Año Nuevo

I didn’t make any resolutions this year.

To be honest, we spent 50% of 2019 uprooted from our home or any sense of normalcy, so when we finally made it back to our casa in December, the last thing on my mind was “switching up” the routine that we just started settling into.

For those of you who know me well, you are aware that I suffer from a severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). So as soon as the New Year celebrations came and went, I was left in a state of panic.

All of a sudden it was January 2nd, and I had not even reflected on 2019, let alone thought about the upcoming year.

Without a resolution, what do I have to look forward to in 2020?

It’s like I think that I need to wait until 2021 to do anything meaningful.

This morning I read Matthew 14:30-31, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” 

I bet Peter beat himself up so much after that moment. He had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk on the water with Jesus, and he doubted. I’m sure from that moment he resolved to never doubt again.

Well, **spoiler alert** that didn’t end up being the case.

Why do we make resolutions with the expectation that we are going to keep them perfectly? Why is it that by April, most people don’t even remember what their goals were?

I’ve considered many things this year:

Not get angry when I parent.

Spend an hour a day in the Word.

Work out regularly.

Start a Bible journaling group.

Pray more with mothers.

Write a blog post every two weeks.

Pray more regularly for my neighbors.

Friends, whether you have made a resolution or not, I encourage you to rest in the reassurance that Jesus is there to catch you when you fail or fall. And just like He was there for Peter, He will be there for you IMMEDIATELY, ready to forgive and walk alongside you again.

God’s love is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

The expression “New year, new me” is cute, but the reality is that we are continually made new by the forgiveness and blood of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

-2 Corinthians 5:17

So if your resolution ends up being a fail, it’s not all over. Just be forgiven, and try again.

Pura Vida, feliz año nuevo.

 

Amor y Amar

♫ “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore…” ♫

Amor. Love.

When we talk about amor, it’s sometimes hard to put into words. There is romantic love, unconditional love, familial love, etc.

So when God calls us to love others, it can seem confusing. It is easy to understand WHY we love others:

“We love because he first loved us.-1 John 4:19

But HOW can we love?

In Spanish, the verb to love is amar. In a recent meeting with a pastor friend, he reminded us that there is a distinct difference between amor (the noun “love”) and amar (the verb “to love”).

I feel this applies to so much of life.

As a mom, I have so much love for my children, but are my actions showing it? Is letting Aubree eat another sugary cookie to make her feel happy really LOVING her, or is teaching her self control and what is appropriate to eat a better way to show her God’s love?

As a wife, I have love (amor) for my husband. But do I love (amar) him with my actions?

As a neighbor, God calls me to reflect His love. So how can I do that??

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” -Ephesians 4:2

Lately I have been challenged to amar more like God. He calls us to be humble, gentle, and patient, just as He humbly suffered on a cross, the most amazing example of amar.

But to love, to truly show unconditional love with my actions, to deny my pride and love others even when they are unloveable… is NOT an easy task. And it is impossible to do on my own.

The more time I spend in the Word, soaking up the beautiful story of God’s redemption, the more amor flows out of me!

Right now, our ministry team is on the cusp of starting a new program. When working with a program, it is tempting to get so caught up in making it successful that even though God has filled us with His amor for His people, we forget what it truly means to amar them.

So we are bearing with others. Drinking coffee with them. Living life, the good and bad. Loving people through marital problems. Loving them through conflicts. Loving them through their drunkenness or bitterness. Loving them even when they hurt us.

And we listen. We don’t jump in to fix their problems or change them. We wait on the Lord, seek advice, and study on HOW we can truly amar them.

It is slow, but it is how we learn the needs of people so that we can truly amar them.

Let all that you do be done in love. -1 Corinthians 16:14

Cheers and may you find joy in loving others this Valentine’s Day!

Brave

I see you.

Staying in another temporary home, a new baby boy shows up, crying and taking up all of Mommy’s time. You don’t understand why this little creature is so special and why you need to be “sweet” to him.

Mommy might seem distracted, but I see you.

Hours strapped to a carseat, only to wait in line in a brightly lit, overcrowded building where you are asked to walk through strange equipment. More lines, more sitting.

You don’t know where we are going or fully understand why. All you know is that another transition is coming, and your life will be different again.

But you smile anyway and make it into an adventure. “Look mommy, clouds!”

I see you.

Running through another grocery store (since we are staying in a new town again), singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at the top of your lungs. You have all of the energy that your parents lack. Everyone who hears your little voice smiles because your sweet innocence brightens their day.

They don’t know that you are out of your “element” and that your familiar world is constantly being rocked.

I might seem focused on getting groceries, but I see you.

Hiding behind my legs at your cousins’ house, afraid to join in because even though they look just like you, they are different. They play with foreign toys and use different words. I desperately want to help you feel comfortable, but my attempts are met with screaming and fear.

