Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don’t sweat the small stuff...wait...What?

As of Sunday, we are now in our new home here in Venezuela! YAY!

I don’t know if I will get a chance to post this today because we have no internet in our home yet.

So, if you don’t see this on the 16th, then you know I didn’t get to post it until later.

How much later, I am not sure, as I hear that it takes up to 30 days from the time you go to the phone company and you prove that you actually live here and then after the phone service is established another 15 days before you can get internet. Or wait, you have to wait 30 days after the phone service is established to request internet service and then another 15 days after that, no that, that is right...waiting is the name of the game, no matter how it works here.

We haven’t had a chance to get to the phone company yet, because we don’t have a vehicle yet, and we aren’t sure if we will get one anytime soon.

So, we will have to ask our missionary friends to come and pick us up or get a taxi and meet our Venezuelan friends at the phone company with our rental contract and/or our letter from the person in charge of our neighborhood (there is a name for that) saying that we do live here at this house and then maybe the phone people will grant us favor and set up an appt. to put in our phone service, and then the wait begins until we can get internet.

But we could live in a shack on the side of a cliff and have DirecTV?! Go figure!

Funny how some things work. 

Like how it works when you go to the grocery store...If I want to buy rationed products, I have to ask how many I can buy, and each answer may be different because the guy in the back sitting by the products to make sure you don’t take over the quota may say something entirely different than the cashier who says you can only have this number. 

And sometimes there is nothing marked as to how many per person, but the cashier, for whatever reason, may decide that you need only a certain number and will tell you that you can only have whatever number they have decided on at that moment. And so you buy what they say and move on. 

Oh, and let’s not forget that as you walk out the door 5 to 10 feet away, there is someone there who will look through everything, and I mean, everything (not like in Sam’s or BJ’s in the States) you just paid for and mark your receipt carefully. So, with our family of 7 and the purchases we have to make at the grocery story...let’s just say we are there for a while.
Welcome to living in a country that is more communist than socialist and everything is dictated down to how much you can spend on your debit card each day...if you are allowed to open an account and get one...or how much you can take out of the bank each day, not the ATM, but in person. And do you really want to stand in those long lines at the bank that stretch forever, it seems?

But that is not what this post is about. It is about the little things.

Wait...that is exactly what I have been writing about. It is the little things that make life so drastically different here. Things that in the States we completely take for granted and don’t even bother with most of the time. 

But here, each and every one means a world of difference. 

Like the silver hose clamp in the picture below...

Without it, we couldn’t use our new oven and stove to cook. We had it sitting in our house, but it didn’t do us any good without that clamp, except for extra space to put things on in the kitchen.

I am thankful for my little silver hose clamp!

Or this tank, (which to us is a very big thing) but as small as it is, it provides us with nice hot showers when most people have to take cold showers every day. It is a small tank and we have to take quick showers or wait in 30 minute intervals between showers, but it brings us ‘hot’ water.

The next best thing is a ‘widowmaker’ which provides warm showers as it heats the water immediately as it comes through the pipe into the shower.

But, a word or two of advice...don’t turn on the water too high or the water won’t have long enough to get warm out sticking your arm up in the air above you or you might get a little ‘shock” and that is no joke. Those wires at the top are ‘live’ and will ‘light’ you up if you touch them...hence the name...widowmaker!

I am thankful for my little white water heater.

Or the industrial-strength zip ties that help hold bunk beds together when the bolts are too weak and break off.

Or the clothes-line that allows me to ‘get back to my roots’ and hang clothes out in our backyard until (and even after) we get a dryer.

Or the bean-bag chairs for our kids to have somewhere to sit until (and after) we get our living room furniture.
Or the two big water tanks in the backyard that hold water for the days when the city isn’t running water through the pipes.

Or the water truck that comes through my neighborhood bringing fresh, filtered, bottled water for our family to drink and cook with.

Or the voltage regulator plugs that allow us to protect our appliances and electronics from power surges!

Or the landlords of our house who love Jesus and are so very kind and generous and willing to help us, with our incomplete Spanish and all.

