Our First Car (First Year Fails: Part IV)

Our first car was an old, faithful ‘92 Nissan Sentra. Albin and that car had a profound love for one another. I, however, learned to drive a stick in Costa Rica in that car, and I’m pretty sure it never forgave me. I have a lot of not-so-fond memories of Albin trying to gently teach me how to go over muertos (speed bumps are appropriately called “dead bodies” in CR) and me freaking out and stalling every time.

About the same time we were going through our apartment disaster, it came time to perform the annual car revision. You have to pass the revision in order to get a little sticker in your window that says you’re good to drive. If you get caught without the little sticker, you can lose your license. Even though our car wasn’t in the best shape, we weren’t too worried and assumed we would pass the revision.

It failed.

I’m not a car person, but something about a hose was messed up. We got the hose fixed and about a week later we went back to do the revision again.

Failed again.

The second time, it had something to do with the muffler and too much exhaust. That little fix was a bit more expensive and time consuming, so it took a few weeks. After that was fixed, we took the car back for a revision.

Failed.

Are you kidding me? Why were they picking on us? There were much crappier cars out there and they were passing! I was starting to get mad. It was a conspiracy! We switched mechanics and this guy claimed that he had all the tools to do the revision in his shop so we would have an idea if we would pass or not. I can’t remember what he found, but he fixed that up and it wasn’t cheap.

By now, our car saga was gaining some fame. Every day we had people asking if our car had passed or not and people were recommending mechanics to us by the dozen.

This next time we were sure our car would pass, so Albin was going to swing by and do the revision quickly after work. That day, I was anxiously eating my fingernails because we were getting precariously close to the expiration date on our sticker. Since we’d spent all of our money on fixing up our car, our dogs, and on buying antibiotics to fight the pneumonia we got from our rotting apartment, one more tab from the mechanic wasn’t in the budget. As I was sitting there praying that the car would pass, I get a call from a defeated Albin announcing that we had yet again FAILED.

FAILED! WE FAILED REVISION FOUR TIMES. Who does that?

Not only did we fail the fourth revision, but Albin said that as he was in the revision and they were running the tires and engine to check for exhaust, the car literally blew up and smoke started furiously pouring from the hood. He said it made quite a scene and the guys just stopped the revision right there and Albin dejectedly pulled away. He then told me that he was currently on the side of the road and that we might be a little late to Bible study that night because the car kept exploding and overheating.

Two hours later my defeated man walked into our rotting apartment and said that he didn’t think we would make it to Bible study. I started laughing hysterically, mostly to keep from crying hysterically.

We switched mechanics (again) and after paying for a bunch of new parts and slyly avoiding all traffic officials who would happily fine us for driving far past our revision date, our car was ready to go. We both went to the revision and it was the most agonizing process ever. I got an ulcer while we waited for the results in the parking lot. Albin went back in to get our score and came out slowly.

“Well?” I screamed.

He shook his head sadly and just before I was about to lose it, he started to smile and shouted, “We passed!”

Tears of joy were flowing. I jumped into Albin’s arms and we raised a holy hallelujah. We were celebrating like we’d won the lottery. I’m sure those revision workers got a good laugh that day.

 

Finding Hope in the Struggle

Directly after posting my last blog, I laid down with my teething, cranky baby and tried to get her to go to sleep. As I lay there, I was flooded with self-doubt. I worried my post was too negative, too honest, or that people might think our marriage has been just one big, sad mess.

As soon as I started going down that road, God reminded me that He asked me to start this blog and that He challenged me to be as honest and vulnerable as I could be. He reminded me that vulnerability brings freedom to me and to others. He whispered to me that the reason I needed to talk about the struggle was so that the others who are struggling know that they’re not alone and absolutely must know that there is hope, just like I’ve needed to know. I thought for a moment about what “hope” had come out of our struggles and that’s what I want to share about today. The last blog was to let you know that you’re not alone and this one is to let you know that there is hope.

Marriage is a two-edged sword. Your spouse usually draws out many of your good qualities. It’s fun to do life with someone and marriage can bring so much joy. That sword also can pierce you and bring out all the ugly. All those dark, stinky little areas you hoped no one would ever see, and even those areas you had no idea were all that bad; someone has a front row seat to all that crap. The beautiful thing is that God uses marriage to bring those dark hidden things to light, to make you more of the person He created you to be.  When someone else can see those areas in you that still need a little (or a lot) of work, you can work together to improve.

We all know that adversity begets character. As Albin and I have struggled through various circumstances and differences, we’ve matured greatly. We’ve grown in ways I could have never imagined. We sharpen one another, we support one another, and we challenge one another. If you’re never challenged, do you ever go to the next level? If you never face adversity, do you ever really grow?

