Monday, August 1, 2011

Today I was going over some blogs that my friends write, and I felt pretty blessed that Jackie, a wonderful lady I met here at a party this spring, found my blog and got in contact with me. Of course, I had to go check out her blog too! :-) She participated in an activity that that Lisa over at came up with, and I decided it looked like fun too, so here goes...

1. How long have you been with your husband?

Jorge and I have been together for a little more than 2 years; we were married last October.

2. Can you remember one funny miscommunication because of language barriers?

I'm sure there have probably been several! Off the top of my head, I can't think of one... Jorge speaks English fluently, and when we aren't around his family or our friends here, we speak mostly English.

3. What city/state have you relocated to?

We are in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in sunny Mexico. Many of my American friends assume I mean NEW Mexico when they first find out where I am. It's interesting to hear their reactions when I correct them! LOL

4. Do you and your hubby have any children? How old?

We have a houseful, between the two of us! Joaquin is 10; Bobby is 9; Moises and Isaiah are both 8; Belen and Cliffy are both 6, and Noe is 5.

5. What is one thing your blogger friends do not know about you?

I am an artist. I do hand-drawn charcoal and graphite portraits, mostly from photos my clients email to me. I have had clients in the US, Mexico, Australia, England and India. The last few years I have really slacked off on my work, and now I don't market it at all. Most of what I currently do is for family and friends. But maybe in the near future I'll start working on bigger projects again!

6. What are some of your favorite hobbies or past times?

Well, my art. Reading. I love to sing! I like to cook, and many times you'll find me in the kitchen just because I feel like making something! My Grandpa instilled in me a strong love of gardening, and I love to get my fingers dirty in good rich soil. I also enjoy reading my Bible and listening to my husband preach! :-) There is nothing like the feeling I get, listening to him teach the Word, the passion burning in his eyes... Not a hobby exactly, but something I certainly enjoy!

7. How did you stumble upon the blogging community?

I have been active on FaceBook for years. Last spring, my friend Amanda had a St. Patrick's Day cookout for all of her friends, and we went. While there, I learned about her blog, and also Jackie's blog. I didn't start my own until this summer, but now that I am here, I love it!

8. Have you learned something new about yourself during this whole process that has changed all of our lives?

Well, I don't know if the things I have learned have changed anyone ELSE's life, but they have certainly changed mine! I learned that we have this little community of like-minded people, and that we all struggle with a lot of the same things. I have been inspired by ladies who face harder situations than mine, and never hesitate to keep going. My faith has grown from some of the testimonies shared, and I know now that I am not ever alone- there is always someone to listen, someone to share with, who will not judge based on the common biases found in US culture. My life has been enriched because of every person I have met here- thank you all!

9. Something that you love about Mexico and something that you cannot stand or miss living without.

I love the people here! I haven't once encountered any kind of judgement or bigotry. Everyone seems to think it's great that the guera speaks Spanish and is willing to get right in there and work with them or laugh with them. They have welcomed me into their churches, both large and extremely tiny, with arms wide open and nothing but love. There is none of the racial tension I have seen in the US!

I also love the hand-made items I find in places like Tonala. I just don't make it out there often enough to enjoy it to the max! :-)

I know there are a lot of things that could be mentioned here, but really, the thing that irritates me the most is waking up in the morning to the smell of car exhaust fumes. The city has horrible air quality, and when we take the motorcycle out, we come home feeling like there is grit on our faces. Apart from this, there are small things, but nothing worth mentioning!

The thing I miss the most about the US- our children!!! I think that's pretty self-explanatory...

10. Did you know your in-laws before moving and has it been a big adjustment being closer to them?

I laughed at some of the comments made about this question! I knew my in-laws by phone before moving here- which is totally different than arriving and living with them! LOL It has been an adjustment, for sure, but part of that is our current living situation. Anyone who has ever lived with someone knows it is challenging, no matter how amazing the person you live with is. My in-laws are very loving people. But we do live with them. :-)

11. If you were going back to the States next week, where is the first place you would go, of course after seeing your family?

I would go to the little pizza place in New Buffalo PA, and buy a giant BBQ chicken deluxe calzone (or maybe the pizza version if I had to share! LOL)!!! I haven't experienced anything like it ANYwhere else, in the US or in Mexico!
Now that I am home HERE, in GDL- first on the list is a nice huge arrachera dinner! Mmmmmm!

