Monday, June 29, 2009

Not ready...

We are currently in a Guatemala City hotel because our flight leaves for the states at 6:00am tomorrow morning.

The kids are snoozing and Darrell and I are procrastinating, watching terrible tv shows that are about 5 seasons old.

I desperately need to be asleep right now since we have such a long day tomorrow. However, I know once I fall asleep tonight then this part of the journey is officially over. And, I'm not ready for it to end.

Not ready to leave this country, one that is now very much a part of me.

My heart is sad tonight...
and, I'm delaying the inevitable...

A 4:00am wake up call is coming way too soon.


Happy Birthday Mac!!!

I love my sweet boy...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

One Heck Of A Party!

Yesterday we took a shuttle up to Chimaltenango to say "Hasta Luego!" to our beautiful friends at Los Gozosos. We got to spend a couple of hours there and to our surprise, we were invited to a birthday party (and boy do they know how to throw a party!) for two of the children:


We had so much fun!

Tomorrow we will celebrate yet again because Mac will be turning 4! I can't believe how fast he is growing.

I am so proud of my brave boy!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Bro!

Today is my brother's birthday!
He is an AMAZING guy who gives his life away every day to teenagers...
And, I'm so sad to miss his special day.

Tony, this pic is for you...

Andres says, "Go Vols!"
We are working on Rocky Top. :)

Thank you for his gift.
You would love this little guy.
And, thank you for being YOU!

Happy Birthday Tony!!!
Hope you have a great day.
We Love You!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hermano Pedro

Another afternoon spent at Hermano Pedro.

I love this place more and more every day...
because of the precious souls that live there.

Meet some of my friends...




And, Elmer.
Mac was pushing Elmer so fast that the picture came out blurry.

Elmer and Henry were "racing" down a small incline at the hospital.
Darrell and the kids were "designated drivers".

Trying to spend as much time as possible with our sweet friends.

Can't believe we leave one week from today...
Makes me oh so sad.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Favorite Moments, Week 4

What?!?! Week 4... already?!?!

Here have been some of my favorite moments from Week 4... actually, not ALL are "favorites"... more like "memorable". :)

  • Emma's fall and the scary night that ensued.
  • A dog with a metal cast on his leg, in the doctor's office with us. ONLY in Guatemala! Lol.
  • The experience of a hospital in a 3rd world country... 2 hospitals, actually.
  • Hearing the words from the doc, "Es muy bien!" the next morning as he read all of the scans.
  • McDonald's playland in Antigua... a great surrogate babysitter.
  • Catching the vision of the "Dreamer Center" and "Nuestros Ahijados", the school where Brandon works.
  • Hermano Pedro... again and again.
  • Listening to D's new song... and feeling the same pain and gladness.
  • "Emma's Cafe"
  • Mac wanting to wrestle with Darrell and blurting out, "C'mon old man!" What?!?! Lol. Where did he even hear that???
  • The Johnny Appleseed prayer that my kids sing... ALL the time. Presh.
  • Dia de Papa. Father's Day in Guatemala... SO fun!
  • Darrell's "GNO" with Brandon at MonoLoco.
  • Listening to the rain.
  • Sweet emails, comments, and voicemails letting us know YOU are praying for our trip (and for Emma). Thank you. It means more than you know.

I cannot believe it's our last week here for the summer. Seriously. I'm trying my best NOT to think about it... or feel it.

God has been revealing SO much since I've been here... or, maybe I've just been listening more. :)
Either way... "Es muy bien!"

Can't wait to share more...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To: Daddy From: Emma

Hope you have a great father' s day. You are a speshle dad.



Friday, June 19, 2009

He cares for those who care for His own-Part II

(This is Part II of this post, so go here to catch up.)

“Fear brings us strength. It is the feeling that allows us to experience risk, trust, dependency, collaboration, and ultimately, wisdom because it helps us realize our need for help.” Chip Dodd from The Voice Of The Heart

It had rained pretty hard yesterday afternoon. Harder than the normal afternoon shower here. Since our house is an outdoor living space, the courtyard and the tile around it got soaked. As we were getting ready to leave for dinner, I was checking in with work on the computer. Emma had just ran out of the room and around the corner. That’s when I heard what I hope to never hear again. A slip….a grunt….and two loud and heavy thuds. The sound of a body and head hitting a hard surface. I jumped up and ran out around the corner to find my little girl in somewhat of a fetal position, still, silent…..lifeless. She had slipped and crashed onto the wet terracotta tile, head first. My heart sank. I ran over as I yelled her name. She didn’t respond until I touched her and begin to pick her up to hold her. Her eyes rolled slowly and she was very slow to even cry. FEAR. By this time, Kristin had joined us. Emma is our drama queen. If she gets hurt, she will let us know. Sometimes the slightest injury will provoke her into the biggest dramatic episode. Usually, a joke or something quirky will lead to laughter and it’s over. This was not the case today. She was really hurt. She wasn’t coming to and began to ask over and over, what had happened to her. She couldn’t remember. Kristin told me to Google concussion and see what it says. Emma was showing the symptoms that we would need to seek immediate medical treatment for according to the website. FEAR. Who do we call? There is no 9-1-1 here. All of our contacts were out of the country. FEAR.

I will say that if it were not for the amazing, generous, caring people that God put in our path from 4:30pm-10:30pm, I’m not sure what would’ve happened. There was a young lady, Alicia whom we met at the gate of our neighborhood while we were asking for the nearest hospital. She took us to the closest pediatrician's office. She stayed with us until Brandon from the school we visited on Wednesday shows up at the doctor’s office with his dog that has a metal splint with a wheel on the end of his back leg. A dog in the doctor’s office?!?!? Seriously?!?!? Could this get any stranger?!? We called Brandon to help us translate because neither Alicia or the doctor could speak a bit of English. It was between Brandon and another contact and the other contact was not answering the phone. Brandon answered and was about 3 minutes away, so he won.

We get down to it and the doctor gives us 2 options: 1) get an x-ray that will tell us if there is a fracture in the skull for around $25 or; 2) get a CT scan that will tell us if there is a fracture and swelling for about $65. We skipped straight to the CT Scan. As we are wrapping up with the doctor, he gives Brandon his card with his cell phone number on it and tells him to have the CT Operator call him with the results. I wanted to clarify with the good doc because: A) NO doctor in the States as EVER given me their private cell for after hours calls and; B) NO doctor in the States as EVER given me their private cell for after hours calls. The doctor assured us that he would answer and took Brandon’s cell number.

Brandon leads us to the private hospital located behind the city bus terminal. Think: really run down abandoned truck stop with no pavement and no lighting. YES, FEAR. We walk through the “bus city” that is bustling with evening commuters, some so drunk that they have passed out on the side of the dirt street. As we run by, I notice some men are pouring what appears to be water from an alcohol bottle into the open fly of one of the guy's jeans who is passed out, I’m guessing to try and wake him. That’s what friends are for, right?

The receptionist at the hospital, who also ends up being the x-ray tech tells us that the CT Scanner is broken and that the electrical engineer is on his way in……at 7pm???….ok. The engineer actually shows up, but informs us that the CT Scanner will not be fixed tonight. But since he is one of the only engineers who can work on the units in the country, he knows there is another in the next town over, about 15 minutes away. He drives us (me, Kristin, Emma, Mac, and Brandon) to the next place in his tiny car and on the way tells us that he studied CT Scan Operations in Lebanon, TN. Hmm.

We arrive at the next hospital. When I say hospital, you need not picture some multi-story, well-lit beacon sitting in some downtown space with security patrolled parking garages and a 24 hour ER. No, picture a block building with about 10 rooms with no HVAC and Bible verses all over the place. It’s known as a 24 hour hospital, but they lock the door at 10pm. The CT Scan Engineer, Estuardo, has called the CT Scan Tech and asked her to come in and scan Emma’s head. The call from Estuardo is the only reason she is making the trip.

