I'm sitting on a comfy couch in Prague wondering if the last week really happened.
Did we really just pack up our apartment? Did we really just say goodbye to our friends and our life in Belgium? Did we really just drive back AND forth all the way across Germany?
I am looking back at pictures and marveling at how the last week was so beautifully woven together. So sweet and so hard. We'll treasure it always.
Reality set in last Wednesday when I realized I would more than likely never have the delight of a weekly market right outside my front door.
RIGHT OUTSIDE my front door. It's been awesome.
And then Thursday it was time for our couch to be taken away.
I remember how excited we were to get this couch 2 years ago. It drew our weary travels to a close and invitingly pronounced us "Home."
Here we were then:
And here we were last week, about to disassemble our lives again :)
Any sadness was immediately sweetened as we watched Ali and Nada ride off with it in their friend's car. Giving is just plain GOOD. And giving to friends is almost too much joy to handle.
After the couch was gone, we went ahead and moved the table over to window.
Just to better get the full expanse of our view.... it's one of the things that made us the saddest about leaving our apartment.
The view was just so so wonderful.
Last lunch with Ali and Nada, and a birthday cake to celebrate Clay's day.
It was a pretty hard goodbye. Tears and hugs.
Then off to Josh's for another home-cooked meal (we ate really good last week).
Friday we were back to the packing grind.
Clearing out your house to move is kind of like digging around in a giant time capsule. It causes you to reflect on times past and remember. The remembering is good even if it makes you sad sometimes.
It was really hard to get rid of our pile of marathon shoes. I still can't believe that race day ever even happened. That's something we'll definitely carry forever, even if we did get rid of this ridiculous pile of running shoes.
And slowly, box by box, things were sorted, packed away, thrown away, given away.
One last goodbye to our sandwich shop ladies, a quick pass by the pita place to shake hands with those sweet people who have fed us so many times.
We saved Le Bolus for last.. why oh WHY did we only find this place 3 months ago?? I lamented this fact to Rita, one of the owners, and she cut me off before I could finish the sentence. She pretty much became Aunt Rita on me and chided me for having such regrets. We found this place just when we should have, she said, and the time we spent visiting here were special regardless of how short a time that was.
I suppose you're right, Rita.
And your special "goodbye" crepes were pretty darn good, too.
(P.S. for those of you that have been here, that is crunchy speculoos spread on the right-side crepe. The best crepe I have ever had.)
Saturday was the day to leave to stay the night in Brussels so we could be there for our early flight the next day. We swung by the cheese shop for one last sandwich for the road.
I can't believe we got to live above this for the past 2 years. Oh my. It was incredible.
Sunday morning we flew from Brussels to Prague, rented a moving van at the airport, and drove right back to Belgium.
We stopped about halfway to visit my cousin Jake and his wife Heather in Germany. So special and fun to randomly see family during one of the longest days of the longest weeks of my life :)
They even gave us Dr. Peppers for the road. Sometimes God just throws around some sprinkles to rejuvenate you and help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This short visit was that.
We got back to our apartment late and moved a few things to the truck that we needed to deliver that night. Thankfully Josh was there to help Clay lower things from the window.
We had one last dinner with our team.
This goodbye was a hard one. The 4 of us have been together a long time, shared experiences, tears and laughter. It's painful to be leaving knowing they will be in Belgium without us for 6 more months or so. It's also just plain awesome to have friends that we will always share this bond with.
Early, so early, the next morning, friends started pouring in to help us load up the truck.
It was overwhelming the amount of love and care we felt yesterday morning. They rolled up their sleeves and got us move-ready.
The birthday boy himself. Moving from Belgium to the Czech Republic on his 27th birthday.
Daniel and Michael were on furniture-lowering duty while the rest of us made trips up and down the stairs with the smaller stuff.
We laughed a lot.
And then it was all over.
It kind of came as a surprise when everything was finally loaded up. It was a bizarre moment for me when I realized this wasn't just a fun morning working alongside friends.
