Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Today, I became a homeowner.

It all started about 3 months ago. The thing is, I have always loved living at home. Always.

I enjoy the special time I have with my parents-- they are pretty cool!-- and all of the perks associated with having a nice, big warm home to live in. The benefits of staying always outweighed the benefits of moving out, in my mind. Considering I am quite an independent person and like to have my own "space" and "time," I have stuck around for awhile. I could never wrap my mind around leaving, and it always saddened my heart to think I would one day make that move.

However, at the beginning of this Fall, the small little thought of "moving out" crept into my mind. With it came a peace that it would soon be time to do it.

I don't think I told anyone this, but one night I did a search online to see what was available for rent or sale in this area. Nothing really popped up, but I was just curious.

Furthermore, I knew when I did move out, I wanted it to be a smart play financially and emotionally. I wanted it to be a situation that would help me to settle in somewhere and not move around (i.e. renting with room mates, etc.) It was also important to me to have a place I could call my own and MAKE my own, because we all know my taste tends to be a bit eccentric... at times, in a way that only I enjoy :)

Anyway, shortly after this way of thinking entered my mind and my little search took place, I found out that one of our family friends was looking for a job out-of-state. She had applied for a teaching position in Indiana at our church-run Gateway Woods.

I found out she was accepted for the position and was THRILLED for her! Sad she would be moving away, but excited for her opportunity.

My very next thought was: What will happen to her house? Her house would be PERFECT for me.

It is a very small, 2-bedroom, 1 bath house situated on one of the main drags in Morton. I have always thought it was a cute little place. In fact, I grew up going over to her house for "Girl's Nights," in which my cousin and I would stay up ALL night and watch movies (and we would occasionally get scolded for being so loud!)

Anyway, the house itself had a special place in my heart, and I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to buy it.

The next morning, I shared these thoughts with my mom. Unbeknownst to me, my mom had been with our friend the night before and she had told my mom, "I want Taryn to have my house." This likely occurred at the same time I had the same thought!

Later, I found out that she had also had a tremendous peace about me getting her home. She told me, "You will never really know how dead certain I was that one morning back in early Sept. (after I knew I was taking this job) that the Lord just spoke to me (clear as a bell!) and said this house needs to be Taryn Kaiser's!"

It was such confirmation to hear that! It definitely affirmed the peace I had in my heart and mind to make this purchase.

Anyway, the moment the idea starting coming to fruition in my mind, I did not waste another moment. I found out who I needed to contact and what I needed to do to get the ball rolling, and I started the process of buying my very first home.

All along the way, the Lord has taught me many lessons! It has been a Faith-building experience for me, as I tackled something I have never done before in my whole life. However, it is awesome to see how God blessed this decision and I am SO excited to move in very soon!

I will share more later about my house, my plans, and post pictures when it is ready. For now, I just wanted to share my EXCITING news. I am officially a home-owner!!!

Praise Jesus!

Love you all,


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Happiest Visit

It was a day that we had baptisms of two twin boys at church. I was standing in the lunch room, catching up with my mom.

"Hi Gwandma," I heard a little voice say. A little voice that at 6 years old, still struggled with the "R" sound.

I didn't realize who this dark-haired girl in the red polka dot dress was until she had her arms wrapped around my middle in an embrace. I looked down to find my niece, and all at once became overjoyed, greeting her with, "Hi Sweetie!"

It had been 7 months since I had seen her sweet face in our church.

As if her sudden presence turned on a faucet, my eyes started to brim with tears. I looked over at my mom to see that her eyes matched my own.

"I can't do this," she told me, shaking her head. Losing control, she fled to the nearest bathroom.

I almost followed her, and then thought better of it, knowing in my heart that if I joined her, we both would return with puffy, red faces.

So instead, I stood by myself in the lunch room. For a moment, everything continued to buzz on around me while I composed myself. Breathing deeply and willing my tears to go away, I wiped at my eyes and told myself to be strong.

A couple of minutes later, I found my 2 oldest nephews, the brothers of my niece. I was glad to see they had accompanied their dad, as well, in attending the baptismal service on this special day. The twin boys getting baptized had him as a Sunday School teacher a year before, and had invited him to come.

I sat down while my oldest nephew ate his lunch and chatted with him awhile. We talked about his school, his teacher, his friends. When it was time to head upstairs, I stood up front with my nieces and nephews and sang. During the song service, my oldest nephew looked at me and asked, "Should I sit with Grandma?"

"Yes," I answered immediately. "She would love that."

He needed no further prompting. During that afternoon's service, our bench was filled with 6 of my mom's grandkids + myself from 2 different families... more than it has seated in quite some time. It was almost like things had returned to the way they were before.

I sat closely to my two oldest nephews and helped them with puzzle books, and watched two older boys be baptized.

Sometimes I think it's rather silly that I allow myself to become so upset over something that seems so small. But these special moments with my nieces and nephews... seeing them run upstairs from Sunday School every Sunday, eat a chocolate donut, sing upstairs, sit with them during the service... all those little moments add up. Suddenly, those small things equate to something really big.

So it's not that I mourn for where they are now... which is still a lovely church environment with a wonderful Christian teaching. Rather, I mourn what has seemingly been taken from me, which are all those little moments in the future that I will never have back.

Yet in all things, God has a plan. I am learning to see the good in all situations, regardless of what my own desires are.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

CA Highway Patrol


I'm just sitting at the kitchen table, sipping cold coffee and working on a PowerPoint presentation for the Child Sponsorship Program.

In some ways, I feel like I'm back in college... putting together picture, video, music, etc. late at night like this. The football game is on in the other room, with casualties on the couch, proof of a busy weekend.

The Pumpkin Festival was spectacular this week. Just perfect weather, and numbers estimating in the 60,000 range attended on one of the days. And the best part was, there was no rain on our parade.

I enjoyed my usual pleasures: an elephant ear, an apple cider slush, pumpkin ice cream, and of course my favorite dinner of pork chop, nachos and cheese, and pumpkin pie every single night.

Every year, our church makes a home-cooked dinner for the carnival workers and serves them on Tuesday night (before the festival kicks off), and I was able to attend and take some pictures. I really enjoyed it!

Meanwhile, I currently feel like a train hit me. Not exaggerating. I tackled the 2-mile "fun run" yesterday (all by myself-- my nephews ditched me). My dad ran the 10K and since we all start at the same line, I jogged with him for about 2 minutes before we parted ways onto our separate routes. There were many others I knew who ran.

I ran last year, too. This year seemed to go by really well and I actually prefer running by myself. I can set my own pace and not feel pressured by whoever is beside me.

Anyway, I felt great after the run but not so great when I woke up this morning. I could barely walk and my neck and upper back feels like someone threw bricks at it last night while I was asleep. Nonetheless, I pulled off my 2 miles yesterday and received a "how to run properly" lesson today from my dad: Just remember, "California Highway Patrol," which equates to "Chest up, Hips out, and Push off with your toes..."

My mom told me that if my abs/ribs area hurts, it means I ran right. So there is a positive to all this pain.

Needless to say, next year I may just train a few weeks in advance. You know, maybe run a mile a couple weeks beforehand or something. :) Who knows, perhaps one year I will try the 10K?

My aunt and uncle are in town from Arizona. So tomorrow, I was invited to go with them and my parents to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. I am a little excited, because I quite enjoy museums and it will be a fun way to spend my Monday. Of course, it had to occur on my busiest day in terms of meetings, so Kristi is being kind enough to take on of my order sessions while I'm gone. The rest of the week looks pretty busy with quite a few shoots and a continued effort to keep up with all of our editing before we kick off our next several weddings.

Well... I need to keep working on this volunteer project. Then it's the couch for me tonight. We also have other relatives in town so none of the bedrooms are available... and this is my weekend off of work, so I get the basement :) but I must say, the couch we have down there is pretty comfortable. I can't complain.

If I make it to the couch before midnight tonight, it will be a miracle...

Love you all!


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Going to Jail

Today I went to jail.

I frequent there... about once a month. Fortunately, after being there for about an hour, I get to walk right back out and go on with my life.

But each time I go, I learn something new. My perspective changes just a little. My mind is renewed. I am more thankful, and my picture of life is more clear.

