Friday, December 30, 2011

Heaven on Earth...Really.

This evening, as I wait for a batch of whoopie pies to come out of the oven, I'm feeling a little homesick. For those of you who don't know, whoopie pies are a traditional Mennonite dessert that is so sweet and delicious they absolutely inspire the soul (seriously, they are that good). But for me, whoopie pies conjure up memories of our time in Honduras. Think it's strange that a dessert that is so absolutely opposite to Central American cuisine should remind me of Honduras?

Well, if you ever find yourself on the long road from Tegucigalpa to Catacamas you will understand my retrospective frame of mind tonight. Because on that road, somewhere between the thousandth pothole and the hundredth over-packed bus and after you've consumed your third bottle of water to alleviate the effects of the sweltering heat, you'll no doubt need to stop to go to the restroom. And while you may be braver than the rest of us when it comes to public toilets, I highly recommend that you hold out until you get to a place called Guaimaca. Along the side of the road there is a quaint little rest stop that's almost North American in standard (I mean, they even have real toilet paper!). It's a thriving business catering to the locals and weary travelers alike. Built by Mennonite missionaries, it is there that our family was introduced to the wondrous whoopie pie. And yes, this stop is slightly famous among missionary work teams for the souvenir, handmade baskets that are works of art to behold. But I submit that it is the whoopie pie that makes this little oasis a truly remarkable place on earth...perhaps even worthy of "wonder of the world" status. Sure, you can whoopie pies in the U.S. (and probably around the world), but none are as sweet as the ones at Guaimaca. And none let you know that you're almost home to El Sembrador.

So, if you're ever in the neighborhood, remember there's not another decent restroom for miles. Go ahead and stop, make use of the flushing toilets. Then grab yourself a couple of the most heavenly desserts on earth and Pepsi for the road. I promise it'll be the best snack you'll ever have (at least while you're in Honduras).

Ok, until you can get there, here's a recipe for whoopie pies that are a distant second to the Honduran version:


Friday, December 02, 2011

Write a Blog for Pete's Sake!

The chaos has been a little more chaotic lately, so I haven't written in a while. To be honest, I haven't really been inspired to write anyway. I guess that's why I'm not a "real" author. I find it hard to write when I haven't been struck with the impulse to do so.

But my most adoring fan (better known as PK) has insisted that our admiring public is distraught over my lack of communication in the past few weeks. Truthfully, I am not convinced that anyone other than him and my mother ever actually bother to look at this site anyway. So I find it hard to believe that there is even one person anxiously waiting my next installment with baited breath. But if, for some reason, I have underestimated my following and you are, in fact, disappointed with my recent lack of interest in composing my life in written form --well, then I sincerely apologize. And I invite you take up some hobby to fill the void (personally, I enjoy knitting).

I could promise to be more diligent, but that would be a foolish deception on my part. I write when I have something to say and sometimes (though it may be hard for some to believe) I am at a loss for words.

Does anyone else find it extremely ironic that I just wrote an entire blog entry about not writing blog entries?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

I asked a our missionary mentor yesterday how you know when you're doing what God wants and not what your own heart desires. Sometimes I try to forget we ever went to Honduras, just so I don't feel the pressure of speculating if we'll ever return. And sometimes when I feel like we haven't made much progress, I try to prepare my broken heart for the inevitable possibility that we won't. I even try to convince myself if I truly love those kids, I should leave the ministry to other more experienced missionaries who must be closer to God than me. I so desperately want--sometimes need--to be a part of the El Sembrador ministry, that I often wonder if it's my own ambition and not the Lord's.

Our mentor, of course, had the right answer. She told me to pray. Then, she said probably the most simple and the most difficult thing to do. "Just keep going." It reminded me of the scene in the Nemo movie.All the fish are caught on a huge net, but they all swim the same direction and the pressure eventually breaks the net and sets them free. Through the whole ordeal, they are united in their own just keep swimming. It occurs to me that those fish may be on to something.

Obviously, God has broken our hearts for the people of Honduras. And, like those fish, we have to just keep moving forward--no matter how slow and painful it may be. We just keep swimming until God either breaks the net or hauls us into the boat.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Priorities of a 14-Year-Old

"I love it when we have communion. It's like a little snack during church."

