Blurb. blurb. blurb. blurb.

Just a lot of blurbs in my brain tonight. I know I won’t be able to sleep unless I put them somewhere…

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Can I just vent for a minute here? A team is coming to “help” on the 19th of December… through Christmas Day. They fly out… from our airport two hours away… on Christmas Day. They are around for the last four days of a solid two week outreach campaign – one that’s being rehearsed for now and will be like a machine by then. I have no clue what their motive is for coming at such a random time. I have no clue how they’ll fit in or even who will be chauffeuring them around and making sure they’re all okay. There’s already talk of how all of us who live here will be “required” (I say that loosely.. stuff like this is never really “required”, but “greatly frowned upon” if not done) to celebrate Christmas with them on the 24th. Sometimes, I just don’t get teams. I think they forget that Americans aren’t the only ones who celebrate holidays, have families, and make plans. I think they forget that even though the time frame is convenient for them (although, when is a bunch of teenagers/college kids coming over Christmas break convenient?), it still means all of us here have to drive them around, feed them, make sure they have a good time, and include them in things that are set up back in November. If I sound bitter, I’m really not. I appreciate teams coming down, I’m just confused as to the timing of this one and wish beyond BELIEF that there was better planning for stuff like this. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ve probably said too much as it is. 

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I finished today teaching my little girls their science class for the year. We talked more about traveling to the moon and all the different planets. I feel like I’m just now getting a taste of how huge our universe is. There was a picture in our book that was taken by the Hubble Telescope. It was just a panoramic view, all black, with these little, blurry white dots. The book said that every single one of those dots – more than we could count – were galaxies – the same size as ours and bigger. What in the world. I just can’t even wrap my mind around that! I keep reminding the girls that no matter how huge the universe is, God still holds it all in the palm of His hand – and He knows our names! I’ve said it enough now that when I ask them, “And Who made all this?”, they both hold their hands out, palm up, and say, “God! And He holds it all right here!” That conversation always ends with one of them saying, “I wanna see God!!” so sweet. 

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I got a new book from Sonlight in the package my mom sent down with our friends. I SO HIGHLY recommend these books – go — go right now and get them! Genius books. They’re called “Zero” and “One” by Kathryn Otoshi. “Zero” is the story of the number zero. He thinks because he’s empty inside that he’s worthless, so he tries to be like the other numbers. Then, one of them says he’s not empty – he’s whole. Right in the middle. And with him, the numbers can count more. Together. The other book, “One“, is a metaphor on bullying. All the colors stand up to red and end up realizing that they all can make a difference – but it all starts with “one.These books are so cool. The graphics are unique – even how the pages are written is fun and interesting. The stories are simple – no long, wordy books. And the messages are extremely clear. They open up a lot of opportunities to discuss the lessons and the books look interesting enough that kids will want to keep flipping through them and re-reading them. Genius. Only downfall? I wish I’d thought of them myself! I love metaphorical stuff like this. 

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I have to speak in Spanish Friday afternoon during my kids’ program for their parents and friends. I feel like I’m doing fine in Spanish… until I speak in front of my students. I’m 100% positive they just like the fact that they’re on the other side of the correcting and can correct my Spanish for me. But, a few of them laugh at my mistakes and one of them just makes me feel stupid. I know, I know, they’re kids. But, kids are the most honest critics, right? 

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I started working out a few weeks ago. I’m trying to work out almost every night, at least as often as possible. I’m using my Wii Fit (probably the best investment we’ve made in a long time) and loving it. I have been horribly depressed about how I look lately, though. Just rock-bottom, pit-of-despair depressed and I know that’s wrong, but that’s how I feel. I’m sick of how I look and I just feel like everyone else notices how awful I look and judge me for it. What really gets to me, though, is that no matter how much I work out or how well I eat, nothing ever changes. My stupid dead thyroid took with it my metabolism. I know I will never look how I did when I was 17 – especially not with a dead thyroid and a post-baby body. But, I just wish I looked… nice

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I love receiving newsletters from our missionary friends around the world. One of my favorites comes from Brasil. We have friends from Bible school who are married, have three kids, and are working in Brasil (where she grew up). They are making videos (in multiple languages) that walk you through the entire Bible. But, they are also teaching Bible clubs and working with slum kids. Their stories are so cool. Cool enough that some days I want to drop what I’m doing here – teaching Christian kids – and go work in the slums of Brasil! It’s just so cool to hear them say, “And this little girl, whose dad died by being shot 9 times two weeks ago, is excited about receiving her first Bible.” Oh the stories they have. It’s really neat. Ever want to be truly encouraged and challenged, read newsletters from missionaries actively serving the Lord. 

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I’m sucked into the X Factor. We’re at least a few weeks behind the States (but I’m not sure how long it’s been airing up there) since they talked tonight about “next week is Thanksgiving.” So, don’t spoil it for me! However, I must say, as much as I enjoy watching these people sing for 5 million dollars – that lifestyle doesn’t interest or tempt me at all. I am perfectly fine being poor, living in South America, and not even famous enough to have a big blog following. “In all these things, I have learned to be content.” So, more power to them. Glad I’m not one of them.

