Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Is It

This is it. My first blog post after moving back. And it only took me 5 months to write it. It's almost 5am here in Memphis and my husband just left for the airport. He's going back to Costa Rica and I have all kinds of mixed emotions about it. When we left in June, our plans were for our whole family to go with him in November as he saw the first pastors graduate from The Grace Institute. "Our plans"...seems funny now. It didn't work out for us to go with him. So after he left, I've been lying in bed with 10,000 emotions flooding over me. I knew that time had finally come. That I needed to write.

 I'll start with the facts. We have moved back to Memphis, TN and we feel this is probably where we will stay. And let me just say that moving is always hard...even if you're moving back to what should be familiar. Life goes on, people change, relationships evolve, and so it's different. What should be comfortable all of a sudden isn't. And where you came from isn't comfortable either. So where do I now fit in? We have set up world headquarters for our pastor training ministry here in the bedroom of our little missionary apartment. I will most definitely blog about our apartment at a later time. By the Lord's doing, the ministry is quickly expanding and we are seeing that coming back here was the right thing to do. Will is able to talk, connect, skype, and meet with people much easier than before. We can receive shipments of materials to our apartment and he can travel where he needs to go at the drop of a hat. We are on the brink of even more expansion of this ministry which is really exciting. The kids and I know how to function in life here without him when needed, and it's nice being close to family and friends. We are going to the church we attended when we left and the people have been so warm and welcoming. I'm a stay-at-home mom, learning to take care of a home again, and helping our family adjust back to life here.

Adjustment for me has been the hardest. And I'm not sure why. I felt like I was losing my mind the first two months after we had returned. I could go from high to low 20 times in a day, and my family never knew if I would burst out crying at any moment. They were so careful around me and their comfort and concern seemed to make me feel worse. I didn't want to be pitied but I didn't want to be ignored either. How can  you function when day after day you just have no idea how you actually feel? Is this part of it? Am I depressed? Should I pray more? Do I need more friends? Do I need a hobby? Do I need a vacation? (please don't make me pack another thing). I was having consuming thoughts of fear and small panic attacks here and there. What was happening to me? Or is this just part of it?

I don't know.

"Adjustment" seems like such a mild word for what this has been.

Since then I've had moments of this, but I feel like I'm coming out of the fog a bit. I'm surprised by how few people really ask me how I'm they mean it and like they are ready to hear about it. I do understand, too, that people just don't know what to ask. Because in truth, we are all doing okay so that's what I'll tell you. But I'll tell my most recent thoughts, confusions, joys and fears to whomever will listen. I was recently in a hotel room of unsuspecting women at a MOPS convention where I dumped all of this on them after one of them asked me "are you depressed"? Yeah, that led to hours of crying...but they spoke truth into my life and prayed over me in the end. I've read two blog posts lately about saying things in uncomfortable situations. One woman warned about saying the wrong thing (which I'm always fearful of doing), and the other one encouraged that we should just say something (I'm pushing myself towards that one). I'm very thankful for that group of MOPS women who really wanted to hear me. Amazingly, I have felt much more "myself" since that day. I like talking to people and sharing our story. I'm not great with expressing how I feel so it's good for me to wrestle to put my feelings into words. It's like if I say it, it adds clarity the moment, and that helps me move on. Sometimes I need to take action to change some things in our family's life, sometimes not. 

Last week, Will and I sat down to talk about what it looks like for our family to adjust and what it looks like to thrive (I kind of hate that word...sounds like a cheesy business term). It seems that our family has, in fact, adjusted and are doing well right now. We're having to add some boundaries, limits, schedules and structure to our routine so we can all function a little bit better. I fight to keep our schedule light and to have lots of down time as a family. We really do love being together more than anything else, and this is a gift the mission field has given us. So I fight for it. 

I find that listening to sermons has been a very productive and intentional way of having God's truth spoken into my life and situation. Some friends and of course my husband have challenged me as well, and I know the Lord is the one who is faithful to see me through. I don't want to miss what God is teaching me through this season of life and I know I just need to rest in Him.

So maybe in future blog posts I'll have this all figured out. Or maybe not. Am I happy that we moved back? Yes. Am I sad that we moved back? Yes. Hence the continual state of confusion. Hopefully I will keep progressing through all of this, and remember that it is a process. My kids are doing really great and that's such a blessing to see. Emma is back to her old self again even though we do have to work through some issues with her. Some of this could just be her age. She's like her mama and doesn't want to have to think through what she's feeling and why. I get it Emma, I really do, but that's not healthy mentally or spiritually. And so we make her talk it out with us a lot even when she doesn't think she wants to. Jack seems to be the most adjustable kid on the planet and is doing awesome in first grade and bumming around with his 2 buddies, Kenton and Noah, in the apartment complex. And Ally is now running. I've never seen a 12 month old run, but she does...and so does her mama right after her. She is spunky and giggly and full of life, and we can't imagine life without her.

