Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Assortment of Fun Moments

These pictures are from Pate and Benj's birthday party last Friday! What a great time of celebrating 2 of our very favorite boys! And then Friday night we welcomed Tyler, Colby and Brady Vaughn to our house for a cousin sleepover! It was alot of fun, playing baseball, running through the sprinkler, watching a movie and just hanging out together. You can also catch a glimpse of our newly trained Noel "just sitting observing the fun"! Good job Noel! We are so proud of her!

Sunday night Lael and I took Tori to Paw and Precious' house. Tori spent the night there so that she could leave on the early flight to Washington DC with my mom. They have gone to spend the week with Uncle Sam and Aunt Emille and 2 of our all time favorite girls Bailey and Brylee. Lucky girls!! We all wish we were able to join them for this trip!

Tonight we did the prep work on Lael's hair for a new do tomorrow!! This took a full tedious hour of work unbraiding each braid! In her amazing way, she sat patiently while I removed each one. I am not kidding! This is an amazing little girl!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Pause

The last 24 hours have been a welcomed pause from the busyness and emotion of the past few weeks. I have been involved in some situations over the past month, through my line of work, as well as personally, that have been very emotionally draining. Trying to balance a full time job, while at the same time trying to manage a life as full time mom to four precious children and wife to an amazing man has been somewhat challenging to say the least. There have been many days lately where I have been so tired when I have returned home that I seriously have a hard time keeping my eyes open. I have been very thankful for the grace that surrounds me and for the very literal help from Randy, my parents, my sister, and someone who has been such a help and blessing to my family this summer, Savannah Shelton! She has been helping me with my kids 3 days a week and we all love her so much!!

With my job I am blessed to have a Flex-schedule. I have a job to do and I get it done around the needs of my family. Most of the time it works out that way. I am with them and get them where they need to be in between appointments or writing reports. A lot of work takes place as soon as they are in bed each night! When it doesn't work out that way, I am so thankful for the flexibility of others that are able to step in to help my family. I have said a lot, all leading to my original point that I have off today and tomorrow!! And I love some catch up quality time with my children! Last night I was able to meet up with my mom and sister, with Tori and we all had a blast getting pedicures! Thank you Mom!!! And we had some great relaxed conversation afterwards at Starbucks sitting outside! Today, with the help of Savannah and her brother Scott, we (me and 4 sweet kids) went to a local water park and met up with Becky and her boys! It was SO much fun! You can see by the picture below that it was even relaxing for Jonathan. This picture was taken as we were preparing to go and I had been in the midst of changing him into some dry clothes. I got distracted with something else and he decided to grab my diet coke and wait patiently for me! Tomorrow morning we are going to Pate and Benj's birthday party and then who knows what? I have the day off! There is no telling what we will do but we will be enjoying each other!

Savannah with J and L

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Village of Hope

Below are pictures from our last visit to Village of Hope! Hover over each picture to see the caption.
We are sure beginning to anticipate our next visit.
We have been receiving checks daily and are close to our goal.
Would you consider participating in this time of blessing for these children?
Watch the following slideshows and then go here to find out how you can help!

Here's a 2nd slide show with more recent pictures sent to us by the Director of VOH himself this summer! Hover over each picture to see the caption.

Look here to see a video of our last days in Benin with the people we love!

Thank you to the many who are giving generously! May the Lord return the blessing and fill your heart with joy! Expect his blessing! We will have a great testimony to share when we return!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Fun

Fun in the sprinkler! 2 days after surgery, Lael is recovering well.
She had her tonsils removed, adenoids removed, tubes put in her ears and an unbilical hernia corrected...all on her birthday, poor girl! She is a new person, complete with a new voice. It is great to see already that she is feeling so much better.

Our sweet dog Noel, has been at Man's Best Friend for the past 3 weeks. We picked her up this afternoon. They did amazing work with our dog. We have really enjoyed being with her this evening. She is calm and responds to commands. She lets us love on her and she doesn't jump like crazy. Before she went to doggy camp, 2 and sometimes 3 of our kids were afraid of her because she liked to jump on them, knock them down and lick them like crazy. I'm not sure why they didn't like that!!! We needed some help and we got it. All 6 of us played with our dog tonight and took her for a walk...and WE were in charge. Now, that is nice feeling!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Love As A Way of Life

Now this is a GREAT book! I was sent this book a few weeks ago and asked to read and review it! It is fantastic. The Lord's timing of placing the book in my hands has been perfect. He knew the challenging situations that I would be in this week (I had not anticipated them!) and I would need these thoughts as equipment for the battle!

For decades Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling books have shown readers how to speak the “love language” of those they care about. Now he digs even deeper to uncover the foundations of what it means to cultivate a lifestyle of love and how doing so leads to satisfaction and success in every area of life.
Drawing fresh insights from timeless biblical principles, Chapman presents poignant stories of real people who have discovered the joys of living out the seven characteristics of authentic love: kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, courtesy, generosity, and honesty. Enhanced with eye-opening self tests, practical ideas for building daily habits of love, and inspiring examples of love’s power to change lives, this book guides readers in putting love to work in all of their interpersonal relationships.
Convinced that in a world of constant conflict people desperately need authentic love, Chapman paints a compelling vision of how life can be richer and relationships more satisfying for anyone who practices Love As a Way of Life.

Gary Chapman points out how the development of the following traits will enhance our lives and also allow us to bring value to the lives of others, at home, at work, in our neighborhoods...basically anywhere we find ourselves. I LOVE that! I want to be the best I can be wherever I am and I definitely want to know how to be a blessing and add value to the lives of others. Gary Chapman expounds on the following 7 characteristics:

Kindness: discovering the joy of helping others
Patience: accepting the imperfections of others
Forgiveness: finding freedom from the grip of anger
Courtesy: treating others as friends
Humility: stepping down so someone else can step up
Generosity: giving your time, money, and abilities to others
Honesty: caring enough to tell the truth

Go here and order this book right now! You will be glad you did!!
and while I have your attention don't forget to go here and donate to Village of Hope!!! Participate in blessing children.

James 1:27 says that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress" Participate in the blessing and you will be blessed!
I have 2 free copies of the book to give away on this blog! Leave a comment if you think you are one of two that should receive it!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Village of Hope

I am so amazed that we have been in America for over a year. I can no longer click in the archives of my blog and look at what I was doing last year on this day in Benin, because a year ago today, we were already in America. The Lord has been faithful and he has led us through step by step. When I look back at those first few months we were here I can immediately feel a sickness in my heart. It was a dark time. I was overwhelmed and confused and having trouble focusing. I had the help of many friends and a very loving family. Even so, no once could fix the feeling for me. I had to walk through it with my strong husband and we led our children as we held tight to the unseen hand of God. One day at a time we concentrated on what was right before us and most of the time that is all I could do. It has taken time.

In many ways I feel like we are finally all here.

Our bodies arrived here July 3, 2007 and the rest of our spirit took time and arrived in small pieces. One year later, we are doing well, all 6 of us! Although that is completely true, there are moments I find myself daydreaming about our life in Benin and longing to reunite with our circle of friends there. This is certainly true for Tori and Timothy. They still talk often of our friends there, our home, the way we used to do school and our amazing Superdog Booker. It was a lot of fun to tell Tori and Timothy on our one year anniversary that the Lord has provided for our family to go back for a brief visit at the end of August. Richland Hills is providing all of the funding for our travel expenses and this is a wonderful blessing!
During the last 18 months that we were in Benin we discovered a wonderful place where God is at work. We discovered an orphanage where around 75 children are cared for. These children have lost their parents due to the HIV AIDS virus and others have been rescued from child traffickers. These children are lovingly cared for and blessed by adults who have sacrificed a great deal to protect them, feed and educate them. Recently we received a letter from the director there describing the present needs of the orphanage. The Lord has put it on our heart to raise what money we can to take and bless these children and their caregivers. Randy has created 2 web pages where you can learn more about this special place. (Click on the green sentences below and they will lead you to these pages.)

