La Rambla, Pocitos

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

a synopsis of this moment...

Here's what's on my (perhaps our) mind right now...

1. We are starting to look at houses/apartments in Montevideo via e-mail. This is exciting but scary at the same time. The main concern we have is safety for our very busy little boy. We also want to be able to enjoy having people over to our house/apartment.

2. We take our final tests in Spanish in just a few weeks. We are so ready to really use well all that we have learned. We ready to be done with classes and at the same time trying to drink in all the instruction that we can while we still have our wonderful teachers here to help us.

3. We are bracing for the impact of another international move on our family. We can already see our kids, as young as they are, feeling the stress of the change. Change is almost never easy. In our case it is wonderful - something we have looked forward to for so long - but it is change, and change is hard.

4. We are dreading the packing that is going to have to happen in the next few weeks. Tonight I packed for a 2 night trip (our first with 6 people), and that was hard enough.

5. We are thankful for all that we have learned this year that had nothing to do with Spanish. Perhaps another post will come later about this, but for now, to try to sum it up...

We have learned that stressful times do not have to produce a spirit of stress. On the contrary, times of stress are actually gifts to us, calling us to cling to the peace of His Presence.

6. We are very aware of the high cost of a vehicle and everything else we will need to outfit our house/apartment. We are also very aware of the results of the last election and how this might impact giving, both to our support funds and to the individual accounts that will help us buy a car and outfit our house/apartment.

7. We are sure that the assignment hasn't changed. We know that the resources for this assignment are already in existence. Somewhere there are Kingdom workers who have already been supplied with the resources that we need to complete our assignment. We are trusting that those workers are going to walk in obedience, releasing the resources and being blessed and transformed in the process.

8. We want to hear from those who consider themselves part of our team. Your encouragement and exhortation are invaluable, letting us know that we aren't doing this alone.

I wish I could think of a way to close, but the fatigue is getting to me at the moment. Time for bed. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

a day the other side of town

This morning we decided to visit the coffee shop that our friends here in San Jose have started. This coffee shop would be about a 20 minute drive in a car. We, of course, do not have a car, and to take a taxi that far would be pretty expensive, so we took (including the trip there and back) 4 buses, 2 taxis, and we walked for about 20 minutes.

We left our house at about 9:45 this morning, walked to the bus stop, waited over 20 minutes for the bus, took the bus to one bus stop downtown, took a taxi from that bus stop to another bus station, then took another bus, which dropped us off about a block from the coffee shop.

Once there, we visited with our friends (this was definitely the best part) while enjoying some awesome coffee and desserts (Micah had fallen asleep on the second bus so he slept through the desserts - shhh, don't tell him), and then we walked down the road a bit to eat lunch at Subway. After lunch we repeated the entire process - bus, taxi, bus, then walk. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long for either bus on the way home because by this time we were all a bit tired. We got home at 3:00 p.m.

Did I mention that we did this with 4 kids ages 6 and under? Yikes! But it was great to get out of the house and go somewhere.

Can you tell that we are excited about getting to Uruguay (in less than 2 months!!) and getting a car???

Because of the incredibly high cost of vehicles in Uruguay, our vehicle fund still needs about $20,000.

We are asking you...
to pray with us for the release of these funds
to consider what part of this assignment God might be giving you
to pray that God would send us just the right vehicle for us after we arrive

To make a donation online to our vehicle fund, click here.

We cannot begin to say just how excited we are to be so close to living in Montevideo, Uruguay. This year has been incredible for so many reasons (future blog post coming).

Thank you for being on assignment with us.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Post-baby Musings...Having a Baby in Costa Rica

Everyone wants to know - what's it like to have a baby in a foreign country?

Really, not much different than having a baby in your own country.

For us, there were several helpful factors:

First, we were blessed to have learned a decent amount of Spanish before the birth, so for the most part we understood whatever people asked or told us. The influence of anesthesia was not helpful for my (Timbrel's) Spanish brain, I must admit, though.

Second, the hospital where Lillian was born is incredibly modern. Except for being noticeably smaller, it felt just like any hospital in the USA. Many staff members speak a decent amount of English, also.

Third, this was our fourth C-section experience, and our fourth time to walk into the wonderful world of caring for a newborn. We knew what to expect, what to do with this tiny bundle of sweetness, etc.

Fourth, some gracious family members came to stay with our other three kids while we were at the hospital. Some friends here in Costa Rica stayed with the younger two kids at our house while our oldest went with the family members to be the first ones to see the baby as she made her way to the nursery. No matter where you are in the world, life is easier with friends and family.

