Thursday, December 15, 2011

Comfort and Joy

It's been a very difficult week. We received news on Tuesday that Jude had been in the hospital recently for a week-long stay due to respiratory illness.

Never before have we felt such despair over the suffering of our little boy. To picture that sweet baby boy in the hospital without a mommy or even a familiar care-giver is like ripping my heart out with your bare hands and stomping all over it. It's a good thing you didn't see me that day (except for the few poor souls who did), because I was a mess. I mean, I can't even fathom driving away from the hospital if Evan, Claire, or Sophie were there for even 10 minutes, let alone 7 days. NO WAY, NO HOW. We happen to love this little boy so immensely that we'd give up our life right this minute for him. We've been fighting for 2 solid years for the life of this child and it is NO SMALL DEAL to hear that he's sick and hospitalized. It's NO SMALL DEAL that orphans, like Jude, are sick EVERY DAY without a mommy to comfort them, here and all over this planet.

One of my closest friends called and prayed with me, covering Jude and all his doctors, care-givers, etc, special protection and healing. If not for her, I would have been curled up in a corner somewhere until Jason came home. One of the scriptures she passed along was so powerful in my heart that day and forever more. Here's what it says:

Isaiah 43: 1-7 (emphasis via Wendy....merely to point out what stuck out to me)

Now this is what the Lord says- the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel-- "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name and you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I WILL BRING YOUR DESCENDANTS FROM THE EAST and gather YOU FROM THE WEST. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! BRING MY SONS FROM FAR AWAY and My daughters from the ENDS OF THE EARTH--everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him.

***This is all about the restoration of Israel. It is down-right comforting to hear what God says about restoration and a new day. Go read the rest of the chapter when you catch a minute. I also especially love verses 16-21 about God doing something new.

We are thankful for the moments of joy that sneak in and surprise us. We are thankful for the rich blessing of our children and their ability to make it all better. We are thankful for our marriage, in which we both have a best friend and someone who's always "on our side." Praise God. We don't deserve it.

Here are just a few of the moments of joy that have managed to sneak into our lives lately (disclaimer---pics taken with my phone, so not the best quality):

Gotta take a break while baking cookies~

Can she fool you?

Baking cookies with Mama Cookie, using Grandma's old cookie cutters

Merry Christmas and many blessings of comfort and joy to you and your family this year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Work on Me

I cannot believe we are still waiting. I'm overwhelmed by the fact that we were given a referral for a sweet 4 month old baby boy so many months ago. It has been 6 months since we accepted the referral for Jude, and here we are today, one life-changing trip and a whole lot of tears, later.

I could lie to you all and tell you it's all okay. I will say that the good days outweigh the bad, but there are days, like today, that I have trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems like our turn is never going to come. I read about and watch other families pass court and travel to bring their babies home, and I'm exceedingly happy for those precious children. I know it's out of our hands and that God can make all things good and that His timing is perfect and IT'S NOT ABOUT ME! I just have to rely on positive self-talk most days.

This is all stirring inside me today, because we were once again contacted by our home-study agency with a reminder that our home study ONCE AGAIN is going to expire in 2 months. There is a good likelihood that we will have to renew, to the tune of $400+, more fingerprints, more home-visits, and paperwork. We are still figuring out our specific case, but I remember getting the same reminder a year ago and being not-so-happy about it.

It's on the minds of our children, too. This morning, we were driving Evan to school, all 6 of us (me, 3 of my children, +2 boys I take care of). It is not a quiet ride, to say the least. Sophie piped up and said, "Mom, we should get Jude a little shirt for Christmas." I told her that was a great idea. We decided he could open it when he comes home, regardless of when. She continued, "Yeah, and we should get him a train, and a ball, and a school, and a bird, and the moon, and a road, and a sidewalk to the school, and a car." It made me smile. She wants to give him the world. Me, too.

I remember reading this prayer from another friend's Facebook page a while back, and it seems so fitting to my life.

"Lord, work on me in the waiting. Prepare me. Strip me of my agenda. Shatter my plans into a million pieces."

So, that's my prayer today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Busted bubble

I thought we had done everything we could to prepare physically and mentally for our trip to Ethiopia. We had six 50lb suitcases and six 15 lb. carry-ons. We had a few cameras, some bug spray, cash, donations, granola bars, and a deck of cards. What else could we need?

