waiting and trudging

Mariah’s Story

us (2)Almost 2 months ago, our newborn baby girl was straight up healed by our awesome God. We want to give testimony to that and tell her story here.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 46:1-3

At 33 weeks pregnant, I started having some contractions while we were at the beach. We were resting as we had just transitioned our four year old foster daughter to another family after almost 5 months with her. Unconcerned, we went to the hospital and I was given an IV with meds to stop labor. Several ultrasounds were performed and it was determined our baby was healthy and I just needed to be on bed rest.

Four days later, the contractions started again, this time during our baby shower. With contractions coming closer and closer together, we promptly ushered everyone out of the house and got our bags ready. As the last few guests left, one friend stopped and told me she felt the Lord was putting Psalm 46 on her heart for us. I thanked her, but quickly forgot as we rushed to the hospital.

I was in labor all night and dilated to 8 cm early that next morning. Unfortunately, my baby’s head and shoulder were both trying to come out at the same time, resulting in her not dropping low enough for me to start pushing. My doctor decided to do a c-section and at that point I was so exhausted that I didn’t put up much of a fight. Our beautiful Mariah Grace was born a short time later at 6 pounds, 1 ounce and was doing extremely well for being born 6 weeks early. Never have I felt such extreme joy as when I kissed my sweet baby on the cheek and heard her little cry.

mariah2As the day went on, Mariah was with us in our room as I recovered and we enjoyed some sweet time with our new treasure. In the afternoon, a nurse came and told me that even though they didn’t usually take the babies from their mothers, she felt she should take her for a bit to give me a chance to rest since I was exhausted and sick from the anesthesia. This move ended up being providential because while we were sleeping Mariah’s temperature plummeted, then spiked quickly. She began having some difficulty breathing and her skin was a dark purple. The neonatologist came in and told us he believed she was fighting an infection. Within minutes it was decided to send her to the excellent Children’s Hospital NICU because there wasn’t a NICU at my hospital. Unfortunately there wasn’t room at the Children’s Hospital and she was to be sent to another hospital. An ambulance was called and Albin, the doctor, and my newborn baby were rushed to the NICU. Alone, in pain, and distraught, never had I felt such helplessness as I did then.

Thankfully my parents had flown in and came to spend the night with me at the private hospital. Albin spent the night at the public hospital on a lonely bench in a hallway (public hospitals are much different in CR). Since they are publicly funded, no expenses are wasted on waiting room comfort. The doctors were waiting to get back Mariah’s blood results, but started her on a general antibiotic to fight whatever she had. The next morning my parents went to pick up Albin and I was left in the hospital- with the promise that if I could urinate, the doctors would let me go. It was impossible because the anesthesia really shut down my body. I was desperate. Finally after 24 hours and refusing to use a catheter again, I went into the bathroom and I cried out to the Lord. I said aloud to Him, “Lord if you can wake up dead people, surely you can wake up my bladder.” Never have I been so relieved to hear myself pee.

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We spent a lot of time on this bench…

From there, it was a whirlwind. The doctor decided to release me despite it only being one day after my c-section. Albin came and picked me up and we went straight to the public hospital to see Mariah. It was evening when we arrived and we expected to hear the antibiotic was working. When we saw her hooked up to the tubes, it was hard, but she was so much bigger than the other premature babies in the NICU, so it was hard to believe she was that sick. Then two very serious doctors came over and introduced themselves as the head doctors. I honestly can’t remember everything they said, but here’s what I remember:

Despite our efforts, Mariah’s body is not fighting the infection. She is having seizures and difficulty breathing. Her condition is extremely critical, so grave in fact, that her illness could end in death.

Never in my life have I ever felt as devastated as I did in that moment.

My first thought was: I refuse to bury my baby. My second thought was: In the name of Jesus I reject the death they are speaking over my baby. I shut out what the doctors were saying –apparently she had no white blood cells, she had sepsis, her lung had collapsed…etc. etc. They asked if we wanted to call the hospital priest, but I got hysterical and we went out and called our families and through sobs managed to tell them the worst news I’d ever received. Then Al and I went out to that lonely bench and cried. We grieved. We prayed. I have never been so focused in my life. We started telling the Lord that this was too heavy a burden for us to bear and began speaking health and life over Mariah. We turned on worship in that dark hallway and started calling on the Lord to come down and fight for her. It was so intense. Somehow, my parents and Al’s mom broke through the ridiculous security and were allowed to join us on our bench. We didn’t talk. We just cried and prayed and sang for hours. I honestly don’t know how long. I had an image that as we sang about God being the God of angel armies, angels were surrounding Mariah’s bed and fighting for her. Then, the passage my friend had given to me came to mind and one verse in particular stuck out:

“God is within her, she will not fall…” Psalm 46:5

God spoke to me right there. She will not fall. As I later studied this passage, I realized that the Psalmist is talking about the city of Jerusalem not falling…which is on Mount Moriah- from which Mariah’s name is derived (too much of a coincidence to be one for me). Cool huh?

