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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lesson from the Ceibo trees

"We talk about them, not because we are stuck or we haven't moved on, but we talk about them because we are theirs, and they are ours, and no passage of time will ever change that." Scribbles and Crumbs

We took a trip to the beach a couple weekends ago. We spend 9 hours in a 12 passenger van, with 11 bodies and many bags of clothes, towels, and snacks. It was a long time on the road, squished like sardines. Although who am I to complain? I sat in the front passenger seat nestled next to my handy-dandy breast pump, because my body didn't get the note that we were getting away for the weekend. 😬 Even though it was a tight it , it was oh so worth it just to stand on the beach facing what seems like an infinitely open and vast ocean, swim in the cool pacific waters, and laugh without once thinking about work.

Puerto Lopez, Playa de Los Frailes, Ecuador

You know what also didn't get the memo about the mini-vacation? Grief. He just likes to show up, uninvited, and stays however long he wants. Sometime he shows up for no reason whatsoever and sometimes because you get a reminder on your timehop on Facebook.

I knew this anniversary was coming. My friend Jerica told me the other day how interesting it is that our bodies remember events, despite the fact that our mind is focused on other things. I'll admit, I have been a bit weepy lately...

It has been two years since the day we anxiously waited to see the 6 week sonogram of our first pregnancy, only to have our hearts shatter with the news of the baby growing in my fallopian tube. Two years since I had my first ever surgery. Two years since my body struggled with post-op anesthesia and had to endure all those bumps and pot-holes going up our hill. Two years since everything really changed. I remember the physical pain well. I remember the emotional pain better, because it still lingers.

This one event, this loss, it scarred me. It instilled a deep fear in me. A fear of pain and hurt.

Before our second attempt at InVirto, I cried the whole week before my transfer. I remember so vividly my conversations with God. Actually, it was more me just begging God not to let me get pregnant if I was just to lose the pregnancy again. I was so fearful, that my daily prayers could be translated as follows: God, not your will be done. I don't want Your will if it means more loss, pain, and hurt. I can't do it again. Don't allow me to feel this way again. I just can't.
(Now I think to Jesus on the days leading up to his death on the cross and His bravery and pure love to say the exact opposite in the face of physical and excruciating emotional pain. What love.)

And I was almost relieved when the pregnancy test came back as negative. And foolishly I believed that God answered my prayers. But you know what happened just a few short weeks later? We got a call that the Hacienda was getting an abandoned newborn baby boy and we were being offered the chance to care for him. God placed us in a situation where there was a high risk of loss and pain.

And if fact, there was loss and pain.

It has been 6 months since AJ left us. We've seen him a few times, gotten to hold him, and seen how much he has grown. It make us happy to still be a part of his life, even if it is small part, and to know that he still remember us.
AJ playing and touching Jake's beard

The other day we met some a couple visiting the camp. They asked if Mila was our first/only child. It's hard to know how to answer this question because AJ was just a big part of our lives. Jake and I looked at each other, and answered yes. Sometimes we tell the story of AJ and sometimes it is easier and hurts less not to.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around all of it. What lessons are to be learned from this experience?  I can postulate many things... needing to learn patience, trust, to love anyway despite the chance of hurt, dependance on Him, and quiet possibly to smack the pride outta me. And I am still learning and processing.

I've been reflecting on the fact that Jake and I are in a season of experiencing loss. In additions to the babies, we've also been grieving a loss of an important relationship. It has made me stop and think. These past couple of years have done a number on me. I find myself a bit more closed off and protective of my emotions. You could say I'm in a season of dormancy, much like how a tree isn't dead during the winter but shed its leaves and waits until the next spring to bloom.

It's interesting how God teaches us through His creation...

On our drive to the beach I saw something interesting. I saw these gnarly and ugly, yet somehow majestically beautiful looking trees. They look straight out of a Dr. Seuss or LOTR book with the thick bulbous truck and wild limbs.

