It’s been too long

Please forgive me!

Well my friends, it’s been way to long. I am guilty of procrastination. I procrastinated in the writing of an update because I just don’t know how to articulate it all. I want to say something meaningful and insightful about our current state, but it  hasn’t happened. To be honest, I’m just overwhelmed by all things Internet. All things communication, really.  Not only is my work all wrapped up in online communication, but now worship, group Bible studies, entertainment, and even family interaction has moved online. I don’t have to explain this to you. We are all in the same situation. But I hope you will understand my lack of updates.

I think the best way to cover it all is give an overview of each month beginning in February.

February

Selfie during a bike ride.
Had to take a selfie while we stopped for a break on our bike ride.

February was pretty much business as usual. The highlight of the month was getting back on the bikes for the first time after back surgery. Although not pain free yet, I did well and it gave me hope for the progress of recovery. I was getting stronger everyday, but was a little discouraged because I was comparing myself to others who had gone through the same surgery and felt great after about 5 months. At my final followup appointment, my doctor reminded me that the healing of the nerves could take up to two years and there could always be some residual pain. Thankfully, I am almost pain free, and only have some discomfort every few days. I am amazed at how the body works and how God created it with such a complexity and the ability to heal itself. I’m thankful for the people he put in my path to help me “fix” the problem and take care of me during the healing process. I’m also thankful for the timing of the surgery. A few months later would have made things much more difficult.

We also had the floors replaced in our home. The carpet needed to be removed, so being the dog family that we are, we had laminate floors put in. We really love them. They’re easy to clean and they look beautiful. Although everything was a mess for a week or so, it was worth it.

On February 23rd, Grace Bible Church, Dallas had their annual missions conference. It’s always fun to catch up with fellow Avant (aka former Camino Global) missionaries that Grace supports.

March

Shelves full of hand sanitizer.
Fully stocked shelves of hand sanitizer the first week of March.

March is a month to remember (or do we just want to forget?). I’ll begin with the news I should have put in an update after our team conference, but never got to it. Our annual Obrero Fiel team meeting was March 14-15. I went down on the 11th to visit friends in Mexico City and got things ready for the meeting in Puebla. When I left home, there was a little bit of news going around about canceling large events, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I just figured it was media hype and I went on about my business. I did feel the need to buy some extra sanitizer before leaving. After about 4 stores with empty shelves, I found a new shipment at the Walmart in Waxahachie (see photo).

While in Mexico, I began to receive texts from friends and supporters asking if I was okay and if I was going to be able to get home. After hearing about the weird toilet paper shortage and chaos that was going on in the states, my friends in Mexico joked with me about how crazy that was and we exchanged hugs and kisses as usual. The Semana Santa (Holy week/Easter) holiday was coming up, so their schools were waiting until then to disperse instead of closing schools immediately. It still wasn’t an urgent feeling.

I then began receiving email updates from Avant about the precautions they were putting in place for travel and urging everyone to “leave now” if possible, or be prepared to stay in the country they are currently in for an undetermined period of time. My flight wasn’t scheduled until the 17th, so I began to feel a bit uneasy. But my supervisor assured me I would still be okay waiting until then to return. His flight wasn’t scheduled until the next day.

On the 17th, I arrived at the airport in Mexico City to find organized chaos. It didn’t feel like chaos, but as I waited and watched the people I realized it was way more crowded than I had ever seen it–especially in the middle of the week. Travelers had worried faces; only a few with masks. There was really no way to social distance. And I had only heard that phrase because Scot had jokingly mentioned it being the new buzz phrase at home. As I boarded the plane, I became uneasy and felt the need to sanitize everything. I wiped down my seat belt, the chair arms, the headrest, the tray–everything. There was not an empty seat on the plane and only a couple of people had masks on (it wasn’t a thing yet). The girl sitting next to me had NO sense of personal space. She spoke to me the entire trip and leaned in toward me as she did. I had to pray the entire trip for peace and also to extend grace to this row mate who obviously paid less attention to the news than I did. This was the last day in the foreseeable future that there would be a packed-full airplane. All of  the people who wanted out of the country left that day. And it felt like they were all on my plane. My supervisor was able to travel the next day (I think flights were limited to US citizens returning home). He said that the plane was almost empty.

I made it home just in time for the shelter-in-place to begin. As a precaution (since my daughter was pregnant at the time), I totally self-quarantined for two weeks. I didn’t leave the house. I didn’t see anyone but my husband. We were all in a state of limbo–not knowing what would come next or how long this would go. In my mind, it would last a few weeks then we’d go on about our normal lives. I was wrong.

Group photo at the restaurant table.
Fun dinner out with the Obrero Fiel team and their families.

But March wasn’t all crazy. I was able to attend the Country Bible Church Ladies Retreat on the 7th. It was a refreshing time of fellowship, and I’m so glad we were able to do it before all of the social distancing began. Plus, the good part about my trip to Mexico was seeing friends and encouraging my Obrero Fiel team (and being encouraged by them). Check out the photos in the gallery at the end of the post. The captions tell a little about my time there.

