Monday, December 5, 2011

I thought it'd be fun to share a blog post from a fellow friend, language school student and missionary from Montana. I thing this fairly sums up how many "simple things" can be not-so-simple here. Enjoy, and it may be a good idea to take note of his advice toward the end, you decide.

Scott take it away:

"I spent over an hour at the post office in Zapote, Costa Rica simply trying to get two care packages that were mailed. Here is a fine example of how things are done in Costa Rica. It went like this:

1. Walk to the post office with my friend Joe who is fluent in Spanish.
2. Show passport to the guard who stamped my papers that said I had a package waiting.
3. Wait in line #3 until it was my turn. Give the slip to the guy; show passport again; sit down and wait for line #1
4. Wait for 20 minutes for my name to be called, talked with a German who spoke broken English.
5. Name is called, go to line #1, sign two papers and write down my passport number.
6. The boxes were then opened and looked through. Food was found and a glorious bag of Starbucks French roast coffee (2.5 lbs)
7. This was not acceptable because of the new rule that food is not allowed in the country without special paperwork. They have been nabbing people for smuggling chocolate into the country lately, you know, because it is so dangerous.
8. Man tells us that we are to go to downtown San Jose and explain our situation and get a permission slip.
9. This isn't going to happen with us so Joe elegantly talks with the guys and tells them our story, not quite sobbing but it got the point across.
10. Guy at line #1 calls his boss over. Joe gives the same story. They fell bad and decide that the rules can slide this time. After all, we are not smuggling bombs into the country, only candy and coffee.
11. Our boxes are taken away and we fill out more paper work.
12. Go to the bank in the post office with a slip of paper we were given and by 7 cents for something.
13. Bring it back to line #1. Guy gives us more paper work for line #2.
14. Go to line #2 and pay 3 dollars.
15. Wait for my name to be called again for line #1.
16. Name is called. Go to line #1 and fill out more paper work and show passport.
17. Finally given our 2 boxes after 1 1/2 hours.

Now that is efficiency. So for all our friends in the States, think about this the next time you complain about waiting in line at the post office.

I have no idea why these packages got stopped and others did not but for future care packages, we were told that when filling out the customs slip, don't put specific foods. Just put something more vague. This whole process, however, was so worth the great care packages. Thank you so much."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:At a Glance

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Which I Write About 'Being a Missionary'

I've got a hunch.

I may, just may, be one of the strangest missionaries out there.

We're a strange group anyway, us missionaries, right? I suppose you've gotta be some sort of crazy to up and move your family into the great unknown.

But crazy's good. Just ask Francis Chan, he says so. His book "Crazy Love" reads on pages 114 and 115, "Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy."

Crazy? I've got that one nailed!

Who else, as a MISSIONARY, pronounces just the right words in just the wrong way so as to unfailingly sound utterly profane? And this hasn't happened just once, my friends, but over and over and over again in the first trimester of language school. Who else, as a MISSIONARY cannot contain her giggles when she tries to pronounce lago Titicaca in fonetica class? And who else in that very same day, in the very next class, being a MISSIONARY and all, resorts to answering her teacher with el trabajador de caca upon not recalling the Spanish name for a sanitation worker? In my defense who would ever recall the title 'el empleado de servicious de la higiene publica'?

So my hunch? It's fair to say I may be right on the mark. I can do crazy. And I can do strange.

I only pray that God's cracking up right alongside my classmates and teachers because, really, this craziness is all for Him and His glory!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Good Ol' Dose of Keepin' it Real

A pre-field photo, for old-times' sake

Let me begin by asking you to bear with me. Please hear my heart behind the words that are to follow, and know that this post is simply intended to be a means for you to get a glimpse into the current reality of my life here in Costa Rica.

The literal meaning behind the two words Costa Rica (Rich Coast) conjours images of tropical lushness, extensive beaches, and luxurious foods that tantalize the palate. Lest I negate the truth, Costa Rica does offer those very facets. And while we have taken the occasional weekend (for R&R) that allows us to indulge in those facets, our daily life is not centered around them.

