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Crying, Cooking, and More: Collage Friday


It's been two weeks since I returned from Ecuador

I'm finding myself feeling helpless and sad. I know these are normal feelings to have after a trip of this magnitude.  I think I've cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years combined. 

My husband and children have been so patient with me - I think the trip affected all of us in untold ways, too. (You'll see an example of that later in this post.)

May I tell you a funny/sad story?  

This past week we were sitting in a very crowded orthodontist's office. Anna was getting her braces adjusted and Grant and I were in the waiting room. He was playing on my phone - but the only app I have on there remotely for kids was the "Elf Yourself" app.  You know - the one where you grab a bunch of faces from your camera roll and then they are turned into elves dancing.  

It's very cute.

Well, Grant showed me his Elf Yourself creation. He had used pictures of the children from Ecuador - pictures I still had from one of the orphanages on my phone. Grant thought it was so cute and funny. He thought I would like it. As I watched the video tears streamed down my cheeks. I told Grant I wasn't mad at him, but it just made me sad.

About a minute later a friend of mine from Classical Conversations walked in the office and said, "How was your trip?" 

More tears. 

I apologized to her and told her a little about the trip but promised I would tell her more later - when I wasn't going to cry about it. 

I also gave a brief presentation at our church about my trip to Ecuador (I showed the video from my trip - have you seen it?). 

More tears - this time from me and everyone that was listening. 

So, while I am very happy to be home with my family, I'm also sad because I feel at loose ends. Shouldn't we be doing more to help children all over the world? Don't people realize what a SELFISH culture we live in? 

The pictures on Facebook of people's Christmas trees STUFFED with presents just made me ill. (I had to just stop looking at FB earlier this week).  The debate surrounding Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty made me ill. The trivial things of our culture hit me hard this year. 


The trip was a game changer for me. I'm reading Orphan Justice (on the recommendation of my friend Ami who is adopting a beautiful little girl from Ecuador), and I'm learning so much. 

I don't know what to do with these feelings, but I see lots of quiet time listening for God in my future. 

{Just an aside, my friend Melissa is hosting a no spend January challenge and our familly has joined her. We will only be spending money on ESSENTIALS this month. We live a debt free life (my husband has worked for a debt relief non profit agency for 16 years!), but we feel the need to be more aggressive with our savings.}

Christmas Traditions

We have some simple Christmas traditions I love. 

One evening we go to Chick Fil-A and get Peppermine Chip Milkshakes. Then, we drive to look at Christmas lights. There is one place in particular near us that goes FULL TILT with their lights. We listen to Christmas music and sip milkshakes. Everyone looks forward to that night.

Decorating Gingerbread Men is another tradition. Even daddy gets involved (and he's not crafty!) - but he loves this tradition, too.

Christmas Eve/Day Traditions

We never travel on Christmas.  This year we saw my family on Thanksgiving and were at home here in Georgia as usual for Christmas.

Christmas Eve we always attend church, then go out to eat with dear friends from our congregation. We've come to think of these friends as family and are blessed by their friendship. 

Christmas Day is always spent at Granddaddy's house with more family. 

See my husband and his father carving the roast?  Those men are two peas in a pod, and when Grant is nearby, it's like three peas in a pod. VERY cute.

My sister-in-law made all four of us EACH a quilt for Christmas. I can't even begin to imagine the time and work that went into each quilt. We love them!

Resources and Randomness

We have started back to school (lightly). Anna has work due for their first day of class (1/14) and Grant and I are reviewing memory work from weeks 1-12. 


1. We ran A LOT of errands this past week - lots of doctor appointments, trips to GoodWill, and just general running around. I caved and let Grant watch movies in the van - normally it's music or CC CDs, but he was watching The Chipmunks instead!  

2. I spent much time writing SQUILT curriculum. If you are in Classical Conversations, I will have a SQUILT volume to coordinate with Cycle 2 ready on January 6. If you are awaiting Volume 3: Romantic Composers, it's in the works and coming soon!  

