Say What?

We’ve made it through our first week of training out here in Colorado! Oh, what a week it was. We arrived at our training center just outside Colorado Springs on Monday afternoon. I had mentally prepared myself to have all of us in one room for the month, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn we are actually in two adjoining rooms! (Translation: we don’t all have to go to sleep when the kids do and wake up when they do. Magical.) After we got settled in our space, we took the kids to meet their teachers and explore their classrooms. The awesome thing about the COMPASS program out here at MTI is that, while we’re in class everyday, our kids are learning a lot of the same materials in kid-appropriate ways. And they love it. The kids met their teachers and then we got together with all the trainees to introduce ourselves and get an idea of what the month will look like.

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There are roughly 35 adults and 20 kids in our program. Some have already been in their respective countries for a bit, but most of us are getting ready for our first longer-term move. And we’re heading all over the world. Seriously, all over. Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Lebanon, South Sudan, Kenya (represent!), India, Papua New Guinea, Japan, China. And the list goes on. It’s been amazing to hear the stories of how people have been led to their future home and what they’ll be doing when they get there.

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This first week we focused a great deal on language learning. But we’ve got a whole list of languages we’re needing to learn between everyone in our group, right? Tricky! We’re actually focusing on how to learn a language rather than the details of specific languages. We spent a good deal of time learning the sounds of the phonetic alphabet, which I thoroughly enjoy. I took enough linguistics classes back in college that I was super close to minoring in it, so now it’s all coming back. Kinda cool to see something like that come full circle and be so helpful now. We’ve also spent hours and hours in the last few days practicing how to make all the phonetic sounds, particularly those we don’t use in English. Our jaws and tongues were pretty sore by the end of each day. Then, on Friday morning, we were broken into groups to meet with native speakers of various languages to work through some really cool ways to learn language that are pretty different from what we’ve done in the past. There was no memorizing of vocabulary lists or starting with the alphabet. Instead, we asked specific questions to our language helpers and then worked from there. I spent the morning working on Russian and Pete worked on Mandarin. Not quite our future language of Swahili, but we are both really excited to apply the skills we picked up in the last week when we get to Kenya in a few months.

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Out here, we don’t have class on the weekends. Such a good time to rest our brains and our language-learning lips. Saturday morning we went as a family to the local YMCA to workout. Then Ella and Pete went on their weekly date to a movie while Sam and I took naps. It hadn’t been my plan to nap, but, you know, sometimes it just happens. It was great! All of our meals are together during training (like at camp!) and last night was pizza and ice cream sundaes followed by a movie for all the kids. And lots of the grown ups. Because yes, some of us did end up watching The Secret Life of Pets along with the kiddos.

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This morning we got ourselves dressed up and joined my dear friend, Bryn, and her family for church nearby. (More on that later, since it deserves its very own post.) After brunch with them, we drove down to explore Garden of the Gods. A fairly perfect Sunday afternoon drive. Now we’re back at the lodge, the boys are napping, and I’m here. Ella is up practicing with the worship team, which about makes my heart explode. After participating in our morning worship sessions for the last week, Ella asked if she could be a part of the team. They joyfully said yes and invited her to practice today. I think she’ll be playing something percussive. I’m so excited to watch her gifts start to pour out!

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We’re excited to jump into another week of training!

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First Day of 2017…On the Road

Happy 2017 from Colorado! Last night we rang in the New Year in a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, and today we drove, drove, drove to the edge of Colorado. It’s been quite the week of car travel. This is our fourth hotel! First it was Christmas in Pequot with my family, then a night in Rochester for travel shots at Mayo, then last night in Iowa and tonight in Colorado. So glad we’ll reach our final destination for the month tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be at Mission Training International near Colorado Springs for four full weeks. We’ve been told really great things about the training, so we’re looking forward to getting there and meeting everyone in our session. Just two and a half more hours of driving, which seems like cake at this point.

