Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Bolivian Day

So, this is probably the last thing I need to be doing right now, seeing as we have 50 people coming to our house for a barbecue tomorrow, but I had to put this down in writing while it was still fresh.

We went out this morning to run errands and buy things for the big day tomorrow. Keep in mind that both Josh and I had things to do so we decided to do them together, and seeing as our maid is on vacation for 2 weeks, that meant the whole family got to go. On the way to town we stop to order a big tent for tomorrow's party on the off chance that it rains tomorrow (which is a very good chance seeing as we have had a LOT of rain lately). Success!

Next stop... one of my favorite stores 'Home Center', which has a lot of fun household treasures - imported and local - for generally fair prices. We had to pick up a few things (staples for the staple gun to staple Michaela's mosquito net to the ceiling so she doesn't wake up looking like she has the chicken pox - we've had problems figuring out how to keep a net up over Michaela's bunk bed - and other various items). As we're there, we realize Josh has forgotten one of our errands at home - a package we needed to weigh. So we decide to buy a small scale as well to weigh the package at home. We get what we need, proceed to checkout (all the time, mind you, trying to corral and take to the potty 2 toddlers in a store with lots of toys and many breakable items - not a good combination). Thing is, we have some credit there, because Josh has returned something and didn't use up all the money in buying the replacement item. I have been there once already to try to use the money to no avail - the top manager must be there to credit us the money. We're in luck today. The manager is there. And she can't find our credit. We wait, she looks, we wait some more. It's like pulling teeth to get them to give us the 45Bs/$5. Finally, after half an hour, success again. 2nd errand accomplished.

Off next to the post office. Josh drops me off and I run in and up 3 flights of stairs to check for a package my mom sent 3 weeks ago. Wonder of wonders - it has arrived. And it only takes 10 minutes to pick it up. I make it outside before Josh even has time to circle around and pick me up. I take advantage of the time to buy some small watch baterries from a vendor on the street. Josh picks me up. The girls are excited to see all the treasures one manilla envelope can hold.

We park next on the busy street of Heroinas (praying we don't get a parking ticket - I have gotten 2 on this street for reasons that make no sense). Josh goes with the 2oldest to the grocery store run by the pork producing farm HAAS to buy meat for tomorrow's barbecue (it is cheaper to buy pork here than anywhere else in town). I walk 6 blocks with Jana in the sling to buy paper goods for tomorrow at a small outlet store (again, much cheaper to buy here than at the grocery stores). I return in taxi with my paper goods to meet Josh as he is checking out with 16 lbs/$50 worth of meat (half a suckling pig, 2 kilos of sausage, and 2 chickens). Items 4 and 5 accomplished.

(On a side note, we have little wasps (they look like mud daubers to me) nesting in the hood of our car. Every time we start it up, they swarm up. So in the midst of all the loading and unloading of the day, we're dodging wasps. Fun, fun!)

Next, lunch. It is now 1 o clock and the girls are getty fussy. We go to a grill restaurant with a playground so the kids can run off some energy. Our food takes a long time. The kids are ready to loose it by the end, but the lollipops they give them as we leave makes it all worth it.

Josh drops me off next at another grocery store to look for a disposable aluminum pan (which I have seen at the other store location in town) to catch the drippings of the pork as it smokes. Unsuccessful. I rush back to the car, hoping the kids haven't fallen asleep yet.

Finally, on our way home. But we desperately need to find gas for the car (we've been looking for about 5 days - everyone is out). We've driven by 3 gas stations throughout the morning (gas stations in Boliva are few and far between) - all without gasoline. We are getting desperate - the light of the gas tank is on. We try 2 more. No luck. One more shot and if it doesn't work we'll just have to hope and pray we make it home on the little we have. I say a prayer as we go. And, praise God, we drive up just as the gas truck is unloading fuel! The line is already forming. We rush to turn around and race a sports car back to the station. Yes, we're about 7th in line! And so we wait. The line grows to about 30 cars. After 20 minutes of waiting and they haven't even started pumping gas yet, I decide to get a cab and take the girls and the meat home. I cross the road and hail a cab. Then back to the car to get the girls and 16 pounds of meat. Josh has to stay in the car unless the line starts moving (otherwise people will squeeze in front of us). So I get the 2 girls by the hands, backpack on the back, baby in the sling and the pounds of meat and cross the busy street to pile in the taxi and go home. I have a really good conversation with the taxi driver on the way home. Maybe he'll come to church someday.

