Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's Legal, but...

(don't worry mom, we were safe)

Last night a friend and I went to Madrid to see Les Miserables in Madrid.  It didn't show in English until 10 PM so I had been waiting for a girl's night out.  Our plan was to drive to the edge of Madrid and park at a metro station, take the metro into the middle of Madrid, see the movie, and repeat plan towards home.

We had the address of the Metro station and a trusty GPS.  We decided to go to Madrid early so we could have time to walk around and not stress over a late train or something.  Thank goodness we made that decision!

We got to where the GPS said the Villaverde Metro Station was located, but it was just a big open field.  We could tell where the train tracks were, but not the station.  Deciding to try again we made a left turn.  And immediately both of our worlds were rocked!

Right in front of us was a prostitute.  Oh yeah, I've seen one before, but this was different.  We saw her being picked up.  We drove down a little further and realized we were must be in "their area."  There were ladies on every corner and every few hundred feet.

We finally found the train station, made it to Madrid with time for ice cream and to share a burrito before the movie, and watched a fabulous movie!  Then we took the train back to our car.

It was now 1:30 AM and we both wondered how life in that area would have changed by that hour.  So we drove back by.  (Don't worry mom, we were safe!)  Our hearts broke.  Our worlds were rocked. We were almost speechless.

There were probably 50 ladies out in this area.  They had fires built alongside the road - not sure if they were for the heat or for "customers" to be able to see them easily.  Some were in groups of 2 or 3, others were by themselves.  We watched one lady get out of a car.  On another corner was a man paying a lady.  Some were dressed like you see on TV, some with a little more, and one with a lot less. She had on a shirt and underwear.  Yes it was 35 degrees outside!

Our hearts broke for these ladies.  What drives a woman to this point of desperation? I read the news and understand about human trafficking, so we assumed that was a possible explanation. Although I cannot literally imagine it, I can also perhaps understand being so desperate for money for food or housing that they see this choice as their only option.

The other question we asked is how many of these women think so little of themselves that they think this life style is all they are worthy of?  What causes a woman to see herself in such a way that she thinks she deserves this?  The only answer we came to was they were never taught how God sees them.

My heart broke for these ladies.  I left thanking God for the father I had that showed me how God saw me.  I thanked God for a husband who showed our daughter the true love of a father.  I repeatedly kept saying "there but by the grace of God."

I also left wondering what might God have me do with these images?

Prostitution is legal in Spain.  It doesn't happen only in dark alleys.  It happens on public, major streets. Where does these women go when morning comes?  Do they have homes or families or do they sleep in a park?  Are there children somewhere?

The experience was nothing like what you see on TV or in the movies.  There was nothing glitzy or exciting.  It was dark and depressing.  It was incredibly sad.

I won't too quickly forget what I saw and I just pray that each of those women we passed last night might one day see their value as a woman, created in the image of God, who sees who they were created to be, and said "and it was good."

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Sometimes the food in Spain makes sense and other times I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.  For example, you will find eggs on about everything.  Amazingly, the combination is pretty good a lot of the time, although occassionaly I have to work at liking it.

For example, this past Saturday I had pizza with boiled egg on it.  I know, sounds a little odd, but it was actually really good!

In the summer we often have gazpacho - a cold tomato, cucumber, vinegar type soup.  It makes great sense because it is so hot here and that soup is very refreshing.

Just recently I discovered another food that makes perfect sense - cocido.  It is the perfect rainy, cold day kind of food (like today).   It's kind of like a deconstructed stew (can you tell I like to watch food shows?).  In actuality it is all cooked together in a big stew pot then served separately.  The first plate is a noodle soup that is served using the broth of from cooking the gazpacho beans.  Then you receive a plate of gazpacho beans, vegetables, and a variety of meat, including pork, beef, and chicken.  Normally you leave the table so full you can't walk.

I saw it advertised on a lunch board today at the "bar" (remember these aren't an American bar) where we went for coffee and Scott agreed it was a great spot for lunch. (A definite treat to eat out)  And now, after eating the whole thing, all I want to do is crawl up under a blanket and take a nap!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


A few days ago I reflected on the days that it easy to forget we live on the "other side of the ocean" and that life sometimes just goes with the flow.   But today isn't one of those days.  It's one of those days where you realize there is a really big hole in your life in those first years of living here.  A hole that is the size of girlfriends.

I think the thing I miss most is that "really close, tell it how it is, share your deepest thoughts, no fear of judgement, willing to laugh and cry with you, encourage you and correct you" girlfriend.  You know the kind of friend that comes along just a few times in your life.  Don't get me wrong.  There are lots of people here who are friends - both Spaniards and co-workers.  But it is hard to have that kind of relationship without strong language and my co-workers who speak English live in different cities.  That kind of friend is definitely walking with the same faith in God as you are, and since we are living in a town with little to no evangelical presence that kind of friend is definitely a rare gem here.

