Glycerine Existence

There has been reason for the quietness of my blog as of late.  Of course there is the obvious of a busy season with travel, emerging out of the fog that is little baby, my other little one out of school for the summer, and hosting summer teams.  But I would be amiss if I stopped right there and gave those above reasons as the only excuses for the months of not-writing.  The reality is, I have been writing. I have been journaling.  I have wrote two previous blogs these last two months.  But then I go to post and publish them, and they just are not right.  Because when I write I want the words to sing a song from my soul. I want to capture a snippet of the essence of my musings of life here, to peel back the layers and give you a sneak peak into our real life struggles, joys, and all that fits somewhere in between there.  And there has been joy but also pain, and I want to be able to write from both the pain and the joy, be able to bridge the two congruent juxtapositions, the two dependently dichotomous expressions.

And honestly, sometimes it is hard to write your thoughts, when you are still trying to sort out what those feelings, observations, and emotions truly are.  Well, a few mornings back, as I was sitting on our front porch, having a cherished morning of slow coffee drinking, rocking chair sitting, staring out at my palms and hibiscus peaking over our porch railings, I picked up my pen and journal and started writing. I still felt a mixed jumble of emotions and thoughts.  Coming off of a busy week of hosting a medical brigade, I felt like that morning was the first chance to breath for a second ,while Finn slept and Seth and Gavin just walked out the door to go snorkeling for the day with the short-term team.  So, as I picked up that pen I understood one thing… I needed to do some pulling and fighting for clarity with my weapon of choice, I needed to let the words start flowing, I needed to make sense of it all with wet ink on crisp white lines. 

As I started my jumbled rambling, this is what came to mind:  a bubble.  Not the kind of bubble coming from “ the aim of sterility with the known phrase of ‘bubble –boy’” nor the idea of “living in a bubble.”  Although, sometimes here I wish I had some of the cleanliness and sterility of living in a bubble; and then there are days here that I definitely feel like I am on display as “living in a bubble” or “fishbowl effect.”  But, no, I am not referring to those notions.  This bubble imagery is more in line with thinking about the way a bubble moves; the existence of those delicate yet oddly strong spheres.   Bubbles are these fascinating objects floating along, just out of reach, every once in a while bouncing along for a few minutes, stopping to rest for a brief moment before the next slight wave of wind whisks it upward resuming its slight hovering and upward swaying.

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Our three weeks back in the States this summer was wonderful and difficult, sometimes both were fighting for the same moment. It was painfully brutal at times. Yes, the traveling and logistics with a baby is always hard.  But it wasn’t that.  It was three weeks of reminders, and not always so gentle reminders.  There were the reminders that we were missing out on a lot of life lived with family.  There were reminders that our beloved city of Atlanta was no longer home.  There were reminders that some of the treasured experiences and items, we once enjoyed no longer held their merit.  There were reminders that we had changed.  Four years living in a foreign countries, four years living in the developing world will give you a perspective that is sometimes hard to articulate, a feeling of uncomfortableness State-side. 

Parts of the now foreign experience, which is the United States were quite comical.  The moments of forgetting there are such a things as cross-walk lights telling you when you can walk across a busy intersection in downtown Atlanta, and rather you just weave through traffic to cross the street much to the amusement or astonishment of the motorists, because that is simply what you do back home in Honduras.  Or the funny times that you forget American phrases, or you are telling a story and only the Spanish words comes to mind.  There are the frustrating and overwhelming times of walking into a pharmacy and wanting to run out because you are so exasperated that there is literally an aisle of eye drops and you have no idea which one you are supposed to buy for your baby.  And finding yourself missing the simplicity of Latin pharmacies.  Where you walk into the pharmacy, you talk to the pharmacist behind the counter about what you are looking for, and they bring you four options and you pick the best one.  Then there is the time you walk into the super-market and you don’t realize you are just standing still staring with mouth gaping wide open until your 4 year old says, “Mommy, why are you just standing there with that weird look on your face?” 

Other parts were more a jolting reality that your life is quite different now.  The realizations you have mid-conversation that you would have glossed over, or random comments, you may have laughed about or dismissed before, that now carry weight or a new reality for you.  I began to notice some of these differences, last time we were in Atlanta about a year and half ago.  I was sitting at our good friends' little girl's dance recital, think more hip-hop, jazz style less ballet.  Sitting in that recital was one of the most relaxing and most "at- home-moments" I had State-side since being back, and when I looked around I realized I was by far a minority and behind me I actually heard ongoing conversations in Spanish as well. Being a minority and hearing languages other than English, is comforting rather than different. You realize this with the simple act of going through the McDonald's drive-through and you feel at home because the woman taking your order is Latina and has a familiar accent. 

