Saturday, December 27, 2008

An American/Nepali/Ugandan Christmas in Texas!

The best Christmas EVER!

We are now back on the road again, but are remembering the AMAZING time we had celebrating Christmas together!  Last week, Brian and Silesia Wellbrock from Montgomery, TX called to offer their house to us for six days while they were out of town.  We jumped on the chance to spend a week with no traveling!  Their beautiful home sits on Lake Conroe, where the kids were able to roam free, be as loud as they want, and not "bother" anyone.  It was such a unifying experience for the whole to be together and just  The kids enjoyed fishing, playing ping-pong and air hockey, and having movie nights with the whole team.  All the girls were piled in their "dream room"- a Paris theme with pink and purple decor.  

I was determined to cook for the team for the entire week, and I plunged right in on our first night.  I don't know that I've ever been more proud of myself!  Everyone ate and then asked for seconds, and I discovered that I could do it just like my dad and my grandmother!  I could cook for twenty people and enjoy it.  That gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction...I've missed cooking so much since we left our house.  

There are so many blessings that came out of this week.  The kids were on their very best behavior the whole time.  There was just this overwhelming feeling of togetherness and family that we often don't get to have because the kids are usually with host families.  The kids begged and begged to help me in the kitchen, so they took turns for every meal preparing the food, setting the table, and cleaning up afterward.  They played so well together...riding bikes and playing cards and board games.

From the very first day, Ashley and Prava and I set up shop in the master bedroom to wrap presents, with strict instructions that the children were never allowed to enter Uncle Jay and Auntie Taylor's bedroom.  We had so much fun shopping for them...we are so thankful to the people who helped contribute to the Children of the World Christmas!  We put post-it notes with each child's name on it around the entire room, separating toys into stacks for every child.  Santa was very good to them this year!  We wrapped for about three days straight, but we finally got it finished, and we could hardly wait to see their faces!

The children have embraced the idea of Santa Claus, and with that comes many, MANY questions.  "How does Santa get back up the chimney?"  "How do the reindeer fly?"  "What does Santa do the rest of the year?"  That part was so much fun.  On Christmas Eve after we read the Christmas story from the Bible, I said we needed to put out milk and cookies for Santa.  "WHAT??!!!"  "How do you know he likes milk and cookies?"  "Will he really eat them?"  The saddest question is when they would ask, "What if he doesn't come?"  They were so skeptical on that part.  But when we said that Santa came if you believed, they would repeat over and over again, "Oh Auntie, I believe!  I believe!"  It was amazing seeing Christmas through their eyes.  

Christmas morning far exceeded my expectations.  Their excitement was so contagious!  They stared in awe at the stockings and everything under the tree that Santa brought.  Every present was examined with wonder as if they couldn't believe it was really theirs to keep.  They opened the gifts slowly, savoring each box and even each piece of candy in the stocking.  I was just so content watching them open everything...I never wanted it to end!  Not once this Christmas did I think about what I was going to receive.  I didn't care at all.  All I cared about was that the kids know how much they are treasured and loved.  I have never been more thankful than I was that morning.  It was completely overwhelming.  I think Martin summed it up best when he smile and said, "I don't know if I have ever been this happy."

The kids' first trip to see Santa Claus:
All the aunties and uncles on Christmas Eve:
Before the madness on Christmas morning:
We hope you all had a very blessed Christmas with your loved ones!  More to come soon on ice skating, our Christmas Eve visit to Build-a-Bear, and our trip to Six Flags!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Honest thoughts

"Oh my gosh.  You two are so lucky.  I would kill to have your job.  Those kids are too cute!"

These are words I hear almost every day, without fail.  I always tell them how thankful we are to be doing this, and how much we love and adore the children.  And that is true.  We know without a doubt that we are in the center of God's will.  We are exactly where we are supposed to be.  We understand this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which is why we chose to do this sooner rather than later.  We will never have this opportunity again.

But sometimes, it's hard.  This job is by far the most difficult thing we have ever done.  And sometimes, I look at those people who envy my life, smile at them and respond kindly, and think to myself, "If only you knew.  It's not glamorous.  Not at all."  Most days, there is at least one point where I want to pull my hair out.  I wonder to myself, "Will this day ever end?"

We don't wonder if we chose the right path.  We know that we did.  But just because God told us to do this, doesn't mean He promised that it would be easy or that we would be happy all the time.  

The traveling has lost all its appeal at this point on our journey.  I love to travel, but we understand now there is a difference between "traveling" and being "on the road."  Traveling entails choosing a beautiful location, seeing the sights, staying in nice hotels, eating amazing foods, and relaxing.  Being "on the road" means praying that the bus doesn't break down on a long drive, having all the fast-food menus memorized, and doing about 200 concerts a year (with the same songs!).  From day to day, my thoughts change from, "I can't believe it's already December!" to "Oh my gosh, it's only December??!!!"  

I miss home.  Any home.  I miss Kentucky, I miss Americus, I miss Dothan, I miss our family, I miss our friends.  I miss cooking and setting up house in a stationary location.  I miss taking baths.  I miss going to a church just to worship and I miss being in a Bible study.  I miss hopping in my car and going somewhere ALONE.  I miss having any kind of girl friends that I can hang out with.  I told Jay yesterday that I never would have made it through this if he wasn't with me.  He is the only person in the whole world who will ever understand exactly what I'm feeling and what we're going through.  That in itself has brought us closer, and for that I am thankful.

Every day, at some point in the day, I look into the face of a smiling child and know that all the sacrifices are worth it.  Every morning when Suresh yells, "Auntie Taylor, where is my hug??!!!"  Or when Rose kisses my stomach through my shirt and tells me she loves me.  Or when Martin asks who I love more, him or Uncle Jay.  Or when I think about the hundreds of children will never have to wonder when they will get to eat again, or if they will ever get to go to school.  We will never meet them, but those are the children we're doing this for.  In some small way, we are making a difference in the world.  I only hope that after this is over, we can continue ministering to others, even if it doesn't reach all the way to Uganda or Nepal. 

A verse that I've been mulling over the past few days:
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."  
2 Corinthians 2:14-15
That's what I want more that anything-to be the fragrance of Christ above all else, whether that is with Children of the World or as a teacher, a wife, a daughter, or a friend.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great friends, great times

Last week, we got to spend seven full days in Dothan, where we used to live before we started traveling.  We could not have hoped for a better visit!  We were so busy with the kids, but we squeezed in time to see all our friends whenever we could.  It was so nice to see everyone from Covenant, where Jay used to work.  Thank you to everyone who sponsored children!  Afterward, we went out with our long-lost friends. We've missed them so much!  (Brandon, Leah, Brittany, Troy, Adam, and Monica)
Jay and I got spoiled because we got to stay with Adam and Monica all week long.  We picked up right where we left off, never missing a beat.  It was like we had never left.  We are so thankful for them.  As far as friends go, they're the best!
At Kyoto, our favorite restaurant:
The kids playing outside (notice some of the short sleeves in December!):
We also performed at Providence, the school where I taught last year.  It was extremely bittersweet for me, and such a blessing.  We received an overwhelming response from the teachers and students, with everyone wanting to be a part of our ministry.  I hated to leave!  Thanks to everyone who is donating to the children's Christmas this year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Look at these beautiful faces!

Pictures from Thanksgiving in Americus!
The boys enjoying their favorite sport:
Making pine cone turkeys at Auntie Sue's house:
Playing a crazy game of "Spoons!"