School's Out for the Summer

 For the first time in nearly seven years of living overseas, Tim and I decided to stay home for the summer. For clarity, since home is a relative term, we chose not to travel back to the states and forego road-tripping all over kingdom come in favor of a slower paced six weeks here in Jarabacoa. Don’t get me wrong, we always LOVE our time back…long car trips, family reunions, sleepovers with besties, Mexican food binges, sightseeing and exploring, coffee dates with dear friends, thrift store scavenging, Dairy Queen blizzards…SO good! In all seriousness, we wanted to aprovechar possibly our last opportunity to live a summer in the Dominican. And truly, it’s been great--tranquilo but full of all the good stuff. BuenĂ­simo!

So here are few highlights of our first month of summer...

Grandma Jules' ten day visit! It was a full and blessed time. She spoiled us with lots of goodies from the states, taught Char how to be a super swimmer, and discovered an affinity for Colombian food. Mostly, she just dove in and did life with us. It was a treat but went by too fast.
Card making. Tim made me a website that's meant to help kickstart my dreams of an art business. You can check it out while it's under construction at www.epiphanyart.net. Meanwhile, I'm having a blast painting and selling cards here as a little side job.
Lazy mornings together:) Since Tim has had a more flexible work schedule, Charlotte's enjoyed daddy being home to cuddle in her crib with her in the morning. 
Pool dates with "Moggie!" as Char affectionately calls her. We are so sad that this dear friend/adopted family member is moving in the fall, but abundantly thankful for stolen time this summer.
Unexpected hangouts with high school girls like this one, recent Doulos graduate Melissa Murillo. Char can't quite fill her shoes yet. Girl, you are a treasure who will be sorely missed.
Pallet project for Charlotte's room. Mom and I started it together--we cleaned and sanded it down, pulled off all the wood, laid chicken wire, nailed back on a few boards, painted some colors from her room and pasteled the words, all for less than two bucks!
Reading to Charlotte with our precious neighbor. Lissette comes over a few days each week to practice English, paint with me, or play with Charlotte. 
Spontaneous trips to the beach. We left last Friday for a short overnight to the north coast to reunirse with some friends. Chris Buster was here from Austin and Doug and Margaret hosted us at the Makarios House in Montellano.


Little life. Big story.

I journaled these words March 4, 2012, shortly after our friends, Joe and Christen Byker,  were medically evacuated to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia so their newborn Hannah could receive diagnosis and treatment for hyperinsulinism. 

I feel like these last few weeks I got to step a little closer to the edge of heaven, to peer in and catch just a glimpse of the body of Christ as it was meant to work, unified in one purpose and set on one goal.
When we all heard that little Hannah had to stay a couple days in the NICU due to low blood sugar and that she had experienced convulsions, it was alarming, weird, scary. What did this mean? Did anyone have experience with this? Then, when the situation intensified and it became evident that Hannah needed to be treated in the states, it all seemed more desperate, confusing, uncertain. The beginning steps toward med-evac and treatment outside the coverage of Dominican insurance were bringing back overwhelming results...tens of thousands of dollars for the flight back, hundreds of thousands required for treatment up front. I heard someone say, “This is such a mess.” And truth be told, from my finite, limited viewpoint, while I didn’t voice them, I heard those same words echo in my mind. Even though they fell against a backdrop of God is good. He is sovereign. Trust in Him. It didn’t make sense, seemed impossible and defeating.

But then things started happening. People prayed without ceasing, gave abundantly, shared the needs. The cloud of witnesses surrounding this little life multiplied and leaned into God, reminding one another of His goodness, His provision, His faithfulness, holding each other up. Soon people Joe and Chris didn’t even know were donating generously, several hospitals were willing to take them on essentially pro bono, and friends, family, and strangers rallied to receive them with open arms in Philadelphia.
But what brings tears to my eyes now as I write is all the little acts of silent kindness--what individually may seem small but together form a thick web of strength and apoyo, provision and abundancia in the body of Christ. I think about their sweet Dominican neighbor who has jumped their fence, fed and watered their dog for these past 10 days. Of their friend who helps clean their house once a week, who noticed their basket of dirty clothes while they were still in the hospital, carried their laundry across town to do it in her own home, and returned it to dry on their porch. I think of students who jumped at the chance to raise funds and other families who offered to walk their dog in their absence.

I have been so humbled, so broken in the smallness of my faith. And yet I am eternally grateful for getting to experience in a whole new way how the body is meant to work.

A few weeks ago I journaled, asking that I would be humbled in my do-it-all, be-everything-to-everyone mentality. Feb 8, 2013: “Would I be content to be the role and part of the body I was made to be, and would I rejoice when I see others operating as a different part and with a unique role.”

