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When you fall, sometimes it takes a village to pick you back up.

The past few months in the Morales house have been a testament to community, faith and the strength that only comes from Jesus.

We didn’t post much of what had been going on, but now that things are finally looking up, I thought I’d share.

May 13th: Leo took a brave and valiant move (after much prayer) and quit his job at Guitar Center in order to focus more on ministry and his business. (shameless plug: http://www.leonardo-morales.com)

May 16th: Leo was working on our basement remodel, fell off of a step-ladder and fractured his right elbow. (see previous post)

May 18th: Our dog, Canela, gave birth to 5 puppies

May 19th: Leo had extensive surgery on his elbow to repair the damage

The rest of May: an absolute blur.

Most of June and July: a blur

August 10th: Leo’s US citizenship ceremony

Now, here we are at the end of August!

We have now called the summer of 2016 “The summer of recovery, citizenship and puppies”.

Here’s the deal:

There is absolutely no way that we would’ve made it through the first 2 weeks, let alone the months afterwards without friends and family.

We’ve had people bring us meals (it didn’t hurt that Canela had such cute puppies to visit/hold), bring us urgent medicine or food, help finish the recording studio, do yard work, organize our basement, and just be emotional/spiritual support all throughout this process.

As Leo walked in for his 3-month appointment, the doctors were astonished.  They have NEVER seen anyone heal so quickly after such an intense fracture.

Leo jokes around that he plays guitar even better now than he did before, and proudly shows his “ironman” picture of the screws that were put in his elbow.  We know we are blessed and fortunate that it turned out this way!

We didn’t post anything about it on Facebook because we didn’t want his family in Colombia to worry.  They were dealing with their own hard situations, and didn’t need to know that Leo was having such a hard time.

But, right before his mom came for his citizenship ceremony, he told her over the phone.  She said she felt that there was something going on, and just prayed for us.

What is amazing to me is that we would’ve probably never had this many conversations with people in our lives without this accident.  Life here in the US is so rushed, so compartmentalized, and so shallow at times.  When people would come over, it seemed that conversations lingered.  Testimonies about hard times were shared, and our faith was strengthened.

When we let people into our mess (and there was a whole lot of it!), we realized that we really weren’t alone.  This world, as much as it feels like it’s “every man for himself”, is much better lived in community… when one falls, we all rally around to pick him/her up off the ground.

We are so grateful!

 

 

I had a moment

This past Sunday, I had a moment…
 
I was surrounded by middle schoolers in my living room, teaching them some Spanish worship songs for their upcoming trip to the DR. One of the songs that they chose to learn was “No me soltaras”- you never let go by Matt Redman.
 
I haven’t sung that song in a while, let alone in Spanish.
 
All of a sudden, I was transported to Casa del Niño, the hospital for kids with cancer in Bogota. I was surrounded by an amazing class of 5th graders who not only sang that song, but acted it out and then prayed for and loved on the other children so well. I could hear their voices singing, see their motions, feel their hearts of hope.
 
This precious class of 5th graders years ago is now graduating high-school.
 
The tears were falling on my guitar in my living room, and while I’m sure they noticed, the American kids didn’t say a word… it has been a tough week and they know it.
 
I had a moment.
 
The in-between, bitter-sweet feelings of being so grateful to have lived such an amazing season with those precious students; yet so grieved to have missed all of their high-school experience…
 
and the gratitude that I can continue to use my gifts here in the US, even though my heart so desperately longs to not still be here.
Colombia is no longer my home… the US doesn’t feel like home…
This world is not my home…
It was and will be all just a moment.

Puppies!!!

The day before Leo’s surgery was a Wednesday.  It is the only day I teach outside the home, with 7 neighbor-kids all in a cute suburb.  I asked Leo before I left

“Are you sure you want me to leave you here alone?”

His response: “One of us has to keep working!”.

