Sunday, December 28, 2008

A quick glimpse at 2008...

How often do we count our blessings? I rarely sit still and reflect on wonderful memories, experiences, etc that God has provided me with. But tonight, I decided to take a few minutes and ponder some memories from this past year.

This list hardly scratches the surface, because I could go on and on listing good memories and highlights from 2008. But here are a few people and experiences which made this past year a wonderful one!

*Seeing the Lord change my grandma's heart when she asked Him to be her Savior. After years of prayer, my family rejoiced immensely. (January)

*Photographing my first wedding alone in January.
(Hard to believe it was only11 months ago....I was able to gain more wedding photography experience throughout the summer as I photographed a variety of weddings.)

*One of my absolute favorite memories with my close girl friends was on a beautiful spring day after Spring break. Our friend Brett, a talented photographer, took us out on a photoshoot for several hours as he captured our friendship (the laughter, the shenanigans, the bond between us...)
[see below photo]

*Dressing up in a fancy dress and going to the Jr/Sr banquet with friends
*Sitting proudly in the audience watching Chelsea graduate high school
*Sitting excitedly in Liberty's football stadium during my own college graduation, ready for what the real world has in store for me.
*Buying my 1st car!
*Having the honor of being a bridesmaid in Amy and Zach's wedding :)
*Turned 21 this summer and had a blast with some close friends who were in Lynchburg
*The summer RUF Bible studies at Marc and Amy's house
*Watching So You Think You Can Dance and HSM: Get in the Picture throughout the summer with Anna, Ryan, Chelsey, and AJ

*And of course, I am incredibly thankful for the Lord's faithfulness and grace. He tested me, particularly during the trying summer months, to see if I would rely on him during the period of uncertainty (not knowing where I'd live, what my job would be, etc). He made me wait....and wait...and wait...until the last minute and then provided me with this chance of a lifetime. It was certainly a curveball, because I was planning to soon head off to the missionfield in Africa to spend some time there. But here I am touring the U.S., caring for 13 energetic orphans from Africa and Nepal. My life changed so quickly when I received the phone call that I was hired for this job, and though there are struggles that come with being on-the-road for 10 months I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
It was a blast to form new friendships throughout the year (Kate, Whitney, Chelsey, Marc/Amy) as well as re-connect with old friends. I appreciate everyone who shared 2008 with me.
I anticipate 2009 will be challenging, adventerous, and memorable.
I truly hope each of you can take a minute and reflect on the joys that the past year has brought you. And let's never forget to tell our friends and family how they have made us the individuals we have become.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas in Texas!

This doesn't even begin to show all the piles of gifts for each child...

With our host family over the weekend....Sarah and Yeshoda decorated the tree

With Suresh
"Auntie, I wish I could hear from my family to find out if they're safe....or if they're sick...I just want to hear from them." I had just sat down next to Martin to watch Prince Caspian with the team last night, and he made the above comment. That's enough to break your heart. There wasn't much I could say to encourage him, but I reminded him that I'm so thankful that we're a team and that we're his family until next summer.

I'm telling you this because I want you to treasure your family this Christmas (and every day, really!) I miss my family so much it almost hurts, and I will greatly miss our family Christmas traditions. However, I keep reminding myself how blessed I am to have parents, a sister, and a brother whom I can talk with via phone several times a week. I can't imagine being in the place of our kids: having been abandoned by at least one of their parents....and then not even being able to talk to the other parent while they're here in America for a year. The kids are so much stronger than I would be, and I told Martin that last night.

So this Christmas, give your family extra hugs and tell them how much you appreciate them. And please say a prayer for the orphans around the world who do not have a family to wrap them in their arms and whisper "I love you"."

On a lighter note, we are having a very special Christmas week here in Texas. An amazing host family (from the Lonestar Cowboy church a week ago) invited us to live in their beautiful lake house for the entire week while they are gone on vacation. Can you imagine opening up your home to 19 strangers, having only met them several days earlier!? I am so grateful for their kindness....and the fact that the house is so cozy and completely decked out for Christmas (Prava and I even have a 3-foot Christmas tree in our room to enjoy!)

For the past 36 hours, I have done nothing but the following: finish Christmas shopping for the kids, wrap gifts, eat, sleep, eat, wrap gifts, wrap gifts, ice skate with the kids, and finish wrapping gifts. Prava, Taylor, and I turned a bedroom into "Santa's workshop," and we wrapped about 130 gifts at least! It's been a blast, though, and I can't wait to watch the kids open them on Christmas morning. I was determined not to wrap any presents on Christmas Eve, and sure enough we finished all the wrapping tonight. So hooray for that.

Amidst all the busyness of the holiday season, I'm trying to remind myself to treasure this time with the kids. They went ice skating for the first time today, which was certainly entertaining! And Friday will be a blast if the weather is nice---we're surprising the kids and taking them to Six Flags!!! (Thank you, Taylor, for that idea :) They've never ridden a roller coaster, so I can only imagine their enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Have a blessed holiday as you remember the most important birth in history.

p.s. Congrats to my friend, Lauren, who I grew up with....she is officially a mommy to precious Maksym. I haven't seen her since she got married in Aug 2007 :/ Miss you, Lauren!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tornados, snow, and Santa--oh my!

As you can tell by the title of this blog entry, last week was anything but boring. We spent several days in Mississippi and had an enjoyable time. The only unpleasant part was taking shelter in my host family's bathroom during a tornado warning....thankfully, the house wasn't hit. However, houses a few miles a way were damaged.

