Sunday, October 16, 2016


I have done on-line bible studies (OBS) since going on the field more than 10 years ago.  I always loved being involved in bible studies with my home church, or attending Bible Study Fellowship.  However, on the field, it's a bit more challenging.  So, I supplement my daily devotions with an on-line bible study.  Some have been great, some have been challenging, others haven't really "fit" with me, and some have been just down-right perfect.  The one I just completed with Proverbs 31 Ministries was called Uninvited, and was written by Lysa TerKeurst.

The subtitle of the book is Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.  On her dedication page, the author writes this:

"And to anyone who has felt the sting of rejection, grieved the deep loss of a relationship that was there one day and gone the next or questioned whether God has any good plans for you at all...I understand.  God made sure to get these words of hope to you.  He loves you and so do I."

This last season of my life has been one of the most challenging in my adult life.

Uninvited:  the last few years have been one of being uninvited from events, uninvited from participating in activities, and outright excluded.

Less Than:  The rejection I have received recently was...difficult...when people you call friends outright reject you, it is an affront that goes deep.

Left Out: (see Uninvited)

Lonely:  When you are kind of out there on your own, even in the midst of a lot of people, it really is a lonely place to be.  Gratefully, my husband and I have grown together as a couple more and more as the years have gone by, and I am so very grateful that he has chosen this path for us to follow.  I maintain contact with some amazing friends back in the States - but electronic mechanisms of reaching out can only reach so far...the comfort of hanging out on the couch of your BFF and chatting the night away seems so long ago...

So, this book came at a great time.  Some things I highlighted in the book:

1.  "Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what's been said to me."

"God is good.
God is good to me.
God is good at being God.
And today is yet another page in our great love story."

2. "Sometimes the equation is make a friend, try your best with that friend, and things go cold.  Really cold.  People who care more about being right than ending right prove just how wrong they were all along."

"God's love isn't based on me.  It's simply placed on me.  And it's the place from which I should live...loved."

3.  "If their absence was caused by death, you would grieve their loss.  But when their absence is caused by rejection, you not only grieve their loss but you also have to wrestle through the fact that they wanted this.  They chose to cut themselves out."

"Relationships don't come in packages of perfection, relationships come in packages of potential."

4.  "Rejection isn't just an emotional feeling.  It's a message that alters what you believe about yourself.  And the minute you sense that happening is the minute you must stop the run-away thinking with truth."

"You aren't set aside.  You are set apart."

5.  "Remember:  like a lion is drawn to a food source, Satan rushes in where he smells emptiness, deprivation, and rejection."

"Truth is the perfect tranquilizer.  The enemy's power is rendered powerless in the presence of God's promises."

So...there are so many great things in this book, and I pray it can be a blessing to you as well.  And if not to you, that you may glean some truth from it to help others out.  Something I've always told my daughter - that I might not like the way that God brought me to this place in my life, but I can't help but see the wisdom in it.  I certainly would have chosen a very different path to get me here,  but then, I wouldn't be the same person that I am today.  I am a sum of my parts - I am God's creation that he has pounded me, molded me and created in me the person I am today...and I like that person :-)  I like that God uses me in all my circumstances, and that because of my past I am able to help others.

So my OBS is done, and I'm getting ready to start another study...we shall see what I glean from this one :-)

Blessings to you all - and LIVE LOVED!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What do I miss?

This is a question that is often asked of us when we are in the States either for furlough or for a missions conference, or some other reason that takes us there.  It's an interesting question, and a good one.  It really helps me evaluate where I've come from and what my priorities are.

If you asked me the first year in Honduras my response would have been:

Double-stuffed Oreos, salt-and vinegar chips, Round Table pizza, Dolby-stereo movie theaters, steak, 24-hour convenience stores, friends, family

If you asked the same questions 5 years into being in Honduras, things would have changed just a bit.  My focus is less about food, and more about cultural things and people:

24-hour convenience stores, constant electricity, dish washer, friends, family

Now, having been out of country for almost 10 years, here is where I stand, and the way I look at things.  My focus has dramatically changed as to what I truly "miss":

Miss:  Family.  First and foremost.  Both my parents passed away while I was on the mission field.  I feel like I am too young to be an orphan.  My parents were what helped make me into the woman I am today.  I still find myself wondering something, and want to pick up the phone to call one of them...and yet I can't.  My little family has become even smaller.  It's pretty much my brother and myself.  The majority of the rest of my family that I had any relationship with have passed away. My kid.  Man do I miss her.  I KNOW every mom goes through the same thing I am, but it doesn't help this hurting mother's heart - we are a continent away and many time zones away.  So there's no just "dropping" in to see her, or her us, or a phone call whenever...

