Thursday, December 20, 2012

School's Out!!!

Woo Hoo!

School's Out!

We don't have any more school until after New Years!

I don't know about you, but I remember saying and thinking those very words when I was a kid and we got out of school for the two-week Christmas break!

It felt so good to be free...even if it was for just a short time.

Who would have thought that I would feel that way again as an adult, but I do.

The last two months have been full and busy with Spanish. (hence my lack of blog posts ;D) My brain is on overload causing even my English not to work most of the time. I open my mouth and the mixture of Spanish and English that tries to come out just ends up sounding like a bunch of gibberish.

Last Thursday was the last day of school for the entire family until after New Years when a whole new group of people come in to join us.

Friday was graduation for many of our new friends who have been here learning Spanish, anywhere from 4 months to 1 year.

Saying goodbye is always hard, but we know that they are moving to the next phase of the journey...the one to which we are all called...our country of service.

We made forever friends who are serving God in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador & Venezuela!

Now, for the next few weeks, we will rest from our studies, and celebrate our first Christmas in a foreign land. 

We are very thankful to those missionaries who have lived in our house before us and left their Christmas decorations. Adding to them a few of our own and some new things we purchased here and our house is now decorated for the celebration of Christmas & New Years!

We even had the opportunity to celebrate with a parade, Costa-Rican style, with the "Festival De La Luz" or "Festival of the Lights." 

The parade started at 6pm, but we didn't see anything until around 9:30pm. 

We live in Latin America, where there is nothing but "time" here. Each band must have stopped every few feet to give a performance. We thought the parade would never reach us, but eventually it did and the floats and costumes were worth the wait. 

WOW! What an experience! We finally went home around 10:30pm but the parade was far from over. We have no idea what time it ended, but we had some very tired children and parents who all needed some sleep, even if San Jose stayed up all night.

We are hard at work preparing for our first Christmas meal in our new home and what we will be able to find that resembles home-cooked traditions, but we are sure that whatever we end up eating, it will be delicious...even if it includes new foods that are not normally on the traditional "Christmas meal" menu.

Just like our Thanksgiving meal for this year, we may not be able to eat what we always have in the past, but what we put together will be a feast in and of itself. 

New place...New country...New experiences...New lives...New traditions...New journey that will always be changing...always transforming...but the one thing that will always stay the same...the reason for our very existence...the reason we celebrate this season...


With all the newness and change that our life continues to bring us, the foundation is firm and our reason for celebrating is clearer than ever. 

May you rejoice with us in this amazing season of His birth!

Merry Christmas from Costa Rica!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Re-post Worth Reading!

Today I am re-posting my new friend April Amiot's blog post from today. April and her husband, Josh, are missionaries to Costa Rica working with college students. She usually keeps me laughing, but today she hit me right between the eyes.

What a great description of what God is calling us to in this life. It is not an easy journey, but IT IS SO WORTH IT!!

 “For some people their apprehension about stepping out in faith is really a fear of failure.  They do not do what God has called them to because they are afraid they may not succeed.  Listen carefully.  When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey!  The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.” ~David Wilkerson
The Kingdom of God has been rightfully called “The Upside-Down Kingdom”.  It’s like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass into a place where the first are las,t and the meek inherit the land, and to be the greatest you must be the servant.  Everything we know in the world is turned on its head… including the standard of Success.
Would it shock you to learn that God is not at all interested in your personal success?  Joel Osteen has it all wrong.  In this Upside-Down place, God is more interested in the Process of making you who he wants you to be than in making you a successful person.  He’s more interested in crushing and squeezing you to make you into sweet wine.  He may call you to do something which will look like failure in the eyes of the world.  He sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave.  He sent Paul to Rome in chains.  He banished John to a remote island.  Why?  Because He had a purpose which required this kind of process.
Joseph was to be the source of rescue for his family years later when a drought ravaged the land.  Paul was chained to a Roman guard so he would settle down and write the letters of the New Testament.  And John was sitting quietly in a cave when the Revelation was given to him.  All of these men had to accept what looked like failure in order to achieve the calling.
“[The call of God] has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine.  Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us.  We say, ‘If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!’  But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object.  Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom.  If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”  ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
If you would like to read more from April, click here for the link to her blog.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Strange adjustments & beautiful pictures

WOW! We have had a crazy two weeks here. After a week of missiology training in cultural issues from conflict management to culture shock, etc. taught by missionary teachers from AGTS (Assemblies Of God Theological Seminary), to moving back into our Spanish language studies after a week of only English. 

We were way out of practice and our teachers made sure we worked double-time this week for the week we lost, along with a Spanish chapel service dedicated to teaching us cultural nuances that nobody tells you.

We live in a crazy mixed-up world where everything is backwards and upside down, like my daughters are here.

