Tuesday, 30 December 2008

This Is the Day

This my first time participating in So I See What You're Saying. Bram and I are very excited about being included into such a prestigious group. Plus, after cleaning the apartment I have to find a way to entertain my three year old until school starts next week.

So without any further interruptions...

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Look

As time goes by here in Spain, I have begun to become familiar with a "look". It happens in the following scenario: I'm speaking Spanish, and a strange word slips out. A word that is not quite English, and not quite Spanish, it's a word lost in limbo. And then comes the "look". I don't know what I'm trying to say, the person I'm trying to talk to doesn't know what I'm trying to say, and we're both trying to be polite and simply move on from this limbo word.

For example? Sure...

Yesterday, we were enjoying a lunch with Salvation Army officers on vacation from Barcelona. I was attempting to tell them that there is going to be a clown show on New Year's Eve in our local town square. I know the word for clowns (payasos), but for some reason I simply could not get it out. It kept mangling itself as it tried to free itself of this language limbo. At that point....I got the "look".

Now, it's not a mean look, per say. It's just a look of pity mostly. A look that conveys "I know you're trying really hard, but I simply cannot understand you." The empathy behind the look really depends on the giver. Some people are very patient and understanding, and some simply, well, aren't.

An example of someone who wasn't:

When I worked a summer in Argentina, I lived and worked with a Salvation Army family who knew absolutely no English, I knew bare bones Spanish. (It was a special treat trying to communicate with sign language). There was a moment when I was carrying on a conversation with a small group of people, and I really thought I was doing well, they were nodding their heads, smiling (should have been my first clue, I realize). I reached the end of a phrase and I was really proud of myself, I had just maintained a conversation!! When one older gentlemen looked straight at the officer (pastor) in charge and said "What is this girl trying to say?? I have no idea what she's talking about?? Can someone translate her?"

::sigh::...I would have preferred the look.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Skype Christmas

The sun is setting on our palm tree Christmas. I'm enjoying a cup of tea, some left over ginger bread cookies from our Christmas Eve service, and just basking in the Mediterrean pace of life that has returned to our household.

We had a wonderful candle light service last night, followed by the annual opening of one gift. It is incredibly difficult to convince toddlers that they cannot eat the large chocolate Santa Clause until tomorrow.

The boys were excited to ride their brand new tricycles. We took a little walk on the boardwalk outside our apartment. It's a balmy 65 degrees today...afterwards we treated ourselves to the Christmas menu at the restaurant below our apartment.
We've skyped all the family, and the boys have ignored the calls, like they usually do. (Getting toddlers to pay attention is a miracle. My mom had their attention when her Scooby Doo Christmas 'thingie' started singing...)
Christmas has come and gone. We've survived the first Christmas away from family. It can be done. Let's try this again next year....

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Family Christmas Card 2008

Here's the 2008 Carr Christmas Card...video version!

Christmas Carols

We've been doing a lot of Christmas carol singing lately. Our church band has been out playing different events. (Some events a donation for The Salvation Army is even taken up!) We've played for a British Christmas party, the local state run nursing home, the weekly Monday market in town, a restaurant, and later this week we'll play at the port carol sing in a town around the mountain from us.

All of this singing has caused me to reflect on various Christmas songs. There are 3 in particular:

1. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" BandAid.

You know the one, they play it on every Christmas rotation list in the States. It's on at least 2 Christmas CDs I own. You know, the one where you hear Bono scream "Well, thank God it's them insteeeeaaaadddd of yooouuu!"

The lyric that sticks with me is this:

And there won't be snow in Africa
This Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Is Christmas only defined by snow and nicely wrapped presents? I will admit this year the Christmas season seems "unseasonal" to me, personally. I'm celebrating Christmas with palm trees out my back door, not 10 feet of snow (which apparently just hit my midwestern friends). But it doesn't make it any less Christmas, right? I'm sure in Africa, no I'm positive, they still celebrate Christmas, it just may look different from mine, or your idea of "Christmas".

Which leads me to the 2nd song:

2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I think I have a strange 'attraction' to the minor keyed Christmas carols. I LOVE this song. It's always been one of my favorites. It has come to mind many times as I make it through my first Christmas so far away from friends and family. In those moments when I'm feeling lonely and homesick, I remember that this celebrational season is because Emmanuel came for me! So, though at moments I may sit "in lonely exile", those moments when the boys simply will not play together nicely, the cookies burned again, the Christmas tree is falling over, when I miss my family and my "normal", the Son of God will appear (to speak to me through new friends, new traditions, and lots of great coffee) and for that I shall rejoice!

And finally:

3. Noche de Paz (Silent Night, in Spanish)

Noche de paz, noche de amor, Night of peace, night of love
todo duerme en derredor. All around is sleeping
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz, Between the stars which scatter their light
bella anunciando al niñito Jesús. Beautifully announcing the baby Jesus
Brilla la estrella de paz, Shines the star of peace
brilla la estrella de paz. Shines the star of peace

We sing this song often here. I appreciate how the words are slightly different from the English version. The part that sticks with me this Chistmas is the word "peace". Some how, without the assistance of a major fundraising effort, I have managed to overschedule and exhaust myself this Christmas! And I always thought kettles was to blame. God will often bring this song to mind when I start to think about how I just wish the season would be over with so we could rest again. The point of the season isn't to rush around buying things, or going places, or carting yourself all over town to entertain. It's a moment of peace. A moment of love. I hope that these last few days I will stop to notice that the stars still beautifully announce Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

I'm joining in on Thankful Thursday .

1. I'm thankful for cookie recipes. Through blog hopping, family recipes, and new Spanish recipes I have all kinds of recipes I'm dying to trie! (This weekend: sugar cookies (I have powdered sugar now, so the boys can decorate them) and date pinwheel cookies) And now with the care packages from the States we just got, I can actually make them!

2. I'm thankful for that liberating feeling of doing something that scares you, and being successful. For example: driving by myself. I made it (WITHOUT the GPS) from a church member's house to the mall, then back into town, then to the boys' nursery school...and I didn't hit or scratch anything!

3. I'm thankful for Christmas sales! I took a "mental health" day and did some Christmas shopping this morning. I found tricycles on sale buy one get one 70% off! I was trying to figure out how we were going to pay for 2 tricycles for Christmas and God answered my question!!!

4. I'm thankful for potty trained children. I purchased only ONE package of diapers today. (Even though it's still a mad scramble to get the triple locked door open when Bram looks up and says "Mama, I gotta go potty"....but it's still better than changing diapers.)

5. I'm thankful for the sunshine that returned today. It's been chilly, and our little butane heater was doing overtime keeping us warm. We're still adapting to the fact that it's just as cold inside as it is outside. But today the sun is out and it helps warm up our apartment (of course we did go buy another electric heater this morning, just in time :) )

Friday, 12 December 2008

Because I like playing these games...I just don't email them back and forth

A Christmas Tag......

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I've only found hot chocolate here. And it's goooood. Remember when Starbucks had drinkable chocolate one Christmas season, it's like that only you also have to have churros to dip in it and it's available year round..mmmmmmmmm

2. Does Santa wrap the presents or just sit them under the tree?
He places them under a tree. It was one Christmas tradition that my husband's family tradition and my family traditions agreed on

3. Lights on house / tree are colored or white?
White....and NON BLINKING. I think God is laughing at all my little "control issues" upon moving to Spain. I can only find colored lights that blink uncontrollably here...

4. Do you have mistletoe?
No, but I can buy fresh holly.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
This year we put them on the weekend of Thanksgiving. Typically it's any time between then and the middle of December. I've gauged that Spain puts up decoration on Day of the Immaculate Conception (this past Monday) because our entire town became Christmas central over night.

6. Favorite Holiday Dish (EXcluding dessert)?
Green bean casserole with slivered almonds.

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child?
Opening up the box of "my" Christmas ornaments every year to put on the tree. And my mom has even parted with them so I could have them on my own tree now....except this year. Glass ornaments + marble tile floor + eager toddlers = disaster

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
We were sitting in the car at a convenient store (I think) and I remember saying to my mom "There's no such thing as Santa Claus is there?" when she didn't answer I said "Then there's no Easter bunny or Tooth fairy either, is there??". I was in 2nd grade.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. Thankfully another holiday tradition that our families both practiced.