New:  New family.  People have come into my life that wouldn't otherwise have been there if I hadn't experienced the things I have.  I can "speak" to others from a place of understanding when they are mourning for people they have lost - there is a connection that there otherwise wouldn't have been.  I hate the reason I understand them better, but I know that I can use my hurt to help others who are hurting.  My kid - what is our job as parents?  To raise our kids, and send them off into the world to become productive citizens, God-fearing, and independent - then we know we've done a good job.  So I rest in that, knowing that she loves God, and is figuring out what it is to be an adult - I call that success.

Miss:  People.  This is the all-encompassing.  This includes my BFF's - the people who I could show up at their door, know where their spare key is, let myself in, grab a beer out of the frig, sit on the couch, and they would come back home, see me on the couch, and grab a beer and join me on the couch, and think nothing of me "invading" their home.  Where my deepest thoughts, my hurts, my desires, my anguish, my times to rejoice are spent with them - where I know I am loved unconditionally - that I won't be rejected or turned away because I did something stupid, that they will forgive me, and move on.  If my tongue says something unkind, they call me on it, and we move on.  There have been other "friends" in my life that were not so kind, that turned away if offended, who lashed out - those people I don't miss so much - but the ones that see me through the thick and the thin...yeah...I miss them.  Calling on Skype, a quick chat on Facebook just doesn't take the place of the couch time....yeah...I miss that.

New:  new people, new relationships.  Some are good, some are hard, some just don't work out.  But I am meeting people and cultures I would NEVER have met/experienced if I wasn't somewhere else, in a new place, and hopefully touching lives.

Miss:  English worship.  The more and more time we spend on the mission field, serving in areas where Spanish, or a tribal language is the heart language of the people we serve.  We truly have come to understand the importance of worship in your heart language.  It's the language you dream in, you sing in, you read in that speaks to your heart.  I'm not saying I don't dream in Spanish, sing in Spanish, or read in Spanish - but English is what speaks to my heart.  When I go back to the States and hear worship music or a sermon in English for the first time in a long time - don't look my way.  I will be sitting on the chair, in the pew - whatever - and you will see tears in my eyes...because it is so refreshing to my soul.

New:  Hearing God being worshiped in a different tongue, in a different culture, in a different country is an incredible experience!  Knowing that I love a God who knows all tongues, who loves all people - and hearing those people rejoice and sing to Him gives me chills.  I kind of laughed when I was singing Spanish worship songs, and went back to the States for some reason, and heard the same song in an English church - and I realized I didn't know the song in English - so I sang it in Spanish.

Miss:  Conveniences.  This is everything from having a car, stores open all the time (not closed in the middle of the day for 3 hours for siesta, on Sundays, etc), dishwasher (my hands are scrubbed clean from hand washing dishes for almost 10 years), washing machine (hauling water, pouring it into my washer, switching to the spin, hanging clothes) - it's an all day chore.  Potable water.  Collecting rain water, filtering contaminated well-water, running out, conserving, bucket flushing my toilet, camp shower, etc.  I have never thought about water like I have since living in Africa where every drop is a precious commodity. Our "joke" in our family is - if Madison needed something for school we would say - "OH!  I know..we can just run down to Target...or Wal Mart...or the 24-hour store...or Hobby Lobby...or Michael's...or __________ - then laugh...Or NOT!  HA!"  A car...having a car here is simply logistically difficult.  So we take public transportation.

New:  Meeting people at the well - other women who are collecting water as I am - conversations, just "living life" like everyone else.  Giving out our preciously stored water to those without; NEVER taking for granted what I have;  walking down to the tiny stand at the end of the street and getting the tomatoes that have come from Cameroon, and the woman selling them is anxious to make the 20cents on the 5 tomatoes she will sell.  Putting my precious cargo in my little hand-held basket and making the 1/2 mile trek back home...stopping along the way and picking up some bread from the 9 year old who is working to bring home money to her family...then grabbing some sugar from the shack that is selling items.  While there I see the mouse scampering across the food, trying to grab a snack along the way...talking to the little boy who has a basket of sweets he is carrying on his head - passing along the coins to buy a few...these things are precious moments I wouldn't have if I "just" ran into the 24-hour grocery store.  Taxi rides - again - "living life" like everyone else, talking to the children who are getting from place to place, loving the stares of babies and little ones alike as they take in this "blanca" - possibly the first white person they've ever seen, comparing prices and the best places to get vegetables with the other women in the taxi.

