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In January 2008, our lives were changed. We celebrated New Years in Guatemala with our family, and then received our son Elliot on Amelia’s birthday (Jan 2). It was awe-inspiring to celebrate this trilogy of milestones with our family in such an incredibly beautiful place!

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Fast forward a week … Our family returned home to the US. Amelia and I were waiting for Elliot’s immigration papers in Guatemala, not knowing exactly how long it would be until we could come home as a family of four. Suddenly, we felt extremely ill-equipped to handle reality. I’ll never forget … We were sequestered in a hotel with our two year old, Micah and 8 month old Elliot, who was just getting to know us. I’m pretty sure he didn’t like us at the time. But who could blame him? His whole life was turned upside down. Our lives were turned upside down. And the kicker … we all started getting sick. I don’t mean a little cough. I mean epic proportions … diarrhea. Yep! And, what wasn’t exploding out our downstairs, was rocketing from our upstairs! Imagine eating breakfast in a hotel, surrounded by businessmen in fancy suits … and here we were, the circus sideshow, but not the kind with funny clowns. We were more like the freaks. And … As if it couldn’t get more awkward, the hotel kicked us out due to security concerns because international diplomats were arriving for the Guatemalan Presidential Inauguration. Perhaps they couldn’t risk of an international epidemic of the trots???

Picture us walking down the street to another hotel, with all our baggage and two kids in tow, covered in poo and vomit like unfortunate vagabonds in search of shelter, comfort, and healing. Some might call it uncomfortable. In the middle of it all, it felt quite … horrific. We weren’t sleeping, couldn’t keep food down, and were becoming quite delirious. AND … There was no clear end in sight, because we didn’t know exactly when we would get our embassy appointment. In that moment, it felt like an eternity of torment. Thankfully, I had enough sense to press record on the video camera.

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You might ask why I would want to record such a seemingly bad time in our lives. I didn’t put a lot of thought into it then, but now I know. I wanted perspective. I wanted to look at that moment of time through a different lens – a different chapter of my life. 

Looking back now … It wasn’t really that bad. And, no matter how horrific it might have seemed at the time, it was all worth it. All of it was worth it because it brought us our son, whom we love dearly. I guess it was like our own version of the delivery room (I don’t really know for sure, cause I’ve never experienced it, but I can imagine) … anticipation … discomfort growing into pain … confusion … screaming … body fluids … delirium … and not knowing when any of it was truly going to end. But, we kept breathing, and pushing, and breathing … running for hot, wet towels …  and then, in the right time, our tears were turned to joy. Our personal conflict was resolved. We got the paperwork we needed, and we flew home a family of four, greeted at the airport by people we adored! It was awe-inspiring! All of it was awe-inspiring, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because it’s part of our story. It shaped who we are today.

People say hindsight is 20-20. I don’t know if we ever see with perfect vision, but we can certainly try to connect dots and see patterns as we reflect back on our life’s events. I didn’t know it at the time, but two days after I recorded this video, a missionary friend invited me to meet some of his friends. His friends just happened to be gang members in a Guatemalan prison. Hidden behind their frightening tattooed faces were stories of children who were simply trying to survive in an environment with very few options. When I left the prison, I asked the guard to stamp my passport, so I could never forget that I was there.

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Later that night I returned to my hotel (which used to feel like a prison, but not so much anymore). I couldn’t erase the contrast of the gang members – those young lives “left behind”, and my son – the precious baby I held in my arms and rocked to sleep. My heart was stirred to respond. All of our stories collided into a new story, that ultimately birthed our nonprofit, Athentikos.

I watch this video every year as a reminder of how blessed we are as a family. I still tear up when I watch it, but it also makes me smile. In January 2008, our lives were changed … for the better.

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