Everyday Revelations

In Costa Rica, the care of tile floors is practically an art form.  Their love for a shiny, clean surface is evidenced by the amount of time they spend tending to the dirt and dust.  For a Costa Rican woman, the state of the floor is a display of their value and hospitality.  After all, that is the first thing you see when you enter a house.  I have heard of 4-step rituals, and the constant application of clean towel on the end of their mop stick.  Once a day is often considered a minimum frequency, and with all that practice, Ticas can accomplish it faster than gringos would think humanly possible.

So when I was waiting at the doctor’s office and saw a cleaning lady go in with a broom, I sat up and paid attention.  Because, honestly, my floors can use some help.  After sweeping, she squirted the floor with some cleanser from a spray bottle, wiped it all down with microfiber mop, and that was that.  Granted, this was not an authentic, cultural technique.  But it worked.  And it was simple enough that I could do it, too, even in the midst of our full-court press on the Spanish language.  We inherited a part-gallon of Windex and a microfiber mop when we moved into this house, so all the tools were at hand.  It was even a little fun to feel like I was cheating the pail-of-water system.  Getting happy floors was the point.

I’m coming around to the same realization with my Spanish.  Don’t get me wrong, my inner grammarian is looking forward to tackling the 15 rules of the Subjunctive.  Every day, we are adding vocabulary.  I long for the day when all of my articles and adjectives will match their nouns—which is a perfect sentence for using the 1st rule of Subjunctive, by the way.  But my head is better at stocking new information than my mouth is at using it.  This week, I packed away the perfectionism and put my emphasis purely on speaking.  I made hundreds of mistakes—on things that I already know, too—but I blew my old personal best for spontaneous Spanish out of the water.  Following another student’s lead, I wrote my notes for a presentation in English so I couldn’t read it off line-by-line. Then I actually went 15 minutes over without even touching my third page of notes.  It wasn’t the musical fluidity I hear all around me, but you know what?  It worked anyway.

Stained Glass Shadows on Tile Floors

When I was high and, um, not so dry, in a public bathroom last month, Spanish was my only option.  The lady in the stall next to me chuckled and passed me a wad of toilet paper even though I put my pronoun in the wrong place.  My conversation partner in the cell phone store smiled and corrected me at least a dozen times this week, but he encouraged me that he could always understand what I meant.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?  As I Google Translate the newest vocab list, study the 3rd Rule of Subjunctive, and plan out a 20-25 minute bible story for the upcoming week, I can feel it.  This process is working.   I may sound like a 1st grader sometimes, but I sound like a 1st grader in Spanish.  God is building this language in us like a cathedral for His glory.  Every day we lay more foundation and put up supporting rafters.  Over the course of time, we will get to frame the stained glass windows and lay the tile floors.

But when we do, I fully intend to clean them via Sweep, Squirt, Mop.

Giving Our Account

About 7.5 years ago, the Lord did a miracle to place our family in our home.  It was over our price range, but He invited us in and worked grace through two banks to give us a short sale (where a loss is taken just to get the property off of their books) within our budget.  And the work began.  While the potential of the house was great, the condition of it wasn’t.  Broken light bulb in a socket, sprinkler system out of commission, bushes grown into barricades,  a deluge from a skylight, and so on.  One night early on I prayed for direction whether to use our savings to replace the teenage heating and cooling system or to begin a kitchen restyle.  That very week the furnace began making an alarming noise and the repairman gave us his “kindly sober” look while asking us to say our final goodbyes.  We’ve torn down wallpaper, painted top to bottom, updated fixtures and functions,  ripped out and replanted, until our pillows whispered sweet nothings.  Last year we made it through the kitchen makeover  with a lot of help, and actually enjoyed the Costa Rican cabina feeling of doing life in our kitchenette/dining room/living room space and washing dishes in the bathroom sink.  While the place we call home is still far from perfect, we’ve come a long way by investing our time, talents, and treasure.  To say that I’m attached is an understatement.

A few months back I was lamenting the approaching “for sale” sign to the Lord.  “But God, you did a miracle to get us in this house.”  His sweet whisper immediately answered, “Yes.  And do you think I only have one house-miracle for you?” With a smile I conceded that He was big enough to do as many as He wanted to.  How often I forget.

He spoke again as I was reading in Matthew 25 the other day.  You’ll probably recognize the story.  A man goes on a trip and gives his servants different portions of silver to take care of while he’s gone.  After a long time he returns and gathers them to each give an account of how they had used his money.   Those who had made a good return on his investment received praise and the commendation: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.  Let’s celebrate together” Matthew 25: 21, 23 NLT!

His whisper on my heart was simple, yet profound.  How much easier to bear His yoke, how much lighter to carry His burden when I remember that this roof and everything under it has always belonged to Him.  He’s been letting us tend it, and now He is calling us to give our account.  We have been diligent with this thing that is small from an eternal perspective.  Now He has in mind for us new responsibility: to care for sweet brown eyes in Costa Rica and nurture fellow believers as they step out of their country and culture to serve.  Kingdom festivities are in the works.  So I nudge my heart to release its grasp on this box of treasure in the prairie and take hold of the greater plan that He has for our family in the land of rainforests.  The Master is worthy.  Let’s celebrate together.

A little instruction on the fun picture gallery of our Kitchen Remodel above:  Hover your mouse pointer on a picture to see its caption.  Click on a picture to enter the full-size slideshow display.