But it doesn't mean that the people here are crazy or mixed-up or backwards and upside down, but I definitely feel that I am all of the above. 

For example, if you meet someone on the street and are going to greet them and keep going, then you don't say, "Hola." You say "Adios." If you say "Hola" to them, they think that you are going to stop because it is an introductory greeting that implies you are going to have a conversation with them. But "Adios" means you are greeting them and going on your way.

Who knew? I surely didn't and I have made numerous greeting faux pas since our arrival. Oops!

We are also considered "loud Americans." I didn't realize how loud I was until people around me kept looking at me while I was having a conversation with my English-speaking friends and even they were shushing me. Oops! Apparently, I am louder than your average "loud" American. ;D (I know there are many out there agreeing with me about my being overly loud!)

There is also a thing called "taxi etiquette." If you are a male and alone, then you sit in the front with the driver. If you are female and alone, then you sit in the back. If you are with your spouse, you can both sit in the back together, but don't slam the door, because that would be rude.

Oh, and you wear shoes in the house here, and you definitely don't answer your door barefooted! That would be very disrespectful.

These are just a few of the odd and different things we are learning.

But what makes me feel so different is that I don't "yet" understand the language and it makes me feel a little ill at ease when I can't communicate with anyone around me. 

Trust me, I am using all of my non-verbals, but they don't work for everything.

It is coming and I have a little victory party in my head and heart when I understand or "get it" in class. I know my classmates probably think I am crazy, but I really don't care, because these minor victories are the the very things that will lead to the major ones as we learn "poco a poco" or "little by little" as our Maestra Mecbel says.

So I will close with some of the beautiful things we see each day in our little area of the world.

These are the decorative bananas that you don't eat that are beside the stairs to our house.
A big brown bird seems to be the only thing eating them.

Coffee beans that haven't quite ripened
and these below which are just beginning to ripen.

These flowered blooms are on trees and bushes right outside of CINCEL.

This bird was in the community park where the kids play outside of CINCEL.

Finally, I have to leave you with pictures of some of our favorite made from scratch foods, like pico de gallo, guacamole, and fried plantains (with sugar & vanilla).

Let me just tell you, cooking everything from scratch is not always fun, especially when you are used to boxed cake mixes and other such easy recipes. But it definitely gets complicated when your oven doesn't list 350* or 400*, but instead lists 266* or 482*.

Finally, these days of waking at 5am will take their toll on you, as you can see Merci gave in and made her own little bed right at the table during our Spanish study group.

Today marks our one month arrival in Costa Rica! We are adjusting well and loving this new adventure even though we are tired and worn out at the end of each week. 

Boy do we look forward to the weekends and exploring more of this beautiful place.

Happy Friday to you all! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Random Thoughts

Today I thought I would share some random thoughts and pictures of things that we have found quite humorous, unique or never put much thought into before.

Thought 1 - Like today as I was braking ice out of ice trays, I thought back to the good ol' days when there were no ice makers and ice trays were all we had.

How many of you remember getting out a few pieces of ice and since there were more than half left, you put the tray back in the freezer, only to have your parents yell out later, "Who put the ice tray back without refilling it?"

Okay, so you don't, but I do. And oh, how I loved ice makers when they made their appearance!!

Needless to say, we have always had one since we were married.

I really didn't think about it too much until we arrived here in Costa Rica and Matthew saw this on the counter...

... and he said to me, "Oh, look at the cool egg thingy!" Hahahaha!

Thought 2 - Another thing we have found interesting is the wording of things, like this packet of Yipy!
They are vanilla creme wafers covered in chocolate...

...or as the package states...

"Chocolate enrobed wafer filled with vanilla creme." Ooh, Laa, Laa!! That just sounds more delicious!

Thought 3 - Speaking of food, it can get expensive here, especially if you buy North American products.

And if you love Maple Syrup, you better bring a small fortune with you because...

...the exchange here is 500 colones to $1 here, so that means this costs you $32 for 16oz!!!

Thought 4 - And the fruit here is amazing to say the least. The mangos, baby bananas and state it like we southerners do..."make you want to slap your momma!"

We have found a most interesting of fruits here called the...

Mamones Chinos (mem-MO-nays), or Chinese Suckers, are pit fruits whose skins are covered with soft red spines. You may have heard them called by the name lychee. Lychees or Mamones Chinos are slightly sweet, not very acidic, and have a chewy texture similar to that of a peeled grape. Their subtle flavor is addictive. The spiny skins are fun to peel into and resemble the seed pod of a Gum tree. Sold in big bags by street vendors, Mamones have unique taste that is not soon forgotten.

Personally, I will stick with the name our friends here have given them...Alien fruit!! It works and everyone know what you are referring to when you say it.

