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Just a couple of photos in keeping with the theme of this post.  🙂  I LOVE this time of the year — the colors are nothing short of breath-taking.  I snapped this picture the other day when I was out taking some senior photos for a friend.  Look at that blue, blue sky reflecting off the river.  Nature never ceases to wow me.

Here’s another one of my favorites from that afternoon.  I love the setting sun and the switch yard.  

But, back to the point…  In all my spare time lately (*cough*cough*) I’ve squeezed in a couple of photo “sessions” and after sorting through the mess of edits and photos, I decided it would be best to start a separate blog to post session photos.  I know some of you are fellow photo-addicts — so this way, you can see what I’ve been up to, but the rest of you won’t have to wait for a ridiculous amount of images to load.  I’ll still post a couple of “teaser” shots here when I’ve done a session with a link to the rest of the pictures.

Anyway, here’s the addy: http://ofamberphotography.blogspot.com.   

And, speaking of teasers: Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the session I did two weeks ago with my beautiful and VERY preggo best friend.  The rest are on the other blog.

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I know I haven’t posted yet exactly what we’re up to with the non-profit and Peter’s trip.  I thought I’d get the time to finish writing this post days ago — but I forgot that I would actually be MORE busy with him away because of helping with the business and having the kiddos 24/7.   Anyway, here’s the nutshell version. There’s more, but I wanted to give at least an overview while Peter’s still in Liberia.

Our desire to get more involved in this area started with our passion to see less kids become orphans. As awesome as adoption is, it would be better in a lot of cases if biological parents were able to raise their children. But for so many parents in struggling countries, extreme poverty forces them to relinquish their kids just so their kids will survive. While this is sacrificial and often saves children’s lives, it really grieves our hearts to think about parents being in such a hard place that they are forced to make a decision like this. We started thinking about ways we could make a difference soon after we made the decision to begin our adoption process two years ago, and that’s how we initially started thinking about this stuff.

For the last year or so, we’ve been talking specifically about helping small businesses and ground-level economics in developing countries.  We know first-hand how difficult it is to start a business here in the US where there are ample opportunities to find investors and mentors.   In many struggling countries, it’s almost impossible even for highly motivated and skilled people to start their own businesses or improve their struggling ones. We’ve been very interested in micro-loans and micro-grants, but also have been brainstorming other ways to help.  When we were in Liberia in November we were so impressed by the level of craftsmanship and artistry evident in the sidewalk vendors and the markets.   We talked to men and women who were struggling to make a living selling their items.  They were barely making it.  Literally, barely making enough to feed their families — no extra to send their kids to school or pay for medication if someone got sick.  And they certainly didn’t have the resources to expand/improve their businesses in order to do these things. 

We brought some items home with us as gifts and we were overwhelmed by the response from our friends and family.  Everyone was as impressed as we had been with the quality and artistry and we began to think about the possibility of providing an outlet for these talented and hardworking people to sell their items.  We have always been interested in fair trade and strongly agree with the underlying principles of paying people decently and fairly for their labor or products; thereby insuring both their success and their ability to sow back into the local economy.  As we’ve studied it more the last six months, supporting fair trade has become a strong conviction and we are really excited about this opportunity to help on a relational level.

Eventually we’d like to offer micro-loans and/or micro-grants for small business ventures, but there is a lot that goes into loans.  For now, we are going to be working with a few small business owners that Peter met with to set up a grant program, not for money but for tools that would help take their business to a level where they can employ more people and/or afford to send their kids to school, etc.  We also want to eventually work on some sort of apprenticeship/vocational training program that would benefit both the mentor and the apprentice. 

So actually, this vision of ours has two parts.  The non-profit part which will fund the vocational training and apprenticeships and the micro-loans and grants. And also the import/commerce side that will fund artisans in developing countries and then donate any additional “profits” to the non-profit to sow back into the country through the organizations we partner with — to help build orphanages, schools, churches, and drill wells, etc. 

