Gifts of Grace

Performing arts, namely dance and theater, have always been a huge part of my life. For many years now, I have invested much time and energy sharing my love for and knowledge of these arts with the next generation. I’m ever-so-thankful that wherever the Lord has led our family, He always provides an outlet for me to use my gifts and talents.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

We had just arrived to RVA and many staff members were saying things like, “Oh, YOU’RE the dance teacher they said was coming!” or “My little girl is so excited to be able to take ballet now!” Before long, I started my first classes of elementary age kiddos! Somewhere in between, I should add, I was approached by a teenager who used to dance when she lived in America. She wanted to help me with my classes if I needed it. I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, but I said yes….and I’m so glad I did!

Grace has been an amazing teacher assistant for the past year and a half. I have so enjoyed working with her and I’ll never forget something she said that seemed mature beyond her years…..

We were working on some choreography together and she started telling me about how she grew up in Texas. Grace had been taking ballet since she was 2 years old, and dance was her “thing,” her niche. At the age of 15, her family moved to a remote area of South Sudan (that’s in Africa, people) to be missionaries, and she soon became a boarding student at RVA. EVERYTHING changed for her. And there was really no outlet for her to use this passion, this gift of dance that God had given her. She told me how she was so thankful to be dancing again, and then she said, “I think that when I gave up my passion to follow where God was leading our family, He gave it back to me.” And that He did. For both of us.



Recipe Write-Up

The other day, I asked MiKenna (our most particular eater) what was her favorite meal that I make. Without hesitating she said, “Chicken Curry!” This dish is one that was introduced to us by our next door neighbors who had us over for dinner one of the first nights we were here at RVA. Michael and I were shocked that MiKenna was raving over the curry! Since then, it has been a go-to meal for our family. So, I thought I would share this delicious, family-favorite recipe with you:
Chicken Curry
3 T butter
¼ cup onion
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk (could also use coconut milk)
1½ tsp curry powder
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp sugar
¼ tsp of each: oregano, paprika, sage, parsley, celery salt, garlic powder
3 T flour
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
½ tsp lemon juice
Saute onion in butter. Add everything but chicken and lemon juice, whisking until flour is no longer lumpy. Sauce should thicken as it heats. Stir in chicken and heat through. Add the lemon juice just before serving. Serve on top of rice with condiments such as: chopped tomatoes, peanuts, raisins, coconut, pineapple, sliced bananas, chopped apples, and (Michael’s and Amy’s newly discovered favorite) mango chutney. (serves 4)
Hope you try out this recipe sometime too!
(Thank you to Susan Stocksdale for the recipe, and to Sheri Daubenmier for introducing us to it!)

Where were you a year ago today?

My, where has the time gone? 365 days ago we boarded a plane in Atlanta, Georgia and made our way to Kenya.img_0993
Dates are a big part of our lives. We remember dates of births, anniversaries and many other special events. In addition to those I have several more dates that will go with me into eternity. May 6th, that was the day it was confirmed in the hearts of Amy and I that Rift Valley Academy was the next stop for our family. May 7th, was the day I had to let my administrator know that I was not going to be back to Wilmington Christian for the 2015 school year. May 8th, I let my school family know that I was going to be leaving. And on May 9th, one of the harder conversations I ever had was explaining to my baseball team how the Lord was leading my family and that I wouldn’t be around to continue coaching them. After being approved by our mission board on June 20th, we began raising support and by September 11th, we were approved to book our tickets to Africa. On September 27th, our church held a special commissioning service to send us off with lots of love and prayer. October 6th, we drove out of Wilmington, heading for Atlanta to tie up some loose ends before boarding our plane for Kenya (also the day of my last Port City Java Mocha Shake). October 8th was the last day our feet were on United States soil, and (following our Africa orientation) November 3rd was the day our matatu drove us onto the campus of Rift Valley Academy where we have spent the past year of our lives.
Has it been easy?… no way. Worth it?… most definitely! I wouldn’t trade my past 18 months worth of lessons for anything. All I have to do is look back at times during our support-raising journey where the Lord lead people both familiar with and unfamiliar with our family to join our support team. I have seen my kids cry for people they miss, but I have seen them grow to thrive here at RVA. I myself have had several homesick moments, only to be picked up several times by a timely text or email from friends back home. With Amy’s mom joining us for the next couple of weeks, we have successfully hosted all the grandparents in our first year. I have been able to lead 2 baseball coaches trainings here in Kenya. Two more are set for November and if all goes as planned, img_2456organized games will be played beginning in December. Amy has been able to continue teaching dance and currently has almost 70 students in her classes. Tip Tap Toe now has a Kenyan branch! We have been able to build lifelong friendships here and other ministry opportunities have sprung up for us. We’re not just surviving here, we’re thriving.