To offer just a small amount of background, about 2 years ago, my heart was moved to become involved with the jail ministry in our church. I have always had a desire to touch those who are in broken circumstances, and the Lord showed me a way to do it. I knew up front that this would be a stretching experience. And it is. But each time I am stretched, I learn more about God, about His character, about trusting, and about His love.

When I am scheduled, I prepare a lesson and go early on Sunday mornings, ready to meet whoever wants to attend church. There can be anywhere from 1 group of 2 ladies to 2 groups of 6 ladies. We pray together, we read the Bible together, we discuss, and we share prayer requests. An older lady in our church usually accompanies me, and I love her support and wisdom.

I have heard so many stories. I have seen women moved to tears, at their most broken state of addiction. I have seen mothers locked away for months without their children, and daughters spending weeks away from their families. I have seen the emptiness of alcoholism and drug abuse. I have seen ladies who reach out with desperate trust in God as their court dates approach, unaware of the outcome and its consequences.

Today, for the very first time, I visited a girl in solitary confinement. It was shocking. She was locked away in a small room with a bed and a toilet. When we arrived, she was just waking up, and her eyes were foggy with sleep. Her face was covered in acne, and her hair a tousled mess. Depression was in the air.

The door separated us from her. We could only see her through a tiny panel of window, and we spoke through a small open slit. We talked to her for a few minutes and then we said a prayer with her.

She had been there for 3 months for a minor infraction.
My heart ached for her.

"Anytime you get low this week," my cohort said, "Just remember that we are praying for you."

The power of prayer has never been so meaningful to me. I know I will not forget to pray for her.

Then we left.

As we walked out, out into daylight, out into freedom, I said, "It makes me thankful..."

She nodded, agreeing, "Thankful for my upbringing," I finished.

"Thankful for parents and a family and a church that taught you the Truth," she added.

"Exactly. Because if I didn't have that, who's to say I wouldn't be where they are?"

I thought more about it on the way home.

I thought about why God chose for some of us to grow up in a loving, Christian environment, and why some of us grew up in a dysfunctional family with widespread sin. Having been handed such a wonderful example, I am, of course, responsible for a lot more.

But what of those who do only what they know... and what they know is drinking, drugs, and sex?

The more I visit jail, the more I see it as a haven of rest-- a second chance. God's way of taking these women and stopping them in their tracks and turning them toward the Light.

And their brokenness, their lessons learned, their ability to look at life with a renewed hope does more for me than they will ever know.

My conclusion was that while I may have had the better upbringing... without them and their steps of faith up out of the pit... we wouldn't have the chance to see God's glory at its best.

The more life I live, the more I understand God's purpose behind broken events-- a sudden death, a terminal illness, an orphan child, a jailed victim... the things of life we, as humans, have such a hard time "understanding." Whether one is put into such a circumstance in innocence or due to consequences, it is in and through those situations that God is most glorified and people are touched. And what is life, if God is not glorified?


Love you all!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Africa Images & Video

For those of you who have journeyed along with me on my African trip via my stories, thanks for reading! If you don't have Facebook, I will post the pictures that the FB world has been enjoying over the past couple of weeks. There are quite a few albums-- the early ones are "teasers" that I posted, and then the rest of them will refresh your minds from my blog posts.

At the very end, I am posting a video that summarizes my African experience. It's called "Africa 2011." Click on it to view.


Taste of London

Taste of Zambia

African Journey: Traveling & Tour of London

Sports Day: Wednesday in Africa

Our VBS Day: Thursday in Africa

Friday in Africa

Last Days in Africa 1

Last Days in Africa 2

Africa 2011

Love you all!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Last Days in Africa

Last Days in Africa...


Heather’s alarm went off at 5:20 a.m. I snoozed in bed until she told me that we had only 5 more minutes before we had to leave and then I reluctantly rolled out of bed.

It was early and cold, and my bed was warm, not to mention one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in for quite some time.

After getting dressed and finding out where the bus was, we boarded. The team slowly but surely trickled in, and we started off for the airport in Lusaka. The two teams with us all week were headed home, including several who had been there for 2 weeks, a group of 3 who had arrived a week before, and 2 who had spent the summer in Zambia.

About 15 minutes into the journey, our bus driver, Joseph, pulled to the side of the road. Bus trouble.

It didn’t take long for a few team members to fantasize about being left in Africa for a couple of more days until the next flight would be leaving. However, fortunately we were able to flag down a couple of other vans to load our luggage and our bodies into.

We were carrying another African in the front seat of our van, but he hopped out halfway through and since I was sitting backwards on the ground in the back, I took his seat in the front.

It was then that I fell in love with the front seat. For starters, I quite enjoy the unique situation of being seated on the left rather than the right as a passenger. Secondly, at this particular point in the day, it was early morning and the sun was rising in front of me. In a slightly drowsy mood, I dozed as the sunlight streamed in and warmed my face. Third, I really like being able to see right out the windshield in front of me, as it offers a great view of Zambia culture like an Imax show. Why did I not discover this sooner?

We were soon at the airport, so we hopped out of the vehicles and took any luggage in sight, quickly stepping into line and allowing the necessary team members to come claim their luggage. We said our good-byes to them, and when we were confident that they would, indeed, make their flight, we wondered outside and waited for Joseph to come pick us up. Unfortunately, he was 40 minutes away.

I worked on a Word Jumble in the pleasant morning air, and we chatted and made plans for the day. I was delighted when David suggested going out to breakfast and then shopping.

Joseph finally arrived, and he took us to Mint Café. It was a cute little café set in a shopping mall, with green chairs, tables, and menus and over-sized silverware decorating the walls. Their selection was awesome! I ordered a waffle with caramel sauce and cinnamon sugar… it was amazing… similar to eating an elephant ear for breakfast. I also added a mocha-nutella-hazelnut blended coffee drink. Dream come true! Up until this point, I wasn’t sure that Africa had very many sweets or desserts. It was cause for concern. Worries vanished!

David ordered a hearty breakfast, Heather a mushroom-egg omelet, Whitney had an avocado-egg omelet + a Twix crepe, and Kailey had mint tea and some delicious-looking toast with veggies and meat on top.

We then went in and out of a few other shops. Before doing so, we met up with a guy in the parking lot to buy some Zambian soccer jerseys. I broke down and bought one for myself and for my brother after seeing how cool they were. I wore mine for the rest of the day.

David took us to another mall that was better for shopping, and we all purchased some fun things at a craft store, and bought some soccer balls for the LS kids at a Walmart-type store.

Around noon, we grabbed lunch at another AMAZING café. In the words of Heather, “It smells like heaven in here.”

We all ordered a sandwich, and then once seated we had the opportunity to select from various delicious smoothies, coffees, teas, and shakes. Heather and David both ordered a white-chocolate freezola. Oh my word. It came as a frosty white concoction, and it tasted similar to drinking a frozen marshmallow. It was very good!

Luke met back up with us at this point, and we hopped in the van that Josep had been driving us around in. We traded it our for the huge bus we had originally started out in, and all 6 of us rode back in it to Kitwe!

The journey was long. I started out in the front again, my new favorite spot. I eventually made my way back… most of the others had stretched out across 3-4 seats to take a nap. I did the same, then headed up for some more front-seat action. We stopped a few different times for bathroom breaks, and bought a bunch of oranges. They tasted SO good and refreshing. I peeled and ate 2 oranges and shared some with Joseph. Cookies also helped sustain us all as we talked about many things on the way back.

We didn’t arrive back to Lifesong until around 7 pm. We were dropped off back to our little house to take showers. The water heater wasn’t turned on, so I experienced my first freezing cold shower. Doable, but not enjoyable.

The boys had planned on coming back in about 30 minutes so we could eat dinner and watch a movie. Heather was busy making eggs and potatoes. Whitney had just stepped out of her shower, and everything went black.

“This is not happening!” I heard her shout.

It was. Power outage. It was completely dark, but fortunately I had just opened up my laptop to download some pictures, so I used it as a light for Whitney. Kailey had a laptop, and Heather dug out her Farm ‘n Fleet flashlight. We set it up in the kitchen and sat on the couches for about an hour. Whitney went and got her pillow, and laid on the kitchen table for awhile!

We had a little pow-wow there. Almost an hour and a half went by before the boys finally showed up. The first thing David did was give us a cell phone. Thank goodness! We were wondering how to communicate with them.

David and I broke down and ate some cereal. It was 9pm and with no dinner or electricity, dinner had been put on hold.

