Back in the USA

What a wild week we’ve had!  Fernando, Laura, Sara, Gabi, Melissa, Katie, Matthew and Amanda arrived from Ecuador on Wednesday and life as we know it is changed for the next six or seven months!  Yes, somehow we all—all eleven of us—fit into the old house on Madison Avenue!  It is, shall we say—cozy—to say the least.  We have the bedroom space, but actual living space is at a premium with only a living and dining room in which to congregate—and Robbie’s bed and chair take up a good third of the living room.  For the first couple days we were stubbing toes and tripping over suitcases, toys and each other, but as they got unpacked and the novelty of Robbie’s toys wore off (and two-thirds of them got banished to the basement) we gradually began to see the floor again.  It was a bit stressful at first, but I kept reminding myself that once they were settled in and we got into a routine it would be easier—and already that is true.

Bathroom time continues to be an issue.  No one except Bob seems to want to use the bathroom downstairs, so the line is long for the one up here.  I have gotten to where if I see the door open I make a dash for it—whether I really have to go or not!  In the evenings when people are taking showers and getting ready for bed I have waited as long as three hours for my turn!  Kudos to Bob—the new water heater he installed and all the pipes and plumbing and faucets he changed before they came really paid off!

And mealtimes?  We have a full table!  There are nine of us gathered around, and often Robbie in his wheelchair and Amanda in her car seat join us, as well.  At first I was overwhelmed.  I had big plans for the meals I was going to make the first day they got here but we ended up having Taco Bell for lunch and Pizza Hut for supper!  I felt rather bad about that.  Fernando’s mother would have had a big five or six course meal on the table for them the minute they walked in the door.  They did get the fresh strawberry pies I had made, and over the next couple days some of the other things they had been longing for—cannolis, biscuits and gravy, corn on the cob…  I have become lazy in my old age, though, and I do not cook like Fernando’s mother and sister.  Simple one or two course meals are about all I can handle or afford, and I have to confess, we have used paper plates for every single meal, so far, to cut down on the dishes (I don’t have a dishwasher.)  We will be using real plates today, though, for Sunday dinner—whoo-hoo!  And what fun it is to see all those young, precious faces around our table enjoying Grandma’s cooking!

Today’s dinner will include rice—something that is a daily staple for them in Ecuador.  I suddenly realized yesterday we had not had rice yet since they’d been here and Fernando and some of the kids must surely be missing it.  I told him that anytime he wanted to cook Ecuadorian he was welcome to do so.  (He loves to cook.) 

The lifestyle here will be different for them.  Laurie was getting Matthew ready for bed last night around 8:15 and he was objecting.  “But Mom,” he said as he pulled back the curtain and pointed out the window, “it’s still morning!”  They live so close to the equator that the sun goes down around 6:30 every night all year long and since it was still light outside here, surely it couldn’t be time for bed yet!  Going to Wal-Mart here has been a big treat to them and they cannot get over the “cheap” prices for clothes and shoes, food and other goods for which they pay two, three or even four times more down there.  Laurie said even the highway seemed wonderful to her as they drove home from the airport.  Best of all, she said, was the sense of freedom and relief she felt as she got off the plane just to be back in the USA again.

Poor thing.  It is understandable why she felt that way.  A few hours earlier as she had tried to check in for their flight from Ecuador they had stopped her and said she was not in the computer system and therefore she must be in the country illegally and she would not be allowed to leave!  That was upsetting enough, but she was even afraid they were going to try to put her in jail!  They had spent the month before and hundreds of dollars flying back and forth to Quito dealing with countless hassles with bureaucrats trying to get their paperwork in order, but somehow Laurie’s ID number had been lost in the system and now here at the last minute she was being detained.  They eventually let her go, but now they have to try to get it “fixed” one more time before she goes back.

The red tape, power-mad officials, and bureaucracy they deal with down there really get to them.  It took a full week and five trips, standing in line for hours at a time in different offices just to get their license plate renewed on their car.  Within 24 hours of arriving here this week, Fernando had the emissions test done, the new plates for their van and his driver’s license renewed.  That seemed like a miracle to him!

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many wonderful things about Ecuador.  For a third world country it is far better than most in many ways.  I loved being in Ecuador.  It is beautiful and the people are warm and gracious.  I would not compare it with the USA, for they are very different, but I can understand the appreciation for freedom that one senses upon returning to America.  As we celebrate our freedom this weekend, it is especially poignant for our family.  It is wonderful to have the Naranjos home in time to party with us!  This is Fernando’s first time to celebrate the Fourth of July here as a US citizen, so it will be especially meaningful.  I know his homeland has first place in his heart, but he appreciates the freedom and good things about his adopted land, as well.

The United States is an exceptional nation.  The fact that it was founded on biblical principles, acknowledging God as Creator and Sovereign is perhaps why God has chosen to bless her so abundantly.  The fact that the US has defended the Jews and supported Israel is why God has continued to bless her, despite the way our country has begun to turn from His ways and even belief in Him.  Whether or not our exceptionalism and the blessing of God upon our nation will continue remains to be seen. 

We prize our freedom as Americans.  It was bought with the blood, sweat and tears of our young men and women through the last two hundred and thirty-five years.  We as Christians prize a greater freedom even more.  It was bought with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32)   We are bought from the slavery of sin.  Jesus went on to say, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin…If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36)  The price was high and we owe Him everything because of it—our lives, our time, our love, our service.  “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (I Corinthians 6:20)

Tomorrow we will be celebrating at a big family party.  From what I hear, it sounds like it will be the biggest Fourth of July celebration yet for our clan.  We will be mindful and appreciative of our freedoms as Americans, and I know I will be thankful and praising God for my freedom in Christ

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