Thursday, January 21, 2021

Tired Thoughts

Tonight, I am tired. I am weary. I am sad. I feel lonely, though surrounded by a houseful of family. I am troubled and frustrated with the unfairness of life. I am wishing for the old normal, before Covid and quarantine and complicated questions of conscience. I am longing for freedom and a simpler time that feels so far away.

The day has run through my fingers like a rapid current, one thing after another. Family devotions, teenage angst, printing preschool materials and shopping the feria and grocery store (for longer than the allotted two hours on my official permission, I'm sure!) Eating a meal my husband prepared. Calling my parents. Finishing notes for one meeting before logging on to another. Searching for standards to steer this uncharted path of personal convictions and government guidelines and so many needs all around us.

My husband's day has been even longer than mine. When one meeting ends, another call comes in. Correspondence quickly compounds and he's juggling hats and adding another item to the calendar we've pinned on the bedroom wall. It hangs right over my monitor so I can try to maintain a semblance of sanity when some things feel so out of control.

I wish I were more organized. I wish my house was neat and clean and meals were planned and that I would homeschool to perfection. Instead I have glimmers of gladness when something goes right, and close my eyes to the chaos of scattered socks and paper piles and laundered linens waiting to be stored. My Christmas tree still stands at attention nearly a month after the holiday's gone by.

I am thankful for God's patience and need it (and Him) so desperately each day. Why He chose me and why He trusts me is outside my understanding and I can only contemplate His method of using the foolish things to confound the wise, and the weak to confound the mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27.) I am certainly the former in each case!

Tonight I'll pray myself to sleep asking Him for forgiveness and faith for tomorrow. Every new day is a gift and a blessing from God, one in which He gives us our "daily" bread so that time and again we are called to trust Him. He is worthy of it all, and so much more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Precious Prayers

 "I want to pray like what you prayed, Mommy!"

Silas and I were snuggled in his bottom bunk after bathtime and bedtime reading of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Tonight's story was that of the apostle John on the island of Patmos when he is given the vision of Jesus in Heaven.

"Dear Father, Please take away the Covid from Iquique ... and the United States ... and the other places. Please forgive my sins and save me ..."

My heart thrilled at his tender words. I had prayed for all of our children, but he made his prayer personal. Though I know only time will tell his true understanding at the tender age of five, I also know (as I told him afterwards) that God loved Silas' prayer tonight, and God loves him so much.

"Mommy, when we go to Heaven will we see your baby that was in your tummy?"

And so our conversation continued remembering those who are waiting for us along with Jesus - grandparents, a sibling and several cousins, the child of friends and so many more.

"And Tia?? Tia --" He searched for the name of his dear Tia Isabel who went Home to Jesus last year.

Yes. Tia Isabel, too, and "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord." (Romans 10:13)

Thank You, Jesus, for precious prayers!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Faithful Thoughts, Family Talks

I want to remember today.

It wasn't a special day other than it was a Sunday in quarantine, and to me those have always been special. Unlike dozens of previous Sundays enjoying online English services, however, this was our second Sunday coordinating and broadcasting a simple Spanish service for the Iglesia Bautista Fe church plant via Zoom.

Our three older boys were pulled out of quarantine retirement less than a month ago when Iquique celebrated its long-awaited transition to Phase 3 of Covid regulations, freeing weekends for the first time in nine months. This freedom did not last long, allowing us only two weeks of outdoor, in-person church services (of 25 people or less) before our city was propelled backwards into Phase 1 of a renewed full lockdown. It served the good purpose, however, of Owen and Ian and Alec dusting off their guitars and being recalled into "music ministry."
They are smiling in this picture because I asked them to smile, not because they are naturally enthusiastic at the opportunity. Still, they practice and play and I hope they are beginning to understand that doing so out of an obedient heart to their parents' request is pleasing to God. Even more so, I hope they will one day play out of an overflowing and increasing desire simply to worship their Savior.

So much has been strange and difficult this past year. We have had struggles and failures, moments of sadness and of sweetness, of discipline and delight, of laughter and of longing for some some semblance of "normalcy to return." Preparing these several songs, singing along with my sons, returning to a routine of worship with our small group of believers even on a computer screen is a blessing.

After church, the now seven members of our family at home gathered in our school/church/dining/everything room to enjoy a delivery meal from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I turned the conversation to today's message from our Venezuelan brother Anthony on Philippians 4:8-9. His opening point had been the tactic of our enemy to go after our thoughts, just as the serpent tempted Eva in the Garden of Eden. One illustration he used seemed to click with our kids. It was the quote that says, "You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." Interestingly, the evening before we had watched a church service from Grace Baptist Church of Lancaster and Pastor Greg had also referred to our thoughts forming who we are.

We discussed specific example of what this might look like, such as becoming frustrated with someone but not choosing to dwell on all of their negative qualities. Or being offered drugs, but not sticking around to give it a try. We compared it to having an impure thought intrude while on the computer, but not giving in to the temptation to do a search for something we know is wrong.

Sometimes our kids cringe when we try to initiate these conversations, but today it flowed pretty smoothly and it was encouraging to our hearts as parents. We addressed one sad but important topic related to someone choosing to indeed allow a negative "nest" to be built in their life. This was the announcement made public today of the breakup of a married couple we know, whose children had been friends and neighbors with ours when they were younger. Though we were aware of this situation for awhile, we did not feel it was our place to speak of it until today's Facebook announcement "celebrating" a new relationship which had broken up two marriages and left two sets of children without intact parents.

"What do you think the comments on the announcement were like?" we asked. Our kids correctly guessed that the responses had been positive and affirming of the happiness the world's wisdom says the new couple deserves, ignoring the sin and broken vows and fractured families leading to this point. They were sobered at the thought of their friends facing the reality of both their mom and dad with other people and the effect this statistically might have on their peers' own marriage relationships someday.