After sitting there for hours and literally having our own worship session in that dank hallway, the head doctor came out and was surprised to see us there since it technically is not a waiting room. I’ll also never forget what he said this time:

Oh! I didn’t know you were still here. Your baby has stabilized.

Fresh tears started flowing with that way too simple statement. Albin and I suited up again and went in the NICU. Another doctor came over to us and said that they had just done a chest x-ray and Mariah’s lung had suddenly inflated on its own which meant the antibiotic being pumped into her blood was being pumped to all parts of her body better. As we turned to look at our daughter, the room started shaking and we felt the tremor of an earthquake that took place in El Salvador that night. It was interesting that in that same Psalm 46 passage it talks about not fearing though the mountains quake and just around that time our parents were out on the bench reading that passage. It was as if the Lord was reminding us that just as He was in control of the earth shaking, He was also in control or our baby’s life. Never had I felt the Lord as close as I did in that moment.

tubesIt was late and I was in excruciating pain, so we had to go home for the night. We slept a few hours and I woke up in a panic, guilty for sleeping while my daughter lay in grave condition in the hospital. I started sobbing out of control. Suddenly I recognized a familiar voice speaking to my heart. It wasn’t audible, but it was clear as day.

It’s okay to cry, but stop carrying on like you don’t know the outcome of this trial.

And then Jesus gave me a verse, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you do not stand at all.” Isaiah 7:9. I found that verse to be pretty appropriate; as I literally felt like I could not stand because of how much pain I was in for not resting after my c-section and because of the crushing weight of not having my baby in my arms.

I got out of bed and we called to make sure Mariah was still stable and then had another worship session with my family. Though reassured she would be healed, I still felt so heavy. Every time I thought about the situation, every time I saw her tubes, every time I realized that I wasn’t pregnant anymore but didn’t bring home a baby with me, I felt like I was sinking. Then I felt Jesus reminding me of Peter stepping out onto the waves. I felt like he was telling me that every time I took my eyes off of Him, I would sink. The “facts” of this situation would swallow me up and I would feel anxious, panicked, and a little crazy. Literally all I could do was keep my eyes on Jesus. I didn’t keep my eyes on her tubes, didn’t focus on what the doctors were saying, I couldn’t possibly think about how gravely ill she was.

When we arrived to the hospital that day, the doctors told us that Mariah had turned a corner and that it seemed like her body wanted to fight. Never have I been so thankful to know God as our Healer.

Over the next several days, we only received good news. Her fever is down, her white blood cell count is rising, her blood pressure is stabilizing, her sugar has leveled, she doesn’t need to be sedated, she was taken off a respirator, she wasn’t having any more seizures, she was able to drink some formula. Every day the doctors and nurses were so excited to tell us how amazing she was doing and how incredible her turnaround was. Then, just 5 days after she entered the ICU, I hobbled to the door and a nurse I didn’t recognize told me she wasn’t there. Panic threatened to overtake me until he finally came back and told me she was no longer in intensive care, had skipped the intermediate area and had been moved to the general care room.

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She was in the hospital for two weeks. During those two weeks we received hundreds, no – thousands of comments and messages from people praying. People we didn’t even know, whole churches, and our beloved friends and family poured out so much love on us. I’ve never felt so loved or supported as I did during those two weeks. It was so humbling and encouraging. Also during those two weeks, we had so many opportunities to share about God’s goodness on that bench in the dark hallway. We prayed with other families in similar situations, we shared with others about Jesus, and we encouraged people as they walked through the darkest times in their lives. It was absolutely amazing to be used in that way.

Two weeks after we were told our baby might not make it through the night, we brought home a healthy baby. Her blood tests were clean and her brain scan came back perfect. Mariah had been diagnosed with the bacteria Strep B, which I had tested negative for. She had to have received it from me since it came on so quickly, but a doctor told me probability of her getting it from me was 0.1% because it is only passed through vaginal birth or through waiting too long to have the c-section after your water broke- both of which were not my case. Her body initially shut down, but miraculously started fighting again. As we walked out of the hospital, we thanked the doctors and nurses with cards and candy. All of the doctors and nurses came out (something I hadn’t seen them do with any other baby being released as I sat there for 9 hours a day for two weeks) and told us how happy they were and how Mariah was a huge miracle.

The day she came home

The day she came home

There is so much more to tell, but this is Mariah Grace’s story. Mariah means “God is my teacher” and Grace is after my strong 10 year old cousin, Grace, who is fighting and winning her battle with leukemia. Never in a million years did I think her prophetic name would be called upon in her first days of life as we prayed God would teach her body to fight like her strong cousin has.

We are thankful.

