Chocolate Cake & Other Birthday Ramblings

Today in the mail, I got a box that looked like a birthday present. But it was not. It was a gift that was automatically sent to me by the lovely people at Similac. If you’re not familiar with the company, they manufacture baby formula. You see, when I first found out I was pregnant back in January, I’m sure I signed up for some pregnancy app or website where I was required to give them my information, including what would be my due date. In turn, they sold my information to Similac. I get it. This happens all the time. We do it with the magazine mailing list, our parent company does it with a zillion names on their lists. It’s just the way it is. At any rate, Similac’s brilliant marketing team took my information and decided to send me a present … one that, under normal circumstances, would arrive just before my baby would. But alas, there is no baby. And here I sit on my birthday eve, with a box of formula that I have no use for, reminded of my infertility and pregnancy loss and the fact that I’m not getting any younger. I guess that was a risk that Similac was willing to take in order to potentially make a few bucks off a new mom. I won’t tell them they wasted their money.

I guess I don’t have much else to say on the eve of my 36th birthday–except that it’s been a rough year. I might blog about that later but not tonight. It’s been more than a miscarriage or thoughts about adoption. It’s just been a hard pill to swallow as life plays out very differently than I wish it had or how I envisioned it. Work is stressful, health problems wreak havoc, things don’t seem to make sense. But tomorrow when I wake up as a 36-year-old, I won’t feel much different even though I know that my biological clock is keeping score and there’s not much I can do about that either. But I will get up, look my 36-year-old face in the mirror, and go have a good day with my love. I’ll enjoy my birthday, a nice dinner and some cake, and try to remember that even if life doesn’t always serve up a giant piece of chocolate cake, you can always buy a piece. And everything in life will make sense and be OK. For a day.

Plan B is the New Plan A

Today I read a post about adoption that listed several reasons why you should never say to an adoptive parent: “Now that you’re adopting, you’re going to get pregnant.” I couldn’t disagree with the author’s points but I think if we head down the adoption route, I’ll try not to be overly sensitive to what people say. Although, I have wondered if it’s actually true that people know someone who got pregnant when they started to adopt or if it’s just this old wives’ tale that people have passed on in an attempt to be positive. One point the author made was that when you say that to someone, you’re basically saying: “Now that you’ve chosen to go with Plan B, you’ll finally get what you really wanted–Plan A.” In some cases, adoption is Plan A. And in other cases, it might be Plan B, but no one wants to look at it that way. And it got me thinking–if we decide to adopt, I’ll do my best not to let what people say (with good intentions) affect how I feel. I want to go into it being excited and hopeful. I don’t want to view this as my hand being forced. And it can be easy to feel that way. It’s easy for me to wish things were different–but after reading that post, I decided that it’s all about how I choose to view it that matters the most.

And so as we took our evening walk, we talked about how no amount of wishing changes our situation or rewinds time. We decided that if we adopt, it is Plan A. It would be God’s Plan A for us–and we’re just catching up to speed. So many times, we want to control things–I’ve been learning this a lot about myself and anxiety–and I want to change that in every area of my life. I want to relinquish control as much as possible to break myself from living in fear. And acknowledging that I don’t have control over this situation frees me up to accept God’s Plan A for our family. Because often times, I’m so lost in the what-ifs and the fear of the unknown and the need to control that I can completely miss what God is trying to show me and where He’s trying to lead me. But when I do, it’s always, always better than the plans I had for myself.

When it comes to adoption, if I really think about it and put aside the small part of me that grieves not having a biological child, in my heart of hearts, I love the idea. Being pro-life and a Christian, it fulfills two of my desires to live that fully: taking care of orphans, and supporting a birth mom who has chosen life for her child. There is nothing I want more than to do those two things. It feels like it’s always been in my heart to do this and while it may not have been what I thought was going to be Plan A, I can’t help but wonder if God was weaving together something for us that we didn’t expect but that will be equally fulfilling. One thing we’re sure of: He has blessed us greatly and we believe firmly that He has not given us so much to keep it to ourselves. We don’t know what this looks like yet, but I’m guessing we’re going to find out soon …

 

A Father’s Day Reflection

Many women in my position have a very hard time on Mother’s Day. They long to be a mother so badly yet their body is working against them and it just doesn’t seem right or fair. I haven’t personally felt that sorrow but I know it exists for many women. But this morning as I was getting ready for the day, my reflections turned to Father’s Day and how much my dad has meant to me. And I suddenly felt sad for my husband.