(Ceibo tree pictures taken off the internet)

While we are in dry season currently in Ecuador, we had a very wet rainy season this year. So the landscape was still fairly green as we drove through, except for this particular type of tree. These trees were bare. As I sat in the passenger seat, I thought about how stark of a contrast these trees were to their surrounding environment. Dead despite being embedded in midst of life. Then I saw something interesting. Flowers!

The trees were not dead, but intact very much so alive. When we got home I did some research to find more information. Ecuadorians call these trees Ceibo trees (pronounced Say-bo). They have a long history of mythological stories dating back to the Incas and many physical uses for the fruit it produces. But the most interesting fact to me was how it grows.

This area of the coast is a tropical desert and the Ciebo trees have learned to adapt. In the rainy season they are green and lush, but in the dry season they drop their leaves. This doesn't however stop them from being green. The trunk and branches are able to absorb sunlight and go through a photosynthesis process that cause them to emits a green color.  They also grow pink and white colored flowers at the end of their long twisty limbs.

So despite the harsh environment, God has created this type of tree to not only survive but thrive. When all other trees are dormant in the dry season, the Ceibos can and do literally bear fruit. I've been thinking of how this is a great metaphor for me to learn from. Despite being in a season in of dormancy, where I feel like I need to protect myself from the outside world, God gives us hope and tells us we can  still bear fruit. I can't just lock myself away for the hot unbearable summer (can any of you in the States relate right now?!?) or in my case, run and hide from pain and fear, but I need to flourish in spite of it. I can use my grief and pain to grow, to understand the gospel better, to love more deeply and to love anyway... love in spite of fear, loss, grief, hate, lack of understanding, anyway.

January 7th, 2017 our last night with AJ (an 8 day old Mila)

"Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." 

Monday, January 16, 2017

The "Leave Me Alone Sweater"

My in laws came to visit us in the beginning of January. In fact, my MIL is still here, and will be here until the beginning of February. We took them to the artisan market the first Saturday they were here. I wore Mila in the Boba wrap. There were lots of looks and awes at this little wonder sleeping, wrapped up nice and cozy. Several ladies made comments and asked how old she was. 9 days. 9 days old and already out on her first shopping trip.  These ladies explained to me that the maternity leave custom here in Ecuador is not to leave the house with baby for the first 30 days. In fact, mom doesn't get out of bed for 30 days! Wow.

Maternity leave. I don't know if that *really* exists when you are a missionary.  
There is always things to do, people who come and need to be hosted, and life in general. 

Two weeks into my maternity leave and I feel exhausted. But that could just be the lack of sleep talking. And all the emotional heaviness of the recently events in our lives.

Several people have asked how I've been doing lately. Here has been my response:

I saw this on Facebook the other day. It's called the "Leave Me Alone Sweater".
I wanna wear this for a week. (Although breastfeeding might prove difficult...)
With no one in my house to talk to me, nothing to do, no reason to get out of bed (except for hygiene reasons) all while binge watching all the episodes of Downton Abby. 
I just want some rest. Maybe the Ecuadorians have it right.

Then, yesterday something was revealed to me.
At church we did something a little different than normal. We started out with the sermon and then went into a time of meditation; blankets were laid out on the floor, candles lit around the walls, and music playing on the speaker. We read a passage, sang a song, got on our knees to pray, meditating on the scripture and song. We did this three times. Each time we were to move deeper and deeper into God's word. 

The first time I cried for AJ. Thanking God for the blessing of this past year and praying over his future. Many tears were shed and they continue to as I write. 

The second time my heart overflowed with words of praise and glory for our God. Thanks for our God who is always good, for our God who watches over us, blesses us, grieves with us, holds us, raises us. 

The third time a realization hit me and quiet frankly I don't know why it took so stinking long. By this time Justin, who was leading us in this time of worship, had said the word "descanso" or "rest" about 20 times; Lean into the rest of God, find rest in God, go deeper into the rest of God. 

