Friday, January 29, 2010

once upon a time...

There was a princess named Caroline and a princess named Leah.

They were the best of friends.

They could just LOOK at each other and crack each other up.

And they lived happily ever after.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

splish splash i was taking a...

Calling all future boyfriends! Please do NOT look at the following pictures, as they will cause me great embarrassment in 15 years! :)

Taking a bath these days is serious business, folks. Concentration is KEY.

(Mommy: "where's the A?") I've just started learning my letters & I'm fascinated with 'em now! They're EVERYWHERE! Bathtime is yet another opportunity to work on them.

So far I'm REALLY good at spotting the letters W, X, O, & C.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

just plane fun...

Get ready for take-off!

Woohoo! Look at it fly!

(that's one little happy Daddy's girl...) :)

This couldn't get any better.

Oh no! We had a crash landing!

But it was sure fun while it lasted!
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

little touches...

Over the holidays & in Chicago with my sis, I (Amy) was able to use some of my Christmas money on a few things around the house! Of course I've always got a million ideas swimming around in my head of things I'd LOVE to do, and I certainly can't afford to do half of them, :) but here's a few of the places that were fortunate enough to get a little "uplift" this time around...

(aren't these wall decals neat? Just peel & stick!)

One word: IKEA!!!

Here are some pictures I took in my backyard this past fall. (one of the perks of living in Virginia!) I had them blown up to 11x14 & then I put them into matching frames.

I hung them up in the entryway & I think they turned out pretty good!
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

catchin' in the kitchen...

It certainly does not take much to entertain a toddler these days.

One red balloon.

And somebody to throw it.

Update from Mommy: Just wanted to give y'all a quick update on all of our recent wild & bizarre health issues!! :) First, still no signs of new hair on Caroline. The follicles are still there, so we're just waiting and praying. Second, after going several weeks without even a HINT of vertigo problems, this morning I woke up with another severe episode. (thankfully with my kind of vertigo the actual room spinning stuff is very short-lived, but the dizziness, nausea & vomiting that accompany the severe episodes are not all that fun.) I am so thankful it happened on a day when Marc was already around the house getting ready for our first RUF meeting tonight (which is now canceled due to the freezing rain/ice we are getting).

So it's kind of a bummer to feel like I'm back where I started with all of this, but now that I've been through the physical therapy before, I know what types of things I can do to try to combat it. (vestibular adaptation exercises in particular) We'll see how that goes. I've read that it can take up to 6 months for this stuff to go away, so between waiting on Caroline's hair & my dumb vertigo, maybe something will clear up soon!

I also got an email today that there are 65 Haitian orphan girls (between the ages of 2-20) coming to our area needing temporary foster families. After looking into it some more, it doesn't appear that we'd be able to get all of the paperwork finished in time, and as you can imagine, there were PLENTY of other families ready and itching to help. But the thought of it was pretty exciting, and you just never know what God has in store for you...

On an EXCELLENT note, yesterday we received our RUF year-end giving report (we have to raise support like missionaries & over the past several months we've been facing some pretty sobering deficit numbers), and would you believe that last month, we took in over $25,000??? We were literally BLOWN AWAY at how generously people gave toward our ministry. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! God is so good and faithful.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

at 23 months...

I'm only one month away from the big "2" birthday!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

what happens in atlanta shouldn't stay in atlanta...

I (Amy) just returned home from a wonderful weekend retreat in Atlanta for all of the RUF wives across the nation. The guys (aka campus ministers) get together for a week of staff training and fellowship each semester/2 times a year, so this was the wives' turn! It was great-- No husbands. No kids. Nice hotel. Some in-depth training on eating disorders & sexual struggles to help counsel girls in our ministries. Time to be with the other RUF wives. Time to be renewed and refreshed by the beauty of the Gospel. Go shopping. You get the picture. :) Ahhh.......

There's really only 120 other women out there in the country that really know and understand the daily struggles/pressures of being a RUF wife and what that looks like on an experiential level. So in that sense, the weekend was fabulous to not feel like I had to explain myself or try to explain what my husband actually does. (though I don't mind explaining it, but you know what I'm saying...)

