Friday, July 31, 2015

On Ardor & Idolatry (video)

As the above definitions with their accompanying videos attest, there seems to be a fine line between ardor and idolatry. This year in Chile - and especially in Iquique - major events merged on the calendar to force this phenomenon into sharper focus. The night of July 4th as I filmed the two events pictured in this post, I felt as though I were witnessing the worship of two of Chile's top "gods": futbol and la virgen.

While I am as much a fan of Chilean soccer as anyone, the extent to which all of life stops and revolves around it still astounds me. It is perhaps hard to understand as Americans who enjoy multiple sports equally, but Chilean athletes in other areas of competition often point out the discrepancy in resources and support for their respective disciplines. An incident which occurred early in the Copa America which involved a drunken soccer player driving and causing a car accident without consequences on the field (he was allowed to continue playing first string) highlighted what many perceive to be the "god-like" status of these men.

After Chile's victory, fans fulfilled promises they had made in the event of their nation's success. On one televised morning show, a female host dressed only in a Chilean flag proudly paraded onstage. Her male counterpart underwent a flamboyant on-camera haircut fashioned after the aforementioned drunken player. Another female host on the show got tattooed on camera, and a fellow host dyed his hair purple for the occasion.

Despite the hilarity presumed to be associated with these online antics, it is impossible not to notice the common thread of vows made and kept in "worship" of someone or something. In fact on the heels of the Copa America soccer tournament, our northern part of the country geared up for its biggest religious festival of the year. Tens of thousands of faithful worshipers (including a reported 17,000 dancers from both Chile and Peru) packed food, supplies, sleeping gear, costumes and commitments to drive an hour or more into the desert for the week-long Festival of La Tirana

Attending the festival is a strict ritual for many families in our city and surrounding areas. For some like our next-door neighbor, their yearly promise is fulfilled by a quick half-day trip to the chapel in this little desert town, just long enough to saludar (pay respects or greet) the statue representing a legendary virgin princess known as la chinita (the beloved.) For others, their pilgrimage involves participation in elaborate dances, including the most famous which depicts the devil in masks and costumes. All have in common the desire to pay homage to the fabled virgin in return for her favor. In the words of the dancers' songs, la chinita becomes "Mother Mary" and prayers are implored for her protection and blessing.

One picture I happened to see posted from this year's celebration gave me pause. In it, two men sat comfortably in beach chairs overlooking the La Tirana processional. However, they were grinning and giving "the finger" to the camera. What a visual reminder that ritual and relationship are not the same thing! Going through religious motions will never bring us closer to God. Nor will the worship of any person outside of the triune God. Only a relationship made possible by the saving blood of Jesus Christ has the power to transform our hearts and lives.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Being Different: Bane and Blessing

I wonder how many pictures I have of these three cuties in this same location, our small front patio which serves as picnic area, mini futbol cancha, and fair-weather hangout mainly for our boys. This particular photo was snapped yesterday after fresh haircuts, during a quick sandwich luncheon and prior to a lengthy session of five back-to-back well-child visits with our local pediatrician. I could have snapped almost an identical shot today as they fielded their soccer balls and the curious questions of a passerby who stopped to sell small bags of spices at our gate. Where were they from? Were they my children? And so on.

The boys are pretty well accustomed to questions about their heritage, which we hear at least on a weekly basis. Recently a cashier at our local grocery store felt the need to point out (in her opinion) that their color skin wasn't quite the same as immigrant Colombians in our city. The young man bagging groceries asked Owen where he was from and Owen answered, "De los Estados Unidos ... y Sudan!" ("From the United States ... and Sudan!") At the doctor's office yesterday, a teenage girl and her boyfriend had lots of questions about the boys. Where were they from, what language did they speak, were they all my husband's? (Yes, really.) Fortunately the boys are fairly comfortable with these encounters, although the one we ran into yesterday evening was a little more over the top.

