One year ago, We adopted this little puppy... and she has kept life exciting ever since.  She does her fair share of causing trouble, but her sweet dog moments far outweigh her bad.

She gives me lots of puppy cuddles.

She is extremely excited to see me whenever I get home.

She sits in the car waiting and gives me the biggest smile when she sees me.

She loves playing catch (only inside).

She likes spending lazy days napping with me.

She gives me puppy kisses whenever I'm mad at her.

And she loves meeting new people and dogs.


Upcycled painting

Remember this painting I got back in April?!  It sat around forever while I came up with tons of ideas for it.  I started out intending to put cork board on the inside... changed my mind to chalkboard paint... thought about modge podging maps all over it and painting a quote... had a couple painting ideas (patterns, animals for the nursery, etc).
Finally, I remembered this wall photo college on Under the Sycamore.  Here is an updated version of the wall.  The first time I saw a picture of the collage, I fell in love and knew I would have something like this in my future home.  Unfortunately, I am still renting and didn't want to put the effort into putting the wall up and taking it down every year.  Enter giant picture frame.
I spray painted the frame with a couple leftover cans of white spray paint.  Some of the crevices are dark and it didn't get completely covered before I ran out of spray paint, but I really love the texture and depth that is added.  I painted a couple coats of white acrylic over the painting, and painted the border black.
Cloverson exhausted from all the painting
Then it sat for a couple weeks.  I decided I wanted a pattern painted on it since it wouldn't be completely filled with pictures for quite a while.  I settled on this gold chevron/arrow pattern I used on a painting for Celia.  It took me a full day to paint the pattern.  Here is what it looks like now:
I plan on printing out a bunch of black and white 5" x 5" pictures of me, Ben, Clove, and Baby (ultrasound) and arrange them in a grid.  We'll add pictures of da baybay when she comes along and as she grows up.  I will post an updated picture when I have this set up in the nursery area.


Burkina Faso :: Part III

Recently, I've been spending some time reflecting on some mission trips I've taken in the last 5-6 years.  Since these were very impactful points in my life and something I think about often, I thought I'd share some things from my trip in a little mini series.

See Burkina Faso Part I and Part II

Our last week in Ougadougou (capital city of Burkina Faso) was a jumble of activity.  We did a lot of things, but here were a couple of the bigger things:

We got to join some students at a local university for a bible study.  It was interesting to meet some people close to our age and get a look at how their bible studies compare to ours.  They spoke in French mostly, so I didn't catch everything, but I got the gist of it.
Universitie students
I got to express my artsy side by painting a mural in the office room of a school.  Our team collaborated the night before and settled on painting a vine and having the fruits of the spirt (Galatians 5:22-23) written in both English and French.  Before we left for the school, we were surprised by Benoit, my friend from camp, and his brother Elvis.  They joined us for the day of painting.
the group in front of the mural
There weren't a lot of paint supply options at our disposal so we had to get creative with what we had.  We used two colors of paint (oil so it got kind of messy), and some larger paint brushes.  We also made some stencils out of paper for the fruit and leaves.  To paint the words, we just used our fingers.

We took a small overnight trip to another city named Kaya.  It was a little more rural than Ouagadougou, but still a little developed.  We visited an orphanage that mostly housed younger kids.  The orphanage also had a program where people in the area would bring their kids to make sure that they are getting the right nutrition.  During our trip, we also spent some time shopping at the local leather market and visited with Joseph (our host for the entire Burkina Faso trip) and his family.
feeding time at the orphanage
On top of visiting the leather market in Kaya (I got a couple leather wallets), we got to visit an artist's market.  There were lots of things to look at and it was neat seeing the art from another country.  There were instruments, masks, tapestries, jewelry, woodwork, etc.  I got a couple tapestries.

Our team also explored the neighborhood near our hostel for some additional souvenirs.  I was able to get a mask, some different patterned fabric, a couple soccer jerseys, and a woven bag.  The sellers enjoyed bartering and was expected.  That was one of the hardest parts of shopping (even though I love a good deal) because the original price was already very reasonable and I would have been happy to buy at that price.

