Virtual Baby Shower for Luz

*****Update: There was an overwhelming response to the Baby Shower for Luz, Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!****  I’m closing the paypal button now.  I appreciate you all so much.  Please continue to keep Luz and the women and teen girls of El Salvador in your prayers.****

I distinctly remember being 9 months pregnant, four times. I had a husband who worked, and I could stay at home and sit.  Sure I had 3 other kids to take care of, but they were generally non-violent, and non-destructive enough to let me rest on the couch.  When Alex came home from work we would either work on dinner and cleaning up the house together, or he would just do it for me. I could put my swollen feet up,  or stop to lean over the counter while the pressure of the baby or Braxton Hicks contractions subsided.

Long before I hit the 9 month mark, I had friends and family rally around me to bless the coming baby with all the clothes and supplies we would need. This new life would be a celebration!  I was blessed enough to not have to go to work every day.  I could spend my days with my kids, prepare for the baby and just dream about that moment.  That moment when he/she would be handed soft and pink into my waiting arms.

If you are a mom, you know that moment. That frozen in time minute, when your eyes first meet the precious eyes that you have only been dreaming about. For a second time stands still and you can finally feel, hear and see their heartbeat with your owns eyes.  The indescribable, unreal softness of their delicate skin.  Because everything in the world is right, all they need is Mama.  They little breaths they make, the peace that comes over their tiny bodies as they are tucked in to your neck.

This is how the story and the miracle of birth goes for many of us. But for some, it means hardship, pain, excruciating exhaustion.  Loneliness. Worry. Fear. I met a woman facing this a few days ago.

I don’t have permission to tell you the details of Luz’s story. But trust me when I tell you that I have never known such strength.  I met her and upon finding out that she had an hour walk in the dark to get home, I offered her a ride in our car.

I was told “no.” The area of town she lives in is not safe for American’s to go….
But that left me wondering, how then, is it safe for her to walk there???? Does my life hold more value than hers? No. Does she have kids relying on her to make it home from work, just as I do? Yes. In fact, she has 7 kids waiting on mommy to come walking through the door at 8 p.m. There’s no dad there to help, all they have is her. And the wage that she HAS to bring home. She’s all the love they are going to get.

So I insisted on driving her at least half way. I would stop, when they felt it was no longer safe for us to continue, and not a second before. She was 9 months pregnant for crying out loud!

Luz means “light” in Spanish. As we drove, I prayed her name, the significance of the meaning, all I could think of. Jesus is THE light.

We continued on into darkness. Luz. We drove at what is important for me to not understate, nearly, straight, uphill.  She does this walk every morning and night. UP the mountain.

I prayed Jesus’ name.

We drove past men ogling young girls that I wanted to stop the car and punch.

Jesus.

Our van struggled and groaned as it climbed the mountain road. Pitch black.

Jesus. Luz del mundo. Jesus light of the world.

We stopped when our van could not go one more foot.  We let her out into the dark. We were told that was only halfway.  Halfway.

How does a woman have such strength?!  I was humbled and shamed.  How many days did my children create a tornado of toys, clothes, snack wrappers and sippy cups all around my house while I was too tired and too uncomfortable to get up and clean up after them???

How many days did I tell Alex that dinner wasn’t ready because I was pregnant, growing a life inside of me. “Honor me! Honor my sacrifice!”  “Pick up my slack! I’m making a human being here!”

I watched her walk away into the black of night. Feeling helpless.

Thankfully she was not alone. I prayed and cried over her long into the night. She may not know it, but she was not alone.

Luz. Light. Jesus.

Help me show Luz, that she will never be alone. She works and works, there is no time for friends. There is no time for baby showers.  But we can be there for her.

We can show her that she is never alone. If you are willing. Click this paypal button.  Leave me a comment telling me what you would buy for her precious baby boy. I will go to the store and do the shopping for you. I will send a picture of the item to you. And together, we will show the light of Jesus. We will show her that while the “darkness is all around her, the Light will overcome it.” (-paraphrase from book of John)

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Long Awaited Conclusion to Car Adventure

Imagine with me if you will Mario Kart.  Or, if you haven’t played Mario Kart, picture any arcade driving game.
(google image)

This is driving in the Santa Tecla/San Salvador area…. With New York City traffic.  Where in, most of the traffic is gigantic school/public bus transportation, barreling at you from all directions.

