Friday, November 30, 2012

#29 - It Takes a Village

There are just some projects in life that take a village to accomplish.  When I lived in the states and had about anything I wanted at my disposal I looked at that concept for big projects.  Since moving to Spain that idea has been transformed.  There are lots of everyday activities that require a village to accomplish.  My kitchen curtains are one of those projects.

My windows are an unusual size and shape for Spain so I couldn't just go buy curtains.  And although I am not a great seamstress, I can usually sew a straight line, so making my own curtains seemed to be the solution.  But, I had no sewing machine and I had no idea how to make curtains without a pattern.  Hey, at least I knew where a fabric store in Madrid was!

So my kitchen curtains required a village!  Marsha, my friend who lives in Florida (yep, the other side of the ocean) is a great seamstress, so she was my first contact.  She wrote out every tiny detail that I needed to know in regards to buying the fabric and sewing the curtains.  I searched the used websites for a sewing machine, but didn't find anything that fit my budget (which was close to nothing) and I posted on facebook to borrow a machine.  But nothing.  Then I was at a girl's night out and mentioned my project and Dorreen (the mom of a classmate of Hannah's from last year that I had only met once) offered me her 2nd machine.

Scott ventured into Madrid with me to buy fabric (and found coffee while I wandered the stores).  Michelle, in Greensboro, cheered me on via Skype.  Determined to have curtains before we host the SEND Christmas party on Saturday (yep, 44 people coming to my house for lunch - thank goodness it is a pot luck!), I buckled down today and decided no sleep until they were finished.

Sure enough - they are finished - well, almost.  They need to be ironed (I keep blowing the fuse when I iron and the heat runs, so think I'll wait until the rest of the house is awake before I iron anymore) and Scott has to cut two of my rods to make them smaller - but in essence they are finished.

I love when a project comes together and I love when I can look back and see how it took a "village."  One of the greatest lessons moving to Spain has taught me is the blessing of not being self sufficient, all the time.  Thanks to each of you who helped me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#28 - Perks of "Pueblo" Life

I absolutely love livingin Illescas.  I pray that we get to stay here for years.  It is so much fun to live in a place where people get to know you and remember you.  I feel like I have stepped back in time to the era my grandfather you used to speak of, when you walk into stores and they speak to you by name or remember what you bought last time or the problems you were having.  That is life here - except of course it is all in Spanish!

The very first restaurant we ate at when we were looking at Illescas was Toledano.  All of the food is homemade and I have yet to have something there I didn't like.  The first waitress we had was named Anna and we have become friends.  She is there everytime we go.  We check on each other's kids when we order our food and chat about happenings in our lives.  She remembers what I ordered last time and based on how much I liked it, she recommends what to eat this time.  We take all our guests or groups there.

Today, as I walked in, she greeted me by name, gave me the traditional "dos besos" (2 kisses) and then says "Cindy, we have chocolate mouse today, I have saved you a piece."  (We had reservations because we were a group of 14 - a big group for a restaurant in this town).  They made the best chocolate mouse I have ever had, topped, of course with fresh whipped cream.

So what am I grateful for?  Anna, Chocolate Mouse, living in a "pueblo" (which by the strictest definition is really a city, a very small city), my Spanish improving so I can have the conversations with Anna, ....  Who knows?  Today I think I'll just be grateful!

#27 - God's Surprises

I went to college "back in the old days."  Co-ed dorms were just beginning to happen, computers were definitely optional (and Internet was not in the rooms), cell phones were nearly non-existent, and class registration took place on paper. Ok - that makes me feel about 100, but I really am not that old.

I got my undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.  I wanted the full college experience so when it came to choosing a roommate, I let the college do it for me.  And believe it or not, they paired me with a roommate who's name was Cynthia too.  Made for some crazy encounters.  We had different life styles and different preferences, so it didn't turn out to be the best match.

At the same time, I had a friend from high school who I hung out with some (you know when you go to college you hang out with anyone who is familiar) and this led to her roommate and I becoming good friends and wanting to be roommates.

So, after my first semester, I changed rooms and roommates.  Little did I know how much this change would impact my life.  Kim and I became best friends.  We were different in so many ways and could drive each other batty in the blink of an eye, and yet at the same time, let somebody mess with the other and we were there to their rescue. 

