The Princess of Lists in Her Element

The list-making is in full swing.

Let's see, I've got a list of things to do before we leave for language school. There's also a list of things we need to remember to pack. And then there's the list of items we want to get rid of. Earlier this week I had a list of family members and close friends we wanted to alert, but thankfully, that list has all been checked off. Then, unrelated to our language school lists, is the list of items I need to pack for my Iowa trip in just under two weeks. Along with that, I'll probably draft a list of items Troy will need to pack when he and the kids join me for the goodbyes on my side of the family.

At this rate, I'll need a list to keep track of all my lists.

Anyway, today I even got to check items off my main list (things do do before we leave). Passport application appointment schedule? Check. Scheduled for Monday morning. Once we've applied for those, I can begin the very long, very drawn out process of applying for student visas. When I inquired yesterday what needed to be done, I was shocked. For a long time I've heard horror stories about governmental red tape in other countries, and we're about to experience a little bit of that ourselves. Before even leaving home.

Here's how this to-do list will go, just to give you a taste of the red tape:

1. Take birth certificates for Jenny, Clayton, and Tayler as well as our marriage certificate (which we're still waiting to receive a copy of in the mail) to Secretary of State in downtown Des Moines and have them aposillized.

2. Mail Troy's birth certificate to Texas to be apostillized.

3. Go to police department and formally request copies of our (non existent) police record for the last two years.

4. Take birth certificates for Tori and Cody as well as the copies of the police reports to the Secretary of State's office in downtown Jackson to be apostillized.

5. Either call Costa Rican embassy in Houston and arrange to mail all documents, along with our newly issued passports (once they arrive in several weeks) to them, or physically take all documents to Costa Rican embassy in Houston and have them stamp our passports with the student visa.

Let the work begin.

Sinking In

This is gonna be a multi-post week (even if we can't actually post this yet for a few days, and even if you'll actually get to read all these posts in succession).

Yesterday, June 19, we received part 3 of The Phone Call from headquarters. We are officially cleared for language school! We've been given permission to broadcast the news (believe me, it has been so hard not to hit that "publish" button! Once, I accidentally did, so I had to quickly go back and delete the post), but we wanted to wait until after we'd had a chance to announce our news to our home church on Sunday. In the mean time, we've told our family, a few of our closest friends, and several of our fellow field missionaries and other missionaries who have been in our shoes and know what this week means to us.

Yesterday afternoon, we were formally invited to Costa Rica to attend language school, and today I submitted an information form for the school admissions office to review. After it's been approved, and headquarters sends the check for our registration, we'll be officially enrolled in The Spanish Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica! Then, our airline tickets will be booked. The next big legal issues we have to take care of are our passports (an expensive proposition, especially since we're expediting them), and applying for student visas. Having a student visa as opposed to a tourist visa will enable us to remain in the country the full year without having to leave and return every 90 days. They are a bit more expensive than tourist visas, but well worth the extra cost when the convenience is factored in. In order to obtain these visas, we have to have copies of our birth certificates and our marriage license notarized (not the word, but I can't remember what the actual word is) by the Costa Rican embassy here in the States. Well, this is what I've heard we have to do. I fully intend to contact the language school for help with this one.

Some of our missionary friends, particularly those who have served/are serving on our Mexican field, have already given us some great advice about packing, what to take, what not to take, what kinds of things to do, etc. The Queen of Lists certainly is in her element! (Well, okay. My mom is probably the Queen of Lists....which would then make me the Princess of Lists.)

It's starting to sink in that this is actually happening. Wow! Yesterday we were shocked and excited. Mostly excited. Today, knowing the up-hill battle I'm facing as I struggle to learn a language with sounds that frustrate my tongue (thank You, Jesus, that it's not Mandarin Chinese), I am freaking out. Scared out of my mind! Aack! How can I leave all that is familiar and go to a place where they don't speak my language??!! And beyond that, how in the world can I live in the 3rd largest city in the world???? The thought of driving in Mexico City has always terrified me. It's one thing, however, to know that somewhere, off in a very vague future, I'll be driving in the World's Largest Parking lot. But knowing I'm a mere YEAR away from that reality..... Well, this is the stuff of nightmares.

On the other hand, I know full well that fear is not of God. It's! Not! Of! God! Fear is a tool of the enemy to keep us from doing what God has called us to do. And I'd rather die than let that happen. Seriously. I have the deepest conviction that the next two years are going to really stretch me as a woman, as a mom, a wife, and as a Christian. They are going to be the hardest two years of my life. But I have a feeling they are also going to be the most rewarding. When I come out on the other side, I'll be able to look back and see all that God has brought me through. The fear of driving. The struggles with learning Spanish. The shyness in meeting new people. The nervousness for my kids. The homesickness. All of it.

And I can honestly say that I'm excited to experience every minute of it knowing that God has something amazing planned for our family as we minister to those He has called us to. And as they minister to us in return.


Ready, Set, GO!

(Written June 18, 2012)

We got part two of The Phone Call from Bill Oden at OMS headquarters this morning. Our field director is very excited about the new plan to shorten our first term to two years! He'd really like to see us in language school this September.

