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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Random chaos from the Kemp's

Our home is loud, rowdy, chaotic and messy. Never boring or dull! I love it! Thought you might like to read about just a couple of sample events from a normal day at the Kemp's house.

*You know there's too much talk radio in the morning when the two year old starts making up a song, "mike and mike in the morning...."

*Abby and her Daddy spent the morning dancing to Bon Jovi (cranked up loud). Since Shawn can't sing, he mimes and does huge interpretive dance motions. She is totally copying his miming dance moves. Hysterical to watch.

*Grace was trying to tell James how to make scrambled eggs this morning.
Grace with extreme bossiness, "James you're doing it all wrong. Put butter in the pan. Crack the eggs in a bowl. Whisk the eggs. You forgot to swish the butter...."

James in desperation as the egg shells crumble in his hand and fall into the bowl, and the butter in the pan is scorching, "I can't do two things at once."

I think he gets his cooking ability from me.

* There's just a couple of sample events from a typical day at the Kemp's. I am having a hard time fully capturing the magic of the chaos here in the blog. I'll have to work on it a bit more. The kids are funny, precious, awful, wild, insane, and wonderful all at the same time. That's what makes it interesting and fun.

*Looking forward to an awesome day at The Crossroads tomorrow. Just can't wait! Love going to worship there!

*For the girls : Thanks those of you who prayed for my dress shopping. I made it through trying on clothes without crying. In fact, everything fit really well. The hardest part was selecting a dress to buy. I only had to go to one store. YEAH! Finally ended up with a classy little black dress and new high heels to wear to our big event Friday night. I also wound up buying a hot little blue dress that was on sale that I'll wear when we go out on Valentine's day. It's a little sexier than what I usually wear, but I think I can pull it off. And my husband will definitely not be thinking about the food :) There was also a red dress that I really wanted but could not justify paying full price for....and nowhere to wear it either. Halter top, low-cut, backless kind of thing for evening wear. Be great on a cruise..... Hope the shopping details satisfy all you girly girls out there who enjoy that kind of thing. Boys, guess you're wishing you had skipped this.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Navigating the preteen minefield

faOkay, I admit it. I am absolutely clueless about parenting teens. I am totally making it up as I go. I just keep trying random stuff hoping somehow the kids turn out all right and I survive as well.

Tonight I had the brilliant idea to take Grace out alone. This was genius. I've done it before, but it's been probably a couple of years since we did anything big together, alone. We ate at Chick-fil-a. (Her choice) I got caught up on school, her friends, some deeper issues, etc.

Then we went to see Twilight. She's now reading the books for the third time. Huge fan. I was interested to see how she would rate the movie since she is the target audience for the film. I was a little nervous since this is one of her first exposures to a pretty intense love story (Shawn calls it girl porn) :) I didn't want her to just get swept away by the romance of it all. She definitely liked the movie, but evaluated it well, too. I was really impressed with her take on the movie. She discussed the acting and directing and details that showed that she watched the movie critically and carefully evaluated what she was taking in.

I know that we have some tough days ahead as we figure out preteen hood together. I'm just having to learn as I go. But for tonight, I think I probably scored an A. Just listening, loving, and hanging out without judging or nagging or fussing. She came away feeling special, and I came away understanding her just a little bit better.

Looking forward to the rest of a busy weekend....dress shopping with a buddy in the morning for the Anna chamber of commerce banquet; band practice in the afternoon, then best of all, church on Sunday! Love weekends!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What a day!

Wow - what a day. It seemed like I didn't ever have a second to catch my breath. I hit the ground running hard at school and didn't slow down. I had my hands full between teaching and discipline issue with some kids. My conference period was spent in a meeting where I found out that now we are being required to tutor two days per week after school to try to help the big kids pass the TAKS test. So longer hours for me. I don't mind doing my part, it's just that I'm already slammed with work. It's only a few months.