Or the phones that we were given that allow us to set up a very inexpensive plan that we can call internationally from and talk to friends and family back home and have internet and facebook until we can get it in our home! Although I find it very difficult to type anything fast or accurate on that tiny keyboard!

Or the financial gifts that we were given during our month in the States that have allowed us to buy most, if not all of our household furnishings here in Venezuela!

For all those seemingly insignificant things, I am so very thankful! To us, some are not small things. Some are bigger than they seem and some were made at great sacrifice!

The biggest small thing that I want to acknowledge here is....the Favor of God

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t say this lightly or as if we are more special and have God’s favor shining upon us because of something we have said or done...No! Never!

The Favor of God is so often overlooked and missed in our everyday lives. We don’t see it as something huge or grand when things simply fall into place in our lives. But don’t you see that when those things work out so perfectly or come together so accurately, it could only be God’s divine favor on our behalf?!

God loves to take care of his children and loves to shine His ‘favor’ upon us, not only in the big things, but in the small things of everyday life. 

When we take the time to ask Him for His favor, for His guidance and wisdom, just like Solomon asked, He will grant it and so much more. He loves us so much that He willingly shines His favor upon His children even when we don’t deserve it!

On our recent trip to Mérida, we passed more military checkpoints than I care to remember and God shined down His favor and we were not stopped once, going or coming. That is unheard of!

We had friends that went another way and were stopped numerous times and for long periods of time! Do I think they didn’t receive God’s favor? No! God just allowed us to see how He works on our behalf at different times and for different reasons.
Do I think we will never be stopped at a checkpoint? No! But I know that God’s favor will still be with us in the midst of the stop and He will direct our words and our steps if we allow Him to do so.

God’s divine favor is not about never having problems or life being easier for one over another. His favor is about trusting, walking, standing, waiting, etc. in His timing and His will and allowing Him to direct us in His paths.

He loves us enough to give us a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Will we look for it and follow it and be thankful for even the smallest of details in our life that He has so orchestrated or will we settle on going our own way and getting frustrated along the path?

I want to always be thankful for the small things, however they come and believe that God’s favor rests on me, as His child, who is trying to follow His path as closely as I can so that I don’t miss Him while trying to work out the details by myself!

Oh, and I did get to post this today, thanks to our great friends, the Nelsons, who let us use their internet for a little while tonight, late as it is! :D

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Venezuela, here we come!

(This was written on Monday in the airport in Curaçao and completed once we arrived in Venezuela.)

Today, the big day.

7 people,
7 military duffels @ 70lb. each,
7 hardshell full-size suitcases @ 70lb. each,
7 footlocker boxes @ 70lb. each,
7 carry-on suitcases @ 25lb. each,
7 backpacks @ 20lb. each...all that we now own,
on 3 different planes from Raleigh to Miami to Curaçao to Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

And here we sit in Curaçao...waiting once again...but this is sooooo different. This time it is the culmination of what we have worked towards for so many years...the years of running...the years of preparing (before and after the running)....the years traveling and raising support...the year learning Spanish...and we wait. Venezuela is the next stop. We will be on the the land of our calling...where God so gently and sweetly spoke to us through Pastor Gerson that we would have, not only the 5 children God has given us by birth, but the hundreds He has given us through  His plan!
What a wonderful day it is! God has shown us such great favor through each and every security checkpoint, ticket counter, baggage claim, customs, baggage weigh-in, etc. 

We have one more to go, the big one...Venezuela. 

The rules and regulations are so strict and the taxes/fines can be so high there, but God is faithful and He has shown Himself big on this day.

From the lady on the plane who sat with us during two separate flights today and became a new friend who wanted to hear our story and offered for us to visit her in her home in Bonaire when we need to come there...
to the AGWM Area Director for the Caribbean and our friend, Dale Coad, being on our 2nd flight with us and getting to fellowship with him...
to the employee at Insel Air who worked for over an hour to help us secure a large discount for all our luggage that, for the last flight of the day, was counted as extra luggage and over-weight in comparison to the first two flights where they were counted as free...
God has met us every step of the way.

Before we left, when people asked us what to pray for, we asked, (selfishly, I might add) for them to pray that our luggage would all arrive with us with no hassle and nothing missing, and they prayed...and God heard and answered in big ways!