 

And yet, you are reminded,  and almost immediately, when you step foot back into Honduras that you are neither at home.  You are greeted by the humidity, warm tropical air, and smoky smell;  you breathe it in and it smells like home now.  Then you step into the resident line at immigration, the Honduran man behind you immediately starts to tell you in broken English that you are in the wrong line; and we politely tell him in Spanish, that: “no, we actually are residents of Honduras.” Or you walk into your favorite cafe and you have this sweet conversation with the waitress, who knows you and your little kids by now, but than you realize the minute you stepped foot into the restaurant everyone else had stopped talking and is turning and staring at you. You are foreigners in a familiar land wherever your feet stand.  So you feel like you are floating in this perpetual bubble that you can push, you can manipulate, you can stretch but can never truly break through, can never truly escape.  You are floating right above two lands.  Never fully planted in one soil nor the other.  Having brief repriefs of resting down and touching down before the next gust carries you along, and there you find yourself suspended once again, floating above and always near but always slightly out of reach.  You are living in the sometimes constrictive, sometimes beautiful, sometimes suffocating, sometimes liberating and yet restrictive glycerine existence of floating slightly out of reach.  Yearning at times to just break through with a foot and dig your toes deep into the soil below, to feel firmly planted and established in one land or the other. And yet bubbles don’t allow for such reality.  Sometimes it is beautiful to view the world through the glycerine rainbow lens in front of you, dancing with all different colors refracting shimmers of light dancing against different shapes making an almost magical looking world.  Other times you yearn to break the bubble and to view the world a little clearer and a little simpler, a little less in the gray,  a little less hazy and complicated, just a smudge clearer; where there is constant and stability .  Where red is red, a square is a square, and the ground is firm and known beneath you, rather than ever shifting. 

Alas, and yet aren’t we all called to not live too comfortable, to not feel too at home here in this world?    Roots can be good, but can also be quite restricting.  To dig our roots in gently, where we can be nourished but not damaged when the soil begins to shift.  Isn't that the ideal?  So sometimes always living on the fringe, always a little on the fray from both cultures gives you a unique perspective.  Because bird’s eye views at times are quite helpful, are quite unique, and even quite exhilarating.  So, while the floating and shifting can be lonely, it is also beautiful.  And in the beauty of loneliness comes forth solitude. Solitude is not loneliness,  And solitude is needed at times to better live in community, to better love and serve others.  And I leave you with words from one of my favorite authors of all times, Henri Nouwen; as he so elegantly encapsulates all this pushing and pulling, all the striving, reaching, and stretching.

This difficult road is the road to conversion from loneliness to solitude. Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into fruitful solitude...The movement from loneliness to solitude, however is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.
— Henri Nouwen

 

 

 

 

This One's For the Girls

“International Women’s Day” was recently celebrated.   Although, I might live thousands of miles from all the US political controversies constantly making headlines; I have not been oblivious to the very polarizing political environment.  While, this is not going to be a political blog, I promise.  There has been some beautiful growth of awareness in different social areas, and an increased awareness of women’s rights has been one of them.  Women’s rights has come a long way, but more and more realities and statistics such as the gender pay gap continue to remind us that this is one of several areas that the US still has room to improve. 

picture compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

picture compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

The thing is, Women’s Rights is something that has been on the forefront of my mind, before Trump took over the media.  Pretty much from the first time I started seeing patients here in Honduras, my eyes were opened.  It was a constant force, the huge gender equality gap that is pervasive here; especially and most specifically amongst the under-privileged, lower-educated, lower-resourced population.  And to be honest by saying “gender equality gap”, I am using the most politically correct phrase of what is really going on.

Little girls are taught from a young age, how to be desirable and what it takes to get the attention of boys.  Young ladies are used by family members to make money by being sold into the sex slavery business.  Child pornography is rampant.  Single mom’s in some of the poorest neighborhoods in La Ceiba create their own "prostitution coops".  Yep, the young children of the women “working” that night are taken care of by the other single moms in their neighborhood, and the favor is reciprocated for the children of the other women, when it is their turn to work.  While, these are seemingly some of the jaw-dropping examples of female exploitation in the city; there are also hundreds of examples of the more subtle forms of female inequality and struggles.

photo cred:  "wetwophotovideo.com"*

photo cred:  "wetwophotovideo.com"*

Last year in one of the poor neighborhoods where we do monthly clinics, I had this patient.  She was my last patient of the day.  A young lady, soft-spoken pretty but visibly anxious girl, who looked at me timidly through long dark eyelashes as she tightly squeezed her hands together.  She came for a consult with some very vague complaints, which soon evolved into the fact she was worried she was pregnant.  Eventually, after gentle probing she began to explain in a scared, shaky, and barely audible voice an incredibly sorrowful story. The story of her having sex regularly with her dad’s friend who is staying with them “semi-permanently”.  She is too scared that her dad will not believe her if she tries to tell him.  And her mom was not in the picture in the slightest.  It took all my self-control to not let the tears welling up in my eyes to cascade down my cheeks; as she continued to tell me how this happened and how long it had been going on.  We talked a long time about her self-worth, protecting herself, her worth as a daughter of Christ. We spoke about how just because she is "legally of age" does not make it right what this man is doing, and that she doesn't have to give into his advances.  We spoke on about how she does not need to tolerate this. That she needed to talk to her father.  I affirmed the truths to her that she is a strong woman, and she was made for something much better than this.  The more we talked, the straighter she started to sit up, and she held her chin up just a hair taller.  She was not pregnant, nor did she have an STD this time, and I never saw her again.  She walked away from clinic, and said she was going to talk to her dad. 

