Que está pasando

What's exhausting me these days...
Expeditions, YL Camp, curriculum writing, ACSI accreditation, end of the year parties, and grading papers.
What's been my escape...
A charming yet moving book I just finished this morning, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It was lovely.
What's lacking...
Party mix, cold weather, assorted popcorn tins, National Lampoon's Christmas Vaction, peppermint bark, and Joe's cookies.

What's gotten me into the holiday spirit...
A stunning, 10-foot, live tree in our living room (legally cut down and paid for, Bolivia crew), mixed playlists, featuring Manheim, Mariah, Bing, and Ray, lights on the house, and "pocket" advent activities with students.
What's been on the forefront of my mind...
Upcoming vacation, including a beach trip here, Tim's whole family in our Dominican home, and a 3 year anniversary retreat.

What brings me a smile every day...
Our clumsy dog. At 55 pounds and growing, Beaux still tries to sit in our laps.
What's energizing me...
Quality time studying the Word with high school girls, many of whom are seeking and wrestling and growing.


Los que confían en el Señor

We summited Pico Duarte Wednesday, September 22nd with all 12 of our 8th graders!   It was indeed challenging, but this picture says more than I can in words.  I love how radiant their faces are with victory and the new found confidence that comes when you make it to the mountaintop.  "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore."  Psalm 125:1-2
My student teacher Maggie and I spread out a huge sheet of butcher paper on several picnic tables joined end to end.  During devotion class last Friday we each had our own section on which to draw, write, express, and share some of the main things we learned and experienced on the trip.  Here are a few of our final reflections...
Many people climb "sin nada"- they put their packs, food, sleeping bags, todo on the mules' backs and literally carry their own water bottle and can of salchichas.  Joel's drawing shows how we chose the harder route, carrying our own packs all the way to the top.
Lucy included our week's memory verse and a breakdown of emotions along the trail.  I love "body sore" followed by "said in my mind 'I can do it'"!  Here is a pic of precious Lucy from the top of La Pelona, Pico Duarte's sister peak that we hiked up Thursday morning.


united in spirit

dear friends, i write to you briefly on the eve of our annual trek to pico duarte with the 8th grade class.  tomorrow we leave at 6am with 4 boys, 8 girls, 5 leaders, and 3 guides to climb the tallest mountain in the caribbean.  for many of our students, this will be the hardest physical challenge they have ever encountered.  our theme verses are philippians 2:2-5:

"Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

please join with us in praying for safety as we climb.  pray that the students would trust and see the Lord provide physical and mental strength. pray that He would open their hearts to hear from Him in all new ways.  


this is why i know i could never scrapbook

I've debated what to write about the remainder of summer and these first few weeks back. (I can't figure out if I just have way too much to say, or, more likely, nothing profound or fascinating enough to mention.)  Maybe a recap of summer travels? Nope, who would read that? An apology for once again allowing such a long lapse of time between this and my last entry? No, too nice, redundant, and once again, who really cares?  So, I've landed on...
a good word
a few pics
& a kid's poem

"The true character of the loveliness that tells for God is always unconscious.  Conscious influence is priggish and un-Christian.  If I say--I wonder if I am of any use--I instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord.  'Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him'...In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious; if it is conscious, it ceases to have this unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus." 

I've recently returned to My Utmost for His Highest, a devotional I had previously only grazed over. But WOW- he delivers a powerful word. I am being severly humbled by the meatiness of each day's reading. As Oswald so frankly puts it, when I attempt to be or do "Christian", I am simply a flat, moralistic being void of any life-giving power.  When I am fully yielded to Christ and surrendered to Him in my poverty, He fills me and flows through me in a way that is Life and Breath.  Not conjured up, but real, authentic. 

