Full Circle

When we moved to Arequipa in 2008, we found an apartment that was “almost ready.” “Almost ready” turned into six weeks. If you know Greg at all, it won’t surprise you at all that he had to have… a coffee maker. We lived in that room with our 17-month-old, nine suitcases, her pack-n-play, and a coffee pot for those six weeks.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture today after we cleared out the rest of the furniture. First of all, a pic of Manuela with JUST the furniture she is taking home with her. Her house will be transformed with a “McKinzie touch” I do believe. It makes us happy when the things that made our home here end up in homes of those we love so dearly. Here is Manuela and her new boatload of furniture…

2015-01-07 06.11.57Here is what we have left to sustain us through tomorrow (teammates feeding us tonight will obviously help in the eating category). Coffee, water, and internet: what more do we need? Aside from not having a 17-month-old with us, full circle! 😉

2015-01-07 08.10.53The other fun “full circle” story is our office for CUDA (the non-profit we started in the first year that we lived here). We lived one block from the Plaza in Yanahuara and our office was located in Alto Selva Alegre, one block from Holy Spirit Park. Now… we live in Alto Selva Alegre (about 3-4 blocks from Holy Spirit Park) and our office is in Yanahuara about 3 blocks from the Plaza. How crazy fun is that?!

Full circle, people. But we got crazy and flipped the office and house locations. Full Circle.



Full Circle

A new chapter… in 2015

Every tear I have cried in our final days represents a hundred smiles over the past six years.


And those are the memories I want to keep close to my heart in this final week that approaches. It is fitting that a new year has begun. It is natural to reflect on the past when a new year begins. The first phase of our transition has passed, moving the kids to the states. They have been happily playing with their cousins on the farm the past few days. My heart ached so much to see them say goodbye to our Peruvian family here. But my heart is comforted in knowing that they are with blood family that they love in the states right now.

Greg and I are finishing up the final details of moving out of our home. We have a few big pieces of furniture left to sell, a lot of people that need to come pay and pick up the furniture they reserved, and getting rid of all that little stuff that accumulates (food, pens, toys, etc). We are having our final garage sale on Monday. And one week from Monday, we will be reunited with our kids at the farm. I can’t wait. I miss them so much.

Our December Team Arequipa newsletter went out to subscribers a couple of days ago. I wrote my last team article. I wanted to share it here on the blog:

The time has come. This is my last Team Arequipa newsletter article. I was listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” the other day while washing dishes. The weirdest feeling came over me. I remember bawling through that song our first Christmas here, because I missed my home and family so much. I know that many of my new teammates will be experiencing this same emotion this Christmas. But this seventh Christmas in Perú, the sentiment is different. Arequipa has become our home, and we are about to say goodbye to all things familiar to us here. The song causes me to bawl my eyes out but not in the same way.

We have scheduled final dinners and meetings with our loved ones. We have sold furniture and kitchen items that have been part of our hospitality ministry for so long. Our children have cried over seeing many of their toys and puzzles being sold one-by-one with the move approaching. We have made lists for eating our favorite foods and seeing our favorite places “one last time.” Greg is finishing up his theology classes with CUDA. I finished my final year in the library program. Ana will be an angel in her final school performance. We will attend Maggie’s Kindergarten graduation program. Cohen completed his first entire year of preschool all in Spanish. Lots of things are coming to an end.

Little things make me cry. I wrote out the final food menu for my kids’ time here (my parents will be flying them back to the states on December 28). Their favorite Peruvian dish is Ají de Gallina. I started bawling when I wrote those words for the last time on my kitchen menu board. Manuela has started bawling when we talk about the kids leaving. It is so hard to be so close to the move and see the effect it has on those around us.

The first two years we lived in Arequipa, I felt an incredible sense of loneliness. I struggled with the language. I missed friendships from home. I remember Greg telling me that he would pray for me to find a kindred spirit in a Peruvian. That seemed impossible at the time. Last week, I got back from a four day trip with one of my dearest Peruvian friends, Arelí. We traveled through parts of Perú that I had never seen. We laughed. We cried. We shared life. I can’t help but smile about that trip. God’s faithfulness is so evident to me. There are so many in the church here that have become the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to our children during our time here. That is God’s faithfulness to a girl that worried so much about raising her children on the foreign mission field.