10. How do you decorate your tree?
I have come to love ribbon and the idea "less is more". This year: styrofoam ornaments. (See #7)

11. SNOW. Love it or dread it?
We don't believe in snow on the Mediterrean coast, sorry. :)

12. Can you ice skate?
um..........I plead the 5th.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I got this great bride doll one year we spent Christmas in a hotel. I was really excited because I was in a doll collection phase in my life. In fact I think those dolls are still in my mom's basement....

14. What is the most important thing about Christmas to you?
The celebration and reminding my boys that it's about Jesus being born in a barn...er, well that's our toddler friendly rendition.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Molasses sugar cookies. Omigoodness, they are so good and they say "it's Christmas" (ooo, magic cookies!)oh, oh, I love fudge too! My mother in law makes incredible and amazing amounts of fudge this time of year. I wonder if that ships?

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Cookie making. I remember my mom spending a lot of time baking during the holidays, so I've kinda adopted it as my own too. (And when back in the States, it's a nice way to spend the quiet evenings while the boys sleep and Jeff's still at church building finishing up kettles for the evening.)....side note: since I have your attention, your local Salvation Army officer is incredibly busy right now. They probably don't even eat a proper meal, let alone make Christmas cookies. They're working 18 hour days in order to raise funds just to keep their community programs running (most places this seasonal collection is the majority of their operating budgets)..if you're not too busy, maybe you could find your local Salvation Army officer and drop off cookies, or a hot meal, or some drinks, or gift certificates to Starbucks (oh, wait that would have been if I were your local Salvation Army officer)...

17. What tops your Christmas tree?
an angel, which she's apparently too heavy for our tree because it's leaning a different direction every morning..

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving gifts?
I prefer it all. Giving a great gift is exciting! and getting a great gift can be just as exciting.

19. Favorite Christmas Song?
"Not that Far from Bethlehem" by Point of Grace....and "Dominck, the Italian Christmas Donkey"

20. Candy Canes, Yum or Yuck?
please,no...no, don't give them to my children and then walk away...who's going to clean up this sticky mess!!??

21. What do you want for Christmas?
already got it: an entertainment center for our apartment.

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party?
no. Typically on Christmas Day we are sleeping (we're recovering from Kettles) so you're not allowed to knock on our door or call us until noonish. We do go out for a nice dinner (read: Red Lobsters) on Christmas Eve once all the kettles are counted and the money has been deposited in the bank. It was a tradition that my husband's family did, and we adopted it.

23. Do you usually dress up for Christmas Eve or wear PJ's?
PJ's (see #22, we're usually at home in PJ's from Christmas Eve until New Year's.)

24. Do you own a Santa Hat?

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
See #22. We often will travel to family's the week following Christmas and take some vacation into the New Year.

26. What is your favorite Christmas decoration and why?
Nativity sets. I have begun collecting nativities, but unfortunately was only able to bring a few with me to Spain. Here nativities are incredible expanse (known as Belen). Our boy's day care even has a set that is practically the entire town of Bethlehem, complete with numerous chickens! There are nativities every where, and I have already warned my husband I WILL NOT leave this country with out my own "Belen".

Sunday, 7 December 2008

What makes Christmas...Christmas?

The boys have been getting up entirely too early the past few mornings (ie: 3:00am) and crawling into our bed. I'm not sure if is a noise outside, the need to "go potty", or habit at this point. But it makes for early bed times because they practically fall asleep in the bathtub. So, now that the boys are asleep, I can write down some thoughts...

I've mentioned before that this is my first holiday season outside of the States, and I'm learning each day what it's like to be away from everything you associated with Christmas.

So, a thought has been running through my head today: what makes Christmas Christmas?

Is it cookies and fudge? I did make my mom's molasses sugar cookies and they were a hit. I always knew when those cookies were made it meant it was the holidays. I always enjoy baking enormous amounts of cookies at Christmas,and will miss the post holiday sales when I typically pick up needless amounts of holiday cookie tins. (It's an unhealthy obsession, really.)

What about cultures that celebrate big things on days other than December 25??? Some Dutch congregation members brought the boys St. Nicholas Day gifts (which was last Friday I think). And Spain has larger celebrations on Epiphany, rather than Christmas day.

Is it the community holiday events that create the holiday spirit? This weekend is the Medieval Market in Denia. There are a bunch of booths set up with vendors dressed in costume, and fire jugglers, and strolling minstrels. All good fun for the boys.

Is it the presents? Specific decorations? A specific nativity set? The great family gathering? Are you turkey or ham people?

This Christmas, because I don't have the "normal" Christmas things...or should I say, my tradition of Christmas, I have the opportunity to reflect on what really makes Christmas...well, Christmas.

Our sermon series for Advent is based on Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Christmas, regardless of whether you exchange gifts on December 5, 25, or January 6, whether you put up Christmas trees or stick to nativity scenes, whether you bake cookies or make mountains of fudge, whether you have Salvation Army kettles or no...Christmas is the moment, the experience, the realization that we have a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace..and for that we celebrate!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Never ending Story

It's a never ending saga with the residency. Today, after acquiring all the appropriate paperwork, number of copies, and right sized photo, we headed for the Foreigner's Office in Alicante. Only to be turned away. Rather than tell the long, frustrating story of meeting several friendly government officials, several not so friendly ones, being scolded via phone calls by a lawyer, driving back and forth between 2 offices on opposite sides of town, and a lovely woman named Begonia who finished us up...the boys and I are 10 euros away from being legal residents of Spain! (:::sigh::: While making copies of paperwork & visas, I had brought a copy of Jeff's passport but not the actual passport...he has an ACTUAL APPOINTMENT to come back next Tuesday to finish his finger stamping process)

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Dia de Accion de Gracias

Clean up from a Thanksgiving extravaganza looks the same no matter where you. Or, so I learned.

I'm taking advantage of a quiet moment. All the boys (Jeff included) are taking naps, I've got a glass of water, some left over tuna/curry/corn appetizers (taste better than they sound), and the butane heater running.

Yesterday we had a few people over from our congregation to join us in celebrating Thanksgiving. I tried to explain to my husband that it's just not a Thanksgiving without a bunch of other people with you. SO we drove 45 minutes to find an English butcher with a turkey breast last minute (we paid 14 euros a kilo (about $9 or so a pound) but it was worth it to celebrate with real turkey). I made all the "fixin's"! It was the first time that I have made a Thanksgiving meal on my own, and beside the biscuit mishap, everything came out really well! I reminded my family that these "from scratch" Thanksgivings will all too soon disappear once we live in a country that has the essentials in a can...

It was really nice to get to celebrate. It is also my first major holiday away from any sort of traditional family. It was wonderful how we were able to create new "family members" and laugh and share stories....just as if we had been in the States. One doesn't realize how important these sorts of things are until they are no longer an option. It was important to me that we have some sort of celebration (I had been an emotional wreck about it all week). I don't want to lose those traditions that are a part of who we are, a part of our American culture. And I hope, in the same breath, that we can adopt new traditions (like Los Reyes Magos (3 Kings)) to bring into our family's culture.

This year I am most thankful for:
1. ...being able to see a Salvation Army church grow and flourish, just as God created it to do. (We love you, Waukegan)
2. ...new friends, extensions of our family.
3. ...good food.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

15 Things

I wasn't tagged, but I'm kind of at a loss at a good post. So I thought I'd just join the fun.

Fifteen Things About Me, I'm not afraid to admit:

1. I'll sneak into my boys rooms while they're sleeping, give them kisses, and remind myself why we keep them. (Especially since bed time can be a nightmare.)

2. I am a fanatic about not eating the same meal too many times in a row. I'm always trying new recipes in order to keep our menu changing. I'm pretty sure my husband would just wish I'd stick to a few good ones.

3. I hate meatloaf, but will sometimes suck it up and make it because Jeff loves it.

4. I never finished college. I went to 2 different schools, and then realized I should just do what God had been calling me to do since I started: prepare myself to be a Salvation Army officer. So, I quit school and entered training (Salvation Army seminary) and felt a peace unlike any other.

5. I am really picky about pantyhose. I wear a uniform that requires off black pantyhose on a daily basis. But I REFUSE to wear pantyhose that get nicks too easy in them. I will only buy the $4/pair kind. I even bought a huge amount to bring to Spain with me.

6. I don't really know my biological father.

7. I really loved MOPS, and if I had stayed in the States I would have gladly served on their leadership team like they had asked. I was really sad that there are no MOPS in Spain.