Blurb Over.

Christmas Thoughts.

About five years ago, someone back in South Dakota had a personal soapbox. She told every Christian she knew, and even some she didn’t, exactly how she felt. She would even go to the extent of telling people she didn’t like their Christmas cards. Her soapbox?

You must leave Christ in Christmas. You cannot, under any circumstances if you’re a Christian, say “Happy Holidays.”

Hmm.

Part of me, at the time, agreed. I mean, it really felt like so many places were going to extremes to take Christ out of Christmas and turn everything into holiday celebrations. Holiday parties. Holiday songs. Holiday food. Holiday cards. Yes, there is definitely a trend to take Christ out of Christmas. I won’t deny that!

However, I almost always write the infamous “Happy Holidays” on my Christmas cards and think nothing of it. I’m including in there Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and never thought twice about it being sacrilegious or morally unethical, like our friend back in SD. I wonder how many of my cards she’s thrown out over the years? 

Then, I saw this on Facebook yesterday:

…and I felt it wrapped it all up quite nicely.

I think Christians tend to get on soapboxes about things that, well, don’t need so much attention. Of course the world is going to do their utmost to take Christ out of His own birthday celebration. Of course the world wants to change why we celebrate Christmas and turn it into something dirty and selfish. We really can’t change that.

What we can change is

ourselves.

We can change how we act. We can change how we react. Do something different to show the world that Christ is still in your Christmas! They can take Christ out of the schools, the stores, and the songs. But, they can’t take Him out of your home, your families, and your heart. Invite people to Christmas activities at your chuches. I know our home church does something special each Sunday during December – and I’m sure they’re not the only one who does that! Invite people into your home Christmas morning or Christmas Eve. Host a Christ-filled Christmas party at your house. Help your kids to see the importance of giving at Christmas, not just getting.

There are so many ways to keep Christ in Christmas – who cares if commercials, stores, and even schools are taking Him out? Remember God wants us to love Him because we want to, not because we’re forced to. 

Be Christ this Christmas. And don’t worry about everyone else.

Happy Holidays – all of them – everyone. 😉

Thanksgiving Food!

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and food! Of course. What do you serve for Thanksgiving? I love hearing how people across the country do Thanksgiving differently. Here’s we did it – on the east coast with my family and then in the midwest with Brian’s: 

  • Turkeyduh. East Coast: My mom rarely put the stuffing inside the bird and she never bought a fancy bird or did anything fancy to it. Just a plain ol’ bird, roasted in the oven since early morning Thursday. Midwest: My mother-in-law is the queen of cooking cheats. She would go to the deli and ask for thick slices of turkey breast. Then, she would heat the turkey in her giant slow cooker, either with a little bit of water, or with gravy in the bottom.
  • Stuffinghands down, the best part of the Thanksgiving meal! East Coast: My mom was very traditional with her stuffing – no nuts, nothing fancy, all homemade, and later as we got older, she even stopped putting gizzards in it (phew). Midwest: Stove Top. All the way. I have to admit, that doesn’t bother me in the least. Just talking about Stove Top makes my mouth water.
  • Potatoes the one part my sister could eat all day long. East Coast: Homemade mashed potatoes with homemade turkey gravy. Midwest: Same thing, but with canned gravy.
  • Sweet PotatoesYUM. East Coast: Little bit of orange juice, cinnamon, sugar, salt, with melted marshmallows on top, baked until hot with gooey marshmallows on top. Midwest: I’m not sure Brian’s family knows what to do with a sweet potato.
  • Green Bean Casseroleclassic. East Coast: Traditional – no change to the classic, old recipe here! Why change a classic?? Midwest: I always made it for my in-laws. I don’t think they’d had it before I came along! But to me, how can it be Thanksgiving without green bean casserole?
  • Saladso many options, so little time. East Coast: Normally, we had a green salad and a jell-o salad of some sort. I don’t think we ever had the same jell-o salad twice growing up. Midwest: Salad? Must be somewhere with the sweet potatoes…
  • Rolls OH. MY. WORD. Fresh bread will be in heaven. I promise. East Coast: My mom makes these heavenly rolls every year for at least Thanksgiving and sometimes for Christmas, too. It’s a recipe from my great grandma and it makes the whole house smell absolutely amazing. They are the perfect thing for leftover turkey sandwiches. They’re golden and crispy on top and flaky and buttery inside. A ton of work – I think my mom spends an entire making them – but they’re so worth the effort. Midwest: Like I said, my mother-in-law is the queen of cooking cheats. At Brian’s home, it’s brown and serve rolls or crescents from a can. But, for all the non-homemade-ness, they’re still fresh bread and you won’t find complaints here!
  • Cranberry Sauce so good when smeared all over the turkey! East Coast: Normally, just from a can. Why mess with it? [Growing up, I always thought my mom stood in the kitchen and made the lines herself before serving… I didn’t know it came from a can until I was like in high school – no joke.] My mom has made it from scratch a few times, but we all so greatly prefer the canned stuff, she decided she didn’t need to waste time! Midwest: Canned. Of course.
  • Pieswhat is Thanksgiving without pie?? East Coast: All homemade. Mom starts baking at least on Monday and always has a big variety depending on the crowd. If all of us are home, she tries to make everyone’s favorite. We have been known to have pumpkin, pecan, apple, and blueberry at the same Thanksgiving dinner. Midwest: Lots of pies. None homemade. Until I showed up. hehe. I always made the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. The rest – apple, blueberry, chocolate – were all store bought.
  • Drinksgotta have something to wash it all down! East Coast: Cranberry juice mixed with Gingerale was the special drink we always have. [I tried to get that this year, but it was just too much money since we were buying expensive pecans as well. Bummer.] Midwest: The best drink ever – sherbert with 7Up. You take whatever flavor sherbert you’d like, put a few scoops into the pitcher, then cover with 7Up (or is it Gingerale?? Shoot. I could be wrong. I am almost certain it’s 7UP, though). So good.