I will celebrate my 25th college reunion this year (now I am really thinking I am old!) and Kim is still in my life.  We were in each other's weddings.  We haven't seen each other in years and we haven't talked on the phone in more than a year.  We have lived across the world form each other (North Carolina to Japan, Washington State to Spain) and across the country from each other (North Carolina to Washington State).  We have shared losses and joys.  We have exchanged stories of our children. We aren't even really good at keeping up via email (and she is terrible at facebook), but yet, for me - whenever we do connect, it is as if time has stood still.

I woke up the other day and had her on my mind and heart so dropped her a one line email.  We are the kind of friends that we aren't offended when it takes the other months to respond so I imagine my surprise today when I opened my email and there was a long note from her.  As I sat and read the update of her life I could picture us sitting across from each other with a cup of tea in our hands and sharing these stories.  And as tears slipped out of my eyes - mostly tears of joy, and a few tears of wishing we were actually in the same city and that cup of tea could be real - I realized that I had been truly blessed.

Not everyone leaves college with a lifetime friend, a friend that knows your deepest secrets and who will be on their knees before God on your behalf when needed.  I went to college for an education, and God surprised me with more than that.... a roommate who became a lifetime friend.  Now I'll just pray that God will surprise me with a real live visit from her one day too. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

#26 - Homework Escapes

After a weekend of cooking and playing and lots of speaking Spanish, today we returned to serious and formal Spanish classes.  Sara's (my language tutor) mom is still in the hospital so she is working on an adjusted schedule so Scott and I had class together today for a shorter time.  But, not to waste a single moment, Sara made sure we had plenty of studying to do on our own.

So, all afternoon I did homework and studied, but come 5:00 - all homework went out the window and time for practical, albeit fun, "homework."

A friend (Luz) and I went into Getafe (near Madrid) to a store called A Taste of America (yep - lots of American products, most at prices I wouldn't consider paying, but sometimes a girl gets desperate!).  They were hosting a free demonstration on how to make cake pops.  You know me - offer to teach me something about cooking and you will find me there (now I just wish I could find a cooking class offered in Spanish).

We wandered for quite awhile trying to find a parking place.  Finally found a parking place at 5:50 that was a 15 minute only, loading and unloading, place until 6:00.  If you get ticketed in these spots it is a 100 Euros.  So we parked there and hung out for 7 minutes, watching for the "parking police."  Finally we headed to the store and it was packed.  We missed the first few minutes, but it was so much fun.  We got to practice dipping the pops and decorating them.  Then we wandered the store and investigated what fun things we could find.  I bought a couple small things, but mostly just enjoyed laughing, dreaming, and yes, talking in Spanish at the store and with Luz.

You know sometimes, you just got to escape the homework, just not the practice.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#25 - Sara

Continuando con el tema de la lengua y buscando cosas para dar gracias, estoy muy agradecida por Sara, mi tutora de lengua. Mudamos a Illescas con una poquita  de aprehensión con respecto a nuestros estudios de idioma. Illescas es un ciudad pequeña. No hay ninguna universidad aquí. Salimos de Alcalá de Henares, una ciudad que es reconocido por sus muchas oportunidades educativas, para vivir en Illescas, que no era mucho más que un pueblo.

Encontré una academia privada que ofrece español para extranjeros. Durante todo el verano, intercambié correos electrónicos con Sara, pero realmente no tenía ni idea qué nivel de instrucción que yo iba a recibir. Finalmente, en septiembre, yo empecé clases.

Durante la primera semana yo supe que Sara fue perfecta para mi. Soy una pedagoga. Sé cómo enseñar y es muy frustrante ser enseñada por alguien que tiene un gran dominio del material, pero no en cómo enseñarlo. Sabía que si mi español iba a mejorar, yo necesitaba un profesor quien supiera cómo enseñar y cómo hablar.

Sara es una pedagoga. Ella sabe cómo enseñar y tiene un entendimiento del proceso de aprendizaje. Además, es una buena oradora de español. También, ella tiene mucha paciencia con mis repetidos errores. Ella sabe cuando yo necesito ánimo y cuando es necesario empujarme. Ella sabe cómo hacerme reír en medio de la guerra para aprender español.

A mi, Sara es un regala de Dios. Hoy yo da gracias por Sara y por su trabajo conmigo. Así, en su honor, el artículo de hoy está escrito en español.

And again in English....