We made it! Home at last. 3 o clock. All in all, it has been a successful morning. Rule of thumb in a 3rd world country - if you get half the items on your agenda accomplished, you have had a successful day. I get kids in their beds and decide that it has been a bloggable day. So after all are asleep I head upstairs for some Julie time. Josh says blogging is an outlet for me. He's right.

(As I'm finishing this, my husband is just getting back from the gas station. It is now 4:30).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The month of December has been a busy one in our household - here's a look at some of the special ways we celebrated the season....

-We decorated the tree before Thanksgiving so it would feel more festive for that special day.

-Team thanksgiving at our house

-Youth game night

-Special ladies craft time. We made and decorated sugar cookies together.

-Dinner with Marbel and Sandro. On a side note, please be praying for this couple. We met them when Josh offered a marriage seminar a couple years ago. A couple months ago, they showed up again at church and asked Josh to marry them. Since then, they've been attending regularly and Josh recently started a Bible study with them both.

-Lunch with the Arcos, our homestay family and 'adopted' Bolvian grandparents

-Carols and cookies for our CAFE group here at our house. We ended up having pretty much the whole church - and some besides! Christmas carols aren't a huge part of Latin American culture and so Josh spent some extra time this month putting together and teaching some of the music and lyrics in Spanish. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

-Cookie and ornament exchange with some of my expat friends.

-We decorated Christmas cookies with the team kids and one of our neighbors.

-Date night! Josh and I got to go to dinner and a movie.

-Birthday party for one of our youth. Michaela, Eliana and I came home from the party and promptly came down with a terrible case of food poisoning. Which meant we missed the special Christmas program the next day. Bummer!

-Special Sunday Christmas program and fellowship meal. The youth and the kids all put on special performances for the church.

-Christmas morning at our house and then team Christmas at the Bulls. We ate, fellowshiped, played games and exchanged gifts. Fun, fun!

-Rotary club dinner at our house. We had a formal dinner for Josh's rotary club members and a white elephant gift exchange as well - they loved it.

-And coming up - a New Year's Day celebration at our house as well.

We hope and pray that your holiday season has been as blessed as ours! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Michaela's version of Jingle Bells

Jinger bells, Jinger bells, Jinger all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride in a oh-oh-open sleigh
Jinger bells, Jinger bells, Jinger all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride in a oh-oh-open sleigh :)

The Beauty of the Country

For those of you who don't know, we live about 25 min. from the center of downtown in the middle of cornfields and eucalyptus trees. The country boy in my husband loves living out away from everything - and I have to admit that although sometimes I would like to be closer to things, there are some great things about living in the country.

-the thunderstorms rolling in off the mountains
-the sound of crickets and frogs singing in the creek out back of our house
-the peace and quiet
-beautiful sunsets
-walking down the road to watch the milking of the cows on the dairy farm next to our house
-finding a tadpole swimming in the dog's water and watching its metamorphasis
-strolling down dirt roads
-finding all sorts of 'treasures': bird's eggs, flowers, seeds, leaves, rocks, bugs, caterpillars, little green frogs, sticks
-finding a half-grown chicken in our yard and having to catch it and return it to its mother
-fresh lemons from our lemon tree
-fresh blackberries from our blackberry bushes
-puddle jumping
-watching the changing seasons on a farm: planting and harvesting
-lots of different birds and their songs

Isn't God's creation amazing!?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Books

Our trip to and from Ecuador was something of an adventure. Our flight was delayed leaving Cochabamba, when we arrived at our hotel in La Paz, they had lost our reservations, and by the time we got to our room I discovered that a sippy cup of milk had leaked in the diaper bag, requiring a complete unpacking of the bag to let everything dry. The next morning in the craziness of early rising to get to the airport and catch our next flight, I accidentally left 4 books and 2 sets of stickers in the hotel room. Problem being that these were 2 of Michaela's favorite books, a great bible sticker book I found on 75% off in the States, and an preschool activity book my mom sent. I realized this as we were boarding the plane, and was just sick about it. I always select the things with which we travel with the greatest care (i.e. only taking the things that have the most entertainment value). My sweet husband got on the phone and called the hotel, asking them to hold the stuff for us until our return in 3 weeks. They graciously complied.

