Saturday, October 18, 2014

Processing Life

(Note: This little post is just an effort to process life through writing. Sometimes taking a step back and seeing things in black and white helps to frame the good, bad and the ugly!)

I stare blankly, my mind whirring on empty. Unsuccessfully I try to conjure images of who/what/when/where relates to the question I've just been asked. All too often this is my response when trying to remember what happened only one, two, or three days ago! Life of late feels just a little too crazy.

Every weekday morning starts similarly. 6:00 AM, Pedro rises and starts moving the rest of us. 6:30, boys roll out of bed and start getting breakfast, uniforms, school bags. Our morning girl Eva may or may not decide to go ahead and start her online school around this time. Her sister Isabel will certainly cover her head with pillows and try to cling to dreamland. By 7:20, Pedro departs with Owen and Ian which leaves Alec to finish any lingering homework and play Legos or watch Clifford (in Spanish, to "practice" for school.) Around 8:00, Pedro returns to make coffee before heading to church while I leave with Isabel to exercise at the stadium. Either Pedro or one of Alec's big sisters walks him the few blocks to Kindergarten at 8:30. The girls and I eventually reconvene at home where we all do our respective schoolwork (Eva - 7th; Isabel - 6th; Stephanie - counseling coursework.) Except for Tuesdays, when I have ladies' prayer time at 8:30 AM at church. At 12:30, 12:45 and 1:00 schools end for Alec, Owen and Ian. 

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Pedro picks up our girls and Alec first at home, collects Owen at his school; then gathers five or six other children at three separate locations. He accompanies this group of kids to the stadium for track & field training with Coach Anibal. Meanwhile, I drop Ian at the Spink house to do homeschool with Aunt Kim for an hour, then head back home to cook lunch and await my hungry crew's arrival around 2:30.

Our evening schedule is also a bit bonkers. On Monday nights at 7:00, the boys have soccer class. On Wednesday and Friday evenings at 5:30 PM, Eva has equestrian class. (Whenever possible, I try to squeeze in reading for my classes during these sports events.) On Tuesdays at 4:30, the boys and Isabel go to Kids' Club at Spinks' house. On Wednesdays at 4:00, Owen has handball class. (Pedro drops him off, then often uses these two hours for visitation.) On Fridays at 4:30, the boys and Isabel have basketball class. For the adult schedule, on Tuesday nights at 8:00 Pedro has discipleship. On Wednesdays at 8:00, Stephanie has class with the church ladies. On Thursdays at 7:00 Pedro has Bible study; at 8:00 he and the girls go to prayer meeting. On Fridays at 8:00 is youth group. 

And that's just Monday through Friday! It doesn't even include weekends with their many church commitments or other "miscellaneous" stuff - or many of Pedro's commitments, which I can't always keep track of. Some days are unpredictable. One recent Tuesday I had ladies' prayer time at 8:30 AM; picked up one of our college girls for breakfast and accountability at 10:00 AM; got Ian from school at 1:00 PM and bought empanadas for the crew at home; took three of our kids to Kids' Club at 4:30 PM; used that time to take to lunch one of our teen girls who has been somewhat adrift of late; picked up the kids at 6:30 and then headed to soccer (an event which has since been eliminated because - well, crazy is just crazy!)

I write endless lists on notebook pages, church bulletins, and slips of paper to try and organize this crazy life of ours. Upcoming events include today's visit to a local orphanage; next week's track meet; the following weekend's ladies' annual ladies' retreat. Next month I travel to the Santiago for a medical visit. Kindergarten graduation for both of our little boys, and a birthday for Ian are just around the corner. A third trimester test schedule is the bane of Owen's existence at the moment. Twice this week we have had late (10- or 11-o'clock p.m.) deliveries of items we agreed to store for a family displaced in April's earthquake. In the midst of it all I feel so much pressure to complete my studies but guilt when I hole away from the kids to do so. How to find a balance between it all?

Lord, help me to center on You in the midst of the craziness of life. Help me to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Keep me focused on Your purposes and Your Person. And when too much becomes too much, let me let go of anything less and simply hold fast to You!


