Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Noise of Emotions

After writing my last post I realized there was so much more to my story than just feeling the weight of making the right decisions on behalf of my children.  The bigger concept was in fact knowing the voice of God was speaking into my heart and mind concerning matters of direction.  Having security in the journey because of having heard from the Lord.  I longed to know more than anything that I was in the center of God's will for my life and the life of my family.

Prior to 5 years ago, I felt fairly confident at my “calling in life”.  We were moving through life easily with glimpses of a future that was secure, promising and very predictable.  Surrounded by a steady life brought great comfort and directing the paths of our children was not wrought with life altering decisions. I cannot say that life was a perfect bed of roses.  There were plenty of struggles and difficulties but being surrounded familiarity and tons of people who loved and cared for us made those tough spots of life easier.   And then that all changed, feeling led to give up our comfy existence we relocated to Colorado with the dream of serving the Lord through full-time ministry.  Not knowing what that would look like exactly we spent the first couple of years exploring and assessing the terrain in more ways than one and while we had some hard moments of settling in it was kind of fun doing life very differently.  And then reality set in and we realized the kids needed to be in full time school and we needed some direction.  For the first time in the life of our family I felt confused, scared and unsure as to what was best for my kiddos.  Gone was the familiarity of knowing what to expect as well as the support of people to loved us and had an investment in our lives as a family.  Not having a long history in our community we didn't have the luxury of insight of the pluses and minuses of choices.  We did we thought was best and moved in the direction of placing them in a school near our home that was touted as the best school in our area.  I left my adored position as a stay at home mom and took a job in order to get the kids into the school.  We embraced our new direction with open arms and settled into a very different lifestyle.  Along the way, there were bumps in the road.  Challenges that I wonder now if I should have opened my eyes a little wider or slowed down a bit to listen to what God may have been telling me about what was happening in the hearts and minds of my children while they were at school.  That first year was hard for everyone.  The kids struggled but we trudged through because we were convinced that this was the best place for our kids.  After all there were literally thousands of people who would have loved my spot in this school therefore it had to be the right place.  We made it through the first year and at the encouragement of my husband, I remained on staff.  We continued on the path never questioning our direction however slowly seeing the joy in our family diminish.  I took a full-time position that ended up being more than 40 hours a week.  My children were stressed, overwhelmed and tired and I found myself in a constant state of wondering what was our purpose, why were we here and what did God have in store for us.  It had to be something more but I didn’t even have a tiny glimpse of what it might be.  I have to admit, at a couple of points, I was just mad.  I mean we had come to serve, uprooted our family and after 3 years we found ourselves with no opportunities on the horizon.  Again, while my faithfulness was waning, I didn’t question our direction. My husband was confident there was promise awaiting and I trusted his wisdom. We embarked on yet another year but this time we tweaked things a bit.  Feeling compelled to move our high schooler to the hybrid online school where I worked.  He was still enrolled in the same school just a different program and I thought having him near me would make a difference.  There was still the absence of what the long term future held but we thought we were making a good decision for our kiddos.  My life became consumed with managing my work schedule leaving me oblivious to what was transpiring with my kids.  I worked many hours leaving me with no brain capacity to manage my life at home.  In the midst of the turmoil of our family and home life we were given a glimmer of hope when my husband was hired as a COO for a local ministry.  We were so excited about this opportunity to finally serve only to have our fire of our excitement extinguished within a few short months at the hands of a few individuals who were eager to preserve their own skin and cushy positions as opposed to seeing the potential of growth within a stagnant ministry.  