Our immigration story part 2: from resident visa to citizenship

2010: We planned our first trip to the US for Christmas. We were told that it could take anywhere from 2-6 months for Leo to get his green card, so we worked it out for other people to stay in our apartment, take over our classes and ministry duties and set off.

Leo had a bucket-list of things to do in the snow, and he checked most of them off, including sledding, a snowball fight and peeing his name in the snow. Lol!

I had an absolute blast introducing him to my family, and we even took a road trip to Chicago to visit friends there. It was amazing!

Even more incredible, we received his green card just 3 weeks after arriving in the States.

It said “conditional”, and we honestly didn’t pay much attention to that. We were just so happy to have that little expensive piece of plastic.

Since we were truly hoping to NOT be gone 6 months, we headed back down to Colombia just 2 months after arriving in the US.

It was never our plan to live full-time in the US. We really loved our lives and ministry in Colombia, and thought we could play it right by being employed by a US mission agency for Leo to keep his residency status even though we lived in Colombia.

We knew that he couldn’t be out of the US longer than 6 months, so we came back up for the summer months, enjoying all the fun of summertime in the Midwest.

We went back to Colombia to start the school year, and then came back to the US for 2 weeks in October.

In 2012, Leo came to the US alone in March and stayed for a week in Chicago with some friends. He had a blast!

His next trip in July, however completely uprooted us.

He flew into Florida, and as he was going through immigration, the officer looked at his passport and asked

“Where do you live?”

“I am a resident of the US, but I work for a US-based mission agency in Colombia”, Leo replied.

“Sir, you were given a 2-year conditional resident visa, which means that you need to reside in the US. You need to apply to remove the conditions of this visa in a few months, and if you aren’t living here, they will probably deny your request.”

What?!?

He called me, panicked, from the airport.

We weren’t ready to pack up and leave.

But we had to.

We worked it out that he would complete his 2 week trip, staying with dear friends in Memphis, and then come back to help me pack up and move.

We had 5 weeks.

You can read more about that trauma in some earlier blogs.

We came to the US and lived out of my parents basement. Our #1 priority was getting jobs.

In October 2012 we filed form I-751, paid $595 + $85 biometric fee, and hoped for the best.

We got word in November that the conditions on his visa were not removed, but that he was given another year with the conditions.

We continued working our tails off, moved out into our own place and filed again in 2013 for the conditions to be removed. We filed form I-751 again, and paid the $680 total in fees… again.

The conditions were removed, and he had permanent resident status. We bought the house we had been renting, and continued working our butts off.

Leo’s entire family came to the US for a month for Christmas, and it was one of the coldest December’s we’d had in a long time. They LOVED experiencing snow and the cold air. We all packed 12 of us into our tiny 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house and had a blast!

We were also free to finally travel! So the following year, we went to Colombia together. I had gone twice without Leo, and it was amazing to be able to go together again!

In 2014, in addition to traveling to Colombia, Leo was invited to travel to Bolivia to help with a conference. The weeks before he was to fly out, he was at the music store purchasing things he needed for the trip, and his wallet was stolen. It just happened to be the day after he was getting his license renewed, so his green card and license were in his wallet.

He can leave the US without his green card, but he can’t get back in without it as proof of his status.

He had to apply to replace it, which meant filing a I-90, and paying $455 + $85 biometric fee.

They gave him a stamp in his passport, valid for 6 months, that showed he had filled out the paperwork and was allowed to travel.

They said it would take up to 6 months.

We got a letter 6 months later, saying that it would take an additional 6 months. He had to take that letter to the immigration office so that they would give him yet another stamp valid for 6 months.

In 2015, we were spending a month in Peru helping with some amazing churches. While there, I got a message from the girl staying at our house saying that we received a letter from USCIS. I asked her to open it.

It said that his application for replacing his green card was denied because he missed a biometric appointment.

He had never gotten a letter about a biometric appointment, and our mail carriers were awful! We would often get mail for other houses, and neighbors would deliver packages to our house that were mistakenly delivered to theirs.

I was terrified. We were out of the country. Would we be allowed back in?!?

I put in a panicked call to the immigration lawyer at our church, and she re-assured me 3 days later when her call finally could get through.

“The green card is just proof of his status. His status hasn’t changed. It will take him longer to get through immigration, but he has full rights to come back.”