Random tangents are often characteristic of our family conversations, and this particular discussion spun off into whether Mom and Dad had ever had any big fights. Because we want our children to understand that marriage is made up of two sinners learning to live together and love one another, we shared a new story with them. (They already know the one about Mommy running away from Daddy for an afternoon early in our marriage before kids.) Though I am not proud of it but appreciating the shock value it would have for my kids, I shared how once in a heated disagreement I used a swear word against Dad. To his credit, Dad confessed that he had been in the wrong in this instance - which happened to include our children when they were much younger, although they had no recollection since we had argued behind closed doors. We both acknowledged behaving incorrectly in our own way.

Needless to say, there were some gasps and laughter from our sons and daughter but hopefully they caught the main idea that we are all people in process who need our Savior and His Word every day. I am writing down these memories because I want to remember that sometimes we succeeded as a family in discussing with honesty and camaraderie the very important messages God has given us for this life. There is no one else I would rather share my space and time with on this terrestrial globe than the precious people He has allowed me to call my own!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Christmas Eve & Christmas 2020

Sometimes the changes life tosses our way turn into very sweet moments. Christmas Eve 2020 was for me an example of this. The late afternoon found our family gathered with the Fishers, Sharps and Jenn Taylor around multiple long tables layered with festive red and green cloths in our "schoolroom." Our meal included grilled chicken and chorizos, vegan veggies, keto salads, Chilean rice and Aunt Pam's famous homemade macaroni and cheese. There was an air of acceptance after a year of stressful circumstances. Relaxed humor, reminiscing and companionship lifted spirits around the room.

No one was in a hurry. We took time to clean up at our home while Sharps joined Fishers at theirs. Aunt Noni stayed, hanging out and talking with the kids. Pedro showered after a hot afternoon laboring at the grill and then we all gathered, refreshed, at the Fishers' home for a Christmas Eve service. We sang carols that Noni had printed, having previously requested several favorites from our families. Pedro shared a devotional, followed by a quiet time of reflection and the Lord's Supper. Afterwards desserts were shared in abundance, including varieties of Christmas cookies and a multi-layer banana cake for Aunt Pam's birthday and a chocolate keto cake and singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. 

Later after walking the few steps home, our family exchanged the one gift apiece we open on Christmas Eve. For the past few years, all of our kids have enjoyed the tradition of going an evening to Iquique's famous "feria navideña" with the name of a sibling or parent chosen at random and supposedly in secret. It was most people's guess that COVID-19 would cancel the feria this year, as it had so much else. But surprisingly it did not, though the selection was less broad and restrictions were purportedly in place such as taking temperatures and sanitizing hands and limiting occupancy (the latter not at all well enforced.)

Sissy had Silas' name and "cinco mil" goes a long way with kids' toys of feria caliber. He was over the moon with two foam water shooters, three imitation Lego Minions figures, and a pair of water goggles. Sissy's name was chosen by Owen and she is always tricky to buy for, but she'd given the hint of wanting Iquique mementos to take to college. He thoughtfully bought an Iquique-stenciled miniature leather backpack and a wooden magnet painted with a familiar scene. Owen's name was chosen by Ian and he found a cool combo of sunglasses, cologne and pocket watch in a box for his appreciative big brother. I had Ian's name and was tickled to find a vendor selling LED lighting tape in my price range, with which Ian promptly lined his bunkbed as colorful nightlights! In the same vein, Silas who had Alec's name had chosen a disco ball which bounced bright colors in every direction. Alec had Daddy's name and very conscientiously struggled over his choices, finally settling on a "La U" clock which Pedro appreciated. And Daddy had Mommy's name, knowingly choosing three pairs of artisan dangling earrings from a Colombian jewelry stand where I've shopped often before.

Often we have our daily viewing of "The Nativity Story" on Christmas Eve, but this year we opted to wait until the following day. Regardless, it was a late night for parents with final packing and preparing our traditional oatmeal bake receipt for the next morning but a number of podcasts helped the hours go by.  Christmas Day was overall calm and quiet. Before opening stocking gifts, we took a picture with Eva's red stocking in her honor (and because we were missing her!) Later in the day, conversations took place through video and groups chats with grandparents in the United States and we enjoyed pictures of them modeling personalized shirts we'd chosen for them. Our boys as is customary worked on new Lego creations, and Owen tested out an amateur woodworking set he received as a gift. Daddy patiently pieced together Silas' new tabletop "taca taca" (foosball) set and they enjoyed a few games together. 

It was a different Christmas with the weight of this year and separation from our oldest daughter upon it, but it was meaningful all the same. Every moment, every memory, every treasured tradition is all the more special in this uncertain world. Christ has come, and without Him nothing in this life would have any purpose at all. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Brave Builders & Bonus Babies

"You need a crafting table."

"What is a crafting table?"

"You know what a crafting table is!"

"Silas, listen. You need this and then you put the blue sword on this and look what happens."

"Oh. You can only do blue and not gold in that sword!"

"Let me try doing a golden."

"It's not going to work. I just killed my sheep. I just killed my sheep!"

"It's not doing anything. I tapped it but it's not doing anything. It's just making it spin. There we go! Now I have a blue. Dun, dun, dun, dun, duuuuhhhn."

"Dun, dun, da-da-dun, dun. Da-dun, da-dun-dun-dun-da-da-duuuuhn." (cue Star Wars theme)

If 2020 has kept most people apart, it has somehow drawn these two together. Silas and his cousin Kai video chat almost daily as they build worlds individually and together on electronic tablets. Older sisters and the occasional parent are usually accessories to these interactions, as someone's cell phone is needed. 

Today's conversation may have been the most humorous to date, as the five-year old cousin attempted to dictate letter by letter to the six-year old what he thought in all pre-school seriousness was a code for a "server" (which neither child could actually define.)



"One P."


"P with the line and the ball."



(Louder.) "J."


(Even louder.) "J!"

"Oh, J!"

Sweet Silas and Kai, may you always be fun-loving, adventurous, creative cousins! Hopefully sometime soon you will be reunited once again in person. In the meantime, I am happy you enjoy your virtual friendship and forays into the world of imagination under the watchful eyes of many siblings and your parents. I am so glad God sent to our family this pair of "bonus babies!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Happy Thirteen, Ian David!


As we worked our way around the table of seventeen people, these affirmations of Ian on his birthday sprang forth.

