Birthday Weekend.

Ah, birthdays. On the plus and down side, I share mine with my husband! 🙂 Honestly, how weird is that? Oh well. I think it’s sweet. And I never need to worry about him forgetting my birthday!

We have developed some nice traditions. The one that we’ve had since we first got married is to have a new cheesecake each year. This year was Caramel Macchiato. Mmmm. Wow. The difference in this one was that it included 1/4 cup of strong coffee. I put on top a Peruvian spread called manjar blanco. It’s very caramely in taste and texture and completed the “caramel” aspect since we don’t have caramel ice cream topping. [Unfortunately, I think the little bit of coffee in there was strong enough to give me a caffeine boost (I don’t drink caffeine) so it’s pushing 12:30am and I’m still wide awake. Just me, “Psych”, and the internet!]

Brian did a great job this year with my gift. He knows me super well and so normally, he gets me multiple gifts just because he knows I enjoy opening presents (yes, I am still 5 at heart). This year, I just got one. But, oh was it perfect. I’ve been asking for a new purse/bag for awhile now. I’m totally content with a hippy bag from the street market. Brian, in his own subtle way, would rather I left behind my hippy tendencies and got a “mature” bag. Sigh. It worked. The one he got me is a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

I lovelovelovelovelove this bag!! He did such a great job. But, then he made me something. He made me this:

When we lived in South Dakota, Brian made me this beautiful wishing well for my backyard. It was gorgeous! He also made me this really neat fountain that looked like a birdhouse on top, but had a spigot on the front where the water came out like a fountain. And then… we moved. I didn’t even get to enjoy my fountain. We left it with my parents. My wishing well, though… it’s still in South Dakota, in the backyard of our house that we sold. We drive past our house every time we’re back there and I gaze longingly at my wishing well – basically the only remnant there that shows that the house once belonged to us.

Skip ahead to moving to Peru. One of the first things I noticed when we moved here were all the hummingbirds. We have a gorgeous, varied assortment of hummingbirds here. I’ve always liked hummingbirds and here, there’s like a whole new breed of them! Especially when I was pregnant, I’d comment to Brian how much I’d like to have a hummingbird feeder so I could watch the hummingbirds.

And so, what did Brian do? He made me a hummingbird feeder that looks like my old wishing well. Tomorrow he’ll be setting it up outside my kitchen window. I love my husband.

He laughed when he showed it to me and said, “It’s so ugly, isn’t it?!” I didn’t think so, but he went on to say that he did it all by hand and he made it imperfect on purpose because he didn’t want it to get stolen. Awww ~ he even thought of that! I love my husband.

In return, I made Brian:

I got the idea from a friend’s blog. She made date nights for every two weeks for a year, all going with the alphabet. I’m not that creative. Or industrious. And neither of us would ever do some of the things she had on her list! We’re just not that outgoing. But, I did make them for once a month from August 2011 – July 2012.

The back looks like this:

I tried to think of things we like to do or would like to do, so my list includes:

  • Candlelight dinners after Elena goes to bed.
  • Movie and popcorn nights.
  • Wii game nights [we invested in a Wii before coming back to Peru this time.]
  • Regular board game nights.
  • A picnic on the beach.
  • Walking around one of our favorite, giant stores for the afternoon.
  • Ice cream in the mall.
….to name a few.
I think it’ll be fun! I plan on taking pictures to document our year. Hopefully it will also achieve the purpose of making us closer as a couple, too.
I definitely feel blessed this year. I love being a mommy on my birthday. Definitely worth the wait. Here’s to a new year!
Thank you, Lord, for giving me the gift of life. Help me to use it wisely and for Your glory. 

The Pinky Toe.

I’ve been having multiple conversations with my husband lately about what it means to be a missionary. I knew God called me to be a missionary when I was 7. Apparently, I stood on a chair in our kitchen and announced to my family that I was going to be a missionary when I grew up. When Brian asked my dad for my hand in marriage, my dad asked him, “Do you feel called to be a missionary? Because Lisa does. If you do not feel called to be a missionary, I cannot give you permission to marry my daughter because I know that she will not be fulfilled doing anything else.”

