Sunday, November 13, 2016

Furlough 2014-15: The Pacific Northwest

After our time in Ft. Worth, we flew to Seattle and were in the Pacific Northwest for  almost the entire month of November. We spent the majority of our time in Seattle with the Bellevue Church of Christ, but we were able to take a few days and head down to Portland to spend Thanksgiving with Ronda.

We were present for the Bellevue church's Missions Sunday on our first Sunday there, which was very special. We also visited almost all of the home groups during our time with Bellevue, shared meals with different members, had meetings with the elders and missions committee, and got to do some shopping and explore a little of Seattle. We had decided, for various reasons, to change our residency to Washington state, so we  also had a few "paperwork" errands to take care of during our time there. We registered to vote and got our WA state driver's licenses. I was continually amazed at how easy and efficient government offices were in the States in comparison to Ecuador! It's all a matter of perspective, folks! After getting all that taken care of, we were able to go to the public library and get library cards. The kids loved the library, and we definitely made good use of it during our time there!

The church had arranged for a short-term rental house for us during our time there, which was a VERY big blessing! It was nice to have a place of our own to come home to at the end of the day, and it meant we could have friends over for dinner or even to stay the night. We reconnected with several different friends and relatives during our time in Washington and of course Oregon!

Here are pictures of the highlights of our time in the PNW:

I got to reconnect with my friend Abby, a fellow MK from Kenya! It had been over 20 years since we had seen each other.
Game night with the young adult group at Bellevue Church of Christ
Our former teammate, Jordan, happened to be back from Angola on her furlough at the same time as us. She flew all the way to Seattle to spend a few days with us. We explored downtown Seattle together.
Highlights of our day in downtown Seattle included a ride on the Great Wheel with an awesome view of the Puget Sound, and a visit to the original Starbucks and Pike Place market.
Elizabeth met her Auntie Ronda for the first time.
We took the ferry to Whidbey Island one day...
...to welcome cousin Johnny home from his Navy deployment! We are so proud of him.
We spent a very cold day at the zoo!
We paid a visit to Cousins Dave and Kaye who live north of Seattle, about an hour from the Canadian border.
We got to attend the Dickens Carolers pre-season Christmas concert, hosted by the Bellevue Church of Christ.
While in Portland, we got to have lunch with my cousin Candace and her son Cory.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with Auntie Ronda in Portland. The next day, we had Christmas with her!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Furlough 2014-15: Ft. Worth, TX

After two and a half years in Ecuador, plus a major change in our ministry focus (from the Kumanii jungle ministry to Camp Bellevue), and a change in our sponsorship, it was time to take our first furlough. We were in the States for about 3 months, from mid-October 2014 through mid-January 2015.

We started our time Stateside in Ft. Worth, Texas, visiting the Southside Church of Christ. This church actually came on board as one of our supporting congregations after we had already been in Ecuador a few months, so it was our first time to visit them and the first time for many in the congregation to meet us. We were there for two Sundays, and our time was PACKED (at our request) with seeing all of the different ministries Southside is involved in, meals with members, visiting various small groups, and a couple of presentations.

Here are pictures of some of the highlights of our time in Texas.

We spent a morning helping to build birdhouses for the Southside community garden, and enjoyed a serendipitous visit with Kent and Amber Brantley, the only other family to show up to help!

A sweet family who lived near the Ft. Worth Zoo paid for us all to spend the day there. Here, we are introducing the boys to Dippin' Dots!

We also took a morning and went to the Lego Discovery Center. It was super fun!

The boys (all 4 of them) loved this ride and went on it dozens of times.

Rusty's Uncle Willie is a pediatrician in the Dallas area. He saw all our kids, gave them check-ups, and updated their shots. Then we went to lunch at an Indian restaurant!

We celebrated Halloween while in Texas. Here we have Captain Rex, Spiderman, a very cute little pumpkin, and Scooby Doo!

Matt and Janille (my brother and sister-in-law) drove all the way from Abilene to see us and spend a weekend together.

We also saw my Uncle Ken. The only time we were able to squeeze in a visit with him was at the airport, right before we flew to Seattle. We are thankful he made time in his schedule for us.


Next stop: the Pacific Northwest!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Month by Month: 11

In Elizabeth's eleventh month, she celebrated her first Christmas. (Side note: all four of our children have celebrated their first Christmas with their Nyanya and Babu! I think that's pretty special.) Doesn't she make the cutest little Santa Baby?

