asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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Afternoon coffee

Coffee.

Remember how I said that I wanted this be an honest, vulnerable view of our journey?  Remember how I also said that I wanted to share it all with you, even the victories (because, gosh, who wants to just hear the hard stuff?!)?  THIS is one of those posts!

I will just begin by saying that our marriage took a HUGE hit while being on the mission field.  I will talk more about this at a later time.  We truly had lost the ability to speak tenderly to one another. Suffice to say, our marriage was pretty torn and tattered by the time we touched down on U.S. soil.

This season in our lives has been brutiful (beautiful and brutal).  There truly have been some amazingly, beautiful gifts that have come, and are still in the works, during this time.  This is one of those gifts.

Going from having our kids with us 24/7 to being, what we call, “semi-empty nesters” has been an adjustment for sure.  With one kid living in another country, and the other one in school and working, we have lots of extra time for just the two of us.  Also, our home in the DR was always full of people coming in and out.  We loved that because we wanted the mission house to be a safe place for our sweet DR community.

However, we realize how valuable our solitude is for us now. God has used this gift of time to restore what the enemy tried to destroy.

Most days, I make a home cooked lunch for Mo and I.  He schedules his day around this.  It is a time that is just for the two of us.  Occasionally, because of life, we can’t do this but we usually have this time 4 out of 5 days.

Then, between 3 and 4 o’clock, Mo comes back home, and we have coffee together, either at our kitchen table or sitting in the rocking chairs on our front porch.  We have really taken this time to unpack some tough stuff, some hurt emotions, and some dreams and desires for the future. We have learned to listen to one another (mostly) and laugh together again.

These two times in each day are so valuable and precious to us now.  We are so thankful that God is allowing this time of quiet, stillness in our marriage.  We are so thankful that our marriage is so important to Him that He would give us such a gift of time. He really does love us THAT much!

 

***I would love to hear the small ways in which you connect with your spouse***


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Just Visiting

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I guess this is segment 1 to publicly writing about our transition, the victories and struggles that have come from returning from the mission field and the messy aftermath of it all.  I will write about the physical challenges that I have *hopefully* begun to overcome, the various emotions that come from readjusting to a known, but now, unfamiliar culture, and working through spiritual wounds that have ripped so many of our beliefs wide open.

One of the hardest parts of returning from the mission field to the city from which you left is this subconscious belief/expectation that you are simply returning to your old life. BUT, you’re not…not even close.  We were gone for almost 5 years. Although our life here had been paused, no one else’s had.

For us, also, EVERYTHING has changed.

Our home is MUCH smaller.  Our bank account is MUCH smaller. We are restarting our business from the ground up AGAIN. Our friend circle is (necessarily) MUCH smaller.  Since we left our former church, we no longer have a church community, which has been necessary for certain healing to take place right now.

AND…

The BIG one that we are learning is that WE are no longer the same people who left this city and this life. We are trying to navigate a familiar place and space with unfamiliar selves. Until we learn who we are now and what we now believe about church, religion, money, and the U.S. lifestyle, we will continue to feel like visitors of our own lives.

This is our current rumble.  It is messy and beautiful all in one.  God is meeting us where we are.  He is speaking to us.  Sometimes, He gives us the answers, guidance, and kick in the butt that we need.  Other times, He just pulls up floor space next to us and sits in the sludge quietly with us.  And…that’s ok too!

 


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A place of healing

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When God began to close the door on our season in La Represa, I clearly heard him say,

“I am taking you into a time of rest and healing.

Do not worry. I am preparing a home for you.”

I came to the U.S. for a visit specifically to find a house and purchase furniture. We literally had nothing to start our life over in the U.S. We had sold everything that we owned before moving to the DR.

MY plan had been to find a house early on so that I would know what furniture would fit and purchase what we needed. I was driving around town hoping to find a “For Rent” sign. By the 2nd week, I continued to come up empty.  I was worried and stressed.  I began to cry and thought, “God, you said that you were preparing a home for us.  Where is it???”

