Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life in the Country, Paisa Style

Almost a year ago we decided to take a major step toward our dream of retiring to the country.  Debi, our daughter,  was living near El Carmen de Viboral, an hour from Medellín.  We had visited in February and liked the zone very much. After talking for years about doing it, it was Debi who spoke God’s will to us. Why not just rent a house or apartment in El Carmen and try it out. "Just DO it!" The cost of living is much lower than Cartagena. I'd always said I could live most anywhere as long as there was internet so I could work on translations and keep in touch with friends, etc. Now it would also be a question of administrating our small effort at tourist lodgings at our big house in Cartagena.  So Norman would travel back and forth.

We set out on July 10, Norman and I,  with our Mazda 323 packed to the hilt,  me doing all the driving as usual. Our first stop was San Juan Nepumoceno, to say goodbye to Carmen,  the hotel owner who'd become our friend since we visited Los Colorados National Park a few years ago and whom we'd stayed with many times on short getaways. Turned out it was really out of the way as our goal was Montería, but that shows you, friendship is more important than time.

We stayed the night at dear friends' Jairo and Betsy. Norman gave her a new look that evening and we were on our way early in the morning. We aimed for Rionegro where we'd stay at the Boteros. We hadn't seen Norman and Anita since Debi was a little girl, though she had been their guest several times, until February when we had gone to spy out the land and they hosted us.

We found a small house with garage to rent in a good neighborhood of El Carmen right away and set up house with inflatable mattresses and no furniture.  We scoured the second-hand shops and found two double beds and a dresser, some stools and that was it. We found stores that sold household gadgets super cheap and got many things there. Someone had given us an old refrigerator that needed defrosting almost once a week, but it was a blessing.  Norman stayed about 10 days and had to go back to Cartagena, leaving me with Debi to adapt to life in Paisa country. The scenery is gorgeous, the air clean and pure.  We'd found paradise. Well, almost.

The first Friday we went a little nuts grocery shopping at Hojarasca, an organic store and restaurant and ecological center. It only opens on weekends. Such fresh, delicious and healthy produce!  After a while I started taking vegetarian cooking classes, and that's been a great outlet. I've finally learned how to use my kitchen knives, scald, sauté and make all kinds of great foods with local ingredients (frijoles, jicama, victoria squash,  cidra) and made new friends in the process. My Wednesday afternoon class is a highlight of my week, followed by yoga therapy where I participate as far as my barely flexible knees permit. Our instructor thinks the rest of me is very flexible.  Norman didn't believe it.

When the rains began we discovered that our rented house had a big problem along the back wall. The empty lot behind it filled up with water which seeped through our wall. Good thing no one slept in the back room. The patio roofs also leaked. The owner had the main patio roof replaced.  This is where I hung up tons of laundry every ten days or so when we rented a washer by the hour.  In Cartagena we had a sunny backyard to put laundry out in. Here it was raining a lot and cold, too. We got a lot of clothes hangers and lifted the laundry on them with a long stick to hang from the ceiling bars. Usually dried in a  couple of  days.  We got a new stove with oven so Debi could bake and sell brownies and cookies.

Another fun thing at the house was that the next-door neighbor decided it was time to start building his house. This meant waking us up hammering and pouring cement early every morning. I was especially lucky as my bedroom shared their wall. Even earplugs didn't help.

Though we had the car, we mostly walked and used the car to go to  Rionegro or on an outing to explore.  I lost a little weight but generally feel great with more activity.  So many new things to try out. Yummy local sausages,  buñuelos, arepas of fresh corn always  available,  tamales, pan de achira.  We found hamburgers for 75 cents, lunch for anywhere from $1.25 to $3.50 USD.  Norman and I love to have coffee in the plaza with a fresh pandebono. It's kind of the local pastime. That and eating a sausage with mini arepa or having ice cream which is sold everywhere.  Though El Carmen is a small town it has about 50 rural roads lined with farms, and on weekends all those people seem to pour into town to eat ice cream and do their town shopping.  It's a regular fashion show. Old men in sarapes and felt hats, most old women with long grey hair, the younger ones mostly use an iron on their long hair. Norman says all the women have the same hairstyle. 

We have a good cultural Institute that offers classes in music, video production,  writing and of course ceramics, which have made El Carmen famous. We love the pottery.  Debi has taken some classes. There's an annual theater festival,  ceramics festival,  farmers' festival, Andean music festival and other events.  During the theater festival there was a tango concert with dancers,  in the park. Great stuff.

In February we moved to a rural small farm three km from town. We're living in an old adobe house, typical in the  country, with fireplace.  The only negative is that part of the farm is rented to a flower grower. He cultivates daisies/chrysanthemums which do not require "as much" fumigation as hydrangeas, which are common in the region and their cultivation is ruining the soil. But we have a little garden with chard, basil, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, arugula, green onions, jicama and some potatoes. The owner planted red and pink roses and some orchids. I love the flowers. Azaleas, too, even carnations. We enjoy four Mandarin lemon trees, several  varieties of guava, some figs and a few other trees not producing yet. I can hang my laundry outside again where the wind makes the trees clap their hands. We were able to get our own washer and new frig. Happy day.

After a month we got internet out in the boonies from the local cooperative, and we love to work on the computer or read in our outdoor living room which is glassed in on two sides. We have TV by satellite, too, and a landline that works.  My favorite part of the day is when the sun is setting. The sunsets are spectacular as I watch from the glassed-in area while finishing my work. And recently I discovered,  thanks to the Google Sky app on my dumbphone, that we can see the Southern Cross.  In all the years I have lived in Colombia,  the night sky was always a stranger, only Orion bridging the northern and southern skies assuring me that it was the  same heavenly vault.  Now the night sky is my friend here, too. They say that people get most depressed between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, but my God is Lord of the evening,  too, and I love that hour.

