Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sand Between My Toes

That's right!  In exactly 8 more days, Lord willing, I will be wiggling my toes in the white sandy Florida beach!  We are going to Panama City this time, which is where we have spent most of our beach vacations.  We have a Gulf front townhome in what is hopefully a quieter area.  I'm praying for no tropical storms, no jelly fish, sharks, stingrays, pets dying, car troubles......I'm covering it all.....ummm, mostly because we've experienced it all~except for the sharks.  I don't care for any new adventures either! 
   I grew up going to Panama City a lot on our family vacations, so it kind of feels like home to me, except they have torn down so many things and built so many high rises.  St. Andrews State Park will always feel like home to me.  I've spent many nights camping there as a child and an adult, and I absolutely love it there.  They tore down the Miracle Strip Amusement Park, which was another wonderful childhood memory.  (sniffle)  My older girls still have lots of good memories there, though, which is why we chose that spot again this year. 
   We don't have any particular plans this year.  Just sitting on the beach, going to Fun Land to get soft serve ice cream, and Alvins Island in the volcano (If any of you know what I'm talking about, you have to comment and tell me!)  It has been thrown out there to possibly rent a pontoon boat again and go out on the bay side to Shell Island.  I'm not convinced yet.  I grew up with my parents taking their ski boat out to the island (more great memories), but a few years ago we rented a pontoon boat and ended up getting caught in a horrible lightening storm.  Ski boats can take cover a lot faster than pontoon boats!  : ) 
  I'm really excited, though, and have tons to do this week, along with trying to pack.  Plus, my big girls are away being camp counselors this week, and I usually depend on them a bunch to help me pack. 
  Part of our busyness this week is that tomorrow (Monday) is James' birthday.
Happy Birthday sweet husband!
It will be different with Ashley and Briana not being here, and this will be the first time we've celebrated a birthday with some friends instead of just family.  James is remodeling the girls' bathroom (they all 4 share a tiny one) that has been in desperate need for.....well, as long as we've lived here....18 years  He's trying to get as much done as possible while the older 2 are gone.  He's already ripped out most of the drywall, closet shelves, mirror tiles, and flooring this past week.  The toilet is the only thing staying because it's only a few years old.  So, in the morning he is going to buy the things we haven't already gotten~drywall, the tub and cabinet.  We will do our little family gifts in the afternoon, then tomorrow evening we are meeting a family from church in the national park for a cookout at the river. 
   Marissa and I made an Oreo Ice Cream dessert for him for tomorrow.  It's a recipe a friend shared.  Hers was scrumptous.   Mine was messy.  But, surely it will taste good.  Maybe even I can't mess up ice cream, Cool Whip, and oreos!! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Things in Between

Life has been so full of all of these big events (and because I only blog once or twice a week) that I've missed a lot of the "little" things in between.  I thought I'd go back and hit a few of those.  This has been a much busier summer than we usually have. 
Week 1~  While James and I were in Charleston for 4 nights, all of the girls went to their grandparents' house for 6 nights. 

Fishin' with an old cane pole
Around the campfire
Yummy smores in our jammies
Learning to knit
Marissa and Daniella end up being the last 2, and Marissa wins the balloon stomp contest at the Kids' Day
Out on the paddle boat
Week 2~  Marissa took a 4 day basket weaving class at the School of Arts.  She made 2 really great baskets.
Week 3~  Marissa took a 4 day painting class at the School of Arts.  One day while she was in class, Dad and Daniella went for a hike.
Dad, Marissa, and Daniella camped out one night in their new tent in the backyard.  It was bought just for that purpose.  The girls had a blast.  Not sure about Dad! 
Week 4 ~ James drove Briana to her grandparents' house again.  On Monday she started her Triple Threat Performer 2 week summer camp.  Sunday through Thursday nights everyone else had VBS here. 
Week 5 and
JULY Week 1 ~  I took the little girls back to their grandparents' house (joining Briana) while James and Ashley went to Guatemala.  
 They had a blast swimming in the lake off my parents' dock.  Each grandparent and Briana all took a turn swimming with them different days. 

