Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last day of Pre-K and Mother's Day Out

Karis and Caleb had such a good year in their pre-school/Mother's Day Out program at our church. Bear Creek Baptist Church really does a fabulous job! Three cheers for Karen Crook and all her teachers.

I helped out with the last day, themed Splash Day.

Here is Caleb with one of his teachers Mrs. Candace (Mrs. Emily wasn't there until the afternoon),

and she invited Kylie and I to eat lunch with Caleb's class.

What a fun, sad, happy day.

First family camping trip

We went camping this weekend with three other families at Huntsville State Park. We figured we better try camping on this continent instead of tackling it fresh in Africa.

Soon after arriving, Caleb and I went down to the dock to look at the water. We got a surprise visitor after not too long.

He had his right eyeball missing, so I'm guessing he's quite a fighter. If you could see the dark part of his tail, you could see he's about 6 feet long. It was pretty cool except for when Caleb would crawl up on the railing to look over. I didn't like that too much.

After all the tents had been set up, Kylie said, "There is nothing to do," and I said, "I know. Isn't it wonderful?!" She got in the groove not long after that, and she and all the kids ended up having a lot of fun. Kylie was the oldest kid there. We had three five year olds, a three year old and three under two. It sounds chaotic, but the kids really did play well and enjoy running around.

We roasted hot dogs, had smores, and visited late into the night. Here, Kylie, Karis and Abigail are showing off their glow in the dark jewelry (thanks, Heather, for bringing so many).

In the morning, I woke to obnoxious bird noises, but it had been a cool night and not normal Texas humidity levels, so I can take a few birds squawking. Not to mention, this was the view from our campsite!

A couple of the guys made scrambled eggs and deer sausage so we could have breakfast tacos. This was definitely not "roughing it" to me.

After cleaning up a little, we headed to the "beach area" of the lake to swim. Yes, this is the same lake I saw the alligator in, but I was hoping he might get full before he got to the beach front.

Anyway, the kids had a blast trying out their new swimming skills. Karis even put her face in the lake water. That's pretty big-time in my book! Just two weeks ago, she didn't like putting her face in bath water.

After getting good and tired, we headed back for sandwiches and final packing. It was a short trip, but we all needed to get back for church. It was a lot of fun, and I can't thank the Lord enough for the perfect weather, good friends, and for my mattress when I got home last night.

Hiding God's word in our hearts

We have attended three AWANA clubs this year in Baton Rouge, Yoakum, and Katy. After having a sporadic fall with our attendance because of moves, we finished strong in the Spring. I was very proud of Kylie and Karis for all the work they put in memorizing scripture, and Caleb did great in my book for attending Puggles every week with a smile on his face.

As a matter of fact, Caleb has been learning some scripture here at home. One of my favorites in "Calebese" is Psalm 119:9, "How can a young man keep his one poor? By living according to your word."

It reminds me of two Easters ago when Karis was repeating a verse she had learned at AWANAs. It was "He is not here. He's in prison." She has it all down now, thankfully. I'm just thrilled they are trying so hard. God will use all this scripture one day when they learn how to trust in Him.

Moving on to Kindergarten

What every mother likes to see when referring to their five year old.

WOW! This kind of threw Doug and I for a loop. We started thinking about Kylie being Class of 2020 and Caleb Class of 2024. Kind of makes my head spin a little, but I know it will really go by faster than it sounds.

Karis did a great job performing with all 45 four and five year olds. They did a lot of songs with sign language, and I was impressed how well they all did.

It was a fun night, and we had fun celebrating with Karis.

Cookie cake for breakfast

If you ever do decide to give your kids
cookie cake for breakfast, beware of
the side effects.

It reminds me of Bill Cosby's old comic routine, "Chocolate cake for breakfast," when his kids are chanting:

Dad is great!
He gives us chocolate cake!

Cosby justifies it as a good breakfast because there are eggs, flour, and wheat in the cake...don't know so much about what the Great American Cookie Company puts in their cookies.

Oh well, it didn't affect them too badly, so...

The next day, after church, we took in a little NASA.

And what could be better than being there at the same time as George Lucas' exhibit.

Thanks for taking all our family photos, Stefanie.

We have a 5 year old in the house...again.