I want to believe that this story has a happy ending.  I want to tell myself that she is thriving and still in school,  and she can go home and not worry about fending off a dirty perverted man sleeping on her family’s sofa.  But unfortunately, I know that years of being told you are one thing and good for only one thing, is hard to break, it is hard to empower this young woman in one 30 minute conversation and prayer.  And unfortunately, what happened with this young woman, is indicative of variations on the same theme, the same story happening all over the city behind closed doors.

And I will continue to pray, for her as my heart breaks over her situation, and for all the young women and little girls that are exploited and abused.  Who from a young age are made to believe they are a piece of meat.  Who have never heard the words, “that you can do whatever you put your mind”. And I cry out for those little girls who have never known the words. “you are created special and for something unique and beautiful.”

picture compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

picture compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

Last week at clinic, I had a young single mom of three kids who sits down in my exam room and says…”I want to talk woman to woman".  She had been having unprotected sex with two different guys over the last 8 months.  She was most recently back with one of the guys.  Both of the men are not the fathers of any of her children.  She is worried about having an STD.  She is with the current man, because she said “He is good to me”. 

I probe and ask… "what do you mean he is good to you?”  She says …”well he doesn’t hit me.”  And that is her standard.  “He doesn’t hit me.”  I lean forward and look at her and continue…”I am going to talk to you ‘woman to woman’ right now.” 

photo cred: "wetwophotovideo.com"*

photo cred: "wetwophotovideo.com"*

We talked about her worth, how she doesn’t need to settle for this kind of man.  We talk about the importance of protecting herself, how she needs to take care of herself because she is all her little kids have.  She was tearing up at this point and nodding and this look broke across her face.  The look of a subtle but important new awareness that someone for the first time told her, “you are so loved and worthy because of who you are, not what you can give to a man.”   She is supposed to come back in a month to have her test results read.  I really hope she comes back. I really hope that we can continue to have real “woman to woman” empowering conversations.  I really hope that she takes that seed of strength and guards it and nourishes it with the water of courage and perseverance for herself and for her children. 

In the meantime, I will continue to pray for her and for her children.  But not only for her, but for who she represents. All the single moms, all the single mom’s who have been told their worth is found in a man.  All the women young and old who have been made to believe the filthy lie that their worth is equivalent to the empty Coca-Cola bottle littering the side walk. 

photo cred: "wetwophotovideo.com"*

photo cred: "wetwophotovideo.com"*

And the stories like these go on and on. And as you all know, Honduras is not unique in this.  This is the sad reality for little girls and women all over the world.  So yes, I will continue to fight for these women, empower these women, and pray for these women.  This does not have to be their story, this does not have to be their end game.  They can write a better ending.  So I ask that you join with me and pray for these women who are abused, exploited, and wrecked at a young age.  For the single moms that turn out of desperation for the first man that doesn’t hit them, or worse stay with the abusive and cheating man that does hit her but provides a roof under her head and some meager food to feed those hungry little mouths. 

Because these women are strong, they are resilient.  They are raising children all alone, they are providing for them in the best way possible.  These little girls do have dreams of growing up and being something more, dreams of becoming a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, of making a better life for themselves.  These young ladies want to go on and go to college or tech school to provide for themselves and the next generation.  These women are the back bones of their families, they are the strong threads of their community, and they are the warriors fighting in the trenches for a better way!

photo compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

photo compliments of "wetwophotovideo.com"*

*The stories and accounts told in this blog are NOT about the women and girls pictured in the above blog.

 

Oh the Holidays...

Oh the Holidays…. they conjure up such a wide spectrum of emotions.  There is beauty, warmth, joy, and spending meaning moments with those closest to you but there is also sadness, loneliness, isolation, grief during this time. That all too often seems to be intensified by the media, Instagram, and Pinterest telling you how you should feel during this season; while shoving in front you constant reminders of those picture-perfect families with thoughtfully decorated snow-laden houses around warm inviting tables filled with love, laughter, and every kind of comfort food you can imagine.  But for many of us that is not always the picture of the holidays we find ourselves in.

I admit, the holidays can be fun and a glittery distraction.  It has been a joy starting traditions with a little four year old and watching his excitement as we put up the Christmas tree. Him proudly telling us his chore is to turn the Christmas tree on every night is sweet and heart-warming.  But, since moving away from family and friends and celebrating the last four holiday seasons separated by miles, oceans and countries from those we love, the holidays are often a mental exercise in trying to not let the lonliness, the isolation, the nostalgia creep in. To not dwell negatively on the the differentness of celebrating holidays in 85 degree weather, eating tamales, surrounded by palm trees and hearing a lot of “Feliz Navidad” can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility.

I find myself trying to overcompensate at times, trying too hard to recreate traditions, trying a little too much to build up the hype of the holiday season.  We put our Christmas tree up the beginning of November here, Spotify Christmas albums are blaring from my computer by late October.  I start making everything pumpkin (if I can find it, or have someone transport it from the US for me) as soon as the calendar says September.  Maybe it is not the healthiest of coping mechanisms; maybe it is natural to do this when everything else feels so foreign.  Either way, this year as Thanksgiving is fast approaching and everyone has gratitude on their mind.  I decided to try and take it beyond my coping mechanisms of pumpkin cookies and jingle bells.  In the spirit of trying to be positive and grateful amidst a stressful and tough pregnancy, through Gavin recently having pneumonia and Strep throat.  Between frustrations of restrictions on my medical work related to violence, lies, and unrest, and through the stress and strain of feeling the burden of financial support-raising for many ministry needs; it is easy to get lost in the jungle, to lose your footing, and fall into a “whoa is me attitude.”  It is that much easier to find yourself focusing on what you wish you had. You try to cram into the gaps left by those missing pieces with the wrong shaped puzzle pieces; rather than putting together the pieces that you actually do have right in front of you.

