Dec 31, 2013

2013 highlights

It's been a crazy year.  Life has been twisted and turned and amazingly, we all survived.

Here are just a few highlights from this last year.

-Stroke.  April 9th my dad had a stroke. The weeks that followed were intense and busy and we are still finding out way forward.  Everyday we are thankful it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

-Uganda.  3 weeks after my Dad's stroke I left for a two month visit to Uganda. The two months taught me so much.  I'm thankful for the time and the chance to grow relationships and myself.  I am still amazed by how this trip was provided for and am blessed by the people who made it a reality!
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-Summer hosting.  In July we welcomed our sweet boy for the summer.  Ruslan was with us for just under two months and he was such a big blessing to our family.  Summer hosting is an exciting and life changing adventure. If you ever get the chance to host an orphan, do it!
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-New Babies.  Our family grew.  Not once, but twice!  Two baby nephews joined the family and they are both incredibly loved and spoiled! 
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-Moved away.  In September I moved away, entered college and got a job.  I am loving my new city and the new friendships I have made.  My job is exactly what I wanted and this new life has been a huge blessing to me.
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-Family.  The year ended with a bang when my oldest brother and his wife surprised my mom by coming home for Christmas (did you hear the screaming??).  All 16 members of my family were together for the very first time.  Every day was a party.  Family is everything, and my family is the best. 

2013 was a good year.  It was hard, that's for sure.  But it was full of relationships and growth.  Which is always a good thing.  

Excited about what 2014 is going to bring!

Dec 16, 2013

Christmas winners

In regards to THIS post.

Sue H. and Jessica Cooper please email me!

joannarist @ hotmail . com (take out the spaces).

Please and thank you. :)

Dec 7, 2013

2nd Home Day

"I love you!" she told me over the phone tonight.  "When are you coming home?" she asked.  In perfect English laced with her thick Bulgarian accent.

Today is her 2nd home day.  She has rocked my world. 
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I can't believe it's been two years.

For a little trip down memory lane (and for anyone who wasn't around when Gergana came home) check out these posts from the last two years.

-This is the Day. (the day we met)  
-First night with our Gem. (more detail about Gotcha day)
-And then we came home. (the trip back to Canada)

-Six months ago. (Six month home update)

-One year with my sister and Happy 1st Home Day. (our first complete year together)

It's been a crazy ride. One we are so thankful God brought us on.  We would have missed out on so much if we hadn't said 'yes' to her.  Our life was so boring before she came home.  Girl still has so much spirit.  


Nov 22, 2013

Sexy "Christianity"

A few weeks ago an article popped up in my newsfeed on facebook (thanks Rebekah!) and I was intrigued.  The more I read it the more I loved it.  He is spot on.

“is the sense of abandon I have for Jesus costing me anything, or actually just making me more popular in the eyes of the people who I would like to be perceived by as more popular?” If at the end of the day I was kicked out of my family, homeless, friendless, moneyless, and hated… would Jesus still be enough? Because Sexy Christianity feels pretty good until someone throws a stone at you… or starts a thread of gossip about you… or sends you hate mail… or bullies your kid. "

Really the whole article is so very thought provoking and more than worth the read.

Go check it out:

Nov 18, 2013

Christmas giveaway

Want to hear something cool?

Tara (on the left) is 11 and was born with an extra chromosome (Down Syndrome)

My girl Kanani (on the right) is 5 and has several special needs. (if you are not familiar with Kanani read more about her here: About Kanani)

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Both have been waiting for adoptive families for years.  Both have rather large grant funds.  Both of these girls have another chance for more exposure and to grow their grant funds this Christmas.  Both girls are on the Angel Tree. Awesome right?  This is such a great opportunity for these girls.  And since this is such a neat opportunity it just couldn't be allowed to slip by without a little effort.

So it's time for a Christmas giveaway!  The grand prize is awesome.  Playmobile is so, so much fun and a classic for any child.  You know you want it.

The prizes

1) Brand new (in box) Playmobil nativity scene. 
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2) $20 Panda Express giftcard 

3) $20 Target giftcard

4) $10 Pizza Hut/Papa Johns giftcard

5) $10 Little Pim ( giftcard

How to enter

1) Donate $5 to either Tara or Kanani. Every $5 donation gets you another entry (ex. $15 to Tara = 3 entries).  If you donate $5 to Tara and $5 to Kanani you automatically get a bonus entry!

2) Sharing the giveaway gets you one entry.

3) Comment on this post and let us know how many entries you entered for!  If you would like to keep your information private you can email me at joannarist(@)hotmail(.)com and I'll make sure to enter you.
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Winner will be drawn when Tara reaches $210 in angel tree donations.
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Winner will be drawn when Kanani's reaches $160 in angel tree donations

Easy?  Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely. 

I can't wait to see what happens in the lives of both these girls.  And the suspense of who will win what prize is pretty great as well.  Ya know.  

So go donate $5 and join the fun.

