Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More! More! More! And Cody Moss!


My crew - Sam, Cody, me and a bunch of new friends.

Notice how every photo has happy people in it; we are HAPPY!

It was community night at our camp. We invited our homeowners and their friends, family and neighbors to come visit us. It was a ton of fun!


Daniel H - pensive. Jonathan - who knows? Daniel B - balloon animal.

Beautiful Bella!

More happy girls.

He got his mom an avocado - picked it right off the tree!
Two of Syd's friends from Juana Diaz.

Jess and Josh. And the shades.

Syd and Morgan E leading their kids in "Happy Day" and "Revolotion".

Caught him smiling...

Kaitlin and Mason. More happy.

Katie playing ball during community night.

Allen and Morgan - happy!

Ross playing ball.

Nikki and Jordan

Puerto Rico World Changers Update

I never thought I was capable of this.

I'm so excited that my youngest child is only 13.


I'm coming back, baby. And YOU ought to think about coming, too.

We're working like crazy, with very little down time. I snuck into the office to try to share a few photos; but we're all separated all day long at our individual work sites - so I don't have much. I do have Sam Allen and Cody Moss on my team, so I'm taking photos of those guys.

And seriously - I'M BUILDING A HOUSE. Andy Heberle, I have so much respect for you. But I'M LEARNING TO DO IT, TOO!!!

You are praying: we can feel it. There have been some amazing stories of transformation here, some deep conversation and overall, incredible stuff.

Keep praying. Tomorrow will be a hard, long day. It's incredibly hot outside as we work as well as inside - there is NO a/c in our sleeping quarters. It's challenging.

But it's worth it. Every single sweaty second. Every time I hit my thumb with the hammer. Every time we stand in line with 120 other sweaty people to eat eggs and ham.

Every single time.

We say, "Jesus died for you. You ought to be able to do this." 

No kidding.

Trip of a lifetime.

Here's  few shots.


Love both of these kids.

A game of some sort; they do this while standing around outside.

Happy! Happy! Happy!


He said, "Miss Beth - you gotta take a picture. The dog is smiling!"

Sam's a sucker for animals...

Me! I'm building a house!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Snorkeling Day In Puerto Rico

 The folks who plan the World Changers trips encourage the need for a day or two of acclimation prior to work.

This sort of acclimation is a tremendous blessing.

I could get used to this. But today, we move to the camp at Juana Diaz and get ready to work.

We were in Paraguera, Puerto Rico. I'd like to come back.
Happy girls

Tyler is not fond of being photographed.


It's Daniel Hughes, reading a book. Surprised?

Even the chaperones are happy!

Contemplating life or about to jump?

There's always something there to remind me...

More of the happy.

And more....starting to see a theme?

Figuring out the masks and fins.

The little boat crew.


MORE happy chaperones!

The BIG boat crew.

PR Pics

Hi, Mom!


I know you're probably here looking for pictures of your kids. They're coming in the next post. In the meantime, this is still the place where I process a lot of what happens in my life. Today was a milestone. I wrote about it. You are welcome to read about it.

By the way, I learned today that JC Elder likes to dance. A lot. Even on a boat.

I spent three years living on a Caribbean island; not Puerto Rico, where I am today, but on the island to the west. I taught school in the Dominican Republic in the mid-80's. I had some incredible experiences.

But I made a few messes, too.

I've struggled to have healthy relationships for most of my life. Codependency, my own broken places or just plain stupidity; I have chosen poorly on many occasions. And poor choices in relationships create messes and pain.

I have experienced the redemptive grace of God and the beautiful ability of humans to forgive and move forward. I have been blessed more than I deserve. He has made beautiful things out of the dust of my life. I see it; I acknowledge it. I believe it.

But the Caribbean era of my past has had a few loose ends. Frankly, there were some people who needed apologies from me, and several years ago, I made those phone calls. But inside - in that murky place that nobody else every goes - I still carried some darkness. Regret nibbled at the corners of the new creation, the clean heart, the redeemed soul.

It's not been a stretch for me to experience this trip as a return. It is a different island, but so much - so much - appears the same to me. I hear the Spanish, read the traffic signs, nod my head to the music, eat the empanadas and tostones; and everything feels and tastes and looks and sounds the same. All day long I fought to keep my mouth closed, because I wanted to keep a running dialogue going as I remembered things and events and people and food and three years of life experiences. I wanted to tell somebody all this, and every sentence began, "When I lived in the DR, I..."

But I did keep my mouth closed, out of respect to the folks who wouldn't want to hear my ongoing monologue, and because I knew that this was personal. Private. About more than the stories of what was.

And so...

