This promises to be a scattered and random post. Consider yourself warned. I'm exhausted. We aren't home yet. Monday will be our arrival at the home we haven't seen since October. I've got a head cold...the first in months. I have a 3 year old with a fever (first all winter). I feel like I could sleep for days. I don't know if it's just slowing down long enough to let it all catch up with me or if its just the last week of a crazy schedule and crazy keep me awake at night itching. Last night was the first night that I haven't woke up wishing I could cut my legs off at the knees. Aili , who is covered from head to two with flea bites as well, has also been keeping me awake. Last night she slept well too. I'm hoping that we are done with these nasty bites. They kept us miserable for over a week! No new bites for a week though so I think we left them behind.

Anyway, making sense of our experiences this winter, processing it all in the middle of a very affluent neighborhood hasn't been easy. Such stark contrasts are messing with my head....or maybe emotions. So many stark contrasts, not better..not worse...just so opposite. Sometimes with wealth comes poverty of other kinds. Sometimes with poverty comes a wealth of a different sort.

I just looked back over several of my posts from our time in Baja Mexico. It seems already like a dream. A different life in a different world. A dream that I too abruptly woke up from and already long to return to. I miss those faces, those people, those children. How, when I am currently surrounded by such luxury and comfort, can I long to go back to the flea infested dust of Baja. Maybe it's because I'm still in limbo. Not quite in either home. Still 2 days and a 5 hour drive from our previous life and about a 35 hour drive from our Mexican home and family.

We really are enjoying our time of relaxing and visiting with relatives right now. Our kids are having a great time with their cousins. I was thrilled to take a shower without sandals for the first time in over 5 months. A shower in the same building that I sleep in. Doing laundry in my sister in laws fancy front load washer and drier is fun. The food is great, the beds are comfy, the company is good, the hospitality has been a welcome relief for weary travelers. I am so thankful for this time here. I can't complain. Still I can't figure out this funk I'm working through.

Too many contrasting images bouncing around in my head. It's hard to reconcile such extremes.
No one here could understand life there and no one there could ever imagine life here. Two different worlds...and I feel I have a one foot in both places.

"empty handed but alive in your hands"

I was just listening to my playlist that line from "Majesty/Here I Am" just struck me. I think sometimes in this culture our hands are so full of stuff that we don't know what it's like to truly be alive in His hands, to depend, to rely, to be broken and humble. Sometimes our kingdoms get so big we start to think that it's ours ,that we're entitled to it. That somehow we have because we deserve... because we work hard. Others don't have because they don't deserve, they are different from us, they must have done something wrong. The problem that now plagues me is that I know otherwise. The kids desperate for their next meal, covered in parasites, sleeping in cold dirt.....are just kids. The people who work from dawn 'till dusk picking the tomatoes and strawberries that fill our expansive supermarkets work harder than any of us ever have. Such a stark and disturbing truth. Reality isn't always an easy thing to see.

I can't even describe how many self-entitled attitudes, gluttonous lifestyles, and offensive derogatory comments we heard from "Americanos" (about Mexican's )on our recent travels. It's all been a bit much. Not that every "Americano" is that way , but as a society as a whole..... I know that comment will offend some...but like I said reality isn't always an easy thing to look at.

Maybe the contrasts won't seem quite as extreme once we get back to Hickville, back to my broken oven, second hand furniture and duct taped kitchen counter. The problem is I want my perceptive to change. I don't want to be a part of that society that places it's value of people on how much they own. I want to look at my old house and see the blessing that every imperfect inch of it is. I want to look at my little garden plot and be thankful that I can feed my children. I want to tuck my kids into bed with their mis- matched bed sheets and worn blankets genuinely thankful they have a warm place to sleep. I don't want the sin of discontent and the idol of materialism to ever cross my heart again. I know at some point it will. I will someday in the near future covet someone else's furniture. I will complain that my fridge doesn't close right and I will whine that my carpet is ugly. I hope that, as I write this down, I will have something to look back at and will be able to readjust my ingratitude to thankfulness. I will be able to get on my knees and confess my discontent and idolatry. I don't think that having nice things or a comfortable home is wrong, not by a long shot, I think it is the attitudes and priorities that I develop that get's me off track.

