Mar 27, 2011

So much . . . .

I can scarcely sum up what has taken place in my blogless last three weeks - there is just SO MUCH.
So much - blessings.

An incoming mission team from Sagemont Church in Pearland, Texas, led by some friends that I went to high school with, infiltrated our world here in the Dominican.  They blessed many in a major way. They blessed my husband, my children and my life.  They helped with our retreat and it was amazing! I am grateful for the way that the Lord intertwines the lives of His people and for His incredible timing!

Sagemont group fresh off the plane.

My friends Joy & Andy LeBlanc - from high school - taking in the Dominican.

Their first, but not last, ride in the  coaster, which they had to push start to get out of the airport parking lot!  A great way to start a mission trip!  A far cry from their first class seats on the airline (the whole group got bumped up to first class on the plane!  Wow!)

In addition, my cousin (who is like a brother to me) and his wife (who is like a sister to me), came to visit for the purpose of discovering if the Lord is leading them to work here  as a volunteers.  Jon and I were blessed to be in their company, blessed to pray with them and for them, and blessed to hear that the Lord confirmed that which we had hoped for - that they are being led to serve here! I sit here completely blown away.

Meeting our cousins, Scott and Meleah Taylor, at the airport.

Meleah and her pet avocado.  

Dinner at Gilberto's, our favorite pico pollo place.

Meleah's first Diahatsu ride.

Scott and Jon at the river on a super cold, rainy day.

So much - conviction in my own heart.
Unlike this flip flop tossed into rebar and covered in cobwebs, my life has a purpose.  

I need to be intentional in my pursuit of the Lord, my thoughts, my conversations, my encounters with others, what I teach my children, how I serve my husband,  how I pursue students in my midst, etc.
Broken, I am.  Sinful, yes. Repentent and seeking.  Saved, thank you.  Covered in grace, oh yeah.  Recipient of mercy.  Flawed and yet useful because of the power of the Lord Jesus.

So much - observation of the Holy Spirit at work all around.

Um - WOW! Nine people came to know Christ as their personal SAVIOR last week.  In addition, many powerful, wonderful, exciting things are happening within this ministry at this time.  Never have I seen more movement amidst such utter brokenness.

So much - uncertainty accompanied by perfect peace.

Is today any more uncertain than tomorrow?  Today is a beautiful mess.  Beautiful because the Lord's hand is involved.  A mess because people are involved.  Things seem more uncertain than ever, yet I know the end of the story, that Jesus is coming back . . . . soon.  In the mean time, I will keep my eyes focused on Him, knowing that He can navigate amidst the mess.

Mar 11, 2011

Introducing the pseudobombax

Also known as the barber's brush tree - my favorite tree in all the Dominican Republic!  WOW!

Um ya, is that NOT magnificent?

It's just getting started.  I'll post more photos when the whole tree is in bloom.  Every one of those pods will turn into one of these gorgeous blooms.  The blooms are approximately 4-5 inches long!

Dear God:  I really like your work! ~Rachel

Mar 6, 2011

Pagentry + chaos = Dominican Carnival

Music so loud you feel the thump of it in your veins, ear drums, heart and toe nails,
melted into a throng of masqueraded people,
bodies so close that the whole crowd bends and sways as one,
poked in the eye by the sequined wing of a glitzy devil passing by,
a confetti storm raining from the sky,
sirens, horns, and the irony of American music fight for air space creating an ironic orchestra,
people with their hands as a barrier to protect their darriers from the firey force of the pig's inflated bladder on a rope swung by costumed devils . . . .pagentry + chaos + noise + costumes + craziness = Dominican Carnival

Last week we went down to La Vega, which is 20 minutes down the mountain, to the second largest carnival celebration in the country.  I do not believe I can adequately describe the experience of it all - it was unlike anything I had ever seen.  We hadn't even parked the van before we could tell that things were gonna get a little whacky!
Don't look now, but there's a monkey in the van window!  He accosted us at a stoplight . . . he was asking for change (imagine hand held out accompanied by monkey sounds), probably for rum!

 Here are a few other key points.

1.  Several of the streets are blocked off in the town and there are homemade grandstands for the important people.  Everyone else shares the street with the parade participants, all of which are armed with inflated pig bladders, the purpose of which is to whack people on the backside.  It hurts to be whacked, I might add.

It was so crowded that many times I just held my camera in the air above my head and shot blindly!  A few times, I rested my camera lens of the stranger in front of me - when things were calm, of course.

These little girls in the grand stand captured my eye.  So lovely and sweet.

The happiest and loving-est pig bladder salesman around.
2.  The inflated pig bladders (or some variation thereof . . . cow bladder or rubber bladder) are sold to every man, woman, child and monkey.
This little guy (all of 5) tried to whack me when I went by.  I turned just in time to snap his expression of intent.

Some people know it's coming so they just brace for impact.

I find it mildly amusing that the pig bladders are covered in matching material.  You know if I had a pig bladder I would coordinate it with my out fit too.
3.  Most people are in some sort of costume, whether it's a wig, funny hat, glasses, etc.  Next year I will be better prepared!

Simple can be very effective.
Jon was really close to wearing his grass skirt, boa and horned hat, but decided against this combo at the last minute - whew, that could have been really embarrassing!

I love how Dominican men are so secure in their masculinity that they don't shy away from glitter, sequins and feathers.

And then on the other hand . . . . . . however, I don't think this guy was Dominican.
NICE makeup job.  This guy was really pretty, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

To think that I almost wore my sequined bra!
4.  The level of noise is indescribable!  It is like a ginormous party (think New Year's Eve marries Halloween, and their baby would be Dominican Carnival!) There is competing music (some of which is American!), horns, sound affects, etc.

Lots of characters on stilts, too.

Kate and Dave (new friends that are new to the island.)  

Kate and not Dave.
5.  The parade costumes are amazingly fancy, flashy and LARGE!  Many of them have a 5-6 foot wingspan.  I can't imagine how hot they must be in there . . . .some of them have those camel back water systems on the inside so that the people can stay hydrated as they are walking around whacking people in the warm Dominican sun.

I have a collection of photos of my friend Donna with various costumed people.  This one is particularly amazing because Donna found a Dominican man taller than her - which is uber rare!

He ditched his outfit but kept his crown.


Fresh from the port -o-potty.
Scary Larry.  Do you like the security with this guy?  Like anyone was gonna mess with HIM!  Every crowd of costumed people had their own security, though we could not figure out what their real purpose was . . .it was NOT crowd control!

This fully sequined costume was BLINDING it was so sparkly.  The sun rays bouncing off of it made it like a diamond encrusted suit.  

BIG man.  Little hat.  Great smile.

Mar 3, 2011

Prepare to be amazed

That's right.

P -R-E-P-A-R-E to be UHHHHH - MAZED!

In the coming days of March, this network of sticks is gonna turn into a vision of grandeur!  I KID YOU NOT.  First, it's got to finish dropping all of its luscious green leaves, and then, well

This is my FAVORITE tree EVA!  It's no secret that I'm a LOVER of hot pink - if I thought  I could pull it off, I would probably have hot pink streaks in my hair (don't worry Ann, Mom, Kim . . . . )  Can I just tell you that I want to roll around on the ground when I see a pool of hot pink blooms sitting there OR grab a hot pink boa and my pink petticoat and climb up in there.  Of course, most of you already know that I'm not normal and  so this is probably no surprise.

So, during this month, I will try to capture the beauty of this tree - called the barber's brush tree . . . it will be obvious why once you see the blooms.

I I know what you're thinking . . . it doesn't look so special right now . . . . OH BABY . . . just you wait!  This tree is about to get it's groove on!