Teaching In Scotland

After months of waiting to become a registered teacher in Scotland, I am not only proud to announce that I received my clearance for registration, but last week I landed myself a teaching job as well! I am beyond thrilled and so excited to start this new adventures!  I was offered an 18 month temporary contract (which is a very common offer here in Scotland) while the current teacher is doing an 18 month Secondment.

I will be starting my post on 30 January teaching Primary 7 (US equivalent to 6th grade) at Royal High Primary School.  One common teaching practice for primary teachers here in Scotland is for teachers to change stage levels (aka grade levels) every year. So, next year I will be assigned a different stage, but I am so happy to be starting off in Primary 7 (P7) as I love working with older students.

Royal High Primary School

I also feel so fortunate because I have been able to be in contact with the Head Teacher (aka Principle), current P7 teacher that I’m replacing, and the other P7 teacher (called my stage partner) while awaiting my first day.  The head teacher has been so encouraging towards me and has eased many of my insecurities regarding coming into the Scottish school system.  This week I am tying up loose ends at my current job as I prepare to transition out, all while communicating and planning meetings with those from my new job to ensure a smooth transition.

Royal High Primary School

An added bonus to this job is that Royal High Primary is located only a short 1.7miles from home (approx. 35min walk), as opposed to my current job which is 2.3 miles (50min walk) away.  I will also be getting off of work the same time as my kids get off school, so I will be getting home much earlier than I am now.  And lastly, but certainly not least, I will be making more money!

Royal High Primary School

I feel so fortunate to have been offered this post! I also feel so grateful for the time that I’ve been able to work and serve on staff at Broughton High School as a school support assistant (SSA).  My time as an SSA has afforded me so many great conversations and insights into the Scottish school system, and I have received loads of support from the staff regarding my pursuit to teach and interview for teaching jobs.

Cheers to a new year!

Leah

Six Months In….What We Not-So Love

As with anything there are two sides to the equation. In our last blog I wrote about some of the things we really LOVE about our new city and new life. But, not everything is always rosy. So, we thought we’d also go through a list of some of the things we not-so love about our new home. Enjoy!

We NOT-SO LOVE…

Our regular walk up Calton Hill, which leads to a spectacular view.
Our regular walk up Calton Hill, which leads to a spectacular view.

 

Walking – Although walking has amazing health benefits, it does fail when trying to get to places in a timely fashion. Walking requires much more planning and timing, which can be difficult when you have small children and things don’t always go according to plan. Also, with small children come little legs, which can’t endure as much walking as adults. We brought our sit-n-stand stroller (or buggy) from the states, but the wheels are not fit for cobblestone or the rough roads.

 

See the COBBLESTONE?!?!
See the COBBLESTONE?!?!

 

We’ve thought about buying a single buggy for the boy, but the cost is just not in our price range. The buggies here are insanely durable, constructed from kryptonite and Schwarzenegger’s sweat (to take on those cobblestones from hell!), rather than our cheap plastic California stroller. So, for now, we’ve chosen to invest our money in warm jackets, gloves, hats, and better footwear. Walking in rain hasn’t been too burdensome, but at times the wind is uncomfortably chilly and the ice is slippery, which is never any fun, but we are doing our best to trudge on.

 

Penelope on our daily walk.
Penelope on our daily walk.

 

Public Transportation – Although a great, faster (and warmer) alternative to walking, public transit still has its time constraints. A trip that could take 15 minutes in the car, may take 30 minutes and transferring between multiple buses. Again, it calls for greater planning, but most people sympathize when you are late somewhere due to bus delays since the system is used by so many.

 

Waiting at the bus stop...Penelope is so bored.
Waiting at the bus stop…Penelope is so bored.