I feel the need to justify this statement by saying that CT does in fact know the deep meaning and symbolism behind partaking in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. He just also sees it as further proof of God's "awesomeness" that it also happens to hold him over until lunchtime.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Last night I went to have my hair dyed (I know, hard to believe, right?). Below is a transcript of the conversations I overheard the stylist at the next chair having with her customers during several long hours in the chair (hey, this kind of beauty doesn't just happen!). Seriously, I could not make this stuff up.

[Gentleman 1 enters and is escorted to the chair]
Stylist: Hi, how are you?
[Apparently, not understanding that this is a rhetorical question, the man answers.]
Gentleman 1: Not too well. I lost my job last week.
[Ok, a little more than the standard "Fine", but our stylist rolls with it.]
Stylist: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Times certainly are hard these days.
Gentleman 1: I know what you mean. I'm having trouble even getting an interview.
[Always friendly, our stylist decides to give her customer a little inside job hunting tip that's sure to lift his spirits.]
Stylist: Have you tried applying at XYZ Company? My friend just got a job there and they are always hiring.
[Now he should be grateful and even if uninterested should respond with something like "Thanks for the tip. I'll look into that." But our guy has not learned the delicate art of chit-chat at the salon and volunteers far too much information.]
Gentleman 1: Well, I have four felonies in the last five years, so I doubt they'll hire me.
Stylist: Umm...well, I see how that may cause a problem.
[Awkward silence for the remainder of the haircut. Gentleman 1 pays and leaves.]

[Gentleman 2 enters and is seated in the chair left vacant by the first. Polite conversation begins and our stylist gets the haircut underway.]
Stylist: So, do you ever see John Doe anymore?
[Clearly caught of guard, Gentleman 2 is confused by this question.]
Gentleman 2: How do you know my friend, John Doe?
[Now it's the stylist's turn to be off guard.]
Stylist: were my date to the junior prom. We doubled with John Doe and his girlfriend.
[Ok, you think this is the awkward part, but it gets worse...much worse.]
Gentleman 2: Oh, sorry. I didn't even recognize you. I don't really see John Doe since I caught him stealing some of my stuff out of my room one time. He was always kind of a loser. Do you ever see his girlfriend?
Stylist: She's my cousin...and she and John Doe have been married for two years.
[Now you'd think that this guy would just shut his mouth, but he's just getting started.]
Gentleman 2: Oh, well it seems he got himself cleaned up then, huh?
[The stylist is clearly ready for this conversation to end.]
Gentleman 2: You know after our date, I put a letter in your mailbox...ya know, just to apologize.
Stylist: Really? I never got a letter.
Gentleman 2: Well, your parents were pretty upset with me. So they probably didn't give it to you.
[At this point, every person in the crowded salon is listening.]
Stylist: Well, it was a long time ago. Did you know I have two kids now?
[This customer is not fooled by our stylist's attempt to change the subject.]
Gentleman 2: Well, I know you were really hurt. I mean you cried the whole time.
[The stylist is now an unnatural shade of pink.]
Stylist: Well, I'm over it. I live in Edina now.
[Another failed attempt to end her agony.]
Gentleman 2: Well, I should have at least bought you one of those corsages. And maybe I shouldn't have showed up so drunk. Remember how I threw up in the car on the way home?
[It's clear our stylist is re-living the worst prom date in history right here in front of a very attentive crowd.]
Stylist: No, I don't really remember that.
Gentleman 2: Oh yeah, I think you were in the gas station bathroom when that happened.
[I'm pretty sure she was probably looking for a window to climb out of and escape.]
Gentleman 2: Did you know I had to spend two days in jail after they arrested me that night? I mean they clocked me at 103, but that's so stupid. My El Camino could only get up to 80 on a good day.
Stylist: Well, I know I was pretty scared.
Gentleman 2: Well, it was all John Doe's fault. I had to keep up with his Camaro.
[The haircut is over, but not the awkwardness.]
Gentleman 2: Well, it was good to see you again and relive my glory days. Sorry I didn't recognize you at first. I think your voice has gotten deeper or something. Oh, and you've really developed....I mean, you have a lot more curves now.
[Gentleman 2 leaves, much to the relief of our stylist.]

