Friday, May 20, 2011

The Gift of Time

Jen, Marcy, me, Stacie & Anne departed in the "early car." We were so eager to get to the ocean and even more excited for some time away together.
This past weekend I was given one of the greatest gifts for my birthday/Mother's Day/graduation. Ericlee asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday this year and I finally realized that more than anything I wanted some time with girlfriends. My husband's family has a beach house in Arroyo Grande on the Central Coast and I was able to snag it for a weekend. I was shocked that eight of us were able to clear our schedules and arrange childcare so we could spend some quality time together for a weekend before we depart for Haiti in early June.

For those who know me well, they know my "love language" is quality time. I love leisurely coffee dates. I love walks through the neighborhood or by the ocean. I love staying up late and just talking with friends. However, I rarely have the gift of leisurely time and conversation with these dear friends. Between eight of us there are 23 kids. Enough said.
Most of the weekend was focused on relaxing (and eating) but we did schedule a few excursions. One excursion was to go pick organic strawberries at a nearby u-pick farm. Our family visited Rutiz Farms in Arroyo Grande last strawberry season and we discovered a gold mine of organic produce. You can't beat $2/pound of freshly-picked strawberries. (I started dreaming up strawberry recipes as soon as we knew we would be going.)
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was just listening to all the diverse conversations. We are a pretty opinionated group of mamas, and we covered topics from adoption to birth to healthy eating to ways to save money to homeschooling. Whether at the breakfast table, walking by the beach, playing late-night board games or even thrift store shopping there was always a spill of conversation. We even a powerful time of sharing and prayer together as we all face the challenges of this season of life.
I told the girls I really didn't want birthday gifts because it was a gift just to be together. Of course, they ignored that request and spoiled me with dinner at my favorite restaurant in Pismo, Giuseppe's. I ordered my all-time fave Butternut Squash Ravioli and tried out a Pistachio-crusted Chicken dish with Cori. The girls also surprised me with a Creative Memories book full of photos, memories and lists of gifts they have experienced in our friendship.

I can remember a time when living in Fresno I felt very alone, wondering if I would ever find friends who shared my values, hopes and dreams. I was reminded that weekend that each of these women (and a few others) are part of a community of friends who have blessed me with encouragement, prayers and just walking the journey together. They challenge me to be a better mother, wife and friend. They challenge me to think beyond myself to a bigger world full of needs. They challenge me to see God in the little things. I often hang out with them one one one or maybe a few of us gather for Life group or coffee, but my heart was truly full to have so many of them all in the same place. What a surprising birthday gift!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Departing June 6: Racing Toward the Finish

Dear Faithful Friends,

In many ways, this last year of preparing for Haiti has felt like training for and running a marathon. We were on a journey to seek God's direction, downsize our belongings, sell our house, share this vision with friends and fundraise. We know from experience that marathon running takes a lot of commitment and preparation. The actual race is really only a portion of the journey. During this time of preparing to go to Haiti, God has really done surgery on our hearts and taught us to be truly grateful for His provision and ready for the unexpected gifts. Hopefully, you all heard our news that we are expecting a baby in November. We were surprised by the timing but we trust that God has a specific purpose for this pregnancy and new life at such a time as this.

Now we find ourselves sprinting toward the finish line. We are both sprinters at heart and we feel the thrill of coming around that final bend with the finish in sight. Our house is busy with making reservations, gathering supplies, packing bags and making lists. We depart for Haiti from Fresno on June 6. We plan to spend a few days with Dorina's dear college friends Greg & Cindy Van Heyst who live in Tampa. Then we fly out to Port Au Prince on Friday, June 10, and take our bumpy truck ride through the mountains to the city of Pignon where we will live.

Our focus this summer will be immersing our family in the culture and learning the language. We are very excited to spend time with our Haitian friends and learning from the leaders of Christian Friendship Ministries. We will also host two short-term mission teams and a Women's Conference is in the works for late August. We are blessed to have Serena Isaak and some other friends come share at that conference.

We return to Fresno at the end of August. We believe this will be a critical time to be back in California as we work on some fundraising projects for Christian Friendship Ministries and await the birth of our Thanksgiving baby. As we mentioned in our last letter, we are very excited about a new partnership with Gina and Richard Wathen of Wathen-Castanos, Inc. in Fresno. They will be building a new orphanage in St. Raphael near one of our largest churches. This fall we will work on raising support and finding sponsors for the 15 children who will call this new orphanage home. We hope to partner with Fresno churches and organizations.

In addition, Ericlee plans to coach another team of runners for the Two Cities Marathon & Half in November raising money for Haiti. Training will begin in late August and culminate with the race on November 6. (See for details.) Please let us know if you would be interested in participating or know someone who would like to train, run/walk and fundraise for a great cause. (Training will begin August 15.) In December, Ericlee is hoping to host another Haiti Crossfit Competition Fundraiser through the S.P.E.E.D./Crossfit gym where he coaches.

Please continue to pray for us as we prepare to depart for Haiti. We have still not been able to sell our house. We are hoping to at least rent it out for the summer or longer. As of right now, we also still lack $500 in monthly donations and $13,000 to buy a vehicle. We have already stepped out in faith and put a down payment on a truck, which we will need to pay in full when we arrive in Haiti in June. We ask you to consider sending a monthly or one-time gift in the next few weeks to help us pursue this year of service with Christian Friendship Ministries. Our official "mission year" will begin June 1 and extend through June 2012. We hope to return to Haiti in early 2012, but we are waiting on God's leading. Whether in the United States or in Haiti, we want to continue to be a bridge to connect resources to our Haitian friends. You can reach us at

In His Grip,

Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada & baby Gilmore