So, what will you be feasting on this year?

Thanksgivings Through Time.

I love Thanksgiving. I have to admit, it’s not my favorite holiday, but it is still right up there with my favorites. I especially enjoy the fact that it’s kind of the beginning of the holiday season and it’s kind of “all down hill” from here. It’s the big kick-off to the holiday season and that, I love.

I grew up in Vermont and we almost always had snow for Thanksgiving when I was younger. I remember getting out the sled and building snow forts with my brother and sister in the backyard with nothing but the light of the moon. I specifically remember one year where we had a huge snowstorm – one of those heavy, wet snows – on Thanksgiving Day and by evening, we had no power. We all ate leftovers reheated on the wood stove in the living room. 

When I hit high school, I enjoyed Thanksgiving because it meant my sister, and later my brother, were coming home from college for a few days.

I loved going with my brother halfway to PA to pick up my sister. Then, when he left for college, I looked forward to Thanksgiving morning when I would see my brother for the first time since September. I’m sure that feeling was not always reciprocated (we weren’t the best of friends…) but, I was always excited to see him.

We always had over an elderly lady named Mrs. Whitehill for every holiday. She was like a grandma to us since our grandparents lived hundreds of miles away and never visited for the holidays. She was this sweet widow who knitted and crocheted – she made us doll clothes, Barbie clothes, and everything in between – every year. She always, always, always brought this green jell-o for every holiday meal. She would also bring the newest Disney movie to share. We loved having her over. We never ate a holiday meal without her. It just wasn’t complete until she was there. She passed away when I was in my first year of college. But, I’ll never forget her. 

And then… college life changed all those traditions. My first year, we lived in Canada. My sister came home and my mom made a lovely Thanksgiving meal. My dad picked me up from college with the wonderful words, “We took your dog back to Vermont to live with another family.”

I sobbed. I think I cried off and on that whole weekend. I loved that dog.

The next year, I was in Wisconsin and couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving, so I went to be with an aunt and uncle a couple hours north of where I was going to school. I spent Thanksgiving with them – eating in a hotel (something I’d never done before for any holiday!) and then getting a Christmas tree the next day with my cousins and their families. It was definitely… different, although not altogether unenjoyable. Just – totally not what I was used to. And that’s okay. 

And then… I met Brian. We had been dating a month when we went to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. I had actually agreed to go to South Dakota before we started dating – which appalled my parents to no end. I wanted to see that part of the country – I’d never been before! And we were good friends – I thought it would be fun. In the end, we went as a dating couple and had a blast. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I met his family and was totally unprepared for what that would be like. Five boys, plus my now father-in-law, all of them obsessed with cars, mechanics, and talking about anything with machinery. His parents were still upset with Brian for going to Bible school and not going to a trade school, so we weren’t allowed to stay at their house. We stayed with his pastor’s family and they made us feel very welcome that weekend. Brian took me to do some sightseeing and I got to see a part of his world. Hands down, I would do that trip again.

After getting married, I spent Thanksgivings with Brian’s family, so it was four years before I had Thanksgiving with my family again. We thought 2007 would be our last year in the States, so we had planned for Christmas to be a full-out family bash. So, my brother and sister didn’t come for Thanksgiving – we just had a nice Thanksgiving with my parents. Then, in the end, we were in the States a whole other year. Thanksgiving 2008, my parents went to Vermont to be with my sister and Brian and I stayed at their place. I made us a nice meal on Wednesday:

and then on Thanksgiving day, we had dinner with friends from church. 

Now, here we are – in South America. This will be our 3rd Thanksgiving here. 2009: I cooked our meal for us and two American girls doing Bible school here.

2010: The other American family cooked for us since I had a tiny baby at home and we were leaving for furlough the following week. This week, she will be hosting again, but I’ll be providing a few more dishes than last year. Sunday, I’m going to do a few special things for us, too, as we decorate our Christmas tree.

So, there you have it – just a little walk through my Thanksgivings of old. Here’s to many more Thanksgivings with many more things to be thankful for. Hope you and yours have a lovely holiday – wherever around the world you may be!

 

Plans.

The next few weeks are full of stuff. Here’s what I’m planning:

La Cena de Accion de Gracias:

Us - this time last year - at the Thanksgiving Dinner. Look at my tiny, little baby!!