 

Smoking – Everywhere you go the ever so disagreeable smell of cigarette (and sometimes something else) smoke graces your nostrils. With Mark’s asthma, this is especially frustrating and irritating. Before we left California, I remember Mark and I having a specific conversation about how it was such an oddity to see someone smoking in public. Not any more! It’s everywhere! I think the most frustrating situation is when someone is smoking at the bus stop or in front of a building entrance. There are no-smoking signs everywhere, so some folks will generously step aside, yet forgetting that the ever so gusty wind doesn’t care. End of rant.,,,

 

Lacking a Dryer – I have never liked air-drying clothes and have never had the need to do so unless the tag on my sweater called for it (and even then sometimes I didn’t listen). However, long are the days gone now when I would throw my clothes into the dryer to get them warm before I’d put them on or to freshen them up. Long are the days gone when after I washed a pair of pants they would shrink back up to their original size again and fit like new. Air-drying is the way of life now. No washing and wearing on the same day anymore, another task that causes more planning and thinking ahead. On the bright side, our electric bill is probably lower and our home smells of fresh laundry constantly (two things I don’t hate).

 

The Weather – This California girl misses the sunshine. Although the sun has been saying hello more now as of late, it is still not the same. Even though California is craving the rain (and soaking up the rain it has been receiving lately), I miss having more dry days than wet – especially when it comes to being able to play at the park. Also, the lack of sunlight effects the good ol’ production of Vitamin D. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real problem that presents itself, and we’ve been doing what we can to increase our vitamin intake and exposure to sun, but some days you just want to stay in bed, cuddle up, and watch Netflix all day. Motivation is a struggle as well, but our daily routine of taking the kids to school must go on. Mark must research, even if it’s in his pajamas on the couch!

 

 

So, with all that said, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the Atlantic pond, but we are learning to adjust, anticipating the spring, and are embracing the simple things of a slower paced life.

Six Months In….What We Love

When you embark on a new journey, it is typical to do pre-research to prepare yourself for what you are about to encounter. Before moving to Edinburgh Mark spent countless hours on blog sites (it’s amazing the things people blog about!) trying to prepare our family for our new home in Edinburgh. Now that we’ve been here for roughly 6 months, I thought I’d throw together a little list of the things we love (so far) about our new home and city. Enjoy!

We LOVE…

Walking – When we moved we did not bring our car with us. And, if you remember from our arrival story, driving here was not our best experience! So we’ve embraced the life of walking. Recently both Mark and I downloaded the Pacer App on our phones to start tracking our steps. We shoot for 10,000 steps a day. With our five-story stair climb and three walks to and from the kids’ school a day, we’ve found that hitting 6-7,000 steps is easy to do just by walking our way through our daily routine.  On the weekends we have been trying to take some walking adventures; some Saturdays that may just be a walk into town to go to the store, or Penelope’s favorite walking place – Calton Hill.   We also walk to church on Sundays (about a mile away), which takes us roughly 20-30 minutes because we often detour through London Road Gardens.

Our family on a treasure hunt at the London Gardens.

Public Transportation – On the same note, when we can’t or don’t want to walk, the public transit is great! With a very helpful app, it is so easy to navigate our way through the city. A few weeks ago we decided to take the tram just to see where we ended up, and low and behold we found the Saughton Skatepark. We also stumbled upon a great shopping center and found some much needed items at great prices. Our kids love the bus (much more than walking!) and get so excited when we tell them we are going for a ride.

History & Culture – Everywhere you go you will find some sort of monument or homage being paid to someone. I think I’ve spent more time on Wikipedia and Google since we’ve been here than I ever have before. The other day we found out the building we live in was built in the 1890s, Penelope and Markie’s school is the second oldest working primary school in Edinburgh, and Mark found out that one of his peers lives in the former flat of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. The stairs in our building are very worn in the middle of each step, and it’s hard not to think about all the people who walked up and down these stairs before us each time we walk them.

 

The kids hanging out at Calton Hill with their Aunt Hannah.
The kids hanging out at Calton Hill with their Aunt Hannah.

