Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Growing Up & GoodBye

The great philosopher, John Leguizamo (actor & the voice of Sid the sloth), once said, "With young children a day passes like a year, and a year passes by like a day," (or at least something along those lines).  This has certainly been the case as I look at you, Abigail.  I cannot believe that you are 10 - double digits!  You have been privileged, as  the first born, to have the most memories of the various places we have lived.  Whether it be the wall of millipedes when we took our daily walks in the Dominican Republic or the fun times on the trampoline in our backyard in Georgia.You are beginning to learn that some memories come with a cost, the price of having to say good-bye.  Sweet little farewells to play-date friends, baby toys, and places we have lived.  As we prepare to make the move to Italy, you have begun to say some goodbyes - tearful ones.  The most recent being your sorrowful parting with Guira.  We are thrilled to see her go to a great home where she will be loved and be able to play, but the goodbye was harder than you expected.

Although this goodbye didn't involve her death, it has been a hard parting nonetheless.  I do not want to minimize loss of any kind - it all stings in different ways and varying degrees.  I do hope that as you begin to experience and understand loss it will motivate you to be more present in the NOW - to make memories that will put a smile on your heart.  I also hope that you will begin to learn and understand the fullness of what it means that this place is not our home, but our true home is in Heaven.  I am fully aware that this is not only a very mature and difficult concept, but that it does not always provide comfort during the reality of painful goodbyes.  I began to understand this when I moved to the Dominican Republic, and believe it or not I am still learning how to live in the now with my eyes on Heaven.

Girls, as you read these words my desire is that you are growing into a deeper awareness of what it means to be accepted and loved as one of God's children.  I know, I start with John Leguizamo and end up talking about our place as Citizens of Heaven.  I guess I want you to know from as early on as possible that you may feel out of place, awkward, different, lonely, or homesick . . . but that is ok, and you are not alone.  As we work and travel together to bring about the Kingdom of God now, we have an eternal home awaiting our arrival and this means that many goodbyes will not be permanent but temporary.  This life will pass quickly by, but God's love endures forever!

- tracy

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stella's Pre-K Graduation

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Stella's Pre-K Graduation
Stella graduated from Pre-K. She actually had 2 graduation ceremonies - one from her afternoon speech & language program, and the other from her pre-k morning program.

Part of the program involved announcing what each child wanted to be when they grew up, and to be perfectly honest I was a bit nervous as to what Stella would respond. There were 6 graduating pre-k classes, so I was hearing about all of the children who wanted to be doctors, policemen, veterinarians, teachers, mommies, inventors, and nurses. I was trying to guess what I thought Stella would say . . . I was clueless. We haven't really talked about this - I was thinking she would share how she liked pizza or wanted to go swimming. I was preparing for something unexpected. Let me tell you, Stella does NOT disappoint.
"And when Stella grows up she would like to be a . . . MERMAID." Oh yeah, that's right, Stella would like to be a mermaid. I do admit that we have watched the Little Mermaid a few times. We even have the movie: Ariel, The Beginning; but nothing to make me anticipate that answer.
When I heard her response, I honestly was relieved. I looked at my mom in giddy amusement, and laughed til I cried. My daughter, the aspiring mermaid.
In a bizarre way that answer was pure Stella. If the teacher would have responded that Stella wanted to be a nurse or teacher or fireman, I would have thought that Stella was being prompted or even copying a friend's response. Mermaid - pure Stella. I loved it!
Girls, I truly want you to be who God made you - what He created you for - who He intended you to be, and nothing else - nothing less. There can be a big difference between a profession and a calling; a job and a passion. I would be thrilled if you girls were able to follow your calling, and pursue your passion. Sometimes it takes years to figure out our passions, and many times it takes decades to discover our calling; but as we yield our life back over to the one who created it, He has an amazing way of weaving our experiences and interests into something valuable.
Girls, just know that Papi and I (and I'm sure the rest of the family) pray that you allow God to reveal Himself to you, as you begin to discover who you are in Him. And if who you are is a mermaid . . . we are thrilled.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stella finds her Voice

