More! More! More! And Cody Moss!

CODY!

My crew – Sam, Cody, me and a bunch of new friends.

More!

Notice how every photo has happy people in it; we are HAPPY!

It was community night at our camp. We invited our homeowners and their friends, family and neighbors to come visit us. It was a ton of fun!

Josh

Daniel H – pensive. Jonathan – who knows? Daniel B – balloon animal.

Beautiful Bella!

More happy girls.

He got his mom an avocado – picked it right off the tree!
Two of Syd’s friends from Juana Diaz.

Jess and Josh. And the shades.

Syd and Morgan E leading their kids in “Happy Day” and “Revolotion”.

Caught him smiling…

Kaitlin and Mason. More happy.

Katie playing ball during community night.

Allen and Morgan – happy!

Ross playing ball.

Nikki and Jordan

Puerto Rico World Changers Update

I never thought I was capable of this.

I’m so excited that my youngest child is only 13.

That means SIX MORE YEARS OF WORLD CHANGERS.

I’m coming back, baby. And YOU ought to think about coming, too.

We’re working like crazy, with very little down time. I snuck into the office to try to share a few photos; but we’re all separated all day long at our individual work sites – so I don’t have much. I do have Sam Allen and Cody Moss on my team, so I’m taking photos of those guys.

And seriously – I’M BUILDING A HOUSE. Andy Heberle, I have so much respect for you. But I’M LEARNING TO DO IT, TOO!!!

You are praying: we can feel it. There have been some amazing stories of transformation here, some deep conversation and overall, incredible stuff.

Keep praying. Tomorrow will be a hard, long day. It’s incredibly hot outside as we work as well as inside – there is NO a/c in our sleeping quarters. It’s challenging.

But it’s worth it. Every single sweaty second. Every time I hit my thumb with the hammer. Every time we stand in line with 120 other sweaty people to eat eggs and ham.

Every single time.

We say, “Jesus died for you. You ought to be able to do this.” 

No kidding.

Trip of a lifetime.

Here’s  few shots.

 

Love both of these kids.

A game of some sort; they do this while standing around outside.

Happy! Happy! Happy!

Happy!

He said, “Miss Beth – you gotta take a picture. The dog is smiling!”

Sam’s a sucker for animals…

Me! I’m building a house!

Snorkeling Day In Puerto Rico

Mason

 The folks who plan the World Changers trips encourage the need for a day or two of acclimation prior to work.

This sort of acclimation is a tremendous blessing.

I could get used to this. But today, we move to the camp at Juana Diaz and get ready to work.

We were in Paraguera, Puerto Rico. I’d like to come back.

Happy girls

Tyler is not fond of being photographed.

Sam

It’s Daniel Hughes, reading a book. Surprised?

Even the chaperones are happy!

Contemplating life or about to jump?

There’s always something there to remind me…

More of the happy.

And more….starting to see a theme?

Figuring out the masks and fins.

The little boat crew.

Superman.

MORE happy chaperones!

The BIG boat crew.

Baptism

I know you’re probably here looking for pictures of your kids. They’re coming in the next post. In the meantime, this is still the place where I process a lot of what happens in my life. Today was a milestone. I wrote about it. You are welcome to read about it.

By the way, I learned today that JC Elder likes to dance. A lot. Even on a boat.

I spent three years living on a Caribbean island; not Puerto Rico, where I am today, but on the island to the west. I taught school in the Dominican Republic in the mid-80’s. I had some incredible experiences.

But I made a few messes, too.

I’ve struggled to have healthy relationships for most of my life. Codependency, my own broken places or just plain stupidity; I have chosen poorly on many occasions. And poor choices in relationships create messes and pain.

I have experienced the redemptive grace of God and the beautiful ability of humans to forgive and move forward. I have been blessed more than I deserve. He has made beautiful things out of the dust of my life. I see it; I acknowledge it. I believe it.

But the Caribbean era of my past has had a few loose ends. Frankly, there were some people who needed apologies from me, and several years ago, I made those phone calls. But inside – in that murky place that nobody else every goes – I still carried some darkness. Regret nibbled at the corners of the new creation, the clean heart, the redeemed soul.

It’s not been a stretch for me to experience this trip as a return. It is a different island, but so much – so much – appears the same to me. I hear the Spanish, read the traffic signs, nod my head to the music, eat the empanadas and tostones; and everything feels and tastes and looks and sounds the same. All day long I fought to keep my mouth closed, because I wanted to keep a running dialogue going as I remembered things and events and people and food and three years of life experiences. I wanted to tell somebody all this, and every sentence began, “When I lived in the DR, I…”

But I did keep my mouth closed, out of respect to the folks who wouldn’t want to hear my ongoing monologue, and because I knew that this was personal. Private. About more than the stories of what was.

And so…

I began the day in San Juan with this:

The heavens praise your wonders, Lord, your faithfulness too…For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?… Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them…The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south…Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. Psalm 89 (excerpts) NIV

We left San Juan, climbed into our six mini-vans and made the 35 mile journey from San Juan, at the north of the island, to Ponce, on the southern side. It was beautiful – mountainous, green, lush, gorgeous. As we crested a hill, the Caribbean ocean spread out before us. Whoa.

We ate at the mall (quite American) because it was quick and convenient (remember: there are 36 of us. Seating us is not convenient for any restaurant.) We journeyed to Paraguera, a bustling little village west of Ponce, and we got ready for the day’s team-building / acclimation activity – snorkling! Two boats took us out to a reef about 20 minutes from the coastline, and all of us PLUS another World Changers team from Florida jumped in the water and spent an hour snorkeling.

It was good – not the exquisitely amazing bright coral colors you sometimes hear about, but beautiful nonetheless. Swimming alongside somebody who’s never done anything similar is pretty fun, and there were a lot of novices there today. We held sea urchins, took deep breaths and dove deeply, took underwater pictures and overall, had an amazing time.

And so…one of my Dominican experiences two decades ago was becoming PADI certified as a scuba diver. I remember the awe and wonder of sitting on the ocean floor, watching fish and eels and all sorts of incredible images filter in and out of my line of sight. I loved diving because everything was quiet. Nothing but the sound of your own breath, an occasional bubble, and then a feast for the eyes. Today was different – but the sound was the same. The rhythm of my own breathing, my eyes focused below me, and beautiful living things to see. It is impossible to remain without amazement or uninspired by the creativity of what lives below the waterline.

Something about that experience resonated in me, deeply. We were in a huge herd of swimmers, but I was alone, and I felt like I was with God. It was a reminder of his creation, of his constant presence, of the solid, stability of life. Much has changed in 23 years; but what’s under the ocean is still a delightful garden of beauty, swaying with the current. I swam close to the boat as we came in and whispered “Thank you thank you thank you.” I praised his wonders and his faithfulness along with the heavens, and I felt so very close to him.

We came back to shore and gladly welcomed the homemade empanadas served by our hosts. Delicioso! Part two of our day began shortly thereafter, as the sun set and darkness settled over the water. Very little moonlight shone as we set out across the water again. A 20-minute ride led us to a quiet lagoon; as we dropped anchor and turned out the lights, our guide explained that there are 12 bioluminenscent bays in the world; three are in Puerto Rico. The unique conditions of the bay, the water temperature and the currents cause a particular algae to thrive; one that is luminescent when put into motion. One by one, we started slipping into the water under the very thin sliver of moon – perfect conditions for seeing the light. Voices exclaimed, “Oh, man! Can you see it?” “Oh my gosh! Look!” “It’s awesome!” “Look at me – I’m glowing!”

It was, absolutely, one of the most magical experiences of my life. Move your arms in the water and little sparkles of light decorate your skin, like waving through a gathering of 20 or 30 fireflies. Swirl your legs below you and you literally glow, a hazy white light surrounding you.

It doesn’t last long – the brightness is brief, but it’s there every time you move. We splashed water on our faces and laughed. The boys dared one another to pee as forcefully as possible to see if it would light up (I don’t think that really worked…) Every movement sparkled. It never got old; it was amazing every time. I thought, “Really, God?”

What a brilliant creation.

I wiggled my fingers in front of me and could not stop smiling. And then something amazing happened; some dots got connected, something cracked open inside of me, and the amazing power of grace and mercies-new-every-morning washed over me.

This I had never experience. This was a new thing. I saw myself in a whole new way, my skin decorated with organic lights, some bizarre creation of God that lives in limited quantity, in specific conditions. The light filled the water and I swam in it.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

We crawled in the boat and headed back, all of us filled with some sort of indescribable joy. And this thought came to my head as my eyes filled with tears:

Baptism.

An ocean that glowed, alive with light, washed me clean tonight. Cleansed from the regret that I have carried, reminding me that all of me – ALL of me – is forgiven and redeemed. The same southern Caribbean waters of my old life brought new life.

Brian once served us communion with these words: You are not who you used to be.

Tonight, God washed me clean in the miracle of water that glowed, and he reminded me: You are not who you used to be.


I am a person who has learned to acclaim the Lord, to walk (and swim!) in the very creative light of his presence. I rejoice in his name all day long; I celebrate his righteousness.

Amen.

More PR Pics

Gorgeous sunset

Sam looking for the resident of the shell Mason found. Eventually, it died of Shaken Crab Syndrome.

Yeah, there they are, swimming in the Caribbean.

Blogger is being ridiculous tonight. I have a personal post and a bunch more pictures. Sit tight; they’re coming….

(I skipped Denny’s for this…)

Puerto Rico Day One: Saturday

Fire throwers.

Parrots.

Churros.

A castle.

And, to top it all off, the Caribbean ocean.

It’s been a long day, and it started way too early – although if you ask Brian Hughes, he’ll tell you that God gets up every day around 4AM, and so do godly people. But what does he know?

Both flights were uneventful, with some interesting new sleeping methods on display.

Cody and Daniel

We landed in San Juan and began the first of many long segments of time doing – well, nothing. Waiting. Time runs a little differently in this part of the world. It took about 90 minutes to get the rental vans – not waiting in line, but negotiating the paperwork. It was hard for us to wait, but even harder for all the people behind us in line during those 90 minutes. Eventually, everything fell into place and we managed the quick drive to the Howard Johnson. Looking out the window of our third floor room, we’ve got a nice view of the beach across the (very busy) street.

Not too shabby.

We had a few hours to walk around the immediate area, grab some lunch and get a little rest. The evening came, and we set out for Old San Juan; the plan was to find an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant for dinner, but everyone was tired and not too hungry after our late lunch, so mostly, we just walked around.

Old San Juan is beautiful, rich with history – the castle mentioned above dates from the 1600’s. Artisans and restaurants and street vendors and a lot of people milling about made for a relaxing evening.

We were cautioned by the hotel management to be back by 9PM, before things “got crazy”. Apparently a typical Saturday night in this area is filled with lots of happy intoxicated people. Parking places are hard to come by (we actually slipped a little “gift” to one of the parking lot attendants in order to have our spots reserved for our return). From our spot in the hotel, it sure sounds like things are heating up outside. Kati just said, “It’s gonna be a long night…” – we’ll see how well we sleep in this urban party environment!

All is well. The first-time flyers did great; nobody got lost, nobody got sick and nobody’s cried. The temperature is very mild, and is actually much more comfortable than it was back in VA yesterday! It was a great first day, designed for the kids to acclimate themselves to the culture shock of being in a foreign country. There’s a lot of English spoken here, but the primary language is obviously Spanish. After our evening exploring Old San Juan, I think everybody feels like we’re really “here”.

We’ll get up and travel to Ponce tomorrow, spend some time in the water and prepare for our move to the camp on Monday. We’ve got another 2 or 3 hours of driving, heading straight south across the island. It should be a good day.

So we’re here. And on a personal note, my Spanish is coming back quite nicely, although it’s hardly necessary. It feels good to practice it, though. And on a deeper, more reflective note, we walked across the sand to the water this afternoon and I felt something long-repressed stirring in me. It is difficult to define; sort of a memory, but not really. A vague familiarity with the scenery, a resonance with the view. The deep blue-green of the ocean here is different. It feels different; warmer, calmer.

I’m not sure what I felt, exactly. It leans towards sorrow, I think, and it’s probably more about the unbelievably fast track of time. I looked at the ocean that I last saw some 23 years ago, and this time, my 17-year old daughter was in my line of sight.

That’s a lot of change in between trips to this ocean.

One thing I do know: this time here will build memories and resonance for the 36 of us in important ways. Time will continue to fly by.

That’s the way it goes.

Leave your comments here if you have a message for your World Changer; it doesn’t look like the E-couragram link for our week is up yet. Stay tuned! And enjoy these photos….very random order, but here goes!

These are three of my roommates, and we wandered around together. Good friends. Great young women.

Seriously, parrots. We watched them for 20 minutes. Go figure.

One of the waiting occasions.

More waiting. But they’re smiling!

Waiting…and smiling…

Waiting…and beginning to fade…
Half of us had to wait in the median at the airport because the shuttle wasn’t big enough to carry us all. The shuttle driver said he’d come back for us…but he didn’t. An hour later, we got picked up. Yawn.
Random shot of the coastline from the van.

Cheery sibling waiting.

This boy can sleep anywhere. We waited; Sam slept.

“What???”

Lined up against the wall, waiting.

Yup. Waiting.

Again, my roomies at the beach. Sorry for the redundancy, but it’s a good photo.

Random shot of Old San Juan.

Old San Juan dog.

Our fearless leader and Josh, who I am REALLY enjoying getting to know!

Why are they smiling? THEY WERE WATCHING THE PARROTS.

We closed the place down.

Vamos a Puerto Rico!

I just walked through the screen door. Nothing like really “breaking in” the lovely new French doors in our awesome new kitchen.

And so it goes.

In other news, there’s this:

Let me add: Sydni enjoys writing backwards.

For clarification, I’m going to attempt to blog the trip. We’ll be working our butts off and I don’t intend to spend much time on the computer. But we’ll try to gather our own photos and share them, along with general updates, here on the blog, starting Saturday evening. No guarantees.

You can also send E-couragrams at this site. Look for the Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, June 25 link on the drop-down project menu (as of this writing, it’s not there yet. But it will be.) PCC students are known for receiving a massive amount of encouragement from those at home. I hope this year will be no exception!

Lastly, pray for all of us. It will be hot and humid, and we will be spending most of every day outside. Working. Serving. It will be hard, but I’ve no doubt it will be worth it. Great things often bubble up to the surface when we are at our weakest. I’m counting on that this week.

Leave comments here on the blog and I’ll pass them along to our team.

Adios!

I’m No Longer Needed

This week has had a peculiar rhythm, one that has ebbed and flowed with a lack of synchronicity – but with purpose. Tonight, everything coalesced. I reach a pinnacle, or something more akin to a plateau. Grace and contentment and a surety and a sort of holy confidence – not in myself, so much, but in all that goes on around me.

RENT YOUR INSTRUMENTS HERE!

First of all, our first experience as business owners suffering the lack of patronage seems to be coming to a close. Powhatan Music and Sound suffered a bit during May and early June; it was a difficult season, one in which most people had A Lot Of Things On Their Minds, none of which seemed to be music. Cancelled and missed lessons, lack of sales, etc….all combined to bring about our first feelings of real anxiety and stress. All that changed this week, though, and Tony is once again buried by the deluge of customers and Stuff To Do. People in Powhatan like their little music store. Go figure.

Next on the list comes the adventures of my daughters, all three now finished with high school and off on adventures of their own. The two older girls are away for the summer, and the youngest girl is happily embracing her new-found status as a young adult who NO LONGER HAS TO GO TO HIGH SCHOOL!! Her summer plans include two mission trips and a possible third, with which I have wrestled and withheld my unconditional blessing. We’ve sort of been in limbo, as I’ve processed what it means to let her go, really, even before August comes and she heads to Harrisonburg. Today, finally, I received peace and closure, as I listened to our friend Karen ask questions of her in Starbucks this morning. Karen‘s questions were without the baggage of my maternal issues, and for me, they illuminated everything. We came home from Starbucks, I ate a sandwich, and then I knocked on her door and said, “I think you should go to New York.”

She beamed and I knew it was all going to be just fine. Thank you, Karen. Perspective is everything.

And back to the daughters; I’ve been beating down the anxiety-fueled maternal desire to drive to Georgia to Take Care Of Sarah and Call Her Potential Employers and ask them Why They Couldn’t Get Themselves Together and Give The Girl The Job. The days have ticked by and she’s waited for phone calls and schedules to clear, and while enduring that situation while living at home is tolerable, it’s quite another thing when you’ve signed a lease and you’re paying rent and said rent will be due in a few weeks and YOU AIN’T GOT NO JOB. I called today, and she said, “Mom, I’m just trying to figure out if you’re upset with me or stressed out about this…” and praise God, I realized I’ve raised a child as intuitive and sensitive as they come, and I said, “No.” And that was the truth. I knew everything would be okay, I’d been circling it in prayer, but good Lord, truly, you ARE good, but can we get a move on here? But I wasn’t upset. Honestly! I was at peace, impressed by her lack of anxiety and her efforts to be a Grown Up and trust that all things work together for good, and sure enough, she texted this afternoon and said, “I’ve got 32 hours next week, starting Monday!”, and then she texted from the church she’s found, where she auditioned for their worship team tonight and had a great experience, and I realized that she’s carrying that light and God’s got this. He certainly does.

And all the while, I was at MY church, listening to the band prepare music that I will not hear on Sunday, watching Elijah lead with confidence and aplomb, seeing and hearing them work together in a way that matches anything I’ve ever done on that stage. Steve made a comment about how impressed he was that these were “kids”, and I looked at that group of 20-somethings (plus Lindsay and Kevin, who are a bit past 20 but not much) and realized that God had given me exactly what I needed, what I’ve prayed for, what I’ve hoped for.