At that exact moment, the song, Stillby Hillary Scott, came on.  These lyrics felt like God speaking to my weary, unbelieving soul:

You’re moving mountains that I don’t even see
You’ve answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still

Yeah, I hear ya, God! “Being still” for my type A personality is difficult.  I had a mission.  I needed to do something.  Yet…

He asked me to just “Be Still”.

Once again, God was growing and stretching me. He was pointing out that I was still struggling with trust and unbelief.

So, I stopped “doing” and began to “be still”, which, in turn, helped me to thoroughly enjoy my U.S. visit. On the very last day of my visit, I signed a rental agreement on our house.

This home has been more than we could have ever asked for!  It is small (much smaller than the house in which we lived prior to moving to the DR).  We could probably fit 2 1/2 of these homes into our prior house.  However, that’s just it:  That house was just a house.  This house is a home.  We love this home because it is perfect for us!  Rarely does a day go by that I don’t say to Mo or one of the kids, “I just love our home so much!”

It has become a place where I can sit in Jesus’ lap and rest.  In this home, I have wrestled God until my soul felt like it was bleeding. It has become a place where many tears have fallen as I have begun to heal physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It is a place where God has ask me to “Be still and be quiet”.  It has been another place and another time in which God has taught me to be obedient…where He has taught me humility…where He has broken me in ways that only He could heal me.

He has shown me that He has been moving mountains that I couldn’t see, and He has been answering prayers before I could even speak.

Now, it is time to talk.  Now, it is time to share the physical, emotional, and spiritual fight that I have been fighting….

 


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A Wall of Warriors

warriorOne thing that I hope everyone knows about me is that I am real.  What you see on social media will be the same thing that you see in my “real life”.  You won’t hear spiritual platitudes coming from my mouth.  I won’t say things just to placate you.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

The reason that I am saying this is because I need all of you to know that.  I hope to show as much of the good, bad, and ugly of me that is socially acceptable.  (Let’s all face it…only your closest of friends see it all!) My hope is that by being honest and vulnerable that you can see God at work.  My hope is that through my own personal struggles and angst that you can see God working in and through me.  My hope is that this gives you hope and points you to the one that seeks your heart!

Yesterday, I posted a plea for prayer on FB.  Over the past month, we have been getting attacked from all sides in ways that we have not made public.  The same thing happened when we were entering the mission field.  We have been a bit shocked that it is happening as we are leaving the field to enter a season of rest and healing. We feel that we aren’t much of a threat right now and couldn’t understand why we were under siege.

Hermanas en Cristo has been doing the War Room bible study, and our recent Women’s Retreat’s theme was “This is War!”, with our focus on becoming Prayer Warriors.  For anyone that has not read Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent, she talks about how satan attacks us in all areas of our life to distract us so that we will lose our focus on God. He uses problems in our marriage, our relationships and our finances to distract us.  He wants to take away our passion and our energy so we won’t have the strength to fight.  He uses others to remind us of who we were in our past. Once he distracts and weakens us, then he goes in for the kill.

That is where I was yesterday…distracted and depleted!

How can we fight against that?  Through prayer and scripture!!!

I heard God say, “Ask for help!  Surround your family with a Wall of Prayer Warriors!”.

I needed to “practice what I preach”.

As I reached out on FB, I was nervous for laying it out there for all to see.  I was weak, vulnerable, and sinking! I was nervous about being judged for “being weak in my faith” (<—don’t get me started on that! That is for another day, another post).

We were overwhelmed by love and support! We received so many private messages and words of encouragement, and so many people began praying for us. It did feel like we had a Wall of Prayer Warriors all around us.  It gave us strength to refocus on Him.

