i am from… celebrating heritage

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Sololá, Guatemala – circa ’93

I am from a brew of freshly roasted coffee.
From the smell of tea tree oil and the jasmine outside.
Cilantro home-grown and limón freshly squeezed.
From a triangular dining room table that seats fifteen people.
A house worn in with well-loved nooks and too many books.
I am from jacaranda trees in bloom and a rainy season that brings everything to life.

I am from failing at pictures, because we’re a small village.
From sleeping in the mountains to watch shooting stars.
From belly laughs, midnight feasts, and happy half-birthdays.
Odious matching dresses with my mom and sister (only kidding – they were lovely).
From mom’s pancakes every Saturday morning.
I am from grammar fiends and a shared love for music and literature.

I wasn't lying about the matching dresses.

I wasn’t lying about the dresses. That is produce on my dress, people. Produce. I know you’re jealous.

I am from fields upon fields in Illinois and Ohio.
From sweet tea and pulled pork in the deep sultry South.
From English truffles and pudding; and maybe a duke.
From volcanoes and cold in luscious Guatemala.
From heaven on earth in southern México.
I am from anywhere and everywhere in between…

I am from tacos al pastor, mole negro, and fresh conchas from the panadería.
From competitive game-players; a life without screens.
From seeing the world from a very young age.
From outrageous road trip traditions; people who enjoy traveling together.
From music to sports; and books too, of course.
I am from a childhood of scraped up knees and playing ‘lost kids’.

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I am from seventeen years spent in Latin America.
Fresh sushi in California to the snows of Colorado.
From the tropics of Asia to no home at all.
From awaiting my flight to the next far off place.
From an adopted family wherever I bed.
I am from life on the move and ecstatic reunions.

I am from regrets and mistakes made endlessly.
From exceedingly broken to truly redeemed.
From days I can’t face the world, to learning to trust.
From a family that supports and encourages when life gets hard.
From friends that become family when mine is far off.
I am from a Father who Loves unconditionally.

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(Inspiration for this post came from She Loves Magazine.)

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holiday melancholia & choosing joy

Christmas hurts.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, there’s a steady influx of holiday-related posts; baby’s first Christmas, new traditions, old traditions, fancy meals and dresses, a time to reminisce, and families long apart – together again. I never knew something to make my heart feel such joy and sorrow at the same time.

It’s my second Christmas away from home, yet the ache I feel far surpasses last time.

My parents are moving to America.

This is the last Christmas in my childhood home – and I’m not there for it.

I’m losing something that I didn’t know I needed to say goodbye to.

It’s not that I’m sad about missing Christmas day, or even the Christmas season; it has and always will be about the people. Christmas is the one time of year I get to fly home to ‘my country’ and be with ‘my people’. People who have scolded me, watched me grow from a wee tot into who I am today, in complete support of me in any endeavor I pursue. The people who were my adoptive aunties, uncles, and grandparents; people who most influenced my life.They know what part I play in my family dynamics, they saw me through my awkward, embarrassing years, they know my talents and weaknesses, they care to know what I’m learning, and they constantly tell me how proud they are of me… they cherish me unconditionally.

I’m far from home this year, experiencing the holiday season in a different continent than I have before. It’s been so fun to see how a different culture does Christmas and get to spend this season with an adoptive family, but we’ve been so busy that it wasn’t until I checked a calendar this morning that I even realised today was Christmas Eve.

I found myself swallowing a lump in my throat I didn’t even know was there.

I’m grieving a season in my life I know to be ending very soon. Not a literal season, but a season of international terminals in order to go home on holiday; of sleeping in my own bed – not the guest bedroom in a strange house in a new state; of using different currencies on break; of being with the people I consider to be my family, who value me; to see my childhood friends – grown TCKs who are scattered all over and whom I’d never see any other time.

We don’t get a lot of say in the direction God takes our lives, but mine is going somewhere I hoped it wouldn’t… and damn it, it hurts.

Life. Goes. On.

I think God, in His divine Love, knew this would be a hard pill for me to swallow, so He orchestrated a way for me to go home one last time before the move. In October, I strongly felt that I needed to go home after I return from Asia; as my place to rest and figure out my life. I moved to the Philippines directly after graduating college and I haven’t had the mental capacity since then to plan out a blueprint of my next year. I found an affordable flight that would give me 6 weeks with my family before I’d move back to California. It was a month later that it became clear my family would be moving to Michigan in June, in order for my parents to take on a new role in ministry.

In other words, God had planned out for me to go home before we knew the move would happen. Are you kidding?? It’s humbling to know that unbeknownst to me, God loves me so much that He’d prepare in advance a way for me to get the closure I need.