Thankful to the thousands of you who prayed for our daughter and for us during the darkest trial we have endured. Thank you for the messages of encouragement and the shares of our updates on Facebook. We truly believe that God heard all of our prayers of faith and healed Mariah. Thank you all from the bottoms of our hearts.

Thankful for parents that drop everything to take care of us. After having Mariah, we are starting to see how much love and hard work is necessary to being a parent and we’re eternally grateful God blessed us with amazing parents.

Thankful to the doctors and nurses that took such amazing care of Mariah and completely changed my view of the public health care system. Their attention to our daughter and friendship extended to me during the long days at the hospital were such a blessing.

Most of all we’re thankful to our Father in heaven. He’s the giver of the two best gifts ever- salvation through Jesus Christ, and our precious baby girl. God’s not dead and we are all witnesses of His goodness and power. He is faithful and He is Love whether or not He had chosen to heal our baby in the way we asked, but we are so thankful for what He has done. May He receive all the glory and honor and praise forever.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Isaiah 46:10-11

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I Survived the Fungus!!

KarisCafe-5296(2)It’s been a while! My last blog was 7 months ago regarding my dogs giving me fungus. Lest you think the fungus killed me off, never to be heard of again, I thought I would post an update. A lot has happened in the last 7 months (a lot usually happens in 7 months I suppose).

Last year was one of the most intense years of my life. I think I stopped blogging because I didn’t want to be that depressing blogger that complains about everything. I felt like I became super serious and wasn’t finding the “funny” in marrying into another culture. It was exhausting. Throughout the weirdness, God kept speaking one word to me, “persistence.”  Around the beginning of November, the persistence started paying off. Here is a quick summary.

Finding out I was pregnant and then miscarrying messed with my emotions and my hormones- not until several months later did I start working through it and feeling better. That helped A LOT.

Health struggles & house issues- after rounds of bronchitis and pneumonia, we realized that our sickness was caused by mold in our apartment walls. As rainy season progressed, our walls turned black and hand-sized water bubbles would form in the paint and then pop everywhere (no exaggeration). We decided we needed to move and after a long search, we were blessed with the opportunity to move into a house that we absolutely love. We’ve had visitors every 2 weeks since January and we LOVE IT.

Car issues- Our car failed the emissions test 3 times. Over $1,000 later and 3 months of having it break down (once during the emissions test- that was embarrassing), it was finally fixed. We passed the test, promptly sold the car and found a new one. The “newer” car is such a blessing.

Sick dogs- our dogs are finally healthy. I won’t even tell you how much we spent on curing our “free dogs.” Rocky’s only issue is that he is missing many teeth due to malnutrition as a newborn. It’s hilarious to see him gum things.

Job difficulties: In November, I quit my job as a Learning Specialist. I was super stressed and not feeling like I was in the right place. God has since provided a much more enjoyable job and a better schedule. I teach English online and give individual remedial therapies in the afternoons.

Residency problems: Well this one hasn’t been resolved. I still haven’t received my residency and I just found out that the CR government lost our marriage certificate which is why they hadn’t processed anything. Here we go again…

Lack of Community: Near the end of the year I started feeling much more comfortable (so thankful for the friends I made at my job). Then, in January, Sarah, JD, and Jasmin came down to live in Costa Rica. In May, Nikki and Janee will be coming down.  The reason they came down in the true purpose of this blog:

logo with background

Get excited. We are. While on the Race, God gave Sarah a vision about a coffee house ministry in Costa Rica. Fast forward two years- we’re going for it! We’ve been doing research, creating business plans, and figuring out logistics and we’re ready to take the plunge. God has been opening up doors all over the place and we’re getting excited. We have a team of 6, the corporation established, made a video and got our website done.

All of us went on the race and experienced God in ways we didn’t know were possible. Now we want others to experience Him as well. Our coffee shop has three main purposes:

1. To reach the community for Christ. Karis Café will be located right next to one of the biggest universities in Costa Rica and right in the center of the second biggest city in the country.

2. To minister to missionaries already in the area. We want to be a place of restoration and relaxation. A place were community is fostered, discipleship is prioritized, and love radiates.

3. To host short term mission teams. We have a passion to hook up teams with amazing ministries that we partner with, while teaching the teams how to leave a positive eternal impact on the community.

It’s a beautiful vision and it’s coming to fruition! We know this is from God and we’re excited to see what He is going to do. If you would like to know more, check out our facebook page  or our website. Now that we’ve done all of the preliminary planning, it’s time to raise funds. If you’re interested in helping us bring the kingdom to Heredia, Costa Rica, check out our fundraising site here that we just posted today! There are some perks for giving such as t-shirts, coffee, naming JD and Jasmin’s firstborn (due in October), etc. so you should definitely check it out.

