There is something beautiful about returning home to the familiar! While Josh & I have very much enjoyed living and experiencing life in different places around the U.S. there is a sense of joy and comfort that comes with the simple things like, humidity, summer lightening bugs, thunderstorms, birds and trees. This summer as we continue to settle into life in NWA, it is these simple things that I am enjoying most. There is no stunning Lake Tahoe to head to each week, nor do we wake up to a mountain sunrise but there is still much beauty to discover here in Arkansas.
Here's a few of our summer bucket list! And if you are up for an adventure, we welcome you to join us.
- Buffalo River Trail & Ozark Natural Forest
- Hiking at Devil's Den
- Petit Jean State Park Camping!
- Table Rock Swimming and Kayaking
- Beaver Lake Cliffs & Waterfalls (they exist!)
- The Forest Concert Series (at Crystal Bridges)
On Monday (2.26.18), Josh went in for what we thought would be a minor outpatient surgery to remove one side of his thyroid and see about some spots that the doctor had noticed in earlier tests. Once the doctor got in, he realized there was a cancerous spot and ended up removing both glands. By all indications so far, it appears that the cancer was contained to the gland, but we will know for sure once test results come back next week. While we knew this was a possibility, it was still a surprise and this surgery ended up being a much bigger ordeal than we planned or hoped.
Moving to a new community can be exciting, terrifying, refreshing and a little weird all at the same time. For us moving back to the Ozarks feels familiar yet different. The smells, humidity, scenery, regional businesses names, and even the friendly smiles of people in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) so closely matches Southwest Missouri that it genuinely feels like we are back home. Since our first "home" really is only an hour and a half away in Missouri, this means we're close enough to easily visit family but still far enough away that everything is NEW! As we dive into life in our community there is much to explore. To embrace this adventure, and also to help others get to know Arkansas better, I wanted to encourage other people to tag things to do in their first 30 days. When visiting or exploring Northwest Arkansas, consider sharing your own stories and photos on social media with #30daysinNWA.
I'm going to let the pics do most of the talking here. As we moved from Northern Nevada we had a few days filled with adventure! We traveled to see friends in Idaho, then caught the 5 National Parks of Utah, down to Arizona to see more friends, back to Cali to go to the most iconic Disneyland with friends then back across the West landing in Arkansas in by July 1 for the official start day of Joshs' new job. It was an amazing time of travel, laughter, beauty, cars breaking down & more.
Our moving adventure begins as we packed out our car with our final load - emptying our Smoketree home of all things Josh & Jenn. We then took it to our awesome friend’s (the Uhts) garage (where the rest of our items are staying until they get moved to Arkansas with us). Here we hung out like homeless people outside their house, sorting our items a more to make our car a little more road-trip ready.
We opted to spend our first night at Tahoe at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It is a quite fun place as the musical themes of rock and roll are perfectly on display from themed radio and tape room keys to song lyrics in the elevators, on the bathroom soaps and of course at the ice machine cleverly labeled “Ice, Ice Baby” - how fitting. I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of this place with my friend Michelle a couple years back and it was great to stay here as we wrapped up our day as Nevada home owners.
We kicked off day 2 with a stroll to Stateline Beach on the boarder of Nevada and California. Tahoe is a true treasure. The cool air today - with a high of only 58 is keeping most people off the summer beach. The guy monitoring the beach let us skip the beach fee with the statement, “No one is swimming today.” The clear waters with the snow-capped mountains was the perfect way to launch into our day of adventure that also came with a nice gift of house-closing paperwork.
Over the mountain we connected with Highway 50, also known as the “loneliest highway” on our way to Great Basin National Park. This park formed in 1986 and is not the most popular of parks to visit. We will arrive later tonight and will get to see how this one ranks in comparison. For now we are very much enjoying the scenic drive of this lonely highway that is lined with dusty mountains, white sands, windy dirt devils and few cars. So far it is definitely worth the drive and a great reprieve from the busy roads and life that have made up the past few weeks. Fittingly I’m wearing my “adventure is out there tee.” The big decision of the day is do we camp in our tent in 37 degree weather or do we go for the experimental hotel in downtown Baker, Nevada… All yet to be determined.
After following along two giant mining dump trucks taking up the entire highway for many miles with the average speed of 10! We will were able to make it to Great Basin and secure a campsite before dark. The site was perfect as our little tent fit perfectly in the spot next to the following water. Although we have determined we are too old to sleep on the ground the sounds of rushing water, after a few hours around the campfire lulled us to sleep. The beauty of the Nevada highway was the perfect way to wrap up our first few days of adventure.
