Exploring Nicaragua





This last weekend we went exploring in Nicaragua.  It was Mark, myself, Tate and Theo, and the four chavos pictured above (L-R Jorge, Billy, David and Jalmar).  Jalmar was born in Nueva Guinea and lived there until about 12 years ago.  We went not only to take a weekend off, but also to see his family, meet his family and get to know the area a bit.  It was a draining weekend, but so very wonderful. 


There were so many highlights of the trip, but one of the best parts for me was getting pineapple!  A friend of Jalmar’s grows pineapple and graciously let us cut some to bring home.  I’ve been enjoying it for the last few days, and I have the top planted in my yard to see if I can grow my own pineapple bush.  Pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality, you know!


I love this picture of my boys.  They loved Nueva Guinea, ate like pros, and had great attitudes.  It didn’t hurt that Jalmar’s family house has a huge pile of sand and rocks and the boys could dig there all day long.  They also (obviously) enjoyed the parrot.  

The trip was a very good reminder for us about the reality of the kids lives before they are at the orphanage.  Nine people living in a few room house.  Dirt floors.  Cooking over a fire.  Often there is some kind of abuse or abandonment that coincides as well…you get the idea.  This is the life of just about every kid before they come here.  And while they are grateful to be here and thankful for the added opportunities, they are still at an orphanage.  Away from their families, away from their routine, away from their people.  

The smile that came to Jalmar’s siblings smiles when we drove up to his house (it was a surprise) brought tears to my eyes.  Even though they haven’t lived together in over 10 years, the love still runs deep.  

It became obvious to us that there are huge trade offs that the kids make to come into the orphanage, and the responsibility of being the one to go is staggering. 

Thank you for partnering with us to reach these kids, who are reaching their family.  One by one, we can empower change, encourage reconciliation and rebuild families. 

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We have got to feel better soon!

Ugh, just when we think it’s getting better…we have another step back.

Yesterday Theo got bit by a wasp.  The poor boy was really upset and we couldn’t figure out what happened until a few minutes later when it swelled up a little bit.  Not too much, thank goodness.  Some allergy medicine, pain medicine and a movie and he was good to go.

Last night we were at some friend’s house and got an emergency call from Stanley, who was babysitting for us.  Tate woke up crying hysterically and saying his ear was hurting.  Tate’s pretty stoic, so when he says it hurts, I believe him.  Mark headed home to get Tate some medicine, and he went back to sleep soon after.  Just before midnight he woke up crying again, and was up until three.  We were able to get him some more medicine, and a hot compress for his ear, but I think it’s safe to say it was a long night for everyone in the house.

Today we are all taking it slow, attempting to recover.

Tomorrow I will attempt some coherent sentences regarding how life is going here.  We had a great weekend, and I’d like to share some of that, too.  But for now I have to get the laundry finished, get some food on the table for lunch and then…NAP TIME!

For your daily laugh…

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Determining how we are spending our days in the best way possible has proven to be a bit of a challenge.  It seems like every decision we make, someone has an opinion about it and it’s not always positive.  Yet, we push on.  Go has put his purpose on our hearts, and we are doing our best to remain faithful to him and what he has called us to do.  

Please pray for us that we are able to fill our days the way that God would have for us, and that we can accurately communicate what God has called us to do to those who are concerned. 


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[I realize no one knows the reference in the title, but one day when we were in Korea, Tate told me he was housesick.  I thought it was adorable!  We’re not homesick so much-we always miss family and friends though.]

Thank you all for your encouragement regarding my last post and culture shock.  I think from now on I will refer to it as transition shock because I feel like that is a more accurate term.  Anyway, your kind words and prayers meant a lot to me.

Since the last post (even before for some) we have all been sick!  I use an exclamation point to feign excitement, because it got to the point where if we didn’t laugh about it we would have to cry.  Theo had been coughing a couple of weeks ago, got better, then got worse.  It ended up being Bronchitis and an ear infection.  Nana ended up with what Theo had, then got a stomach/intestinal thing to finish out her portion.  After about 10 days she is finally better now.  Tate started coughing Thursday, and Mark and I are bringing up the rear with starting to feel bad this weekend.  The boys turned a corner Tuesday and were finally back in school yesterday (oh how I had missed my quiet mornings!) and hopefully within a couple of days we’ll all be back at full strength.

