These Kids…

I thought that after the last post it might be fun to finally share some of my pictures. If nothing else at least the grandparents will be happy ;)

Our kids both have big personalities. Alex, when he’s in the right mood, is such an easy subject. Olivia is in this stage where she tries to perform for the camera so it’s hard to get good, natural pictures of her right now, but every once in a while she gives me something to work with. One of the advantages of having white walls in and out along with big shady trees outside is that we get amazing light in our house at different times of the day, as well as out on the deck. I especially love the light in our bedroom. Most of these were taking on our bed. They definitely weren’t edited to the extent that they could have been because I think that there’s something sweet about keeping kids natural to an extent, remembering bumps and scrapes and food on their faces.

Kids May-3

Kids May-5

I LOVE that picture of Alex so much. I don’t even have words.

Kids May-9

Kids May-13

Kids May-22

Kids May-25

Kids May-30

 

Little Mister insisted on playing with the swim goggles.

Kids May-27

Kids May-34

Kids May-33

Kids May-35

Kids May-39

Kids May-38

Kids May-42

 

Kids May-58

Kids May-47

Kids May-43

Kids May-56

 

Kids May-61

Kids May-62

Kids May-68

Miss O loves being dramatic :)

 

God Only Knows

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be one cranky bear, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or just “off”. Typically it’s triggered by tiredness or something like that. Ahem, 91 and your humid friend, I see you both lurking there in the corner…

I’m a huge advocate for doing what you love, because I believe that God has created us, and that he’s made each of us with unique gifts and skills and that it brings him great happiness to see those things that he’s planted in us being used in many ways. Helping people. Loving others. Creating things. I could go on. I think you get my drift.

Coming from that place it’s hysterical to me that I’m sometimes the last to figure some of this stuff out in regards to myself. I can have conversations with friends and family and point out things in them and encourage them to run with it, knowing it’ll be an amazing thing, and yet I can have all those things in front of me and have a hard time putting the pieces together. 

Or, maybe it’s not that I can’t always see them, but that I can see those pieces and just feel like I can’t do anything about it.

That’s where I’ve been sitting for the last few years. I know I’ve talked about this in some detail in the past few months, but it’s a process and I’m processing right now, so this is what you get.

Here’s the thing. I think that I’ve always been a creative. A person who needs to be making and dreaming and doing. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized little quirky things about myself that I now see are all glaring indications that I’m a creative type, but I’ve just dismissed them as quirks and never put them in the context that I’m putting them in now. Things like loving texture and always having to touch things. Looking at scenery and getting more excited about the way a sun beam is shining down than about the whole scene. Collecting stationary, not because I actually want to use it but because I love the feel of it and the graphics and all the things. Being a mixed bag when it comes to narrowing down any kind of “style” because one minute I love things that are bright and bold and the next I want wood grain and rusty metal. I’m the one that has sun patterned floor tiles at my husband’s suggestion – but am totally fine with it for this house – and baby blue cupboards. I’m not afraid of color. 

And I’ve been stuck at a desk doing admin work for the past, well, my whole working life pretty much. 

I remember the day a few months ago as I was processing through Peggy arriving on staff (which is tomorrow, by the way, and IT’S TOMORROW!) and what that would mean for things here going forward. As I was thinking about it, it was like scales were peeled off my eyes and all of the sudden I saw it. 

I saw all the pieces of this giant puzzle that is me come together and I finally stepped back to see the bigger picture. All these needs that the mission had, it was me  that was supposed to fill them. Until we had Peggy lined up I wasn’t in a place to even think it was possible. I had been creeping in that direction and loved it, but never thought it would be me.

And now, fast forward a few months, and I’m sitting here settling into this new phase and it feels like coming alive. I didn’t realize how much I’d stagnated in the past few years. It’s not that I wasn’t doing something good, because I was. I was doing a lot of really good things for the mission that needed to be done and I needed to be the one to do them. It was just time to step forward and bring all of these pieces together for something more.

You see, as long as I can think back in my adult life I’ve been hovering around things like graphic design and photography and visual arts in general, as well as writing. I know what I like. I have visions for end products, but haven’t had the time or the tools to do any of it. Programs were too expensive. I couldn’t take time away from a “real” job to go to school for specific training. I like to write, and do it as a side gig here on the blog. I just wasn’t in a position to pursue any of it in any seriousness. And, I’ll admit it, there has been a part of me that has thought some of that was frivolous because I had all this “important” work to do. 

But now here I am. 

This past January I got my new to me camera, and while not every picture is amazing (talk to any photographer and they’ll tell you this is actually the norm) there are many times where I load stuff into my computer and I get giddy because some of my stuff is good. I’m proud of it. And I realize I might actually be able to do this. 

