Sunday, April 21, 2013

Embracing Life

In 28 years of my life, I have walked through moments of pure joy, intense grief, tremendous successes, and equally tragic let downs.  But through every bit of it, I grow.  I learn more and more about who I am, what I want out of life, and how to approach the world around me and the people in it.  I don't believe in the idea that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  Like the lemons that life hands us are an attempt to break us down and if we can just "weather the storm" we'll be better for it.  What happens if after a tragedy or a let down, we feel broken?  That phrase has never made me feel better about bad things happening in my life.  It makes me feel like I'm teetering on the edge of "not surviving"!

I prefer to view life as an ever changing symphony (I'm a musician...).  We all have a part to play and even one missing part changes the entire thing completely.  Things change while others stay the same.  Sometimes one section or one person gets featured while the rest of us are "supporting roles".  At other times, we get a solo and everyone else relies upon us to soar through that with grace and ease.  When we make a mistake, we can't just walk out.  We have to take a note of what we did wrong...where we stumbled, and make it better the next time we come across it!

Just like a musician is always striving for the perfect performance, so are we always striving for perfection in our own lives.  This can be helpful or hurtful, but it's all about how you handle that pursuit of perfection that defines who you are. Do you beat yourself up when you mess up? 
 Do you take road blocks in stride?  Do you relish in victory?

For me, it has been the most difficult times in my journey that the most people have watched me to see what I do next.  Let's face it, dealing with difficulties is not a strong suit of the human race!  I have to remember that when I face discord, the outcome is not always just about me.  It is about the woman who hears my story, the student who looks to me for answers, the reader who has a similar story. And if I just "roll over and play dead", not only am I but they too are worse for the wear.  So I spend my time trying to find the silver lining in bad situations and soaking up all the joy in the good ones.  We learn as we go along.  We each play an important, unmistakeable, and pivotal role.  And it is EXPERIENCE which makes us stronger...

My blog, Caribbean Daydreaming is about my experiences during a life altering time in my journey.  My husband is attending medical school in the Caribbean, and I have gone from living in the perfect little suburban home in the states and teaching middle school, to living in an apartment on a tropical island while being a housewife.  There are ups and downs and LOTS of crazy stories in between!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Inspirational Women!

I spend a lot of time in my week with KSBJ playing on my computer.  That's the Christian radio station we listened to in Houston, and they stream live all the time!!  I recently was listening to a 15 minute sermon there that covered me with goosebumps and smiles.  God has been revealing a lot to me about His people throughout the centuries.  Particularly the women in the Bible.  And this sermon just gave me chills in light of the things that have been in the forefront of my brain lately.  Let me share a little about what I've learned in the past 9+ months and I'll finish out with the points from this sermon that have inspired my thinking this week:

Sarai - She was Abraham's wife and Isaac's mother.  God had promised Abraham that He would make his descendants "more numerous than the stars in the sky", yet Sarai was barren.  She waited and waited and it never happened.  Her womb was still closed.  So she took matters in her own hands and just made a mess of it.  Then, at a seemingly impossible time in her life, God blessed her with a son!!  Despite her sinful nature, despite the "impossible" odds, God did it anyway.  Because he said He would... (Genesis 16)

Rebekah - Rebekah inspires me so much!  She specifically asked for God's revelation concerning a pregnancy for her.  She struggled with infertility for years and finally was blessed with a conception at around 40 years old!  And she didn't just conceive one precious little bean...she conceived twins!!  And God was with her the whole time giving her revelations and knowledge and guidance about how to raise her boys. (Genesis 25)

Samson's Mother - She and her husband had been in turmoil for years over their inability to conceive.  Was it his fault, was it her fault?  Would it ever happen for them?  She, I'm sure, spent many a night in tears and many an hour in prayer.  Then an angel of God appeared and told her that not only would she conceive a child, but this son of hers would begin to deliver Israel.  He was already set apart for God before he drew his first breath!  God intended to bless her not only with her heart's desire, but He also intended to bless so many others with this child.  What a miracle! (Judges 13)

Mary - Of course this one is a little obvious!  Mary didn't struggle with infertility, but God gave her an "impossible" story for sure!  He said "Even though you're a virgin, you're going to give birth to a son.  But He's not just any baby!  No...He is the Son of God!  He's gonna save the world!".  Wow what a testimony for her!  And what a path of trust and faith she had to walk not just during the pregnancy but for the years during and after Jesus' physical walk here on earth.  And then God ALSO blessed her with a kindred soul in Elizabeth... (Luke 1)

