Passport Stamps Make Me Smile

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in this beautiful place for over five months!  In fact, Christmas day will mark our sixth month here.  I wouldn’t trade the last six months for the world, but looking back on it, we’ve had some hard moments.  We’ve also had great moments, and a lot of really funny moments.  I’m coming to the conclusion that life is just life, no matter where you choose to do it.

Thanksgiving 2012 boys

 

Doing life together.  Thanksgiving 2012.  Mark was taking the picture so he wasn’t in it:(

I’m also realizing just how intimately God knows me and how much he loves me.  I mean, I already know this but sometimes don’t really think about it much.  One of my silly and useless goals in life is to completely fill up a passport.  Not because I want to see so many places (although I do) but mostly just because I want to complete the book.  Silly, I know.  Anyway, with living on support I started to give up that idea.

Just this week, though, when I went in to renew my visa here, God surprised me and made me laugh!  After standing in line for two hours I finally got the passports reset and walked out.  I double checked them as I was leaving and I noticed that mine looked different than the boys’.  I looked closer and it was because she stamped it twice!  She messed up the date on the first one and had to redo it.  I realize it’s a stupid mistake, but it made me laugh.  It was my passport that had the extra stamp!  That’s one less space that I have to fill up!  Silly, I know, but it made me smile.

This last year, the Lord has asked more of me than I ever thought I had to give.  The truth of the matter is that many times he asked, I didn’t have anything to give but he was faithful to meet my needs in the right time.  It was almost as if he knew I didn’t have it, but he asked it anyway and was faithful to lend it to me so I could give it back to him.

It’s been a humbling place to live, and I’ve failed many times.  But I’m so grateful that this relationship with God is a journey.  I love that he’s revealing to me that he knows me and he can creatively meet not only my needs, but my selfish, silly desires as well.  This is the God I know and love…one whose timing is so perfect that he had Mark laid off from work a year ago, and had our unemployment end exactly six months later on the very day that we left for Nicaragua, but still cares enough about me to make me smile over a passport stamp.

How has God made you smile lately?

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Inspiration Thursday

Inspiration Thursday

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Teaching Self Sufficiency

 

I have never been particularly good with plants.  Or small, non noise-making pets (like fish).  In fact, when we left Virginia, I straight up forgot that I had a beta fish.  That’s not terribly surprising considering that I had a new baby to look after, Mark was gearing up for a 14 month deployment to Iraq (later changed to 7 months), I was moving across country by myself and I graduated from college all in about 3 short months.  The sad part is that even before that, waaaay before that, my poor fish was neglected.  At one point, there was about an inch of water in his tank, because I just forgot I even had a fish.  It was horrible, I admit.

So, caring for silent living things has never been my strength.  But here we are in Nicaragua, working in a center for children, where an agriculture education is not just a good idea but nearly a requirement for providing for a family.  Part of being self sufficient here is being able to plant and harvest.

So I am learning how to plant and harvest.

While this isn’t a requirement for me, per se, if we are responsible for teaching these skills to the kids, I feel like I should at least try to learn them myself.  To that end we have pineapple plants, peppers, watermelon, a lone cantaloupe, tomatoes and cilantro in the garden.  I’m doing my best to care for them and they seem happy so far.  I guess in a few months we’ll really see how my skills are.

One of the most exciting things about this is that the older kids have been excited to help me!  They are all interested in growing things that they can eat when they want, and if we have a huge crop of something (peppers, most likely) we can trade them for eggs or fruit.  Our goal is to show the kids that they don’t have to grow everything, but if they can plan out a crop and grow it well, that can be used as money in this economy.

 

In addition to this, we are soon going to be raising rabbits, and changing our primary meat source (in the home) to bunny.  Mark has been telling me that it’s a very good meat so hopefully I will learn to cook it well.  Mark is also still looking into raising fish here…that’s probably a couple of years down the road though.

Anyway, I’m feeling a lot more like a farmer’s wife than I ever have before, and surprisingly, I’m enjoying it!  I’m following through on my garden, and I look forward to the day that I can make a meal entirely of food that has grown in my garden.

If you have a great gardening tip or perhaps a rabbit recipe, pass it along!  I need all the help I can get!

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

We’ve had a great day celebrating Thanksgiving!  I was a little nervous about it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I knew I would miss my family, friends and traditions.  Not to mention, I have never cooked a turkey, let alone an entire Thanksgiving meal, by myself!  With all of those pieces I was worried that it was going to turn into a disaster of a day.  

But it didn’t.  I cried, several times, but it was OK.  While there were some sad tears, there were a lot of joy and happy tears mixed in.  I am so thankful to be here, to be well taken care of, to have family and friends support us in our decision, and to have a full life here.  

The turkey was an adventure, as we found out yesterday when we attempted to check the turkey that our meat thermometer is broken beyond repair.  This is the first thing that will be purchased to make turkey cooking easier!  Instead of mashed potatoes we always eat cheesy potatoes, and those are made with frozen, shredded hashbrowns.  Frozen hashbrowns aren’t sold here, so I had to make my own.  To make life easier I cubed instead of shredded them.  It was a different texture, but the taste was the same.  The stuffing was a little sweeter than I am used to, due to the cornbread mix available here, but it was still good. 