I have also realized that I don't think I ever told these friends how much I appreciated them.  Think it is one of those things I took for granted.  But today, I realize just how valuable of a gift a girlfriend is.  I also realize how important they are to a gal like me.

So today I am yearning for a cup of coffee, a box of chocolate, and some serious girlfriend time.  But, instead I'll take some Spanish homework (so that one day that kind of relationship might be possible here) and a skype call about potential new ministry material, and maybe I'll cheat on my diet and have some chocolate!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Comedy of Errors

So today was a comedy of errors... 

We had learned of a place in the mountains near Madrid where we could go sledding.  (By the way, did you know there is not a verb in Spanish for sledding?)  Although the train took longer than driving, we decided to take the train.  It allowed us to study and relax and impossible to get lost that way, right?

Well, we never got lost, but nor did we sled.

  • First discovered train doesn't go where we want until 1.. It was 10 so we decided to drive.
  • Got 3/4 of the way there and they have posted you can't go further w/out chains.
  • Found a park with undisturbed snow and Scott and Alex had a mini snowball fight.
  • Decide to go a little ways back, have lunch, and get train in 2 hours.
  • Went to buy tickets to be told due to weather train closed for day.
  • Decided to come back to Madrid for pizza at our favorite pizzeria (it is on the opposite side of Madrid so it is rare treat to be close enough to go) but discovered it is closed on Mondays.
  • Went to a mall with indoor skiing.
  • Had lunch in the food court - where I chose Taco Bell - that is really bad - both in taste and for my diet.
  • Found out it is more expensive to ski inside than the real thing.  
  • Scott and Alex decided to play putt putt and I found a comfy chair for studying phrases with "por and para.".  
But hey, we were together, we laughed a lot, reminded ourselves we were in Spain and this was normal, and came home content.  Will we try another day?  Hmm, that is still to be determined!

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Do You Say That?

One of the hardest parts of learning a new language (besides the vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, and verb conjugations) are all the colloquial phrases.   I have about given up on actually using them, but would love to at least understand them when someone says them to me.  So, I thought I would share a few of my favorite with you (besides, if I have to type them here maybe some of them will stick in my brain.)

Spanish:  Ponerse las botas
Literal Meaning:  To put on the boots
Colloquial Meaning:  To eat a lot

Spanish:  Estar manga por hombro
Literal Meaning:  To be sleeve for shoulder
Colloquial Meaning:  To be totally disorganized/Don't know where to start

Spanish:  Cambiar de chaqueta   
Literal Meaning:  To change the jacket
Colloquial Meaning:  To change your mind

Spanish:  Ir de punta en blanco  
Literal Meaning:  To go to tip in white
Colloquial Meaning:  To be well dressed

Spanish:  Pasarse las noches en blanco   
Literal Meaning:  To pass the nights in white
Colloquial Meaning:  Not able to sleep

Spanish:  Estar sin blanca
Literal Meaning:  To be without white
Colloquial Meaning:  To not have any money

Spanish:  Dar gato por liebre 
Literal Meaning:  To give cat for rabbit
Colloquial Meaning:  To deceive, cheat

Spanish:  Pagar el Pato  
Literal Meaning:  To pay the duck
Colloquial Meaning:  Suffer the consequences

Spanish:  Estar como un cabra   
Literal Meaning:  To be like a goat
Colloquial Meaning:  To be crazy

Spanish:  Hincar los codos   
Literal Meaning:  To stick the elbows
Colloquial Meaning:  To study a lot

Spanish:  Tener mala pata  
Literal Meaning:  To have a bad leg
Colloquial Meaning:  To have bad luck

Spanish:  Estar patas arriba   
Literal Meaning:  To be legs up
Colloquial Meaning:  To turn things upside down

Spanish:  Tener entre ceja y ceja  
Literal Meaning:  To have between eyebrow and eyebrow
Colloquial Meaning:  To not be able to stand someone/something

Spanish:  Tener la mosca detrĂ¡s de la oreja   
Literal Meaning:  To have the fly behind the ear
Colloquial Meaning:  To suspect something

Hope you are laughing along with me as I try to memorize these.  Can't wait to teach the spaniards some of the crazy English colloquialisms too!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

Sometimes life is so comfortable that I forget I am the "extranjero," the foreigner.  Sometimes I am sailing through life without many bumps and then all of a sudden something happens and I am reminded this isn't Kansas, or North Carolina, or even the USA for that matter.