 

National Healthcare System (NHS) – With Mark’s Diabetes and Asthma, healthcare bills are something that have always been a part of our lives. Even with the good insurance we had before we left the states, we had been paying upwards of $5000 a year in deductibles, prescriptions, and co-pays. When we applied for our visa we were charged $1000 to pay into NHS for all four of us for four years! This was peanuts compared to what we were used to paying annually. So, like many who are skeptical of National healthcare, we were curious what kind of service was going to greet us. We have been amazed! Our Surgery Center (or GP’s office) is just up the road, and we have never had to wait more than 5 minutes – if that – when we have a scheduled appointment. We’ve had a few urgent care situations in which we were seen either the day of (within a few hours) or the next morning depending on the problem. Mark has already been referred to a specialist at the University of Edinburgh – one of the leading universities in medical studies. Also, all prescriptions are paid for through NHS, so you walk in, give them your script, and walk out with your meds in roughly 10 mins! I never realized how my awareness of medical fees was engrained in me until I got sick a month ago and waited as long as I could bare it before making an appointment. Mark had to remind me that through NHS that burden was something we no longer had to bare. (Unfortunately, we still have a few medical bills beckoning our attention back in the States from when Markie took a spill down the stairs weeks before we moved!)

These are just a few of the many things we love about city we now call home. There are many more facets that would make this blog terribly long, but as you continue to follow our journey we will continue to share all our new experiences with you.

Ho-Ho-Ho’s At The Lamas House

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE LAMAS’S

IMG_0803

The Lamas family has, for the first time, experienced Christmas in a foreign land, and without family or friends to celebrate the occasion. Every year during Christmas we would make the rounds to our parents’ houses. Because of our families situations, we had four to five places to go in under 48-hours with everyone vying for our time. This was often a stressful season for our family, but to say we’ve missed our families (even in light of the holiday stresses) this Christmas is an understatement. Thankfully, Leah and I have found a new joy in one another and our kids. We have loved the prospect of forging our own traditions as we mix things up from the past.

IMG_0703Unlike back home, our family uses the city bus system to get around. In most cases, I love using this system, which has alleviated much unnecessary stress from my life. Though, at times, there are drawbacks, and Christmas was no exception. Typically, I’d borrow a truck or strap a Christmas tree onto my Prius, but Edinburgh didn’t afford such luxury. Not only were we without a vehicle, but we were also not familiar enough with our neighborhood to track down a Christmas tree lot. Luckily, as we were out for our daily stroll, we stumbled across a small storefront, a little more than a mile awayIMG_0957 from our flat, which had Christmas trees for sale. Their selection was slim and the trees were small, but they were perfect for our 2-bedroom flat. We decided to get a 5-foot tree (opting out of the Charlie Brown size) that would fit in our foyer. However, as I said before, we had no car—and the bus doesn’t run from the store to our flat—and the only option was for me to carry the tree home. The trek back wasn’t fun, but after twenty-five minutes of stop and go we made it back. That night we dressed the tree with lights and ornaments, snuggled up, and drank some hot chocolate. The kids had a blast as we forged ahead, determined to make new memories.

IMG_0960Family members wereIMG_0961 itching to figure out the best route to send gifts to Markie and Penelope. Unfortunately, the post office is VERY expensive and most US retailers won’t ship to the UK without astronomical charges for shipping. Ultimately, it worked out where family members were able to put money into our American bank account so we could purchase gifts on their behalf. Though, it’s not the same, the kids still loved their gifts!

IMG_0874Also, Leah and I decided to get the kids fewer gifts than normal and invest the money from family into making more memories. Fortunately for us, living in the UK allows for affordable access to nearly all of Europe. So, for under $500, we were able to book a 5-day trip to Italy (4 people including flight and hotel costs!!). Leah and I thought building memories around the world would be a wonderful and lasting gift for our little family. We are looking forward to that trip at the end of February, and will be sure to share our experiences. IMG_0941Additionally, we gifted the kids with a year membership to the Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park (after two trips the membership pays for itself). So, on Christmas Eve we decided to visit the Zoo, and the kids fell in love. The zoo offered a full gamut of animals, and it was clean to boot. We are excited about the memories to be created, and we are thankful for family who gifted us and made it possible. We hope all our friends and family had a wonderful holiday as we certainly did.

