Change in the Air

We can all feel it.  A desire to put away the grammar books and draw out conversation instead.  A focus on the new home to be settled into, and release of that forever-ambition to clean the light fixture in this one.  Heartstrings tug as we do life alongside language school friends, knowing there are only a few more runs to catch together, only a few more cups of tea shared face to face.  We have four weeks left of walking the same sidewalks, shopping the same Saturday morning farmer’s market.  Being newbies together in a foreign language/culture/country has forged some beautiful connections.

And yet, this was never the end goal.  The common thread of learning Spanish has woven us together for a time, but different expressions of Christ’s love in different countries form the ultimate tapestry.  As Aragorn said to Arwen in the movie version of The Two Towers, “This is a dream.”   “Then it is a good dream,” she answered.  That is just what this time has been.

2014-04-18 Atenas House 009 colorIt’s hard to leave.  All of the questions we set aside to embrace Spanish have risen in a new tide.  Will we like our new home?  How long will it take to learn the ropes there?  Will we be good at our area of ministry?  How will our kids adjust?  All of the now-familiar paths and places will make way for another round of breaking trails—marking out the way to the grocery store, orienting to new unmarked streets, learning how to pay bills, finding the bank/doctor/dentist/hospital/pharmacy.  The structure of our days will change again.  For our family, school will move back home as most of Matt’s work transfers out of it.  This season of having my best friend by my side all day as study partner, navigator, and negotiator will come to a close.

I have felt the stress, had it nudge me out of bed to be prayed over and sorted through.  And to be honest, I have it easy.  I have a house already rented and most of its furnishings gathered.  We’re heading to a town I’m familiar with, where we already have relationships and a working knowledge of our ministry home.  My heart goes out to braver friends leaving for new countries and ministries that they’ve barely met.  If my transition is difficult, theirs is heroic.

Being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at change, it means you keep taking steps forward until the Lord brings you out on the other side.

Breaking break for the first time in our rental house.

First lunch in our rental house.  With PB&J, who needs furniture?

Each change has a price tag, some easy, some dearly bought.  But this path of following Jesus is also blessed with celebrations along the way.  Friendships made that will last a lifetime.  Our sweet little kitchen, waiting to be filled with the smell of baking bread and meals for mission teams.  The 12 gallons of paint in our laundry room, ready to color a house into home.  Fun Spanish conversations like we had with the paint reps, explaining the English names of the colors–“What is bisque anyway?”   Little fingers and toes to hold during morning devotions.  Smiles to charm out of shy faces, laughter to share with outgoing ones.  Connecting with people from around the world with a common heart to live for the Lord.

This transition is both tender and exciting.  We are about to step into the dream that the Lord gave us at the very beginning of this journey.  Language school has been a challenging, yet beautiful time of preparation.  May the Lord bless us all as we go forward to serve, wherever He may lead us.


The Fun Stuff

It’s no secret that we are all working hard right now.  The kids are busy with school.  Eliana is enjoying the challenge of 6th grade, but isn’t crazy about the official feel of tests and report cards.  Elijah was promoted to 4th because he had already mastered the material scheduled for the 3rd grade (his age appropriate class).  He loves it, and never missed a beat academically.  Matt just spent the evening working on a science project with him, and I spent the day untangling dollars and colones in our Quicken records.  Before the bell rings for class in the morning, we have a date with the Spanish indicative past tense verb conjugations–the three regular varieties and the 7 categories of irregulars.  Every week we learn more about how to navigate the culture, the language, and the city of San Jose.  All of this is building our family’s ability to do life here well and serve at the Home of Life come June.

But in the midst of the effort, we have been having some fun, too.  Our sloped driveway has proven to be a huge blessing for the E’s to romp in and chase balls around.  Sometimes we even borrow the neighbor’s beagle.  Matt recently got some new rope to rehang a hammock-swing that was left here by a previous family.  The kids delight in being pendulums.  I am thankful for the ample space to dry clothes and my game of racing-the-weather—I play hard to win that one, but it’s nice to have a dryer on my defensive line.  We have taken some walks around the neighborhood to enjoy the little front gardens and the feel of the tight-packed houses.  I’ve laughed my way through three Junie B. Jones books in Spanish and am going to try La Telaraña de Carlota (Charlotte’s Web) next.  Our Dominion cards are back into circulation and we even got in a round of Settlers of Catan this weekend at a language student family game night.  Balancing the work with some play is necessary to avoid burn out.  There is never a shortage of things needing our attention, but we can tackle them better with some joy tucked in between the layers.

A while back we were able to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, the Costa Rican equivalent of the Henry Doorly Zoo.  While the animals on display were significantly fewer, the rain forest exhibit was out of this world.  We thought after hearing about many of the challenges involved in living abroad, you might like to see some of the fun things, too.

Photo Ops and Daily Living

This last week was tough for me.  Matt and I stepped up to a different class for Language and Phonetics.  He’s ready to be a rock star with the others, I’m trying to earn my keep on the sound crew.  Everyone is super encouraging and helpful.  But on Thursday, after a compassionate look from a classmate, the tide came in.  I spent twenty minutes of the class with tears flowing that I couldn’t check.  I don’t think it’s just the Spanish.  I really enjoy learning and this season of being on the other side of the teacher’s manual.  I like the verbal drills and handing in a test that I worked hard on.  It’s fun to load up our backpacks and walk to school together.  One of my favorite parts of the day is hugging each of our E’s before we deliver them to their classrooms.  (Eliana has been asking for her snuggle by the front gate.  Sixth graders have appearances to keep up.)  I even get to have snack time with Matt in the break between classes.