Aren't they cool looking? And we love them. Now you kinda have to chew them around the pit and spit that part out, but we sure do look funny when we are eating them. Kinda like those chewing tobacco in the south. ;D

Thought 5 - And speaking of more food, not all food here is expensive. In fact, some things are less expensive and definitely more fun to buy.

I have already shared about visiting La Feria, the open market, but let me show you what we buy there.

And this is just a sample. But Saturday morning at 7am, taking a walk to La Feria, to visit the vendors and buy these goodies is alot of fun. In fact, even Malachi woke up early this morning just to go back again this week.

We purchased a 5lb. bag of potatoes, 7 limes, 2 heads of lettuce, 3 huge pineapples, 5 avocados, another huge bag of apples, a bunch of cilantro, and a whole mess of green beans, all for around $20.

Thought 6 - Sometimes accidents happen and last week was one of those funny accidents. We were in our phonetics class and it was raining.

Imagine that! Raining in CR during rainy season! Shocker!

Anyway, our teacher was trying to tell us something and we couldn't hear her, so without turning to look, I reached back with my hand to tap Scott and shush him.

What I didn't know was that he had just grabbed his coffee to take a sip and I inadvertently...well, just see for yourself.

Yes, the picture was re-enacted for your benefit. But everyone in class got a good laugh out of it, especially about the spoon that was in the cup that stuck to Scott's shirt. :D

Last thought - We are experiencing life as we never have before from the crazy moments, to the hard days of Spanish-only classes, to the evenings of 6 people with homework, to the early rising sun @ 5 am and setting at 5 pm every day.

Moments like when my children wake up, literally at the crack of dawn, waking me up laughing and playing at 5:30 prompting my whispered yelling that I "never, ever want to hear laughter at 5:30 in the morning again!"

Those are the moments to remember and laugh about...later, in fact...much later.

Just like the times we are wiped out and feel like it is midnight only to look at the clock and discover is is just 7:30pm.

Most weekdays we collapse exhausted in the bed like we have found Matthew several times.

But each weekend, we are able to sleep in...a little, and refresh ourselves in preparation for a new week with new lessons and experiences to learn.

And these are the random thoughts from this past week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Tears!

Today I shed some happy tears!

I was able to experience something most people never get to see.

We had the opportunity, after school, to ride with Bill from Latin America Child Care (LACC) which just happens to share a gated entrance with our school (CINCEL) to visit one of the LACC schools in the San Jose area.

Los Guido LACC School is outside the city and up the mountain a little way.

LACC is one of the ministries that we get to help with in Venezuela.

One of the opportunities provided through LACC is for you in North America or wherever you live, to sponsor a child to attend an LACC school. Just like you would through Compassion International or other such organization, you get to pick a child that you will help to cover their costs to attend school and not only learn educationally, but be provided a way out of a continuous cycle of poverty.

Scott and I sponsored a little girl in Haiti through Compassion International, from the time she was 5 until she turned 20 and graduated from the program and moved on to college. We had the chance to go and visit her once when we were first married and didn't made me wish I had.

When we first arrived, Bill took us to one class in particular and had a young boy brought out. He spoke with him for a few moments and introduced him to our new friends, Randy, Lynne and their daughter, Jennifer.

I thought it was strange for a moment until I realized what was happening right before my eyes.

Randy and Lynne's friends in Washington state sponsor little Josue and they brought a letter with a picture of this family and hand-delivered it directly to Josue.

Then out of Lynne's bag, she pulled a large red and blue soccer ball that was a gift from this family to Josue.

He stood there kinda shy and shocked, and simply asked if the ball was his to keep.

As I stood there with tears welling up in my eyes or sweating eyes, whichever you prefer, I couldn't believe the opportunity that I had been given to witness this amazing moment.

This precious little boy, who probably has very little, just had someone take the time to bring a special letter and gift to him, all the way from another country to show him how much he is loved and cared for by people he may never get to meet.

What a God-ordained moment!

I don't think Josue will ever forget that gift! I know I surely won't!

And of course there were the funny moments today when the little kids thought that Scott's head was too funny in its state of bald!!

It was like rubbing the genie's lantern. They all took a turn rubbing the bald man's head!

Scott kept asking, "Donde esta mi pelo?" or "Where is my hair?"

The kids just giggled and rubbed it some more. He shaved this morning, so his head was soft and smooth to the touch. 

He is definitely glad he chose to shave this morning for such a simple, yet special moment for these little ones who have so little and so few opportunities for silly fun.

Another thing we won't forget anytime soon. I pray these children won't either!

And more happy tears fall as I think about the 5 days each week that they are in this wonderful LACC school where they get to hear about our Savior, Jesus, and the new life and hope that only HE can bring to their lives!

Here's a link to find out more about LACC, click here.