Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bringing in the New Year...

     How will we celebrate the New Year? We reflect back on where 2011 has taken us and it's been a wild ride to be sure! A few of the highlights...
Peek a boo!
  • We listed and sold our house in the spring. It only took one month! Praise the Lord!
  • After selling our house, we moved in to a small rental behind Clay's parents. What a blessing for the kids to be so close to their grandparents! (And we had a GREAT reason to begin purging the excess belongings.)
  • Baby Matthew was born May 12! Need I say more?
  • The Harris/Blake family reunion in July found us driving from Idaho to Mississippi with a 2 month old baby! How sweet it was to see my family!
  • In September we said goodbye to friends and family in Idaho and began our journey across the country, again.
  • The trip across the country (from Idaho, to Iowa, to Ohio, and finally to Virginia) allowed us to visit more friends and family while enjoying a beautiful, warm autumn.
  • Mid-October found us settling in for 2 1/2 months of training in preparation for our final destination: Mexico.
  • It's Levi!
  • After training we took a whirlwind tour of the northeast--New York City, upstate New York, Toronto, a short stop in Detroit for our visas, and finally back to Columbus, Ohio.
     Wow! And now we are packing once again. The final purge is here! Of course, I have many little helpers who make the job much more enjoyable!   We are entering the final countdown...three more Sundays!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brotherly Love

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
Psalm 133:1

The kids are adapting well to "our new house." I am thankful for their resilience and adaptability!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Beginning our Christmas celebration
with the reading of Jesus' birth.

We have much to be thankful for this Christmas season. This has been an amazing year, full of changes and many blessings. While
many things have changed, the important things remain constant: God's love and family.
We are thankful to be in Ohio, where we will have the opportunity for a little bit of stability before leaving the country in January. It also provides the opportunity to be near my family. We are very blessed to be staying at a mission house at my brother's church. We have a lovely 3 bedroom home, fenced in yard, and internet! (We really weren't sure we'd have internet since no one lives in the house full time.)  Ryan asked for a box of cereal for Christmas this made me smile and I had to get it for him!

Ellie was so happy to get pretty hairbows this year for Christmas! She wanted to wear them to bed, but instead we planned what she would wear to church in the morning.
But the one thing I'm most thankful for this Christmas season is my family. God has been so good to us!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big Apple Adventure, Live!

Our time in Virginia has come and gone. We are now homeless once again...we're on the road, visiting friends and family before we head out of the country. First stop...New York City!

Our "tour guide" for the day was excited to show off her stomping ground! She took us to the original Macy's to see Santa...

 I'm not sure that we prepared our kids well for sitting on Santa's knee. They really didn't want anything to do with him. I am surprised that Ellie didn't tell him the truth about Christmas though...

We were so excited to find Elmo on the street! He was so kind to pose with us for a picture!  (Ok, maybe he wasn't doing it out of kindness...and he didn't speak much English. I'm not sure where they
found him, but I'm sure it wasn't Sesame Street.) Unfortunately, we didn't notice the wonderful background of the picture until we downloaded the pic...perfect for America's most loved puppet!

Clay was excited to purchase a halal kabob from the street vendor!

Grand Central Terminal...minutes before Ellie fell asleep!
Ryan was excited to see Grand Central Terminal, a favorite from VBS 2011!
Unfortunately, we never made it to see the Statue of Liberty...Ryan is a bit disappointed, but I think he'll be okay!

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Mom, I didn't have any paper."

We've had lots of birthday parties here on campus recently. Saturday, Ellie went to a princess party for her friend, Becca. It was so much fun to see all the little girls in their long dresses and crowns, licking the frosting off of their cupcakes!

And of course, Becca's mom sent home a bag of goodies for the girls. (Thank you, Sarah!) Ellie was so excited when she got home to dig through her little bag. She found a ring, a wand, and a cute green, glitter pen! She immediately asked if she could write, and I distractedly answered, "Yes, just grab some paper."

Ellie walked into the living room about 10 minutes later and very matter of factly announced, "Mom, I didn't have any paper."  Upon looking at her, I replied, "I guess I'll have to take that green pen away from you if you don't have any paper."  And that's when the tears came rolling...anything but the pen!

