Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stickers.

Oziel really likes stickers. Actually likes is an understatement... Oziel looooves stickers. He's always asking for them, and when he gets them he sticks them on and off his face, cheeks, eyes and mouth. It's a comfort thing, much like a normal child would rub the hem of their blanket because it's made of satin, Oziel touches stickers.

Caroline knows this about Oziel... she always has stickers in her backpack to whip out at a moment's notice. But more than this, the nights that we take care of Oziel's dorm, Caroline goes above and beyond. After he's fallen asleep she will gently sneak back to his bed and put stickers on his hand and a few under his pillow. As I watched her do this the other night I was hit with the weight of the love that this shows. It's such a small detail but Caroline knows him so well and knows how loved it will make him feel, so she's happy to do it. 

And as I watched her and thought about that, I literally started to cry. First, because I am so incredibly thankful that Caroline is in Oziel's life and that God is using her to lavish him with love. But also.... because I began to think of how much more God love us. He's aware of the intimate details of our likes and dislikes. He loves and moves in big ways but also in tiny small details. Small things like an awesome sunrise, the parking space right next to the door or even a favorite song on the radio. He knows us and he knows it will make us feel loved so he is happy to do it. He loves us all the way down to the tiniest details and I am left amazed and in awe.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Power Outage!

On Saturday night around 8 o'clock our power went out... Jose and I then proceeded to read FOURTEEN books together. He neeever has the attention span for that many books, but with the power out and the dark rain pounding outside he snuggled in close and we.... 







....read....






                                                                    .....read.....





.... and read some more!!!


It was awesome. I'll be praying the power goes out more often :) 


Friday, January 27, 2012

What do you do during a typical week?

Well I was not nearly as consistent this week in my frequently asked questions. This week flew by and blogging just didn't make the cut when it came to deciding what I did and didn't have time for.

However, I decided to answer just one more question and then I will go back to my normal posts with random ramblings about days, moments and thoughts that cross my mind as I live out life here.

Seeing as how I posted about what I do on weekends I have found that begs the question...

Q: What do you do during a typical week?

A: Well much like the weekend, it depends on what is going on around here.

We don't have groups here every week, in fact sometimes we have as many as three weeks in a row without a group. During these weeks, I have managed to carve out a pretty consistent routine. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I am taking care of kids at Casa Hogar Douglas so their caregivers can have days off. The rest of the week I do administrative things, plan activities or have meetings in the mornings, and every afternoon I am back at Douglas for homework and tutoring with several students specifically and pretty much anyone else who will read with me. I love the consistency that I have been able to find in these weeks without groups.

If there is a group visiting I still try to fit in everything I would do during a week without groups, but it's not always successful. Sometimes it means I get up super early and go wake up some my sweet kids, send them to school go work with a group all day and then go back for dinner bath and bed. I just can't pass up the opportunity to tuck them in and pray over each one even if it means working a 17 hour day.

It is likely that I will be on several days during the week with that groups. When I'm on with a group, it means I am leading them to different homes and squatters villages we work with as they have their week long mission trip experience. Every groups has a different rhythm and is a different experience. My favorite thing about working with groups is seeing people's lives changed. God changed my life on a trip here, and he is still using this place to change so many others. 

So those are my "typical weeks" I'm learning that in this business, pretty much every single day is different, but I'd like to think I'm learning to be more spontaneous and roll with the punches :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

What do you do on weekends?

Well I guess I'll say, back by popular demand... here goes another week of frequently asked questions.

Today I'm answering the question...

Q: What do you do on weekends?

A: Well this answer varies from week to week.

Sometimes we have groups here on the weekends and I am scheduled to work with the group either Saturday, Sunday or both. So then my weekend consists of anything from cooking 160 hamburgers to pouring concrete.

Sometimes we don't have any groups and I take both Saturday and Sunday as days off. On days off... I generally sleep super late, do some laundry, clean my room, watch some episodes of a tv series or a movie and if we're feeling adventurous we might go out to dinner. We being my roommates, neighbor Laura and Caroline generally. For example this past weekend we were feeling like we didn't want to cook so we went to IHOP on Friday night and out for tacos Saturday night. It's not the most lively of a social life, but it's relaxing.

