Seeing Motherhood In A New Light: Guest Blog by Laura McKenzie

Laura (far right) and I and one of our sweet friends, Mandy (left)
Foreward: by Dorothy Inman

I met my dear friend, Laura McKenzie just a few months after I gave birth to my spirited little girl, Alexandria, at the mom's group at my church.  She told me that she too had recently quit her job to spend more time with her children and that we should get together and have coffee sometime.  By the smile on her face and the natural ease by which she carried herself, I knew right away that we were going to be instant friends.  Over the past almost two years I have watched and observed her not only as a parent, but as a Christ follower.  The humble, loving manner by which she carries herself is absolutely inspirational.  She will be the first to admit that she has her bad moments/days, which is one of the things I love most about her.  She never acts like she has everything together (even though I totally think she does).  I always joke and say that God brought us together for a reason: me being a former Southern Baptist and she a Catholic, but he knew exactly what he was doing.  I tell other people that she is my "Mother Theresa" mom friend and I genuinely mean that from the bottom of heart.  Anyone who knows her will attest to the fact that the light of Christ shines brightly through her.  I'm so excited that she agreed to share about her recent trip to Guatemala (which she and her husband took for her five year wedding anniversary to meet their sponsor child) and how being a mother helped her see the circumstances of the people there in a whole new light. 

Seeing Motherhood In A New Light:  
Guest Blog by Laura McKenzie

Laura and her husband, Brendan
When my husband and I arrived in Guatemala and we began the journey to meet our sponsored child, at first it felt like deja vu.  The busy streets filled with Tuk Tuks (taxis), shacks stacked on top of more shacks, and the faces of the beautiful people re-entered my heart once again.  It had been over 6 years since I first fell in love with this country and its people, especially in the town of San Lucas Toliman, nestled in the highlands on the shore of Lake Atitlan.  That first trip was spent learning about the dynamics of simplicity and joy, hard work at its root, and the grateful faith of those whom I had considered "in need."  What I found that first trip was that these people's most basic needs were filled:  their spirits were full of God's perfect love, but they just needed a few earthly basics to help them along their journeys...I digress.

During our travel just to the center of Guatemala City was where I took my first lesson on this second trip.  The scenery looked the same as before, but I quickly realized my lens had changed.  Since my trip in 2007, I became a fiance (only 4 months later), then a wife to my wonderful husband in '08, and then welcomed our son 10 1/2 month later in '09.  You could say it was a bit of a whirlwind.  With Dominic, 4 and our newest addition, Lilly (17 months), this time around our new journey to San Lucas had unknowingly changed.

The Cathedral
As Brendan and I walked into mass at the cathedral on Sunday morning, I quickly became distracted  (not like me at all, ha ha) with three CUTE brown-eyed children in front of us.  I watched as the parents kept their focus, not on entertaining or attending to their children, but on the content of the mass.   And here I was watching them and their ability to stay calm with three children easily under the age of 7.  But then, something struck me: as their toddler wandered into the side aisle, tired of sitting in the pew, and walked towards the front, there was little reaction from the parents.  They didn't jump up to chase or grab him to flee to the cry room (not sure one existed anyway); they remained calm and in prayerful silence. Instead, they motioned to their older two children to bring their brother back to the pew.  And the siblings did just that more than once, and without complaint (I was thinking, "Wow!").  In my distraction, I found myself all the more amused and amazed at how simple this parenting thing looked, Guatemalan-style.  

Laura is known for her love for children (and will be more than happy to hold yours if they are crying)
And then the week went on, and the lessons of simplicity parenting kept pouring in.....I could write a book, but I'll spare you the long, boring details.  These are just a few hi-lights that I will take with me wherever I go:

1. Children were joyful and entertained with few, and in some cases NO toys (Yes I said it, none). Somehow, the children we encountered lived and thrived minus brightly colored plastic.  It warmed my heart.  We visited several households, talking to sponsored families throughout the week, and nowhere in sight were the familiar emblems of Fisher Price, Melissa & Doug or Little Tykes.  Rather, there were often sticks in hand, craft work, livestock to care for, and a plethora of pick-up soccer games.


2. Children were playmates and helpmates to their brothers and sisters.  Older siblings were often seen carrying their baby siblings via Mayan wraps as if extra arms and legs had extended from their mother. We watched as siblings took part in daily chores and provided entertainment to one another.  "Boredom" or the idea of our American household staple never once came up in conversation, it was much less as an issue. Siblings filled the biggest pieces of that puzzle.

3. Bedrooms are shared- two, three, four, and eight people to a 12x12 (no exaggeration!) room. Words truly cannot portray what it was like stepping into these humble  all-in-one bed/living rooms. Though these tight quarters were the only option for the families, we never heard a word of complaint- not ONE.  When we asked the parents of our own sponsored child what they needed or how we could help, they said there was nothing that they could think of, aside from prayers and our meager monthly sponsorship.  I couldn't help but think of our "every child should have their own room" culture.  What we witnessed was a stark contrast to that expectation, with dirt floors and no windows to boot.  Coincidentally, what each of the families spoke of over and over last week was their gratitude to God and CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children  & Aging) for the benefits that they had received.

Laura, Brendan and their sponsor child, Rafael
What I will take with me from this latest journey is this joy of simplicity:  that less is more (both in possessions and in my many parenting anxieties), that children are a privilege and a gift, not a burden, and each and every child we are blessed with is one more to thank God for.  Siblings, after all, are the best form of entertainment.  These parents we met showed me both the testament of God's perfect love and their faithfulness to "thy will be done," not just when I feel like it, but even in the midst of extreme poverty.  An when my 1 year old is getting restless in the pew, I'll try my best to keep my focus from now on; I know that she has a big brother to guide her back on the right path.     

I am a sucker for beautiful landscape here you go. 


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