As I type I am sitting in Burger King while Alex goes to youth.  It is too far to go home in between so I usually spend 3 hours, twice a month, at Burger King.  It is close to the church and has free wi-fi and free refills.  What else could I want?

This is the sign I see sitting in my booth.  Yeah, it is even in English.  Ahh, a nice touch of familiarity.  But wait, what about the rest of the experience.

For example, I had a salad as my side.  Normal enough, but they never asked me what kind of dressing I wanted because there are no choices - olive oil and dressing.  And when I opened my salad, no cucumbers or carrots or croutons, but yes - topped with whole kernel corn.

And when I ordered, the cashier asked whether I wanted refresco (soft drink), cerveza (beer), or agua (water).  You can even get a cerveza in the drive through because no one drinks in their car, not even the diet coke.  They even put your cups in a bag, no drink holders.

At church this morning we were hit with one of those "this ain't Kansas" feelings too.  The worship service began with forty minutes of announcements and no one was bothered.  Why not?  Because as the one who was officiating the service said, "this many announcements means we are an alive church."  And no one (not even me - boy is God stretching me) was bothered that the service went 30 minutes later than normal.  But no one would say it went late, just longer.  And when the pastor was using Superman as an illustration and mispronounced Lois Lane's name, it was normal for the congregation to ask him who he was referring to and then correct him.  Yep, in the middle of the sermon.

Before coming to Burger King I went to Carrefour - the closest thing we have to Super Wal-Mart.  This store always reminds me I am in Spain.  Other than having to repeatedly think to myself "If I were a Spaniard I would put ____ with ____," I always have to take a deep breath when I walk in.  Imagine walking into Wal-mart where the line of cash registers are.  You can't walk straight in to the aisles and you definitely can't walk between cash registers.  Instead, you must walk all the way down to the farthest end of the registers where there is the single entrance into the aisles.  Inevitably, what I need is near the first cash register so I cover that distance twice.  Not a big deal, but makes me shake my head every time!

And of course there is driving.  I am getting used to the ways of the road, but not sure the American in me will ever get used to the layout of the roads.  You might see the mall from the interstate but you can't get to the mall from the interstate.  It is not unusual to have to drive 5 to 10 minutes around several round abouts and service roads to get to the main shopping areas.  Every time I am navigating these roads I think "if this was the US these stores would die."  Spaniards aren't bothered by this, so I am learning to not be either.

And of course I return to Burger King.  Why only Burger King each week?  Well, because on Sundays (except for the first Sunday of the month) most stores are closed.  Only the big centro commercials (malls) are open.  In the states I would cram as many errands as possible into these three hours, but here I am learning to cherish the time to blog, study, read, and remind myself that "we aren't in Kansas anymore."

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Life is crazy and language is all consuming and although blog posts run through my head all the time, they rarely make it to my fingers and the computer.  Don't take silence for lack of activity.  I'd love to tell you a story everyday, cause there are some really good ones, but reality is that I'd have to give up sleep or showers for that to happen - and you can remember all too recently the reality of no showers and just ask my family, no sleep does not make for a happy mama.

I contemplated trying to catch up on missed things I really wanted to tell you, but decided to forgo that and just go with the present.  Maybe one day I'll do a "reminiscing" kind of post.

We moved to Spain to help begin a new church in an area of Spain that has little to no evangelical presence.  We landed in Illescas in July and have been making friends, studying Spanish, talking about the future work, praying, planning, and anxiously waiting for God to give the go ahead for the next step.

In January we (my husband and our co-worker team) decided it was time to declare the new Illescas church "open."  We still don't have a name for the new congregation, but we held our second worship service today.

For now we are meeting once a month and alternate homes for meeting.  As the congregation grows and as word of mouth is spread and as people become interested in learning a little more we will increase the frequency of our gatherings.

It's a real service, regardless of the size. Time of worship, prayer, offering, sermon, and even communion.  These will be some special memories.

And today - only our 2nd gathering - we had a visitor!  She has lived in the area for about a month. About the time she moved here our co-workers were prayer walking and giving out tracts in the the area she lives.  On the back was our co-workers name and phone number.  A couple weeks ago she called and asked if he could recommend a church in the area and he invited her to church today.  And she came!

This afternoon I had to say God stepped on my toes when he asked me "so, why are you so excited about THIS visitor and yet when you were in the states you didn't rejoice in the same way each time I sent new people to your congregation."  OUCH!  Don't blame me after you read this if He asks you the same thing!

Life is good.  We are finding our roots.  We are studying Spanish like mad.  We are making friends (Maria came for dinner this week and it was so much fun to have our OWN friend over).  We have fabulous neighbors.  Alex is finding his way in the public schools.  We are seeing God open doors and move mountains.  We are praying, planning and dreaming of future ministries.  We can't wait to see what is in store next!