Nov 16, 2013

Small things with great love - Operation Christmas Child

I'm not overseas or volunteering with anything super cool right now. And it's been easy to slip into the mind set that since I can't be physically doing big things right now that I can't do anything.  Which just isn't true.

Like Mother Teresa said..

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 

At first I didn't feel like doing small things was worth it.  Not after I've rocked and cared for a dying child.  I'm not sure when or how it happened but it all makes sense to me now.  I'm in a season of small things.  Small things with great love.  And it's a good thing.  It's exciting and new.  It takes more work to look for the small things, to weave them into your everyday life.  I'm choosing to look for those small things.  Because they matter just as much as the big things.  Who knew??

If you haven't heard of operation Christmas child, you should (check it).  It was my 'small thing' for today.  And I can guarantee that it was just as important as any 'great thing' I could have done.

This morning I woke up with great plans to finally make the trip to the store and fill my empty box.  However in the span of about half an hour the lovely weather outside turned into a mini blizzard.  Complete with icy roads and high winds that make this city home. I almost didn't leave the house.  


After standing at the door whimpering for a few minutes I finally braved the cold.  

And I'm so glad I did.

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Small things with great love.

I'll take that as a challenge. 
Ni Hao Yall

Nov 12, 2013

He sleeps in a laundry basket

 Did you know that laundry baskets make babysitting easier?

They do.

Did you also know that laundry baskets make life cuter?

They do.

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Nov 7, 2013

I should be studying..but I'm not

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was joking with a friend about college..

"Ain't nobody got time for that!"

But yet here I am.  Trying my hardest to put together a last minute assignment on a long.gone.dead.guy.that.nobody.cares.about.  Oh, and this guy turned out to be a creep.  *face palm*

Let's just say my mind is not here.  It's a million miles away.  And I don't like it.  This college thing is not what I love, It's not my passion.  Will it become useful one day with my passion?  Is it a wise use of my time?  Most likely.  But right now I'm having a hard time settling in to this life mentally.  I want to go.  I want to be out there doing the stuff I love.  Life is short, I don't want to spend this short life not making a difference.  Does that make sense?

So basically I should be studying but I'm not. My mind isn't here.

Maybe one day my mind and heart will settle down.  But for right now, don't be surprised if I ditch this college thing and run.

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Kind of.

Oct 18, 2013

Welcoming baby nephew #2

After being on 'high alert' for over a week, several false alarms and a roller coaster ride of a pregnancy.  I got the phone call while at work 

"She's at the hospital.  Baby is coming".

It was another hour before I could make my way back towards the city.  I may have made the commute back a little faster than it should have been.  *oops*  I detoured by my place to grab my camera and then it was on to the hospital. 

The next 3 hours were spent watching mind numbing TV.  outside this sign.
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Quicker than we all thought, he was here.

And we are all smitten.  And exhausted.  And a tiny bit consumed. 
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Welcome to the world Asher. 
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Congratulations Joylynn and Josh.  You made a good one.

So blessed to now be the Auntie of three beautiful babies.  

Oct 12, 2013

Double the money for Royce

"He is only getting maybe an ounce or two of formula by NG tube every feeding. He is aspirating really bad. He needs a G tube. He is the size of a 6 month old."
-An adoptive family who met Royce a few weeks ago

Royce has been overlooked for so long. He turned three years old last month. That is three years to long to live in an orphanage. Now is our chance to save his life. If we wait any longer it will be to late. His condition is not improving and he has less than a year at his baby orphanage before being transferred to the mental institute (read more about the institute, including pictures, here: The Reality #2). He is literally slowly starving and it will be 10x worse once he is transferred. He won't survive.

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Thankfully people have started to notice this sweet baby.  He is no longer forgotten. 

Exciting right?

$250 Matching grant for Royce
For the next week every dollar donated towards his adoption will be doubled up to $250.  Once his grant reads $772 another $250 will be donated.  Putting his grant fund over $1,000.  Adoption is expensive, this money will help cover some of the adoption costs once a family commits to adopting him. 

(donate here and double your money!  tax deductible)

grant fund amount: $522
Left to raise: $250

grant fund amount: $547
left to raise: $225

grant amount: $772
left to raise: $0

In ONE afternoon Royce's matching grant was met!!  Thank you!  

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If you can't donate, would you please consider sharing and praying for Royce?  You have no idea how big an impact simply sharing makes.  Trust me, it makes a difference. 

My lost baby.  Believing that he will be found and cherished in time.

Oct 7, 2013

I have the best job ever

"So what do you do?"
"I'm a domestic child aid.  So I support families who have children with special needs."
"Oh...well I guess you make good money so it's worth it"

I have had this conversation so many times in the last couple of weeks.  It always catches me off guard.  The truth is, it's not about the money.  It's not about the sweet hours.  It's not just a job I happened to get.  It's what I wanted.  

And this evening while making a quick trip to the park it hit me.  I really do have the best job ever.  Why wouldn't someone want this job?  Hide 'n seek.  Imagination.  Swings.  Slides.  Races.  Franklin books.  Laughter.  Progress.  Not just getting to know a specific child but the entire family and community.