"But I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands ..." 
(Psalm 31:14-15a)

Friday, October 17, 2014

It’s a {Colorful} World

Oddly enough, my son’s school celebrates Mother’s Day in October. No problem, I am more than happy to receive a handwritten card and some special loving no matter what time of year! Thus yesterday evening I pulled my high-heeled boots out of hiding and proudly escorted my handsome boy back to his big, city-block-wide school building.

The size of the school is worth mentioning because parents were told to enter on one block, and students on the other. Unfortunately, we parked on the parent side and walked around to the student side only to be sent back to the parent side together again! And while the school itself is a good school, the neighborhood is not the greatest. On our return trek Owen was nervous, because each way we had to pass a very angry, drunken man screaming on the street corner. He was a crash course in Chilean swear words and happened to be positioned just a few feet from the gathering crowd of parents.

While his wails came at us from one direction, we soon got an earful from the other. Owen and I were standing next to a father with a young son. The son stared at Owen and began talking to his dad in a very loud voice. “DADDY! LOOK AT HIS SKIN! THAT BOY HAS DIFFERENT SKIN! HIS SKIN IS DIFFERENT THAN US, DADDY! WHY IS HIS SKIN LIKE THAT? IT IS BLACK, DADDY! IS HE DIRTY? DADDY, HIS SKIN! HIS SKIN!”

Ugh. I often wonder how many times my son has bravely stood silent in the face of such commentary when I am not around. We both knew the boy was immature and not purposely being unkind. I put my arms around my son and kissed his beautiful face, looking at the other boy and trying to smile. The boy’s dad encouraged him to talk to Owen but the little boy refused. I asked Owen if he knew what an ambassador was, then explained that he was an ambassador to so many boys like this one who didn’t realize God made people in many more colors and varieties than they had ever seen.

Finally we were allowed inside and immediately Owen was whisked away back to the student side. After a program of live entertainment by students and (very! very! very!) loud invited singers, we moms were reunited with our children who proudly treated us to a beautiful tableful of yummy goodies. When everything was nearly over, Owen and I walked back to our car with a classmate and his grandma. As we climbed aboard and pulled into the street, another interesting sight appeared before us. Out of the gloom a man materialized on the corner, gesturing wildly and shrieking. He too was apparently drunk, with an unkempt gray beard and pale bare chest. But his most striking feature was a black eye patch which gave him the impression of a misplaced sailor roaming the big city.

It’s a colorful world we live in. Some colors are beautiful, like my son’s glistening skin or the purple hues of an ocean sunset. These I love to gaze upon or spend an evening enjoying their company. But other circumstances color our world dark and gray, such as poverty and drunkenness and homelessness. We see these so often in our city that they sometimes draw only a glance as we become desensitized to human tragedy. 

Our challenge is to remain engaged and caring in a culture gone awry. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) May we see this colorful world through the eyes of the One whose palette first brushed it into pure life, and Who will one day renew its pristine beauty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cherishing Faithfulness

One morning last week, my mom and I talked life and ministry over the phone - she at her home in Delaware, me on my couch in Chile. I listened as she shared recent challenges and encouragement God had placed in her path. I could picture her with her groups of ladies on Tuesday mornings and Tuesdays evenings and in her Sunday morning ladies' class. All my life I have witnessed my mom's faithfulness as a teacher. To children as an MK school teacher and Sunday School teacher; to young adults in teacher training; to adult women in ladies' groups at church and conference settings.

I sat under my mom's teaching as an elementary school student; as a young teen training for summer ministry via five-day clubs; and as an older teen taking night classes for teacher training at our mission seminary once upon a time. Then came college and marriage and years of long distance. On occasion, Mom came to Chile and spoke to our ladies here. And this past furlough was especially sweet as it allowed me the opportunity to participate in one of my mom's weekly ladies' Bible studies at her own church in the States.

One thing I appreciate about my mom's teaching is her sincerity. She would be the first to claim she is not polished but those who hear her, hear her heart. She carefully prepares and she is creative, often using visual aids and object lessons. I know there are times she feels inadequate, yet she rests in the promise that "His strength is made perfect in our weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9.) I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that dozens, if not hundreds of women have been blessed by her ministry over the years. 

