So. Much. Anger.

Man, since we’ve been back on American soil, I can’t get over how much angrier people are. I don’t even like getting on Facebook anymore- it’s depressing and a little ridiculous. I get that everyone has opinions and that is fine, but since when did it become okay to shame anyone who believes differently than you? I think I prefer the old Facebook when people would bore you with posting about what they ate for dinner.

I guess it’s the sense of entitlement that’s getting to me. After living and doing missions overseas for so many years, it’s hard to not be judgmental of how spoiled Americans have become. Compared to countless other countries, the U.S. is blessed beyond belief. It just seems like rather than being grateful for our freedom, we feel the need to protest anyone and anything that we don’t agree with.

Anyway, I don’t want to rant and add to the noise, so that’s all I’ll say about that. Since being back, I’ve been thinking about how to respond to all the anger. I’ll be honest, sometimes I’d love to just post all my opinions on Facebook and tell the world what they should believe, but clearly that’s not working for anyone. So I keep wondering, how does a follower of Christ respond to all of this? Because honestly, I know a lot of people that claim to be Christians that aren’t acting all that much like Jesus when it comes to politics.

So far I’ve come to two conclusions on how I want to respond. First, continually try to create a culture of honor. Honor Jesus and honor others. Respect those in authority and those that have different opinions that me- even if they haven’t really earned that respect. Second, live out my faith. Rather than spouting off useless opinions and trying to be heard, be proactive in making a change. If I’m shouting about being pro-life, but I’m not willing to do anything to help pregnant women or kids in high-risk situations, somewhere there is a disconnect. If I’m screaming about the immigration ban, but I’m unwilling to support teams working on the ground in countries with countless refugees, somewhere there is a disconnect.

Basically, try to spend my time being the remedy instead of just talking about it.

I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I do know that I want to look more like Jesus and pursue things that are close to God’s heart. Surely that will speak far louder than any Facebook rant ever could.

Image Credit: NY Daily News

 

 

 

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Costa Ricans vs. Cold Weather

Seeing as the average annual temperature in Costa Rica is between 70-80 degrees, it’s no wonder the Ticos have a bit of a warped concept of cold weather. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  1. It is incredibly common to see a baby wearing fleece pajamas, wrapped in fleece blankets, and wearing a cotton hat on days that it is 75 degrees.
  2. Hats, gloves, and coats on children and adults alike are more than acceptable for any temperature under 65 degrees.
  3. Children shouldn’t go barefoot because it is incredibly unhealthy for them to walk on “cold” tile floors.
  4. You should never change a baby out of their pajamas when they first wake up because their body needs time to adjust to the morning “chill.”

Taking these things into consideration, naturally there was some concern as to how Albin, Mariah, and our dogs were going to adjust to the winter weather. I mean, in CR Mariah was pretty used to running around half-naked and barefoot (until sundown of course) and our dogs would shiver indoors if it was anything below 60 degrees outdoors.

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First snow!

We get asked all. the. time. from people how everyone is adjusting to Ohio winters. The answer: we should all thank God I’m not from Minnesota.

My favorite quote from Albin about the cold so far has been, “It goes straight through your pants and right to your bones.” Yes Albin, yes it does.

Mariah seemed unaffected at first, but is clearly annoyed by the amount of clothing she is required to wear these days. She has also been known to hang out by the heat vents.  In regards to snow, she was impressed at first until she actually went outside. Ten minutes later she was back in the house crying about her hands being cold.

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Just hanging around the heat vent

The dogs? Well I think they hate us. They mainly hang out in front of a space heater.

The irony? I’ve become the biggest wimp of them all. I’m always cold. Go figure.

The good news is that God knows and has blessed us with some really mild weather for January. Clearly in His mercy, He knew we’d need some unseasonably warm days to give us hope that we can survive in this frozen tundra bahaha.

So here’s to hot chocolate, heat vents, and warmer mittens for Mariah. May we all come out hardier on the other side ;).

