Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Special Souvenir

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas. We sure enjoyed celebrating Christmas with my family here in North Carolina (we even got to see my brother and his girlfriend, who drove down from D.C.), and we will have Christmas 2.0 with Joe's family on New Year's Eve.

But before I share some photos of our festivities from the last two weeks, I have to tell one more crazy insect story with you.

I mean, you think that now that we are d.o.n.e. living in Costa Rica we would be d.o.n.e. with insect infestations or terrifying tarantulas or anything of the sort.

Not so.

On Wednesday, I got a day-late Christmas present when I opened up a box I had packed in September when we came to NC...

The contents of the box were: linens, frames, an old cloth purse, and one certain African wooden decorative bowl that my dad had brought back for us from Botswana in August.

As I was unpacking the box, (to put the contents into a duffel bag that will be taken back to Portland on Monday - yes, it was another fun day of packing! My new favorite pastime!), I noticed several holes in the decorative wooden bowl. Very precise oval shaped holes that were not previously there. It seemed that the bowl was being turned into a colander. It was mighty suspicious. A worm? A termite? Nothing else in the box looked affected.

Then, when I got to the bottom of the box, there was a giant pile of sawdust. Now the evidence of a termite was pretty clear and I was immediately grossed out. I mean, can't I get a break from gross insects in my life? I am in North Carolina now, in the dead of winter, and the temperature is going down to the 20s every night. I thought I was FREE!!!

Fast forward to last night when I went out to the garage, where my mom had put the punctured bowl, to show my dad what had become of his souvenir.  I picked up the bowl, and right in my face were two little brown termites poking their sick little heads out of the holes! Of course, when I dropped the bowl, they hunkered back down, so I couldn't do a full inspection. But I swear I saw two brown thingys in the holes!!

Regardless, I was FULLY grossed out this time. My dad came to the rescue with a can of WD40 or something (we had no Raid) and sprayed the crap out of the bowl.


Hopefully this will be the last insect drama for quite awhile...

A Special Souvenir

The scene in the garage.
Look closely for oval-shaped holes.
A once pretty bowl.
Termite killing.
The leftovers: sawdust, and the bowl tightly wrapped in a bag.
Christmas Fun

Kate and reindeer at tree farm.

A beautiful tree farm in Appalachia.

"Cleaning a stump"
The fam.
Decorating with Grandmama.
Making a gingerbread house.
Getting some inspiration at a little gingerbread house display downtown.
Christmas morning JOY.
This is how the tree decorating ended looking: a cluster of ornaments right where Kate could reach. We never changed it.

The finished house.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One More Day

We have one more day here in Costa Rica, before our big, rather unexpected, move back “home”. (More on where “home” will be below.)

It has been a whirlwind 14 months of living here, and although we didn’t plan to leave so soon, (read a little about why we made this decision here and here, if you haven’t read the Ministry Updates already) it’s amazing what lessons were crammed into this last year or so that our family will take with us. We have learned more about
and most recently, self-control,
than we ever could have if we had decided not to come. Even though we leave disappointed in many ways, and even disheartened, we also are deeply aware of God’s greater plan and vision for our life. As our pastor Richard Dahlstrom always says, “God is writing a story in your life that you could never write on your own.” That statement has never rang truer in our lives than now. (Side note: Check out Richard’s amazing blog here; more often than not his words resonate so deeply with me that I am moved to tears. Not to be melodramatic or anything… He’s just had a very profound impact on our lives.)

So we are moving forward, trusting in His story, much like we did when we first decided to move to Costa Rica. And truthfully, we are pretty excited for this next phase of our life!

Here’s what this next phase will look like, or at least what the next few months entail:

We will first be traveling to North Carolina, where my dear parents reside in the little town of Waynesville (that’s in the Appalachian mountains, in Western North Carolina, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the east coast).

We will celebrate Christmas there and then travel down to Savannah, GA for a few days.

The backyard of the Marsh House in Savannah.
From Savannah, we have a quick trip out to the Northwest, where we’ll be seeing friends and family in the Portland, Seattle, and even Eugene area (my grandmother is turning 90 in January, so we’ll be celebrating with her!).

Then it’s back to NC for a few more weeks (the original plan was for us to fly back to San Jose, CR from there on January 15th – yep we already have tickets – but with the exception of Joe going back to pick up a few things, that won’t be happening for Kate or me).

And after another restful month at my mom’s house, we will all fly back to the Portland area in mid-February, where we will crash at Joe’s parents’ house while looking for a place to rent in good ol’ Washougal, WA (or somewhere close by). 

So “home” will not be Seattle for now, and it may not even be the NW for long – we’re going there because we have family and friends and familiarity – and that’s where our insurance will cover the birth of baby boy. After that, who knows? The future is wide open.