I had no idea how He would answer that prayer uniquely through little Hannah’s story. At less than 2 weeks old, she already has an amazing one to tell. 


To the sturdy oaks

When I repeated my vows to Tim 5 years ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Do we ever?

I have long been obsessed with trees. I sketch them on discarded napkins and torn scraps of paper, find excuses to paint them on multiple walls of my home, and take pictures I find on wine bottles, linen journals, or on the side of the road. To me trees are this brilliant display of glory in steadfastness, vibrance in the commonplace, and the breathtakingly beautiful amidst the mundane.

"For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others..." Such words so frequently rehearsed, so well known, so familiar, and yet did I have any idea what those words meant? No one told me how you will reach arguments, points of disagreement, total impasses where compromise let alone unity seems impossible. No one really explained how you willingly take on the weight of the other's sin and struggles, as they do yours, muddying and challenging the already intense process of sanctification that takes place in one alone. No one made it clear that marriage is a day in, day out fight for one another, in which relenting is not an option and maintaining the status quo is a myth. Then again, maybe they did, but I'm just starting to get it now.

Earlier this year, I gave Tim a painting that was as much for him as for me. I included our names, the date our marriage began, and our mantra we said over the course of our relationship. My favorite part, though, is the two trees I painted on the footing of the piece. Trees. Because trees are sturdy and not easily swayed. Trees are faithful, committed to growth, and not the kind you see overnight. Trees put down roots and weather storms. Trees go deep, soak in the good stuff, and spread their leaves wide to soak up warmth.

Someone told me recently to think of your marriage in terms of an age. Today, we turned 5. A precious, innocent child, true, but a young, inexperienced, dependent kid nonetheless. A kindergartner for Pete's sake.

So as much as I want to be, we are not old, gnarled, deep-rooted oaks yet, nor are we the fat-trunked, shade-giving ones that sit at the center of a park. We are just little pear trees, possibly with the cords tied around the stem to stakes in the ground, or maybe newly planted pines of the Charlie Brown Christmas order.

But those are the trees I painted. Those are the trees we are committed to become. So one day, I pray we will sit holding worn, gnarled fingers with 52 years of roots beneath us and really understand what those words mean.

Happy anniversary, babe. To the trees we are becoming-

I love you, Tim.


I learn so much from my 10 month old daughter.

The shift back and forth between worlds is typically challenging but often for different reasons. This time it's been arriving back home to the culmination of many broken things--a faulty alternator that renders our car useless, a busted water heater that means no agua caliente, a broken fan, low water pressure, frequent power outages...and the list goes on. After a while you begin to feel like nothing will ever work again, or that always in process of fixing one thing two more will break.

You can imagine this generally becomes annoying, defeating, draining, and altogether just gets old.

Yet I don't know that I would trade any of it. I fear one day living in a more luxurious situation and everything actually working. I become far too comfortable.

Maybe it's a bit embarrassing to admit that I actually have to fight to  choose joy in the midst of such trivial exasperating circumstances. My life is by no means hard. And lately I've been seeing just how if I can get over myself and my desire for easy, such messes and "unfortunate" conditions yield great blessing. A hike into town with Char in the stroller to get groceries--precious memories made with my daughter as a result of no car. A night of sitting on the porch talking to Tim in the dark--extended quality time spent with my husband because of no power and the distraction of Internet.

Charlotte looks up at me from her pots and pans, banging away to her own rhythm. She is truly just as delighted to play with kitchen utensils as some fancy, high-end baby gadget. She remains beautifully unaware of the disjointed nature of life at the moment. I catch her smiling back at me and I can't help but get choked up at her innocence, her joy, her genuine contentment with life. She claps her hands and I think, I want to be like Charlotte when I grow up.


Easter Bounty

A few weeks back we sent out this message to our email list of faithful supporters, so many of you may have already read this. I received a lot of feedback about it and thought I should share these words with the rest of the blogger community. This has become my prayer, that I could live out of the message I felt was so clearly and heavily laid on my heart.

