finally coming together

one year ago i wouldn't have imagined ending bennett's freshman year of college with a heart so full it might explode. 

one year ago we were on the college roller-coaster   i had a college for bennett picked out ~ yay highly structured environment. the citadel was a sealed deal.  then he changed his mind. (many of you may remember our my devastation) not that i didn't love clemson university. because really, who doesn't!? but the child i have known since before birth, in a large college environment terrified me!

many of you know that we struggled with bennett the last two years of high school. i mean he was such a good kid. our problems didn't involve life altering things like rebellious behavior, alcohol, drugs, or wild girls. we struggled with things like :

tardies. he had so many tardies that it took a days worth of labor in trade for the stack of pink slips. his sisters rode with him and they weren't late (???) missing assignments. checking his online grade book made me hyperventilate.last minute exam cramming.taking classes seriously. stuff like that. stuff that can keep you from inches away from a diploma!
one of my lowest parenting moments was being called into a conference with... let's just say everyone!  all of his teachers, the headmaster, the dean of students and probably the lunch lady because he always forgot his card and the crossing guard because he made her late most mornings. we sat in a circle for what seemed like forever, every person taking a turn.   in a nutshell ~ "he is an intelligent young man and he doesn't apply himself." imagine sitting around a firing squad.

after the meeting, with the blood drained from my face, the headmaster asked to speak with us privately. he was so encouraging and without a doubt genuinely loved bennett. and bennett knew it.

 his focus then turned toward me. he told me a story about one of his own children. the abbreviated version:

"bennett is never going to fit into your box. no matter how hard you try to pull him in, he is not going to fit. your girls may fit neatly. but for bennett's sake and for yours, you are going to have to widen your box so that he fits inside."

insert some real tears. bennett and jeff could easily share a box. in fact everyone fits into their box! however this was the first time i realized just how small my box really was. 

praise God, we he made it through high school. bennett didn't graduate at the top of his class, but he graduated. he was accepted to all the colleges to which he applied. his test taking skills, challenging academic environment and a head full of smart earned him some nice test scores. the hurdle was making sure he turned in the test on time :)

  on the last day of school, we spoke to our headmaster again. another set of words i will always remember. 

"bennett is just a big ole' bag of good stuff! and one day all that stuff is going to come together." 

i smiled, wondering how long this coming together was might take. 19 years and i was exhausted trying to drag it all together.

so here we are at the end of his freshman year.  we drove up after his last exam to celebrate. bennett picked a diner. 

 we sat there forever talking about his year. i was praising God, thanking Him over and over! i never in a million years anticipated the feeling of pure joy after his freshman year!

 because finally...
 finally all of his good stuff is coming together!

so the high school years earned me a few bragging credits. i shall cash them in now ;)

 bennett ends his freshman  year with grades to be proud of! all scholarships still in tact and the possibility of others.  he has outstanding attendance and i am guessing they do not give tardies because he has zero. and hello ~ only two parking violations! i hear that's an accomplishment too.

on may 9,  he will become a certified 1152 firefighter. like a real one who can put extinguish structure fires! three nights a week he has traveled an hour away for his certification class.  with  hopes of working at the clemson fire department for the next three years. if chosen, this will pay a large chunk of his tuition.

 remember the section in the yearbook where it says, "most likely to..." well if the category was "who is most likely to become a teaching assistant their sophomore year of college..."  it woudln't have been benett. but it is true! next year, bennett will be a teaching assistant for the Ag lab. 

bennett has made so many good choices while away at college! 
choices that make jeff and i feel like maybe, somwhere along that bumpy road we did a few things right. we are not completely at the end of the parenting road, but at this very moment we are celebrating success!

most importantly ~ he attends a church.  the statistics of college kids straying form church is frightening!  last summer i dreamed up an incentive that involves money. 

 if you attend church, text a picture of the program, your weekly allowance is a little more.  call it what you may. i call it an (initial) incentive for bennett to get out there, in this new town and find a church.  we knew in our heart, once he clicked with the right church family and began attending regularly, his roots would keep him there.
he will be home for the summer in a week. i am anticipating  his return to feel as if a tornado is one again resideing in our home. but nothing will make me happier than his seat being filled at the dinner table on a regular basis.

i wonder...

i knew my ecuador pictures would make me on the emotional side. there are a few images i clearly remember taking. this is one of them. i had a 300 zoom lens on my camera, so i was hidden as to not make her feel uncomfortable.  this picture has taken root in my heart. 

we were walking the busy streets of machachi. it was like 5:00 rush hour in new your city on a smaller scale. we were in a rush, looking for a bakery. we had guests to meet and needed fresh bread. 

as we approached the bakery, i saw this sweet lady. a beggar.

my heart was broken in a million pieces. as i carried out two dozen rolls that cost around $3, i wondered if she was hungry. she was begging for coins and of course you drop in all you have. but that's not nearly enough. enough would be giving of your time an money.

i thought about her for the rest of the trip. i wondered about her home... if she had a home. i wondered where she slept, if she had a pillow and blanket. i wondered about  the food she ate, was she hungry? i wondered about her family, if she had children, who took care of her. i wondered about her health? my grandmother requires so much medicine. does she have access to medicine when she is sick? i know she has hopes and dreams. i wonder what they are.

 i wondered if she complained ~ a lot. i wondered how i could ever justify complaining. i wondered how the majority of americans could justify complaining.

i am praying for this lady. i do not know her name, i regret not asking.  i am always in a hurry, a quality i dislike about myself. sadly this picture serves as a reminder to slow down and really look around. there could be angels among us and most of the time i am too busy with "life" to even see them.  

 i pray she already knows Jesus as her personal savior. i pray if she does not, that she will. maybe our paths would cross again and  i will do a better job. 

 blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Megan and Jack

Aren't they just beautiful!?

hospedezia refugia chiguac

i am so excited to finally be caught up enough at work to spend my evenings remembering our time in ecuador. along with my 2000+ pictures comes so many things i want to share.  it seems with each image, there's a flood of sweet emotions. each image a reminder of what God is doing there.

i wanted to first share about the hostel where we stayed. an exciting beginning would be to say that God stripped us of all comfort ~ like warm beds, electricity, food, indoor plumbing, hot water... until there was only Him.  
well there was only HIM. Jesus was around every corner. but to claim we were  stripped of all comfort would be misleading.  yes, americans may prefer their showers a little hotter and internet a little faster. but such a fair trade for the freshest fruit, the most gracious owners, air so crisp you could sleep with your window open and homemade empanadas. this hostel quickly felt like a home away from home. at the end of each exhausting day, the bed felt amazing!
one of my sweetest keepsakes were the cards left outside our door each morning. written by family and friends and  collected weeks before we arrived. the constant flow of encouragement was humbling.
i began each morning with my cup of coffee and  sweet notes. i bundled them in a satin ribbon just as you would love letters from your sweetheart.

so, it was around this breakfast table, with glorious light gushing through the windows,  that i first realized jeff and i were in the early stages of an amazing spiritual transformation. so much to share. 

each morning, we would take turns reading a devotion and praying for the group. no matter who prayed or  the wording of the devotional, our prayer was always that God would use us to pour His love and shine His light on the people of ecuador.  and every single day, in more ways than i could have imagined,  that prayer was answered. 
every single day. 
 i am planning an entire post about the food. with a swollen face and itchy skin, i can say gluten in ecuador is amazing! 

i wanted to show what machachi looked like from our hostel. 
the following pictures are from different spots on the same block. 
that's a bag full of gluten and coca lights,

just like i said,
Jesus was around every corner!
i loved the home directly across the street. it had a yard full of beautiful chickens and roosters.

 these chickens are probably the most photographed chickens in the region! i smiled when i overheard jeff ask where i was and sweet sharon reply, "she's over there photographing those chickens again."

there was beauty everywhere!

our two translators are legendary. angie is a professional photographer. she takes amazing pictures! 

cesar, what he lacked in  photography skills he made up for in personality!

how awesome is it to have translators who are also christians.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2 
 have a wonderful weekend. 

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