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12.12.2012

It is time baby, please get out!




Striegler photography...amazing!

How far along? 40 weeks. It is offically my due date. Child, please vacate the premises.

Total weight gain/loss? 30 pounds gained of course! I have been so strict with the sweets all of my pregnancy because well, I LOVE sugar…but I totally took advantage of the whole “you don’t gain weight the last week or two of your pregnancy” fact/myth.  I have eaten more junk food than I’ve ever allowed myself in my life! I actually indulged and LOVED it…no guilt here! It has been so amazing. ½ dozen Krispy Kreme’s, 2 bags of peppermint white chocolate kisses, 1 bag of reeses peanut butter cups, chocolate chip cookies, sour patch kids (watermelon of course)…and I’m sure there are things I’m leaving out.  But guess what…I still lost a pound.  Thank you Jesus!  Let’s hope my kid doesn’t have sugar issues after the last two weeks.

Maternity clothes?  As this pregnancy winds down I am happy to say that I only purchased 1 tank top (which I faithfully have worn every single day since about 7 months), 1 shirt, 1 dress, and 1 pair of pants. Yay. Cannot WAIT to have a full wardrobe again.

Sleep: You bet your bottom dollar! Since arriving in Philly and getting our bed set up…we sleep like babies.  We crawl into bed and the next thing we know that darn alarm is waking us up.  I LOVE IT!

Best moment this week: Definitely was this weekend.  Jarod and I had the mentality that this will probably be our last weekend with out a child so we did all those wonderful things you supposedly can’t do when the baby arrives.  We slept in.  We watched about 4 movies. We cooked food at all hours of the day and night.  We took long showers.  And spontaneous shopping trips.  It was wonderful.  I have to say that I have the most amazing husband in the whole entire world.  He loves me so much and I feel it every moment of the day!

Movement: She is still moving like crazy.  She kicks day and night. I generally wake up around 5 am to make a bathroom run and she is kicking when I fall asleep and kicking when I get up.  When does this child sleep? 

Food Aversions:  None.

Food Cravings: None.  I have always watched very carefully what I eat (moderation is key) but these past 2 weeks…not a chance.  And I have loved it!  I’m sure my post pregnancy body won’t enjoy that I ate so much stinking sugar and crap for 2 weeks but this weeks body…loves me.

Gender: Baby girl

Names: Yes!  Still not telling until she arrives.  So very close. 

Symptoms: I have been having Braxton-Hicks for about 1 ½ weeks now.  It started last Thursday and we were convinced I was in labor (except that it didn’t hurt at all so I was pretty skeptical) but my contractions were coming every 5 minutes for about an hour but they weren’t increasing in length nor getting more painful so I knew something had to be up.  After 30 in one day…they just stopped.  I had not had but 1 single contraction around week 26, so I naturally got pretty excited.  Bummer!  Now I officially hate their guts.  They come and go ALL day long but are getting me no where.  Just playing tricks on my uterus.  I think I’m honestly looking forward to the first painful one so I can know…the show is starting!  Thankfully, I have not had a lot of symptoms since my morning sickness.  I mean yes heartburn but its totally manageable.  Bleeding gums after brushing/flossing…gargle some Listerine.  But I have not felt crazy hormonal, needed to pee every few minutes, nor had strange aches.  I have actually been pretty happy through out this whole pregnancy.  I have felt great and am so happy for her to stay in as long as she wants, although I am getting SO impatient because I want to meet her right now.   Update: just came from the doctor...we have nothing ladies and gentlemen. NOTHING!!!!!

Belly button in or out? Just a little out. Not much though.

Rings on or off? Still on and fitting perfectly!

Stretch marks?  Nope!  THANK YOU LORD.  I feel safe to say this considering my due date is today, that if I don’t have them yet…I don’t think I will.

What I miss?  Sleeping on my stomach.  I miss it so much.  I didn’t even know I liked it until it was gone.  And bending over without feeling like I just got rejected. I can still stretch and am limber as always but my stomach definitely puts a halt on simply bending straight over to grab something!

What am I most looking forward to: Seeing my sweet Baby girls face.  Hearing her voice. Holding her little fingers and tiny toes.  Kissing her face.  This week’s event’s couldn’t progress any quicker. I am ready!!