8. I love coffee. Thank you, God, that I moved to a country where coffee is a national past time.

9. I have created a system in my head for how I decide to purchase something (non-necessities). I will look at it, then walk away, then come back, then walk away, if I decide to come back a third time then I will buy it. It's sad because I know that I have that tendency and even if I know I'm going to come back, I will still go through the entire ritual.

10. I spent the last week in Madrid at a conference for Salvation Army officers of Spain. I was bored most of the time because it was primarily about administration, but felt guilty because I needed to keep paying complete attention so I could tell Jeff what it was about later.

11. I had to leave my boys with a French speaking Swiss woman from our congregation that speaks Spanish.

12. I find it annoying that Bramwell now calls me "mama" (read with a French accent).

13. I hate doing laundry or dishes. Typically I don't do them, Jeff does. But then when he gets started, I feel incredibly guilty because I somehow think that I should be doing those things.

14. I really love Thanksgiving, and am anticipating that this might be a rough weekend because there is no Thanksgiving here. I can't even find a whole turkey (I found turkey legs...ewww.). Hopefully we'll be able to get together with some other Americans and have some pumpkin pie.

15. I often will make up the word in Spanish if I don't know it. I will simply say the English word with a Spanish accent. It works about 50% of the time.....

Monday, 17 November 2008

Whirling Dervish :)

The past week has been fun filled and jam packed. Strategic planning sessions, Solidaria de Marina Alta, local theatre ticket sales, and 18 month vaccinations!

Saturday, we attended a conference in Valencia in order to network with other Evangelical social service entities in the Valencian community (our area in Spain). At first, I was worried that we had simply made the mistake to come to a day long sales pitch for this particular group. BUT we met a woman (An American missionaries daughter) who is on the town council in our town and works with Stop the Traffik. I have been praying for an opportunity to get involved in some ministry dealing with the numerous prostitutes in our surrounding area. There is a road that we pass that has a young girl "posted" outside an orange grove entrance about every 20 to 30 feet or so....it was definitely a divine opportunity to meet this woman! When I found out that she was working directly with this issue in our same community, I quickly asked how I could help! I am so excited that God has provided an opportunity to DO SOMETHING.... so we have a meeting with her next week!

A long while ago at a MOPS meeting I learned a valuable lesson of carrying Scripture in my pocket. I didn't necessarily start doing it right away, but I've tried....anyways, I typically type out the Scripture readings and hand them to the people reading on Sunday morning (because they don't always bring their Bibles...) Apparently I had tucked a verse away into my tunic (Salvation Army uniform jacket (explanation for non Salvationist readers)) pocket, which made its way to my purse pocket, which then made its way to my hand this morning as I wrote down cloth measurments for a banner I'm making (quite the traveling verse)...the verse was exactly what I needed to read after a crazy week, an upcoming week of a conference 6 hours away with my boys in someone else's care:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

God is so good.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A Kind Word

As pastors, Sunday is the hardest day of the week. That may be shocking. It's the day when everything seems to be pulling apart at the seams. Your kids don't listen. Your pantyhose ruin consistently. You can't find the paper you needed, and laid out the night before so that this wouldn't happen. You and your spouse can't agree on even simple things, like banana yogurt or strawberry. All in all it's a tough day, well, at least it is in our household.

I know that this is the enemy's tactic of warfare. If you are distracted, you are of no good to the Kingdom. So, one is to expect a certain amount of struggle and confrontation when approaching Kingdom building events (ie: corporate worship).

So, next Sunday take a moment to find your pastor and/or their family members and offer some encouragement. Because the more I "investigate" the more I find that this is a reoccuring phenomenon in many pastoral households. Tell them they're doing a great job. Take them to lunch. Bring them a baked good. (Someone made us bread pudding today...it's the little things!) Distract their kids for a second while they engage in a conversation.

Remember, we're all in this together.

Friday, 7 November 2008


It's Bram's birthday today! He turns 3 at 4:30 Central time....or is that Spain time.....

Anyways we're celebrating the whole day! Bram opened a special gift from Grandma Sandy this morning at breakfast. I made (in our new essential Spain kitchen appliance: deep fryer) churros for breakfast with warm chocolate milk. Jonas and I sang Bram awake....to which he was utterly thrilled.

I brought cake into the pre-school for Bram, and when we picked him up he was wearing the birthday crown. He was also singing some song about Samba the Elephant, but I couldn't quite make out the words. When he sings in Spanish he mumbles all the words but gets the general tune down..

Today, after our weekly visit to the nursing home, we will be having chicken nuggets, french fries, carrot sticks, and homemade pickles (all of Bram's favorites) followed by a cake. It took me forever to find cake batter (it comes pre mixed in a bag you just pour into your pan. my choices were: chocolate chip or lemon) and I also attempted home made icing sans powdered sugar. (doesn't exist here) Jeff says the icing is good....but I'm skeptical about its merit. I'm sure Bram will love it regardless.

So here's to birthdays in a land far away!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Not to us, but to Your Name

Bram's birthday is on Friday. My baby is going to be 3. Each year as we give him his cake, we remind him and ourselves that we're celebrating because we managed to keep him alive another year! Somedays that's more of a feat than others.

We met with a local community group called "Solidaria de Denia" this morning. It is our hope to find out more information regarding the needs of our community before we can really make any kind of decision as to what kinds of programs The Salvation Army should be offering. We are seeking for the best ways to engage our community and become a part of it, rather than simply a spectator. Through the community group we'll be able to network with other community agencies also serving the needs of our town.

We have been diligently working on clearing out rooms in our building in order to assess what resources we have at our disposal, make room for programs, as well as throw away garbage. (I found juice boxes over 2 years old!) As we go through the rooms we find all kinds of books, music, games, and even a tent. It at least helps in deciding what kind of items could be used for other things.

I have been reading Brian McClaren's "A New Kind of Christian" series (I highly recommend it!). The second book speaks a lot about creation and God's story as it is woven through time and the events of history as well as our present day. It inspired me to read through the book of Genesis (bit by bit...as it goes with toddlers who get up at 5:00 am (stupid time change) ). Yesterday I read the portion about the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The part that stuck out to me about the story this time was the reason God decides to confuse the language:

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! (vs. 5 - 6)

Well, I always thought being united was a good thing? So I decided to keep reading the story for some clue as to why it was not a good thing now. And it hit me! Look at these verses:

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” (vs. 4)

Unity is a good thing. It makes you unstoppable. (God says so in verse 6.) The problem is these people were doing it all for their own glory....no consideration of God. So God scatters them over the world to basically show them Who's in control.

So it leads me to think of the new page turned in our country's (US) history last night. It doesn't matter who's president, it matter who's God. Christians could continue to argue of what the outcome of the election means, or they can choose to focus on God and change the world together. It makes me ask myself, am I seeking glory of God in all my personal endeavours? Or am I focused on how this is going to affect me and me only?......

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


I'm hesitant to post something of this nature, but I want to record my "feelings" before the event is finished. Because in my personal opinion the end result is not terribly important, in the sense that they seem to say the same thing on large issues via their voting records, etc (depending on what you determine to be the issues) regardless of what is said by campaign trails or commercials (which I didn't see in Spain anyways). (err.....I hesitated to leave that statement in...no backlash, I hope...I understand that there are some issues that are very important to people on which the candidates say very different things.....anyways, back to what I'm bloggin' about....sorry.....)

This is a monumental, historical event for the people of the United States. From the election onward little girls and boys (all, not just a specific group) will have an example that says "Yes! You REALLY CAN be president of the United States!!! It doesn't matter what you look like, your gender, or anything superficial!!" To me that's the most important aspect of this never-ending campaign. It's like our culture is turning a corner, or something! We're growing up!

So whatever the outcome of tonight's final votes ( I had to send mine in a month ago), this historic moment (as I steal wording from CNN international...) is exciting for me regardless of who becomes president!

Whoever you're backing be sure and cast your vote! Be a part of history!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Good news...

It's been quite the past 3 days for the Carrs. I traveled by train on Monday evening from Valencia to Madrid in order to attend the appointment for the boys' visas. (We have to apply for residency in Madrid (a 6 hour trip from Denia) because our visa applications contained a Madrid address rather than the one in Denia) So, the lawyer was able to get them to give us an appointment for the boys (they refused to do us all at the same time). And since I speak Spanish, it was my opportunity to see the city's goverment offices.