As a treat for being relatively well-behaved and patient at the doctor's office, we tried a new ice cream shop behind our local university. Pedro was gathering the last few orders while the rest of us shivered at small round tables in the chilly open-air patio. Ian happened to be eating his ice cream facing the street, when two men walked past and stopped in the doorway. One began talking animatedly to Ian, then walked inside to rub his head and take his hand. Commenting on the color of his skin, the man asked if Ian was Colombian. "No, de Haiti!" was Ian's response. Turning around, the man noticed Owen sitting on my lap. As he came close to us, I could smell the scent of alcohol on his breath. This made me uncomfortable because though he was obviously trying to be kind, it was also evident he wasn't inhibited by the common courtesy of personal space. He rubbed Owen's skin, shook my hand, spoke with us for awhile longer, and found Alec seated in the corner on his way out. Before I knew what he was doing, he had kissed Alec's cheek and rejoined his buddy on the street. Since the boys seemed to be taking it in stride, I didn't make a big deal but inwardly shuddered and wondered (as always) what is the "right" response - confronting a person and making them go away, or showing a measure of grace despite personal discomfort? Assuming that no one is in physical harm's way or being insulted - which thankfully has never been the case - we generally do the latter.

Over the years I feel like I have written often about the "bane" of being different in Iquique, and numerous similar experiences our family has weathered. Which is why looking at the picture at the top of this post reminded me that there are also "blessings" to being different, and it is only fair to share them as well! There was a day recently when the boys came home with three new soccer balls (pictured above.) They had supposedly been handing out invitations for kids' club with Daddy not far from church, so I was surprised to see their new acquisitions. It turns out a man on the street saw them and said he was a physical education teacher with soccer balls to give away! I am pretty sure their being "different" was what caught his eye and led to their windfall. It also explains frequent freebies one or more of the boys will receive. For instance, recently Ian accompanied me on an errand and the owner of the market told me how much she wished she could have adopted a little girl from Haiti after the earthquake. His "reward" for simply being handsome and Haitian was a free lollipop, which he gladly accepted. I suppose those are the sweet moments that make up for some of the others! :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Desert Getaway

I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that my dream getaway has never involved endless dusty desert sand; driving instructions that include "turn at the abandoned bus - the cabin is right beside it;" or a last-minute addendum from the owner that there is no hot water and electricity is spotty! So it was with some trepidation that we packed up our five kids for two days on the basis of an online listing and headed for the outskirts of the tiny town of Pica (some 55 miles east of Iquique.) We mentally prepared ourselves for what we called a "mini-ca-venture" ("mini vacation adventure") because were really were not sure what we'd find! 

To our relief, we discovered a simple but cute cabin with our basic necessities - and more importantly, we re-discovered our family togetherness. After a crazy year with startling surprises (i.e., pregnancy) and an exhilarating yet exhausting ten days of non-stop houseguests and activities, we felt an intense need to re-group and clear our heads. And with no electronic distractions, little in the way of entertainment beside what we could provide ourselves, and seven people in a small space, God graciously allowed us to do just that.

My favorite memories of our 48-hour getaway are these:

-snuggling under layers of warm blankets in the frigid desert night (the "cute" cabin had several gaps in walls, floors and ceilings)
-waking up with the sunrise, reading the Psalms and drinking hot milk with coffee next to my Love
-snapping picture of the kids looking cute wrapped in quilts all huddled together (we are not accustomed to cold weather anymore!)

-looking at the amazing expanse of stars on the clearest of nights in the Atacama
-playing board games as a family (Apples to Apples Junior, Ticket to Ride, Monopoly card game)
-listening to little brother Owen beg big sister Eva to play hide-n-seek and kickball (even going so far as to bribe her with a Snickers bar yet insisting this had nothing to do with how much he loves her company!)
-watching wild Nerf gun wars and soaking in the sound of siblings' laughter

-sensing that even unborn baby brother or sister appreciated the family time, as he or she was quite active during this vacation
-appreciating more than ever my husband's self-sacrifice as he played heartily with the boys even while desperately wanting nothing but a nap or reading time
-enjoying the long-awaited kickball game from a distance, photographing pajama-clad kiddos running "bases" around the sandlot on our last morning

It was somewhat amusing/exasperating to note the difference between vacationing with our teenaged girls and our three busy boys. Eva and Isabel would have been totally content to read, listen to music, write stories, and rock in the hammock for 48 hours straight. Owen, Ian and Alec on the other hand, could find no satisfaction if not engaged in some sort of very energetic activity. Admittedly, Mom and Dad would have rather sided with the girls! (In fact, Pedro hinted more than once that we should repeat this "minicaventure" sans children sometime soon.) But we tried to find a happy medium and decided that two days was probably just the right amount of time to balance these extremes in a small environment with few outside options for entertainment.