"I love his personality." 

"I love his smile." 

"I love his big hugs."

"He plays with me." (The picture below might give away who said something like this!)

"I love his relaxed demeanor."

"I love that he is happy most of the time."

"I love that he is a hard worker." 

This particular statement is a running joke in our family because it is Daddy's favorite and others will sometimes try to say it first so that he has to come up with another! But it is true that Ian can put great effort into tasks, as we discovered this year during quarantine when he sanded and stained stairs, painted walls, and refinished a sentimental table for some extra pocket money. 

This year for Ian's 13th birthday, we celebrated first with a three-person lunch: Daddy, Mommy and Ian at FLORECE ordering take out from Texas Burgers upon the birthday boy's request. Dining in restaurants became a thing of the past somewhere around March thanks to COVID-19, but as a result new options have appeared and this was one Ian was eager to try. His "Grills BBQ" onion ring topped burger did not disappoint nor did the giant wedge fries that made our hungry growing adolescent one happy camper!

Afterwards, Daddy drove our party of three to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean at the El Morro inlet where the municipality has built wide, curving steps down into the water for residents to enjoy. We smiled at a pair of grandparents who were truly enjoying the sunshiny day as they happily played and floated in the waist-high waters. Daddy watched as Ian and Mom waded and caught the more-than-occasional can of beer that had been callously discarded into the sea, which Ian took the time to throw away where it belonged. We chuckled at the sight he made juggling that wet collection as he wondered sheepishly what people might be thinking!

Back at home, we were joined by the Fishers, Sharps, Aunt Noni and our houseguests Tio David and Tia Valeria to sing and celebrate, open gifts and eat Aunt Terri's now-famous triple layer banana cake with cream cheese icing (first made for Silas' birthday and now your request as well!) You had asked for a Nerf gun and we obliged, which led of course to controlled chaos and laughter as it was immediately put to good use. Your birthday money did not have long to burn a hole in your pocket before you headed to the store in the next day or two for a second weapon to add to your arsenal! But we all enjoyed your joy.

Dear Ian, 

I can hardly believe you are a TEENAGER! I will always remember the busy, cheerful, intense, boisterous, energetic baby boy that God allowed us to bring home from Haiti. At thirteen you are perhaps less intense and a little more calm, but still fun-loving and generally happy and uniquely you. 

Something I have enjoyed with you lately has been listening to you read through The Mapmaker Chronicles and observing how the story has captured your interest and imagination. You love adventure and excitement, music and drama (a current favorite is "The Greatest Showman") and I have no doubt God has something special in store for your talents and interests and abilities. Please have patience with us as we learn alongside you!

We love you, Ian, and treasure your tender heart. Happy 13th Birthday, dear son!

All my love,

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Launching & Letting Go

Lyrics filled my mind the moment my eyes opened that misty morning. A song I first heard on an adoption video expressed overwhelming love on an endless wait for a child to come home. Now my very first child was leaving, and today we would say goodbye. Lying in the early morning stillness of a room already far from home, I felt the weight of emotion that had been my blanket through the night press even more heavily on my heart.

The rhythmic breathing of my daughter was the only sound in the darkened room as I rose and quietly made my way to her bedside. As I began to pray silently over her, every mistake I had ever made in parenting her seemed to magnify and crash over me in a wave of grief. I wept as I prayed. Doubts crowded my mind. Could she handle this? Would this break her? Were we doing the right thing leaving her in an unfamiliar place alone in the midst of a worldwide health crisis such as our generation had never known?

Our time together that morning would be short. Getting dressed, getting breakfast, getting in the car and driving away knowing a full year would pass before we'd see each other again. Whereas most of her peers would be home at Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and again at spring break, this wasn't a possibility for us when home was 4,300 miles away.

It has been three months since that breathtaking farewell from Eva and from a far distance we have watched our daughter struggle and strive and surpass her own fears. Last night, technology allowed us to see her "live" with classmates in a small choir for her school's Christmas program. Video chats have been few and far between (but we hear her voice more often than my parents could when I was the MK away from home 25+ years ago.) I am grateful Eva inherited my love for pictures and I enjoy every one she sends our way.

Recently I was thrilled to hear the happiness in her voice when she returned to school from Thanksgiving break and was reunited with her friends. Of all that I expected from this year, perhaps most sweetly surprising has been that gift. Other plans have fallen through but her heart has been tenderly touched by kind acceptance from her peers who love Jesus and love her. For that, I am so thankful.

I am also thankful beyond words for the people God has placed in her life to fill our shoes in person. We would be lost without Crystal who attended parent orientation, visited first semester, took Eva on Thanksgiving break, and has counseled and comforted our daughter in our stead. This Christmas, friends from our college/seminary days will open their home and graciously welcome her in, even doing so a week earlier than planned due to the semester being cut unexpectedly short. We realize that adding another person to an already busy household during the holiday season is not a simple request, and though our hearts ache to have Eva home we are so grateful for their kindness.

In a year unlike any other, we've launched our first child with sometimes faltering faith into the great unknown of her future. What a comfort to know and trust the God Who holds our daughter and all her coming years in His loving, sovereign hands. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

When a Hospital Becomes Holy Ground

Dear One,

I was at the hospital this week for the first time in a long time, once again accompanying a friend. My errands took me past the utterly insufficient, hallway within a hallway, printed paper signs proclaiming, area of chemotherapy. It was not good enough for you, when they called you to come and then didn’t have your medication yet again … and again … until you were gone. It is not enough still (and worse) with masked patients and providers and restrictions and remonstrances due to the current reality of COVID-19.

I saw people packed in that narrow corridor hoping for a crack in the door, for answers and entrance into what I knew was just a small waiting room lined with hard chairs and hopeless faces. I knew because I had been there with you one day.

And that day was just a fluke, just a passing thought, a confluence of circumstances that had us downtown, within reach, inspired by the Spirit to see you and try to be present at a time when you had a need.

But it is a day I will never forget.

I understood that day what it means when we say someone has “confessed Christ.” Confession is “owning up to something you know or believe” and that day I heard you pronounce faith even as I tried with bumbling efforts to share the concern on my heart for your soul.

