Monday, January 30, 2012

A Dead Zone

The title is much more morbid then the situation.  Our new home is in an internet “dead zone”. I snuck away to the local “hot-spot” (Mom and Dad’s).  I talked with three internet companies today and my brother is going to pull some strings and just MAYBE I can join my online world again. ;)

We have a lot going on around here.  Thanks for praying us through this transition.  Grandma moved back home on Friday night and we are glad to have her around!

Lots to tell you but so little time.

Grandma's 016  

Grandma's 035

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Few Matters of Business AND Some Fun

Sold Winners

Though it’s a bit early, I have the results for the Sold giveaway. My mom threw in an extra copy, so we have two names! 

Mandy R.

Emily G.

Congrats ladies, I’ll get it to you and pass it on when you are finished.

And, The people have spoken!

Thanks for your votes and the verdict is in. We are keeping our nicknames for the girls.  These two are staying…

Watching Jeff 094

The Littles!!!

Our Time “Watching Uncle Jeff”

Welp, our time with Uncle Jeff is almost over.  It has been a blast and The Littles can’t wait for him to get home from school. Let’s just say when he arrives they have big plans for him.

Watching Jeff 021

Most of the plans consist of tea parties and they have figured out that he is a softie when it comes to giving snacks.  Take for instance yesterday when I found The Littles shoving double stuff Oreos into their mouth as fast as humanly possible. 

Watching Jeff 076

Actually, they have big plans for most friendly adults who walk through the door. I found three uncles in the loft with the girls, all actively involved in tea parties and rounds of tiger hunting.

Watching Jeff 023

My dear friend, Heather, made a long trip to help me pack up and organize the house we will put on the market and The Littles took her hostage, convinced that she was visiting just for their pleasure!

Watching Jeff 124

After a day of work, Uncle Jeff decided they just had to go sledding!

Watching Jeff 121

They LOVED it.

Watching Jeff 135

And proceeded to come into the house and drink their weight in hot chocolate.

Yes, it’s been a party.

As of tomorrow, we are officially living at my Grandma’s home.  She joins us next Tuesday!  :)

Monday, January 23, 2012


Thanks to a giveaway on Sarah’s blog, I heard about the book Sold by Patricia McCormick.

I didn’t win but all of Sarah’s winners had to pass on the book.  Leah gave me her copy.

Sold is a quick read and an effective way to be exposed to the realities of human trafficking in a not too graphic way as the book is geared for teens (but riveting at any age).

I would like to pass it on to someone interested.  Leave a comment below if you would like to read it next.  I will draw a name in on Wednesday night if there is more than one person interested. ;)


An excerpt:

In the village school we were taught to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

The teacher gave us difficult problems, asking us to figure out how many baskets of rice a family would have to sell to buy a new water buffalo. Or how many lengths of fabric a mother would need to make a vest and pants for her husband and still have enough for a dress for her baby.

Here I do a different set of calculations.

If I bring a half dozen men to my room each night, and each man pays Mumtaz 30 rupees, I am 180 rupees closer each day to going back home. If I work for a hundred days more, I will surely soon have enough to pay back the 20,000 rupees I owe to Mumtaz.

Then Shahanna teaches me city subtraction.

Half of what the men pay goes to Mumtaz, she says. Then you must take away 80 rupees for what Mumtaz charges for your daily rice and dal. Another 100 a week for renting you a bed and pillow and 500 for the shot the dirty-hands doctor gives us once a month so that we won’t become pregnant.

She also warns me: Mumtaz will bury you alive if she sees your little book of figures.

I do the calculations.

And realize I am already buried alive.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Essentials

I recently heard a commentary about the apostle Paul, “Paul was a reed in the non-essentials but an iron pillar on the essentials”.

Hmm.  Something I am going to start praying for myself.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Out Of Breath

Don't forget to vote in the side bar!  (Read yesterday's post for details).

This picture is a few months old, but so fun I can't believe I never posted it!  
4 kids and 4 adults makes for fun hiking. :)
I am pretty sure we took this picture because I begged for a break through labored breaths. ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bring On The New?

The Littles aren’t so little anymore. 

And what do we do when we have more children? Do “The Littles” become “The Bigs”?

Should we change their super-sneaky code names for the blog?

Vote in the side bar with you opinion!

Or you could leave a comment with your ideas.

The new possible replacements?

Care Bear-Little J is my tender heart. When someone is sad, she is by their side, doing whatever she can to help. She cannot handle unrest in her relationship with someone.  If she has been disobedient and receives discipline or even thinks she has done something wrong, she cries until we prompt her to say “sorry” and hug it out.  It makes her feel so much better, even if she didn’t do anything wrong.  Usually about a minute after peace is made, she comes around to the person she feels she has offended and says, “Hi!” in a cheery tone.  Little J is just checking to make sure the person answers her back in a chipper tone and then she is sure they are really at peace. Her sensitive spirit also gives some interesting parenting challenges, but that is another post!  Hence the name “Care Bear”

Bubbles-Little A is my giggling, bubbly child.  She loves a good joke and we noticed very early on that she seemed to have an exceptional sense of humor.  Little A makes us laugh with her antics and is a eager student from many antics her uncles have taught her.  She is also great at drama.  She senses when the situation would be more appropriate to deliver her news in a dramatic whisper or when she is so happy all she can do is squeal in a loud and shrill tone.   Vote on the side bar!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Most FAQs

“Now, where are you?”

