Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Week In

Well, we've passed the one week mark and we're sort of settling in a little bit. Life is certainly much simpler here and things move at a much slower pace. At this point, we're still battling some fatigue and sleep is not totally regulated. We're not sure which part of that is jet lag vs. transition issues vs. malaria meds. We really don't care what's causing it, we just want it to get better!

Today we reached a big milestone, one that I've been afraid of, but I'm so glad we've conquered it. We went shopping. All of us. Without someone who knows the ropes accompanying us. And we came back alive, with most of what we set out to get. It was a very productive trip (by West African standards). At this point I think that anytime you find more than 50% of your list without plowing over a motorcyclist, that's a win. Of course, with our assorted skin colors and our big family, we got plenty of stares, but we made it. I feel so empowered.

Okay, maybe not empowered. Honestly I am struggling a little bit with exhaustion and I have to wonder if it takes so much energy just to feed our family, how will we ever learn what we need to learn to do what we really came here to do. Then I remember that we've only been here a week, I talk to the Lord a little bit, I hide in the bathroom, and then I come out and make it through the next few hours. It's a beautiful pattern I've fallen into. But it's working, for now. I just keep reminding myself of other times when we've lived in survival mode and how I've seen that if I'm just faithful to keep putting one foot in front of the other while clinging to the Lord, there always comes a day when I realize we're not just surviving anymore. I'm trusting this time will be no different.

Yesterday I faced another one of my fears. House help. Shh, for some reason, it's something that people don't like to talk about. It seems sort of taboo, but it's a reality that I've been able to learn more about as I've gotten closer and closer to the "inner circle" of African expats. I think it seems so decadent, the idea of house help. Especially for someone who is in our line of work. You know, someone who is supposed to be sacrificing so many worldly things. Let me just tell you folks, it's not a luxury here in West Africa. Every day that we're here, Ryan and I are more convinced that surrendering a portion of our salary to fund someone to help us survive is not a luxury, it's wisdom. Nonetheless, I was worried about having another lady in my house all day. Especially while I was trying to homeschool.

It was a silly thing to worry about. It's obvious that it's going to be a good thing. I am blessed that the gal who will be helping us has been with other families doing similar work for nearly 20 years. She knows how to get the harmattan dust off of my floors. She saw the blackening bananas on the counter and asked me if she could make banana bread. Then she laughed at my puny Pampered Chef roller and sent Abby next door to borrow a real rolling pin so that she could make us fresh flour tortillas, which we used for lunch today. She is pushing me to use my language, even though she speaks good English. We're going to be really blessed to have her around.

There is so much more to share. Every day is filled with challenges that I never would face in America. They often times result in a good laugh or cry, depending on my frame of mind. At the same time, there is a freedom and a beauty here that is precious. Ryan and I keep having these "I can't believe this is our life" moments. I've got some photos I'd love to share, but the internet is not going to cooperate tonight, so I will tell more of our story another day.

For now, I will ask you to pray about 2 specific things:
1. We are so thankful that all of our paperwork arrived safely from Canada, what an answer to prayer! Tomorrow Ryan will travel to the capitol city to try and retrieve our passports and get our visa mess straightened out. Please pray for favor, safety, etc.
2. Pray that we will be able to develop better sleep patterns. We have 2 kiddos who are really struggling and they're having some vivid dreams when they do sleep. This can be a result of the malaria meds, so we need wisdom and discernment about how to conquer all of it.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and words of encouragement. I truly believe that your support and encouragement has been a big part of our first week here being so incredibly smooth!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It Just Takes Longer

That’s what everyone told us during all of our trainings. It just takes longer to live in Africa. I tried to process that, I tried to imagine it, I thought I had an understanding. I did not. I think it’s sort of like having your first baby. You can read all the books, take all the classes, babysit for a friend, etc. But, until you have that baby in your home and have lived a few of those sleepless nights, you cannot understand.

It’s true though. It just takes longer to live here. For example, often we are without power. So, when the power has been out for a while and we need to use the generator to keep the fridge cold, we go into our pantry, flip this lever to switch the current from city power to generator, turn off the hot water heater, go outside and turn the generator on. Then, at 10 o’clock each night, when it’s time to turn the generator off, we have to go outside, turn the generator off, remember to flip the lever back to city power, in case it comes on during the night, and then flip the hot water heater back on in the hopes that we’ll have hot water the next day. That’s just to keep the fridge cold.

