March 31, 2014

We asked you for money. And this is what happened...

About a year and a half ago, we asked you for money.

You did what, Daddy?!


You oh-so-generously gave a little over $2,000. (Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.)

And with that $2,000, you contributed to a lot. You impacted many people, in many desperate situations:

A woman who was robbed and had a debt to pay,
(Her debt was covered)

An elderly man whose legs had grown so weak with disease he couldn’t walk anymore,
(He can walk again)

A girl who tore ligaments in her knee and couldn’t afford her medicine,
(Her medicine was purchased)

A friend’s daughter who has severe medical problems,
(She was able to see a specialist)

Boys who shine shoes in the park and can’t afford a lunch every day,
(They are fed pancakes on Fridays by our missionary friends)

A man who was threatened to have his land taken away before his last payment,
(His plot of land was paid for)

A man whose house was robbed and left empty,
(He bought a tabletop stove and blankets)

A man who had brain surgery and couldn’t afford his pain medication,
(The medication helped his headaches)

A woman who lives on the street and couldn’t afford medicine for her sick daughter,
(Her medicine was purchased)

A man whose nephew was hit by a car and couldn’t afford surgery,
(His surgery was performed)

A woman who couldn’t afford her rent and was going to be kicked out,
(She had another month in a warm bed)

A third grade boy who earned a scholarship but couldn’t afford his school supplies,
(His school supplies and uniform were provided for)

A man whose mother passed away and couldn’t afford her funeral,
(His mother was buried.)

And that’s not even everything.


Oh my, our friends and family are fantastic!

Yes of course, it’s Guatemala. $2,000 can go a very long way. But as I look through the list of people who were supported, the projects and people funded, I am amazed. Amazed to the point of wondering how the math even adds up. So many people. So many burdens lifted. So many grateful hearts.

So thank you. Thank you for choosing to give.

Not out of guilt. Not because you saw one of those terrible, sob-story Sarah-McLaughlan-puppy-commercials on TV to the back-tone of “In the arms of the angel.” (Because God loves a cheerful, guilt-free giver.)

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Not for a prize. Not because any of these people will ever be able pay you back or give you a trophy or will even know your name. (Because a giver does not expect to be repaid.)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Not because you’re a millionaire. Not because you had to hide some of your extra cash overseas. (Because sometimes giving requires sacrifice.)

Sacrifice – to be real – must cost; we must empty ourselves of something we would rather keep. {Mother Teresa} said to a group of volunteers, “God takes care of His poor people through us…Remain as ‘empty’ as possible, so that God can fill you.”
- Mary Poplin, Finding Calcutta


Wow, true giving sounds hard.

But you chose to give anyway. You read the situations some of our friends were in, and you simply responded. Out of duty. Our Christian duty to give, to love, to share. Like a Hallmark “just to say hi” card. No agenda. No ulterior motives. Just because.

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’


Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I am not surprised. Not shocked at the outpouring of generosity that you showed to our friends here. But I am thankful. Thankful for your choice to give. Thankful for your willingness to be Christ’s vessel of love and generosity to the world.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And I can’t help but hear the “Sunday School Teacher Song” running through my mind…

"Thank you, for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you, for giving to the Lord. I am so glad you gave."

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

March 27, 2014

Hope on the Sidewalk

I have a sister named Madison. She is a sidewalk counselor at an abortion clinic.

The summer after I graduated high school, I finally mustered the courage to ask if I could begin training as a sidewalk counselor. I began my training, mainly shadowing and going through the manual.

(She is also an awesome auntie. With 1 week old Jocelyn.)

When able to, she goes downtown to the clinic and stands on the sidewalk. She sees all types walk in.

There was one mother and daughter duo.

One man claimed his girlfriend had a heart condition.

There was another second year nursing student who “knew what she was doing.”

One girl was dancing in her car as they pulled in.

One girl said her friend didn't need us yelling at her.

(Everyone claims some type of situation they are in – they cannot care for their child, their birth control failed (54%), they were raped (1%), the baby is a danger to the mother (12%), their baby has birth defects (90% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome while in the womb are aborted.))

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8


Madi and other sidewalk counselors experience a lot of discouragement, a lot of sadness, a lot of pain on the sidewalk at the clinic.

The mother said God would forgive her. She kept saying they were fine, and her girl “wasn't gonna have no baby.” When leaving, the girl was throwing up. The mother grabbed her daughter a barf bag and said she would probably do that a few more times.

