23 March 2017

Trust Fall

Every Saturday morning I lead devotions for the kids. We use "El Libro Devocional de Maravillas" ("Wonders Devotional Book") to guide us. It includes a Scripture, a short explanation about what the Scripture says, and why it is important to our lives.

In addition to the reading, I always try to have a little activity for the kids -- something to help them remember the devotion.

Last Saturday's devotion was about the importance of trusting God, so I decided we would do a "trust fall" as our activity.

We used to do this at camp every summer when I was growing up. We would have to stand on platforms of various heights and fall straight backwards into the arms of our friends and fellow campers. Terrifying.

As I was preparing for the activity on Friday night, 7-year-old Anita walked into the room. I asked her to turn around and fall into my arms. She did without any hesitation. Such trust! I was totally jealous.

On Saturday morning, Anita and I repeated this in front of the other kids, who all jumped up to test it out.

Randy and I took turns catching the kids.

Then I asked Anita if she not only trusted me, but really, really trusted me. She said yes. So I lifted her onto a table and told her to fall backwards into my arms. She did. Again without any hesitation. (I did put a bean bag chair underneath her... just in case!)

Soon all the kids were on the table, falling into our arms over and over again. They would have done it all day if our arms and backs would have held up!

The whole thing went without fail... almost. For some unknown reason, EVERY TIME skinny little 11-year-old Alondra took a turn, literally EVERY TIME she fell backwards, we dropped her. EVERY TIME! And someone even pulled the bean bag out from under her when she dropped from the table so she hit her head on the floor!

Randy and I felt horrible, and apologized together and individually later. She was more embarrassed than hurt, thankfully. Though embarrassment can hurt pretty badly!

In the end, it did serve as a good illustration. I explained to the kids that it is important for them to trust their mamas and papas and friends, but that none of us are perfect. We will all let each other down at some point, and we will all be let down. But God is perfect, and He will never let you down.

SPANISH LESSON: Trust = Confianza (cone-fee-on-sah)

21 March 2017


Mexicali is the nearest big city to us in Mexico. It is a 2-hour drive (the closest stoplight!), and it is where we pick up our monthly "dispensa" from DIF.

DIF (pronounced "Deef") is equivalent to Child Protective Services. They are the ones who bring us children, who work with parents to help them change their lifestyles so that the children can return to a safe and caring environment, who set our rules and regulations, and who check on us to make sure that we are abiding by them.

They are also in charge of giving us our monthly "dispensa." The dispensa is our monthly distribution of food. We only receive about $50 a year in financial support from the government for each child who lives with us. To compensate for that, they give us a generous allotment of food each month.

Randy and I picked up the dispensa for the first time last week. Our entire backseat was filled to the ceiling with beans, rice, pasta, lentils, dry milk, canned vegetables and tuna.

Obviously, because this food is ours at no cost, these are the staples that we eat every week.

(You can see why we occasionally splurge and order pizza!)

18 March 2017

Getting Back to Ordinary

I'm not very good at sharing.

That may be obvious to you, as my word of the year is "share" and I haven't even managed to write a blog a week.

For one, I'm busy and tired.

But more so, I think I'm overthinking the whole thing. Like I'm waiting for this Divine inspiration, this deep meaning to life, before I can put words to "paper."

It dawned on me, however, that I started this whole blogging thing four years ago to simply share daily life with you. And it felt more meaningful and purposeful then, in the ordinary, than it does now, waiting for the extraordinary.

So I'm going to try to go back to the daily and see if I can't be a better sharer.

Today I'll share a little story from Randy and my trip to California on Wednesday.

Wednesday is our "descansa" -- our rest day each week. Some Wednesdays we don't get off the couch. But that isn't always restful. We live at the children's home, so we still hear all the activity going on, we still talk about all that needs to get done, we still wave the children off as they go to school, and sometimes we even end up working.

But this week we needed to get away. Randy needed to go to T-Mobile to get a new cell phone (he lost all his contacts, so text him if you have his number!). Jovi needed dog food (we aren't impressed with the selection here in San Felipe). And I just needed a change of scenery.