Pedro and the kids did go to the thermal pools for which Pica is known. The owner of the cabin told us of a larger pool just three blocks away which charged half the price of the more well-known, touristy "cocha." Since hot pools are not recommended in pregnancy, I stayed home in the intense quietness of the cabin and dug into some study for an upcoming pro-life conference, waiting for the report when everyone came home. According to my family, the pools were fun but very rustic (apparently our theme for this trip!) There was a cool pool with minnows swimming in it and a warmer pool as well. But, they had fun and that was the important thing.

Ironically, probably the most memorable part of this trip for the kids - at least what they have repeated most often since coming home - was our institution of what we called the "Haiti rule" (because I was first introduced to this little rhyme when heading to Haiti for our boys' adoption.) Since water was limited and - cold or not! - we didn't want to run out, we made a guideline for bathroom use. "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down!" I know this sounds gross, but we also stuck with the rule of thumb by which most of Chile lives - toilet paper in the garbage can, not the toilet. (I did say this was the "rustic" vacation, did I not?!) Now the kids are oh-so-amused to repeat the rhyme and advocate for cabin rules at home. :)

These were two days that were long overdue. I am so thankful that God made it possible to take the plunge and "run away" just for a little bit. I need His help to keep the perspective of enjoying my family, not just on getaways, but every day in the often tiresome juggling of housework, schoolwork, church-work, and the hard work of relationships. This silly, cranky, colorful, irritable, lovable, imperfect yet exceptional family is a gift from God! Thank You, Lord, for your perfect gifts.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Our Family Spent This 4th of July

The 4th of July 2015 fell on a sunny Saturday morning in Iquique. By 7:30 a.m. I was out of the house and headed for a medical office downtown to get unhitched from a 24-hour blood pressure monitor (due to pregnancy precautions.) The plan was for Pedro to rally the troops kids and get them clothed and fed while I returned home to shower and change before our 10:00 a.m. meeting time at church. Surprisingly, it worked! - even with the addition of one extra child, the girls' friend Andrea who was visiting from Santiago during her winter break from school.

Our church did not organize the event but joined area evangelical churches for the pro-life march. It was a brand-new experience for most of us! Yet it was encouraging to sense the excitement and commitment of our members who participated. Many joined in preparing banners a few days before the event and arrived to take a stand with other believers on this special day. A group of around forty men, women and children from our church family participated altogether.

While preparing banners, we had discussed using slogans that were unique, positive, and thought-provoking. Our daughter Isabel came up with the statement "FUI ADOPTADA NO ABORTADA" ("I was adopted not aborted") and with the help of some friends turned out a colorful poster which seemed to connect with many observers the day of the march. Eva helped prepare several posters for use at the event and walked that day with a simple but powerful "Choose Life" message. Owen opted for the Spanish translation of a popular Dr. Seuss quote, "A person's a person, no matter how small." And Ian and Alec were proud of their superhero slogan which matched a cute picture of the two of them in hero capes: "Superman was adopted and so was I! Choose Life."

While it is hard to know the outcome of an event like this one in the hearts of bystanders, I know it was a blessing to our family personally and to others who for the first time took a public stand in defense of the sanctity of human life. One of the priorities of the current Chilean president is to legalize (or in popular terms, "de-penalize") abortion and her projected law is under discussion in Congress at this time. Sadly, having witnessed the devastating moral consequences of abortion for decades in the United States, we are all too familiar with the social and spiritual repercussions that approving abortion will have upon this country as well.