Make a WishI think that in the midst of my persistent “I Can Do This” pace, I haven’t taken enough of a breather to process the myriad of changes in our life.  Dear friends are clearing the last of our belongings from our house in the prairie this weekend.  Eleven days from now it will open its doors to a new family.  No more of our game nights or birthday candles blown out in that kitchen.  No more Sunday naps in that bedroom after anointed worship and teaching at our home church in our mother tongue.  No more morning devotions curled up on that furniture.  No more watching the birds splash or the pines dance in the wind through those windows.  And in spite of the glories of technology, we are a great physical distance from many hearts that mean so much to us.

Laundry Lines

can do this.  I can make our bread, cook meals from scratch, and time our laundry by the look of the skies.  I can walk everywhere we need to go, and get back before dusk falls around 5:30 p.m.  I can rally the kids for the evening dish washing & floor sweeping, help with their homework, and tackle my own.  I can learn new words for everything and the new relationships for how to put them together.  I can learn how to be a parent of school-going children, how to advocate for them with teachers and other students, how to help their understanding as a mom instead of as a teacher.  It sounds hilarious from this vantage point, but Matt and I actually expected this season of language school to be less busy than our lives in Nebraska.  Without homeschooling , a PT career, and ministry commitments, with no yard work, and a third of the house-space to keep clean, we thought life would be more restful in this season.  In reality, we are doing less, but it takes a great deal more of our time to do it.

Street View

want to do this.  I want to learn to love the jumble of houses piled together and broken pavement interspersed with tropical beauty.  I want to bring an open heart to this new culture and soak in a new way of doing life.  I want to make friends and do life in Spanish without English subtitles.  I want to walk in the presence of our Great God as He works in me and through me here in Costa Rica.  I want to delight not only in the photo opportunities at places of natural splendor, but also in the miles of daily living in between.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Galatians 6:9

Speaking of natural splendor, a few weeks ago we were able to spend a day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.  We’ve updated the slide show on our Home page to give you a taste of that incredible time.  Click <here> to check it out.

A Friend in the Bargain

“No photos.  No photos.”  She waved her hand dismissively at Matt, shooing away his Canon.  Up and down the cobblestone street stalls overflowed with colorful Guatemalan bargains.  But here was something new: a lady and her loom, actually making one.  Having more time than quetzales just then, Matt broke out his basic Spanish.  Her name was Manuela.  It wasn’t that she was camera-shy, she just understood the value of the unique scene she made amidst a repetitive market.  In an economy that earned her something like $8 for a 15-hour table runner, sitting fees traveled the other direction.  He watched her weave bright threads and pack them down firmly with a smooth stick, each motion quick and sure from long practice.

¿Cuantos?” he asked her, smiling, “How much?”  In amiable fashion, the bargaining commenced.  She pointed to her Pepsi bottle, “10.  I need to buy food and drink for my family.”  He pointed to his pocket, “I only have 8.  I would like to show your picture to my wife.  She loves the color blue.”  They chatted more about the topics within reach of his language skills: the number of children they had and how long it took to make her wares.  Eventually she consented, softened by his good nature and the evidence that his wallet was being honest about it’s contents.  For about a dollar and some courtesy, he gained a beautiful picture and made a memory that will outlast everything else we bought that trip– a connection with another culture, a friend made in the bargain.

Manuela's Loom

Snapshots and Shared Joys

Some snapshots of recent joys shared here at Hogar de Vida.

The older kids had a fiesta day complete with barrel-bull riding and championship  slip ‘n’ sliding.  The riding rules had to be amended because Elijah was so good at holding on that he  dismantled the “bull” when he was finally shaken loose.

The younger kids had a piñata party and really taught us how to swing a stick.

The Lifegate team is here and is painting, praying, and loving up a storm.  It is such a blessing to spend these days with them.  Note to self: catch up on laundry and cook up some freezer meals before picking them up at the airport in the future, because you won’t want to miss any of it.

Sometimes the team members got painted themselves.

Kris was able to spend two mornings in the central kitchen learning to cook like a Tica and, even better, spending quality time with Vanessa and Oralia.   Vanessa handles lunches and dinners for the 50 + children and staff at Hogar each day.  Oralia and her husband Sebastian direct the Hogar de Vida in Guatemala.  Her visit to Costa Rica is a special treat to celebrate Dena’s 50th birthday and learn new ideas for managing a home of energetic children.

Another trek to the waterfall.

The sweetest reward for studying Spanish:  I was able to have my first conversation in Spanish with Oralia, who has been silently dear to me since our first global journey back in 2006.

More time with Cherie, our friend and mentor in all things “Tico!”  Also, a fun dinner with two wonderful missionary families who live here.  They were kind enough to let us tour their homes and glean from their experience while our kids romped together.  What a blessing to have friends in many countries.  When they wished we were coming down sooner,  we jokingly asked them to head the committee for praying in our financial support early.

The Mango Crew.  These fearless children picked up three wheelbarrows of fallen, yucky, buggy mangoes, making the campus a nicer looking (and smelling) place to be.  I’m so proud of them.

Leaf cutter ants munching away an entire bush in one day.  We were amazed to hear the soft crinkling sound of their busy harvesting and see the 4″ wide highway they cleared through the grass to take the clippings back to their hill.

Time has been passing quickly by, and it’s hard to grasp that we fly back to the states in less than a week.  I begin to understand the roots that we’ve planted in this trip by the resistance my heart feels towards leaving.  I pray that they are well-tended and flourish in the next year so that blossoms are ready to burst forth when we return in a year.  We are ready to take the next step.