As I listened to her share with humility and enthusiasm about a recent experience in one of her Bible studies, I had tears in my eyes. She spoke of what could have been an awkward moment with a visitor, which God instead turned into the perfect avenue to share the gospel. It was not about her; it was all about God. And I was struck by how much I cherish my mom's faithfulness. She has done ministry for decades, but God's working never grows old for her. She is still in awe of those moments when she can sense His Spirit moving a way she never anticipated.

How thankful I am for the example I was given in my mom! She is not perfect but she is tenderhearted, forbearing, generous and kind.  Most of all, she is faithful. There are so many areas I wish I better reflected her. But I know that what I am truly admiring in her is her reflection of Christ.


 Thank you, Mom, for being faithful. I love you!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Crazy Life with Boys

Life with boys is never dull. And having three boys (with two older sisters) certainly makes life an adventure! Of course, some adventures are more romantic than others. Who doesn't swoon over handsome little men with homemade swords and shields? I love to see our swashbuckling trio of musketeers exercising their imaginations to create fun moments of play together. It is cute to watch the younger brothers' wide-eyed fascination and respect for their older brother's abilities. And it is heartwarming on those occasions when Owen's benevolence extends to both Ian and Alec (although more often than not "three's a crowd" and one little brother ends up on the outs.)


Fortunately there is some rotation of favorites and eventually all three brothers play together once again. When it is just the two of them, Ian and Alec continue to have the rambunctious (I personally refer to it as "tiger cub") relationship they've always enjoyed. Last Sunday I subbed for their class at church and after the lessons, craft and songs we somehow ended up with a line of little boys - with mine leading the way! - doing tumbling feats on the foam puzzle floor. For better or for worse my experience with little boys has led me to decide that as long as no one is getting hurt, why fight the inevitable? I'm sure you can tell by their smiles below that Ian and Alec felt the same way.


And then there are moments when boy antics test even the patience of a saint. Which, for the record I am not. There are those times when a mother pulls her hair and screams - inside her head, of course - "Why now?! Why here?!" Such was my experience this week outside the grocery store, after my youngest two and I had enjoyed an unusually peaceful and cooperative stroll through the aisles and had contentedly returned to our van. (This good spirit is important to note because without it, I am quite sure my reaction would have been less than stellar.)
 

I unlocked the car and had Ian and Alec climb in while I unloaded groceries into the trunk, where I was met by the friendly cart lady who seems to enjoy conversing with me in the parking lot. No sooner had she begun asking me her latest question on U.S. current events, however, than Ian stuck his head out the door and said Alec needed me right away. It so happened that having my back turned for two minutes resulted in a bleeding nose in the back seat. Since I had just witnessed the camaraderie between the two of them in the grocery store, I was sure it was just an accident. Unfortunately my acquaintance deemed it her duty to berate Ian. 

"You shouldn't do bad things! Don't you know God will abandon you?!" she scolded him. I grimaced as I dug for Kleenex, tried to wipe Alec's blood, and wedged myself between the woman and Ian, who by now was bent over crying from the reprimand and awful thoughts of God's abandonment. Trying not to be rude, I managed to edge her out of the way while gently pushing his clutching hands off me and sliding the door shut. Meanwhile I thought of all the theological untangling I needed to quickly do before my poor son was traumatized. 

Frankly, I was annoyed and already had the car running and ready to pull out before the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience and I found myself tugging out a tract for our now-departing friend. My son has me to explain God's truth to Him, but what about her? She had tears in her eyes when I reached her. "You don't know the problems I have," she tearfully stated, going on to share some personal details of her family's current struggle. Acknowledging that truth, showing compassion, handing her a tract while cars pulled in and out around us and my son bled in the car, was all too surreal. God only knows the why and if any good will come from such an uncomfortable and unexpected moment. Thankfully He is the One in control!

All I could think of later was, this is my crazy life. My crazy life with boys!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lovin' Life at Los Lobitos






Pictures from a beautiful day spent with our children. What a joy to breathe in the ocean breezes; traipse up sand dunes; and howl at sea lions! After an extremely hectic time, this day off from school and life was so needed. I hope our kids remember these moments together. What a blessing we have been given. So thankful for our little family!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Purpose, a Place, and a Person

(Note: We are in the beginning stages of earnestly seeking a location for a proposed crisis pregnancy center and family counseling ministry in Iquique. Recently we visited the "perfect" location, only to find a story waiting to be told.)