Being called to something beyond what I ever expected is, in and of itself, an incredible blessing. I can certainly relate to King David when he said in 1 Chronicles 29:14: "But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you?" Paradoxically, I find myself in the middle of what I'll call hard. Now, I know that hard does not equal wrong. I also know that hard does not equal bad. Hard does, however tempt me to throw in the towel and head "home". And I do know, as well, that hard is real; hard is not easy; and hard does bring stress.

In pre-field training we were given a stress inventory entitled "The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale". On that scale, there are a number of events listed that have been identified as stressors. For each stressor the test-taker can list the number of times each event has been experienced in the past 12 months and multiply that number by the stress value assigned to the stressor. Once totaled, the sum of those stressors provides a number that assesses your current stress level. In training we were told that the average missionary falls between 600-900 points. Having just completed the assessment, I have found my stress level to be at 937. Severe stress is identified as having a point value of 300 or more. Hard, indeed!

I am not asking you to feel sorry for me. I am not asking you to understand. I am simply sharing the current reality of the life to which we've been called. Being in the middle of hard, is...well...hard. This endeavor is no vacation BUT it is good!

Ants in the Sugar Bowl
by Elizabeth Givens

"So send I you
To ants in the sugar bowl,
To things that fly, creep and crawl into the house,
To uncertain water, sporadic electricity.
To long hours, sweltering heat, exhausting days,
To uncomfortable vehicles, crowded jeeps, smelly buses.
To noisy, early mornings,
To rice, rice and more rice.
To poverty you didn't believe existed,
To masses of people like you have never seen,
To know and work with people who have never known comfort,
So send I you, and I expect you to adjust.

So send I you
To people who will give to you from their poverty,
To friends who will embarrass you with their generosity,
To pastors who will entertain you from their lack, with beauty,
To hungry, receptive, questioning people who want to know God,
To study, to teach, to learn from your study and teaching,
To prove your own motives, values and beliefs,
To learn about yourself and the culture that has reared you,
To know God and to understand more deeply dependence upon Him,
So send I you.

Are you going? I'll go with you all the way."

Yes, I find myself in the middle of hard. And hard is just where I'm supposed to be!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

When the day looks like this:

And this:

Then you can nearly bank on the fact that this is coming (Turn up your speaker volume so you can hear the rumbling thunder!):

YouTube Video

An when that occurs and it's rainy season in Costa Rica, landslides abound!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The View From Here

Serious multitasking is going on in this casa! Ever tried studying for a big Spanish grammar test while baking and frosting cupcakes?

Let's pray there's scientific evidence out there that proves that baking increases retention of Spanish. Sounds good in theory, right. *ahem*

For those inquiring minds, these cupcakes sound dynamite! Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes (yes, there's homemade cookie hidden dough hidden inside each cupcake), topped with cream cheese frosting. And they are awaiting the addition of a small chocolate chip cookie as a topper.

I used the following recipe and will let you know what popular opinion says after our "Sweet Meet and Greet" for our language schools' current students and teachers:

Oh and I guess I'd better plan on letting you know of test results as well. A woman's got to have priorities! Pray for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hollywood or San Jose?

I owe the title of this post to my sister-in-law, Ellen. Sista' is workin' it, even in a developing country!

Loud colors? Check.
Fiery red nails? Check.
Cool shades? Check.
Brothers sighing at her diva-ness. Check, indeed!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The View From Here

This could be any street, in any major city, in any country around the world but it's not. This street is our daily walk home from school, in the country to which God has called our family.

This path we're walking could be over any river, in any state, in any forest around the world but it's not. This path is the one we have chosen to walk, in the country to which God has called our family.

This flag could be the one we're most accustomed to, the one to which we pledged allegiance, daily, in our home country but it's not. This is the flag of the country to which we've been called, and it's the Costa Rican flag.