Weekly wisdom: Several people have told me to take advantage of having family here after her birth and allow them to cook and clean because once they go home…exhaustion sets in.  Woo HOO!

Milestones: Not going into labor early during our crazy move to Philly.  Reaching full term and sailing past it with flying colors. Reaching my due date…granted anything can happen in the next 48 hours but we are here baby!

Baby Ringlet- make your grand entrance, the world awaits you.


1. Purchase Diapers
2. Purchase crib
3. Buy lots of adorable clothes
4. Acquire pack & play
5. Find a middle name
6. Paint crib
7. Sand/paint dressers
8. Move to Philly
9. Get nursery ready
10. Have her!



Her crib
Her dresser after we repainted it






















31 weeks
32 weeks



37 weeks


somewhere between 33-36 weeks































39 weeks

38 weeks





















In other news, Jarod and I are happily moved in.  I know it has been a whole month since we arrived but I haven’t blogged.  It is  more difficult now because we don’t have internet in our house so I haven’t really wanted to tote this giant computer anywhere.  We love our apartment.  All 875 square feet.  It is so wonderful to have our own home again.  We are too independent to be living with other people.  It was such a joy opening all of our containers that had been closed for 1 month and 1 week shy of 3 years!  We were surprised to remember all that we had.  TONS of stuff.  We ended up getting rid of 5 HUGE Rubbermaid bins packed with stuff.  We still have half of our small storage space with stuff we want to get rid of that we’ve decided in this month we don’t need.  We spent the first few weeks without a vehicle and it was more difficult than we anticipated due to the precise location of our apartment.  The shopping centers, grocery stores, bus pickups, etc are about 1.6 miles away in all directions.  We walked it several times but 36 weeks carrying groceries was a no-go.  And my sweet hubby sitting on a bus for upwards of 3+ hours a day-absolutely not!  So alas…we bought a car.  Yay!  We are mobile for the first time since January 2010.  We are so thankful for our car.  The Lord is AMAZING.   He provides just what you need, when you need it.  

our sweet ride!


Zuba has had a rough transition.  He doesn’t necessarily care for the staying inside all day but has adjusted to it.  When we open the door to go outside he sorta creeps out like a freaky stalker looking for squirrels or other dogs to pounce on.  I guess he makes it fun when he does go outside.
Poor zuba. Wishing he were outside...





How we pass the time....























As you all know...I'm pretty nuts about Christmas. I LOVE IT! It makes me incredible happy. We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving. Here's a pic. Zuba thinks he is a gift so he sleeps under it. So cute.



our little gift.























10.09.2012

WHY AM I SO TERRIBLE AT BLOGGING!!?

Ok...Honestly who is better at blogging with no electricity than with electricity and high speed wi-fi daily!??...this girl. SORRY!

How far along?: 1 day shy of 31 weeks!

Total weight gain/loss: 19-20 pounds.

Maternity clothes?: Not yet. Since I've made it so far now I really don't want to purchase anything since her due date is ever nearing!

Sleep: Well, it has been pretty good but the last 2 nights I haven't slept well...I'm blaming it on Jarod. He needs to get back to me so I can snuggle him!! His girls miss him!

Best moment this week: hmm. It's hard to have a best moment. I mean, pregnancy is a pretty awesome moment squeezed into ten months. I guess if I really really had to pick it would be painting the crib. Although we aren't nearly finished, my dad and I have been working on the crib for a couple of days. I just can't wait to have it finished and put together! Soon enough...


Movement: If her womb activity says anything about how she'll be as a child...dear Lord help us because she may be the most hyperactive child in the history of time. She moves sooooo much that if she's still for more than a couple of hours I start getting really nervous. I love every single little movement that I feel!!

Food aversions: Still none. I still don't want meat but that's a personal choice. 

Food Cravings: None. Although pregnancy has made me eat/drink things I never would have before. I can not stand milk. But since being pregnant, I can drink a whole glass and it is yummy! I am generally a sweets person. And by that I mean, I like to eat sugar from the bag. But since being pregnant, I haven't really eaten a ton of sweets....mostly because I don't even allow myself to go there for fear that once that can is opened...the world can't contain this sweet tooth!