 

So this morning, I pulled out my journal and started a list…my list of how much I am thankful for, for the bounty in my life…and it went a little like this….

  • My loving and ever-supportive husband
  • My crazy and stubborn but sweet and sensitive little four year old
  • The new little baby boy growing in my tummy, and making it to 35 weeks of pregnancy
  • Cooler temperatures and the sound of rain on our tin roof
  • Quiet mornings with a hot cup of good coffee after Gavin goes to school
  • Saturday morning breakfast making banana granola pancakes with Gavin while British Premier League Soccer (Seth’s favorite) plays in the background
  • A thoughful and supportive team here in La Ceiba
  • Our Honduran church family and the connections we have built
  • Barbecues with our neighbors
  • Beautiful mountains, beaches, and skyscapes all around us
  • Our little yard that we have worked so hard to create with mango trees, palm trees, Hibiscus, orange trees, and papaya trees
  • Our health
  • Wonderful network of friends and family State-Side that support, encourage, and love us well
  • Jobs that we enjoy, are passionate about, believe in and challenge us
  •  Those random times at the grocery stores when you find Kale, or Hummus, or real Half and Half.
  • Seth's delicious rustic homemade bread right out of the oven
  • Of course most importantly to live by Grace and Forgiveness in my life with the ever-present Hope of the Gospel 
  • And the list goes on…                                                                                                                            

So this is my sentiment, my mantra, and statement to myself that I am trying to embrace right now:

That I continually have a joyous thankful perpective.  May I dwell on the positive and all the many ways that I have been blessed and all the beauy that inhabits my life.  May I not fantasize about a “perfect other life” I could be living…you know the one where we live on this cute little ranch in Montana with a beautiful garden in the perfectly decorated rustic farmhouse in the cute town that looks just like Stars Hollow from the show "Gilmore Girls" with all my good friends and family living close by (ok maybe that is just my fantasy life). May I be present in the here and now. May I embrace and choose joy in the daily steps I take here.  May I keep my focus close and not strain to live in a made up future but celebrate my life in the present.

May I choose to find perfect peace and delight in the littlest of details.  May I choose to smile and savor that hot cup of coffee as the sun rises over the mountains, even when the annoying yippy dog in the apartment downstairs is constantly barking, and the construction men are hammering away on the house next door.  May I cherish the sweet and messy Cheerios-scented kisses that Gavin gives me in the morning.  May I hold fast to the encouraging text of a friend, a timely email from one of my Atlanta sisters, or that soul-soothing phone conversation with one who knows you better than you know yourself.  May I linger on the kiss and warm embrace of Seth as he gives me a hug while passing by the kitchen as I am cutting up a pepper for the dinner I am prepping.  

Because this is what life is made of. This is the everyday moments that we need to hold onto with remembered gratitude.  This is the good stuff, my friends.  The quiet, the subtle, the almost unnoticed of the everyday that so easily passes you by if you don’t slow those steps down, the flicker that misses your gaze if you avert your eyes, that disintegrates in a second if not captured, if not believed, and truly lived in that moment!

New Teammates

Raul and Alma Villanueva 

After 18 months of discussions, interviews, and mutual investigations; we are so excited to announce that Raul and Alma Villanueva will be joining Team Mission To the World (MTW) La Ceiba as partners and fellow missionaries in January 2017.  Raul and Alma are a Honduran couple from San Pedro Sula with years of volunteer and professional ministry experience.  Here is a little bit about themselves, in their own words:

About Us:
When God calls a family to serve Him, the family can't go against His will.  Our family was called by God to serve Him and His church and we have obediently been doing so for many years now.  We are a family of five.  Raul is a retired photographer, now a pastor and professor.  Alma has a heart for serving children and women and is currently a teacher.  Our oldest son Rick studies business and math at Bob Jones University in South Carolina; Chris studies international business and finance at Unitec in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Jocsan is a senior in high school and is also taking some seminary classes at SEBCAH in Siguatepeque, Honduras.

What's exciting about moving to La Ceiba?
God opened the doors for us to be a part of this team before we even knew about it.  We have talked with the team at Mission to the World (MTW) and believe that we share the same vision for God's ministry.  We believe the training of pastors and leaders through the Bible Institute is crucial for the churches of La Ceiba.  Puerta de la Esperanza (home for teenage moms) touched our hearts as a family just like the rest of the projects MTW has in Honduras.  We believe these projects have a great future and we are excited about growing these ministries for the glory of Christ.  

Raul will be joining our team to work at the Bible Institute.  In addition to teaching, he will also serve as Academic Director leading us in shaping the types of courses we offer through the Institute as well as developing relationships with local churches and leaders.  Having his teaching ability and insight into what is and is not needed will be invaluable. Alma will be taking over leadership as Director of our home for at-risk teenage moms, "Puerta de Esperanza".  She will oversee the staff, operations, and the development of connections between the project and local churches in additional to caring for the teen mothers and children who reside in the house.    