There are round-a-abouts, merging traffic, on ramps, off ramps and nary a stop light (we saw one or 2).
Mario Cart.
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If you are following, then imagine yourself doing this all day……

Evelin and I had but one option, to laugh about many things. At one point we threatened Alex’s life if we did not come home with a car that day. In addition, if we didn’t get to the fun stuff of looking at houses, then he would also be in serious danger. Because we women, had only come along for the ride at the promise of browsing homes.

As if Alex had any control over the situation.

Now, since most of you have never been here, I just need to clarify that the used car lots we were looking at were not laid out like a car lot you are accustomed to seeing.  There is a lack of parking or open space at all, so the cars at the lots and the mechanics we visited were parked a bit like this:
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If you want to see something, or park, then there are approximately 6 other cars that have to be maneuvered first.

Please don’t misunderstand my intent with writing this. El Salvador is different, and I simply want you to be able to visualize. Different is not good, bad, wrong or right. It’s just different.
And we had quite the hilarious (different) experience… because after our 4 or 5thhour of doing this chase around the city… Evaristo (our friend and driver) took matters into his own hands.

When we reached another round about, going over the same ground…. We were stopped in traffic and I watch as he rolls the passenger window down and starts to frantically wave at a driver of a 9 passenger van next to us.

I smile and wave thinking Evaristo knows this particular man, because he is also quickly speaking to me in Spanish (and I have no clue what he is saying).

What is actually going down, and that I catch bits and pieces of, is that Evaristo is now trying to buy the guy’s van from him IF it has air conditioning in the front and back. IF.

While we are stopped in traffic.

“Do You want to sell us your van?”
“How are the tires? The engine? Does the air conditioning work??”

The man in the car chuckles, says the air doesn’t work, and we move along on our way. So Evaristo turns to me and remarks, “the air didn’t work, no sale.”….

Meanwhile I am dumbfounded, laughing hysterically, and have to explain to the rest of the passengers who missed this whole exchange.

I begin fervently praying that God would please, please drop a van into our laps, in our budget.
google image

That became the point in the day where Evaristo was determined to get us a car. I’m fairly certain he couldn’t take one more day of car shopping with us!
If not that, then what happened next proved it.

We swung into a shopping center to wait for Ivo to go get his daughter from school. I remembered that we needed some more water, so my family, Evelin and I went into the grocery store to buy some.  As I stepped out of the van Evaristo chuckled in my general direction, string of heavily accented Spanish (that even the people down here have a hard time understanding), and finally I make out as he is laughing;

“I will find you a van.”  Hahahahah, I smile, I laugh, of course he is joking around. We are in a parking lot.

Midway through checkout, Alex gets a call… from Evaristo. We go out to the parking lot to find that he has stopped a family while getting out of their mini-van and asked them if they would please sell it to us…….

A van with no “for sale” sign on it. Strangers.  Strangers who in fact had just purchased this van a month ago. But the wife says, “Sure.” But not for a penny less than the price we will ask of you. Don’t even think about asking for a lower price.
The price happens to be less than our budget.

So we agree to meet them in the morning at a mechanic. Meanwhile, we have a lead on another van, that a friend of a friend of a brother’s cousin might know about.

 But I have had it. I quit. And I just want to go see what may potentially be our new home. I agree to just send Alex with Ivo and Evaristo the next day, and Que sera sera sera.

We continued on our way to look at a furnished house. In our price range.
With…. Wait for it……… a washer AND dryer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Unheard of. I do not have to wash my family of 6’s clothes by hand!

I would. Lord knows I will roll with the punches adjust, and wash by hand. I will. Scout’s honor.
After all, I live with 2 lizards (I think, there could be more) and poisonous spiders. 

