Little Legs with Too-Huge Pants

Yesterday our three kids and I held hands in our front yard, eyes closed, hearts racing, whispering one last prayer as Darwin opened the gate for the old navy blue pick-up truck whose misterious contents held untold joys, frustrations, triumphs and heartbreak that would unfold in the coming months and years.

We would be parents not to three but now to five.

I waved excitedly and smiled although my weary cheek muscles shook slightly after an adrenaline-laced few days of preparation, prayer, and nerves.

Then the pick-up came to a stop, and I knew that a new beginning had arrived. The back door on the double-cab eeked open, and some little legs with too-huge pants began reaching for the ground far below.

Josue, six years old.

Special needs.

His older sister, Jackeline, eleven years old but already on the cusp of puberty, was quick to exit behind him. Her maturity and undeterred joy remind me so much of the other young woman who arrived at our home in similar fashion 15 months ago and has since become like a daughter to us.

In these situations, you never know what to say. Or at least I don´t. Thanks be to God, our three kids were genuinely emotionally prepared and excited to meet them, so we all swooped in for the big welcome.

Josue screamed, fearing the extremely friendly dogs who likewise came to greet him.

From there the afternoon and evening were a joyful yet on-edge (and least for me) blur of touring the kids around their new home, hanging up the wet dirty laundry they brought with them, assuring Josue over and over again that the dogs are our friends, talking with the case-worker and signing paperwork, and breathing deeply as we began to learn all over again what it means to be a family.

I think I was waiting for some kind of explosion or tear-filled breakdown (probably from our 10-year-old Gleny who will have to adjust to now having two older sisters), but it never came. Instead late in the evening I passed through our living room to see Gleny playing ¨Doctor¨ with Josue. He doesn´t talk and walks with a limp, but Gleny had enthusiastically set up an entire scene in our living room with feather boas, little plastic chairs, a toy kitchen set, more stuffed animals than I could count, and a very large doll that was receiving urgent medical attention with ¨Doctor Josue¨ for her fever. And Gleny was the patient´s mom, of course.

Last night was a sleepless night for Darwin and I, as much due to exceeding joy and thanksgiving to our Father as listening for the kids to get up or cry in the middle of their first night in a new place. Josue did indeed get up about 25 times, turned on the light after bedtime, slammed the door more than a couple times (always with a big, toothy grin), tried to climb the top bunk to be in Jason´s bed, tried to wear his shoes to sleep, and repeatedly put the stuffed animals in his mouth.

But all of that is to be expected, and by God´s grace I had an extra dose of love for this little boy with buck-teeth and clothes that aren´t the right size. It is through him that I believe God will teach me what it means to be patient and to love without expecting anything in return.

Pacing around our living room long after the kids´bedtime, I noticed the girls´light was still on, and as I approached the door to stick my head in and remind them to go to sleep, I stopped short as I heard a not-so-familiar voice — Jackeline´s — through tears sharing things of the heart with her two new roommates who doubtlessly understand her and have shared in her sufferings far more than I ever will. A smile spread through my chest as my heart offered up prayers of thanksgiving to our Father. It is no longer Darwin and I ministering to children, but the children themselves alongside of us and in the moments when we can´t be there who are ministering to and supporting one another in love.

Josue finally settled down after numerous Bible stories, songs, foot massages, and more than a few dozen trips to his room to tell him to return to his bed, and he finally stayed in his own bed the whole night without any more shenanigans. This morning he won the promised prize for his obedience, a juice box during breakfast.

And this is how it all starts.


Familial Anecdotes

Familial Anecdotes: Part One

“Our Eldest Daughter was Born When I Was 10 Years Old.”

That is what I told our new friend to make his eyes bulge out. Then Darwin and I laughed, looking at each other, and I said, “But she wasn’t born from my womb. It’s a long story.”


Familial Anecdotes: Part Two

“The Hypocrite Hat”

Several months ago I invented the “Hypocrite Hat” based on old TV programs where the naughty kid in school has to wear the cone-shaped dunce hat. Ours is made out of brightly colored construction paper and straps onto the perpetrator’s head with a wild series of pipecleaners, looking sort of like a homemade birthday hat, except on the front it says in big bold letters “Hypocrite.” 10-year-old Gleny has donned the hat more than once for accusing someone of something that she herself is guilty of, and just this week we modified the hat to say “Disobedient” as a consecuence for some bad decisions Jason had made. Our plans changed the day he was scheduled to wear the hat and we ended up running a series of errands in town and in the mall (thus forcing him to wear the extremely embarrassing hat in public), and more than a few people laughed out loud at seeing Jason with his large colorful cone hat with its very noticeable chin and head-straps with the index card taped on the front that says “Disobedient.” Several of the store clercs gave him a talking-to about how he needed to be more obedient, and other moms exchanged smiles with me as the little guy and I walked hand-in-hand while I tried not to laugh out loud.


Familial Anecdotes: Part Three

“I Did Something New Today.”