Another girl that day threw up and her boyfriend laughed.

He denied our offer for “one last look” just in case. He began walking away when Mary started describing the abortion procedure.

{She} held her boyfriend’s hand the entire way inside while he pressed the lock button on his car keys continually so that his horn would keep sounding.

On other days, I've been sworn at, flipped off, and completely ignored.

(1 in 3 American women get an abortion by the age of 45. There have been nearly 56 million abortions in the United States since 1973. “If we took a moment of silence for every child aborted, we would be silent for over 100 years.”)

She has educated herself. She knows the pain – both physical and emotional – that these women are in for, not even close to being ready for.

(There are many methods used for an abortion: pills that "starve" the baby, sucking, scraping, poison, c-section. A variety of methods used to take a baby – dead or alive – out of their mother’s womb, up to 30 weeks pregnant.)

(There are many possible side effects of an abortion: pain, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding, infection, scarring, breast cancer, infertility, death, just to name a few.)

(And the side effects that are not just physical: guilt, anxiety, depression, trouble bonding with present and future children, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, just to name a few.)

And she knows that all this goes on a mere 16 minutes from where she lives.

(Heritage Clinic for Women is located at 320 Fulton Street East in downtown Grand Rapids. There, women pay by the inch to abort their babies, from about $450 up to thousands of dollars. About four women are injured per year, but the ER covers for them, recording it as an “injury from pregnancy.” About 3,000 abortions are performed every year in this specific clinic. Tuesdays are for post-abortive check-ups, and Wednesday through Friday are abortion days.)

Heritage {Abortion} Clinic for Women

She is not okay with that. So she stands on the sidewalk next to the clinic, offering hope.

We basically offer help to the girls entering the clinic. We want them to know that they do have other options. We want them to know that we will be there for them...even if they do choose to have an abortion.

(There is always a sidewalk counselor outside of the clinic from 7:45-10 and 10-12:15 on Wednesday through Friday.)

And every once in awhile, a different choice is made. Life is chosen.

On only my second day at the sidewalk, I witnessed a SAVE!

Her hair was long and dark brown, but you couldn't see her face. She was wearing her hood...clearly ashamed for what she was coming downtown to 320 Fulton St E to 'take care of.' Her mom was beautiful. Curly brown hair. She waved and smiled and greeted us kindly with a 'Good morning!' before ignoring us and entering into the clinic. Assuming it was just another girl going through the abortion mill, she was almost forgotten..I continued shadowing as normal and just watched Carol do her thing. Lo and behold, about an hour later, the girl walked out with her mother. Carol shouted "is there anything we can do to help you? We have information for afterwards, too that might be helpful!"

Mother: she didn't do it!

I could NOT believe my ears. My eyes welled up and Carol asked if they would like a baby bag.

Carol sprinted inside and as they walked from the opposite side of the parking lot to 'the wall', I gave her a HUGE congratulations and said she had made the right choice and asked how far along she was. She was 13 weeks along. Her stomach was just barely showing. Her light gray sweatshirt hid most of her hair, but now it was visible how gorgeous she was! White teeth...a beautiful smile...long dark brown curled hair...and she was just glowing! Her mom beautifully said to her: you may take off your hood now. After giving her some information about a women's center and the help they could provide, they climbed into their mini van and drove away.

(Out of the 3,000 abortions per year in Grand Rapids, we maybe see 30 people change their minds. Our ministry has a 99% “failure rate.”)

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you...God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9

Madi knows that what she does – the energy, the compassion, the saves – is not of herself.

Tears welled up in my eyes as they left the abortion clinic parking lot. I still can't believe it...I wanted to fall at God's feet and just worship Him! I wanted to sing His praises for the world to hear!

It's funny, too... I used to think that I'd LOVE to know it was something I said that would make that girl turn around and choose life. My own pride wanted to be able to take some credit. I never understood why Mary would say that those are 'the best.'

Now I know. Seeing Him work and knowing it was NOTHING I said or did..but just Him revealing Himself and his power and His control! That was beyond humbling and EXACTLY how the first 'save' I ever witnessed needed to go.

She knows the power of prayer.

Everything I have done in the pro-life movement would not have happened if prayer were not involved. I've read so many stories of the amazing things that prayers have brought about all around the world, and even here in Grand Rapids.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7

(With 2 month old Jocelyn.)