...And now...the Rest of the Story!

We boarded the plane for Venezuela around 8pm and within minutes were given our immigration forms. With 7 to fill out and one customs form for the entire family and only a 25 minute plane ride, I had my work cut out for me.
I don’t know if I have ever written so fast in my life, I had completed 75% of each form when they informed me that I needed to close my tray table. 

Scott finished the customs form and as we landed, I was able to finish the immigration forms. We got off the plane on the runway and Malachi said he felt like he was the president.

And Micah looked at me and said...”Welcome home!”

My nerves were too shot to acknowledge my emotions in that moment.

And then we walked into the smallest airport that I have ever been in. One tiny room where we lined up in a huge line outside onto the tarmac as we waited to show our papers at immigration.

As we stood there, Scott was still completing the customs form, trying to declare the type of things we brought without giving too much detail, but not trying to look like we were trying to get out of paying the “aduana” or customs fees. 

He asked me how to say ‘pots and pans’ in Spanish and, of course, in that moment, I couldn’t recall. So the lady behind us, who spoke beautiful English, asked if she could help. 

When Scott asked her the same question, she was a little confused as to what kind of ‘pot’ my husband was referring to. He told her that it was the kind you cook in! 

She was very relieved that Scott was not trying to declare drugs!

Once we were through that line, we stood around in a very small room with everyone from our plane waiting for our luggage. 

We were able to explain to one of the airport officials that we had 21 checked bags coming through, not to mention the 14 carry-ons and backpacks. He told us that if there was no one in line when they all came through, then we could send them through the machines then, but otherwise, we would need to wait until last.

After we received 19 of our bags, we waited and waited and waited some more for those final two bags. We were all praying hard that they made it....and...finally they came through.

Then the long wait for all the other people to get through the line. If someone moved a bag 2 feet forward, the person behind shoved their bag into that spot as quickly as they could. The roped off area expanded, as people pushed and shoved themselves and their luggage forward.

We stood back and waited and prayed that our luggage would not be torn apart as they searched through it, or things taken out and not given back, or that we would have to pay huge fees for the items we had brought with us...

And then it was our turn...

The airport officials helped us load the luggage through the scanners, and helped us load them on cards afterward and they only grabbed one bag...Merci’s search. They found nothing but clothes and shoes and they didn’t touch another bag.

As we walked out of the airport, they closed and locked the doors behind us.


We fully expected to pay whatever we were asked to pay. 

Chris was waiting on the other side with funds waiting to pay the fees and...nothing!

God so faithfully went before us, beside us and behind us as we traveled to Venezuela!

Like He always has, and always will!

I Thess. 5:24 once again comes to mind and reveals who He is!

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Laughter...Life's Best Medicine

Another 2 months have passed and my grandiose ideas for frequent updates have proven flawed once again.

So, let's move on and talk about something else and avoid this subject altogether! ;D

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22,

A cheerful heart is good medicine, 
But a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (NIV)

Our family laughs a lot and we try to enjoy life as much as possible, especially when things become difficult.

I mean, who wants the alternative. I don't prefer a crushed spirit or dried up bones, do you?

In light of this clear instruction, I would like to share a couple funny stories that we have experienced recently.

The first is short and sweet, because of course, it involves Merci and her adorable 6-year-old antics. Oh, the things that they think and say, especially when they have older siblings. They hear everything...and I mean...everything.

One evening after we returned from our last trip to Panama, Merci was working on her make-up work for school and she was given a math page to complete. On said page, she had to draw pictures of items and then mark out some of them as she practiced her subtraction.

On this one particular problem, she had to draw 9 rocks. I told her it was like drawing a circle, but with squiggly lines. She looked at me and with hands on her hips and head cocked to the side, preceded to tell me, "I can DO squiggly lines!"

And here is the result...(the first one is my example).

After we assured her that she did a wonderful job, we laughed really hard at her very unique rocks. :D

Next story, and this is one for the history books, hence, my telling of it on this blog.

One evening, as we were cooking supper, Malachi asked, "Mom, Dad, what's a pick-up line?"