None of this would be possible without YOU, our supporters. A parent of a student here at RVA told us this story in a morning meeting one day:

One day, the president of NASA was walking through a building on the NASA complex. He walked up to one of the maintenance men working that day. The president stopped and asked the man what his job was. Without missing a beat the maintenance man replied, “to put a man on the moon.”

He saw the big picture. God has called us to reach the lost for Christ. Please understand the importance of the role you have. You are the reaimg_0888son the parents and family members of our students are able to go to different regions on the continent of Africa. You are fulfilling the Great Commission. If there ever comes a day when you feel you are not a critical piece to the puzzle in the Great Commission….remember, there is an unreached people group here on the continent of Africa that will hear because of you.

What will the next 365 days bring…..I can’t wait to find out, and I hope you can’t either!

10 differences between here and there…..

10 differences between here and there……FullSizeRender (6)

  1. 4th of July….if we were out of school for every holiday of the countries represented at RVA, the kids would never learn! So July 4th wFullSizeRender (9)as another day of school. MiKenna and Brody did do a couple special things in their classrooms, Michael headed up a student softball game, and then our family celebrated with another American family by having a good old-fashioned cook-out!
  2. The funny thing about living at 7000ft above sea level in the Southern Hemisphere in July is that the weather is opposite what we are used to. While many of our friends and family members are putting on sunscreen and heading to the beach these days, we are cozied up by the fire and drinking hot cocoa. Instead of shorts and t-shirts, we resort to lots of fleece, flannel and sweats.
  3. In America, Brody would have participated in the annual K4 Preschool Program at the end of this school year (which was really difficult for this Mama to acceIMG_2142pt). Instead, us moms helped put together a fairly elaborate (considering that it was planned in ONE day) preschool graduation for his class. It was a wonderful celebration of this milestone in Brody’s life.
  4. Our previous school finished their year back in early June and RVA just completed their year this past week. Here, our breaks are spread fairly evenly over the course of the school year, so we have about a month off every 3 months. These breaks allow time for rest and rejuvenation, which is necessary in order to effectively serve the students when they return to campus.
  5. We are experiencing a heavy transition period at RVA right now. Not only did the 75-member Senior Class just graduate and every boarding student went home for this vacation, but many staff are also in transition as we speak. Some are leaving for good, some for a school term, some for a few weeks. For some, God has called to a IMG_2127different ministry elsewhere in Africa, and others are on their way from their home countries to begin serving here at RVA for the first time. Though we have only been in Africa for 10 months, each of us has become close with and have been impacted by those who are leaving. It’s hard. For us as adults. For the students. For our own small children. We all sort of become family here, living day in and day out with one another. When speaking about this transition, our Staff Chaplain was given great advice which he passed on to us, “You have to have a soft heart….and thick skin.” So true.IMG_2129
  6. There are certain things that, when you find them in the grocery store, you get LOTS of them, because they may not be there next time!!! For me, it’s canned green chiles. For our friend, Becky, it’s canned black beans. (found those for her yesterday…may have bought 20…)
  7. Before coming to Africa, we heard stories of missionaries and were asked to pray for persecuted people who were halfway across the world, many with whom we had no personal connection. Now we are living halfway across the world and those people are our students, staff and their families. Last week we received a call at 10:30 pm from the prayer chain because the parents of one of our staff members were hearing gunshots, from recent civil unrest, outside their home in South Sudan. We dropped everything to cry out to God for His protection and for peace to come over the fighters. The next morning we received good news that the gunfire ceased and the family made it safely through the night. Many of our students’ families face similar situations and we consider it a privilege and honor to be able to mentor, support and pray for them.IMG_1621 (1)
  8. I’m not afraid to cook something from scratch anymore. It used to intimidate me to have to do anything “homemade.” I was confident using boxed mixes, buying pre-shredded cheese (oh, how I miss Harris Teeter’s buy 2, get 3!), and using ready-made ingredients. Now, I don’t blink an eye if I have to knead a loaf of french bread, drain the whey from buttermilk to make sour cream, blend up some fresh salsa, whisk together alfredo sauce that beats any jarred kind we’ve ever had, or mix some molasses with white sugar to make brown sugar. And we have joined with other families to recreate favorite restaurant meals from places such as Outback, Bojangles, and Islands Fresh Mex.
  9. Our family has been exposed to various types of ethnic foods (and we’ve actually liked them). Since arriving to Kenya, we have tried Korean, FullSizeRender (7)Ethiopian and, of course, lots of Kenyan. From kimchi to shiro-wat to samosas and chapatis, we have enjoyed connecting with different cultures through food. Pictured here is MiKenna eating Korean with some students.
  10. Baseball is not Kenya’s favorite past time. But many of the students here at RVA enjoy it, and so does Michael. He organized this game with the Sophomore class and about 60 kids rotaFullSizeRender (8)ted playing softball on July 4th. It was a blast for all (especially for me as I watched my husband doing what he loves). We are thankful that God knows us so perfectly. And in the words of a mature 11th grade RVA student, “When we give up our passions to follow God, He somehow gives them back to us.”

