I Have 2 Homes

Our recent trip to Jamaica was one of renewing dear friendships. I consider so many of my friends from Harmons, Jamaica as my 2nd family.  When we arrived, it was as if we had never left. That feeling of comfort, of arriving back home, came instantly. I was saddened though as one of my dear family members, Sammy, had passed on since our last visit. I found myself grieving the lack of his earthly presence, the sound of his voice, the smile on his face. I missed him gracing me with a pet name (nickname) for our visit.

Quite humorously, the first thing I mentioned while journaling about our visit was the care and nurturing of my coffee addiction. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I learned that they had begun roasting their own coffee right where we were staying, so each morning was begun with a cup of freshly roasted, freshly brewed, very native Jamaican coffee. Roll that glorious bean footage:

Coffee tree. See the green beans?

Raw beans.

Ira stirring a batch of beans over the fire.

Mmmm, roasting beans.

My husband gave it a try.

Cooling the freshly roasted beans.

Dean, the coffee expert.

And me drooling over the beans:

Jamaica is full of beautiful wonders, the Doctor Birds, the flora and fauna. The fruit trees are always in glorious display. I love to recall the sights, but the smells of Jamaica are what truly linger. With every turn I was infused with a new smell, very pungent, very pronounced, some divinely sweet, others I would categorize as distinctly odd. Even the earth evokes a greater sense of earthiness by it’s smell, richer, heavier than I am accustomed to. I feel a greater connection to nature in Jamaica, perhaps because everything is fresh, different and therefore I stop to linger on the details.

The little town in which we stay has no running water. Electricity is available, but few people have jobs and therefore no electricity. Take our unemployment rate in the U.S. and flip it to approximate the employment rate in Harmons and surrounding areas. I am once again reminded of the blessing it is to have an indoor toilet and and sink and faucet with running water. The Harmony House, our home away from home, has water trucked in, so we did not have to go without during our stay, but most of the locals do not have this luxury. The cooking is also done outside over a fire when it is not raining both to keep the heat out and because there is not much room in most homes. Occasionally some have a separate kitchen like this:

Many families live in tiny homes like this:

There are nicer homes in the area, but among those construction is a slow process sometimes taking years. They build as the money comes in.

One woman invited me into her home where she lived with her 4 yr old daughter and another couple, friends of hers. The room we entered was the tiny kitchen that was used when it rained. I thought I would fall through the floor. The remaining 2 rooms were tiny bedrooms in which there was truly no privacy. And in that house I left my heart.

The organization that brought us to Jamaica is Won By One to Jamaica. They regularly bring missions teams to this area to build relationships and build homes. I am so pleased with what is becoming of the town in connection with Won By One. The locals are employed by the Harmony House to clean, cook, build, and to provide food for the missions teams. Several local men head up the construction teams when the missions groups help build the houses. Also, a couple large greenhouses have been built with more to come which employ the locals. The produce is sold to the hotel industry on the coasts which reduces import costs for the hotels and provides solid jobs for the workers in the greenhouses; win, win. In this town and the surrounding area, I see progress being made; I see hope.

The greatest aspect of growth that I’ve seen in this town is that of brotherly love. My first trip 10 yrs ago I noticed the children beating on each other, fighting, calling names. There seemed to be a disharmony, an imbalance. The fathers of the children did not seem to be involved in the lives of their “baby mommas” or their own children. Although I still see many lone mothers raising their children, I also have noticed that more couples are marrying. And although I did see a few outbursts of violence among the children, it was a much more rare occurrence. The love of God prevails. This love is becoming something very real and tangible to the locals and the missions groups as their lives collide. All who engage are transformed.

amanda ∞


Jamaica bound

Today is one of lists and packing. We are going to Jamaica. My husband has been asked to make a new video for Won By One. You can view his last one here which was done about 5 years ago.

