The fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Dueteronomy 14:29

~ Silas and Naomi are HOME from Uganda ~

16 March 2011

countin hours now

trying to find words to express the welling relief that has grown in my chest all day would be futile...the visas are actually in craig's hand.  the final piece of paper has been passed on, there are no more checks, no last steps, nothing more to accomplish...except those 19 hours and 55 mins on the plane, plus a 4 hour layover.  small feat after the trials of the last four years (i know, easy for me to say...i'm already on american soil and not traveling alone with two little ones)

painting ugandan-style

ok, maybe it's just maela-style

after 3 1/2 weeks apart (we have only been separated for 3 days since being married) we can hardly wait to be in each other's arms.  our marriage has never faced the challenges this time has delivered.  i know couples do so much more on a regular basis, and my degree of respect for them has grown, however our relationship thirsts for the intimate, soul searching, interaction that only those face to face moments can bring.  and we are longing to find space for those moments amidst the new "normal" our family is about to create.

silly faces

silas and naomi have had a long 3 weeks too, moving several times, traveling around the city strapped to daddy's back, clinging to his chest, or wrapped around his shoulders like the little monkeys they are.  they have grown closer, the three of them, and begun to understand each other in new ways.  bonds are morphing from the liquid stage to more of a jello-like consistency and they are learning that despite all the change, daddy is a constant.

noah found this little nest with two bright blue eggs

we don't know how the re-introduction of mommy, noah and maela will affect that new dynamic.  it could get ugly, it might be smooth, it WILL be hard, but we trust the Lord will grow our family, like a tree, with crooked and strong limbs, tested and challenged by the wind, rain, and storms yet to come.

two boys very disappointed to be out of the pool

if we can burden our faithful prayer warriors once again to lift up our children's hearts before the throne of the Father of adoption...there are wounds, fears, and discontentments growing despite their tender years, and if we are being truly honest our not-so young hearts are struggling in the same exact ways.  adoption is hard, and 4 years didn't prepare us for the ugly we would see welling up from the depths of our own souls.  we desire to honor the Father and direct our children towards His face.  our family is on the road of sanctification and we know He will be faithful...despite our unfaithfulness and failings.

big brother showing his siblings how to properly suck on a ring pop

just one more day apart (16 hours until they get on that plane)...friday afternoon our eyes will meet over the mounds of luggage and tufts of brown curly hair (just wait until you see naomi's baby-fro)...and finally we will be a united family, no longer struggling apart and disjointed, but together at last!

some early moments

reassuring silas around the dogs...many ugandan children are told that dogs will eat them if they are bad so most fear them with their lives, something we are working on

14 March 2011

free slaves

what is it about life that causes us to think we are in charge?  where do we get off trying to take control? and why, every time, are we blown out of the water when it just doesn't go as we planned?  is God's Word that mysterious?  is His love for us so hidden we fail to see His best for us?  has He not adequately demonstrated that His ways are not man's ways and that He works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him?

first time swimming...he giggles, squealed and splashed for the longest time

....or are we just sinful....

enter emphatic    YES!!!!!

beautiful harvest at the market we went to several times each week in Mbarara

sin is blinding, paralyzing, deceiving, and allows us to be painfully unaware of the Truth.  the head and the heart disconnect, emotions run wild, and before we know it sin has taken control of our being....but then....


the "lizard" wisperer and his one of his precious geckos

we are not slaves to sin!  we are free from sin and slaves with Christ, free to hope, free to claim our rich and glorious heritage in the eternal bounty our Father is storing for us.  bondservants.  can you hear the freedom in that word? it's amazing!  and if we are watchful, and continue to sweep those sinful, blinding cobwebs of emotion from our eyes, we will see glimpses of that a beaming sunset, it shines into our lives and warms our souls with HOPE

wrapped in craig's arms, silas makes his trip home with us

the words are just starting to come...the last 7 weeks have been beyond anything we had imagined or been prepared for.  craig has now been in uganda with the kids, waiting for visas for 3 weeks alone.  we have been through the Refiners fire in that time, but never burned.  we have been pressed down, but never destroyed.  we have been stretched, but never torn.  because He who started this work is faithful and never abandons His children....more to come as we continue to reflect and pull it together.

i wish i could explain the sounds and faces that girl can make with those's truly amazing

for now, we still wait.  visas this week?  we have more hope than ever before

the miracle we are asking for....that visas will be given tomorrow when craig goes to the embassy at 10 am kampala time (that's midnight california time).  he, silas and naomi could get on the plane later that night and be home by wednesday evening.  what JOY that would be!!!

sweet girl in her pink tutu suit. new favorite maela phrase (^ = short pause):  mom^i'm^feezing!

so we wait, claiming our FREEDOM as slaves to the King, clinging to the HOPE of eternal bounty...and longing to be in one anothers arms again, finally

11 March 2011

Introducing the newest members of the VanderStoep Family!!!