There are going to be times in our lives where we don’t have strength to fight alone.  God is always with us and always faithful.  I believe that is why He also provides us with Prayer Warriors to surround us and protect us as we refocus on Him.  God also uses these times to grow and mold us.  He will never let our pain occur in vain.  He always uses that for His good.  God is teaching me to be vulnerable, bold, and to live without fear of judgment. He is teaching me not to listen to what others say about who I am, but to believe who He says I am.  He is showing me that I am not the sum of all of my past mistakes and failures. I hope that my moments of weakness can serve as a testament for Him.  I hope that you can see that no one is perfect in their walk with Christ.  Yes, I definitely hope that you do not see a “perfect Christian”, but that you see a broken person that NEEDS Jesus! I hope that you can see the new story that God is beginning to weave into our lives. I hope to continue to focus and rest in Him.  I hope that you can see that He will always turn something beautiful from the ashes to glorify His name!


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Q & A: Part 2

Now for Part 2 of the Q & A.  If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.  We will periodically do these posts if there is enough interest.

Beth asked: “I see you with crispy cream donuts….do they have like american food places? And how do they drive? Can you watch our american channels on TV……I could go on and on”

Kay also asked: “What’s the food like there?”

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We live in the campo (aka country) that is about 1 hour outside of Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic. The main dishes that most families eat here are rice & beans, and chicken.  Salami is also very popular here, and we typically eat salami sandwiches or salami and eggs for lunch.  However, when we are feeling the effects of living in a 3rd world country and need some semblance of our old life, we make a trip to the capital.  We do our grocery shopping and usually grab a bite to eat.  There are many American restaurants there, such as Wendy’s, MacDonald’s, Chili’s, Outback, Johnny Rockets, and many more.

Traffic is INSANE!!!  Seriously, there are very few traffic rules that are followed.  Basically, it’s all man for himself and can be quite frightening!  Most of the time, we say it’s like playing the game Frogger.  We have to avoid other cars, people, and motorcycles at all times.

As far as TV, some of our neighbors have satellite TV.  My family does not have any type of cable/satellite.  We do have a TV and one of those Apple TV device thingies.  With satellite TV, you can get many American channels.  Most are in Spanish but you can get English subtitles.  We have chosen, for now, not to spend the money on satellite TV.  If we want to watch a movie, we download it on iTunes.  Hulu does not stream here.  I hear that Netflix does now but does not have a large selection here.  Mo watches sports using frontrowsports.com.

 

Kristy asked: Are you able to see if our sponsor children are near you ?”
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Yes, all of the sponsor children live in this community.  For those that don’t know what this means, “sponsor children” are the children that attend the private school with which our church partners.  In order for many of the students to attend this school, they need to be sponsored because their families cannot afford the tuition.  Through an organization called Vision Trust, people living all over the world can sponsor the students here.  All gifts and supplies that are sent to these students must go through the Vision Trust organization.  However, if you want to know more about your sponsor child or want pictures, just message me.  Many people will ask us to set up Skype dates with their sponsor children.

Kristy also asked:  “What is your favorite thing about your new home?”

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When you say “home”, I think that you are talking about the country that I now live, not the actual block structure.  There is so much that I love about my new home.  Number 1, my neighbors are amazing with the biggest, most loving hearts that you will ever find!  Number 2, it is gorgeous here!  The picture above was taken from my back porch.  Number 3, they have siesta here from 12:00-2:00!  Seriously, U.S., you are missing the ball on this one!  This is the time of the day that most of the families return home, eat lunch, and rest before returning back to work/school.  LOVE that time of day!!!

 

Lara asked: I’d like to know some of your favorite recipes!”

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As I mentioned before, I am not much of a cook.  Many of the women here have TRIED to teach me how to make Dominican dishes such as Moro con guandules (rice and beans) and chicken.  I still can’t do it!  I do make one dish that my family and I enjoy.  First, you have to have this magic pot (because it rocks)!  Fill it will potatoes, carrots, onions, fresh cilantro, a special Dominican spice, chicken, and water.  Then cook it for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  It’s delish…and so easy!!!  I can do easy!

Of course…last, but not least…

Lexie asked: How does it feel to have an amazing daughter like me?”

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Gosh, Lex….there are just no words to describe the joy it is to have such a beautiful, talented, funny young lady as my daughter!