What I've been needing is God's rest. 
Yes, physical rest is important. In fact, it is super important after giving birth for you body's recovery. And important in general. God rested after creation, He commanded His people to rest on the Sabbath, and there are many examples of Jesus resting in the New Testament. Resting... relaxing, taking a break, recharging, slowing down, etc. is not a something to do only when you find time, it is a requirement for health.  And while most days I nap because of my physical exhaustion, I realize what I really need is rest for my soul. 

Because of childhood trama, I have learned to compartmentalize really well. So the events of the past several weeks: Mila being born,  AJ leaving us, my in-laws coming (which isn't a bad thing but for it to happen right at the time of AJ leaving left us heavy hearted for them in addition to us), any and all other worries have just gone into nicely packed boxes in my mind. And quiet frankly, I haven't had time to process much because of all the physical demands and tasks to be done for the arrival of my in-laws (like packing all of AJ's stuff up) and preparing & furnishing a rent house for a couple coming to volunteer for us for the HOHCA for the next 10 weeks. So while mentally I wasn't dealing with the issues, my soul has been heavy with the burdens of my heart. 

So yesterday during our third and last meditation/prayer, I gave out a little chuckle. I don't need the anti-social sweater dress. I don't need everyone to just leave me alone, because then how am I supposed to go to the bathroom, take a shower, or nap when there is no one to hold Mila for me?! What I need is my powerful, loving God to cry out to, listen to me and to be my refuge. Reading through Psalms was a perfect answer. Who better to lament and rejoice with than David?

And my favorite one...

Makes me think of the song, "Trading my Sorrows" which part of the lyrics read:

I'm pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength

Though my sorrows may last for the night

His joy comes with the morning

I'm trading my sorrows

I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down
For the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness

I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down
For the joy of the Lord

Joy is here, wake up

Joy is here, wake up
Joy is here, wake up

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord
Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord

So I will rest. 
I will take naps during the day and take it easy for the sake of my body.
And my soul will rest knowing that my LORD shelters me, protects me, and takes my burdens for me. 

Now all I need is a hammock on the beach. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

No named post

It is difficult to know how to explain this update. Words fail. And quiet frankly our understanding also. 

AJ has been adopted... and not by us. 

The last update I posted was about AJ and what we knew so far in our adoption tale. We got a few papers in and our CPS office lawyer told us to wait until I had Mila to make the drive out to the main CPS office. Well, little did we all know that from that last conversation in September, and in October when AJ was declared officially without a family and adoptable, a different office of CPS has been working to place him with a permanent family. 

A week an a half ago, the HOH directors were told about AJ's permanent placement, and when they asked the lawyer what happened to our case, the only response she had was that we hadn't made an effort in trying to adopt AJ and there was nothing she could do. And of course this response is very frustrating to us as we have asked and asked about what we need to do to get this process going and basically been told false information. Or even flat out lies. 

We immediately contacted a highly recommended adoption lawyer in Quito after we learned of the adoption. After telling our tale and showing all the paperwork on AJ we had, the lawyer told us that at this point, there was nothing we could do. Now, if we had hired a lawyer about a year ago, we probably could have had a chance... because in reality, things like how many years we have lived in Ecuador and trying to conceive a baby, doesn't actually matter, so say this lawyer. And of course, that is very discouraging. 

So here we are... about to have Mila (or maybe by the time this gets posted, already had her!). A  joyous and beautiful experience that is slightly tainted by the sadness in our hearts. Our baby boy is leaving us. And leaving us quickly; sometime between the end of this week and the beginning of next week.

So I ask this of you. Keep us in our prayers. 
Prayers for this time when we are welcoming in a baby girl into our lives. Prayers that Satan doesn't steal our joy. That we are able to keep our hearts open to her despite the heaviness that we feel. And very honestly, prayers that I don't develop postpartum depression. 