Yesterday it was raining when we woke up.  It was so wonderful, just like home.  I had a pumpkin spice latte (thanks again, International Delight!) and soaked up the familiarity of waking up to rain.  There’s something calming about it.  I love waking up to sun, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the sun makes me feel like I have to jump out of bed singing…and that’s not really me.  I (occasionally) enjoy the quiet, contemplativeness of rainy mornings.   I enjoy snuggling in my bed when it’s cold outside.  A couple of hours later I enjoy that it’s burned off and I can be productive!

Being sick made it hard for us to enjoy our “open house” policy, but I’m still glad we have it.  I think we may need to get a sign for our window to let people know when we’re up and when we’re asleep, but the kids have all been really good about not just barging in if the door is closed and the lights are off.  I came home the other night to all of the boys having a meeting at our house.  They were meeting there to make sure that Tate and Theo didn’t wake up (Mark and I each had a meeting outside of the house).  When I got home and they had to move back to their house there was grumbling and I heard them saying, “but we’d rather be here!”  It made me feel really good…the work we’re doing to make sure that our home is welcoming and open to everyone is being noticed and felt.  My next goal is to get one of the boys to make this for me..


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Since we’re already married, the idea will be to have the boys who have worked with us and helped us build our home put their fingerprints and names on our tree.  We’ll frame it, but not put glass over it because we want to always be able to add to it.  I won’t be using pink, but probably a mix of colors.  I’ll put up a picture when it’s done.  Jonathan (one of the older boys who is studying graphic design) told me he’d get it done this weekend and I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out!

Our room is inching closer to being ready for a tour…I’ll keep working on it!

Hope you’re having a wonderful day!



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Airing Dirty Laundry


People often ask about how we are adjusting here.  That’s a really valid question, but very hard to answer as it changes often and it depends on who you ask.  Adding to the basic move is the fact that Mark has been gone for good chunks of time twice in three months and it gets interesting.  We’re always a little off when he’s in and out, regardless of where our home is.  Overall I think we are all doing well, just working hard to get our new normal established and figure out how we want to be doing life. 

That said, last week I had one of those really off days.  I was snippy with Mark, the boys and everyone.  Mark had been home for a day or two and had to spend the day running errands.  I was tired, having been by myself with the boys for over two weeks, and having Theo sick was also wearing me out.  I spent the day cleaning the house and unpacking, looking forward to Mark coming back from all his errand running.  

When he got back he told me he bought a large box of lightbulbs, and I was pretty excited about it.  I had been using three or four bulbs, and unscrewing the lights from the socket downstairs and putting them upstairs when we went to bed.  It wasn’t really bothering me, but I admit it was kind of ghetto and I knew it was time to get lights.  Mark chose to buy a warm type bulb, in contrast to the cooler color of light (I’m sure the men are rolling their eyes at the descriptions of light, but maybe some ladies know what I am talking about) anyway, for whatever reason, that just really irritated me.  I snapped at him about lights…so ridiculous, right?  They are lights, so not a big deal!  What is my issue?!

When I took a few minutes to myself I realized how stressed I had become.  And as much as Mark sometimes does  [legitimately] frustrate me, this had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.  I was dealing with culture shock, and taking it out him.

Sometimes it seems like culture shock is a negative term, and I have mistakenly associated it being ill prepared for life here (or there…or wherever).  But it’s not negative, I think it’s just honest.  The lifestyles are different here than they are in the states and coming to terms with it is difficult sometimes.  One of the biggest changes for me?  Laundry.  Yesterday I took the same three loads of laundry off the line three times when it started to rain. It took all day long for those clothes to dry, and several of them were still damp this morning.  Usually not a big deal, but if it’s been a long day and I’m tired or emotional, a simple difference gets blown into a huge issue.  

I think that culture shock doesn’t always manifest itself in frustration with a specific thing about the culture, but at times all the things that are different just push you to act out about something that really isn’t a big deal.  In my case, I think the stress of having uneven steps in the house that concern me, the laundry situation and the house being a complete disaster just pushed me over the edge.  It wasn’t anything about Nicaragua in particular, just the different-ness of everything is sometimes terribly overwhelming.  And at times I do really well with the big things and freak out over a light bulb.  

We’re working through these things. I wish I could say that I’ve been a perfect model of the grace of Jesus Christ through the move.  The truth is that at I’ve been short, rude, or downright impossible with those I love the most.  And it sucks.  I feel awful about it.  The only reason I’m blogging about it is to try and be honest about what life is like.  Even though we’d been here several times, even though we love it here and are so excited to be here, sometimes the differences are overwhelming.  When I say, “we’re adjusting well” I don’t mean that we’re doing perfectly.  We still need prayer.  We still need [tons of] grace.  But we aren’t sweeping this all under the rug.  We are dealing with it.  We are stretching and growing.  