3. I cooked much more than usual over the holidays. The favorite thing I made (well, other than the Monster Cookie Dough Dip on New Year's Eve) was Zuppa Toscana.  This is a knock off Olive Garden recipe and is a new family favorite!

4. My sweet Anna BUGGED me everywhere we went to check the sale sections for Operation Christmas Child box items. What a smart, compassionate girl she is. Between Target and Hobby Lobby we got many good items for boxes!  Anna doesn't often exhibit her feelings through crying or strong bursts of emotion, but she takes ACTION when something is important to her.  These boxes mean a lot to her. 

5. Of course - lots of LEGO building was going on this Christmas. Grant received Big Ben from his aunt, and also...

6. MINDSTORMS!!  (from Santa -- that Santa is really smart and surely MUST know someone at LEGO Education.)

7. We've been reading The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee. This is a story about Nate Saint and Jim and Elisabeth Elliot in Ecuador.  It has special meaning for us this year. I love all of the Trailblazer Books!  


Getting Back on Schedule and SQUILT Update

Our Classical Conversations community resumes on January 14, but we are planning on resuming our normal school "schedule" January 6. 

I love a holiday, but I think I love getting back into a routine more!

What about you?

I also wanted to share a FREE SQUILT lesson with you, and also let you know that SQUILT for CC, Cycle 2, is coming out on MONDAY!  


Visit the SQUILT website if you are interested in learning more about my music appreciation curriculum. 

Please join me for Collage Friday!

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Reader Comments (18)

You know Mary, feelings as strong as these are important in life because so often they are the force that propels forward change and that change is often life changing in a very positive way. I'll be praying that God will reveal to you gently your next path. And I'm sure it will be a path worthy of your feelings. Take care and have a wonderful and exciting new year.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Mary, you know how I feel about this all. I am so happy you and Hal are joining us in our NO Spend January. I love the pictures from Christmas! I think we live a similar parallel life just hundreds of miles away 8) XOOX

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermelissa newell

You'll be better soon. Changed forever, but better soon. Rebekah was so looking forward to her first mission trip to Panama. We didn't know about the emotional roller coaster she would be on when she came home. (After hearing her stories and seeing pictures of a little girl from the orphanage named Stephanie who called Rebekah "Mama" , cried and wouldn't let her go, we understood a little better.) Well, we had read about it, but weren't prepared. It took her a while to stop crying at the drop of a hat. It changed her heart. It's all part of the process, I think. We were better prepared after her second trip (which was Botswana). Praying you'll find peace in how to put action to your feelings. God is there. Hugs.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSouthern Gal

Mary, your posts about your trip move me to tears. You are so right that we are a spoiled, selfish culture. I feel guilty now that my post today is all about our merry Christmas. :(

I think Melissa's challenge is fabulous and I still need to email her.

This year our focus is going to be prayer and minimizing our stuff to quality over quantity and need versus want. We are going to sponsor a child through Compassion as well.

I would love to hear more about how you got involved in Operation Christmas Child and how you were selected to go to Ecuador.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Mary, I am sure you will do powerful things with your experiences. Charity is a major focus in our family. I look forward to seeing the ideas you come up with to help those in difficult circumstances. We are praying for you.
Blessings, Dawn

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I'm glad you guys had a Merry Christmas. I'm sorry for the tears, and a lot of the same things make me feel ill often. I think the best thing about those feelings is that they keep us vulnerable, listening for God's voice. I'm sure that he will guide your path.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Ray

Oh I can't imagine what life is like after that type of missions trip!! So beautiful those kids have you to pray for them long after you're gone!

