Monday, December 15, 2008

teaching squirrels a lesson

our backyard is a haven for birds thanks to all the bird feeders we have. my mom loves all the little birdies who've found their home here. unfortunately the squirrels have taken up residency here, too and they love trying to steal the bird's food from the feeders. we've tried everything to keep them away from the feeders but nothing seems to work.

this morning i was looking out back at the very fat squirrel perched on the feeder and an idea came to me. if i put crisco all over the feeder stands then the squirrel wouldn't be able to make his jump from the tree to the feeder. mom gave me a paper towel full of crisco and i went outside and greased it all up.

then i stationed myself by the back door to see if my brilliant plan worked. within a half hour that squirrel was back and my brother and i watched in anticipation to see what would happen. he climbed the tree and made his leap and BAM he fell to the ground! SUCCESS!!! the squirrel wasn't about to give up that easily so he tried again and once again due to no grip he fell straight to the ground. he tried one more time and now i think he has given up. he's just been on the ground below the feeder eating all the leftovers.

and that's exactly how it should be!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

choo-choo

how is it possible that i reached the age of 26 without taking a "real" train ride? by "real" i mean not a 2 mile ride on the strasburg railroad which i've done plenty of times. i'm talking about riding to philly or new york or dc instead of fighting traffic lights and crazy drivers. needless to say, yesterday provided the opportunity for me to take this long overdue train ride. my brother stephen had his last final at drexel yesterday and wanted some help transporting his things home for winter break. my sister katie agreed to go with me and so at 4:22 i found myself on the platform in downingtown waiting for amtrak to take me to philly. i snapped a picture while waiting for the train to arrive.

the ride was actually really nice and i enjoyed seeing all the christmas lights on houses and shops as we passed by. it was a much more relaxing way to travel to philly and probably much faster considering the time of day we travelled. 

now that i've done it i realize how easy it is and want to do it more. i told my brother that we should take a day trip to new york city via the train. it'd probably be a lot of fun! i'll let you know if it happens.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

beauty from ashes

i find myself reflecting on the events of this day 1 year ago today. this day really is filled with lots of good memories that i haven't allowed myself to reflect on because they became clouded by sadness. thanks to a good chat with a friend tonight i allowed myself to go back to that night and to the beautiful memories that i have...

... memories of decorating ywam denver for christmas. i got to decorate the tree in the lobby with some friends and it was so much fun transforming our home into something festive and fun... then rushing to get all dressed up with way too many girls in our little bathroom all squeezing in for some mirror space. as we headed downstairs we found the boys all dressed up like we hadn't seen them before... many of them shaved after a horrific month of putting up with mustaches... yuck! we were treated to a fantastic dinner with perfectly cooked meat and yummy vegetables and then finished it off with a fancy chocolate fountain. there were all kinds of treats for dipping... strawberries... marshmallows... mmmm!

after dinner we all crammed into the worship center for some talent show fun. we watched little kids try to sing "away in a manger" without peeing their pants in front of an eager audience... we heard beautiful renditions of christmas songs... and then we heard the 'school of worship' boys since a very different version of the 12 days of christmas. it was entertaining and so much fun.

i'm glad those memories came back to me tonight. i needed to remember the laughs and the smiles and the amazing friends God gave to me. while tiff and phil might not be here any longer i'm grateful for the time i had with them. i'm so glad i had a moment with tiff that night where i got one of her incredible hugs and a word of encouragement that she was always so faithful to give. those are the moments that i'm holding onto tonight.

i'm doing my best to live out the life of love that they left behind. it's a way to honor their life and the sacrifice they made.

i'm a different person because of what happened a year ago, but i can see how God has been making beauty out of ashes and that leaves me with a smile today instead of tears.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

rest? what's that?

this past week has been a whirlwind. it's hard to believe that a week ago i was stepping off a plane into a new season of my life. with 3 months in zambia behind me i've been processing how i move on from this and i think i've realized that i don't move "on." the worst thing i could do would be to move on and put it all behind me. those people and those experiences are part of me now and part of who i am. it's hard to really put it all into words right now. i'm still processing and probably will be for a while to come. since i'm still trying to wrap my head around all of it, i'll move on to a 'safer' subject: my nieces.

yesterday kate and i went over to kesh's to help her get some pictures of the girls in their christmas dresses. originally we were going to fight the masses at the mall, but decided against it and instead grabbed dad's canon rebel and figured we could do it ourselves. i'm glad we did it that way because we got so many more laughs out of it. kesh figured out that she could get kyra to smile if she bribed her with candy and pretended to hurt herself. kyra just found it hilarious as her mom flung herself all over the living room trying to inflict pain on herself... or at least make it look that way. kyra was laughing so hard that i started laughing so hard i couldn't even take pictures. i kept telling her, "you're not supposed to make the photographer laugh!" 

here's one of my favorite photos that we took. this one didn't end up on the christmas card so i hope it's ok that i'm posting it kesh! kyra's face is priceless. you can totally tell that she's laughing and you can even see the sweet tart in her mouth that her mom bribed her with. her eyes are all squinty from laughing so hard and her face is red. then you have kylie with her big blue eyes just looking at you as if everything is totally normal and her mom isn't hitting herself on the head. love it



i just love those little girls and i'm happy i get to be their aunt susie!

last night kesh and i got to be sneaky little elves as we went to thefirestore and decorated the offices for christmas. we hung up snowflakes and garland and even left a cup of candy on everyone's desk complete with a pencil and candy cane inside! we had a good time and i know it was nice for kesh to get out of the house and do something different for a change.  ;)

my dad even got in on the action... filling the cups with candy and sneaking some to eat as well! i'm sure that would surprise many people to know that... haha. they just don't get to see that side of him very often, but i'm glad i do!

now it's off to lunch with my good friend faith and hopefully an afternoon to rest since i haven't been doing any of that lately!

Friday, November 28, 2008

a heart of thankfulness

i arrived back in the states safe and sound on tuesday morning. it was lovely to see my family again.

i'm so glad it was thanksgiving this week as well. it made coming home even more exciting. i had such a great day yesterday eating lots of yummy food, jumping on the trampoline with my 2-year old niece and playing fun games with my awesome siblings. it really was a very peaceful day with everyone getting along and just loving each other. i love days like that!

here is one of my favorite photos from the day:


isn't she just beautiful? i'm so thankful to be an aunt to such 2 amazing little girls. watching their little personalities develop is so much fun and they bring such joy to my heart.

i truly have so much to be thankful for this year. God has brought me through a lot in 2008 and it has had its share of ups and downs, but through it all God has been faithful. i asked Him to heal my heart and He has. i asked Him to show me Himself and He has in ways i never would have thought. i asked Him to stretch me and He took me places i couldn't have imagined.

life with jesus is an adventure, but i wouldn't trade it for the world. i can't wait to see what's next!


Friday, November 21, 2008

character development

so i'm sitting in an internet cafe here in lusaka listening to a choir outside performing christmas music and it's lovely. i feel relaxed for the first time in a while! starr and i just ate a yummy meal at a cute little restaurant and in an hour we are going to go see a movie at the theater. i am so excited! i feel almost normal again... haha!

this week unfortunately has been very stressful. we arrived back in lusaka after a 9 hour ride from the village. thankfully the ride was nice and we weren't crammed for space. i took the opportunity to gaze out the window at all the little villages we passed and the curious children who were watching the cars that pass by. i got a little sunburned though cause the sun was on my side of the car most of the way- oops! you forget how hot the african sun is!

we've spent the last few days working out the final details of the mini-bus that was purchased for the mango tree. we have to complete the change of ownership and i really want it done before i leave. it's been very frustrating learning the system here and being with zambians who don't know it either. we're all learning and my patience has definitely been tested. sadly, i've failed several times but they all still love me (i think). :)

today we were able to make some progress thanks to starr and i being american's and of course- God's favor! all our paperwork is in with the proper people and we find out monday morning if everything went through. unfortunately that means my weekend won't be as relaxing as i'd hoped because i'm a little worried about monday morning. did i mention we board a plane at 2pm on monday? yeah, how's that for a little stress! haha!

no matter what happens i know that God is still good. He knows what we need and He'll provide it. it's just a matter of trusting Him with the details. boy am i learning that lesson!