We were left devastated, hurt, sickened and in shock at the hypocrisy of individuals who claim to serve the Lord and profess to be Christ followers but behave very different behind closed doors.   The support of employees and field servants within this ministry as well people working outside of ministry was unprecedented however it didn’t soothe the deep wound of having been attacked so viciously by fellow believers.  As I have written in previous posts, instead of getting better life became worse and I came to the realization that no amount of tweaking was going to make it work.  My kids were struggling because they were not in an environment that was conducive to them thriving, I couldn’t manage working a  full-time job and support my husband and kids so we were faced with a decision that was hard.    Believing that our oldest son needed a full-time school we chose to enroll him in a local Christian School.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but something we felt we had no choice. He was spiraling downward and we had to rescue him.   My heart was consumed with guilt in that why had we not done this earlier.  Mommy guilt is the worse and I have had heaps of it as I have come to the realization that while it has been so difficult watching my son acclimate to this new school, at 11th grade, struggling socially, emotionally as well as academically this school provides more than I could have ever hoped for him.  The guilt rises from seeing how different every aspect of his life could be and regretting not having placed him there when we first moved here.  Hence all contemplative thought about decisions and choices.  Why would God allow us to walk so deeply into the woods of life knowing there was a beautiful green meadow just on the other side?  How can we know for certain that the choices we make are exactly the perfect will of God? Why would it seem that he directs us into places of service only for us to be attacked and wounded by our brothers in the faith?   My humanness leaves me so flawed in my ability to make decisions sometimes and I long to have God's voice boom in my head as to what is the best direction.  Even in the midst of our choice to move 3 of our kids to a new school my mind is filled with the questions of “am I doing the right thing”. Because I certainly have made what seems to be poor choices over the past 5 years.  But this does seems like it is the best for them right now.  We just completed all of our Back to School nights and my heart was filled with security in knowing that my kids (especially my little’s) are not only in a great educational environment that is perfect for their learning styles but that their teachers love them and pour God’s love and truth into them every day.  Their hearts and minds are filled with encouragement and praise for the things they accomplish no matter how small and their unique God given talents are celebrated.  They each feel special and “wonderfully made”.  They don’t live in a box looking like square pegs in round holes.  I pray every day that God will make perfect all my imperfect decisions made on behalf of my children.  I long to hear God’s voice confirming in my heart that He is directing our paths.  I have said so many times I think I could do anything as long as I had the confidence that I was living out the will of God but how can we know for certain that we are in the center of His will particularly when there is so much confusion and turmoil surrounding us. I have walked in faith since I was 5 years old and have struggled at various times throughout my life with hearing the voice of God.  Is He silent or am I not listening.  Or maybe I am just distracted….I desperately needed to know.
My quest to know this led me to Amazon, a few nights ago and I did a book search of the words “Hearing God”.  And the first selection was a book by Peter Lord called “Hearing God”.  Peter was a pastor of a church in FL that Mike and I attended often early in our marriage.  Peter’s teaching played a significant role in my husband’s salvation therefore I knew Mike probably had this book downstairs in his library.  I grabbed it off his shelf and as I always do I skimmed the chapters searching for something to quickly jump out at me and where did I end but at the beginning of the chapter on “Hindrance’s”.  And what would in the first few paragraphs but a section entitled “The Hindrance of Runaway Emotions” Could it be that my uncontrollable feelings about my situations be hindering me from hearing God’s voice.  It was really ironic or rather God like that I keep finding myself coming face to face with my runaway emotions.  Sitting on my bedside table are the following books:

Unglued: Making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions
She’s Gonna Blow: Real help for moms dealing with anger
Defuse: A mom’s survival guide for more love, less anger

I am seeing a pattern here…..I truly struggle with my taming my emotions at this point in my life and my reading list evidences my acknowledgement of this.  But my feelings of anger, fear, worry, frustration, disappointment, bitterness, doubt and unbelief couldn’t be standing in the way of God’s voice, or could they?  I mean emotions are normal and after all, I am a 45 year old woman with hormones running amuck, managing life with 4 emotionally charged kiddos with medical as well as mental health needs.  I live 3000 miles from the support of family therefore the loneliness in dealing with this stuff is mammoth.  Surely God understands that and can speak through the craziness in my head and point me in the right direction.  But despite my self talk I soaked in some powerful yet convicting words that gave me a bit of a wake-up call with regards to my desperation of hearing the voice of God.

  • First of all, I needed to admit my emotions to God.   Tell Him exactly how I feel, confession is the first step to breaking down the barriers of communication in any relationship but especially our relationship with God.
  • Secondly, I needed to acknowledge that these emotions were preventing me from hearing God.  So often we hastily make decisions in highly charged states of mind when we should just be still, give the feelings to God, focus on surrender and let Him overwhelm the our desire to fix the situation. 
  • Then I needed to remember that my emotions are much harder to control when you are physically down.  I found as I read a profound rule for women to follow, "you should wait to make decisions based on the will of God until you are restored in body."  For me, this hit home as I think about that “time of the month” when emotions can be SUPER CHARGED.  Finding that sane moment can be a bit difficult for all of us premenopausal women who feel that this “time” hangs around much more than just a few days before we start our periods. But I knew that if I could be very sensitive of those days when I was feeling most clear and take advantage of that time to seek the Lord earnestly and make crucial decisions the result would be far more sound.
  • And lastly, I should ask the Lord to help me deal with my emotions.  “He may have allowed them to surface just so that you can present them to Him to deal with and He can transform them for His Glory."  Or perhaps He is allowing them to emerge in order to change our thoughts or force us to deal with something we had repressed.

This final point was something I needed to process….was God allowing the difficulties, the uncertainty, the darkness, and the chaos to remain in my life in order to get my attention and make me aware of something that needed to be addressed in either my personal walk, or my relationship with my kids or my husband or perhaps our position in life.  This was very possible therefore I knew my first step was to offer my unrestrained emotions to the Lord and ask Him to help me deal with them.  As in all things, we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.  This is true in a physical sense as well as a spiritual sense.  Instead of wondering where God was in my time of need and feeling hopelessly abandoned by the One who saved me, I needed to cease my endless cries for Him to fix the chaos and dysfunction of my outside world and allow him to heal all the hurt parts of my internal world.  So often I think that external fixes will heal the hurts that bring about those frenzied emotions and the highs and lows remain. This was an internal compartment that needed to be cleaned out.  Perhaps when the God who designed me in my mother’s womb brought light into the darkness of that compartment bringing order into my disordered life I could have the eyes to see the perfection in my life.   I found confidence on that day in knowing that if a submitted my emotions to Him in humbleness those life choices wouldn’t seem so overwhelming.  And now I must put into practice what I have learned, one day at a time.

"In the silence of the heart God speaks.  If you face God in prayer and silence.  God will speak to you.  Then you will know you are nothing.  It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.  Souls of prayer are souls of great silence."  Mother Teresa

Friday, August 30, 2013

Taking it One Day at a Time

Today we finished our 2nd full week of school and I consider it a miracle that we survived.  My days since beginning school have not been spent sipping coffee with friends at the local Starbucks nor have I been able to tackle the mounds of laundry or the garbage dump that I think was once our basement.  I rather have found myself spending these precious moments alone crying out to God on behalf of my kiddos.  Begging Him to make His presence known to them in their lonely days. Pleading for Him to bring loving friends into their lives and desperately asking Him to allow them to catch a glimpse of brighter days.  To say that this transition to a new school environment has been difficult would be an understatement.  We have all felt the agony of the pain of change. The routines, the procedures, the curriculum, the rules, the students, it all has been beyond overwhelming.  I have ached with a hurt that only a mom could know as I have watched the 3 people I love the most in the world step out of my van each morning and enter a place where they feel somewhat invisible and lost.  It is not because they are going to a school that is not wonderful, in fact they are in a place surrounded by some of the sweetest people I have met since moving to CO.  They each have some of the most amazing teachers I have ever known who shine the light of Jesus in every word and every action.   But it is more that they are the new kids and being new is hard despite ones age.

This whole transition has literally plunged me into a state of deep introspection about this journey called life and choices along the way.  The simple act of changing schools has caused me to wrestle with some issues that I think I have struggled with for a long time.  A topic better saved for a solo post but for now sit here contemplating the massive role of being a mommy and the incredible responsibility that accompanies that title.  