So that’s what’s up. Life is always complicated and requires persistence, but after my 7 month hiatus, I can say that we are moving forward and doing great things. God is good.

KarisCafe-5332(2)

My dogs gave me hongos (fungus)

Unlike my last blog, this update is a pity blog. I mistakenly believed that if I adopted a dog and saved him from the perilous pound life, that good karma would in turn grace me with a healthy and an eternally grateful canine. Not so my friends. Not so.

Somehow our four month old puppies, Rocky and Luna, missed the memo on the eternally grateful part and have instead chosen to wreak havoc on our household.  We’re not just talking about a normal puppy phase here- we’re talking about the “unlucky lot we’ve received by the adoption lottery” as our vet would say. Call me heartless, but I’d like to see how you’d react if you had eight spots of puppy transmitted ringworm on your body.

So far, since the day we brought them home, they have been on some sort of medicine for some sort of ailment.  To date, we’ve overcome the following: fleas, ticks, parasites, skin bacterial infections called impetigo, kennel cough, the common cold, bloody diarrhea, infected eyes, a scare with distemper, mange, ringworm, and two allergic reactions (you should have seen Luna’s swollen face).

I feel like some of those are fairly normal, but if you condense them into a 2 ½ month period…more than  fairly excessive. I want to recap on some of those.

The scare with distemper- At one point, the dogs were really sick and we went to a young vet.  We get in her office and she talks in a fake, high pitch, preschool teacher voice with the dogs. I feel like that’s expected when you talk to puppies. But then when she turned to us and talked to us in the same way that you would talk to a 4 month old baby, we weren’t amused. She proceeded to tell us (still high pitched) that she thought they had distemper and that we would just have to wait it out to see if they were going to die. Awesome.  We spent a couple of days waiting for death and then took them to another vet who did a blood test and said that while they didn’t have distemper, they pretty much had everything else.

All of those spots are “hongos”

Then one day we see that the dogs’ hair is falling out in different spots. Back to the vet. I’ve gone to the vet in the past two months about the same amount of times that I’ve cried watching America in the Olympics (embarrassingly too much).  Turns out they have hongos (fungus) all over their body. Of course they do.  Hongos= fungus= same word used for mushrooms in Spanish here is CR.  While everyone knows that mushrooms are a fungus, no one wants to think about how they are asking for extra fungus on their pizza or how they have mushrooms growing all over their body. Hence, when I was told by the doctor that I had hongos  all over my body (including one in an unmentionable place), I was thoroughly disgusted and considered giving our little bundles of joy/infirmity back to the pound…

Until I got home and there was Albin sitting on the couch just staring at the puppies as they chewed on one another’s legs. He had that proud father look in his eye and that slight smile of adoration on his face. He says wistfully, “I just love them.”  Sigh. Of course he does. And of course he only got hongos in one barely noticeable place. Clearly giving the dogs to a nice family or shipping their fungus ridden butts back to the pound wasn’t an option.

bahaha

So my hope is that once we pass through all of these plagues, these dogs will have indestructible immune systems and we’ll never have to pay again. And that someday, they will be eternally grateful. And that hopefully, Rocky will somehow acquire a conscience and Luna will stop eating poop. Until then I’ll keep secretly laughing as Al unknowingly allows Luna to lick his face and as he cleans up the pile that Rocky left on the carpet while he stared at us in the eyes with no remorse.

On behalf of Bob Barker and the Contreras family, we remind you to help control the pet population. Have your dogs spayed and neutered.

ps. I really do love them.

pss. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

The Reality of Marriage

Marriage. That is one loaded word. For such a small and unimpressive word, there are a whole lot of words that suddenly become synonymous with it as soon as you realize that marriage is more of a verb than a noun. It’s not just this obscure “thing.” It’s an action-and I’ve learned that the sooner I come to terms with that, the better.

I haven’t blogged in a while. I haven’t been sure how to express myself without either sounding depressed or sickeningly/fraudulently enthusiastic about where I find myself these days. But I suppose today I have a reason to blog. My incredible parents are celebrating 30 years of marriage today. For someone that will be completing 7 months of marriage this week… 30 years sounds like an incredible feat. That’s more than noteworthy, and so, this blog will be dedicated to them.

Thirty years. Wow. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this number is daunting. I’m so thankful they’ve made it. I mean, how many kids that got married at 18 and 19 years of age make it to 30 years of marriage? And of those that do make it, have done it exceedingly well? I know they went through hard times and good times and all that normal stuff you say when people celebrate their anniversary, but 30 years of living out the action of marriage is truly amazing.

