5am update

I woke up at 4am because of the time change. So what better to do than write a rambling blog post?

It’s hard to believe we’ve been back for over six months now! We are too busy enjoying life and rest and health and peace to blog about it, I guess. But I’ll try. I might ramble though, so forgive me.

We are doing very well.

Our HEALTH has immensely improved. The vitamins and rest and healthy food seem to be working. We are also pretty isolated since we moved an hour and a half away from “home”. We don’t see people often since all our friends and family live “so far away” {that’s what they all say, anyway… Argentina was farther! just sayin’} and we don’t know many people yet here – which helps us to not pick up a lot of things that are starting to go around with the change in the seasons.

Tony found a job driving for FedEx, and he really likes it. I really like that they are giving him lots of hours now that the Holiday Season is upon us. He needs to be out and about and busy. It has also helped me get back into a rhythm and schedule with the kids. We all needed the normalcy after the past two pretty chaotic years.

I’m back to homeschooling. We are doing a lot more than we ever have as far as what I am “making” them do. Some things were just impossible to do in Argentina, so we are doing those things now. It helps to be back in the land of “everything is available and accesible”. I feel so spoiled being able to actually buy what I need for them. AND it’s to easy get. And cheap.

I still find life in the First World shockingly priveleged and marvel that God allows us to live here. I thank Him daily and am in awe of this often.

But, as is my way, I am ready to bail on the homeschooling schedule by October. After three full months it begins to feel so restricting, like a drag and a chore. In Argentina we were homeschoolers. But we were also accidental unschoolers. Sickness and lack of the ability to have a schedule and mission trips and illness after illness made homeschooling as we knew it extremely difficult. So we unschooled a lot. I look back on all they did and learned am tempted to do it againt: unschool. Throw the schedule out the window and let them learn what they want. But I haven’t, although I’m still thinking about it….

Tony has to go back to Argentina in a few months. We don’t have a date yet, but go he must. Hopefully he will be able to sell the van and finally ship our boxes that are still stuck there. We have been making due and reaquiring all things needed for life – cooking stuff and clothes and bedding.

Tony talks on the phone to people in Argentina all the time, calling the boys home and our friends and people in the slums. The church we worked with is now wanting to plant a little church in the slums, right around the corner from the houses that all burned down and where Tony worked all the time. Our projector is currently being used in the mountains, now by native missionaries to reach the remote mountain people they work with. We hope some day people from there can come visit us here, reverse missions of a sort. I know Tony is looking forward to seeing everyone again. It was not in vain, not in the least.

Anyway, what else? Oh, we are not attending a church right now. We are taking a year off “church on Sundays,” something we decided to do before we left Argentina. We were fried and knew we needed to take a break. And we have. And it’s been the best thing we could have done – for our health and even our spiritual life. It is SO WONDERFUL to not be rushing everyone out the door on Sunday morning because “we’re going to be late for church!”. So nice to not be running around at all from one church social to another. Because that’s what it was for us for so many years. We never actually DID anything but sit around and talk about God anyway. So we stay home and talk about God. A lot less stressful. It’s so nice to search the Scriptures for ourselves to see what it is Jesus actually expects us to do with this life.

One thing God has revealed to me is how legalist I used to be. I used to be so judgmental, so Pharisaeical, judging myself, and others, by some nebulous and ever-changing set of rules to see where I and they were on the Christian scale of holiness and dedication.

Ick and ICK.

The Christian life is NOT a life of rules and religion, we have been set free from that. It’s a personal relationship we have with a Living God BY GRACE AND GRACE ALONE. A God whose Word is alive and whose Spirit is living within each believer! That’s exciting and liberating news.

It’s really about LOVE… isn’t it?

NOT religion.

Isn’t that the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself? Is it that simple?

Yes. Jesus Himself said so. Sometimes I feel like I’ve missed it. I’ve been missing it for so many years, busy running around and doing things for what? The only real good I think we’ve done in all these years is what we did in Argentina.

But we’re here now. So trying to figure out what doing good here looks like. For now it means putting our own house in order. Later, who knows?

Ok, 5am update/rant over. See, this is why I don’t blog much anymore – I can’t get my thoughts together. I hope this made sense.

I leave you with a story someone told us once:

One day a man was at home and there came a knock at the door. When the man opened the door he found a little girl who desperately exclaimed, “Mister, Mister! Please let me in! There is someone chasing me who wants to kill me!” The man, a Christian, said, “Certainly, little girl! Come in, quickly!”. He ushered her in and closed the door saying, “You are safe now, little girl, don’t worry.” Soon there came another knock on the door. The man opened the door and there stood a well-dressed, respectable looking man of authority, a policeman if you will. The man, who was actually the Devil in disguise, asked the Christian, “Have you seen a little girl?”