Our understanding of each other went alot deeper than that. Everyone around RUF (campus ministers, wives, & staff) holds such an amazing amount of commonality on what I'll call "major" things: things like who God is, what we believe the Bible to say concerning salvation and EVERY area of life, how we ought to LIVE in light of those truths, how we relate to others' struggles, what we think of our culture and how we ought to interact with it, etc. Though there are very obvious differences in personalities and preferences among the wives, it was amazing to me how much union we have. So much so that I, knowing relatively few of them that well since we're all spread out at different campuses across the nation, could traipse across the country (alone!) and immediately jump in with them and feel the freedom to be ME.

Do you know what I mean? I didn't have any of the "uh-oh, what will she think when this comes out of my mouth" hesitations. I didn't have that little nagging worry in the back of my head that I might not get their approval when I made that joke. No, instead I could be silly & funny without fear of rejection as well as honest and transparent about real struggles. And they could, too! You just felt deep down like you were talking to people on your "team," people who view the world and the things in this world in such a similar way to you that it was incredibly refreshing.

Do you have that in your life? I think it would be safe to say that most of us DON'T and we long for times of feeling understood. (unless I'm the only one!) I'm so blown away by this and it's exactly the type of community that I long for in our RUF, in our churches, in our families, in our friendships. I think because all of the wives really "get" the depths of their own sin & brokenness, they're able to relate to each others' struggles, whatever they may be. The group of wives was a community that seeks to listen and understand a problem/struggle by asking questions instead of throwing out a quick-fix Bible verse or a piece of unhelpful advice. It's a group that loves Jesus and believes in His redeeming work in our hearts and in this world, yet we are OKAY talking about heart-breaking things that we wrestle with in our lives. We know that everything sad will come untrue ONE day, (come quickly, Lord Jesus!) but that just isn't now. (just look at your television screens with Haiti to see that.)

It is just a great feeling to be KNOWN, to be listened to, and to be understood and accepted. Wouldn't you agree?

I praise God for RUF and the awesome connectedness that I have with these people as we labor in far away places all over the country, for it is a sweet, sweet reunion when we're able to come together!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the monster in the camera...

And to get a certain someone to look INTO the camera:
"Look! There's a monster right HERE!"

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

snip snip...

Made it back from Chicago! (thanks to the help of the portable DVD player Mommy swore we'd never use!) :)

While we were there, Auntie Jill gave me my first official haircut! (sounds funny giving a haircut to a gal who's just lost most of her hair, doesn't it?) It was getting pretty wild and wispy, so Auntie Jill gave the front part a trim so it would lay down on my head better.

And I even got to eat BLUEBERRIES while she did it!

Who cares what's going on up there- these blueberries are GOOD.

The final result!

Hair loss update from Mommy: Today we went for a follow-up visit to Caroline's dermatologist, who was a little discouraged to see that her hair wasn't growing back in yet. Her hair looked thinner on this visit than 5 weeks ago, (they had taken a close-up picture at that appt) but the shedding has obviously slowed down or stopped. The good news is that the follicles are there, so hopefully it's just taking longer to get them growing back.

They did pluck out several hairs from the root to test them again for fungal infection. (different office, different way of testing than before) And if the hair isn't growing in the next 2-3 months, they'll have to do a biopsy of her scalp, which involves pinning her down and putting a needle in her head to numb her for a procedure that the doc said would be "traumatic" for her.... um, okay, what mother wants THAT for their child!?! (please, please, PLEASE Lord, NO!) So we gotta pray this hair starts growing back! Sometimes this type of shedding can last between 3-6 months, and then hair regrowth can take 3-6 months.

Thankfully our sweet baby is totally oblivious to all of this, and what's more important is that she's thriving, learning and growing into a young lady every day... hair or no hair. :)
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Friday, January 8, 2010

scenes from my week...

I had so much fun watching Trevor's new lizard, "Spyro"...

Tyson kept me laughing all the time...

After 5 days of trying EVERYTHING, I FINALLY decided to warm up to Auntie Jill. :) ha!

The boys have cleared all the snow off the car & we're heading back to VA tomorrow morning!

Mission trip update: Yesterday (Thurs.) the group had another amazing morning of training (from Marc's reports, it sounds like it keeps getting better and better!), then they went to some kind of ministry that coordinates all types of urban ministry & Marc said could potentially be a great future resource. (sorry I wasn't real clear on what that visit was, but Marc said it was really great.) Some of our group is working on painting colorful murals with Christian themes that will be hung up to bring beauty to the neighborhood.

