Sunday, November 27, 2011


The past few weeks have brought about much heartache to people that we love. It is hard to be here in Panama, while there are troubles at "home." We wish that we could be there to "fix" things and be helpful. You feel so out of the loop and "of no use" being away. It is hard to comfort people through Skype. Recently loved ones here in Panama suffered heartache as well. It was just as painful even as we are here with them. It is a painful reminder for me of our need for a Savior. I feel like I should be able to fix things. It is the same part in me that believes I should be able to earn my salvation. Surely I can do better than most and look at all the good things that I do. As Paul says it is all rubbish. I need more than what I can do. I need Jesus, and I am thankful for daily reminders of that, even as it is humbling and goes against our culture. We can't fix things and we can't bring the comfort that only comes with the hope of eternity! In the men's bible study that I have been able to participate in, we have been studying Phillipians. We were examining what stirs us and fires us up for Jesus? Think about that, and why we don't spend more time pursuing those things that make us want to pursue our Lord more. For me, I really enjoy being challenged by great preaching. I also enjoy great discussion about life and challenges in our faith (preferably over food!) I also love loud passionate corporate worship, especially with drums as that is how I imagine heaven. What is it for you? We live a lot of lives with fears of what will happen with our future. We fear something happening to our spouse or our children. We fear the loss of loved ones and dreams and expectations that we put on ourselves not being met. Sometimes it is just the pain of a living in difficult times. It is heartbreaking to see people experiencing our own fears. I am thankful that these pains and turmoils are temporary and that we do have Hope in eternity. Thank you that you give us glimpses of heaven here, and I will choose to be thankful even in the pain that we have here. I pray that the God will continue to give me greater compassion for those that are troubled, and to give me wisdom in how to act. I also pray that I continue to find my hope in Jesus and the grace and mercy he has shown me, and not rely on my own actions. I need Jesus, and I realize that more and more everyday.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BLOOM 2011, beauty for ashes

I am not one to turn down an opportunity to get to know other women! 2 years ago, upon arriving in Panama, the church we are associated with, Crossroads Bible Church was having their annual women's retreat. It was just 6 weeks after we arrived, but a night away, a hotel room, and new friends...sounded like a plan to me! 

I will mention that the room was beyond freezing and I slept fully clothed with my rain coat on hood included....not the full night of sleeping I was planning after our big move! BUT....

I did eat some Panamanian food, sang songs in English and Spanish, heard some new speakers, and made some new friends and of course I bought some jewelry they were selling made by some inmates from the women's prison ministry. 

I struck up a conversation with the lady running the booth of jewelry and ended up telling her our story of coming to Panama and somehow the part of my life where I ran my own business as a professional organizer came into the conversation. 

Mrs. Charlotte said to me, "You should talk to the Crossroad's Women's Committee and maybe you can help do some organizing for future events." My first thought was, "Ummm, no thank you!" 

Little did I know that I, along with 3 of some of my most favorite women in Panama, would indeed be planning the entire women's retreat for 2011! 

We are 3 weeks away from the big event! BLOOM 2011,  Beauty for Ashes

Each of our hearts and minds were exploding as we discussed the theme and vision of Bloom, 2011. Our burning desire was the same:  to live in the FULLNESS OF CHRIST. We want to experience the vastness of who Christ is and what He has and can do in our lives. Each woman is on a journey, and we want to "Bloom" into who Christ has created us to be….regardless of our pain and suffering, regardless of the hard and desert places in life, and because of these things. We want to rise above and Bloom. 

Planning an event for over 200 women, lodging, food, topic, music, media, etc can be overwhelming, add that in another language and a culture that is happy to disregard contracts and you have 4 hard working women! We 3 weeks out and just changed our location in the last 36 hours! CRAZY! Good thing I do crazy well! 

Please pray for us on Oct 21st and 22nd as we Bloom together! You can pray for our speaker, the great Nancy Holcomb, my mom!! No pressure Mom!!!! I am super excited to have my grandmother there too! We will have 4 generations attending the retreat!! Such a blessing! 

