Happy Birthday Autry

My little boy turned 8 yesterday and I can hardly believe it. He is my big, strong, tough boy who is also so sweet and sentimental. Yesterday morning he came into my room at 7:00am and said, “Mommy I’m 8” he then crawled into my bed and cuddled me saying, “Daddy got the last 7 year old kiss and now you are getting the first 8 year old kiss.” Talk about breaking a mommy’s heart. This has been quite the year for Autry, moving to a new country and starting school for the first time. He has grown up so much in the last 4 months. We have seen him get through a rough start to the school year, learn to make friends with a bully who was being mean to everyone, protect and take care of his sister at school, give all his money to the Haitian pastor, and the list goes on and on. The Lord is developing in him an amazing heart for people and it is a privilege to get to watch.

I am so thankful for this little boy who makes me go crazy, laugh, and smile all within the same hour. I am so excited to see what the Lord has in store for him. I love that he loves looking at pictures of himself from when he was little, will sit and listen to any book at anytime no matter what he is doing, forces us to do the exact same things for his birthday every year (pancakes that spell his name and banana cake), and gets so excited about the littlest of things. 

Autry was adamant that he wanted a Hobbit birthday party. However, when you live oversees birthday decorations are a little hard to come by. However he was thrilled when I wrote Happy Birthday in Elvish for him and drew some Hobbit pictures to put on his banner. He gets so excited about things and it makes being his parents fun. We had a birthday party for him the night before, and then woke up and celebrated his birthday all day. We had pancakes for breakfast and for lunch he wanted Yaroa (basically french fries covered in meat, mayo, ketchup, and cheese),  and then we watched the Lord of the Rings all day long. He watched the extended versions of both Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers. Can we say obsessed? 

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Hobbit Birthday cake!

A little side note, but before Christmas he got to go to his first ever move in the theatre. We went and saw the Hobbit in 3D. When we walked into the theatre he was so amazed at how big the screen was. Throughout the entire movie he was on the edge of his seat. He was giggling so thrilled through every battle seen. I love that little boy!

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SInging Happy BIrthday. Notice the firecracker on his birthday cake. We were asked once if you can find those in the states. I said, I am pretty sure those are not legal in the states.

 

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Watching Two Towers

 

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All he wanted for his birthday was some new fake weapons because he had to leave his when we moved. He carried his new sword, which is actually a water gun, with him all day.

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Traditional Birthday Pancakes

 

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Christmas time

We had a wonderful Christmas. I do have to say I missed the cold, family celebrations, and just american celebrations in general. I will fully admit that I get a little jealous every time I see pictures of people all bundled up looking at Christmas lights. There is something so comforting about coats, scarfs, boots, and warm drinks on a cold evening.

However, we had a really good Christmas season. The grandparents sent all the gifts ahead of time so the kids all got to enjoy thoughtful presents from their grandparents. Christmas Eve (Nochebuena)  was spent with at our friend’s parent’s house in the country outside of the city we live in. It was a very fun night with lots and lots of food. We were quite shocked however to find out that it is completely normal to eat dinner on Christmas Eve night at around 10:00, when we left at 11:00 because our Children were melting down, people were arriving to the festivities. I fell asleep around 1:00am and the parties around us were still raging. Dominicans know how to party thats for sure!

December has also been the month where the kids Spanish skills have just taken off. Claire and Autry’s Spanish surprises me daily. Their grammar is horrible but the amount of words they know is impressive. Every week they seemed to learn more and more. I was actually a little bummed to see Christmas break come because I didn’t want their progress to stop. In no time at all they will be speaking better than me! The most amazing  thing to me is that they speak in a perfect Dominican accent. When Claire speaks Spanish you would have no idea that she is a native English speaker because her accent is so perfect. It is amazing how God created our brains!  Autry and Claire also had a Christmas program at school. They learned several Dominican Christmas carols and are now singing them all the time. It is fun to here. The only bummer is that I think they know more Christmas songs in Spanish than in English. I am going to have to work on that.

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Autry and Claire all ready for their Christmas program

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All ready to open their presents

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Autry got a new Kindle for Christmas and was thrilled. A certain sister who will remain nameless dropped his old Kindle out the window during a heavy rain

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New Doll!

