Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What if my kids don't thrive in every culture they are in?

Wow! There is nothing that causes me more anxiety than that question: "What if my kids don't thrive in every culture they are in?" Every missionary kid's life looks different. Every country/culture is different. Different parts of a country are different. That means there is no magic formula or list of steps to help your kid thrive as a missionary kid. 

Thriving to me means (whether reasonable or not)
1. Understanding and valuing the culture inside our home. (Biblical world view)
2. The States not feeling completely foreign to you. (English)
3. Participating in the culture outside of our house. (Spanish)
4. Participating in the culture at our church and around the farm. (Kekchi)

If we lived closer to the capital my kids could go to a good Spanish school, or maybe an international school all in English where they would have lots of extracurricular activities. None of that is available to us and wishing is a waste of time and sows seeds of discontentment.  Reality is we live in the most rural part of a developing country. I think putting my kids in a school here in our town would cause more problems than it would solve. I could write a paragraph about why that is, but unless you have lived in a culture similar to our town I don't know if you would understand.

What if we lived somewhere with a big missionary community. My kids could probably get by just having close English friendships, but they still wouldn't be able to participate in the world around them. Besides, we don't know anyone close to us anyway with kids that has made longer than a 3 year commitment to be here. We have said goodbye so many times I feel like, why even put forth the effort to build these relationships... we still do though.
Everything is easier with Eden right now. She isn't a twin, so she doesn't have a buddy to talk to in English outside of our house. There are 2 little girls who live behind our house whose parents' are Christians (Jimmy led their dad and one of them to the Lord). I love them and their mom. I don't think Eden is going to have as many problems at this point in her life; she has Spanish friends everywhere.

The boys though... those boys! I pray every day that God would send them good Christian friends. We live on the outskirts of town, so there aren't too many houses around us yet and the boys we have met so far around our house are kind of naughty and their parents don't know where they are or care what they are doing. It's hard anyway in the culture in our town to make true two-way friendships. (I feel like it is easier with Kekchi people.) It hurts when you realize someone is just trying to take advantage, not share in a friendship. I don't want that for my boys.

Every time Jimmy and I meat a nice couple I ask if they have kids and if we can set up a play date. I'm a crazy friend stalker! They do not offer any sports for any children under 8 within an hour of us, so a soccer team isn't an option for a while. I think that will be wonderful once it is possible! They have good friends at church, but they are 9-12 years in age, not really peers. Also Kekchi kids don't learn Spanish until they have gone to school a couple years, so at this point their true peers don't even speak Spanish yet. 

Our church was all in Spanish and my boys were doing really well participating in Sunday School, but once we moved it down to the farm property, everyone who attends is Kekchi. Now, the only service that is in Spanish is the youth service. My kids sit through a Kekchi kids Sunday school class where they are completely lost unless I sit in the back and translate a little for them. 

So what do you do? Do you hire a Kekchi tutor to come teach them after their hour of Spanish everyday? (By the way, Kekchi tutors don't exist.) 

Spanish tutors are a difficulty in itself. My boys are on their 4th tutor. It's hard to find someone who knows how to teach (better if they don't speak any English),shows up, and doesn't apply for the job just to milk something from my family.

When you have a birthday party, do you have it in English, Spanish, Kekchi or mixed? It is really difficult to have mixed get-togethers just because someone is going to be left out. You don't really do the same things or even eat the same things with all of those people.

They have to read in English, be fluent in Spanish and kind of comfortable in Kekchi... all before they turn 6, or at least that's what it feels like in my head. Also, I am doing everything I can for them not to believe the States is this magical place where you get to play in snow, there are no bug bites, everyone speaks English, Mommy and Daddy don't have to work, you visit Lego Land or some equivalent on a monthly basis, everyone acts like they are so excited to see you, complete strangers give you presents, and you visit your grandparents everyday. I don't want them to yearn for the States.

Are you feeling the pressure with me yet? And don't forget the pressure of not putting this pressure on my kids!

They have this awesome life here where they get to understand something outside of their tiny little lives. They get to spend a lot more time with their dad than the average kid in the States. They also understand the "why". They like to call themselves missionaries to. I would never assign that to them, but that is the conclusion they came to. They want to help us with the purpose God gave us here. 

My kids are content little children right now, but I feel we have to diligently stay on this path of helping our kids build true relationships in this country, inside and outside of our ministry. I want them to be comfortable and functional here there and everywhere. I ask every single day for God to help our kids and direct us in the decisions we make regarding them. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a missionary kid... I'm kind of a mess as a missionary mom! 

Every day is a lesson in faith for me. I wish I could type it in the tone in which Jimmy says it to me, 
"(Well) that's faith!" When God led us to Petén, He knew that later He would give us kids. They were never separate from His plan. So this is what faith looks like to a crazy control freak: There is an obedience part of faith (Deut 4:1-4), that's usually the easier part for me. It's the other part I struggle with, the one where instead of coming up with "what if's" (Like what if when they are teenagers they hate it here, how am I going to prevent that.) you look back and come up with "what He has done", all the ways in the past God has been faithful to our family (I Sam 12:24; Phil 4:6-7). (Like this time or this time, or this time) I'm still more comfortable with strategy than faith, but I'm looking at God. I'm going to keep looking at Him until I get this faith thing down.
{Or this one}
 So that's a little glimpse into the mind of this missionary mom, trying to help her kids navigate life in a second and third culture in a rural part of a foreign country, while learning (maybe just trying, still working on the learning) to put her faith in the One who is with us here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2 Weeks of Memories

MaG and G (Jimmy's parents) wanted to see their grandchildren, so they bought us all tickets to fly to KS for 2 weeks. We have the best families! I am so thankful for this gift of time with them! 