Kyle has never expressed any sadness about not being a father. He has expressed sadness about the idea of never becoming a father, specifically a biological one. And in my thoughts I just silently wished it hadn’t been this way. I wished, for a second, that I was the type of woman who was eager to have children as soon as we got married. It would have given us more time to work out any fertility issues and pursue more options. It would have made the path more clear about what I wanted and how to go about it. It would have eliminated all the discussions and wondering about if/when we should have kids. And it would have removed the disappointment we feel with the situation we’re in. But then again, maybe our situation would be the same. Maybe we’d be exactly where we are today, even if we had taken a different path. I can’t help but feel that maybe it was meant to be this way. But that doesn’t remove the feelings or the frustration. It just gives me reassurance that God has a plan.

He will be an amazing father. That I’m sure of. I’ve always known that and I’ve seen him with kids and nieces and nephews and wondered what it would be like one day when he is a dad. He’s wise and compassionate and loving and affectionate–all things I’d want for my kids to experience. And I know that when we have children, I am positive that I will fall more in love with him. And today, again, I felt the weight of our current circumstance. I see pictures of parents holding kids who resemble them, who are a combination of both Mom and Dad, who carry their traits and remind them of their spouse, and piece of my heart feels sad. I know that if we choose to adopt, we will love the child as our own but it is impossible not to wonder what our biological child would have been like. But perhaps it’s foolish to imagine a child that may never come to be.

An Update On My Sister

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my sister. But you know what they say: No news is good news. And that’s mostly true. Since her surgery in June 2014, she has been on a path of recovery and returning to health. It has been a long road with lots of ups and downs in energy, wellness, physical pains/healing, etc. But overall, I think she would say that she is still improving day by day. People don’t realize how wiped out you can get from chemo. You’re literally destroying most healthy cells in your body and  you’re wreaking havoc on your immune system and rebuilding it from scratch. And after 6 months of that, she had a major surgery that removed more than half of a vital organ. So needless to say, you don’t just bounce back from that immediately.

Her oncologist was hesitant to allow too much time to go by without screening and the furthest he allowed was about a year. So in December, she went in for a CT scan of her abdominal region to check on the liver and see if there were any signs of cancer. Thankfully, that scan came back clear. She has had a few other health issues here and there that they will inevitably keep an eye on but there is nothing that concerns them at this point. The tests were anxiety-inducing for her and the rest of us so it was a relief to hear that she might still be free of cancer for the time being.

I still reflect on the mental turmoil I went through at the time of her second diagnosis and the subsequent growth and faith in God that stemmed from the experience. It is amazing to me the peace He gave me and I always try to remember how His grace met me in the hardest time of my life. It became clear to me how much I have grown and learned through the process when my dad called me a few weeks ago to let me know that they had found cancer in his prostate. My heart immediately jumped into my throat but was short-lived because I knew that not only could I rely on God to get us through another challenge, but also the experience with cancer in our family has given a fuller perspective. We still do not know what the future holds for my sister, but the one thing I’ve learned is that cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Yes, it’s still scary and yes, it’s still a possibility. But while I spoke to my dad, I did not have the same reaction that I would have if we had not already been through this. He will have surgery to remove his prostate this summer, a procedure that could be curative but very difficult and uncertain nonetheless. Either way, we know how to seek God’s peace and grace during another difficult season. We pray that these seasons will be fewer rather than many.

Yes, we want kids … Part 2

There are so many things that have led us to this point where we are today. If we look back, it’s hard not to feel some sense of regret … that maybe we didn’t trust God enough with our future. That we didn’t consider the implications of our age and getting married later. It feels as though we lived in la-la-land for a bit. And the advice we give most often to young couples is this: Don’t take for granted that you will be able to have kids when you want them, how you want them, or at all. We’re in a society that is increasingly getting married at a later age because of careers, cohabitation, sowing wild oats, etc. And you always hear people rationalize it and talk about how common it is for older women to have babies now. But I guess we give this advice to couples because as we got older ourselves, we started to see the problem with the attitude of culture toward children and recognize it for the seemingly ungodly perspective that it is. There was a time when we were first married that the idea of getting pregnant struck fear in our hearts. We aren’t ready. We don’t have the right financial situation. We haven’t been married long enough. We don’t live where we want to live.