So, with that, I got in the car and headed towards my first student’s house.  On the way, I called a dear friend from our small group and let her know that Leo would be having surgery the next day, and to just pass the word along to pray.  She suggested that maybe instead of the group meeting at her house, they would all come over to ours to pray, worship and bring us food.  I was so grateful!

I got through my first 2 lessons with no problem, but all of a sudden, during my 3rd lesson, I got a panicked call from Leo.

“Nena!  Canela is having her puppies!”.

What?!?!  Of course… the only day I’m not either at home, or 5 minutes from home.

“Do you want me to come home??” (I had whelped pups before, but Leo’s only experience was watching the YouTube videos in preparation.).

“No, I think I can do it.”

It turns out that Leo also decided not to cancel a guitar lesson, so he put Canela outside while he taught (I would’ve paid money to watch him teach while high on the drugs they gave him… lol!).

When he went to let her in, he couldn’t find her.  She didn’t come running to him like she normally does.  He found her in her favorite spot under our hammock, in a pile of leaves that hadn’t been cleaned up from the winter.  One puppy was already out.

We had a box for her all ready to go in the kitchen, so Leo had to drag it- with his good arm- out to the back patio, reach for the puppy that had already been born, and get Canela in the box.

About every 20 minutes or so, he’d send me another pic or video.  She was such a pro!  He even had time to set up the ipad to record the birth out on the back patio.

I called another friend who loves Canela and really wanted to be there for the birth, and she headed right over to be with them.

Again, I kept asking “Do you need me to come home?”  Leo always answered the same way: “One of us needs to keep working!” So, I kept plugging away at my lessons, finished and got home with just 15 minutes to spare before people started coming over.  Canela birthed the last puppy just as I was walking in the door. It was beautiful.  She did an amazing job!

I had just a few minutes to clean the kitchen and living room, try to organize space for 12 people, and make sure that Canela was doing well before people started arriving.

It was crazy! (But when, in our lives have things like this never been crazy?).

Worship that night was so beautiful.  We will remember that evening for possibly the rest of our lives.  We were overwhelmed with so many things, and to have our dearest friends over to pray for and encourage us, lifting up the name of Jesus in the middle of our situation… that was priceless!

The puppies were born into a house of worship, and the peace that we all felt was tangible.

 

The accident

A good friend had been over all day helping Leo move a wall in our basement; and although our friend had to leave for the night, Leo was driven and wanted to get the ceiling torn out.

I was up in the living room trying to finish up a project for the day when I heard a loud crash, and “NENA!!!” Canela and I immediately ran downstairs, turned the corner into the room he had been working in and saw him laying on the ground, holding his right elbow.  Canela immediately jumps on him, causing him to scream out.

“I think I dislocated my elbow”.

I carefully stepped around the broken bits of drywall that he was laying on and saw a dislocated elbow for the first time in my life.

I froze.

My sister is an over-night nurse at a local ER, so as soon as I could get my thoughts together, I ran back upstairs to get my phone to call her.

She didn’t answer, but I quickly fired out a text and found out that she wasn’t on that night.

My mind was racing…

Should I move him?

Should we call an ambulance?

Can we afford an ambulance?

I asked “Do you think I can get you up?”

“Carefully, please.  I am in a lot of pain.”

I ran back upstairs to get my shoes so I wouldn’t step on any nails in the drywall rubble.

I’m grateful that I am strong and that Leo is light, as I got him on his feet ok, and then helped him get upstairs.

I quickly ran back down because we had taken out the windows of our split-level basement so the guys could easily put the new drywall in through that space instead of winding down all the stairs and tight corners to get into the basement.

We don’t live in the ghetto, but leaving a hole in our house with recording equipment and a myriad of expensive instruments didn’t sit well with me.

I tried to put the windows in myself, but I was shaking and couldn’t concentrate.

“NENA!  What are you doing? We need to go!!!”

“I need to put these windows in!”

“NO! I am in so much pain, we need to get to the ER.”

Crap.

