12.25.2008

think it over...weirdo...

There are some traditions that follow you wherever you go. As I survey the Christmas carnage in our living room, I'm reminded of this. Scraps of white tissue paper and bits of green tree litter the floor alongside a sprinkling of what could be considered the less-important Christmas booty. Dollar store goodies, magic tricks, keychains, and an already mangled slinky lay strewn across the area rug next to crumpled empty stockings and about a million candy wrappers.  This could be our Christmas in the states.  (This could actually be our Christmas from 2 years ago, since - due to the house having been robbed in Sept - it is almost a complete do over.) But, looking around, watching the boys marvel over a few new things with grins plastered across their faces, takes me back to a simpler time.  The time when cheap stocking stuffers didn't have to travel 3,000 miles buried next to Grammas socks and undies, when I could buy 100 sheets of tissue paper for a $1.99 instead of buying it sheet by sheet for 10 cents a piece, and when giving a gift didn't require twenty six hours of online shopping and 7-10 days delivery.  It's true that there are aspects of life here that are simpler, quieter, more old-fashioned.  But I'm talking about knowing how to get stuff done, like, where to shop, how to get a good deal and then get it wrapped and under the tree by midnight on the 25th.  As different as making this mornings Christmas revelry happen may have been in comparison to previous years, I feel like the result has been pretty much the same.  The kids are happy, feeling very loved and spoiled by their family from across the globe.  The mess is as big as ever.  And Steve and I are filled with the quiet satisfaction that comes from bringing joy to our kids and giving all the credit to the big guy in red.  I love it.  I love sitting here in the middle of the room as they go about the cheerful business of sorting pokemon cards and reading through instruction manuals, and excitedly searching the whole house for "just one more AA battery".  It's like for just this moment in time, we're not weird.  We're just celebrating Christmas like always.  Awesome.

I love the Christmas story as written in Luke.  It is a great telling of the most beautiful event in the history of the world.  God in the form of a baby, with us, living breathing flesh among us, to bring peace and hope to the world.  Incredible.  But there is one line, toward the end of the story, that always tugs at me.  And the truth is, it has little to do with story itself. See Luke tells this whole epic story including Angels, and Kings, Wise men and shepherds, and a miraculous infant.  And in the end he writes:

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

I love that.  Here is his young woman, called upon by God to carry the child that would change the world.  She's newly married to a guy that should have left her and could have had her stoned, and suddenly finds herself far from home in a totally new land.  And, Oh Yeah, all this was revealed by an Angel.  Yeah, that's not odd at all. I just can't help, as I imagine her receiving visits from Magi and gifts of gold and myrrh, and as poor shepherds came in from the fields to lay eyes on her baby son, to think that she must have had one of those "I can't believe this is my life!" moments.  The truth is, people must have thought that she was crazy.  They must have doubted the explanation for her unexpected pregnancy. ( I know.  I tried to tell my parents that Stephen was an Immaculate Conception. But they didn't believe me either.)  And the people must have wondered about Joseph, too.  I mean, what kind of guy takes on the small town floozy for a wife?  The truth is it's weird.  The whole thing is just not normal.  Ya know?  I can imagine the way they were stared at as they left town to head to Bethlehem.  "There goes poor Joseph and his crazy-religious-fanatic-tramp for a wife."  
Nothing was normal or easy for them.  Giving birth in a stable is not cool.  But in the end, Mary was a new Mom like any other.  She took it all in, and held on to it to think over again and again.  Every mother on the face of the planet can relate to this.  And I've always identified with this verse because of that.  But this year...I can ultra relate.  Because now I'm the weirdo.  I'm the one far from home, believing whole heartedly that I've been called by God.  I'm the one that everybody stares at -not because I'm a knocked-up 17 year old, although I've been there - but because I look different and sound different and do things sooooo differently.  I'm the one shaking my head and muttering in amazement "This is really my life". 

I want to be a person that thinks back from where I'm at and treasures up all these things and ponders them in my heart.  I love this Christmas morning because it is just such a time.  It feels so normal that it's giving me a chance to think back on all the weirdness that we currently call life.  To take it all in and appreciate it, to remember that we are so blessed to have been called into this super weird existence, and to hope that in some teeny tiny way the world will be different because we were willing to be the goofy missionaries.  

Tonight, we're going into town for a Christmas dinner of pizza.  Different, I know.  But this Christmas warrants exactly that kind of break from tradition.  But now, I better get on with another homage to Christmas around the world - the post-presents clean up hour. 






12.12.2008

A Very Merry Unchristmas to you!

It's nearly Christmas.  At least that's what the calendar says.  I've been to two Christmas parties which, of course, I only do at Christmas time.  I've baked cookies, shopped online, and hung the stockings. So here's the thing: It just doesn't feel like Christmas.  