please pray for us as it's not over. pray that all the paperwork goes through and that we are able to get everything finished before we board that plane. pray for favor to get with the right people and for peace to be amongst all of us.

i love you all so much and i can't believe i'll be home in a few days!

i can't wait to sleep in my own bed again...

grace and peace to you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

a modern day parable

Starr and I are safely in Lusaka after a tearful goodbye to our friends in the village. I'll try to share more about that in an other post. For now I want to share this story with you:

On Friday afternoon we had a farewell party at the Mango Tree. Starr really wanted to throw the party so she invited about 50 guests and had her friends cook enough food to feed everyone. We ran around all day getting everything together. When the time came for the dinner only about 20 guests showed up. After we ate we realized that there was still an abundance of food left because we prepared enough for 50 people. I suggested that we go find some hungry kids, so we left the Mango Tree and headed amongst the huts in search of hungry children. When we’d spot kids we’d ask them, “Are you hungry” to which every single one replied, “Yes!” Then we told them to go to the Mango Tree and we would feed them. Most of them waited for us to finish gathering more kids before going to the Mango Tree. They were probably a little unsure of what was going on. Finally we headed towards the Mango Tree with a group of smiling kids circled around us, some holding our hands.

We entered the Mango Tree and I began to wash their hands, as is custom here in Zambia before you eat. We set out big bowls of the food so they could share it amongst themselves. As the kids stared at the food with their big eyes an older kid reminded them that they needed to pray so all the kids bowed their heads and thanked the Lord for the food. Once amen was spoken they dove in like birds in search of food after the rain. As I watched those kids eat my heart was overwhelmed. I allowed myself to think about what was taking place and remembered what the Lord spoke to me as we were running through the village searching for kids. I remembered a scripture in the bible where Jesus is eating dinner with some Pharisees and he shares with them some principles of the kingdom of God. It’s found in Luke 14. In verses 15-24 Jesus shares a parable with them about a man who was preparing a feast and he invited many guests. When the banquet was ready the invited guests didn’t show up. They each had their own excuse and the man who threw the banquet sent his servants out into the streets and told them to gather up the poor and bring them in.

Once I allowed this all to sink in all I could do was cry. I literally felt like I was living out a story that Jesus had shared so many years ago. Since I’ve been in Zambia I’ve been reading through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and I’ve been asking the Lord to give me moments like the ones in some of the stories Jesus told. God answered my prayer 2 days before I left. I’m still overwhelmed by the whole situation and what God has spoken to me through it. I really understand what Jesus was trying to say. I received so much joy in seeing those children fed and I got a glimpse of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom doesn’t shut out the poor, but invites them in as guests without expecting to receive anything in return. We have so much to learn!

In that moment I saw heaven colliding with earth and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. How the Father must be longing for His children to experience more of those moments; moments where heaven and earth come together in such a way to provide life and love and hope to those who need it most. I pray that God would give you opportunities to create those “collision” moments in your life to impact those around you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

short update

i don't have much time to write today as the van is waiting to take me back to the village. we were able to purchase sewing machines today with a generous donation from some friends back in the states. this is HUGE for the mango tree and the entire community. we are all excited about how it's going to help the people in kaombe, especially the women.

starr and i leave the village on monday to return to lusaka. we have a week in lusaka where we have some business to take care of with the van. we're also going to purchase some school books for the library so students can check them out instead of having to purchase them. it will be very helpful as well for the community.

things are going really well.... we're just trying to wrap things up before we leave. i don't know if i'll get to write again before i leave the village. my next update might be from lusaka some time next week.

thanks again for all the love and prayers. keep 'em coming!

love you all so much!

Friday, November 7, 2008

getting crafty

I’m sure the burning question has been on your mind since my last update. Did she do it? Did she eat a caterpillar? Wait no longer my friends for I have done it!


My friend Agness brought a bag of caterpillars to the Mango Tree today, which had been “fried” and cooked in salt. Just looking at those ugly creatures had me regretting the decision to eat it. It took me about 5 minutes to work up the nerve to finally put that thing in my mouth. There really are no words to describe the taste and texture of a caterpillar. All I can say is that it was not pleasant and took a long time to go down. I gave my friends a good laugh as they watched my crazy facial expressions during the whole thing. And yes, I captured it on video. The quality is not good as a friend of mine, who had no idea what she was doing, filmed it but it captured the moment and that’s all that matters. I’ll see if I can upload it here, but if not I’ll definitely do it once I’m home in a couple weeks.

Yikes! A couple weeks! I can’t believe how quickly my time is going by here. I’m excited to get home to my friends and family and my comfortable bed but I am so sad to leave. I remember hearing someone talk once about the stages of culture shock and I think I’ve gone through them all. The last one I recall is where you realize how much you love where you are and you don’t want to leave. Not everyone reaches this stage, obviously, but I definitely have. The last week or so I just find myself looking around and taking everything in and realizing how much I do love it here. Sure, I have my moments when the people drive me nuts but something about this place gives me a feeling of belonging… a feeling of peace… a feeling of being home.

I’m so excited about the future possibilities here and the things we can help the people with. This week at the Mango Tree we started making some of our own crafts to sell. One of the things Katie, the founder, wanted to see at the Mango Tree was a place to sell crafts made by the local people. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much of that going on and lately we’ve had people stopping to buy them only to find nothing there. Finally I told them, “That’s it! We’re going to figure out a way to make our own crafts!” I’d seen an organization in Lusaka make picture frames out of banana tree bark and figured we could try. Try we did and they turned out awesome! We soak the bark and cut it into strips, which we twist or braid. After letting them dry in the sun we glue them to cardboard picture frames we make. It’s been so much fun being crafty and working with the ladies at the Mango Tree on it. I meant to take a picture and totally forgot so I’ll have to include it in my next update.

The other thing I want to do is teach them how to make beads out of clay. About 5k away from the village you can find clay soil. So I’m thinking if we get some of that soil I can show them how to make beads with the clay and then we can bake them. Next time I come I can bring supplies and tools to make earrings and necklaces. It could be really good! So that’s what we’re going to try to work on next week. I’m excited!

In my last update I mentioned that we haven’t gotten much rain and that night we got a torrential downpour that lasted for hours. I guess I spoke too soon! Since then it’s rained each night. It’s nice because the rain brings a cool breeze with it that is so refreshing after a hot day in the sun. One of my favorite things about being here is that you get to spend so much time outside. At home there are so many things to distract you and keep you indoors, but not here! It’s so fun to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

This is getting long so I should let you all go. Thanks again for reading! I hope you’ve been enjoying my updates. I enjoy writing them and giving you a glimpse into “Zam-life.”

I pray that God would continue to shower you with His love and goodness this week. You are precious to the Father and to me.

Lots of love from Zambia…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

news from zam

Happy Election Day everyone! I have it in mind to believe that today might be a bit of a stressful day for my fellow Americans so I hope the few minutes you’ll spend reading my blog will distract you from the craziness around you.

Zambia held their presidential elections last Thursday. The results weren’t released until Sunday morning and it appears that the ruling party has remained in power, much to the dismay of my fellow Zambians. Everyone here is surprised by the results, but also not surprised. I’m sure you catch my drift. Things have remained as usual here in Northern Zambia and for that I am quite grateful. Once again these peaceful people amaze me!

We had an executive committee meeting yesterday with the board that oversees the Mango Tree project. It was a very successful meeting and we were able to discuss a lot of issues concerning the Mango Tree project. I had one of those moments during the meeting where I realized just how much I’m going to miss it here, especially these people. It seems the longer I’m here the more attached my heart becomes. Seeing the looks on my friends faces as we discuss my return home only reminds me how precious these people have become to me, and I to them.

3 weeks from today Starr and I will be arriving back in America, which I hear is becoming increasingly cold. I told Starr today that I forget what it feels like to be cold, but I’m sure I’ll remember real quick once I’m home. It’s become increasingly hot here and the rains haven’t really picked up yet which usually cools things down a bit. There is one plus to this summery weather: I’m returning home with a nice tan at the end of November! :)

Let’s see… what else can I update you on?

Oh Yes!