There were a few things that were different, some for the better! During our one night stay after the C-section (that's different!), we SLEPT. For some reason the nurses and other medical professionals don't have to do as many things to you or the baby during the night, so when the baby was asleep (which was most of the time), we were, too.

This hospital allowed us to check into the room where we would be sleeping that night before the C-section happened. It was great to be able to put all of our "stuff" away and not have to find someone to tote it around until two hours after the C-section when I am finally escorted from the recovery room to our actual room.

Not sure if it's Costa Rican custom, or just at this hospital, but our hospital had a lady from a local beauty salon that does the hair and make-up of all the new mommies before they go home - fun.

The biggest difference for Jimbo was walking into an operating room where the operation was already, um, in progress. He has never seen so much of the actual surgery. Fortunately he didn't pass out on us:).

All in all, we had the same difficulties that we normally have - my face itched like crazy for several hours afterwards, I couldn't get close to Micah for several days until the stitches felt safe, there's pain in the adjustment to nursing, and I was TIRED. (Ok, I'm still tired, and so is Jimbo - please keep praying for Micah to sleep well at night.) BUT, this has by far been our best C-section recovery and newborn experience. My body is doing amazingly well (especially after four session of physical therapy to help out my back, which mysteriously fell apart after the C-section), and we are enjoying this baby.

Life with four kids is definitely different than life with three - but that's no surprise. There have been plenty of stressful moments already, but this is an exciting time because it's a time for God to craft more mercy and grace into our parenting as the demands on us increase.

Pray for us, that we would choose to follow our Shepherd onto paths of Rest and Obedience instead of paths of frustration and control, especially in moments, or rather weeks, of fatigue. It is a time of molding, of being soft clay in the Potter's hands, and right now the wheel is flying.

Next week we have the privilege of welcoming my parents to their first outside-the-USA experience! Please stand with us in prayer that my mom will receive her passport before she needs to leave for the airport next Wednesday. On paper things do not look good (red tape...), but our God is the God Who placed the waters where they belong -  putting a passport where it belongs is nothing for Him.

Maybe my next blog post will be about how complicated it is to get Lillian's US passport...
hopefully not.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Redemption: August 31

I'm having a baby in four days.

After walking through the maternity ward at the hospital in downtown San José today, it is starting to feel a bit more real. (Doing 30 minutes of prenatal monitoring while listening to a set of new parents learning how to feed their baby didn't hurt either.)

Emotions (and probably hormones) are flooding me from all directions. I can almost tangibly feel it -  I start to get excited, to feel the joy of this moment, and then something in me tries to put the brakes on the excitement, to hold out on the amazement until I actually see my beautiful baby girl. It is a constant battle to embrace the moment, to feel the joy of anticipation.

What makes it hard to feel joy is that almost-gone-but-still-there nagging feeling of "What if?" What if I am walking into pain? What if there is an unknown, extremely difficult assignment just ahead?

What if what I think (and have every reason to believe) is going to happen doesn't?

Disengaging from emotion is really the only way to keep from feeling the painful what ifs. The problem is, the only way to feel life's joy is to first know life's pain. Shutting myself off from pain also keeps me from experiencing joy.

When God gave us this pregnancy in this time in this place, He continued His work of redemption. We wanted to have a pregnancy of peace - of faith - of resting in Him without a constant struggle with anxiety and fear.

Lillian's name represents who God has told us she would be: our child of peace.

Lillian: means God is my vow
Faith: for us, this name represents peace - peace that is only possible through resting in Him by faith

Today we learned that God is working even more redemption through this pregnancy than we knew. Since our language school classes start next week (don't worry, I'm not starting until October 1, but Jimbo has to start ASAP), and since the sonograms reveal that Lillian is very ready for life outside the womb, my OB agreed to move the C-section date from next Tuesday to this Friday! This is great news.

The redemption factor: this Friday would have been the 28th birthday of my brother, Troy, who died almost three years ago. Troy died on our sister Tamra's birthday - my sister the fifth born. Lillian will be born on Troy's birthday - Lillian is also a fifth born. Both Lillian and Tamra will always have birthdays that include joyfully painful hole - a Troy-sized hole.

Since Troy died in 2009, many of our friends and family have, on his birthday, gone to Krispy Kreme (or other available donut shops) for a Boston cream donut to remember Troy. It looks like this year I will not be finding a donut shop with a Boston cream donut (it was already going to be very interesting to pull this off in San José, Costa Rica, where I'm pretty sure Boston cream donuts do not exist).