Yes, they have new names and there is a story behind each one that we are not going to share here to be sensitive to them and others, but they love their names and we are all getting used to them.

Naomi Brianne Rose VanderStoep

(Brianne is Jen's sister's middle name, and Rose was Naomi's birth mother's name)

Silas John Bahetti VanderStoep

(John for Jen's dad, and Bahetti is Silas' second Ugandan name)

A few of the sweet moments from our time as a family in Uganda, ones we really cherish...learning to love and grow together.

Noah protectively holding his new baby sister.  He adores her and she obviously is enamored with him too.

Mommy and her girls!

Sweet tickles!

Our first afternoon with Silas staying with us.  He would not put those shoes down and couldn't get enough hugs.

Greeting Daddy when he returned from a trip to the market.

Wet kisses in pretty pink swim suits.

Silas picked me this flower his first day home with us.

Getting a ride in the "toy box"

Daddy reading bed time stories to ALL 4 on the bed...well trying, at least.

Fun cuddles outside

06 March 2011

The Bumpy Road

As you might have guessed, life has not been as we expected...but that is the beauty of God's plan; it is never what we expect, and always greater than we could have imagined.  HIS road is not always easy though, and we are experiencing that in a very real way right now.

Life is hard, but full.  There are struggles, but bountiful blessings.  We are all adjusting and sifting through the emotions that have arisen with the many changes that have come in the last 6 weeks.  (This is the explaination for our lack of blogging, we really thought we would do it much more often, but soaking in and dealing with the fullness of daily life was the priority...but our apologies all the same.)

After 4 long weeks living in Uganda as a family of 6 (plus wonderful Alexa), Craig made the decision to send some of us home.  I had been sick for several weeks and was not seeming to get better; Noah and Maela were healthy and doing really well, but it was apparant it was time to bring them home as well.  So Alexa and I packed up all we could, leaving Craig with just the necessities, and headed home.  It was a terrible, tearful goodbye - we really had not anticipated splitting up our family for any part of this journey, but God led Craig to this decision and it was the right one.

So we are home, recouperating (I ended up with walking pneumonia), and getting over jet-lagg.  We have enjoyed wearing cozy sweats in this cold weather and drinking water right out of the tap.  But our thoughts are with Craig constantly and it's hard to fully partake in some of the conveniences of life here at home knowing he is still living in Africa.  I am trying to unpack, get through the laundry, make some meals for the freezer, and get a little head start on figuring out how to run my home with the coming changes.

Craig has not had internet for a while now, but we are able to talk frequently on the phone.  He and the kids are doing well and staying somewhere comfortable that makes life a little easier for him than where we were beforehand.  There's a lot of stories he is eager to share and even more of God's grace on our family we are excited to praise Him for...all that to come.

Monday is a big day (tomorrow!).  Craig will turn the final paperwork (written ruling and passports) in to the US Embassy and will hopefully get an estimated time as to when the kids' visas will be issued so they can travel home.  (That's all we are waiting for now!)

So until we have some more news and are ready to share the good stuff, here are some pictures of our time there.  Thank you for all your prayers and faithful support of our family.  We are so grateful for our loving family and friends...God has used your words and encouragement, meals and phone calls to bless us richly.

The water and power were off for a while so Maela got a bath in this little tub of water I heated up on the stove.  She LOVED it!

A small hut on the side of the road.

Our baby girl's little brown toes.  They look so tiny on Craig's hand.

Danise, her family lived behind the house we stayed in.  She spent a lot of time with our family and we enjoyed showing her American things, like coloring, bubbles, and suckers.

Our little man, sweeping and wearing one of Daddy's socks, two of his favorite things!  I know...such a helper AND a sharp dresser!  (That sock went all the way up to his hip when pulled tight.)

Nothing like a morning ring-pop to start the day!

Alexa was always faithful to jump in and help with the kids...or maybe she just enjoyed doing/eating what they were!  We all miss her very much!

Check out the new hair-do!  Tiny braids all over her little cute!  This is Stephen, our good friends' son.  He loved playing with her.

Exploring a monument to the king of an old Ugandan tribe.

Alexa and Precious playing with baby kittens in our back yard.

Some artifacts in the king's tomb.

Climbing on the king's tomb...hmmm, not sure how respectful that was, but they sure had fun!

Oh yes, he did!  Noah was catching chickens all the time!  He told me he was going to hold this one until it laid an egg...we had to have a little lesson on how that works.

Our fist morning as a family of 6.  I think we were skyping with someone too (Craig looks like he is mid-sentence with the computer in front of him.)  Can you sense a little of the choas????

Can you resist those rolls and that grin?

More coming of our trip to Kampala soon!!!