After we hung up, I bawled for an hour straight. In those 3 days, I had gone through every emotion that I went through 3 years before when we had to leave Colombia. I was willing to trust Jesus if we had to leave everything again, but still traumatized from the last sudden move.

And she was right… it took us a lot longer to get through immigration, but they let us in, and suggested that Leo just apply for Citizenship.

In all the paperwork we had looked through, it said that he had to have a physical copy of his green card, but they assured us that if we had a copy of it, that would be enough.

In 2016, we had saved up enough to file the N-400. The cost break-down: $199 for the instructions, $640 for the application fee, and $85 for the biometrics.

Leo became a US citizen in August of 2016. The ceremony was incredible, and in addition to my family and our pastor, Leo’s Mom was there to witness it.

We did all of this without hiring a lawyer. It was an expensive journey but completely worth it.

We have friends who have chosen not to get citizenship, but to renew their permanent resident status every 4 years.

We also have missionary friends whose spouses are from countries where it is even harder to obtain a resident visa, no matter how long they have been married.

Leo is also fortunate, in that Colombia and the US have a dual-citizenship arrangement. Not everyone has that opportunity. This means that he did not have to give up his Colombian citizenship to become a US citizen. This also means that our son has full rights as a dual citizen. We haven’t filed his Colombian paperwork yet, but plan to do so.

I will say that the first time we travelled with both of our blue passports was very emotional. We had taken so many trips where the immigration lines were long and the officers were not friendly.

But now, we are free to roam about the world.

Our immigration story: from Colombia to the US (part one)

When Leo and I met in 2007, we had no idea the up-hill battle that was waiting for us in regards to immigration.

As a US citizen, I didn’t realize how much I took traveling to other countries for granted.

By the time I went to live in Colombia as a 28 year-old, I had already been to over 15 countries: Haiti, Hungary and Austria when I was in high-school, Greece, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Russia and Puerto Rico (although its part of the US, it seemed like a different country!) in college… and then Russia again, Australia, Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania and India in the years between college and leaving for Colombia.

My family valued traveling and knowing other cultures, and I thought that everyone in the world would have those opportunities.

I was wrong.

The first petition: Summer 2008

Leo first applied for his tourist visa the summer after we met. We were hoping that he could just come the the US with me to meet my parents and family and get to know a little more about where I came from. It was such a fun idea!

The fee for the visa application was $225, which, when minimum wage back then was the equivalent of $150/month, was a chunk of money.

He waited in a long line that wrapped around the outside of the embassy for about 5 hours, only to be denied. They said that he didn’t have enough ties to Colombia to ensure that he wouldn’t out-stay his visa and become illegal. He didn’t own a home, a car, have a job at a lucrative company, have enough money in the bank, etc.

So, I stayed in Colombia for the summer as well, and we had a blast! We even travelled to the coast to help lead worship for a conference together, and I was even more convinced that this was the man for me!

The second petition: Winter 2008

He applied at Christmastime again for a different type of tourist visa, where our church would sponsor him to come. We had to get letters from 5 different Pastors, all explaining that they were asking him to come to speak for specific dates about the work we were doing in Colombia.

The same $225, the same long wait in a line that wrapped around the Embassy, the same answer: no.

We were crushed.

At this point, we knew we wanted to get married, and he was looking forward to asking my father for my hand in marriage in person (he wasn’t so good on the phone).

I went to the US for Christmas with a promise ring on my finger, and had a long conversation with my parents about how to move forward with what we felt like God was calling us to: marriage.

Even though they hadn’t met Leo, he sent a gift of a Bible to me and a letter to my parents. I decided to go ahead and buy my wedding dress and take it back with me to Colombia after Christmas.

We were going to try again for a tourist visa for Spring Break, but my parents said it would be better to just save our money and try for the tourist visa after we were married.

Here’s the deal:

In Colombia, there are only 2 types of marriages that are recognized by the State: a courthouse wedding, or a Catholic wedding. ALL of the Protestants who want to marry in their churches need to FIRST get married “legally”, and then have their church ceremony.

There are NO Pastors who will marry you in a church unless you are already legally married. And, we couldn’t file for a Fianc√© visa if we were legally married in Colombia.

So, we took our chances and got legally married almost 2 months before our official wedding. We were not only planning the wedding in Colombia but also a wedding a month later in the US.

Yes, that is 3 weddings total… lol!

The third petition: April 2009

We got everything together and applied for a tourist visa. The same $225, for again the same answer: no.