I’ve been shopping the last two days. Two different ladies have graciously taken me around town to show me some of their favorite stores and stands. Just figuring out how to make foods that are familiar using the ingredients that are available to me at a reasonable cost will be a challenge. But, I look forward to figuring it out. Each store has a small selection of foods, many of them about the stock of your average 7-11. At this point, I’ve been to all 3 of the “large” grocery stores and there is nothing back home that I can think of to compare them to. Maybe a country general store. Maybe not. Okay, no comparisons.

The packaging for everything is so different. Like, I never would have thought that the mound of black trash bags full of powder was flour. Fortunately, my colleague explained to me that I need to freeze it and then sift it before I use it to get all of the bugs out of it. I haven’t had to use it yet, but we’ll see!

Today, I bought hangers from 3 different stands, because I kept thinking that the next stall might have a more reasonable price. Then, when I brought them home, they had to be washed and dried before they could be used. When I started using them, I realized that I didn’t buy nearly enough so now I’ll get to brave the market again to find more of them.

I did buy some strawberries. When I got home, I had to run a sink full of this cleaning solution to soak the strawberries in for 20 minutes before they could be eaten.

Water. That takes longer too. Fortunately, we were given a nice water filter through the WMU program that Southern Baptists run. So, each morning, we pour water in the top and then it trickles through the filter into the reservoir. Then, we can use it to make our kool-aid, milk (it’s powdered here), and ice (which we haven’t actually had yet because the freezer has yet to get cold enough). Before we brush our teeth, we have to make sure that there is bottled water in the bathroom for us to brush with. When the filter gets dirty, we’ll just scour off the crud and use it again.

Laundry is fun too. We have a washer that someone blessed us with until our crate gets here. So, when we have city power, that works great. We don’t have a dryer, so we can hang the clothes out to dry. But, if we do that, then they have to be ironed or put into a hot dryer long enough to kill the mango fly larva, or else we’ll get a mango worm growing in our skin. Since we don’t have a dryer and I am not about to iron everything, we’ve chosen to live like Sanford and Son with clothes hanging all over the house. We’re going to get a better system soon, I hope.

It just takes longer. That’s all there is to it. It could be maddening. Truly! But we’re choosing to look at it as an adventure. We can already see so many ways that all of these inconveniences can help us to live in greater community with other folks. It also helps us to be grateful for the little things. I have not picked up my to-do list pad one time since we got here and even with all of the craziness of learning how to operate in this new nomal, I’m enjoying learning new skills and processes. Mostly.

Here is a picture of our side entrance as we found it when we arrived, covered in garland and balloons. Our luggage was piled up on the carport.

Another example of something that takes longer. While trying to rearrange the furniture in Abby's room, we encountered a nest of termites living under a bookshelf. Here is a photo of Ryan holding up all of the termites he swept up using that Nigerian broom you see in his hand. You can only imagine what kind of squalling was going on in that room as we were killing and stomping on that heap of bugs!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I’m going to go ahead and write this blog post while it’s rolling around in my head, though I honestly have NO idea if and when it will ever get posted. Some wise person told us to record our thoughts and impressions and take lots of pictures while everything was fresh and new to us because soon, it would all seem normal. At this point, I find that incredibly hard to believe. But, since I respect this person, I’m going to take their word for it and try to chronicle a little bit of our arrival.

Our flights went well. Much better than I expected. The only thing that was a struggle was sleeping. We didn’t do much of that. Between 5 kids and the flight attendants offering something to whoever was still awake, sleep was scarce. So, by the time we landed, we were beyond exhausted. Our bodies were convinced that it was about 9PM, but the clock in our new country read 6AM.

As we waited in the immigration line, we discussed how well everything had gone and how we could tell that the kids were reaching the fragile state, so we hoped the next few hurdles would go smoothly. But you know, God has a way of giving us what we need and not what we want and the next few hours certainly proved that.

When the immigration officer called us forward we stepped up in full confidence, knowing that we had our visas in our passports and we were good to go. Then, the officer asked to see our paperwork. We were confused, we didn’t have any paperwork. We’d sent it to the embassy, gotten the visa, and here we were! They proceeded to explain that all of the paperwork the embassy received was supposed to be in a sealed envelope, addressed to the consulate, and we were supposed to produce it at that moment. We looked at each other in horror because we knew that we had handed that 3 pound stack of papers to our supervisor in Canada and asked him to shred it for us, because it contained so much personal information.