You told me you understood that Jesus was the only way of salvation. You told me you had decided to follow Him, and only Him. You said you had told your dear saints you were sorry, but from now on you had chosen only Jesus. You said it was frightening, a change of course into the different and unknown from what you had understood before. You voiced concern at having attended a religious observance for the soul of a departed friend knowing you no longer stood for that creed but prayed God would understand you went out of love for her. You didn’t have all the right words we are used to hearing in our polished churches and practiced presentations.

Yet you believed.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven [JESUS] given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

That hidden corner of the hospital is hallowed ground.

Dear One, it was there on that day you made clear your allegiance was to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ. And when you cried out to Him months later in the final painful night of your earthly life, He heard you and took you Home.

Today was your birthday, and your family and friends gathered virtually in celebration of who you were and all that you meant to each of us. I want you to know that I tried to share the hope that you had found in Jesus. I know that you struggled with past traditions, and tenderness towards those who still held to them, and it was not easy for you to express your change of course even to those who knew you best. I struggle, too. But I know you would want them to know, and it is my prayer they will one day share that confession which confirmed your eternal hope and destiny.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Dear One. I don’t pray to you or trust in you for any favors or supernatural intervention. I simply rejoice that you are pain-free, happy and whole in the presence of your Savior and surely playing joyfully on hands and knees with the children at your side as you lovingly did with our little Silas. You continue to be an inspiration to live life fully engaged with exuberance, and you give me hope to trust God to illuminate those who have yet to understand their need for Him.

I carry you in my heart.

Love, Stephanie

Happy 5th Birthday, Silas Eben

Dear Silas, 

Today you turned five years old. I can hardly believe that our surprise baby boy is now half a decade old! Around 7:30 this morning while you were still sleeping, a message arrived to my phone from your big sister Eva in Pennsylvania. She was sending you a voice message singing Happy Birthday to her "baby Bilo." She ended her message by saying, "Love you, cosita rica!" 

I took a picture of you while you still slept and wrote this: "And when he opens his eyes, he will be 5 YEARS OLD. ❤️ Slow down, Time. Be still, my heart." I added your person hashtag #silasthewildone which was inspired by a shirt from your Great-Grandma Garcia and your own fun, crazy self!

When you did wake up (in our bed that you stole into in the middle of the night!) your first sleepy remonstrative words were: "Alec said he was gonna come at 12 o'clock to wish me Happy Birthday!" You hurried downstairs to scold him, then came back and enjoyed looking through pictures on my phone from the day you were born. The one of Daddy dressed in scrubs really tickled your funny bone! 

Daddy went early to the grocery store and brought back donuts for your birthday breakfast. That was a special start to your day! When I got home from my shift at FLORECE we ate one of your favorite lunches that Daddy had prepared which was a yummy chili. Tía Cata joined us and stayed for your party and overnight.

The Fishers; Aunt Pam and Uncle Jon; and Aunt Noni joined us at 6 PM for your cake and presents. Because of the coronavirus restrictions, we were only allowed our family plus a maximum of 10 people. You were so antsy waiting for everyone to arrive! To pass the time, Tía Cata and I played Ludo (Cars versión) and Slamwich and Memorice with you before I gave you a bath.

Your birthday cake was a special treat from Aunt Terri! She made you a 4-layer banana cake with cream cheese filling. It was delicious! You were excited to open gifts of Star Wars Legos, a Darth Vader action figure, books, candy, and a head lamp. One memorable gift from Tía Grace and Tía Eli was a pillow embroidered with a pumpkin named Bobby like the real pumpkin you bought and named from the grocery store! 

Big brother Alec patiently played Legos and helped your organize and build your new set. Which was awfully nice of him considering this morning you tried to boss him into making you breakfast. The story Mommy and Daddy heard was that you told Alec there were "two rules" on your birthday. Rule 1: Don't open my presents. Rule 2: Make me rice and eggs. But he didn't play by your rules! When most guests had gone home and the older boys and cousins left to play soccer at the cancha, you did a great job of picking up your toys and announced that you really liked your birthday party! Sissy then warmed you up some chili and you ate two bowls before bedtime. 

Silas, we love and enjoy you so much! Every day you make us all laugh and smile. You are a sunshine boy with a great sense of humor and a sensitive heart. I pray you will grow up to love and serve Jesus with all that you are. Happy 5th Birthday, Silas Eben Garcia! 

All my love, 


Birthday Posts by Year:

Silas' 4th Birthday Post
Silas' 3rd Birthday Post
Silas' 2nd Birthday Post
Silas' 1st Birthday Post

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Father Hath Provided Again (Part Three)

As our oldest daughter prepared to leave Chile and attend a Bible institute on a horse ranch, her list of needed supplies seemed to multiply overnight. One particular list seemed excessive to me, and that was boots. Supposedly she needed Western boots, English boots, work boots, muck boots, rain boots and winter boots (maybe even more that I've forgotten!) This wasn't something she just made up on her own, since an outgoing student had answered many of her questions and assured her she would use each one of these items. But as the lists grew, so did the dollar signs! However, even in this area God clearly showed us His provision.

One example is a trip we took to Tractor Supply, a store I can guarantee I had never set foot into before. We had previously been to one tack shop in the middle of cornfields where Eva found Western boots, another tack shop on the second floor of a tourist shopping area where she found English accessories, and an expansive store found only by GPS where she acquired a cowgirl shirt, belt with buckle, and hat. We had seen some muck boots previously but finding a pair that fit comfortably and didn't break the budget was difficult. As is my custom, I directed my attention to the clearance shelf in the Tractor Supply store. Lo and behold, there was ONE pair of muck boots in the women's section and they were in Eva's size which is not always easy to find. Not only that, but they were the name brand she hoped for and they had an adjustable strap to make them comfortable to her calf. If memory serves correctly, they were something like 75% off. And just below them, also ONLY in Eva's size were a pair of rain boots at rock bottom price! 