[Gentleman 3 is seated. He has come with his wife, who is reading a 3-month-old gossip magazine, and their two young children.]
Stylist: What adorable kids. How old are they?
Gentleman 3: They're 4 and 2. But most people think they're older because they are so mature for their ages. Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.
[Our stylist tries to appear interested in her customer's endless babble about his kids and truck driving job. But it's hard to maintain her composure because the younguns are literally tearing the salon apart. One is squirting shampoo all over the floor while the other is tearing pages out of the hairstyle book on the counter.]
Wife: Yeah, it's so hard to look after the kids when he's away for such long periods of time....blah, blah.
[She didn't even look up from her magazine!]
Gentleman 3: Blah, blah, blah...Can you get the sideburns a little closer?

Stylist: They are so cuuute!
[Finally, the family leaves and clean-up begins.]

[Gentleman 4 has been waiting for a while and finally sits down for his haircut.]
Gentleman 4: Those kids were a nightmare!
Stylist: No kidding!
Gentleman 4: When that kid spanked you, all I could think was how I know a couple of kids that need that kind of whack.....not that you didn't need it.
[Ok, that's a weird little statement.]
Stylist: Yeah, parents just don't discipline like when we were kids.
Gentleman 4: I know what you mean. I like to smack a behind now and then.
[Whoa! TMI!]
Gentleman 4: And that guy just wouldn't shut up!
Stylist: Yes, he had a lot to say didn't he?
Gentleman 4: And he spent the whole time looking down your shirt.
Stylist: Really?
Gentleman 4: Yeah and when you turned around he sure was eyeing your rear!
Stylist: Well, I didn't even notice that.
Gentleman 4: Yeah, I figured. I mean you didn't even notice that your blouse is unbuttoned down to your waist.

Wow, what a night for this poor girl! That being said, I am glad that I got stuck with the quiet stylist. Otherwise, I might have missed out on the best entertainment I've had all week!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sympathizing with Sylvester....

...the cat, not Stallone.

CT has a new pet parakeet. I like having a parakeet in the house. He's always cheerful and there's no better way to wake up than to a happy chirping bird. Even on the gloomiest days, a fluttering little blue bird lifts my spirits.

So, you can imagine my disappointment to find that our newest family member is more than a little dull. Domino is a cute little guy...mostly black and white with a shocking blue tail. He's still a baby and his people skills could use a little work. He doesn't like to be touched and squawks menacingly when anyone tries to handle him. And when he doesn't get his way, he chomps the nearest finger and bites down as hard as his little jaws will allow. So, for the first few days he was with us we let him alone and allowed him to get accustomed to his new home. There he sat...on the very top perch...alone and on top of his small little world...and he sat...and pooped....and sat...seriously, a gold fish has more personality than this guy!

Then, one day, I decided that the bird was boring because he was bored. In a flash a brilliance, I decided that I needed to entertain him. I tried cooing and talking with no response except for an occasional sleepy blink. Yep, he was bored and even my best baby talk could not persuade him to give me the time of day. Convinced that he just needed a little excitement in his life, I bravely stuck my hand in the cage and after about 10 minutes and only minimal blood, I had him in his small travel cage. We were going on a field trip!

I have to admit, I was more excited at this idea than Domino and he barely moved as we made our way down the hall and into the elevator to the garage. He sullenly gripped the perch and wobbled only a bit to hang on with each movement. It was a pretty day and once we were settled into the car, I opened the sun roof and set a course to CT's school to pick him up. Once in the parking lot at glanced over at the cage to find that Domino was indeed more animated than I had ever seen him. He hopped from foot to foot and tweeted happy little chirps at the window. I smiled in smug satisfaction.

What's that? Our little friend is so excited that he's bumped over his water dish. Better fix it before there's water all over the car. I knew as I opened the cage door that I shouldn't....but, by then, it was too late. My boring little birdie bolted out of the cage and made a bee-line for the open sun roof. I snapped it shut just in time.

And just like that, lifeless became frantic and Domino explored the car with the gusto of a kid at his first amusement park. He ducked into ever nook and somehow contorted his body to fit into every cranny as I maneuvered around steering wheel and cup holders in my vain attempts to nab him. Being careful not to squash him under the seat or inadvertently open a window, I grabbed at thin air...only a split second too late to grasp his hovering little body. I hurriedly begged for his obedience, oblivious to the language barrier. I anxiously glanced at the school door, hoping that I would be able to corral his pet before CT happened upon my predicament. I found a bird treat and managed to convince Domino that he was hungry long enough to lure him onto an styrofoam plate on the back seat. I carefully and slowly moved the plate toward me. He eyed me suspiciously, but went back to his feast. Ever so slowly, I edged him closer and closer toward the cage. Just as he got close enough to seize, he caught on to my ploy and fluttered back to his perch in the back window. Exhausted and without any other option, I locked eyes with him and we stared at each other for a long moment. I contemplated opening the door...for just a split order to jump out and into the backseat to gain a closer vantage point. But, I decided against it when I realized this would also require opening the back door as well, making it far to risky. This would give Domino a clear exit route and chances of his escape were significant.

