We Make Each Other Better

Long week friends and I am so glad it’s Friday…despite it being close to midnight.  Jimmy Fallon is on and I’m waiting for the Avett Brothers to come on.  Be still my heart.  I’ve also been thinking about our friends at Ngungwane this week.  Harper said just yesterday “Do you miss Swaziland?”  I told her I absolutely do and she confirmed she did as well.  Sigh.  I don’t know if I could think more about this trip.  Everything just replays over and over again.

On the second to last evening at the carepoint I had one of my favorite moments from the trip.  We had just arrived back at Ngungwane after a homevist with the sun just going down.  I swear there’s something different about the sun in Africa…it’s freakin’ gorgeous.  The weather had cooled a bit and the carepoint felt mellow and sweet.  Most of the kids had headed out on their walk home with the last few kids still hanging about.  The ladies, Swazi staff and our team were sitting around chatting.  It reminded me of when you have a big party and those closest to you usually hang around until after the party is over to talk and help you clean up.  I realized then this might be my favorite part of these trips…the after party.  I loved watching the ladies relax for a moment…no food to cook or pans to clean…mainly only their kiddos and grankids still around.  I love seeing them just be with one another and us.  I love us together and the moment felt simple and good.

I’ll probably re-visit our trip again and again because that’s what you do with good trips and good friends, but my friend Di text me the other day and asked what was the biggest thing I took away from our trip.  I thought only a few seconds because I already knew.  Relationships.  Period.  Relationships matter.  Relationships make you feel valued and loved and seen.  Relationships pour into your existence and your heart.  They make you feel apart of something…a sense of belonging.  And this is how I leave Swaziland feeling every time.  We fly over that ocean because it’s been far too long since we’ve seen our friends and we have the means to do so.

I have so many questions for God especially about why some people live certain lives with certain resources or lack of, but the truth is, we have the resources to make this trip happen and so we do.  If our friends in Swaziland had the means to make the trek to America to see us, I hope they would want to do so as well.  One of my favorite moments each day was greeting Lindiwe, Cindy, Constance, Phumzile and Constantine each morning.  We are all huggers now and their hugs are big and tight…my kind of hugs for sure.  I really love each one of these women.  Their love and dedication and kindness to their community and all the kids is absolutely staggering.  Insanely crazy beautiful.  The ministry at CHC is nothing without these women and their giant hearts.  We both come together and love on one another and He loves on us all.  We minister to each others hearts.  We champion for one another.  We cheer each other on.  We pray for one another.  We make each other better people.  We are in this together and need one another.  These trips rekindle our kinship for each other and remind me of how important relationships are.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ …definitely worth traveling the world to visit and be with.

There are still lots of our little friends who are still looking for a special friend sponsor.  GO HERE and choose “unsponsored” in the “status” bar, get in on this love action and then think about joining our trip next year.  You won’t regret it.

And lastly, we have our Ngungwane trip date on the books.  We will be leaving on Friday May 26th and landing back in the US on June 6th.  The trip is open to ladies and gents ages 12-years-old and up based on Children’s HopeChest.  If you are interested in joining us please email me or message me HERE.

Enjoy your weekend.

Happy Friday!

Hi Friends!

Big news…I got a new water bottle.  So far I love it.  Thank you Target for having a sale and thank you Target Cartwheel app for having an additional percentage off.  I sadly threw my old, broken water bottle in the trash.  It was a good one, but we’re moving on.  No time to mourn a faithful water bottle.

Summer is doing it’s summer thing in which I love it/hate it.  I love my children and am really trying to relish in them and soak them up and enjoy them, but sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe.  Like I’m physically being smothered to death and in need of some resuscitation.  PS:  I love you children if you read this one day.  I’ve broken up approximately 1,317 fights and have had ZERO time alone.  Positive thinking & cookies are helping me survive.  I say things like “I will not perish.  I will not perish.  I will not perish.”  When I feel like surely I will perish…from being smothered alive by 5 children.  Look for the headline.

