Monday, December 27, 2010

Let the re-entry begin...

I've realized more and more with every passing day that I have no idea what's going on inside of me... and since this place here, my little corner of the online world, usually involves me putting words to my thoughts, penning feelings and processing... I've been avoiding it... because this place that usually brings me such comfort is actually a scary place for me right now... so it's been put aside while I avoid all the confusion in my head and my heart...

The reality is that our family is so blessed!

The last month was supposed to be a month of settling in...
a month for us to get our feet underneath us,
for Gary to get ready and prepared for grad school,
for us visit our families,
for us to visit our supporters and churches,
and enjoy being back in the good 'ol US of A.

But instead it has been a time of survival. I can't lie and say that I'm not disappointed and frustrated that things didn't play out the way that we planned... but those thoughts form in my mind I know and am reminded how blessed we are.

Blessed that the need for surgery waited until we were stateside,
that it was just shy of my insurance policy expiring,
that it was able to be done by a neurosurgeon I know and trust.

I realize how incredibly blessed I am to have a family who can care for Joshua for a month, a husband who has taken care of my other two monkeys by himself at our new house and while I was able to recover knowing that my munchkins were all cared for. I'm struggling between mourning what was lost, mourning what didn't turn out like I would have liked, and realizing (through much much much self reminder) that things turned exactly like they should have, and in the best way possible... We have been blessed with furniture, funds to start over and so much more by friends and family and from people we've never even met... talk about blessed! We've been covered in prayer through the entire process and know that it's been by the grace of God that we've survived...

And we have survived, but surgery delayed the processing... the processing of re-entry, the feelings, the thoughts, the yuckies. There's so much that you have to put aside for the sake of survival... but now that the fog of surviving surgery has lifted a little, the wheels are starting to turn again...

We're not in Cochabamba anymore, and there's no flight booked to carry us back there to our apartment, to the boys' school, to our friends, to our teammates, to our church, and to our life.

Our life is here now.

I'm in a tug of war (TOW) with my heart to be at peace with that.

This new life is in a place...

where Wal-Mart runs are part of a weekly routine. (TOW... I'm so grateful that I have daily access to Children's Tylenol, Chili powder, new socks and milk in gallon jugs... but I miss knowing the people who check me out, looking people in the eye as we walk past each other and greeting whether we know each other or not).

where Sonic will still be just down the street (TOW... seriously? Sonic... right down the street? I'm happy as a clam for happy hour everyday... but the brain freeze I'm getting after coming from a no ice culture is causing me to lose brain cells with every swig of Cherry Limeade I take :)

where my parents will still be just a local cell phone call away (TOW... there's really not a tug of war here... I've been waiting for five years to have my parents just down the road from me, Gary and their grandkids... the only struggle is learning how to live alongside each other again :) thank goodness they're being very gracious with me as I figure it out!)

where there are a billion churches within a 5 mile radius of our house (TOW... Gary and I have never church shopped... we went from attending an inner city ministry church, to ministering there, to attending our supporting congregation, to attending the church we were working to plant... it's really hard to walk in the doors of a church as non-staff members... it's nice to leave the responsibility and pressure behind... but the automatic being "known" is going to be a hard thing to walk away from)

where it's seriously cold (TOW... I've complained for five years now that it's just not Christmasy feeling in Cochabamba because it's not cold enough... but now it's so cold and I'd kill to turn my kids lose outside to play in their flip flops!)

where we live in a "Christian" country (TOW... I'm so grateful to be back in a nation that was founded on faith and liberty, that for the most part is not corrupt (and if you have anything to say here, let's talk Bolivian history level corruption ok?!)... but why are we not living our faith outloud everyday? People in Bolivia knew why we were there. They knew what we stood for. They knew what our mission was. And I'm praying that we don't lose that overt way of living our faith being back here in the states).

That's all I've got for now :) it's a confusing, muddled place to be this mind of mine... thanks for reading (for the 2 of you who made it this far... and yes, I included my husband in that count :) This re-entry thing is an experience all its own. There is absolutely nothing like it in this world. I wouldn't trade it because that means that I would lose the life I've had, the experiences that have changed me, shaped me, and forever made me who I am today... I'm just praying I can figure out a way to live in peace with myself no matter what country my feet find themselves in... that's the goal...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Contributions and self worth...

Where exactly does my self-worth come from? My Sunday school answer would be "God"... "Jesus"... "being saved"... but the current situation that I find myself in (laid up in bed with back pain that is keeping me from walking, sitting, and basically doing anything other lying still) has shed some new light on my self-worth...

If I'm truly honest with myself, my self-worth comes from my ability to contribute, my ability to produce, my ability to take care of others and myself. Not the prettiest answer, nor the answer I wish that it was, but never the less... it's the honest answer.

And the past week in bed has taught me just how honest. It kills me to constantly ask for help... in taking care of my kids, in helping me move from one place to the other, in getting something to eat or drink, in running to the store to pick up things for Joshua, in doing laundry, in basically anything and everything that you can think of... and it has rocked me to the core to realize that so much of how I see myself and how I place value on who I am comes from just that, my ability to contribute or to produce. I'm trying (and I strongly emphasize the word trying) to use this time of rest and quiet to hear the voice of my Father, encouraging me to be reminded that my value does not lie in what I can do, but rather in who I am... it's a tough pill to swallow, a hard truth to understand, but I'm trying, and that's a start...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where does the time go...

