2009 -> 2019 Decade in Review

What a significant decade in my life! So many ups and downs and interesting experiences. So much learning and growing! So many dreams accomplished and so much evidence of God’s providence and faithfulness. How can I not be thankful?

I still consider 2009 to be one of the most significant years of my life. I would say it was the peak of my existence but that’s a little dramatic and also kind of depressing for the rest of my years here on earth… *ahem, nervous laughter* so, anyway I thought I’d share the highlights from that year and then the highlights from the rest of the decade. Maybe I’ll throw in some lowlights too just to be real…

2009

The year I turned 20! I finished my sophomore year at Lee University and started my junior year in the fall. I had gotten involved in a community tutoring and mentorship ministry in an immigrant neighborhood near my college campus that I would end up leading the following year. The experiences and friendships formed through this ministry were nothing short of life-changing for me. And my Spanish advanced exponentially this year!

The summer of 2009 was packed for me. I don’t remember the specific order but it involved traveling as a volunteer to Honduras, Mexico, and DISNEY WORLD. Yes, I went to Disney World on a paid trip as a volunteer Spanish interpreter with a Mexican family for a type of make-a-wish dream vacation. Occasionally I think about that opportunity and wonder WHAT IS MY LIFE. (that trip was not without its mishaps and fails – which make for hilarious stories – but it was overall truly MAGICAL)

After having traveled for 5 years with teams, my cousin and I were able to travel to Honduras solo for the first time as independent volunteers. I think the trip was a total of about 3 weeks, which was cut short because of Honduras’ infamous MILITARY COUP that took place smack dab in the middle of our stay. Of course, at 20-years-old I was more concerned about my missions adventure being thwarted than the actual political ramifications that it meant for the country. #typical

Thank God that I have grown as an individual and as a missionary since that trip. I was naïve in so many ways.

We were also in Honduras when Michael Jackson died but that had no implication on my life. I just remembered that being big in the news.

The Disney World experience was enriching in so many ways. I got to see the incredible collaboration of Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the organization, Magic Moments, in granting the wish of a precious little patient whose cancer was in remission. The organization, Give Kids the World, in Kissimee, FL was super impressive as they provided housing, food, and activities to all their guests – families of children with terminal illnesses. One activity in their “village” allowed the sick children to write their name on a gold star and choose where they wanted to hang the star along the roof of “Castle of Miracles” along with thousands of other stars from kids in similar situations. We got park hopper entrances to all Disney parks and to Universal Studios, fast passes to every ride, park meals and souvenirs covered, and the patient’s Give Kids the World button she wore on her shirt signaled all characters in autograph signing lines to stop the line and direct their attention to her. I had never seen anything like it.

The biggest mishap of the trip was that I was the only licensed driver of the group (and the only English speaker) and the family’s vehicle broke down somewhere in south Georgia on our way to Orlando and it was a Sunday and we couldn’t find any mechanic shops open. This was also before smartphones so I guess we were just calling random people asking for help. (we actually waved on a police officer who stopped to ask if we were ok) We finally got in touch with a friend of a friend, some latino mechanic who came and helped us out. That day I learned the Spanish word for spark plugs. And I learned a few other things about my own privilege.

For the first part of this year I was working as an office assistant and board operator at Christian radio station J103 in Chattanooga.

2010

I visited Costa Rica for the first time with a group from college this summer. I tried gallo pinto (Costa Rican rice and beans) and my life hasn’t been the same since.

I think this was the year that I started working in retail – JCPenny!

2011

This was the year I graduated from my incredible alma mater, Lee U, with a bachelor’s of arts in Telecommunications, minors in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Religion. I was interning (and eventually worked) at Church of God World Missions editing video footage for missionaries around the world. I loved it! I eventually had to leave Cleveland, TN and was super sad.

My highest highlight of the year was visiting Puerto Rico for the first time. ¡Me enamoré con la Isla del Encanto! And I halfway learned to dance Bomba. Second highlight was getting my first DSLR camera (Canon T2i).

In the fall of this year I moved to Panama City, Panamá for three months as a volunteer with a Honduran missionary family.

This was the year I started getting more involved in fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, and specifically against a state-level anti-immigrant bill that was promoting self-deportation of undocumented immigrants. I wrote to my representatives and traveled to the state capital by bus with a group of activists to rally against it.

