in the Netherlands

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Walking. Praying. Admiring the flowers and bicycles. 20160708_13191320160708_132935
Trying to “take more pictures and not look weird.” It was a good goal..20160708_13595120160708_13504820160719_211326
I remember being very exhausted and enjoying the quiet. Val, Han and I ate some truly amazing burgers then loitered in this spot watching the sunset. 20160719_21312420160719_213217
Morning? Or night? It was hard to be sure at some points!20160720_051005

adventure

I’m spending this 4th of July thankful for my country, and preparing to leave it for a few weeks. 🙂

As I get ready to go to Italy some things seem really vital to me, and others don’t. I spent way too much time searching for my teal duct tape. And too little time on other, more important things. I have had plentiful amounts of rest, though. Soaked up all the quiet times when I was out at camp last month knowing my soul would need it in July. 20160604_201448 I’m so glad two of my best friends are going with me. We toss around the phrase “adventure of a lifetime” to refer to us going on this trip, and it’s honestly true. I can’t think too much about the way God arranged for us three to be doing this together because it is too great and mysterious for me to comprehend and I get all teared up.

Speaking of tearing up- yes, my emotions and empathy are running high. Earlier this week I said goodbye to one of my favorite clients ever, she’s moving far away. After 4 years of serving her and being friends, it crushed my heart to see her go. So, there’s that, as well as the usual life things that come up, and the courage it takes to step out in faith on a trip like this. Not to mention thinking of the refugees I will meet, the stories I will hear and all that I will experience. It’s a lot, and I don’t know what to expect.20160605_200512 This doesn’t feel like something that just plunked into my life. It is something that I’ve been growing toward for years. I have this sense that it’s all on the table. All the tiny decisions made years ago are playing their part even now.

Expansive Miracle

more from Jamaica

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My traveling necessities: pillow pet pig, nook, kleenex. 20160202_101015

Watching this school start its day was a highlight all week. As students filter in, different classrooms are singing or clapping in rhythms or doing devotions. Small groups of kids would be sweeping or washing out trash cans together. Even for those who may struggle first thing in the morning, it makes you smile and think, “Oh yeah, this will be a good day!” 20160203_075902

Every morning I’d watch the ocean for a bit, keeping an eye out for Billy’s van. 20160203_100416

Sweet girls!! I miss them. That was the best, having tons of small group time every day. We’d talk and study the verses together or ask questions. Just getting to know each other!20160204_102629

My love for yellow continues! Actually in the same way we say “red, white and blue” in America, the colors of the Jamaican flag are “black, green and gold.” So yellow, gold, whatever, I like it. 20160204_111405

Supreme is such a fantastic school, I always look forward to being there. This year they had a majority of boys on their teams, with STRONG PERSONALITIES and show-stealing goofiness. Which was such a blast (I’ll take high energy over bored/not caring any day) but also lead us to bring the girls outside for some confidence-building separate practice time.20160205_085054

With my new friend Pearline at the registration table on the morning of the tournament!20160205_103005

This old organ was outside the door of my quiz site. So cool! 20160205_152837

The church who graciously hosted us this year was Hillview Baptist. Perfect name although “hill” is almost not a strong enough word! How great it was to simply have one building to work with. In the past we’ve rented three churches right in downtown Montego Bay. In 2014, I had the kindest police officer in Jamaica assist me as scorekeeper, and he raised some concerns about security and safety- with school children crossing busy streets, lots of entrances and exits, etc. We all agreed about that, plus it was crazy expensive, and very tough logistically to run a tournament in that setting. We never could find a better option until now. This church, and the pastor who bent over backward to help us, was a blessing from God! 20160205_145133

Championship quiz! John Rollins Success (my original favorite school) came in first, Howard Cooke took second, and Chetwood took third! I get caught up in the competition, it is the most fun ever. My small team had practiced with the kids at Chetwood all week and it was SO exciting to see them come so far! Wow! We got to present their medals. So cool. What an awesome group of students. 20160205_152749

I love a happy aftermath! We were all celebrating. In fact in my mind I could just hear the “end of the movie” music start up! After many struggles and defeats over the past two years, the goodness of this week was not lost on me. My brain is full of ideas and my heart is full of hope for next time!

For more about my adventures in Jamaica:

Special
Jamaican Bread & Jam for Frances
Jamaica Video
Sixth Grade
It’s the same all over the world

the rest of December

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Two Texas girls experience sledding for the first time!

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After a super long day of work, I took myself to Panera to celebrate surviving the crazy month of caregiving. The server walked carefully so as not to disturb the smiley face in my soup. It made my day!