Right now, we are focused on our very last day here. One more day to:
·      Weigh our bags one more time (I mean, we seriously have weighed each of our eight bags 18 times. “42 lbs… we can fit in 12 more pairs of underwear and these four books.”)
·      Donate a few more toys, books, or bags of food to the Project or to friends.
·      Eat whatever is left in the fridge. Lunch may be a mix of carrots, milk, wheat germ, yogurt, apples, cheese, grapefruit juice, protein powder… maybe I’ll just mix all that together in a blender.
·      Say our goodbyes one last time. Of course, this is the serious part. The hard part. But we will be mostly saying “see you later” instead of goodbye…

And then we’ll be up at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, on our way. So here's to one last day.

December Ministry Update

Hello Friends and Family –
In our previous Ministry Updates, we have shared with you the challenges we’ve faced in the past several months in our work at the Abraham Project. In October when we wrote last, we mentioned that we thought doors were starting to crack open but we were “taking things one step at a time; being flexible and holding our original plans loosely”.  Unfortunately, over the past month, it has become very clear that the doors are not opening for us here like we had anticipated or hoped.  Since August, we’ve been trying to discern our role here, and we’ve continued to have several meetings and conversations about fundraising for the Project. To articulate a very complicated situation in a straightforward way, we simply are not a good fit for the Abraham Project.  This reality, along with the fact that Jennie is pregnant, has lead us to make the very difficult decision to move back home much sooner than expected.  We already had tickets for December 11th to go back to the States for the holiday season, so we will be leaving Costa Rica in about 10 days.  Jennie and Kate won’t be returning; I will come back in January to tie up everything.
We will still finish up some projects that we started, including a re-design of the current AP website, a strategic plan, and a new marketing brochure for the children’s homes.
It is difficult to understand and describe all that has happened in this past year, and it is especially challenging to have to share this news with you.  We know many of you have invested in our family and in our ministry and we don’t want to let you down. However, we know that God is sovereign and has a purpose in all of this, even though this has turned out much differently than expected. Yes, we are disappointed, but there are also immeasurable rewards and lessons that have come out of this experience that will impact the rest of our lives. We want you to know that despite the challenges, we have been incredibly blessed by our time in Costa Rica. We could not have done it without you.  We trust that as we continue to reflect on this time God will make his plan clear and continue to guide and direct us.
We are more than happy to share more of our story in person with any of you. Jennie will be maintaining the blog ( so you can check there for updates on how the ‘moving home’ process is going, along with more information about our next steps.
Thank you so much, as always, for your friendship, love, and support. And thank you for your grace and understanding in this difficult decision for our family. If you have been a financial supporter, we will be sending you a follow-up email soon.
Joe, Jennie, and Kate

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And Then There Was Light (or Sun...)

It's been a pretty dreary past 10 days or so. San Jose was having what's called a temporál - a stretch of gray, cool, rainy days, from start to finish.  Typically, even during the rainy season, the mornings start out sunny. Sometimes the sun only lasts for an hour or so; other mornings it lasts until 2 o'clock. Then the downpour begins.  But even when there are torrential rains in the afternoon, you almost always can count on some sun in the mornings.

Not so during a temporál. These are very common during the month of November, which is a transition month for Costa Rica, where the rains start to diminish and the dry season is ushered in.  But it's not the dry season yet, and I suppose Mother Nature wanted to give us one more dose of rain and cool temperatures before summer arrives.

For those of you who know me well, you know I hate the rain. Well, mostly I hate the never-ceasing Pacific Northwest rain (although it does have its benefits, like making everything a lush, deep green). But even here in warm Costa Rica, 10 days of gray skies and drizzly mornings, afternoons, and evenings, can get me down. The grayness in particular has all sorts of effects on me: low energy level, lack of motivation, moodiness, sadness...

I endure it because I have to. But I don't just endure; I honestly try to make the best of it and do everything I can to fight off all the negative side effects.

I don't just wallow (although I may indulge in a few longer naps).

And I don't just sit around complaining (okay, I do complain some).

I discipline myself to carry on and take the rainy season (whether it's 10 days or 10 months) for what it's worth: a season. A season to be more contemplative, to be more still, to enjoy candlelight and hot tea.  And yes, for me, it's at times a season simply to endure. But through this endurance I am somehow strengthened. Because if I allow myself to be open to it, through enduring and disciplining myself, I learn and grow.

And the best part about enduring, persevering, or being 'disciplined' - whether it's something more 'petty' like the weather or something more profound like a life circumstance - is that when the sun finally comes out, it is truly glorious.

And this morning, that is exactly what happened: blue, sunny skies abounded, after over a week of rain.

You appreciate the light in a whole new way.

But if it weren't for the gray season you had just endured, one, you wouldn't have learned invaluable lessons, and two, the light, or the new season, wouldn't be so magnificent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tarantulas! (And Happy Thanksgiving!)

Sometimes life just takes you by surprise. And sometimes it even shocks you. Like when we saw a tarantula casually walking across our wall a week or so ago (it was too heavy and then feel to the floor, traumatizing poor Ducky). We were certainly taken by surprise by this hairy eight-legged creature.

And then I was down right shocked when just two days ago, I was sorting the laundry in the laundry room, and I picked up a tank top only to have another tarantula practically fall out onto my foot. Needless to say, I ran out of the room, screaming some choice words at the top of my lungs.

