May 31, 2014

I'd Like to Thank Guatemala...

Oh, Guatemala. 

How I wish I hated you. How I wish you were some toxic, horrible thing that would make it easy to say goodbye. 

But you aren't.

You are beautiful. You have taught us so much. You have opened our eyes to what life is like outside of what we grew up knowing. And you have been good to us.

So consider this our small tribute to you, our teeny tiny “thank you” for everything you have been to us, and for the mark you have forever placed on our hearts after three short years. 

Consider this the start of our goodbye, the start of our transition back.

I’d like to thank you, Guatemala, for each of the following things we have grown to love about you. I organized them by the ABC's, because just as much as I love you, I love elementary school.

Atitlan. Our favorite getaway. Warm weather and a great view.

Breakfast. By far your best meal. Eggs, beans, plantains, fruit, tortillas, bread, orange juice, and coffee. YUM.

Colors. Everywhere: Buildings, tapestries, clothing, vegetables, flowers. Guatemala, you make even a concrete jungle look beautiful.

"Don." Spanish for “gift” and a term of endearment used for the men and women who work hard to keep our school clean. But they were never just the janitors. They were our friends, educating us on Guatemalan culture, teaching us new Spanish lingo, and making us feel welcome in their country.

Earthquakes. Although each time a car passed our house it felt like a small earthquake, the real ones were always a great reminder of how much we are not in control of our lives, nor of this Earth. And what teacher could forget experiencing a 7.4 earthquake with a class full of first graders?

FĂștbol. Guatemala, is it possible that you could have actually taught me to be able to watch the sport of soccer for ninety whole minutes…and enjoy it? And who knew that outside of the United States, people don’t really care about football, basketball, or baseball?

Gringos. We are white and we are tall. Thank you, Guatemala, for giving us the slightest smidge of what it feels like to be a minority.

Hospitality. Your every response to our “thank you” was “in order to serve you.” Your people always went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable. And Guatemala, thank you for introducing us to these hospitable people right here: our friends, our Spanish teacher, our coworkers, our babysitters, our assistants in life here, our family away from family. We love them more than words can express.

Inter-American School. Not only was IAS my first job (and Collin's second), it has been our passion for the past three years. IAS is so unique and special: the students who showed us unconditional love, the coworkers who became our closest friends, the administration who went above and beyond their call of duty to take care of us when we were sick and pregnant. All of them have made us better people.

Jesus. I am amazed at how many public buses claim that “Christ is their guide” or "The Lord is my Shepherd." He is on bumper stickers and in people’s common language. And He is the one who brought us here in the first place.

Kids. They aren't a parasite that ruin people’s freedom, but are life’s greatest joy and blessing. (A lesson I needed to learn.) In every “hello,” it was a hundred questions about Jocelyn. In every “goodbye,” it was, “take care of your baby!” I am grateful to have had our baby in such a culture.

Laid back. Guatemala, you have taught me that time is precious in a different way – that it’s not healthy to always rush through life, through people, through conversations to get to the next "thing."

Music. You have THE BEST taste in music. I love your 90’s throwback playlists that you let your customers jam to in every restaurant. And we will forever have a crush on Enrique Iglesias.

Noise. Guatemala, sometimes you are just plain noisy. Street dogs, music, loudspeakers, car horns, fireworks, church bells, and our neighbor who played the same three electric guitar chords over and over and over. Where you lack in certain areas of development you make up for in genuine celebration.

Outages. Whether scheduled or a surprise, there was nothing like a power outage to make us stop the work we were doing or the show we were watching to have some genuine conversation.

Personal Space and Produce. One of which you lack, the other of which you have in abundance.

Quetzals. Your mysterious national bird we never saw.  And the currency that transformed from monopoly money to actually mean something to us.

Rainy Season. While walking through the rain got very old, as did the flooding, falling asleep to the rain underneath our tin roof never did.

Spanish. My first clue that we wouldn’t be here forever, as my love for Spanish wilted rather quickly. But thank you, Julieta, for your patience in teaching us! And I am sorry that I said “I baked the cake from a boxer!” instead of “a box” in front of your whole family.

Transportation. I love that you have taught us that it’s okay to walk twenty minutes to get somewhere. I love that you offered one of the cheapest, convenient, and possibly most exhilaratingly dangerous modes of public transportation to get around in. 

Ugly. Guatemala, some things about you are so ugly. The poverty, the injustice, the fact that there are children who have to shine shoes and juggle in front of cars at stoplights instead of going to school to learn how to read. Thank you for opening our eyes and for teaching us that it’s not okay to ignore this kind of ugly.