I would soon see that there was a lot more to learn about life outside my bubble than I could've imagined. I will try to share some of it, but as always, words carry only a portion of the weight of our experiences.

As you all know, we were in Ethiopia for the purpose of the adoption of our son, Jude. However, we prayed that God would use our time there to bring Him glory and to use our hands and feet for Him. We were not able to do much hands-on mission work, but we did walk among the impoverished people of the trash-dump, sat with the lepers as they did their work, held children who'd seemingly never had a bath and had lice in their hair, and played with HIV-Positive children.

We did not get very many pictures of these times, out of respect for the people. However, I will share with you some of the images that won't leave my head anytime soon.

These are women who are carrying 60kg of wood for fuel to sell at the base of Entoto mountain. They will earn about 30 birr for one trip up and down the mountain. That's less than $2. Unbelievable.

These are some boys we met on our trip up the mountain. They were so sweet. They told us of their one-hour walk into school everyday and the 2-hour walk home, up the mountain. They asked if we had brought dictionaries for them. They were sweet until we got in the van and handed candy out the window. At that point, they started pushing and trying to get at the candy, reaching as far into the van as they could, even as we drove away. There was a little girl there who had on a Dora shirt that had never been washed. Evan continued to be concerned about whether or not she got any of the candy.

This is a man at the leper colony. He is weaving a rug. He has no fingers on either hand. We were pretty sure they put him outside by the entrance because he was so full of joy. I didn't get a picture of his smile, but trust me, he was a happy man. If I recall, we read later that this man had come to the leper colony 20+ years ago with his 4 children. All the people in this place suffer from leprosy or other debilitating, contagious conditions. They are all serving a purpose, working on projects that are sold there on site. The picture below shows me giving the weaving loom a try. I was terrible. The workers here are so fast and diligent. I made a fool of myself. What's new?!

These last 3 pictures were taken at Korah, a "suburb" of Addis Ababa, near a large trash dump, where people live. It was one of the most humbling times ever to walk into this place and see how these people live every day. If you are curious about what life is like there, just google "Korah dump, Ethiopia." One of the great things we saw while we were there was a ministry called "Mission Ethiopia." If you want to know more, click HERE. The little girl Jason is holding was so sweet. Her name is Salem (sp?). I'm surprised she didn't end up in the van with us. She followed every step our group took.

I sincerely wish we could've snapped some pictures while at AHOPE, the orphanage for HIV-positive children. One memory I'll never forget is a 6 month old baby boy in a crib, who weighed no more than 10 lbs. His legs were the size of my fingers. He was as happy as he could be, smiling from ear to ear when I talked to him. He held my hand and kicked his tiny legs. He had been abandoned 3 weeks prior and in their care since. They were doing the best they could to get weight on him. Another image in my head is the young girls there. The girls who were around 10 years old would talk to us and walk next to us. When they smiled, their youthful faces looked old and worn. I can't explain it, but they had wrinkles on their face, like I remember my grandma having. I'm not sure if it's the disease, the medication, or the hardships they've endured, but it was slightly disturbing. They would not have you feeling sorry for them, though. They were happy girls, eager to show us their room and their bed.

We still have some sifting-through to do with all these other-worldly experiences. When you consider that these experiences were in addition to us meeting our son and spending time with him, you can understand why we've been dazed and confused this week. Our middle-class, suburbia America, bubble has burst. Thank you for giving us time to put it into words.

Psalm 148

Orphan Sunday

Piggy-backing on my husband's facebook status today, I will share a short story about a couple we met while waiting for court in Ethiopia.

They are a couple of 60 years. They are from Spain. Their beautiful skin and healthy body shows it. She held a stuffed animal and he held a briefcase. They sat down next to us, in a room otherwise full of Ethiopians. Their English was decent, but we had to concentrate to understand each other. They were giddy. You couldn't miss them.

After some small talk, it was obvious that we were both there for adoptions. The usual questions were asked: "How old? Boy or girl? What region are they from?"

And then, the husband shared more of their story. They are 60 years old (you would not have guessed it by their appearance). They have been in process with a Chinese adoption for 6 years now and still await progress there. In the meantime, they started this Ethiopian adoption and have been waiting 2 years. At home, they have a 20-year-old biological son with Downs Syndrome. His name is Angel. They were there to give their consent for this Ethiopian adoption of a 3 year old boy. They told their agency, "We have no preferences. Girl or boy doesn't matter. Age doesn't matter."

They smiled as they showed me his picture. They are so proud of this new son they will take home soon. This little boy now has a mother and father who take pride in him and show him off like he is their prince. Praise God.

On this orphan Sunday, I choose to open my mouth once again for those who cannot. If only you could see the faces and hold the hands of the children in this world who cry out for a parent. We saw only a fraction of the 4 million in Ethiopia and I pray that God will continue to put them in our face and in our path.

Our fight for Jude is not over yet. After a blow to the heart on Friday, we are refreshed and ready to wait some more. This is all just a part of the concrete.

John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." ~Jesus

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

No movement in court today

Just received word that there was no movement in our case today. The judge was not able to approve, since they are still waiting on a document from Jude's original orphanage. There is no word on a new court date.

So we wait. And, in the meantime, Jude sits in an orphanage.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Waiting Game, again

We are anxiously awaiting news that our case is finalized. While in Ethiopia, we were told that it would be complete on Friday, Nov. 4. Now, after some email correspondence with our case worker, we are even more confused than ever. We will have to see what happens this Friday. Will you pray for us that it will come to an end this Friday, Nov. 4th?

When this actually comes to an end, it might take us a while to believe it.

Until then, we look at pictures and videos of our sweet boy 8,000 miles away and dream of the day he comes home.

Thank you for your continued love and support. I simply cannot wait to share him with you. What a precious, precious little soul he is.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Court update

Ethiopian court. What an experience. I can't wait to share it with you all sometime.

Long story short:

We gave our consent to the adoption. The judge told us they are waiting on one more piece of paperwork from Jude's regional government. They will get it soon and the judge told us we will finalize our adoption on November 4. We do not have to stay until then. It can be finalized without us, since we appeared in court and gave our consent in person.

Fun fact: We never dreamed of getting a son for our 11 year wedding anniversary. Can't top that, right?!

Thanks for all the continued prayers and support. We will be leaving tomorrow night. Prayers for safe travels once more, please.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Big day

2 big deals today:

~We went to orientation where we learned how to pass court in a foreign country

~We changed Jude's diaper.

We are well-pleased with our day.

If you think about it before you go to bed tonight, please say a little prayer for our court hearing tomorrow. It will be fine, but there is paperwork that could come together tomorrow and we are praying for just that. Chances are that it won't all be pulled together until a week or two after we go to court, but it's always worth praying for. The sooner we pass court, the sooner he is in his bedroom in Kansas City and my heart can be all in one place at the same time.

Thanks and love to you all~


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quick update

Friends and family:

This post will do no justice to the time we've spent so far, but I need to take advantage of the very fickle internet connection and bring you up-to-speed.

Flights were awesome. Thank you for praying.

Evan has just become a little Ethiopian. People here love him. The girls hug him and kiss his cheek anytime they can. I am not kidding. It's hilarious.

The food is different. We have enjoyed the authentic Ethiopian eating experiences we've had, but we do look forward to an iced tea and some fried chicken. Actually, iced anything would be great.

The scenery is different from what I expected. I'm not really even sure what I expected. I don't think I made it that far in my head. It's hard to explain in words. You'll just have to see my pictures when we return home. Just picture a lot of sheet-metal homes that have 9+ kids and only a mom inside.

The sights we've seen and the places we've gone in just a short 3 days have covered such an expansive realm of Ethiopia. It's a lot to take in. We are so thankful to get to be here. We hope to get out into the countryside sometime on this trip, but we're not sure if it's gonna happen.

We have been inspired by the attitudes the Ethiopians have. They are happy, welcoming people. I'm wondering what they think of us.....

We met Jude on Friday. It was a time that will never leave our memory and I will write about it more in detail another day. For now, I will share that he was confused and sad at first, but then warmed up to us and we had an exceedingly joyful time together. He was littler than I expected, but a healthy size. He has a cough, so will you please add that to your prayers? No momma likes her babies to be sick, especially when she has to leave him across the ocean in a few days. To those who've seen pictures of him: I know you think I'm lying. He is cuter in person that he is in a picture. It is just unreal to me how God can create such a beautiful boy. I have to figure out how I want to share our first meeting and write about it later~

We get to go hang out with him again tomorrow for a couple hours and then we have our big day in court on Tuesday.

We love you all and we are ever thankful for your loving words and prayers lifted up in our behalf. They are needed and appreciated. Keep 'em coming.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On our way

The day has finally come.