Beyond the obvious skills and wisdom they bring to our team; we are truly excited about their arrival because it is yet another step in shaping a ministry that is bi-cultural.  For us and for our team, it is vital to have Honduran input and insight in leadership both in the short-term and for long-term sustainability.  Though not without differences and change, we look forward to seeing how the addition serves to mold the next steps of our team in La Ceiba.

Please be in prayer for them as they move cities and leave behind a church community they have come to know and love.  Also be in prayer for them and us as a team as we mutually work to develop a support team for them.  Please contact us for more information on how to be involved if you are interested.  

Arduous Contentment

It is no secret that this summer has been hard.  Realistically, you would probably hear me talk about it in the first 3 minutes if I was asked, “how is it going? ”  I have had a specific disdain for Honduras as of late, and while I know why my frustrations, homesickness, and general “blahness” of living here has crept in lately, keeping it at bay is another whole beast.  But than I thought…maybe I shouldn’t keep it at bay, sometimes it is good to lay it all out there, let the beast scrape its claws a little.  It is real, gritty, and necessary to bare your fears, frustrations, and "blahness" for others to see.  And I mean “others” in the sense of not just your close friends, family and confidants.  But the “others” that naturally come from writing it down and sending it forth for all to read. 

So here is where I am at….

The heat of June, July, and August here is no joke.  Couple that with no air-conditioning, dirty dusty air, and humidity so thick that at times you feel like you could reach out and squeeze a cup of water from it, and than picture yourself amidst that background nauseas, and stuck on bed rest for two months.  You get the picture.  Yep, I was in full out…”I cannot stand living here” mode,  the “we made a big mistake, this is the worst idea ever” mindset.  

I knew that it was a few tablespoons of those lovely pregnancy hormones, mixed in with a large heap of being sick to your stomach, add a cup of fear and frustrations of bed rest, add a sprinkle of loneliness, and a dash of feeling miserably useless while feeling like a shell of yourself, and blend it all with the feeling of powerlessness at so many levels and your left with building a beautifully destructive cake of discontentment.  And as I am moving out of that phase, as the bed rest has been lifted, as I have gotten back into work, as I have been able to connect with our friends, our church community, as we have been able to open our home and host, and as I have been able to play legos and superhero adventures with Gavin again, there has been restoration. The cake of discontentment I had built begins to crumble; but not of course without leaving some sizable chunks to linger on the plate.

I would be lying to say…”well, that was that,  and all is great, it was a few months of short-lived misery”.  It is still hard and a conscious-effort, as the popular phrase tells us... "to turn that frown completely upside down."  Fall is coming.  My most favorite of seasons.  I catch myself dreaming about those crisp cool fall days with bright red and orange leaves falling, as you picture your family picking apples and going to pumpkin patches, while drinking a delicious steaming pumpkin-spice latte…oh wait….we live in Honduras…none of those things happen...ever!  And as I wake up from those dreams to sauna-like humidity, palm trees, smoky air, and a place that has never heard of pumpkin patches; it is all to easy to effortlessly slide another piece of that yummily destructive cake of discontentment onto your plate and let yourself wallow in your self-pity as you savor another bite.  As your friends post instagram pics of themselves gripping mugs of hot apple cider around a fire with friends, and you can almost smell that glorious smell of dry leaves, and they are all dressed in cute flannels and chic fall leather boots.  You soon finding yourself having a particular disdain for your flip flops, endless ways you try to incorporate beans, bananas, and papayas in your diet, and the smell of smoke from your neighbor's burning trash.

And I think that is ok to acknowledge this, to not stuff it.  To say, "This is real!".  Because life here is hard, it is prickly and blah at times.  It is gray and dreary some days, some seasons,  But I want to aim to not let the gray and blah stay completely dreary, allowing for some sunshine to begin to peak in.  I want to aim to know how to better pulverize the crumbs of dissatisfaction and blahnesss left on the plate.  As I have been praying for contentment, and as I have been rehearsing and replaying Paul's words in Phillipians 4:12 "...I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want."

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And yet, it was through the most joy-filled pure and simple acts of a few actions I have witnessed through the eyes of my four year old's excitement that has really begun to cement those words from Phillipians. The simple acts of a preschooler have handed me a big fork to squash those leftover crumbs of dissatisfaction left from that destructive cake of discontentment.  This "squashing" started to play out the beginning of this month.  To give a little background, September in Honduras is “National Pride of Honduras Month”, or something like that.  I am sure they have a better way to say it.  But essentially the month of September is spent celebrating different days and holidays, showing your Honduran pride.

September 1st is Flag Day.  I pick up Gavin from his preschool class, and he is grinning from ear to ear and waving in my face this Honduran flag he had made, talking a mile a minute how cool it is that it is flag day and the importance of the flag.  During this month, they also play the Honduran National Anthem on the radio during different times of day, and Gavin adores this song, he hums along in the back in his booster seat and always asks me to play it again (he doesn’t quite understand how the radio works).  Along with this, it is National Kids Day on September 10, and all the schools here do a celebration and party of sorts. For Gavin’s school celebration, we all marched into the big soccer field and all the parents and kids of 4 and 5 year old kindergarten flew kites together.  Gavin was ecstatic!  Not to mention it is Independence Day on September 15, complete with parades and fireworks.  Making it extra special because it also happens to be his birthday. 