As we transition Peggy to taking over a lot of the admin stuff my desk has been cleared of so many of the mundane tasks I’ve been bogged down with and in the past two weeks I’ve been pouring over things like learning Photoshop and everything that goes with it.

And you know what? I love it

I am absolutely in my element. Chris keeps finding me at my desk working through tutorials and watching videos and playing around. He keeps commenting on my dedication to wanting to learn all of this because we both know that it’s going to lead to a giant step forward for the mission in everything from our print materials (already been working on these over the past couple years) to our website to video and social media – all major needs. 

The thing is, I find myself thinking, “I’ve gotten through everything else. Now I get to go play with Photoshop. I get to do…” And I have to be honest with him about the fact that it doesn’t feel like work. That I’m excited to get at it and pour over it for hours on end. I’m giddy about it because it’s unlocked this world for me that I’ve been hovering on the outside of for so long. It’s bringing all these parts of myself together. 

I think a big part of not exploring some of this stuff sooner was just plain fear. It all seemed so complicated and overwhelming. I could never figure all of that out. But, I can, and I am. And it feels amazing. It’s amazing because in the process of engaging my brain, my spirit is coming alive. This is part of who God has made me to be, and he loves that I’m figuring it out. He loves that this creativity that he’s planted in me is being woken up and that I can use that to love his people. I can use the love of beautiful things and communicating that to people to honor him. 

Does it get any better than that?

And, why did it take me so long to get here.

Well, I actually know the answer to that. It just wasn’t time. I needed to be doing other things, good thing, before this so that when it was time to be here I could see God’s hand in the whole plan and I could more deeply appreciate arriving here. And I do. It’s so beautiful and I love how he orchestrates things. Bringing details together to make something even better. 

God hears the whispers and hopes of our hearts. He feels our groanings when we know we’re in process. All those years of being crabby and overwhelmed were my spirit saying, “This isn’t it. I’m here, and I’m doing it, but this isn’t it.” The process has allowed me the time to learn more about who I am, and it’s allowed Chris the time to learn who I am and what I need. He sees how happy I’ve been in the past few weeks and he loves it. He just keeps telling me how happy he is to see me so engaged and excited. My brain has been in high gear again. It feels amazing.

I share all this with you because I know we all go through periods where we get stuck and it feels like we’re slugging through mud. I want to encourage you, keep slugging. It’s especially hard when you know that there’s nothing bad about the place you’re in. Even harder when you know what you’re doing has a lot of value to it. God wants to take each of us to the place where we can fully be the people he’s created us to be. He hears the small whispers of our hearts, wanting something more, even if we don’t know we’ve whispered them. He cares about those things. 

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve lost track of how often God has provided for those small whispers. Things that I never utter out loud to another human soul. And it’s always so humbling when he does provide and I see it. I feel so cared for. Sometimes the reason things never get spoken is because they feel silly or frivolous, but he cares. 

Olivia Faces-1

I’m learning to own this new phase and that’s hard at times, but in other ways it feels like coming into my own. 

It’s hard to wake up in the morning and change my internal conversation and to remind myself that what I considered “fun” and things to do when all my other work was done, now get to be my work. Daily I’m having to remind myself that this is what it’s going to look like going forward. That’s not to say that I won’t have other admin stuff do, I will. It’s just that this is going to be what I get to do for work! Seriously?!? 

 

This summer when we were at my parents house, one of the first things my dad said to me within hours of arriving at their house was, “So kid, when are you going to write a book?” And for the first time I actually said, out loud, “I really want to, I just know that while the kids are small I just don’t have the time, but I really want to one day.” And then I realized that I had just owned that for the first time.

It’s not just that I want to write, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to take pictures, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to do visual design work, I need to. It’s part of me. All of it is how I see the world and how I communicate and I’m finally in a place where I know I can own that.

I have a huge learning curve ahead. A lot of work ahead of me. But, it’s so exciting and freeing to be in a place where I finally have the tools and the time and the opportunity to explore than in depth. 

Where Things Have Landed

The last post was a big brain and heart dump for me. Of the best kind though. It’s been fun to see the conversations it’s started just with friends here in Haiti, either from just sharing the same things or because they read the blog and started talking about it. I love that kind of exchange after we share our stories. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? That connectedness.

Diving in to all of this has been kind of crazy. Chris and I spent more time chatting about all of it on Friday night after I posted and it was just so refreshing to be able to see where I’m really at with all of this, and I love that he’s so supportive of it. I think it helps that he’s seen how unhappy I’ve been in the work sense, so in a way I think there’s some level of relief there :) I think more than any of that though, it was exciting to look back over the past 10 years of the missions history and to see how God has walked beside us and transitioned us through things, even before I actually joined the staff here in Haiti. The process of him bringing Chris into a leadership role, then bringing me into the picture as his help meet and seeing how our gifts, skills and abilities have complemented each other over the years and moved so many things forward has been amazing. As we look at the future we’re both excited about the next stages. We and our board have done so much foundational work in the past few years and it really feels like we’re moving into that stage where God is putting the meat on the bones in a new way, so we can do more. Having Peggy here is a huge step forward, one that we’re really excited about.