I see you, taking brave little steps after days of observing, to join in and play.

Pushing and screaming, you try to kick your friends out of our home. Everyone is confused, including yourself, because just 6 months ago you were playing perfectly fine with them. After days of living in timeout for your aggressive behavior and unwillingness to share, you retreat from our neighbors again and whisper into my ear, “Mommy, no Spanish please.”

When I ask you if you want to practice your Spanish so that you can play with your friends like you used to, your face lights up and you say, “Sí, ¡por favor!”

What a life you have lived at only three years old!

Forgive me for all the times I have lost my patience with you or misunderstood your emotions and behaviors.

You might not believe it now, but I see you.

And even though you might feel disheveled, I want you to know that you are the bravest little girl I know.

I’m in no hurry to see you grow up, but I know that you are going to be a grounded woman, your identity rooted in Christ Jesus.

So stay brave, sweet girl.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

When you Support a Missionary Family

When you support a missionary family, it’s not like sending money for Christmas and birthday gifts.

Sending money to a missionary is not about relieving stress about bills or rent.

The purpose is not to put food on their table and clothing on their backs.

It has very little to do with living in comfort or discomfort.

Missionary families are likely not professional fundraisers, and they are likely not interested in exploiting relationships for cash.

In fact, the more a missionary works at fundraising does not equate to a “better” or “wealthier” lifestyle.

Financially supporting a missionary family actually has very little to do with the family itself.

It’s about sending the light.

It’s about enabling an entire family to be able to live in another country, focused on sharing the hope of Jesus.

It’s about them being committed full-time to build meaningful relationships and love others unconditionally.

It’s about bringing their time and talents overseas to help others.

It’s about an opportunity for you to use your finances to be a part of God’s mission without having to learn a language and hop on a plane yourself.

Because THAT is what missionaries are called to do. And they probably love doing it.

Yes, missionaries were designed to be crazy enough to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. To be outcasts with strange accents sharing God with taxi drivers and teen moms. To build meaningful relationships with the man who sells chicken at the local market and the expat surfer who eats breakfast at the neighboring restaurant every morning.

Missionaries live for building relationships, teaching, taking risks, traveling, living without air conditioning and hot water (okay maybe that’s not what they LOVE, haha, but discomfort is often part of the package!).

So the next time you hear a missionary present or receive a letter asking for funding, PRAY for them.

They need prayer to do what they were called to do. Pray for all the people they encounter on a daily basis.

Then prayerfully consider signing up for regular giving, and NOT because you like them or feel bad for them because they are living abroad with young children.

Do it for the cashiers, students, neighbors, and hundreds of other people who will be touched by the Gospel.

Do it for the kingdom.

Shine the light.

Deafening Silence

When in the NICU, friends and family joined with us to pray for our little 2 pound baby Aubree, specifically for her lungs to strengthen.

Let’s just say the prayers were effective and Aubree has had ZERO problems since that time (thank you, God!).

Now we spend a lot of time praying for her self-control when it comes to using those strong lungs! Ha! She has a lovely singing voice when she is happy, and a piercing, pterodactyl-like screech when she is feeling frustrated. And she is famous for her one volume setting: loud.

Like all toddlers, Aubree has big feelings. That combined with her decibel level makes our lives quite interesting.

Some days we see it as a challenge, but lately I have been considering the blessing of her loud expression of joys and frustrations.

Life brings a lot of emotions. Lately as a family, we have had to battle grief over leaving the clubhouse ministry, homesickness for Costa Rica, anxiety about finding housing and vehicles while here, etc.

It’s interesting, because we do not always take the time to process our emotions or even recognize that we are having them. Often we are so distracted by our busyness that we do not take the time to reflect on what exactly we are feeling and why.

About a month ago, Aubree’s emotions were off the charts. Happy one minute, rolling on the ground crying the next. We didn’t understand what was happening since she seemed to have been adjusting quite well to our traveling lifestyle.

At bedtime one night, Ethan pulled out a book our friend Hannah (a missionary nanny in Africa) had gifted us. Usually Aubree doesn’t love long stories, but she zoned in on this one.

Swirly, by Sara Saunders, is about a young girl named Lila whose parents move from country to country. She quickly realizes that she does not belong anywhere, not even in her parent’s home country. In the end, the book celebrates being cross-cultural or “swirly.” It even points out that Jesus was swirly because he did not fit in on earth.

After reading the book, Aubree started to visibly relax. She asks to read it all the time now because it encourages her when she feels out of place or a lack of a sense of belonging. And to be honest, the book helped us understand her better as well as ourselves.

We had not even realized that we feel out of place sometimes. That it is hard to fit in when you live cross-culturally. That we don’t fully understand our own daughter because although she is a U.S. citizen, the U.S. is actually quite foreign to her.