Miss:  Steak, fruit, vegetables.  I have to admit it - I never realized what I had when I had it.  In the U.S. you can buy almost anything you want, and if you can't find it, you just order it.  In Costa Rica, we had an amazing local market where you could find lots of yummy things to compliment your food.  Honduras even had a lot of choices - most fruits and vegetables were available - I even got cherries and black berries.  Africa...where we live...get the majority of their fruit and vegetables from their neighbor Cameroon.  So, we get what transports and keeps well - so what that means is typically we find tomatoes, onions, yucca, okra, and a green leafy vegetable, and the one thing they do grow here - lettuce.  Avocados are not as available as I would think, but we can typically find them if you go looking for them, as well as papaya - I'm not a huge fan, but I eat it because it's a fruit that we can occasionally find.  We do occasionally find the random thing like cucumbers, and carrots - but that's a rarity indeed.  Steak - I miss a good, juicy, beefy steak!  I'm a steak and potatoes kind of girl...

New:  We have a mango tree on the property, so when they are in season - we can go collect them off the tree.  Bananas/plantains - not as easily available as in Honduras - but we do have a local "guy" that has them and brings them by once in awhile.  So, being creative in a country where fresh fruit and vegetables are not nearly as plentiful as anywhere else I've lived has required me to be way more creative then I've ever been when it comes to cooking.  Steak? - no...cebu?  Yes...or "fresh meat" (bush meat) - yes, I've experienced bush meat, I don't know what I ate, I don't WANT to know what I ate, but it's an experience indeed.

Miss:  Growing things.  For my entire life I've always had a garden.  Growing up my parents had a small garden in the back yard, and our job was to pull off the tomato worms that tried to overtake it.  When I got married, Mike and I always had a HUGE garden in our back yard wherever we lived.  In Honduras I grew many things from tomatoes, herbs, plantains, flowers, papaya, etc.  Here...the dirt is clay.  It's solid.  There is no aerated soil.  There are also no nurseries to go buy dirt from...I've tried totally unsuccessfully to grow all sorts of things.  I've tried aerating my own soil, have been able to sprout some plants from the seeds I brought, but as soon as I transplant them, they have all died.

New:  Taking satisfaction and enjoyment in what is growing around me.  Knowing that these are some seriously hardy plants that can live in this environment - living on the equator the sun is fierce, and the rains are torrential.  Enjoying the wildlife that teems on our property - yes, even the black cobra and green mamba that have graced us with their presence.  I've set up a seed feeding station, and am graced every morning with the sweet song birds that come and get seed.  I see so many different colorful birds that I have never seen before, and will never see again.

Miss:  Safety.  After living 8 years in the murder-capitol of the world (gratefully that banner has been passed on to another country now...but it's still not "safe"), and now in Africa where we must always be cautious of our surroundings, I miss the ability of walking around without always looking over my shoulder, not having to use 5 keys to get into my house past the high fences, metal door, security door and the primary door, looking through windows encased in bars, walking along the beach at night, hiking through the national forest, taking a break and going "somewhere" to get away - not really any options for those things here.

New:  This isn't really new, but makes it even more "obvious" - my reliance on God.  Living in a state of fear is no way to live - so I live in the knowledge that I am a child of God, and He will never leave me nor forsake me.

So that's it.  That's a collection of the things that I "miss".  Do I still miss double-stuffed Oreos, Dolby stereo theaters, electricity?  Of course.  But pining away for those things is a waste of my emotional energy, so they have become a "fun" thing to experience again when we make trips to the States.  And the things that I do "miss", I have learned how to focus on the things that are new experiences in place of what I had focused on.  It helps me never take things for granted, be content with what I have, live in the here and now, not on the "what if" moments.