  • Next week is the annual Thanksgiving dinner for the Bible school. No, obviously, Thanksgiving is not a Peruvian holiday! But, it was a tradition started, I believe, when we had annual American visitors come around this time of year and has just continued because for us, it’s the end of the year, so it’s a great time to give thanks for all God has done this year. For the past two years, I’ve helped organize it and this year, I was asked to do it again. I’m quite excited.
  • I’m switching it up and instead of decorating with traditional North American fall colors (which we never see here), I’m going more for a party theme! I’m calling it “La Celebracion de Accion de Gracias” [the celebration of Thanksgiving]. We’ll be decorating with balloons, streamers, and fresh flowers for the tables. All the writing on the dividers and stuff will be bright colors. Up front, I’m going to put letters spelling out the name of the evening as well as Psalm 107:22 – “Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”
  • The word “GRACIAS” will be nice and big up front, in big bubble letters, that are empty in the middle – just the outline of the word will be visible. The plan is: during the evening, everybody will share one thing that they’re thankful for that happened this year. We have different “groups” here [kids, 3 years of Bible school, ministry year students, missionaries, and those who work here] and so within each group, one person has been selected to give a longer testimony. Once they finish, the rest of the group will come up, share what they’ve written on a little piece of paper provided during supper, and then post that piece of paper inside one of the letters of the word “gracias”. The idea is that by the end of the program, the word “gracias” will be filled with our statements of thankfulness.
  • I’m also singing a duet. [ahhh] While playing the piano to accompany us. [double ahhh] I had a friend translate the song into Spanish and then I made a Powerpoint to go along with it. What I’m planning on is sharing the video I’m going to have taken of us singing with the Powerpoint in the background, so you’ll just have to wait another week. 🙂

End of the Year School Program:

With my kids last year this time -- they've grown so much this year!!

  • December 1st is the last day of school this year. December 2nd, I’m going to have my students put on a program for their parents. Last year, I handed out some certificates and had the kids say some verses and stuff, no big deal. This year, I’m going to expand that concept.
  • Each kid will be presenting something they worked on this year – one will read, one will “teach” a page in a science book, one will present a report, and my 9th grader… I’m still working on. ! All 4 kids will be reciting Psalm 23. My older ones will be sharing some of what we’ve done in Bible class (miracles and “I Am”s of Jesus). And then… hehehe… I’m turning the book 

into a little skit that the kids will put on. I’ll read the bulk of it and we’re going to make some hand puppets and “act” it out. It should be hilarious.

  • I have the invitations made up and the kids were excited, but nervous, about inviting people besides just their parents. 
  • We’ll end the program with certificates and brownies (the kids have already put in their request for “lots and lots”) and other snacks. Fun fun!

Missionary Women Fellowship Time!

  • This I’m super stoked about. Long story short – a friend of mine from church, who’s also an American missionary, and I are going to get together a bunch of other American missionary women in our area for some fellowship time! We’re going to start early December and hopefully we’ll get a good group to come! The idea is to get together on a regular basis and just either hang out or do a Bible study or even do something fun – like cook or scrapbook together. It’s meant to be a time of encouragement and relaxation with people who are in our same shoes, even if from other mission boards. I can’t wait!
Holidays:

us in front of the giant Christmas tree in our mall, just a couple weeks ago

  • We’re doing Thanksgiving with the other American family on campus plus some good Peruvian friends of ours, next Saturday. Fun fun!
  • All of the students this year are participating in the kids’ street ministry (Compartiendo) right up until December 23rd. Brian will probably think I’m nuts, so I haven’t mentioned this plan to him yet, but I would really like to slide in homemade Christmas cookies into the kids’ sack lunches as they head out, at least a couple of times, as a surprise for them. Each team will do 3 shows per day (2 hours per show), so they will be super busy. I’d like to throw some surprises in their boring sack lunches for them.

Camps 2011:

Brian helping in camps back in 2009

  • After the holidays, we jump right into the camping season here! I will be rehearsing and teaching the dramas for camps. I get one solid week in early January and that’s pretty much all I’ll do that week!
  • I volunteered for the first time ever to teach Bible during at least a few weeks of camp this year. Maybe I’m crazy. Won’t know unless I try. I wrote the lessons; I should be able to teach them! My friend in charge of camps was SO excited when I asked if I could try to teach. I hope I don’t let her down!

Phew. That should get me through early January. 🙂

Tastes of Home.

This week’s been kind of an experiment week in my kitchen. And it’s been fun! I’ve gotta branch out of my comfort zone of cooking more often; it’s been well worth the time and effort.

So, as you know, we bought two pumpkins last week. One has been full processed and frozen; the other is still sitting pretty on my dining room table… until this afternoon when I finish it off. hahaha (*insert evil laugh here*).

Out of the first pumpkin, I got a whopping 4 1/2 cups! I was quite impressed.

Yesterday, I made pumpkin pancakes. I followed a simple recipe and they turned out nice. Not anything to really write home about; I had to keep adding nutmeg and cinnamon and sugar to give them more flavor. But, they were a hit with the family and Elena will finish them off this morning for breakfast.