Some things have either surprised me or almost freaked me out. There was the morning the florist's cow decided to find out if the grass is greener our side of the fence. I  was glad her owner chased her out before I could try out my stick with the piece of leather attached to it.  It's the typical country walking stick here, handy in case a dog comes at you. Or a bull. Or a burro.

Another day the neighbor's burro came down our lane to see what he could eat. Twice. Emma,  our chihuahua-mini-pin mix from Cartagena, has become a happy country dog and chased Mr. Burro back up the hill. Twice. She is quite comical lording it over her territory and is my hearing dog and watchdog, too. She does have it in her blood to chase small animals, though. At the first house she cornered a mouse in the middle of the night. Brave Emma Lee. Here she thinks she should hunt the birds, of which there are many colorful ones. Sad to say she's caught two that've gotten stuck behind the set in, glass walls.  Instinct.

Last week I got up one morning and put on my slippers. After taking two steps I felt something pricking my big left toe. Off with that slipper! I shook it, and out dropped a spider.  Oh thank you, God, that the local arachnids are not poisonous!  It didn't  bite through, and when paralysis didn't set in within half an hour I figured I was safe. I include a close-up of my assailant. Now, I know you're always supposed to check inside shoes in the country, but I didn't.  I do now. Trust me. PIcture me waking up to use the bathroom at 3 a.m. and feeling around for my slippers so I can shake them out before I relieve myself.

My neighbor right over the fence has seen a harmless black snake in his woods, but I  haven't had the privilege.  Having grown up in California,  I have a very healthy respect for our slithering friends.  Now the florist tells me he's seen three different snakes among his mums. Fine with me as long as they stay in the greenhouse.

Last night I almost picked up what looked like a small ball of black and yellow yarn. Debi and I  have been knitting so it could have been yarn. Turned out to be a large worm. I scooped it up in the dustpan and liberated it down the hill on the grass. OK I tossed it out there.  It probably survived.  Worms like that are often poisonous.  Another close call.

So life out here in the country is a different experience, one we've always wanted. Bottom line, we love it. The clean air and tranquility are priceless. We are being renewed and invigorated. Who cares if we have ride the bus with all the windows closed during dry season because of the dust? What are a few (thousand) bugs I've never seen before? What if I run out of propane because I have no idea what an empty tank feels like. I've got a great supplier who rescues me within a couple of hours. Every day's an adventure. And do we feel inconvenienced? Not really. We feel really, really blessed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thankful Reflections 2013 / Reflexiones de gratitud, 2013

I started writing this entry on Thanksgiving Day, 2013, a couple of Thursdays ago. I had lately been challenged to express thankfulness in the midst of a rather unpleasant circumstance:  I had just lost my job. 

This wasn’t just any job either. I have had some wonderful work experiences, and God has used them as part of His provision through the years. Some 30 years ago I made the decision to leave the public/private sectors of employment and work full-time as a Christian school teacher. I took a huge cut in salary. Not that I was earning an awful lot at Braille Institute, but it was enough for my needs and I loved my work. I had the very best boss, Les Stocker, head of Development, who today is (I believe, still) the CEO of that prestigious non-profit. Life has been full of adventures as I went from teaching at our church school to becoming a missionary in Cali, Colombia, in 1986 via tent-making as an English teacher at the best bilingual school in the nation.

Then, when I thought I had nowhere else to go in Colombia and was ready to go home to California and go back to teaching there, my heart’s desire came true in 1988 when Randy and Marcy MacMillan asked me to come on full-time staff with Mission Sur America and be their publications assistant (deacon, director, secretary, whatever. I never did have a real title or even exactly a specific identity, but I was happy). I loved my work and was supported by my home church in California, Living Waters Christian Fellowship. The income was a modest offering, just enough for normal expenses, but the Lord always provided more and sent me many places at His expense. And again, I had an incredible boss. Randy was the most encouraging person I have ever known, a man who really loved his people. It was a privilege to work alongside this true apostle.

I got married in 1992 and my USA church support ended as my Norman now became responsible for our soon-to-be family’s provision. And we have seen God’s faithfulness to us over the years, not because we tithed and made offerings (which we did “religiously”) but because, as we have come to understand, He was committed to us as His children. And He still is, even though our view of tithes and offerings has altered. (We still believe in giving, but not as a means of getting blessed).

Over the 21 years of my marriage, almost all of it as a mother (counting conception as the beginning of motherhood), we have seen God give us a house, pay off our mortgage and all debt, and help us raise a wonderful, talented daughter whom God has so graciously loaned us to care for and treasure. She graduated in May from her first university course as a professional photographer. Of the 20 years of her life, I taught school 4 years, worked with MSA about 5 years long-distance over the internet as Randy’s translator and editor, itinerated 2 years, and worked for 3 years as a university professor.  I also free-lanced as a translator with various entities.
Each task was fulfilling in its own way. It was good to go outside the church walls and interact with university people and get a perspective on how people really live and think, and thus keep pace with my daughter’s growing up as well.

When my university job came to an end in June of this year, the Lord had forewarned me that this season was coming to an end, so I was not surprised. He has guided my every step. I could only say, “Fine, what now?”  I barely had a month to wait when I got one of those calls from out of the blue, result of leaving a business card with a translator I’d met while at the university. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (I jokingly called him the godfather) with the highest salary I’d ever earned in my entire life, anywhere, doing simultaneous translation and written translation of a very technical nature. We’d try it out and see how it went. It was demanding, challenging, and I loved that, too. It was the start of a new career at age 63. The dream of every translator. Nobody gives people my age that kind of opportunity. My boss was neither a Les nor a Randy, but a guy I learned a lot from and learned to care about, too. And I was grateful for the job. And he fulfilled our contract. I even got to go to the States – twice, to translate – for the first time in the 12 years since my mom had passed into eternity. That was fantastic and really a blast.  And then the bubble burst.