So I leave the maintenance of this tradition to you and other family and friends. Maybe you could even eat an extra one for me (and for Jimbo, and for our kids:). As you relish (or just think about) a chocolate-covered, cream-filled donut, will you pray for us? This is an exciting transition, but it's still a transition. We are thankful to have Jimbo's dad and sister here to be extra hands and feet for the next few weeks. Pray for us and for each one of our kids as we enter this new world of being a family of six together while attempting to learn this language called Spanish.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." 2 Cor 10:4

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Song of the Spirit

First a little news flash: We have just over six weeks left until the arrival of baby Lillian.  We have a tentative delivery date of September 4.  That is the first day of classes for our last trimester of schooling here, so Jimbo will be missing the first few days of class.  Timbrel will miss the entire month of September, but will catch up quickly after that, as she will be working one-on-one with a tutor for October, November, and December.  Language learning is going really well for us, and we are excited to be where we are in our learning.  Thank you for your prayers and for financially supporting us through this year.

We're very thankful for the convenience of podcasts, as that is our food and drink during this year of language learning. The year of language learning can be a dry year, spiritually, but we've been watered well through these internet ministries.  We've enjoyed messages from several churches this year and have enjoyed the "community" it provides, even though we are so far away.

Recently, we have been blessed by listening to Pastor Mike Plunket's podcasts.  Mike is the pastor of Risen King Alliance Church in New City, New York.  Our lives have been enriched by the Holy Spirit through listening to Mike preach through the book of Nehemiah.

Before the births of each one of our children, God has ministered to us in a special way, teaching us, preparing us, nurturing us. Last week's sermon, A Better Song to Sing (click on title to listen) has given us a theme for the next few weeks before our lives are both enriched beyond measure and turned upside down at the same time.

What stuck out to us was the point Mike made about the song of our heart.  What is communicated from the music of our hearts is more powerful than the words of our mouth.  This is something the church has struggled with for a long time.  Mike quoted the philosopher Nietzsche: "Christians will have to sing better songs before I shall believe in their redeemer."

We have been given a new song to sing: the Song of the Spirit.  The song of peace, faith, praise, and thanksgiving -- music that is eternal!  In order to truly be the Song of the Spirit, the song has to be real and genuine, in spite of how badly and clumsily the words may come out (a real encouragement for us when we communicate in Spanish!)  That new song takes people who are nothing and makes them valiant!

The problem: the Song we know we should have is often not the song we hear coming out of our hearts (and therefore eventually out of our mouths).  And the harder we try to come up with that Song, the more our "music" degenerates. Worse still, we often don't even recognize that the Song we are communicating is nowhere close to the Song we think we're portraying.

Paul explained it pretty well: "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me...For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." 
Romans 7:15-23

We know that our identity is in the righteousness of Christ. We know that His Spirit lives in us, filling us with the Song of the fruit of the Spirit as we identify with Him, His death, and His resurrection. Because of this, when we find ourselves flat on our faces, with the song of death resonating around us, we can say, with Paul, "It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." My identity is in Christ; to identify myself with sin is to claim that I am an "instrument for unrighteousness" (Romans 6). I can repent, be cleansed, be free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)! Even the very process of this is part of the Song. Life in the Spirit is not about perfection; what do I do when I fail in front of others? Often our failures are used for good in spite of ourselves.

We make countless choices everyday about whose instrument we will be in each moment - will I allow Satan to use me as an "instrument for unrighteousness" by listening to the lies that He is constantly feeding me, just as he did with Eve in the garden? Or will I allow the Song of the Spirit to flow through me as I choose to stop and realize the truth in each moment of decision?

Our assignment is to sing this song of the Spirit to people who have never heard.  Will you partner with us, and sing with us the Song of the Spirit wherever your assignment is?  You, along with us, are living in a world that needs to hear the song of Jesus' love, not just religious words, but a song from a life totally dedicated to God.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Redemption: the Saga Continues...

"He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Today we had another doctor's appointment.  Twenty four weeks into the pregnancy and baby and mommy are doing fine. Daddy is too, for that matter.  

We wanted God to do something special in this pregnancy.  We wanted a pregnancy redeemed.  With Madeline and Oliver, the pregnancy was "fun."  It was a time of anticipating life and preparing for it, in spite of the aches and pains and antojos (cravings).  

Since we lost Oliver in January, 2008, we've had two full pregnancies.  These two pregnancies, which gave us Kayden and Micah, were not "fun."  There was plenty of nervousness and anxiousness, even apprehension.  So we asked God to redeem our next pregnancy, thinking it would come after we got to Uruguay.

