Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Way back in January, when our house sold, we decided that we would spend a good bit of time traveling before we started our new adventure. Part of our traveling would be to familiar places, to visit with family and friends. But, for much of the time we wanted to see new things and make some family memories together on this side of the world. We basically took out the US map and decided on places we wanted to see. We allotted one month to head out west, and we did that for the month of April. We also decided that we wanted to head toward the northeast and see a few things there. We only had about 3 weeks for that trip, and that’s what we’re doing now.

The first 5 days were spent in DC. The grandparents all joined us for that part of our trip and it was an adventure to be sure. I learned a few things along the way. These include, but are not limited to the following facts:

No matter how long one allows, you never have enough time to do everything you want to do when you’re in DC. We saw completely different things this time than we did last time, and we still left too much undone

It is hard to get 11 people going the same direction at the same time. Someone is always ready for a bathroom break, a snack, or a nap at the wrong time.

Restaurants in big cities are not friendly to parties of 11.

Preschoolers and senior citizens to do not tolerate 7 straight hours of walking very well. (What can I say, it all looked closer together on the map!)

I do not like traveling during the tourist season.

In spite of those few negatives, we had a great time. We rolled into town Friday afternoon and visited Arlington Cemetery. We got to see a few highlights, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before we were caught in a torrential downpour. We were literally soaking wet by the time we made it back to our cars so we decided to skip a restaurant and order pizza back at the hotel.

Waiting under a shelter for the storm to pass, I'm not sure why. We were already sopping wet!

We caught this glimpse as we were entering the parking garage, beautiful!

The next morning, we headed to the Holocaust Museum. I debated about taking the kids there, but since we had studied 20th century history this year, I felt they’d be okay. We had done a considerable amount of reading about the holocaust, both fiction and non-fiction, and I think that was a key to the experience. Nonetheless, it was incredibly heavy and there were times when one of them would need to walk away from a display and regroup. I think they did a lovely job of covering a very unlovely period of history.

These quotes were a couple of the ones that were on the wall in the hall of remembrence, such a somber place.

After that, we decided to walk the monuments. That’s where we went wrong. All those people walking all those monuments in one afternoon was too much. We walked, and then we walked, and then we walked some more. Ryan and I must have pushed too hard, because we nearly had some temper tantrums on our hands by the time we got back to the vehicles- and it wasn’t just the children! Anyway, we can now say we’ve seen all of the major monuments from Washington to Roosevelt to Jefferson!

Yes, we were hot enough to take a red-neck foot dippin' in the WWII Memorial.

Nana and Abby found the name of one of Nana and Pap's friends on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

What a crew!
We stumbed upon a crew of Korean Veterans at the Korean War Memorial.

The kids enjoyed being silly at the FDR Memorial, we were worn out by this time! Here's Lizzy pretending to listen to a Fireside Chat.
Abby with FDR's dog.

Lizzy and Isaac are hanging in the soup line.

Finally, we made it to Jefferson. We knew the car was not too far now!

After our crazy monument marathon, we thought we'd run over to Georgetown and get some yummy cupcakes. Abby had really wanted to go to the bakery where they film "DC Cupcakes." Let me just say, Saturday night would not be the time to try that. We waited in line for 50 minutes. At this point, the grandpas thought we had totally lost our marbles, I don't know, maybe we had. But, the cupcakes were delicious despite the wait!

Too many choices, all of them delicious!
Happy faces ready for some yummy cupcakes.

The next morning we started out at Ford’s Theater. The kids were very disappointed when they found out we weren’t going to see a play there. I’m not sure how they got that idea in the first place. I was disappointed to learn that the whole thing was not original, but rather a reconstruction. However, it was still interesting. It definitely wouldn’t make my “do again” or “must do” list.

The presidential box where Lincoln was shot.

After that, we headed over to the National Mall. We only hit 2 of the museums at the Smithsonian, and within those, we only saw the highlights. We went into the Air and Space as well as the American History. I honestly think that I have been into those two every time that I have ever been to DC. I told Ryan that someday we’re going back and spending a whole day in the National Gallery of Art, which is where I really want to go!