Sometimes I spend my weekend at Caroline's house helping her take care of 4 very sweet but very crazy little boys. For about a year now, as a help to both their mom and their children's home caregiver, Caroline has been bringing 4 brothers that live at Casa Hogar Douglas to stay in her house for a couple weekends each month. We spend our days reading books, swimming in the pool, and just having a blast playing outside. One time we even let them set off fire works...

So like I said, it depends on the weekend. Every weekend here is a little different, to be honest, sometimes life here feels a little confined. We don't have any friends outside of our staff team, and the nature of this city doesn't make it very easy to just pop on over to a cute little coffee shop or a friends house for the day. It's a whole lot bigger and more complicated that sweet little Oxford, Ohio. But I'm adjusting to the change and learning to value my extremely relaxing and extremely lazy weekends.

Friday, January 20, 2012

How did you end up there and how long are you staying?

It's Friday and that means it's our final frequently asked question. The last question that I heard over and over again was ...

Q: How did you end up there and how long are you staying?

A: Well this answer could be an hour long story however, I'm going to try to keep it brief. It was the summer after my senior year of high school that I first got on a plane and flew to Monterrey, Mexico with 60 other high school students from my church. This trip was definitely something out of my comfort zone. However, with my best friend at my side I found the courage to come. We arrived so late that it was already dark when we arrived on campus, I hadn't seen an orphan, seen the mountains or even seen the warm shining sun. But I new as clear as day that I was supposed to come back. I ended up loving pretty much every minute of my week and it only confirmed that feeling I had the first night... I was supposed to come back.

Well this leads us to summer of 2008. I knew I wanted to come back but our trip through church was only for high school students and I no longer qualified. So I had heard about this other option to intern. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I applied and got accepted to spend the month of July in Monterrey. Again this was soooo far outside of my comfort zone and this time I didn't have anyone I knew going with me. But the Lord kept leading and pushing and I ended up having an incredibly life changing month and fell in love with orphan care more and more. And again I wanted to come back and bring my family the next time.

Now we're up to the summer of 2009. I knew I wanted to be in Monterrey for more than just a month, but was only offered a month internship. So I became a nanny for a staff family here during the month of June and an intern in the month of July. Again I had an amazing summer. My family got to come, I grew closer to the Lord, fell more in love with orphans and made some really really amazing friendships that are still some of my closest friends today.

And again I just had to come back. It was summer of 2010. My last chance to be an intern. I was about to be a senior and in college which mean next summer couldn't be spent in Monterrey, but would need to be spent becoming a grown up and finding a job. I was set to spend 2 months in Monterrey and by now I figured I knew the drill of how this summer would go. But little did I know this would be the summer that changed everything. To my surprise I found myself living at Casa Hogar Douglas and being a mommy to 14. And everything changed. I thought I loved orphan care before, but I had no idea. My heart broke over and over into millions of pieces as I rubbed little ones backs till they fell asleep and miraculously learned Spanish so that I couldn't tell them not only how much I loved them but how much more God did. And with that, the decision was made. Again I was meant to come back. But this time it was going to be for much longer than 2 months. I applied to come on staff with Back2Back on a one year commitment. And well you know how the story ends.

Here I am. And I'm here until September. The decision about recommitting is ever present but I haven't made any decisions yet. I really have no idea how long I'll be here. It's a year for now and then we'll see.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where is Monterrey?

With frequently asked questions, there were a few that were quick and easy to answer so today I thought I'd do a little rapid fire answering.

Q: Where is Monterrey?


A: Monterrey is located in Northern Mexico about 3 hours south of Texas and 6 hour west of the gulf coast. It is the 3rd largest city in Mexico with a population of about 4 million. It's very industrial and high tech. I like to think of it as my baby step to international living. I may live in another country but, we still have McDonald's and Walmart, malls and movie theaters. Let's just say I wouldn't claim that I'm "roughing it" just quite yet.

Q: Do you just eat tacos all the time?

