Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"It Doesn't Sting"

Today we celebrated life.
Not just earthly life which so quickly fades, but the hope and reality of eternal life.

Today was all about celebrating the life of Ben's daddy.
(Ben is my brother in law, though I'm not a fan of the in-law connotation, he's really my big brother).

Mack went upgraded to his eternal home last Friday and today we honored him by honoring the Savior.

Life passing brings up so many thoughts and wonderings and emotions. Many tears were shed today, but also many laughs were had as well.

Here's some of my thoughts on today, what was seen and questions floating around in my brain.

* How do you say see ya' later well?

* How does a wife to a man of so many years say so long?

* There is so much beauty in the hope of heaven.

* Why is it so often we never say the things we really think and feel to those we love most? Ben and his family had time to say farewell. Most never have that opportunity. I feel eulogies shouldn't be shared just at a funeral, but throughout life.

* The body of Christ can be so beautiful. People came from all over to love on the family today. Friends drove many hours to come for just a couple and then turned right around and headed home (literally like 9-10 hours). Why? Because they love and they care. Beautiful.

* Highlight - watching Ben sitting on stage during the prelude and mouthing the words to "Because He Lives" being played on the piano. "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives." Tears.

* Listening to the girls and Ben give tribute to their daddy. Ben gave the main message and honored his father beautifully. The Lord sustained him and gave him words to speak and a message of hope to share about the peace of salvation through Jesus.

* Ben shared about discussions he had with his daddy about going home to heaven. Mack's reply was, "It doesn't sting."

1 Corinthians 15:55 - "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"


Monday, July 29, 2013

Fruit, fruit, fruit!!!!!

The title makes me think of a baseball organ tune played to get the crowd involved. Unfortunately blogging doesn't let you hear my brain, so I'm not sure you will get it! Ha!

Since moving back to the states, I have become obsessed. With fruit. It's true. I can't help it. Especially with it being summer, there is fruit EVERYWHERE and it is crazy affordable!!!!

So the other day I came home after grocery shopping and this is what I discovered...

No, I didn't purchase this all on the same day, but this is the collection currently in the house. Out of control!

Grapefruit, nectarines, blueberries, cherries, clementines, and watermelon - gotta love summer in the states!

Strawberries and raspberries weren't super on sale this week, otherwise those would have appeared in the collection.

However, I have not purchased piña nor bananas nor maracuya. Not that the piña or bananas are expensive, but I can't bring myself to do it. I passed a display of bananas the other day and did a triple take - I thought they were plantains!!! As green as the watermelon in the photo. Ugh! I can't do it.

I guess it could be worse, right? Hmmm...all of a sudden I have a craving for some sandia.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

You're Never Too Old...

To play with a toy table.

I watched these three teens at the VW waiting area last week play with this toy table. They wound up the cranes, drove the trains around, moved the little figures, and just played.

Sometimes, you just need to play with some toys. One more reason I can't wait for Charlie Belle to get a kitchen set (Hannah and I have already been scoping them out!!!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday's Friends - Cilla

* Disclaimer - to be completely honest, I'm not in the mood to blog about friends. Not because I don't love them, but I don't want to feel. How's that for honesty? I'd rather blog about Luke and Abby's bathroom (can't wait to do that one) or about the salon I saw this morning and took a photo of while sitting at a red light. People keep asking about adjusting and really, it hasn't been as rough as I thought. BUT I keep saying, "I'm waiting for it to hit." The hammer is getting closer to falling.
In spite of all this, I will still continue the Friday's Friends, not because I'm being legalistic and HAVE to (which I don't), but as a reminder to be thankful.

This is Cilla.
Cilla and I at Disney World (pardon the rain drop on the lens)

Gonna be honest, I'm not sure if this is how you spell her name. I probably gringa-ized it. (But it can't be spelled Silla, because then she would be a chair and I'm hopeful that no parent would name their child chair). 
She is one of the nannies for the family I tutored for the past two years. 

We spoke often, albeit, often times misunderstanding one another. I struggled in understanding her Spanish a lot of the time and would get so frustrated with myself. She was incredibly patient. 

While I was in Florida with the family, we spent a lot of time chatting in the mornings while the family was sleeping. She showed me how she makes empanadas and we talked about her family in Colombia. Cilla often asked me about my love life and why I wasn't married. Hilarious trying to explain in Spanish! 