It seems like just yesterday I was boarding a plane with a little squirt of a baby strapped to me... he was just four months old... we had no idea who he would become, how he would be in constant motion, how he would truly love people, how he would thrive on affirmation of those he loves, how he would love music, singing, and dancing, how he would be a great big brother to two little Bulls to come... he changed our world on September 13, 2005 and continues to change us day in and day out as we learn how to love him, parent him and guide him in this journey he's on to becoming a man of God...

Nathan, this past year has been filled with more of your voice than I ever thought I would hear :) you have developed a need to always be around your Daddy or I, to be sharing something with us, showing us your newest novelty in life, and simply being in constant conversation with us. While at moments I long for a little peace and quiet :) I know that the day will come when I will long for you to share with me, talk with me, and open up in the way that you are doing now... so I'm cherishing these moments... the moments like tonight where you climbed up on the chair in the kitchen to help me cook, wanting to be by my side, wanting to know that you have a place with me always... tonight you put your arms around my neck and whispered in my ear... I'll miss you Mommy... I'm not sure if it came out of you hearing us say that to others during this time of transition, if you think you're going to stay here while we move back home :) or what... but it made me think deeply about the days when you are grown and out on your own, oh how I will miss you my sweet firstborn!... you are so like me in so many ways and I'm so thankful for all that you teach me about love, about my faith, and about who I am... you are a treasure to your daddy and I and we will love you always! I love you more than my next breath my sweet grown up five year old :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Church Retreat 2010

Every year we take time out as a church family to get away... it's a day filled with teaching, worship, fellowship, and FUN :) This year was no exception... a little bittersweet as it was our last, but fun none the less... here are a few pictures of the festivities...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's like ripping off a band-aid...

I was four going on five... then eleven going on twelve... then sixteen going on seventeen... then eighteen and starting college... then a newlywed of 22... then 25, a young career gal... and then a first time mommy being called to the mission field. They were all years of transition, years of moving from one place to another, years of saying good-bye to homes, friends, church families, favorite places and a life made... and here it is upon me again.

Most of the moves in my life have been because work took our family from one place to another, college and new chapters of life were starting, or God was calling to us different ministries abroad... either way, the moves all seemed (remember this is the hind-sight of a sleep deprived mommy of toddlers remembering moves now many years in the past :) fairly fast... like ripping off a band-aid. You grab a hold of one end... take a deep breath, hold it for a second and RIP... it hurts and it stings, but in the end, it's quick (definitely not painless, but quick).

I always thought that was the best way to handle moving from one place to the next... keep ties as loose as possible... making the heartache as minimal as possible. But I'm learning through the process of this move that's looming in the not so distant future, that the heartache remains and resurfaces no matter how far you sweep it under the rug.

When Gary and I shared our departure date with the church here in Cochabamba many people thought we were sharing that information way too early. It was January and we would be here until the first week in November... that was almost 10 months of good-byes. This past Sunday as I sat and cried through worship service, grieving all the things that we will be leaving behind, I realized that 10 months is just what we needed. Okay, I'll speak for myself, just what I needed.

I needed to know that the events of this year are the "lasts" for our family in Cochabamba... and I needed to process that through that with our church family and my dear friends here. Does it mean that it won't still hurt, still sting when we board that plane in November? Heavens no... but what I'm hoping and praying, is that it means I'll be a little more emotionally ready for that departure. That I will have spent time in thought and prayer coming to terms with the changes that are on the horizon for our family... as opposed to avoiding them (which is my usual M.O.)

I'm praying that this year of transition will afford me the opportunities to make sure I've said all that I need to say to those that I've grown to love and care for here, that I won't walk away feeling as if there wasn't true closure... because the truth is that for all its craziness, this place has become our home. It still annoys the peewaddle out of us at times, and the culture is still something that proves to us daily that we are foreigners here, not in our home culture... but for better or worse we became a family here. Two of my sons are Cochabambinos, and a part of my "family" will always be here in this country I've grown to appreciate and cherish for what it has given us and taught us.

The good-byes are so hard, they leave my heart aching, but with the time that we've allowed ourselves, I'm processing through it much better than I ever have. I'm leaving one home for another, each place has its beauties and its uglies, and I, Laurita, will be a better woman for having lived in, loved in, and given a part of myself to both places!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Making a game of everything :)

One thing you learn about living in a third world country is that internet speed is never what you hope it will be... and many times isn't even what you're paying for, but that's another story :) Because today I want to tell you how much I love that my Grant Thomas in all his two year old wonder and fun is everywhere in the worldness makes a game even out of slow internet... the thorn in his mommy's flesh.

Every time that Grant is watching something online, be it on PBS kids, YouTube or Facebook the dreaded spinning wheel comes up telling him that his fun filled watching experience is about to be interrupted. And not by anything worthwhile like emergency weather reports, or words from world leaders, no... just because the internet is being persnickety. But my sweet son in all his playfulness takes it all in stride (very unlike his mother) and has made it a game... every time the spinning wheel makes its appearance Grant throws his hands in the air, chunky toddler fingers spread wide and yells at the computer... FREEZE. Yep, he's playing the freeze game :) From what I can gather it's much like red light, green light, but to watch it being played between my son and my laptop... seriously one of the funniest things I've seen this side of the equator in a long time :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just another day...

The sun rose this morning like always... the micros began their routes, breadmakers kneaded the dough that would later become scrumptious edible creations, the pidgeons took their post on the power line outside our door waiting for our neighbor to bring their breakfast, the boys went to school and the world began another Wednesday... but for our family, for our church, and for our team, it was anything but just another Wednesday. Because this day one year ago... our world rocked, it turned upside down, and it would never be the same again.