Continuing with the theme of language and looking for things for which to give thanks, I am very grateful for Sara, my language tutor.  We moved to Illescas with a little concern in regards to our language studies.  Illescas is a little city.  There are no universities here.  We left Alcalá de Henares, a cit know for it's many education opportunitites, to live in Illescas, which is not much more than a pueblo.

We found a private academy that offered spanish for foreigners.  Throughout the summer, I exchanged emails with Sara, but really had no idea what level of instruction that I would receive.  Finally, in September I began classes.

During the first week I knew that Sara was perfect for me.  I am a trained teacher.  I I know how to teach and it is very frustrating to be taught by someone who has a great understanding of the material, but not in how to teach. (Sara is not the first person I have had who was a good a spanish teacher)  I knew that if my spanish was to improve, I needed a professor who knew how to teacher and how to speak.

Sara is also a trained educator.  She knows how to teach and has an understanding of the process of learning.  Even more, she is a great speaker of spanish.  Also, she has much patience with me repeated errors.  She knows when I need care and when it is necesarry to push me.  She knows how to make me smile in the middle of the war to learn spanish.

To me, Sara is a gift from God.  Today I give thanks for Sara and for her work with me.  So, her honor, today's post is written in Spanish.

NOTE:  Please pray for Sara's mom.  Last Tuesday she had a stroke.  She is still in the hospital and is making a little progress.

#24 - Alex's School

When we decided to move to Spain we lamented over what would be the right education choice for Alex.  He was 12, in middle school, spoke next to no Spanish, had an outgoing personality, and desired for Spain to feel like home.   We considered Evangelical Christian Academy (the English speaking school where Hannah attended), public schools, online school, and traditional homeschooling.  Alex wanted to learn Spanish and felt like public school was the best choice.  After a lot of prayer, counsel, and investigation, we decided to give it a try.

I.E.S. Juan de Padilla - Alex's School
His first year in Spain he was in a class for students who did not speak Spanish.  Eventually he transitioned into the regular classroom. Then this summer we moved to Illescas and he started the 8th grade (known as 2nd ESO here) in a new school.  We were blessed with a place in the European Sections Program (a program for students who are desiring to learn English and can advance at a little more challenging pace).  There was one down side, this program has a specific track, which includes learning French.  And, unfortunately, this program started in 7th grade (1st ESO) with first year French and all the students were in 2nd year French this year.

We decided Alex would see if he could survive in 2nd year French, without 1st year, as well as keep up the advanced pace in all the other classes.  He has done better than I could ever imagine, but a 3rd language in one year was just too much.  So this week, we started talking with the school about options.

When we chose Spanish public schools we were told all kinds of stories about the schools being closed to parents and the teachers and administrators being closed to modifications.  Yet, we have had a better experience than we could have imagined.  And this week, I was reminded as to how blessed we really are.  When I met with the principal (different title here, but same position - although here the administrators also teach a few classes a week) I knew I was not asking for something simple and yet I prayed that we could come to a solution that was best for Alex, regardless of the "rumors" of what to expect in Spanish schools.  And indeed - I was blessed.  Ana (teachers and administrators go by their first names) said to me "while this is unusual and has the potential to cause some problems for us, a change is what is best for the Alex."

Monday, Alex will no longer have French.  He will start in an alternate class.  It's not an easy change for the school and yet, they are willing to do it because it is best for Alex.  I recognize that this is not something that happens everyday in Spain, or in the US for that matter, but God has heard our prayers and our hearts has answered.  I left the school feeling a lot lighter than before, a burden being lifted.  I do not take this situation for granted and I extremely grateful.

Friday, November 23, 2012

#23 - Books

I love to read.  I have always loved to read!  As a teacher I absolutely loved juvenile literature - you know the kind perfect for preteens!  It was so much fun to sit with students who had difficulty reading and read to them.  You could watch the world unfold in front of their eyes.  A good book could motivate them to work just a little harder so they could journey to these new places.

I have even always dreamed of being an author.  I'm not sure who would want to read it, but I have always felt that the journey of our life - through 7 miscarriages, infertility, tubal pregnancy, 3 beautiful children and now the journey to Spain - would someday be on paper (or in modern days, in electrons).

