Our Second Miscarriage

Life can feel unbelievably out of control sometimes. The trials of the last week arrived fast, unannounced, and unwelcomed–disrupting a somewhat peaceful season we were enjoying. It reminded me of swimming in a calm ocean when suddenly a dangerous undercurrent comes along and attempts to drag you away from the shore. When you try to stand up or swim to the safety of the beach, another wave comes and you barely have enough time to catch a breath before the next rolling wave threatens to pull you under. And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re left panting on the beach wondering what the heck just happened.

Ever since we received our newborn foster baby, I’ve suspected a milk allergy. Long story short and fast forward to four months later, I finally got a reference for him to have an appointment at the public children’s hospital. That day I went to pick up the reference and expected to quickly (well, as quickly as you can run an errand at a public healthcare institution in CR) make an appointment with the specialist for later in the week. After waiting in lines for about two hours (because you can’t call and make the appointment), a receptionist told me they had spoken with the doctor and felt the baby’s condition was serious and that he needed to be admitted. I was a little more than surprised and suddenly really nervous since they took him from me immediately for testing. The pediatrician had been telling me I was overreacting for four months and suddenly his condition was serious? Hours later, after explaining and re-explaining that he was a foster child and what that meant (fostering is very uncommon here), then filling out paperwork, he was assigned a bed and I called Albin and our social worker to tell them what was going on. I was so completely overwhelmed by the public hospital, the millions of questions in my second language, and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to pee or eat all day. I was also a little concerned because my period was several days late and I was starting to feel a little “off.”

I had to go home that night, so I picked up a pregnancy test and we got a positive result. We were so excited but that literally topped off my emotional overload for the day and I passed out in five minutes. The next morning we were back at the hospital early and found out that the baby did have a milk protein allergy. Later in the day, he was discharged. Thanks to Socialism, our taxes covered his care and a prescription for 10 cans of extremely hypoallergenic formula that they will provide us with each month, which is a huge blessing because each small can costs roughly $50 each. We left tired and happy, and mildly concerned because I had experienced some light spotting that day.

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$50???

A few days later, the spotting had become more pronounced, so my doctor sent me for a blood test. As I am getting the blood drawn, Albin called and all I could hear him say above the sound of screaming babies was that our bathroom tub was leaking everywhere onto the laminate floors and concrete walls and that the plumber was taking a jackhammer  to the tub in order to be able to get to the leaking pipes. I rushed home to water and mud all over my floors, screaming kids, the insurance company calling, Albin running out to get something the plumber needed … all the while bleeding and fearing the worst.

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The black hole that was our bath tub…

The next day I received my blood results and my pregnancy hormone was low. My doctor said that either I was earlier in my pregnancy than I thought and experiencing implantation bleeding, or I was going to miscarry. She said there was absolutely nothing I could do.

That night, the mild labor pains started. My first miscarriage was before I had Mariah, so I didn’t know the pain I had was like labor contractions, but this time, there was no doubt. They started in my back, wrapped around my abdomen and pulsed down my legs. I sobbed in the shower as the pains gripped me and warned me about what was to come. The next morning, we lost the baby. Watching life pour out of you is absolutely crushing. Each contraction brought a rush of loss … physically, in the loss of blood and tissue, and emotionally, in the heartbreaking reality of death. While it was again an early miscarriage and my body was just doing what it was supposed to do with something needing to be expelled, I felt like my body was traitorous and I was devastated by its betrayal.

The next few days were foggy and I’m thankful that my mother-in-law could come and stay with us while I rested. A few days later, we had three appointments that were obviously providential in the way they were timed.

The first was a previously scheduled check-up for Mariah with the doctor who had attended her while she was in the NICU at birth. The doctor was gushing about how healthy Mariah was and how amazing her recovery had been. She reminded us how miraculous it was that Mariah has no residual side effects of that experience (thank you Father). I reflected on the night when I was told there was nothing we could do for Mariah and that we could possibly lose her. The situation was out of my hands.

The second appointment was for another blood draw to make sure my pregnancy hormone was gone and that my body had gotten rid of all the tissue. I reflected on how my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to save my unborn baby. The situation was out of my hands.

The third appointment was with the baby’s caseworker and we discussed the hospital stay, allergy, and also the status of our foster son’s case. I reflected on how God protected Him from a dangerous living situation, possible complications from a severe allergy, and how I had no control over his family, what will be decided with his case in the future, or over his health. The situation was out of my hands.