The company who’d contracted my boss wasn’t fully convinced of my worth and had the legal right to object to my continuing to translate for them. Whether it was fair or not isn’t the point so I’m not going to go into that. I had 4 great months and hopefully will be able to hold on to some of the benefits long enough to bless my family and maybe help Debi should she go back to school. I fully mulled over the fairness issue and it’s over. Forgiven. But I learned some more things about myself that I hope are worth sharing.

I have grown accustomed to thanking the Lord no matter what I’m going through. Romans 1 says so much about thankfulness, how it is the key to a nation and a people’s survival as far as being rightly related to God. A thankful heart is a key to happiness, to contentment.

But I found myself a bit worried about the future. So if God is still my provider, why am I concerned?  I realized I was still trusting in the arm of flesh, in my own ability. The Lord IS my shepherd; I shall not want.  My God WILL supply ALL my needs out of HIS riches in glory – not my abilities. I believe these verses. But the fact that I was a bit anxious showed me I wasn’t fully trusting Him. So I had to surrender that. Joy followed. I began to sing that wonderful old hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed” and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (see 2 Timothy 1:12). And then there was that other hymn I love so dearly, “It Is Well with My Soul.”

I was even able to share this in a very timely manner with a dear internet friend who has been terribly frustrated that financial release has not come even when “doing” everything right. After God dealt with me first. It’s not what we do:  it’s how we relate to Him.

And on Thanksgiving Day, I read this in Vivien Hibbert's blog - a perfect verse for that day:  Psalm 56:12, The Message:  "God, you did everything you promised, and I'm thanking you with all my heart."  Yes, that’s the bottom line. His promises were not threatened or lessened in meaning or truth because I’m in transition to the next step in my life. Maybe He wants me/us free to do something entirely new. Maybe I’ll go back to work with this crazy guy who took a big risk hiring me in the first place, to do certain tasks that I’m perfectly suited for. Maybe not.  Maybe I’ll get to do some real volunteer work. Maybe Norman will continue to be blessed as a hair stylist. Maybe Debi will find her first job soon. Whatever… I KNOW whom I have believed in.

Today I’m finally finishing this. I promised Debi as soon as I turned in the last of my promised tasks to my ex-boss, I’d go back to my own writing, which I have not made time for these last 4 months. So here it is.

Today I am especially thankful because Debi is coming home from almost a month away exploring in another part of Colombia. We can’t wait to see her. We know it is a gift to be able to have time with her now that she is “grown up” and will soon find her feet and really become independent. Our nest emptied early (see my earlier blog How to Survive Being Parents of a University Student) when Debi was only 16 and she went to study in Bogotá. We missed her terribly, and every vacation we have lived great times with her, always aware that we are on borrowed time, so to speak. It makes every moment precious. I know every mom and dad reading this understands. So she moved back home in August, but for how long we don’t know. We know we also can’t wait forever to fulfill our own personal vision and dreams, and she is our biggest cheerleader in encouraging us to just go and DO IT. Of course we’ll always have room for her when she needs it, and always hate to let her go, but she’s grown eagle’s wings of her own and every day is learning more about who she is. For God’s tremendous faithfulness in keeping her in the palm of His hand these growing-up years, we are ever grateful.

Yes, He has kept His promises. He has kept her safe. He will continue to do so. He will provide for us with or without our pensions, with or without jobs. He overshadows our lives. He IS El Shaddai, the all-sufficient one. He is the love of our lives. If we can share more of Him with you, please let us know. Merry Christmas, dear readers.

Empecé a escribír esta entrada el Día de Acción de Gracias, 2013, unos jueves atrás. Había sido retado a expresar gratitud en medio e una circunstancia bastante desagradable:  acabé de perder mi empleo.

Este no fue cualquier trabajo tampoco. He tenido unas experiencias maravillosas de trabajo, y Dios ha usado esos trabajos como parte de su provisión a través de los años. Hace unos 30 años tomé la decisión de dejar el sector público/privado de empleo y trabajar tiempo completo como profesora en un colegio cristiano. Tomé una rebaja enorme en sueldo. No es que estuviera ganando una gran cantidad en el Instituto Braille, pero era suficiente para mis necesidades y amaba mi trabajo. Tuve el mejor de los jefes, Les Stocker, jefe de Desarrollo, quien ahora (creo) es el Director Ejecutivo de ese ong sin ánimo de lucro. La vida ha sido una serie de aventuras a medida que fui de ser docente en nuestro colegio de la iglesia a volverme misionera en Cali, Colombia, en 1986 mediante ser “hacedora de carpas” enseñando inglés en el mejor colegio bilingüe en la nación.

Luego, cuando pensé que no había más camino a correr para mí en Colombia y estaba lista para regresar a California y volver a la docencia allí, el deseo de mi corazón se cumplió en 1988 cuando Randy y Marcy MacMillan me pidieron que trabajara con ellos tiempo completo en Misión Sur América como su asistente-diaconisa-directora-secretaria-lo-que-sea de publicaciones. Realmente nunca tuve un título específico ni exactamente una identidad precisa, pero estaba feliz. Amaba mi trabajo y fui apoyada económicamente por mi iglesia en California, Aguas Vivas. Mis ingresos eran una ofrenda módica, justo para gastos principales, pero el Señor siempre proveyó más y me envió a muchos lugares costeando todo Él. Y, de nuevo, tuve un jefe increíble. Randy fue la persona más animadora que he conocido jamás, un hombre que realmente amaba su gente. Fue un privilegio trabajar al lado de este verdadero apóstol.