Second Nature

Upon our arrival to Kenya back in October, there were MANY things which were new, different or strange to us. Over the past 7 months of living here, these differences have become more like second nature to us. Things like pasteurizing milk, making sour cream from buttermilk, walking as the primary mode of transportation, hanging our laundry on the line, growing herbs and veggies in the backyard, going “to town” for major grocery shopping, having “chai” (tea) time every morning, and the list goes on. 

One thing that we hadn’t experienced yet happened a couple days ago….

The RVA staff has been notified many times about needs for donated blood down at Kijabe Hospital. The emails will tell us of the type of blood needed and to respond if able to donate. I have never been aware of a need for mine or Michael’s blood type, and to be honest, neither one of us does well with having blood drawn. On Monday at 12:15pm we were notified of a pregnant woman with very low platelets who needed to have an emergency c-sectFullSizeRender (1)ion. She needed our blood type and one of us needed to come right then. Michael finished class at 12:20pm and walked straight to the hospital lab where an RVA nurse was waiting to get him set up to give blood right away. The reality of this “life-saving” gesture for a mother and her baby (and the Coca-Cola they gave him afterward) made it worth the slight anxiety, missing lunch and almost passing out in the chair.

Our First Easter in Kenya…different, but wonderful

Easter was different this year….photo 3 (4)

Who am I kidding? EVERYTHING has been different since we moved to Africa! I do want to share about our first Easter here in Kenya. It was definitely different, but absolutely a blessing!


First of all, we had some very special visitors from America. Michael’s parents came to spend a couple weeks with us and his dad would have the privilege of being able to preach while here. On Easter Sunday, we rode down the bumpiest road known to man to the IDP Camp. The IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camp was created after thousands of Kenyans fled their homes in the wake of political violence in 2007, and the United Nations provided temporary tents for the people. Our friend, John Karanja, a church-goer with nophoto 4 (4) pastoral training, had a burden for these poverty-stricken people who were trying to rebuild their lives in a new place. What began as worship under a tree, is now a growing church with a building and a trained pastor.

photo 5 (5)A typical Kenyan service begins with about 45 minutes of singing (all in the local language at this church). We sang as a congregation some, and then every group in the church came forward to present. The worship team came, the children came, the men came (Michael and Mike were expected to join them), the women came (oh yes, Cheryl and I went up there. Our song had arm motions that we quickly caught on to!). John had Mr. Meshaw preach that Easter morning and it was a blessing to hear the message of hope in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

IMG_1645Afterward, wephoto 2 (6) went outside with the children to help pass out some things that were provided by generous donors. The children received Easter eggs filled with candy and then a meal was served to all. We had our first nyama choma (goat)! We ate what we could stomach, and then the Kenyans were happy to finish off our leftovers (some of them ate like they hadn’t had a meal in a day or so). After visiting with some of the adults and children, wIMG_1642e said our goodbyes. It had been a full day and I think we could all say we haphoto (15)d been filled to the top…filled with the blessings of worshiping our Savior on that special holiday, of seeing the joy on the children’s faces from receiving a couple of candy-filled eggs, and of sharing in a meal with these people who have so little and who, out of honor, were serving us first and giving us more than we 4 (5)

Our kids were also able to have an egg hunt, thanks to a sweet RVA family who filled and hid eggs in their yard for us. The kids had a blast and Maverick ate most of his findings before the hunt was over!

photo 3 (5)photo 1 (6)photo 2 (7)

First Christmas in Africa

Tradition is a big thingIMG_4216 (2) in our family….especially at Christmas. Since we have been married, Michael and I have carried on certain traditions that our extended families started long ago and we have begun our own as well. Thankfully, though we are far from “home” and everything familiar, we were able to continue some of our favorite Christmas traditions… and begin new ones!