So much about our life right now is not what we are accustomed to or what we would call home. So much of it is new, uncomfortable, daunting, unexpected, rewarding, challenging, and perspective-altering all at once.

This is Costa Rica. And this is to where God has called. We welcome all He has for us!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Full, full, and full

Life as of late has been very full. Full of...

Evidence of a very dirty new-to-us ironing board:

Remarkable before...

...and after photos:

Rainy day play:

First day of 5th grade:

First day of 3rd grade:

First day of 1st grade:

Followed by the first day of 2nd grade due to a promotion:

Fist day of language school for Dad and Mom:

New and exciting produce:

And a 10th birthday celebrated in Costa Rica.

Mostly though, our hearts are full: full of thanksgiving for this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Costa Rica, here we come

As we fly to San Jose, Costa Rica I wanted to take the time to update this neglected blog of mine one last time before touching down in our new culture. Isn't technology amazing...blogging from the air.

As soon as we have Internet up and running in our new home I plan full well to do a blog update that brings justice to my last few weeks' absence.

Know that all five of us are well and oh so excited to enter another period of transition. That and excited to finally have a place to lay our heads after a month long period of "homelessness"!

See ya on the flip-side!

Monday, August 1, 2011

You know you're going to be missionaries in Latin America when...

Cute, studious photo from many, many years ago. receive your childrens' school calendar for the year and ask yourself the following: Does an "assembly and parade at 6:00 in the gym" mean 6:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m.?

And after further examination of the calendar you note that every early dismissal occurs at 12:08, 12:08 folks!

Costa Rica, here we come!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Suffice it to say that preparing to move your family out of country is no small thing! Our to-do list seems endless and the time too short before we depart for Costa Rica. The beauty, though, is that neither of those statements is true because we serve a big God who is:
"able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us..." (Eph. 3:20)

Stay tuned, things are getting exciting. Till next time know that we are, in fact, alive and well and that blogging has simply taken a bit of a back seat for the time being!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summertime Learning

Just what kind of a mom am I anyway? Some might argue that putting summertime and learning together could be qualified as some sort of cruel and unusual punishment. Really though, we find that not only does it work well for our family, but it's fun.

I've had many people ask what our summer looks like, and besides the fun activities such as hiking, swimming, bike-riding, and summer camps, we're also endeavoring to learn. Here's what our learning looks like on a daily basis:

I've bought each of the three kids a workbook, from which they complete one page a day:

Upon completion and correction of the questions they answered incorrectly, they receive a tally mark for each page. After 20 tally marks they have the opportunity to choose a prize from the prize bin. What do prizes consist of? Gift certificates for the toy store or ice cream store (of small value), cool pens, and toys that I normally wouldn't purchase (again, of small value).

Next, I've bought each of the kids their own notebook:

Each notebook is divided into three sections. 1) Reading, 2) Memory Verses and 3)Words:

Under the reading tab, I've printed a grade level-appropriate list from which the kids can choose books at the library, and then do a short summary after they've read each book (this one is from Garrett's book, 5th grade reading level):

The next tab is the memory verse area. On Monday of each week, I assign all three kids the same memory verse. During the week they work on memorization and understanding of the meaning of the verse. Friday is quiz day! Upon successful memorization of the verse of the week, each kid receives an extra tally mark toward their 20 tally mark goal. The following is from Brody's notebook:

Finally, we've got the word tab. In this area of the notebook I either assign words or let the kids choose their own, in order to expand their vocabulary. We've found that the zanier the word, the more fun it is to learn. For each word the kids look up the selection in the dictionary, copy the definition, and then use the word in a sentence. This is a page from Ashlyn's notebook (she just completed kindergarten). You'll note the words "fissure" and "noble" and you'll also see that I helped Ashlyn with the copying of the definition of fissure:

Finally, I'm always looking for teachable moments that make "schooling" applicable to life. For instance just this morning we were taking a close look at the beautiful lilies adorning our dining room table:

One of the kids noticed a drop of fluid on the pistil. After just a few guesses on what it could be, they came to the conclusion that it was nectar, the very same fluid that bees turn into honey. Honey? That realization led to the curiosity to taste the nectar, which was sweet but not as much so as honey. And there you have it, a plant biology and physiology mini-lesson during the summer!