This is the hope that I have found that comes out of the struggles in marriage. Yes, we have truly had to fight for our marriage and for one another, but we have become steadfast in the process. We are far from perfect, but we are a united front. We look much more like Jesus now than we did when we were first married, and our marriage is far more Christ-like now than it ever has been. When you do life with someone that is committed to making you better, you both will inevitably grow. I recognize that God has used the madness to edify us, stretch us, and teach us things we couldn’t have learned any other way. We can comfort others who have had a miscarriage, encourage others who feel like living in another culture is impossible, minister to those who have deathly-ill babies in the NICU, and rejoice with others who are celebrating the small victories in marriage. Why? Because we’ve been there.

As you go through difficult circumstances together, you are bonded eternally. That’s what our vows were all about. No matter what, we will support one another. A few years ago, we had a dinner with a man that was telling us about a big mistake that he made in his first year of marriage.  He told us that they are doing much better now (many years later), but that his wife had never forgotten how he treated her that first year. I want to turn that around a bit: Albin, I will NEVER forget what you did for me our first year. How you supported me in my mess, how you loved me through the struggles, and how you fought for me and our marriage. You have loved me as Christ loves the church and that testimony has given me the utmost respect for you, even when we struggle.

There is something remarkable about two people who are committed to one another despite adversity. What a testimony it is for two people to keep coming home at night to work it out and not just calling it quits because of hardship. Sometimes the struggles are big, life-changing events, but sometimes they’re just little things. Even on the days that I bust out my crusty old granny panties or the times that I forget to tweeze and my eyebrows start becoming one (more often than Albin and I become one), I can be assured that Albin still loves me. Despite any nasty habits (I won’t elaborate) that Albin may have, he can be assured that I’ll still love him as well. This is what we signed up for when we said, “I do.” Whenever we make the choice to cling to each other when doctors give devastating news, forgive when the other doesn’t deserve forgiveness, or even if it’s something as small as not minding the full-coverage undies or unkempt uni-brow, we glorify God when we choose to love.

Now I can say that I am thankful for the struggle. It may not look like other “perfect” marriages. We may look a little weathered or feel like we’ve been married for longer than three and a half years, but we wouldn’t change any of it. Every day we are helping each other to become more of who God has called us to be and glorifying Him as a result. What better a purpose to serve in marriage than that?

Based on the overwhelming amount of messages that I received in response to Tuesday’s blog, it’s pretty apparent that we’re not the only ones who struggle. I’ll also admit that I’m thankful that not everyone thought our marriage was one big, sad mess as I had feared (sigh of relief). Isn’t it incredibly freeing to admit that we’re not perfect and realize that others aren’t either?  I appreciate all of you who have messaged me and told me that your marriage isn’t perfect, both new marriages and experienced marriages, bicultural and same-culture marriages. It is my prayer that all of us not only find freedom in admitting the struggle is real, but also that we relish in the hope that God is making something beautiful out of us through it.

 

Marriage Struggles (It’s Not Just You)

[A brief interruption in the First Year Fails series of blogs because this is fresh in my mind.]

A few weeks ago, we were on vacation with my family and we met a woman who was sitting near us at the pool. Somehow we got to talking and she asked where we were from. When she heard Albin was Costa Rican, she said that she was married to a Peruvian. Thinking I had found a kindred spirit, I asked her how being in a bicultural marriage has been for her. She seemed puzzled, so I asked her if it had been challenging for her and her husband. She still wasn’t sure, so I clarified and asked, “You know, like with cultural differences and everything?”

Her response: “No.”

Somehow I always feel a little smaller when someone says that their bicultural marriage hasn’t been difficult. It’s definitely not the first time I’ve received that response, but it always takes some composure to not have a surprised look on my face.

Directly after the initial surprise, the myriad of usual doubts came streaming through my mind:

Am I just dramatic? Am I the only one who struggles with this? Is it a personality issue?

Do Albin and I just suck at marriage?

We chatted for a bit longer and then got back to baking in the sun. I kept thinking about that conversation and came to a conclusion:

She was lying.

Okay, maybe she was being truthful, but it made me feel a lot less like a loser to think that she was lying. I began to contemplate how I was a loser and my marriage was a loser-marriage, and everything I did was loser-ish, which I recognize is a completely unhealthy train of thought, but I promised I would be honest.

Anyway, the next day I checked over my email and received a message from a woman that is married to a Sri-Lankan. It was perfect. She said, and I quote,

“I’ve met a few other white, American women who are married to Sri Lankan guys and literally the first thing I asked them was, “DO YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCE IN YOUR MARRIAGE?” just desperately hoping for someone to understand what I’m going through.  To my dismay THREE of these women thought for a second and said, “hm, no, not really.” So anyway, I’m really thankful for your blog and to find someone who understands the challenges that come from marrying someone from a different culture.”