Caterpillar season is upon us. Caterpillar’s you ask? Yes, caterpillars. You see this time every year here in Northern Zambia people stop what they’re doing and head for the hills to catch caterpillars. I’m sure many of you are shaking your heads saying, “Oh no.” To that I reply, “Oh yes.” Caterpillar’s are quite the delicacy around here and they catch a good price, too. People boil them, fry them, dry them… but most of all eat them. It’s one of those things I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. No, I haven’t tried one yet and I told Starr the only way I would is if there was a video camera to record it so I could prove it to all of you. Maybe this week will be the week!

Thanks for reading my updates and for remembering us in your prayers.

Have a blessed day and try not to worry too much about the election results. Remember, our hope is in the Lord and only one man: Jesus. What a glorious day it will be when we won’t have to worry about elections and God’s kingdom becomes established forever in our midst.

Much love and peace from Zambia…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

festival recap

here i am again with another update!

last friday we held our indpendence day festival at the mango tree. we had well over 300 people attend (mostly kids and teenagers). it was a beautiful day, but very windy so our balloons and streamers didn't last very long. a few popped balloons can't dampen a zambian's mood on independence day so it didn't bother anyone.

the festival started 2 hours late, which isn't too bad for zam-time. again, no one seemed bothered by this. we had the local theater group perform some drumming and dancing routines which starr is now a member of. she was dressed in full costume dancing and singing with the rest of them. it was fun to watch!

we had all kinds of games and competitions and that was the main highlight. we watched kids try to eat fritters (it's like a donut) that were dangling from a string. it proved to be very tricky! we also watched kids bob for apples, eat bananas with no hands and more! my favorite was watching the older boys chug a coke and eat a bowl of rice as fast as they could. it was very messy and kind of gross, but extremely entertaining. my good friend eustace won that competition and we were all very proud of his eating skills. haha!

the other main event was the miss mango tree pageant. we had 7 contestants in their mid-teens who proudly strutted their stuff and gave speeches about how they would help the mango tree. a winner was chosen by a group of judges (including myself) and now part of her duty is to start a club for orphans at the mango tree. we even made a sash that says "miss mango tree 2008." the winner, a girl named moriah, was extremely happy to have won. you could tell it was a very special moment for her!

all in all, the day was a success! we were all very tired by the end of the day! it was great to see so many people at the mango tree again, especially children!

tomorrow is the big day here in zambia. it's the presidential election here. it's kind of funny that zambia and the u.s. are both dealing with this election within a few days of each other. helps me relate to the zambians here, actually. please pray for peace for this country! i've heard a few people talking about some concern over the elections and the possible results. in 2006 there was apparently some corruption with the ballots and some fighting broke out in lusaka. hopefully things will go smoothly this year and we won't have any problems. again, please be praying for this country for the next few days! pray against corruption and for honesty and truth to be present through this election.

i love you all so much! thank you for your prayers and support. God is doing good things here, in His timing.

grace and peace to all of you!

*i tried to upload some pictures here but it wasn't working. sorry!*

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

love conquers all

well no news on the situation with clement yet. i came to town today because i was told his hearing was this morning. of course when i got here i found out that it wasn't. ahhh life in zambia! i'm really not surprised anymore nor am i frustrated. i'm adjusting well to this. haha!

since i came to town i have to kill a few hours so of course i hopped online. i figured there's always a few things i can share with you anyway.

one of the employees at the mango tree, named agness, has 2 little girls. gracie, her oldest, is 2 1/2 and she's scared of white people. i'm told beth had trouble last year befriending her as well. being the lover of children that i am i was not happy with this situation. so i've made it my goal to win her over while i'm here. yesterday i started to have some success! she let me play with her a little and when i started to tickle her she laughed! oh what a beautiful sound! then she couldn't get enough of it. it was a special moment for me. i bought her a sweet, which always helps to win the kiddos over. haha! i felt like i conquered the world. it was a good feeling!

yesterday i spent the afternoon in the village making decorations for the independence day festival on friday. friday marks 44 years since zambia's independence from britain! we made paper chain streamers out of construction paper and i figured out how to make these swirly-twirly streamers by cutting the paper a certain way. all of this though didn't have me as excited as knowing who was helping me. you see there's this young girl (roughly 13) who comes around the mango tree sometimes. she is very dirty and is always begging in the village. she has epilepsy and the school won't let her come. her mom deserted her and her father neglects her. have i written about her before? i can't remember!

anyways, yesterday she was nearby where we were making the decorations and after some gentle coaxing she came and sat with us. i showed her how to cut the paper into strips. she did a good job and i could tell by the smile on her face that she was having a good time. it was nice to be able to include her in something and help her feel loved and accepted. i know she doesn't get that at home. i'm told she's tried to overdose on her epilepsy medicine before because she wanted to end her life. she walks around all the time saying that no one loves her. it breaks my heart because God loves her! so i'm doing the little bit that i can to help her feel it.

as for my sickness i can't say that it's over. my doctor called me yesterday and thinks maybe i have some sort of worm which is really creepy and gross but i guess it happens. i was able to walk into a pharmacy and get some medicine he recommended so hopefully that kills whatever it is that's ailing me! thanks for your prayers!

the next few days are going to be busy with independence day celebrations so i won't be back to town until next week. i hope you all have a great week!

love and blessings from zambia...

Monday, October 20, 2008

learning the zambian justice system

my heart is full today. my email inbox was flooded with words of love and encouragement from you. it's hard to put words to it. you have blessed me. i especially needed to read those today after the tough weekend i've been through.

on saturday morning i was woken out of a dead sleep at 7am to my ringing cell phone. because of my stomach pains i slept pretty miserably and finally in the wee hours of the morning drifted off into dreamland. the phone call was from my friend peter who told me that i had to get down to the mango tree right away because they had a criminal case. he didn't want to tell me any more but i pressed him for the information because if i was getting out of bed on the one day i get to sleep in, while being sick, i wanted to know it was for a good reason.

it was a good reason. he went on to tell me that a guy in the village broke into the mango tree and stole some food and drinks from the restaurant. he broke a window and managed to squeeze through the bars to get in. they figured out who it was, went to his house, and discovered some of the missing items. he was nowhere to be found. so then i was told that we had to go into town to pick up the police officer and bring him back to the village. yeah that is so africa. haha. on our way out of the village i started feeling really really bad and i ask them to take me back to my house where i got really sick. i told them to go without me so starr went with them.

it turns out they found the guy. his name is clement and he's in his early twenties. he's been hanging around the mango tree more since starr and i have been here. he's a nice guy but he's got major issues. the night he broke in he was drunk and high off marijuana. they all say he's a little crazy in the head, but i don't know. all he talks about is america and how much he wants to go. now i'm told he'll probably spend the next 5 years in prison.

i came to town today with a couple of the mango tree employees because they had to make statements to the police. i asked the officer how long he will probably have to serve in prison and when he told me 5 years i almost had a heart attack. "5 years?!!?" i yelled. "are you serious?" he told me that they take theft very serious around here. i asked if there was any way we could get his sentenced reduced and the officer said probably not but i could try appearing before the judge during his sentencing. it just breaks my heart that he could spend 5 years in prison. i've seen the prison here and it's awful. i wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

not to mention clement has a baby and his girlfriend has another one on the way. i want to be able to show him some kind of mercy and extend some kind of grace. it's really hard to know when to step in and when to just let the chips fall where they may. since i've been here i've been reading through the gospels again and all i can hear are the words of jesus regarding forgiveness and pardons.

please pray for us as we deal with this situation. pray for wisdom for us and for the judge. pray for clement that God would minister to His heart and use this situation to draw Him closer to the Lord. pray for his mother as well. we saw her at the police station today and i know this is really hard on her as well. we're going to try to visit him today before we leave town.

as for my health i am still not fully recovered. the past several days have been really hard. i've hardly eaten anything and the stomach pain is intense at times. today is much better than the last though so hopefully this thing is working its way out of my system.

i love you all so much. thanks for your prayers and all your love.

