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.