Friday, February 20, 2015

Highlights from Haiti - THANK YOU!!!

From our 16yo to the many friends & family who supported her through prayer, support, or work so she could earn her way to serve for a week in Haiti:

Dear friends & family,

Thank you for your support when I was preparing for my mission trip to Haiti to serve with the Missionaries of Charity.

On New Year’s morning, my mom took me to the airport while it was still dark! After a connection in Miami, we flew into Port Au Prince, Haiti.

We hit the ground running and stayed busy for the entire week of our stay. At the orphanage, there were rows and rows of cribs with so many babies to love and hold. There were also babies so sick and malnourished that they would be on an IV one night and gone to the hospital the following morning where they would often not survive.

We would sing with them, play with them, hold them, and let them know that they are loved. Our youth group chose Matthew 25:40 as a scripture verse to focus on during our trip, “'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” Unbeknownst to us at the time, this was one of Mother Teresa’s favorite scripture verses as her mother taught her as a little girl, the gospel can be summed up on five fingers, you did it to me.

During our trip, all the sisters in Haiti gathered together at our location. It was a rare occasion and we were able to experience it! We even caught a glimpse of them praying together before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a moving thing to witness all those holy women praying together before our Lord.

In Haiti, many families care for their sick & dying at home until they’re not able to do so any longer. At that time, they are turned out into the street or the dump to fend for themselves. The Missionaries of Charity take these people into their home for the dying so they may die with dignity.

We visited the home for the dying and the surprising thing was, it is not just older people. There were young men & women as well as children. The cause of their death was varied from malnutrition to fatal diseases. We would paint the nails of the ladies, hand out prayer cards to the men, and sing with the children and all residents.

One of the members of our trip was even asked to be the Godparent of a baby who was administered last rites while we were there.

The cultural difference that I experienced was shocking. During traffic one day, which is very different than our paved roads and closed-in cars, a driver was frustrated with something and shot a gun in the air to clear the street. It made me very aware of the privileges we enjoy in the US. The sisters were unphased saying, “It happens all the time, it’s no big deal.” I assure you, this would be a very big deal if it happened in Tallahassee!

It was amazing to witness the efforts that people make to attend mass in their best clothes and we were able to celebrate Epiphany with them as they joyfully danced & played drums all through the church. It was humbling that many of the people we served offered their prayer intentions for us.

This trip was an experience of a lifetime! The language barrier taught me to listen in a new way, the standard of living made my heart swell with gratitude, and the powerful witness of life and eternity will stay with me forever.

Thank you for helping make this trip possible! Your support didn’t stop with helping me get to Haiti, it planted seeds of hope for all the lives we touched on our visit.



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day 2014


For the first time in years, maybe ever, I didn't write an annual Christmas letter to go with our cards. Aniston missed reading it, so the first day of 2014 is as good as any to write my annual reflection on the happenings of our family.

I entered 2013 with great optimism about things. We had a good rhythm to our household and routines, and I planned to focus on keeping that momentum. It had been more than three years since we said goodbye to Jude, and I genuinely felt peace about our family size. Early in the year, I learned we were expecting our sixth baby!

My business, Trendy Traditions, saw explosive growth in 2013, requiring many hands to help fill all the orders for sacramental celebrations in the spring. It has been affirming to see the business develop during the past four years after pleading in prayer for a way for me to be home with our children. God's providence for our family in such a tangible way!

Joseph continued his service to the state legislature as director of House Bill Drafting. It was our first legislative session with him in that position, and nothing could have prepared any of us for the demands of his new role. From Christmas through May, he is totally unavailable to our family, working all waking hours. It helps to explain why none of the prior directors to hold that position had children. Since the spring is also my busy time, life was very complicated in the first part of the year.

Even with his work schedule, Joseph managed to squeeze in time to volunteer as Miles' Cub Scout den leader and to build a new website for the pack ( From the moment we learned that we were having a boy, Joseph has looked forward to sharing Scouting with his sons, and it is a highlight for them. Joseph also completed a five-year dental treatment plan, and now has a brand new, healthy, and amazing smile! His volunteer work on the pack website also paid dividends for my business, with Joseph building a new website for me (

Aniston had a year of remarkable changes. After spending nine years at the same school with the same friends, she completed eighth grade and moved on to high school. She's attended her first homecoming dance, attended a college night (What?!), begun preparation for Confirmation, and received her driving permit after turning fifteen! We are experiencing the natural separation that begins in high school, where she is becoming an adult and no longer a child―needing guidance and advice but eager to make her own decisions. It is new territory, but we are taking it one day at a time.

Miles is still all about Scouts! He attended the pack's trip to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Since it was during Joseph's busy season, Miles' uncle Floyd chaperoned, and being retired from the U.S. Navy, he especially enjoyed the trip. Miles won first place in his age group at the pack's Pinewood Derby and was excited about moving to the councilwide competition where he placed second. His imagination is as vibrant as ever, and he currently loves reading Greek myths. Now that he is in second grade, Miles is making his First Communion preparations and is a little nervous about his First Reconciliation.

Ander loves to perform! Whether it is dancing for us after dinner or singing in the shower, he isn't worried about doing it right or a perfect performance. He just enjoys putting on a show. He keeps us in stitches with his witty comments and cute descriptions of things. He also has a knack for storytelling, which provides much amusement for Joseph and me. Ander's genuine heart is a shining spot in our family! He turned six the day after Christmas and enjoys kindergarten with the same teacher he had for preschool. They moved up at the same time!

Genevieve definitely provides the spunk in our family! She has a big personality and is not afraid to express it. The only girl in her class with curly hair, she's already asking if she can change it to straight. I hope she grows to embrace her unique bouncy locks! Genevieve's desire for precision has helped her enjoy ballet this year. It's been helpful to have her own activity outside of wrestling with her brothers, which seems to be her favorite right now.

Conrad Anderson Gillespie entered the world on Thursday, September 12 and has breathed air into our family where we didn't know we needed it. It has been something to behold, watching the older children fall in love with their new sibling. Conrad is an absolute joy, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to be home with him, my first child where I didn't have a return date to an office. Much love, much healing, and much peace.

Every year when I finish writing this letter, I'm reminded of all the little moments in between our milestones―play dates with cousins and friends, the first day of school, spring break at the beach, and many more. And then there is the outpouring of love and generosity―birthday parties, meals after having a new baby, and Conrad's baptism. THANK YOU for sharing this incredible journey and walking with us in faith and goodwill. I sincerely love keeping up with so many friends on facebook and other social media and hope to do more catching up in person this year.

God's peace and blessings to you and yours in 2014!



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Theme Thursday: Statues

It has been on my heart to return to blogging and when I saw a link-up at Cari's, I knew this was my chance to dip my toes in the water again.

I received this statue, Our Lady of Hope, from my sister and nieces as a gift to celebrate our new baby who is scheduled to arrive in five weeks from today!

It was earlier this year that I was first introduced to this depiction of Mary and I fell in love with her. My sister knew none of this, of course, but Our Lady likes to surprise us like that. :)

Check out the other statue posts linked up at Clan Donaldson.