That is what I said with a big smile when Darwin and the kids came to the kitchen for dinner the other night. Excited, they all asked what it was that I did. I said, “Oh, I rescued a bat from our kitchen sink. The poor little guy was really exhausted after having flied around the kitchen for several minutes, and he collapsed in the sink. I trapped him with a cup and set him free outside.”


Familial Anecdotes: Part Four

“I Think It’s Time to Get a Mirror for the Kids’ Bathroom.” 

One night over dinner Darwin, the kids, and I were all telling stories of how we lost different baby teeth when suddenly 7-year-old Jason starts laughing wildly, saying how Gleny’s two front teeth, which are adult teeth, look really big. He then started saying how it is funny how people’s two front teeth look big when I realized He really has no idea that his two front teeth are just as big as everyone else’s. I think it’s time to get a mirror for the kids’ bathroom. Pointing out others’ flaws while being blinded to our own – that doesn’t sound at all like human nature, now, does it?

Aspirations of a 10-Year-Old

Gleny, who is famous for having her bangs too long and too frizzy, who plays with toy dinosaurs with her little brother, who wears sparkly princess crowns in public, and who struggles daily with wanting to be the “boss” of everyone else, recently wrote ten personal goals for her life:

  1. Be a lawyer in an office, for example, like helping Honduras’ Child Protective Services
  2. Be a spiritual mom and a normal mom
  3. Be faithful to my future husband
  4. Love my neighbor as I love myself
  5. Be an astronaut and explore the universe
  6. Be a beauty stylist
  7. Be a faithful daughter to God
  8. Be a good friend to everyone
  9. Be a good follower of God
  10. Be just

Glenyblog Glenyblog2

Mission to Southern Honduras

Last week as a family we returned from our first mission to a small, dusty village in Southern Honduras. Darwin had gone in November with our mentor and a group of Christians to the same village to begin a water project and share the good news of Christ, and it was decided that we would all return together in January to continue planting seeds for God´s Kingdom and help the members of the village finish the last stretch of installing tubes so that they wouldn´t have to dig in the dusty riverbed in the dry summer months hoping to find water. Here are a few photos from the trip, and in the following weeks I will most likely write specific stories and works the Lord did among us in greater detail. Our three kids — Diana, age 14; Gleny, age 10; and Jason, age 7 labored alongside of us in the village during the week we were there, helping in agricultural and construction projects and going with us to visit homes to share God´s Word. It was a blessing to see our kids take leadership roles among the other children there, and participate with us in spreading the good news of God´s Kingdom!

Slide053 Slide057

Slide059 Slide060

Slide122 Slide123Enjoying the nine-hour journey with our faith community in our mentors´truckbed…


Slide146 Slide115Darwin helping with a corn harvest of a local believer, Omar, who offered us hospitality during the week we were in his village, and me juggling after brining in the harvest with the others…

Slide104 Slide107

Slide087 Slide091

Slide066 Slide067

Jason working alongside the ¨big guys¨ each day to dig the trenches for the tubing that will be used to bring water to this extremely dry village. Go, Jason, go!

Slide032 Slide033

Bathing in the river…

 Slide026 Slide024

Where we slept on dirt floors and in hammocks…

Slide031 Slide030

Slide005 Slide014

¨O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!¨ — Psalm 34:3

Slide137 Slide061

Slide114 Slide074

Slide069 Slide121

Slide068 Slide063

Slide029 Slide081

Slide058 Slide159

A Child’s Deepest Desire

Our middle daughter, 10-year-old Gleny, can be quite a drama queen at times. But this time I immediately knew the few tears welling up in her eyes as she sat on the floor were a display of raw honesty.

Caught off guard by her sudden wave of strong emotions, I squatted down so that we were eye-level. I had been sweeping the living room as she told me a story she had just heard on the radio about a young boy whose parents bought him toys and provided all of his material needs but failed to meet the boy’s deepest desire, which was his parents’ time and affection. The little boy felt alone and depressed, even though on the outside he lacked nothing.

Sensing the story had come to a close, I asked gently, “And this really touches your heart?”

Her stare intensified as she responded, “Yes. That is what our biological mom always did. She would come and go, and every night when she would leave, we would beg her to stay and spend time with us, but she never did. That’s all we ever wanted from her.” A couple tears spilled over and began rolling down her cheeks.

This little girl, who could have had tears cascading over her heart because her biological parents never put her in school or because they could not afford to buy her a new pair of shoes or because their shack had a dirt floor, chose rather to lament the fact that her parents never spent time with her. Such a simple thing, something any parent can do whether they have money or not, whether they live in a crowded inner-city, in the suburbs or on an isolated piece of land somewhere in the countryside.

Even though in our family much of each day is centered around the children the Lord has placed under our care, even we get distracted with “doing” rather than “loving.” I oftentimes mistake running a thoughtful errand for my daughter to pick up something from the arts and crafts store with sitting down and actually doing the craft with her. Putting a movie on for the kids is not the same as snuggling on the couch to watch it with them under a mountain of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. A lot of times when they ask me to participate in a riotous match of hide-and-seek with them, I selfishly say no. Sometimes I would rather clean toilets in peace than participate in the demanding mental gymnastics required for a creative role-playing game involving imaginary waterfalls in our living room, rescue expeditions with toy trucks, and trips to the hospital with Lego men. Sometimes when our little guy asks me to sing him to sleep, I do so with an unwilling spirit, wanting to rush through the nightly ritual and close another busy day so I can go rest.

