The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 14

Week 14 is about honoring your body. Read the challenge here.

I’m coming to realize something about myself. I’m really not that great at self-care. I’m especially not good at taking care of my body. Regular exercise, getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water, even flossing are all things I struggle to incorporate into my life. That probably sounds funny coming from a thin person — but just the fact that someone doesn’t have a weight problem doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. In fact, I would venture a guess that sometimes thin people are some of the most unhealthy people — because they don’t have to eat right and exercise regularly in order to maintain their thin physique.

Over the past month, I have been taking steps to change that. I purchased The Ultimate Homemaking E-Book Bundle when it went on sale at the end of April, and my purchase included a 2-month free membership to Fit 2 B Studio, a sort of online health club with tons of workout videos that you can do in the comfort of your own home. I decided I wanted to start small with maybe some ab workouts to try to flatten out my “belly pooch” that has been there since after Ben was born. So, I started poking around the website and trying out some of the videos, and I discovered that I have something called diastasis (a separation of the abdominal muscles, very common after pregnancy) that can’t be fixed with crunches, sit-ups, and other traditional ab exercises. I’ve been doing some of the exercises on the Fit 2 B website for almost a month now, and I am very pleased with the results I’m seeing — and I haven’t had to do a single sit-up! I also set up our Wii Fit so I could use that for exercise as well.

For this challenge, I am supposed to write a list of 5 things that I will do to help me honor my body. Obviously, exercise is one (my goal is 3-4 times per week for now). The others are — to drink more water, start taking my vitamins again, go to bed by 11:00 (need to revisit the sleep challenge), and limit myself to one soda per week.

The picture I chose to use for this challenge was taken during our anniversary get-away to the Black Sheep Inn. We went on an invigorating hike and ate our picnic lunch at the top of a ridge with amazing views of a peaceful valley. My legs were burning when we got back to our cabin, but it felt so good to be so physically tired. Later that afternoon, we soaked our sore muscles in the hot tub, and I even painted my toenails (something I rarely do). I need to be better at making time to pamper myself occasionally — even if it’s just a bubble bath or a pedicure or a haircut (desperately need one of those!).photo(1)I am more than my body, it’s true. But I also inhabit this body for now, and hopefully for many years to come, and I need to make sure that I honor it by taking care of it to the best of my ability.

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 11

Week 11 is about savoring. Read the challenge here.

Savoring the moment is something I try to be fairly intentional about. I am well aware that my life is but a series of fleeting moments that will never come again. My children are growing up before my eyes. Just the other day, Ben decided to give up the bottle; in a few months, it will be time to pack away the cloth diapers and start potty training. The “baby years” may well be behind me soon, and so I have been trying to savor the moments that remain. If I were to be perfectly honest here, I would say that I sometimes feel that our transient life these past seven years robbed me of true enjoyment of my kids’ early years. I mean, it’s hard to “savor the moment” when you’re packing boxes, cleaning, and taking care of the myriad of logistical details that moving around the world requires.

Savoring helps me more fully enjoy and be present in the moment as I’m living it… but it also helps me cement the moment in my memory. It’s a lot like a mental picture of the moment, except it employs all the senses, not just sight.

Two weekends ago, we took some friends who were visiting to Mindo for the day. And what a lovely, enjoyable day it was. There were so many moments to savor throughout the day… the view of the gorgeous countryside out the car window… watching colorful hummingbirds at their feeders just inches away from where I stood and marveling at their delicate beauty and thrumming wings… the taste of a rich, chocolatey brownie and the feel of a warm cup of coffee in my hands… the rush of wind in my face as the cable car raced out over the cloud forest.

But probably my favorite moment was the one that found me perched on a boulder beside a stream, listening to the sound it made as it rushed over its rocky bed, and holding my baby, who was content for once just to nestle into my arms. He is always on the move these days it seems, but for that one moment, he was still. And so was I.

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Hummingbirds

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La Tarabita

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The cloud forest

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Contentment

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 10

Week 10 is about getting outside. Read the post here.

Getting outside is not easy for me. I’ve always been more of an “indoor girl.” I’m not much of an athlete (not competitive or coordinated enough). I HATE running (probably has something to do with my terrible knees), although I do enjoy walking or a good hike. In general, though, I’m just more prone to being a homebody. My interests have always tended more towards things like books, music, and crafts.