We waited in line for what seemed like FOREVER to cross the border into the United States. The car temperature registered 111. And we were immediately grateful to almost NEVER have traffic problems in San Felipe. (The only time we do have a problem is when there is an event or race like the Baja 250 coming up in two weeks.)

We stopped at Burger King for lunch in El Centro. We don't have any "fast food" restaurants in San Felipe, so we always satisfy our "junk food" cravings when we cross the border.

Then as we drove from one store to the next, Randy stopped at a red light, looked both ways, and then proceeded to turn left.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Turning," he said.

"On red?" I asked.

"Oh," he said. "I guess I haven't seen a stoplight in a while."

I hadn't thought about it, but it's true. We are at least two hours away from the nearest stoplight.

Some days it feels like we will never acclimate to the differences here in San Felipe. But other moments, like running red lights in California, we are reminded that in many ways we have embraced this place as home.

09 March 2017

The Heavy Backpack

Most mornings our children have a time of devotions before they eat breakfast. They like to sing songs, followed by a time of Bible reading, and then ending in prayer.

Today Mama Imelda, our administrator, led devotions for the children. She titled the devotion: "The Heavy Backpack."

The Scripture she used was Salmos 55:22,
Echa sobre el SEÑOR tu carga, y El te sustentará; El nunca permitirá que el justo sea sacudido.
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. -Psalm 55:22
Mama Imelda explained that when we try to carry all of our burdens ourselves, each burden is like adding another book to your backpack.

The kids could relate to this because their backpacks are burdens! Any time I pick them up from school, one or more of them try to pawn their backpacks off on me to carry on our walk home. And I don't blame them! They weigh a ton!

She explained that when something hurts our feelings, we have the choice to put that in our backpack, or give it to the Lord. When someone won't play with us, we can put it in our backpack or give it to the Lord. When someone criticizes us because we are different, we can put it in our backpack or give it to the Lord. When someone corrects us for doing something wrong, we can put it in our backpack or give it to the Lord.

And just like a real backpack can weigh us down, our emotions and feelings -- guilt, pain, shame, frustration, anger, sadness -- can weigh us down if we don't release them.

Mama Imelda asked the kids how they could share their burdens with the Lord.

"Praying," Alondra answered immediately.

Mama Imelda agreed with her. "It's important to pray every day," Mama Imelda said, "to share with God what is weighing us down so that he can sustain us."

Mama Imelda also told the children that they could help ease the burdens of others by noticing when their "backpacks" are getting heavy. "If you see someone playing by themselves, or someone who gets picked on or left out, you can invite them to play with you and that will lighten their load. If you see someone who is different than you, you can remember that God created them that way and God's ways are perfect. If you see someone get disciplined for doing something wrong, laughing at them would add to their backpacks, but encouraging them to do better next time would help ease their burdens."

I don't know about you, but Randy and my backpacks have felt pretty full lately. I'm grateful for this reminder that we can offer these burdens to the Lord and that he will sustain us. I pray that you too will allow him to take those heavy backpacks off your shoulders so that you can live freely and lightly in company with him.

02 March 2017

Green Cards Really Are Green

This week we officially became card-carrying residents of Mexico.

We celebrated with street tacos and binge-watching "Santa Clarita Diet" on Netflix.

It was as anti-climactic as it sounds.

"I thought I'd be more excited," Randy said, when we sat in the car staring at our green cards.

Which really are green.

After 7 months of time, money, and paperwork, we were worn out.

Only to be told we'd have to start the process all over again every October.

More paperwork. More money. More waiting.

Randy and I are very clear that this is where God wants us to be at this point in our lives. But that doesn't mean it is all easy or all fun.

It's a lot of waiting.

It's a lot of paperwork.

It's a lot of doing things wrong first, so that we can be corrected and then told how to do them right.

It would be easier to just pack up and walk away.

But we are committed to the process.

For better and for worse.

Until God tells us otherwise.

