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Wrapping up 2014

What a wonderful and blessed year 2014 has been for my family. I wanted to take this opportunity, on New Year’s Eve, to give a recap of our year.

In February, Andrew was able to climb Mt. Kenya! The Brown’s joined him, and they took the 4 day journey. It was an incredible trip, and was one item crossed off of his life bucket list.

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We welcomed our precious son, Carson Bradley, into the world March 8. Two days later my mom and grandma flew in to be with us those first few weeks with him. It was so fun having my mom here once again, and introducing my grandma to Kenya. All of our friends were really impressed that she would make this big trip!

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Andrew’s parents came to visit the month of July. What a huge help they were! Brad built us a gorgeous table, a closet for the kids room, and several other things. Karen helped out at the school and did a fantastic job. The teachers loved her and were very encouraged and motivated by her.

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I was able to fly to the States in September with the kids to visit family for a few months. It  was very unexpected and we planned it 3 weeks before it happened. Andrew was planning a ministry trip up north that would be 3+ weeks. With the timing, it worked well for me to go to the States so I wouldn’t have to stay home alone with the kids. It was absolutely perfect, very timely, and left me feeling refreshed. Andrew was also able to come for the last 2 weeks of the trip. So glad he could join us and take a quick break.

IMG_4025  IMG_3609IMG_3770The kids loved the beach!

IMG_3714 IMG_3725IMG_3860Thankful for the friends I was able to see.

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Took Andrew to his favorite American chain…Sonny’s Smile

 

 

 

 

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Carson’s first Halloween. Both kids first time dressing up and trick-or-treating.

 

 

IMG_4077Playing at the park.

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Carson was dedicated at my home church FBC Pensacola. Such a precious time for our family!

 IMG_4155Walking on the beach with Grandpa.IMG_4192 

 

 

 

 

Last fishing trip just hours before we flew out of the country.

 

 

 

We hosted Thanksgiving for a lot of our new friends here in town. It was so much fun. We cooked a very traditional dinner with turkey and all! I won’t tell you how much our turkey cost, because it was outrageous, but it’s worth it when you live in another country!

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Christmas was really special this year.  Now that we have our own 2 kids, we are beginning new traditions for our family. Kenya is very different than America in that you don’t really know its Christmastime when you are out in public. There is a Christmas tree in our grocery store, but you are not bombarded with decorations everywhere you go. We enjoy the simplicity of the season here. Yes I decorated my house, as much as I could actually. And the decorations might still be up Winking smile I think since it is more low-key, I like the season to last a little longer.  

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Just this year we are feeling more of a part of the community here in Nanyuki. It’s so nice to go into town and run into someone you know. We have made more Kenyan friends, as well as ex-pats that live in the area. There are lots of young people in Nanyuki that come and volunteer with an organization for a few years. We have been trying to reach out to them more, get to know them, and have them over for a meal. Which they don’t mind at all…they’re thankful for some American food. Smile 

Adalyn has grown into a beautiful, sweet, stubborn, and compassionate 2 and a half year old. She is so much fun! She thinks every decision through, and gives her all in everything she does. Though this is a hard age, we consider it a joy that we get to raise her in discipline and grace. Carson is now almost 10 months. He never sticks to a routine because he wants our attention all the time, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my high-maintenance baby boy! He is so loveable and catches everyone’s eye with his sweet smile. I am beyond grateful for my 2 children.

As this year comes to a close today, I look back with thankfulness on how I’ve grown and everything the Lord has done for my family. It has been a year of changes, rejoicing, growing and healing. I’m so excited for 2015 and what it holds! 

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Gripping my Green Thumb

I am surrounded by family that loves to garden and plant! My father-in-law is an awesome gardener; if you know anything about him you know that! You name it, he’s got it! My mom too, she loves plants! When I was younger she had a vegetable garden, but now she is more into plants and flowers. Her yard is beautiful.

I’ve been trying to grip this green thumb for years now. When Andrew and I first got married I bought a tomato plant (that was already big with one tomato on it). It was dead within a month. When we first moved to Kenya, I planted a very small herb garden. It was also dead within a few months.

But….this time I’m determined! I have recently planted a HUGE vegetable garden. I planted 21 different things. From lettuce to cucumbers to onions to melons. I planted all the seeds almost 2 months ago. And now things are starting to grow!

