I love this guy. More than I love anyone else on this earth. When I met him, he was nothing like he is now...inside or out. He has become the greatest testament of God's faithfulness in my own life as I have watched God shape him into an amazing man in just 7 short years. I KNOW that God has BIG plans to use him in BIG ways...because of how much God has changed him!
We have the best love story, too. I met him in a hallway outside of our french class on the first day of class...he had long, curly hair, a leather coat, earings...and smelled like a carton of cigarettes! He asked me what time it was...and then cooly walked across the hall, squatted down beside me so I could see that he was reading a very thick book about philosophy (oh so very impressive, smart boy!!!)...and I remember arrogantly rolling my eyes at this. But I followed him to the back row of the class where I, now cooly, let another girl sit one desk between us (so as not to be too obvious). And that's where it all began. On that very first day, as we flirted back and forth between the teacher's introductions, she actually picked on us and said that several couples had met in her french class (the language of love)...and later married!...so we'd better watch out---and she pointed directly to Rich and I. I blushed. He said "yeah right"...
I loved him from the beginning, I think. She paired us up to practice our french speaking. He asked me if I was an idealist or a realist("Est-ce que une idealiste ou une realiste?"), and I stopped to give that some thought. I found myself to be a happy, positive person for the most part...but also down-to-earth, or at least I boasted... :) ...so I answered that I was a little of both. In french, of course. He narrowed it down for me: "Well, do you believe there is a god???" ..."Absolutely!" (or "absolutement!" as the french might say...)...and he concluded, alas, that I was surely an idealist. I remember thinking that he appeared awfully intelligent to have come to this end, about God, I mean...and it was this conflict that drew me in. Hook, line, and sinker.
He appeared so big and strong and handsome and happy and put-together. But all of my experiences with him proved him to feel small and weak and insecure and sad and a total mess of a human being! I appeared confident and carefree and content, but he found me to be needy and lonely and looking for someone to love me. It was perfect. His life, his choices and experiences had led him down a dark, lonely road...a broken road, if you will...straight to me! My life was the opposite. Very nurturing, full of God's love. I knew the answer to what he needed. And he was the kindest person I have ever met...so abounding with love- so free to give it...exactly what I needed!
I bought him a Bible. I wrote him a letter in it (that is in my jewelry box to this day)...and I said, "I dare you to read this book! It WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. It is the answer you are looking for." And what can I say? He's a dare-devil. He read. And read. And read. Pretty soon, I noticed he'd stopped cursing all the time. Then at all. He dropped drugs like a bad habit...ha, ha! He asked lots of questions....and then one night, sitting on a boardwalk on a beach in Charleston, SC---he told me that he'd knelt beside his bed a few nights earlier and cried out to "Whoever" might be out there...and told Him (praise HIM!!!!) that if He was really out there, he wanted to know Him. He wanted to change. And that was the beginning. Of the end. For me. He proposed to me on that same beach just 3 years later...
So from french talking...to french kissing...to an English-American baby! In 7 years. 7 glorious years wrought with much laughter, some tears, and more love than I ever dreamed my heart could feel. I L-O-V-E my Englishman more than words can tell, and so I will just try to show him over this lifetime.
Rich, (aka "french boy")... you are my rock. You know this oh so well. I am your soft place to fall...and I love it that way. I love your kind heart best. I love your easy-going nature. I love when you laugh so hard your face turns red and your eyes water...that's the best! I love just being with you...doing nothing can be so fun. I love the way you look at Shaelyn Jade, like she hung the moon. She sees it too! I love your faith in God- and love for Him...and commitment to follow Him wherever He leads...our family. I love your very tender heart for the less fortunate, and I feel He may lead us closer to them someday. I love the way your big huge arms wrap around me when I am scared or insecure and make me feel like the whole world went away...just like that. I have loved you from the first day...sometimes better than others. I am way more committed today to our marriage than I ever was on Mom and Dad's front porch 4 years ago. To God be the glory! It's been a journey---so fun and full of joy...and I can't wait for the next 4...and 4...and 4 more! We know, don't we, that God brought us together, from two separate continents and two separate worlds to make a difference for Him? Because we are better together, than apart. Always have been. We complete each other! :) I am so excited to see what He has in store for us. Serving Him. With a housefull of kiddos! It just keeps getting better and better!!!
As we have always said, "It's you and me, baby...'til the wheels fall off!" Yours, forever...