She understands that God uses small actions to do big things.

My freshman year of college, for my health 101 class at Davenport University, I had to do a presentation on a certain health topic. I chose abortion. I simply described each abortion procedure, and placed a picture of the developing child on each slide. At the end of all 30 PowerPoint presentations, each person had to state five things that he or she had learned from five different PowerPoint presentations on a sheet of paper, and read them out loud to all the students. Every single student mentioned something from my PowerPoint and how my PowerPoint had impacted him or her.

I knew God could use small actions to do big things, but I never thought that it would be me that He would use. I am that moody daughter that gossips at times and falls when temptation comes my way. I’m so far from perfect that it hurts to think about sometimes, but God is still using me. You may feel like your prayers are not doing anything. You might not see the fruit of your work, but I assure you, you’re making a difference.

She knows that God is still performing miracles everyday…through prayer.

On my way to the clinic that morning, I think I was rather firm and irritated with God...it's hard to keep sidewalk counseling and be nice when you know (and you know that God knows) what is in store for the women that morning. It was the week before Thanksgiving and I was just not in the mood to watch more women walk inside a clinic and pay an overpaid man to kill their child. "S" was the first car in the parking lot that morning. I was the "main" sidewalk counselor, accompanied by my prayer partner.

S and her boyfriend got out of the car, and I immediately started blabbering. I'm used to being ignored, so I was surprised when she just stood there and listened. I really only recall saying, "Good morning! Is there anything we can do to help you today? We can help in so many different ways if you don't want to go through with this this morning. We can get you a free ultrasound" (all of that is normal)...then I started to run out of ideas. "This baby may grow up to love you and call you mommy…" the rest of what I said is a blur.

The boyfriend said he didn't want to do this today. He didn't believe it was right. "S" stood there and broke down crying. She didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to be sick. She finally agreed to wait until Alpha Women's Center opened for ultrasounds. I immediately called mom and asked her to pray...and started crying. After I called Mary, I went inside to chat with "S" and her boyfriend about some logistics. They already had a son with medical problems and expensive medications. She was scared of not being able to work, because when she was pregnant with her son, she was so incredibly sick.

I was able to reassure her that our ministry would be there for her, and we were able to meet some of her immediate needs for her son. Since then, I've gotten to bring "S" to her doctor's appointments and see her little girl on the ultrasound screen. She is due this summer and is EXTREMELY happy and excited for the arrival of her baby . ALL of this would not have been possible without prayer. I prayed (even irritably) that morning, and God still answered.

So what does Madi want you to know?

Mothers who go to abort their babies: There is ALWAYS a better way.

Families of these moms: Give them as much support as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from outside sources. Do whatever you can to save that baby!

People who say they are pro-life: You won’t accomplish anything without LOVE. Casting judgment on these women because they sin differently than you is NOT OKAY. Strive to come alongside women in crisis pregnancies.

(PRAY, do a diaper drive, fund-raise for local crisis pregnancy centers, start a pro-life group at college, talk to your pastors. EDUCATE YOURSELF on the issue.)



Let’s come alongside of her, Garden of Hope Ministries which she is a part of, and the 40 Days for Life campaign going on right now. Let’s pray for more hope to come on the sidewalk.

We are capable of coming up with every excuse as to why we can’t go down to the clinic to pray on any given day, but God is using this. God is working through {40 Days for Life}, and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for his faithful prayers.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra (and Madi)

(Madi spoke at the 40 Days for Life opening ceremony in Grand Rapids in 2013, and has also taken the time to share her knowledge and experiences with the pro-life movement in schools and churches. If you are interested in more information from her or would like her to come and share with your group, you can get in contact with her at flipflopper421@gmail.com)