Also fervent prayers for AJ. We are trying to work with CPS to make the smoothest transition possible, but we still know it will be extremely difficult on him. He has entered a clingy stage in life because he has learned that we are his Mommy & Daddy. He has adopted our personality traits and habits. He knows our house as his home. And to change all of this... his family, home, and environment will be traumatic. 

This adoptive couple seem nice, based on the pictures I've seen. They are excited and have made many changes to prepare for AJ. Plus... they have already jumped all the hoops in the Ecuador adoption craziness. I don't know if they are Christians or not, or how they will raise AJ. But I do know that we have a great God and he has already worked wonders in AJ's short life. I have full confidence that God will continue to show up and show out in big ways in this guy's life. 

We may never get to see or know where God is going to take AJ, and man that is a very sad thought for us. But we must continue to walk in faith that it is all in God's hands.

I want to say a BIG thank you to all of you who have secretly asked for pictures of AJ, wanted to know updates on the adoption process, and about his general well-being. Some of you have met him, most of you have not, but you all treated him like he was our little one and we so very much appreciate it. 

Now, because I have *somewhat* refrained from posting pictures of AJ over this past year... I will post his Month to Month pictures and some of favorites. 

ALSO. I need a favor. If you would like to make a comment to us... please refrain for saying that you will pray for a miracle and something will change so that AJ can stay with us. You can still pray for that, but please understand that in our hearts and mind, we need to believe that this is going to happen. Not that we don't believe in miracles or in God's power nor that we want AJ leaving us, but it is very painful to hold onto that kind of hope. We need to look forward to the closure that this will bring and be able to grieve our loss. Thank you for your understanding. 

We love you AJ. 
You will always be our first baby.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The fruit of the Spirit isn't a pineapple...

But according to my "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" app, baby Mila is a pineapple this week! (If you haven't heard... I am 35 week pregnant!)
Was that a strange segue for y'all? Sorry, my brain is all over the place lately. I blame hormones.

The last time I wrote about baby stuff was after we had lost our first pregnancy.
*long pause and deep breath*
A literal long pause because it was over a year since I blogged after that and I also just took a long pause because I'm not sure what to write after that sentence.


The last time I wrote about baby stuff was after we had lost our first pregnancy. A lot has happened since then. I assume most of y'all are fairly aware of those changes because you are our Facebook friends (and if you aren't, you really should be). Last December we received baby Angel Jesus, a newborn who was abandoned in a strip mall. We received word about him while we were in the States for a funeral and two days after a negative pregnancy test. It was (and has been) exciting and overwhelming at the same time to be insta-parents.

It has been almost a year since we received AJ, and so much has happened (like becoming pregnant!). I wanted to take some time to give y'all a status report on AJ and the adoption process. This will probably be a long story, sorry y'all.

I will start by saying that fostering/adopting is a VERY complicated process in Ecuador... as most legal processes are. Plus, Ecuador does not have currently have a foster program and in fact, looks down on the foster program. We currently are fostering through the Hacienda, which has legalized written bylaws allowing fostering, and that is the only reason why we are allowed to have AJ. So I guess we were off to a bad start to begin with when dealing with CPS (child protective services).

AJ's case was a little different from most because he was broadcasted all over the national news. Case workers, police officials, and the local CPS office were interviewed and videoed, which probably made them feel pretty important. Newborns being abandoned in town actually isn't a very common occurrence. So some of the locals have this special emotional attachment to him, which they don't in any of the other Hacienda kids.

Back in early 2016, I was posting pictures of AJ on Facebook fairly often. Despite the fact that my profile is set to private, the local CPS office was able to see some of the images and posts. They were fairly upset, and understandably. It is a law, even in the States, that foster parents cannot post picture of their foster kids. But the part that got me was the fact that they were upset to see that we were growing a bond with him. They feel like it is better for a child to be put in a children's home or orphanage so that bond aren't formed as closely. Kinda backwards thinking, hu? Well, I was visited by the local CPS office. They came up to the house and wanted to see the baby and where he was staying. They also wanted to inform me that we were not his forever parents and that we will never be his forever parents. Pretty harsh.