Right after my 2nd bowl of cereal, we decided to put the movie Tangled on. Luke had just gone on a hunt for some matches and had no luck, but brought in a little brown puppy from outside. I was mildly disgusted until I sat down on the couch and it fell asleep in my lap… and then it was so cute, I couldn’t not like it. It kept stretching on me and growling in its sleep. Aw.

Suddenly, the room lit up. It had been about an hour and a half without lights, so we were thankful for electricity! Heather hopped up and finished making dinner as we enjoyed our movie.

It was a long day, but a fun one… we finished it off relaxing and everyone crashed afterwards.


We were up and ready for church by 8am, when David picked us up. We attended United Church of Zambia, the same place we went last year.

As always, I love the African singing and praise. They move and dance with such joy. The lesson was weaved with the phrase, “Your days are numbered, so live them wisely.” The pastor read from Ecclesiastes 3 (one of my favorites!), Daniel, and Ephesians (about walking carefully). It was a good reminder to live responsibly and live intentionally… I sometimes forget that my days are numbered, and it is only God who knows how much time I have. I must make every day count and not waste a minute or this precious time—it’s truly a gift.

The service was only about 2 hours long, and we left a little early since they were going right into communion.

After church, Heather, Kailey, Whit, David, Luke, and Shane (he is going to be moving down here in September with his wife and kids to help run the school) all drove to Nsobe Game Park, which is about an hour away. Upon arrival, we sat outside in the BEAUTIFUL weather and ate lunch.

It is situated on a grass knoll by a huge lake. The trees shaded us, the sky was blue, and the weather was perfect. It was so relaxing and enjoyable. Most of us ordered chicken burgers. After lunch, we walked over to the snakes and were even able to check out the deadliest snake in Africa. Yikes! We also held a baby crocodile and saw some birds, bunnies, and owls.

At 3pm, we left for our game drive. It was so relaxing and pleasant. I was reminded again and again by the sights and smells of Fall. I know this is their winter, but it’s crazy to me that I will be returning home to a humid summer in Central IL!

We saw deer-like animals everywhere, monkeys, and zebra… no giraffes. L We did get to revisit the wonderful huts tucked away in the woods… we all agreed that it would be absolutely amazing to stay in one of them. They are open to the beautiful African air, all of them have beds and a bathroom and seating with beautiful furniture and the option of massages, spa services, etc.

After our game drive, it was almost 4pm so we headed back to Kitwe. It was almost 6pm by the time we arrived back and traded out a vehicle, so we decided to eat at Mona Lisa’s for dinner. It was amazing!

We ran into Bob Walker and his family of TEN kids, as well as Rachel, their tutor. They had decided to go out to eat on this very night, too, to celebrate all the kids passing their grades and moving onto the next. It was fun seeing their adorable kids again. They are all so friendly and cute.

We ordered pizza and cokes, and enjoyed a relaxing evening eating dinner. The pizza was amazing!

After dinner, David drove us girls back to Plot 1 for a relaxing rest of the evening.


Monday was our last full day in Zambia. We got ready in the morning and walked to the school. Upon arrival, I helped David with a video project while the other girls finished up a work project.

We video-interviewed Lucy (the principal), several teachers, and older kids. The goal is to put this footage on the Lifesong website. It was so neat being able to hear everyone talk and give their perspective on LS School and all the work God has done and continues to do in Zambia.

After this, we grabbed a light lunch and everyone walked to the compound. Lucy and Albertina came with us. We took a couple of the kids with us so they could show us their homes. The compound is about a 10-15 minute walk from the school.

We stopped by Veronica’s home but no one was home, so we moved onto Alan’s home. In seeing the compound for the second time, it was a little less daunting and a little more eye-opening. We saw tons of children (who don’t attend school) running around, toddlers without clothes or unattended walking by, ladies carrying food and very few men.

We were invited into Alan’s home and sat down on the floor and talked with him awhile. We found out he doesn’t have a blanket to sleep with at night, so we gave him one. On the way home, David talked to him and found out that his uncle (as a double orphan, he has no parents) comes home drunk frequently. He may have the opportunity to live on the LS grounds with an African couple there, which would be awesome.

When we returned to LS, we ate a snack of crackers & cheese and yogurt, then went outside and read books to the girls. They absolutely loved it! We started on dinner.

After this, Luke and David took us to the strawberry farm which is about a mile away from the school. There are other vegetables grown there but mostly it is rows and rows of strawberries.

We had the chance to walk up and down the rows, pick strawberries for dinner, and pop a few in our mouths. They were delicious! Some of the boys from the school were there and had fun helping us. It was about 4pm in the afternoon. The sun was getting low in the sky and warmed us all as we enjoyed this beautiful place! We were also able to tour Shane’s home, which is situated on that land. He was there working on it and getting it ready for his family to move in sometime in September.

When we returned to David & Luke’s, we finished up dinner, which was an inventive concoction of chicken, tomato sauce, potatoes, carrots and onions over rice. And, of course, fresh strawberries. It was really good!

After dinner, we made popcorn over the stove, then decided to have a late-night snack of crepes with strawberries, honey, and Nutella. They were delicious. Heather gave Luke a haircut, and we all sat around and relaxed, discussing what we would take home from this trip.

It was a special last day. Tuesday was our very last day in Zambia, and David took us by the Curio Market on the way to Ndola. We bought some fun things and headed to the airport. David ate lunch with us there, then we said our good-byes.


This Africa trip was such a breath of fresh air in my life. I enjoyed renewing friendships I created on my first trip, and was encouraged by how God is working at Lifesong School in Zambia. Satan is still alive and well in some situations, but God overcomes! Furthermore, it instilled in my heart a desire to continue to travel to other countries and cultures and capture their stories.

Love you all!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Friday in Africa

We sang with the kids at the school—for the last time for most of the team. Most of the kids showed up in their bright yellow hoodies. The LS kids presented a program to us as a thank-you and good-bye.

All the kids did a great job singing and dancing, but my favorite was an older girl who recited the 23rd Psalm. Her voice was strong and powerful, and very moving.

It was then time to say good-bye to the kids. It was a pretty emotional farewell. A lot of the Americans were either misty-eyed or crying, and some of the LS kids even broke down.

After piling in a big bus for our 5-6 hours journey to Lusaka, we waved good-bye one last time to the kids lining the rock pathway.

The rest of the day was spent sitting very closely to one another in the bus. Halfway through our journey, we stopped at a grocery store and bought groceries for lunch, since the restaurant we were going to eat at was too busy.

We picked out lunch meat, bread, chips, cookies, fruit, and yogurt. I am sure that our mob of white American was quite the spectacle in this busy grocery store, but it was an interesting experience.

Especially when a group of us had to go to the bathroom.

“Expect a very thorough pat-down,” David warned us.

He was right! Before using the bathrooms, we had to stand with our arms held out while a lady literally patted every facet of our body to make sure we didn’t have a gun or stolen item hiding in a crevice. I must say it’s the first time I’ve been through something like that!

However, while slightly uncomfortable, it is these experiences that are memorable and eye-opening to their culture.

After buying the groceries, we loaded back up onto the bus and created a lot of crumbs from the sandwiches and chips… enjoyed the sweet-tasting fruit and yogurt, and devoured the cookies. A lot of us talked, played Euchre, read books, or napped for the remainder of the trip. At one point, I was given the floor to administer a verbal Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I was so excited to talk about this with a bunch of willing listeners—it was like a dream come true! Personality types never grow old for me…

By the time we arrived at Eureka Game Park in Lusaka, it was around 5pm and getting dark outside. We wouldn’t have time for a game ride L but we did entertain ourselves for a few minutes with a giant pile of corn cobs.

We climbed to the very top and did some group jumping. Then, after one of the boys did a back flip, Luke decided to take a whack at it and literally almost whacked his head off. The top of his forehead hit a piece of wood while he flipped, and the read of his forehead was scraped and bleeding. After nursing his wounds, we ordered dinner and settled into our chalets.

The chalets were nice—some had several beds and others just 2 or 3 depending on who was staying together. We met up as a team and ate dinner, and then grouped up in one of the bigger chalets for devotions and share time. David Z. talked about evangelism during his devotions, and then we all had the opportunity to go around and share what we felt God was teaching us on this trip to Africa.

