Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Venezuela: House of Many Hands

The girls (Emmie and Ellerie) and I just returned from a trip to Venezuela.  We were originally scheduled to go in July of 2012 but the trip was delayed a year because of the elections going on in Venezuela that fall.  I hope to blog about the trip and our experiences during the next few weeks.  There is so much to tell so it will probably take me several posts!

Let me tell you about this special place.  It's called El Hogar de Muchas Manos (House of Many Hands), built and supported by First Baptist Church in Valdosta, GA. Patricia Guinand and her husband, Francisco, a former bullfighter, started the home for girls in their back yard and continue to operate it.

In 2003, a small church group was meeting in a home.  During this meeting, Patricia shared with the group her desire and vision to begin a home for girls in the area, girls who had been orphaned or abandoned and needed a place to call home. My Dad, who grew up in a children’s home in Alabama, was present at that meeting.  When he heard Patricia share her heart, he was immediately touched because of how he had been raised.  The Lord pricked his heart and moved him to act.  He and First Baptist committed to make that home happen.  Since that time, other churches have started to support the amazing work happening at this special home in Venezuela.

El Hogar de Muchas Manos opened in 2005 with the capacity to house up to 20 girls.  Several girls moved in right away and they quickly reached capacity.  There are now around 54 girls, and a few little boys, living there now.  They have expanded the building to accommodate more girls in each room.  They have included space on the compound to train the girls in different skills, like cooking and cosmetology. 


The home provides shelter, food and education for these girls.  It gives refuge and hope and love.  It offers a chance to be continually exposed to the Gospel.  Patricia is an amazing woman.  Her husband, Francisco, is a man with a huge heart.  Their entire family loves these girls and has poured so much into them.  I am so thankful we had the privilege of meeting them and seeing first-hand the amazing ministry that is happening there in Venezuela.

 Francisco and Patricia!  Love them!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Catchin' Up....

 This precious baby turned 3 in March!  Just love his smile.  He wanted a "Luigi" cake!

 He brings so much joy and laughter to our home!  

 Present time!!!


We are thankful for this sweet one!  Love you Carter!

Then in April we celebrated TWO birthdays!  Coleman and Ellerie have their birthdays just one day apart, which means a great deal of cake around here at one time!
 Ellerie turned 5 this year!  She couldn't be more excited - and it makes me a little sad.

 She is always so full of joy and unbridled happiness!  Keeps us laughing.  Love you baby girl!

 Coleman turned 11!  I can't believe it!  He's growing up before our eyes.  Before the summer is over, he will probably be taller than Brian!

He has such a precious heart - love this boy!

 Dad and Coleman

 Dad and Ellerie

The most recent birthday we celebrated was Calvin's!  That boy has been waiting for his day for the past 364 days!!
 Happy boy!  Love being his Mom.  He is so loving and has grown so much the past year.
He wanted his cake to say "Capt. Calvin."  That is his new nickname after riding on the Pirate Ship Adventure during our beach vacation. 

He was so excited to celebrate his day with family!

That catches us up on birthdays!  No shortage of cake or birthday fun around here!  ;)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We're Home!

Just a quick update - We're Home!!

The last day of packing up was sad for me but I had already spent time thinking about the transition.  Brian and I were rushing around trying to get the Uhaul returned that I didn't even realize that we had left the old house for the last time together!  Probably a good thing though.  By that point, I was tired and ready to be done.

Several friends from his Bible study and our church family helped us move and that was such a blessing to us!  PawPaw and Granny watched the kids for us a ton that week so we could get some necessary work done.    We are still in the process of unpacking.  After moving day, we had VBS week at church and then I took the kids to GA to visit family there.  We are now here and slowly unpacking and arranging along with daily living.  It seems to be a slow process.  Maybe we'll be done by Christmas!?

From day one, it has felt like home to us.  Although I was a little scared the first night - the lock on the back door wasn't working and I kept hearing strange noises.  I was secretly hoping that Brian's parents would sleep here with us (sometimes it's crazy to think I'm the adult now)!  We survived that night and Brian's dad fixed the lock so I'm good now.  All of the kids love it and haven't looked back.  We look forward to making many memories here!!  Hopefully I'll share some those here sometime!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Our Last Day

I really should be packing right now ... but I wanted to take a few minutes to record these last few thoughts here...

Last night we took the kids on the walk-through of the new house.  I wasn't sure how they'd do with the move - especially Calvin with his need for familiarity and routine.  But they were so excited and didn't want to leave.  Calvin had already packed his favorite cars in his backpack so he was sad when we told him we were leaving to come back to this house!  He can't wait to go!

At one point after we came back home, we all sat down together  for one last family devotion in this house.  During that time we shared memories we all had of our time here together.  It was all I could do to hold it together...  Even now every time I do something today  I think, "This is the last time I (we) will do ..."  Each thought brings tears to my eyes...