Props to God for his always-perfect timing. What an encouragement it was to continue to be honest about my not-so-perfect marriage. There is something so powerful in knowing that I am not alone in this, that there are others who understand. Bicultural marriage is not impossible, it’s not a constant struggle, and it’s not miserable by any means. It’s a beautiful adventure, but it’s also a unique circumstance that can feel very lonely if you don’t have a support group of people who just get it.

Since starting this blog three months ago, I’ve received a lot of messages and emails from women all over the world who are in bicultural marriages/relationships and who all have one thing in common: they want to know that they aren’t doing this alone.

Well girls, the good news is that we’re not alone. I’ve reached two new (and healthier) conclusions:

First, our Creator sees every detail of our lives and knew we would marry a man from another culture before we even truly knew that other culture existed. He goes before us and behind us. He will not leave us alone.

Second, there are countless couples out there who work through cultural differences every day just like us. Some days are easy and some days are just plain hard, but every day that we choose to love our spouse is a victory.

I hope this encourages you as much as it has encouraged me. Sometimes we don’t want an answer, a solution, or advice; we just want someone to acknowledge the struggle. We realize we will become stronger through these things. We recognize that there is a purpose and that things could definitely be worse. That’s not the point. The point is that if we’re being genuine, we all can say that ANY marriage can be downright hard sometimes. It just is and that’s okay. You’re not alone. If anyone out there needs a kindred spirit, I’ll go ahead and answer the question of whether or not bicultural marriage has been challenging for my husband and me:

Yes.

And that’s okay.

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV

Al and Mariah

Our Non-Honeymoon (First Year Fails: Part I)

I decided that following my last post about the miscarriage we had after our first month of marriage,  I’m going to post a series of blogs about our first year of marriage. You may think I’m being dramatic when I say that our first year was an epic fail; but in this case, I’m not being dramatic. The only two things that didn’t fail: God (because He doesn’t), and our actual marriage commitment (oh, but it came close). Our honeymoon, my residency, our health, our communication, our living situation, our dogs (at first), our Nissan Sentra, my job– they were all a mess. Some of those circumstances were comical (or at least they are now) and some of them were devastating blows to our marriage. Either way, by the time we got to our first anniversary, we felt like we’d been married for ten years. During that time, people who didn’t know us well would continually give us the provocative eyebrow raise and make references about how we were in the “honeymoon period,” but really had no idea that we were barely surviving that special sexy season. Then they would say, “Just wait until year seven, then it really gets difficult.” I think we died inside just a little bit every time we heard that.

Lest you fret that this series of blogs will be entirely negative, this first entry is pretty light and comical, mostly because it was RIGHT after we got married. I can also say that even though a lot of crappy things happened our first year, we did survive, and we’re stronger for it. We’ve struggled immensely, fought hard, and loved well. We’ve come to know each other in amazing ways and have a profound respect for each other now that we’ve seen how the other responds to difficulty. Most importantly, we’ve learned that Christ is the center of our marriage and have come to understand that He is the only reason any marriage is truly successful. I hope these posts are encouraging to any of you who aren’t living a Facebook photo-worthy marriage or feel like you missed the boat on the good old honeymoon period …

Albin was able to get two weeks off for our wedding. He flew to Cincinnati, we got married six days later, flew back to Costa Rica three days later, bought a bed and settled into our apartment for one night, and then spent the next night at my suegra’s (mother-in-law’s) house for our excursión the next day. Excursión sounds so much more exotic than it really is. Basically, appliances are expensive in Costa Rica since they have an import tax placed on them. To get around the import tax, there is a tax-free zone, called “Golfito,” in the southern part of the country. It’s very common to go to Golfito  through an excursión, which is when a company with a bus takes care of your transportation and lodging for your trip. Each person is allowed to spend $1,000 in Golfito per year, so my suegra and Albin’s abuela (grandma) went with us so we could divide up our money to buy our big appliances (found out later that everyone is allowed to spend $2,000 per year, which means suegra and abuela didn’t need to go after all). Back to the story.

We spent the night at my suegra’s and slept in abuela’s single bed (this was the 5th night of marriage, mind you) the night before our expedition. At 5 a.m. we got to the bus stop and a large and in-charge Tica woman named Doña Adelita welcomed a big group of us. We arrived in Golfito in six hours with no problem. We were greeted by a wall of humid heat the minute we got off the bus. By now you know about my sweating problem, so you can imagine. Doña Adelita got up and gave us the “rules.” That day we had three hours to make all of our purchases. We would leave promptly after three hours and head for the border of Panama, where we would spend the night in their “accommodations” and have a chance to shop at the border crossing (i.e. seediest place in the Western Hemisphere). The following day we would return and have two hours to pick up our purchases and get them ready to be shipped back home (it was a rule).

