Travel

Purpose

Thank you all for the loving, kind, caring reception to my post a few days ago about Real Life. Everyone’s words and prayers are so appreciated.

Since finding out that we can’t have kids on our own, Russell and I have had to ask ourselves how badly we want kids, what lengths we’re willing to go to get them, and what our life would look like if we don’t have kids. We had talked about these things before we got married and through the years – but the conversations are so much heavier when there’s the weight of reality hanging on them.

I think it’s no coincidence that at the exact same time we’ve been grappling with these questions, we’ve gotten to be involved in the launch of Purpose Coffee and watch it grow.

(If you don’t know what Purpose Coffee is, visit our website for all the info. But, in a nutshell, we import coffee from Thailand, Colombia, and hopefully soon countries in Central America and Africa. We roast the coffee here in Dalhart, you buy it, and then we donate all of the proceeds to fund child wellness projects in the same countries where the coffee beans came from. We’re investing in schools, orphanages, health initiatives, water well projects, and so much more!)

Before we started IVF and whatever other fertility treatments planned for us, I wanted to take time to focus on Purpose Coffee and make a trip solely dedicated to that cause. So, in February, we went to Colombia.

Purpose Coffee Co.It was such an amazing trip – soaking up all of the possibility and good that this new company has. Just what I needed to rejuvenate my soul.

We started the trip in Medellin, where we visited some schools and an orphanage that the proceeds from Purpose Coffee support. We got to see what the needs were – and, even more importantly, we got to meet the people who would benefit. The joyful, smiling faces. The beautiful personalities. The sweet kids whose lives shine with potential.

Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.We ended our trip by venturing into the countryside to visit coffee farms, meet with farmers, and bring back samples of their coffee. It was so interesting and beautiful and restorative and peaceful. And the coffee we brought home ended up being pretty delicious too.

I can’t even begin to describe what comfort and peace our involvement in Purpose Coffee has brought us – to know that even if it turns out that it’s not in our cards to have kids of our own, we can still carry out God’s purpose. That our lives can still have meaning. That we can still make a difference in kids’ lives and help shape their futures.

I know it’s cliche to think that God closes one door and opens a window. But, I’m pretty thankful He does.

Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.

 

A Tourist in Thailand

My last several blog posts have focused on the mission trip that Russell and I went on over Christmas. I hope it’s clear that my heart and soul were touched and changed forever by the things we saw and the people we met while on the trip.

We were also lucky to spend a few extra days in Thailand, experiencing a little more of the country and culture as tourists.

Bangkok

We flew into Bangkok a day early, before the rest of our group arrived. To say we were the typical tourists is an understatement. We traveled by tuk-tuk, we ate Pad Thai, Russell had some clothes tailored for him in six hours, we saw every Buddha in the city, and we sat in a lot of traffic. If we ever go back, I’ll definitely skip Bangkok. One day was more than enough.

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Chiang Mai

Halfway through our mission trip, we traveled from Yangon, Myanmar to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we had a tourist day since it was New Years Eve. Chiang Mai and the surrounding area were really neat – a must see for anyone traveling to Thailand.

We rode elephants, held baby tigers, and let off lanterns. a.k.a., It was the best day of my life. I don’t think I will ever forget what it feels like to feed an elephant, to pet a tiger, and to release a lantern into the heavens, watching it float away and join the sea of thousands of other lanterns.

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Krabi

After the mission trip finished, Russell and I headed to Krabi island for a little relaxation (and a little too much sun). We took a day-long snorkeling trip to Koh Rok, which had, hands down, the most amazingly beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. I didn’t fully grasp the concept of powdery white sand and crystal clear water until visiting Thailand.

ThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailand had been on my list of dream vacations for years, and I’m so glad to have spent time really getting to see so much of the country, while meeting its people and learning about its fascinating culture (oh, and eating its delicious food!).

Happy Birthday to My Love

Since I met Russell over seven years ago, he has changed me and grown with me so much. He’s changed me from a vegetarian to a meat lover, a city girl to a farm wife, a (slightly oblivious) college girl to a confident business woman… And the list could go on for days.

So many of the characteristics I naturally lack, he excels. Discipline, logic, responsibility, adventure, steadfastness. How amazing that he lets me stand on his shoulders and draw from his strengths.

I like to think I’ve rubbed off a little on him too. He’s more compassionate and understanding, more charitable, and more likely to eat dessert.

