Monday, November 28, 2011

A Fightin' Texas Aggie Thanksgiving

When I was a little girl, I asked my daddy for a pony. (His name was Coco the Wonder Horse and he provided us many, many hours of father-daughter bonding.) When I grew up, I asked my daddy for tickets to see the Aggies and the Longhorns play football on Thanksgiving Day for the last time. Since Texas A&M is moving to the SEC, this would be the last match up for years. Maybe forever. And since I fell in love with the Aggies when my daddy took me to this very game in 1991, I thought maybe he would have compassion on this old (but still oh-so-young) Ag. 

And he did. Thank you, Daddy! 

Curtis and I enjoyed a low key Thanksgiving lunch with our kids, my parents and grandparents before the two of us set out for College Station. We got there early and had time to walk around campus. We saw my old dorm on the south side - Krueger Hall.

We walked through the Commons. It looked exactly the same. Here's the hallway leading into Krueger. This is as far as we got.

This is the window to my old room. We were on the first floor facing Bizzell, right next to the stair well.

Then we met up with some friends from our church who had set up a Thanksgiving feast in the shadow of Kyle Field. They did it up right with long tables, centerpieces, candles, and all the traditional foods.

This maroon pumpkin is not very traditional, but there couldn't be any orange now, could there?

We watched the band and the Corps of Cadets march in. I took everything in, even the very powerful and pungent smell of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry. Then it was time for the game. We sat down low on the student side. The band was close by, the yell leaders were right in front of us, and it was perfection.

We sawed Varsity's horns off, stood as the 12th man, kissed when the Ags scored on the field, twirled our white towels in the air, and did all the yells. We gave a few horses' laughs to some bad calls.

The Horns gave a nice tribute to the rivalry by forming a "Thank you A&M" formation during half-time. The Ags did a traditional "sawed off horns" formation during their performance and got some flack for not "being classy." The Horns took the high road, people said. Well, the Aggies took neither the high road nor the low road, but the same road they've been on for 118 years. Aggies are nothing if not traditional.

A 118 year rivalry came down to the last 20 seconds of a football game and a field goal. The Aggies ran out of time and lost by two heartbreaking points. What is more heartbreaking is that these games are over.

Goodbye to Texas University
So long to the Orange and the White
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Little Miss Pilgrim

My favorite thing about Annabeth's preschool is the annual Thanksgiving feast. It is just so adorable every year. The kids and teachers always dress up and all the classes feast together in one huge room.

I wasn't sure what Annabeth would be this year, but I kinda hoped she would get to be a pilgrim since the kids have always been Indians. When this little thing came walking out, I nearly passed out from the cuteness.

Annabeth took herself very seriously.

This was the closest she came to smiling.

                                                        Here's the table for her little class.

Her place marker had her name on it as well as what she told her teachers she is thankful for. Her answer was "God." Her teachers thought that was just too precious but I told them not to be too impressed because she had just told me a few days before that she really loved Mary.

                                                                Checking out the food.

Hmmmm. I think I will only eat celery dipped in ranch dressing. And when I run out of that, I'll just dip my fingers straight in the ranch. Yum-o! 

I knew all the LPM girls and some LifeWay guests were having lunch together at the office, so I decided to take my little pilgrim to see everyone. Suddenly she was all smiles. As we like to say, she loved herself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I've been feeling it all week - this welling up of gratitude deep in my chest. I have more to be thankful for than anyone I know. In fact, I could make a list that would stretch a mile wide. But my grateful eyes are gazing on one thing that's so beautiful, it's hard to look at anything else. It's Christ, through His church.

It's like a big, bright bouquet of balloons that takes my breath away even though I'm 32 years old. It's a collection of Jesus followers with brilliant gifts, engaged hearts, and strong servant arms. They are filled with the Holy Spirit, who takes flat, rubbery lives and gives them impossible dimension and lightness. They are generous with their time, money, and love. They don't keep a mental list of all the things they've done for the Lord so they can cash it in when they think they've done enough. This is their calling - to be a living sacrifice. Every minute, every heartbeat, every step, every breath is purposed for the glory and renown of their God. His Word renews their minds and fills their mouths. They face opposition, but they are ready for battle. Having been forgiven and set free, and they preach the Gospel to those who are suffering in their hopelessness and frustration. They love Jesus. They bear each other's burdens. They forgive each other because Christ forgave them.