My dad and I were walking from the city center back to our home, and he asked me, “Are you apprehensive about moving home?” I didn’t have to blink before I answered. Yes, I am apprehensive, because I don’t have a place at home. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have a job. My kids are unfamiliar with everything that is about to happen in their new schools. We have just sold everything that created what became our physical Peruvian home, and I am so sad. I feel like I am in a dream. Everything seems so surreal. But if God has taught anything to this Tennessee girl that struggled so much with learning a new language and doubted how in the world she could make a difference in another country, he taught me that he is faithful. Because even though I am not making it through many days without crying, every single teardrop is representative of hundreds of smiles that come from my memories here. This journey was so hard at times, but here at the end it has been so completely rewarding.

Greg and I see next year as the beginning of a new chapter. It can be scary to travel into the unknown. But we are confident that God is faithful. He is constantly preparing and molding us for things that he can do that are more than we ask or imagine. And he promised to bring to completion the good work he started in us. We have seen his faithfulness in Arequipa. We are so excited to continue to see the story of his faithfulness in Arequipa through our Peruvian brothers and sisters and in our new team members. Please pray for our family and the Smith family as we have some major transitions ahead. But take time to praise God for his faithfulness, and the incredible testimony of living for his name’s sake wherever we find ourselves in his story. Thank you all for encouraging us along the way. Thank you for your words, your gifts, and your generosity. Greg, the kids, and I are all very excited to see many of our stateside friends and family in less than a month. We look forward to seeing how God makes our new home among you.

A new chapter… in 2015

For Team Arequipa 2.0

We made a ten-year plan.

I don’t like leaving things unfinished. I do it all the time, though. Good intentions, resolutions, dreams, and plans. They are scattered around like rubble. Although Meg and I believe God is writing the next chapter, I have to admit that our story in Arequipa has that all-too-familiar unfinished feeling. Yet, to witness others being written into the story here reminds me that it’s not ours after all. It is, instead, the story of God’s faithfulness.

Therefore, the blessing I would speak has to start this way: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” You have come to join a struggling little community of disciples, not altogether different from the one that first read those words. God began the good work here. It was not ours to start or finish.

Accordingly, you have come to worship and serve as members of our Peruvian family. For this you have been called and sent by the Spirit and the church, and I bless your every good intention, resolution, dream, and plan. “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Remember this above all, at every turn. God’s faithfulness is before and beyond you. It is the meaning and power of your own work. It is the guarantee in the midst of doubt and weakness, through unfinished plans and unfulfilled intentions. Press on. Hold fast. Stand firm. Because our Lord Jesus is faithful.

God give you ears to hear and a grateful heart.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God give you courage to seek the kingdom and sow the kingdom, and nothing less, at all cost.

“And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

I love you, my friends and coworkers. God bless your hands and feet, hearts and mouths. Love the family fiercely. Love our neighbors relentlessly. Love the Lord our God with all that you are.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

For Team Arequipa 2.0

Christmas in 2015???

I have already stated that this is a weird Christmas… our last in the beautiful AQP. I can’t help but wonder where we will be calling home one year from now. If Greg is accepted into one of his top three choices for doctoral work, there is no telling what Xmas 2015 will look like. (If he isn’t accepted, we are happy with living in middle TN leading up to Christmastime.)

Pasadena, CA (not much different than AQP)


Boston, MA (I will have to emotionally prepare for this snow.)

beautiful image of snow covered street with christmas lights on a snowy afternoon in bostons beacon hill

Dallas, TX (not much different than TN)



Christmas in 2015???

Photoshop Peru

We have always gotten a good giggle out of our official photos taken here for new ID’s or passports. They majorly airbrush our faces and put color on our cheeks and lips. Today, Maggie’s teacher gave me her USB to copy off the graduation pics from her class. I got a really great giggle out of seeing these! I thought I would share. I love that they photoshopped entire scenes back behind them. It doesn’t look fake at all. 😉

Maggie Graduation Pic BEFORE…


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and AFTER…


This next one is my favorite.

Maggie’s class picture where it was actually taken…

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And the new and improved photoshopped Arequipa edition…


Isn’t that great!? Ha!

Photoshop Peru

CT–AQP “lasts” 2014

One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.

The boy. Our sweet, Cohen Timothy. You entered the world as an Arequipeño looking like this…


You will leave as an Arequipeño looking like this…

taken in the Yanahuara Plaza by Eternity Fotos

You couldn’t be more excited to go to Pop’s farm in less than a month. You have no clue what is about to take place.

