Get Your Hopes Up

                  “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matt. 18:3

          As I think and pray on this scripture and I find myself asking God what does this really mean in the practicality of day to day life and how can I change and truly become like a little child. From time to time I get new insights. Maybe it will be encouraging for you too?

           As children it is so easy to hope, in fact it is so hard to not hope it can be hard to fall asleep. As adults we find ourselves sleepless or waking up from worry or regret or stress, but as a child each day something new and amazing probably will happen. It could be your upcoming Birthday or your mom could make Banana pancakes tomorrow or your cat, pet rabbit, chicken with new chicks could be there waiting for you, or it might only be 22 days till Christmas.

Possibly it’s the day when you get to go visit your Grandma or your big goal is that today is the day you are going to make it all the way across the monkey bars. For many children the idea that there is a good God is not hard to accept.  Life is so fresh and everything new and the possibilities endless. There is little to stop you from dreaming. Life is so exciting at times you can hardly sit in your chair. Is this a part of what Jesus means when He says to become like little children? Well then disappointments start to happen and sin happens and life is not so exciting and innocent anymore and we become more guarded and we protect ourselves, to hide ourselves behind fig leaves and doubt God’s goodness and mercy.


           We attend mass at Keiser University here in San Marcos, Nicaragua. It is a special place because a secular University has allowed the Catholic presence to continue and the student involvement keeps it going. For example they have 24/5 Eucharistic Adoration (many students go home for the weekends) and this is not only made possible by and active student body but also by an amazingly generous and devout priest, Fr. Robert. He says a more or less 50/50 English/Spanish mass. He has a reputation around town for his love of the people and the people love him too, although his Connecticut accented Spanish is a great difficulty for the people to understand.


 A few weeks ago in a sermon Fr. Robert asked if a bus was waiting outside to take whoever wanted to heaven who would be ready? Only a couple raised their hands, I being one of them. Now don’t think this is because of some super spirituality, its not. Let me explain. I am not much of night person, I am fresh in the morning, I have a horrible time studying at night, but for most of my life I have a natural enthusiasm for the new day, especially the morning. I think it is easy to just assume each part of our life is just who we are without giving God, our loving Father, thanks for even the personality graces He gives until we are without it for a while.


As many of you know we lost our 12th baby, Mark-Jerzy Marcilino Eckstine, almost 2 years ago and you will also recal that we had warning, knowing that his condition was pronounced to us as “incompatible with life” by the doctors. Each day we walked carrying that burden was bittersweet. After Mark-Jerzy, life has not been the same and as anniversaries come and go certain sadnesses come upon Lora and I, mostly unexpected and without warning… this new song expresses some of my feelings, especailly the lines

Whatever is left of me
After my strength has faded
When I don’t have words to speak
I’ll just say Your name

Whatever is left of me
After the nights has ended
When I don’t have songs to sing
I’ll just call Your name

Here is the Youtube video for the song: Found In You by Josh Balwin

        After I heard another song on the same album I realized I don’t have the hope of a new day that I used to and that I want to hope again in the new day and all that our Father has made possible for this day, today! This song reminds me that with our God so many things are possible each day, and with God all things are possible. I believe in the Goodness of our God and I want to believe in it more and more. I want renewed faith in His loving care and the fact that He has a special plan for each of us to change the world around us, not matter how old or young, how beautiful or not so much, full of life or incompatible with life.  His Kingdom is coming upon and in fact is already here.

Get your hopes up
Lift your head up
Let your faith arise
Get your hopes up
Our God is for us
He’s brought us back to life

Get Your Hopes Up by Josh Baldwin

I pray that I would not return to only natural given enthusiasm for each new day that is part of my personality from birth, but to a Supernatural enthusiasm for life because our Father is so good, better than I can even dream of, and with Him all things are possible. I desire to walk through life like a preacher I heard, “to be simple enough and childlike enough that we just think that God actually listens to us.” Yep that’s the childlike confidence I want.

** A special note: Douglas the caretaker at here at Guadelupe Garden, answers people who ask how many children we have with a “12, but only 11 living; they had another baby that only lived a short time and now have 7 with them in Nicaragua” **


Pictures from Nicaragua

These Photos are backwards in the timeline starting with the celebrations

of Our Lady of Guadelupe more or less working backwards


The community came over for prayers and a modest meal to celebrate the day



Cooking the rice dish


Dishing out the 150 servings for the celebration



A manger scene the kids made with Bing


The kids love this tree, they call it the “family tree”


Visiting an orphanage with Kendal







what some of the roads look like, they are made of stone cut from compacted volcano ash


Very typical wall


so much green beauty



Looking down at the mission house from the the “Family tree”


more looking to the right


Douglas working on a cell phone booster because communication with the world can be difficult here


all the kids were blessed by the “babies” that arrived not long after we did


St. Nicolas day and Advent prep



this is where chocolate comes from


these are some more “babies” that arrived after we did, Dogs are very sickly as most people can afford meds for animals.
The kids put their money together to buy worm medicine for after the baths


more beauty


Novena for the Purisima


small meal for the Novena




Ninoska cooking the rice dish over fire






the kids love working in their “Castle”
6 found so far







first week of Advent


even in Nicaragua, possums. This one was living in a banana clump


back view of the mission house


some of the old buildings that make up the “Castle area” Paul hopes this will become a chapel


transportation, we hope to buy our own vehicle that is large enough for us all inside


local transportation is cheap but not roomy, including us I think there were 18 people in this Microbus