I feel very blessed to be part of a community of such strong, determined women. My hat's off to you girls! Love you all!

Home Sweet Home!

It's been quite awhile since I have posted! Life got pretty crazy at the end of my time in the US. It was hard taking the boys home- making the 10 hour trip on a day that was extremely hot- 100 degrees- didn't help, nor was it a wonderful thing when the air conditioning died! We stopped every hour or so to have the boys wet their shirts down, so they didn't get heat exhaustion, but it was still really hard on them!
I flew home to Guadalajara on the 26th of July. I boarded the train in Waterloo Indiana- a half hour from Mom's house- two hours late, praying they would still get me to the airport in Chicago on time. We pulled in to Union Station only 45 minutes late- somehow the conductor made up a significant  chunk of time during the trip, and that helped me get to the airport with a little time to spare. God is good!
I had an hour layover in Atlanta, where I realized that there were two others traveling all the way to GDL with me from Chicago. That was the first time anyone ever made the whole trip with me. I really didn't think there was much likelihood of that happening all the way from Chicago, but it was nice to see familiar faces the whole way... We all three had a hard time finding our gate- it was nice to know I wasn't the only one feeling lost!
I didn't realize how much I have missed being surrounded by the Spanish language until we all sat down at the gate and the babel surrounding us started to separate into individual voices- all speaking Spanish! It felt like a relief to me. This might seem strange to some of my readers, but it was definitely a feeling of belonging for me, in spite of being the only guera in the whole waiting area! LOL
We came into Guadalajara out of grey storm clouds, over the beautiful green mountains and big lakes of water that weren't here when I left. I love the rainy season here! The city was like a gem from above, all the jumble of roads and buildings and LIFE running together, creating a teeming mass of humanity- HOME.
Jorge wasn't able to meet me at the airport, but his family was there- our niece and nephew came running when I walked out of the secure area, smothering me in hugs and kisses, nearly knocking me off my feet with their enthusiasm!
We arrived at the house and the phone rang almost immediately- my husband has an amazing sense of timing, and he knew somehow we'd be home. I fell asleep that night exhausted from the travel, but feeling very blessed to be back here, where we can build our lives...
Jorge graduates from his program on Wednesday, and he still has no idea about his party, even though he did find out I was coming home early. My husband will be home in two days- I can't wait! :-)
God is good!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Wonderful Weekend...

My husband was home with his parents this weekend, just for one short night. Since his parents have internet access and a computer with a webcam, we set up a skype account and set up a "date night" for just the two of us on Saturday night...
I haven't seen my Jorge since April. Saturday came, and my excitement and sense of anticipation was growing by the minute. Mom and I took the kids to the city pool and spent 4 hours frying under the hot Ohio sun, and then we headed home. Five thirty- and our date at eleven... What to do for the remaining five and a half hours?! My computer is in my room, which I figured was a good thing, since we could have a little privacy for our first face-to-face in almost 3 months! So I set about cleaning, dusting, and straightening every inch of my room to get it camera ready.  That task accomplished, I fed the kids and got them baths, then tried to get them to bed. Do you think four kids on a Saturday night of a holiday weekend would cooperate? LOL Of course not! Mom offered to keep an eye on them if they were still awake when eleven o'clock rolled around- one more thing off the pre-date check list...
By eight o'clock I was thinking about what makeup to wear and how to do my hair. By nine thirty I was made up, dressed up, and keyed up! Ten o'clock rolled around and we talked a little by phone to make sure his skype was working well, and agreed again to talk at eleven via video... At ten thirty, a call came through on my skype- "can we just do this now? I don't want to wait anymore!" LOL My thoughts exactly!
Let me tell you- seeing his face on my computer screen was amazing!!! I hear his voice every day, and I long to touch him, but the joy it gave me just to see his face after all these months... Wow! I don't even have words to describe it (and those of you who know me well know that I am seldom, if EVER, speechless!) I spent the next few hours basking in the glow of my computer monitor, loving being in the presence of my husband- even if it WAS virtually!- and drinking in the sight of him... His face was like cool water for my thirsty soul! His eyes sparkled, he laughed, he flexed his amazingly sexy arms for me, we giggled and laughed and carried on like two teenage sweet hearts...
Being away from my husband is the hardest thing I have ever had to face. I need him like I need oxygen- he's so much a part of me that I cannot feel complete when we're apart. Days full of loneliness, nights spent in a cold empty bed- people don't ever imagine a marriage to be like this. None of us expected this when we met and fell in love with our spouse. None of us WANTED this- it's something that was forced on us. Separation is painful, but for any couple that has dealt with US immigration laws, it is something that is gone through at one point or another. I personally wouldn't wish this heartache on my worst enemy!
In the midst of all of the trials that our situation brings, it is amazing to have technology like skype so we can talk and see each other, even from 3000 miles  away. It is not anywhere near as great as actually being held in those strong arms, smelling his scent and feeling his warmth, but it IS better than a faceless conversation. So much better! If I could personally thank the creators of skype, I would do it in a heartbeat. I am sure thousands of families just like mine feel exactly the same...
Tonight when we talked- by phone as usual- Jorge told me what a great weekend he had with his family, and about the Bible study he taught when he got back to the center. He led a great service, and the Holy Spirit really moved... And then he said words that warmed me clear through: "It was a great weekend Mami, and you were such a huge part of that. You are a part of every little thing I do... I love you very much!"
Skype, you faceless giant of a company, you are a blessing to this little family! Thank you for the gift of my husband's face!!! :-)