I can’t tell you how fun it’s been in the past couple of days to feel the freedom to pour myself into learning. Yesterday I had some admin stuff that Chris needed help with, and once I got it out of the way I spent the rest of the day pouring over the user guide for Lightroom 5, a photo editing program by Adobe that is so much more than any of the free stuff I’ve been using. I haven’t been this challenged in a while and it feels good. My head is tired, and so is my body. I think I need to stop letting myself scroll through Pinterest until midnight looking at pins of photography tutorials…

It feels good to learn and to practice new skills. To think of all the ways that I’ll be able to incorporate this into what I do at the mission – new things that will just add more to what we’re already doing.

So that’s been me, personally, in the past few days.

Today is Olivia’s last day of school. I’ll be honest, it’s a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement because it’s summer vacation! Yes, we still have to get up early and do the work day, but it means less stuff happening in the morning.

No more homework!!! Oh my word, this is the thing I’m most excited about. Seriously. Homework has been a battlefield and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it out alive. This weekend we needed to push through Olivia’s last book, her math, to get it finished so it could count on her report card. We managed to do it, but it wasn’t pretty. The kid has been working on grade two stuff, so it’s just naturally getting harder for her, but now she can take a break! We do have books for her to work on over the summer so she has something to do, but we’re going to take a little break…

Dread… yeah, I love my kids and I love the break from the school routine, but it takes about a day and a half before boredom sets in and they’re going crazy. Alex is at a better age and they play together really well now. Yesterday I was stifling laughter when they said, “Okay, let’s fight,” and then proceeded to have a mock kungfu type throw down. Think of the worst fight scene you’ve ever watched in any movie and replace the main characters with a 6 and almost 3 year old. Slow motion, holding hands and lots of grunting and turning in circles… yeah, that went down in our kitchen yesterday and it was hysterical. I love that they have such huge imaginations. I love it even more when they aren’t really fighting and screaming at each other in the process.

To counter the boredom and real fighting I’ve been building up an arsenal. Last August after we got back from our summer trip and had almost 6 weeks of down time before school started we almost didn’t make it. This year, I promised myself it would be different. Thanks to some generous friends we have a bunch of work books to just reinforce stuff Olivia learned, but that are more fun looking and a variety of stuff that she’ll enjoy. We have craft supplies. We have new books. Sidewalk chalk. Bubbles. So many things! My plan is to be more intentional about doing stuff with the kids between now and when school starts again. Just to save my own sanity.

Not sure if I mentioned it on here but Olivia is changing schools next year. She’ll be going to one that offers the same curriculum, but is only 5 minutes from our house. When we first looked at starting school they weren’t at the stage where it would have been a good fit for her, but now they are. We’re SO looking forward to not having to drive as far. Right now we’re driving at least an hour per day between the two trips to drop her off and pick her up. Her new school starts later in the morning, and because it’s closer we just don’t have to be ready to go out the door before 7 am. She also starts about 3 weeks sooner, so less down time in the summer where we have to keep her busy. Very excited!

The other big excitement around these parts is that we’re within the 3 week window of our summer vacation. It’s always nice to get away, but I think we’re really looking forward to this year more than most. Last summer was full of great opportunities to see so many friends and family, but it was also so much driving. So much. A lot of stops and a day here and a few days there. It was fun, but not very relaxing.

This summer we basically land in Seattle and then after reorganizing some things we’re hoping in the van and driving down to Chris’ Mum and Dad’s. We don’t need to worry about getting the van all outfitted, etc because we left it almost ready to go, and we can do any needed things once we get to their house. We’ll be there for almost two weeks, and we’re all really excited about it! From there we’re heading up to Canada with a couple stops to visit people on the way, but the trip will be nicely broken up. We’ll be in Canada for the rest of our trip doing a variety of things. One of Chris’ sisters lives in Canada, and his brother who is down in California, are both flying in to spend some time with us there which we’re excited about. We’ll have time to go camping and visit with family. My dad is back in British Columbia after working out of province for two years, and I’m so looking forward to spending more than a couple days with him as has been the case when he’s whipped into town for a weekend while we’ve been there. Mostly we’re just looking forward to relaxing and having a good time.

Well, time to go organize some craft stuff and then I get to hunker down and read some more users manuals. Sounds SOOO fun, doesn’t it. I guess when you enjoy something it is fun, even if it seems like a mundane task.

Here are a few of the pictures I was playing around with in Light room yesterday. The fun thing is that they didn’t need a ton of adjustment. These will probably be more exciting for the grandparents :)

May 2014-3

May 2014-7

 

May 2014-9

Have a great week!