And now, meet the newest addition to our family!  Still back in the states with my parents, Beaux will hopefully be joining us mid-September. 
cute as a beauxtton
lovin' the boat

   can't wait for him to get here...
the other nephew, Bryson, at his last t-ball game

a few of my favorites

We're back in school, which, as the middle school English teacher, means I'm already under an ever-mounting pile of journal entries, vocab quizzes, and rough drafts.  Quite often, though, I'm floored by my kids' writing.  Kids who write way better than they realize.  To kick off this year's writing workshop, we studied George Ella Lyons' famous "Where I'm From" poem.  We then each followed suit and wrote our own, examining our roots, spoken messages, the power of place, and legacy.  I thought I might share one with you. Brought to you in her original spelling, this one's by a new 6th grader who recently moved from New York back to her place of birth.  

I am from New York to Jarabacoa
and from great old serverinos deli
I am from hot sandy summers
and cold icey winters
I am from Picking strawberrys at ben’s granja

I am from Grandma Juanita
and rice and beans with chicken
I am from vanilla ice cream
I’m from sitting in the porch intill dawn
I am from don’t tell you’re sister what to do
and don’t leave your homework for last.
I am from savior’s shop

I am from Garden man Jose
and my Grandma Juanita who rased 6 children.
I am from Yaneris and Luis
I’m from forest park
and from yadi the trouble maker.

I’m from the golden familia
and from Mr. Goofy
I’m from Irma and Tiffany
I’m from Coney Island
and from Rock-n Roll


summer is here

We are back in the States. Though we've only been on US soil for a little less than a week, we've already managed to make it to Tim's 10 year reunion and spend plenty of time in Dallas poolside with the Scarborough clan. Here are a few snapshots of our first couple days back-
Meet Eli and Ezra, Tim's sister and brother-in-law's kids. They are constantly saying hilarious things that ought to be published. In fact, when I sit down on a toilet, I would rather pick up a book of their quotes over Reader's Digest any day.  I'll have to post a pic of Bryson, Tim's sister's son soon.  

In Austin, TX, we stopped by a place that has special significance to us. Our school in Jarabacoa, Doulos Discovery, owns a coffee farm on Spirit Mountain in a nearby village called Manabao. This ongoing project is the most tangible reminder of the fruits of expeditionary learning that directly impacts our students. The coffee grown on this plot of land is roasted in the DR and shipped to the coffee store above.  All proceeds directly feed back into Doulos as well as another Dominican school called Makarios.  Their motto: drink coffee, change the world.


a little some'en some'en to make you smile today:)

Wanna watch a 2 1/2 minute video of kids saying thanks? Trust me, it's worth it. Take a work break and click here: http://www.doulosdiscovery.org/. I hope it is especially encouraging to supporters and family who give and pray over the lives here.  Many of the kids in this video are my students in MS English class, my girls in YL Bible study.

Today Tim and I are at home, enjoying yet another of the inordinate amount of national holidays la Republica Dominicana has to offer.  We're not complaining.  Thank you, Corpus Christi.  Unfortunately, my backpack is 7 pounds heavy with papers-yet-to-be-graded.  Since grades are due tomorrow, I will be on lockdown for the rest of the day, working through essays, tests, and memoirs.

Tim and I fly to the states after graduation, late next Friday night.  We will head to Austin just in time to celebrate his 10 year reunion.  After that we'll spend a week with his family and then head to Tyler for family camp at Pine Cove: Woods.  We'll spend the rest of our summer touching base with supporters, inviting more folks to join our team, playing with nephews, devouring good hamburgers and BBQ, soaking up sleep, and searching for the perfect dog:)


Sometimes, it has to be BROS before...

Last weekend, Tim shocked me with a flight to the states for my 25th b-day.  As some of y'all may remember, Tim flew to Bolivia and proposed during recess on May 22nd, 3 years ago, and about gave me a heart attack.  My husband seems to be in the business of surprising, and, I must say, he pulls it off exceptionally well.  As I looked at the calendar a few months back, it just so happened that my birthday fell on the weekend of my little (BIG) brother's high school graduation.  I mentioned it briefly then..."how awesome would that be if I could surprise Blake that weekend?  That would be the best birthday present..." and he tucked that away.  Needless to say, it was far better than a stylish pair of shoes or spiffy new outfit.