6 months ago you barely spoke, or rather I barely understood. Now, sweet Stella, you love to tell stories and sing songs . . . almost non-stop.
I have to admit that this school year started off a bit rocky with concerned conversations with the teacher on how you would not listen or leave the playground. Days without earning the coveted sticker to show you had stayed on Green Bear behavior. Many time outs for engaging in a chase around the house instead of coming when called. Or disturbing outbursts when you would push or tackle your sisters out of frustration.
6 months later the results are amazing. Every day is a Green Bear sticker day. Weekly progress reports boast of listening, sharing with friends, and answering questions. You have learned the difference of playing chase, and obeying me when I call you. Most sweet to see though is how you have actively taken on the role of big sister.
My heart warms as I watch you play and care for your sisters in a manner that reveals a tenderness, and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful to God I am for you. Between the Pre-K program in the morning and the special Speech/Articulation/Language program in the afternoon, you have found your voice. With that voice you are beginning to find confidence, your sense of humor, the ability to help, and the joy of connecting. I love to hear you sing - which you LOVE to do with almost any song, and I especially enjoy watching your manners emerge. 'May I?', 'Thank you', 'OK', and 'Yes Mommy' have never sounded so good.
Stella, these programs have helped you find your physical voice - the ability to make sounds and connect them to meaning. I am extremely grateful to the teachers and the programs.
Now my prayer . . . for myself, is that I will continue the process of helping you find your voice. God created you with a specific purpose & in a sense, voice. I cannot wait to see the voice that God has given you, and the plans He has for you to utilize your voice. I am honored and humbled have such an amazing opportunity to help you find your voice, encourage you to grow & use it, and help hold you accountable so that it is all to the glory of God. In a bizarre way, as I journey with you in establishing your voice - I am finding mine. Thank you, Stella for helping me to refine and continue to find my voice. Thank You, Jesus, that you have a plan and purpose for us - help us to follow Your voice

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Me Monster - A Lesson in Faith

This morning in church I was reminded that my life is lived within a community of believers. Pastor Ken's sermon was on the journey of faith, and how faith acts as the handle by which we can grip the issues of life. Obedience being the driving force that allows faith to become an ongoing verb.

How does this relate to the community in which I belong? Almost a year ago, Papi and I began to pray about the possibility of going to Italy to help start Young Life. As we began to listen to God, follow the Spirit's guidance, and receive confirmation from respected friends, we decided to begin a journey of faith. Within three months Papi resigned from his job, we put our house up for sale, and I began to divide our things into what stays, what goes, and what is stored. How in the world you girls had accumulated so many stuffed animals was beyond me! I was excited, sad, overwhelmed, focused, nervous, and after a few months wondered if I might need some medication during this process (Papi might have advocated for that as well). I began to filter everything by how it affected ME . . . what ME was giving up . . . what ME had to do in order to make this happen . . . what ME was going to gain . . . the sacrifices ME was making . . . the rewards ME would receive . . . the faith it took ME to embark upon this journey . . . the obedience ME was practicing. So, as the comedian Brian Reagan might say, I became a ME monster.

I admit that I wasn't completely clueless. I was aware that we were asking people to financially support us. I was aware that my mother was welcoming our family of 7 and a dog into her modest 3 bedroom house. I was aware that you girls would change schools, cities, homes, and friends. I was aware that the church Arturo was serving in Dublin would need to find another youth pastor. I was aware, but the awareness of my own sacrifices, feelings, and obedience trumped everything else.

The immediate plan was to raise support and be in Italy by September, and when that plan did not materialize we switched gears to adjusting to live at Grammy's for the school year. Papi began to shoot weddings, I got a part time job, and daily life settled over us.

My faith began to look a bit like the waves of the sea, and some days I rode those waves with joy and other days I felt like I was drowning. My journey of faith was a bit murky, and I was struggling to get out of the inconsistent waves onto solid ground.