Thirty years. Wow. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that our first 7 months of marriage have been the hardest 7 months of my life. I get comments on my blog and through facebook that have people saying that I “make living overseas look easy.” Here’s my outright confession. It hasn’t been easy. Marriage is just hard. Especially when it’s between two cultures. I’ve cried more than I’ve laughed at the so called “funny cultural differences.” We’ve gone through crazy times… fleeing the country to avoid my visa running out at the last minute. We’ve gone through stressful times… my new job and the exhaustion that comes with that. We’ve gone through pain and loss… not many know this, but we had an accidental pregnancy early on and not soon after, an early miscarriage. We’ve gone through loneliness… mainly me missing my family and friends in a desperate way. We’ve gone through fun times… getting puppies or having those friends and family visit. And we’ve gone through those reality check times… where you just step back and really look at what’s going around you.

This isn’t a pity blog. It’s just me stepping back and looking at the reality. After seeing all the madness that we’ve gone through these last 7 months, it makes me appreciate and respect my parents all the more.  How they’ve chosen to live marriage as a verb that implies patience, love, respect, encouragement, understanding, grace, joy, teamwork, and commitment. How they’ve chosen to live that out and as a result, God has blessed not only their marriage, but also marriages of those around them. God has also blessed Hannah, Albin and me as their children with an incredible example of how to fight for your marriage.  And even more importantly, it’s helped me to see that your marriage is something worth fighting for. Something beautiful that is created when two people help each other through the hardships, laugh together in the good times, and continually turn over every situation to a faithful God.

There really isn’t much else to say but Thank you.

Thank you for faithfully serving each other and allowing the love that you have for each other be projected onto us. Thank you for giving me an example that shows me that even though we’ve gone through such a tough time… there’s hope and it’s worth it.  We love you both so much.

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Love from your granddogs.

New Little Poopies!

 

Looks as if I’m kissing my commitment issues goodbye these days- first marriage, then two new poopies…errr puppies.

Bilingual phonics lesson: In Spanish, there is no short “u” sound (uh, uh, umbrella). Therefore, it’s hard to get through Latino minds that a “u” isn’t always pronounced like “oo” in root.  Hence… I laugh every time Albin or someone says, “The poopies are so cute!”

Anyway, we got two little cachorritos (puppies) on Saturday. We’ve been talking about it for a while, but I didn’t want to make the commitment.  I finally gave in (Albin is quite persuasive) and we went to get ONE puppy at the local pound on Saturday. We come upon this cage and there were four tiny little balls of fur staring back at us. Albin is overcome with emotion and says that he is going to take all four of them. Call me heartless, but even as they stared at me with those pleading eyes and the señora behind me kept trying to convince me, I could not justify taking four dogs.

So we compromised. We brought home a boy and a girl. We named the girl “Luna,” which means “moon” in Spanish because she is white with grey spots and it looks like the pattern on the moon. The boy is named “Rocky” because he always picks fights with Luna…which is comical, because she’s a little bigger and she just sits on him. They’re zaguates (mutts), so it will be a surprise to see what breeds they actually have in them. Rumor has it, there is some wiener dog in them lol. The workers at the pound told us that they will be small, but I’m fairly certain that they would have told us the puppies would turn into cats when they got older just so we would take them. They’re so little that it’s hard to tell. Watch them be like Great Danes or something.

I guess you could say we’re muy feliz with our decision. Minus the fact that they haven’t stopped leaving us piles of caquita every time we look away. Oh and that they wake us up at 4 a.m.  with that “let’s play for two hours” look in their eyes.  Besides that, they’re pretty great and we love them.

Spanglish

So I spend a good majority of my day speaking Spanish and even more of my day speaking an unfortunate mix of Spanglish. I would have to say that my English ability has dimished extensively, and my Spanish abilities linger at some undefinable point between proficient and fluent… and let’s be honest, sometimes, quite poor. At my job, I teach in both languages, have meetings in mostly Spanish, and do 90% of my paperwork in Spanish. I still sweat a my meetings when I’m supposed to sound like a professional and I end up sounding like a five year old, and I still writhe about having to make phone calls because you can’t read people’s facial expressions over the phone. I usually arrive home with a headache,  battered pride, and a desire to go to bed at 9 p.m. The ironic part is while I speak mostly in Spanish all day, Albin speaks mostly in English all day since he works for a U.S. company. When we get home, both want to go back to our heart language, which is where pretty much all of our communication problems come from.

Here’s an example:

1. A huge bug is flying around our apartment. I’m cooking, so I wait until Al gets out of the shower. He comes out and I say, “There’s a bug on the loose!” No response = didn’t understand. Me again, “There’s a bug on the loose in here.” He just stands there. I look up. He’s still standing there, staring at the light on the ceiling.  “Al did you hear me? There’s a bug on the loose.”  He snaps back, “I’m looking at the luz and there is no bug there!” Luz= light in Spanish. LOL. For once I wasn’t speaking in Spanglish and it messed us all up.