I can't get over it.  I have the best job ever.  And it's awesome.
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Sep 28, 2013

My lost baby

It's been over a year since I left Eastern Europe.  Over a year since I left that orphanage and the babies I met there.  The babies who were left waiting for families.

A family stepped up to adopt Vivvy before I even left the country and she made it home quickly.  A few months later a family committed to 'Jacob' and now he is safely home.  Kanani's continues to wait for an adoptive family (please pray for her, she is living in a mental institute currently). 

I slowly pushed the thought of the other babies I met to the back of my mind.  Focusing instead on helping the children I could help.  I figured it was to late for the other babies, that they would never get their chance at a family. 

I was wrong.  There is one more.  My lost baby.

The baby who has haunted me for the last year.  He has been given a chance.

Meet Royce
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I've met him.

May 2012.  There was a stroller outside with the rest of the babies.  I walked over and peaked inside.  And that's when it happened, that's when I met him.  His bare arms and legs were stick thin.  He was two years old at the time but no where close to the size of a two year old.  His skin was soft as paper. His breathing was fast and raspy.  I leaned over and said hello, softly rubbing his leg.  He got worked up and started making grunting sounds with his mouth and moving his arms a little.  It was impossible to tell if he was starting to laugh or cry.  The nannies started glancing our way because of the commotion so I quickly blew him a kiss and moved away.  His stroller was pushed to the side and he was clearly not one of the favorite children there. 

And that was that.  It couldn't have been more than a couple minutes that I was with him.  But the memory of his skeleton legs have haunted me.  I have thought of him often.

There is good news and bad news.

The good news: An adoptive family was able to see him a few weeks ago and he is now listed for adoption.
The bad news: A year later and he is STILL just as small.  His arms and legs are still stick thin. He is now three years old. He urgently needs an adoptive family.
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My lost baby.  It's time for him to be found.
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Sep 23, 2013

He made it HOME

If you are not caught up on who 'Jacob' is you really should go get the back story.  I met Jacob last year while visiting Eastern Europe and I came home determined to find him an adoptive family (link).  That fall he was offered a Matching grant to help fund his adoption (link).  Shortly after his matching grant started a group of awesome people came together to get Pied in the face to help raise the money (link).  We raised a good chunk of money for his adoption and a couple of months later an awesome family stepped up to adopt him (link)!  Now that you're caught up...

I can finally share that as of September 12th 'Jacob' is HOME in America with his family.

He officially left the orphanage with his new parents on September 6th. 

He is safe, loved, getting medical care and therapies and nutritious food.

I couldn't be happier and can now breathe easy knowing he is home.

Want proof?
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Getting to know his new mom and dad. 
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LEAVING the orphanage and never going back. Forever with his family.
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Safely HOME.
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THANK YOU to everyone who helped bring Jacob home.  All the prayers, shares and donations made a huge and very real impact on this little boy's life.  He will never have to face the inside of an orphanage again or be at risk of living in a mental institute.  He will grow up with a chance to reach his full potential. 

One less orphan.  It made a difference to this one.

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”

Sep 17, 2013

So how did the job interview go?

Short answer: good.

Long(er) answer: I'm officially a Child support/respite worker.

I moved here Wednesday afternoon. Had a job interview Friday morning. Had another interview Saturday morning. Started work Monday. The job is exactly what I wanted. It's something I'm interested in and can learn and grow in. It's got room for more education and future job opportunities. It's the kind of job where I can build relationships with the people I work with. The hours are short but consistent.  And the pay is much, much better than I was expecting. Did I mention I get gas money??

When I moved here I was so worried I would have to get a *shudder* retail job.

I feel so blessed that this is the job I got instead.

Because of the nature of my job I won't be sharing many details of what I do and who I work with. Privacy people, it's really important and something we don't practice very often in the internet world.

But I can share how the sunsets here basically blind me on my way home from work.

Not even kidding.  How are you supposed to drive facing that??
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Thank you to everyone who prayed for my interview and sent kind thoughts my way. I appreciate it more than you know!

Sep 12, 2013

Job interview tomorrow

Let's just take a moment to go crazy over this baby nephew...
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[via. instagram]
Now that that's out of our systems lets move on.

I'm gone.  Packed up. Kissed my family goodbye and drove away.  5 hours later and I'm in my new city, in my new bedroom [which is a mess by the way].  I've ran errands and un-packed.  And tomorrow morning I have a job interview.

It's crazy how quickly life can change.
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[via. instagram]
Prayers that tomorrows interview will go well and that it will be clear if this job is a good match for me would be appreciated.  Thanks everyone for being patient as I transition into this new season of life!

Sep 10, 2013

Baby Nephew

Joining big sister (who was once just as small).

Welcome to the world Grayson Shiloh!
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I love my family.  I love that my older siblings are making babies.

So blessed. 
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