The Purple Van

img_0014When I called the dealership to inquire about a van in our price range, they said there was one in burgundy. We arrived to find it sitting outside the showroom and it was quite purple. Very much like Barney the dinosaur, but with tires. Naturally, because I was 6 months pregnant, I burst into tears. The hormones made me cry. Although, I cried last year when they hauled it to the junk yard and I was definitely not pregnant so I have no explanation for that.

The purple van was in our family for 16 1/2 years. The son we brought home from the hospital in it also used it to learn to drive. It seemed like more a part of our family then just a method of transportation. Just like a family member whom you adore, we made fun of the purple van. We poked fun at the color, the fact that it had crank style windows, it’s bench seats and, up until it’s dying day, it’s longevity.
It traveled highways from Pennsylvania to Florida, took us on vacations and hauled the men on their annual Appalachian Trail trips. We put our new puppy in it for the trip home and consequently learned that she got car sick and we found that you just can’t crank down a window fast enough.

As our family grew in number, then in stature, we realized we needed a larger form of transportation. The purple van was demoted to second in our fleet of vehicles, but she still was a valued part of our automotive family. We obtained something new and shiny from this century with luxurious automatic windows. Still, we used the purple van and had special appreciation for the way the seats felt homey and how the heater could roast you in under 30 seconds. Plus, we were the only people on the block who could still play cassette tapes while driving. We just felt special. Sometimes we’d slowly crank down the windows and share the cassette tunes with the neighbors. We are thoughtful like that.

Even as our children grew they knew to appreciate the purple van. Our oldest son, Nathan, obtained his drivers license and the day I watched him pull out of the driveway alone in the purple van was bittersweet. Part of me wished to be able to hand him the keys to a brand new car. The other part of me was so glad he flat didn’t care that he was 17 and driving a purple van. He was also going to work where he dresses as a cow, so maybe he figured this is just how things are in life. You drive automobiles that are purple and you dress as farm animals.

But as Scripture says….moth and rust destroys….I’m not sure what kind of moth or rust ruined our transmission, but we decided it wasn’t worth paying to fix an almost 17 year old van. So we made the sad decision to fold. We took out everything that wasn’t nailed down, we stroked the cloth seats and sat in them one last time and reminisced while the van sat in automotive hospice. We talked about the trips, memories and miles that are the glue for our family. The kind of glue that moth and rust can never take away. We took pictures of the whole van and were amazed at the 143,000 miles we’d traveled in it.

We closed those sliding doors that behind still had Goldfish cracker crumbs, beach sand and dog hair; the stuff of our life, and we said good bye. It may be just “stuff”, but sometimes the “stuff’ of this world holds a whole lot of good memories.


Are you here today because of Encouragement Cafè  (! Thank you! Thank you for stopping by for some caffeinated encouragement. Please feel free to leave a comment on your way out. May your day be blessed!

Family on a mission

For the record, I’m a homebody. Which is weird because I’m an extrovert so people expect me to enjoy road trips and party with the stars. But the truth of the matter is road trips stress me out and I don’t know any celebrities. So it stands to reason that the Lord would bring the perfect match of a man into my life almost 24 years ago and this man would be a world traveler. Mark was born and raised in Argentina, attended high school in Paraguay and spent time in Africa performing mission work. The icing on the cake is that he’s an expert packer of suitcases and mini-vans. Me? I like to throw things in Target bags and hope for the best. I’m a homebody, but I’m an optimistic packer. The nice TSA people know this.

Several months ago, we were invited to go to Jamaica (Yes! This beautiful tropical island has medical needs!) to help in a clinic where Mark had previously worked. Because our children are older we decided to take the whole family and I will say that any trepidation I had before the trip was completely unnecessary and unfounded. In case you are interested, here are some pictures and highlights of our trip. Please feel free to ask questions and/or comment if you feel led.

The MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center was located in St. Elizabeth parish Jamaica near Santa Cruz. imageWe stayed with an American nurse who has poured her heart into building and maintaining this clinic for the people who live on the mountain. There is healthcare, good medicine and people being the hands and feet of Jesus because this clinic is there.

A Family Practice physician from our home area compiled a list of medications that would be needed at the clinic. We took a large check-in bag filled with all the medicines to stock the tiny pharmacy. The really, really tiny, adorable pharmacy. Nurse Karen is quite proud of her tiny pharmacy! image

The beauty of this trip was that our whole family got involved. On other trips only Mark traveled because there was nothing for the rest of us to do, or our little ones were just too little. But this time we all jumped in and helped. Our oldest son is 18 and is headed off to college soon and thinking about studying medicine. In Jamaica he was able to work alongside his dad performing patient assessments. Nathan took blood pressures, tested blood sugars and wrote down chief complaints. And all his training was done on-site by a professional.image

Unlike here in the States there is no EMR in Jamaica (can I get a hallelujah?!) Mark was able to keep paper records, spend as much time as he wanted with each patient (and no one complained if they had to wait!) and he still saw 30 patients a day. And he was done by 2:30. Seriously.