At that point things got really hairy. Kids started crying, phone calls started flying, uniformed people started using words like deport. It was not good. In the meantime, about 50 feet away, our luggage was going round and round the carousel as we watched and prayed that we would be able to get to it.

After a while, they took Ryan back to a room to discuss our options and they sent me to go and start claiming baggage with my 5 children. There was a sea of porters wanting to help us and I was totally overwhelmed. There were bags stacked all over and so one porter started gathering his friends and they pulled then together. I counted, and recounted, and then counted again, only to discover that we were missing 3 bags. So, as Ryan was getting our passprots seized, I was trying to fill out baggage claim forms and my kids were trying hard to hold Abe together as they alternated bouts of crying. It was horrific.

After what seemed like a very long time, even though it was probably only an hour or so, we were told we could leave and given a sheet of paper with our passport numbers on it, but no passports. Next came customs, where an officer insisted that he was not letting us leave until he searched our bags or provided him with a detailed packing list. We kept saying, there are 7 of us, we are moving here, they are household goods, clothes, book, etc., etc., etc. Praise the Lord, that gal that had come to help us out with her trusty phone and embassy contacts had greeted a man earlier who told the man that we were his friends and to let us go. So, miraculously, he waved us on.

At this point, I was exhausted, stressed, and it was time for our drive home. We had been told that the drive could vary based on the traffic, checkpoints, etc. Let’s just say, that the rhythym that had begun the day continued on our way home. Both of our colleagues who traveled with us said that they think we may now hold the record for the longest drive home from the capital city, and it took between 6 and 7 hours. We got stopped at so many checkpoints by so many officers in so many different kinds of uniforms that it was almost comical. Then, about 2/3 of the way, Lily got horribly carsick and began vomiting. It was traumatic.

Fortunately, things began to improve from there. We arrived at our new home to many friendly faces who were all eager to greet us and welcome us. Our house was covered in balloons and colorful paper chains. The beds were made up, there was a starter supply of foods, and it was obvious that we were welcome.

Our first morning here, Ryan and I both woke up, anxious about our situation. We knew that if we couldn’t secure those papers in a timely fashion, we were going home and that was a heavy weight. But, we both spent some time in God’s word and then dialogued about what we felt he was saying to us. Though we were in different places in scripture, we both were reminded that none of the previous day’s events were a mistake. God was certainly aware of everything we’d faced. We had not willfully made a mistake with the visa paperwork and God was going to do his will, whatever that may be.

Later in the day, we were able to get in touch with our supervisor and we found out that he had not yet shredded the necessary documents. So, I’m happy to report that they’re on their way and we’re prayerful that we’ll see them soon and be able to get all of this mess resolved.

The last couple have days have been spent attempting to unpack, shop, establish phones, internet, etc. I can’t wait to share a little bit about the learning curve that the last few days has involved. But, that’s a whole ‘nother post. I am very hopeful that sleep will come tonight as it’s been avoiding me our first 2 nights here, so I’m off to bed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sprint through the City

Today, we saw London. Okay, today we saw enough of London to know that we want to come back and stay awhile. We debated about what to do with our 9 hour layover in the city. The easy route would have been to stay at the airport, and we seriously considered that. But then, we thought through the fact that we have no idea when we'll be here again and we know the cost to fly a family our size anywhere, so we decided to take the tube into the city and do a quick walking tour. Here's some of what we saw:

Those famous red buses.

Outside Buckingham Palace. Abe wanted to know why we couldn't go inside to see the queen.
The famous palace guards
Isaac was very excited when he spotted these!
Look Kids! Big Ben!
Climbing again!

London Eye, near the Thames River
The Olympic Countdown Clock at Trafalgar Square.
Sacked out on the train back to the airport.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


For years, I've had a heart for people who serve overseas doing what my family is about to embark upon. Literally, since I was a little girl those people have fascinated me. I've always wanted to serve them when our paths have crossed, but I've never really known how to do it well. It's always felt very awkward. Now that I've walked about 1/10 of a mile in their moccasins, I have had a lot of realizations that I'd like to share with those of you who might want to serve and minister to these folks like I do. I'm sure I'll have far more knowledge in 3 or 4 years and I'll look back on this post with humor. Like, you know, once I've actually left the continent. But here's what I can tell you for now that I've discovered about this new life journey:

  • We need prayer. It's not just something we say because it's the right thing to say. We literally depend on the prayers of the body. Just as much, we need to know that you're praying, so an occasional e-mail or FB note is a welcome thing.
  • We are not superheroes. We don't have any special powers. We do not want the American church to elevate us. We're ordinary people who have surrendered to God's call on our life. Our kids throw tantrums, we get irritated with our spouses, we are tempted to doubt God's power. We need your friendship, not your awe.
  • We miss community. Words cannot express how much we miss our church. We have full confidence that we will find another type of community in our new city, but it will be very different. In some ways, we will always long for our familiar American worship.
  • We want to share what is happening in our lives, so please listen. It's really hard because part of our heart is in the States and part of it is with our work. We want to engage in your world and we want you to engage in our world. At the same time, things have changed for us and we aren't the same people that we were before. Just knowing that there are people who will listen to the details and allow us to think aloud and share what is happening is a good thing. God is changing us in amazing ways and we aren't sure how to process it all, be patient with us. We promise not to show you any hour long slide shows of us wearing native clothing and chasing giraffes. Maybe 30 minute power points, but not hour long slide shows.
  • Remember our kids. Notes, cards, e-mails. They mean so much to our family. Not because of what they say but because they show them that somebody remembers them. Our kids love to know that they are not forgotten and that there are friends who are holding them up. From everything we've read and observed, our kids can and will continue to struggle with where their "home" is. It is our prayer that instead of feeling that they have no home, they will have multiple homes and that when we're in the states, there will be people who are willing to invest in them and pour into them for those windows of time.
  • Pursue us. In the months ahead, we know that we will become even more disconnected from what once was. Communication will become more challenging for us. We may not be able to answer every e-mail promptly. Don't stop sending them. I know you're busy too, but when the Lord brings us to mind, we'd love to hear from you!
We are so thankful to be leaving behind so many people whom we love and who have loved us so well. I have told my children many times through faces full of tears that we should be thankful that this hurts so bad because this means that we have been blessed with lots of love. I keep reminding them that there are more people to love just around the corner. I can't wait to see who they might be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How quickly time flies

About 8 years ago, we bought Abby a little purple nightgown from the Children's Place. It was long on her, but she didn't mind, that was exactly how she wanted it. She was in that stage where we had to beg her to wear jeans or pants and she would prefer to spend all of her days in princess costumes. I had no idea how quickly that would pass.

Now, she's so independent and her last question before she falls asleep each night is, "Mom, will you get me up before everyone else so that I'll have time to fix my hair in the morning?"

I'm telling you people, when it comes to your kids, time flies. You blink and it's another birthday. Before you know it, you're facing a long list of, "I don't remember the last time they needed me for this" realizations.

It's sweet and it's right and it's very, very hard on a momma's heart sometimes.

What, you may ask has me voicing this observation today? That blasted purple nightgown. It's been in continual use in the Campbell household for about 8 years. I canNOT justify carrying it overseas. Because today it looks like this on Lizzy...

and like this on Lily...
and if it barely covers their bum, it doesn't make the cut. But, man I'm gonna miss that little purple gown and the sweet little girl characteristics that it represents!

*and yes, my house looks like a bomb blew up in it. Don't judge till you've attempted to reduce your world to 25 suitcases people!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So Thankful

One of the things that has been so neat about our time here in Vancouver is that we've gotten to live here like a normal resident, but we've also known that our time here is temporary so we've pushed hard to see and experience much of what Vancouver has to offer. In some ways, it's been like a 3 month stay-cation. But, really, there have been lots of days where the work/assignment load has been anything but relaxing, so I guess that's not the best analogy.

Anyway, my point is, we've had a great time experiencing all that we could here in the city. One of the last things we really wanted to do was get out in the snow a bit. I knew that after last year's little head injury, I wan't interested in taking up skiing, but I did want to try something snowy that we didn't typically get to do back in Carolina.

A friend here offered to take us snowshoeing and it was a great fit. The hike we did was easy, only 5 kilometers round trip and it was perfect for beginners. We were a little worried about Abe, but he kept up as well as could be expected. Towards the end, we did strip off the snowshoes and let him walk about in his "runners," as they call sneakers here in Canada. It was a great time with good friends and we're so glad we got to experience it.

Heading toward the trail, getting the hang of it!
5 minutes in and he's already covered in snow!

Two sweet girls!

Moving along
At the top! There is an amazing vista behind us, but the fog makes it hard to see.