Today, I’m going to process the 2nd pumpkin and try my hand at a pumpkin roll. I don’t consider myself a baker, I prefer to cook from scratch, so this will be an adventure. Most of my baking efforts don’t turn out so hot. I really hope this one works; I’ve been dreaming of a pumpkin roll for awhile now. My husband still has no idea what that is, so at least his expectations aren’t too high!

Then, yesterday, we had a bit of free time in the afternoon that I decided to use to my advantage. Brian was finally home after a long week of working until after six every night (and last week he worked Saturday, too). So, I asked him if it would be okay if he watched the baby and I baked. He agreed, so I decided out of all the recipes I’ve been wanting to try for awhile, but haven’t had the time, that I would try my hand at:

BAGELS.

I had found a recipe at allrecipes that was “Boiled Bagels” and they looked super easy, albeit a bit time-consuming. So, I went to work. [Since I still can’t for the life of me figure out how to link anything, I’m going to write out the recipe and what I did below, but keep in mind, you can find the full recipe at allrecipes.com.]

  • I mixed the yeast with the flour, then the warm water with the salt and sugar.
  • Then, I mixed the two together. I have no blender, so all the areas where it said, “Using hand mixer” I just… used my hand. And a fork. It works for cheesecake; I figured it’d work for this! The only thing I know I need a blender for is making “stiff peaks” with eggs, so I haven’t even tried that one.
  • After I had whisked that mixture together for a solid two minutes, I added a few cups of flour, just enough so it came together and I could work it into a good ball.
  • I threw flour on the counter and went to work kneading. “The X-Factor” recorded from a few days ago kept me company for those next eight minutes of solid kneading. Man, that’s a good work-out!
  • Then, I just left the dough right there on the floured counter and threw a towel over for 15 minutes.
  • Once the 15 minutes was up, I rolled the dough into the balls. I rolled them first into balls, then put my finger in the middle and stretched out a hole, all the while spinning it in my hand to keep the shape. Again, I left all the dough on the counter, covered in a towel, for an additional twenty minutes.

  • They honestly did not look like they had risen – at all – after that time, so I was beginning to worry about my yeast again. My yeast just does not act right, even though I store it in the fridge and use it within the appropriate time frame. Maybe my water’s not the right temperature? I’m not sure, but whatever the case, pizza hasn’t risen lately and so I was worried that the bagels wouldn’t rise properly either. But, I decided to just keep pressing ahead and see what happened.
  • I boiled water in the biggest pot I have, threw in the little bit of sugar and let it dissolve, then dropped in three bagels at a time. I set the timer for 7 minutes and went back to perusing new websites I’d just found.

  • Halfway through the 7 minutes, I flipped the bagels and they looked amazing! I couldn’t believe how big they’d gotten! That’s when I started to get genuinely excited.

  • I only flipped once, then waited the rest of the 7 minutes, pulled them out onto a plate and let the water drain for a second before transferring them to a cookie sheet that I had sprayed. Then, onto the next batch. After two of the three batches, though, I had to add more water – a whole 4 cup more! I waited for the water to boil again, added a little more sugar, then dropped in the last two.
  • Then, into the oven they went! 190C for 30minutes.

  • I felt like a kid at Christmas. I peaked in that oven every few minutes just to make sure they were doing all right. I ran up the stairs halfway through to tell Brian, “They look real!!” Then ran back downstairs yelling, “The bagels are done!” like an idiot when the timer went off. Oh well. You would, too, if you needed a taste of home as badly as I did yesterday!
  • After 30 minutes, they were perfect. Maybe a little crispy on the bottom in some places, but that’s what you get when cooking with gas. I don’t care. To me, they looked like little round drops of heaven.

  • We split one just as soon as they were cool enough touch (okay, maybe a little before that), and seriously, they tasted just as good as I remembered.
  • So, for dinner, I made up some chicken salad and we had wonderful sandwiches – something we rarely eat here. It was…. perfect.

So, there ya go. For the exact measurements, go to allrecipes.com and look up “Boiled Bagels.” You won’t be disappointed.

Next time, I’ll double the recipe so we have more to store. But, this was totally something I’ll do again. Way cheaper than buying bagels and I read you can roll them in different seasonings before baking so you can have the different flavored bagels. Genius. I’m so doing that next time. With the amount of money we save on buying bagels, we could probably even get cream cheese every now and then! Score.

So, did you try anything new this week? You should; keeps life interesting.

Blessed.

So, I’m not going to lie: things have been rough here for awhile now. As you can see from all these other posts, it’s not because of living in Peru itself. But, ministry is just rough. That’s just how life goes sometimes. Always in the midst of issues, though, God seems to hear our pleas and He sends blessings out of nowhere. God seems to always know exactly what we need in order for us to feel loved, cared about, and above all: remembered. I have spent quite awhile feeling forgotten here on the field. I sent an email venting my heart out to someone who swore up and down they cared and wanted to hear only to hear… nothing… afterwards, and it’s been over a month now. My daughter’s been sick and yet, no one seems to care back “home.” So, the blessings I’m going to list below really are proof to Brian and I that even if no one else remembers who we are or where we are, God sure does. And that means so much more to me.

