Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Travel Tuesday

I'm starting something new here on the blog. Since I started this little blog with the best of intentions, did well for a while, and then became too busy with other things to ever update it, I've decided to dust it off and pay it more attention. The goal is to ultimately make my own site and maybe even have sponsors so that we can make a little income from it, but we'll see what ends up happening. That being said, I have to have something interesting to post, and it would probably be more successful if I were to update more than 3 times each year. I love writing and have kept a journal for years now; updating more frequently seems like a pretty natural and easy extension of that. That just leaves me needing something interesting to write. So, I thought to myself, "Amy, what are your favorite things?" The top answers ended up being as follows (but in no particular order): family (especially Husband), creating useful/wearable things and homey projects, health and natural medicine, cooking, and being outdoors. That's a pretty wide range of things, but the goal is for it to keep me (and you!) interested.

Now for the something new. Alliteration being a big deal these days, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and start a Travel Tuesday here on the blog. Each Tuesday (ie each Tuesday that I choose to do this--it may not actually end up being every Tuesday) will be Travel Tuesday where I'll either share stories of someplace I've been or research and then describe a place I hope to one day go. These places may be international, here in the USA, or even here in my same zip code. So, my friends, welcome to my first Travel Tuesday!

This week I'll be describing a place that permanently holds a special place in my heart for it was in this lovely, almost-hidden spot that I spent seven beautiful summers; I even met my amazing husband here! And, since we'll be meeting Husband's family in this favorite spot of mine in just a few days, it seemed fitting to feature it in my first Travel Tuesday.

Highland Retreat: the camp that will always be "mine." I first laid eyes on this camp in March of 2004. I was 16, and my dad had taken me to tour the college that I would later attend. I had also applied for a 2-week volunteer position at Highland Retreat Camp for the coming summer and was invited out that same weekend for an interview. The hour-long drive down 259 in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley was beautiful, but I do remember marveling that a place that far out in the middle of nowhere could thrive the way Highland has. There are mountains in every direction making you feel like you're in a giant bowl with giant trees, purple mountains, and blue skies for sides. A creek runs through the middle of camp where thousands of children have spent countless hours building stick boats and racing them under the cement bridge, catching crayfish, skipping rocks, building dams, and wading. Campfire sites dot the landscape where ever-increasingly confident counselors have cooked camping delicacies like pancakes and banana boats (and trembled with fear of being fired as bacon-grease fires consumed entire breakfasts and threatened to burn down the cabin while the campers cheered, excited by the big, big fire).

The mountain swing at the top of Mt. Everett has thrilled children and adults for generations and frightened even the bravest mamas whose strong-willed children insist on doing flips despite the staff's best efforts to make them impossible. Word to the wise: under-dogs on the mountain swing are a terrible idea, as anyone who ever tries it will admit as they helplessly tumble down the mountain and pray to not end up splattered on the back of Hickory Cabin.

From morning worship to evening fireside, rec time on the big field to capture the flag and counselor hunt, hike day to camp-out night, not a moment spent at Highland Retreat is wasted or boring. So, send your kids there this summer!

Disappointed that you yourself are too old to be a camper? Never fear; Highland has lodging and opportunities for people of all ages. The Youth Camp is at the bottom of the mountain, and at the top of the mountain are Red Oak Lodge and Mountain View Retreat Center. Church groups and families can rent these spaces for their next retreat or reunion. Sign up for the Ropes Course and experience the thrill of the zip line or the Super Swing and learn team building at the numerous low ropes obstacles. Play in the creek. Or, feel like roughing it? Rent one of the several tent or RV sites available. You won't regret it.

Website Here

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

5 Things I Love Today

In an effort to pay a little attention to my deplorably neglected corner of the Internet (and in response to a desperate need to write something but not really having anything interesting about which to write, foreign travels being put on hold for the time being), I decided to copy join up with Hannah and write about a few of my current life favorites. I know what you're thinking: Amy's picking favorites of something? Impossible. But really it's not so hard; I'm not picking one favorite--I get to pick 5!