From a young age, we’re told that birth control will prevent “unwanted” pregnancies. That phrase alone has so many obvious connotations. As birth control is given out like candy at gynecological offices across the country, we ignore possible side effects and neglectfully ingest a hormone that is potentially wreaking havoc on our entire endocrine system. But it’s OK because it’s all for the sake of not having an “inconvenient” child in our lives. We can put aside what might actually be taking place in our bodies each month so that we can rest at ease knowing that a child will not come along too soon. We can look the other way instead of considering the long-term effects this tiny pill might have on our fertility for peace of mind in the short term. Feminism tells us that it’s empowering, but God tells us we are worth so much more than a one-night stand without consequences.

I think that’s the perspective we come from now. We see children as the gift from God that they are. They’re not a mistake or an inconvenience. And women are empowered by finding their value in their Creator, and being loved by a godly man who recognizes her worth–not in the knowledge that she can walk away unattached to a man who treats her as disposable. And in the context of marriage, what is there to be afraid of? What love and joy are we robbing ourselves of by waiting and planning and controlling?

I guess part of this comes from a place of frustration. For a while we were frustrated that we met later in life. Imagine if we had met each other at 21 or 22 … we would not have had so much pressure to figure out the family part of our lives so quickly and age wouldn’t have been a factor. And then it’s easy to be frustrated with others who take their fertility for granted. At times I was frustrated with how seemingly easy it was for women to decide they wanted to be a mom–it was never cut-and-dry for me. And even now, I am frustrated by the process of the “How far am I willing to pursue my options?” thinking that is happening currently.

When I get frustrated, I tell myself to trust God. I pray and tell Him that I trust Him. It’s not easy because I’m really frustrated … with the past, the present and the unknown future. And I guess this can be translated as frustration with God. Why won’t he make things clear for me? Why wasn’t anything ever clear for me? Just show me what to do! But in the end, what can I do but trust? I’m done controlling it. I’m done being frustrated with it. I give it all to Him.

 

Yes, we want kids.

Kyle and I have been married 7 years now. We were 27 & 28 when we got married. I remember being 19 or 20 and thinking how I wanted to be married by the time I was 22. I look back now at the person I was when I was 22 and think there was no way I could have been married then. I had a lot of growing up to do. By the time we met, I felt like I knew exactly what I was looking for in a husband. So when he came along, it was a no-brainer. I had enough dating and life experience to know a good thing when it came along. I knew I was fortunate to find him.

Because we dated long distance, we had a LOT of time to talk and get to know each other. One of the discussions early on was our thoughts on having children. We both felt the exact same way: We thought we wanted to have kids but we weren’t entirely sure yet and we both felt we wanted to be married for a little while before having them, if we do. So we got married and lived in Oregon (where neither of us felt completely settled) and before we knew it, four years had slipped by. We moved to Colorado and finally felt like our life together was just beginning.

It was a couple months after the move that I began to feel God nudging me toward trusting Him with our family. I have many fears about kids, pregnancy, giving birth and didn’t necessarily feel ready but I decided to put those fears aside and trust God with whatever he has in store for us. As we developed more relationships in Colorado and spent time with large families and parents who treasured and discipled their children, God began to grow a desire for that in our hearts. What started out as being “open” to having kids slowly grew into a desire for our own family.

That process (and submitting to God’s plan for us) started just about two years ago. I have never had a strong maternal side. I’ve never been one of those women who can’t wait to have a baby. I figured maybe there was a reason for that–maybe I wasn’t meant to be a mother. But, I love kids and I want to know the love of being a mother too. And Kyle loves kids and would be an amazing father. And God grew our desire … that can’t all be for nothing. The thought of never knowing who our biological child would be saddens me too.