To our friends at Bayou City Fellowship, Curtis and I are so thankful for you. We praise God today because of your great faith, your hard work and endurance, your authenticity, and your humility. You are beyond all we could have asked for or imagined. We asked God to put together a team of believers that represented every spiritual gift and every part of the body, and He did it. We marvel at His faithfulness through you.

Thank you for believing God. We love you so much.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekend Recap

It feels like it's still the weekend since Jackson and Curtis have this whole week off. At first I wondered why we didn't leave town and do something fun with so much time off, but it will be really nice to have a whole week to just hang out at home.

On Friday night I was still in my post-Ecuador funk. You know what brought me out of it? I cooked a nice dinner for my family. When I felt frozen after Guatemala, Ann Voskamp encouraged me to just "do the next thing." It still applies nicely.

So for dinner I made spinach stuffed shells with meat sauce from the SkinnyTaste blog. I used really lean ground beef instead of turkey because, well, beef is goooood. It was pretty yummy and probably would have been incredibly yummy if the recipe hadn't called for reduced fat cheeses. (Confession: I added some mozzarella to the top of it.)

I stumbled out of my room at 8:30 on Saturday morning. Curtis Jones was at the top of my thankful list for letting that happen. Later that afternoon Mom, Melissa and I did some Christmas shopping together. That evening my parents kept the kids so Curtis and I could attend a going away party for a sweet couple in our church. The Massey's are moving to L.A. and we will miss them so much! We're very thankful for how they have sown into Bayou City Fellowship since the earliest days. After the party, Curtis took me to  dinner at Churrasco's and we had the world's best empanadas. You cannot believe how good they are.

We had a great Sunday morning at our church. Some very dear friends of ours, the Habermehls, were in town and came to visit. Curtis preached about fasting, which historically has not been my favorite thing (why are you not surprised?). But we are asking our church to fast during the lunch hour during from December 5-9 and I'm really excited about how God is going to work and what I'm going to learn.

After church I went to lunch with two young ladies who were in my 8th grade Sunday school class the year after I graduated from college. They are now the exact age that I was when I was their teacher. I'm so proud of them and thankful that they have stayed in touch with me through the years.

Now I want to return to the subject of the Habermehl family. When Curt and I were newlyweds, he and C.M. were on the youth staff together at HFBC. We had so much fun serving with C.M. and Fay during that time. We learned a ton about ministry and family life from the Habermehls. I was never much of a kid person, but being around their little girl, Addison, helped some of those maternal instincts bubble up from deep inside. On Sunday morning I got to worship next to Addison, who is a middle schooler now, and that meant so much to me.

When I was completely helpless in the kitchen, Fay showed me some basics and taught me how to work a KitchenAid mixer. I knew NOTHING, y'all. I still don't know much, but most of what I know is because of her. She taught me how to make those butterscotch haystacks that I've talked about so much.

The most important thing Fay and C.M. modeled for us was how to be a team in ministry. As a mom of four very young kids, Fay made a lot of sacrifices to be present with her husband and serve with him. Sometimes when I want to make a habit of being a hermit, I say "Fay raised you better than that!" She showed me how to support my husband by encouraging him, getting to know and love the people he serves and serves with, and finding a way to be involved in which I can use my own spiritual gifts. Every ministry couple operates differently, but this is what has worked for us so far. The changing seasons of family life require flexibility and patience, but this is the pattern we bounce back to.

If you are taking the time and energy to pour into younger people, I hope you will be encouraged to keep it up. There are some things you just can't learn from books and lectures. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit"

Last week Jackson's school had a Storybook Parade. Jackson was Max from Where the Wild Things Are.

He roared his terrible roars and gnashed his terrible teeth and rolled his terrible eyes about wearing this costume.

But I assured him that everyone in the world loves Max. 

By the time we saw him at the parade, he was all smiles.

These two little wild things were surprised and happy to see each other.

Big, huge thanks to Beth and Jakson for lending the Max suit to us.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Please forgive me for leaving up a picture of jungle worms for so many days. Gross. I have not been able to find words this week. When I came back from Guatemala I cried a lot, but this time has been different. There were some waterworks and a lot of heartache at church on Sunday, but since then I've felt really edgy and impatient. Maybe it's the Malaria pills, maybe it's re-entry syndrome, or maybe I need some Midol. I have a feeling this can be helped by some quality time with my mom and sister, which will hopefully happen today. 

