WFMW: Bleach Pen Craft

While I’m blaming everything (whiny children, snappy parents, dirty laundry) on jet lag, I thought I’d share a quick summer project we hope to try soon:  Decorating T- Shirts with a Bleach Pen. Family Fun has a great tutorial!

I love it because you can use items on hand: an old t-shirt and a bleach laundry pen!

Instructions from Family Fun:
  1. Wash and dry the shirt, then slip a piece of waxed paper inside it to prevent bleed-through.
  2. Bleach-Pen Drawing Step2 Sketch your design on the shirt with chalk. Because the bleach can spread, keep the design simple, and draw with lines and dots, as shown, rather than try to fill in large areas.
  3. Shake the bleach pen and give it a few test squeezes on a paper towel to make sure it’s flowing well. Trace over your chalk lines with the bleach pen. Leave the bleach on the shirt until the fabric has clearly changed color. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the shirt. Wash the shirt by itself in the washing machine, then dry it.

And Momma can make one too!

Love this tutorial, look at this finished product:

Got any fun crafts that work for your old clothes? Do share.

I Don’t Feel Guilty

I just returned from a third world country riddled with extreme poverty- the kind that sucks your breath from your body and causes a physical reaction.

I’m filled with smells and sights and stories I’ll never forget- not just from strangers, but friends. Friends like Annette, who live and work at Mercy House. She’s not an employee, she’s a sister.

Annette making our favorite Kenyan food, Chipati

I love this woman: Her quiet demeanor, beautiful smile, and talent for cooking! But her deep love for Christ doesn’t hide the pain in her eyes. The pain of loving and losing, the pain of leaving her children in her sister’s care so she can provide for them.

She takes two days a week off to go and see them. I handed her a bag with candy and small gifts. “Take these to your children. I’m sorry you have to leave them each week,” I said feeling so guilty as I watched mine play in the dirt nearby. Her eyes spilled with gratitude. “Please don’t feel bad. With this job, I am providing them a good life. They are happy. I can pay their school fees and much more … they can eat now.”

They can eat now.

Those words haunt me. I can’t help but think of my children, bellies round, full, when she speaks of hers. We are both mothers-different, yet the same. I gave her a deep, long hug, understanding her sacrifice. Recognizing her thankfulness.

I watched her walk away, home, her steps light.

We have five full time employees at Mercy House, plus a part time driver. Every one of them support many relatives with their salaries. Every one of them come from humble backgrounds we cannot fathom. They have known pain and suffering that could fill pages in a book.

And yet they all share the same: gratitude.

When I returned from Africa last year, I was riddled with guilt. I spent the next six months purging my life. And another six months responding to what I saw.

Friday night, when I walked thru my front door and the comfort of my home in America, I felt the opposite of guilt.

I felt innocence.

I felt the pureness of obeying God. The beauty of seeing His house of mercy being built on the other side of the world. The enrichment that comes from deep relationship. I saw hope in Africa.

I left with gratitude.

And that’s why I don’t feel guilty.



Good, amazing, news!!!! Our sweet residents accepted Jesus into their lives!

I Miss Africa and Our People

We are emerging from our travel fog. My kids have been more emotional than normal, but their resilience has amazed me, also their ability to sleep twelve hours straight and fall asleep standing. My own resilience has been lacking: exhaustion makes me snappy. I need a shirt that says, “I’m not this mean in real life.”

My youngest just curled up in my lap while I looked at photos of our trip on my  computer.

She summed it up, “Mom, I miss Africa and our people.”

Our Kenyan Compassion Children

Millicent, 16; Makenna, 8; Grace, 7 (my Mom's child); Mwaka, 6; Ephantus, 7

That just about sums up my feelings exactly.

When Changing a Life Changes Yours

It’s going to take some serious time and thought and probably tears to unpack the amazing experience we had our last day in Kenya yesterday.

We took 586 pictures and cried a bucket of tears if that gives you any idea.

There’s so much to share, but one story is begging to be told, so I sit on the floor of a cold London airport in the middle of the night/day depending on which time zone you’re in. I seem to be in the middle of both…

A year and a half ago, when I traveled to Kenya for the first time with the Compassion International Bloggers, I met Ephantus, one of our sponsored kids. He was quiet, timid even, only six years old and probably one of the cutest kids in Africa.

March 2010 with the backpack full of goodies I brought him:

I knew we had to reserve one day of our trip this year so my family could meet Ephantus and our three other sponsored children in Kenya. With our very hectic schedule, our last day was reserved for this “family reunion.” And much to my delight, this time we would visit Ephantus’ home.

As we left the safety of the Compassion project in the center of his slum, we followed the stench of raw sewage (a defining factor of slum life) that coursed it’s way into the heart of the homes.

My kids meeting one of our sponsored kids for the first time made my heart nearly burst. It was better than I’d imagined and so much like meeting a brother…

The first thing I noticed outside of Ephantus’ tidy one room home they’d occupied for the last twelve years, was the backpack I’d given him last year, hanging on the clothesline:

Meeting his sweet mother, Mary, was precious as we all (Maureen and two Compassion employees) crowded into the 10×10 space:

She couldn’t wait to thank us for sponsoring her child and especially for the family gift we sent last year. Please know that I don’t share this with you to boast, I simply must tell you this story because it’s powerful and has so little to do with me.

Compassion International allows you to send a family gift up to $1000 US dollars. We have 11 kids, so this is not possible, but when I received the advance for my book last year, we were able to send each of our kids around $250. Throughout the year, we’ve gotten updates of cows and roofs and food that has been bought…

I was shocked when Mary pulled out beautiful necklaces and handbags she was making to support her family. She said she’s started her small business with the money our family sent:

(a little nose picking for your enjoyment)

But nothing could have prepared me when she took me by the hand and led our family down the rutted path to her “business”:

She stocks and sales fresh fruits and vegetables, jewelry and even flip flops from her “store” that our family gift help her start a year ago.

Mary took me in her arms and said in her best English, “Your gift has changed our life.”

(the fragile bridge over sewage to Mary’s store)


“I am able to feed my family because of you.”

Of course, we all know that my family has little to do with this –the work and integrity of Compassion International and the hand of God is to blame.

Mary hugged me tightly and said, “Thank you for changing our lives. Please pray for us.”

I said the same thing to her.


Change a life (yours included) and sponsor a child with Compassion International for just $38 a month….when you can, send a family gift, big or small it is life-changing.



There’s not a shy bone in Ephantus now!

Last Day in Kenya

We finished up loose ends on Wednesday and spent the afternoon and evening at a Charity Tea with some US Embassy friends I met on Twitter (hola!) It was a wonderful day-I hope to get some pictures uploaded, but I’m lucky to have Internet right now between power outages…..

Meeting one of our prestigious board members, Uncle Sam from Compassion

Today, our last full day in Africa, we are spending the day with four of our Compassion children…two that I met last year and two that we sponsored in 2010. My kids are so excited! I can’t wait to tell you about it. I’ll be seeing this sweet little guy again, but this time we will visit his home in a slum-my kids first experience with poverty this close-up:

March 2010 Compassion Trip

We are flying back to America late tonight and won’t be home until the weekend. Say a prayer for us-we’ve run out of comfort snacks and clean clothes!

P.S. When you run out of clothes and wash them by hand, but they don’t dry enough in the sun, if you put them in the microwave for 30 seconds it will burn them. Try 15 seconds. Just fyi. You’re welcome.

Talk to y’all on Monday.


WFMW: What’s App

I’m a late [tech] bloomer. I’m not really an upgrade kind-of-girl, I just like things to work.

But I am m a fan of the text message.

It’s so quick and easy.

Just ask my hubby and he’ll show you our latest cell phone bill. [gulp]

A friend recommended an app called WhatsApp Messenger that has free text messaging (after the initial .99 purchase price), you can send pictures, leave voice mail, etc. It’s my new favorite app because it keeps me out of trouble.

It cost .99 and I’m hoping it will save us money if we need to text while we’re in Africa.

And now, the real reason I wrote this post…

I want to know what’s your favorite app???? What app works for you?


Kenya: Update Eight

When you’re in Africa, it doesn’t take long to adapt the motto of most Kenyans, THIS IS AFRICA (T.I.A.). Basically, anything can happen and probably will.

Like monkeys in your van,

chasing your delighted and petrified children, vomit in the middle of the night, sitting still in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, squatting on “pit latrines” or holding it for a six hour drive, eating “snacks” from the side of the road vendors, baboons stealing your entire bag of American snacks/comfort food right in front of you….

The last few days have been fast and furious. They have been awesome, frustrating and insightful.

We traveled 6.5 long hours into altitudes of nearly 10,000 feet, crossing the equator

to visit a ministry we support, Mattaw Children’s Village. Not only are the directors friends, they are leaders and rescue many at-risk children. They are in the process of building a baby rescue center.

We spent the second day at The Esther House, the only other live-in maternity home (that we know of in Kenya). It’s a long way from Nairobi, but this organization, run by a sweet Netherlands couple is dynamic. It was so encouraging to see and learn from them. Maureen and I were impressed and can’t wait to implement some of the things we learned.

Our family was really looking forward to going thru one of Kenya’s National parks on our drive home…it didn’t cost much and we saw just about every animal imaginable: buffalo, lions, monkeys, giraffe, warthogs, zebra and more.

We planned on being back at the maternity home by 2pm. Ha. We are learning that time is just a goal here. We pulled in at 7pm after unexpected holdups and cooked the girls fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

While we were gone, they worked hard on their skills and produced beautiful items. We have a baby due tomorrow and since we’re flying home Thursday night, we’re hoping she’s right on time.

But again, T.I.A.

Kenya: Update Seven

We finished the last two days wrapping up our skills training. The girls are so quick and love learning. They have produced some beautiful items this week. Part of our day guard’s responsibilities is keeping the grounds. For the past several months, he’s been “chopping” the grass with a machete. We were able to purchase an inexpensive hand mower (Maureen is the ultimate bargainer!)

Even though we lost electricity for 18 hours, we continued to clean the house inside and out with flashlights and candles in preparation for our board meeting on Saturday morning.

We were up early to finish the cleaning and prepare “snacks” for our guests. Roasted peanuts, popcorn and sodas (traditional snacks)

This message board and missions statement are posted to view as you enter the home:

We had a great time of prayer, devotion and visited with the board members who were able to make it after we had a board meeting. We are so thankful for these women and man (not pictured) of God. They come from humble backgrounds-many from extreme poverty. They have risen to important positions in the community (many with Compassion International ties) and advise Maureen well.

Afterwards, we visit Kazuru, a glass bead factory that employs single mothers. We are hoping to form a future partnership. We then visited the Giraffe Center, a place that helps orphaned giraffes.

It was amazing:

We ended our evening making American pizza and spaghetti for the girls, staff. Our housemother, Annette, said it was a dream come true to have pizza and CHEESE for the first time in her life!

The last few days we have grown so close to the girls. They have really let their guard down and begun to open up. I don’t even want to think about leaving.

Internet will be sketchy the next two days as we’re heading about 6 hours to Mattaw Children’s Village, a ministry we support that is a home for street/orphaned or abandoned children.

Happy weekend from Africa!