It was very encouraging to see how each and every person had something different they were experiencing. God is so big and works in each individual’s heart in unique ways, and it is always exciting to me to see how He speaks to us all personally.

For me, this trip had been interesting thus far. I wrote in a previous blog entry that while I was excited for my 2nd trip for Africa, I was hoping that my expectations from my previous trip wouldn’t be shattered when this trip was completely different.

I will say that this trip was definitely different from my first in a lot of ways. The first and most obvious was the fact that since I had been here before, nothing was new to me. The unique culture differences, the places, the faces, the kids… even the travel. I had done all of it before. And while it had been done before, you can’t recreate something that has already happened. This is neither good nor bad, but as a lover of new things, new places, and new experiences, this “newness factor” of shock and awe did not exist for me on this trip.

Furthermore, I remember from last time that I had to do a lot of processing. Seeing the church, the kids, the school, the compound, the living conditions, and hearing the stories of a lot of the African people had my heart in knots. I had to think through all of that and come to terms with the fact that different cultures operate in different ways. I had to examine my own life and consider that just because God had blessed me with food, clothes, and “wealth,” this was not cause to feel guilty but a call to responsibility. I had to look into the eyes of orphan children and instead of wanting to cry or shout that it is not fair, I had to hug them and love them and pray for their hearts as they grow in this country.

So without the newness of the culture or a lot of heavy processing, I felt a little more prepared this time for what was in store. In light of this, when David asked us to pray about what it was God was trying to show us on this trip, I felt a little bit at a loss until I realized all that God had done for me on this journey and what He was saying to me.

In the first place, when I told Sheila I wanted to make it work to come back to Africa on this particular trip, I was a bit hesitant because I knew I had to come out a few days later than the team and I was hoping for a travel buddy or two. She had just been to Arizona visiting, and had been hiking with my cousin, Stefanie, who mentioned her daughter might be interested in going.

Sheila passed this along to me. However, she said, “Your cousin is interested in going,” so I automatically assumed she meant my older cousin. I said something to her (Whitney), and then realized she meant her own daughter (Kailey) who is so interested in missions and travel. As it turned out, both of them were elated and excited for the chance to visit Africa! And they would be my travel companions.

I mentioned the trip to Heather, who was on my team last year, and she was excited to be able to work out coming along with us. She has been an awesome addition to our trip and really clicked and connected with my cousins.

I knew that this was such an amazing opportunity for my cousins, and I was so excited to share this experience with them. It’s awesome to see how God works it all out.

The other insight God laid on my heart was what I shared with the team—the fact that our VBS topic—being a TRUTH seeker—is rock solid, and as believers who BELIEVE it, why are we not more adamant in sharing it? A convicting truth to me lately is that if I believe everything I say I do, why am I not more concerned about all of the souls I know who aren’t going to Heaven?

We do not save; we do not having saving powers. Jesus saves, but we can be instruments. We can be lights. We can shine Jesus. And in a dark world, a little light makes a big difference.

Another area is trust and faith. In America, it’s easy to become self-sufficient to the point where we don’t “need” God. I have breakfast every morning, a car to drive to work, a job, and a life of security. Where does God fit into that? At what point do I rely fully on Him to meet my basic needs? Most days, I don’t… to my shame. I envy those in the far corners of the Earth who do not have food or water every day, because their Faith must always be strong.

Yet, that is no excuse. We are called to decrease so God can increase. I am called to diminish my SELF so God can be exalted and His glory may be revealed.

After share-time, we all walked back to our chalets for bed. Upon entrance, Heather just about had a heart attack when she spotted a huge spider on our wall. She promptly ran away to recruit some boys to help her take care of it. A team of 4 came to our rescue and exterminated the creature.

A few minutes later when I came back into the bedroom ready for bed, Heather had pushed our beds together.

“We’re sleeping close tonight,” she told me.

And we did.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Thursday in Africa

This is the day we overslept. Heather had tried to set an alarm on her ipod, but it died in the middle of the night so we woke up when the other girls were banging on our door to leave.

We quickly got ready and walked to school. I was actually thankful for the opportunity to walk. It was one of my favorite parts of last year’s trip. It’s such an amazing chance to experience African culture in its reality… you see women walking down the dirt road balancing baskets on their head… children in uniform marching off to school… men riding bikes or wheeling the crippled.

The boys did an amazing job finishing up the pillars in the morning, and the other guys and girls finished up other small work projects in the morning.

Once we got to the school, Heather and I organized the sweatshirts we brought to hand out to the kids. Last year, we handed out t-shirts on the last day and all the kids loved them. This year, we went with bright yellow hoodies since it is cooler weather this time of year.

When this was done, I ended up wandering over to the playground and sat down on a swing with a little boy. We swung awhile together, and I found out his name was Lysart. At this point, 10 kids were pointing at my camera asking to “copy” me, so I let them have it. They had demonstrated to me by now that they could successfully use it, so I wasn’t too worried.

Lysart and I swung for a long time and sang songs. We spelled his name and mine, and we talked. I loved it. One of the more bossy girls there stood in front of me and kept drawing me pictures on this board with a rock—it was so funny. She drew a picture of me, and would erase it and then draw another picture and everyone would laugh. I recited a poem to them about snow, but I don’t think they understood since they’ve never seen snow in their life.

About this time, Heather came to find me and her and I, along with Whitney and Kailey, went inside to make tuna melts for lunch. After lunch, it was our day to do the VBS lesson. Our topic was “How to be a Jesus Truth Seeker” and so Whitney read our lesson, and then narrated our skit. We recruited a few others to help us with our “Good Samaritan” story. Our craft was to decorate some colorful foam visors with paint and markers and stickers that said “Jesus Truth Seeker” on them. The kids loved them!

After the craft, I went around and took group pictures, then the kids played a game on the field. Also on this day, we saw William, which was really exciting because after learning about his crippled feet on last year’s trip, we were anxious to see his feet now whole! He walks and runs, smiles and laughs, plays with other kids and chases girls. It is so exciting to see him have a love of life now, whereas before he would sit in a corner by himself and not smile. God is so good, and it was so neat to see how He helped us help him.

When I was out on the playground, a girl came up to me and said, “Hi, do you remember me?”

I asked her what her name was, and she said, “Karen.”

“Karen!” I shouted, and hugged her immediately. I didn’t even recognize her! I love Karen, and bonded with her last year. This year she has grown about a foot, and her hair was froed, which made her look even taller. But it was definitely Karen! I had sent her some pictures, so she was excited about those, and we talked and hung out for awhile.

We handed out the hoodies to the kids and they LOVED them! It is so exciting to see how their faces light up. They immediately put them on, and just as I hoped, the bright yellow looked AWESOME on them!

After the kids left, Andrew (the art teacher) showed Heather and I his paintings and drawings. I purchased a fabric with an African woman and her baby painted on it, and he used actual fabric to sew on her clothes. It is so neat and I can’t wait to frame it as a piece of art. Heather chose some of his cards, which she loves, and a painting with a beautiful African tree.

It was good to see Andrew again. I had taken one of his art classes last year when I was here and talked to him quite a bit, and I must have mailed him pictures after last year’s trip because he couldn’t stop talking about it! He wanted to take a lot of pictures with Heather and I, using his film camera. It was so great!

That evening, the staff and cooks at Lifesong prepared us a traditional Zambian meal. I knew what I was in for based off of last year. Fortunately, fried chicken and potatoes are on the menu, but aside from that, you have your selection of nshima (their staple food), soup, termites, caterpillars, and many other unfamiliar foods! However, most were brave and tried a little of everything.

I sat at a table with most of the staff and the cook, Elijah. Every time I would stop eating for just a second, they would look at me and say, “Eat!” In their culture, it is considered rude not to try everything and not to finish. Unfortunately, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and they gave us a LOT of food to choose from!

I talked to Elijah for awhile, and he asked me why I came back to Africa. I’m actually really glad he did. It made me think what it is that drew me back. Afterwards, we all had a chance to get up and share something. The staff, the teachers, and the Americans.

There were quite a few of the older boys with us from the school, so it was neat to hear what they had to say, too. It was the most touching to me to hear them speak. One of them actually brought tears to my eyes. He thanked us for coming and told us we would never know how big of a difference we made. It seems so small to me, but it is so big to them. I can’t shake the feeling that every time I think I am going to come “help them,” they end up showing me more than I could ever show them.

