So…a few things have happened

We last posted 1,343 days ago. A few things have happened. Like this:

Abraham is two and will start preschool this week. Eden is five months old and is super social, which is bad news for her introverted parents.

Here is the super quick update to catch you up.

We live in a great old house in Tulsa (built in 1924). Ben works for Kibo Group International. Kibo Group is a community development focused NGO in Uganda that works with rural village communities to live full, healthy lives. Beth takes care of Abraham and Eden. Highlights of her days are story times around town, reading books and keeping Eden from eating Abraham’s small toys.

Highlights from the last 1,343 days:

We won a new roof from Roofscapes Exteriors. Really, a free roof-which is a pretty big deal. They did a great job on it. If you are in the Tulsa area and need a new roof, check them out:

Our church sold it’s big building, changed the name, and is reinventing itself. It’s been fun:

Beth’s brother, Mike, got married to Audrey and they are about to have a baby:

We still cut a Christmas tree with the Burry family every year:

My brother Daniel gave Abraham a sword. Abraham really likes to throw said sword around the house:

I am trying to fix our deck:

We are resurrecting this blog to do a little project, more on that later. Welcome back.

 

 

Celebrating a decade.

It seems sort of amazing to me that Ben & I have something to celebrate that happened 10 years ago.

 

10 years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I came home from work & was sent on a random scavenger hunt that led me to Ben, a fondue dinner out in the woods, a Big question, and a sparkly ring.

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We usually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a fondue dinner. Here’s our current favorite fondue recipe. (Getting the gruyere cheese at Sam’s is usually a better deal than getting at the local grocery store-it’s a little pricey.)

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This year our dessert was Reese’s s’mores in the toaster oven. YUM!

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Buy Some Cobbler. It’s tasty

I’m trying to sell ten pans of blackberry cobbler this month. It’s truly good cobbler . It even won second place in a contest. See:

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Here is how it works: There are 10 cobblers available this month. A pan is 9 x 14 or so and costs $25. Just send me an email (ben@poolhouseblue.com). Ill make it fresh the day you want it (schedule permitting of course, we can work that out), and deliver it to you if you live in tulsa. If your outside of the Tulsa area we can figure something out. Pay cash when i deliver it.

There is a reason for this of course. Our church is trying to pay off some debt. A few of us thought it would be interesting to each take $50 and try to multiply it into as much money as possible. So, for this little project im donating the $50, after that I will be paying myself back for the cost of ingredients, but beyond that all the money will be applied to our churches debt, or toward ingredients for a second round in February.

10   3 Cobblers Left in January

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care…

We have had an ongoing dilemma in our house every Christmas since we got married.

 

Ben displays the stocking he has had since he was little.

 

But my childhood stocking is still with my parents. And I sort of want it to stay there for now. I guess I just always imagined that when I had my own family we would have matching stockings like I had while growing up.

 

Ben has been reluctant to trade in his stocking for a newer one, so that we could have matching stockings.

 

And so this year (9 years later), we have finally have matching stockings!

 

Because I made one for myself, to match Ben’s. I used a scarf that was a beautiful blue knit fabric, but the scarf itself was a bit too short. So I re-purposed it into the base for my stocking. I used fabric scraps that I have had for a long time for the rest of the stocking.

 

My favorite part is the gold ribbon along the top. This fabric scrap was nestled in the sewing kit I inherited from my great grandmother. I have loved it since I found it (about 15 years now!) & have been saving it for just the right project to come along.

 

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and stretching that creative ability I mentioned yesterday has been good for my soul.

 

I’m really happy with the way it turned out. And that we now have matching stockings. 🙂

And…here we go…

The house is bought, the bags are (mostly) packed, the final wal-mart run has been made. Its time to go to Uganda.

It has truly been a crazy last few days. We really did buy a house just 4 days ago. I think “house owner” has not really set in yet (partly because really we are just %5 owner…the bank still owns a lot of this house!). It is exciting though to be able to look around know we are here long term, that we can do projects that might take a year or more to finish and know that we will be here to see them through. So…its all exciting, but i have not had time to really process the whole thing. Oh…a huge thank you to all the people who helped us move. You made our lives easy that day and we are really thankful!