And so life and ministry continues. 

Will has recently traveled to Costa Rica, Dallas, Orlando, Jackson, and Cuba.

He is boarding a plane back to Costa Rica right now.

And I stay here with the kids.

Thinking. Laughing. Crying. Praying... Adjusting.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Summary of the Beginning

A recap looking forward:
I'm in a rather contemplative mood tonight as I soberly write our family's final newsletter from Costa Rica. While sitting on our balcony listening to both the gecko above my head and also the car alarms down the street, I sincerely have several emotions - some familiar but some new. Instead of filling this newsletter with ministry pics, I would like to take some time to write some thoughts about these emotions, and why I feel like they're being drawn out. I think, since you've been part of this journey too in you're own way, that you might find this interesting at least, and at most glorifying to God.

I think we all reach a point in life where we're at least tempted - or challenged - to take a step of faith. Whether we go through with it or not is another question, but I think that there's a time that each of us encounter that makes us itch. It gives us a sense of discomfort for the norm. It pushes our senses and urges us to, by faith, take a step further than what we consider normal. Whether this is in our family life, our profession, or our spiritual walk, we're goaded. And when we encounter this, we face off with a very real decision to kick against, ignore, or make a move forward. I have yet to meet a Christian man or woman who hasn't felt this in some form or fashion.

That's where our story began...the story of the "Savell Crossover."

One night in what my friend jokingly termed "the cloffice" (my closet that doubled as my office), Elaine and I began enjoying the joyful process of being challenged by God to begin understanding this thing called faith. It's difficult to even describe what this word looks like, much less live a life characterized by it.

Our life as of almost two years ago was good, and some would say great. Heck, I'll say great. It was one serving the local church alongside of a great staff and a great congregation. Relationships with extended family were solid. Speaking of family, the Lord saw fit to give us a couple of healthy, fun kids. Good salary, good friends, good family, good church.

What else would a man want? And then it hit...hard. What if there was something more? Not more to be achieved, but more to enjoy - a deeper satisfaction and experience as we lived our life in Christ.  The questions flooded in. What would this entail?
The Biblical reality of faith came to mind, but what would that even look like in our lives? And then we began to realize that faith is never conjured up by our skill sets or even our dedication. It's putting aside what we normally hold on to and throwing ourselves in the middle of the action, no matter how crazy it would sound.
As I evaluated myself and even Elaine, I realized that I placed my dependence in creating a solid sermon and maintaining even more solid relationships. Elaine held onto friends and family. Emma was loved by all and knew it. And Jack, well, he was a little young to be thinking through much.
We were at a real fork in the road. And we had to walk one way or the other.

The Savell Crossover has everything to do with a journey down a path that has stripped us of everything that we depended upon. When asking Emma the other night what God had taught her during this time in Costa Rica, she instantly replied that she had learned that not everyone likes her. Although Elaine has certainly formed great connections with other missionaries, she was taken away from the friends and family that she knew and loved. As missionaries, we're always an arm distance from deep relationships in our country that we serve knowing that it could end any day. And real relationships with locals are more difficult than one might imagine. For me, I'm not sure that I could even construct a sermon right now. And my life of maintaining relationships in order to get things done are pretty difficult to create when I can't even speak the language.

Language, relationships, familiarity, normalcy, and the such left when we landed in Costa Rica on August 1st, 2011. Everything that we depended on instantly vanished. We were left with this concept of faith.

I say concept because I think that's what it was to me at the time. It was something to preach about and to counsel others in. It was a word in a book.

And so with suitcases and tears in a foreign country - literally hand in hand - we began trying to figure this thing out. For us, I think that we could have been in any country in the world and the experience would have been the same (and that's not the same for everyone). We felt stripped of those things we depended on. And those dependencies weren't luxury items. They weren't nice ovens or super fast Internet or even keeping our financial support levels up. They were the intangibles of what I mentioned earlier.

I found through talking with other missionaries that each person and family has similar but very unique difficulties. I've also found that it's not how we deal with the difficulties, but how the Lord deals with us as we go through the process.

We were immediately faced with the reality that all we could actually do is sit, pray, and be schooled. And I'm not talking about language school. I'm referring to being schooled in the subject of faith. We quickly learned in a very real way - not only a Piperesque theory - that the first lesson of faith is that it's all about the glorification of God. It is certainly not about the so-called sacrifice of the missionary. That quickly becomes a false idol that drives one to another hamster wheel of life. The glorification of God through inexplicable attempts for Kingdom expansion is at the core of the lesson of faith. That's at least what we were learning.