And when I’m in a new place and all the adjustments just seem overwhelming, I really have to fight the urge to just hole up in my house, in the one place where I feel safe and like I have some semblance of control. I think I could easily become a recluse or a hermit, but I have an adventurous husband and 3 rambunctious little boys who force me out of my cocoon on a regular basis. Of course, it is easier, much easier, to stay at home with my brood, where they are contained, than it is to try to take the 3 of them somewhere by myself, but I know that boys need to run and jump and climb and play, and our tiny yard just isn’t big enough for them to do all those things. So I grit my teeth and get outside, and then later, I’m always glad that we did.

In the last couple of weeks, we have had several opportunities for adventures in the great outdoors. At the end of April, we had a field trip with our homeschool group. We drove out to the Cuicocha Lake, which is in a volcano crater, and had lunch in a restaurant on the crater rim.

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Cuicocha Lake

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The boys had such fun playing outside with this dog at the restaurant!

Afterwards, the plan was to go see the Cochasqui pyramids nearby, but we ran out of time, so we went to see some waterfalls (the cascadas de Peguche) instead. As it happened, just after we parked the cars and started walking up through the little market with local handicrafts for sale, we got caught in a huge downpour. We huddled under the eaves of one of the stalls for awhile, hoping the rain would let up, but when we eventually determined that it probably wouldn’t for awhile, we had to decide if we wanted to continue hiking to the falls and get thoroughly soaked on the way, or make a mad dash back to the car. Normally, I probably would have opted for the second choice, but I had this Stay Awake Challenge on the brain, so I thought, why not?

It ended up being one of the most exhilarating walks I’ve taken in awhile. The cobblestone path wound its way through the forest, fragrant with the smell of drenched earth and eucalyptus trees, alive with the drip-drop of the rain and the wind moving through the upper branches. The waterfall itself was beautiful in its misty power. When we got back to the car, we were wet completely through, but I felt alive and invigorated, kind of like I do after taking a cold shower.

At the Cascadas de Peguche

At the Cascadas de Peguche

I felt awake.

This is what getting outside can do for me. This is why I need to force myself to do it more often.

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 7

Week 7 is about noticing the details. Read the entire post here.

When I’m busy, feeling rushed or stressed, or just in a task-oriented mode, I often fail to notice the details. It’s amazing how slowing down just long enough to really see all the little things wakes you up to life and to wonder. And I think an awareness of the details is one of the primary characteristics of a creative person — artist, writer, photographer, musician, etc. So not only does noticing the details help me be more awake, it also helps me be more creative.

So here are a few observations (and photos) from the last couple of days, as I have tried to be more intentional about noticing the details.

IMG_55511) I’m finally starting to feel as if my house is finally starting to come together. It’s not like we have made any big improvements, and there is still a lot to do, but little by little, we are getting things done. And all the little details add up. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am beginning to reestablish some of the systems that keep my home organized and running smoothly, which isn’t really a visible thing. But hanging pictures on the walls is — and we’ve been doing a little of that here and there. Before he left for the jungle last Friday, my sweet husband helped me hang some pictures in our bedroom, and it’s amazing the difference that made!

IMG_55562) One of the things I like best about living in Ecuador is wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies, available year-round, and so affordable. Most of what you can buy in the States, you can find here, as well as many other fruits I had never heard of before I came here! These are the fruit bowls on my kitchen counter, piled high with fruit. Believe it or not, most of this will be gone by the end of the week. My kids love fresh fruit and eat it all the time.

3) Most days as a stay-at-home mom, I get to the end of the day and think, “What exactly did I DO all day?” Of course, I can list all of the things I do, but when there aren’t any visible, tangible results of your work, it’s easy to begin to feel like you’re wasting your time. This is especially true when you are simply playing with, interacting with, teaching, training, disciplining your kids. I mean, even housework and meal prep have visible, tangible results! On Monday, the boys asked me to build them a Brio train-track. So I did, and I tried to make it a cool one. (I am not nearly as good at this as Rusty, but I gave it my best shot.) It occurred to me later that this is actually a very visible and tangible example of how I spend my time with my kids, so I took a picture of the track after I was done as a way to remind myself — I am Mom, and this is what I do!

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Walking with Giants

Having been in Ecuador almost a year now, one thing I am starting to notice is the longevity of so many missionary families. 10 years or less in the country and you are pretty much still a “newby” by comparison. 15 years, and you’ve been here “awhile,” but not in a jaw-dropping way. 20 plus years, and you’re considered a veteran — but you’re not exactly an anomaly since there are quite a few veteran missionaries around!