One of the steps of mastering a foreign language is to learn to read it.  After a while, books written to teach reading Spanish grow old.  You know, the "See Spot Run" type or the ones who you read not because they are books that have a real story to tell, but because they are written at a specific reading level (and for me that is pretty low).  When I worked with dyslexic children it was always a battle to find high interest, well written books with  low reading level.  Guess what?  The same is the problem when reading in a 2nd language.

I recently completed Juan Salvador Gaviota (Jonathon Livingston Seagull).  It was 112 pages long, sprinkled with pictures, and all in Spanish.  It was a fabulous feeling to reach the last page, really understand the story, and lay that book down.

But then, perhaps I got a little too confident.

I have been wanting to read the biography of Bonhoeffer and I saw it just became available in Spanish.  So I excitedly order the book from and anxiously awaited its arrival.

Do you see how thick that book is?
It arrived yesterday, gulp!  It's not 112 pages.  It doesn't have a ton of pictures.  And yes, as requested, it is in Spanish. I am wondering how many years it might take me to get through this book.  My Spanish tutor had told me to bring it to her and she would help.  I think I might actually have to buy her a copy so we can discuss it after each chapter (or page).  But, hey, the cool thing is - I already learned (just by reading the 31 chapter titles) that Bonhoeffer came to Spain.  Maybe one day I'll lead a book club through this book - if I am not 100 years old when I finish reading it for the first time.

Yep - 542 pages (plus biography, notes,
study guide, ....)

I am thankful for books and I am thankful that God gave me the ability to read.  Not everyone has that blessing.  Many struggle to read a single sentence (which I now have much empathy for).  I am truly blessed.

(Check back in a few weeks and I'll let you know if I have finished chapter 1)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

#22 - Laughter

Have I got a story for you today!  And I am hoping you will laugh right along with me!

I ordered my turkey from Jesus, the man at the polleria (a poultry store).  I asked for a turkey between 8 and 10 kilos - wasn't sure how many were coming for lunch, wanted left overs, and etc.

Look at the size of those legs!  
Went to pick it up today (oops -side note - Thanksgiving is an American holiday so Spanish schools and etc continued to function today as if it were any old Thursday - we will celebrate officially on Saturday).  Of course, being the only American in town who ordered a big turkey, when I got there Jesus knew exactly why I was there.  He went in the back and brought it out and plopped it on the scale.  His eyes were as big as mine!  It weighed 12 killos!  Yep - do the math!  That is 26 pounds!

And it wasn't a butterball - got some feathers to finish plucking and it isn't all "pretty," but I am hoping for a couple things - 1) it will fit in my oven, 2) I bought enough bread to make stuffing for a turkey this size, and 3) I can cook it slow enough that it will stay juicy.

But in the midst of it all - Jesus (the polleria man, although I am pretty sure God is laughing too) and I laughed.  The older lady (like in her 90's older) who was sitting at the polleria laughed.  Joanna, my intercambio friend laughed.  Who knows - we won't eat it until Saturday - so I am betting there is quite a bit more laughing to come!

But isn't it fun to laugh at silly things like a 26 pound turkey!

Anyone free on Saturday in Spain, you are welcome to join us for lunch!  I am pretty sure I will have enough turkey.

On a different note - I am also grateful for the new Burger King that opened and the coupons I found online - only had to drive 5 minute's and enjoyed an American lunch for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#21 - Mail

This will probably tell my age, but I remember when mail was delivered to the box at the end of the driveway and cost 6 cents per envelope.  I remember when there was no such thing as email.  I also remember as a kid being excited to be given the store fliers (especially the toy stores) and the feeling of my heart skipping a beat when there was REAL mail with my name on it, especially if it only had my name (none of this The Hayes Family or Joe, Barbara, Cindy, and Becky Hayes).

The cost has definitely changed, but the excitement of real mail hasn't changed a bit.  I love real mail - not the bill kind either.  And it was fun last week to see that Alex has the exact same reaction I did as a child when he got mail with his name on it.

Yesterday was one of those real mail days.  We get quite a bit of real mail in our mailbox, but 90% of it belongs to the previous tenants.  I took the latest pile of "not our" mail down the street to our landlord and was walking back when I saw the Correos (Spanish postal system) man stopped at our gate.  Junk mail is delivered by other people, so this meant real mail.  Then I saw him taking his helmet off (they deliver on mopeds) so I knew he had REAL mail - the kind that had to be signed for or paid for.  My pace picked up just a little with anticipation.