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The kids are rock star travelers, which I have been endlessly thankful for since the day they were born. I would likely be at my wits end if they didn’t travel well. I mean, we’re a traveling family, so thanks, God, for putting that in them! We’ve definitely learned a few things about car travel since having kids. Like a DVD player is the best invention ever for trips, and non-spill snack containers and cups are a must. I’ve also realized that it doesn’t take a whole bunch of different things to keep them busy. Instead, a few simple things can keep their attention for long enough. Then we rotate through each item. The car stays cleaner, the kids aren’t overwhelmed with options, and they can work on focusing their attention. This trip I bought them each a pencil box and put their name on the front for a place to keep small things together, like markers, pieces of clay, and stickers. Sam loves buttons, so I gave him a cheap calculator he uses like a phone. He is seriously joyously happy each time we hand it to him. He also has a small tractor and a motorcycle he got for Christmas. He’s just starting to enjoy coloring, so the Color Wonder markers and color pages Luke & Hannah gave him for Christmas are perfect. (The markers don’t color on anything but the paper!) Ella enjoys projects and workbooks, so I ordered this fantastic lap desk for her a week ago and it has been a dream in the car. She spent today working through a paper doll book from Usborne and creating felt creatures in this Melissa and Doug set. Of course, snacks are also pretty helpful. Our snack of choice on this trip has been popcorn. We have a few little baggies of gummy worms for the kids, too. Something we can easily pull out and hand to them.

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Here’s a trick we’ve picked up that some might say ruins a movie, but we do it anyway: We turn the sound off on lots of movies the kids watch. They don’t seem to mind! This is especially true if they’re working on or playing with something at the same time. This way, Pete and I can listen to audio books up front. I do the same thing when it’s just me on longer trips with the kids. Last night and today we listened to The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper. So good! We totally relate to their love of dreaming together and going after big things that seem a little impossible. And every time Joanna said she wouldn’t have tried some of what got her started in design and sales without her husband, I could absolutely relate. Pete is the one who hears my secret, little dreams and encourages me like none other. The little bake shop I had for a couple years? I never would have done that without him, and I loved it! They also talk about marriage, another topic Pete and I are really into. Plus, Chip & Joanna read the book. It was such a great way for us to spend five or six hours of driving time.

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Tomorrow we’ll get to the MTI lodge and settle into our room for the month. Yes, we all get to be in one room for the whole month. We’re praying this goes well. I’m so glad Sam still wants to sleep in a portable crib when we travel. It seems to bring him comfort. Otherwise, I have no doubt he’d be all over that room in the night.

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Oh, it’s a new year. With everything going on right now, I feel like that has slipped right by me. I need to spend some time reflecting on the last year and all that happened. You guys, I had a word of the year and I actually thought about it all year long! Maybe tomorrow I’ll start praying about a word for this year. And if I get a chance, I’ll share the word and verse from last year. But for now, we’re all going to cuddle into the king bed in this hotel room and finish watching The Polar Express.

Happy 2017!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, dear friends! We are so thankful to have you on this journey with us!

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photo card from Photo Affections
bottom right photo of Sam by Jane Cane Photography


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A Day to Celebrate!

A year ago, Ella asked us if she could be baptized after seeing a baptism at our church. We talked about what baptism means and why people choose to do it. She was very enthusiastic, but we wanted to wait until she was a little older to make sure she fully understood the choice. She continued to ask about her own baptism about once a month through the entire year, and near the end of the summer, we decided it was time. We made sure Pete had the weekend off for it in October and invited Ella’s grandparents and godparents. We were getting ready for a celebration!

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Baptisms are done at our church every few months during the regular service. This particular weekend was especially fun because the incredibly talented group The Neverclaim was in town for a show and led worship the morning of Ella’s baptism.

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When it was time for the baptisms, our lead pastor and good friend, Michael, explained what it means to be baptized and invited those who wished to be baptized to head to the front of the auditorium. Most of them had previously met with a pastor to talk through the scripture behind baptism and to pray.

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A few days before, I had asked if Pete could be a part of baptizing Ella. Watching this scene right here while snapping a few pictures made me cry. How could it not?!

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And this. The moment she came up out of the water. Ella was so excited and the entire auditorium was cheering! You can see Luke & Hannah holding Sam, my dad in the background taking pictures, and the kids’ long-time nanny, Donna, and her husband clapping. Pete’s parents were there, and Ella’s godmother, Kristin. All people who have taught our girl about Jesus, helped guide her, and have been a part of shaping her into the beautiful young woman she is becoming.

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After the service, we went back to the community room in our old condo building for pizza and cake!

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Ella with her grandmas. I so wish I had a picture of the entire group, but I never seem to capture those photos. I need to carry a big, laminated note to all special events reminding me to get group pictures.

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The Friday before, Ella came home from school very excited. She said she got to tell her whole 2nd grade class that she was going to be baptized and what that meant. I just adore this girl’s heart.

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A very special, incredibly memorable day for our Ella!

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