What an adventure the past few months have been! Today we want to share some exciting news as we move on to what God has next for us. In July we will be moving to Springdale, Arkansas (AR).
Josh has been offered a job as a Community Pastor for Fellowship Northwest Arkansas (Fellowship NWA). In this role, Josh will be primarily focused on serving the community of Springdale. We are so excited about the great work God is already doing in this community and at this church. The main church campus is located in Rogers, AR and reaches people in the communities of Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and Fayetteville (which also has its own campus).
For the next few weeks, we are wrapping up our time in Nevada - completing the sell of our Nevada home and then traveling around the West while we have a little time to sight-see and visit friends. Follow along with us on Instagram #joshandjennadventures. Below are a few photos of our recent trip to Fellowship, of the church campus and some trees! Yea for trees!
After a few moves around the nation – to Dallas, Texas; Abingdon, Virginia & Carson City, Nevada, and about 10 years of living "away," it will be nice to only be 2 hours south of our family and some amazing friends. It is a beautiful area with many opportunities for hiking and canoeing - we invite you to come visit (once we have a home - ha, ha - still working on that). In the meantime, Jenn is looking around for a great opportunity in communications and marketing but if you're in need of some graphic design she's taking on clients while also still selling Noonday. See more of Jenn's work & info here.
Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as we take on yet another adventure!!
For those who may not know where Springdale is - or even Arkansas here is a map to help. :)
Other landmarks: Close to Fayetteville, 2 hours from Tulsa & Branson.
As my husband and I prepared for our trip to Kenya this summer, we heard words like "poverty" and "living with nothing" mentioned by people who had visited Huruma or wrote books about these topics. Hearing these phrases, I pre-built a picture in my mind of what to expect to see: sad-looking children, begging for food; piles of trash, dirt roads and crumbling buildings. I knew the trip would be a heart-wrenching experience and that I would continue to be overwhelmed with guilt for the over-stuffed closets, extra shoes and bedrooms that we already own. So, in some ways I thought I was ready. Prepared to see the poverty and prepared to know what to do or say and to act heroically. But none of this turned out to be the case.
Nothing can really prepare you for this reality. In my case, seeing really meant believing -- believing that poverty truly exists in our 21st century world. Everyday in Huruma was eye-opening, and every moment revealed a new layer of life found in the most unexpected place -- a slum outside of Nairobi made up approximately 500,000 people. What surprised me most was what I didn't expect to see. Smack in the middle of dirty, muddy, sewer-filled streets I discovered VIBRANCE! From brightly-colored clothes hanging off balconies, to colorful custom-made signs for every type of business to colorful uniforms and classroom décor. Diving in deeper, I came face to face with the vibrant spirit radiating from the people I met. Throughout the community a spirit of hope drives people to do whatever possible to provide a better life for the next generation. This hope lingers in the streets of Huruma and especially within the walls of the Furaha Community Foundation.
Today, several weeks back from this life-changing experience, I have a new understanding of poverty. Yes there are dirty, hungry children living in less-than-ideal homes - but there is SO much more to it. There are smiling, hopeful students, parents, and creative business owners who challenge me more than I ever thought possible to have hope despite all obstacles. The poverty I witnessed is larger than life and seems like an uphill battle, but the HOPE that resonates from the core of the community - especially for people connected to the Furaha Community Foundation (and WIGU) -- is contagious and powerful. If anything, experiencing poverty with my own eyes, reminded me of the overwhelming power that can be found in HOPE.
At a recent conference for Noonday Collection, a woman named Anne shared a powerful quote: "The poorest person in the world is not one without food and clothing but one without hope." Anne propels hope in the country of Kenya by creating custom hand-made jewelry at a company called Bawa Hope which is one of suppliers for the Noonday Collection. Learn more about Noonday Collection here.
Tonight we said our final “goodnight” to our most loved and treasured dog Pluto. It was a terribly sad few hours (and days) filled with many tears as we accepted the news that he had cancer and wasn’t going to get any better. Pluto has long been part of our family, for a little over 12 years in fact, and we will miss every part of his fun-loving character. For me especially, Pluto has always been more than a pet. And losing him as part of our daily lives feels a bit like losing a part of myself. Some people may say, “it was just a dog.” but he was so much more than that.