I began the day in San Juan with this:
The heavens praise your wonders, Lord, your faithfulness too...For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?... Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them...The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south...Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. Psalm 89 (excerpts) NIV
We left San Juan, climbed into our six mini-vans and made the 35 mile journey from San Juan, at the north of the island, to Ponce, on the southern side. It was beautiful - mountainous, green, lush, gorgeous. As we crested a hill, the Caribbean ocean spread out before us. Whoa.

We ate at the mall (quite American) because it was quick and convenient (remember: there are 36 of us. Seating us is not convenient for any restaurant.) We journeyed to Paraguera, a bustling little village west of Ponce, and we got ready for the day's team-building / acclimation activity - snorkling! Two boats took us out to a reef about 20 minutes from the coastline, and all of us PLUS another World Changers team from Florida jumped in the water and spent an hour snorkeling.

It was good - not the exquisitely amazing bright coral colors you sometimes hear about, but beautiful nonetheless. Swimming alongside somebody who's never done anything similar is pretty fun, and there were a lot of novices there today. We held sea urchins, took deep breaths and dove deeply, took underwater pictures and overall, had an amazing time.

And of my Dominican experiences two decades ago was becoming PADI certified as a scuba diver. I remember the awe and wonder of sitting on the ocean floor, watching fish and eels and all sorts of incredible images filter in and out of my line of sight. I loved diving because everything was quiet. Nothing but the sound of your own breath, an occasional bubble, and then a feast for the eyes. Today was different - but the sound was the same. The rhythm of my own breathing, my eyes focused below me, and beautiful living things to see. It is impossible to remain without amazement or uninspired by the creativity of what lives below the waterline.

Something about that experience resonated in me, deeply. We were in a huge herd of swimmers, but I was alone, and I felt like I was with God. It was a reminder of his creation, of his constant presence, of the solid, stability of life. Much has changed in 23 years; but what's under the ocean is still a delightful garden of beauty, swaying with the current. I swam close to the boat as we came in and whispered "Thank you thank you thank you." I praised his wonders and his faithfulness along with the heavens, and I felt so very close to him.

We came back to shore and gladly welcomed the homemade empanadas served by our hosts. Delicioso! Part two of our day began shortly thereafter, as the sun set and darkness settled over the water. Very little moonlight shone as we set out across the water again. A 20-minute ride led us to a quiet lagoon; as we dropped anchor and turned out the lights, our guide explained that there are 12 bioluminenscent bays in the world; three are in Puerto Rico. The unique conditions of the bay, the water temperature and the currents cause a particular algae to thrive; one that is luminescent when put into motion. One by one, we started slipping into the water under the very thin sliver of moon - perfect conditions for seeing the light. Voices exclaimed, "Oh, man! Can you see it?" "Oh my gosh! Look!" "It's awesome!" "Look at me - I'm glowing!"

It was, absolutely, one of the most magical experiences of my life. Move your arms in the water and little sparkles of light decorate your skin, like waving through a gathering of 20 or 30 fireflies. Swirl your legs below you and you literally glow, a hazy white light surrounding you.

It doesn't last long - the brightness is brief, but it's there every time you move. We splashed water on our faces and laughed. The boys dared one another to pee as forcefully as possible to see if it would light up (I don't think that really worked...) Every movement sparkled. It never got old; it was amazing every time. I thought, "Really, God?"

What a brilliant creation.

I wiggled my fingers in front of me and could not stop smiling. And then something amazing happened; some dots got connected, something cracked open inside of me, and the amazing power of grace and mercies-new-every-morning washed over me.

This I had never experience. This was a new thing. I saw myself in a whole new way, my skin decorated with organic lights, some bizarre creation of God that lives in limited quantity, in specific conditions. The light filled the water and I swam in it.

I couldn't stop smiling.

We crawled in the boat and headed back, all of us filled with some sort of indescribable joy. And this thought came to my head as my eyes filled with tears:


An ocean that glowed, alive with light, washed me clean tonight. Cleansed from the regret that I have carried, reminding me that all of me - ALL of me - is forgiven and redeemed. The same southern Caribbean waters of my old life brought new life.

Brian once served us communion with these words: You are not who you used to be.

Tonight, God washed me clean in the miracle of water that glowed, and he reminded me: You are not who you used to be.

I am a person who has learned to acclaim the Lord, to walk (and swim!) in the very creative light of his presence. I rejoice in his name all day long; I celebrate his righteousness.


More PR Pics

Gorgeous sunset

Sam looking for the resident of the shell Mason found. Eventually, it died of Shaken Crab Syndrome.

Yeah, there they are, swimming in the Caribbean.
Blogger is being ridiculous tonight. I have a personal post and a bunch more pictures. Sit tight; they're coming....

(I skipped Denny's for this...)