Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad 2015

Merry Christmas to all our Family and Friends!

My heart is full and overflowing with contentment this Christmas season. As I mentioned in a Facebook post, this is both my and Rob’s first Christmas ever away from our families. I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to it and it seemed that the kids weren’t looking forward to it either since they wouldn’t tell me what they wanted for Christmas. In past years, that has always been an easy question and some of them would have a list that took up a full page. Not this year, every time I asked, they would have a blank stare or just plain ignore me. Finally, one of the kids said, “Well, we really don’t NEED anything so why don’t you just tell our grandparents to make a donation to the Children’s Ranch or something.” What? Wow! Huh. Every once in a while, your kids just melt your heart.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to give a gift to a friend of ours who has been helping us build at the ranch for the last year. We wrapped it up in typical Christmas wrapping paper with a bow so that looked pretty and presented it to him. It was a small package about the size and shape of a book. When he saw the gift that we were presenting to him, he teared up. He said that he has never received a Christmas gift in 43 years. (He is 43 years old). He then said that Christmas is when they get their clothes that they need for next year and that is all. They aren’t wrapped. So, even though the gift was something as small as a book, he knew it couldn’t possibly be clothes or something ‘practical.’ I had always heard that it is better to give than to receive but this moment really made me realize the true joy in giving. It was a very impactful moments for our whole family.

Two of our neighbors came over this week and dropped off tamales. This is what everyone here eats for Christmas, it is a very special meal that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. We were honored to be included in this tradition and we enjoyed eating the tamales today for our Christmas dinner, since we had the ‘American ham dinner’ on Christmas Eve. They were delicious.

Jonathan enjoying the tamale at our 'casual attire' Christmas dinner
These gifts of tamales prompted us to give away the cinnamon swirl bread (that we made for French toast Christmas morning) as a gift to our neighbors. It was fun to wrap them up in shiny tin foil and tie them with ribbons. The neighbors seemed happy to receive these gifts as well.

It is a tradition in my Norwegian family to open all of our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve after our evening dinner. Well, as soon as the kids woke up, our youngest asked, “Are we opening presents now?”
I replied with, “No sweetie, we open gifts after dinner so not until it gets dark.”
About an hour later she asks, “How much longer until we open gifts.”
Again, “not until it gets dark.” A while later she asks what time does it get dark? And finally when she started to ask how much longer until it gets dark I lost it and told her, “If you talk about opening presents one more time today, we will not open them at all! Let’s enjoy our company while they are here!” Grrrr.  We were not looking forward to a Christmas alone so we invited a couple in our ministry to share Christmas with us. They came over for the day on Christmas Eve and we had the ham dinner with them. It was so much fun to play games and share some time with our ‘new’ family here in Costa Rica.
After our friends left and I announced that it was time to exchange gifts, my sweet little baby said, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see everyone open the gifts that I got for them.” Stab me with a dagger right in the heart. So that’s why she couldn’t wait for us to open gifts.

As I read back over these different experiences that we have had in the last week, GIVING seems to be the theme for our family this 2015 Christmas. We don’t consider ourselves anyone special.  We are just a regular American family who happens to be living in another country as our way of serving God.  We always have food and clean water.  We have a clean, safe, comfortable place to live.  We often bicker and argue like everyone else.  In spite of us, God is working in our hearts to give us a perspective that we probably would not have found back home. Knowing that is what fills my heart this Christmas season. 

Thank you God for giving us the greatest gift of all. Jesus. I now have a glimpse of the joy you must feel whenever a person humbly and gratefully accepts that gift. I love you. Amen.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pictures at the Living Waters Children's Ranch

Here are a bunch of pictures that represent our past year.  God has been very good.

Baptisms in the river are awesome!

The garage.

Happy 19th!

Doing nails is serious business.
We love when young people come down so our kids can make friends.
Jonathan playing with friends  in Verbena
Mara and Jonathan working hard for lolly pop money.
The cone of shame.
Fun day at La Paz waterfalls (no waterfalls were harmed in the taking of this picture)
Our new greenhouse.
Abby and Jonathan enjoying the river.
Typical Costa Rican clothing.
The first large family house is under construction.
Jonathan got the perfect can from one of his sisters.
Snorkeling fun in Panama.
Sisters having fun at starfish beach.
Hola amigo.
The first step to making chocolate.

Crushing the cocoa beans.
Grinding the cocoa beans.

Jonathan doing the final mashing with a rock.

Tasting the final product.
Elise holding Mauricio's grand daughter.

Amazing moon rise.
Abby and Jonathan teaching Miriam a new game.
Halloween fun.
Abby just might follow in Aunt Katie's footsteps.