Please look at these pages and consider how you can participate with us in blessing these children. Help us spread the word as well! We are so excited to go and see our friends in Benin and to see what the Lord has done this past year. We know the Lord's heart is turned towards these orphaned children and we look forward to the opportunity share the Lord's love and joy with them in just two months!!! There will be a great testimony when we return. I anticipate it already. Participate with us if you can!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Love these Kids!

Summer Baseball is alot of fun! Tori and Timothy are having a blast. It also provides a great opportunity for Randy and I to slow down and enjoy our kids several nights a week. It also is simple pleasure and a great drawing card for grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins!! Lael running the bases after the game!
This morning I took 6 kids (4 Vaughns and 2 Brooks) to a very fun birthday party for a friend. Before we got out of the car, we went over a few rules about how we were going to get out of the car and into the building. This is proof they were listening!!
From that birthday party we went to another! We went to the home of Paw and Precious to celebrate Benjamin, Payton and Lael's Birthdays!
We closed our evening riding and wrestling!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Making Every Moment Count!

The morning started with a parade in my brother's neighborhood. We drove into Abilene with my parents, from Baird and brought 3 small 4 wheelers. Andy and Jessica brought decorations and face paint, and my parents provided lots of flags! It was fun, it was hot and the walk was long. Even so, it was an honor to walk carrying the flag. More than once as we passed people sitting in their lawn chairs in their front yards, older men stood as the flag passed by. This brought tears to my eyes. (Click on pictures to make them larger)

After the parade, we went to Whataburger and got some cool drinks! Then my parents took our 3 little ones and Tori went with us to the hospital to see our dear friends and former team mates in Benin, Greg and Melanie Bailey. Melanie gave birth to their 4th child, a son, James Gregory on July 3rd. It was such a blessing to be close enough to share the joy of this moment with them! Tori was especially happy to see their girls, Jessica, Faith and Hope!
Wonderful friends!
Then it was back to the ranch for SO much fun!
We made homemade ice cream with the ice cream maker that Sam and Emille gave us a couple of years ago. You put all of the ingredients in the maker that is kind of like a ball and then roll it back and forth for about 30 minutes. That was fun for the big and little kids!
Notice Lael and Jessica in the same shirt! Lael thought that was so cool!

That evening we drove back into Abilene and found the perfect spot to watch the fireworks!
Saturday night we had fun with some sparklers after dark and Sunday we had more fun riding 4 wheelers, eating watermelon and being in the sun!
It was a great time!
Fun, relaxing and no better way to have quality time with our kids. We all needed that time together and are blessed this week already because we stopped and made those moments count. Thank you Lord!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourth of July

One of the best celebrations of the 4th in recent memory!!
We have so many pictures and I will share more through the week.
Incredible weekend and what a blessing to have a day to think about our country and the sacrifices that have been made so that we can enjoy freedom. I love America. I love our flag. I am thankful for our President. I am thankful for our troops and the courage and sacrifice that they demonstrate daily to protect our country. I am a proud American.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

One year ago today

Tori's Back!

Tori is back! She returned early this evening and we could not get to her quick enough to hug her tight! What a blessing to hear her start talking about how much fun she had and the new friends that she made. She started talking and never stopped until she crashed on her pillow just minutes ago. She kept saying, "Mom is there anything else you want to ask me?" I love hearing that and believe me I was trying to think of more questions! I am looking forward to a long weekend where I can hear more and more! She did share the fact that she received 27 letters in the mail since Saturday!!!! That is so COOL! Thanks to wonderful family members for the literal load of mail and the sweet treats from Uncle Andy!
Words are not enough to describe how sweet this reunion of sisters!