Orange groves turned in to fields of olive trees, then into red clay, then big city Madrid. It was nice to take the train...quiet (my favorite part), and when you're in a uniform no one recognizes they tend to let you read your book in peace.

Tuesday morning I woke up to make some coffee before heading to our headquarters office to meet the lawyer. Well, apparently I didn't understand the whole glass top is not the cooking top thing, and just as I was getting myself some cookies the glass exploded! Not a great start to the day. Government officials make me nervous...and now I was going to have to confess to my boss I shattered the stove cover because I'm not that bright. (I swear, I'm not a complete idiot, I just have my moments.)

Anyways...the lawyer and I(after making copies of our ENTIRE passport) headed to the office of foreigners by taxi. It rained all morning in Madrid, which always makes treking in highheels from office to office a pleasant experience. The first office took all of our paperwork, glanced through the passports, and promptly handed it back to the lawyer. Because Jeff had returned to the States to retrieve the boys' visas after our arrival in Spain (which by Spanish law is allowed) the boys' passports never recieved an entry stamp within the time frame of their visa..so it's as if they never arrived in Spain. The girl at the computer simply said "You'll have to take them across a border and make another appointment when they have a stamp." (Mind you, Jeff and my visas only allow us to leave and re-enter Spain until Saturday) The lawyer asked to speak with the girl's boss. We were told that he was out having coffee and we would have to come back later. So the lawyer and I went and had coffee across the street and discussed potty training. When we came back the boss wouldn't see us and wouldn't make her an appointment (apparently they legally have to make an appointment for you).

At this point, I am praying "God, you softened Pharoah's heart to let people out, I'm asking you to soften people's heart to let us in." The lawyer decided to try another office. She told me it was a long shot, but we could at least try. So another taxi ride and discussion of electric cars later, we ended up in the Commissioner's office beside Madrid's jail. (What he was the commissioner of, I don't know, but apparently he was quite important.) He called the last guy that refused to see us, to try and sort the situation out. At first it seemed they were going to simply write a letter with his signature, verifying the boys being in Spain, essentially stamping their passports and then send us back to the previous office. After an hour of waiting with no return call and the lawyer pleading the case of "is this the impression of Spain and its citizens to upstanding outsiders who only want to be of assistance to the Spanish people", the Commissioner handed the paperwork to his 'secretary' (she did more than secretary work, but I don't know her offical title) and said "Here, just take care of this. I am going for a coffee if you need me."

The lawyer and I both were simply expecting them to take care of the boys' visas and get them squared away for residency. (In Spain, children and adult applications go through seperate offices and therefore often end up separating family residency applications.) The lady asked for Jeff and my applications and she did ALL OF OUR RESIDENCY APPLICATIONS! God is SO good! The whole family has now been registered and the only step in the process left is for us to go to Alicante (a much, much closer office) to get our thumb's printed and get residency cards!

As we were leaving the office with all our paperwork taken care of, I said to the lawyer "See, I told you I have pretty good luck with these government things so far. And I have a good God." To which she responded "And a good lawyer."

Friday, 24 October 2008

Top 5 things...

(People wind surfing during the windy winter on the Costa Blanca)

1. Bramwell and Jonas have begun to naturally respond to Spanish commands. (Ie: take my hand, sit down, etc.) Bram can nearly count better in Spanish than he does in English. It wasn't until Bram correctly responded to "Como te llamas" (What's your name?) that I realized that he really is beginning to understand Spanish.

2. Last night we had a group of Norweigan Salvationists visit the corps, simply just to take a tour. They were staying out at the camp for a retreat, and just wanted to stop by. It is always fun to get to meet other Salvationists. (For non Salvation Army readers, it's hard to explain....) Bram was eager to show them around the building and even more eager to take them to "his office" (the room where all the toys are kept).

3. I have been in a "comfort food" mode. I made chicken and rice soup, beef stew (that turned out more like beef/vegetable soup). The only down side here is that there are no soft, yeasty rolls...so we had to settle for torn, day old bread.

3 1/2. Bramwell is on his way to being potty trained!!!!!!!! We have adopted the popular Spanish system of potty training (aka: naked). It's working so far. I think the biggest factor of encouragement was that he wants to be like Dash from "Incredibles" and we convinced him that Dash uses the potty not a diaper....who knew bathroom usage could be so exciting!?

4. I have nearly memorized an entire childhood Valenciano song. Each Friday we visit the state run nursing home and sing a mix of old Spanish church choruses and childhood songs (ala Mary Had A Little Lamb, if we were in the States). The childhood songs are primarily in the local language, so I have no idea what I'm singing about but I am proud to have been able to sing Tio Pep (hear it here) and his adventure.

5. As I was preparing for the Sunday Spanish service, I was narrowing down what passage to speak from. We have been looking at what the Bible says about how to 'find' God's will. (I am very thankful for my Thompson Chain Reference Bible!) So, I decided upon a passage out of James and just felt God reach out and speak to me:

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:13 - 15, NLT

We are called simply to do that which God has asked us to. Not to put a constraint on how, when, how long. We simply do until God gives us something new to do. God has placed my family here in Denia, and here we will stay until God calls us somewhere else. God has given me toddlers to love and raise and so I will do it because that's His plan right now. God has ordered my life for His glory and His Kingdom's benefit. May I never boast that my plan worked out. And may I always remember, when I am confident in the will of God for a specific part of my life, it is a sin to not comply....hmmmm.....things to think about

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!

My life is anything but quiet. And apparently that theme has been a strong "blog" issue of late. Right now, I am sitting on the bed of my 2 year old (ensuring he stays in bed) who is trying to "sing" through breathing through his nose with force, my 18 month old is sitting up chattering away desperate to get my attention so that he'll have an audience. And it's bed time. A time when life should be quiet.

With all this talk of quiet time it has caused me to take notice of how un-quiet my life is. Now, as I understand it, it is a side effect of having young children. I never realized until after having the boys how much I enjoyed moments of silence. So much so, that if it finally does get quiet I get irritated if the phone rings or my husband even asks me a simple question. I would love to have some "quiet time" but I probably would use it to read a book without being interrupted.

Quiet....it seems such a 'far away' concept at this point. If I could keep the two year old from 'talking' at a low level scream, and get the 18 month old to actually take a nap maybe, just maybe I might encounter a moment...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

I hate being sick....

I hate being sick. (Now, granted does anyone ever really enjoy being sick? If they do, that's a clear sign of some greater issue...) Anyways, when you're sick, minor annoyances become amazingly huge issues that you are willing to burst into tears over for no apparent reason.

I finally caught my share of the stomach flu making it's way up the Spanish coast. 2 days in bed, 5 pounds, and a weakened appetite later, I think I'm starting to improve....

At some point in my old age, I have developed a sensory overload issue. I'm not sure when it started, but ask my husband and he will verify that I can't handle lots of various noises. The issue even caused me to seek my own office rather than share with my noisy husband at our last church appointment. It makes me incredibly rattled. Two toddlers don't help, because they are accompanied by constant loud noise, muffling out all other noises, or simply joining in. This morning taking into account the loudness of our building (there is a group of teens who seem to only own 1 CD and relish playing it loud enough for everyone in the building to enjoy :) ), the running and "dinasour stomping" of my boys, the off kilter washing machine during the spin cycle, the neighbor's TV, the pounding as the neighbors across the hall remodel their kitchen, and the naueseating smell of drying seaweed permeating my apartment...I had to get out!

As we loaded up into the van, I didn't care where we went, I just wanted it to be quiet and not smell like seaweed. We ended up in a town (Jalon, if your mapping our travels) about 30 minutes away in a valley between 2 of the mountains. They had a long flea market spread across a dry riverbed in town. It was nice just to be outside and taking a walk. I did end up buying a huge purple mum for only 5 euros!! And we, of course, bought churros from the churro stand that populate every flea market in the area. It was a nice day to be out. The valley was beautifully green, and cool for the time of year. It thankfully smelled nothing of seaweed. And Bram even enjoyed looking at all the stuff.

Tomorrow we start another week...if you are praying people who happen to read my blog, I could use your prayer support on the issue of our residency. We have to apply in Madrid, due to original paperwork issues. (About a 6 hour drive) The boys have an appointment to begin the paperwork, but Jeff and I have yet to hear anything. I keep reminding myself that if God can handle Pharoah, God can handle residency paperwork in Spain...