After share time, everyone went inside LS School for singing & devotions. Caleb had an excellent talk on worship, and how true worship is when we seek to image God. I loved this thought, because worship is something that can tend to be put into a box. It has to look a certain way, feel a certain way, or be a certain way. However, worship is such a personal thing to each individual, but in and through that, it can only truly take place when we seek to imitate Christ and who we are in Him.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wednesday in Africa

The first morning in Africa, we were up and ready early to leave for school. About 10-12 of us packed into the little Noah to head to Lifesong. It was always a tight ride, but very cozy. :)

The kids at Lifesong start out every morning in rows of their grades and sing. This is one of my favorite parts. Lucy, the principal of the school, dances around and sings with all of her heart. It is very refreshing to watch—there is no holding back. All of the kids sing and clap and dance… the sound is amazing, and I can’t help but think that someday, that is what Heaven will be like.

On this particular day, the Lifesong kids were going next door to the neighboring school to compete in a sports day. We were there all morning with them, cheering them all as they ran races, played football (soccer), and netball (similar to basketball).

A lot of the American team members had bought soccer jerseys so they wore them on this day. It was fun to be a part of this special event. Whenever the LS kids would score a goal in soccer, all the kids would cheer and literally flood the field in celebration.

We ate lunch, and then it was time for VBS. Joe, Justin, and Sheila were in charge and did a great job with their skit and lesson. The craft was a Jesus bracelet with beads that tells the story of salvation.

This year, we worked on a work project in the afternoons or during free time. David had us do some painting on the new building, which houses an awesome computer lab and some other classrooms. He also had the boys construct some pillars for the new building to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. His goal is to present nice structure and aesthetics as much as possible to the kids. Since they are so used to seeing poor constructions and “good building” is not something they see as much as we do in America, he thought it would be a nice touch.

To complete the project, the boys measured and cut the wood, and some of us girls sanded it down and painted a special paint on it. Other girls worked on chiseling out concrete blocks for the base. It was quite the job! Right at first, all of us were working on it and tools were limited, so we used anything from axes to hammers.

Some of us girls worked on dinner that night—it was a bean-vegetable-hamburger concoction with noodles and garlic bread. We enjoyed that and then Justin had the devotions on the Fruits of the Spirit. He started out by praying the Lord’s prayer; it was neat to hear it prayed out in a serious fashion rather than just skimmed over or read.

We hung out for awhile, and then most of the team traveled back to Plot 1 for the evening. This was the night that my Whitney, Kailey, Heather and I would move over to the bigger guest house to make more room for everyone. As we did, some of the girls came over to help us with our luggage. They were looking around the house and checking it out since it is so nice, and suddenly we hear a scream from one of the bedrooms. We rushed in and saw Kaylin pointing at the wall. There was a lizard and she was completely terrified.

KaraLea, ever the brave soul, waltzed over and grabbed it, sticking it in Kaylin’s face. Kaylin was not a fan and grabbed Heather and started to run out of the bedroom, and as she did so KaraLea came in for another tease… Kaylin freaked out, tripped, and took Heather down onto the floor. It was very amusing. Let’s just say there was a lot of screaming and laughing, so much so that the couple that lives on the property came over to check on us.

The boys ended up coming over to hang out for awhile, and we watched some of the first team’s bungee jumping videos. They were pretty entertaining!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Africa Journey: Background & Traveling

As I did last year, I will ty to post my story of Africa into sections. This first one is quite large because it includes a little bit of background, plus all our travel days and time in London.



This is the story of my second journey to Africa.

The first one took place in January 2010. I was absolutely elated to have the opportunity to visit this continent and particularly the country of Zambia. In revisiting some of my older blog posts about that trip, it is interesting to read about my first-time impressions of Africa.

During that trip, our team of 12 was led by a missionary lady named Dru as well as the principal of the school at that time, John Mumba.

We had the experience of attending church, going to the market, putting on a VBS program for the kids at Lifesong School during the mornings of that week, helping them in the classroom, visiting the compound, and seeing animals at a game camp.

It was amazing, and I knew in my heart that one day, I would like to return.

That became a reality when I heard about another team that was traveling to Africa this year. There was a team of 8 who came down for a total of 2 weeks, and did some exciting things the first week (like bungee jumping!) A second team of 3 arrived that next weekend, so there were about a dozen team members to help start that next week of VBS off well at Lifesong School.

My team of 4 arrived on Tuesday, so we were there to help with VBS for the rest of the week. Traveling with me included my friend, Heather, and my 2 cousins from Arizona, Whitney & Kailey. The other two teams would be leaving on Saturday, but our stay was a bit extended (thankfully!) so we were able to experience a quieter life in Africa during the last few days.

My good friend, David, and another friend from Indiana, Luke, live together on the school grounds and help to run Lifesong School Zambia. David helps run the school and aids with the business and the accounting end. Luke runs a strawberry farm and handles the business end of it.

The VBS topic this time was “How to be a Truth Seeker.” After having spent a year down here, David has found that telling the truth and not stealing is a huge deal for the kids, so this was the perfect topic to discuss.

The climate was so different this time. The last time I was here, it was rainy season, so everything was lush and green. In fact, I remember thinking that right at first, it didn’t seem too much different than Illinois. It was a bit humid, and rain would roll in and downpour, and then clear off and be sunny in the afternoon. There were a lot of trees, grass, and greenery all around.

This time, it was more of an “African” feel. Since it was dry season, the fields matched the color of the dirt road with more of an Autumn-time look. Leaves were falling off trees, bushes were dead, and the weather was 70s and sunny during the day (beautiful!) but cooler in the mornings and evenings. The air smelled like Fall.

Sunday-Tuesday: Traveling & London / First Day in Zambia

Our journey begins on Sunday afternoon. My dad was kind enough to drive Heather and I to O’Hare Airport in Chicago. We all 3 crammed in the front of his truck cab, since the Tahoe was unavailable.

We made good time and made it to the airport without a problem. Checking in went smoothly until one of my bags was 4.5 lbs. overweight. We opened it up and checked the weight of my Bible—it was 4.5 lbs.! After doing some rearranging to make it work, we passed through security and headed to our gate.

We grabbed Starbucks and some snacks and waited for my two cousins flying in from AZ to meet us there. We boarded our 8-hour flight to London.

The flight was pretty uneventful. We all tried to sleep, but it was hard since it was technically still pretty early for us. I don’t think any of us got too much sleep.

We arrived in London early Monday morning at 8am. It was 2am our time, so we were pretty tired! However, we had a fun day planned for our 12-hour layover, so we carried on.

Our first order of business was to find the underground train system and purchase one-day tickets for Piccadilly Line.

After doing so, we took the bus into London and our first stop was Buckingham Palace. On our walk to get there, there was a park nearby with all kinds of unique park deck chairs sitting around the grassy area. I loved it!

As we neared Buckingham Palace, there were swarms of people. Come to find out, they were having a Change Guard Parade on this very day at the very time we arrived! It was exciting to be in the heat of one of the downtown London events, but we had to keep moving so we could see everything on our list.

Next, we walked some more and stopped at a pub for lunch. It was a real cute little place and our waitress was so sweet. I loved her British accent and unassuming manner.

We continued on to Westminster Abbey—it was absolutely beautiful! There was a gate surrounding it, and you could walk right up to it. It was probably my favorite place of the day… it was just so cool to see in person.

At this point, we were running out of time so we made an executive decision to run by Harrod’s on our way back to the airport. There was a Starbucks across the street, so we grabbed drinks, only to find out we couldn’t bring drinks OR luggage into this huge department store. I had to check my luggage piece in next door, and we quickly drank our Starbucks drinks and headed inside. Whitney could bring in her backpack as long as she wore it on the front instead of her back. It was a funny sight!

We whizzed through the women’s shoe department for fun ☺ and checked out the food court. It had all kinds of delicious cupcakes, baked good, pastries, rolls, and desserts. They all looked amazing and I would have purchased one, but we needed to keep moving so we could get back to the airport.

Riding on the train was fun. We spent most of our day on Piccadilly Line, which took us where we needed to go. There were always multiple stops where people got on and off. The automated voice would always come over the intercom in a British accent and say, “Mind the gap between the train and the platform,” whenever people would enter or exit.