Had my first run in 4 weeks this week.  I was so sweaty I took a selfie.  Yep, I sure did.  The sweat for dripping from the tip of my nose and my elbows and the rest of my entire body.  Sweat everywhere.  I always take some time off to let my old lady knees recover after training…4 weeks did the trick…and now I’m back to those miles.

Hudson has been sick.  He’s been pretty pitiful and has worn the same set of clothes for 3 days and watched 31 hours of movies!!!!  He even took naps for like hours.  And we haven’t left the house since Monday.  I will not perish.  I will not perish.  I will not perish.  Send cookies.

Two food staples in our week:  cherries and popcorn.  I love cooking popcorn on the stove now.  THIS is my go-to…but I just sprinkle with some sea salt now and call it a day.  The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

I’ve been slacking in my Bible journaling lately.  I blame summer.  Can I blame a season for my lazy Bible reading?!?!?!  Anyways, I for real sobbed my way through Genesis 18…like sobbed sobbed…like a big ole giant baby women.  And my next online Bible journaling will begin July 1st and run through the 15th.  You can read about the online class HERE.  Email me or message me HERE if you are interested in signing up.

I’ll end with a little throw back Thursday.  Harper and I did a deep cleaning, organizing and purging of her room this morning.  Made my heart feel grounded and my head feel sane.  While working we ran across this picture of her and then I died.  I like her.

Happy Thursday!

Beach Vacay

Last week we hit the road ways for a little road trip to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom’s in Florida.  First of all, Jesus be near.  Driving down brought me closer to heaven.  I almost died and so did a few children.  I will say our iPad was making it’s round between 4 kiddos and other than that there were things like books and paper and pens and scissors and scotch tape to keep them occupied.  And Snacks…let’s not forget Snacks…every mother’s second-hand-man.

Josh Kelley and I realized when we got home how in our entire parenting lives we’ve never washed a carseat liner thing and on this trip we had to do so 3 times all thanks to one blow out swim diaper and two massive pukes.  Like so much puke you must pull over immediately on the side of the road and in one account CUT THE TODDLER’S SHIRT OFF OF HER BECAUSE SHE WAS COVERED IN SO MUCH THROW UP AND THEN THROW AWAY EVERYTHING IN THE NEARBY DUMPSTER.  True story.  Thank goodness for kid scissors because my infamous quilter’s scissors I use for Bible journaling were not in my Bible journaling supplies because they were confiscated by a semi angry South African airline worker in Johannesburg who then pretended to stab me with said scissors because I was a bit ticked they we’re being taken.  Again, true story.  But I digress.

So we spent 4 glorious days on the beach.  The first day started a bit rocky with thunderstorm warnings, whipping cold winds and one stretch of the two adults waiting the rain out in the rain while the kids played their ever loving hearts out.  It was the right move though because then the skies parted and we had only great weather for the rest of our time.

Sea shell collecting was high on the beach activity list.  So many sea shells were collected.  Turns out our current littlest was made for walking the beach and picking up shells.  She walked forever…chatting, finding shells, waving to people…she’s quite the people person and beach walking companion.

Josh and I also scored a date night.  I seriously cannot even remember our last date night that was unrelated to foster care training.  Ha.  It’s been a while so it was nice to get out and alone.  We ate dinner, went to the beach, went to a bar with live music and then visited a local brewery.  Josh also discovered an anchor on the bottom of his cup.  All the heart eyes.

On Father’s Day our littlest went to church with Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom and we headed to the beach super early so we could get back for lunch and other fun Father’s Day plans.  We we’re away from Josh’s dad so we sent Big Daddy a beachy message too :)

Obviously, Josh Kelley is totally our Father’s Day jam.  He’s a rare one.  He’s kind and humble and loves Jesus and absolutely cracks me up.  He’s freakin’ hilarious and totally my favorite human.  There’s nothing above or below him he wouldn’t do for us…diapers, laundry, dishes, cooking, anything that needs to be done he’ll do.  He’s not perfect just like the rest of us, but I wouldn’t pick another guy to do this wild life with.

He also was the evil master mind behind burying all our kids and then hitting up the closet bar for lunch.

I kid.  I kid.  We actually enjoyed an awesome seafood lunch with Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom.  And then went to see The Jungle Book.  So so good.  We all loved it.

Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom are always way too good to us.  Besides the beach we played games and watched movies and ate all of Aunt Linda’s yummy food.  We chatted and laughed.  We love being with them and even more I love my kids get to be with them.  I know we are a loud, chaotic and messy bunch.  We try not to be too much of those, but let’s be real…5 kiddos = loud & messy no matter how hard we try.  It’s nice to be loved on and welcomed just as we are.  Makes our hearts soar.  So vacation was 5 stars…just what our bunch needed.

And I’ll leave you with this because I’m clearly a mature mother who only teaches her children very wholesome, moral things and about Jesus.

Happy Tuesday!

9 Things

1.  Now that we are home from Africa and setting into our summer groove my next online Bible journaling class will begin July 1st and run through the 15th.  You can read about the online class HERE.  Email me or message me HERE if you are interested in signing up.

2.  Glowing Green Smoothies have been back in full effect upon returning home too.  I might be an addict.  Can you be simultaneously addicted to green salad smoothies and cookies, ice-cream, candy and all baked goods?  Apparently so.


3.  Josh Kelley and I are excited to announce we are expanding our family.  We are taking suggestions for names.  Bahahahahahaha.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have laughed so hard about this.  It’s embarrassing really.

4.  We finally made it to the wave pool and we officially kicked off summer.  So far we’ve been twice.  I might start keeping a wave pool tally chart to keep track.  We’re full on Wave Country junkies.

5.  After one of our trips to said wave pool I had to get on some serious drugs because the random antibiotic I started taking did not support me being in prolonged sun exposure.  Who knew?!?!?  Clearly not me.  What tipped me off was the insane headache and my skin feeling as if it was melting off my body.  It was crazy town.  Anyways, long story short…I visited our local Kroger’s Little Clinic and they hooked me up.  Only problem was one of the meds was drowsy inducing.  Everyday around the same time for about 5 days I could barely keep my eyes open.  I sent Josh this picture to try and lure him home early from work.  He said I should make it my avatar…which translates to profile pic in Josh Kelley language.  Bless him…he only has twitter.

6.  A friend text me this and I laughed out loud.  I have so many thoughts on foster care…numero uno being:  It’s a freakin’ roller coaster, so just sit tight, try and love the best you can and hold on for dear life. It’s all over the place and emotional and hard and the minute you think you’ve got anything figured out, just wait about, oh, about 2 minutes and another loop will be thrown and you’ll realize you really don’t know a damn thing.  I just keep asking God for grace, mercy, love and compassion.  I need all of those in abundance.

7.  A new summer rule is in play this year.  Everyday when the two littles go for a nap, the three big kids grab their journal and a book, I set the timer for one hour and then they journal and read until the timer beeps.  The house is quiet.  All the humans are quiet.  And I sit and Bible journal and blog.  So far, so very very good.

8.  Amon started baseball and OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!  A) He loves it.  Like loves loves it.  And B)  It’s the cutest thing I’ve seen in all my life.

And 9.  For the first ever I went and vacuumed out our van.  And it was the best $3 I’ve spent in a very very long time.  I told Josh I’m going to start spending $3 every few months just for the sheer satisfaction sucking up all the crap on our van floor brings to my disheveled heart.  With that said I did stop up the first industrial vacuum I used which caused me to slam the vacuum repeatedly against our bumper and say curse words.  HOW DID I STOP UP AN INDUSTRIAL VACUUM?!?!  And I did drive away drenched in sweat.  The back of my hair line was wet…with said sweat.  Vacuuming a dirty van is not for the faint of heart.

Enjoy your weekend party people.

Happy Friday!

William’s Home

We have a small home or at least it feels small to us and for the sheer volume of humans living in it.  I often get discouraged about how little we have people over.  I feel like maybe people don’t want to come over and step into our chaos.  I feel like maybe we’re not necessarily how someone wants to spend their evening.  When Ashley was in town she asked if she could stay at our house.  I was thrilled she wanted to, but that meant she was sleeping on a top bunk with a 2-year-old beneath her and you know what, she welcomed it.  I’m no fool in thinking her stay was similar to The Ritz, but I loved washing sheets, cleaning our bathroom and setting a little gift on the top bunk pillow for her.  I want to be hospitable.  I want to welcome people into our home.  I want when family and friends are in our home they know they are loved and we love having them.  Truthfully though, sometimes we let the size of our house keep us from filling this place to the brim with people…we let it keep us from extending hospitality.

(Alisha’s photo)

One night in Swaziland after we finished up at the carepoint, William, Ngugnwane’s shepherd, asked us to his home for dinner with his family.  William literally lives a stones throw from the carepoint.  As we pulled up to his homestead and took in the view I instantly could not shake the sincere hospitality which was being gifted to us.

William introduced us to his family.  The sun was setting fast so we took some polaroids of their whole family for them to keep before it was dark.  Then William pointed us in the direction of the quaint room which held a table lit with candles and brimming with traditional Swazi foods prepared for us.  It was quite the spread…Rice, beef stew, chicken, salad, more chicken, pop, vegetables, honeycomb from William’s bees.  This family who we didn’t really know killed and cooked one of their chickens for us.  William had only known us a few days and yet he welcomed our team into his home and fed us the most beautiful meal.

(Alisha’s photos)

We all formed a line…our whole team, all the ladies from the carepoint and William’s family… and slowly made our way around the candle lit table filling our plates.  We sat outside on mats overlooking Swaziland mountains with the most gorgeous African sunset taking place.  We ate and chatted about the day and the food.  William walked around with a water and soda bottle refilling drinks.  I sucked honey off the honeycomb, breathed this moment in deep and thought “How many people in the world can say they have shared a meal with friends like this?”  I watched as Harper lapped up food and let compliments fall from her mouth about the deliciousness.  I listened to the conversations buzzing around us as we eventually sat in complete darkness soaking in the last moments of the day.

(Alisha’s photo)

Leah wrapped this absolutely incredible evening up quite nicely by saying “This was on my bucket list and I didn’t even know it.”  Everyone just felt so humbled and honored to have been invited into this home.  William and his family stoked the fire for hospitality in my heart.  They did not let anything…not a language or culture barrier…not anything stand in their way of extending the most gracious hospitality I’ve ever been shown.  They shared so much with us and it was a most precious gift.

We left in the dark…hugging necks and all our thank you’s echoing around.  Our words felt not nearly good enough for what we had just experienced, but we did our best.  We drove home overwhelmed by God’s goodness and absolutely lovely feeling from the lavish love just bestowed on us by our new friends.

Happy Thursday.

Even Though It Feels Small

One of the questions I get most prior to going to Swaziland from people who are interested in our trips is “What will we be doing?”  In fact, it might be the number one question other than “What kind of food will we eat?” :)

This is a tough question because I know how the answer will sound.  The answer won’t sound flashy or exotic or sexy or life changing.  The answer won’t necessarily pull at the longing-to-be-world-changer’s heart.  The answer isn’t what doers necessarily want to hear.  What we do on these trips for the majority of our time is love on and play with our small precious friends.  That really wraps it up quite nicely.  We hold kiddos and play games and hand out hugs and kisses as if our life depended on it.

I like hearing where team members minds and hearts are during our trips.  I loved listening to Christy one day share how she’s not use to not going and doing…she’s not used to being still.  She’s been on medical trips before and of course those are quite full and fast paced.  Our trips are different.  She told how on the first day she found herself checking her watch quite often and how time seemed to be passing slowly, but how after that the following days she noticed the time flew by.  How she realized although at first she felt like she wasn’t really doing much, she realized she was actually doing a lot.

Touch changes us…sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.  I loved hearing Amy, our fearless AIM leader, talking about the research which has been done about young children and the impact of nurturing touch or the lack of.  How even when the damage has been done if a child eventually does experience nurturing touch it can have an adverse affect on the prior damage.  If you think holding sweet babies or hugging on kiddos or tossing children wildly into the air and catching them is nothing, I dare say you’re wrong.

I read a lot of articles about these kinds of trips.  I read a lot of articles written by missionaries about these kinds of trips.  I am always on the lookout for information which would allow me to lead these trips in a better, more respectful and more God glorifying way.  I’ve read plenty of opinions on going and loving on these kiddos and then leaving afterwards.  I’ve read how some people think it’s damaging and how our money would be better spent not on trips, but on aid or project development.  I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I know…these people are our friends and we thoroughly enjoy their company and our time together.  If our friends ever tell us they need us not to come and visit them…if they ever tell us we’re doing harm to the children by loving, hugging, kissing and playing with them…that’s when I’ll stop leading these trips.  Until then, I am taking my cues from our friends and this community who tell us every time how much they have enjoyed our company and friendship and how they are so thankful we come and visit them.  Everyone longs for more time together.

 So even though it feels small…playing play-doh, painting watercolors, jumping rope, singing songs, coloring, sharing a meal, kicking a soccer ball, making crafts, doing hand rhymes, talking about Jesus, snuggling a sleepy baby and reading books to children is actually not small at all, but life giving.

Lots of our little friends are still looking for a special friend sponsor.  GO HERE and choose “unsponsored” in the “status” bar, get in on this love action and then think about joining our trip next year.  You won’t regret it.

And I had an awesome phone meeting with Children’s HopeChest yesterday and can’t wait to share the details of our next trip.  Hoping to share soon once dates are nailed down.

Happy Wednesday.

Sweet Feet

Each day at Ngungwane we had somewhat of a plan for the day…and I use the word “plan” loosely.  Flexibility is key on these trips because anything can happen and you just have to roll right along.  Before heading to Swaziland Children’s HopeChest told me new school shoes would be a nice gift for the kiddos.  School shoes for about 160 kids was not a cheap endeavor, but these are our friends so I wanted to give it a good shot.  To make a lot of things happen on our trips you have to figure out how to rally troops and ask for help.  I sent out a few emails and a local church ended up providing all the funds for the shoes.  This was so awesome!!!!

On my first trip to Ngungwane in 2013 I got to participate in shoe distribution.  To this day it’s still one of my favorite days in my life.  In.My.Life.  So I was super excited about another shoe sizing day…especially for school shoes because the kids love school and new school shoes are a big deal.

First, can you imagine sizing and getting shoes to around 160 kids?!?!?!  I was so impressed with the smoothness of the day.  The Ngungwane staff had already pre-sized all the kids…which I imagine was not an easy task by any means.  I was so thankful for all their prior hardwork which made the whole process much smoother than it would have been.  The care and attention the Swazi staff pours into the kids is just crazy legit.  I sat there thinking through how they had gone about getting shoe sizes for each child and all that really entailed.  We take for granted how easy it is to find out our kids shoe sizes…I imagine it wasn’t quite as simple for the staff plus throw in the high volume of kiddos.

I again got to help kiddos try on their new shoes and make sure they were the correct size they needed.  And again, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the day.

I will never shake how personal our shoes are.  How personal it is to hold someone’a feet in your hands and to allow someone to hold your feet in their hands.  How personal the whole process is.  And how deeply humbled I felt to play such a small roll.  Several times I sucked tears back because I could not shake the sheer privilege this was for me.

I didn’t take many pictures for several reasons.  1.  This was a busy day.  A whole gaggle of kiddos trying on shoes and making sure they fit was wildly busy.  2.  I felt a little weird taking pictures of something so personal.  At one point I snapped a picture of the shoes which were left behind and then deleted it.  One thing I am learning is how to be respectful and mindful of our friends and sharing their left behind shoes didn’t feel good to me.  I want to always use the utmost respect and care for our friends and the live’s they live.