Finally, I sighed and stuck the remainder of his treat just inside the door of his cage in a desperate last attempt to lure the hungry bird home. I was exhausted from the chase and ready to give up. I reluctantly decided that CT was much more suited (and younger) for this chase and that I would have to fess up and beg for his assistance...assuming the bird didn't fly the coop as CT opened the car door to get in. This last scenario not only meant the loss of a well-liked, if not beloved, family pet, but also the inevitable scorn of my teenager. I could almost see his eyes rolling and the silent treatment that would compound my already intense guilt. As I contemplated the consequences, I heard a sharp peep beside me. I looked down to see Domino peering intently into his cage at the treat. He flashed a glance in my direction and blinked  before hopping into the cage. I snapped the cage door closed just in time to see CT's cheery face headed toward the car.

Relieved at my luck and with a new respect for our "boring" friend, I vowed to never assume that a lethargic bird lacks personality. And since this incident, which a assume made me look like raving mad lunatic from the cars parked around mine, Domino and I have made a quiet peace and he even lets me stick my hand in his cage to stroke his tail feathers on occasion. And in return, he has taken to chirping cheerily every morning to wake me if I can just convince him that 5:30 is just a tad too early for those of us without feathers.

No one that I know of managed to snap a photo of this mayhem, but I assume it looked something like this:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Peace for the Spirit

Yesterday was our church's mission Sunday. Ever missionary and ministry our church is involved in is represented. I spent most of the day manning our table display, where we chatted with anyone who would stop long enough to listen. I especially liked getting to know the other ministries and missionaries. How exciting that God has called each of us to his work in so many different ways!

I enjoyed the day, but I do have to admit that it wore on my heart after the first hour and I was completely exhausted by the time we finally boxed up our supplies. I love El Sembrador and, honestly, I could talk about our students all day least I thought I could. But an entire day of talking about loved ones I haven't seen in months and may never see again coupled with the the polite nods of disinterest from our friends left me emotionally raw and on the verge of tears.

I've found that as the months start to separate us from El Sembrador and old habits and routines start to creep back into our lives, that my spirit seems to be in a constant exhausting battle. I cherish and cling to the memories of our Honduras family and friends while at the same time wishing I could forget we ever left Minnesota...yearning to live a "normal" life without the burden of our call. Endlessly desiring to be somewhere you are not and cannot be is overpowering and disheartening. And I'm finding it more difficult than I imagined to be content where I am, which is infinitely frustrating to the soul.

I believe that I am exactly where God wants me to be at this moment. My spirit is just worn out from emotion and craving a little peace for just a few moments.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brace Yourself

It's a teenage rite of least it was for me. On Thursday, CT got his new braces.But I'm having a hard time with this particular puberty ritual. It's not just that it costs $6000 and our dental insurance doesn't pay a dime (By the way, is there anyone else outraged that insurance companies don't have to cover orthodontics when 90% of kids need them?). It just one more visible sign that he's not my baby boy anymore. I was relieved when he was out of diapers and thrilled when he outgrew temper tantrums in Wal-Mart, but what I wouldn't give for just one more day of sweet naps on my shoulder or a little hand grasping my finger!

He's already taller than me, his voice has changed and he swears he found an armpit hair last week.With braces, it's official. After we finish paying those suckers off, he won't need me anymore. Well, by the time we finish paying them off, he'll be changing our diapers! The point is, that he's growing up so fast and this is just one more reminder that he's a man now. But you have to admit, the braces are absolutely adorable on the kid!



Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Official

We are missionaries!

I would have never dreamed that I wold grow up to be a missionary. But here we are ready to follow where God leads.

PK and I drove to WGM headquarters in Indiana (with a quick stop for deep-dish pizza in Chicago) last weekend for the finale to a long a series of tests, psych evaluations and mountains of paperwork--the interview. After a Bible exam that the disciples themselves would have had trouble passing, we were intimidated to say the least.