So now I've written it down. I am now accountable for it. You can point me back to this post when I get off track. :)

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for our family this winter and who has encouraged us with your words. It has meant more to us than you can know.


Day in San Diego

After one day spent in San Diego and 3 more grueling days of driving we made it to Canada yesterday. We aren't home quite yet but are enjoying some time visiting family. We will drive the last 5 hours of our 40 hr journey on Monday.
The trip home went well over all. The kids are so accustomed to travelling they weren't a problem. They get in their travel zone and are pretty good at entertaining themselves. Of course, having a dvd player is a must for that many hours in a car. We have our system of bathroom breaks, garbage collecting and gas stops down to a science (with one exception that included Roman in the back seat with a water bottle )
We stopped once a day, for about half an hour, while the kids run around and I stuff pita pockets with salad and turkey to eat on the road. Other than our daily pita salad we mostly just snacked on grapes, carrots, crackers and cheese sticks. We really tried to keep junk food and fast food stops out of the travel itinerary. 3 kids in a confined space spazzed out on sugar and food coloring isn't something I want to experience. I totally let my standards slide all winter but I'm looking forward to getting my kids back to eating healthier.
Each of the days we drove until about 10pm and then found a Walmart parking lot to spend the night. The kids were usually asleep by then, and already in their pajamas, so all we had to to was carry them back to their beds. We usually turned on the propane stove for a while before we brought the kids in to get the trailer to get it warmed up a little. Our accommodations made camping seem pleasant. We hit sub zero weather in Utah and struggled to keep our trailer above freezing each night because we weren't plugged in. Because of the sub freezing temperatures we also had to "winterize" our trailer which meant no water....which translates into no showers or water of any kind. It was a little wearisome but we made it to Calgary and are enjoying our little break (and the real beds and showers) before we get back to real life.

The pictures are of our day spent playing in San Diego. We spent the day down on Mission Beach at an old school amusement park and arcade. It was so nice just to play as a family, enjoy each other and re-group after months of focusing on so many other people and children.

Check out their faces. Aili was freaking out on this little up and down ride. They actually had to stop the ride early to let her off. Roman who is a total adrenaline junkie was loving it. Seriously I don't know if there is a ride , that he is tall enough to go on, that could ever scare him.

Our monkey boy making good use of his skills.

Ready for a dance off!
More play time.

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Thank you to our surrogate grandparents

After Christmas we had the privileged of meeting several people that are using their retirement years to serve God and others. The "RV'ers" usually start arriving the first of the year and continue to roll in and out of the mission until spring.

We were a little worried that the new retirees wouldn't appreciate their rowdy noisy neighbors.
I was pleasantly surprised that our new neighbors not only tolerated my kids but loved on and invested into their lives this winter.

One of the difficult things about deciding to follow God's calling in our life, pack up our family and spend six months in a foreign country was sacrificing certain things. It's one thing to sacrifice for myself but ,as any parent knows ,making your kids give up certain things or lack certain things is much harder. Taking my kids away (for a time) from a very close relationship with my parents was something that weighed on my heart.

God proved to all of us in such a tangible and special way how , when we step out in and actually trust Him, he is able to abundantly provide for our most basic needs. Even just the need of an eight year old girl to have a girl chat with someone other than mom. The need of a little boy to "help"and learn all kinds of things from someone willing to answer a million questions. The need of a mom and dad to go out alone together while a trusted "grandma" puts the kids to bed.

We are so grateful for all the hugs, time, long chats, patience, silliness and even popsicles that our kids were recipients of this winter. These people worked hard all day in their various jobs but still found the energy and desire to minister to our family as well. We made some very dear friends.

Thankyou for your all the time spent playing Uno with Aili, helping Roman with his reading, teaching Aili to knit, taking the kids for nature walks, showing them around the clinic, babysitting.......
I could go on and on.
To sum it up thankyou for making them feel special and for making this winter so much easier for them.

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On the road again

Driving back up the Baja Peninsula. The grass is lush and tall and the wild flowers are blooming everywhere. This is definitely not the same landscape we saw on the drive down.
Aili has taken up knitting which is a good way to keep her busy fingers, busy.
The border crossing. Leaving Mexico behind.