I bought Pluto at my own garage sale in Republic, Missouri from a guy in the neighborhood looking to sell the adorable six-month-old golden Cocker Spaniel puppy because he was getting picked on too much by his older sibling dogs. In our first meeting, Pluto came and sat on my lap with his big fluffy paws hanging over my legs. It didn’t take long for me to know he was the perfect dog for me (and us). On that cool, fall day in 2004, on the porch of the first house Josh and I owned, I said, “I’ll take him,” without asking my spouse first - which caused me a little trouble later but it all worked out. After a little negotiation, Josh quickly began to love him too.
Pluto moved and changed with us and continued to be that constant, faithful friend that we came home to, wherever that home might be - Missouri, Texas, Virginia or Nevada. He traveled with us often, camped with us in a tiny tent, slept with us in cars when needed and visited family and friends everywhere. For a little over 12 years, Pluto has been the sleepy friend waiting for us by the door or sometimes on the couch. He would quickly welcome us with a happy smile, pant, and tail wag and immediately get his bone. We loved that he only liked one kind of bone - which was the one that could rarely be found because it was technically unsafe for dogs. He loved each new version regardless of safety.
Beyond our everyday greetings and adventures, Pluto has been a constant companion who held all my secrets and listened to my silly stories. This cuddly creature comforted my aching heart when loved ones passed away, he sat beside us when the challenges of infertility surrounded us, and entertained us when we needed it most.
Pluto also was a source of creativity and imagination. During the past few years, Pluto’s quirky behavior of sleeping in our closet, on or around our clothes became the inspiration for @fashionistapluto (on Instagram). More than an Instagram character, Pluto also has a whole life inside my head and partially inside a current children’s book I am writing about a dog who teaches his family to have fashion sense. Keep watching for the official post about this; it is nearly ready. I started Pluto’s Instagram account to keep me motivated – and since I still have thousands of pictures of Pluto - his story and whimsical photos will continue to echo on social media.
The many great moments with Pluto will continue to bring great memories mixed with a new grief of losing a beloved part of our family. We are beyond thankful for the 12+ years we had with Pluto and are thankful that God allowed us to share the many wonderful moments with this unique God-created pup.
He is survived by two grieving owners and countless friends and followers.
It is always hard to say goodbye to friends new and old. This week we made some incredible new friends. These new friends are teachers and staff at the Furaha school who treated us like family, students who hugged our necks so sincerely and melted our hearts with smiles all week long.
Both Josh and I are thankful for so any moments! We both had an opportunity to spend time in the classrooms with kids, learning with them and getting to know them. I (Jenn) spent quite a while hanging out with the grade 6 students. Their curiosity about everything was so exciting. They leaned in and learned a new silly song from me, we made graphics and mini movies on my phone, and talked about computers and art (by the way none of these students own an iphone or computer, many of the parents do have a phone called Impesa that is used to help find jobs and transfer money around). One student drew a rooster on the board and I tried to draw a picture of my dog and car, which was actually quite comical – his drawing was much better. Meanwhile, Josh spent time with the 8th grade students talking about how lungs work – and specifically how his is a bit different since he only has one lung.
The amazing thing we discovered this week is how easy it is to connect and find joy in spending time with these students and teachers from a completely different culture. We are both equally fascinated by one another and have completely different worldviews. At the end of each day, I was left with a desire to keep learning more about how the kids and teachers think, about their hopes and dreams, and about their deep sense of faith. Even today, I want to better understand how each of them maintain hope in a place like Huruma (one of three large slums around Nairobi).
While the people are incredibly beautiful in so many ways, there is no denying the fact that this is a hard place to live - and the complete poverty does create many questions of faith. How could this be a real place? Does God see this? (And yes he does.) I find myself torn by how to balance the life I have as a middle class American – with a house that is the size of about 10 shanties (homes) in Nairobi, that is average size in Minden – with all of this poverty. Now that we have seen this, how do I respond, how do we respond?
God totally grabbed my heart yesterday morning as we prayed alongside a teacher who lives in the Huruma slums and gives back so much everyday to help change the future of this community. This woman is talented, educated and could move out of the slums but she stays because of Furaha. She prayed, “Lord forgive us for forgetting about you, for the times we snap our worship away from you and think only of ourselves.” Yikes!
Today, we ask that you take a moment to consider how you can make a difference in the lives of people living in extreme poverty. Pray that God will continue to open your heart and lives to this issue.
Take some time today to see what When I Grow Up is doing or to research extreme poverty in the world. Click here to go to When I Grow Up's site.
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Traveling a Browns
This page highlights many of our adventures of traveling our nation and world.