I carefully get Leo into the car, start on our way to the ER and then call my neighbor.  No answer.  Call again. No answer.

I call my boss, who lives just 5 minutes away.

He says he can come.

The neighbor calls back to see if everything is ok.

While I’m on the phone with her, I miss the turn for the ER, and have to make a u-turn up the road a bit.  Leo is getting more and more frustrated with me.

I swear he felt every single bump on the road in the 3 miles from our house to the hospital.  I tried to drive carefully, yet quickly.  It wasn’t easy… he would wince each time there was even the slightest variance in the road.

We arrived, and immediately the staff recognized me as Leslie’s sister.  We look a lot alike, and I’d been there the year before for a few nights with a friend.

They got us into a room, and immediately gave Leo some drugs to ease his pain.  The results of the x-ray showed that it, indeed, was dislocated… and that they’d need to “reduce” it.  I guess “relocation” wasn’t the correct word.  Imagine that. Lol!

They explained that the best way to do this is to give him a drug that would knock him out for 7 minutes.  They started telling me all the risks… his heart could stop, he could stop breathing, etc.  I quickly texted my sister:  how often did people die in the process of getting their arm relocated?

“Don’t worry about that.  If anything happens, we know what to do.” her text said. “But I would recommend you not be in there when they do the procedure.  It’s not an easily-forgettable sound”.

We signed the papers, and the guys all came in to do the procedure.  I told Leo that Leslie recommended I step out of the room.

“You’re not going to be in here?!?” He asked with a panicked look in his eyes.

“Ok.  I guess I’ll be here.”  I put my hand on his left arm, and stood by his side. As they pumped the milky white liquid into his arm, he looked into my eyes.

“No importa lo que pasa.  Te amo.  Tu eres mi mejor aventura.  Te amo con todo mi corazon.”

And he slumped down. The doctors checked to make sure he was out, got into place and quickly slid his elbow back into place… without a sound.

As he started waking up, he was speaking… at first I wasn’t sure if he was speaking in tongues, as I couldn’t understand a word.

And then, he started making sense, in English.

“Our bodies are so fragile, our lives are so fragile.  We are so fragile. We have to let Jesus take the wheel.  JESUS, take the wheel!  Jesus take the wheel!”

The entire staff in the room started cracking up.  This Colombian man was quoting a Carrie Underwood song as he was coming out of anesthesia.  I wish I would’ve recorded it!

My dad showed up shortly afterwards and was with us while they put Leo back together.  The nurse recommended that we get in touch with an orthopedic surgeon a.s.a.p. They gave Leo good drugs, and we were on our way home.

The next morning, we called around and were able to get in to OrthoNeuro the very next day, 8am.  We took it easy all day, and then I had to go to work later (ie. run a rehearsal for the International Festival) that evening.  The band all took time to pray for Leo’s healing and strength; and our rehearsal was the best yet.

We arrived at the Orthopedic surgeon’s office, hopeful that he would say there were just torn ligaments/muscles, and that surgery wouldn’t be necessary.  However, that’s not what ended up happening.

Shortly after the surgeon entered and introduced himself, he said something like “Well, this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen.  You did the tri-fecta of bone breakage in your elbow.  You need surgery.  Tomorrow.”

Leo almost passed out on the table he was sitting on.  He laid down right away and the surgeon explained that his radial head was broken, amongst other things.  The surgery would try to put whatever bone pieces back together using screws, and we would see how that would work.

We expressed the importance of Leo’s elbow as a guitar player.  The surgeon confirmed that even with the surgery, it could take a year to fully recover.  We drove home in silence, praying in our hearts that it wouldn’t take that long.

 

 

 

 

Guitar Center

When we first moved back to the US 3 1/2 years ago, we had absolutely no idea what the next steps were.  We just knew that we needed to be here.

So, we moved into my parent’s basement, and watched God provide everything we needed in His timing.