Fast-forward to January, 2012.  We just made an international move, were just beginning to live in a new land, with a new culture, new language, and new life.  God picked this year and this setting to answer our prayer.  This pregnancy was completely unexpected, and, in fact, is happening during what most people call the most stressful year of a family's life.  The year of language study definitely has enough challenges and transitions in itself without a high-risk pregnancy.  

We have to admit, life has been so busy, we have not had a lot of time to think about the pregnancy, except for the occasional doctor visit.  Well, now the pregnancy is forcing itself into awareness.  You could say it's coming into full view.  The Latinos have no problem letting us know how big Timbrel is getting.  It's great in this culture to comment on the size of the pregnant mommy.  The physical discomfort for Timbrel is making it hard to sit in classes or lay down or stand or sit.  A phrase we often tell our teachers and Latino friends is "a Timbrel le duele todo el cuerpo," literally, Timbrel's whole body hurts.  So baby "L" is making herself a topic of discussion, making the pregnancy come to the forefronts of our minds on a more permanent basis.  

So this week, I (Jimbo) have been thinking more about this pregnancy.  The old fears and shadows of anxiety have been poking their heads up on occasion.  I began to think about all that God has done in our lives over the past year and a half through emotional healing in spiritual places.  Why is the anxiety returning?  

Is it a matter of faith, in that I find myself lacking and thus falling into old traps?  Do I just somehow need to have more faith?  Or is it that I do have faith, but have it in something I don't and can't know, a mystery, and thus don't have a box sufficient for my fears?  God I know, but His heaven I don't.  These ponderings over my current situation and over eternity filled my mind.

Then a question came to mind, "If God were to open heaven and show me all that He is preparing for me, would I be afraid of or anxious for anything in this life?"  As I thought about this question and discussed it with Timbrel, a boldness and courage came over me.  There would be nothing to fear.  Life would have nothing in it with any power to rock my world.  There would be no such thing as personal bad news (sad news, yes, but bad news, no.)  Even the most earth-shaking news of impending death could not move me.  Dying would be a sad time to say good-bye, but a joyous time of transition and victory.  Death would have no sting, no hold over me.  The pain would not bring fear, but greater anticipation, for I would soon be entering the rest of God.

Today in the doctor's office we had a sonogram.  The nurse came in and prepared Timbrel and did whatever it is she does.  Then the doctor came in and the nurse shot him an uncertain look.  An all too familiar feeling overwhelmed me.  It was the same feeling when I saw the nurses and doctors look at each other on the cold night of January 20, 2008 before telling us the baby was no longer with us.  That icy feeling came back today and I felt myself wanting to bolt.  I stood up, but there was no place to run.  No place to get away to.  The doctor then proceeded to do the sonogram, and I heard the baby's heart beat and saw her moving around.  I saw a 3-D image, and she even appeared to be smiling at us.  Everything was good and well in her little world.  Nothing was out of the ordinary.  

As I stood there, the question came back into my mind, but it was a little different, "If God were to open heaven and show me all that He is preparing for my children, would I be afraid of anything in this life?"  That boldness and courage came back.  The cowardliness I just felt turned into peace.  Why would I not want my children to be in that wonderful palace, in the physical presence of the King of kings, where there is no fear, no pain, no hurt, and with nothing or no one to ever harm them again.  Would that really be bad news?  That's where Oliver is already, in reality.

I walked out of the doctor's office and waited for Timbrel to pay the bill.  I walked to the elevators and there painted on the entire wall was the verse that started this blogpost: "Todo lo hizo hermoso en su tiempo, y ha puesto eternidad en el corazón del hombre, sin que este alcance a comprender la obra hecha por Dios desde el principio hasta el fin." Eclesiastés 3:11  God really does speak Spanish and He was speaking directly to my heart in this new language.  He has put eternity into my heart.  His ways are mysterious.  From our earthly perspective, He is not safe.  He is redeeming this pregnancy.  There is joy in His presence.  He has made all things beautiful in its time.  SO THAT in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Curious George Comes Home

Curious George has been a member of our family for about three years. When we first visited Uruguay, we took George with us and photographed his adventures so that our then almost 3 year old daughter could relate more to our pictures when we returned. At that time we had no idea that George would become the dearly beloved best friend of our second (then only 3 months old) daughter, K.

So for every trip we have taken since K was about 9 months old (and I do mean every TRIP - to the store, to a friend's house, anywhere), for every nap and every bedtime, George (a.k.a. "Georgie") has been there. He wears the love well. His neck doesn't hold itself up anymore. His stuffing has been, er, redistributed. His skin tone has shifted. He has a hole in his right ear - a very significant hole, because K puts her finger into that hole and twists, even in her sleep.