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This is the only uploadable picture of our table that I have right now.  The others are locked in my phone until I can get to a wireless connection to download them to the computer, sorry!  (Photo by Andrew Jaentschke) 

And the best part?  Turkey sandwiches taste the same no matter where you are. 

We had a table full, and everyone was very gracious.  Turkey and stuffing isn’t a favorite here but almost everyone ate it and seemed to enjoy it.  Kids that had classes during the day came over afterward to get their plate.  We finished off the evening with a prayer time for the kids that are leaving this month for college (four in all) and it was a powerful, Spirit filled time of praise and encouragement. 

As I reflect on all I have to be thankful for, I am overwhelmed with joy.  I am blessed beyond measure.  Thank you for being a part of that blessing. 

 

Happy holidays, 

Jenni 

PS I realize Happy Holidays is a phrase many people hate, but I will explain quickly why I love it so much.  I don’t just think of one holiday this winter season, I think of ‘holidays’ as including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  I love each of them for what they represent, and I think they are most beautiful when combined together.  I am Thankful for everything, especially the birth of Jesus my savior and Lord, and will focus on embracing and changing the aspects of my life that are in the way of having a great relationship with Him.  This is how I view the plurality of ‘the holidays’. 

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Still Waiting on Internet

So, normally we have a nifty modem at home that allows us to connect to the interwebs and, well, connect.  But this past month I used all of our allotted time within two weeks. It’s been a long couple of weeks waiting to get it reset…and it’s still not.  Not until Wednesday.  But, regardless of internet issues, I have been slacking in posting.  I could write out posts and come up to the office to post them daily, but I haven’t been.  I’m sorry.  I realize this is a serious weakness and I need to do a better job of keeping you up to date of what our life is like. 

One thing Mark and I are both trying to do consistently is wake up early.  Mark’s alarm goes off at 5, mine at 6:15ish.  Mark has to get Tate to school so he’s usually not up too late, but it seems like I really struggle in this area.  I really do want to get better and have this be a habit, but it seems like every time I try to make a stand, something happens to severely impair my sleep!  For instance, last night Theo had a bad dream and woke up at 3:00 and asked me to snuggle him in his bed.  I’m not going to say not to that, but it did mean I was up until 4:30 while I waited for him to fall asleep.  

Usually when this happens I give myself a free pass to sleep in longer.  But no more.  I think that it’s one of those things that keeps happening because I’m not putting my foot down.  This morning I decided that I was still going to get up, because there will always be some reason or another that I want to sleep in.  Until I can withstand the discomfort of doing it, it’s going to be awful.  I know this first hand, throughout junior high and high school I swam many mornings a week before school.  That usually meant being up a bit before 5, and out the door shortly after 5  (honestly, the thought of this now is terrifying).  But this habit of getting up early is one I need to make, not only for me, but culturally speaking it’s important as well.  So I’m all in. 

Until further notice (except for weekends, of course) I will be getting up early.  Even if I’m up all night.  

If it’s important, it’s worth sacrificing (even sleep!) for, right?

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We eat Iguana

Clearly I’ve not kept up as well as I should have on the goings on around here.

Lately…

  • Mark got into a school in the Navy that allows him to drill here in Managua all except for twice next year!  That’s awesome!
  • We are waiting for the deployment list for 2013 to come out, and selfishly hoping that Mark isn’t on it.
  • Theo has a week of school left before he is done for the year.  ACK!
  • We are hoping to get the biodiesel project up and running next week.  We are excited about teaching the kids some practical applications of chemistry, and also for cheaper fuel options.
  • Since it’s nearing the end of the year we are busy in meetings.  We’re putting together proposals, plans, goals, budgets, etc. for next year.  It’s exciting and exhausting.
  • I got the chance to be the houseparent (by myself!) at Casa Ester over the weekend.  It was crazy.  And fun.  It was crazy fun!
  • The rain is about done for the year.  In its place is a cool wind.  It’s very nice.
  • I’ve started a garden.  I’m not very good at gardening, but have watermelon, cantaloupe, red peppers and pineapple in the ground right now.  I hope to have tomato added here shortly.
  • Our worldview studies are going really well!  The kids are participating and excited!
  • Our first vocational training apprenticeship will begin in January.  We’ve got a lot to do before then!
  • We really miss our family and friends.
  • We ate iguana recently.  It was good, like chicken, but had a lot of little bones.
  • I have run out of internet until the 21st, so anytime I want to communicate I have to run to the office.  Not a problem, but definitely part of the reason for less than frequent communication.
  • If you’ve followed our cat saga, you know that we’re on cat #6 and cat# 7.  They are still alive and (dare I say?) thriving!

Once my fast internet is a go, I will attempt posting some more pics.

Love to you all,
Jenni

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Exploring Nicaragua

 

 

 

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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. 

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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!

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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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