This was IT.
We toasted our time in Belgium, Clay on his birthday, and I tried to say thank you to this group of people who mean so much to me.
I choked up right after "Thank you."
Then they sang Happy Birthday, and I looked around at those faces. These faces that make up the layered, beautiful collage of our years here, the ones that have changed us and grown us in their own way.
Ali was there.
The guy and his wife we met at language school. That we picked cherries with in the middle of town one day after class when all the too-cool Belgian high school students looked on.
And their sweet baby that I have watched grow.
And their daughter that makes me laugh she's so dramatic. And how when I gave her her first cupcake ever she dropped it 2 seconds later. And we all laughed. And she cried.
And Josh was there.
Josh who has made us laugh so hard! Oh how we laughed when he tripped the alarm at church that time when he was there to clean his maggoty trash can.
And then how our whole team cried when Kevin left. And the 4 remaining ones weathered that together.
The good friend, sharing lunches and talks that I know have meant so much to Clay.
And Blanca and Michael were there.
The couple we met our first day in Belgium. The ones that shared their home with us, talked with us in Spanish so we could understand SOMETHING in this new country.
Who threw us "latino" Spanish-only birthday parties and made us dance til we fell on the floor we were laughing so hard.
And talked about life and the faith as we shared meals and many bottles of wine.
The couple that shared their sweet little Sophia with us, and almost fell off the couch at how funny it was when she tried to take our picture the other night "all by herself."
Daniel was there.
The leader of the Belgian team. The one we went to Spain with to shoot video, the one we brought in to help solve our cultural quandaries, the one that bought me an ice cream cone on our last mega-day of filming a few weeks ago. The constant during our time here.
Catherine and Pascal where there.
The couple we made gingerbread houses with 2 Christmases in a row.
The ones that would invite us out for drinks spontaneously. The ones we love to play Cranium with, and who we died laughing with when Pascal had to "marrionette" Clay.
And Xavier was there.
Xavier who's sweet wife Sirin was introduced to me by Daisy 2 years ago.
The couple who shared Turkish food with us, loved Tex-Mex and pumpkin pie. Sirin who would meet me in Liege to go shopping or just walk around when I was lonely. Who would cook special meals for me when I was struggling with what I could eat. Who watched movies with me.
The couple who ran around Belgium with us, taking us to museums, Germany, The Netherlands, dams, hedge-mazes. OH we've had fun!
Yes, they were all there. All together for the first time.
It was like seeing God's blessings to us over the last 2 years all lined up in a row.
I was in awe.
And then we took our last photo together in Huy.
And pulled away from the curb.
As we crossed the bridge, we tried to take it all in.
Here we go!
Nada sent Ali with a big bag of sfia and mini pizzas so we were set for our long drive. Such sweet friends.
We arrived at the storage facility in Prague around 5:30pm, unloaded our things, turned in the van, caught a taxi, and were at the place we are staying by 9:30pm.
What a day. Stressful. Heartbreaking. Exhausting. Incredible.
We then enjoyed one last taste of Huy for Clay's birthday. I had the cheese shop pack us a little meat/cheese/bread plate.
Then we went to SLEEP!
This morning I am thinking back to last week, but also to 2 years ago. When on a similar days to yesterday, our family and friends in Tomball and Austin gathered to wish Clay happy birthday and then sent us off. The tears that were cried when we left, and the tears that are cried now as we head back.
How amazing is it to have lived such life in the last 2 years, so far from home and family and friends. That God has restored shrunken lives. That he has filled us to overflowing with friends and experiences yet again.
It makes me think he may actually know what he's doing :) And I trust him more. I am so thankful for our time in Belgium, I am already missing my friends there, and I CAN'T WAIT to get home and hug the necks of those who are precious to me in Texas.
In the meantime we are about to venture outside and see Prague for the first time. I am nervous and excited. This is huge.