Monday, we spent the day on Capitol Hill. The rotunda was as beautiful as I remember it being when I visited as a child. As we walked around the various buildings, I was overwhelmed again by the foresight and sacrifice of our forefathers. The principles on which our constitution are written really are remarkable and I think that the hand of God is so obvious if one has eyes to see it.

We enjoyed lunch at one of the congressional building cafeterias. It was fun to eat among all of the House interns and assistants. Though, we felt a bit underdressed in our khaki shorts and sunglasses! The best part was when they came on the intercom and informed everyone that an unidentified substance had been found in the 5th floor ladies room and that area should be avoided. My kid’s eyes got as big as saucers until I assured them that we were not headed to the 5th floor ladies room!

Why yes, we did traipse all over the DC Metro and Capitol Hill with our KY shirts on. We may have looked insane, but we had an easy conversation starter!

My favorite part of Capitol Hill was definitely the Library of Congress. Somehow, I had managed to miss that on all of my previous visits and it is absolutely amazing! The building is jaw dropping from the tile work, to the stone, to the marble fixtures. Not to mention, the Guttenburg Bible, the main reading room overlook, and Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who has never been.

The ceiling of one of the Library of Congress rooms. Simply amazing!

Tuesday, we left the city and headed to Mount Vernon. My only regret about the day is that we didn’t get there earlier. There was so much to do and we didn’t allow enough time. The mansion itself is beautiful and only takes a few minutes, but the grounds, the visitors center, and the museum areas can easily take an entire day. We enjoyed what we were able to see and when we climbed into the car at the end of the afternoon, we were worn out!

Now we’ve headed further north to see some places we’ve never been before. Can’t wait to explore some more!


Have you ever noticed how events happen in our lives that greatly influence who we are and then as time goes by, the memory and the reality of those things become less and less a part of our daily existence? Then, every once in a while, something will happen that brings that event to the forefront of our minds and for a moment we reflect on the magnitude of the event again. I had one of those moments this week while we were in DC and I haven’t been able to shake it.

We were in the McDonald’s food court at the National Air and Space Museum. I wasn’t looking for a reflective moment, just a quick and easy way to get everyone fed. We jumped into the first available line and began to order our food. About two items into our order, I noticed that the cashier, though attentive to my order, was staring at Abe. She couldn’t take her eyes off him and finally Ryan, who was holding Abe in his arms, asked her, “Are you from Ethiopia?” To which she replied that she was. He said, “So is he,” as he pointed to Abe.

She nodded and said, “I know,” as she gestured toward his face. Ryan asked her where she was from and we exchanged a few more pleasantries about her homeland. We found out that her parents were from the same region as Abe. Then we continued with our order.

I looked away to ask Abe if he wanted apples or french fries with his Happy Meal. He told me that he wanted french fries with ketchup. Then I looked back up and saw that the cashier was crying. Like, really crying. We paused for a moment and Ryan asked her if her tears were happy. She responded with a smile that they were. Then she reached for Abe, hugged him, and finished taking our order. She began crying again and Ryan reached across the register counter, hugged her, and whispered to her that we love her homeland and that we pray for the people of Ethiopia. She smiled and we walked away, exchanging looks which began our own rush of tears.

Abe’s adoption was such a life changing event for me in so many ways. In a very practical way, it made me a mother of five. It added to my physical responsibilities and demands, but also expanded my heart in a way that I hadn’t known before. The process stretched my faith and made me more confident than ever that God is sovereign and He cares about the details of my life. It gave me a passion for adoption and a desire to encourage anyone who feels compelled to go there. Traveling to Africa gave me an overwhelming burden for both the physical and spiritual needs of the people. A burden that, 8 short months later, would have me filling out the initial paperwork for our missions application process. It has forever changed me.

I couldn’t help but think about how God uses those events in our lives to remind us of who we are and what He’s done for us. In Old Testament times, He would sometimes have people institute a ceremony, place a stone, or implement some other remembrance of a key event. Abe’s adoption and all of the details of it are such an amazing part of my testimony. The application process that we’ve just completed has also been riddled with details that only God could write. Yet, as time goes by, those details will become less “daily” to me because God will be doing a new thing and I will be seeing Him work in other amazing ways as I walk with Him. I am so thankful for His ever-present hand and His creativity and personal love as He writes the story of my life!