It was hot in Arkansas last year... Joshua had yet to enter this world... and our furlough was winding to a close. We were headed out the door for a good-bye dinner with Gary's family before traveling back to Texas and the phone rang... an accident... the youth group... no details... but possible deaths and many injured... There are no words to describe what the feeling is that inhibits your body as you hear news like that from afar. The helplessness... the fear... the anxiety... and the gutwrenching sorrow is overwhelming. Details trickled in, our kids... our teens... hurt, in surgery, in casts, in intensive care, lost.

It's been a year now and we stood today at the graves of Ariana, Diana, and Belen. My heart ached with sorrow, and yet also with pride, as I watched a group of teens who have weathered this storm together stand, arms linked, heads bowed, praying to the God that saved them, while standing over graves of those they loved. I walked the streets today watching people go about their "normal" lives... they don't realize that there are three beautiful young ladies they will never know, never cross paths with, never encounter... it literally makes my insides hurt. I want to stand on the corner and shout... I'm not sure what I'd say, but something, anything to make the world stop, if even just for a second... to remember that there has been loss, there have been lives' changed forever, there have been bodies broken and healed, and there have been hearts forever changed and brought closer together, and closer to their Maker...

Camila cried her heart out today at the grave of her dear friend Belen, crying... "Why?" Through her confusion and her tears I prayed... I prayed over her hurt, prayed thanksgiving for the life that she still lives, and prayed that she realize that her God is big enough to handle her hurt... big enough, and strong enough to carry her confusion, her anger, and her broken heart. It's a tall order for a teenage girl of 15, but I know that God is faithful... and I'm clinging to that. And as I rocked Joshua to sleep tonight, holding him a little longer and a little tighter, kissing his little cheeks one extra time, the song that played over and over in my head went...

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases...
His mercies never come to an end...
They are new every morning...
Great is thy Faithfulness...
The Lord is my portion says my soul...
Therefore I will hope in Him!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Tonight I'm thankful for...

the knowledge that I can survive three weeks with three little boys.

Sonia and Jenny that helped me survive those three weeks.

dear friends who encouraged me, prayed for me, visited me, called me, and busted me out when needed.

children's ibuprofen (now Nathan has a fever)

the experience of knowing myself well enough to know that I needed to be intentionally thankful every night before bed, before starting a new day.


Grant's spaghetti face :)

Joshua's sweet little hands reaching up for me when I walk by.

the fact that the power was only out for half an hour.

that the boys didn't cry for too long in the dark before I got candles lit and flashlights located.

church members who offer to go pick my husband up from the airport.

no-bakes and coffee... which kept me sane more than once today.

Tonight I'm most thankful for my dear sweet husband who is on his way home to us... his family! Oh how we have missed him... but we are so proud of him, his service to our God, his discipline in his studies and his planning for our stateside life, and his devotion to us, his wife and his sons. We love you Gary Bull and are so so so so thankful for you, the man you are, the love that you give to us, and all that you are to our family :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thankful... ok, who's keeping track anymore? :)

Tonight I'm thankful for...



Nathan's belly laughs with his Papa over "See you later alligator"... "After awhile crocodile" :)

Joshua's sleepy sounds already being heard over the monitor.

the new Dora video that's occupying my two oldest.

spaghetti sauce in a jar (yes again!)

fresh bread daily!


hand-me cords from Denise.

bills paid for the month!

clean bathrooms (that I didn't have to clean!)

the full night's sleep that's going to happen tonight (I'm trying to think positive!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thankful... make-up days :)

Well these past couple of days have been spent surviving... I've decided that back pain is the arch nemesis of mommies with little ones... so the time at the computer has been sporadic and little. But I've got a second, that seems to be pain free, so I'm going to try and catch up a little :)

I'm thankful for...

grace when the thankfulness doesn't freely flow.

time with Angie over coffee, talking about nothing and everything all at the same time.

beautiful roses to brighten my day!

Grant's tender heart that comforts us (Nathan, Joshua, and I) when we're upset... sweet boy that one!

my spank spoon (again!)

corner stores that keep me from having to go to the grocery store for every little thing I forget.

little baby teeth :)

little boys learning to do head stands

the fact that the celebratory fireworks over the soccer game last night (that could have woken up my kiddos) only lasted until midnight... hey, I'm trying really hard to look at my cup half full here :)

new books to read.

ice packs... which speaking of... I should go sit on one for awhile :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Thankful... day 14

Tonight I'm thankful...

for Dr. Firestone and his willing to come in and see me on a Sunday morning!

that even though I'm not 100%, I'm feeling better.

that my boys are feeling better and want to go to school tomorrow.

so thankful for Jenny who was willing to come to work on a Sunday to take care of me and the boys!

that Renata was at church!

that this time next week, the daddy will be HOME!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thankful... day 13

Tonight I'm thankful for...

wonderful friends who take me to suspenseful movies, even knowing the risk they take of being embarassed by my screams :)

househelp that are willing to come in on a Sunday to help out a hurt mama and her sicky boys.

teammates who make long shot phone calls to get doctor's cell phone numbers :)

the fact that in Bolivia you can call a doctor as a total stranger and he's still willing to come in on a Sunday to see you!

Cozzolisi's (the fact that there's a place in town I can order pizza from when we're not up to cooking!)

Children's tylenol and ibuprofen.

tomorrow which marks 2/3 of the way there!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thankful... day 12

Tonight I'm thankful for...

taxis when we're too lazy to walk to school.

a lunch/movie date with Angie tomorrow!

fried chicken that's good for the soul no matter what country you're in :)

new tab tops on the juice boxes here in Bolivia (before you had to cut the corner and just pour... it's a little thing, but a big thing for this mommy!)

naps with Grant.