NY Daily News article...

Here is a link to an article written about women who are in situations just like ours... It's about time that mainstream media covered the OTHER side of the story!!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I am pleased to announce...

that I have my ticket home!!! :-) I am flying home to GDL on July 26th. I am THRILLED! I haven't seen my husband in months!
I told Jorge that I am flying in on July 29th, but his parents and I have it planned out for them to pick my up when I fly in on Tuesday... And then, since they will be going to visit on Wednesday (like they do EVERY week) I will just show up with them... His mom said "You better bring some smelling salts to wake him back up, because when he sees you he is going to be so excited he will pass out!!!" LOL
Needless to say, I am very happy about it too...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More of our story...

I realized today that I haven't shared much of our story, so I thought I would take us back a little today... I met Jorge two years ago. (It seems like he has been a part of my life forever! When I think it has only been two years... Wow. It surprises me! LOL) I was on vacation visiting friends, and I was asked to talk to an acquaintance who was in crises. The guy was from Mexico, working at a restaurant in the US, and had just gotten a call from his family, informing him that his sister had a huge growth that had suddenly popped out on her neck, and that it was cancer. The doctors told her family that if it wasn't removed immediately, she would die. This man was devastated- he didn't have the money to help and going home was not an option. He sat on his bed and weeped while all of his friends- there were 8 other people there at the time- tried to comfort him. Someone pulled out a wallet and suddenly all of these Mexicans were emptying their pockets to give what money they had and help. I had never seen anything like it! I stood wide-eyed as they all dropped money on his lap- they wouldn't take no for an answer. And then Jorge walked in. I had never seen him before, and probably wouldn't have paid much attention even then, if he hadn't done what he did next... He walked over to the guy, sat next to him and said "I know someone who is bigger than sickness, bigger than cancer! You know what we need to do! Let's pray!" and there in that tiny packed room he started praying... I was at a point in my life where my faith had been shaken, but there in that room I felt the Holy Spirit move, and I dropped to my knees and cried as the man who would become my husband prayed for a stranger's sister! It was the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard, and when it was over everyone there looked at me like I was a crazy little guera, sitting on the floor with tears running down my face! Jorge, on the other hand, acted like it was no big deal, and simply walked out of the room when he had prayed!
The next day I was alone in the house while everyone was at work. I was sitting with my computer in front of me, working on a portrait, and Jorge walked by. I called out to him in Spanish- it was all I had heard him speak- because I wanted to thank him for praying the night before. He stepped into the room and acted shocked that I spoke Spanish! We introduced ourselves and ended up talking for hours... along the way, I realized he speaks nearly perfect English as well!
We talked again the next day, and when I headed home, I had his phone number. Over the next few weeks, we talked daily. Friendship blossomed into something more, something much much deeper, and it wasn't long before we were talking about marriage. In my heart, I just knew that he was the man I had prayed for, the husband my heart longed for...
We talked about his legal status in the US- he was a resident, and in my nieve way of thinking, that translated as "legal" and "citizen." I was relieved that we would never have to face the trials of dealing with immigration or deportation, like alot of our friends. We talked about his desire to be a pastor, and we talked about the thing that was holding him back- the man I love was a drug addict, fighting every day to try to be free of his demons! I made the decision, after a lot of prayer, that God had put him into my life and that he was indeed an answer to prayer and the longings of my heart. I felt the Lord whispering, "just LOVE him. Love him unconditionally, as I have loved you, and I will make everything ok!"
He moved to be closer to me, and we became active in a couple local churches. We were talking classes to become pastors, and we started hosting weekly Bible studies at his house. And I was busy planning our wedding.
Then in the early spring of last year, Jorge fell back into his old habits and became very depressed. He ended our relationship and disappeared. Two weeks later I learned that he had been arrested on DUI and minor possession charges, in a city four hours from home. Devastated and betrayed, I refused to contact him. But every week I called the jail to check on him, and then reported back to his mom about how he was doing. Finally, three months later, he called me. It was a short conversation, and in my anger I was very short. He asked me to wait for him and begged for forgiveness. A week later, I went to see him. It was a long process, but we were able to work things out, and I was able to forgive him for hurting me. He was sentenced, and we anxiously awaited his release. We were planning our wedding for November 6th, after he came home... It wasn't to work out that way, though. A few days before his release, I got a call from a very upset Jorge, telling me that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had picked him up. His residency meant nothing, and he was being held in ICE custody, pending yet ANOTHER trial, this time to determine his right to remain in this country or not. I spent the next few days in a haze of pain and anger. I could not understand why a man who had served his time and was here with all the correct papers should be held in ICE custody and deported! They refused to set a bond, so he couldn't even come home while we waited for his trial... But in those first few days my husband let his light shine! He would call and tell me about being locked in these horrible holding cells, packed in like cattle, without clean water to drink and nothing to sit on. And in those horrid conditions, he started to minister. The first day alone he told me that 18 of the 23 people in his cell got saved! Those moments were my rock- knowing that my Jorge was being used even in there, and that he was ok in spite of it all!
He was sent to an ICE holding facility 13 hours from home- so far there was no chance of me visiting him. And he was held there (after being moved to a different facility in a different state for just a few days) for 3 months. Somewhere along the way, my anger at having the love of my life ripped away from me, and having our wedding taken as well turned into a hard resolve. This was the man I loved and no government was going to steal our dreams! I spent days on the phone, researching to find out where we could get a marriage license without him being physically present, and how we could find a pastor to perform a ceremony by phone. The answer turned out to be right in my backyard!
Our local court house turned out to be the ONLY place in three states that would issue me a marriage license without Jorge being present. All I needed was a copy of his driver's license, and his social security number and birth information. As it turned out, the farm where he had been working helped me by providing copies of his driver's license, residency card, and social security card! I bought the license, and set my sites on the last requirement- a pastor to do our ceremony.
The church we had been attending required a month long marriage on the rock class before marrying a couple. We had never done this. The other church I had been attending was across the state line, so the pastor could not perform the wedding. I called all of the pastors I knew, and met rejection with each one. Finally, in desperation, I listened to the small voice that had been saying "call Ron!" since I began my search. Ron was a man in our ministry classes, and he had made a big impression on Jorge and I. So, humbly, I called Ron and explained our situation. I asked if he had any idea where I could find a pastor to marry us. After a brief silence, Ron asked "How much do you know about my background?" I really didn't know anything about him, and I said as much. As it turned out, Ron was an ordained mennonite minister who had not led a church in years, but was still licensed by the state. He agreed to do the ceremony in my living room, with Jorge attending by phone!
On Friday October 22, 2011, in a very small ceremony, I became Mrs. Jorge Medina. My children were there, and a couple from church served as our witnesses. They made me cry when they arrived with beautiful hand-tied pink roses. "Every bride needs a bouquet!" they explained... We exchanged vows with my cell phone set to speaker so all our guests could hear, and the groom didn't get a chance to kiss the bride. We spent our wedding night hundreds of miles apart, I with my youngest son and a cat curled up beside me, while my husband spent it sleeping on a hard bunk surrounded by 50 other men. It was two months before he was sentenced and granted voluntary departure, and sent back to Mexico, where we could begin our life together as husband and wife!