From day one of our relationship, I’ve loved that we are so different. We push each other; challenge each other.

Going on a mission trip isn’t something I ever thought Russell would want to do. So, when he casually mentioned he might be interested in going one day, I signed us up immediately. Leading up to the trip, I worried that I might have pushed a little too hard. What if he hated it. What if he was miserable. What if it was hard to play with the kids since we don’t have any kids. What if it was too hard to be around other people constantly for two weeks when we are used to being just us two. What if, what if, what if…

Honestly, I don’t know why I worry at all about that man; he’s a star. He worked hard, painting and helping build a foundation at one of the orphanages.

MyanmarThailandHe played SO well with the kids, showing them his crazy yoga abilities and amazing athleticism. And then he introduced them to Lord of the Rings and iPad minis and Texas Tech. (For the record, Go Frogs!)

MyanmarThailandMyanmarHe earnestly and thoughtfully talked with the orphanage leaders, learning about their farming and sustainability efforts, and sharing ideas for improvement and growth.

MyanmarThailandHe was patient. And loving. And kind. And thoughtful. And protective. And strong. And I fell even more in love with him.

Happy birthday to the best partner in life I could ever ask for. xoxo

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My Prayers for the Orphanages

I want to start by saying I don’t think they should really be called orphanages. The children may not have their biological families – but they absolutely have families. Mother and father figures who love them, a whole pack of brothers and sisters, and in most cases, extended family members too.

The term “orphanage” always conjured up images of sweet, innocent children living in too little love – or worse, abuse. Visiting the orphanages in Thailand and Myanmar thankfully dispelled that vision. Instead, I saw them living in love and hope and joy and potential and play and fun and kid-ness. And it was awesome.

MyanmarMyanmarMyanmar and ThailandSo, I thank God for the adults who so passionately love Him that they answered the call to adopt these kids into their own families. What strong, faithful, good role models they are – not just for these kids but for all of us who meet them. They have dedicated their lives, their homes, their resources – their all – to serving God by loving and caring for these kids.

As if that wasn’t enough, they are also committed to serving their surrounding communities. They have church services, start Bible colleges, and host shoe outreaches and other fun events. The orphanages are truly resources for their communities, the place where neighborhood kids come to play soccer, where all know they will be welcomed with love.

Because of these loving and faithful adults, kids who once faced insurmountable odds now have a chance at life. And not just for survival – but for success and thriving. Not only do they have food, clothing, and shelter, but they are getting an education, learning skills, being encouraged. Speaking in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – they have a chance at self actualization. What a testimony about God’s provision!

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Despite the manifold praises, there are still so many needs.

Some worry about meeting rent in 6 months, while others worry about where or if their kids will be able to continue their education. Some sit with unfinished buildings on their grounds, waiting for the funds to complete projects that will further their mission and aid in sustainability. We gave shoes and blankets in the community – and the thankfulness for these items showed the clear need for other essentials like these. Kids sleep on beds so hard that they gave me bruises to sleep there for 2 nights.

So, I pray that their needs will be met – and exceeded. That their thoughts and energy won’t be spent on how to meet basic needs, but can instead stay focused on having the biggest impact in others’ lives as possible.

I pray for each of the kids we met and the many, many others we weren’t able to meet. I pray for their futures – that they are able to build on the growth and opportunity they’ve found already, staying steadfast in their faith, becoming change makers in their communities and country. I pray that they will always walk in light and love – and never doubt where that light and love come from.

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I pray for their communities and country. May the hearts and minds of the people of these beautiful countries be softened. May the hold that fear, deception, and superstition have over them be released. I pray that God’s glory will be ever more evident.

I pray for our team that went on the mission trip – that we never forget the passion and inspiration we felt while in Thailand and Myanmar. That we recognize that our trip might have ended but our role in their lives carries on.

And I pray for anyone whose heart might be moved while hearing stories of the trip and the work in this region. Truly, in all of my work and travels, I’ve never seen a place with more opportunity for a miraculous return on investment.

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Mission Trip

Russell and I got home from our mission trip late last night after 16 (or maybe 17? I lost count.) days traveling abroad. We’ve each had about 72 seconds of sleep. Our bags are definitely still packed. The mail is piled high. Our to-do lists are getting full already. My Christmas decorations are still up. The house and yard look like our dogs went on a rampage while we were gone.

