Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why I run.

Confession: I am a runner.
Disclaimer: I am not a fast runner.

I only became interested in running about 6 years ago when we moved to Houston and I needed something to keep me active and in shape.  What is cheaper and easier than running outside?  It doesn't require anything but a pair of running shoes and a good playlist.  No monthly fees.  No expensive equipment.  No teammates.  Just you and the open road.

I started out HATING running.  When I started, I could barely run a mile.  Truthfully.  But I kept going.

Gradually we developed a love/hate relationship.  I hated to start running, but always loved the way it made me feel afterward.

Then I LIKED running.  I was running several times a week and it started getting easier.

Then I became ADDICTED to running.  A runner's high is a real thing.  I actually crave running when it's been several days since my last run.

What started as an easy way to keep active turned into a lifestyle of sorts.  These days, I run for many reasons.

I run because I can, in recognition of all those who can't.

I run because although there is some temporary discomfort, it is also extremely cathartic.

I run because it builds confidence.

I run because it's something I can do uniquely for myself.

I run because I like it.

I run because finishing a goal or setting a personal record makes me feel accomplished.

Finally, I run because I support Sabeena.

I support Sabeena, and I support her family, As Our Own.

I run so that she can LEARN.

I run so that she can BE SAFE.

I run for her EMPOWERMENT.

I run so that she can HAVE A FAMILY.

I run so that she can HAVE A FUTURE.

I run so that she can KNOW LOVE.

Would you be willing to support Sabeena?

Would you be willing to support a young girl who was rescued from a certain life of prostitution or sex trafficking and now dreams of becoming a teacher?

I'm not asking you to support me.  I'm asking you to consider supporting a young girl who was orphaned but now belongs to a family.  I'm asking you to invest in her future, and in the future many other young orphaned girls in India, and for the future of India.

So check it out.  You're not supporting a cause, you are supporting a LIFE.

So, dear friend, join me.  Consider praying for her, supporting her, running for her.

Why do YOU run?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Henry's 1st birthday party!

A few months ago, when we began planning little man's birthday party, we considered staying in Houston to party with friends.  Think about pictures of your first birthday--you were probably surrounded by your extended family, yes?  Well we wanted the same for our little man.

What a whirlwind of a weekend!

We left Thursday afternoon and made the 8 hour drive to Tulsa, making it just before midnight.  Luckily, Henry managed to sleep pretty soundly the last few hours in the car.  Friday we spend the day with various members of our family, and even managed to sneak in a lunch at Charleston's--the place where JP and I met.  Saturday was busy getting ready for the party.  We had decorations and balloons to buy, cupcakes to pick up.  Everyone came over around 4, and we started off with cupcakes.

Henry didn't quite know what to think about the cupcakes.  He started with a bite of icing, and while I'm sure he liked the taste, he wasn't crazy about the icing on his fingers.

We moved on to the vanilla cake, which he had a few bites of before deciding he really wasn't interested.  Granted, there were about 20 people watching every bite and giggling over every facial expression, so I'm sure he was a little bit intimidated.

We gave him a few pieces of chocolate cake, and he seemed to like it better.

After cake, we went for a swim, Henry's favorite pastime these days.  Somehow we managed to not capture this part of the party on film.

After swimming, we opened presents.  What a lucky boy!  Henry scored pretty big this year!  It was hard to keep his attention between presents, because he wanted to play with each toy as he opened them.  He did a great job opening presents that were in bags, but hasn't quite mastered the art of ripping wrapping paper yet. 

By far his favorite present was a bouncy ball from his Gramma and Grampa.  

It's the simple things, really.

The next day, we got up early and hit the road for the 8 hour drive back to Houston.

We arrived home very tired, but so glad that we were able to celebrate Henry's first birthday surrounded by so many loved ones.

How about some cake in your eyebrows, Gramma?

 Thanks everyone for helping to make Henry's day so special!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1 year.

Whoa, Henry.

1 year.  52 weeks.  365 days.  525,600 minutes.

One year ago today, Mama was in labor, and we were both eagerly anticipating your arrival.