Gender: Sweet baby girl! Here's a hint at her name...It is in the Bible. :) 

Names: Yes! We named our baby girl but have decided that we would like to keep something between the two of us. We will announce our sweet baby Ringlet's name when she's born...although I'm thinking of telling this blog the initials...guess we'll have to wait and see.

Symptoms: Still just heartburn. Nothing else really. 

Belly Button in or out?:Still in, but not as "in" as it used to be. I still have my belly ring in but it is getting tighter.

 Rings on or off?: Still on. Fitting the same.

Stretch marks?: Not yet...and praying I don't have my family's genes! I already feel like my stomach is stretched to its max though.

What I miss: Sleeping on my stomach! Dr. Pepper. I have been drinking it in teeny tiny amounts (sharing a 12 oz. can with Jarod) because I just want to be good...but man I have been dreaming of drinking Route 44's filled with Dr. Pepper. 

What I am looking forward to: The next 3 weeks! This is our last week in Arkansas and then we'll spend about 10 days in NYC on a "babymoon" as the blogs are calling it. (A final honeymoon/vacation before the baby). And then the day after I get home...my dad and I are driving our Penske truck to Philly!! We have an apartment. Jarod has an awesome job and I AM SO READY!!! Since we have an apartment now, I know what her room will look like. We are getting a 1 bedroom with a den and the den will become her room. It's 10 ft. by 7 ft. Unfortunately, no closets or windows but we'll make it happen. It's a room!!! So she'll most likely have two dressers now to keep everything in. 

Weekly Wisdom: Still haven't had any advice really. Anyone??

Milestones: Third trimester!!! I'm 30 weeks and have 10 left. I'm almost in the single digits. WOA! Also, we finally picked out a middle name. I still am not 100% on it but Jarod is so I'm sure it'll stick. He generally doesn't have preferences so when he does...I like going with them. 

1. Purchase diapers! 
2. Purchase crib
3. Buy lots of adorable clothes
4. Acquire Pack-N-Play
5. Purchase car seat 
6. Find a middle name
7. Paint crib
8. Sand/Paint Dresser(s)
9. Move to Philly
10. Get nursery ready!
24 weeks

25.75 weeks (1 day before 26)

26 weeks

27/28 weeks (somewhere in a 2 week period)
30 weeks!

This was my great grandmother's candy dish! It now belongs to baby ringlet/me. :) I can't decide if I'll put her hair bows in it or my jewely. ha!!

This dresser has a beautiful story. It came from my great grandmother's house but somewhere a long the way we found out it actually belonged to my mom when she was a baby and my g-ma has had it the whole time. My mom slept in the bottom drawer! We are stripping it and painting it a light gray. Yay!




8.21.2012

Baby GIRL Ringlet!

How far along?: 24 weeks tomorrow!

Total weight gain/loss: It's really hard to tell since I came home from Rwanda and jumped back into American food. But approximately 15 pounds...oh boy!

Maternity clothes?: Not yet. But soon I think I'll have to start something creative with the button on my jeans. They are getting a little tight when sitting.

Sleep: It's been pretty good lately. We've been staying at a friends house who had a unit in the room where we were and we cranked that thing down and slept like babies!!

Best moment this week: Well this week I don't have one but the best one for the past few weeks was clearly finding out baby Ringlet is a little GIRL!!  We went to the doctor's office and had an ultrasound. We requested they not tell us but instead write the sex on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. Then we took it to a florist who then filled our pre-made box with the appropriate color of balloons. Jarod and I were both soooo convinced we were having a boy so clearly we were totally shocked when we opened the box and pink balloons came flying out! You can obviously tell we are shocked on this video... It took a couple of days to readjust our thinking since it had been boy for so long but now we are all girl baby! 


video

Movement: Oh my goodness! Supposedly babies sleep 90% of the time they're in the womb...Jarod and I don't believe this. Baby Ringlet moves ALL day. She kicks and flips and flops and has been enough for me to feel her since about 15 1/2 weeks. It's pretty unbelievable. I constantly have my hand on my belly feeling her move because it never gets old!

