Milestones.

The other day I picked up my baby girl and noticed that she was a little bigger than the day before. Not fatter or chubbier, just bigger, and a little heavier to carry. Some days I look at her and I see a change in her face. It’s not a big change that I can see, or even something I can put my finger on, but it’s there and it’s different. She’s growing up, little by little, right before my eyes.

She doesn’t have the same newborn look that she had when we buckled her into her car seat for the first time to go home from the hospital. She doesn’t struggle to hold her head up. In fact, she’s becoming an expert at that and at strengthening her abs by trying to sit up by herself. She loves practicing standing as she pushes her feet into my lap. Her eyes get big and wide, and she flaps her arms up and down as she revels in what she’s doing. She grunts and babbles as if to say, “Look at me, mommy! I’m doing it!”

She’s reaching all sorts of milestones lately. Her first walk in a stroller — she slept for the whole walk. Her first train ride to visit my aunt and uncle in Oregon. Her first story time — she sat through four stories without fussing. Her first tear-free bath, and now we’re on to bathing with smiles. The first time she had a bath, you couldn’t convince me that she would enjoy them one day. Now it’s hard to believe she ever didn’t.

She’s long passed her first smile and is now a professional smiler, flashing all sorts of cute baby smiles to mom and dad and grandma. Maybe she’s learned that her smile makes us give her a big smile too. And I almost cried when she looked at me in the mirror and smiled when she recognized that it was me. She’s “talking” every waking hour (she gets that from both her mom and her dad). She’s outgrowing her three months clothes and size one diapers, though she’s not even two months old!

I’m happy that she’s growing. She’s happy and healthy, and growing like a weed — a very beautiful weed at that. But if it slowed down just a little bit, I wouldn’t protest.

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A letter to Sofia.

I didn’t know I could fall in love so fast, but baby girl, you stole my heart the moment I felt you free from inside me. The moment I saw you, that was the end. It was the end of ever thinking I could live without you.IMG_1209

And even before that I loved you. I loved you when the pregnancy test was positive. I loved you when I heard your heartbeat for the first time. (I laughed because I was so full of joy.) I loved you when I felt you kick. I loved you when my body hurt so bad that I could hardly move. I loved you when I felt fat because you were growing so big inside me. I loved you when I felt pain in my side and in my back from carrying you. I loved you with every contraction. With every bit of agony, I loved you. I loved you when I couldn’t see the end of the pain. And when it finally did end, it was so easy to forget. All I knew was how much I loved you.

I loved you then, and I love you even more now. My love for you grows with every day I know you. My love for you is more than you can fathom.

You’ve only been here for four days, but from the moment you were conceived, you were with me. Your heart beat with my blood, your bones grew with the strength I gave you. Now it’s your turn to face the world, but don’t think you’ll ever be alone. Your heart still beats with the blood I gave you and your bones will grow with the love of your daddy and I.

You will never walk alone. We’ll be here to hold you. We’ll be here to comfort you, support you, and cheer you on.

Baby girl, I wish I could tell you how much I love you, but with all the words in every language I could never find the right ones to tell you how big this love is. I hope you catch glimpses when I kiss you. I hope you can see it when I hold you close to me, when I look at you, and hope you can feel it when I tell you that I love you.

I hope you always know you’re beautiful. When you were born I couldn’t stop saying how pretty you were. “She’s so pretty,” I said to the nurse. “She’s so pretty,” I said to my mom. “She’s so pretty,” I said to your daddy. Everyone in the room knew you were beautiful, but I couldn’t stop saying it out loud. “You are beautiful,” I said to your sweet dimpled face.

I hope your heart is never broken. I hope you never get older. I hope you don’t grow too big to fit in my arms when I carry you. But a day will come when life is not easy for you. A day will come when I forget that you used to be so small. But sweet girl, you’ll always be my baby. You’ll always be my girl. You are the blood of my blood, the bones of my bones, the flesh of my flesh. You are the heart of my heart. And sweet baby girl, I will always love you.

Preparing for Sofia.

Rafael and I have been overwhelmed with love and support from our family and friends. A few months ago before we moved back to Seattle, I wrote a blog letting you know about a few things we needed in order to move. God worked through a few very generous people to provide everything we needed on the list! — A U-Haul and all the finances for our move, 2 new tires to get our dying car here, the complete cost of Rafael’s green card application which has now been submitted, and although Rafael hasn’t found a permanent job yet due to his status, we have been offered enough odd jobs to keep paying the bills. We are so thankful for all of the ways you guys have blessed us in the past couple months. Keep praying for the process of Rafael’s residency and for a job to come quickly.

On top of all of that, we have been swimming in gifts for our sweet Sofia who will be here in less than 3 weeks! (I reached 37 weeks – full term – last Saturday, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for her to be ready.) Really, we have been so blessed by our family and friends who have provided almost everything we need to welcome our baby girl into the world. “Need” is relative, so I hesitate to say it, but a few people have asked me to tell them what we still need and I’ve forgotten who has asked because there have been quite a few, so here is another list I have compiled of “needs” and “wishes.” Aside from diapers, most of the “needs” are things we could live without as well, but they would certainly make life a little easier.

Need:

– Diapers: Lots and lots of diapers! We want to do disposable for the first 1-2 months and cloth diapers after that, but if we can only get our hands on disposable diapers we will gladly use those for now. Cloth diapers are a big upfront cost for us, but will be so much less in the end ($3,000+ less!). We like Softbums. You can find them at softbums.com.

– Bath tub (Target — Fisher-Price Precious Planet Whale of a Tub )

– Adapter for stroller/carrier (Target — BOB Infant Car Seat Adapter – for Graco Seats )

– Burp cloths (Target — JUST ONE YOU® Made by Carters Newborn Girls’ 4 Pack Burpclothes – Pink )

– White newborn, 3 mo, and 6 mo onsies, short sleeve and long sleeve

– Newborn – 6 mo socks (I love plain white or these ones at Target, but any socks would be great! Trumpette Infant Girls’ 6 Pack Pastel Dot Socks – Assorted 0-12M )

– Nursing pads (Target: I like these ones, but really any that aren’t disposable would be great — Itzy Ritzy Glitzy Gals – Cream )

Wish list:

– Baby “sleeping bag” or wearable blanket (Target — HALO SleepSack Pink Wearable Blanket – Cotton Eyelet Print )

– Diaper bag (Target — timi & leslie Emerald Lagoon 2-in-1 Backpack Diaper Bag with Changing Pad )

– Crib/mattress: We have a bassinet and a very small crib that was given to us for free, but this is the one we would like, or one very similar. (Target —Delta Children’s Products – Canton 4-in-1 Convertible Crib in Cherry Espresso )

– Changing pad and cover (Babies R Us — Serta Contour Pad , any cute/pink cover would be great. I’m not too picky.)

– High chair: We won’t need this for a while, but it would be nice to have. (Babies R Us — Chicco Caddy Hook On Chair – Red)

– Nursing cover (Target — BeBe Au Lait Nursing Cover – Nest)

– Boppy/Nursing support pillow (Target — Boppy Bare Naked Pillow with Slipcover – Pink Owls )

– Clothes for 9mo+ (We have quite a bit, at least a great start, for 3-6 mo and a good amount of newborn too)

– 3-6 mo warm clothes for winter — thick/heavy body suits, coats, mittens, fuzzy hats, boots, etc.

– Ergobaby performance carrier

– Hiking carrier (Kelty Kids FC 2.0 or Kelty Journey 2.0)

Don’t assume his brown skin makes him Mexican, and other culture tips.

Since being married to a non-American man who is also an immigrant and often labeled as Mexican, though he is very far from it since he lived the first 30 years of his life in Honduras — since then, I have been more aware of common stereotypes and misjudgments when it comes to how we act/react to people of other cultures both in our own country and in their countries when we go to visit or live or be missionaries. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned.

1. Don’t assume they’re Mexican because they have brown skin. It doesn’t take much more effort to ask somewhere where they’re from than to assume they’re Mexican. It’s true that the highest percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. is Mexican, but there are huge numbers (millions of people) from other cultures that also share the country with us — Hondurans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Puerto Ricans, etc. (Side note: Did you know that Zimmerman isn’t Mexican? …like so many threateners assumed. He’s not even from North/Central America. He’s half Peruvian. In case geography isn’t your thing, that’s in South America.)

2. Don’t assume they’re American just because they’re white. White-skinned people come from many different countries, some of which speak English and some that don’t. Including, but not limited to: Canada, England, Australia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Argentina, France, etc.

3. Don’t assume anything and don’t put colors (or accents) in boxes. It’s better that way. If you have questions, ask politely. Most people are happy to answer questions and it’s always less offensive if you have questions rather than assuming something about someone. (I once asked an Aussie if he was British. He was kind enough to laugh it off, but he said he got that a lot and did not appreciate being called British.) It might surprise you to know that not all black people are African or African-American either. They could be from Costa Rica or Australia or really any other country because colors aren’t confined to the lines we drew on the map.

4. Don’t be surprised and don’t complain when their culture is different from yours. You went to their country to visit or live or be a missionary and now you’re complaining — however righteously you might think you are (after all, now you that you’re a missionary you’re called to suffer and sacrifice for Christ) — you’re complaining about little things that are common, every-day things in their country. Remember, you chose to be a part of their culture. Don’t complain about them not having the same American products in their grocery stores, or the taxi driver not speaking English, etc. Other people don’t come to the U.S. and expect that all the people speak Spanish or Japanese or Tagalog. You are joining their culture. So, join it. Don’t complain about how different it is. You knew it was going to be different before you went there.

5. Assimilate, don’t ascend. Don’t look for the house/apartment, cell phone, furniture, etc. that is most like the country you came from and least like the culture you are joining, ESPECIALLY if you are a missionary. Don’t look for the house on the hill with the best view; don’t look for the house with the most amenities; don’t look for a house that is completely unaffordable to the people you are trying to minister to, befriend, or live among. If you want to go and retire and be known as the “rich American who lives in the mansion on the hill,” go ahead and live there. And if you want to have some amenities that are reasonable go for it. (For example, having a washer and dryer in Costa Rica is not common, but it is also not uncommon. If you decide to have a washer and dryer it does not immediately put you above others. Just be careful that you aren’t consistently choosing a way of life that is above the people you want to reach.) But if you want to be on the same level as the people who live in the country that you are ministering to, then be on their level. 

So before you go on your next vacation to Honduras, remember it’s not a country full of Mexicans who love to speak English. Educate yourself and go with an open mind. I guarantee it will not only be more respectful to the culture that you’re joining, but it will be more fun and adventurous for you to try new things too.

Note:  Though I have not lived an extended time in another country (not longer than 2 months), my husband has and agrees that these are legitimate steps to take toward respecting the culture that you are interacting with or entering.

When we settle for the American Dream.

Sometimes I feel like writing, but I can’t find the words, so I just read a bunch of old blogs and realize I had already found the words a few years ago… So here’s a re-post from August 4, 2011.

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One of my favorite passages in scripture is in Matthew when Jesus calls his first disciples.

Matthew 4:18-22 –

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

At once they left their nets and followed him. It was those words that God used to confirm in my heart his plan for me to fly to South Africa 3 days after I graduated from high school.

I’ve been thinking lately about the attitude of Christians in the American church and what it would look like for us to drop our nets. We don’t do much net dropping anymore. We settle for a mostly normal life, hardly giving God any of part of it. We fail to realize how big God is. We ignore the Holy Spirit. We are afraid of the Holy Spirit. We don’t realize the incredible significance of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

Maybe you will jump up and disagree, but think about this:

When was the last time you depended on the Holy Spirit completely, fully, to the point where you would have lost something of great significance if you had put your trust in him and he had not been there?

When was the last time you were so amazed by a miracle that was completely unexplainable that you told everyone you knew?

When was the last time you worshiped without abandon, shouting and dancing because you were filled with the joy of the Lord and the presence of the Holy Spirit?

When was the last time you verbally shared God’s love (the Gospel) with someone?

If you’re anything like me and a good part of the American church, the answer to most of these questions is “I don’t remember.” We’re good at pretending that we can do life on our own, and the truth is, we can. We can do the human life pretty well. It might have some bumps, but we can make it through. We can let our lives look just like everyone elses’ and because we live in America, we can succeed and be good people.

What we can’t do is live a kingdom life without the Holy Spirit; we can’t live without God and expect to live an extraordinary life that looks different from everyone else; and we can’t expect to see God if we are not seeking him.

We have settled for a very small god. We have settled for the god who shows up to our church on Sunday morning. We have settled for the god who wants to see us succeed in our plans. We have settled for the god who loves the American Dream because that’s what it means to be blessed. (Really!? Having lots of stuff is a blessing?)

But God is still the same radical God that he has always been. He still does the same radical things like calling people out of their normal, fisherman kind of lives into something extraordinary; healing a man from blindness by rubbing mud on his eyes; or feeding 5,000 people by multiplying a small boy’s lunch.

God is incredible, but we take one look at him, one look at the American Dream, and decide his way is too hard. We settle for normal when God has extraordinary waiting for us if we would just choose to fall in love and let him lead our lives.

God is the God who tells a young, 22-year-old woman to start a non-profit ministry in Eastern Uganda and love on orphans because that’s where his heart is. He is the One who told my best friend to stay in Japan after hundreds thousands of earthquakes and the tsunami because the nation is so far from knowing him. He is the God who tells a family to move from Oregon to Nashville because that is where he wants to use their gifts. God is the One who uses a little 9-year old girl’s death and dream to raise nearly 1 million dollars toward building wells in Africa. God is the God who gives a church a dream to renew their city and bring a revival to their country.

God is a God of the incredible. Now we must make the choice to leave our nets and follow him.

What would it look like for you to leave your nets (your normal life) and follow God with all your heart?

Choosing a father for your kids.

As my husband’s first Father’s Day weekend came and went, I couldn’t help but be excited for him to be a daddy to our sweet Sofia Grace (who is due to be born at the end of August). He is already an incredible daddy. He loves to feel and watch her kicking and often puts his ear to my belly to listen to her and talk to her. He tells her sweet things about how much he loves her and how precious she is, and he is already complimenting her on her swimming and baking skills. “What are you cooking,” he asked her last week. “Oh! Cookies? Can I have one? Wow, you are so good at cooking.”

When I married Rafael I knew he was a great man, but I never could have imagined how great a father he would be even before his little girl has taken her first breath. He already prays for her, provides for her, and plays with her. I’m in love.

It made me sad to realize that some young women I know will not have such a man in their daughter’s lives. There are some women who get caught up on crushes who become boyfriends who become serious relationships and end up staying in these relationships even when they’re not healthy simply because they get stuck.

Maybe a bad boy crush from high school or an unfulfilled desire for being wanted and loved took over a woman’s heart and she found herself stuck in a relationship with someone she loves, but who is not a man that will protect her or provide for her or cherish her like a woman needs to be cherished. I know because I was there and I can see it in others around me.

Remember, ladies, this man who holds your heart will one day be the father of your daughters and sons. Many of my friends have found and fallen in love with incredible men and I am excited to see their families grow too, to see their husbands become fathers and love their daughters.

But be careful of your sometimes-he-yells-too-loud, sometimes-he-comes-home-drunk, sometimes-he-smokes-pot, sometimes-he-locks-himself-in-his-room kind of man. Someday he’ll be the father of your daughters and sons, and if he has these problems now, it’s likely that someday he’ll be an abusive father, an alcoholic father, a pot-smoking-can’t-hold-down-a-job father, or a porn-addicted father.

My mom always told me that the problems you have before you’re married will only be magnified when you get married. So, ladies, be careful who you choose to date and who you allow to be your boyfriend. Little decisions can become bigger compromises. And someday, if you let him, your boyfriend will become your husband and your husband will become the father of your daughters and sons.

But you get to choose the man who will be the father of your kids. Choose wisely.

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Disclaimer: I’m not saying that men don’t have faults. I’m not saying you need to find a perfect man. (They don’t exist. Just as perfect women don’t exist either.) I’m saying that if your crush, boyfriend, or fiance does any of these things and is unwilling to change or can’t change because of an addiction that he is unwilling to get help for — you may need to make a tough decision.

Before moving to Seattle.

Because many of you have asked when we’re moving back and I wish my answer could be tomorrow, here’s a list of what we need before we can move back to Seattle.

1. A new (or fixed) transmission for our ’99 Acura TL.

2. Two (or 4 would be nice) new tires for the car.

 –> Alternate: the gift of a new car.

3. A green card. (Or at least a submitted application)
Cost: $1,500

4. A U-Haul (or other moving company).
Approximate cost: $1,200 (+ gas)

5. A job for Rafael in Seattle. He doesn’t have a degree, but he does have 16 years of experience working in media/communications/broadcasting. He’s done everything under the sun — radio producing, on-air radio personality (Spanish), voice-overs for advertisements/movie trailers/etc. (Spanish), television producing, media editing and design, video producing and editing, copywriting (Spanish). And probably more that I forgot. He is extremely talented and has the portfolio to prove it.

We would love to be able to move to Seattle in the next couple months, especially before the baby comes.

If you can help, or know someone who can help or has connections with any of these, please let me know! Also, you can always be praying for us that God would provide for all of our needs. We are trusting that he has all of these things already planned perfectly.

Little one.

There’s a little one inside of me who is dying to get out. Her heart beats faster than mine, perhaps for the anticipation of the coming days when she will get to see the world. She won’t see the brokenness like I do. Not for many years anyway.

She’ll see the smile of her mommy who loves her and she’ll feel her daddy’s strong hands and know his love for her. She’ll know that her dad will always be there for her. She will meet her grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles, and she’ll feel loved and adored. And as she grows, she’ll learn to smile, to laugh, to be full of joy.

She’s practicing her future-goal-making kicks, and stretching her limbs to the edge of her small home. She’s growing her eyebrows and the lids that cover her beautiful eyes. God only knows if she’ll have chocolate eyes like her daddy or green eyes like her mom, and only time will tell. She’s learning how to hear her daddy sing and her heartbeat is growing stronger. Soon he’ll be able to hear the heart that is growing inside his little girl.

I dream that this little one will love to see the world as much as her mom and dad, and that she’ll find other things to be passionate about — maybe she’ll love soccer like her Uncle Seth, photography like Uncle Nathan, or music like her Aunt Lucy. Or maybe she won’t love any of those things. She’ll learn to love whatever God puts in her heart and she’ll be passionate about it in her own way.

There are two heart beats inside of me. Two brains. Two souls. There’s a little one that’s growing inside of me, and I can’t wait to meet her.

Sofia Anariba, coming August 31, 2013.

Where I’m from.

I am from postcards and scarves, from Polly Pockets and Keds shoes.

I am from the little town in the suburbs of Seattle, where there is my little blue house with white trim, and the big maple tree in the backyard where we would climb as kids and pretend to be cowboys and Indians.

I am from the cherry trees, forget-me-nots, and running through the sprinkler on a hot summer day in the cool, summery grass.

I am from years of memories at Christmas tree farms and Chinese dinners on Christmas Eve. I am from big German noses and brown hair; from Woodwards and Borcherdts and the step grandfather who was always my own grandpa.

I am from belly-aching laughter and striking up conversation with strangers.

From snow days with my best friends, from sledding and snowmen and hot chocolate by the fire. I am from summers at Lincoln Rock State Park and sleeping under the stars that were more than I could comprehend.

I am from a faith in the Lord that never fails, from the truth that is above all truth, and from a peace that surpasses all understanding. I am from an unconditional love that has give me my life, my breath, and my joy.

I’m from the great city of Seattle because of the day my great grandparents decided to leave Germany.

I’m from melt-in-your-mouth, right-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and mouth-watering blackberry cobbler.

From the road trips to Salem, Oregon to see my aunt and uncle, and waking up to the aroma of Uncle Tom’s breakfast, and playing with their dogs, Luke and Chase and Gabe. From drinking tea on the leather sofas while we sat and talked because our lives were never uninteresting to them.

I am from a half dozen albums of photos of camping trips and birthday parties, childish imagination and ballet recitals; from my grandmother’s antiques, memories from a woman who no longer lives; from my mother’s teapot and dish collections, memories from her childhood to mine; from memories that weren’t saved on a hard drive or a memory card, but in mementos I kept in a shoe box, trinkets from my youth that I couldn’t let go.

I am. And this is where I’m from.

On tying the knot.

It’s been 15 days of bliss since February 3, 2012 when I tied the knot with my handsome at our small church in Dallas, Texas. Only our pastor, his wife, two of our friends and their precious 3-year-old daughter, and my family via skype were in attendance. It came earlier than originally planned, and with a lot less wedding planning craziness and money spent that we didn’t really have. It was just us and a few people we love, though we were missing a lot of others that we love dearly too.

We got married for a long list of reasons that begins with I love him and he loves me, and I know that he’s my forever love. That’s what we’re going to fight for til the day we die.

Since you missed our little ceremony, I’ll tell you a little about it.

THE VOWS: Yes, everything was in Spanish. The pastor’s wife translated so my family could understand. And yes, I messed up when I was saying them, but only on one word! The pastor asked if I knew what it meant and embarrassingly, I said, “No.” How can you vow to something you don’t even understand? Well, he translated it word for word before I said it so I knew what I was saying, but I still get stuck on that one word every time. At the end, instead of saying “I do,” you say, “Si, lo prometo.” Yes, I promise.

THE WITNESSES: Two of our friends from church– Sandra and Filippe– were there with their daughter Camila, as well as my family on skype. My brothers even dressed up in ties. No one knew we were getting married except the people in attendance, Rafael’s family, and a coworker who I offered to work for me the night before so we could finish up a few things. We took a few pictures (very few) and then went to McDonald’s to take advantage of their free internet so we could skype a little longer with my parents and with Rafael’s family in Honduras.

THE AFTER-PARTY: After skyping, we went to the house of a few other friends (Byron, Merleni, and Edwin) whom Rafael used to live with for a while. They are a lot of fun to be around. One of my favorite things about this family is that Rafael lived with them when we were just getting to know each other. They told me that he talked about me all the time. It’s fun to see the progression from our skype conversations, to my move to Dallas, and then to our marriage.

Byron and Merleni are Honduran too, so they cooked one of our favorite (and very traditional) meals — baleadas. Baleadas are as common in Honduras as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are in an elementary school, and they’re so simple to make. They consist of a home-made flour tortilla filled with mashed or pureed black beans, cream (similar to sour cream), and Honduran cheese. Delicious.

THE PICTURE: There aren’t many pictures to prove that this day existed, and even fewer are good pictures, but I kind of like this one. I found this gem on my computer desktop titled “Mi Esposa y Yo” (My Wife and I). Clearly Rafael got it from Filippe who bedazzled it too. I think the bedazzles bring validity to my latino last name, which, in case you were wondering, is now Anariba.

Mi Esposa y Yo

THE FUTURE PARTY: Since none of you were able to make it to our little ceremony, we want to have a real, big ceremony in about a year or so when we can afford it. (That was one of the reasons we had a small wedding now.) We want to have the ceremony in Seattle and hopefully have another party in Dallas. Whatever our plans are, we hope you can be there. Stay tuned for more information!

Finally, in case you’re wondering, we are registered at Target and PayPal ;), and soon-to-be registered at World Market and Macy’s as well (once we have time).