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Warming our buns…

 

Raising our Kids with a “Legacy List”

As we start a new year, I’ve inevitably begun thinking about things I want for this coming year. Since my  track record with New Year’s resolutions is shaky at best (ie. thinking I’d do the whole 30 diet for all of January was a joke last year), I’m trying to keep it simple this year.

Over a year ago, I posted a list of legacies I wanted to live out with my family. That post must have struck a cord with a lot of parents out there because it received a lot of blog love. That list is obviously near and dear to my heart as well, so I wanted to revisit it to remind myself for the coming year. Not only that, but I would love to give you some ideas for how to make your own legacy list.

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Make Your List

My list was comprised of 10 values we wanted for our kids. I could have brainstormed a longer list, but I kept the list to 10 so I could prioritize and not be overwhelmed by setting an unattainable amount of goals. I picked an overarching statement: “I want my kids to grow up knowing how to love well” and based my top 10 off of that. Choose priorities for your family based on your main goal. For us, faith is a top priority, so that took the first couple slots. The rest are characteristics and values that we hope will teach them to love God, love others, and love who they’ve been created to be. Here is my list:

  1. Worshipers of God
  2. Live out the gospel 
  3. Adventurers and explorers
  4. Culturally-aware
  5. Family time to be important and fun
  6. Individuals
  7. Respectful
  8. Hard-workers that know making mistakes is okay.
  9. A sense of humor
  10. Little givers

Explain What Each Item Looks Like 

You don’t have to go into a lot of depth here, but it’s good to verbalize what each priority looks like in everyday life. It’s easy to say you want “respectful kids”, but how would you define that? Jot down a few ideas for how this might look so that you’ll be able to set clear goals for how to attain a certain value. Here is an example of one of mine:

We want culturally-aware kids. Obviously, we love cultures and love learning about them. We

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Paella at a Spanish Restaurant

want our kids to appreciate our Costa Rican and American cultures; but we also want them to have a love for all people. We hope they want to learn new customs, try new foods, learn new languages, and see new places. Obviously, we won’t allow racism in our house, but we want it to go above and beyond that–which means showing our kids how to be open-minded, accepting of cultural differences, and interested in the lives of others that are different from us.

 

Explain How to Instill Each Value

This is where you get to put your desires into action. I’d imagine you can des-

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Our daughter and foster son

ire to be a really great parent, but that desire has to be paired with action. After each priority and it’s description, I included a practical way that Albin and I were going to try to instill each value in our kids. Here is an example from our hope that our kids would learn to live out
the gospel like Jesus did:

We want this to be like second nature to them, so we’ve started to live like this: stopping to give away groceries to people begging, fostering needy kids, going onto the streets on Saturdays to talk with the hopeless, finding ways we can stand up for justice, etc.

 

The Results After One Year

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Scarlet Macaws at an Animal Refuge Adventure

Amazing. I am incredibly thankful I made this list because it helped our family live out so many things during 2016 that we may not have made a priority otherwise. For example, we want our kids to be adventurers and explorers. To make that a reality, we started going on at least one family adventure a month. We started planning our monthly adventures and putting them on the calendar and they quickly became a priority. As a result, we made some amazing family memories and we looked forward to time together.

So as we look forward to 2017, I’m excited about our little family and about being a parent. I love that God entrusted me with little lives to care for and I want to do that to the best of my ability. This little list has helped me set and meet attainable “goals” for our family, and as I look back over our progress, I’ve seen my own confidence as a mom be raised. Some days are great and some days I feel like I’m failing, but I’m reminded that all those days are worth cherishing.

There’s More to the Story

Three months.

That’s how long we’ve been back in the U.S. and squatting at my parents’ house. We have loved being here with family, experiencing fall, and just resting- but I’m sure it’s not a surprise that the transition has been difficult as well. There is a lot to process, a myriad of emotions, and a lot of uncertainty. I’d like to think it is culture shock, but there’s nothing really shocking about where we’re at right now.