16 February 2017

Your Entire Life Can Change In A Year

One year ago today Randy and I laid eyes on San Felipe for the very first time. It's hard to believe that so much has happened in only a year's time!

We knew in our hearts during that first visit that this was where we wanted to be, that this was where God was calling us, but a lot of other things had to fall into place first before we could make the move.

If you feel God calling you to make a change, if you know you can't keep going the way you are going, if you feel the urge to do something new or different, whether you are scared or happy or impatient about it, remember to trust the process. This could be the year that everything changes for you!

For 6 months after that first visit, Randy and I prayed and planned in our heads and waited and then jumped with both feet into this new adventure.

We've been living in San Felipe now for more than 3 months. It's been both harder and more wonderful than we could have imagined.

First of all, we feel incredibly useful here. They were in desperate need of an extra set of hands, and we've provided the directors with a much-needed break. We've learned how to do everything from supervise family visits, to taking the kids to the doctor, to organizing clothes for kids ages 2-16.

What we are still learning, however, is how to take care of ourselves and each other. When your job is to take care of everyone else, it can be hard to have anything left in the tank for your marriage. But we continue to remind each other that our marriage is worth fighting for. And that if we aren't taking care of ourselves, we won't be able to give our best to the children.

I think when I felt God's call to this ministry I assumed that I would already have all the skills that this job required. But he didn't give me "share" as my word of the year because I'm good at sharing. He gave me this word because I need to grow in this area. And he didn't call me to this ministry because it would feel easy. There is nothing easy about leaving your family, leaving your home, leaving your financial security. There is nothing easy about counseling a woman who wants to take care of her nephew because her sister is an addict but financially she can't figure out how to make it work. There is nothing easy about seeing cigarette burns on the wrists of a 3-year-old. But all of those hard places are helping me grow, and the more I grow the more I have to share with others.

Randy is much more natural at this than I am. He is a natural giver. When he sees a child struggling with homework, he is the first to sit down and help. When he sees a staff member struggling with a task, he offers a solution. When he sees that I need quality time with him, he takes me for a hike or whisks me away for a 24-hour getaway for my birthday. I learn from him more than anyone else and am forever grateful that God placed him in my life.

We continue to be humbled that God chose us for this work. That God saw in us the potential to pour into these children's lives in a way that would make a positive impact. We have no idea what the next year will look like, but I'm sure it will continue to be more beautiful and more difficult than we can imagine.

30 January 2017

A Day in the Life

What does a "typical" day at Sonshine Hacienda look like?

Even though no day is the same, we do have a pretty tight weekday schedule that we keep to, that looks like this:

6 a.m. - First pickup of the day: cook & 2 morning mamas

6:30 a.m. - Pablo, our maintenance man, arrives for the day

6:40 a.m. - Drive our 2 secondary (junior high) kids to school

7:15 a.m. - Breakfast

7:30 a.m. - Drive home our 2 night mamas

7:50 a.m. - Walk our 11 primary kids (first thru 6th grade) to school

9 a.m. - Drive our 5 kindergarteners (ages 3-5) to school

10:30 a.m. - Snack time for our 3 toddlers

12 p.m. - Pick up our kindergarten kids

12:15 p.m. - Lunch 

1 p.m. - Pick up 2 afternoon mamas

2:30 p.m. - Pablo heads home

2:45 p.m. - Drive home the cook & 2 morning mamas; pick up our junior high kids

3 p.m. - Walk to school & bring home our primary kids

4 p.m. - Afternoon snack & homework

5 p.m. - Showers & pajamas

6 p.m. - Dinner (by Chef Rand)

7:30 p.m. - Pick up our 2 night mamas

8:30 p.m. - Take home our 2 afternoon mamas

9 p.m. - Doors locked & security lights on for the night

We stick pretty tight to this schedule. It's just what happens in between those hours that is always a surprise! Whether it is crayons or play-doh, riding bikes or duck-duck-goose ("pato-pato-ganso"), a sick kid or a broken pipe, a surprise inspection or an emergency trip to the store to buy more salsa, we never know what the day will bring!