And just what do the kids think of this summertime learning? Enjoy the following quotes from each kiddo regarding their opinions:
GARRETT: "Fun and cool."
BRODY: "It's kind of not fun."
ASHLYN: "It's really fun because we get to do work."
And one lesson you can learn from this whole post? Males are creatures of few words!

Lesson over and class dismissed!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated...

Brody's 1st Birthday:

And then his 2nd:

How can it be that my middle baby just turned eight?

Happy birthday, dear sweet son of mine!

"You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. "
- Psalm 39:5

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I've Gotta Hunch

"Mom, Mom, we brought you flowers," came the two little voices in unison. With the back door ajar, there stood Ashlyn and Brody with a fistful of gifts for their Momma. Their faces beamed as they proudly offered their gift of love to me, their small hands offering up a token of adoration.

"Thank you," I said, smiling, as they anxiously watched to see what I'd do with their gift. What's a mom to do with flowers? Why, put them in a vase of course. And it just so happened there was a small vase of fresh flowers already adorning my dining room table. Adding them directly to the center of my existing arrangement, I thanked the kids again and off they ran to play.

I looked down at the new additions to my arrangement and had a hard time seeing them for what they really were.


And then it hit me, this could well be the way my God, the object of my adoration, sees my relationship with Him as His child. His original creation is beautiful, as is my original floral arrangement. And then, just as my kids came along and offered their best sacrifice, I, too, come along offering the best I can. It's obvious that one is flowers and the other weeds, but the heart from which the weeds came is one of best intentions and true love.

Weeds? Indeed.

Beautiful? In the eyes of the beholder.

And I love them anyway.
And He loves me anyway.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No Need

I've got no need for the rain, rain to go away! I spent the morning doing exactly what a drizzly day calls for - making bread from scratch.

Start to finish, picturing bread making:

The bowl that needs mixing, a.k.a the job that is an arm exercise in and of itself.

Kneaded dough a.k.a another exercise, arms and shoulders this time.

Risen dough.

Dough balls ready for the pans.

Second rise completed.

The end.

Actually, that's not the end. The end occurred once I'd devoured a warm, buttered and honeyed piece of fresh bread. All that exercise left me famished.

And now, that's all she wrote.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stew So Good You May Just Cry

This, my friends is comfort food at it's finest! And being that just last night we got another six inches of snow, here in the place that could be known as the springtime arctic, comfort food is still eliciting it's siren call.

Red Wine Beef Stew with Potatoes and Green Beans

I found this recipe on the Food Network website, where once again Dave Lieberman has worked his culinary genius. Want the recipe? Go here:

Mmm! The red wine, the beef broth (use beef, not chicken. Trust me!), and the rosemary combine to add a depth of flavor like none other. Not to mention the wonderful deglazing that occurs once you add the wine and broth. Heavenly I tell ya, heavenly! Add a chunk of crusty buttered-bread and a crisp green salad and you'll swear off overpriced restaurant meals for good. Oh but wait, dining out = no dishes to be done. I digress...

Now, if you don't find yourself crying tears of joy after your first bite, don't go blaming me. The truth may be that my tears aren't those of joy, but tears of sorrow over the fact that we're still needing comfort food in what should be spring.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The way to my daughter's heart

I've just learned that the way to Ashlyn's heart is through the baby bunting I've been promising to sew for her baby doll for the last six months. I'm now proud to announce that the bunting is, indeed, finished! Never mind that winter is over too!