So, I was in my car the other day, waiting in the line to pick up Gavin from school and the National Anthem came on the radio and all I could picture is my little guy's face light up and him frenetically waving his homemade flag.  And as I was looking over the cloud dusted beautiful green mountains in front of me, watching the kids in their school uniforms walking home from school, as a man drove by selling eggs from his pickup truck with a megaphone announcing his egg sale deal of the day, this national pride came over me.  This pride for where we are, this pride for the community we are becoming, this pride for the country we live in that fights and doesn't back down or give in, this pride that we are here for a reason and a purpose, this pride for living out and intentionally loving our neighbors in this place.  It all began to wash over me.  And I felt some of the crumbs of dissatisfaction and discontentment fall off the plate. 

True contentment is as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.
— G.K Chesterton

My next “aha” moment came during the kite celebration at Gavin’s school.  There were at least 200 kids and parents all crowded in the sweltering humidity while the unbelievably hot 10 am sun was beating down on an unshaded soccer field, and we all had sweat pouring down our backs and faces, ok…actually pouring everywhere!  I had another gush of pure pride watching Gavin with all his classmates running freely, sporatically, and joyously through the maze of kids and parents all together flying their kites as Latin music played on in the background.  It was a hot beautiful chaotic mess, and I was proud to be part of it.  I couldn’t help but replay the ways that Gavin unknowingly and simply showed me his love and pride for his country, for the place he only knows as home.

Are there days I miss waking up and putting on a sweater and sipping a pumpkin spice latte and I daydream about watching Gavin pick out a pumpkin or go apple-picking?  Of course, without a doubt!   They will always be there.  My love of American fall, like many other missed favorites of my past, will always be woven in my fiber.  But I also have some new threads beginning to be woven pretty deeply in my fiber as well. And I think if someone took away big juicy papayas, men selling cold coconut water from whole coconuts on the side of the road, and yummy Baleada stands, all this playing out to the tune of catchy fast Latin beats from a blaring speaker up the road.  I know I would miss these things something fierce, and honestly just as much.  And there is contentment in knowing this to be true. There is contentment to be found in knowing there is always room for more thread weaving in those fibers of ours.

 

The "Ask"

Sometimes it is really hard to feel inspired to write about anything when you are laying in your bed staring at the same four walls because you are in the midst of bed rest, or you are way too nauseas to even think about trying to type something, or it is blazing hot and all you want to do is stick your head in the freezer every few minutes to try to have even a smidgen of relief.  Yes, I do stick my head in our freezer multiple times a day right now because it is unbearably hot.

You would think with all this time I had to lay around and think, process, and analyze I would be teeming with different ideas to write about, but to be perfectly honest; I am kind of at a loss and have not felt so inspired of late.  So instead, I will write about what I have known best these last two months.  Needing help!

Chilling with Gavin during bed rest.

Chilling with Gavin during bed rest.

 

2016 has been the year of being bed-ridden.  I am usually a really healthy person; and yet, this year has proven otherwise.  Starting out with Dengue Fever for most of February, and then debilitating nausea and migraines from my pregnancy starting in May, to complete bed rest in June.  I have had to learn firsthand and the hard way what it really means to ask for help. 

I am convinced it is way easier to give than get help, and not only get but to have to go through the motions of the dreaded “ask”.  Especially when you are right in the middle of hosting summer teams, when all the kids are out of school, and you know everyone is running around busy, busy, busy.  You feel like you are being a nuisance,  an inconvenience, and definitely putting people out.  Which is usually the lies we just like to tell ourselves, the untruths we like to cling to a little too tightly. 

- BOB DYLAN -

- BOB DYLAN -

The reality is, the overwhelming majority of the time, people are more than willing to help and feel honored when you ask them.  And my friends, teammates , and family members have been no exception to this over the past two months! The “ask” is really not about the other people that you are asking at all.  Honestly, I have realized it is more an “ask” of myself,; an “ask" of: Am I willing to put aside my pride?  Am I willing to humble myself and say…”You know what right now life is really really hard, and I cannot do it all, my husband cannot do it all, we need help!” 

It is never easy to feel needy, to feel helpless, to be at the mercy of others.  Yet, it is essential to understanding how much we need others, how much we need community, how much we need to lean on and support each other.   Because asking for help is about learning to be courageous, it is about being vulnerable and honest with yourself.  Which sometimes (or most of the time), ourselves are the hardest people to be completely truthful and transparent with!  Let's be honest, humanity is really not humanity without the need to need. Without that innate "need" we are just drones.   Because we need to learn to love, but also learn to let others love us by allowing them to show up, to serve us, and support us!  And really it is in needing that we may more accurately grasp how to help and serve others.

 

 

Loving the Difficulty

I was recently asked this question: “What do you love most about what you do?”

The thing I love most about what I do is that is it hard.  It seems as if it is this double- edged sword really, a bittersweet love.  Of course there are some days that I throw up my hands in frustration and ask God, “Why…why does it always have to be such a fight?  Why does it have to be so difficult?”  Yet, if I am completely honest, the beauty and true faith is only found in the tears, in the frustrations, in fighting with all you have for someone and knowing that you will still fall short, because the only thing left to fight with is your faith.  Not your own abilities or resources but with pure unadulterated belief in the Sovereignty of God and that He will carry on, when you cannot.