Whatever I had expected, it certainly wasn't her.

A slender, pale woman with hair dyed but fading, she was coiffed and elegantly dressed in a demure dark suit and polished heels. She was somewhat soft-spoken and nervous; almost awkward, yet conversely knowledgeable and firm. She wasted no time on pleasantries but swept us immediately into and through the property we had come to inspect. Every detail of its history was personal to her: it was her family home, built by concrete blocks she, her brother and parents had themselves fabricated by hand. The house was inaugurated on Chile's fateful 11th of September 1973, she told us and along the way she added that it was but one of many properties their family had owned throughout the city of Iquique. None were purchased from banks and never did they miss a payment so as to jeopardize their ownership; it was not in their nature as Croatians, she said. 

She was obviously proud of her heritage, mentioning several times that they were original immigrants, descendants of Croations, and very religious as their heritage dictated. No one had died in this house, she informed us, and after every new tenant the priest had been called to purify it from any lingering uncleanness. Christ on the cross hung in every room, and it was a house of prosperity. It we were to buy it, we would certainly prosper as her family had done. Not one word was coated with sugar or salesmanship; it was simply her sincere understanding of the world in which she lived.

Unfortunately, her world has no room for recent immigrants and she regretfully shared her views on a past president's opening the borders and allowing the newest wave of "delinquents" to enter the city of Iquique. "It's best to pretend they don't exist," she said earnestly, "and to simply pray, all the time." Little did she know that those very people are ones for whom Christ died to save and we seek to reach through this ministry!

We departed with mixed emotions. The property in almost every way was "perfect" for the future crisis pregnancy/family counseling ministry we envision. The cost was fair by Iquique standards. The owner created in us compassion and concern. So very different from many of the future clients we might entertain there, yet equally lost and alone. There is a tremendous work to be done. Only GOD knows how and when and where He will allow it to take place. Please pray for us!

the location we are dreaming of for the center (priced at 140 million CLP or $238,000 USD)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where Do We Start to Meet the Need?



It was a very last-minute call, from one busy mom to another. Our friend's daughter had the opportunity to join classmates at a nursing home downtown, but she had only just been informed that day and she was already committed to a prior activity with her son at the same time. Would we be willing to go? 

It has been missions month at our church. We've focused this year on our "Jerusalem," this city of Iquique. Throughout the month, God has placed new information and potential opportunities in our path. This seemed like one of them. We had heard of the "grandparents' home" (as it is called here) especially in the wake of the earthquake. Sadly, many of the abuelitos spent weeks in a makeshift shelter at the local stadium since their home was damaged and in the tsunami danger zone. Youth organizations took turns spending time interacting with them, according to our local newspaper.

Our children learn so much from new and sometimes stretching situations. Our little boys were wide-eyed and timid as they looked around at abuelitos with distant eyes, wrinkled hands and in one case, missing limbs. Alec was full of questions. "Will I get old like that someday? Why are their hands like that? Why does she talk that way?" Both he and Ian were shy about responding to invitations for kisses from the grandmas, but eventually they worked their way around the circle and brought great joy to several of these lonely ladies. 

Owen didn't approach much, but when he did I was grateful for his serious and respectful responses to the questions he was asked. He, too, politely kissed the grandmas goodbye when the time came. Later in the car he said, "That one grandma told me her dad was black with blue eyes, and then he had surgery to become white." We assured him that she was just very confused. She had also claimed Pedro as her son and as we were leaving said to me, "Mommy, take me to eat!" The kids had followed me curiously as I walked her to the cafeteria and found her a seat.

One woman seemed younger and more alert than many others, and she had Pedro's ear for most of the time we were there. Eva stayed close beside her daddy. Their new acquaintance was full of commentary and seemed genuinely delighted at our visit. Our friend's daughter had brought colorful Christian booklets from church and she and Isabel shared them with this lady and other residents. Pedro also provided a tract with the address of our church. It seems that anyone is welcome to come during visiting hours in the morning or afternoon by prior arrangement, so we hope to return with our young people and perhaps some special music to share.