Recently Al and I have been in a weird place. While we love being here and are so thankful for my parents’ willingness to let us live here, we are wondering why we’re here and what is next. We feel like God told us to come back to the U.S.- specifically to Atlanta. He worked out everything for us to come back in amazing ways, but now that we’re here, we’re a little lost.

We don’t feel like we can move to Atlanta quite yet because I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I have to see my high-risk specialist weekly due to what happened when Mariah was born. We don’t feel like we can settle down here and have Al get a real job because we feel like we’re supposed to go to Atlanta. Several doors have closed for temporary jobs for Albin. Our house hasn’t sold in Costa Rica despite numerous people interested. The position we hoped for in Atlanta as houseparents is no longer an option since my due date is a day before the position was to begin.

It’s just confusing.

We’ve found ourselves huddling up with the Lord and asking Him what is going on. A little part of our hearts has wondered if maybe we didn’t hear Him correctly about the whole moving back thing. Why would He take us away from our community, our fostering ministry, our house, etc. and then bring us here to do seemingly nothing? It feels like we’re wasting precious time. We know the Lord has called us to open up our home and our family to those without families, but we can’t do that being unemployed and in a temporary living situation. It just doesn’t make sense right now.

Yesterday morning we had planned to try a new Hispanic church in hopes of finding some Spanish speaking community. We didn’t end up making it to church because Mariah woke up in the middle of night vomiting everywhere. Instead, we decided to listen to a sermon and God spoke straight to our hearts through it. The pastor spoke about how there is always more to the story than what is currently seen. It’s easy to get caught up on a “scene” of our story, rather than the whole story itself. We can’t possibly know how God is working in our little steps of faith to set the future in motion. He is constantly working in our lives to make our story much grander than we could have imagined.

That was a great reminder for us last night. This “scene” in our lives seems a little anti-climactic and. it’s. okay. This is only part of our story and God is setting things in motion because we stepped out in faith. I am ashamed to admit I’ve kind of been like the Israelites in the desert; whenever things got rough, they asked God why He brought them out of Egypt if they were just going to starve, die of thirst, etc. They had seen Him part the Red Sea and do tons of miracles, yet they were worried that He wouldn’t provide for them. It’s incredibly easy to judge them until  I realize that God worked everything out for us to move back and we’ve seen Him do miracles, yet the moment things look a little confusing, I start asking if it wouldn’t have been better if He’d just left us in CR. Lame.

So that’s where we’re at. I have hope that someday I will look back on this post and be able to testify that this period of transition in our lives was just a part of the story. I know God will fulfill His purpose for us and I’m resting in that.

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Back…with a Little Surprise

Well, we made it to America. I just might have teared up when we went through immigration in Atlanta and Albin was welcomed as a legal resident. I mean, it took a lot of work to get here, so the tears may have been merited…but I’ve also been pretty emotional these days. About two weeks before we left Costa Rica, I was working on insurance paperwork and had to answer a question about whether or not I was pregnant. I hesitated for a hot second on that question. I’d been really tired, but I figured it was because of the whole moving to another country thing. Nope. I took a pregnancy test and that double line showed up loud and clear.

We were pretty surprised, but then again, God seems to like throwing us a curve ball or two. Keeps life interesting. We’re excited though. Just embracing the transition in Ohio and trying to survive morning (all day) sickness. I’m 14 weeks and praying the nausea and vomiting calms down soon- but most of all, thankful for a healthy pregnancy. Despite wanting to puke my guts out most of the time, we’ve had fun. We made a trip to Chicago, went camping , and I’ve been able to introduce Albin and Mariah to all things fall. Mariah celebrated her second birthday here and is enjoying being spoiled rotten by my family. It’s nice to have free baby-sitters as I’ve milked my first trimester for all its worth. As far as our future plans- they are a little up in the air right now because this new baby might change our timeline, but we’re trusting God with the details.