~Leslie

Scary Good

Do you ever have those moments where you have a realization that you’re stepping deep into something new, and you might be kind of terrified, but in a good way? That feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing, or how to do it, you just know that it’s going to get done?

I’ve been coming to that realization over the past few days. In hindsight I can see that it’s something that’s been brewing in me for a while. Maybe years even, but it’s just now that the pieces come together. I love how God is so patient as we go through this slow process of seeing things in ourselves – things he’s planted there that he wants to use for his purposes, but things that we might not be ready to face yet.

In this post I shared a bit about this lovely lady joining our staff in August:

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You guys, there are so many moments these days where I find myself thinking things like, “This is the second to last time I have to do this before Peggy comes!” I’m so excited that Peggy will be part of our staff because I already love her. She’s a complete sweetheart with a giant heart, and I think she’s going to add so much to our team. I’m also excited because I’m realizing that those thoughts are coming from a place of me outgrowing the place God first put me in when he brought me to Haiti, and that in that process, in his perfect timing, he’s filled that hole to enable me to move into new groanings.

I know the word “groanings” might seem like a strange choice, but isn’t that what it is? When we truly look back on the process of God taking us from one thing to the next we can see times where our very being was groaning.

Maybe it’s a frustration with something.

Maybe it’s wishing that someone, anyone, could fill a particular need that we see.

Maybe it’s just recognizing that we are in need.

It’s those internal conversations we have. It’s the waning of energy or enthusiasm for something that we previously had excitement for or were enthusiastic about. It’s the questioning if something is wrong with us because we no longer get excited about those things. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not wanting to serve any more? I thought this was where I was supposed to be…

When I was going through the process of realizing God was calling me into missions, something I thought I would never do, there was so much groaning. Two years of groaning. Lots of “Yes, but…” conversations in my heart and head. And yet, when I finally said, “Okay God, I’m jumping in,” the peace was overwhelming and I can look back and see that all those groanings were part of the process. It was me coming to terms with the change in direction, the change in calling, the change of heart. Deep down my heart was yearning for something more, and the rest of me had to come on board.

As we get closer to Peggy’s arrival I feel like my eyes are being opened to the groanings that I didn’t know were actually that. In so many ways I see now that my very core has been yearning for something different, and that it was God working in me to show me that it was time to start focusing on something different than what I have been. There are reasons why what used to get me excited and what challenged me no longer does. I’ve outgrown those things.

When I first started with the mission I got excited about taking on big projects like revamping or designing something that would help our programs. I still love that aspect of things, but I haven’t needed to do much of that in the last few years. We’ve got some well running things in place, and while there might be tweaks here and there, nothing has needed to be completely revamped or started fresh. I’ve wondered why I feel like a bunch of my work is boring and hard slogging. In reality, it hasn’t been challenging or new for me. And that’s not a bad thing.

There have been times where a frustration, even in circumstances with the best of intentions, have pushed me to be more active. For many years we had people back home get graphic designers to volunteer their time in designing promotional materials for the mission. In every situation, while we appreciated the time and effort, something was just not hitting where we wanted or needed it to hit. I realized it was because Chris and I have very strong feelings about how we represent the people of Haiti and the work we do as an organization. Trying to communicate our vision and reasons over email and going back and forth about details is hard. Deep down I knew I could design our materials to send the message that we strive to communicate, so I did the work. I learned a program and now whenever we need new materials I can pull those together and get them done in a way that pulls everything together and consistently represents what we do.

And you know what? I love doing it.

I can literally spend days pouring over every detail of a brochure. A nudge here. A shrink there. It fuels a level of creativity in me that God has put there.

I love to write. That’s why we have this little blog here. And apparently you enjoy reading it because, well, you’re reading it! I like the opportunity to take all those things rolling around in my head and heart, and to put them out there. Most of the time I write because I just need to process what’s going on for me. The fact that others can read it and get something out of it too is just a bonus. Sometimes I realize I can be a voice in a situation that maybe wouldn’t otherwise get shared. Being in the mission field in a country like Haiti and having that opportunity is not something I take lightly. It’s something that weighs heavy on me. How do I share things in a way that respect and honor the people we’re called to serve? If any of them read what I write, how would they feel? Sometimes it means pushing my feelings and opinions aside and choosing not to share certain things, even though it might make a great story.

My heart has been groaning in the past few years over words. Wanting to write more, but feeling that there isn’t the time or head space. I think there are writers who like the idea of it, and do it, and then there are those who need to do it to release certain things. I’m learning there are definite times where I fall into the later category.

I love taking pictures. This past weekend I had the chance to do something that has been so much more than what I thought it would be. It kind of has me reeling.