Looks like a lovely Christmas. I agree with the photos - I logged out of Instagram because I was heartbroken some people captured and shared every single photo.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStef Layton

We have had some of that emotion this year in our home with Amanda's six month trip to Bolivia and Ben's trip to Nicaragua. I think the best way they have found to get it over the emotion is to keep in touch with those they met there and plan their next trip. We are booking tickets for Ben to go to Peru in April to help with the ministry work there. God has it all in his hands and we have to have faith that he is there for each of us when we need it. Hugs.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBarb-Harmony Art Mom

((HUGS)) It is GOOD that you are not feeling this - God is at work. Imagine if you had gone and come back untouched - what a hard heart that would take. Even Jesus wept.

Have a great week going forward as you start back to a homeschool routine! We started a light schedule this week - the kids needed it and it has changed our afternoons for the better to have them productively engaged in the morning.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTristan

I know those feelings well. It happened each time we came home from an adoption trip - always wanting to do more and not feeling like we could do enough. I have one particular image that I don't think will ever leave my brain. We adopted Jonah from Russia and traveled in January. His orphanage was in a very small town in a wooded area. Driving up to the orphanage in the winter seeing about 5 or 6 little faces looking out at us - and knowing most likely they will never have forever families. Yeah, it stays with you. As it should I think.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ Forever, For Always

I encourage you to read the book, Dangerous Surrender, by Kay Warren (Pastor Rick Warren's wife). Her book largely deals with when she first learned of the AIDS epidemic and its impact on children. She began travelling to Africa and spending time in the orphanages. As a result of these experiences, orphans and AIDS are 2 key experiences of Saddleback Church. Anyway, this book deals a lot with what you are talking about and what the Christian community can do. It is probably the most impactful book I've ever read.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Sweeney

Well, I have "signed up" our family for The Joys of Home Educating's no spending challenge! I am PUMPED to start new changes- and after reading my scripture prayer this morning, I was reminded that I am ALREADY a conqueror in Christ, and that "suffering" will lead to joy.

But really, what "suffering" do I need to experience for the joy Christ can bring to my life? Cutting out desserts, eating less, spending less, not always having the best gift at the birthday party, etc.? Man, this is NOTHING compared to so many out there- like your Ecuador kiddos! May I REMEMBER them when I need to cut out something, and NOT whine about it!!!

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWonder Mom

Beautiful story....gorgeous pics.
Thank you for sharing your heart. What an experience.

Thanks for hoisting/. I have not added in several weeks to collage-y posts for some time. But I have been by to read your updates and they are so amazing.....what a blessing you have been.

God bless and happy 2014~.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChrus

I can only imagine how life changing your trip to Ecuador was! We take so many luxuries for granted in this country. And you are one of the few who actually did something to help make a change! That's awesome, Mary! The quilts are awesome too! Looks like you had a great family holiday filled with fun traditions!

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Eager to see what God is working in your heart. I've only been on one trip out of the country, to Africa, and it was definitely life-changing. And the deeper we get into the realities of adoption, the more my heart is burdened by the need.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

You can't unsee what you've seen; and your heart can't unknow what it now knows. One day in your old age, some young woman is going to look at you and see in your eyes what you saw in the beautiful lady on the mountaintop. Wisdom and grace and pure beauty.

I know that God is working in you and through you; and I'm excited to see where all of this will take you.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristy Platt

I can't imagine how to deal with such feelings after a trip like you experienced. God is working through you, and time will let you know the direction. Perhaps you will inspire someone who reads about your experience as well.

I love the picture of the kids at the top of this blog. They look so grown up, lovely, and happy. I don't know why that one strikes me more than others, but it does.

Have a great weekend and I hope it warms up for you all.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

This post is lovely and also made me sad. I can only imagine how you feel. To see it all first hand and then feel the need to do something and not know where to start. I know that God will show you what you will do next. Your Christmas traditions are wonderful. I love Anna's gingerbread man!!! Love Anna's heart, your description of her reminds me of Kei. She doesn't cry either but tries to immediately fix whatever it is. As always thank you for hosting!

January 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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