 

Here’s a few more photos:

IMG_0934

IMG_0902

IMG_0901

IMG_0886

IMG_0871

IMG_0872

IMG_0943

IMG_0947

IMG_0915

Bah-Humbug

Leah and I are not a sentimental people. We don’t care much for extravagant birthdays or anniversaries, and we are especially disinterested in the hoopla of the holidays. I never installed Christmas lights on our house and we’ve never had a real Christmas tree. Only since Mark and Penelope were born have we begun to dabble in the Christmas spirit, but only menially. So, to our surprise, the city of Edinburgh began to erect a Christmas village in the center of town shortly after Halloween.

edxmas_share-2015

Here, unlike America, Thanksgiving and Christmas don’t have to compete for airtime. It is Christmas 24/7 from November –December. The city goes all out; boasting a Ferris wheel that stretches to the sky, hundreds of vendors, two ice rinks, multiple kid’s carnivals, regular fireworks, and scores of live bands, dramas, and plays…and so much more! The smell of sizzling bratwursts, crepes, and Belgium hot chocolate are enough to bring a grown man to tears, how much more a child?! Since November, Christmas town has become a regular stop for our family, as the explorations seem endless—and our kids are enamored with the spectacle each time. We’ve come to love that our city is plastered with lights and marks of the Christmas spirit, a spirit that has helped mitigate some of our “bah-humbug” ethos (Dickens would be proud!). Though we miss friends and family, and wish we could share this experience, we have fallen in love with the liveliness of Edinburgh, and their enthusiastic attitude towards the Christmas season! Please, enjoy some of the photos and video attached below.

23494475005_daee30d883_b

IMG_0749

christmas-markets

IMG_0743

Edinburgh

gallery12_600_400_90_c1

IMG_0748

IMG_0755

IMG_0713

 

 

 

 

 

Hotels to Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

– Maya Angelou

IMG_4885

Do you know the comfort of your own bed? How about the coziness of your “own space” where you throw off your shoes, flop on the couch, and let the dishes stack up? Since we sold our home in May we haven’t really had a place to call our own, even though we experienced some amazing hospitality before we moved (thanks Mom and Bobby and Rick and Lorraine Davies). After arriving in London on September 13th, we shuffled into a tiny hotel, though admittedly we would have been willing to sleep on some cardboard boxes under a bus bench (gotta love those red-eye flights!). Two days later we flew into Edinburgh where we had reserved a vacation rental flat for 8 days. Numerous letting (rental) agencies assured us that the housing market moved quickly and finding accommodations within our time span was easily attainable. While the “harvest was plentiful” with housing the availability (move-in dates) limited our options. In the end, we figured that the earliest housing would be available October 1st, some 7 days after our vacation rental was up. This meant a few more days in a tiny hotel (bummer). However, we lucked out in our search and found a great flat, owned by a sweet couple (which means no management co. to deal with!). The house is in a great neighborhood, with a good primary school, and only a short bike/bus ride to New College. Our place is on the 5th floor, which means we get a great workout (especially when we’re carrying two bags of groceries) and an even better view. The flat also came fully furnished with beds, neat furniture, dishes, silverware, and even cooking utensils! These extra inclusions helped us keep our move-in budget on track, which was nice considering the extra hotel expenses we incurred while patiently counting down to October 1st. We snapped a few photos to welcome you to our new home. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement while our search for housing ensued.

IMG_2659

IMG_4915

IMG_4918

IMG_4820

IMG_4825

IMG_4843

IMG_4881IMG_4880

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4875

IMG_4899

IMG_4852

 

 

Planes, Buses, and Automobiles

The adventure has started…

So much has happened over the last week that it is almost overwhelming thinking about where to start.