Food aversions: None really. I have almost officially decided that I'm a vegetarian. I can eat meat in tiny amounts but do not really enjoy it and don't really see a point in eating it.

Food Cravings: I have not had any cravings yet but thoroughly enjoy cereal. I've always enjoyed cereal more than the average person but since we've arrived home from Rwanda and I actually started eating again...cereal seems to be a huge favorite.

Gender: Sweet baby girl!

Names: Yes! We named our baby girl but have decided that we would like to keep something between the two of us. We will announce our sweet baby Ringlet's name when she's born...unless I slip again as I have nearly twice now!!

Symptoms: Heartburn with a vengeance! This week apparently my little Ringlet is producing some hair on her head because my heartburn is crazy at night. (Apparently research has linked heartburn with hair growth in the womb). And bleeding gums. 

Belly Button in or out?:Still in, but not as "in" as it used to be. It's poking my belly button ring out a little bit now.

 Rings on or off?: Still on.

Stretch marks?: Not yet...and praying I don't have my family's genes! I already feel like my stomach is stretched to its max though.

What I miss: Sleeping on my stomach!

What I am looking forward to: Figuring out what we are doing with our lives and getting our own place again! 

Weekly Wisdom: Haven't really received any. Maybe it's because we aren't around a lot of people these days or maybe it's because of my last post. Who knows. I've been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby and that's good with lots of advice on sleeping.

Milestones: Made it past halfway and am already nearly to my third trimester which is just plain nuts! I have a "to-do" list by trimester and have a lot left since we don't have anywhere to live! 

1. Purchase diapers! 
2. Purchase crib
3. Buy lots of adorable clothes
4. Acquire Pack-N-Play
5. Purchase car seat 
6. Find a middle name
7. Get nursery ready
8. Paint crib




These are the covers for her cloth diapers
We did buy the last of our baby girls diapers.


These are the covers and the inserts.



















We are using cloth diapers for our baby girl. Yes! People still use cloth diapers. The flip system is a cloth system designed for parents who are serious about helping the environment, saving money, and many more benefits:

  • Disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product in landfills today.
  • A disposable diaper may take up to 500 years to decompose.
  • One baby in disposable diapers will contribute at least 1 ton of waste to your local landfill.
If you are interested in learning more about cloth diapers visit this link: http://www.cottonbabies.com/clothdiapers.php


So so so ready to figure out what we're doing with our lives and get settled into some sort of home. I miss my own space and I am becoming reclusive for privacy! But for those of you who really know me know this is pretty normal when I need space. I need my own peace and quiet to be rejuvenated and that just isn't an option as of late. So so thankful for families who want to help and are offering their homes and food and cars and love during this trying time!




17 weeks
18 weeks


19 weeks
20 weeks




















21 weeks
22 weeks
















23 weeks 5 days









































<---Those jeans are the same ones I have on in my 12 week photo but what you can't see is that they are unbuttoned because we just ate ALL  YOU CAN EAT SHRIMP at Red Lobster...so I couldn't breathe here! That smile is totally fake because momma is not happy with her heartburn or her lack of air!




I really promise to try and do this more! Not 7 weeks at a time. Geez.

7.07.2012

My brain thinking outloud...

lately, as i sit here getting tons and tons of advice about our ringlet, something doesn't sit right in my heart. i've tried explaining it to my husband and he too says that i just don't understand because i've never been there.

everyone keeps saying "you're whole life changes the moment you lay eyes on that baby" or that "you don't know love until you've held your child for the first time, you think you do...but you don't". i understand these statements. but i don't get it. i admit it. i don't understand this statement. for me, i LOVED my kids in rwanda. i did. with everything in me. it broke my heart to leave them. i wanted to keep them so badly but the law prevented it. so i didn't have a choice. my heart aches for those sweet kids we left behind. and i feel that i did love them. i loved them with all that i had. and what does this mean for people who never have the opportunity to have their own child? that God has held out one of the greatest gifts in the world from them?

today, i was reading a blog by a girl that lives in uganda and LOVES people passionately. if you haven't heard of Kisses from Katie (kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com)...you need to read it. she will challenge everything you think in the most loving way possible. 

this is an excerpt from her blog. it totally describes what i can't seem to put into words. i try but fail at explaining myself...so maybe she can. (oh...she's 21 in this blog and lives alone and has adopted 14 children)...