One of the most important things was for Leo to find a job.  Unfortunately, his degree in Jazz Composition and Improvisation doesn’t really count for much here, so his desire to teach music wasn’t going to be an option.

He decided to fast.  He knew that God had brought us here, and that He had a plan for us that we couldn’t see.

Through those days of job-searching and prayer, the Lord kept bringing him back to Guitar Center’s website; but there were never any job postings listed.  So, Leo decided to just go to the store and check out the situation.  As he walked around the store he realized that they didn’t have anyone who spoke Spanish, let alone any other international diversity on their staff.

So, he found the manager and introduced himself.

The manager posted a job opening that day, just so Leo could apply.

And, just like that, my kind, humble, ESL, pastor’s heart man was thrown into the world of retail.

I suppose there were some good days thrown in those first few months, but most days were grueling.

In Colombia, it is terribly rude to not introduce yourself and say hello before starting a conversation.  In the US, it’s common.

It’s also, apparently, common to say  “No, I want to talk to someone who speaks English” when someone with an accent answers the phone.

There were so many times Leo would come home absolutely mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

And that was before winter hit, and he had to drive 30 minutes from my parent’s farm to the store in the freezing cold, snowy and icy roads.  (something he had never done before).

But, every once in a while he’d come home with a story from the day that didn’t include people being rude, and those were precious.

There was one day when a widow came in and wanted something that would help her read music, as she was almost blind.  Leo took his time showing her different things, talking with her and making her laugh.  By the time they were done, she had tears in her eyes and told him that he reminded her of her husband who had passed.  She was so grateful that he had taken time with her.

There was another day that a man came in and started talking with Leo about all different kinds of things related to sound, and then the man just paused, put his hand on Leo’s shoulder and said “Brother, are you a Christ-follower?”.  Leo lit up, so grateful that the man noticed!  As it turns out, that man was a pastor, and Leo has continued to help their church out with sound over the years.

Eventually, the Lord provided a place for us to live, just 2 miles from the store.  And, it seemed like every time we went out for a date around the area, there were people who knew Leo.

Then, as we built our recording studio, people he had made a good connection with in the store started coming over to the house and recording beautiful music. In the last 2 years, he has recorded and produced songs and albums for people from the Bahamas, Kenya, Peru, Colombia, the Congo, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and good ole’ USA.

He started finding purpose beyond just selling stuff and making commission (2%, if you were wondering).  He started connecting with immigrant pastors, and offered his help to install their sound systems and train up their media teams.

I think he has been to every immigrant church in the city… African, Asian, Latino… and even one of the new Lesbian churches downtown.  That is a story for another post. 🙂

He has taken such good care of people, that now, even on Sundays, he’ll facetime with a church or two when they are in crisis, in-between his own worship practice.

He is one of the hardest workers I know, taking advantage of all the different opportunities that the Lord has given him.

And now, we are stepping out on a new adventure:  He quit Guitar Center on Friday.  It is time for him to start doing more of what he loves, and the time he was putting in at the store just didn’t allow for him to do that.

So, spread the word!  Leo is available for installing sound and training up media teams, recording projects, latin jazz gigs; guitar, bass or recording lessons, etc.  We are so excited to see what the Lord is going to do!

We will always be grateful for the 3 1/2 years that Leo spent at Guitar Center.  It is where he learned how to communicate not only with Anglos, but with all different races and economic levels.  It’s where he put to use his amazing people skills, and built lasting friendships with other musicians here in the city.  It’s where he spoke value to Spanish-speaking pastors and worship leaders, hearing what their struggles are beyond just a sound system.

The employee prices on sound equipment and instruments didn’t hurt either. 🙂

On to the next season!

 

I’ve never done that before….

During my very first job as a music teacher/worship leader at a Christian school and church 16 years ago, I was sometimes stressed out when a new experience was put before me.

There were many things that I had never done before: lead worship from a piano with a band, write out music for instruments, write songs for the youth that would help them connect to God in worship… and during this first “real” season of my life is when I recorded and released my first cd.