But, instead of focusing on any of that, I’m sipping coffee and sorting through my photos. 703 of them to be exact. And trying to put into words what’s in my heart and mind after this life changing trip.

MyanmarWe were in Thailand and Myanmar to work at and support orphanages and do outreach in the surrounding communities. It was awesome, and challenging, and moving, and inspiring, and difficult, and not at all what either of us expected.

MyanmarOur hearts were touched by all of the people we met who have such a burning passion for Jesus, for His children, and for the betterment of their country and the lives of their peers. And we were blown away by the hope and potential – both for the individuals and the region at large.

MyanmarI’m not sure how long it will take to fully digest the last few weeks. And to make my way through 703 photos. But, I’ll definitely be sharing more of my thoughts, reactions, prayers, and photos soon.

MyanmarLast and most importantly, I want to extend a deep and sincere Thank You to everyone who thought about us, checked in on us, sent words of encouragement, and prayed for us while we were gone – your love was definitely felt!

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Costa Rica

I’ve heard it said that Costa Rica is for lovers. So, where better to go and celebrate our anniversary this year?

And Costa Rica definitely lived up to all of the hype. We started our trip staying at Tabacon resort, near Arenal volcano. This place has to be as close to Heaven on Earth as possible. It was so incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

It was the rainy season while we were there, which for us desert-dwellers was much welcome! How wonderful to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of rain! Luckily the rain cleared during the days, so we hiked through the rain forest, swam around waterfalls, and enjoyed the hot springs.

It was also Russell’s brother and his wife’s anniversary, so we met up with them for zip lining and then a few lazy days at the beach.

It was such a great trip, full of relaxation, adventure, delicious food, and wonderful company – it was so tempting to “accidentally” miss our flight and stay in paradise a little longer!

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Caribbean Cruise

Checking one more thing off my 30 before 30 list – No. 17 Go on a Cruise.

For our annual get-away-from-the-cold/Russell’s birthday trip, we went on a Caribbean cruise, leaving from Puerto Rico and going to St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Thomas. We had a wonderful time – snorkeling, hiking, beach laying, shopping, and eating way too much.

Ship

St. Croix

On our first stop, we got off the boat bright and early to walk around the island a bit, take some yoga/handstand pictures on the beach, and then go on a snorkeling tour to Buck Island.

St. Croix

St. Croix

StCroix

St. Croix

St. Kitts

We barely saw the island at all – but what a fun day! I shopped for jewelry, then got a massage and facial, and ended the day with lobster for dinner. Talk about spoiled!

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Dominica

Russell and I have been wanting to go to Dominica for a while now – so we were most excited for this stop on our cruise. And, it ended up being our favorite island too.

The day started with some rain – which resulted in a beautiful double rainbow over the ocean. Then, we loaded up in a van to go to a zip line and ropes course in the jungle. And our day ended with tubing down a river.

Most of my pictures from this day are on an undeveloped underwater disposable camera. But, here are a few from my camera and Russell’s phone.

Dominica

Dominica

Dominica

Grenada

The spice island. And the spices are awesome. As are the waterfalls.

We hiked Seven Sisters Waterfalls – which was way more treacherous than we thought it would be. It had rained that morning, so the paths were all mud. And very steep. But the waterfall at the end was gorgeous. And the swim was refreshing.

When we got back, the pier was very close to town, so we walked in for lunch and some sightseeing.

Grenada

Grenada

Grenada

St. Thomas

After our ropes course and hike, we were pretty exhausted in St. Thomas – even with a day at sea in between. So, we just meandered around town and then headed to a nearby beach to get some afternoon sun and a quick nap.

Then we headed back to the ship to enjoy some time together on our balcony, the sunset, and some champagne.

StThomas

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StThomas

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Puerto Rico

Our trip began and ended in San Juan. We flew in a day early and then had a late afternoon flight – so we got to explore San Juan a bit. I hadn’t ever been interested in vacationing in Puerto Rico but would definitely go back (or, ya know, buy a vacation home someday!)

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

 Puerto Rico

Beautiful, Wonderful Maui

I thought there was nothing in the world I wanted to do less than move again – but then I visited Maui over Thanksgiving and I haven’t stopped dreaming of moving to Hawaii. It was, simply, paradise. Perfect weather, beautiful scenery, great food, and equal amounts of relaxation and adventure.

