Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jessica and Frank

These are two of my favorite people with Lucy and Preston's sponsored kids, Jessica and Frank, in Rwanda. Natalie works with the amazing organization, Africa New Life, and Annabel is one of four girls in one of our favorite families. She also happens to be our favorite babysitter. She is remarkable. The whole Jamail family went to Rwanda with ANL over thanksgiving. I've heard amazing things.
We were able to send gifts over with them to give to Jessica (7) and Frank (5). Through ANL, they can go to an amazing school and have their needs cared for. They are precious. Lucy already has this picture printed, and by her bed :) This ministry is changing our hearts as a family, as well. Even Preston mentions Frank in his "prayers", and calls every African American boy he sees, "Frank". hmmm...
We get to go to the airport today to welcome the first Austin family home with their little guy from Rwanda!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Trifecta

The week started with our entire family getting a stomach virus,
then came a sinus infection,
and finally the FLU.

All in one week.

I've spent the better part of the last 4 days in the fetal position, never getting warm, but with fever, the kids just running around me. You should see the house!
It's been a rough one around here.
Next week will have to be better, it's Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We Wait

Many of you have been very thoughtful to ask us about our

adoption lately. Although we are growing weary of waiting for something we thought would have already happened, we know in the big world of international adoption, setbacks and

prolonged waiting are the name of the game.

We do know they have hired two additional people in The Office to help with dossiers (files). The hope is that we will see results of their work soon!! We also know the Nuns at Hope of Hope orphanage are overworked and overrun with children. I ran across this post recently, by a woman who visited the orphanage. Although Andy went there in January, his account is slightly less descriptive!

This photographer who is in Kigali:

There are some moments in life where I feel so overwhelmed by an experience that I have a hard time putting it into words. I struggle to grasp all that it meant to me or all that I saw. Perhaps it's due to my visual nature and the fact that I feel more content telling my story through pictures than I do with words. However, you'll have to bare with me as I try to describe my experiences at the Home of Hope orphanage in Kigali, since I was unable to take any pictures inside the orphanage.

I thought I felt prepared before I entered the blue gates at the Home of Hope. Several families from my church have adopted children from the orphanage and they've described to me first hand the conditions these children live in. But it's one thing to hear it and another to see it yourself. We came in the afternoon, when the orphanage allows visitors to come play with the children or rock the little babies. Jana and Keli go on a regular basis to give the littlest ones massages, since they are mostly lying flat on their backs in their cribs all day long and suffer from stiffness and weak muscles. They also just need to be held and feel the touch of an actual person. It's not that the nurses do not hold them, but they are just overwhelmed. There are so many babies and only few workers to attend to their needs. It's impossible for each baby to receive the love and attention that they truly need.

The first time we came, we were bombarded by dozens of toddlers when we entered the gate. They came rushing up to us, all wanting to be held or touched. It was both adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. Here were these beautiful, precious children, all just wanting to be loved and shown attention. How could we pass them by to go hold the infants? I felt so torn. I wanted to love on each little kid in the orphanage, but we only were allowed to visit for one hour. But I couldn't resist their sweet, smiling faces so I picked up one child and more of them followed us inside. I eventually had to take the little guy back outside, because they were not allowed to come into the room with the infants. As I walked him back to the door, he started crying and my heart started ripping to shreds. I felt like the worst person in the world. But I knew that the babies were all in the other room needing just as much attention. There's just so many needs to be met and I already felt overwhelmed by it after being there less than 10 minutes.

They took us to a room with many cribs all lined up side by side. The first thing you notice when you enter is the smell. It's not quite like stepping into an outhouse but it's pretty close. Most of the children have on cloth diapers but they're not changed often enough. With 20 or so babies to a room, it's going to leave a smell. At the time we entered they were feeding the older babies and had them all either on the floor or in 2 larger cribs to the side of the room. Dinner consisted of bananas mashed up with eggs. Not exactly appealing to me but the babies didn't seem to care. They all just wanted to be fed. We waited for the nurses to bring us the littlest ones to have massages but held a few of the older ones until they did. I noticed that most all of them had flat heads and bald spots on the back of their heads. They are so accustomed to lying on their backs that their heads have conformed to that shape. Some of them had herniated belly buttons or distended stomachs due to malnourishment. The first little one they gave me was crying when they gave him to me. However, after just holding him close to me for a bit, he calmed down and became at ease with me. He wasn't eager for me to put him down after that when I tried to lay him on the table to massage his arms and legs and such. So I picked him back up and just held him until he fell asleep in my arms. It was the most precious feeling ever to know that I calmed this little guy down and he felt content enough to fall asleep as I held him. It gave my heart some peace.