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2012

I went back to work with the World Missions video editing team for the first part of this year then I was invited to move to Honduras in August on an English teaching contract. I was nervous about teaching and living there for A YEAR but I jumped at the chance. One fateful month after starting my teaching job in San Pedro Sula, Honduras I met Natán Martínez at church. My first impression of him was him standing up in front of the congregation praying a passionate missions prayer for some chosen country of the month… it I weren’t so skeptical of these kind of things I would say it was love at first sight… or love at first prayer… idk. Basically a few weeks after that we were officially dating.

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This was also one of the last years that I was into death-defying stunts like hiking through a roaring waterfall with an amateur guide. (NEVER AGAIN) Yes, those tiny people in the photo are my friends and me.

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This year I traveled to Belize for the first time.

2013

I finished my teaching contract in June and made plans to move back to the states. Natán was preparing to start seminary in Guatemala and we were already talking about getting married. We both knew we wanted to be in ministry in Honduras but didn’t know what that would look like. I still had about $20,000+ of student loans to pay off and he had 3 years of seminary to get through. We pledged to do long distance until we met our goals. AND WE DID. 2013 was the start of 3.5 years of LONG DISTANCE dating (kind of already engaged) in two separate countries.

For the last half of 2013 I started the job search. My first contract job was teaching English to adults through a literacy program grant for Hoover City Schools at an elementary school. I eventually started teaching Spanish with a homeschool co-op, and doing Spanish interpreting in medical facilities and Tarrant City School System. I loved each of these jobs. At one point I was working 5 contract jobs at once!

I also started using my photography/videography as a side hustle, doing photo sessions and videoing events.

2016

Natán and I would see each other about twice a year when he’d go home to Honduras for break and I’d travel to see him or travel with a missions group. Finally, in spring of 2016 I traveled to visit him in Guatemala and then again in November to see him graduate. This was when we took engagement photos to announce our wedding date for the following March.

This was the year I paid off the last of my student loans! FREEDOM. And Natán graduated from seminary. I had started raising monthly missions support and that has sustained us in our ministry. We accomplished what we set out to do before getting married and starting our lives as full-time missionaries.

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2017

WEDDING TIME! Natán and I (finally) got married in an intimate ceremony on the Caribbean island of Roatan on March 27, 2017, four days before my 28th birthday. IT WAS A DREAM. It was at my dream location, I wore my dream dress, DSW clearance high heels, my grandmother did my hair AND made our delicious strawberry wedding cake. (don’t tell anyone she iced the cake in our hotel bathroom) We found a great local photographer and were surrounded by closest friends and family. Those who couldn’t be present watched via Skype.

2018

In February of this year I lost my paternal grandmother and it was really hard but I thank God that I happened to be home on a scheduled visit during her last days and I was able to say goodbye while she was lucid.

We got a slow start this year as we founded our poverty alleviation nonprofit organization and we kept hitting bumps in the road. The last few months of 2018 were pretty stressful in our personal lives but we made it through. I was glad to see 2018 go.

Four highlights were: loving married life, visiting El Salvador for the first time, having my mom and grandparents visit us in Honduras, and photographing the birth of my nephew, Brooks!

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2019

In 2019 we officially got 501c3 status as an organization! We hit a few important goals and had our first official benefit event for our org in Alabama. I also turned 30 this year and it felt fabulous.


This last decade brought many pleasant surprises but also a couple painful disappointments. I learned some ugly truths about the world but I think I grew and gained wisdom from it. I am not as carefree and naïve as I was at twenty but that would be kind of weird if I was.

I might not be exactly where I’d like to be for 2020 but as I reflect over the last ten years I think I can say it was a freakin’ good decade. I really don’t have any regrets. Here’s to the next!

Life in the USA (inglés y español!)

Hispanic Heritage month started September 15th here in the U.S. with the Independence Days of five Central American countries (including Honduras) and then Mexico. I thought I would share a few stories and thoughts on Latino culture and immigrants over the next four weeks here in my blog. And I will try to keep each post bilingual!


I just recently got this little book to use in my adult ESL classes called “Life in the USA: An Immigrant’s Guide to Americans” and I am cracking up. It’s like someone took all the things I have said to Natán (my boyfriend) and my other Latino friends and put it in a book. It is written in the form of letters from foreign students to their teachers expressing concerns over confusing social situations.