This bird and several of his little friends were waiting for us at the top. We happened to have a few snacks in the backpack and they ate nutri-grain bars right out of our hands. It was pretty cool!
If you look carefully, you can see that there is actually a bird sitting on Abby's hand.

Under the Sea

Last week we had the opportunity to go on a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium with our classmates. I'll be honest and say that aquariums are not my favorite way to spend money. They just seem like they're really expensive and if you've seen one, you've seen the same basic stuff. However, the aquarium here has an excellent reputation and it was definitely on our "to-do" list. By going as a group with our colleagues, we were able to get a much better rate and we got to spend the day with people that we've grown to love.

All in all, we had a great time. I've been in aquariums that have much more of a "wow effect" in how they display their animals, but the Vancouver aquarium was really great in a different sort of way. First of all, they had some animals that we typically don't see in our southeastern US holdings, like beluga whales. They also had shows going on all day long, so we got to see a dolphin show, a beluga whale show, and a 4-D imax type film, so that was fun. They had lots of things the kids could touch and do, so they stayed happy. We're really glad we went.

Anxiously waiting to get inside!
Helen and Hannah showed us their mad jumping and swimming skills.
Not so sure about touching that anemone.
I wonder if God was showing off just a little bit when He created jellyfish. Hands down my favorite!
One big beluga!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


In the midst of the Christmas season, I had not one, but two moms ask me if I would be willing to blog about my family's Christmas traditions. I explained to them that I would, but it probably wouldn't be until after Christmas and that they would probably not be impressed when I did and that I certainly wasn't an authority on how to have a Jesus-centered Christmas.

I've been wrestling with how to share all that's on my heart when it comes to this topic. Because it's complicated for me and I feel like I need to share some background. So, here goes...
When I was growing up, my parents loved me. Very much. I always knew that. However, they both came out of lots of brokenness, which they were in the process of working out. As a result of that, there had been previous marriages and previous children, which always complicated Christmas a little bit. Who am I kidding? It complicated all of life a little bit. And inevitably, that effected the kids involved. Sometimes more than a little bit. That's what you call living.in.a.fallen.world. I'm thankful for my childhood. God has redeemed the low points and used them to make me who I am in Him. He has also done a work in my parents and they are continuing to grow and heal even in the most recent years. It's a good thing. I truly believe that they did the best they could with where they were at when I entered the picture.

That being said, my Christmas memories vary. But I can tell you that I always loved Christmas. I loved the tree, the lights, the presents, and the fact that it would be one day a year where my parents would stop their busyness and be together. It's the only holiday that focused on our individual family for the day and not the extended family of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

I have to say though, that there was never a real emphasis on Jesus. I knew it was his birthday, I knew it was about Him, but the actions and the traditions were not reflective of that. I don't fault my parents. At. All. My mom had come out of some pretty extreme poverty and she put out lots of energy to make sure our Christmas was magical when it came to gifts. There was also energy to give to working out the Christmas visitation schedule for the other kids. Not to mention, my parents weren't exactly like-minded about faith, especially in the early years. It was complicated. But, the bottom line is...I still grew up loving Christmas and it was the most magical time of year.

So, when Ryan and I got married, we waded through lots of muck bringing together two different ideas of what Christmas was supposed to look like. We didn't even agree on what day the presents were supposed to be opened. But, we both wanted to tightly cling to time with our families, because for both of us, there were some very deep emotional things involved in that season. We never thought twice about the pattern we developed, which involved going to his parents for Christmas Eve and then getting up early Christmas morning and driving 3 hours to my parents. We did this for at least 12 years- even after a move to North Carolina and later to Georgia. We didn't really think about it. Each time was non-negotiable for each one of us. We didn't really work on developing many of our own traditions. It didn't occur to us that we needed to.

However, in recent years, we have become increasingly aware that we needed to make some changes. We haven't traveled on Christmas in about 4 years. We've tried to implement more and more traditions for our own family unit and we've tried to shift the focus, a little at a time. I'm going to be honest here and tell you that it's complicated.

I read the blogs of families who are going radical and "redeeming Christmas" and they sound great. They're so brave. I'm not there yet. Maybe I'm not holy enough, maybe I'm not brave enough, maybe I am desperately clinging to the things that made that part of my life so magical growing up, maybe I've just not been convicted that I need to forsake everything that Christmas was to me when I was a child. I like the gifts, the tree, the stockings, and the lights. Whatever it is, whatever reason I have for keeping so many of the "pagan" elements around, right now, me and Jesus are okay with it. That may change, I don't know. But right now, I'm choosing to extend grace to myself. I feel certain that He is too.