I felt those three appointments being on the same day was providential because all three situations clearly proved that I am not in control. As I thought through these things, I was overcome with a peace that can only come from God as He whispered to me: “These situations are in my hands.” Whether it’s my 16 month old daughter, my four month old foster son, or my tiny embryo just beginning to form, He holds them all in His hands.

Through my tears last week, God led me to a verse that I can’t remember reading before but I’m sure I have. It reads:

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say “You are my God,” my times are in your hands … ” (Psalm 31:14-15)

I love this. This is peace that surpasses all understanding. My times are in God’s hands and I can completely trust  in Him. I also love the Spanish translation of this verse which says, “Mi vida entera está en Tus manos” which means, “my whole life is in your hands.

We are hurting and exhausted, but we are finding complete peace in the fact that God is trustworthy. We don’t need to despair, we have complete assurance that He is our God and that any wave that threatens to pull us under cannot stand against a God that holds our times in His hands.

 

 

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What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”

 

 

 

I Married a Good One

It’s this guy’s birthday today and our anniversary tomorrow, so in his honor I just want to tell the world how amazing of a man Albin is. Albin, here are ten (among millions) reasons why I hit the jackpot when I married you:

  1. You are an incredible example of loving your wife like Chist loves the church. You love me well, unconditionally, and wholly. I have learned so much about Christ’s love for the church because I’ve seen how completely you have cherished me.
  2. You love God and lead us well. I can’t imagine having to follow a guy  that wasn’t answering to the Father and wasn’t striving towards a higher purpose.
  3. Your manliness :). You’re sensitive enough to shed a tear and express your emotions, while tough enough to fight a lion for us. It’s good to have a real man who owns up to responsibility, takes care of us, protects us, and sets an example of strength.
  4. You love our kids. Whether its Mariah or our foster kids, you are an image1amazing Papa. They feel secure and treasured by you. Watching you love these babies is basically the sexiest thing ever.
  5. You make me laugh. The voice-overs you imagine up for our dogs and babies are seriously hilarious.
  6. You work hard. You provide for us and make it possible for me to raise our kids. You hold yourself to a high standard and do your thing with excellence. We appreciate you so very much.
  7. Your faithfulness. It is such a blessing to know that my man is going to come home when he says he will, respect his vows, and that he only has eyes for me.
  8. You are generous. You love to give and you give fully. Whether you’re giving your time, talents, or treasures, you don’t withhold and you genuinely care about the needs of others. You are selfless and that is such an attractive trait.
  9. You encourage me. You tell me I’m beautiful even if I have spit-up encrusted hair; you eat everything I cook for you with a smile even if its not good, and you challenge me to pursue my talents even though we don’t have time. It is a blessing to always have someone standing by my side and cheering me on.
  10. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: your Spanish. Nothing like a little love language to stir up some romance. Oh baby when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad…

But seriously, you are one of a kind and I am truly blessed to spend my life with you. It definitely hasn’t always been easy, but its been so worth it. Te amo mucho.

November Family Adventure

We kept our family adventure this month pretty low-key since we had a newborn baby in tow. Hiking or hitting the beach seemed a little presumptuous with a six pound, fresh out of the womb human. Since the amount of planning and packing involved to leave the house is equivalent to that of a short vacation, merely getting out the door seems like a great adventure to me. Hopefully I’ll get quicker as time goes on, but I just really like to be overly prepared (you never know when a poop explosion will hit).

Anyway, this month we just decided to go try some new food and broaden our taste buds’ cultural horizons. Albin and Mariah had never eaten true Indian food (and try as I might, I haven’t perfected my Naan bread and curry dishes). Needless to say, our family date over Indian cuisine was a hit. Eating butter chicken and roasted ginger lamb with naan was the perfect remedy for our newborn baby induced cabin fever. Mariah was literally yelling out with joy over her meal and Fuzzy slept peacefully in his seat until we had finished eating. It was a win for everyone.

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Mariah loved drinking water out of the silver goblets. Who wouldn’t?

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Indian Food

 

Ps. If you live around here and craving some Indian food, we would totally recommend Naans and Curries.

Raising Our Kids: Top 10 Legacies We Want to Live

In my head, our 30’s will involve raising of A LOT of kids–biological, adopted and fostered. As we embark on this journey of being surrounded by little humans, I want to establish some healthy patterns that will hopefully stick with them throughout their lives. I’m thinking the word “legacies” works to describe the ideas we want to instill in our children. We’ve also realized that if it’s going to be a way of life for our kids, they need to see it from us- so I’ve included in italics how we’re trying to integrate these things in our lives.