Some friends here are running a beading project, which was started to help some local families earn money to cover their rent. The beaders roll paper beads, then the ladies running the project bead them into a variety of items. They’re in the process of ramping things up and trying to develop their website and sales portal. They asked if I would be willing to take some product shots for them for the website. I thought it would be fun, and felt honored that they’d asked. I’ve been playing around with my camera that I got in January and have had fun with it at get togethers and have just shared those pictures with friends here.

I wanted to do this for them, knowing how much good pictures can draw people in, especially when you’re trying to sell something that will have a greater impact. I had some ideas, and on Saturday as we were at a local resort for a ladies day, we took about an hour and did the pictures.

You guys, this was SO fun for me! And eye opening.

We had spent a bit of time talking about ideas, so I had some things rolling around in my head. The picture taking was fun, but taking it from that through the editing to end product made me see that I could take that idea or vision in my head, and make it a reality. When I showed our friend Maggie the early edits she said, “I want to buy all of this stuff, and I make it!!!”

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A sneak peek! To learn more about Mowi Beads go to www.mowibeads.com. New pictures coming soon!

I’ve always had a love of photography. I literally had an entire Rubbermaid container of pictures in storage at my parents house from just my teen years. No exaggeration. The hang up for me was getting the ideas in my head to become reality. I can read and read and read, but technical stuff like users manuals doesn’t sink in. I’m a hands on learner. I need to hear and see and touch to fully comprehend something. I need to be able to talk through things with someone to pull it all together in my brain. My frustration with photography was the technical side – how to get from shooting in basic automatic, to manual where there’s much more creative control.

This weekend it came together, and this week because my work load has been lightened up I’ve had the time to be pouring over online photography lessons and practicing with my camera. And it’s exciting!

I feel like something has unlocked in my brain and heart. I can actually do this.

It’s gotten me thinking about all those groanings. What was it about the work that I was initially doing for the mission that left me feeling fulfilled and excited, and what’s changed about that since?

It’s the creativity.

When I was first here, no one else could do it. Chris didn’t think on that level. We could talk about a problem and he would say, “I have no idea what to do with this,” and I would find myself already running ahead designing a program or system or form to make it work. This is why we’re a good team.

Since then, those systems have continued to work well for us, with tweaking here and there. The work involved now is maintenance for me. It’s not creative, but routine. There isn’t much new involved. Yet it takes up my time. So much time that the other things that I see as issues and frustrations get put on the back burner. Over the years I’ve found myself slugging through things because there is nothing new under the sun. I loathe certain jobs because to me they feel mundane, yet they fall onto my desk because they’re admin related. I get frustrated with some of those things hovering in the background because I see the need, but there hasn’t been someone to fill that need over the long term. I have ideas and plans, but haven’t had the time to implement them or to learn how to do something. We kind of keep hobbling along when I know it could be so much more, if only we had the right person to take it on.

Just yesterday it all came together for me.

I am that person.

I’m the person that will be filling that need. Not because there is no other solution, but because that’s the best solution. It’s the solution that God has been pushing us towards for a long time. That he’s been putting pieces in place to prepare us for, for a long time. I just didn’t see it.

Track with me here.

Those groanings have purpose. They are the process of God showing us that what we are in is not where we’re meant to stay. When we move to that next place it’s fulfilling and we feel we’re making great contributions, that our gifts and skills are being used. When we outgrow those things they are hard to get excited about. It’s not that we don’t see the need or want to help, we just don’t feel as enthusiastic about it as we once did. This has been me to a “t” for the last couple of years. I knew it needed to be done and I was it, so I’ve been doing it, but I haven’t been really excited about any of it for a while. It’s shown in my attitude and enthusiasm. I haven’t been great in the “joy” department, if you get my drift. But, I’ve needed to go through this process so I could see the next step, to fully appreciate God’s timing and his preparation. I’ve also needed to go through it so I would be able to fully release some of the control over these things.

When Peggy joins our staff she’ll be taking over the things that have become the day to day “maintenance” type jobs I do. Not because I hate them, but because my time needs to be focused on other projects that are big needs for the mission. In the past, handing over any of these tasks has been hard for me. Sometimes it’s been because I know I’m just going to have to take it back in a few months. At other times it’s because I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t lead to more work for me in the long run between the training and follow up.

In the past couple of months as we’ve started moving towards Peggy’s arrival I’ve been really thinking about what this will be like for me personally. It’s a lot of transition to go from my entire work day looking like one thing to it looking like something completely different that we’ve never done before. It’s kind of scary. Scary good. 

I have never had someone specifically here to help me. This means I need to be intentional about figuring out what tasks and jobs to hand off. I need to be okay giving direction in this area. Kind of scary. Scary good.

I need to think about what other things I haven’t been able to do and would like to. How do I arrange my day going forward? If I don’t need to be sitting in front of my computer doing accounting or general admin stuff, what does that look like? I literally need to revamp my entire definition of “work”. A lot of scary. Scary good.