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Wild Week!

This past week has been chock full! Last Monday, we were in NC, where we celebrated Abby’s 13th birthday. Ryan’s parents were at my parent’s house so that both of our mom’s could fly to Phoenix with us for our appointment service the next day. All 11 of us shared a dinner of finger foods, which was Abby’s choice menu. Then, we had an ice cream cake and sang. It is the first store bought birthday cake I have purchased for one of my children since Abby’s 2nd birthday. She wasn’t thrilled, but she understood what a crazy week we were dealing with and agreed to be a good sport about it. It’s hard to believe that my first born is a teenager. Time truly does fly!

Happy 13th birthday Abby!

Tuesday morning, we headed to Phoenix. It was a whirlwind three days, full of emotion. It was an honor to be appointed at the Southern Baptist Convention, with so many pastors and leaders there. We continue to be overwhelmed and humbled by the calling that God has place on our lives. We cannot believe that we have made it through the process and that God is going to allow us this amazing opportunity. We do not take our appointment lightly and we feel an overwhelming responsibility to be good stewards of our time and the financial resources that are going to be entrusted to our ministry. We realized that many people sacrifice to fund missions, and we do not take that lightly.

This picture was taken just after our appointment service. We were so relieved that we made it on and off the stage and to and from the mic without any falls, forgetting words, or other mishaps!

Here we are with the other 2 apprentice couples from our appointment group. We have already enjoyed getting to know them and we're excited to spend 8 weeks training with them in VA.

The convention also allowed us to experience some other fun things. We got to spend some more time with others who will be training with us for 8 weeks this fall. These are some amazing people! We also got to sneak preview the movie Courageous, which will be out in theaters Sept. 30- go see it! We were laughing one minute and crying the next, so good! Also, we got to hear some amazing preaching by David Platt. Ryan also managed to snag a free Liberty t-shirt in the exhibit hall, which made his day. Then, we got to share breakfast with Ryan’s cousin who lives in Tucson, and we had a great time catching up. We ladies also fell in love with Charming Charlies, an accessory store inwhich every girl would find something to drool over. Poor Ryan, he was such a good sport as we spent 90 minutes wandering from color scheme to color scheme. So fun!

Here is Ryan in his freebie Liberty T. The beautiful gal in the middle is his cousin Monica.
Here is Abby trying on a great hat at Charming Charilies.
We all fell for it, what can I say? Bracelets don't take up much room in a suitcase, do they? Notice, Nana's bag is by far the biggest. No surprise there!

We flew in late Thursday night, got to bed about 3 AM and then hit the road for DC about 10:00 Friday AM. Our family, along with all four grandparents, have spent the last 4 days exploring the nation’s capital. Needless to say, we are worn out! I honestly think a person could stay here for a month and barely scratch the surface of what there is to see. I'll update about those adventures soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bye Bye Bluegrass

We’ve spent the last 10 days in our beloved Bluegrass State. Ryan and I spent the first half of our lives there in Kentucky. It’s the place where we were born, raised, met, and married. We started our family and our working lives there and in a way, it will always be home. We just made what will likely be our last trip there for at least 3 years.

Friends, that was hard. Reality is beginning to set in and we have moments where we look at each other and say, “It’s going to be okay, right?” And we both know that it is and it will be. But, it’s still hard.

Our kids sense it, feel it, and know it. Sometimes they want to talk about it, sometimes they just cry, and other times they behave really poorly and we all know why. When we were in the planning and paperwork stages of this change, we knew that it was going to be hard. We knew there were going to be sacrifices and changes. But, when you watch your child hug a special cousin and say goodbye and you wonder if they’ll even know each other when they meet again, that is hard. When you snap a photograph of your 8 surviving aunts and uncles altogether in one place and you wonder if you’ll ever get to see them again this side of heaven, it’s hard.