One thing we've learned about being a missionary over the past year is that most of our colleagues all seem to have either grown up as an MK (missionary kid) or have been missionaries for longer than we've been alive. PK and I, on the other hand, had never even met a missionary before our journey began. In comparison, we're the toddlers in an unfamiliar world with even it's own language (and I don't mean Spanish!). So an interview with "The Board" was enough to have both of us shaking in our laymen boots.

And boy do they take their job seriously! It was a full weekend of meetings, tests, psych evaluations and culminating in a scary boardroom interview with the members of the committee who would decide whether we were good candidates to be missionaries. In fact, I'm pretty certain there are more than a few people in Indiana that know things about us that even our own parents don't know!

Oh, we tried to remind ourselves that they had already unleashed us on over 100 boys for an entire year, so surely they couldn't reject us now. But there was always that little fear in the back of our minds that maybe we just weren't good enough. Finally, the last interview was over and there was nothing left, but to ask the Lord to open the door for us to walk through or close it if we were meant for something else. Thankfully, the suspense didn't last long and we received word last week that we've been accepted as Missionary Disciples to Honduras!

We are excited that this time WGM won't just send us out to find our way on our own and will be providing some much-needed training. In fact, they have recommended a Bible certificate program that will help ground our ministry in Biblical principle and make us better prepared to share the gospel. We'll be taking the classes this year online and we'll have a coach to help walk us through the fundraising mountains that lies ahead.

So, there it is. God has given us a path and we stand eager to follow. It's official. We are missionaries.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Let them eat cake

Those of you who know me know that I am not exactly the most domesticated creature. I still have to ask my mother-in-law how to boil an egg every Easter. Generally, we have survived on eating out and the kindness of others...mostly those who "love" to cook.

Over the past few months of basement living, we have been without the option to cook our own food. We either ate with our hosts or, when we didn't feel like being a burden, found the nearest fast food joint we could afford (which was dramatically limited, I might add). So, it may surprise you to know that once we moved into our new place, I was actually looking forward to cooking. Of course it didn't help that I had been reading those mystery books where the prime detective is a baker and recipes are included at the end of every chapter...and more than a few late nights of Cupcake Wars.

So, much to the delight of my boys (and a little bit of trepidation), I have been cooking and baking up a storm. The downside is that I haven't lost any weight and I've been running our tiny apartment dishwasher constantly. The upside is that I haven't had any major cooking disasters...yet. Yes, there have been several comments regarding "Who are you and what have you done with my mother/wife?" But overall, I have been very pleased with the response. Maybe I am more domesticated than I give myself credit for. Or maybe the June Cleaver will wear off in a few days. But for now I say, "Let them eat cake!"

My Cooking/Baking Accomplishments this week:

  • Spaghetti with spicy sauce (ok, the sauce was from a jar, but it was tasty nontheless)
  • Mac N Cheese (this was also from a box, but I put it on the list because CT loved it because I added extra shredded cheese and butter)
  • Three containers of chismol (Honduran pico de gallo that didn't turn out right because I forgot the salt, but I froze two of the containers and I think they can be saved by adding the salt after defrost)
  • Crockpot pork roast and potatoes (leftovers chopped up and smothered in BBQ sauce for yummy sandwiches after church on Sunday)
  • Chicken and sour cream enchiladas (made from recipe given to me by a good missionary friend. I even managed to find Honduran crema, which is 100% tastier than our sour cream, at a little Latin American store)
  • Make-Your-Own Pizzas with homemade pizza dough and tons of toppings to choose from.
  • Cheesecake swirl chocolate brownies (from a box, be baked to perfection)
  • Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (no boxes or jars...all from scratch and delicious!)
  • Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting (made from leftovers of cake and delivered to the ladies in the rental office of our new apartment building)
  • Banana bread (made from scratch and half was devoured while it was still warm from the oven)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Exhausted But Excited

At church on Sunday, I was exhausted from our move, achy from lifting boxes and overwhelmed with the work left to be done. We made our way to our seats and I plopped down unenthusiastically. I was almost certain that I would fall asleep before the pastor even finished the announcements. Then the first few chords of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" rang out and I was on my feet and singing at the top of my lungs (unfortunate for anyone sitting within the three rows in front of me). 