However, all of that being said, that doesn't mean that we don't take measures to transfer our faith to our children during this special time of year. We do. We do take time to worship, to focus, to serve, to give, to celebrate, and to invest in each other. But, we've done it in a wide variety of ways. It rarely looks the same way twice. This year, it's been even more pliable and we've been able to identify the things that the kids truly consider "required traditions." Here is some of what we've done:
  • We haven't done Santa. Some of the godliest people I know do Santa. That's great for them, but we don't do Santa. I was one of those children who was devastated when I found out the truth and I decided early on I wasn't comfortable with the creativity that was involved with telling the story.
  • Every year, we do try to give to someone who has need in some way. We've done all sorts of things, we've done the shoeboxes, we've picked names off a tree to shop for, we've adopted families with needs through a SS class, last year we did 12 days of Christmas gifts for a family that we were involved in sharing our faith with. That was definitely the kid's favorite. They loved the ringing and then dashing from the doorstep every night for 12 nights. It doesn't matter so much to us what we do, but that we do something(s) and that our kids are involved. This year it was simply baking cookies to share with some neighbors that we've met.
  • We always help the kids make gifts to give to the people that have invested in them through that year as a way of saying thank you. Teachers, coaches, etc.
  • Every year, we put up our Christmas tree together (usually the Sunday after Thanksgiving) and on the night that we do, we eat "party foods" like sausage balls, fruit and dip, and cheese cubes. I learned this year, that my children consider that a non-negotiable.
  • We do some sort of nightly Christmas count-down and we use that time to share the Christmas story. This was a resource that we used when our kids were younger (though ours was the first edition.) Now that they're older we use the Bible. It works amazingly well.
  • We give each of our children 3 gifts, as a reflection of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wisemen gave.. Although, I'm going to be honest here and say, we also do stockings and they involve little gifts. And sometimes those 3 gifts are really multiple gifts with one theme. Like this year, Abby got an I-Touch. But with it she got a cover and a docking station too. But we counted it as one gift. So, it's probably not as minimalist as it should be. It works for us.
  • We bake together. We eat together. We laugh together. Those are all rock solid traditions.
  • That's really about it when it comes to the set-in-stone traditions. There are several other favorites that we have done off and on through the years, but we don't do them every year. These would include things like making gingerbread houses, crafting ornaments, christmas light driving, caroling, and hosting parties of different sorts for different purposes.
Here's the bottom line. This is one of those many areas where I think it's really important that Jesus followers extend a lot of grace to other Jesus followers and even more grace to those who don't know Christ. One of the current trends I see with the explosion of blogs, social media, Pinterest, etc. is that there is so much opportunity to share great ideas and see what others are doing well. I think that's great. However, that's just what you're seeing. The part of their life that they're doing well. And all of those representations of other families doing it well can cause us moms to sink quickly into feelings of guilt and inadequacy. That's not good. In fact, there is a little verse in the beginning of Romans, chapter 8 that says, "There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I choose to think that applies in how we celebrate Jesus birth.

Don't get me wrong. I want to use the season wisely. More than anything, I want to capitalize on the fact that it's a time of year when those around me who don't know Christ may be more willing than ever to hear the good news. I want to celebrate in a way that honors Christ and encourages my family. But, I have to be very careful not to focus on the details so much that I lose the joy. And, while I have a responsibility to share faith with and disciple my children, my decisions about how we celebrate will not single handedly determine whether or not they walk away from my home loving Jesus and sold out to his work. I'm only one part of that puzzle.

Around Town

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had a great time with Grammy and Pa while they were here. We wanted to make sure that they got to see a good bit of Vancouver, especially since it's such an amazing city. So, after Christmas weekend, we decided to go exploring. On Boxing Day, we took them down to the waterfront area to show them the sights there. It was a yucky, rainy day, but we've learned that here in Vancouver, you just push through the yuck.
Here are Grammy and Pa with the kiddos in front of the Olympic cauldron. (Notice that Abe has his new "lookers" around his neck. You might know them as binoculars.)
The kids insisted that we take Grammy and Pa across the bay on the Seabus. They made sure that we ate beavertails while we were at the Quay.
The seaplanes, the barges, the waterfront, the mountains...they never get old!