That being said…

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Knowing my Creator and recognizing His plan to be the best, I hereby choose to not wallow in self-pity over the upcoming changes in my life; but instead to face them head on with my eyes mostly open. I might scrunch my face a little, because I do that sometimes…but I will rely on my Saviour, taking it just one day at a time.

So for today, at least — I am choosing joy.

Qualifications To Be My Honeybee

Filipinos love to joke around. Because I am white, single, and don’t understand a word of Visaya, I end up being at the brunt of a lot of jokes. I can’t understand most of what they say though, so I don’t mind. I think God prepared in advance for me to have this lot in life, because he chose for me to be be born into a family with 5 men.

The ongoing joke since I moved to this country, is that I’m getting old and must get married soon. I’m already 22, after all. The purpose being that we can marry and live happily together in my cave in the Moffit basement and I can continue to homeschool the children. Husband = I get to stay in the Philippines. It’s a win-win situation, apparently.

In order to dodge the men that are thrown my way, I have come up with a running list of qualifications. Because I’ve become so picky, the entire church congregation has been recruited to be on the lookout for Mr. Right. Here is a meager sampling of some of my qualifications:

  • Must be higher than my waist.
  • Must have 50% of his teeth.
  • Must be single. As in unmarried. Apparently, having a girlfriend doesn’t place him under the “unattainable” category. Sheesh.
  • Must be between the ages of 22–50.
  • Must not be crazy.
  • Must be able to moonwalk.

Apparently, I ask too much. Those first two are the clinchers. What started out as an inside joke in the family, grew to include pretty much everyone I’ve met since moving here. As we would drive down the main road, the girls would point out different men in town, letting me know they fit my qualifications, to which I would add even more to my list; to make sure they no longer qualify. After the dramatic death of our fridge, a few delivery guys showed up one day to drop off the new one and take the old away, when Lang came running into the classroom to tell me that my husband was downstairs. That was when I added the “Can’t have a high-pitched, nasally voice” rule.

What got me was when (6-year-old) Neo started joining in on the ‘husband quest’. I was teaching in the school room one afternoon when the exterminator came in to scope out a job, as he was walking out the door, Neo tapped my leg and whispered, “I think he would be a good man for you to marry.” That’s when I added the classic, “Must not get high for a living” rule.

Good grief.

Because the good people at my church are taking their job so seriously, more seriously than any of us anticipated, I now expect every time we get together to be given a phone number of someone who qualifies, or asked a question about myself; either for themselves to know, or to be passed on to a possible suitor. I couldn’t tell you anymore.

One Bible study, we were all standing around visiting and eating dinner, when I got asked by a male in our group what my waist size is. By the way, weight questions are considered fair game in polite conversation here. As soon as he asked, all the conversation in the room died down so everyone could hear my response. So I told him. 26. This resulted in teetering and snickers and a conversation I didn’t quite catch. I still don’t know… I’ve narrowed it down to two options though:

I) They don’t measure waistlines in inches and I gave them a barbie size measurement for myself.

II) I’m a way bigger size than any of them and that’s hilarious for some reason.

I think I lean more toward the latter. I’m latina; my hips don’t lie!

¡Viva La Independencia!

I live in a country where people will find any excuse to have a party. I hate it. It’s not in my nature at all. However, I am finding myself a lot more inspired to find reasons to celebrate life! Because it is Mexican Independence Day, I’m planning a full-on ‘grito’ celebration for these Asian-raised children who may never get a chance to experience the real thing — unless I get my say in the matter of them coming to visit me in Oaxaca. So I am going to go out on a wire to celebrate my home country, though I am far away, with a few alterations:

  1. We do not have local beauty queens to sing the national anthem horribly off-key, (although we all know I qualify – puh-lease).
  2. We do not have enough people to make a parade worthwhile, no cowboys to ride into town on their horses, and definitely no impressive fireworks.
  3. Although it can be easily arranged, I have chosen to veto the tradition of smashing flour-filled eggs on each others’ heads. You’re welcome, Belinda. That alteration is dedicated to you.

This year, my family will be celebrating Mexican Independence Day from 5 different countries. I don’t know how much each of the family members outside of Mexico will be able to celebrate, but I (family rep for Southeast Asia) have planned a cultural immersion evening; latino music and a Oaxacan feast with all the food we would typically have on the night of the Grito. Horchata, tacos, churros, and platanos fritos (fried plantains)! It will be my first attempt at trying to make all these dishes from scratch and so far away from all the ingredients I need. With all the Asian twists I’ll have to give it, it’s not promised to be very authentic, but it will at least temporarily satisfy my cravings.

How can you not love how festive they are for special days!

How can you not love how festive they are!

