Lucky #13

Brian & Jenni ClayvilleToday is Brian and my 13th anniversary.

YAY for us. Considering the devastation and destruction of our marriage 5 years ago… YAY us!

When we first got married, we thought we would be in marital bliss forever. We both truly loved each other. We didn’t fight in the wedding planning (like many couples do) and we didn’t fight during our honeymoon (which is when a couple often experiences their FIRST big fight). We thought we had it made.

What we learned quickly was that complacency and bitterness naturally sneaks in when we’re not intentional with our relationship. Intentional not just with things that matter… but things that seem like they don’t matter at the time. For example (and I’m gonna need you not to judge me):

I HATE crumbs. Those who know me, know I have some OCD tendencies. Crumbs are one. I like love clean surfaces. SPOTLESS surfaces. Brian doesn’t mind the “occasional” crumb. His “occasional” crumb offends every sense I have… because his “occasional” crumb seems as if he’s borrowed 14 toasters from our neighbors and emptied them all out on my counter. Seriously… how do you get that many crumbs on my counter from 2 pieces of toast and not realize it’s there. I digress.

Our first giant fight was over crumbs…

Read the rest here at Leading and Loving It.

40 Months

Hiking the Franklin MountainsThis May marks our 40th month here in the high desert of El Paso.

That feels significant. Maybe it’s not. Sometimes it feels like it is… especially with the current struggles our family is going through right now.

I haven’t written for a long time. At least nothing really personal. And a lot of that has been intentional. Not out of my own protection, but for the protection of some of those around me. And some of it has just been for the “silence” in the journey.

This journey. It’s been exhausting. At times, it’s seemed impossible. Raising support for over three years lessens yearly and our family has felt serious ramifications of financial strain and deficit. But God is good and He is constant… even when we aren’t. And this 40 months in the desert has been an intricate  part of our journey as a family, as a couple, and vocationally. I have learned so much about community, boundaries and my personal capacity levels. It’s been profound.

Brian and I don’t know our future holds in our journeying… but we do feel like God is telling us a change is coming. We don’t know what that change is… we don’t currently have any plans (and for those of you who know me, know how strange that really is)… but we’re listening.

We’re asking you to pray alongside us as we seek out our next steps in our journey. I’m excited. And a little bit scared.

But mostly excited.


Moldova 2014: Day 3

Today was another long day… but so far, my favorite.

It started out with us going to the Psychological Art Studio where BoL has created opportunities help heal emotional and psychological wounds through art therapy and creativity. Simply amazing. The “store” has more than doubled in size since the last time I was here. The store consists of handmade items by women (mostly single moms) for sale. All the proceeds go to the women who make them.

Psychological Art Studio

After that, we broke up into 3 groups and went to visit homes of at risk single mothers. Brian, Jerry and I were on a team with our team lead, Olga, and our interpreter, Mila.

We visited two homes, but I’m only going to highlight one in this blogpost (mostly because it’s almost midnight here and I’m exhausted).

Moldova Home

The first home we visited was the smallest home I’ve seen yet. It was an apartment right in the heart of Chisinau. Well… “apartment” isn’t quite the right word. It used to be storage space.

The mother, Elena (29 years old), survived an orphanage and lives now in this 7′ x 18″ with her son (18 months), Maxim. But wait… she has other roommates. She lives with her friend (who was also in the orphanage) and HER son who’s 6 years old.

She tries to work as much as she can from home (she’s one of the single moms that sews crafts for the BoL store) but Maxim requires a lot of attention. And why wouldn’t he? He’s a baby.


They didn’t have their own bathroom or kitchen. They shared one in the common area down the hall. Neither have heating. Imagine going out to your garage in the dead of winter to do your laundry (no dryers) and cook your meals.

Every “bath” they have is a sponge bath. They draw water from the kitchen and heat it up. Then, they transfer it into a bucket of sorts and bring it back to their room where it’s warm. That’s when they can take a wash cloth and wipe themselves down. Maxim is more fortunate. He fits in a big pot so he can have a bath.

And Elena is such a good mother. She tries to involve Maxim while she works so he doesn’t get bored. She’s intentional with him. Makes me want to work harder at being a good mom.

After visiting the homes, we got to celebrate Valentina’s 18th birthday with her. The ladies that were with me last year will remember Valentina. She’s one of the only girls who are still at the House of Change (the Rehabilitation Home) from last year.