That was a difficult conversation and a difficult day. We've known all along that chances of adoption could be pretty slim and that we just had to be prayerful and open to all possibilities. Which of course is a very...VERY... hard thing for anyone to do, nonetheless a couple suffering through infertility.

We were told that this was the local CPS office who were making these statements and they technically don't make any sort of adoption decisions. So we made an appointment in February, with the main CPS office in Tena, which is in-charge of adoptions in our area. Tena is a 5 hour drive towards the Amazon jungle.  There we had an informal meeting with the psychologist. Normally we would meet with a social worker, but the current one had quit so we were left with psychologist. We had hoped that because of the good relationship the Hacienda directors had with the main CPS office, we would receive good news. We left fairly disappointed. Here is what we were told:

  • We couldn't start the official processes of being adoptive parents until July 2016, because that is when we would have lived in Ecuador for 3 years (we knew this part, so it wasn't a big deal)
  • As adoptive parents you cannot choose the child you want to adopt. CPS chooses them... It doesn't matter that you are fostering a child, especially in our case because the child is so young you don't grow the same kind of bond. We were told that infants don't remember anything so the bond we are creating doesn't really matter much. (?!?!?!?)
  • If we wanted to adopt, we couldn't be in the process of trying to get pregnant. If we were to get pregnant, we would have to wait a certain period of time after the birth of our child to begin/or continue the process of adoption.
I left that day feeling extremely discouraged, more so about that last point. What do we do? Do we post-pone fertility treatments and pursue adoption in hopes that they will bend the "not choosing your baby" rule (which we feel confident they would) and jump through all the hoops not knowing if further down the line we get a different "no" for a different reason (which is highly possible). Do we continue with fertility treatments in the hopes that they would change their minds later and even take the risk that AJ could be adopted by someone else? Its almost a no win/no win situation.

The path we decided on was to continue our plan of growing our family and put AJ's adoption into God's hands. In March, we found out our third IVF cycle was successful and I was pregnant. Things were pretty quiet on the CPS front for several months. The main office had a change over of staff (which happens every two years) so that delayed almost all of their cases. In July the new psychologist was in town working with the Hacienda's social worker. I was informed that the new lady was up to date on AJ's case and wanted to work with us on adoption work. Praise the Lord!

In July sat down with the new main office CPS psychologist while she was in town. She got some basic info down and said we had to drive out to Tena again and do an official interview. We asked if being pregnant would be an issue, she assured us that it would not be (hooray!). However, the problem was, once again, there was no current social worker. The lady said that once she found a social worker she would give us a call and we could set up an appointment, hopefully for sometime in August. Well, August came and went and we received no call. This isn't a surprising fact, as that it is very common here. We are the ones who have to be proactive if we want things to happen. And unfortunately, we were not. I could list off some excuses and things we were doing, but I won't. We should have been better.

September came and so did the time for the Hacienda social worker to close AJ's file with the courts. This means that all the work to find his family has been done and he can be officially declared adoptable. Well, that put a little bit of a rush on us. I was in Quito getting a glucose test done when I was told that we should be getting together documents and speaking with the psychologist again. Jake called and talked to the lady and she said we could begin the paperwork, BUT because I was pregnant, the 5 hour drive would be too much for me and to wait until after I gave birth (because then having two babies and driving to Tena would be so much easier?). 

We were scheduled to leave the next day for our month long visit in the States. So I ran around trying to get paperwork together- pictures of AJ throughout the time we've had him, pictures of our house, picture of our family, apostilled marriage certificate, visa paperwork. Then while we were in the States, we got more paperwork- apostilled birth certificates, changed the name on my brith certificate because it was spelled wrong, and FBI fingerprints/background check, all to put into our file to show that we have begun some sort of work towards adoption. 