Friday, October 17, 2008

woozy doozy

i came into town today with annie, one of the employees of the mango tree, to try and purchase some prizes for our independence day festival. unfortunately i woke up this morning feeling rather ill. my stomach has been in pain since last night and i have no idea why. i fought off the urge to stay in bed so here i am in town. i'm still not feeling like myself. i haven't eaten anything today for fear of not keeping it in. it's extremely hot today with not much breeze so i feel really whoozy. at least i can sit down at the computer for a little while so i don't pass out in the street.

i'm glad it's friday which means i have the weekend to rest and hopefully rid myself of whatever is ailing me. i woke up last night just totally sweating which is kind of unusual. i took a sleeping pill last night to help me fall asleep so when i woke in the middle of the night it was all i could do to roll over and reposition myself. those sleeping pills knock me out hard!

in other news things have been going really well with starr. she met the headmaster of the local high school here and he invited her to come train their guidance counselors in drug and alcohol recovery programs. she was then asked to speak to all the students regarding overcoming addictions. she's been doing that for the past several days and will continue to do so next week. tomorrow she is meeting with some of the girls one-on-one to discuss some of their problems. the students really have taken to her and it's been so encouraging for starr. God is truly stretching and teaching her new things and it's fun to watch. continue to pray that God would speak through her to the students!

we only have 5 weeks left in country and about 4 left here in the village. it's crazy how fast time has gone by. part of me doesn't want to leave. every day i feel more comfortable and at home here. it takes so long to get things done here so just when we're about to go we start to make more progress. it makes it hard. on the other hand i desperately miss my community back home and can't wait to see everyone again. i can't wait to eat thanksgiving food... mmm... makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

there are a lot of you that i haven't heard from much since i've been here and i just want you to know that i miss you. i'd love to hear about your lives and how things are going with you. it can be kind of depressing to check your email and find 1 or 2 personal emails amidst all the spam. i know you haven't forgotten about me and you are all very busy, but i need you! you are the ones who shape the story of susan and without you my journey wouldn't be the same.

i love you all so much.

until next time...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

you know you're in zambia when...

so i decided to make a list. a you know you're in zambia when list. i realize that all of you won't get this or even find it funny, but that's ok. i made it for me. so i can look back on my time here and laugh at the things i went through.

so here it is:
you know you're in zambia when...
  • You’re bike riding to the village and all you hear are little kids yelling “HOW ARE YOU?” because it’s the only thing they know how to say in English.
  • Everyone laughs when you speak Bemba correctly. (I’m told they’re laughing because they’re happy I’m speaking their language).
  • You’re bike riding and have to move off the road to let a semi pass you. (It’s totally safe, mom, don’t worry!)
  • Just when you’re about to use electricity, the power goes off for 2 hours. (Yes, this happens every day but you never know when).
  • You find Pringles in a store in town and it makes your week.
  • You wake up tangled up in your mosquito net… again.
  • You patch holes in your room with duct tape to keep out any unwanted creatures.
  • You find a hole in the patch of duct tape, which was probably eaten through by some unwanted creature.
  • Doom is your greatest weapon against bugs of which you’ve never seen the likes before.
  • You’re dreaming about the next bottle of cold Coca-Cola you can get.
  • Meat becomes a delicacy only to be eaten once a week when you get to town.
  • The only way to get money is to beg your relatives to send some via Western Union.
  • You see the arm of a porcupine sticking out of a cooking pot and learn it’s dinner. (No, I did not eat it!)
  • You discover Solitaire on your iPod and play it for hours over the weekend out of sheer boredom.
  • Washing your clothes by hand actually becomes fun.
  • You discover a lemon tree at your friend’s house, take a bagful home and make lemonade. (This was actually quite delicious!)
  • You walk around barefoot outside for 2 minutes and get bubblegum stuck to the bottom of your foot.
  • You make babies cry because they’ve never seen a white person before.
  • You are bored enough on a Saturday night to make this list.

this does not encompass everything, but it's a start. i wanted to give you a glimpse into my life here.

as time goes by

This past week went by very fast! There was a lot going on so I kept very busy which usually makes time go by quickly. It’s hard to believe its mid-October already. I feel like this month just started. Before I know it my time here will be up and I’ll be headed back to the good ‘ole USA. Can’t say I’m not looking forward to returning home to my friends and family. I’ve missed social interaction. Sure, I have it with my Zambian friends, but the language barrier makes it hard at times. Starr is very good at making friends here so I’m trying to learn from her. Thank goodness for a cell phone to be able to keep in touch at home. If I didn’t have that you can bet I’d be going a little crazier.

Anyways, back to this week. I’m helping the staff of The Mango Tree plan a festival for Zambia’s Independence Day on October 24th. Last year when Beth Trevino (oops, it’s Goodman now- congrats!) was here she held an Independence Day Festival and it was a big success. I’m told almost 500 people showed up to participate in games, competitions and even a Miss Mango Tree Pageant. So I have big shoes to fill, but I’m doing what I can to make this year’s a success as well. I bought some material in town and made a banner to hang outside the Mango Tree. I also created all kinds of sign-up sheets for activities like apple bobbing, eating contests, sack races, etc. There will be prizes and all sorts of fun things. I’m looking forward to it! It also generates a lot of money for the Mango Tree because people buy food while they are hanging out there all day. It’s also good advertisement for the center and a good way to let people know what’s going on there.

I also spent a considerable amount of time this week working on helping a family back in the States adopt a little boy from the village. Things obviously don’t happen easily around here so it’s been a big of a struggle but I’m praying we make some headway this week!

When Starr and I went into town last week we met up with 3 girls who are in the Peace Corps. They invited us to lunch and we had a good time sharing stories of frustration and laughing over silly Zambian things. One of the girls was telling us how her daily routine involves biking about 30km. Starr looked at me and said, “I’ll never complain about our bike ride again!” We certainly appreciated our circumstances after hearing that.

Things are going well with the Mango Mobile Taxi Van. They’re making profit, which is good, and things seem to be picking up. They’ve had several churches and clubs renting the van for day trips and such which helps as well. I’m proud of the way they’ve been handling things so far. Hopefully things only improve from here on out.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement over the past 7 weeks. It’s been hard at times and even very lonely but God is with me. I’m learning to depend on Him more and more. He is my ultimate source of comfort and joy and each day I try to rest on that. I pray God would continue to bless and watch over each of you during these crazy times we are living in. Remember to press into our heavenly Father when you need strength, wisdom and encouragement. He’s standing there just waiting for you to call out to Him.
Much love and peace from Africa...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

weekend recap

I’m going to do my best to recap this past weekend for you all, but whatever I write won’t do my experience justice. Trust me on that.

On Friday around noon Starr and I were all packed and ready for our trip to Nbwalya. Our ride arrived several hours late (obviously) so we were more than anxious to hit the road. Our transportation was a Toyota Land Cruiser, very similar to ones you see in movies crossing the African bush. When I looked at the vehicle I said to Joyce, our host, “It’s full. Where are we supposed to sit?” She just smiled and said, “They’ll make room.” Before we knew it we were heading down the road, all 12 of us piled into this vehicle that I’m sure was not intended for that many people. Starr and I were crammed in the very back with 4 guys. We were only on the Great North Road for about 10 minutes before we turned off onto this dirt road. Little did I know that I wouldn’t see pavement again until our return on Sunday.

Before I agreed to this trip Joyce told me that it would be about a 2-3 hour ride and somehow I forgot to convert to Zam-time because it actually took us almost 5 hours. The entire ride was on dirt roads, which were more like a glorified path than a road. We climbed several mountains and passed through what in the rainy season will be creeks and rivers but now are just deep gulleys that miraculously we were able to cross. It was a 4-wheeling experience for the record books. There were moments where all I could do was laugh. It was that or cry so I went for what seemed to be the better option at the time.

Once we got closer to our destination everyone in the vehicle kept telling us, “This is the real Africa.” I soon learned what they meant by that. The closest town to this village is the same one that I go to weekly to access internet. For me it’s only a 30-minute drive. For them it’s 5 hours. Sadly enough few vehicles travel that road and in the rainy season they can’t because of the gulley’s turned creeks and rivers. That means these people walk 4 days through the bush to get to town, the hospital, or basically any civilization all the while having to avoid lions and elephants and every other creature you can imagine. Real Africa, indeed!