The day was mid-70s and sunny, and kind of hot as we were rushing from place to place through lots of crowds. Since none of us had much sleep in us and had to stay fairly alert and energetic, it was an exhausting day, but fun nonetheless, and I’m so glad we were able to experience London during our layover!

We made it back to Heathrow Airport in London and had to check in Kailey and Whitney and then continue on through security. We had a slight headache with our tickets, which would not go through at security, so we kept getting them “confirmed” at the ticket counter and finally they worked. After going through the whole security process, we
found each other and sat in the seating area by all the shops and restaurants. At Heathrow, they don’t give you a gate number until 1 hour before your flight. You sit and wait in the main area. However, once you do know, it behooves you to get moving because in our case, it took us a very long time to actually get to our gate! Up several escalators, through long hallways, around corners… we finally ended up in a big area on a top floor surrounded by glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.

We were among the last to board the plane, and ran into a slight difficulty with Whitney & Kailey’s luggage. After clearing it up and finding out we would need to check on it in Johannesburg, we boarded our next huge plane for a 10-hour flight.

The goal was to sleep on this plane. As I have tried in the past on international flights, if at all possible, I like to sleep on the floor. I did it again this time, and I think I may have grabbed a couple hours of sleep. Otherwise, it’s more of a blurry drifting in and out of consciousness.

As it was nearing time to land the plane, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I was going on night 2 of very little sleep, and we had just eaten breakfast but I still felt hungry afterwards. Now the nausea was kicking in, and I started to panic.

The plane started to descend and we were advised to take our seats and buckle up. Right before the plane landed, I panicked and ran into the bathroom. The flight attendant saw me and banged on the door, not too happy with me that I did that. She told me that I needed to return to my seat immediately. I obliged, but was feeling so sick at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. My throat and heart were both burning. I just put my head down and endured the descent, making Heather switch me seats at the last minute so I could run back ASAP upon landing. I did so, and fortunately never got sick. However, I felt pretty nauseous for the next 45 minutes, even after deplaning, walking through Johannesburg Airport to figure out the luggage situation, through Passport Control, and security. I finally started to feel better after awhile and ate a granola bar before boarding our next fight.

That flight took place on a smaller plane that would take us from Johannesburg, South Africa to Ndola, Zambia. It was about a 2.5-hour flight, so not too bad. We were bused to the plane and upon arrival, to the airport.

Ndola’s airport is pretty primitive. However, I remember from last time that you have to fill out a form with information on how long you are staying and what you are doing. There is also a $50 entry fee for entering the country. We went through this slow process, claimed our luggage that was piled on the floor by the front entrance, and were on our way. The security at the door checks through your luggage upon leaving. As that was happening, an African man walked up with a sign that read, “Taryn & Heather.”

“That’s us!” we told him. He advised us that the person coming to “fetch” us was running late, so to follow him. As we did so, David pulled up in the little Noah vehicle and shouted to us. He might have been running late, but as usual we were the last ones to complete the process in the airport so it ended up being perfect timing!

He drove us back to Kitwe, which took about an hour. He dropped us off at the New Life Center where we were staying so we could shower and relax. We ended up taking a short nap until a few of the girls from the team arrived to shower and get cleaned up. We headed back with them and some of the guys for Lifesong School, which is where we ate dinner as a team.

The boys cooked us a wonderful dinner, and even had a candlelit setting inside the school. It was the perfect touch to a tiring 48 hours of traveling! After plane food, the stir fry, peaches, and cookies tasted delicious.

Every evening following dinner, we had a nice time of worship with guitar music played by Luke, and then one of the guys would prepare a devotion. I loved this part of the evening. The first night we were there, Drew talked, and he read from the New Testament and showed us how it connected back to the Old Testament. We read about the curse of man, and how we are born with sin and automatically under the curse of it by default, and only by Jesus’ blood and God’s good holiness can we escape it.

It made me think of Africa and how it seems to be under a curse of sin—there are always consequences of sin, whether they are seen right away or come to fruition later. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but wreaks havoc in the end. The good news is that regardless of the size of the problem, Jesus saves.

The other night, I read the parable of the men who were hired by a master to work in the field. One was hired at the beginning of the day, one during the middle and one at the end. They all worked in the field for different amounts of time, but the master still paid them the same. Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to it. It seems unfair, really—why should the worker hired at the end be paid the same? It’s a legit question, but a very human one, nonetheless. It’s very self-focused. Jesus saves all—whether you have sinned a lot or a little… whether you come very early in life or not until the very end.

That’s the beauty of Jesus. My prayer is that this saving Light and Love from above can continue to glow at Lifesong School.

That evening, after devotions, David took us girls back to our little house. We were all very tired, and it felt wonderful to sleep horizontal!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back to Africa

In exactly one week at this time, I will be flying through the air in a plane with a destination of Africa.

I am returning to Zambia.

"When you go to Africa, you leave part of your heart there." Those words were spoken to me before my first trip. I held onto them with a "we'll-see" attitude, not being able to fully believe the truth of them because I had not yet experienced Africa.

I have now, and I am here to tell you-- those words are true.

As my trip nears, I am anticipating it with memories of last time...

One of my favorite experiences of the everyday culture was the mile-long walk on the dirt road to the school. The very first morning, we ventured out into the cool, foggy morning. Trucks whizzed by us with Africans sitting in the back. A myriad of men walked down the road to work, and women carried bags or babies on their back. Bikers with baskets, kids in school uniforms, all of us walking together. It was during these moments that it seemed most real to me that I was, indeed, in Africa.

As we neared the school, kids in mis-matched, torn clothes ran up and asked us where we were going.

"Lifesong School," we said.

"Us too!"

Word spread, and bright-faced, smiling kids ran up and grabbed our hands. They held on and walked beside us with innocence and trust.

It was then that I learned love-- Jesus' love. I felt it welling up inside my heart and bursting forth, pouring out of me to shower on the kids.

I learned this lesson of love again and again throughout that week. In church, when the African people in their lively, spirited voices sang and danced praises to Jesus with hands lifted high. Underneath the mosquito net hanging over my bed at night, when I drifted off to sleep thinking about the widespread disease and sickness that sweeps over these people with little healthcare, and thanking God for His hand of provision in my own life. When I met other African people, and they welcomed me wholeheartedly and told me to visit often. When I held 3 children on my lap, and they were content to sit and be embraced. When I served them the only meal they had seen in 3 days-- a piece of bread with a smear of peanut butter.

Giving feels good, but I came home feeling like Africa gave me more than I was ever able to give back.

I am excited to hear the voices of the kids, and most of all, to see their faces. Their eyes say more to me than anything else. I am delighted to love them, and my heart swells to think that they are even more delighted to love me back.

If I don't bring one back with me this time... it will be a miracle.

Love you all... this next week looks like a pretty busy outlook for me, so I will be back after my trip with lots of stories and pictures!


Sunday, July 10, 2011


I have this recurring dream where I am driving in my car. I look in the rearview mirror, and a white car is following me. In my head, I think, "Oh no, I wonder if that's a cop. I'm speeding." And it always is. And the cop always pulls me over.

Today I was telling my sister about this-- that I needed to consult a Dream Dictionary to decipher the meaning.

"Are those actually accurate," she asked.

The meaning:

"To dream that you are pulled over by the police, suggests that you need to slow down and take things down a notch."

Somehow, I feel like it could be pretty accurate.

In other news, we celebrated my Grandma's 90th birthday today. She is my only living grandparent, so it's quite special to see her reach such a milestone. A couple of my favorite memories of her...

She always calls her refrigerator "the ice box." I always thought that was funny.

Anytime I visited her, particularly after school, she would ALWAYS have chocolate pudding cups for a snack. Yum!

When I was 4 years old, I had to wear an eye patch on my eye. It was no fun, and I didn't like to do it. I would usually cry, and when my mom would take the patch away from my eye, all the tears would spill out. My Grandma told me that "if I was good, I would get a prize." The prize was always a box of Frosted Mini Wheats... my favorite cereal.


So we had a great time today with her. All of her kids, almost all of her grandkids and all of her great-grandkids were there. It was a full house!

I leave for Africa in about 3 weeks. I can't believe how fast that came up. I am super excited. Part of me hesitates to envision what it will be like "this time" because disappointment inevitably follows when I think I know how something will unfold and it doesn't; whereas the unknown is always exciting to me because it is new and different. So I'm trying not to put preconceived notions on this trip-- and to help, my travel buddies and I fly through London on the way there so we get a whole day to explore!