Volcanoes. Guatemala, you are also so beautiful. The fact that seeing a volcano became an everyday, normal occurrence is pretty amazing. And it was fantastic to hike volcanoes on three different occasions.

Weather. You are the “land of eternal spring” for a reason. Your weather is perfect: cool at night and warm in the afternoons. And how is it that almost every Saturday morning was sunny?

Xocomil. Hot weather. Dangerous water slides. Retreats with our IAS friends.

Years. Three years went by way too fast. But I pray that these three years will shape the rest of our lives, in both the lifestyle we choose to live and in how we pursue community with those around us.

Zone 1. Our neighborhood. Our home.

Thank you, Guatemala. For all of this and more. For all of the other people, places, and things not listed here. It hurts to leave you, but we are grateful for the time that we had with you.

Thank you, family and friends in the U.S., for all of your support and prayers for us on this amazing journey. Getting to see you soon takes away some of the sting.

And most importantly, thank you, our gracious heavenly Father, for leading us here in the first place. We trust you to continue to lead our lives as we go out from here.

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Grace and Peace,

May 14, 2014

Why I Didn't Accept the “Bible Verse Challenge”

I was nominated for the Bible Verse Challenge. Twice.

But I didn't accept. 

(Am I supposed to donate $100 to the charity of my choice now, or something?)

Not because I don't think this challenge is great. I mean, what is better than using that “what’s on your mind” box to share Scripture?

I’ll be honest, one reason I didn't accept the challenge is simply because I didn't make the time to do it. 

But my other somewhat valid reason is that I don’t really have a favorite Bible verse. 

Verses have taken turns being “favorite” as they especially encouraged me through ups and downs, but I can’t think of one that really takes the cake.

Jocelyn really enjoyed her "cousin's" birthday party.
Especially the nachos.

But while I didn’t accept the Bible Verse Challenge, I absolutely LOVED reading what was shared.

We are in such an interesting phase of life right now, weeks away from moving back to the U.S., weeks away from transitioning between jobs, houses, countries, cultures.

I have been struggling through every sort of emotion, depending on what is crossing my mind and laying on my heart at the moment: anticipation, anxiety, fear, sadness, depression, excitement, anger, frustration, confusion, stress, etc.

Always creeping on the neighbors.

But Scripture is alive. It teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains in righteousness.

And so often, it encourages.

I loved reading this: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God…Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

After Collin and I had been fervently praying this verse for weeks. Because it is discouraging to wait to hear back from principals and hope for interviews and job offers…and hear nothing for so long.

Hangin' out.

I loved reading this: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will sour on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

After it has been a really long month of accreditation work. Because I am tired. And starting to lose my mind. (Proven by me throwing our phone away in the trash can and having to call it at least five times before we could figure out where the ringing was coming from.)

Finding every nook and cranny to climb on.

I loved reading this: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

When Collin started the interview process with schools in both Chicago and Indianapolis. Because while we both desired to be in Chicago, we still had to keep our hearts and minds ready and willing to go through whatever door opened.

Breakfast in Panajachel.

I loved reading this: For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

After Collin told me from that he got a job offer at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights, Illinois. Because he officially accepted that job offer.  And because although we told ourselves we would be fine moving back without a job and living with my parents for an indefinite amount of time, it feels really great to move back with a job...and the knowledge that we will be crowding my generous parents for only two months. (I think it’s safe to say we were on the verge of “giddy” that day.) 

Mango. A new favorite.

I loved reading this: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

When making my “to do” and “to buy” lists for moving back. Because phones and apartments and packing and moving and settling and…and…and… don’t happen on their own. And make me feel a little anxiety when I forget to trust the Lord's provision.

I loved reading this: The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.

After giving Jocelyn a bath. Because this time, God’s delight and singing came through the giggles of a nine month old, splashing water all over me and washing away much bottled-up stress.

Happy. And it's contagious.

I loved reading this: The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

After reflecting on where we have been and where we are going. Not only because this verse is printed on Jocelyn’s diaper bag, but also because it really speaks to me today. The Lord has done so many great things for us. And there have been some really BIG things that He has already done to prove He is paving the way for our venture back. He is always providing, always caring, always loving.

And among all of the other emotions and ups and downs we are going through, we are filled with joy.

Grace and Peace,

May 7, 2014

I Get it Now, Mom

I get that you didn't work a 9 to 5 job, because you were already working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I get how even on really good days it was tiring to be the mom, the maid, the cook, the police officer, the doctor, the lawyer, the counselor, the chauffeur, the banker, the cheerleader, and the entertainer. 