Boston Legal that literally made me laugh out loud today :)

Joshua's once a week bath :)

a husband that knows our needs as a family through this transition and is doing all he can to meet them!

a God who is ever-present, and ever-willing to be in constant conversation with me :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thankful... day 11

Tonight I'm thankful...

that Gary did GREAT on his GMAT!!!

that I decided to turn off the laptop all day long... makes for being present for my boys much easier!

that Joshua and Grant both had great naps today.

that I have great teammates to call & make sure we survived the day :)

for Chizito kisses.

that the boys have school tomorrow!

for the opportunity to share with others!

for infant Tylenol for teething babies!

the possibility of a nap tomorrow!

that we are on the downhill slope of daddy's three weeks away!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thankful... day 10

Tonight I'm thankful...

that we've almost hit the halfway mark!

that I can usually tickle Grant out of any screaming tantrum he's throwing :)

for canned tuna.

the promise of Brazil.

for the quiet mornings while boys are in school.

that I finished my study in time to lead Bible study tonight (even though no one showed)

for the visit time I got with Katie and Liz when no one showed ;)

that I got to chat with Jen.

that the day is over!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thankful... day 9

Tonight I'm thankful...

that the boys had another great day at school.

that I didn't kill one of my children today despite the fact that Grant and Joshua didn't nap and lost it (totally lost it) at the same time, crying at me for an hour b/c I couldn't hold them on my lap at the same time...

for red painted toe nails, trimmed cuticles and tweezed eyebrows.

for finishing the week 5 study of our Beth Moore bible study (especially since I'm facilitating the study tomorrow night)

for Nathan's little fingers interwined with mine as I went back in after putting Joshua to bed (for the second time) to say I was sorry for being so grumpy today.

for forgiveness from my children.

this day is over.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thankful... day 8

Tonight I'm thankful for...

our permanent visas (after taking some newbies to start their one-year visa process I was reminded just how thankful I am that we're through with the process)

spaghetti sauce out of a jar.

a great day at their new school for the boys!

naked booties running down the hall for bathtime :)

Grant deciding that rather than talking today he'd just growl all day long :)

the threat of the spank spoon, that apparently was scary enough yesterday that we didn't actually have to use it today!

strawberry peach frozens (like a frozen fresh fruit smoothie)

the promise of an hour to myself tomorrow for a manicure/pedicure!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thankful... day 7

Tonight I'm thankful for...

the fact that I got myself, Nathan, Grant and Joshua, bathed, dressed, fed and to church before singing began (and without househelp thank you very much)!

Bolivian sisters at church who took care of Joshua all through service so I could tend to the older two hooligans.

hearing Nathan and Grant giggling with each other as I headed up the hall after putting Joshua to sleep.

the spank spoon.

long hugs and talks after the spank spoon.

a fresh pitcher of Kool-aid.

Joshua enjoying sitting in his Bumbo and playing (b/c at least one kid's going to get their money's worth out of it).

a nap (yeah you read that right!) that allowed me to have said nap (while Nathan played and his brothers napped).

the end of my first day without househelp since Gary left.

the boys first day of school tomorrow!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thankful... day 6

Well today was a rough day... said good-bye (for now) to a dear dear friend... she and her family are headed stateside for a year-long furlough which means we won't see each other again this side of the equator. God was so amazing to bless me with her friendship... just makes it really hard to say good-bye... so amidst all the emotional rollercoasterness that's going on inside right now, the thankfulness is harder to come by today... but I'm determined, so here I go:

Tonight I'm thankful for...

donut holes this morning with Kaitlynn in between her sweet hugs and big smiles.

Rosaria, the new teenage girl who helps me with my groceries on Saturday... scouting out the best prices and making vendors do me right :)

the left over Mother's Day flowers that Jenny so sweetly (and beautifully) arranged in a marshmallow creme jar that took me by surprise at just the right moment and made me smile!

Mercy's sweet chubby arms wrapped around my neck... and her farewell waves with Patience from their balcony until Nathan and I were out of sight.


A baby who's asleep.

the night-time cup of coffee that's kicking in to get me through the boys' bedtime routine.

(and my most thankful moment of all day... after I had completely lost it and yelled at my kiddos)... Grant coming into the kitchen when I called him, me down on my knees to ask for forgiveness for yelling, and him coming up, wrapping his loving arms around his mommy and patting me on the back softly over and over again while I cried... and not the sweet soft cries, the ugly I'm glad I didn't scare my kid cries...

It's been quite a day huh?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thankful... day 5

Tonight I'm thankful for...

an amazingly productive morning (even with Nathan in tow :)

Nathan playing well and enjoying his visit to his new preschool.

Sonia's safety after her purse was stolen last night on the street.

the red marker that marks off another day down until Gary comes home :)

Bolivian sisters taking the initiative to set up a prayer meeting at the same time that the stateside conference was starting to ask for blessings over everyone's efforts and time together.

Nathan's sweet desire to pray with everyone during that prayer time.

the promise of a last breakfast with dear friends, American style donuts, and getting to meet sweet Kaitlynn for the first time :)

new pirated movies to keep me and the boys entertained... hey, don't judge... and speaking of new movies :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thankful... day 4

Tonight I'm thankful for...

the roast that turned out great for lunch :)

dear friends stopping by with flowers to wish me a Happy Mother's Day!

the fact that today I didn't drink the whole pot of coffee by myself :)

getting to talk to my hubby.

internet that allows me to still feel connected to the outside world, no matter how many hours a day I spend with three little boys in this apartment.

the fact that I didn't do one load of laundry today!

sweet little boy arms that encircle my mommy neck while they whisper in my ear... you're my mommy... I love you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thankful... day 3

Roast cooking in the crock-pot for Mother's Day lunch tomorrow!