Indeed, as we drove home with our tired crew that afternoon my heart was heavy with thoughts of our home country's ever-increasing rejection of God's Word and His laws. One daughter remarked, "But Mom, it's the 4th of July and we aren't doing anything to celebrate!" I reminded her that we generally don't celebrate American independence while living in Chile because it is not a holiday here. But truthfully I felt that even if we were stateside this year, I would struggle to find celebration in my soul. I was reminded again that this world is not our home! How I long for the day when Jesus will be King and every knee will bow to His leadership alone.

Our 4th of July continued with the next big event scheduled for early evening. However team colors, honking horns, tempting smells of cookouts and shouts of excitement filled the air long before Chile's national team took to the soccer field against longtime rival Argentina at 5:00 p.m. Our family pulled the couch closer and connected via internet, spending the next 90 minutes listening in vain for joyful shouts from our neighbors (whose cable connection brings them the action several seconds sooner!) The game ended with a 0-0 tie and since Owen had a birthday commitment with a classmate, he and I drove through the literally deserted city streets listening to the overtime play on the radio.

We arrived to the birthday where lights were dimmed and the family and guests were anxiously gathered around the flat-screen television. It was perfect timing to watch the penalty shots. Amazingly, Chile surged to victory 4 to 1 and the entire nation jubilantly erupted over their first Copa America victory in 100 years. The children and adults at the party hit the streets along with hats and horns and flags to join the celebration. Not surprisingly with mostly energetic boys in attendance, the rest of the birthday was spent in reliving the penalty shots with a brand-new soccer ball in the limited space of the antejardin (front patio.) Additional entertainment could be had in watching screaming fans driving by, hanging out of open van doors, lighting off flares in the streets, honking the traditional tap-tap-tap of victory on their horns. As if that wasn't enough, then followed a fully-costumed Catholic homage to the Virgin Mary, complete with dancers, live music, and lit statues marching down the street.

All in all, it was a memorable 4th of July! It was a day on which to be thankful and prayerful - for life, for family, and for the nation(s) we call home.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

When the Waves of Life Are Crashing

My most recent writing for Breathe Ministry, entitled "When the Waves of Life Are Crashing," can be read on their website here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Celebrating a New Teenager (Happy 13th Birthday, Isabel!)

our beautiful new teenager
For Isabel's 13th birthday, she had two simple requests. First, a nice meal out with Mom and Dad. So we arranged for a friend from church to have lunch at home with the other four siblings while we took the birthday girl to one of our favorite places for a "fancy" meal. The food, a Japanese/Peruvian fusion, was definitely something new for her! Afterwards we headed to the mall to share some frozen yogurt ice cream swimming in chocolate (much to Daddy's chagrin but the girls' enjoyment.) We hope our beautiful new teenager felt special and grown up and loved as a result of the time spent together. 

a fancy meal for our growing-up girl
Isabel's second request (which we fulfilled the follow day) was a trip to the mall with her friends from church. Being chauffeured and accompanied by Mom and older sister Eva, but left on their own for an hour or so to venture into stores and spend their money, apparently was just the thing for the new teen and her two friends to feel rather grown up. Their last stop was a beauty store for a parent-approved makeup purchase, which promptly led to a makeover session upon our return home!

Isabel with Tiffany (L) and Sofia (R)
The camera Isabel is wearing in the picture above was also a long-awaited gift, so we now have another budding photographer in the home. We thank God for the privilege of celebrating our strong-willed and spunky girl's "official" entrance into her teenage years. But she will always be our cute, sweet little "Sissy!"

Isabel - once upon a time on Padre Island, TX
Dear Isabel,

In honor of your 13th birthday, I wanted to share "13 Things I Love about Isabel."
1.       You have a compassionate soul.
2.       You are brave and adventurous.
3.       You have a great sense of style.
4.       You enjoy being a big sister.
5.       You desire to serve others.
6.       You love to read.
7.       You are your own person.
8.       You don’t take “no” for an answer.
9.       You dream big dreams.
10.   You love to sing.
11.   You have a heart for Haiti.
12.   You have the MK spirit.
13.   You love the Lord.
Being your mom has taken me on adventures I never imagined! I can't wait to see what else God has in store for your life. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and I have no doubt He will use you in mighty ways in this world! Daddy and I love you, Isabel Hope! 