In the mean time…we are laving for Uganda in the morning. We talk about Uganda and our involvement with Kibo Group a lot on this blog, so just search through the Uganda category if you want to catch up. As we prepare for this trip there are lots of things going through my mind: I am excited to get to share Jinja and the work that Kibo does with new people who have never been there before. At the same time I am a bit nervous about being the facilitator of this trip, and supposedly the leaders of the group. In the end I want those of us that are going, and those who we will be seeing in Jinja to learn and grow from these next few days, and for God to be glorified through this trip.

We will write a lot more about this when we get back, and we may do some updates while we travel (no promises…), until then we hope that you will pray for our journey.

On buying refrigerators and houses

We bought a refrigerator this weekend. Its going to go in that house we are buying. Which all feels very grown up and makes me want Peter Pan to shows up tonight. Its been interesting to see what things are important to us when we make big decisions. Like many people we want to live a somewhat simple life that is uncluttered by lots of stuff, not wasteful of the things we have, and respectful to the people around us. But we are not very good at that. We still have lots of things we never use, but might someday. We still have things we dont need, or, really, even want, we just never bother to get rid of them. We still let enough food go to waste in our refrigerator to feed a small country.

I have been thinking recently that i want to have less things but better things. Things that last, that bring value, that are well designed. I want to learn to truly appreciate one or two of those things then a bunch of stuff.

We only sort of took this into account intentionally when we picked our house…funny because a house is something to be very intentional about. In the end though we ended up in a smaller house. We are paying on the high end square footage wise, but its still less money then a big house, and its a better house. But there is something more subtle about it that is going to be frustrating at first, but will be good in the long run: its smaller sure, but it also does not have a lot of storage space. Less space to hide away stuff that we are unwilling to get rid of. If we want to live a simple life we need a house that will help us reach that goal, not encourage us to do the opposite. I am sure that when we can’t find a place for that random box we need to store we are going to be frustrated, but, in the end it will be worth it.

When we bought our refrigerator we were a lot more intentional about that. We have a bad habit of having way to much stuff in the refrigerator, it gets lost in the deep dark corners, goes bad, costs us money, and is wasteful. A few months ago we filled up the back half of our fridge with old orange juice bottles full of water. We are still getting better at it, but overall this has forced us to be a lot more intentional about what we buy and how quickly we use it. So, for our new fridge we were really intentional. We bought a smallish fridge (18 ft3). But more importantly it is wide, but not deep, so things wont get lost in the back. It has clear drawers so we can see what is in the fresh produce part. It will force us to keep less food around and to plan our meals better. Im sure it is going to drive us crazy.

I think we need to make this a trend. We are not disciplined enough to really live the life style that we want, so, for us, its going to be really important that the things we surround ourselves with help us to live simply. They have to help us, not fight against us.

Fundraising Update!

***Finished! Thanks to the generosity of our church and friends and family we are essentially done. Thanks for the help!***

We only need about $2,000 to finish out our fundraising for this trip! (We started needing $6,400…we are so close!)

This is basically the cost of 1 of our plane tickets.

Here’s how that $6,400 breaks down, in case you’re interested:

  • Plane Ticket: $2000 each
  • In Country Expenses (food, lodging, transportation, safari): $1200 each
  • Total Needed: $6,400 ($3,200 each)
  • Total Received: $4,400
  • Total Still Needed: $2,000

If you would like to help out the details are on the  Kibo page. Just put Ben and Beth in the purpose line of the paypal form, or your check or whatever.

 

Back to Africa

This picture was taken one year ago:

Two wide-eyed Americans, armed with passports, a few shots, prayers & curiosity. Headed into a land & a people that were unfamiliar.

We returned with a good supply of African (& European) dust in our backpacks, stories of new experiences, pictures & memories of a trip that has forever changed us.

And apparently once was not enough. We are headed back. In just 2 months we will return to Ugandan soil, fresh pineapples & bananas, dusty streets filled with a perfume of exhaust & burning trash, & friends who will smile huge smiles & hug us with love & welcoming arms.

We made a short video to explain the trip & why we are going back. You can watch it here:

Trip to Jinja-QuickTime H.264 from Ben West on Vimeo.

And we need help. We have about $2000 so far! And we need $5000 more. Would you consider joining us? Gifts can be made directly to Kibo Group here: http://www.kibogroup.org/give/ Just be sure to mark “Ben & Beth West” on your donation.

We’d love to sit down with you (or skype!) & tell you more about this trip, tell you some stories, ask you some questions. Don’t be shy! Let us know when a good time would be & we’ll set something up!

Back to Uganda

I got an email today. This is what it said:

Shown below is the e-ticket flight confirmation for Beth’s flight. The paid invoice is attached.