Well, I'm off to finish up for tomorrow's Spanish program and head to bed...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!: Notorious Missionary Now Becomes Nice Missionary!

I decided to be a "nice mommy" tonight. We made a pizza together. Not just me putting it together while they were running around the kitchen, both boys actually helped!

On Sunday evenings, our church runs a church service in a local hotel. We tried taking the boys to the meeting, but after just 2 tries we quickly learned that 3 church services were just too much for toddlers. So, now Bram, Jonas and I have an evening all to ourselves. I secretly love Sunday evenings with the boys, because it's just as much fun for me as it is for them. We usually do something with play-doh or build train tracks or lego towers, we watch a movie if one is on, and it's bubble bath night! So tonight I decided I would do the good mommy thing and let them put the pizza together. (I vowed to myself I would only correct their 'creation' if it wasn't staying on the pizza dough. I had to make myself leave the pizza the way it was created.)

There has been a flu/cold thing passing its way around our little community. Both the boys have had it already, and I think I'm now struggling through it. No matter how sick they are, I can't turn them down if they just want a hug and a kiss....

I have decided to take tomorrow to stay at home. The house needs cleaning, and I need a rest. So perhaps it'll get clean, but it's entirely likely that the house will be in the same state it is now at the end of the day tomorrow.

Question: What do you do to take care of yourself (mentally/spiritually)? I was reading a preview of a book ("Absolutely Organized: Moms Guide to a No Stress Schedule & Clutter Free Home: A Mom's Guide to a No-stress Schedule and Clutter Free-home " by Debbie Lillard) off of Amazon UK website. And in the page you could read she suggests that most moms begin the day by dressing and feeding children, running them to school, etc...that they take no time to prepare themselves for the day. She said that you could have a better day and feel less frazzled if you just get up 30 minutes before the house's earliest riser to take some time for yourself...it seems like a nice idea, but is it realistic? Just wondering what some other moms do to ensure they take care of themselves...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

One Windy City to the next...

It's raining again. This time it's accompanied by really strong wind. The kind of wind that is bending down palm trees. Along with the rain comes flickering electricity...the lights have been flickering on and off all evening. It's enough to send an 18 month old into hysterics when his bath time goes all dark. Bram thought it was funny. (Well, he probably thought Jonas' freak out was funnier than the dark bathroom.)

It was a local holiday today, so there was no pre-school today. The boys accompanied us to brass band practice at a church member's home. (We've been having the church band practice at different members' homes in order to secretly visit with them, have tea, and see the inside of where the people live.) Bram & Jonas were excited to find legos and various bits and pieces of toys waiting for them, not to mention enough "biscuits" (that's British for cookies) to last them the morning. The gentleman (his wife plays in the band) even told me to go ahead and play with the band and he would gladly play with the boys. Bram has been talking about the lego jet airplane they made all day.

Tonight when the lights turned off, I was greeted in the dark by the question of "Why did the lights go off?" (Bram is a never ending stream of "Why" "How" "What does that mean" "What's it sound like in Spanish") So I said "Well, God decided to turn them off." And then I felt bad, like I should give a better explanation "Well, God wanted to show us that He is in control. So, He turned the lights off." "But I don't have to be afraid when the lights are off?" "No, Bram, 'cause we have Jesus with us." "Where? Up there?" "Um, well, He lives with us. He's with us all the time. He's in our hearts.".... Now, I realized at that point I was digging myself into a hole that might be theologically over the 2 year olds head. Why didn't I just say Because???....So suddenly the lights flashed back on, and Bram goes "Hey! He turned them back on!" Problem solved.

And now, I have a chorus from the back of The Salvation Army Songbook stuck in my head:
If Jesus goes with me I'll go anywhere
It's heaven to me whereever I be
If He is there
I count it a privilege here
His cross to bear
If Jesus goes with me I'll go anywhere

Hear it here Cyber Hymnal

Sunday, 5 October 2008

This is what happens when you bake a Chicago created pound cake recipe at sea level.

The eruption actually happened on both sides of the pan. After it cooled, we cut the pan and cake out of the explosion and still carried it to coffee fellowship the next day.

Better luck next time.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Waiting for the gas man...

Everything 'hot' runs on butane gas tanks here, so after 2 cold showers in a row, we decided perhaps the tanks needed replacing. So, I have a few extra minutes thanks to the Spainard understanding of making an appointment. (There is a 2 hour window around the time you were told.)

I've been reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren. (I am trying to make myself read a Christian 'development' book before getting sucked back into my never-ending Liz Curtiss Higgs Scottish series...) Anyways, the book is all about defining post-modern Christianity. (Think "Shack" meets "Velvet Elvis", and that's the style of book.) It's creating quite a bit of thinking on my part. Perhaps that's the point?

Yesterday a homeless-by-choice man stopped by the church building just in search of a Bible. After I got him one, he started talking about how Jesus was radical, challenging the status quo, etc, etc. He then started in about how he didn't like organized religion, etc. And that he was a radical like Jesus. All in all, I think he's just revolting against responsibility, and wanted to use Jesus as a support for his decisions to ignore laws....I digress....

My conversation with him, coupled with my readings, got me thinking: I think I am more postmodern in my view of Christianity. Less importance placed on the 'organization' and definite emphasis on the relationship.....anyways, I'm still working through the definition, and I'm only half way through the book...

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Drip, drip, drop...

It has been raining since Wednesday. There is typically a torrential down pour throughout the evening hours. (And a worried Jeff thinking about the leaks in the church.) I am very grateful for the cooler temperatures...we've actually been using a blanket at night, and the boys are wearing 'real' pajamas to bed not just diapers. And I personally don't mind wet weather. But keeping the boys inside is driving me nuts!

On Saturday we decided to take a drive to Javea/Xabia (depending on what language you speak Valenciano or Spanish) to just get out of the house. It was sunny on that side of the mountain, and Bram was extremely excited to find a McDonald's play place. (Future conversations: You lived overseas, so what kind of food did you eat? "Chicken nuggets.")

We also ended up at the mall to get a few new pairs of pants for Bram. I don't have any 'warm' weather clothing in his size, so we had to bite the bullet and get some. Toddler fashion in Spain is hysterical (to me). My nearly 3 year old looks like a little GQ model.

There is a rumor that the sun will return to the Costa Blanca later this week. Until then the Carr household will be playing with markers, play doh, and mommy's cell phone.

I realized that I've been putting quite a few pics of Bram...so, here's a pic of Jonas from our huge bubble bath fight tonight.

Friday, 26 September 2008


Some women are blessed with the gift of being 'stay at home mothers'. They have the choice of staying at home, have been given the Divine token of patience, and have chosen to be at home with their little ones.

It's usually when I consider these women, and the women who want to stay home but can't financially afford it, that I begin to feel a little inadequate in my mothering. I could stay home. There is no "rule" that says I have to go into the office, I could fulfill the majority of my 'requirements' from the computer at home. Though I have learned that the days I do stay home with the boys, it is nearly, strike that, it is impossible for me to get anything done beyond playing with the boys and making sure they don't destroy themselves or our belongings. Throw in the time it requires to change diapers, wipe noses, make snacks, and you've got a full day. (I'm very sure there are some women reading this and saying "And, your point is??")

The boys have been in day care all week this week, and I have been feeling a mixture of relief and guilt over the whole situation. They are struggling a bit with the language/culture issue. (Jonas won't respond to the Spanish pronounciation of his name. And Bram tells me every day "I don't speak Spanish.") I feel guilty for putting them in a place where only one girl speaks a few phrases in English. But I feel relieved in the sense that I have a chance to get involved in the daily operations of the church.

I have felt like a more patient mommy and a more attentive mommy this week. But I continue to rationalize the guilt: They only go from 8:30 to 1:30 (typical Spanish work hours), so they're not even in there the whole day. Bram needs to learn Spanish in order to start school next year. Jonas has been cutting teeth so that's why he's been cranky with the day care ladies....etc, etc, etc.

I don't presume that I'm the only one capable of taking care of my boys during the day. And I think it's good for them to be around other children, something of which there is not a lot of in our church (yet). I know that this transition phase for them shall pass, and they'll probably grow to love it, but it's still hard not to feel like a terrible parent when you leave a crying 2 year old behind in the care of another....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The rain in Spain stays mainly in...