Love, Mom

Birthday Posts by Year:

12th Birthday - Isabel
11th Birthday - Isabel
10th Birthday - Isabel
9th Birthday - Isabel
8th Birthday - Isabel
7th Birthday - Isabel
6th Birthday - Isabel
5th Birthday - Isabel

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

All Differences Aside

"Estefani! Estefani!" It was my neighbor clamoring at the gate. She beckoned me outside to the raised metal basket where we jointly put our garbage each night. It was lying on its side, having narrowly missed the front bumper of her vehicle on its way to the ground. Animatedly, she scolded me for having put garbage out too early in the day. Apparently a dog had grabbed the bag and dragged it around the block, knocking down the basket in his messy haste.

Somewhat amused, somewhat frustrated, I felt the need to defend the fact that I had just arrived home from the United States and the garbage being out early wasn't my doing. I knew my husband and kids had just been trying to get the house tidy for my return. With a sigh, I also knew the right thing to do was follow that dumb dog to wherever he had torn apart the garbage and pick it all up. My chattering neighbor walked beside me as we turned the corner onto the busy street of Bilbao. Half a block down my bag lay ripped open, with the golden Labrador nosing through it. He had a collar so this was no case of a stray, simply another cultural example of letting one's dog run loose to wreak havoc on others' property (or worse - as in the case of our daughter's recent dog bite by a neighborhood German Shepherd allowed out of his yard.)

Later when all was said and done, I remarked tongue in cheek to Pedro that "now I know I am back in Chile!" There are so many wonderful aspects of this country, but the dog situation is not one of them. It led me to reflect on those differences I observed on my quick trip to the States, little things that are not really that important but which strike you when you experience them once again.

For instance - big, clean bathrooms. Now I know this isn't true everywhere, but in most airports and other places we visited stateside it was. As a newly pregnant person in greater need of bathrooms that ever before in my life, this was important to me! So it was all the more glaring when upon arriving in Iquique, there was a line for the single stall ladies' bathroom first available off the plane. I opted for the second bathroom available, where a blond foreigner waited hesitantly for the first of two stalls. The other was vacant but she said, "It's not that nice." True, it hadn't been flushed and didn't meet U.S. standards but I had to laugh and reply, "I'm used to it. I live here!"

Secondly - peace and quiet. Again, I know this isn't true everywhere, but in Chile I live in the noisy city and in the States we stay in the suburbs or country. I literally sat in my parents' house and just breathed that first afternoon. No car horns. No construction sounds. No neighbors on the other side of the wall. No late-night parties or loud music. Just ... quiet. I didn't realize how much I needed that break. To be fair, after awhile in the States I miss the city noises! But upon first return, the silence was truly golden.

Thirdly - thick, lush, carpet. This is kind of funny and if we hadn't traveled with an infant (my nephew), I may not have appreciated it so much. But in our corner of the world, everything is ceramic or hard floors. Which makes sense and is fine when you live in the desert where carpets would simply suck up all the dust and never come clean. But with a baby, it is so nice to simply be able to lay him down and let him roll all around without injury! It is also so nice to take off shoes and walk barefoot through comfy carpets. I had nearly forgotten.

I don't know that there is any great point to this post. I just wanted to say it while the thoughts were fresh. In the time it has taken to write, I have been gently rocked by a 4.2 tremor, listened to a passerby loudly singing a love song, hearkened to honking horns, and kept my sweaty sandals on my feet so as to not collect dirt from my shiny red ceramic floor. All differences aside, it is good to be home.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Seventeen days away from my family and the ministry in Iquique, combined with the reflection afforded by the retirement celebration of my parents after forty-one years of faithful service, has renewed my perspective and softened my heart again for the needs and opportunities before us in this city. I am grateful to God for knowing that a release from the pressures weighing upon me was more urgent than I realized, and to my husband for making rest a reality for me by taking on the management of our home and five children on his own.

