Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Only One

"I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. Just one, one, one. I picked up one person-maybe if I didn't pick up that one person I wouldn't have picked up the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you. Same thing in your family. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin...one, one, one." -Mother Teresa-

Yesterday we finished our African expedition with Mothers Without Borders. For the next week I will be a tourist in Livingstone and then traveling home. I can't believe the time here has already come to an end but am so very excited to see my sweet family again. I hope that as I have spent time with the Zambians that I have helped just one person. I have often felt overwhelmed by the masses. There is so much suffering in this country. But if I have helped, or cheered just one person, it will have been worth my time here. I hope as I return home that I will continue to help one person at a time.

As I prepare to leave I question how these people will make it. How do they continue to live each day in their circumstances. And then I remember that there is One who can care for the masses. In so many ways these people have so much more than I ever will. I almost envy them for their faith. One dear woman I have met talked about going to bed starving every night. The food was rationed between the 15 people living in one room home. Many days she went without. As she shared this experience she talked of how God filled her up on those nights. He helped her make it through the night and she was able to feel Him near her and was grateful for those times. If nothing else, I have seen that God does take care of His children. So I will continue to care for one person at a time and trust that God will take care of the rest.

When I return home (and have a computer that actually works!) I will share more of the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned. I love these people and am so glad they let me into their lives. I will always remember them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A New Level of Gratitude

I had heard to stories but until I saw it with my own eyes I could not understand how difficult the circumstances in Africa really are. I still can't make any sense of it. If nothing else, it has helped me to see how incredibly blessed we are in America and that we have an obligation to help others. Where much is given, much is required. Here are a few of the things that I have seen that help me understand this. I have seen children caring for children as they watch their parents die. I have seen schools with nothing more than a chalkboard. No books, no desks, nothing. I have seen hundrends of homes that are smaller than my children's bedrooms. I have seen and loved children and adults who are sick from AIDS. I have seen many children who are covered in dirt, have no shoes and only the clothes on their backs. Everyone I have talked to has lost a parent or a child. Yesterday I talked to a woman who had lost 9 of her 12 children. It is all so hard to see.

I have also seen how the power of love and faith can heal these people. As I talked with a child who is sick from AIDS, I asked her how she continues to smile. With an even bigger smile, she turned to me and said, "Because God loves me". They turn to God to heal their broken hearts and He takes care of the pain. I have learned so much from these people in the short time I have been here. I am excited to share all the stories when I return home. For now I am savoring the chance to be in Africa and to realize how very blessed I am, how much I have to be grateful for and how much good I can do.

(I tried to post pictures but it wouldn't work. I'll add them when I can!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Savoring the Moment

In less than 24 hours I will be on a plane to Africa. I'm sure I am absolutely crazy and must have a husband who is just as crazy as myself for letting me go. Who knows the adventures that wait both of us and the stories we will share when we are together again. I know it will change my life and am grateful for the changes it has already made. I have found myself savoring the moment for weeks now as I realize I will be away from my very adorable children and my amazing husband. The little things have been so much sweeter. These are just a few of the moments.

Watching the kids as they happily played in the backyard. Especially when they made an airplane out of the chairs and headed to Africa. I had fun being their stewardess.

Getting Holly out of bed, seeing her smile at me and then rest her head on my shoulder. I didn't want that moment to ever end. I'll miss her.

Taking these rascals to the Childrens Museum. There were so many awesome photo ops but I left my camera in the car and there was no freaken' way I was going to haul all 5 kids back out to the car just for the camera. But they were cute! We took a picture when we got home. One moment I didn't so much like was when the face paint had to be removed. Who knows how many layers had been applied. I was busy in another area (close by of course) playing with Holly. The removal process involved many tears and a mess in my bathroom that I had just cleaned that morning. But let's get back to the good moments.

Spending the day at the lake/beach with my family. Does it get any better than that?

I wasn't the only one savoring the moment.
Finding the girls on their bed enthralled in a story Connor was telling them. He wouldn't tell the story once he realized I was around but he did give me a brief synopsis. Princess Emily and Abbie were taking a tour of the castle while Prince Charming and Connor were in his game room playing the Wii, X-Box and Nintendo. Talk about a modern day fairytale!

Walking up to the park where my family and Steph's already were, and hearing Sage and Holly busting up and then seeing them both swinging high with huge smiles on their faces.

Sucking the helium out of the 5 balloons that were still left from Em's party. I loved hearing the kids sing ABC's and especially loved listening to Connor's cute laugh a few pitches higher.

And the moment that sealed the deal that my Heavenly Father loves me was watching Holly walk. Ten months ago when I had this crazy notion to go to Africa, my one concern was missing Holly's first steps. My kids are late walkers, usually 15 months, and I realized I would be gone when Holly turned 15 months. As the days got closer and she refused to walk, I resigned myself to the fact that I would miss one of my very favorite things about my babies. Yesterday, as she walked across the room to me and giggled with joy when she fell into my arms, I was overwhelmed by the moment. Here she is reveling in her new abilities.