It was a wonderful party. Olga presented her with a bracelet… and each of our team members presented her with a charm. With each charm, we encouraged her and reminded her why she’s so special. I gave her a heart. I told her something along the lines of:

“I promised you last year that I would come back to see you. Here I am. I’m here because I love you. Here is a heart charm for you. You have been on my heart since I last visited… and you always will be. Remember you are worth every good thing, every kind word and every hug.”

Tacey's gift

I can’t really remember anyone else’s… but I remember Tacey gave Valentina a key charm. She said something along the lines of “You are in charge of unlocking your future… and you are also in charge of locking up your past.” I wanted to cry. I love that Tacey!

Spending Valentina’s birthday with her made my day. And she is SO different this year. Much less heavy than last year. I don’t mean physically. I mean her EYES. You can see it IN her eyes… because you can SEE her eyes. Last year, she barely looked any of us in the eye. This year, she sat in my arms or held my hand most of the night… but the best part was when she looked into my eyes and said, “Thank you for coming back. I love you.”

I love you too, Valentina.
More than you’ll ever know.

Moldova 2014: Day 2

Brian posted yesterday for me because I loved hearing his perspective his first time coming. Also, I was dead tired. 48 hours of travel with about 7 hours of real sleep was getting to me. I was asleep the minute my head hit the pillow… and it was good.

This morning, I was up at 6:30am. Our team of 8 split into 3 groups to go speak/teach/share at 3 different schools. Rolando, Joe and I went with Petr & Mila. We were the earliest team to leave and the latest to arrive back. The other teams taught 3-4 classes. My team taught 7. We were supposed to teach 6, but word got around the school that Americans were there and they all wanted to participate.

English in Moldova Classrooms

I went to a different school than last year. Last year, I sang our National Anthem at every class. This year, I sang “How He Loves” and “Speak To Me” (Dave Lubben). It was a blast sharing that part of me and what those songs mean with them. In one class, a few of the girls asked if they could come sing with me. Of course I said yes. I then accompanied them as they sang whatever popular song they wanted.


Here, we’re singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”.

They are so cute. These two girls were a part of our youngest class today. There was always a hand raised… so many questions. The curiosity. Their minds intrigue me.

Petr (our team leader today) kept asking the kids in every class to ask about Joe and my tattoos. A tattoo is a rare and somewhat negative thing in Moldova. Both Joe and I talked about how in America people get tattoos for different reasons. Both of us got ours because we wanted to remember something important to us. And right there and then, we both got to share our faith and how God is such an important part of our lives. So much so that we marked our bodies to remember.

I won’t lie… I’ve never been sorry for getting my tattoos. Today was just another day of being thankful for the reminders to “Choose Joy”, “Choose Love” and that I’m “Restored”.

During one of our short breaks, a couple of teachers and students took us through their school museum. Inside, it contained their history, awards and gifts from out of country friends and visitors. I got caught up in looking at old pens they used to write with… there was a quill in there… as well as old typewriters, but my  breath was taken away when I saw this:

gas masks

This was a drill they used to practice. Those are small children… look closely at their their feet and their height. Americans had earthquake drills… but the children of Moldova had gas mask drills. It continues to humble me how much these beautiful people have had to endure and are continuing to endure. It may not look like this for them physically anymore, but I can tell you it hasn’t changed much emotionally for them.

Joe & Peter

Heroes of the Day:

Here’s Joe standing with Petr. He was our before-mentioned team leader today at the public school. He’s AMAZING! Such a heart for the next generation in Moldova. He works tirelessly to help educate and retrain young minds to think critically on their own and with intention. He’s obviously being a little silly and funny in this photo… but man, just knowing him humbles me.

Tacey, Jenni, Mila & HollyThis beautiful woman (3rd from the left) is Mila. She also works at Beginning of Life and has flawless English. She helped translate for us at the school today and has the most beautiful heart along with face. She’s so funny and the best part is she laughs with me… or AT me. It doesn’t matter. I like her a lot a LOT. She’s also the wife of Serge, my team leader for our school day from last years trip. Brian got to be on Serge’s team this year, so we each got to be a part of their family today.


Moldova 2014: Day 1

Guest post by the hubs, Brian Clayville.


Today was my first real introduction to the team at Beginning Of Life. My eyes were opened to the realities of life in Moldova. Listening to Vladimir give us a history lesson then discussing his vision for the future was simply amazing. My favorite quote of the day came after he described how challenging life is for most people living here. He quickly moved the conversation toward changing his country:

“Hope is not a good word for what I feel, it’s too weak. It might happen it might not, what I feel is much stronger because I know we can make a change for the future.”