Yesterday was Sunday and my second full day back. I was blessed to simply sit and observe as my husband ministered, first to a small class of young children and then in the pulpit as he preached from God's Word. Today I listened as he handled phone calls and fielded interpersonal issues in need of resolution with calmness and grace. 

Mid morning we headed to the local health office for our daughter's second-to-last rabies shot, where we ran into a lady from church who called him "pastor." No sooner had her appointment concluded and she departed, than a tearful woman we did not know asked for my husband's attention. She had heard the "pastor" title and requested prayer and his intervention for her college-student son who was just arrested in connection with a political protest gone wrong.

His patient response, words of wisdom and prayer on her behalf stirred my heart with appreciation once again for the man I married and the ministry God has brought us to together. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and perhaps it is true. Certainly it has reminded me of my thankfulness to serve side by side, as I pray God gives us wisdom and strength to fulfill His plans and purposes for these people and in this place.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

They Are All Our "Own" Children

God has graciously blessed our family with five beautiful children - the "Fab Five," as we like to call them. All of our children joined us through the blessing of adoption. Although each child has his or her own unique story prior to arriving in our family, from then on the common bond of adoption has knit our children's hearts together as brothers and sisters.

A few years ago, it first dawned on one of our children that some families had both biological and adopted children. Afterwards that child would often voice concern that a biological child might join our family some day and upset the balance, lording his or her biological status over the rest. My heartfelt reassurance to this child was the prayer I have prayed for several years regarding this very possibility. Sometimes our family felt entirely complete; other times I thought another baby might be nice. Yet always I prayed: "Your will be done, Lord ... but if it will hurt my children, please don't ever let me become pregnant."

Yesterday we made this announcement on Facebook:

This news was as much a surprise to us (after seventeen years of infertility) as anyone! Early on, we shared with our older children and specifically comforted the worried one with the truth of God's character. He answers prayer, and if He chose to send a sibling by biological means then it is for the good of our "Fab Five" and not to hurt them. It has been beautiful to watch concern for self turn to concern for Mommy and the newest member of our family. All the children are now very excited about the brother or sister who will be joining us in November!

I, however, felt the need to write this post because as a mom it is my privilege to protect my children's hearts. I so desire for this to be a precious time for them, and not painful. Yet I am aware that there are certain statements that surface in situations like ours which could easily wound them. Might I gently share some thoughts for celebrating with sensitivity this adoptive/biological scenario?
1. A biological child does not mean we finally have a child of our "own." Whether physically or emotionally, we have labored and wept for each of our children to become part of our family. In some cases, that "labor" has lasted years and spanned continents. All of our children are our "own" - regardless of adoption or biology.

2. We are not finally having a "natural" child. This would imply that our other children are unnatural, which sounds a lot like weird or abnormal. We are having a biological child.

3. This will not be our only "real" baby. All of our kids are pretty real! And all of our kids will really be brothers and sisters. The law says so, their birth certificates say so, and more importantly, our hearts say so.
Perhaps there are other thoughts that could be shared, but these three comes to mind first. Please know we are truly so grateful for those who share our joy! We hope that joy can continue to be shared in such a way as to lovingly include the five fabulous children who first made us parents. Thank you for your love and understanding!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Milestone Birthday: Owen Turns 10

Dear Owen,

No matter how many times I told you we weren't going to celebrate any more birthdays and that turning 10 was absolutely out of the question, somehow it still happened! This year your birthday fell on a busy Sunday, so we opted to celebrate on Saturday instead. It just so happened that on this particular Saturday, you were also invited to participate in a "cross-country" beach event with 1st - 4th graders from area schools. In your book, there could be no better way to celebrate a birthday than by running a race!

Well, you won the race and kept things exciting right up to the end.  We are proud of you! But what I really hope you will remember from your 10th birthday is something more than just a medal or having lots of fun. What I hope you will remember is how God generously loves His children and knows exactly how to satisfy our heart's desires.