In the mean time, we were faced with hard choices. We both have children from previous marriages. Taking his with us to Mexico wasn't an option, since they lived with their mother. But I had custody of my children, and they were determined NOT to go to Mexico. The choice our government forced me to make was very painful: follow my husband to Mexico and be without my children, or be with my children and live without my husband. My kids helped me decide- they knew everything about our situation, and they all agreed that they liked the school at their dad's, and that it would be fun living there instead of just visiting in the summers. I went to Mexico with my children's blessing, and little Isaiah's words ringing in my ears: "Mommy, the Bible says ALL people have to know about Jesus, and I think you and Jorge should be the ones teaching those Mexicans about him! Besides, if you go now maybe He won't send ME when I grow up!" I laughed, but it hurt to leave them...
On December 15, after nine months of being apart, I stepped off a plane in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and into the arms of my husband!
Guadalajara was amazing, and I loved it right away, but I missed my kids and fought constant guilt over leaving them. The newness and romance of being together slowly wore off for both of us, and we found ourselves in the reality of trying to make a life in Mexico. I had no papers to work, and Jorge had spent 14 years in the US, so he was almost as clueless as I was. The stress took its toll and ended in us fighting and ultimately, in Jorge using again. In April, after weeks of struggle, I came back to the US to let him fight his battle on his own. I didn't know how to support him, I didn't know how to fight for him, and I felt betrayed by his continuing to turn to the arms of a drug for comfort. He, for his part, was hurt by our fighting and my sharp words, and felt betrayed by my lack of support. With a heavy heart, I left, not sure that I would ever even SPEAK to my husband, let alone see him... After a couple days, we finally had a chance to talk. I begged him to change, he said he wanted to but didn't know if he could, and then he would use again and the cycle would repeat. Finally, after two weeks, and without me asking, he checked himself into a rehab center and committed to 3 months of intensive inpatient therapy, something he was not even willing to consider before that.
He has made amazing progress in the program. They have an open door policy, which means Jorge can walk out and go use any time he chooses to. And they are not isolated in the building- they go downtown, they take trips to the zoo, parks, all the places where temptation is on every corner... But Jorge has stayed- he has fought tooth and nail and has allowed himself to be stretched in ways that have been physically, emotionally and spiritually painful. He has opened his heart up and taken a stand, and even though there have been days when it's taken every ounce of courage and determination he has to not walk out that door, he has persevered! He has started preaching again, which is his heart's desire. I can't wait to hear him in front of his first crowd, sharing this testamony God has given him!
 For my part, I have been able to spend this time with my mom, who is battling Grave's Disease, and my little brother, who is autistic. My boys are with me for the summer, and even though I miss my husband with every ounce of my being, I know that very very soon we will be together again. And I am growing too- I realize that I was becoming the nagging wife that I never ever wanted to be, and that I was not helping my husband fight his addiction. In fact, I am sure there were days when I pushed him toward it! But God is growing me and helping me to overcome the parts of my nature and my own personal baggage, and I know that together, my husband and I will fight through this. I will not walk away from him again! And I am sure that he won't either.
Jorge graduates the program on August 3, and we are celebrating with a surprise party at the Chili's in Plaza del Sol. He has no idea about the party, but I feel the need to celebrate him, to thank him for his courage and determination. I have never been so proud of my husband or so honored to be his wife.
I am looking forward to a long life by his side. In whichever country God puts us!!!

The Wedding Prayer

Create in us a love, O Lord.
An eternal love …
Your love.
A love that forgives any failure,
spans any distance,
withstands any tempest.
Create in us a love, O Lord.
A new love.
A fresh love.
A love with the tenderness of a lamb,
the grandeur of a mountain,
the strength of a lion.
And make us one. Intimately one.
As you made a hundred colors into one sunset,
A thousand cedars into one forest,
and countless stars into one galaxy …
make our two hearts as one,
Father, forever …
that you may be praised, Father,

From Shaped by God (original title: On the Anvil)
Copyright (Tyndale House, 1985, 2002) Max Lucado