The Estrada Family

A Nica-Canadian family, living in Nicaragua and starting a family!

For I know the plans I have for you…

[I was just going through some files on my computer and found this.
It was written on December 2nd, 2014.
Almost exactly a year ago.]

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”     Jeremiah 29:11

I am the kind of person who imagines situations and circumstances a million times over before they actually happen. I make plans and have expectations – which almost always differ from how things actually turn out. Giving my plans over to God has been one of the hardest struggles in my life….and it’s an ongoing, almost constant struggle.

Example: I have always wanted a big family; four kids sounds good to me (And, luckily for me, David is in agreement!). My plan was for my kids to be close together in age. My ideal: no more than 2 years apart. Honestly, I think Bethany was less than 6 months old when I first decided “Ok, I could be ready for another one right now!” But financially we were not in a place where we could have more kids. So we waited.

I was all too aware when the deadline passed and suddenly my kids would be more than 2 years apart. It. was. hard. I had made plans that were not being fulfilled. We decided to set some goals that we needed to reach before we would be ready to have more kids: 1. A car. 2. Better financial stability (David and I were both working “freelance” and at the time David’s business was not doing well.) 3. More space in our house.

Slowly but surely we achieved those goals. We bought a car last year; at the beginning of this year David’s business picked up (to the point where he averaged 12 students a month); and we started to build an addition on our house to give us the space we needed.

Check, check, check. Ok, time to have more kids. Right?

Well, I got pregnant in July… and then miscarried at the beginning of September. I was pregnant again at the end of October, and miscarried again mid November.

“Um, what the heck, God? We had a plan here. We had goals. How is this part of Your plan ‘to prosper and NOT to harm me’? How is this giving me ‘a hope and a future’?”

Do you see the problem here? They were my plans and my goals. Somehow along the way, I left the “big picture/long term” plans up to God, but I decided to take on all the short term planning myself.

And last week, as I sat in front of my computer reading article after article on Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, while trying not to self-diagnose but at the same time totally self-diagnosing, and wondering why this was happening to me, I suddenly had a revelation…

I need to read all of Jeremiah 29. Not just verse 11.

Here’s what i found:

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God is talking to His people while they are in captivity. They have been taken out of their own land and forced into slavery. I’m sure none of them planned for this to ever happen, but it did! And check out verse 7: It says “seek peace and prosperity in the city to which I have carried you to exile”.

I.e. Don’t wait until you’re through the mess to find peace, find peace and prosper in the midst of the mess.

This is what I hear God saying:

“Hey, guys, clearly this wasn’t the plan you had for your life. (I mean, who plans to be taken captive, right?) I know you’re feeling down about it, but it’s not the end of the world… keep doing life! Build your home, find a spouse, have kids, have grand kids! Make the best of what you have right now in this moment, instead of waiting for something better. Enjoy the place where you are living even though it’s not your real home. And when 70 years have passed, I will bring you back home. Because I have great plans for you!”

So, that was some serious paraphrasing, but I hope you get the point. Just because at this moment in my life I think things aren’t going right or according to my plan, doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a plan. He sees the BIG picture, when we just see little snippets. I know that God is saying to me “I know that this isn’t what you wanted, but keep on going! Stop waiting for something better, and enjoy what you have right now in this moment!”

Does this mean I’ve figured it all out? No. Am I all better? Definitely not. The losses are still fresh and the pain is very real. But am I going to give up? No. I am going to make the best of where I am while I’m here. Because, really, we’re all in exile, aren’t we? This world is not our home, and we are all waiting for the day when God takes us into His Glory.

I am trying daily to remember that God is in control; of the big and the small; of the important and the [seemly] insignificant. I need to stop worrying about infertility, and the age difference of my kids, and focus on living right now. Because, His ultimate plans for our lives are for good, but that doesn’t mean we won’t trip and scrape our knees along the way.

 

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breaking the silence…

Hey! Its been a while!
Its not that we haven’t had anything to share. Its that my mind hasn’t been able to concentrate on anything for long enough to actually sit down and write an update.

So here is a quick update, and hopefully soon I will be a bit more specific.

  • David’s business, Estrada Language School, is doing much better than David or I expected. David has been packed full of students since the beginning of the year, and we have even hired a second teacher (our sister-in-law, Tatiana) who is also has an almost full schedule! Our plans for next year include registering Estrada Language School as a real business in Nicaragua, and possibly hiring a third teacher! Woah!
  • Bethany started preschool in February and is doing wonderfully! Unfortunately, going to school in Spanish means that she has switched back to using Spanish most of the time. But that just means I have to be extra careful to speak to her in English as much as possible.
  • I am still working at Tesoros de Dios as their Team and Volunteer Coordinator… and I’m loving it. At first it was a bit hard to get used to having to wake up early every morning to go to work, but the joy of getting to come home every night hasn’t worn off yet. Plus I get to see all these amazing kids and their families every day.
  • Fertility issues are still ongoing. I had another positive pregnancy test in July (and all the “pregnant feelings” that go along with it), only to be disappointed a few hours later. I have had blood tests, ultrasounds and results, and things are complicated (and a different blog post might be coming on that one). Long story short: we need some prayer. This has been HARD and emotional (ie, why I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything for more then 5 seconds).
  • We have finally made some progress on the house. Our walls are plastered and beautiful, and we are going back and forth on what our next move should be (continue with the living room and kitchen? or start working on the bedrooms? We can’t make up our minds!).

And, since this is a quick update, here are some photos from the last few months.

 

Bethany's first day of Preschool.

Bethany’s first day of Preschool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bethany's piñata for her birthday.

Bethany’s piñata for her birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little model...

This little model…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

has stolen my heart

has stolen my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went on a trip to Ometepe Island.

We went on a trip to Ometepe Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bethany and her cousin, Kelly, having a laugh.

Bethany and her cousin, Kelly, having a laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our new cat, Robin!

Our new cat, Robin!

She swims!

She swims!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freedom

David and I are running another Youth Alpha course, this time in our home church in Managua. It. is. Awesome! Seriously, like, 50 bazillion times better than the last one.  The youth from our church that are running the show are ridiculous (as in, ridiculously AWESOME). We show up at 5:30 on Friday afternoon and everything (seriously, EVERYTHING) is set up and ready to go. They are fulling invested in this program, and in sharing the love of Jesus with their peers. I am so proud!

But, something happened between the first and second week that made me sad, and a bit angry, and slightly dumbfounded. There was a guy who attended the kick off event (which was awesome, by the way) who decided he didn’t want to come back anymore.

Because David has an earring.

Because “how could any man respect God, and stand up in front of people to pray, and talk about Jesus, with an earring?”

Well, actually Dude, FYI, David doesn’t just have an earring. He also has his eyebrow pierced (but he doesn’t wear a piercing in both at the same time…because that would look dumb), AND his lip pierced (ok, that one was a “if you do it, I’ll do it” dare like 8 years ago that just never grew over) AND – oh my gosh, try not to faint from the horror – a TATTOO.

Yep. And somehow he still manages to respect God, and stand up in front of people to pray, and talk about Jesus.

It made me sad because this guy chose not to come back and participate in really fun games and activities, and eat great food, and watch entertaining and insightful videos, and learn about Jesus, because of one guy with an earring.

And it made me angry because how can this guy make such a huge assumption about someone’s relationship with God based on an earring?

I think the first thing that came into my head (and possibly out of my mouth) when I heard about it was, “THAT’S SO DUMB, its just an EARRING!

Buuuuut, the team got together and we chatted, and David decided to not wear the stupid earring. Because if something you’re doing causes someone else to stumble…blah blah blah…

My point in all this is that there are some pretty messed up ideas in this country about what Christianity is, and what a relationship with God looks like. There are a whack-load of churches that WONT EVEN LET YOU IN THE DOOR with shorts on, or make-up, or a hat, or if you are known to frequent a pool-hall. You can’t dance, sometimes you can’t even clap. Women have to wean knee length skirts. Men have to been clean shaven. If someone spots a beer bottle in your garbage, you might have to have a meeting with the entire elders board to explain why you shouldn’t be kicked out of the church. No joke, I once listened to a pastors wife explain how it is not a sin to go swimming, but it IS a sin to wear a bathing suit (*sigh).

Rules, rules, rules, rules, RULES.

Matthew 22:34-40:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this questions: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Stand at the church door and stop anyone who isn’t cleanly shaven from entering.

waaaaaait a second…

Jesus replied: “Be the bible police and tell people exactly what sins they are committing.

nope, that’s not it either…

Jesus replied: “BE PERFECT PEOPLE WHO NEVER SIN MAKE SURE EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS YOU ARE PERFECT.

Ok, I made all those up. The NIV actually says this:

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Canadian spelling mine]

In the hierarchy of commandments, that is the most important – Love God and love others. Simple. If you are doing these two things the other commandments are covered too. Not sure if something is a sin? Ask yourself two questions: 1. Is what I’m doing loving God? and, 2. Is what I’m doing loving my neighbours? Did you answer “no” to one of those things? Then maybe you should rethink what you’re doing.

Jesus came to give us freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from the pressure of having to prove ourselves worth of God’s love, freedom from the laundry list of rules that people make for us. Honestly, I really don’t think God cares if I wear a skirt or pants to church. I think he likes it when we dance and clap in worship to him (Hello! King David!). I don’t think he cares about your earring, or tattoo (unless you tattoo says something hateful, like, um, “I hate left-handed people” or something. That’s not loving your left-handed neighbour, and so maybe you should cover it up when you’re out in public (and maybe think about getting it covered/removed).

And that’s what we are trying to show these youth in Alpha. God loves you how you are, right now, in this moment – Tattoos, piercings, the whole package. You maybe have been kicked out of churches in the past, but you wont be kicked out of this church. Because we are all sinners trying to figure out how to love our God and our neighbours. We are ALL broken people who need to be washed in Jesus’ grace and mercy. We are not perfect, and we don’t pretend to be. 

But we are forgiven, and we are free, because Jesus set us free.

And you can be too, all you have to do is ask.

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A New Chapter

I think I have written this post about 15 different ways. Trying to sum up a year in one post is hard. 2014 was hard. As David and I drove to Managua one day recently, we agreed that it was our hardest year since we got married. Its difficult to look back on this year and remember the good stuff. The bad usually overshadows it. Here’s some of the bad I’m talking about:

  • In January we were visiting some new friends at the ministry they work at (They had only been in the country for 3 days), when the ministry’s security guard came stumbling over asking for help. He had been shot twice. I left Bethany in the care of our friend (she locked herself in their room with her kids), and joined her husband to use what I have learned in first aid to keep the guard conscious while David tried to called the police. We ended up driving him in the back of a pick-up to the hospital. Long story short: the guard survived, but was later arrested for some involvement in organized crime, and I was left with some serious fear and the occasional panic attack (both have which have gotten a lot better).
  • Nicaragua experienced big earthquakes, an extreme drought, and then once it finally rained, flash flooding. There were volcanic eruptions (and threatening eruptions) and evacuations all over the country. Mother Nature was a little crazy last year (I think that’s true for a lot of places), and that made life a little stressful. We still sleep with our back door unlocked (because finding the key to the padlock in the dark during an earthquake while carrying a toddler is incredibly hard; just ask David), and my heart still races a bit every time I feel any sudden shaking!
  • Our seriously old, but extremely economical car had problem after problem until we finally gave up on it and basically sold it for scrap. After putting so much money into it to try to fix its 1,000,000 problems, it was frustrating when each fix revealed another handful of problems. The bright side: a wonderful friend, who was here in Nicaragua temporarily, sold us her car for a very good price. Our new car is almost 10 years younger than the old one, it’s automatic, and still pretty economical!
  • I had a miscarriage in early September, and another one mid-November. This hands down was the worst part of our year. Our unwritten goal for 2014 was to grow our family, and two miscarriages bring on a whole bunch of questions and doubts (Whats wrong with my body? Are we ever going to have more children? Why is this happening? etc, etc, etc.). We plan to get some of those questions answered this year, and hopefully find solutions to any problems that arise. Grieving the loss of our babies has been an emotional roller coaster. At times I am moody, sad, grumpy, quick to get angry, sometimes a crybaby, sometimes all at the same time. We hope and pray that the end of 2014 would be the end of that chapter for us, and that this year we can get answers, and grow our family.

In my head I know that 2014 was more then just loss/fear/earthquakes/disappointment, but when I look back that’s all I seem to see and my heart hurts. So along with the bad, I have to share the good, so I have good memories written down where I can see them, to remind myself that this year was actually a good one.

So, here we go, the good stuff:

  • David’s business, Estrada Language School, really took off. Our goal was 8 students a month, and from March to July he has at least 12 at a time. The final count for this year was 35 students.
  • Bethany has been diaper free for most of the year. Even at night! I went the “I’ll give you candy if you go pee-pee in the potty” route, and after about a week I didn’t have to give her candy anymore. Actually, I am only responsible for the “pee” potty training. I had successfully trained her in a week, but she would still cry for a diaper when she had to poop. Then I had to go away to translate, and when I got back, my mother-in-law, Mercedes, informed me that she was officially “fully” trained. Bethany also surprised us by not wetting her diaper at night for about 2 months in a row right after she learned to use the toilet, so we decided to go diaper-free at night too!
  • I started coordinating translators for one ministry, while also translating for 3 other ministries on a regular basis. Meaning that during team season I was pretty busy!
  • We built an addition on our house! The walls, roof and [cement] floor are done, and we have partially moved into the extra space (there are still a few things left to do before we officially take over the space). Our house has almost doubled in size, and I love having a kitchen (even though I STILL don’t have a sink inside yet!!)
  • David continued to study. He is half way through his degree in teaching and school administration.
  • Bethany became “officially” bilingual. Actually, I don’t know what defines someone as bilingual, but up until last year she was primarily speaking Spanish. She knew a few things in English (like numbers, names of animals and the colours), but now she is speaking in full sentences in both English and Spanish. She knows who to speak to in Spanish, and who only understands English, and she has translated for her Mimi a few times!!
  • We got a new dog! Oreo, our previous dog died almost two years ago. We had given one of her puppies to a friend, and that male puppy fathered a litter of puppies at the beginning of 2014, and our friend gave us one of the puppies! I just realized that I don’t have a good picture of our new dog, Batman, but he looks completely different than his grandmother, Oreo, but they have exactly the same personality. It’s nice to have a dog to eat all our table scraps and keep the neighbourhood dogs off our property, and bark all night long for no reason (ok, maybe not the third one…).
  • I finally became a resident of Nicaragua! It only took 6 years!
  • David and I ran two Alpha courses in our community, Los Cedros. From July-October we ran the Youth course, and had 130 youth show up on the first night! We finished up averaging about 80 people a week. And in November and December we ran a Alpha Marriage course for 10 couples (including David and I). It was also a huge success! David and I learned a lot about each other, and we got a lot of positive feedback from the other couples.
  • I got a full time job! I am now the Volunteer Coordinator for Tesoros de Dios, just 20 minutes away from home. That means I wont be translating anymore (I’m kind of sad about that), but I will be coming home from work every night, and I have a fixed salary with health insurance… you can’t beat that.
  • We made a point to spend time together as a family. We took trips to the beach, the local swimming pool, the park, and other parts of Nicaragua throughout the year.
  • We made the most of our Christmas Vacation. I had two weeks off, and David only had a few classes to teach, so we made an effort to visit with people we don’t see often, have dinner with old friend, spend time with people who were visiting, go on trips with the extended family, and spend time together. It was a lot of fun, and I can’t believe I have to go back to work on Monday!

2014 was hard, but my second list proves that it was, in fact, good. I am, however, very glad to put that year behind me.

So here’s to 2015. To answers and solutions, to peace and quiet, to fun, to family, to life.

A new year, a new chapter.

¡Happy New Year from the Estrada Family!

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Thank God for Answered Prayers.

I have been working as a translator for almost 5 years.

Almost. Five. Years.

When I started it was easy — sometimes I spent a week in another city, but I knew my hubby could fend for himself while I was gone. While I was pregnant with Bethany I hoped and prayed that some kind of job opportunity would come up (for me OR David) that would make it possible to stay home. But, alas, only 2 months after she was born I left for my first week away. Since then I have heard, “I can’t believe you have to leave your baby girl, I just couldn’t do it.” more times than I could count. Let me tell you, that doesn’t make it any easier on me. Actually, it just made me feel sad and guilty.

Don’t get me wrong. I love translating. I have worked with teams from all over the US and Canada. I have met tons of people –some of whom have become great friends; I have gone to places in Nicaragua that I never would have visited otherwise; I have seen and learned invaluable things; and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.

But leaving home for 5 or 6 days at a time, sometimes 3 or 4 weeks in a row hurts. It kills me when I can’t see my hubby and my daughter every day. It makes me so sad when I call home and Bethany is crying for me, or doesn’t even want to talk to me. It is a hard job. It’s mentally exhausting. I am working full time for 5-7 days, and then I am back home being mom. Certain times of year are harder then others, so when jobs are available I have to take them.

Translating is great; I really enjoy it, but I  have been doing it for almost 5 years, and for almost 5 years I have been praying for a job that would allow me to sleep at home every night, in my own bed, 365 days a year.

And almost 5 years later, God answered that prayer.

answered prayers

Two weeks ago I received an email from a ministry where I have been translating for the last year, asking if I was interested in applying for a position that they were creating, or if I knew anyone who would fit the job description. I talked it over with David, and we decided I would send in my resume. one week later I interviewed for the job, and I was told that they had me in mind from the beginning. They had a few more interviews to do, but I would know by the end of the week. Later that night I got a call saying I had the job.

On Monday, I start my full time job at Tesoros de Dios, as their Team Coordinator.

Its 20 minutes down the highway (I can take the bus or drive easily). Its a Monday-Friday job (most jobs in Nicaragua are 6 days a week), and I get a full time salary and health insurance for me and my daughter. God didn’t just answer my prayer, He gave me exactly what I wanted!

And luckily, I live right next door to the ministry I have been translating for the longest, so when my good friends come for their yearly visit, I can walk across the field to see them. (That’s you, Jill, Grace, Sue, Greg, Kristie, Debbie, Tommy, Amy, Eric, etc).

I will truly miss translating. I will miss the great translators I have worked with over the years, I will miss my fav teams that keep coming every year, I will miss the 3 hour yellow-school-bus rides into the mountains (wait, probably not), I will miss the people we work with in the clinics.

But I am so ready for this next chapter in my life. I am so excited about coming home for dinner every night and seeing my family. I am so excited to get to know the kids and staff at Tesoros.

And I am so thankful for answered prayers.

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Part 3: Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

When I came back from my second trip, I decided I needed to learn Spanish. I was going to live in Nicaragua after all. So when I picked my first semester classes for my 3rd year Spanish 101 was on my timetable.

Spanish class was torture. I barely passed. I am evidence that languages are better learned in the field. I remember thinking to myself “well, I’ll just have to hire a translator when I live in Nicaragua”. Haha.

Summer 2006 and 2007 I was back at the ranch as the Rec Coordinator, and in the off-season I spent every weekend there. During my second semester of third year I began to realize that I wasn’t as driven as the other students in my program. Some of my friends were already sending in applications to grad school programs, and I just wasn’t motivated.

By the beginning of my 4th year I had an epiphany: I don’t like school.

I know, I’m slow,  it took 3 years of university to figure that out. All I could think about was Nicaragua. Instead of studying I was googling ministries in Nicaragua, and day dreaming about going back. Med school was out of the question. I couldn’t imagine having to wait another 4 years to go back. After a lot of prayer, I made a final decision. I changed the courses I was taking to the last 3 credits I needed to graduate with a general BSc, and applied to graduate in December. At the same time I started looking more seriously at ministries in Nicaragua. I had 4 months free, and money that I wasn’t going to be spending on tuition, so I started looking for a place where I could volunteer for a few months.

I decided to do a short solo trip because I was a little nervous about committing to anything longer. What if I couldn’t handle it? I wanted enough time that it wouldn’t feel like a short-term trip, but short enough that if I realized I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t have to change my ticket. I decided to go for 2 months.

There was one website the I kept going back to in all my searches. I must have read it 50 times. It wasn’t a big ministry, and the website wasn’t fancy, but it called to me. It was a little school in Managua. So I emailed, “Hey, I have two months and I want to know if you could use some help.”  and got the response “Ya! sure!”

January 21st 2008 I was back in Nicaragua for the 3rd time. The beginning was hard. I still struggled (hard) with the language, but I loved the little school and the neighbourhood I worked in. I was picked up at the airport by a woman and her husband. She was the director of the school, and we instantly got along really well. At the time she had a beautiful baby boy who was 2 months old (He’ll be turning 7 in November!)

About half way into my second week she suggested I start taking Spanish classes (I couldn’t spend my entire 2 months here only speaking to her!), and she suggested a great teacher: her younger brother, David.

February 8th, 2008

February 8th, 2008

David and I hit it off really well, and soon we were “novios”. I knew pretty soon after we started dating that I would marry him one day.

During my two months here I helped out at an orphanage for three weeks. I think it was during that time when I was really sure I would be moving permanently to Nicaragua. I had been working with kids for almost eight years at the Ranch, so working in an orphanage seemed like a was a logical next step for me.

2008 was my last summer as Recreation Coordinator, and boy it was a hard one! I look back on that summer and know that God was preparing me to leave my home and the place I loved the most. It was the hardest job I have every done, but the job I loved the most. I am still so grateful for the time I worked there. It helped shape me into who I am.

As I prepared for the big move I started getting anxious about the language barrier. Thanks to David I spoke a lot more Spanish then I did before, but I was going to be living in an orphanage where there were no other staff who spoke English. I prayed (and prayed and prayed and prayed) that God would help me. “I need some supernatural Spanish here, God!

And let me tell you, He answered.

I think my high school teachers and university professors can attest to the fact that I’m not the smartest kid out there. I think 5 years of French, and Spanish 101 can show you that I do not learn languages easily (ask me to count to 10 in French… I can’t). But when I moved here, the Spanish just started flowing. There were times that I opened my mouth and words I didn’t even know I knew came out. It. was. a. miracle.  There is no other way to explain it.

Moving to Nicaragua in October 2008 was the fulfillment of a plan that God called me to 5 years earlier, but it didn’t end there. Now David, Bethany and I are in it together and I never get tired of hearing little whispers and hints from God about whats to come.

I know now that when ever I hear silence, it not because Gods not there, or he doesn’t care, it’s because he is waiting for just the right moment to tell me the next step.

I know now that even though I can’t see where the path is taking me, I need to enjoy every twist, turn and bump, because each step in the journey is important, not just the destination.

 

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Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

October 28th, 2014 marks six years living in Nicaragua. I like to call it my Nica-versary. In honour of my six years here I decided to write out the story of how I got here.

A lot of people assume that because I am married to a Nicaraguan, I moved here for him…

False.

…David was a bonus thrown into plan that God gave me way before we met.

Eleven years ago, I was in my last year of highschool for the second time (wait, what? Ya, for real. Long story short, the Ontario board of Education decided to change EVERYTHING, including getting rid of grade 13- or OAC – in our province, and I was in the first year of the new plan. So we graduated with everyone a year older then us. Double the graduates = a lot harder to get into any universities. This girl cracked under the pressure and so I had to re-take a few classes and take a few new classes to pull up my average, even though I had already graduated). I was part of the Student Leadership Team in my church, Spring Garden Baptist in Toronto, and I was trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.

I prayed and prayed during that time that God would give me a little guidance about where I should go to University, and what He wanted me to do with my life. The response: silence. I was SO frustrated. Almost all my high school friends had gone off to university. They had plans, and goal, and they knew (more or less) what they were doing. And I felt stuck. God had no plan for me.

And then one night at a leadership team meeting the first step in God’s long and elaborate plan was placed before me. We were told that there was an opportunity for the SLT to go on a missions trip to Nicaragua. I knew immediately that I wanted to go. I got home from Church that night, put the pamphlet down on the table and said “I’m going to Nicaragua in March!” I don’t remember exactly what my parents said, but I know it wasn’t all positive. The next day my dad brought home a printed out version of the CIA fact-sheet on Nicaragua with a bunch of highlighted reasons why I couldn’t (or should’t go).

But I was 18, and insisted that I would fund raise the $2200 I needed to go on my own, so I signed up.

Over the next 6 months as we prepared for the trip I felt like I was still getting no response from God about my future. I started getting acceptance letters for Universities in early March, but I had no idea where to go or what to do with my life.

On Thursday March 11th, 2004 I stepped foot in Managua for the first time in my life. It was hot, and smelly, and beautiful. When I woke up the next morning I actually forgot that it was my 19th birthday for the first hour or so.

Our trip was what I would typically call an “exposure” trip. We were introduced to various ministries, we painted a church, we built a basketball court, we went sight seeing, we cut grass with a machete. We were split up into groups of 2 or 3 and sent to live in houses with Nicaraguans. We rode on big, brightly decorated school buses, or in the back of pick-up trucks. We saw joy and hope in the midst of  poverty and suffering. I think I can safely say that everyone on the team was changed by what we experienced.

Volcan Masaya

Volcan Masaya

Wednesday was the day that stood out the most to me. Probably because its a day that changed my life forever. We were visiting a school and playing with the kids out in the school yard. We brought a parachute and some balls and just had fun. We were surrounded by probably 150 kids, and as I stood out there, in the middle on the yard, with kids running around me, for just a minute I felt like everything got quiet. And then I heard His voice. God. He spoke directly to me and said, “You’re going to live here one day”.

I remember getting back on the bus after our time at the school and crying with one of my friends. God DID have a plan for me. I had be frustrated and angry for months because I felt like God wasn’t listening or talking to me. But what he was really doing was waiting. If he had told me back in September that I was going to live in Nicaragua one day it wouldn’t have made any sense. He had to bring me here first before he could reveal his plan to me.

When I got home I was finally able to make some decisions. I chose to study Bio-medical Science at the University of Waterloo. My plan: undergrad>med school> somehow eventually become a missionary doctor in Nicaragua.

You’ll have to come back for part II. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t go to med school!

 

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dreams

Just a note before I start writing what I actually WANT to write about: 
If you ask me how I'm doing, the answer most likely is "I don't know". 
Literally my day is filled with such a roller coaster of emotions, I 
don't think I can sum it up in a quick response. In Nicaragua, when 
you ask someone, "¿Cómo estás? ("How are you?), you sometimes get the 
response "Aqui". Which literally translates to "here". I guess that is 
a good way to describe how I'm doing. I'm here. In the middle of it all.
Yesterday was probably one of the most physically painful days of my life. 
I didn't fully realize that by opting to let things happen "naturally" it
meant that I would be signing up for a pain that is a slightly scaled down 
version of labour and delivery. Complete with about 5 hours of escalating 
contractions that quickly progress to being right on top of each other, 
and whole bunch of stuff that you don't want to read about on a family blog.
I don't really know if the physical pain was just adding insult to injury 
(i.e. I already lost my child, now I have to feel like I'm delivering 
it too?) Or if helped to have a physical pain to go with what I was feeling 
emotionally. But either way, today is a slightly better day. My physical 
symptoms of the miscarriage are starting to diminish. And, though 
emotionally I still have a ways to go, I fell like the physical healing 
will help me get back to a somewhat "normal" life. Whatever that is.

Alright, now on to what I came here to say…

dreams

I don’t dream very often. Actually, I probably do, but I don’t remember my dreams very often. But sometimes, not very often, I have very vivid, almost real dreams.

I believe that God speaks to people through dreams. There are so many examples in the bible of God speaking to people through dreams that it would take to too long to list them all here. But I don’t believe that its just something from biblical times; I believe God speaks to people through dreams today.

When I was only 8 weeks pregnant with Bethany (and we still hadn’t told anyone yet), a woman from our church told me that she had a dream where she saw me standing in church holding a baby. She believed that God was telling her to tell me that soon we would be parents. It was such a relief to hear her say that. And I am so thankful that God gave her that message for us.

I had two dreams last week that were so vivid that those few minutes while I was waking up I truly thought they were real. And now, in retrospect, I think God gave me those dreams to help me with closure.

The first dream, about 5 days before the bleeding started, was beautiful. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She was perfect. I saw her clearly. Her skin was a little bit lighter than Bethany’s was when she was born. And her eyes were a light, honey brown colour. She didn’t have a a head of thick black hair like Bethany did, but wisps of  light brown hair. In the dream we were sitting on our couch, talking to some people over Skype (who had apparently helped with the delivery…via Skype – that was the only bizarre part of the dream!) and I was nursing my new baby daughter. The part that stands out to me the most was the name. We named her Amberly. I don’t know anyone with that name, I don’t think I have even heard that name before. But it was so vivid. Amberly.

When I woke up I was so hopeful! By that point I already knew about the possibility of a blighted ovum, and I was concerned that we didn’t hear a heartbeat the week before.  I felt like this dream was hope that everything would be ok.

But the next dream, two nights later, was the opposite. I was lying in the ultrasound room in the hospital, and my doctor was checking for a heart beat, David was standing behind her. Then she turned the screen towards me and explained that there was no baby, that the sac was empty, that I was having a miscarriage. In the dream I left the room and just screamed and cried uncontrollably. I woke up feeling out of breath, and extremely confused.

The crazy thing is, that second dream was an exact depiction of what actually happened on Wednesday morning. When we got into the car after leaving the hospital I told David. “I dreamed this. Exactly how it happened.”

Except for the crying. I mean, I cried, I cried hard, but at the same time, as Dra. Aragon told me that the sac was empty and that there was no baby, it was like I had already been prepared for the news.

I don’t know exactly why I had that second dream, but I do think it helped with the impact of the news. It reminds me that God is in control of everything, that he has our days planned out before we are born.

And the first dream? I think God was giving me a few precious minutes with my beautiful little girl. The image of her is forever etched in my memory, and I know I will recognize her one day when I get to heaven. She’s lucky. She got to skip this sometimes crappy, sometimes painful earthly existence and go straight to eternity with Jesus. If it can’t be me holding her in my arms (or my womb) at least I know its Him. Its comforting to know that she is having fun in heaven playing with her cousins.

And of course I looked up the name Amberly yesterday. It comes from the name Amber, and means “beautiful jewel” or a warm honey colour. Having never heard the name before, it fits her pretty perfectly.

I am so thankful that God let me see my baby girl at least once. And, although I am still struggling to get through this and come to terms with why this all happened, it is so nice to be reminded that my God loves me and is carrying me through it all.

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2014 – Goals

Along with talking about what goals we accomplished in 2013, David and I also talked about what goals we would like to accomplish this year.

So, here we go.

Spanish School

In the last four months of 2013, David`s Spanish classes have picked up. He already has 2 intensive courses (4 hours a day/ 5 days a week) booked for 2014, and other students that are continuing with their 3 class/week schedule. We are also thinking about the idea of doing online classes via Skype. Our goal is to have 8 consistent clients, and teach an intensive class at least every other month.

Translating

I love translating, I really do. I really enjoy working with teams and meeting new people, seeing old friends, and travelling to parts of Nicaragua that I would never see otherwise to help people. But leaving home for a week at a time is hard on me and Bethany, and especially David, who has to play Mr. Mom while I’m gone. I would like to have more written translation jobs that I can do from home. I worked on a huge project in Nov/early Dec of 2013, and I should have another one in Feb/March. But I’m also going to be away translating for groups for about 6 weeks from mid-Jan to the end of February. It would be hard for me to give it up altogether, but I would love to at least limit the amount of time I spend away from home.

Marriage

David and I have a goal to go away for a weekend together. Maybe Ometepe? maybe El Cañon de Somoto? We also plan on working through the devotional “The Love Dare” together.