Until that baby enters your life, you walk a path of where the decisions you make effect only you and perhaps your husband or wife.   Those forks in the road of your journey are monumental and life impacting but if you somehow head down the wrong road, it sure is easier make a u-turn and change directions when other people are not involved.  And then the family expands, little ones are added to the pack and suddenly those choices bring with them more weight when as a parent you think about the impact certain decisions have on those lives you now control.  It is a heaviness that has weighed on me in the recent weeks as we have made some tough decisions to take a new direction in the lives of our children.  And as we have endured a difficult first few weeks of school the natural response is to second guess the decision and thus question even more.   As a wife my greatest desire is to be a source of encouragement for my husband, to submit to his authority as the spiritual leader of our home and to love him unconditionally.  As a mom I equally long to encourage my kids and provide for them every opportunity to grow into the men and women God wants them to be while passionately loving them along the way.  Those great desires carry with them many facets of responsibility and for moms those duties can be at times overwhelming. We are faced every day with decisions that can greatly impact the trajectory of our children’s lives.  What are we to do when those choices collide with the hopes, desires and dreams of other members of the family?  What happens when we move in a direction only to realize we are heading the wrong way and that u-turn could possibly break their hearts?  I have to say that there has been more than one time I have wished for a crystal ball to help me know what is the right thing to do.  There is no crystal ball and I cannot know the future.  I simply have to take each day that is given and walk in faith that God will show me the way I should go, order my steps and when I make a mistake He will honor the attitude of my heart and His grace will be sufficient for ALL of our needs.  My neighbor recently posted this quote on Facebook and it so resonated with the emotion of my heart:

"Behind every great kid is a mom who is sure she is screwing up."

 I was reminded earlier today of that old hymn “One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus” and have decided that it is going to be my anthem for this year…..

One day at a time sweet Jesus 
That's all I'm asking from you. 

Just give me the strength 
To do everyday what I have to do. 
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus 
And tomorrow may never be mine. 
Lord help me today, show me the way 
One day at a time. 

I pray that what ever you are facing today you will take it one day at a time....no more and no less....just a day!
First Day Photos

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Year in Review 2012 -2013

We are just a few days away from the first day of school.  The kids have a nervous excitement as they anticipate traveling a new direction this year in school which is a topic for another post.  In order to start afresh I am going to do a year in review post.  I didn’t take a ton of photos this year but will try to bring things up to date as best as I can.

This past year found Cody in 10th Grade, Grace in  4th Grade, Emily in 2nd  and Joshua, well he started Kindergarten which lasted about a week and then we moved him back to his preschool class.  Cody, joined me at my school trying the hybrid, early college type High School, Grace and Emily remained at the same school that they had been in for 3 years and Joshua headed to a local public school which was a very disappointing experience.  He finished up the year in his preschool from the previous year.  All were incredibly blessed with wonderful teachers who loved them lots which is always an answer to this mama’s prayers.  We didn’t do much in the way of exciting things due to my working like crazy.  The highlight of our year was spending Thanksgiving with my family.  My mom, dad, sister and her family flew out and spent the unseasonably warm holiday with us.  It was so much fun to spend this time together as a family.  We enjoyed a white Christmas that was a super quiet one.  And by New Year’s I was ready to have some friends over for a party which was tons of fun. We had not hosted anyone in our home in a very long time so I was thrilled to entertain once again.  Winter wasn’t too bad this year except for the fact that it seemed to last forever so when we were still wearing winter coats and snuggling by the fire in May, this warm weather girl was not a happy camper.  We celebrated birthdays and manage to squeeze out memories that I know we will always treasure. 

You know when you find yourself is a rainy season of life all you can think about is when will this end.  You are convinced that there is nothing good to be absorbed from stormy times but as I reflect this morning I realize that while this previous year wasn’t the best there were lots of moments to treasure.  So here is our year in review…..

First Day of School 
2012-2013 School Year

Miss Newton

 Mrs. Vandewalker

The Birthday Princess.....how can she be 10 years old?

Emily on Pioneer Day

Now this is an example of my comic relief....He is like this ALL the time and loves to dress up in his sisters stuff.  This is "Hula, Hannah Montana, Cheerleader"

Daddy Daughter Dance


The Birthday Boy

Celebrating Medieval Day

Emily's Birthday at Trampoline World
Her best friend Isabella

Family Celebration
Grace Plays the part of Martha Washington on Patriots Day

And this was taken in May.....yes May in Colorado

After reviewing my photos I realized that Thanksgiving and Christmas need their own post so....more to come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Celebrating 16 years with my #1 Son!

