Sunday, March 23, 2008

Leaving for Liberia!!

Hi everyone!
I'm leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes. It's been a great day of spending time with my family, and celebrating the resurrection of Christ! How can the day get any better? I wanted to send you all a quick note to say thank you so much for all of your prayers, love and support. I still cannot believe that I will be in still seems unreal! I'm very excited, and I know it's going to be emotional at the airport today....and at the airport when I get to Liberia! Pray for my family....I've caught a few teary-eyes today! Pray for travel mercies! The last time I checked, there was still about 60 seats left on the plane to Brussels....praise God! Pray that my bags make it, and that everything is still in my bags! Pray that I'll get some sleep on the plane....I was up until 3:45am! Thank you all so much for everything you have each done to provide for my time in Liberia, and thank you all who have generously donated to the children of Liberia!

Seeking the heart of Christ, and sharing His love with the orphans of Liberia,

P.S. There's not enough time to say anything deep and meaningful....I need to leave for the airport in 20 minutes....and I still have wet hair!!

My Last Night

I'm worn out! I've seriously been packing and unpacking, space saving and unspace saving, getting on the scale and getting off the scale....all day long! The good news is that I'll sleep well tonight! Or at least I hope I'm not up all night thinking about things I forgot to pack.

Just tonight, I was looking at pictures from my time in Liberia last year, and it still does not seem real that I'm leaving for Liberia in less than 24 hours! There has been so much waiting and praying and planning and thinking and dreaming involved, that it just doesn't seem real.

I'm going to try to get some sleep, but I'll give you one more update tomorrow before I head to the airport.

Here's to the last night in my own bed...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Time is Ticking Away...

[tick tock]

So, it's 1am on Saturday. I've got tomorrow to get everything done. And this is what things are looking like.....
[The guest room is my packing headquarters. I had all of the things for the kids packed ready to go, and then decided to switch bags. I thought it would be better to split up craft supplies and personal things between bags; just in case only one makes it. You can't survive in Liberia very long on jump ropes and beads! So now I'm negative into the packing process.]

[Bag #1...Holding the essential kites! And drip irrigation kit info.]

[Bag #2...Nada!]

[My room (and my sister) in total disarray!]
So, tomorrow's going to be no sweat, ha! I will now confess to the world that I'm a last minute packer...always! Everybody has to have at least one flaw, right? Just kidding.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

See You Laters and Blessed

Today has been a rollercoaster. I worked on getting alot of small, administrative-ish things done today. Today was also a day of "see you laters." I don't like good-byes, so I opt for see-you-laters.

I had to say see-you-later to my best friend, Leslie, and her two kids, John Ryan and Sarah. It was hard. Les and I have been best friends since I was in the 8th grade. We've been through alot together, and no matter what, we've always stuck by each other. John Ryan and Sarah are two people in this world that no matter how annoying or mischievous they get, I still love them to pieces (well, the same holds true for their mama!). John Ryan has seen pictures from Liberia; he likes to come to my room and look at the pictures and 'make parades' with all of my woodcarved animals. He knows I go to Africa to play and help kids. Tonight I throughly enjoyed laying in bed with him and reading him 3 bedtime stories....even though mom said I could only read him one! After the I love you's and see you laters, I was driving home thinking about how much God has blessed me with such a wonderful best friend. And, how much God has blessed me through the children God has given her! I admit, I spoil them like, non-stop cupcakes, candy, play-doh, 3 bedtime stories vs. 1, etc. I realized they're my training ground and my practice runs for loving on kids in Liberia! When I can't be in Liberia, I've got kids here to love on like crazy! And, they constantly crack me up!

[Sarah & John Ryan's Easter pics I took last week. Can we say supermodel children?]

Tonight was also my last night with my HeartCry family. They prayed blessings over me tonight, and it really meant alot. Then we had cookie-cake and celebrated. They gave me a little treasure box filled with notes and letters, and after I got home, I sat down to read through them. Such kind and encouraging words! Also, appearently someone decided to be sneaky, and people enclosed checks...lots of checks. I will be honest when I say, I've raised enough support through ORR, but my support at ORR can only cover my plane ticket and room & board. So, money for my visa, malaria pills, insurance, and spending money were going to all be out of pocket. Until tonight! Everyone knew to make their checks to ORR, but everyone made their checks out to me personally. Such a HUGE blessing, because I now have $1150 to use towards all of those expenses that would have otherwise been out of pocket (which I didn't have the money for to begin with)! It's amazing how God works! It was another gentle reminder that God's taking care of everything....down to the details....and that I don't need to worry. His hand is all over this trip (just like last time), and when I start to doubt, He always reminds me that He's here, taking care of me, and that He knows exactly what I need. My words are not adequate to describe God's goodness and faithfulness; but for some reason I continue to doubt, and God has to keep reminding me! I guess that's part of being human?