Me casé en 1992 y mi iglesia en USA dejó de apoyarme económicamente cuando Norman ya se hizo responsable por matrimonio para la provisión de nuestra “familia”. Y hemos visto la fidelidad de Dios a través de los años, no porque diezmábamos y dábamos ofrendas (cosa que hacíamos “religiosamente”) pero porque, como hemos venido a entender, El estaba comprometido con nosotros como Sus hijos. Y todavía lo es, aunque nuestro entendimiento de los diezmos y las ofrendas ha cambiado. (Aún creemos en el dar, pero no como un medio de ganar bendiciones).

Durante los 21 años de mi matrimonio, casi todo siendo mamá (cuento la concepción como el comienzo de ser madre), hemos visto como Dios nos ha dado casa, nos ha liberado de la hipoteca y toda deuda, y nos ha ayudado a criar una hija maravillosa y talentosa a quien Dios nos la ha prestado para cuidarla y atesorar. Ella graduó en mayo de su primera carrera universitaria como fotógrafo profesional. De los 20 años de su vida, enseñé colegio unos 4 años, trabajé con MSA unos 5 años a distancia por medio del internet como traductora y editora para Randy, viajé como maestra de la Palabra 2 años y trabajé 3 años como profesora de universidad. También trabajé como traductora independiente con varias entidades. Cada trabajo me llenaba en su tiempo y a su manera. Fue bueno salir de las paredes de la iglesia e interactuar con gente de la universidad y obtener una perspectiva en cómo la gente vive  y piensa de verdad, y así también mantener el paso con nuestra hija mientras alcanzaba la mayoría de edad.

Cuando mi trabajo en la universidad llegó a su fin en enero de este año, el Señor me había advertido que esta estación llegaba a su fin, así que no me sorprendió. Me ha guiado cada paso. Sólo pude decir: “Bien, y ahora qué?” Tuve escasamente un mes de espera cuando recibí una de esas llamadas de la nada, resultado de dejar una tarjeta de negocios con un traductor que había conocido en la universidad. Me hizo una oferta que no pude rechazar (en broma le decía el padrino) con el sueldo más alto de mi vida entera, en cualquier lugar, haciendo traducción simultánea y escrita de una naturaleza muy técnica. Lo probaríamos a ver cómo nos iba. Fue muy exigente, desafiante, y amé eso también. Fue el comienzo de una nueva carrera a los 63 años. El sueño de todo traductor. Nadie da esa clase de oportunidad a la gente de mi edad. Mi jefe no fue un Les ni un Randy, pero un varón de quien aprendí mucho y también llegó a importarme como persona. Y fui muy agradecida por ese trabajo. Y él cumplió nuestro contrato. Hasta llegué a viajar a USA dos veces para traducir – por primera vez en los 12 años desde que mi mamá había pasado a la eternidad. Eso fue fantástico y super divertido. Y luego la burbuja se reventó.

La empresa que había contratado a mi jefe no estaba plenamente convencida de mi valor y tenía el derecho legal de objetar a mi permanencia como su traductora. Si fue justo o no, no es el punto así que no voy a hablar de eso. Tuve 4 meses grandiosos y la esperanza que los beneficios duren los suficiente para bendecir a mi familia y tal vez ayudar a Debi si decide volver a la universidad y estudiar otra carrera. Medité todo el tema de la justicia y ya se acabó. Perdonado. Pero aprendí algunas cosas acerca de mí que espero valgan la pena compartir.

Me he acostumbrado a darle las gracias al Señor no importa lo que estoy pasando.  Romanos 1 dice tanto acerca de la gratitud, como es la clave de mantener un pueblo o una nación en relación correcta con Dios. Un corazón agradecido es una clave de la felicidad, del contentamiento.

Pero me encontré un poco preocupada en cuanto al futuro. Así que si Dios sigue siendo mi proveedor, porque me preocupo?  Me di cuenta que aún confiaba en el brazo de carne, en mi propia habilidad. El Señor ES mi pastor; nada me faltará. Mi Dios SI proveerá TODA mi necesidad de SUS riquezas en gloria – no de mis habilidades. Creo estos versículos. Pero el hecho de que estaba un poco ansiosa me mostró que no estaba plenamente en EL. Así que tuve que rendir eso. Lo que siguió fue gozo. Empecé a cantar ese glorioso himno antiguo, “Yo sé en quién he creído” (ver la letra en 2 Timoteo 1:12). Y luego ese otro himno que amo mucho, “Estoy bien con mi Dios”.

Hasta pude compartir esto en una manera muy puntual con una querida amiga del Internet que ha estado terriblemente frustrada porque la liberación financiera no había venido aun cuando “hacía” todo lo correcto. Después de que Dios trató conmigo primero. No es lo que hacemos:  es cómo nos relacionamos a Él.

Y el Día de Acción de Gracias, leí esto en el blog de Vivien Hibbert – un versículo perfecto para ese día:  Salmo 56:12, versión El Mensaje (trad.):  “Dios, hiciste todo lo que prometiste, y te estoy agradeciendo con todo mi corazón”. Sí, esa es el fondo del asunto.  Sus promesas no fueron amenazadas o disminuidas en significativo o certeza porque estoy en transición al próximo paso en mi vida. Tal vez Él quiere que yo/nosotros estemos libres para hacer algo enteramente nuevo. Tal vez vuelva a trabajar con este hombre “loco” que se arriesgó tanto en emplearme en primer lugar, para hacer tareas que son perfectas para mí. Tal vez no. Tal vez haga algo de voluntariado de verdad. Tal vez Norman siga siendo bendecido como peluquero. Tal vez Debi encuentre pronto su primer empleo.  Lo que sea…Yo SE en quién he creído.