That is so inspiring when you look at the odds stacked against him, his ministry and his team. They are fighting the unchecked greed of powerful people with no concern for the average citizen of their country. They are fighting against a spiritual force that wants to keep people captive to sin and hopelessness. This battle is much bigger than what we can see but so is the God we serve. It is evident in the lives of each team member we have interacted with. They are humble, they are dedicated and they love the people they serve.

Today we spent time at the House of Change (a rehabilitation home for girls who were victims of trafficking ages 14-30) where we got a great overview of the 1 year program. It was really encouraging to see that they use a holistic approach to recovery. Intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual. They want to show the girls God’s love through actions and words and walk with them to a full and productive life.

Next we spent time at the Dream Center which focuses on prevention of trafficking. This was simply incredible. These are teenage girls that lived in small villages around the country and have been left either by death of parents or because their parents have had to travel far away to find work. We got to hear all about what happens in the house and then the girls came in and spent some time hearing about our worlds. Then Jenni sang a beautiful song which opened the girls up big time. Soon everyone was singing and dancing and having a great time. It was so fun to see them just open up and have so much fun with us, a bunch of strangers from a foreign country.

To wrap up a full day we had dinner at a local favorite, La Placinta. They serve a lot of local favorites and I think we all really enjoyed our food. I tried at least 5 different items getting quite full. That leaves me ready for some sleep. We are still catching up from our 24 hours of travel to get here.

Moldova 2014: 24 Hours of Travel

Team Paseo

Today was such a long day of travel.

Brian, Joe, Tacey and I have finally met the rest of our Team Moldova face-to-face after planning all these months.

We left El Paso, Texas at 3:00pm and landed in Moldova about 24 hours later. Three of our team members had to change flights last minute to even get to Chicago (our meeting point before leaving the country) due to weather or cancellations. We were so thankful we all finally made it on the same flight though.

I was really impressed with our overseas flight with Turkish Airlines. They were as comfortable as it could possibly have been in economy class. They started the flight off right with a Turkish Delight for all the passengers. I think of Narnia every time I have a Turkish Delight. And it didn’t stop there. The food just kept on coming. My love language!

Our Flight

If you look real close… you can see Joe coming off the plane holding a djembe over his shoulder. He’s a trooper.

Team Moldova 2014

Here’s our whole team on our layover in Istanbul. First stop was, of course, coffee. Michael was the only one who slept the whole trip. Don’t look at that random guy reading behind Joe though. He was an accidental photobomber. Oh… and I’m technically in the photo cuz my forehead is there. It counts.

On our last leg from Istanbul to Chisinau, Moldova, a thick fog settled in. The flight should only have been 1 hour and 2 minutes long… but we ended up circling Chisinau for an extra 1.5 hours to wait out the weather. They finally announced they were going to attempt to land (which is always such an encouraging word when your life depends on it). With that, they descended into the thickest fog I have ever seen. When we finally landed (with a hard thud), we heard the most explosive celebratory screams and applause from Moldavians who were just excited to alive.

When were finally on the ground, We could barely see our hands in front of our faces. Fog was thick. And beautiful. And crisp. Best part… seeing Vladimir again. Love that man and his heart. I can’t wait for our team to spend the week with him.

Airport Fun Facts: Apparently, all countries like to give Tacey a hard time. In Istanbul, they made her take her hat off and gave her “that” look. And once we landed in Moldova, they questioned her about her suitcase. I guess it makes sense though, because Tacey looks like a terrorist? Then… on top of all that, NONE of Rolando and Jerry’s luggage got here tonight. They’re doing good laughing it off and just making the best of it. That’s really just the last thing you want after 24 hours of travel.

Passport Fun Facts: Joe’s passport was taken when he was 12 or so. Because in his passport photo, his hair is on his head and none on his face. As you now know… he is bald with a beard. Multiple double and triple takes. Sometimes, they even passed his passport onto a co-worker for a quadruple check.

I’ve obviously brought a team of misfits with me.

Well… it’s now 1:20am here in Moldova. We’re checked into our rooms. Brian and I got to talk to our kids for a few minutes. It’s been a full day. It’s time to let this day go.

Goodnight everyone… Thanks for reading, thanks for praying, and thanks for your support. I’ll check in tomorrow!


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