Between a Wal-mart run and cleaning for the house to show tomorrow, I am exhausted. I know that my energy level will pick up some next week as my body adjusts back to the school schedule. In the meantime....patience....I promise I'm not being purposefully grumpy :)

Do me a favor - pray for my brother-in-law Bryan. He lost his job this week. He and and my sister-in-law Lori have a daughter in college and a son who's a Junior in High School. It's tough to lose an incredible income with that age kids. They are willing to relocate if necessary and are seeking God pretty hard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

She's speaking English

Here's another amusing Mexico story friends wanted me to share.

One day we were handing out blankets door to door in the fishing village. The group I was with walked up to a door and worship dude started asking the lady at the door the standard questions....How many in your family, how many children, girls or that we could leave the appropriate gifts at the home. I suddenly realize that I can not only understand his broken spanish that I had heard several times already by this point, but also am clearly understanding all of the lady's replies.

Running through my head is suddenly the thought, "Thank you, Jesus, for this incredible gift to be able to understand this lady without a translator....especially since we seem to have gotten separated from all of our translators yet again." I'm thinking I have been given a supernatural moment.....when suddenly I realize.....she's speaking ENGLISH!

So of course with my fast mouth and slow brain I yell out, "Oh, you speak English." Duh! So then I got to jump in and join the conversation. She was the first English speaker that I had discovered in the village and so I was very excited. My next bright statement is, "My spanish is really bad." to which she replies, "YES!"

I may not win any awards for coolest, smoothest missionary on this trip...but I did have a lot of fun!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

sippee cups and God

I hate cleaning house. Detest. Despise. Dread. I don't have enough negative adjectives in my repertoire to adequately describe my nasty emotions about cleaning. I do it because it must be done and I do it as well as possible because that's the right way to do it. However, anytime that I am cleaning, I am battling a particularly foul attitude. It's just how I am and haven't been able to change it in spite of many attempts to view cleaning in a more positive light.

Because of the foul attitude, I spend a lot of time praying while I'm cleaning. To confess and try to overcome the guilt associated with the negative attitude. Because of all the time I spend praying while cleaning multiplied by all the cleaning time involved in showing a house, God often speaks to me through the mundane tasks.

This week it was a sippee cup. NO JOKE! I was washing dishes....which I hate less than I used to so I guess that's progress. I was dumping and rinsing sippee big deal and tossing them in the dishwasher. Then I came to a long lost sippee cup. You parents out there know what I found inside...chunky, stinky, white, moldy cheese. So then I had to hold my breath and work for quite some time on cleaning up the cup so that it could be usable. That's when God got my attention and taught me a little lesson about sin.

You see, daily confession is like washing the fresh dishes. We confess our sins, get rinsed off and are good to go. Very quick, easy, and fairly painless. But the sin that we allow to fester and grow and hide becomes the stinky cheese. It is harder to totally rinse away, and it is a chore to completely remove it and become usable again. God desires a daily confession and cleansing from us so that we are constantly yielded and usable. When we allow sin to overtake us, it is much harder for God to use us.

There it is....a lesson about sin from a nasty, stinky, gross sippee cup.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Funny story from the Mexico Trip

I promised some funny stories from the trip. I'm pretty sure this is number 1.

Knowing that we might have to wait as long as two hours to cross back into the states, our missionary guide stopped at a gas station in Matamoras for us to all use the restroom. Now restroom accommodations are not quite the same in Mexico. In the ladies' restroom were two toilets, close by each other. My friend and I suddenly got to know each other a whole lot better as we were up close and personal using the restroom. When I finished, I did the typical public restroom flush - you know - push the handle down with your foot while standing as far away as possible. That is the only thing that saved me from a total drenching.

As soon as I flushed, water began spraying (gushing) up from the pipes behind the toilet. I choose to believe that it was clean water coming in, not pee water going out. The water sprayed up over my head, onto the ceiling, and back down all over me. I responded in a typical woman fashion - Screaming loudly while jumping up and down. (Freaking out) I was trying to escape the shower without opening the door to the restroom which would expose my friend to the parking lot. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I exited the restroom, still screeching, holding my arms out so they could begin dripping dry, and warning my waiting friends to avoid flushing.

Fortunately we had some wipees in the van and I was able to clean up a bit.

And the missionary....He stopped at the same restroom again the next day just for fun. But I stayed dry....knew not to flush:)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Monday Morning Update

This week, Shawn's coach, Sam Douglass, came in to preach since Shawn can't speak. I heard that he did an excellent job. I did not have the opportunity to hear him speak since I was in the children's area this week.

The band sounded awesome. You know - my readers might believe me more if just once I could honestly say that the worship set stunk or that it was riddled with mistakes. But every week is absolutely fantastic. We are definitely blessed with good musicians and a phenomenal worship dude. (I say that every week, too)

The children's lesson was rather interesting. Due to remodeling in the gym, I had to set up in a new location. It worked out fine, but it was more challenging than usual to capture the children's attention. My students this week were very young. All preschoolers. The lesson was about loyalty - an advanced abstract concept. Ummmm......pretty lame (my delivery, not the curriculum). We had fun, and I tried hard to help the children understand the concept, but my honest evaluation is that my lesson just pretty much stunk for this young age group. Oh well...better luck next time, right!

After the service everybody hung around to pack up - awesome to have so many helping hands! Then several of us ate at a new restaurant in Anna - cool that two Anna families ate with us - those are the friends we started praying for before we went into the church plant! It is so exciting to see the circle expanding!

I can't express my excitement about the church plant and all that God seems to have in store. I am blessed to get to be a part of this!

Mexico Mission Trip

This will be really long - I want to cover the trip thoroughly to have a complete record of the event. Feel free to skim if you are not terribly interested in the details.

For several years, we have traveled to Juarez to give away blankets at Christmas time. Because of border violence, our Juarez contacts discouraged us from coming there. So instead we stepped out on faith, made some new contacts and planned a trip to Matamoras - a border town south of Brownsville.

The adventure began Wednesday morning - early. We left from my house before daylight. Everybody threw their stuff into a trailer that was already loaded with nearly 700 blankets, tons of stuffed animals, and other miscellaneous items that God provided for the trip. About a mile from the house, Shawn flipped on the light in the van and began writing on his markerboard. (Because he has a cyst on his vocal chords and can't speak). He wrote, "Did anybody lock the trailer?" We stopped and checked and realized not only was the trailer not locked, it was not even closed. So we turned around and trekked back to the house, picking up the few items that had fallen out along the way.

We headed back out again and made the trip to Anna to pick up two more people, bringing the total number of travelers up to 11. Roadtripping with friends is always one of my favorite activities and this trip was no exception. We had a blast. I laughed hard and long. (However, it seemed that people were laughing more at me than with me.)

Van dogs were a disaster. We stopped at my brother's store in Saledo to tie the dogs on under the van to heat up. It was interesting to watch Robby and Shawn crawling around trying to find a good place to tie on the hot dogs. My brother laughed and laughed about the two rednecks. (He's one to talk) Unfortunately, the hot dogs fell off during the drive, and when we stopped to eat, we had none. Instead we ate Subway.

We arrived at the dorm in Brownsville only to find out that all the blankets that we had carefully packed in boxes would have to be taken out of the boxes and repacked in the trailer. We spent the evening unloading and reloading the trailer, preparing to cross the border the next morning. I was so impressed by the attitudes of the people I was working with. It was late. We had traveled many long hours. We were exhausted. But I heard no complaints. Everyone pitched in and worked hard to get the job done. This great attitude was characteristic throughout the entire trip. Attitudes make such a difference on mission trips. Being with so many positive people made the trip a pleasure.

The next morning we headed over with the trailer but were turned back at the border. So then we packed blankets in the van - under the seats - in every crevice and even in the seats so that we sat cross-legged on top of them as we crossed the border. We were blessed both days with green lights - which means that we were not stopped and inspected.

