Monday, January 13, 2014

Norma…my other daughter!

The kids who started showing up to play...

            Shortly after we moved to Pine Hill, the neighbor girl and her friend started knocking on the door to ask if they could
play with our kids. We were cautious at first, but Norma and her friend Dulce proved to be sweet, considerate young girls.

Cupcakes for Norma's birthday...
a perfect surprise!

            After awhile, it was Norma who was knocking on our door almost every day. I admit I was still cautious about opening my home. I have enjoyed my home being my safe haven. But eventually God showed me that Norma needed a safe have too.
Norma, opening her stocking!

            Norma is the youngest child in her family. I don’t remember how many kids there are, but since she’s the youngest and a girl, her older brothers aren’t always very nice to her. Norma’s mom works outside the home and her dad isn’t always home. Often it’s Norma and her brothers.

            After Norma shared about her brother I realized that she too needed a safe haven. We made a deal that she would come to our house after school every day. She helps wash the dishes and sweep the floors. And she plays with the kids. Ellie looks forward to Norma coming over because they play Barbies together! (Ellie always wanted a sister!)

Norma's Family after high school graduation
Norma, Don Felix, Elizabeth, Doña Brigida, Pablina

            Now, it’s not just after school. Norma is with us almost every day. Her parents have shared with us that Norma is already sad that someday we will move away. She told her parents that she’s going to have them sign papers so that we can take her with us when we leave.

And sometimes that idea is very tempting…when I see how hungry she is, or how lonely, or how mistreated by her brothers…

Granny and her newest granddaughter!

 Please pray for Norma and her family. She has mentioned that she likes coming to our house because our home is so peaceful. Imagine…a house with four rambunctious kids is peaceful to her.

Pray that our family can testify to Norma of the Peace of God. That she can know the Savior and that her life can be transformed.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mischievous Matthew

            Our little Matthew is not a baby any more…at least according to him. He’s a big boy, or so he claims! His personality is shining through and he is growing and learning.


            Matthew was just a small baby when we left Idaho…only 4 months old. (I can only imagine the comments when we get back to Idaho next year for our furlough.) And he was 8 months old when we moved to Mexico. He really doesn’t know anything else but life in a foreign country.


            He’s 2 ½ years old now. He talks all the time, but we don’t always know which language he’s speaking! Sometimes we think maybe he’s speaking German because he says things like, “mines shoes.”  We know he’ll get it all figured out someday though and he’ll probably even start speaking ZK. The people love it when they ask him “how are you?” in ZK and he responds in ZK.

Levi "reading" to Matthew
            Matthew and Levi act very much like twins…and they look very much like twins too. I think the most asked question or most frequent comment has to do with that topic. They play together and fight together. They stick up for one another and are sad when they are apart. And Matthew is quickly learning the art of instigation.

            In 2 ½ years, Matthew has travelled across the US three times—once from Idaho to Mississippi and back, then from Idaho to Orlando (including Disney World) and back, then from Idaho to Virginia. He’s been to Washington, D.C., New York City, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Mexico. He has swum in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the rivers of the Amazon jungle. Oddly, in spite of all that travel, when we leave our home in “Pine Hill,” Matthew always asks to go home.

Matthew, hanging on the climbing wall!

            Matthew is our gift from God. Already, he has helped to open doors in the Pine Hill community. We walk down the street and we hear, “Mateo!” (Matthew in Spanish)   We look forward to what God has in store for him in the future.
Styling on Christmas morning!
Love this smile!

Smart, Handsome Ryan

Ryan is holding a coralillo snake that we
found in our back yard ...but don't worry.
It had already been killed.

            My handsome Ryan turns eight in February. This boy is growing and maturing so quickly! He’s had some difficult times, but I’m so proud of him. Living in Mexico has been one adventure after another and Ryan has taken each adventure in stride. When we left Idaho 2 ½ years ago, I don’t think he knew what he was saying goodbye to, or what kind of adventure he was entering. He is so brave!

            We spent three months in Virginia for training in 2011. Ryan was five years old. He attended school for MKs (missionary kids) where he learned about other countries, cultures, and religions. He made friends with the kids in class and although we haven’t had much contact, Ryan still remembers his friends and prays for them, their families, and their ministries.

            We moved to Mexico two years ago, in January 2012 and a whole new adventure began. Ryan was removed from his home culture and language and immersed in Spanish! It was very difficult for him at first. He attended a local school for a few months where he was expected to learn math and read in Spanish. He struggled, but today he can communicate very well in Spanish.

Sitting on a caiman in Suriname
            Last year, we spent a month in Suriname, which is a small country located north of Brazil. We lived in a cabin in the Amazon Jungle! And Ryan was in heaven! He’d go back in a heart beat. Is it any wonder that he has told me that he wants to be a missionary when he grows up?

            This school year Ryan and Ellie started school in our “Pine Hill” village. Life in a rural village is tough on a young boy. The other boys want to test him to see what he’s made of. How will he react to their taunting words? Will he fight? Will he cry? Will he join in and taunt others?
Ryan is afraid of heights, but he is brave!
Here we are on the tallest Ferris wheel in Latin America!