Tonight has been a night of tears...both good and bad. A year ago today, I was getting on a plane to come home from Liberia. That day too, there were lots of tears...both good and bad...but above all, I knew in my heart that because of God's goodness and faithfulness, and because of the passion He's put in my heart to reach the children of Liberia, I would be able to return to Liberia. I'm leaving on Sunday to go and reach the children of Liberia!

What a mighty God we serve!

Monday, March 17, 2008

One Less Thing To Stress About

I am such a happy camper; other than the fact that I just got 2 fillings, and the whole left side of my face is numb. But, it's a beautiful day and I have one less thing to stress about.

I got my visa in the mail today!

I love the Liberian Embassy! They are so fast, and they always get your visa back to you in plenty of time....even though they won't issue your visa unless it's under 2 weeks until your departure (which makes me nervous). So I can officially travel in and out of Liberia as much as I want starting this past Friday until March 13, 2009!!!

Now I just have a to-do list that's a million miles long!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Malaria Pills

The joys of malaria pills! I was sitting in church tonight, and the homeless man in font of me sneezed, and I instantly thought "CRAP! I was supposed to take my malaria pill after lunch!" I'm not sure why the connection, but that man was extrememly helpful!

So wish me luck.....will I have a night of crazy dreams or not? I was somewhat disappointed last time crazy dreams. But maybe it's better that way?

I had my last Sunday at my home church and at my church that I attend. It was good, but I've realized today that I'm already starting to detatch. I think that's a good thing though, right?

Ok, I think I've been sitting up for 30 minutes, so I can go lay down now. I wonder what happens to you if you lay down after you take your malaria pill and it hasn't been 30 minutes yet? I don't think I want to find out.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Travel Tips

So I'm starting the packing process. There's a few blogs I read of people living in Liberia, and they sometimes will post 'helpful household hints' for things to bring to Liberia. I find it pretty helpful because my mind somehow always manages to forget something in the packing process.

For those of you who have traveled to, or lived in, Liberia....I want your tips. How about....3 things you're so glad you packed....and 3 things you wish you would have packed. And, even if you haven't been to can still give me your list! I'm interested to see what people say, and it might give me a great idea....or help me remember something that I otherwise would have forgotten.

Let the lists begin!

[8 more days!!]

In fairness, I'll list a few things I recommend for traveling to Liberia:
- If your a female....SKIRTS all the way!
- Lots of hand sanitizer
- Lots of trail mix, granola/protein bars, etc.
- 2-in-1 shampoo...those trickling cold showers have to be short, or it speeds up the bucket bath
- Travel size bugspray (with Deet) and sunscreen
- Extra batteries, in all sizes that apply to things you're taking
- Toilet never know when you'll need some
- Sturdy pair of sandals (I wore my chacos everyday for everything...except church)
- Earplugs or drown out the generator (or snoring) when you're trying to sleep
- Travel size bottle of laundry detergent for sink laundry (undies & bras mostly)
- Nalgene bottles....then you can dump a few water bottles worth into one bottle, trust me, you'll end up drinking any water that you have access can never drink enough!
- Some people are weird about bottle water, so if that's you, take some of those On-the-Go drink mix things. I recommend the Propel mixes, because that does more for you. Throw in some flavored ones (lemonade, tea, fruit punch, etc) if you tend to get tired of drinking water.
- For a shorter trip....a cannister of Gatorade powder. When I got sick, someone went into town to buy one at Abi Jaoudi's (like $8+), but it was a lifesaver! I've packed 2 cans (<$5 in the States). - If you're taking feminine products, do not pack them in a ziploc bag. Use a cosmetic bag or something that's not see-through. When I traveled over last year, every female who packed them in see-through bags (everyone but me) did not have them in their bags once they got to Liberia. I packed my stuff in a cosmetic bag and mine made it! I suggest dispersing them between bags (including carry-on), and this time I'm going to be super sneaky and pack some between clothing that's space saved. I know, it sounds crazy, but pads and tampons are a luxury in that's the only explanation I've got.
- Depending on the time of year....a few long sleeved, light-weight shirts....for bugs or when it gets chilly (the only 'chilly' I experienced was the 2 nights I had airconditioning). Also, at least one pair of pants for bugs.
- I set aside 2 tshirts, 1 long sleeved shirt and one pair of windsuit pants that I would wear for when I was the cleanest....aka....just out of the shower. That way I'd enjoy being clean for 10 minutes.

