Today I bought a bike that I couldn’t afford

Three years ago, we sold everything we owned. Everything.

When we arrived in Costa Rica, it was with 10 checked bags, 5 backpacks, and the clothes on our backs. That was it. That was all that was left of our possessions. It was hard, but good. And I have no regrets about it.


Three years ago, we also sold everything our kids owned. And that’s kind of a messed up thing to do to a kid. If you don’t believe me, ask a kid. Go on. Turn to the kid nearest you, right now, and say “Hey, kid, this weekend I’m gonna have a giant yard sale featuring all your favorite junk. Ok?”

Did they cry? I bet they cried. I hope you did that to your own kid and not some stranger’s kid in the mall or something. That would be terrible. I mean, not as terrible as actually selling a kid’s entire bedroom worth of stuff in a yard sale. Not as terrible as taking everything your kid has ever touched, played with, or looked at, every book, every dvd, every board game, every Lego, every stuffed animal, every piece of sporting equipment, every bit of camping gear, and every Dollar Store treasure, along with their bed, dresser and bookshelf, out to the driveway to sell for way less than what it’s worth.

That is a pretty terrible thing to do.

I know. I did it.

And during that whole agonizing process, my 3 boys -the same kids that I joke around about being ungrateful, selfish, little turd-balls – they never complained, not even once, about the sacrifices they were being asked to make. Not even once.

But we had a plan. The plan was to get here, to Costa Rica, set up house with the basics, some dishes, a little furniture, daily essentials, and then El Chupacabra and I had budgeted a certain amount of our set-up costs to go directly toward things for our kids. Things to replace some of the stuff they had so willingly given up to make this journey.

Partly, we wanted to reward them for their awesome attitudes and for all the help and hard work they had put in to the move. And partly we wanted to help them feel at home here, give them something to come home to, so to speak.

But we hadn’t anticipated the extreme cost of setting up house in a country that boasts a 50% import tax. And we hadn’t foreseen the huge increase in airfare. And we weren’t quite sure of what the full cost of having three kids in private school would look like. And, naturally, we hadn’t planned on having our house robbed, or our car stolen, or our credit card number snaked online and used in Vegas by a guy who I still hope picked up some kind of flesh eating venereal disease on his exploits (and I mean that in the most Christian way).

Before we knew it, we were wiped out.

Our kids slept on mattresses, on the floor, for the first two years that we lived here. That’s not exactly the “thank you” we had had in mind, when we embarked on this adventure.

We have been, slowly but surely, building a home. It’s true that it sometimes has the look/feel of a college frat house (minus the vomit stains and the sour smell of weed in the upholstery) with laundry hampers doubling as bedside tables and stainless steel kitchen shelving standing in as closet space. We stack books on the floor, we cut our entire lawn with a weed-whacker, and we have broken all but 3 of our drinking glasses.

But today, even though it seems like we need a whole bunch of other stuff more, we bought a bicycle.

For today was my fair haired boy’s 10th birthday.

And this kid, who has given up so much, who has adapted so incredibly, who has taken on a new life so willingly, this kid who has taught me so much about trust, and faith, and who has reminded me time and time again of what is really, truly important in this messed up world, this kid deserves a bike.

Because he traded his in for something better, 3 years ago.

Happy Birthday, baby! I am so proud of who you are!!



  1. Emily. :) on April 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    For the record, I've spent many years sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I love it. I also have a bordering on pathetic fear of sleeping more than two feet above the ground.

    Your kids are amazing, btw. 🙂

  2. Em on April 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    that's great!!!!

  3. the J in PJs Til Noon on April 15, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Oh, this made me cry. Seems to me kids are a reflection of their parents.

  4. Brook (two10eleven) on April 15, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Jamie, you always crack me up! I literally see an unread item from you in Google Reader and get excited!

    Happy Birthday to your little man from Thailand!

  5. Carrie on April 15, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Again, I can relate. We sold everything in 2003. Most of my kids were quite young and didn't really grasp it all. And, we kept momentos at my Mom's house. But, as you said, they were great about it all and moved forward with us.

    One great thing about my kids—-they have NEVER enjoyed sleeping in a bed, even when given the choice. So they can sleep anywhere, anytime.

    We also bought a bike yesterday—our last baby's first bike. She was so excited and told her siblings that "it is the most perfect color in the whole world". My Love and I cried. Yes, we're sappy like that.

    50% tax, eh? Dang! And we thought our 20% was high. Between the US gov't, this gov't, and import taxes, we're lucky to have anything left. I can't imagine 50%!

    Happy Birthday and cool bike!

  6. Rob on April 15, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Jamie, this is one of your best posts. Like others, I love every time I see another post from you in Google Reader, because I know you're going to make me laugh and challenge me at the same time.

    You did those things in this post, but you did more … you inspired me. Great post!

    Happy Birthday to the little guy!

