Friday, December 31, 2010

Blessings of 2010: Family

As my family grows, they bless me more and more.  I always was disappointed by my lack of family members as a kid.  We didn't have huge family reunions, and most of the time, it was just my mom's parents, my parents, David and me.  

As pre-teens, we added Jeff, Yona, Kelvin, and Fred to the family for 22 months, and I loved life as the only girl with 5 brothers.  After the boys moved back to Zambia, the quiet returned, until 2010.  It was this year that through technology I was finally able to reconnect with all four of my brothers who had been so un-accessable in a world lacking internet and cell phones.  Now I get to watch their families grow and once again have 5 brothers telling me what to do or what not to do.  I love it!
Jeff, Tina, Bri, and Joelle
Fred, Sarah, and Aggie
My family has been so supportive this year as I was determined to get myself to Zambia over the summer.  They were cautious, but never said 'no'.  They've prayed and prayed for Isaac and me.  Mom and Dad even went on vacation for a week with Isaac and me as we attempted to see our friend Steve launch on the space shuttle.

In less than 5 months, David will be married, and I know we're all excited to have the other Laura join the family.  Because of my ridiculous insecurity issues I keep having to have Mom and Isaac tell me that I will always be the first Laura Pearce, but that's not because I don't love David's Laura!

As much as I miss my bi-annual visits to Kentucky to see my extended family, it sure is nice having my grandparents, Nanny and Dede, just 20 minutes down the road instead of 14 hours.  I can't believe they've now lived here 4 years.

Isaac's brother got to visit twice this year, and one time his cousin Jason came with Jacob.  They have a fabulous time together, and I love watching them.  Isaac was able to travel home 3 times to see family, and I was able to join him twice.  We have a great time with his parents.

Isaac and I celebrated 1 year of marriage in 2010.  That first year has flown, but we're loving our little family.  God is teaching us so much about how He wants us to serve Him, and we're excited to see all He has in store for us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fabulous 2010

2010 is in its final days, and in a way, I'm sad to see this particular year end.  I'm big on nice looking numbers, and those that end in zero or five make me smile.  For all but 10 days of 2010, I was 25 years old, so to my brain, that has a pleasant ring.  I realize this means nothing, but it makes me happy.  And, God did so, so much this year.  I'm hoping to brag on Him a bit in the next few posts because this year was just huge in how I grew and how I saw God at work in the world.  Between deepening relationships, reuniting with the Zambian side of my family, huge spiritual growth and conquering London by myself, I have been absolutely floored by how God has shown Himself this year.  Isaac might be typing posts for me as I dictate as I'm having wrist surgery tomorrow, but he said he's willing.  :)  Stay tuned!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Texas! 

May the salvation that the little baby in the manger offers be all you desire in the new year.

Big, Cuddly, Goofballs

One of my favorite parts about each of our Ohio visits is going to Mr. M's farm to see his three 'big' babies.  Mr. M was Isaac's science teacher in high school, and always allowed kids to come and work on his land.  Isaac spent countless hours there over the years, and it's one of my favorite places now too. 

Wednesday, I went for a visit by myself while all of the kids were sleeping and Penny was wrapping some Christmas presents.  I had never gone by myself, and I must say, it was just a beautiful hour.  It was barely snowing, and I had a bag full of apple quarters and carrots for my three equine lovies.  Because of my bag of goodies, I didn't get any photos taken, but I sure had lots of nuzzles.  Major (the biggest-the brown one) wanted his nose on my forehead for whatever reason.  Dolly is always shy, so once the food was gone, she stepped back to her own space, but Hot Rod, the little miniature, never left my side.  He's a cheeky little thing.  I think Hot Rod makes up for his size with his huge personality. 

Thursday, Isaac and Jacob wanted to go see the silly goofs, so we headed back over to Mr. M's, and this time took a camera.  It wasn't easy to take pictures with all of the goodies, but we got a few.  I love these three horses, and I hope the weather might even cooperate for a ride the next time we're in town.

Dolly, Hot Rod, Major

Hot Rod was in the process of unzipping my pocket.  He knew the empty bag of carrots and apples was in there.  He's cheeky!