Hoy por fin estoy terminando esto. Le prometí a Debi que tan pronto entregara lo último de las tareas prometidas a mi exjuefe, volvería a escribir lo mío, que no he hecho espacio en mi agenda para eso en estos 4 meses. Así que aquí está.

Hoy estoy especialmente agradecida porque Debi llega hoy después de casi un mes fuera explorando otra parte de Colombia. No vemos el momento de abrazarla. Sabemos que es un regalo poder tener tiempo con ella ya que creció y pronto encontrará lo suyo y se volverá realmente independiente. Nuestro nido se vació temprano (ver el blog anterior, Como sobrevivir siendo padres de un universitario) cuando Debi aún tenía 17 años y se fue a estudiar en Bogotá. La extrañamos terriblemente, y cada tiempo de vacaciones hemos vivido tiempos grandiosos con ella, siempre conscientes que estamos viviendo tiempo prestado, por así decirlo. Hace que cada momento sea precioso. Sé que cada mamá y papá leyendo esto entiende. Así que ella se mudó a casa nuevamente en agosto, pero por cuánto tiempo no sabemos. Sabemos que no podemos esperar siempre para cumplir nuestra visión y sueños personales, y ella es nuestra porrista más importante en animarnos a simplemente lanzarnos y HAGALE.  Por supuesto siempre tendremos espacio para ella cuando lo necesita, y siempre odiamos despedirnos de ella, pero se le han crecido alas de águila propias y todos los días aprende más de quién ella es. Por la tremenda fidelidad de Dios en guardarla en el hueco de Su mano en estos años de maduración, siempre estaremos agradecidos.

Sí, Él ha cumplido sus promesas. La ha guardado segura. Seguirá haciéndolo. Proveerá por nosotros con o sin nuestras pensiones, con o sin trabajo. El eclipsa nuestras vidas. El ES El Shaddai, el Todo Suficiente. Es el amor de nuestras vidas. Si podemos compartir más de El con ustedes, hágannos saber. Feliz Navidad, queridos lectores.

How to Survive Being Parents of a University Student/ Como sobrevivir siendo padres de un universitario

I wrote this post a while before I started this blog, but because of the blog that's going to come after it, I realized it needed to be accessible here. I haven't changed it at all, so if it seems slightly out of sync, that's why.

 Este post lo escribí antes de comenzar el blog, pero por la entrada que viene después de ésta, me di cuenta que debía ser asequible aquí. No la he cambiado nada, así que si parece un poco fuera de tiempo, es por eso.

In gratitude to the One who always causes us to triumph
Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm ·

Our beloved daughter, who absolutely hates for me to brag on her publicly, or share her (excellent) writing achievements, is going to have to tolerate me writing this with a bit of patience, especially as she is always telling me I have to write (more - or - again). It's been a while since I felt I had anything to say, and last time I started to in FB, nobody read it so I just figured it didn't matter. But I am doing this to exercise my writing gift and to give glory to the Father of Lights who has taught us a few strategies over the last 4 semesters as we have experienced being parents of a university student.

As so many of you know from experience, standing by your offspring as they go through college and university is a whole new experience after high school. In our case, it's also brought the empty nest far sooner than we'd have wished. Always, we have trusted the Lord with Debi because we knew she was His long before she was ours. She lives in a rented room with a family half a country away from us in the center of Colombia, in Bogotá, the capital, and studies professional photography in a design institute. She chose it because it also has a humanities curriculum and she has literature and art history every semester as well as all her photog classes.Along the way a passion for literature and writing, especially poetry, has been birthed and is flourishing in her. The whole experience has served to help her grow up a great deal (she's 18 now, and almost ready to be really independent.) We miss her all the time. We hate being separated from her, but we also rejoice at how much she has matured and know it has been important. She's an only child and this experience has removed so much dependence on us. 

But there have been many times we'd have wished we could just run to her side and hold her in our arms and say, "It's ok. You'll get through this - a hard assignment, some frustration, being sick without me there to spoil her, whatever. She's a great young lady, multi-talented (one of her frustrations as it's hard to focus and really find her niche). We've had to learn how to encourage her while also letting her go, and let her go through the tests and trials and learn her lessons. We can no longer be there all the time to rescue our baby. She is finding out how strong she can really be, how much she really can handle, and she has done us proud every semester.

We have learned how to intercede for her based on God's promises - His personal ones about her that we've held onto all her life as well as general Bible promises. In either case, we must pray the RHEMA word over her. He has been teaching us. His Holy Spirit gives the plan. So when she thinks she can't do any more (and she always does anyway), we first remind the Lord He has promised that she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her (Ph. 4:13).
Secondly, she has the mind of Christ.
Thirdly, everything she is going through is normal for all university students, and if it's too hard or unfair, He'll make a way to escape (1 Cor. 10:13), because He's faithful, and so she'll be able to bear it - triumph even. 
Fourth, even in times of doubt, when assailed by all the new ideas (mostly old new age ideas which every generation sifts through), even if she isn't sure of God's presence and faithfulness, He cannot deny Himself and remains faithful to her.  That's why we can trust HIM with her.  Always, no matter what. (2 Tim. 2:13)

So we can continue to trust Him with our most precious treasure (2 Tim. 1:12). Because she has always been His. Because she was sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise one October morning when she was five years old and asked to be born again. And when I've asked Him, He has simply spoken in my spirit - "She is mine. No one and nothing can take her from me." And I know it's true. So I sleep at night even though my mom's heart gets nervous sometimes.

We're not done being parents yet. Even when she graduates - God willing, the end of this year - and is working, we will still be family, forever. It will continue to be our privilege as well as our responsibility to support our daughter with all our love, resources and especially prayer. And we will continue to do it with joy. Thank you, Jesus, for your unending faithfulness!  God is good!

P.S. Debi graduated with maximum honors in May, 2013 as a professional photographer. God continues to hold her in the palm of His hand. Some of her incredible work is on her Flickr page, and on Facebook you can find her as Débora Hernández. Of course her mom is always willing to help you get in touch with her....

En gratitud al que siempre nos lleva en triunfo
Sábado, mayo 19, 2012 a las 4:56 pm

Nuestra amada hija, quien odia absolutamente que presuma acerca de ella en público o que comparta sus logros por sus excelentes escrituras, va a tener que tolerar con un poco de paciencia que escriba esto, especialmente como siempre me está exhortando que deba escribir más o volver a escribir. Hace rato no he sentido que tenía nada que valía la pena decir, y la última vez que iba a escribir un blog en el FB, nadie lo comentó y decidí que no importaba. Pero estoy haciendo esto para ejercitar mi don para escribir y para darle la Gloria al Padre de Luces quien nos ha enseñado unas estrategias durante los últimos cuatro semestres a medida que hayamos experimentado ser padres de un universitario.

Como tantos de ustedes saben por experiencia propia, apoyar a tu prole mientras atraviesa la Universidad es una experiencia totalmente nueva después de bachillerato. En nuestro caso también nos ha vaciado el nido mucho más pronto de lo que hubiéramos deseado. Siempre hemos confiado en el Señor por Debi porque sabíamos que ella era Suya mucho antes de que fue nuestra. Ella vive pensionada con una familia medio país de distancia de nosotros en el centro de Colombia, en Bogotá, la capital, y estudia fotografía profesional en un instituto de diseño. Ella lo escogió porque también ofrece un currículo de humanidades y ve literatura e historia de arte todos los semestres además de todos sus cursos de fotografía. En el camino se ha despertado y florecido en ella una pasión por la literatura y la escritura, especialmente la poesía. La experiencia entera ha servido para ayudarle a madurar mucho. (Ya tiene 18 años, y está casi lista para ser totalmente independiente.) La extrañamos todo el tiempo. Odiamos estar separados de ella, pero también nos regocijamos al ver cuánto ha crecido y sé que ha sido importante. Es hija única y esta experiencia le ha removido de tanta dependencia de nosotros.

Pero ha habido muchos momentos cuando habríamos querido poder simplemente correr a su lado y tomarla en nuestros brazos y decirle: “Está bien. Esto pasará. Lo sobrevivirás – sea una tarea difícil, alguna frustración, estar enferma sin yo estar allí para consentirla, lo que sea. Es una fantástica joven, multi-talentosa (una de sus frustraciones porque así es difícil enfocarse y encontrar su verdadero lugar). Hemos tenido que aprender cómo animarla y al mismo tiempo soltarla y permitirla atravesar las pruebas y las dificultades y aprender sus lecciones. Ya no podemos estar allí todo el tiempo para rescatar y proteger a nuestra bebé. Ella está aprendiendo cuan fuerte puede ser realmente, cuánto puede soportar, y nos ha hecho orgullosos todos los semestres.

Hemos aprendido cómo interceder por ella basado en las promesas de Dios – las personales acerca de ella que hemos reclamado toda su vida tanto como las promesas generales bíblicas. En ambos casos, debemos orar lo que es RHEMA sobre ella. EL nos ha estado enseñando. Su Espíritu Santo da el plan. Así que cuando ella cree que ya no puede hacer más (y siempre hace más de todas formas), primero recordamos al Señor que Él ha prometido que ella puede hacer todo en Cristo que le fortalece (Filipenses 4:13).

Segundo, ella tiene la mente de Cristo (1 Cor. 2:16).

Tercero, todo lo que ella ha estado viviendo es normal para los universitarios, y si algo sea injusto o demasiado difícil, Él proveerá una solución o un escape (1 Cor. 10:13), porque Dios es fiel, y así ella podrá soportar y hasta triunfar.

Cuarto, aun en tiempos de duda, cuando rodeada por nuevas ideas (generalmente viejas filosofías y de la nueva era que toda generación debe filtrar), aun si no esté segura de la presencia y la fidelidad de Dios, Él no puede negarse a Sí mismo y permanece fiel a ella. Es por eso que podemos confiar en EL por ella. Siempre, no importa qué (2 Tim. 2:13).

Así que podemos seguir confiándole nuestro mayor tesoro (2 Tim. 1:12). Porque ella siempre ha sido Suya. Porque ella fue sellada con el Espíritu Santo de promesa una mañana de octubre cuando tenía cinco años y pidió nacer de nuevo. Y cuando yo le he preguntado, Él simplemente ha hablado a mi espíritu: “Ella es mía. Nadie ni nada podrá quitármela”. Y sé que es verdad. Así que duermo de noche aunque mi corazón de madre se pone nervioso a veces.

No hemos terminado de ser padres todavía. Aun cuando gradúe – mediante Dios, al final de este año – y esté trabajando, seguiremos siendo familia, para siempre. Seguirá siendo nuestro privilegio tanto como nuestra responsabilidad apoyar a nuestra hija con todo nuestro amor, recursos, y especialmente oraciones. Y seguiremos haciéndolo con gozo. Gracias, Jesús, por tu fidelidad interminable. Dios es fiel!

P.D. Debi graduó con máximos honors en mayo de 2013 como fotógrafo profesional. Dios sigue guardándola en el hueco de su mano. Algunos de sus increíbles trabajos están en su página de Flickr y en Facebook la encontrarán como Débora Hernández. Por supuesto su mamá siepre está dispuesta a ayudarles a ponerse en contacto con ella....

