Friday, October 14, 2011

Advent Conspiracy

Living life outside the U.S. is filled with pros and cons. Delicious fruits, a variety of veggies and rich coffee are in abundance. Life flows at a much slower pace which is good on a relational level, but often frustrating when transacting business or keeping to a specific schedule. Many a family would be dismayed about missing out on scores of new products, popular books, the latest movies and music, and current fashion. Oh, eventually those products might make it to our part of the Western Hemisphere, but unless someone travels to Costa Rica, and has perused a book or magazine in flight or lugged a suitcase of surprises, it may be months or years before such items crossed our path.

I had heard of the Advent Conspiracy in the past, but never understood what it was all about until I purchased and read the book pictured above. After spending four years living in Latin America, and another year in Pakistan many years ago, I completely understand the author's premise. And vow not to succumb to the advertiser hype and accumulation of goods while on U.S. soil.

But living life this way is...nearly impossible....the average Westerner is bombarded by advertising, peer pressure, and the idea of perceived need multiple times per day. And yes, while living in the Southeast, we are wooed as well. Others will benefit by foregoing toys and desires that often break and wane post-holiday season. In fact, we as a couple have committed to sacrificially giving not only during Advent, but throughout the year as well...won't you join us?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Family Retreat Day

Reachglobal leaders are encouraged to carve out time each month for a personal retreat day. Although Brian and I often have a difficult time fitting this into our schedules, God always shows up. This past Saturday morning was more of a "family retreat day". A time to breathe fresh air, laugh with the kids, and enjoy the lake that we have missed for four years! The boat cooperated, and the rain held off until late afternoon.

Living life in the US, even though it is only for a few months, has presented challenges unique to our home culture. Fast-paced lives slow down for a few minutes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I long for the spontaneous porch chats with personnel and Latin church leaders and missionaries. Chatting with storeowners and neighbors while walking on foot, an impossibility with America's sprawling suburbs!

But God is present and has interspersed calm moments with Him and others in the midst of a tightly-packed schedule. And among the blessings that are found in both countries? F-A-M-I-L-Y.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blessed and Burdened

Ideas have been churning in my mind for this blog (and a few others) as our family engaged with a mission team from our home state around Costa Rica; as I sorted, gave away, decluttered, and packed prior to boarding our flight; on the airplane as we flew home to the U.S., and during rare quiet moments interspersed in my life since arriving in North Carolina three weeks ago.

Strangely, some days it feels like moments have only passed, while others it seems like time is passing too quickly. My present reality is strangely familiar, but passes through a lens that has been my reality for the last 4 years. Some days, English and Spanish intermingle and words don't come easily in either language. Some days tears well up in my eyes at the strangest times, and emotion overtakes me. But then the quiet voice of my Heavenly Father comforts me and I acknowledge that time spent in another culture has changed me, my thoughts and desires, and now compels me to reach out to the poor in spirit wherever that may be. In all honesty, I enjoy the temporary pleasure that a six pack of Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets may bestow, yet yearn for gallo pinto, cafecito, and impromptu visits with Latino friends and clients. I momentarily bask in the cool refreshment that the icy air conditioning and a iced Starbucks latte offered in the local Target, but return items to shelves after selecting only a few, and return home overwhelmed by choices, assaulted by advertising, and seeking refuge with family and friends.

These days have been filled with blessing and provision. I came kicking and screaming, figuratively speaking. But I realize that the burden is deeper that originally defined. My heart's burden is for all those who seek. Those in beautiful neighborhoods in the suburbs or decrepit urban areas in disrepair, at home or abroad --the rich and poor alike are affected. We all need love and encouragement, a hope and a future.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Life

This baby was prayed for and anticipated long before she made her entrance. A donated crib awaited his or her arrival.God heard the cries of my heart as I seriously wondered if this postdates baby would be healthy and whether her mother would fare well. Practicing midwifery in a foreign country is far different than in the US. Fortunately,usually things are normal and normal pregnancy is what midwives specialize in.
Pre and Postnatal care is provided by our clinic providers, but the actual delivery is left to a random provider in a public hospital. My client feared this. Finally I texted her that it was time to have this baby. She calmly responded it wasn't time. Well, tomorrow it is time...I thought, and prayed that this baby would make her entrance before my cautious management became worry. Late the following evening, I received a call that contractions were regular and my client was headed to the hospital after some tortillas and cheese. I prayed with her, and she thanked me for making her feel calm and capable, even though I wasn't at her side. Several hours later a healthy baby girl finally arrived!
Here she is!

This client was one of the few that continue care postpartum, and was the first to receive home visits due to her lack of resources and need. I was overjoyed as I was able to continue a tradition I began during my final births in midwifery school--a birthday cake complete with pink or blue embellishments and a candle. I had to improvise here in Tres Rios, with a large slice of tres leches and some sprinkles, a pink candle, and a much desired Spanish Bible!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Although Brian and I have lived nearly five years of our life in countries where poverty, sickness, and hardship are prevalent, we have spent the majority of our lives in relative comfort with material possessions not found among the minority world. We have been frugal so as to save for our children's educations, travel, and give to those less fortunate, and to missionaries throughout our married life.

Last month, one of my clinic patients missed a visit. She had faithfully come to prenatal checks without fail, and I attributed this to a need to work or entertain family from Nicaragua. The following visit I learned of the real reason. This mother, considered high risk for numerous reasons, now was jobless, which in this situation meant, homeless, and without money for transportation to clinic or the basic necessities of life. She and I had bonded over the months of prenatal visits, and I knew she and her husband were hardworking individuals. She was 36 weeks pregnant, and in a desperate situation. I drove her to the local supermarket, to buy basics to sustain and adequately nourish her baby in the last weeks of development. She put beans, rice, sugar, powdered milk, ketchup, tortillas, and oil in the cart. I urged her, and placed protein-rich eggs, four premade hamburger patties, and some chicken legs in the cart. I made a mental calculation of the items in the cart--this store did not accept credit or debit cards, so I realized only five dollars remained in my pocket. A bar of baby soap and a tiny pack of diapers would be useful. She refused a ride home, and I helped her with the heavy nonperishables, and asked several young men at the bus stop to help her on and off the bus. My thoughts ran wild, why did she not want to be driven home, would she continue to have contractions and go into early labor...oh why wasn't I more insistent...?