There are so many needs around us. Where do we start to meet them? Perhaps by simply being available when the next call comes. In my flesh I resisted rushing to get five kids ready and out the door to pick up our friend's daughter and get to the nursing home that afternoon. But as is always the case, we were blessed to be a blessing. We received more than we gave, being convicted toward greater compassion and ministry wherever the needs are found.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Love You Enough to Risk Breaking Your Heart


I love this picture. It was taken after an exhausting and emotional weekend in which we expected too much of you and could give you too little of us - and yet for the most part, the five of you handled it all with patience and grace. On this particular Monday we took a day off school and life to head to the beach with its rocks and waves and wind and wide open spaces. Afterwards we enjoyed a yummy lunch of steak sandwiches and burgers and delectable Ecuadorian fresh fruit juices. You humored me and posed for this picture. 

I love this picture so much because I love you. And it is because I love you that I have shed so many tears this week behind closed doors, in the silence of the car when I'm driving alone, out loud when sharing my requests at our weekly ladies' prayer time. As far removed as we are from the United States while living in Chile, even so this week the burden of current events landed fair and square in our living room where we sat eye to eye with you and tried to share the facts framed in something other than fear.

But I love you, and sometimes I am afraid. I am afraid of shattering the beauty I see when I look at you - all radiant energy and spontaneous laughter and carefree joy. I am afraid of breaking your heart, of robbing your innocence, of stealing your self-worth with my words. Do you understand what we are saying when we tell you that immediate obedience can be more than just doing what is right, what the Bible teaches, what God asks? When our voices quiver and we say, "For you, obedience can mean the difference between life ... and death." When we try to explain that simply because of the color of your skin, you may not be afforded a second chance?

I love you, and I love our family. I hope you hear me and believe as I do, that our family is a glimpse of Heaven. Not because of our behavior (or lack thereof!) But because one day "every tribe and tongue and nation" will worship in perfect unity around the throne of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are so blessed, we don't have to wait. As a family we get to experience that unity here on earth, but along with it we may have to experience pain. Like any parent, we want to protect you from all pain though we are learning that we cannot. We can only walk beside you. Even that feels insufficient when I know I can never walk inside your skin.

I love that our Savior did what I can never do. No, He did not come in your skin but He came as a man "despised and rejected, acquainted with grief." He came as a member of the race that throughout all of history has been targeted for bigotry, oppression and destruction. My greatest prayer is that you would know and cling to Him, wherever life takes you and whatever comes your way. I will fail you, but He never will. I will be incapable of understanding, but He will understand you completely. I will feel hopeless as I have this week, yet He will always offer endless and eternal hope. Indeed, He is our Hope!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Surgery for Alec

Same place, different patient. It is strange considering how far and wide life has taken us, yet somehow this hospital in the capital city of Chile has now cared for three generations of our family. My dad, sister, nieces and son have all had surgery in one its pristine pabellones. Three of my sister's children - and another on the way - have been born under the reassuring care of a well-trained team of its pleasant professionals. Being a patient here is a privilege granted by virtue of international health insurance, and one deeply appreciated with a side helping of guilt (having walked beside so many others who depend on the flawed government system alone.)

This time around, it was Alec's turn.

Alec beaming with anticipation

Our heels clicked on gleaming tiles as we entered the brand-new admissions room with spacious swivel chairs, soft mood lighting and copies of the clinica's own monthly publication encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Alec was all smiles as he anticipated the next day's events while I processed his pre-admission paperwork. Having Mommy all to himself and experiencing the solo limelight for the first time was exhilarating for our child #5! :)

all set for surgery

Despite being awoken at the crack of dawn the next morning and riding sleepily through darkened streets for his 7 AM hospitalization, Alec's grin continued to glimmer as he donned his ocean-themed hospital gown and admired his very own I.D. bracelet. Since there were no beds available in the pediatric unit, we were tucked away in a corner of the adult floor where the nurses on duty were thrilled to see a child for a change! Alec's first nurse turned out to be a Christian woman who attends a church where my childhood friend Anita is the pastor's wife. She was eager to take a picture with the little patient to show everyone the following Sunday, and Alec cheerfully agreed.