            After the Christmas break, Ryan really didn’t want to go back to school. We talked it over and I reminded him of God’s promises…”the Lord is my Shepherd” and “the Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”
Ryan wrote a special Christmas poem.
On Friday, after school, Ryan said, “Mom, one of the kids that was picking on me is my friend now.”

            “Oh? Tell me about it. What happened?” I asked.

            “I asked him if he wants to be my friend and he said yes.”

            I know he’ll have many more battles ahead of him, but I think we’re off to a good start. I’m so proud of Ryan! And I look forward to watching him grow in the Lord.

Our very own climbing wall!

Sweet, Funny Levi

            Our precious Levi turns four this month. Like every other parent, I have to say the time has gone so quickly and he has grown up so much. Levi loves to make the whole world laugh. And what joy it is to be in his presence. I think everyone in Pine Hill knows Levi, or “Paco” as many call him.

Levi with "Rex"

            Levi had a rough start in life. When I went into labor, we thought things would progress quickly and normally. At 11pm on January 29, 2010 we were pleasantly chatting with our nurse. Around 11:30 she told me to try to rest because things were progressing slowly. About 15 minutes later my doctor and a horde of nurses came rushing in because baby was in distress. His heart rate had dropped because the cord was wrapped around his neck. He was born about 10 minutes later in an emergency c-section. It wasn’t until almost a year later that Clay told me Levi was blue when he was born.
Climbing high!
            Levi was a happy baby and very independent. (It’s good he was so independent since he was no longer “the baby” at 15 months.) Levi was over two years old before he began to really talk. In the back of my mind, I wondered if somehow the oxygen deprivation at birth might have caused some brain damage. It’s hard not to compare the younger child to an older sibling. Ryan and Ellie could quote the Lord’s Prayer at 2 ½ years old…and Levi could barely talk. We tried to get him to repeat a simple Bible verse and he would give us some silly phrase instead. (The typical class clown…I began to worry how I would ever home school this child!)
On our 12th Anniversary...
I was blessed by this face!
            Now, as he prepares to turn four, he has surprised me on numerous occasions. When Ryan and Ellie were homeschooling on a daily basis, we would review our Bible verses during breakfast and lunch. Suddenly, Levi was repeating the verses too. But not just the one from that week. He was repeating the ones from 2 and 3 months ago! I can’t tell you how comforting that was!

Levi "reading" to Matthew

            Levi is quick to say thank you. For everything. He thanks me for making each meal every day. He thanks me for telling him to go to the bathroom in the morning. He thanks me for hugs and kisses. He thanks me for picking him up from daycare.

A quiet moment...
 I’m so thankful for this beautiful child, for the smiles and laughter that he adds to our family, and to our community. He’s quick to make friends, to give hugs, and to help out. I can only imagine what God has in store for him and how he will affect the Kingdom of God!
Levi, showing his sad face!
Makes me laugh every time!



Beautiful, Sweet Ellie

The new climbing wall in our
back room!
            My beautiful, sweet Ellie turned six in December. This girl is beautiful and strong! Currently, she loves to do pull-ups on the pull-up bar…and she can do more than her brothers! (We try not to let her gloat…and we know that her brothers will some day be stronger than her. But for now, we smile.)

Beautiful...inside and out!

            Ellie was 3 ½ when we left Idaho. She has always been drawn to people and has been quick to make friends. When she was three, we were driving by the train park in Lewiston at Christmas and she said, “Look at all those people! They’re my friends.” It made us smile at how she looked at strangers as her friends.

            Living in Mexico, we’ve seen our Ellie grow and change. She’s a little more reserved when it comes to making friends. She gets tired of people touching her hair and trying to hug her. But most people in “Pine Hill” have never seen anyone with hair like hers—curly and blond.

            This year Ellie has been in school in “Pine Hill.” At first she cried and was sad. She didn’t like the idea of being away from Mom. But over time, she has grown to look forward to school. It’s time to make friends and play. Recently she was telling me about a girl who has been friendly towards her. Now they are good friends…Ellie just doesn’t know the girl’s name yet!

Ellie's 6th birthday...chocolate cake anyone?

            Ellie has an amazing ear for Spanish. She has been very quick to speak, which has helped her to make friends. Now that she’s in school full-time, she’s learning to read in Spanish too. When I went to pick her up on Friday, she was helping one of her classmates with her homework!
Train Museum in Puebla, Mexico
            I am amazed at how well my kids are adjusting, not just to Mexico, but also to life in a small village. We have our difficult days when we want to cry right along with our kids. But we also have our victories to celebrate—when our children respond in godliness to those difficult moments, when they are reading stories in Spanish and English, when they make new friends, etc. As tough as it is, I wouldn’t trade a thing!

Daddy's Little Princess!

            When we tell our children about those who are lost around us, they have a whole different perspective now. They understand that the volcano that is 10 miles away could erupt again, like it did 30 years ago. And that many around us might lose their lives without knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Because of honest discussions with our kids about reality and the need for a Savior, we can rejoice that our Ellie recently accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Always on the move...

            As a Mom, I know my daughter will do great things for her Savior. And I rejoice that I am already witnessing her give testimony to her Lord.