* Sewing skills credited to the teaching of my talented seamstress-of-a-mother as well as my years in 4-H back in the day.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Why "OH"? Because, oh, when you taste this you'll thank yourself for making it. Or maybe because your friends will, oh so profusely, thank you for the gift of granola and beg you for the recipe.

Beg no more my friends, you're in for a treat!


8 C. rolled oats
1 1/2 C. wheat germ
1 1/2 C. oat bran
1 C. chopped almonds
1 C. chopped pecans
1 C. chopped walnuts
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. maple syrup
3/4 C. honey
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. unsweetened apple sauce
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. vanilla extract
2 C. dried fruit of your choice (I like a mix of raisins, cranberries, and cherries)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

2. In a big ol' honkin' bowl combine the first 6 ingredients. Next, in a saucepan, stir together the remaining ingredients, only omitting the dried fruit. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then pour evenly over the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir thoroughly so as to coat evenly. Spread the mixture equally between the two baking sheets.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring at the ten minute mark. After the granola is cool, stir in the dried fruit and store in Ziplocs or an airtight container.

Really? This granola is so, so good! I like it as a snack (dry), in yogurt with fresh berries added (think parfait), in a bowl with milk and fresh banana, or even stirred into pancake batter to make granola pancakes. The possibilities are endless! And this travels well. My granola has now seen Costa Rica!

And can I share with you my favorite little secret about this here granola? It has all the taste of a full fat granola with half the fat! That's right, among the modifications I've made over the years, it's been to cut the oil amount in half. That applesauce? It's a fat replacer and you'll never miss the real thing.

So go enjoy yourself some granola, just remember to thank me later!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jigity Jig

Just a short little update to say that we're baaaaaaaack!

I'm feeling ready to dig back into things, and that includes digging into some delicious dishes. Be on the lookout for yummy food photos and the accompanying recipes.

Till then, love well and fully! :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Volcano Poas

What an amazing day! While we did have an important meeting today, the morning was dedicated to a fun excursion and what fun it was, indeed!!

Today's (Wednesday's) agenda looked like the following:
* Breakfast at a breathtakingly beautiful cafe with views that stretched all the way to the Pacific.
* Touring Volcano Poas with an EMI staff couple.
* Meeting/interview with the America Latina director.
* Dinner with the same couple whom we toured the volcano.

And since I've been asked for photos containing Zack and I, there will be a few! Enjoy:

The temperature at the base of the mountainous climb to Volcano Poas.
The temp at the top. The blur reads 57 degrees. Temperature change?!?
A view of the area where the lava flow had occurred.
Volcano Poas. Yes, it's active but hasn't erupted since, I believe, 1957. It's gotta be due to blow soon, huh?
Us , as proof that we were there.
One more view of the volcano itself.
On the walk to the volcano viewing area we encountered incredibly gargantuan leaves. We took a photo with EMI staff member, Josh, as a scale reference.
A view of the counter at which we ate breakfast.
A typical Tico (Costa Rican) breakfast: caramelized plantain, eggs, rice and black bean blend, a tomato relish of sorts that I asked for on the side (that was delicious), and a small corn tortilla with a wedge of cheese. I really do LOVE the simple yet tasty way Ticos eat!
Our view at breakfast. Keep in mind that this is at the end of the dry season, which is the hottest time of year. It's still so green. Imagine the fauna during the rainy season!
The obligatory self-portrait as we started our day.

Tomorrow, on our final day here, I'll (Jennie) head to Hogar de Vida (the orphanage EMI partners with) for a morning of hanging out and caring for kids while Zack spends time in the office. Lunch will be at Hogar de Vida, and then we have our final Q&A and Cafesito with staff. During that time we'll have coffee at a staff member's house while everyone has an opportunity to ask us any final questions they have and vice versa. Lastly, we'll have dinner at one more staff couple's home.

Zack and I find ourselves so thankful for this trip and look forward to seeing how God leads. We love, love, love all of you at home!