During the time of our busy swim classes, we celebrated a birthday. Karis turned five on May 22nd.

This is Karis the day before her first birthday. It doesn't seem like that long ago, but we have moved four times and added another member to the family since this picture was taking, so I'm guessing it's actually been a little longer.

This was even before that. One of my favorites.

She chose to eat at Double Dave's for lunch. We took her friend Jenna who is in her class at school.

Since they serve chocolate chip pizza on the buffet, there was no reason to eat her chocolate chip cookie cake yet.

We treated the family (and Stefanie Kellum who was in town to visit for Memorial Day...yippee! Caleb snapped this in the car)

to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner. After dinner, Stefanie bought Karis a volcano cake, so we didn't need the chocolate chip cookie cake yet again...
Karis wasn't too excited about being sung to, so she's just pretending they aren't there. I don't blame here.

It was a long, fun day, but we had too much sugar, so the cookie cake will have to wait until tomorrow. Sounds like a nutritious breakfast to me. Guess we'll go home now.

Swim class

We started and finished swim class. While attending class for nine days, we celebrated a birthday, graduated from Pre-K, got AWANA awards, and finished pre-school for the year. It's been busy around here with the washing of towels and suits everyday and getting from one event to another, but we have lots to show for it.

Kylie can successfully swim doing the crawl.


Karis is no longer afraid of putting her head underwater. She swims pretty well, and can successfully dive for rings. Thanks again, Mr. Rudy!

And Caleb can float on his back without assistance, dive for rings, and swim a little, too. Thank you, Kurtis!

Caleb likes his goggles so much, he wears them in the car.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mother's Day Tea (another late one)

Karis' pre-school (4 year olds) had a Mother's Day Tea to honor mothers right before the big day. It was such a sweet occasion.

At the table, Karis' teachers had helped her write a lot of things about me. One that comes to mind is, "My mom is smart because she knows how to spell." She had done a hand and foot painting that was really beautiful, and she had designed a Mother's Day card for me.

The program started with prayer, and then the teachers had all the 4-year olds get their mother something to drink and then go back and get themselves something. I told Karis she could choose what I drank.

Here she comes with my pink lemonade.

After a small delicious snack/meal (which the 4-year olds had assisted with), each child got in front of their mother to sing a song to her. I videoed her with tears in my eyes. It was so precious, but I'm glad I have it on tape forever.

After all was said and done, I took pictures of her with her friends and her two wonderful, awesome, have-it-always-together teachers: Mrs. Michele (L) and Mrs. Jamie (R).

What a beautiful memory-making day! Thank you Bear Creek Baptist Pre-school!

Cinco de Mayo (a little late)

Karis had a fever on the fourth of May and couldn't go to pre-school on the fifth, so she stayed home with me. For Cinco de Mayo, we took Karis and Kylie to Taco Bell for the very first time (for lunch) and Caleb joined everyone for dinner at another Mexican restaurant.

The girls got such a kick out of seeing a "spork" for the first time. They started thinking up other names for it like "foon," and got the giggles.

When we got home, Kylie wanted the tape out of her science experiment box, so I got it for her, and went back to doing whatever it was I was doing.

When I looked again, this is what she was doing to commemorate her first visit to Taco Bell, and...she still has it. (She is definitely my pack rat - and comes by it honestly).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Final Day at IMB

6:50am bus boarding was getting a little tough by this time, and it was amazingly quiet this morning.

After breakfast, Jerry Rankin, President of the IMB lead our devotion. He is rarely in the country, so it was a blessing that he was actually here this whole week and got to share his heart with us. When he finished, a panel of 6 former missionaries (and current employees of the IMB) was interviewed by another IMB employee. They were asked several questions and given a chance to respond. I loved listening to their stories and experiences. The hour flew by.

Back with our small group, we were informed that we (all 6 of us) were approved for the next level and given a chance to ask any extra questions if we had any. We now wait for July 10th to be told if the board of trustees will approve us. If we pass that, we will go to Jacksonville, Florida, for a week in September for more training and an appointment service. We will then crate our belongings and move to ILC for 8 weeks from October 11 to December 17.

It was 11:30 am by this point, and I won't go into detail about the rest of the day because I figure you are tired of hearing about it at this point. I will say that we got to meet with everyone at the conference who will be serving in Africa (only 7 this session) and that was fun. We also got to eat lunch together and talk to two former missionaries who head up that Africa region for now. They will be moving back to Africa in July, so we will see them there next year. (I guess I shouldn't say "former" missionaries. We are all missionaries where we live, so none of us ever gets to leave that job).

Someone took a picture of Doug and me with a life-size figure of Lottie Moon. I still haven't gotten over how short she was.

As I write this, all the journeyman (college graduates applying for 2 year terms) are walking the grounds outside, talking, or playing games inside; there are 12 or so people (including Doug) playing Pit (a very loud, fun game) and other games in the lobby ; some are trying to sleep (I'm betting they are getting any); and others are in their rooms packing.

I am extremely sad to leave but very excited to see the kids tomorrow night. The IMB has given us a long list of things to do and forms to gather before we get appointed in September. So I just THOUGHT the application process was over. This is starting to look a little more rigorous that applying for one of those under-cover, secret agent jobs.

Right now, though, the IMB is waiting on our references, so the next thing is to get all those to the appropriate people so they can mail them back in for the trustees to look at.

Thanks for spending the week with us on the blog. We had fun, and it was good practice for me to be semi-regular on letting you know what is going on. I will try not to always be so wordy, but I do love to write.

Thursday was a blur of information

We got on the bus again at 6:50am. That normally wouldn't be so much of a problem, except that all the candidates have been staying up very late in the lobby visiting. It has been so much fun, but it kept me from writing, and it has created a fog over my eyes. All day today (Friday), I worked at keeping them focused and open (as did many other people).

We drove the usual 40 minutes to the IMB, at a wonderful breakfast, and then had devotional time with our small group. I was really blessed by that time, and it ended up being the best part of my day. It was also a great relaxing way to start since our final interviews are today.

Doug's and mine was scheduled first, at 9am, right after devotional. That was okay with me. I was prayed up, continually asking for God's peace, and our interviewer was so kind. He had to ask hard questions about hard topics, and we made it through.

The interview lasted a little over an hour, and then the gentleman told us he would be recommending us to move on to the next step when he met with the regional directors on Friday.

We made it to the end of a presentation on prayer, then we had another two meetings back to back on security and what all medical would need from us and what they would do for us when we returned in October.

If you haven't figured out, this place runs like a well-run machine. There is no down time, no lag time, and they are so efficient at using every minute to give you information you need to make an informed decision. It is much needed, because some couples and/or journeyman back out at this point in the process when they realize the timing is wrong for them after hearing all the information.

We ate lunch and then went over the Field Personnel Manual. It is several hundred pages of information that we have to read cover to cover and sign a paper saying we did so. I'm a third of the way through, but I won't read it on the plane. I'd like to stay awake and read some other material that won't put me to sleep. I only say that because I'm on the Finance section.

Next we attended part of a seminar on raising awareness in missions by visiting churches. Doug and I didn't get to finish it because we had an appointment to take our picture right in the middle of it. Everyone, all day, took turns going to get their pictures made. They go in our interview packet for the board of trustees to see, and they will be used in publications the Baptists put out.

We took a bus back to ILC earlier today because we had meetings out there! We were told what was going to happen when we returned in October and what we would learn. We took a tour of a building we would live in, and then parents of children went to a meeting at the school.

The teachers were so nice, and they covered what would be going on in school from newborns all the way to high school. They are very thorough and very impressive. Kindergarten is the grade that will continue with the most academics. Most everyone else will just do math and writing. All writing and every project is all focused on where they are going.

They are taught about the country they are moving to; they get to try new foods; they do international art projects; they read books on their people group; they are taught how to share Jesus and given chances to practice; older elementary kids take field trips to a mosque and an international market; they learn all the ways they can help their parents on the field; and all through the process, they can express if they are scared or concerned and write about it. The parents were also given great tips on things to do ahead of time to make the transition easier. Truly, this is a great place run with excellence.

We made it to dinner on time with five minutes to spare before the cafeteria closed. Thank goodness - it was Mexican food night! God is so good. What a treat after such a tense day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Don't you love a productive day?

What a day! What a wonderful day!

We had breakfast this morning at the IMB in Richmond and then each of the regional directors around the world introduced themselves and mentioned a few of the job openings in each of their regions. Wow!! If each of you could hear the awesome diversity of job opportunities around the world, some of you would know in your heart, you could answer that call.

There are opportunities in Italy, France, London, and Austria (even some of those beautiful Mediterranean places). There are jobs for beach ministry in Indonesia. There are jobs where you would sit in coffee shops and music bars and meet people and develop relationships. If you like hiking mountains, they’ve got the job for you. If you want to live along the Amazon River, backpacking through the jungles looking for tribes of people, you can do it (and get paid). God can lead you to do some pretty amazing things for Him. Don’t say, “No,” just say, like Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”

We had our first small group time since dinner last night. The three couples shared salvation and baptism experiences and our call to missions individually. I think it took an hour for all six of us to go, but it was a sweet time.

Next we had meetings with the Office of Finance to learn about salary and benefits for almost an hour, and then the one we were all waiting for…the meeting with Travel/Freight Logistics. I’m sure you can understand the concern we all have for when and how they will pick up our “stuff,” what “stuff” that needs to be, and getting our “stuff” overseas, through customs, by plane or boat. The lady handling all the freight has been at the IMB for over 40 years! I think she is pretty much amazing and irreplaceable!

After a lunch of barbecue salad (sounds interesting, doesn’t it), Doug and I had an individual meeting scheduled with the regional office for Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. We sat with a man and his wife who, for now, oversee that general area of Africa. It was an hour-long meeting, where they asked us a lot of questions, but it was also a great time to hear wisdom from two people who lived in Africa for 12 years, raised their two children there, and are getting ready to return in July.

The day started to wind down with all of the long-term missionaries hanging out in the library, reading, talking, copying information, checking out books, and discussing each of the interviews we had that day. It was sort of like a bunch of kids who talk after getting pulled in to talk to the principal. “What did they say to you? What questions did they ask?”

We had a one-hour session left, and then we got on the bus to come back to ILC for dinner.

After dinner, our small group had to find a place to meet on campus (without our leader) and have a “secret” church. We acted out what many churches might look like in a non-tolerant country, except without the fear those Christians have. We prayed, gave God adoration, read from only one Bible in a semi-dark room, discussed the scripture, and sang all with whispering voices. It was an incredible time of worship in song and word.

I am overloaded with information from today.

It was a good night.

It was a good day.

I am tired.

I am ready to go.

I am also ready to go to bed.

Good night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

International Mission Board

Today, we had a leisurely morning, waiting for the other 60+ people to fly/drive in. And then at 2pm, the 27 of us who came in yesterday, took a shuttle to the International Mission Board (IMB) building in Richmond, Virginia. That is where are conference is held everyday. At night we take a bus 30 minutes back out to the International Learning Center (ILC).

Since I didn't grow up in a Baptist church, I asked Doug as we pulled up to the IMB if getting to see this building was like Mecca for a former RA. In case you were wondering, he said, "No."

The building is a labyrinth of cubicles and interesting rooms. When we first arrived, the long-term missionary candidates (that's us) were directed to the library where we found a table with our name on it with books pulled for us to read on Uganda and our people group. It was neat to look around the room at the small stacks of books spaced every 6 or so feet for another couple to look at, all books about different countries.

The short-term missionary candidates spent the whole time we were in the library in the lobby looking through books of information trying to choose a job and a country for where they could go. I was thinking how stressful that must be for them. Doug and I had months to talk it over, ask questions and research. These recent college graduates and retired senior citizens have a few days. Some of them had an idea of where they wanted to go, but most didn't.

After a very short amount of time in the library, we went on a tour of the IMB building. We met tons of people, saw Pres. Rankin's office, the prayer room, the prayer strategy center, the media room, the room dedicated to Lottie Moon, and many rooms full of hard-working people in cubicles. My favorite part of the tour was looking at all the pictures of beautiful people on the walls. The photographers who work for the IMB have really captured the spirit of people all over the world in beautiful photographs.

Next, we had dinner with our small groups, led by a Candidate Consultant who is not our regular one. They matched everyone with a different Candidate consultant as an on-going part of our interview. It gives another person a chance to get to know us, and ask more hard questions, so that the IMB has another person's opinion of us. As a small town girl, I kind of feel like a cow walking around the auction ring waiting to see if some farmer wants to bid on me or not.

Our second to last event of the night before getting on the bus to head back to ILC was an in-depth overview of the week. We had a worship service and a great presentation given by three wise gentlemen who work for the IMB. They basically told us why they have to screen us and ask us tough questions and put us through all this.

You know the answer.

This is not going to be an easy journey. They want to make sure this is what we are really called to and if our giftings match with the job we've chosen. And as a giver to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering (100% of which is given to the IMB), I appreciate the IMB taking the time to discover if someone is ready before they use someone else's money (yours and mine) to send them over.

We ended our night in the library getting detail information about certain appointments each couple has to sign up for during the week, what the library has to offer (it is an INCREDIBLE resource for anything you want to find about anywhere in the world), and how the library works. (They will let us check out books from there for up to a month and then mail them back - isn't that cool?!) Of course, I love libraries. I checked out three books tonight!

Since I've been scouring the libraries in Houston for books on our people group and Uganda, I was blessed to see that I had already read three of the books that the librarian had pulled and set at our table, and Doug had already read two.

I won't go into detail about all the cool things in this library because unless you love libraries like I do, you might not care. So I'll just say that I'm looking forward to going back tomorrow!

We returned to ILC tonight, and some couples asked if we would like to visit with them in the lobby area. So, Doug and I and three other couples sat around and shared life tonight.

We are all experiencing the same stuff.

People are asking us the same questions.

We are thinking about the same things on a daily basis.

We share the same thoughts about our children.

We all went through this long process and all have similar stories about it.

We are all anxious about this last interview process this week.

Basically, we are automatically kindred spirits (that's for all you "Anne of Green Gable" fans).

It was a cool experience after feeling estranged in this process for the last 10 months. Not that we weren't loved through it, but that we didn't know anyone else in the process at the time.

Now we have friends in California, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, north Texas, etc. who we know are going through the same stuff AND we get to do life with them in October again when we all move up here.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and we have to catch a 6:50 am bus back to town in the morning.

See ya tomorrow, hopefully.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Richmond, Virgina (Take 1)

Doug and I arrived here this afternoon on the first shuttle. There has been one more shuttle arrive and there will be two more tonight at 9pm. There are 90 candidates that are here for interviews this week. We are all excited to be at this phase in the process. It's been a long journey for a lot of us, and it is really neat to hear the stories of everyone about how they got here.

The dining hall is decorated with flags from hundreds of countries and there is traditional clothing from different countries framed and hanging on the walls. This picture is for my children. These are all the cereals that they can choose from every morning (even the sugary ones that we only buy for a treat).

There is a large globe fountain outside the library and computer lab,

and the International Learning Center facility is divided up by continent names. Doug and I are staying in the Americas. We walk past the dorms in Africa to eat in the dining hall, which is north of Asia. It sounds confusing, but the point I was trying to make, is that everywhere you go, you are reminded the world is so much larger than you.

There is a large map on the wall in one building and the pictures of all the missionaries that are here for their eight weeks of training are put on the map over the country where they will be serving. They are covering the globe. It's amazing. And that is just this semester's group. I love that we are a part of this process of taking the message of Jesus Christ all over God's globe.

As a side note, for all of you who are filling out references for Doug and I, I hit a little bit of a snag. The stamp prices changed today, so I have hunted through two airports looking for 2 cent stamps. I realized that not only do my envelopes need them, the self-addressed stamped envelope from the IMB is 2 cents short, as well. I think I've found a place to get stamps, but it won't be until tomorrow morning. Hopefully you will get the reference forms soon.

Our day ends at 8pm tomorrow, but I'll try to write if I can.

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

I just wanted to let you guys know that Doug and I are leaving in the morning for Virginia. We will be staying at the International Learning Center and having meetings at the International Mission Board offices this week in Richmond.

This will be the place we move to for eight weeks in the fall, so I'm looking forward to checking it out and taking pictures for the kids. Children were not invited to the Candidate Conference, so they are staying at my parent's this week. Surely will miss them.

If I get internet access there, I will try to update the blog some on what we are learning.

Thank you in advance for your prayers.