love this precious smile

For this particular child of ours, nothing could spell delight more than a television screen all his own (presumably since as the youngest, he rarely gets to call the shots!) He happily watched a children's channel after we had spent some time praying and talking together about his faith in Jesus. Soon we were wheeled away to surgery prep, where a nurse and anesthesiologist explained the upcoming procedure. Thankfully, Alec remained calm and interested. (He also tried to broker a deal for a candy if he didn't cry!)

tired but entranced by his "own" t.v.

Alec was tickled to receive a warm and fuzzy pair of knee-high, dolphin-decorated white socks to keep his legs warm in surgery. I instead received an unflattering sterile cap and gown which allowed me to accompany him into the O.R. and hold his hand during the minutes it took for him to fall under the spell of the bubble-gum scented gas mask. I prayed as the doctor saw me out the door and as I headed back to our room to wait with stiff cup of Starbucks coffee for my phone to ring with news of the surgery.

oh-so-hungry after surgery!

Just as promised, the surgery only took around an hour and it was a sweet relief to find a very sleepy but otherwise comfortable little boy. Alec only woke long enough to whisper, "Mommy, is it okay if I sleep a little?" (an unheard-of request at normal times!) Eventually, though, we were wheeled back to the room and when he finally regained some energy it seemed to be all directed at FOOD! The hospital nutritionist visited our room with menu choices for lunch, dinner and the following day should we remain. In advance of lunch, she ordered jello and yogurt which Alec hungrily gulped down with his eyes glued again to the television. I hadn't realized that he and his cousin Juliana had exchanged conversation about the food in the hospital, but apparently he was really looking forward to it after their talk!

His expression doesn't show it, but Alec enjoyed this wheelchair option at a mall two days after surgery :)

In the early evening, Alec's surgeon visited and gave us the all-clear to head home. Our nurses tried to convince us to spend the night instead, as they hated to see their handsome patient go! One of them had just recently started working again after time off for the birth of her own son, and seemed to want to spend time with us. Inevitably, however, a wheelchair arrived for dismissal and once again camera phones documented Alec's brief but welcome presence on their floor.

celebrating a successful post-operative check up

Five days after surgery, Alec was checked out by the surgeon for post-op visit and declared in top shape. In fact, the surgeon's actual words were, "This is a beautiful belly button! I did a great job." :) 

Big sister Isabel accompanied us to the hospital on that rainy night and we celebrated the good news with strawberry smoothies and grateful hearts. To God be all the glory, because while we praise Him for a talented doctor and excellent care, we know it was the Great Physician who truly held Alec in his hands!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

In the Not Knowing

The large auditorium was packed with people. Voices were hushed and tears were shed. As a newlywed wife and unfamiliar with the ones we had come to see, I stayed close beside my husband as we approached the front of the church where each visitor paused and then solemnly proceeded.

I have never forgotten the mother and child I saw so still and pale in that casket. Such a perfectly formed infant, seemingly safe in the arms of the woman who had so anticipated his arrival. I myself knew that anticipation and the crushing disappointment of infertility that had preceded it. I could not wrap my mind around the loss this picture represented, yet I knew - I knew - that indeed that infant and his mother were safe, both in the arms of Jesus.

What I didn't know was how this could be part of His plan.

That morning, a choir of young people sang. Students from the Christian school where both the widowed husband and wife had taught, this moment would be indelibly impressed on their hearts even more deeply than on mine. They sang songs I knew and believed, yet which never were put to a harder test:
I know God makes no mistakes // He leads in every step I take // Along the way that's leading me to Home // Though at times my heart would break // There's a purpose in every change He makes // That others would see my life and know // That God makes no mistakes
And:
God is too wise to be mistaken // God is too good to be unkind // So when you don't understand // When don't you see His plan // When you can't trace His hand // Trust His heart
This week, I have felt again the not knowing. It isn't doubt that He is good, nor that He will bring good even from tragedy. It is just that - a not knowing - "Why?" Two Jesus-loving, family-loving mothers were taken home suddenly and soon. Both had inspired countless people through their example of joy in the Lord and overcoming challenges. One had not allowed even a degenerative disease to keep her from the mission field. The other had opened her home and heart to children with many medical needs. Each had beautiful families representing Heaven where people of "every tribe, and tongue and nation" will worship together. One left behind a loving husband and four young adult children; the other, a devoted husband and fifteen children under the age of 18.