And occasionally still freaking out about insignificant things…but we’re working on that!

Thanks for your grace as we adjust. 



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  • Mark is back from his Navy class!  It’s been great having him home.  Still an adjustment to go from parenting solo to sharing the duty, but we’re happy to have him back. 
  • Our stuff arrived!  Of course it came in while Mark was gone!  I have done at least one part of every move (13 last time I checked) by myself. 
  • The truck arrived the day after the household goods.  It took 3 hours to get it started, even though we had two extra fully charged batteries. Image
  • Theo has been sick for a week.  He has bronchitis.  It’s been exhausting trying to get him healthy again.  
  • God has been wooing us lately via natural beauty.  Here are some of my favorites:Image
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  • We are adjusting to living in the new house.  There have been several attempted break-ins and it’s been a little scary.  The farm has had several break-ins in the past so this isn’t new.  It’s just a little un-nerving to know that your house is right on the boundary line. 
  • Tate’s really impressed us with his generosity, but it’s been pushed past the line.  He has given his toys away to several of the boys because they don’t have many. He’s been super selfless and I couldn’t be prouder.  However, the little boys are starting to take advantage (by taking handfuls of toys when Tate’s not looking) and we’re struggling with how to deal with this.  We certainly aren’t angry because we get it, but it does need to be addressed.  We talked with their house dad and I think we have a solution, but please pray for us that we can figure this out, for Tate’s sake and for the little boys’. Image
  • We love having an open house and often have people over.  It’s wonderful, and makes me feel like we have a big family. 
  • We sent out our first newsletter.  If you didn’t receive it and would like to, please contact us and we’ll send it to you.  Your prayers and encouragement are invaluable!


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Encouragement for the Home


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In keeping with the idea of making a house a home, I bring you this week’s bit of encouragement.  

Let’s all focus on making our lives a little more beautiful, for ourselves and for those around us.  



*I receive no commission for the sale of this poster, I just thought it was gorgeous and wanted to share if you’re interested!*


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To be honest, I have really struggled with this home repair.

I really, really want to be as Nicaraguan as possible when it comes to my home, but at the same time I want to provide a comfortable environment for my kids.  Like it or not, we are accustomed to American style homes with American amenities.  For us to be reasonably comfortable, I felt like our house needed to have some “American-ness” in it…not like a flag or anything, but some familiarity.

To that end, I chose colors for the walls that are more American than Nicaraguan.  We used cooler, pastel colors for the inside of the house because of the heat.  Even though it’s mostly mental, we didn’t want to have yellow or orange walls when we already feel warm!  The main room is a cool blue, and the rest of the house is shades of green and blue, with white trim (instead of the original dark brown).  As I started painting, I found myself getting discouraged and frustrated that each color I opened ended up a lot darker than I had planned, which meant that I had to mix a lot of white into each gallon of paint to make it the way I wanted it.  In fact, not a single color in this house is reproduceable, all of the colors are very, very custom made!

As I was painting (and mixing), I started noticing myself having some pretty negative feelings about how long things were taking, and I realized how selfish I was sounding.  We are so fortunate to have a house to live in, regardless of the condition.  We have a home.  And to my recollection I have never seen a Parade of Homes: Orphanage Workers Edition on HGTV.  Or Cribs.  To top it off, if there was such a thing we would probably qualify to be featured on it because this home really is very, very nice.  Yes, there are critter issues, etc, but it is a very sturdy house.  We have tile floors.  We have four bedrooms.  We have a kitchen, and two bathrooms.  We have a porch.  We have a roof that doesn’t leak anymore.

The bottom line: we are terribly blessed.

I think the kicker for me was when the kids started coming into my house, looking around at the walls together (formerly there was a lot of mold/rot/burn damage on the house so we put up several sheets of drywall) and said, “This is a beautiful house!” even before I was done painting!  Honestly, this house is probably in the best shape of all the houses here.  And the staff and directors didn’t reserve it for themselves, they gave it to us.

Our house is a beautiful house.  As I enjoyed the sunset from the corner of our yard last night, and the continuous stream of kids and co-worker/friends visiting our house, I have come to believe, heart and soul, that this is not just a beautiful house, but it’s becoming a beautiful home.