Right now, we are working on getting the website going for the commerce side.  Peter has been meeting with a lot of different artisans and he has been arranging for shipping, etc.  We’d like to get into a couple stores in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene with our items, as well as start wholesaling to other stores around the country that carry fairly-traded global items. One of the fundamentals of fair trade is that all goods are purchased in full from the artisans or farmers in developing countries so there is no confusion later (or exploitation.)  This is what Peter has been doing.  We’re hoping to pursue an ongoing relationship with a lot of the artisans in the future, but this way we are free to sell their items without the pressure of needing to pay them later for time and materials that they’ve already used. 

I want to end by saying that we didn’t want to start something ourselves just for the sake of starting something.  (Certainly not!  We know what goes into running a corporation — profit or non!)  We see the benefits to partnering with other organizations and working together for optimum results.  But sometimes it makes sense to pioneer and begin something — especially when it’s a need that’s not being filled. As far as we know from researching and talking to a lot of different people, this is a fairly new outlet for Liberia, although common in other African countries. We’re starting in Liberia, but we’d like to expand to other countries as well. We’re going to be listing smaller quantities of the bracelets from Threads of Hope (Philippines) since you can only order larger batches for fund-raising on their website. We’re praying about other possible countries that we have connections in as well.  So, we’ll see.  For now we’re just really excited about this trip and this door and can’t wait to get the website fully operational!

So, Peter’s off!  His plane left Spokane early this morning and he called me this afternoon from New York after the first leg of the trip.  He won’t call from Brussels, so the next time we talk he’ll be in Africa.  It seems so strange that a person can wake up in one corner of the world and only a day or two later be in another corner… It makes the world seem so much more reachable when you think about it this way.  At any given moment we are all just a few plane rides away from the other end of the earth.

I was so tired today.  Peter and I stayed up through the night because by the time we finally finished packing and rearranging his bags and were ready for bed, we had under an hour until we had to leave for the airport (combination of getting a late start from home; Peter having to put in a few hours on a job down here; having to make a couple last minute trips to the store… and a very, very early departure time.)  And who wants to go to bed for only an hour?  It was actually fun staying up together.  We haven’t pulled an all-nighter together in a long time and I loved talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning… it made me realize how much I’m going to miss him.  Even though I am used to him being away from home often on 2-3 day business trips, there have only been a handful of times in the last fifteen years of our friendship that we’ve been apart this long.  Yeah, I know it’s not a long trip and I’m not complaining… (well, let it just be said here and now that I would have LOVED to have gone too!!!) …I think part of it is knowing that he is at least 24 hours of travel time away. 

You should have seen his bags!  They were bursting at the seams with donations for various orphanages and gifts for Ahmad’s family and items for some of the missionary families Peter contacted.  I was so surprised that we only had to remove about ten pounds total to bring them down to the max weight limit.  We loved getting the chance to fill the luggage almost completely with donations and were blessed by friends stopping by with stuff to add.  What an amazing thing it is to give.  Right now I am ready to give away everything we own.  (I’m not saying I’m always like this!  I struggle with holding on to things as much as the next person… but right now on the heels of Peter leaving with his bags full, I just want to pack up all the stuff that we don’t use and don’t need and give it to people who honest-to-goodness really, really need it.  Heck, I’m ready to give it ALL away — even the stuff we think we need…  ‘Cause in the grand scheme of things, how much do we really, truly need?  I feel God lovingly convicting me more and more in this area and the words “…freely give” are deeply embedded upon my internal conversation right now.  More thoughts on this later…)

Anyway, thankfully I got a little sleep today while my mom watched Jo and Henry — but I am going to make this brief so I can get to bed at a decent hour tonight.  The kids and I are going to stay with my parents for a few days before heading home, and hopefully I can catch up on all the things that have been pushed to the side the last few weeks as we’ve been getting ready for Peter’s trip… like finishing the post about the non-profit… and working on the RLC mall… and catching up on phone calls… and… and… :0)

…that’s how far the mercury dropped last night.  Thirty-three degrees!  One measly degree above FREEZING.  IN JUNE, for crying out loud!!!!  Geesh.  Someone needs to turn up the thermostat. 

My poor tomato plants will NEVER forgive me for not covering them.   