  7. Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras on April 15, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Oh my friend – from someone who truly gets it!!!! Our problem?! It's SO dang dangerous to ride a bike, my girl doesn't have one. How sad is that?! I don't think ANY kid "should" grow up without one. Ah well – other "things" then I guess 🙂

  8. The McClain's on April 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Ahh, Jamie, you totally nailed this one…and made me cry big sloppy tears as I remembered our three little kids sleeping on mattresses on the floor in their little bedroom- do you remember that little room they were in our apartment? But like another said- they now are so flexible and can sleep on any floor, no matter if they have a mattress or not- even tile! And it was last year for us that we bought bikes for our kids for their birthdays- bikes that were way too expensive- but bikes that they use every stinking day and get so much enjoyment out of that it was worth the month of eating ONLY rice and beans it took to save for them! (So not kidding!) Every time Audrey, 5, goes speeding down the slight hill next to our house and then slams her brakes to watch the dust fly and then looks back at the skid mark she makes with this smile of accomplishment I thank God for those bikes. Great picture and wonderful post. I agree- one of your best!

  9. Megan D on April 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Way to be a mom, Jaime. Well played, all of you!

  10. Kyle Reed on April 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

    He looks like he is having the best time.

  11. on April 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    What a great post. I hope he enjoys it. Happy Birthday!

  12. tracey on April 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Interesting that I should read this post today as I am moaning over losing the house we wanted in Burlington – our home in just a little over 6 weeks. Our family is relocating to plant a church & I have 2 daughters starting over without a word of complaint. Granted we're moving to Canada, just outside Toronto, so we have a lot less culture shock/lifestyle adjustment in front of us than what you faced. But, as I reminded God this morning, my oldest is giving-up-her-senior-year-with-the-friends-she's-grown-up-with-and we-have-to-give-away-her-dog-plus-the-community-centre-You-told-us-to-rent-is-apparently-run-by-Satan's-less personable sister-and-why-couldn't-we-just-have-this-one-freakin'-thing-work-out-when-this-whole-freakin'thing-wasYour-idea-in-the-the-first-place?

    Anyway. Thanks for the reality check & the shift in perspective. I've climbed down off the cross and I'm ready to get back to work.

  13. Cynthia Reese on April 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Oh, Kleenex, please, because this post made me cry. It also made me feel horribly guilty about the bike I have that is collecting dust.

    The Kiddo? My little darling is a hoarder. You say yard sale to her, and she FREAKS. Gotta work on that. Some more, because we already do.

  14. Zac on April 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Dang you, making me sad at work haha… It made me think of my son Luke (age 4), and how he would feel if we sold all of his toys. As a parent I think that had to be one of the harder things to do, but it sounds like your kids were troopers.

    However, buying a bike for your son warrants changing the name of the blog to Jamie the very best Mother!

  15. Steve Spinella on April 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    That is so fun, because like my parents sold all our stuff when we moved to CR when I was 12, with sisters 11, 7, and 6. But we are way richer than you because when we came to Taiwan 14 years ago, we brought 17 boxes, plus stuffed carryons for all 5 of us, even though the kids couldn't possibly carry theirs at ages 8, 5, and 5. Hope he likes his bike and it doesn't get stolen for quite a while 🙂

  16. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on April 15, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Haha!! Steve, it's like you read my mind!! When he went out with his bike after school today I was like "Please God, protect that bike!", cuz I'm all freaked out about it getting stolen…. but what are you gonna do, right?

    Thanks everybody, for the kind b-day wishes to my boy, and as always, for taking the time to leave such sweet and encouraging comments!!

    You guys are all super awesome!!

  17. Jan on April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Hey, do you find that your kids are "hoarders" now about the things they get in CR? We've changed countries twice and we have allowed our youngest to bring one suitcase or plastic bin of special things, and that's all. He is incredibly packrat-ish now, and I don't know if it's because of that or not. It could have been having every thing stolen in Nicaragua except for the pajamas he was sleeping in, too. Who knows? But it is awesome that they are willing to pay the price to serve Jesus, and they understand it's not about stuff for the most part.

  18. LIZZY on April 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    okay so my friend sent me a link to your burn victim post. and… i died. it. was. hilarious.

    and then i found this one. and as a mom of 2 boys who just sold everything we own to move to the mission field in belgium, i can totally relate and love hearing how it really is from a mom who's already "in it". and sadly, how my ideals of getting there and getting set up may take way longer than i'm planning on. sigh.

    so in light of these things, i have already determined that i will stalk you. and i mean that in the most christian of ways. only because you are hilarious, and i think given the chance, we'd be great friends.

    your newest stalker

  19. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on April 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Jan – That's a really good question.
    I can honestly say that my kids don't seem to be more attached to things or more inclined to hoard since we moved, but I can see how that could come as a result of a major move and robbery and all that.

    Sometimes my youngest wants to hang on to something that he's outgrown (toys, clothes, books, or whatever) for sentimental reasons, so as we clean out his room, we snap pics of those items. I've noticed that, for him, it's usually about the memories more than the actual thing. That way he doesn't feel like he's totally letting go of whatever it is he associates with the "special" thing.

  20. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on April 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Lizzy, your stalking is absolutely welcome here! I hope you and the crew continue to settle in beautifully to your new home. Belgium would be an awesome place to live, I mean, with the waffles and everything!!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙂

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