We always fill an advent calendar with candy and the kids enjoy counting down the days until December 25th, eating their sweet treats. This year, rather than putting candy in each little box, I wrote an activity for each of the 24 days. Every morning, the kids would run into the living room to see what activity was in that day’s box. We had a lot of fun together, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to candies again!

Another tradition is to build a gingerbread house. Of course, we always buy one of those kits from Michael’s Crafts with the pre-made EVEphoto 1 (2)RYTHING! Not having that luxury (and not yet wanting to experiment with making my own), I hot-glued cookies together and had the kids decorate this lovely village. They had a blast decorating with icing, cereal, sprinkles, lollipops, marshmallows and chocolate chips (not too many though…since we only brought a limited amount from America). Our little engineer, Brody, built a car out of treats, and MiKenna, after her new-found love, designed a rip stick.

photo 2 (3)Every Christmas Eve, we eat pizza with Michael’s family (usually at Pizza Hut), and our friends, the Cooks, would do the same thing with their family. This year, Nate made an awesome Pizza Hut sign out near their brick oven where we all had pizza together for Christmas Eve dinner!

After dinner, we walked down to Kijabe Hospital to sing Christmas Carols to the patients. Our group went through the pediatric unit to sing to the children and their families who had to be in the hospital during ChristmaIMG_1312s. It was a difficult thing to see such sickly children on, what seems like should be, such a jolly night. One couple was standing beside a bed where their two small children were laying, both hooked up to machines. That sure tugged at this mama’s heart…. Gifts were given to the patients, songs of Christ’s birth were sung, smiles were exchanged, tears were shed, and we were so thankful to be part of such a ministry opportunity that night.

Next, RVA held a bIMG_1344eautiful candlelight Christmas Eve Service and then we were off to our house to watch Polar Express, a tradition since the movie came out!

It was tough being away from our families in North Carolina during this significant holiday. Talking with them on FaceTime wasn’t quite the same as being there. This 2015 Christmas season has been filled with many wonderful memories and we are thankful to the Lord for surrounding us with great people here in Kijabe. And what fun we’ve had here with….Fiesta Fridays, cookie exchange, Gingerbread contest, dinners at new friends’ houses, and just continuing to explore and enjoy this beautiful place!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

If you were like me, I fchristmastree2015igured that when Christmas came around, surely we would just go outside and find some kind of branch and have a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. Boy was I glad to see this really great tree and strand of lights at the supermarket in Nairobi! A few store-bought and several hand-made ornaments, our own stockings and Christmas pictures, an African nativity scene made from banana leaves, our traditional Advent Calendar, and of course, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” book narrated by Aunt Gabby and Uncle Adam…… and it feels like home (almost). photo 1 (2)Tonight, it was hephoto 2 (3)art-warming being able to continue our family’s tradition of decorating the tree together. It was Maverick’s first time actually getting to put ornaments on (well, he would put them on and take them off…. and most of them were in the same 12-square-inch area). You can always tell what size children were helping with ornaments since that’s where the decorations stop. So, after all were in bed, I may have redecoratedphoto 4 (1) the tree. 😉 Let’s see if they notice in the morning!
photo 3 (1)


First thoughts, our feet on Kenyan soil

This is our first blog entry from Kenyan soil.  We greatly miss our friends and family back in the U.S. but we understand God brought us here for a reason.  We maphoto (10)y be moving a step slower from all of our travel, but we are fully energized to get to Africa Based Orientation and to our ultimate destination of Rift Valley Academy.  Our prayer support and financial support teams have been awesome!  If we had written the script on how everything would have come together I don’t think it would have been nearly as incredible as what we have and will experience.  Our goal is to share this journey with everyone so they can see the marvelous work of our God.  Now let’s see how this story continues………