And sure enough, he has two certified letters in his hand that actually belong to us (he has been by several times in the past weeks with certified mail that wasn't ours).  I anxiously and excitedly waited to sign the papers, tear off the receipts, and exchange a polite Spanish conversation.  But as soon as he left, I flipped over the envelopes and tore them open.

They were from the Spanish government.  The mailman had brought real mail and good news!  Our residency renewal application had been approved!  YIPPEE!  And, in less than a month after being told to expect 60 to 90 days!  We are legal for two more years.  Of course there are more hoops to jump through to get our new cards, but the hard part is done!

But, wait... there are three of us who need residency.  Sure enough, when we tracked the status of Alex's, his application is still in process.  But, we don't expect any problems with his, it will just require another trip to get his card when his is finally approved.

But in the midst of celebrating over real mail and good news another thought hit me - Scott is now able to finish the driving exam and get his license.  I can't wait!  I am sure he can't wait!

Oh how thankful I am today for mail!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#20 - Chocolate and Churros

I love chocolate and churros!  Actually, I love chocolate and churros just gives me an excuse to eat them!  And I am so excited because tomorrow we get to go for them.  Back up just a little - let me tell you how much I love chocolate and churros.

I was first introduced to them when we came on our vision trip to Spain in January, 2011.  Only took one taste and I was hooked.  So I proclaimed to our field leader I was going to choose the field I wanted to work in based on the quality of churros.  He thought I was joking, and I was partially :). But seriously... who wants to move to Spain and live where there is not a good chocolate and churro place?

Every town we visited I sampled.  On a scale of 1 to 10, some got 10's and some got 3's (chocolate just can't ever get a 1).  Illescas was a 7 or 8.

Then we moved to Illescas and I discovered that the one here is actually an 8 or 9, timing is everything!  Isn't God good?  He allowed me to move to the middle of nowhere to a town with only one churreria (chocolate and churro store) and it turned out to be a good one!

So tomorrow we do not have class (our language's teacher's mother was rushed to the hospital today - please pray for her) so we get to go with our co-workers to eat chocolate and churros.  I can't wait!

Perhaps tomorrow I'll proclaims thanks for these again, but just the anticipation is enough for me to say thanks!

Monday, November 19, 2012

#19 - TV in English

So my evening didn't go as planned.  I had planned on doing my spanish homework and then starting to sew on my curtains, but instead I spent several hours working with Alex on his social studies.  He has a major test on Wednesday (pray for him) and he is struggling in this class.  I now know more about the definition of a city and the hierarchy of types of cities than I ever wanted to know.  And several hours later, I was finished with his homework and ready to start mine - but my head was swarming!

So, instead of jumping straight into conditional tenses and when to use each kind of past tense, I turned on the computer, logged on to tv-links, and relaxed for half an hour.  At times in the process of learning a new language, you just ned to turn it off (but not too often).  I am thankful that I live in the era of technology and this was available for me.  I cannot imagine what it was like to live in a foreign country in the years before technology.  Thank you God for allowing me to live in the 21st century!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

#18 - Isaac and Rebecca D

Ok - I'll admit it.  Learning a foreign language at my age is overwhelming.  It is easy to be discouraged and depressed and as if you will never pass the exam or carry on a complete conversation without the person you are talking to saying "huh."  Even a little more honest, I'll admit that I feel those emotions almost every day.  When I think about how much more language I have to learn or listen to myself talk or compare myself to Scott, Alex, or another team member, tears form.  I am learning the self discipline of not letting those tears slip out, but it doesn't take away the burn.  But every now and then, God gives me the gift of encouragement (although I am still looking for the gift of learning spanish via osmosis, in a single night).

Today was my Sunday to teach children's worship.  I love working with children, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they are so very forgiving.  I have been teaching once month for for about 10 months.  Today we started new material and I was so excited to share it with them, but at the same time a little afraid.  This material requires a lot of discussion and a lot of teaching (we began a chronological study of the entire bible).  And of course, they don't speak English.

So, as always, I started with an apology for my language and then dug into the lesson.  Then in the middle of the introduction, I say something about learning my language a little at a time and I hope it is better than the last time I taught.  And Isaac, who I would guess is about 10, says "it is a lot better than last time!"  Oh how I love that kid!  So I am thankful for Isaac, who unbeknownst to him, gave me a beautiful gift of encouragement today.