Its really a shame that we don't see these north of the border. Where else can you find a giant flaming Mary statue or an un-liscenced Curious George?

or a large rooster?

On a more serious note. Crossing over into the U.S and leaving behind everything familiar has been harder than I anticipated. Not that I'm not enjoying public bathrooms with not only toilet seats but paper seat covers but it's strange how foreign and even overwhelming everything looked. Going from rural Mexico into the bustling city of San Diego is a bit of an extreme change. I turned my Spanish worship up loud and held on to the last bit of my life in Mexico that I could.
We spent Sunday and Monday night at an rv park in the San Diego area. We spent the day yesterday hanging out at Mission beach and visiting an old school amusement park and video arcades.
Silas' first impressions of the U.S compared to rural Baja.
"That is a BIG side walk" (The first large paved parking lot we parked in)
"Someone needs to sweep this patio!" (another , possibly dirtier, paved parking lot)
"That girl is wearing her underwear" (A woman in short shorts)
"That girl is naked!" (A woman in short shorts and a tube top)
It's been funny to watch the kids readjust to a different environment, and I admit at times a little embarassing. It was also a lot of fun to spend the day just enjoying each other. Our focus was just on our own kids and our family. For almost 6 months our focus has been on so many other kids and ministries that it was good for all of us to just re-group and enjoy each other.

We will be pulling out of California and making our way toward Canada this morning. We do have some reminders of Mexico and are setting of a "bug bomb" in our trailer while we are all in our car travelling. The sand fleas got really bad before we left Mexico, I suspect the recent warmer weather and the wet winter made the sand fleas were pretty happy. We haven't had more than a couple little bites all winter but the last few weeks have been miserable. If you have ever been bit by a flea, and reacted to it, you know how intense and horrible the itching is. Aili is covered from head to toe right now in bites. They seem to only like her, me, and Silas has a couple bites. They are picky I guess. Poor Aili looks like she has chicken pox! Anyone who knows would understand how desperate and miserable we are if I am willing to spray chemicals all over my mobile home. I still don't know if its the right thing to do but bringing a trailer full of fleas home with us isn't an option. We may have only picked up one little flea but they have an unnerving way of multiplying.
I know to anyone who hasn't lived in a place like rural Mexico the idea of fleas is pretty gross. I have a clean ,frequently washed and vacuumed trailer (fortunately with no carpets) and my kids bath daily and have all winter. I guess its the price we pay when we are hugging kids that live in a poverty stricken area and running around in the Baja sand and dirt. We'll chalk it up to a missionary experience. :)
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So many goodbyes

This past weekend was full of so many goodbyes as we prepared to pull our trailer out of the spot it had been parked since October. Here are a few friends in neighboring trailers (staff housing) that came to see us off...or make sure we left. I told them I snapped the picture to prove that we had friends. :)

The day before we left Mexico we drove up to Santa Fe again to say goodbye to all the kids up there. There are now 10 children living in the same household. It's been a great way to pass on extra clothing and lighten our load home. A few of the cousins and Minerva didn't make it into the picture. The older girls were washing their hair. I think they were making their own little salon in memory of the events of the previous day.
We doled out lots of hugs to our 5 kids and as well as to the 4 other "primas" (girl cousins) who have also started calling us "Tia and Tio".

After the tea party our last two evenings and day included going out to dinner with some good friends, having a backyard bbq with more of our amigos, and visiting our favorite casa. Oh, and a whole lot of work! Packing, sorting, organizing , cleaning, ......
I'm missing the kids already!

Some very dear friends of ours. The houseparents of Casa 4 made us feel very welcome and opened their home and their lives to us right from the start.
Mireya (I don't know if I spelled that right) has been a confidant, a prayer partner, and a person whose arms are always eager for a big hug. She works so hard and loves the many children in her household despite serious health problems.

"Goodbye Teacher Aili!"
That was the chant as we left the house that evening. Aili has been teaching Casa 4 an English class for the last couple months.

Some more girls that I'm really going to miss! These ones came out to our trailer to say goodbye Sunday morning.
Have I eve mentioned I hate goodbyes?
I prefer "nos vemos" or hasta ano proximo"
I hope we will see them all again in the not too far away future.

