Kenya adventures, Part 1

Jambo, from Kenya! It’s been a great couple of days here,  after the longest travel period I’ve ever taken.  🙂 Forgive the wordy post,  but Internet access has been spotty. I’ll supplement this with photos hopefully later this week.

We left Austin early Thursday morning, on our way to Nairobi to host a free eye clinic for one of the slums. We’re working with an ELCK church called Pipeline,  which used to worship near the big gas pipeline but was forced to relocate.  They now have a few buildings in the Mukuru slum.

The trip itself was long,  but mostly uneventful – the plane from JFK to London was half empty, so we all got to stretch our legs a bit.  Getting through customs in Nairobi was the most interesting. After 30 hours of travel,  standing around for a couple hours waiting for a customs agent to decide whether you can bring in your supplies is not what I would consider fun. By the grace of God, we finally got through with our footlockers. One of our team members traveling separately had a delay that caused her to get rerouted through Dubai, so I’m glad that didn’t happen to everyone!

We finally got to our lodging near midnight on Friday – a pretty little convent called Little Daughters of St. Joseph. The sisters were very welcoming and I’m glad we were able to stay there.

Saturday morning we left the other mission team to go to Lake Navaisha on a boat safari. We saw mostly birds,  with a few hippos tossed in. On the road there,  we even saw zebras standing around. I got lots of great nature photos,  including shots of a fish eagle diving for some fish we bought for them. That evening we worshiped back at the convent with the Salem team.  A children’s choir came and sang for us,  and I’ve posted some of the video to Facebook.

Sunday morning we said goodbye to the Salem team, as they headed off to a village about 8 hours away. Then we headed into Mukuru to worship at Pipeline. Getting into the slum was an experience – the road is not in good condition,  and the people walking have no care for whether you are driving through. We nearly got stuck in the mud a couple times,  but our driver Rosemary is amazing and got us through (though she was stressed!). It was funny when one of the people passing yelled at us with a smile, “Next time take a helicopter!”

The worship at Pipeline was amazing. Lots of music,  lots of testimony,  and all of it in a mix of Swahili and English. They do not currently have a pastor, and so rely on elders of the church to lead services. Many of the members are involved in worship leading,  either through reading,  giving testimony, leading prayer,  or singing. It was truly a blessing to be involved. At the end of the service,  they brought us up to be recognized, as the church will be volunteer partners with us all week. Then they surprised us with an amazing lunch. The church is located in the slums,  and the members and leaders all live there,  too. They said that they were poor, but always very rich. I can believe that,  as each and every one that I have spoken with has an amazing faith.

This morning (Nairobi time) we headed out for our first clinic session. I’ll cover that in a post to come. Goodnight,  my friends!

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Who I am

I am not good with crowds of people, but I don’t like to be too often alone.
I am not a talented writer, but I have lots of good stories to tell.
I am full of anxiety, but I am militantly optimistic.
I am not an apologetic, but I will fiercely defend my faith.
I am a sinner, but I have been redeemed.
I am a bundle of contradictions, but I am a child of God.

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Another year, another perspective

Well, 2015 was interesting. Not quite in the ancient Chinese curse sense, but it definitely had its share of stuff happening. Earlier this year I finished with the rest of my surgeries and every scan since has shown no evidence of cancer (YAY). Medical bills are a pain, but I’m ever so glad to have that part of my journey behind me. Several other friends have experienced major life changes, but for the most part we’ve all come through better on the other side. My job ended in October, and unfortunately the new offer I thought was on the table did not materialize. However, I continue to interview with some great opportunities. I know God has a plan for my life and I trust that He will guide me.

In the past few years, I’ve avoided using the term “resolutions” for my plan for the coming year. In reality, we all tend to look at resolutions as something that will probably fail. So here’s my plan for 2016 – by the grace and will of God, this is how it will be a fantastic year!

1. No major health issues. I realize that this is not entirely in my control. So far I’ve had great scans, though, and I will continue to make sure that I am doing what I can to remain healthy. Also, I’ve had at least one surgery every year for the past three or four, and I’d really like to break that cycle.

2. To that end, lose the 10-20 pounds that have been creeping around the last couple years. I am actually the same weight today as I was a year ago, and still well under my heaviest weight ever. Despite some of the issues that keep me fluffier than I’d like, I am still determined to get into better shape.

3. Build my business. I launched a small business as an independent Perfectly Posh consultant this year. It is still at the hobby business stage, and may stay that way for a while to come, but I’d like to see what I can do with it.

4. Find a job that makes me truly happy. I’ve loved most of the people I’ve worked with over the years, and that kept me going in positions which I might have left long before if it were not the case. Life is too short to be stressed out all the time.

5. Connect more. I tend to rely on methods like Facebook to keep people posted about what’s happening, but I don’t always keep up the personal touch of cards, phone calls, and visits. Some of that is due to my own personal anxieties, but rather than secluding myself behind my computer screen facade, I will make the effort to be more present in life.

God has blessed me a lot this year, and 2015 was better than 2014 in almost every regard. I look forward to the opportunities 2016 will bring.

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Musical Notes

*Achoo!* Sorry, it got a little dusty in here. Life got a little crazy for a while, with its ups and downs. I keep saying I should write more, and yet…

At any rate, it occurred to me at rehearsal tonight that in every group with which I’ve sung, things…happen. The sort of things that require a story retelling later, often to friends over some form of alcohol. Some of these are only funny or interesting to those who have a musical background, and some may amuse only me, but upon occasion I will share here a few of the observations I’ve made. So, here are tonight’s musical notes.

  1. It causes me almost physical pain to see someone mark their scores with pen. Is this just me? Even highlighter usage can be suspect, although that doesn’t bother me as much. Pencils, people! (My elementary, middle, and high school orchestra teachers may now get out of my head.)
  2. Does anyone else consistently use the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Does Fine” for the treble clef lines? Every time we’re told to look at a particular note in the score, I find myself reciting that mentally to find the location. I never have that problem with notes on the bass clef, but then again, I learned most of my music theory playing cello from an early age.
  3. No double-entendre, however unintentional, will ever go unnoticed by the chorus. If, for example, the sopranos are told to sing a particular run as though they were descending a staircase dressed in something silky, the men will instantly lose it. We’re all just a bunch of middle-schoolers at heart.

God blessed me with a talent for and love of music, and I hope that I am returning interest on that talent to His glory. Life may go sideways at times, but music keeps me sane(ish). 😀 I shall be back soon with more musical notes!

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Goodbye 2014, Hello New Year!

It’s a new year, new beginnings, new possibilities.

2014 was a challenging year for me, to say the least. It began with uncertainty that turned into a diagnosis of breast cancer – which turned into a fight that I’m happy to say that I’ve won, by the grace of God. Through it all I kept working, which has proven its own challenge, but thankfully I was blessed with a very supportive team at work. Outside my own struggles, I’ve had friends who have gone through their own. A couple have passed away, to my great sorrow. Others have had their fair share of medical, relationship, or other personal issues.

On the positive side, new friends have been made, new lives have begun, and new opportunities have arisen. A friend’s daughter has expressed her interest in being baptized. I’ve gotten lots of support from friends and family over the year and reconnected with some people with whom I’d lost touch.

Even more importantly, I think, God used the struggles I’ve had this year to remind me how much I need to rely on Him. I have prayed more this year, not just for myself but for all of you, than I think I have at any time in the past. It has not been an easy road to walk, and at times I have felt desperately alone and afraid, but I know He is with me and guiding my path. And that is a very comforting thing.

Thank you all again for all the support and love you’ve shown. Each and every one of you does make a difference. I’m looking forward to 2015 and the possibilities it carries. May God continue to bless you all throughout the new year!

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Twelve years!

Yes, my blog has been up and running in one format or another for twelve years now. Happy Bloggiversary to me!

The original title of the blog was Yarn Utopia, and I started it primarily as a craft blog. Now I post a lot less frequently, but my topics range all over. Crazy how time marches on, but it is also neat to look back at my own little chunk of history.

My original intent today was to post something witty or thought-provoking, but honestly I never found inspiration. So instead I’ll leave you with a quote from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


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Blessed in the Journey

There is a song I learned when I was much younger, called Blessed in the Journey. It was a gathering song for a youth gathering, and before today I think I was really limiting its application.

“We are blessed in the Journey,
We are blessed on the road,
And together we will sing to our Savior and our King
Who has blessed us in this journey with His love.”

Much of life is a journey. Not, perhaps, always a literal physical walk, but a transition between states. Some days I lose sight of the blessings I have been granted, but in the last couple of days so many reminders of these have landed in front of me. Being an emotional person anyway, of course I have shed more than a few tears in the re-realization, but I am very happy for the lesson. God has blessed me greatly, and I am thankful for all those He has placed in my path to demonstrate that Grace.

May the Grace and Peace of God be with you all.

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With a capital C, that rhymes with P, that stands for Pride

Life has a way of surprising you. When these moments occur, you find out more about your own character and the things that truly matter to you. My own story has recently added a new chapter, one I am not so happy about – one entitled Cancer. Three weeks ago I got the call from my doctor, informing me that I did indeed have breast cancer. Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking, a lot of praying, and a lot of wondering what comes next. It is a new journey I am on, and a somewhat overwhelming one – but I am not alone.

Cancer is a small word for a big, scary concept. It is a disease that attacks the body, but even more perniciously so, it can attempt to attack your soul. I know that God has plans for me, and that He will use this time for His purpose. Some of that work I feel is to refine my faith, for I have already seen some of my weakness made plain.

You see, cancer has already attacked my pride. Though I hate to admit it, I have four main sources of pride. My strength, my intelligence, my hair, and my bustline. I heard a few chortles at that last – but I’ll explain. Having been Rubenesque my entire life, I always despaired of meeting the standard of beauty held by the society in which we live. I always felt ugly and awkward, and didn’t hold much pride in myself, or so I thought. Turns out, I just transferred those feelings over to the things that I felt I did excel in – being a strong, intelligent woman, with great hair and at the very least some top-heavy feminine curves to inspire jealousy.

Three of those pillars of personal pride are now being challenged. Surgery will eventually be necessary – though thankfully not a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery will happen as well. Still, I will forever be different in that regard. In the next couple of weeks, my hair will start to fall out from the chemotherapy treatments. It is only temporary, but it is still another blow. And for the strength, well…now I am forced to recognize that I cannot do it all on my own. I must rely on the kindness of others – and in some ways that is the hardest thing of all. For I am the one on whom others lean. I am supposed to be there for everyone else. It scares me so much to know that I cannot always be that bastion of strength. My pride has been attacked on three fronts, and it cannot stand.

God has already shown me some of the good He intends from this new adventure. I can only pray that He continue to use me to bless others as I have already been blessed.


2 Corinthians 12:9-11

English Standard Version (ESV)

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


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Nothing to fear but fear itself

We all often tend to be creatures of anxiety. I am no different, much as I would wish it otherwise. Inside me resides a spring, that winds tighter when various worries arise. Unfortunately, though these fears have different sources — personal issues, worry for family and friends, etc. — there is only one spring, which tends to tighten until I feel like latent energy is shooting out my fingertips, and I just have to do something to release the tension before I explode. Sometimes I can channel that energy into useful activity – and sometimes I just have to work off the stress in other ways (going to the gym is one current outlet) so that I don’t bounce off the walls.

The anxieties themselves are distressing, though – it seems as though the older I get, the more I worry about. No wonder the command found most often in the Bible is “Fear not.” Fear not, for God is in control – regardless of the uncertainty of the times, the Lord holds us in His hands, for we are His children.

Philippians 4:6-7

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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A glance back, and a look ahead

2013 has been…interesting. Not the worst of the years I’ve lived through, but not the best, either. Plenty of challenges have reared their heads this year, primarily in the last couple of months, but I wouldn’t give up any of the good parts to go back and try things over again.

Glancing back at my first blog post of 2013, I see that my goals for this year were simple:

“I think to continue working on strengthening my faith. To fully read the book of Romans (and then continue on through the works of Paul) – I mean with a good study as opposed to the surface reading usually given to it from a lot of Bible studies. To continue with my knitting and singing and photography, and to be as good a friend to all as I can.”

Let’s see — I never did complete that study of Romans, so I think that will go on the list again this year. The rest of the list was accomplished on an ongoing basis, and those things will continue to be priorities. Other things I want to do in 2014 (keeping it simple):

  • Finally get my Etsy store organized and open
  • Purge unnecessary belongings
  • Move into another domicile
  • Improve my organizational skills, for home and work

Although I am not so great at keeping a diary, having my blog and FB archives to remind me of the past year’s happenings is a useful thing. So many things can happen in a year, and it’s good to summarize and then look ahead to the new possibilities. So, here’s a few high- (and low-)lights of 2013:

  • Spent lots of good quality time with friends and family
  • Gamed a few times (though I would like to do more of this – both board and RPG – in 2014)
  • Moved into a new role at work, which is providing lots of new opportunities for expanding my skillset. 😀
  • Welcomed a new baby cousin to the family.
  • Traveled to Boston for work, but I got to walk the Freedom Trail in my spare time.
  • Sang a lot of fantastic music with my church choir and with Conspirare.
  • Celebrated my fifteenth anniversary of working for Dell.
  • Joined a gym again and started swimming (semi)regularly.
  • Attended the Round Top music festival for the first time (and I still can’t believe I didn’t know about this when I was younger).
  • Took an intermediate swim class to improve my lap swimming technique.
  • Went to a Monkees concert in Houston with some old friends
  • Had my gall bladder removed
  • Had my apartment flood three times
  • Went to Israel!! Made new friends and had a great time. 🙂
  • Lost my eldest brother to liver cancer.

Several friends and family members had tough moments this year as well, and I continue to pray for those still challenged by these issues. Each new year’s beginning is ripe with possibility – I rejoice with those who had moments to celebrate this past year, and I pray that the new year brings blessings to all!

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