"Mom, I didn't have any paper."
What I didn't notice until bedtime was that she didn't just use her face and was also all over her feet and legs. Even between her toes! A special thanks goes to Daddy who quietly left the room and grabbed the camera! A moment to remember forever...

Quad Worship

For the past 6 weeks, we have had the blessing of worshipping in our home, with our "Quad mates."  There are a total of 8 adults and 4 children in our quad. There are no Sunday School classes, no musical instruments, and no sermons, but there is lots of prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. (And in our home, there's lots of Spanish, Portuguese, and English...or a mixture of all three!)

Worship in our Quad

Recently, we have been practicing chronological Bible storying, which will be an important skill for sharing the gospel once we get to Mexico. (Currently, we have the blessing of worshipping together 5 days a week.) One of the most exciting parts of storying is that even our children will be able to share with their new friends. Yesterday, Ryan shared with the whole group.

Ryan told the story of creation from his scroll!
 I am so blessed to know that as Clay and I are learning, so are our children! They are becoming an active and integral part of church. Ryan, Ellie, and even Levi prayed during our worship service on Sunday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Tonight I sit in the glow of the Christmas tree, in a living room shared with twelve people. (4 of whom are my own children) It's been an amazing Thanksgiving weekend, full of anything but traditions.  It's hard to think about all that we "missed out" on back home this year, but God has blessed us with so much this weekend.

Thursday we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by "family," with all of the traditional fixin's, and a few more that we don't normally have--like sweet potato pie and orange/cranberry sauce.  But it's truly just not the same when you're eating in a cafeteria...

Friday we didn't do ANY shopping! Instead, we took a 2 hour bus ride to Washington D.C. for a cross-cultural activity. Some of our goals were to engage internationals in conversation, observe cross-cultural parenting, listen for 10 different foreign languages, prayer-walk, and share our faith with at least one person. We started out at the Capitol building where we interacted with people from Korea, China, Pakistan, India, the Dominican Republic and the Bronx! (Oh, sorry. They just sounded like they were from a different country!) It was amazing how open they were to talk to us. All we did was show an interest in them, their language and culture! We even had one lady from China ask to take a picture of our family! I guess she wanted to share with her friends back home what a "typical" American family of 6 looks like! And I'll never forget trying to figure out how to buy tickets in the subway, while looking for a bathroom to change a poopy diaper...panic, if you know what I mean. And who should come to our rescue? An Amish man, of course!

On Saturday we took a trip to Virginia Beach. I can honestly say that I've never dreamed of swimming in the ocean for Thanksgiving...but it was unusually warm here, and why not? I realize that for some people 70 degrees still isn't warm enough, but we're from Idaho! It was a beautiful day for the beach!

Tonight after Sunday evening worship, which resembled church from North Africa, we came back to our quad and set up our tree. Again, it was not our typical family tradition. There was no trip to the mountains, in the snow, to cut down a tree this year. Just a trip to Walmart...nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the "Made in China" tag. But it was a joy to share this special moment of setting up the tree with "grandparents" and "uncles."

There's a strange mix of emotions within me tonight. I don't know when I'll get to spend a "traditional" Thanksgiving at home again. For that matter, I don't even know where home is...But I do know that as long as I am with my husband and children, I am home. I mourn the old traditions some. (Or maybe I just miss "home cooking," recliners, and loved ones.) But I also look forward to the new traditions and amazing experiences that God has before us in the next stage of this great adventure! Afterall, it's all about Him and His family, not the house I'm in, or the food that I'm eating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lottie Moon

"What we want is not power, but simply combination in order to elicit the largest possible giving."
Lottie Moon
Tungchow, China
Sept. 15, 1887

We had a wonderful visit from Lottie Moon yesterday! Interesting, isn't it? Especially if you knew that she passed away on Christmas Eve, 1912. Well, we had a wonderful monologue depicting the life and ministry of Lottie Moon.

Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I was well aware of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but now I know so much more about this great woman of the faith. For one thing, she was not a woman of great stature! In fact, we have a few life-size photos of her around campus, so we thought we'd share just how tall she is compared to the kids.

Matthew is preparing to go to the nations!

I always knew that we took up a special offering this time of year for missions, but now I realize just how important that offering is. The first Christmas offering was taken up in 1918, six years after her death. Sadly, at the time of her death, there were 273 missionaries on the field and the Foreign mission board was in debt! Lottie Moon had a vision of how a combined effort could make a greater impact for the sake of the lost, and we now take up a Christmas Offering in her name to help provide for our international missionaries around the world. As you can imagine, that's a subject near and dear to me. I challenge you to read more about her life at IMB Connecting, and then pray about how you can support international missions!

Friday, November 18, 2011


We recently had the chance for a little other words, we escaped! We went climbing at Manchester Bridge near the James River in Richmond. Basically, we climbed on the pilings from a Civil War railroad bridge! Ryan and Ellie even had their first real climbing experience!

The kids love the playgrounds on campus. Here Ryan is playing with BJ Bear, who lives at their school. Each student in his class gets to take a turn bringing BJ home for a week. We were especially thankful for the time that BJ spent with us because he was Ryan's buddy while he recovered from the concussion that he sustained during PE...but that's a whole other story of God's providence!

Matthew is growing fast.  He's already 6 months old! He loves to play on the floor, especially if someone agrees to join him. He enjoys being in his preschool class with the other babies, and even seems to have a budding friendship with a 6 month old girl named Avalyn...

Levi has been enjoying cultural worship. In this picture, he was wearing a hat from Africa to get in the rythm for African worship night! The kids love to dance...and they even sing along in the different languages!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Drinking from a Firehose

"How are you today?"
"I feel like I'm drinking from a firehose."

"How was the simulcast?"
"I feel like I'm drinking from a firehose."

"What did you think of today's session?"
"I feel like I'm drinking from a firehose."

Have you ever watched a fireman as he aims the firehose? It usually takes more than one man to hold the hose. And the amount of water that comes rushing out of the hose is overwhelming. Now try taking a drink from that waterhose...

This week we had sessions on preventing illnesses--like malaria, rabies, Japanese know, just the normal stuff. Oh, and don't forget the shot clinic...which was a bit overwhelming also. Clay and I each had 3 shots this week. The kids each had one (for rabies, which happens to be a bit painful), except for Matthew who received a total of 6 vaccines this week. Although it's difficult to watch the kids receive the shots, I know it's necessary to keep them healthy.

But aside from the physical aspect, God is showering us with his love and goodness.  Last Sunday night we had our first cultural worship service where we praised the Lord through prayer, song, and a sermon in a combination of Spanish, Portuguese, and indigenous dialects from South America. Wow! It was just like drinking from a firehose! God's presence was overwhelming as He assured us all of His desire is to see a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ. Tonight is the Sub-Saharan Africa worship night, and I can hardly wait!

Please continue to pray for Matthew. His nightly sleep schedule is so irregular. We've had 7-8 hour nights, and then back to 1-3 hour nights. Pray for me during this time as it's hard to focus during the day and to maintain a godly attitude.

Praise God that we didn't receive any news of Levi biting this week at school! But keep praying for him as well!

Pray for our language studies. Clay and I both had a language assessment this week and scored very well. This will help us to bypass some Spanish language study and go on to the Z language sooner.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First of November...

Week three of orientation...I know many people are wondering how we are and what we're doing these days. We haven't dropped off the ends of the earth yet, but it feels that way! We have been so busy that when we do have some down time we escape from campus! We went for a drive on Saturday in the rain just because we wanted some down time. This Saturday we are planning on going for a family hike at Belle Isle.

As I mentioned before, we are in "class" from 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday. We are being challenged to dig deep in the Word and pray effectively. Clay and I are currently working on memorizing Romans 15:20-21 which says, "And thus I aspired to preach the gospel not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation, but as it is written, 'They that had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.'"

And that is our prayer for the people of Mexico, that we will effectively preach the gospel and that they will see and understand. Please join us in that prayer!

Praise for the week:
Matthew is sleeping much better! We've only been getting up once at night, but please keep praying for us!

Prayer request for the week:
Levi is a biter...ugh! He used to only bite his brother and sister (although that wasn't good, it was manageable and only happened out of frustration), but now he's spending lots of time with other kids at school...and he is biting on a regular basis. Please join me in praying that he will start talking so that he can express himself when he is frustrated. (I'm thankful that the parents of the bite victims have been very understanding.) Also pray that he just STOPS biting!

Funny of the week:
While discussing the story of Zaccheus, the kids were asked what type of tree Zaccheus climbed. They excitedly proclaimed, "A sycamore tree!" And then Ellie added, "Yeah, it's sick more often than other trees."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hello Virginia!

We've survived our first week at orientation in Virginia...well, actually the first week was only 3 days, but it felt like 3 weeks! We were on the road, living out of our suitcases for over two weeks. What a wonderful experience! The kids got to meet new people the whole way across the country, and even ride in a combine during harvest in Iowa.

We were very excited to finally arrive in Virgina and actually have a home, even if it is only temporary. Our new home is a quad, which means that there are 4 "units" that share a common great room. We have our own private three bedroom apartment with a bathroom and kitchen. Our quad mates are wonderful! There is constantly a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and English being spoken in our home. Ryan and Ellie are beginning to repeat phrases that they hear and are so very excited about learning not one, but two new languages when we get to the field. What a blessing, and an answer to prayer, that they have a good attitude towards language.

The kids are doing amazingly well. Ryan is in a multiple age class ranging from age 5 to 7, and he absolutely LOVES it. There are 3 other boys in his class, and they are equally as active and energetic. Ellie is in a class of only 4 students (3 girls, 1 boy) and she appears to be taking charge. Levi seems to just be going with the flow, apparently enjoying the playtime. And little Matthew is adapting to not being with Mommy all day. He is in the nursery with NINE other babies...yes, that makes TEN babies under 11 months, in one room from 9am to 3pm! (Their teachers are really angels!)

Clay and I are doing well too. We're being overloaded with information and tasks that must be completed. Our challenge is to balance God, family, friends, and other responsibilities.

Some highlights of our week:
Brazilian coffee, new friends, an amazing spiritual retreat, "grandparents" that love to interact with the kids (and help when I need another set of hands), and so much more!

The low point of my week:
Matthew is not sleeping well at night. On Tuesday night, he only slept 1-2 hours at a time all night, and then we had our first day of school on Wednesday. I was beyond exhausted. But many people have been praying that he sleeps better...and God is answering! (As He always does!) Please continue to pray that Matthew (and the other 37 children on campus) sleep well.

Please stay tuned for the next step on our great adventure!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goodbye Idaho

We're down to the final 60 will we spend it? I guess that depends on how productive we are in the next 18! We will be be leaving late Friday night and driving to Ohio, so first on Clay's list today is to work on his truck...a little preventative maintenance now hopefully will save us time and frustration later. I will continue packing boxes, which seems to be a never-ending chore!

We are hoping to get everything in the house packed or stored by tonight, and then clean the house. That will give us two days to say goodbye and maybe relax just a little before the cross-country drive. The unknown factor in our packing is our children! Levi has been very needy through the whole process, often trying to crawl into my lap as soon as I sit down. Ellie went to the doctor yesterday with an ear infection. Ryan has been mostly helpful, choosing which toys he wants to take, and which ones he wanted to sell in the final moving sale. (He asked for the money earned from toy sales. I figured he wanted to buy a new toy, but he wanted to donate it to the church's building project!) And of course Matthew needs mommy every couple of hours.

While the packing seems interminable, so do the goodbyes, which is difficult. I am thankful that goodbye is difficult though because it means that we have some deep bonds with the people around us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Japanese Camp Decor

My new decorating style...Japanese Camp Decor. Haven't seen that in the posh decorating magazines? Yeah, probably not. It's a combination of blankets and pillows on the floor and camp chairs!

We had our grand Moving Sale this past weekend. It was very successful. So successful that we are being creative in our daily living. I sold my mixing bowls, so I served salad and mashed potatoes in my Pampered Chef measuring bowls!

There is still lots to do, of course. Next week Clay will finish up his responsibilities at our church--a bittersweet moment. While we're excited for the next chapter, we are also sad to be leaving the people we have grown to love. Next Thursday Clay will share with our youth about our move to the IMB and the work that we expect to do in Mexico. The next morning we'll board a plane for Orlando, where we anticipate being appointed by the IMB! And of course, we'll enjoy a day or two at Disney World while we're there!
After Orlando, we have about 2 weeks to wrap up all the loose ends and say our goodbyes before heading east.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Last night I had 29 boxes in my living room, and if you've seen how small my living room is, you realize there wasn't much room for anything else. When the three big kids came home from Grammy and Grandpa's I had to fight them off to keep them from unpacking those 29 boxes...I was only moderately successful.

Next weekend is our big Moving Sale where everything but the kitchen sink will be for sale. It's hard to look at everything in your home and decide what value it has. Is it important enough to pack in a box to go to Mexico? Will I or anyone in my family need it or want it in Virginia? Will anyone else value it enough to buy it at a garage sale? Is it worth our time to sell it on Craigslist? Should I put it in storage indefinitely? Will I still want it 20 years from now?

Our children are taking it well so far. We've been trying to prepare them for the last 5 months or so. They know that most of their toys will be sold, and only a few of their favorites will go with us. After packing up most of their clothes, Ryan prayed, "Jesus, please let us have enough clothes and toys to get to Mexico." And of course we've had a few behavioral issues that I attribute to the rollercoaster ride of emotions, especially with Ryan who knows that we're moving, but still doesn't understand what that really means.

Through this stage of the process, I'm reminded, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven." (Matt. 6:19-20) Easier said than done...we tend to place a lot of value on our stuff. I think everyone should make a major move and truly evaluate the stuff they have collected over the years. Where are you storing your treasure?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Richardson Family


By now, many of you have heard the news...we're headed to Mexico. Some of you may be a little surprised, but most of you have probably just been wondering when. Well, now is crunch time! But let me take you back about a year, and explain where the journey began...

Okay, maybe I won't go all the way back to the beginning, because that would be too much to tell. But let's go back to August of 2010. Clay and I were invited to attend a Missions Expo in San Francisco to learn more about where the IMB (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) was headed. After an amazing time there, we felt that was exactly where God was leading us.

The months after the Expo were filled with "hurry up, and wait." We had lots of paperwork (tons, as Clay puts it), medical exams, and more to complete...and then wait. In the spring, we decided that we should put our house on the market so that when the time came, we wouldn't be burdened with the task of selling a house. Within a month, we had an acceptable offer on the house! And we had the blessing of moving to a rental house that Clay's parents own. I have to add that baby Matthew was born just 2 weeks after moving in to the rental! Just imagine adding a fourth child to the family while moving to a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home! The big kids love the small home though, because the three of them get to share one bedroom! (Whew! Glad they took it so well!) And, Grammy and Grandpa's house is just on the other side of the pasture! What a blessing for our kids! (and for me!)

Through the summer, we were left to wait til the end of July when the Board of Trustees voted on our family. We just learned last Thursday, July 28th that we were approved for appointment by the Board. Wow! Although we had been planning for that moment for almost a full year, it was amazing to actually hear the news! And now, the reality of that decision is still setting in.

What's next? Where do we go from here? On September 10th, we fly to Orlando where we will attend an appointment service on September 14th. In mid-October we report to FPO (Field Personnel Orientation) in Virginia. At this point, we are planning on driving from Idaho. By doing so, we will have our own vehicle while at FPO to run errands or enjoy some family time off campus.  We also hope to make some stops to visit friends and family on the trip across the country as time allows! So much is still unanswered on what everything will look like.

And of course, the big question, when do we leave the country? Again, we don't know anything specific yet, but we think we'll be in Mexico by the first of the year! Whew...only 5 months til January 1st! 

Please be praying for us as we try to tie up the loose ends here...we have a house full of things that we can't take with us when we go...and we have to sort through it all! A pile to sell in the next garage sale, a pile to take with us, a pile that we might take with us, a pile to put in storage indefintely, and of course the garbage can!

Pray for our children, that they will be flexible through all of the changes.