Grant finally realizing he's a big brother and really starting to interact with Joshua.

Watching Grant's big bear paws pat his little brother on the head (shockingly gently I might add :)

The fact that no one killed each other even though by 9 o'clock this morning we had been in 5 time-outs and had 2 spankings.

Nathan coming in and telling me that "Grant hurt his head because he was running around CRAZY like a Jo-Jo"

Joshua's sweet smile coming back after the sickies.

A good long nap.

Fresh avocados.

Nathan excited about going shopping with me tomorrow... and on that note, sleep would be a good thing for said shopping outing :) night night!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


In the spirit of keeping my attitude positive while I'm holding down the fort, I thought I'd take a sec every night to write down a few things from the day that I'm thankful for (as opposed to dwelling on the craziness that is my life for the next three weeks :)

Nathan dancing his little booty out to Mama Mia :)

Grant's belly laugh whenever we play!

Jenny who takes such great care of my boys so that I can get things down outside the house and catch a quick nap too!

Joshua's feeling better... seems like his little nose is drying up so that means he's sleeping better.

Renan (a brother from church who has a taxi) who picks up Nathan everyday from school so that I know someone that I trust is bringing him home safe and sound.

Chocolate leftovers from last night's movie night.

A new disc of Lie to Me to keep me distracted after the boys go to bed.

New flip tops on the boys juice boxes... you'd understand this if you had been cutting open the corner of juice boxes for the last five years to have them gush all over you, or the counter, or the floor!

That one of my dear friends gets to take home her new daughter tomorrow :)

The gumption to get in bed before midnight... here I go :)

Ugly moments...

As I'm sure many of you know, stress levels are a little high here in the Bull house.

We're saying good-byes or having "lasts" on a daily basis... We're making decisions about stateside life and how our transition is going to play out (or we're not making decisions b/c we're still too far out which is even more stressful)... We're selling our things here in our home, which even though they're just things is still emotional... We're weighed down by alot and it's beginning to wear on us... ok, I'll speak for myself, it's beginning to really wear on me.

The other night Gary and I were having a "discussion" in the kitchen. I don't even remember what it was about (which means it must have been so important right?). I don't remember raising my voice. I don't remember feeling like we were having a fight. But what I do remember, and what will forever be enblazened in my mind is the look that Nathan had on his face when I turned around and realized he was in the room... he looked up at me with such sad little eyes and said, "Mommy, you talked ugly to Daddy." And as much as I wanted to deny it, to correct him and tell him that he simply misunderstood, he was right. It absolutely broke my heart to see the disappointment in my son's eyes. It brings tears to my eyes even now.

It was a humbling, heart breaking moment. One that I'm most certainly not proud of and one that I hope to never repeat, but I'm trying to see the good that can come from it... in that moment I was reminded of how deeply I affect my children and our home by the words I use, my tone of voice, and the way in which I handle conflict. I want to be a family that handles conflict openly and in a healthy way. I want my children to be able to identify and communicate well their feelings and thoughts. I want them to be able to dialogue through conflict or discussions in a respectful manner... none of which I did that night in the kitchen.

My son reminded me well that night that respect for my husband, for my children, for other's in my life, and ultimately for my God is something I struggle with greatly when I'm stressed... no excuses, just where I'm at. It makes me think of carving a pumpkin or cutting up a papaya... you know the gooey yucky that resides inside those fruits? I long for God to come and cut out, scrape out, clean out all the yuckies... Once they're cleaned out they are so yummy, but without the cleaning, the preparation, they're just ooey gooey mess. Life is always going to bring its stresses no matter where we live... even though it feels really intense right now... I'm praying that learning how to handle the stresses of this year in a Godly, respectful and honoring way will allow me to carry those lessons into the future of our family... so that I never see the disappointment in my sweet son's face again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Grant is sick... runny nose, cough, fever, ear infection kinda sick. It brings out the worst in him... the whinies, the complaining, the "I can't get comfy-ness", the I don't want to eat anything, and the I don't want to let you out of my sight-ness. It's hard having little ones who are sick. It's taxing, wearing, and draining. But tonight as I tucked in my two oldest and Grant cried (as is his M.O. these days), patting his pillow beside him and saying "night, night" Gary and I realized that it mattered very much to him who laid beside him for the falling asleep cuddling that was about to take place. The daddy tried. He took up the position on the indicated patted pillow, he tried the cuddling, but the tears continued to flow... nope, it was the Mama, and only the Mama, that my sweet little chunky monkey wanted. The whining and the crying of the day became a little less draining as I realized that I, the Mama, in this moment held the superpower to heal my little boy... not his body (I'll leave that to the antibiotics), but his sweet little aching heart :) Lord, thank you with all my heart for placing within me the mama-ness that I need to be there for these precious boys... may you always remind me that I am valued by them in ways that I will never see or understand... and what a tremendous privilege and honor that is!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The weight of responsibility...