What does the Christian do? What is the RIGHT thing to do?

Does he answer truthfully? If so, he endangers the girl’s life. But then he can later say, “But I told THE TRUTH!” easing his conscience. Thou shalt not lie, afterall, he reasons. It’s one of the Ten Commandments!

Or does he lie? Thus, breaking the law, but saving the girl?

Which is right? To follow the law or TO LOVE?

napkins turned kitchen curtains

My “ministry” these days doesn’t involve much outside my own four walls. I’m quite busy taking care of myself (for once), my family, my home. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but after years of being outward-focused, it’s been a necessary one. I look back on my 30s and I was so overcommitted, exhausted, and probably should have had said “No” more often. Oh wells, you live and you learn. At least we did some fun stuff and hopefully some good along the way.

So, back to my curtains… Our house came mostly curtained, but I just couldn’t handle the 80′s mallard ducks hanging darkly in the kitchen. My kitchen in Argentina was black. It was depressing. I felt suicidal in there and needed some cheer. I hadn’t been able to find anything sufficiently cheery anywhere, but finally scored some cloth napkins in a bin on sale and made my own.

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I washed them, threw them in the drier to shrink them up, then stitched them together with a simple stitch my grandmother taught me.

See?

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A simple rod and some of those claspy ring thingies, and voila.

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They are so bright and airy, and yet block out the blazing, summer sun. I’m very happy with the results. They cheer me up everytime I look at them.

Health Update

One of the reasons we returned home early from the mission field was our health. We moved to Argentina planning to stay for five or ten years. We returned after only 18 months because, honestly, I just didn’t want to lose anyone. We had lost enough already. The price was very high. We never expected to lose our health like that. I had lived in Argentina before as a newlywed, and even though Dengue Fever made the news in Buenos Aires, we just weren’t sick like we were in Patagonia. I’m sure it had everything to do with the exploding volcanoes and the fact that we went into more unsanitary places than perhaps others. Yeah, we’re pretty sure it was. And the stress. Don’t forget the stress!

Health reasons is one of the top three reasons missionaries return (the other two being financial and family issues).

Most people don’t want to die or watch their kids die if it can be avoided. Never say “All for Christ” unless you really mean it. And even then, you will see if you do when the moment actually comes. My conviction after being so sick and seeing my family so sick was that it was time to go before I lost someone and lived to regret it. I don’t know if we will ever regain our health to what it was before, but I do hope and pray daily that we do. I am optimistic and in faith for it, but time will tell.

Regaining our health has been THE major focus of my life lately. Since returning, we’ve already had croup, bronchitis, sinusitis, a urinary tract infection, several trips to the ER, and the worst migraine I’ve had since last year. Our immune systems, I know, are shot. Although it’s been a hard thing to do, we have purposefully not run around visiting people and socializing, or even going to church, because it’s more important at the moment to rest and recover than anything else. I have to make it important. Pretty soon we hope to be up to start visiting; we do miss our friends and all the lovely people who supported us.

When we got back in April my blood pressure was high. Not 160/100 high like it was, but not good high. As the goodness, mellowness, order, and cleanliness of the States began to invade our beings with it’s wonderful calming and healing affects, my BP slowly started coming down. It took months, but it finally came down.

I was so, so, so thankful the other day when I saw this:
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It’s not always that good, and it used to be better, but it’s not a resting heart rate of 91 {in bed} like a year ago. I’ll take it. I am so very thankful to the Lord for helping me to get it down naturally. I pray I can keep it down am thrilled to have avoided having to go on meds at only 41.

This is how I brought my blood pressure down naturally. It worked for me, and may not work for everybody, but it was worth the try and the HARD work to keep off meds:

NO SALT
No ADDED salt, I should say. I don’t cook with it, but put it on the table for everyone else. Eggs without salt does start to taste good after a while, it does.
WATER
Lots of it
DAILY EXERCIZE