"We have had one of those really great days when I can't stop praising Jesus for this life. The girls are on holiday from school (thank goodness because almost all of them have had the chicken pox!). Today I managed to clip all of their 140 fingernails and 140 toenails, file them and paint them. On a quick trip to the pharmacy I found surgical gloves almost small enough to fit my child-sized hands. During nap time I got to sneak in a long, quiet run. Chocolate chip cookies are in the oven. I feel so full and so very blessed.

But as I sit down, content, something is weighs heavy on my heart. Something that I have been milling over for some time, unwilling to write about it because my words seem too inadequate to describe the ache I feel. However, I know that this is urgent. An emergency. And as adequate as my words may be, maybe I should at least try.

It started a few months ago when my great friends Mike and Suzanne were here to adopt their daughter. In finding out she had HIV, they were obviously broken. Mike made a statement that stirred something within me. He said, "I guess you know that children are out there suffering. You know that children are sick, this sick. But it is different when it is your child. It's just different." And it is. I don't mean this blog to criticize you in any way, Mike, because what you said was true for me too. It is different when it is my child. I spend countless nights awake with dying, or at least critically sick, children. I love them and I cuddle them. I sponge bath them and give them their medicine and wipe up their vomit. I hold them and pray over them and tell them how special they are and how Jesus loves them. My heart really does hurt for them. But it doesn't hurt the way it hurts when I think one of my own children is close to death. It doesn't hurt the way it does when Sumini's fever just won't go down or when Patricia is up all night coughing with her third case of pneumonia in three months. It doesn't hurt the way it does when Margaret's teeth run into Agnes's eyebrow and I can see her bone, and then watch in terror as the doctor stitches it up WITHOUT anesthetic. Somehow, when it is my children, there is a bit more urgency, a bit more panic. There is a bit more frustration at the lack of medical care we can receive here and a bit more google searching of what to do. I am not saying that I am proud of this. I am just letting you know that it isn't just you I have held several children as they died of inadequate medical care. It was horrible and I grieve and cried, but I promise you that I wasn't as devastated as I would have been had it been one of my daughters. Its ugly, but its true.

Its just different when its your child who's suffering. But should it be? This is what I have been struggling with. I believe that this is a normal human reaction. I also believe it is WRONG. I believe that each human on the planet is God's child, perfectly made and beloved and cherished by Him. I believe that His heart hurts like mine does, even more than mine does, when my baby is hurting for EACH and every one of the hurting, dying, starving, crying children in our world at this moment. So I HAVE to believe that if my heart was truly seeking to be aligned with the heart of God, that I would have to hurt for each of these children as well. But sometimes, I forget. Sometimes I'm busy. Sometimes hurting for my very own children just feels like enough. I believe that the world says that this is ok. And I believe it is wrong. And this keeps me up at night.

Angelina is seven years old and barely weighs 15 pounds. You remember that picture that was made popular in the 1980's during the famine in Ethiopia of that little girl (who looked like a bag of bones) curled up next to a vulture? That girl doesn't look nearly as sick as Angelina. Her mother has not had any food to give her in over four months. When Angelina musters enough energy to let out a cry of hunger (she is far to weak to walk or even hold her head up on her own), her mother gives her some locally brewed alcohol to keep her quiet. For four months, keeping her a little drunk has actually probably been what is keeping her alive. The dirt floor where she has been laying her whole life accumulating bedsores is covered in waste, animal and human. Jiggers burrow deep into her little feet causing them to crack and bleed. She is naked, filthy, and cold. It is far worse than appalling.

I bet right now at this moment your heart is sad for her. Is it as sad as it would be if Angelina were your daughter? Angelina is God's daughter. His heart aches for this perfect, wonderfully made child of His. Her circumstances do not surprise Him, but I have no doubt that they grieve Him tremendously.