Update:

Since I began writing this blog and even since I wrote the previous sentence, we received results from our fertility testing. Obviously, since there’s been no baby news in two years, we knew it was time to get things checked out. The outlook is bleak. I guess when I said that the idea of never knowing our child saddens me, I didn’t truly feel that until now. The possibility seems more real now that we may not have biological children. We haven’t been told it’s impossible but it seems like an uphill battle. What we do know is that God is in control. We believe that God is greater than the statistics. And if I’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it’s that we can trust Him completely. We trust Him with our future. We trust Him with our future family–whatever that looks like. We don’t exactly know where this leaves us and we aren’t sure of our options yet. One step at a time, I guess. We appreciate your prayers.

Update #2:

On New Year’s Eve, I found out I was pregnant. What a miracle given our recent news! It wasn’t until 4 home tests later and some blood work from the doctor’s office before I actually believed I was pregnant. Once it settled in, so did the fear and anxiety…for my health, my age, for the future, for pregnancy and birth. But I really believed I could trust God and that He has a plan for me. But as the days went on I never truly let myself accept it fully. My first blood test indicated that my hormone levels were too low. Not a good sign. I knew in my heart that something was wrong…especially as I did not start to exhibit the usual pregnancy symptoms by week 5 or 6. I went in for more blood work and it confirmed my suspicions…still too low. So during week 6, I went in for an ultrasound and nothing was to be seen yet. They wanted to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and for the most part it seemed I was in the clear. But there was no sign of a baby yet either. They reassured me that it could still be too early but I knew deep down that there would be no baby…something had gone wrong in the development. The next day, the miscarriage began. And while the pain level was pretty high, my emotional pain was more than I imagined it would be. Even though I had never really let myself believe the baby was real, the heartbreak still came. It wasn’t the hopes that I had pinned on this particular little baby; it was a realization that I don’t want to be who I am anymore. The hope and desire for a family was stronger than it was before. The feeling that we were back at square one felt crushing. The frustration of not knowing what to do next came rushing back. And yes, the few moments where I let myself dream of who our baby would be were ripped away.

And now I’m left with questions about the future. Where do I go from here? How do I feel now after experiencing physical and emotional distress over the past few weeks? It’s going to take time to process and heal before I really know what to make of it all or what I want to do next. I so badly want to say what so many people have told me: At least now we know that I can get pregnant. But this is no consolation to me or to anyone who has a miscarriage. Just because you got pregnant once does not guarantee you will again. It does not guarantee you won’t miscarry again. And the prospect of a future pregnancy is not a consolation for losing your current one especially when the first one took two years. I know that people are only trying to be positive so I do not hold it against them for saying this. Although one friend said it much more perfectly: that maybe I can find a small amount of peace in the hope that nothing is impossible with God. Because this pregnancy was a miracle. The truth of that statement is that with God, there is hope for the plans He has for me–whatever they may be.

What is God teaching me through this? About myself, about our family, about what we want, about His goodness, about His faithfulness, about His will for us? Only time will tell.  Keep praying, friends.

I Must Not Forget

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been stressed lately. I don’t really realize it until I find myself crying at the smallest things or being irrationally anxious. My mind can get the best of me. And while I’ve improved drastically in this area, I still have the occasional panic attack. Buying and fixing up a house has caused stress, work can be stressful, recent health concerns cause stress, my sister’s health causes stress. It just felt like I was at a boiling point yesterday. My sister was having tests done this week in preparation for a normal follow-up with the oncologist. I guess the fact that tests have not gone in her favor previously had me anxious about the results. I pray so hard and so often that her cancer will never return and I try not to dwell on it but it weighs heavy on me at times.