I think I could go on for days about all we did and saw and ate – and how wonderful all of it was. But, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll stick to mostly photos!

Around the hotel

We stayed at the Ritz in Kapalua. It was gorgeous. The food was amazing. The spa was divine. But, I spent almost no time in my room, so the ocean view upgrade probably wasn’t worth it.

Old Lahaina Luau

Locals and tour books say this is the best luau – and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

Snorkeling at Molokini

This was by far my favorite snorkeling experience (given that it’s the only time I didn’t have a panic attack, it’s pretty clearly the winner). We even saw some whales during the boat ride back to Maui!

Sunrise at Haleakala and the Road to Hana

The 3 am wake-up call was totally worth it to get to the top of Haleakala for sunrise – even though fog rolled in after about 3 minutes. And combining Haleakala and the Road to Hana into one day was do-able, even though all of the tour books and websites said they weren’t. And, the tour books said there’s no food along the Road to Hana – another lie. There was great fruit, banana bread, tacos, and even Pad Thai.

Ziplining

Gorgeous views of Maui and the ocean. So glad we did ziplining – but not something I’ll do on my next visit to Hawaii.

It was such a great trip – I can’t wait to go back for another visit (or find a job and move there!)

Thankful

One of the reasons I went to Uganda a few weeks ago was to capture video footage for a Thanksgiving video (click here to watch it!). Since then, as we’ve been editing the video, I’ve had lots of time to think about all of the things that I am thankful for. For starters, I’m  thankful for my job(s) that allow me to be creative all day long.

I’m of course so unbelievably thankful for my amazing husband; our marriage; and his love, patience, devotion, and understanding. (And his muscles!)

Our wonderful families. And our animals.

I’m thankful to have a lovely home (even if it is in Dalhart, TX). And, in that house, I’m thankful to have more than I need; plenty to eat every day; and a safe, warm place to sleep each night.

I’m thankful to have the best friends a girl could ask for.

I’m humbled and grateful that I was born into such a blessed life, with parents that believe in me, great schools that educated me, in a country that makes all of the above possible.

And, last, I am beyond-words-thankful to be leaving for vacation tomorrow. Hawaii, here we come!

 

Addis Ababa

The non-profit that I work for held a meeting in Addis Ababa a few weeks ago and asked me to provide logistical support for the meeting. Which was scary because we have an awesome event planner who couldn’t attend and I had to TRY to fill her shoes. And it was awesome because I hadn’t been to Ethiopia before. So, I eagerly booked my tickets, packed my bags, and headed off to Ethiopia. I really didn’t know anything about Ethiopia, other than where it’s located and that they have awesome coffee – and that’s really the only information that I thought I needed to know before embarking on my trip.

One of my co-workers and I arrived several days before the rest of our group. Because of a national holiday, we had a day to do some exploring. Having done virtually no research about the country, we let the tour guide decide what our itinerary should be.

First, he took us to a series of crater lakes in nearby Debre Zeyit. There was a lovely resort there, called Kuriftu, where we had lunch lakeside. The scenery was pretty – but, at the end of the day, they were just a series of lakes.

So, we returned to Addis Ababa to see some of the city. Our first stop was the Ethiopian National Museum, which is best known (at least to us…) for housing Lucy, the skeletal remains of a woman thought to have lived over 3 million years ago. The museum had a great collection of fossils, creating a really interesting visual story of the history of prehistoric animals and humans. It was humbling to stand in front of a fossil that is 10 million years old. Wow.

We also learned some about Ethiopia. For example, it wasn’t colonized (although they had a brief occupation by the Italians, but I don’t think that was considered colonization.). They have an entirely different calendar and clock there (it was October 5, 2005 when I visited. And 4:00 pm our time is 10:00 am their time. It was most confusing). And, my favorite, they boast that coffee originated from their country. It grows wild there. And it truly was amazing coffee.

Our final stop was Mount Entoto, the highest peak in Addis, which is 3200 meters above sea level (…or, um, a bunch of feet…). The mountain is very steep – I was glad to be driving up it instead of walking! Our tour guide said that many of Ethiopia’s famous runners live and train on the mountain.

And, at the top, the panoramic views of the city were pretty breathtaking.

All in all, it was a lovely country, full of rich history and culture, with such nice people. I’m glad to have visited!

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