Little Kid Fun

 Isaac's mom has an in home daycare, and playing with the kids is one of my favorite treats about Ohio.  I love watching how they grow between our visits, and many of them actually remember me from visit to visit.  Many have known Isaac for years, and they love when he comes home!
All 6 of the kids with me and one of the dogs on Tuesday.  They love playing with, or better yet, on Lala!
Tuesday, while the littlest ones took their nap, Isaac and I decided to take the two oldest girls to see "Tangled".  Olivia will be three in January, and Gabi turned 5 in November.  I had no idea exactly what to expect, but it was a great experience.  The girls loved the movie, and Isaac and I did too.  We made it through the movie with just one potty break!   Yay!
Ready for the movies!
Juli, Gabi's little sister, loves her baby, and decided her baby needed to go 'byebye' in Audrey's car seat.
On Wednesday, Isaac and Jacob went skiing, and I decided to stay home with the kids and Penny.  She was planning of morning of snow play with them, and that sounded right up my alley.  We all played on a little hill for an hour, and then the three oldest kids and I tromped across the field to the pond for some big sledding.  It was a fun day, and a nice treat to be with little ones instead of 6th graders.
Olivia pulling Wesley
Wesley liked the snow.
Little Audrey
Big Kid Adventure
Our attempted snow angels
Gabi's newest friend Corey

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big Tree Plantation

Growing up in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in the nation, Christmas Tree farms aren't a common sight.  For folks who want the real deal in their living room between Thanksgiving and New Year's, there are several lots of pre-cut trees, and of course the local grocery store has a large selection.  Each year, Isaac's family goes to Big Tree Plantation to hand select and hand cut their own Christmas Tree.  This is an easy task in small town Ohio, and there are actually several tree farms in competition for business.  The whole concept amazes me, so yesterday morning, Isaac took me to visit Big Tree. 
We were greeted by a pair of reindeer who seemed quite content with the weather.  Most years, there isn't any snow in this part of Ohio before Christmas, so the fact we have about 8 inches is wonderful, and makes everything feel magical, especially at a Christmas Tree farm!  The trees were covered in snow, and since most people already have their tree and the kids are still in school, it was extra peaceful.

We had some hot chocolate and enjoyed the life size nativity and Christmas shop in the old barn.  We'll probably never have a real tree because of my allergies, but it sure was fun to pretend!

Monday, December 20, 2010


This was what I awoke to see Saturday morning:
Snow, snow everywhere!  It was gorgeous, but there was no time to play because we needed to hit the road for Louisville.  So, Sunday afternoon, it was finally time to play!  Yay!

Isaac, Jacob and I loaded two sleds into the car and drove to Harmon Park in downtown where there are some great sledding hills.  We sled down the hills again and again until darkness forced us home. 

The guys even went airborne a few times going over an icy ramp.  Going down in pairs was probably the most fun...extra speed!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Visit to the Homeland

I'm originally from Kentucky, and with Isaac's parents living so close to the border, it's much easier for visit at least a few of my family members these days.  Yesterday Isaac and I drove down to Louisville to visit my friends the Vaughans and some of my family.  I was so excited to be able to visit with some special people who don't love close to Texas. 

We stopped by the Vaughan's house for lunch and a nice visit.  Ruth Ann and her two kids Matthew and Farren were at CACZ with me in Lusaka this summer.  Doug, Ruth Ann's husband, had been there, but had to head home right before I arrived, and it was such a treat to meet the leader of this amazing family.  Ruth Ann has my passion for missions and orphans, and Matthew loves geography.  Farren is such a sweet girl who will love on anyone.  I was so excited for Isaac to meet these dear people who have ministered to my heart from afar for over 5 months now.  Their home is always open for missionaries who need a place to stay, and they enjoy ministering to others as a family.  I have learned so much about family worship from them, and they probably don't even realize it.  Oh, and Ruth Ann is a fabulous cook!  We left their house with bellies full of warm chili and banana bread

In the afternoon, we headed to tag up with my aunt, god-sister, and her two kids.  Alex had a basketball game, and we got to laugh our way through it.  3rd graders are just too funny.  The final score was 4-4.  Ha!
Aunt Donna drove in from Lexington to see us, and she kept saying how fun it was to have us all together in Kentucky at Christmas.  That's happened just a hand full of times over the years, and it is a treat to visit during all of the Christmas cheer.  We had a fabulous visit over yummy seafood at Bone Fish, and we enjoyed meeting Stephanie's friend Jason. I hadn't seen them since our wedding, but the kids didn't skip a beat.  They want us to play again this week, and I sure hope we can!

Steph, Jason, Shelby, me, Isaac, and Alex
Stephanie, Aunt Donna, Shelby, me, Isaac, and Alex


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

It appears that we are headed into a Winter Wonderland tomorrow afternoon.  We're headed up north to visit Isaac's family for a few days, and it has been snowing off and on all week.  I believe that by tonight, they should have nearly a foot of the cold white stuff on the ground.  While it isn't supposed to snow during our stay (we all know how the weather forecast changes), the temperatures aren't supposed to get above freezing, so I foresee a lot of outside play time for two very big kids!

I am not one to wish I lived in a cold winter climate.  My dad's stories of Soviet Era days in central Siberia are enough to keep me a beach bunny.  However, there is no denying that a few days of white are an exciting adventure.  Isaac is desperate to get on the ski slopes, and I'll probably join him.  That'll be a laugh.  I'm sure there will be some snow tubing involved as well.  And, I really want to go to a Christmas Tree Farm just to see what a real one looks like. 

Bailey can't join us this year.  He would love the snow; he sure had fun tromping in it last Christmas.  Sadly, it's just too expensive to fly with him on Continental.  Maybe next time.  It kills my heart being away from him!

Please be praying for safe travel for us.  We're flying Friday and then we'll be driving some over the week as we visit some of my family in Kentucky.  YAY!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Project Zambi

Just about everybody by now knows that I really want Jessy to join our family.  She's being taken care of by CACZ in Lusaka, but she needs a family, and I want her!  Bad!  We don't have the money needed to bring Jessy home, so my daily prayers have been filled with requests for God to at least bring my sweet girl a forever family, even if that's not my family.  Jessy stole my heart over 3 weeks this summer, and I pray she gets a family of her very own. 

My second mamma, Donna, brought me the cutest Christmas present on Sunday to remind me not to stop praying for a miracle.  Hasbro, the toy maker, found out that Zambia has the largest percentage of orphans of any country in the world, and most of these orphans have lost their families due to AIDS.  Hasbro created Project Zambi to raise money to help care for some of these orphans and are teamed up with several respectable orphan care organizations.  They sell these adorable animated elephants, appropriately named "Zambi" to support Project Zambi.

This little baby elephant moves her trunk, trumpets like a real elephant, and sits.  She's adorable, although Bailey isn't quite sure that's she's not real yet.  Donna wrote a note on her to not forget to keep praying for my miracle for Jessy.  Zambi's ears and feet have artwork designed by AIDS orphans in Zambia, which to me, makes her even more special.  I'm so blessed by special friends who know what's important to me and pray alongside with me for the fruition of God's will, whatever that might be.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Decor

The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving, Isaac, Bailey, and I had a wonderful time turning our home into a Christmas Fest.  Isaac wrapped all of the pictures on the walls with garland and wrapped the light fixtures as well.  :)   We're slowly adding to our outside decor, which makes me very excited.  I love lights!

This is a palm nut that was etched in Zambia. I love giraffes, so it was an easy purchase.  I don't think the Zambian artisan meant it as a Christmas Tree ornament, but I thought it was perfect.  It was the first ornament on our tree this year.

Even Bailey got in on the decorating this year.  Poor pup!

The JOY letters were an early Christmas present for me.  I love them!

Some of my angels, the Precious Moments Nativity I've had for 25 years, and my nativity from Venezuela is on top o the book case

My Zambian Nativity

More angels.  I said Isaac went crazy with the garland and lights, but it sure is festive and fun!

Annual Mommy/Son photo
Sending lots of Christmas joy from our happy home to yours!

Santa Boycott

I'm beyond done with Santa.  The whole concept disgusts me.  I just don't see how parents knowingly lie to their children.  Why do they do that?!?!  The Bible again and again addresses speaking falsehoods (Psalm 52:3, Ephesians 4:25, 1 John 4:6 to name a few), and yet Christian parents do it every year, helping their children also sin by believing in a lie.  I don't get it. 

Sure, talk about the real Saint Nicholas and how he is the inspiration for gift giving during the holidays, but don't fill something that is supposed to be focused on Christ with lies about a fat old man.  The injustice of what we're doing to children just makes me sick.  We keep talking about how America is falling apart, but let's fix our families first. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Celebration 2010

Last night my whole family plus the Hashes had tickets to see Celebration at FBC Houston.  This quickly became one of my favorite Christmas traditions last year, and I was very much looking forward to seeing the show yesterday.  I'm still trying to decide if I have a stomach bug or a touch of food poisoning, but by last night, I felt awful.  I decided to watch the show in the foyer of FBC just in case I had germs to spread.  Very few people were out there, and it was nice and spacious. 

As I expected, the music, acting, and dancing was beyond spectacular.  It is always worth the $15 for tickets to see the story of Christ's birth, ministry, death, and resurrection brought to life so wonderfully.  I know I'm a little biased because a bunch of Aggies are behind a lot of it, but still, go! 

I didn't take pictures of the show this year, but, I got an unexpected surprise by being in the foyer.  Each year, Paige the African Elephant escorts one of the Wise Men through the sanctuary during the show.  I was very entertained watching a HUGE elephant fit through the main doors of the church and then later the doors into the sanctuary.  Not much clearance there!  Paige is loved by her kind keeper/trainer named Billy, and he obviously adores this big girl.  It was fun to watch him keep her entertained with peanuts and simple behaviors while the crew got her dressed and they waited on their cue to enter the sanctuary.  During this time, Billy offered to those of us nearby to feed Paige peanuts.  Oh how I love elephant trunks!  She searched my hands for the peanuts and wrapped the end of her trunk around it, but not after first making sure my hands and chest were thoroughly covered in elephant snot and slobber!  I LOVED IT!  It was so cool to look into her eyes and talk to her.  I was in absolute giddy awe for 15 minutes.  And yes, it makes me mad that Adam and Eve had that ability 24/7 and threw it all away.  No, I can't wait for the second Eden, and oh how I hope it comes soon! 
Paige kneeling to get dressed.
Getting her blanket
Sweet Paige!

If you want to read the post about last year's Celebration, it's here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pictures Added

I didn't bring my camera to Kaitlyn's funeral, and I ended up regretting that decision.  A coworker took pictures of some of the touching things done at the funeral, and I've added them to what I wrote about that day.  You can see all of it here: Novak Funeral.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with my family.  It was our first holiday at Mom and Dad's 'new' house, and we had a great time enjoying each other, the food, and of course a fabulous Fightin' Texas Aggie football game!  
Mom and Nanny made quite a feast!
We just missed having Laura with us, but I know she had a good time in Canada with her family.  They made their own American Thanksgiving; hopefully it's the last one they'll have away from Texas!

Isaac and I have so much to be grateful for this year, and we spent a lot of time talking about it this week.  We both love our jobs, my family is so close by and we enjoy our time with them.  Bailey lights up our lives daily, and we are so glad to have such a bundle of cuddle joy.  We're finding places to serve the Lord at church and in the community, and we're so excited about the new leadership in our church, not to mention the new friends we have in the Laufers.  We are blessed with other close friends.  Mostly, I think we're both thankful for all Christ has been teaching us this year as we are learning to be more like Him and less like the world.  Romans 12:2 has meant a lot to us lately.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Bayou Wildlife

Last Saturday I needed time in Creation to heal and wonder at God's goodness after the Novak funeral.  God had the perfect treat in store for Isaac and me; driving to the funeral, we passed Bayou Wildlife Park, which Amy pointed out and said she has lots of fun going there with her little girl.  I told Isaac about it, and it wasn't hard at all to convince him to take me on Saturday morning.

Amy told us to get there when they opened as the animals are most hungry and alert in the morning.  We paid our admission and drove on in to the park.  This is the sight we saw:
Animals from Africa, Asia, South America and North America were roaming the Texas pasture.  Yes, I squealed!  I love parks that allow animals to roam freely and keep the people in the 'cage'.  I love getting a small glimpse of Eden.  I love watching Isaac's face when the animals interact with us.

Bayou Wildlife doesn't allow cars to drive through their various pastures, except for the short road to the parking lot.  They have a picnic area and several animals that can be visited on foot, such as Red Kangaroos, Wallabies, horses, Zonkies (mix of donkey and zebra), peacocks, ankole cattle, a bactrian camel.  There are also pony rides for the little ones and a petting zoo full of goats, sheep, and huge pot bellied pigs!  When you're ready to see the rest of the park, you hop on a tram with your bucket of food and hold on to it tight!
Georgie might still be a baby camel, but he wasn't shy about letting Isaac know he was hungry!

The animals are certainly hungry in the morning, and the more social animals don't mind letting you know when they want a bite of food from the buckets!

I think elands are just gorgeous.  They are certainly my favorite of the big antelope from Africa, and of course they remind me of Zambia!
Inhale and Gulp!

How many camels can fit into a tram...?

The tram ride lasts a good 30 minutes, and we saw and touched more animals than Isaac or I could get pictures.  The zebras and wildebeests are so shy, but they are gorgeous to watch grazing in the fields.  One of the wildebeests is fond of the tram (well, mostly the loving hands that come out of the tram) because she is an orphan and was bottle fed.  Lulu is her name, and I felt beyond privileged to stroke her coat and hold a gaze with her for a bit.

After the ride, we hung out in the giraffe barn letting me get my giraffe fill.  I'm not sure when giraffes became my favorite animal, but I can't get enough of them.  Jeffrey, Bayou's male, made me laugh and laugh.
Munch, munch

Georgie was still hungry 2 hours after Isaac fed him.  Growing boy and all...
 We ended the day cuddling some horses admiring the oddity that is a Zonkey.  On our way out, we found a buck who'd just lost his horns resting (they are nocturnal, so I'm sure the noisy kids don't make the deer super happy).  I quietly, slowly approached him, and he didn't jump up and run, so I knelt down beside him.  He sniffed my hand and then scooted closer to me.  The next thing I knew, his nose was in my ear, and then in my hair, and then he was sniffing me all over my face.  I had to hold his neck to keep from falling over with giggles.  Apparently I smelled ok because he then let me stoke his ears and back for several minutes.  What a precious time with God's creation!
My new friend
I was certainly ready to start a new week after our visit.  Isaac can't wait to go again in the winter when all the little babies have been born.
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