Yesterday, I went to the homeschool mothers’ monthly planning meeting. I am one of the youngest moms in the group, with younger kids, just starting out in Ecuador, just starting out on our homeschool journey. Most of the other moms have large families, and years of parenting and missionary experience. As we were sitting around the table drinking tea and chatting, I stopped to silently marvel at the collective wisdom gathered there. How thankful I am to be able to learn from those who have walked this path before me!

Then, tonight, we had Neil and Ruth Wiebe over for dinner. The Wiebes worked as Wycliffe Bible Translators in Ecuador many years ago, translating the Bible into Chapalachi, the language of the Chachi Indians who live on the Cayapas River. They are back in Ecuador for a brief visit, and graciously agreed to have dinner with us so we could pepper them with all manner of questions. They are even going out to Kumanii with Rusty next weekend.

The Wiebes were in Ecuador for 38 years — 12 of them spent living in the jungle on the Cayapas River, and the remainder of the time in Quito. It is hard for me to even conceive of doing the same thing for 38 years. Let’s see, 38 years — it’s longer than I’ve been alive. In 38 years, I’ll be almost 75 years old. Anyway you slice it, it’s a long time. And it’s most definitely a long time to spend on the mission field!

I have the utmost respect for those who do the hard and often thankless work of translating the Scriptures into other languages. They come and they live among a people, often in a remote area. They struggle to learn a language that may not have a textbook, or someone who knows how to teach it, or even a written form. Then, they painstakingly translate the Scriptures, verse for verse, idea for idea, word for word, trying to stay faithful to the original text, trying to make it readable, trying to make the story of God accessible to those who have never had it before in their heart language. Neil was telling the story tonight of struggling with how to translate the word “priest,” because the Chapalachi word has so much religious and cultural baggage due to the heavy Catholic influence. Eventually, they decided to use a phrase describing what a priest does: “one who approaches God on behalf of the people” because they felt like that was a better representation of the idea of a priest, and one that would not immediately connote a Catholic priest.

It is so easy for us to take for granted the fact that we have ready access to God’s Word in multiple forms, in multiple versions. But there are still many people groups around the world who can’t read the life-giving words of the Bible for themselves because it has not yet been translated into their language. I’m thankful for people like the Wiebes, who have spent their lives working to change that — the New Testament, as well as Genesis and Exodus are now available in the Chapalachi language!

But there is still much work to be done. I don’t typically observe Lent in the traditional sense, but this year, I have been working my way through this 40-day e-book devotional called “Jesus Brings Freedom,” with a prayer focus on the Bibleless peoples of the world. Download your free copy here and partner in prayer with those who are working to make “God’s Word accessible to all people in the language of their heart” (Wycliffe’s vision statement).

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 2

Week Two is about starting where you are. Read the entire post here.

Where am I? Where am I right now? I have to be honest with myself in this post, and that is not always easy, but one of the things I wanted when I created this blog was a place where I could be real. And this? This is about as real as it gets.

start1As a mom of three young boys, it feels like the house is never tidy for more than five minutes. These two photos represent the constant clutter that comes with having small children at home — toys all over the floor, books piled on the couch (we had just finished school and I hadn’t put everything away yet). I feel like I am constantly stepping over or on start2toys, or fussing at the kids to pick them up and put them away. We have tried to make the downstairs a “no-toy” zone, so far, with little success. Every day, the toys migrate downstairs throughout the day, and when it comes time to pick them up just before bed, it’s always a huge battle.

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Confession: We have been in Quito since April of last year, living in our house since the end of May, and our container arrived in August, and still there are boxes sitting around waiting to be unpacked. We have hung up very few pictures and other decorations. There are still no curtains in Alex and Stephen’s bedroom. Three box springs that we don’t intend to use are just taking up space in the upstairs hallway until we figure out what to do with them (that’s what’s under the window in the photo). We could give them away, but who wants a box spring with no mattress? Most of our books are on shelves, but in desperate need of organization. I have a several-month backlog of expense reports to do that has been hanging over me like a dark cloud for several weeks now. I love being organized, and right now I am far from it, and that is exceedingly frustrating.