I came home from work after really worrying about some things I’ve had going on with my health lately. And I lay down on my bed and opened my Bible app. I picked a chapter and verse in Psalms at random and let the audio version read to me. It happened to be chapter 18, verse 6 which goes something like this:

In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

If you have read my past posts, you might remember that I wrote a blog after I came back from Oregon last June when my sister had her surgery. I was thinking about a verse that talked about God hearing my cry and when I opened my Bible app and randomly chose a verse, it was this one. So here I sat on my bed, worried about the health of my sister and my own health and God brought this verse back to me. Today, I still wasn’t in the right head space when I got home from work. I’m still trying remember that my mind is my worst enemy. I walked in the door and turned on Pandora to some worship music. And the very first song that played was David Crowder, After All. This was the song that I had on constant repeat as I was driving my nephews around in my sister’s minivan before and after her surgery. Right after the surgery, the song played one more time and I just cried and sang the song at the top of my lungs, slumped at the feet of God in gratefulness for his mercy. And tonight, that song played as a reminder of His faithfulness to me, once again.

It’s so easy to forget. I spent 6 months in complete surrender to God’s sovereignty and trusting His will for her life, our lives. And here I am dwelling and fearing and worrying again as if my God has forsaken me. But He hasn’t and He never will. And He reminded me of that two days in a row when he brought back these two elements from one of the most difficult times of my life. God is good. I can trust Him. It doesn’t mean I will never have fear. But I need to remember His faithfulness. I cannot forget.

Back in Black (A nod to 1980–The Year of My Birth)

I’ve been learning a lot about myself lately. First, as it pertains to buying a house and how I handle stress. I see now that even when I don’t recognize stress in my life, it builds and builds until I finally have a breakdown. That happened right before we moved to Colorado and it just happened right before we moved in to the house. Hopefully I can start to recognize the times when I’m experiencing stress and don’t even realize it. Of course, what to do about it is another matter.

I just had a birthday. I’m 35. I’m not exactly sure where the time went but I don’t really feel 35. I guess this can work against me and in my favor at the same time. But it is what it is. Something happened a while back that made me recognize how God has been changing me. I know that the past year or so has grown me a lot–in my faith, in life, in maturity. But it’s sometimes the little moments that make you go, You know what? That is only the result of God’s influence in my life.

Anyway, I know I have a long way to go but a lot of times when people say we should ask for prayer or be honest with people about our sin, I don’t really know what to do or say. I know that I sin … it just doesn’t always smack me in the face like it should. Well, this time it was pretty evident. And I didn’t want it to be hidden anymore. I texted Kyle immediately and asked him to pray for me and told him everything. It’s something I’ve always struggled with but brushed it off whenever I’d feel convicted about it. Not this time. I was going to confront it. And all because I felt serious shame. Now, I don’t think God wants us to live in shame but I do think the Holy Spirit convicts us when we’ve done something sinful. And it was powerful this time. And I’m grateful for it. If I had been complacent in the past, there was no way He was going to let me this time. No more. And even though it doesn’t directly affect Kyle or our marriage, I told him anyway. And it was hard. But there was something in the confession and bringing it to light that felt right. I asked him to keep me accountable and pray for me. I apologized because I felt awful about myself and asked him not to think less of me. Of course he forgave me and responded that we are all a work in progress and that God is changing us.

He’s right. God is changing me. There were plenty of times in my life when I ignored my own sin. I didn’t want to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice, gently reminding me of how I am hurting myself or others. So, yes, 35 comes roaring in like a lion but when I have moments like that and I’m reminded of how far I’ve come and where God is taking me, I’m grateful for every lesson and every year under my belt. It’s good to get older and wiser and follow God more closely. It’s good.

What it’s Like to Travel With Your Spouse

“They” say that traveling together is the true test of a marriage and how well you get along. Kyle and I have traveled around the U.S. quite a bit and we went on a “honeymoon” trip to Puerto Vallarta once. But I wouldn’t say that we’ve been through any travels that might test our patience with each other. Going to Nicaragua was probably the first uncomfortable traveling situation. The humidity and the temperature were both in the 90s. We were working hard. Our flight got delayed until the next day. We both caught colds and Kyle got an infection. But those aren’t really the things that stand out to me.

No matter the case, I felt like I would go on that trip with the mentality that I was going to be uncomfortable but that I was there to serve others. I figured that any level of discomfort would probably be played out in my head, but I’d keep it to myself because complaining doesn’t do any good and it also isn’t appropriate on a mission trip. To my surprise, I didn’t even complain in my own head. I was dripping sweat most days, my clothes were wet and I was super fatigued. But it really just became my normal for the week. It was glorious when we could retreat to an air conditioned hotel room but during the day, it was just business as usual.