Most of these children will not be adopted. The girls might grow up and come back to work there as a nurse, like many of the women working in the orphanage now. The men will be given a small plot of land to tend to once they reach a certain age. They'll have little education and little hope for a bright future. I felt this great desire to adopt 10 of them on the spot, but of course that was not possible, especially since right now adoptions are temporarily closed in Rwanda. I came back feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted from the first experience but I knew I had to go back again while I was there. I wish I could have gone back every day, but that wasn't possible. The second experience felt even more overwhelming than the first, as there was one moment where about 5-10 of the babies were all crying and I just didn't know who to hold and what to do. I can't imagine how the workers must feel on a daily basis.

I know that now, as I'm back in the states, all I can really do for these children is pray for them. I pray that their physical and emotional needs will be met. I pray they will all find a home and a family who will love and care for them. I pray they will grow up strong and receive a good education. I'm thankful for people like Jana and Keli who go there on a regular basis and do what they can to help. I'm thankful for all the families I know who have opened their homes and their hearts to adopt children from orphanages all around the world. I have a great respect and admiration for all of you. In all of this, I have to believe that God is working. It only took me a fraction of a second to fall in love with these children, but I know that God loved them before anyone else and will always love them. I put my hope in His love.

I'll never forget Home of Hope. I left a piece of my heart there."

It is hard knowing that our son, Drew, is waiting for us in one of those little blue metal cribs. Our family has a hole in it that we did not know existed until God changed our hearts, and created the hole.

On a happy note, we have our dear friend, Natalie in Rwanda right now with many, many Austinites, so we get to see pictures and hear updates. Check out her pictures of the Gorillas!!

Thank you for praying for and asking us about Drew, he'll be here in His perfect timing, until then we wait, and wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Moabitess

Caroline was Ruth for her history project this semester. She memorized her little speech and drew a picture of Ruth and Boaz making googly eyes at each other.
Sweet thing, other kids were Cleopatra and exotic Egyptians, but no, she knew that burlap, barley, and Boaz were it for her!
She was quite perfect for it being an old soul and a little romantic at heart!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I simply remember my favorite things...

Singing this song to all three kids the other night in the guest bed at 2am, I did start thinking of some of my more recent favorite things. There was a thunderstorm. They do not do well with thunderstorms, and then it became a big slumber party for 2 hours. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the list below, but take it or leave it, I love these books and music right now:

She is unbelievable. She is a true songwriter (not that I really know music) but, I have listened to her album nonstop for about 3 weeks. Her songs, Weightless, A Thousand Things (which has me crying like a baby), Life Costs so Much, Fly, the tongue in cheek Don't call it Love...

Yes, I know I am probably the last one alive to fall in love with Ann. Her words literally calm my soul. It sounds silly, I know, but there is something very special about her. She lives on a farm in Canada, with her farmer husband and 6 kids. She writes like noone else about gratitude, the holy in the mundane, every beautiful detail of our ordinary lives. Again, I have cried through several of her posts. Yes, I am taking my Vitamin B and fish oil to help with this!

God book for Preston: Read Aloud Bible Stories. I LOVE these for his age! They are simple and rich with big pictures. Sound Theologically and not silly, but sweet.

God book for Lucy: Leading Little Ones to God This book is organized in a fantastic way! We went through it with Caroline a couple years ago. It is really a Systematic Theology book for the 4-6 year old set. Right up my alley! It has 14 Sections with 6 readings in each. For example,
part 2: God is Very Great.
a. God is One God
b.God is Everywhere
c. God Knows all things...
The pictures are horribly outdated and the hymns I've never heard of. I would LOVE to re-do this book.

God book for Caroline: Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. Bruce Ware is a Seminary prof, and brings all his depth to this book for kids. Andy usually reads this with Caroline. It is amazing!! Much more indepth than Lucy's book, but organized the same way, ie:
Section 3. Creator and Ruler of All
a. God rules the world he has made
b. God provides all good things in the World
c. God controls all Bad things in the World...

That's it for now. I haven't read anything for myself lately, any suggestions??

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Run for the Water and NEW Cousin Charlie!