The Flight:

Our flight from LAX to London ended up only being 9 ½ hours (we were told it would be 10 ½!). Our flight left LA at 9:45pm Pacific Time, and we landed around 3:30pm European Time (7:30am Pacific Time). Both kids slept most of the trip, but we… did not!

Lesson learned: never underestimate the value of the neck pillow!

We stayed at the airport hotel for two nights, and we are so glad we did! We were allowed double the luggage on our LA flight, so we had to ship 4 of our bags via post while we were in London. This was so great because it made our check-in process so much easier than it was the first time (see picture! – it was as awful as it looks!)

IMG_2430
Us before check in at LAX: 3 luggage carts, 15 bags, 1 bike, and a double stroller!

Our second flight from London to Edinburgh was about an hour and the kids loved their little travel kits that they got from many of those who attended their birthday party before we left (thanks again!!).

IMG_2437

Arriving in Edinburgh:

This day was CRAZY! We landed around 10am, then we rented a car – big mistake!! So stressful! Mark drove, on the left side of the road and the right side of the car.

IMG_2440

Our first stop – McDonalds! We were starving and it was right by the airport. Next, we got SO lost! We didn’t have GPS because we couldn’t access our data on our phones, so we stopped at a literal castle (Craigmillar Castle) to get directions.

Not a terrible place to get lost!
Not a terrible place to get lost!

At the gift shop, there were two ladies that looked up directions for us and spent quite a bit of time explaining them to us, and, when all was said and done, they gave us a small atlas that we’re supposed to return to them sometimes in the next 3 years (Ha!). After we left the home of Mary Queen of Scots, we got lost again and ended up stumbling upon Mark’s school, New College, (another castle looking building) and he was able to get directions from the computer (not exactly the way he would first experience stepping on to campus). Then we, finally, got to our place and unloaded. We were exhausted and cranky to say the least. However, after driving around aimlessly trying to find our place, we then found ourselves driving around to find parking (which there was none!). SO … we decided to just go back to the airport (with the help of my atlas) and returned the car, give up on driving forever, and took a taxi back to our place. Kids slept the whole time until we had to get them out of the rental to catch the Taxi.

Lesson Learned: Never drive again the entire time we are here! Mark ended up telling his supervisor about our chaos driving; her response, “I’ve lived here 15 years and have never driven here!”

So how do we get around?

The Bus System:

Lothian busThe bus system is very well organized here. However, it did take us getting lost a few times, missing stops, and missing buses to begin to figure out the system. Mark got his cell phone service activated on day 2 here in the city, and the first thing we did was download the Lothian Bus mobile app, which is SO helpful! The kids are also loving taking the bus (especially because it means they don’t have to walk!), and their favorite place to sit is on the top deck, so they can see the city as we drive around.

Speaking of cell service…

 

Phones:

Here in the UK you need crazy good credit in order to sign a contract with a cell phone provider. Because of this, most people here just purchase monthly service which runs around £25 (approx. $39) per phone – this includes a data plan. Mark was able to set up his phone and get a UK number, but unfortunately my phone is still locked up through AT&T – who told us it would be no problem to unlock online.

Lesson Learned: always go into the AT&T store to do anything!

Unfortunately, we don’t have the option now to go into the store, so we are still waiting on this process, which hopefully will be cleared up in a week.

Until then, Leah does have access to her phone using Wifi. The best way we’ve been communicating with our friends and family WhatsAppfrom the US is through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both which are free!

Through WhatsApp we can call and text. Through Facebook Messenger we can call, message (text), and video chat. We encourage anyone to message us through either application! We love hearing from our friends FB Messengerand family! We have an 8 hour time difference, so just remember to mark it down on your world clock, or here’s a few ways to think about it:

Noon in California is 8pm in Scotland (we go to bed around 10 or 11pm)

Midnight in California is 8am in Scotland (we tend to wake up around 6 or 7am)

So feel free to contact us first thing when you wake up in the morning, at your lunch break, or, for you night owls, right before you go to bed (after 10pm).