But this didn't only happen once. In another store we found winter boots at a great price and then work boots in the Kohl's clearance section for something like 80% off. Another great thing happened at Kohl's as well. As always, while checking out we were offered a store card which I declined because we live in Chile where there are no Kohl's stores. This led to explaining the purpose of our shopping and would you believe that the cashier in Lancaster, Pennsylvania had a sister who had worked at the Ranch six hours away where Eva would be attending school! She spoke highly of it and this was a sweet confirmation of the path Eva was taking. 

Time and time again God lovingly sent us encouragement through His people and provision. Another example of His provision came from a supporting church who gave us a personal love gift towards our expenses while settling Eva in school. She also received generous graduation gifts from several family friends (which helped pare down her aforementioned list!) Unfortunately, as she acquired the items on her list we soon realized we had no way to transport so much stuff six hours away in the small vehicle we were borrowing. Things simply wouldn't fit, and we didn't know what to do. Unlike other students who might have a nearby home base and be able to pick things up throughout the year, Eva was taking her whole life with her to the Ranch. Of course, God stepped in once more.

Far away in Chile, my sister realized that the vehicle they'd left in the States to sell had yet to find a buyer and was still insured. It would take a special trip and some coordination to obtain it from her best friend's property in the country, but it would definitely do the job! So the day before departure, my mom and I took a long, picturesque drive. First we stopped at another friend of my sister's who was generously storing personal items belonging to all three of our missionary families and where we dug through boxes in the basement to find a sentimental jacket and book that Eva felt she needed for school. Then we continued to Lori's where we shared hugs and greetings and received keys to a freshly detailed SUV. Just as the lyrics of Larnelle's song declared, "I know my every need He'll supply, Out of His boundless riches!" The larger vehicle fit everything perfectly and got us safely to and from delivering Eva to school.

Even as I recall all of these things and write this post, I am surrounded by evidence of God's provision. For the past two weeks, Isabel and I have been back in Chile but unable to return home to Iquique due to a mandatory quarantine in the capital city of Santiago where our flight landed. Though the additional wait was disappointing, we were provided a guest home by a sister missions agency free of charge. This same mission stepped in for us in Florida when at the last minute we needed transportation from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, and a place to stay for the night. Not only did the executive director and his wife personally pick us up and drop us off the next day, but they also warmly hosted us and even treated us to a waterfront tour and the experience of nitrogen ice cream! God's people are everywhere and an expression of His love that we felt over and over again on this 2020 trip to the United States. Even in the Philadelphia airport when Isabel was counting up change to buy a pair of headphones, she was astonished by the salesman telling her to choose her favorite color and handing her a pair marked $49.99 USD with the words, "This is a gift from God to you."

These three posts are my simple attempt at recognizing, remembering and proclaiming God's faithfulness. I am humbled and so grateful. Thank You, Lord.

Previous Posts:

Part One

Part Two

The Father Hath Provided Again (Part Two)

Our family has lived in Chile since 2007 except for every four to five years when we return stateside for just under a year to report to supporting churches, reconnect with family, pursue additional training and visit new churches as God opens doors. In 2012, we spent the first half of our time living in Michigan and the second half living in Delaware. In 2017-2018, we settled in one place near my parents in Pennsylvania due to my dad's health and the need we perceived for our children to do a stable year of traditional school. This was a valuable period in many ways as we sought educational testing for one child, biblical counseling for another, and when not traveling we soaked in the spiritual refreshment of my parents' new home church (due to relocating in their retirement years.) Little did we know the special role this church would play in our family's life then and on my 2020 trip to the United States with Eva and Isabel.

Soon after purchasing our tickets in June for August travel, I reached out to their pastor's wife to ask if she might know of someone in the area or the church with a basement apartment or guest house where we might affordably stay. I also mentioned our need to possibly rent or borrow a vehicle for local driving but also to reach Eva's school six hours away. Her response was immediate and encouraging as she stated, "We will do all we can to help make all this happen." She mentioned the possibility of staying with them or in a church family's guest apartment. At the time we believed quarantine would be required and it was only later that we learned she was prepared to move out of her own house for two weeks if that was what we needed! And in fact, it was her own car that she did without for three entire weeks so that we could do our shopping and commute between the guest apartment and my parents' home. This unhesitating willingness to help someone she hardly knew as a means of God's provision was again so humbling and also inspiring. In addition to this very practical help, she was a sounding board and prayer support at a point of crisis with my parents' needs, suggesting and coordinating some helpful resources. And towards the end of our time stateside, we enjoyed a delicious meal and fellowship she provided for my mom, Isabel and me at her daughter's home so that Isabel could reconnect with her friend and former youth leader. Her graciousness was despite many challenges and responsibilities within her own family at the same time, which spoke volumes to me.

Another woman of inestimable grace and blessing to us was our friend Crystal. A longtime missionary to Chile and now the director of several pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania, she has a heart of service and a tremendous work ethic. But beyond that, she has a tender mother's heart especially for MKs (missionary kids.) Having sent three of her own off to college and grown up life, she knows how hard that can be and offered to both my sister and me her help with our firstborn children going to school this year. First, she drove to Virginia where her daughter lives and where my nephew began his studies. She coordinated housing and was a comforting friend in emotional days of transition. Then, she hosted my daughters and me overnight to her home in Pennsylvania on our way to Eva's school. She cheerfully welcomed Isabel's company for another three days and allowed her to come alongside her ministry in the pregnancy centers while I got Eva settled. And 1 1/2 weeks later she traveled the four hours each way from her home to Miracle Mountain Ranch to stand in for us on parent orientation weekend and provide much-needed encouragement to Eva at a difficult time. Her commitment goes on and we know that our daughter is in caring and able hands with "Aunt Crystal" while we are far away. God's grace in providing this special person in Eva's life, and her willingness to add more responsibilities to an already very full life, is an incredible evidence of the Father's loving provision.