Sunday Morning we had a first as a family. Caroline and Lucy ran their first race, the Run for the Water. I ran the 10 mile version with a couple girls I run with alot. Gilbert from Burundi is a bit of an Austin superstar. His running group, Gilbert's Gazelles, trains the same time I run at the lake at early-thirty on Saturday mornings. He has an unbelievable story of escaping the genocide in Burundi (same Hutu/Tutsi conflict as the Rwandan genocide) The race raised $ to send to his home village to build water wells. The girls loved the cause and running fast!
Lucy was slowing quite a bit, but heard me cheering for her, put her head down and sprinted to the finish :) The pink converse were lightning fast!

Megan and I stayed together the whole time. Beautiful race through Tarrytown.
Joanie and Eric-dynamo duo
In major family news, my brother Daniel, and sister in law Liz had their first baby Saturday night.
Charlie Preston Farrar.
He is beautiful!! We got to see and hold him briefly, but he's struggling with blood sugar levels. I don't have pics yet as he is in the NICU, but doing great and will be home soon. I'll post pics soon.
Congratulations Daniel and Liz, we LOVE you!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Camping take 2: now we're talking!

Tent? check.
Fire? check.
Lake? check.
Junk food? check.
Me, Lucy and Preston driving 1 mile back home to our own beds? check.
Go back in the morning with breakfast and coffee to enjoy the day? check.
Now, we're getting somewhere camping with toddlers. Call me a wimp.

(sorry for the excess of photos, it was such a pretty morning)

Boys and fire... there is nothing like the gleam in their eye. I was only burned once.
Tent for 2: dad and Caroline
Yes, blue gatorade and macaroni-and-cheese chips were on the menu, and lucy's face.

Lucy has named our grey heron friend, Clifford. We see him alot.

Oh, everyone loves each other so much more when they aren't jumped on or peed on in the middle of the night!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Disturb Us

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push us into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

-Sir Francis Drake, 1557 (written before departing England to circumnavigate the globe)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chosen 1/2, we did it!!

Andy and I ran the Chosen 1/2 Marathon this morning.
The race raised money for adoption. There were some of the sweetest families out to run and cheer on.
It was the most beautiful race!! It was in Gruene, we ran along the river with trees, bridges, and lots of hills... We were in the hill country, so, I guess that was bound to happen :)
We had a handful of friends run. I hope I can walk tomorrow, I can't really straighten my legs, did I mention the hills??
Yesterday, in the midst of racing around like a wild woman cleaning the house, laundry, transporting kids and packing everyone for the night away, I thought "you know what I REALLY need to do right now is make a running visor to show why I'm running..." So, I made this Africa with fabric with a little heart over Rwanda. I was so proud and showed Caroline, she says, "seriously, mom??" Andy said the Africa looked like it had a cancer on the left side. I ran in it anyways, oh, well :)
I didn't have my camera of course, but we had a great time and it was fun for Andy and I to run together to celebrate little Drew's life.

"Lift up you eyes all around, and see;
they gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you "
Isaiah 60:4-5

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thanks Aunt Liz...

Wow... so, Aunt Liz gave the girls a whole make-up case the other day complete with lavender,electric blue and green eyeshadow! She is such a sweet aunt, but this was really to keep them from begging her to use her real MAC or whatever-fancy stuff she uses:) Persistent little lasses.
They LOVE it.
I took this picture to stall her for a minute so neighbor-Jack could run away from her with the eye-shadow brush.

All the while, Preston was squeezing out the entire tube of
hot pink princess toothpaste
and mashing it into the carpet of each stair and the wall.
Do you ever feel you have completely lost control??

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall Festival, Booker T Style

Last week, our home group was a little more organized in our monthly time at Hope Street, we thought we'd do a "fall festival".
Hope Street is the ministry of some dear friends at a housing project on the East Side of town. They love, feed and teach the Word of God to about 60 kids every Thursday. We get to join them once a month, love, feed, and oh, learn from them. God is doing a mighty work in our hearts! It is a blast!
We put on a mini-fall festival with doughnut eating contests, "fishing", face painting, archery, pumpkin games, etc...
We are honored they allow us to love these children with them.
My children have such fun, and are being stretched in great ways.

Amanda and Holly cooked and served tons of kids. You guys rock!!
Preston got into the hair paint and shaving cream. Anyone surprised... anyone?
We pulled Kristin in to use her master painter skills

The Schulz girls taking on the doughnuts

Doughnut eating!!
Archery, right up Allen's alley !
Lucy asked if she could have her 6th bday at Booker T :) maybe so.

Friday, October 8, 2010

choosing to see

As a high school Steven Curtis Chapman fan, I was eager to read his wife's new book, mostly because they love orphans. My youth group used his songs as the themes of any event, camp or retreat. I have vivid memories of the bright blue Tshirt with The Great Adventure on it singing at the top of my lungs "Saddle up your horses..."