A: Nope. Sometimes I eat tacos... but as far as everyday food goes. We are blessed to have available to us an H-E-B which is a grocery store that imports a lot of different American products. So I grocery shop and cook for myself most days.That means lots of frozen pizza, grilled cheese and spaghetti.

Q: Do the kids speak English?

A: No not really. They have a few key phrases such as "What is your name?" or "Candy please?". And recently the older girls have been practicing the phrase "Can I go to the bathroom?". They have English class at school however they really don't seem to learn much of anything in that class. So nope, with them it's all Spanish all the time!

I'm almost done with frequently asked questions but if there is something you still want to know, send me an email or facebook message and I'll be happy to answer!!






Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So are there any Mexican boys????

Like I said before, this series was inspired by the reoccurring questions that I received while home for Christmas break. And there was one question that I just couldn't seem to escape. It was always asked in the same way during a lull in conversation. A sly smile would creep over the asker's face and their eyebrows would raise as they asked "Soooooo any Mexican boys in your life???" What they really want to know is if I am dating a Mexican man. So just to clear up all the questions I figured we could start with that question today.

Q: Any Mexican boys in your life??

A: Unless you are talking about boys under 12 then the answer is no definitely not. That is definitely not a part of the plan for this year. However, there are 20 mexican boys who have absolutely 100% stolen my heart. Which leads to question number two for today.

Q: Do you only work with boys??

A: The answer to this is kind of a yes and no at the same time. At Casa Hogar Douglas (the children's home I work at everyday) there are at this time about 55 kids. About 35 are boys and 20 are girls they live in three boy dorms divided by age and two girl dorms. But, I work every week to give two of the boy's caregivers days off. So that begs the question why just the boys?



Well there are a couple reasons for that.

In a very practical sense, they are a lot easier to care for than the girls because of the nature of boys. They fight physically, girls fight verbally therefore a non native speaker is at a huge disadvantage. The girls also make fun of my Spanish when I fumble a word or don't say something right, by nature they are a little cattier and it makes it really difficult to handle if you haven't mastered their language.

But I think the biggest reason is that the boys seem to be the people group that God has called me to. For whatever reason, they stand out in technicolor to me. I look around at their smiling and giggling faces or hear them yell my name as they run for a hug and my heart feels so full. It all started the summer of 2010 when I actually lived at Douglas for 5 weeks and acted as one of the little boys full time caregivers. For more on that story check out my blog from that first week in 2010 ( I was a mommy to 14 children. ) Everything about me and my view of ministry changed that week. And those little boys most of whom still live in that dorm today, will forever have a stand out to me.

I see the girls everyday too and know all their names and give hugs and laugh and joke with them. I read books with them or supply them with books and homework help when they need it. I love them dearly and want to serve them just as much as any of my boys, but it's just not where God has called me at this point.

So for now, my focus is the boys, it's also God sweetly supplying me with boundaries so I don't go a mile wide rather than a mile deep in ministry.

Just yesterday I stalked them like paparazzi because I just can't get enough of their sweet faces.






So no I am not dating a Mexican man.... but I do have 20 boys that I am in love with! I think it's going to stay that way for quite awhile :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Do they have parents?

Continuing in my frequently asked questions series today's questions is...

Q: If the kids you work with are orphans, does that mean they have parents? Are they still alive? 

A: Actually, yes. In fact all of the kids that we work with have living parents. Moreover, most of them still have regular contact with their biological parents or other extended families members, however the live in an orphanage and function as an orphan.

It's kind of a strange concept to wrap your mind around. They end up in an orphanage for lots of different reasons. Sometimes they have been removed by the government because of violence in the home, or sometimes mom just couldn't afford to keep them with her any longer. Sometimes it's a matter of choice and, because of the broken world we live in, mom ends up in a situation where she doesn't want to have her kids live with her anymore, or maybe it's her new boyfriend that doesn't want them. There are lots of kids who have other siblings or half siblings that still get to live at home and even come to visit with mom.

Sunday is visitation day. Not every kid gets a visit every week, some parents are very consistent, and some are few and far between. Every case is different, but what I do know is that every single case is a result of the broken world we live in, and every single case is painful for everyone involved.