IMG_3057First and foremost, we want worshipers of God. I want my kids to have the joy of the Lord
and realize that bringing glory to Him influences atmospheres, changes situations, and provides communion with our Maker. I want them to learn to worship him with their voices, but also with their actions and their lives. To initiate this, we’ve started to have “worship night” once a week at our house where we turn off the lights, put on some (good) worship music, and spend time with Jesus.

Second, we want kids that live out the gospel. Not just kids who are well-versed in all the right answers and know what looking like a good Christian is. We want kids that get their hands dirty and whose first response is to help those in need. We want our kids to know our house is open to the homeless, our food is shared with the hungry, our clothes given to the naked, and our hearts are willing to love well. We want them to stand up for the kids being bullied and make friends with the lonely new student. 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.


We want adventurers and explorers.
We don’t want our kids to be afraid of getting hurt, fearful FullSizeRender (25)of the unknown, or planted to the couch watching TV. We want our kids to love being outdoors, to love finding new places, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. We want to raise inquisitive kids that ask questions and look for answers creatively. We want to teach our kids to look for solutions to problems and to not be limited by societal confines. To live this out, we’ve been planning family adventures at least once a month.

We want culturally-aware kids. Obviously, we love cultures and love learning about them. We 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. I feel like we have a head-start on this one since our family is a fusion of two cultures, but we also have been intentional about visiting other countries, understanding world issues, becoming friends with people from other cultures, and trying international foods.

We want family time to be important and fun. Somehow my parents succeeded in this area and I am grateful. Growing up, I would often choose to spend time with family over going out with friends. We played games, went fun places, respected one another, and had an honest, open relationship. I want that for my kids. I don’t want to be friends with them in a negative sense, but I want them to feel respected, accepted, and loved. I want our family to be a safe place for all of us. A place of trust and acceptance. To do this, one thing we’ve started doing is family game night once a week and the family adventures once a month.

We want individuals. We truly treasure different personalities and interests. We want to encourage our kids to be who God created them to be, not what society says they should be. We want them to feel free to express themselves and be different. I hope that we can encourage their different talents and try to provide them with opportunities to achieve their personal goals. We want to build on their interests, foster their gifts, and teach them to think for themselves. We’ve been trying to do this in our lives as well–to not worry about what people say, what their opinions are, or how they judge us. We’re taking steps to become more of who God created us to be, and learning that it is beautiful.

We want kids our kids to be respectful. We don’t want kids that talk back to teachers and know that we’ll defend them when the teacher calls. We want our kids to be a breath of fresh air for their teachers. We want sons who grow up to be good husbands and daddies. We want daughters who grow up to respect their bodies and hearts. We want a family that respects those in leadership, even though we don’t always agree with their decisions. We hope for a family built on honor: honoring God and honoring one another. In our lives, Albin and I have tried hard to have a mutual respect for one another and to foster a culture of honor in our home.

We want to raise hard workers that know it’s okay to make mistakes. We aren’t looking for perfect kids here, so we want them to know there is grace for when we fail. We also want them to work hard and do their best, so that even if they do fail, they know they gave it their all. We don’t want everything to be about success, failure, or living up to high expectations. We want them to work hard, live fully, and learn from their mistakes. I’ve learned a lot about what true success is in the last four years, so I’m trying to give up my perfectionist ways and live well.

We want kids with a sense of humor. I want our kids to be serious when they need toIMG_2388 be, but I don’t want to them to take themselves or life too seriously. They don’t have to be the class clown or be naturally witty, but I want them to have the freedom to laugh and realize how having a sense of humor helps us connect with others. Life application: 90 percent of my family’s conversations are based on witty remarks.

We want little givers. Something I have strived over for the last few years is being a good giver. I am selfish and I’m not a natural gift-giver, so I wanted to improve in this area. I want our kids to grow up with giving in their blood. I want them to come home hungry because they gave half their lunch to the kid who didn’t have one. I want them to pass a granola bar out the window of our car to the man begging on the street. I want them to value giving over acquiring. I want them to learn to use their money wisely so that they can give as much as they can to those in need. I want them to give their hearts, talents, and treasures to the glory of God. Since I turned 30, I’ve tried to be intentional and give one thing to someone everyday (whether its time, a treasure, or a talent).

Maybe trying to raise kids with all the above ideas is a lot to ask. That’s fine; but I want to have a guideline and start these kiddos young on a culture guided by these ten ideas. From the beginning, I want little people that know they have intrinsic value, but know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I really feel like this super long post could be summarized into one simple statement:

I want my kids to grow up knowing how to love well.