Life in Costa Rica has made it a bit more challenging to keep up with George. We don't have a car, so our options for getting to our destination include: walking (with or without using a stroller), taking a bus, taking a taxi, or a combination of some or all of the above. 2 adults, 3 kids, diaper bag, other random paraphernalia, and...Georgie. Always Georgie. (Fortunately our firstborn, who still cherishes her Raggedy Ann doll, is content to leave Raggedy at home and sleep with her at night. Raggedy still makes all long trips, though:)

Have you ever noticed that when you do something out of your normal routine, it is disturbingly easy to make mistakes? Add one new variable, and the chances of losing or breaking something skyrocket. I'm guessing (hoping) that the chances of mistakes are also much higher when you have small children, and that, maybe in a few years, I will have more sanity and lose fewer things. I can dream, can't I?

Last Sunday morning was part of our normal routine - go to church. But out of our routine at the same time. For some unexplained reason, my stomach was acting up all day last Sunday, so I decided to stay home from church and keep little M with me. There is no nursery, and he is not a fan of sitting still for an hour and a half, so sometimes our Sunday mornings are a little hairy (New Variable #1). Jimbo's parents are visiting us right now (New Variable #2), so when we called the taxi and everyone piled in, there were 5 people in the taxi (which we thought nothing about since our family of 5 uses taxis all the time). But this taxi driver told Jimbo that he could only take 4 people (New Variable #3). But wait, for more $$, he says, he can take 5. So the best plan was to get out of the current taxi (New Variable #4) and walk down the street to find another one. Normally we are very careful to check the taxi to make sure we didn't leave anything behind, but the strangeness of the situation clouded the details.

On they walked, down the street, to a new taxi driver who took them to church with no problems. K didn't go to children's church because she fell asleep in church, and no one remembers seeing George anywhere on the way to church, at church, or on the way home from church. I knew, though, that George wasn't in our house, because I had asked K just before she walked out the door if she was going to take him, and I had seen her pick him up and take him with her.

Jimbo and his parents searched all over the church before they left, just to be sure that George wasn't there. When they came home without him, and found that he was not at home either, our hearts sank. We looked, but we knew we probably wouldn't find him. I called the taxi line, having heard that sometimes the drivers would turn things in. We thought that surely George had been left behind in the first taxi - the one they had to get out of because he didn't want to take 5 people. This meant that the driver was probably not going to be too inclined to help out, even if he did hear the announcement from the taxi line office.

We looked and prayed and called the taxi line, and looked and prayed some more. Jimbo even walked over to the taxi line (where the taxis wait to be called for service) and talked with a very nice "taxista" (driver) who promised to be on the look-out for George and even return him to our house if he found him!

Sunday night Jimbo, his dad, and some friends from school went to a professional Costa Rican soccer game. Jimbo couldn't really enjoy the night because his heart was so heavy. K, meanwhile, was using her budding imagination to explain to her other monkeys that Georgie had taken a taxi to the Monkey Beach (there actually is a beach here that we refer to - because of K - as the "monkey beach").  Later she came up with the idea that we should all take a taxi to the Monkey Beach to look for George.

I don't know if I can explain why the threat of this loss was so devastating for us. Would it have been so hard if we were still living in the United States? I don't know. On Monday night I cried my eyes out, begging God once again to "please bring Georgie home." The thought of my little girl without her best friend just broke my heart. Was it because I know her so well, and I understand how sensitive she is? Or was it because my heart had to once again consider a loss - a matter of grief - a hole left in our hearts as big as our love for K and her love for George. My heart has learned the importance of acknowledging the importance of loss. As I've told my oldest daughter many times, the grief we feel shows us our love for the ones we miss. I think that any parent will agree that it is easier to go through a loss yourself than to watch your child go through that loss.

Whatever the reason, our hearts were broken, and we continued to pray. On Monday night I e-mailed some ladies who pray for K specifically. One of them wrote back, believing with us that George would be found, and encouraging us to seek direction about where he might be. We did, and began to feel more and more that we should call the pastor of our church (his wife tutor's us in Spanish, so we had his cell phone number). On Tuesday afternoon I called, using my "best" Spanish to explain the situation. I could hardly finish my sentence before he said (I'm pretty sure, since he said it in Spanish), "Yes, I have it in my office. There was a monkey running on the roof." (I have yet to hear the complete story about the roof...and there was something about a girl running with George - I think a girl other than K?)

I couldn't believe it!! I was overjoyed! The pastor promised that his wife would return George to our house that afternoon. I ran into the kitchen, crying, to tell Jimbo that George had been found (it's possible that at first our empleada, who only speaks Spanish, thought that I was delivering some bad news:). What a miracle! We have no idea how George came be at church, much less to be found at church. But we are so thankful!