Being a mom has turned my world upside down in so many ways. I'm not a leader, I'm not a go-getter, I'm not a type-A or need to be in the spotlight kinda gal... I'm happy to be the one in the kitchen washing dishes, spending time talking with the guest who's been sitting by themselves in the corner, and doing the little things that others around me may never see or realize that I've done.
Because of who I am and how I'm wired, I have a hard time being the sole person responsible for anything... for housework, for chores, for ministry, and for parenting. Thank goodness for my wonderful partner and husband who shoulders so much of the parenting responsibility with me in our family. If I'm completely honest with myself this desire to avoid the sole responsibility of raising our children is a fear of failure... a fear that I will fall short, mess up, and fail my children and that the buck will stop here.
I've looked at parenting like this for so long... it's been a pressure, a burden I've carried around trying to throw off or share with someone else so as not to have to carry it alone. The beauty in being a daughter of the King is that I don't carry this role of Mama alone and for that I will be eternally grateful... and at the same time, God has been opening my heart (slowly but surely) to the absolutely amazing gift I have been given in getting to be the Mama of these three precious boys I call sons.
After traveling back to the states with Joshua and being away from Nathan and Grant for 2 weeks it was so clear to me that I alone am the Mama. There is no one else in this world who can be that for them... no one else who knows their tickle spots, knows their cries, knows their laughter, knows their favorites, knows how they like their sandwiches cut up, knows how they like their clothes put on, knows how they like to be tucked in at night, and knows the bed time songs to sing them to sleep. If God had revealed this insight to me a few weeks ago I would have been overwhelmed with the pressure, the responsibility of it all... but for some reason this week has found me overwhelmed with the privilege and beauty of it all... how amazing that I, so human and so flawed, get to be such an important part of these little boys' lives?!
God has been so good to me in blessing me with my Nathan, my Grant, and my Joshua. Being their Mama has changed my life, changed my heart, and changed my soul. As we keep looking towards all the changes that are coming up for our family this year God gently reminded me of how much these three little boys will depend on me. Their little world's are about to change in some big ways... their circles of friends, way of life, church family and community will change so quickly. And while it's going to be so great for them to have family and friends close when we are back stateside, it will take time... time for our stateside family and friends to get to know them again, to reacquaint themselves with all that is the Bull boys :) and during that time of transition I will be a constant for them... I am, and will always be, the Mama. It is a humbling role, and yet one that I am savoring in a new way and embracing with open arms.
I'm realizing at the same time that to be the foundation that they will need during this time of transition, my feet must be planted firmly on the Rock that is my constant... my foundation... my all.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

While Nathan's away...

Grant and I decided that a great way to spend the morning was making fudge and then licking the pot, spoon, and anything else we could find with chocolate on it... here's hoping he'll still take a nap today with all that chocolate in his system :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


In almost 10 years of marriage Gary and I have had our share of moves. We've lived in 6 different homes to be exact.

Our first home was a one bedroom apartment with its stack washer/dryer unit that only held two bath towels at a time (maybe I exaggerate a little). It was a wonderful place to start as newlyweds :) There that we had our first Christmas as a married couple (with the craziest Charlie Brown cedar tree... ok, it was really a bush... that you've ever seen :), and survived an ice storm trapped for a few days surviving on peanut butter and crackers and playing every wedding present board game we could before our fingers went numb :)

From there we moved to our second home when we bought our first house. It would be the place where I would get my first dog, mow my first lawn, pay our first mortgage payment, and the first place we would get to put our personal touches on as a couple.

Brownwood would be our third home. This would be the home where we welcomed news of being pregnant, twice... where we would welcome Nathan into this world... and where we would say our good-byes to friends and family as we left the states to move across the world (or so it felt).

We started our life here in Cochabamba in home number 4, a small downtown apartment that gave us the opportunity to get to the know the city inside and out, learn streets and shops, and learn how to live life walking and not driving.

We moved from downtown to home number 5 a house farther north in hopes of a little peace and quiet. We welcomed Nathan's first dog into our family, had our first Bolivian Christmas, and there found out that Grant would soon be joining the ranks of the Bull herd. In moving north of town we realized in a South American culture, we really are downtown people...

So back downtown we went to home number 6... our current apartment. This is the home where I have welcomed my two youngest into the world, learned how to do hospitality in my own way, and learned the value (and flexibility) of living downtown where drop-ins from church members and friends are frequent and welcomed. It's this apartment that boasts the longest run of all our homes. This August will mark 3 years in this home for the Bull family. And for some reason today that fact has hit me really hard. I was a pregnant mom of a one year old when we moved into this home. Nathan has had his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthdays here... Grant and Joshua have only known this apartment as home... we've celebrated 3 Christmases within these walls... we know our neighbors and are part of a community that I treasure.

I am so excited to move back to the states, that needs to be said, but there is a huge part of me that is aching because for all the frustrations and irritations that living in another culture can bring, this is home. This apartment is home... the pencil marks down the hallway walls, the toilet that runs at 3 am, the water pump that has caused me more heartache than I could have ever imagined, the elevator that always seems to be serviced when I have a huge load of groceries to bring up 3 flights of stairs, and the concrete walls that make it impossible to hang pictures on them... but it's also the home in which I've learned to be a mommy of two and now three little boys. It holds the nursery into which I've welcomed two precious sons... nursing and rocking and praying in the wee hours of the morning over their sweet little hearts and souls. It holds the kitchen in which I've learned to enjoy cooking. It's here that we've made important family decisions about having a third child, how long to stay on the field, and our plans for when we return stateside. It's here that I've played chase with my sons, had tickle wars until our sides hurt from laughter, watched my husband play for hours with our boys, grown in appreciation for what a great husband and daddy Gary is, and understood better who I am and allowed God to teach me, stretch me and mold me into he has planned for me to be.