My children from the last trip:

I am fond of this place. There was a time in my life of turmoil and unrest as I sought God, but could not seem to find Him. In 1999 my first trip to Jamaica with this group is where God spoke to me. He said, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.” This thought shook my world. Being the baby of the family, being a girl of brothers, I felt I had always gotten my way. And as I grew into adulthood, life was really about me and my happiness. I was crying out to God because I was not happy. When my focus changed from me to Him, suddenly life had tremendous depth of meaning beyond my little realm. Suddenly life was about loving others, not receiving love for myself.

God has since taken me on many adventures to grow me into maturity, and there is still much more ahead as He continues to transform me. I look forward to this trip 10 years from the point I surrendered my “self” to God’s hands.

Rose, the wonderful cook:

amanda ∞

Myopic View

I’ve decided that myopic persons named the constellations. Last night as I lay under a blanket of stars, I viewed the vast night sky through my severely nearsighted eyes. The bright stars were round gold buttons, the dim stars swallowed by the black. The patterns of the constellations distinctly appeared, danced, and told me their ancient stories.

Things I learned about nature:

  • Dew forms early in the night and quickly soaks into nice soft blankets that are not in tents.
  • Fireflies are surreal when spread across an entire pasture.
  • Lightning is swift, dangerous, bold and entrancing.
  • Rain is refreshing, and tents are essential.
  • The tiniest of frogs can sing their beautiful songs all night.
  • A search for treasure in nature gives a bountiful harvest.

I awoke this morning to find my daughter settled quietly on this little island.

She had found a treasure of her own.

The mother didn’t mind her presence as long as she stayed back.

And when the mother felt threatened, the father came to the rescue.

amanda ∞


As a school assignment, my daughter wrote the script for this short film. It came together wonderfully. So what grade should she get?

amanda ∞

Scrabble face

If you can’t laugh at yourself…

amanda ∞

My daughter, the teacher

While I was away at Artfest filling my head with creative things, my daughter became the teacher for the art journaling class at VERONICA’s Voice. She did a wonderful job leading and teaching and guiding.  Here’s the mosaic collage technique she demonstrated that day:

tree-collage She sketched out the tree for placement, then added the color. The paper is from magazines which she tore and placed with a glue stick. Fun!

The art journal class is going well. While we do bring suggestions and techniques to the table, the women are free to do whatever they would like in their journals. I’ve signed up for the Stencilry Class over at Dispatch from LA and am hoping I can share some of what I learn. Fresh ideas are always welcome.

On another note, I just had to share this hilarious card my mom sent me:

symbol-minded-card The inside reads, “You’re my symbol-minded friend…”

Isn’t it hilarious? My grandmother purchased this card sometime in the 60s or 70s. I come from a family that either saved or used everything, so after both my grandparents passed, my mom inherited a box of very charming vintage cards. I am so thrilled to get them in the mail on occasion. They are my absolute favorite.

Our family will be joining with all of my husband’s immediate family this weekend for the Easter Holiday. It has been years since all the siblings and cousins were together at the same time. We are all very excited for the reunion.

And then next week I’m going to share all my wonderful tales from Artfest as well as glimpses of my projects. I’m still on a creative high. Even preparing tax returns could not bring me down.

Have a meaningful and joyful Holiday in celebration of the risen Savior, and in remembrance of the Passover.

amanda ∞

No school? Think again.

This week our homeschool is closed, no math, no Latin, no writing assignments, no school at all. I leave my students and the principal as I set off for Artfest early Wednesday morning. But I had to chuckle about the excitement my students were displaying about having no school this week while set about their chosen activities for the day.

Here’s what my students accomplished on this “day off”:

  • Week’s menu was planned, using new recipes and working around the parameters of our grocery budget
  • Grocery list was made
  • Piano was played
  • Laundry was sorted, washed, and dried
  • Neighbors yard had hours worth of bulbs planted
  • Comic book was outlined and sketch begun
  • Gonache was prepared, will be ready to eat tomorrow
  • Jungle Pilot was read
  • Fast ball was polished

And this is Monday. I think they will have as much fun as me this week. My daughter has decided to prepare all the meals for the week, except for the gonache which my chocolate loving son just had to make. I can’t wait to hear the stories of their week when I return home.

amanda ∞