I am so thankful that not only has God placed His people in our path as an instrument and expression of His love and care to us, but He has done so for my parents as well. I mentioned in a previous post the financial consultant from my parents' church who came alongside me and my mom at the time of my dad's hospitalization. His patient explanation of so many things that were outside my limited knowledge - and his willingness to make phone calls and create forms to sign and commit to helping my parents even after I was gone - lifted such a burden of concern for my sisters and me. His help was not something new, because every year he sits down with my parents at no charge to help them determine the Medicare plan that is most affordable and best for their needs. But his care for them is an act of worship and faith, as he told us that when God leads him to help in this way he trusts God to make up the difference (and He always does.) He gave us many hours of his time on both workdays and weekdays and through him the Father truly provided again.

Then, as we were organizing all this paperwork under his supervision it became apparent we were missing important documents that we could only suppose were somewhere back in Delaware (my parents' previous home for many years.) Here again God used His people to bless us in a such a special way. We could not locate the person we thought would have the documents, but we knew who had referred him to my parents in the first place. This brother in Christ with a longtime connection to my parents not only located the person we needed, but personally drove to his office to retrieve the documents and then went the extra mile to drive all the way to Lancaster with his wife and mother-in-law to deliver them and say hello. What a gift of time and kindness to do such a thing!

I would be remiss if I did not mention one other special person God has used, especially in my mom's life. That is her dear friend Nancy who is only a phone call away every time Mom needs her. She is a strong and stable, caring and compassionate woman and I so thankful she and her husband are in my parents' lives!

I could go on and I will, in (Part Three.)

Previous Post:

Part One

The Father Hath Provided Again (Part One)

There was always music in our home growing up. I remember as far back as record players, then cassette tapes, and finally CDs as a child and teenager. My parents' style of music varied somewhat, but was singly gospel centered. One of the voices I loved was the lilting tenor of Larnelle Harris. The lyrics of many of his songs still come to mind today and one inspired the title of this post: "So children lift your voices, For the Father hath provided again. And all the earth rejoices, For the Father hath provided again. I know that He is able. I know my every need He'll supply, Out of His boundless riches. The Father hath provided again!"

Such was the case with our 2020 trip to the United States. Amidst so much unpredictability, time and again the Father supplied our every need "out of His boundless riches." Much of His provision was not financial but personal. He placed His people in our path as an instrument and expression of His love and care to us. Other times He simply orchestrated circumstances that could not be accounted for other than being from Him.

Most of the people who played a part in God's provision were ones we did not know well at all except that they were brothers and sisters in Christ. This was both humbling and inspiring to me. I so want to be that unconditional person to others who is a blessing in the way we were blessed!

The first faces we saw upon setting foot on American soil were familiar ones: brother- and sister-in-law Mateo and Raquel, with Raquel's dear missionary parents. This was a sweet balm to our tired hearts. They invested their Saturday in picking us up at the Miami airport, providing breakfast and a hot shower and the comfort of family, and driving us to Fort Lauderdale for our third and final flight. This flight landed in Philadelphia where the face that met us was most welcome but completely unfamiliar: a "senior saint" from my sister's supporting church who knew little about us except that we had a need.

Earlier in our search for transportation we were told by a person in the States that it was unlikely someone would want to be in the car with us for over an hour if we were coming from Chile, calling it an "extremely high risk country" for COVID-19 contagion. This was discouraging and also ironic since Chilean friends were concerned for us going to the United States which they considered far more dangerous in this pandemic. Of course, national news and numbers fed these fears on either side. But it was this kind of uncertainty which made the generosity of our brother in Christ all the more precious. He drove a large church van, and we sat behind him to minimize any risk. It was obvious that he had a great heart for missions. In fact, he had traveled multiple times to Chile on short-term missions trips and his daughter was currently serving overseas. He delivered us safely to the apartment where we would be staying and departed with our very sincere thanks (and a bag of Chilean Frugele candy in appreciation!) 

My wonderful mom and dad awaited us in the apartment. Though quarantine was not required but recommended, we had already planned to self-isolate initially and we resisted the urge to do the most natural thing and hug one another. We kept masks on except for sharing dinner, which around a small round table meant the girls and I huddled as far as possible on one side away from their grandparents. In all honesty, we had not expected even this short time together so it was cherished but brief just in case. Drinks, food, treats, toilet paper, needs and wants were supplied by my parents who had brought groceries and so much more. They, too, were used of God for His provision and we are so thankful.

And then there were our hosts. Owners of the house whose in-law apartment was offered to us for the duration of our stay and whose hospitality knew no bounds. They were not home the first week after our arrival, but had previously invited my parents to lunch and given them keys and instructions to settle us comfortably. A huge box of Pop-Tarts (not sold in Chile) waited for one happy daughter on the kitchen counter. Their upright piano beckoned her sister to restful moments of lovely music. The plush carpet invited bare feet and sliding glass windows offered a view of lush grass and wild bunnies and tall trees. Though we could have stepped outside, after months of forced enclosure during Chile's lockdown we mainly sat by the window and watched the beauty as if we'd been trained this way. Even so, this was truly a restful relief for our souls.

Not only did our hosts' hospitality provide a delightful place to stay but their kindness extended to daily interest in the accomplishment of our lengthy to-do list for Eva's school year. They answered many questions and demonstrated true concern for our well-being and our stories of life and ministry in Chile. We learned they had bought this home years ago when their own children were headed overseas as missionaries and they wanted to provide a landing place for them. Over time they have hosted many other missionaries as well. What a beautiful glimpse into hearts committed to supporting God's work in ways beyond the average! In their home church, they minister and mentor individuals in addiction recovery. Each year, they also oversee the collection of school supplies which they personally deliver to an outreach ministry in a nearby state.

When the day came to load Eva's many boxes and school supplies, our host saw to packing our vehicle with Tetris-like precision. When we moved to my parents' cottage after my dad's hospitalization, he carefully weighed each suitcase we'd packed and planned not to touch again before the airport. He also produced a hand truck to load our luggage and both he and his wife insisted on driving their car behind us to help us heft things at the other end. We said farewell then with the offer to drive us to the airport when the time finally came and weeks later they did just that, not only driving us but accompanying us to drop off our luggage and providing extra hands and calmness when last-minute reshuffling was required. Truly, this couple we now call friends were God's gift to us in ways we never anticipated and can never repay.

But we would have known nothing of them if it were not for another very special person! I will share more how "the Father hath provided" in (Part Two.)