One of my sweetest memories was this past spring, several different days for a few weeks, baby Caleb was in my office during the time I would tutor. When Cilla figured this out, she would come over to my office and take baby in the other room to play with him and love on him while I tutored. The twins would hang out with her. They all loved having a baby to hang out with and love on! My tutoring buddy was disappointed because he loved having Caleb watch him do his homework. 
For weeks after that, Cilla would come to my office asking where the baby was. 

When we said goodbye in Florida, Cilla became teary and was so kind as we said farewell. It is in those instances, I was hit with the reality that she is one person I truly may not see again. I don't know what her relationship is with the Lord. I do think it is completely possible she loves Jesus based on some conversations we had. Lord willing, we will meet up again in heaven. 

I'm thankful for the times Cilla and I were able to chat, though it was often difficult. It was a unique friendship, birthed out of a "job" and gave way to a sweet time to learn from one another. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Boxcars, Days Gone By, and Days to Come

Sunday afternoon, I went out exploring. There is a trail literally outside of where I am living that leads to the trail around White Rock Lake.

It was lovely. Lots of trees, nicely paved, signs, and on a Sunday afternoon in Dallas in July, blazing hot.

Not far along the path, there is a side that has a train track running next to it. There were some railway cars on the tracks and I saw a red one in the line.

On the way back by, I went around the fence and walked up to take a photo. (Yes, I went around the fence and felt incredibly rebellious. However, there wasn't a sign telling you not to go up. So I didn't feel that disobedient!)

As soon as I saw it, it brought back many memories from my kidhood. 

Do any of you remember reading the Boxcar Children books????? Remember, the orphan children who find the abandoned boxcar and make it there home until their long-lost rich grandpa rescues them? There are over 100 books in the series. My logical, sequential side always wanted to read all of them in order, but when you check them out of the library, you read whatever is available in the moment. Hannah and I would constantly check them out and read them. Good memories. 

The first book in the series was always my favorite. It appealed to my sense of adventure, survival, eating wild berries, and taking a little space and making it a home. Sort of that Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island kind of adventure and thrill. 

No, I didn't go peer inside, though it did cross my mind. No, I've never lived in a boxcar (though I did teach in a shipping container for 3 years and that is as close as I've gotten). BUT it reminded me of the way the Alden children made the boxcar their home. They had a little vase with flowers and found what they could to make do and make it cozy. Moving into a new place where someone is already living is something I haven't done in 6 years. Yes, I've switched apartments, but have either moved in with someone at the same time or been the one receiving a new occupant. It's different showing up and having a room to unpack and make feel like home. 

Regardless of where the location is, there is a comfort in having a place to rest and come to at night. There is a familiarity in having a few things that are familiar to make it seem personal. 
And it's a reminder that ultimately all of this is incredibly temporal. One day, all of this will be left behind - the cozy snuggle blanket, the pretty clock from sister, the beautiful bowl from North Africa, the photos, etc. One day, the eternal home will be opened up. No more goodbyes or transitions, but lots of hellos and reunions. And lots of worship. 

So I'm thankful not to live in a boxcar. But I'm more thankful for what's to come. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Does Your Peace of Mind Cost?

I can answer that question. It costs a few hundred dollars for me.

Yesterday I spent the majority of my day getting my car looked at and fixed.
You see, the passenger doors on the car were not staying locked. One I had finagled with (yes, I do wish I were more mechanical) and I was able to lock it (it can't unlock from the outside, but I can open it from the inside). The back one was not locking - at all!

Let's just say that every time Abby was waking up in the night, she was peering out the window to make sure the car was still there. AND the other night when she heard a horn honking (you know, the alarm sound), she would race over to the window to make sure it wasn't hers.

Needless to say, it was time to get it checked out.
Yes, it was confirmed, both door latches needed replacing. Bad news - door latches are crazy expensive.
Abby makes executive decision - only fix the back one since the front one is locked and she can finagle it again if need be. (Plus, the thought of spending $1000 on door locks nearly put her in a state of shock! Yes, I am writing in the third person. It happens).

Commence waiting another hour and a half for the repair. Thankful for the Kindle app. Also, thankful for a sweet brother who called early on to give me his advice. Love that kid.