Our society tends to be silent about our emotions. When asked how we are doing, we respond, “Good.” I don’t even think that is us avoiding being honest. Half the time, do we even know what our feelings are?

In fact, I have noticed that instead of dealing with emotions through conversation, prayer, journaling, or counseling, the trend seems to be vegging out in front of the television, filling our schedules with activities, or scrolling for hours through social media apps on our phones.

What a simple but profound reminder for us. We might not scream, laugh, or cry with a deafening voice, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions to consider.

That’s one of many lesson that my strong-lunged baby girl has taught me: that the only thing worse than deafening screams is deafening silence.

 

Wilderness Wandering

“So, you guys getting ready to head back to Costa Rica?”

Ah yes, the dreaded question that daily reminds me of our current situation.

If it were up to us, we would be back in our little home by now, sweating in the heat and eating rice and beans.

But the reality is that our fundraising journey is continuing for an indefinite period of time until we can establish a more stable base of supporters.

Although we totally believe that God’s hand is in this and He is trying to teach us something during this time of uncertainty, it is hard to find contentment and purpose as we continue to live out of suitcases.

As I described our situation to a dear friend, she responded, “Wow, it sounds like you guys are wandering through the desert.”

That phrase stuck with me, so I decided to dig in the Scriptures to see what parallels there could be between our furlough and the Israelite’s forty years of wilderness wandering.

Basically, the whole reason the Israelites were in their mess to begin with was because they did not trust God’s promises, even after He had proven to be faithful time and time again in the past.

Reading between the lines, the Lord actually sounds a lot like the parent of a toddler (I can relate to that).

When God miraculously provided them with manna every day, they complained and reminisced about the delectable food they had while enslaved in Egypt. They begged for meat like a child whines for chicken nuggets instead of the food on their plate.

God responded: You want meat?? I’ll give you meat until “it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” (Numbers 11:20).

In Numbers 11:1, The Lord became SO angry with the Israelites for their complaining that His fire burned the surroundings of the camp.

Even Moses gets tired of dealing with the people and asks God, “Am I the nursing mother of these people?”

I hate to admit it, but Ethan and I have been the whiny, never-satisfied Israelites who look at everything from the angle of, “Ok God, you are providing us with basically everything we could possibly need, but it is not what WE want.”

God used the Israelite’s exile like a parent uses a time out. It was an opportunity to learn some important lessons as a people.

In a less punitive sense, God has put us in a timeout for an indefinite period of time. We are anxious to go back to our Costa Rican home, but are learning and growing during our time in our home country.

Even though we feel out of place, tired, restless, and a bit lost right now, we are learning that God does not allow His people to wander the desert for no reason, and He certainly does not leave us to wander on our own.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” -Exodus 33:14

 

Behind the Wall

Living abroad, I spend a lot of time scrolling through my favorite social media apps to “see what everyone else is up to.”

Aren’t we all guilty of it??

We live in a society where long-distance relationships are the norm. It’s not uncommon to keep in touch with family, besties, or even significant others via the interwebs.

The result?

Joy. Depression. Guilt. Inspiration. Comparison. Confusion. Excitement. Motivation. 

This furlough has presented a smack-me-in-the face reality check.

As I have been reconnecting with family and friends stateside, I am continually surprised at the contrast of what is portrayed on our Facebook “walls” versus reality.

A mom who seems to have all of the Pinterest-perfect activities and home decor is struggling to find community because she feels too overwhelmed by her two young children to leave her home.

An individual occasionally documents a super rad adventure on Instagram, but actually lives a pretty mundane life.

Many people have the impression that Ethan and I live a life filled with excitement and constant new experiences. The reality is that we have settled in our Costa Rican home, and while we do have the occasional adventure, most days consist of routines: cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and working.

Even for the photo on our prayer cards this year… August was crying with heat rash and Aubree was sick, so most of our photos actually turned out like this:

46285652-ad68-4e6b-b16c-6d370d12e4f5

I am not against social media in any way. I am actually really grateful that we live in an era where I can stay connected so easily from thousands of miles away.

But as my favorite comedian John Crist would warn, we need to “check our hearts.”

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

-James 5:16

Is it wrong to post our life’s highlights on social media? Absolutely not. But we need to remember the importance of being real with our close friends so that we can actually build one another up and pray for one another. Being connected to social media is not equivalent to being connected to the Church.

I know, for me, I am going to re-think how I keep in touch with my loved ones. It was so hard for me to hear about divorce, loneliness, disease, and struggles that had been going on for months or even an entire year without me having a clue.

Should social media be the place where we are raw and share our most intimate thoughts? No (unless you feel specifically called to do so).

But it also shouldn’t be an escape, a way to avoid genuine relationships that can spur us on in this not-so-Instagram-picture-perfect-life.

Let’s reach out behind the wall and be real. Pray for one another. Support one another. And ultimately:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

-Colossians 3:15