Let’s build a Casa in 10 days!

I’ve just returned home from the TX/Mexico border. Walker is still there and has the cam cam, but I thought I’d post the few pics I collected on my phone–although, maybe I shouldn’t if I’m tired enough to use words like cam cam.

Through Buckner, a group from our church is building a house for the sweetest family, la familia Torres, in 10 days. Foundation. Sheetrock. Shingles. 10 days. Whoa! The crew has been working until exhaustion, but I think watching two little girls, Ruby and Valeria, walk through the construction zone designating their rooms gives them the boost they need.

I’m sure I’ll post more, you know, when that cam cam makes it back. sunsetnailscollagephoto copy 2

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Random Acts of Kindness

With the unthinkable tragedy that occurred on December 14, Walker and I woke up on December 15 with the desire to not only think about a better world but actively work toward it. We decided to devote our Saturday to 15 random acts of kindness around Lufkin and beyond. There was no better day than Dec. 15 to start living intentionally.

Most years, Walker and I exchange a Christmas present where he donates to a charity in my name and I donate in his name. One year he bought goats and chickens for a family in Chile on my behalf, and I donated to the Special Olympics on his behalf. We decided to do it a little differently this year and use this budgeted money for our acts of kindness.

In no way do these actions even begin to touch on the grief that we are experiencing from the Connecticut shooting, but our hope was to bring just a small amount of joy to another person’s day. Here is what we did, and our thoughts are at the end of the post.

1. Having accumulated a ridiculous amount of Starbucks gift cards from our wedding, we decided this was the perfect time for us non-coffee drinkers to gift some free drinks to unsuspecting strangers. We walked inside, asked each person in line if they would like a gift card, and walked out. I think they thought we were trying to hand them gift cards laced in cocaine, because while some were reluctant, others seemed downright horrified.

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2. We put together a Christmas care package for our friend who recently moved overseas to tell about and live the gospel.

3. We bought some of our needed items for the day in Walmart including a $20 gift card to Walmart. After checking out, we handed the gift card to a lady buying baby clothes. I’m not sure she was more shocked at the free money (she just couldn’t understand why I was giving it to her), or the fact that a little blonde girl was speaking to her in Spanish. photo

4. We donated a new toy to Toys for Tots that was being manned by former Marines in the Walmart parking lot.nerf

5. Dec.15 is also the day that my Big Daddy died 20 years ago from melanoma. In his honor, we wrote a letter of appreciation to a beyond deserving lady who has carried on his legacy. Her name is Jane, and she is my grandmother. It’ll be postmarked and coming your way on Monday, Grandmother!gmother

6. This week we plan on going to visit someone at the nursing home, so we wrote him or her a Christmas card we will take with us.

7. Having a few extra gift cards to Chili’s that we ourselves have received out of kindness, we walked in, found a table with a family of kids, and handed them a gift card to help pay for their meal. At first they coldly rejected the offer, because they thought we were trying to sell them something, but after some explaining they accepted. chilis

8. Our new friend, Danielle, recently moved to Lufkin, and if we know anything, it is that moving can be one tough experience. We originally wanted to invite her along for the fun, but she was working all day on a Saturday, so we took Opal to visit her along with some chocolate covered pretzels. Lucky for us, we got a tour of her yet to be opened work place, and we got to meet two other young people, which is always a treat here in Lufkin!danielle

9. We wrote a Christmas card to our trash collectors, and on Tuesday morning we will place the card and donuts on our trashcan expressing our appreciation.

10. We baked cookies for our neighbor who we haven’t really gotten to know over the past year. We always have casual fence conversation, but we wanted to show him he matters to us. cookies

11. We taped $5 worth of quarters to a washer at a laundromat. Opal was also a big hit here, as a family with three little boys just couldn’t get enough of her!laundryopal

12. After reading this article, I knew we had to do something for a McDonald’s employee, so we wrote a Christmas card and enclosed a $10 gift card to Chili’s (told you we had a lot of these). We handed it to the drive through worker as we drove off with a small coke.

13. We taped a bag of popcorn and a dollar to a RedBox telling the next customer to enjoy a free movie and snack on us. We may or may not have waited around to see who took it!redbox

14. We placed cards of encouragement on two cars in the H.E.B. parking lot. They probably look sketchy as we had to wrap them in saran wrap due to the rain. heb

15. We wrote a letter to a soldier telling him of our appreciation for not only him but his family as well. soldier

And at the end of the day, these two little elves were exhausted!sleep

Walker and I love to give, but we love to do it anonymously. We aren’t so big on putting our faces with the gift. In fact, both of us get super nervous when having to talk to strangers. Walker doesn’t even like to ask for more ketchup at Chick-fil-A. Yesterday, our hearts were pounding as we walked into that Starbucks, but that was part of our plan. Our hope was to go outside of our comfort zone so that maybe in later days our random acts will not take so much courage. Maybe showing extraordinary kindness will just become a way of life. Maybe by practicing we can reduce our fear, and instead of not doing something nice for somebody in worry of being offensive, we will just do it naturally.

We worried about blogging this adventure, because we know some people will think we are trying to receive praise and credit, but for us this is uncomfortable. We decided to document it in hopes of encouraging others to do it. Yesterday we recognized how easy it can be to do something nice for a friend or stranger even on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to cost any money or take much time at all, so let’s all start doing one intentional act of kindness each day. Send a nice text, smile at a stranger, leave a thank you letter for your mailman.  If you’re having trouble being creative, check here and here for tons of ideas!