Despite no being musically inclined, it's not often that a song moves me. But as PK quietly sung the Spanish lyrics next to me, I noticed tears streaming down my face. This song is a weekly staple at the El Sembrador church service and I couldn't help but wonder if all my boys were singing the exact same words at that very moment. I'm pretty sure that I could even hear them if I closed my eyes. The move, the growing to-do list, the anxiety and the exhaustion seemed to have numbed me over the last few days. But in that moment singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" God re-ignited that something deep inside me...that little piece of my heart reserved for El Sembrador. I closed my eyes and thanked God for this little reminder of His gifts in my life. For the first time in a long while, I let the stresses of my little world disappear and sang with renewed spirit and joy in my heart. I am still exhausted, but I am also excited to see what God has planned for our futures and I have been reminded of His blessings of the past year.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Apartment Living

We're finally getting ready to reunite the family under one roof! While I'm excited at the prospect of being together again, I'm a little leery of moving to an apartment again. We built our house almost 12 years ago and our home in Honduras had plenty of room to spread out. I have to admit, it's more the stigma of apartment living that's got me feeling apprehensive. I don't know where I got the idea that renting is somehow not as respectable as owning. But in all honestly, I almost feel ashamed at the idea of living in an apartment building. Maybe it's the perception of success when someone owns their own home or maybe it's the idea of paying as much as our house payment and having nothing to show for it...or maybe I'm just a house snob. The new apartment will have plenty of room, our own washer and dryer and covered parking and we'll never have to mow or shovel. I have no reason to complain. I just feel like we've lost something by renting again...silly as that may sound. Honestly, I don't know what's gotten into me. Am I really so selfish and conceited? Probably.

I think that when you decide to give up everything and move to a foreign country to serve God, you never really intend to "give up" everything and it sneaks up on you sometimes. Suddenly, you find yourself feeling like a martyr and whining to everyone about your "loss". I think that's the trap I find myself in at the moment. The reality is that we have a storage unit full of stuff and we still "own" a home even if we're not living in it. I mean we haven't exactly suffered for our ministry...not  by a long-shot. I told God I would do anything, go anywhere and give up anything and He has asked so little of me.

I'm feeling a little guilty for even exposing my greediness for the entire world to see! So, I am telling myself to  give up the martyrdom and be truly thankful for my new home and everything else.
"Self, there is no shame in renting an apartment, you silly little brat. In fact, you could really use that on-site fitness center once in a while, missy! Time to start walking the walk and give up something for God's ministry...maybe starting with a little of that pride. And if every you forget how blessed you are, remember that you could be living in your in-laws' basement!"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Toothbrush is Lonely

I've always admired women that live alone. At times, I have even been a little jealous. I mean, they get to be in charge of everything and no one ever argues! If women who take on the world alone are full of moxy and are to be respected, then a woman who lives in her in-laws' basement without a car for escape or a husband to confide in have a truckload of grace and deserve a giant trophy.

This week, PK left me. OK, he didn't abandon his family and run off with a young cocktail waitress (at least, I don't think so). He actually found a job at last. Unfortunately, the job is six hours away from the 70's wood paneling and orange floral sofas that we now call home. The job is only temporary contract position, so it didn't make sense to re-locate the family and spend money on an apartment when we might end up right back here in a matter of weeks. So, here I am hanging with the folks while I try to say sane in the middle of frozen nowhere with no transportation of my own for escape. I'm not saying it's horrible torture to be here and I am extremely grateful for the home that has been offered to us at no charge. It can just be a little awkward finding your place in a household when you aren't quite family and traditions and routines are very rigid. When CT was invited to a friend's for dinner, I was happy that he was fitting in and making connections, but I really wanted to fall to the floor, grab his leg and beg him not to leave me alone with the uncomfortableness of being in someone else's home.

Our financial situation hit like an oncoming semi sliding across black ice on the freeway on Monday. In all our recent travels, we noticed a strange noise coming from the car. After sitting for a year in the barn, that didn't surprise us. We took it for an oil change, which seemed to improve things for a little while, but the noise returned. So, after PK left for his new job, I drove into town to the mechanic expecting to replace the spark plugs as someone had suggested. I left with an estimate of $875 worth of work that was "not optional". When I called PK to give him the bad news, he greeted it with a grim warning. "Please don't use the card. We're $200 overdrawn right now." I tearfully accepted the in-laws' offer to loan us the car money, but I was sure they could see the tail between my legs as I headed down to our basement for a good cry alone. When CT returned from school complaining about being teased because he gets the free lunch at school, my moment of weakness turned into a full-fledged pity party and I spent the rest of the evening wallowing in worry and oppressive sadness. Add in a buried late notice that our health insurance was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to non-payment, a cold coming on and the constant updates from El Sembrador about a new school year beginning...without us. I felt like I was being suffocated. When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and found my toothbrush standing all alone on the counter, I burst into tears again. I felt utterly alone and scared.