Blessing #1:

Out of all the restaurants we don’t have here in Peru, Subway was the one we missed the most. It came to the Lima airport this year and one Saturday when Brian took someone to the airport early in the morning, he came home with lunch. But, the airport is too far away for us to go on a regular basis. Having Subway now in our mall is just so cool. We discovered it last Saturday on our date night after a particularly difficult week and a tough evening that included the baby vomiting in the backseat of the car on our way there. Seeing Subway literally made me cry. I’m sure everyone around us thought we were crazy; I don’t care. 

Blessing #2:

School has not been easy this year, especially in the last few months. But every time I get really discouraged and frustrated, these girls do something sweet. The girls give me little pictures, cards, fun crafts they made just for me, notes – all filled with, “I love you, Lisa.” Or, “thank you for being my teacher.” My 4th grader gave me a key chain with a note, “Thank you for teaching me.” I opened up one girl’s notebook to check her homework yesterday and at the bottom was written, in all caps, “I LOVE YOU.” Then, the real heartwarmer: I’ve been having a horrible time teaching my dyslexic student. I feel like she’s going backwards and having all sorts of issues. I also feel like she’s given up in many ways, which makes teaching her even harder. So, I’m all frustrated and just about had it and then she looks up at me yesterday and says, “When I grow up, I want to be either a missionary, a traffic police officer, a hairdresser, or an English teacher.” Oh goodness. 

Blessing #3:

Elena has started giving hugs and kisses on a regular basis. She loves blowing kisses, giving “bear hugs”, and hugging our legs. After a hard day, an afternoon away from my baby, and just needing to feel loved, she’s right there to cover us in slobbery kisses and touch our noses in sweet Eskimo kisses. 

Blessing #4:

Elena’s had these weird bumps all over her body for more than a month now. We were told they were bugs. Then, we were told they were food allergies. Then, we were told they were a virus. Then, we were told they were nothing. But, the bumps keep appearing and they’re strange and hard and it was starting to really freak me out (and stress me out). I emailed one more doctor – someone we really, really trust – and sent him a bunch of pictures (including the one above) and a long description. What we got back finally put my heart at ease. If she’s not itching, they’re not bothering her, she doesn’t run a fever or lose her appetite, then his best guess is, “white girl living in South America bumps” and we can just leave them alone and quit worrying about them. He’s the 2nd one to give that opinion. I think we’ll go with that. Phew

Blessing #5:

Two emails in one day that really encouraged me. One from someone at my church (not sure exactly who – it just had our church’s name on it) that was incredibly sweet and encouraging. The second was from a cousin – he wrote asking sincerely how we’re doing and how to pray for Elena. He ended it with, “Just wanted to let you know you’re not alone.” We wrote back and forth and in the end, he said he’s going to figure out if he can come for a couple of weeks in January with his business partner and give Brian a hand! He runs a construction company, so would definitely be able to help. I don’t know if it’ll work out, but just knowing he’s even considering it is enough for me right now. 

Blessing #6:

I’ve been lamenting the “no pumpkins in Peru” fact for over a month now. I’ve found a bunch of recipes that I’d love to try that call for pumpkin and I was getting progressively sadder that we wouldn’t be having pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Then… a friend came over and said, “Did you know there’s pumpkins in the grocery store? They looked expensive, but they’re there!” We went shopping on Sunday, a week after I’d been told they were there, to a different store nonetheless, and I worried that maybe they wouldn’t be there. BUT – lo and behold, there they were – with a sign in English above them: “Halloween Pumpkins, 99 cents per kilo”. No. Way. I bought two. I got about 12lbs of pumpkin for less than $5. Sweet. Of course, I’ve never actually processed a pumpkin before, so this has been an adventure (although really easy). I’m looking forward to pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, and a pumpkin roll. Got 4 1/2 cups out of the first one; will do the second one probably next week. I like looking at the pumpkin. 

Blessing #7:

When we left the States this time, my dad promised he’d come visit in January. He wanted to bring clothes for Elena that we had to leave behind and do a bit of vacation for himself during our summer. But, as time went on, finances in his church hit rock bottom and he’s gone without a paycheck multiple times to make up for it. Then, prices on plane tickets to Peru just sky-rocketed. So, he can’t come. Which left us in a big dilemma. All these wonderful 18mos+ clothes that we’d left in the States – that were free! hand-me-downs from others – were now stuck there and we were without any of the clothes we need for next year for her. We had no clue what we were going to do. We explored a few options and none really were good. And then – we found out that a couple of our Peruvian friends who are currently in the States for a couple months raising support have offered to bring back with them an entire TOTE for us! They spent a weekend with my parents and before the weekend was up had offered to bring back a TOTE for us! I can’t believe it. Especially since before they left they made great pains to tell everyone they had no room to bring back anything for anybody – absolutely not! So, to hear they have room for a TOTE?? That’s just a miracle. My mom told me she’s tucked in Christmas presents, a belated birthday present for Elena, and some surprises – including clothes that I desperately, desperately need and had no idea how I was going to get. Definite blessing. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So… things may not always be easy, pretty, or fun, but I know God is still on His throne, He still sees me, and He still cares. The little things in life make all the difference sometimes.