I see this over and over again in multiple different scenarios living and working amongst extreme poverty here in Honduras.  I especially feel this through the strong pull of difficulty in practicing medicine here.  Some of you are familiar with the story of one of my little patients. I have an 8 year-old boy patient that was born with a major heart defect and should have received his complicated heart surgeries when he was a baby. It is really a miracle that he had made it this far.  His parents have been trying for the last 8 years to find someone who would take the time to listen to his case and find a way for him to get the operations he needed.  There are no Pediatric Cardiac Surgeons in the country.  The long story short is I applied to multiple different pediatric heart programs that travel to Honduras a few times a year to do operations, and finally after he was accepted, he was delayed time and time again, there was a 6 month period where we heard nothing at all; it was thought to be a lost cause.  With nothing left to do, we continued to pray, but our hope began to dwindle. And then God broke through and it all came together.  A year and a half later from his first visit with me at the clinic, a year and a half of fighting for this little life, a year and a half of fervent prayers. He was finally able to receive the operations he needed and was just released from the hospital last Friday and is recovering nicely at home!

While he is one story of success in the fight, there are so many others that we are still fighting for, still creatively problem solving, and incessantly praying for. While, we are armed with little here in the way of medical or financial resources.  Yet, we have been blessed by being armed with so many others who have joined in the fight to pray for, to rally, to believe in the difficulty that it is worth the frustrations and the pain.  You start to really believe it in your marrow that God truly is so much bigger than the pain, the hardship, the difficulties we run up against time and time again!  Because also, fighting for someone for something you believe in, not giving up when you are met with one road block after another; not only makes you stronger, but makes the love and hope that Christ delivers through you that much more tangible, real, and strong.  So I want to thank you all for fighting with us, for believing in the hardship, for helping love and hope become tangible!

Brave New World...

About a month ago, I was in a hurry.  I had 10 minutes to check out at the grocery store, and get over to school to pick up Gavin.  I was thinking about the 5 others things, that I didn’t get to that day and when I could squeeze them in my schedule that week, when I realized that I was not catching at all what the cashier was asking.  I said a hurried, yes, and kept on with my own thoughts.  I than realized the cashier was asking me another question, and not only had I no idea what she was talking about but also no idea what I had just said yes to.  I could feel my face reddening, as I all at once felt like another oblivious confused “Gringa”.  Eventually, the lady behind me in line, tapped my arm, and in slow simple Spanish, explained what the cashier was asking.  I embarrassingly mumbled something in Spanish, to the tune of “Thank you for your help and sorry I was lost in thought, and not paying attention.”  All the time I could feel the red creeping up my face, as I was silently chiding myself for not being able to handle a simple trip to the grocery store in my second language after living in Latin America for almost 3 years. 

 

Yep, almost 3 years in and still having plenty of embarrassing language moments.  Multiple times there has been instances where I am talking with a patient and we are going along, and then all of a sudden they move to some other subject and they start revving up the spedometer on the pace, dropping words and …. there you go…just like that, they have completely lost me. I am left grasping at straws, desperately trying to answer the question, all the while, looking at their face…realizing I have definitely missed the mark, and that was not their question at all.  Subsequently knowing I have to say the dreaded…"Can you repeat that explanation and your question again? I am sorry I didn’t understand all you were saying.” 

Asking people to repeat, to admit you don’t know what they were saying, stumbling over the words you really want to say, completely botching the accent… it never gets easier.  Actually, I find myself sometimes, being harder on myself with my language learning the longer we are here.  When we first moved to Costa Rica, I had the built in excuse of being in language school.  Then, the first year or so here in Honduras, I had the built in excuse of still figuring out the language, especially Honduran colloquialisms, phrases, accents that are very different than Costa Rican.  But now, August will mark 3 years of living in a Spanish speaking country.  So, I keep catching  myself using my little self-critical, deprecating voice more and more. 

 

A good friend of ours recently sent us this beautifully simple yet encouraging quote that has helped me tremendously with being more self-gracious in the language learning process:

 

I have gone back to that quote over and over again, to help combat those critical voices in my head; those moments when I need to laugh at myself and then give myself a pat on the back for trying.  Those moments, when my stomach still does somersaults as I walk into a Honduran birthday party preparing to make small talk in your second language.  Those moments when I am gearing myself up for hosting a dinner party for friends in our second language, and I find at times if I am completely honest, kind of wanting to try and make up an excuse of why we can’t host.  It is in those moments, that I remember, living cross-culturally is tricky, it can be really hard.  Learning a second language and living in your second language is difficult; it is frustrating, and sometimes it gets easier, but sometimes it is just plain hard. 

It does take bravery and it takes persistence in grace to laugh at your mistakes, to try again, to be ok admitting you messed up.  To be perfectly content sounding like a kindergartner a lot of the times.  Because, it is in learning and living in a second language that you not only learn so much more about yourself, but about your community, about the world…it gives you a whole new perspective.  And that is worth completely butchering the language at times, and having to ask for another explanation or repeating of a phrase 100 times over!