Sunday rolls in, and at 8:50 I tell Papi maybe we should try another church with a later service. . . of course this was said while I still laid in bed. Between a 40hr work week from my part time job, the first week of my two masters classes, a few late night interruptions for water (which by the way I pray ends soon), and basic laziness I was not thrilled about scrambling to make it to the 9:30 service. It's amazing what the look of a mother will do, even at 38 years old. So when Grammy came in to see why I wasn't getting ready for church I scrambled out of bed, threw some 'princess' dresses on you girls with Grammy's help, and made it out the door for church.
'The Journey of Faith' was the sermon title. I am glad I do not believe in coincidence. Pastor Ken reminded us of our heritage of faith warriors, taught that obedience is necessary to live by faith, and that our faith journey affects the community of believers.

At this moment, my ME monster took a fatal blow, and my heart warmed to the reminder that I am not alone in this journey of faith. You girls are on this journey with Papi and I, changing homes and accepting with innocence the changes inherent in moving to another country. Grammy is joyfully on this journey of faith with us as she allows her home to be ours, and unfortunately is living through a 'remodeling' process with all of your toys. Girls, Tia Kelly and Tio Frank & Tia Sarah are on this journey with us in many ways. But even more amazing is that our Spiritual family is on this journey with us, supporting us with money, prayers, and encouragement. In the grips of the ME monster I had lost sight of the fact that others are taking steps of faith, and acting in obedience to support us. They are making sacrifices so that they will be able to join us in this journey of faith - the journey that God has called us to walk. I praise God that we are not alone. That God Himself is walking this path with us, and that He has called others to join us so that together we can walk as a community and not as individual ME monsters.

Girls, it was a beautiful reminder of what the body of Christ looks like in action - together we are meant to walk the journey of faith - as one body . . . and I am encouraged and so grateful.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Big Helper . . . Helping

What happens when your 8 year old daughter wants to help with dishes while you are at the store?

Yeah, I was at the store buying dishwasher soap. We were able to have an enlightening discussion on the difference of dishwasher and regular dish soap.
The upside is the kitchen floor was super clean for about 10 minutes.

Sweet Abigail, I feel like you are in this fun/difficult/energetic - maddening new phase! You are growing up so fast, and truly want to help me. You help cook, clean up, help with the girls, and also leave me in awe of your spastic energy. Is this just an 8 year old phase?? You are inspiring me to cut all sugar out of our lives - I just don't think it is needed - seriously.
I have to admit that paired with the craziness is also the sweet side that asks if we can sit and talk. The side that still wants to snuggle in close, and your desire to be an active helper in our family. I'll have it all - because it's you, sweet Abigail - thanks for helping me with the dishes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ma'am... We Need to Talk

I'm going to veer a bit from my 'normal' writing style to share a bit about what is happening right now in our lives.