Later post:

Part Three

Thursday, October 08, 2020

When Man's Cancellations Are God's Preparations

Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled.

You would think considering the emotional upheaval we experienced with each one, I would remember just how many times flights and plans to travel to the United States were cancelled as the COVID-19 crisis developed. I do remember one particular moment in May when we thought we might have to purchase tickets and travel practically from one day to the next in order to seize a window of opportunity. Chile's contagion numbers were rising and we feared flights might soon be blocked to the USA. We contacted all necessary individuals for approval only to realize that circumstances had changed to the point where our longtime plans for housing our daughter prior to school were no longer feasible. The intense roller coaster of feelings in those twenty-four hours was exhausting. Deciding to wait was scary; we didn't know if or when we would have another chance to travel stateside. 

As all but one airline pulled out of Chile and ticket prices rose overnight, we made the decision in early June to buy tickets for August 7. Information was in a constant state of flux. We had no idea where we would stay, who could transport us from the airport, whether we would be required to quarantine for 14 days in Pennsylvania upon arrival. Though we rarely do, we purchased higher priced tickets with the option to change and this served us well when we learned that the airline was selling tickets to airports it did not actually service (initially we were supposed to fly one airline directly from Santiago to JFK, then a partner airline to Baltimore but in reality flights were only going as far as Miami.) Another juggling of tickets and we ended up with three separate reservations on two different airlines: from Iquique to Santiago; Santiago to Miami; Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia.

I will share in a separate post the many ways God answered our questions and provided our needs, but what I wish to highlight here is another lesson learned: Sometimes man's cancellations are God's preparations. Or as Scripture states in Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Little did we know that the delays which frustrated us at this point were putting us in place to address an as-yet unknown need before us.

Our scheduled return date to Chile was September 8 (leaving the States on September 7.) On September 3, I said farewell to my oldest daughter on what seemed to me an appropriately misty morning. It was early and I was surprised to have a missed phone call from my mom. As my daughter disappeared from sight, I sat in my parked vehicle and returned the call. The news that awaited me was my dad's transfer by ambulance in the night to the hospital and diagnosis of pneumonia. For someone already experiencing the debilitating effects of Multiple System Atrophy and Parkinson's this was grim news. Six hours away, there was nothing to do but drive and pray. I already dreaded this morning with its poignant goodbye and the longest solo trip I had taken (thankfully joined at the halfway mark by my second daughter.) But God was faithful, and brought us smoothly back to Mom and decisions to be made about our travel home to Chile.

Never before in my memory - and perhaps never again after this pandemic - have airlines offered a free and open change policy to tickets. And certainly not all airlines were doing so. But our international flight allowed this, so I suspended travel plans with a combination of gratitude (for this option) and sadness (at not seeing my husband and sons after already a month apart) and conviction (since Pedro and I both agreed that staying to help my parents was the right thing to do.) Our return was open-ended and dependent on how Dad's condition evolved. On Labor Day, Isabel and I did the one thing we'd thought COVID-19 would not allow us to do and moved in with Mom. This turned an otherwise tense time into a treasured one of special closeness and companionship for which I am forever grateful.

It also gave me a glimpse of an area outside of Dad's health where I could help, as inadequate as I might feel. Finances are not my expertise even though I pay our own household bills monthly. But there was a need to organize much paperwork and multiple accounts, to simplify and strategize how we daughters could come alongside and lift some burdens even long-distance. Some days it felt mind-boggling amid hours of sorting and phone calls and investigation. But the greatest relief was when God in His mercy provided a financial consultant from my parents' church who donated his time and expertise to patiently explain things to Mom and me.

Not only did Jim donate time but he made calls and prepared forms to sign and even though COVID-19 policies did not allow us to see Dad in person, God made it possible to complete what needed to be done. When his therapist brought him for a quick and carefully supervised home visit to test his mobility in their cottage, we had papers to sign. When a 30-minute final visit was approved outdoors, we had papers to sign. And before Dad came home, we had a simple system in place so that he could focus on feeling well and not have to worry about finances.

God orchestrated our time in the States so that we could be present when the offer of a move from cottage to apartment in their retirement community was made to Mom and Dad. Before Dad's hospitalization, Isabel and I were able to visit this potential new home with them and share videos with my sisters in Chile. When the decision was made to accept the apartment because of the help it would provide for Dad's physical needs, I was able to accompany Mom as she picked out flooring and paint and other updates. Although we cannot be there when the actual move takes place in November, it is a blessing to be able to picture their new home and know it will be beneficial to them at this stage in their lives.

It was not in our plans to remain in the States so long. Our departure took place on the 26th of September, 51 days after leaving Iquique. With a mandatory 14-day quarantine welcoming us in Santiago, our return to Pedro and the boys will finally take place 66 days after we walked out our front door. But in His sovereignty, God had us stateside for a specific time and reason. He confirmed this to us many times and in many ways. Indeed, man's cancellations are God's preparations. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

This Wasn't the Way We Envisioned Goodbye

This wasn't the way we envisioned goodbye.

If plans had stayed in place, you would have experienced a wonderful summer with your grandparents in their home. You would have learned what it was like to work your first real job. You would have opened a bank account, gotten a driver's license, and celebrated a graduation open house with your cousin in PA.

If plans had stayed in place, we would have sent you off with goodbyes well said. We hoped to have a fancy dinner, pretty dresses, friends and family who've loved you all your years in Chile to join us. Your MK friend Andrea would have come to spend a week, or at least a few days, in Iquique as planned. Instead, you will slip away with only a face-to-face farewell with one dear Chilean friend and others by way of phone or video.

If plans had stayed in place, we would have had one more family trip together. We would have flown south and you would have gotten a chance to see your cousins' new home and enjoy the beautiful scenery and river and fulfill the dream of all three families (Fishers, Rubins, Garcias) vacationing together in Puerto Varas. You would have had one more cousins' treasure hunt at the very end.

If plans had stayed in place, you and Isabel and I would have kept our reservations and had one last girls' getaway at a hotel. We would have gone out to eat and watched movies and even completed a short class together. We would have taken mother/daughter and sister pictures together.