And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord…” –John 20:13a

I’m sitting here on the floor of my daughter’s room, listening to rain fall hard outside on this Easter Sunday. While our Semana Santa was far from what we had hoped, it has led our hearts to question what we value and where our security lies.  
Earlier this week we got the call that our house had been broken into while away for a family vacation at the beach. We returned to find much of our home torn apart—drawers dumped on the floor, cabinets flung open and emptied out, a trail of our food half eaten and left behind. 
The first question always seems to be, “What all did they take?” I asked it right away. That’s what everyone wants to know. And as I begin to lament and list off the missing items, I hear a voice in my head, They didn’t actually take anything.
We have joked that these past few days have felt so far from a “holy week.” Yet more than ever my fingers have been peeled back from the things I hold onto. I’m seeing that there’s often bondage in stuff. Things weigh us down, keeping us stationary and fearful of what we would do without them. 
We have been praying for the Lord’s redemptive work in this situation. We believe that this was most likely someone who lives close by, a neighbor we may have even invited into our home before. Yet we confess we also want to know. We crave justice immediately, even revenge. We pray that instead of allowing seeds of bitterness and distrust to take root that we would choose to love, give graciously, and continue to invite others in. We ask that instead of allowing fear and anger to fester and cripple us that the Lord would soften our hearts and we would trust in Him fully to protect and provide.  
So as I sit here in Charlotte’s room, I can honestly say that we are lacking for nothing. I hold a list of what was taken, and yet we have an abundance. Both tangibly and spiritually, our cup overflows. They didn’t actually take anything.
Mary wept because she thought Christ’s body was gone. I cry over lost pictures on a hard drive, stolen jewelry, and food missing from my pantry. 
We rejoice this Easter Sunday because all that we truly have as disciples, all we ought to hold dear, can never be taken from us. 


These days

These days are made of...

Hangin' out. Charlotte cuddled with her dad last weekend in a SoCo hammock. Tim is now a proud co-owner of this start-up company. To hear more about how to buy a sweet product for chillin', click here.
Making friends. Neighbors Juan Pablo and Lisett are two kids that come over weekly to play with, read to, and hold baby Char. I've loved building a relationship with their mom, Maria. 
Crafting. Since finding some inspiring pics on pinterest, I've collected cosas around the house to make our home a bit cozier. This wreath was my most recent project.  
Laughing. Charlotte has discovered she can pull her foot up and fit nearly all 5 toes into her mouth at once. She's also figured out she can laugh, and once she gets going she can't stop. It's pretty stinkin' cute.


Food is a bridge builder.

Maybe we bake bread for new neighbors, meet up with someone to get coffee, or bring a side dish for a potluck. We may go out for ice cream, share a bag of popcorn, or just go out to eat at our favorite restaurant with friends.
Whether or not you like preparing food, cooking a meal, or baking bread, you can't deny that food is often what brings people together. It is a basic human need, yes, but, if done right, it is a delightful shared experience as well.
I decided recently why I love baking desserts now more than ever. Of course eating the batter is a perk (forget salmonella), and I love enjoying the finished result with people later, but in this uncharted territory of being a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, it has become a stepping stone to closer relationships with neighbors--an excuse to stop by, a way to meet a need, and even a tool to break the awkwardness when first time visitors come into our home.
And then it dawned on me the other day as I was nursing my baby girl. From birth, food is a communal experience. Even a bottle-fed baby comes to know and depend on the nurturing presence of a warm body while eating.
I'm learning more and more that bread is meant to be broken together. Perhaps we were never meant to eat alone. Maybe food is always meant to satisfy us in the presence of company, to remind us of our God-given need for others in community.


It seems like most things eventually come around full circle.

We used to mock our moms for deliberating over curtains and comparing paint colors. Now I love finding just the right piece of driftwood, arriving at the perfect shelf arrangement.

It feels like yesterday that I was listening intently to the mom's instructions, trying to catch all the little details, worried I wouldn't be able to remember how to fix the bottle or what time the kids were supposed to go to bed.

Now I'm leaving my daughter with babysitters.  Writing directions for feeding, bedtime, how to calm her down, when to let her cry. High school girls. They seem so much younger nowadays, I think. Surely I never looked that young...
I remember hearing the woman's accent at the restaurant, irritated with her difficulty understanding my order, thinking to myself, If you're gonna live here, at least learn the language.

Now I'm the extranjera in a foreign country, the ever learning student of the Spanish language. And even after 5 years of living overseas I still get flustered and fumble through simple questions or statements I've said a million other times, trying to catch the mistakes as they come out, feeling like the fool under the smirk of an annoyed national.
Perhaps this is another interpretation of living a full and complete life.  To live both sides of the same coin means we will at some point be the child and the adult, the giver and the receiver, the prideful and the humbled.  


Right now, we are her heroes.

It's hard to imagine there will come a day when she won't think we're the greatest, when she'll disobey, when she'll be embarrassed of her parents or hurt us with her words.

I heard someone say recently that we can't fully appreciate our parents until we have a child of our own. At first, in the wake of delivery and the weeks of pieced together naps, I could only think in terms of the beating your body takes in the birth process and the sacrifice of sleep. Now I've begun to think about the capacity to love, the unrequited hugeness of what we feel for our children, and the certainty that they will stray in one way or another.
I do feel infinitely more grateful for my parents and their sacrifice. But when I am left breathless at just how big my love is for her, at the depth of what I feel for this little person who has done nothing to earn it, who hasn't thanked us for our sacrifice, I am overwhelmed by what my Heavenly Father feels for me. By how He's ached, rejoiced, wept, and laughed over me. At how undeserved it all is.


