Friday, March 28, 2014

A Post about my Ex

You'd think after more than a month of not blogging, that I'd finally hit you hard with a nice big 'ol summary of all things Ecuador and ministry. That was my intention but something else has been on my mind. (Side note: I'm realizing that keeping an online journal up to date is a lot harder than I thought. It certainly isn't because I'm lacking inspiration. The ministry is amazing, the studies leave me absolutely giddy and the differences between life here and the United states give me enough material for about 5 years of writing. But I'm learning it comes more naturally to me to approach writing here the same way I approach writing songs. Songwriting is how I process my thoughts and feelings and when I don't feel the need to purge, creating just feels forced and I'd rather strum old tunes I've written than just write for the sake of writing...That said, I still want to be better at documenting our experiences here, so I will try harder!)

So today I listened to the band The Lumineers while getting ready and this was kind of a big deal. In about the spring of 2013, that band for me ended what I call "the years the music died" or in other words, the music drought during my four years at bethel. Ok, I know, very dramatic. But I'm not saying it was necessarily a bad thing. Before getting married and going to bethel, writing music, discovering music, listening to music was my everything, everything! I wrote and played guitar almost everyday, sometimes for hours. But my focus soon changed. After getting married, my focus during my time at bethel was on my two husbands, Matt and Bethel (yes bethel most certainly felt like a second relationship I had to nurture and respect and grow a deep love for just like in a marriage.) So although I still enjoyed music while there, my obsessive attachment to it had lessened while other things blossomed.

Well around the time I started commuting between Wallkill and Patterson to help the dental department there every 3-4 weeks, I decided it was time to load up my mp3 player with some new tunes to make the shuttle rides more enjoyable.  So began my love affair with The Lumineers. That is ALL I listened to for months. As I squished between fellow bethelites in the shuttle van, I couldn't wait to pop in my ear buds and watch the sun come up to an awesome soundtrack as I mentally prepared for a day of radiographs, probing and scaling.  Each note, strum and gritty vocal track became encoded and memorized. Yes encoded right up until Monday June 10th, the day Matt surprised me at Patterson to drive me back to Wallkill, yes instead of that small white shuttle van.  Monday June 10th, the day he broke the news to me as I fastened my seatbelt, that we were leaving bethel, we had been reassigned to the field.

The first hour in that car after he told me to be honest, felt dreadful. With just a few simple words our world, our goals, our life was turned upside down.  Like when a gigantic ocean wave knocks you off your feet and in those moments of submersion you can't quite figure out what is up or down and the sandy floor feels like it has betrayed you. Instead of giving you a place to firmly plant your feet, you feel it's grains of sand and pebbles grate your shoulders and back.  Your situation feels desperate even though you know the wave will eventually disperse and the sky will offer just enough light to orient you back to your feet, upright with exasperated lungs ready to breathe again.

So it was after an hour of complete breakdown, that with Jehovah's help, I gained my orientation again.  I could see how this reassignment was a clear answer to ongoing prayers that we had been making for a couple years, prayers begging for crystal clear direction about our service to Jehovah.  Well after that, we were able to stay focused and positive and forward looking.  I didn't really give myself the option of looking longingly backwards, honestly there were too many things to be excited about on the horizon. Pioneering with the man I love, travelling, occasionally sleeping in... with the strong sense of Jehovah's backing in this swift change of events, the future possibilities were thrilling. So as the waves receded back to wherever waves are born, we started carefully planning our trip to Ecuador. And I stopped listening to The Lumineers.

I know that at the time it wasn't a conscious decision but looking back now, I realize why I gave that album space. As you know, music has this almost miraculous ability to latch on to entire groups of memories, specific emotions and moments, even spans of years. The Lumineers had become a soundtrack not only to the mundane rides back and forth between the Patterson and Wallkill complexes, but also to an area of personal transition between "bethelite" and ...well, "question mark". The melodies were permanently etched to a time and place that didn't feel the same anymore. Yes their notes had become scored and glued to feelings as well, feelings I didn't want to acknowledge inwardly or out loud yet... feelings of rejection possibly? Separation anxiety? A reluctance to say goodbye to our newly wed home and all of our family members? Yes a relationship had ended and Wallkill had become my ex...husband? As expressive as I seem one thing I can do pretty darn well is avoid and deny certain emotions. Especially those that I'm scared will be too raw to touch.