You cried that Manuela wouldn’t be at the house the last time we returned to Arequipa. You are upset when you don’t get to say goodbye to her when she leaves for the day. When we dropped Etelvina off after spending the afternoon with her, you cried that she wouldn’t come to the house to spend the night. (Ha!) You have such a tender heart, and you have won the hearts of two Peruvian grandmothers for sure. You will miss them so much, but you are so young, your memories will probably only be captured by the pictures we have taken, and believe me, I have taken plenty. 😉

I still thought it would be fun to ask you about your AQP favorites. You have completed an entire year of preschool all in Spanish with your 3 year old class. We are so proud of you. You will change so much by the time we return for our first visit back.

Places to visit:

  1. the playground close to our ASA house
  2. the café (unfortunately, it shut down a few months back)

Foods to eat:

  1. Ají de Gallina
  2. chicken enchiladas (apparently AQP style)
  3. apples and strawberry/vanilla yogurt
  4. Queso Helado

What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?

firetruck birthday

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

 Ají de Gallina

What will you miss the most about living here?

 Daddy and Mommy and Manuela (you apparently understand that we aren’t going with you in December)

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

the playroom (Pop and Gram’s) and playing with bicycles and basketballs outside and their playground castle

Anything else???

I am going to miss my playroom upstairs.


CT–AQP “lasts” 2014

MK–AQP “lasts” 2014

One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.

Maggie Kate, you were our first AQP-born TCK. You were a full head of hair with two giant blue eyes…


and we are leaving Perú with you looking like this…

taken in the Yanahuara Plaza by Eternity Fotos

You are in Kindergarten with your big promoción (Kinder graduation) coming up at the end of the month. You are so excited to get to wear a “princess dress” like your sister did for her graduation (we will rent the dress). Your class picked the color “lila” which is the same color as Sophia the First. 😉 We are excited for you, and what makes your graduation extra special is that Pop and Gram will get to be here for it!

You told me in the taxi this morning that Daddy told you (while I was gone somewhere) that it’s okay to be sad this coming month. You know we are moving back to the states, but you are at such a great age to make the transition. I am so delighted that you completed all three years of preschool in Spanish. Now, you are most excited to get to live near your cousin Ruby and to start in a new school.

It was a little bit harder to get your “lasts” recorded, but we will try our best to make your last memories here some of your best! We love our Maggicita!!!

Places to visit:

  1. the zoo (your school just had a field trip there this past Friday)
  2. Shaye and Cora’s house

Foods to eat:

  1. Manuela´s Ají de Gallina (surprise, surprise. It is on the menu for every other week until you leave!)
  2. Etelvina´s Papa a la Huancaína (We are making a date to eat this with her while Pop and Gram are here.)
  3. King Burger (I had to write it out just as you said it. It’s Burger King, and it tickles us that you have nooooooo idea what a good hamburger should taste like. Living on an angus beef farm for 6 months should cure that.)
  4. Chili’s cheese dip (you would request this at almost every restaurant birthday meal)


What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?

going to Shaye and Cora’s house and play with each other

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

Ají de Gallina and Papa a la Huancaína

What will you miss the most about living here?

 Miss Yomara (your teacher that you have had for all three years of preschool)

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

We will see Ruby and Sam… and Judah, and that I am going to start a new school.

Anything else???

  • I am going to miss my best friend from my school, Ana Paula.
  • I am so excited about my promoción!
MK–AQP “lasts” 2014

AG–her AQP “lasts” 2014

One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.

Anastasia Grace, we brought you to Perú looking like this…

taken right before coming in 2008

We are leaving Perú, and you have turned into this…

taken right before coming in 2008

Where does the time go? You are very aware of what is taking place. Your daddy and I have already seen your emotions come out about the move that approaches. You are nervous, scared, happy, excited, apprehensive… all at the same time. Kinda like me. 😉 You are a lot like me because you show your emotions, and it usually comes out in the form of tears. We have told you that it is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry. It is even okay to be mad at us. But it is not okay to not talk about it. It is not okay to lash out at others around you. This will certainly be a journey for all of us, and we realize that out of all three children, you ‘get it’ the most.

Sweet girl, you were born in the states, but you call Arequipa home. You have your favorites, and when I asked you some questions about places you’d like to see and “say good-bye” to before leaving, you didn’t hesitate. I want to remember this list. It will be fun to look over years from now. It will be even more fun for you to visit these places when you come back to AQP for a college summer internship 😉 .

