Friday, March 11, 2016

Lives of El Salvador: Giovanni

New blog post up today over at the new site.  Please click over here and meet an incredible man with an amazing story.  And please subscribe over at the new blog by email so that you don't miss anything!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Blog, New Post

New blog post over at the new site:

Please go visit and subscribe with your email over there, or I will miss you all!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I'm in the process of moving over to a new, more professional website.  I am starting on a new blog series called "Lives of El Salvador." Same blog, same posts, new look.

Please click over and subscribe to the new page so you don't miss a single thing!

photo credit: Loren Noyes

Friday, February 12, 2016

Start Again

When I moved to El Salvador I really thought I was going to be writing ALL the time.  I had big huge aspirations of writing beautiful words, accompanied by fabulous meaningful photos, that would make you feel all the things.....Life just doesn't quite happen like you think it might. For me, writing got pushed to the corner.  I have a lot of reasons for stopping, but a good friend I've had since the 7th grade, told me to just write. It can be scary and overwhelming, but that's not a reason to stop.

I just looked at my last post date and it was in October y'all. So it got me to thinking about this little old blog of mine.  Its gone through quite an evolution.  I started out "journaling" and keeping long distance friends and family up to date with my babies.  

Then I went through a phase of recipe blogging. Included in this was party planning ideas for families on a budget, and how to make special traditions and memories.  I am not kidding you when I tell you I have a draft sitting in my bank of writing, solely devoted to 90's music.  Boys II Men, Mariah Carey, girl bands and boys bands.

Soon after this I became involved in Adoption and Orphan advocacy.  Fundraising for friends' adoptions and starting orphan and foster care ministry at my church became a focus and I started attending seminars, holding planning meetings and going to the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit every year.  (Really going to miss going to Orlando this year!) I met so many incredible people and made great connections.  

As my writing drifted away from my family and more towards social justice, I began to creep towards a journey that would forever change me too.  An enormous life change happened and we moved to El Salvador. We worked with the local church on sharing Jesus, and community development to combat that severe poverty, gangs and lack of hope. Writing was pushed aside for a number of complicated reasons.   This brings us to today. 

As you can see, if you have stuck with me through all of that time, I've added ring, upon ring, upon ring to my tree of life. And I'm not even done yet.  God is not done with me yet.  I'm working on adding another ring, that is big and bad and scary.... and essential.

I'm really hoping to resurrect this blog, but for me that involves fear.  And insecurity. Why would people care about what I have to say?   What do I even have to say?  For a writer, its  kind of like putting a piece of art in a museum that no one stops to look at.  Then I saw this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald on Pinterest:


And my favorite fan is my Grandpa, so I know he will continue down this path with me.  What else could I possibly need? Plus Julie says to go for it :)

So I invite you to come along,  be encouraged, learn something new, meet new people, feel new things, and as always, to Love Like Crazy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Trip Home. Home?

When I was a kid, my family moved all over the place. I was born and lived my first 11 years in Oregon. All my family is there, minus my sisters.  So every Summer we would take a trip back to visit family, camp, see the beach etc.  I so vividly remember being missed and loved by my clan.  In their love, adoration and eagerness, they would often repeat, "When are you moving back?" "We miss you so much!" "Tell mom and dad you want to come home."   Huh..... home.... Oh my, they were so sweet and loving, and I understand completely the heart behind the questions.

For no fault on their part, my brothers and sisters and I would feel wracked with guilt. Guilt that through no fault of our own, we had made Grandma and Grandpa sad.  Guilt that... we liked it where we lived. We had school, friends, memories, youth groups, it was home.  I was absolutely jealous and still am, that my cousins can go see my precious grandparents whenever they want. I love and adore my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I'm TOTALLY jealous. But I've lived away for 20 years.  Home is a tricky thing, and for us amidst the joy at returning was pain and guilt that we were gone in the first place. 

So when Alex and I moved overseas with our four kids, I knew exactly what they were going through, minus the language barrier. The concept of home is difficult for kids who have been transplanted.  I think it is exceptionally difficult for a third culture kid.  Moving to another country with missionary parents, presents extra challenges.   When we first moved a lot of their statements began with: "Remember at home...."  "At home this is....." "In our house..." "I want to go home because...."  But now, those statements are directed towards our El Salvador home. 

Now, almost 2 years in we are preparing them for their first trip "home" tomorrow. These are not the same kids in their souls, that we brought down here. Two years taller, two years wiser, two years with other people, in another home.  Every one of them considers this place home.  They love their school, their friends, their people. They even love our tiny home.  More and more they are speaking the language, they are familiar will all of the roads, the routine, the places and the change in lifestyle. They are adjusted to tropical climate, so much so that when its 72  degrees in a restaurant, we are shivering.  

Alex and I were talking yesterday and decided that missionary years are like dog years. You know, how if a dog is 1 he is really 7?  We think missionary years are a 1:10 ratio.  So for those missionaries out there who have been at it for 15-20 years!! Holy mackerel, we stand in awe.   Its definitely been a missionary 2 years for our kids we think.  They are such different little people. And not so little anymore.  And right now this is their home.  Its familiar, and comfortable, and they love it. It feels like 20 years to us.