Also, she made her first trip to the ER, thanks to contracting a really nasty virus while in Nashville that made her super congested. She was having trouble breathing, so Rusty took her in to an urgent-care clinic. The people at the clinic decided she needed to be seen at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and insisted that she go in an ambulance. I was not super happy about that, mostly because the 20-minute ambulance ride alone ended up costing us over $800! Still, I'm thankful that we were able to access care for her so quickly and easily. In the picture below, the left-hand side is in the ambulance, and the right-hand side is at the hospital.
We are 1 month away from Elizabeth's first birthday, which we actually celebrated back in Ecuador. So, the next few posts will be a recap of Furlough 2014/15.

Month by Month: 10

More firsts for Elizabeth in her 10th month:
  • First Thanksgiving, celebrated in Portland with Auntie Ronda
  • First snow (didn't really like it, too cold and wet)
  • First long multi-state road trip (more on this to come)
  • First time meeting many, many relatives!
  • First time meeting Santa (not a fan, hence no picture!)
She was sitting up well on her own at this point, but showing no interest in crawling. Eating lots of different foods (I loved being in the States where we had healthy options in baby food that I didn't have to make myself!), and still taking a bottle. Still sleeping pretty well at night, despite all of the moving around and changes to her routine. Such a sweet, easy-going girl!
Riding in the Kelty
A nap during church
10 months and 10 days old!

Friday, November 04, 2016

Month by Month: 9

 Elizabeth's ninth month was full of a lot of firsts.

First time on an airplane, and first time to visit her passport country: we left for our furlough in mid-October, 2014. Elizabeth proved to be a pretty easy baby to travel with. Since she wasn't mobile yet, other than being able to roll over, it was nice to be able to set her down somewhere without worrying that she was going to crawl and get dirty or get into a bunch of stuff she shouldn't. Of course, she was the star of our little traveling band. Everyone loves a baby! I will write more about our furlough in another post. The picture below was taken at the tail-end of our first flight from Quito to Miami. She finally dropped of to sleep about 3.5 hours into the 4-hour flight.

First Halloween: She wore this adorable pumpkin costume that I think was given to Stephen when he was a baby. We celebrated Halloween in Texas, and we were so excited to give our kids a real trick-or-treating experience. However, we didn't realize that the little town near where we were staying had cancelled Halloween (actually, they moved it to October 30th) on account of the last home football game of the season. Of course, Elizabeth didn't care, but the boys were pretty disappointed. Only in Texas!

First time to visit Seattle and the Bellevue Church of Christ: When we visited the Bellevue church the first time, to interview for the position of administrators at Camp Bellevue, I was pregnant with Elizabeth. So, this was the first time for many at our sponsoring church to meet her. The picture below was taken on the Seattle Great Wheel on the day we went down to the waterfront to explore. She loves her Daddy!
 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Month by Month: 8


So... on to catching up this blog.

It's weird going back and looking at pictures from two years ago. In this photo, Elizabeth was about 8 months old. I blinked and she became a lively and vivacious 2-year old with long, strawberry-blond hair!

I chose this picture because of the story behind it. I just got back from the 2016 Connections conference for missionary women in Brazil. It is such a blessing to be able to attend this conference every two years (see my post here about why it is so important), and it certainly would not be possible without the support of my husband. Two years ago, I decided at the last minute to go to the conference since Elizabeth had stopped breastfeeding about two months before. Rusty took this photo of her while I was away at the conference, and when I saw it pop up in my Photo Stream while in Brazil, I did a double take and then I burst out laughing. If you look closely, you'll see that she is wearing a backwards onesie (the keyhole closure should be in the back), and polkadot tights. And her expression in this photo is almost like, "C'mon, Dad."

When I questioned Rusty about her outfit after I got back from Brazil, he told me he had to wrestle with her for 10 minutes just to get her into the onesie, and then he realized it was on backwards, but he was so frustrated he didn't want to change it. And as far as the bottoms, he chose the tights because they looked warm and "they matched." All things considered, I suppose there are worse things that could happen to a baby than to be stuck in a weird outfit for a day. I just see it as evidence that my husband cares enough about me to make sure I get this time away every two years, even if it means solo-parenting for a week!

Back to Elizabeth. She started sitting unsupported at around 8 months. And once she was doing that, I let her start self-feeding. She loved pushing the Cheerios or chunks of banana around on her tray! Also, another big milestone was finally moving her out of her little baby cradle (which you see in the picture) and into a crib. It was kind of bittersweet to pack the cradle away one final time. She used it the longest of any of our babies, but once she was rolling over and sitting up, it was time for something bigger with taller sides. I don't plan to get rid of the cradle -- it's too sentimental for that, but I'll have to come up with another use for it now. Maybe I'll use it to store quilts or something -- until the grandbabies start arriving, ha ha!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Blogging Again

It's been a year and a half since I updated this blog. I have thought so many times about getting back into it, but the longer I go without updating, the more and more overwhelming it becomes to me. But I'm tired of continually putting it off. Tired of waiting for the time when I'm caught up on everything else in life, because that time will never come. I'll never be caught up. There will always be some project looming on the horizon that I feel like I HAVE to take care of before I can write and blog again.

