Sunday, March 27, 2011

Taking the good with the bad..

As life moves on we all go through a series of changes. We recently  had to bring a family member down from another state to live here so that we can care for them.
Responsibilities that I honestly never thought about. When a family member starts the process of dementia, and experiences the struggles with altzimers, it affects everyone.
Going through finances and organizing accounts, all the while helping someone that used to help you is quite humbling. This person is still respected by you, but due to the aging process is not in control of themselves as they used to be. Now you are the one making decisions, and its hard. Its really hard when they experience moments of clarity, think they can take care of themselves, resist you, then a few minutes later forget the conversation/actions ever happened to begin with.
I got the privalege of caregiver this past week, and while my heart aches, I am so glad that now he is close enough (distance wise) for me to help him. Scheduling and watching the therapist come in and run him through a series of exercises snapped me back to watching another family member doing the same thing. The pain from that is still fresh in my mind.
So far, he still calls me by name, although I know it won't be much longer and this too will be taken from him.
I treasure the times of clarity, and conversation. Time is draining out of the perpetual hourglass faster these days it seems. I wish I could plug it, keep my family close to me; to somehow cheat age and have things go back to "normal". 
"You have to take the good with the bad",  that is what I heard the whole time I grew up. As I get older, I understand a deeper meaning of that. Somehow I know this is true, as these things are all beyond my control, but I don't have to like it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Travelocity Gnome goes to Costa Rica

Our Travelocity Gnome  goes with us all over the place! This time he took pictures with Jason & Kerby our missionaries, with David ,  next to a coconut, on the beach, with Van, hanging out with the guy driving the cattamaran boat, and sitting with the pineapples.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sky Lanterns

 I started this blog back in January, and for some reason never attached the pictures, so we get to look at this in March.
We first discovered these Sky Lanterns back last July when we went to my Aunt and Uncles for July 4th. We let one go then, and it was so much fun.
We couldn't find any more after the 4th, so we made it a point to go looking for some when New Year came around. We bought 8 of them, in different colors! I know.. but we really think these are neat.
In many Asian cultures it is considered good luck to release a sky lantern, and many believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away.

While we all made a new year wish, we don't put any stock that this lantern will grant it. However, as a family activity its fun. The fuel cell inside burns out and the thin rice paper dis-senegrates into the thin air, a a small piece of paper if that falls to the earth.
Yes, there are several of these that are not safe, they have been known to start fires, eeks! Since Sweetie is a former firefighter, he made sure that we were far away from everything, that there was not a big breeze and that no fire touched the ground or anything else for that matter.
Happy New  Year!

Here Sweetie and the boys are ready to release the sky lantern. We only let one go this time. It was pretty cold and wandering around in the dark wasn't as much fun as one would think. So it looks like we will have more for fourth of July!

Costa Rican Coffee

When we toured Phase II of the Abraham Project in Costa Rica, we found some workers picking coffee beans. He agreed to a picture and humbly showed us what he had picked so far that morning.  We found out that the workers only make around $1.25 per basket of coffee beans. Each time we have gone to Costa Rica we have had requests to bring back some of the coffee. Since we aren't drinkers ourselves, we don't appreciate the taste of a strong cup of 'joe'.  Everyone seems to enjoy the coffee, and we don't mind bringing back something special to our supporters.
Since the coffee beans in Costa Rica are grown in the volcantic soil. The chemistry in this produces remarkable tasting vegetables, fruit, and coffee.

 Our missionary friends told us that if we take one of the red coffee beans and squeeze it slightly between our tongue and roof of our mouths a small amount of sweet will come out in our mouths. It took me a few times as I had to resist the urge to chew them. Ha!
What I tasted was a stretch in sweet, but I can see how that perception was formed.