Saying Good Bye:
We were surprised with a going away party.  All of the Navigateurs leaders got together and we had pop and talked about our experience.  They presented us with some gifts.  I received some fabric (probably 5 yards) and a small tapestry.  We said our good byes and headed back to our hostel to get all of our stuff ready to leave.
the going away party
Our team had a couple days layover in Paris so we got to spend a little more time together reflecting on our trip just the five of us before we went our separate ways.  I still email with some teammates and people I met on the trip and think of the trip often.  I like having little souvenirs and pictures from the trip around the house so I am frequently reminded of my time in Africa and the people I met there.

Be careful and watch yourself closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen 
or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. 
[Deuteronomy 4:9]


Burkina Faso 2009 :: Part II

Recently, I've been spending some time reflecting on some mission trips I've taken in the last 5-6 years.  Since these were very impactful points in my life and something I think about often, I thought I'd share some things from my trip in a little mini series.

See Burkina Faso Part I

We spent the middle part of our trip at a youth camp that we referred to as bible bootcamp.  Each American was split up and paired with their own team of Burkinabe for the week.  We ate all of our meals with that group and had small bible studies in the morning.  After breakfast and the bible study, we would spend the rest of the morning (2-4 hours) in a classroom with worship music and listening to a speaker (luckily he spoke English and had a French translator so it was easier for me to listen since I have to work really hard to pick up French).  The speaker came from a country that is primarily muslim so we learned a lot about the muslim culture and being an 'alongsider' with muslim friends, family, and neighbors.

my group
We would have lunch and then a little nap/rest time before sports time.  During sports time, we would all go up to this field and play soccer or throw frisbee and just hang out. After sports time we would have some more worship and classroom time and some individual study time in the evening.  One day during sports time, I walked onto the field and there was a rainbow,worship music playing on a camper's phone, and everyone was running around having fun... it was a small glimpse into what heaven will be like and I can still picture that moment so vividly.
some campers
Worship time and prayer was a lot more spontaneous and organic from what I've experienced in America.  During songs, there was a lot of clapping and dancing and felt a lot more relaxed.  I wasn't able to understand the French in some of the songs so I just made up my own words.  During any time of prayer, we were asked to pray to ourselves, but all of the campers would speak their prayers out loud so you could just hear a hum of spoken prayers during that time.  These things initially surprised me, but felt really comfortable and natural as soon as I dived into it.

Our time at camp was really fun!  I would consider it one of the more significant parts of the trip since it was our most consistent time during the trip and we spent a lot of that time interacting with a smaller group of Burkinabe.  All of the students were really willing to open up and have great discussion.  Only one student in my group, Benoit, spoke English so he was the one that I became the closest to and got to see him later in the trip.

Jeux de Piste
Towards the end of our time at camp, we had a day where they called Jeux de Piste, which translates to games of the trails.  Jeux de piste, or what I dubbed the best day of my life, was quite the adventure.  You quickly learn that you should have zero expectations for your day/trip when you are on a mission trip.  What we were told was supposed to be a little scavenger hunt turned out to be a 5-7 hour all day hike/run/search through (literally) the middle of nowhere.  We were told to follow these barely visible arrows etched in the dirt (I didn't spot a single one the entire time) that were probably 100-200 yards away from each other.  Then there were M's in a circle at certain spots standing for 'Messenger' and we would have to search around that area to find a leader that would ask us some trivia questions from our lessons we learned that week.
my group during jeux de piste
At the end of the hike, they paralleled the adventure to the journey of life.  There are many obstacles and we'll reach hard times, but we have to press on.  There will also be tests (Messenger) along the way.  


Burkina Faso 2009 :: Part I

Recently, I've been spending some time reflecting on some mission trips I've taken in the last 5-6 years.  Since these were very impactful points in my life and something I think about often, I thought I'd share some things from my trip in a little mini series.

See my story from my first mission trip to Nicaragua Part I and Part II

In 2009, I was finishing up my second year of college.  I just switched majors and felt lead to go on a mission trip with Navigators, the group I was involved with in college.  It took me a while to accept the idea, but I felt like the trip to Burkina Faso, Africa was the one for me.  I was having a hard time raising money and in no way could financially supplement part of the trip myself.  God really provided for me financially through some anonymous donors and the adventure began.