SO! The last couple weeks, as the excitement of a new country and life has thawed out a little, I discovered a small aching ember that had been buried deep underneath months of newly built memories, fresh feelings of excitement as well as anxieties. It had burrowed underneath the layers of our new life. Yes this small ember glowed somewhere between my throat and the deepest parts of my chest and it flickered and fluttered at the oddest of times, anonymous and often fleeting. And every so often in the moments of stillness and quiet before falling asleep, this little ember would burn..until I finally put my finger on it. In all the months of looking forward after our reassignment, of fierce determination to attack our future with gusto and zeal, a piece of my heart still remained raw and untouched and just a little bit broken. Yes I missed "Him".  I missed Wallkill.

So ten months after hearing the news that our life would change I began to finally mourn the end of it. My wonderful Matt, patiently listened and stayed awake during hours designed for sleeping as I finally turned my attention towards feelings I had neglected and refused to acknowledge fully. He held me close as tears were shed and grieving was done for a beautiful part of our life that simply is no more. Focusing on the past can certainly be unhealthy if done immodestly.  But sometimes, I think processing feelings is completely necessary to digest and eliminate anxiety and move forward with joy.

I'm actually quite happy that there are days I miss being at bethel. I wouldn't want it any other way because it means that, despite the challenges of adjusting to bethel life, I managed to hold on to all the wonderful aspects, to remember the really GREAT things. No bitter breakup here. Yes, "He" may be my ex now but we split on quite amicable terms. (Excuse me while I exhaust this metaphor:))

So this morning as I moisturized and brushed and cleansed I decided some music was needed. And scanning through my Pandora radio stations I realized something was missing...yes, a Lumineers station. Is it silly to say my heart started beating faster as I typed the band into the radio program? I was actually nervous that at the sound of those familiar chords I would start playing with sentiments that were not quite ready to be combined with sentimental music. But you know what? The most reassuring thing happened as my tablet sung out one of my favorite Lumineers songs, Stubborn Love: I couldn't stop smiling. Because I just love that song and also because I felt triumph that, although those notes slightly pressed against the most subtle ache in my heart, I felt at a real peace with the sudden turns our life had taken. I realized I can love and hold dear an era that has ended while falling in love all over again with another form of service. Yes as the music flooded our bathroom, I kind of felt like I had bumped into an old flame. But instead of getting burned, well, my hips began to swing.

(Click the link for the official music video for Stubborn Love by The Lumineers)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Lately According to my iphone Pictures

We've been running around a bit lately. We travelled to Manta last weekend to go to the special day assembly, then stayed with the Guyton family (need greater family living in Manta) till Monday morning.  Matt gave the public talk for their English group on Sunday.  It was just what we needed.  The preceding weeks I had found myself wearing out a little and needing some encouragement.  My head had been hurting from trying to keep up with the language and culture and my patience had been wearing thin when it came to getting used to being a foreigner and everyone thinking you're rich, and getting ripped off by taxi drivers and yaddah yaddah. I needed some gringo time, American style chillaxin and that my friends, is exactly what we got.

We also got to meet Bruno from the 2012 WT series about those who have served where there is a greater need in Ecuador (wt 7/15/12). We met him and his wife at the special day and didn't put it together. We ending up grabbing dinner with them and somehow the Ecuador wt article came up...oh and i gushed and gushed about how encouraging it was, how MANY times i read it and as I'm mid sentence, Bruno's wife points to Bruno and goes...he's Bruno! Now how many times did you read that article?? That was a good laugh, but now for the record, I DID love that article, very memorable, but cmon, Bruno? That's like the most common name ever. :)

So of course, I interviewed him, in all my star struck giddiness about how one could possibly make this a way of life despite the challenges of living away from home.  He gave great advice about making your living place just as you would have it, within reason, if you were in your country. Make it an oasis. He also recommended taking a breather sometimes as needed to get together with others that share a similar culture and language as you. Great advice, I think.

Life here has been mostly about service and having fun sleeping in and deciding not to go in service:) jk, er sort of. But a day off is good for the bones every once in a while and Bruno said I could, so there.

But seriously, I've counted up and I've got 8 studies now with the possibility of starting a ninth (!) Whaaa?? I can't believe it, I'm one of those  people haha.

On to the pictures...

Special Day Assembly

 Getting laundry done by hand..very slowly. It's very common not to have a washer and dryer here and the locals can whip out their laundry like, "oh what? I'm cooking dinner and breastfeeding now, you still on your first sock?" Yeah like that.

Selfies on the beach. Most patient man I've ever met.


We made shrimp ceviche! It was just like the locals and we were so proud of us!