Our home is beautiful because it is a community centered home.  Our fridge will always be holding food for friends who want to store it.  Our door will always be open.  I hope that our porch is always full with kids wanting to come over and see us.  I believe our spare rooms are always full of family, be that our biological family who is visiting, our dear friends who have become family to us, or the kids here that are considered family.

God bless this home, and all who enter.

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Mi dulce hogar

Over the past month or so we’ve been working on getting the house ready for us to move in.  It’s been a slow process for many reasons, but the biggest issue has been deciding what needs to be taken care of before we moved in.  On top of that, we’re working on the house in our “spare” time…meaning that we’re still doing multiple meetings a week, having our Bible studies and small groups with the kids, meeting as houseparents for prayer and encouragement, parenting Tate and Theo, prepping for teams, etc.  Our motto during this time has been, “we’re here to share Jesus’ love, not fix houses.”  It’s been great seeing the two things combine, though!

We’ve taken the opportunity to have about 8ish kids work for us.  We’re teaching them how to do the work, and working along side of them.  We talk, laugh, make mistakes, get hurt (mostly Jenni), get a little frustrated, work through it and move on.  The boys have really improved in their skills since we started the work, and now that we’re moving into the house it’s rewarding to have them come over and hang out, look around and say, “This is a really beautiful house!” 

It is a beautiful house, and it’s beautiful because they worked to make it that way.  There is fruit for their labor, and not just the money that is in their pockets.  They have learned about hanging and mudding drywall, paint prep, hanging moulding, repairing holes in drywall, painting, installing light fixtures, repairing closets, etc (when they drywalled the ceiling I had them each write their names on a piece of the drywall so a part of them will forever be in the house with us-so fun!).  For their work many of them have a bit heftier of a bank account, but more importantly, maybe a higher self worth and a realization that they are capable of doing really good work. 

All this said, the house is not yet finished.  There are still several holes that the rats take advantage of to come in and play.  We have one light fixture in the house, and a few light bulbs (I literally unscrew the hallway light and put it in my room when I’m going to bed or working in our room).  We have a couch, chairs and kitchen appliances but no beds yet.  We’re still waiting for our stuff to get here. The stairs are very narrow and uneven so we’ll have to address that eventually.  Oh, and the boys room still has to be painted, so they are sleeping in a guest room.  But that’s fine. 

But, we’re home.  We’re sleeping in mattresses on the floor in our home.  I bought shower curtains for our bathrooms so we can use them.  We have dishes and silverware.  I am slowly getting clothes put into the right rooms. 

Being home is such a wonderful feeling.  Knowing that this is our place until God provides another is surreal.  Seeing our pictures on the walls is incredible.  The first time I ever saw the inside of this house was a little over a year ago, and other people were living in it.  I never thought we would be living here, but it feels so right.  

Since coming here, the boys have slept soundly every night, praise Jesus.  I haven’t slept as well because Mark is away at a class for the Navy, but I do feel so privileged to be living here, in a beautiful house that the boys worked hard to repair.  

My sweet, sweet home. 


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I love quotes.  In middle school I started a quote book of things that inspired, encouraged, or made me laugh.  Now that Pinterest exists, I have an online one as well.  Because I love quotes so much, and because I think every once in a while we all need a little encouragement, I’m going to be sharing one with you every now and again.

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I mean, right?  Does this ever hit you right in the face?

Our big focus right now is showing the kids that God doesn’t care about us following rules for the sake of following rules, he cares about relationship.  We were created for relationship!

Because God is all about relationships, the study we are doing is all about relationships as well.  We are meeting together as a large group on Tuesday nights and going over the material, and on Thursday nights we are meeting in small groups.  On top of this, Mark and I are meeting with the three boys pictured here weekly to go over the study, and we’re spending a lot of time with them just hanging out as well.  Two of them live at the entrance to Veracruz, so just about every time we run errands we try to take at least one of them with us.  Relationship only happens when we spend time together, so that’s our goal.  Somedays it means that we’re out a lot longer than we would like, other days it means we get a much later start than we’d prefer, but the relationships are growing.  It’s been neat to see how as Mark and I show them they are valuable to us by spending time with them, they are starting to see value in themselves.

The study we’re doing is life changing, and when I reread this quote today I was encouraged to keep on putting people before projects, and most of all, to keep seeking the God who sees me.  I hope you are encouraged, too.

Have a wonderful Sunday night, and a great start to your week!

Peace & love,


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