That night, about 9:00, K got her Georgie back (see Facebook for the picture). What a beautiful reunion it was. K knows that Jesus brought her Georgie back to her, and that Jesus loves her and wants to be her very best friend, one that will never leave her or be left behind.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Getting home. . .

   It's always an adventure, isn't it.  That's what we tell our kids when things don't happen like we plan them.  Today we had one of those adventures.
   We were finishing up our week of vacation where we enjoyed a wonderful week of rest in a little community called Playa Bejuco.  Last Saturday, the bus dropped us off right in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the west coast of Costa Rica. Things seemed kind of sketchy, but the bus was gone, and with nothing but banana and mango trees surrounding us and a faded sign that read "Playa Bejuco," we followed the instructions given to us in an e-mail and walked with our three kids and luggage down the dirt road.  We rounded a bend in the road and spotted the office which was about one-third of a mile away from the main road, and we proceeded to check in.  A guy with a cart attached to his bicycle loaded our stuff into his cart and led us away from the office.  We walked some more, another half mile or so, into the very nice community called Costa del Sol.  We settled into our comfortable vacation home and enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave popcorn, and Pepsi for our first dinner of the week.
   We found the gated community to be very tranquil and enjoyable.  With two swimming pools and a private beach, we spent most of our time in water.  We napped in the afternoons, enjoying the treat of air conditioning in the hot beach climate.  We finally discovered Netflix and were able to enjoy some new movies as a family.  We treated ourselves a couple times to the open air restaurant of a local hotel, which was about ten minutes away from our home, listening to the waves and smelling the smells of the ocean.  Most of the time, our meals came from food we either brought with us or bought at the mini-super that we found outside our community.
  Then today, we started our journey home.  The shop-keeper at the mini-super, a supposed expert on the bus schedule, assured us that the bus would pick us up at the same place we were dropped off.  We loaded our luggage into the back of a pick-up truck that belonged to a neighbor who drove us to the bus stop.  We unloaded and before the guy drove off, he said he had his fingers crossed, hoping we could get on our bus, since this is one of the busiest travel days of the year and the buses are packed.
   At the bus stop, an old tin-covered three-walled structure, there were several other men and one lady waiting for buses to wherever they were going.  Their bus came, and we found ourselves alone as a family, enjoying a nicely overcast, not so hot day.  We waited and waited.  Several buses came by that we thought were ours, but they sped by.  At last we were sure we spotted our bus in the distance roaring down the road. Timbrel walked down the road a ways in order to flag down the driver, waving our tickets frantically in the air.  The bus, clearly marked, and about an hour and a half late, sped by leaving us in the diesel exhaust and dust.  That's when Jimbo turned to the kids and announced that an adventure was beginning.
  We didn't quite know what to do, and had no other option, except to wait for another bus; a bus that would stop for every person who flagged it down, a bus that would take hours longer, a bus we weren't sure was even coming.  But what else could we do?  We then prayed for God to provide a bus.  About 15 minutes later, with Micah getting a bit more cranky, and the sun getting a little more intense, the pick-up truck that dropped us off came pulling up.  They were going to get supplies at a town down the road when they saw us, and so they offered us a ride.  This town, about 15 km away, would provide a better chance of getting a bus, since it was a town, and not a stop in the middle of no where.  We agreed.
  Once again, we loaded up.  We arrived in the little town, and made our way to the bus station.  The station was packed with people.  The man dropped us off, wished us luck, and he was off to the local grocery store.  We carried our stuff over to the ticket window and tried to communicate that our bus passed us without stopping.  The lady behind the window smiled and then proceeded to explain that the bus does not stop at little stops like ours, and that we needed to catch it here.  We had missed our 12 o'clock bus. The next bus would arrive at this station at 3 p.m., but there may not be room for us, since there were other ticketed passengers waiting.
  We spotted a restaurant across the street, and we were getting hungry.  We had about an hour until our bus arrived, and so we went and enjoyed a much appreciated hot meal.  The kids, with food in their bellies, were much happier.  We went back to the station a little before 3, and waited about 10 minutes.  The bus showed up, and it was packed.  A bus employee got out and began loading other passenger's luggage under the bus.  I approached him with our tickets for the noon bus.  He looked at them and told us to wait.  He went and spoke with the driver and came back to explain there were only two seats left.  We asked if we could go ahead and get on and explained that our kids would just sit on our laps.  He agreed and began tagging our bags and throwing them under the bus.
  We walked to the door and gave him our tickets.  He looked up and he asked where our other ticket was.  We were confused, because we had just counted four, which was all we needed.  He showed them to us, and there were only three.  The bus was ready to pull out, and he motioned for us to go ahead and board.  He told us to hold our kids, so the automatic censor would count only three.  So we rushed aboard, tripping the censor three times.  We thought we were good; at least we were on board, and we were only taking up two seats out of our four we had purchased.  Jimbo had Micah and Madeline in his lap about four rows behind Timbrel, who had Kayden in her lap.  Praise God for providing a bus!
   We rode the bus for two and a half hours back to San Jose.  Jimbo couldn't make it holding Madeline and a fidgety baby, so Timbrel got the privilege of Madeline so Jimbo could wrestle with Micah.  Being blessed again, the man in front of Jimbo had a little dog in his lap.  That made for a good distraction whenever Micah started to whine.
   We arrived in San Jose and unloaded.  The employee who loaded our bags began to explain that we needed to pay for the ticket we didn't have.  I pulled out the receipt, which clearly showed we had purchased four tickets.  That was not good enough.  He needed a paper ticket because he had to turn in those tickets and he was accountable for them.  Not sure what to do, I asked to speak with his boss.  It was getting dark as we waded through the crowded station to a barred window, where he motioned to an older gentleman to help us.  He explained the situation, and the man behind the window took a good look at us.  He told the employee that he could accept our receipts as our ticket and told us we were free to go.  So we grabbed our bags before anyone could change their mind, and flagged a taxi.  We made it home around 6:15.  Another adventure over.  Another answered prayer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Showers of Blessing