These are all basic things, and since I'm hardly into the packing process, I haven't really thought about everything. I'll make another list when I'm packed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prayer Requests

Hey everyboy! Here's a few prayer requests that are coming to my mind tonight:
  • Pray that my visa will get back to me in time!
  • I'm flying standby from Atlanta to Brussels. Pray that I get a seat on that flight!
  • I got my first official offer on my condo today. I had to make a counter offer, so pray that the potential buyers will accept!
  • Pray that I'm able to get everything taken care of these next 11 days!
  • Also, pray that I'll have a wonderful time with my family and friends before I leave!
  • Pray for my parents....I think they're starting to stress alittle.
  • Pray for my soon-to-be coworkers, roommates, sweat and beach buddies. They've been pretty busy lately (which is a good thing), but pray that they're able to get some rest.
  • Pray for Liberia: continued peace, the government, the people, job opportunities, education opportunities, that they would see the hope of Jesus....and for the children and orphans!
  • Pray because I'm going to the dentist in the morning...and I haven't been in over 2 years!

I haven't done this yet, so I'll introduce you all to the 4 people that I will experience Liberia with for the next few months.....and then some, hopefully. I know much laughter, work, tears, sweat and downright ridiculousness is in store!


ORR "Board" Meeting

(L to R) Mariel, Matt, Andrew & Matt

Friday, March 7, 2008

I Don't Think...

...this is against the rules. I'm going to talk about something other than Liberia. That's ok, right?

So, my family has been in Italy for the past 8 days, and they're coming home tomorrow night. I've been Susie-Homemaker all week, and as a result, I was watching Oprah [which I never do] the other day, and this cake recipe sounded super good! For those of you who don't know, one thing on my dream list is to own a bakery. I bake often, and I've done one wedding cake...and 2 years later I'm still recovering, haha. I know what you're thinking--alittle opposite of roughing it in Liberia, eh?

I admit, tonight I've only eaten the crumbs smothered in the leftover icing [am I the only one who does that?] but that alone was awesome! Anyway, I wanted to share the recipe with those of you who bake...or are thinking about baking...or need to bake something for Easter dinner...or just have a sweet tooth [which I have!].

Art Smith's Hummingbird Cake
(This cake is one of the most requested desserts at Art Smith's Chicago restaurant, Table Fifty-Two)
Serves 12

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped ripe bananas
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

- To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9" round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans.
- Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.
- To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.
- Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

The crumbs and icing were rich (cream cheese frosting), but I like it sweet! I'll post a picture tomorrow after my camera returns from Italy....unless my family devours the cake before I can get a pic. I'll bid you goodnight with a picture of my all-time favorite cake that I've made....for John Ryan's 1st Birthday!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Double S

So I've been loving the weather here in Atlanta these past few days! I've been taking full advantage of driving with the windows rolled down and the good tunes blasting! I realized yesterday that this weather feels so good because I totally missed out on Spring last year while I was in Liberia. Needless to say, the flip-flops are in full force!
Spring is in the air!

Spring also means that my time at home is drawing to a close. I'm leaving in 17 days! How crazy is that?! My sister Julianne was messing with my camera awhile back, but I thought I'd show you what I anticipate everyday...... [The daily walk to the mailbox. However, I'm usually praying instead of performing as I walk.]

[The daily checking of the mail, hoping there's a support envelope in there somewhere.]

[The result of a good day at the mailbox.]

The encouraging thing is that I'm at 72% (including pledges) of what I need for my first 4 months in Liberia. I will still need to raise money for when I go back around the beginning of October, but I'm praying that my condo will sell while I'm gone (or before I leave would be nice too), and that money can go towards my second trip.

[So if you want to support me, click the donate button on the right hand side]

I am also being commissioned this Sunday at New Hope North, if any of you are in the area.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008