References
  • Abortion methods - surgical abortions (2010). In Lifesitenews. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.lifesitenews.com/abortiontypes/
  • Butler, M. (2011, April 19). 90% of down syndrome children aborted, survivors bring joy. In Lifenews. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.lifenews.com/2011/04/19/90-of-down-syndrome-children-aborted-survivors-bring-joy/
  • Ertelt, S. (2011, July 12). New FDA report: abortion drug kills 14 women, injures 2,200. In Lifenews. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.lifenews.com/2011/07/12/new-fda-report-abortion-drug-kills-14-women-injures-2200/
  • Ertelt, S. (2011, January 1). Report shows contraception failure, 54% used before abortion. In Lifenews. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.lifenews.com/2011/01/11/report-shows-contraception-failure-54-used-before-abortion/
  • Facts about abortion: US abortion statistics (2012, June 27). In Abort73. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/
  • Induced abortion linked to high breast cancer risk (2012, October 29). In Foodconsumer. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Non-food/Disease/induced_abortion_linked_to_high_breast_cancer_risk_1029120739.html
  • Methods of abortion (2012). In Planned parenthood. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/abortion-4260.asp
  • Possible physical side affects (2007, September). In American pregnancy association. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www.americanpregnancy.org/unplannedpregnancy/possiblesideeffects.html

March 23, 2014

I Went on a Mission Trip and All I Got Was this Matching T-shirt and the Wrong Attitude

No, I do not hate mission trips. (I do have reservations about them, but also know that when done well, the money spent is not a waste.)

But yes, I do hate matching t-shirts blaring the church’s name and a cheesy slogan. (“Kenya Help?” Seriously? That money could definitely be put to better use. Just ask the missionaries you will be working under for the week.)

(Is it really that hard for 20 adults to keep track of each other in the airport?)

But besides cheesy matching t-shirts, one thing I don’t like is when the group gets back to church and their post-trip presentation is all like “They seemed so content even though they had so little! They didn’t even have hot water, and they had to wash their clothes by hand. It made me thankful for my nice hot shower and my mom who does my laundry.”

Because immediately when this happens, when we feel grateful because we have more stuff, more resources, more whatever, our gratitude becomes rooted in making comparisons. In essence, “I am thankful because I have way more stuff than they do in that poor third world country.”

And if it’s wrong when our envy is rooted in comparing ours lives to others’, then our gratitude should not come from making comparisons either.

All Christians, no matter how poor or rich they are, are called to gratitude.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

And if our gratitude is rooted in somebody’s lack, should that somebody’s envy be rooted in our excess?

In no way am I trying to say that we shouldn’t be affected by the sight of poverty. I am not saying we should look at a child in tattered clothes digging through the trash with no compassion. We should pray for our eyes to always see the world as our Father does. But what I am saying is that gratitude is not based on having more or being more than other people. That type of gratitude is not genuine, it’s circumstantial.

I’m talking about gratitude in all aspects of life: our appearance, our resources, our relationship with Christ.

Does it ever make sense to say,

“I am thankful because at least I am not as ugly as he is.”

“I am thankful because at least I have a nice house, new clothes, and a hot shower.”

“I am thankful because my life could always be worse.”

“I am thankful because I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

Does that sound familiar? (Luke 18:9-14)

It’s not that people don’t have good intentions with loving hearts when they say things like “I’m thankful because I have a nice house with a washing machine.” It’s not that what people felt on that mission trip wasn’t real, or that what they saw wasn’t shocking.

It’s that even after those “mission trip feelings” fade and we aren’t being shocked by the sights of poverty every morning, we are still called to be grateful.

Believe me, I have been that person before. I have been wearing that matching t-shirt, standing in front of church, professing my life-long gratitude to God after being exposed to the sights of poverty for a week. But you know what? It never takes long to get back in the groove and become irritated and ungrateful due to a few “first world problems.”

And this is not just true for people coming back from mission trips. It’s true for anyone who is tempted into gratitude based on “good” circumstances and having a whole lot of “stuff.”

Because it shouldn't take a trip to a third world country (or living in a third world country) to make me grateful for the “stuff” I have. It shouldn't take a tragic death to make me grateful for the people in my life, disease to be grateful for health, a broken down car to be grateful for when it's running well.

All it should take is a Savior, a knowledge that life here on this earth is but a vapor, and a heart filled with hope for the “happily ever after” that’s coming our way.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

So by all means, go on mission trips (planned correctly.) But don’t come back with the wrong attitude, a skewed version of gratitude. And please, ditch the cheesy matching t-shirts.

Honestly?

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

March 20, 2014

"Fine." (And other passive aggressive wife talk.)


Is that what you’re wearing? (Black shoes and white socks? Really?)

Do you know where you’re going? (Because I do. You are going out of your way to get us lost.)

Don’t worry about it. I got it. (Are you two years old? Do I need to ask you nine times to take out the trash?)

But I want to know your opinion. (I want to know that your opinion is the exact same as mine.)