Oh, and we are planning on going to Corn Island for our 5th wedding anniversary (Feb 2015) so we need to start saving money now…

The House

We are bursting at the seams here. We haven’t built anything onto our house since we moved in at the end of 2010, other then the front porch, and we are ready to expand! The small addition we have planned would allow us to actually have a sink in our kitchen and give Bethany her own room.

Potty Training

This mama is so ready for Bethany to use the potty. Bethany – not so much. She is afraid of it. I think we actually just need to buy a different potty – the one we have is a hand-me-down from a cousin, and its weirdly tipsy. I’m not going to force her onto the potty…I’m going to wait until she is ready. But, seriously, I don’t want to be packing a diaper bag a year from now.

“The Project”

Like I said before, there is a whole other blog post on its way devoted to this, but God has given us some big plans for our community of Los Cedros. We are hoping to start an Alpha course, through our church (VAM- Vida Abundante Managua) with some of the youth that live around us, and we would like to start reaching out to our community more.

Saving

We are going to open a bank account. Ok, that sounds crazy even as I write it, but we don’t have one! Back when David worked in Managua he was paid directly into a bank account, but when we moved to Los Cedros, and he was getting paid in cash, it was just a hassle to have an account that we didn’t ever use. We’ve been a 100% cash family for the last 4 years. That means anytime we needed to save for something we had a bunch of cash tucked away in my underwear drawer (or maybe another secret location!). But, this year we plan on saving money, so David is going to open up an USD account and our goal is to put away at least 10% of all the money we make this year.

There you go! Goals for 2014.

What about you, do you have any goals/resolutions for this year?
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2013 – a year in review

Well, its officially been too long since my last blog post. I apologize. I’m going to try to work on that. A new year brings new goals and plans, and one of mine is to blog more often…well see how that goes.

David and I were talking the last few days about goals for the new year. We don’t do resolutions, but to list out life goals for the next year has worked well for us in the past, and so, as we were running errands, or working around the house, we got to talking about what goals we accomplished in 2013, and what we want to see accomplished in 2014.

Lets start with what we accomplished this year.

We took Bethany to Canada.

David said way back in 2012 that he wanted to send me and Bethany to Canada so she could meet our Canadian side of the family. With the cost of travel and our very minimal income, I was skeptical, but God worked it all out and the tickets were given to us by a close friend. It was a fantastic trip, and we were so happy that Bethany was able to meet my entire family, and most of my friends. We stuffed our faces with Canadian treats, and brought back as much stuff as our suitcases would carry!

We stepped out in faith.

At the end of January David finished his job at the Children’s Home next door and he started teaching Spanish “full” time. (I use quotations because we would have wanted it to be full time, but a lack of students made that difficult for some time!). It was scary at first, and there were times that we discussed whether or not we had made the right decision. We both knew that God had made it clear that it was time for David to leave his job, and we knew that God has told us he would provide for us, but when we came back from Canada David didn’t teach a single class for over 2 months (All of his students were away or busy), and we started to worry and wonder if it was time for David to start looking for a full time job. It was mid august, and I was close to finishing all of the translating jobs I had booked. As our circumstances got gloomy, we brought it before God and asked for guidance. Less then a week later David had a full month of classes booked with two new students, for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and from September to December David was incredibly busy teaching. God made it pretty clear to us that we had done the right thing, and to continue with it. 2014 will bring more clients, and more classes!

We bought a car!

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This is our beautiful blessing! Its gets very economical gas mileage, and gets us where we need to go.

Bethany

Well, she wasn’t born in 2013, but last year – boy, did she grow!

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February 2013

She learned to walk, to run, to hop, to speak 4+ word sentences, to count to 10. She can sing “rain rain, go away” (en español), She will eat just about anything that is put in front of her. She wakes up every morning and says “buenos dias papa!”, and when she walks away she says “bye bye! Amo!” (I love you). This little girl amazes me every day with the things she learns. She speaks both Spanish and English, sometimes combining them both into one sentence. (“Shhh, Oso [bear] esta sleeping!”). Nothing about her is baby anymore. She is pure toddler!

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December 2013

David went back to school.

Since finishing high school, David has wanted to continue with university, but working 6-day a week jobs made that difficult. In February he enrolled in pedagogy (definition: the science of education) which is basically like teachers collage, but also includes school administration. Its a 4.5 year program, and he has class every Saturday.

We focused in on God’s calling for our lives.

There is much more detail to come in a blog post just dedicated to this topic, but I can say now that God has given David and I some huge visions and has brought us together with people who have the same dreams. We are so excited about what God is doing in our little community of Los Cedros!

All in all, 2013 was a year full of blessings. We had some rough patches, including a car accident, and a funeral for a 1 month old baby girl, but we will continue to praise Him in the midst of it all.

…Coming soon… 2014 goals…

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