I don’t know how to even describe how this all went down. If you remember the game show “Supermarket Sweep,” then you’ll have an idea. We literally had to run from place to place, comparing prices, bargaining, and buying in 100 degree heat. It was so stressful. Three hours may seem like a lot until you realize you have to compare, bargain, and buy your washer, dryer, oven, microwave, fridge, pots, pans, toaster, blender, Crockpot, and television–all in different stores. On top of that, add in suegra and abuela giving their opinions and telling us what to do, Albin trying to translate everything since I was lost in life, and the lack of sleep due to just getting married. Just imagine me panting and sweating with a deer-in-headlights look on my face as all that bartering and opinionating is going on in Spanish. In literally no time, Doña Adelita was blowing her foghorn and saying it was time to go. Right now.

We shuffled onto the bus headed for the border. Absolute chaos at the border. We eventually arrived at our accommodations which weren’t anything comparable to a hotel, motel, or Holiday Inn. It was an 8×8’ room and it was ghetto. My suegra and abuela graciously took the bunk beds so we newly-weds could take the double bed (6th night of marriage), locked the door tight, and tried to justify in our heads that all of this was completely normal.

The next morning, Doña Adelita rolled up at 5 a.m. and we went back to the free zone to pick up our items. I swear it was hotter than the day before. We secured all of our items and got all of the receipts in order to go through what is essentially a customs line. As we neared the front of the line, Albin started frantically shuffling through the receipts. He couldn’t find the one from the washer and we wouldn’t be allowed out with our new washer without the receipt. Utter panic ensued. We lost our place in the long line and went running to every store trying to find the receipt. So. Much. Sweat.

As abuela guarded our purchases, we ran around rabidly trying to ignore Doña Adelita’s loudspeaker notifying us that we were about to miss the bus. At the last minute, we found that blessed golden ticket at one of the stores and ran back to the line, begging Doña Adelita not to leave us. She had mercy on us and we were able to get our appliances on the shipping truck.

Back on the bus, I passed out immediately and slept for about two hours. Up until this point, the bus was air-conditioned and was the only respite from the unbearable humidity. Naturally, the air-conditioner was overworked and went out. The windows of the bus were airtight (due to it normally being a bus with AC), so there was no air flow. We started stripping. Then the bus driver had the brilliant idea to turn on a movie to distract us. It was reminiscent of Saw III. Between the gore in the movie, the boiling bus, and the curvy mountain road, someone was bound to get sick. Of course it was the lady next to us. She started throwing up and you can imagine how that went seeing as the windows wouldn’t open. People were moaning the whole way home.

The good news is that we made it home. There was a problem with the shipping truck and we didn’t receive our appliances for four days, which wasn’t a huge problem at first since we slept for two days straight. Things started to become dire when our clothes from the excursion started rotting and smelling up our apartment along with the food that couldn’t be kept cold due to no refrigerator. Oh, and did I mention it was Christmas? We went to Denny’s for Christmas breakfast. Sigh.

Moral of the story: Go on a real honeymoon.  Seriously, I know there was the whole thing about not having enough money, or time off work or needing the appliances, but we TOTALLY regret not having a honeymoon.

 

A Miscarriage After Our First Month of Marriage

Positiva.

Even though my Spanish wasn’t excellent, I couldn’t mess that up. It was clearly positive. When I opened the email containing my blood test results, I skipped over everything else and went straight to the part that showed my hCG hormone levels and arrived at that one word that started a ripple effect in my life.

Positiva.

It took my breath away. Like the time I fell out of the big tree we always used to climb in my grandparents’ backyard as kids. I landed on my back and for a few moments the impact left me breathless for what seemed like an eternity. On the day I read my pregnancy test results, it was very similar. It hit me with such an impact that I was stunned. I wasn’t expecting it at all and I was left gasping for some sanity.

This is an intimate blog. I want to be vulnerable because I know I’m not the only one who has struggled through this. Some of the following is very personal, but it is heavy on my heart to share it openly and honestly.

About two and a half weeks into our marriage, I felt a little out of sync and suspected a UTI or a yeast infection, so I went to the doctor. He confirmed my suspicions and then asked if I was pregnant. I nervously laughed and said that we had only gotten married two weeks ago. He put me on medicine and said no sex for at least a week. Exactly what you want to hear your first month of marriage … after you’ve just had a long-distance relationship for 17 months.