For lunch, the group ate at a famous local pizza place that is run by former convicts at the Hope House. After lunch was free time! (of course it was also the same time that the snow storm dumped the most snow, too!) SO, at least the group was able to go visit the Art Institute (for free on Thursdays!), but the Sears Tower was shut down when they got to it. (wouldn't have seen anything anyways...) They ended the evening at a really cool hot chocolate place downtown & sounded like they were having a great time together.

THIS morning (Fri.), they had their final training session. (haven't heard yet, but judging from the past, I'm guessing it was great!) Then some of the group worked more on the mural paintings while others put up insulation & helped out at a ministry facility (not sure where-- didn't quite get that detail in the quick phone conversation...).

Tonight is the most exciting part of the week. Tonight the group is heading up to the streets of northside Chicago to observe & learn from a ministry to male prostitutes, many of whom are runaway teenagers needing to make money any way they can to survive. Since we have to head out early in the morning, some of the group (including the drivers) will cut out early & come back here to my sister's house to sleep tonight, but some of the group will stay out until 2 or 3am visiting with the boys/men on the streets. What an incredible opportunity, right? Wow! I hope to be able to share more about this with you guys sometime after I hear how it goes.

We're piled up with snow around here, but it doesn't slow ANYBODY down here! Around here in the suburbs, all the neighbors were out at 6:00am with their snowblowers, clearing out their driveways in order to head to work by 8:00am. Crazy! Thankfully, the roads are clear here, and hopefully they will be tomorrow on our long drive. Please pray for our safe travels tomorrow if you get a chance.

So that's all from Chicago! Bye bye for now!

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

uncle adam, baby whisperer pt. 2...

Sorry no pictures today, but thought I (Amy) would post another quick update!

On Caroline: AGAIN, yesterday I could hardly leave the room without Caroline following me or worrying/crying about my whereabouts! (though it's gotten a bit better each day) And the entire day my sister & I were wondering as to how Caroline would do if we left the kids for an hour after dinner to run out to a store together. Well, wouldn't you know that the minute Caroline was left with Uncle Adam, she had a BLAST?! ha! When we called to check in on how she was holding up, Adam said she was a 9 out of 10!!! (with "10" being perfect) Again, we couldn't believe it. And sure enough- when we got home, she ran up to me smiling with arms open-- "MOMMY!" and then turned around & ran off to play with Adam and the boys again! Daddy, this gal obviously has a thing for men. :) She can't WAIT to see you again. And neither can I!!

Mission Trip Update: Would you believe our group STILL has not showered?!? (since Sunday morning!!) but rest assured-- this is by their own choice. (I know I couldn't do it...) Yesterday morning the host missionary family had a plumbing emergency at their home, where our group is eating breakfast & supposed to shower. I guess some type of pipe burst, and wouldn't you know it was perfect timing for my do-it-yourself husband to be in town! So "Virginia Plumbing" came to the rescue & Marc was able to repair their plumbing problem while the rest of the group did some more training in the morning & then helped out/served at a ministry.

The most interesting part of yesterday was when the group was given an assignment to ride the train from the southernmost part of Chicago to the northernmost point, observing the changes in the neighborhoods & people. It was quite an interesting contrast as they started in the poorest neighborhoods that were 98% black (one man there even told them they shouldn't be there! I don't think they were used to seeing a group of whites there!) to the white, suburban neighborhoods. Along the 2 1/2 ride, our students struck up conversations with various people on the train, asking them questions about the city, listening to their stories, and sharing what they were doing here in the city. I think it was a great chance for some of them to break out of their "comfort zones" and get the courage to speak to people that they might otherwise ignore.

I get the impression from Marc (who tells me every day that they are EXHAUSTED) that this trip has been amazing and life-changing for everyone involved. It seems that the ministry they are working with doesn't expect them to come to Chicago & "take the city by storm," but they are passionate about teaching and training these students about urban ministry and how we as Christians can care and reach out to the poor. They seem to really be connecting the dots between our faith and our practice, you know? (Jesus had alot to say about the poor, and I think our attitude towards the poor says A TON about our own view of salvation & grace... but that's another post for another day...)

Even though our group is helping out & pouring themselves into the existing ministries here in Chicago, I think what's most exciting to me about this is that it isn't the type of trip that just stops once it's over, but these are life-changing things that they can carry back to their OWN cities, their OWN neighborhoods, and their OWN churches here in America for the rest of their lives! That just excites my soul!