The time comes to pay the bill (again still in slight shock).
Go to the cashier to pay. Side note: I love paying in cash. I have now cut down to only owning one card and it's a debit card. The end.
My card won't go through. We try repeatedly. Add to the fun. I do not have several hundred dollars worth of cash with me to pay the bill. Add more - the bank I used it closed because it is on Eastern time and is a small bank. Call the number I do have. It's the fraud department and they can't help me because the card isn't stolen (thankful for that).

So I stand there. (AND I'm totally chill, calm, no inner-I-think-I'm-going-to-puke feeling going on. I think part of it was because I knew I could communicate).
I will admit, I did have some Spencer come out in me while on the phone with the bank. I was polite, but did push back somewhat. Yes, I was a wee bit feisty!

I ask the cashier and the service person helping me - what should I do? I have the cash at home, but I'm not sure you want to let me go and get it. I'll leave everything I own with me here as a deposit (including a really nice purse/bag a friend gave me with the tag still on it).
The guy says, "I've never done this before. Um...I guess you can go get it."
They close in 90 minutes from the time I leave.

Make it back. Pay the bill. Brought the cashier and the homeboy helping me mini snickers as a thank you for their kindness. The cashier said, "He was sweating!"

Now, when I hit the keyless entry, all the doors are now locked and the horn honks reminding me all doors are secured. And that peace of mind only cost...a whole lot.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday's Friends - MJ/Ms. Jules/Marilyn Sue

Where do I begin?

Ms. Jules was one of the very first people I met at the school when I first arrived in Panama. She was THE K4 teacher and everything I heard about her filled me with fear and trembling because of her amazingness!!! I was going to get those students from and those parents and the expectations would be unattainable because she set the bar so high. She became my go to for so many things as I figured out how to be a kindergarten teacher. Ms. Jules offered so much insight, ideas, wisdom, background, and knowledge. I would have been completely lost without her.

Ms. Jules has one of those infectious laughs and beautiful smiles that you can't help but fall in love with as you talk and know her. We have laughed, cried, shouted, been filled with righteous indignation, fought some battles, walked through some valleys, and so much - together.

Some of my favorite memories of her are hearing her K4 voice talking to students in the hallway or to some of her Spanish students. I can't describe it, but it is the Ms. Jules-cutie-voice-to-her-students sound. Another is having elementary devotions and her sharing prayer requests or a song. (Remember those times, MJ???)

In 2009, we went to the Dominican Republic and there she was given a new name (it's a hobby of mine - OH NO!!!! I'm LIKE THE POST MAN FROM YESTERDAY!!!!!!!)
Ms. Jules became MJ. Her other name is Marilyn Sue because she would call down the hallways - ABBY LOOOOO! And I would reply MARILYN SUE! (Neither is our real name, but we taught side by side early education - we LOVE rhyming words).

I loved the opportunity we had to travel to Ecuador together for a conference.
And go visit the equator (both of them) and just be together.

 Marilyn has a sweet heart for the Lord and listens to the Holy Spirit. She was always a person that I could go and chat with whenever something came up.

Last year at the despedida when I was leaving CCA, Marilyn gave my farewell talk. She jokingly brought up the fact that the plan had been that we would always leave together and now I was leaving and she was staying (even though I would be in the same building, just not working at the school).

This past year, we still saw each other in the hall, chatted, shouted out our rhyming names at one another, and MJ kept sharing with me ways to pray.

At the end of this school year, it happened. We were both leaving together. Amazing. I never would have thought that would have happened. In different ways, the Lord had both of us learning the same lesson - will you trust me to take you where you don't know and just be obedient?

So I headed to the states and so did she. A few weeks ago, I received a note from dear MJ. She shared that God had provided a new job for her in Florida. Yes, obedience is so sweet.

I'm so thankful for Ms. Jules/MJ/Marilyn Sue. Thankful for those times we shared - the ones that broke our hearts and the ones in which we rejoiced.

You are a dear sister. Can't wait to see when the Lord allows us to meet up again!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

USPS and Name Suggestions

Had another "First" experience today. Though it was a "first in my life" type of experience.

I was sent to the post office to pick up mail for the office.
By the way, the weather in Dallas has been GORGEOUS this week!!!!!
I was FREEZING Sunday and Monday. The high was no more than mid 70's. Y'all that is UNHEARD of for mid July in Dallas. I had forgotten that when you look at the window and it's raining and cloudy that sometimes it actually mean it's cold outside.