Elizabeth - She struggled with infertility and had given up hope that it would ever happen for her and her husband.  She was past menopause, her husband was was over for them.  But then, it happened!  It was a miracle!  Makes me wonder if God drew it out and waited until it was "impossible"...and THEN He made it happen.  All the glory comes back to Him right?  It was clearly by nothing man could have done!  And just like all the other women we've talked about...her son was no ordinary baby.  He was John the Baptist...a pivotal character in the gospel story! (Luke 1)

Here are those points that were so inspiring to me:

1) "If your dream doesn't need God, it's not big enough!" - I am a living testimony of this!  Everything that has happened in the last year has been full and total evidence that if you have a dream, even if it seems impossible, God will make it happen if it's meant to be.  Medical school was meant to be.  And here we are!  This is also a reminder to me in our baby hopes that He can and WILL make this happen for us!  It's certainly a dream only God can make happen!

2) "What's coming against you is not nearly as strong as what is within you." - Mary was initially very fearful.  I'm sure Sarai and Elizabeth were also scared thinking about maintaining a pregnancy in their old age.  Samson's mother and Rebekah each had to have been apprehensive in understanding what they were taking on in raising the boys God had blessed them with.  But what was within them (and is within me...and you!) is much stronger than that doubt and fear that is constantly being hurled our way by Satan.  "For nothing is impossible with God! Luke 1:37"  Tap into that inner strength that comes from God.  It's the only way we can combat that fear and doubt!

3) "The Holy Spirit will comfort you!"- If you're on the right road, there will be an inexplicable peace.  A peace that streams from God.  Even if it's scary!  Even if it seems impossible!  The Holy Spirit will continue breathing new hope into you daily.  So cling to that new hope, that new life, that Comfort!  He will never leave you or forsake you...He will never let you down!

4) Get around people who BELIEVE IN YOU!  Surround yourself with like-minded people who share your walk or are willing to join your army of prayer!  You need support!  Of course, be sure you're on an army or two yourself as well.  Pray for each other.  Lift your prayers and petitions to God on your own behalf, but also on behalf of others.  Ask for prayer when you need it!  Prayer works!  I think it's because when others pray for you, when "your" prayer is is theirs!  It becomes about more than just you and your dream.  It gives God the opportunity to bless multitudes at once.  It helps us learn to be selfless.  I've seen evidence that it works!

So can I pray for you??  Just email me or Facebook message me.  I'll pray...I promise.  That's not an empty promise either!  I LOVE seeing God bless others that I've been praying for!  And would you pray for me?  Jonathan and I could really use some!  Pray that God will heal my body and prepare it for a conception soon.  We're being purposeful in our prayers too, so if you want the "specifics" just let me know!  I'd be happy to fill you in!  We'd love you to be a part of our army!!

And WHEN He follows through with His promise to us, we'll be sure to share all the good news with you so you can give HIM all the praise!!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Only in Dominca Part 1

We've found ourselves saying this a bunch lately.  Thought I'd fill you in on a few:

Only in Dominica does the sound of a little old man screaming (aka-the neighborhood goats) wake you up before your alarm does.

Only in Dominica do you look out the window to find that the screaming goat is only upset because he's found himself on the roof of a house and can't remember where the stairs he walked up to get there are so that he can get down. (I have to give credit to Mitzi for this one!)

Only in Dominica does the fence surrounding campus get painted EVERY SINGLE DAY

Only in Dominica would you find yourself having a conversation with a gecko who is contemplating entering your house that sounds like this "Ok dude, if you want to come in and eat bugs, I'm fine with that.  But if you touch me or jump on me, you're dead.  Got it?  Make your move..."

Only in Dominica do you hear a loud speaker at 8:00 AM driving through the streets of Portsmouth announcing a meeting for all landlords (or whatever other current events that are happening around town...)

Only in Dominica does that loud speaker truck also double as the transport for "The Dominican Royal Family" on Sundays.  At least that's what I've deduced...they're all dressed up, riding in the back of a junked out hoopty, waving to people as they pass...

Only in Dominica do the Saturday farmer's markets also come with a dose of streetside evangelists blaring fire and brimstone from a, yes you guessed it, junked out hoopty...

Only in Dominica are you totally psyched to find Greek yogurt, milk, AND cheese at the grocery store on the same day!

Only in Dominica does the milk section smell strongly of armpits, cheesy poofs, and toots.  Apparently the dairy section is the correct place to put vacuum sealed salted fish/pork/mystery meat...?

Only in Dominica can you tell where people live according to how out of breath they are/how much they're sweating when they get to the main gates.

Only in Dominica do the words Shack Attack mean something besides a great basketball play by Shaquille O'Neil... (yes I spelled "shack" correctly)

Only in Dominica are there just as many Chinese restaurants in a 1 mile radius as there would be in China itself.

Only in Dominica are the names of the Chinese places Bob's and George's.

Oh there are so many many more...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Our Neck of the Woods...

 Jonathan and I have recently moved from our Comfort Zone (that was our former apartment complex's name...I love the pun...) into a much more spacious apartment called 5D.  It has been an experience so that definitely takes some getting used to.  But we feel like it's totally worth it to be able to call this sweet little apartment ours.  It's a little confusing to try and tell people where we live.  The group of buildings are all called 5D, but our particular apartment is #4.  Usually we have to tell people this: "We live in 5D #4...yes, the 5D apartments, but not the white, no, it's the red house up in the trees...yes, go up the driveway to 5D and we're on the right...uh-huh, almost to the top of Banana Trail...".  Confused yet?  Yeah...we are still using the classic "It's Crystine and Lance Goebel's former apartment" (they were quite a "famous" couple around here that were involved in a lot of Ross Christian Fellowship stuff...).  In a short few semesters there will be fewer who know who they were, so we're gonna have to start coming up with better directions I guess!  Here are a few shots of the outside of "The Treehouse"

We got a little spoiled at Comfort Zone with the proximity to campus.  It's literally 3 minutes from the main gate, 7 minutes from the Annex (where most of the 1st semester classes are held), and you can throw a rock to The Barn (which is a multipurpose building that lots of students choose to study in).  Most apartments are not nearly that close to campus.  Despite the proximity perks though, the apartment  proved to just be too small for two people.  We sometimes felt like we were living in a dorm room!  We will miss the awesome ocean view there and the location (and the fact that we were living on the same floor as the Wellses!), but we won't miss much else.  It was time for us to move on, and we are grateful that we were able to start our experience here in Dominica in such a nice place...other students weren't as lucky!  The new place is a bit of a hike.  It's not much further from the main gates, but instead of being just down the street, we live UP the mountain!  I keep telling myself that it's good to get my heart rate going at least twice a day.  Because it's a steep down and steep up hike both ways.  But there's all sorts of fruit trees and plants and flowers along the "short cut" so it makes it bearable.  Of course the heat of April (and the impending heat of summer) are probably going to make me change the way I do things.  Once I'm in town, I'm there for the day.  Once I come back up, I'm not leaving again unless it's REALLY important!

Now don't get me wrong.  Even though the hike is a bit tiring, it is SO worth it to live up here.  The apartment is 3 bedrooms.  One bedroom is the master, one is a guest room, and one is an office space perfect for Jonathan to study in.  There are A/C units in all 3 bedrooms (woohoo!) and a big living room and HUGE kitchen.  It's like a little cabin because there are all wood floors, wood panelling on the walls, and a wood ceiling.  The furniture is very "70's fabulous" but we're working with it.  It's got a nice big TV (score!) and the bathroom is even bigger than our "quasi living room" at Comfort Zone was.  Wow!  We've got an electric oven and stove top (which is awesome because 99% of ovens and stovetops around here are powered by propane).  The apartment also came with a toaster oven and a microwave.  We have a queen sized bed in the Master bedroom which is AMAZING since we were sleeping on a full size bed at CZ.  I've taken to calling that room "my sanctuary" because it was the first room I finished once I got here, and it's so breezy and islandy.  We've got a nice mosquito net that's "four poster" so no more eating mosquito net in the middle of the night!  The bed is nice and high (reminds me of our master bed at home) and we've even got two chests of drawers in there (funny what makes you really excited when your paradigm shifts...). We have nice crisp white bedding which makes it so airy and clean feeling.  I LOVE it!

Right now the guest room is still a work in progress.  It's the spot where all the stuff that doesn't have a place yet has gone, but eventually it will be all fixed up any and everyone is welcome.  We can even put a blow up mattress in the office and it would be the perfect little bedroom for anyone!  We'd love to have you come visit for sure!  We are the only ones living in this little house even though there's an apartment downstairs.  Our landlord doesn't rent that out.  In the mornings the mist from the mountains keeps it nice and cool and the birds up here just sing their little hearts out.  So beautiful!  So without further ado...take a look at our precious little Dominica home...The Treehouse!