Our hall has been awesome putting up with mid service photo shoots. "No lean out a little more, no more, like leeaan...ok, sure, like that. just sit there like that, that's perfect."

Love them all so much already.

Miss you guys so so much♡♡♡

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nuestra casa...and other ramblings

We have now been in Ecuador for two months.  It's such a weird feeling to be somewhere completely different and not call it vacation. We are living here. For a short time, yes, but we do not have a house or apartment waiting for us in the States. So weird.  But sometimes I find I need to remind myself of this fact. That right now, Ecuador is my home...or I should try to make it home for the time being. I learned that lesson at Bethel. We were encouraged to make it our home, make our Bethel rooms the way we like it (within reason) and draw close to our congregation. These were the things that would help us adjust to all the changes, and help keep us in our assignment. I take this advice very seriously (imagine mischievous smirk slowly spreading across face). Yes making a place a home takes work, pain staking shopping sprees at times (hehe) and some creativity. Have we been up to the task? You bet you we have! So without further ado I introduce to you, our apartment...wait, wait! I mean, our HOME! (Full on cheesy smile now).

The upstairs, right outside our bedroom and before the terrace.

Our terrace in all her mustard colored glory

I always wanted one of theeese! It leads to the master bedroom and terrace.

Kitchen and dining room

Living room where we watch our beloved two English channels that only show forensic evidence shows. We can tell you who the murderer is in the first four minutes like nobody's business now.

Now, having an apartment is a big deal for both me and Matt as this is our first home that's like, nobody else's! Meaning if we accidentally start a fire, we'll be the ones manning the extinguisher. If we oversleep, no housekeeper will be startling us awake with her door knocking and no mom will be marching into our bedroom hollering that the school bus is leaving without us. Yes we are paying rent and everything! (And yes mom, I now turn off all the lights when I'm not using them, just like you always said I would when I started paying for things..:))

Now that we have our own place, I feel like I can really focus on the ministry.  I have a few studies that are slowly picking up speed. One is a door step study in the good news brochure. That one I can actually prepare for without getting a headache looking back and forth between the English and Spanish. Then there's another lady around my age that actually finished the bible teach book four years ago. Life got in the way, but she wants to give it another go. We're reviewing the bible teach using subtitles and review box questions. That one takes the longest to prepare for but, of course, extremely rewarding. And starting next week I'll start studying with her three kids all under the age of ten (which is my absolute dream come true to have a kids group study). And tomorrow's my first study in the bible teach book with a teen girl I met last week.  Jehovah has also answered our prayers to study with a married couple. One we do on Saturdays and the other on Sundays.  Some of the details on how these came about are kind of cool, so I'll be writing another post with more details.

So that's that. I'm still debating on writing more about the emotional side of this journey. The challenges have taken me a little by surprise, as the things I was anticipating having a hard time with, are not so challenging and the things I never even stopped to think about have been the sneaky little devils that have made me at times, want to swim back home and go shopping at...CVS or something:) after that comment, maybe I should fill you in because, like, who gets cravings for CVS?? Hope you guys are doing okay with all the snow. Be careful on the roads and go sledding for me please! Xoxo

I'll leave you with a few pics from service the other day...

 This was a great day in service. First time working with this sister and we hit it off right away.

 Photo shoot with my friend Elsa

Snuck this pic while on a study with this little boy.  He's watching a video here. He was captivated and it was so sweet.

 My favorite service partner.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

a typical day

We're  finally settling into a routine but I must admit, the schedule here took a little getting used to.  It felt very bipolar at first, like bursts of activity in service and then stretches of nothing during the heat of the day and lunch time. Here they meet early for service, walk a ton in the ministry and then after two hours most disperse to either go home to prepare for lunch or to do their studies. So yeah, just as I'm gaining momentum we're giving besitos to our group and "ciaos" and by 10:30 were twirling our thumbs wondering what we're going to do! Well it was frustrating at first because I didn't have calls or studies yet, but man your schedule fills up fast. Now it's hard to find an afternoon where we haven't made appts for rvs or studies. And now we really treasure that mid day break. So I thought you might enjoy a breakdown of our typical day...