Arturo wrote a blog about Stella, and how he has realized that she is bringing us both to a new level of parenting (truly the nicest way to say that she tries both of our patience in the most extreme way). Some days it seems to work well, and other days . . . I just need to hide the cats and keep 5 feet between siblings. Funny thing is he wrote and posted his blog on Monday, and on Tuesday we had a small insight into what may lie ahead.
Stella is in a pre-school program in the morning, and with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) from Georgia, she qualifies for a special 2X week afternoon program that focuses on speech and articulation. Stella had her first day this past Monday - the same day Arturo wrote his post. I did not see her teacher at pick up, but no news is good news, right?
Well Tuesday was the night for parents to meet the teacher, and off I went to complete my parental duty. I have to admit I was curious as to what this program entailed, and how Stella did on her first day. Her teacher did an excellent job explaining the curriculum, goals, and objectives. As brief questions concluded the evening, I asked a simple question about IEP meetings, and her teacher responded, "I'm glad you asked, I was hoping to speak with you after the meeting."
I vaguely remember her mentioning during the meeting that she rarely has to move a child from the Green Bear (good behavior) to the Yellow Bear (warnings & not listening) the first day, but that it does happen - and I thought she was looking a lot at me. That should have been my first clue. As we spoke, her teacher said that Stella had a rough first day and she had some concerns for Stella. She actually asked me if Stella had hearing issues (we've had her checked twice). Stella was in the classroom that first day from 12 - 1:30, and I thought - is this enough time to have that many concerns? Yep . . . I guess it's plenty of time. In a nutshell, she thinks Stella may need some help beyond the basic speech articulation, and may qualify for a 5X week program for children who need extra help - rather extra extra extra extra extra help.
Of course no one wants to make a judgement in 1 day with less than 2 hours interaction . . . but I have to say that all of her concerns have been mine. Nothing she mentioned was a surprise to me, and at the same time I want to make sure she truly 'sees' Stella. So hopefully this Friday will give a clearer indication of where Stella truly is - if she'll need more testing - if she'll need more help - if we've been misreading her simply because we did not know . . . know what? I'm not sure right now, and I am honestly content to wait til Friday and learn some more info. How can I be content? Because I feel like we are finally getting this figured out. It's a strange mix of sadness & relief.
You see, the past few months of deciding to go to Italy - renting out our house - selling/giving away/packing everything we own - moving to Florida into my mom's house - trying to raise an enormous budget so that we can do what God is asking - all of this has been a crazy time of faith, trust, joy, & obedience. Arturo and I have both prayed that we would continue to yield and submit to God's plan & trust that His plan is the best for our WHOLE family.
Having said that, our goal of getting to Italy in September came & went, and I have to admit I was disappointed - I doubted - I was jealous of missionaries who didn't have to fundraise - I was not in a good place - not thinking from an eternal perspective. I know Arturo was struggling as well - we both had so many questions . . . unanswered.
So, as I'm driving back from Stella's school - after hearing that she needs more testing because she is not processing information as other kids her age - I was not a happy mother. Then it hit me - our desire was for our whole family to be blessed by this move. If we would have moved in Sep., or if we would not have moved to Florida, we would not have been able to learn that our sweet Stella may need some extra help so that she is able to lead a full and vibrant life. God loves the least of these . . . my sweet Stella. And I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself for not trusting in God's plan. Has he ever let me down? His timing and ways are NOT mine, and I cannot say I understand everything . . . but His love is so real and unchanging.
I guess I may not be that different from Stella. I wonder if God wants to have my hearing checked, or if he wonders why I'm not processing information in a normal fashion, and I bet he's astounded at how often I need to learn the same lessons over . . . God is good - all the time! All the time - God is good! May I imprint this on my heart because it will NEVER change!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lessons Learned from Project Runway & Top Chef

I admit it girls, I LOVE to watch Project Runway and Top Chef! I think you might be able to see a connection with Top Chef . . . I love to eat - especially if I am not making the food - and I really do enjoy baking and cooking delicious meals & desserts. Project Runway on the other hand may baffle you . . . I admit that I choose function over fashion, and haven't accessorized since the 80's when I was in my faux punk phase. But there is something about the show that intrigues me, entertains me, and I admire.
Maybe it is the fact that with both shows a group of people are given a crazy project, limited time, pressure to produce, and stiff competition in which to compete. I think I would secretly like to be so good and confident at something that I would not only choose to compete, but be accepted into such a rigorous contest. Having shared all of this . . . I am sure you are asking yourself exactly what lesson I have learned from these shows.
BE YOURSELF. Be who God created you to be, and have confidence in your ideas and capabilities. Over and over again, people have been booted off of these shows when they veer from who they are, and try to accomplish something that is not them. I am not advocating for a play it safe life where you do not try new things or push yourself beyond what you are currently doing. In fact, nothing exciting or adventurous happens if you do not risk, and sometimes through new risks we actually gain deeper insight into who God has created us to be . . . so by all means try new things. Just be true to yourself in the process.

A perfect example is Papi. He is an amazing photographer, and as he began to establish his wedding photography business he had many opportunities to do things in the expected way - that is NOT your Papi. A great example of this is his Get Married & Give Back. This might seem strange that he would give 10% of his earnings to a charity of the couple's choice . . . but that is who your Papi is! He has a heart and desire to invest in missions, and get people excited in investing in missions, and open doors for people to invest in missions. You see, Papi is about missions - missions locally, globally, medical, educational, and spiritual. Though it might not be the typical choice or idea - it is Papi being who God created him to be . . . an advocate for those whose voice is getting lost amidst the self-focused crowd. Papi creates opportunities to do what he loves to do, and brings others along so that they can share in the blessing of giving. I am proud of your Papi, and hope that His example to be who God created him to be will inspire you as you grow into young ladies.