But how would this flesh itself out in our life? What would an inexplicable attempt even look like - without any of those other things that gave us confidence?

The rest is history, yet the beginning.

We have found that the Lord teaches faith by showing Himself faithful in times that seem out of control. This is what we've seen over and over again.

The securities and confidence that we once knew so well showed up in different ways that left us scratching our heads. Although we were torn and confused and feeling stripped down, an overwhelming sense of joy and peace held our emotions tight. The Lord was teaching us to trust Him and to simply notice, maybe for the first time for us, His faithfulness in the chaotic moments.

And how do I begin to describe those? They are too many to name. No extended family. No real friends. No ministry context. Simply a foreign country and a language school where we felt like children again. Oh, and rain. Chaotic and out of control would describe most missionary's lives, at least in the beginning. What a terribly glorious position to find oneself in. Because this is where we learned the truth of how futile fear truly is in the midst of God's faithfulness. Fear and faithfulness - although they can exist at the same time - certainly don't walk hand in hand.

And we have learned this through this little adventure. We have seen God's faithfulness to provide all that we will need now and for the future.

-We were picked up at the airport by the same man who is now the Country Director for Costa Rica for The Grace Institute
-We were taken under the wing of a family who has filled the role of parents, and have been there for us at any moment.
-Friendships were built with families in language school that won't soon go away. I would dare say that they are life-long.
-We were given another child.
-My wife has become stronger than she ever imagined.
-My children have gained an understanding of family and having each other's backs.
-Ministry is unfathomable and inexplicable. Hundreds of pastors and church leaders are being introduced to the beauties of Scripture, and teaching their congregations.
-We believe just a little more in the realities of grace than when we left.
-We have been changed. We are different than we were.

And these differences cannot be ignored.

And how can they be? From the time we landed until now when we are packing our bags to leave, God has given us experiences and opportunities that can't be forgotten.

And that is where we experienced the Savell Crossover. We went from one place to another in the area of faith.

Faith, when it comes to children means that life doesn't have to be all figured out for each child right now. We have learned to daily go to God for direction when one child finds out that not everyone likes her, or when one child isn't in love with Christ like you would hope, or when the other isn't physically growing. We have learned that though we can't control these things that they are under control - truly under control.

Faith, in the personal lives of Elaine and me simply means that big and strange and unordinary things can be attempted. Life can change. Love can grow. Happiness in the midst of the unordinary can actually increase. An extrovert can learn to find peace in the quiet, simple things. And an introvert can get charged by a great adventure.

Faith, in the context of ministry, has led to The Grace Institute. A dream and a prayer to be used in God's Kingdom has exploded into something uncontainable and uncontrollable. It's exciting, frightening, fulfilling, and causes me to submit. I have learned a little bit more about not having to have a statement of explanation about everything going on. It's too much.

But it's in these things that testify, not about our faith, but God's faithfulness. He has thrown us into positions of chaos so that He can take credit for His Kingdom work. So whether it's my children, Elaine, friends, work, or whatever part of life, He gets it. He receives the glory. The glorification of God - where we have learned to experience a joy and contentment that can't easily be explained.

So as we end this Savell Crossover and begin The Grace Institute, we give thanks.

We thank God for these opportunities, because that's what they are - opportunities.

We thank you for continuing this journey with us. Part of that faithfulness that I've been speaking of is seeing how God has brought brothers and sisters in the journey with us. 

So I sign off from Costa Rica. Looking forward to life back in the States, I'm torn by emotion because it was here that we have been changed more than anywhere else.

We look forward to a continued relationship as The Grace Institute continues its work and our family settles back into life.

See you soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


This is waiting on me....

But I'm a huge procrastinator. So I'd rather look through pictures and blog about them. Will and I both say that we actually do better under the pressure of procrastination, so I'm gonna bank on that. Moving internationally with only suitcases is a strange thing. There is no organized way to do it because of evenly distributing weight and breakables. That annoys I procrastinate.

Here's some more pics from life lately:

My girls hanging on the balcony. Ally chilling in her diaper, and Emma memorizing multiplication flash cards. Life as it should be.

Boys night watching Kickboxer. Jack wants to be a "karate man" when he grows up. And I think he wants to be just like his daddy...which is fine with me.

We finally found some good steaks here and they're cheap! We're assuming they're so cheap because Costa Ricans don't eat them. They only like thin slices of meat because the thick stuff will give you heart problems (they're probably right). These are rib-eyes from Pricemart called "Delmonicos" and Will has made them constantly these past two months.

Finally getting a little bit of chunk on her

Crazy kids playing on the jeep

My little peanut. I like to hold her constantly and she doesn't seem to mind.

Will and his Guatemalan friend Carlos

Ivonne has been making Ally all kinds of crazy foods. Here is a Nanpi and a Camote. Ally loves all the Costa Rican food so I'm hoping I can find some of these things in the States.