They don’t need me.

I make the plans and fuss over the music and try to arrange the flow, but they execute flawlessly, because God has equipped and empowered them to do so. I can dream it, and surround myself with people who can execute it, and all is well. They’re not “kids”. They’re brilliant musicians, people trying to find their way spiritually just like the rest of us, choosing to invest their time and talent in what’s happening in this specific corner of western Powhatan county.

I came home to a handful of fresh raspberries from Powhatan’s own Casselmonte Farm, sprinkled over vanilla bean ice cream and baptized with chocolate syrup. I bought these – and other vegetables – from local farmers today at the market. As much as possible, we’re eating food grown from the soil right here in our county. And now I sit in a beautiful kitchen, surrounded by empty space and the hum of a dishwasher. I listen as two of my kids watch a movie and poke fun at one another. I look at my list for tomorrow, of all the things that need to be done before we leave for Puerto Rico.

I’m living in this system where I’m not really needed, but I’m invited in, and I’m still contributing, and I matter. It’s just different. And I gotta say, I really like it.

Growing up? Yeah. I’ll take it.

Kevin.

Brandon.

Amie.

Travis.

Andrew.

**No good pictures of Lindsay and Kevin, because the latter stuck his tongue out at me and it ended up looking not-so-good, and the former just didn’t get a photo taken because I was swirling around doing other things. But they count. They certainly do. They bring the awesome.

Something’s Coming. Something Good.

Image found here

So.

In just three days I’ll be on a plane, headed for Puerto Rico.

This is totally unexpected.

Every year, groups of students from our church head out on mission trips with World Changers. And every year, I am The Mom, sending one or two or more of my teenaged kids out into the world to work, to serve, to experience the world – and to be changed.

(That would be Parenting Tip #2 – SEND YOUR KIDS ON MISSION TRIPS. Better than any other summer experience, in my opinion.)

Anyway, this year was no different. The trip leader did approach me when the destination was revealed; knowing that I had a bit of history in the Caribbean region (I lived for three years in the Dominican Republic in the mid 80’s). He thought I’d be interested in going, and thought my Spanish – whatever rusty bits and pieces remained – might be helpful.

I thought about it and prayed about it and didn’t feel like it was the right time. I said “No. Thanks. But no.”

Sydni signed up for the trip; Daniel did not.

Pre-trip planning went on as usual, with a workday and fundraising and prayer requests and other stuff. And I played my role as The Mom, gathering info and making sure the calendar was clear.

And then…

One of the female chaperones had a medical issue. We hoped and prayed for a complete recovery, but in the end, the doctor would not give her a release. And so there was a vacancy; and on a World Changers trip, it’s mandatory that you provide the chaperones needed for the team.

And so somebody had to take her place.

And so the project coordinator asked again.

And I felt differently, several months later. Much had changed in the time in between.

And so, I said, “Yes. Thanks. Yes.”

And then one of the male students had a conflict and could not go. The project coordinator approached Daniel and asked if he’d like to go.

And so, I’m going to Puerto Rico. With Sydni. AND Daniel.

It’s stirring up so much in me; initially and in the here and now, I’m struggling with the disappointment that I’m sure weighs heavily on my friend who has to stay home. I’m taking her place, when she wanted desperately to go with her daughter. This doesn’t feel good. But somebody has to go, so I’m going.

And the other things I am thinking and feeling; they stem from another lifetime. I’m not sure what to do with that girl who lived on the island next door to Puerto Rico. I have many memories, and they’ve not yet found their place. It’s a longish story, and I’ll likely blog about it at some point; but suffice it to say that there are some things suppressed that I’ve yet to deal with. I know that stepping off the plane, breathing the humid, heavy air, seeing the crisp, crystal blue of the water, the palm trees, the sand, the Spanish everywhere, the food, the aroma, the market…things will rise up in me that I’ll need to find room for. And then breathe.

I just caught a glimpse of some photos of the camp where we’ll be sleeping after working each day, and that’s all it took. I felt it. I remembered.

I’m glad. I’m excited. I’m ready. Something’s coming – something good. But I’m apprehensive.

I walked tonight, fighting through the humid air in the neighborhood next door to get my heart rate up. For the first 15 minutes, I spoke – out loud (yeah, I’m that crazy lady) – all in Spanish. I was talking to an imaginary person in Puerto Rico. And to God.

And I was astounded by how much Spanish I remembered. I had a lengthy imaginary conversation.

I enjoyed it.

Something’s coming. Something good. Even if I’m a bit jacked up.

Puerto Rico, here I come.