From a Housing Standpoint:

On Friday night, we spent our first night at my grandma’s house.  It has been going well, Grandma is still at a continuing care facility.  Last night we moved into my parents’ house to stay with my brother, Jeff, for a week.   Which is probably the easiest “babysitting” job we’ve ever had. :)  Jeff gets himself up at 5:30 to do the cattle chores, comes in, showers and goes off to school. When he gets home he does his homework, feeds the pets, does more chores, his Bible study and then of his own initiative, goes to bed at 9:30 so he is ready to do it all again the next day.

However, with all of this house swapping and living out of boxes and suitcases, I sort of feel like a GW alternate houseparent!  ;)

From A Missions Standpoint:

I have been reluctant to write this out as it is not a done deal and I will feel really embarrassed if something falls through…but, here it goes. Last night Jon and I turned in our applications to a large mission organization.  If we are accepted, we will go to on-site evaluation with them in May where we meet with staff, have questions answered and go through testing. I am the most worried about the psychological testing because my mind has felt pretty fuzzy lately…maybe I am losing it? ;) If we make it through all their test in May, they assign us a position and a training route and we then start our support raising journey. Mid-summer we would have another two-week training/orientation.

Where is Jon working?

Jon is working at my parents’ farm.  He LOVES it and his employers ;) view it as an opportunity to invest in our long-term goal of an ag related business in Ethiopia so they are giving him a variety of experiences, from machinery maintenance, cattle, hogs, driving truck and tractor to soil testing.

How are The Littles adjusting to all the change?

Praise God, they are doing remarkable.  They occasionally ask to go “home” and can seem a little bummed that we aren’t returning to our little, red house, but they recover quickly and are really enjoying it. Grandma’s house has so much room!  We spent our first 20 minutes yesterday just learning the layout of the house. We started in their room and then I would give them a question, “Can you find the kitchen?”  This would embark on an adventure of lots of giggles.  I finally told them it was time to eat breakfast and Little A said, “Mama, this is fun!” and she wanted to keep playing the “find it” game. :) They can still get turned around and then just yell, “MAMA” and head the direction of my voice. Last night when Jon got home, Little A yelled, “We’re down here, Daddy!”.

We are moving forward and God is abundantly faithful.


(Photo credit: Holly Walburn)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Flat Top

Guess who woke up…

Gerst Christmas 128

with a perfect flat top?

Gerst Christmas 130

Little J, and no, we didn’t style her, she just slept flat against the top of her crib.

Gerst Christmas 131

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Inheritance

As we have considered moving to Ethiopia over the past year, I am not proud of the fact that it has been rough. I have dug my heels in the dirt in protest almost every step of the way. I get stuck in counting the cost…I start weighing it all out and that is where I stop. Honestly, from my fleshly perspective, the cost of leaving everything, everyONE is too high. I have explained to God that it isn’t me I am concerned about, it’s The Littles. I can get indignant, “Why did You give us such wonderful family if You are gonna take us to the other side of the world?” Then I read the scriptures and I beg God for the words of Christ to be what drives me.

I found this article in HeartCry magazine from one missionary mama to another. Many of her thoughts resonated with me. It Is long, but beautiful, encouraging and full of truths I pray I can remember.

I recently began to feel the acute pangs of missing home. I think it began with my sister going into labor and me being so far away in a tiny village when I received the news. I felt so far away and sensed a growing sadness in not experiencing that moment with my family. I was bombarded by a growing array of thoughts about having missed so many other joyous family moments. I looked at my little daughter who is a constant joy in my life, and I ached with the desire for her grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles to experience her life as I do daily. But they won’t and when they see her again, this stage will be gone. These sad thoughts grew, linked themselves to others, and spiraled downward to a place where my sacrifice no longer seemed worthy it. My head knew why it was worth it, but my heart refused compliance. I began to think: If I could only have some assurance as to when we should be finished with the work, then I could set my eyes upon the light at the end of the tunnel. However, this caused my heart to leap at the thought of returning home to family rather than at the precious reality that a new people group is now offering a new praise unto our Father.

Today, while reading “Candles in the Dark” by Amy Carmichael, I came across an excerpt of a letter to a dear friend in which she quoted Deuteronomy 18:2:

“The Lord is their inheritance as He hath said unto them.” Amy then followed by writing the following: “I thought then as I think now of the lovely inheritance you might have had. But He is your Inheritance instead of that lovely earthly joy. Throughout all eternity that word will be opening up its treasures.”