This client was the first one I had ever given my cell phone number to. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, and torn by compassion during one of her first clinic visits(she traveled on 3 buses, 6 hours round trip to each office visit). Missed appointment number two. Finally, word from her via text that she had no money for bus fare, no food and little money from the odd jobs her husband found as he could.

Six kilometers from my comfortable home outside San Jose, in a corrugated tin room, with a bed, a broken down crib, and no refrigerator or stove, I made a home visit which humbled me. This dear couple, a modern day Mary and Joseph, awaited the birth of their child. Displaced from their family and familiar surroundings, they were desperate to hear the good news of the gospel, and needed the compassion of others to live. Following this visit, she gave me two pounds of green beans and zucchini and hugged me tightly.

Humbled beyond words.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Mom's a Mom, wherever she may live...

On Tuesday, my bus crested a hill overlooking La Carpio, a impoverished barrio in San Jose, Costa Rica and I watched as women sent their children off to school--the first full week for many students here. Although the photo you see on the left is not a photo snapped by my camera ( this Latina mom is dressed far too nicely) - it may invoke the emotions I felt as a bystander, seeing five or six moms gathered alongside the school bus, hugging, then waving, then air-kissing, then running feverishly alongside the bus wishing their children a safe journey and a wonderful school day.

That picture remained embedded in my subconscious and churned my emotions that entire workday, as I saw women in clinic. Women barely able to afford the expense of one modest meal of rice and beans, let alone the nominal fee charged for a lab exam or consult. Wow. Women live in vastly different environments- urban slums, rural African villages, suburban lives with urgent demands to make ends meet , cross-culturally as missionary mothers wondering how the experience will affect our families, or on small farms with huge responsibilities.

I pondered the same image as I rode the bus home, discussed it with my husband, and prayed that evening for the moms I share life with, the moms who visit the clinic weekly, and moms I've never met facing unthinkable challenges - Christian, and non-Christian, young and old, newlyweds and empty nesters.
All moms are needy, tired, and wanting support from others in this demanding role from time to time. God has placed us where we are at just this time to encourage one another. And for those of us fortunate to have access to a computer and internet, to extend ourselves across continents or just across town and to share God's love tangibly.

How can we be the incarnational hands and feet of Christ today, tomorrow and every day?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Really? I can do all things?

During the Christmas season, I was given a small devotional book entitled A Taste of Believing God, by Beth Moore. Of course, like most of you, I didn't get around to actually reading it until the company left, the house was cleaned, and the routines of life returned to "normal". Timing like this was not accidental. I needed to read every word of this particular chapter because my life is going to change drastically in the next few months. Yes, we are returning to the United States to raise additional support and share our stories with individuals and churches and I would rather stay in Tres Rios, Costa Rica. Why? Because what was once "foreign" is now the "familiar" and what was "different" is now my new "normal".

In Chapter 4, Beth Moore explains that all of us are significant in God's plan, and that often fear, discouragement, or plain old stubbornness keeps us from walking in faith and doing extraordinary things for God. My weakness, placed willingly in the strong, capable hands of a loving Creator becomes a thing of beauty and grace. All of us have ordinary lives that are capable of doing extraordinary things--equipped by the Master to do what only He envisioned.

The woman that left Matthews, North Carolina forty months ago who wondered how God could call a family of six from comfortable suburbia was just like you. I was not a Bible scholar, nor a church planter, but a chocolate-craving, Target-loving woman.

That same woman is now wondering how returning to a fast-paced life in the U.S. for more than a few weeks could be a good thing. A limited supply of Costa Rican coffee and Lizano sauce? No cafecito or gallo pinto? I know now. Some of you are living ordinary lives and God needs you to accomplish something extraordinary. As my husband says "Hang on- it's a wild ride," but worth every minute.

Phillipians 4 :13 "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

From The Birds and the Bees to A-B-C...

My family and friends know that the more I have crammed into my schedule, the more effective and happy I become, in all spheres of influence--family, ministry, relationships, name it. There was a time, just after language school when I wondered how my being here mattered. Sure, I had a hubby to encourage, and he and the kids needed food and love, and those under the age of 18, legally needed educating as they were not attending school outside our home.

I had friendships, but little ministry or outreach in the community, and although I encouraged the Reachglobal women living here in Costa Rica and elsewhere, I felt strangely useless. As I often do, I poured out my sentiments to God, explaining that I was perfectly content to be homebound and involved with the most pressing of needs, my household, but that my giftings and passion for women and children were withering away. Unbeknownst to me, God did have plans but simply desired my willingness to do what He desired, no matter what that entailed. In those moments my cries were heard and now I cherish those days I am actually home.

Clinic days filled with caring for and educating Carpio's women, womens' groups in Spanish and English, family and ministry responsibilities, and most recently teaching English content for the Bachillerato (equivalent of the U.S. GED), homeschooling and training for a second half marathon vie for my attention. I am happy, healthier than when we arrived, and thriving. I wonder how we'll fare while on home assignment and ask God to provide financial and prayer partners even now, so that our time in the States will be "just enough", and we'll be refreshed and ready to return to our neighborhood, community and church home here in Costa Rica willing and equipped to do what He desires.