1) Ultimate Frisbee- Husband and I played this with our youth group Sunday, and I think it's safe to say that we all had a blast. I hadn't played since the last summer I worked at camp, but back in my summer camp employment days we played at least once/week; I'd forgotten how much I love running back and forth across a big open field making clumsy daring swipes at a disc someone has just hurled down said field. I actually really do enjoy playing Ultimate (despite that glamorous description), and I have a feeling that it will become a much more regular part of our lives. :)

2) Maxi Dresses- It took me a long time to get past the name "maxi dress" because it sounded too similar to "maxi pad" which, for whatever reason, I have always associated with elderly women. I realize that isn't necessarily accurate, but, regardless, I finally broke down and, with the help of a friend, made one following this tutorial found on Pinterest. It was love at first wearing. Seriously, they could call them by pretty much any name in any language known to man, and it would still not overcome my love for this dress. I would wear it every day if wearing one article of clothing 7 days a week without washing it was considered socially acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. Since that would give people good reason to question my personal hygiene I guess I'll just have to purchase more fabric and more tank tops and make a rainbow assortment of maxi dresses. Which, now that I mention it, sounds like the better option anyway since further Pinterest research has yielded at least 10 more maxi dress tutorials that I'm impatient to try. Thank you to the many bloggers who are better seamstresses than I for putting step-by-step instructions on the interwebs so that wannabes like myself can, too, wear beautiful, unique, home-made clothing.

3) Day lilies- Lilies have been my favorite flower for a long time, so you can imagine my ecstasy when a few short months after moving into our house, my husband pointed out our back window and said, "Hey, Amy, what's that orange flower over there?" One quick look and much excited jumping around our dining room later, I was able to stop hyperventilating long enough to calmly tell Husband that the flower in question which was being mercilessly choked out by the Ivy Hill of Death in our back yard was, in fact, his wife's favorite flower: a day lily. So, last fall I confidently took our shovel, uprooted that brave little lily, and transplanted it to a place of honor in our front flower garden. In the 8 months since then that dear little clump of grass has multiplied, and our front flower garden has at least 5 day lily clumps which have been blooming gloriously for the last two weeks. I think either this fall or next spring we'll be buying and planting some more day lilies because a girl needs more than just 1 variety of her favorite flower.

4) Where to Go When- This is, hands down, my favorite book. Husband gave it to me for my birthday in 2011, and it goes on pretty much every road trip that we take and sits prominently on our coffee table when we're home. Our globe-trotting being something that only happens for a couple of weeks out of each year (we have plans for this to change dramatically in the very near future; more on that later), this book has allowed me to visit hundreds of fascinating places worldwide in the best month to visit each location without even leaving my living room (or front seat, as the case may be). No, it's not an actual trip, but it is the next best thing because I'd rather vicariously travel the globe through the pages of a book than not at all.

5)Fresh fruit- Fructose be darned, I cannot get enough. It's a good thing there are so many farmer's markets in this area selling their home-grown wares because we are plowing through the fresh fruit in this house! It may only be Husband and me, but we can put away an entire watermelon in two days. I should probably be ashamed of that, but I'm too busy enjoying fresh strawberries with honey-sweetened lemon curd, local peaches, juicy cantaloupe, and other similar summer treats. Maybe it's just me, but summer is the time for fruit. It's too warm out to bake (this is not a complaint in the slightest; if I were doing 6 favorite things, the gloriously hot weather would be the sixth. I know many of my friends joke that I don't really have a winter here in South Carolina, but this past one was more winter than I wanted, and I am so thankful for hot, sunny days), so we turn to fruit to satisfy our sweet tooth. I love it. It's a good thing there are so many delicious, fresh veggies coming from our garden and local farmer's markets because I'd be tempted beyond measure to live solely on fruit until October otherwise.

Hmm, that was fun; maybe I'll do this more often. :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Jeremiah 29:11- “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.’ “

How many of us have read those words and immediately associated them with the cliche and/or overused and misinterpreted? And, how many times should we, instead, have let them remind us that there is One who sees us, loves us, and has dreamed beautiful dreams for us if we’ll only take the time to listen, trust, and obey? If ever I needed to be reminded of this truth and that the Lord still means this for us today it was while planning a recent trip to Tanzania and Kenya.

My husband Kyle and I had been planning this trip since we married in May 2012, but our schedules kept working out so that we had to push it back a little later over and over again. At last, however, we were able to set dates for February 2014. We tentatively planned for February 4-18 with two nights in Istanbul afterwards on the way home. Then, more schedule conflicts came up; we changed the dates. Then, even more schedule conflicts; we changed the dates. Then, schedule conflicts again, so we changed the dates a third time. As it turns out, the third time is not the charm, as schedule conflicts arose for a fourth time, making our new and final trip dates January 26- February 9, 2014---over a month earlier than the third set of dates we had been planning. To say that I was a little stressed with the seemingly constant changes in plans would be a gross understatement. We had had so much confirmation that we were supposed to go back to Tanzania and Kenya; what was going on? God (and Kyle) tried to tell me that the Lord was in all of these date-changes, and I think I accepted that but didn’t let it truly sink in until we were on the plane heading home. Now I see that even the date changes were in God’s plan.

Before I continue, here’s a little background: the City of Hope was our stop for the second half of the trip. Kyle spent 13 months there in 2010 and 2011, and I spent 3 months there that overlapped with Kyle’s 13 months. When we were there before, the childrens’ home and primary school were up and running, but the hospital was still under construction. This time the childrens’ home and primary school have grown, and the hospital is operating as a clinic. There is a doctor and three nurses (one of whom was expecting her second child), and they are doing a great job. There is still a long way to go before the hospital will be fully functional as a hospital, but they have come such a long way and are providing great care.

When Kyle and I arrived at the City of Hope last week, one of the first questions we were asked was if we could stay one more day. We didn’t have to think about our answer for very long before agreeing whole-heartedly. This pushed our leaving date from Wednesday to Thursday, and that extra day at the City of Hope is what I want to focus on since I would have missed it all in each of the first 3 sets of tentative dates.

Wednesday morning dawned a little cloudy, and Kyle and I were planning to work on projects during the kids’ school hours and spend every possible moment with them since it was our last day to do so. Therefore, a few minutes before the kids had their morning chai break you would have found Kyle and me sitting in a gazebo where we would be able to see the children as soon as they came out of the school building. But, it ended up being Dr. Ty who found us rather than the children when he came to tell me that Nurse C had gone into labor and to ask me if I’d like to go with his wife Joi to take her to the nearest district hospital. I’m a maternity nurse, so I jumped at the opportunity. Joi and I ran around shoving things like extra gloves and towels and drinking water into our backpacks and then jumped into the truck, picked up C, and off we went.

We arrived at the hospital around 1030; C was having contractions about every 7 minutes, so we went to help her check in. The check-in room was a small room with three beds against the back wall and a large desk against the front wall. Insects buzzed around the room and crawled on the walls and floor. The first bed was occupied by a woman who was pushing; she was by herself, and it was only when she was crowning that a nurse actually went over to her bed. The middle bed had a mom who had just given birth prior to our arrival; she was being cleaned up by a young man, and her baby was wrapped in a khanga on a table in the corner of the room. C was put on the third bed where they checked her, determined that she was not ready to start pushing, and showed her into the room where she would labor.

This labor room was small and had five cots in it. There was one empty one for C but only because a couple of the other beds were being shared. You see, these are the only 5 beds for laboring moms. If you have 7 laboring moms, too bad for them. Two to a bed it is.

Each woman has to buy a basin to put under her bed for when she needs to use the bathroom, vomit, whatever, so the labor room smells like various bodily fluids. While Joi and I talked and massaged and did our best to make the pain of yet another contraction bearable, C’s sister went to buy a basin. And that is how the day passed. C continued to have contractions every 2-11 minutes; Joi and I massaged her lower back, talked to her, walked with her, held her hand, and tried every trick we knew to help her through her labor, but this was one stubborn little baby!

Late in the afternoon, we were able to take turns going two blocks away to the home of a missionary couple (Liz and Eric, you’re awesome!) where we were able to eat, use the bathroom, and rest for a bit. Shortly after Joi returned from her late lunch break, a nurse came to get C to check her again. While we waited for either C or the nurse to come back, Joi and I discussed our game plan. If C hadn’t progressed (she had been at 5cm all day), we would need to head back to the City of Hope no later than 6pm. We had strict instructions to be home by dark.

Neither C nor the nurse returned, so we knocked on the door of the delivery room and asked if we could say goodbye. In the delivery room, I asked the nurse how far C had dilated; she was still only 6 cm. I noticed that C was also being given IV fluids; I asked if there was any pitocin in the fluids; the nurse said no. So, I said my goodbyes to C, who asked if she could have some rice. It was only about 1750 at this point, so I went off in search of rice. After not being able to find any cooked rice for sale, I went back to get Joi so we could go. When I got back to the labor room, Joi came to the door and told me that C was pushing! I was stunned and so excited! At about 1815, Baby Girl was born. A couple of minutes later, she started crying! We were ecstatic. Until we saw the nurse drain C’s bladder and then hook the same catheter up to suction and use it to suction out Baby Girl’s mouth and nose. Gross. Thinking back over the course of the day, I realized that I had seen the nurses reuse equipment on a couple of other patients, as well.