Now that we are back in Ecuador, we've heard that the psychologist is quitting in December. And that is where we stand right now. Still in limbo. But maybe with higher hopes than when we began the year. 

AJ will turn one on December 8th.
He has two lower teeth and 4 coming in right now on top.
He is getting super close to walking.
He says "mama" and definitely knows who his "right now" Ma-ma and Da-da are.
He loves to watch "Praise Baby" (worship music for babies) on the TV and play on the couch.
He loves his puppy dog, but too bad the puppy dog is afraid of him.
And he is absolutely a blessing to Jake and I. 

Baby Mila is due Dec. 22nd. She has been kicking momma a lot! Side note- How come we women don't often talk about the amazingness that is growing a baby?!? There is a whole 'nother world going on in your abdomen that no one knows about! You are at work, sitting in a meeting maybe, and there is life kicking, moving about, growing inside of you and everyone else is just going about like it is another normal day. It's not a normal day... there is a miracle happing! It's just so cool! But I digress. 

Anyway. That is the long story. We still don't know what is going to happen. It is all still outside of our control and we have to daily give it all to God because there is nothing else to be done. It isn't easy. We love this little guy so fiercely. He is our family. Let's all be in prayer that he will get to be in our forever family. 

September 2016
Shhhh... Don't tell anyone!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Shame on us!

Shame on us for not posting in over a whole year!

Sometimes it seems like there are so many people putting updates, thoughts, and opinions out there on the web that adding one more voice to it all seems all so insignificant. However, while on our US "tour" I was reminded that people *actually* read and follow our blog. Bless your hearts! So here it is, a blog update:

Our three year anniversary of living in Ecuador has come and gone. We have begun our 4th school year. How's it going, you ask? You REALLY want to know? I'll tell you.

Have you ever felt excited about a new job? Felt excited for the adventures, the changes you would bring about for the betterment of the workplace, the strengths you'd provide, etc? And then several months/years into said job, you find yourself disappointed and discouraged because reality didn't meet your expectation? I think it happens to all of us, to some degree or another. We are no exception.

This past year has been difficult for the both of us. Year three. Man, it was a doozy!
Our expectations of where the school (students, teachers, and parents) would be by this point in our time as directors are pretty far from reality. And what is even more burdensome is other people's expectations of where we should be by now.

We've done elaborate trainings, hours upon hours of meetings, given out teacher memos (this is a bad thing), given pep talks and stern talking-tos, handed out daily and weekly reminders, we have prayer sessions and devotionals, all in the hopes of seeing change in the school. By now, all (or at least most things) should be running smoothly with routines and procedures in place and our teachers trained and implementing the latest educational craze.

But what have we seen and learned, especially this last year? Change is hard and expectations go unmet... but thats ok.

I've heard it said, that in the States, after a training on a new concept/classroom management style/teaching philosophy/"lo que sea" (whatever) you expect to see results in about 6 months. Well, when you throw in the fact that many of these trainings are counter-cultural here in Ecuador, you could probably expect to see results in maybe a year. That is if you can retain the teachers every school year. And then add more training/changes on top of that, because running a school is so multifaceted, it isn't just about one procedure or teaching style... it has to be all encompassing. So when you look at it from this perspective, that is a whole host of changes in a short amount of time! That makes me feel a tad bit better about our situation.

And while we are at it, lets talk about expectations. Expectations can be such a nasty little thing.
I found this quote by author Steve Maraboli, that I find true. He says, "Expectations feeds frustrations. It's an unhealthy attachment to people, things, and outcomes we wish we could control; but don't."
We don't control. I have a bad habit in that most of the time I hate not being in control. But right now, in this circumstance, it is a wonderful truth. Know why? Because it means that God is in control.

During this season of frustration, Jake and I have been comforted by reading Isaiah 55:8-13, which says:
""My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "
"And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the gain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were thorns, cypress will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the LORD's name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.""