Check out our video in the post just before this one! Jess, Abby and Lisa are my fellow bloomers!!

Bloom 2011 Video

Crossroads Bible Church Women's Retreat Promo Video
Love this Women!!!
Bloom, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011


We have been rolling along at a pretty good rate these days in Panama. One of the things that we had been working on was planning a retreat that took place this past weekend. For some time, we had wanted to initiate a Senior Retreat to start the graduating class on the right steps for their final year at CCA. There were a number of goals for the weekend, which we felt a lot of them were accomplished. All 15 seniors participated. We had team building games, time of worship, silly games, goal setting, prayer, and challenges. Clare and I put a lot of time planning and making the weekend go. It was such a success due to so many people praying for these seniors by name on multiple occasions. We Had 8 leaders give up their weekend and love on these kids. Their goal was for the students to not see them in a teacher role, but as an adult that cares and loves them. There was times of students asking teachers questions and leaders sharing what they were going through and what they were like as seniors. We were not sure as what to expect from the seniors as they have not been a unified group, but we were blown away by their response. They spent the whole weekend together, with no pairing off or having to coax them into talking or discussing. They were completely content being with each other including an hour of going around telling each other what they loved about them. We had so many things prepared in case there was not a lot of talking that we did not have to use. The real highlight was a new senior, Nick, coming to know the Lord. Awesome! His wish is that this would not be a phase for him. Please pray for him that he continues to seek the Lord and for him to understand that though he will have his struggles, that does not mean he is not a child of God. We pray that this weekend is just the beginning and a door opening to pour more into and be able to speak into the lives of these students. Clare and I hope that this will allow us to have more of them in our home to play games and dialogue about the decisions they are facing. It is very rewarding to kick something off that goes so well, and hope it becomes a tradition that the students look forward to. There are so many things to share, but I don't think I could cover it all so I will end it with an email from a parent: "I would like to express my deepest and heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved with the organization, planning and execution of the Senior Retreat.  As a parent desiring to see the awakening of the hearts of our children to the love of Christ, I was thrilled to have my child participate.  However, I was even more moved to hear her feedback of the time together.  I would like to express a very special "bless you" to Nathan and Clare Richardson for the idea and bringing it to fruition.  To Ann Marklund, you have marked (no pun intended) the heart of my daughter with your prophetic prayer over her.  To the Cottons for the use of the mission base and the awesome muffins for breakfast (which I  must have the recipe for). And to those who chaperoned as well as shared their own lives with these young people.  I trust that the seeds planted and nurtured in each heart those twenty-four hours will take deep roots and blossom into much fruit.  Please make this an annual tradition for Crossroads Christian Academy." God is doing great things here in Panama and we are privileged to see some of it first hand. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just the Beginning...

We are thrilled about start to our 3rd year in Panama. We have some awesome new families and single girls that have joined the staff. I wanted to share some pictures from our first month back!

This picture was a last minute decision on the Richardsons part to join all the new staff and a few more adventurers on a night away from the City. We took a boat ride to Isla Grande on the Caribbean side of Panama after a 2 hour car drive through some of the more rural parts as well as some lush farmland with the healthiest looking cows we have seen in this country! I think we had 2 boat fulls in total (this boat also included everyone's luggage and those who know Clare well should know that she did not care if the boat capsized she was still bringing her own sheets and gluten free snacks!) This was a sweet time of fellowship and bonding! We are super thankful for all the people the Lord has brought into our and old!

Cannot believe we have 2 kiddos in school! Essie just started her first year in K4 and Ro is in K5. They are super eager little students, laying their clothes out each night and making sure homework papers are done as soon as they walk in the door....hope that doesn't change, but we aren't so sure! It has taken about 2 weeks for Essie's little personality to come out in her class. We warned her teacher that she was a bit more dramatic/passionate than her older sister...and we got a little note from her teacher reading, "The real Essie is starting to come out!" We asked Ro's teacher how K5 was going and she said, "Great....if everyone was like Ro!" Such fun watching them walk to the busito and ride off with their daddy each morning! Grateful for their adaptive little personalities and their love for one another!