And it's not just children, because we are all children in His eyes. Grace is maybe 60 years old but looks to be pushing 100. She can't weigh more than 85 pounds. Grace is a mother to six children, but 4 have died of AIDS and the other two have deserted her for a better life. She lives in a 4 by 4 foot room that is pitch black, but she doesn't mind; in addition to being to weak to walk, Grace is blind. She NEVER has any visitors. At night her bones ache against the hard dirt floor and her feeble body shivers with cold. A cough racks her body and her stomach rumbles in hunger making sleep impossible.

Its sad, huh? How sad though? Sad enough that we want to do sometime about it? Sad enough that we will remember Grace tonight as we snuggle down into our beds or next month as we pay the bills? Maybe. But maybe not. Because it hurts, but it doesn't hurt that much. It doesn't hurt the way it would if Grace was your grandmother all alone there in the dark. It does for God. Because Grace is His.

As I snuggle both these sweet girls, as I kiss their cheeks, as I spoon Pediasure into Angelina's little mouth or watch Grace rejoice over the gift of a scraggly old blanket, I allow the tears to fall. The tears that hurt for these people as if they were my family. Because they are my family. And it SHOULD hurt. It shouldn't be different. I desire for it to never again be different.

We are the body of Christ. But do we know what that means? Do we long for our brothers and sisters to be comfortable and fed and well? Do we long for it enough that we are uncomfortable under our blankets at night or eating our pancakes in the morning? Do we feel the hurt that God feels as He watches the body of Christ sit back and allow these precious children of his to perish? Maybe sometimes. But sometimes, we are too busy, or we forget, or hurting for our own children is enough. We are the body of Christ. We need to hurt. We need to react. Their needs to be the same urgency and panic and frustration and desperation as if these were our own children. They are God's children."

7.01.2012

Baby Ringlet

I saw this on a friends blog and thought it would be a good way to keep everyone in the loop!

How far along?: Baby Ringlet is 16 weeks and 4 days (July 1, 2012)

Total weight gain/loss: That depends. If I start with the weight I was before the pregnancy then I've gained about 2 pounds. If I go from where I lost down to while being sick up to now...about 6 pounds.

Maternity clothes?: Nope. Still wearing my Sarah clothes.

Sleep: This week has been touch and go. If the room is cold, then I sleep well. If it's hot, then I toss and turn all night. And I need to go to the restroom at least once a night.

Best moment this week: Yesterday until next Saturday. My in-laws left to go out of town and that means we get the house to ourselves! It has been 2 1/2 months since we've spent a night alone together and I am soooo excited!

Movement: I believe I'm feeling flutters. It's the strangest feeling. It isn't often but always in the same spot and very light. Jarod thinks I'm losing my mind.

Food aversions: Oh Lord. This has been awful. I was so incredibly sick from about week 5 until about week 13 1/2. I only got sick twice during week 14, which was huge! I haven't been able to even look at meat without wanting to throw up instantly. Jarod can even describe what he's had for lunch/dinner and it makes me sick. Thankfully though, that has calmed down and I'm starting to enjoy food again. yay!!

Food Cravings: None! I haven't craved one single thing yet.

Gender: Will find out in less than 2 weeks! July 9th, although I'm thinking of moving the appointment back one week just to add another week because I'm so nervous they won't be able to tell. I don't even have a bump, how can they possibly see what the baby is!?!

Symptoms: More and more trips to the restroom. If I lay on my back, then instantly I feel that "full bladder" feeling.

Belly Button in or out?: Hasn't changed one bit. Still have my belly pierced too. Can't seem to take that thing out since it has been in there 11 years.

Stretch marks?: Nope. Praying for good genes!

What I miss: Nothing really. I haven't changed anything since I came straight home from Rwanda, I didn't have any bad "habits" to break.

What I am looking forward to: Jarod feeling the baby kick and knowing I'm not losing my mind!

Weekly Wisdom: I feel as if I'm constantly being told what I'm going to feel like, think about, want to change/do, etc but this week I can't remember a single specific thing. My wonderful friend Ashley sends me articles about having a healthy baby, tips on what not to do/do while pregnant and then the first big decisions such as not circumcising vs circumcising, etc. Those have been very helpful! My sweet Johnna said that "you can't even begin to imagine the love you feel for your child, the shifting of priorities, the giving of one's self even to your very life until you hold that sweet baby in your arms for the first time."