Weather Report:

We have been greeted by this city with the most beautiful weather!

University of Edinburgh Old College
University of Edinburgh Old College

It has been in the high 50’s – low 60’s – Fahrenheit that is – with only a few sprinkles of rain.

"Mark texted me this picture while on the bus home on his first day of orientation" - Leah
“Mark texted me this picture while on the bus home on his first day of orientation” – Leah

The biggest shock was on Mark’s first day of school when there was a random downpour on his walk home.

Lesson Learned: always check the forecast in the morning even if it looks sunny outside. Next purchase is to be umbrellas!

 

Housing Updated: We finally found a place to live! We move in October 1st, so stay tuned into the blog for all the details!

 

Grace and Peace,

Mark and Leah

 

In A Nutshell…

Dear Blog family,

It has been a while since we last spoke, and much has happened over these past couple of months, so much that it has been difficult to set aside time to document the many events. During this time in preparation to leave the country, our family has experienced numerous “last” events, many of which have occurred over the past two months. So, we thought it might been beneficial to do a photo/caption recap:

 

First Friday (June 5th)

For the last two years, Anchor (Garden Community Church’s young adult ministry that Leah and I directed), has committed to serve the Bakersfield art community by providing a booth at the city’s First Friday event . The Anchor booth offered 100+ free canvas’s and paint along with nachos, waters, and hot chocolate (in the winter, of course).

11401359_10205740948396056_2265758961842633407_n

We had the opportunity, each month, to share the creative nature of God with attendees. We, often, had folks tell us they were looking forward to coming to our booth, but not to just use our paints or canvas, rather as an opportunity to engage in compelling conversation. Many in attendance at Anchor and The Garden came in through this avenue. It is deeply saddening to know that the ministry will no longer carry-on in Leah and my absence. My prayers are with the art community of Bakersfield. May they find God’s creative mind and power in all they do!

 

 

 

Penelope’s Dance Recital (June 20th)IMG_2989

Penelope participated in her first dance recital with Downtown Dance Arts Center on June 20th at CSUB! She was in two different dances: she danced to her all time favorite Beauty and the Beast theme song for her ballet number, and sang her heart out as she tapped to her Broadway number. It was such a joy to watch her practice every week, getting better and better. It was also a great experience she got to share with her cousin Addison and friend Ezekiel Saldana (who’s nana was their tap teacher, Mrs Robin).

 

Go Skateboarding Day (June 21st)

Every year National Go Skateboarding Day is on June 21st. Over the past 10 years Leah and I have been involved with the skateboarding community of Bakersfield by hosting the Shindig, a skate park, once a week providing free Nachos with skateboarding and breakdancing. Last August (2014), and with the potential sale of The Gate (where the Shindig was housed), we decided that the Shindig would move from 4being a weekly happening to an event-based ministry. After June 21st we decided to close down the Shindig for good. So, this year’s event we wanted to be exceptional…as it was our last. We had around 400 kids show up and served hundreds of nachos. The competitions went great, and Leah and I got to see the amazing progress of kids we met nearly ten years ago (when they were snot-nosed little brats!). The Shindig has helped thousands of street kids! We continue to hear stories from these kids (now adults) about how the Shindig shifted the course of their lives. We are quite thankful for the success enjoyed and the grace God provided us throughout the years. We had the opportunity to meet and influence many amazing individuals. Leah and I are grieving the loss of this ministry deeply as its inception was during our first year of marriage. We have high hopes for the impact we made and continue to pray that the skateboard community of Bakersfield be influenced positively through other means.