People ask us all the time what we speak at home. We speak both. Whatever language comes out first. Sometimes there are better ways to explain something in one language than the other. If we’re having a disagreement, we stick to our own language….which is quite entertaining for the neighbors I’m sure. In general, I prefer Al to speak in Spanish to me… so I learn more and because who wouldn’t want a sexy Latino speaking a romance language to them?

Language is just a funny thing. Until you really try to learn one, you don’t realize how rewarding it is, or how humiliating it is.  One day I’ll walk out of a meeting playing the air guitar in celebration of my fluency, the next day I’ll have a first grader tell me I pronounced hola wrong. One day I’ll nail a translating session, and the next day I’ll accidentally say an inappropriate word for the male genitalia during Easter dinner (true story). I’ve become an excellent perceiver of context and even better at reading body language. I’ve realized that answering “Sí” even though I didn’t understand the question is never a good idea, mostly because it never ends up being a yes or no question, but also because you just may have just agreed to try cow stomach soup and eat the whole bowl. I’ve learned to focus on being thankful for what I have learned, and not be frustrated about what I haven’t. I’ve learned that it’s a process and to come to terms with the fact that I may never be able to say Neurodesarollista in a meeting without having to pause and sound it out. I’ve learned that I have to laugh at myself when I’m the only one in the room not following the directions that we’re given, and to laugh to myself when one of my Tica friends says “focus” wrong in a meeting and substitutes another “u” in the place of the “o” (happened today, think about it). I’ve learned to ask for a blanket and not a sheet on the bed, and I’ll never get used to Albin’s pronunciation of the word “beach.” I’ve learned not to get mad when Al tells me we don’t have to bring any food to a birthday party and I find out that he thought a “potluck” meant the host was providing the meal (happened this weekend). I’ve clearly learned a lot, and I’m sure there’s more to come.

That’s all for now, I just wanted to give you another look into a day in the life of a bicultural marriage, and give you a friendly reminder to have mercy on those second language learners that you run into.

Legalities, Life, and Tradition

Hola! I’m sure you’ve been waiting in anticipation to know about whether or not we passed our entrevista (interview) with the government (or maybe you weren’t). Sorry if you were losing sleep at night, but the reason I haven’t blogged is because the interview wasn’t even half as exciting as I had hoped. I fully expected to have a great story. Instead, we waited in line, signed some papers and walked out. All they told us was that sometime within the next year they’ll call me to do the actual dramatic appointment (lol don’t you love that, sometime within the next year?).  Although boring, it was exciting to receive my provisional residency for now, which means no more fleeing the country (bummer), and my existence in this country is a little easier/legitimate. Praise da Lord.

This past week, my amazing padres (parents) came to visit with some wonderful friends. All I really wanted was for them to come, but of course that didn’t get in the way of us asking them to bring some treats with them, such as malted milk ball Easter eggs for me and a nose hair trimmer for Albin (lol it’s what he wanted). I won’t give you the play by play because you probably don’t care, but it was just awesome. It was such a relief to be with “your people” you know? I love Spanish, but sometimes it gets a little old. At one point this weekend I asked Al why he was so quiet and he asked if I knew the feeling when you can’t keep up with a conversation or you misunderstood the joke and your brain just gets tired. I just stared at him, possibly with a little bitterness in my heart. Are you kidding me? Bienvenido to my life.  Anyway, so it was amazing to see them, sit at the beach, and just have a little bit of familiarity.

And to finish, this weekend is Easter. Here are a random assortment of facts and cuentos about this weekend.  1. Today there was a large gathering at the Catholic church down the street and I asked what they were doing. Albin said they were probably burning Judas. What?! I’m not catholic, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen in the U.S.  Apparently a Catholic Pascua (Easter) custom here is to make a life-size replica of Judas and burn him. 2.  Along with that, all over the city processiones (processions) take place , which are depictions of Jesus’ journey to the crucifix.  3. I know that Semana Santa (Holy Week) is far more observed here than in the U.S. and that everything pretty much shuts down this week, but even to the point that the sale of alcohol is illegal on Thursday and Friday.            4. Albin was a little bit ticked this week because while pretty much everyone is off, he had to work because the U.S. company he works for doesn’t observe religious holidays. Lame.

And 5. My suegra is addicted to chicken salad, you know, the kind with grapes we make  in ‘Merica. We changed her life by introducing this to her which has worked out for me because for our little Easter picnic today, she showed up with a huge bowl of it. Everyone loved it and praised America and positively reinforced my suegra to make it instead of arroz con pollo (rice w/ chicken) at every family function for the rest of our lives. yes please. Plus I opened their world to chocolate chip cookies and pasta salad today, so it was just like ‘merica (except of course on the side we had refried beans and hotdogs served on tortillas).  Success. Happy Pascua everyone!