After a week of abstinence and medicine, my infection started getting a little better, but I was still feeling a little odd, so the doctor sent me in for a blood test to check out my cell counts and other medical things I didn’t understand. The thing I did understand was that he also asked them to check for the pregnancy hormone. I was panicking. I hadn’t even been married for a month, I was still dealing with culture shock from my mission trip, still getting to know (again) this man I married after a ridiculous long-distance relationship, still getting accustomed to moving back to Costa Rica after being gone for almost two years, super emotional from all the changes, and frustrated that we couldn’t have sex for two weeks during our first month of marriage. Everything was out of control.

Then I received my results. Positiva. I was pregnant. Two days before our one-month anniversary, I found out we were expecting and I literally could not handle it. I’m ashamed to say it, but honestly, I was devastated. This wasn’t what I had planned and I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to take yet another change on top of all the madness. It was so overwhelming, I just shut down.

I spent a few days in survival mode. Albin tried the best he could, but I would just lay in bed and cry. I felt lost. I was thousands of miles away from my family and my best friends, and my poor husband was at a loss. Finally, a couple of days later, he sat down and told me that we needed to accept that I was pregnant and that he wanted our baby to be “wanted.” Completely valid, and again, I felt completely ashamed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to love or want our child, I was just too overwhelmed to fathom that we were going to have a child. Albin’s comment struck my heart though, and that day I decided that I was going to accept that I was pregnant, embrace this new life inside of me, and move forward.

Over the next few days, we began working through this new situation and I started coming to terms with the fact that things were going to be different and that was okay. I knew God had a plan and it’s not like we were unwed teenagers with no means to support ourselves. I was 26 and Albin was 30. All my friends were on their second child. It wasn’t the end of the world by any means.

Then I started having some back pains. Then stomach cramps. Then spotting. I was so confused. We had just started to embrace this baby and move forward. Albin took me to the doctor. I can’t adequately describe my emotions at this point. I was in a daze. I remember sitting in the cold, white examining room and trying to answer the medical questions being fired at me in Spanish, but instead just wanting to be at home in bed. At one point, the nurse asked me something I didn’t understand. I looked to Albin helplessly, but he didn’t know how to translate her question. After a long and grotesque description of the word they were using, I realized she was asking if there were many clots coming out in my blood. I affirmed that there were and she tried not to show her dismay. I could see in her eyes what I already knew. I was having a miscarriage. The doctor drew blood and checked my hormone levels again. My hCG levels were dropping and I was losing our baby. Again, I was left speechless.

One of the worst parts of that day was that they kept referring to the miscarriage as an “aborto.” In my mind, aborto= abortion. Being adamantly pro-life, I kept trying to correct them and tell them that I didn’t have an abortion. Albin gently explained to me that “aborto” was the medical term they used also for when a woman’s body rejects a baby naturally. It seemed too harsh. All I was hearing was, “Your body is aborting your baby.” Like I had chosen to lose this baby. Like my body wasn’t good enough to keep the baby in. It’s almost too painful for me to write about. I felt like my heart was being ripped out.

I went home and was paralyzed with shock. A little over a month ago I was in a white wedding dress with a beautiful adventure in front of me. It wasn’t supposed to look like this. The next few days were miserable. If you have ever had a miscarriage, you know how excruciatingly painful it is for you to see those “clots” and all the blood. Part of you is seeping out slowly and there is nothing you can do about it. It was absolutely sickening for me to flush the toilet because I knew. I knew it wasn’t just a normal period and that fact left an internal wound somewhere in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Then it is over. You’re left empty. Lost in your own thoughts. Overwhelmed with regret, shame, grief, confusion, leftover hormones, and shock. It came in waves. Waves that threatened to pull me under with each fresh swell. If I’m brutally honest, I was so afraid. I was terrified that it was my fault we lost our baby since I had cried so much about not being ready when I first found out I was pregnant. I was devastated all over again.

Those were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced. Because of the miscarriage, sex was off-limits for another two weeks. I mention that because not having sex for a month during your first two months of marriage creates a lot of unwanted distance. On top of that, I was so utterly wrecked that I didn’t even want Albin to come near me. One of my biggest mistakes was not sitting down and working through everything that had happened. I tried to move forward and forget because I felt like I couldn’t handle the burden of everything. My family and friends felt a million miles away. I didn’t tell many people about our loss because it was too painful and too abrupt. Several people that I did tell tried to comfort me by saying “at least it was an early miscarriage.” I stopped telling people I had a miscarriage after I heard that a few times. Does the fact that we lost the baby in an “early miscarriage” make that baby’s life any less valuable? I felt as though my grief was unjustified when people said that. I understood what they meant. They were relieved that I wasn’t far along enough to have to suffer through the D & C procedure, relieved that I hadn’t told all of Facebook and started purchasing baby clothes. I truly did understand, but in my head all I heard was that I had no right to mourn like other women whose situation was “worse.”  People who meant well were incredibly hurtful and I tried not to be offended, but we had lost a part of us. How could I not take it personal?