What is going on? Why are there suddenly tarantulas in our house?

We don't really know the answer to these questions. The thing is, is that life is so often like this. Crazy things happen, like tarantulas jumping out of your tank tops, and there is just not a good explanation for it.

But even if we don't know why they are there or where they are coming from, after this second incident, I needed to do a little research about these fuzzy creatures. I didn't think they were dangerous, but I wanted to make sure in case we encountered another one.  Here is what I found out (

·       Tarantulas will go bald on their thorax when they get old!
·       Tarantulas have tiny hairs on the back of their abdomen and back legs that will stick to an enemy if disturbed and ITCH.
·       Tarantulas have re-tractable claws, just like cats!
·       Some tarantulas can get as big as dinner plates!
·       Tarantulas’ bite is actually not that dangerous; no more worse than a bee sting (unless you’re allergic, of course).

I think I would pass out if I saw a tarantula the size of a dinner plate. Hopefully those only exist in Africa or something. Far away from here.

Anyway, have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hopefully we can cook our turkey tomorrow in peace, with no more surprise visits from these scary, hairy arachnid beasts!

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's A...

Today was the big day where we got to find out if we were going to add a son to our family or another daughter. For Kate, the question was little sister or little brother. She of course was convinced that she was going to have a sister.  I was pretty convinced it was a girl too, but mainly because that is what I know already.  I honestly had no clue.

We had big plans to drop Kate off at daycare this morning and go to the appointment alone.  We would find out the sex during the ultrasound, go pick her up, and then take her out to lunch to reveal whether it was a baby brother or baby sister.

However, our plans were completely foiled when she came down with some flu/stomach bug yesterday: she was up all night throwing up, which meant we couldn’t take her to school of course, which meant she had to come with us to the doctor.  Rule #1 of parenthood: Thy must be flexible!

So. No more beating around the bush. We all went in to the doctor’s office, I asked a few questions (all in Spanish which is honestly a little nerve-wracking), and then we did the ultrasound.  Right away, we saw two little legs and a, well, just see below!

The gender is so obvious that the ultrasound picture is almost inappropriate!! Needless to say, we will be having a boy! No doubts in that department. Everything looks healthy and on track so far (except my weight gain, apparently – I’ve gained too much according to the doctor – which was a little disappointing, but what am to do?) Anyway, we are very excited.  Thank you for your continued prayers for this baby and this pregnancy!

Next goal: find a good boy name. (We have very few options at this point! All our favorite names are already taken or are our brothers/brother in law).

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I haven't really been too homesick lately.  Our year anniversary of living here has come and gone and I will say that since about September life has just 'clicked' a little more here as we become more and more accustomed and comfortable.

But I have been dogsick - that is I've really missed our dog Dawson.  Joe has too.  Some of you know that originally we planned on bringing him down here.  Joe's parents were going to take care of him for 6 months and then we were going to 'ship' him down on the airplane on our trip last March.  But after doing some research about the risks of air travel for dogs, and in the midst of lots of other circumstances, we decided against it.  The Westfalls have been a tremendous blessing in taking care of him for us (amongst doing a host of other things for us, including sorting our mail...).  He's still in the family, being loved and taken care of, but it doesn't take away the fact that our family has never felt quite 'complete' without him here. We miss walking him, petting him, playing with him, and dressing him up in weird things. At least we have Fernando the Latino cat here, who continues to be quite the hunter (see below).

We still have this wild one with us... here he is a few years ago, donning a Starbuck's gift card 'glove'.
What is this you might ask? Look below for a closer view.  This was fresh out of our cat's mouth this morning!!
Kate yells from the living room, "Mommy! Daddy! Fernando has something big by his head!"
Thank God for a man in the house.  I just think I would die having to scoop up a 7 inch rat!!

So, yeah. We don't have Dawson with us, but at least we Rat Killer Numero Uno.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Harvest Party!

I think the pictures do the best job of telling how this party went down.

Normal globe lights that hang in our house...
...become festive pumpkin lights!
What's Halloween without candy?
Banners out of scrapbook paper.
And a few pumpkins below.
Yummy treats and a pretty girl.
Gangster Joe.
Butterfly, black crayon, gangster.
The two princess butterfly girls.
And then Joe had to get in and add some flavor to the picture.
And then Mr. T just couldn't resist jumping in.  I about peed my pants when Jonathan walked in our door with this costume on. I mean, he's wearing his wife's Ralph Lauren shirt. And duck tape rings and bracelets and earrings. Oh, and he spent about an hour shaving his head just to get the 'look'.
Cait and Lexi, dressed as a highlighter and a candy cane.
The Griffiths.
Joe with his 'piece'.
The Harpsts with adorable Adaya dressed as a skeleton and Kerby as a nerd.  Jason came as himself.
Adaya and her daddy.
The delicious desserts; that's pumpkin bread - yum!
Leighton and Isaac - two pirates playing in a pink kitchen.  Arg.
Pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern.
Gathered around the food.

 It was really fun to host a get-together to celebrate a holiday that for us, is simply about candy and costumes!