 It was the end of the semester, so we skipped out of the last 3 days of finals week. I already shared about our wonderful drive to the capital, haha! Well we ended up with less than 3 hours of sleep before arriving at the airport at 4 in the morning. Jimmy had this great idea that if we flew early, it was like we got another whole day with MaG and G. We ended up having really nice flights and our kiddos were sweethearts. Just sheer eagerness to see MaG and G got them through that day!
{Waiting for our luggage}

The kiddos have 5 aunts and uncles that they got to spend time with! They ended up getting pretty spoiled. 
Seriously, we are so blessed to have the family we do!
{Aunt Robin & Jill}
{Reading with Aunt Jill}
{5Guys with Uncle Jon}
{There was lots of Lego building!}
{And water activities}
 Their Aunts and Uncles spent so much quality time with them. Jonah, Silas, and Eden feel very connected to them. They are constantly telling me stories they remember and wanting to skype with them! They're the best extended family a missionary kid could ask for!
{Silas & Uncle Jojo}
Now they even have a cousin!

Sweet Lennon! I think she and Eden will grow up to be great friends!
They had lots of fun experiences!
{Eden's first pedicure!}
{Fishing with MaG & Uncle Joe!}
MaG took them all to the cowboy store. Jonah and Silas wear their boots everywhere!!!
{Put put for the first time}
{Go Carts for the first time!}
On one of our last days we all went to the zoo together. 
{Uncle Jon, Aunt Robin, & Eden}
They got to spend time with their great grandparents too. 
{Eden playing games with Great Grandpa Jim}
{Great Grandma Helen, Great Grandpa Jim and Uncle Jojo}
{Spending time with Great Grandpa Tractor!}

Silas' favorite memory were mornings on the deck with MaG and G. He's our little early riser.  
{Saying goodbye at the airport}
 Thank you MaG and G for all of the wonderful memories we got to make with you guys! We all are very close, even though we're far away.

Monday, August 17, 2015

That Time Both Our Vehicles Wrecked the Same Day

No, we didn't run into each other! While my mom was here we had gotten a flat tire on our SUV, a Nissan Patrol. Jimmy took it to get it plugged. He saw them put the tire back on with a gun thingy.

Jimmy's parents had bought plane tickets to fly us all to KS for 2 weeks. We were flying out about a week after she left. Our flight was leaving at 6 AM on Thursday morning. About 4 hours into our Wednesday trip to the capital Jimmy was passing a semi. He wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, you pass a lot of large trucks on the 2 lane highway. As he merged back into his lane I felt a bump, then it felt like we were kind of fish tailing it. I thought maybe we had a busted tire. I just knew the semi behind us was going to hit us as Jimmy was trying to maintain control while getting us to the shoulder. About the time we were off the road Jimmy said look and I saw our tire rolling down the other side of the road. Awesome!
How does your tire just fall off? If that had been a front tire I wouldn't be typing right now. God really protected us. Somehow the semi didn't hit us. Somehow this happened on a straightaway were there was actually a shoulder on the side of the road, one perfectly the size of our truck. Once you got out of the truck you were in the lane. Due to the mountains in Guatemala, there often times aren't shoulders or straightaways.

But there we were 4 hours from home and about 3 hours from the capital. We don't know anyone there. We started praying that God would help us. 

Jimmy got out of the truck and started walking to find a mechanic. He assumed we did some damage to our vehicle dragging it a ways on its rotor. All the stems that the lugnuts screw onto were sheared  off, but that's ok because all the lugnuts were missing anyway. 
He walked about 2 kilometers and came across an open mechanic shop, but no one was there. He moved on and walked another kilometer. Soon 2 guys drove up along next to him and asked if he owned the truck they saw on the side of the road. They said, "Get in, we will help you!" 

Now in this area of the country guys wear guns on their hips, flashy ones. They also have enough clips going all the way around their belts to be involved in a serious shootout and not lose due to running out of bullets. That's the way these guys were. One owned a mechanic shop and I assume the other was one of his workers. They were 2 of the nicest people we have ever met. They had no reason to be kind to us or help us, but they went out of their way to fix our problems.  
{Silly Jonah waiting in the car}
 Jimmy had told me not to get out of the vehicle, so I didn't. I was worried that due to the small shoulder, that we were going to be hit. People pass like crazy on this highway and drive drunk. We see a lot of messed up stuff and I was just worried for my kiddos' safety. But there we sat. I was praying the entire time! 