So next time I'm in the States, going out for a steak dinner, a movie afterwards, hanging out with friends - yeah - that's on my list...soaking in a sermon in English, and lifting my hands while singing an English song is great...but don't worry about the other things - God's got me...He's given me things to fill my heart, to learn to love the culture I am in, to find the joys of serving Him wherever I am.  To cling to Him and be present in the here and now, not pining away for those things I "miss."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Maintaining Traditions Part 2

In a previous post I wrote about Maintaining Traditions on the mission field.  Each family has it's own traditions.  What is important for you, may not be important for me.  What I celebrate or decorate for, you possibly decorate or celebrate different holidays.  What is important for one family on the mission field, is not important for another family, what is important for one parent to teach their children is not important to another parent to teach their children, etc.

Fall.  One of my most favorite seasons.  I have so many pictures in my computer of the trees changing colors - easy to do in Sacramento - the City of Trees.  In Honduras, Fall was a non-existent season.  And here, in Africa, it's no different.  The palm trees,  mangos, avocado trees, etc. don't lose their leaves and change colors - so it's hard to get a feeling of Fall.  Strangely enough I was able to find many Fall decorations in Honduras.  I don't know if it was all the "gringo" influence, or what - but there were always plenty of choices at one of the big department stores in town.

When I was in the States in August,  I took the opportunity to bring some Fall with me.  I purchased some things that I would be able to make some decorations when I returned to Africa - fabric, Fall fake leaves, Fall paper, etc.

This is one of the ways I make my home feel like a home.  I've said it before, but when Madison was here sh
e said to me - mom...your house is need to decorate it...

So - one season at a time, I'll see what I can come up with.

Friday, September 16, 2016

HIV/AIDS and the Responsibility of the Church

That's the name of the class I will be teaching to the Seminary Students in Malabo.

I was asked if I would be interested in teaching a class like this - it hasn't been taught before, so that would require me to come up with the curriculum and structure of the class.  I'm in the last few quarters of my Masters Degree in Public Health, and part of the requirement for completion is to have a certain amount of hours doing some  form of Public Health.  As HIV/AIDS is the number one cause of death here, it seemed like this subject was perfect for fulfilling not only my Masters requirement, but my personal desire in health education and empowering people in their own health - a win-win if I've ever seen one.

Over the last month I have been pouring over reading materials, books, and other curriculum to come up with a curriculum that is going to work in my particular setting.  To this end I've started compiling my resources, some in English and some in Spanish.  I think between all I've read and collected I'll be able to make this happen.  In addition, I'll be starting regularly scheduled clinics with some of the pastors that are currently attending the seminary. Between the classes and the clinics I should easily be able to fulfill my hour requirement for my Masters, and my personal desire with ministry.

I do feel privileged to have my own personal ministry on the field, I know that is not the case with many women missionaries.  We each have our own role, and many are in very different seasons of life where their primary ministry is to their family.  I have always been able to have both ministry to my family and personal ministry, which I realize makes it a little different than others on the field.  This has always been a challenging position, and I have had this conversation with almost every woman who joined our team - what is your role? When women joined our team, there always seemed to be a one-on-one conversation as we discussed what the expectations were of the team and of each individual.  Without exception, we always understood and made it known that the primary responsibility of both the men and the women on the team was to their families.  Because of my season of life - where my daughter was in school, I was able to have a full-time ministry life, working at my clinic full-time, and it was a joy to be able to have my own ministry apart from my husbands.  It was a joy to see God grow the ministry of the clinic, where ultimately a brick-and-mortar clinic was built, and I hired a Honduran physician and nurse, and where, to this day, it continues on.

So now I will see where God will take me on this new journey.  As a teacher at a seminary, and as a medical provider at mobile clinics, I feel a huge weight of responsibility, but I know that God has prepared me and equipped me to be able to do this - and so I strive onward knowing that God will see me through.