Because your day didn't just hold a race. We also wanted you and Daddy to do something fun and different together. Options were limited by our location and your age, but it just so happened that we had learned that week about free sailing classes for kids. The two of you went with your buddies Toby and Karl and had a fabulous time. The thing is, nothing just so happens! GOD is in control of it all. He loves you and made sure you knew on your birthday. We love you, too. Happy 10th Birthday, Owen!


Previous birthday posts:

9th Birthday - Owen
8th Birthday - Owen
7th Birthday - Owen
6th Birthday - Owen
5th Birthday - Owen
4th Birthday - Owen
3rd Birthday - Owen
2nd Birthday - Owen

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Happy Birthday to Alec

Dear Alec,

For your birthday, you asked for strawberry cake; the Lego store; Happyland; watching a movie; and playing Wii. We didn't manage to fulfill all of those requests, but your smile was radiant just knowing it was a day set aside especially for YOU. 

As the "caboose" of the family, your little legs chug along trying so desperately to catch up to your older siblings - especially Owen - sometimes! You want to do everything they do, and do it now. :) Meanwhile Mommy wants to tell you not to run so fast, because these days with you are precious. I am sorry if you feel lost in the crowd or caught up in the shuffle of life at times. 

Alec, you are a joy and gift to us! And we know GOD has fantastic plans to use your careful, smart, observant, bubbly heart to accomplish great things in this world. Happy 7th Birthday, Alec Stephen!

Love, Mommy

Previous birthday posts:

6th Birthday - Alec
5th Birthday - Alec
4th Birthday - Alec
3rd Birthday - Alec
2nd Birthday - Alec
1st Birthday - Alec

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Finding Our New Normal

Almost daily I slip in and out of this little page in the blogosphere and briefly sigh over its dusty state of abandonment. I think, "I should write something" but then fatigue and a million other to-do's trip over my brain which decides, "I just don't have it in me."

Today I received a kind little comment out of the blue, anonymous yet encouraging with the words: "I still check weekly for new stories. :) hope all is well!"

Sometimes it's nice to know one is missed. :)

The truth of the matter is that I still feel that I'm fumbling to find our new normal. Since school started last month, we shipped two off to Chilean classrooms; kept two at their computer keyboards; and one little soul became my own special charge to educate each day. On the first day of school, we snapped these pictures:

While the girls for the most part self-educate, I am grateful but worry if they are truly learning all they need to know. Recently (to their chagrin) we made the decision to invest in an outside math program for them because of our concerns in that area. I have integrated writing assignments and book reports and spelling tests not included in their online program in an attempt to oversee their language and grammar. But when their assignments sit ungraded - because by the time I finish with our first-grade homeschooler, lunch (our main meal of the day) must be made/served/clean up and then there is homework for the two returning from Chilean school - I question whether they are helpful at all.

The differences between our two first-graders is stark. Ian in homeschool struggles with an attention disorder and it would seem, an as-yet undiagnosed learning disorder which manifests itself in his inability to retain information in his short-term memory. Alec in Chilean school has suddenly been thrust into the world of uniforms and taking notes in a separate notebook for each new subject in school. He loves to dress up and thrives on social aspect of school, but is too shy to ask questions in his second language and seems to get overlooked in a classroom of thirty-two students with only one teacher.

Meanwhile, ministry joys and challenges continue. I am overdue in sharing pictures of our pro-life volunteer training conference and recent baptisms. Even as exciting new opportunities loom, we witness how the enemy seeks to sow petty discord among those God wants to use for His purposes. Finding focus and balance between the needs of our family and those of our people can be difficult. Will you pray for us? That we might always remember "... greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

God's Heart towards Those Who Give

Today I share a companion article to my first post on the Breathe Ministry website, an online ministry focused toward missionary and pastor's wives. A story from 1 & 2 Kings led me to consider God's Heart towards Those Who Give.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Best Birthday Gift

Today when my husband answered the door in cargo shorts and a well-loved t-shirt, Marcelo (the man who delivers our drinking water) curiously inquired, "So you have the summer off your job then?" I heard his question through the window and thought, "Oh, if he only knew!" Such is the interesting dichotomy of a missionary pastor's life. Those on the outside of church wonder what exactly it is he does. Sometimes it's even a little embarrassing to think they might assume because my husband is home at times during the day, he doesn't work all that much. On the other hand, they know nothing of his early morning office hours, late-night phone calls, emotion-laden pastoral visits and dedicated times of study and discipleship. 