Yesterday, my most sensitive child, was getting teary. She came to me and told her that she is feeling sad that she is leaving. I was shocked, because a few months ago, she was REALLY missing the U.S. But she has come to love her teacher at school, her classmates and it is for sure reciprocated. Apparently her teacher started to cry because she is going to miss Addison so much.  We will only be gone 3 weeks and her teacher knows this, but that's how it is.  She just feels so caught between two worlds.

I know that my kids are overcome with excitement right now to go back to the U.S. We all cannot wait to be able to flush our toilet paper.  Donovan said the first thing he is going to do is drink water out of the kitchen sink at Grandpa's.  I am going to eat all of the pumpkin things. And all of the apple, cinnamon Autumn goodness. All of it. And consequently, also do a lot of running in the cool, not sweaty weather.  Oh my goodness, the family and friend time we are about to have!!! 

But they are going to struggle, I know its coming because I know their hearts like I know my own.  Or rather, I know their hearts, like Alex knows mine.  So much is different. They are different. The people there are different.  Everyone's lives kept on steadily moving forward.  Some things will be the same, and somethings never will be.   Some places will feel familiar, yet strange all at the same time. Maybe they will feel guilty that they are so happy to be back, maybe they will be sad, maybe they will just be joyful. I don't know.  Home is a tricky thing.     

So if you ever come across a third culture kid, here is what you can do to help their hearts.   I know you love and miss them,  we {missionaries} feel exactly the same about you.  But please do not use these phrases:

"Do you like it better here?"
"Do you miss living here?" ---this one causes inside guilty feelings when the answer is very complicated in their hearts
"When are you coming back for good?" 
"Do you want to move home?"

We are so so so so so stinking excited to have the opportunity to come back. Some very, very, very kind people made this possible for us, and we are over the moon excited.  We have missed our other home so much.  Being in our country of birth and language is going to be so comfortable and easy.  Familiar.   Words cannot even express how I am longing to hear the word of God taught in my own language.  And I am so sorry if you are sitting next to me during Worship, because I will probably be sobbing at the ability to do so in my own tongue! I am going to have to buy waterproof mascara. 

To sit and have deep heart to hearts, in our language, with our friends and family is something  that I am desperately anxious to do.  I have missed my friends so much, like an ache down deep in the bones.  To laugh uncontrollably and just be with you all is such an incredible gift.  {Yes I'm talking about you Tim Gamble}.   And I'm not going to lie. I am totally going to Target and buying a suitcase full of Multigrain Cheerios!!!!!!!!!

One more day!

Friday, August 21, 2015

all things working together....

I was thinking about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well today. When Jesus encountered her, he did two things that were frowned upon. He spoke to a woman, when it was not appropriate to converse with a woman, and she was Samaritan. But Jesus had something that she needed more than the water. So he defied culture and spoke to offer her eternal, satisfying, living water. 

Last week we had a similar experience. A family of one of the nutrition center kids, had their home burn to the ground. This family could be likened to the Samaritan woman. The mother lives in an area, and is in relationship with people that most others here would not have gone out of their way to help. But she came to the church knowing that the pastors here would be open to her need.  While she waited for the pastors we were able to see to the immediate needs of her baby girl and young son. We gave them all peanut butter sandwiches, drinks and made a makeshift bathtub for the baby to get the ash and dirt wiped away. Alex ran to the store to buy a baby bottle, diapers and wipes.  Because of the great plan of God, we already had in stock baby formula, shampoo, clothing and food.  

She came for water, but she received so much more. Pastor Giovanni went to the house to access the situation and while he was there, he lovingly brought up to her, the need for something far more lasting than another home. As they stood examining the destruction, he shared with her about Jesus. And as she cried there, with literally nothing left in the world, she prayed and KNEW Jesus that day.  She will yet have needs in this world, but “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

That same day we were able to send them home our last beds that we had in store. Seven months ago, when churches raised money for beds, for unknown persons, who deserved the dignity of a bed, God knew. When women from a church in the U.S. requested specific needs 3 months earlier, and then purchased hundreds of dollars of baby formula, God knew. In December, when this woman came looking for a place for her son to go, to be fed and be safe during the day, God knew.  When a school in Ohio did a clothing drive, and clothes arrived a month ago, God knew.