The problem was that when we returned to Bolivia, we had another 'adventure'. Our flight did not even land in La Paz due to high winds. They flew us to Santa Cruz instead, deboarded us at 1:30am, and then proceeded to tell us that we were to wait in the airport all night (and drink a cup of coffee on them) - the flight would leave the next morning. With 3 kids! We told them that wouldn't work for us - that we were getting off in Santa Cruz and would change our tickets the next day to fly from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba. They said that was fine, and then proceeded to take 2hours to get our bags off the plane. We got to the hotel at 3:30am and I then realized that we were supposed to pick our books up in the hotel in La Paz. At which point I basically wrote them off as lost.

But my sweet husband, knowing that they were important to me because they are important to my daughter, got on the phone the next week and found a 'courier service' in La Paz (who knew they had such a thing in Bolivia?) and called them up - asked them to pick up the books at the hotel and bring them to his office here. They said they would be there the next day. We waited 3 days. Nothing. So Josh called again. They had the package, but had lost the address. Josh gave it to them again. The next day the books and stickers arrived - all of them - and we paid the service 10 Bolivianos (about a $1.50)! I couldn't believe it. Sometimes things pleasantly surprise you.

La Casa de Papa Noel

My husband buys a Sunday paper every Sunday. It's kind of like a hobby for him - he likes not only keeping up with the news, but also checking out the ads (even though the majority of the time we aren't seriously looking to buy anything.) The good thing is the Sunday paper also includes a special magazine, featuring cultural/ recreational activities. We've found some interesting things listed (although the trout farm and the orchestral performance in Cochabamba were absolute bombs - stories for another time :)

A couple weeks ago Josh saw advertised La Casa de Papa Noel (for those Spanish illiterates - Santa Clause's House). So we decided to go check it out and were pleasantly surprised! For Bolivia, it was very well done! Coca-Cola rented out a big mansion. We had to wait about 40 min, but the 'elves' took groups of about 10 through and you got to see Santa's kitchen, bedroom, workshop and then meet and 'kiss' Santa (no sitting on Santa's lap here - the traditional 'beso' works just fine). Then they had Santa's sleigh out on the lawn for pictures. The kids loved it (although we couldn't get Eliana to kiss Santa!) And the best part was, you didn't have to pay - you just had to bring a gift per ticket for the poor children of Cochabamba - a good lesson on giving for our kids. And it was very festive!

We forgot the camara, but got some pictures on Josh's cell-phone. Thus the grainy quality (and some came out too fuzzy). Enjoy.

Can you tell Michaela enjoyed it? :)

In Santa's sleigh

Out front of the house

Monday, December 08, 2008

Musings of a TCK

So I just recently watched Prince Caspian for the first time. We finally found a good pirated copy in the Cancha. Note to readers: it is next to impossible to find an original copy of anything technological here in Boliva, whether it be software, music, or movies. Sorry if this wounds your conscience (it did mine at first, especially coming from a teacher's background where copyright is ironclad!) Anyway, the only copy we could find for the longest time was filmed in the theater in Spanish. I refuse to watch such trash. So we waited until our last trip to the Cancha when we found a good copy in English. Definitely worth the wait. I have watched it twice since buying it. I am one of those people who unashamedly watch their favorite movies umpteen times and read their favorite books until they are best friends. My husband is quite the opposite - he won't watch a movie again until he's completely forgoten it (taking approximately 3 years).

Anyway, the first time I pondered the different spiritual applications. However, the second time, 2 scenes stuck in my mind with an entirely different focus. I was struck how the 4 Pevensie children are, in many ways, a classic example of TCKS (third culture kids). Belonging to their parents' home culture, and yet growing up in an entirely different magical world. And I think I appreciated this movie on another whole level because I relate to it in this way.

Scene 1:
Susan: You always knew we'd be coming back here, didn't you?
Lucy: I hoped so.
Susan: I finally just got used to the idea of being in England again.
Lucy: But you're glad to be here, right?
Susan: While it lasts.

I think that's the hope of every TCK - to go back - wherever back is too, whether it be the home culture or the place they are growing up. And once there, we're happy, enjoying it, but knowing that it probably won't ever last. Struggling to get used to the idea of being where we are.

