Archive for August, 2012



During the summer, we had an Olympics themed kids program at church.  The kids enjoyed posing in some of the cardboard cut-outs!

Who doesn’t love sychronized swimming?

poor Asher having to pose for this!
weight lifter!!
body pump!
you can do it!!

back to school 2012!

It’s a big day for mommy!  Back to school!!!!  This year will be different in that Asher is going to preschool everyday half day and at the same school as the girls.  He goes in the afternoon, so that means everyday, from 11-3 I have kid-free.  Wow!!!  I haven’t wrapped my head around this new freedom yet since today was day 1, and I, of course, was busy editing back to school pictures!  🙂   Who knows what I’ll do tomorrow afternoon!
My kids, so excited about the first day, were up and dressed at 5:45 this morning! I mistakenly started doing pictures too early, and so some of these pictures are before the sun was up, which I’m not a fan of. Oh well, it’s realistic I guess. Back to getting up soooo early! 😦

I had a little fun in photoshop!  Ella is holding a picture of her first day of prek 2009
Rilyn is holding a picture of her first day of kindergarten

My third grader!

I have them write their own name on one side of the chalk speech bubble so I can remember their signature each year!

Here is Ella and her best friend, Anna. Matching “first day of school outfits” since 2008!

our new “gymnasts!”

Ella and her first grade teacher!

she was Rilyn’s teacher too, so you know I love her!

Rilyn actually has three teachers: reading, math, and science. This is her homeroom/math teacher!

He’s an Aggie!!!!!!!! (this is very important to Rilyn!)

Asher’s turn!

his third and final year of preK…

Asher, and his best friend, Caden. These two will rule the school in no time! (back to school matching shirts since 2010)

we’re tough!
we’re strong!

The first thing the afternoon preschoolers do is march to the cafeteria where they eat lunch with all the big kids. It was so cute to watch them!

Asher discovering his pb&j!

Having two older sisters means getting to ride the school bus home with them! He’s been watching this bus drop off his sisters for his whole life…finally HE is on it!!

my kids getting off

Acting like he is all cool getting off the bus for the first time.

I’m a bus rider pro

I wanted to have a special snack for the kids when they got home, so I baked homemade chocolate chip cookies and cut them in the shape of their new grade level! It was a hit!

3rd grade!

Ella did complain that because she had a “1”, she got the least amount of cookie. We had to have a talk about being thankful!

“Next year mommy, I will have a BIG “2” cookie!!”

Asher got a “P” for preschool!


The kids all had GREAT days of school with no complaints! Thank you Lord!


somebody’s daddy is a pastor!

After taking Ella, my 6 year old, out on a back to school date, she told me, “Mom, you’re my best girl!  Well, actually, there is one girl I love more than you.”

“oh ya, who is that?” I said, really not knowing who she would say.

“God’s queen!”  she shouted.

My eyebrows definitely raised at that one, and I said, “Who is God’s queen?!?”

“Mom, you know, the church!!”

“Oh, you mean Christ’s bride, the church?”

“Yes, His bride!  I love her more than you, but that’s the only girl I love more.”

Somebody’s daddy is a pastor (of finance-but still)!  😉

me and Ella

DR trip-day 8

Friday was beach day for the group at Caberete!  But for us, more importantly, we were meeting our girl that we sponsor through Compassion!  We started sponsoring Darianny two years ago, and purposely chose her because she was from the Dominican Republic, and in between Rilyn and Ella’s ages.  We knew that one day, we wanted to go on a family mission trip through our church to the DR, and then, maybe we would be able to meet her!  It was hard to believe that nearly two years later, our decision was coming to fruition!  I contacted Compassion 2 months prior to our visit to set up the arrangements, and Darianny was driven 3 hours from her village to Caberete, a resort beach, on Friday morning.    This is the photo we prayed over/stared at on our fridge for the past 2 years:

And this is Darianny meeting Rilyn and Ella Friday morning:

big smiles!

After talking with Darianny, through the translator Compassion gave us, we learned that she wants to be a fashion model when she grows up! She was very excited when one of the gifts we brought her was some stylish new sunglasses! Look at her strutting her stuff!

future model!

This was Darianny’s first time at the beach, and the first time out of her village! The joy on her face never left all day!


She LOVED the ocean! She never wanted to get out!

me and my girls!
Darianny asked how salt got into the ocean  🙂

After a yummy lunch of pizza, we took the girls to a bead shop where they each got to make a necklace! We learned that this was Darianny’s first time in a gift shop too!

new handmade necklaces!

We got ice cream afterwards of course!

Darianny got watermelon flavor ice cream!