The missions pastor, Dwayne Spearman, from FBC Brownsville took us not to Matamoras but instead changed our plans and took us to a coastal fishing village - Las Higuerillas. That was the best decision on the trip! We rode about 60 kilometers down a bumpy, pot-holed highway to the village. As we approached our destination, the sea crept up close to the road on both sides. It was such an incredibly beautiful scene to see the ocean and the sand dunes. However, the poverty in the village was overwhelming. The homes were tiny, simple shacks thrown together with old lumber and driftwood. Some homes were not even entirely closed in on all four sides.

We stopped at the local mission and meet Pastor Keen and his beautiful wife Juana. Pastor Keen has been in the village for many years, coming originally from North Carolina. He is an elderly gentleman in failing health, with a very thick southern accent. At times I was not sure who was harder to understand, Pastor Keen with his thick southern accent or Juana speaking spanish. He was quite the interesting character - I'll have to save my Pastor Keen stories for another time.

At the mission, they have begun construction on dorms in hopes that mission teams will begin coming and staying on the peninsula to do mission work. There is no electricity in the village, but Pastor Keen has a generator for the mission. There is also no running water, but the outhouses at the mission were pretty nice as far as outhouses go. It was a new experience for some on the team.

We also met another missionary, a young man named Aaron. He was staying in the village with his fiance's family for a few weeks. He dedicated both days to helping us with our mission work and translating for us.

We handed out blankets and gospels of John in the village on the first day. One gentleman accepted Christ, and we made lots of positive contacts. Hopefully soon many of these people will visit the village mission. We quickly ran out of blankets and returned to the mission to eat a fresh seafood dinner prepared by Juana. Then we went down to the beach for awhile.

The next day we returned to the same village, but also had the opportunity to take a fishing boat over to one of the islands where there has been little mission work. When we arrived at the island, we realized that all of our translators were still back at the dock waiting for the second boat ride - about 45 minutes behind us. Shawn decided to take a brief reprieve from his silence in order to translate for us, and I'm pretty sure he did some unnecessary talking just out of relief to be able to speak. I was invited to stay on the island by a man who apparently was fascinated by my red hair.

That evening Aaron's future mother-in-law fed our team supper in her home. We all crowded into a tiny room probably about the size of my dining room - squashed on top of each other - and enjoyed a wonderful meal of fish, spaghetti, and oysters. This family had to borrow a generator so they would have electricity for us. I was moved by their generosity and hospitality. They gave up an entire day to prepare a meal and sacrificed to create comfortable accommodations for us.

On our way out, Dwayne stopped by the town square in Matamoras for us to see the Christmas decorations. The white lights were so beautiful, almost magical. Then we spent a couple of hours waiting in line to get back into the states.

We roadtripped back home and the great adventure was over. Before, I have been ready to get back home, but this trip was different for me. I could have stayed. I regretted having to leave before we formed strong relationships and before we were really able to deeply minister to the population there in Las Higuerillas.

I think I've done a pretty good job of recounting the events of the trip - minus a few funny stories due to time - but I just don't seem to be able to capture the overwhelming emotion that accompanied the event. It was not pity for the people's poverty that consumed me, but I was overwhelmed by the great need and hunger for the gospel. Many times as we handed out the gospel, the people stopped what they were doing to read. I realized that for many of them it was probably their very first time to own a part of the Bible. For many of them, they were reading the gospel of John for the very first time.

Every year I realize more deeply God's call to go to the nations. If we do not go, how will they hear? There are still languages that God created that have never been used to worship Him. Nations where there is no one who knows Jesus Christ. Who will go?

I'll have to take time some other day to share all the funny events - my friend Joel summed them up well as lessons we all learned- "Melody needs to perfect her spanish, Rachel needs to learn sign language, LaRissa discovered that in Mexico redheads have more fun, and Liz found out that next time she needs to dye her hair red."

To my friends from the trip who are reading - it was a memory of a lifetime - going to Las Higuerillas with all of you. I enjoyed every single moment! Even the ones where you were all laughing at me! I love you all. Thanks for being part of my family.