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Q & A: Part 1

We get a lot of questions about what our life here in the DR is like.  I posted a question on Facebook the other day asking people for questions that they would like to have answered for a blog post.  Well…here are some of them:

Wendy asked:  “Are the girls homeschooled?”IMG_5981 - Version 2

Yes, they are homeschooled in the afternoons for their American studies.  In the eyes of the US, my kids are enrolled in Homelife Academy.  However, in the mornings from 8:00-12:00, they attend the Dominican private school, that our church helped build.  The school only goes up to 8th grade.  Lexie is in 7th so she will be there for one more year.  At Homelife Academy, Lauren is a 9th grader.  She decided that she didn’t want to be the only American girl at the Dominican high school so she stayed at the private school in 8th grade this year.  They attend the DR school for social interaction and to improve their Spanish.  They are technically getting 4 hours of Spanish a day so you can imagine how incredibly fluent they are.  Next year, Lauren will be exclusively homeschooled and will be an assistant librarian with me.

Dawn asked:  “What are some of the things you must do differently there? Such as laundry, and other daily task.”

My friend, Shawn's, washing machine

My friend, Shawn’s, washing machine

Chores here take much longer than in the states.  Above is a picture of a Dominican washing machine.  It’s called a semi-automatic washing machine.  This is the way it works:  Fill up the left basin with water and add your detergent.  Insert you clothes and let them wash.  Then remove the clothes and place them in the basin to the right.  This will spin the water out of them.  While they are spinning, drain the water in the left basin.  Then fill it up again with water and add fabric softener.  Remove the clothes when they are done spinning and place them into the left basin.  When they are done, then place them back into the spin basin.  Then hang them on the line.  Repeat the process for EACH LOAD OF CLOTHES! Exhausting, yes…but Mo helps with this and we have a washing machine.  Many of our neighbors do not.  They either put their clothes in a bucket to wash and rinse using water from an outdoor faucet, or they go to the river to wash their clothes.

We have no air conditioning so our windows and doors are always open.  Because of this, our house is ALWAYS dusty.  I could literally dust and mop twice a day but only do it once a day, in the mornings.  So, every single morning, I dust, sweep, and mop our house…every inch of it.  I don’t know if most of you do that in the states but I didn’t.  Dusting got done once a week, and I mopped a few times a week as needed.

Cooking…oh, cooking!  Most everyone that knows me knows that I loathe cooking and am not very good at it!  I tend to forget that I am doing it, get distracted by something else, and burn most everything that I cook.  Yeah, whatever!  We don’t have fast food restaurants near us…actually we don’t have any restaurants within a 20 minute drive from us.  We used to have a pizza restaurant about 10-15 minutes away but that was short lived.  It was open about 4 months!  I think that my family and Kristi and Keely were it’s only customers.  That being said, we have to cooked most all meals (unless we go to the Capital).  This has been quite trying for me to learn.  Luckily, Mo is a wonderful cook and is like the MacGyver of the kitchen.  Once again, many of you in the states do this every single day for every single meal but I didn’t.  We ate out several times a week in the states.

I have mentioned before that women are not called “housewives” here.  They are called “amante de la casa” which translates to “Lover of the home”.  I have to agree that the process of doing chores here creates a love for your home.  I have finally found joy in all of this! :O)

Michele asked: “Here’s one for you, how did you find such a great hair stylist down there? Your new “do” looks fantastic! So bouncy and curly!”

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We found a salon at a mall in Santo Domingo.  This lady is Dominican and is a magician!  I LOVE the haircut but have yet to be able to style it to be “bouncy and curly” on my own.  I am going back to her this week to try to figure out what kind of magic she used! Oh, and thanks so much for the compliment!

 

These are only a few of the questions.  I will be posting others in a future post.  If you have questions, comment below!

 


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One year ago today…

Today is our one year anniversary of living in the DR.  We have prepared a video to share the highlights of this past year.  Enjoy!