One of these days I’m going to post about transitioning back to the U.S., but I just wanted to put a quick update out there and announce our exciting news. God is always so good.

 

Regrouping…

This past weekend we decided to do a little family “regrouping.”Not surprisingly, moving to another country can be pretty complicated and things have been pretty nuts around here. On top of that, having to say goodbye to our foster son was emotional and left us feeling a little out of sorts for a few days. We aren’t unaware that fostering implies something temporary, but frankly, it is weird to do life with two babies for ten months and then to suddenly go back to bathing/feeding/taking care of one child.

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Mariah wore those sunglasses the whole weekend… loves ’em

So naturally, we decided to go to the beach…because obviously the beach is a great place for a family regroup session. We found a deal on the Costa Rican equivalent of Groupon and we high-tailed it out of the city. We had an incredible time together. We had great weather, great food, and time to process and take a step back from the madness for a second. Minus Mariah pooping in the beautiful pool (which was mortifying I can assure you), our trip was nearly perfect and I’m so thankful.

We’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to make a little getaway a family tradition each time we transition a foster child out of our home. Sort of a way to process and reconnect with each other. It was a quick, three-day trip, but it did wonders for our souls.

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So many answers…

Just a quick update because A LOT has happened in the last week. God has been showing off these last few days which is giving us a lot of peace.

  • Saturday we were able to meet the beautiful family that J will go to live with. I was pretty anxious, but we were so surprised to find out that they weren’t complete strangers! They actually went to high school with Albin  :). So not only were they a wonderful family, but we’ll also be able to keep in regular contact with them to know how our sweet baby is doing. He will go to live with them this Saturday, but we have so much peace now. I LOVE seeing God’s hand.
  • There was some confusion about when we would be able to fly home because of a check we needed from Al’s employer. We heard from HR and were given the green light for them to deposit into his account rather than him needing to go and pick up the check…which means we will be able to fly home in time for some family events we really wanted to be home for.
  • Since we had the green light from work, I started seriously looking for flights. I’ve been searching for the last couple months and was anticipating to pay around $1000 for all three of us to fly home. I prayed in the morning that God would make it incredibly obvious which day we should fly and later that day I found a great flight that was half as much. I spent $540 for all three of us to fly home. Just huge.
  • As a lot of you know, we’re still in the process of selling our house. We really want to sell it before we leave, but we also felt like we should buy our tickets for September- so we bought our tickets in faith that God will sell our house in His perfect time. We hadn’t heard much over the last few weeks, but in the last four days we have had four showings (two of those with the same family because they wanted to see it again!). No one has made an offer yet, but we know at least two of those families were extremely interested, so please pray that they would make an offer so we can close on the house by mid-September.

In short, this week has been encouraging and peace-giving. Even in regards to selling our our furniture and finding a dog flight kennel for cheap (which is not easy in CR), God has been aligning this thing for us in incredible ways. There was never any doubt that God was guiding this process, but it is doubly- exciting when He shows off.

So that’s where we’re at. We have about a month to finish everything up and say goodbye. Obviously there are a lot of mixed feelings, but man, its a relief to know a Sovereign God has it all in His hands.

Moving Back to ‘Merica

It’s true! We’re in the process of moving back to the U.S.

I’m probably more shocked than you are.

I’ve been overseas for almost eight years and the thought of moving back seems rather surreal, but Albin had his residency interview at the U.S. embassy on Tuesday and he was approved! If you don’t have regular contact with us, you might be surprised that I’m just now posting about this without having mentioned it before, but we didn’t want to advertise it until we knew for sure.

I’ll save the whole story for another post, but in short, we feel like God is leading us back to the U.S. There were many things that happened that led us up to the decision to apply for Al’s residency. After a lot of prayer, we decided to move forward with the paperwork and see if God was going to open the door. He has and we’re going to walk through it, trusting that He knows what is best for our family.