I have a tendency to procrastinate on some things because I build them up in my mind to be these huge projects that are going to take me SO LONG to do. On Sunday, I sat down to write a family newsletter. I was sure I had written one back in May, but when I went looking for it, I didn't find it. Guess I didn't write one in May. The last one I wrote was in February. Seven months ago. Oops. Now, we've been busy. Just recapping the past seven months reminded me of how busy we've been, how many things have happened in our family and ministry. And so, forgetting to write a newsletter is understandable. Except that I didn't really forget. It's been one of those things in the back of my mind this entire time. I know it's undone. I know I'm behind, and it nags at me. But I make it out to be this big job that's going to take all this time, time I don't have right now, and so I put it off and put it off and make excuses.

I wrote the newsletter in a couple of hours on Sunday evening. I would have finished it completely, except that I couldn't get my computer connected to the Internet, so I was unable to download a couple of pictures I needed to plug in. So, I finished it last night and I emailed it out this afternoon. Now, I've been busy the last seven months. But not so busy that I couldn't have found a couple of hours to write a newsletter and send it out. I tell myself I don't have time. But the honest truth is that time is not the problem. Procrastinating on a task I perceive as unpleasant is the problem.

What am I trying to say? This blog has become something I am procrastinating on. Not because I perceive it as unpleasant. I used to enjoy blogging. I used to get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I still see it as something enjoyable, even though it is also a practical way to keep in touch with those who care about us and our ministry. But "catching up" feels like a bigger and bigger job the further and further behind I fall. That's why I'm procrastinating.

I am at a missionary women's retreat in Brazil this week. We are spending a lot of time in silence and solitude. We are reflecting on many things and trying to listen to God's voice. I personally am trying to figure out how I can recover some of my joy, and I know that part of that involves carving out time for those things that bring me satisfaction and fulfillment on a deep level. So I made it my goal to start writing and blogging again.

And even if I never "catch up," at least if I'm doing it regularly, I'm no longer procrastinating, right?

Friday, May 01, 2015

Month by Month: 7






Miss Cutie Patootie was 7 months old on September 8, 2014! As you can see from the photo, she was getting closer to being able to sit up on her own, but still needed some support. She was starting to fill out a little more, thanks to the solid food in her diet, but was still very petite. She wore 3-6 month size clothes until right before we left for our furlough at the end of October (and the only reason I moved her up was because I didn't want to be dealing with two different sizes of clothes while we were in the U.S.) All in all, just a content, laid-back, sweet, precious baby. She is a joy and a delight, and I honestly cannot imagine our family without her!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top Ten: Summer 2014 at Camp Bellevue

The months of May, June, July, and August are very busy for us here at Camp Bellevue. We are preparing to enter this busy season once again -- in fact after we get back from our family vacation, it'll pretty much be non-stop until the last week in August! As I recap last summer, I am reminded of all the ways we got to watch God work in and through Camp Bellevue last year. And I look forward to watching Him work in and through us and many others who will be coming to the camp this summer!

Here are the Top Ten from Summer 2014 at Camp Bellevue:

1) Let's Start Talking Teams -- We had two last year. One worked with the Atuntaqui Church of Christ, and the other with the Otavalo Church of Christ. We enjoyed having them and getting to know them, and we praise God for the fruit of some of their studies, including several baptisms at the Atuntaqui Church.


2) Wrapping up the After-School Program -- We ended the year by taking the kids on a field trip at the end of June. We took them to see "How to Train Your Dragon 2," then followed that with a picnic lunch a playtime at a local park.


3) Lots of visitors! -- I don't have pictures of everyone, sadly, but will try to mention all of our individual visitors by name. Dwight Albright and Randy Curtis (from the Park Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis) came for about a week to visit and see our ministry. Also Rusty and Martha Bolton, grandparents of a good friend who worked in Quito for awhile with a church-planting ministry called Extreme Nazarene. John Todd Cornett and his family came from Amarillo, Texas and spent a week helping to build a playground in the community. Jon and Brenna Camp, along with their two sons, spent a few days at the camp, and we so enjoyed getting to know them.

