Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reclaiming ME!

I was speaking with a friend, recently, about baking bread - and I mentioned that I haven't done much of that for a very long while. Then I glibly explained, "Well, you know, I was kidnapped."

When my friend responded that it has been two years (!) since I was kidnapped, I recognized that I've been taking the easy way out in conversations . . . lumping together a lot of stressful and hard things which have happened over the past couple of years as part of the kidnapping. I know it's not all about the kidnapping, but I haven't necessarily wanted to explain all of the reasons I've been . . . floundering . . . for so long.

I believe, however, that I am starting to come out of that season of my life, and in honor of reclaiming me, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what's been going on in my life, and where I believe things are headed.

You will likely recall that my daughter, Rachel, got married just three days before the kidnapping. Even though I'd had two children move out previously, her departure had an especially large impact on my day-to-day life because Rachel is a natural home-maker. Over the years, as she developed her skills in this area, I sacrificially (umm hmmm) allowed her to handle most of the housework: the cleaning, cooking, organizing, decorating, planning, household budgeting, shopping, menu planning, scheduling . . . well, you get the idea. Rachel ran the house. Of course it was hard on me, when Rachel left, trying to pick up all of the pieces of running the household - especially while recuperating from the trauma of being kidnapped. Makes sense, right?

Then, though this may be TMI for some, I'm a woman in my 50's and it was inevitable that menopause would be rearing up at some point. Although I'd had no noticeable signs before the kidnapping, I was in full menopause just a few months after. That was fun, dealing with wacky emotional and physical responses to the hormonal fluctuations, while also recuperating from being kidnapped, which apparently can also produce some interesting emotions.

Ben, partly in response to being kidnapped, partly in response to me being all over the place emotionally, and partly because he was in the throes of becoming a teenager at this same point in time . . . well, Ben became a handful to parent. A really BIG handful. And homeschooling him became the worst thing in my life. That was especially hard to deal with, while we were both getting over the effects of the kidnapping. (Are you sensing a theme, here?)

Then, within six months of Rachel getting married and moving out, Gus also left, to begin his life as a working adult and college student, in the US. This was hard on everyone. Gus had been the one who handled big things around the house for me - the lifting, the hauling, the filthy and dangerous stuff, etc. He also was GREAT with Ben, as Ben was struggling; so both Ben and I felt his loss very keenly.

Things shambled on in a messy way for a few months longer, until we came to a place where we had to resolve some serious, ongoing Ben issues. There's a lot of middle-story I'm leaving out, but in January of 2015 Ben started attending school, rather than being homeschooled. This has been a good change for everyone - but it has required a LOT of time and hard work in the adjustment, and we're not done adjusting yet! Because Ben was behind in his studies, he and I basically homeschooled in the evenings after school, from January through the end of the school year in June, to get him caught up with his class in the subjects which are taught in English at the school (math, science, history, Bible, and English).

Through the summer, we continued a (slightly less grueling) study schedule, which also included several hours of tutoring in Spanish, three days each week. At the end of the summer, just as Ben was heading back to school, Boo, the youngest daughter of the family, moved back to the US, to work for a year before starting in on college. Boo is a quiet one, but her sweet spirit and her willingness to jump in and help wherever she was needed is sorely missed here now!

Suddenly, I was alone in the house all day - no kids at all! Since this hasn't been the situation in my life for the past twenty eight years - and as homeschoolers the kids and I spent huge amounts of our time learning, working, and laughing together during those years - I think you can imagine how . . . adrift . . . I've been feeling lately.

However, with Ben's school situation gradually stabilizing - and now that I've had some time to adjust to the new realities in my life - well, I can see that the world is sort of opening up in a new way for me. I'm working on setting up some systems to get our home running more efficiently (including hiring household help) to free up my time for the things that I think God is calling me to do in the future. I'm not entirely sure what those things are, exactly, but I want to be ready for them!

I'm sure that working on writing my book is part of it. I'm suspicious that some public speaking may also be involved (although I haven't a clue how that would fit in with living in Honduras, but that's God's problem to figure out). I'd love to have a more hands-on part in our official ministry, now that my hands aren't as full with the ministry of raising the children. Beyond that, I'm praying and waiting to see exactly what the next season of life will hold for me.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll do a bit more baking . . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Phew - October was a tough month!

I never mention this online while it's happening, but now that it's over, I can tell you that Allen was gone from home for weeks, recently, doing fundraising in the US. While he was away, Russell, Clay, and I handled things here . . . and it was a particularly rocky time for me.

Here are just a few of the "special moments" I was privileged to experience in October . . .