We were running behind the first day of school because Field quickly realized he did not have a lunch box or a book bag and those things had to be packed...and with the appropriate materials! He threw up in the 5 min car ride home from school after dropping the girls off. I had been so excited to go home and enjoy spending time with him and a graduated CCA student spending the day with us. I just told our friend, "Welcome to motherhood! It is never dull! And never expected!"

This is Essie's Class on a field trip the first week to see a dinosaur exhibit. Field and I were excited we got to go because we were the Bus Drivers! They were all giving me their best roar!

Field missed his sisters and daddy for about a day and settled quickly into being the man of the house...he has been and absolute joy to be with. He gets up and gets dressed just like the girls and puts on his "soccer shoes" at 6:30, rarely to be taken off all day! He gets out his cars and animals and blocks and plays contently most of the day. He has been very compassionate with his pregnant momma, he snacks the day away with me and is happy to watch a video so mommy can rest! Couldn't ask for a better buddy! I am grateful for this sweet 6 months I have with him before the twins come!

Hope each of you has had an excellent start to the school year! We are thrilled about all the Lord is doing in our lives, the lives of our children, our friends both here and far, and in Panama! Much love to all!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Email Received

Below is a note, that I received last spring that I wanted to share. It was a huge encouragement to me in that the community is taking note of the difference in our students. That is a huge mission field for us as a school and a prayer of mine, that the community sees a difference in us in how we handle ourselves. If it is not noticeable than we are no different and we lose our testimony. It is our chance to witness to other schools and the community in Panama. This is also why I am so thankful for coaches that love on our players and speak into their lives.


I'm writing in great appreciation of the work I see you doing with the sports program at CCA. I've worked and coached at ISP for two years now and whether you remember me or not is not important. I leave Panama for good in three weeks and I felt I needed to write in applause of a program that I think is being run the right way. I fully applaud you, your staff, and your kids in the collective approach that CCA makes in sports.

Our JV team played your JV team this past Monday. I'm embarrassed to say that we won something like 9-1. If anything, I'd like to apologize. But what I did say to my kids at halftime was to take a look around. I wanted them to take note of our opposition. Your kids weren't complaining, asking to give-up, imploding, losing their cool, or otherwise embarrassing themselves on the pitch. I don't know that my team reacts in the same professional manner when the shoe is on the other foot. Luckily, this "learning moment" allowed a number of my kids, not all, to learn something about sportsmanship. It's one step at a time, and this definitely helped me teach something valuable.

I hope for this letter to validate the work of you and your kids. Sports, particularly youth sports, are meant to teach ethics, teamwork, camaraderie, and fair play. Winning gives us a reason to play. Unfortunately the winning is all too often what sports are about, here in Panama, in the US, and around the globe. I'm impressed to say that your program, at least in my humble assessment, values all that which are important. Your kids are headed for a bright future with the lessons you've taught.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Start of Year!

Well, we have gotten going again here down @ CCA! We are 2 half days into the year and it was great to see students again! It was even greater seeing both my girls with me at school! I cant describe how fun it is to se them at different times as they are out on the playground and they give me this little wave. Essie has been so excited about going to school, I can't wait to watch her bloom this year. Ro is getting right back in the swing of things and is a joy for her teachers. Both of them were so excited about the second day that they woke up at 5:45 and got themselves dressed including shoes and finished packing their lunches. All Clare and I had to do was breakfast and hair. We can dream that continues! Field continues to be a blast and makes us laugh constantly! Every day he wants to "Go Play Soccer!"
Basketball season starts up next week! As always things roll a little slow down here in Panama. I am waiting to hear from a few courts about us being able to rent. I am also still recruiting coaches to work with our teams. Thankfully the older teams are set, but still need some coaches for the younger teams. Please pray that the right people will be able to work with our kids and have a great season of loving and coaching these kids.