I met my team at the airport in Chicago.  I had emailed with the leader and one of the other team members, but otherwise they were complete strangers that I was going to spend the next month with.  What had I gotten myself into?!  We had a layover in Paris on the way there so we got to spend some time getting to know each other a little before we headed to Burkina Faso.

touristy stuff
The first couple days in Africa, we got to spend some time exploring the city and doing some of the 'touristy' stuff.  We went to Laongo, a sculpture garden where each stone sculpture had some pretty deep meanings.  We had a tour guide that showed us around and explained the meaning behind each piece.
lion at the zoo
My favorite touristy thing was the zoo, Zinaire.  It was so different from an American zoo.  The only thing that separated us from most of the animals was a chain link fence.  There was quite a bit of interaction with the animals; we got to scratch hyenas with sticks through the fence, hold mini turtles, and feed the gazelle and baby elephants.  There were also camels roaming around uncaged (I nearly got trampled) and some ostriches off in the distance.  It was a completely different zoo trip than I've ever experienced, but pretty awesome.
baby turtles at the zoo
We visited a Navigators clinic that is run by a missionary from Nigeria.  We got a tour, learned about the clinic's maternity ward expansion plans, and planted a couple trees.  One of my teammates is in the medical field so she shadowed a nurse and learned more about the clinic.  The boys in the group helped out with some manual labor.  I hung around with one of the other teammates and talked to the pharmacist and a couple of patients that were waiting.  It is always interesting to see the differences in the medical offices in other countries.
the clinic
eat and sleep:
throughout our stay, minus the camp, we stayed at a missionary hostel that was pretty nice.  We had twin beds with mosquito netting and a bathroom.  There was even the option of an air conditioner, but we never used it.
some of our group with our server
Most days, we ate at the ISO which had a pool, tennis courts, and a school in the same little compound.  The restaurant was kind of Americanized food.  We always had the same server, Anani, and he was very friendly, but it took us three weeks to build up the courage to ask him his name.  We also ate at a couple restaurants and had some more native food at the camp.  A majority of the time it was some type of rice dish.  Overall the food was good.  There were a couple dishes that didn't settle well, but I enjoyed most of the things we ate there.


Nicaragua 2007 :: Part II

Recently, I've been spending some time reflecting on some mission trips I've taken in the last 5-6 years.  Since these were very impactful points in my life and something I think about often, I thought I'd share some things from my trip in a little mini series.

See Nicaragua Part I here

vida joven:
During the middle part of our trip, we went to a Vida Joven (spanish Young Life) camp up in the mountains.  We split our group in two and one group did Vacation Bible School with some campers and the other half worked building a road to another entrance then the groups switched.  Since the Vacation Bible School was in Spanish, I didn't do very well helping out except for at the sports and games part of the day.  The building road days were pretty fun.  We worked on clearing out the brush, placing large boulders, then gravel, and packing it down.  It was fun working and spending time talking with other people on the trip with us and some of the Vida Joven leaders.  There was a missionary family from America that had kids our age with them so we got to talk and learn how life was like for them as missionaries.

home stay:
I was paired with another girl from my church and a student that participated in Vida Joven for our home stay.   The girl we were paired up with was my age and had just finished high school so it was kind of like seeing what life would be like if I lived in Nicaragua.  We went and had dinner at her house and saw her neighborhood.  We met up with some of her friends that our church friends were paired with.  We all went to one of their Vida Joven meetings then had a sleepover with her and her friends at their local Vida Joven club.  It was pretty interesting seeing the similarities and differences of the lives of someone our age in a different country.

the dump:
This day was one of those days that is still so vividly stuck in my mind like it happened yesterday.  We were dropped off at the entrance of the dump and we had a small van that brought us closer to the clinic we were visiting.  My first reaction was just awe at the sheer size of the dump.  There were mountains of garbage as far as I could see.  The smell was pretty bad, but my sense of smell adjusted pretty quickly.  The air was thick making it harder to breathe.

Walking through the dump, we saw little huts made out of cardboard probably the size of a child's fort.  This is where they lived!  I couldn't believe it.  We reached the clinic and we spent our time outside playing with the children.  I paired up with a girl probably around 6 named Luisa.  I helped her decorate a t-shirt and we played.   I remember there being flies everywhere.  One of the little girls was snacking on a banana and the flies landed on the banana and she didn't even notice.

We got back on the bus and my heart just broke for the people that had to spend their life living in a garbage dump.  Images from that day are permanently stuck in my brain and I continue to think of and pray for the kids I met that day.

During this trip, God opened my eyes to ways that other people lived and how fortunate I am to live where I do and have so many opportunities open to me.  I learned that you can connect on a deeper level as brothers and sisters in Christ despite the language barriers.
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