On Monday morning I went straight to the Apple store at the mall to get my laptop fixed. It turned into an all day event, but in the end I left with a functional computer with all my pictures still on it. Thank You, Jesus. Seriously.

Since we had a few hours to hang around the mall, I decided to take Annabeth to Visible Changes and see if we could get her first haircut. (I know, y'all. Yes, she is almost 3 years old.)  I'd been meaning to do this for a long time, but I was scared that she would freak out and we would have to leave with half a haircut. I also didn't know where to take her. "Cool Cuts for Kids" was great for Jackson, but there was not as much at stake with his hair. Annabeth's hair is her crowning glory. Could I really trust a kid place with my angel's beautiful locks? 

Visible Changes fit us in with a stylist I didn't know, but she was really sweet. I took Annabeth around the salon to show her everything. Then she started getting nervous. When it came time to sit in the chair, she freaked out and said she wanted to eat. So we told the stylist we'd try again after lunch. I also took her by the Disney store to show her that I would buy her a princess doll if she got her hair cut. 

We ate some Chickfila and then Curtis arrived with his moral support. We went back to the salon but our stylist was with another client. So we took Annabeth to the play area and let her go crazy. After that, she said she was ready to get her hair cut. Yay! We went back to Visible Changes for the third time and the stylist worked us in again. 

There was a four-year-old girl in the waiting area who was having her first haircut, so I stopped feeling so bad about how long I'd waited. I think interacting with her helped Annabeth relax a little bit. 

Our stylist, Christine, sprayed Annabeth's hair with water so she wouldn't have to brave the sink. AB cried for about a minute and then she calmed down. 

She was very still and quiet throughout the whole thing. The stylist basically evened out the ends and that was it. You can't even tell she's had a haircut, except that it has a nicer shape to it now. My first thought was that it was a waste of money, but I think it was wise seeing as how Annabeth could have freaked out at any moment. 

Goldilocks also got to have her first experience with a curling iron. I would be way, way too nervous to do this myself. 

Christine said, "Here you go, Miss Cindy Crawford!" (I'm guessing they don't say that at Cool Cuts for Kids.)

Annabeth looks a little bit like Wednesday from the Addams family here.

And finally, a smile! 

Annabeth picked out an Ariel doll from the Disney store and then it was done. My baby girl is growing up!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let's Talk About Grub

Behold, Ecuadorian jungle grubs.

Y'all. This happened.

And so did this.

We'd heard that guinea pig is a delicacy in Ecuador and frankly, the thought of that grossed me out. But as soon as I saw the grubs I was all, "Dude, where is the guinea pig?"

We had been on a bus winding through the Andes mountains for about 6 hours and our stomachs were on edge. Certain bloggers' stomachs had succumbed to the windiness. These are some women who were smiling because they were so happy to be off the bus. This was before they laid eyes on, well, the fish eyes.

I wish you could have seen our faces when we were all seated at the table and our hostess announced that for lunch we would be having tilapia and worms. Ha! I knew right away that a fish head was about to be put in front of me and I prepared myself to be strong and courageous. I imagined the worms might be earthworms. That would be gross, but I thought I could cut it into small pieces and get it down. It might be worth it to be able to tell Jackson Jones that Mommy ate a worm.

But the jungle grubs turned out to be fat and rubbery. I am seriously getting nauseous right now just writing about this. Several members of our team got brave and tried them. The looks on their faces did not encourage me. This is our photographer, Keely. She is the bravest girl I know.

I know it's bad form to not eat something given to you in another country. But here were my options:

A) Eat the worm and throw up at the table.
B) Don't eat the worm and, instead, eat the fish with a huge smile and talk about how yummy it is!

I went with option B. I just tried to ignore the fish eye until I was done. Y'all, nature is so great because after my last bite I pulled about five bones out of my mouth and had I needed a toothpick, I would have been all set!

What is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten in another country?