Fleeing the Country

Bocas del Toro

So about two weeks ago we were sitting in our living room getting together some documents for my residency appointments and deciding what we wanted for dinner. I read this small but fairly substantial clause that mentions a policy about days in the country. I’ll spare you the legal explanation and just say we figured out that we pretty much had to flee the country.  So we called our lawyer who confirmed this and then we decided to discuss our fleeing process over a nice Shwarma from our local Costa Rican Lebanese restaurant (I know right?). Turns out, we had to leave the next week. Nothing like a surprise country fleeing to keep the spirits up.

Starfish Beach

After my minor breakdown, we decide we should make the best of it and go big. After 20 minutes of thinking we could go big, we realized that between paying for residency (hundreds of dollars), lawyer fees and putting food on the table… we should go big in our hearts and easy on the budget. So we publicly bussed our traseros (rears) down to Panama. This involves 1 bus ride, a trudge across  a shady border bridge, a wait in an immigration line, a ride in a crammed microbus, a 45 minute water taxi, and another short boat ride to our final destination, a small island in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

That's a big one ya got coming at ya bud...

Al was a little skeptical at first about this whole traveling method but I think deep down in his heart he enjoyed it. Well, probably most of it except for me being a five year old and immediately passing out 5 minutes after the vehicle started moving. I pretty much slobbered all over him for 8 hours straight. Bocas del Toro is a string of islands off the coast of Panama that has clear water and a Caribbean aura. There aren’t too many big hotels, but mostly houses built on the water and little hostels everywhere.  Very cool. One day we went to a beach called Starfish Beach that is, quite obviously, populated by large starfish. Beautiful. The next day we went on a bike ride all over the island. It rained all morning, but we kept at it, which proved to be fruitful, because the beaches were deserted… and there’s a lot of fun to be had on deserted beaches. Our activities included but were not limited to singing at the top of our lungs and dancing up and down the beach, me performing the flashmob, a photo shoot, and a picnic.

Some waiting...

So the trip included its due amount of waiting and trudging, plus a healthy amount of cockroaches scurrying through our room, but it turned out to be a huge success.  The first three months of our marriage have been pretty chaotic, so this fleeing of the country turned out to be a huge blessing from God. Our pseudo honeymoon that didn’t involve my mother-in-law was so redeeming for us. It finally gave us a chance to just be friends and laugh again.

and trudging...

Now that we’ve made it out of the country and back legally, we’re back in the grind. Today we have an appointment with immigration (think of that scene in The Proposal where Sandra Bullock is trying to prove their marriage is real), so that should be a good time.  We’ve reviewed each others’ favorite colors  and got our story straight so we can convince the government that we actually like each other. Laugh about it to yourself and then say a prayer for us!  Muchas gracias!

Paranormal Activity?

I am at a large conference in an auditorium filled with people. I know the speaker is talking about something important and I’m trying hard to pay attention. All of the sudden someone several rows behind me starts yelling out and trying to distract everyone from what the speaker is trying to communicate. I immediately know that the person is under the influence of a demon (thanks to Africa). A wild look in her eye, her voice changes, and she starts laughing an eerie laugh. No one makes a move and just watches her. I know I have to do something so I get out of my seat and try to run over. I get stuck and start to trip because this black and sticky thing has attached itself to me. I fight and kick it off. Running over to the woman, she gives me a sideways glance and starts laughing again. I could feel the evil around me. I yelled at her, “Sit down right now!” She moves towards her chair tauntingly and moves away from it and shoots me a defiant look. “I will count to five and you will be in your seat!” I say. I start counting. “1…2…3…” I start getting nervous because she isn’t listening to me and she just stares at me with penetrating eyes. Then a huge realization hits me like a brick wall. “Are you doing this in your power?” Ouch. Then I realize what I need to do and I yell out with authority, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ you will sit down and shut up.” Before I even can keep counting, she is in her seat, quiet. Like nothing ever happened. The last thing I remember was that every person in the auditorium was awestruck by the power of the name of Jesus Christ and people gave Him the glory.

A couple of nights ago I woke up after having this super realistic dream that I haven’t been able to shake out of my mind since.  I’ll be the first to say that you have to be careful with dreams and that I don’t believe you can take every dream as something from God or as some sign that reveals the mysteries of life. I am, however, convinced that there are times that God uses dreams to speak to us. I don’t dream often and rarely do I think my dreams mean anything, but this one was so vivid and struck straight to my heart because of what I’ve been processing through lately.

I don’t know.  I have a normal full time job right now. I’m not on this intense mission trip around the world anymore. I’m just evaluating kids that have reading disabilities, trying to outdo myself every night in the kitchen, and applying for my residency. That’s right. Those are the biggest steps I’ve taken towards permanency in my life in probably forever. It scares me. I start thinking about what I should do next. What cool thing I should plan so that what I’m doing is more meaningful or adventurous…or something. Yet I know I am supposed to be right where I am at. No doubt.