Laundry is done by hand here



the neighbor’s parrot got loose




Sometimes we eat in the park after mass on Sunday



Church at KU “Kieser University”
The church in San Marcos

Are you doing That, Dad? part 1




Rachel learning to lead guitar for our prayers

Part of our family part of our routine in in missions and stateside is the Liturgy of the Hours which includes singing together some praise and worship. Most of the time Missions allows for a much more prayerful life. Since we in arrived Guadelupe Gardens we have had the pleasure of the Rush family joining most mornings and evenings. What a blessing it is to sing and pray together and share as the Lord inspires us. Paul shared one morning about how we have the life of God within us. Such short sentence to convey such a magnificent reality, THE LIVING God, dwelling in us and giving us grace to live this life loving Him and our neighbor.

     When we discerned Nicaragua we did not know where we would live.  Finding a place to live in a foreign country and in another language presents serious obstacles so the offer Paul and Bing to allow us to land at Guadeloupe Gardens Just making a “life that works” in a foreign country takes a while and there is has been a lot of work to get our living quarters in order including helping get a consistent water supply. (Lora always says she would rather have water than electricity.) Then after getting that situation stable we started working on other things. One afternoon I am working on some electrical so our refrigerator that is getting repaired can have a plug not an extension cord and Meg comes up the stairs and says “ Hi Dad, can help you?”


Meg tries to help with any work the other kids are doing

“ Sure Meg” I reply while thinking I’m not sure what you can do as a 2yo but I love that you want to and I love you being with me. Next the appropriate questions for a 2 y.o. follow:

“Are you doing that Dad?” she says. Not sure exactly what thoughts are going through her mind, but realizing how serious she is about her question, as if she things she really understands what I am doing I reply with a loving smile, “Yes, Margaret, I am doing that” Next as I am working with the wires and as the questions continue the wires bump her head a couple of times, to which she comments “Dad, your hittin me or hurtin me” I’m not sure which. So I apologize and keep working. Then she says “ Dad, can I not help you?”

“Sure Meg” but less than 2 minutes later she is back.

The next morning while reflecting on our call to realize the life of God in us and to live in His presence in our community prayers I shared about Margaret “helping” me and I realized that we Christians, called to enter the Kingdom of God as little children, listening to Him, watching Him, being in His presence and really we don’t understand what He is doing in the whole scheme of things but that He desires us to be with Him, loving and being loved.

Lord how I want to be content in Your presence asking “Abba, Daddy, are you doing that?” not really knowing what He is doing but knowing He does……

Travel to Nicaragua

Going up the mountain from Managua to San Marcosimag0680

Going up the mountain from Managua to San Marcos

IMG_20161021_072503.jpgMost of you know we left Kansas City for our new mission with A Simple House on Wednesday, October 19th.  We arrived in Costa Rica and spent 3 days  with the Bailey Family. We really enjoyed being with them and seeing a little bit of their mission, including going to a couple of chapels with one of their priests and participating in 2 masses and a prayer service.


Leaving from there, we traveled on the TicaBus for 9 hours to Managua, Nicaragua, arriving in our mission territory on World Mission Sunday.  Our trip takes us through Costa Rica because it saves us about $2600 in travel costs as opposed to flying directly into Nicaragua. Our first item on the agenda in Managua was getting settled into our Home Stays and language school.  They didn’t have a host family big enough to fit all eight of our kids and us so the oldest four stayed down the street from Lora, the littles and I.  It was a great two week experience with the Managua Nicaragua Language school. Our time in Managua included a pre-election march/rally going past our house and special times with our host families.IMAG0670.jpg



Isaac studying with our host.

  At the end of our time in Managua, we arranged for a private Microbus to take us to Guadalupe Gardens where Paul and Bing Rush have their mission. Paul Rush, founder of Guadalupe Garden, decided to welcome our family into his mission (which is located about 2km away from San Marcos, Nicaragua on a rough dirt or mud road) while we investigate and enculturate and try to figure out the business(es) we will try to start here.  Guadalupe Gardens is dedicated to the New Evangelization and supporting other missionaries in their call, so it has been a wonderful place for us to land. The 3 acres includes many old building that were the heart of a coffee plantation before the Revolution. It includes 2 cisterns that used to hold water for the dry season and a well that is about 1000 feet deep but needs to be repaired. Paul and Bing also serve the community around them in various ways. There have been many struggles, difficulties and setbacks in the last few years, but Bing and their first baby on the way, are a couple of really bright spots. We feel our coming to the mission at this time to be very providential for us and Rush’s.


The adventure of of serving God

Standing on the shore of decision,
looking into the face of adventure,
desire to abandon all I know
what pushes me is rooted somewhere
between misunderstanding and knowing
knowing that what I want to understand is not within my reach
so I ponder my escape.
not knowing what lies ahead
adventure in theory is full of excitement and bleeds with passion for life
adventure in reality is full of breathless moments and silent nights and
wounds that leave scars of memories on a heart
 Can I go the distance?
Can I give all my mind to get what the messenger is saying?
Can I surrender the knowing?
Will i survive the humility of ignorance to obtain the treasure earthly gold cannot buy?
Will i ask the question of honesty even if the answer convicts my soul and
sends me to the land of repentance?
words from a song, Cageless Birds by Melissa Helser