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A new kindle from Nana and Papa and a Kindle giftcard from Grammy and Granmpy

 

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THe Girls got matching Sofia nightgowns

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The biggest reaction by far were these ornaments that my mom cross stiched for the kids. I have a whole set of them from growing up and the kids LOVE them. When they opened them up Autry shrieked, “THANK YOU GRAMMY, I LOVE GRAMMY!”

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Gibson got a new set of legos and loved them but was still recovering from being sick and had little to no reaction on almost everything

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Randy played Dominos all night with the men. Which is the national pastime for almost all men in the Dominican.

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Our feast awaits! Gibson was a little cranky when it was 10:00 and he hadn’t eaten yet.

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Our friend Altagracia with all the food. We had pastelon, two different kinds of rice, grilled pork, lasagna, spagetti, bread, fruit. It was quite the meal.

More Blessed

I was sick all week. I had been working for weeks on the Haitian party and two days before the party I woke up with a sore throat. My body hurt, my head was pounding, and I had so so much to do. So I kept on working, sewing a dress and bow time for Claire and Autry’s Christmas program, organizing presents, preparing food, and making sure everything would be perfect for the arrival of 22 beautiful Haitian children.  I felt like I was in a haze as I made my way through all the preparations and I if it weren’t for the prayers of friends and God’s grace I would not have been able to get it all done.

Finally the day arrived, we loaded 23 children, 2 teachers, 1 pastor, and 6 moms onto a bus and took the 20 minute drive to our home. For some of these children it was their first trip out of the community they live in. They all piled into our home and I thanked God for this big house he has given us to be able to fit all these children in. We played games, sang songs, heard the Christmas story, ate Nachos, opened presents, and had ice cream. At the end of the time all the children came up and hugged me saying thank you. They said thank you so all of their sponsors. Then each mom stood up and thanked us and the sponsors. Over and over again saying thank you. The pastor thanked us, the teachers thanked us, the kids thanked us, and all I could think was I can’t believe they are thanking me. Don’t they realize that I am blessed to be doing this. I know that gratitude is warranted because for the first time these children are in school, they are receiving food every day, and more presents than they ever dreamed. But really how great is our God that he has put me here serving these people as my job?
I am here in the Dominican Republic doing what I have always wanted to do. As I took pictures and shared in the lives of these children I can’t help but reflect on the fact that his is what I have always wanted to do. Who cares that I am sick?  This is what I have wanted to do since I was a little girl and would tell my mom that I wanted to be a missionary teacher when I grew up. Right now my job is to serve my family, and these children. I can’t even imagine a better life. I am so thankful. I am thankful that the Lord has given me more than I could have ever dreamed. I am thankful for a husband who loves me and loves the Lord. I am thankful for 4 beautiful children that the Lord has given me to love and care for. I am thankful for the lives of each one of these Haitian children that I get to love on.  I am thankful for a friend in a Haitian pastor and his wife that love their Haitian community and want so desperately for these Haitian people to know the gospel. I am thankful for a director of our school who loves on these kids and is an amazing teacher.

I often sit back and think why me Lord? Why have you chosen to give me so much? All  I can think is that God has given me so much and because he has given me so much I need to serve him even more with what he has given me. My heart and prayer is that I will use all these things that God has given him for his glory. All the blessings that I have been given I will use to reach more people for the gospel. I pray that I will remember all I have to be thankful for even in hard times. I pray that I will be thankful for hard times.

As I reflect on this Ephesians 2:8-10 comes to mind, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in CHrist Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in him.” God chose me to be his child by no works of my own. I did nothing to receive God’s grace, but he chose me and saved me none the less. Because, of this I get to serve him my whole life. He prepared in advance for me to be right here right now serving this group of Haitian children. Thank you Lord you have given me more than I could have ever dreamed!

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Pastor Francisco and his wife Jonise

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Claire, Addie and Dafca

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Autry playing keep away with Emerson

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Feasting on Nachos

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They can hardly wait to see what’s in the boxes and bags

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Kervens is so excited about his baseball bat!

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Preparing 30 plates of Nachos with a Tangerine on the side

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Claire passed out all the plates and Gibson passed out the forks

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Passing out food

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Josefine with her present

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Levinsky with his icecream