·       17 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy
·       36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people globally were living with HIV
·       2.1 million [1.8 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV
·       1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses
·       78 million [69.5 million–87.6 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic
·       35 million [29.6 million–40.8 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic
People living with HIV
·       In 2015, there were 36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people living with HIV.
People living with HIV accessing antiretroviral therapy
·       As of December 2015, 17 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 15.8 million in June 2015 and 7.5 million in 2010.
o   46% [43–50%] of all adults living with HIV were accessing treatment in 2015, up from 23% [21–25%] in 2010.
o   49% [42–55%] of all children living with HIV were accessing treatment in 2015, up from 21% [18–23%] in 2010.
o   77% [69–86%] of pregnant women living with HIV had access to antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies in 2015.
New HIV infections
·       New HIV infections have fallen by 6% since 2010.
o   Worldwide, 2.1 million [1.8 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2015, down from 2.2 million [2 million–2.5 million] in 2010.
·       New HIV infections among children have declined by 50% since 2010.
o   Worldwide, 150 000 [110 000–190 000] children became newly infected with HIV in 2015, down from 290 000 [250 000–350 000] in 2010.
AIDS-related deaths
·       AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45% since the peak in 2005.
o   In 2015, 1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide, compared to 2 million [1.7 million–2.3 million] in 2005.
·       Tuberculosis-related deaths among people living with HIV have fallen by 32% since 2004.
o   Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around one in three AIDS-related deaths.
o   In 2014, the percentage of identified HIV-positive tuberculosis patients who started or continued on antiretroviral therapy reached 77%.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Trip to the US

I'm not going to lie - the trip to the States came at a very good place in my life.  Life in Africa is a bit challenging - from daily living, collecting water, camp showers, washing my clothes, grocery shopping, it was a good opportunity to take some time and enjoy the conveniences that life in America brings with it.  Fast internet, consistent electricity, washing machines and a nice hot, long shower brought a moment of stress-free living.  And, thanks to the generous folks who took care of me, I was gifted a dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, the Olive Garden, two trips to the movies, shopping spree at Lowe's, and time to unpack all the gifts that people purchased off of my Wish List.  So - THANK YOU!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I felt well loved for by folks I came in contact with, well loved by those whose homes I stayed in, and well loved by those who reigned gifts upon me.

In addition, I had my esophagus dilated, which I've needed to have done pretty much my entire life, but it seemed a bit daunting to me, but I figured with limited access to emergency medical care, I needed to have this done prior to my return.  I had another medical appointment, dropped my daughter off at college and got her settled in, visited Faith Presbyterian Church and had the privilege of sharing our ministry in Africa.  It was a great trip, a time of refreshment, and prepared me to return to Africa.

So - MANY thanks, once again, to ALL those who cared for me, gifted me, and loved on me.  It was definitely a challenge taking back all my goodies - 5 bags, plus my carry-on - but well worth the unpacking and locating of my new purchases in the house.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Moses and horns

When we visited the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain, I was  almost overwhelmed at the incredible Master painters I saw.  From Degas, the Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso and Bosch, Rembrandt, Dali, and the like...I was in heaven!

In my dream state of seeing artists I could only have imagined, I came across a particular painting by Bosch.  Bosch is most famous for his depiction of the Garden of Earthly Delights.  It shows the Fall with Adam and Eve on the left side, the middle frame depicts all the sin "delights" of life, and the right panel depicts Hell.  It is quite breath taking, and a bit disturbing.  

While we were at the museum, the Prado had put his masterpiece to film and audio.  The video is quite disturbing, but incredible at the same time.

While I was looking over his other pieces of work, I noticed one, and in the middle of it I saw this:

Moses has horns?!

What is going on here?!  So I showed it to Mike and he was totally intrigued!  So he did a little research...

The depiction of a horned Moses stems from the description of Moses' face as "cornuta" ("horned") in the Latin Vulgate translation of the passage from Exodus in which Moses returns to the people after receiving the commandments for the second time. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates the Vulgate as, "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." This was Jerome's effort to faithfully translate the difficult, original Hebrew Masoretic text, which uses the term, karan (based on the root, keren, which often means "horn"); the term is now interpreted to mean "shining" or "emitting rays" (somewhat like a horn). Although some historians believe that Jerome made an outright error, Jerome himself appears to have seenkeren as a metaphor for "glorified", based on other commentaries he wrote, including one on Ezekiel, where he wrote that Moses' face had "become 'glorified', or as it says in the Hebrew, 'horned'. "The Greek Septuagint, which Jerome also had available, translated the verse as "Moses knew not that the appearance of the skin of his face was glorified." In general medieval theologians and scholars understood that Jerome had intended to express a glorification of Moses' face, by his use of the Latin word for "horned."[6]:74–90 The understanding that the original Hebrew was difficult and was not likely to literally mean "horns" persisted into and through the Renaissance.