Is she beautiful, or what?  : )
Week 2 ~  My parents came home with us until James and Ashley got back.  We mostly hung out here, but one day they took Marissa and Daniella to Dollywood for the afternoon.
Week 3 ~ Briana went to be a camp counselor for the week.  The rest of us went back (yet again) to my parents house just for the day to visit with my sister and 2 nieces. 
Older 2 hiding under the bed.
 My sister might want me to mention that J. is letting her bangs grow out.  : ) I think Daniella picked her up, because they are about the same height.  Plus the fact that everytime I turned around Daniella was picking her up. 
That leads up to this week, which is pretty quiet except Briana had all 4 of her wisdom teeth out yesterday (under the bone).  She is doing great, though.  She felt pretty good all day yesterday.  She wasn't particularly tired, and she had NO pain at all.  Today she was really tired all day and has been kind of out of it because of that.  She said she woke up a lot last night, so that may be why.  Her jaw is stiff and she's a little swollen today, but she still has had no pain.  We've been very diligent at keeping ice packs on her, so that has helped the swelling and probably the pain. 
Sneak into those weeks lots of backyard games of badminton, a campfire or 2, and the "little girls" swimming in their little pool, and they've had a great summer so far. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Guatemala Mission Report

This blog entry is written by my 21 year old daughter, Ashley
Guatemala Mission Trip
July 1-11, 2008
Three days before the mission team was scheduled to arrive in Guatemala, my dad and I flew down to spend some time with my good friend Sweet Ruth and her family, who recently moved back to Guatemala after spending a few years here in the States.  It was so wonderful to see them again, and great to spend a few days just catching up. 
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Besides the visiting, one thing I particularly enjoyed was getting to see more of Guatemala City, the capital.  It has been six years since I spent time in the capital, and even then I was only in one section of town.  Spending a few days with Sweet Ruth and her family, I was able to experience some of what the "city life" in Guatemala is like (Americanized and lots of traffic! J)
On Friday, July 4, we made a big "Welcome" sign and went to the airport to meet the rest of the mission team.  In all, there were 24 of us from my church, joined by 4 individuals from a sister church.  It was a large group this year, with a wide range of ages (16 to 60's) and personalities. 
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After driving to Antigua, we did some shopping and spent the night there before making the long drive up into the mountains the next day.  That drive always, with rare exceptions, takes much longer than we are told it will!  J  Our hotel this year was the Park Hotel, a very nice place near Coban, Guatemala.  It was a little further drive from the villages, but nicer and a bit cheaper than last year's hotel.  I was able to room with Sweet Ruth and another good friend, Shannon.  The three of us had a great time together. 
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After arriving late Saturday afternoon, we were scheduled to be at an evangelistic crusade service that night.  Our group sang some songs that we had learned in Spanish, and one of our men preached with a translator.  We prayed with the congregation at the end of the service.
On Sunday morning, we returned to the church in Purulha that our team built last summer.  It was so neat to go back there, see Pastor Jorge and some other people that we met last year, and worship with them once again.  As someone else said, being there felt, in a way, "like home." 
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It was a wonderful service.  We sang again and our team leader preached a great message, then there was a sweet time of prayer at the end.  After the prayer time, Tim (our leader) led us all in singing "How Great Thou Art," with the Guatemalans singing in Spanish and the North Americans singing in English, all at the same time.  It was beautiful.  I'm so thankful God isn't bound by language barriers!  
Sunday evening was the second meeting of the evangelistic crusade, and it was great, too.  Another of our young men preached, and two other girls and I danced an interpretive movement routine to the Spanish version of "Shout to the Lord."  There was more sweet, strong prayer at the end... one thing about Guatemalan Christians is that they are not prideful.  They are not ashamed to come forward at the invitation to pray and to ask for prayer.  Some pray silently and others cry out audibly, but it's just such a blessing to be able to go up and put my hands on someone's shoulders and pray with them. 
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Also that night, we laid hands on and prayed for a sweet young girl named Jesica.  I had met her the previous day, but we found out that she has something wrong with her brain and the doctors have given her no hope.  I'm continuing to pray for her, and would appreciate your prayers for her, too.  (Jesica is the girl on the left in this photo.)