After the CT machine warms up, we get Emma settled down and still, I get a heavy duty and might I say colorful lead jacket on, the CT Scan finally begins. Estuardo (the electrical engineer from the 1st hospital) stays with us the entire time, giving me thumbs up and smiles through a window in the room. It takes about 15 minutes to get all the scans. At the end, the CT tech (via Brandon) tells us that she doesn’t see anything that alarms her. Estuardo concurs, saying that he sees many of these everyday. We try to call a taxi, but no one will come get us this late. It’s about 10:00pm now. So, the CT tech’s father offers to give us a ride back to our house since it’s on his way home. We drop Brandon off at his place and arrive back home around 10:30pm.

Emma and Mac sleep with us and I get little sleep due to Mac’s knees in my back and my fervent praying that Emma would be healed. FEAR. Today, she woke up with a big headache, but slowly recovered back to her normal self. We saw the doctor again today, who greeted us ON THE SIDEWALK, AT THE FRONT DOOR of his office. He read the X-Rays and CT Scans and informed us that everything looked muy bien (very good).

Here are some interesting facts:

-No one who volunteered to help us yesterday (Brandon, Alicia, Estuardo, or CT scan tech's father) would take any money for their assistance. They were almost offended and definitely embarrassed at our offering to compensate them.

-Including the doctor’s visits, hospital visits and all scans we paid about $110 for it all and got to keep all the scans.

-For all the money that is spent in the States on big buildings, fancy equipment, and advanced training, the only thing that got us through last night was the care and concern of the beautiful people of this country.

-I did not want the lyrics to the song Emma and I wrote to be true last night. That there is a gift when you walk through pain. Sure, it's easy to believe when it's not my pain. All night long as I tossed, turned, and prayed, the song kept running through my head and heart. This morning I woke up believing those lyrics in a whole new way. I woke up Glad.

He cares for those who care for His own.

This mural was painted on the wall of the CT scan room.


He cares for those who care for His own-Part I

“The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.” –Psalm 111:10

Grief and Fear. Those have been the words for me this week. My little girl has been the one that has taught me the most about them and in turn more about God’s heart.

This past Monday morning, we said “goodbye” to Mimi and Poppy, Kristin’s parents. They spent a week with us and it was an incredible week for sure. We did so many things and experienced so much together. True community and relationship at its best. As the day went on, I found myself sad. Sad that it had to end. But I didn’t want to feel it. I was also experiencing fear. I was afraid of what the next two weeks would hold without the community and relationships we had shared with not only Kristin’s mom & dad, but with the Goodfellows as well. But again, I did not want to feel it.

So only like a little child can, Emma shows up in my room, where I am sitting, on the bed with guitar in hand. And when I say she “shows up”, she really did. With no regard for what was going on externally, she climbed up into the bed and began to weep and cry-out about the depths to which she was missing Mimi & Poppy. She was letting her heart come out. I just held her and we talked about our memories from the week and what she was going to miss. I walked with her as she grieved out loud, what she had lost. She told me she was afraid and sad. As we kept talking, I picked up the guitar and asked if she would like to help me write a song about it. Just before she had come into the room, I had stumbled upon a little riff and didn’t have any words for it. Emma and I created a masterpiece about walking into the pain and loss, feeling it all, and finding true joy on the other side. Gladness.

I sang the song for Kristin the next morning and she wept. She knew what we were talking about in the lyrics. As with all of my songs, I am always hopeful that they will meet people right where they are. I love that there is just as much life in them for me. This song is no different.

That was Monday. After you watch the video, read the next entry for the rest of the story......


Darrell & Emma Vanzant

© 2009 Soul Prop Music

Life is hard that’s no joke

Pain is real. Your tears have told you so.

But there’s a gift when you walk into the pain, into the loss

Dream of so much more

Hope for the top

Grieve to the core

And You’ll Be Glad

You’ll be glad

Tell the truth. Reveal the need.

This is the language you were born to speak

Give it up. Let it go.

Years of defense your heart has known

Watch that sun go down

There’s great joy and great sorrow

Feel them both now

And you’ll be Glad

You’ll be Glad

Blessed if you will grieve

Trade beauty for ash

Find strength in the weak

And you’ll be Glad

You’ll be Glad

Monday, June 15, 2009

Favorite Moments, Week 3

Let me just say... my parents arrived in Guate and from the moment they stepped off the plane, we were GOING. Non-stop.
I laughed with them before they left on Sunday saying, "I will need at least a week to recover"... and, that was no joke! :) We had a blast.