But if I don’tHAVE to wash by hand, in our budget? 
Well then, I am allowed to rejoice about that right?!

Epilogue:the parking lot people called the next morning and had changed their minds. But it’s okay because the lead on the other van panned out, and Alex preserved his life by bringing it home with him the following day. We have now been on 2 successful driving trips, un-escorted around La Libertad. We may brave going into Santa Tecla grocery shopping today.  If we are feeling exorbitantly brave. 

Adventures in El Salvador: Week 2

As I’m typing this, there is currently a green and orange lizard who has taken up residence behind our couch….  Normally, back home in the U.S. this would have sent me running and possibly screaming. Today I say “Get busy eating some spiders and mosquitoes, my friend. And please, pretty please do not choose my face to scurry across in the middle of the night.”

*Note to self:  wear yoga pants with the tight pant legs to bed from now on, unless you want a horrendous surprise in your personal bubble in the middle of the night.

We are learning many things other than to be thankful for lizards.

Monday and Tuesday we went car shopping and house searching.  I had lofty ideals of going to a used lot or 2, picking out a car, signing some papers and then happily continuing on to meet a realtor to look at some lovely homes.

This is not how it works. While the suburbs in the U.S. are brimming with mini-vans fit for a family of 6, not so much here. 5 seater cars seem to be the max.

Here is how Monday went. We had an awesome friend driving us all over, around and back again. It didn’t bode well when on our way TO the car shopping we got a flat tire.  Pastor Ivo, Evaristo (our driver) and Evelin (our ever patient friend and interpreter) got to accompany us on this super awesome day.

Ivo and Evaristo would pull into a car lot. We gringos would stay in the car. Ivo had a suspicion that if the lot owners saw our pasty white selves, the price would magically go up by hundreds of dollars.

He was right.

So he and Evaristo would search for something in our parameters, get a price quote and then come back to the big van we were in and tell us if there was something worth seeing.  Then we would hop out, go and look it over.

We found a great option, drove to two different mechanics, just to find out that the engine was bad. This lost us about 4 hours. This is with all of our kids in tow.

We felt TERRIBLE about wasting a whole entire day of our friends’ time. Terrible.  At least our company was good. We got home around 8 p.m., made our kids some sandwiches and went to bed.

Day 2: Feeling optimistic. New plan. Alex will go car shopping. Because I no longer care. Then they will come back, pick us up, to do the house hunting.

We get a phone call from a very excited Pastor Ivo about a fantastic opportunity. From his excitement and very rapid Spanish, I can make out multiple “huge opportunities” and “come to the church” “lot of clothes and shoes.”

So we pack up all the school books, snacks and water, get to the church and discover Ivo with 2 men from the Air Force. One pilot, one mechanic.

They are based nearby for 6 months and like to spend their off time making a difference in the community.  The long and short of it is this: They want to do food and clothing drives in the U.S. Ship it all over for free in their huge planes. For free. Free is very, very good. They also want to help out with work projects, help distribute the food and clothes, have barbeques. Be a part of this community. They have 6 month deployments, and then a new group comes in. But they do a hand off, introductions and continue the relationship.  This is hugely exciting for this city.  I’m really praying it works out.

LOVE IT!! Plus, we can help them, with lots of kids to play with and wonderful time spent with people in our community.

After we met with them, a car buying trip unlike any I’ve had before ensued. 

To be continued……

Today is full of feelings..