The pain and the hurt begins with the day they are dropped off. The feelings of rejection never really subside and the abandonment is just compounded each and every time they go home for a visit or vacation and are dropped off again.

It's really easy for me to go through phases of frustration, anger and even judgement of the parents. And to be brutally honest, sometimes I wish they would just go away. But then the Lord sweetly reminds me that they are his children too. Plus, the relationship that they have with their kids, no matter how messed up it seems, is so important. It will affect every single part of that kid's life for the rest of his or her lives. And it is always better to have some sort of relationship than no relationship at all.

Many of these parents have been put into impossible situations with little to no support system, they are stuck in addictions and cycles of abuse, they are broken people who need Jesus. I just wish the consequences didn't have to hurt the little ones I love so much. But I'm sure the Lord feels that way too.


It's a broken world we're living in, they are all stuck in a broken system, but praise God that we have a perfect eternity with him to look forward to. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Where do I live??

While home for my trip over Christmas I realized through talking to friends and family that there are some recurring and frequently asked questions about what I do here. So, I figured I would answer some of those throughout this week just to get everyone on the same page.

Q: Where do I actually live?

A: I do not actually live in an orphanage. Instead, I live on the Back2Back campus. This is a property that has been developed over the past 13 years. As it stands now, we have about 35 full time staff that live on this campus tucked into the nooks and crannies of various apartments and houses. Many of these staff have children so we have about 30 or so staff kids running around here as well.

In addition to that we also have a program that allows kids who grew up in the children's homes we work with to live here in foster homes and go to high school and college. Therefore we also have 45 teenagers running around here.

All in all there are over 100 people who live on this campus full time. This is where our groups stay as well, so sometimes we have double that number with up to 150 group members at a time. I personally, live in an apartment with two other girls close to my age. We each have our own room and I have my own bathroom. We share a common living room and kitchen.

Here are some pictures of my room! I affectionately call it my tree house.

 And here is my ladder that I climb down to get to the kitchen and living room.

All this week I will be posting answers to frequently asked questions! So stay tuned!



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Meltdowns.

They happen frequently with the kids we work with... well really they happen frequently with all kids. However, I think the ones that we get to see come with a little more hurt and a little more anger than most. But why wouldn't they? Every single one of the kids we serve has been abandoned, neglected or abused. Add in the fact that they live in an institution with 50 some other kids and without their parents... well then you can begin to understand the severity and they frequency of the meltdowns I get to see. It can be anything from the socks they are supposed to put on to the the toy they think someone stole from them... you never quite know what's going to set them off. And there are many many many times where their meltdowns try my patience, they catch me off guard and they frustrate me. However.... I am actually kind of beginning to like the meltdowns. Not because they are in pain, not because it means they hit and kick and scream, but because I get to be there for it. I get to talk them through the emotions of that moment, speak truth about who they are, and rub their backs as they just sob. I get to sit on the floor and I get to teach them about dealing with anger and  who God says they are. It's like the meltdown breaks down all these walls they usually put up to protect and hide their hurting heart. It's like it just can't stay down any longer and whatever the trigger may be... it finally makes it overflow into this really hard, but really beautiful meltdown. It's in those moments that I feel like God is using me the most here. I don't always have the right words and I don't always know if I'm giving the best advice, but I'm there and I love it. And oddly enough... even if I was the trigger of the meltdown... our relationship comes out stronger on the other side.



Plus.... sometimes they are just plain cute when they whine....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.


Over this holiday season I was incredibly blessed to be able to take 3 full weeks of vacation! I went home to Centerville, Ohio and visited friends and family and of course celebrated Christmas. I went shopping and checked off a long list of American restaurants I had been craving.  Over New Years I got to attend a few days of Campus Crusade for Christ's Indianapolis Christmas Conference. It is pretty much the best New Year's Eve party ever. I rang in the New Year with 2,000 college students singing worship and praying for hours on end. But, all that to say it was a great break, but what I realized yesterday as I walked into church to a screaming chorus of "Saaaammmmyyy" was that I sure missed these beautiful faces....