If plans had stayed in place, we would have had one last professional family photo shoot with Hernan. I had hoped it would be on Cerro Dragon as a memory of this unique landmark in the city where you were raised. I regret not doing it sooner because I wanted the photo to be as recent as possible and maybe even to lose some weight first (how ironic is that post-quarantine and all your yummy desserts!)

If plans had stayed in place, both Daddy and I would be flying together to the States to take you to school. We would say goodbye to you together, just as we first said a breathless hello together in Mr. Casey's small office at Catholic Social Services in Scranton nineteen years ago.

If plans had stayed in place, we would be there for parents' orientation weekend with you rather than having to take you a week early. We'd meet the other parents of your classmates and get a formal introduction to what this year has in store for you. Daddy would do the six hours of driving each way so that I could (probably) just cry my way home.

If plans had stayed in place, you would already be gone.

But because plans did not stay in place, we were given three more months with you. Because plans did not stay in place, you were not far from us in another country when the COVID-19 crisis erupted. Because plans did not stay in place, you had time to finish school well and more time to focus on the next step. Because plans did not stay in place, you made and re-made your lists to perfection. (And you made and re-made strawberry shortcakes, iced sugar cookies, zucchini cakes and even spaghetti - with Dad's secret ingredient! - for the enjoyment of your family.) 

Because plans did not stay in place, you asked for and God provided a weekly Christian counseling appointment that has given you voice and tools to face some of your struggles. Because plans did not stay in place, as a family we were able to study about Heaven and sing together in worship each Sunday. We "met" Pastor Dave and were encouraged through his daily Bible studies on YouTube for many weeks. Because plans did not stay in place, we reconnected with extended family more regularly and sweetly as we met weekly for family devotions. 

Because plans did not stay in place, Silas spent more time snuggled up with you listening to music on your bunk bed and creating Sunday School crafts with your help. Because plans did not stay in place, your brothers enjoyed playing you in chaotic competitions of Dutch Blitz. Because plans did not stay in place, our girls' getaway for a weekend was exchanged for a month-long trip together as we all go to the States. Because plans did not stay in place, Daddy asked for your favorite recipes and is spoiling you with your favorite meals before we say goodbye. 

I am thankful to trust in a sovereign God who is bigger than any of our plans. (Proverbs 19:21) He is a loving God who puts our tears in His bottle. (Psalm 56:8) He is a hope-giving God with good purposes for our lives. (Jeremiah 29:11) He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our afflictions. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) He is the God who formed us and knows us and is with us always and everywhere. (Psalm 139) He is the God who will "watch between you and me, when we are out of one another's sight." (Genesis 31:49)

This isn't the way we envisioned goodbye, but it's the way He did. And for that - and for you - I am very thankful.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Recording a Friend's Reinvention

Recording a friend's reinvention. That might describe today's rewarding errand as I delivered donations to FLORECE while also taking time to assist Catalina in the final step of an important project. A self-employed and talented seamstress, prior to COVID-19 Catalina rented her own workspace and shop in Iquique's "Feria Persa" where a steady clientele kept her comfortably busy from month to month. With lockdown, however, she lost not only her location but also the liberty to interact with others and the availability of materials to ply her trade. Using fabrics she had on hand she did the next thing she could, which was create colorful face masks when wearing them first began. 

The landscape of her livelihood shifted in the pandemic and may never be the same. Ever courageous and clever, Catalina in her mid-60's now finds herself on a learning curve to create and master an online presence through social media. One way she hopes to do so is by earning a scholarship through SERCOTEC, a organization in Chile which seeks to empower "micro" businesses and entrepreneurs. Today's assignment was to produce a 90-second video of Catalina presenting her project idea and designs and explaining specifically how she would use any funds awarded.

One of her novel ideas is an attractive woman's scarf with a mask attached which can be revealed or hidden as the wearer wishes. She gave me her first prototype as a going away gift to Eva. This was especially meaningful because Catalina graciously invested herself in our daughter for a season. When Eva was younger, she would regularly spend time at Tía Cata's shop learning to sew alongside her. They even made miniature outfits for Eva's toys. Because of Catalina's patience and delight, sewing is something Eva enjoys to this day.

Catalina and Eva in 2015

It was a small thing, recording and uploading the video and helping a bit with her new Instagram account. But so worth it to see my friend's smile and hear her relief at accomplishing this application on time. Catalina is not only a seamstress and a friend, but also a committed volunteer and our live-in caretaker at FLORECE. In fact, the donations I brought were ones she coordinated to receive and will carefully distribute as she has done all throughout this crisis. As I was carrying in the bags before she realized I had arrived, I could hear her worshipful singing on another floor of the building. I can only hope that in twenty more years I might have the tenacity and tenderness of this dear woman of God! What a blessing she is to all who know her.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Creativity in Quarantine (Silas)

One of the challenges of quarantine has been keeping a certain busy 4-year old entertained in more creative ways than simply watching television or playing video games. While we've not been entirely successful, there have been some colorful moments that I managed to capture and wanted to record from this time. 

Aunt "Noni" gave Silas this little canvas and easel early in our stay-at-home orders. He had great fun mixing the colors for his robot and dinosaur masterpieces! 

Often sisters and brothers were pressed into service as artist's assistants. It was particularly memorable when Sissy did so because art is not her "thing" but she humored her little brother with a happy heart and big smile regardless. 

March turned to April, and April to May when Silas' giant flower pot was a Mother's Day gift that he was very proud of. It was also in May when Eva helped him create this brontosaurus in a tea box as a gift to his friend Emilia. They had several drive-by gift exchanges before lockdown shut down even these visits. 

One day recently, Silas was eager to use new paint and we gave him an abandoned box as his canvas. His brown apron was a bargain $500 peso find at Líder among the school uniforms that never had a chance to be sold this year due to COVID-19. With his brothers and sisters doing school and a cool, cloudy day his creative juices ran dry fairly quickly. But at least it made for a cute picture! 

I wonder what Silas' recollections will be of this season in his young life. Hopefully when he looks back, he will see there is always some beauty to be found.