Through that amazing time of growth, one of my mentors, Ken Reynolds, would always encourage me with something HIS mentor, Gary J. Blanchard would tell him…

Whenever you’re faced with something new, simply say “Well, I’ve never done that before!”, and go for it!  

We would often laugh and say that to each other during that season, as a lot of transition happened in our church, and we were often called upon to step out of our comfort zones! 
 

I am so grateful that through the various seasons of my life, I’ve had incredible people encouraging me to face the new challenges with my gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.

Here’s the deal:  my heart is creating space where KIDS can lead KIDS in worship.
I think there’s something powerful about adults stepping out of the way and letting the kids’ voices be heard.

Now, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for how to let KIDS lead.  There aren’t many schools that teach how to chord on a piano, how to recognize chord patterns, how to play band or orchestra instruments with worship (using the limited notes that beginners know), how kids can hear the Holy Spirit when you are painting and drawing, how kids need to live lives of worship and not just sing or play pretty… and songwriting courses for kids are not usually something that parents have an option of signing their kids up for.

So, my heart for this was to start something new, building on things Leo and I had done in the past.

But this was totally new.

And it would take a team of creatives who “got it”.

This past Worship Club (#9!) was no exception.

We had around 75 kids- 2nd to 8th grade.  17 teachers and 10 helpers for the 7 classes we were offering.

Our band and orchestra class alone was a challenge:  there’s a reason that violins and trumpets usually don’t play together… there are completely different notes that the kids learn on their specific instruments when they start out, let alone that they really only know a few notes!

So, either the string section would be struggling with the specific key, or the horn/woodwind section. Last year, I had incredibly talented people teach each group separately and the strings played on 2 songs, and the band played on 2 others.

This year, those teachers weren’t available, so it fell onto me… to teach them combined.  5 violins and a viola (who didn’t know how to read alto staff), 3 trumpets, 2 saxophones, 2 clarinets and 3 flutes.

It was a huge undertaking…

I’d never done this before! 

In addition to my class, we had singing, dance, keyboards, media arts, guitar and percussion.  As the Lord brought the various teachers we needed to pour into the kids, He fulfilled deep desires of my heart:

Every class had at least one minority teacher.  Some classes were even taught by gifted high-school students.

This was the nations worshipping together, in many different expressions of worship!

The 3rd week of the club, there was an incredible moment after our devotions.

I got up on our little stage in front of the group to practice with them as they ate their snacks.  The kids joyously sang, danced or beat on the tables as we sang “You are Good”, and “The Good Life”.

Then, as we started into the 3rd song of the set, “Good, Good Father”, the kids really “entered in”.  Hands were raised and eyes were closed as they sang their hearts out to their Father.

Instead of singing the 3rd verse (which is, in my opinion,  a little hard for little minds to understand), I felt led to have people say “You’re a Good Father” in whichever language they wanted.

Around the room, like popcorn, teachers and students alike spoke… French, Spanish, Tamil, Swahili, Kukuyu… it was absolutely beautiful!  I started tearing up in front of them, as my heart filled up with many emotions all at once!  Then, we started back into the chorus… “You’re a good, good Father… it’s who You are… and I am loved by You, it’s who I am….”.

Kids singing in full force, completely swept up in their Father’s love.

At that point, I don’t think a single teacher had a dry eye, and my face and neck were noticeably wet from my tears.  I had no voice to sing with as I was completely choked up, but it wasn’t needed because the kids just continued to sing those phrases over and over while I played my guitar.

This is why we step into un-chartered territory.  

The long nights, the stressing over computer/music-writing software issues, the juggling demands of The Club with the rest of our lives and work, the “can we try this instead”‘s, the “I’ve never done this before”‘s that we uttered many times over the 5 weeks…

We do it to raise up THIS generation’s worshippers who aren’t afraid to try something new; because in taking a risk, they learn how to lead worship with their gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.