Obviously the next several months are going to be big for us. We would totally appreciate your prayers. The U.S. gives approved immigrants six months to enter into the U.S., so we need to be home by November. Here are the specific things we are praying about:

  • Our foster son. He is now eight and half months old and we’ve had him since birth. He was recently declared abandoned and the biological family has not appealed the decision, but for some reason, social services hasn’t taken steps to move forward with his case. As many of you know, Costa Rica does not allow foster parents to adopt children in their care (we know, it is absolutely ludicrous). While we would LOVE to adopt him, unless God does a miracle (which we totally know He can if He wants), he will most likely be adopted out to another family chosen from the long waiting list here in Costa Rica. Please pray for him and us as we trust the Lord with J’s life. We know God brought him into our lives for these last eight months for a purpose and we are willing to accept whatever God decides in regards to who will receive our sweet baby boy.

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  • Our transition. We are super excited about this change, but are also aware that it is a huge transition for our family. I’ve been overseas for a long time and Albin has never lived outside of Costa Rica, so we definitely need to prepare our hearts. I know I’ve become a different person and view the world differently than I did eight years ago, and the United States is a whole new world for Al and Mariah. Plus, there are a lot of details, things to do and a lot of emotions.

So that is where we’re at right now. We have a vague idea of where/what God has for us once we get settled, but for now, we’re focused on now. We know He has plans and we trust Him in that. Today as we were having a little family worship session/dance party, we put on a song that we sang over Mariah a million times when she was in the NICU as a newborn. At one point she raised her hands to the sky and started spinning in circles. As I watched her dance to the song I sang over her two years ago when God miraculously healed her, I was reminded again that God holds our lives in His hands and He is sovereign over everything. And that’s where we find peace in the midst of the unknown.

 

Traveling with Toddlers

Back when I was a parenting expert (before I had kids, obviously), I was totally judgmental of those moms whose kids were throwing tantrums in public. I often thought, “I will never allow my kids to act like that.”

Then I became I parent.

A few weeks ago, Mariah and I flew home for my sister’s engagement and my kid was that kid. I mean, I guess I thought traveling was in her blood and that the whole ordeal would be a piece of cake. In my head, my strong-willed, squirmy, on-her-own-program, 18-month old daughter would sit calmly in my lap for six hours and enjoy our relaxing travel day without complaint.

I was so very wrong. No amount of fun little activities I had painstakingly stuffed into our carry-on could tame the beast. The back-arching, bloody-murder-screaming version of Mariah had decided to join me that day. My first mistake was booking a super early flight and thinking Mariah would just fall asleep because she was so tired. She entered into the dreaded overtired, crank mode and let me hear about it up until she finally fell asleep on the first flight AS THE PLANE WAS LANDING. My second mistake was thinking that the cute little teddy backpack with a leash on it was a good idea. Independent toddlers don’t do leashes. Most of the time she was trying to turn around to get it off her and the one time we actually made forward progress, she tripped and I accidentally ended up dragging her a few steps. I felt like that terrible mom on CNN. We promptly trashed the leash after that little disaster.

My third mistake was thinking that a two hour layover was long enough to get through immigration in Miami. The sweet businessman who tried to help me with my screaming child was kind enough to point out my folly. Apparently Miami has a horrible reputation for immigration lines. As we inched through the turnstiles, Mariah became more and more agitated and it became more and more apparent that we were going to miss our flight. Then, my toddler just completely and mercilessly lost it. Flashbacks of me judging other moms paraded before my eyes as I watched my offspring scream and roll on the floor. As I looked on totally defeated and attempted to pretend Mariah was someone else’s kid, the woman behind me said, “It’s humbling, huh?” She went on to say she had five kids but today she was traveling alone and that she totally felt my pain. God bless her. I was humbled and so thankful she wasn’t looking at me with judgey-eyes.