No, no it doesn't. Actually I don't even know where to find a plain here. But there is plenty of rain. Today, as we drove around trying to find a parking spot close to the church building I jumped out to buy a cake from the bakery nearby. (It was for the 'Mums & Tots' program on Wednesday mornings, though I probably could have eaten the entire thing...but that's another posting subject alltogether) As I stepped out I realized I had made a bad decision. The mid calf deep water running down the street was rushing so fast that I nearly tumbled over. Denia is situated at the base of a mountain, sort of. And our church building is near by the highest point, the castle. So all the streets are on an upward/downward angle, and as I learned today, to aide in rushing the water back to the Mediterrean sea... I also learned that winter in our area consists of torrential down pours on a regular basis....but at least it's a lot cooler than before...

The ministry here is primarily geared towards British expatriates that live in the Denia area. So, being missionaries in Spain, we could 'survive' without ever really speaking Spanish a great deal. So there are various programs during the week that are only in English.

One such program is the 'Mums & Tots'. It's a group of women who drive in to have a big play date once a week. It is a flourishing program, and I am grateful that something so similiar to my own MOPS experience already exists here! Today a new mother joined us! (Possibly to get in out of the rain, possibly to get her 14 month old to expend some excess energy. *side note: she was 4 days past her due date with her second son....) Anyways, I learned the "proper" way to make tea...and to stop asking if they wanted milk in it...yes they wanted milk, you can't drink tea without milk, and "You put honey in your tea???"....

The boys have been doing incredibly well at day care. Each day is a little less traumatic than the last. (It's only been 3 days) And this process is slightly necessary in order to prepare Bram to start school next fall, since no day care will take him after this year. Apparently the boys do even better during the day when separated, and the ladies taking care of them always stop me to comment on how well the boys eat....Jonas is still having some trouble during the day (off and on crying) and Bram every morning so far has asked "You're coming back, right, Mommy?" I am extremely grateful that at the end of the night the boys are so tired that they go straight to sleep!! I'll keep paying just for that alone! The employees are obviously used to working with nervous, foreign parents. They are very patient and kind, but at the same time they basically tell me to just leave in the morning. :)

I seem to need to remind myself that there will be a bit of a learning curve with everything here. For example, cooking: I bought what I believed to be pre-cooked chicken nuggets (it said precooked and frozen on the box) to fry and eat with our Mac & Cheese from the states, only to bite into a raw piece of chicken. I think part of God's plan for our family in this situation to learn a new measure of His peace in all aspects of life (even in raw chicken). "Peace that exceeds anything we can understand" I've been thinking about what His peace really means and what it looks like. I don't think it means I am in a "hippy daze" at all times, never letting things ruffle my feathers, but I do believe that it means there's a deeper peace that is evident at all times. I was thinking this morning about our family verse and what it means that "His peace will guard your hearts and minds". What does my heart need protecting from? How does it guard my mind? I think those things are guarded by peace, in that I know that nothing can destroy them as long as I live in Christ Jesus. Things may catch me off guard (I spit the chicken back out), but they cannot tear me apart. Water can seep into our building through the roof and walls during the rain storm, and I can be upset about it, but the peace of Christ guarding my heart and mind reminds me in that moment that this conquer my peace in Christ Jesus.....anyways, I'm not even sure all of that made sense....

**I would like to take a public moment to say how excited I am to have all these new friends!!!! I write this blog, and people are actually reading it! That's a lot of pressure.....I hope I'm up to the task...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

How to Make Friends on A Playground in Spain

Step 1: Head to the park at an hour when your body seems to be saying "Isn't this dinner time?"

Step 2: Bring your own soccer ball.

Step 3: Call everyone "Buddy" or "Friend".

English not necessary.

This evening we took a walk to a small fenced in playground area a bit of a distance from our park. We were looking to use up some toddler energy with the walk, and give them a chance to play on actual playground equipment.

Bram wanted to bring his "special ball" that Grandma sent back from the states for him. Mind you, this fenced in area is just big enough to have a slide, a swing set, and a couple of benches. There's not a lot of room to kick or chase a ball. But there was no arguing with Bram.

It was so endearing to watch him start up a game with a couple of kids, I guess from the neighborhood. Bram doesn't care if you speak his language. He doesn't care if he fully understands your's. If you're willing to play, you are now his friend.

Tonight, as we went around the dinner table sharing the best part of our day (another family tradition we're cooking up) Bram said "I played with my friend at the park. Yep. That was the best part of my day."

Friday, 19 September 2008

Take a number, to wait to take a number...

It has been a blur of government offices this week! We registered with town hall and then drove the hour to the "county seat" in order to apply for residency. Only to find out through much explanation later, that we will have to drive the 5 hour trip to Madrid in order to complete our residency paperwork....::sigh::....perhaps it will improve our disposition if we treat it as a mini-vacation.....

We have decided to place the boys in an "infant school" here in town. Children begin school at age 3 in our area, but I didn't feel comfortable placing Bramwell in school when he still didn't understand the language....side bar: he is learning very quickly! He has started using phrases like "muy bien" and "chau" on a very regular basis!....So we decided to place them in a situation where they would learn Spanish and be prepared for school. It will also afford us the opportunity to work in the office and dedicate time to office stuff, rather than bringing the office to the house.

While in the States, they went to daycare while we were at the office. (Only 2 days a week, it's all we could afford) And once we got home, it was dedicated family time. We rarely brought our computers home. We often did errands or visitation, but usually when we were in the house we weren't trying to get work done. Then when we were awaiting our visas in order to take up this appointment in Spain, we had no work to do, so the boys had us all to themselves. Now, since we can't take them to the office, we are always doing work here at the house, and I think they hate that we're not paying 100% attention to them (it's the best rationalization I can come up with for their behavior)... Perhaps by getting a chance for the boys to use up some energy, make new friends, and us getting the majority of our office work done at the office, it will make for better times to be had at home.

Just so this post isn't incredibly long, here's a quick update:

1. Jonas had to go to the dentist this morning. After a chase scenario over a toy involving Bram, Jonas has broken both front teeth on the rock solid floors of Spain. Good thing, it'll fix itself...in 6 to 7 years. ( Bram and I have been repeating all day: Nice with our words, nice with our hands)

2. We began our weekly nursing home visit ministry. A good portion of them speak Valenciano ( a local language that is not Spanish), so I will be learning a few choruses in a new language. The boys always have loved nursing home visits, not that they have had much choice ( I have taken them to nursing homes ever since I was pregnant.), and the people always LOVE seeing the boys and their friendly smiles.

3. We had a set of sofas that was literally falling apart. We had to cover the cushions with sheets because they were so ripped that stuffing was coming out. Well, God answered our prayers! A gentlemen was looking to get rid of a leather couch set, and agreed to let us have it for the home here!! So, now we have a blue leather sofa and 2 matching chairs!

So much to do....

Friday, 12 September 2008

Jesus, take the wheel...

In the states, I drove a maxi-van (12-15 passenger) on a daily basis. I parked it. I passed people in it. I even.....dare, I say it....went OVER the speed limit in it. So why is it, you put me in a new context and I am barely capable of driving a "regular" mini van? (Now, granted these vans are entirely too boxy to be considered a normal van, but it only holds 8 people, thus making it smaller than a maxi-van)

I drove the boys and myself to Eroski (Spain's version of Super-Walmart). As we pulled out of the parking space directly in front of our apartment building, I prayed "Dear Jesus, please guide us there safely and bring us back to a parking space in front again." The GPS loyally guided me to the supermercado. And I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to do something more than walk by the shore or circle the apartment building again.

I was feeling so confident in my driving skills at the moment that I decided we would have McDonald's for lunch. Parking was there once again. We ate, we played in the air conditioning (a luxury), and then we left.

I glanced at my watch, realizing that it is now Spainard lunch time (2:00ish) and we live above a restaurant. I knew my chances for parking were possibly going to be slim. But as we pulled up, there it was: the exact same parking spot I had left 2 hours prior!

Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He's done!

Three good things about the morning so far:
1. It's a cooler day than yesterday.
2. We found a place where Bram can kick and chase after his ball.
3. It's new sheet night. (Carr speak for freshly laundered sheets)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Memory Verse 2008, part 2

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all that you do. Remember the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He's done. Then you will experience God's peace which exceeds anything we can understand.