Here are some of my favorite moments from week 3:
  • Time in Zone 3, the national cemetery and city dump, conversation with Brady over lunch.
  • San Jose and watching my kiddos play hard in the ocean, the smell of the salty air.
  • Mariachi band on the beach... HILARIOUS!
  • The Holy moment on the shore with the Guatemalan children.
  • Dad's "second round" at Sky Cafe.
  • Los Gozosos again... Emma's sadness about leaving her friends there.
  • ChiChi market and the crazy women harassing my mom and dad.
  • The "above mentioned crazys" calling me a few choice names in Espanol.
  • The beauty of Lake Atitlan.
  • "Little Victor" exclaiming, "what the ______?!?!" Cussing from a 6 year old. Driver's son. SO funny! Hoping my own kids didn't pick up on any new "spanish".
  • Hermano Pedro again... Holding sweet Ariana.
  • Nayeli's expression when she opened her gift. And, her hugs when we were leaving. Priceless.
  • The train and carosel ride... Mac's face and Emma's laughter.
  • "Gustavos" :)
  • 3:30am wake up for the flight to Tikal. The view from the top of Temple IV.
  • My mom in a tuk-tuk. Hilarious.
  • Pizza by the pool at Santo Domingo on the last night... swimming in the dark with the kids.
  • Slumber party at Santo Domingo afterward... all 6 of us in one hotel room.
  • Dad's kiss on the cheek... to wake me up in the morning.

My parents are amazing. They have HUGE hearts... and, they came all the way to Guatemala because they know I love the place.
I am beyond grateful for their love and support...

Thanks Mom and Dad.

I love you,


Yesterday, Emma kept crying and whining all day and night. When we would ask her why, she would say she was "sad because Mimi and Poppy left".

So, being the "compassionate" mom I am.... I chalked it up to her being overly tired and tried to stay out of her way. That was most convenient for me anyway.

Convenient until about 9:00pm last night, when I was replying to some long overdue emails... as I was writing some friends, it hit me...

I am REALLY sad too.

As I tried to unpack the sadness and loss, I realized that we have been in REALLY great community while here in Guatemala.
At home, we struggle with the lack of deep friendships... and sometimes feel like the suburbs are a desert of loneliness for us.
Here, it has been different.
It's been a very rich time with AMAZING friends and family that share similar dreams, hopes, and desires. We have spent weeks together with them... living, exploring, serving, and dreaming. The facade has been removed and honest relationships have emerged. A third world country is a good place for some quick perspective and insight to my own heart.

Soooo... with anything GREAT... comes GREAT sadness and loss when it leaves.

My parents left yesterday... the last of the bunch. And, thanks to the honesty of my 7 year old... I stopped fighting the sadness and let the grief wash over me. It was almost cleansing...

Then... I ate some chocolate ice cream (thanks Sarah!) and called it a night. :)

Two more weeks,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breath of Heaven

We have been going non-stop for the last few days. Kristin's parents are here and we have been packing in the memories. Here's a little run-down of our yesterday:

1. Shuttle pick-up at 8:30am.
2. Drive to Chimaltenango, about 45 minutes away to visit Los Gozosos again.
3. Leave Los Gozosos around 11am and start driving toward Chi-Chi.
4. 2.5 hours later, arrive in Chi-Chi and walk around the market for about two hours.
5. Drive to Panajacel (about an hour) and have dinner there on the banks of Lake Atitlan.
6. 7.30pm, start driving back to Antigua, a 3 hour drive that we made in 2 hours. We got home at 9:30pm.

All in all, a good 10 hour day.

You may remember we visited Los Gozosos last week with the Goodfellows. While we were there, I connected with a little boy named Andres. Kristin joked in a previous blog about how I was scheming a way to take him with us.

That really wasn't a joke.