In a tribute written by a friend to one of these women, I was reminded that "we are all here for only a short time - make your days count!" Though I don't know why some lives seem to be cut short when they have so much yet to offer, I do know that I am to offer what I have while I can. I want to leave a legacy for Christ as they have done. May He help me to greater boldness, faithfulness and love and may my life be a testimony to His grace!

Please continue to pray for the families of Karen Coppola and Jenny Groothuis. They will be greatly missed by so many.

Monday, June 23, 2014

One Comment Was All It Took

He was already less-than-thrilled by the selection for family movie night, simply because it was not his turn to choose. However, he eventually relaxed and enjoyed it with the rest of us until that sudden unexpected twist in the plot. Once again a loaded adoption quote thrown into a movie script ambushed an otherwise mellow evening. 

Arms crossed and pouting, he flung himself up the stairs at the film's end. I found him in our third-floor bedroom, facing off with his daddy and demanding to see papers that proved our relationship to him. "He wants to know about his 'real' family," my husband said drily as we exchanged a knowing look. Our son never uses that term, but it was the one he had just heard in the movie. 

For the next three-quarters of an hour, I pulled out files and pages of documentation. Adoption decree; revised birth certificate; nurses' charts from his weeks as a preemie in the NICU. His birth mother's full name, which he asked that I write on a piece of paper for him. He wanted to see her signature (which I did not have.) None of this had been hidden from him; in fact, not too long ago we had been looking at birth family pictures and talking adoption. At the time he had only seemed mildly interested. Now, he was riled up and insistent.

We have always tried to make adoption an open topic in our family. I am pretty certain none of our children feel it is "taboo" although perhaps they are not always comfortable initiating the conversation. I try to do so in order to keep that door always open. I believe it is their right to know and own their story. Nonetheless, it throws me for a loop when at least-expected moments adoption is inserted awkwardly into something like a feature film. Couldn't movies come with a warning so we could mentally prepare our kids?

Perhaps I over-analyze or am overly sentimental, but I don't think so. I just feel bad that our kids can't enjoy a engrossing storyline without having a bucket of water thrown in. Because at least on this night for our son, one comment was all it took.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This Crazy, Lovely Life

It was nearly midnight when Pedro and I dropped into chairs in our living room and said, "Where did this day come from?!" And what a day it was. Pedro was up early to study. I slept in until he received a call asking him to accompany one of our deacons to Alto Hospicio. He was still gone when I left with the three boys shortly before 10:30 for their martial arts class. While they were in class, Pedro returned home to gather the girls and head to church for a 12:00 meeting with our youth leaders. The boys finished; we ran home for a change of clothes; then I joined the meeting. At 1:45, I slipped out with Eva and we made it to the house just in time for her 2:00 piano class. Pedro and the other kids arrived with (take-out) lunch in hand, which was quickly enjoyed before Isabel and Owen's 3:00 guitar lesson. Meanwhile Pedro returned to church for prep time, and at 4:45 the kids and I also drove over for a 5:00 English worship service. Upon its completion, Pedro headed home to drop off the kids with a babysitter while I waited with our pastoral colleagues for another couple to join us at church for a 7:00 counseling session. We finished at 10:30, I took our babysitter home, and as mentioned at the beginning of this post it was nearly midnight when Pedro and I dropped into chairs in our living room and took a breath of this crazy, lovely life He's given us.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Twelve Years of Celebrating Isabel Hope


Dear Sissy,

I may wake up the morning of your birthday without recognizing the person sleeping in your bed! :) What a fun surprise for you today to have the opportunity to do something you had wanted to try - straightening your cool curls. You are beautiful with your "new look" but I had to post both of these pictures because you are also gorgeous just the way God made you. I was secretly so proud of you when after six hours you smiled at the sight of yourself and obviously enjoyed the change, yet made it clear you weren't aiming for it to be a permanent one (much to the surprise of your hairdressers!) I love that you have enough confidence in who you are to experiment, but also to value your individuality.