What does all of this mean? It means, quite simply, that come the end of August, the entire family will be boarding a plane and leaving the country. (Gasp!) Instead of talking about "mights" and "possiblys", we're making plans and coming to some definite realizations.
  • This year we won't have to decide which family to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's with. Because we will be spending those holidays in an entirely different country than everyone else. Preferably on a beach.
  • I will be celebrating my 38th birthday next year with an amazing trip to the beach--and not the dirty brown waters in the Mississippi Gulf. My first-born will become a teenager in a foreign country.
  • When we leave Iowa at the end of July, I won't see my brand-new (well, as of July) nephew again until he is 2 years old (unless my sister and brother-in-law bring him to Costa Rica or Mexico City for a visit. Hint, hint!). That one's not a fun realization. It's one that has quite literally broken my heart to imagine. 
  • Once we board that airplane in August, we won't see any of our family members for the next two years, unless they go to the time and expense to visit us. Thank God for modern technology like Skype, email, Facebook, and blogs! But the fact remains that, no matter how healthy my one remaining Grandparent is now, not one of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Will God call her Home while we're out of the country? I can't say. And I dearly hope not. But I will have to prepare myself for that goodbye, even if it's one that I don't end up having to make.
  • We will have our work cut out for us, both in the packing process, and once we arrive in language school. I speak not a lick of Spanish. In fact, my pitiful 2-years of high school French continually pop to mind whenever I try to think of certain Spanish phrases, so I imagine this will be very interesting.
  • Most importantly, we will need your prayers in the weeks and months to come. Desperately. There's the house to pack, garage to sort through, storage to arrange, luggage for six to amass, plane tickets to book, passports and visas to arrange, applications to fill out, legal details to figure out and arrange, many goodbyes to be said, and probably many more things than I can think of now. And that's just before we leave the country! That doesn't even include all the minute details we'll have to take care of once we arrive in Costa Rica. The lovely thing about the language school in Costa Rica is the Big Brother program. A current student will be assigned to our family to help us transition into life in San Jose. He or she will pick us up at the airport. Find housing for us prior to our arrival! Then, help us get settled into a new culture. As part of the program, we get to in turn provide this assistance to another incoming family during our stay in Costa Rica.
Thank you so much for your prayers and your support of our family over the many months we've been at this. You've helped us reach this very special day. I still tear up every time I think about what today means. This is the fulfillment of a calling God placed on Troy's life when he was a teenager. The fulfillment of a calling God placed on my life as a college student. And the fulfillment of a calling God placed on our hearts as a couple during a missions trip to Mexico back in March of 1999.

We've been ready. We've been set. And now, finally--praise Jesus!--we are GOING!

The Most Incredible Development on the Most Incredible Day

My New Year's resolutions for this year were to be finished with my novel (getting there -- I'm perhaps halfway to that goal), and to be funded and in language school in Costa Rica. What if I told you that at least one of those goals had just become possible? And since I just mentioned that I still have at least half of the novel yet to write, the logical conclusion is that the goal reached was language school.

If you guessed that, you'd be right.

We had completely written off being able to leave in August, as we're still only at about 55% funded (and have been stuck there for about a year). We'd begun to make plans to pack up our belongings and possibly move in with my mom in Iowa, with the new goal of leaving for language school in January. To be honest, we'd both accepted this and were excited about six more months of getting our ducks in a row--making use of that Rosetta Stone software we've had on the computer forever, helping the children firm up their reading/spelling abilities, learning a modicum of self-control and getting in shape in the process. All things that would've made our transition to life in Costa Rica easier.

And then yesterday (Tuesday, June 12) we received The Phone Call from headquarters.

Would we be interested in a two-year term: 1 year of language school followed by 1 year in Mexico City? After the completion of those two years, we'd come home and attempt to raise funds for a full four-year term. The thought process behind this is that it is much easier for missionaries to raise support for a longer term once they've actually had some field experience. People like to hear those stories of lives changed. And new missionaries who haven't yet been to the field do not have stories of their own to tell. We can only borrow other people's stories, which is nowhere near as effective. After several years of fundraising, we have enough in our account, or enough already coming in, to support a two-year term. It has yet to be approved by our field director, but the departmental heads at OMS headquarters are very excited about this, so we're cautiously optimistic as well.

What does this mean? It means that at the end of August, we'll be flying to language school in San Jose, Costa Rica. It's happening. It's actually happening! We've got two months to get our stuff in order. This means we've got 12 years of stuff to sort through and either toss, sell, or store. We must get passports for the entire family. We must book tickets. And probably a number of other things we don't know about but are necessary when preparing to spend two years abroad (two years abroad!).

I woke up yesterday questioning whether or not this was ever going to happen. And then by the end of the day, I was already thinking about what spending Christmas in a tropical location will be like, and what it will mean to watch both "Hobbit" movies dubbed over in Spanish (oh, I devoutly hope that's not the case. I'd much rather watch them in English with Spanish subtitles). Deep in my spirit, I can sense God saying to me, "Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt Me?"

It's a day I will never forget for as long as I live. A most incredible day.