We've had our share of heartache here... and I'm not saying that it's been all rose-colored glasses... but for better or worse, this is home and has been for the longest stretch of our married life. In about 6 months I will pack up our life, sell off most of our things and walk out that front door for the last time. I know that what awaits us on the other side will be great, hard, but great... but I want to give value to what I leave behind... the place in which we've lived the longest, and grown the most... home.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

True Encouragement...

The other day found be back in our bedroom folding clothes (does laundry never end? with three boys, I'm thinking the answer is no :). Grant and Nathan were playing up front in their playroom and having a great time. Amidst the giggles and activity that I heard, Nathan said to Grant, "Great shot Grant, great shot!" It wasn't a flippant remark, or one made in passing. The words that my oldest spoke to his little brother came from the bottom of his big heart. You could hear the pride and excitement in his voice... he was truly rejoicing with his brother over a great achievement! Granted, that achievement was throwing a ball into the light fixture above his head... but that's a story for another day :) back to my point...

Nathan reminded me that day of the beauty of encouragement. In that moment of joy, he rejoiced with his brother. Here is Grant a roly poly two year old who adores his big brother... follows him around the house just looking for chances to interact with him, play with him, and be with him. Nathan will probably never understand what those simple words meant to his brother that day. And I started thinking to myself how that true joy that Nathan expressed over Grant's victory has become a lost art in today's world... I see the loss within myself and even at times within Christ's body.

It's hard isn't it? There are times when I've found it hard to truly rejoice in the victories of my fellow man... to see someone else "getting ahead" or being "blessed" and not struggle with envy or disappointment that it wasn't me. My sweet son taught me that day that Paul's words in Thessalonians are attainable... "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." I want to be a sister in Christ who truly rejoices with every fiber of my being with my friends, family, and even acquaintances when wonderful things happen in their lives'. I want that rejoicing to be pure, to come without a twinge of envy, resentment, or selfishness... to be the friend doing cartwheels in the aisle, jumping up and down in excitement, and praising God for the wonderful things that my brothers and sisters are able to do in this life, and the great blessings they experience. Oh may God continue to work on the selfishness in my human heart, and teach me through my children what it means to rejoice with and encourage those around me with faith like a child!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


(Warning to all readers... let the processing begin...) This past Wednesday Joshua and I made it safely back to Cochabamba. We had a whirlwind stateside trip of business and pleasure :) Can I just say as a sidenote that my little boy is the best traveler ever? Not having flown before, and not using carseats here, you never know how your kids are going to react, but he did awesome! It was his first stamp in his passport :) his first flight (6 to be exact) and his first time meeting so many friends and family!

While our trip was great and so needed, I'm having some problems upon our return... what I'm finding is that since the trip was so short, I wasn't given enought time to be tired of stateside life. Usually after furlough I'm ready to head back here to our own home, our slower pace of life, and our work as a family. Even though I was missing my hubby and boys like crazy, I'm finding that I the trip wasn't long enough for me to miss Bolivia.

It's a hard thing living between two cultures. Wow, that's an understatement... and so this last week or so I've really struggled with being content back here in my Bolivian home. It's taken some intentional thinking, giving thanks for the things I do love about my life here, and visits with some dear friends (who understand the struggle of balancing two cultures and being content in whichever one you find yourself) to help me fight the funk.

I know that our time is limited here, that this year is going to fly by. But I don't want to take comfort in that fact. I want to soak up our last year here. I want to savor every moment, every memory, and every opportunity. As Gary will tell you (according to all the personality testing we've done in the course of our married life) I, Laura Bull, am an advancer. Which as I understand it, means that I am a person who likes forward motion, planning and completing the task. This limbo land of not moving forward (b/c we're still too far out from our move date) is killing me. I want to be packing stuff, selling stuff, pitching stuff, finding a house stateside for us, applying for grad schools (for Gary... I am most definitely NOT going back to school), finding jobs to support ourselves while Gary's in school... oh and the list goes on.

But that desire to be in forward motion can rob today of its joy, its memories, and its value in my life. I'm trying daily to remember Paul's words of wisdom about being content in any situation, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation", but can I confess that I'm struggling to put them into practice?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Little pieces of me...

Tomorrow night I'll board a plane with Joshua in my arms. Nathan and Grant will be here at home, getting ready for bed with their daddy, and carrying a piece of my heart with them (whether they realize it or not).

Being a mommy is the most humbling experience by far that this life has brought my way... it has taught me so much about life, myself, and my heart. Did you know that the heart can be shared? It's not divided, not torn, but shared between my three sons... and since two of them will be staying here for two weeks holding down the fort with their daddy, pieces of my heart will stay here with them. It will be a long two weeks away from them, and yet I know it will fly by...

I will miss their giggles, their hugs, their kisses, their spontaneous Mommy, I love you's, their sweet faces beside our bed in the morning, their sticky faces, chubby hands, and basically all that is them... and as I sing their bedtime songs tonight, I will hug them a little tighter, hold them a little longer, and pray over them a little stronger, that they will always know, that no matter where I am, they hold pieces of my heart!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Father's Day #1 2010