Everyday is Woman’s day in the Morales house

We met

Me in my torn jeans and you in your striped ones

With hand signals, broken language and laughter

I wasn’t looking for anything, because I’d been told that I

Was too strong, too independent, too opinionated…

Too much.

I wasn’t soft enough, quiet enough, didn’t dress up enough.

Not enough.

But in the quiet of your soul you heard the words “Open your heart to her”.

You, who had made a promise when young to “not arouse or awaken love”

You, who continued to ask the Lord when someone would catch your eye

You, who obeyed when He said

“Wait”

 

As our language grew stronger, so did our hearts grow together

Up one side of a mountain and down another

Loving on the least of these, guitars in our hands

And for the first time I was free to express all of me.

 

 

In the sea of men who continued to tell me to be quiet and sit down,

You spoke life into those words that were spoken to tear me down

You said that I was created strong

so I could carry the weight of

the pain that I’d seen

You said that I was loud

so I could shout truth

to water the ground the lies had dried up

You said that I was opinionated

so that those whose thoughts and ideas were discredited

could finally be heard

 

You took my hands, looked into my eyes and said

“Your being doesn’t intimidate me or make me feel less.

Your being makes me a better being.”

 

You call me by names that have been withheld from me

because some look to them as titles and not as how they were created to be.

 

Pastor, counselor, teacher, spiritual mother

 

You, who grew up with amazing examples of strong women in your life

You, who have such an incredible sense of worth,

because you know you are created in God’s image, for God’s purposes

You, who uncovers value in everyone you meet

because you know that we are ALL created in God’s image, for God’s purposes

 

You, who patiently waited for me to trade in my independence for your name

 

I am proud to be a woman, because You are my man.

What in the world are the Morales’ doing?!?!

This past summer our church hosted the Vineyard Global Conference. For the first time in the Vineyard’s history, pastors and church leaders from all over the world came together in ONE place to worship and learn from each other.  There were many powerful moments throughout the week.  Leo and I were honored to lead the kids in worship and in a mission experience as the week went on.

We were also honored to host 6 pastors from Peru and Chile for the week.

We would come home absolutely exhausted from working 12 hour days, to sit around our living room sharing invigorating stories of ministry until the early morning hours.

Honestly, the months leading up to this conference weren’t our best as a couple.  We were both so immersed in our own separate worlds that we hadn’t truly served together in a long time.  Yes, Leo supported me in the things I did at church, and I would come alongside him, but we hadn’t felt like we had done anything that was “ours” in a very long time.

Leo would come home with amazing stories of conversations and moments he would have while installing sound and training up media teams in a variety of churches and mosques around the city.  I would beam about all the things the Lord was doing in the kids’ hearts and lives… but we deeply missed walking alongside each other, taking part in each others’ moments.

That all changed at the conference.

We were finally together, for an entire week, serving alongside each other.  Watching the other come alive as we were “in our element”.

We started to dream again.

Our conversations with these amazing, church-planting pastors ended with “you need to come down and partner with us… train up our people in what you’re doing. Come serve alongside us for a few weeks!”.

So, we started planning.

We intentionally started saving.

Then, about 2 months ago, we hosted a Spanish worship night with La Viña.  Leo finally found all the members of the band who understood how to play all styles of music, and who deeply desired to honor Jesus with their musical talents and lead others into worship… and we put together an incredible set infused with some of our original tunes.

That night, something powerful happened inside of us.  We trusted the band to follow us, and we intently listened to Jesus.  There was absolute freedom.  New words and melodies poured out of us.  Leo and I led together like a tree-climbing rope being woven together… I would play something and he would wrap his own style and words around it.  He would sing just a few words, and I would come around with more.  We had never truly experienced anything like it before.  No competition, no tug of war, just pure unity as we truly led together for the very first time.

We came home and songs continued to spill out of us.  OUR songs… not Leo changing or translating my songs, or me putting words to his melodies… we were writing together for the first time in our lives.