Will says I've gone granola with cloth diapers and making my own baby food. I have to say that I really like both! Here is a picture of us making bananas. Super cheap and super good!

And this post wouldn't be complete without talking about all our leaks in our house. We live in an old place with really old pipes. We noticed something was wrong when we got a $300 water bill that month! This was a huge leak underground in the back of our house in some huge storage well. They drained the water and repaired the leaking pipe. Luckily Acuaductos did adjust the bill for us.

And this was last week. Another little tiny hole popped in the pipe that connects the toilet to the wall in our front bathroom. Came downstairs to standing water once again. It's a good thing that plumbers work all day every day here and labor is inexpensive.

We're going to miss Ivonne terribly. She has been such an indescribable blessing to us.

We love her so much

My favorite spot

Friends at the park

Turns out one picture was taken from our last vacation. Emma in the pool...por supuesto.

The kids received a care package full of markers. Jack asked if Emma could draw on his face while we were cooking dinner. I was thinking a dragon on his cheek or something...nope. Luckily they are washable markers.

Such a cute picture from back in October. When Ally was born, Cynthia took the kids to Danny's basketball tournament every day that week. They loved cheering on MBS and even got tshirts and poms. Thank you Gault family for constantly loving on our kids!

Emma at the end of 3rd grade. She read and completed every single one of these books this year in homeschool. That's 3 boxes and a bag full...impressive. We are so proud of her and what all she's accomplished this year. Ready for 4th grade!

Lightning struck our phone one day and we dug this gem out of the closet. Emma had to have a tutorial on how to use it and she thought it was so cool that she had to sit on the kitchen stool to talk on it. The cord was confusing as well as her search for the on/off button.

So this happened on our street at midnight the other night

Drums, costumes, shouting and dancing

And a few nights later this happened. The police were at our door wanting to talk to us. They asked if we reported a robbery of our house. Nope (hence the problem with no street names or house numbers). So they quickly jumped in their cars and sped away to the next street over. It's never boring living in the Dos.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jack's School Routine

My little boy is getting so big, and I have to brag on him. He is about to finish his kindergarten year here in Costa Rica and he has learned so much. He's doing great with both reading and math and he has loved every minute of school. He has never ever complained about going. Not one day. And I want to write about his morning's pretty impressive.

His alarm goes off every morning at 6:40. This also wakes me up and I hear him get up and go turn off the alarm. He goes into the bathroom, turns on the shower, takes a shower, dries himself off and gets dressed in his uniform that I lay out for him the night before. By this time I'm up as well and we go downstairs together. He sits at the kitchen table while I make his oatmeal, pack his lunch and sign forms in his backpack. Emma usually joins him by now and they watch a show together on her Kindle at the table. I go and get Ally at that point to give her a bottle and settle in in the den. I call into the kitchen at 7:15 and tell him to go brush his teeth. He goes upstairs, wakes up Will, brushes his teeth and brings me his shoes. I put his shoes on him (we've got to teach him to tie shoes), he gives Ally and me a kiss, he grabs his backpack by the door, and Will walks him to school.

Will took pictures one morning of them walking together to school. Jack has begged several times to just let him walk from our house to school all by himself, but this wouldn't be wise. I totally think Jack could do it, but there is a crazy street to cross that daily makes me nervous. His school is maybe a 2 minute walk from our house. That has been so nice.

Jack grabs the keys and opens the gate for Will and him

Marching down the sidewalk with his big bag. He's had that bag since preschool.

My little man

The crazy street to cross. They do not slow down for pedestrians here.

Will stops at the corner, Jack meets up with his friend, and they run to class together. The white wall with razor wire around the top is the back gate to his school. Will can watch him run up the sidewalk and into the gate from the corner. I can't believe my little guy is about to finish kindergarten. We were hoping for a graduation, but they decided to cancel it this year. Don't know why...they just did. Things like that happen around here all the time and I can't get uptight about it. It makes me a little sad though. We actually made our moving date after this supposed graduation day, but oh well. They will have an end-of-the-year party on Thursday that I'm sure Jack will like much better.

First grade here we come!

First day of kindergarten

Last day of kindergarten

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gymnastics Show

Emma and Jack have been taking gymnastics twice a week up at Sojourn Academy this whole school year. Emma was really interested in it, and I figured if Jack had to be up there with me anyway, he should take too. They both have had a great time and learned a lot! It's really amazing to see both of their progress throughout this year. Jack pretty much just thinks it's social hour and has a lot of fun running and jumping around. And that's totally fine with us. Emma has taken it very seriously and even wants to take more classes when we get back to the States. They had a show day this past week to perform for all the parents and they both did a great job. We were very proud parents!