Right then, an immigration officer came up to me and said, “Ma’am, you can go to the front.” I’m pretty sure my eyes filled with grateful tears. “Thank you,” I gushed, “I am about to miss my flight!” Her rude reply, and I kid you not, was: “I’m not letting you go to the front because you’re about to miss your flight, I’m letting you go because your kid is screaming.”  (Thank you, Mariah).

So we made it to our flight on time. I was pouring sweat from hightailing it across the airport with my chunky kid in her demented umbrella stroller (it’s a piece of crap) and a huge diaper bag, but we made it. We boarded the plane and ended up getting stuck on the tarmac for an hour. Just about the time I started regretting my decision to not take Pinterest’s advice and make goody-bags to beg for mercy from the innocent passengers around us, the captain said we were cleared and we took off. And she slept. Praise Jesus, she slept.

My fourth mistake was sharing a hotel room with my parents while we were in DC. Mariah was obviously out of sorts and wasn’t sleeping well. One night she had two night terrors. I’m pretty positive she woke up the whole Hampton Inn both times. She wakes up screaming and you can’t get her to calm down because she’s not really awake. It takes about twenty minutes for it to pass. The first time, as I’m trying to calm her down, my dad rolls over in his bed and tries to say something but it comes out totally incoherent. I believe he asked, “Well, is she in bed or not?”

What does that even mean? My mom told him to shut up and go back to sleep. Mom and I finally calmed her down and she fell back asleep. Two hours later, she woke up screaming again. This time, my totally rational father asks if we realize people are trying to sleep. No dad, I didn’t. In fact, I pinched her so she would scream and wake everyone up. Then my favorite question came:  “Id see poop?” My mom and I looked at each other. “Did he say ‘poop?’” He swallowed and said it more clearly, “Did she poop?”

What da heck? “What does that have to do with anything?” I snapped. He “reasoned” that maybe she woke up screaming because she was constipated. Obviously. Because toddlers always have night terrors when they haven’t pooped.

Anyway, we finally calmed Mariah (and my dad) down and got back in bed. Suddenly my mom started with the sniffly-giggles. She was laughing so hard the bed was shaking. She started imitating my dad, hissing “Id see poop?” and I lost it. We were howling with laughter. My dad twitched and told us to “sut-up” from the other bed. This sent us into another fit of hysterics that surely had the neighbors asking for a full refund the next morning. We were a hot mess.

The good news is we all survived. My sister said yes, we had a great weekend, and yes, Mariah did poop (I know you were worried). I was definitely humbled by my toddler being that kid on the plane, in the airport, in the hotel, etc, etc., but I guess I had it coming for my pre-mom self giving judgey-eyes to other people.  Now that I am so very aware of how little of a parenting expert I actually am, there is so much less pressure to be perfect and so much more grace for the eternity of mom fails I commit daily (sigh of relief).

To all the moms out there who just said, “Amen”: don’t beat yourself up. You are doing enough. Sometimes you’ve done all you can do and your kid will still go buck wild in an airport here and there. And to those who aren’t parent yet, take this as a reminder to have compassion in those moments.

 

January Adventures

In January we had two great family adventures that we would totally recommend if you live in the central valley of CR. Both outings were fun and cheap- which counts as a major success for this mama.

One Saturday we hit a park called Bosque de la Hoja (Leaf Forest), where we had a picnic, hiked, and Mariah went down a playground slide a thousand times. The trails were just long enough to feel like we got some exercise and the picnic area was really nice.

On another Saturday, some friends invited us out for a play date at the Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum). The museum is an old, restored prison, which I thought was cool (the baby room was in an old jail cell lol). The last time I was there, I was on a field trip with 25 kindergartners and I was more concerned about one of them running away or dying than I was enjoying my time…so needless to say, this time around was much more relaxing. Highlights of the trip: the little kid grocery store they had set up (adorbs), the archaeological sand “dig” where you could dig up a fake (human) skeleton (weird. Why couldn’t we dig up dinosaurs and not dead people?), and an excellent cheeseburger on the way home from Bobby’s Burgers. Overall, it was a win for everyone.

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