On this particular Saturday, Marcelo couldn't realize that Pedro had woken before 4 a.m. to do an airport run for a family from church whose daughter suffered a scary accident yesterday. Nor did he know that my husband had afterwards taken only a brief nap before rising to prepare me a delicious breakfast omelet, prior to heading back out to shop for a family from church facing a major move today. In fact, Pedro had only just returned from dropping off needed items to that family when Marcelo arrived with our weekly water delivery. And no sooner had Marcelo departed then Pedro took another phone call which resulted in driving back to the family's home to pick up their children and deliver them to our colleagues' home for babysitting, allowing just enough time for him to sit down with us for a very quick bite of lunch and birthday cake before joining the official moving party at 2 p.m.

Which all leads me to write this post. This morning, very briefly I felt a twinge of temptation to think, "It's my birthday! I want to be able to sit down peacefully with my family and enjoy this day, rather than having my husband rushing in and out taking care of other people's needs." But overwhelmingly stronger was a sense of gratitude for having a husband who cares so much for us - and for others.

So this is for you, Sweets. On my 39th birthday I just want to say that you are the best birthday gift I have been given. I thank God for you and your love for Him, your family and others which you demonstrate in your kindness and service. I love you!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Thank You, Adventures in Odyssey

I love the things our kids say sometimes! I only wish I remembered to write them down more often.

My husband shared a humorous "quote of the day" from our nine-year old son this morning. Pedro was examining a Lego masterpiece by Ian, our seven-year old who had created a house with a "loza" for a second floor. "Good job, Ian! How did you do that?" he asked admiringly.

Without hesitation, big brother Owen jumped in with an answer. "Easy, Dad! He used a colloquialism!" When Pedro burst out laughing, Owen defended himself by exclaiming, "What? Eugene says it all the time!"

To which my husband could only say, "Thank you, Adventures in Odyssey!" :)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Celebrating Her 14 Years (Eva)

To our animal-loving, song-composing, Odyssey-listening, horse-riding, and always-creative oldest daughter: 

Happy 14th Birthday, Eva Grace! It is such a delight to watch you growing and maturing in heart, mind and body as you enter your second year as a teenager. Daddy and I often shake our heads in amazement that our first baby girl has turned into a beautiful young lady so quickly before our eyes. We have been so proud to see you taking steps of faith this past year such as rising early and beginning your day in God's Word, participating in youth group, and even overcoming your apprehensions to attend camp this summer.

We are also thankful for your helpfulness at home. Though chores are not always your favorite, you fulfill your responsibilities and even impress us with your abilities to quickly organize a room when asked! Sometimes you even have the patience to watch your little brothers for a spell. I should also mention you have learned to make a delicious chocolate crazy cake this year! :)

Of course, this letter would not be complete without recognizing your newest passion which has been a huge part of your life this past year. When you are not riding horses twice a week, you are reading about them, drawing them, playing with replicas of them, talking about them, and even handwriting your own encyclopedia about them! We are grateful that God surprised us with the opportunity for you to explore this area of interest with riding classes offered through the military. It was something we never dreamed of, but God in His goodness gave you this gift. I hope you'll always remember this as an example of His great love for His children!

We look forward to seeing how God leads throughout your life to use your enjoyment of His creatures to serve Him. Always remember that first and foremost, our love and loyalty is to the Creator and Giver of life - and to His Son, whose sacrifice provided a way for our salvation. We love you so much and He loves you even more! Happy 14th birthday to our darling daughter.

Birthday Posts by Year:

13th Birthday - Eva
12th Birthday - Eva
11th Birthday - Eva