Sure the comment was framed with laughter, but it was one of those moments where you realize that the other person who made the remark, really is not joking and you just look at each other like, "are you serious?!?'re serious aren't you?!?...Oh my goodness, he's serious?!?!?!?". Yes, that kind of moment.

When we arrived, I went straight to Andres' bed and picked him up. I held this little boy the whole time we were there yesterday. The whole time. I laughed and cried. I prayed and hoped. He had a distinct, yet familiar smell that I remembered from our earlier visit. You know those new baby smells? By the end of our time, which felt so brief, Andres was nearly asleep in my arms. And like most babies do (he's actually 4 years old), he was fighting the sleep. So I held him closer and he buried his face into my chest and "rooted around", still fighting sleep. I just held on.

As we got into the van, I noticed the smell of breath. And all I can explain is to say, it was that child's breath. It's not really a stinch, but for me it's not the most pleasant thing. Well, I felt like I was covered in it. You see, where Andres had been "rooting around" on my chest, he had left an aroma of child's breath from my left shoulder, to my right. At first, I tried to wash it away with some water, then I tried some of that alcohol hand wash stuff that had an Apple scent. Still no luck. I could not escape the smell.

As the day went on, I really missed Andres. Everytime I looked to my left or right, he was there with me. If I lowered my head to nap, he was there. Even now, a day, a shower, and different clothes later, I can still smell this precious boy.

I miss him.

I am lonely for him.

My heart longs to hold him again.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The gift on the shore

Yesterday, we drove down to Puerto San Jose to visit the black beach on the Pacific Coast.
We had so much fun playing in the volcanic sand... and the surf with its HUGE waves that knocked us over again and again with great force.

While we were there, we had many "out of the ordinary" moments.  I mean c'mon, how many times do you have a candy and fish vendor walk up to you on the beach?

And, probably the MOST hilarious moment of the day was when a mariachi band walked up and began playing la musica.  One word.  RANDOM.  :)

However, one moment for me stands out above the rest.

I was sitting on the sand, watching the kids play, when a family walked up and stood next to me.  At first, they were admiring the beautiful blue water... just standing there.  Then, I heard the adults trying to encourage the kids to get in the water.  All of a sudden, one little girl strips down to her underwear and runs into the waves.  The force of those HUGE waves knocked her over immediately... and, as soon as she resurfaced she let out a laugh that was pure joy.  Her smile lit up the entire beach.  
Then, I turned back around and watched as the family tried to convince the older, preteen boy to go join his sister.  It was very evident that he was afraid... he obviously had no bathing suit like his younger sister.  With all of his fear, he was trying desperately to remain on the dry sand.  But, the women in the family would NOT hear him... I turned around and watched as they huddled around him and took off his clothes.  Immediately, I felt sorry for this kid... how humiliating and embarrassed he must feel... left in nothing but his underwear... I wanted to help cover him, hide his nakedness.  In what seemed like only a few seconds, they were dragging him down to the ocean where he would join his sister.  

His sister gave him a look like, "It's ok... yes, it's wild and dangerous... but, it's ok... you'll be safe."  Then, he slowly tested the water and the waves.  Timid at first, then his confidence grew a little more each time.  The first big wave that hit and pushed him into the sand, I thought... "Oh no, game over..."  Everyone got silent and waited on his head to resurface... Then, just like his sister, he came up from the bottom laughing with such JOY that it literally brought tears to my eyes.

It was obvious that these children had never seen the ocean before, much less felt its power and played in the wild waves.  

It was a Holy moment for me.   A gift.  

On the way home from dinner last night, D and I were walking and talking about our own lives "at the shore."  Asking the question... where is God calling us to strip down and run with abandon?

It's a good question.  A Holy one.  A gift.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Antigua On A Tuk-Tuk


We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog update to bring you:

"Antigua On A Tuk-Tuk"

This is how you get from El Mercado to Casa Santo Domingo in less than 6 minutes.  


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


We did a switcheroo yesterday at the airport, with the Goodfellow's departure and my parents arrival.  It's the first time for my parents to be here in Guatemala and we were all so excited as they stepped off the plane.

