Monday, June 28, 2010


With the biggest event in GABC history, life at work and outside of work is stressful to say the least. We are now in the final days of preparation with little details surfacing, last minute to do lists, and tons of emails. It is so easy to get bogged down with the actual event and forget that life is about people. Today as I found my frustration rising due to an ever-growing list of things to do, I received news that a dear friend lost her mom suddenly.

My heart dropped. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes and my throat just would not allow me to talk. I immediately called a couple of Missy's close friends to tell them of the news. I started to think Surely Jim was wrong. There is no way her mother could be dead. Missy is my age. Her mom is my mom's age. This cannot be real. Maybe he heard it wrong. Maybe she was just in the hospital. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Deep down I knew those maybes were just that: maybes. But the truth of it is my sweet friend lost her mother today. It was completely unexpected; not that loss changes when you are expecting it or not. I cannot imagine how she is feeling. I cannot tell her I understand. I cannot offer any words of comfort. Reality is she will never get to talk with her mom again. She won't get to laugh with her, tell her stories, or share life with her.

I spent some time with a friend this afternoon as we made calls and just talked in between. It is so hard to process. It could be any one of us right now. Those words are so hard to write but they are so true. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We are not guaranteed our next breath.

My heart sank even more when I realized I had lost perspective in the last few weeks, months, etc. I began to focus on the tasks and not the people. I walked into my parent's house tonight and everyone was there. The three girls were playing on the kitchen floor. My mom, sister and sister in law were talking while they played. My dad, brother and grandma sat in the living room and watched a baseball game. Luke showed up a few minutes later. They were all there.

I watched my mom and fought back tears. Her love for each one of us and her granddaughters is amazing. She has taught us how to give, how to love, and how to care for others. Emily loves to be her little helper. Allison loves to see her "ma-maw" and gets giddy if you tell her Grandma is coming to see her. Madelyn Kate lights up when she sees her and will not go to anyone else when being held by Grandma.

My mom is my best friend. I call her four or five times a day, if not more. Even during those years of being a crazy teenager, I was the recipient of her unconditional love. She is there for each of us in a way that only a mom can be. Her love for others has taught me so much about life. Her love for us has taught me about the mother I want to be one day. I cannot imagine life without her. I cannot imagine not knowing she is just a phone call away or a short drive over to her house. I cannot imagine not having our crazy laugh fests that tend to happen when you place me, Kathryn and mom in a room together. We can laugh about nothing for hours.

Unfortunately, it often takes difficult situations to teach us the true meaning of love and life. My heart and prayers go out to Missy and her family. As for you and me, I pray that we will call those we love and tell them how much they mean to us. Jesus modeled a life of compassion and care for others. Yes, He understood daily life and to do's but the Gospels are relational, they are about people. He is about people and loving.

Friday, June 25, 2010

1,168 more to go!

It is official. I am crazy. I always have these amazing ideas (usually involving stamps and crafting) and then find myself overwhelmed by the project at hand. This time I found a super cute decoration for water bottles on a friend's blog and thought it would be BRILLIANT to have these on our water bottles at the upcoming Girls Nite Out. Nevermind that we would need one thousand four hundred twenty-four of them. (I wrote out the number for dramatic affect.)

I have spent the better part of the last two days working on them while sitting with my Granny or watching Maddie. The official count tonight is 256, leaving a grand total of 1,168. Needless to say, if you do not see me for the next week, you can pretty much guarantee I am working on these super cute water bottle decorations. Lucky for me I have the World Cup (Go USA!), College World Series (Let's go TCU!!!) and movies (do not ever rent 500 Days of Summer) to keep me entertained while crafting!

Once they are complete and assembled on the bottles (luckily I have a team helping me with that part of the job), I know they will be wonderful. My mom always says, "Presentation is key!"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A New Favorite in Town

Following my recent trip to Houston, I now have a major addiction to frozen yogurt and was thrilled to hear that we have a new yogurt place in town. I was picking up the girls for the evening and we have a tradition that when I get them from school we go get ice cream. So, this was the PERFECT time to try The Orange Leaf.

Emily has always loved oreo blizzards so that was the first thing she was asking for! However, she also found a new favorite: vanilla yogurt with oreos and fruity pebbles. It is hard to believe that she will be in Kindergarten this year!

After a couple of times of Ashleigh joining us for ice cream, the girls automatically think she will be coming with us. The minute I picked them up, they started asking about her. Luckily, she was able to come along for the fun! It was so cute to listen to Alli say her name.

I love being an aunt. I love watching them learn new things. I love how Alli screams a high-pitched squeal in excitement when she sees me at her classroom door. I love that Emily still likes to sit on my lap. I love watching them together and imagining what Kathryn and I must have been like at this age.

Alli was so ready for her ice cream that she was eating it before it was weighed. She was definitely entertaining everyone there.

Emily loves taking pictures. I love making faces. This is what happens when you combine the two.
Yes, Alli is sitting on the table. Yes, Ashleigh is spinning the table. This is what makes it so fun that I am not their mommy. I just laughed. A mom would have to tell them to stop. I think I told them once, but Alli was having so much fun.

I love these girls more than I will ever be able to describe in words. I am thankful for every minute I get to spend with them, every giggle I hear, every discovery I watch them discover.

Now that we have a yogurt place, I wonder when Cafe Metry will come to town...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mama said there'd be days like this...

I woke up very excited about this morning. I had planned to work from home and cheer on the USA with my family. What I did not plan for was a very high stress game and some unforseen things that are just the nature of any job. So, rather than whine about my day and all of my frustrations, I thought I would share a few of the things I learned.

1. These are two of the most precious people I know. They can make any day a good day; no matter what has happened. We had a great time cheering on the USA this morning against Algeria.

2. If you cannot find the right team jersey to wear, it is okay to wear a different one as long as they do not like the team you are playing. I figured wearing my Egyptian jersey would be perfect considering all of Egypt should have been rooting for the USA and NOT Algeria.

3. From now on computers are not allowed to be open during any major sporting event. With just a few minutes left in the game (and we had paused so we were behind), my sister and brother-in-law both got on their computers and then had HUGE grins. They have been excommunicated from the family and banned from any future matches.

4. When printing business cards, it is HIGHLY CRUCIAL to have someone proof and reproof just to make sure all numbers are correct. It was brought to my attention today that I had flipped two numbers making the number completely wrong. At least I did not order that many. The sad thing is that I have had them over a year.

5. There is a reason that Scripture speaks over and over again about wisdom. I am so grateful for our Women's Minister, my mentor & boss, Linda Lesniewski. Today I sought wise counsel from her numerous times and am so grateful that I did. She allowed me to see the bigger picture and to talk through situations that I needed help resolving. Without seeking wise counsel from her, I would have made a fool of myself in one situation and not known what to do on another. I pray that you have someone in your life that you are able to go to for wisdom.

6. I am completely fine with dancing around the house and acting like a complete fool if it means I get to listen to Maddie Kate giggle.

7. The beauty of it all... tomorrow is a new day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chinese Dumplings

My trip to Houston lasted just a tad longer than I had planned originally. Lucky for me I am an overpacker so I was at least prepared. After going to church with Alex, Ash & Cindy, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Chipoltle and a trip to the Bike shop to buy my dad some stuff. Alex had been invited to dinner at a couple's apartment and asked me to join him. While I had planned on spending Father's Day in Tyler this year instead of Egypt, I spent it in Houston with Egyptians and some Chinese friends.

We showed up at Emma's apartment around 4 and were pleasantly surprised to see that WE were all going to cook our meal together. There ended up being 8 of us total and we all joined around the table to roll the Chinese dumplings. We had a blast! I love the idea of us all preparing the food together. It broke the ice and made for lots of laughter. Here is the progression of the meal in pictures!

Alex put the cabbage in a rag and squeeze out all of the water. He was obviously working hard (or he is just a good poser).

The cabbage is added to a bowl that already has some of the other items. I know there was some meat, some ginger, and hmmmmm....
Alberto & Alice were chopping the ginger. They are the sweetest couple!

This is the mixture once it was ready to be stuffed in the dough. I was really unsure of the look at first but I knew it would be tasty.

Emma (0n the right) was our teacher. She started with the "easy" way to roll the dumplings so that we would be able to do it. She definitely laughed a lot as we were learning. I loved her sweet spirit and playfulness as she taught and retaught us how to make them.

And here I am giving it a shot. I did get brave and tried a couple of the harder rolls but for the most part I stuck with the simple way. Alex got pretty good at the whole thing himself.

We forgot to get a group shot so this is as good as it gets!

WOW! We made a TON of dumplings!!!! There were enough for us to eat over 30 each... that did NOT happen.

Alex and Alberto being crAzy!

Once the dumplings are rolled you boil them, add more cold water, boil again, add more water, boil again and I am not sure what else.

Finally, it is time to eat! There were some different sauces to add. Here is Alex trying the first bite. He gave up on the chopsticks. :)

The spread on the table... they just kept coming and coming and coming and coming and coming and coming. They were definitely YUMMY and unlike the typical Chinese food I have ever eaten.

I mastered the chopsticks... I have NEVER been able to use them until now. Of course, I only tried once and then it was back to the plastic spoons.


While I absolutely love the stories that are captured through pictures, there is so much that you cannot see and so much that I cannot share at the time. What I can share is this: God is at work in the hearts and lives of each one that was there. Thanks Alex for allowing me to share in the joy of gathering with new friends!!!
Emma has requested that next time they all get together for Alex to teach them how to make Egyptian food. I smiled.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

THE Negotiator, Bendy Spoons and a wanna be gangsta

Our finer moments include...

1. The Negotiator- No, not the movie. Meet Ash. THE Negotiator. Friday, Ash was in the process of buying a car. Here are the things I learned from him. First, have no shame. When I say no shame, I mean NO SHAME... at all. Second, when bargaining, offering a $50 coupon to the ER is acceptable. Third, if that does not work, offer anything else you have lying around your house that you think they may want. Fourth, pulling into a very wealthy gated community with 3 Egyptians, 1 African American, and me will cause the security guard to be suspicious. Therefore, he called the Yang family first. Fifth, you will no longer be a "brother" if you offer them $2,000 below their asking price.
2. Berripop- The MOST amAAAAzing yogurt shop ever. We went twice over the weekend. They even have very masculine bumper stickers, i mean tattoos. This is now Cindy's favorite place to eat her snack and a lighter option than ice cream.
... they have the cutest "bendy" spoons!!!! I think they would be perfect for a party.

3. Alex will never be a gangster. I know, this is very hard to believe. The picture speaks for itself!

4. Swagger Wagons & signs... deep down Ash REALLY wanted a minivan (aka. swagger waggon). However, he ended up with a 2002 Honda Accord and still has his coupon to the ER.

5. I know I am missing something... we have laughed and laughed and laughed!!!!

Egyptians make my Heart Happy!!!

Hanging out with friends makes my heart happy. Last summer while I was in Egypt, I had the privilege of meeting and spending time with a team from the Houston area (about 3 hours away from my hometown). They are Egyptians that moved to Texas for school and such. After our time there, I said I would have to come down to visit. However, I am really bad about just making a point to go.

Last week Alex came to Tyler for a couple of meetings and we spent about 30 or 45 minutes catching up. It was so nice. Nice to sit and talk with someone from Egypt. Nice to talk with someone that is seeking and serving God with all of his heart. Nice to just chat. The connection I share with people from my time in Egypt and South Africa is something I could never explain in words. There is a connection that goes far beyond just the common friendship. It is as though my heart comes alive when I talk with someone that shares that bond.

His brother Ash has been trying to get me to come down and meet his wife Cindy (she was not with them last summer). After Alex left, I knew I just needed to go for many reasons. One: I have been saying I would come since I returned home. Two: I really wanted to meet and spend time with Cindy. Three: I needed some time away from the hustle and bustle. And the list could go on and on and on and on and on.

So, Thursday afternoon I hit the road and was in their driveway by 615.

I knew the weekend would be fun. However, I never could have expected how great this time has been. We have laughed uncontrollably for reasons to be shared later, shared what God is doing in each of our lives, eaten some amazing food, watched lots of football (the worldwide kind), and I personally have been so encouraged. I love the type of friends that can just sit around and discuss God's moving in our hearts and lives so naturally. I love that we share the common bond of Egypt. More than that, I love the depth of the bond that we share because of Jesus.

Before I left for South Africa, I really felt that I would be spending longer amounts of time in Egypt serving. However, God worked in my heart in a way that I was not ready for or did not want to face while at ALICT. It was there that I knew God was calling me home. My heart honestly was broken, not because I do not like living in the US or did not want to come home to be with family and friends, but because my heart connected with the Egyptian people. They have a love and hospitality that made me come alive. So, to come home and be able to have that connection with people close is so nice. I wish that my words could explain it but they cannot.

I am so grateful for the path that God has placed me on and the path He continues to lead me down. God knows just what our hearts need. He knows who we are better than we will ever know ourselves. He knows that the connection I share with Egyptians is one that is built upon Him. I love that He allowed me to have a part of Egypt here. My life has been so enriched and blessed.

From the minute I walked in the door Thursday evening til now where I am sitting on the couch watching the Brazilian game while they nap, I have felt completely at home. I know why Ash has been begging me to come meet Cindy... she is just precious and loves Jesus... and is going to be a mommy very soon!!! Alex and I spent sometime with another couple that was with the Houston team in Egypt Thursday night and we had such a great time... minus the Celtics losing in the final minutes. The rest of the time has been spent just spending time together. I am sooooooooo thankful for their friendships and presence in my life. Alex, Ash and Cindy... THANK YOU!!!!

For the lighter side of things... wait for the future post... it will have our finer moments!

My prayer is that as you read this post, that you have people that your heart has connected with in a similar way... in a way that can only be explained by the love and bond that we experience in Jesus. If you do not, my prayer is that God would bless you in a way that He has blessed me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This Time Last Year...

I had been in Egypt for one week.

I was living in a flat (apartment) on the fourth floor with NO air conditioning.
I had a cat. I hate cats. with a passion.

I missed my family and friends like crazy (and was VERY thankful for Skype).

I had listened to my Bunny Emmy say "I love you Aunt Rachel" approximately 1,327 times.

I was SO grateful for Kristen, a girl from Tennessee, that was also serving with the Sports Team... we are now amazing friends.
I had no idea what the following six months would hold for me or my family.

I had never heard of ALICT.

I had never imagined I would be going to South Africa. ever.

I was not prepared for what God had planned. (are we ever?)

It is hard to believe that I have been home for almost seven months now. The last few days I have been able to talk with a few friends on Skype. It has been so wonderful to reflect on the journey, laugh as we re-live memories, and share what God is doing in our lives now.

The friendships that were formed during my time in Egypt and South Africa are more than just friendships. They are family. These are the people that I spent everyday with while I was away from home. They prayed for my sister as she was put on bed rest and then for Madelyn as she fought to breath the first couple of weeks of her life. We shared so much together and will forever remain connected because of the bond of Christ.

I am grateful for the journey and look forward to what God is doing each and every day through their lives. To say that God is good seems like such an understatement. Thankfully, His definition of good makes my definition of good look awful.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Only 3 more to go

The only reason I am writing a blog right now is because I am avoiding writing devotions for Wednesday through Friday. Our Women's Ministry has a website with daily devotions ( I am the one that uploads the devotions each week. I am also on the writing rotation. Saturday morning I realized that no one had emailed their devotions to me. I checked the schedule to see who should be sending them in via email.

Dang it.

It was me.

Hmmm... Saturday I was not feeling so great and could not think straight so I did not write. Sunday during the day I hung out with college students most of the afternoon. Sunday evening I was able to write one devotion. Yes, one out of five.

That means Monday was covered.

Dang it.

Tuesday is tomorrow.

After about an hour with my computer and Bible, Tuesday was written. Now, I just need 3 more. I can do this. I just need to get off blogger.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day of Caring

Friday, June 11 marked the 17th Annual United Way Day of Caring in East Texas. I could not believe this was the first time I had ever heard of this service project. Hundreds of volunteers (around 470 this year... up from 340 last year) gathered together to complete various work projects at 39 non-profit organizations around Tyler. Kathryn heard about the Day of Caring on the news and I immediately new this was something I wanted to participate in. After returning home from South Africa, I realized how little impact I was making in my own community. Sure I do plenty of things within the church walls, but rarely get outside of the church to help. My heart deeply desires to be in the community with the people. So, I put out a notice on facebook and gathered a team to be part of this day of service. After reviewing the list of projects, I came across the "Sisters in Christ" organization. Because I work for the Women's Ministry I have heard of this organization, but had never been there to learn about the people and the project. I never could have imagined what our day would hold.
Meet Michelle, the backbone of the organization. 8 years ago she had a dream. She operated out of her home for four years and then four years ago moved into a building. They have just recently moved into a larger building that will allow for more ministry to take place. Once you meet her, you will leave inspired. Inspired to dream big. Inspired to help. Inspired to make a difference and trust God to provide along the way. "Sisters in Christ" helps women who have fallen victim to domestic abuse, women who have been incarcerated, and so many more. They offer clothing, a food pantry, and will soon have a computer lab. Our team spent the day helping Michelle and her team get organized. We unpacked boxes of donations, set up a room for men's clothing, stocked the food pantry, cleaning, and moving things into the hall for Salvation Army to pick up. However, it is not the work that left a lasting impact on my heart but the stories I heard throughout the day and new memories that will forever be part of my life.
Shortly after I posted the plea on facebook for help, Lindsey said she was ready to help. Many of you know Lindsey and her journey ( the past few years with breast cancer... twice. She has impacted more people than we will ever know by her blog that offers encouragement, inspiration, challenge, and transparency. She has shared her journey with us all through the tears, laughter, fear, sickness, and changes in lifestyle. Yet, with all that she has been through and still battles daily, she chose to give an entire day to come help. Lindsey, thank you for showing us that no matter what you face in life, serving others is what we are called to do. I love you dearly and LOVED our time together Friday.

Then there is Melondy, a beautiful woman whose joy in life radiated from within. She immediately connected with our group and became a friend for life!
Whitley, one of the college students at GABC, who loves Jesus and loves to serve. To see such a desire to serve at her age makes my heart happy.

Cody's new amigo... oh gosh... to listen to these two try to understand each other was hilarious. They had a great time together. One thing is for sure... the love of Jesus is not stopped by languages.
To say that our team had a great day is an understatement. There is nothing that compares to building new friendships, strengthening old ones, and serving others. We will forever have inside jokes to share, memories of trying on different clothes we found, and the unity that comes when you simply get outside of yourself and help someone else. Thank you United Way for such a great day!!!!

I am already looking forward to next year, but thankful that I do not have to wait until then to serve others and show care.

ALICT 2009

ALICT 2009
27 students... 24 nations... 3 months in South Africa


Closing Ceremony

Closing Ceremony
The Joy is in the Journey



It's just juice