I know that it's crazy for me to leave my little kids and hubby for three weeks. I already miss them and I haven't even left. But the peace I have felt from the time I made the decision to go until now is all I need to know that it's what I am supposed to do. My kids will be fine without me. Rick is an amazing dad and will do just fine. When I get back we will savor each other even more. And for now I am going to savor the chance I have to be with my sister in a country so different from my own. I can't wait to share those experiences!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Emily and America!

A little more than four years ago, I was wondering if and when my baby was ever going to decide to come. My due date was for the end of June and I was hoping for a June baby but found myself already three days into July. What I didn't understand about my Emily (who was also Grace for a few days) was that she was going to live life to the fullest and enjoy it all. And this meant having a very special birthday. A birthday that the whole nation celebrated with parades, BBQ's and fireworks. I forgive her for being late and can't imagine it any other way. Of course she was going to be a 4th of July baby!
This year she celebrated her 4th birthday on the 4th of July and came out of her room beaming and ready to party. I first read the birthday wishes Heather sent from Africa and let her open her presents that Heather had left for her. And as if that wasn't enough, she got her own birthday call all the way from Africa. You have to understand that these two have a very special bond. I've always joked that Emily was supposed to be Heather's but Heather was taking too long so she came to the next best place. We were all so happy to talk to Heather and anxiously await her return.

We decorated for Em's birthday and she got a new birthday outfit-like she has every year since she was born.
All the kids dressed in their red, white and blue.
I can't believe my baby Emily is already four years old! Sure love this girl.
Last year we started a tradition that we hope will last. We let Emily invite her friends and then we include their families as well with it being a holiday. We make an awesome breakfast. This year Emily requested waffles and sausage. So we made chocolate, blueberry, plain, Belgian, and Robin even made her super yummy pumpkin waffles. And we had all the fixens. We always make too much food. I tend to do that-I would hate for anyone to go away from a party of mine not feeling completely satisfied. The birthday girl and her buddy Maia chose to eat their breakfast in the empty pool. And thanks to those of you who fed and cared for Holly during it all. I was busy with the waffle irons and didn't pay much attention to her.

Emily was thrilled with her presents. Tom even made an emergency trip home to get the birthday chips they had forgotten. Years ago, Tom (one of our friends) was able to win Emily over with chips when the kids would be playing at his house. He's been giving her a bag of chips for her birthday every year since. I think it's one of her favorite presents.

She hugged the present from Zach, one of her preschool buddies. As you can see from the pic, he wasn't so comfortable with the whole thing.
After presents we give the kids a bunch of noisemakers, snaps, and a bag of candy. Then the kids line up for the parade and head down the street. We always hope there will be someone to watch us. This year we sent out
flyers to encourage the neighbors to come out and watch. we were thrilled when there was someone at the end of the street so the kids could wave and throw their candy. They really don't seem to mind the lack of spectators.

Berkeley was totally awesome on his stilts.

We were glad to have the Barker family join in the fun. Also glad that Dad made it for the breakfast and parade but missed him at the fireworks later on that night. No one should have to work on the 4th.

After the parade we have a few daylight fireworks for the kids to watch. Rick had fun putting on the show for the kids.
Daphni became the wicked witch and was casting a spell with the green smoke bomb.

And Holly clung to me through it all. She wasn't so sure about fireworks this year. Too noisy for her. I liked cuddling with her for a bit.

Once we got away from the fireworks and she got her morning nap she cheered right up. I love these pictures!

We spent the afternoon recovering from our very busy and fun morning and then walked up to the Andrus' for dinner. We were so glad for the invite. It was great not to cook and so fun to be with them. On our walk up to their house the kids were pushing and being mean, I lost my cool, yelled at them, and forced them to hold hands while they both thought of five nice things to say to each other. They held hands for a long time but were able to end it all with a hug (forced of course) and some giggles. Hopefully I haven't emotionally scarred them from the mean things I said in my moment of frustration over all the fighting that goes on. I don't know how my parents survived my siblings and I as we fought. But they did, and I suppose I'll survive as well. If nothing else, we got a cute picture out of it all.
Here are the kids eating at the Andrus'.
After dinner, games and pool time Emily finally got to enjoy her Ariel cake. Steph wasn't able to be there for the birthday (which I still am not ok with) but made Emily's cake before she left. What an awesome aunt. She did a marvelous job as always.

Emily loved it.

After cake and ice cream we went outside for fireworks. The sparklers were the biggest hit.

Thanks to Brenda's brother Karl for sharing and lighting sparklers for my kids over and over and over.

Even Rick had fun with the sparklers.

Sam lit lots of fireworks. I loved the extra precaution with the safety goggles.

Connor happily went around with some weapon in his hands. He wanted me to take a picture of him with it.

And because the day was all about Emily (she's still convinced the fireworks are all for her!) I have to include these final pictures of her.

Thanks for the joy you bring into my life and everyone who knows you, Emily. I love you!!