We didn’t see any lions or elephants on our journey into the village of Nbwalya. We saw a lot of impala, but they’re basically a small deer so it’s not that exciting. We finally arrived at our destination where we first stopped to greet the chief of the village. After that Starr and I pitched our tent and ate some much needed food, nshima of course! Nshima is the staple food of Zambia. It’s like a cornmeal-based food that they mix with water and cook until it gets really thick. You eat it with your hands and roll it up into a ball, then use it to scoop up other food on your plate. It’s actually pretty good and it definitely fills you up!

We attempted to get some sleep that night only to fail miserably due to the celebration in the village. There were drums playing all night and drunk people wandering around making lots of noise so it was a little bit frustrating. I think I might have gotten 3-4 hours of sleep. Anyways, the next morning Starr and I went out with some people on the back of their truck to go see some animals. After a bumpy 2-hour ride we only saw a couple zebra and a ton of baboons. It was a little bit disappointing but we made the best of it.

Once we got back we attended the Malaila Ceremony which was why we came. It’s a yearly celebration honoring the chief. There was dancing and singing and speeches… everything you would expect at something like that. It was very very hot and very very windy so dust was flying everywhere. Surprisingly, the ceremony wasn’t too long and afterwards we headed back to pack up our things to leave. The original plan was to leave right after the ceremony and get home early Saturday night. After packing up our belongings and our tent we were told that we couldn’t leave today because our driver was sick and needed to rest. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal except Starr and I only brought enough water to last until Saturday. Remember, we are 5 hours from civilization in a village that has no shops, no market, no nothing! I got very very worried. We were already so tired and so thirsty and were trying to conserve our water as it is. I have never felt so thirsty in my whole life. Our water of course was warm from the heat so it didn’t quench our thirst. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I just broke down and cried. I felt so stranded and the situation seemed so hopeless. They tried to find us a ride in other vehicles going back to town but no one could take us. We would have to stay another night.

Thanks be to God though for His faithful provision. There is a young German missionary couple that lives in this village and they use filters for their water. They were able to fill up some of our empty bottles with their filtered water. So we made the best of it, setup our tent again and prepared for another night. Around 9:30 the next morning we headed out in our Land Cruiser again for the journey back. We finally arrived back at our house sometime mid-afternoon on Sunday. We were able to take nice long showers and clean ourselves from all the dust and dirt that had made it’s way into every crevice of our bodies. What a relief!

I wish I could go into more detail about the village of Nbwalya and the needs of the people there. Maybe I’ll write more later about that. I thought where I was that people were suffering, and they are, but it’s much different. The conditions they face there create a lot of problems and it is so heartbreaking to see. Despite their circumstance, the people were beautiful. The children really touched my heart. I had fun filming them and seeing their reactions when I played it back to them. I was able to share some food with a few of them and see their faces light up at the sight of my crackers. The Lord showed me a lot through that and He’s really been speaking to me about “the least of these.” I know that when I give them food or water or love that I’m giving it to Jesus, too. Ironically enough in my quiet time with the Lord this morning that was the next chapter for me to read in my journey through Matthew. Go check it out: Matthew 25:31-46.

Remember to love those around you today, because in doing so, you love Jesus.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

lions and tigers and bears... oh my!

so i came to town today to meet with a child welfare officer about a little boy in the village getting adopted by my friend katie's family back in the states. so of course i make the trip into town and the trek "up-town" (and up a little mountain, no kidding) to meet with them. sure enough when we get there they tell us that we can't meet them today because they have all these meetings about the upcoming election. come back next week they say. so frustrating! it's so hard to get things done around here.

but alas it's not all in vain! while i was in town i stopped to visit a friend of mine named joyce who runs an ngo called PVCW (program for vulnerable children & women). she tells me that she was just trying to think of a way to get in touch with me because she wants to invite me to attend this special tribal ceremony in nabwaloya which is a valley over the mountains. the ceremony is very traditional with dancing and speeches and i get to meet another chief which is a big deal around here! we leave tomorrow morning and return saturday night. the coolest thing about this is that in the valley there are all kinds of animals... lions... hippos... elephants! every animal you would want to see in africa i'm told. how sweet is that!?!

so in the middle of all this stress that i'm in God says, "take a break... relax... enjoy my creation for a couple days." it couldn't have come at a better time. i called starr and at the mention of lions she said she was in. haha. so now we have to pack and figure out what we're going to bring. they said it's really really hot in the valley. i'm not sure about sleeping arrangements either. she said we should bring a tent which we can cause a friend of mine in the village has one. we don't have any sleeping bags or mats though cause we sent them home with the rest of the team. so i need to figure out what we're going to sleep on. then she tells me that there are all kinds of lodges (like a hotel but in the bush) that we could stay at but it will cost more money. so i'm not sure yet what we're going to do. sure i'd rather stay in a nice comfortable lodge with a bed but i need to figure it out.

either way i'm going on a trip and i get to see amazing animals and experience some traditional zambian culture. i promise i will take lots of pictures and video so i can show you all when i get home. i'm so excited!

i'll update you all next week after i get back!

the weight of the world

it's been a week since i wrote last and i meant to be more productive and type this blog before i came to town so i could just paste it into blogger, but that never happened. so this is all coming to you live folks...

i feel like i should probably update you all on the situations going on at the mango tree. after a lengthy staff meeting a week and a half ago where we had to discuss all the backbiting going on i was exhausted. sitting on an extremely hard wooden seat for 3 hours is hard enough, let alone having to hear in detail account after account of alleged rumors. i feel like we made some headway although it was clear not all the issues were dealt with. last wednesday francis told me that after thinking about my advice he decided that he should stay at the mango tree. he realized that no matter where he works there will be people who will gossip about you. you can never escape that unfortunately. i was glad that he decided to stay but i know that's not the end of it.

we had a meeting on monday with the executive committee where we discussed all kinds of business related things. being that i was in the business world for 6 years you'd think i'd be used to this sort of thing. well i've never had a group of 12 grown men turn to me and say "so what should we do susan?" ... *sound of crickets* ...

oh my. you wanna talk about pressure? the problem is we have this van now generating income but there's so many places the money needs to go... salaries... loan re-payment... painting of the van... change of ownership... taxi registration... the list goes on. it's the end of the month and people want their salaries but the van's only been operating for 2 weeks so we have less than half of what we need to pay for everything. thankfully once we got to this point in the meeting the sun was beginning to set and i still had a 2 mile walk back to where i'm staying, so i graciously said, "can we reconvene next week and discuss all of this. i don't want to walk 2 miles in the dark." thankfully they all agreed. now you see why i keep praying for wisdom! lord have mercy...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

zam time

i thought i would dedicate this post to the wonderful people of zambia and their way of keeping time.

it's no surprise that when you travel outside of the U.S. you are often confronted with much more laid back people who value relationships more than deadlines. the kind of people who will stop and chat with you for hours even if it means delaying something that might seem more important.

thus the concept of zam-time.

i'm learning that when they say 15 minutes it really means more like an hour. a dear friend of mine here in zambia told me and i quote, "zambians are not good at predictions." meaning if you are travelling somewhere and you ask how much farther to our destination they might say, "we'll be there in an hour" and somehow that hour stretches into 3 before you finally arrive. it can be frustrating at first, but once you get used to it you learn to accomodate yourself. for instance last night we were waiting for some friends to get back from town. they called me and said "we are close." i almost jumped up to go to the door to wait for them and i then i realized i'm on zam-time. so i stayed where i was and read a book. an hour and a half later they finally arrived. see what i mean?

today starr and i made the trekk into town to get our visa's extended. we got to the immigration office and found it empty. there was a little piece of paper taped to the door with a phone number written on it. i called the number and the gentlemen on the other end of the line told me that the immigration officer was out of the office (obviously) and that he would make sure he comes in tomorrow. so here we are now stuck in town until this afternoon when we can catch the van back to home.

and we get to do it all again tomorow.

ahhh zam-time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

update on life and such



I’m going to be honest. This week was very hard.