I don't think I will ever be able to fully communicate the feelings and emotions that are jumbling around in my heart right will just have to learn for yourself when you are a Daddy...ok, now the floodgates have opened.

Time has no meaning to me anymore.  How is it possible that this year has both flown by and crept by, simultaneously so joyful, yet painful.

Those first days were a whirlwind of sleep deprived insanity.
Those first days where you slept on my chest, almost incessantly, and I vowed not to even breathe, so as not to disturb you.
Those first weeks of 10 feedings a day averaged 2.5 hours apart and VERY LITTLE sleeping.
Those first sweet smiles on your face that told me you would forever have me wrapped around your finger.
Those first months of fighting your naps, tooth and nail, and me, frantically calling your father to come FIX YOU.
The first time you slept all night in your bed and we finally felt like we had our marriage back.
The first time you grabbed my finger in the palm of your hand.
The first time you smiled at me, on purpose.
The first time you sat, crawled, stood, took tiny baby steps.
The first time I spanked your hand because you stuck your finger in a (baby-proofed) electrical outlet, and you didn't shed a tear, but I cried my eyes out.
Your first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July...countless holidays that meant absolutely nothing to me until I had you.
The first time you said Mama, and meant it.

Sweet baby, I will never be able to tell you how much I love you.

Like so many things in life, often the best things, you will just have to take it on faith.

I know that we have many trials ahead of us.  I know that things won't get easier.  I know that there will be times that we don't like each other.  I know that we will have to take turns being both teacher and student, learning from each other as we go.

But I also know that I couldn't choose a better kiddo to do all of these things with.

So, dear, sweet little one, take your time growing up.  We have much to look forward to.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our family's foray into homemade baby food.

So I'm just gonna put this out there: I'm not really an all-natural kinda girl.  My groceries are not all organic, I have never been to Trader Joe's, and my guilty pleasure is Ramen know, the block of noodles with the extra salty packet of flavoring?  I may or may not have eaten two today.

It wasn't until we got pregnant that I even put much thought into what I put in my body, because, well, I wasn't just eating for myself anymore.  I did a lot of reading on the do's and don't's of pregnancy diets and came up with a list that I can easily follow.  I tried to avoid nitrates, I tried to eat organic, I definitely avoided lunch meat, etc.

Then Henry was born and everything is just about survival.  Fast food probably makes up at least two meals of our week.  I breastfed for as long as I could, and although I wanted to go longer, there's not much you can do with a biting child armed with teeth.  When we introduced solid foods to Henry, it honestly never occurred to me to make his food at home. I was working full time hours, and my at home time was spent snuggling Henry as close as possible.  I carelessly brushed off the thought with the age-old excuse: "I don't have time."

It hit me one day as I was reading the ingredients on Henry's baby food.  I was originally looking at the ingredients for mixed vegetables, trying to determine if Henry had been introduced to all of the vegetables in the mix--you know, so we can introduce foods only one at a time.  And my curiosity got the best of me and I continued until I had read the ingredients on all of his food.  To my surprise, many of the fruits had citric acid in it.  I understand the reasoning--most of us know that lemon juice keeps food from browning and who wants to buy brown banana puree?  But I was confused--I had read that citrus foods should not be introduced until after one year, but here was citric acid in baby food meant for a 4-6 month old.

And then, I went part time, and let's be honest--I needed something to save me from sitting around doing nothing during Henry's naps.

Another factor was totalling up how much we were spending on Henry's food per month.  Between feeding him 4-5 baby food containers and 4-5 bottles of formula per day, we were spending about $300 per month on baby food.  The formula we can't do anything about other than look for the best deals possible (which happens to be Sam's in case you are wondering), but the baby food we thought we could save on.

That's the extent of the thought process, and BOOM!  We had entered the world of homemade baby food.

I added some websites to my favorites bar, and downloaded a couple of books on the subject, bought our first fruits and veggies, some baby food jars, and we were on our way.