April

Once people accepted the fact that we would all be hunkering down in our homes awhile, the floodgates opened for online needs. Being in my position as a techie, I became swamped with extra things to do. Our online ministry with resources became a necessity and we needed to make new resources available to deal with how to minister during a pandemic. Our resource providers (pastors and missionaries) had (and still have) lots of devotionals, encouragements, studies, books, etc. to add to our library. Our weekly emails became filled with suggestions of handling online worship and interaction.

I also began having others (individuals and ministries) outside my own ministry ask for help (and of course I want to help everyone!). People needed new ways to earn income and reach out to people. I’m thankful God gave me the tools and knowledge to help people in this way. I had to begin each day reminding myself of this, otherwise I would have been much more overwhelmed.

Zoom meeting screen.
Some of the attendees of one of my online paint parties.

Feeling the need to connect after being cooped up for so long, I began a Facebook group for “creatives” and we had a few virtual painting sessions together. It was a nice time to escape and just paint together (albeit virtually). It didn’t take long for people to become weary of virtually meetings, so we only did a handful of paintings. I would love to get back to doing paint parties in person. They are a fun way to be creative and enjoy the company of others. I miss the days of thinking nothing of gathering together and just being around people without worrying about contact and distance.

I also decided to get back into gardening in April since nobody was really sure how long the pandemic would last and some food items were becoming hard to find. I’ve been successful at gardening before, but for some reason, it just wasn’t happening for me this time. Overnight, almost everything I planted disappeared. I started over a couple of times with several different remedies (natural and then I even tried 7Dust), but nothing worked. The strawberry plant has survived, but doesn’t produce fruit (I think something eats the flowers before they can become berries). The parsley, rosemary and thyme, however are thriving. I’ll call this one a fail, but I’m going to try again! In the past, I was able to produce enough “fruit” to make my own salsa all summer and eat endless bounties of cantaloupe. Maybe the pests have evolved since the 90s and I need to catch up with the times to succeed.

At this point in the pandemic, Scot’s company’s studio building had already been shut down and he was working from Monty’s (best friend from work) home studio everyday. We still believed this was a very temporary situation.

May

May was a continuation of online meetings and missed events. We were able to have Amanda’s baby shower via video conference. There was a great virtual turnout and it was nice to get together with a handful of people who could be there in person.

I spent a lot of time at Amanda’s house as she had doctor appointments and other things getting ready for the new baby’s arrival. She also spent a couple of nights away to be the “person” during childbirth for a friend who was pregnant and her husband was away for his service in the National Guard. No one else was able to be there and Amanda was not allowed to come and go. Once in the hospital, that was it. I admire Amanda for her loyalty and grace to be there for a friend during this difficult season at a time when it should be a celebration with family and friends.

May also had a few re-openings. We participated in a trial run at the Arboretum and had a beautiful day! Amanda and I made reservations and packed a picnic lunch. The trails were marked and everyone traveled in the same direction to avoid passing and close interaction. It seemed to work well and Winry had a blast. We also had an impromptu Mother’s day lunch at my mom’s house. We tried to “social distance” as best we could (see photo).

Scot’s work determined that working from home was going to be much more long-term than planned. So the tech department brought all of his equipment from work and set up his makeshift studio in MY OFFICE! I was less than enthusiastic and my concentration level dropped to almost nothing (see video for an understanding of why–and make sure your sound is turned on). But it’s only temporary, right? We’ll muddle through. Right? Overwhelmed is an understatement of how I felt at this point.

This month ended with a fun drive by teacher appreciation on the last day of school (we live down the street from an elementary school) since students had been in online classes since spring break.

This is the video showing the “fun” we had sharing an office.

June

I got to see Natalie and Joe! Natalie’s family drove up from Corpus Christi to visit and celebrate Winry’s 2nd birthday. Joe came up from Austin for the party. We were even able to have some fun at a water park that had just reopened.

Scot and I continued to ride bikes around our neighborhood. There were so many people walking around just to get out of their houses. It’s fun to see them taking walks and enjoying time together. The pandemic may have created so many new stressors, but it has also brought people back to the simple fact that we need to spend time together without constantly having something planned. By the way, I’m thankful we bought our bikes a couple of years ago–even though we didn’t ride much because of my surgery–because if you try to buy a bike now, there’s a waiting list a mile long! We ride several days a week. It’s so nice to get away from phones and computers for a little while during the day.

June continued to keep me busy with work. It’s amazing to see how God equips us for the work he wants us to do within the big picture of His plan. I would have never imagined I’d be technical enough to help with anything with such a world-wide impact. While people were feeling isolated and alone, Obrero Fiel has helped so many be able to find answers to the tough questions of suffering and reaching out when it isn’t easy. Many pastors have found a support system and are building a toolset for ministering in this weird new reality of social distancing. I’m getting a video ready that explains what our Global Engagement team has been working on. Be looking for that in the next week or two.