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My favorite was the lady who was confused as to why her American co-worker who spoke a little Spanish was offended when she said “Hey, gordita” to her. Yes, in Hispanic culture it is very common to affectionately call someone by any physical characteristic (be it positive or negative) they might have. Friends and family members often call each other “blackie” or “fatty.” Sweet. I know. *eye roll*

In the response, the teacher had to explain that Americans are typically more sensitive about certain things like weight and that saying “hey fatty” is NOT an appropriate greeting in the USA. Haha!

Natán has a few choice pet names for me all of which sound ridiculous when translated to English. But he knows what would happen if he ever used “gordita” on me!

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Thank God for Skype dates while he is in seminary thousands of miles away!

Acabo de recibir este librito para usar en mis clases de inglés acá en estados unidos se llama “La Vida en USA: Un Guía a los Americanos para el Inmigrante” y me está dando risa. Parece qué alguien tomó todas las cosas que he dicho yo a Natán (mi novio) y a mis compañeros latinos y las puso en un libro. Está escrito en la forma de cartas de estudiantes extranjeros a sus profesores expresando preocupaciones sobre situaciones sociales confusas.

Mi favorita fue una carta escrita por una mujer preguntando porque se había ofendido a una compañera de trabajo después de decirle, “hola, gordita.” Las personas bilingües y bi-culturales como yo (corazón latino en un cuerpo gringo me dicen) entendemos que es un apodo cariñoso pero a traducirlo a inglés suena horrible! Nunca debe de decirlo a una persona que no entiende la cultura hispana, jaja.

El profesor tuvo que responder y explicar que los americanos son mas sensibles con ciertos temas como lo de peso. Así que “hola, gordita” NO es un saludo apropiado para nosotros. 😛

Natán tiene algunos apodos chistosos para mi y suenan ridículos traducidos a inglés pero él sabe bien lo que pasaría si me dijera “gordita!”

November update

It has been a while, dear old blog! I thought I would give a personal update on my life…

First of all, this is the first U.S. Fall that I have been able to experience in two years! I have literally been left breathless by the sight of some of these gorgeous trees with their colorful leaves and have thought several times that I was going to cause a wreck while driving and trying to look out the window. I wouldn’t trade anything for a late October / early November in the good ol’ USA. 🙂

I have been officially moved back to the states for almost 4 months now. I love the comforts of my U.S. lifestyle and I hate that I love it all at once. Sometimes I get so comfortable I feel miserable. I think only those who have traveled out of the country are really able to understand that kind of misery caused by too much comfortThings are so easy here. And becoming accustomed to the convenience and comfort again causes me to take for granted what I just spent a year learning to appreciate so deeply.

I had a tough couple of weeks adjusting back to the U.S. after I returned this past July. I can’t really pinpoint why but a comment that a friend recently made in reference to coming back after a trip abroad hit home with me. He mentioned that after a trip to Mexico when he came back to the states, it felt like everyone around him was just talking and worrying about the most stupid and trivial things. Whether that is just psychological or not, I understand the feeling! (not to say that Central Americans can’t be shallow too… whew.)

I am so thankful that God has proven Himself my Provider over and over. I am thankful for some incredible opportunities doing things that I love and earning enough money from that to pay off my school loans. <– my main goal! I am thankful for my sacrificial family, especially my grandparents for offering me a place to stay and allowing me to dedicate all of my income to paying off my debt so I can get back to the mission field ASAP. I am thankful for my understanding and faithful and patient boyfriend so many miles away. (and I’m SUPER thankful for Skype!) I am so at peace with the way things are and I trust God’s plan for the future. Distance, nor time, nor money could intimidate me. God’s got this under control.

Currently I am working part time at an elementary school teaching adult English classes to parents as part of the school’s Family Literacy Program. I love it! I am also doing on-call independent Spanish interpreting work and am waiting to begin another more consistent interpreting job. These past few months I have been able to spend more time with my family than I have in the last few years and I know that is so important especially since I am planning to move out of the country more permanently. I am doing photography and video projects on the side and am taking every opportunity to visit churches and events to speak about missions in Honduras and our organization’s current projects that are in need of funding.

I have a lot on my plate but I deeply believe in a divine plan and I just put my faith in the fact that the Lord has mapped this all out. Even about me and all the silly details about my life – He cares.

I recently mailed out my first missions newsletter with a more detailed update. I will occasionally do that. If you didn’t get on the mailing list and are interested please send me your mailing address! It includes more details that I don’t publish online.