Our "sanctuary".  Beautiful, breezy, and serene.  If the curtain to the right of the bed looks's the shower curtain from CZ.  Necessity breeds invention! ;)

This is the office.  Nice right?!  It's a really great work space for Jonathan.  It's got it's own air conditioning unit and two great windows.  The pic on the right is the desktop that belongs to the landlord (we can use it if we need to).  Why is that a perk??  Because that little set up is the internet hub for all the buildings in this neighborhood...which means our internet is FABULOUS!  What a nice change from CZ...

Our huge bathroom.  Not spectacularly beautiful, but spectacularly big.  SO nice to not have to crab walk into your bathroom anymore!

The guest room...just lying in wait for visitors!!

Looking through the living room into the kitchen.  Awesome space!  You get a good idea about the quality of the floors in this picture.  Very pretty!  And here's a closeup of our VIP wall.  Growing all the time...send us pictures y'all!!

A pretty good shot of the kitchen table and the "back door".  When that door and the front door are open, the cross breeze in here is beautiful!  That brown chair on the right is one of my favorite spots in the house!

A dreamy Dominican kitchen.  This is such a dream around here y'all!  And it's not even just big for's just plain big!  So much counter space, so many cabinets, and lots of cool leftover stuff in them!  I've got tupperware into next year, 3 sets of cookware, 4 sets of dinnerware, and three whole shelves worth of glassware.  We're set up man!

We feel so very blessed to have found this space.  And, believe it or not, we're paying LESS than we were at Comfort Zone in rent!!  Always a plus.  We are really wanting to steward all this space well, so I've already hosted a women's Bible study up here and we're hoping to have many a grill out/pot luck/get together up here for the year+ that we'll be here.  And once again, book your plane tickets and come have a nice relaxing vacation at Casa de Womack-Caribbean Edition!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Babies, and Weddings, and Trunk Shows...Oh My!

Goodness what a week it's been!  I am back on the island finally.  If you're thinking "Wow Rach, I didn't know you left!", I apologize.  I had to sort of keep it under wraps!  Let me tell you how blessed my heart was over the past 3 weeks that I was home.

1.) The reason I went home (and was able to get there!) was because one of my best dear friends Marivy was getting married.  She and her now hubby Bryan got engaged in July right before Jonathan and I left for the Bahamas for MERP.  We were so blessed to get to be a part of the engagement festivities, but were so sad that, even though Marivy had asked me to be a bridesmaid, we weren't going to be able to make it to the wedding.  Living on student loans and little bits of extraneous income that I make with my business and other things just doesn't leave a whole lot of extra room financially.  When we were home on break in December, Bryan called me up and, in a nutshell, said, "Rachel, I really want you to be there.  And I know Marivy does too.  It would mean a lot to both of us for you to be a part of the wedding.  Whatever it's gonna cost me, I don't care.  I want you here.  And I want it to be a surprise for Marivy!".  Did you get goosebumps??  Cuz I did!  I was completely floored and words can't express how grateful I am to him for being so generous!  So I figured out the dress situation and got a flight situated kind of at the last minute and flew my little tail back to the states to be a part of all the fun.  She was TOTALLY surprised (good job keeping the secret Bryan!).  When I walked in, Marivy just looked at me kinda weird and then burst into tears.  She said "I don't even care if everything goes wrong're here!"  She said when she first saw me she was like "Wow, that's Rachel.  Oh my gosh, she's not supposed to be here!  Wait...she's here for the wedding!  And...she's gonna be a bridesmaid!!!!".  After the initial shock wore off she was worried about my dress...and I already had it.  Then she was worried about my flowers...Bryan had taken care of it.  It was all done and she was so happy!  It just blessed my heart and I'm so glad I got to be a part of her special day.  Look how gorgeous she was!!

Such a gorgeous bride right!!  Her jewelry and hair piece are from A Different Kind of Flair (that's my small business).  She knew that was coming because she and I were coordinating on exactly what she wanted.  She even had made the comment that she was happy we were doing the jewelry because "it would be like I was there in spirit".  Ha!  But I was there for real!!!  She just makes it shine, doesn't she??  So beautiful.  

2.) After the wedding, the happy couple hit the road for a mini-moon in Austin.  So I went over to Sara and Jared's house for the rest of the weekend to soak me up some Henderson time!  It was SO wonderful to get to spend time with them.  Emma is coming up on 5 months old already...where has the time gone??  She is just so gorgeous and she totally took to me!  The first time I picked her up she just started smiling and babbling and touching my face.  It was almost like she was trying to give me an update on everything that had happened while I'd been gone!  She's nearly 3 times as big as she was when I saw her in December (she was only 6 pounds and 4 weeks old then!) and she's already eating rice cereal from a spoon!  Such a big girl!  But I got to love on her, spend some awesome time with my Sara just talking and shopping, hang out with Jared and shoot the breeze (and help him babysit!), and worship at my favorite spot...UBC!  I left Houston with my cup overflowing for sure!  Look how precious my little Emma Bug is!