I get that even though I only knew you as “Mom” back then, that you were also a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a creative mind.

I get how when people asked you what you do during the day with "all of your time," that maybe you wanted to give them a nice, firm punch in the gut.

I get that there were times when you thought you might go crazy. Like when I was teething, and was terrible-awful all day long. I get how maybe you just wanted to scream out a bad word or two. 

I get that no matter how much you wished you could ignore my cries that you couldn't, because you couldn't feel okay until I did too.

I get that there were times when you just wanted a break. That all you wanted was to sleep in, or take a long hot shower, or take or nap, or have five minutes of complete silence, or even just go to the bathroom without me sitting on the floor staring at you.

I get how when I was growing up, nobody knew how to take care of me like you did.

I get how the late afternoon hours before Dad got home were some of the longest of the day.

I get that some days your only goal was to not smell like spit-up when Dad walked through the door. I get how seeing Dad help take care of me made you fall even more in love with him than you already were.

I get that sometimes it took all your strength just to make it to my bedtime. But I also get that when morning came, there was nothing more precious than coming to get me with my tousled hair, sleepy eyes, footie pajamas, and arms reaching out for you to pick me up.

I get that the only thing that competed with footie pajama snuggles was me freshly-bathed in just my diaper, with lots of rolly legs and tummy to kiss.

I get how “family vacation” actually meant that you didn't get to rest much at all. I get how sometimes you just wanted to eat an entire banana, candy bar, or ice cream cone without me giving you the “can I have some?” face. I get how sometimes you just wanted the house to stay picked up for ten minutes.

I get how some days it felt like you had to lose your life in order to give me mine.

I get how sometimes I caused you pain. Whether it was a hard tug on your earrings, or a firm pinch on the nose, or disobeying your instructions, or talking back, or complaining. 

I get that sometimes you wished I would just understand you were only trying to do what’s best for me.

I get how you could have taken the easy way out a lot of times - letting things slide or offering empty threats when I chose not to listen to you. I get how it took a lot of energy to be consistent and to train up a child in the way he should go.

I get how you did everything you could to protect me from pain, even if it meant hovering like a helicopter so I wouldn't nail my face on the coffee table…again. 

And I get how there was some pain in my life you couldn't protect me from, no matter how much you wanted to.

I get that with every milestone I reached – first smile, first time sitting up, first tooth, first time crawling, first word – you rejoiced and cheered for my accomplishment. 

And I get that maybe it made you a little sad too as you realized I was that much closer to being “all grown up.”

I get that sometimes you felt like what you were doing day in and day out wasn't that important. But I get that with every diaper change, every meal cooked, every set of clean clothes, every lullaby, every prayer, you were saying “I love you.”  

I get that even though the world may not have appreciated you spending all of your time to take care of me, that to me it meant the world.

I get how your most common prayer was that I would keep Christ in my heart, just like you taught me to for so many years.

I get that you not only sacrificed your body for nine months, but also your time and energy for eighteen years, and your heart for as long as you live.

I get that these were some of the longest days of your life, but some of the shortest years too.

I get how no matter how hard it was to be a mom early on, you wouldn't change a thing.

I get how before one of the worst things was to realize is that you were "turning into your mother," but I also get that now hearing someone say that would be one of the greatest compliments you could receive.

I get that now, when I have to say goodbye for a long time, you watch me walk away and a piece of your heart walks away with me. 

And I get why that makes you cry.

I get that being a mom just overwhelms you with every kind of emotion – joy, anger, excitement, sadness, frustration, happiness, fear, pride. 

I get that life as a mom is so rich.

I get how sometimes the wonder of being a mom took your breath away.

I get how much you love me.

I get it now, Mom.

I get it now, because now I'm a mom too.

I'm a mom experiencing the same circumstances, the same emotions, the same exhaustion, the same joys, the same pain, the same rich experience of motherhood.

And I get that being a mom has changed and has gone through a lot of fads over the years. But I also get that no matter how many years go by, so much about being a mom will never change.

And I know that for so long I didn't get it. 

I know that for so long I took all of your hard work - every monotonous task, every bit of encouragement, every sacrifice of yourself, everything that you did - I took for granted.

But not anymore.

Because I get it now, Mom.

I get all of this.

And I get that I still have so much to learn.

So, thank you. 

Thank you for patiently waiting for me to understand. 

I am eternally grateful. For everything.

And I love you too.

Happy Mother's Day,