When you love well, everything else falls into place. That makes this list seem way less daunting. When your heart is full of love, the rest just overflows out of you naturally.

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be                                                 something you do but someone you raise.”

–Andy Stanley

The Gospel, Dumb and Dumber, and Radical Living

“We got no food, no jobs…our pet’s heads are falling off! What the heck are we doing here Harry?”

This ranks up there in my favorite movie quotes, and believe it or not, while Dumb and Dumber wouldn’t win any awards for its profundity (or wholesomeness if we’re being honest), Albin and I have found ourselves asking each other this same question over the last few months. Thankfully, we have food and jobs (well Albin does), and fortunately our pets’ heads aren’t falling off, but as we’ve been confronted by the gospel in the last few months, we’ve looked at each other and said, “What the heck are we doing here?”

Albin and I have been passionate followers of Jesus for a long time. In the past, we’ve served Him in many different ways: overseas missions, ministering, leading bible studies, fostering, etc., but in the craziness of trying to survive our bicultural marriage, we feel like we’ve lost a little focus. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t justify what we’re not doing now. More importantly, living out the gospel is a way of life. Are we walking that out? We might have food and jobs, but there are millions who can’t say the same. Hopefully, no one’s pets’ heads are falling off, but being dead serious, billions of people are dying without Christ and without hope.

What the heck are we doing here Harry?

Recently, God has been wrecking us all over again with the gospel. I wouldn’t say it was a complete overhaul since we’ve known about this for a long time, but definitely a paradigm shift about who Jesus really was, what He really did, and HOW he really lived. His way of life was countercultural, radical, uncomfortable, and completely challenging. Albin and I have begun asking ourselves, “Do we look like Jesus? Are really living the countercultural, radical life that Jesus has called us to? What are we doing here?”

I’ve been reading two books recently that I would totally recommend. The first is Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker and it has challenged me immensely. Not only is she hilarious and doesn’t always use a filter (kindred spirit), but I love how she, her family, and her church have changed their focus from “blessing blessed people and serving the saved” to living missionally in order to reach the “least of these” in Austin. She challenges Christians to live out their faith according to Isaiah 58 (loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor with shelter, clothe the naked, take care of your own) and Matthew 25 (being a faithful servant and stewarding what He has given us, and feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc.).

The second book I am reading is called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis Chan. Again, he and his wife talk more about changing their perspective from focusing on their marriage to focusing on how they can help each other impact the kingdom for eternity. As a result, they spend way less time worrying about the little annoyances in marriage and spend way more time on loving others and serving Christ…which in turn has blessed their relationship a million times over. Something he said that has stuck with me the most is this:

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing. This caused us to experience Jesus deeply-what could be better? Eternal mindedness keeps us from silly arguments. There’s not time to fight. We have better things to pursue than our interests. Too much is at stake! God created us for a purpose. We can’t afford to waste our lives. We can’t afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness.”

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in Matthew from the Bible and just observing how Jesus handles situations. Wherever He went, the lame could walk, the dead were raised, the sick were healed, the blind saw, and the mute spoke (Matthew 9). In the same passage (vs. 9-12), Jesus is criticized for hanging out with drunks and “sinners” and he tells them to do something that has struck me profoundly:

“Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

What does that mean? To me, that means to stop doing religion and start living as Jesus lived: with mercy. That means to follow the example set in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

So again, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here Harry?” Are we living lives that mirror Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25? I know people shy away from the term “radical” because of its uncomfortable connotation, but seriously, are we living radically? Are we focusing inward to have the perfect marriage or focusing outward to use our imperfect marriage to impact the kingdom? Are we wasting our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness, rather than being eternally minded?

People want to see the church rise up and look like Jesus, not just hide behind facebook and bash whatever topic is the new political flavor of the month. Jesus called us to live a completely different way of life, not just trying to follow all the rules and look religious, but to:

Act justly (This means taking action for just causes)

Love mercy (Love serving the least and those in need)

Walk Humbly with God (Acknowledge our need for a Savior and walk it out accordingly).

Where does that leave Albin and me? We’re still working it out. We’re not setting out for Aspen like Harry and Lloyd; but we’ve refocused and are trying to walk this out. It’s not always pretty, but we know it is the Holy Spirit in us that is going to teach us. All we know is that we need to do it. Put our faith into action and make it a way of life. Will you join us in this journey? I’m writing about this because I want to be held accountable and I want others to join us in this. I want to see two normal and imperfect people on a journey to countercultural living and using our marriage to impact eternity. I want our kids to grow up expecting our family to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and invite the homeless into our home. We want to leave that legacy and we realize that we can’t just sit around, read about it and talk about it. We need to live in a new way. Jesus said to “Go and learn” what He means when He says that He “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” That’s what we want to do … continually position ourselves in places where we can go and learn how to live out the gospel and look like Jesus.