First, I was driving home at dusk one evening, with Ben in the Land Cruiser, when suddenly my steering went out! It was quite a blessing that we were climbing a very steep hill at the time, and so making an immediate stop was not a problem. We were in a very dangerous spot along the road, where the one-lane-wide road has long, sheer drop offs on both sides! Had we been traveling the other direction, going steeply downhill, when our steering went out, this could have been a much more serious situation.

Another blessing was that, although we were on the road to our house, which hugs the side of a steep hill which completely blocks the cell phone signal the entire way, we were in the one spot where there's a ravine instead of a hill. Because of this, our phone was receiving a good cell signal where we broke down and we were able to contact Russell immediately, to come and rescue us.

Russell and Clay came out quickly, while Ben and I sat in the dark, with the car mostly blocking the road - which wasn't a problem, as no other vehicles came along before Russell got there. The guys were able to make an impromptu repair using wire, so that Russell could carefully limp along in that Land Cruiser to get it up onto our property. Clay drove Ben and I home in Russell's vehicle.

Then, because I wouldn't be able to drive Ben to the bus stop for school the next morning, Ben packed his clothing and school needs and headed back into town with Clay and Russell. For the following few days, Russell worked on repairing the damage to the vehicle, and Ben spent the nights in town. Russell was able to purchase the needed part and repair the vehicle before the following weekend, so I was back on the job, driving Ben back and forth to Gracias everyday . . . until . . .

Saturday morning, I picked up the gal who works for me in the house, out on the main road. She brought along her 13 year old sister (though I'm not sure why). Although my helper is comfortable around my dogs, her sister was not . . . and she screamed and ran, and one of the dogs attacked the girl, thinking she was protecting me. I grabbed the girl and was able to keep the dog from biting her face or neck, but in the process the dog also bit me, in the ankle.

We both had to go to the hospital for stitches (and our family had to put down our most protective watch dog), and then I spent another week staying home, while Ben spent school nights at Russell's house. I had to sit quietly, with my ankle elevated, most of that time, as it was difficult to walk on that leg, and it would swell up if I didn't stay off of it.

After just over a week, my wounds were healed enough that I could start driving again. The first day I drove Ben to town in the morning, but when I went back to pick him up following his after-school sports my engine started making a strange noise. Since I was in Gracias at the time the noise started, I drove the few blocks to Russell's house and had him check it out. Sadly, the problem was that my 16 year old engine was in need of being rebuilt - a huge and expensive undertaking!

Once again, Ben packed up and moved in at Russell's house for the week of school. This time I wasn't injured, I was just stuck at home without a vehicle. Russell was, as always, amazing about picking up my responsibilities in addition to his own. This repair took two weeks to be completed, but finally the vehicle was back together and Russell and the mechanic took it for a short, gentle test drive. They drove to the nearby gas station to put in some fuel.

At the gas station they told the attendant to put in 1000 lempiras worth of fuel (in Honduras, there are no self service pumps in gas stations), and while the attendant was pumping the fuel into the vehicle, Russell and the mechanic both had their heads under the hood, adjusting things in the engine. After paying for the fuel, they headed back up the road, but the didn't get very far before things went VERY wrong. The engine began racing uncontrollably, and the Land Cruiser began to spew huge clouds of black smoke! They tried to turn off the vehicle, but the engine wouldn't stop running! Eventually they were able to stop it by disconnecting a fuel line, but not until significant NEW damage was done to the engine.

It turns out that the cause of this event was that the attendant at the gas station had put gasoline into the vehicle, instead of diesel . . . in spite of the fact that it is clearly labeled for diesel! Here in Honduras there is no expectation that companies will be responsible for damages caused by their employees, so we knew we had to pay for yet another major engine repair. Sigh.

The vehicle went into the repair shop again, and after another week the fuel injector was repaired (or possibly replaced, I'm not sure). Everything was put back together again, and we started to drive the Land Cruiser again . . . but . . .

A few days later, the engine started making a continuous high pitched whine. We haven't yet found out the cause, or what it will cost to repair.

Sigh. Currently, Allen and I only own this one, 16-year-old vehicle. We sold our other Land Cruiser a few months ago (it was older and higher mileage than this one - and we sold it because of the cost of continued repairs and maintenance), and we are anticipating purchasing a newer used pick up truck, fairly soon. Meanwhile, Russell and Clay keep loaning us their vehicles, or chauffeuring us to town and such.

So, that's the recap of some of the difficulties we've been dealing with in October. It has been a long, annoying and expensive month! Because some of you reading this are our supporters, and will want to know this information, the costs to repair this vehicle, so far, have been around $6000. We're always trying to find the most economical line between purchasing a newer vehicle and repairing the old ones. Up until recently, repairing the Land Cruisers - the ultimate vehicles for our location and terrain - has been the obvious choice. Now, we're praying again about how best to use the funds we have, to make sure that we have the transportation we need for both personal and ministry uses.