What was so fun about the brief 5 days I spent in Tuscaloosa was just getting to be a sister again.  I know, I know, you never really give up being a sibling, but for the past 8 years (DANG) of being out of the house, I have lived an increasingly more separate life from Cooper and Blake.  When I think back to my years in the Brenton household, the words "only child" never cross my mind.  But in reality, Blake has lived like an only child for much of his time growing up.

Blaring rap music with the windows down, scouring the pantry for the best junk food, watching lame movies and old Office episodes, tooling around in TJ Maxx, ganging up on our parents...yep, I felt like I was a kid again.  I got to step back into his world.  Instead of being Whitney who perpetually lives in another country I was just the sister down the hall.


Good News or Bad News First?

Always start with the bad news.

Last Tuesday we had to put down our precious puppy. After I last wrote, Duke took a turn for the worst. We took him to a reputable clinic 2 hours away, where he spent about 10 days under he supervision of a wonderful vet, Dr. Bob. After more blood tests and observation, Duke was diagnosed with lupus, a disease more commonly found in humans in which the body's cells attack their host. When we brought our dog home, he was skinny and weak, but a healthy dose of steroids each day was the prognosis to help him get his appetite back, gain weight, and regain his strength. We had about one week of hopeful growth, but then Duke's body began to literally break down. He no longer responded to the steroids and refused to eat. The bloody diarrhea returned and he began to shake and lose his balance. Within a few days, he could no longer walk or even stand up and was clearly suffering. After talking once again to Dr. Bob, we knew it was cruel to keep him alive.

I've never been a huge dog person, but this experience was incredibly painful. I was surprised by how much Duke became a part of our family in a few short months. For us this was like a puppy miscarriage; clearly, not even on the same playing field as a child, but we did have hopes of what this new life would become in your family that were unexpectedly cut short.

All this to say, we are still eager to raise a family dog here. Tim has always wanted a weimaraner or lab, so if you know anyone who breeds these dogs please let us know. We will be home this summer and are interested in buying a puppy to bring back.

Ok, now for the good news.

We just returned from the states for the celebration of Cooper and Heather's wedding. It was fabulous. Not only was it wonderful to be all together as a family, but we got an inside glimpse of how crazy Heather is about my brother and how committed Coop is to her.
Since the wedding was in Dallas, we were able to spend a few stolen hours with Tim's family. We surprised kindergarten nephews Bryson and Eli with happy meals during their school lunch.
Coop stood up at the rehearsal dinner and proclaimed his love for Heather, getting me all choked up as he shared how long distance challenged him to pursue her recklessly and revealed what he was willing to sacrifice to fight for her. Heather surprised Coop by singing a song at the reception she had written, thanking the Lord for him and the gift of their relationship.

As much as we deeply treasure our lives in the Dominican Republic, my heart often aches to be nearer to family. While Tim and I would not think about missing our HS kids' senior graduation in June, it's not feasible to make it back for my own little brother's this spring. The more we look to the future and contemplate having babies here, I know there will be more sacrifices to continue doing life away and apart. Next year, though, we are thrilled to host BOTH sides of our family in what we readily call home. The new and improved Brentons plan to come for Thanksgiving break and the whole Scarborough clan will share a Feliz Navidad with us here.


un chin chin

Tim spent 5 days in February distributing water filters in Port-au-Prince. He joined up with several ministries, Global Effect and Filter Pure. Our school plans to take a group of high school students later this semester to help with these and other relief efforts.
Meanwhile, I was back home searching for vehicles. Ironically, after we had traversed the entire island, I found "the one" within walking distance of our house. After talking to a trusted mechanic and getting 2 emphatic thumbs up, Tim and I purchased our first set of wheels since living overseas. It's a well-cared for '97 Montero, complete with 6-CD changer and cassette player:) We love it, and are truly grateful to all those who gave toward this need. And because of the 3 filas, or three rows of seats, we've already been able to cram in quite a load of kids for YL Club.
Our now 3 1/2 month cachorro weighs in at about 25 pounds. Despite a few parasite scares and vet visits, he continues to prove a stellar addition to our family. He faithfully greets our friends, scares off sketchy characters, and chews on things he shouldn't. He's our pal.