After exchanging looks, I told Malachi that it was a corny statement that you would make to a girl to let her know you like her. We used this one as our example: "Are you tired? Because you've been running through my mind all day!"

Immediately, he began to pace and say things like, "I'm dead!" "What have I done?" "OMG!" "I'm an idiot!" 

In our confusion, we asked him what was wrong. He told us how, at school, he had been given a questionnaire to fill out and one of the questions was, "What is your favorite pick-up line?"

And since he didn't know what a pick-up line was, he thought maybe putting his favorite movie quote would suffice. might ask, "What is his favorite movie quote?" 

It is from the movie Silverado and the character, Malachi, played by Danny Glover.

Are you ready? Drumroll please.....And the quote is.....

"I don't want to kill you and you don't wanna be dead!"

We laughed til we hurt!

But that isn't the end of the story.

Several weeks later, he was called into the school office, along with several other students, and they were told that their pick-up lines were not very positive....positive....really....ya think?

(By the way, he asked his friend to explain in Spanish his confusion and that he wasn't trying to be negative.)

We laughed again til we hurt!

So...the end result was...

Laughter and a cheerful heart keep us sane in the midst of the stresses of life.

And we wanted you to have a good laugh too!

Monday, April 22, 2013

School's Out!! - Part 2

Apparently, I never imagined how busy this trimester would be!

Yet, here we are...4 months later...another trimester of Spanish completed...with not one blog written or posted!

So much for my grandiose plans for more frequent blog posts. (insert shrug here)


What can I share with you about this last trimester?

Other than the obvious...that we learned more Spanish! ;D

I know...let me share a little of what goes on in my brain when it comes to speaking Spanish.

Now, I know you are probably thinking this is a very dangerous idea and maybe it is, but it is just to give you an idea.

Let's pick a simple sentence like..."I went to buy fruits and vegetables at the market this past weekend."

1. I know I am talking about myself, so I use "Yo"

2. I have to remember my verb for "went" is "ir", but I have to conjugate it from its infinitive form, so in present it would be "voy" when using it with "yo", but I am referring to the past, so it is "fui", but if I were referring to an event I do multiple times not just this specific time, then I would have to change the conjugation to "iba" but I'm only speaking about this specific time that has ended and not weekly for me, so I am using "fui" this time.

3. I am also having to use another verb "to buy" but because it comes after my initial verb, then I don't have to conjugate it, so it stays in its infinite form as "comprar."

4. Now I need to remember my vocabulary words for "fruits and vegetables", which is "frutas y vegetales."

5. "At the market" would need to be translated as "en la feria."

6. Lastly, "this past weekend" would be "este fin de semana pasado."

After going over all that in my head, I have to put it all together to say..."Yo fui a comprar frutas y vegetales en la feria este fin de semana pasado."

In English, my mind processes the words as they come, but in Spanish, I have to stand in silence while I allow the entire process to be completed and then state my sentence...

So what you hear is...

Question (Spanish-speaking person)
Long silence (from me)
Answer (me)
Followed by another question (Spanish-speaking person)
Followed by another long silence (from me)
Answer (me)
And then Spanish speaking person rattles off a bunch of Spanish while I stand there nodding and hoping that I am getting all they are saying and I am not agreeing to join the gym or something even worse.

I'm hoping that you are getting the picture.

Learning the verbs didn't seem difficult, learning to conjugate them in present didn't seem much worse, but after adding the past perfect and imperfect I now have one verb with 15 different options of use and I gotta remember them all as I am speaking.

My brain hurts (Mi cerebro me duele!) just thinking about having to do this with every sentence.

And don't even get me started on questions, the placement of all the words in the sentence (like nouns go before adjectives) and all the hand-gestures I use to help myself while I am talking. If you thought I used my hands alot when I spoke English, you haven't seen anything yet!

I'm sure all the Costa Rican ticos enjoy watching the gringos process, formulate and speak their native tongue all while making wild hand-gestures in the air.

In closing, this is just a sample of language learning for me.

During this break between trimesters, I will be practicing my Spanish, but I will also need a little break... simply because there is steam coming out of my ears and I believe that it is coming from my over-heated brain!