The next couple of days, we stayed in. We had sick kiddos and the rain was bad, even for Vancouver. We didn't do much more than walk to the theater across the street for their Toonie Tuesday showing of The Adventures of Tin Tin. Because of the rain and the sickness, we decided that we were going to rent a car so that we could get around town faster and drier and actually see some things for the last 1/2 of the week. It was a great use of the money and we are so glad that we did it! I packed my purse full of tylenol, advil, and mucinex, and we hit the road!

For our first stop, we headed over to Lynn Canyon. This had been my favorite of all of our previous Vancouver explorations. The old growth forests, waterfalls, and suspension bridge got the same sort of "wow" from Grammy and Pa that we had given them!
Here are Grammy and Pa on the suspension bridge.
Hiking just a bit, trying to find an alternative path around the muck!
Grammy and Abby, trying to stay warm!

The amazing thing about having the car was how fast we could cover ground. We were able to go straight from the canyon down to Stanley Park in just 20 minutes or so. This would have taken us well over an hour on public transportation, and then we would have had to walk a BUNCH to see what we saw in just 90 minutes.
Here they are in front of the totem poles!
The big girls at Prospect Point. Notice the huge barge behind them?
Me and my honey!

The next day, we decided to branch out and go to a place we hadn't been to before. So, we headed out of the city to Fort Langley, which is considered the "Birthplace of British Columbia." It's actually a historic park, sort of like Williamsburg on a smaller scale. We really loved it because the interpreters really engaged us, you could touch everything, and there were lots of history bits that we had never heard during our other explorations. Because the history of BC centers around the fur trade, it was all new to us.

Here's Isaac, trying on a beaver hat. Did you know that beaver was once the standard of currency in BC?
These are Hudson Bay blankets, which were one of the main things that were traded to the aboriginal people in exchange for the beaver pelts. They were "priced" by weight of the wool and those small lines on the side of the blanket indicated the cost. That green one has 4 lines, so it would have cost 4 beaver pelts.
Here we are, attempting to assemble a bucket in the cooperage. We learned that things were shipped in barrels as opposed to boxes for a very practical reason...
they could be rolled to the ships rather than carried!
Here's Lizzy participating in a Fur Trading wedding. She's presenting a gift to the couple. We enjoyed talking with the gal on the far right after the wedding was over. She is from a country that borders our new homeland!
Ft. Langley

Our 3rd and final day with the car was definitely my favorite. It was New Year's Eve, the weather was forecasted to be clear, and we wanted to do something fun. We decided to drive the Sea to Sky Highway up to Squamish and Whistler. Let me just say, it did not disappoint!

I spent the summer before Ryan and I married in Alaska as a student summer missionary and ever since, I've been looking for something as majestic. Ryan took me to Colorado and, while it was beautiful, it wasn't Alaska. We went to Yosemite, again, amazing, but not Alaska. Finally, after years of searching, on New Year's Eve, I looked at Ryan and said, "I think I can honestly say, this is as beautiful as what I saw in Alaska." He agreed it was the most majestic place he'd ever seen.

This was our first stop, just outside of Squamish. This is Shannon Falls.
The whole crew, at the falls.
From the falls we drove to Brackendale, where the Bald Eagles are currently nesting. For the last several years, it's had the highest bald eagle count in North America. We didn't watch too long, because it was cold, but we did count 6 eagles and we even caught this one soaring around and then diving down to fish. Unbelievable!
This was the view to our back as we faced the eagles. That is one intimidating looking mountain. Can you imagine being on the top of that thing? Yeah, neither can I.

From there, we headed North toward Whistler where we planned to stop at Brandywine Falls. As we made our way, the snow became thicker and thicker around us. The bad thing was, when we got there, the park was closed for the winter. The gates were locked up. The good thing was, the snow was so high, we were able to park on the side of the road, walk on in, right over the top of the gates. We headed right down the path (it was obvious many others had gone before us.) I think my dad was pretty convinced we'd lost our ever-loving minds, but that didn't keep him from following us. When we were safely back in the car I assured him that if he'd hang with us we'd either keep him young or send him to an early grave!
So happy to be tromping through the snow!
This kid was sopping wet by the time we got him back to the car, but he had a blast!

We made it to the falls! It was extremely different from the first fall we saw, it was much more powerful!

What's not to love about a snowy forest overlooking an incredible waterfall?

A final pose before we turned the car south and headed home!