Dear average twenty-something American,

Here are 10 ways that my life is probably different from yours:

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  1. I use a tiny prepaid phone that does not have a camera nor is even capable of receiving a picture message.
  2. I watch TV maybe once every 2 months.
  3. I walk to and from work and have consequently worn-out 5 pairs of shoes in 7 months.
  4. I get to eat better food than you (i.e. baleadas, pastelitos, tortilla con quesillo y chismol, tajadas con carne molida, taquitos, pupusas, quesadilla [like a cheesy cornbread], yuca frita, tostones, etc.)
  5. My salary is probably half or even less than half of what yours is.
  6. I often eat/drink things out of bags (i.e. water, mustard, mayo, ice cream, beans)
  7. I am surrounded by unspeakably beautiful scenery: flowers, mountains, etc.
  8. If I were to quote Madea, Bon Qui Qui or Nacho Libre no one around me would think it was funny.
  9. I don’t actually know the recent viral videos or blockbuster comedies to even quote…
  10. Several times a week a horse-drawn wooden cart passes by on the street, at school we have to wait for cattle to clear off of the kids’ “soccer field,” and occasionally a student will bring his pirated movie business to class.

And I can confidently say with a smile, I love my simple Honduran life.

Kids say the darndest things. And life would be boring otherwise.

I love being a teacher. I really never planned on being one. But I love it. I have 45+ students calling me Miss (which is pronounced more like Meess) and they listen in awe when I tell them the story about flying here from the United States. I know I only have two days under my belt but I can already tell that it is going to be an eventful year. The classroom is like a breeding ground for hilarious writing material. Kids really do say the darndest things…

Things I have been told so far:

  • Two “I love you’s” and one “la quiero,” (which also means “I love you”) from a soft-spoken first grade girl whom I did not understand the first two times and repeated it until I got it. Love is an unfortunate thing to misunderstand.
  • One “Meess, the color of your eyes is beeyooteefull!
  • I was asked, “What does ‘When I see your face…’ mean in Spanish?” And after I told him he proceeded to sing the entire chorus of Bruno Mars’ top hit. Without. Understanding. A word.
  • I gave a brief introduction of myself and my family to the first grade class. One child offered the information that her mother was pregnant. Then the class erupted as all fifteen students had to raise their hand and tell me about their pregnant mother, aunt or dog. (But I certainly remember being that age and being proud that my mom was pregnant with my first baby brother)
  • Really any time I say anything about anything my students have a related story… like how they have a friend or a relative who lives in the U.S. or that the shoes that they are wearing were sent to them from the states or how their older sister is the same age as me. All wonderful little facts that bring us closer together and blur the line of difference between us.

These last three days of this week is called Ambientación. We don’t have an English word for it but it is pretty much “environment adjustment.” The kids come for short days and we don’t keep to a strict schedule. They are pretty much easing back into school. We will begin the real coursework on Monday.

Lesson planning is just short of killing me. But is it weird that I get excited to teach the four different types of sentences, creative writing and then eventually sentence diagramming?! Yay!

I have been waking up before the sun and going to bed by 9:00 pm. I know. Pick your jaw up off the floor.

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In other news: I have a photography gig this weekend at a quinceañera birthday party and I am working on some updates for the children’s home, Hope House.

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Lilly and Nohe’s photo shoot.

Yesterday, Angie and I took baby Nohe and her dog, Lilly, to the park for a little photo shoot that I have been asking to do for a little while. We coordinated Nohe’s outfit to match Lilly’s bows and had it all planned out. I got a few cute shots (out of 700+) but I think the odds were against us. I felt like I was on a reality TV show doing a photography challenge. Nohe was feeling under the weather and was very leery about the location we chose… mainly because of the itchy grass. Meanwhile, I was stepping/kneeling in horse manure and Lilly darted into the street twice after Angie took her leash off. (I also have a few photos of the chase scene) I know Angie was scared to death for her dog but I couldn’t help but laugh. The whole situation was cracking me up. The only one who wasn’t giggling was the usually-bubbly and camera-ready Nohe. She was more interested in pulling her cute new hot pink bows out of her hair and trying to eat her new beaded bracelets. She was a tough model to work with that day. But I am not dismayed… There will be other photo ops. I will be here for the next year after all. 🙂

Teacher meetings + adapting to the culture

I completed my first week ever of teacher meetings of my first year ever of teaching. 🙂

Time to celebrate? Ok, maybe not yet. We did have chocolate cake today at the school but it was in celebration of the Spanish teacher’s birthday. I can appreciate coworkers who know how to throw a party and make my blood sugar shoot through the roof.