 

A Trip to the Zoo (July 17th)11709829_10206038937245591_6611677328677292544_o

During our remaining months in Bakersfield, we have made it a goal to hang out with as many family and friends as possible. So, a couple of weekends ago, this lead to an impromptu trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo with the Sampson clan! Joseph and Rakel’ are some of our favorite people to hang out with! (It also helps that our children are the same age!) Penelope and Markie will definitely miss their friends Elizabeth and Amanda as we venture abroad. Friendships like these make us very thankful for the technology age that we live in with free FaceTime and Skpe.

 

Bye Bye Red Prius (July 23rd)

As we are still in the process of ridding ourselves of our possessions and unnecessary bills, we knew that we needed to sell both of our cars. We own two Toyota Prius’s (a Prius for everyone!), and now we only own one. We purchased our Red Prius in 2010 when Mark started his studies at Fuller Theological Seminary down in Pasadena. He had to commute from Bakersfield to Pasadena upwards of 3 times a week, which made 60 miles per gallon sound really great. It didn’t take long after purchasing the car to fall in love, so when Mark finished Fuller last summer we decided to purchase our Silver Prius…before we knew we were embarking on this over-seas adventure. It’s expected to be sad when having to sell something you love, but we are super excited that we got to sell this beauty to our great friend Kris Smith, as he starts his journey at Fuller Seminary this fall! Now to sell the Silver one…any takers?

 

“Yes to VBS” (July 27-31)IMG_0052

Vacation Bible School is something Penelope has talked about since last year’s VBS! We recently removed the CD from last year’s VBS (when we were cleaning out our Red Prius to sell…), and now we have the new one! This year’s theme, Journey Off the Map, has come with neon green shirts and lots of fun and adventure. This week both kids have been able to participate since Leah volunteered to help in arts and crafts. Both kids love their church friends and teachers and will definitely miss all of them as we travel. Continue to pray for us as we look for a church in Edinburgh (hopefully one with a VBS as great as this one)!

 

Well, that was our last couple of months in a quick recap. Hopefully, now that things have slowed down a little, we hope to post more as we get closer and closer to our departure date.
Love you all,

 

The Lamas Four

Empty Plates and Happy Hearts

Four empty dinner chairs and a meal on the run perfectly describe our life—welcome to the schedule of a pastor! Programming up to four or five nights a week is a regular occurrence in the Lamas’ household, and being called out for an emergency on the other days is quite possible, and likely. The inconsistency of such a work schedule has had its effects on family life. I don’t say this to complain—this is the life / occupation that Leah and I chose for ourselves, and feel is God’s calling for us—but to answer a question we continue to receive from friends and family, “What most excites you about moving?” My brief answer: a normal schedule and family life complete with meals together daily.

Growing up I remember the dinner table to be a place of connection and discussion. My mom was pretty strict about dinnertime together. I would be out skateboarding or goofing with friends, but knew when 5:30pm rolled around I had better head home for that block of time (and all my friends complained about my mom’s “stupid rule”). Only retrospectively have I been able to appreciate the foresight of my mom and stepdad who helped gather our family to engage with each other when us kids were disinterested. The time together created bonds and long-lasting memories that I’m thankful for to this day. Part of my hope in this transition period is to reset all parts of my life, and create healthy patterns, which are typically difficult in the pastoral vocation, especially in those areas where I have been imbalanced. For example, my health has regularly been placed on the back burner for “more important things,” but over the last couple of months I’ve committed to working out three days a week and have restored physical, mental, and spiritual strength. However, in our transition, attentiveness to my family is the top priority on my list.

I am quite thankful to the Garden, who has allowed me a number of weeks off (beginning after June 30th) prior to our departure to prepare for moving and to get our final affairs in order. Leah and I are excited to put into practice healthy family patterns that we can carry over during our time in Edinburgh. One of those practices is sitting at the table together and enjoying the company of one another. So, when people ask me if I’m most excited about the beautiful scenery, top-notch golf-courses, stunning ancient architecture, or the wildly different culture we’ll be immersed in, I have to laugh at their amazement when I say, “No.” My most joyful expectation in this transition is my time together with my family, enjoying and exploring Edinburgh with them, and most importantly, sharing a meal with my babies and beauty daily.