That baby looks more like her daddy every day.  Having known Jared for close to half my life, sometimes it's a little strange to hold a baby that is, like my mom says, "Jared in drag".  She even scrunches her face up to sneeze just like he does!  But she's got Sara's personality.  She even sings too!!  So stinkin' cute it's ridiculous...

3.) Back to OKC I went.  Had some medical tests run and all in all, got really good and promising results.  Made me feel like there's still some hope out there!  It was all an answered prayer since I've been basically "misdiagnosed" for almost 3 years now.  Now we have an answer and it's fixable and we're very happy!  Then, as if I could contain any more baby lovin', one of my best friends Rachel told me she's pregnant too!!!!  Oh so excited for her and Matt.  And I was so excited to get to see ultrasound pics and everything.  I told her that I'm only very rarely wrong on my gender predictions, but this time around I hope I'm wrong.  They have just about the cutest baby boy name I've ever heard picked out and I LOVE it!  I won't reveal it here, but suffice to say if that all comes to fruition that baby is gonna get some serious monogram action from Auntie Rachel!   THEN (again...can my heart be any more baby filled?), another of my best friends Angie introduced me to the latest and greatest addition to their family!  4 week old Cayden Allen Riggs.  What a beautiful baby boy!  I got to love on him a lot and he's such an easy going baby.  Just like his momma in that way!  I can't tell who he looks like yet, but he's got his momma's cute little nose for sure.  During our Trunk Show (which I'll fill you in on later) I just had to get my hands on that little snuggle monkey.  So Cayden and I snuggled on the couch for an hour while Mommy and MiMi shopped at A Different Kind of Flair.  Heaven I tell ya!

Babies, babies, babies!  And can you believe it...there's one more!  My little sister Amanda gave birth to her first baby Carolyn Ruth Estes last Thursday March 28th at 6:33 PM.  She's named after my Gammy!  We are so very excited and Carolyn is such a beautiful baby.  She didn't get much of her mommy, though, that I can tell.  She's got her daddy's curly hair, long legs, long feet, and pouty lips.  Very pretty!  Amanda's husband James is deployed in Afghanistan right now, but he's due back at the end of this month when he'll get to meet his daughter for the first time.  I'm certain that will be a happy happy day!  But I'm also certain that even though he's overseas, baby Carolyn already has him wrapped around her little finger!  My mom was with Amanda for several weeks leading up to delivery, she then passed the torch to my dad and Gammy (they're there now), and then my mom will be back for a long weekend, and the James will be home.  Very exciting changes and additions to our growing little family!  Check out this gorgeous little girl...

My daddy and his first grand baby

My Gammy and her first great grand baby...named after her!

My favorite picture of baby Carolyn...look at those beautiful lips!

4.) Last but not least, last weekend was quite eventful.  First, we found out some awesome news about the official end of Bernice's treatment.  She is officially CANCER FREE!!!  Oh we are so excited!!  There are a few more steps to round out her treatment plan, but we can officially say she's in remission. Praise God for that blessing!!  After hearing that great news, we moved on to our ADKOF Trunk Show.  Which, I have to say, was the most successful trunk show we've ever done.  We had an AWESOME turn out and sold MOST of our items!  It was amazing!  And, as always, we are so happy when people we love end up with the pieces we love.  It really does bless our hearts!  So we launched our new website, and celebrated with a Trunk Show.  And it was a great success.  Check out some of the pictures from it!

So all in all, it was quite an eventful three and a half weeks home.  I barely had a chance to stand still for a minute.  My poor hubby missed me and I missed him.  It was really too long for us to be apart!  After 8 years of being together, that was the longest we had ever been apart.  That last week was really tough without him!  I was so happy to get back here to Dominica to be with him!

I'm finally getting back into a routine, but I will say that it didn't take long before my hectic schedule filled right back up!  I've been busy ever since I got back!!  Jonathan and I moved into a new apartment.  I loving refer to it as "The Treehouse" because that's what it looks like.  I'll be posting pictures and maybe even a video soon.  I hope everyone had a blessed Easter Weekend too.  He is Risen!!

A Different Kind of Flair