It took months for my body and hormones to get regulated again. I wish I could say the same for my heart and my mind. I had been through so much in such a short time, I was literally reeling. We went through several very difficult situations after this as well (future blogs to come) and I felt like a trapeze artist tottering on a high wire, afraid that one misstep was going to send me into an abyss of depression that I couldn’t get out of. I was overwhelmed with confusion. I kept asking God why He allowed that to happen so soon after getting married and during a time when I was going through so many other things. Why did I have to even find out I was pregnant? If I hadn’t received the blood tests saying I was pregnant, would I have known? Would I have just thought I was having a late and abnormally heavy period? Was all of that necessary? I wouldn’t say I was angry, but I was shaken to the core.

There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered, but one thing I can say that I am certain of now: God was there in the midst of that situation. Just as He has been intimately involved in every aspect of my life since day one. None of these things were a surprise to Him. He holds our lives in His hands and He cares. He knew and created that baby inside of me even though it was just starting to form. He held that little life in His hands.

For a long time, I had almost pretended that the miscarriage didn’t happen, like it was just some bad nightmare. About a year and a half after it happened, I wasn’t able to sleep one night and I heard the Lord whispering to my heart. He told me many personal things, but I want to share something that set me free in a lot of ways.

Tricia, that baby was real. All of that really happened. It’s okay to acknowledge that and grieve your loss.  Someday you will meet him in heaven, but for now, I’m taking care of him for you.

I can’t even begin to describe to you the release that I felt in my heart. The permission to truly grieve and to be reminded that the Creator was intimately involved in the situation gave peace to my heart. The Lord started to heal those deep places of my soul that were wounded from our loss, and also began to heal the pain from the cutting words people had unknowingly pierced me with.

Healing, as always, has been a process. I had to work through the thought that maybe my body was defective in some way and that I wasn’t able to do the one thing women were supposed to be able to do. I had to work through mixed feelings when friends found out they were pregnant. I had to surrender the paralyzing fear of having another miscarriage when I was pregnant with Mariah. Oh, and I still hesitate when people ask me if Mariah is my first child. Yes, well no, but do I really want to explain?

The ugly truth is that a miscarriage is a heart-wrenching experience and the healing process isn’t easy by any means. The beautiful truth is that our Creator is intimately involved in every moment of our lives, from conception to our last breath.  He knows that there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice and is there in the midst of it all. He is there with us when life knocks the wind out of us and He is there in every positiva that comes our way. He is not surprised, not confused, and never uncertain of the next step. I can rest in the fact that since He created the depths of our souls, He is more than capable of healing them too.

I would love to hear from you on this one, especially if you’ve gone through a similar situation. It’s always encouraging for me to hear that I’m not alone from people that understand.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 139:13-16

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

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My Favorite Spanish Mistakes So far…

Everyone loves a good translation mistake, especially if it is embarrassing, inappropriate, etc. Most of these errors are funny because the appropriate word was accidentally substituted with the inappropriate word. All of these examples are errors that I have made or people close to me have made. This is not a time to be offended by curse words. If you know you will be offended, you should just stop reading now.  If you know both languages, this will be funnier, but I tried to provide adequate explanations for those who don’t speak Spanish so they can understand my folly.