Series #8.

Well, this is post #8 in my series

The Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru!

So, this will be my final post in the first series I’ve ever done on here! I’m silently patting myself on the back right now for finishing something. 🙂

You know, overall, Peru is a great place to live. One of the things we’ve really noticed over the past three years is how quickly Peru is making advancements. Peru is trying to come out of the “third world” status. Technically, it is a “two-thirds world” country – only part of the country anymore is really “third world.”

We have only been here three years and yet we’ve seen huge advancements – new highways, new interchanges, four or five additions to our mall, new stores, new restaurants, new traffic laws… It’s almost unbelievable how quickly the changes are coming in. For example, the first time Brian drove in Peru, he made a right turn on red – woops – and our friend said, “No!!! You can’t do that! Right turn on red has never been legal here!” This year, there are signs all over the place for right turn on red allowed! People are getting almost too accustomed to it and freak out behind you if you’re not turning right on red when there’s no sign saying it’s allowed. When we got here as well there was no Subway restaurant to be found in Peru. This weekend, we went out to dinner in our mall and after dinner, wouldn’t ya know it, we saw this right next door:

Yup, Subway! We have no clue how we missed it when we entered the restaurant we actually ate in – this was literally right next door! Brian happened to see the sign reflected in the window across the way from our restaurant and he froze: “Is that what I think it is??” Next date night will be to Subway – guaranteed!

Peru is also trying really hard to crack down on traffic issues.

Cars must pass inspection every year, which is getting more of the awful, blue-smoke-blowing trucks off the road (although fake inspection stickers are available, so some are still on the road that really shouldn’t be). There are new laws that working on being passed that will keep buses in their own lane and force them to only stop at bus stops to pick up and drop people off. Right now, they can stop everywhere, all the time, which makes following buses tedious and dangerous since many of them have no brake lights (fake inspection stickers at work there). You can literally be following a bus that will stop to drop someone off and stop to pick someone else up within ten seconds of each other. Ugh. They are also passing laws that keep you from hauling people in the bed of your truck, hauling more people than the car is made for, and buses being over-crowded. These laws are in place in some areas, but not in others. It’s pretty inconsistent still. Brian got stopped for having seven people in a five passenger car, but buses that are so full they can’t close the door and city trucks hauling around workers in the bed don’t ever get stopped.

The medical care is trying to advance and, depending on how much you pay, good medical care is available.

More products from other countries are coming into Peru. The big grocery stores all have “international” food aisles. It cracks me up sometimes what they include from the States — most recently, it included pickles and Goldfish crackers. Many foods I purchased on a regular basis in the States are available here – like couscous, orzo, shortbread cookies, pasta sauce. The problem is the price. Many of our products from the States are actually store brands we’ve bought before, which is pretty cool to see. But, again, the prices aren’t always favorable neither are there many varieties. Like, for example, our cereal aisle is really only half of one side of an aisle, not an entire aisle, both sides of the aisle. Plus, most cereals (especially imported) are very expensive, especially for a missionary salary. I know cereal prices have gone up in the States, so the prices might actually be comparable, but when you live on Peruvian soles, not dollars, it seems much more expensive.

The one thing I always remind myself, though, is that at least it’s here.

cheesecake for Valentine's Day 2010

Maybe we can’t afford stuff on a regular basis, but for special occasions, cream cheese, pecans, cereal, peanut butter – it’s almost all here. We don’t have molasses, chocolate chips, most berries, and some other things – but, overall, we really can’t complain.

So far, I’ve had an emergency C-section and bought new glasses here in Peru.

bought these glasses a year ago, here in lima

We’ve taken our baby to the doctor for a year of check-ups and gotten her half of her vaccinations here (the others were done during furlough). We both have cell phones, plus a house phone. We have good internet and satellite television. We have a flat screen TV and get American stations – only our commercials are in Spanish (although with a click of a button, that can change). We’ve gotten Graco carseats for Elena – both at yardsales for 1/4 of the price we would’ve paid in a store. We have a microwave, an oven, and a great fridge. We own a Chevy (although this particular car never passed safety codes in the States and was therefore never sold in the States, BUT moving on…). We have a gas space heater to take the chill out of the winter air. Brian bought himself a grill.

We’re spoiled.

Yes, the city is a good 45 minutes from home. No, Starbucks doesn’t open until 10am and restaurants don’t open for lunch until 12 or 1pm. No, our roads are not in good condition and no, most traffic doesn’t actually abide by many of the traffic “suggestions.” No, I don’t trust completely all of Elena’s medical care and yes, I am worried because 9-1-1 doesn’t exist here. Yes, I do need to wash my fruit and vegetables very carefully and no, I don’t let Elena eat many of them raw, especially with the peel still on. Yes, we do need to worry about parasites and microbes and random bug bites.

we were told this was made by a spider - it swelled, popped, and scarred

No, our electricity does not stay steady all day every day. No, our water pressure is something to be desired some days and yes, if anything happens to the water lines my water comes out black in the house for awhile.

