I finally graduated college and started my career at a shipping agency in Valparaiso, Chile. Three months later, my dad went to be with the Lord. I felt so much pain. I loved him and didn’t know how life was going to look like without him. From one day to the next and with being only 19 years old, I was in charge of providing for my mom and my 5 year old brother.
After living for almost 30 years with my dad, my mom was not the healthiest emotional human being on earth, so pretty much I ended up fulfilling her role as a mother with my little brother and sort of became the “man” of the house, with cute skirts of course!
The years continued to pass by, and I thought I loved God but just went to church every now and then. I’ve always loved to sing, and one day, I was invited to audition for Continental Singers in Chile, which is a group of singers sharing the gospel through music working alongside the local churches in Chile. It was life changing. I made it through the audition and started to sing these truths that I believed, and finally surrendered myself to the Lord and commited to serve in a local church. The Lord started to work in my heart and surrounded me with great friends and pastors who were willing to invest their lives in me and help me grow in Him.
The Lord changed my life and even gave me a new job. I started working with missionaries from Mission to the World. After several years, one of the missionary couples was led to plant a church in the downtown area, using a mercy ministry center to equip and evangelize those with special needs. I learned how to read and teach Braille and how to teach computer skills to blind people. It was fascinating to see people starting to blossom while they were learning new skills and being touched by the gospel at the same time.
In August 2004, I was supposed to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Everything under the sun opposed me going. So I had to stay in Chile. That very same week, a team from the U.S. was coming to serve for a week at the mercy ministry center where I was working. The next thing I knew I had met the love of my life, who by the way has the most gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I felt like Cinderella meeting her prince. We started this long distance relationship with lots of emails and lots - when I say lots I mean LOTS - of phone conversations (glad Radical was not published yet!). He went back to visit me twice, and we got engaged after spending only 11 days together in person.
We started all of the legal paperwork to get me here. After 6 LONG moths, I was able to pack my life in three suitcases and get onto a plane with final destination Birmingham, Alabama. I had never been to the United States before in my life, and now I was moving my whole life there for a new adventure. Somehow, I felt like Abraham probably did: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” I knew this was the place where the Lord wanted me to be and had all my trust in Him. Besides it didn’t hurt that I was about to get married to the most wonderful blue-eyed man on earth!
And here is when the puzzle story comes right back in. In 2005, I arrived to Atlanta, Georgia. While I was going through customs, I see my soon to be husband. He was holding flowers and a little present in his hands. I don’t have a lots of details of what happened the seconds after this, only I know that I kissed him. He handed me this little package, I opened it, it had two puppy puzzles in it, and he told me, "Nobody will ever burn your puzzles again." The Lord redeemed my pain from my childhood when I wasn’t ever anticipating it. His very hand has been like this in every single chapter of my life.
"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" -Psalm 27:13
We got married five weeks after I arrived. I had to go through a lot of adjustments. The biggest one was discovering that I was not perfect, that I was actually selfish. But I had cultural challenges as well like... I had to adjust to people frying a green tomato. I mean... what did the tomato do to you? I also had to learn how to drive. This didn’t go too well either. I totalled our only vehicle less than 6 months into our marriage.
But maybe the hardest thing about life in the U.S. was the fact that I didn’t have any friends or family here. I didn’t know at the time, but I was really hungry to make connections with other women. But friendships were not happening. Jared tried to “help me out” by telling me who to be friends with, and you can imagine how that went with a fiesty Latin American.
After another year, our precious baby boy Nate was born. We were and still are thrilled. Life just became even better, so much better that 8 weeks after Nate was born, I was not feeling very well. I thought I may be having a virus or so. After all, I have just had a baby and was nursing him, so I couldn’t be pregnant. At least that was what I thought. They tell you that while you are nursing, there is only a 2% chance to get pregnant, but truly, somebody has to make that 2 percent. So yes, I was one of the 2%. I took a pregnancy test, and it came out possitive. When I showed it to Jared, he asked me, "What are we going to do?" I said, "Simply have a baby and raise it. There is no refund here!" So, yes, I have two little boys that are 11 months apart. They are not twins. Trust me. I was there.
About a year later, I was beginning to sense that the Lord was leading us to a new church. I started to ask Jared to go visit somewhere else. That didn’t go as well as I had hoped for. I mean, this guy was commited to his church with every cell he had. Finally, we got invited by a friend to Brook Hills and came to a worship gathering. After 10 minutes into the service, I was ready to join. Jared, not so much, but somehow he agreed to keep coming Sunday after Sunday. We discovered there was a small group meeting in Homewood, and we decided to visit it.
A few months after we started attending BH, I saw the announcement for a Mom’s Time Brunch and decided to give it a shot. That morning, several groups were opened to join, but I was thrilled that there was one for moms of boys. I would have never imagined how this little choice would impact my life in such a wonderful way.
So, here I was in a strange country with no friends or family and all of this baggage from my past. I was crying out for a place to be loved, understood, and accepted for who I am, but also to live and share life with others. I needed community and support.
My Mom’s Time leader was a beautiful lady named Kandie Brogdon. She was one of the few people I met who didn’t mind that I was not from around here. She was not afraid of my struggles, nor to walk alongside me during my hardest times. She didn’t mind my phone calls with meltdowns or just to say hello. More than just a small group leader, she became my mentor, almost like a second mom, to me. She had the faith and wisdom of a woman who had walked with God for so many years, and I just needed that wisdom as a new wife and mother.
I remember one night while my husband was out of town, I had a serious argument with him over the phone. I was there crying in my bed by myself. Not knowing what else to do, I called Kandie. Jared was coming home soon, and I asked Kandie what to do. I will never forget the sound of her voice as she said, “Honey, you go to that back door, and open it up as soon as he parks his car. And you run to your man, and tell him how much you missed him. And you tell him you want to work everything out, and welcome him home.” Wow, that had been the last thing I wanted to do, but Kandie was absolutely right!
"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." -Titus 2:3-5
I still need Kandie, and other godly women in my life. Every day, I need them to remind me that I am not the only one who struggles. And more importantly, I need them to remind me of God’s perfect, unfailing love, and faithfulness to this girl.
If you heard my story, you will see how God protected me since before I was born. He pursued me with His love and drew me to Himself. He never let me starve or live in bitterness from my upbringing. His very hand has been upon my life all of my days. He is GOOD. All the time. And this story is not finished yet. He is still making me more like Him, day by day, renewing His mercies every morning, showing His faithfulness every step of the way.
Not all stories are as crazy as this one. But they don’t have to be in order for us to realize that we need Jesus, and we need one another. God never intended for us to live the Christian life alone, and He never intended for us to have to pretend that we have our act together. I have found some of my sweetest times here on Tuesday mornings, just confessing my sin and struggles to “my ladies,” and I have found great healing in it. The Word tells us “Confess your sins one to another, so that by it you may be healed,” Let’s be vulnerable and honest about our hearts with one another. And let’s put our faith in the One who promised to be faithful and just to forgive all our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrightesousness. The one who promised is able, and He will do it.
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” -2 Timothy 2:13