For us, this passage has been a reminder that God is in control. This work, here in Ecuador is HIS work. It isn't ours. And as much as we love it, he loves it so much more. Of course God will bless it, make it fruitful, and he will receive the honor and glory. It may take some time, as does growing seed and producing bread for the hungry, but in the end we have his promise that when he sends his word (or when he sends his people) it always produces fruit and accomplishes all he intends it to.

And just this year, we have seen just a glimpse of his mighty works. We've heard the faint sound of mountains and hills singing their song. Or the tree clapping and dancing in joy. The myrtles and cypress beginning to bud.
This school year, HOHCA has grown in student population by 32%. We went from 178 students last year to 235 this year. That is by far the most this little school has ever seen. So while sometimes we have a hard time seeing changes, parents and community members view it with different eyes. What a blessing.

Praise God that his thoughts and ways are higher and far beyond anything we could imagine.
This year... this year is going to be great. Because we will put our trust (and expectations!) in God.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


           My legs, arms and face are heavy sprinkled with markings; Markings of adventures, falls, and hurts. A scar between my toes where I stepped on glass while treading through the Willamette River, a large bump on my inner thigh where I got a splinter, and later stiches, because of wooden tree swing, and teeth marks on my tongue where as a child I bit down forcefully while riding over railroad tracks, all ticking a spot on the timeline of my existence.  
            Although they leave a permanent trace on my body, I don’t remember where the majority of my scars came from, events so insignificant they didn’t leave a whisper in my memory. I do, however, have three small recently formed scars on my abdomen. While these wounds have marked my skin, they have also penetrated deeper. They have scarred my soul. 
            There was a heartbeat growing stronger everyday inside of me. A deeply desired and precious life forming in my womb, only to be discovered as ectopic and removed, along with a physical piece of me, because both threaten my life.  How do I form words to explain the scars in my inner most being from such an event?  How do I not drown in the pain and sorrow? The depth of my sadness, oh what darkened pit.

            I recall the gloom surrounding me the morning of my surgery. I sat in the shower crying out to God. These laments weren’t of questioning why. They weren’t angry shouts to an unfair God. My cries weren’t even petitions to save my baby. I was prostrated in the corner of the shower, water streaming on my naked body, asking God to hold me. To hold me as I was falling into the pit.
            It really bothers me that when talking about trails and tribulation, people claim that God never gives us more than we can handle. I’ve heard this often and have even quoted it myself. However, this is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which the NIV reads as so, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Paul is talking about temptations. This verse doesn’t speak to my anguish. It doesn’t sooth the sting of loss. It can’t help me when I am in the depths of the depth.

            Plus, I’ve always been a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” type of person. When life would throw me a curveball or during difficult seasons in life, I would cry in hiding, take a large breath  (most likely compartmentalize) and move forward. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve come so far in life, despite the trails and baggage that tried to hold me back. I believe I’m not the only one who behaves this way. In fact, I think that the church encourages this behavior (and by “church”, I mean us… because WE ARE the church). We are uncomfortable with deep sorrows and pain that causes public weeping and gnashing of teeth. We want people leaving their baggage at the church door and appearing happy while sitting in the pews. Or at least that is the general feeling we get since it is so few and far between when we are completely honest about our currently sufferings.
           So when I couldn’t quickly get over all the loss I’ve felt this past year, I was a bit ashamed. I was ashamed that I still cry because I miss my Papa. Frustrated because the suicide of an uncle and death of a cat follow me like a dark cloud. Depressed because I am wallowing in my deep lonely pit after loosing my baby. How am I supposed to move forward? If the verse in Corinthians wasn’t talking about trial and tribulations, does that mean that God will give us more than we can handle? Probably. What good is God’s love, mercy and grace to us if we can handle everything on our own? What purpose would it serve for Jesus to become human if it weren’t to give us an example? 