We were outraged and so sad at the same time. When Leo presented himself the 3rd time in a year, the Consule said “it just looks like you are doing anything in your power to get the the US. If your marriage is real, you need to wait 2 years before even trying to apply again”.

What we didn’t realize is that there is an entire industry of US Citizens getting paid thousands of dollars to marry internationals for the sole purpose of coming to the US. I also heard stories when I lived in Kenya of US citizens falling in love with locals, only to bring them to the US and find out it was all a trick, and that the local only ever wanted to get to the US.

We were advised by other friends at the Embassy to wait 2 years and then apply for a resident visa… that it was extremely rare for the Embassy to grant tourist visas to married couples.

So, we cancelled the wedding in the US, and for reasons completely out of our control, none of my family could come to our Colombian wedding, and they still hadn’t met Leo.

My parents were able to travel to Colombia 6 months after we were married, and we had an incredible time together!

The fourth petition: Summer 2010

A year after we were married, we decided to give the resident visa a try. We knew it was a long process, and we figured that by the time all the steps were accomplished, it would probably be 2 years.

There were 3 basic steps:

1) filling out and paying for the I-130. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/family-immigration/immigrant-visa-for-a-spouse-or-fiance-of-a-us-citizen.html

You had to, again, pay to even start the process. $535 for just turning in the I-130, then an additional $325 filing fee.

2) After his form was received, he was given a case number and a date to appear at the embassy. He received a list of things he had to compile and bring with him:

Medical records (for which, he had to go to one of the US-approved doctors for a complete physical exam, full x-rays and blood work. That cost $100 ( I know… cheap compared to the US, but expensive in pesos!)

Paperwork from our sponsor

Civil documents: police reports (or paper stating that he has no record), birth certificate, marriage certificate, Colombian passport

Passport pictures

He appeared at the Embassy with all of the documentation, and they asked him a few clarifying questions.

3) They gave him another date with another list of items to provide to verify our marriage.

Anyone who has ever married a non-citizen has “The Book”. Some are more organized than others, but ALL contain:

-Pictures together. We chose pictures where also had different hairstyles to show the progression of time of our 3 years together

-proof of joint bills (which was really hard for us, because there was only 1 bill in our name… all the rest were in our landlord’s name)

-proof of residency (we had to get a letter from the school where I worked who had a contract with the landlord, stating that we had been living together and paying rent since we were married in May of 2009)

-proof of marriage (we had to compile letters from friends and family who had known us from dating to marriage to verify that we were indeed a couple. The Embassy asks for 2-3 letters, and we had over 20)

-proof of joint bank accounts (which was super tricky because Colombian banks didn’t allow for joint accounts then… we had to open one at a bank with ties to the US, and even then, we barely had enough money for the minimum amount to open the account)

We also chose to include our ministry letters from when we were dating to the current time, sharing with our supporters about the work we were doing together in Colombia.

We arrived for our joint interview at 7am. It was a beautifully sunny day, and we were told to sit in a nice patio area with benches and a clear roof, in front of some darkened windows. There was a coffee and bread station nearby where you could spend $5 on bread that cost $.50 out on the street.

There were 3 other couples also sitting nervously with their “books” in hand, waiting.

I honestly think that we were being watched for the entire 6 hours we were made to wait.

I had brought a book, and we passed the time talking, eating expensive bread and trying to be patient.

One window slid open, and a man called out a number. Then another. Two couples were called up. It was obvious what was going on. One was given their visa, and the other was denied.

We looked at each other and knew that this was it. Either way, this was the day we would know, for sure, whether we would be able to go to the US together.

Our numbers were called, and we stepped up to the window.

We handed over our book.

The man leafed through it, and stopped on one of our support letters. He asked about the kind of work we do, and shared that his parents had been missionaries in Thailand.

I honestly can’t remember all the specifics, besides the fact that he spoke to us together and separately, and then gave Leo his passport, saying that his visa was approved. We had 6 months to get to the US for the next steps of the process.

We waited in another line for about an hour for them to put the official visa in his passport, and walked away from the Embassy crying… but this time, happy tears!

Captivated:Live

I turned 39 this past weekend, and to be honest, I am feeling my age for the first time. I think having a baby and not getting much sleep has something to do with it, but the grey hairs that have suddenly appeared over the last year aren’t helping, either.

As I was processing this weekend, I realized that I feel like I’m on my 7th season of life. Lol!

1- the growing up years

2- the college years (shout out to Judson University!)

3- the teaching years (2 years as a 5th grade classroom teacher, 3 years as a reading specialist in the Spanish-speaking suburbs of Chicago)

4- the traveling musician/short-term mission years- where I spent over a year living out of my car, traveling the US leading worship and speaking at youth conferences and university ministry groups.

There was a life-changing trip to Africa and India in between 3 different around-the-US tours.

5- the Colombia years (where I taught music and helped start and lead the social service and missions ministry for 5 years at an international Christian School, El Camino Academy)…. I also met and married my husband there. ūüôā

6- the “back to the US” years- where we were completely uprooted from our lives and ministry in Colombia and moved to Columbus, Ohio to be close to my family and set up life so that Leo could get his citizenship. We quickly settled into life and ministry, and even bought a house! We’ve been here for 6 years now.

The 7 years of infertility span between seasons 5 and 6.

7- the current “Mom-and-learning-how-to-balance-life-and-work-and-ministry” years are what life looks like now. Lol!

Our church is currently in a series of “when life is unfair”, and today’s text happened to be from 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. As soon as it came up on the screen, it brought me back to my testimony of how God healed me from malaria when I was in India.

For those of you who don’t know, I have 3 cd’s on iTunes. The most recent one that is there is a live album recorded when I got back from India. I tell stories of living on the road, of what spending time in Kenya was like, and my testimony of healing.

It seems like so long ago… so many new stories have happened over the last 12 years, but I’ve found myself telling some of these older stories over the past few weeks.

So, look me up on iTunes and enjoy some insights into what life was like for me 12 years ago! ūüôā

Miracle Morales

Between Leo’s accident, a rough pregnancy, and the exhaustion of the first year of being parents, I feel like I’ve lost the last 2 years of my life. ¬†Lol! I also realized that I hadn’t written out the story of our miracle.

It’s long, but worth the read! ¬†Even as I’m typing this out, it isn’t lost on me that some of the characters in this story were people God used to bring other seasons of my life full-circle in HIS story of redemption.

For those of you who have known us for a while, you know that I had quite a few years when I struggled with my health. ¬†As soon as we were married, we took the “we’ll trust God” approach with growing our family, and didn’t really use any measures to prevent it from happening.

After a while, we knew something was wrong.

After finally seeing a fertility specialist here once we go to the States, we got some heartbreaking news: ¬†I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. ¬†He said “we could pump you full of hormones and try, but if I were you, I’d think about just saving my money.” ¬†We were determined to do something, but the day I went in for another check-up, the doctor found yet another cyst on my ovaries and said that there was nothing he could do.

That was in 2014, right around when we got Canela.

Our marriage had been through some hard times before, but nothing like that year.  I felt so guilty, so ashamed, so sorry that Leo had married me.  I knew he would be an amazing dad, and I felt like I was holding him back from something he was made to do.

We had to take an honest look at each other and ask 

“Am I enough for you?”

“Are we enough for each other?”

“If it is just the two of us for the rest of our lives, will we be ok?”

We had to die to the idea of being parents. 

Sidenote: Yes, adoption is an option for most couples, but this is before Leo was able to become a citizen, and we knew we weren’t in the place to even try to adopt or foster.¬†

Fast forward 2 years to the accident.  Leo had taken a brave step to quit his job so he could focus on his ministry and music full-time, and 2 days later falls and shatters his elbow.

Our dog was about to have puppies.

It was crazy!

As people were coming over to our house to pray for Leo’s healing, a few of them bluntly said

“I feel like Jesus not only wants to heal Leo, but wants to heal you, too”.¬†

Not just one person… but a few!

*I have had MANY people pray for me over the years… hands on my belly, crying out to Jesus kinds of prayers… “seeing- us-with-a-crib” kind of prayers… and I had honestly not really put any stock in prayers for a baby for a LONG time… but this time was different.

Leo’s mom had come to visit and celebrate Leo’s citizenship ceremony with us, and in the stress of it all, I went off the rails with my diet. ¬†(I had completely changed my eating habits after the news of our infertility to try to help keep my hormones balanced). ¬†I had another bout with a cyst and anemia that about took me down for a while. ¬†The worst days of bleeding, I was in a dear friend’s wedding, or else I would’ve gone to the hospital.

It didn’t feel like God had heard any of the prayers that I was finally willing to let others pray.

In desperation, I found a Groupon for acupuncture.  I was willing to try anything to get my hormones and cycle back on track. And, just as God would have it, the precious acupuncturist is a Chinese Christian who goes to Vineyard!  She spoke life over my body, almost prophesying as I laid there on her table for 6 sessions over the few weeks.  My period finally stopped.  I was so grateful!

I had also made an appointment at my OB’s office to see if they could figure out what was going on. ¬†I remember going in, and having the ultrasound tech look at everything. ¬†I hadn’t seen my ovaries since the fertility doc, and all I remember then was seeing the cyst. ¬†This time was different, however. ¬†This time, instead of cysts, my ovaries were full of follicles. ¬†I mean, I had never seen that with all the different ultrasounds over the years! ¬†The tech said

“I don’t know… everything looks perfectly healthy and normal.”¬†

I laughed.  I had never heard that before!

In that moment, I felt the Lord say “Get ready!”.¬†

The following week, we were having a worship and healing night at our church.  I always stand towards the back of the sanctuary, just hanging back and watching what Jesus is doing.  Leo was running sound that night, so I just sat in my own little section of chairs on the main floor in the back.

I remember seeing a precious Indian family up in the next section.  During the ministry time, I walked over and offered to pray for them.  They were grateful, and Jesus really moved!  After I was done, the woman looked at me and said

“While we were worshipping, I saw you in the corner. ¬†The Lord told me that you were going to come pray for me, and that I need to pray for you to have a baby.”

Uh… what?! ¬†Ok.

She went on to say “Do you mind if I pray for you in my native language?”

She poured out her heart to God on my behalf for what seemed like 30 minutes.  It was beautiful.  I felt something break off of me, and there was so much peace!

2 days later we left for Colombia for a month.

We got back from our vacation, and while Leo was leading worship at church, I was home. ¬†I decided to take a pregnancy test, since I hadn’t had my period since the bleeding episode almost 2 months before.

It was positive.

I can’t tell you how many tests I’ve taken.

This was the first one that was ever positive.

I was sitting in the bathroom, shaking.  I doubted the test.  I took another one.  Positive.  I thought that maybe it was just that brand, so I took another one that used words instead of symbols.

“Pregnant”

I cried.  I debated calling my best friend, but decided that I should wait to tell Leo first.

But how?

On one of our more hopeful trips to Colombia, we had purchased a baby-sized Colombian soccer jersey. ¬†We kept it out until I couldn’t look at it anymore, and I buried it in a dresser drawer.

It took a while to remember, but I found the little jersey, and wrapped the pregnancy tests up in it. 

When Leo got home, I presented it to him.

“What is this?” He asked?

“I think we’re going to have a baby!” I cried.

We laughed and cried all night!

The next day was Friday, and I called the OB’s office to schedule a blood test and another ultrasound.

They were able to get me in right away for the blood test, and confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant.

We saw my parents that weekend, for the first time since we had been back from Colombia.

My mom pulled me aside and asked

“Honey, were you in a place where you could foster or adopt any kids?”

“No, why?” I replied

“I had an incredible, tangible experience with the Lord, where I felt Him tell me that you were going to meet your child in Colombia.”¬†

Silence…
Because of all the pain we’d experienced, we didn’t really include our parents in any of our infertility journey… we didn’t want to cause them pain as well… and we had lost ¬†previous pregnancies (that we found out about after the fact) that we also hadn’t included them in on, so I wasn’t really ready to share.¬†

So, I just kept sipping my water, and without looking at my mom said

“Nope, we weren’t doing any ministry with kids this time.”

She slowly replied “That is so weird. ¬†It was such an intense experience, and I just prayed for you everyday you were there.”

“Huh”.

When we had the ultrasound that following week and heard the little heartbeat, we called both sets of parents to share the news and to ask for prayer.

I told my mom “We didn’t meet our baby in Colombia, but it looks like we made it there.”

Our little miracle baby was “made in Colombia” and due on the 4th of July.

Already showing his bi-cultural side!16177700_10158168584320215_2479383839146418530_o

Canela the Wonderdog… 4 years ago this week!

Leo’s family came to visit us for a month in 2014, our 2nd Christmas in the US… and when a Colombian family comes to visit, they ALL come! ¬†We had 12 people in our 3-bedroom, 1 bathroom house… and it was incredible to share our lives with them, in our very own home!

When they left, however, the house felt VERY empty! ¬†So, we decided to bring home my old beagle Taffy. ¬†She had spent the better part of the last 8 years out at my parent’s farm with a dear bassett hound; but with the winter being SO cold, my parents thought she would enjoy the warmth and comfort of our house. ¬†She was completely deaf, missing all her front teeth, and almost completely blind. ¬†Her tail still wagged when she saw us, though… and she was as treat-driven as ever!

We had a wonderful 5 months with her, but during that time her health greatly deteriorated.  We took her to the vet to see why she was having so many bladder problems, and they found a massive tumor in her bladder.  We needed to set a date to put her down.

It was one of the hardest things we’d ever done to that point! We would come home to find her asleep in her bed next to our bed, just praying that she had died in her sleep… but she kept holding on. ¬†I still remember the day we took her in. ¬†We spent the morning at Alum Creek beach, one of her favorite places. ¬†We let her off the leash (it’s not like she could run very far anyway…) and took some beautiful pictures during our last precious moments together.

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She is buried on the farm under her favorite tree.

2 days later, Leo and I left for Colombia to spend 2 weeks with his family and our dear friends.

Coming home to an empty house was devastating!

We had decided that maybe we could get another pet… but definitely NOT a puppy… they’re too much work! ¬†Before going to bed on June 19th, we decided on getting chickens, believe it or not!

However, after Leo left for work the next morning, I was perusing different animal sites, and came across the most beautiful beagle pup with green eyes. I knew she HAD to be ours! ¬†However, I didn’t know how Leo would feel about it. ¬†So, I decided to just ask him if I could borrow the debit card so I could get some cash to buy him a surprise. ¬†With Colombia playing against Greece in the World Cup that day, Leo thought I was getting him a big Colombian flag or something.

As he drove up to the house, he saw us playing in the front yard. ¬†Her little white-tipped tail was bobbing around as we got to know each other. ¬†He says that in that moment, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Thus began our adventure with Canela (the word for cinnamon in Spanish). ¬†She has brought us so much joy, laughter, frustration and pictures! ¬†She only speaks Spanish (because that’s mainly what we speak in our home), and my piano and voice students get the biggest kick out of learning how to say “sientate” (sit) or “quieta” (stay).

Who knew our joy would just be multiplied when we bred her just 2 years ago. ¬†We honestly didn’t think we could ever have kids, so we thought “Canela needs a buddy”. ¬†Well, now we have our hearts AND hands full!

Anyway…

Enjoy some pics!!! ūüôā

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Where’s Canela?
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Come on mom… play!
Canela the wonderdog!
Seriously?!?! Rawhide on my computer. That’s one way to get me up!

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So stinkin' cute!
So stinkin’ cute!

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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 Ni√Īo, 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Processing… and waiting

Leo and I are about to celebrate 3 years of marriage!¬† It’s crazy how fast these few years have gone, and how many obstacles we’ve had to overcome in such a short time!¬† The few months leading up to our wedding, and even a year and a half into our marriage, it felt like it was us against the world!¬† Or, at least, us against the US Immigration laws and other issues that had to do with Leo not being able to get to the States.¬† Now, things have kinda switched around a bit.¬† Leo even took his first trip by himself to the States in March… a kind-of expensive requirement that comes with having a resident Visa… he can’t be out of the States for longer than 6 months.

We are at a bit of a stand-still now, however.¬† Leo would really like for us to have a year-long furlough in the States sometime soon, and I agree that we need a break!¬† Back in October, we were thinking that we could do it this coming January… but things haven’t worked out how we hoped.¬† We were thinking I could get pregnant, have the baby here in Colombia (I don’t have insurance in the States), and then live the last year of Leo’s residency requirement, before he gets US citizenship, in the States being close to family in a kind-of utopian, rest-filled existence.¬† Well, obviously, I’m not pregnant yet, and from what we’ve seen and heard from doctors, even visiting the States isn’t a good option for me because of my hormone issues and how connected my body is to seasons.¬† The two 2-month trips we took during opposite seasons knocked my body off again, and that’s the reason I’m still having a hard time getting pregnant.¬† And, if we went to the States and were able to get insurance, we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant until we’ve paid into the system for 9 months.¬† So, everything is on hold, and it’s not very fun.

All that to say…I’m not doing well… in many ways.

I’ve read 2 books lately that have really helped put words to my emotions.¬† One is “God on Mute” by Peter Greig.¬† He skillfully writes about the many reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers.¬† Ultimately, it’s because our life is meant to glorify Him, and He will do what He wants with us.¬† We can’t manipulate Him, have enough faith, or do enough good things to change His mind.¬† He knows what is best for us in the long-run, and He will have His way.

The second book I devoured this week is “A Million MIles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller.¬† I know it’s been out for a long time, but I finally had time to read it this week… I was sick at home for 2 days.¬†¬† He writes about the importance of having a story, but yet knowing that our personal story ties in with the big Story that is weaved through generations of lives.¬†¬† The greatest stories are those that have an obstacle too big for the main character to overcome without great sacrifice.

We don’t have many helpful answers to my health issues, but I can’t help think that somehow malaria has something to do with it.¬† My liver was pretty damaged during the whole ordeal, and your liver is what processes your hormones. Almost 7 years ago, I had to understand that if facing death was the price, it was worth knowing Jesus through the pain.¬† I knew the presence of the Lord through my pain… a kind of knowing that gets into your bones and holds everything together.¬†¬† However, the last few years, I haven’t wanted to know Him in my pain and suffering.¬† I have wanted to know Him in the blessing… in the easy things… and nothing has been easy.¬† It’s been rather crazy actually.¬† But, in the area of my health, I’ve had to face another, very real thought:¬† if malaria is the price of not having natural children, is it still worth it? Is this my obstacle that comes with great personal sacrifice?

I don’t know why being in pain as a wife is so much harder than it was being single.¬† Maybe it’s because as a single person, serving Jesus, I knew that He was all I had… it was just me and Him, and as much as I was hurting, He was the only one who could hold me and bring healing… and I was willing to trust Him.¬† Now, as a wife, I serve my husband and Jesus, and my focus gets all off when I forget that my husband, while he can hold me, can’t bring healing or light to the dark, almost hopeless areas of my soul.¬† And while the tangible is seemingly more available than the eternal, I’m mad at both. ¬† It was easier to believe in God’s sovereignty and timing when I thought it more closely lined up with mine.¬† More closely being “o.k. maybe not this month… but definitely this year, right?”.¬† 2 years, and more un-answered questions later, I’m not doing well.

We have a beautiful tangerine tree in our apartment.¬† Our first Christmas together, we couldn’t agree on what kind of tree to have because Leo couldn’t understand the tradition of cutting down a beautiful, living thing just to decorate and watch die; and I couldn’t handle the feel of fake trees. So, we compromised and bought a small tree to decorate.¬† Bogota isn’t the best place for any kind of fruit trees because it’s so cold; but when we got the tree, it had 7 little tangerines growing.¬† The tree is supposed to bloom every 4 months, and then from those blooms, produce fruit.¬† I can count on one hand the amount of times it’s bloomed since it has stayed in the little corner of our living room that gets sunlight, and we’ve only had 1 tangerine grow since we plucked the first 7.

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This month, however, I saw little buds forming.¬† It was interesting to see them coming up from all different parts of the tree.¬† The buds have since turned into leaves or little white balls that will burst open into the most delicate, sweet smelling flowers.¬† This past week, I’ve been waiting for the first flowers to bloom, and just this morning, we had 3.¬† I remember thinking as I was tending to the tree this week that I don’t know how much bigger those little white buds can get before they break open.¬† They have such tension before they burst!

We are living an overwhelming amount of tension right now, and it’s easy to get mad at the tangible elements: our non-existent savings account, our tiny apartment that wouldn’t even fit a baby if we wanted it to, our lack of material things that would supposedly make things so much easier (… if I could just have a fancy mixer with all those fancy attachments so we could eat even healthier than we do now,¬† or a juicer so we could do one of those “cleanse” diets…), Leo’s citizenship process that is still so expensive (and will continue to be for another year and a half) that he needs to finish before we can adopt, etc.¬† It is overwhelming!

In the midst of this waiting for whatever is supposed to come next, however it’s supposed to come, I’m trying to choose to believe that this tension we are feeling is going to break forth into something beautiful and sweet-smelling soon.¬† It just has to.¬† We are desperate.

Pray for me… pray for Leo… pray for our hearts to be willing to line-up with God’s timing for many different things.¬† Pray for balance between being faithful with what we can control, and having faith for what we can’t.