I walk 30 minutes a day, no big deal; but it has brought my HR down from the 80s to 65
REDUCE STRESS
still working on that one…let me know if you find the answer!
RAW APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
I mix a Tablespoon with my dad’s backyard honey in a glass of water, an acquired taste. They say it’s good, don’t know if it works, but it can’t hurt.
VITAMINS
I started taking a multi, 2000UI of D3, Cranberry, Echinacea and hope to add more soon.
A GLASS OF RED WINE A DAY
Although I don’t always do this one, I do confess to trying. :)
PROBIOTICS
As in, the opposite of Anti-biotics, which we’ve taken too many of these past two years. I just feed us organic yogurt and Kefir from the grocery store when I can. Helps to put all the good bacteria back in that the antibiotics kill.
VALERIAN
A calming herb, good for the nerves, helps induce sleep at night. I started taking this in pill form in Argentina and brought some back with me, but you can find it in any pharmacy or grocery store.
CHAMOMILE TEA
Same as valerian, good for the nerves and sleep.
DAILY SUN EXPOSURE
A mininum of 15 minutes of outdoor sun a day for Vitmain D production, which will help our immune systems. I get this walking, and sometimes the kids come with me. If not, I send them outside and sit there sunning myself. It’s funny how we have to make ourselves relax this day and age. I know I do.

I admit I’m a little nervous for the winter. Winter means very bad illnesses for us and I’m a bit traumatized by it. Tony has had bronchitis eight times in the last two years. I hear a cough now and cringe. I do hope the Littlest, at almost five, has now outgrown Croup. We’ll see soon, I guess.

I started the kids and Tony on the max recommended dosis of D3, Vitamin C, and Zinc. The Littles gets multis. I hope to begin making herbal remedies again very soon. They really do work and I do see a difference, so I hope to add Elderberry Syrup to our daily supplements soon. I’m still researching and asking around about what more I can add to our “get healthy” arsenal, so please tell me what you do, suggestions are welcome!

Garden Therapy

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{chamomile lovin’}

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I built my first raised bed this summer.

I went to Home Depot, had them cut my untreated lumber, hauled it home, and wacked those nails in myself. Our yard is sloped, so I had to make sure the bed was level. Then I filled it in with a mix of bagged soil, compost, and peat moss.

We have rabbits and deer and chipmunks and all sorts of critters, so I have to surround my garden with some sort of fencing. I found some stakes and chicken wire behind the shed. Easy peasy.

I missed planting time for tomatoes and cucumbers and such, so I begin my homesteading ventures with this one bed of salad greens and a few herbs.

We enjoyed fresh, organic salad for over a month. The collard greens got attacked by some bugs, not sure what. Only got one pie out of them. Now the chamomile is blooming and the mammoth dill is… mammoth. I’ll have to remember not to plant so much next year.

Next year I plan on adding two or three more raised beds, fruit trees, and arborvitae hedges! I also want to try Straw Bale Gardening and get my compost bin started before winter rolls around!

Fossil Making

117We started homeschooling again.

I know, I said I wasn’t going to do this anymore. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know how to do anything else. It’s also hard to fight it when your kids tell you that they’ve been praying every night for a YEAR, “God, please change my mom’s heart” and, “Oh please don’t let her send us to public school!”

What’s so bad about public school? I went, and look how great I turned out.

I’m sort of homeschooling the 4yo. I figure I better do something with her or she’ll kill me. We do dollar store workbooks: ABCs, 123s, color the little birdie blue, etc. I read to her (she makes me). When I’m feeling energetic, we craft.

Recently we made homemade fossils. I read about it here. The recipe is here.

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Now that the weather is cooling off, we plan on doing some fossil hunting. I hope we find some real ones!

Yarn Along

I said I would do it – learn to knit when we returned to the U.S. And I am. I’m real exciting these days.

This is how far I’ve gotten:

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The knit stitch, and I guess I managed the purl… but only with the help of YouTube.

I also just finished Jane Eyre , which I downloaded free on Kindle. I got the Kindle to take to Argentina thinking I would do all this reading to unplug and unwind from the craziness of the missions life late, late at night. Nope. I was usually just cleaning up from dinner or company at 11. We had to move back to the U.S. for me to find time to read again. I LOVED Jane Eyre. Top 5 All-Time Reads in my book, without a doubt. The heights and depths of the trials and triumphs of human life and love (and suffering and hate) so delectably written. Kept me up til 3am one night, I just couldn’t put it down! This may be this year’s Read-Aloud to the kiddlings.

Now I need to join the local library KnitWits group and have the old ladies show me how this knitting thing is really done.

Pictures :: 5 months later

I pulled out my camera for the first time since we have been back in the U.S. and was surprised to find these pictures.

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Packing. The only thing we actually brought back, though, was the cat. The rest of our boxes are still in Argentina. Customs didn’t allow us to ship them. We’ve had to start over from scratch. But I love thrift shopping, so it’s been alright.
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Tony took the boys from the boys’ home to his weekend job at the TV station.
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Mr. Kitty loves the U.S.