We love you, Anita. What a journey you have already had in this life.

Places to visit:

  1. your jardín at Francisco Rojas School, specifically to say goodbye to your preschool teacher, Miss Kathya
  2. “Ana’s park”–as we call it. It was the great big park that sat diagonally across from our house in Miraflores.
  3. Manuela’s house in Naranjal
  4. the Plaza de Armas

Foods to eat:

  1. crab empanadas and ceviche (good choice, girl. Since it’s on my list too, maybe we should go twice?!)
  2. Manuela’s Atomatada
  3. anticuchos (beef heart) and picarones at Festejo on Ejercito
  4. Ibérica Chocolate
  5. the Lambramani food court
  6. Manuela´s Adobo


What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?

Our church… we get to see our friends, and sometimes Arelí takes us out.

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

 That’s a hard one. I have two. Crab empanadas and Adobo.

What will you miss the most about living here?

 I will miss Manuela the most, because I love her dishes (food) and where she lives.

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

Going to a new school and making new friends

Anything else???:

  • I love Misti, because it reminds me about friends and family from our church in Arequipa.
  • I am excited that I will still get to see Shaye in the United States.
  • I am going to miss all of my friends in school, especially my teacher named Miss Angela.
AG–her AQP “lasts” 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

pecan, pumpkin, and apple crumble

I am at that point where I all I can think about is the sadness of leaving Peru. That is a really miserable place to be. It isn’t constant, but it hits quite frequently now. My kids will move in less than a month. That is crazy. And I don’t want to think about it, but I have to.

This marks our last Thanksgiving in Peru. We have spent 6 Thanksgivings here. Our dear sweet Manuela has spent every single Thanksgiving with us. This year, with the new families present, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving as a team on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (which is tomorrow). When I told Manuela this, her facial expression told all. She was truly bummed. So since she works for us on Thursdays, I decided to make a Thanksgiving meal for just our family and include her. It was so special to celebrate with some of our favorite family dishes and share them with her. And she kept telling me “thank you” over and over again.

Some of my family was together on the actual day, and I am always sad to miss out on family gatherings, but I dealt with it okay. We have made our own Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions here in Peru with our children and with our team. It seems normal now to be away from home, even if it still makes me sad to miss out on being with them. Yesterday, as I was preparing the food, I reflected on missing home and how I felt compared to years past. I vividly remember bawling my eyes out as I cooked by myself that first Thanksgiving there in our first apartment in Yanahuara. I also happened to be pregnant with Maggie, but if you know me, I cry easily when I am not pregnant. I missed being with siblings and parents terribly, and it makes it so much harder when you know that they are all together without you. The first holiday season was definitely the hardest. But as the years passed, it got much easier.

So this year, it is just a super weird feeling. I don’t know why we chose to move right after the holidays. It is a super emotional time without the extra emotions that come with moving from a place. Thanksgiving morning, Cohen was running a high fever and had absolutely no appetite. Ana had the chicken pox last week without the first symptoms. All the kids have been vaccinated, but we are waiting to see if Cohen wakes with pox tomorrow morning. He has consistently run a fever for two straight days now. That was bummer #1.

Thankfully, I was able to participate in our little family Thanksgiving with Manuela. I made my Granny’s yeast rolls, 2 of my MIL’s casseroles, my mom’s sweet potato casserole, and I did what was easiest and bought rotisserie chickens. I also had a can of jellied cranberry to add to the mix (that I was able to buy in the states last month) and made a pumpkin pie. We ended up watching the Macy’s Day Parade from last year (ha!), and it was a fun time even though the boy was sick.

Today, I made everything in prep for our team Thanksgiving. I was stuck at home all day with a sick Cohen… poor thing. We also had a dinner date with some of our dearest Peruvian friends, but because Cohen was still running a fever, we had to cancel. Reality set in tonight that I wouldn’t be able to take Cohen to our team Thanksgiving tomorrow which is just all around a big, fat bummer. It is our last chance to celebrate a team Thanksgiving, something we have done with the Smith family for the six Thanksgivings we have been in Peru, and I am going to miss it. As I was moping about this fact, it dawned on me that I am supposed to have a list of all my kitchen stuff ready to sell next week for people to see.