  1. Molestar= to bother. During my first few weeks in Costa Rica, as a kindergarten teacher, I had to do a lot of “translating.” My Spanish was awful, but nine of my students spoke only Spanish and nine of my students spoke only English. On a particularly frustrating day when my students would not stop bothering each other, I accidentally yelled, “Stop molesting each other!” Obviously my kids were oblivious, however, the principal and the prospective parents in the hallway were not. Fail.
  2. Luz= Light. Once I saw a huge bug flying around our apartment and I asked Al if he could get the “bug that was on the loose.” He didn’t respond. I repeat, “There is a bug on the loose. Can you get it?” Still no response and I look over at him as he stands there looking at the ceiling light with a dumb look on his face. I start to say it again when he says, “Tricia, I am looking at the luz and there are no bugs on it.” Bahaha
  3. Boots or boobs? Once before we were dating, we were with two of our best friends who were also single at the time. We were hiking a volcano and it was raining, so we were wearing boots. Yoji, our guy friend, meant to tell Kate that he liked her boots, but instead he said, “Kate, I like your boobs.” He keeps walking without acknowledging his mistake, but since I’m immature and can’t let an opportunity like this pass up, I lost it.
  4. Backs and butts are very different. Trasero = butt, espalda = back. One day in the teacher’s lounge I was talking about how sweet my Tica sister was. I was telling everyone about how one night we were at a youth gathering at church and she was helping a friend work through a difficult situation. It was a long church service, my Tica sister sat and rubbed her friend’s back as she cried for three hours. As I was telling my coworkers about this sweet act, I mistakenly said, “My sister is so sweet, she just rubbed that girl’s trasero for three hours.”
  5. Sheet on the bed. Once I arrived at a hostel to find out there was only one sheet on the bed. I get pretty chilly at night, so I went down to the lobby and asked the receptionist (who would only speak in English to me) for another sheet on the bed. His reaction was priceless; he was dumbfounded. He asked, “Is there sheet on the bed?” I answered that, yes, there was a sheet, but I would like another. He repeats, “There is sheet on the bed?” Yes. Clearly he isn’t understanding, so I start speaking caveman because I think he only understands caveman. I say, “Yes. Sheet on bed. I want more sheet on bed.” He stands up, gets angry and says, “Why anyone wants more sheet on bed?” and as I start to say, “Because I get cold…” he proceeds to run out the door. Now I’m dumbfounded. I look at Kate and she shrugs with a bewildered look on her face. The receptionist comes back and yells angrily, “THERE IS NO SHEET ON THE BED!!!” I know this. This is why I came asking in the first place … and then it hits me. He thinks I’m saying there is sh*t on the bed since in Spanish, “i” is pronounced with a long “ee” sound. He literally thinks I’m complaining that there is sh*t on the bed and that I would like more sh*t on the bed. Let’s just say that there might not have been sh*t on my bed that night, but I probably peed my sheets that night as I thought about him running in screaming, “THERE’S NO SHEET ON THE BED!”
  6. Huge racks. I always ask Albin to message me when he gets to work so I know he made it safe. One unfortunate day he accidentally wrote his message in my family’s Whatsapp group and it read, “Sorry I didn’t message you. There was a huge rack on the road so I was late to work.” Of course he meant “huge wreck,” but since my family is about as mature as I am, there were many jokes about “huge racks” stopping traffic that day. I told him the only rack that should be stopping his traffic is mine. lol
  7. Tiene miedo = he has fear (he is afraid). Tiene mierda = he has sh*t. Love this one. I team-taught my first year of kindergarten with a lovely Tica named Victoria. She was wonderful, but many of the little Gringo children were afraid of her because they had no idea what she was saying in Spanish. This was a missionary school, so parents were generally very amicable. One day, a missionary mom came to Victoria to talk to her about how her son was afraid in the class. The well-meaning missionary who was just starting to learn Spanish came to her and rather than saying “Él tiene miedo en tu clase,” instead said, “Él tiene mierda en tu clase” which means “He has sh*t in your class.” Victoria told me that she was speechless. At first, she was confused that a kid pooped himself in class and she didn’t notice, and second, slightly offended that the missionary used such a strong word as “mierda” in conversation. Third, she died inside when she finally realized what the lady actually meant.
  8. Huge Disclaimer: This is the worst. I may have dropped the F-bomb completely on accident. Please read this with grace: Recogerme= pick me up, cogerme= F%$# me. When Albin and I started dating, I was seeing a tutor to help me with my verbs. I was going out of town the next week, so my tutor asked me who was going to pick me up from the airport. I had told her about my budding relationship with Albin, so I wanted to tell her that Albin was going to pick me up (recogerme). Instead, I said, “Albin va a cogerme.” which, based on the translation above, you can figure out that what I said was highly inappropriate for this missionary kindergarten teacher to her tutor. Major fail. My tutor knew what I meant and tried to ignore the mistake with grace but then started turning red from trying to contain her laughter. She almost fell off her chair because she was laughing so hard.

The best part about committing these errors is that the humiliation is burned in your brain and you never make the mistake again…hopefully.  Let’s all be very thankful for that.

Long-Distance Relationships

Honestly, long- distance relationships are not for the faint of heart. Albin and I got married after a seventeen month long-distance relationship. You might be thinking, “Well no wonder you guys struggled your first year of marriage.” (Don’t worry, the multitudes have already made us aware that this is a common perception). However, for those of you out there doing the long-term, long- distance relationship thing, the good news is that there is hope despite what the multitudes may say.

In a nutshell, Albin and I were close friends for a good nine months before I (finally) acknowledged that there was a little more there than just friendship. The nine months definitely count for something because we knew each other pretty well before we entered the only month we actually dated within the same country. We dated for a month and things got pretty serious pretty quickly. We both knew that if we were going to put up with the emotional madness that is a long-distance relationship, we better be mighty confident that other person was worth the wait, grief, phone bill, etc.