Therapy: Cooking

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[Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman -- because I haven't taken one single photo since we've been home.]

I’ve been doing all sorts of therapy since being back State-side.

Gardening Therapy, Reading Therapy, Learning-to-Knit Therapy, Walking Therapy, Cooking Therapy. And my favorite: Attacking the Overgrown Bramble Hedge with Shears and a Handsaw Therapy. They regretted their encounter. And, as you can see, these are all solitary therapies. It’s my way of working through things without having to talk about it.

COOKING THERAPY.

I’ve slowly regained my desire to cook. The lack of varied ingredients available to us in Patagonia sucked the life out of my kitchen. It was meat, pasta, white bread, and meat. As delicious as it was, it depressed me. I need green. Variety. Ethnicity, for the love of God!

So, I’ve been doing some Cooking Therapy. I hate to be a mean mommy, but no one’s allowed in my kitchen when my sessions are underway. Unless, of course, I’m feeling nice, and not PMS-ing. Some times of the month are better than others, you know. Aging sucks, what can I say?

I’ve been teaching myself how to knit. It’s really not that hard, try it.

Trying to live my life in 23 1/2 hours has been good, too. But more on those therapies later.

Here are some Cooking Therapy Recipes the knee-biters actually liked:

Chicken Florentine (above photo)
Sausage Swirls
Crockpot Coq au Vin*
Spinach and Bacon Quiche
Layered Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole
Four Season Burgundy Beef*
Gorilla Bread (beats regular monkey bread’s butt! Everybody asks for this recipe!)
Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes

*If alcohol is not your thing, don’t worry – it all cooks off and adds a complexity and depth nothing else can.

home

We’ve been back for four months now.

We made it safe and sound, although barely.

We drove two days from Patagonia to Buenos Aires to catch our flight in record breaking rain and flooding. The kids were talking about it today, how “cool” it was, although one admits being a little scared.

59 people died when it was all over. I’m still in awe we actually were able to make our flight and didn’t get caught in any deep water.

The kids still remember driving through the torrential rains outside of Buenos Aires and the whole landscape on either side of the raised road being totally covered with water, no land in sight. Thousands of frogs were croaking and hopping across the highway. I thought we were going to die. I knew it was bad when Tony, who grew up in BA said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.”

Since getting home we’ve been busy: recovering, getting settled in, doing some gardening therapy.

Much needed. It’s been good.

going home op-ed

While I fluctate between hyper-ventilating over all the packing and bureaucratic paperwork and being utterly bored out of my mind because there is nothing to do but pack, my mind has been racing with a myriad of things I wish my adult ADD would allow me to write down. So since I can’t get it together, here are about four or five posts all blobbed into one.

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We are leaving Argentina in four days! It feels good. The kids are happy and so am I. We miss our old life back in the States, and we can’t wait to be home.

We are leaving the mission field for the homeland. “Repatriating” someone recently said. I didn’t even know there was a word for it. We were here a year an a half [You can read from the beginning here.]. I consider this quite an accomplishment, not a failure, and I’m overall glad we have done all we’ve done. But the scales have tipped for us into the negative outweighing any good we are doing, so we have decided, for the health of our family, that we are leaving.

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I will be leaving South America after a total of almost five years living here: a year in Ecuador, a year in Brazil, and three total here in Argentina. I’m not an expert, I only know my own experience. So this is is my op-ed post on leaving the field.

[Translation: this is solely my experience, it is strictly my own opinion, and it is not open for editing. I am aware that many have had overall better experiences on the mission field, as well as better expatriate experiences here in Argentina. Mine has been a mixed bag. You could say South America and I have a love-hate relationship.]

I will not miss Argentina.

I will not miss the mission field.

It’s true.

Why? Missions has been crazy hard. My kids don’t like it here and never really adapted. We have never been sicker in our entire lives. I can’t imagine living here for the rest of my life. I just can’t. Black widows, flies that lay eggs on you, volcanic ash… not for the faint of heart. I can’t imagine doing this for even a few more years.

Other things have happened. We have seen a lot of ugly along this missions journey that has affected us deeply. Ugly poverty, ugly suffering, ugly in other people, ugly in us, ugly in other Christians, ugly even in the church. It’s been intense, and honestly, it makes me want to aspire only to a 1 Thessalonians 4:11 life,

“that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands”

And, by golly, that’s what I plan to do.