What a special experience to meet her! It was the perfect ending to our trip! We hope that when we come back in a few years that we can visit Darianny again, this time in her village!

our family with Darianny
goodbye hugs

The last hour we had at the beach after Darianny left was spent relaxing and soaking in the sun!

Thanks Dominican for the life changing memories!

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”      1 John 3:17-18
Thank you to Makarios, to all our friends and family who generously donated money to our trip, and those who donated supplies for the students of Makarios so they can receive new clothes, shoes, underwear, and school supplies on their first day of school in September!  God bless you all!

*to read day 7, click here. To see my photography blog pictures of the DR, click here*


DR trip-day 7

Thursday was Makarios’ end of summer school carnival day!  I took pictures, James grilled almost 400 hot dogs (with help!), and the girls got to help the “balloon dart” booth a little, and walk around the carnival and participate in the games along with the other kids.

They got their faces painted again!

blue lips!
ice cream cutie!
balloon darts!
serve’em up!

The carnival was a success, and many of the student’s families showed up to celebrate the end of summer with fun, food, and a Gospel message.
After the carnival, we got ready to go to the soccer tournament final game! The girls made signs to hold up at the game and so the players could run through!

Can you tell Rilyn colored the “n”?  My girls LOVE rainbows!
cheering them on!
nice goalie block!

After the game, we headed back over to the Makarios school, where we had a trophy ceremony and medals for the winners and the participants. James helped a great deal in the soccer tournament with the refereeing, and he was being recognized here.

One of the sweetest things I saw in the ceremony was when a 10 year old boy got his medal.  He immediately walked over to his sister and put it around her neck.  No hesitation.  Just pure, unselfish love.  The sister was beaming with pride.  🙂

Here are the boys praying after the trophy ceremony. I love this picture because the boy on the far right is actually kissing his trophy while they are praying!

This was our longest day out in the sun. We were out from 8:30-5 p.m. and the kids were tired, but I don’t remember them complaining.   Rilyn even mentioned to me, in her cold shower that evening, how she couldn’t believe our trip was nearing the end, and how she wanted Asher to come here, so we could stay longer!  Whoa, that comment really hit me, because for the first time I thought about one of the reasons we came on this trip was to plant seeds in our girls’ hearts about being a missionary one day!  Now home, my goal is for us to start going through the Christian Heroes set which has biographies of Christian missionaries (written for children ages 5-10 to understand.)  They also have a series for children older than 10 here.

*to read about day 6, click here. To read about day 8, click here*


DR trip-day 6

Each new morning starts with roosters crowing in the Dominican.  Wednesday morning was no different, and at 5 a.m. the roosters start their songs.  We started the day at the Makarios school again.  The girls and I went through each summer school class again.  Ella  found Rebekah and the hand games resumed!

This is the arts and crafts room.

In science, they were making homemade ice cream!

shake the bag!
touching the ice cream that they just made!

Math time!


In the afternoon, we visited the village of Pancho Mateo. One third of the kids at the Mak school come from here.


There was a village basketball court, and we played there most of the afternoon. The village girls loved doing Rilyn and Ella’s “gringo” hair! And my girls loved having it done-over and over and over again!

girls will be girls!
Rilyn feeling relaxed!
time for another ‘do!
this sweet girl did a great job with Ella’s hair!

James played sports with the boys!


*to read about day 5, click here. To read about day 7, click here*


DR trip Day 5

Tuesday started out rainy.  And in the rain, Dominicans rest.  I kept imagining all the homes we saw earlier in the week with their roofs made of tin scraps.  All the rain that must be falling in their homes.  We drove to the Mak school still.

Do you see their skin?  This is how we were “glistening” with sweat all day every day!.
playing in puddles at the Mak house waiting to hear where we were going

I was slated to take pictures of the soccer tournament that morning in Tamarindo, but we weren’t sure if the tournament was still going on because of the rain.  There would be some very disappointed boys if we had to cancel.  Thankfully, the rain came in bursts, and so the boys were able to start play during a long dry period, and continued play in the pouring rain even when all of us took cover in the vans.

the light blue team won, can you tell?!