Rewind back to Dec. 3, 2009, and you see 2 exceedingly joyful people who heard and accepted the call to adopt one or more children from somewhere, anywhere.

Fast forward through the paperwork, the questions, the funds, the seemingly never-ending wait, and you find us here today, with plane tickets and passports in hand and 1,000 emotions swirling.

Friends and family, you will never know the depth of our appreciation of love and support you've so willingly offered over the past 2 years. I've been in awe countless times with people who've showed up at our door with large sums of money and others who've offered such sweet words of encouragement that came unexpected. God is so good. Jason and I have had front row seats in this journey, and how we wish you all could see the affect this little 8-month-old orphan baby boy in a foreign land is having on complete strangers! God makes all things new and He brings life to where there was none.

Some have asked for a list of prayer requests. Here it is:

1. Timeline:
~Flight to DC tonight at 5:30 KC time
~Flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Wednesday at 10:15AM KC time
~Arrive in Addis 11:15PM KC time
~Meet Jude Friday, 2:00 AM KC time
~Court hearing Tuesday, 1:15AM KC time (Please pray that we pass this first time. We are ready to hear that judge say "He's all your's!")
~Flight to DC Thursday, the 27th, at 2:30PM KC time
~Flight to KC Friday, the 28th, at 3:57, KC time, arrive home at 6:34PM

2. Strength and general health.
Jason is currently fighting a cold and Evan seems to be on the edge of one as well. Our bodies will be tired and we need all the prayer for Divine strength and wellness.

3. Jude
Please pray that our time together is blessed with peace and joy. I pray that God shows Himself in those meetings we have together over the next week. Please pray for Jude's heart as he is going to be confused about the goings-on. This is only the beginning. Pray that God prepares his little heart to join our family. The heart-break for him will be when we go back in a few months to bring him home. Let's start praying now.

4. Jude's birth family
Please pray for their hearts. God sees their pain and their suffering and we want to lift them up to Him.

5. Jude's nanny
Please pray that she continues to show love to Jude. Pray that her heart, as well, can mend after he comes home in a few months.

6. Evan
Please pray that he will be able to take this trip in and keep it in his heart where he never forgets. We are praying that God uses this trip to impact Evan's life for Him.

7. Claire and Sophie
Please pray for health and general safety as they are away from us. We are praying that they feel comforted when they are confused about the length of this trip and those caring for them can cover them with love and grace.

8. Reflection
Please pray that others will see the reflection of this worldly adoption as a metaphor for God's adoption of us.

9. Gratitude
We are carrying a spirit of thankfulness in the way God has been sovereign over this adoption. It doesn't look now what it looked like at the beginning, and we are thankful that He has brought it to this place.

We are going to do our best to keep you informed via facebook and/or the blog. Thank you for continuing to pray and email with support.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Lost Sheep

When the decision to adopt from Ethiopia was made, we accepted all the challenges, or the cost, it would bring.

I remember watching a sermon about how only MANLY men, superman-type men, adopt. One of the points made during the sermon was that most men would not hesitate to run into a burning building to save a child. It's that same super-hero testosterone needed to go the ends of the earth to the metaphoric burning building to give a child a family.

If you would like to hear this sermon and read more yourself, click here.

We have known from the start that leaving our children here in the US to go across the ocean would be hard. As our trip gets closer, today only 39 days away, I am preparing my to-do lists to ensure all will be well with the girls we'll leave here in others' care.

I am also preparing my heart.

The focus of my morning reading today was Luke 15:1-10. As I read verse 4-7, images of Jude flash in my mind. This parable is about salvation through Jesus, not adoption. Don't get the wrong message here. I just want to share with you the redemptive power behind the picture of adoption. We want more than anything to be instruments of God's sovereign plan, and to bring Him glory through this process.

We believe adoption is a great metaphor to salvation. Imagine with me for a moment:

~the anxiety and the tears as we leave our girls in the KC airport, bound for Ethiopia
~the anticipation and expectation of seeing and holding Jude for the first time
~sitting him on our lap and holding him close to our chest
~our first family picture after we hear the judge say "He's all your's!"
~the walk off the plan into an airport full of family and friends who've loved Jude unconditionally since the beginning

Now, read Luke 15:4-7. Then pray and consider who we can reach today for the kingdom and God's glory.

Luke 15:4-7 (emphasis mine) "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing,
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine upright persons who need no repentance."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's in a name?