“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living, we must live our way into a new kind of thinking.”

-Richard Rohr

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Immigration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that anything that has to do with immigration gets my gag reflex going. For those of you who want to know if we got married in the U.S. or Costa Rica first (because yes, it matters in the process), we married in the U.S. first and then got it certified in CR. We turned in our paperwork almost right after getting back from our wedding, but there were some complications and one of our papers expired before we could get scheduled for a meeting with immigration. Side note: we were paying a lawyer (who was a family friend) good money to take care of these things for us, but we found out too late that she was not doing her job very well.

While reading over our documents one night, it hit me that my tourist visa would be expiring in one week and that due to the meeting complications, I was going to be illegal here. Not to mention that I already had a job … which if you don’t have the correct papers, can lead to a swift deportation. Don’t take this lightly, I’ve seen normal people deported from CR before. I started sweating immediately and we called our lawyer. She casually confirmed my suspicions and said I need to leave the country immediately (this was the moment that the family friendship started to deteriorate).

After a minor breakdown and hours of ranting, we bought bus tickets for several days later and hightailed it out of there. We went to Bocas del Toro, a small chain of Panamanian islands near the southern coast of Costa Rica. Minus the panicking and the exhaustion of several buses and water taxis, the trip turned out to be a blessing. It almost made up for the fact that we didn’t get to go on a honeymoon and it was honestly one of the first times since we had gotten married that we felt relatively normal.

While the trip was a blessing, the residency process was not. We finally were given appointments with immigration and did what we had to do, but no matter how organized I was, something always went wrong. Like “they lost our original marriage certificate” kind of wrong. I mean, I should have never given them the original document, but I was naïve to the ways of the Costa Rican filing system (i.e. possibly nonexistent).

I was also unaware of how difficult it was to get fingerprinted here. At the time, there was only one place in the capital to get fingerprinted for the residency process. The first time I showed up, I was oblivious to the line stretching out the gate and around the block. After waiting far too long, I overheard one of the guards saying something about running out of numbers. Only the first 50 people in line were allowed to be fingerprinted that day and I was not one of those first 50 people. The next time around, I decided I would be there when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. Unfortunately, I was not the only person to have that thought. In fact, I wasn’t among the first 50 people to have that thought. Fail. I approached the guard and asked what time she thought I should arrive in order to be among the first 50. She thought getting there between 1-2 hours before opening time would suffice. Sooo, basically camp out at the crack of dawn. I’ll admit it; I had to have a crying/cursing Costa Rica session in my car to pull it together. After my pity party, I went back to the guard and asked her if there was any other way. She told me that sometimes they would give out more numbers in the afternoon if there was space. The next week, I rolled up in the afternoon hoping for the best. There were huned’s of people there. I went up to my guard (we were becoming fast friends) and she had sympathy on me. She took me to another line and told me to wait there. Besides getting the stink eye from all those people I had apparently just cut in front of, I was feeling pretty confident.

As I came to the front of the (shorter) line, another guard asked me if I had brought the correct seals. What seals? No one had mentioned seals, the instructions I had been given didn’t say anything about seals, and can I bribe someone to ignore the fact that I didn’t have seals? No. Go look around the block and ask at the banks and law offices, they probably have them. I literally ran around the block looking for the seals and of course, no one had them. Finally, desperate and furious, I stopped at a little soda (which is like a little hole in the wall restaurant), and the cook sold me some seals for 20 cents as she served up some rice and beans to another customer. What the…?

By now, I’m panting and sweating and all my guard friends are cracking up at the poor gringa’s plight. I must have done something right though, because as they laughed, they let me pass everyone in line. Success. Not only did I get fingerprinted that day, but I made friends with some guards who clearly needed some comic relief and found an unlikely love for a greasy cook selling 20 cent stamps and Diet Coke.

And then we waited … a long time. About two years in, we finally called the immigration office regarding my visa and I remember overhearing Albin talking to the lady and getting increasingly frustrated with her (which is unusual because Albin is often much more merciful in situations like these). She refused to help us because she said it was impossible that my residency had taken that long and that residencies are processed within 90 days. Albin assured her that wasn’t the case for us and that we just had a question. Nope, a two year wait was impossible and therefore she could not answer our question. He hung up with a prompt “gracias por nada” (thanks for nothing).

