a quick jaunt west

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Afternoon mom-life lattes made by Cherry / hours of imaginative playtime / wikihow “how to draw” sessions / baby holding / seeing how dry it is & one of the areas that burned / sibling time / fishing mishaps / movie night / so much driving / SO MUCH / worth it. 20170325_15302017426194_10212674859205863_8888823161795748064_n20170325_203720

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in Jamaica: February 2017

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This trip, my photos were about 10% sunset/sunrise/blurry pictures of the full moon, 10% food, 10% Bible quizzing, 9% sea urchin spine removal process, 1% cows on the loose, and 60% silly selfies. Which is a pretty accurate idea of what my week was like! 20170209_071825

We are kindred spirits, and always have been. 20170209_095837a20170206_134301a

It was a blast to have my friend Julie along with me! 20170208_123354a20170207_101850a

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

best Italian lunch

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I’m unpacking, going through pictures and slowly processing my trip. It is hard to know how to talk about it. I’m so glad I went, it was an incredible experience, but it was overwhelming in many ways. For today I’m just going to document one of many amazing meals.

It was our day off and the four of us friends had been shopping in the open air market, walking around, laughing hysterically, and just basically enjoying ourselves. We stopped at this restaurant for lunch.

Seated outside, on a lovely day, surrounded by stone and brick buildings, chatting with my dear friends, eating the most delicious pasta -and that tomato salad!!- words fail. It was all perfect.

And then it became TOO perfect.

Three street musicians came along and did a small performance of classic Italian songs. It was all just too good and I was overwhelmed! “Are you blushing???!” asked Valerie. “Yes, and tears are seeping out of my eyes!” I replied. I just kindof sat there, shaking my head, laughing at myself, and trying to take it all in. It was one of those moments where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it was real! 20160716_132755
Kalyn, Frances, Valerie & Hanna. 20160716_132817

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

small town

Two weeks ago I was back in my old town, where I lived between the ages of 8 and 15. I had some time to kill so I drove around my old stomping grounds. “Biking grounds” might be more accurate! I laughed really hard when I saw the hill we used to race down. Really it is barely an incline. Being on those streets amazed me, I remembered all our neighbors. The people I would dog-sit for and the houses where I would go to babysit. Where I would play with my brothers and friends. The empty lot. The park. The pool.

I thought I would always be a small town person.

20160609_141310Two days ago I was caregiving and the lady I work for needed to go into the bank. I pushed her wheelchair through the main doors. The sister of one of my very good friends was smiling and holding the door for us. She is one of the head people at this bank. We chatted and she helped my client with her banking business, all in a friendly, personal way.

I do live in a city now but I love it best when it acts like a small town.

Yesterday I met up with a lady from my church. Her daughter is spending the summer in Italy, where we have a church plant. We are sending teams of people all summer to serve refugees. This lady wanted to get a few things to her daughter, and I was the go-between. I brought them to the airport this morning when I went to send off and pray for some of my friends who left today. “I can’t believe I can hand this to you in a Hy-Vee parking lot, and it will be in my daughter’s hands in Italy in a few days,” she said.

In a few weeks, I’ll be back at the airport, this time with my passport, ready to leave for Italy myself! I don’t know what to expect. But I want to see with my own eyes. So I don’t feel like the refugee crisis is something happening far away, in other towns and cities, that doesn’t matter to me. I can’t bring it closer but I can go there. I can’t turn the whole world into a small town but I still might try. 🙂

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

Welcome back

“I just got off the plane.” -My text to Val.

“We just pulled up into the airport. We are walking inside.” -Val, to me.

(For us to get through two consecutive texts without a disastrous typo is rare.)

“We??” I wondered, since I was only expecting Valerie to pick me up. I walked faster, ready to be done with airports for the day! Who did I see as I began to descend on the escalator? Val, Hanner, Kay and Martin (one of my favorite almost-2-year-olds) were waiting for me at the bottom. They smiled and waved and tried to point me out to Martin, who couldn’t see me yet.

I waved wildly. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he yelled, “Fwancen!” (his current name for me) as he began jumping up and down. I should mention at this point, he was wearing child-sized cowboy boots. The excitement became too much for him and he started to run about in circles!

Yes, it was one of the cutest things I will ever witness. My dear friends, smiling and laughing with glee. The antics of a toddler who was amazingly thrilled to see me. All this unfolding slowly (yet too quickly) at the speed of the escalator as I balanced my luggage.

My tendency is to wish I had a picture but some things can’t be picked up in a photo. This was only meant for mental pictures and savoring the joy of the moment.

Isn’t that like joy? Meeting me at the end of a long journey. Surprising me and overwhelming me with grace. Pure and overflowing.