Dwight and Randy
Rusty and Martha
The Cornett family
4) A few fun "touristy" activities sprinkled in as we showed our visitors around, including seeing the changing of the guard at the presidential palace in Quito, zip-lining in Mindo, the Quito Zoo, climbing Mojanda, and seeing traditional dancers:

Alex on Mt. Mojanda
Traditional Ecuadorian dancers
5) Our summer intern -- Yajira spent a month as an intern at Camp Bellevue. She was a joy and a delight to have around, and she helped in so many capacities -- including in the kitchen, as a translator, and she even babysat our kids on occasion. I love the below picture of her with some of the kids who came to our VBS program:


 6) Playground -- this was a service project we did for a community in Tabacundo. Various people helped fund it, and as visitors came and went over the summer, they helped out with the actual building as they were able. The picture below shows the playground nearly completed.


7) First ever Family Mission Trip -- In July, we hosted the first (hopefully annual) Family Mission Trip at Camp Bellevue. We had about 40 participants, primarily from 3 of our supporting churches. About half of the participants were children. The idea was to create an opportunity for families to serve together and for parents to expose their children to missions in meaningful ways. We combined a VBS program for kids in the community in the mornings with a medical clinic in the afternoons.

Grocery shopping for the Family Mission Trip -- 8 carts full, and then we went to the market to buy fresh fruits and veggies!
Group picture in front of the PisulĂ­ Church of Christ, where we did a one-day project
VBS in a local park near the PisulĂ­ Church
 8) Vacation Bible School -- We hosted a 5-day VBS at the camp for kids in the community. By the end of the week, we were up to nearly 200 children in attendance!

Singing and worship time
Games -- human pyramids
A local potter did a demonstration for our "Jeremiah and the Potter" lesson. Then each of the kids got a lump of clay to mold.
9) Medical clinic -- Afternoons at the camp during the Family Mission Trip. We also took the show on the road for a couple of days and did a medical clinic at a church in Ibarra, about an hour away.

Dr. Jason with a patient
10) Youth Camps -- Two weeks in August are given over to youth camps. The camp operates at full capacity these two weeks -- nearly 200 people! The cabins are packed, the kitchen staff works 12-14 hour shifts, and sometimes we have to truck in water to keep up with demand! But seeing hearts drawn closer to Jesus makes it all worth it. And after all, it is why were here! The video below is of the singing class that is offered during the second week of camp. Sylvia Rivers, a voice teacher from the States, has been coming and doing these singing classes with the youth for several years now. She teaches them to sing in 4-part harmony. It is truly amazing what she can accomplish with these kids in just a week. Listen and be blessed!

Dishes for 200 people

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Month by Month: 6


Elizabeth celebrated her 6-month birthday on August 8, 2014, right at the end of our first youth camp. Maybe that's why I don't have a lot of pictures of her at this time! Rusty snapped these one morning when he was snuggling in bed with all the kids and I was down at the kitchen.

The sixth month brought the introduction of solid food to Elizabeth's diet. I held her off as long as possible -- because we were so busy with summer groups, I did not want the extra work of making baby food. (You can buy baby food in Ecuador, but there is not a lot of variety, and most of what you can buy is loaded with added sugar. Plus, it's very expensive.) Elizabeth took to her new diet well and liked everything I served her.

Developmentally, she was still on the small side, but I was hopeful the solid food would help her start to bulk up. She was rolling over, but not sitting up yet. It was hard for me to believe she was 6 months old since she was still so tiny and not yet able to do the things my boys were able to do at 6 months. Still, since she's my last baby, there's a part of me that wants her to stay little as long as possible!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Month by Month: 5


July 8, 2014 - Miss Elizabeth was 5 months old!

You may be getting tired of the Month Milestone posts. I may be getting tired of writing them! However, I determined that, since I did these posts for each of my boys, I was going to do them for Elizabeth as well. I'll use them to create my blog book for 2014 -- it's the only baby book she's likely to get!

Life seemed to get busier and busier as the summer progressed. By the time Elizabeth was 5 months old, she was almost entirely formula-fed. I still tried to nurse in the mornings and the evenings, but she was growing increasingly frustrated, so eventually I gave up. I still remember the last time I nursed her. It was a bright sunshiney morning, and I sat on my bed and nursed her one final time. I cried a little bit -- I had envisioned extended breastfeeding since she was my last one, and letting go of that was hard. I'm glad I was able to nurse her for the first few months at least.

At 5 months, Elizabeth was rolling over and laughing. Her brothers delighted in trying to make her smile and laugh. She seemed to get cuter every day. How is that even possible?