Yesterday served as a rude awakening of how out of the ordinary kindness is these days. The reaction of people being shocked and scared of a good deed speaks volumes about our culture. We seem to give with more cheer around Christmas time, but Jesus was born in a manger so that every day would serve as an opportunity for love and reconciliation. God came to earth for us, may we wake up each day and be for other people. And as we wrote in our ‘Hey, Stranger!’ letters, we love because HE first loved us.

Ethiopia Video

The McWilliams are still working on pictures and stories over here, but we are enjoying this quick vid Walker put together! We sure can’t get over those joyful, little faces that realize they have access to new well water!

Home Sweet Bed

We find ourselves writing this post to let our friends and family know that we made it home today safely, but selfishly we are writing in attempt to keep ourselves awake until 9 p.m. Surely that is an acceptable bedtime, because we were ready to lay ourselves down at 6.

We had the most incredible trip that we can’t wait to document on here soon enough! We are both on our computers (with Opal snoring between us) looking at pictures and already wanting to go back. But for now we are relishing in hot showers, chowing down on burgers, brushing our teeth in clean water goodness, celebrating the invention of the mattress and thanking the public bathroom gods for their cleanliness standards.

The remote villages of Ethiopia just might be our new favorite places in the world. The unexpected landscape. The friendliness of the people. We fell in love! And who wouldn’t when you get to wake up to this every morning?

We Made It!

We made it and are currently at a hotel freshening up before we head to Bantu! We’ve been told that for the last week the school we are staying at has been without water and electricity. So we are showering like its our last!

We made some Highs and Lows of our travel day:
Highs: 1. Watching the African sunrise from the air. 2. The tiniest baby behind us who didn’t cry once. 3. Clapping for the pilot at the end of the flight. Such comradery! 4. The flight wasn’t cold at all! 5. Watching the Sound of Music.
Lows: 1. Finding out Walker has an airplane blanket collection. Gross. 2. A urine soaked floor in the bathroom. 3. Being forced to watch the remake of the 3 Stooges because the lady next to you started pushing the buttons on your screen and insisted You watch it. For the record, I hate that kind of “comedy.”
Our lows are really just for good laugh because it has been a great trip so far with no complaints! Now, how do you solve a problem like Maria?!

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See you soon, Ethiopia!

We’ve finished our typhoid pills and sorted our hygiene supplies. VBS materials have been put together and Pepto Bismal has been bought in bulk. Right now, bags are chaotically being packed with Mumford and Sons pumping us up. That must mean we are heading to Ethiopia this weekend! As excited as we are, I’m not quite sure the reality has set in!

We leave Saturday night out of DFW, spend the night in DC and fly straight to Addis Ababa. We’ll arrive in our home base of Bantu later that evening and get settled in. We will spend the next two days in a rural village doing VBS in the morning and renovating wells in the afternoon. The following two days will be spent in a second village with the same schedule. A final day of tourism and shopping in Addis Ababa, and we head back to DC. Af fun day of sightseeing in DC and back to DFW!

Thank you to every one who so generously collected our hygiene supplies on such short notice. And your prayers, we appreciate them greatly. Continue to pray for: Seeds of the Gospel to be planted in the hearts of the Ethiopians. Traveling mercies. Our health. Continued relationships. The Ethiopian leaders we will be working alongside. Praise for the chance to experience what God is already doing in Ethiopia. Cultural sensitivity. Spiritual rejuvenation for our team members. And finally, that Katelyn doesn’t bring home a child.Walker and I are not only grateful to be venturing to Africa, but we are pumped about spending a week with our team. It’s a hardworking, goofy bunch…and for us that’s perfect. Ps. Contrary to how I may look in the first picture, I am not pregnant!

To Ethiopia We Go!

Tickets booked. Shots endured. Passport with name change acquired.

In just about a month our feet will be standing on Ethiopian soil! We are so thrilled it makes us feel like ‘griffining!’ Our team (7 from our church and a few others from TX) will build water wells and put on a children’s program in both Bantu and another rural village.

I’ve been hearing about Bantu from Cara Jane ever since we met, and I can’t believe we have been given the opportunity to experience it ourselves. We are so grateful for everyone involved in this trip and for our church who is providing financial support.

We are both pumped and humbled by the chance to witness how God is working in Ethiopia and our ability to play a very minor role there.  If you would like to pray for us, we’d sure appreciate it! More updates to come…

photo via

China and Korea in the Same Week!

I’m currently home in Tucson for a few days. I came home to go on a mission trip to Douglas, AZ near the Mexican border with people from all over the Western U.S. But I’ll write an entire post on that later! Upon our return to Tucson, we had two guests stay at our house…one from McAllen and one from Boise (originally S. Korea). To show her appreciation, Okhee cooked us an authentic Korean meal Saturday night! Maybe, just maybe, it was quite a bit better than my endeavor with American-Chinese food.

Okhee Chang! She owned a restaurant for 11 years.

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Good dinner with good friends (Diane, from McAllen on left) and family.

The meal was incredible! We wrapped the meat in pieces of lettuce, reminiscent of PF Chang’s lettuce wraps, except way better. I’m going to attempt to make this sometime in Lufkin, just in effort to get Walker to eat lettuce. We missed you at the table! And I especially missed you when I had to windex the table instead of you. Well, I’m off to eat pounds of leftovers! Here’s to international cooking endeavors!