A strange thing also happened to me during this mission stint: I hit middle age. It’s hard to believe, but I’m on the other side of 40 and I swear I am going through some mid-life thing. Few seem to believe me, some even scoff, but I know I am. My mom started to experience peri-menopausal symptoms at 40, so it’s possible. Something strange is happening to me, one of which is this mysterious weight gain. I joke to Tony that I am now one of those fuller-figured middle age women (ha, for me, anyway) who now just wants to sit around and knit with her cat on her lap. This is weird – former world-traveler and adventurer that I used to be – but this is who I am now. Who went and changed me? I’m not sure. It’s very odd, but I am honestly looking forward to settling down (finally, Mom, I really mean it! God finally answered your prayers! lol), planting a garden, a small orchard, raising some chickens, and learning to knit.

Our plans for the future are to find a house, settle down, and do some homesteading therapy (okay, that last part is mine). So don’t come knocking for about a year, I’ll be canning or feeding my chickens. Processing, getting settled in, finding furniture, acquiring wheels, a job, recovering, tending to my family, pursuing quiet. We’ll be busy. Good, quiet life busy.

This may be my last post here on inpatagoniaargentina. I deleted Facebook six months ago (never regretted it) and will soon be a non-blogger. I am very much looking forward to going off-grid. Blogging takes an immense amount of time, and my kids are growing up. I have a teenager now. In five short years he may want to move out. It really does pass like the blink of an eye. I never would have believed it when they were in diapers and I was baggy-eyed and sleep deprived, but they do grow up fast. We need to take advantage of this time.

So what’s next now that we will be retiring from full-time overseas missions? (and yes I said ‘retiring’). What God has for us once we’re settled back in I do not know, but I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, it is good.

And I know many are wondering, and some have asked but, no, we will not be returning to the church we went to for ten years before moving here. I think we will be taking a break from organized church for a while – maybe visiting churches, maybe not. As Ann Voskamp says, “All’s grace.” I think I’ll be doing her 1000 Blessings thing… I need to regain an attitude of joy and thankfulness I used to have that all of our trials have made a dent in. Also, I’m pretty socialed out, and so are my kids; so socializing is something we will only be doing if we want to, not because we “have” to. Pursuing quiet is pretty high on my list. Having fun and hanging out with their friends is pretty high on my kids’ list. They need that. They are missioned-out. It’s been a lonely year and a half for them – pretty much an eternity in kid time.

We have received a lot of encouragement lately from people. Thank you. Some missionaries in Brazil recently wrote us a very encouraging email reminding us that we are not “leaving the mission field”. We are missionaries wherever we are. This is true. We are testimonies no matter what corner of the world we live in.

But our overseas missionary activity, at least in this capacity, is coming to a close. Perhaps in the future we will participate in  overseas missions in some way. Perhaps not. I don’t know, and I don’t feel the need to know either. We have ideas for the future – short term stuff - but that, if it ever happens, is far in the future. I can not see past the right now, and right now my conviction is that I need to focus inward, spend more time, if not all of it, on the testimony I am being to my own family. We are dealing with a lot of stuff, and we need to stop and regain our focus. I do believe that would please God.

Now that we have done this missions thing, I have to say I have the utmost respect for the long-termers. I don’t know how they do it. I just don’t. I couldn’t do this long-term. It must be a special call, a special grace, or maybe they are special personalities? I don’t know.

Someone recently shared a helpful analogy with us: The Church, like any Army, sends some to the frontlines. But those on the frontlines don’t stay on the frontlines forever. At some point they retreat because they are wounded, tired, spent (some dead), or they are called home. Others move forward to take their place. In war, roles and responsibilities shift. There is a time for fighting and a time for rest. You’re moved up, you’re moved down, your commanding officer moves you around. Those on the front lines move to the back, then perhaps later send supplies and support up front to those receiving the first darts in battle.

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There is a lot more I’d like to say, but we are losing internet here soon. I will say I think I lost several more years off my life this week in bureaucratic nightmare paperwork. We also dealt with a root canal, excrutiating toothaches, a migraine, AND as the movers were coming to collect our boxes we also had to paint the entire house. We had one friend come help us, but other than that we were on our own, so had to hire someone to help us. It was super stressful, but now the house is empty (and beautifully painted) except for our suitcases. God, as always, is, was, and will be our strength and help. He gets us through.

It’s Saturday morning and the movers just drove off with what’s left of all our wordly possessions. I sit here on a small Coleman lunch cooler as my chair remembering what a young man who offered to help us paint the house this week said to us, “Please, I can’t accept money from you. If I do I will have received my reward here on earth from men. I prefer to have my reward in heaven – it is much greater!

:)