My baby girl doesn't need a sound machine.

Raindrops fall on wide palm branches outside her open window. A fan blows softly side to side, keeping mosquitoes from landing in one place long enough to bite. The rise and fall of motorcycle engines tearing down the gravel road leave behind a trail of dust that stirs and settles on our tile floor. The far-off colmado blasts bachata rhythms, its indiscernible lyrics our weekend soundtrack. Daihatsu trucks blare advertisements from oversized speakers. Dogs bark from behind iron gates, their voices echoing across the neighborhood.  

Although I doubt very much Charlotte will remember anything from her first months of life in the Dominican Republic, I know that the noises and sights that surround her now have become her normal.  She grows restless in silence and stillness.  She much prefers the hum of a jeepeta and the uneven bounce of tires over a bumpy road.

Never for a moment do I regret having my daughter here.  I love that she has already touched her toes into sand and felt salt water splash her face.  I love that she hears around her little head a blend of Spanish and English, that she will probably know the lyrics of worship songs in a foreign language before the one spoken at home.  I love that she looks up at faces of all different colors in awe and wonder.  I love that our daughter already lives a full life.


casi 8 meses

Only about 5ish weeks remain before junior makes his grand entrance. We have been wrapping up projects here, the most recent of which involved hanging the alphabet wall. Surprisingly, all it took was quite a bit of velcro and a few cement wall hooks and glue gun tricks. While you can't see all the letters in the following pic, you get the idea. Hopefully i'll be posting more later of the room entera, after it's totally finished and you can soak it up via some panoramic photographs.
I'm thankful to report that despite beginning to get swollen ankles and sweating profusely on the long, humid, AC-free days, everything continues to progress smoothly.  At our last check-up, we were told the baby is "bien grande", but, of course, our dr. confessed, to her Tim and I are both very tall in comparison to most Dominicans.  That made me feel a little better.  
This past Sunday, our wonderful community threw us a co-ed baby shower.  Without us knowing, they had told everyone to dress up based on what they predict the sex of the baby to be.  Some of the best costumes involved cowboy boots and baseball caps with toy mop horses (pictured below).  You may be interested to know that Team Boy represented a strong majority, with 30+ folks dressed in male gear.  Less than 10 people dressed in pretty bows and represented the remaining loners who stood strong as Team Girl. Vamos a ver muy pronto...



Finally! One of the blessings very part-time involvement at school this year has already afforded me is extra time. Time to read, time to rest, time to exercise, time to cook, and time to craft. I could get used to this. But with baby Scar's impending arrival drawing closer (only 10ish weeks, folks!), I've been advised to enjoy this luxury while I can, because soon, my life will never be the same.

Months ago I found the idea online of creating an alphabet wall in the nursery. Since then I've schemed and planned, hunted and discussed, to make the most one-of-a-kind alphabet wall yet designed. Okay, so I know I'm a first time mom, but I love the idea of creating both a mentally and sensorily stimulating space for our baby AND, si Dios quiere, one that can be used for future Scar babies as well.

So, my challenge for myself has been to find and decorate 26 letters, each of which will somehow reflect a word(s) which begins with that letter. Here are a few of my first projects. Take the challenge and see if you can guess what each stands for:
This one's actually tricky. A is for...
Thanks for the help on this one, Grandma. B is for...
Fabric courtesy of Sarah's Fabrics in downtown Lawrence. D is for...
This is actually looking out the window in the future nursery. G is for...
Not only will junior be able to read from an early age, but measure as well. I is for...
One of my personal favorites. M is for...
One of these is dated back to 1906! P is for...
On the grill for a reason. S is for...
This one's meaning is two-fold. T is for...
Not the perfect shade of red, but you get the picture. This one's a bit obvious. V is for...
Place: downtown Atlanta. Frame: Durham thrift store find. X is for...
Soft as a baby's bottom. Y is for...
Another (hopefully) obvious one. Z is for...

Answer Key:
1. Atlas (if you could zoom in, all the places begin with "A"--Atlanta, Arizona, Alberta, Atlantic Ocean, etc.)
2. Button
3. Duck
4. Green
5. Inch
6. Music/melody 
7. Postcard/Postage
8. Silver/shiny
9. Twine & twig
10. Vino (Spanish) = wine (English)
11. X-ing (a bit of a stretch, but X is hard!)
12. Yarn
13. Zebra