July

Newborn baby closeup.
One of the many photos of Alphonse during his first week.

My newest grandchild, Alphonse Everett Tapp was born July 8, 2020. Once again, Amanda had a tough labor and delivery. She held on for 24 hours before the doctor decided he wasn’t coming out on his own. He was almost two pounds bigger than Winry was and she had trouble with her too. So they did a c-section. After delivery, everything went well. Of course, none of us could visit in the hospital so we took turns taking care of Winry, trying to help her understand why Mommy wasn’t home. Since Amanda wasn’t able to lift Winry once they came home, Sweetie (Casey’s mom) and I took turns staying with them so Casey could go back to work. It was awesome to help and of course, spend time with the grand babies!

August

August was mostly babysitting and work. We got to take a weekend to go to Austin to see Joe and we did a little sightseeing in and around Fredericksburg. We even ran into an “old” Country Bible Church friend (check out the photos).

I did “break down” and get glasses in August. I’ve been wearing contacts for about ten years, but never felt the need to invest in glasses (even though the quality of vision with glasses is a ton better!). I went all-in and got progressives, transitions (to replace the sunglasses), blue light blocker (because I work on the computer), and the lighter weight lenses. They keep telling me I’ll get used to wearing them, but it’s mid October and they still drive me nuts. But I really do see much better with the glasses.

September

Preview of new websites.
Red de iglesias misionales (network of mission minded churches) and Ediciones las américas (a partnership with a Christian publishing company in Mexico).

More work (imagine that). At this point, things had picked up even more because the Global Engagement team at Avant has been planning a ton of stuff. This means I get to implement it! More exciting news on this in the upcoming video. This image is a little preview of two new divisions on our website that I’m developing right now.

Other September happenings–I got my haircut, we discovered grilled pizza, we were able to go to 4 Winds Steakhouse to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, and we made a quick trip to Kansas City, MO to visit Tina Barham. KC is also the home office for Avant Ministries, my supervisor lives there, and we had also heard that the city has some pretty awesome food. So we tried to fit a lot of stuff into three days! This trip carried into October, so I’ll continue there.

October

We had a great time in Kansas City. We were fed an amazing authentic Mexican meal by my “boss” and his wife (she did the cooking), Scott and Ruth Yingling. They are a couple of long-time Camino missionaries. Most of my time with Scott (we have too many Scot(ts) around here!) has been over video conference, so it was nice to sit down and spend some time with his family. We took one day of sight-seeing while Tina worked and another day out with Tina for some quality time together. It was great catching up with her.

For my new followers, Tina and I served in Mexico together. She was there for eight years and then the home office called her to serve there as their Director of Recruitment. Please pray for her as the current state of travel and limits on gatherings has made her job very difficult. Most of her university events have been cancelled or made virtual. I’ll be filling in for her at a Dallas Baptist University (my alma mater) event this month since they decided to open up for an outdoor missions event.

Group selfie in front of Arrowhead Stadium.
We had fun getting a few selfies in front (and back) of Arrowhead Stadium.

Back to the sightseeing–we didn’t get to go to a Chief’s game, but we did check out the stadium (see photos). We may or may not have been asked to leave the property by a guy in a golf cart when we stopped to video the team practice the day before a scheduled (then rescheduled) game. But we had fun hopping in and out of the car to take pictures in front and back of the stadium. I think the guy in the golf cart had been watching us the whole time before we realized we could see the practice field. Hope he wasn’t filming us. It may show up in a new episode of the Three Stooges.

In a nutshell

I guess that about wraps up my life since February. So to put this whole thing in a nutshell, here are a few takeaways:

  • God has provided some amazing peace in these uncertain times. That’s the only way I can explain it. We are also very thankful that we both still have steady income. My support levels are somewhat low and Scot had to take two weeks of unpaid “furlough” vacation, but we still have work and feel very fortunate.
  • Grand babies are awesome. There’s not much more I can say about that.
  • I’ve experienced two extremes of air travel in just a few months. One so crowded you can barely move, and the other one with every middle seat of the airplane empty. Can you say “elbow room?
  • Pandemic life puts the weight on. I gained about 20 pounds by May. Thankfully, after putting jeans on for the first time in months, I realized I needed to do something about it. I’ve lost all but 4 of those pound so far!
  • Professional football teams don’t like it when you try to record their practices.
  • Even introverts need social interaction.
  • God is in control!

Image Gallery.

Click on a photo to enlarge in a lightbox. You’ll be able to click through each photo. There are a few if videos below the gallery.

Videos

Taking a fellowship break during our team meeting in Puebla, Mexico.

Winry blows out her candle for her second birthday celebration.

Winry loves her new little brother.

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