Monday, January 26, 2009

Luka is Home

Thank you everyone for all your notes, meals, clothes, and love! We are so very blessed. Luka is doing great. He is a good baby even sleeping up to 4 hours at a time at night. His sisters adore him but thankfully leave him alone too. We are very thankful for so many answers to our prayers. Luka is a joy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Luka!

Luka Paul Shaarda

Arrived Jan. 14, 2009 at 3am

Weight 8lbs 15oz and 20in long

Mandy & baby are doing very well. It was a quick two hour labor and delivery. We praise God for the safe birth of our son! Luka is the name for Luke in the Bible in both Nigeria and Uganda. Paul is Josh’s father’s name. Lydia and Grace are very excited about their new baby brother. Thanks for all your prayers. We will keep you posted on Luka.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Home Service Update!

Jan. 8, 2009

Just thought I would update you on our home service now that I have a minute and it has been two months since I wrote.

We are having a great time! Busy but wonderful. We were able to go to Malta (Island off of Italy) on our way to the States. There is a group called Christian Hospitality Network that puts on retreats for missionaries each year free of charge. They just want to bless us. Did they ever! We enjoyed great food, wonderful people, the Mediterranean Sea, and seeing a new part of the world. It was neat to see where Paul ship wrecked too. We are so thankful for a fun, restful retreat. The traveling however is a lot of work. There is no way around it, it is just along time in an airplane (and airport, and car...).

It has been so good to be home for a while (I guess we have two home because we call both Uganda and MI home.) We were SO blessed to walk into our home that Georgetown CRC provided. It is beautiful and we love it. (This will make it hard to leave.) It is so nice to have a place of our own. It provides so much stability for us.

We are so happy to see and be with family again. We spend A LOT of time with them. It just feels good. Everything seem comfortable and normal. What a break for us. We are thankful to our families and supporters who love and care for us. They made it so easy to transition back and were so giving.

Josh was able to hunt right away so that was a highlight for him. He got a doe this year. Lydia and Grace’s Uncle Ryan (Rebeka’s husband) got a deer too and now all my girls talk about is the bloody deer. They watched the whole process of skinning and it felt quite an impact. Grace chases Lydia around the house saying I am a bloody deer. We sure enjoyed spending time up in McBain with the Shaarda family during hunting season.

Lydia started school at Hudsonville Christian. She is in Kindergarten and is doing well. She has had a hard time adjusting to the early mornings. (If she took the bus she would have to be ready by 6:50am! Thankfully Daddy takes her at 7:30 in the morning.) Lydia would much rather sleep till 9am. We have also realized she is ahead of the game. The class is doing sounds of letters and she can already read some words. They are counting and she can add and subtract. So I am very impressed with home schooling and Lydia too. But she is behind on zipping zippers and putting on shoes. She has only lived in Africa and worn sandals. Oh, I almost forgot. Lydia first bus ride was a good story. She didn't know where to get off (she doesn't know her house) and no one told her to get off so she ended up riding the whole route. The bus driver saw Lydia sitting there at the end, and we had called by then, so she went back and dropped Lydia off -- at the second stop. Lydia didn't even notice. She just said the other kids had a short ride and she had a long ride.

We got just a taste of Fall before winter came. The girls love playing in the snow! And so does their Dad. He is in it ever chance he gets – shoveling, running, playing with the kids… I have enjoyed the beauty from the inside although I did go sledding once (at eight months pregnant!). We sure have had a lot of snow! (over 50inches in Dec.) It was kinda fun to have such big storms.

I love being pregnant since I have been here. I feel good (no more heat!) and have nice new clothes to wear. Everyone asked about me, the baby, and when we are due. I am thankful for time here to be pregnant. It is special.

Thanksgiving was great and went by too quick. We had fun cutting down our Christmas tree as always. We stayed at my parent’s cottage, I had a fun shopping trip with the ladies, we went to a couple holiday parades, saw most of our relatives at parties… And now Christmas has already come and gone! I really love the excitement and beauty of the holidays. I love Christmas lights. I tried to take it all in. We had a great Christmas. Two days before Christmas I saw the doctor and was very surprised that I was already dilated and was told not to go any further than an hour away anymore. Doctor said it could be any day or two weeks. Wow, that changes plans. So for the first time we would not be in McBain for Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was had so much snow that we had to have the party at my sister’s house instead of Dad and Mom’s because they weren’t plowed out yet. We had a great night with lots of food. The adults did white elephant gifts this year and that brought a lot of laughter. Lydia was SO excited and thankful for her presents. Christmas Day we had a wonderful lunch at my parents and in the evening the Shaarda family came to our house to celebrate. We had so much fun. It was a whole weekend of family, games, and food. (No more food please!) I truly am thankful for my many blessings – all because of Jesus.

Besides all of that, we have been speaking at churches and visiting supporters. Every Sunday we speak at a different church. It has gone really good and we so appreciate the encouragement. Our girls have even been involved and sing in Ateso sometimes. (They also have made things interesting like when Grace put her hand up my shirt to feel my belly when I was speaking or when she escaped and when up to Josh when he was preaching – who’s kid is that anyways. How embarrassing.) Josh has done an amazing job preaching and has preached at most of the churches. He has a gift. Josh has also visited 51 of our supporters to thank them. We are more than touched by all the support and prayers and love we have received. Their generosity has blessed us beyond words. It is so good to come home and share with them and reconnect. Thank you everyone!

As some of you know my Grandma VanManen was very sick in December. She had Septic Toxic Shock Syndrom and was in ICU for almost two weeks. Through many prayers God chose to do a miracle and save my Grandma's life. She is now recoving in a rest home until she is can go home. Thank you everyone for praying. Praise God He is Immanuel God with us!

Now here we are in the New Year. We had a fun New Years at my parent’s cottage. More family, food, and games. Can I ever get enough?! I am starting not to like to look at the calandar because time is going so fast. I try to just be thankful for each day. Now that we are through the hoidays we are awaiting the arrival of our baby. Anxious would be a good word. For two weeks now I have been dilated to a 3 and the doctor tells me could be tonight or next week. We carry the hospital bag and phone everywhere we go. I am big now (thankfully all tummy). Like usually Mandy, I am a mix of emotions. I will be sad that this special time of pregnancy is done yet I can’t wait to hold our baby. All in God’s timing. Feel like things are on hold until this little one arrives. We’ll let you know!