On the first day, I decided to try steamed apples.  I bought a cute little steamer you can slip in the microwave to cut down on steaming time, and in 1 minute, VOILA!  I had steamed apples.  I also steamed the heck out of my thumb when I took said steamer out of the microwave--ouch!  Lesson learned.  I used the accompanying masher (if that's what it's called) and mashed the apples to a nice pulp.  Or so I thought.  When I fed this pulp to Henry at dinner, he promptly spit out every single bite I fed him.  Fail #1.

The next day, I decided to go with avocados.  Henry had never had these before, but everyone says babies love them.  So I mashed them up until it looked like guacamole, and sat down to dinner.  Henry seemed to like the taste fine, but made quite an hysterical face at the texture.  Every other bite seemed to cause a small gagging fit, but I figured he would get used to the texture as we continued.  Wrong.  Not 10 minutes later, after one such gagging fit, he proceeded to projectile vomit his entire dinner.  Fail #2.

Several days later, in an attempt to add some protein to Henry's diet at the urging of his pediatrician, I decided to try scrambled eggs.  She encouraged us to try hard boiled egg yolk mixed in something he enjoys.  So I picked his favorite fruit, pears, and mixed in some hard boiled egg yolk.  It looked awful, smelled awful, and I'm sure it tasted awful.  I was right.  Henry refused to eat it, and the bites I was able to shove in his mouth were promptly spit right back out.  Fail #3.

So I figured it was just the boiling of the egg that was the problem.  The next day I mixed some formula into scrambled egg yolk and served it up.  I don't know if it was the formula, or the fact that it was missing the egg white, but the scrambled eggs that resulted were not the light yellow, fluffy consistency that I am used to seeing.  Instead, it was a gritty, orange mixture that was barely in solid form.  I fed it to Henry anyway, but put it on his tray so he could try to feed himself.  He definitely enjoyed rubbing his hands in it, and definitely enjoyed feeding it to the dogs, but I'm not sure so much as a handful ended up in his mouth.  Fail #4.

This stuff is harder than it looks.

So after months of trying and failing, we have finally come up with things that Henry loves.

We try to keep it simple, mostly just single fruit and vegetable purees.  Sometimes we mix it up and combine some fruits and/or veggies, and that's gone ok too.

We figured out that Henry does not like chicken puree--it doesn't really puree very well and ends up really dry and gritty, but when we mix it with bananas, apples or sweet potatoes, he really likes it.

So, if you are considering making your own food, here are a few tips that we learned the hard way:

1.  The blender seems to puree better than the food processor...give it a try.
2.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of water.  Depending on how big of a batch you're making, I have found you need about 1/2 of a cup of water added to reach the most edible consistency.
3.  Read up on the DIRTY DOZEN.  Buying everything organic can get expensive, so this is a great way to know which you should buy organic, and which you can buy "contaminated."
4.  Go with the multi-portion trays, versus baby food jars.  THESE are our favorites.  It's so much easier to make a big batch and pop out a serving when you need it, versus constantly washing single serve portions.
5.  The longest part is the prep work.  Peeling, chopping, coring.  Give yourself a couple of hours to dice and slice everything and then try to cook everything at once.  Between steaming, boiling, and baking, you can cook multiple things at once.  For instance: you can boil apples directly in a pot, while you bake peaches in the oven, while steaming blueberries in the microwave.  After 20 minutes, you have three fruits ready to go instead of cooking one at a time.

6.  Don't be afraid to enlist the help of your husband.  Making baby food is not hard--it's not even cooking, really.  JP has done a great job in this department.

So there you have it, folks.  I hope this has inspired you (rather than scared you) to give it a go!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Houston 1:8

Brace's a long one.

For the past four years, the week after July 4th has been one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of our year.  But it is also one of the happiest, most fulfilling weeks.

It is the week of Houston Project, now called Houston 1:8.

For those that don't know, Houston 1:8 is our church's mission trip to our city.  There are multiple sites across the city that minister to the many people of Houston.

I'd love to share with y'all a little bit of our personal history with Houston 1:8.

We first heard about Houston 1:8 about 4 years ago.  We heard an announcement in our Life Bible Study about volunteering, but we tuned it out.  We were "too busy."  For the next year, it's important to note that we felt no guilt, we didn't feel anything missing.  We weren't aware that we had missed out on an opportunity.  We opted out of joining forces with our Mighty God to reach our city.  I am certain we opted out of His blessing, because we have seen so many wonderful things happen in the subsequent 3 years.

The next year, we were approached by a couple in our Life Bible Study and asked if we would like to assist them in coordinating a Houston 1:8 site.  They explained that they were pondering moving to another city, and would like to hand over the site in the future, but that they would allow us to partner with them so they could train us for the future.  Ha, what a joke!  Several weeks later, we found out that they had the opportunity to move much sooner than expected, so we were quickly promoted from assistant site leaders to THE site leaders.  We were surprised, we were stressed, but we were also sure it was too late to back out.  That year was a wonderful learning year for us.  We learned many wonderful lessons in servant leadership, and were blessed to work with an inner city church trying to reach its surrounding neighborhood.

2 months after Houston 1:8 ended, we enrolled in Perspectives.  This class forever changed the way that we view the world as Christians, and we became passionate about unreached people.

The next July, we found out that there were two new sites needing leaders, and we were given the opportunity to choose between another inner city church, or an apartment complex comprised of international refugees.  We quickly jumped at the chance to lead the refugee site as soon as we heard the word "international."  We were not familiar with refugee status, and had so much to learn about the particular needs and challenges of what it means to be a refugee.  We were able to partner with a local Bhutanese church, that incurred so much growth that they are able to sustain a church that can reach their own complex.  Amazing!

The next July, there was yet another new site being developed.  This site, Sunblossom Mountain Apartments, housed Bhutanese, Burmese and Nepali refugees and was a huge complex without a flourishing church.  By this time, we felt like we were "pros" at leading Houston 1:8 sites, and felt confident that we were well prepared.  Wrong!  On our first day, we fed 400+ people!  We ran out of food, so that our volunteers didn't even get a chance to eat, poor things.  We could not believe the turnout.  Each night we had 200-250 kids involved in VBS, and many youth and adults in their respective activities.  After the week ended, we felt an enormous burden on our hearts.  How could we leave this many people without a church?  When would they next hear the name of Jesus?

So we prayed.  We brainstormed.  We prayed some more.  And we felt like the Lord was leading us to start a semi-monthly kids' ministry so that we could continue to build relationships with these kids and teach them about Jesus.  Each week, we would spend two hours playing, reading Bible stories, singing songs, coloring, and passing out a lot of snacks and juice boxes.  Each week, we had anywhere from 30-50 kiddos that came out to play and hear about the Bible.

So this year, we were even more excited to get to come back.  Over the last year, Sunblossom has become a habit for us.  I don't mean to say that it is something we do thoughtlessly, but this complex has become a home-away-from-home of sorts.  We have gotten over our culture shock.  Our fear.  Our anxiety.  Our worries.  If there's anything the Lord has taught us these past four years, it is that He is faithful, and that He provides.

This year was no exception.  We had a wonderful turnout of kids, and were able to build on the knowledge they have been learning for the past year.  Kids were poring over the Bibles, learning scripture memory verses, and learning how to read the Bible for themselves.

We had an awesome women's ministry, where each night 25-30 women came to hear about Jesus and make a spiritually relevant craft.

We had an amazing turnout in youth boys, which I'm sure is mostly due to World Cup fever and the soccer that we played with them.

We had a consistent group of youth girls that were hungry for knowledge about Jesus.

We fed everyone, and passed out a. lot. of. sno-cones.

The last night, we had a wonderful speaker who delivered the Gospel message so powerfully.  People were sitting on their apartment balconies, completely engaged in his message.

What an amazing week!  We are physically tired, we are glad for a respite from all of our planning, but more than anything we are encouraged and excited to continue to trust in the Lord for His presence at this apartment complex.

 By far my favorite part of this week is the legacy that we are leaving for our family.  My younger brother, Jordan, has joined us for 3 years for Houston 1:8 and this has become a special time for him.  This was Henry's first official Houston 1:8 out of the womb, and we were so excited to see him smiling and interacting with refugee kids and moms.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What do refugees (in Houston) look like?

Y'all...I am blown away at the imagination of Our Creator.

Spending significant time this past year at an apartment complex in Houston comprised mostly of refugees has shown me the incredible display of God's creation.  As soon as you step in the gates of the complex, you immediately have a sense of being in a foreign country.  Where am I?!  You are surrounded by brightly colored clothing and head wraps.  You are confronted with a people that look quite different than the mostly Caucasian community that surrounds the complex.

We do a lot of talking and teaching about refugees in Houston.  It all sounds SO SCARY.  Genocide?  War?  Persecution?  Refugee camps?  These aren't pretty topics.  It's so much easier to hide behind words like safety and comfort instead of coming face to face with people who have suffered at the hands of their countrymen.  

It only takes half of a second to actually engage with these faces to see that they are beautiful, loveable people.  

Their kids love to play just like our kids.

They love to eat.

They love to be silly.

The only thing that separates us from them is where we were born.  But now, they are here, in our country.  Let's be good hosts and hostesses and welcome them with open arms of love.  I'm so blessed and honored to have worked with such a great group of people to love on these refugees.  I am so excited to see what God has in store for the last night of Houston 1:8!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Who has the time anyway?


That elusive white rabbit we chase down the bunny-hole.

That ticking crocodile, chasing us all over Neverland.

Time is money.

Living on borrowed time.

And so on.  And so forth.

The evangelical church has a lot to say on time.  I have sat through many a sermon and bible study about "protecting our time."  And I agree with the heart of this issue.  When you don't have enough time, prioritization is a must.


Talk to an evangelical Christian about donating their money, and they will likely answer yes.

Talk to the same Christian about praying for you, and the answer will likely be "Of course!"

Talk to the same Christian about donating their time and you might get a half-hearted, mumbled excuse about how busy they are.

Last year when my husband and I agreed to lead a Houston 1:8 site for the 3rd year, we hesitated.  We counted the days and knew that I would be 36 weeks pregnant.  Yes, that's right.  36 weeks pregnant, outside, in the Houston heat and humidity.

But we talk a big game, and we felt certain that this was a turning point where we could practice what we preach, or melt into hypocrisy.

Now, a year later, with a 11 1/2 month old, it's even more challenging.

It's taken a child to teach me that my time is not my own.  It doesn't belong to just me anymore.  My time revolves around meal times and nap times, and I just have less of it in general.

Leave it to an infant to teach me an important theology lesson.  OUR TIME IS NOT OUR OWN.  After all, as Christians, we all believe we are living on borrowed time anyway, right?

So, please don't read this as an indictment.  I hope you read this as an encouragement, to yes, guard your time, but also to recognize that living on God's time might look differently.  I once heard about treating your time as you do your budget.  And let me tell you, if you looked at how my time is divided, you would think that all I care about is my son, food, and social media.  Yikes.

Houston 1:8 is something our family makes time for.  What things does your family take time for?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Questions without answers was it?

Over the past week and a half, I have been asked this question more times than I can even count.  Upon hearing that I have been to Guatemala and back, everyone wants to know how it was.

Beautiful countryside

I have no idea how to answer this question!

Typical farming plantation

How do I sum up a week of God's faithfulness, provision and love?


How could I possibly describe the beautiful sights, sounds and smells that surrounded me that week?

Anyone need a ride?

How could I possibly explain that the same people that are considered the poorest of the poor, are also some of the friendliest, most generous, most loving people I have ever met?

Typical Guatemala working woman

How could I possibly explain that the same country that makes my heart smile, also makes my heart sad?

Typical Guatemalan village

How do I possibly describe the beautiful simplicity to people who have so much, yet constantly crave more?

Our "private exam room" at one of our clinics

I don't think it's socially acceptable to answer a simple question with an hour-long response, so I have opted for the simple, "It was good."

Beautiful scenery
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so hopefully these pictures will totally encompass everything I've been thinking and feeling about Guatemala.

Beautiful view of Antigua

 Still...I'm overwhelmed.