What if I can actually be creative in my work again? What if that creativity can meet other needs for the mission? What if pouring over website design, rather than accounting is exactly what God has in mind now? What if spending days, weeks, months, years learning my camera means that you can see more of what we do? That you’ll engage more and know better what the needs are? What if it’s a way of sharing a different side of Haiti and her people than what typically gets seen in promoting support for aid organizations? What if having more time to write means I might be able to say things that others aren’t, things that challenge or get conversation started?

Realizing that I’m the person that God has had in mind all this time to fill these needs is scary. I’ve been looking for other sources. Someone back home that can do the web design and maintenance to relieve our board member that’s doing it right now so he can do other things for the organization. Someone else that could take beautiful images of what we do. Thoughts of “I wish…”

But then I do this…

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And this…

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And the pieces fall together that I’m that person. That God has stirred up those groanings in me with a purpose – because it was me all along that he wanted for this. To serve the mission this way. I needed to get unsettled and frustrated so I would be completely ready to hand things over when he brought the right person along. I needed to feel that I needed something more, because I do. I need to feel more because he’s put things inside of me that I’m not fully using, that are wanting out and wanting to be used so he can do more with this whole ministry he’s called us to.

I needed to come to terms with the fact that I am a creative person who needs to have that be part of my every day work, not just for things like crafts. In the past I’ve compartmentalized it. It’s something I do, not something I am. I have thought I had to put it aside or put it away to do my “real” work. And yet, as I step back I realize so clearly that when the opportunity for creativity isn’t there I push and shove against it and I’m pretty darn cranky. I wonder why my brain tells me I have to do one thing while my heart and everything in my being is wanting to go another direction. Realizing all this I kind of feel like this giant light bulb has gone off above my head.

In the past I’ve been happiest when my work has a balance of creativity and me using my gifts and skills in the areas of administration and leadership to work towards something bigger than myself. Until today I’ve identified myself as an administrative person, but I’m realizing that’s not who I am. I’m actually a creative person with high administrative skills. The administrative skills are a means to an end for me, not the thing I LOVE to do. They’re a tool for taking a vision and making it reality, whether it’s figuring out how to plan and coordinate a conference for 600 students, or designing brochures. There is administration involved in both of those things, but there is also a high level of creativity. It’s the creativity and challenge that I crave, that keeps me engaged and excited.

Being able to use all of it in ministry is when I feel the most fulfilled and in my “sweet spot”, and doesn’t God want all of us in that sweet spot where we can see more clearly the people that he’s created each of us to be? He’s put all of these things in us, don’t you think it makes him so happy when we realize that and want to use those things for him? Sigh.

You know what is great about connecting with those groanings? It’s that when you do, and you see the pieces coming together, what you thought might be hard often isn’t. I know that going into this whole new stage with Peggy being here is going to mean a lot of transition for not just me, but also Chris. I’m not the only one that needs to rewrite my definition of work. As I’ve been mulling this over I was wondering what the conversation was going to be like when I told him what’s been rolling around in my head and heart. In the past it’s come out as frustration, thinking that I needed to do more of one thing and less of something else, of blaming anything and everything for why I was frustrated and unhappy. Oh, the groaning. His response when I shared all of this? “There’s so much to be said for loving your work.” He knows. He’s been on the receiving end of the frustration and me pushing against and around. He’s been here for the tears and the confusion, and I think maybe there was some sweet relief to hear my words, “I’m excited to see what it feels like to be happy doing what I do again.”

Funny how we can learn the same lessons over and over in life, isn’t it?

This is all so exciting to me. And scary. Scary good. 

As a fellow missionary here in Haiti regularly says, “We’re going to do it afraid!”

~Leslie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things – Part 2

I hope you enjoyed the Favorite Things Part 1 post. Today we’re trucking right into Part 2 and I’m excited it :) Drum roll…

3. The “Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day” Book

If you love bread, especially the “fancy” bread at the bakery and feel like it’s a splurge, or you’re like us and just can’t get it where you are, you need this book!

It’s amazing, and amazingly simple! I was already using a no knead bread recipe that I baked in my cast iron dutch oven pot, but this just expands on all of that. You can literally make a batch of the master recipe and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, just taking enough out for a loaf whenever you want to make some. My basic problem with the no knead bread I was making is that I would forget to plan ahead and allow enough time for the rise. Yes, it was minimal work – if I remembered several hours ahead of time to start. With a big batch in the fridge all ready to go I can just take out the container, cut enough off, and prep it for baking. That’s it! And it’s delicious. The master recipe is hugely versatile too. I made pizza with it the other night, and hands down the best pizza crust I’ve ever made. Again, because it was already in the fridge I was able to decide at 4:30 pm that we were going to have pizza for supper, and by 6 we were at the table oohing and aahing over how yum it was.