Two and a half years later, I was finally given my temporary residency permit; even though it would expire after one year, there were tears of joy that day. I am currently waiting for my permanent residency permit that I get through having my baby in Costa Rica (anchor child anyone?) and I was told it would only take 90 days to be processed. That’s what I was told in regards to my temporary permit, so I’m not getting my hopes up this time. The 90 day limit is today, so I’ll keep you posted.

Immigration processes and policies are definitely a complicated matter. Albin and I have been praying about and considering moving back to the U.S., but we’re trying to come to terms with the inevitable high cost, long wait, and load of work it will take to make that kind of thing happen. It’s intimidating, overwhelming, and humbling (especially when immigrantion is a hot topic right now and people aren’t careful with their comments). Trying to do things correctly and legally through the immigration system is frustrating enough to make even Donald Trump think twice about his hateful assumptions (fun fact: Did you know Trump is married to an immigrant?).

Moral of the story: residency processes just suck. Accept it and move on. No matter where you’re applying, prepare yourself to receive a different answer from everyone you ask about ANYTHING, to spend a lot of money in filing fees (and seals apparently), and to wait. If you are married to (or are going to marry) someone from another country, you said “I do” to lines in immigration offices. Embrace it.Try to have a good attitude and enjoy the ride. All that hard work means you get to live with your foreign dreamboat, and even Trump can attest to that :).

Sidenote: If you’re not going through immigration processes, try to have some grace with immigrants despite the current attitude of condemnation that is so popular in the U.S. right now.  Not everyone trying to get into the U.S. is a druglord or rapist. As evidenced by the devastating story of the Syrian children who drowned this past week as their family tried to escape the war- you never know what extreme circumstances are bringing someone to take desparate measures. That Syrian father wanted was a better life for his family, can we blame him? That could have been you or me, risking everything to give our family a peaceful future. Don’t be quick to judge, friends, almost all of our families were immigrants at some point. 

Crossing the border into Panama

Crossing the border into Panama

Marrying a Family

There is a saying out there that says something to the effect of “you don’t just marry an individual, you marry a family.” In my case, I feel like I married a country. At any rate, I’m going to go ahead and assume that I’m not the only one who felt a little out of place with my new tribe.

First off, the sheer number of this new clan was devastatingly intimidating. I didn’t take me long to realize that a family get-together included my mother-in-law’s eight siblings plus their children and grandchildren. I kept confusing Uncle Dagoberto with Uncle Rigoberto and couldn’t remember if I’d already talked to Aunt Eda or if that was actually Aunt Nidia … or wait? Second, I was still speaking three year old (or worse) equivalent Spanish when we got married. Very few people speak English in Al’s family, so I had to prove how cool I was while speaking toddler. Most of them would just stare at me … probably because I was a hot mess. Speaking so much Spanish would give me shaky hands and sweaty everything else.

I guess I assumed that I would seamlessly slip right into the family because I’m generally comfortable in new social situations. The difference with this situation, however, was that I married these people and we didn’t understand each other at all. As I’m typing this, I am asking my mother-in-law (who is here playing with my daughter so I can write and clean the house, bless her) what the hardest part of me becoming part of the family was for her. Here were her top 4 (and I think she could have thought of more but she had mercifully stopped after the overarching statement “your way of life”):

  1.      Language: She said the language was hard because “they had no idea if I could understand anything they were saying.” I thought that they knew I could understand because I would answer their questions, but apparently I was wrong. I remember on two separate occasions my suegra showed up with preschool level books and tried to get me to repeat the most basic Spanish verbs because my accent was bad. Shot to the heart.
  2.      Food: She said that they didn’t know what to offer me or feed me because I was from a different culture. Valid, but I will generally eat anything that isn’t still moving, so I had no idea this was a concern of theirs.
  3.      Physical touch: They love to greet each other with a kiss and they are very touchy. They weren’t sure I wanted them to touch me. I can handle the fake kiss on the cheek when greeting, but I guess they were afraid to go further than that?
  4.      My way of life: She said I did a lot of different things and they didn’t understand. I’m not going to elaborate because that one definitely goes both ways; basically, they thought I was a weirdo whenever I did anything.