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Remembering a Friend / Recordando una amiga

Next week is Love and Friendship in Colombia. I wrote this piece a couple of years back while teaching a composition course at the university I taught at for the last three years. The unit was on “Description” and I assigned the group a composition about their best friend. I decided to accompany my class writing and do it, too. Funny, I had never “typed” it out before and had been meaning to digitalize it for a long time. It’s a nostalgic piece, but it seems so appropriate to share it today. I wish all of my friends a friend like Liz. I still miss her.

The first time I met Liz was at a worship conference, and she’d volunteered to accompany the choir on the piano. I saw a middle-aged woman of medium height with curly brown hair and modern eyeglass frames. She was so excited and bubbly as she ran to the piano. I thought she was just a little housewife getting her chance, as if she had been waiting to do something special all of her life. Later when I found out what a pro she was, I realized it was her natural enthusiastic way of being:  her passion for life just oozed out of her.

A divorced mom raising two daughters, one with an eventually fatal heart defect, Liz never quit trying to achieve the best for all concerned, whether family, church or her tax-consulting business. She even taught tax law at a university.

Her most outstanding characteristics were her huge grin and an infectious laugh. She was just fun to be with. Oh, we shed plenty of tears together, too, but mostly she gave me so much encouragement. Her life was a refuge and place of refreshment when I’d see her on visits from Colombia. She was such a giver. She was generous to a fault and absolutely loveable. I could never understand how anyone could have hurt her. I always felt good around her.

Liz had a delightful way of telling stories and personal anecdotes. Her telling of her adventures in Kenya, Africa, made me want to go there, too. (I haven’t so far, 30 years later, but I’m not done with adventures yet.)

Liz almost never knew when to quit. Even when cancer began to win the battle for her life, she embarked on one more adventure, getting on a cruise ship through the Panama Canal to come spend one day with me in Cartagena. Unfortunately the ship captain decided Aruba was safer than Colombia. We were terribly disappointed. She died a month later, and the only thing I could do was call her at her hospital bedside and have her listen to my broken farewell. She couldn’t even talk anymore. I’ve always hated good-byes, but learned not to run from them, not to leave things unsaid, not to leave my love unexpressed.

When the package arrived a few months later with the gifts Liz had been bringing on the cruise, it was full of fun things for my daughter, whom she had met on one of our trips to California. The box contained feather boas in several colors and a purple girl’s make-up kit and jewelry box, the stuff one constructs dreams with to feed the imagination. It was easy to imagine how delighted she would have been to watch Debi unpack her gifts. Her love spoke beyond the veil, and still does.

For all of my adult life, my best friends have been the ones I could most easily laugh with. Liz had that gift of laughing at herself. Life had thrown plenty of hardships and heartaches at her, but the joy of the Lord was her strength. I couldn’t live without it either. I believe Liz was a lady who lived well and helped others do the same, with a heart full of love and passion. That’s the kind of people I welcome into my life. Some of my friends have some of those qualities, and our times together are too few and far between. A few I have not even met face-to-face yet, but I know it’ll be the same. So I wish for all of you a friend like Liz. I miss her still.

La semana entrante se celebra el Día de Amor y Amistad en Colombia. Escribí esta pieza hace un par de años mientras enseñaba un curso de composición en la universidad donde enseñé los últimos tres años. La unidad era sobre “Descripción” y asigné al grupo una composición acerca de su mejor amigo. Decidí sumarme a la tarea y escribirlo también. Lo que ahora me parece un poco gracioso es que la he tenido guardado intentando digitalizarla  por mucho tiempo. Es una pieza nostálgica, pero parece apropiado compartirla hoy. Deseo para todos mis amigos una amiga como Liz. Aún me hace falta.

La primera vez que conocí a Liz fue en una conferencia de adoración, y ella se había ofrecido como voluntaria para acompañar al coro en el piano. Vi una mujer de media edad de altura mediana con pelo crespo, café, y gafas modernas. Ella estaba tan emocionada y burbujeante cuando corrió al piano. Pensé que era una ama de casa ordinaria respondiendo a la oportunidad, como si hubiera esperado hacer algo especial toda la vida. Más tarde cuando supe que era toda una profesional, me di cuenta que era su naturaleza natural entusiasta: su pasión por la vida rebosa de sus poros.

Una madre divorciada criando a dos hijas, una con un defecto cardíaco eventualmente fatal, Liz nunca dejó de esforzarse para lograr lo mejor para todos involucrados, sea en su familia, su iglesia, o su negocio de contadora para declaraciones de renta. Hasta daba cátedra en las leyes sobre impuestos en la universidad.

Sus características más sobresalientes eran su enorme sonrisa y una risa infecciosa. Simplemente era divertido estar con ella. Oh, también lloramos juntas, pero mayormente me dio tanto ánimo y apoyo. Su vida era un refugio y lugar de refrigerio cuando nos reuníamos durante mis visitas de Colombia. Era una persona que simplemente daba de sí. Se pasaba de generosa y era absolutamente adorable. Nunca pude entender como alguien sería capaz de lastimarla. Siempre sentía bien con ella.  

Liz tenía una forma deleitosa de contar historias y anécdotas personales. Su relato de aventuras en Kenya, Africa, me dio ganas de ir también. (Hasta la fecha no he ido, 30 años después, pero no he terminado de vivir aventuras….Liz casi no sabía cuándo parar. Aun cuando el cáncer empezó a ganar la batalla para su vida, embarcó en una aventura más, hacer un crucero a través del Canal de Panamá para llegar a pasar un día conmigo en Cartagena. Desafortunadamente el capitán del buque decidió que Aruba era más segura que Cartagena. Fue una terrible desilusión para las dos. Liz murió un mes después, y lo único que pude hacer fue llamarle a la clínica por teléfono y decirle mi despedida, quebrantada. Siempre he odiado las despedidas, pero aprendí a no huir de ellas, no dejar las cosas sin decirlas, no dejar mi amor sin expresarse.