In the meantime, I learned (and confirmed) a few things about traveling with Kyle during some uncomfortable situations. 1.) We are a great team. We “get” each other in ways that other people will never get us. And that’s extremely useful when you’re in a strange, new place in conditions that are less than desirable. 2.) We both love meeting new people. We got to use our Spanish to connect with others in a very unique way (Kyle more than myself since he’s fluent). 3.) I was reminded of how important it is to try new things together. When you do, you grow together in new ways individually and in your marriage. 4.) I was reminded of the unique qualities that Kyle has. I know how well he serves me on a regular basis, but it’s a different thing to see him serve others as well.

For example, I saw my husband assist a disabled woman as she got on the van at the hotel. He consistently carried luggage for others and I heard him offering to get water or help to members of our team who were sick. I saw him give up his seat in a van or at a table in order for someone else to sit. I saw how hard he worked digging holes and lifting bricks — through sickness and health — to serve the church there. I saw him work through his rusty Spanish-speaking in order to lead Sunday school on our first day there. I heard of him giving away his Spanish-English Bible to a young Christian who wanted to learn English, and remembering to leave behind our work gloves at their request. But more than the act of physically serving others with his generosity, I saw more of his heart for other people. Just as he is quick to serve me and carry my burden, he was quick to serve others when he saw a need. And that, to me, spoke volumes about the type of person he is. I knew that. I was just reminded of that. In my impatience, I’m sure he did things that frustrated me … but that’s not what I remember about this trip.

I Left My Heart in Nicaragua

Day 1: Our trip got off to a slow start as our flight was delayed out of Denver which would cause us to miss our connection. Thankfully, the airline gave our group a few hotel rooms and we got a good night’s sleep and set off in the morning. It turned out to be a much easier option with only one connection and arriving in Managua 6-8 hours later than scheduled.

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Day 2: We finally arrived in Managua around 6pm and the van was there to pick us up for the 1.5-2 hour drive to Nagarote. The heat and humidity was still evident even in the evening. As expected, the traffic is chaotic but at least the roads were paved and made the trip fairly smooth. The rest of the team (who arrived that morning) were waiting for us at Pastor Julio’s house. The women of Igelsia Brazos Abiertos had dinner ready for us & we immediately felt welcomed with open arms. After dinner, we headed back to Hotel Jerusalem to locate our rooms – I think we definitely got the Honeymoon Suite – it was comfortable and air conditioned (such a blessing).

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Day 3: After a day of acclimating the day before, it was now church day. The group who had been on the trip before knew exactly what to expect but for Kyle and I, it was hard to know what was coming. We walked into the concrete building, complete with tin roof and plastic chairs set up in rows. Previous teams had helped build the church a few years earlier and we could see the need for an enclosure for the church grounds — to add security. We sat down, white people on one side, Nicaraguans on the other. We felt a little like a spectacle — I could tell they kids were enamored and the adults were searching out new faces. Kyle immediately went over to talk to some of the children & they just stared with wide eyes at this giant guy speaking Spanish. It was pretty cute. We sang a few songs in Spanish, led by Pastor Julio’s son, Julito. And after a short devotional, we split up into groups. Kyle helped lead the elementary-aged kids and I was with the 2-5 year olds. I quickly found out that speaking Spanish with a toddler is very difficult. They  are hard to understand (as are English-speaking toddlers) and they don’t fully get why you don’t speak their language … so they don’t help you out … at all. We headed back to Julio’s house for lunch, some time to rest and back to church in the evening for another service.