Milestones:-I guess feeling the baby fluttering and lack of 24/7 sickness. I can't wait until I feel a hard kick and until Jarod gets to feel it too!

It is still hard to believe I currently have a "large avocado" sized baby that weights approximately 3.52 ounces and is over 4 1/2 inches long in my stomach. Where is it hiding!?!








12 weeks
13 weeks




14 weeks
15 weeks

16 weeks


 




































I think week 15 was an illusion. It looks as though there is something small there but then it vanished on week 16. I'm sure soon enough I'll have a gigantic belly and be laughing at these photos!














4.03.2012

So long Rwanda!!! You will be missed!


Wow.  I cannot believe the time has come for this amazing journey to end.  I cannot believe that today is our last day as Peace Corps Volunteers.  Sarah and I have been in Rwanda for over 2 years and have completed our service with Peace Corps and now it is time to go home. 

Saying goodbye to our Rwandan family, neighbors, friends and co-workers was not easy and saying goodbye to the kids that we have come to love so much and that we have invested so much into was even harder.  Watching as the truck was packed and all the neighbors we love looked on was a little overwhelming.  Hugging the kids we love so much and telling them we may not see them again was heart-breaking.  One of my best friends who spent everyday visiting me walked off into the bushes to hide his face because crying in public is a cultural taboo.  They keep telling us the village will be “cold” now that we are gone meaning it will be sad and lonely.  So, I tell them Peace Corps may send new volunteers to replace us and then they tell me we can’t be replaced, they won’t be the same, not like us, that we are special and different from other Westerners, that they want us to stay.  This is such a difficult thing to carry…the feeling that we are leaving the people we love so much and that we have lived with hand in hand on a daily basis for the past 2 years.  They have truly changed us.

We have learned so many things over these 2 years.  We have learned that humility in understanding any situation and patience and sensitivity in dealing with cultural differences and/or disagreements.  We have learned that you can’t change a culture in 2 years but you can open minds to new ideas and set the wheels in motion for positive change.  We have learned that a few determined, motivated and upright people can make all the difference, that a small amount of resources in the hands of the right people can do amazing things, that you cannot help everyone but that is not an excuse not to try.  We have also learned that people you love and trust can turn on you, say horrible things about you and truly hurt you and that people are capable of doing horrific things but also are capable of a great amount of good.

We have been blessed with the chance to see the world and do amazing things such as: raft the Nile River, bungee jump over it, walk with lions, sit with mountain gorillas, go on safaris, see Zanzibar, learn a new language, live in a beautiful rain forest and meet so many amazing people from all over the world.  But the best of all was having the chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, to serve and love on these people right where they are.  And somehow, in the end, after all our effort and time, I feel that we are the ones who have come out blessed and with all the benefits…doesn’t seem fair.

Over the past 2 years, we’ve seen and experienced a joy that no amount of money or material possessions can produce…a joy that surpasses all understanding…at least our understanding.  We’ve seen and been a part of a community and group of people that have a love and heart for their neighbors that isn’t defined by status, background or segregated by city streets or blocks.  We’ve seen precious poor children suffer and die from 100% preventable diseases.  We’ve been betrayed, slandered, mocked and persecuted for doing what was right by those most close to us, those we trusted and loved dearly.

Over the past 2 years we have faced corruption head on and at times been a victim of it.  We’ve seen its effects first hand on people, fought hard against it at times and sadly, often, lost the fight.  We have developed relationships with people that are so different from us, learned to love, understand, support and believe in them, prayed with them, laughed with them, cried with them, buried their dead with them, celebrated marriages with them and the birth of children with them. 

Over the past 2 years we have seen poverty on a scale never before known to us. Poverty where many days and nights families don’t eat simply because there is no money for food, no 5 dollars to pay for health insurance that will cover the entire year resulting in most children going un-treated. Poverty where little girls rarely go to school because they are expected to tend to domestic chores and their younger siblings all day. Poverty where little kids run around naked because their parents don’t have the 50 cents for clothes or soap and where childhood is stripped away and replaced with non-stop manual labor.