Some of the most memorable times we have had as a family have been when we have said, “Yes, there is a legal report half-done on the computer, and, yes, there is such-and-such financial concern and that pending phone call and a list a mile long of things demanding our attention, but let’s put that aside for right now and celebrate the fact that the Lord has meshed us together as a family.”

Mom, Dad: turn off the television and go give your little guy a foot massage. Delay your errands for another day and play a board game with your daughter. Listen to her. Give each one a hug every morning as everyone groggily shuffles out of their bedrooms a 6:00am. Ask your child what their favorite book is and take time to read it to them, giving each character a distinct, silly accent. Look at family photo albums together, laughing and reminiscing with your kids about when they (and you) were younger. From time to time go into your child’s room to put them to bed, reading the Bible and singing with them even if you’re dog tired. Paint your toenails with your teenage daughter, and dare to let her pick the color. The next time your kids invite you to jump in the swimming pool, actually do it. Even though there is the belief that kids (and especially teenagers) don’t want “family time” and think their parents aren’t cool, it isn’t true. It’s their deepest desire.

You Can´t Climb on the Hippo Pen.

monkeybars2 monkeybars4

In celebration of the completion of the year 2014, we roadtripped as a family to Honduras’ biggest and perhaps only real zoo four hours from our home. We rented a cabin and spent two days learning about the animals in the zoo, spelunking a maze-like cave with our headlamps, playing on the jungle-gym, racing go-karts and exploring the countryside. Every aspect of the trip introduced something new to the kids, and it was fantastic to see their eyes wide and their minds expanding as they took in new sights, sounds, and experiences. It was the perfect ending to a year laden with God´s perfect grace amidst trying difficulties and deep joy.


  “Brayan scared me in the cave. I prefer to go with an adult.” – Jason


 “What’s the purpose of a rainbow?” – Brayan


“Ostriches are that big?!” – Diana

parque13 parque7

“The lions are beautiful, but it makes me sad to see they have so little space.” – Diana


“What’s a miner?” – Gleny

“I think I’m going to vomit – pull the car over!” – Jason

jason2 jason

¨The zoo manager told me you’re not allowed to pull any feathers off the peacock.” – Diana


“Seeing such majestic animals without freedom makes me think how we, too, cage ourselves when we don´t choose the freedom available to us in a relationship with God through Christ. God created animals to be free, and when they’re not, they suffer. We, too, were created for freedom, and when we choose the enslavement of sin, we, too, suffer. The only difference is that the animals don’t choose their captivity, but we do. Does that make sense?” – Jennifer


“It says here that the Guinea Birds mate for life – just like us!” – Jennifer to Darwin


“Do they hire teenagers to work at the zoo?”—Brayan


“What does ‘nocturnal’ mean?” – Jason

parque5 parque4

“This trip is a dream come true for me.” – Diana

mujeres1  mujeres2

“Why are there multiple lanes on the highway?” – Diana


“We should give thanks to God for keeping us safe during the trip.” – Gleny

parque11 parque9

“I’m locked in the bathroom! Help!” – Jason

parque6 parque8

“Dad, catch me if you can!” – Gleny

parque1 parque2

“What are some things that have happened this year that you will remember forever?” – Darwin

varones2 varones3

“For me, the most memorable thing about this year was meeting this family.” – Brayan

varones5 varones6

“Everything in the whole world is a mystery and a miracle. Everything reveals God.” – Jennifer

hill1 hill2 hill3 hill4 hill5

“A sloth is so different from a tiger from a hippopotamous, and yet God created them all. Just like us, each one so very unique. What amazing creativity.” – Jennifer


“We’re like meerkats in this deep cave.” – Jennifer

“We took pictures of the paintings on the walls in our cabin so we can learn how to paint them in paint class.” – The girls


“How do they feed the tigers?” – Jason

swing3 swing1 swing2

“The Indians hunted the buffalo because they didn’t have a supermarket.” – Jason


[Making wild animals noises to wake the kids up at 6:30am] “If you want to go to the zoo today, get up immediately because we’re leaving in five minutes!” – Darwin


“How do they trap the zoo animals?” – The boys


“Jason, get down. They said you can’t climb on the hippo pen.” – Darwin


“Dad helped me count my money to buy the stuffed giraffe.” – Jason

“What’s a fetus?” – Jason


“Gleny, are you sure you want to criticize Diana for not having her hair neatly done? How do you feel when others criticize you for your wild hair?” – Jennifer

gleny overlook parque10

“It’s a shame that just a few years ago on my parents’ property you could see wild monkeys, sloths, and tapirs, but since they have been hunted mercilessly now you have to go to a zoo to see them.” – Darwin


“Don’t touch the monkey.” – Jennifer