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But I’ll let you in on my little secret. Its not at all that my green thumb is present. Its that Kenyans are awesome gardeners! And I have help! A teacher at our school lives on our compound with us and she has been my lifesaver. She helped me plant, she goes out in the evening and waters it for me (I do too, but she beats me to it sometimes!), basically she helps hold me accountable.  A friend of ours who does our yard work has also been a huge help. And my biggest problem is weeds. I can’t tell what’s weeds and what’s not. So they have been a great help with that too.  There have already been times I’ve wanted to give up (it’s a big project!), but I’m too embarrassed with all these friends helping me. Is that a good reason?    

Hoping to eat from it soon! Come on over and I’ll share. Smile

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Summer with Rachel

This is a blog dedicated to my sister….Rachel.     Smile

As many of you know, my younger sister Rachel came to stay with us this summer here in Kenya. We have been planning this for years, since before Andrew and I moved here actually. Back then I didn’t know if it would really happen, but it did, and it was a truly great summer with her!

I don’t think I realized how much I missed my family until this summer.  We have Skype (which is great!) and I talk on the phone to everyone, but after spending 2 and a half months with my sister, I am REALLY missing her these days!!  I was completely spoiled having her here for so long!

Rachel is studying Environmental Science at Florida State University.  She is just starting her senior year, and is very interested in living overseas when she graduates.  She had this summer free and came to do a sort of “internship” with us here in Nanyuki.  She planned science lessons to teach to the students in our school, she attended night activities with the boarding students, played with the kids at recreation time, went to tutor with me at the orphanage, and other random things. 

I knew that Rachel would be fine living here for a few months, but she completely exceeded my expectations!!  Seriously, sometimes I felt like she was way better at living here than I am!  Because I was at the end of my pregnancy I couldn’t do everything that I normally can, and that didn’t stop her! She would go join the kids even if she had to go alone, she would lead them in silly songs and dances, and had a great time getting involved.  Not to mention what a HUGE help she was around the house. She helped me cook dinner and cleaned my dishes almost every night, helped with laundry and so much more!

If you would have told me 10 years ago that when we grew up, Rachel would be one of my best friends, I would have laughed in your face. Seriously! We were like any normal sisters and fought all the time! But I am thankful to say that it is true…we have grown up and get along great now.  And I am so proud of her and who she has become. She is a beautiful, confident, God-fearing, and passionate young woman, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the summer I just spent with her! 

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DSC_0540  Rachel teaching a song to the boarders. See her down there in the front? I think they were being pineapples at this part (Fruit of the Spirit Song).

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Rachel teaching the students about volcanoes.

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Travels: Learning in the Chaos

Abby and I have been blessed to see more of Kenya in a year than the average Kenyan sees all his life. It seems like we are always on the road, and sometimes it can feel tiring and chaotic. Most recently we visited the coastal town of Mombasa with my best friend, Jonathan, and his wife, Kelsey,  who came to visit. 

As the manager of a scuba diving shop in Florida, Jonathan was eager to spend some time in the Indian Ocean. For Abby and I, the trip wasn’t just about fun and relaxation, although we did that too, but it provided an opportunity to see the ministry of Chris and Lisa Moore (who we are extremely grateful towards for opening their home for us to sleep at).

The Moore’s are developing community centers focused around a church and evangelism with the goal of providing access to good medical care, quality education, and clean water (http://www.real4christ.com/). They are doing a phenomenal job reaching out to villages that have been largely overlooked and forgotten about, and I learned a lot, especially in the area of project management in a foreign country.

In December, we visited Vernon and Mary Smith in Tanzania for Christmas, another opportunity to see another great ministry. They also have a church, school, and medical facilities, but in a suburb of a large town. It was encouraging to see their love for the Tanzanians and how they lead people to grow in Christ through care and relationships.

We also have a church and school here in Nanyuki with the Daniels. In many ways, these other ministries are modeled after what the Daniels have done, but each one has made improvements and changed things to fit their gifting and the needs of the area, allowing me to compare and contrast.

The above mentioned trips are just a glimpse of our travels. There are countless other ministries we have had the blessing to see, including many within our own fellowship of churches. From leading American teams to working with groups of Kenyan pastors/evangelists, we have also led many trips.

At the end of each one, I am always happy to return to our home in Nanyuki. Travelling is exhausting. Sometimes I struggle to stay organized because by the time I settle back in it is time to go again. Sometimes my bag is never unpacked from the last trip as I begin a new one (although that is partially my personality as Abby always manages to unpack Smile). I feel like I have a perpetual to-do list since I am never home long enough to finish everything, but I am thankful for the craziness.