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Martin and Fran-Fran and Sadie!! Having so much fun! 20151221_175919 - Copy

Customized this tag for a certain brother. 😉

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A whirl of celebration and fun, exhaustion and long hours on the road, hope that grows and disappointment that shrivels. I did not expect parts of it to be so wonderful, and other parts to be so hard. It’s tempting at times to try the “Kevin McCallister” option: “I made my family disappear…” but ultimately, I would miss them! So, we hang in there. We forgive, we give grace, we love, we try again. We don’t give up.

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Sunset at Dad’s house.

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When brothers steal your phone.

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Yes. Crashed on a couch between these two after a long travel day. Eli and I were wearing matching shirts I made for Christmas Eve a few years ago.

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Snow in Omaha before I left!

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Getting to meet this little one was the sweetest gift!20151230_184044

Caiden wearing my boots, holding my chapstick.

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Oh Leo, you poor elegant gentleman.

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I call this one: “Happy New Year?”

summer discovery

One day, Val and I were staining some dining room chairs. We needed more of this special stain. We listened to our wise friend Kaley and journeyed to a little store in Springfield, Nebraska, called the Robin’s Nest, to find this stain. What we found? Was so much more.
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Our first clue was the fairy garden just inside the door. A fairy garden. In an old clawfoot bathtub. This can’t be real.
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There were wonderful things, arrayed with great prettiness. We were overcome.
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We looked at it all. We bought the stain. We were ready to leave.
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Then the lady said, “Have you looked in the back?” To which we said, “Whaaa?” We walked through the door, and straight into the ultimate mythical grandmother’s attic. Only better than that, and huge.
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The freaking out began, we had no words. Just squeaking and pointing and crocodile tears. Hold me.
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Stacks of old maps. (!!!) Stacks of bedposts. Layers of antique bird cages (kinda gross, to be honest). Chairs. Tables. Lamps. Window frames. Doors. Ladders. Trunks.
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A treasure trove, all helter-skelter and dusty amazing.
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So of course we came back the next week with our Hanner.
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This is the best Christmas ever! The end.

Mississippi in July

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Last month my dad, brother, sister-in-law and I made our way down south to visit family and friends.

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Here are some photos and memories from the week spent in my hometown.

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Another year, another shameless and freezing Father wrapped in my aunt’s blanket. They do crank the A/C, understandably so! It was over 100 some days + massive humidity.

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Mamaw and I took walks together first thing in the morning.

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20150714_083525Fishing at the farm. Again, Dad schooled us. It was painful. 20150714_082459

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At the big family get-together. Crystal, Joe, me, & Mamaw.

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Cousins playing guitar. Uncle Danny soon joined in.

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Exploring downtown Pontotoc with Joe & Crystal. We introduced Crystal to the town museum (including the jackpot: fantastic high school yearbook photos of dad and his siblings!!). We were the only ones there and the ladies who run the place were starved for visitors. So they occupied several hours of our time with a guided tour. When they were pointing out allll the features of the mural (which you can see here!) I kept smiling. Leslie Knope would have loved it so much.

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Crystal and Rambo, being calm for 5 seconds. That puppy adored her and was so sad to see her leave.

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We played loads of games as always. Best times ever! Mamaw got kinda sassy and cutthroat with her great-grandson there when we played Monopoly Deal. Also to be noted: a free-flowing supply of sweet tea.

There were a few sad notes to our trip, one of them being that my uncle is very sick. It is tough to know that people I love so much are suffering.

And so? I tried not to take any of it for granted.

Long talks with Mamaw about anything and everything. Saying “goodnight” to her every night. Listening to all the stories my dad and his brothers and sisters tell, and laughing till it hurts. Making a fancy dinner for the family with Joe. Getting Sonic with Joe and Crystal, with Jacob on speaker phone. (Eli we missed you.) Seeing dear church people. A day out with Crystal for some girl time and shopping. Listening to Brian Regan on the drive. Dad getting a BC Powder accidentally blasted in his face. Laughing at how bedraggled and tired we all looked while eating breakfast on the drive home. Dad calling Siri “Fenecia” as usual. Eating homemade ice cream, sweet tea, chicken, bbq, Mamaw’s fruit cake, veggies. And the list goes on.

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more February

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February may be the shortest month but it was jam-packed.
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Traveling to help with the move. Laughing so much. Being completely beyond exhausted.
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Burning the things. I like how the sun setting behind the burn barrel makes it look as though Dad is hurling old dusty books into the eye of Sauron.
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Being emo/being artistic/procrastinating continuation of epic cleaning job.
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Finally I was around to celebrate Kathy’s birthday!
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Hanging out with my cousins on Valentine’s day was too fun.
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Valerie is a cake-decorating genius. Seriously!!
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Clean laundry? Routine? Sleep? Sanity? Certain healthier food groups? These are things that February deemed “unnecessary.” I hope March feels differently.
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