Philippians 4: 4 - 6

We have been making a habit of reciting/memorizing this verse together as a family during dinner together. Little did I realize how perfect God's choice of a family verse would be when I decided we would learn this one together.

All throughout the day little snippets of the verse will come to mind. And I can see Bram and all his hand movements in my mind too....

Saturday, 6 September 2008

...the fire...

It's true. We had a fire in our apartment. It was completely my fault. I don't know how to BBQ. 5 years of officership and several attempts that always end disastrously should have been on the fore front of my mind. ( I burnt my eyebrows & eyelashes once...) But nonetheless, this will go down in the Carr Chronicles as the worst disaster with a BBQ, and on the top 10 list of Mom's all time bloopers...

It has been a rough week in the Carr household. Last Saturday, we nearly burned the apartment down. (In truth, we lost very little and can count out the miraculous ways God saved our familiy from a much larger disaster! And now we know our neighbors. :) ) Sunday, it was such an emotional day (mostly because of the fire, mixed with a little transition stress coming to the surface) that we barely made it through the 2 services at church. (At the end of the English service, the congregation gathered around us to pray over us.) Tuesday, the insurance company came to inspect the damage only to inform us later that they don't believe personal property is covered under insurance here, only official properties. Thursday, we went to Camp Saron to enjoy their lovely pool and I fell and now my tail bone is excruciatingly painful......aaaaaahhhhh! When you hit bottom, you begin to realize that there is no where to go but up....please, Lord, let this be the bottom.

I picked up my "Mission Prep" binder and was flipping through the discussion notes from "culture shock". And realized we fit those perameters. We're normal, well, at least according to the manual... It's always a bit of a relief to be reminded that what you are experiencing is normal in the grand scheme of things. (Thanks, Karen, for parenting normalcy reminders)

It a time of stress, I have decided to reinstitute a Carr household event. At the very end of the evening, just before we're going to turn the lights off and call it a day, Jeff and I will list three good things that happened during the course of the day. Now, sometimes ice cream and chocolate are the first two, but it gives us a chance to make ourselves realize that the entire day was not a "bad" day, regardless of what may have happened.

My 3 for today:
1. We got to talk to family via Skype!
2. The instant paella (sacreligious, I know) was actually pretty good.
3. We took a walk along to shore as a family.

For those who may actually read this post, I ask for prayer for Jeff as he returns to the States next week to finish up the boys' visa paperwork. I have a lot of fear and anxiety about his trip and my being alone (mostly irrational ones, but still there nonetheless). Your prayers are greatly appreciated on our behalf.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

I'm taking a break from all the mopping to take advantage of the quiet moment during nap time. It's a blessing that both the boys are actually taking naps!

(PS: Someone's cooking something in the apartments around us, and I think it might be burning...)

Transition can be a real challenge. I think that there is this romantic vision of "missionary" (whatever that really means) life. There is this idea that it is amazing, heroic, and full of adventure and weird food. Well, at times it can be I guess. But at least for these last two weeks, it has been frustrating, hot, and "normal" (whatever that really means).

A line from a conference we took keeps coming back to me: "The first term is a learning term." Denia has more to teach me, than I have to offer it.

Last night as I was reading a line jumped out at me: "Whoever loses their life for me will find it." We have left most everything. Granted, we had a few things shipped to us, but for the most part we didn't bring it with us. We left "our life". Our grocery stores (a story all by itself), our understanding of how things work, our time frames, our air conditioning :), our family and friends...and last night, God quickly reminded me: It's not our life to keep. I want real life. I want what God wants for my life. This place is it. I don't know what that really means yet. I don't even know when I will know what that means....but I do know that I'll never find it until I let go of what I thought defined "life".

Well, enough for now...the 2 year old is up, and the laundry is waiting to be hung....

Monday, 25 August 2008

So begins a new week in the beautiful city of Denia!

Yesterday after church we had a wonderful picnic with the church family up the mountain between Denia and Javea (or Xabia, depending on your language). But, we forgot to take our camera, so we will have to make another trip to show it off!

Luckily the gate covering the church door is still working! Today we covered the thrift store in the morning, and checked out a child care center just outside of town in the afternoon. The center was beautiful, perhaps out of our price range, but great nonetheless. We're trying to see if childcare for part of the week will be possible, so that we can both be at the office for a few days during the week. One advantage to day care is that it will help the boys learn Spanish rapidly. School begins at 4 for most children here, so Bram wil lend up doing at least a year of school, and it will be important that he have at least a knowledge of Spanish before going in...

Tomorrow, the family will head out to camp to assist in a few things. We are working one day a week there to earn money for the corps budget...er...solicit a donation. :) And, perhaps we'll be able to swim in their beautiful pool afterwards!!

We have reestablished a Carr Family Schedule. If you know our family at all, you know that we live and breathe routine...it keeps us all happy. Lately the boys have been a little crazy and everyone is has been cranky. So, I thought it might be time to pick back up on the routine, and like "magic" everyone seems to be doing much better!

It promises to be a much better week than the last....

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bram has memorized this phrase to say when he meets new people.

"Hola! Mucho gusto. Me llamo Bramwell." Hello! Nice to meet you! My name is Bramwell.

Now, granted, most people only understand up to "mucho gusto"...but everyone thinks it's really cute when he says it.

(sorry about the random parade shot, I couldn't edit it out...still learning to use this thing)

Lots still to learn...

In honor of my birthday/anniversary today, and in the 4 year tradition of this Carr family, I purchased my own birthday cake. There is a French pastry shop near the corps that some new friends pointed out as being one of the best in town, so I bought a ridiculously expensive cake to celebrate. I warned my husband that perhaps the prices of my birthday cakes will just keep going up as the years go by.

It has been an interesting and exhausting week. On Tuesday the gate covering the door to the church would not go up. The volunteer that runs the thrift store was a stumped as Jeff and I. We decided that there was nothing we could do since Spain runs on its own hours, and nothing would be open. We'd have to wait until Wednesday. So, I went to the corps early Wednesday morning to wait for the locksmith. As he explained to me that it must have been a motor malfunction and that a breaker had been thrown, he continued to explain to me that there was no need to call a locksmith that I could have fixed this on my own. When he realized that the manual override was not working, he cracked open the pull down gate the width of a stair, looked at me in my uniform and said "Now, just shimmy up inside there, open the door, and go flip the breaker." I said "No." So, he shimmied up inside, and well...opened the door. I think he felt sorry for us for making us pay for something that we could have done ourselves apparently if we had only known. He said he cut me a break on the cost...he said. The gate is still not completely working, but we're trying to make it work.

Today, the I learned what an asset my two boys can really be. People stop me on the street regularly just to talk to the boys. Mind you, the boys still don't respond to Spanish, but people are just so "attracted" to them. And this worked in my favor at the bank today while trying to open an account. The girls establishing my account were so enamoured with my two little flirts that they were extremely helpful to me.

We also found the local market. And I even bought homemade meatballs from a local butcher. We located the mall, and as Jeff says, it makes you feel a little less isolated. Being surrounded by mountains, in a small town, you can begin to feel like nothing really exists outside of you. We're still learning our way around town, and have become incredibly grateful for our Christmas purchase of a GPS. Now, if only I could figure out how to get around inside the grocery stores (nothing's placement makes sense to me yet).

And to top off the birthday/anniversary celebration we went to McDonald's Playplace. The boys had been in the strollers or car for the majority of the day so I wanted to give them a chance to run off some energy. Bram has yet to realize that the kids here don't speak his language. He came to me very frustrated this evening "I told the grills (girls) my name is Bramwell" He was upset that they didn't acknowledge him. And earlier at the thrift store a little girl, around his age, kept holding Bram's face trying to make him understand her. He kept looking at me like she was crazy. He's memorized a greeting phrase so far. And I think he's catching on that he'll get more of a response with 'Hola' than 'Hello'.