I’m here in Honduras at this newer Christian bilingual school. My coworkers have been wonderful so far and I can not wait to meet my students! (I’ve seen the uniforms – there is no way that a small Honduran child in those little pleated skirts and shorts wouldn’t be cute.)

Humorous Cultural Differences: (I will often write about cultural differences and try to do so objectively although it is almost impossible to remove the lens from which I see the world, which is “American.” I ask the reader to have grace on my observations as I try to reflect on them in a culturally sensitive manner. Nothing written is intended to belittle the Honduran way of life nor to promote imperialistic ideas. I think both cultures have valuable things to learn from one another.)

  • While the rest of the teachers are relaxed, sitting around the room with empty desktops I am taking notes and marking down specific dates and times in my calendar like the anal retentive gringa that I can’t help but be. While they are deciding what they might buy from the pulpería down the street for lunch I am thinking, “crap, my agenda only goes through December 2012!” More than one time I have been told, “tranquilaaa.” (as to say, “take it easy.”) It is a motto that I am gladly learning.
  • The daily newspaper is alive and well here. While back in the states the daily news has been going digital for a while (I certainly did not grow up reading the paper, nor feel inclined to pick the habit up now) a lot of people in Honduras, including youth, read the daily paper.
  • …that being said, the postal service leaves a lot to be desired… snail mail, handwritten letters, what?
  • BUT they still teach cursive in school. (Whilst our American kids couldn’t read a formal handwritten letter to save their lives…)

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We just completed the teacher schedules. I am relieved to have not been assigned one single Science class. (They were considering it and I started to hyperventilate having flashbacks to my 7th grade bug project… ugh!) My schedule is packed and pretty pesado and even though I didn’t get one Spelling class, I ended up with Language 1-6 grade and Reading 1-3 grade and a couple phonics classes. I am ecstatic to start creative writing with my students. 🙂 I wrote my first short story when I was in first grade with my wonderful first grade teacher, Mrs. Sabrina Wilks. I am looking forward to inspiring some hungry minds, feeding their imaginations and hoping that (at least) some of them will fall in love with reading and writing… aside from the valuable skill of becoming proficient in the English language and learning about cultures outside of their own. What an opportunity to influence and form such young, precious lives. I take this responsibility seriously and pray that God gives me the words to speak each day. Pray for me?

*side note: One of the older girls at the children’s home where I am living (separate from the school) heard that a gym in our neighborhood might offer zumba classes. ZUMBA CLASSES. That announcement, albeit a rumor at this point, was music to my ears. We will investigate that and see if we can sign up to shake off some of these beans, rice and tortillas.

The Scoop: My move to Honduras

The not-so-detailed Details and not-very-concrete Facts:

  • I am flying out on one of the last few days of July.
  • I will be teaching English at a Christian bilingual elementary school in the city.
  • School will start (approximately) one week after my arrival. (aah!) *update: no it won’t. I’ll have a few weeks. Whew!
  • I will be working closely with Angie and Hope House.
  • The school year will end (approximately) in June.
  • I will need (approximately) $1000 up front for traveling expenses and some necessities before I receive my first paycheck from the school. It is unclear to predict how much monthly support I might need at this time. Once I know I will update my blog. (if you haven’t watched my support video, please do!)

Some students and me in Darien, Panama from October 2011.

Here’s the thing, I have already committed to participating in Argo Christian Fellowship’s annual medical missions trip (which I love) the first week of July. I have managed to raise enough funds for that trip and, like usual, we will spend our week in Copán, hosting clinics in various villages. This is just the beginning of my crazy month of July – from there I will return home from Honduras, get ready for the wedding of my best friend, Brianna, have a few days at home to pack before I leave to work a conference in Florida and then on to Honduras to live. I don’t know at which point in those 30+ days I will have a chance to sleep but I can at least count on it being interesting.

I am very excited about having students and having a classroom and being able to pour into such impressionable lives to impact their futures. I’ve been reading a self-help book for teachers that belongs to my friend who teaches ESL at a local elementary school. I am only a few pages in but it might be changing my life, haha. I am kind of in the oh-crap-I-hope-I’m-prepared-for-this stage. (hence, the Clase de Inglés teaching Pinterest board I just created)

Pray that I will be prepared to take on the responsibility of a classroom and that I will be able to break through any cultural barriers to effectively reach the hearts and minds of these little ones.