300 Calorie Meals - Pork, Onion and Pepper Fajitas

In Sweetie and I's effort to drop some excess weight we have taken on a Biggest Loser Challenge set up by Sweetie's workplace.  One of the tools they gave us is a Betty Crocker cookbook called: the 300 calorie cook book.  We are taking the challenge seriously. I must say that I am truly loving cooking these yummy meals full of flavor and staying within the calorie count we are allowed each day.
The pictures I uploaded was from Pork, Onion and Pepper Fajitas.
1/2 pork tenderloin
1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 medium bell peppers (any color thinly sliced)
4 fat free flour tortillas (6-8 inch)
Trim fat from pork, but into 2 1/2 inch strips. Mix pork, lime juice, cumin, salt and galic in heavy duty resealable food storage plastic bag. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 8 hours but no longer than 24.
Remove pork from marinade; reserve marinade. Spray 10 inch skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes, stirring once.  Stir in onion, bell peppers and marinade. Cook 5 to 8 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until onion and perppers are crisp tender.
Place 1/4 of pork mixture in center of each tortilla. Fold one end of tortilla up about 1 inch over mixture, fold right and left sides over folded end, overlapping. Fold remaining end down.
You can serve it with chopped tomato sprinkled with fresh cilantro, salso, and fat free sour cream.  It is so yummy! This meal is only 250 calories!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Soccer Season is Here!

Today was a beautiful day! The temps flirted with 80 degrees, the sun was shining and there were thin wispy clouds scattered across a baby blue sky. 14 boys ages 11 & 12 are stretching before going on a mile warm up run. Its the first day of the spring soccer season.
For an hour and a half the boys scrimmage and run drills while all the parents catch up on the latest amongst ourselves. It is something to see how these boys have grown over the past 4 years. Several of them have played together longer than that. We have watched them mature physically, as well as in their position on the team.
There are several new kids, as well as parents. It was really fun to watch as the new kids interacted with the boys that already knew each other. Even more amusing were the adults with the newcomers. To see who chose to break the barrier, to discover who belonged to whom and who didn't.
Yes, this afternoon was wonderful. The boys had a good practice, and will suffer through another one tomorrow, as they prepare for the first game this Saturday.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday is FUN Day!

WOW. Fun day was Friday.  We got up early, and were on the bus by 5 a.m. We drove for about 2 hours, stopped for breakfast on the way. It was a Costa Rician buffet, with your rice, beans, fruit, and piece of bread. Neat thing was the area around the restaurant. While everyone else scoped out more souveniers, I went outside and explored with my camera. I found some beautiful flowers, and landscaping as you can see from the pictures.  Behind the restaurant, one could go hang out with a toucan, and step into a green room with a butterfly. Being a butterfly enthusiast, I was excited but disappointed as it was small and we only found one butterfly, but did find several cocoons.
The roads to Tortuga Island were curvy and wound down the mountain - not for the faint of stomach. We were rewarded with some beautiful views, and the excitement grew as we saw water. The sailboats, and fishing boats were everywhere. We parked the bus and took a beautiful hour and 20 minute ride in a party boat out to the island. On the boat, we were treated to all the fruit juice, water, and soda we could drink. The staff also walked around the boat with platters full of pineapple, papya, and watermelon. It was wonderful! The water had various shades of blue depending where you looked. The landscape was dotted with little islands, each with a personality of its own.
Soon we could see brown beaches, tall palm trees, hammocks, and little boats on the island. YAY! Let the fun begin! We were then escorted off the boat and ushered over to some shade covered tables to get the schedule. For the wonderful price of FREE: we could ride the bananna boat, and snorkel! We also had the option to ride horses for $10 each. Wonderful!
We signed up to do all of the above. While waiting in the 90 + weather, our captain informed us of a sizeable earthquake in Japan and a Sunami warning for our area. We were all amazed as we hadn't seen TV, or heard the news all week. Saying a prayer, we each scouted off to do our thing! The boys and I headed for the water, while Sweetie checked out the island.
Our first activity was the bananna boat. With Jason & Chad in front of and behind me strattling this yellow rubber boat, I was confident! The boat pulling us started off, and wow did we bounce on the waves! It was like riding horseback in the surf! As we bounced across the waters, we slowed down only to go faster, which is when Jason informed me this was where we would go fast then jerked over to the side! I laughed, but it was too late! Into the water we went. We eventually climbed back on and bounced back across the water to the beach. I was thrilled, another activity I wanted to do off my bucket list.
Are you ready for this? The captain blew a conch shell to get us to come to dinner. It was neat! Our appetizer was chopped tilapia cooked in lime juices, with some red peppers and onions. It was wonderful. Sweetie and the boys passed it up, can you imagine? Salad was served next with some cooked noodles, and carrots, and some cucumbers with some sort of sauce on it. It was good. Again, the boys and Sweetie ignored the food.  The main meal was rice, (go figure) with grilled chicken coated in coconut. This they ate. I did get another treat though.. I got to drink out of a coconut! I was disappointed, I thought the milk would be thicker. Oh well, another thing to check off my list! We had an amazing day..