Most MKs have difficulty answering the question, “Where are you from?” For me, that question is easy. No matter how long I’ve lived outside of Oaxaca, I have always considered it to be my home. Although I will confess, some days I don’t feel like divulging my entire story to a stranger when they’re just trying to be polite, so I’ve come up with a short answer: “About an hour north of LA”. The difficulty lies in when they ask further questions about my schooling and family, then I have to fess up that I only lived in Simi Valley for 2 years. When people hear I grew up south of the border and notice my skin colour, I just know I’m not going to get out of that conversation for a good 15 minutes; and truthfully, sometimes I just don’t want to talk about it.

Do you ever wish your life were more boring so people would be less intrigued??

I sometimes feel like I’m alone in that sentiment…

I miss my Oaxaca sunsets with all my heart.

Although I’ve seen my fair share of the world, nothing holds my heart like this place.

En todo el mundo no puedes encontrar a una gente mas patriótico ni mas amable que los Méxicanos, y me siento orgullosa de ser considerado uno de ellos. Extraño celebrar este día tan especial con los que amo mas en todo el mundo. ¡Un día regresaré y celebraremos el Día de Independencia juntos otra vez! ¡¡¡¡Viva México cabrones!!!!

I Don’t Feel Much Like Pooh Today

I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember. Every birthday and Christmas I received a book to add to my personal library. As I got older, my books became cash (assuming I would rather have money for clothes or makeup), but I would still only ever use the money on books.

I attended a college where I read even more than I did in high school; I didn’t think it possible. Anyone who has attended Eternity Bible College can relate to this. It was only over breaks that a (dedicated) EBC student had time to devour non-school books. Early on, I decided that once I graduated from college, I would fulfill this resolution:

Read 100 books in one calendar year.

I was determined to make 2013 ‘the year’, since I had no idea what 2014 would hold. This was a kind of foolish decision, having been enrolled in EBC full-time for 4 months of the year, but I decided to give it my best. I love a daunting challenge!

This week, I hit my 50 book milestone. Although impressive in and of itself, it does not bode well for finishing the other fifty in just 4 months. I use this website. It keeps track of your books, finds recommendations, and you can see what your friends are reading. Pretty fantastic.

Since I am half way done with my challenge, I decided I would share what I’ve gleaned from a book I’ve read, one that spoke specifically to my heart; Humility, by Andrew Murray:

“Let us ask whether we have learnt to regard a reproof, just or unjust; a reproach from friend or enemy; an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us; as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honour are nothing, and how humiliation is, in very truth, what we take pleasure in. It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of Heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”

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2013 has been my my most difficult year by far.

I’ve shed more tears in the past 3 months than I think I have in all my life. The tragedies and bad news are merciless in tracking me down and finding me in this distant corner of the world. What I’ve learned through hardship is the importance of not losing sight of the hope which is in me. Buried temporarily, though the hope may be, in difficult circumstances, in grief, in brokenness — I know it will pass…eventually. Although the fog closes in around me and I so frequently feel as though I’m drowning, God gives me His strength even then.

The chore of waking up in the morning is so much easier having bathed myself in the truth that Jesus is all. Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to figure things out by yourself? This reality does not dissipate the grief; but it does remind us we are capable of experiencing joy in spite of seemingly overwhelming circumstances.

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Oh, The Noise, Noise, Noise…

Stepping out of the airport in a jet-lag induced haze, I was bombarded. Everything was so different from what I knew and the humidity was so thick I felt like I was drowning. So many noises, so many smells! Maneuvering more luggage than I had hands for, I somehow made it on the right bus. Or I was about 75% sure it was the right one, anyway. I walked down the narrow aisle of the bus and couldn’t help but eye the red velour walls, yellow polyester curtains with giant tassels, and a lucky maneki-neko cat* figurine sitting at the front with its paw beckoning at each turn of the bus. So much beauty for the eye to behold… As I began to wonder why American bus systems haven’t yet adopted the ambiance of Asian buses, the guy walking down to collect the coins yelled something I couldn’t understand, and immediately everyone standing in the aisles found a lap to sit on. I tried to suppress a laugh; it came out as a snort instead.

I’m sure my experience conjures up memories of your first trip to a developing country. It’s pretty standard, from what I understand. It’s funny how quickly life overseas becomes normal and you actually come to expect the very things that once overwhelmed you.

Case in point:

Last week on my night to make dinner, I was preparing to make orange chicken and fortune cookies (by scratch, mind you) when I realized I didn’t have any oranges. Living in the-land-of-never-being-able-to-find-all-the-ingredients-needed, I’ve become queen at substitution. However, there’s no substituting orange in orange chicken; at least I wasn’t about to try to attempt it. Off to the store I went. I jumped into a motorela** and went to the store, which is approx. 2 km from our house, bought 4 oranges, hopped back on a ‘rela’ and came home. The trip took me an hour and fifteen minutes. When I walked in and glanced at the clock, I was shocked — at how quickly I had returned from my errand!