We have been on a blogging hiatus. The only reason I can come up with is that my words fail to deliver the magnitude of emotion wrapped up in our sweet boy.

Many decisions about our adoption have not been easy to make. One of those decisions has been whether or not to rename our son. There are solid reasons supporting both renaming and keeping the given birth name. In our opinion, there is no right or wrong choice; however, the decision has not been easy. When you consider the sizable loss any adopted child suffers, it changes the name game.

A name is really just a label for this earthly shell we navigate for a very short while. There is value in a name, though, because it gives us some degree of self-worth in that our parents chose our name.
After many months of considering both options, we have decided to give our son a new first name and keep his given birth name as his middle name. His birth mother likely chose his name for a reason, and we want to honor her choice. We never want our son or the world to forget this precious gift of life his birth mother gave.

The meaning behind the name we will give him sums up our feelings toward God and toward our son. His name will be Jude. The meaning is "praise" and "thanks." I can think of no better response to this blessing on our lives. Praise and thanks fills our heart when we study his little face. Our cup overflows!

On October 25, 2011, we will stand in front of a judge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and plead our case to become Jude's forever family. Please pray with me that our case passes court this first time, and that we can have a speedy appointment soon thereafter with the US Embassy to bring him home!

Psalm 148. I love it. Go read it. Then, praise our Maker, the Creator and Sustainer for his very special creation in Jude Rust. That's what we're doing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A decision and a phone call

We are rejoicing today in the Rust house.

About a week ago, on Tuesday, May 31, we reached a difficult decision. After many emails and talks with our case manager at CWA, we came to the conclusion that it would be best for us to reduce our adoption preferences to one child. There are several reasons for this, and all of them have to do with what's best for the children in Ethiopia. I know it sounds crazy to think that by adopting only one child that we are helping out more than adopting a sibling set, but just trust me, God has a plan!

We believe it was the right decision, because things have moved along rather quickly since then.

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 8, I was at the pool with the kids around 5:00. I called Jason and told him to just meet us there when he was done with work. He showed up around 5:45 with a camera in his hands. He started taking pictures of the kids in the pool and then he pointed the camera at me. I'm not sure how much you ladies like being photographed while at the pool, but this lady doesn't love it. I told him to turn the camera off and he just kept saying, "Look at me. I love you. Do you love me?" I should've known something was up.

He proceeded to tell me, "Wendy, Sue called me today." This was when time stood still and I totally understood what was going on.....

At that point, I couldn't get the information out of him fast enough.

Here's our news:

IT'S A BOY!!!!!

Right now, we have a baby boy living across the ocean!!!! I'm a mommy again!!!! Sophie is officially a big sister!!!!

Words cannot really express the excitement of this news. My heart has not stopped pounding yet.

I can't tell you much about him for now, until we pass court. What I can tell you is that he is absolutely beautiful. He is healthy. He is very young. He is the light of our life.

Friends, please pray for a speedy court hearing and US Embassy appointment. He is so special to us already.

The best way to wrap this up is to cite the scripture I happened to read yesterday as part of my reading routine. It is just before Jesus blesses the little children who came to Him.

Mark 9:37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me."

Welcome home, precious little Rust baby boy, and welcome, Father!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A change in plans

Ethiopia passed a new regulation today, only allowing 5 court cases/day to be processed, instead of the 30 court cases/day that has been the average for a few years. Our wait time just increased by years, potentially.

As much as we feel like expressing anger and disappointment, it just doesn't seem like the most appropriate reaction. We are shocked, anxious, and confused. We have a thousand questions with no answers. One thing we are sure of: God is not shocked, anxious, nor confused.

To give you some perspective: about a month ago, we started to become rather impatient and anxious about our referral. We wanted desperately to see the faces we've prayed for, for over a year now. We had good reason to be anxious~it had been 2 months since we'd been told we were the "next" to be called for a referral for age 5 and younger siblings. We had also hit the 8 month wait time, which was the extent we believed we would have to wait. When we started the adoption process in December of 2009, we were told by multiple adoption agencies that 8 months was the average wait time for families (post dossier shipping and translation).

Just last week, our focus became pretty intense. Our family of five held hands and prayed for a referral of our missing 2 children to come that very week. We poured out our hearts' desires to Him numerous times early last week. On Thursday, we started to hear rumors about a possible drastic cut in Ethiopian adoptions. Rumors run a muck in the adoption community all the time. Our emotions had become somewhat numb to any negative press on Ethiopian adoption. Still, the March 10 "effective" date swirled in our heads. Today, it is on the US State Dept. site. It is official.