We have brought 5 precious babies home to this house ... lots of hours spent feeding, rocking and loving on those babies... first steps, first words, many, many firsts...  I remember holding Coleman in his room just crying thinking of the blessing of having a child.  I had no idea then how hard parenting would be ... many prayers for grace have been offered up here...

Most of the kids have learned to ride bikes here...

We've had hurricanes take out trees, mailboxes and our bedroom ceiling...

Many hours have been spent playing in this back yard...

There have been good times and bad, laughter and joy, as well tears of all kinds.  There also have been many moments that I wish I could do over again ... but all of these things have molded us and shaped us.  It has been encouraging to look back and see the evidence of God's grace in our lives ...

As one chapter ends, another begins and we know that we will be making new memories and pray for God's grace to continue to sustain us through this next season...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our First Home!

 We purchased our first home back in May of 1999.  This is a picture of the drawing they had in the realtor's office!  We were so excited!

We were able to watch them build it from the ground up!   

 That's me back in the day!

 Yes, that's Brian - he had hair then!  ;)

 This picture cracks me up!  I was so excited about that bath tub - no jets but that was ok!

 I didn't crop out the truck because that was Brian's pick-up that we had forever - like for almost 200,000 miles I think?!  There's my little Sentra in the garage - the only car we could fit in there - the car that we outgrew pretty quickly!  And look at those little teeny shrubs!

Here it is today!  We closed in the garage to make a playroom/bonus room.  Several trees are gone (thanks to several hurricanes), the shrubs have grown and thousands of memories have been made.

Just a few weeks ago we took the steps to purchase a bigger home for our growing family and now our time here is coming to a close.  I didn't think I would be too sentimental about it but I was mistaken.  Don't get me wrong - we are so excited about our new space and the new memories we will make there as a family but it is still sad to be leaving our first real home!  
I hope to write down a few of our memories during the next few days so that we won't forget!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Ellerie's Prayer

One of the most precious times of each day is praying with our children before they go to bed at night.  Ellerie always brings a smile to our faces when we pray with her.  My parents were in town a few weeks ago and my mom, Mimi, had the opportunity to pray with Ellerie at bed time.  Here's how her prayer went:

"Dear God,

Thank you for my Mommy.
Thank you for my Daddy.
Thank you for my sister.
Thank you for my bruder...
And thank you for my bruder...
And ... thank you for my bruder..."
(She then looks up at Mimi at says, "I have 1 sister and 3 bruders...")

She's a mess!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Baby Boy!

 Carter turns 2!  March 13, 2011!

 He doesn't like the candles though - he kept turning his head and wouldn't look at them!

 On Tuesday we got together with family to celebrate Carter's 2nd year of life!  He wanted a Woody cake!

 Opening presents...

 More toys...

 Some new shades!  He loves to wear sunglasses all the time!

 Just love this precious boy!  He has brought so much joy to our entire family.  He loves Woody, McQueen, cars, trains, balls...  He also loves to play with his siblings.  I love the names he has picked for everyone so far.  He calls Coleman 'Momo', Emmie is 'Memmie', Ellerie is 'Baby', and Calvin sounds different everytime, but now it sounds like 'Caca'.  

We are thankful for this blessing in our lives and continually pray for him to know God's grace in his life.  We love you Carter.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Saturdays!

Spring is one of my favorite seasons.  After a long, cold winter the extra sunshine is so refreshing.  It's amazing how the sun affects my mood so this extra hour of daylight is a blessing to me and probably to those around me as well!  :) 

A few weeks ago, we were trying to decide whether or not the kids would play soccer this spring.  They played in the fall so the cost was going to be much cheaper since they already had their uniforms (thumbs up).  They enjoy playing and we enjoy watching them as a family (thumbs up).  But ... it takes up almost all day every Saturday! (thumbs down)

If we want to run or exercise on Saturday morning, then we have to get up really early to get it in.  Then we pack up snacks, drinks, chairs, blankets and head to the field for a good chunk of the day.  After thinking about it, Brian said he thought it would be good for us to take a break from organized sports this spring.  I was a little hesitant at first but then I agreed that it would be a good break for all of us before the big kids try swim team this summer.

School is keeping us busy as we look toward the end of the year so I am looking forward to spending these spring Saturdays together as a family without having to always be somewhere at a certain time.  I see lots of yard work and outside projects in our future, while the kids can run around and play.   

Today was the first Saturday in a while where we weren't on a specific schedule.  Brian and I both got a run in this morning after sleeping until 8:00.  He also made pancakes and watched a movie with the kids.  This afternoon he weeded some in the yard while Calvin played in the dirt.  I caught up on coupons and got some grocery shopping done with a few of the other kids.  Laundry kept moving all day.  Just normal, simple things but at a more relaxing pace.

It was so nice and refreshing to be able to be laid back about our day ...I am looking forward to these spring Saturdays!