So, now here I am, 21 years later, a missionary in South America. And what is my job? A teacher to 4, sometimes 5, Christian, Peruvian, missionary children on a Bible Institute campus.


Is that a true missionary?

Of course when we answered the call and came here, I was 100% convinced – YES, this is my calling! This is what God has for me!

Now, three years later, I get a lot of questions from people here like, “So, when are you going to join a real ministry?” “What is your real ministry outside of the teaching?” “Why can’t you be a part of another ministry that does other stuff?”

I’ve heard it enough and seen the looks on people’s faces when I talk about my ministry that after awhile, I have begun to wonder… is what I’m doing really a ministry? Or is it just a job? Am I content in my little school bubble merely because it’s “easy”? Or am I content because this is truly the ministry God has called me to do? Am I filling some sort of void by doing writing and dramas for other ministries? Or is that merely another outlet of ministry?

What is a missionary – really?

Have you ever really thought about that? I think on some level a lot of us, if not all of us, kind of put missionaries on different levels of “spiritualness”, if you will.

  • There are the evangelists – those that are fearless and are out on the streets every single day with their Bibles, preaching to the masses, and seeing hundreds of people accept the Lord on a weekly basis.
  • There are the pastors/church planters – those that begin churches and sister churches and sister churches off the sister churches.
  • There are the teachers – those that teach Bible clubs, Sunday Schools, women’s ministries, camps – you name it, they teach it.
  • Then there are “support missionaries.” This is where Brian and I are placed. We are behind the scenes – doing work that most people don’t want to do or don’t realize is necessary. Maintenance men, teachers, cooks, secretaries, librarians, writers – there are a myriad of missionaries who are behind the scenes and go unrecognized.

So, do you consider them missionaries? Or are they just working a job, but for the Lord – as in, they get paid by raising support not by a “normal” paycheck?

This is what I’ve struggled with lately. There’s an area nearby that we drive through every time we go to church, every time we go shopping, called Manchay. It’s literally thousands of people living in shacks, dirt poor – an area full of drugs, illegitimate children, uneducated, alcoholics — lost. Every time we drive through, I find myself going, “What am I doing here? Here I am, living 20 minutes away from all this and what do I do? I teach. I teach four Christian missionary kids in a Christian school. How am I impacting this world? Am I really a missionary?

And I think to myself… No. I can’t be. I must not be.

I cried this out with my husband in the car last night and he turned to me and said,

“A foot can’t say to the hand, ‘I’m not important because I can’t pick things up.’ You are a part of the body. What you’re doing IS important. God used the analogy of the body for a reason.”

He went on to tell me why my job is important, why it is considered missions.

And he was right. Of course. 

But right now, can I just say, I definitely feel like the pinky toe of the body of Christ. I broke my pinky toe when I was 12 and so I know very well how badly it hurts and how very badly you need that stupid, tiny, insignificant little toe! But, that’s how I feel. I feel like I’m not noticed unless I’m missing. The job I do goes very much underappreciated. I feel like I’m not remembered or considered a part of this team here just because I don’t do the jobs they all do. I’m not the hand of the body. Or the lungs. Or the head. I’m the pinky toe.

But… God called me to be the pinky toe. He called me to fulfill this position. A lot of people have tried to fill this job before and nobody has lasted longer than two years. A bunch of people have said they would do my job… but then never shown up. Most people don’t want my job because it’s not the “typical missionary” job – I’m not out in front, I’m not a leader, I’m not reaching hundreds of people for Christ every week.

I keep going back to the fact that Dwight L. Moody – that great evangelist – talked about his Sunday School teacher. She was the one who led him to the Lord and the one that encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. Somebody had to be the one! I don’t know where my kids will end up one day. But, I do know that I will have impacted their lives. Hopefully for the Lord.

I’m the pinky toe, even if most days I feel like the appendix… I think I’m really the pinky toe.

What part of the body did God make you?


