I started the following post about a month and a half ago but just finished it today:
We traveled to Nicaragua on Tuesday to renew our visas. The first time we did this, we simply walked across the border and then came back. The civil unrest in that country made us nervous. This time we hired a cab driver who took us to San Juan del Sur, about a thirty minute drive to the coast. Along the way we traveled a very well-maintained highway and passed through beautiful fields, under huge windmills, and along Lake Nicaragua, where we could see its massive island volcanoes in the distance. In San Juan del Sur, we had a very reasonably priced meal at a restaurant on the beach, turned down the solicitations of vendors on the beach (who had very few tourists to hawk their goods to), and then returned to the border. We were impressed with Nicaragua. Although the word is that there is still political tension and repression, it wasn’t evident where we were and our taxi driver extolled the safety and virtues of his country. We hope to be able to travel to Granada for our final visa trip in March.
A second visa trip means that we have been here for six months. Six months of no employment. Six months of being together nearly 24/7. Six months of simple living. Before we left, a friend asked me, “What are you going to do for an entire year? Aren’t you going to be bored?” Other people have expressed concern about being with family so constantly. So, having been here for six months, let me evaluate my experience.
In short, it’s been amazing.
Our number one goal has been to grow in faith in the goodness and providence of God. It’s been beautiful to see Him leading us and providing for us, giving us what we need when we need it, and showering down blessings that we didn’t ask for or that we didn’t know we needed (but blessings that have filled us up, enriched us, and reminded us of the goodness of our Father). And more than just financial providence, we see him guiding and providing in all aspects of our lives this year.
Honestly, this aspect of the Sabbath year has probably been the easiest for me. Besides the uncertainty and fear of looking for a place to live when we first got here, it’s been fairly easy for me to trust that God has blessed, is blessing, and will bless our finances. Remembering that God is with us and is still guiding us when things feel hard, or when we feel alone, is a little harder. And in the next few months, as we wait to see where God leads as we seek employment and a new community, there will be plenty of opportunities to practice living out of faith rather than fear.
The last six months have been really good for our family. I think Rachel and I have worked really hard to maintain our relationship and oneness throughout the years, but I can’t say that the daily grind of life (made so much more intense with children) hasn’t led us to try to manage by separating our roles and dividing and conquering. Unfortunately, that tends to lead to separation and the passion, adventure, and oneness beginning to die out. While our marriage was still solid, I do think that some of those things began to creep in. I think we’ve worked really hard to maintain our relationship and oneness throughout the years, but this Sabbath year has been really good for us and has provided us with time and experiences that have helped us grow together.
It hasn’t all been easy though. The beginning was definitely a challenge as we had to adjust to being together all of the time and making all of our decisions together. One of the harder things was that, based on the roles that our pace of life had created, Rachel spent most of the day at home working with our kids, teaching them, and guiding them. I would come home at the end of the day to help with dinner and bedtime. Except for Sabbaths and Sundays, my role was somewhat limited to reading stories to them, brushing their teeth, and supporting discipline. When we began our Sabbath year, I invaded Rachel’s domain. No longer did she have the ability to make all of the decisions by herself on the day's schedule and the kids’ discipline and education. There I was at every turn. She would ask me what I thought and I would give my opinion, which she often felt was what we needed to do. That’s obviously not a good situation, and we had a fair amount of tension about this. She felt like her role was threatened, and I felt like the only place I had in my family was working to provide for it. I needed to learn to draw out her ideas in the decision making process and to encourage and support her ideas. And she needed to develop confidence in her ideas and to see my ideas as added insight and perspective rather than a threat. We’ve grown a lot in this area, and I can truly say that I love being with my wife this year, doing life together and supporting each other. I love living an adventure together and renewing our common sense of purpose.
This Sabbath year has also been such a blessing in my relationship with our kids. It’s been beautiful to have so much more time with them. I feel like I know them so much better, and it’s amazing to get to be present to watch them experience or accomplish things for the first time. And I have time to just enjoy life with them. (We can read books in the morning without me needing to rush out the door. We can have campfires on a Tuesday night because we were reading about pioneers. We can take a few hours to ride the bus to Huacas in the middle of a Thursday because Jacob wants to buy everyone gumballs with his own money at the bakery. And when we get home kind of late on a Sunday evening and our neighbors are loading up to go to a Bull Fiesta in a distant town, Jacob and I can hop in the car with them and have an amazing adventure without stressing about getting back late on a work night.) We’ve also had the time to work with our kids on certain challenges in a more consistent and less stressful way, which has helped our family feel more peace.
We’ve also been able to experience community on a deeper level here, and time has a lot to do with it.
We love the church we are fellowshipping with. It’s not fancy. The building has no walls, the singing is beautiful and heartfelt but not elaborate, and the service is very basic with only a welcome/announcements, singing, and a message. But people are there because they want to spend time with other believers, and there is joy present in worshipping God together and taking time to stick around and chat.
The last couple of years, Rachel would do quite a bit during the week with a group of moms, but I rarely had or took the time to spend in fellowship with friends outside of family. This year, Rachel and I both have time to go to men’s and women’s Bible studies during the week, which has been a blessing for both of us. Since I’m not working, I have time to meet with a friend on Monday mornings to just chat about life, and sometimes I go surfing with my neighbor.
Connecting in the Costa Rican community on a deeper level took time. There were a few people that would stop by our house often, but mostly we felt a large separation between those in our neighborhood and us. I have felt those walls breaking down though as we’ve spent more time in the community. I’ll write more about that later.
As I finish this post, it is January 19, and we only have about three or four months left. I’ve been working on my résumé and preparing to apply for teaching jobs for next year. It’s a weird place to be, thinking about the future but remaining in the present, doing what we can to secure a job but ultimately not having a lot of control over where we go or what I do. And while the future is unknown and the human desire is to control (or at least know) our destiny, it’s also exhilarating to have things so open and so unknown. It’s a good place to be, in the palm of God’s hands
Here are some pictures of our adventures over the past few months: