Help me see that I’m blind.

I read in Luke 18 a few days ago and have been thinking about it off and on ever since. I’ve been asking God to not let me miss what He wants to teach me in the truths He offers there.

Luke 18 introduces us to two men, two very different men.

The first is a rich young ruler. “A ruler questioned Jesus, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’
But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

We who are extremely rich (which is likely everyone reading this right now) are in danger of somehow thinking all of life is all about us somehow—even eternal life. What can I do to inherit eternal life? What ministries should I give to? What church should I attend? I mean, somehow there is something I can do to help myself gain eternal life…I already do so much, as a matter of fact! I don’t cheat on my husband. I haven’t killed anyone. I don’t steal things…I mean, why would I? I can buy anything I need and most of what I want. I don’t lie, and I love my mom and dad. What more could I possibly do? I think the young ruler thought he was already doing everything he could possibly do to inherit eternal life. He just kind of wanted to hear it from the “Good Teacher’s” mouth.
But Jesus shoots straight for the heart, doesn’t he? He reminds this man that not his wallet nor his list of good things earns him eternal life.

Right here I wonder if maybe a lesson on this topic could have helped the guy—a flannel board story? A little parable, maybe? Like, did Jesus have to go straight to “sell all you own and give it all to the poor and then come follow Me” ? Evidently, He did need to go straight to that. He shoots for the heart. He loved this young rich kid very much and wanted him to let go of all he was holding up to God for approval and find that Jesus already did everything for him. But our stuff blinds us. We hold on to our stuff because so many times our stuff defines us—we think. Our stuff comforts us—temporarily. Our stuff is fun—for a season.

But our stuff is dangerous. We are so full of our stuff that we don’t even see our need for Jesus. We operate in life as if it all depends on us. Instead of raising our empty hands to praise God, we drop them in sadness and walk away from following God. Our hands are just too full for what He has to offer.

And then there is the second man— Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. He didn’t ask any properly worded questions to the “Good Teacher.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18 tells us that Jesus asked for Bartimaeus to be brought to Him, and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Wow! What a question from the Lord!! Some times we are quick to say (especially after reading about the sad young rich man) that the Lord isn’t concerned about our comforts or what makes us happy. And I get that line of thinking. He does want our hearts right with Him more than our physical desires fulfilled. HOWEVER, He does care about our wants. He loves us. He loved this man so much that He asked him “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Well, duh! Didn’t he know the man wanted to see? Probably so. But Jesus wanted the man to come near, and he did. Jesus wanted to hear him ask, and he did. To hear his faith come out in words. And I want to come near to Jesus and pray with much faith and ask of the Lord things that only He can do. I want to hear my faith expressed in words to my heavenly Father who asks me, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Wow. What an example this blind man is for me.
He was blind, which made knowing his need very evident. He didn’t have a large bank account to go to for help. He had no stuff to speak of…he was a blind beggar.
And so am I. My stuff can sometimes make it hard for me to see my need of Jesus. But I am just a blind beggar, in need of a touch from My Savior. Every. single. day.
I want to go with Jesus, glorifying God and causing others to see His work in my life and praise God….instead of going away sad and alone with my stuff.

How about you? Do you see yourself in the rich young ruler? Is your stuff blinding you to your true need for Jesus’ touch? Are your hands just too full of temporary things to hold onto the eternal?
Do you want to be like the blind beggar? Painfully aware of your need for a touch from Jesus and desperate enough to cry out to Him no matter what? With faith to ask of God what you want? To walk with God and bring great glory to His name?

Lord, help me see that I am blind. I need a touch from You. I want a touch from You. Help me live open-handed before You. I don’t want all of my material blessings to fill me. I want YOU to fill me.

Sometimes you need a “moment”

I’ve needed a “moment” quite regularly lately.  So much so that Molly has adopted this saying…”I feel a break down coming on.”  A-hem.  I have no idea who she picked that up from!

Anyway, tonight Josh took the kids out of the house (which is totally weird on a Saturday night…we are usually right here in the house, in the bed at this hour each Saturday night of the past 15 years, give or take a few, because of Sunday School responsibilities), so I did some rearranging to get a little more organized for the move.  And with all the quietness around here, the empty school room prompted my need for a “moment.”

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These doors have led into and out of the school room for many years.  Not every bit of learning happened in this little room, but much of it did!  Before it was a school room it was a play room for the little toddlers that overtook our home for a few years.

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Boy, oh boy, I remember them at this age like it was yesterday!  Pajama days happened way more often than I am willing to admit.  But we were surviving, people.  Surviving the crazy.  And I am so thankful I was here for all of it.

I remember the year we put this pitiful tree in the play room so that the kids could put their home made decorations on it.  I mean, they could get overlooked if they were on my tree in the living room.

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Looks like another pajama day.  They were singing “O Christmas Tree.”

Schooling the kids at home is not easy.  I do enjoy it, and I know I am supposed to do it this way.  But it comes with its challenges.  I told the kids that starting in a few weeks they are going to get flashbacks from the book MISS NELSON IS MISSING.  They are going to wonder where their laid back, patient Mama went.  I am ready to whip these children into shape.  We must get back into our routine!!!  I can’t take limbo very much longer.  And if one more kid huffs when I suggest reading a book to pass the time, I am going to strangle someone.  Ok, obviously I just had another “moment,” so let me get back to the positive moment I was intending to have.

We have had fun times in this little room.

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That is the solar system all across the back on the room hanging up.  And then that whole wall on the right was filled with art work and charts and test schedules.  And now it is all gone.  Boo-hoo.

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Learning sight words in Snow White heels…whatever it takes!

And then I found this precious memory of Mack learning to read in our little school room.

When he asks “Can you send it to Dad?”  Oh, be still my heart.

We won’t be schooling in this school room here on Towey Trail, but, wow, we’ve made some memories here. Lots of learning, growing, stretching, and enduring…for them and for me…throughout our time here.  I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world.  There are moments I doubt this path the Lord has us on with home schooling, but looking back and having all these memories in my heart of time together, I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world.  It gives me encouragement to press on and give these next nine or so years all I have in educating the kids and maximizing the time the Lord gives us together!  It really does go by so fast.

Catching up a little

Lots going on around here, and yet it seems like nothing is going on.

We are buying a house, selling our house, doing little repairs, scheduling final dinners and ice cream dates with friends, going through drawers and cabinets and making donations to whomever will take what we no longer need!  And yet, we are doing no school, nothing extremely productive in the way I think about being productive. We are moving towards a goal–get to Charlotte and get settled before Josh starts his new job.  But these day to day little things we are doing or not doing make this process feel like it is moving at a snail’s pace.  I know, I know.  It’s not going slow.  But it can still feel like that time from time to time.

So let me take a little moment to record some of what we have done lately.

Sold a house, bought a house.  Yippee!

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I’m kind of hoping I never have to move again….but I suppose one should never say never.

We celebrated Deacon’s first birthday!

I took tons more pictures, but they were taken with Merrilee’s camera while she did all the birthday stuff.  He was so cute and had such a fun party!

As I have been going through so many drawers and cabinets, I have found many old pictures. I love looking at pictures. I was reminded that Molly has always been a handful.

She has always been going through my makeup at all the wrong times, doing all the wrong things with it.

And then there were these sweet faces!

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And this one of Josh and me just a few weeks after being engaged…June 2000.IMG_7275

And I found this sweet picture of Josh’s mom and dad.  Sure do miss her!

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We have about a week left here in Woodstock.  So weird to think about that!!  But also extremely excited to get to Charlotte and get settled in our new place!  And super-excited to get started with schooling the kids.  I am sure they are just as excited about that as I am!

 

 

 

It’s about the people, y’all

Oh me, oh my.  Where to start?  Where to start?

I have written several blogs in my mind over the past several weeks, yet nothing seems adequate to express all that is going on in our lives, so I think I will try bite-size pieces and just start typing and see where this goes.

Three Sundays ago Josh announced to our Sunday School class (of 14+ years!) that we would be moving to North Carolina for a new job (more on the job another time…don’t want to get ahead of myself, but suffice it to say that the Lord opened a door for us and we have been hanging on to our hats ever since…what a whirlwind!).

BUT, the Sunday that Josh announced we would be moving was a tough morning.  I felt like I was getting ready for a funeral that morning.  This class has been a part of our life in some way, shape or form for most of our married life, so stopping is just plain weird. Josh cried pretty much the whole 45 minutes while he tried to tell the class all that has been going on in our lives, and yet no one knew exactly why we were going to move to North Carolina at the end of class.  Hilarious.  He was focused on letting them know how we arrived at this place and how God had been guiding us in such personal ways. It was a good morning, but a hard one for Josh and me.

The next Sunday Josh taught his last lesson and gave the class a word of warning, a word of encouragement, a word of challenge and a word of thankfulness.  He made it through with just a few tears at the end.  I was sitting there listening and watching and was looking right at him when he closed his Bible on the podium.  That moment made an imprint on my heart. He won’t be teaching in that room, at that podium, to those amazing friends anymore.  The Lord is moving us on with Him, and we want to keep in step.

Last night we had a going away drop-in at The Dutton’s house, which was only appropriate.  They have been in our class since Day One.  Yep, Day One.  And they have been so faithful!  And such good friends!  We loved being in their home and getting to see all of our friends in a relaxed environment and spending time catching up with one another. Here is a picture I will treasure forever:

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There are many sweet families not in the picture that mean the world to us;  this picture represent some of the greatest relationships we have.  Beautiful families that have shown my family such kindness and generosity over the years.  Their love and encouragement have been such a blessing in my life.  Young couples. Older couples and many in between.  We have celebrated babies being born, new houses, salvations, baptisms, new jobs, adoptions and more.  We have also carried each others burdens like losing a job, losing a baby, loss of a house, rebellious children, cancer, loss of a sibling or parent, and other challenges to every day life like broken legs or an overwhelmed pregnant mom who needs help, car trouble, learning disabilities, …”fake” heart attacks even make the list.

The people.  That is what I will miss the most from my years here at Woodstock.  Oh, we will be leaving all that is familiar to us and a comfortable and fairly predictable life, but we are more than ok with that.  We will get familiar with our new city and new life there, but these people in particular will be greatly missed.  They are what have made our time here so rich.  Those relationships that cannot be replaced.  I was pregnant at the same time as many of these ladies in the picture.  We bonded over crazy hormones and sleepless nights stories.  You can’t re-create that!    I know the Lord will bring new friends in my life in this season, and they will be just what our family needs.  I am not worried about that one bit. But I do just want to take a minute to say WOW!!!!!!  I have some amazing friends here in Woodstock.  I am taking stock of what makes it sad to leave a place and it’s the people, y’all.  What have I invested in the people around me?  What have they invested in me?  It’s not easy to pull up a tree that has deep, strong roots.  It takes effort and work and there is some untangling to do.

That’s what we are experiencing.  It’s definitely clear that it is time for our family to pick up our roots and plant them in Charlotte.  But it is taking some effort, some work and planning and there is some untangling going on.  We’ve been invested here.  Roots have gone deep here with people we have grown to love like family.  What life day-in and day-out will be like without them right up the street remains to be seen, but for now let’s just say we feel overwhelmingly blessed by the friends the Lord has given to us here.

This morning was our FOR REAL last Sunday in class.  They used this time for food and hanging out and some fun stories about Josh over the years.  Some appropriate for a group setting and some not.  But that’s ok–we leave soon.

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The many hair-dos Josh has been given by our talented friend, Guy, were shown in large print outs.

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A fun memory of a Masters Golf party was shared, and we were given the Green Jacket to keep forever.

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Marc shared a funny story from 15 years ago!

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This shirt made an appearance in 2009, I think, at a Christmas party.  It was good to see it again.

And then there was this amazing gift given to me!

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How perfect is that?!?  I absolutely love it and cannot wait to see where to put it in our home.  North Carolina and Georgia overlapping with a heart in Woodstock and Charlotte.  Love, love, love!!!!

Josh’s gift was also perfect for him.  He talks a lot about Matthew 11: 28-30—about the invitation God gives us to yoke with Him.  It has been instrumental in our prayers over the last few months as Josh challenged us not to get ahead or to fall behind, but to keep in step with our Father.  It means so much to Josh that the class thought to choose this as his gift.  It will have a special place in our home forever as a tangible reminder of God’s Truth and a reminder of these fabulous friends!  We want to continue to keep in step with the Lord, and we want all of them to do the same!

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They prayed for us.

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It’s the people, y’all.

And then there was this picture of Mack’s class and one of a good friend of his in his class that was sent to me….

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Oh, the people.

And then this row of girls that sit together week after week….

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The people! Precious, precious people.

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This sweet lady represents the Elementary Department!  Denise leads an amazing team that has helped encourage my children in The Lord and His ways.  We are grateful for all the Sundays we showed up with our children and they were met by loving, kind teachers that had prepared for them.  What a huge blessing!

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And these two cuties above dressed like twinsies and didn’t even plan it.  I love the bond they share!

So again, let me just say– It’s about the people, y’all.  We haven’t been perfect friends or perfect Sunday School teachers (that goes without saying!), but over the years we have been blessed by so many people in so many ways.  Words could never suffice, but I am so thankful for the people God placed in our lives here in Woodstock.  We are better for it!

Edisto 2016

Several weeks ago our family took some time off and went to the beach.  It was a nice, relaxing time.  None of my family likes the beach as much as I do, so that was sad, but at least I had time alone on the beach.🙂

Things are kind of busy around here, so there won’t be much commentary on the pics.

Molly brought my Nikon camera and took some of her owns shots.  Here they are:

We enjoyed the time in the sun!  And with my parents for a couple of those days.  If you’re interested in a very laid back, non-crowded beach, Edisto is the place for you.

Africa: Part IV

This post should cover the last part of our trip.  The part where Mack was eating dinner and said, “Oh my!  Have I died and gone to heaven?”  The food during most of our stay wasn’t his favorite and a few days he survived on apple sauce given to him by one of our fellow-sojourners.  And french fries.  There seemed to be potatoes at every meal.  But of course, he survived just fine!  It made him that much more appreciative of the resort meals.

We stayed at Kichwa Timbo.  It was super-nice!  The bed was so plush and clean.  The showers were hot!  They had a blowdryer in the room!  They delivered coffee and cookies to your room when you told them to in the morning.  Ah-maz-ing.  I enjoyed the ride into the safari resort.  I enjoyed an evening drive out to see animals, and I also very much enjoyed opting out of the morning safari drive.  The room was just too good to leave!  No lion or tiger or elephant could have lured me out.  Besides, I had a front row seat to a monkey at my room and a warthog laying in the sun at breakfast.  That was enough adventure for me.

Here are some of the pictures from Josh’s phone. He and the kids went to the border of Kenya and Tanzania on the morning I stayed in. They saw the wildebeest migration. Pretty cool!

So obviously, it is clear why Mack might have thought he had gone to heaven at this place! It was nice.  Really nice.  An unexpected way to end an unforgettable trip.   Until next time, Africa!

Africa: Part III

The next morning we took a few small plane rides to leave Kenya and enter Uganda. Mack enjoyed this experience the most out of all of us.  I had never ridden in a 9 passenger plane before; it was neat to see the land below the whole time we flew.  We took off and landed in the most interesting places.  This first take-off couldn’t happen until Pastor Simon got the donkeys to move off the runway.

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At one of the airports we ate pizza–a welcome change to our diet of potatoes, rice and chicken.  When we landed in Uganda, we met some people on the air strip that lived nearby.  Some of the kids in the group had never met a white person.  It was such a blessing to give away the dolls and blankets Molly and I had made.  I also threw a pair of pants in my bag of things to give away because Mack had put them on that morning and they were too little for him.  The Mama of the boy that I gave them to hugged me and said, “Mama!!!”  It was a sweet little bond between Mamas.  We all want good things for our kids.  They have such an appreciation for the necessities.  It was a humbling exchange, and I am so glad I got to meet these people.

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In Uganda we stayed at The Jesse Hotel.  We met back up with Pastor Soston and his wife, Veronica.  They are refugees from Sudan and have quite the community in Uganda.  I was prepared for chaos at my first visit to a refugee camp, but these people were amazingly organized.  They seem to work together well and live with grateful hearts despite such a very hard existence.

Molly played around with making boomerang videos with the kids, which they seemed to think was so funny.

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We rode a good ways to get to the camp and passed by many small communities.  There were water pumps along the way.  Small kids were filling water jugs to carry back to their home. We also saw Samaritan’s Purse World Food Distribution Center, which was amazing.IMG_6684IMG_6687IMG_6849IMG_6692IMG_6693IMG_6698IMG_6699IMG_6701IMG_6704IMG_6714IMG_6724IMG_6728IMG_6730IMG_6731IMG_6734

They welcomed us with dancing and singing!  Africans know how to celebrate people.

I will not be the same after the time I spent with them.  And I don’t know why, but the Lord has made a special place in my heart for Veronica.  I will pray for her as she leads alongside her husband.  I hope you will pray for her, too.IMG_6848IMG_6743IMG_6747

The picture above shows their bathrooms.

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Above is Pastor Soston telling us about the food they are growing!  He was so proud of what they are doing and very grateful for any help that With Open Eyes has given along the way.

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This is their irrigation system that was put in with the help of some people from With Open Eyes.  It reminded me of a statement I learned in a Beth Moore bible study many years ago: “Sow the Word of God into the reality of your circumstances.”  I believe the Lord has helped me to do just that over the past five years or so, and He has given much fruit!  Many times the ground was hard and was made soft by tears and hard work.  Other times the Lord gave energy and vitality so that the work of day to day life didn’t seem burdensome at all and the Word of God made me glad. No matter what the circumstances of life, we must sow His Word into the reality of where we are and watch Him bring the fruit!  It’s a work only He can do, but there is a part for us to play! Sow the Word!IMG_6759IMG_6760

With Open Eyes brought shoes and soccer balls and beach balls and other games for the kids.  They also brought soccer jerseys and shorts, and we got to watch them play a game of soccer.IMG_6765

I had the honor of praying for these ladies in my prayer group.  Many of them don’t have their husbands with them and life is difficult. They worry about providing for their children.  They need money to send them to school.  Pray for these ladies to know the peace of God and the provision of God.IMG_6767IMG_6772IMG_6773

We couldn’t believe it, but these precious people had cooked for us!  I was so humbled that they would take from what they could have eaten and share it with us. We were careful with what we chose to eat, but we were thankful and amazed that they would share with us.IMG_6779IMG_6847IMG_6781IMG_6785IMG_6786IMG_6788IMG_6789IMG_6794

We did a little skit about The Good Samaritan.  Mack was the poor guy who got beat up and left for dead.  I passed him by.  Molly passed him by.  Ruby helped him, and Josh Trammell was the donkey he rode on. IMG_6831IMG_6832IMG_6834

We left the refugee camp with full hearts and went back to clean up and eat dinner.  We would leave the next morning for Masai Mara, a safari hotel where we stayed one night.  Josh has most of those pictures on his phone, but I will add them to Part IV soon.  Thanks for taking the time to look at our pictures and read my little commentary.  I wish each of you could have come with us!  An unforgettable trip, that is for sure!

Africa: Part II

We rode in buses from Brackenhurst to get to Namanga. So much to see as we drove down the streets.

We arrived at our hotel and unloaded all of our stuff.

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This picture above shows a happy family.  And we were happy.  But something would happen every night….and it wasn’t pretty.  I don’t know if it was the bathrooms or the lack of good sleep or having to keep our family of five’s stuff organized, but I fell apart most every evening in some way, shape or form.  Josh wasn’t exactly chipper every second of the evenings either.  The kids each had their moment of “losing it” as well.  Thank the Lord for His grace and love for us…and how He enables us to show grace and love towards others.  We all needed much grace and much love during this trip!  But we made it through all the ups and downs with experiences we will never forget!

We went to Pastor Simon and Mrs. Agnes’ house.  This was a great time.  Frank and Jan’s son, James, was super-close with this family and wanted to build a home behind their home, which he had started to do before he became very sick and died in Africa.  The Harrisons finished what James had started and now the home is used as a guest house for many different people that come to visit Pastor Simon and Agnes.  I enjoyed talking to James’ sister about him and what she misses most about him while we were there.  His death was not in vain, that is for sure.  God has used it to heighten awareness of the needs in this area of Africa in ways only He can!

We took a walk up “Prayer Mountain” and spent time praying together and for the city of Namanga.  A great experience up there!

 

 

We visited a Masai Tribe, which was INCREDIBLE.  The church service was amazing.  They really know how to celebrate!  I enjoyed every bit of being with these people.

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This tribe lives in dung huts.  We went inside one…it is very small and very dark.  Goats were in the one I went inside.  Josh told me that I didn’t notice at the time but he saw the goats pee extremely close to my foot.  I had already been standing in a cow poop field, so what’s a little goat pee?

We spent the night in Namanga again and then got up the next morning to make our way to Namanga Baptist Church.  The kids and I got to help in the Sunday School Class for the children before joining the rest of the group in the church service.  It was quite a different experience from church here in Woodstock, GA.  I enjoyed it very much.

 

What a morning!  It was lovely being with this church in Namanga. We drove back to our hotel for lunch and then the ladies went shopping while the men went on a hike.

 

A full, wonderful day!  There’s more, so stay tuned for Part III….

Africa 2016: Part I

All trips start and end with laundry for mamas!  This trip was no exception. So while I am waiting on clothes to be washed and dried, I will try to post some pictures of the trip.

We had an amazing time in Africa.  Saw so much, experienced so much…..can hardly wrap my head around all of it.  Hoping as I post pictures on the blog I can process some of it.

We made it through the two flights and landed in Nairobi, Kenya where we boarded a bus and headed to our first hotel to try and rest.

We woke up to a rainy day and went to an elephant orphanage and then to a park where we got close with giraffes.

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We ate lunch and continued our journey to Brakenhurst, Kenya where a conference was held by With Open Eyes.  Pastor Johnny taught the ministers and many other people encouraged them through teaching and music and gifts.

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We got in small groups and were able to pray for these ladies who live in different parts of Africa.  The life they lead is more challenging than I can even begin to fathom.  It was an honor to pray for them.

One afternoon we went to a local bead and pottery shop.  This lady with Molly and Ruby has been working and making beads longer than anyone else in the shop.

We traveled from the bead shop towards a glass making store, but the road was not passable, so they sent us a different way where we ended up needing to walk a while to get to the store.  However, the walk was out in the middle of nowhere and then we were supposed to cross over a bridge… I never actually saw the bridge with my own eyes because  I wasn’t going to climb down the cliff to get there.  It was interesting to say the least.  I believe Denise said it best when she said, “I believe this is the dumbest decision I have ever made.”  hahahaa!  Glad we didn’t run into any animals out on our walk.

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Mack led us back to the bus…dodging ants and piles of poop and puddles of water.

We warmed up for a bit and tried to dry our shoes out, finished up the conference and went to dinner before sleeping one more night and heading to Namanga, Kenya for more adventures!

It was such a joy to watch the kids participate on this trip….particularly Ruby.  She was very engaged during the conference and quite observant during all of the time there.  Thankful for all they got to see and hear.  No doubt it will stay with them forever!

More to come!