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Day 4: Monday was the hardest work day. It was time to get started on building the wall. The men and many of the women took turns digging 1-meter-deep holes in the ground. Others cut and assembled rebar. We worked well as a team — everyone doing their fair share. The humidity was through the roof so dripping sweat and wet clothing became our normal for the week. The church people regularly supplied us with snacks and purified water (to keep our tummies in check) and we worked all day with a lunch break in between. We left dirty, tired and hungry but we knew that we had given it our all. Each day, we also held vacation bible school for the kids — they showed up excited for singing and fun. The kids were so cute & loved having us there. As I walked through Nagarote, I found myself mystified by this 3rd world country with trash all around, concrete homes, very few cars, and simple way of life but so connected with cell phones or Facebook. It was hard to wrap my brain around and I struggled with the feeling that not only are we very fortunate to live in a country where the infrastructure and freedoms allow us to have opportunity and be successful, but that I just kept thinking: it just doesn’t have to be this way for them. The problems are systemic and it’s a cycle that will continue. I don’t think they need to be Americanized, I just wish for them the same opportunity we have in the U.S.

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Day 5: Tuesday, I woke up with a cold that had been making the rounds through a lot of people on the team. I knew my energy would be sapped but I just wanted to push through and work hard again. We got up for breakfast at the hotel and you could see the tempered exhaustion. The humidity was worse than the day before, but people were still pumped and ready to go even after the long, hard day of digging holes on Monday. We headed back to the church for more opportunities to serve the people there. A few of us left for awhile to pray for the owner of a bakery nearby. He is a Christian and a friend of the team so we wanted to stop by and pray for him (and successfully steal some fresh bread, yum!). Later we headed back to Julio’s house where the women had prepared dinner for us again — faithfully, they provided lunch and dinner every day for 20+ people.

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Day 6: The day before, Kyle had noticed his leg becoming enflamed but we figured it was just something that happened while digging holes. But by breakfast on Wednesday morning, we could tell something more was going on. He was also coming down with the cold that several others had. We thought maybe a crazy Nicaraguan bug or a spider had bitten him. Either way, he pushed through and we completed another hard day’s work at the church. Throughout the week, the women of the church surrounded me with prayer and encouragement. They are faithful and fervent in their prayers and I began to grow appreciative of their kindness and admire their faithfulness. Their love for our team showed me a new insight to what it means to love sacrificially.

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Day 7: By Thursday, Kyle’s leg was getting pretty red, hot and swollen & he had a fever of 101. We called in Nurse Natasha and she wrapped it up, gave him some Benadryl and he was able to rest for some of the day because the work at the church was starting to become less demanding. He spent some time painting and mostly developing relationships with the men of the church and workers who were hired to help with the wall. I was worried about him but sometimes he can get a fever with having a cold so I assumed all was normal and his leg would begin to heal. I saw my courage and ability to speak Spanish grow throughout the week. Our friends in Nicaragua would help me when I didn’t know what to say & I found myself becoming more confident to just try and mess up. On one trip to the local market with the pastor’s daughter I was forced to only speak in Spanish since she didn’t know English. She was patient and kind and laughed at me when necessary. But I was thankful to be forced to do it and learn more. I saw Kyle’s gift of being fluent as such an awesome thing. Where many of us felt like we were just working alongside the Nicaraguans, he was able to build that bridge and fully have relationship with the people there — outside of using an interpreter. It was very cool to see & I know his heart was happy to use his Spanish again. We headed to a guava farm owned by some members of the church to pray for them and tour the farm. It was beautiful.

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Day 8: We hadn’t completed the wall but Pastor Julio knew that was probably too much to expect. The masons were working hard on laying the slab bricks. And so we rented a school bus, loaded up the team and a bunch of people from the church and headed to a tourist town called Granada to have lunch, say our goodbyes and play at the lake. It was a great day and an even better way to end the trip by socializing with our Nicaraguan family on our last day. I found myself getting emotional on the bus thinking about having to leave and go back to everyday life. The bonds we had formed with our own team from church are special and the relationships we began in Nicaragua were special as well. Kyle teared up as the kids presented us with gifts made from their heart of thankfulness for what we had done that week. At the beginning of the week, I didn’t expect to have the emotions that I felt by the end of it and I’m so glad that I did. God used this time to really change our hearts and want to serve people even more. We would love to head back to Nicaragua to see our friends again and continue this relationship that has only just begun.

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Postscript: It turns out Kyle had a bite or cut that turned into cellulitis — an infection of the skin and tissues that comes on very quickly and causes redness, heat, swelling and fever. Luckily, once we got back to the U.S., I promptly sent him to the doctor for antibiotics and it’s getting better by the day. :)

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