How did this become normal?

More recently, yesterday at 8 am to be precise, the day kicked off with a little kindergarten, 5th, and 7th grade math. After working on math for a few minutes in silence, Kuya Boy, (yes, that’s really his name) the guy working on the bathroom cabinet, turned on some manly machine – a chainsaw perhaps – right outside the schoolroom window. Whatever it was, it was loud. That’s fine. We can work with that. Then, “Iron Man” (I have yet to learn his real name) turns on a weed-eater, again, right outside the window. All right, testing my patience here. When I didn’t think the kids could possibly get more distracted, a parade walked by outside our house with live music and drums. A parade. At 8 in the morning. Only in the Philippines. Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise! Sorry, I couldn’t resist getting a little Seuss-ical on you.

Yet somehow even then, I didn’t think much of the absurdity in the situation until all was quiet, and I realized I had been yelling the lesson to be heard over all the commotion.

*For those of you needing a visual image of my bus trip, this is a lucky maneki-neko cat. You clearly have not been in Asia or eaten bad Chinese food in the US if you have not seen one of these bad boys! You probably just didn’t know they were called that. Spread the word. 

maneki-neko

**These are motorelas. They’re like a cross between Thai tuk-tuks, Mexican cucarachas…and I’m pretty sure a combination of any other motorised transportation you’ll find in another country. Motorcycle in the front, party in the back! It’s more fun in the Philippines.

relas

For now, my maneki-neko cat and I are signing off. (Admit it, it’s fun to say!)

Birthdays & Rewards In Heaven

I’m not meaning to brag or anything, but my dad is pretty rad. He’s a stud.  He tans like no one’s business…without even trying. He’s an all-star athlete who’s in way better shape than me, and I’m apparently “in my prime”. Whatever that means. He’s been robbed at gun-point on numerous occasions, yet always stays level headed. He’s a pro at crossing borders, flying with 7 kids in tow, and mapping out our furloughs to the T. He’s extremely organised and has great people skills. He’s an expert at business and missions and I think he might actually be part robot. He has all 9 immediate members of my family’s social security numbers memorized, {I can hardly remember all their names}. If he’s called you more than once, he probably has your telephone number memorized, (not to sound creepy or anything). He remembers everyone’s names, even if he’s only met you once, and given enough time talking with a stranger in an airport, he can usually find that they have a mutual friend.

I don’t know how he does it.

Today he turns 60 and I’m sad I can’t be there. A downside to cross-cultural ministry is having a family of 15 going on 27 people and knowing that you’re pretty much guaranteed to miss every birthday, holiday, and get-together. It’s worth it, though. One event missed = one crown in Heaven, right? I’m pretty sure that’s somewhere in the Bible;)

As you can see, I am the first girl, and obviously the cutest of my siblings. Then another 3 meddlesome Mexicans were born and I went from being the favourite, to being the middle-kiddle and forgotten—sometimes. I get away with blaming quite a bit of my weirdness on this, so no complaints.

Family photo 1992

We were such a cute little Guatemalan family!

I love that my dad didn’t necessarily always treat me different just because I’m a girl. It probably helped that I had 3 older brothers, so I just got to tag along on all the cool things they got to do. I was still able to go on village trips, help mix cement for building projects with teams, and hang out with the ‘big kids’. One time, my dad, my brother Mike (on the far right), and I drove our van up to the Texas border to sell it, we then turned around and spent 48+ hours traveling by bus to come home again. I was maybe 7 at the time? I have NO idea how my dad kept a 7 and 9 year old entertained on a bus for 2 straight days, but kudos to him…and my mom of course. We were obviously pros at traveling.

My first “real” village trip was with my dad and oldest brother, Chris. It was the kind where you stay with a family and spend the night, or several nights. I was 4 at the time.

I was born for missions. Just look at my outfit!

Another time when I was little, I was sick on furlough with a raging fever and I fell asleep on the couch while my dad watched a baseball game. He woke me up to ask me how I was feeling and I told him I was still feeling pretty sick. Then he asked if I was too sick to go out and get some ice cream with him. Well, I guess I’m not really that sick…so we drove to Honey Hut and got a cone.

Ice cream fixes all wounds.

Although I may forget your name and have trouble remembering my own SSN, I do take after my dad in some ways: I favor my dad in his studly looks (minus the natural tan & brawny muscles, obviously). We have a shared love for the ocean, running, humidity, coffee, and cinnamon ice cream. I have also inherited his same humour. Sorry, world…

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I love you, Dad! Happy birthday!