I am home. Oh how wonderful it was to kiss my sweet baby girl (walking so big, might I add!) and feel my big huge hubby's arms wrapped around me again...these are my two most peaceful places. But I must say, I didn't realize when I went to Ethiopia, that I wouldn't bring ALL of me back. I LEFT a piece of my heart BEHIND...and as I try to settle back into my life here, that I love, it is different. Very different. Before, I didn't have little faces in my mind...and names to go with them. I didn't have the memory of my interaction with the wonderful people of Ethiopia. I just didn't realize how bad I would miss it. I knew I was supposed to go. I knew God had plans to use me there. I just didn't realize that I would feel so different when I returned.
But it is good...oh, so good, this change in my heart. I have prayed for so long that God would confirm His plans for me, deep inside. He has. I know that I will go back to the wonderful land I have just left. I know that I will hold those babies again....that I will sing with those sweet teenage girls...that I will hold the hands of my Ethiopian friends again...someday. When I was there, I must have said a hundered times, "If Rich were here he would LOVE this place! He'd probably stay forever!!!"...and I couldn't wait to get home and tell him all about it...and show him those faces. His heart is a deep, deep ocean. He is the kindest person I have ever met. Ever. And he has been so sweet to sit for hours and listen to my stories and ask about those sweet children, and he loves Ethiopia, now, too...even without going! I love that about him. God put us together for great reasons and I am so thankful that he is mine and I am his on this earth. It's fun...being Mrs. Andrews. :) By the way...today me and my lovebird celebrate 4 YEARS together! YIPPEEE!!! Please pray that God would continue to move within our hearts as we are home and reveal the things He wants us to do together for His kingdom. We are so blessed. Now I have seen JUST HOW BLESSED we are. There are people in this world that have nothing. Literally nothing. I have seen them. Now I want to help them.
Thanks be to God for showing me these things. He is so good. Now I pray I will never forget them...may that piece of my heart that I left behind stay forever in Ethiopia.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” ~Matthew 25:37-40
This IS Ethiopia
This is where we are
I love this place. Amidst the devastating poverty here, there is GREAT love. God is here…and I am so thankful I am too.
We're officially OFF! :) Teri, Clay, and I (and a bunch of new friends!) started our journey to Ethiopia this morning. When we got off our first plane in Washington DC, someone said, "If this were a marathon...we just took ONE STEP!" :) He he he...but I actually feel like I have completed an entire marathon at this point, since I was pretty much up all night! My sweet little Jadybug didn't sleep so well in her pack n' play @ Non's last night, so at about 4 am (after I finally got in bed at 1:30 am!)...I pulled her into my bed for a sweet cuddle until I had to get up again at 5:30 am. It was exactly what I needed...of course... God gave me that unexpected time of peace and quite with my baby that settled my heart for this journey. I didn't sleep another wink--just prayed over her and tried to stare at her long enough so that maybe that image will just hold me over for 10 days. So we're right in the middle of an 8 hour layover at this point... and I am so thankful that Teri is right beside me for this whole marathon journey! :)
PS- Thank you Tiff and Mrs. Connie for our fabulous Africa necklaces...we're gonna wear them all the way! :) We love them!
I have heard it said that "HOME is where your family is..."
...and Bristol is finally HOME.
Yesterday was a day I will NEVER forget. Our family has waited for Bristol to come home for a long, long time.
...Here we are, at the end of our "wait"...
When they walked around that corner...
(sorry for the poor picture quality- I was totally freaking out!)
...and finally saw that long-awaited family reunion... ...and I saw her sweet face, for real...HERE, HOME, at last...
...and we got to HOLD her...
...I am just so THANKFUL. God is so good. And HE KNOWS the plans He has for us all along... every one of us...even little Bristol. Just amazing.
Three words: She is PERFECT!! That's about all I can say. Absolutely perfect!
My heart is overwhelmed with joy for my sweet "sis" who finally has her baby with her. Peace was all over her face.
And it's so surreal to have her here, at last...
...just chillin' out with us, her family...
More pictures will come...and also check our Courtney's blog and Tiffany's blog...I am sure they will post more. As for me, I am headed to Bristol's homeland early Wednesday morning...funny how right when she gets here, I have to leave... :) Stay posted and I will try to blog at least once!
Please pray for me. And Rich. And Shaelyn Jade. ...and I can't wait to get back and let these two play together some more!!!!! This is them at their official "meeting"...lifelong friends, for sure.