And as a great birthday gift: we recieved news today that our shipment of belongings should arrive within the next week!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Jesus Salva

Our first Sunday is under our belt. And what a Sunday it has been. We left early enough to be able to set up chairs in the chapel, but weren't able to get into the building! We weren't sure how the door opener worked, or what key went where, or if we even had all the keys! And parking a nine passenger van in streets that were designed to be traversed by horse and buggy is quite challenging!
Once finally inside things went really well! There were quite a few in church today to check out the new officer. Several Salvationists on vacation from England passed by the corps and we had a wonderful brass band ensemble! (You know you're a Salvationist if you bring your horn on vacation as a "just in case")
This morning Jeff brought the message and I translated. It was our debut in this capacity, and it is quite challenging. Translating is definitely a gift...one I will apparently have to master quickly. :)
We have be battling with our coffee maker in the house. I successfully have burned coffee, been confused by the operation of the item, and today I successfully melted the handle of the coffee pot (it's a small espresso pot that you use on the stove top). So, today we spent time looking for a new pot at the Eroski (kinda like Super WalMart). And after all of that I believe I may have come closer in reaching "cafe con leche" quality...
Tomorrow begins our "normal" life. Jeff will walk to the office in the morning. There is a small thrift store attached to the corps. And one of Jeff's passions in thrift store operations, so he is eager to get started on finding out the workings and details of the store! The boys and I will join Jeff later in the morning and have lunch with the officer couple in charge of The Salvation Army camp in Denia. It will be nice to establish some sense of routine and find a "groove" for our ministry and our family life.
Blessings from the beach!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Hemos llegado!

We have arrived.

We have brought our luggage the three flights up to our apartment. We've turned on the TV and we've connected to the internet. We're home...

We left Chicago on Monday afternoon, after many tears following a breakfast with family. It was 9 hour flight to Munich, of which the two boys only slept the last hour of. Arriving in Munich we went through European Union customs, and traversed our way to the gate for our flight to Madrid.

Now, moving an entire family requires a lot of belongings. We had the maximum limit for our carry ons, only to find out the way to board the plane in Germany required us to go down 4 flights of stairs without elevator or escalator, then board a bus to go up a very narrow and very steep set of stairs into a tiny airplane....but we have arrived.

We spent the evening in a hostel in downtown Madrid and had a lovely dinner with the Lt. Colonels in charge of the work here in Spain. The first night in Spain was a bit of rough one. At one point during the middle of the night everyone was awake for about 2 to 3 hours and all fighting for space in the same bed (there were 3 beds in the room).

Wednesday morning we made the 5 hour car trip to Denia. And are now "en casa". Bram and Jonas are doing extremely well with the transition. Bram is excited to try out new words in Spanish, and Jonas has never met a person he is willing to play with...

Tomorrow we will explore Denia a little more, with more sleep under our belt, and most likely walk along the beach. We have plans to get our van and visit the corps building.

It's still hard to believe when I walk out on our balcony that "We live here now". That view of the beach and mountain is my reality now. Surreal, but nice.

....maybe we will all get some real sleep tonight...

(check out more photos on facebook)

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Ask, and ye shall recieve...

We leave for Spain on Monday afternoon. After a long process, and other happenings, we are on our way.

Right now we are packing back up, cleaning out the refridgerator, and dusting and vacuuming this house.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

So, the anticipation of another possible 30 days to be passed in the waiting period has prompted me to take a moment to recognize and appreciate the things that are readily available to me here that will most likely be obsolete in Spain.

The list is as follows:

One stop shopping (ie: Super Walmart, Meijer)
Macaroni & cheese in abundance
Oberweis Ice Cream shops
Grass and large yards
air conditioning
Walking because I want to, not because I have to
Libraries with books in English (primarily in English)

That's all that comes to mind at the moment...

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again -- rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember the Lord is coming soon.

Philippians 4: 4 - 5

Monday, 28 July 2008

....no, we're not in Spain yet...........

Waiting sucks. (sorry for those that might be sensitive to that phrasing.) We are still in a hold pattern. Our belongings arrive into port in Spain on Thursday, and we still have no firm arrival date. We are awaiting the processing of the boys' visas, and so, we continue to wait....I have been wracking my brain and Bible trying to discover the reasoning behind everything. I have found numerous examples of those that had to wait without reasons, except that it is God's plan, not theirs.

I have been reading through Deuteronomy this past month (exciting, I know) and have been thinking about how these were the words God used to prepare His people before they entered the Promised Land. So I've been reading it to glean some insight into what God expects of me before I enter this new place. The over arching theme seems to be two little words: Be careful. (I've even underlined it every time it comes up, and surprisingly it's rather regularly) Be careful in what you say. Be careful in how you act. Be careful in how you worship. Be careful in where you go. In other words, make everything intentional. Don't just haphazardly enter into this place and think you'll survive without maintaining a deep connection with God.

This past Sunday the corps officer suggested in his sermon that we begin our prayers by thanking God for all He has already done in regards to our situation before asking Him to do something more. Thanking God for what He has already done is also an overarching theme of Biblical prayers, and it seems in line with that thought of being intentional....I will say, I've been seriously trying it and it has made a bit of difference in my perspective on the situation.

I publicly thank God for
  • getting Jeff and my visas through with no problems
  • getting our belongings to Spain so we don't have to live out of suitcases once we arrive
  • for preparing Denia as a place for us
  • for providing for our financial needs
  • for preparing us through conferences and new friends
  • for providing our family a chance to enjoy summer and summer activities, not just try to squeeze them into a tight schedule
  • giving an extended chance to visit with family and friends before we are far away
  • assuaging my fears on the visa process (or my lack of understanding of it) once we do arrive in country
  • for allowing me time to finish some sentimental projects before leaving
  • for having plenty of time to pray for our ministry
Looking at the list makes it seem like the "waiting" has been more productive than not. Perhaps that was the point?

Friday, 18 July 2008

Since our return from Canada life has returned to its slower (sometimes excruciatingly so) pace. We spend our days visiting park district pools, hooking up to internet from our back porch, or watching Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs for the 1,000th time. We try to sleep in, but that is practically impossible with a two year old in the house.

We are still waiting on the boys visas to be approved. It is a little disconcerting that the children's visas are taking the longest in the entire process. We recieved word that our shipment of belongings will arrive in Spain before we do at this point.

We are headed to Michigan for a few days, then we wait out the visa process...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Carrs take Toronto...

On Sunday, we visited Scarborough Citadel Salvation Army Church. The chapel was absolutely amazing! Their officer was in transition, and they had farewelled the officer last week, and would be welcoming the new officer this coming Sunday. My first thought was "why is there a week before the new guy arrives?? that would never happen at home!" Then someone explained that he was coming from Western Canada to Toronto, and it dawned on me that their territory is the size of our entire country, so a week's travel time was understandable. Anyways, it was a beautiful, traditional Salvation Army service.

We used the break to soak up some "Canadieness" (sp). We ate at Tim Horton's for breakfast (like Dunkin Donuts but EXTREMELY popular here), then Swiss Chalet for lunch, and a Boston Pizza for dinner. If you're from Canada I'm sure you recognize all those names, if not....sorry. We also drove about an hour and half to check out Niagra Falls, because who knows when we might ever be this close again. It was beautiful! We took lots of pictures and I even bought a Tshirt.

Monday we spent time talking about the process of change and transition and its effects on a family. As the speaker began to describe transition as feeling like crossing a busy hiway and no one giving any direction, I began to nod. Then as she continued describing transition as a chaotic time, with lots of irritability, a feeling of loss of purpose, and as just an all around terrible time, I began to cry. I had to leave the conference room to go cry in the bathroom for a minute, and regain my composure. As I read the paper and listened to her, I realized she was vocalizing what my family is going through!...it's called TRANSITION!!!! Now this may not be a new revelation to some people, but this was somewhat ground breaking to me. Theologically and ideally I understand this process, but to have someone give me the words and validate what is happening is freeing! That morning I couldn't really talk about it, but now I feel almost relieved that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Monday was like a huge spiritual breakthrough for me in the sense that God told me "No, you haven't made a mistake. This is normal. This too shall pass. But I have something to teach you as you walk through it with Me." Like the teacher said, it doesn't make sense to walk halfway through the busy street and sit down in the middle of the road, but it's in the middle where we will learn the valuable lessons of trust and blessing waiting on the other side.

Then today, we visited a mosque and listened to the Iman/Imam (sp?) talk about Islam and their beliefs. The women sat seperate from the men, we had been instructed not to ask the first question and to cover our limbs in respect to their beliefs. It was absolutely fascinating! I learned so much about Islam in general, and so much about my own faith in the process as well. I'm still processing through what the man spoke about today, so perhaps I will have more to say later about it. But it was such a great experience to step outside of our "comfort zone" and just come to a place to at least try to understand the "other side" so to speak.

The conference has been great and I really feel like we are learning a lot about ourselves in this process...