So the bottom line - it sounds like it was a BAD translation, but it persisted in of the most famous is Michelangelo's statue:

And after I took the picture, then we did a little research, we found SO many versions of Moses with his "horns" or showing him being "radiant":

Who knew?!  Anyway - Bosche was incredible/amazing, and I was truly in awe of his incredible art...but still...Moses with horns?!  Hmmm...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking a Deep Breath

We've been in Africa almost 6 months...I know...hard to believe.  We turned over all our ministry in Honduras, closed out our time there.  We encountered very difficult things when we left both personally and in ministry, and yet another move. I'm still reeling a bit over the hateful/spiteful mail I received, but I'm putting it aside and have forgiven this person in my heart although they have washed their hands of me.

In the time in Africa we've tried to figure out how to live.  Our new team mates said to us, "This country chews up and spits out missionaries..."  It's extremely stressful, hard living, we don't have a car, lose electricity 8-12 hours everyday, haul up well-water for our wash, live under mosquito netting, cook with very limited supplies, the slowest internet we have ever had, live on the equator, make everything from scratch, our kid is SO far away, and we are still trying to figure out our ministry.  I've already had multiple mobile clinics in different parts of the interior of the country, and Mike and I are both going to start teaching classes in a few weeks.  My mother passed away 4 1/2 years ago, and my dad just over 5 months ago.  All of that adds up to living under a constant state of stress!  I've had more head aches in the last 5 months then I've had in a long time.  We live in sweat, in a little 900-square foot brick house. was time to take a deep breath.

Madison came to spend the summer with us in Africa, and I said to Mike, why don't we leave Africa early, and spend some time together as a family.  There are no direct flights to the U.S. from where we live - most of them fly through Europe - so - that's what we did.  We left Africa 10 days before Madison needed to be back to start up in her third year of college, spending time in Madrid, Spain, and in Lisbon, Portugal.  It's the first family vacation we have had in a very long time.

Some people have said to us - that it must be nice to be able to travel to Europe for a vacation.  Yes, it absolutely is!  We make enough money to live in Africa, and not much more, so vacations are something we plan for WAY in advance to save up to go.

I was talking to Madison on the way to Spain and I wanted to see how many countries she had been to in her 20 years.  We came up with 19 countries!  Before we were missionaries, we were already world travelers!  We took an annual family vacation, and that typically meant out of country.  That, along with our time as missionaries, she's been to a lot of countries!  So, I then started thinking about where I had been and came up with 34 countries:

United States
Costa Rica
Puerto Rico
El Salvador
Dominican Republic
Sri Lanka
St. Thomas
St. Croix
Equatorial Guinea

Now, I'm not talking about lay-overs, I'm talking about spending a night, walking around, eating in a country...spending TIME in a country.  I've actually been to more countries then States in the United States.  My last passport had no space left in it, and I'm already half-way through this one, with new countries coming up including Ethiopia to add to my list.  So, I do live a stressful life, but I also have the opportunity to see some amazing places along the way.  I am grateful for this time to take a deep breath, take a hot shower, enjoy electricity 24/7, fast internet, and some amazing European food.  It gives me a chance to re-group and rejuvenate so I'm able to better do my ministry in Africa where all the stresses will come back as soon as I return.

In addition, I have some AMAZING supporters and friends who just want to love me and care for me.  I have so many gifts waiting for me when I get to the U.S. (Christmas in July!!!!!), gift cards to spoil myself, fun things to help me live life a little easier (frying pan, measuring spoons, etc), and some simply fun things - like movie gift cards to catch a movie (no movie theaters in the entire country of E.G.), and restaurants (Olive Garden) to eat a yummy steak and pampering (Ulta/Sephora).  In addition, I get to stay with some awesome friends who care for me and have a nice evening ride on a lake in my near future.

So taking a deep breath to allow me to continue on in a very difficult season of life, but where God has me to glorify Him and be His hands and feet.

 And...the last thing I want to think about, but know it's in my near future - I won't see Madison for a year and a half!  She won't be coming to see us until Christmas of 2017, and I won't be going to the U.S....this will be the longest time I've not seen her in her entire life...and we will be continents - I'm just not going to think about that right now, while I continue to enjoy the last week with my girl :-)