On travel: Today Chicago (& this entire region) is under a snowstorm & expected to receive up to 10 inches by tomorrow. Pray that all this snow would make it safe for us to travel home as expected on Saturday! I'm laughing at how people here in Chicago barely even seem PHASED by it! (whereas in Texas & Virginia everything would shut down at this point) :)

Thanks for thinking of us, sweet friends & family!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

uncle adam baby whisperer...

Okay, I (Amy) mentioned this yesterday, but today it was in full force. This separation anxiety stuff is getting downright ridiculous at times. My sis & I have tried for two days SOLID to get Caroline to leave the room wherever I am, and it just isn't happening. Not only that, this girl thinks she has to literally cling onto me. Auntie Jill (my sis) has exerted herself trying EVERYTHING she can think of to get Caroline to play with her. "I'd put an elephant on my head & she STILL wouldn't come to me!" she said tonight.

Well, then Uncle Adam came home.
"You wanna go see the crickets?" he said.
"Okay okay okay!"
"You wanna go play the drums?"
And without another word, she was down in that basement away from me without a single thought or word.

As Caroline learned the drums, Jill & I sat up in the living room going from laughing to being FURIOUS at Uncle Adam's ability to waltz in and wisk her away without a single complaint! :)

And even when I (Amy) came down to take pictures of her and THEN walked away, guess who stayed down in the basement totally content for another 20 minutes?!

That's some gift, Uncle Adam. :)

From Caroline: Daddy, tonight after Mommy & I prayed, the last thing I said was "Daddy, come back." We're so proud of you & praying for you guys each day, but I just can't WAIT to see you again! It'll be a sweet reunion for sure! Your girls love you!

Mission trip update: (from another quick conversation with Marc) The group started today with another morning of incredible training. Then they went over to help a ministry to women who have been abandoned by husbands or have no place to go. The women live upstairs in the facility, and downstairs is a boutique that helps fund the ministry, so our group came and helped do odd jobs to help her facility and ministry. Then this afternoon was spent at one of the largest gospel missions in the country. (houses 1,500 homeless people!)

I also found out that no one in our group has showered yet! (since Sunday morning!! P.U.!) Since they are sleeping on the floor of a church, their showering place is in a different location. Also, some sickness/sore throats are going around the group. So these guys are definitely roughing it! Pray that they would feel better & rested for remaining days this week.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Ty, Trev, & trip...

As you can imagine, my cousins Trev & Ty are high on entertainment value for me! They gave me some stellar puppet shows yesterday.

They are both WONDERFUL boys & this picture kind of sums up their different interests: while Ty (5) loves flinging his body around to make football catches in the living room, Trevor (8) would sometimes rather curl up with a science magazine and learn all kinds of neat stuff about bugs or creatures or space.

Ty's best mid-air catch! Go Ty!

Helping Trevor practice his piano-- he's sounding great! (even with the football helmet) :)

From Caroline: Daddy, I am having a really hard time since you left. I won't let Mommy out of my sight, and if she even leaves the room, sometimes I'll completely melt down. I think it's because I miss you and I'm in an unfamiliar place. But don't worry about me, Daddy- I'm having a great time here, sleeping & eating great, but I just won't let myself have a good time unless Mommy is right there with me.

Mission trip update: (the following is from a quick phone conversation with Marc on the train) After sleeping on the floor of a hosting church last night, the group had some more training/teaching time this morning. From what I could gather from Marc, it was about how we ALL are broken, and we can truly relate to the poor because of that. Marc said that although he already knew the things that were taught in his head, today's training really helped him personally connect it to his heart.

Then they packed lunches, took the train downtown, split up into small groups, and had the assignment to take an extra packed lunch to eat with a homeless person. It sounds like each group had different experiences with this, but Marc told me that one of their group's 2 men was so excited and thankful to receive the meal while another one acted in denial of his circumstances. ("where do you go when you get really cold here?" "I don't know where they go.") Guess we all like holding onto some dignity.

After lunch, they headed over to a place called Hope House, which is a ministry to help felons transition back into society once they are out of jail. Our group got to tour the ministry and listen to some former felons share their personal stories. (one man had killed two people and was crying as he shared. Wow.)

Since I'm not there (Caroline & I are staying with my sister here in Chicago), I can't tell you everything they're learning & feeling firsthand. But wow- just hearing what they've already done & seen in 24 hours shows me that they're definitely not going to return the same as they came. I'm so excited to see how God works through them & especially IN them!!

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