So... since they are only here a week there was no time to waste, right?!?  :)

After we picked them up at the airport, we drove down to Zone 3, the neighborhood at the Guatemala City dump.  Once there, we met up with Brady.  Met some new friends and reunited with old ones.
 Mac couldn't wait to show Mimi and Poppy the concrete floor he "made".  He was SO proud!

Then, we headed over to the national cemetery that overlooks the city dump.  Here, my parents were able to see and experience it from afar... the smell, the vultures, the trucks, the people...
the death and the life.

It is still sobering for me, every time I go.
The sweetest time for me yesterday was at lunch.  We were at a small cafe... me, D, the kids, my parents, Brady and Victor (our driver).  Dad was asking Brady about his job, ministry, goals and purpose.  Brady's words still ring in my head and heart... 

"All I know how to do is show up and be faithful."

Such a word from the Lord to me... the me who struggles with performance and grace.

It was beautiful.  Thanks Brady, for showing up and being YOU.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Favorite Moments, Week 2

The Goodfellow familia left at 5:00am this morning.  We were so sad to see them leave... now our kids are grieving their departure and driving us crazy with statements like, "I'm booorrreedddd....".

As I was in the shower (at the crack of dawn)... I began reflecting on some of my most favorite moments over the past week.

  • The excitement as the Goodfellow's arrived in Guate, it's been 2 years... and, WAY too long.
  • The faces on the hotel staff as 8 kids bombarded the breakfast buffet.
  • Our "big helpers" in Zone 3, mixing and pouring the concrete.
  • Mac and Charlie, separated at birth?
  • Listening to Fito (Guatemalan YL leader) as he told his story.
  • Tyler's "ministry" to the local Mayan women.
  • Being told "frio!" every time we took the above mentioned baby outside without socks, winter hat, and sweater.  Seriously, do these people know that it's 75 degrees outside???
  • Charlie Greene's birthday fiesta!  And, the conversations that flowed during the party.
  • Our kiddos playing together... futbol, running on the roof, legos, sword fights, and cartoons in Espanol.
  • Emma and Riley at Los Gozosos.  Priceless.
  • Hanging out with great friends every night... and, dreaming together.
  • Cramming 10 kids and 6 adults into Brady's Ford Explorer.
  • Guate!, Guate!, Guate!
  • Smiles and laughter from the precious souls at Hermano Pedro.
  • AND... 9 (yes, 9!) people in a Tuk Tuk.  The impossible... with no pictures to prove it!
My heart is SO FULL from this past week.
Thank you Goodfellow Family!
Thank you Greene's!

We love you all in such a special way...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Joy-FULL Ones

Yesterday morning, we loaded up our families in the shuttle and drove to the city of Chimaltenango... to serve in an orphanage there called Los Gozosos (The Joyful Ones).  

It's a home for 11 special needs children... 
like Nancy...

...and Candy
...and Andres.
I'm fairly certain Darrell schemed some possible ways to kidnap Andres.  :)

They are all precious children... definitely, FULL of joy.  

What gave me the MOST joy however... was watching our girls (Emma and Riley) connect and engage with our new friends in such a special way.  

Emma had such a sweet bond with Nancy... one that I hope she never forgets.  I know that I won't.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

standing in awe

We just returned to Antigua from GC, where we worked with the Greene's and the Goodfellow's. We poured a concrete floor for a family of 8, who all live in the same 10x12 "house".  We have been serving in zone 3, the neighborhood at the dump.

 My words fall short of what it did to my heart, being there.  My hope is that pictures may tell the better story.

Once we got back to the hotel, this is what I read and wrote in my journal...

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore stand in awe of God.  If you see the poor and oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things."   Ecc. 5:7-8

I am "standing in awe" of who God is today... the community of friends the beauty of serving with our own kids (LOTS of them!)  :)
...His heart for the poor and oppressed
...the redemption and hope being poured out in the community by the Vida Joven (YL) leaders 

Standing in awe,

The dirt floor, "before" picture.
The kids LOVED mixing and pouring the concrete.  :)

The neighborhood where we spent the last two days.

Tyler was a HUGE hit with everyone.