I (Michael) am sitting here in the Mayfield Guest House around 4am Kenyan time, 9pm back in Wilmington.  MOST of us have adjusted pretty good to the time difference, but right now Brody (wide awake) is having quite an exciting one-sided conversation with Amy (half-asleep).  Our trip has gone well so far.  A few glitches here and there.  The kids did really well travphoto 1 (1)eling.  They got antsy every once in awhile, and Brody and MiKenna each got sick during the flight from Paris to Nairobi.  All in all the 36-hour escapade from Atlanta through Paris and onto Nairobi was a positive adventure.  All of our luggage made it.  Nothing seems to be missing, but we will have to find out for sure in a few weeks when we catch back up to it after our Africa Based Orientation.Brody on the swing at Mayfield

The first morning at the Mayfield Guest House was a little rough.  Everyone slept through breakfast and probably would have slept through lunch if not for a short meeting scheduled at 11:30am.  After lunch we were able to go and purchase SIM cards for our phones and this afternoon our friends from Wilmington, the Cooks, who are now living in Kenya, stopped by for a little while.  It was good to see some familiar faces.  Kind of knocked off the edge of what little culture shock we have had so far. We know it’s coming, but putting it off for a little while longer won’t hurt anything.  MiKenna, Brody and Maverick mini maasai market pichave begun to meet the other kids who will be traveling to ABO with us.  Brody has transitioned the best, it seems, to the shoes off/clay-red feet culture.  He has been full speed and loving it.  MiKenna has made several friends and is enjoying climbing,
playing cards and pretending to run a little Maasai market that sets up daily here at Mayfield.  As you may have guessed, Maverick is moving around quite nicely.  He has Frankenstein (toddler) walked into everyone’s hearts already.

Over the past couple of days we have had photo 2 (2)
the chance to do a little exploring. We did step inside Nakumat, which is Kenya’s version of Walmart.  It had pretty much everything you need/want. A Cadbury candy bar was purchased for us to share for dessert.  The
church we attended was a wonderful experience. We could actually understand the pastor’s Kenyan accented English, and it was good to be refreshed by God’s Word. Later, we made our way to the Maasai market up on the third level of the Yaya Center (small mall).  That was an interesting experience.  Everywhere you turned someone was giving you (their “friend”) the “best deal” on anything from a spear to a carved animal to a colorful piece of cloth.  There really were some great things there, but the environment did get a little overwhelming and we don’t have any room right now to purchase anything.  There is a good chance we’ll be back and believe me, I’m going to get that spear for the 1000 KSH ($10) “my friend and brother” offered me right before I left.  Our final find was the much awaited Java House.  This is Kenya’s version of Starbucks.  Future note, they do not accept the Starbucks app for payment.  A little disappointed, but we purchased a couple of Double Mocha Shakes anyway.  They were a great ending to a great day.  Soon we will be taking a 3-4 hour bus ride to Nakuru.  We’re looking forward to seeing what the months ahead bring our way. We’ll keep you posted.

Be Still

My head is spinning. Should we sell this? Should we pack that? The air filter needs to be changed. Can’t remember the last time I vacuumed. The kids’ immunizationsspinning head emoticon (2) are finished…wait, how did the doctor miss that Maverick still needed his last Hib vaccine? We’ve only had 15 visits to different doctors in the last 2 months. Our checklist is getting marked off, but not quick enough for me. I just swept this floor! Still need to shop for some odds and ends things to pack. Why did I decide to cook tonight? I should have pulled out that freezer meal that a dear friend made for us for days just…like…this…

I decided to lay down on the couch for a quiet moment while the boys were napping and Michael and MiKenna were still at school. I only stopped my busyness because I wasn’t feeling well…otherwise I would have embraced this rare alone time and knocked out another necessary task. As I rested there, God brought to my remembrance this Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10) These past couple of months have been a roller coaster of events with many highs, some lulls and even a few lows. Today God, in His sweet grace, reminded me of this truth. He. Is. God. He has called us to Kenya and Rift Valley Academy, and He will make sure we get there in His perfect time. He sees beyond the unswebe-still1pt floors, packing and checklists. He sees everything from the big picture of His global work all the way down to the seemingly insignificant details of dusty air filters. So, until we are on that plane heading to the other side of the world, I will take time to be still….believing that He is God, and He’s got this!