And I am thankful for Rebecca D.  She is a co-worker's daughter and she has been my "translator" for the many months I have been teaching.  She has never laughed and never said "huh," she just gently translates when my words make no sense in spanish.  And today, as I introduced the new material and what we were going to study she was like a sponge.  She ate up every topic and every conversation.  She made it worth risking being embarrassed with my language and reminded me why I was studying spanish to begin with.  So today I am thankful for the gift of Rebecca's gentle spirit and help.

If you don't work with kids because you are "afraid" you won't know how to do it, try it in a language you don't speak.  Bluntly, I would say, get over it.  There are so many rewards that came from sitting across the table from a child and watching the Word of God unfold before their eyes.  So, for that gift, I too am grateful!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

#17 - Kilograms Instead of Pounds

The scale and I have a hate - love relationship!  I love it when it showing that regardless of how many pieces of birthday cake I ate I still lost weight.  I hate it when it refuses to "lie."  But I am determined, well not terribly determined yet - but working on getting determined, to make the scale and the truth match my imagination.

I have complained since arriving that I don't like the scale being in kilograms because it is way too much work to make the number change (1 pound = 2.2 pounds), but this morning I had a revelation.  I can use this conversion to my advantage.  Instead of want to lose 25 pounds, I only have to lose 11 kilograms.  Boy does that sound like a whole lot less.  Don't pop my bubble and tell me it is the same thing - let me live in my imaginary world!

Tomorrow I'll return to reality, but for today I am thankful that I can plot my loss with a lot smaller number!  Thank you Napoleon Bonaparte and the French who helped get the kilogram started!

Friday, November 16, 2012

#16 - Friends Who Ask

This month I am realizing more and more that God created us to be people of relationships.  He designed us to desire first a relationship with Him and second a relationship with each other.  For women, this is especially true.  Since arriving in Spain, one of the most difficult changes has been friendships.  I worked in the church so I knew "everyone" at church.  I couldn't walk down the halls without being stopped.  Holidays were filled with invitations that we were either offering or we were receiving.  The calendar was filled with "lunch dates."  The email boxes were constantly sharing stories and laughs and tears and prayers requests.  And then September, 30, 2011, we met at the airport with more than 50 friends and family members, said some tearful goodbyes, and left for Spain.

Things changed in that moment.  Friendships were tested.  We changed, they changed, life moved forward.  And we landed in a city with no language and no relationships.  It has been a challenging year in many ways, but especially for me in relationships.  The first year we spent developing relationships, yet knowing a day would come that we would be moving.  We held on to relationships from the states and strived to find our place in relationships within our SEND team and struggled to make new relationships.  And then, in July, we moved again.  And in essence, the whole process started all over.  We have been blessed by friendships that span the size of the Atlantic Ocean.  We have been blessed with fabulous neighbors (that is another day of thanksgiving all in its own) here in Illescas.  We are slowly making friends with others who live here.  Our teammates are fabulous.  And yet, it is still different.  It will probably always be different.

Yesterday, a friend shared her family update (we love to get these - we sit and read them as if we were sitting across the table from them - they are touch of life and are totally grateful to hear the mundane happenings in others lives) and then she asked "so how are you really doing?"  She was safe to say that there are days that are hard and that I keep praying to wake up tomorrow and be fluent in Spanish.  She was safe to share some of my embarrassing, yet funny, stories.  She probably got a longer answer than she expected, but I knew she honestly wanted an answer.  Not the traditional American answer of "fine."

These moments are gifts that we relish and today I am saying thanks for.  They are those moments when I can take a deep breath, connect with a friend who understands my language and my heart, and be refreshed.  These are the kind of relationships God intended us to have.  They are a small glimpse at the picture of the relationship He desires to have with us.  And a good reminder, that He too is asking "so how are  you really doing today?"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#15 - 14 Years with Alex

He was such a cute boy!  From the moment of conception Alex has fought to get the absolutely most possible out of life.  When I was on bed rest and we were not sure he would make it, He lived.  When he was born nearly 6 weeks early (he was supposed to be a Christmas baby), he fought.  The nurses in NICU regularly commented on the fact that they knew this boy wanted to live.