Beyond that, I am just real excited to see the kids again and capture the culture through photography.

Kristi and I counted today, and to date we have shot 6 weddings. We have 12 more to go this year. We are only 1/3 of the way there. I can hardly believe it, but I knew our Fall was packed. Our summer has actually been a nice break, and while I've been enjoying it, I'm bracing myself for a busy wedding season ahead. We always get through it, but not without a lot of work! But it's hard to view something as "work" when you enjoy it so much.

Well... I'm off to bed so I can start my Monday off right. Love you all!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Day in My Life

On today's docket:

7:30-8: press snooze on my alarm clock
8: wake up
9: arrive at work
9-11: edit pictures
11: run into a friend on the road and chat
11:20: dentist appointment in pekin
12: starbucks run
12:30: meet with interior designer about our studio
2:00: lunch... no time and nothing in the house so grabbed JJ
2:30-3:30: another trip to Pekin for Hobby Lobby and Mendard's
3:30: spotted a cool field with beautiful flowers and a lake on the way home. Stopped and asked permission from the home and land owners to take pictures there.
4-5: edit pictures
5:45-7: volunteer dinner at fellowship hall for 3rd shift job
7:30-8:30: to the studio, simultaneously edited pictures while helping Kristi call 15-20 Home Goods stores across the country in search of a specific chair
9-9:30: worked out at Gold's
9:30-9:50: showered and made a banana-berry smoothie
10: 3rd shift job
10-10:30: played on 12 Word with Friends games.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011



That's what I am.

Too many "yeses" and not enough "nos." Too many projects and not enough time. Too much work to do and not enough brain power.

Two of my friends have said, "Taryn, I've missed you at the gym!"

I know. I don't have time for physical exercise. So instead, I do things like stand on my tippy toes if I am standing up for a long period of time, or do jumping jacks after I get out of the shower, or do push-ups before bed. If I don't become inventive and work exercise into my daily routine, it won't happen at all. I am hoping that running around all day and shooting wedding photography counts as exercise, too. Well, it better count for something, because I usually lay in bed on those nights and ache until I fall asleep.

I don't even really have time to eat, but I do fit that in somehow :) And I allowed myself to sleep in this morning... which was glorious... but I find that when I do that, even thought it feels wonderful, I always regret that I don't have that time back.

Anyway, I need to sign off from here and keep plugging away on my current project, but being the perfecter of procrastination, I decided to update my blog. Why not? A definite worthwhile use of my time!

Love you all, and until next time...


Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I wish I was better about stopping to smell the roses.

Most of my life is spent rushing around. It's the way I like it. I didn't notice that most people do not set such a pace until one evening a few years ago. My mom had company over and we were both working in the kitchen to prepare dessert when I noticed we were running around...literally. It was if an egg timer was quickly ticking away and if we didn't deliver dessert before it sounded, the kitchen would explode.

I remember making a comment at the time, and both my mom and I shared a laugh, yet we continued on in our busy way.

So some of it is learned. Yet I am convinced that a lot of it is just how I am wired.

I can remember walking the walls oh High School, and my fellow classmates would ask me in passing, "Where is the fire?"

I also walk fast...very nature. It pains me to be stuck in a slow-moving crowd, and I would rather walk backwards or carry very heavy objects to slow myself down rather than just slow my pace. One of Kristi's biggest pet peeves us when I walk ahead of her, but my natural pace carries me along and before I know it, I'm several feet ahead of her. I have to concentrate and try really hard to walk slow.

All this to say, I have a hard time relaxing, and it's not a wonder why. I like to keep things moving, and even while I am doing one thing, my mind is already anticipating the next step. I get bored very quickly, so switch between projects often. Even my alone time is planned. I am not regimented by nature, but I like to anticipate, so if I can plan on grabbing a coffee later in the afternoon, or taking time for a bubble bath to start a new book, or take a bike ride in the evening (all loner yet enjoyable and somewhat relaxing actitivties), I am as happy as a puppy. But if my schedule is thrown off by something not quite as exciting, I become irritated. If it is something better, I welcome the spontaneous interruption.

So tonight was very unscheduled in my world. Usually I decipher open nights in terms of what, on my agenda, will or will not get done. This doesn't mean I may not get side-tracked or completely change my mind, but like I said, I like to anticipate. And truly, there is always a sense of urgency with each planned activity.

My mom and I grabbed dinner in EP, then I drug her into PetSmart to buy personalized name tags for my cats. When we got home, the evening had cooled to a nice sunny breeze, so I sat outside and assembled my cats' new collars.

As I did so, I couldn't help but realize that time was not a stresser for me tonight... and that is rare. My family used to call me a motor mouth because when younger, I would talk really really fast, trying my hardest to saying everything I wanted to say before someone interrupted or stopped listening. That's how I often feel about time. Like it's going to run out before I can get it all done, hence the sense of urgency.

Anyway, I noted how enjoyable it was to sit outside and enjoy the evening, not letting a to-do list or extraneous responsibilities kill the moment. I thought of how it is all just a mind game. Because when I am on vacation or in a place where I know that time is all I have, I find I can enjoy easier. But everyday life doesn't allow such luxury. It beckons with a schedule, a list of projects, and endless distractions.

My lesson learned for tonight is to take time to smell the roses... and not literally of course, because that would put a cramp in my walking style. Yet even if a brisk walk is exactly what I need, I should learn to fit it in without such a stressful anticipation of the next step in life. I love the feeling of getting lost in relaxation... not to the expense of throwing responsibility to the wind, but to the benefit of pure enjoyment of the moment at hand.

Love you all!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Learning to Accept

**The following are some thoughts I have regarding a current situation in my life. Without getting into the “what,” I wanted to share the “how God is working” part.**

The crying always catches me off guard.

Maybe it’s because deep down, I don’t feel like it is something that I should cry about. So when the tears do come, they stream down my face abashedly uninvited.

Yet it makes me sad, and the recipe for tears is sadness.

There are so many other worst-case scenarios. No one is dying. No one is moving away. No one is choosing an alternative lifestyle.

It’s just that a decision is being made—one that unintentionally but ultimately causes hurt. I can put it into perspective. I can exercise my use of rationale. I can believe from the bottom of my heart that this is truly what they feel God wants them to do. But all those things don’t take away the hurt and the sadness. It just doesn’t.

Through it all, it has shown me that God works in ways that are personal to each individual, and the way He works for one person is not necessarily the way He works for another. I can’t always understand why Person A can drop their life and move away to a foreign country to do missions. I can’t always understand why Person B chooses to stay in his boring job and use that as a mission field. I can’t always understand why Person C feels comfortable where she is, and why Person D moves on to another place. The point is, I am not Person A, B, C, or D. I’m Taryn. Jesus speaks to me personally through our relationship together, and no one else is in on that. My job is to follow Him as He leads me.

The way He leads me may never make sense to another, and it may be a beautiful thing to someone else. The point is, I can’t spend my whole life doubting others and their choices or claiming it is faulty because I don’t understand. Sometimes, my job is not to understand, because it’s not my decision to understand. At the end of the day, we all make decisions for better or for worse, and it is up to each of us as an individual in our own personal relationships to Christ as we make those decisions. Some people have an amazing source of wisdom in family and friends, and some people do not, but one thing we all have is the source of Truth—the Word—and God as our guide.

I can write and know all this in my heart. But I still miss them, and I always will.

God works in mysterious ways, and in the end, Truth & Love WILL reign. May we all show Love in the best way we know how while we live on Earth.

**As I have progressed on this journey, I have found certain treasures to be helpful to me along the way. One was found in one of my favorite devotional books called “Jesus Calling.” I will share its words:

“When things don’t go as you would like, accept the situation immediately. If you indulge in feelings of regret, they can easily spill over the line into resentment. Remember that I am sovereign over your circumstances, and humble yourself under My mighty hand. Rejoice in what I am doing in your life, even though it is beyond your understanding.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Me you have everything you need, both for this life and for the life yet to come. Don’t let the impact of the world shatter your thinking or draw you away from focusing on Me. The ultimate challenge is to keep fixing your eyes on Me, no matter what is going on around you. When I am central in your thinking, you are able to view circumstances from My perspective.”