At that point I could not remember exactly what the context was for this verse, so I looked up Deuteronomy 18:12. God, in giving instruction to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land, lays down what should be the inheritance rights for the Levites, those God-chosen servants who were to devote their lives to worshipful service in the temple. My heart sank as I read: “The priests, who are Levites-indeed the whole tribe of Levi-are to have no allotment of inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, for that is their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.”

Tears burned my eyes as the Lord spoke these words directly and deeply to my heart. I thought of the other eleven tribes who received-as their right-a share in the goodness of the land. I then thought of my family, in their homes, enjoying the blessings, those “lovely, earthly joys” God had frequently given them. And I heard in my heart, But that is not to be your place. Your inheritance is different.” As I was soaking this in, tears again burned my eyes, and I whispered back to Him, “This is a hard word.” My desires to have my daughter grow up around her grandparents and family and an eventual life of pleasant familiarity in America crumbled around me. Then, I again heard God whisper, “This is not your inheritance. Your inheritance is Me.” How true this is for my life. I even live on the offerings made to the Lord by my brothers and sisters who have received a very different inheritance. As I closed my Bible my eyes again went to Amy Carmichael’s letter: “You will never regret your choice. It is wonderful to be free to pour out all, every drop of one’s life; and that is what you have done and are doing. No, you will never regret it; never.”

There, in my mind’s eye, I knelt beside the road of my spiritual journey, dug a small hole and buried, hopefully deep enough, my desires for a different inheritance. He is enough! My heart still feels weighted with mourning the death of a desire. However, my heart is secure in knowing that He is enough. I must, in faith, cling to this promise. He is my inheritance, my eternal inheritance, just as He promised.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

National Human Traffick Awareness Day

We drove a long time to get there and then climbed out of the vehicle at a stream at the foot of a mountain and hiked the rest of the way.

The boys were welcoming with lots of hugs, smiles and sweaty hands to hold as they were excited to show us their home.

I fanned myself with whatever I could find as I listened to these boys from Loving Shepherd’s Home of Hope in Kpoux, Haiti. They all sat and shared their stories and then the statement was translated, “Stand up if you were a child slave before living in this home”. 

I was taken completely aback when I saw that 7 of the 11 boys stood up.


One boy told of how he no longer had any bladder control because of the severe beatings across his back while he worked as a slave. I had never met a slave before.

There is an estimated 27 million slaves today.  More than at any point in history. Even in the USA. Half are kids.

There are a lot of wonderful organizations working in prevention and rescue.  A few we have been blessed to partner with:

Loving Shepherd Ministries

Make Way Partners

To be honest, 27 million makes me despair and seem hopeless…but our God is never helpless.

What if 2012 was the year the church mobilized on behalf of the trafficked? What if this year liberty was proclaimed to the captives because of our prayers, financial support and advocacy on behalf of the voiceless?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What The Littles Do During Mama’s Packing…

As I pack, The Littles have made a lot of new discoveries.

Packing Out 071 Packing Out 074

Their “ball gowns”

Packing Out 066 Packing Out 082

Packing Out 064

And then play-doh with some newly found “pretties”. They remind me of little Hungarians.

Packing Out 095

Packing Out 097 Packing Out 100

Oh, they keep me laughing. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ready, Set Go!

Hehehe.  This is the last thing I should be doing right now.  However, to justify myself, look what just went to Goodwill? Yes, that is a start…a very small dent but I am all about rejoicing in the little accomplishments.  In fact, I just added “blogging” to my list so I can scratch it off when I finish.  

Gerst Christmas 001

Another way I justify blogging, this is also like my family scrapbook and baby book…so you know, I can’t get behind. ;)

We were with our G family this weekend. So much fun!  We had planned a Christmas/sledding weekend but because of the snow not being present, we just Christmassed.  :)

Gerst Christmas 007

Gerst Christmas 042

Guess who got Big Wheels?

Gerst Christmas 079 Gerst Christmas 111

Gerst Christmas 103

Gerst Christmas 113 

Gerst Christmas 082

Gerst Christmas 119

Gerst Christmas 149

Six kids in one house and everyone is glad for MICKEY MOUSE. ;) (Baby Leo not pictured)

Gerst Christmas 157

We are so thankful for our wonderful families!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Great Wall of China

A few more memories from Alabama:

If we are around a beach, another tradition my family has is an excavation day in the sand. 

These are the great pyramids from two years ago.


This year the boys had their planning meeting and it resulted in this…

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 359 

The Great Wall of China.

We started on a very foggy morning:

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 458 

It was crazy foggy.

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 451

The Littles had their own mountain to work on so they didn’t destroy the big ones.

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 464

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 476

Work progressed

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 468

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 483 

Meanwhile, we broke in the new recruits

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 499 

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 515

The brothers brought their unwavering focus. :)

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 505 Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 503

and The Littles burrowed in the sand

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 524

There was some cute, new teamwork going on…

Christmas and Gulf Shores 11 531


And the finished product…


Oh, that’s just my child who I maybe forgot to watch closely enough. 

Now for the Great Wall…