It’s okay. (Guess how long you will be paying for that mistake?)

Do whatever you want. (I dare you.)

Thanks A LOT. (Thanks for nothing.)

Fine. (I know I’m right, but I don't wanna talk about it anymore.)

I don’t care. (I’m totally lying. I do care. But this is a test, and you might as well accept failure now.)

Nothing. (Of course something is wrong. Read my mind and figure it out.)

How do I look? (The correct response here is “Just like Angelina Jolie.”)


Sometimes when I communicate with Collin, I don’t let him win.

I ask questions that I already know the answer to, questions with no correct response, questions expecting him to read my mind and recite back my answer.

I don’t directly ask for what I want, because “it’s not as special when I have to ask.” I mope and play the martyr when I don’t get my way, but refuse to talk about what “my way” is. I don’t talk about “what’s wrong.” (Because “nothing’s wrong.”)

I realize that husbands have communication problems too. I realize that even when we are both trying to communicate well, we may still have miscommunications and misunderstandings.


But what I have come to realize as a wife is that this kind of communication is passive aggressive. It’s not fair. It’s sarcastic. It’s downright mean. And mostly (sadly), it’s telling my husband I don’t trust him enough to share my real thoughts and opinions with him.

So what I have tried to do is to slowly shed some of this passive aggressive communication I have come to practice a little too often.

First, I warned Collin and tried to explain that I wanted to be more direct in how I communicate with him. I didn’t want him to expect an “Is that what you’re wearing?” and then punch him in the gut with a “Please change. You look ridiculous.”

            Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Second, I had to remind myself that even though I was going to try to be more direct, I had to remember to be kind. To “speak the truth in love.” Because there is a lot of truth to the phrase “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

            A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

And third, I reminded myself that I married a very loving, kind, and caring man. He wants to know my opinion. He cares about what I think. And yes, he loves me so much that he even wants to know “what’s wrong.” So instead of making him pry open my brain with a crowbar every time I am upset or have a strong opinion but don’t want to share, share is exactly what I attempt to do. In the words of John Mayer, “Say what you need to say.”

And Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious. This is hard for me. Still a struggle. Always a struggle.

Like I said, I can be a “moper,” a martyr, a “woe is me” personality. (I used to run away from the dinner table and cry when my siblings were mean to me just so that my dad would have to come to my room to get me, comfort me, and give me a piggy-back ride back to the dinner table. A fragile child, I was. Am.)


And even when I am able to directly communicate, sometimes my tone of voice does not always carry the tone of love and kindness that it should. And sometimes what I am trying to say is negative and hurtful and shouldn't be said at all. (Have you ever tried to go a whole day without saying something negative to your spouse? That is a loud a wake-up call.) And I do believe that “please” and “thank you” are not out of fashion. (The genuine kind. Not the sarcastic kind.)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

But how wonderful to be able to trustingly, honestly, and kindly share my opinion and have it listened to and accepted by a trustworthy, honest, and kind man.
  
How efficient to simply ask a direct question that clearly communicates what I am thinking. 

How great to share what is bothering my heart, rather than wasting an entire night in anger saying “nothing” and getting nowhere. (Or being honest enough to say “I don’t know what’s wrong,” as for me, that can be the case too. Perks of being a woman.)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 

Before Valentine’s Day I wrote about love languages and how I am a “words of affirmation” kind of gal. Well, although we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, Collin told me my gift was to pick out a chick flick to watch. A kind gesture, no doubt. But torturing Collin for two hours through a chick flick was not what I had in mind. My nature at that point would be to sulk, silently punish both him and myself because he didn't read my mind and do what I wanted. But instead, I took a risk.

I said, “All I want for Valentine’s Day is for you to write me a note.” Yikes. That was scary to admit.

But I did not get a note. I got seven. Seven notes hidden in different spots around the house where Collin knew I would find them. Seven notes like this one I found resting on our toilet seat:

Hilarious.

I’m so glad I asked.

So here’s to communicating better, kinder, more honestly. Here’s to being less passive aggressive, less negative. Here’s to trusting the kind, loving, and caring people we married. 

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

March 17, 2014

Two Months to Live

Recently, I feel like I have been given that diagnosis.

I know I am being totally dramatic. But we have just over two months before we move back to the United States. Just over two months before our life here in Guatemala will come to an end.