guat01.jpg picture by ashleysphotos_photos
Monday morning was spent running some errands and doing a little shopping in Coban before the work in the villages began that afternoon.  The construction team got started on their various projects in the village of Mocohan -- putting glass in the windows of the conference center, painting, building doors on the bathrooms, and putting up siding in Rolando (the local missionary)'s apartment. 
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The VBS team was transported back over to Purulha for day one of VBS, in the church we built last year.  Our theme for VBS this year was "Children of the King."  One of the ladies from our team taught the lesson, and the kids got to decorate paper crowns with crayons and adhesive-backed jewels.  They were so excited about that!  They also had a blast learning a fun dance that we taught them.
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On Tuesday morning, the construction crew went back to work, and the pastors' conference began.  Approximately 45 pastors came to Mocohan from various areas of the jungle to be encouraged in their ministry.  One man, who has come in the past, walked for nine hours to get to the conference.  That's commitment, and I hope that they were all blessed by being there!
The VBS team spent the morning preparing craft supplies and goody bags.  We also packed some bags for the pastors, and for the children in Mocohan, since we didn't get to do a VBS there this year.  It was fun to hand out the bags to the people as we walked back to the bus for lunch. 
guat07.jpg picture by ashleysphotos_photos
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We stopped to meet with a local pastor and look at his church building, which was recently destroyed by a mudslide.  The church is in the process of trying to buy new land for a new building.  We prayed with the pastor and are continuing to pray about making that church a future mission project. 
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That afternoon, we returned to Purulha for day two of VBS.  After the lesson, the children made felt banners with the words "Jesus es mi Rey" (Jesus is my King).  I enjoyed sitting with some of the little girls and helping them spell the words; however, it was sad to see how some of the 8-9 year old children didn't even recognize the letters.  For Guatemalan children, going to school is a luxury that many aren't able to afford.  I knew this, but had not seen the affects of it in reality until that day. 
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On Wednesday, the pastors' conference continued, and the women's conference took place.  We had a women's conference last year, too, but I was not able to participate, so I was really looking forward to being a part of it this year.  I was put in charge of writing nametags.  J  The conference went really well.  The theme was "God's Heart for Women."  I believe the ladies responded well to the messages, and we were able to pray with many of them as they asked for prayer about specific situations in their lives. 
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Since Wednesday was our last workday, we had a group "share time" that evening after supper.  The team prayed together, sang some songs together, and shared special memories or lessons learned from the week. 
Thursday morning, we loaded the bus and made the drive back to the city.  It was one of those "rare exception" days when the bus ride actually went faster than expected!  J  We were able to do a little more shopping in the city, then spent the night in Antigua again before flying out the next morning. 
This year's trip was somewhat different from last year's -- we didn't get to spend as much time just "hanging out" with the people.  But it was good and I do believe God was glorified in the work... which is what it's all about!  I'm thankful that God allowed me to go again, that He protected us, and that He is sovereign.  I'm thankful for the time to "catch up" with some good friends.  I'm thankful to know that I have brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, for the opportunity to spend time working and worshipping together with some of them, and for the things we can learn from each other.  How great is our God!  Cuan grande es nuestro Dios!
Thank you so much for praying for us.
God bless,
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"You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."  Isaiah 55:12
A few more photos that Mom added~
sunrise in Antigua
Yes!  This is the bus going down the wrong side of the road.
On to the Purulha area~
Praise dance to Shout to the Lord~
Ashley is on right

This photo is  a little blurry, but I love it.  This man had just shown the lady the picture he had taken of her. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just When You Think You Have Everything Figured Out OR Freaking Out Mother OR Major Change in College Plans