I spent the majority of the last 24 hours reading this book, Choosing to See, by Mary Beth Chapman. It is one of the most precious, intimate, funny, heartbreaking books I've read. This girl's been through it! What a beautiful story she has to tell of God's redemption on so many levels.
Christianity doesn't deny the reality of suffering and evil.
...Our hope... is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering. Rather, it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.
Brennan Manning
I parked it in a chair on the driveway while Caroline hammered nails into random wood, Preston threw golf balls into the neighbors yard, and Lucy scaled the very high stone wall on the side of the house with her partner in crime, Jack, the neighbor. I just sat there sobbing.

Andy took the little ones for a run after dinner. I hadn't even made a proper dinner. Caroline offered to clean the kitchen so I could sit and read/cry. She even offered to get me a cup of coffee or diet coke, I said I was fine with my glass of wine. She brought me my stash of dark chocolate squares that I thought was hidden. Clearly, I was a mess.
Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning
In the morning
Beauty will rise
Steven Curtis Chapman

The Chapman's lost one of their daughters, Maria in a tragic car accident 2 years ago. Mary Beth chronicles her whole journey, very detailed, and not very wrapped up with a bow. They LOVE adoption and have done more to advocate for orphans than most in the US. I am so inspired by them. They have also raised amazing children. 5 more of them.

My best friend, Lisa told me I had to read it, she was right, and now you should too :)
Andy was reading Tom Davis' book Priceless, a novel about the sex trade in Russia. We were a barrel of laughs last night :(

OK, random post, Caroline is now teaching herself her math lesson, gotta go!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"pon" song

Tucking in Preston last night, he curled up with his two bears and milk and asked me to "sing pon song mommy". We went round and round that I had no idea what song he was talking about. I thought he was saying farm, so I sang Old McDonald had a Farm... He stopped me in the middle of of "here a quack, there a quack" emphatically saying, "NO, PON SONG!", finally after much discussion I said "upon?" "Turn your eyes UPON Jesus?" (this is not usually in the rotation)
As I sang, he closed his eyes, hugged his bears and said "goodnight mommy".

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of this earth
will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

Thank you, Preston, for the reminder

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Donald

Caroline and I spent the better part of the morning playing Monopoly.
That's kind of like Math, right? I got my clock cleaned and was taken to the bank. Real estate moguls Aunt Amanda and Uncle Daniel would be so proud. As she pumped her fist in the air, laughing viciously each time I landed on her "Boardwalk" with 2 houses, my vision of her being a kind, compassionate nurse went up in flames.
There's always Lucy...hmmm... maybe?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Walking well in the clothes I already own

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and , if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3: 12-14

Working through my Covenant Study this morning I came across these verses. Because I am in covenant with God, He has put his robe, His identity, on me. As I learned, in the Old Testament, Prince Jonathan put his robe on David as a sign of their covenant, that came with all the benefits and responsibilities of royalty.
I am to "put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of it's creator" col 3:9-10. I am a new creation, I am to "walk as a child of light", being "renewed in the spirit of my mind, and to put on the new self" eph 5:8, 4:23

I was convicted today, reflecting the disaster that was our camping trip this weekend. There was so much crying, wet beds, arguing (kids with kids, Andy with kids, me with Andy), kids falling out of beds, no one sleeping...
I was the opposite of all the things listed above as my patience wore thin, I got angry easily and had no intention to forgive Andy until he apologized as I wanted him too. Finally, after 1.5 days, missed 50 yard line seats at the Longhorn game, and missed church we are all reconciled and back on track. Wow, thank you Lord for your perfect forgiveness and mercies that are new every morning!

On the other hand, Preston did catch his first fish, the smallest fish I have ever seen on a hook. Regardless, he won't be invited camping for a few years :)
Lord, help me to walk well in the clothes you have given me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Team Tri

Kathryn and Andy and Elizabeth (my sisters and b.i.l) did the Austin triathlon yesterday. They were awesome and really trained hard. Kathryn and Andy are still married despite the training :)
They raised $ for alzheimer's research, a disease that has hurt Andy's family. I am SO proud of them. I was supposed to train for it too, but I'm a loser, and didn't. We had a great time running around searching and cheering for them though.

(my) Andy and Caroline were on their bikes like little pages riding all over the place together trying to catch the three of them at all their events.
Still smiling :) It was about 120 degrees, or something.
What Elizabeth lacked in speed, she made up for in spirit and panache!! Loving the gloves :)

Great Job Team!!!