I know, what a way to start writing. Like I said, I’m going to be honest. This week The Mango Tree was faced with some difficult circumstances when the present manager attempted to resign. I said attempted because as far as I was concerned he wasn’t getting off that easy. I came to discover that there have been some inter-personal conflicts with members of the staff. Granted, there is only 4 staff but we all know that even if there were 2 there could be problems. That’s the beauty of our human-ness! Needless to say there has been gossip and rumors of gossip floating around for some time now. If I looked at this situation with my “earth eyes” as I began to this week it could be very discouraging. The more I sought God in prayer the more I recognized this as an attack from the enemy in the attempts to divide and destroy the work God has been accomplishing through The Mango Tree.

I felt like Solomon this week calling out to the Lord for wisdom. One morning I sat on my bed just crying before the Lord pleading with Him to give me wisdom to mediate this situation and to help me see it for what it is: a spiritual attack. We were able to hold a staff meeting on Friday with a couple members of the executive committee present as well. It was exhausting to hear long drawn out stories of the lies going around, but it had to be presented. The tension in that little room was so thick you could, as the saying goes, cut it with a knife. After several hours of working through these issues and the lies it felt like we were making some headway.

I couldn’t help but laugh reflecting on my time in the business world. What I was dealing with here was no different than the issues I faced with employees there. I did my best to use the wisdom of the past in my advice to the staff. I hope they were able to fully hear my heart and understand what I had to say to them. Ultimately the problems boil down to miscommunication and perceptions of situations. People are reacting out of hurt they feel, instead of taking time to wait and respond. (Thank you Karen for those words of wisdom so many years ago. I’m putting them to good use!)

All that to say, the battle is not over. The manager has asked for a few more days to think things over and decide if he wants to continue. I pray he does, because I feel like he really has a heart for this project. If he doesn’t though, I know that God will send someone else who is fully competent. Please pray for the members of The Mango Tree staff that they will learn to work together as a team and in a spirit of unity. Pray against the attacks of the enemy to cause division and strife. There is so much hope that God wants to bring this community through this project and it’s a threat to the enemy’s camp. Thanks be to God that greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world!


In other news, Starr and I are doing great relationally. We enjoy our time together but we also each thrive off of personal time so it works out well. We’ve been trying to be creative with our meals as eating the same thing can get very boring. Starr went to the butcher shop the other day and bought some sausage for us. (Meat is a rare treat around here). It tastes more like Spam than sausage, according to Starr. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never eaten Spam, only carved it in a silly youth group game over 12 years ago… haha. Anyways, I had this genius idea of making a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on a bun and it turned out phenomenal. We found this place in town that sells cheese individually wrapped (like Kraft at home). I fried me up an egg, melted some cheese, added the sausage and put it on a freshly baked bun I bought from the market. Are you drooling yet? It was divine! I even took a picture of it because it was so fantastic. Needless to say, I won’t be divulging in those too often as I’m hoping to shed a few pounds while I’m here, but it was a special treat.

This week will be one month that I’ve been in this country already. We have to go see immigration this week to get our visa extended for another 30 days. Then we’ll do it once more for another 30 days to give us our 90. Please pray that we don’t encounter any issues with the officials and that our visa is granted. There shouldn’t be any problems, but prayer is always a good thing! It also looks like we’re going to have to change our plane tickets for the way home. We’ll probably be needing to come home sooner. I didn’t realize it when we booked our flights but the time had us in the country for 89 days… not much leeway when dealing with the government here. Our visa for next month will expire right around Zambia’s Independence Day and all government offices will be closed so it throws us off a couple days. Please pray that I get it all sorted out and that there are no problems changing our flight.

Ok, this is getting pretty long so I’ll end it here. I miss and love you all very much. Thanks for all the prayers and support. You are all such a blessing to me!
This is me smiling at you and thanking you for loving me. Yeah, sorry I am absolutely makeup-less as I've been the past month save a day or 2. I actually enjoy it though and dread having to go back to the makeup world... haha.
Love you!

reflections of a traveler

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in this country almost a month. Some days it feels like I’ve been here forever and that home is just a dream somewhere in my distant memory. I truly feel like I’m in another place and time here. It’s crazy when you think about the fact that we’re all on this same planet yet we can be in such vastly different places. As I continue to travel this beautiful world the differences in the places I go never cease to amaze me.

Here in northern Zambia I look around and see lots of brown. It’s very dry this time of year so unfortunately there isn’t much vegetation to give you many glimpses of green. Then I think back to my time in Costa Rica last year when I saw it during the rainy season. I’d never seen such rich luscious plant life before. Everywhere you looked were shades of green so rich you felt like you were seeing new depths to its color. While I was in Chile last year I got to watch a few sunsets from the beautiful Pacific coast town of Pichilemu. I’ve never seen a more glorious sunset in all my life. Rich purples and pinks and oranges blended together to form a spectacular sight that I shall never forget thanks to the many pictures I was able to take of it!

All that to say, this strange, intimidating, fascinating, intriguing world that we live in allows us to experience different sights, sounds and feelings all which reflect the beauty of its Creator. As I look at the bush around me I can’t help but be reminded of the wilderness that the Israelite’s journeyed through for hundreds of years, water and natural resources scarce. The lush green of the Costa Rican rainforest makes me think of the Garden of Eden and how much more beautiful that sight must have been to its original inhabitants. Reflecting on the sunsets in Chile I can’t help but think of the majesty it displays and it makes me long for the day when this earth is fully reconciled to its Creator and we all get to experience true beauty each and every day without the sorrows this present world brings.

There’s a verse in the bible that says: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) So basically the writer of this passage, Paul, is saying that God has been showing himself through everything He made since the foundation of the world. I believe God does that out of a love for people. God does not desire to remain hidden from us, but instead puts Himself in plain view in the form of a wilderness, a rainforest and a sunset. God actively reveals Himself to us each and every day so that we might know Him more and pursue a deeper relationship and intimacy with Him. What an incredible picture of grace and love from our Heavenly Father! Even in our filth and sin, God through the work of His Son Jesus on the cross, is able to look at us, not in our present state, but through the eyes of redemption and still call out to us.

God, forgive me for not always seeing you where you have me today. I desire greater intimacy with you. Thank you for calling out to me and for revealing yourself to me through the beauty of all that you created.

Monday, September 15, 2008

finally online





wow i am finally online after a week... i know that doesn't seem like a long time but when you don't have any other way of communicating with friends and family back home (other than an unreliable cell phone) you find yourself missing the internet A LOT.

this picture kind of describes my time here in zambia so far. on my birthday last week i got up at 6 in the morning and climbed 2 mountains. it was very hard and very tiring but i made it to the top. the view was well worth the pain. not many people can say they climbed an african mountain on their 26th birthday. i hope this feeling of victory and ability to overcome remains with me throughout the rest of this trip.


wow these past few weeks have been crazy. it's hard to believe i've been here in africa almost 3 weeks and the last week without my team. i miss them so much but i'm glad they got back safely. this past week my teammate Starr and i have just been trying to settle in and get used to the pace of life here in zambia. things run much slower here as you can imagine. we won't even talk about the internet... haha... insane! i will never take high speed internet for granted again.

this picture to the left is of jenn, moses and i. we were at church for sunday service. i just love it! probably because i really love the people in it with me. :)

starr and i have been making the journey to the mango tree every day. it's roughly 2 miles each way i would say. i'm glad i have a bike! the ride isn't that hard. coming home the first part is slightly inclined but i see it as a good workout. starr isn't too keen on riding the whole way so i have to really encourage her to push through. i feel like a personal trainer with all my "you can do it" and "feel the burn"... it's quite amusing. sometimes she gets mad at me but she knows i love her. now what i usually do is ride on ahead about 100 yards and then stop to let her catch up. it'll get easier for her. i can already feel the difference in my legs. watch out! haha!

the mango mobile came back into town yesterday along with the mango tree manager and members of the executive committee. they came to our home today and brought us into town (praise jesus!) now the real work begins for me as i start to dive in to help with logistics of the van and the money coming in from it. i have some ideas already to help them stay organized and i'm hoping they'll all work. God is faithful. i've seen that thus far. he'll carry us through the
rest of the way.

this last picture is the 4 employees of the mango tree: noreen, annie, agness and francis. they are proudly wearing the new shirts we embroidered for them. they now look extremely professional!

alright i should end this now. thank you all for your emails of encouragement. i wish i could respond to each one but with internet this slow it's much too hard. please know that i love you and cherish you in my heart. keep praying for us. the battle is not over, but it is the Lord's and we know we will come out victorious!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

almost there!

well i'm sitting in the johannesburg airport... about to board the last flight to lusaka, zambia. the past 17 hours were pretty uneventful. my brother and i got to sit next to each other, me with an aisle and him with the window seat. it was nice cause we could use each other as pillows. :)

the last few hours i felt pretty nauseous but i seem to be getting over it. i'm just ready to get there! it's so exciting that i'm back here already. this is gonna be one exciting ride!

alright i need to keep this short. keep praying for the team and for our luggage to arrive safely.

later...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

i'm leaving... on a jet plane

well this is it. here i am again getting ready to leave everything i know for 3 months. this is becoming the story of my life. you'd think i'd be used to it by now. it's getting more familiar but it certainly doesn't make it any easier. i've been trying to mentally prepare myself for what's ahead but that's pretty much impossible. i know i need to take things one day at a time and continually put my trust in the lord, because that's where my help comes from. i think i read that somewhere... ;)

today was a really busy day for me as i had all kinds of office work to get finished. it turned out to be a really stressful day and i'm thankful that it's over. just get me on that plane!

tomorrow we're all going out to breakfast before we meet up at the church. i'm so excited about the people on our team who have never been there before. i can't wait to see them experience africa for the first time. it's gonna be so much fun.

alright i better finish packing up my carry on with as much stuff as possible... haha

hopefully the next time i post it will be from zambia!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

triple dipping

today i went to 3 churches.   :)

it started off with my home church this morning. the pastors and elders were so gracious in allowing me to share some of my heart regarding africa and the upcoming trip. they prayed over stephen and i and just sent us off with their blessing. overall it was a great service and i'm so thankful for that body of believers. i know they will keep us lifted in prayer and lord knows we need that!

after church stephen and i had lunch with mom and dad which was nice. then we headed off to new community christian church in coatesville. it's steve wilson's church and they wanted to pray us off as well. let me tell you, i love that church! they are so full of life and joy and it was contagious. crispen and steve did a dual message and the words they spoke were straight from God's heart. then they invited the team up front to be prayed for and proceeded to wash our feet. the leaders of their church got down on their knees and washed our feet! all i could do was weep at the beauty of it and the goodness of God. i felt so humble. last year when we were in africa God told me to wash katie fourqurean's feet and out of obedience i did. i felt like the lord was passing a mantle onto me now in the form of the foot washing. it was almost surreal. 

as soon as that service ended we went over to providence church who was holding an outdoor church service. it was incredible as well! they had all kinds of people sharing their talents and 4 guys got baptized. it was a beautiful night of sharing what God has done in lives and hearts and so awesome to see. they also pulled us aside and prayed for our team. we are so blessed to have so many people excited about what we're doing!

tomorrow is my packing day... i'm getting down to the wire! i'm so ready to go!!!! yay!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

to grandmother's house we go

kate and i decided last night that we should take the 45 minute trip to go visit our grandmom and poppop. i knew i needed to see them before i left for africa and i'm glad it worked out. we took kate's little pup mac with us so he could meet them. they loved him, of course! we showed them recent pictures of everyone and filled them in on our adorable little nieces. grandmom proceeded to try and stuff us full of food, as usual. bless her heart. i know it's her way of showing some love so it's all good.

i brought my macbook and thought my grandmom would get a kick out of the effects in photo booth. she did. my poppop was a little weirded out i think. he took one look at his
 reflection in 'dent' and had to turn away. it was hilarious. we had a good time. i'm glad i got to see them before i left and i know they were too!

Friday, August 22, 2008

photo fun

cheeeeeeeeese!

the art of delaying

i have a terrible habit of procrastinating. i wait and push things off until the last minute and always end up stressing myself out. that can't be healthy! i've gotten so used to it though, that i hardly know how to not procrastinate. take for instance my upcoming 3 month africa trip. 4 days to go and i've sort of got my piles of stuff together that i need to pack. i'm still missing a ton of stuff, but i keep telling myself that i'll worry about it tomorrow. now it's the weekend and am i going to want to spend it packing? ummm no. so alas it will get put off until monday and i'll be running around like a mad woman trying to get everything together. i'm so predictable in that way. i think i need to seek the lord on that and try and figure out why i do this to myself.

i found this quote and i think it sums it up:

"if it weren't for the last minute, i wouldn't get anything done. -author unknown

poor guy probably put off signing his name to the quote and never got the credit. ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

i call on your name

last night on my way home from an africa team meeting i had a really scary encounter. i was driving out of coatesville and up ahead saw some police lights flashing in the other lane. i looked and i saw a guy walking in the other lane, away from a couple cops who were trying to get him to stop. he refused to stop and the cops had their guns drawn yelling at him. so the car in front of me decides to just stop and watch what's going on. by him stopping though he put me right in the center of their fight. they were literally feet from my car yelling with guns poised. i was freaking out and all i could do was call on jesus. i didn't know if the other guy had a gun and my mind started reeling with all the possibilities. i was screaming in my car for the guy in front of me to move. i knew i couldn't honk my horn at him because i didn't want to add to the disturbance already taking place outside my car. finally after what felt like forever the car in front of me decided to move on, releasing me to go as well. then the hand-shaking ensued as i realized just how freaked out i was. it might not sound like a big deal, but to me in that moment it was. i felt so trapped... i literally had nowhere i could go. it was awful!

needless to say i know jesus was with me and i'm glad it wasn't any worse than it was. it was much more excitement than i needed at 10 o'clock at night after a long day.

phew.

Monday, August 18, 2008

i will waste my life

many times i find myself so grateful for music and the emotions its able to stir in my heart. recently i've searched to find songs that expresss my heart when i can't find the words. today that song is "i will waste my life" by misty edwards.

i will waste my life
i'll be tested and tried
with no regrets inside of me
just to find i'm at your feet
just let me find i'm at your feet

i'll leave my father's house and i'll leave my mother
i'll leave all i have known and i'll have no other

i am in love with you there is no cost
i am in love with you there is no loss
i am in love with you i want to take your name
i am in love with you i want to cling to you jesus
just let me cling to you jesus

i'll say goodbye to my father my mother
i'll turn my back on every other lover and
i'll press on yes i'll press on

ahhhh yes. my thoughts exactly! i hope maybe someday i can be that person with a song that ministers to another heart. maybe? just one of those little dreams that right now is off to the side. i know God has his way of bringing us back full circle to the things he put in our hearts long ago. i mean, here i am getting ready to go to africa for 3 months and i knew this is what i was called to do since i was a kid. it's taken time to materialize, but i wouldn't have it any other way. God has this amazing way of preparing us and shaping us without us always knowing how or why or what for. kind of fun when you think about it. :)

so yes, i will waste my life. i will waste my life for the one i was created for, the one i have to trust with everything. there's no greater joy than giving it all up only to receive the greatest love i could ever know.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

weekend recap

well it was an exhausting weekend, but i wouldn't trade it for the world. i was blessed to spend time with people i love and considering i'm about to move to africa for 3 months, i'm soaking it in.

it all started on friday when i got to spend the morning with my sister-in-law kesh and my 2 adorable nieces. now that kyra is almost 2, i enjoy my time with her even more. she's so much fun these days and it's only going to get better. i'm sad that i won't get her sweet little kisses for 3 months!
on friday night my sister and i threw lyryn a little girl's dinner party to celebrate her birthday. we laughed and danced and sang and just enjoyed being together. i just love those girls!

it turned out to be a late night because we started listening to music we were obsessed with years ago. it was hilarious to see how many lyrics we still remembered. i couldn't believe all that information remained stowed away in some part of my brain!

saturday ended up being a very long day, but absolutely worth it. i hitched a ride down to dc with some friends to attend the call. it was an awesome time of praying and worshipping with 70,000 other believers. i'm so glad i went because i got to see some dear friends of mine from ywam... most of them i don't know when i'll get to see again so i'm grateful for the time we got.

today was a hustle bustle of activity with church and then a birthday party at lyryn's house. it was fun, but i was exhausted. i had planned on coming home and just relaxing but somehow between laundry and showering that hasn't exactly happened yet. oh well!

only 10 days until i leave! woohoo! 

Friday, August 15, 2008

happy birthday lyryn!

thanks for all the happy memories! here's to many more! i love you!

Friday, August 8, 2008

benefit concert recap

so i realize that i'm really behind on my blog. my lovely sister gently reminded me that it's been a few weeks since i've posted. i've had a lot going on lately with my preparations for africa, which included throwing a huge benefit concert last weekend.

the concert was amazing. after all the planning and preparing it was so great to see it all come together. we were fortunate enough to get the bridge band in for an hour long set. we also had a gospel choir from new community christian church perform and they had everyone on their feet. my dear zimbabwe brother, crispen, played us some traditional africa music on his drum including my favorite, "there's no one, there's no one like jesus." i just love that song!

i was blown away by the number of people who showed up to support us. it was so special having all those people come and be a part of what God is doing in zambia. in all we raised over $3500! yay!!! here's a picture of the bridge band performing...


the other thing i wanted to post is a picture of our awesome t-shirts that we were selling. my brother wit designed them and my other brother declan had them made for us. they turned out awesome. here's a pic of me showing it off...

Friday, July 18, 2008

welcome to the world kylie joy!


so... big news... i'm an aunt again! yippeeeee!

my 2nd niece was born at 8:36pm on july 15th. she came on her due date which i find amazing! she weighed in at 8lbs 2oz and entered this world with a full head of beautiful hair. no wonder her mommy had so much indigestion! :)

i spent a lot of time holding her last night and dreaming of my own little ones to hopefully come someday. i love the newborn stage. they're so tiny and innocent and soft and brand new. it's precious.

i love new life, but more importantly i love the giver of new life.

Friday, July 11, 2008

change, change and more change

i feel like i have so much that i need to post on. i keep meaning to, but time has been slipping away from me.

wow... where do i even start? the last week has been insane. last weekend i went down to dc to visit some of my ywam buddies. they're serving alongside jhop (justice house of prayer) doing 24/7 prayer and intercession. we spent about 10 hours a day in prayer and worship and it was amazing. God spoke so much to me about who i am and how i see myself. i got so much revelation!

i usually spend so much time worrying about the things i need to do for God instead of just being with him. God showed me that i need to make my time with him a priority and that out of that will flow everything else. it seems so simple, but it's been a hard lesson for me to understand. i tend to pour myself into the doing, hoping that through it i'll get more of the lord when the whole time he's sitting there waiting for me to just be with him.

on top of that this week the lord really began speaking to me more about africa. i really think he wants me to stay longer than the 2 weeks i had planned... 3 months more in fact. i'm working out all the details. i'm really excited though and i think it's going to be a very good thing. it's going to teach me more about trust and relying on the lord to get me through.

wow... so many thoughts going through my head... to many to write about this second.

oh yeah...

and i got a macbook this week. 

Monday, June 30, 2008

back to reality

vacation week is over and i must say, it went by way too fast. i know i know, that's always how vacation is but i was still hoping for a little more s t r e t c h .

it was great to get away, though. the house we stayed in was absolutely beautiful. it was the perfect size for our family. we had our own pool which was so fantastic. i love the beach, but i hate the sand so being at the beach in a pool is my perfect match. we laid around lazily... read books... played games... oohed and ahhed over my niece kyra... and ate chocolate. seriously i think i consumed my year's alottment of chocolate in one week. i don't know what it was, but i was drawn to it. needless to say i'm on a break from it right now. well, at least for today. ;)

last night i was sitting in my room watching Lost (yes i finally gave in and started watching it online... i'm halfway through season 2). i was debating whether or not i wanted to go to providence church that night and i felt prompted to go. i literally jumped out and ran out of the house so i wouldn't be late. about 5 minutes later i get a call from a good friend of mine named sam who lives in denver. she was home visiting her mom and said she was on her way to providence as well. needless to say we spent a couple hours after church catching up and it was awesome. she was so encouraging and just really listened as i shared my heart with her. it was exactly what i needed at that moment and God knew that.

so this morning i'm back to work and i'm alone in the office cause steve is on vacation this week. the last time he was gone for a week i hated it because it's so hard to work in this huge office all by yourself. so i walk in and flip my little day calendar to today and this is what it says:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Matthew 11:28-29 MSG

For some reason that verse just inspired me this morning. I don't have to do this out of my energy. I have a Savior that I can lean towards for strength and inspiration.

I guess I'm not alone in this office afterall. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

relaxation- here i come!

only a few more days till my family leaves for vacation at the beach. i am looking forward to this vacation for a number of reasons:

  1. mi familia- i love spending time with my family and even though we can drive each other crazy at times, i'd still rather be with them than anyone else.
  2. my niece- ok so she's part of my family, but a total entity of her own. kyra is amazing and funny and cute and always brings a smile to my face. getting to spend a whole week with her 24/7 will be awesome!
  3. the beach- there's something about the ocean... oh yeah. i feel so close to the lord when i'm there. the beauty of it still awes me today.
  4. no schedule- vacations without schedule are so great. you can just fly by the seat of your pants and do whatever you feel like at that moment. it's a beautiful thing to be spontaneous.
  5. reading- i have an excuse to sit down on my lazy butt and read as long as i want. i'm so excited to bring some books with me and get lost in them for hours at a time. who could ask for more?
so those are just a few of the things i'm looking forward to. there's much more and i'll probably write about it after i get home.

Friday, June 13, 2008

an alumni's musings

so my little brother graduates today and honestly it feels weird. if he's growing up then does that mean that i'm already grown up? yikes!

i remember the feeling of graduating high school... the excitement filled with the fear of the unknown. the nagging thought that you'll never be a kid again and maybe i should of made more of my experience rather than being so anxious to leave. i caught a case of senioritis by the end of my junior year so senior year is kind of a blur. i didn't put much effort into that last year and would have rather been working than stuck in that 7-3 prison... which is probably why i spent so much time in the nurses office trying to get sent home (aka work- where i would go after my mom spoke to the nurse and told her of my horrible cramps). it makes me laugh a little bit now looking back.

and here i am, 8 years later at my brother's graduation with my high school memories fading dimmer and dimmer with each passing year.

i'm grateful that i didn't have a horrible high school experience but i still wouldn't go back. it's a part of my past and i'm happy to keep it that way.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

provision

i need to keep reminding myself that the job of provider belongs to my heavenly father. so many times i worry where resources are going to come from and how it's going to work out and then i remember that i don't need to worry. God promised that he would take care of me if i would just trust him to do so. the birds and the flowers don't worry, so why should i?

sometimes the needs before me are so great, but that's what makes it even more amazing. i think God loves when situations get put before us that seem impossible, because that's when God gets the most glory. what we think could never happen, God already has plans to make happen.

i'm trusting that God is going to provide the finances for my africa trip as well as the rest of the team. i'm trusting the he's going to provide the right resources for the community center in zambia to be successful and far-reaching. i know God can do these things. i just need to keep reminding myself.

that's why i wrote this. as a reminder to myself and the rest of you so when i freak out you can remind me. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

coatesville

i've lived near this city my whole life, but for the most part rarely spent time in it. sure there were the occasional church outreaches, but i never invested too much time. for the last 2 months though i've been in this city almost every day. the more time i spend here the more i feel myself becoming invested in it.

each morning on my drive into the city as i'm coming down blackhorse hill road the view opens up and there the city lies, seemingly peaceful and quiet. a few blocks further and you understand it's anything but as it's abuzz with people moving around and chatting with one another. i think i figured out one of the things i love about life here. it reminds me of being in another country. by that i mean that everything is so community-driven. relationships with one another are #1 and you don't have to leave the confines of your car to see that.

after being cooped up in suburbia for so long i realize now that it's not all it's cracked up to be. i don't know my neighbors needs or even their names for that matter. a desire for more space has created just that: space between our neighbor, both physically and relationally. it's sad that it has come to that, but in most rural neighborhoods it's true.

sure, coatesville has it's problems like any other city in america, but they have one thing right. they know what it means to take time to stop and chat with you neighbor, even if it makes you late for your next appointment. as a task-oriented person this is new territory for me, but i'm learning to adjust and it's fun.

i believe in the people of this city. i believe that there is undiscovered talent and potential and if i can help even just one person discover that, then it's all worth it.