Butit could be so much worse. I don’t feel like we’re living in the middle of nowhere. I don’t spend all my time feeling out of place and lost. I really enjoy living in Peru. I really do.

Well, there you have it. A series of eight posts on the 

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru.

Did you learn something new? Is there a topic you wished I’d covered, but didn’t?

Hope this inspired you to travel and go somewhere new just to see the ups, downs, and all arounds of that place, too. 

Series #7.

I think today I will cover something that is both an UP and a DOWN in the

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru:

WEATHER.

My brother lives in Florida and is always bragging about his beautiful weather because he’s “so far south.” I always used to joke with him, “Oh yeah? We’re so far south the equator is north!”

No? Not funny? Tough crowd. 

Here’s a world map for those of you who aren’t totally sure where exactly we are. Notice: south of the equator. So, the first obvious difference in our weather is, you guessed it!, our seasons are flip-flopped from you guys up north.

We are also far enough south that we are not completely tropical where we are in Peru. Northern Peru, where we go when we’re in Iquitos, is jungle – right next to the equator, and hot! But, we are somehow far enough south that we’re just not quite in the tropics anymore.

However, we don’t have four distinct seasons. Technically speaking, we have four seasons. But, it’s normally hard to decipher really which one is which. Peruvians say that the country is always either warming up or cooling down. Right about the time you think it just can’t get any warmer, it starts getting cold. And right about the time you think you can’t handle the cold anymore, it gets warm.

Summer!

Our summers here in Lima get warm, but not overly hot (most of the time). We normally live in the 90’s or high 80’s, but since we’re in desert, it cools down to the 70’s at night. Right where we live, we have an almost constant ocean breeze which is cool year round, so sleeping at night is normally always comfortable. During the summer, we rarely, if ever, see rain – in any minute form. We may have more overcast days, but that rarely means precipitation.

Fall!

We know summer is ending and fall has taken over when the fog rolls in. This is normally met with both sadness and anticipation because by the time fall rolls around, we’re all in such a desperate need for a break from the heat and a little bit of cool temperatures that we kind of forget what “fog” really means. During fall, the fog rolls in around 4pm and stays until about 9am. Normally during the fall, I have a jacket with me when I go to school in the morning at 9, but don’t need it by lunch. I don’t need a jacket when I go to school in the afternoon, but wear one by the time I come home at 5. Sunny days start becoming fewer and farther between and when there is sun, it’s out for less time during the day. And then, all of a sudden, the sun is gone completely and we’ve hit…

Winter!

Winter. Even though the temperature still stays in the 60’s during the winter, the humidity can get up to 90% – with no rain – plus a constantly, chilly breeze, so you just feel chilled. Our houses don’t have heat or insulation, so sometimes the temperature inside the house is the same (or cooler) than outside. We know it’s winter because the fog comes in around 3:30pm (sometimes earlier) and just… doesn’t leave… until about… September. Maybe about three or four times during the winter months the sun will actually break through. This year was amazing – we had almost a week of sunshine and the fog didn’t roll in until 5pm! It was so refreshing. But, last year was a different story. We didn’t see sun for months on end. The real downside, though, is all the humidity. Doing laundry with no dryer is a real pain! I have literally had jeans hanging to dry for two full weeks. Most of the time, you just guess on whether or not your clothes are actually dry. During the day they might feel dry, but by evening, they feel damp again. You kind of spend the whole winter wearing semi-damp clothing, but because everything feels damps, you don’t really notice – until the one day the sun is out ALL DAY LONG and the clothes dry for REAL and you go, “Wow! I didn’t know I had been wearing wet pants for three months!” BUT – there’s green grass because of all the drizzly fog!

Spring!

And then, spring arrives! The fog begins to lift and you realize that by 9am, instead of a foggy, dreary day, you have sun! And the sun stays up longer and you can actually see the sun until it sets at 6pm. The mountains around us are visible and the wind isn’t quite so brisk. Our first clue spring had arrived this year was that the humidity broke. It seemed like (although it probably was not the case) that from one day to the next, the humidity just lifted and it felt 10 degrees warmer. We were getting hot at night and I told Brian, “Spring must be here! I’m finally warm at night!” and he checked our thermometer and, I kid you not, the humidity was way down, but – so was the temperature! It was actually getting into the 50’s at night, but without humidity, it felt miles warmer than it had all winter long. Then, spring blends into summer and then the cycle starts over again.

Each season has its ups and downs.

Ups: Summer – sunny, warm weather, dry laundry! Fall – cooler temperatures, yet laundry still dries. Winter – “rainy” days you can spend with family, fewer bugs, green grass. Spring – flowers, sun after months of dreariness, laundry finally drying again!

Downs: Summer – bugs, sunburn, very hot afternoons. Fall – flies, very cool breeze begins. Winter – laundry never dries, spiders come indoors, mud everywhere, cool breeze that makes you pray it would just snow (or even rain) and get it over with. Spring – flies are back, spiders that had been hiding in the house come out to say “hi”, strong wind.

So, there you have it! What’s weather like where you live?

November 2011
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