I love my kitchen. Cooking and baking is therapy for my soul, but I realized tonight that these were the last Thanksgiving pies I would be baking here. And almost all of my kitchen stuff, I will be selling in less than a month. It seems so silly, but I started bawling my eyes out that I would be losing all the stuff that created such beautiful memories for us in the form of food, hosting, and holidays. And can I just tell you that my Christmas Kenny G. music was NOT HELPING with the emotions I was feeling. Some Christmas music can be so depressing!

So… I guess it has definitely begun. The downward spiral of having to let go of all the things that have made Peru “home” over the last 6+ years. I wish there was a happy ending to this blog post, but as of now, there isn’t. I would be super joyful if Cohen just has a 48 hour bug and wakes with no chicken pox tomorrow. 🙂 Here’s to hoping.

I thought it would be fun to record some of my Thanksgiving memories from our years here:

1. The Williams spent Thanksgiving with us our first year here in Yanahuara.

2. Alfredo, who was just our language teacher at the time, invited us over to his mom’s house to have Thanksgiving with the peace corps volunteers. His mom made a big turkey, and I remember some of our language teachers coming over.

3. Cutting up broccoli for “Green Rice” made me want to vomit. I was having really bad morning sickness with Maggie our first Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stand the smell of Rotisserie chicken and I was so thankful for Larissa’s frozen fruit cups that she made (they were the only thing that sounded good to me).

4. In order to make a casserole here, there are no cans of cream of “fill in the blank.” I learned from my language teacher, Elsa, that I could buy a packet of soup mix and mix it with milk. From trial and error, I learned that one soup packet mixed with one cup of milk made something very close to cream and condensed soup.

5. I figured out how to make homemade Cheesewiz b/c of Thanksgivings here. Two of Greg’s favorite casseroles have that as an ingredient.

6. Yeast rolls always come out dry in high altitude.

7. Pecan pies have to be cooked on the stove top first, before baking in the oven, if you don’t want a Pecan Pie volcano eruption in the oven.

8. I have still never prepared a turkey. When Rachel lived here for her 2 year apprenticeship, she prepared the turkey. It was so good when she made it.

9. The Finns brought donuts to Thanksgiving when they lived here. 🙂

10. I learned that sweet potato casserole with the pecan/butter/brown sugar topping is one of Kyle Smith’s love languages. It was always a joy to hear him tell me how much he liked my casserole. (I am sending a huge casserole with Greg to the team meeting tomorrow.)

11. Larissa is an awesome Thanksgiving organizer. I also loved that we rotated back and forth from our houses like families do.

12. We invited Peruvians our second year to dinner, but that was the last because there were too many to feed. One year, we invited a bunch of our Peruvian friends to just have the dessert part. That was a lot of fun.

13. There is a large gourd here that I have used for making pumpkin puree. Last year, Adela actually sold small pie pumpkins. I learned how to make homemade pie filling while here.

14. Greg’s mom was here for Cohen’s first Thanksgiving. That was pretty special to share that with her.

15. Thanksgiving will be huge this year (fifteen adults and nine kids). Kyle is preparing a Turducken. We planned a Thanksgiving blow-out since it is our last. What a bummer that I won’t be there for it.

Thanksgiving 2014

The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.

I am not one to put out Christmas decorations or listen to Christmas music until at least after Thanksgiving. This year has been different. I am dreading the tearful goodbyes that I know will come during this Christmas season. Dad and Mom arrive on the 17th, and they will be taking the kids on the 28th back to the states. So… all that aside,

I decided to start listening to our Christmas music early. I am really enjoying it. I made cookies this week. Ana, who has a mild case of chicken pox, has been cooped up in the house with me this week. She asked if we could get the Xmas decor out of the box. I took the majority of our decorations back to TN in October, but I kept our stockings and several homemade adornments the kids have made me in our time here. I sold our tree, garland, and lights after the 2013 Christmas season to Manuela’s family. I am glad I did, but we can’t have Christmas without a tree! So… Ana and I decorated today while Maggie and Cohen were in school. This afternoon, we blasted the Christmas music, and all three of the kids and I made homemade ornaments and a paper tree.

Take that, “international move that isn’t going to take our Christmas tree away!” I miss the string of lights, but the kids seemed very happy with our large homemade tree. We are going to make the most out of Christmas cheer until it isn’t so cheerful. 🙂 Making memories 2014!

Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.