This time last year, I basically looked like this…

I was quite pregnant. Elena was kicking and beating up my insides, begging to get out. I spent the beginning of August feeling tired and run-down, ready for the pregnancy to be over. I slipped in some mud and even though I didn’t fall, I pulled muscles and my doctor suggested I take it easy for a few weeks. So for most of August, I did school in my house. My birthday is this week and I remember last year for my birthday, I had my little girls down to the house to watch a movie for the afternoon. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll do that again this year! 🙂

August last year was full of anticipation. And nerves. And excitement. I remember thinking how everything was going to change – nothing would ever be the same once the baby got here. It was our last birthday just the two of us. It was our last winter just the two of us. Elena’s room was all set up and I remember just standing in her room, folding her baby clothes, arranging her bookshelf, sitting in her rocking chair, and dreaming about what it would be like when she finally arrived.

I was doing laundry yesterday, hanging up piles of baby clothes and I remembered a year ago, washing all her newborn items for the first time and hanging them up to dry. I always meant to take a picture of the drying racks filled with tiny baby clothes waiting to be worn for the first time. But the only shot I ever took was:

This is one of my favorite “before baby” pictures simply because it, to me, captured some of my excitement and anticipation. It was weeks before she even fit into these clothes and weeks before she was born when I hung them up – so probably more like two months before we put her in any of these even! I was ecstatic to be carrying a baby girl. I could not wait to meet her.

I wish I’d journaled more. I wish I’d kept track of more of my pregnancy because there’s so much I don’t remember. I remember my friend’s baby being born on August 3 and then my memory goes downhill from there until I’m in the clinic having the baby. Honestly. Everything is very vague. The timeline is hazy. The memory is depressing, really. I ended the pregnancy on such a down note.

I still wonder why I got those awful shingles. I had a back pain the other night that reminded me of the starter of the shingles and I just froze and whispered, “Oh God, please not shingles again.” Brian stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “Babe, it’s not. Don’t worry. It won’t happen again.” He was right, but with all the stress I’ve been under, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they sprang up again.

So here I am, a month and a half away from my first baby’s first birthday, four days from my **th birthday. My how times have changed. I look over at my husband and instead of having to look around a big, pregnant belly, I just see a baby (who is swiftly looking more and more toddler), zonked out on her daddy’s tummy, her whisps of hair sticking up everywhere, her little feet in her footy pj’s propped up on the blankets. We spent the evening laughing at her “dinosaur voice”, her “dancing” to our music, and her belly laughs as Brian tickled her feet. She sat in her high chair and ate her grilled cheese like a big girl, all the while making funny faces at us and laughing as we laughed with her. Once out of her high chair, she took off like a rocket, getting into everything she’s not supposed to, trying to climb on things that will hurt her (like the glass end table and the stairs), and then crawling away from us at “lightning” speed to avoid a spankin’.

Maybe people are right when they say the memory fades of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, especially as the joy of having the child abounds. The pain, frustration, humiliation, and, did I mention pain?, memories are fading, I must admit. Are they gone? No. But, maybe they stay to serve as a reminder of what I am capable of living through. Maybe they are there to remind me that God didn’t leave me; He held my hand when Brian couldn’t and He pulled me through things I can’t believe I lived through.

And look at this:

This is my little girl.

This is my baby.

This is the end result.

What God does, God does well. How well I remember it.


This week, I’ve been reminded numerous times how blessed we are to have a healthy child.

Elena is pushing her one year birthday and over-all, she’s had a pretty healthy first year of life. I can count on one hand the number of times she’s had a fever and none of those times were critical. You couldn’t even tell she had a fever! She’s had a few colds, but they were just that – colds. She’s fallen a few times and gotten bumps, bruises, and a bloody mouth, but nothing that required a trip to the doctor or even more than a day or two of baby Tylenol. The hives were the scariest thing that’s happened and now that it’s past, I realize more clearly that they didn’t bother her, she never acted sick, and we’re pretty sure it was just a virus like a pediatrician in the States said it was.