I am often asked how I feel about moving back. And honestly, I am not ready. Not ready at all. I kind of feel like that stubborn toddler lying on the floor at Chuck E. Cheese, arching my back and screaming “I don’t wanna go!”

Over the past three years I have gotten used to the kind of goodbyes that only mean “see you later.” I don’t know if I’m ready for the goodbyes that mean “hopefully see you sometime but I don’t know when.” I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that we won’t be coming back here next August. That this place will not be “home” anymore.

Smushy mommy kisses.

I remember sitting at dinner with Collin right before we made our final decision. I looked at him and said with full confidence, “I know the right decision is to move back. I have a peace about it in my heart that I can’t deny. I have felt this peace many times before when making decisions. I have chosen to listen to it and I have chosen to ignore it. Things did not go well when I ignored it.”

And I wonder, where is that desire that was so strong before we made our decision? Where is that confidence? Where is that “peace that passes understanding?”

"Just two cool cats hangin' out" - Collin

But I know that these feelings are just part of the process of change. It may be a rollercoaster for awhile. I may have to go through the stages of loss and grief: denial, anger, depression, etc. Things and situations and people and places already get me a little teary. But it’s not about denying those feelings, compressing them or pretending they are not there. It’s about trusting where God is leading us despite the ups and downs I may feel along the way.

I appreciate this diagnosis, this “heads up” that life is soon to change. It’s not a sudden, unexpected death. Rather, it’s a gift of time to be more aware. To see life here more vividly. To live with my senses heightened. To better appreciate my immediate surroundings and current circumstances:

I enjoy the walk to breakfast on Saturday morning, because it seems like almost every Saturday here is bright blue skies and warm sunshine. And because it’s great to live in a place where you don’t have to own a car and can walk almost anywhere.

I wonder at the surrounding green mountains and volcanoes stretching up into the sky, because they are a natural beauty that I didn’t grow up with, and will not be moving back to.

Look familiar? The view from our kitchen window.

I relish both the deep and shallow conversations with our friends here, because they have helped me grow, have helped me laugh, and have helped me feel more at home.

I chuckle at the bumps and wiggles of riding in a chicken bus on cobblestone roads, squished with a hundred people and no car seats, because nowhere in the United States would this type of public transportation be legal.

Chicken bus.

I savor the smell of fried chicken on almost every street corner, because after making wickedly good breakfasts, fried chicken is what Guatemalans do second best.

I smile when I enter the church nursery and all the helpers rush over and want to take Jocelyn, because she won’t be the only special, big white baby for long.

I cherish hearing an excited "Hi, Mrs. Broekhuis!" from my former first grade students, because soon I will only be a memory to them.

I soak up the ugly and the beautiful – the concrete jungle and the tapestry of colors woven into women’s scarves and skirts, the razor wire fences and the bursts of flowering vines that cascade over them, the poverty and the people dedicating their lives to change it.

Shoeshine boy in the park.

I value how our lives here, although often filled with inconvenience, have embodied simplicity. A simplicity that I hope to bottle up, preserve, and take back with me when we move.

Of course there are things I will be happy to say goodbye to. I won’t say that I love playing “Little House on the Prairie” every time I have to boil water for Jocelyn’s bath. But again, a “convenient” life does not always mean “simple.” 

Thank you, United States, for sending your recalled toys here. 
We love them, along with their thrill of danger.

There is a lack of “noise” here. (Not literally, as every orifice of Guatemala seems to have some sort of noise drumming from it.) But there is a lack of distractions, a lack of rush. A thing that at times has bothered me, but has also taught me the value of not always rushing through life to get to the next event.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…

And of course, there are things I will definitely be happy to say hello to as well. Family, friends, summer Sunday nights, blueberries, just to name a few.

And when the time comes, we will embrace our new lives and circumstances.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

But what do I do now? How do I handle this time of transition and future planning?

I continue to live in the present.

Yes, behind the scenes we are discussing, planning, weighing options, working through what our future lives might look like. Because there is value in those things. (And we aren't completely irresponsible.)

But we also live in the “right here” and “right now.”

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We savor, soak up, enjoy our last few months of life in Guatemala with heightened senses.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We don’t neglect or abandon what’s right in front of us in the name of “our future.”

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Because we never know what the future will hold. And what’s right in front of us will only be there for a short time.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

But most importantly, we choose to trust.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra