Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 189

I got to see this handsome gent on Saturday:


We went out to a new restaurant in town that serves the best artichoke dip in the entire world. We also went to Walmart because that is what you do when you go to Alamosa. The rest of the time was spent at his office talking and looking at each other. Honestly, I can't think of any other time in my life when I have spent this much quality time with my dad.

God uses all things, does He not?

As I was sitting at his desk working on his computer, I found this on the wall:

We are at day 189 today.

But we are on day 189 of seeing God do amazing things.

I live in the midst of a holy tension.

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,
and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."
                                                     -Hebrews 13:3

Friday, April 27, 2012

News from the Orphanage

Last week, after many of you expressed an interest in giving a few dollars for a bink or two, I wrote to my colleague Freddie to tell her about your response. And let me tell you something: she was overwhelmed!

Here is an excerpt from her email:

"This is totally awesome. Thank you! Thank you! The prayers are sooo appreciated also.

Also, the money is super great. We have all these project ideas for the assistantes maternelles and babies but still need to raise funds for it. But God is providing in a great way. We also have people from a church in Texas (related to Kathy) who will donate uniforms for the nurses (you know, the beautiful, colorful ones) this summer. Also, we have a list of things needed and I am forwarding it to you. Just in case. Someone might ask. You never know. Blink!

(Items include: bath towels, wash cloths, bibs, sheets, baby bottles, baby spoons, bowls, cups, musical toys (without batteries), dishes for the nurses and a coffee machine.)

And, yes, I did cry while reading your blog!"


I asked Freddie for a picture that has been approved for publication by the orphanage and here is the one she sent:


Isn't he ADORABLE?! Seriously, I could just kiss his cheeks off!

This orphanage is beautiful and the babies are so clean and well-cared for. The Tunisian women who run these facilities are smart, competent and compassionate. The problem is that there are not enough people and resources for them to give these babies the kind of attention they need, including the arms to hold them. Freddie's passion is to do just that: love on these babies so they will develop properly.

I am 'this close' to quitting my day job and moving there to help her out. But I am so glad we are all on the same team. And so are you. The purpose of this blog is not meant as a fundraising tool, but I believe that we are called to give and God is glorified when we do! So if your heart is moved by these babies and the work going on in Tunisia, then by all means, get on this bandwagon!

Here's the info again:

1. Visit the IDEAS website at www.ideasworld.org/give
2. Fill out the online giving form and in the "Notes" section, write "Herrera/baby"

I told Noah that I am going to take him with me on my next trip to Tunisia. He asked, "What will we do there, Sarah?"

And I said, "Well, we'll ride some camels and play with babies."

He grinned and thought that sounded like a great plan. And then he asked if he could fit his dad into his suitcase so he could come too.

No problem, kiddo.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One Size Smaller or Bust

Wow.

You are spectacular. Thank you for the sweet emails, texts and comments about yesterday's post. Glory to God that He gives us such stupendous freedom! I could seriously bust out some jazz hands right about now.

You made my day.


So, in other news, let's talk about this Vegas wedding, shall we?

It is almost five weeks away and I am in full "get your booty to the gym" mode. I spent most of my winter eating entire pans of brownies so it was way past time for me to get back at it. And all it takes is one three-way mirror to make you find your motivation.

So far, this is what my week has looked like:

Monday, I ran.

Tuesday, I did high intensity circuit training.

Today, I can't move the lower half of my body.

In other words, I feel awesome!

Other than wanting to feel better, I have another reason for this sudden surge of motivation: I ordered my bridesmaids dress one size smaller than what I normally wear.

SAY WHAT?!

I know, it's true. It's like the cardinal rule of what NOT to do for any wedding. But, in my defense, the dress was no longer available in my size and I could either go up or down...so I chose down. I am nothing if not optimistic, people.

The dress that I had ordered last week finally arrived and I didn't care for it so I had to start looking again. And I know there are literally thousands of black dresses out there but I just really love this one. It is one that will work for a wedding but I could also wear again. And how often can you say that about a bridesmaids dress? Practically never.

And besides, I have hips that were either created for child birth or Latin ballroom dancing so I need something that works with me, not against me.

Here is a picture of the dress:



With our black dresses, we are wearing red shoes for the wedding. I am going with a pair of my favorite shoes of all time:




I may even buy a fun clip to add to them, you know, just for a little Vegas flair.

So, there you have it. That is why I have not posted recipes and pictures of peanut butter caramel dipped in dark chocolate. I have a dress to fit into and I don't want it to make me look like a sausage. And I don't want all of my blood, sweat and tears to be for nothing. I can do that without the treadmill.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living Like An Alien


WARNING: Deep thoughts ahead...

Confession: I am giving up on this world.

Now, before you report me to Green Peace, let me explain.

For my entire life, I have always struggled to find my niche. As a child, I was on the taller end of the spectrum, even taller than my brother at one point. I also developed my love for all things made of cake around the same age. And when you combine those two together, you end up with a girl whose petite counterparts thought she was ginormous. No girl, no matter how old she is, wants to be ginormous.

I was never the "it" girl in high school. I was more of the "I am going to do musical theater and study really hard and run for student government" girl. And while these things were fun, my daily routine of making sure my hair was 'just so' and trying to pick out the perfect flannel shirt (Hey, this was the '90's people!) was grueling. And if I were to be perfectly honest, I bet I could count on one hand the number of times I truly felt beautiful/included/worthy during those four long years.

And let's not even talk about prom.

I realize this is typical sentiment of many high school graduates. If you are among those who felt this same way, let's rejoice that we survived! And if you are among those who loved every second of high school, well, then, I don't really know what to say to you. You are a mystery to me.

For some reason I thought it would get better once I left the confines of teenage-dom and conquered the world as a twenty-something. I was ├╝ber wrong. The pressure to be the ideal single girl-on-the-town was even more daunting. I wasn't hipster enough during graduate school. I didn't know the best clubs in town. I had never heard of H&M. I didn't like to hike/ice climb/put your body in extreme climates for the thrill of it. I didn't ski/snowboard/snowshoe. And the thought of hanging out in Boulder terrified me.

It's not as though I didn't try because I did. I tried swing dancing, candle making, white water rafting and eyebrow waxing. I told myself I loved going to nightclubs, loved trying new singles groups and loved going to parties just to say I had been there. And in all honesty, I hated them. I hated them because no matter how hard I tried, no matter how often I told people I was having fun, it just didn't feel right, it didn't feel like me.

I had always heard that once you hit thirty, most of your insecurities about who you are disappear. This is a lie. Turning thirty just makes you even more aware of your insecurities because now you are old and still trying to fit in. Awesome. And now, instead of trying to figure out the latest social trends, you are suddenly very aware of how much money you make (or don't make), if you have a 401K, if it is the right time to buy a house, if you should have 2.4 children of 3.7 children.  Or, if you are single, should you online date or just join a convent.

And all the while, all you really want, is someone to know you, to love you, to comfort you, to take your burdens and carry them a while. To be at peace. (Hmmm...sounds like Jesus?)

Contort. Stuff. Twist. Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.

I don't know about you, but I am exhausted.

Someone I highly respect and love recently asked me, "Sarah, why are you trying so hard to fit into a world for which you were never created?"

This question hit me like a ton of bricks. Why am I trying so hard? Why do I care so much? Why does it matter if I impress everyone? If this life is just temporary, why am I living it like I want it to last forever? Perhaps it is because this world is all I know. Or perhaps it is what is right in front of me. But time and time again, God has said that we are aliens in this land and what awaits for us is so much better. Perfect, actually.

My mind cannot even fathom perfection.

In 1 Peter 1-2, those who follow Jesus are referred to as "exiles" "foreigners" and "aliens." God says that we will not fit into this world, rather we are here only to bring Him glory and to love those around us. No wonder I often feel like I just landed in a foreign land, it's because we are in a foreign land! And just like any international trip, it is important to understand the culture and the language, you do want to find ways to communicate and impact people. But that doesn't mean you want to give up your citizenship to do so.

So this tension that I feel, this wrestling, struggling, stressing to fit in? It is to be expected. But I have also been given permission to let it go. I have been given permission to stop trying so hard and just be Sarah.

WHAT A HUGE RELIEF!

There is freedom in this, wonderful, delicious freedom. I am amazed that our God could love us this much! So next time you see me, just keep in mind that I am doing my best not to fit in. It's just the way I roll now.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Birthday Wish

Me: "Hey Noah, what do you want for your birthday?"

Noah: "Bacon."

Well done, kid.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Almost Like Mary Lou Retton

As you may have guessed, I have been spending a lot of time with Noah lately. He's a fairly cute kid and his one-liners keep me hopping, so I guess I don't mind too much. Besides, it gives me an opportunity to impress upon him just how awkwardly cool I can be. It boggles my mind how this six year old can have such an impact on my self-worth.

Exhibit A:

Yesterday, Noah wanted to learn how to do a hand stand. And since I took exactly three months of gymnastics in 1986, I figured I was the perfect person to teach him. So he walked over to me, put his hands on the ground, stuck his booty in the air, and waited for my instruction. I told him to keep his arms straight and not to fall on his head and I grabbed his legs and and held them up.

Ta-da! Hand stand. We were both impressed with ourselves.

He then asked what else I could teach him and since I had once been known to do 14 cartwheels in a row (again, circa 1986), I figured the cartwheel was next.

SIDE NOTE: People, I have not worked out in four weeks due to a sprained foot/Tunisia/virus-of-death so let's just say a bit of stretching was in need.

I then tried to explain the cartwheel to him. "Noah, stand up and lean to the side. Put one hand down, then the next, swing your legs over your head and land on the other side. That's it, easy." He gave me this look:



So we slowly walked through it and he tried to do what I told him but we both knew that an example was needed. Or in other words, he needed to see this 32 year old body fling itself upside down and land perfectly on the other side.

No biggie.

Mind you, we were in the living room so I needed to find a space large enough to hold my whirling form. I decided the space between the couch and the wall would work perfectly. I kicked off my heels, because the last thing I needed was to puncture myself, and told Noah to stand back. My mom was also in the living room looking a bit scared  skeptical, not quite sure if she should watch or get the first-aid kit.

"Okay, are you ready, Noah?"

I looked over and he covered his eyes and said, "I can't watch."

"Hey! I'm doing this for you, kid."

But at that moment, right as I took that first step forward and began to lean over, a small sliver of a doubt popped into my head.

Doubt that I may break the couch.

Doubt that I may break myself.

Doubt that I may not be as young as I used to be.

Doubt that I should have worn stretchy pants.

Doubt that I may never be the same after these next few seconds.

And let this be a lesson to you all: doubt kills your ability to do a proper cartwheel. Mid-wheel, my legs fell down, my shirt started to fly up and I suddenly became very aware that I hard wood floors may not be the best for landing. I came down with a thump, looking more like a uncoordinated frog than a human being. Thankfully, no furniture or body parts were injured in this process, but when I stood up, Noah asked, "Was that it?"

"No buddy, not exactly. Tomorrow, let's practice in the yard."

Because that's all I need, an entire neighborhood watching. But I can't give this up. I am on a mission.



However, something about "pride cometh before the fall" keeps ringing in my ears.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dollars for Binks

You guys.

You are so thoughtful and kind. And sweet and sincere. And generous and loving. And the best friends/cousins/readers a girl could have.

Thank you for your sweet words about my darling nephew and for your desire to give to the baby homes. You have no idea how much your kindness warms my heart.

After asking a few questions, I discovered that the best way to support these sweet babies is to give to our Associate who works with these homes. She then can use that money to buy the items that are in greatest need. Like binks!

Sound like a plan?

So, here are the details:

1. Visit the IDEAS website at www.ideasworld.org/give
2. Fill out the online giving form and in the "Notes" section, write "Herrera/baby"

And that's it! I'll make sure that our Associate receives your gifts. She will be THRILLED to know that you are supporting her work and these babies. Truly, she will cry tears of joy because of your generosity.

So thank you again. And feel free to read about our other projects at IDEAS. It's a pretty rad organization.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Dollar

While I was in Tunisia, I visited an orphanage for babies. These "baby homes" are created for women who have children out of wedlock and are forced to give up their child. Some return to get them after they have served a jail term or have married the father of the child. Other women do not return and their babies are put up for adoption. Once these children are over 2 years of age, they are considered unadoptable and are then sent to an orphanage where they will stay until they are 18.

Often, these babies are left in their cribs with a bottle and are rarely held or nurtured. As a result, they have developed detachment disorders and most of their development is delayed.

However, there is hope, people!

One of our Associates works with these baby homes. She comes to play with these babies two times a week and helps in teaching the staff new ideas on how to interact with them and to encourage their early childhood development. She loves her job and the babies have all come to love her as well.

And she is not alone in her efforts. Other women, both Tunisian and foreign, are volunteering their time to train and work with the staff of these baby homes. Better feeding methods are being introduced, more time is being spent out of their cribs and additional training is being offered for staff and newly adoptive parents. The progress is slow and funding is needed but positive steps are being made. It is really quite overwhelming and inspiring.

For one very busy hour, Vicki and I spent time with seven babies, ranging in ages from 9 months to 2 years. Their big, chocolate eyes lit up when we walked into the room and they squealed knowing they were going to have time to run/crawl/wiggle and play. By the end of the hour, we were all sweaty and tired. It was the most joy-filled hour of my trip but also one of the most challenging. These sweet little ones wailed and cried when we left and I just stood there, praying over each one, wondering if they would someday have a family of their own.

When I came home, I told my mom and Noah about the baby homes. Noah had a lot of questions and I simply explained to him that these places were for babies who did not have a mom or a dad and who often did not have an opportunity to play. I could tell he thought about this for a while.

Fast forward 10 days...

On Friday, I picked Noah up from school. As we were getting buckled in, he handed me a crumpled one dollar bill. Curious as to why he would have money floating around in his backpack, I asked him what it was for.

And he said, "it is for the orphanage."

Having completely forgotten about our conversation the week before, and thinking that this may be some kind of school project, I asked "what orphanage is that, buddy?"

"You know, the orphanage for babies."

"Do you mean the one in Africa?"

"Yes, the one in Africa."

I am pretty sure my heart just exploded at that point.

"Oh Noah, you are the kindest boy. What a wonderful gift."

"Maybe they can buy a bink with it, Sarah."

"Sure buddy, maybe they can."


Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put
and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.
Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth,
this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
They all gave out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty, put in everything -
all she had to live on."                ~Luke 12:41-44

Monday, April 16, 2012

How Can It Be Monday?

Y'all.

I seriously need another weekend. This past one went by way too quickly and I found myself hitting snooze one too many times this morning. So, since my brainwaves are apparently misfiring, I have put this somewhat underwhelming blog post in a list format. Because that is the only thing that makes sense today.

1. I am still sick, people. Last week, after I had already missed two days of work and was tired of honking, I went to the doctor to see what kind of nuclear germ-bug-of-death had afflicted me. And when I told them that I had just been to Africa, they rushed me in right away. (This made me chuckle inside because unlike popular belief, Africa can be quite clean and civilized). Anyway, the results came back that I have a virus, which means BO DIDDLY because we all know that viruses cannot be killed with any form of wonderful medication. So, I continue to slowly heal and allow myself plenty of time to climb a flight of stairs.

2. It has been six months since Claire and Carr were married. Can you even believe it? Oh, the time. It flies. And for the record, they are still VERY MUCH in love.

3. I saw my Daddio yesterday. Noah, Sam, my mom and I all headed south, with stops at Krispy Kreme and Taco Bell, of course. And we went to Chili's and ate chips and salsa. You would almost think we were taking a gastronomical tour of southern Colorado, but I am a firm believer in being well-fed on any road trip. My dad is doing great, by the way, just working, waiting and praying.

4. I ordered a bridesmaids dress for Lizz's wedding and it should arrive today. We got to pick out our own black dresses, which beats pastel and poufy any day. My only concern is that it is not flashy enough for Vegas. I may have to borrow someone's Bedazzler if it isn't.

5. I really feel the urge to bake.

6. What is with the snow, Colorado??  Oh wait, it's spring.

7. On almost any given day, it is the birthday of one of my cousins. However, today two of my cousins are celebrating their birthdays. This is global domination in action. Feliz cumplea├▒os, peeps!

8. Has anyone seen the Hunger Games movie? What did you think of it? I saw it before I went to Tunisia and for the most part, loved it!


Okay, that's it. I could only come up with eight items today. I pretty sure this virus is affecting my brain.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Six Going On Twenty-Six

Behold, the following conversation occurred between me and my darling six year old nephew:


Me: "Hey Noah, what would you like for a snack?"



Noah: "I don't know."



Me: "Would you like some strawberries and goldfish? Or a fruit strip?"



Noah: "Nope."



Me: "Do you want me to make you some cookies?"



Noah: "Nope."



Me: "Well, then what do you want, buddy?"



Noah: "Sarah, all I want is a string cheese and a cup of coffee."



Well then. Of course you do.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Update on My Dad

I get this question often:"So Sarah, how's your dad?"

My dad, otherwise known as my most favorite guy who has been indefinitely detained for the past 170 days, is doing great! I know that my posts about Camp Alamosa have become less frequent and the shock of those days following October 24 has become less severe, but there isn't a moment that goes by that I am not thinking about him. And I know that is true for my entire family.

I have mentioned this before, but the Lord gave my dad a resilient spirit. I have never known someone who could face a trial of this magnitude and still see the hope of what is to come. I have struggled with despair and anxiety, but he has stood firm and trusted in One so much more powerful than a man-made judgement. On a daily basis, he amazes me.

I am pretty sure he should have his own theme music by this point.

I also get: "Hey Dellio, what's the latest from the court?"

After the transfer of our March 5 court date to the state supreme court, the only thing we could do was to file the paperwork required to have my dad transferred to Denver. This has been accomplished.

Also, over the past six weeks, my dad has officially graduated out of the facility, meaning he can live in an apartment in Alamosa, no longer having to sleep in the bottom bunk at camp. So, if he is transferred to Denver, he can live at home. As in his home. Own. Home. CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT?

The judicial system is so messed up.

So, we are now in a season of waiting. All of the paperwork has been filed. He has officially graduated out of camp. And the only thing left to do is to have the judge sign off on the transfer...the same judge who has presided over this case from the beginning. The same judge who sent my dad away to the middle of nowhere, Colorado. The same, stinkin' judge.

Dear Jesus, move mountains.

However, I know that this can all change in a minute. Seriously, any minute now. All we need is a signature, a silly, little signature. Shoot, I would be more than happy to send him a pen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Sound Like I'm Honking

Hello, my friends! Here I am, back in the wonderful US of A. There is nothing like coming home to your own bed and a clean pair of pajamas, am I right?

On Thursday morning, Vicki and I woke up at o'dark hundred and headed to the Tunis/Carthage airport. She boarded a plane for Paris, where she rendezvoused with her husband and spent three glorious days in the City of Love.

I, on the other hand, waited four hours for my flight to Paris with a bunch of nicotine-addicted Tunisians (it would have cost $400 to change my flight so we could fly together), then spent three hours in Paris trying to buy as much Duty Free as possible, then 9 hours on a flight to Atlanta, watching the new Mission Impossible and trying not to get Deep Vein Thrombosis, and THEN I ate a giant cookie in the Atlanta airport (because what is better for you than a bunch of carbs after you have already eaten two lunches, a dinner and a breakfast...in that order?) and flew three more hours to Denver where I immediately came down with a ridiculous upper respiratory virus that has laid me flat on my back since Friday.

Wow. That was the LONGEST run-on sentence in the history of the FC. You're welcome?

So, needless to say, my weekend was fairly uneventful. I have caught up on a lot of Hulu, read a book, slept, worn three different pairs of stretchy pants and praised God for helping my immune system last this long. This definitely would have slowed down my trip if this would have hit any sooner. Thankfully, the only thing I have to worry about now is sounding like I am honking at people. However, if you need someone to do an impression of Barry White's younger brother (I have no idea if he even has a younger brother), then I am your girl.

Thanks a ton for following along on this latest adventure. And I was serious about visiting Tunisia, you totally should. It is a beautiful place. I mean, what is not to love about a country that serves french fries with everything?

My thoughts exactly.

So I hope your Monday is off to a great start and free of all forms of honking.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Gem of El Jem

About an hour south of Sousse is a dusty little town called El Jem. Not only is it home to Herb the Wonder Camel, but it is also home to this beauty:




This colesseum is the third largest ever built and is the most well-preserved. It is quite impressive.












However, there is a solemness to this place considering this was once the scene of the original hunger games. It is a contradiction of how something that was so masterfully created could be used for such evil purposes.

I am sure there is a Biblical principle in there somewhere.




But there are glimpses of redemption in this place. It is now a place that brings an economic boost to post-revolutionary country.
It gives Hollywood a reason to hire Russell Crowe and make him lift weights.




It gives bloggers and other tourists like me an opportunity to remember those who suffered for the cause of the Church.




And it gives something for Herb to look at.




You should definitely visit this place if you ever happen to be Tunisia...since I know it is such hot spot for American tourists. Truly, it is a charming town with a cranky camel and a Goliath of a monument left for us to remember.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Snickers: It's What's For Dinner

Confession: I have eaten a Snickers bar almost everyday on this trip. And one day, I ate two.

And they were magnificent.

It's not that I am trying to eat my way through this country, but our days have all been so long and the meal schedule is always up in the air. Heaven forbid that we have a hunger pain, right? And there was one point when I couldn't take one more day of hotel food. Everything was tasting the same and that taste was cardboard.

And now that my sprained foot is feeling much better, I'll just put in some extra treadmill time when I get back.

Although I am sure I won't have to since a Snickers is really just a glorified granola bar with all of those nuts and things.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Herb the Camel

So, I met this camel...




...and I named him Herb. It just seemed appropriate.




And Herb must have had a touch of the stomach flu because when we walked by him, his innards began to make a horrendous noise. There was gurgling. And sloshing. And an overall feeling that something was not right in Herb's world.




The only thing I could think was I needed to take cover. Stat. I mean all that water in that hump has to go somewhere, right?





By miracle of miracles, Herb began to relax and the monstrous noises from the deep recesses within began to subside. It must have been my charming personality that won him over.




But Herb still chose to ignore us.




He's a little high maintenance like that.