Back to the story.
I get the mail and there is a notice for a package! Instantly, I was flung back to my childhood (yes, even adulthood) when we would get that special notice in the mail and be filled with anticipation of a package! I had that same moment, even though I knew it was for work.

This meant going into the actual post office services area and standing in line and such.
I get up to the counter, package is retrieved, and I have to sign for it.
So I sign my name.

The man looks at it and says to me, "You don't look like an Abigail or an Abby."

I stand there, uncertain of what to say. Should I say, "Thank you?" or make a joke or make something up like, "Well, it's not my real name. You caught me. It's really Mavis Wavis Shavis" (or some equally rhyming name, just because it would be funny). Or what if I had told him I was a spy and couldn't reveal my real name so that is my signing name only?
Side note - Mavis is my secret name when Hannah and I go shopping. Long story.

He proceeds, "You look more like a Terri or maybe a Liz."

Now I am completely flabbergasted and this is what I say (CHERYL - why can't I think of witty things on the spot?????) "Well, I have this name my whole life!" And I walk out.

The end.

What have people told you they think your name should be?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Firsts in a New Place - Dallas

Moving to a new/old place is kind of strange. Dallas is SO familiar because I spent nearly 15 years of my life here (minus four in college, but it's still home base then), but at the same it is SO strange because I've not lived here or had this as home base in 8 years.

AND starting over somewhere brings with it a lot of firsts, especially transitioning back to a different country.

So here are some firsts:

* Today was my first time to go to church alone in a LONG time and not know anyone there. I went to The Village Church is Dallas and was so blessed by the time there. I met one person. No, I can't remember her name (fail).

* First time I've bought flowers for myself when starting a new job. (There were more than 3, but I spread them throughout the house to spread the beauty!)

* Last night was my first night to sleep alone in a new apartment. Yes, I kept waking up hearing things. So I bought a fan today to help with that. Living for years in the tropics, I always slept with a fan on for coolness and the sound, so this should help.

* Yesterday was my first time to invite someone to come with me to a church I've never been to before.

* First time to live in an apartment with a working dishwasher!!!!!! Love this! 929 had a dishwasher, but it wasn't operating when I lived there. 650 had one that was original to the place and definitely did NOT work.

* First time making sweet tea and having no neighbors to share it with. Sad. I did send them a message inviting them over for some sweet tea. Too bad Denver is not a short drive to Dallas.

* It was my first time unpacking in a new place and not crying. Maybe I'm growing up! :)

* First time in a LONG time going to church where all hymns were sung and it was BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

* First time going to Trader Joes and not buying 10 canisters of chai tea. (I would always stock up on this to take back to Panama. Avery inherited much of this tea and now she may have to import it!:)

* Tomorrow will be the first time since college that I've had a non-teaching position.

* First time grocery shopping in a year where I didn't plan meals with my roommates or neighbors. I miss that a lot. It was so much fun planning meals with each other, sharing cooking responsibilities and having "family" to eat with every night. I miss that a lot.

It's been a good beginning of firsts. I'm sure there are many more in store. Thankful. Blessed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday's Friends - A Special Family

I'm posting these sweet people now since we were able to get together last week.

I met Pilar when they moved to Panama and their oldest daughter was going to be in my classroom. Then their son needed tutoring, so I started going to their house three-four days a week to hang out and do some tutoring. Those times often turned into having dinner together or talking.

Pilar joined Bible study, so we were able to stay connected that way since I didn't have constant interaction with the kiddos anymore when tutoring finished.

Sweet girl and I reconnecting! I can't believe how much she has grown up!!!! Seems like just yesterday, she was in my fourth grade class. Tear.

Last fall right before they were moving, I took Spanish classes twice a week with Pilar's mom, Leonor, who was staying with them from Ecuador for several months. That was a special time of doing not just language study, but talking about our lives, laughing, trying to understand one another, and enjoying our class time.

So when I went to visit them, it was a bonus that Leonor was visiting and we could reconnect.

While I was in the DC area, Pilar and I found a way to be able to meet up before they are relocated to India. We talked about the next time we meet could be in India, which would be awesome!

This was at Pilar's farewell in Panama. We knew we'd meet up again sometime and the Lord made a way! 