*If this post didn't really do it for you, check out my friends' posts here.*

**You can make the fish heads and grubs all worth it by sponsoring a child in Ecuador. :) **

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Loving Toward All He Has Made

I ducked my head and crept to the back of the long canoe. It dipped to one side and I squealed like a little girl. Steadied now, I scurried to the back bench and took a seat next to our videographer. I exhaled in relief and opened wide eyes to take in the scene around me. The river was bordered by banks of smooth, round stones and it flowed quietly. River banks were hugged by thick belts of greenest trees. Monkeys, snakes and birds hid beneath a million leafy umbrellas that formed the tree canopy. We were in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador.

The canoe carried us downstream toward our destination. The majesty of God´s creation stole my words. The One who can read my mind and heart heard my joyful song. My God, you brought me to this place I have longed to see since I was so very young. I never even asked for this. I never dreamed it was possible. You are so good. Thank you.

I had prayed before my trip that God would open my eyes to His goodness. I knew what the enemy would whisper to me when I saw the poverty and misery. He would tell me that my Father is unjust, that my Father is not good. This I know: this world is broken by our sin and my merciful Father sacrificed His only Son to redeem it. Psalm 145:13 says "The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made."

I saw God's goodness on Wednesday morning when we had breakfast with two
Leadership Development Program (LDP) students. Evelyn was sponsored into the Compassion program at age four. She grew up dreaming the dreams that kids dream - bold, daring dreams that poverty can rub smooth and small like rocks in a river. Dreams of high school, university, and a professional future can be squelched way too soon by the heavy gates of poverty.

Evelyn's sponsor wrote to her often, encouraging her to work hard, offering confidence in her abilities. Compassion workers invested deeply in her life. She performed well in school. Dreams in her heart - hopes that she may never have dared voice - came into focus. After graduating from the Child Sponsorship Program, she applied to be part of Compassion's Leadership Development Program, which allows students to receive a university education and Christian leadership training. Obstacles arose, but God moved them out of the way and Evelyn was accepted into the program.

Evelyn stood before us, a gracious, confident, wise, godly young woman, and shared her testimony. God had given her oppotunities beyond her imagination. He had used two women in Australia to help pry open the gates of poverty and release her into a fruitful future. Evelyn is now in her last 6 months of law school. Her goal is to be part of the United Nations one day. I'd love for you to meet her.

You can be a gate opener for a child in poverty.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

It is 6:45 in the morning and we are getting ready to pack all our stuff back into suitcases and get on the bus. We have a 6 hour drive that will take us to the river and the jungle and a long-awaited canoe ride that has been such a hot topic for months now. We will not have Internet access once we get to the jungle, so I'm getting a little crazy and setting this here post to publish itself tonight. Y'all let me know if it works. I know many of you are anticipating pictures of our team in our fabulous jungle clothes. It is going to be a rich experience, I'm sure. While you wait, check out this post by Sophie. She got to spend the entire day with her sponsor child, Wilter. I was just reading it and laughing out loud by myself like a hyena. She is the queen. Thanks again for following our trip, for your prayers, for your encouragement, and for your sponsorships. Much love!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Joy - Vol. 2

Joy - Vol. 1

Joy is my sweet roommate letting me use her laptop since mine crashed last night. Joy is knowing that when I face trials of many kinds, such as none of my technology working here, that the testing of my faith is producing perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Joy is being connected with THE most adorable sponsor child in all of Ecuador.

Joy is going to Walmart to shop for a 9-year-old man child. Joy is finding the perfect backpack to fill with things you hope a kid his age would like - a digital watch, legos, a transformer, underclothes, a Texas A&M ball cap, school supplies, sports equipment, and a flashlight. Joy is asking God to lead you in the right direction and sensing Him say baseball.

Joy is watching a little boy named Jhon open up his new backpack to find two baseball gloves and some balls. Joy is hearing that baseball is his most favorite sport! Joy is tossing the ball back and forth while learning everything you possibly can about each other in one hour.

Joy is having a great translator who can make you feel at ease.

Joy is finding out that Jhon and I have the same favorite pizza flavor - candian bacon and pineapple. Joy is hearing him say that although he doesn't go to church with his family, his favorite thing about his child development center is learning about God. Joy is knowing that even though his circumstances aren't ideal, he has a good family life.

Joy is being asked by my sponsor child if I like horses. Joy is saying absolutely! Are you kidding me? Joy is finding out that his daddy is an excellent horseman.

Joy is teaching Jhon how to use a mechanical pencil. Joy is seeing his name handwritten for the first of many times.