I’m feeling a lot of things today.
I just said the words “This is my house.” We had someone over for dinner at “our house.” Then I made the mistake of browsing photos on my phone and saw empty pictures of my Ohio house.
I have a hurting friend back in Ohio, and I normally would rally around her.  And bugs. Yesterday Gomez bravely removed a huge hive of African bees from one of our potted plants…. I watch my kids like a hawk, terrified that the will accidentally drink contaminated water. But who can live in fear? Not me. There is no joy, and no obedience in living in fear.
While I am not missing any of the mounds of snow they are still removing, reality is beginning to set in.
A few weeks ago I was studying in Genesis, about Lot’s wife.  She had ANGELS stand in front of her, tell her to leave her old life, and not look back. Angels. And yet she looked back.  I don’t want to be Lot’s wife.
The first step in looking to the future then, is to be thankful for the now.
(red letter words)
Today I am thankful for a card I opened from one of my closest friends.  She encouraged me, gave me undue and unearned praise, loves me, and now her notes of encouragement are up all around my house. 
I am thankful for my husband who has been doing all the cooking and dishes.
I am thankful for sunshine.
I am thankful for the school books I have to teach my children.
I am thankful that I have another note to open tomorrow, from a different, loved friend.
I am thankful for running water.
I am thankful for air conditioning.
I am so thankful for our friends here in La Libertad. I cannot imagine doing this without knowing people. 
Having people.
And I am thankful for this view out my front door. God’s creation is truly stunning.  It was stunning with the snow, and but now I get this extreme opposite every morning.

I am thankful for a God who is going to use my weakness. For what, I have no idea. But I am thankful to be used.

First Days in New Life

I am not done processing. There’s my disclaimer. The emotions and details that I went through last week, leading up to our move to Central America are vast, varied and very difficult to put into words.

We shut the door on a way of life we have had for 12 years. That’s a long time. But its okay.

We miss our home. We are excited.

We’re sad. We’re happy.

We’re warm, Yay!  We’re HOT!…

There’s sunshine!  There’s ants.

We have great friends. We miss our friends.

All of this is going on at the same time. So please bear with me while I work through it. Some things I will share, some I will not. Some things I will write with anticipation of your excitement, others will be kept between the delicate walls of our hearts.

We have switched from a culture where being in constant communication via approximately 12 different technologies, social networks etc. etc. rule our lives, to one where BEING with the people you are physically with is vital.

At the same time we are committed to keeping our supporters (financial and prayer) up to date, who have invested so much care and trust in us.  We love you all and want to keep you in the loop.  I would be dying of curiosity if I were in your shoes!!!

With that said.  The plane ride could not have gone better.  I was a little nervous when 5 minutes after we arrived, first in line at the airport, a rock band of some sort, came behind us with 10 passengers, and 40 pieces of luggage….. most overweight and we were on a little commuter plane. But it all worked out. We only had 4 pieces of our luggage not make it through, and we received those today. Yay!
Donovan fell asleep immediately after take off and slept through until we were getting off the plane in Miami. He could not figure out why it was sunny out and we hadn’t gone anywhere…. My very favorite part of the journey was the hilarious things he was saying before take off.  He was a constant stream of questions, insights and observations.  To a plane full of people who had been up since well before 3 a.m., in his loud, Donovan, excited, voice.  I could not stop laughing, which only added to the scene as he hollered with extreme excitement, “MOMMY THEY (the airport ground crew) HAVE BABY LIGHT-SABERS!!!!! THIS IS THE COOLEST PLACE EVER!!!” With his little face plastered to what I’m sure was a disgusting germ infested airplane window….. ewww. Suffice to say, I’m positive that they were overjoyed when my little man passed out immediately after we reached cruising altitude.

We are going to be well taken care of.  I was brought to tears when we arrived at our new home to find that the church family had taken a collection to buy us enough food for breakfasts and lunch for a few days. As well as some cleaning supplies and food for our puppy.  Their generosity and hearts just did me in after a very emotional few days.

We had a great time of rest on Sunday, did some grocery and home goods shopping, and then enjoyed a restful evening at Pastor Ivo’s house.  This is the best part.  Getting to share in their lives, and be together. The kids made fast friends, and I am so excited to see what God is going to do with them and through them. I might have had a mini heart attack when at the end of the evening I said, “I better get my kids home to bed…..”  It was so strange to hear coming out of my mouth.

We are feeling very peaceful and anxious to get to work,  due in no small part to the many prayers being lifted for us.  This is mixed with many emotions of the amazing family and friends we had to say goodbye to. I am so, so thankful for this age of technology in which we can still communicate often and “be” in each other’s lives.  We are just an email, a skype or a message away.  Please feel free to do so.

Love, Mari