6:30 am alarm goes off and then we sleep for another hour haha
7:30 roll out of bed in a panic and throw ourselves together for service (not much has changed since bethel, instead of running to morning worship, I'm running to catch a taxi for service) I know mom, yes the tornado as you call it, has reached south america.
8:00 were hailing a taxi or just jumping on a bus for the 5-8 min bus ride to the kingdom hall.
8:15 the service group meets
8:30 we start walking to the territory with our partners.
10:30 say ciao to the service group and we either do some rvs or studies til noon.
12 siesta! Love this part of the day, we turn on the ac in our room and nap it up. Depending on how hungry we are, we cook something up before or after our siesta. Or we'll stop by one our favorite lunch spots and have lunch for $2.50 a plate!
2 or 3pm were back in service til about 5 or 6 doing studies or rvs. And then we have the night to ourselves. Dinner usually happens around 8 or 9.

We're really enjoying the schedule and now the biggest challenge seems to be staying organized and remembering all the appts we make with the brothers and sisters for service arrangements and the appts for studies and rvs.

On our days off we really enjoy getting to know the city, walking around and trying different restaurants or discovering "tiendas" (stores).

Here's some pics from the last few weeks. Also, I'm planning on taking some pics or video of our new  apt! Yes that's right we have an apt and we love it!  Coming soon!

The above pics are from our day preaching in the country side

 I snuck this picture of Matt practicing get his spanish on our terrace.
Hippies of ecuador, singing on the bus for spare change. They were really good!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We knocked and an EcuaDOOR finally opened!

I don't even know where to start since it's been so long since I've posted. We have had no Internet and have had to use wifi where we can find it in restaurants or cafes but the Internet here is so slooow.  But I'm happy to announce we have found our home here in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador!

Last you heard from us we were travelling to Crucita. Well we did and it was beautiful but we had a yearning to travel a little bit more north. That night we got back from Crucita and I decided to Google Bahia (a little city north of Crucita).  Well I came across a lovely blog from a sister from the states that is now living in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador with her family. WELL she had visited Bahia and raved about the congregation and the city on her blog.  I felt like it was such a clear answer to prayer that I randomly found her blog. I emailed her that night and heard back the next day! She confirmed my one big question which was about if the hall was in need of help with a yes and gave us contact information. Thank you Jehovah. So the next day we boarded the bus to travel to a town where we knew nobody (all our other trips through the country, we had at least someone we knew or a place to stay) Well this time two days before Christmas, we only had a telephone number and the hope that we would be able to find lodging in Bahia.   As we packed our bags to leave from Manta that morning, I told Matt, "you realize it's two days before Christmas, and we're travelling to one of Ecuador's biggest tourist areas right? If we find a place to stay tonight, it'll have to be a miracle."  And he said, "well then we'll know its Jehovah answering our prayers wont we?..."

So As I sat back in my squeaky bus seat with salsa music blasting through the bus speakers, I decided to release all my anxiety, we were completely in Jehovah's hands.

Four hours later we were checking into the best most reputable hostal in Bahia.  Ok, I thought, we're off to a pretty good start.  We decided to take a walk around the little city of Bahia and let me tell you, we started to fall in love. First of all it was the cleanest city I've seen in Ecuador yet. On top of that, this city is just, well how the locals here call it. In other words, chill. On our walk we passed a beautiful Condo high rise right on the water. The office front door was wide open and at the same time Matt and I were drawn to cross the street and walk in. "Let's just ask" I said all smiles. Well we met a really sweet lady at the front desk, that after we explained we were witnesses, told us she'd been trying to get to the meetings but she loves the magazines. The taste of this town in my mouth just kept getting better... She says let me call my boss, he's an American, I'm sure he can help you find an apt. She gets on the phone with him and passes it to me..."I'll be right there, let's grab some beers and you can tell me what you need for an apt" is what I heard on the other end..oh boy what did I get us into?! I was already blushing thinking about how I would explain that we could never afford his Condos that we were just asking for, ya know, fun?...sigh!

So he takes us to this beautiful restaurant on the water and we explain to him why we're in Ecuador and what our teeny weeny budget is. Well, yes we couldn't afford his condos BUT he says he's friends with a witness sister that could help us find an apt in our budget.  He proceeded to call her for us, gave her our number and gave us hers. She called a couple hours later and at 10 that night when she got home she picked us up from the hostal and with her husband did the one thing I had been praying for and waiting for to feel like we had Jehovah's blessing on this destination: they pleaded with us to stay.