It's amazing how quickly life can dry up. Even in times of relatively low stress, even on days where I seem to avoid the major pitfalls that come my way, even when I manage to carve out time to interact with the Word Himself, there can be dryness.
I realized one day what was causing this. I was becoming a lake. Receiving (though sometimes in trickles, but receiving nonetheless), but not releasing. The environment that we are in for this year is not incredibly conducive for speaking into others' lives, yet both of us have spiritual gifts that are quite verbal. In order to use our giftings we need relationships - relationships that give us the freedom to release blessing.
We of course are involved in relationships. Here in Costa Rica we have each other, our kids, and some good friends from school. In the States we have our extended families, friends, and ministry partners (that would be many of you who are now reading this - thank you!).
In order to not shrivel up, we need opportunities to intentionally interact with others in ways that allow us to speak blessing, to intercede, to exhort, and to listen. When we walk in our gifting (what's yours, by the way?), we not only bless others, we also experience refreshing streams of blessing.
It is almost rainy season in Costa Rica. As the rains come, we long to be instruments of refreshing, to be parts of the body working together for the whole. Maybe you are a part of that process with us. Maybe you have an assignment to bless someone (it could be us!).
Without awareness of potential assignments, there is no action. This I have learned, and that is how I found myself becoming a lake. Feel free to remind me in two days, two weeks, two months, or two years of this truth. To quote the animated Robin Hood, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or forgetful." May we be so enflamed with His Presence that is it impossible to forget to pass it on.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Choosing to Rest...

"God is my Shepherd
And I am his little lamb.
He feeds me
He guides me
He looks after me.
I have everything I need.
Inside, my heart is very quiet.

As quiet as lying still in soft green grass
In a meadow
By a little stream."

Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones (adaptation of Psalm 23)

This sounds great, right? A quiet heart is resting in a meadow, listening to the gentle gurgling of a quiet stream...
Then there's reality: the baby is cranky, very cranky (currently has a virus and is cutting new teeth), and he also has a knack for being caught up in the potty-training adventures of his older sister. Multiple accidents daily and serious lack of sleep at night, alongside the rigors of language study, pregnancy, living cross-culturally, etc...
Rest? Quiet? "I have everything I need"?

We have asked our Shepherd so many times to restore the sleep of our precious, still-very-snuggly 13 month old. Either He's not answering us...or He is. Perhaps He wants to teach us how to rest in Him when life doesn't feel like a meadow with a quiet stream. Perhaps He wants to teach us how to have a heart that is very quiet even as we respond to the not-so-quiet issues He's called us to deal with.

He is, after all, still the One in charge. He has not lost a bit of victory. Whatever He asks us to do, He assures us He will give us the strength to do it. He is totally capable of "strengthen[ing us] with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy" (Col.1).

This is a moment-by-moment battle. When I am tempted to be frustrated (or when I have already begun to feel frustrated), the question is beginning to arise: "Will you rest in Me and enjoy this task that I have given you or will you just 'survive'?"