For the last 18 months, Alex and I have had moment after moment where God has taught us that he does in fact have a plan in mind for us being here. To be very honest, there are very human moments when we wonder about our job or our presence here. There are connections that we have “coincidentally” made, or times when a project we have been working on, comes to fruition months later. To give you another example of God working His plan, I can tell you about two weeks ago when we had a dentist here. But I need to start at the beginning. When we first arrived here we made a connection with the USA Navy. That first squadron we worked with brought us two old dental chairs…. And we always take what we receive and hope that someday down the line we can use it.  Six months later a World Race team arrived. One of the men on the team, has a dad who is a dentist. So we skyped with him to find out if the chairs were usable.  This man, had been going on dental missions to Costa Rica for many years, and was just at that time praying about ways God could use him more. He said the chair would work for someone, some day. So we held on to it.  This World Race member, months later after traveling in 11 countries, was led to stay involved here in El Salvador. So he spoke with his dad about coming back with him.  A plan was set in place, and it was decided that just basic exams would happen, because getting all the necessary dental equipment to do procedures and cleanings into the country would be very complicated.  The very first morning, Dr. Morgan explained to Pastor Ivo that he would not be able to do any kind of extractions because he didn’t have a suction machine. Our nutrition center kids were badly in need of extractions! Pastor Ivo declares “I have a suction machine!!” and runs from the room to one of the storage closets and pulls out a box with a perfectly clean and functioning suction machine!! We are still really unclear, how or why Ivo came to be in possession of it… But God knew. Ivo had had it for years. It survived all of the various cleanings and purges that occur in any home or church. And Dr. Morgan was able to pull many, many decaying, painful teeth that week. Oh, and he just so happened to pack anesthesia injections, knowing full well that he likely wouldn’t use them… but brought them just in case. And boy did he use them! Five seemingly random events, over the course of years, brought us to a point where we were able to minister to the physical needs of close to a hundred people. 
He came the week before the family’s house burned down. And because the woman had been in to see the dentist, I was able to chat with her and get to know her. The following week, when her world crashed down around her, she came to us.  I was able to give her a hug, to comfort her and let her cry. She came to us, because she knew at this church, people cared.

As Alex and I were thinking and pondering over every minute detail that all played into each other, we continued to trace back how many different people had been involved, completely oblivious, to what would all unfold. The mysterious suction machine, the chairs, the Navy, the World Race team, dentist with mission experience, the bed project, churches donating beds, baby formula, clothing donations, Giovanni being laid off last year and coming to work as a pastor… the list just got longer and longer.  Until finally, our thoughts landed on you all. 

When Alex and I dismantled our life and moved our here, we did so with the blessing and prayers of many people.  You may not have known what your prayer support and financial support would lead to, but God knew.  Over the last 18 months, God had used our ability to speak English and make connections, carpentry projects etc. to fulfill his plans. And we could not be here to fulfill those plans without our financial supporters.  I can tell you pretty certainly that there are very few missionaries in the world who enjoy raising support money. It’s a difficult thing to humble ourselves and to ask others to make sacrifices, so that we can be in other parts of the world doing Matthew 28.  But what we have to come to realize is that God is using you too. When you give to a missionary, are in other parts of the world too. You are fulfilling Matthew 28. And all of those “coincidences,” the puzzle pieces that come together so that one family may know Jesus Christ, you are an integral part of that too.  

El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in the world. But that is not the entire story. What you read in the news is not the daily acts of bravery, of love, kindness, Godly men and women fighting for their country.  We would like to continue on, until the Holy Spirit leads us back home, but we need your help to do so.  You will be a part of something that you may not fully see until some distant day in the future. But if you read Mathew 25:31-40, you may yet get a glimpse. If you would like to prayerfully consider helping us to live and work here, we would love to give you information on how to do that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Missionary Kid Life

When we moved to El Salvador, we really had no idea what it would entail for our kids. The impact it would have on them, the sacrifices they would make, or what kind of life they would have here.

There have been many times when I have wondered if we are seriously screwing up our kids. Many days have been a little unfair. Many days they are left out because they don't speak Spanish fluently. Many times they get dragged along, to go to various places. Many experiences they are losing out on in the United States. 

However, many days they have had adventures that they will remember for the rest of their lives. For all of the hard days, there have been people who have loved them, adored them, and gone out of their way to spend time with them. My little caucasian children are so well loved by the people here, and by the visitors. The most incredible thing to watch is the way the people who live here and the visitors always love them in such a genuine, heartfelt manner. No one will ever be able to convince me that the teens and young adults of this world are all selfish, difficult and self involved. Because I have witnessed so many amazing young adults who CHOOSE to serve, choose to love and choose to have fun with my kids, without being asked. 

I have one kid who never wants to move away. 

I have one kid who feels like they are in a lose-lose situation now, because in the U.S. are people we love and want to be near. And likewise in El Salvador there are people we love and want to be near (I did explain this is win-win).  

I have one kid who thankfully still wants to be wherever Mommy is!...... okay, I think everyone knows that one is Donovan!

I have one kid who longs for their life in the US, but still says, "How are you and Daddy ever supposed to stop doing this job? You can't!"

When I think of all of things, people, experiences that they have given up to go on this ride with us, what always pops into my head is, what they have gained. 

There have been missions teams who make it a priority to make sure they have a wish list from my kids, so that they can pack an extra suitcase for them! And holy smokes have they been spoiled with favorite snacks from home.  I could have included 50 more pictures, of people we adore right back. 

So I just want to send out a gigantic thank you!!  Its hard to be an MK. Really hard. So thank you, to all of the people who have loved on, cared about, laughed with, wrestled, tickled, sang with, made them a priority, sent a care package and hugged them. You have helped to make a very different life, more Okay-ish and even wonderful!