As you are turning into a teenager right before our eyes with just a year to go to hit that "magical" number, I know that sometimes you experience frustration or embarrassment. This is the age of wanting to fit in with everyone else and be liked by your peers. One day it is a super fun stage of life, and the next it can be very hard. You might find this difficult to believe, but I get it. I really do. In fact, so many characteristics you demonstrate remind me of myself at your age. Enjoying reading, having a strong opinion, being feisty and funny. In other ways, though, you are uniquely you. I love observing you and being your mom!

As usual your birthday gifts are not the kind that can be wrapped, but rather involve others and making memories. I'm so glad your good friends have returned to Chile and we can spend your special day together. I'm looking forward to the day when God makes your dream come true and we can go to Haiti for your birthday! He has such great things in store for your life as you continue to learn about Him and trust Him and love Him. I pray that your heart will always and forever be wholly His.

We love you, Isabel Hope Garcia! Have a very happy and wonderful 12th birthday.

Love,
Mommy

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Birthday Posts by Year:

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

Sunday, June 01, 2014

What I See on a Wednesday

"I'm not sure I should have you wait here while I bring it out," she says, scanning the dark street in front of her solid four-story apartment block. We both squint suspiciously at the lone man standing alongside a nearby dumpster, apparently waiting for a late-night cab. Not for the first time I consider how colorful these Wednesday night drives can be. I also feel a twinge of guilt that after retrieving her package, I will be quickly driving away. Meanwhile she'll be carefully locking the wooden entry doors behind her before reaching her own room with its relative safety next door to Iquique's Agropecuario (fish and produce and everything in between) market.

The usual anticucho salespeople are missing from their corner as I pass by. My other passengers have commented before that they think the little metal sales cart is actually a front for other, less-healthy indulgences - after all, who buys shish kebabs on a deserted road at 11 p.m.? I'm not really sure. 

I am even less sure when I realize my final companion and I have gotten so busy talking that we've missed our usual turn. Now we are passing by tight groups of grim men on dimly-lit streets who stare unsmilingly as we pass by. She shivers and says, "I don't like this road. I think there is gang activity here." I think we each silently breathe a sigh of relief when her doorway is in sight. Last week, she reminded me to go ahead and turn left at the light (despite the street sign saying not to.) The streets to the right are riskier at night, or so she says.

Making sure my doors are securely locked, I turn left. A couple of blocks away, I count the prostitutes at the intersection. Last week there was only one. Today there are four, in the tightest of short skirts and scant shirts. Every time I feel the same thing: sadness. They are immigrants, and I just can't believe this is what they came here for. Nobody dreams of this for a better life ... do they?

The downtown market is still open to late-night customers drinking fresh fruit juices and eating churrascos and completos. This is where the buses pick up passengers at this time, traveling north to Arica or crossing over to Peru and Bolivia. Occasionally one or two full-length bundles in a doorway reveal the already-sleeping homeless. Elsewhere light lingers from bars where men bunch around beer and a fuzzy tv screen for company.

Stopping at the final streetlight before exiting downtown makes me uneasy. Often the self-proclaimed window washers are already drinking and surly with one another. But just a few yards away, light floods the avenue as I turn onto the Cavancha beach tourist stretch. A huge neon screen flashes the latest events or sales pitches in town. Cars are backed up in the far right lane, turning towards the garish invitation of Iquique's casino.

It may be close to midnight, but the BMX and skate park still have a few active participants. Earlier, on the first part of my drive, students had spilled out of one particular school and it was explained to me that night classes were offered for high school equivalency there. Each week we also pass a brass band practicing on the street with only the street lamps for illumination. Nonetheless, they play with gusto!

Once my friend from downtown was at my home on the south side of Iquique. Nearing my (fairly) quiet street, I remember her words. "It's like another world here," she said. I can certainly see her point as I turn the key and slip inside the high, safe gates of my own home.

It's what I see on a Wednesday.