After a few minutes, I did what people at their wit's end tend to do. I found my Bible in the bottom of my suitcase. Then something amazing happened. As I prayed for God to give me the strength to move forward, my mind started to wander mid-prayer. I started thinking about how we got ourselves into this situation with the intent of sinking further into desperation, I tried to scold myself for putting the future of our family at risk like this. I gave myself the "what were we thinking?" speech. But instead of making me feel worse, I started thinking about our time at El Sembrador. I thought about Rommel and the dirt floors of his tiny home. I thought of Reyes and his desperate need for a mother's love. I thought of Jorge singing while he used a machete in the grass...of CT with his Bible open on the front porch preaching to any kid who would listen....of the day we went to town and picked up garbage and of the day I wanted to give up and come home. Suddenly, my prayer changed from one of begging for God's intervention to one of praise for all that he has allowed me to experience in the last 12 months. Everything became focused and I could feel myself giving up the control...and the worry. Of course it is all worth it. My pride got in the way of seeing it for a little while. Being back in my own domain had led me to old habits. But Minnesota belongs to God just as much as Honduras does. So, I did what I did when we started this whole thing....I let go.

Things are starting to look up. I found a notice that my stock plan at my old job was still active and it still had $2000 in it. I sold it and we're awaiting the check. We also expect PK's first paycheck next week. The car repairs actually came in $100 less than we were quoted and now the car runs perfectly. Mom sent us $100 for PK's birthday (and because she took pity on me). And I made a trip to the Cities to see PK. We still have a long road to go for security...or maybe we'll never have it again. But I'm kind of ok with that. And I've come to almost enjoy the lifestyle of never knowing what the next day will hold, much less next week. It feels like we're still on an adventure together. I still miss having some stability and having the family together. Afterall, we've barely been apart in over a year and we're the only ones that can possibly understand how the others are feeling. But I know that I am not alone. My toothbrush may be lonely, but I'm not anymore.

One day I'm going to look back on this time and our time in Honduras as the best time of my life...a time where I was drawn closer to my family and closer to God. And I'll have no regrets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Glorious Goodwill

No, I don't mean the kindness of our family and friends that we've experienced in the weeks since we returned to the States (although that, too, has been quite impressive). I mean that magnificent, under-appreciated shopping mecca that is the Wal-Mart of those of us too poor for Wal-Mart. Why did I not notice it before? I mean, sure, I donated a box or two of CT's clothes every year just to avoid the hassle of a yard sale, but never really paid much attention to our local Goodwill store...I mean, not really.

I've never really considered myself a snob, especially when it comes to finding a good deal. In fact, I have had to work very hard at a bridal shower not to excitedly blurt out how I scored that special wedding gift on clearance for $2.99. And I have been known to frequent the yard sales in the neighborhood, pawing through the tables and complaining that 15 cents was entirely too much to pay for that potholder featuring a large brown rooster and slightly-singed edges. So, why did I never consider the values at Goodwill before now?

My love affair started when I saw mountains and mountains of collected junk disappear from our home as we prepared to leave the country a little over a year ago. As the worker steadily unloaded each truckload piled high with box after box of old candles and my "skinny" jeans and stacked them into bins for sorting, I marveled as the house grew emptier and emptier while our new life in Honduras grew closer and closer. But this was just a small taste of the magic of Goodwill. I didn't fully appreciate this icon of shopping bliss until we returned a few weeks ago. With a son rapidly outgrowing his underwear and our suitcases full of impractical summer clothes, I really had little other choice than to rely on the endless rows of racks and inexpensive prices I found when visiting a Goodwill out of sheer boredom one recent afternoon. Now I find myself hooked by name-brand jeans and trendy hoodies affordable to even me. While PK was filling out forms for his first contract position, I bided my time at the nearby Goodwill store. And when he casually mentioned that the new position would require more formal attire than he had crumpled up in our suitcase, we made an immediate b-line to yet another Goodwill spotted from the highway.