I have found that keeping Christ at the center of my thinking drastically changes my attitude and perspective. God is teaching me over and over that the only way to attain true peace and joy in my own life is to take my “self” out of the way. Self wants what self wants, and self gets easily confused and swayed by emotion and circumstance. But God guides, and when I let him take control, all else falls into place.

One promise I love about our God is that He has the “grand scheme plan” figured out… and with that, our best interest at heart. The situations we find ourselves in can’t and won’t always make sense. After all, we serve a God so much bigger than ourselves… who are we to think we can understand Him and His ways? It’s a foolish thought. So with that in my mind, I look ahead to the future where I know God has so many wonderful things in store, all orchestrated by events, actions, and circumstances that surround me now.

May God be glorified in and through it all!

Love you all,


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How it All Began

Tonight I was reflecting. Kristi and I were driving home from an engagement shoot, and right before we got into the car, she announced, "Tonight during the shoot I made a decision to change 2 things in our business."

She was half-sarcastic, half-no-nonsense. I knew she wouldn't make an executive decision without my input, but at the same time, I usually agree with her decisions. That's why we work so well together. :)

Anyway, her dramatic pronouncement caused me to think about our business and how much it has changed over the past several years.

It all began one evening about 6 years ago. We were sitting at a restaurant, what was then called Brick Oven, and we were eating dinner together. At that point in our lives, we were both in college and having fun attaining our degrees. Work was part-time and secondhand in our lives, and neither of us knew what our futures would hold.

Over the past few months before that point, my mom, with her entrepreneurial spirit, had been planting the seed in my mind... "Taryn, why don't you start a graphic design business? You could do it on the side, and design all sorts of things for people..."

I remember looking at Kristi from across the table and telling her, "So I think I'm going to start a business."

"What kind of business?" Kristi asked.

"A graphic design business," I told her. "You know... design Christmas cards, invitations, logos... stuff like that."

Kristi's face turned serious and she leaned across the table. "Taryn," she told me, "You can't start this business without me." She said it as if to do so would put an end to the world... as if, since I had not originally included her in the business plan, I must be crazy.

I smiled. Always a fan of teamwork and having a sidekick to turn to, I told her, "We can do it together."

And so began the our journey of starting our business together, which was then geared towards graphic design.

One Saturday, we sat in her basement with a pad of paper and pen in hand, trying our best to agree upon a business name.

After about 30 minutes of throwing out ideas, I started to get silly.

"Purple Rainbow," I said. "Poptart Design. Because there are 2 poptarts in every package... and there are two of us."

After compiling a list of several creative words, we finally came up with our first business name: Two Peas in a Palette.

Within days of sending out our very first advertising mailer, the response was wonderful. Among other small projects, we were honored to take part in helping Apostolic Christian Restmor come up with a new logo design for their Frank Lloyd Wright-esque building that was being built at the time.

The next year or so brought about a very lucrative "Christmas" season for us in which we designed a lot of Christmas cards. Other small projects gave us a great side-business during our college careers.

After college, we both went our separate ways for a year, growing professionally in other careers while sustaining the small side-business. Sprinkled into the graphic design projects was the occasional family photo or senior. During the Fall of that first year out of college, we shot our very first wedding. Kristi's cousin was getting married, so she agreed to let us take her wedding pictures.

Around that same time, business began to pick up, and we were faced with a decision. My mom, ever the catalyst, pumped enough courage into me to quit my current full-time job (which was a steady paycheck but not creatively challenging or a promising future career) and take the dive into our business full-time.

I worked that Fall and Winter full-time with our business out of the basement of my parents' home, while Kristi kept her full-time job and would join me after work or on weekends to keep everything rolling.

That Spring, we shot 2-3 more weddings and as our year started to book up with more weddings and photo sessions, Kristi also made the decision to quit her job full-time and join in the fun.

From there, we made a lot of important changes. We rebranded ourself, changing our business name to Imagine Artists and launched a brand new website. We also decided to focus more on photography and grow in that field professionally.

After our first year in business out of the basement, we had an amazing opportunity that following Fall to rent out a space in downtown Morton. We established our very own storefront and housed some of my mom's cute trinkets and treasures in the front to draw people in for both of our benefit.

Shortly thereafter, Lulu's came to town and my mom moved out and across the street, giving us the opportunity to make full use of our space and continue to grow. We were in our bright yellow office for a year before the building on the corner of Main St. and Jefferson St. caught our eye.

I can remember peeking in the windows with Kristi. When we had been in the basement, we had dreamed of a storefront, but now that we had a space, we dreamed of more room + the ability to have a studio.

"It would be PERFECT," we said, stalking the interior of the place from behind the glass window as cars drove by behind us. "We need to check it out."

We called the phone number on the sign and got a tour pronto. And we were right... it WAS perfect. It was split up exactly as we needed it to be, and it was also a beautiful building with tons of character in the best location possible.

We said yes.

Our photography business currently resides in this building, and our most recent change has been to focus entirely in photography as a studio. We are definitely still in love with natural lighting photography and exploring all of the wonderful options the great outdoors bring us... and even the window-side locations on rainy days. Additionally, we LOVE having our (small) studio in which we can shoot babies and children.

As photographers, we also both still share our passion of graphic design and use those talents as they apply to photography. We take a lot of time making our albums, coffee table books, collages, invitations, etc. to be as unique and custom-made as possible, making each a creation all its own. No two designs are ever the same, and we capitalize on being able to use the images we capture in our design work.

Getting to sit in downtown Morton on the busiest intersection and greet customers as they set foot in our OUR business... it brings me such joy. Sometimes, I know people look at us funny and think we are way too young to be business owners. In fact, just the other day, two older men walked in and had to clarify that we were, indeed, the right ones to speak with for decision-making :) but I look at that and count it yet another blessing among many others.

All along the way, God has had His hand in this in such an evident way that we would be blind not to see His working. First of all, anything we have ever needed has been supplied in a heartbeat. I just read in one of my devotionals about how "delay is not denial," and while that was comforting to me in others areas of my life, where business is concerned, God has not delayed a thing! His awesome provision has been amazing on this journey.

Furthermore, he has taught us both such big life lessons in just 3-4 short years. Over time, Kristi and I have learned how to be best friends AND business partners. I would be dishonest to say that it isn't a challenge. Just like anything else in life worth working hard for and trusting in God with... it has its ups and down, its peaks and valleys, and its pluses and minuses. But I can truly say that in it and through it all, God has taught us one of the biggest lessons we will learn in life, and that is how to love unconditionally and in spite of someone else's mistakes. We wouldn't be where we are today without God's Love in both of our hearts, and our willingness to give and take.

I can assure you that there are few people as different as Kristi and I. We are so different. Yet we always say... it is the differences that meet in the middle and make us a dynamic team of two. We have found a way to mesh her strengths and my strengths to grow our business, and to work out the weaknesses of us both and compensate with our different personalities.

God is good! When I went to Africa a year ago, the little orphans would chant that phrase every morning: God is good! It is true, and as long as I wake up every morning and say that... on the sunny days, and on the gray days... I can remember that is IN Him and THROUGH Him that IA is what it is.

Love you all!


Wednesday, May 04, 2011


I figured out what my problem is. It's not that I wouldn't love to update you all fairly often. It's just that a) I have a terrible, terrible memory and b) due to my terrible memory in which, if I don't make a point to remember my life and every clever thing that occurs, I have nothing to write about.

Well, unless I'm in an inspirational mood... which doesn't just happen at a moment's notice.

I've decided that this is why God made me a photographer. Without pictures, I wouldn't be able to keep track of anything that happens.

So, I shall default to my usual cop-out: my life in pictures. Here is our Easter celebration w/the fam:

Tonya made these adorable cupcakes for the kids.
After several years of family get-togethers with multiple children, we got smart and figured out that it's best to have TWO desserts: one for the adults, one for the kids.

The adult dessert. :) Beautiful, and again, made by Tonya.

At age 25, YES, I am still getting an Easter basket. I'm not complaining!
The hectic kid's area-- dinner time.

The less-crazy adult table.

Easter egg hunt for the toddlers

Post-Easter egg hunt for the older kids

All the ladies
Reaching for an egg

More unveiling...

What are cousins for?
Beau- such a silly boy

Until next time...

Love you all!