Just wanted to say a GREAT BIG THANKS to everyone who helped so much with our carwash...es! TWO that is! We had two carwashes last weekend and this weekend and SO MANY friends and family turned out to let us "make their car sparkle for a great cause!"...and so many who just gave their TIME to stand on the sidewalk and hold signs for hours and hours (seriously my arms were sore the next day!)...and even act enthusiastic about it! More who came to actually do the scrubbing...and some who just came to make a donation. Wow! We washed lots and lots of cars...and a couple of bicycles, too! We met so many new people who hung around and talked to us...some who even helped wash cars! We met one family who is waiting on 2 of their children from Ethiopia, now...from one of the orphanges we will be visiting!!!! WOW!!!!!! CHILL BUMPS!!!! I have theirs sweet pictures and you better believe I will be looking for them to pass along lots of love from their family! These car washes were just a great reminder of how God can bind hearts of so many people- even total strangers, around His causes for the needy. Thank you for all YOU did to make it a success! ...and a special THANKS to Tim Barnhill @ TN Bank & Trust for letting us use their location and water not once, but twice!
This girl is finally with her Mommy and Daddy!!! Joey and Courtney called our parents today and my Mom said they were on CLOUD 9!! They couldn't talk long, so we couldn't get many details, but we do know that she is safely with them, now...and that she is soaking up their love! They said there has not been one minute of her seeming to miss anyone else...she just took right to them...as we prayed she would. Give thanks to the Lord, for HE IS GOOD...His LOVE endures forever!
They will be "BRINGING BRISTOL HOME" on Sunday night at 5:45 pm ...Courtney said she would love for any and everyone who has followed their journey to be there at the airport... AND WEAR YOUR T SHIRTS!! It will be a celebration, indeed!
(me and jade watching fireworks from the rooftop of the downtown franklin parking garage..her first year to really be able to enjoy them)
Yesterday, I experienced something at church that I have never experienced before, but hope to again. A short video was played during the service that basically portrayed how quickly America has forgotten the bravery and sacrifice that was required of actual people in order for us to have the freedom we enjoy today.It showed young kids who stuck IPODs in their ears rather than listening to the war stories from their grandparents...it showed the tears in the veterans' eyes as they remembered the actual terrors they endured for the sake of freedom. It was extremely moving. But what happened next was what I will remember. After the video ended, the pastor asked all men and women who have ever served in our armed forces to stand and be recognized. Of course everyone else stood and applauded them, as we always do... especially after such a moving video. But then he said, "Now I want the veterans to remain standing...and I want you to look around and remember who they are...and now I want you to go to them and tell them THANK YOU for what they have given, for us." I will say it caught everyone off guard- us and them, but as people slowly stood and began mingling and making their way from one veteran to another, something happened. It was the very first time that I have ever actually gone up to a veteran and said THANK YOU for all of those awful things they had to go through...so that I can be free. It had never hit ME that close to home. As I moved from one person to another- most of them old men, and hugged them and really meant what I said to each one...I realized that most of them, as well as I, had big tears in our eyes. I meant my thank you...and they knew that. They truly felt appreciated. And although mere words could never do justice to what they hve given, it really was a few short moments where everyone in that room connected. I looked around and EVERYONE was boo-hooing, just like me. I thought it was amazing--- the difference it made, instead of just standing and applauding, as we always have...and actually moving past what may be an awkward moment of facing a person you do not know and looking into their eyes with a sincere word of gratitude. But we owe that, at the very least, to these wonderful people. I had never been challenged to do that before, but it meant so much to me...and to them.
How blessed we are to come AFTER those brave men and women who put their own lives on the line, for ours...as well as having so many men and women serving us NOW to preserve our freedom. It is no small price. Let us NOT forget. Let us fight, now, to raise a generation who remembers and who is equally committed to protecting this freedom that has cost so much.
Where do I start?...Seems like my life "started" one day when I met a boy named Rich in French class. A few years later, he asked me to marry him on a beach in Charleston, SC (one of my favorite spots on this earth)... and a few years after that, we fell in love again- this time with a chubby faced, long legged, brown eyed baby girl that we call Shaelyn Jade. Two years after that we welcomed our blonde hair and blue-eyed boy Jude Warren into our crew! Time is flying by and we are soaking up every minute we can as a family of 4! This is a peek into our lives as we seek to follow Jesus wherever He leads us, and bring glory to His name each day. I am SO BLESSED and I feel, most days, that we are living "somewhere over the rainbow..."