And then as we watched his personality develop, we knew that God gave us Alex to keep us young, laughing, and savoring life.  Not a moment passes by that Alex doesn't choose to grab on to the positive, find a reason to laugh, and savor the moment.  My prayer is that he never loses this love of life.  God has great things planned for him and it is fun watching him grow into the man God wants him to be!

Happy 14th birthday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#14 - Mornings with Time for Breakfast

I know I am in charge of my mornings, but I don't always make wise choices before I am totally awake.  Many, many mornings I prefer to hit snooze, linger under the warm covers and then in the warm shower (When they work, I love the hot water heaters here in Spain - they are tankless and you never run out of hot water).  Eventually, I am dressed and realize I don't have time to savor a cup of coffee or linger at the table, but instead I have to grab a cookie and a a juice box and run out the door.

But today, caffeine from last night won out and I was the first one up.  I did manage a long shower and then downstairs with time for an uninterrupted quiet time, a slow cup of coffee (I like my coffee really hot and if you are in a hurry this isn't a wise thing), my favorite breakfast cookie (yes, breakfast cookies are acceptable in Spain and these are oatmeal with chocolate), time to catch up on blogging, and then some Spanish grammar (tell me what I am doing that - I have a 3 hour Spanish grammar class this morning, isn't that enough?).

So, I am not sure today I am thankful for slow mornings or caffeine the night before.  But I'll just be thankful.

And ladies, you'll relate to this one - an extra thankful thing today is for American sized tights (you know, old fashioned panty hose).  For some reason, tights you buy in Spain have plenty of leg room, but not enough room for my gluteus maximus.  If I wear Spanish tights I feel like I spend the whole day pulling them up and ya'll know how annoying that can be.  But today as I got dressed, I pulled out a pair of tights that Shelby brought me when she came with the NC team in October and I smiled.  So thank you Shelby for the little things like tights that are in American size.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#13 - Special K Cereal with Dark Chocolate

So it is nearly midnight and I have been writing conditional sentences in Spanish for the past two hours.  I had a couple chicken fingers around 9:00, but I am still hungry.  And what do I eat at this time of night that I won't regret eating in about an hour?  After quietly scouring the kitchen (cause everyone else is asleep) I found the box of Special K Cereal.  Not any ordinary box of Special K Cereal, but the kind with curls of dark chocolate.  So i can proclaim that I am having a healthy "midnight snack" (anything that is called Special K has to be healthy), but in reality I am just praying every bit has more chocolate than cereal in it. 

FYI - no I am not eating it with milk, but instead just dry with a spoon and an apple juice box on the side. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

#12 When Common Sense Loses

Saturday we decided to head west to a town called Talavera.  It is known for its pottery and we wanted to get a head start on Christmas shopping.  The weather wasn't fabulous for a day of exploring, but the rain had stopped so off we went.  Of course, what kind of day of exploring would it be without chocolate and churros, so our first stop was at a chocolateria and then we hit the shops.  We were blessed that a fellow pastor had told us where to go for the best deals.  We wandered in and out of several stores and made several purchases.  Then back in the car for a drive through look at the center of town and to find lunch.  We settled on McDonald's (I know, living on the wild side).  As we headed home we passed the exit for Lidl (kind of like Aldis) and decided to turn around and grab a few things from there.  So far common sense is winning, but then we see a castle off in the distance.  Just ask Alex - all days of pueblo exploring have to include either a castle or a church, and so far we had seen neither.

We asked the clerk at Lidl how to get to the castle, but her directions didn't seem accurate (don't ask me why we foreigners thought we knew better than the native), so we took off following our own ideas.  Well, we would get close, sort of, but not close enough.  We drove on dirt roads, through parking lots, and made several turn arounds.  Finally, we gave up.  We were heading home, via the directions the clerk gave us, of course.  And then we saw one more road - it led under the interstate (the whole problem we had been having to begin with) and appeared to go in the right direction.  Common sense said "Quit!  Go home!"  (I think we might have heard Alex say that too), but we tried once more.  And guess what?  We found it - or at least the base of it.  You can't drive to it - you have to hike to it.

And then once again, common sense failed.
Because yes, I was wearing dress boots.  
And yes, this is the rainy season - and yes, it had been raining here for days - and yes, Spain is not known for lots of grass, and yes, they build castles on the top of hills.