As I was preparing to write this post tonight, Oprah happened to be on the TV in our room. My man, Garth Brooks, was the featured guest. Anyone who knows me, knows I love me some Garth. Jason and I were watching a little here and there, when Garth started singing an acoustic version of "Unanswered Prayers." I watched, thinking only about the love story behind the lyrics. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Our fervent prayers to be quickly united with the children we so deeply long to provide a family and a future for, is being answered! It's not the answer we thought it was going to be. We are confident that it is simply too large for us to see from this vantage point.

Tonight, the Rusts choose to give praise and honor to the Maker of this plan, to the God of the Universe, the God of Ethiopia. This has been one of my favorite scriptures since a bible study I took on Habakkuk in 2007. It seems somewhat fitting:

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vine; Though the labor of the olive may fail and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I WILL JOY IN THE GOD OF MY SALVATION!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Still here

We are still alive. Just thinking and listening a lot lately. I have so much to write about, but I am so tired lately that I just cannot devote one minute to this blog to tell His story these days.

We have heard n-o-t-h-i-n-g about our adoption. Thank you for continuing to ask, though. The only thing we have heard from our case worker is that the wait time for a referral is at an all-time high.

I told people in the beginning of this process to pray for a March referral, so I'd have a better chance of finishing out the school year without having to miss much, if any. Maybe that's what He heard loud and clear. I'm beginning to wonder if it will even happen this year.

Tonight, we have the honor to go and pray with our friends, the Hamann's, as Luke prepares to leave for Sierra Leone, Africa, tomorrow afternoon. We have a whole lot of heart wrapped up in that tiny country and several friends who've invested their time and money there, too. God has BIG plans for that country, and it's beginning to look like He plans on using us and several of our friends there, too. I will have to post more details another night, because these eyes are tired.

Please pray with me tonight that the Hamann's will be able to bless others with Luke's trip, and will feel the presence of God before, during, and after the trip. Check out the Raining Season's blog for trip updates....

Until next time.....when I feel more rested.....and not so fuzzy-headed......


Saturday, January 22, 2011

God has weaved a beautiful web of relationships in the last year for our family and many others. There might be a day when I can express the miracle He worked when He connected us with so many people who are fighting for the same little ones we adore. Until then, just trust me when I say that it's just a miracle. Plain and simple.

One of the life-changing relationships God replanted in our life was with a high school friend of Jason's. Her name is Erica Rust, and oddly enough, she married a DIFFERENT Jason Rust of the same high school in Ozark, MO. We have grown to know and admire the work she does in Sierra Leone, Africa.

It is the poorest country on the face of the Earth. She has an amazing story of saving orphans from a terrible existence in a wretched home. There are now 80+ children who live in the home bought by her organization, The Raining Season. The 30 adult workers take such good care of the kids, and the Erica has found sponsors who provide clothing and many of their basic needs. Several of these sponsors SKYPE with their sponsored children every week.

We have 3 friends we've known for 7 years who are now traveling with Erica to The Covering (the name of the home where the kids live). Today, they fed 5000 orphans in Kroo Bay, the trash dump of Sierra Leone. They will meet the children in the home tomorrow and spend a week with them. One of the days they are there, they will travel to a children's hospital, where only 1 child per month leaves alive. When 19 of the team members return at the end of 9 days, Erica will stay behind to meet with the Minister of Social Welfare to petition for the ban on international adoption to be lifted. She has put in countless hours working on the actual writing of the law to allow for international adoption, and it passed in December. Now, if the ban is lifted, 20+ children will be leaving The Covering and going to their forever homes with the families who have been waiting to bring them home. This will, in turn, allow the Raining Season to serve additional children in the community who are still in need. PRAISE GOD!

We have another very close friend who will be traveling there in about a month to do some physical therapy for the children and love on them as well.

Check out the Raining Season blog and website:

Here's a great video I've already posted in an earlier post, but it moves me every single time I see the conditions these beautiful babies and people live in. Just watch it. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snapshots of the sweeties

Life at the Rust house:

Making Christmas cookies together included the donning of our new matching aprons from my mom (Mama Cookie). Look close, and you can see "mom" embroidered on mine. The girls each have their initial on their's, but you can't see it in the picture. Evan and Claire were both a big help. Check out the masterpiece Evan created! Sophie just ate the sprinkles, mainly.