We know our true identity; He knows our true identity. May we live as the royalty we truly are.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

after a month...the rubber begins to meet the road

Making a cross-cultural move always has some degree of excitement to it. There was a time in our lives that we thought excitement would carry us through the stress of a cross-cultural move. Fortunately, before we moved to Costa Rica, we realized that, as much as we love adventure, adventure is not enough to provide endurance under stress.

Stress is finally catching up with us, just a bit. The unexpected "adventure" that we rejoice to find ourselves in (i.e. adding another member to our family this year) is so exciting! But the reality is that even excitement (i.e., adventure) brings stress; in this case, it's the "mommy feels yucky all the time" kind of stress, which brings the "daddy has to do a lot more" kind of stress and the "why don't mommy and daddy have time for _____ anymore" kind of stress.

And so we enter a phase of the adventure that requires a lot of stress management; how can we constantly, consciously bring our stress levels down so that they do not stay elevated? A friend wisely reminded us that living stressed actually works again our language learning by in effect killing the brain cells that we need in order to learn a new language. Not to mention that living stressed brings out the worst in us, making it oh-so-very-easy to respond in harshness to those we love most. The long-term effects of allowing stress to dominate our lives are scary indeed.

Once again my favorite book brings a Word of hope that I can grab onto: "Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me. Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into My Presence." Yes, we know that eating right, getting enough sleep (!?!), and exercising (no worries there with all the walking) are great ways to manage stress, and we're doing our best at them. But there is no better antidote for stress than sitting in the Presence of the Prince of Peace. Pray for us to keep going there - and more than just in the morning for a few concentrated moments. Pray for us to live there. "In Your Presence all my fears are washed away..."

The Spirit has been encouraging me with these words today: "I will not ask you to do anything that I will not give you the strength to do." Today I survived a church service with no nursery with a very cranky but incredibly active one year old; it was not fun. But as I sat in an empty room (which I was very thankful for) with him as he screamed, the Spirit said, "If I ask you to do this, I will help you do it. I will even help you do it with a heart that is at rest in me and not full of frustration." This is what I long for - to do everything with a heart that rests in Him instead of pumping the heat of frustration through my veins.  

I/we do not have all the answers. We will have many choices over the next several months; we will need wisdom for how to navigate these waters of childbirth during language school. Knowing that we have friends and family who love us, support us, and believe in us is HUGE - thank you for expressing your support for us.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2 weeks in...

We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica just over two weeks ago. In that time we've unpacked 28 bags (well, almost all of them - some we're saving for Uruguay), gone through orientation, celebrated two of our children's birthdays, and had three regular days of language classes.

Our house is wonderful. Bathtubs are a rarity in most places outside the USA, and ours is huge! It fits all three kids very well, so that is a great nighttime ritual. All of our major appliances are USA-style, which makes for early user-friendliness:) The rooms and furniture are comfortable, and now we are all set up with internet (which you cannot purchase without also getting cable, so at this moment Jimbo is preparing to watch the Tim Tebow, er, Broncos game tonight). In many ways our house here is more comfortable than our previous housing in Florida.

Our schedule is mostly settled. We leave the house (walking) five days a week at 7 a.m. to get the kids into their classes before ours starts at 7:30 a.m. Our classes are all finished by noon (then we wait for one kiddo until 1 p.m.). Lots of things happen in the afternoons - too many to list:)
We have established Fridays as "family date days." After school we'll try to do something fun as a family - this gives us something to look forward to during the week.  We go to bed earlier than we EVER have before - usually we're all asleep by 8:30.

Our kids are doing beautifully. They have weathered this transition incredibly well - thank you so much for talking to the Father about this for us! Our little one is still not sleeping well at night. We are taking turns getting up with him. We trust that this will not continue for the entire year and are thankful for when the change begins.

Our classes are going well. We (J and I) are in the same classes for four hours five days a week...right now this is a good thing:) We feel confident in class right now.

Right now we are learning that victory is not so much about doing things right (we've made a few mistakes since we've been here) as it is about our response during and after our failure. Consider the following quote from one of my favorite books:

"People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me."

We have already seen great victory here in San Jose as the stress of doing new things (and I really never can find a pen!) brings out the unlovely in us. What an amazing opportunity to be purified! We all know we're not perfect, but how do we ever move forward? Try going through stress in an environment of grace - His Presence.

We have so much to be thankful for: a (clean!) house, a job, amazing food (cooked for us),  healthy kids, a thriving marriage, supportive families, friends who love us, a high quality language school, and the health and strength to live the Pura Vida (as they say here in Costa Rica) with gusto.

We look forward to sharing with you (and hearing from you) as we progress through the year.
Happy (belated) New Year!