I am very excited about starting a men's bible study this fall. There has not been anything in this community for men. I have gotten great response from a number of guys. We are going to use the video series by Matt Chandler on Phillipians. I hope it will be a great time of fellowship and sharpening. I pray that we bond as a group of men that love the lord and want to lead this community well.

I was able to lead devotions for the staff the other morning and I shared from Phillipians as I have been reading it in preparation of the bible study. I was sharing how we as a staff needed to come together as a team and accept the different gifts and abilities that each other have. It is important to encourage each other in our strengths as that is the way God designed us. I find myself too many times wanting people to think, respond, and communicate the way that I believe they should. I need to remember to celebrate the individual that God is using for his purpose to His glory. Phillipians 2:3-11 gave me a big lesson on how to interact with others and a great example in our Saviour.

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. have this mind among yourselves , which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient tot he point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Slice or a Punch

Hello Blog Friends!
It is safe to say that I have not kept up with blogging this semester! Nathan and I wish very much to do so, but it has proven very difficult. I do have something I wanted to share with you. I wrote this letter to my family last week and wanted to share it with you too! For those of you who do not know, I lost my handicapped brother Jay almost 12 years ago. I was 18 and he was days from his 14th bday and this is a vision I had of him and of the Lord last week. It was such a sweet gift to me, the vision and the gift of the Holy Spirit!
I love you all and PROMISE there are blogs to come!!

"Thoughts, Visions and Dreams...

Up on my desk I have a picture of Jay. The one where he is grinning from ear to ear, the smile that was kinda forced yet the only way he really smiled. It is perfect in every way. It is not the one with the blue shirt on (which I had on my mirror for years and it disappeared. Somebody needs to fess up,) but the one with the white shirt with the huge round glasses!

I love gazing on it and even as it has been almost 12 years since Jay was a part of our daily interaction I think that it is safe to say that he is still a part of some slice of my day. Maybe its a handicapped parking spot, or somebody giving me a thumbs up, or the random waif of dried slobber from his thumbs, or kissing my kids after they are asleep and seeing one snagging a corner of their siblings pillow with their head just as Jay always did, sometimes its finding a random white sock that looked like Jay's little socks (some I have may have been his,) or a penny laying on the ground and I need to pick it up just because, maybe its the sound of bball in the background or just a glance at the few momentous I have around.

Some days the memories are a lot bigger than slices they are punches to the gut or a pie to the face, the ones where you loose your train of thought and get an immediate swell in your throat feeling like you are going to chock and if no one is around you can loose it or if others are you hold back because it is just not the time to go there, they wouldn't know how to respond and quite frankly it wouldn't have the affect you could they know, it would be unfair to dump that one out into the thin air! Sometimes I don't have the emotional energy to go there. Its just to hard...yet it is always so sweet.

So tonight was one of those nights, THE PUNCH. This is not something you plan for, it just happens and I just had to tell yall about it...too sweet to keep to myself.

We are doing a study with our small group by Mark Virkler, How to hear God's Voice. It is way different than anything I have ever studied and honestly blown my mind and my heart way off this planet. Some of it can be a little hard to understand, but I have tracked with it...mostly. The Bible is full of verses about the Holy Spirit, verses I some how seemed to skip over or not really notice until this past year, maybe year and half. The Lord has taught me so much about himself and about who I am in Him and Him in me, some things I have known, some maybe not, but mostly things I have known but not really FELT. I think it safe to announce that I am not much of a "feeler." I think I am but due to maybe my birth order and the circumstances that surrounded our lives as we knew them I became a "stuffer," into a rather large container bc it rarely filled over or poured out. That is all another story that I look forward to sharing with yall some day, in light of all the Lord has been revealing to me and speaking to me.

So back to the study. We quiet ourselves before the Lord. Focus on Him. Tune to flow (words from the Lord, pictures in our heads, etc). Journal. That is the sequence of what we are learning and I was blown away by the fact that I have always had the Lord speaking to me I just rarely recognized it for that. The visions and dreams as well. I just wasn't focusing on Him and then seeing all that he had to tell me, show me, love me, etc. This has come quite easily for me and is an amazing tool I am looking forward to learning and knowing at 30!