If you get it, definitely spend a few more dollars for the revised version as it has updated info based on reader reviews and more testing, and more recipes. You don’t need any special equipment to make it, and it literally takes about 5 minutes to mix up, and a few minutes to prep when you’re ready to bake. They give you a ton of suggestions for what to use and how to bake, so you can probably use things you already have at home rather than feeling like you need to go buy a ceramic stone baking sheet, etc. Definitely a good addition to any kitchen if you love bread!

4. My new camera & eBay!

I know, I already spent an entire post talking about it and showing off some of my pictures, but I really love this thing!

DSLR (digital SLR) cameras can be a pricey investment, and I think there’s a feeling that in order to take good pictures you need to have the latest and greatest model. Not true. in fact, most professional photographers will tell you that unless you’re planning on doing massive blow ups of your photos you don’t really need a ton of mega pixels. Most people who are taking pictures of everyday life, or even getting into photography as a hobby or small business would be fine with 10-12 mp. A lot of the newer models also have the added HD video feature, which is very cool and definitely worth considering if you want an all in one type deal.

If you’re wanting to upgrade from a point and shoot type digital camera, or even upgrading an entry level DSLR like a Canon Rebel (any version of it) I would definitely recommend looking on eBay. Amateur and professional photographers are often upgrading equipment and one of the easiest ways to recoup some of their investment is to sell their older stuff. EBay has opened up this whole world where that is much easier, and you can find some wonderful stuff if you’re willing to do a bit of work.

When I started looking for a new camera I started looking at the Rebel class, just the newer versions of what I had before, and while I could have gotten a brand new one for about the same price as my used 40D, I realized that what I would be paying for was stuff I wasn’t really worried about having, like more mega pixels and HD video. The mission already has an HD video camera, and I have no plans of doing poster size blow ups of stuff, so why pay for those. I decided I would rather have a more solid work horse of a camera than bells and whistles. The Canon D series have a great reputation so I focused on what we could afford, knowing that it was enough for what I wanted. I knew we could afford a good condition used 40D, so I didn’t look at other stuff. It doesn’t help anyone to focus on what you can’t afford because then nothing else seems good enough.

I know some people are really hesitant about buying electronics, especially what would be considered higher end, on eBay, but here are my recommendations:

  • Know what you’re looking for. Narrow down your search results so you don’t get overwhelmed with the sheer number of options. Do you only want a “new” item. Choose that. Open to refurbished or used? Select those options.
  • Read the listing carefully. Seasoned Ebay sellers will often indicate right in the condition line (the first one right next to the picture) if an electronic item is for parts or not working.
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures! If there are no or few or really crappy pictures, I don’t give a listing much consideration. This is a buyers way of essentially holding and turning and examining an item. Serious sellers will try to include good pictures of multiple angles so you can see the over all condition. Really good sellers will also include close up photos of any scuffs, wear or damage on the item so you really know what you’re getting.
  • What does the seller say about the item? I’m going to give a listing more attention if there’s a more thorough description of an item than something that just says, “Used iPhone 4 in good condition.” What does that mean? Everyone had different standards for what “good” means. The more info in a listing the better!
  • Check out the seller’s feedback score. This is something that Chris has been adamant about because it’s a really valuable piece of information. You might think that 98% positive feedback is a pretty good score, but that can be deceiving. How many transactions has the seller had (number in brackets next to percentage)? If they’ve had several hundred transactions and they have a feedback score of 98%, that’s actually a pretty good group of buyers who have had negative experiences. Go to their feedback page and read through the negative and positive feedback. Sometimes people have ridiculous expectations and nothing makes them happy, so they leave negative feedback. Sometimes though, it’s warranted. Be thorough!
  • If in doubt, ask the seller a question about the item and see what kind of response you get. If they’re prompt, courteous and professional they’re probably going to provide a good transaction. If you feel something is “off” then walk away.
  • When I’m looking at items I always save things that look like a potential in my Watch List. When I feel like I’ve looked at the bigger picture and am ready to narrow it down, I just need to go back to my Watch List and go through those listings rather than trying to remember what page an item was on.
  • Remember that eBay actually has a pretty good complaint system, as well as Buyer Protection for most purchases over $20 if you pay through PayPal, which I would definitely recommend. Between the two there are a lot of security features in place to protect you and ways of following up if something goes wrong.
  • If you have a good transaction, especially with higher priced items like electronics, please leave feedback for your seller. It helps them in the future, and it helps people like you who are trying to navigate the system.
  • On the other hand, if you have a bad experience, please also leave feedback and report the seller if necessary. EBay has high seller standards and enough reports of bad transactions can get a bad seller kicked off, which is a good thing!
  • What about shipping? Many listings on eBay include free shipping, but know your stuff. Is it really free shipping, or has the shipping been rolled into the overall price of the item, especially on Buy It Now items (items that you can simply buy without having to bid on). The really good deals are the ones that have free shipping and the final price is lower than the market average.
  • Know how much time you want to commit to looking for and buying the item you want. Often we’re working on time restraints because we need to make sure things can be shipped and arrive where they need to in order to be brought in to us. Waiting on an auction might take a few days, and you might not win. Decide how much value your time has, and then decide if it’s better to wait on an auction to end, or if it’s more worth it to find a Buy It Now listing that’s a good deal. Typically, when an electronics auction is lower than the average end price or a Buy It Now listing the last hour will go crazy with bids. Remember that you can enter a max bid price if you want, which most will do, so the system will keep bidding on their behalf until they’re out bid. You can suck up a lot of time waiting for listings to end, or finding another one if you don’t win the one you want. Just decide how much time you want to invest.