Playing Soccer with Diego and his Family

Thursday was our last work day, and while we were sad it was over, we sure are excited about our fun day!
Today when we left the worksite, we left the ground level around the playground, we had sanded and painted several posts for the fence to go around the playground. It was hard to say goodbye to the orphans today. There were many who grew quite attached to their favorites!
Tonight we have been invited to go to play soccer with Diego, our bus driver and friend, along with his family! We are all excited, and ready to play! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sharing the Christ with Costa Rica

Today was my favorite day by far. To immerse myself into the culture like we did today  was the heartbeat of my life. I was in my sweet spot. We made sack lunches last night at Jason & Kerby's that included: 1 black bean and butter sandwich, a granola bar, a bottle of water, and a Spanish/English tract that explained the plan of salvation.
Diego, our wonderful bus driver, dropped us off several blocks from the market and we spent the better part of two hours passing out lunches, and sharing Christ with the folks while they ate. There were many that grabbed their bags eagerly and ran off like a starved puppy, while others just quietly told us thank you. The few we got to "chat" with were such a blessing  to us.
Before going today, I prayed several times to God to please show us who to give the bags to, to put the people in front of us. One in particular was a shoe shiner. This little bent old man works hard all day for pennies on the dollar, is looked upon as dirt, and often dismissed in society. He was wearing a tattered white button down shirt and some dirty brown pants, and white tennis shoes, the wrinkles on his face were deep, but his eyes still had a sparkle to them. He was so thankful, he grabbed our hands and just kept saying "thank you, an answer from God." That was so cool! I wondered had he prayed for someone to come to him today? And if he did, was that our purpose? Oh my!
My hurt bursts for these people. I have been around many nationalities, and yet the Costa Rican people just touch my heart. I find myself in tears often as I feel their burden. The streets were busy today with people all around. Each with their own purpose and goals for their lives. I wish I could come back to Costa Rica and work downtown the whole time. Just walking the streets and sharing Jesus.  Oh my heart is heavy.
Due to our safety we were not allowed to bring our cellphones or cameras. I wish I had my camera several times, not to take photos of the poor, but to capture the heart of the city, the architecture, the beautiful flowers being sold super cheap, and the masses of people.
To all that read this blog that partnered with our family to serve on this trip, I humbly and gratefully tell you, "Thank you!"
On a lighter note, I also wish I could have captured the boys feeding and chasing the pigeons in the center of town square, the whole team enjoyed watching the carefree, joy of two boys just enjoying the day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 4 - Painting with the Orphans

This morning I shoveled dirt into a wheelbarrow and transported it to the playground. I made about 3 trips, and was told I had another job to do. It was the best job EVER! I got to help the orphans paint their hands and feet for pictures for supporters of the project. Cory has made friends with Isaac shown in his picture and Mainor (not pictured) he is getting a painting done with Isaacs and Mainors hands on it with his.
Brian and Roberto are buddies so they made a painting together also.
I just love watching these kids play together. What a wonderful mission journey.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday in Costa Rica

Today we went to the Project and toured the grounds. So much had changed since early January, when we were last here. The ditches that were dug, and the septic tank areas were all leveled off; the soccer stadium walls are higher now, and there is more of a circular shape to the outside of it. The wood shed area where we all pulled nails is now covered by a metal roof. A team that came in last week built the children a beautiful playground. We are so excited.

Part of the team worked in the daycare area until lunch time, and the rest cleaned and painted metal poles for a new fence that will run behind the playground area as there is a steep drop off now, and just a small wooden picket type fence.

This morning was my time to work in the daycare, and it was so much fun. Today’s story was about Jonah and the big fish. We taught children age 4 up to 14 today. They had a coloring page of a fish and got to decorate them with stickers too. The children were all precious, and so much fun to be around. That time went by so fast!

When we were finished working it was time to go to Hiper Moss which is Costa Rica equivalent to Walmart. Here is where we picked up coffee for several people at a fair price.

Tonight, Jason & Kerby are coming to have dinner with us at Franco’s and then hanging out for devotions.

My heart sang praises today as I watched our boys working. Cory dug holes and picked up scrap lumber, and he cleaned fence post. Brian worked with wheelbarrow toting dirt from one place to another, then spent some time swinging a pickaxe to break up the dirt; he also cleaned and painted fence posts.

I look at their tired dirty faces, and am just so thankful to all that partnered with our family to help us go back to Costa Rica. They contribute so much and are hard workers. Many of the college students complimented the boys today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Costa Rica Day 1 & 2

Around 2 am this morning our family roused ourselves and drove to Nashville to board a plane bound for Costa Rica. Yes, this is the second time in 49 days. Why? Because it was GOD’s will. I really can’t explain it any other way. We prayed for financial help, and man, when ya ask God for a blessing.. HE Pours out to Overflowing! Meaning the boys debt was paid for and I mean to the penny! The boys are with us! We are so jazzed! We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this week!

We have the privilege of leading a team of college students this time. It is the beginning of spring break for them this weekend and these young people have many choices as to where they spend it. This group, they are passionate about sharing Jesus’ love to the Costa Rican people.

Our flights were great and once again we found ourselves hugging Jason & Kerby (our missionaries)! Arriving at Franco’s, we were embraced tightly by our new friend. He really enjoyed meeting the boys.

We brought down some special gifts for Franco, and boy was he excited! He was given a Hard Rock CafĂ© shirt from Nashville, (he collects them) and a beautiful chef’s knife. Franco was speechless for awhile, turning the knife over in his hands, feeling the weight and smiling over the shiny blade. Kisses and hugs were exchanged, what a precious time.

Then our group loaded the bus and headed to the Abraham Project for services with the youth. We sang songs in Spanish and in English. (Our part was more Karaoke than in tune, but God understood our worship!) The next part was a huge treat! It is called a marionette. Basically a play without words about how a person gets lost in sin and as they allow more sin into their lives, the more they are chained up, and burdened. They showed this person getting into drugs, smoking, pornography, and alcohol. Then they showed Jesus coming into this person’s life and changing it, releasing them from the chains of depression, possible suicide, and dependence on drugs and alcohol. It was beautiful. One of our team members got it on video, I hope he posts it soon, if he does, I will put a link up so you can see it too.

We ended our evening with devotions and prayer. Once we were unpacked.. it is update time then precious sleep! The temps are okay tonight, there is a breeze coming through the window…and if you know me at all, yes! I brought a fan!

Day #2.  Church this morning was great! I just love worshiping God with other people groups. Love for the Lord shone on every face. Brandon expressed his message well, and translation was smooth. It was a full house. It was really amazing how much has changed at the Project. There is a new playground that was built just last week, and where we dug trenches that is all filled in and finished.. just beautiful.
This afternoon Sweetie and I were able to watch our boys interact with the orphans. It was a beautiful thing. Language differences were not a problem. They played soccer, played guitar, blew bubbles, showed them how to play with a yo yo. Precious moments today.
This evening we went over to the mall and got to experience Costa Rica icecream. I had pineapple. YUMMY! It had small pieces in it. The coconut was good also. Sweetie and the boys played it "safe" with chocolate.
We are now back at Franco's and just finished up devotions tonight. What an amazing group of young people. WOW this next generation has it down! We are humbled, and honored to be working side by side with these amazing young adults.
Please pray for us this week. That sun is HOT. God is so good. Time will fly by. God has chosen each of us for this trip, there is a purpose for each of us. We are so excited to discover what God has in store for us!