On May 22nd we celebrated our #1 son’s 16th Birthday.  In all honesty it was far from a super 16.  Partly because his birthday always seems to fall during the week of final exams and it is really hard to celebrate when you have end of the year tests looming on your birthday.  But mostly, this past year has been a tough one for my big boy.  In order to protect his privacy, I don’t share a lot about my oldest son.  He is a typical teenage boy and even though I get very little traffic on this blog he doesn’t want his mom broadcasting his life to anyone even if it is just to my mom, sister and best friend.  Nevertheless, I can say that growing up in today’s world is downright hard for kids.  There are countless vehicles for the enemy to attack our sons and daughters in ways that debilitate them emotionally.  They are faced with temptations and pressures that force them to comprehend things that I didn’t encounter until I was an adult and for kids who are fragile or who naturally struggle with self-esteem issues, life can be brutal ,  a minefield loaded with explosive hurts and unexpected confrontations.  Then you add on the pressure of succeeding  academically, throw in the need to build a resume full of activities in order to look attractive to a college and for a kid who doesn’t fall naturally into these things, it can be a rough road to adulthood.

And so as we celebrated his 16 years of life we remembered the promises of God that He will never leave us or forsake us. And that 16 years ago when God performed the miracle of placing our son in our family He did so with a beautiful plan for his life.  He embedded within our son characteristics, gifts and talents that would give him the ability to serve God and do great things for Him.  There are many times that I wake in the middle of the night and go into my son’s room to perform a middle of the night blood sugar check and as I watch him sleep I am reminded that when you peel back all the layers of confusion hurt and anger, he is simply a little boy who like most of us longs to be loved, accepted and to feel that he is important and valued by others but more importantly that there is a purpose to his life and the future awaiting him is exciting.

Like never before, I have been reminded of the fact that Satan is a liar.  He is the author of the confusion.  If he can get into our minds and cause us to believe that we are worthless and without hope then he has taken major ground in the battle for our souls.  He wants us and our kiddos to live in desperation.  As a mom of a teenager, I recognize the importance of pouring truth into my son…whether he wants to hear it or not I need to speak words of life that build oasis’s of hope and encouragement in  the recesses of his mind.  So that when the lies come and he feels like he is in a barren land of dry nothingness, he can run to that refuge of the waters of truth given to him by Jesus through the voice of his mom.   In thinking about this, I was reminded that when my son was small and would experience a hurt he would come running to me and I would scoop him up and love the hurt away…..that’s what mom’s do.  Well now that he is older, he doesn’t run into my arms when he is hurting so I need to deposit my seeds of comfort into his mind so that I can mentally love the hurt away.

Reminding my son that he is precious not only in the sight of the Lord but in the eyes of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, my mom and dad put together a birthday celebration for him when we were visiting in FL.   It was a fun time and it warmed my heart to see him smile.  Happy Birthday to my #1 son!!!!!!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Being OK with an Imperfect, Messy and Chaotic Life

I can hardly believe that summer break is almost over and in 2 ½ weeks the kids will be back in school.  Part of me is very sad to see the lazy days of summer come to an end but then there is a degree of excitement at settling back into a routine and having some moments to myself in the house to finally get my organizing projects done.  I wanted to try to catch up with some blogging by doing a few back posts from last year but in doing so I have found myself dwelling in a state of conviction with regards to social media/blogging and its purpose in my life.  It all began a few weeks ago when I posted something on Facebook and my 16 year old saw it and asked why I posted about “being thrilled with my new blinds”.  I had to admit that I really didn’t have reason other than I really loved finally having some privacy in our family room.  But why did I feel the need to tell people on Facebook, I didn’t know.  Then a couple of days later our pastor challenged us to strongly consider our motives for Facebook/Twitter posts as well as the reasoning for blogging.  I took some time to read through my posts and considered what was behind some of what I was saying:
  • Did I somehow feel the need to vent a hurt, frustration or that someone had just made me mad?
  • Was I feeling insecure about myself or my family and felt the need to bolster my ego by exaggerating an event through words or pictures.
  •  Did I feel the need to broadcast every event of my day so as to let everyone know just how full, exciting and perfect I wanted my life to seem.
  • Or could I have been trying to fill a void caused by loneliness by posting so as to draw attention to myself, receiving comments and/or “likes” hoping to make myself feel significant in some way.