            As I’ve been in my pit, I’ve decided to do some devotional readings on grief. I can’t wallow forever; I’m not a pig (although they can be cute!). In my readings I’ve come across many quotes. I love this excerpt from Nicholas Wolterstoff’s book Lament for a Son because it helped me realize that God understands my suffering. Not only does He understand it, but has felt it. He can empathize.
            “God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. The pain and fallenness of humanity have entered into his heart. Through the prism of my tears I have seen a suffering God… And great mystery: to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some    mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil. Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.” (Pg. 81) 
How cool (I know, lame word choice) is it to think, know, and feel that God isn’t shaming you for sitting in your pit of darkness. He isn’t lecturing you on how you need to be stronger. He doesn’t yell, “shake it off” and expect you to make your way out of the depths. He isn’t even offering his hand to pull you out. God gets into your pit with you. He shares it with you.
            Last Friday I led the Tabacundo women’s ministry class. Since my Spanish is still limited, I led a short devotional class and did a fun craft out of toilet paper rolls (yay women’s ministry!). As I was preparing my thoughts about the Easter story and the significance the symbol of the cross is to me, I realized something. I wasn’t just talking about the Easter story: Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. I was sharing my story. The Easter story IS my story. It is all of ours.

            I think about Jesus’ sufferings: physical and emotional wounds, the betrayal of close friends, the public humiliation of being put on a cross with criminals, and ultimately death.  And gosh, when I write them out, my issues pale in comparison. However, my scars still hurt and have no less significance in my life. I believe the point isn’t to make my suffering seem less. The point is to have a friend along side me, a friend to endure the Friday and Saturday in my pit.            

            Jesus’ story doesn’t end at the cross; therefore my story doesn’t end with me lost in my pit. The story, my story, our story, ends on Sunday. It ends in resurrection. So from within the dark, God raised me. He whispered to me “Христос воскрес” and I replied, “Воистину воскрес.” (This is something I heard throughout my whole childhood. It is a traditional Russian Christian/Orthodox greeting on Easter. Someone will say, “Jesus has risen” and you reply, “Truly He has risen”.)

            So if God can raise the dead, why couldn’t He raise a marriage from the brink of divorce, a strained relationship, or a spiritually dead person? Why can’t he raise me from the edge of my despair? He can and He does. Despite our hardships, pain, and “deaths” we endure, we can rejoice because Jesus rose from the dead. Amen! He gets the last word, and that word is LIFE. God brings life from the grave.

            Truly He has risen! My pain my resurface from time to time, but it no longer bears the sting it once had. Truly He has risen and with Him, He has raised me from my brokenness. I still bear the scars of my wounds. However, so did Jesus after His resurrection. His scars bore witness to the fact that He was indeed who He said he was, Christ Son of God and Savior. My scars bear witness to the fact that I have walked with Him and we share the story.

Pictures to lighten the mood...

Here are some pictures of the last several months. Seems like I haven't been quite as camera happy since there are only a handful of photos to demonstrate 4 months. Sorry about that.

At the end of June we were required by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education to have a school day on a Saturday. SO... we created a family day and had the kids demonstrate their various talents.

In the beginning of July we had Kinder graduation.

At mid-July was senior graduation. We had 10 graduate this year!

Class of 2015 and Mr. Jake

The beginning of this school year, we've had several changes. One of the biggest being we added 
Pre-K. Check out these cuties!

With the weather being so dry this summer, out students have discovered how much they love sliding down the hill!

To begin the school year we did a school wide project where students had to write their goal for this school year.

We had some students with great goals!

Another change is that we have club classes at the end of the school days. I (Tanya) teach the art club. We learned about the color wheel and color mixing with frosting and cookies. It was a delicious lesson!

We also celebrated Ecuadorian Day of the Flag. This year we have 6 seniors and 4 of them are from the Hacienda. Catalina is our Valedictorian and Jorge our Salutatorian. They received special honors during the flag ceremony. We are so very proud of these kids!  

The graduating Hacienda kids

Top 3 senior students