After our first month of official dating, I went home for two months and we were able to use Skype every night (this was before we owned those newfangled internet iPhones and all day texting was possible). Then I left for the World Race for eleven months. During those eleven months we were only able to Skype once a week. Since I was in remote and different places each month, the connection was almost always unreliable. We emailed a lot as well.

family photo

A “family photo” of my sister and me skyping Albin

Thirteen months after doing long distance, I came back to Ohio and Albin met me there. It was also the first time he was going to meet my dad, sister, and extended family. I also knew he had an engagement ring in his bag.

I panicked.

Not only was I going through culture shock and processing my trip, but I was looking at this guy who I knew in and out over the phone, but not so well in person anymore. The struggle was real. People can change a lot in a year. Let’s just say there were a lot of serious conversations for us and a lot of serious sweating for me over those next three weeks. The worst thing I did was put a lot of pressure on myself to make everything get back to how it was before. I expected us to just “click” again, and that was unrealistic. Even though we had spent thousands of hours talking, it is so different than just hanging out when you’re dating. The best thing we did was do “normal” stuff together. Go to the grocery store, go for morning runs, play games, and dress up to hit up the “Goettafest” with my family (Goetta is a breakfast meat that we love in Cincinnati. We have a festival to celebrate it.).

photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

That’s my sister in the mullet wig. photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

While doing “normal” stuff helped us reunite in a way, it didn’t change the fact that many things had changed and we weren’t going back to what we had before. I think that’s okay. We knew we were supposed to be together. God had confirmed it to both of us and that is what we were clinging to.

Near the end of his visit, we got engaged. He then went back to CR and the long-distance fun resumed until I went to visit two months later. I stayed for a week, left, and then a short month and a half later he was back in Cincinnati with his mom and grandma in tow for our wedding. It was insane.

When we were finally married after those seventeen months of long distance, we got to our hotel room and kind of just looked at each other. It was almost shocking to not have to say goodbye to one another and hang up. I’m thankful to say that we were both virgins when we married, so it’s funny for me to think about how our physical relationship before marriage was not only just limited to kissing, but really we didn’t have much physical interaction in general. Like “not even sitting in the same room” kind of physical interaction.

I’ll be honest here. Those first few months of marriage were so hard. In a sense, I feel like it was reminiscent of an arranged marriage. We literally had to get to know each other all over again. We knew a lot about each other, but so much had changed. I am convinced that if we hadn’t had Jesus in our lives, we never would have made it. We fought so hard for “us,” and our relationship came out much stronger because of that.

While it wasn’t the ideal situation, it’s what we did, and we fought to make our marriage “meant to be.”

If you’re in the throes of a long-distance relationship, let me encourage you with this: there are many beautiful things that come out of the struggle. Here are my favorites:

  1. You find out of if you’re really “in love” or if you’re actually just “in lust.” When you take out the physical temptation, you find out if your relationship really has sustenance.
  2. If you know you’re relationship has been 100 percent confirmed by God, it’s an awesome opportunity to learn to trust Him at His word. There will be a lot of doubts and negative comments along the way, but listening to what God says instead of what  others say will grow your faith exponentially.
  3. If you find a guy (or gal) that will wait for you for an extended period of time while remaining faithful to your relationship despite the distance, that person deserves your respect. I would also be willing to bet that this person has staying power and faithfulness when temptations or dry periods come during your actual marriage as well.
  4. It’s commendable to see two people sacrifice time together to do what they believe God has called them to do now. I believe that God will reward that obedience and give you the grace to finish well.
  5. You get to know someone SO WELL when you’ve played 20 questions more times than you can count. Word of caution: Even though you may know your man’s favorite color on Sundays or what he would do if he was given a million dollars, that person has a lot of quirks and habits that don’t come up in “Twenty Questions” or during Skype conversations. On the one hand, we’ve realized that we both do things that annoy the crap out of each other and that had we known about them pre-marriage, they could have been petty reasons for us to call it off. On the other hand, we didn’t have those petty annoyances to complicate our relationship before marriage, so we married for foundational truths. Now, when things get murky and we start focusing on stupid little differences, it’s easy to look back to our long-distance relationship period and clearly see those foundational truths we based our relationship on.  Hopefully that makes some sense.
  6. You do not take the times you are together for granted because you know what it feels like to be apart.
  7. When you go through long periods of difficulty in your marriage, you can quickly recognize how going through the difficulties together is so much better than when you are apart.
  8. You win when people are playing the “let’s compare dating stories game.” Oh, joy!

Anyway, I know many of you are in long-distance relationships, and whether you’re with someone from another culture or not, it’s just plain hard. I get the frustration, the love/hate relationship you have with Skype, the doubts, and the fears. You’re definitely not alone and need to keep reminding yourself that it will all be worth it in the end. God has you in this season for a purpose and He doesn’t make mistakes.