After lunch, we came back to the Makarios house with the remainder of the time to rest and reflect. We had an ESL class coming later in the afternoon, but that was it. I should of been reading my Bible, meditating on his Word to give me strength for the rest of the week, but I just didn’t have the motivation. It was a cool afternoon, the steady rain bringing respite. It felt good to just lie in bed. Our kids played happily with the Makarios host family kids (who were the same age as them!  Such a blessing!)
Later that evening, something someone said really hit me: Why don’t we keep reading our Bible everyday when it is so beneficial to us? I love the Bible! I love chocolate too, but I have no problem eating it everyday! So why do I struggle so much to read the Bible everyday when I love it?
Satan is at work.
Ella had a break down later in the bunk room. She cried because she wanted to go home and she missed Asher. When I asked her why she didn’t want to play with the village kids anymore, she replied, “Because I don’t want to play with sticks and rocks all day!”  Ella missed the comforts of home.  This mission trip was “rehab” from our “mistress(es)”, (the thing(s) we miss most at home that try to take priority in our lives over our relationship with God.)   It could be a person, a hobby, toys, facebook, a certain food…

I stayed off the internet and my cell phone for 7 days.  It was a great rest for me, and reminded me that I can be without those things and my world will not crumble.  With my cell phone (and my data plan!) I feel in control.  Lord, help me remember YOU are in control!

Rilyn was feeling it too, but not one to have outbursts like Ella, she journaled her thoughts.  She told me later that she drew a red heart with sin around it because she knew worrying and being fearful were sins and she needed to bring all these things to the Lord.

Darianny is our Compassion child we were going to meet on Friday

It was time for ESL class. On the agenda was the DR kids “buying” small toys (with tokens they had earned throughout the summer) using English words. My girls were eager to help with this!

“How much does that cost?”
“I would like to buy…”

The Lord ended our day with a beautiful sunset!  Tomorrow would be a new day full of God’s grace!

*to read about day 4, click here. To read about day 6, click here*


DR trip day 4

Monday morning we drove 10 minutes to the Makarios school where they were starting their last week of summer school.  The theme for the week was “food and your 5 senses”.  Each week in the summer, they have one age group who comes, and this week it was entering 3rd grade.  They get 15 minutes each in a different classroom where they they learn math, Bible, reading, etc.  I wanted my girls to experience “school” so we went around to each classroom throughout the morning.  In each classroom, they go over the theme verse which was John 6:35.  It was neat for my girls to participate in reciting the verse with the other kids.  Some children asked how my girls knew the verse without reading the words, and the teacher explained to them they memorized it.  The kids were amazed, and then we told them it took 3 weeks and LOTS of practice!  🙂

Learning about taste and how important your tongue is!
listening to the Bible story in Spanish
PE!  Limbo was on the agenda today!  You like how Rilyn is holding the stick lower than the other person?  🙂
lining up to limbo!

My girls definitely had moments of feeling bored during school because it was all in Spanish, but I think it was really good for them to experience. Math class was fun because they could finally understand and do the same worksheets! They loved listening to story time because they could see the pictures and the book was about “smell” and a farting dog! My girls laughed right alongside the other kids!
After school we went to a local restaurant which served us fried chicken, beans, and rice. It was yummy!

Rilyn and Ellie

After lunch, all 35 of us went back to the school to do some maintenance work. Thursday was their big “end of summer school” carnival, so we wanted the school to look in tip top shape. There is construction going on at the school because they are building a cafeteria so James’ main job was to help with that in the afternoon!

James hard at work!

Another job was to clean the plastic chairs that the kids sit on!

Ella hard at work!

At one point during the afternoon, I found myself using the back of a spoon, scraping old stickers off of $2 plastic chairs with turpentine.  It was very time consuming because each chair had like 50 stickers on it.  I found myself thinking, I came all the way to the DR to do this?!  I would rather give them $20 so they can buy 10 new chairs!  But then I became thankful that God chose me to do this humbling task.
Matthew 25:34-40

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,  you did it to me.’

And I ask myself “Why did I come here?”  To feel important?  Because going on a mission trip is the “right thing”?  Or to serve, in response to the Gospel having received grace upon grace?

To serve by scraping stickers off of a cheap chair with a spoon.

God had me go on this trip with 50 other people to feel humbled by serving in the least ways.  Every time a big or “important” task needed to be done, it was done quickly by other people who didn’t have kids to watch over, or who were stronger, more able.  I was just one of the photographers on the trip, (and had to carry a 10 lb. camera over my shoulder everywhere) and I had kids to watch over.

Satan has a way of getting to you.

After we finished our tasks at the school, we got to walk around the village surrounding the school, Tamarindo.One third of the kids at the school live in this village.

*to read about day 3, click here. To read about day 5, click here*


DR trip Day 3

Sunday was a relaxing day in a lot of ways, but also very tough for me.  We woke up on Sunday and went to a local church for worship.  It was wonderful to sing praise songs in Spanish, and the girls recognized many of the songs.  It was Father’s Day in the Dominican, so the sermon was about being a godly parent.  The reason I know this is because they had a translator for us!