Okay, so being the only white girl in the family was challenging and still is at times. For a while, I tried SO HARD to just become one of them, which made me feel like a wanna-be imposter in Costa Rica and a dirty cheater on my beloved ‘Merican heritage. I had a minor identity crisis. I finally realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was always going to be really tall (almost 6 feet, which is like a foot taller than most Costa Ricans), really white (no matter how much I tanned), and really loud (my whisper voice is basically non-existent). I finally swallowed the fact that while I could improve my pronunciation, my accent was permanent because I didn’t learn Spanish as a kid.  I stopped trying to impress them with my Costa Rican cuisine expertise and made them gringo delicacies like Thanksgiving stuffing, zucchini bread, and all things pumpkin. It’s just now setting in that I can go around and kiss everyone when I enter the room, but also that they understand not to be offended if I do just a general “hola” addressed to all. In short, once I got over myself and my insecurities of feeling like I needed to fit in, everyone got a lot more comfortable.

Now that we have almost four years under our belts and my Latino family is used to me being tall, loud, white, and weird, I am finally myself (well, I try to be). I listen to the opinions they have (Oh, and do they have them. Especially about my daughter :-/), I respect their customs, and I embrace the parts of their culture that I love. It’s also okay that I’m my own person and bring my opinions, customs, and culture to the family as well.

These past few months I’ve been working hard to acknowledge Albin’s family as “my family” instead of me always referring to them as “Albin’s family.” Does that make sense? Because it’s not “my family” or “Albin’s family” anymore. It’s our family. That clan of Latinos that think my accent sucks is my family. That big white wave of gringos that can’t say Albin’s last name correctly is his family. It’s become our family and we love the madness that comes from our cultural collision.

Albin's gma, mom, and me. I'm leaning, but I'm still giant.

Albin’s gma, mom, and me. I’m leaning, but I’m still giant.

Looking For Some Community?

Despite keeping a blog, I’m not a techie. It took Albin years to convince me to get an iPhone and I still only have a whole four pictures posted to my Instagram account.  Facebook posts and chats and pages and groups  and messages and pokes and game invites kind of stress me out. I take forever to respond to emails and even setting up this blog took me years to do because setting up all the little widgets was torturous for me.

I’ve felt like I needed to broaden my horizons, if you will, in terms of getting this whole bicultural marriage thing going. I told God that I wasn’t interested in marketing my blog and that if He wanted people to read it, He needed to just have them happen upon my blog. I prayed that if He really wanted me to build more of a community, He would send someone that understood marketing. Well, of course the week I prayed that, I also had invited a friend over for dinner. We hadn’t gotten together for while, so I didn’t know that she specializes in marketing. Of course. So here I go, kicking and screaming as I create a FB page and group. I feel awkward for promoting myself, but if it helps bring glory to God and helps save some marriages, then its worth figuring out how to navigate the confusing world of social media.

I have received so many emails and messages from people in bicultural marriages/relationships who are asking for advice and let’s be honest, I definitely don’t have all the answers. In fact, I am the least likely candidate (ask my friends Lynne and Diego about the time I recommended they didn’t pursue their bicultural marriage). ANYWAY, I figure that if we can start up a community of people who support and encourage one another, that is going to make it easier on all of us.

So here’s to figuring out FB pages and groups to get this whole bicultural marriage conversation started. If you’re a woman in a bicultural marriage/engagement or you know someone else who is, please send them to our group or you can like my page off to the side and that will connect you (I think, somehow. I hope). I’m hoping to start up a community for encouragement, support, laughter, and wisdom. Thanks for liking! Cheers!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1608317236079696/

What If I Married the Wrong Person?

What if I marry (or married) the wrong person? Is there one perfect soulmate out there for everyone?

Those questions seems to resurface all the time and I’ve always wondered lost sleep over them. I mean, that is a whole lot of pressure. You have to find that one perfect man out of the 3 billion(ish) on the planet? What if I make a mistake? Does that mess up the whole order of perfect soulmates because I married someone else’s perfect mate and now they’re endlessly wandering the earth trying to find someone that’s already taken? And if I do make a mistake and I don’t believe divorce is an option, am I just stuck with the wrong person till death do us part? Thinking about how I could be miserably mistaken my whole life or about how I could possibly screw up the arranged order of the perfect soulmates of the world is enough to give me an ulcer.

I’m pretty sure I did almost get an ulcer early on in our marriage because there was a small part of me that wondered if Albin was really the one for me. It was terrifying. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know we had a rough start, but apart from all that, I felt like he didn’t even know me. Like didn’t know what really made me tick. I assumed that if we truly were soulmates, he would just “get” me. He would understand what I needed and it wouldn’t require me spelling out everything. He would always make me laugh, he would understand all my vague comments, and anticipate my needs. Basically, he just needed to be a mind-reader because “happy wife, happy life” … right?