I have certain expectations for this time of year, and they are simply not being met.  My Christmasy feelings usually start at 5am on Black Friday and fill me with a hurried sense of celebration that remains until the last of the ornaments are wrapped in tissue paper and boxed for next year.  It includes chilly mornings and icy breath, socks and sweaters and Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks!  It means a million little gatherings with tiny presents and gooey brownies and quiches and dips and every kind of cracker under the sun, and at least a couple of big Parties with prime rib and cheesecake and wine.  It's always crazy and busy and I always complain about how all that crap has nothing to do with Christmas and why am I running around like an overdressed, boozey, shopaholic, overeater, hopped up on caffeine and candy canes year after year after year.  But, I'll tell you, the annual Christmas madness, it seems, has become a bit of a tradition for me.  And now I miss it.   

As we get further into the dry Summer months, I hear more and more Ticos commenting on how it feels like Christmas.  It always catches me off guard as I look around this sea of green coffee fields and banana trees bending under gusts of wind and sprouting new leaves in the sunshine.  Its surreal to me that it's even December.  I think my heart is stuck in a perpetual state of springtime here, longing for a change of season that will never come.  Tank tops and flip flops don't exactly conjure up the snow flakey sparkly day dreams of a winter wonderland.  

Fortunately I did learn something from all those years of being preoccupied by parties and overstimulated by sale prices and charmed by paper, ribbons, and gift ties.  In the end, none of it matters.  Not one bit.  Because only one thing matters and my economy, my clothing, and my time zone play no role in it. 

Decorate or don't.  Hot weather or cold.  Great gifts at great prices or none.  It really doesn't matter.  In the end, the celebration of a Savior doesn't hinge on wether or not I feel ready.  It is done.  Christ is born.  

Merry Christmas...




12.03.2008

The children are plotting...please help.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving, celebrated on Friday evening with our Intern, Lindsey, and one of our teammates Susan.  Being that Costa Ricans don't celebrate this holiday, all three of the boys had school all week which didn't exactly help it to feel like Thanksgiving, although the weather has been rather cool (like 76, haha - chilly for us) and very windy, giving it a kind of "autumn-ish" feel.  Interestingly enough, we are actually entering the warmer, dryer summer months right now.  In fact, Dylan and Jamison are enjoying their first week of summer break as I write this. Yes, you heard right.  They will be home from November 30th until mid February.  With me.  All day.  Sadly, Stephen is on a traditional north american schedule, so he will have about 3 weeks for Christmas and New Years, and then it's back to school for him until June.  

You realize what this means don't you?  It means that I will never sleep in again.  I will be up at 5:30 making breakfast and packing lunches and scrambling to find matching socks and shouting "have you brushed your teeth yet?" for the rest of my life.  No summer break for Mom - that's what it means!  

It blows, but I think I'll live.  I'm far more worried right now about how I will be entertaining the two younger boys for the next 10 weeks.  They are already plotting against me....I just know it.  And if I don't think of something soon it's unlikely that I will survive this weird excessively long December/January summer break.  Its already been two days and I'm out of ideas. Yesterday I thought I came up with a very cool idea that would be fun and kill loads of time.  I called the boys downstairs and offered them this challenge: juggle a soccer ball 50 time consecutively - earn $10.  I thought this was great because it's something that they would have to practice at every day, it gets them outside (or at least into the garage) and it's good exercise.  And - major bonus - they could earn a little dough.  I thought they'd be stoked.  And Dylan was.  That kid practically flew up the stairs, returning in seconds with his pumas and a ball.  As he was tying his shoes he was making a list of the things he would by with the $10 he was sure he could earn by the end of the day.  Jamison wasn't quite as enthusiastic.  He sat down and cried.  He does this thing, this half crying half whining thing when he's upset.  It drives me nuts.  And, it makes his voice go up and down from high pitched whines to really low cries of despair.  

"MOOOOOmmm, I could nEEEVVEEEErrr juggle a ball 50 times!!!  It's not faaaiiiiiirrrr.  Even when I trrryyyyyy I can't do it!"  

And this went on for about 4 minutes which is exactly as long as it took Dylan to realize that this proposition wasn't going to be as easy as he had planned.  So he gave up and came inside. My great idea managed to burn a total of 10 minutes of the 2 1/2 month break.  What am I gonna do???  Any help would be appreciated!  I need some ideas people!!!

Thank God we'll be having visitors this month - Steve's parents the week before Christmas, and my brother and his girlfriend for 2 weeks over New Years.  These visits will be the highlight of our year and they couldn't come at a better time!  Not only will it be super fun to have family around, but they give us an awesome excuse to do some of the things we love while the kids are out of school.  We can hardly wait!  

Okay, better get moving.  It's like 8:07am and they are already starting to pace.  I think today I'll offer them a new challenge:  Anyone who can make it through the entire day without doing that whiney crying thing gets to live...