The day was a  phenomenal one.  Again, one of my life favorites.  Most of the kiddos really loved their shoes.  We even heard from parents who we’re crazy grateful for this small gift from a church on the other side of the ocean.  Love makes a difference and truly matters.  I was so honored to help size some of those sweet little feet.  Oh, where those feet have been and where they travel day in and day out.  The weight and responsibility some of those feet truly carry is far unbeknownst and unimaginable to most of us…the magnitude of this did not fall lightly on me.

I also loved seeing Harper just being her.  I realize I haven’t talked a whole ton specifically about Harper, but what it all comes down to is she was all in and just doing her thing.  There would be bits of time where I never even saw her because she was playing games/holding babies/doing whatever while I was around doing whatever I needed to do at the time.  Each night we would talk about highlights in our day and it was sweet to hear her thoughts and heart at that time.  While I am thrilled I got to go on this trip with Harper, I really wanted this trip to be about our friends…our brothers and sisters in Christ…and not about Harper & me together.  I think God had very specific roles for each member of our team and it was really great seeing what He had planned for each person…including Harper and I…together and separate.

Hope you guys aren’t completely burnt out on Ngungwane posts just yet.  Each trip is just so flippin’ special and I can’t help but want to over share.  It’s just what I do :)

Lots of our little friends are still looking for a special friend sponsor.  GO HERE and choose “unsponsored” in the “status” bar, get in on this love action and then think about joining our trip next year.  You won’t regret it.

And we’ve got a Timbali winner in the house…

LISA SAYS:  I follow Timbali on social media!

Super congrats Lisa.  Check your email for a message from me.

Happy Tuesday!

He Is Able

Back in April at Camp Create Amber encouraged us to listen to what name God was calling us.  At first she had us list out all the names we could recall being called during our life.  As you can imagine, some names we’re really hard to think about…some we’re empowering…some we’re sweet…some we’re dibiltating.  I’ve always been this mix of self doubt with an air of confidence if that makes any sense at all.  This year I’ve struggled with feeling like I was capable…like I could really pull off what I felt God calling me to.  While at Camp Create I felt God impressing on my heart that in fact I can’t pull off what He was calling me too, but He can.  Through Him I was in fact capable…not because of myself, but because He is able in me…He makes me capable.

These past few months I have never self doubted more.  I survey what I feel like God is calling myself and our family to and I literally say to Him “You can’t really think we can do this?”  I doubt.  I question.  I find us absolutely ill equipped.  I think to myself “No way…there is just no way.”  And yet capable just keeps running through my mind.

Here’s what I love about God.  He will meet us wherever we are.  He will come right smack dab in the middle of our junk and meet us right there.  When we left for Swaziland my heart was so heavy for several reasons.  I found myself awake at night with jet lag just praying and praying over things for our family.  Josh was praying while we were away as well.  I know what God calls us to He will equip us for, but it’s so much easier typed out than acted upon.

One afternoon after a full day at Ngungwane our sweet friends gathered us in the carepoint building.  All the kids gathered behind them and led us in the sweetest worship songs.  Then one-by-one the ladies unrolled these gorgeous handmade mats each adorned with a different message.  I went down the line reading each message and then I saw it “God is Able” and the tears began to pool.  In my mind, I quickly went down each line of women counting and realized my friend next to me would be receiving the “God is able”.  I was still overwhelmed by God’s message finding me all the way in Swaziland.  And then before they presented us with these amazing gifts our friend William went to the head of the line putting Phumzile standing directly in front of me, placing God Is Able in my hands and hugging my neck.

In days where the world feels like too much…In days when hatred seems far bigger than love & goodness…  In days where I say straight to God’s face, “we just can’t”…In days when I find self doubt to be absolutely smothering…God seeks me out sometimes all the way in Africa and reminds me He is Able.  What He calls us to He will in fact equip us for.  We are capable…not due to our own might, but due to His.  When things are a mess and it seems nothing will ever be right and good, He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine because He is God and He is good.

I’m choosing to lean in extra hard to hope today.  I’m choosing to lean in extra hard to faith in God’s plan. I’m choosing to lean in extra hard to an astounding love which abounds and trumps darkness and pain.  I’m choosing to lean in extra hard to the fact that He is able.