And then there’s our bedroom, the bane of my entire existence right now. I feel stressed every time I walk in here because it is such a disorganized mess. Boxes piled on one wall, clothes that need to be put away, clutter, clutter everywhere. It pains me greatly to share these pictures (start6below), but in the interest of keeping it real… At least today, I had actually made our bed. I don’t always do even that anymore (sorry, Mom, I know yostart5u taught me better).

 

 

 

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This next picture is probably my favorite of the bunch — cloth diapers hanging to dry in the afternoon sun. It represents the fact that I have a baby at home right now, a sweet, cuddly baby who is quickly growing up and becoming a little boy. Ah, but for a few months yet, he is a baby, and those cloth diapers flapping in the wind remind me of that.

As hard as it was for me to share some of those photos, it’s harder still to talk about where I am emotionally and spiritually. I know (in my head) that my life is blessed and I have much to be thankful for, but I feel (in my heart) dried up inside a lot of the time. People are quick to suggest culture shock / stress, but I’ve moved overseas and forged a new life in a foreign country before and this feels — different. It feels more like depression (yes, I’m a missionary and I just used the “d” word). I’m apathetic and tired and most days, it’s a struggle just to pull myself out of bed in the morning.

My husband tells people confidently that he knows for certain that he’s in the right place, doing what he’s meant to be doing, fulfilling his calling. I’m glad for him, but his surety makes my own doubts and insecurities seem even more glaring. I can’t count the number of people who have said to me over the past few months something along the lines of, “I feel good about this decision, about you being in Ecuador. It’s a good fit for you guys and for your family.” I usually just nod my head and say, “Aw, thanks, that’s nice.” But inside, I’m aching to feel the same way, have the same confidence that we made the right choice. Instead, I’m just full of doubt and regret.

I long to feel deep joy and fulfillment again, but most days, I am afraid I never will. This is where I am right now on my journey to “stay awake.”

Word Pictures (written Jan. 16)

Just a few thoughts and images from our trip to Kumanii today:

  • the cold and fog of the mountain city of Ibarra giving way to the sun and humidity of the lowlands
  • sweeping landscapes of mountains, hills, and ravines gradually turning into tangles of lush, tropical vegetation
  • the hustle and bustle of the dock at Borbon — women chatting as they wash their laundry, meat sellers, fish sellers, fruit sellers hawking their wares, canoes loading up
  • the drone of the boat motor as we leave the commotion behind and slice through the water upriver
  • trees bending low over the river, trailing their branches in the water like fingertips
  • the refreshing and slightly tangy taste of coconut water straight from the coconut
  • little villages, wooden homes on stilts, flapping laundry flashing past
  • my boys’ happy laughter as they play with new friends Joscar and Gustavo
  • baths in the river
  • one million crickets, and a frog or two to serenade me to sleep
  • the soothing sound of a jungle downpour
  • memories of my childhood as I fall asleep under a mosquito net

 

Pondering Homeschooling

This week, I have made an attempt to get back into the school routine with Alex after a 3-week break over Christmas and New Year’s. Finding our rhythm with school is something I’m still working on. Having the two little boys around makes it especially challenging. Alex isn’t quite old enough to work independently (and stay focused) for longer than a few minutes at a time, and I can’t exactly leave Stephen and Benjamin unsupervised while I’m teaching.

Yesterday, things worked pretty well and went pretty smoothly, and today — well, today was a total bust.

Most of the time, I really enjoy homeschooling. I do believe it’s the best choice for Alex and for our entire family right now. I love the flexibility that it provides. Next week, all of us will be going out to Kumanii with Rusty. We’ll be gone Tuesday through Friday. A trip like this just wouldn’t be possible if we were locked into a traditional school schedule and calendar. But we can make it work since we homeschool.

Then, there are other times when I wonder just what the heck I’m doing. I worry that my kids aren’t going to get the education that they need because of our decision to homeschool. I wonder if I’m depriving them of important opportunities by not sending them to the Christian school here in Quito. I think that I’m not patient enough, smart enough, organized enough, disciplined enough to make this work.

I’m thankful to be connected to a pretty awesome group of homeschooling families here in Quito who offer advice and encouragement, support and friendship, as we navigate these new waters. Most of them have been successfully teaching their kids at home for many years now, and that gives me hope for myself and my kids. I’m inspired to keep trying, to find what works and what doesn’t, and above all to trust myself and have confidence in my own ability to teach my children.