The 2 men drove Jimmy back to our truck. I was happy to see them! They looked at our vehicle and told Jimmy they would send another guy in a few minutes to drive Jimmy into town (20 minutes away) to buy the parts that he needed. They left and then sure enough a few minutes later a guy showed up and took Jimmy to find some parts that would work. It was a total of about $10 worth of parts. This guy wouldn't take any money for gas. About an hour later the other 2 guys came back and bending over into the lane of oncoming traffic with our truck jacked up on 2 different jacks, fixed our truck. They wouldn't take any money either. 

So we went from thinking our vehicle was all messed up and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, probably going to miss our flight, to everything was fixed in about 4 hours for $10. 
Our boys asked who those guys were with guns. We said, "These are the people God sent to help us!"
And we were so thankful. It was really neat to see God orchestrate everything right there in front of our kids. There was also another very nice man who was sent by a friend who got there right as they finished up our truck. He had come to pick us up but instead only followed us to the tire repair place after these guys fixed our truck. We had to have the tire that fell off put on our spare rim. He was just listening and watching to make sure everything was ok. Yet another person we will probably never be able to return the favor to.
{Tire shop}
We are so humbled by all the people that God sent our way. How do you repay them? I pray that God sends people as kind in their next time of need.

We got about 2.5 hours of sleep that night in a hotel before getting up to drive to the airport. After our trip to the States before we left the capital to return home we got a car wash while in a parking garage. For some reason the guy had a riveter and fixed our bumper while it was in a parking space. I'm telling you God took care of every single detail of our big ol' mess!

Before our 7 hour drive home we got it checked out at a mechanic shop just in case. We found out our brakes pads were worn, so that was another positive since we wouldn't have known otherwise. We replaced those before coming down out of the mountains. Everything else looked great!

Now as for the other vehicle. The same day we were sitting on the shoulder missing a tire, Jimmy had left his pickup at the farm so that they could still run and pick up chicken feed and other necessities over the 2 weeks and also pick up the teens from Santa Rita to come to youth group Wednesday nights. Well while they were turning left into the village to pick up the teens someone tried to pass them on the left. This is a common problem here due to a "turn single" meaning multiple things like "pass me" and "I'm turning". Anyway they got t-boned. Thankfully the next day they went back with the police and the other driver paid for most of the repairs. They called to tell us what had happened but decided to save it for another day due to us being broken down at the time ourselves. Haha! God knows how much you can handle at one time! Thankfully no one was hurt in that incident either!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Our Time with Kiki!

My mom was with us for a month beginning mid-June. We had a wonderful time! It got off to a rough start though. My mom's first plane left late which made her miss her final flight from Guatemala City to Petén. The hotel we work with in Guatemala City was all booked up of course. We didn't want to leave my mom outside the airport, not speaking any Spanish, looking for a taxi we know but she doesn't, so Jimmy drove to Guatemala City and back in one day to pick her up, 15 hours round trip! I'm really thankful that they made it safely!

We also finally poured the concrete for the kiddos bathtub. They haven't had a bathtub before. They said it is "just like a hotel!" Haha! Anyway right before my mom got here we filled it with water and unknowingly used the last bit of water in our cistern. The mayor didn't pay the pump's electric bill again, so the first week my mom was here we were on water rations because Jimmy had to haul everything we used.

Oh, and we also didn't realize that right when my mom got here a power line repair worker put in the wrong size fuse, so we went several days without power. Petén always has a way of welcoming our guests. Anytime people are staying with us I worry about them being comfortable in a foreign place and then with all the added mess that Petén was making at the time this caused me to get shingles for the 3rd time. In spite of it ALL we had a wonderful time with Kiki! Nothing can stop that!

Here are some photos from our time with her:
She helped me get my new curriculum ready for next year and finish up some projects in the school room to make it special when we begin kindergarten. We are starting our new school year this Monday!
Jimmy and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary and she watched the kiddos while we went on a date!
There was lots of story reading 

  and cookie making!
I finally learned how to make my mom's Christmas cookies. Whenever she visits she always brings me those cookies and she did this time too. (I don't like sharing those cookies, ask my kiddos!) I hope my children miss something I make one day. 
We celebrated Father's Day and
built lots of forts!
We played tons of games!
My mom got to meet all the students and attend our church!
{Youth Group}
Eden got lots of "ping" time. 
We had several suppers on the back porch!
Kiki was also here for the 4th of July!
We had lots of special guests that day!
We also might have made several ice cream runs to Sarita... yum!
Kiki and I went and had lunch together one day just us too! 
Of course we had chocolate mousse!
My mom just fuels my project problem. We had 5 projects going at any given time! Here are some of them:
We made curtains for the kids' new rooms. 
My mom refinished our deep freezer. It was all rusty. Now it is a color Eden would approve! I'll have to post my finished pantry soon. It's very different now.
My mom sent me a picture of an outfit she had gotten me before she came. I told her to go back and get her one too so that we could be twins. She did! I love it!
We had a wonderful time with our Kiki! The only thing that could have made it better is if Papa could have come too. We are all very blessed with the family God has given us!
Thank you Kiki for spending your vacation time with us and thank you Papa for trying to survive without her for 4 weeks!
{Saying Goodbye}
{The note we found after dropping Kiki off at the airport!}
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