All of which I am ashamed to say were true. For me and many others social media has become a platform to satisfy a need to feel important and has given us all yet another mask to hide behind.  A venue to create a persona that we live perfect lives with perfect husbands and perfect kids.  We are incredibly spiritual, have homes that look like they are right out of a Southern Living and cook meals that would rival anything on Food Network.  And so, we now don’t have to look next door to try  “keeping up with the Jones’s” we merely just log onto the computer.    I have witnessed what a seemingly innocent post can do to a fragile teenagers self-esteem causing him or her to feel that their life could never measure up to the grandiose lives that others profess to have but it is not just teenagers who are caught in this web of emotional destruction.  Grown men and women (myself included) walk through life feeling devastated by the thought that everyone around us is living a better life than we could hope for.  Dissatisfaction overwhelms us and why are we surprised that anti-depressants are the most prescribed medication in United States.

What was I to do with this conviction?  Should disconnect from Facebook and close my blog.  I seriously considered doing both but then I was reminded of Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.”  Considering this scripture not only in my verbal conversations but in those written online conversations can be helpful in keeping myself in check with Facebook and Blogging.  Does that mean that I can’t post something funny that our Joshua says, write a blog about how proud I am of my kids or post pictures of my home decorated for Christmas?  I don’t think so because personally I love all those things.   In fact there is a great joy logging onto Facebook and seeing photos of my friends and family or reading something hilarious that a friend did.  Being so far away from many of them it helps me stay connected….it is edifying for me.  But I do think that prior to posting something I  need to consider if it is wholesome and building someone else up and complaining about my plumber is not exactly edifying.  So, it is my hope to strive for wholesome posts both here on my blog as well as on Facebook that will create a balance between documenting the journey of our family in our very imperfect life and building up a reader through encouragement, laughter and joy.  And so in honor of making posts real here is a photo of what my kitchen looks like this morning.  This is our life….imperfect, chaotic and messy and I am OK with that so whatever your life looks like today, I hope you feel OK.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fun, Family and FLORIDA!

I was blasted with a reminder this weekend as walked into Target and saw the Back to School display that summer is a little more than half way complete.  That makes me sad because this is my most favorite time of year.  I absolutely love warm weather, relaxed schedules, warm weather, sleeping in, pool days, yummy summer fruits and did I say warm weather.  And while the revolving door of neighborhood kiddos in and out of my house makes cleaning about like trying to "brush your teeth while eating oreos" I have loved seeing the kids having fun and enjoying being outside.  Ahhhh..summertime and the living is not so bad.  We haven't done anything spectacular since returning from our visit to FL but the backyard fun here at home has made for some memorable times.  In honor of summer here are loads of pics from our recent trip to FL.  Wish I hadn't forgotten my camera so the phone had to suffice......Happy Times!!!
Beach Day Fun

Cooking at Grandmas!

My dad built this Cobra and Joshua found his favorite spot in the drivers seat.

Ready for a spin!

The tractor would have to do!

Bee found his little helper.

Now this is what happens when the cousins get together....

A nighttime swim is a perfect end to a perfect day

Super silliness before lunch at my favorite luncheon spot in Cocoa Village

Here we all are in our "old stomping grounds"  My dad and the boy who made him "Bee"

My beautiful girl

Another beautiful girl.

Cousins are the BEST!!!!

The kids spent their days in the pool.

My sweet niece Bella

Grace was on a constant look out for lizards which fortunately are plentiful in FL.

Lily, my sisters Labrador had been chasing this lizard for days and was eager for Grace to award the efforts of her lizard hunting labor.
Rainy days are good for a trip to the Bookstore and some hat fun.

Everyone needs a "Bee" to help with the fishing....Joshua and my nephew, Garrett fishing in my sisters back yard.

Grace and Emily enjoyed some time with Mikes mom and sister.  Dress up tea parties are tons are fun!

More Pool Fun!

Dinner out with the FAM!  We love good food especially when we can eat together.

This is my life......

Cody with Nana and Grandaddy
Nammy and Bee with their girls.

I just had to get a pic with Lily....She is the sweetest dog.

Nothing like an afternoon nap!

We enjoyed a wonderful evening with Pastor Erick and his kiddos.  Jenna is his gorgeous daughter from Taiwan.  She and Emily look like sisters.

This was a terrible shot with my phone but I had to include it because it reminds me of how much I love these two, my sister and Erick.  This was our last night and a perfect ending to a wonderful trip.  Can't wait for the next visit!