Cuando el paquete llegó unos meses después con los regalos que Liz me estaba trayendo en el crucero, estaba lleno de cositas divertidas para mi hija, a quien había conocido en uno de nuestros viajes a California. La caja contenía boas de plumas en varios colores y una caja color púrpura con maquillajes de niña y espacio para sus joyas, las cosas para construir sueños para alimentar la imaginación. Era fácil imaginar su deleite si hubiera estado presente para ver a Debi abrir sus regalos. Su amor habló más allá del velo, y aún lo hace.

Por toda mi vida de adulta, mis mejores amigos han sido los con quienes puedo reírme más. Liz tenía ese don de reírse a sí misma. La vida le había arrojado bastantes dificultades y dolores, pero el gozo del Señor era su fuerza. Yo tampoco podría vivir sin él. Creo que Liz fue una dama que vivió bien y que ayudó a otros a hacer lo mismo, con un corazón lleno de amor y pasión. Esa es la clase de personas que doy la bienvenida en mi vida. Algunos de mis amigos tienen algo de esas calidades, y nuestros tiempos juntos son demasiado pocos y lejanos. Hay algunos que todavía no he conocido cara a cara, pero sé que será igual. Así que a todos les deseo una amiga como Liz. La sigo extrañando.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Old and Older Verses

I've decided to publish some of my old poetry.  This first one was when I was 16 years old, close to High School graduation. It is the kind of satirical verse I still love to write.  Wish I had my second semester college  comps, too; they were a stitch.

An Epic Tale by Susan M. (Schnitman) Hernandez
Dedicated to my dear Cousin Izzie Lubman (my mom's cousin): April 20, 1967

For a week I’d been waging a war,
And believe me – I was getting sore
Running and charging the enemy,
Smashing an elbow, banging my knee.

I opened the door a tiny crack,
Hoping, praying it hadn’t come back.
But there it was – that nasty FLY –
Trying to land right in my eye.

“No!...No!” I cried in vain,
For the dratted thing was back again!
I reached for my swatter, but oh! – too late:
The monster was diving for my pate!

Quickly I ducked under the nearest chair,
But before I knew it – IT was there!
Jumping up, I banged my head:
One of us will soon be dead!

In desperation I reached the kitchen
For by this time I was really itchin’
To finish with this fiendish foe:
I was going to end it all, by Joe!

It was going to work; I knew it – ZAP!!!
The bug was falling for my trap.
I inched my way to the refrigerator
And opened its jaws like an alligator.

There it lay on a silver plate,
Now all I’d have to do was wait.
The six-legged beast came sniffing ‘round
And leaped to its death with a single bound.

For on that plate was that wondrous oleo,
Poly-unsaturated all aglow.
Liquid yellow, flavor – mellow:
This was the trap for that dastardly fellow.

Thanks to the miracles of modern men
Once more I am free again,
Secure in the knowledge that I know:

Flies can’t swim in oleo.

I wrote this next one at the end of winter, 1985, while working at Living Way Christian Academy. It's dedicated to my longtime friend, Dorella Shields.

RESURRECTION  (for Dorella)

It’s almost Spring.
Trying to be.
Dandelions and clover poke through crusty earth.
Daffodils are smiling at curious sparrows,
Reminders of other spring times, other places of the heart.
Fragile blossoms pop out on pear and cherry trees.
Wistful willows weep not their lonely song,
While fickle winds tantalize the birches,
And sticky sap grabs at fingers that caress their paper bark.

Resurrection’s in the air.
Not like the fleeting desert blooms
Or momentary thaw;
Not just a sentinel of summer yet to come.

Resurrection’s more the evergreen assurance
Of days grown longer with promise raised again.
Hope’s found in life restored in dormant forests
Now arustle with green shoots.

Resurrection’s in the rushing stream,
Strident in its yearning for the ocean’s wider shore.
And resurrection’s in the joy of friendship
Recalled ‘crost oceans more.

Come dance with me and celebrate the Resurrection morn’!

Susana Hernandez, March 12, 1985


After I started teaching university again, we were doing the unit on expressive texts and I decided to write some poetry to join my students in the experience. I had recently had to say good-bye to a dear old friend, y Guild D50 guitar. It was very traumatic to discover its neck broken beyond repair, warped by the harsh tropical climate. I have since acquired a new guitar, a wonderful Takamine classical electro-acoustic model, not nearly as costly, but equally sweet to my older ears.

Jeremiah (May 3, 2011)

How put 36 years into a few words?
Today is laid to rest a faithful friend,
Witness of a thousand life-and-death battles
On two continents and shores

In love, in anguish, in pain, joy and sorrow
I’d only to reach out and be reassured by the strains
That issued from your dulcet tones
Made sweeter by rosewood and phosphor bronze

You were chosen to last a lifetime, like a marriage
Though often I took you for granted, ignored you for long times,
But fell in love with you every time we played together.
Who will be your equal now?

Like so many things we expect to last forever,
Your days were numbered, too, as mine.
Not to be inherited by one who may not love you as I did,
Your glory was for me alone.

You became mine in a time of many tears and troubles;
So you were named for the weeping prophet,
A true minstrel’s harp you were; instrument of my own and
So many deliverances as my hand was moved upon you

Now when I long for new sounds and words
To extol the greatness of our maker,
And produce the sounds of grace –
I miss you all the more.

It seems I must remember that we truly worship as we did
When first we breathed the air of life,
No instruments, no flags or accompaniments,
No man-made imitations of Your lights and perfections

Then let my voice rise again to praise you,
The instrument you gave me first anoint again
And let me hear the melodies of heaven
As You sing in the midst of Your brethren.