There were 2 days of clinic work where the patients either came by taxi or walked for many, many miles up the mountain. Once a patient was seen by the physician they were given the opportunity to have someone (me) pray with them if they desired. Or, they could have their prescription filled at the clinic pharmacy. Then the patients just waited outside on metal folding chairs until they could get a taxi back to town or until they decided to just mosey back home. There was sweet sense of comminuty as I watched children play and patients wait to either be seen by Dr. Mark or get their prescription filled. Sometimes there was laughter and singing and just a precious feeling that there was no rush to get anywhere, to do anything or to accomplish a task. Being with those around you and loving on the sick was more important than anything. I saw it. Our children saw it and it changed us for the better.

Our last full day at MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center brought a full day for our whole family. Even our younger 2 children, who may not have been able to work at the clinic in a medical capacity, were able to plug in on Saturday as Nurse Karen hosted almost 40 community children for a day of activities, Bible study, lunch and treats.  We found out that we should’ve brought more bubbles. Many, many more bubbles. And maybe more chalk, but we had so much fun just playing and loving and hugging on those sweet precious children, many of whom come from very unpleasant home environments.


But there was fun and laughter and love that day. We tried to show them love like Jesus would. But, we used bubbles and ice cream. Sticky, sticky love.





And there was soccer (they call it football in Jamaica). Lots and lots of football. Because we were on the side of a mountain the best place to play football was, obviously, on the roof of the clinic. So that’s what our boys did with the Jamaican boys. For hours and hours they played. You would’ve thought these boys had know each other for years instead of just having met, but athletics can cross barriers of language and culture if we let it. Watching those kiddos kick that ball and play and laugh just blessed us. They were a huge mess of sweaty, laughing, stinky, hungry teen-aged boys and it was so fun to watch it all unfold.




Our family wants to go back and serve in Jamaica and I’m not just saying that because I’m looking at 6″ of snow on the ground today. Lives were changed and not just ours. We saw healing take place, hearts changed and souls fed. The Jamaican people are thankful for what they have even if it’s very little so it’s hard not to come away changed and blessed. Funny, we went to bless and we were the ones blessed. Didn’t see that coming.

Do you think about serving? Do you serve? How do you incorporate a family in service? Is medical missions something your family wants to do, but you aren’t sure how it will look with a family?  It’s not impossible! We are bonded as a family when we serve together.


If you stopped by here today because of the devotion on Encouragement Cafè, then I thank you! If you landed here completely by accident or some other way, then I thank you just as much! Either way, I’m glad you are here and I hope you have a blessed day!

What a pain!

I have not been writing lately. Or doing much of anything. The house has been hovering at an unacceptable cleanliness level (according to my standards) for about 7 months. It would be fun to say that I’ve been busy planning an amazing vacation to Aruba, or painting the bedroom that has been on my “to do” list for 3 years. But that’s not true.

I’ve been in chronic pain.

In the past I’ve dealt with migraines and managed to settle on a system where I could still be a mom and finagle the pain. But, the pain I’ve had these last months is something from a different level. Somehow I managed to get bursitis and frozen shoulder at the same time. I’ve given people the cold shoulder, but this is different. There is little range of motion and excrutiaing pain when I move my arm too high.

I can spare you the details because part of when someone is in pain, at least for me, is that we don’t want to burden others with something they can do nothing about. There is a helpless feeling already when one’s body is not cooperating so when it comes to explaining a pained expression or to bow out of an athletic activity, sometimes it’s just easier to smile and nod.

But is this really ok?


Shouldn’t we bear one another’s burden’s and help each other out? So often I have wanted to cry out to someone and tell them how badly I hurt. How I can’t lift my arm to wash the top of my head, blow dry my hair, drive for long distances (not good for a soccer mom), or pull up my pants. I wish I could tell people how I am woken up in the night with pain shooting down my arm and piercing my shoulder so I stay awake for hours. Then I get out of bed in the morning (after not sleeping), start my day and try to look like I’m not in pain. Lots of coffee and mascara help.

What is the right response when you don’t want to be a complainer, but you need help?

Many people suffer in silence when in pain. Whether physical, emotional, financial, spiritual….no one wants to be a burden or “that” person who is whiny. But, how can we learn compassion and how to help others if we don’t sometimes share our weakness and let down our guard. By being vulnerable we can build a bridge to another and show them that it’s ok to ask for help, to hurt, to cry and to take time to heal.

Just the other day the Lord gently reminded me that pain is one of His specialties. He felt it, experienced it and He can definitely handle mine. He can handle yours too.