Which gave us an idea: is it time to finally finish the Spanish worship album we’ve been working on (ie frustrated with, fighting about, giving up on yet hoping for)?

We started working on it. We invited all the musicians from the worship night over to record together… our studio was filled with beautiful music!  The best part about it was that every single member of the band was from a different country… Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Portugal, Colombia, Mexico.  There was great excitement as they heard these new songs for the first time and put all their hearts into recording their best.  My heart was soaring as I heard what was being made in our humble basement.

This week, we are ending the recording stage with just a few more things to go, and Leo is already working hard on mixing.

We hope to have a digital release in December, with an official “release concert” sometime in February/March.

We leave for Peru, Chile and Argentina in January for a 5-6 week trip (yes… this is still the Morales’ we’re talking about… we don’t nail down specifics until last minute! lol!).

We will be partnering with church planters and leaders to train in Children’s ministry, Worship ministry and recording.  We are even going to be doing a kids and youth camp alongside the leaders so that they can put into practice the ideas we will be working on together.

To say we are pumped is an understatement.

To say we are overwhelmed is also an understatement.

Please pray for us.  There are a lot of things that need to come through for us to be able to follow what we feel like the Lord has laid out.

Pray for these last weeks of finalizing our cd.

Pray for the details to come together for the trip.

Pray for all the things we already had on our plate before we took on these 2 huge projects… Worship club, Christmas activities, Leo’s retail work, family visiting from Colombia, etc.

We want to savor each day, and not get caught up in “getting somewhere”… but also keep the balance of needing to plan and dream. It is a fun tight-rope to walk on.

Thanks!

The blessing of receiving pt. 2

When we moved back to the States 3 years ago, we had some clothes, our instruments, and other random things (like a 70 lb bag full of beads and accessories for our “Colombia to the World” project… lol!).

We had to sell everything that didn’t fit into 8 suitcases.

We arrived to my parent’s house in Sunbury with nothing… no jobs, no cars, no insurance, no certificates that were valid in Ohio to get professional jobs… nothing.

Slowly as the months passed, the Lord opened up doors for everything we needed.  We were able to start working, making friends, and finally got to the point where we could make a budget.

As we were praying about where we could live, we knew 3 things: 1) we needed a house- Leo’s dreams for a recording studio wouldn’t be able to happen in an apartment setting.  2) we needed 3 bedrooms- we have people over all the time, and having space for them to sleep was a priority. 3) we could only afford 1,000/month, utilities included.

It was like we spoke those things into existence, and said “Ok God… GO!”.

People thought we were crazy.

As we waited for the right place to show up, I would buy simple things with our little bit of surplus each month.  One month it was a set of towels on sale.  The next month, it was a comforter set that was on sale.  I stocked these little things up, knowing that we would eventually be able to move out of my parent’s basement.

One day, as I was driving my usual route around the city for work, I had the Zillow app open.  Most of the houses in this particular area were renting for $1300, but one stuck out at $895. I immediately contacted the owner, and he agreed to meet with us the following day.

We had seen other houses, and upon entering the owners would kind of look Leo up and down, ask him a few questions and just hurry us through the house.  Leo never felt peace about those places…

However, when we walked through the door of this particular house, the owner was playing Salsa music, and greeted us in Spanish.  Turns out, he had lived in Puerto Rico for 5 years as a teacher… loved Spanish and the Latino culture!  We walked through the house and fell in love with it!  As we stood in the kitchen and continued conversation, the owner asked us if we were serious about living in this place.  We said YES… but we had 2 issues…

This was just mid-February, and we wouldn’t be able to move in until April. Also, we only felt comfortable signing a 6-month lease because we still weren’t confident that Leo’s immigration status would get renewed.

He said yes to both conditions… and then went on to say,
“So, would you mind if I leave some furniture here for you?  Where I’m going, I don’t need all of it. I will probably take all the living room and master bedroom furniture at least, but it would be great to be able to leave the guest rooms furnished.”