Tonight we watched the video about Visions and Dreams. (Before we started the video we sang a song about the Resurrection and one of the lines I wrote down in my journal.) He talked and read from Daniel. He facilitated a time to focus on the Lord and to see what the Lord had to say or show us. Part of his facilitating was describing a place around the Sea of Galilee. He explained a place I was already picturing, I love it when that happens. Then he began to describe a scene from the Bible about feeding of the thousands and then the healing of a paralyzed man.

Immediately the gut punch came and I wanted the vision to stop. Not really wanting to go there in front of all the small group. But I felt the Lord prompting me to keep looking. I did and as he began to speak I could see these knobby bony knees of a 14 year old little boy burst forth, like an egg shell blowing itself out or a butterfly coming out of a shell at a rapid rate, and out came these muscular running type thighs, tan I might add, not too hairy in case you were wondering. It all happened so fast. The boys arms just pushed up from his wheelchair and it all just happened. And then I realized it was Jay.

Rewind to the lady who did the painting of Jay for the YL Urban Center and we all voted to have the picture of him done with him in his wheelchair not standing. Don't think I, maybe we, were ready to visualize OUR Jay any different that how we knew and loved him. Any dream I have had of Jay has been chest up or with him on my back since his death until tonight.

I stayed with the vision from the screen rolling in my head and it continued on a grassy knoll with Jesus and me and Jay sitting beside Jesus, but from where I was he was behind Jesus. This is were I opened my Journal and began to journal what the Lord was saying to me.

At the top of my page was "I STAND IN HIM COMPLETE." I had written it before any of this even started tonight. Yet it was totally planned. It was centered and in all caps too.

It was at this point that I realized that I had not let myself imagine Jay physically any different than how I had known him, I was limiting all that God could make straight. It couldn't have been a sweeter moment to see my brother as HE IS, COMPLETE. It was only in my mind's eye, but the question I was asking the Lord before any of this began was, "Lord, how do you want me to use eyes of my heart?" Anything I was imagining before was from the eye of my mind, but not of my heart. I could not have imagined this without the Holy Spirit.

By showing me Jay's completeness the Lord wanted to show me my own, what He has done for me, what He can continue to do. He wants to commune with me on the kind of level and wholeness that He does with Jay and Granny and Grand Chubby. Jay was just sitting behind Him looking at me like, "I have been waiting for you to figure this out. It is that simple." He had a gentle smirk on his face as he listened to what Jesus was telling me. This kind of wholeness only comes from knowing Jesus, looking at Him, asking Him, letting Him make me FULL and just desiring and being in His presence.

Other random details in case you wanted to know: he had the build of a runner, not a skinny runner, but a muscular one, he was around 25-26, a man indeed, Sam, you are a bit taller, but your butt is still bigger! He had a head full of thick brown hair, not curly, but fluffy. He looked just like how I would imagine him, good looking (like his brothers and dad,) genuine, full of happiness, totally content yet eager. He had on a blue t-shirt (not collared) and khakis! (He must of put some pants on after busting out of his old legs!)

Too amazing not to share with yall and sooo easy to see. Such a blessing to have FULL access to the Holy Spirit. It is our gift from the Lord, a promise of what we have to look forward to for all of eternity with Him, and with all those who have gone before us and who are STANDING IN HIM COMPLETE!

Love each of you more than I could ever express!! Praying that the Lord is speaking to each of you and that you are in a place where you are focusing and listening to all that He has to tell you. Just ask, Just look, He is certainly there!

My new favorite song is by Brett Dennon, Dancing at a Funeral. "Now is not the time to be so sad and mournful.We are going to this funeral and we'll be dancing the night away. So don't be so shy, we are living and we are dying, we are laughing and we're crying, every single day..." Looking forward to all dancing (standing) complete in who we are....ONE DAY!

Clare....hope you are not gut punched...maybe just a slice to add to your JAY DAY!"