They are a precious family with whom I share many sweet memories. It was such a delight to spend some time with them, catch up on life, practice Spanish (for me), and get some sweet hugs.

Thankful for these sweet reunion and for this precious family full of friends.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Out of Context

Ok, so I have this thing for finding signs and misinterpreting them or questioning what it is supposed to mean.

Road signs are fascinating because things differ amongst cultures and countries. Interpretation of these signs can be based on one's experiences, knowledge, and so many other things. I have seen signs in the states recently that I think could be very easily misinterpreted without prior knowledge. (Cheryl and I had a whole conversation about this on our drive from Lynchburg to Baltimore. Now I have to go and find some of those signs again).

So while settling into Dallas, we are staying in a hotel.

Y'all, I have got to show you this notice...

Do you recognize this appliance? It's a freezer. (I'm sure many of you are thinking, um...what does this have to do with anything? Don't worry, we are getting there). 

Now look at the magnet attached to this. I took a close up. 

Do you see how this could be easily misinterpreted? 
Ok, granted, I was that kid who had a pet that we raised, fed with a bottle, and then it became dinner. Hey, I was a farm kid. 

But this isn't what one would expect to see on a freezer door. 

Yes, I know, it's probably supposed to go on the outside door of the hotel room, but this is far more entertaining. 

Maybe it's just me who thinks of these things. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Packing For the Next Adventure

When you live internationally, you become somewhat of a packing expert. One quickly becomes familiar and knows the "feel" of 50lbs of luggage. Typically when leaving the country one is living in, the luggage weight is greatly diminished. BUT returning back, the battle with luggage can become an all-out war!

Last night was again one of those packing it up nights! Today I leave Virginia with the padres to begin a new adventure in Dallas, with a new ministry. It's been one of the LEAST stressful pack-ups. One reason is because I keep thinking, "Oh I can get that there." It's so different.

This luggage scale has become one of our FAVORITE packing tools!!!! It has saved us from unpacking and repacking at the airport multiple times. 

Every suitcase needs some amazing Ahava lotion from Israel, a basket from Panama, a sifter from Grandma, Mary Kay, and my favorite Grendha shoes from Brazil. This is before the cowboy boots went in - hey, I am moving to Texas!!! Must have! 

This was in my suitcase, but when I put something else on top of it, the timer started going off. Not a good idea. I don't want the suitcase to get destroyed or for the airport to be shut down because of Catch Phrase. It will go in the carry on.

So, the bags are packed, boarding passes printed (that doesn't happen internationally!!!!), and the next step is here. What a whirlwind the past six months have been.

Let's see what is coming next...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday's Friends - Sara

This is fun - reflecting on the sweet treasures of friendships the Lord has brought into my life.

Highlight of the week - Sara.

Sara and I met almost two years ago when I started tutoring the three munchkins.

One thing I prayed for was that the Lord would give me courage to make an effort to get to know the ladies who worked in this home. First, to know each of their names and second, to do the best I could to hear their stories and love them like Jesus.

Sara was at the house every time I came. The first year I worked for this family, I tutored in their home four days a week and this past year one day in the home and three in my office. Sara was really the only one of the three ladies who called me by name - Abigail. Loved that!

Some weeks, I would show up and the kiddos wouldn't be there and we would sit and talk while I waited. She is from Panama, near Penonome. She misses her family and her nieces and nephews. Sara's role is to cook for the family and do housework.

One of my favorite memories with Sara, well, I have two.
1. I ran into her once at Pricesmart (Panama's Costco). Ok, not literally ran into her, but I saw her and got so excited. I started calling her name louder and louder. She didn't hear me (well, she didn't think the person was calling her). Finally, I went over to her and touched her should to greet her. Scared her! I felt bad, but then we laughed about it!

2. I showed up about six weeks ago and she was home alone. While I was in the sunroom waiting, I went to go give her back the plate and glass she had served me on and I stayed in the kitchen with her. I know it always made her a little uncomfortable (and I totally felt like I was breaking cultural rules), but I started asking her cooking questions. She answered all of them and explained how to make lentils (that was my big question).

I'm thankful for the honor and privilege to have known Sara, even in a small way. She became such a sweet highlight of my week and I will miss my conversations with her and her incredible kindness and patience with my Spanish.