And while I am often annoyed by the army-like infiltration of hermigas through every crevice of our house, I can't help but be a bit impressed by their strength and teamwork. Sometimes when I'm sick of these pesky suckers I squish them without a second thought. Other times I just watch, mesmerized. Check out this snapshot, where Tim caught a pack of 11 ants hauling a piece of a tortilla chip across our kitchen floor. This time we let them keep it.


I read an email today from a missionary there on the front lines. "We used our whole supply of meds the first day. Melina helped deliver a baby or two. Dentists and veterinarians are treating people. Everyone is a doctor now if they have a good education...We can't get gasoline or bread or meat. Other foods are available though. The electricity is off and won't be back on any time soon." He went on to describe the chaos brought on by the earthquake. "An angry mob killed a man right in front of us, saying he was a thief. Thousands of prisoners have escaped into the streets because the biggest prison in the country fell down. We couldn't stop them as there were simply too many of them and we only had limited ammo...There were three cops with shotguns directing traffic three blocks away and they ignored it."

In the wake of such a devastating event in Haiti, our students have initiated a community-wide drive to collect canned goods, sheets, towels, medicine, and other commodities families desperately need. It's staggering just how close this has hit to home and yet how life has continued for us much the same. Even here, just over 100 miles away, we feel helpless. Not having a TV, I couldn't really picture the scene on the opposite end of the island until I googled "earthquake in Haiti" and watched a video on BBC News. During the earthquake, I was meeting with some of my high school girls. We were on the second story of a house and it literally felt as if someone had taken the foundations of the building and was swaying it from side to side. It had the bizarre feeling of the ground becoming mercury. Suddenly we all felt dizzy and lightheaded without really knowing what had happened.

Our French teacher Voltaire left this Wednesday to look for his family in Port-au-Prince. He had not been able to communicate with them since the earthquake. He returned last night relieved, having found them safe and unharmed by the earthquake, but brokenhearted for his country and what he saw there. He shared this morning that he believes the number dead far exceeds 100,000. There are still so many missing and unaccounted for- parents who can't find their children, children left wandering the streets, spouses carrying pictures around, hoping for the needle-in-a-haystack chance that someone has seen them alive. It is truly devastating.

On the heels of such a catastrophe, I can't help but ask the cliche' question of "why, God, why?" Why would you allow a country that already ranks up there with the poorest nations and is so far behind, so deep in poverty, be hit so hard? And then I have to remind myself that of all brokenness, of all the people crying out, I do believe that God is hurting the most. I have to believe that more is going on behind what I see in a real life snapshot, on a youtube video, or a news update. That in pain, God does draw people to himself. That when every earthly possession crumbles, He proves Himself faithful. That in the glorious mix of God's omniscience, love, and sovereignty, no one escapes His sight.

Puppy Love

Meet Duke. The newest addition to our family. Pretty cute, eh? Ever since our moto got stolen, we have wanted to get a dog for a little added security as well as peace of mind when Tim goes out of town, or even, as we've learned the hard way, when we're sleeping. As I told a friend earlier today, we're still far from ready for children, but this is a definite step in the family direction. And despite the pooping and peeing involved in raising a pet, we are loving having a dog. I think I forgot just how great a dog can make you feel about yourself. Coming home to him is like returning to a friend who has not stopped waiting for you all day long.