As we embark on this journey we ask that you continue to pray for us, and the healthy patterns we intend to put / keep in place. If you have any words of wisdom in this area feel free to share in the comment section.

Grace and Peace,

Mark

A White Picket Fence

I grew up in a middle class hard working family. I was taught strong values of work ethic and lessons on success. I remember the day when I opened my first bank account with my name on it. I was in the 5th grade. From that point I began earning money. For every straight “A” report card I earned a $20 bill (and a dinner party trip to the local Sizzler! Yum!). So, with that said, I had an ideal of what adulthood should look like. I would go to college, get a great job, get married, and one day own a house.

Well… when Mark and I decided to get married straight out of high school at the ripe age of 19, some of these plans were slightly changed. I started college, got married to Mark a year later, and we lived off of mediocre jobs, which consequently created slim savings. In 2007, I graduated college, and a year later finally started my teaching career while Mark began to seriously pursue college for himself. At the time, California was experiencing a rise in the housing market, and my older sister and her husband were in the process of looking for their first home. Me, like all good sisters, started to compare my life to my dear sister’s (whom I absolutely love and adore by the way) and cried to Mark about how “we will never be able to afford to buy a house!” After many tears and a patient husband who listened to me wail, Mark reminded me that not everyone owns a home; we were hard working people, and that if a home was in the cards for us, then it would happen…one day.

 

Blog-House 1

 

Fast forward to Dec 2009, with some government graces and incentives, an ideal buyers market, and some family funds, we were able to miraculously buy our first home! And, to top it off, our mortgage for this 3 bedroom, 1 bath home was $60 cheaper than our rent for our 1 bedroom apartment! Our house, something that I had come to peace with possibly never owning, has been such a blessing to our small little family. In 2010, we brought home our baby girl to this house, and, in 2012, our baby boy. We’ve had many prayer meetings in our house (packing over 20 people in the small living room!), which birthed the ministry of Anchor (see pic below), and shared many cups of coffee with those we love.

 

Blog-Prayer in House

 

Here is a little fun fact about Mark and I. Since we’ve known each other, there has never been a time when one of us was not enrolled in school; we met in high school, I started college, I graduated from CSUB, Mark started BC and I started my master’s program, I graduated with my masters, Mark started CSUB, and now, as Mark started to approach his graduation from Fuller Seminary in August this last year (in 2014, after 10 years of marriage and hours of homework), our conversation about the next step began to start. Mark, who barely graduated high school, was entertaining the idea of pursuing a PhD! So, after hours of filling out applications, writing and researching for a dissertation proposal, and completing a personal statement, we got the news that Mark received a place at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland!

 

But what about the house?

 

After doing MUCH research, reading a bunch of blogs, trying to familiarize ourselves with UK economics, and conversations with financial aid, we decided it would be the best choice financially to sell our house. As we were having our last big yard sale and moving our big items and keepsakes into storage, I was left standing in my empty living room talking to some dear friends. I was telling them the story of our house and how I thought we’d never own one, which led me to reflect on how grateful and thankful I was—and still am for this house, and God’s timing and plan for this journey.

 

Here is the reality of our situation…

 

There is absolutely no way we could be moving for our family to pursue this next step without our house. Because of the diminishing market value when we bought our home, and because of the recently surprising spike in Bakersfield’s home values (we sold in April, which was the best seller’s market since the housing market crash!), we were able to sell our house at a price that will help sustain our cost of living for the next 3 years. Simply looking at the numbers, this is a miracle. When I think about what a conversation would look like between my current self and my 2007 self, I am overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God and his timing and its alignment with the calling that he has had and still has on our family’s life.

Cheers to 2600 Corto Street! You will be missed.

Blog-House 2

Hindsight truly is 20/20! What situations in your life have panned out in a way you didn’t expect? Please share your encouraging story below.

 Grace and peace,

Leah