One of the fun perks of living in another country is celebrating holidays in your current country and in your home country. This past week we celebrated the bolivian Father's Day. Nathan's school had a Father's Day party (you should see four year old Bolivians dancing "Singing in the rain" with their daddies... arms out, elbows back, thumbs up, knees bent, head back, tongue out and all :).
Then on Sunday the Sunday school teachers at church put together a little program for the fathers of the congregation. It was super sweet... a song about how the kiddos want to be like their daddies. Nathan was game for dressing up, Grant... not so much :) My boys have such a great daddy! Gary has taught me so much about being a parent just by example. He is intentional about parenting our boys, teaching them how to be men of God and for that I am so grateful! He has a great balance of teaching and fun :) these boys LOVE tackle, tickle, and wrestle time with their daddy! And thank goodness for the daddy with three little boys, because this mommy just doesn't have it within her to be all that three little boys need in the rough-house department :)
Gary, thank you for being not only the man of my dreams, but the amazing man in my daily life, loving our boys, sacrificing for them, and teaching them Godly ways. I am so very blessed to be on this journey of parenting our boys with you!
Nathan all dressed and ready to go :)
Grant... trying to figure out, "What is it exactly I'm supposed to be doing?"
Even the girls got in on the dress-up (Michaela and Jubilee and then Carmen and her daughter Paula)
This is what happens when you try to catch a picture of two crazy little four year olds at the same time... the back of Nathan's head...
Now the back of Mateo's head...
Well, no smiles, but at least they're both facing forward :)
Feliz Dia del Padre!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Loved on...

So if you remember right, and haven't slept since then (as my mom likes to say :) we had a super fun birthday week this past year for Nathan... but as my birthday rolled around I was not expecting a birthday week... just some fun time with friends, a date with my hubby, and the excuse to eat some fun birthday sweets (although I don't really wait for an excuse to eat sweets :). It all started on Friday night before my birthday when I got to go out to a super fun (and long, since in Bolivian style we waited almost an hour for our food) dinner with these beautiful women! God has blessed me tremendously with their friendships and it was a truly wonderful way to kick-off the birthday festivities :)
After dinner we tried to get a good picture, but Cochabambinos don't really do all that great at digital photography... but at least we remember what a fun night it was :) with Angie, Beth, Julie, Denise, and Carolina (hiding on the back row :)

Saturday was filled with a birthday lunch with my hubby, a movie, and a midnight serenade from the ladies at church... we were sitting in the living room watching tv and we heard sweet voices from outside on the street... so we went to the balcony and there below were a group of women from church singing beautiful songs about birthdayness... what a fun surprise :) after they finished their musical debut, they came up for hot chocolate and cake... it was a great memory made!
They made their exit around 2 in the morning and the next day was a craziness of activity... it started with a ladies ministry meeting before church (at 8:30) where we ate yummy strawberry birthday cake thanks to Julie (b/c it's never too early in the day to eat birthday cake :) then we had church service and a church members meeting afterwards... around 3:00 we headed down to the lake to eat a late lunch with a family from church who wanted to take me out for my birthday, and around 6:30 we made it back home... talk about a long day (not just for me, but for my boys :) but they did great and it was a fun time!

At our late lunch, Gary and the boys took a boat ride around the lake :)
And if you know me well, you know that my love language is gift giving... I love giving gifts, getting gifts, and planning gifts :) My friends and family here pulled out all the stops in speaking my love language to me this year... wanna see? :)

Beautiful earrings made by Renata, one of our sisters here at church.

Look at this precious picture frame (made from recycled newspaper) of the ladies at church... on the back they all signed it and wrote sweet messages to me... talk about a treasure huh?

My sweet friend Beth thought a birthday present that I wouldn't have to pack up might be better this year :) so a cheese cake showed up at my house in her hands, and talk about yummy! I joked with her that I may not have to pack it in my luggage, but it definitely got packed onto my backside :)

You can't go wrong with yummy lotion and chocolate from Carolina... and this picture would've included the yummy chocolate cookies that she made too... but they got eaten too fast for a picture :)
Sweet Sonia (our househelp) is always so precious to bring me flowers on my birthday... and this year was no exception... I had forgotten just how much I love fresh sunflowers!
These beauties are a combination of flowers from my sweet hubby, Jenny (our househelp) and teammates... aren't they lovely?
And this picture shows one of the most thoughtful gifts I think I've ever received... my sweet friend Angie put together this package for me... a sweet necklace made from 5 Bs. (a story for just her and I), pictures of special memories (get togethers, coffee dates, baby showers, and birthday parties), and do you see all those sweet notes? She put together tons and tons of notes, things that she's learned about me and from me and special memories we've made over the past few years... all I have to say is, talk about feeling treasured! This is one of those gifts that I will remember, value and treasure for years and years to come!
Katie knew that you can't go wrong with Cadbury eggs for birthday presents for Laura :)

A special birthday package from Mom and Dad filled with fun magazines, yummy candy, kool-aid and Ranch dressing!

And Denise knew that you can never have enough yummy lotion or coffee cups in this house :)

To all my friends and family who wrote, called, or spent time with me face to face, thank you for all that you did to make this birthday such a special one. You made me feel treasured beyond compare! It's my last that I will spend here in this place that we've made home and it was a wonderful memory that I will carry with me wherever I go!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The cream in our oreo...

I always said that the middle child was the cream in the oreo... I just never expected to have one :) I didn't plan to have three children, two or four, even numbers that could be paired off, but never an odd number like three. And yet again, God giggles at me, his daughter for telling him what I will not do :) and this time I'm so so so thankful, because the product is my precious son Grant Thomas. Grant, you came into our lives' two years ago and you opened my heart in a whole new way. You have shown me what it means to be completely overwhelmed with love for my children... to love you up with snuggles, tackles, and tickle wars. You love so fiercely and it shows me so much of who you are. You are a passionate little boy and sometimes that gets you into serious trouble, but I'm praying that God will take that passion he placed within you and use it for his kingdom. You are growing into a precious little boy and I know one day you will be an amazing man! May God bless you my precious second born, and may you always know how much I treasure you, who you are, and all that you have taught me about this life, and about myself! Happy Birthday Grant Thomas... I love you more than my next breath!