So, the question of course is where is this flight to?

Right here:

We are going back to Uganda (just for a little while, don’t worry mom, we’re not moving there…although one person at church did give Beth money to help pay for our trip “to help you get home, not to help you get there”).

It was not that long ago that we in Uganda last, and in the last year Uganda has been in the spotlight (at least on facebook), our friends from Jinja had an epic trip across America, and we have just been living life. It seems crazy to me that we are going to have the honor of visiting a far away place again so soon.

Last time we went to Uganda was very much about learning. We had meet people who worked for Kibo, and it seemed that for us all roads lead to Jinja. We wanted to go talk with people who live in a village and face big hard issues of poverty and who live in towns and face hard issues of broken systems. We wanted to meet the people who have joy and see communities working to solve the problems they face. We wanted to try and understand a little bit of their lives, to visit the Church in Uganda and see God’s people in a different place and context. We wanted to experience and see how Kibo Group works “with communities in East Africa to reach their full potential, tackling poverty and injustice.”

We got to do this. The ripples from our trip continued once we got home. From our group one person is now living and working in Kampala, Uganda and two are working to support Kibo through their business Full Cup. All of us continue to be advocates for Kibo and sustainable development not only  in Uganda but in our own towns and lives. We all  saw and learned a lot. And we still have a lot to see and learn.

For my part, I feel like I have been able to speak with people about Africa in general, and development in Uganda with a unique perspective, and hopefully challenge them with some new ideas because of my experience last year. And I think I have been able to be a small help to Kibo Group as they work to communicate what they do.

When we got back one of the things that we were sure about is that it is important for other people to get to go and visit Jinja, to go and learn like we were able to. Kibo Group sees it as important, strategic, and core to what they do to have people come and experience Jinja, and we thought we could help make that happen for a few more people. So we committed to helping organize another trip. Our plan was facilitate the preparation, wave goodbye at the airport, and come back a few days later to pick them up and hear their stores. In the end though the staff of Kibo felt that it was important for us to be part of the trip so we could be part of what happens in Jinja in whatever roll they need.

So, now we have plain tickets.

Of course this time around is much different, we are not just going along for the ride, but actively planning the ride. And I’ll fully confess I am excited, nervous, overwhelmed and stressed out about the whole thing, and not acting in confidence that God has prepared us for the adventure we are undertaking. So, here is some good’ol online transparency for the whole world to see.

There is a lot to this. I am confident that what we are doing is important. That the long term fruit will be real and significant. But…

  • Soon we will start fundraising, and I worry about how much it is costing us to go. I’m tired of asking people to fund parts of  the work we do. Only a year ago a lot of you reading this helped us do this for the first time.
  • We are trying to challenge the people going on this trip to think in new ways about missions, poverty, and development, these are ideas that I am only starting to understand, how can I invite people into these new ideas that i am just starting to grasp?
  • There are plenty of people in our group older, wiser, and more experienced then us. How can we be leaders to them?
  • I have never done anything like this, the biggest thing I have ever lead and organized is probably a weekend camping trip or something like that. Trip to Africa on the other side of the world? Not so much.
  • oh, and that house we rent and live in? It might get sold soon so we will have to move. (sound familiar?)

So, here we are, on the edge of another adventure where we have to trust God to equip us, our community to support us, and the people around us to be open to what God will do through us.

I can’t say its a simple place to be in, but I am not sure there is a better place….

Christmas Day

We had a low-key Christmas this year. We stayed at home, just the two of us. Might be the first time we’ve done that in 8 years of marriage.

We talked with our families via phone & skype. And missed being with all of them. But this has been a full year for us (traveling-wise) & having just moved a few weeks ago, it has been nice to have a few very quiet days at home (and at work.)

It has been hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year, I think because of all the craziness of the last month. But we did do a few things to get all holly & jolly…

  • We went to see the 91st presentation of Handel’s Messiah by the Lutheran churches here in town. It’s a small presentation, but we always really enjoy the simple simplicity of it.
  • We made & decorated Christmas cookies with our small group & gave them to our neighbors. (We also ate some of them ourselves.)
  •  We continued our tradition of getting our Christmas trees with our friends the Burrys. Love those Wilkinsons!


  • We went downtown to go ice skating with some friends from our small group. There’s a really big tree down there. Really big.

  • And today after church we came home & made aebleskivers for lunch. They aren’t something we make very often, so it’s always a fun treat.

Merry Christmas!