Evan lost another tooth, can you tell? Anyone else notice the lovely milk mustache, too?

Claire got a new leotard for her new dance class and it's like pulling teeth to get her out of it.

The kids got a new easel for Christmas and have since turned into little Picaso's. I love their art work and find myself wondering if I missed my calling to be a children's art teacher----not because I'm good at art, but because I have developed this great satisfaction with kid art. I love hanging it all over our house. It makes a mom proud.

This is the best shot I could get at Claire's dance class. It will have to serve as the "first dance class" picture, since I forgot on her actual first dance night.

And, for the grand finale, my favorites from the last few weeks. I dare you not to smile when you look at's impossible for mommy and daddy. These were taken before church this week. They are two peas in a pod (most of the time!).

Monday, January 17, 2011


We are ready to claw through the concrete and see our babies. Lord, let it come soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Take me out to the ballgame

Making her world debut, here is Sophie with her hit "Take me out to the ballgame." She's been stealing the show all over Missouri with this number. Her back-up singer seems to want all the attention. He might have to get his own show someday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The view from here

Please excuse the very last picture of me. It's a really worn-out first time mommy right after giving birth. Not exactly a "kodak" moment, but a life-changing one, for sure!

I'm sorry for all of you who want to hear how bad my life is.........I just don't have those words tonight. All I have is praise to Jesus for the life I live. I don't deserve one single moment of it.

I refer to this time as the "mountain top." I feel like it simply could not be better.
I've spent the better part of my days looking ahead to this time, and I believe I'll spend the rest of my days reminiscing about this very short stage of life.

I have always dreamed about having a handsome husband who revolves his life around God, me and his kids. Got it.

I have always dreamed about having numerous (a house full) of ankle-biters calling me Mommy. Got it.

I have always dreamed about being a teacher and enjoying snow days and lazy summer days with my kids. Got it.

I have always dreamed about having a yellow lab who spends his days laying by the fire. Instead, I got a yellow lab who has tumors everywhere and licks his body 24/7===pausing only to pass gas and run everyone out of the room.

I was talking to someone tonight about this year being my "grand finale" with teaching and it hit me. I am about to turn another page in this very brief chapter of my life. This sweet time with the first 3 children God blessed me with is about to pass. I am excited, of course, to move on to the next, even crazier, chapter; however, I want the world to know how much I absolutely love this one.

Call me crazy, but I went in to work over Christmas break one day when the girls were in preschool and Evan was at his mama's house. As I sat at my desk, my memory was flooded with all the time I've had with Evan in the mornings and afternoons in my classroom. It is exactly how I always wanted it: teaching in the school where my children attend. This year, I am teaching literally next door to his class. I can hear him sneeze in the middle of my lessons and be comforted in knowing how close he is. I am crying even as I type this, knowing how soon this will be over. It has been a lifetime of work to get to this point, and it's about to be over. It's very bittersweet.

My little Claire-Bear was my baby for so short a time. She became a big sister at the young age of 15 months. Since then, I've tried desperately to make sure she gets everything she needs and everything she deserves. I don't want to slight her at all, since she is the "middle" child. She is just as precious (if not MORE) as all her brothers and sisters, and I want her to know it. She went to her first dance class tonight. I had visions of bringing her home from the hospital when she was only 24 hours old and then fast-forwarded to a vision of her dancing with her daddy at her wedding. I know it will happen so fast----I'm trying not to blink. I could've watched her dance tonight forever.

Our sweet Sophie girl has been such a gift to us. She saved us from ourselves, we think. If not for her, we believe we'd be decently comfortable and MUCH less stressed out. We might even have time to think about ourselves every once-in-a-while. Tonight, as I rocked her before laying her in her bed (yes, I know you're thinking that she will be 3 in a month, but she is my BABY, people), she said "Mommy, I'm hungwy." I let out the most authentic laugh I've had in a while, because her little voice brought me the most satisfying pure joy. Her sweet little chipmunk voice will be gone before we know it.

We are excited that Evan will know what life was like before his Ethiopian siblings came home, and thrilled at the same time that Sophie will not remember life without 4 siblings.

I hope I never ever forget what this chapter felt like. I cherish it. The view from here is breathtaking. Thank you Jesus for letting me live even one day in these shoes.