Monday, January 31, 2011

A Little Field Trip

Last week, Isaiah, Laila, and I went on a little visit to our friends, the Cressmans. It is always a treat to go there. Sue and John have lots of exciting things and they know how to love and serve like no other. This day was no exception.

Our time started with some love for Sally, the dog
Then, it was off to the chicken coop to feed the chickens and gather some eggs. Isaiah was into every minute of this process and participated fully. Laila took more of a passive role and observed it all.
Isaiah is excited, but also a bit hesitant at first
With Mrs. Sue's help, he got right in there with the chickens
throwing them food and watching them go for it.
He felt very powerful when Sue told him he could shoo them away with his bowl!
The chickens finally got tired of him bossing them around so they decided to go inside.
Laila's chicken impression.
It is so much better in real life with the sound effects!
The egg
Gathering the eggs
How exciting, 4 eggs!!
Then, we came in and cooked them.
Isaiah was the boss of the kitchen and Sue is nice enough to let him do that.
The Grand Finale:
Eating his eggs
Laila had some, too!
The kids had a blast!! As we drove away, they both were saying, "When can we go to Mrs. Sue's house again?"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thankful, Encouraged, Inspired, Refreshed

We had a very special guest in our home over the weekend. As I look back now, I see God's Hand all over this visit. His timing was perfect.

Pastor Walter, one of the pastors that we work with in Swaziland, came for a visit. I have dreamed about this opportunity. I have prayed that God would work this out some day. And, He did!!!

He arrived late on Friday evening. Riding home from Denver was a great time for Rick and I to catch up with him. I loved hearing his perspectives on American culture. He was right on target with his understanding of it. Rick last saw him in July, and I last saw him April '09 when we were completing our adoption.

The kids were asleep on Friday night, so they did not get to see Walter until Saturday. He joined us in our tradition of Saturday Morning Big Breakfasts!! Each of the kids made part of the meal. He greeted each of them with a big hug.
After breakfast, Rick took Walter around for some CO sightseeing. They went to Garden of the Gods.
Love that smile!!

Later that day, Sam had his first basketball game, and Rick was his coach. Walter got to participate in that with us as well. We watched the team get their first win!! What a way to start the season.
Sam and his dribbling
Rick in his element
We came home for a big dinner together. Then the games began!! All day, Walter had been saying that he wanted the kids to teach him to play "The Game of Life." It was so funny watching them. He and Sam were on a team together. He said that Sam reminded him of his youngest son, Joshua. They are the same age.
Cody won, but Walter and Sam were second!
Next, they played a Swazi game called "Mlabalaba." The only way I know to describe it is "Tic Tac Toe" on steroids. It is played with a game board drawn on a piece of paper and sticks and stones used as playing pieces. The kids were sure that they could beat Walter. He creamed every one of them including Rick.
Speaking of creaming, here he is beating Rick!
It was so refreshing to have Walter in our home. It brought our children even more into our work in Swaziland. It gave them a personal connection that only Cody had before now. He engaged them and invested in them. Isaiah and Laila were THRILLED to have him here. Laila was more "out of her shell" with Walter than I have ever seen her with someone outside of our family. She would hug him and talk to him. Usually she is very quiet and reserved. Isaiah talked to him non-stop all weekend. Walter gave him the nickname "Lasagna" because he is crazy like lasagna noodles.

Sunday morning at church, we had our Swazi trip informational meeting. Who better to share the story than the man who God used to start this whole thing? Walter stood before a group of about 30 people and shared how God called him to the orphans of his community. I sat there crying as I heard him share. He was so inspiring. He said, "When God called me, I was very poor. He called me to give and I did, so much that it hurt." He challenged all of us to sacrifice for God's calling on our lives. That is just what I needed to be reminded of.

Walter in front of the banner with the handprints of the Bhalekane children that hangs in our children's area at church.
I experienced a "full circle" moment in the service as we were walking in, I remembered how as a group of elders' wives we had written Scriptures and prayers on the floor of our auditorium before the carpet was put down. On one of the steps of the stage, I had written, "Swaziland, Africa, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!" I shared that with Walter as we walked in. Then, Kelly brought him up to introduce him to the church. As Walter was speaking, he shared James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Right in the moment that he was saying that verse, I remembered that I had written that verse on the stage very near where he was standing. Once again, a "full circle" moment. God showed me that my prayers that Walter would be at our church had been answered. It truly was an encouraging day.
I don't know what lies ahead for Beyond Survival(our ministry to Swaziland). Rick and I are praying about that right now. I do believe that God used this weekend to show us that our work is not finished. That He wants us to do more. We just need to be faithful and see what is next.
Isaiah kept saying, "I'm squooshed!"
Our friend and brother!!
I am so thankful for this weekend. I am so inspired by Walter. I am so encouraged by what God has done. I am so refreshed by the fellowship of our friend from the other side of the world. It was such an honor and privilege to have him in our home.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Isaiah's 4 Yr. Pics

Isaiah turned 4 in December, so it was time to get some new pictures taken. Let me tell you, it was questionable whether he was going to cooperate. The photographer and I could see him standing there thinking and deciding what he was going to do. Thankfully, he chose to participate. He doesn't do anything halfheartedly. Once he decided, he turned it on, baby! I tell you, I think this kid could be a star someday!

What am I going to do with him? He is exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. He has two volumes: LOUD and ASLEEP. He knows what he wants and is determined to get it. All the qualities of an amazing leader exist in this little boy. Now, if I can just figure out how to hone them, develop them, and direct him in such a way that he leads well when he is older. On somedays, it feels like an insurmountable task. But no matter how it goes, I can't believe he is mine and that God has entrusted him to our family.

Crazy, Zazy, you definitely keep my life interesting. Your passion and energy challenge me every day. I know it is those qualities that got you through your first two years of life, and I believe it is those same qualities that will propel you into the future that God has for you. I love you, my sweet boy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Love Lucy, Too!!

My husband sent this message out to our church today. I wanted to share it with you as well.


It is with great sadness that I let you know that, Lucy, one of the leaders at our Care Point in Swaziland has died. Marcia Borg, one of our partners with AIM has written a great tribute on her blog if you would like to read about Lucy: click here

Lucy was always excited and grateful each time our team from Vanguard came to visit her country. I remember her dancing in front of the kitchen we built when she saw our vehicles pull up to love on them at our care point. I thought you would want to know.

Love ya,
Rick Clapp

My heart is sad for this loss. It will be felt at the carepoint. Lucy was always so loving and kind to us when we visited. She truly displayed an attitude of gratitude. I will always remember her in her head scarves and apron while she swept the kitchen area at the carepoint.

So, today, I mourn the loss of a friend on the other side of the world. I am so thankful God crossed our paths.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Have you ever thought about how important the lenses through which you look are? If you have the wrong prescription in your glasses, it totally changes the outlook. This weekend was a good "eye exam" for me on so many levels.

I realized that I need a new prescription to look through, and God gave me that this weekend. When I look at my life, my home, the things that I have, it seems pretty average to me. I know that there are people with less, but according to America's standards, we are pretty average. There are lots of people who have lots more and may look down on my "stuff." When someone comes into our home, they may see the worn carpet, the scratched walls with marks on them, the dishes that are 17+ years old that don't match the decor of my kitchen, the worn leather furniture, the broken pantry door, etc. Our kids have to share bedrooms(2 to a room). They don't have their own space!! You get the picture. Because I live in America and have all that I do, I tend to focus my lenses on those that have more than me and all the "better" stuff of their lives.

This weekend was a real "eye opener"(pun intended) for me in this area. You see, when there is someone staying in your home that is from a poverty-stricken country, you start to see your stuff differently. I noticed all the food I have stored up in my pantry and my garage shelves. I noticed the 2 fridges and freezers with food. I noticed the boxes of clothes stored in my basement that will be handed down to our younger children. It was hard for me to throw away that bruised, old potato and to keep the water running in the sink while I was rinsing dishes. I thought about how this house has four bedrooms with real beds in each one. We have 2 1/2 bathrooms!!! I cringed as I saw the cereal bowls left half full on the counter after breakfast. It was very humbling and kind of convicting.

So, this weekend, God has given me a new prescription. I am choosing to look and compare my life to those that have less rather than those that have more. It is really the way I think He would have us view things. By doing that, I can be much more thankful for what I have, and hold a much looser grip on those things. There is a really big world out there. As middle-class Americans we are already at the top of the spectrum when compared with the rest of the world. I don't think we have to get rid of everything. God gives us blessings. He wants to bless His children. I think I have an idea of what it feels like to Him when we are ungrateful and selfish with our things because I see that in my own kids sometimes. I want to bless them, but I also desire to teach them what is REALLY important in life.

Today, I have my new glasses on. I think they look pretty snazzy. I hope I remember to wear them every day as a reminder of this weekend and the lenses of my life.
Have you had your eyes examined lately?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What a Weekend!

This has been a powerful weekend for me.

~Really good stuff going on in my heart.

~Many tears, the cleansing, healing kind.

~Many "full circle" moments that have tied up some loose ends in my heart.

I have much to share.

It will take a few blog posts to do it.

I am, oh, so, thankful for God's timing, God's calling, and God's purpose.

He is truly in control.

I always knew it.

Some days it has been the only thing I have had to cling to.

It feels so freeing to see it play out in real life.

I will share more as I process from my heart to written words.

Right now, I just want to bask in God's faithfulness!

Friday, January 21, 2011

40 Days for 40 Years

On Feb. 27th, Rick will turn 40 years old!! Yes, you read that right. I will be married to a 40 year old. That is crazy! Anyway, we are in the midst of 40 days of celebration leading up to Rick's bday. We began on Tuesday, representing the day he was born. His mom wrote a letter to him and sent pictures to give him. It is turning out to be a fun project for the kids and me and lots of other people that are participating.

I will share some photos throughout the month of the highlights of our days. Wed., represented his first year of life. When he was a baby, his family called him "Pooh Bear." So, on Wed., he woke up to Pooh decorations that the kids created along with "Princess First Bday" decorations(leftover from Laila's bday). It was hilarious and the kids loved it.
Rick with his "Good Morning Poster"
This was Lauren's creation
Yesterday, represented the year he was brother was born. He got a surprise gift and card in the mail!! Today we are remembering when he was 3 years old and moved to Germany.

Happy 40 Days, Rick/Daddy!!! We love you!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Our Pancake Chef

Cody made us pancakes to go with our big breakfast on Monday since the we were all home with a day off. It was his first time to do the whole process by himself. He did a great job and at the end, declared himself the "King Pancake Maker" of our house.

I almost didn't post this picture because of the mess in the background. I also knew that Rick would make fun of me because the cabinet door was open in the background. He says I always leave cabinet doors open. Well, now my secret is out. My kitchen is often messy, and I leave the cabinet doors open. (To my credit, there are at least 5 other people in the house that get in those cabinets and leave them open, too.)

As you can see, he was pretty excited about his accomplishment. We had plain and chocolate chip pancakes to go with our bacon, eggs, and hot chocolate. It was delicious and such a treat for all of us to be home for the day together.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our Weekend Away

Since we had a long weekend, we decided to go to the Fort Collins area, Ault to be more exact, to see our friends, the Holcombes. They were a part of our church before they moved out of town. They have one daughter, Claire. Let me tell you, this chick is a people person. Most little ones who are only children would be overwhelmed and frustrated by the invasion of our crew, but not Claire. She loves it and just joins in the chaos.

We arrived Friday night. Once we got everything unloaded, we settled the kids down for bed. On Saturday morning, Brent made french toast for us for breakfast. We ate in shifts at the island so that everyone could have hot, fresh food.
Here is the first shift of eaters
Our wonderful hosts
It felt like we were at a Bed and Breakfast.
They took such good care of us all weekend.
Isaiah and Claire hanging out
We totally relaxed all this weekend. The majority of the time, we had on our jammies. We watched movies, had yummy food, and lounged around. The adults got to talk a lot. The kids played a lot. We slept in and experienced a bit of the rural life.
Brent and Rick looking at the view off the deck
The colorful sunset
On Saturday night, while celebrating Brent's mom's bday, the kids had a dance party!

I am so impressed by Cathy and her skills. She taught me so much. She loves horses, makes so many things from scratch(I am not talking baking here, although she does that too. I am talking things like making her own butter, cheese, buttermilk), she gardens, cans, and is so knowledgeable about health and wellness. I have much to ponder after our time together.

On Sat., Cathy and I snuck away to run some errands. During the process, she took me to the dairy and to a neighbor's horse barn to see the cutest Shetland Pony. I saw pigs, cows, and lots of horses. You see, I am a city girl. I expect I always will be, but I love seeing these things and experiencing them.

Cathy also taught the kids a lot as well. I like to call this next segment "Adventures in Composting!" All weekend, she had her compost container under the sink. We would put our food peelings and leftovers in there. It didn't take long for it to fill up with all of us eating. Then we got see the composting process in each stage.
Cathy leading Lauren, Abby, and Sam to the compost container
Dumping in the food
Mixing it up
When it is done in that container, it goes in this fenced area
When it is all done, it becomes dirt used as fertilizer for the garden!!
Then we got to see the horses
Cathy taught us many things about the horses.
Lauren was the only one brave enough to feed Blaze a carrot
We left after dinner on Sunday night. We arrived home just in time to put everyone to bed. Getting away was so good for us. Having such a drastic change in scenery was definitely therapeutic. Thank you so much Brent, Cathy, and Claire.