Wrong. Painfully wrong.

Not only did I find myself feeling misunderstood and lonely, I found myself with a husband who was frustrated because he couldn’t make me happy. I had no idea what was going through his mind and that frustrated me as well. I had an illusion that we would always be on the same wavelength and when that bubble was burst, I started to question whether we were right for one another. Some of it was selfishness (like the hope that he would anticipate my every need, bahh), some of it was an expectation that we would naturally be interested in the same things (like… where to go out for dinner), and some of it was just our deep-down desire to know and be known. As we’ve worked through these things, we’ve had a big breakthrough: truly becoming “soulmates” takes time, effort and practice.

It’s finally sinking in that we have to work hard to be soulmates. We have to put in some effort to learn what makes our spouse “tick.” We literally have to practice being the right person for our spouse. It’s all about being intentional. I’ll be sincere and admit that being intentional isn’t necessarily my forte. Being intentional requires effort, forethought and selflessness. It requires me putting myself aside and choosing to do something that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me like it does to him. It requires him to ask me if I want to talk about something even if he’s tired and has no desire to open that can of worms. It requires both of us to be interested (or at least try to be) in what gets the other person excited.

The problem is that it’s so much easier to think about how my needs aren’t being met. It’s far simpler to sit and lament our differences than it is to surrender our will and actively pursue a compromise. It is so much easier to sit around and think about what Albin doesn’t do for me or how he doesn’t “get me” than it is to flip it around and think about what I can do for him or how I can engage him more fully so that he feels fully known.

For example, discussing politics doesn’t appeal to me and I usually avoid political conversations at all costs. Albin, however, loves getting into a good political debate. For years, I’ve literally blown him off every time he tried to start a conversation about politics. Basically, it would go like this:

Albin: What is your opinion about [insert current issue]?

Me: I don’t know, maybe [insert quick generic answer].

Albin (silently waiting for me to return the question, which doesn’t come because I’m avoiding the conversation): Well, I’m not sure I agree.

Me: Okay. What do you want for dinner? [End of conversation.]

Rude, I know. I’m a slow learner, but almost four years into this, I’m realizing that Albin gets some sort of intellectual satisfaction from hashing out a political topic. If that’s something that he is interested in, why do I have to be a jerk change the subject? Is it really that hard for me to ask him what his opinion of the topic is and (heaven forbid) actually listen to his rationale? He listens to me spout unimportant crap all day and doesn’t blow me off. So, I’ve tried to be intentional and engage in a conversation that interests him. Maybe a little effort on my part makes him feel like he has a partner that values his opinion and with whom he has an intellectual connection. If that’s the case, me taking five minutes out of my day to debate about the government is worth it. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy these conversations now because he gets me thinking about current events and things in the government that I actually should be pondering.

An example for me would be something that Albin did recently. Playing games is one of my love languages and something that I associated with family. I love to play games, specifically Nerts. Albin will play games, but it’s not something that satisfies some deep inner need of his, and plus I think he hated Nerts for a long time because I may or may not go overboard and get too intense when I play. Anyway, it really bothered me that he never wanted to play games with me. It was like pulling teeth. Like how hard was it to sit down a play a few games of Yahtzee for goodness sake? It’s silly, but I actually wondered why I hadn’t considered this game drama before we had married. Would I have married this guy had I known he wouldn’t always be up for a game of Scrabble? Does he even know me at all?

Finally, several months ago, Albin suggested we started having game nights once a week. He said he wanted to get better at Nerts and he thought it would be something for us to look forward to on Thursday nights. I ripped his clothes off right there. Just kidding, but his offer spoke to me on some deep level. He’s gotten really good at all games since then and now we really do love game night. He was intentional and sought to engage me in something that was important to me and that I associated with the concept of family…which made me feel like we were more of a family in a way. Like maybe we weren’t on two completely different wavelengths after all.

Albin and I definitely are not experts and clearly Albin is the deeper of the two of us (deep theoretical conversations vs. my board game needs), but we’re learning and I like our progress. As we become more intentional, we get along so much better, agree on so much more and feel more fully known. Even silly things like (finally!) agreeing on a restaurant, conversing about legislation and keeping a running Yahtzee tally going forms a connection and creates room for us to become soulmates for one another.

En fin, I’m trying to learn from my own lesson today and think about what other areas I can put myself aside to be intentional with Albin. What ways can you be intentional and engage your spouse today?

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4