Being Sabbath, after church we drove to the Puerto Plata, which is a scenic spot off of the coast.  There we visited Fort San Felipe and took pictures!

Can you see James, Jeff, and the kids?

Group shot of all 35 of us!

Austin Stone mission trip group

After the Point, we drove to a nearby restaurant that had a kid area to play! Before we ate, we all stopped to use the restroom. Remember I said in an earlier blog post that it’s harder for kids to remember to NOT put toilet paper in the toilets? Well, the girls toilet wasn’t working so people were just doing their business on top of one another. Rilyn went in and came out sheepishly, “Mom, I put lots of toilet paper in the toilet!!”  Ugh. Very reluctantly, I reached my hand in a very full bowl of #1 (and #2!) and pulled out her toilet paper. And I had to do it three times before I got it all out! Shudder. I almost gagged each time. (Later in the day at the Mak house, I would catch Ella pulling toilet paper out of the bowl, and when I said, “Oh Ella!” She said, “What? I have to do this almost every time because I keep forgetting!” D.I.S.G.U.S.T.I.N.G!!  That episode caused me not to be surprised when Ella got diarrhea later that day.)
We ate lunch, (which by the way, the food there was always good, not a problem at all for my girls to eat, thank you Lord!) and all the kids played on the unsafe playground!

don’t see many of these around our parks!
Ella flying 6 feet in the air on a teeter totter!

We rode back to the Mak house in a non air conditioned van with the girls sitting on our laps. Seatbelts smeatbelts! No such thing in the DR! After we settled at the house, we decided to skype with Asher at home. We had had no contact with him thus far, and hadn’t seen him in almost 4 days. Bad move. It was tough to see him non-responsive, and almost mad at the four of us staring at him through the computer. I’m sure he was thinking, “Why have you all left me?” He cried a little bit, and then my parents assured us he was having fun, and we turned it off. I didn’t cry, but I sure the heck wanted to. Honestly, I just never let myself think about how much I missed Asher during the trip. I just shut those feelings away, knowing he was having a great time with family. I didn’t want to “go there” and dwell on what I couldn’t change. He was in America, and I was in the DR sweating my butt off. 🙂
The girls had a fun afternoon, getting their faces painted by a sweet girl on the trip who was practicing for the carnival on Thursday. Again, seeing joy on their faces was a sweet reminder of “it’s not about me.”

Rilyn and Ellie
ella bella

Dinner was me reflecting how I wanted to “check out” because there was too many people here. There was almost 50 of us in one house because we were with another missions group from Miami. I couldn’t help but think if there was less people, I could get a shower when I wanted, I could get to know people better, I could sit in my own seat in the car without someone on my lap…
Needless to say I didn’t have a great attitude on Sunday, and God, in His grace, allowed Sunday night to be the worst night of sleep. I say “in His grace” because He wanted me to feel the desperation of needing Him. I cried out to Him Sunday night as I was lying on my mattress that felt like a slightly damp sponge. No power, no fans blowing, just dead silence, snoring from others, and the sticky heat pressing against me on all sides. Just when I thought, maybe I could handle this, Rilyn came climbing up to my top bunk crying. “I can’t sleep!!!” It was close to midnight, and when my kids can’t sleep, I feel the desperation. Again, the thoughts of, “Why did I bring them here? To torture them?”
“I am desperate for You to turn on the power! Please Lord! I just need a breeze, I need sleep! My girls need sleep!” There have been few times in my life that I have ever felt such desperation. Each night I was losing more and more sleep, and I knew I couldn’t keep on like this. We hadn’t even started summer school yet at the Makarios school! 3 days here felt like I had been here 10.
God answered me with a cool breeze, and then a burst of fans flickering on one by one. It was nearly 1 a.m., the power and His Power were surrounding me, and in His grace He granted me deep sleep. I woke up on Monday remembering my Sunday, my tough Sunday. Desperate. And the Lord asked me, “What are you desperate for at home?” “Me?” “Your kids? Your husband? Your alone time to spend on hobbies? Your kids to have a great school?”

There are so many distractions in America that lead me to think I can control any situation.  “I don’t really need God” is what my heart says when I take control.  In the DR, I needed God to turn the power on.  I couldn’t call the electric company, set up an appointment, and have them fix the situation.  Being back in America, I can easily put myself in situations where I don’t need to feel desperate for Him, and I’m left to ponder how I can be desperate for Him, fight for the longing of Him.  I don’t want to do anything on my own strength!

What comes to my mind right now is putting my kids in public school.  Has the Lord blessed us every step of the way thus far having been there for 4 years now?  Yes!  Thank you Jesus!  Does that mean this year will look like the last ones?  No.  My prayer is that I feel desperate for Him this school year with all three of mine at Manor Elementary.  Now THAT is a scary thing to pray!

Psalm 42:1-2

1As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

*to read about day 2, click here.  To read about day 4, click here*


DR mission trip Day 2

However grumpy I wanted to feel on Saturday morning, God is gracious, and He let me experience joy through the look on my daughters’ faces.  They slept “well”, and they were so excited to see what was coming next.  Thank you Lord.

Rilyn Saturday morning

We left Santiago and the White’s house…

When we arrived at the Makarios house, we settled our things, and then split our group in half. One half of our group visited the village of Chichigua while the other group took a tour of the Makarios school, and then we would switch.
Chichigua is a Haitian batey (sugarcane village). There is no sugarcane produced there right now, hence the extreme poverty.  This village is where my “uncomfortableness” from the night before seemed to be foolishness.  They had nothing, but still had joy in their eyes.

This village is used to “gringos” walking around from Makarios and interacting with them.  The teachers from the Mak school all have relationships with the kids and parents.  They welcomed us into their village.  One of the first things we did was be invited into a home.  I didn’t take a picture out of respect, but the home was probably the size of your kitchen, with one mom and six kids living in it.  She had two beds with 2 sheets hanging down in the home for “walls”.  The mother was so nice standing there in her bra and skirt asking me about my girls.  I answered her as best as I could in my broken Spanish.  My girls memorized John 6:35 in Spanish, and I told them if they knew nothing at all to say, say their verse.  The Word does not return void.  (Isaiah 55:11)  I watched my girls recite the verse to Rachel, one of the children living in the house who is their age, and tears welled up again in my eyes.  Rachel and Ella became fast friends!

Ella and Rachel

After we walked around in the village, we went to a field in the back to play with the kids! Here is where Rilyn met Rebekah. A ten year old girl who became Rilyn’s friend.

play-the universal language
Rebekah, Ella, and Rilyn

Rilyn even got to paint her fingernails!

Later that evening, we took some time to process with the girls what they saw/experienced. Rilyn loved making new friends and commented how happy they (the villagers) were with how little they have.  Ella, though, started crying.

“I don’t know if I can be Rachel’s friend.”

When we pressed her further, she explained she was “pretending” to be her friend. Ella has always been our very honest child. Even though she couldn’t quite explain it into words, we believe she was expressing her uncomfortableness in Chichigua. She doesn’t know how to talk to Rachel, she knows she won’t see her again after we leave the DR, she doesn’t want to “play” with her in an unfamiliar area that is “dirty.”

Once Ella spoke, Rilyn said, “Oh Ella, don’t say those things!  That’s not nice!”  We assured Ella it was okay, and safe to say what she felt.  And we prayed that Jesus would give her a heart to want to be her friend.

But Ella’s comments had me thinking, wasn’t I pretending too?  Pretending to smile at the children, when all I wanted to do was cry at the sight of their living conditions?  Pretending that I wasn’t worried about my girls getting cut by glass scraps on the ground, sharp tin edges, or loose nails?  Pretending to enjoy myself there, when all I could think was, “I hope the villagers don’t think, “Here comes more white people on a “mission” to save us.””

The truth is we are just as depraved as they are.

Their depravity might be more easy to “see”, because physically they are very depraved, but we are all by nature, children of wrath.  Ephesians 2:1-3  “1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful naturea and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

But those in Christ have good news!  Ephesians 2:4-5   4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Back to Ella’s comments.  As adults, we understand that we will be acting different on a mission trip because we came to the DR to act different.  Serve, be uncomfortable, feel desperation.    These things in America that are harder to come by.  (The challenge is can we act different when we are back at home?)  Ella didn’t want to show anyone she was uncomfortable (at least not yet!), so she “pretended”.  I know for me, I need to practice, and preach to my kids, it’s okay to not be okay.

From the Gospel Coalition (this is just a snippet, I encourage you to read the rest of the article!):

“When you understand that your significance, security, and identity are all anchored in Christ, you don’t have to win—you’re free to lose. And nothing in this broken world can beat a person who isn’t afraid to lose! You’ll be free to say crazy, risky, counterintuitive stuff like, “To live is Christ and to die is gain”!

Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others—because your identity is in Christ, not your place.

Now you can spend your life going to the back instead of getting to the front—because your identity is in Christ, not your position.

Now you can spend your life giving, not taking—because your identity is in Christ, not your possessions.”

*to read about Day 1, click here.  To read about Day 3, click here*

My photography business!

August 2012