Scene 2:
Caspian: I will look after it until you return.
Susan: I'm afraid that's just it. We're not coming back.
Lucy: We're not?
Peter: You 2 are, at least I think he means you 2.
Lucy: But why? Did they do something wrong?
Aslan: Quite the opposite my dear. All things have their time. Your brother and sister have learned what they can from this world. Now it's time for them to live in their own.
Peter: It's all right, Lu. It's not how I thought it would be, but it's all right. One day you'll see too.
Susan: I'm glad I came back.

All things have their time. How fitting. We learn what we can from where we're at, and then we go on to live in the time and place we find ourselves in the moment. Not that we always understand it, or that we always think it's the way it should be. I find myself in some ways in the shoes of Peter and Susan. Longing to be Edmund and Lucy (like so many of my friends and even family) who get to go back. But it's all right. And someday I pray my children will see that too. If I ever get the chance to go back... I will be glad.

But I think the part that moved me to tears was the lyrics to the song by Six Pence None the Richer at the very end.

"It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope.
Which then turned into a quiet thought,
Which then turned into a quiet word.
And then the word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry
I'll come back, when you call me.
No need to say goodbye.

Just because everything's changing doesn't mean it's never been this way before.
All you can do is try to know who your friends are as you head off to war.
Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light.
You'll come back when it's over.
No need to say goodbye.

Now we're back to the beginning, it's just a feeling and no one knows yet.
But just because they can't feel it too, doesn't mean that you have to forget.
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger until they're before your eyes.
You'll come back, when they call you.
No need to say goodbye.
You'll come back, when they call you.
No need to say goodbye."

No need to say goodbye. To me - that is heaven. All of God's children gathered in one place regardless of location or language. No need to say goodbye. Until then, I'll let my memories bring me back to the places and people I love.

My husband will probably read this and think me sentimental (keep in mind, he is a TCK too). Which I guess I am in a way. It's not like I generally spend my time brooding over thoughts like this. But there are times when a sight, or a smell, or a taste, or a movie, or a moment, will draw me back so strongly to my childhood home. I guess this was one of those times - I felt what Lucy felt as she walked through the tree, looking back, longing to stay.

My Cup Overflows

Call this a late Thanksgiving post if you will (although I would probably be posting this even if we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving). The other day as I was cooking dinner, watching my husband swing the kids outside, I was struck with how blessed I am. My cup is truly overflowing.
- We get to stay in our house! There was the possiblity for a few weeks that our house would sell. As much as I have railed against living 20 min. outside the center of town (sometimes I would like to be closer to everything like our teammates), I had actually been very at peace about where we live. Nothing like thinking you're going to loose something to make you realize how great it is. Our home is a haven for our family - and a great ministry tool as well. And it seems like the city is coming to us. There's a new grocery store opening 5 minutes from our house!
- I love my kids! Jana is now crawling and it is so fun seeing her explore her world. I love to watch Michaela and Eliana play together. They are all healthy - minus a cold. For several nights in a row, I didn't have to get up once! This is quite revolutionary for me as I went from prenancy to pregancy - so if I wasn't getting up for nighttime feedings, I was getting up to run to the bathroom, or to comfort a crying toddler. It's amazing the energy a full night's sleep will give you.
- I have a wonderful husband. The other day, he didn't have much going on (a first in about 6 weeks!), so he stayed with the kids while I went grocery shopping by myself - and then kept them again that night while I went to a ladies craft time. And it's not just that he watches the kids - he enjoys his time with them. They swam, played in the sand, watched Polar Express together, and went to a park. It blesses my heart to see him interacting with them.
- There's nothing like celebrating Christmas in a 3rd world county to make you see the blaring inconsistencies in life. Americans truly are one of the most priveledged peoples in the world. At times I wonder that God saw fit to place me in the family and culture which he did. We are very blessed: economically, spiritually, educationally, politically. But I am also very thankful that I and my children have had the experience growing up in another culture. I think it helps you appreciate your heritage, but also helps you appreciate the world outside the American culture.
-God continually transforms lives. As I listened to the ladies talk about their trip to the ladies conference in Cusco during our craft time, I was encouraged to see how God continues to shape and teach and encourage.
-Internet is great. I love being able to keep up with my friends and family on a daily basis, seeing pictures, knowing the daily joys and struggles, reading thoughts and prayers, sharing my life as well. Not to mention Christmas music online. Skype phone calls. Even shopping and banking!
I am blessed! Thank you, Lord.