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Little Girls

Girls at the tea party doing what comes naturally while wearing a poofy dresses.

My sweet Minerva. I am so glad that we were able to make this special memory before our winter together came to an end.
Each of the girls walked through the arches , was presented by their full name and then escorted down the steps by our administrator Mario. Every princess needs to be treated like a lady by a handsome prince. It was such a great way to honor the girls and make them feel special.
Beautiful Magai and Nieves.
Brenda and Dahlia looking fabulous.
Some more glamorous girls from the Children's Home.

Girls waiting for their grand entrance.

Two little princesses from the Daycare. The children who attend the day care come from some of the poorest homes and communities. I was so glad to see that all the girls from the "guardaria" were able to attend. They showed up in their little Disney princess dresses looking so cute.
Anyone have used princess or flower girl dresses that you don't know what to do with?
How about making a little girl feel beautiful.
Back home we are so surrounded by princess stuff...it gets sickening actually. Little girls have no shortage of dresses, gowns and tiaras. Little girls back home have rooms full of toys, play jewelry, and dolls.
These little girls live in shacks made of scrap material, cardboard and plastic, no running water, and usually no electricity. They wear clothes we wouldn't use as rags, and go barefoot in cold weather. Whole families share one small mattress laid on the damp dirt floor.

Every little girl, no matter where she comes from wants to feel pretty, to feel special and to feel that they are valued. If they are not made to feel those things in healthy ways , especially by the men in their life, they will eventually find unhealthy ways to fill those voids. They will only live up to what they feel they are worth in life.

Carmela and Minerva ready to dig in!

Carmela enjoying her first tea party, possibly her first party of any kind.
The "old theatre" was beautifully decorated and each girl received a little party favor at the end of the party.

Aili and Judy. Two "staff kids" at the mission/orphanage.

Gorgeous little girls. One is the daughter of staff and one is the daughter of a student at the Bible Institute.
A former staff member sent down a box full of tiaras, fans and other pretty little accesories for all the girls.

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Carla's Beauty Salon

This past Friday was our annual "Fiesta de Te" (Tea Party) for the girls at the orphanage.
I made arrangements to not only bring my daughter but two girls from Santa Fe as well. Two girls who call me "Tia".

I brought them back to our place to shower and get ready for the event.
It was a first time experience for Carmela showering in a real shower with warm running water.
It was also a first time experience for me combing, blow drying and making beautiful lice infested hair.

Our salon treatment began with a "special" shampoo. I told them that their "little friends" weren't invited to the party and that we needed to chase them away. They thought that was pretty funny.

Ahead of time I packed them each a little bag to take with them down to the staff showers/bathrooms that included a towel and a little toiletry pack filled with hygeine essentials...and a few beautifying luxeries as well.

Back at the trailer we snacked on apples and cookies (we missed lunch) while we blow-dried, combed and quickly got ready. The girls got a kick out of the "hot wind mashine".

I managed to find two dresses for the girls and pairs of shoes for the girls to wear. Aili wore the dress we bought a few weeks ago in Ensenada. She looks like snow princess next to the other girls. I guess thats the reason she usually wears brighter colors.

Three princesses ready for the ball.

When we went to pick up the two girls Alvaro, I guess there had been a bit of a misunderstanding because Alvaro was ready and eager to come too. I explained that it was a "girl only" party but after seeing how crushed he looked Tio decided he should come spend the day with the boys. Tio Nathanael was on kid duty that afternoon anyway. Alvaro enjoyed visiting with his amigos at the orphanage (where he spent several months last year) , saying hola to his old house parents, and gorging himself at the cafeteria. It was nice for the guys to spend that time together before we left.
Check out the jeans on Alvaro. They are Romans hand-me-downs. Alvaro is 11...Roman is 6. The jeans are a boys size 6. Thats a very tiny 11 year old! I'm glad they fit him so well though.
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Day Home water park

A couple sprinklers, a hose, and a slide made for a fun afternoon for some very deserving kids.

The last couple days have been a blur of activity. I can't even begin to write it all down right now. So many things I want to share and write here so I can look back and remember what amazing things we are experiencing...but I am still too busy experiencing them :)
I'm sure I'll be reminiscing and processing it all here in the days ahead.

Until then ,here is a glimpse.

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