The day of the tornado, it was 70 degrees outside; the weather there was bipolar, because the next day it SNOWED. I woke up, hopped out of bed, and was incredibly excited to see a snowfall. I pulled Maria and Zurufah out of bed and went outside with them. They smiled so big and hardly knew how to react to the fluffy white stuff falling from the sky. Our kids had never seen snow before in their entire life.

On Thursday evening, I went with several host families to take a few of our kids to the Bass Pro Shop (funny story: I went to TWO different Bass Pro Shops last week--one in AL and one in MS. And for a girl like me who is not into hunting/fishing, that was one time too many ;) The visit was worth it, though, because the kids got to meet Santa Claus. They got their pictures taken with him, and they spontaneously sang "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" for Santa who thoroughly enjoyed it. I admit that I am pretending that Santa is real, and the kids are enjoying it. (I'm not exactly LYING---just fudging the truth a bit. ;) The girls' eyes got so wide when they talked to Santa and saw him pull candy from behind their ears. It was priceless. I just hope that we don't run into a Santa Claus that looks a lot different than the one we met last week--like a younger Santa, an Asian Santa, you get the picture...[I don't know how I'd explain that one! Our kids aren't dumb.]

Today I had a most enjoyable day off in Lake Conroe, Texas (near Houston). Eating lunch with the staff at Panera made me so excited, since the last time I ate at Panera was when I lived in Lynchburg this summer. The broccoli cheddar soup and frontega chicken sandwhich hit the spot! Prava, Taylor, Alan, and I saw the movie "Twilight" which was true to the book but was different than I imagined it while reading the story. Nevertheless, it was entertaining and enjoyable.

Tomorrow morning, the kids have three concerts at a church called Lonestar Cowboy Church. I am not lying; that's really the name of it. It's the most unique-looking church I have ever seen in my life. The church buildings and property look like a ranch, complete with a rodeo arena out front (the church holds rodeos/events there.)!! The sanctuary building has a rustic, cabin feel to it...and has a deer-antler chandelier decorating the lobby. I have a feeling I'll be seeing many fancy belt buckles and cowboy boots tomorrow morning! Before I close, here are a few photos for your enjoyment.

[Suresh deciding that pepperoni would taste great with his gingerbread cookie. Gag.]

[How adorable is that puppy dog? Neha, Rose, and I certainly enjoyed the puppy at this host family's home.]

[The girls had a fun time dressing up at a boutique the other week.]

[Enjoying the snow with Zurufah and Maria---it was their first time ever experiencing snow. :) ]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy December!

My favorite time of year is finally here....there's something magical about all the beautiful lit-up neighborhoods at night. And the smell of cinnamon candles burning in decorated homes. I'm quite lucky that I get to see an assortment of Christmas decorations in many homes this month! This past week, I went to Lowe's to get a Christmas tree for a family I was staying with. I was unusually excited about something so simple--but I loved the smell of a REAL Christmas tree (we've had a fake one in our house for years, due to allergies. Beautiful but not the same!) 

Our team has been unusually stationary the past two weeks....last week we were in Georgia for Thanksgiving, and this entire week we've been in Alabama in the same town. The pace of life hasn't been quite as crazy. 

We made some special memories with the kids over Thanksgiving: taking them to the movies to see Bolt, playing soccer with them at a nearby college field (I haven't ran that much in a looong time. Our boys are INTENSE when they play soccer!), eating yummy food, and just laughing together. 

I enjoyed this week in Dothan, AL. Taylor and Jay lived in Dothan before taking this job last summer, so we performed at their old church and at the school where Taylor was a teacher. The host families this week were all so welcoming and kind. I stayed with a family last weekend who own a lake house, so we spent several nights in a cute house overlooking the lake. I took the boys out on canoes the next day which greatly excited them. The house was crowded with company for the Alabama vs. Auburn game (which I didn't get into, but it was still fun.) 

Quick random story which hopefully makes you smile (I've told it to several people this week, and they laughed, so I hope you do too.) Taylor and I were asking the kids if they know who Santa Clause is. Ezera replied enthusiastically, "Jesus!!?" Taylor said, "No really, who is Santa Clause?" Then Ezera, thinking to himself that he'd get it right this time, said, "Satan!" 


Some of you are curious about what a typical week is like for our team. There is no such thing as a normal week, but this is the basic schedule. (There's never a dull day, let me tell ya! And I am definitely learning flexibility because of this job.) 

Friday: We usually drive most of the day to our weekend church. We go home with a host family and spent Fri evening with them.
Saturday: Either we spent the day with our host family or the church plans something for the team to do (a museum, playing at the park, etc.) 
Sunday: A tiring day! We wake up early, get to our weekend church usually around 7am for soundcheck, and then we have two or three concerts that morning. After the services, the church feeds us lunch, and then we hop on the bus for several hours. We get to another church Sunday evening, and the kids do yet another concert. Then we meet a new host family and go home with them that night.
Monday: Either we spend the day with our host family or the church plans an activity for us
Tuesday: Travel day. We drive most of the day and arrive at a new church (where we perform Wed night). We meet a new host family and go home with them.
Wednesday: We're often together as a team this day, and then the kids perform in the evening
Thursday: Often a travel day....we drive to our weekend church either on Thurs or Fri. 

And it keeps going....and going....and going :) 

Hope you all have a blessed week!