And yes, if you climb up that muddy hill in dress boots, you have to walk back down that hill in the same shoes.
But why not?  It's only a little mud and after nearly an hour of wandering to find this castle, common sense must lose and fun must win!  I made it to the top and back down without falling.  My boots were a mess (as were everyone else's shoes) and had to be removed and put in a bag instead of worn in the car.  But it was a gem of a castle - deserted and not preserved - but you could go inside and up a few of the stairs.  

It was fun.  We laughed a lot.  We conquered the "lost castle" and enjoyed some time together as a family.  There was a time in my life (not so long ago) that I would not have let common sense lose - and I am thankful that I have lightened up a little and can truly enjoy those days of just doing the crazy thing.  Wonder where we will find ourselves on our next day of exploring (and what shoes I will be wearing)?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

#11 - Church Via Internet

I know, I know - we are church planters and we are here to start a new church - but we still yearn for time in a church to be fed with the Word of God and to worship and pray and be surrounded by fellow believers.  Eventually, in Illescas will be a group of believers with whom we worship together, but before then, what does church look like for us.

We actually are part of the Cristo Vive church in San Fernando.  We love the people and the pastor and the worship time.  They have opened their arms and made us feel just like we are at home and we know the day will come that it will be hard to say goodbye.  So for today we are blessed by and grateful for this congregation, but.... It is all in Spanish.  It is work to go to church.  We can worship in Spanish and feel like we have worshiped from our hearts.  But when it comes to prayers and sermons, we have to work to understand.  We cannot just sit back and absorb and apply.  Often, by the time my brain has translated what the pastor has said and realized he is saying something I really need to hear, I have just missed the next two points or the full explanation.

So after much prayer and searching, I found what works for my heart.  Each Sunday morning I get up and fix breakfast for the family (love that church doesn't start until 11 here).  While I am fixing breakfast I watch Church at Viera.  It is not just the audio, but it is also the video of the pastor preaching.  I am able to feel like I am sitting in the service (now if I could just hear the worship music too).  It feeds my soul and heart in my heart language - English.  Then, as I go to worship in Spanish I am already filling like God has been filling my heart with His word and I don't feel the pressure to take it all in.  I can sit back and rest in what God helps me understand and not stress over what I have missed.  Each Sunday, I get a little closer to feeling like the Spanish version of a sermon is filling, but until then (and probably after that) I am thankful for the many churches who broadcast their services in a video format - for everyone who can't be there, but especially for missionaries serving in other lands in other languages.

Perhaps today I should send a thank you note to the Church at Viera instead of just blogging about it.  Maybe that is the point of this whole month - maybe I should be expressing these thank yous a little more often and little more directly. Hmmm, something to ponder.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#10 - Cellophane Tape

I am determined (and praying hard) that  I will pass the DELE (the Spanish proficiency exam) in May (May 24 to be exact).  My life revolves around Spanish verb conjugations and periphrases (if you don't know what that is - don't worry - I didn't know the name for them either - but they are phrases that always go together and don't usually mean what they literally say).  The joke in the house is that I am wallpapering the kitchen with Spanish rules.  But the problem with wallpaper is that it is permanent - so today I am thankful for cellophane tape - tape that sticks, but isn't permanent.  It gives me hope that I won't be permanently studying all these finite details (just new ones).

(Sara and Joanne Wood - if you are reading this you would be proud) All around my kitchen are things I need to work on, and each time I come across something I should have already mastered, it gets added to the cabinets.

When I wash dishes I get to study verb conjugations - the names of the tenses and when each one is used.  The long paper on the left is the conjugation of haber - one day that conjugation is just going to flow from my head without thinking, including all the irregularities!  (Haber is to have and it is used in combination with lots of other verbs to say things like "I had gone to the store or I am having fun or .....) 
Every time I get coffee or tea I see Preterite vs Imperfect - oh my!  Someone just shoot me and explain to me why we need two past teneses - why can't we just say it has already happened.  But in Spanish you have a past tense for things completed and things that are habitually done/repeated, but in the past.  I finally get most of the conjugations, now to master when to use one tense or the other.  

And while I cook - I get to compare SER and ESTAR (yep, two verbs that mean to be but are used at different times) and when to use Subjuntivo (the hardest verb tense to master according to not only all the foreigners, but the Spaniards - used for things you hope for or wish for or desire or that aren't real).  And when I can take no more - directly over the stove are lots of Bible verses in Spanish.