It’s been a fast week since my last post — we’ve had a lot going on here.  We finally got the results of Henry’s MRI’s a couple days ago.  We need to wait until our appointment with the pediatric neurologist (in two weeks) before we can share specifics, but there is definitely a lot going on inside his brain and spine and it is not anything that we have suspected.  I am reeling a little from some of the terms used — it will be very good to sit down and speak with the neurologist to figure out where we go from here and what it really means.  Thank you all for the encouragement and for riding along with us on this diagnostic roller-coaster.  I will be able to share more later.

Peter and I have been looking at house plans again this week and walking the land for building sites.  It’s been in the back of our minds that we would like to begin building soon, but I haven’t really expected that things would fall into place this year.  I am excited about the possibility — yet I know that once we start we will be very, very busy and very, very focused for a season like we were on this house.

So, between this, that and the usual spring projects (like getting the garden ready and planting peas and spinach! Yay!)  I’ve been neglecting the blogging world a bit.  We’ve been enjoying the usual spring weather around here: warm and sunny one day and then blizzarding the next!  I don’t have any pictures from last weekend because even though my kids looked adorable in their Easter get-up, it snowed and slushed the entire day and was just too yucky and dreary to take any happy spring pictures!  🙂 

…more later!

Just call this a completely random post!  It should be separated into two or three individual posts, but I’ve not had the time to write them separately, so united they shall be. 

First of all, please continue to pray for Henry’s sweet Liberian “foster sister” Ellie.  She is still in ICU from major surgery last Wednesday and her body needs to heal up to prepare for more surgery next week.  It has been heart-wrenching to read her mom’s account of this difficult process.  I can hardly imagine how difficult it must be for them.  They so appreciate all the prayer being offered up on their daughter’s behalf  — please continue to pray, and if you don’t know her, please take a moment to jump over to her mom’s blog

As far as our week has been… (oh, wait, is it already the start of another one???  Where DID the last one go??)  Henry went in for his MRIs on Thursday morning.  It took a lot longer than we thought it would and he ended up being “under” for almost four hours — but supposedly they got all four scans and hopefully we’ll hear very soon about what’s really going on inside that brain of his.  He was so confused and disoriented when he woke up in the recovery room.  He didn’t seem to recognize me at first and was crying such a sad little cry — it was hard not being able to comfort him and I was relieved when he was finally aware enough to know me and be comforted.  Thankfully he had no negative side effects from the anesthetic and he was back to his usual LOUD jovial self just hours later!  🙂

The MRI’s were done in Spokane and we were there several days; but we’re back home now, and hopefully will be able to stay home for a while!  I can tell that all the traveling we’ve been doing lately for Henry’s appointments is starting to catch up with the kids.  We need a little down time to re-establish some rhythm and routine. 

Last week we had the privilege of meeting an awesome woman and I wanted to share a link to her website.  She started a small orphanage in Mozambique a few years ago and currently takes care of forty kids.  She takes in older children, and they have become like a large family.  We were invited to listen to her share at a local church and I am SO very glad we went.  She has such an amazing heart for Africa and she is so humble and real and strong all at the same time.  It was a huge blessing listening to her share stories about the kids in her orphanage and the ways God has provided miraculously for them.  She went over to Africa with a strong call and vision to start an orphanage, but without really knowing how things were going to unfold.  The story of how the orphanage came to be is so inspiring.  We were able to spend some time talking with her afterward and it was one of those connections that we knew immediately God had orchestrated.  She told us to come on over to Mozambique and spend some time at the orphanage and we told her we’ll see!  We are still just seeking God about the next season of our lives.  We feel like we’ll end up in Africa for part of it… but we really want to be sensitive and walk through the right open doors.  Anyway, here’s the link to her web-page. http://houseofblessingmoz.com/index.html

Peter and I are still researching and writing plans for the non-profit business (Liberia-related) that we’ve spoken to several of you about.  We are getting pretty excited about it and are trying to finish all the paperwork soon so we can share more.  Check back for an update next week!  (How’s that for a shameless plug? 🙂 )

(Wow — this IS a random post!  I warned you!)

I loved the feedback on my last post — I was surprised by all the enthusiasm toward green smoothies and rawness.  Yay!  We decided to start our raw week today, so we are officially on day one of 100% raw and we’re feeling great (other than typical bizarre cravings…)  I will try to post recipes soon — on-line accountability always helps with dedication and enthusiasm! 🙂 — but I won’t complicate this random post further by sharing now. 

And finally, I’ve been wanting to share this little video clip from our day up at Red last Saturday for all you boarders that didn’t make it to a mountain this season (especially you, sis — I’ve missed you this year!)  We took the camera to shoot some video for Jo to show her where mommy and daddy go all day with our funny boards (she’s fascinated by them.)  She loved it!  The video is really bumpy and the quality is not-so-great, but oh well — we’re total amateurs at filming.  You get the point.  This is a chunk from the middle… heading out toward Roots and Cambodia for those that know the mountain (the names of back-country runs crack me up… “needles” “shoots” “beer belly” “cambodia” “ledges” — who names them anyway?)

Today I discoverd that blog-stalkers can in fact be really, really cool people!

We were fortunate that one of our “stalkers” e-mailed us over the weekend to see if we wanted to get together since they were driving through the area.  We are SO glad they did!  What a wonderful family.  I knew good things would come of this blog…  🙂  They are currently waiting on a referral from Liberia for the adoption of two little girls and have a heart for the country.  I am looking forward to staying in contact with them over the year ahead as they have a lot of exciting things happening in relation to Liberia. 

And not only did they want to meet us (which made me feel a little bit famous since they knew more about us than we did about them!) but they drove a couple hours out of their way ALL the way up to our house for dinner!  They got here during my kid’s naptime and stayed through the afternoon and evening.  We had a great time visiting and getting to know them and their delightful boys.  Like I said, they are just a really great family. 

So now it’s time for the rest of you faithful stalkers to come out of the closet… C’mon, I know you’re out there… and now I know how cool you people can be.  I feel like I am missing out not knowing you!

Yep,  I’m still here… 

…I’ve been in a bit of a fog the last few days (I think it must be a post-adoption/learning-to-adjust-to-two-toddlers fog!)

I feel like I can kind of see the sun trying to break through… but the prevailing weather is definitely foggy (not in a negative gloomy sort of way — just in a “kind of hard to see things clearly” way…)

However, despite the fog, settling into life with Henry home is wonderful! — far better than anything I could have imagined… It’s just going to take some more time to fully adjust and in the meantime, a few things (like finding time to sit down at the computer… and… um, house-cleaning) aren’t getting as much attention as they used to! 🙂

That, and we got home last night from spending five days at my parent’s house in Spokane — so there is the inevitable pile of laundry and unpacking to do as well!

…more later (Really!!)

And a Happy New Year to you all!!

I am recovering from being knocked out flat the past 36+ hours with a nasty bug — but I won’t burden you with details…. 🙂  It’s strange having lost an entire day — Wednesday is just gone!  Hopefully it’s not contagious over the internet.  I’d hate for any of you dear blogging buddies to catch it!  

The up-side to being sick has been the chance to catch up on some reading while I’ve been recovering.  I’ve been reading The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs…  It’s not a fluffy book by any means; it’s definitely an eye-opener and an awareness builder from the perspective of an economic genius who has the credentials and experience to speak with authority…  It’s an honest look at difficult global issues, but it’s not all doom and gloom as he has spent time in the field putting his ideas to practice and they have yielded remarkable fruit.  He talks a lot about the need to gain an understanding of what is really happening — the roots of the issues — so we can understand what will and will not make a difference.  He gives an excellent look at the historic reasons for the vast economic extremes that have emerged in the last two centuries.  Overall he seems to have a postive perspective on the economic possibilities we face.  Anyway, I am only half-way through, so I guess I should probably reserve my full recommendation until I’ve finished!  🙂 

Actually, I have a great story to share along these lines.  Peter and I have been praying for months now about further ways we can get involved with the global issues we feel passionate about lending our hands (and time and resources) to…  I have been working with UAHH on the beginning stages of the formation and structure of the school they are developing in Africa (more on that later!) and I am excited about where that relationship may lead us in the future.  But for now, we have been trying to posture ourselves to be open and prepared to give as much as we can in this season of our lives (as we are rather tied to the business and other responsibilities in this specific geographic location) and have asked the Lord to open doors where he wants us to give and minister.  Among other doors we feel He has opened, we are looking at an interesting opportunity that has presented itself recently.

We were reading the paper a couple weeks ago and Peter found an article about a Liberian man living and working in the Palouse (about 3 hours south of us).  He is “shadowing” the Pullman Fire Department, getting as much training as he can so when he returns home he will be better qualified to find a good job to help his family climb out of the cycle of poverty so common in Liberia.  He is living with a firefighter/farmer that he met while driving fire trucks for the UN.  He is on a visitor’s visa and cannot legally work for wages, but is looking to put on as many skills as he can.  We were really impressed with his initiative and desire to become a disciple and learn as much as possible.

We were excited to find out there was a man from Liberia living so close to us  (We really do live “in the middle of nowhere” — just google our address and you’ll see!”) Peter called the journalist who wrote the article to get the phone number of the man who is housing him.  We started praying about a pursuing a relationship, and saw it as God opening a door rather than mere coincidence. We realized we had a great opportunity to offer him the chance to come and work with Peter in the shop for a period of time to put on additional skills in carpentry, cabinetry, wood-working, business management, etc., 

I shared a few weeks ago about the organization, KIVA, that helps fund small business ventures in developing countries by giving people the opportunity to help relationally by investing in individual businesses.  We feel it is the same sort of opportunity for us to invest in this man’s life relationally… to offer him the chance to learn the skills we can teach him in the hopes that it will make a difference in his life and family’s life in the future.  It can be overwhelming to look at global economic statistics — just as it can be to look at orphan stats… but, every person we can help really does make a difference.  We can’t always know how exponential the ripples will be.  Another book I’ve read lately, Fields of the Fatherless (by Tom Davis) encourages us to look around for the opportunities to plant small seeds in seemingly “ordinary” ways that will bring large harvests in the future — crops we can’t even begin to imagine now from our small actions.   So I’ve been looking around and praying and feel this is a seed we can sow in the hopes it will benefit many people.

Anyway, Peter met with Ahmad (the Liberian man) and Mike (the firefighter he is staying with) over dinner Tuesday night in Spokane and he said it was an awesome time learning more about our son’s country as well as getting to know Ahmad.  He has a wife and a four-month-old baby in Liberia and is the “head” of his extended family of eight siblings.  So he has the responsibilty to care for them as well as his own family.  He sounded excited about the possibility of coming to stay with us for a while and working with Peter in the shop.  We are praying about the logistics.  We would like to pay him for his labor because he would be working for us the same as our other employees, but we aren’t sure how to go about it with his visa (plus there are a myraid of things we become liable for as employers… insurance, taxes, etc.)  We are thinking we might be able to gift him with an small amount when he is finished that would be like an investment for him to use when he goes home to help with the transition into the area of business he feels led to…. ? We’re just not sure.  Things, unfortunately, are rarely as simple as they should be.  We should just be able to say, “Yes! We want to help!” and then do it.  But there are things to think through on both sides before we move forward.

So, anyway… we aren’t sure where it is going to end up, but it’s an exciting door.  Even if nothing comes of this specific situation, we are aware of an opportunity we have to sow seeds in this way.  Could there be other men or women in developing countries that God would have us open our home and lives to for a season to impart various skills we have and then invest in their businesses as they take what they’ve learned back to their countries?  It’s a relational way to make a difference in people’s lives.  I really don’t know what God’s plan is in all this… but it’s exciting to think about.  What a door!  🙂

We would, of course, appreciate prayer for this situation… that we would be led clearly and be wise in our decisions. 

Thanks.

I thought you would all get a kick out of this…

Last night Peter was playing with Jo before bedtime and they put her dolls to bed in the dollhouse.  He called me over to look.  He had tucked everyone else into their beds, the daddy included, and the mommy doll was at the computer “reading blogs”!  (…it sparked another round of friendly banter over the real-life scenario between us!!!)  🙂 

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Yep, mommy doll is enjoying herself!  Who needs sleep?!? 🙂

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A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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