“Living another language is not only learning different words for the same thing, but learning another way to think about things.”  -Flora Lewis

 

 

 

Access

When moving from the U.S. to a less developed country, one assumes finding things we are accustomed to will be more difficult.  Often this sense of loss is initially processed through the lens of the more mundane aspects of life.  Things such as food.  Clearly we'll only be able to find one or two types of Cheerios rather than the usual ten.  Obviously good, distinct dining experiences will be tough to come by.  While this does take some adjustment, it is ultimately trivial.  However, where this difference in access does begin to matter is in the basic resources of living and learning and surviving that we often take for granted.  For example, medicine.  In sickness, one can find the medicine one needs.  Some might cost more than others but it is there.  But what if that wasn't the case.  What if pharmacies did not and will not have what you need?  What if the hospital rarely had the right medicine or equipment needed?  Suddenly, life feels different. 

Another way this lack of access has become more obvious here is in the world of education and specifically books.  In an Amazon world it is strange to think of books being hard to come by and yet for most of the world, this is the case.  In La Ceiba, books of any sort, be it for children or adults, fiction or non-fiction are difficult to find and almost always expensive.  Thus, one of our projects here is creating a library and resource center to provide the community access to books and resources.  It is our dream to create opportunity to learn, to grow, to teach, to study through this little collection.  To find out how to be involved in supply books please visit our Get Involved page for links and more info. 

Change in the Mundane

There are so many catchy spin-off phrases these days spouting from Gandhi’s famous quote …"You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Especially as the movement of social activism becomes more and more embraced, and dare I say…somewhat “trendy”.  Millennials and whatever generation comes after that… don’t want to just find a good job, make a good living, put your time in for 40 years, and have a good 401K at the end of the day.  We want to make a difference.  We want to change the world.  We want to do something meaningful. 

Which is all fine and dandy, until you are asked to live that out.  I mean, at some point, life is going to be routine, life is going to be mundane.  At some point changing the world is going to look a lot like changing that dirty diaper, going to the grocery store, and getting a good meal on the table by 6:30 pm.  It is going to look like talking a friend through an unforeseen divorce, it is going to be showing up at your neighbors with some food because their mom found out she has cancer.  At some point the adventure stops and life begins.  At some point, the laundry needs to be done, you need to juggle your job, your kids, and your marriage.  At some point, you just have to show up and live life.  The question then is not are you choosing to still save the world?  The question is…are you choosing to really show up?

Some people think missions is about saving and changing the world, about a huge adventure, about living in an exotic place with all these exotic experiences.  Which ok, sometimes it goes a little like that.  But really more then that; it is the conscious decision you make daily, to show up right where you are!  To wake up and love your family well, to love your teammates well, to love the person in line at the grocery story who has rear-ended you for the 6th time with their cart while you are waiting to checkout. Yep, love them well.  Sometimes it is calling your land lord for the 8th time because your plumbing is broken again, and using a conversation sprinkled with grace rather than really wanting to bite her head off out of frustration and annoyance.  That is why I let, Seth make that call…I know my grace- limit.:)

Because let’s face it, if you cannot love your hubby with grace when he leaves the toilet seat up in the middle of the night or you can’t stop what you are doing to play a game of “Candyland” with your little guy;  how are you going to show up and love your patients at clinic with the grace and mercy they deserve?  How are you going to navigate difficult and sticky situations with some of the communities you work with if you are keeping tabs and selfishly thinking this is not the adventure you signed up for?  How are you going to show up and be effective if you cannot forgive a colleague who betrays you?  The answer is:  You can’t.

Because being the change, and making a difference, starts with showing up.  And you can’t show up, if you are too stuck on yourself, busy looking in the mirror and evaluating how are you changing the world?  The reality is, those who change the world…often don’t even know they are doing it.  They don’t have to ask: "If they are being meaningful, if their work has purpose?"  Because they are too busy showing up and really living out a “selfless adventure”, a meaningful existence, and a beautiful life of loving.  It is all too easy to love a cause, to love a motive, to love a ministry…without ever loving people.  Ideals are easy to love, the people that make up those ideals…not so much. Because people are going to be messy, unpredictable, they are going to let you down, disappoint, and frustrate.  But people make the change worth fighting for, the meaning worth finding…because it is through people that love is brought, connections are made, truth is found, and meaning is sought after!

One of my favorite “world changers” looks a lot like this.  From the outside she looks like a middle-aged woman living a normal life in a sleepy Midwestern town.  But get to know this woman, and you will soon discover.  She shows up daily, countless times over and over!  She volunteers with Alzheimers patients weekly, she works with hospice patients regularly.  She loves unconditionally, both family, neighbors, and friends.  She starts funds for a foreign exchange student from a poor family in Ghana, to be able to complete his dreams by putting him through college, and giving him a better chance.  She opens her home and her heart to countless foreign exchange students annually.  She helps her pastor’s young family by taking care of their little kids weekly, to give them a break.  She started a bible-study to reach out to her friends and neighbors 20+ years ago that is still going strong.  She stands by her friends and family through thick and thin, she never gives up on anyone.  She is a prayer warrior-like I have never seen.  And she is changing the world, and she doesn’t even know it.  I am beyond proud to call this “world-changer”... My Mom!  And she is the kind of “world-changer” I can only hope to be someday!