As happy as we were that everything had turned out so beautifully for C and Baby Girl (who was later named Amy-Joi!), I couldn’t help but be bothered by the way the hospital treated the women in labor. It was like they were sub-human. They were put in dirty rooms on filthy beds alone. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not think that a normal, healthy, low-risk birth requires a hospital, an OB, or even very much medical intervention. Support Mom, and keep her in charge. If she wants to kneel, let her kneel. If she wants to be on her hands and knees, let her go for it. Heck, if she decides that she’s most comfortable standing on her head...well, you get the idea. But to see women who should be excited about the arrival of the human that has been growing inside them for the last 9 months being treated like dirty animals broke my heart. And lit a fire somewhere deep in me to do whatever I can to make sure that the maternity ward at Amani Hospital will be different. It will be better. It will be a place that celebrates the beauty of life and empowers mothers (and fathers, too, God willing!).

Please join Kyle and me in prayer as we figure out what our role is supposed to be in Tanzania. We have a lot of conversations and decisions to have and to make, but I do know that God, for whatever reason, wanted me there the day Amy-Joi was born.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It Is Time

Warning: What you are about to read could very well be fraught with an improper use of the caps-lock button, but just imagine me jumping up and down screaming with joy and excitement, and perhaps it'll be a little less obnoxious. :) 

A little over three years ago, after God not-so-subtly slammed a few Latin American doors in my face, I went to Tanzania. This 10-day-turned-into-three-month trip changed my life, and there is a large and very vocal piece of my heart still residing in East Africa; it will not leave me alone. Kyle and I have discussed going back to East Africa numerous times since his return in June of 2011, but each time we began to tentatively plan a trip something came up that pushed it back a little bit later. Well, Little African Piece of My Heart, IT IS TIME!!!

WE ARE GOING TO TANZANIA IN JUST A FEW SHORT WEEKS!!! I cannot believe that we're finally going back, and, at the same time, I cannot believe that IT TOOK US SO LONG TO FINALLY GO BACK!!! But we are buying plane tickets this week and will be leaving the end of January and coming back mid-February. It will just be a short trip this time, but I know that we will make new connections and visit old friends and forge connections that will possibly lead to future (long-term?) trips. I CAN'T WAIT!!

While I don't think we'll make it to the beautiful Lake Victoria pictured above, we have a wonderful trip planned. We are planning to team up with Dove Christian Fellowship in Nairobi, Kenya to work in the slums for a day or two. You can learn more about their church and ministry here: http://www.dcfi.org We are also planning to visit a ministry in Moshi, Tanzania called Ndoto Yetu. Ndoto Yetu works with local children, has a hospital ministry, and works with families in the area. Here is their website: http://www.ndotoyetu.com And, what trip to Tanzania would be complete without visiting the kiddos who first stole our hearts in 2010 at the City of Hope? The hospital there is now up and running; the school is expanding; the orphanage is full, and I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THEIR BEAUTIFUL FACES AGAIN!!! Live and in person! God is so good! (City of Hope website is here: http://teamworkcityofhope.com) It is time!!!

Each time we go out of the country God reinforces old lessons and teaches us new ones and reminds us that we're supposed to be going in His name to the ends of the earth. Please don't misunderstand, God does this while we're home, too, but it's just...different in an international context, and I'm excited for what God's going to show us this time.

Please, keep us in your prayers. This trip is a long time in the making, and we want to be a blessing to the people we meet. Our prayer is that we'll leave the people and places better off than they were before we visited. Please also pray for health and energy as we'll be quite busy before, during, and after our trip!

 As I mentioned above we will be buying plane tickets this week (week of January 5, 2014). If you would like to support us financially, please feel free to facebook or email Kyle or myself at ledyard.amy@gmail.com or ledyard.k@gmail.com for more information on how to do that.

We will hope to update this at least once or twice while we're gone, so check back later for news. :)

Thank you, Jesus, IT IS TIME!!