Abby and I have both learned so much in the chaos. These first two years are about discovering our future of missions. I am thankful for this time of learning, but looking forward to settling down more. Until then I know that God will continue to give us the grace to push on in His will.

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Merry Christmas!!!

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We have come to the end of our first year here in Kenya and are so blessed with our new life and experiences that have come with it. Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support!

We have had a wonderful Christmas week in Tanzania with our friends Vernon and Mary Smith. 

We want to wish all of our friends and family a very Merry Christmas! 

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My 1st Kenyan wedding…

I was able to experience my 1st Kenyan wedding yesterday!  It was a lot of fun, and SO different than American weddings.

First of all, the bride and groom have actually already been married for about 10 years, and they have two children. They just never had a ceremony.  They recently decided they wanted to have an actual wedding in the church, and celebrate with friends. 

The wedding was supposed to start at 10:30am.  I got there at 10:15 and not one person was in the church.  The first guest (besides myself) came at about 11:30.  The wedding didn’t actually start until around 12.  Although, I think that is pretty good for a Kenyan wedding, I have heard they can be 3 or 4 hours late getting started!   Smile

IMG_3493                                                                                                        The church decorated beautifully for the wedding, and my friend Esther.

 

When I looked at my watch at about 11, I was afraid there were going to be no guests.  But once the wedding started, I turned around in my seat and people were packed into this church! Seriously, there were rows of people standing at the back, it was amazing how so many of them showed up all at the same time.

It was definitely not as organized as American weddings.  It seemed like they were planning it as they were going. Ha. But yet that didn’t make it bad, it was just different.  And people talked throughout the whole thing.  As the bride was walking down the aisle, I heard so much noise, which I was not used to.

The bridesmaids would be their groomsmen they were partnered with halfway down the aisle. They walked to each other, he presented her with flowers, and they walked to the front together. 

I am an emotional girl. And I have ALWAYS cried at weddings. Especially when the bride walks down the aisle.  Even though it was much different than what I am used to, I still managed to tear up when I saw her coming.  This Kenyan wedding had the same effect on me.   Smile

IMG_3518                                                  The groom “unveiling” his bride.  I think this is the equivalent to “kissing the bride,” because they didn’t do that, and this part was pretty exciting to the audience. 

 

After the wedding, we hitched a ride to the reception.  The reception site was fantastic!!  They had two long rows of tents set up, and one in the middle for the bridal party. 

IMG_3531                                           The bride & groom, and the bridesmaids.

 

There was a ton of dancing!  Honestly, the dancing made me really nervous!  When I first got there, the DJ saw me and said (in the microphone in front of everyone may I add…), “Hello mzungu, I salute you!”  Ha, he was just being funny, but I was so afraid he was going to call me out there to dance!  Anyway, he didn’t, but it was really entertaining to watch everyone else dance!  

I left to walk home at about 3:30, and I was totally exhausted.  I am not sure if it was the hot African sun that wore me out, or being at a wedding for 5 hours.  But, I heard from someone that they went home at 10:30 pm, and it wasn’t even over!  That is one long wedding!

I have uploaded some videos from the wedding so you can see some of what I am talking about. 

This first video is the bride walking down the aisle to her groom:

 

The exchange of rings:

 

The bride & groom leaving the ceremony:

 

The extremely energetic DJ:

 

Wedding guests dancing:

 

To see more pictures, check out our Facebook album from the wedding. 

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2 YEARS BABY!!

Today is a very exciting day….our 2 year anniversary!

I think this officially means we are no longer newlyweds.

(Hint, hint…no more calling us newlyweds!!!)  🙂

God has been so good to us and brought us through a lot in these 2 years.  I am thankful for everything he has done through us and is preparing us for in the future.  I couldn’t have asked him for a better spouse to spend my life with.

Now, lets take a little stroll down memory lane….

Black and White Affair037_edited                                        One of our first pictures taken together…at the “Black and White Affair.”

P1010100(1) Of course there has to be a River Ranch picture.  Classic.

aww  In the Keys.

P3190264                  Don’t we look so young????

Wedding Pictures Professional 887 Our first kiss EVER!!!

Wedding Pictures Professional 073   So happy!

IMG_3489           And now, here we are….2 years later…living in AFRICA! Crazy.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.                                -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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