Joy is a fightin' Texas Aggie ball cap that just happens to match his school uniform.

Joy is a facial expression that says "I've always wanted one of these!" and hearing "Muchas gracias!" a hundred times. Joy is being slightly embarrassed to give underclothes to a 9-year-old, but getting over myself and doing it anyway.

Joy is laughing really hard because the jeans you bought him are super long and he says he'll save them until he's thirteen.

Joy is promising to write. Joy is waving goodbye through the bus window with a lump in my throat, but knowing that this is just the beginning of an important relationship...for both of us.

Joy is helping a child. Will you share my joy? Again?

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Carita Feliz (Happy Face)

We had an epic first day here in Ecuador. But before I start telling you about that, I want to say THANK YOU for your prayers and encouragement while we were traveling yesterday. Our team was coming from all over the US and Canada and not one person had travel drama. It was a late night (my roomie, Kelly, and I didn't shut our eyes until after 2 AM) but a very successful travel day.

This morning at 6:45 our alarm went off and neither of us knew where we were. Ha! We had a quick breakfast with the team and got our fill of caffeine. Here I am with Melanie.

I took more pills than I've ever taken at one time to ward off Malaria, motion sickness and altitude sickness. Holy Moses. Quito is way up there, folks. Especially for sea level-dwellers like myself. I had a little snooze on the bus thanks to Dramamine and before long we arrived in the beautiful, rural village of Cayambe. Oh, but first we had a quick stop at the equator. No big deal, right?

Cayambe was green and beautiful with lots of little farms. It was like a South American version of an English village.

Our team was greeted at the "Carita Feliz" (Happy Face) child development center by the wonderful teachers and pastor whose church hosts it. One of the things I love about Compassion is how they partner with local churches who are already serving children. Compassion empowers these churches to provide significant ministry for impoverished families in their communities.

We split into several groups to have a "day in the life" experience at the home of a sponsored child. Melanie, Keely, Chris, Carmen, Andrea and I were told to hop in the back of a truck to get to our location. My husband is gonna be proud of me but I guarantee my mom is going to freak when she sees this.

We lived. And that's why I can tell you that it was super fun.

We got to spend a day in the life of Emma (6) and her big brother Alex (8). They live with their grandma and some other extended family members. Their mom passed away a couple of years ago from cancer and their dad isn't in the picture. The children go to school and are part of the child development program, but today they showed us how to work the soil.

We grabbed some tools and headed for the fields.




Abuelita is small and advanced in years, but she showed all of us up. I'm not even kidding. You can't imagine how fast she dug her rows. The rest of us are not going to be able to move tomorrow.

Alex and Emma grabbed Melanie and me by the hand and took us to see their house.

This is Alex's room. We found a letter from his sponsor, Corey, taped to his wall.

Here's sweet Emma's room.

Emma does not have a sponsor yet. Here's a link to a few others from Carita Feliz who also do not have sponsors.

The kids share their dwelling with a food preparation station and some cages of guinea pigs.

The adults live across the path in another building. My impression is this: they are doing the best they can for these children, but they can't care for them alone. That's where Compassion sponsors come in.

The ladies at the child development center brought a wonderful lunch to the family's home and we were able to serve food to Abuelita, Alex, Emma, and two teachers from Carita Feliz. Then we all sat down together and talked. I think we forgot we had translators making this possible. It was a delight.

I started reading Kisses from Katie yesterday on the airplane. Have any of you read that yet? I couldn't stop thinking about the author when I heard Myra, Alex's 20-year-old teacher, describe her passion for these children. Since Alex and Emma don't have a mother, Myra's role in their lives is vital. She goes the extra mile to help them learn things like good hygiene. And she simply loves them.

Melanie and I got to present a big basket of food to Abuelita from the child development center. It will go a long way. Here we are with the kiddos. What a great afternoon it was.

Keely gave Emma a new version of a polaroid picture of herself. She was so happy.

On the way back to the CDC we saw a very strange sight - watermelons growing on a wall.

And then we saw a dog running around on a rooftop. I'm not one to like dogs in foreign countries (ask Sophie how fast I ran from her little bulldog buddy this morning). But this guy was adorable. And confined to a roof.

That's all for tonight, folks. But you can go here to read posts from our whole team of bloggers. Hasta luego!