So my battle has become what I need to look like now. I may not be in Uganda casting out actual demons anymore or in India loving on orphans, or in the red light district in Thailand telling prostitutes that they have value anymore, but I’m in a completely different element. I’m finding that what most of the world finds as “comfortable” (a secure full time job), is what makes me feel completely uncomfortable and out of my element.  I’m also realizing that there are still afflicted people, still kids that need to be loved, and hurt women that need to be told that they have value- but that it just looks different now. I’m realizing that I’ve been feeling insecure, experiencing fear, listening to lies, and feeling like I don’t have what it takes anymore to live up to the identity that I found in Christ while I was on the world race. What is that? Why is this just plain “normal activity” so intimidating to me?

So that dream really spoke to me. Maybe because I feel like I’m just in a mass of people trying to make sense of what is going on around me. Maybe because I know that there is still an important message to be given. Satan is trying to distract and I know what I need to do. God has equipped me to silence the evil one and bring glory to the name of Jesus.  And there are two key points for me. One- I have to shake off that black sticky mess of fear and insecurity that has attached itself to me in order for me to be effective. Two- I can’t do this in my power, it’s all about the name of Jesus Christ. He’s the one that still brings freedom to those in bondage and hope to the hopeless no matter what country, no matter what circumstance, and no matter what occupation. I’m a little worried that my thought process in this blog isn’t as coherent to others as it is to me, but I guess I’m trying to convey that I believe God used a dream about some “paranormal activity” to jump start my moving forward in rocking my “normal activity.”  Kind of like, get up, kick off that crap that’s holding you back and do what I’ve taught you to do no matter where you find yourself.

And in the end, just like in my dream, it’s all for the glory of His name.

Penis trees, losing our neighbor’s dog and too much fruit…

Here are some mildly humorous happenings from this week:

1. I was observing a first grade class the other day and the kids were drawing pictures of their families. I was sitting by one little boy who was one of four kids and I was like, “Wow, you have tres hermanos (3 brothers)? He looked at me with all the sincerity in the world and told me, “That’s what happens when you eat a lot of fruit. Mommy said that if you keep eating a lot of fruit, you have lots of babies.” lol. Well there you have it. I’ll definitely be staying away from “too much fruit for a while.” Can you imagine his mom chuckling as she explained why she had so many babies? I’m sure you can also imagine the many inappropriate yet comical comments that have come from that little boy’s statement. Just another friendly reminder to all you parents of small children out there. They believe you lol.

2. We lost our neighbor’s dog. So we went out for a walk and we noticed out neighbor’s little dog was following us. He’s cute and fun and kept running after us. We started getting far away, so I started calling him so he wouldn’t get lost. That worked well until a sexy little terrier walked by and “our” dog ran off to get some action. We kept walking and assumed that he would find his way home. Eventually we got home and he was nowhere to be found. We sat down in our apartment and our neighbor comes knocking like 15 minutes later with tears in his eyes and asked if we had seen his little puppy.  Confession. We lied. Well not technically. We told him we saw the dog go out a little bit, and then yah. Silence. He

Looks like this

walked away defeated. We writhed and paced around the apartment for 10 minutes, waiting until we didn’t look suspicious, and then ran to the car to find that perrito. We searched for that thing for an hour with no sign of him. We came back and the neighbor was out searching down the street. I was ridden with guilt. I mean, the sweaty, awkward, awful feeling of guilt and remorse. We asked the neighbor if he had any luck and he said no. This time we said we would go look for him (as if we hadn’t been looking for him for the last hour).  We went out again and by now it’s dark. A little bit later as we’re driving down the street like creepers planning to rob a house, I see that little piece of crap running around with another girl dog. I grabbed him up and tried to explain to innocent bystanders that he was mine. We drove up the road victoriously like we’d just won a battle and placed the dog in our neighbor’s arms. He was disappointingly ungrateful and all my guilt went from relief to annoyance. Awesome waste of a night. We spent all night looking for a dog that wasn’t ours who probably didn’t even want to come home because he was out impregnating the community.

3. I was driving home one of my coworkers the other day and I was asking her questions. She’s learning English, so she was practicing. I asked about some trees on the side of the road. She put her arm up in a very erect position (imitating a tree I guess?) and said, “Before, there were many penistrees here.” I about ran off the road. I was trying maintain my

I wasn't about to look for a pic of a penis tree.

composure so as not to embarrass her, but it’s not every day you hear about penis trees. Apparently she couldn’t remember the word for “pines” and the word for those in Spanish is “pinos”, so she went for the logical option and did what we all try to do,  say the Spanish word in an English accent and hope that they come from the same Latin root. Well unfortunately pinos, pines, penis’ don’t come from the same Latin root? Or do they?

 

Well. Just finished writing this one and laughed to myself about the subtle sexual theme running through each of these. Not intentional. bahaha

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