E with a trace of her hives left, a week ago

God is really taking care of us. Every time I think about what would happen if we had an emergency, I get very nervous. Here’s how the medical world works here:

  • We live about an hour from a reliable clinic. Yes, we have hospitals and little offices closer, but I would not take my child to any of them.
  • “Emergency” here really is no different from a waiting room. I was in labor, with a doctor’s order that I was to have a room as soon as I walked into emergency, and I waited more than two hours to even be brought back to an “examining room” (the size of a small closet with a curtain for a door) where I waited another half an hour for paperwork to be finished. Emergency was not helpful.
  • Even if you are very sick or very hurt, you still have to wait your turn for a doctor to see you. Waiting for Elena’s pediatrician, no matter how early in the day we show up, usually takes 2-3 hours. We’ve been in there and seen very sick children sleeping on the waiting room chairs, waiting longer than we did just to see the doctor.
  • The cure-all here is an injection. You get injections for fever. You get injections for nausea (they gave one to me in Iquitos the night I found out I was pregnant). You get injections for – get thiscolds! Injections are given to everyone, regardless of age.
  • The other cure-all is “pastillas” (pills). We’re pretty sure most of the “pastillas” handed out are just Tylenol. The girl who works in my house is no longer going to the local doctor’s office because she’s convinced they give her the same medicine no matter what she goes in there for and it’s yet to work.
  • Some of the advice is just not logical either. Our doctor wanted us to start feeding Elena all manner of everything at exactly 6 months. She was to have everything from chicken liver to a teaspoon of oil, plus loads of sugar to keep her chubby. We get in trouble every time we go in because I’m still nursing and she apparently doesn’t weigh enough. “You must feed your child more!” is the doctor’s constant comment when we leave his office.
This week, one of our co-worker’s babies got very sick. She is about 6 months old and was running a 103 fever. In the States, she’d be hospitalized immediately – especially since it was accompanied by horrible stomach cramps and explosive diarrhea for two full days. She did not stop crying for two days. And the local doctor’s office? They asked her for urine samples (from a baby!!) and stool samples and to come back with those, three days in a row, before they could give her medicine or tell her what to do. They gave her some sort of electrolyte drink and sent her home. WOW. And my friend? She wasn’t nursing because the baby didn’t want to eat. She was feeding the baby FRUIT because she thought the baby needed food. She gave her random medicine and when asked what it was for, she said she wasn’t sure what it did, but figured it was a good idea to give her something. Thankfully, the other American woman on campus is very close friends with her and has been able to give her sound advice and drive her to and from the doctor’s office. She got her to nurse the baby again and told her NO FRUIT unless it’s bananas. As of yesterday, she still needed to bring in one more stool and urine sample before they could tell her what to do. But, the fever has broken, the diarrhea had lessened, and the baby was no longer crying constantly, so I think the worst is past. Which means – we’ll probably never know what was wrong. But, it could be a whole host of things! Bad water, poorly washed fruit, too much fruit, a parasite, the stomach bug that’s going around, a random virus… who knows?
It’s winter here now, which means cold, damp, and rainy for months on end. This has resulted in the usual: colds galore! In the States, nothing is done for a common cold, especially in babies. Here? Multiple doctor’s visits, nebulizer treatments, adult dosage inhalers, and adult medicine – for even babies under a year old. What we’ve observed is that all this excess medicine makes teenagers and adults even more susceptible to illnesses and with much weaker immune systems than they should have. Children are bundled up so warmly, they are never forced to regular their own body temperature. This causes problems when they get older – constant illness being the front runner.
It’s times like this that I wish I had more medical experience. I would love to be able to actually, genuinely help people and not just speculate and throw out the “that’s not how they do it in America!” I’m trying very hard to not be so culturally ignorant to say that the way America does it is the only way. However, at times like this, I have to admit, it’s very difficult. I bite my tongue a lot. I accept advice in one ear and out the other many times, always with a smile on my face and a thank you afterwards.
My biggest concern is still the distance from here to a reliable doctor. Peanut allergies run in Brian’s family and after the hives incident, I’m nervous that when Elena finally does try peanuts, she’ll have an instant reaction and we’ll be just plain too far from help. I’m scared. Can I freely admit that? I’m scared.
The Lord is our strength, our Healer, our Provider. He would not have brought us here if He couldn’t take care of us. Now I just have to trust Him to do just that.

August 2011
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