The long and short of it is that if you take the time and are thorough you can get some great deals from good people on eBay. If you know the average price of what you want to buy, both new and used, you’ll have a better idea of what to pay and what is a really good deal. Remember that Amazon sells used items too, so you can check there to get an idea about market value. Also, as you go through eBay listings you’ll start to see average price points of used items. From there you can generally judge what a good price is.

One last thing to remember about shopping on eBay is that a major percentage of the sellers on there actually use the whole eBay system as one way to sell their wares. In many cases they are people who have actual businesses and eBay is one portal for the online retail part of it. In many of those cases you can actually go to their website and buy directly from them, rather than eBay, if you’re more comfortable with that option. For example, when I was looking at cameras, there was one business called “Henry’s Cameras” based out of Canada. I was just reading a blog post today about camera equipment written by a Canadian woman and she stated that she uses Henry’s as her main source of camera equipment. Many businesses like Henry’s use eBay as a means of reaching a wider audience to move their inventory. I’ve seen everything from Tupperware to Pampered Chef to stuff from Toys R Us being sold on eBay.

I know I mentioned that I got a fabulous deal on my camera and that it’s hardly been used. See what I mean?

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A brand new 40D body on Amazon – just the body, no lens – retails at almost $1400 US. An aftermarket (non Canon brand) battery grip (that thing on the bottom that holds an extra battery and allows you to more comfortably shoot vertical) retails starting at about $50 US. It also came with two batteries and two 8G memory cards. I paid less than $325 US for the whole lot, including shipping, and it’s in like new condition. So yes, people, it’s often worth it to invest the time in checking out eBay! :)

~Leslie

Blustery Wednesday

It’s deliciously cool here right now. The thermometer is still reading 83*F, but it’s overcast and breezy and it feels like winter. We’ve noticed that the cooler weather has taken a lot longer to arrive this year. Usually I would have been waking up and needing to wear a long sleeve shirt for the first couple of hours for a few weeks by now, but this morning was the first time. Hmmm. Maybe the polar vortex got things all mixed up?

Chris’ parents are on their way home now after a wonderful 10 day visit. It’s been so great to have both sets of parents here in the last month. The kids are at an age where they “get” it now and to see the difference in those relationships has been so fun. I think Alex, especially, showed the biggest difference. He’s just talking so much more and interacting in such a fun way now, but more than anything he remembers things and can talk about them later. Frequently today he kept asking where Gramma and Grandpa were and I had to explain they went home. We’ve had the same conversation about Nanna and Pappa many times in the last couple of weeks.

Mum and Dad brought in a ton of stuff for us. It was so overwhelming we literally waited until the next day to go open suitcases, and Chris and I had to take turns going through the bags so we could each go over lists and make sure everything was there. It was and we’re still being reminded of everything they brought in.

One of the most exciting items for me was my new camera :) I knew I had gotten a good deal on it on Ebay, but when it arrived I was shocked to see just how good it was. Sometimes those buys can be risky. This one though – complete gem. This thing looks and acts brand new. I showed it to a friend and told her it was bought used and her reaction was, “That is used???” I checked the shutter count (number of times the shutter has opened and closed to take a picture) and it only had about 3500 shots on it – and it’s rated for about 100,000 before it needs to be replaced. It has literally hardly been used. I feel so blessed!

As you might remember, one of my goals for this year is to learn how to actually use the new camera. The 40D is definitely a step up from my old Rebel. I’ve been having fun practicing and trying to learn how to use the manual settings rather than just shooting in “green mode” (which I actually hate because it always wants to pop up the flash). If you have any recommendations for online tutorials or classes, I would love them! You can leave me a comment.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my pictures from the last week. These have had some minor editing, but not a lot, which makes me feel really good. I would love to learn how to use this thing so well that I don’t have to do a lot of editing, but I realize that’s a life long project :) These were all taken with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

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I had some good subjects :)

~Leslie