But the fact that it is difficult does not change our call. If anything, it strengthens it. The other night, when one of our children was really focused on counting the cost, we sat down and showed him this map. We looked at the USA and then we scrolled over to the area where we’ll be living. We asked him to find the name of our host country and of course, it was buried under orange dots. Orange dots that represent entire people groups who are unreached and unengaged. People who desperately need to know the Good News of Christ. We explained to him that it was likely that every person that lives in Nana’s town or Grandma’s town probably has at least one person in their life who knows Jesus, at least one person who can share the gospel. At least one. But there are over 3,000 people groups, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, who have NO ONE telling them. NO ONE. And then resolve strengthens, the goodbyes become worthwhile, and enthusiasm is refreshed. Then it makes sense again.

In between those moments of sadness, we did find lots of fun things to do. We spent a couple of days at the cabin where the kids played with cousins in the creek and on 4 wheelers. Back in Hazard, we got to spend a day swimming in Uncle Chad’s pool with some cousins. It was perfect weather for swimming!

Swimming with some cousins.

Abe LOVED the diving board!

We enjoyed a trip to the Challenger Center at the college one day. The kids got assimilated in with a local school’s class that was there on a space mission called Rendezvous with a Comet. It was very cool. We got to spend part of our time in “mission control” and part of our time on the “space station.” Our task on the space station involved using robotic arms to measure radiation amounts on filter samples. It was a very unique experience. They certainly have a better understanding of space exploration after that day.

When we left Hazard, we headed west and spent a couple of days in the Mammoth Cave area. We have some very close friends from college who live there. We spent the days exploring the area while they were at work, and in the evenings we swam together at their pool and laughed, just like old times. Our kids had a great time hanging with their kids and it was just a nice couple of days.

Tony and Della, our dear college friends. This picture was taken about midnight, so while we have aged a bit in the last 18 years, this certainly doesn't help!

While we were there, we took the kids to see Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace. They decided to do the Junior Ranger badges there, so they learned a lot about his “Kentucky Years.” My favorite item there was his family’s Bible, which is on display in the visitor’s center.

The outside of the birthplace site.
Inside the birthplace.

The next day, we headed to Mammoth Cave. The kids were not so sure what could be so exciting about a cave that they would make it into a National Park. I tried to remind them that they had said the same thing about a “hole in the ground” just before we got to the Grand Canyon. Once again, I got the satisfaction of being right as they all oohed and aahed while walking 3/4 of a mile through a small portion of the world’s longest cave system. We spotted bats, cave crickets, and a variety of amazing cave formations. They all agreed that it was worth it.

The last couple of days, we’ve been up in the Cincinnati area, where I was raised. They were having a retirement/birthday party for one of my aunts. She just finished her 38th year of teaching and is stepping away from the classroom. It gave us a chance to say goodbye to my mom’s side of the family, which was a blessing. I got to see my oldest brother, all of my aunts and uncles, and many of my cousins. Not to mention, we managed to cram in all of our favorite Cincy foods too!

A cousin from the other side!

My moms 8 living siblings. It was such a treat to see them all!

Yesterday, we decided to go back to the church that I attended from about 3rd grade until I left for college. I hadn’t been back there in about 10 years. Lately though, I had been thinking of them and what a profound influence that body of believers had on my life. We decided to go, but I wasn’t even sure that I would know anyone there anymore. I truly believe that the Lord ordained that hour for me, because I was able to see and thank 3 women who invested in me as a child. The first was the woman who transported me to and from church for at least 4 years. The second, was the president of the Women’s Missionary Union who always had encouraged me in my heart for missions, even when I was a young girl. The third was the mother of my childhood Acteens director and I was able to share my story with her, so that she could communicate it to her daughter.

It was much more emotional for me than I expected it to be. I couldn’t help but think about how a young girl like me who caught a ride to church each week so that I could hear the stories of Jesus was going to get the privilege to serve as one of the missionaries I had read about in my G.A. missions magazine each week. I know that if not for the grace of God, I would not be walking with Him today. This is not my heritage. I don’t have a lineage of preachers, Sunday School teachers, and missionaries. But, I am a child of God and I am humbled that I have the opportunity to serve Him as a wife, a mother, and now a career missionary.