I can't help but get tears in my eyes as I type this because my heart sometimes just can't take it. As we round out on one month in this country, I still find myself amazed and in awe with Jehovah's astounding ability to never ever abandon His people.  I have never been in such a position of complete reliance and utter vulnerability.  It has made me squirm, it has made my cry but man, it has made me the happiest little girl in Ecuador in the end.  My imperfection constantly causes me to fight this tendency to fret and become wrought with anxiety over all the decisions we've had to make and all the doors we've had to knock on, waiting for that one to open.  But I am learning patience, sometimes very impatiently. And I am learning that the obstacles that I create in my mind are a waste of time to worry about. Jehovah never had them in His mind anyway.

Well since this blog is called EcuaDOOR to DOOR,  I will be posting very soon about the ministry. But I will say it is amazing. The average seems to be starting two studies every time we go in service (!).   And PS, the contact number from that sister that I emailed, was the coordinators number. We made service plans with him for Christmas Eve and it was awesome. He told us of the congregation and the territory's needs. And like the sister the night before, enthusiastically pleaded that we make Bahia our home.

It feels great to settle down and get to know this city. We've also been blessed to be adopted into an amazingly hospitable family while we searched for our apartment. Yes, with that same sister and brother we met at 10 pm that night, two days before Christmas.  Yeah, I know:)

Here are some pics. Love you guys and miss you so much xoxo

Friday, December 20, 2013

We're alive!

Hi everybody! So sorry I have not posted anything in a few days. Quite a bit has happened.  Last you heard from me we were in Cuenca visiting friends. We had a fabulous time there but we wanted to see the coast and explore what coastal living is like as well as what the needs of the congregations are.  We took a 7 hour bus ride and finally arrived in a sleepy little surf town called Olon. I may provide details in another post about our time in Olon.  But long story short, finding an apartment or rental home there was extremely difficult with our budget. After much prayer and I must admit, even tears, we decided that it was clear we would have to keep heading north for more suitable living in our budget. In just three days though, we fell IN LOVE with Olon and also the few friends we met from the congregation. Their $3 pina coladas on the beach, we fell in love with too!

So anyway we took a 4 hour bus ride yesterday and arrived in the bustling city of Manta, right on the coast as well.  We are staying with a family that moved to Ecuador in November from the states, with two little boys and all.  They are the picture of what I envision a family with Matt might be like on this side of the home schools them herself, service all the time, and a couple beach days throughout the week.  They're an awesome family putting Jehovah first and they have been so encouraging to us.

Tomorrow we are planning on travelling to the hall in Crucita, a beach town about 50 minutes  north.  It's known for its handgliding and parasailing and beautiful beach. We also hear their spanish hall has only two elders and one is just learning Spanish. (This has been the big challenge, finding an area in need of help with their territory and in a place that suits us and our budget!) One thing we're learning though, is that December is the absolute worst time for a gringo to find a good deal on a rental in a beach town. December starts their summer and holiday season when everyone flocks to the beaches. So prices get jacked way up up until about early mid January or so IF you can even find places that haven't been rented yet!

So that's that! I can't lie, the last few days have been a little rough emotionally.  It's been difficult even wanting to write about anything,  because it means having to process my stress and anxiety even more.  Matt keeps encouraging me to write though since this is, after all, a documentation of our story with all its ups and downs. Sigh. And perhaps by sharing with you all the "lows" of getting situated in a foreign country, you can triumph with us when we finally figure things out.  When I start to panic, I search deep down (usually after some prayer) for that feeling, that belief (that usually hides in the shadow of anxiety and hmm, prolly some hormones haha) that Jehovah's GOT this, he's GOT us and as long as we keep grasping his hand, He'll never let us go.

I miss you guys. You (our congregation and family and friends) are always on our minds and we really enjoy sharing this experience with you.

Here's some photos from Olon...

 What you see while walking through Olon, stray dogs and donkeys:)

Here we are with Ian, the son of a couple that was helping us find a place to live.  He is the sweetest little boy. ALTHOUGH, we had very differing opinions on spiders.  He would just stick his hand in the middle of a huge web and grab a fist of it and chase me around while trying to wipe all that spider/web goodness on my shirt. What a sweetie pie:/

Friday, December 13, 2013

A little update...

Just wanted to update you on the commenting situation. I know some have told me how frustrating it's been to add your comments to the posts because a login is required.  Well no more folks, no more! I finally figured it out in settings. So now anyone can comment freely. We hope to hear from you!

And since I'm here I'll leave you with a picture!

This picture is from when we visited the branch in Guayaquil a few days ago.

We had the privilege of being toured by Toni Toth.  Her and her husband have been at the branch for 40 years! They are Gilead grads from the 56th class.  Her enthusiasm for our plans and words of encouragement were invaluable!