Leo and I looked at each other in disbelief, and said “of course!  Whatever you leave in the house is what we don’t have!”.

So, April 1st rolled around (Easter Sunday that year), and my family all piled their cars up and drove us to our new house.

As we walked in, the owner had a simple trash bag in his hand and said “I just need to pick up a few things”.  I looked in disbelief at the fully-furnished house and said “Um, are you sure? It looks like you have a lot to take!”.

“No, as it turns out, I only needed the coffee table and some lamps”.  He said.

I couldn’t believe it!  The only furniture that we had brought with us was a coffee table and lamps!

My mom happily brought in our comforter set and said “I’ll go make your bed, then!”.  (we were honestly thinking that we’d be sleeping in the guest room on a futon).

Each and every person who has come through our doors has heard this God story.  We know that we have been entrusted with a house that only the Lord could’ve given, and in response, we share it with anyone and everyone.

We have received a beautiful gift… one that will be OURS on paper later this week! But at the end of the day this is God’s house, and it will always be open to anyone who needs a place to stay, a warm meal, and who wants to hear a lot of crazy stories!

We give because we have received.

The blessing of receiving part 1

When Leo and I were dreaming about our wedding in Colombia, we deeply desired for as many people to attend as possible – including the kids from Ciudad Bolivar.  Every 2 weeks we would make the 2-hour bus trek across the city, through traffic, up the steep mountainside and windy roads to the top of the mountain to share life and Jesus with a group of 15 pre-teens.  Many of them came from broken families… and almost none of them had ever attended a wedding before.

We asked the director of the foundation where the group met how we could make this possible… what would we need to provide so that they didn’t feel like “less” in the sea of wealthier Colombians and foreigners.  He advised us to find dresses and suits, dress shoes, and a van for transportation.  He and the other volunteers would be able to pick the kids up, get them all fancy (make-up and nail polish was a MUST for the girls).  I was able to find enough pearl-beaded headbands for all of the girls coming from different worlds so that they all matched.

Leo and I spent weeks scouring the city for the best deals on dresses and suits.  People from the school willingly donated clothing and shoes for the cause, and the week before our wedding we were able to take everything up the mountain to the kids.

I had never seen girls light up and twirl so much in my life!

Before we gave them these gifts, however, we wanted to make it clear:

“We are giving you these things now because we deeply want you to be involved in our wedding, but it doesn’t mean that you will always just be recipients of good things.  There will come a day when you will be able to give as well.  That is what the body of Christ is… a group of people committed to giving and receiving from each other.”

We looked into each of their eyes as we gave them their new outfits, and we knew that they understood.

Fast-forward to our wedding day…

Leo had just arrived to the venue in a taxi, dressed to the 9’s, and with his suitcase for the honeymoon.  Just as he got out and turned back to pay the fee, the driver sped off, stealing Leo’s suitcase.

Now, living with 3 brothers has its advantages… one being that you can all share clothes.  When I realized that Leo moving out would mean taking some of the family wardrobe, I decided that he might need his own, new clothes.  Also, he didn’t have much of a “warm weather” wardrobe… so all of the clothes in the suitcase were brand-new.  Praise the LORD the only items in the suitcase were clothes and shoes, and not money or our tickets for the honeymoon!

When word of this got around (and word spread very quickly amongst our 200 guests!), they decided to take up an offering for us so that we could buy Leo some new clothes.

I will never forget when Jhan walked up to Leo during the reception:

Jhan: Profe, I want you to have this (pulls out a bill that is now the equivalent of $.30)

Leo: What is this for?

Jhan: Profe, I want to help you buy new clothes.  You gave me this suit, it is my turn to give back

Leo and I both hugged him, looked into each other’s eyes and teared up.

He understood!

We have had many people give us things over the years, but that gift is one of the most treasured!

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