when they returned from school. Ana had an especially hard time. She seemed so bitter and angry, and over time, she developed a really bad attitude around me. That first semester was not fun.

Now I will fast forward to this week, our last week of the final semester for this school year. I can truly say that we are in a really good place as a family. God be praised. Reentry is a beast. It works like culture shock. Greg did a beautiful job explaining it on our family website. I want to reflect on our year and point out some ways that God has helped us through this first year:

  1. A church home

Our family attends Hollywood church of Christ. Hollywood is small, diverse, and family-oriented. We visited many churches when we moved to Pasadena. We would go to a new place, and our kids would beg to go back to Hollywood. We have fallen in love with the people there. Greg and I sat down with their leadership team to express our desire to become fully committed to serving with them. What a blessing they have been to us. They have become our family. They have been our encouragement and prayer warriors on the battlefield. We feel so loved and our kids are surrounded by new “aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins” in Christ. Belonging to a church body is such an important part of our mission.

2. Continuing a life of mission

One of our final moments with the church in Arequipa is when they chose to “send us.” They prayed over us and sent us to do mission in the United States. Greg and I are well aware of God’s power working through our team in Arequipa. It is very different to return to the states and not hold the title of missionary or full-time minister, but God has transformed us in our thinking. We discipled Christians in Arequipa to be missionaries in any work setting, and here in this season of life, we have to practice what we preach. 

If you had told me my freshman year at Harding that I would teach Peruvian school teachers about strategies for reading in Spanish, I would have called you crazy. Many of you have heard me say this. Now, I say that if you had told me my first year living in Peru that I would be teaching at an all-Hispanic school in downtown Los Angeles and working with immigrant families, I would have called you crazy. Isn’t God amazing how he prepares us ahead of time for things we never imagined. I have so many ministry opportunities in my workplace (that can be its own article).

Greg loves his studies. He was awarded a scholarship based on merit for the upcoming year (yay for less debt!), and he has many academic opportunities in the months ahead. But what I am most excited about is how God is working to use his experiences in Peru to bless people here. Greg is teaching a discipleship class at our Hollywood church on the book of Mark to a group of four hispanics. Together, we get to minister and participate in what God is actively doing in the Hispanic community of Los Angeles. This is still new for us, but it is awesome to see God at work, and we are confident because we have seen what he can do!

3. Inside Out

Raising TCKs is full of blessings and curses. Ana has really struggled. We have been very conscientious to grieve openly as a family. Ana’s negative attitude toward me turned into several one-on-one tear-filled conversations. The movie Inside Out perfectly depicts the trauma of what our oldest is going through. Change is so hard. Bottom line: it’s okay to be sad and angry about moving away from everything you love and call home. In our conversations, she would blame her anger on me not being there to support her at home. Throughout the conversation, as I dug deeper and deeper, her feelings of loneliness and deep sadness in leaving Peru surfaced. We bawled our eyes out together, and we prayed for God to help us. Our girl is thriving now. She isn’t done with the grief, but she has found new friends and she is building new memories. What is hard is that she is very aware that our Fuller chapter won’t be forever either. We continue to pray for our children and the trauma that comes with major life transitions. I guess this is where I truly must trust God to provide what they need.

4. Looking forward to Peru

We return for a 2-week visit to Peru in July. We cannot wait. Our home churches are funding this first trip back to Arequipa. It has been an absolute blessing to have that “return trip card” in our back pocket this whole time. We have looked forward to this trip since before leaving Arequipa in 2015. The kids have listed all the foods they want to eat, but if you ask them what they are most excited about, they will answer, “the people, the church, Manuela.” It will be so good for us to be back with our Peruvian family and to see the work of the church and CUDA since leaving more than a year and a half ago. We are so thankful to Cedar Lane and Shiloh for giving us this opportunity, and it has certainly helped to sustain us as we have coped with all the adjustments in returning to the states and grieving what we left.