As you probably remember, for the last year Briana has been getting ready to attend a college about 45 min. away this fall.  She has always enjoyed interior design, and has been really excited to study it and attend this college. 
Except for the doubts. 
They weren't there all the time.   They would just creep in on occasion.  See, there was an original decision to make about whether to pursue interior design or musical theater.  She settled on the design, because she thought it would be more practical, although, she couldn't fathom giving up either one.  To try to compensate, she was going to minor in theater, although it wasn't musical theater, which is her love.  So only occasionally would she doubt~~until November.  In November she grieved for a long time after the Nutcracker that her stage life was almost over.  She prayed a lot, and eventually settled back in.  Except now in hind sight, I'm not sure if she ever got back to the place of interest in interior design that she had been.  I think it's been a slow simmer this spring.  By the time she finished her recital (which has not only ballet, but quite a bit of musical theater type production numbers), then went to her annual 2 week muscial theater camp, she was in "crisis". 
So last week, exactly one week before orientation and writing a really big check, she came to me and said that this was not what she wanted.  She would enjoy learning some about interior design, but it was not what she wanted to do.  Her heart longs for musical theater.  Even with that, it was not an easy decision.  She loves the campus she was supposed to attend, was reluctant to make such a huge decision, and had no idea where to go from here.  We had one week to decide what to do, and Dad is in Guatemala.  (Can you say, "Okay, Mom, take a deep breath and pray?") 
I certainly wasn't set on her majoring in interior design (it's totally their decision whether they even attend college), but like her, was afraid to make such a big decision in a week's time.  After prayer and long conversations, she has decided to not go to college this year.  She has trust in the Lord leading her.  He knows the desires of her heart, and in fact, He is the author of them.  Yes, the atmosphere of the theater concerns me, but I am fully confident in Him and where He will lead and where He will protect.  Plus, I know she is very strong in her faith, and is not afraid to "miss out" or step out of something she does not agree with. 
So, now what?  We don't have a clue.  In some form or fashion and location, if it works out, we plan for it to include voice lessons, tap, and further ballet lessons.  We have a little over a month to figure that out if she is to start in the fall.  I'm not sure if she will live at home.  We are looking at Christian colleges with musical theater degrees for next year, and if that works out, she will probably be 4-5 hours from home.  I'm not at all ready to say what will happen.  The Lord is definitely still revealing Himself in this, and it may turn out that college is not the way she will go.  Briana's long term goals are to have a family and stay at home, but I know He will do so much through her until then.  He knows the plans He has for her. 
That seems to be the theme for our family this year~~  "I have plans for you.  Just be still and wait on me." 
Spring Recital
Lyrical Solo to Rachael Lampa's "No Greater Love"  (Christian song)

Ballet en Pointe~Briana is front and center


Triple Threat Summer Intensive Program, June 2008
Briana's Monologue~The Stepsister Speaks Out 

Musical Theater Class
Pointe class~below
   See the lady in the pink on the far right side, clapping?  She is the pointe teacher, and her husband teaches ballet.  They were both in the Kirov Ballet (Russian), and we were told this year that he was the succesor to Mikhail Baryshnikov.  This playhouse is ideally where Briana would love to train this next year, but housing is an issue. 
A couple of people have asked about an update on the mission trip.  I don't know much.  I do know that Sunday night, "many" people came forward at alter call.  I know that it has rained torents, as of this morning neither Ashley or James has been sick, they are on their way tonight back to Anigua, and will fly home tomorrow.  I am SOOOO past ready.  I'll update next week. 
Please pray for their flight tomorrow, and for Briana as she continues to seek God's direction for her life this next year.
If you are interested in seeing video of any of the recital dances go here.  There are more pictures and videos of other performances in my "On Stage" category.
Another P.S.  I don't have any clue why this ended up in three different fonts, but this computer has run so amazingly, disgustingly slow today that this post has taken absolutely forever, so 3 fonts it is!