We have battled cultural norms that often enslave people to lives of hardship, poverty, and malnutrition and probably will not live to see the impact our efforts have made or have not made on their lives.  We’ve often felt beaten down, defeated, discouraged, and always feel completely overwhelmed by the immense disparity between the rich and the poor in the world, by how much work is left to be done, how many lives are yet to be reached or touched, how many orphans, widows and lost people are yet to be cared for both physically and spiritually. 

However, in the end, we have come out encouraged, uplifted and honored that God has chosen us (all of us) to be his ambassadors of love and compassion to the world and to help others less fortunate than us in ways he has gifted us with.

We are trying our best to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love, serve, and care for those he would want us to care for, to forsake our own conveniences and amenities to help others, to allow Christ to glorify himself through our lives.  Though we are truly full and overflowing with inadequacies, inefficiencies and shortcomings, fortunately for us, his love, strength and power are proven most perfect and effective in our weaknesses.

We find ourselves daily challenged by his command and commission to GO!  And we are trying to respond to that command.  There are no doubt more qualified, gifted, talented, experienced, and educated people that us in this world but he has seen something in us worth redeeming, some potential for good and he has seen this quality in all of us, not just some or a select chosen few.  

I want to include here a page or two of the book “Radical” by David Platt that I feel is critical for all Christians to understand.

I wonder if we have in some ways intentionally and in other ways unknowingly erected lines of defense against the global purpose God has for our lives.  It’s not uncommon to hear Christians say, “Well, not everyone is called to foreign missions,” or more specifically, “I am not called to foreign missions.”  When we say this, we are usually referring to foreign missions as an optional program in the church for a faithful few who apparently are called to that.  In this mind-set, missions is a compartmentalized program of the church, and select folks are good at missions and passionate about missions.  Meanwhile, the rest of us are willing to watch the missions slide shows when the missionaries come home, but in the end God has just not called most of us to do this missions thing.

But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church?  We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world.  Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations.  We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling, something that only a few people receive. 

I find it interesting that we don’t do this with other words from Jesus.  We take Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, and we say, “That means other people.” But we look at Jesus’ command, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now that means me.”  We take Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, “That means some people.”  But we take Jesus’ promise that we will have abundant life and we say, “That means me.”

In the process we have unnecessarily (and un-biblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.  In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that.”

In Romans 1:14 - 15, Paul talks about being a debtor to the nations.  He literally says, “I am in debt to Jews and Gentiles.”  The language is profound.  Paul is saying that he owes a debt to every lost person on the face of the planet.  Because he is owned by Christ, he owes Christ to the world.

Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.  We owe Christ to the world, to the least person and to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to the best person and to the worst person.  We are in debt to the nations.  Encompassed with this debt, though, in our contemporary approach to missions, we have subtly taken ourselves our from under the weight of a lost and dying word, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, “I’m sorry.  I’m just not called to that.”

The result is tragic.  A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing that gospel with the rest of the world.

But what if we don’t need to sit back and wait for a call to foreign missions?  What if the very reason we have breath is because we have been saved for a global mission?  And what if anything less than passionate involvement in the global mission is actually selling God short by frustrating the very purpose for which he created us?  

These are some profound words and should encourage all of us to think about how we perceive missions.  Indeed we all cannot go and live overseas in other nations.  We have to be realistic with the life God has given us.  But we can all respond to his command in different ways.  In the book there is a man named Steve, an accountant.  Steve is constantly asking his pastor, “How can I lead my life, my family, and my accounting firm for God’s glory in Birmingham and around the world?”  He is leading co-workers to Christ; he is mobilizing accountants to serve the poor; and his life is personally influencing individuals and churches in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe with the gospel.  And, there are so many other people in the world like Steve using their skill sets to glorify Him.

Each and every one of us has the potential to live our life in a way that glorifies God and responds to his command.  We just have to make the effort to figure out what that way is and do it. 

So, this is Jarod and Sarah, signing off from Rwanda for the last time. Thanks to everyone who has followed along with us on this crazy and adventurous journey.  We love you and will be seeing many of you very, very soon and we cannot wait!

Oh…almost forgot.  We will be moving to Malawi in June to work with Esther’s House (a Christian outreach organization…puremission.org) so stay tuned for the next leg of the journey to see what wild, crazy, and amazing things God is going to do there.

Be blessed!