Yep, I'm in love. Even when we are both gainfully employed again and dollar bills stuff our wallets, I'll never again be free of my compulsion for the bargains of the Goodwill. And why should I? I can spend hours shopping and spend less than I would spend on a Starbucks frappacino. You see, there is hope for the unemployed shopaholic in all of us...and it's name is Goodwill. My only regret is that I wasted all those years at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Proof that God is in Control

The Lord took yesterday's routine search of the classifieds and job boards as an opportunity to remind me that He is in control and that He always has my back. I came across an interesting posting on the newspaper's website for a graphic designer to work for a publisher with authors and editors to produce books. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity to learn about the publishing industry and the job description fit my skills perfectly. So I applied using the link on the newspaper's site. Almost immediately, I received an e-mail declaring that the application was not received due to technical error. I tried again with the same result. By this time I was tired of filling out the same web form over and over and decided to take my chances on the publisher's website to see if the posting was listed there. My faithful friend, Google, lead my way to the site which proudly claimed to be the "#1 pagan, new age and mystical publisher in North America".

Wow, am I glad that my God loves me enough to save me from my own persistence!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gypsie Living

I know I should have posted sooner. I write best when I am alone with my thoughts and without interruption. Sadly, I've had very little of that lately.

So, it's a new year and we are "home" in the States. I use the quotes because we are, in fact, homeless to a certain extent. We are living like gypsies traveling from home to home living out of our suitcases and painfully aware that we may outstay our welcome at any moment. Don't get me wrong. We have been welcomed with open arms and are unspeakably grateful for the shelter and support offered by our family. But I crave the ability to leave my towel on the floor in the bathroom or to get out of bed without having to navigate around a complicated maze of suitcases and boxes or maybe just to have a moment to myself. I have to say we have withstood this last month remarkably well with very few arguments and only small frustrations despite being on top of eachother at all times. I don't mean to whine. So many have it far worse than us. Therefore, I will have to consider myself lucky to have these two whom I adore to share this strange time with.

As expected at this late time of year, we've had trouble finding jobs immediately. So, we've traveled a lot and visited both sides of the family. We received a small respite in Fort Smith when Mom kindly got us a hotel room and allowed us to have space of our own for a precious few days. Even though we still had to share the room with eachother, I  relished being able to watch the television and leave the bed unmade. We enjoyed the holidays as usual, but to me they seemed to pass in a sort of dream-like state. While my mind is adequately preoccupied with our current situation, it is the loss of El Sembrador that keeps me awake at night. I say "loss" because that's how it a death that I am still grieving. I miss our kids wonder about them almost constantly. At times, I have even finished my evening prayers without even mentioning our lack of job or money because I am so absorbed in prayer for our missionary family and friends. I long to be with them every time I get one of their update e-mails or am reminded of a time we were together. So it is in this state of mind that I celebrated Christmas...elated to be with my family, but devastated to be so far from where my heart is.

Thankfully, this melancholy has managed to stave off the panic and frustration that would normally permeate every fiber of my being had I been a similar desperate financial situation a year ago. I can't decide if I've actually managed to give it to God or if I'm just in some strange honeymoon period and it hasn't quite sunk in yet. Certainly, I have prayed to be without worry. But I can't remember it ever really working like this before. Of course, I am planning and scheming to solve the current situation on my own. But it isn't the desperate, panic-stricken obsession that I would expect of myself. And more often than not I am able to remind myself that God is in control and can easily turn my mind to other, more positive things. More than once things have not quite worked out how I would have wanted, but somehow I have managed to adjust and look ahead with very little despair. I can't really explain how this has surprised me. It's like I know I should be boiling over with hysteria, but I'm astonished to find myself in a bubble of tranquility. I don't mean to say I haven't had a few moments when I have wanted to burst in tears. I just have handled those moments much better than I could have ever imagined for myself. Even the moment when we were 500 miles from anyone we knew and found ourselves $530 overdrawn and without a dime for gasoline on a Sunday afternoon didn't send me reeling into hopelessness. We simply borrowed from CT for our fast-food lunch and then calmly searched for a grocery store that would cash a check that PK had forgotten to deposit so we could go on our way. Christmas cash covered our deficit and we were able to make a deposit into our account the following Monday. As time goes on, I wonder if I will find myself back to my frenzied self, desperate to be in control of our situation. For now, I am praying that the Lord will sustain my peaceful bubble for just a little while longer.